Laying aside my jacket of weariness, hanging up an unworn garment, placing toiletries and beauty supplies back in our bathroom cabinet and drawer, piling up clothes to be laundered, sorting through slips of paper–receipts, cards, notes and empty cough drop wrappers, placing Bible and notebook back beside my bed table–all are physical parts of unpacking for me, as I have returned from Tennessee and North Carolina from the gIRL conference this past weekend. The past three days I have spent mentally unpacking with the Lord and no one else. It was right for me to do so. You see, He alone can bear the weighty-ness of me. In fact, He delights in being with me!! He delights in being with you, too, my sister.
So let’s talk about girl get-aways and how they can be an excellent and restorative choice for your time away, as well as how they can drain the living life out of you, like the driest of sponges. That is NOT to say that the time away is ABOUT you, sometimes it is Christ in you, for you, with you and surrounding you, yet about something completely other THAN you. Sometimes these conferences and gatherings can be a felt joy, sisterhood and exuberance. Sometimes, they dig up and unearth ugly things in you, which you would rather leave planted–this can be so hard! On the front end, I believe it is good to take analysis of where you are, what season you are in and how different environments will serve to draw you closer to Christ no matter what the outcome.
Where you are can be in a place of loneliness, break-through, hardship, joy, exhaustion, celebration, worry, or a thousand other places and combinations. I have endured times in my life, where I would rather attend a conference completely alone, soaking up the times of worship, watching the sign-language in all its expression and growing by leaps and bounds in the knowledge of God and His sustaining Word. Sometimes, I have gone for a weekend get-away with my dearest friends and soaked up times of laughter in our hotel room and being silly, as we shopped in new places–and learned not a thing about the knowledge of God, only knowledge of fellowship with His people. Sometimes I have gone and wondered how grown women can act like they are still in junior high, being petty, particular and persnickety. Sometimes I have gone and heard testimonies of faithful women walking on the hardest of roads in a way that has challenged me to walk more worthily. Each time, I have brought who I am, ALL of me–authentic me–and prayerfully walked it out. The Weaver knows fully well how to weave me into the story.
What season I am in is the place of my dailyness. Be it a time of singleness, school, newlywed-hood, infertility, hospitalization and recovery, first new baby, fourth new baby or empty-nesters (Lord, it will be sooner than I think!), my daily activities are driven by the season of life. The race of every day leaves tire-tread marks on us. Sometimes, these seasons are heavy loads to carry. I remember distinctly a time when I had three children 5 and under, a husband in the hospital, who was ”not out of the woods, yet” and the daily burdens of life. It was right after this time that the Lord took me on a weekend conference with one friend and the rest were strangers. I had torn the ligament in my right ankle and literally had to rely on others to take me from place to place in a wheelchair. If conversation was to be had, people would have to come to me. The LORD knew all about my season, and this retreat was one of the sweetest in my memory of the tender love of God for His people and through strangers, too!
Different environments really matter for a full experience of time away with girl gatherings.
- There are Bible conferences with many speakers, one speaker and even “classroom” settings. These conferences can range the gamut from large group to small group time–as well as one-on-one time with those in proximity. The fullness of engaging our minds in the Word and application to our season and our daily lives can completely come in and change our attitudes and desires in such a way that we can distinctly remember hearing the words, as if they were written solely for us. They most certainly were written just for us!
- There are retreat settings, where we spend time in worship, the Word and in fellowship together. These, too, can be geared as high-paced and scheduled or loosely-paced and somewhat directional. Either way, the time spent with others in a closer-knit environment can be edifying and joyful or hurtful and exclusive. These are the times, when I most remember the Good, the Bad and the plain Ugly. Each time I have taken the bad and ugly as prompts for unearthing the ugliness in my own heart and have asked God to both teach me and redeem the time, as He is completely able and willing to do!
- There are times, too, where it is just a handful of friends, who get away for a completely social weekend of activity, food and shopping. Interspersed in this time are laughter and tears, shortness of temper from hunger and tiredness and then more laughter in the midst. Times with a few friends can be completely refreshing and also completely draining, depending on the various life-stages, seasons and temperament of each woman. All-in-all, they are worth getting to know, praying over and with and being woven together in friendship, as we all share life and burdens. These are the times that I most remember and draw from in my own daily weariness that comes along the road. I think of our conversations and I turn over our times together. They are like treasures unearthed and held in my heart.
- Finally, and this is totally on my list of things I want to do, there is the quiet, all-by-yourself retreats, where you find time alone–just you and God–and you pour forth from that place. I imagine, when I go on one of these retreats, I would rise early to watch the sunrise, have breakfast, maybe see some sights or hike and then get alone with my pen, Bible and music and completely just BE. Perhaps you have tried one of these, I’d love to hear about your experience!
All in all, the Weaver of our lives is still speaking our language and weaving us into the story He is writing. When we choose to attend a gathering of any sort, on the front end, we need to choose to build in times of rest and quiet. Even Jesus needed to get away from the crowds to spend time with the Father to replenish His supply. If Jesus needed that, then how much more do we?
In every season and stage of our lives, we need different kinds of get-aways–from large conferences, to retreats, to girl weekends to being alone with God, all are suitable and fitting, as we travel this sod. We will come away both enriched and thankful. Then we can most explicitly unpack the time with our good God, who never grows tired or weary. When I take time to wait upon Him, He’s right there waiting for me, ready, willing and able to take the whole of it–the whole of ME–and savor and redeem the time of it with me. My Immanuel.