Sunday morning was busier than normal because we had to get to church early with Matthew playing in the band and the children having Sunday School before the service. So we had to leave home at 8.30am. After 20 mins of myself and the children amusing ourselves, it was time for the children to go to Sunday School.
There are not many children or young people in our church. Sunday School was run by one teacher for the beginning of the session, and when we got there my children were the only ones attending. I was expecting to stay and help / watch / let the baby crawl around. But the teacher told me to go out for a walk before church.
I had no idea what to make of that. Sometimes there’s a vibe from mainstream parents that homeschooling parents are too present… my radar detects a little of this but still, it was going to be hard to resist, and equally, there wasn’t much time to do anything good.
I checked Google maps just outside the church. As I thought, there’s nowhere to really head for around there. So I felt as though it had been sprung on me, and I would much rather have been in Sunday School. (Times have changed!). I also had no sunhat for the baby, and the pram didn’t provide a great deal of shade.
I walked quickly, after looking at the map and deciding a plan of a route was pointless. I would walk, turn round, and then walk back.
I got to a sign post for shops. Tempting (but too early!). Then I noticed across the road, a street full of Jacarandas. Eldest son turns 12 soon, and the Jacarandas point to his birthday every year.
I crossed the busy road and began walking down the Jacaranda street. I began to listen to the birdsong, enjoyed the peace, and the beautiful purple blossom. Neither of us spoke. I noticed my pace slow, and I came to a stop under a tree. Unusual for me to experience anything like this, and it was an unexpected peace. I recalled these words:
be still and know that I am God.
For the first time ever I recalled this scripture without instantly singing in my mind one of the many musical settings. I was still. The peace was from God. I’d been to a Bible study in the week, and those words were part of the prayer time but they had been muddied by music I couldn’t get out of my head, and I was frustrated to find no peace there as hoped.
I then noticed on the other side of the road, a street sign with my son’s name on it. Wow! I exclaimed aloud and went across and took a picture. Then realising the time, thought I should walk back to the church. I was feeling satisfied and peaceful. I thought I should pray for my children, for my eldest son in particular, and then I moved on to the others. I prayed other personal things too, all related to the experience. I was aware of the multi sensory experience of this mini retreat. God does not intend our senses to be segregated or our worship and prayer to be disjointed. I felt that nearly all my senses were involved in this silent retreat, this worship time that had just come to me unexpectedly and that I had actually made use of.
I walked into the church building, knowing that however sitting with 6 children, solo, in the pew, with a particularly wriggly and tired baby, turned out to be… I had had my time of refreshment and was ready for serving God and my family.
Even now, a day later, I find that the peace and the retreat have had a lasting effect. Times are challenging in our busy family this week… I am even more blessed from the retreat that took me by surprise than I thought I could ever be.
Maybe a ‘real retreat’ will happen for me one day! But for now, this is God’s provision for me, and the tiny video I took of the trees, the birdsong… is my little reminder and top up whenever I need it.