Nothing is more beautiful than women’s voices singing a cappella in an enclosed room. I can never get over it. I first attended a Central Women’s Overnight Retreat in 1975, not knowing what to expect. I enjoyed getting to know my Christian sisters better since we were new to Central, and I LOVED the singing.
At that time, we went from 7 p.m. Friday until around 4 p.m. Saturday and were pretty wrung out by the time we got home. Staying up till 4 a.m. and tears at what we heard from our Christian sisters were exhausting. Our families weren’t sure we came home refreshed, but the dads were especially glad to have us back. No surprise there. And we felt more appreciated!
We’ve had the retreat in at least ten different places, from a Holiday Inn Express to the homes of members. This year I was honored to host at my house. Friday night we had 34 here and Saturday we had 24. Some people spent the night; others went home and returned. These days we still start at 7, but we end by noon, giving us time to recover if it’s been emotional.
We had some emotional moments, but overall I felt a spirit of joy and camaraderie, everyone enjoying conversations that we never have time for at church gatherings. Some stayed up very late; others slipped out early. All were welcome whenever they could be there.
We met on the patio around a beautiful fire and talked about significant things. We sang, while the neighbors peered out their windows. We prayed what used to be called “conversational prayer,” more recently called a “popcorn prayer,” where anyone can just speak to God aloud without having a certain order. I loved hearing what my sisters felt strongly about—strongly enough to pray about it in the presence of everyone. They prayed for others with specific problems; they prayed for themselves. We had no parameters. We just prayed whatever was on our hearts.
Our theme was “Falling in Love with Jesus,” and our three speakers, all from Central, spoke on that theme. Each was so different; each was inspiring. Every woman was so transparent about her struggles and how Jesus helps her through them that I was humbled. My concerns seem so small in comparison. And is my faith equally small?
I wonder, “How I would have responded to the situations in which they found themselves?” As gracefully as they did, I’d hope. We never know until something happens to us how weak or how strong our faith is. One woman said she was strengthened by a sister saying to her, “You are stronger than you think you are.”
I pray that my faith be strengthened daily. I admire those women who shared their situations and feelings. I want to be that transparent with my sisters and with God. I know he knows my heart, but I also want to tell him, to talk to him, to verbalize my contrition. I want to constantly be drawing closer to God, not to my possessions. I want always to put people above things, to help hurting people, to seek the lost and tell them about Jesus.
So I pray and listen for God’s answer.