Hello,  dear blog friends!  Happy Wednesday night...I've been waiting to share this post for months, expectantly waiting for this event on my calendar to come and go.  I had the privilege of spending this past weekend on a retreat with so many women from our Church whom I love! I got to meet some new faces and enjoy the sight of many familiar ones, it was such a great weekend!! Our Church does retreats, more than any other Church I've ever been involved with, all year round.  If you've followed my blog for even just a little while, you know how often we are packing and re-packing for another retreat of some sort!  However, it's been like 7 years or something since we've had a Women's Retreat and at the start of last summer I began joining the conversation regarding this one.
Since July I started meeting with the women leading this vision and we began really brainstorming and seeking the Lord for what it was that He wanted us to plan.  I share this because I am so stunned, now that we're on the other side, at how those conversations and stirrings unfolded into something we never could have anticipated.  This whole process has been a walk of faith for all of us, but the Lord has also reminded me personally of His faithfulness and His promise to complete in us the work that He begins.  

From my years of being married to a ministry leader, I know the hard work and the planning that goes into a retreat.  I know the million decisions that have to get made, the step of faith required to plan something, never sure if people will respond to your vision or not, the long meetings and all the prayers that proceed the whole thing.  They are always WORK to plan but it never ceases to amaze me when the Lord takes over and delivers what He intends.  I have loved being involved in this particular retreat, it's fun to be outside the student ministry world and into a world I know and am living in myself.  

I signed up to help however I could, but I didn't have any idea that the Lord would take me on an adventure like He did.  In the Fall I agreed to take a major step of faith, nerves and all, to be one of the speakers.  For weeks I told no one, in fact it took me days to even tell Trav I'd been asked. Every time it ran through my head, I thought I might throw up, even though I simultaneously had such a peace knowing that God was asking me to trust Him and say yes.  But it really took me aback when I began mentioning to friends and family that I was going to be a speaker, just how insecure I felt about the way people *might* react.  This was a seriously public risk for me, and I often felt like I was so far out on a limb, surely they made a mistake to ask me??  I love writing about this particular part of the journey because I realize now that the Lord did a major work in me, even through this.  I love to teach, I love to study God's Word and go through it with someone else, I really do.  Women's Bible Study is always a highlight in my schedule and with the exception of this year, I love signing up to be in it.  I know God has given me some gifts in that area of teaching, but I would NEVER assert myself or even ask for the opportunity.  I have just prayed for awhile that if this was ever something to pursue (speaking, teaching, etc) that He would pursue me and bring the opportunities whenever He saw fit.  So while I was excited and very honored serve like this at our women's retreat, I was also appropriately terrified!  
I'm so thankful that the Lord sent me just the right encouragers when I needed them and more importantly, that He allowed me to struggle so I could know and learn what it meant to really rest in Him and let go of the fears that gripped me.  And He did. There was a point when He helped lay down my need for approval or validation, I knew He called me to this and I was majorly trusting Him to come through.  I will admit, there were still times when I was rattled by the sight of SO many qualified teachers and women who do this all the time, wondering what on earth I was doing???  But I've learned to believe God and look to Him, not comparing myself to other people or disqualifying myself because I'm intimidated.  There will always be other people who could do it or who are more talented, more qualified, more seasoned, etc...But when the Lord asked for a step of faith in this, I am thankful that He gave me the courage to obey Him.  I would have missed out on an incredible ride of blessing.

