The retreat weekend started with a bang. Maybe a howl is a better adjective. We were supposed to drive up on Friday night but due to the tornadoes and storms, we waited until Saturday morning. It was an agonizing verdict that taught me a lot about decision-making and just how difficult it is to get five women to agree on anything.
We decided to take one car, another huge decision in itself, and to meet at Christy’s where we would all leave together. There would be no early escape for me, no matter how hard I tried. I prepared to leave my house at 6 a.m., quietly and without drama, until I couldn’t find my keys. I had to wake Regi up to help me look for them. Found them. It occurred to me that I had stumbled on reason #1 to stay home.
After meeting the other girls, we piled into Angela’s SUV and stopped at Starbuck’s on the way out-of-town. I realized I had no cash and had forgotten my debit card in my car…at Christy’s. I scrounged together the needed $4.25 and felt pretty stupid for being so unprepared. This was reason #2 two that I should have cancelled my trip altogether.
But I didn’t.
We chatted for two hours straight and arrived at our beautiful location. We made it just after the morning session started; I instantly knew when I walked into the room that I had discovered reason #3 that I should have stayed home. Certain crowds intimidate me. There were approximately 150 women which by my standards, was entirely too many for one retreat. If you check the rule book, I’m sure you will see that I’m right. We sat, you guessed it, on the back row. I couldn’t fully enjoy myself because as the above stated rule book will also divulge, it takes women approximately three sessions at a retreat until they are relaxed enough to enjoy or take in what is being preached, taught, sung, whatever.
Then the entire weekend came and went in an instant.
Nothing earth shattering happened in my life. I can’t say I went needing “this” and came away with “that” like many women who attended. And that was okay.
Here are some valuable lessons I learned:
- Finding five seats together at a retreat is difficult. It will be best to strictly adhere next time to the one-buddy policy if at all possible.
- Some of the kindest women you’ll ever met are the ones over the age of 60 like Kathleen and Sally.
- Peanut Butter Snickers were the chocolate of choice.
- There is great value to be held in honoring other people. (And this wasn’t even a topic that was taught on. It was simply something we saw acted out throughout the entire day and evening).
- My friends will cross busy streets and leave convenience stores if they don’t serve Diet Coke and if their ice machine does not work.
I also learned (again) that I live behind a wall. And I learned (again) that it’s up to me whether I will allow that wall to keep me at arm’s distance from others, the world, the emotion, the stretching, and the plying that is needed for my own personal growth. I must continually chip away at that wall because it will never go away.
Do you have a wall?
I learned that God doesn’t put us into situations for frivolous reasons. For example, just as soon as three of us were going to skip the small group breakout session (i.e. six women sitting around a table chatting…ugh), we changed our minds. Turns out it was there that one of my friends had her greatest revelation of the weekend. And we almost missed it because we wanted nothing to do with the unfamiliar territory.
How many blessings do you miss because you are afraid to take a step?
The weekend was full of some of the most amazing teaching I’ve heard in a long time; I am reminded that I must feed my soul. If you aren’t in a place where you’re growing spiritually, find a new place. Life is too difficult to do alone, let alone without the encouragement of women who have walked in our shoes and aren’t afraid to model their battle wounds.
I think it would be easy to view retreats as the only place we can off-load our burdens, the only time we can spend focusing on the matters of our heart. I must purpose to retreat every day. A place where I stop, pray, think, consider the weight of my responsibilities, my job, my loneliness, my blessings, anything I carry, and lay it down. None of it is mine to carry anyway.
Can you possibly exist on that once a year experience? Do you need to take a retreat today?
To be honest, I questioned why I even came on this retreat as I packed up my stuff to leave. I thought I’d meet so many new people, and experience a small epiphany along the way. However, it occurred to me, and was confirmed when Christy stated the same thing to me, that this retreat was more about me strengthening the relationships I already have. I spent many hours with my friends that I may not have the chance to do until the next retreat. I learned what’s important to them, where their zeal for others comes from, and what part of their heart is hurting.
I didn’t see fireworks. I didn’t wear half the clothes I packed. I didn’t have any near death bathroom experiences. I didn’t take a shower. I didn’t wash my hair. I didn’t cry. I put on as much make-up as I wanted. But I had fun, I laughed, I learned things about my friends I didn’t know, I was refreshed.
And I can’t wait to do it all over again next year.