Alone

I happened to start my new job two days before a combo retreat and leadership training sesssion, which meant I got to attend the event. It was held here.

I have driven by the place no less than 7.5 bazillion times (OK, that might be a bit of a stretch) and had no idea there was another world beyond the dense tangle of trees and shrubs snuggled up against the state highway bordering the property on the south. The slim iron archway framing the narrow entrance doesn’t exactly say, “Come on in, y’all”. The whole place seemed a little foreboding, and I kind of figured you needed some kind of Papal hall pass to step onto the sprawling grounds.

So I never did. I’d drive by and wonder what went on inside that forest, but never felt like I could just drive in there. Until someone told me I had to do so.

I was entirely surprised that this gorgeous piece of property existed right here in my own backyard. Chicago’s suburbs aren’t especially scenic, unless you find strip malls, pot holes and gritty forest preserves scenic. Chicago’s lakefront is pretty; the ‘burbs, not so much. And though I find beauty in abandoned lots full of broken glass, every once in a while, my overheated soul needs to take a long drink of a view that’s just flat-out stunning.

This was that. And in the stress of learning a gigantic new job and meeting too many new people (please, no quizzes on their names and titles. I’m not certain I’d get a passing grade today) the saturated, manicured green of the grounds was an oasis.

But my time outdoors led me to where I always, always seem to end up when I attend retreats and conferences: to a totally empty chapel. “Chapel” might be a bit of a misnomer for the worship space at St. Mary’s – it was over-the-top ornate, and seated hundreds, but they call it a chapel anyway.

In that silent space, closed my eyes, bowed my head and waited. Worshipped. Alone.

And not alone at all.

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.” – Ps. 84:1-4

About Michelle Van Loon
  • Pastor D

    I guess it boils down to where you’re at. We are surrounded by corn and beans and drive to the Chicago lakefront for inspiration. Tammy begins here new job tomorrow at a seminary library. We all need a sacred space to meet our Lord. When He says go into your inner room I believe He is speaking of a litteral place for you to go.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Blessings to Tammy on her new job!

    I agree with you about finding a physical place to be with the Lord. I’m grateful for those spaces and places that help us STOP and listen.


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