Last week I asked a few random questions (What is Your Advice? Echoes of Mystery) — and I loved hearing from you! I’m still getting responses; you’ve been such a blessing. I’ve read every email, applied much of your advice, and hope to respond to individual emails today.
A few people asked me about the six-day Silent Retreat and Contemplative Prayer Seminar I recently attended. The truth is I’m not sure how to put my experience into words. I love to write, but describing how I experienced the depth and silence of God isn’t easy.
One reader asked if the bear I mentioned in my Echoes of Mystery blog post was literal or symbolic. It was literal — a real big black bear! I was wandering along a well-traveled yet empty path during one of Father Lawrence’s sessions on wisdom and silence; a big black bear crossed the path behind me. He, too, was out for an evening stroll (though probably not cutting class like I was). He munched a few blackberries, then meandered into a nearby neighborhood.
I followed Buddy the Big Black Bear for about a block. He sat under a tree, stretched his great head up, and ate a few berries. I could hear crunch, crunch, crunch. Buddy must’ve felt my stare. Our eyes met, and I slowly started to back away. Crunch, crunch, crunch still echoes in my mind.
Buddy and I met the next morning at 5:30 am — and it wasn’t even in in the same neighborhood! It was at least 20 minutes away, which made me wonder whose bed he slept in.
So yes, I encountered a live black bear three times during my Silent Retreat and Contemplative Prayer Seminar…but I’m not certain his name is Buddy.
Below is my experience with free ice cream and Jesus in Quebec City. Have you ever experienced Jesus in “real life”?
First, though, here’s what’s new:
When You’re Homesick for Your Old Life – These four tips will help you cope when you’re feeling homesick for your old life after a divorce, death or diagnosis of a disease. Maybe you miss your old home, pet, or someone you love. You keep thinking, “I want my old life back” or even “I feel homesick, but I don’t know what for.”
Sample Marketing Plan for a Christian Nonfiction Self-Help Book – When I met with my nonfiction publisher and book marketing team, we discussed these nine ways to promote my first Christian self-help book for women. My marketing plan will help you launch and promote your own nonfiction book.
Why It’s Healthy to Feel Numb After a Death – and How to Cope – Feeling numb after the death of someone you love is a natural, healthy part of the grieving process. The shock protects you from the cliff of insanity and helps you cope with daily life. But what if you feel like you’ll never feel normal again? These ideas for healing emotional numbness will help you through the grieving process.
4 Easy Ways to Share Your Faith With Your Husband – You’re a Christian wife who wants to follow Jesus, but your husband doesn’t believe in God. How do you share your faith with your husband peacefully, without forcing conversations or conversions? Even more importantly, how do you stop your marriage from weakening your faith and bringing you down spiritually?
Free Ice Cream and Jesus in Quebec City
One reason I love traveling alone is that I spend more time with Jesus. I have to rely on Him because I’m vulnerable, a little lonely, maybe even homesick (which I wrote about in When You Get Homesick – Echoes of the Past). Feeling melancholy is good when it reminds you to look up and meet God’s gaze.
After a Thai dinner in Quebec City three weeks ago, Jesus and I wandered into a posh ice cream shop. The ice cream lady had just dipped a vanilla cone into a vat of warm thick chocolate syrup for a customer; she held it up, letting the excess chocolate flow back down. I looked at the price list — $11 for an ice cream cone? No matter how fresh, organic, dark, rich or natural the cocoa beans are…I don’t want to spend $11 on an ice cream cone.
We toured the shop and marveled at the chocolate delights. I was disappointed not to spot a free sample, not even an errant gourmet chocolate chip.
Leaving the shop, the customer was handing back the freshly dipped ice cream cone to the lady. “I’m sorry, my son doesn’t want dark chocolate,” she said. “He wanted the milk chocolate coating.”
“Sure, no problem!” said the ice cream lady. “I’ll just make you a fresh one.”
We three — and Jesus makes four — looked at the unwanted ice cream cone.
“I’ll take it!” I suddenly heard someone say. “There’s no sense in just throwing it away.”
That someone could have been me; the next thing I knew I was walking out of the shop with a free freshly dipped gourmet dark chocolate ice cream cone.
Or it could’ve been Jesus. He likes to give away free stuff.
My ice cream cone lasted all the way to the The Monastère des Augustine, my home for six nights in Quebec City. The monastery/hotel is surrounded by a stone wall, which is scalable but I’d never seen anyone actually sitting or walking on it.
That evening there was a young fellow sitting on the wall. Kinda skateboard-like, with shoulder length curly brown hair, cargo shorts, t-shirt. What struck me was his pose: he was sitting with one foot propped on the wall, elbow resting on knee, face turned to the setting sun, wind blowing his hair. And the look on his face! Eyes closed, mouth smiling, chin up, shoulders relaxed, totally oblivious to everyone and everything. He was literally basking in the sun. Like he’d just eaten (or given away) a free freshly dipped gourmet dark chocolate ice cream cone.
What also struck me — and had been striking me all day — was the extreme heat. It’d been 35 degrees Celsius most of the afternoon. Hot. To see someone basking in the sun after a day of furnace-like heat was … unusual.
Not quite ready to go to my room, I wandered into the monastery’s garden and sat on a bench. I could still see the wall but the garden trees hid the skateboard fellow. I wondered about Jesus, about how often we see and experience Him and don’t even realize it. I wondered if sometimes He appears as skateboard dudes, or homeless shopping cart ladies, or businessmen holding the elevator door open. I wondered how often we overlook His gifts, how much we forget, how little time we spend with Him. And I started to cry.
And guess who suddenly walked along the stone wall, sat down, and turned his face back to the setting sun and gentle breeze? You got it. Skateboard guy. Perhaps his original seat was now shaded, blocked by the trees because the sun was setting. Perhaps his bottom got sore from sitting on the stone wall. Perhaps he wanted a different view of the city.
Or perhaps he just followed the wind, which blew him my way.
With His love,