As I reached my late thirties and early forties I felt the "nudge"to become more introspective, hopefully bringing some clarity to myself and my world. I had already encountered one divorce, two bouts with cancer and a clinical depression. I tried not to let these circumstances define me, but I admit that at times I felt like the poster child for When Bad Things Happen to Good People. I considered myself a well-behaved, respectable person, but as I grew up I wondered what I had done to deserve all these challenges. I began to ask God's help in understanding my life and my purpose for being here. Would I ever be able to go through life without the need for my daily companion, fear?
Saving money for a retreat with Francis was a two-year project, so when I finally achieved my goal, I was surprisingly nervous about spending an entire week with this woman. I was well aware of the deeply hidden feelings that she was able to bring forth during the brief weekend retreats in Milwaukee, so I was worried about what may come to the surface when I had more concentrated time with her. Even though the unknown aspect of this retreat was scary, I knew I was hungry for exactly this level of communication. I remembered how quickly I had trusted Francis when meeting her, and how refreshed my heart felt after each encounter. Yes, this retreat was exactly what I needed, so I put my uncertainties aside and headed out to California with confidence and just a wee bit of trepidation.
The best way to sum up my week in Idyllwild is to explain how I spent my last day. When I met with Francis that afternoon I brought along a small pad of paper and pen, quite seriously asking her to describe how I could recreate this peacefully quiet environment back in Madison. Now as I reflect back on that request, I smile and gently shake my head back and forth while feeling a mild case of embarrassment. Did I really believe Francis could give a detailed list of what needed to be altered in my life in order to achieve a retreat-like atmosphere? Oh my, I truly did begin at the beginning...but know that the seeds of change were planted during that stay.