I am home. I kissed the babies, watched the rest of “Avengers” with them – and made sure I was loud and boisterous so they would know that mommy *is* home. Now, they are off to bed (school tomorrow) and I’m sitting down to type. I’ll warn you now – not everything I say will be considered “nice.” It may seem that I’m being rude and judgmental. I promise you, it will all come clear before I’m done. I ask you to reserve judgment on me until I’m finished typing out my thoughts about this weekend.
I’ve often said that I don’t always say things the way I meant to say them. Sometimes my words come out and end up sounding rude or wrong when I’m not really trying to be that way. I ask indulgence while I try to make myself clear.
I believe I learned a few things this weekend. It wasn’t necessarily during the teaching or, sermons if you will, but during the interaction with the ladies that were at the Retreat with me. First, let me show you a picture:
Now, you’re probably wondering, “What in the world?”
Those are pine needles. I gathered them up while I was thinking and pondering things, this morning. It was the last day of a three day Retreat with the Ladies of the Nazarene Church here in my town and I was reflecting on a lot of things.
I have several pine trees in my back yard. When I moved in, the pine needles were stacked up so high, the grass refused to grow. The pine needles had even burrowed into the dirt, which makes growing grass difficult to grow. Annoying things. I mean, severely annoying! We’ve spent all summer cleaning up the yard at the house we’re in – and have hauled away no less than 10 (maybe 15) bags full of pine needles. You can fit a lot of pine needles in one large yard trash bag! Awful things that destroy lawns and any attempt to grow anything in my yard.
I got rid of them.
Didn’t need them.
Didn’t want them.
Threw them away.
You following me, here? Trash. Worthless. Nothing good will ever come from them. Why would God possibly put them on our planet to annoy us?
This morning, I was thinking. They aren’t worthless. I’ve learned this over the summer but didn’t grasp the full meaning until this morning. I have, towards the end of the cleaning up of the yard, gathered the pine needles and used them in fires. I can get a great big fire started with pine needles. No need to purchase expensive fire-starters. They provide an excellent way to get a good, hot fire really fast so you can cook or heat up a family.
So, pine needles aren’t worthless, are they? They have a purpose. I chose to use them for that purpose, rather than throw the last of them away.
In that same respect, God didn’t throw me away. Despite other people in my life throwing me away, He didn’t. He chose to use me in other ways. I’m still learning and figuring out what that is, of course.
This weekend, my self-imposed purpose was providing pictures for the ladies to take home and reflect on their weekend. I took over 1,000 pictures. I had a reason, besides fellowship with the ladies. I had something I could do. I could provide a service. Just like those hated pine needles. I’ve several things along those lines that I can do to be “of service” and not just a slug. We all have our own talents and things we can get done. Picture taking was/is mine. Now, I just have to make sure to finish it – put the pictures on a disk to give to the coordinator to pass out to the ladies who went, this weekend.
That was lesson one. Now for lesson two. This may be hard to swallow. I ask again, buck up and read to the end before judging me my thoughts.
We did an exercise on Friday night. In the midst of all the other “get to know each other activities,” we did a “Pinterest Party.” That’s what they called it. On Pinterest, you pin things to your virtual peg board that you wish to remember or share with others. In the exercise we were doing, we had to write (or pin) keywords in several areas of our lives. Words like: negligent, steady, unhealthy, wasteful, dedicated, energetic, priority, resourceful.
We had to apply these “pins,” or words to various aspects of our lives. The sections were: My Spiritual Life, My Health, My Marriage, My Parenting, My Relationships, My Home and My Service. For “My Health,” I wrote: Negligent, unhealthy and wasteful. I need to get my butt in gear as far as the diabetes before I regret it later. For “My Parenting,” I wrote: consistent, loving, fun, steady, approachable while still strict. That’s a little bit of how I see myself.
I started out this exercise with an attitude. I was thinking things like, “These ladies love to be self-effacing. None of them want to tell the truth. They’ll downplay everything they say so they appear appropriately humble, which is what a good christian woman should be.” I figured this exercise was going to be very annoying as each lady tried to outdo the other with how “humble” she was. At that point, I wasn’t even sure why I had come to this thing and didn’t have a clue how I was going to get out of this gracefully and go back to the safety of my home. In a childish fit, I wrote on my paper, under the “My Spiritual Life” heading, “I am nowhere. I want to get somewhere.”
In my opinion, it is accurate. As my dad would say, “Take it to the bank and cash it in, it’s golden.”
I sat and listened, with my attitude. I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction of hearing what I wrote. I wasn’t going to play their game. I still couldn’t believe that I had been dragged to this retreat and had to sit through this complete and utter crap that I was going to be subjected to. I wanted to go to my room and get some sleep. Friday had been a long day and I was tired, not in the mood to deal with it. I didn’t want to listen to each lady try to outdo the other with how humble she could be in regards to the Lord Jesus Christ and the walk with and towards him.
