I wish I had the guts to “Risk it all” while I was at cleftRock. Secluded in the woods of Rockcastle county, at least a thirty minute drive from the nearest Starbucks or Walmart, I lived in a cabin free of modern distractions for six months. I had support-raised for six months prior, and volunteered part time to get to this point. Serving as the Hospitality Manager and caterer, I found myself cleaning cabins, doing laundry, organizing cleaning products, and in the best of times, greeting guests and cooking for groups. cleftRock was (I think it still is…) a retreat center that offered 3 day/2 night free yearly retreats to pastors/missionaries and their families. A place of Sabbath rest.
Before finding myself in the woods, alone, I thought of all the wonders that this life would be. Like my own dream little dude ranch, minus the horses, I would hear the stories of the best warriors around. I would learn to be a better pray-er and truly trust in the Lord’s providence. Plus I would have a whole cabin, to myself, in the woods. How romantic. Not. I also dreamt of the possibility of God bringing me, ahem us, a ruggedly handsome, Jesus-loving maintenance man. We of course would fall in love and continue to use our gifts in this ministry of member care. Let’s just say life didn’t work out as I had planned it.
My cabin had no wifi, and it was far away from direct socialization. Though there was the couple than ran it, who lived through the woods, and delightful as they were, I didn’t get to experience their socialization as much as I hoped. They were in their mid-thirties, married, and content with their quiet life in the woods. I, however, was a late-twenties puppy who yearned for attention and love. The guests were indeed really amazing people doing really amazing things for the Lord, but most of our interactions included me welcoming them and then, on good days, praying for them and their time of rest. Which many of my prayers felt so lowly, much like, “What can I offer you?… I am but a maid, and you, you are changing the world…” Many times I would try to get the organization head to pray for them, because I felt simply unworthy. But I did get better, thanks be to God. Even in the best of times, greetings would include, hellos, maybe a quick story, prayers and then see them never again, because, you know, they were on retreat.
I was also quite disappointed by the way the catering worked out. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the opportunity to cook for those groups: deciding who would like what, planning menus, shopping in civilization and hearing them ooo and awe over what I had prepared for them. Unfortunately, I missed out on what I had experienced as a Group’s Host at CAP. CAP was more about community and cleftRock more about retreating. At CAP, I would eat with the groups that I cooked for. Here at cR, I was just their chef and for the most part, I found myself eating alone in the kitchen, hearing their joy and laughter just through the double set of double doors.
To say the least, I struggled. It would have been a great opportunity to surrender everything and see what the Lord would do, but I was so distraught by my lack of socialization that I couldn’t fathom letting go of any of my comforts. I needed people. I needed more than the once-a-week fellowship with my coworkers and the hour and a half worship at church. I wanted Netflix to pass the time as I desired TV friends to help me feel not so alone.
The idea of being there had sounded so enticing, and I truly (still to this day) felt God calling me there. The romantic idea of my own cabin in the woods, sounded delightful! Serving, with my gift of hospitality, pastors/missionaries and their families by providing a welcoming atmosphere of peace and cleanliness where they could rest free of worldly distractions – seemed magical! What I didn’t realize was that I too would be distraction-free. And unlike this year, I was not prepared for it.
I was so distracted by my aloneness that I couldn’t enjoy a perfect opportunity to bask in the presence of God. And it was truly a peaceful place.
One bonus was our Italy team. They were planning on planting a retreat center in Italy, and they came to observe, work with us and plan about once per season. They added a refreshing amount of life to the retreat center. Mother of three boys and wife to her beloved, I connected with (I’ll call her) Grace. I found that I could breathe again when I was with them. We played games, laughed and Grace and I had soulful conversations. Just what my heart needed. One day, clearly noticing my discontent, she told me that her prayer for me would be that I would be able to be completely content and fulfilled with Christ alone. It was hard to hear in the moment, as part of me – a “lifer” in the church – thought I already had that. Another part of me, knowing that wasn’t all true, struggled because I thought I had a need for community, deep God-honoring community, that needed to be fulfilled first.
It may have taken a year and a half, but I think I’m finding that place. I don’t feel at a loss for the things I’ve given up this year. I feel blessed with the time I have to read my Bible, pray, write, read and truly seek Him. I don’t feel like I’m lacking community, even though I choose to spend some Saturdays alone at home soaking up His substance – for He provides me with everything I need. I am so thankful for this opportunity to seek Christ, and even though I may not have been ready at cR, I know I am ready now. So thank you Grace (you know who you are) for your advice and your prayers, they helped me get to this beautiful, not-always-easy-but-wonderful place where I am today.