Saturday, September 7, 2013

The God Who Was There

     Several months ago, it was announced that the women's ministry at my church was planning a two day retreat. Immediately, I decided that I wasn't going to go. At that time, I was exhausted, stressed, and worried. I did not want to add to that by going on a retreat where I knew that I would have to get out of my shell, meet new people from the church, and be transparent. I did not want to leave my daughter (even for that short period of time), so I just decided then and there to make up an excuse for why I couldn't go. I would make myself busy that weekend.

     But then, a few weeks later, more details about the retreat were announced. And that is when I heard that the theme of the retreat would be "Come & Enter His Rest." I instantly began to tear up. I was worn and weary. I had been praying for rest and here it was. After church, I told Jacob that I thought I needed to attend, and he agreed. From that moment on, the retreat could not come fast enough.

     It became the beacon of light that I stared at as I went through the month. I counted down the days because I knew that this would be a time of intimacy with my Lord. I knew that this would be a chance to refocus. I already respected the woman from my church who would be speaking, so I knew that I would be challenged and strengthened. I knew that it was going to be an experience that made me grow. I knew exactly what would happen.

     But I had forgotten that I was headed to meet with my God "who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20). I forgot that God is bigger than me.

     For the past month, my sister's blood platelets have been too low for her to receive chemo treatments. Then hours before leaving for the retreat, Rachel received information that this week not only are her platelets low, but her white blood cell count is below normal as well. So I walked into the retreat with a nagging fear. Is this the beginning of the end? Will it be downhill from here? I cam full of fear and anxiety, but I came seeking God. And the Lord did not leave me desperately seeking. The second half of Psalm 9:10 states, "for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You," and I was not forsaken.

     Right now, I cannot explain everything that I learned because I am still processing some of the information. I am still working out all the application and ways these lessons need to change my heart. At the retreat, no one walked on water. A pillar of cloud did not appear to guide us through our activities. But the Lord reminded me of so many aspects of His character that I have known, but I have forgotten to trust in. Verses that I have leaned on for years were brought back to my memory. I went in full of anxiety and fear, but the Lord has encouraged my soul. At times I wept uncontrollably, but through it I was renewed.

     In the final moments of the retreat during a prayer time, a woman from my church asked if she could pray for me. She prayed that God would give me strength to minister to my family and to my sister. I began to bawl. I felt like my strength was depleted, so God sent me a reminder that He is my source of strength. As I listened to her pray, it was as though she had read my journal and seen all the areas where I had grown faint.

     During her prayer, my Mother came over and began to pray for me as soon as the previous prayer ended. My Mother prayed that I would release the burden of how I responded to my sister's illness as a child (This began a whole new fountain of tears). For years, I have been ashamed of how I reacted when I was younger. I hated that I reacted in anger, bitterness, and depression. I hated that when I met people, I always wondered how much they had heard about me. Were they meeting me? Or did they think they were meeting the mouthy, rebellious child? For years, I have carried guilt. Oh the guilt! I felt guilty for how poorly I treated my sister when I was younger. I felt guilty for purposefully fighting with my family. I felt guilty for causing tension. I just felt guilty.

     But my Mother asked God to help me lay down that burden. And in that moment, through sobs, a ten year old burden was lifted off my shoulders. I felt relief.

     This weekend I felt so much love and support. I don't know what God is going to do next. Whatever it is, I know that it probably wont be easy. But I was reminded that the Lord will not leave me disappointed.

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