Sunday, February 24, 2013

Retreats and Restoration

(My dear friend, Connie Johnston and I, at a book signing for Stories of Faith and Courage from Prison. Connie contributed several stories and is an Assistant Chaplain at the jail.)  

A few weeks ago I lamented to my friend, Connie, that I felt the need for a little “get away”. It had been too long since I had been on a vacation, and after the intense two years of focusing on the prisoner devotional book my soul longed for a period of restoration.

“Let me see what I can do about that,” Connie responded.

I really didn’t expect anything to transpire outside of maybe getting a few of us together for lunch and laughter. So when I received her email detailing a local overnight getaway at a retreat center for two days and a night, I let out a giggle! It sounded perfect.

Connie had stayed at this place several times and loved it. The accommodations were inexpensive and the chef was highly bragged upon. She suggested packing our Bibles, journals, old magazines and comfy clothes.

There were five of us and we introduced ourselves and shared why we felt the need to get away. After praying for each other Connie distributed a handout to aid in grasping a vision for the New Year. We were encouraged to ponder what God was asking us to do for Him and how He might want to grow us in 2013.

Each of us sought a private area for an hour or so and then came back together and shared. I wish I could say I was enlightened, but quite honestly I was still in a spiritual slump. After lunch, Connie got out the old magazines, scissors, glue, and poster boards.

Hmmm, we’re gonna cut and paste?

I wasn’t sure where she was going with this, or if I even wanted to participate. But, when Connie shared the personal insights she gained from making an annual poster/collage, it piqued my interest. Every year for several years, after seeking the Lord for the upcoming New Year, Connie prayerfully assembles God’s answer by creating a poster of what she senses He has laid on her heart. (She and her husband also make a poster together, encompassing their vision as a couple.) Connie then passed around her posters from previous years and I was enthralled; each year had a different theme.

“So many of these dreams and visions have come to pass,” Connie said. “Many items had been on my ‘Bucket List’, too.” My dear friend’s excitement as she invited us to participate was contagious.

While flipping through magazines for several hours, chatting and laughing at the same time with the girls, I became amazed at how certain words and pictures jumped out at me. A twinge of excitement for the future began stirring inside of my dormant spirit; it was as if I was coming back to life after a long period of hibernation. Adventures, hidden in my heart such as taking a hot air balloon ride, were tacked to my poster. And simple phrases, such as: “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore,” by Christopher Columbus, were added, too.

Way too soon our little retreat was over. We hugged each other, made our goodbyes, and promised to do this again.

It’s been a few weeks now and I still feel refreshed. My poster hangs invitingly in my office and I smile every time I look at it. I’m excited about the future, and… I’ve already put the retreat on my calendar for next January.

Christ in you brings hope of all the great things to come (Colossians 1:27 NLV).

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