Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today on Moxie Voice.
Christine: Thank you for having me.
Christine, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself, and your journey?
Christine: A summary of how I’ve gotten to where I am right now begins with who I was. From the time I was a little girl, I dreamt of being a TV reporter. Once I had achieved my lifelong goal, it had become all encompassing. I had placed all of my self-worth and my identity into my job title. I was happy, yet I lived my life with a persistently restless spirit, always wanting to do more, to be more.
How did you discover that your dream began to changed?
Christine: Until I had my first child,I thought I could plan, control and manage my life all on my own. I didn’t think motherhood would change that. I became a weekend morning anchor and special reports reporter so I could balance it all. On paper it looked good: I was juggling the roles of wife, mother and anchor. In reality, I wasn’t present for any of it and I was living in a constant state of tension. I decided to become a stay at home mother but I want to make this clear: This isn’t a story about choosing between work and staying at home. This is about listening
to that nagging feeling you have inside of you over whether your life is working for you. I’ve grown to learn that tension inside of me was because God had a different plan for me: A much better and peaceful plan than the one I dreamt up on my own.
How did you navigate this transition from full time career to life at home?
Christine: It was so difficult for me. I felt like a failure. It was devastating to me that I couldn’t make my schedule and my life work the way I had planned it all out. After being a TV reporter for over ten years, the role of stay at home mother was hard on my self-esteem. I no longer had all of things I used to measure my worthiness. Being home all day forced me to confront all that restlessness that I always felt underneath the surface. I could no longer distract myself. I became depressed and resentful. I often thought to myself, “This wasn’t the life I that I
signed up for.”
“There was something about this environment that
felt so safe, so loving, and felt so non judgmental.”
How did you transform your point of view?
Christine: My family and I had just moved and the first Sunday we went to church, I discovered a faith-sharing program called Ministry of Mothers Sharing (MOMS). Walking into that first meeeting was uncomfortable. I felt so vulnerable. I was afraid of losing control in the presence of others. I remember this beautiful music in the background, but I was more focused on my internal dialogue.
I just kept saying to myself ,“Keep it together! Look in control! Don’t cry!” It was unlike anything that I had experienced before. There was something about this environment that felt so safe, so loving, and felt so non judgmental. It was so foreign to me. In that space it felt safe to allow myself to let down my wall and be vulnerable. I was so overwhelmed that I just broke down right there. I couldn’t explain it then but now I know I had those overwhelming feelings because it was the first time I had been in such a sacred space that was inviting me to connect with such a gentle, accepting and loving God.
What ultimately lead from this transformative moment to authoring your book and
creating a retreat ministry?
Christine: I went home that night and did the MOMS homework. It was a beautiful introduction to God’s love. It integrated everything I was as a woman, a wife, a mother, and a Christian, while affirming all the challenges that I have faced. As I read this book I kept saying, “Oh wow! This is so me.”
I looked at the back of the book to see who wrote it. The author was Sister Paula Hagan a Benedictine
Nun. I knew I had to meet her. I continued my journey with those same women and experienced a season of profound growth. I did meet Sister Paula Hagan and eventually, started working for Ministry of Mother’s Sharing.
After several years of working with this ministry, I began to feel something inside me say that I still had
more to offer.
After a long discernment process, I really felt God was calling me to write a book and share the welcoming and loving spiritual growth concepts that had changed my life through the Ministry of Mothers Sharing, yet with my own unique experience. I put on my reporter’s hat again and started interviewing priests, nuns, psychologists, family therapists, spiritual directors and retreat directors. I researched centuries-old spiritual schools of thought. What evolved was not just a book, but a spiritual growth process of Retreat, Reflect, Renew.
“It integrated everything I was
as a woman, a wife, a mother,and
a Christian, while affirming all
the challenges that I have faced.”
You’re referring to your book Retreat, Reflect, Renew: A Sacred Journal for a More Peaceful You?
Tell us more your book and the power of retreat ministry.
Christine: I’m really inviting people to a journey – a Retreat, Reflect, Renew process – more than just reading a book. The journey starts with “Retreat”: Ten Practical Steps to Retreat to help you slow down and be present. Everyone says that you have to be more present, but that is a hard thing to do. It’s so intertwined with your feelings about God and your own self-acceptance. The first steps are to be patient and compassionate with yourself. You don’t have to know everything. You just have to be on this journey at your own pace. From there, we go into looking at your daily schedule and making healthy choices about how you live out your daily life and recognizing God’s strength and love in ordinary moments.
