In 2006, I was encouraged to go on a local catholic retreat called Emmaus. Because I adored my friend Teda and really respected her advice, I searched out the retreat at my local parish. I went on that retreat and met amazing women. It was such a beautiful experience to find spiritual connections within my immediate community. I had been searching for a group like this and was so lucky for the introduction. The only critique that I had about the retreat is that it only takes place twice a year, once in October in Spanish and once in March in English. While I did volunteer to serve on each retreat after my wonderful experience in 2006, the group support was not there for me year round and now I needed it most. Now, I am not minimizing the individual support i have gained from my many “sisters” that I have made, but i needed a place to go after my mother died- to be in a place of love. And after April 2011, the next retreat would not be until March of the next year. I am a seeker at heart. When I figured out I needed help, I looked for it. I certainly looked for it from my “Emmaus sisters” if not directly then indirectly. They were there praying for me when I was going through the whole end of illness- beautiful women who have had similar experiences would send me e-mails of support and love telling me that i am in their thoughts and prayers. (THANK YOU TO ALL MY SISTERS -ELENA M., TEDA M. ANA GLORIA RV, DANIELLE S. DONNA M. CHRISTINE S. JACQUI (my sunshine smile) ALMA, and I could go on and on) This meant the world to me because when I was going through the darkness, I had a visual of March of the next year with these women. My visualization was me in front of a room of women where I would bear witness to a transformation of my soul. I would share my pain and also share the beauty and hope that came from it. I would share the vulnerable moments where i would open my heart to lay out the pain that changed from fear of death to reborn in the light. I had to find a reason for what I was going through and this was the visual I held in my mind and I held onto it and my hope in healing remained. I went through a lot from April 2011 to March 2012. During the preparation for the next retreat, i endured anxiety attacks that sent me to the hospital. I endured the fear that I may face the same fate as my mother as I had a biopsy for a calcification in my breast (benign thank God), and I faced the challenges that depression has on your intimate familial relationships. But as I went through all of these things, I had the support and love of beautiful women that surrounded me. I had moments of spiritual energy that came over me as I truly felt the hand of God touch my life as I received this love from my fellow sisters (DEBI). I had moments where my pain met the pain of another and we could see the beautiful hand of Jesus ( that incredible loving revolutionary) working its way and never giving up on us (CHRISTINE S.). I had moments where one of these women said aloud, “you will see , you will see that after all of this pain, you will come out of it shining even brighter than before.”(CHRISTINE W.) I also had moments of healing as I shared my pain from darkness to light with other women.(DANIELLE S. AND DIEMA AND LAURA) Where I may have been alone, I was able to reach out from that place of solace and touch another soul letting them know that they were not alone in this world. Thank you thank you thank you God. The greatest gift that I received from this support group could not be reduced to one thing alone because I have gained so much- but if i had to sum up- it is LOVE! I got the blessing of Love brought to me by God’s generous humans who took the time and shared themselves with me. EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT A RELIGIOUS PERSON, the experience of this retreat is that we met at the wound and came out experiencing joy. I am a huge proponent of this weekend retreat, it has often been referred to as a spa for the soul. The three days you are on the retreat are pretty special, but the gift you receive of lifetime friendships thereafter are truly the gift of the journey where when you are vulnerable to your life experiences and weakness, you are strengthened by the ability to be free from the pain once again through the support and love. If anyone is interested in attending the next retreat, I would be happy to share the information as it will take place May 31-June 2. if not, no worries- but if you are ever given the opportunity to take a weekend for yourself where you can experience the connections of the beautiful people who are all walking with on you this planet, then take the risk and go. It will be well worth it and if you are ever in a situation where you feel life overwhelming, then you just may have the love there waiting for you because of the connections you have made! i still am on the journey, but i can look back and say that my visual was realized in a small way because with God’s love as shown to me through my “sisters” i was transformed and made stronger. And, with this strength I am grateful. I allowed myself to strengthen my hope and along with my theme- keep moving forward on the heroine’s journey! Amen and attitude of gratitude to my Emmaus sisters! i will always be here for you! My mother has a whole army of men and women who she met during these kinds of retreats, CROC for one (KATHY H). And my mother always encouraged us to find God’s love there. She was and i know still is so proud of me as I continue to walk this journey knowing that I have sought out and received the love that is waiting for all of us, you just have to reach out and grab it!