How special it is for Christian women to retreat together from the daily pressures of life! The warmth, the loving comments, the indulgent food, the sharing of news good and not so good, the prayers, the encouragement. The list is limitless.
Last Friday evening and Saturday morning, I was blessed to host the annual Central Women’s Retreat (28 of my closest friends? Yep!) in my home as we focused on the theme, “The Garden of New Beginnings.” Songs and talks were centered around gardens or starting over. The two young women in charge did a fabulous job of choosing topics, speakers, and songs.
We’d pushed back the furniture in the family room and added all my odds and ends of chairs–folding, from porch, from basement, etc. It worked out pretty well. 30 of us, counting baby Cora. Nursing mothers often bring infants, and this mother is still on maternity leave.
I loved all three talks. The first was on Transitions, with beautiful illustrations of the seasons of life we all go through. Portia even gave each of us a card showing the four seasons to write a note of encouragement to someone. When some were left, I took an extra to hang in my kitchen.
The second was “A Fresh Start,” but Cathy could have titled it “What I’ve Learned from My Friend Rhonda.” Rhonda also participated. Rhonda had a severe stroke a few months ago and has chosen to make a fresh start on her life and her love of God. She has gone from absolutely no use of her right side to walking with a cane and talking clearly enough to be understood. She says, “I know I talk like a child, but [tapping her head] I want you to know it’s all still here.” Her speech is slow and methodical. Her rehab was at the hospital where Cathy works, so Cathy had lunch with Rhonda most days each week. That says way more about Cathy than about Rhonda, of course. But they became closer and Cathy was truly impressed with Rhonda’s love for the Lord and her confidence in Him.
I did the ice-breaker and each person shared two things about herself and one challenge she is facing now. Rhonda had trouble thinking of a challenge! How about that…
The third talk was “Think on Such Things,” and it focused on raising our thoughts above the mundane up to the spiritual every day. Mitzi begins each day with Philippians 4:8, and she gave us cards to help us memorize it. We broke into small groups to help each other think of mnemonic devices, and when our time was up, we all said the verse together. We were pretty proud of ourselves. A new strategy for each day!
My favorite, though, was the prayer walk. It was different from any I’d done before. No signs had been placed for us to walk to. Instead, our directions used what was already on the street: a stop sign, to stop and reflect on new beginnings; an intersection, to pray about which life directions we should choose; a mailbox, to share a personal example of when we received direction from the Lord; a tree, to share what specific fruit of the Spirit we want to increase. You get the idea. The godly women I walked with are four that constantly inspire me to be better and do more for the Lord. All were younger than I, but still not young enough to have small children, as some of the participants do. We have similar challenges and similar hopes for our families and our futures–three grandmothers, two with college sons. Some enjoying the empty nest, others still looking forward to the flexibility and privacy of it. The crisp fall day was amazing–deep blue sky, bare branches above and rustling leaves below.
The women were wonderful to stay and help clean up the kitchen and put everything back in place. Laura wiped down the kitchen. Kim even straightened my pictures, which I truly appreciated. Marcia took some sheets home to wash. Julee helped me change some of the beds. We laundered some of the sheets and Steve did the rest. Definitely a group effort.
I do think everyone left uplifted and inspired. I was on a high, for sure.
Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things.