personal retreat {day 2}

I didn’t set an alarm, and I woke up early enough to see the sunrise! I jumped out of bed and bundled up and drove to the top of the frigid mountain. The view was breathtaking.

Get out of bed, Jerusalem!
    Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight.
    God’s bright glory has risen for you.  Isaiah 60:1 (MSG)

I went to visit Mountain View Church in Black Mountain and had an amazing time of worship.  Worship

The worship set was “Empty Me” & “My Desire” by Jeremy Camp, followed by “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus – No Turning Back”.  It was powerful and it led me right to the throne of grace to receive the Word that I so desperately needed to hear – “Back to a Place of Peace”.

Place of Peace

The scripture reference was 1 Samuel 7, and the message was about finding His peace in the hard times. When the storms come (and they will!), God will give us peace.  I have personalized some of the main sermon points below:

  • Respond to the Holy Spirit.
  • Remove the false Gods, and get rid of those things that take my eyes off of Him.
  • Resist the attack of the enemy and put the unhealthy away.  When the enemy shows up, stand my ground and be firm.
  • Reclaim what God has for me.  God shows up!  Vs. 10 BUT THE LORD thundered from heaven.
  • Remember God’s faithfulness.  Remember the “Ebenezer” (Rock of Help). These mark the places where God has helped me.

The word “remember” was so helpful for me.  When I am in a storm or in a season of waiting, if I can just visualize the path and remember all of my Ebenezer’s along the way – the moments where God helped me – then His peace will wash over me because I will know I am in HIS hands.

I’m so thankful that God led me to this wonderful church.  It blessed me immensely, and encouraged me to remember His faithfulness.

After church, I spent my afternoon exploring the trails in all of their beauty. Nature Trail  I wanted to hike to the very top of the mountain, but halfway up I realized that I was all alone, and this sign made me pause.

Caution

I stood there a while and reflected much.

Sometimes I just want to blaze the trails, and get to the top. Let’s do this!  Lord, help me to go where you lead, as you lead in your perfect timing and at your perfect pace.

Other times, I just want to give up.  I quit!  Lord, help me to keep going.  Help me to be obedient.

Life for me today is a lot like this trail and this sign.  It was a God moment.  This path is not familiar.  It scares me, but I am not alone when you are with me. Order my steps. Help me to remember your faithfulness.  

I thought I would spend my time here mostly writing, but instead I was very quiet in the pages of Psalms and Isaiah.  Sometimes, it’s when I take that first sip that I realize just how thirsty I am.

 My soul thirsts for God,  for the living God.

When can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 42:2 

After this beautiful sunset, the sky turned dark and I was taking in the quiet night.  My heart was content and my soul was at peace.  Thank you Jesus for this time away to be with you.  Thank you for meeting me here.  “This is my desire…. to be used by you.”  I fell asleep to “My Desire” by Jeremy Camp playing, on repeat.  

Take a moment to listen and reflect.  Remember.

personal retreat

Lead me to the cross.

I’m so excited to get away and meet with you.  The car can’t go fast enough as my heart is pounding in expectation.   I sing to you to pass the time – do you hear me?  Then it is quiet again.  Overwhelmed, I feel the tears well up and spill over into my lap.  My lips are puffy and my eyes are smeared.  I am in sweatpants and I wonder… maybe I should have dressed a little nicer?  But you never seem to notice what I am wearing, the style or the brand.  You notice my heart, my mind, and my soul.  I am safe in sweatpants with you.  I can relax, be comfortable and just breathe.  You won’t even see the Clorox splatter at the bottom, as you will be examining the spots in my heart in need of your tender care.

Lead me to the cross

Only a few more songs and I am there.  I’m so anxious to see you, and to find you in every moment. No distractions. No noise.

Just you.

Help me Lord to find you.

Help me Lord to hear you.

Help me Lord to see you.

Help me Lord to know you.

Take my hand and guide me to your quiet spot where treasure abounds.  Fill me Lord to overflow with your grace, mercy and love.

Lead me.

Love me.

Meet me.

Lead me to your heart.

It’s here that I find you with arms wide open and beauty shining bright.  I start to whisper in your ear and you nod your head in agreement.  Yes, you were in the car with me.  You heard me singing.  You were in the mess with me.  You carried me in your arms.  You were in the chaos with me.  You were my shield.

You have never left my side.

It’s here that I find you and see you because I pause the distractions, and quiet the confusion… just to be held.

Remind me Lord daily to eagerly anticipate you like this!  You are always there, waiting.  You are full of everlasting LOVE.   May I always look forward to our time together just as I have this day, when all was set aside for you my King, in all of your glory.

Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
    a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
    when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
    don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

Psalm 51:16-17 MSG

The Beauty of Technology

Take a break.

