Thursday 9 November 2017

Attending My First Women's Retreat...Thoughts And Takeaways
A retreat? Why was I about to leave my family for the weekend and surround myself with a group of women who were mostly strangers to me?

Posted by at 3:13 PM in

Attending My First Women's Retreat

Thoughts  a n d  Takeaways

As I carried the bins of decor, books, and binders through the door and to my truck I allowed my mind to wander for just a moment to the question that had been lingering there for the past few days.

Why in the world had I agreed to do this?

Why was I about to leave my family for the weekend and surround myself with a group of women who were mostly strangers to me?

I was tired and achy. A few days of not having too much expected of me, and finding moments of relaxation at home with my kids, sounded so good.

I was nervous. There was comfort in the thought of just staying home and soaking in time with familiar loved ones rather than venturing out into the unknown with a new group in a place I had never been.

I had too many other things to do. My desk was covered in post it notes and scraps of paper, all with scribbled reminders to myself and proof to my unsettled mind that the three days away meant coming back to a week of playing catch-up on my to-do list.

Yes, I allowed my mind to go to those admittedly sad places. But only for a moment.

I knew that I shouldn't, and couldn't, stay in that space too long. These were simply silly excuses all steeped in insecurity, and logically I knew that. Isn't it incredible how quickly those unhelpful and often untrue thoughts can sneak into our minds?? 

So, pushing those thoughts aside I took a deep breath, trusted that God wanted me to be a part of this retreat (no one could deny the many incredible way that the pieces of this weekend came together, gives me happy little chills thinking of it all still), and focused on why I was loading up my vehicle for the drive north.

I had a responsibility to the three wonderful ladies who had welcomed me into their planning meetings and had asked me to contribute to this weekend, and I had a responsibility to the women attending who had committed to being there with the same unknowns that I faced.

Although I may have allowed a moment of second guessing my decision to attend, there was also no denying to myself that I had spent the past couple of months excitedly planning for this event and very much looking forward to the weekend.  

I wanted needed what I had been praying this weekend would offer.

And it did!  

So, what happened??

Why am I now sitting here sharing with you my feelings of gratitude for the weekend I just experienced when I was just days ago so uncertain? Why am I relieved that I pushed past the nervous excuses and attended my first women’s retreat?

      

I am SO happy that you asked!! Here is what I took home with me from the women’s retreat ….

  • A FULL Heart

Throughout the weekend I gently observed this group of Christian women as they interacted with one another and with me. I saw the way they gave themselves permission to step away from the group when they needed time alone to reflect or compose themselves, and I was inspired by them all when they were drawn to rally around and support which ever one of us needed it at the moment.

Each of us attending the retreat were at different stages of life and in different places on our faith walk. Despite those differences it was immediately clear that all lived firmly in faith and they repeatedly reaffirmed to me the joy and peace that is offered in fellowship like this. There was no pressure for perfection and no need for competition. It was beautiful and freeing to witness the effect this had on each one of us as the hours slipped by, and I was not immune to it’s warm and fuzzy effects.

The group work offered me new perspectives, the individual work showed me what to let go of and what to cling more tightly to, and the quiet found in the snippets between it all was filled with something that I struggled to name in the moment. I’ll now call it a “fullness”.  When the time came on Sunday afternoon to load up our vehicles and say our goodbyes I was thankful to be heading toward the family that I was missing so very much, yet sad to see the time in this quiet place and with these special women draw to a close.  I left with many good memories and a very full heart.

  • Incredible Connections

The 12 women that filled our meeting room were made up of varying connections. A handful knew of one another through shared acquaintances, a few were tight long time friends, and others had not met each other before showing up at the door of their shared cabins at

the retreat.   Remember when I mentioned to you that I felt a bit nervous about the weekend and being in this group who were mostly strangers to me? I had nothing at all to worry about.    

Incredibly, it did not take long for this group to mesh. Hugs were freely given and received and there was laughter and chatter and lots of connecting.

We went deep quite quickly and I LOVED every moment of it all. Not only did we end the weekend no longer as strangers but we went back to our everyday lives as close friends. Committed to supporting one another and vowing to hold one another accountable in our faith and in our personal and professional goals.

  • Clarity Of Purpose

We all arrived at the retreat with some questions about our individual purpose and each of us was excited to further explore the pullings and tuggings on our hearts.

You may be surprised when I tell you that some of the same questions I arrived with are unanswered today. I am unsure of what God wants me to do with the particular pressing He placed on my heart. The goals I have set for myself, for our ministry, and for my family remain passionately scribbled ideas in a notebook without a definitive plan in place. But with the help of the slightly painful yet clarifying work done this past weekend, the supportive conversations and sharing from the other women, and the quiet time I took to pray, I was reminded of what I already knew but had clouded with my searching and desire to “just make something happen now”... having unanswered questions is a necessary part of the process.  Very often we are not allowed to see the whole picture but we don’t need all the answers to be productive and useful. It is possible to work toward our goals without it being clear where that work will lead us. We are simply asked to faithfully obey what He is requiring of us right now today.

Yes, I left the retreat with unanswered questions, but also with clarity of my purpose and a peaceful understanding that there is no reason to fear or force what is to come next.

Friends, please do not hold yourselves back… 

If I would have allowed those unhelpful thoughts to get carried away, or that tiny moment of unecessary nervousness to scare me, I might have missed out on some really beautiful moments and a weekend full of growth.

So I am sitting here cheering you on and encouraging you to occasionally move away from the comfortable and familiar. Once in a while it is good to just let go and embrace the unknown so you can experience something that has the potential to fill your heart and thrill your spirit!