One of the ladies, when prompted about what she wrote, said, “I think I’m doing good in my walk with the Lord. I think I need to make more time to keep it going, though.”
My head snapped up to stare at her. She was actually being honest. She thought she was doing “good” and not awful! To me, that was a “wow” moment. She wasn’t going to play the “I’m an awful child of God” routine. I started paying attention. Another lady said, “I’m moving right along but I find that, when life gets busy, I forget to make time and I know that’s important to keep the forward momentum going.” More honesty, not games.
I started paying attention and interacting more. I didn’t read them what I wrote under, “My Spiritual Life,” no matter how accurate it was. But, I started paying attention and listening to what the ladies were saying, instead of assuming I knew what they were going to say.
During the “My Parenting” section, I read mine off and I cautioned all the ladies (with older children), “Don’t ever turn your back on your child. No matter what. They do grow up. They do learn. They do make mistakes and break your heart. Trust me, I know how it feels to have your parent turn their back on you. There’s nothing worse in the world. Especially when they won’t listen or allow you room to change and grow. Don’t ever stop listening to them. I beg you.” They heard me and commented. A conversation started about trying to not give up on our children – ever. Just as Christ never gives up on us.
I’m not going to say I’m cured/healed of my attitude towards the Christian ladies. But, as the weekend progressed, I learned a little more about them. I continued my service of taking pictures to memorialize the event for everyone and started paying a little more attention. I’ll tell ya, after that, my stomach started feeling better and I wasn’t as “sickly” as I felt when I had arrived.
They really were a friendly bunch. I started talking during lunch with two of the ladies on Saturday and couldn’t shut up. I just rambled and rambled. I knew I should be polite and shut up but I just couldn’t. The conversation was fun and they were listening and responding. I’ll have to work on that whole talking too much thing. I did learn a lot about some of the other ladies, though. Once I remembered to close my trap. I got to see them as “real” and not phoney, putting on a show.
During the Beth Moore Simulcast, I doodled on my sketch pad some new quilting ideas and revisions of other ones. I just doodled to keep myself awake in that super-hot room and came up with some good ideas – for later.
She talked about Girl A and Girl Z. Girl A would always accept what she was given, thank you very much, and not ask for anything more. If you asked her, she’d say, “Everything is fine.” Girl Z, on the other hand, lived by faith. She knew that, if she kept asking God, she’d get what she really wanted or He would reveal His answer in another fashion. Something better for her than what she wanted from Him. It was actually pretty good.
That’s all well and good but I now know that’s not why God wanted me at the retreat, this weekend.
It was something that the last speaker said on Sunday, before we finished and left. It was so profound, I felt like she slapped me right upside the face when she said it – and she hasn’t a clue. It’s something that sums up me. And something I need to work to change. I don’t know how to change it! But, now that I know the problem, it has to happen.
She said, “Practical Atheism: professing a belief in God while living as though there is no God.”
I don’t think I should add any words to that to take away from the meaning behind it. I’m sure, those who know me, can grasp why it slapped me upside the face. That was lesson three for the weekend.
As we were leaving, all the ladies were signing our program guides like we were back in high school. I thought it was an amazing idea! It gives us something to remember our new (and in some cases, old) friends in the future. A few ladies wrote in mine and I was amazed at what they wrote.
“Thank you for your heart to serve!! Also, I will pray that you find a true relationship with a true Savior. There is no greater strength, joy, peace than that from the Lord!!”
“Thank you for sharing the journey you are on – it really blessed me – you are being obedient to God!!”
“It has been awesome to get to know such a wonderful and gifted of God and sister in Christ.”
“Thank you for all you did to make this time away so awesome.”
“You are so special and have my weekend so memorable!”
I can’t say I agree with the words those ladies wrote. I don’t think I’m so very awesome or obedient to God. Especially after hearing that one definition given at the end of the weekend. However, I have noticed that these ladies tend to look at the positive. Kind of like Beth Moore said about faith, not fine. They are such a sweet and loving bunch. They don’t give up. They keep pressing forward and encouraging others to do the same. I can only hope (pray?) that, at some point in the future, I’ll be like them.
These 40-some ladies are the mothers to today’s children. They are doing everything in their power to ensure the health and wealth of their children and their spouses. They take a day, a moment in time to regroup and fellowship with others and encourage each other to “keep walking. Keep it up. Don’t falter but, if you do, I’ll be here to catch you and help you keep going.”
What right do I have to judge them when they are the example of what God intended when He created woman for man. A helpmate. A guiding hand for the children (future fathers and mothers) of the world. They are as real as they can be. Some were strangers (like me) and some were long-time friends. They all came together for a common purpose and everyone was friends when it was over. Their purpose? Rejuvenate and get ready to return to families and keep being the backbone that pushes the family towards a future with God as the leader.
That was lesson four.
I have pictures, I have other stories. I’ll leave it at that and call it a night. I’m tired. I do hope my words were coherent. I hope (pray?) my points came across and didn’t sound awful.
Thank you for listening,