We’re here! After about eight hours of travel we arrived in beautiful of Mt. Angel, Oregon for our monastery vacation. Mt. Angel is a very German town, with Bavarian architecture and names of streets and restaurants in German. Evidently up until recently most of the people spoke German. Also, it’s so weird to be somewhere where you need to wear a jacket in the evenings and early mornings — very different from our 98-degree highs and 72-degree lows in Texas.
Right now we’re staying at the Shalom House of the Queen of Angels Monastery of the Benedictine sisters. Our plan was to stay at Mt. Angel Abbey the whole time, but they were booked for the first two days we’d be here, so we ended up here at Shalom. I’m so glad it worked out that way, because we love it here.
The sisters run a nursing home, food bank, homeless shelter, and of course the retreat house. My husband had a nice conversation with a 95-year-old nun who’s been here for more than 70 years. She said that originally they’d planned for people to stay at the homeless shelter no more than a few weeks, but they wouldn’t make people leave if they weren’t ready, so now they often have folks there for months. My husband asked her some question about how they were going to handle some aspect of the shelter, and she replied that it was still too new to know, saying, “We’re not sure yet — we only started it in 1988.”
At the Shalom house there are private rooms, but everyone shares a common living room, and common men and women’s bathrooms. As The Most Introverted Person in the World, I was a bit apprehensive when I first saw that setup, but I’ve found it to be surprisingly comforting to be so connected to other guests. It feels like we’re all one big family. Most of the other guests are iconographers who are here for a seminar, so it’s been fascinating to chat with them.
I had one of those moment where I forgot that social awkwardness is one of my charisms when I thought I might try to make conversation with the iconographers in Spanish; they all speak some English, but most are originally from Mexico. Wouldn’t it be nice to try to chat with them in their native tongue rather than having them speak English? I thought (my guardian angel shouting, “No! Don’t do it!” over my shoulder, as he does any time I try to interact with other humans.) Long story short, there was a bit of an awkward moment after I told them that I have a relative who is a monkey at Mt. Angel Abbey (confusing monje, monk, for mono, monkey).
When we booked this trip we signed up for the plans at both Queen of Angels and Mt. Angel Abbey where you get both lodging and meals, eaten in common with the nuns/monks and other guests. When we first arrived, I looked at the schedule and thought we’d made a terrible mistake. I didn’t like the idea of having to be somewhere at a certain time if I wanted to eat, and actually thought about canceling the meal plan. We ended up trying it, and it’s amazing how much it transforms your whole day to live according to the monastery schedule. I’ll write more about it later, but suffice it to say that it’s already been a powerful experience.
I printed out your prayer requests — all 50 pages of them — and look forward to going into the chapel to pray for you! I haven’t had a chance to do that yet, but I did have a rough day of travel to get here, and I offered up my suffering for all the intentions on that list. (Also, I just now saw that there are some new requests that recently came in. I’ll include those too!)
This morning I woke to the bells ringing across the monastery grounds, calling us to prayer. We got ready and headed over to the chapel, where the sisters chanted Psalms for about thirty minutes, then we had Mass, then everyone ate breakfast together. I knew it was time for lunch when the bells started ringing again. It makes me wish I lived close to a monastery: even if I couldn’t join them for prayer every day, there’s something so comforting to have the movements of the day announced by the music of bells.
This trip has already been an amazing experience, and we’ve only been here about 24 hours. I’m so grateful to be here!
I look forward to reading your posts!
After two years, 600 pages, and 200,000 words, I think I’m finally close to having a completed draft of my book. (Lest it sound like I confused my story with War and Peace, that’s the the total pages of the first draft, this draft, and some epic outlining exercises in between.)
