When we first arrived at the Ladies Retreat, I noticed that many of the girls had already signed in. I think I was number 25 or so, and not everyone had gotten there yet! So...that means there were going to be far more in attendance than I originally thought (or mentally prepared for)! I remember looking at the list at the end of the night...there were 40 women!
I put on a name tag and headed downstairs with the two girls I rode with. We all picked up our little goody bags and found a place to sit. And before it all got underway, Kathy took a quick snap shot of me and my dear friend, Sarah H.
I was the third one to share her testimony that night. Many tears were shed while listening to the first two girls speak! They told us of very trying times, giving examples of answered prayer. When I stood up to start talking, Jeanette asked Sarah H to pray for me (she always had someone pray before each lady spoke). I was immediately humbled as Sarah could barely speak. Through her tears, she asked for God to give me the words to say, and thanked Him for me. What a sweet friend I have!
I shared how God had answered my prayers, giving examples of "yes," "no," "wait," and "My grace is sufficient." One of those that stands out so clearly is when my greatest heart's desire was to move back to Owensville. I wanted more than anything to live in my home town again. Josh was getting ready to graduate from SBU in the spring of 2003, but he had to pass his Praxis exam before SBU would let him student teach. We knew that there was a math opening at Owensville, so I was VERY excited that this would perhaps give us the chance to move back home! But...as we listened to the score over the phone, I heard in an automated voice: "Your score is 135, a 136 is needed to pass." I was devistated. This was how God said, "No." I didn't understand why. But now, looking back, I am so thankful for the road He led us down. I would not know any of the dear, wonderful people I know now here in St. James!
Since the retreat was about prayer, Jeanette also asked us to share current prayer needs in our lives. I cannot tell you how much it means to know a group of 40 women are praying just for me! I've had a few ladies since Friday night speak with me either at church or via email and say they understand where I'm at in my life (since I'm a young mother with young children and these women are ones with children already grown). They are so encouraging.
The one thing that happened, though, that had nothing to do with me speaking about myself happened before my testimony. If you've been reading my blog, you know I've talked about the gift of discernment. I'm often asking God about it! :o) When the lady before me shared her testimony, she spoke of a lifelong battle with depression. She said she could easily put on a mask, and often could hide from church because of the position her husband has (he goes from church to church...so if she's not in our service, we just assume she's somewhere else). I could just feel my mouth drop as she told of her struggle...but not because I was shocked...
A year ago I was in a small Bible study with her. Each time we met, I just felt God telling me to pray for her. I felt overwhelmingly that she was struggling, but all I knew about her was who's wife she was! Surely someone like her has it all together! But she didn't...and hearing her share this was a way for God to reaffirm to me a gift I'm still trying to understand.
The Ladies Retreat was a huge blessing! I love these girls! :o) Looking forward to next year!
P.S. Thank you, Sarah C, for encouraging me earlier in the day on Friday when I really needed it.