I'm not sure what I'm going to write about, but I know that I want to write. My brain is pretty devoid of thoughts, but my heart is full of feelings. I'll try. Here goes:
I spent the weekend at Harvest San Diego's women's retreat. I'm completely and utterly exhausted and yet so full. Full of smiles, full of love... I'm really really happy. :) I also grew two volcanic zits this weekend which I've been hiding underneath my bangs. Anyway... getting off topic...
Seeing as this was my very first speaking engagement, I didn't really know what to expect. I've been to only one women's retreat. The speaker at that retreat was really good. She taught us about praying directly to the names of God. I don't remember anything else she said, but I do remember feeling awe and wonderment at her scholarly ability to teach... and keep my attention for multiple messages. She was a very... distinguished lady... and I admired her wisdom and her speaking proficiency greatly. Seeing as that was my only experience from women's retreat... I really didn't want to be compared to someone like that. I'd written before that I went back and forth between being really excited and being really freaked out. I've been talking to my friends about our "freak-outs" and we decided that "freak-outs" meant that we needed to take a time out and do a faith check. Freak out = faith check. Thinking back to a few days ago, I think the predominant feeling I had was... inadequacy.
I was asked to speak at the retreat about a month ago. I think I have a problem with saying yes before counting the cost. I really don't even know what I was thinking when I agreed. But since then, God's been working on me... in me... challenging me as I stepped out of my comfort zone and moved from writing about God's love for me to actually speaking about it to a bunch of strangers. And what a lovely bunch of strangers too.
I don't know if I was born this way or if I became this way... but I've spent the majority of my life deeply introverted. That sounds weird. According to Myers-Briggs, I was a strongly expressed introvert... an INTJ. I always came out an INTJ (Mastermind). I took the test again in November 2009 and came out an ENFJ (Teacher). I took it again just now out of curiosity and today I'm an ISFJ (Protector). WHAT in the world is going on with me?
Anyway, so I journaled a bit prior to my first speaking session. I wrote that I was feeling inadequate and emotional. I was full of fear... and about to be full of tears. I went out and found Praise and sitting next to her was a lovely lady who wanted to introduce herself to me. I feel really bad about it now but I think I said hi and then I burst into tears. I was feeling overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by my own inadequacy... overwhelmed by the HORDES of women flooding into the house with every passing minute. 50+ women. Strangers. SCARY!
I'm thankful for friends, prayer, and support. Praise was really instrumental in keeping me sane this weekend... especially at the beginning when I was freaking out the most. Despite being sick and having lots of homework to do, she really showed her love to me by putting aside herself and putting me first. She wrote me encouragement cards for every day of retreat. :) She hugged me when I needed it. She prayed with me a lot too. Thank you, Praisy. I never got to help you with your chem homework! SO sorry!
As time went on though... the fear melted away. I'm so blessed that this was a wonderful group of women and not a rough crowd. These women are not afraid to laugh... thank God. With every passing message... I didn't see scariness anymore... I saw smiling faces. I felt the warmth of sisterly love emanating from each woman and multiplying the more time they spent together. The women of Harvest are so beautiful... there is so much love, so much joy... plenty. Harvest is plentiful.
Some of you had asked me to share with you my retreat messages. There's a whole huge story behind those too... I'm too tired to write about it now. I'll just share the titles and the gist.
Sharing #1: brief overview of my testimony based mostly on my 1400 word article for Inheritance Magazine. It helped... to have a brief version. I also cried a lot during this one. When I cry, I can't read what I wrote... so I went off on tangents here and there. I have no record of my tangents, nor much recollection of what comes out of my mouth when I cry.
Sharing #2: God loves us. I shared some from what I wrote about Lavish Love (Day 98 - October 2009) a while back... Anderson loves me and my boogers... Hosea and Gomer... made a Twilight reference about imprinting (thanks Laura Bear...)... and I think what some people might remember about this one was... that I said to "stalk God" (thanks Stacy). A small point, but somehow a memorable one.
Sharing #2: Loving God. Subtitle: boys ruin my life. Reference Death by Boys (Day 123 - November 2009). I scrapped my entire sharing prep for this one. I decided to rewrite the intro during free time and then I shared with them... things which shall not be mentioned on this blog nor on my fb notes. But basically that my fleshly nature is to sin and desire sin... loving God means dying to myself and choosing Him... not just saying it, but actually making choices which show Him that I choose Him. Greater love has no man than this... that a man lay down his life for his friends. Laying down my life is my greatest act of love to God. I think that's how this one went. I needed Praise to keep me on track. I also have no record of what I said here... but I think they really liked this one. Very relatable, I think was the consensus. Someone thanked me for keeping it real.
