Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Women's Retreat, October 2011

I've been pondering on what to write for a few days now...not that I haven't wanted to, but honestly I've been so busy since I got back from the retreat that I have had very little time for anything else much but the basics!  What happened is that Miguel hurt his back over the weekend and has spent about three days in bed, barely able to sit up in a chair for more than a few minutes at a time.  PTL, he seems to be slowly recovering, but in the meantime, I have been running double duty!  I've even ventured out to the pharmacy and to Walmart on my own in the van...somewhat nerve-wracking, but everything went okay...I'm glad I have a large vehicle that most other vehicles respect!

So anyway, the, what can I say?  I believe that I witnessed God showing up in a pretty incredible way and I am so very humbled and grateful to have been a small part of that.  For one thing, the other Becky (Becky B. we called her) and I got along famously, and like I said in my previous post, we have a lot in common...but then we found out that we have even more in common than we had thought!  Which is really cool.  Here we are at church on Sunday morning...Becky B. is a singer and graced us with some awesome worship times, both at the retreat and at church here in Puebla.  

And what the two of shared and how it really complemented each other is a testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit, seeing as we did not communicate about our sessions beforehand!  But I have to admit that as I listened to Becky B. during her two sessions, I was very thankful that I went first...she would have been a hard act to follow!  She is an accomplished singer and speaker, very used to being in front of the microphone and her Spanish is simply amazing...she really is quite dynamic and had us laughing in many places, while at the same time thinking deeply about our relationship with God.  

The craft session went well, but it was hard to teach 51 ladies how to make boxes all at the same time, so we allowed for another box-making session on Saturday and I think most of the ladies who wanted to learn was able to go home with at least one pretty box plus their model box.  Here are some of the crafts I made from the boxes to show the ladies...including picture frames, Christmas tree ornaments and decorated gift boxes.  The one little box I decorated with some tiny silk flowers and some scraps of ribbon.  They all turned out pretty cute!

As far as my speaking session went, I decided to be very open and transparent in an effort to encourage others to also be more open and transparent.  Speaking about roots, I took the ladies back to how our 'roots' are formed...exploring what the external influences are that are that form the 'soil' in which we grow in this life.  Our family, our culture, our spiritual experiences, our life experiences, etc. are all external influences that form thoughts and beliefs about ourselves, others and God.  These thoughts and beliefs about ourselves, others and God are hidden in the deepest places of our hearts and out of them come our emotions, our motives, our tendencies, our desires...and out of those emotions, motives, tendencies, desires, etc. come our fruit, the external evidence of what is in our hearts at both levels.  

Oftentimes, however, those thoughts and beliefs have been formed subconsciously and we do not recognize what might be driving our hearts and therefore our fruit.  The beauty of salvation is that God transplants us to a new soil, one that is firm and fertile for our new little spiritual life of a tree to grow.  God wants to give us this new environment so that we'll have new thoughts about ourselves, others and God, and new fruit-the fruit of the Spirit...but what can happen sometimes?  We continue to revert to and act on the old thoughts and beliefs about ourselves, others and God...thoughts and beliefs that don't line up with what God's Word says about us and as a result, our new little tree does not thrive and grow...we do not develop a strong spiritual root system.    

In a nutshell, that's what happened to me...for most of my life, I have operated on thoughts and beliefs about myself, others and God that were damaging and hurtful to me.  I did not see myself as having worth, as deserving of God's goodness...I did not ever feel as if I was enough or as if God were pleased with me on any given day.  I had carried those beliefs deep down inside me, never realizing that those beliefs were blocking my spiritual spiritual roots could not thrive and grow deep and strong because I was operating based on the wrong 'soil', not the truth of God's Word...I was not deeply rooted in Christ's love and the knowledge of His Word.  It was as if my heart was like the seed that was thrown among the thorns...the seeds sprouted and grew, but the thorns (the worries of this life) grew up faster and higher and choked out the truth of God's Word.  

I worked very hard at the upper heart level and the fruit level to see change in my life, but it left me empty and dry and weak because I was trusting in man, trusting in myself to somehow make myself better (Jeremiah 17:5-6).  God brought me to the end of myself...a place where I had nowhere else to turn (why do some of us seem to need a harder knock on the head to see God?  Take Paul, for example...not that I equate myself with Paul, but just that some of us seem to just have a harder time finding God), a place where I was led to look deeper down inside me to peer into the depths of my innermost thoughts and beliefs...what I found didn't really surprise me because I knew those hurts were there.  What did surprise me is to find out just how much they had affected me without me realizing it.  What I had done was to deny their effects on me...everybody say it with me, de-NI-al!...and we all know that denying that something doesn't exist doesn't make it go away (try denying gravity by jumping off the roof of your house won't be pleasant...).  

For me healing was about surrender and faith...recognizing the reality of those beliefs, surrendering them to God and believing by faith the truths from God's Word about who I am in Christ.  Change didn't happen immediately, from one moment to the next, but as I clung to God's promises and made daily choices to believe, things started to happen and my roots began sinking deeply into the soil that God had prepared for me from the beginning of time as His blessed child.  And just like Abraham, God counted my faith as righteousness (Check out Romans 4).  Those negative, damaging thoughts and beliefs were changed to ones of love and peace and joy.  And I didn't even have to work to produce it...they flowed out of a heart that was grateful for God's gift of new life in Christ.

One day I realized that my depression and insecurity were gone...I looked back and realized how far I had come...I realized that I was becoming more and more resilient as I tapped into a new source of strength and power, becoming more and more secure in my identity in Christ.  There was no more working to please God, just resting in Christ knowing that I already please Him just by existing...He delights in me just because I am...because He made me...that I am enough in Him because He is enough in me...glory be to God!  I had found my joy...the joy of the Lord is my strength...I found my life transformed into a tree planted by the water, sending out my roots to the stream...bearing fruit and having no fear of the drought or the heat (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

So that's pretty much a summary of what I shared, although with more details about some of my life experiences, some of which I've share on this I shared, I was pleased to notice that I wasn't that nervous (this from someone who used to have trouble even looking people in the eyes out of a sense of insecurity and shame!) and in fact, I rather enjoyed myself.  It felt like I was stepping into a place where I was using my gifts and abilities and while I'm sure there were things I could have done better (this was pretty much my first time sharing at a retreat/conference, so I'm sure I have much to learn), I sense this is perhaps something that God will be calling me to do more of in the future.

I will cautiously say that I believe God used what I shared in the lives of many of the ladies...several ladies shared with me the impact that my openness and transparency had on them, tears streaming down their faces as they recalled hurts from their childhood that they recognized needed healing.  I say 'cautiously', however, because sometimes it's hard to gauge the feedback here in Mexico, they could just be demonstrating politeness and appreciation at my efforts...while in reality my efforts may have been feeble!  And perhaps some of them were merely expressing that politeness, but others did seem to be quite sincere and deeply moved by what I shared.  At any rate, my speaking session was a gift to God for Him to use however He sees fit...I have chosen to focus on that truth and not obsess about whether I did a 'good job' or not.

I will leave you with some more photos of the vacation center where we spent the was such a beautiful place and I already want to go back as a family to spend more time there.  It used to be a textile factory, which makes the architecture of the place very interesting.  My favorite picture is the one I took of the volcano Popocatepetl between the two chimneys...I wish I had taken my big camera to have gotten a better shot!  Oh well, next time...


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