God reached down from Heaven to Howell, Michigan on Saturday, November 20th.
I’ve been really struggling lately and, as a result, I’ve felt sad, afraid and alone. There is so much going on and so much unknown. In many ways I feel like I’ve just been surviving instead of truly living.
I haven’t made time to pull away from all of my obligations and commitments to gain perspective or really rest. In fact, I’d mentioned a few months ago that I just needed a retreat of some sort.
Funny how God keeps an ear our for the little things we say. It just so happens that He heard me and then was kind enough to whisper in a friend’s ear during her prayer time, “invite Rebecca to the women’s retreat in November”. Now, mind you, this came at a point in time that I felt totally maxed out. Working, taking care of Grace and the house, going to the chiropractor (at 17 and Mound!) 3 times a week and on and on. The last thing I wanted to do was commit to spending an entire day away.
“What will it be like? Will Grace be ok in the car for an hour? How will she adjust to not being able to nap in her bed? Will people think I’m a crazy hippy for breastfeeding? Will the message even impact me? What time will we get home? What if Grace melts down? What if? What if?”
Fortunately, my friend Karen listened and acted on what she heard. She called me up and gave me all the details, calmed my fears and assured me it would all work out just fine. Turns out she was right. MORE than right.
It was wonderful. We stopped at Starbucks on the way out and each got a delicious pumpkin spice latte for the road. Grace napped and didn’t utter a peep during the whole ride out. Karen and I had a chance to catch up and chat for the hour drive. It was a gorgeous autumn day! The air was crisp and the sun was shining.
We got to the nature center (where the retreat was being held), unloaded our things and sat down to eat some breakfast. All of the women were kind, welcoming and totally non-threatening. One even grabbed Grace and walked around with her while I ate.
Breakfast wrapped up and Grace had the biggest poop of her life, so I had to run off to change her, clean her up and put her in her less cute “backup” outfit, but all was well.
The guest speakers were a mother-daughter team from South Africa (can you say awesome accents?!) who are now planting a church (along with their husbands and families) in Alma, Michigan. The daughter (29 year old mother of 2) was first to speak and she talked all about living in the present with God. The message could not have been more relevant to my life. It really seemed like every word out of her mouth was meant for me. For a while now, I’ve been thinking and praying about living in the present instead of the past or the future. A month or so ago my dad shared something that he read in a book. “There can be no stress in the moment. Stress only comes when you’re thinking about what came before or what is up next. Right now all you can do is the very thing you are doing and it isn’t actually stressful unless you look behind or ahead.” That’s a paraphrase, but you get it.
The speaker echoed the same concept and shared scripture upon scripture of encouragement. She told stories from her own life and she challenged and loved on us all. She talked about how there are different seasons of life. Winter is when things are really hard. It feels dark and cold and seems like it will never end. Spring is a time of blessing and renewal. It cheers us up and restores us after Winter. While we may be in a winter now, Spring will always come.
At the end of that session a few girls felt that some of the women may need prayer about the seasons they are in and they asked us to raise our hands if we needed prayer. I can tend to be shy about things like that, but before I knew it my hand was in the air.
I barely remember what I told them and don’t even think I asked for any particular type of prayer, but a few girls surrounded me and poured love and blessings and beautiful prayers all over me. I sat in the folding chair and just wept. Feeling the love of the women around me and even more importantly the love of God. I felt like a wilted flower planted by a flowing stream. I just soaked it all up and started feeling restored.
The speaker of that session had grabbed Grace from me before the ladies prayed for me and when they finished she brought Grace back. She didn’t know me at all, nor did she hear what I asked to be prayed for, but God used her to speak a very powerful truth to me.
She looked me in the eye and told me that when she looked at me she saw a beautiful bride. Standing tall in a gorgeous gown. So feminine and radiant, but with a fierce look in her eyes. She said that this bride, with a glint in her eyes, reaches down and lifts the hem of her gown, revealing big, black combat boots. A warrior bride. She is so strong and so beautiful. The boots under her gown don’t take anything away from her feminine grace, but they show that she is fighting a battle and she is a warrior.
A picture of this warrior bride flashed in my mind and I wept. I felt like God himself was giving me a glimpse of how He sees me. So different than the corrupt view that I hold. I was completely overcome.
I am strong. I’m bold and I’m loud. I’m smart and capable and I’m tough. These are all good things, but in the past 5 months I’d grown to hate them. I’ve hated who I am. I’ve felt that all of those qualities are a hinderance and I’ve wished that I was a different kind of woman. A woman who wasn’t so strong or bold or smart or capable or tough would not be in the situation I’m in. She wouldn’t have to turn away from her lifelong dream to wage a war for her family’s survival. She wouldn’t have what it takes to carry the burden that I’m carrying.
I’ve been so envious of the women who were made differently than me. I’ve wanted what they have instead of embracing who God made me to be. I’ve lost sight of what I’m really doing. I’m investing my blood, sweat and tears into my family’s future. I’m giving up what I want right now so that our family can go great places later on. I’m sacrificing now so that my husband can follow his dream. All of that is really an honor. I should be proud that I can give that gift to my family.
I’m trying hard every day to see this through God’s eyes. I’m trying to lean more on Him when it’s tough and I’m trying to trust that He can carry me when it feels like it’s too much. It’s still hard every single day. I’m hoping that I build some endurance and that the burden starts to feel lighter with time.
But, whatever happens, I’m clinging to the gift I was given that Saturday. The picture of who God says I am. A warrior bride.