The Created for Care retreat has been such a blessing in my life. It has stretched me, shaped me and taught me. It has encouraged me in our journey of adoption, sustained me in the droughts of the waiting, and provided me strength to pour into my family in the present. There is something incredibly sacred about sitting in a room full of woman with the same heart beat as yours and to lift your hands in praise and surrender to the living God.
Community. Relationship. Intimacy. Needs in each of us wired by a God who desires those very same things with each of us and for our families and our children.
I have loved my once (or twice now) a year taste that Created for Care provides of this deep community and teaching. But my heart found a home when as a ministry, the Created for Care Mini Retreat was officially "launched." Because while it is a blessing to go and be held for a weekend away, the possibilities of building that deep community with other moms in my own hometown left me so excited.
Mindy and I have been blessed with the chance to not only be a part of supporting the Created for Care family as they bring C4C to their own communities, but to also host our own mini retreat. Not only were we excited to pour into those around us, but to also learn how we can better support each of you.
So on the last weekend in May, we held our first mini retreat. Just as God has stepped in and provided for each and every big retreat, seeing His heart for the momma in our mini every step of the way was such an encouragement.
From the beginning of our plans, we asked God to be over every detail. He blessed us with a family from our church who was willing to open their beautiful home for our retreat. Their home sits on a lake and as we considered the word "retreat," provided exactly that to our weekend. They may never know how their willingness and generosity not only blessed Mindy and I deeply, but every single momma that came. God's family is so amazing like that! They, and their home, were a gift.
And so we began to pray over those who would come. Our prayer was that God would bring the very group of momma's who needed to be there to us. We didn't know the how's and the who's but stepped out in faith. And as some doors shut of those we invited, others would open and before we knew it, 21 women made up our first retreat.
It was a honor to pray for them as their name tags were made. Women whose lives intersected with some and not with others. Women who were waiting, women who were long home, women who sought to say "yes" to their God and know Him more deeply. Women who desired community.
And oh was it fun to begin to set up. To see how we could find ways to express the Father's delight in them, His deep love for them, and His hope for them. We welcomed them to the retreat with the promise found in Psalm 84:3:
"Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young - - a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God."
And no Created for Care retreat is complete without a little gift bag to take home, because we have a Father who delights to give (good) gifts to His children. Ok, so maybe that is a stretch of scripture. But not that far - right?!
Small bursts of flowers or baby's breath with scriptures, chocolate, or kleenex (a C4C staple -right?!) were spread throughout the home in bedrooms, bathrooms and gathering rooms.
And Date with God supplies were set up in the basement with prayers that momma's would come and find refreshment pausing to sit with God and His Word.
And so the women came and began to connect and meet . . .
We began the weekend listening to the heart of the weekend from Andrea Young and her testimony of God's faithfulness in her family's life. It was the perfect beginning. Hearing her hard, her raw, her beautiful, was just what was needed to allow our group of woman to place down their own defenses and circumstances and allow authentic relationships to begin.
Afterwards we set out delectable pieces of cheesecakes made by my talented mother-in-law and invited the women to a time of sharing and connecting.
As a planner, I will admit, this was a time of vulnerability. Because as we planned and set our schedule, I strongly felt God say to leave the end of our evening friday night open. No agenda. No plans. No safety net. And every time I tried to insert something for the sake of (my) comfort, God tapped me gently on the shoulder and told me "no." And so we sat in a circle that night and I asked each of these women to be willing to share; to share the hard, God's faithfulness, and the needs. And two hours sat looming before us with no title.
Can I say this was one of the highlights of the weekend for me? Because as one woman would share a burden, another would step in to encourage. As one woman cried a tear, another shed one along with her. And as one woman testified of God's faithfulness, another sat in hope. It was beautiful and I can't thank these women enough for placing their hearts and lives out there for others to come alongside and stand together.
Breakfast began saturday on a front porch that overlooked the lake. Homemade parfaits and cinnamon rolls from a local bakery that I may still be dreaming of. Peaceful, relaxed and delicious.
Then we headed into the theatre to start our morning with Carissa Woodwyk's main session "Listen."
No Created for Care retreat is complete without some word from Dr. Susan Hillis.
"I am a small woman loved by a big God, who is for my family, for the world, for eternity."
Can I just encourage any mom out there who is considering hosting their own mini retreat with this next story of God's faithfulness? We had originally planned what we thought was the perfect person to lead worship and had thought it was all set to work. Then with barely two weeks to go to the retreat, I received a text she wouldn't be able to make it. In my panicked gasp, I sent a prayer for God to write this story better and how He did. It was so fun to text back before the end of the day how God had it all worked out from the beginning!
He brought our way a young lady who grew up in foster care and has a testimony of faithfulness of how God used both foster care and adoption in her life to lead her to Him and grow her. Not only did she bless us with her voice in worship, but with her life and how she is serving God. He makes beautiful things and her life is most definitely one of them.
Then it was only fitting to move from worship to Date with God. What a sacred gift to be able to witness these women asking God to speak to them.
Then it was back upstairs to a delicious lunch set out and waiting.
A session after lunch on racism by our dear Carissa,
Then we opened up the afternoon for the women to rest, connect or to set out on a walk outside.
Hostess or not, I may have snuck to a couch on the back porch, sprawled out with a bible and let God pour into my heart as the waves splashed outside.
Retreat. Rest. Restoration.
A few other moms chose to watch an extra session and put in Amy Monroe's "Connecting while Correcting."
Others ventured outside
And others enjoyed the friendships (we let those who chose a nap sleep uninterrupted).
Oh wait, that's Mindy and I. ; ) I am so blessed by our friendship and the ability to serve together.
Maybe one of my biggest regrets is that we didn't remember to take our group photo friday night and a few ladies had to leave a little early.
But to have spent a weekend being even the smallest part of pouring into these women was a blessing and privilege we thank God for.
We closed out the day and retreat with Tona Ottinger's words of hope and encouragement in her session "Seen" to send the women home on.
Even amidst some less than ideal weather or things you learn to do differently, I couldn't have prayed for the weekend to go better. There are those I know were covering us in prayer as we met and we can't thank you enough. Every prayer was felt.
And even more of a blessing as we have looked back? It has been reading comments shared from the women as they reflected on their time at the retreat with us in their feedback.
"I came home renewed in my purpose of doing what God has called us to do."
"I truly enjoyed the date with God because when I am at home no matter what I get interrupted by a child, husband, phone or most important my own distractions like laundry/meals. It was wonderful spending a hour with my Dad to just focus on my relationship with him."
"It was a great, uplifting time!!!!"
"I liked the quiet time with God and the gentle nudge to make time for that."
"I had been praying about how to connect with other adoptive moms. . . "
"God was certainly glorified!"
If any of you are in the process of hosting your own mini retreat or interested in bringing it to your area, it is the desire of Mindy and myself to come alongside you to encourage you, help you and pray you through it. I know God will bless it as He did for us. What a gift to pass along the blessings of Created for Care to those we know, love and do life alongside.