I read that quote today and I loved it! So I thought I’d include it in my next blog post! I went to a Women’s Retreat in November last year and learnt soooo much! Actually, I wanted to share the story of how this women’s retreat came together and why it meant so much for me to be there.
What is a women’s retreat? I heard a few different comments about it in the lead up. “Oh, what are you women going to do? Pamper and gossip about your husbands?”. These comments came from both men and women alike and I felt sad that these are some of the stereo types that people have bought into about the reason that a group of women get together. It cheapens the reason for why we (men and women) in general like to fellowship and spend time together. But we were not going to let that stop us! We were excited about creating a safe and open space where women, of all ages and stages in life could feel free to discuss their faith, hopes and struggles. Hebrews 10:25 is very clear on the importance of gathering together for a sacred or worshipful gathering. 1 Corinthians 1:10 encourages us to be united in mind in serving Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthains 3:9 tells us that we are workers together with God and that we make up God’s building. If there is a better reason for gathering together than these then I don’t know what is!
The theme of this camp, ‘Satisfied’, had come from a very real and personal place for me. One that held a lot of pain and disappointment, especially when it came to serving God. For so many years I had lived with guilt and shame thinking that God could not forgive me for my sins and most especially, I felt that I had to be good first before I was worthy. The biggest problem I faced is that I just couldn’t get the hang of being good long enough to feel accepted and enjoy God’s acceptance. Can you relate? So many years living in fear and a fog of my own making. Wanting to be near God but being so afraid that he couldn’t love me. It wasn’t until I began to open my mind to the possibility that I was wrong, to the possibility that my thinking had been influenced by lies that actually had no biblical foundation that I finally began to experience God’s love and peace. Through the help of friends and focused study of the bible, I started to understand that the view I had held about God for so long was the very one responsible for my feelings of guilt and shame, not God.
This idea was so profound that the longer I have explored it, the greater the impact it has made on me. And this perspective was one that a friend of mine also held. Having had a similar experience in her view of God, we both wanted to share this concept with others. The concept that if we hold a view of a dictatorial, angry and punitive God then our spiritual life and relationships will reflect a spirit of fear and judgement. But if we see God the way that he really is, a God as revealed in the life of Jesus Christ and worship a God who wants a personal relationship with each one of us then our minds can heal. 1 John 4:18 tells us a profound and deeply logical concept about what truly heals our hearts from fear. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.”
Where there is love, there is no room for fear. Let me explain this as it was explained to me. If you walk out on the street and suddenly there is a truck coming down on you just about to run you over. What would be some of the natural responses that you would have? Fear? Panic?
Now what if instead, someone you love, say a child, or spouse is on that road about to get run over? What are some of the responses you have now? It could still be fear and panic but not for yourself, it would be for them. So you run across the road and knock them out of the way. When you see they are safely out of the way would you experience relief? Joy perhaps that they are safe? But that truck is now coming down on you but in that moment of saving the person you loved, that was not the issue. Your love overcame your fear.
Love is the only thing powerful enough to push fear, hatred and anything else that doesn’t promote relationship with God and others out of you. And God KNOWS THAT.
There was a thought that I came across that made me really put SIZE in a different perspective: “If a microchip virus can do this much damage, imagine what mustard seed sized faith can do.” If we take a pea sized amount of belief and apply that, then it is enough to push away fear and bring in light.
But I’m getting side tracked from telling the story…
We had planned for at least 25 women to attend and up until that point we had received 30 registrations and there were about 15 ladies from another state who had planned to attend as well. Excitement was running high and we were all eager to see how it would all turn out.
On November 10th, 2019 our team had met together to discuss what final preparations needed to be made. I remember thinking as I left our meeting, “Wow! Things are going so well, and we have everything planned. Surprisingly, things have really gone without a hitch! Thank you so much Lord”.
I think God just held my hand to prepare me, for little did I know that in just a few short hours everything was about to turn on its head.
By 8am on November 11th, 2019 we had all heard that a massive firestorm had raged through the Wollemi National park and had come through our campground. The fire took the hall, machinery shed and worst of all, the home where our minister’s family lived. By God’s help, the family were not in the house when the fire came through.
It was a complete shock to say the least and the first question that came to our minds when it came to the retreat was “What is going to happen with women’s retreat?” We had been planning to host the retreat at that very campground and now, with only a week and a half out from when we would hold the retreat it seemed impossible that we could go ahead. We prayed and immediately set to work. There was no doubt in my mind that we would go ahead with the retreat. It is something that I cannot explain but I thought that if it was the Lord’s will for us to continue, then doors would open if we did our part.
We set to work to search for a new venue not even knowing where to begin. Through one of the phone calls I made, I discovered a network where one can submit one form with a description of the venue needed and then venues who match will be in contact. It was amazing and through this network we received nine offers for different venues. I couldn’t believe it especially since it was at such short notice but so many people were willing to help us. The next three days involved travelling to different locations, liaising with our team members all to find a location that was within budget or close and matched the vision we had in mind. It seemed too good to be true to find everything as we wanted and needed and by Friday afternoon, I was sure that we had found our venue.
The place was a beautiful heritage house, nestled in the Blue Mountains. The price was reasonable, and we had even secured a lovely caterer who was willing to accommodate our requests on such short notice. It was perfect! Every victory and new discovery led to a stronger conviction that we were supposed to hold the retreat. A big thanks also goes to our wonderful speakers who poured their heart into the messages they shared and who were unafraid to speak with honesty about their experiences with God and their struggles.
When Friday arrived and we were about to begin the retreat it was definitely because God had worked a miracle in our behalf. Thirty-six ladies gathered at the Heritage House to dive deeper into the word of God and to learn from each other’s experiences. It was an exciting time and each workshop allowed for everyone to participate and share their own experiences. On Saturday, we focused on the idea of redemption and turning our apparent failures into successes. The examples of Mary Magdalene and Tamar demonstrated examples of women that had been redeemed in an incredible way only to serve a greater purpose for the Lord.
After the retreat, one of the ladies who attended made the following comment, which I think summarises the weekend quite well:
Women’s retreat was a weekend that gave women the opportunity to bond, share stories, encourage and celebrate, cry and laugh together. Kihilla Retreat in the blue mountains offered the perfect tranquillity and space to explore our spiritual lives together. We explored the book, a ‘A God Shaped brain’ by Dr. Timothy Jennings, through a series of lectures and discussions. Several speakers shared the experiences that had shaped their lives; both the successes and the failures, the lessons and the learning curves. It was a perfect mix of sharing, teambuilding and teaching each other new skills. I definitely walked away feeling ‘Satisfied’.