So these last few months? They've been a constant push through the book of Colossians.  In my quiet time and most of my spare time I've been reading and studying and writing my way through the book.  My kids have gotten so used to me surrounded by books and my Bible and my laptop, while they played all around me and at my feet.  We decided at the beginning we were going to teach the book over the weekend of the retreat and at some point, chapter 3 landed in my lap.  I had the great honor of teaching after our Senior Pastor's wife (also my sweet friend), and after another dear friend, who is a BSF teaching leader and has been a mentor in my own life.  They would be teaching chapters 1 and 2 and then I'd be closing out the weekend with chapter 3 and the beginning of 4.  No pressure, right??  
It was such a joy to follow them and to learn from both of them as we all prepped and studied.  It is not easy to teach a whole book in a weekend's time OR to be the one who goes last!  I had such a fun weekend but never was my session far from my mind.  I got to speak on Sunday morning and I'm so thankful to say that it went well and that I even enjoyed it!  The Lord calmed my nerves before I ever got to the hotel and I just kept believing that He would show up and speak through me.  It was also such a privilege to have so many people praying for me and over me all weekend...People via text, email, voicemail, and so many friends there.  I could not go 5 minutes on Sunday without someone putting their arms around me and letting me know they were praying for me, or their room had prayed for me, or asking me if they could pray for me?  That alone was so humbling.  It's a huge responsibility to teach God's Word and the weight of handling it correctly was never far from my mind throughout this whole thing.  There is such a pouring out that happens when you teach...all that studying and prepping, it's impossible to not have your heart wrapped up in all of it!  Colossians has become SO dear to me, it's truths constantly impacting my heart and mind in a million situations.  Convicting me like crazy.  Like I shared earlier, we've known Colossians would be our text since this Summer, so I've read and re-read, and read it again for months!  These last two days, post-retreat, I've had such a hard time letting this book close.  My Bible practically falls open to Colossians now and it feels so familiar to me.  But, I'm excited to move on to another passage or book and let the Lord re-work me all over again!  
I had the extra blessing of my Mom coming with me and sharing a room together.  We had a great time, it was very special to have her there and also very calming for me.  So nice to retreat to our room at night and do what I needed to do without having to "connect" with someone or stay up super late talking.  I didn't ask her to come but months ago when she and my Dad knew I was speaking, she said she wanted to be there and my Dad really wanted her to come.  That was so special for me.  Fittingly, in the middle of our weekend the Hawkeyes played on Saturday and they won in huge game against Michigan.  The game was on during our afternoon break, so my Mom watched it and texted me the whole time while I sat in the lobby prepping for my session and leading a breakout.  It was such a funny thing and so calming too!!  I was not expecting us to win that game and I had no plans to get myself all wrapped up in it mentally, but when she started sending me texts with our giant lead, it was such a fun distraction :) Ha!  Only we could share excitement over a college basketball game in the middle of a women's retreat! I'm glad we got to spend a weekend together, I don't get this one on one time with my Mom hardly ever, so it was a treat.  We also enjoyed being able to see my cousins who were there all weekend too.  I was a blessed girl to have family with me!  
My Dad came up too and spent the weekend with Trav and the kids.  Looks like they had great supervision, right??  Ha ha!  I snapped this after my parents got to our house and my Dad was a little sleepy from their drive :) They had a great time over the weekend and we got some hilarious text updates.  The best one of the whole weekend however was about Miss Ava.  My sweet, tenderhearted first born...I learned a valuable lesson about her!  Before my Mom and I left, I jokingly said to her that she would have to be the Mommy of the house while Grammy and I were gone.  I teased her and asked her what she was going to make for dinner and breakfast until she told me, "But I don't know how to cook Mama? I'm just little still."  We laughed and I said that's ok, I knew she'd take good care of all the boys.  Well my girl apparently took that to heart and within minutes of us leaving, my Dad said she announced "Ok, I am the Mommy of this house now, and I want some dessert!"  Haha haha!!!!  She then proceeded to get out bowls and spoons for everyone while she dished up some cool whip, granola and raspberries for them to enjoy!!  Classic!!  We laughed and laughed about that, imagining what else she'd come up with over the weekend, but then my Dad sent us another text about an hour later that topped the first one.  He said she was in the kitchen, chair pulled up to the counter with an open cookbook in front of her, sobbing.  She was crying because she wanted to make "soup" and Trav broke it to her that she didn't need to make dinner and that actually the "soup" she chose was really a breakfast casserole!!  Isn't that funny???  Sweet girl!! I about died over that and of course immediately called home to let her off the hook of being "the Mom" and reassure her that we could make soup together after I got home.  But you know, I learned an important lesson about my Ava too.  Being a classic firstborn like me, she is obviously a girl that I've got to be careful not to put extra responsibilities or expectations on that are beyond her.  She is determined enough to try, but I can crush her little heart if I stretch her farther than she should be stretched.  She was doing her best to fill my shoes and my heart melted over that.  Plus the image of her in my kitchen with one of my open cookbooks in front of her???  That alone made me proud!  

The Lord was so good to me this weekend.  I will not forget this retreat for a long while and the personal journey that led me here.  I loved being away from reality for a weekend, with so many women I enjoy...I learned so much and the Lord spoke some great truths through Cheri and Bev's teaching on chapters 1-2.  I love the book of Colossians and I highly recommend it!  I will admit, I have been catching up on my sleep again and enjoying the freedom to not study with my extra time :) My kids are  also happy to have their coloring/lego/play-dough partner back!  Oh, and also, I am ready to begin really shifting my focus to this baby.  That's the next big event in my world and I'm thankful to have these next few months open prepare and enjoy it. I love retreats!  If you have the chance to go on one with your Church or the chance to plan one, I hope you are able to do it!  And if you're looking for a new book of the Bible to read?  Pick Colossians!  I spent months and months in it and I just feel like I scratched the surface.  It's a beautiful letter from Paul, full of rich truth about Jesus and so much practical wisdom about living a life in Christ!  Lots of gold to mine from that book!  

Tomorrow I'll tell you about the next adventure waiting for me when I got home from the retreat...Oh boy, never a dull moment around here! 

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