The time between August 25, 2007, when I entered the monastery as a postulant, and July 6, 2008, when I was received into the novitiate, was a time of grace. I didn't recognize it then, but as I look back over my nearly five years in the monastery, it stands out very clearly to me. For the first two months, I was homesick, which took me by surprise. It wasn't the first time I'd moved to a new place (even though this was further than ever before). I'd visited for long periods over the previous two years and had a lot of supportive relationships in the community. However, even feeling homesick was okay; sisters were so understanding and I had enough life experience to know that, if you just wait, it will pass. So, there was grace even in the homesickness.
At the two month point, I started simply to like the life. I knew in my head that I was doing a huge thing in entering, but inside me, it was easy because it just seemed right and natural. Going to community prayers three times a day - easy. Living with a group of women when I'd been happily living alone, settling into a new country and culture, changing from working in academia to working in housekeeping, giving up control of my life - all easy. I simply couldn't find anything that I didn't love about the life. And I just accepted it and supposed that it would go on being like that forever because I was the right person in the right place.
I was not unreflective during this period, but it seemed to me (I now think both naively and arrogantly) that I had done this BIG THING in leaving my former life behind and that I was being rewarded for the sacrifice. I was here in this lovely life and now I was going to get on with seeking God undisturbed and untroubled.
Hard was easy through these months. One could say that I was unrealistic, ignorant about what I was letting myself in for, and maybe I was, but I truly see this as a time of grace. The fact that it was easy allowed me to settle into the life without being distracted by the question, "Do I like it?' As I have lived more deeply (and less easily) into monastic life, it has seemd more and more certain to me that staying here, committing to the life, is not about likes and dislikes, but essentially about whether living it, in what turns out to be all its messiness, is bringing me closer to God.