The second part of my book is “Reflect”, where you are invited to embrace the journey within, and connect with God who resides within you. In the Ten Gentle Invitations to Reflect, we look at self-acceptance and welcoming God into your heart. We look at your authentic self and what I call your ‘piece of the puzzle’. This invites you to see that we all have gifts and limitations, thus we cannot do it all. We all need one another. I found this concept to be life-changing for me because it helped me see I didn’t have to ‘do it all’ or be everything. I just needed to be all that God created me to be. That’s it! And the more I listen to His plan for me, the more peaceful I feel and the more I enjoy life because He calls me to do the things I love to do and that give me life-giving energy. You just have to be your piece and other people can fill in the rest. That just takes the pressure off!
In the final section, “Renew” there are ten soulful prayers to contemplate. You are invited to walk past your head and your heart and into your soul: the place in which you let go and feel the peace of God as you place your trust into the his hands.
A safe, respectful, non judgmental environment is a common theme in both your book and your website. How important is this to Retreat, Reflect, Retreat?
Christine: That is everything! Having a place where people will accept you for who you are, and allow you to walk your own journey, at your own pace, in your own way, is critical. Our program is set up to allow others to grow, to share, and break down those walls that binds us. Without this environment, no one would return. They just wouldn’t. Growth can be scary, and without the necessary vulnerability it cannot occur. That is why everything I do promotes this safe, non judgmental environment that was granted to me all those years before. When you have
a safe environment, you can grow to see you are a sacred individual with unique and beautiful gifts to share. That’s how you find your peace: from the sharing with others so you don’t feel so alone and from connecting with your sacred self and the plan God is calling you to live. Peace doesn’t come from life always going your way – that was the big lesson I had to learn – it comes from God’s strength within no matter what is going on in your life. And the more you connect with your authentic self, the more you can connect with God.
“Growth can be scary,
and without the necessary
vulnerability it cannot occur.”
Retreat, Reflect, Renew is a Christ-centered retreat ministry to help people grow
spiritually. It’s language and principles are grounded in Christian spirituality. How
applicable is your program for people of differing faiths or views of spirituality?
Christine: It absolutely is for “anyone” who is looking for more meaning, hope, and peace. It is a Christ-centered approach because I am a Catholic Christian and those are the spiritual growth concepts, rooted in Scripture, that I believe in and transformed me. But having said that, I’m not a theologian teaching doctrine. I’m one person humbly sharing my experience towards a more peaceful, faith-filled life. The spiritual growth concepts – concepts about slowing down, looking at your busy schedule, making healthy choices in your day, recognizing God in the present
moment, self-acceptance, growing closer to God within you, looking at your authentic self-these are concepts anyone can appreciate and learn and grow from in their lives.
I know some people will see that it is Christ-centered and automatically think it will be judgmental and condemning. I hope they pick this up and see there are welcoming, loving and gentle approaches to spiritual growth in the Christian faith and in my Catholic-Christian faith. In a world where there is so much judgment and disrespect for different views, I believe there is a hunger for those who are seeking theologically sound spirituality in a safe and loving way. I am here to say this middle ground does exist. Non-judgmental doesn’t mean you condone everything, it means you allow people to go through
whatever they are going through and let it be between them and God and be respectful of that.
Retreat Reflct Renew aspires to meet each individual where they are in their own journey.
“Peace is not a transitory
emotional state such as
happiness, once acquired
it is not so easily lost.”
How accessible is Retreat, Reflect, Retreat for those interested in participating in your program?
Christine: Anyone can buy the book off of my website and start reading on their own. For those who want to share the book with two or more people, I have session guidelines on my website. I purposely wrote these session guidelines to be easy to facilitate without any pre-planning, so that people can just dive on in. I created it as something that people can do on their own.
A big part of my background is about facilitating groups, and training facilitators form non judgmental, welcoming structures that allow people to feel safe to share in their groups. These guidelines are available on the website Retreatreflectrenew.org There is also a facilitator video with tips and reflection questions to help facilitators feel comfortable managing a discussion. I’m am currently developing a thirty minute session for people with very limited time. There will be an online journal available in Spring 2015. I’d like to start working with retreat centers nationwide to create places for people to get away and use the tools we have provided.
When healing takes time, society encourages us to run away from it, or to pretend like the darkness and the need for healing do not exist.
“Many of our readers at Moxie Voice come to our website
because they are facing overwhelming darkness. What
would you say to encourage them?”
Christine: I want to provide for people in the darkness a safe place that acknowledges the darkness. I think that societal expections seem to ask us to be happy, accepting, and forgiving overnight. It is a world that values a quick fix. When healing takes time, society encourages us to run away from it, or to pretend like the darkness and the need for healing do not exist. This attitude gives us the impression that when we are falling down on our journey, we are not living.
Life is comprised of the times when you’re going forward, but it’s also consists of the times we dwell in the darkness, the pain, and the challenges. All of these elements are part of the humanexperience. There is so much to learn from and to grow from our journey through the times of darkness. If we acknowledge both the joy and the pain, life is so much easier. Only then you are truly able to embrace your journey, accept who you are, and allow a loving God into that space within. That is when you will find peace.