Sometimes, what you really need to do is just kick off your shoes, throw up your hands, and dance.

It doesn’t matter what you look like when you dance; or what exactly it is you’re doing with your arms and legs and feet; or whether or not you’re moving to the beat; or even if you’ve actually heard this song before, or not.

That’s what 20 women — “Ruth’s Sisters” — from Redeemer remembered last Saturday night, in a conference room-turned-movie theater-turned-dance floor, at a retreat center in western Maryland, in view of Sugarloaf Mountain and a sea of fields and autumn-bedecked trees.

We had just spent the morning delving into the story of Ruth and Naomi, and how hope and new life can spring out of even the most desolate and destitute of situations. Our afternoon was spent engaging in a variety of endeavors, including “wild writing” (have you ever tried writing non-stop for 10 minutes, putting pen to paper and allowing whatever comes out to just come out?), Tai chi (“meditation in motion” that produces serenity through gentle, flowing movements) yoga, hiking, napping, talking, sharing …

On a coffee table-turned-altar were rocks, borrowed from our Redeemer campus, which served as paperweights holding down small slips of paper on which we had written down the burdens that weigh heavily on our hearts, that we wished to “lay down” for the weekend, in order to be fully present to one another and whatever grace our retreat might provide.

After dinner, we pushed the conference room chairs to the sides of our meeting space and moved in the more comfy sofas and chairs from the lobby, so we could watch Mamma Mia and eat popcorn “in style”.

And it was after Mamma Mia that the dance party happened, thanks to a sister’s Spotify playlist and some i-Phones converted into disco lights on the floor.

We gathered last weekend to lay down our burdens, lift up one another, and gain some insight into how to navigate life’s transitions gracefully.

What we were reminded of is how life-giving laughter and good food (that you yourself don’t have to prepare!) can be; how nourishing it is to be part of a loving, caring community; how the beauty of nature revitalizes your soul; how taking time to slow down and exhale is vital; and how, sometimes, what you really need to do is just kick off your shoes, throw up your hands, and dance.


P.S. A poem from our retreat, for further reflection …

As every flower fades and as all youth departs, so life at every stage, 

So every virtue, so our grasp of truth, 

Blooms in its day and may not last forever. 

Since life may summon us at every age 

Be ready, heart, for parting, new endeavor, 

Be ready bravely and without remorse 

To find new light that old ties cannot give. 

In all beginnings dwells a magic force 

For guarding us and helping us to live. 

Serenely let us move to distant places 

And let no sentiments of home detain us. 

The Cosmic Spirit seeks not to restrain us 

But lifts us stage by stage to wider spaces. 

If we accept a home of our own making, 

Familiar habit makes for indolence. 

We must prepare for parting and leave-taking 

Or else remain the slaves of permanence. 

Even the hour of our death may send 

Us speeding on to fresh and newer spaces, 

And life may summon us to newer races. 

So be it, heart: bid farewell without end.

  • Hermann Hesse