A quick review for those of you who aren’t familiar with the saga:
In 2008 I signed a contract with the Ted Weinstein Literary Agency to write a memoir about how I grew up atheist and ended up Christian. An unexpected pregnancy derailed the entire process, which caused me some mild consternation (read: I whined and cried like a child who’d had her candy taken away) but I ended up clueing in that God’s plans just might be better than mine. Not only did I have a precious baby girl in early 2009, but the extra time I had thanks to the delays gave me just enough space to realize that the draft was no good. It read like…well, like it was written by someone who had never written a book before. It was strained. It was humorless. It was layerless. I was trying too hard. I scrapped the whole thing, devoured approximately two gazillion books about how to write books, sought expert advice, committed to care more about whether it’d be fun to read than whether it’d impress critics, and I started over. (And yeah, that first day I sat down in front of a blank Word document after a tossing out a year’s worth of hard work, my first thought was something like, “Dude. Seriously?”)
And now I’m finally in the home stretch of the writing process. It’ll be a huge milestone to have this new draft under my belt, even though there will still be lots of editing and revision to do later. I don’t have a hard deadline with my agent, but I’m shooting to have it done by Sunday June 20, the feast of Margaret Ebner.
Other than popping in on Fridays I probably won’t be blogging much these next couple weeks as I work to wrap up this draft. If you have a moment to say a prayer for my little project, I’d appreciate it!
So what do you have going on this summer? Cool vacations? Ambitious gardening projects? Home improvement extravaganzas? I’d love to hear about it! (In as much detail as possible. Seriously. I’m going to be spending all my free time chained to my desk for the next two weeks, so I’d truly be fascinated to hear all about what’s up with you this summer!)
- TUESDAY: I’ll be chatting with the folks at Moody Radio on 90.1 FM/1110 AM in the Chicago area at 8:10am Central time. We’ll be talking about conversion and my Two Lists article.
- WEDNESDAY: I’ll be on the SonRise Morning Show at 7:10am Central time. It’s live in Cincinnati on 740 AM and will be rebroadcast later on EWTN Radio.
- FRIDAY: I won’t be hosting Quick Takes this week since it’s Good Friday. I look forward to “seeing” everyone again after Easter!
I hope you all have a blessed Holy Week! If you want read a thought-provoking reflection to get your week off to a good start, check out the Anchoress’ recent words about fear of silence.
I will only be doing 7 Quick Takes Friday posts during Lent. I’ll resume regular posting after Easter (April 4).
If you have any interest in the backstory, here it is:
One lesson I learned earlier this year was the importance of discerning the difference between the life changes you want to make vs. the changes you feel called to make. I was reminded of that lesson around January 5th, when I had already dropped the ball on pretty much every New Year’s resolution I’d made. I was left scratching my head, wondering why this year was such an epic fail when I’d actually had a lot of success in the New Year’s resolutions department in the past few years. Then I realized: I’d made a list of what I wanted to do, and spent little to no time discerning what God wanted me to do.
Last week, I caught myself making that same mistake when I thought about Lent.
I kept thinking about what sacrifices I felt like I should make, or what things would be nice to do, all without putting so much as ten seconds of focused prayer into it. When I actually carved out some time for silence to try to discern what I was led to do during Lent, I had an entirely different vision of what the next 40 days should look like for me.
Interestingly, through prayer I discerned that I should sacrifice less than I’d been planning to. I was left with a much more calm resolution to give up a couple of small things rather than an anxious, overzealous drive to become St. Clare by Friday.
I’m planning to give up a food item, set limits on my recreational internet use time, and increase my prayer time. I’ll finish the fantastic Severe Mercy soon and bought Peter Kreeft’s Jesus-Shock on a whim as my main Lenten reading.
The other thing I feel “called” to do (to use the term loosely) is to put some serious thought, prayer and effort into the book. I hesitate to say that because I don’t want it to sound like a “GOD TOLD ME TO WRITE THIS BOOK BECAUSE IT’S SOOOOOO IMPORTANT” kind of statement. I just have a feeling that this Lent is going to be a time of great inspiration in that department, and I think I should take a little time to give it some intense focus.
That means, as you can guess from the beginning of the post, that I’ll need to spend less time doing other things I love, like blogging. I will still do Quick Takes since those posts are so fun and easy to write, but I won’t be writing regular posts. It’s a little painful since I enjoy writing posts so much, but I think it’s the right thing to do.
Blessed Ash Wednesday!