We showed up for our spring ladies retreat to be blessed by lovely beach homes, beautiful sisters, lots of food and the truth of our Blessed God.
Can you imagine the energy level and the chatter? Happy faces everywhere. Catch up fellowship, adorable babies to love. And a coffee pot kept going, decaf or caff .. you choose. Creamer? Low fat? Sugar free? Flavored? Half and half? Yep, it was all there. Plates of fruit, homemade cookies, muffins .. all served with a smile.
The ages in our group ranged from 2 months old to 60 something. Everyone in the same group. We served together, we played together, we worshiped together.
We visited the beach being warmed by the sun and the sand.
|Photo by Sara Curtis|
Our new attendants among us splashed and laughed in the water. Running from the beach to the pool to the the warming jacuzzi bathtub. It had to be FREEZING but you would never have known it.
|Thank you Jennifer Holmes for the beautiful photography|
I would say the spirit of the weekend was a little bit of heaven.
To bring our hearts to worship we sang praises to our God that we love.
We came to the retreat for more than just fellowship. The time had come for us to gather to hear from the Lord through His vessels, Deborah Cobb, Cindy Fox and Hope Kemp and Tara Ariel.
The topic was suffering. Amidst all our fun and fellowship each of us carried our own burdens in our hearts and those very burdens were the ones we examined.
Deborah brought a suitcase as a symbol to remind us to take a look into our own hearts to see what we packed to bring with us to the retreat. We had a lot of different things. There were as many different things packed in our hearts as there were women. Women of multiple stages in life with different dynamics. Young ladies, just embarking. Single women, married women. Children, no children.Even those recreating their lives in their 50's and 60's.
It's no surprise that we found that even with all those differences the Word of God could speak to each one, individually.
Deborah shared the importance of time spent alone with the Lord. There in His presence is where we can find rest. When we take that time to be quiet with Him we are shown His truths about us. Sometimes our thoughts race through our minds that are contrary to His purpose. When we get alone with the Lord and His Word we renew our minds and by the power of the Holy Spirit our thoughts are put into proper order.
I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.
Cindy and Hope took us to 1 Peter 3 and 4.
Recognizing that everyone suffers, how we walk through the suffering is the strengthening value.
Quoting Elisabeth Elliot
Suffering is having what you don't want or wanting what you don’t have.
The deepest things that I have learned in my own life have come from the deepest suffering. Out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires have come the deepest things that I know about God. I imagine that most of you would say exactly the same. I would add this that the greatest gifts of my life have also entailed the greatest suffering. The greatest gifts of my life for example have been marriage and motherhood. And let’s never forget that if we don't ever want to suffer, we must be very careful never to love anything or anybody. The gifts of love have been the gifts of suffering. Those two things are inseparable.
It was encouraging to understand that all of our suffering is beneficial with God. The difficult things in life as well as the tragic are all being used to transform our hearts into the likeness of God.
We learned that just being alive on our planet earth is reason enough for suffering.
But, if we are to suffer, let us suffer for doing good ...
17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah,while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
God did not save Noah from the warning or the flood waters but God made a way for Noah and his family. That's what the Lord does for us, He makes a way for us as we are living through the suffering of this life.
Lastly, Tara shared her personal experiences. I heard her talk about happy times and hard times. Their life on the island is impacting many people and likely will have an effect for years to come but it's not without a cost. They share in the suffering of the saints. The culture they live in is all messed up. At one point there had been an offense and the perpetrator defensively argued with Nate stating the offensive acts are just part of the culture, and I just LOVE what Nate said, he looked him straight in the eye and told him,
"No sir, that is not a cultural behavior that is sinfulness and it will not be tolerated."
Wow! You go Nate. Calling sin for what it is.
That circumstance was a long road for them to suffer but they have traveled it and there is peace again.
We ended the retreat sharing what the Lord had taught us, I asked if anyone would mind sharing their thoughts from the retreat and Nicole Manning sent me this message
I enjoyed the deeper conversations that brought me to not only tears, but to renewal. I could not pinpoint what was one of the feelings I have felt on and off this past year through the rough waters of a trial, but God, who is rich in mercy, used a sweet sister on numerous occasions to soften my heart and for me to see what was weighing heavy on my heart. I think sometimes as women, its hard to relate at such a deep level when we hold back so much, in fear of what others may see as weakness. But, are we not most used by the Lord when we are weak and willingly being molded by the potter? God used her heart to heart with me to strengthen and renew me through his truth. You know who you are sweet sister!!! God bless! It was a wonderful time of fellowship and friendship with all the ladies as well. Love you all!
I know many of us were encouraged and ready to go back home with a stronger walk with the Lord. Thank you Deborah, Cindy, Hope and Tara for your time of preparation. The Lord used you as His willing vessels to draw us closer to Him.
On our way home we stopped for lunch .. here is one group of ladies having a final time of fellowship before heading home