I'm home from church this morning (by myself! Not with a sick kid!) nursing a cold, and while I feel yucky, I am thankful for some time that I can reflect on what I learned at the ladies' retreat at our church this weekend. I didn't sign up until Monday, being unsure whether I really wanted to give up my only "free" weekend in November, but I felt that I really didn't have a good reason NOT to go--so I signed up. Yes, I know, it was quite the spiritual decision, LOL.
Seriously, though, I did pray that God would make me teachable, because honestly, I wasn't overly excited about listening to a psychologist speaker, even though her bio did make her sound like an interesting person. Still, I felt the need to connect on a deeper level with some women from church as well as meet some I didn't know. Stepping out of one's comfort zone is never easy, but I realized it was time for a little challenge.
Isn't it amazing how, even though we're [insert number here] years old, we still feel like insecure tweens in unfamiliar situations?! Wondering if someone will come sit by us when we're in a room full of acquaintances rather than with a group of close friends...wondering what people think of what we say, how we dress, what we do, what we believe...never stopping for a moment to think that the person across the table from us is probably battling the exact same insecurities as we are. I know a lot of people at church--at least, I recognize names and faces, since we spent 3 years here on a previous assignment. And a lot of people know who I am from seeing me on stage playing piano or acting in Kids' Street Live, or reading my emails as Kitchen Kindness coordinator. But I realized, as I was on the brink of a decision regarding whether or not to attend the retreat at all, that I haven't had the opportunity to sit down with too many women from church and share my heart or learn more about them. I have a circle of mom friends from our family community (I got to sit with one of them during our sessions), but I didn't feel as if I really knew many of my sisters in Christ from Faircreek. I began realizing that I'm closer to my Christian neighbors than to many of the people I pass by or sit near at church!
So, all that to say, I decided to go. And I'm glad I did. I met some new ladies and enjoyed conversations over several meals, and I enjoyed talking with people I know but haven't had the opportunity to visit without interruptions. I have new recipes for African Peanut Butter Chicken soup and homemade granola, plus tips on making your own deodorant. I learned the fastest way to get a hula hoop through a chain of five women holding hands, as well as how to cross a "river" on "stones" that will float away if not touched. I learned a new stamping technique and won two prizes.
Most importantly, I have more women praying for my family as we face a huge unknown about our future. I sat under godly, biblical teaching and learned how to identify lies from the enemy and combat them with truth. I was guided to Bible verses--both familiar and not so familiar--that will encourage and strengthen me as I walk the road God has for me. And I have some specific "tools" for living the life God wants His children to live--a life filled with true peace and joy.
So let's get down to some specifics. Tammy, our speaker, gave us a thick purple handout with maybe a dozen sheets of paper, and I scribbled lots of notes down! I won't reproduce the whole handout here, but I wanted to think through some of the things that stood out to me personally. There was a lot of material here, and I know God used it to speak individually to each woman there.
The first big thing is really all about the basics, truths that I've known all my life. But if I don't CONSTANTLY think about them, I am susceptible to Satan's lies. Our knowledge of God is generally TOO SMALL! We must believe God is who He says He is. Four truths that we must keep before us daily:
- God is unconditionally loving.
- God is continually faithful.
- God is full of grace and mercy.
- God gives complete forgiveness.
**We cannot do life by our feelings!!! (Can I get an "amen" from the sisters, LOL!)
I also liked the concept that God gives us DAILY bread, not TOMORROW bread! He gives us just what we need for each day. I especially needed this, because if I concentrate too much on the unknown future, I will work myself into a load of anxiety, fear, and frustration. When tomorrow comes, I will have what I need for that day, because God is continually faithful, and He is my continual supply.
We typically think of "fruit" as being good; for example, the fruit of the Spirit or the fruit of righteousness. But there is always some kind of fruit. Fruits show our roots. When we find our identity in Christ, we will enjoy the fruit of peace, joy, etc. But if we are instead looking to other "gods," there will be fruits that result from this, such as:
- compulsive behaviors
- obsessive thoughts
- substance abuse
Next we turned our attention to understanding that we are at war, and it is a spiritual battle. As we know from Ephesians 6, we are not struggling against flesh and blood (which includes ourselves!) but against evil powers. Don't fight the wrong battle!!!
Evil HATES God's glory. When you are giving God glory, evil will work hard to divide and conquer. Struggles WILL come when we are tired, weak, and vulnerable. The battleground is in our MINDS. We are constantly being lied to about God, ourselves, and others. Tammy included a huge list of common lies--I'll just list a few that might sound familiar to others including myself:
- I'm fat/unattractive/not smart.
- I'm not good enough.
- God can't use me.
- My efforts won't do any good.
- I'm a failure.
- There's no use trying.
- People can't be trusted.
- God is not fair.
- It's not worth it.
- It's too late.
- My life is not making a difference.
- God doesn't make sense.
Once we recognize the lies, we must reject them and replace them with truth. We must:
- Command our wills/souls to stay in the truth.
- Saturate our days in prayer.
- Steep ourselves in the Word--read daily, memorize, meditate, and do so purposefully.
- Cultivate a discipline of thankfulness instead of discontentment. (Choose to focus on what IS, not what is NOT.)
- Be on a constant "God hunt," fixing our eyes on the eternal.
I'm sure I'll be mulling some of these over for awhile. Getting this typed out has definitely helped me remember specific things I believe God wants me to meditate on now and in the coming days. If it has been a help and a blessing to you as well, then glory to God!