We all get knocked down in life...even trampled on sometimes like a beautiful flower in a field. But, the resilient ones come back again and again and again. Sometimes we need help getting up...usually we need help. But with a little strength and a whole lot of grace, we boldly say, "I will try again." This was one of those times for me...
It was a normal Friday morning a few months ago when I got a last-minute text from a new friend inviting me to go on a women's retreat with her 4 hours away. The only thing was she was leaving that morning at 10:00am....in only 1.5 hours! Mind you, although I've traveled a lot in 15 years, I've never packed for ANY trip in a matter of hours. As I paused and considered the craziness of it all, something in me said, "GO!" So, since time was ticking, I quickly replied back and told her "Yes!" and started packing feverishly.
Now, I've always loved women's conferences and retreats, but I hadn't been to one in at least 4 years...and usually I know most of the women who are going or am one of the speakers/teachers. But, this time, I didn't know anybody there. In fact, I barely knew the friend I was going with. We were both from Cincinnati, Ohio and in the same circles 20 years ago, but never connected one-on-one. Now, we both lived in KC, MO., and had never connected either until this morning. Kinda strange, I know, but now we had a 4-hour drive to talk and "get to know" each other!
Well, we ended up connecting like long lost sisters, and had no problem filling 4 hours of talk time. Even the retreat center was so cozy and cute, I thought all my fears were relieved. But, as things got underway, they mentioned it was time to go to your "Break-Out group". Apparently everyone had already signed up online for the group they wanted to be in, but I had no idea what the various groups even were, so I thought about skipping it all together for fear that I'd get stuck in a small group for 3 days that I didn't like. That would definitely NOT be fun.
I quickly scanned the room trying to read the signs of the names of the various groups, but didn't see any that really resonated with me. Nervous anxiety was mounting, and as I turned around to see what the last group was behind me, I saw the name, "Resilient Queens." Ahhh....now THAT one resonated! God knows how many millions of things I've had to be resilient from! (smile). Even so, as we all walked to a smaller room to meet, I prayed silent prayers of "Help me, God!"and once in the room, I'm sure I was still looking for an "escape door"in case I changed my mind.
Sharing time began, and the first question out of the gate was to share our story in a few minutes. "Impossible!" I thought. I didn't even know where to begin. I had just come out of 7 years of chaos, pain, and betrayal, and was still walking through grief from a recent divorce. It was so unlike me to feel hesitancy to share in a small group, but the past season had taken a huge toll on me and left me leery of sharing my story with people, including women. I could feel how uncomfortable I was sitting there thinking about what I would say.
But, one by one, as each woman shared her story, it was not only encouraging, but refreshing. They were so open, authentic, and vulnerable, not to mention creative in the way they summarized their story. One woman sang songs to share her story, another used visual props to describe her life, and many of them shared a few tears. The group was going deep fast, and by the time it was my turn, I felt more at ease and was able to somehow share some of my journey.
By the third day of being together, our little group had bonded so much that we were over an hour late getting back to the main session. I had not only made new friends with a genuine connection, but my heart had been rekindled with new hope for women's ministry...including mine. You see, the name of the retreat was "Jewel Warrior." I knew it was no mistake that I was there, and that the Lord was stoking the embers of my heart for my ministry, His Jewel, to be relaunched again after 6 years of being dormant.
It's not that I ever lost the heart for the vision of His Jewel, but I had lost myself in the pains of life, not sure if I had the wherewithal to step into it yet. The Lord's timing is so perfect, and His leadership so gentle. I'm so glad I said"yes"that Friday morning to go on the retreat, and even more glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to connect with other "Resilient Queens!" Not only did they refresh and expand my heart for women, but they truly helped me "bounce back" from my past season and move me forward into my future.
What courageous step out of your comfort zone will YOU take today?