I have literally waited for this past weekend for months. When I registered I had hopes of making some new friends and gaining a little more dedicated spiritual time. I had no idea all that would transpire in the coming months and how much healing I would experience when this weekend finally came.
Our church (New River) held it’s annual ladies retreat in the North Carolina moutains at a Methodist campus called Lake Junaluska. To start, the surroundings are beautiful. The entire campus circles this lovely lake nestled in the Blue Ridge mountain range. Every morning the mist falls heavy on the mountains just above the water and by afternoon it’s cleared to a crisp beautiful scene.
Our theme this year was “A Very Merry Mountain Retreat” — you guessed it, a Christmas theme. Robyn, our women’s ministry leader, took us scripture by scripture from Genesis to Revelations walking us through the foretelling of Christ’s birth, to His birth, life, death, resurrection, and 2nd coming. We did this over the course of about 4 1/2 hours spread over 2 1/2 days. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Well, then, you’ve never been taught by Robyn! She is so in her calling — so in her element. The Spirit works through her so beautifully. She has this way of sharing a scripture and then pausing to help us see the truth and the reality of it. Imagine Mary, most likely an older teenager, explaining to everyone, in that time period, she was a virgin yet pregnant…then imagine Joseph…a man of that time standing by her through it all. Chewing on that in the context of the time is mind blowing.
In addition to the study time, our worship music was just — WOW. Sarah leads us and had such an amazing power to her voice. I’m a little choked up thinking about it now. The words to the songs we shared held so much meaning for me this weekend. I literally could not sing half the words through my tears.
And then small group. After study we would break into small groups. My leaders were Susan and Shelley. Shelley happens to be Ryan’s wife. Ryan is our family pastor. Ryan is the pastor I spoke with when we first started attending NR and I had so many questions, still healing (though near the tail-end) of my very long faith crisis. He’s also the person who baptized me. It was like coming full circle being in her group. Our group was all ages and all walks of life. We went back over the lesson we just learned and shared our insights together. In our group was a younger gal, Sally, who spoke about the power of the Veil being pierced at the moment Christ was pierced. That because of this we no longer needed an intermediary between us and God. I’ve read that, I’ve heard that, but I don’t know that I ever experienced the power of those words like I did in that moment. She was just stating something of comfort to her, but to me, it was another step in healing — that what I had been taught for 20 years was not truth according to God’s word. Christ’s sacrifice was everything. And more than enough for our salvation as well as our walk on Earth. So powerful.
My favorite part of the day by far was the mornings. I had undisturbed time to be in the Word. To just study wherever He wanted me. With the world locked away for a short time it’s amazing how much I gleaned in my reading. How much more I felt I understood.
The best part of the weekend? Though some people certainly know the health issues I’m working with right now, most did not. Most people I had not met yet. For the few days, I was just me. Not me with cancer. Seriously, some days I feel like I have this heavy back pack on. Though I try not to think about it all the time or focus on it, it’s always right there. But for this weekend, my load was light. Especially on Saturday night. I had the opportunity to meet Sheri. Sheri and I just clicked. She’s warm and funny, a little sarcastic and boy, did we laugh together. I mean sincere, deep, belly laughing. And oh, how I needed that. Sheri is one of a kind, and certainly my kind a girl. I look forward to getting to know her even better now that the retreat is behind us. She was just what I needed to lighten my load. The best part — she was just being herself. Awesome.
I know I’ve written so many words to describe my experience but I haven’t scratched the surface of how full my cup is. Because there are no words to do that justice. Suffice to say I am thankful for His tender mercies. That He knew I would need this time to escape into Him surrounded by those who would envelope me in love and laughter for a few days. I am thankful for this lovely weekend. I am thankful we found New River. I am especially thankful that I have found a church family. People to do life with while following Him. In this moment I feel blessed beyond measure. And I am oh, so thankful. Amen.