Last weekend, Nathanael and I made the long trip back to Georgia to attend the CLC Southeastern Women’s Retreat – something we had committed to before we moved to Minnesota. He agreed to serve as pastor for the retreat and I agreed to give a presentation. I’m glad we did, too. Otherwise we might well have found reasons not to go and I would’ve missed out on the many lessons to be learned, such as:
1) I’m too old to party like it’s 1999. That, and coffee will only keep me awake for so long. In my case, that was long enough to get home. After that, it’s like I hit a brick wall. Why is everything moving in sloooooow motion all of the sudden? Why am I so exhausted? Is it possible to experience jag lag if you never actually fly? Inquiring minds want to know…after their nap.
2) The tie that binds our hearts in Christian love is a powerful, real blessing. John Fawcett knew what he was talking about when he wrote this hymn over 200 years ago. How amazing that we can share a faith in Jesus that transcends time…that what was true for Christians then is true for us today. This is a miracle only the Spirit can work!
3) The Retreat High wears off quickly, but Jesus doesn’t. About the same time as the coffee stopped working, ironically, that euphoric retreat feeling faded as well. It’s like I blinked and the ball is over, the magic has worn off and the coach is a pumpkin once more. Which means, I’m back to Regular Old Debra, who changes diapers, sweeps Froot Loops, and wipes noses. How totally unglamorous. Yet, less than a week ago, I was speaking on how to find joy and contentment in work like this. Work that feels so mundane and insignificant. So now it’s time to practice what I preach, and I’ll admit it not so much fun. But Jesus is here with me, each day, and one of the best things I learned at the retreat was to give it to Him. The good days, bad days, triumphs, failures, laughter and tears…He is with me through everything.
4) Don’t judge a book by its cover. Most of you probably mastered this concept in Kindergarten, but suffice it to say I am a work in progress. And I was reminded once again that you just can’t know what a person may be suffering on the inside. I am grateful to the women who openly shared their personal battles. Some fight addiction, some sickness, some depression, and some death. By sharing their stories, they reminded each of us that we are not alone and that there is no shame in talking openly with your sisters in Christ. To paraphrase something my good friend Laura said, We are always told not to judge someone by their appearance, but typically we only apply that to people who dress or behave differently than we do. But it also applies to the most ordinary, average, “normal” person out there. That person could be the one fighting the most difficult battle.
And last, but never least,
5) Our hope rests in Christ alone! He is our everything. Without Him, this retreat would not have brought so many women of different ages and circumstances together as one. He is the reason we can find joy amid trials. He is “our light, our strength, our song.” He is the Rock we build on and He is our assurance that the victory is won and heaven is ours.
Throughout my life I have learned many lessons. No doubt I have much learning yet to do. I’m thankful for these women of faith who help teach me, encourage me, and support me in my walk with Christ. I can’t wait for the next retreat, and more than that, I look forward to an amazing family reunion when we all make it Home.