In all of my years of blogging, I have never missed posting on October 1st. I adore the month of October, so no matter how sporadic I’ve been at posting throughout the year, I always make a point of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) on that beautiful day. This year, I was on a women’s retreat in Ashland, Oregon on October 1st. So I let myself off the hook and simply enjoyed the day. I did celebrate by drinking my first pumpkin latte of the year, which happened to be the best one I’ve ever had. I’m not generally a pumpkin latte fan, so I was quite surprised. I only tried it because I trust the coffee shop immensely (shout out to Case Coffee Roasters in Ashland) and they advertised it as having organic pumpkin and brown sugar something-or-other – so of course I was sold. As usual, Case didn’t disappoint!
Good coffee was only one small part of this life-changing weekend. As some of you know, this year has been one of the hardest of my life. For many different reasons, I’ve spent much of the year crying, hiding from people, and questioning God’s call on my life. At the end of the summer, I began making conscious decisions to stop the pity party that has been 2016 and begin taking steps toward creating community and positioning myself to once again hear God’s voice. As a result of that decision, I found myself enrolled in a nine month program at my church called Emerge. The goal of Emerge is to develop leaders through reading specific books, completing strategic tasks, and engaging in weekly one-on-one mentoring. At the beginning of the course, the women’s retreat was listed as mandatory for all of the women in Emerge. It ended up not being a requirement, but I had already taken the weekend off of work and figured that I would be a “good student” and go on the retreat. I honestly had no desire to go – I didn’t know anyone and ended up riding there and sharing a room with complete strangers – something miles outside of my comfort zone, which has grown smaller by the month. Little did I know that my tiny of act of courage had actually positioned me to receive things from God that I didn’t even know I needed.
The first clue that this retreat was exactly what I needed was the theme: Refresh. Let me tell you – after the year I’ve had, that sounded so good! The first night, the speaker talked about the woman in Luke 8 who was healed by Jesus after 12 years of chronic bleeding. She talked about the language Jesus used when speaking with the woman in verse 48: “And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” It was so interesting that she spoke about this particular thing, since I’ve been struggling a lot with what it looks like to be God’s daughter. I realized, maybe for the first time, that God actually wants to be bothered with me. He is not intimidated by my messiness or my stubbornness or my desperation – He actually wants to meet me in the midst of it and calls me daughter.
That was only the beginning. About a week ago as I was cooking dinner, I was so desperate to feel God’s presence and His love for me that I prayed this prayer, “God, I don’t know if I’m allowed to pray this, but please give me tangible evidence that I’m on Your mind.” God brought that desperate prayer to mind on Saturday in the midst of a three day span during which I genuinely and tangibly felt God’s love for me. On Saturday we had some free time and when we all came back for dinner, three women whom I had just met the day before who were sitting at my assigned table presented me with a gift: a maternity shirt that says “Promoted to Mommy.” Maybe it seems like a small thing, but it spoke volumes to me. In the nearly 5 months that I’ve been pregnant, I’ve felt very alone – far away from family and the people who are “supposed” to be the most supportive during times like this. I realized that in between throwing up and trying not to throw up, I hadn’t really celebrated this new little life or invited others to celebrate with me. It was so encouraging to be surrounded by women who have been where I am and who are celebrating me as I embark on this new journey of motherhood.
Saturday evening, after yet another powerful message during which I cried for about the sixth time in two days, that night’s speaker looked me directly in the eyes and said “There are some of you here who feel unseen. I want you to know that God sees you. One of His names is “El Roi, the God who sees.” I was done. God had heard that desperate cry spoken through tears from my kitchen in Shasta Lake, California. He had heard me and He had answered. For the first time in at least a year, I could feel God’s presence and His eyes on me. This truth rang in my ears: God sees me! I wasn’t alone.
On September 30th, I stepped out in obedience and went on a women’s retreat. It was a little step. And God was faithful to meet me. As Amy Bailey, one of the speakers said “God meets us in the beyond with the fullness of Himself.” I went beyond my comfort zone, and God was there. The verse that was prophetically written in the journal I received this weekend was Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek and search for me with all your heart.” It’s true! I’m still the same person I was before I went to Ashland. I don’t have a crazy story of transformation. What I do have is a story of desperate obedience and the truth that God met me in the beyond with the fullness of Himself.