About six months ago, thanks to the invitation for my daughters to go to VBS at CityChurch from Lindsay Rich, my family has finally found our home in a Church in Charlotte! Directly after the VBS Sunday Worship, we were hooked and have recently become Partners in the Church!
One of the most amazing experiences that I have had in these last six months was attending the Women’s Prayer Retreat in early November 2014! When the invitation to attend the retreat was announced, I had been on the fence as to whether I would go. We had soccer games, other events planned, and I was intimidated, since I had never been on a retreat before. After talking to one of my good friends about it the week before, she told me that I had to go- that it would be life-changing! Between that conversation, and some actual life-changing events I was going through, I decided to RSVP- “Yes!” Except that it was too late. The Retreat had filled up, and there were no spots left. I was put on the waiting list, and so I prayed. I prayed that if I was meant to go, a spot would open up; that if I was meant to go, I would go! Not a few days later (and a few days before the retreat) my prayers were answered. Someone had had to drop out, and a space was therefore made available for me! I gave thanks to God as I packed my bags! I found a bible amongst my books that I didn’t even know I owned, and I went to church to drive with my carpool crew (none of whom I had met before) with that bible in hand!
From the second we began our ascent into the mountains, playing the CD that we’d been given with our information packets, the five of us become friends instantaneously, and the hour-plus drive flew by. We arrived in the dark to what we would later see as an unbelievable oasis of peace and God.
The five of us walked through the pitch black (far from the city lights we’d just left behind) to enter the lodge in the North Carolina mountains. Such a welcoming and warm feeling ran through me as we saw so many new and familiar smiles waiting for us. We enjoyed dinner and conversations as the excitement of what lay ahead grew inside of me. Our first night’s session was full of worship songs, prayer, and healing. I went to bed with a smile on my face and a thankfulness in my heart!
“Heaven sent the Promised Land” is the first line to one of my favorite Pink Floyd song (Wots…Uh the Deal). And, this was the first thing that popped in to my head when I awoke in the morning to actually see the grounds of Apple Hill Orchards in the light. This was God’s gift to us. This was our Promised Land for our 24 hour stay.
Rolling hills of green; leaves of every color splattering those hills like fresh oil paints on a new canvas; trees, blue skies, a perfect cotton ball cloud every so often. While it’s always one’s hope to spend life appreciating every one of God’s gifts, this was, by far, an easy task. My eyes nearly filled with tears at what I felt.
After a delicious breakfast and such good coffee (my own weakness!), we had amazing worship, prayer, small group and communion. Then we were released to the grounds for our own personal and reflective prayer time. I chose to sit-up against a tree, my favorite of all of God’s land gifts, and I prayed. I wasn’t even exactly sure what I was praying for, but I prayed and prayed until my hands found my bible from who knows where, and I began flipping pages and finding verses and journaling, and reading, and praying, and journaling, and finding God’s love in the warmth of the sun shining down on a chilly fall morning. I was so moved that I was nearly speechless at the verses that I found by God’s direction and grace. Every single thing I wrote down was so pertinent to my life at that exact moment. Everything seemed to make sense for the first time in a long time. I knew one verse was given to me for a friend I had in need. I went up to my room and texted it to her… Later in the evening when I went back to my phone, she had written back that it had been exactly what she had needed at that exact point in her day. My heart had filled with even more grace and thanks for God’s direction than ever before!
After numerous epicurean meals, snacks, and desserts, it was our final session to reflect and share our experiences of the weekend. While I have never been shy to speak (ever), I withheld my sharing for a while. I am not sure exactly why. But after hearing some of the women’s experiences, I raised my hand and shared what had transformed in me over those blessed hours of the retreat. I told everyone how I had never really read the bible. I had an exceptionally close relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I had never doubted my faith, and loved Him with my whole soul. But I had never really read the bible. Until my morning under the tree. Where the Spirit moved me to flip to pages that meant so, so much to myself and friends (which I would later come to realize even weeks after I had gotten home.) My delving in to the actual Holy Word of God had expanded my understanding, gratefulness, and love like never before! I was so grateful that God sent me on this trip. I was grateful that the spot opened up and that my husband happily chauffeured my daughters for 24+ hours all over Charlotte while I was away. I was also thankful for the renewal I experienced and the eagerness to find so much more of what God has to offer me! I will forever remember my first Women’s Prayer Retreat with City Church, and I will always know, for many years to come, to RSVP the day the invitation comes out! Because I will never want to miss out on this awesome weekend, as I now know that God has so much more for me to come!