Women's retreat weekend. Legitimately one of my favorite times of the year. It's the time where, just as spring begins to announce herself on tips of branches, as we inhale the warm revival of Minnesotan air, and just before summer sweeps us away...God meets a group of women in this sacred space. He leans in and whispers, tangles us together and stirs up our hearts for Him. Undoes me and repents me of patterns old. It's where He always teaches me new rhythms and illuminates new portraits of His beauty and grace. It's always good.
Illuminate. That was the theme of this year's retreat. Empowering light. Inspiring brightness. When I got home Sunday late afternoon, I tried reflecting on the weekend as a whole, but fell into a nap instead. And when I woke, well, my God knows me well. I needed to sleep before I could think - are you well rested now, Amanda? Good. Let me show you some things.
Slowly, like gentle waves that glide across the tops of feet buried in beach sand, God unfolded for me the beauty of the weekend. I was easily in tears, as conversations came to mind, moments both brutally tender and preciously sweet. These women with whom I shared this time - each of them (I
could cry again right now writing this) - are the greatest gifts to my life. Assets to my journey. Their love, their support, their smiles and laughter, their conversations and questions and wisdom, their hugs, their simple presence...gals, if you're reading, know how deeply affected I am by you.
We are each exactly who God needs us to be. You shine in all the ways you are supposed to - don't stop trusting in and turning to the Holy Spirit that resides and shines within you. You have changed me and made my story more beautiful.
Without adequate words of my own, I'll quote our scripture from the weekend. Matthew 5:14-16:
Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.
God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.
If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand —shine!
Keep open house; be generous with your lives.
By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Let this be what we do, as you have done for me. Illuminate. And let us return and return...