I have so many thoughts swirling in my head after retreat. I'm really not sure where to begin pulling them down and putting them into words... I just know that I need to do it.
I thought about going up to share during open mic testimony time... but I really did not feel God moving me to go up. I felt like it was time for me to listen. But if I did go up and I had to share just briefly... I would have said that... I am like a plant. I grew up most of my life in soil that was comfortable but stunted my growth as a plant... and very rarely gave me the nutrients to produce flowers. I thank God for NOC soil because it has the right soil components that help me to grow in new and different ways... and my flowers are brighter and pinker than they have ever been before. I haven't really flowered in a couple of months... it's been a hostile environment lately and I've been lacking in nutrients... but I think that the season of hostility is coming to an end and I expect some big, hot pink flowers soon. I know it's really vague and most people probably wouldn't be able to relate so I'm pretty glad that I felt the urge to sit in my chair and just listen to other people's amazing stories. There's no way I could say what I really wanted to say in a couple of minutes.
The theme of this year's NOC retreat was 20 twenty... technically about vision... God's vision... our vision... but I think that I gained most was a little more clarity about where I am right now more than where I'm going in the future.
I cried at every session and also a few times in between. Sometimes it was a little cry... more often it was the kind of cry that felt like a leaky faucet from my eyes and tears were just pouring out no matter how much I tried to will them to stop... and a couple times there was the collapse-on-my-knees-convulsive crying... which happens rarely but it's always a good thing when I'm face down, no holding back... just being real and honest... broken and humbled at the feet of my God.
I've had a rough couple of months. I haven't been able to think very clearly. I haven't been able to articulate clearly either. All I knew is that I didn't feel good. I don't think I felt "bad" per se... but "not good" was probably the most accurate description I could give you if you asked me how I was doing. I'm exhausted. I'm tired. Lacking energy. Lacking output. Lacking joy. But I didn't FEEL horrible. It was confusing. It's still a little bit confusing to me but I learned a few things from retreat which have been running their course through my mind.
Firstly... conversation = relationship. The conversation... however repetitive... IS the relationship. No conversation... no relationship.
I've been retreating lately. It's both a good and a bad thing. I think I did need to learn not to rely on people so much. They are gifts in my life... but they should always point me back to the Giver. Two months ago, I started to feel really abandoned. I want to emphasize the word "feel" because I wasn't actually abandoned by that many people. If I think back to my life a few months ago and now... not very much has changed... but I FELT abandoned, isolated and a deep loneliness that... depressed me. Sometimes I feel sad... but I usually bounce back pretty quickly. There was no bounciness. It's been two long months of flatness.
I was miserable. So I "medicated" myself... by playing Candy Crush and watching movies... I think I probably watched Men in Black 3... four times this past week alone. I was escaping and avoiding. One of my friends noticed I was "crushing a lot of candy" lately and asked me what was up. I told her I was escaping and avoiding and she reminded me that... "that's so not like you". Some people escape and avoid... but I usually don't. This is an unhealthy coping mechanism in response to my lack of bounciness.
In my flatness, I told myself that I would just isolate myself more and spend more time talking with God... but what I actually did was spend more time asking God for reasons... on my own time... on my own terms... and I realized that what I was doing was NOT having a conversation with God. And I was sorry... so very, very sorry. The more I retreated from people... the more I felt like I was in bondage. That first night, I was face down, on my knees...having a hard cry and apologizing to God for being a brat... for not appreciating Him for who He is... for being demanding and for only taking on my own time and terms... and for not loving Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. He deserves so much better than what I was giving Him. I wanted to relearn how to love Him more. I was broken already on the first night.
So I thought to myself, "OK that's it... I've learned what I needed to learn at retreat on the first night... now I can cruise and figure out how to realign my life again for the rest of retreat..." but I wasn't done learning. During the workshop yesterday, we learned about temperaments... DISC... which stands for the four temperaments... Dominant, Influential, Steady, and Compliant. I pretty much decided fairly easily that I was primarily an "I" but I also saw a bunch of other characteristics in me from the other temperaments. One of the things that the speaker shared specifically about I's is that you do NOT embarrass them in public. When you embarrass an "I" in public... you basically kill their spirit and even though they might be smiling on the outside... they are shrinking... smaller and smaller on the inside. I think that's what was happening to me... something was causing me to shrink and die on the inside. On the exterior, I was still moderately functional... I could still smile... but I could not laugh with my whole heart... I didn't feel like I could be myself... something had died on the inside... my spirit was crushed and broken... small and wounded. I was a mere shadow of who I was... who I was meant to be... and I still had to push myself to go to work... go to clinicals... see patients... and where I used to get such joy out of all of that... all it does now is drain me. He also said that the worst thing you can do to an "I" is to isolate them. They need people. Retreating and isolating myself... and being miserable through it... I thought I was doing the right thing.... but all it did was make me think I was depressed and the longer I felt depressed... the more I felt like I was going to die inside... but now I have a little more insight into my situation and now I can choose to overcome it.
I took a quickie DISC assessment and I came out 37% I, 30% D, 27% S and 5% C. I'm not really sure if I agree completely with the S and the C. I thought I would have been a little more of a C and a little less of an S but whatever. It may or may not be accurate... but it did help me think more about what motivates people and how I can treat them better... as well as understand myself better. I shouldn't be so hard on myself when certain things bother me more than I think they should... part of it has to do with my temperament and the way I'm wired... and the weaknesses that come from my temperament can be overcome. That gave me a lot of encouragement and hope. He also emphasized over and over again that we are uniquely created by God and that we all have inherent value and worth. It was something I needed to be reminded of.
