In Celebration


As a gift to myself for my upcoming sixtieth birthday, I signed up for a writing retreat in northern Minnesota.  I have always loved to write; in fact, I’ve lived much of my life with pencil in hand.  I’ve written journal entries, letters, papers, prayers, poems, retreats, and eulogies.  Writing has long been my way of making sense of my life, but with little formal training, I thought this might be a wonderful time to learn more.


Though the writing portions of this retreat were mostly helpful and engaging, what I soon learned is that God wanted to use these four threshold days before my birthday to nourish me in mind, body, and spirit, to offer me time to remember what is important and to put my precious life in perspective.


My room, partly underground, was like a small, pine planter box that readily became my haven.  Its simplicity, with space enough for bed, desk, chair, and sink, graciously kept my focus on rest and the germinating seeds of my writing.  I spent many hours there feeling safe and held.


We began and ended each day in the chapel for twenty minutes of silent meditation.  One flame on a center table served as the orienting point for those who gathered.  Each morning I opened my spirit with a resounding “Yes” to whatever the day might hold, and each evening I invited my spirit to close the day with a resounding “Thank You” for what had been.


Mealtimes were sacred events.  We would begin with a prayer or blessing, sometimes spoken, sometimes sung, always thanking God for our sustenance.  The host for each meal would then give a detailed description of the meal that had been carefully prepared including the intention behind the menu and the source of the various foods.  Loving attention had been paid to every detail.



I took a long four-mile walk every day either on the road past the open fields or through the woods.  Using a wonderful healing prayer I learned from Father Matt Linn, for the first mile, I would take all that was heavy in my heart and lift it up to God; for the second mile, I would open myself to all the love and light God wanted to pour into my open hands; for the third mile, I would wrap myself from head to toe in the light and love I received; and for the fourth mile, from the abundance I had been given, I would ask God to show me for this day all the ways I could share this light and love with others in my life.


One day as I returned from my walk and came up the long driveway to the turnaround, I was greeted by a pile of stones or a cairn, created by one of the retreatants.  Of all the writing prompts thus far, this visual evoked the most interest in me.  As I sat there for much of the afternoon, I was first reminded of how cairns were used in Biblical times as a sign or memorial of what God had done.  I was then led to see the cairn before me in a similar way, as a marker of God’s handiwork in the six decades of my life.






I can see now

how each stone

has been carefully

lovingly placed

decade upon decade


First wonder, stable and round,

the delight of discovery


Followed by angst, edgy and lopsided,

the uncertainty of belonging



Next focus, polished and sharp,

the vitality of contribution


Then connection, smooth and wide,

the power of love


And purpose, deep and textured,

the gift of life


Onto change, narrow and worn,

the impact of transition


I pause here

to remember, to give thanks

for the years of light and shadow

that have brought me here

all necessary in their own way

to the overall creation


Whatever the story and shape

of this next stone

I claim my intention

to savor what has been

to celebrate what is

to embrace what will be

and to trust, to trust

this foundation upon which

I am being formed





For place, for prayer, for provision, for people, for perspective,

I give thanks.  Amen.



Reflection Questions


~What elements of your life does God want you to notice, to appreciate?


~How would you describe each of the decades of your life thus far?


~What about your life are you being invited to see from God’s perspective?



c Tracy Mooty, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.