Sunday evening had come, and the retreat was over. Each girl had returned back to where she came from, including me. I laid my head down gently on my pillow and stared up at the ceiling. As the thoughts of our weekend in New Hampshire rolled through my head, thankfulness welled up inside.
Flash back to October 2013. An idea was birthed in Ruthie to host a weekend of rest, particularly for women of faith who were in the wedding industry. One thing led to another, and flash forward to end of January 2014: 13 women in that little cabin on the lake, partaking in a retreat that was only a dream a few months before. Had we known prior how the weekend would turn out, we wouldn't have relied so much on the Lord to do with it what He desired, to do what only He could do -- change hearts.
A dream, when put in the hands of the Father, is made into something beyond what you and I could ever ask or imagine. Four leaders and seven attendees came together from all parts of the U.S. to spend three days in the Word of God and intentionally rest from our everyday work. A loving mother also came to cook us food for the weekend, and a dear friend came to speak to us on our last evening. Who would have thought that within a 72 hour span, we would form such deep bonds of friendship? God knew what He was doing all along, and with great purpose He made a way for each one of us to be there.
Our time was filled with wonderful experiences, from learning how to knit, to eating [way too many] snacks and watching movies, to even venturing out on the frozen Merrymeeting Lake. The weekend obviously incorporated time to physically rest, and we all soaked it up as much as possible. Yet, I believe that one of the sweetest things -- and quite possibly the most important thing -- was that we experienced a recalibration of our mind's attention and our heart's affection, a turning back towards the only One who could give us the true rest we needed, a rest for our souls.
What we learned and discussed that weekend is what I must continually preach to myself. You see, each one of us is so easily tempted to let work be the main thing, to become our core identity. We enjoy striving for goals and serving clients and making things happen (not bad things, by the way). However, if we are not careful to check our hearts, we find that what once was a desire to glorify God has morphed into a desire to glorify ourselves. And on an even deeper level, we are tempted to believe that our spiritual work is necessary to attain and keep God's approval, God's affection, and God's favor. The focus is so deceptively twisted into being all about us and our accomplishments.
And not only that, but we are carriers of fear. We strap on our shoulders the heavy weight of anxiety for the unknown, and if we admit it, we do not trust that God is good and wise and in control of our circumstances. We don't trust that He will keep his promise to provide for our needs. We don't trust that He will complete the work He began in us. We have such little faith, don't we?
Yet at Return To Rest, we took the time to stop, to pray, to read, to listen. We were able to see the roots of this sin in our lives. We were able to share with one another and confess. We were able to relate, to come alongside, to lift up, and to remind each other that our God is not a weak God. He's a strong one, and where there is perfect love, there is no fear. Where there is Christ, there is acceptance by God, not because of what we've done, but because of what He has done on our behalf. In the midst of our failings, we were able to look upon Christ -- the author and perfecter of our faith -- and rest in knowing that the pressure is off... can I say it again? The pressure is OFF, my friends! There is no need whatsoever to strive and struggle for the approval of the world, nor the approval of God. Christ has accomplished ALL/EVERYTHING we could ever need. And if that isn't true rest, then I don't know what is.
I will be forever grateful for this retreat and that we were given an opportunity to marinate in that glorious truth together. I will be forever grateful for the girls who came with open hearts and who taught me more about the Lord. He was abundantly good to us. My prayer is that each one of us continues to walk alongside and challenge each other, that we would be women of the word and of prayer, and that we would write these words upon our hearts and recall them often: "Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you." (Psalm 116:7 ESV) - Kristin (worship leader for RTR 2014)