Hallelujah! We have arrived at the month where we can rejoice and remember all that we are thankful for! In the midst of where we are today, what a relief it is to have a day where we can just sit down and say, “Thank You Lord!” He is so incredibly awesome! He certainly deserves it.
Our ladies retreat was phenomenal! Way greater than I hoped for. Why do we underestimate God? These big ideas pop into my head, (like having this retreat, which obviously was God’s big idea) and then I go forth in fear and trembling imagining everything that will go wrong. Two days before the retreat it hit me that it was going to happen in 2 days! And to say my knees were knocking would be an understatement. The halfway house ladies all had to come because their house staff said so, and I figured the ladies from the work release center were only coming to get away from being locked up for a day, so my biggest hope was that their attitudes would only be mildly hostile. So why did I want to have the retreat in the first place? Because I had felt like God said so, and then the whole time leading up to it, I’m thinking, “Was that really God?” The weather 2 days before the retreat was in the 70’s. Then the day before it dropped to the 40s overnight and the best we were looking at was 58 degrees and some of the activities were going to be outside. I was sure the women were going to hate me. All my fears were for nothing! The day turned out completely beautiful! The sun was shining! The birds were singing! All the animals in the forest were dancing…… The Lord is so amazing.
We had 3 sessions of worship, teaching, and then broke into small groups to discuss the topic and allow the ladies to share their thoughts & feelings. In between the sessions, we had some outdoor team building activities, which to my surprise the ladies actually enjoyed. In the afternoon, we gave them some free time before the last session. A couple of the ladies fished, some took out canoes and a peddle boat. Two of the ladies from work release weren’t out in the canoe very long before they promptly tipped it over. One of the male mentors had made them put on life jackets before they went out, which I am so grateful for. They could both swim but since they had shoes and jackets on, the life jackets certainly helped with that extra weight. Since some of us had spent the night and since as women we always overpack, we found some suitable clothes in their sizes while we put their things in the dryer. One of the ladies from Grace House actually had a brand new outfit that fit one of the drenched work release ladies and she gave it to her. You can see God in those things. It gave the lady from Grace House value to have something she could give to someone in need and it gave the lady from work release an opportunity to see God’s provision when the unexpected happens.
As their free time was wrapping up, and I looked at how much they were enjoying themselves, I was begrudging the last session. I thought we should have just ended it with them enjoying the outdoors having fun. Having been there since the night before and gotten up early to prepare breakfast for the Grace House ladies, it had been a good day but a full day. After seeing all the Lord had done during the day with the ladies worshipping, being prayed for, receiving from the Lord, laughing with one another, I thought what else could He add to that? Besides that, I had a little speaking to do at the last session, and after listening to myself all day, both out loud and in my head, I didn’t even want to hear myself anymore.
However, in obedience to both the Lord and Jim Stoppenhagen, (who had made the schedule with me and said all this was necessary) we gathered them in and started the last session at 4pm. During the first song, the ladies got up on their feet (with no encouragement from us but from one another) and formed a huge circle, holding hands and singing “I am a child of God.” The atmosphere was dripping with the Holy Spirit. The ladies had already waded in and now they wanted more of what God had for them. It ended with ladies asking one another for forgiveness, group prayer, individual prayer, and many, many tears. And had I have kept my eyes on them having “fun”, they would have missed all that.
I heard a minister say, “America is distracted from God by entertainment.” If people aren’t going from one activity to the next, they immediately get on their phone, to continue flipping from one thing to the next to keep themselves entertained. At that retreat, I saw firsthand how important it is to balance fun and ministry. Those ladies tipping over in that canoe brought a lot of laughter and I’m sure they will remember it every time they look back on that weekend. But what will sustain them is what the Lord did in them. How many times will they look back and remember how powerfully they felt the Holy Spirit, how wonderful it was when they felt the Lord wrap His arms around them, how amazing it was when they realized that they themselves could have such an encounter with God. Both the inside and the outside activities worked toward the end result, but fun doesn’t break chains. That only comes from the power and mercy of God. I’m so grateful that God didn’t limit Himself to my expectations. He simply overlooked my thoughts and did what He had planned to do all along. Thank You God!
Salem Community Church in Salem Indiana volunteered to make gift bags for all the ladies who came. After dinner, while the ladies were making s’mores over the fireplace, we handed them out and that was the icing on the cake. I’m pretty sure some of them have never had a gift bag before. For those of you who don’t know it, most ladies love fuzzy socks and they were delighted to discover them in their bags. Thank you Salem Community Church, it was truly a blessing. And thank all of you who continue to send contributions to this ministry. We are so grateful. Without it we could not do these things. This next Monday night we will be providing a meal for people in recovery (coming off drugs and alcohol, some recently released from jail or prison) and through that we are then able to share the word of God with them. I’ve never been a mom who spent years preparing meals for a family so never had any idea of what it cost to feed more than just me – food is expensive! With feeding the homeless and now with the craft ministry the Lord has given us at the halfway house, the expenses add up fast. I also recently received approval to start going into a county jail hopefully on a monthly basis. I am just waiting on the schedule to see when that will start.
I almost forgot to tell you, at 5 am Friday morning, before the retreat, I fell down my basement stairs. So I went through the weekend with a broken little toe, a bruised tailbone, bruised shoulder, bumps on the back of my head and a swollen elbow. A whole lot can happen to the body in 3 seconds. “Therefore we do not lose heart, Even though our outward man is perishing, ( I was perishing alright!) yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For out light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, which we do not look at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Cor 4:16-18
We can’t give up, even when life is painful. When you’re limping, He is not. Put your eyes on the prize and believe that God will be faithful.
All of this to say, we serve a good God, an amazing Father, Who’s ways are higher than ours. He certainly delights in us having fun or else He would never have given us water to play in and trees to wander through. He gave us an array of animals that can simply be hilarious to watch at times. But nothing should replace spending time with Him because certainly nothing can compare to being in His Presence.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Be blessed in His presence!
Your sister in Jesus,
Nov 20: COPE Connects, Lakeview Church, 47 Beachway Dr., Indpls, IN 46224 9 am to 3 pm www.copeconnects.org