For me the expectation of retreat is at times even sweeter that the actual experience, if that is possible. The idea of getting away from the busyness of life, getting away for the “whirr” of living with cell phones, laptops, email, electronic gizmo’s, remote control’s, meal planning, calendar checking, bill paying, grocery list making, orthodontist appointments, orchestra concerts, laundry and part time jobs. All of these things are part of life, some of them are necessary, some are instruments intended to make our lives easier yet at time they also overwhelm.
The moment I pull into the parking lot of the retreat center, before even as I pull out of my driveways the sense of moving away from the ordinary and closer to an experience with God is enticing. This weekend was filled with wonderful fellowship, reconnecting with friends that I do not get to spend much time with but also it was an opportunity to grow even closer with my accountability sisters as well.
I packed my make up but never once used it, wore my sweats and didn’t care, enjoyed the food, but any meal that I don’t have to cook is a blessing, yielded my hair over to the dampness and let the curls loose, talked into the night, laughed, wept, sang, listened, shared and praised the Lord.
For me this weekend was about a reexamination of where I am in my walk with the Lord. It was also an opportunity to simply stand back and bask in how great my God is. I get such a charge in watching how God works in the lives of those who love Him. With each speaker that got up something new was revealed. God is so amazing in how He fine tunes His message to meet each individual. There is no mass marketing where the Lord is concerned. He is so interested in the details of each of our lives that He has the ability to reach each person in a completely new way. God never disappoints, and He fulfilled this expectation in a big way.
We arrived in Toccoa, along with the rain and it was our faithful companion for nearly the entire weekend. We huddle together under umbrellas as we traveled from the chapel to our small groups. We watched the rain fall upon the lake as we gathered for our meals and we stepped over puddles, shook our umbrellas and accepted the showers for what they were, a much needed watering during a time of severe drought.
During one of our sessions I had a front row seat to watch a thirsty squirrel joyfully jumping from branch to branch in a tree out side. I watched his quick little movements as he bent his head down to lick up the abundance of droplets. He would drink his fill and move on to another branch heavy with more. With each leap the glistening drops that were delicately balanced at the end of the dormant and leafless branches were shaken loose like a tiny little rain forest.
The camellias were in full bloom. Their branches were heavy with the rain, their deep green leathery leaves were such a contrast against the velvety red of their petals. The flowers took on a silvery iridescent sheen from the near constant rain, they were beautiful. The poor daffodils were bent nearly to the ground and the forsythia was the only bright spot in all the wet gloominess.
Yet with all the cold rain there was a stark beauty to our surroundings. I know that the rain is a necessary component for the rebirth of spring that is just around the corner.
The theme for this weekend was “and you shall be my witness” from Acts 1:8. We heard about how we can be missionaries in the home, with our neighbors and our family. We learned about witnessing to those in our community and even mission opportunities across the world.
One of the things that struck me was the reality that we all, and I am pointing the finger right back at myself in a major way, have a huge stumbling block when we think about witnessing or sharing our faith. When I first became a Christian, I can remember having a major panic attack if I thought I was going to be placed in a situation where I was possibly going to be asked to pray out loud or heaven forbid tell someone how I felt about Jesus. I have to thank my sweet Heavenly Father for His patience as He has gently moved me along. It has been at times a long and painful process and I have to admit that there are still many areas in my spiritual growth that are in need of a bit of heavenly tilling.
What stuck with me was a new visual I received about witnessing. Someone defined what being a witness means, not in the sense of being a witness for Christ but in more basic terms. Being a witness is when you tell someone what you have personally seen or experienced. This for me takes the pressure off of this somewhat daunting task. I have to think to myself…when was the last time I was afraid to tell someone one about an experience I had or something I saw. I had no trouble sharing with all of you about the day I went off on that poor woman in the Zaxby’s (click here if you want to read about this unfortunate incident) so why do I hesitate to share with those I love or even those I come in contact with about my life and how Jesus works in it. I can’t possible get it wrong because it is my life, I was there, and I experienced it. Well this placed things in a different perspective for me.
At this point in my life I feel like God is moving me in a direction of contemplation, He is placing things and individuals upon my heart that require a lot of prayer and even more trust in Him. He has not asked be to board a plane to Honduras or to serve at the local homeless shelter but He has placed people in my life who do not know the Lord, or who know the Lord but are not ready to yield their life back to Him. This is my mission field.
As I am writing this I am letting this sink in a bit. It is not that this is a new idea or foreign concept, it is more of a confirmation that I need to continue to do what I am doing. I have always had a very strong conviction that your life needs to reflect the relationship you have with Christ. My philosophy resembles a quote I once heard "Preach the gospel always, If necessary use words." by St. Francis of
I am sure that as the days unfold God will undoubtedly reveal different “new” things He wants me to see about my time on the mountain, He always does.
I am glad to be back, but not.
I wait with great expectation for the seeds of the lessons we learned to bear fruit.
I came home to a beautiful sprinkeling of snow!
I look forward to next years retreat with even greater expectations.