My husband and I were celebrating 14 years of marriage and after a lovely meal we strolled into the Apple Store to check on my pitiful phone battery.  He decided to go to the book store next door while I waited and watched and listened.  If you enjoy any degree of people watching, you may want to visit an Apple Store and just hang out for a bit.  While I waited, I witnessed, absorbed and felt the panic of others!   “My pictures!  My data!  How long will I be without my phone? I didn’t back it up! It crashed!”

We are absolutely desperate for technology.  It has become our oxygen.  Everything and anything at all times at our fingertips – just like that!  The more I listened, the more I saw myself.  The more I realized it was my oxygen.  I mean, I am here waiting for a new free battery and it’s my anniversary date!  It was in this 45 minutes of waiting and listening that I really started contemplating my relationship with technology.

Right as the store closed there was one woman left at the genius bar, and I caught the last bit of her conversation.  She was explaining to him that she shares data with her daughter and her phone’s memory is full all of the time.  He explained there are two things that eat up most of the memory – music and pictures.  And then he said this, “Think about it – 10 selfies a day adds up fast – in 3 months that’s almost 1000 images!”

Images.  We are supposed to be image bearers of God.   1 Corinthians 15:49  And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.  Do our selfies, and our images reflect Him and His love?  Is it a selfie in our new outfit or is it a selfie serving at the homeless shelter?  I love pictures and I can fill up a phone, but this whole concept made me think about what I put out and why.  Music.  Any song, at the press of a button, made me think about what I listen to and why.  There is so much on that tiny screen that enters my heart through my eyes and my ears.  What am I letting in?

For me, technology is both beauty and the beast.  It is a fine line.  There is so much good that can come from it.  The beauty reaches people for Christ, and changes the world!  It connects us with others and helps us to stay in touch.  It provides a coupon in an instant, and recipe ingredients just in time on aisle three.  It remembers every birthday and event.  It reminds us and gives us directions. It captures moments.  It really is helpful and very much appreciated!

But still.

The beast consumes my time.  The beast makes me miss the funny conversation about what happened at the 4th grade lunch table today because my eyes are focused on the screen and not the precious animation in front of me.  The beast makes me think I need to reply to this text, right now.  It buzzes, dings and screams for my attention and for my focus.  The beast lures me to just sit for a moment and scroll – then an hour later says “Wait! you are almost done.  Don’t you want to see what was for dinner, and peruse the pictures from that vacation of a lifetime?”  At times, it’s like going to a party where everyone one-ups, judges, feels judged, compares, competes, and photo-shops life!

The beast of technology wastes my time and makes me anxious.

I’m looking for the beauty.

I’m starting by simply taking a few breaks.

Facebook can be a hard place for me.  I deactivated last year for 6 weeks which ended up lasting almost 6 months.  When you choose the option to deactivate, your friends faces will pop up and say, “but ___will miss you!  Are you sure?”  It’s a little like Hotel California.   But, once I check out – I smile.  I pushed it. I deactivated.

Deactivate

Notifications make a lot of noise!  If it dings, beeps, or vibrates I am turning it off and making it be quiet.  I will look at it when I am ready, instead of every time it screams urgent!

Music moves me and I love it, but I’m keeping it simple and removed all but Christian songs to guard what goes in.

There are apps, games, and other icons  that I hardly open.  I’m removing them from my phone. I can always add them back later.

You’ve got (LOTS OF) mail.  I am taking time to unsubscribe to all of those emails that I never open or read.  Delete.  Send to spam.  Clean out the inbox.  Keep it clean.

Taking breaks from technology gives me more time and deeper connections.

I am able to spend more time in the Word connecting with God!

I can write a letter, with a pen, add a stamp and mail it.

Or maybe even pick up the phone, and have a conversation.  Listen to the emotion and feel the emotion.  Experience laughter. 🙂  Cry real tears. 😦  Wink, for real. 😉

I can meet a friend in person.  Chat. Engage. Put the phones away. Be intentional. Be fully present. Look into their eyes. Listen. Hear every word.

I really want to open a spiral notebook and write. Repeat. Often.

I hope to make the meal I pinned,  and write out the lyrics to the song I purchased.  I may even print and frame my favorite Instagram picture.

I am finding the beauty, and the joy.

 

What about you?

Do you feel like technology takes too much of your time?

Does it stress you out and make you anxious?

How do you manage it?

It is going to be okay. {A day at the barn}

On a particularly hard day in August, I received an email from my friend Renee inviting me to a writer’s event.   On that day, I didn’t even have it in me to reply.

The next day, new mercies arrived and I mentioned it to my husband who agreed I should go.   I went online and purchased my ticket, and when I went back in to see if more tickets were still available it said – event SOLD OUT.  I had my ticket and I was excited!  Somehow knowing I got my ticket before it sold out made me even more excited!

