I honestly don't even know where to begin this post. Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the To the Stars retreat in Topeka, Kansas. The people that were in attendance were absolutely fantastic. I feel more at ease with myself than I have in a long time. There was good food, great information, and so much love. First and foremost I have to say thank you to the Ad Astra Grove, lead by Amanda Thomas for hosting this event. It was an honor to be able to attend and I am looking forward to seeing this event grow and prosper over the years. I also want to thank both Drum and Michael Dangler, who were our travelling clergy to this even. It was fantastic to get to meet you both and the information that you shared with us is absolutely priceless. Now, my personal experience.....
I started this weekend expecting some relaxation and socializing and ended up getting so much more. I have to be honest here and state that I am generally not an incredibly social person. I am very shy and tend to stutter and feel like a fool when I'm put on the spot. I have somehow found myself in a leadership role and it's pushing those boundaries in an unexpected and very appreciated way. I found myself socializing with almost 30 people, many of whom I had never met before. I got to know other people in the region that I may not have known otherwise and had an amazing time. The most surprising of all was the amount of love, appreciation, and compliments that I received from the people there. I often feel like what I am doing isn't good enough or appreciated, often I feel like a burden. I suddenly realize that what I am doing IS beneficial and good. I went in expecting people to not have a clue who I was, and was instead approached by strangers and given compliments. I was caught off guard in a great way. It made me feel really really good.
The event itself was absolutely amazing. The workshops that were presented taught me so much and allowed me to hear the experiences that others have had and share my own. We learned how to build an effective prayer, and the different reasons we may pray or do devotionals. This is something that I have struggled with for a very long time, so it was nice to get some ideas on how to to use prayer effectively.
We then did a workshop on connecting with your ancestors and I know it was very beneficial for a lot of people. Many people have tense family history, so getting information on how to connect with this Kindred. It was very heartwarming to hear the stories from people and know that we all have individual struggles that we can get past.
The third workshop was information on the basics of a ritual, the difference between private and public rituals, and important things to consider. I've never been one that is incredibly comfortable with formal ritual, so I think this workshop was probably the most beneficial one for me. It showed the importance of gestures and movement, as well as some historical thoughts on why things are done the way that the are.
Overall, I had an amazing time. I made some new friends, got to spend a lot of quality time laughing and sharing thoughts with amazing people, and spend a lot of time talking with Drum about life and our thoughts and ideas. He impressed me so very much. He has an amazing heart and warmth to him that means you can't help but want to be in is company. I am very much looking forward to attending this and other events in the future, which is honestly something that I could not have said last week. Who knows what other changes this event may bring?