Sharing #3: Loving Others. The proper order is that God loves us, we love God, and THEN we love others out of the overflow of God's love in our hearts. It made me really happy to hear a few ladies repeat our retreat theme in their sharing. It's so joyous to hear that people paid attention. LOL. I actually think that half the girls were asleep during this one. I know that one room overslept the entire message. :P Man... I wished I could have slept a little longer. I opened my eyes this morning and groaned... I had to get up and speak in 30 minutes. In 30 minutes... I brushed my teeth, washed my face... no time to comb hair... got dressed... couldn't do full on devotions so I opted to go for just my Romans reading... so I read it aloud so that Praise and I could get some Word in the morning. Then we prayed... sang some songs... and it was time to share. Craziness. I shared about my "taking out the trash" analogy, about Beatrice, Praise and Christi as my little sisters, Praise shared about it from her side, and I ended with sharing about the feeding of the 5000 from Mark 14. How Jesus put aside his own grieving, looked up and saw the crowd and had compassion on them, how we tell Jesus to send the people away so they can get something to eat, but Jesus asks to bring Him what we have (which is not even enough for ourselves), He takes it, blesses it, gives it back to us, and asks that we give them bread. The bread is not our own. We are to give it, in faith, that God will replenish it... and keep on giving. And then when people are satisfied, pick up the leftovers because there is no waste. Absolutely none.
Small Groups - I asked to be put into a small group. I wondered if it would be a bad thing... or a good one. A bad one possibly because people might not want to share when the speaker's in their group... but I think it went OK. I was really really blessed by getting a chance to talk to 4 lovely ladies. AND my group name was Dole Whip. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE DOLE WHIPS. Anyone who's been to Disneyland with me knows... every single time. I think God does these little things to make me smile and remind me that He's totally in control and He loves to send me little love notes like this one. Dole Whips. My FAVE. I kinda wish that I could have listened in on everyone's small group. I got to hear bits and pieces of some conversations from time to time and they all sounded like such awesome sharing! I also think it's fascinating what stands out to people from a message. It's sometimes NOT what I intended... but I think it's fascinating nonetheless. For example...
I made a reference to the fruit of the Spirit... and how all my life I'd been trying to conjure the fruit on my own. I tried to be more loving, I tried to be joyful... tried to have peace... to be kind, good... self-controlled and always... failure. I looked at it absolutely wrong my whole life. You don't try to conjure the fruit. You cultivate the tree and the fruit will grow on its own... naturally. You don't aim for the fruit... the fruit is just the sign of life.... that the Spirit-tree is growing inside you... go for the tree. I guess this one was particularly memorable. I heard it mentioned a few times.
Speaking of trees... the prayer tree! I'd just mentioned it briefly to Natalie and she went and made a prayer tree! It's so amazing to see an idea come to fruition... as something tangible. And then to see people use it! That they were praying for each other... and each tally mark showed that they were being prayed for! I hope these leaves turn into praises as the prayers are answered.
And the Thot Spots... they were so so cute! I gave her the questions, showed her a picture of something I'd made before in the past and Natalie created these beautiful little booklets of response/application questions for the women to write down their thoughts. Even to see people go through the questions... the questions are ones that I ask myself everyday. It's so exciting to see people thinking about these questions... writing their answers... and someone even shared with me. I was the person they wanted to tell about their thoughts! My heart was bursting to see people use these tools. Joy. Utter joy.
And the questions. I got asked a lot of questions. One girl was so cute... she asked if it was OK to ask me a question... and then she said... man, it's like I'm asking you out on a date... LOL. So so cute. :) On Saturday night, I felt like there open seats around me and every now and then someone would come sit in it, ask a question, more people would come, some would go away... more would come. I'm so thankful that they found me so accessible and not intimidating or scary like how I'd grown accustomed to being treated most of my life. And I love the questions. I love the hearts from which these questions arose. I love the silly questions, I love the curiosity... I love hearing how they yearn for healing, they yearn for wisdom, they yearn for God and to know more and more about Him. This is beauteous.
I love the questions. Keep on asking. Ask me, ask each other... ask God. Ask it of God who gives freely... just don't doubt Him. That's from James, I'm pretty sure.
Man, I wish I had the time this weekend to talk to everyone. I'm so yearning to pick up the conversations that I started... I want to hear about your stories... I want to hear about how God's answered your prayers... how God spoke to you... what it means to you and your life... I want to hear how your situations went... let's talk about boys, about being control freaks, about google documents and nazi accountability, about the future, about husbands, about submission, about Kentucky, about food, about farting and roughage, about jobs and being housewives, about weddings, about HSM and Twilight (but I'd much rather talk about HP instead)... let's talk about anything! I'm tired of talking... I want to listen... I want to hear your thoughts!
I came home utterly exhausted. I took a nap in my lovely cloud of a bed. I woke up groggy and I was a little bit sad. I miss my new friends. I even miss the sound of your chatter and laughter which kept me up at night. I couldn't imagine a better way to spend my Valentine's weekend... it was so, so loverly. Thank you. :) Hope to catch up with you all soon...