What do you bring to a house of 3 widows?

Cookies...of course!  (More on this later...)

I spent this past weekend doing something totally out of my comfort zone but in a way that was amazingly growth filled.

I woke up at 2:15 am on Friday, November 13 and headed for the airport.  I was so excited and ready to see my best friend and spend some quality time catching up on life with her for the first time in what felt like forever.  I will admit that I was exhausted but I knew it would totally be worth it.  The flight from MSP to DFW was super nice.  There were only 2 of us in our row of 3 seats so we were able to spread out and be comfortable.  I had hoped to sleep on the flight but that didn't happen for some reason.  I spent the time praying, looking out the window and reflecting on what had brought me to that point in life.  After a brief lay-over, it was time to board my flight for Houston.  Thankfully that flight was only 45 minutes because it was much more cramped.  I was landing in Houston at about the time I would normally be going into work so to say I was tired already, would be an understatement.  Thankfully there is no lack of coffee at the Houston airport so I made my way to Starbucks and got a caffeine fix.  I knew I had a little bit of time until Brittany would arrive to pick me up so I went into the bathroom and freshened up, flat-ironed my hair and tried to wash the sleepy out of my eyes.

When Brittany arrived it proved to me that we are still close even after all these years.  Britt is one of those friends that you can go months, even years, without seeing and just pick up right where you left off.  We can go weeks at a time without even texting each other but still manage, somehow, to know what is happening with each other.

And then came the time for the uncomfortable.  We were headed to a camp to attend her church's women's retreat.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all about women's retreats.  The uncomfortable part was going to a retreat with 60+ women that I've never met, in a place I've never been.  The camp we were staying at was BEAUTIFUL!  Just look at the "Lake House" we stayed in!?!?!

We rode to the camp with one of Britt's friends.  Anytime I go into a totally new situation, the anxiety tends to ramp up.  In this situation though, that anxiety was quickly dismissed.  Jaky picked  us up and I felt, from the very beginning, like I'd known her forever.  It wasn't that awkward get to know you stuff or anything.  We were able to have open, honest, and deep conversations the entire 2 hours in the car on the way to camp.  As the daughter of the Women's Ministry Leader, it was nice to see that she could be real and transparent and share what was going on in her life and be open to talking about the "junk" in life.  Jaky was one of those people who you feel like you've known forever even though you only met that day.

After our 2 hour adventure in the car, including lots of good road trip tunes, we arrived at Camp Tejas.  Walking into the conference room to check in was uncomfortable but not long lived.  The women in the room made it feel as if I went to their church and they all knew me.  They made me feel right at home.  We had a chance to eat some dinner and then it was time for the first session of the retreat.

The speakers were some of the best speakers I've heard.  And believe me, I've heard a lot of speakers over the years.  The speakers were Heather Gilion & Holly Snell.  They write on a blog at Dancing On My Ashes. These two sisters shared a bond and story that no one would ever want to live but one the does nothing but show how God can take absolutely anything and use it for his glory.  If you haven't heard them, go buy their book!  It's called "Dancing On My Ashes".  (Also, reading their book will explain the title of this post ;-))

Below are some of my random notes from the sessions with Holly & Heather:

  • Grieving like you have no hope is not where you want to be!
  • You have to choose to either run TO God or run FROM Him.
  • It starts with surrender to get through suffering, grief, anger, pain, etc.
  • We are here one day, gone another.
  • We have to make a choice to anchor ourselves to God.
  • Until the day I see God face to face, I have a lover letter from Him, that is alive, in the Bible.
  • God is telling us to call out to Him.  He is our best friend, father, ultimate companion.
  • It's not too late to pick up the baton and keep running toward God.
  • If God's not the Lord of ALL, He's not Lord AT all.
  • We need to not be surprised when fiery trials come among us.
  • Godly motives=good motives + action
  • Fear has no control!

And then there was the last session...I have no notes from this one.  The title of the session was "A New Name" and to say that this session is when I had a real, face to face, physical encounter with God would be nothing but the truth.  God wrecked me during this session in a way that I have never been wrecked in my life.  This session alone proved to me exactly why I was at this retreat!  Heather talked about how we have to choose to let go of the old names (barren, divorced, unlovable, forgotten, etc.) and live in the truth of what God calls us (matriarch, cherished, blessed, loved, royalty, etc.).  This hit  me over the head like a sack of rocks!  I shared with my small group but I'll share it here too.  I can hear all these things and I totally "know" that I can replace those names in my life with the truths that God has spoken over me and I am more than willing to preach it to others and help them to believe it for themselves.  I know that these things are accurate and true in my head but to let the knowledge and belief travel the 8-10 inches from my head to my heart is another story.  God made me see that night, sitting in that conference room, in Giddings, TX, that what I tell others I can have for myself as well.  God opened my eyes to the fact that it is TRUE that "I am free from the punishment & condemnations my sin deserves!"  He also opened my eyes the the fact that "I may approach God with boldness, freedom & confidence" and that "I am more than a conqueror!"  God opened that path from my head to my heart and let the knowledge sink further into my life.

God told me last weekend, in a unique and intimate way, that I am His & He is mine and that the desires and dreams of my heart are there because He has planted them there.  He has given me the wants and longings in my life and He will help bring them to fruition, in His time, in His way.  I felt God telling me that it's okay to loosen up on my expectations of my self and to enjoy the life I'm living, in the here and now.  That I don't have to impress others or do what they wish of me but instead I need to work for His glory.  I feel that it's time to pursue a deeper relationship with God and to let him lead the way on what's next for me.  It's time to step out and find healing the areas of life that I've never been willing to be open about.  It's time to step out and use my gifts without fear of what others will think.  It's time to stand firmly in the faith that I have and rest in His love.

I left Camp Tejas on Sunday with a burning in my heart.  It's time to not just accept living where I'm at and follow God's lead.  I left feeling like I was leaving a piece of me in Texas.  I left feeling like I could show up at any women's event with this group and they would embrace me as if I was always a part of their group.  I left feeling like I was at home but not at home.  I left KNOWING that I have fristers in Texas that I will forever have a connection with.


Thank you to the women at The Fellowship for welcoming me with open arms into your community!

Thank you to my small group for being willing to listen and deal with me crying the ugly cry (and sharing the gross snot rag with the whole group )and encouraging me in ways I’ve never felt before.

Thank you to Brittany for inviting me and allowing me to come with you and for being my friend even after all these years!

Thank you to Jaky for taking me in like we’ve known each other forever!

Thank you to Heather & Holly for opening your hearts to us and sharing your story and what God had for us and following His leading!

Thank you to God for cracking my heart just enough before this trip that I was willing to be open and hear what you had for me.