At the Barn

I really enjoyed Emily Freeman’s workshop, “How to Write like an Artist” at She Speaks.  One of the most helpful things I heard that weekend was Emily’s soft voice say, “Don’t think of it as a platform.  Think of it as a bench.  Benches give people a place to gather together.  Build benches that people will want to sit on.”  This image has stuck with me so much that I tend to take pictures of benches when I see them just to remember that perspective.

{Side note – I was on a field trip recently with my daughter and we came across a bench and I stopped and said, “Wait!  I want to get a picture of the bench!” and so she ran and sat down, and I took the picture and then said “ok beautiful, now let me get the bench!”}

back to the barn…

At the Barn

I had purchased A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman back in December and was excited to read it, but felt led to give it to a friend instead so I was thrilled to find out the ticket included a signed copy!  It also included a signed CD from Christa Wells, and an evening in the Nester’s beautiful barn!  While I looked forward to spending the day with Renee, I was anxious about being at a “writer’s” anything because of the shouts of doubt in my mind.

I was nervous as I approached the barn, but I walked in and exhaled a deep sigh of relief.  I can’t explain it to you and the pictures won’t even give it justice, but there was breathtaking beauty in the room.  The Barn

I was able to go in and take a seat and just take in the surroundings.

The space seemed to say “welcome, you are home.”

I found my seat and just glanced to my left and saw this beautiful reminder to rest,

Rest

and then I looked up to this beauty:

Chandelier

To my right, there was a disco ball.   That was when I first knew:  It is going to be okay.

At the very beginning, Emily shared a blessing by John O’Donohue.   The words spoke to very deep places, and I was able to jot down three lines:

“You have traveled too fast over false ground.

Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Gradually you will return to yourself.”

Emily and Christa started a conversation, and they allowed us into that intimate space of hope.

They were transparent and brave, and it was deep soul encouragement for me.  They talked about their frustrations and challenges, and they shared ideas and stories.  We were smiling, laughing, and nodding our heads in agreement.

As I sat there, I thought… maybe (just maybe) I am a writer.  Maybe.

I gazed at the pieces of furniture and decor in that beautiful barn and I reflected on my own home.

I appreciated every crack in my walls, and the rip in my couch… evidence of life, and evidence of love.  It made me smile.  It’s not perfect.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  But it is beautiful.  It is going to be okay.

When Christa started to sing, her voice and her lyrics ripped my heart.  Every song was powerful, but one song in particular {Come Close Now} rocked my world.  She prefaced it by saying she had written the song about someone who had experienced the grief of a stillborn baby.   A dear friend of mine has experienced this unimaginable sorrow recently, and if I have ever been at a complete loss for words in my life it has been in these circumstances.  She has called me crying to meet her in a parking lot and I have sat with her in the car with the AC blowing on fresh tears for hours.  I leave thinking I am completely inadequate to help, but then Christa sings about the fire and there in the melody of her beautiful voice, I know… it’s going to be okay.

carry on

All I can tell you is that a heaviness of peace landed on me in that chair sitting in the middle of that beautiful barn.  A peace that said, it’s going to be okay.  If I write in a notebook, or on a blog, or even a book – God is with me.  He’s guiding me and He is with me.  If it’s only two people on a bench reading what I write, it’s going to be okay.  I am not alone.   He is with me.  If all I ever do is meet my friend in a parking lot and sit with no words, it’s going to be okay.  She is not alone.  He is there.

Writing is the very thing that can make me feel very alive and really alone at the same time.   But when I sit in a beautiful barn lit up in the dark blue sky, and I look into the bright eyes of other writer’s, I discover their hearts also beat to the words on a page.  They inhale and exhale words on napkins, in their phones, on their shower walls.  They get it.  I’m not so alone after all.  It is going to be okay.

Soul

I am so thankful I was able to spend a day at the barn.  In the quiet of the country at a beautiful barn filled with writers, I sat still and listened.  Spiritual Whitespace.  My soul rested, and I worshipped.  My mind was quiet, and my heart heard the small still voice whisper…”it is going to be okay.”

It was exactly what I needed.  A day of soulrest.  I didn’t leave with a list of things to do, or a checklist of the next steps.  I left with peace.  I left knowing, it’s going to be okay.  I left with a signed book, a signed CD, and a whole new concept of what is beautiful in my imperfect home, and what is beautiful in my far from perfect life.  I bought a bracelet to remind me of this day, to remind me to shine…. it’s going to be okay.

Shine
“Shine”  by Christa Wells (Click to listen)

It’s going to be okay.

Romans 8:26-28 (MSG)

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Take a moment to pause and rest in Him.

Listen to “A Thousand Things” by Christa Wells, and be blessed!

 

Spiritual Whitespace Linkup