24 days: The Retreat
Every year, the women of my church gather for one weekend for rest and relaxation. Many, but not all of us, also use those three days to begin projects or to put the finishing touches on Christmas gifts. Every little nook or cranny is filled with tables of various crafts and of course, conversation. We have smaller retreats throughout the year held at our church, but for this annual gathering we travel about a half hour from home to a Danish folk school. Built in 1917, the tranquil and peaceful building has served for camps, schools, and worship services.
I don’t have one Danish bone in my body, but the moment I walk through the strong wooden doors of that charming brick building, I feel at peace. The rhythm of a group of women joining together in fellowship fills my heart. First hand, I have seen friendships form, broken spirits healed, God-sized dreams begin, and in some cases, grandparent “adoptions” solidified. There are plenty of late night giggles, opportunities to sleep in, chances to sing with other beautiful souls, delicious meals (that we didn’t have to cook), and without question, chocolate. (Although for the record, I am a girl who would pick cheese over chocolate any day!)
Every year, I fill my craft bags to overflowing, but my suitcase with the bare minimum. A wistful dreamer at heart, I believe that I am going to take on superhero stamina and finish all those Christmas gifts. It Never Happens! Typically, a fourth of the projects I brought go home completed because once a friend opens her heart and the conversation flows, I forget about all the things that my to-do list mandated.
I am almost ashamed to admit this, but I resisted going to this retreat for years. My job or my family might need me was an easy excuse. Well, that and I used to attend a regional Moms gathering a few weekends before. When they
finally broke through my pathetic excuses encouraged me to come, I went away with trepidation. Two weekends of being away from my family! Would we survive??
Not only did we survive, but I came home refreshed, not caring about an agenda. I arrived home knowing that I had bonded with a group of women who love each other, and despite our humanness and faults are loved by an amazing God, who designed us to desire fellowship with others. Quiet time spent in reflection, prayer or worship ALWAYS nourishes my soul and reminds me how deep His love truly is. This affirmation comes in the hand pat of a ninety-year old grandmother, the telling of a never told before story of something Reed had done, the encouraging word when my project isn’t going just the way I had planned, or the shared tears of joy and sadness. God breathes through these women each year his constant love song for each one of us.
I cannot bottle up the wonder of the weekend; so, instead I have chosen to bring back a little piece (or should I say “peace”) of that soul restoration to my advent. Rather than stressing out about all the little details, I am choosing to fellowship with the present. Be that a person, time with God’s creation, or simply doing something I enjoy. In my own small way, I am allowing the moment to linger.
Somehow, I think God is smiling at that idea.