09 March, 2013

A fun, yet deep retreat

The retreat I went to from Wednesday to Friday was both fun and deep. This was my fifth retreat, and each time it gets better, partly because I get to know more and more people and become more and more relaxed myself.

I laughed more than I've laughed in ages. I had more in-depth conversations in two days than I can remember having for a long time. And I thought more deeply about Biblical things and how they applied to my own life in a way I haven't for some time.

Part of the drive to the retreat.
It was such a fun retreat. The speaker had stories that made us laugh so hard we were struggling to stay on our seats. By the end of one of her stories I had cramps under my cheekbones!

But she wasn't the only fun. We laughed and laughed in the van I travelled up and back in. And at numerous times during the retreat I found myself hooting loudly. Ah, it was lovely to not feel embarrassed at the loudness of my belly laugh.

One of my favourite memories came from an idea a group of us had while relaxing in the Japanese hot bath (onsen) together late on Thursday night. One of our speaker's stories related to a trying on a very tight bathing suit at a store, and being given some disposable panties to wear underneath the suit that looked "like gauze and dental floss" (and I quote her). Well, the suggestion was that we create a similar looking garment and present it to her the next day. I couldn't resist following through on this with my mint-flavoured dental floss and some gauze I rustled up from another lady. And in front of everyone at breakfast the next morning, I made a presentation of the said garment to our speaker. We all laughed hard again!

Campfire time
Laughter isn't exactly common on the mission field and missionary get-togethers is the perfect time to indulge in this type of therapy. So many ladies I spoke to appreciated this opportunity to laugh loud, long, and often.

Women of Royalty
The theme of the retreat was "Women of Royalty, finding fulfilment as the woman God intended you to be." This was a much broader topic than last year's but no less enjoyable.

Here are some things we covered (sorry it is a bit lengthy, it is hard to summarise):

  1. We are God's image bearers and we are who we are only by the hand of God
    • our enjoyment of life begins with recognising that God has made us unique as women and as individual women: this is a gift not to be ignored
    • after this session we discussed a variety of questions with women sitting around us. My group talked about the kind of life we thought pleased God. We had a few answers including:
      • love (but acknowledged how hard this is to do, that we always tend to pull back and self-protect)
      • seeking God
      • consistency in spending time with God, on the plains (the mundane times) as well as the mountain-tops
  2. We are a jewel in God's crown
  3. The chapel where we had our main sessions.
    • as heirs of Christ, we are daughters of royalty, hence the topic (Romans 8:17a)
    • a jewel is a person that is treasured or esteemed
    • we are God's workmanship, created to do good works (Eph. 2:10)
    • God chooses not to bring up our sins (actual phrase in Bible: "remembers not" and we are to forgive the same way (this was a biggie for me in terms of forgiving myself for my failures)
  4. We studied three women in the Bible, two of whom aren't often talked about
    • Eve
    • Campfire + testimonies
      • we imagined how it would have been for her, with no parents, sisters, friends, etc. Everything she did was for the first time, including giving birth
      • we thought about how difficult it would have been for her seeing her eldest murder her second son
      • and how she still had faith after that (see Genesis 4:25)
      • "not to" lessons: don't debate with satan, don't blame
      • "to do" lessons: know God's word, watch out for temptations in the Big 3: physical, emotional and spiritual
    • Mrs Noah
      • this was a stretch, given that she is only mentioned in relation to her husband
      • I never realised that Noah was also an evangelist (2 Peter 2:5), one who told everyone of the coming catastrophe for 120 years, but never saw anyone added to the passenger list
      • we pondered the grief she must have endured in seeing everyone except her husband, sons and daughters-in-law die, as well as having to totally start again after the flood
        • our speaker noted here that grief and loss is an occupational hazard of missionary life: and that the best thing is to embrace the pain as it enriches us
      • we thought about their marriage and the godly boys they produced (and their godliness attracted girls who chose that over the ungodly lifestyles of the whole community)
      • we figured they were consistent, obedient and righteous
    • Martha
    • Our speaker: Sandi Bradford, in the middle
      of one of her stories.
      • she shared an intimate relationship with Jesus, to the point that she could confront him with her concerns. 
      • an interesting revelation was the KJV translation of Luke 10:39 where it says that Mary "also sat at the feet of Jesus" intimating that Martha often sat there too
      • she was honest and authentic, this is a challenge to us as women who are often not this way
There were many different opportunities available during the two days; including counselling, people who would pray specifically for you, and coaching. Free-time activities like sight-seeing, card making, and learning how to quill (I tried the last of these.) 

There was also a session on developing personal resiliency. I attended this one and found it to be an encouraging time—as I pondered my call and purpose, the various resources I have now and experiences that I've had in the past that help me cope now with difficult situations. I realised that my tool kit is fairly well stocked in this area, praise God. 

So many conversations were going on in the dining
room, it was hard to be heard at any time.
It isn't just because I'm in a good place right now. It is because God has sustained me in various ways in past struggles and I can draw on those memories and experiences to help me through future challenging times.

Summing up

I just went back and looked at what I wrote about last year's retreat. There were a lot of similarities to this retreat, things that I appreciated about both:

  • a relaxed, "spacious" schedule
  • a venue that allowed lots of interaction
  • and a great bunch of ladies to travel with, to and from the retreat
Even though I stayed up way past my "Cinderella Hour" both nights, I have come home feeling energetic and refreshed. I'm so thankful to the team of ladies who organised it, to the many who contributed to running it, and to the many friends I have who come and make it worth being there.

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