In the second message, the speaker talked about how God can use who I am... my identity... and all my experiences, including my hurts and pain, and transform it into something that shows His glory to the world. I felt so encouraged and affirmed... but I didn't have time to truly think about how to let go and throw down my identity and let it be transformed... before we got to the third message where what really stood out to me was "freedom".
I sat there... taking in the message... and feeling like I had let so many things around me... chain me up and limit my freedom... to grey out the colorful spectrum of my life. Good people... well-intentioned friends... gave me Bible verses and encouragements... to help me BE a better person... but I had taken their insight too literally and I had allowed it to become more important than being true to the creation that God made me to be. They did their best to point out my weaknesses and let me know how I can improve... but I had allowed Satan to turn them into lies which attacked my self-worth... which made me think that I was not a good person and I'd be better if I were more like... someone else.
I chose to speak against my fear of man... to actively choose not to care so much about how other people perceive me or to fear hurting people so much that I say nothing at all... to reaffirm that I am beautiful just the way God made me... and that all I needed to do was draw near to Him... to immerse myself in Him... and He will show me what I need to do... whose words I need to really listen to and whose words I can note but set aside for another time...
I just reread what I wrote and it means a lot to me because I know what I'm talking about but it might be too vague for anyone else. The lie that Satan used to tear me down was that it would be better if I would talk/share less. Yes... even a foolish man appears wise if he keeps his mouth shut. It is better to listen than speak. Let my words be few. I bottled up a lot of my hurt and disappointments. I kept my mouth shut. I was dying inside. I resisted so many urges to share... I let so many promptings pass... that I felt like I was ignoring the Holy Spirit and my ears became deadened to His voice. So when I decided to choose against the approval of man... to speak against my fear of saying the wrong thing and just bask in the presence of His grace... two words came to me: unashamed and unafraid.
When those two words came to me... I burst into tears. They came pouring out of my eyes... and I went to the back of the room once again... to be on my knees at the foot of the wooden cross they had set up. I remember back in the day... when we used to set up those pillows and the cross in the room... I would NEVER go back there... I would never ask for prayer... I just wouldn't participate. Now that I'm at NOC... I go up for prayer... I ask for prayer... and I find that I relate to God differently now than even 1 year ago. It's a very good thing. Be unashamed... Be unafraid... and approach God with confidence. Listen and obey...
While I was back there... kneeling before the cross... there were also slips of paper... for us to write things on... and leave at the cross. I wrote the two words that came to me and I sat back down on the pillow... and I prayed. I sat before God... I listened... and God told me... to turn around and pray for the person behind me on my left. I had no idea who was behind me. What would they think? What would they say? What would I even say? How would I pray? I didn't know. All I knew was that God gave me a short message for this person... whoever it may be... and it was... "you are beautiful. you are worthy. you are loved. live in freedom". Instead of turning around, laying my hands on the person and praying those words... I wrote them on a piece of paper instead. I felt like a chicken... but it was something... a start.
And then when I went back to my seat... worship through song was still going on... and I felt God telling me to worship Him with everything I have... don't hold back... don't be still... just jump or raise my arms and do whatever feels right... and after raising my arms for like less than 10 seconds... I felt my heart breaking in obedience... and all I could do was collapse on the floor and bawl. It was a convulsing type of crying... in the aisle... but I was being unashamed and unafraid... being washed over with so much love that I didn't deserve... having all my flatness and fear be replaced with love and grace... and feeling so, so unworthy.
After worship time... I felt myself get bouncy again... and I felt like jumping or dancing or something... and I also felt like laughing. I felt so much lighter... I felt more free. We went to another room where there were snacks and open space... and I jumped. I hula hooped. I laughed harder than I'd laughed in a really long time. I started to feel like myself again. And I realized that it had less to do with the people around me... it had everything to do with me and God.
I knew in my head that God wanted me for Himself... but it wasn't until I gave Him time to work on my heart... when I sat down and listened... and did what He prompted me to do... that I felt... free. Freedom comes from obedience to Him because all He ever wants for us is freedom. He created us for Him and to bring Him glory and we are the most fulfilled when we let go of everything and allow Him to invade and transform us.
A couple months ago... I felt like God revealed to me a little bit more of what types of giftings He's given me... and what kinds of ministries I should be involved in... and I made a deal with Him... telling him that I'd finish school first and then focus my heart on these ministries. Right after I made that deal with God... He allowed me the opportunity to finish my project early and thus graduate earlier than I had planned... I should be on schedule to graduate in December of this year. So I'm pretty sure it's no coincidence that all that happened... so I think God has something in store for me for next year that requires me to graduate early... save that $12,000 of tuition money... and to make good on my "deal". And I think that Satan knew that God has plans for me and wanted to try to derail me... to depress me... and to cause division within me and against other people... but I'm thankful for retreat... that God could use it to correct me and realign me... and remind me of my first love.
I feel like this was the most boring post ever but it's more for me and God than anything else... He knows most intimately how loved I felt by Him this weekend. I think it's pretty funny actually... that I was at that retreat site before... during my second year of college... and I remember it being a completely different experience. I remember feeling so alone, so isolated... so ignored and unwanted... I remember being so afraid in those cabins... and hiding or pretending I was sick to avoid interacting with people. What a different experience it was this time around. I'm glad I'm experiencing God in new and different ways this year. :)