The Week 2 guide for the Online Retreat in Everyday Life is here.

This week, we delve more deeply into the photo album of our lives. In examining memories, there are some things easier – and more pleasant – than others, some times and places I’d rather be.

When I sit down to write down about one time of my life, one section of my childhood, or one specific memory, I find others that flit around on the edge of my awareness. There are images that flood my mind, as well as emotions in a rainbow of colors.

Thinking about the photo album of my life, I see myself tending to spend time with certain memories. I don’t spend too much time on the painful things, not at first. I haven’t looked deeper at how my life has been linked, at the ways some of my experiences growing up colored how I acted, mistakes I made, things I avoid now.

I don’t want to blame my past for my present. I don’t want to point fingers at X or Q and say that THEY were the reason I did this or that. I don’t want to dig into the possibilities of the long-term influence of this or that childhood experience.

It seems silly to me. Free will was God’s gift to humankind and I made choices. yes, those choices have a background, but these exercises are not about blame. They’re not about a finger pointed outward, but rather about discovering who I am, seeking from that the person God intends.

God did not make the mask I wear, that convenient hiding place I use when I’m uncomfortable being just ME, the Sarah God made in the beginning. So much of who I think I am is colored by my past, and that’s where the photo album comes in handy. I can flip through it and see the times I laughed and seethed and shuddered, and I can also, by looking closer, see the girl underneath, the person God created.

There’s a Sarah who was known in her mother’s womb. There’s a Sarah who can be all that God desires.

But to find her, I have to move aside all the junk that’s collected over the years. I have to understand the many masks that need to be removed, the many layers I have accumulated.

Going through the memories, I look for God. Sometimes it’s not so easy to find him. Is that because I don’t know where to look?

Other times, as I look back over the patchwork of my life, I can see God as the backing holding it all together. I can see the good he brought from the pain, the grace that flowed from the tragedy, the carrying he did as I fell…and fell…and fell.

Even as I struggle, wondering how God could love me during one particular time of my life, I think of him as Father, as Daddy. Daddy’s arms are always open, always waiting for me to jump in them. I just have to make the effort.

He can pick me up, carry me through the pain of the memories. I just have to ask.

Going through all the memories makes me look at who I am today and consider: Do I accept who I am? Do I live the present moment as a prayer to God, of thanksgiving?

This process is also reminding me that I’m still being formed by my Maker…God isn’t finished with me – and neither am I!