So yeah…I forgot my bible. Like I was sharing yesterday, although I was one of the organizers of the Womens’ Retreat, God really didn’t need me to make the weekend so fabulous.With my car completely loaded down with all the food, drinks and craft supplies, my sweet vehicle had a hard time making it around this corner which had been washed away by recent rains and on a pretty steep incline. I, personally, thought it was funny watching the group of gals trying to figure out how we were going to make it up this mountain. Zina is here placing rocks under my tires hoping it would give my wheels something to grab onto. It was a good thought, but I only ended up burning a few layers off my tires as they spun and spun in place. In the end, we unloaded the heavy coolers and packs of water and put them on the side of the road, which helped make the car less bottom heavy. I rolled back a few feet, gave it a little gas and up I went. We worried about the others traveling behind us. Would they be able to get up the mountain? No need to worry, everyone made it up without a problem.What was the house going to be like? We originally had plans to stay at a home in Gatlinburg, TN, but tragically, it burned down in the wildfire they had up there last year. Amazingly, this home, the Sabbath House, was perfect. Not only were the accommodations clean, roomy and had every comfort we needed, it also had a covered porch, which ran the length of the house. The main building was situated in the center with two wings of rooms on either side. All bedroom doors opened to the outside. Friday night and Saturday morning it rained. We were so thankful for this covered porch, in which we not only were able to stay dry coming and going, but when the sun came out, we soaked up the warm sun sitting in the rocking chairs. In fact we brought a table outside to enjoy our lunch on that beautiful day.After the morning session, we had lunch and an afternoon break. Ladies could go for a hike or stay in the porch and be First Responders , in case anyone on the hike needed emergency help. Fortunately for us all, the porch sitters got rest and sunshine and the hikers got a bit of exercise.Many took a nap or worked on a jigsaw puzzle. It doesn’t look like much here, but these gals were able to finish this puzzle by the time we said good-bye on Sunday.When everyone woke from their naps and returned from hiking, I invited anyone who wanted to to paint a canvas. This was another concern of mine, I realize that not everyone is crafty or even wants to be crafty, so offering this painting project seemed risky. I didn’t want anyone to be thinking “Ugh. What a waste of my time.” I promised a “No Fail ” project that even those who claimed to not have a creative bone in their body could do. And again, my worries were for not. I don’t think anyone felt pressure to sit there. And I actually believe that those who hadn’t painted before gained some confidence in their creative abilities. With painters tape, paint, a good old black Sharpie….a few easy tricks to get the scripture onto the canvas…Everyone went home with a beautiful piece of artwork. It was late afternoon, so big pots of coffee were brewed,  the junk food laid out in the tables…and we let the games begin, dice games,card games,and THE MOST FUN OF ALL…Heads Up!This is where our true personalities shone. (Amber, there in the front, is a fish waiting to be fed.😜)It was fun to see how the players would interpret each clue.We did discover that Judy’s technique of getting right up into the clue-giver’s face wasn’t always helpful. I guess she hoped that since she couldn’t say anything, that by getting closer she could send the answer mentally. Wayyy too funny!After dinner, we settled down for our evening session. Amber led us through scripture, then we broke off into small groups to talk and answer questions that had us draw on the scripture Amber presented. When we were in the planning stage, the four organizers didn’t really know how we were going to put the ladies into groups. We wanted a mix of age, life stages and yet have the comfort of being open and vulnerable to share. Not everyone would know each other before this weekend, how was this going to work?Sissy, that sweet thing on the right, suggested the simple idea of just counting off. Sure enough, we counted off, 1,2,3,…on and on. All the fours came upstairs to the loft with me.As God had planned all along, the right people ended up grouped together. What seemed like random counting turned out perfectly where mom’s who have adopted were put together and another group was comprised of an almost engaged, newly married and one married over 30 years. My group was so tender, open and encouraging. Sunday morning came way to fast. After breakfast, Zina wrapped up our weekend by reminding us how much God loves us. We broke bread and served one another the Lord’s Supper. Holding hands with our sweet new sisters, we sang the Doxology. 

What started as a whisper from God, ended with hugs between new friends.  He chose the women who would attend. He filled that house with love, tears and laughter. He refreshed and filled our spirits. All glory for this weekend goes to Him.

The next time a weekend like this comes up, just say yes.

Thanks for dropping by!

What Can Happen When We Look Up To God

A few years ago, I got a little itch in my soul to organize a women’s retreat, but I couldn’t find anyone who was willing to help me plan. I waited. About a year ago, my friend Zina made the change to lead the Women’s Ministry at church. We had several conversations over coffee about what we could do to serve the ladies of Hope Point. 

