This weekend I had the joy and privilege of participating in a women's retreat sponsored by my wonderful home church. It was a first for me--though I've been to plenty of meetings and get-aways during our life overseas, this was the first time that I had been able to join in on something quite like this. The retreat is over a Friday night and all day Saturday, with a speaker chosen to lead several sessions and then plenty of time built in for fellowship, fun, time in the Word, and even free time to take a walk, take a nap, or whatever you liked. I enjoyed the mix of scheduled and unscheduled time.
I've written before about how important I feel it is to occasionally get away and retreat, but this was the first time I was able to do it in a corporate setting. Of course, the experience of it was extremely different than a solitary retreat, but the idea is still the same--getting away from normal life and responsibilities for a brief period of time so that we can hear more clearly from the Lord and focus on His word in a different way.
The planning team had done a wonderful job, and thought of so many special details that made me feel so spoiled! Lovely, crafty decorations, delicious foods, small gift bags placed on our beds, a wonderful packet to take home--it was all so beautifully done. I was impressed!
I really enjoyed the teaching that was presented throughout the weekend. The main theme was "Clinging to God's Promises" and the woman who taught has lived this truth as her husband is struggling with an incurable disease. She had much wisdom to share that hit close to home as I think about the fears that are threatening our family right now. She also helpfully provided a chart of many, many Scriptural promises and I hope to spend some time meditating through that list this week.
One wonderful benefit of the retreat was the opportunity to have significant, uninterrupted conversations with women whom I don't see very often. There are only so many people I can speak with on Sunday morning after church, and there are some women whom I interact with much more frequently, but this was a chance to meet some new friends, connect with others whom I wanted to get to know better, and have significant conversations with several women whom I greatly respect. I approached the retreat wanting to be intentional about conversations...not just chatting but asking "heart" questions and being willing to share myself as well. It was just wonderful to have the chance to do this! I got very little sleep, it's true, but I don't regret it one bit! I'm thankful!
One reason I think those conversations are so important is because as I look back over how the Lord has worked in my life, sometimes He did significant work in me--changed a direction, convicted me of a sin, helped me see a situation clearly--simply through a very brief word spoken by a Christian sister. Can any of you relate to this? I could give a lot of examples but I won't go into long stories here...but the point is that I do remember specific conversations that the Lord used to change me, though those conversations may have even taken place in a casual setting, not a formal mentoring relationship or small group setting.
So, I'm so very thankful that this weekend provided an opportunity to be with sisters in the Lord, enjoy great teaching and thinking on God's word, encourage one another, worship together, and rejoice in what He is doing in one another. I took my camera, but was too busy talking (and listening) the whole weekend to take any pictures! But, I'm thankful for the chance to go, for my husband who stayed and held down the home fort (quite well, I might add!), and for those that planned and really worked hard so that we could be treated to such a great retreat. Thank you Lord!
And now, the challenge is to let the things I am learning impact me as I begin a new week and normal responsibilities again. We'll be back at home schooling again tomorrow, working on character and habit training with the girls, and all of the other normal stuff that is part of daily life. I came back from the retreat with a fresh conviction about persevering in training my girls in godly habits and responses. We need a little refresher course, I think! Things like "NO whining" and obeying right away, all the way, and with a cheerful heart, and also learning to clean up our messes when we make them...we'll keep on working to make those standards a reality again this week! I'm thankful for His new mercies and will be looking for them again tomorrow morning.
If you've never had the chance to go on a corporate retreat like this, may I encourage you to consider it? Or, if it's simply not available (like for me when I was overseas), set aside a half a day and spend that time yourself with the Lord. It's worth it!