I shared with Zina my desire to host a women’s retreat and she jumped right in. She has the administration skills that I lack, and two young women also joined the planning team.We found a beautiful home that could hold twenty of us. The Sabbath House is located outside of Bryson City, NC. and turned out to be more than we ever could have imagined. The bedrooms were clean, comfortable and nicely decorated. The main room of the house had a beautiful working fireplace and plenty of comfy seating. EditWe all started arriving late afternoon, with a few getting there after dark. Our dinner Friday night warmed not only our tummies with soup, but warmed our hearts with getting to know the other ladies. After sharing a meal, unpacking our slippers and stretchy pants, we gathered in the big room for our first session with our bibles. WHAT?!? I searched everywhere, but I had forgotten to bring my bible! (And here begins my downward spiral.)

Anna took us to the well known bible story of the prodigal son. She had us look at this story verse by verse and compared it so closely to our lives today. She ended the session dressed in a robe of white, clean and pure. She lovingly traded her robe with the dirty, sinful, messy robe worn by another lady. Anna did a wonderful job of setting our minds on the topic of the weekend: Gods love for us. God sent his son, Jesus to die for our sins. Jesus traded his pure life for our dark, sinful, messy ones. We are forgiven and loved.Needless to say, there were tears and tissues were passed around.

I know how much God loves me, warts and all, but my heart was going to a different place. I took my eyes off of Him and what He was doing with this group of ladies and started focusing on me. Although God planted the seed in my heart to do this weekend, I started to doubt it all. I mean , come on, I forgot my bible!

I helped plan the details of the weekend. I made journals, devotionals, bags, and gathered all the materials for my session and an art activity. cooked the meat for the tacos, grocery shopped, loaded my car from tip to tail with food and materials. I am partly responsible for these ladies to not only have a good time, but to leave on Sunday feeling rested and refreshed spiritually.  I was leading the session on Saturday morning about Bible Journaling! There was NO WAY I was going to do as good of a job as Anna! Heck! The preacher’s wife was there! I was freaking out. 

As we all said good night and crawled into our beds, Anna, who just so happened to be my roommate, asked how I was doing. I couldn’t hold it in, I cried. I told her about how insecure I felt about the next day.Saturday morning arrived and I was one breath away from losing it. I kept taking deep breaths to keep the faucet of tears from turning on. We ate a beautiful breakfast, then gathered again in the big room with our bibles. (Ok, so I didn’t have mine, but I borrowed a 1905 one from the house.) The night before Anna led the large group session, this morning I was leading the session that focused on our relationship with God individually. Again I spoke slowly, while taking deep breaths so I wouldn’t fall apart. I encouraged everyone to find a quiet space with the devotion and bible to spend about 30-45 minutes with God. 

I immediately went upstairs to the library loft. I took the 1905 bible and quickly turned to the verses in the devotional that focused on anxiety. I read this verse and began to write my prayers out to God. I laid it all out. Tears came.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

Oh friends…..let me tell you what happened next…like the sun coming out from behind the clouds, God spoke to me. It went something like this:

“Mary, Mary, Mary, Honey child. This weekend is not about you. Thank you for your obedience to me and my direction for you, but this weekend is about ME. If you had brought your bible with all of those cute floral tabs, the colorful drawings and whimsical doodles, the ladies would be comparing themselves to you. They may have felt defeated before the game began, instead of encouraged to explore their creative side with Me. Trust me. I’ve got this.” Then I think he turned to one of the angels, slowly shook his head and said “Bless her heart.” 

Ya’ll I literally felt the peace the passes all understanding come over me like the warm spring sun. (Around here in south cackalacky, the summer sun is brutal, like fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk-because-it-is-so-hot brutal. I like the springtime sun, just so you know.) Immediately the shaky tremors I was feeling inside subsided. I only cried tears of joy. I thanked Him for all He does for me and for what I knew was going to be a morning about Him. People! I had true peace!And guess what?!? The ladies dove into the beautiful papers and stickers from Illustrated Faith! The glue runners were zipping across journals! Scissors and punches were cutting shapes! Washi tape appeared in bibles! Women freely and creatively expressed their love, thoughts and emotions with God.It was a crazy, beautiful mess. God did it. He had it all under control the whole time. I just needed to get out of the way. I needed to take my eyes off of me and gaze upward to Him.

The weekend went on without a glitch. I want to share some more with you tomorrow. 

Thank you so much for dropping by!