Retreat Recap: Restoration- Heart, Family, World!

They say, do what you love. Listen to what brings you joy and do that. I have a ton of passionate pursuits on my journey of faith. One of them? I love speaking at retreats.

Last month was a highlight for sure- I had the honour of speaking at a beautiful camp north of Calgary, Alberta for their annual women's retreat. Although speaking 4 messages is a ton of work as I pour my all into it, I come away from a weekend like this inspired and renewed myself.  (Click on the photo below to view some pictures of my time there):

It wasn't a typical retreat I've spoke at where most of the women might have known each other from one particular church, but rather it was open to anyone and there were pockets of groups who knew one another, some who came solo, and some small groups of women from their home church who made this their annual retreat! LOVED the diversity of women there:)

I spoke on the topic- Restoration: Heart, Family, World!

We prayed

We worshiped

We ate incredible food, went on a nature prayer walk, zip-lined, rode a horse, played games, learned a silly New Zealand sport "Huck a Boot" (thowing a rubber boot the farthest),

We laughed

We cried

We played:)

Giving ourselves permission to play is a challenge for some. We often pride ourselves in being- well, "Grown up". I started my talk Friday night with my own personal faith journey with a photo of me being a little girl, growing up in Minnesota and the call of Christ to have Child Like faith. Meaning, putting simple trust in the God of Creation as we can learn a lot from children and their ability to trust easily and not be so jaded by the scars of life. Women's retreats are an incredible time for us to pull away from the stresses of life and to focus on our own journey of faith.  I love speaking at them, truly I do. Meeting new friends, sharing my story, teaching from the word of God and encouraging others to get out of their comfort zone and experience God in a new way is life giving to me. My heart explodes with gratitude when I hear feedback from others of my messages that it was life giving to them.

I am no perfect speaker- I am no theologian, and I most definitely am not a licensed counselor, BUT- I know the pains and joys of life to share and can easily identify with others. One of my greatest joys at retreats or when I speak is having the opportunity to pray with people. We all long for the same thing- to be loved, accepted, secure and significant in some way. I can't impart those truths to people in my humanity- but I know the One who can. The One and only perfect teacher, preacher, counselour- Jesus.

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The women at the retreat may forget my personal stories I shared throughout my four messages when they leave that picturesque setting in the woods, but that's AOK with me. What is most important is that they don't forget the truths that I shared from the Word of God which confirms their true identify and unveils eternal promises for all who believe. Some responded by sharing scriptural truths on a sticky note as I posed the question- Who are you? Which mirror are you looking into to validate your worth?

 With Easter coming up, we are faced with the question of what the cross means to us. Retreat or no retreat, the entire world is reminded each spring to reflect on the truth of Jesus'' life, death and resurrection from the dead. What is our personal response to the words of Christ who poses the same question to us that He asked Peter and the disciples as recorded in the Gospels:

 

"Who do you say that I am" Matthew 16:15

 

Who is Jesus to me? Where do I begin! For starters, He is the Light who guides my path, My Saviour who saved me from myself and my Deliverer who took my sins to the cross. He is my Healer of the wounds, pains and tragedies I've faced thus far and will face into the future, my ultimate Restorer of my heart, family and my world. 

Journey to Restoration: Heart, Family, World

 It's a joy filled journey filled with hope permeating our lives now and into eternity one act of faith/ one prayer at a time. Restoration starts in our own hearts, extends to our families and ultimately seeks to engage the world. Christ Jesus did His part, we must do ours and ultimately trust Him with our entire lives- the good, the bad, the ugly. He cares about each and every part of what concerns us. Prayer- it's a powerful gift!

 

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12

 

We may not all get a chance to "go to a retreat", but we can retreat every single day, or divert our attention from the stresses of life that rob us of our joy or steal our hope sometimes. A famous line my pastor has said numerous times to reiterate the need for balance in life and to avoid burnout is: 

Divert Daily

Withdraw Weekly (a sabbath) 

Abandon Annually (disconnect completely). 

 

It is in these times of regularly "retreating", we can expand our lives by simply incorporating some spiritual disciplines into our lives like prayer, (Verbal or written, solo or group prayers),  meditating on scriptural truths, engaging in creative worship (singing, dance or artistic expression), celebration, gratitude, etc.  Because when we do, we can find centre & rest for our souls.

 

Faith through the Mountaintops and Valleys

Life is full of ups and downs, mountaintop experiences and valley meanderings too.

Do you ever find yourself living in "la la land" though wanting to stay on the mountain top with all it's thrills, pats on the back, high fives and that feeling of accomplishment? I know I do! No wonder the movie musical La La Land was so popular! 

If I look back on my life and look to people I admire most, we have all experienced some minor or major set backs, heartbreak, and pain. It sucked big time going through it, and many instances I wouldn't wish it on my closest friends. Some caused by my own humanity, others caused directly or indirectly from others,  and more often than not-some unexplained reasons because we are simply living in a fallen world. 'Tis life here on earth.

 To be honest, if it wasn't for most of the trials in life, the lonely moments , days, weeks, months or even years of valley times, I know I wouldn't be where I am at today. Closer to God, and digging deep to love and forgive others, and taking a deep breath to love and forgive myself.  It is in that secret place- we have opportunities to grow in faith.

Restoration is a journey. I believe wholeheartedly that God gives each and every person the opportunity to come to know Him personally and that He gives us gifts and experiences so unique to us that there is no other cookie cutter replica of you and me. We all have dreams, and for many of us those dreams have been chocked out by the painful trials of life so we forget to dream, we loose sight of the dream or we give up on the dream because it is just too hard. We loose hope and faith can dwindle easily. Jesus knows all too well of pain, betrayal, and challenges of every kind. 

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
— John 16:33

     Jesus knew that we'd need faith to climb to the mountaintops of our journey, he also knew that we'd need the valley times in our lives to chisel us deep from within the core of our being. Why? So that we too could identify with the suffering of others. We just can't get around it, life as we know it is full of pain and suffering because we simply live in a fallen world. I love Jesus' words in John 16:33 that declares that He has overcome the world. So to follow Jesus, we to will share in His mountain tops and identity with His sufferings. (Romans 8:17). So my friends, whatever dream or vision you have for your life, your family and your world, we simply need to stay close to Him and allow our Saviour and Lord to take us up the mountain to experience joy, faith, hope and love as well and be open to experience all of that supernaturally in the valley's too. We simply cannot impart what we first don't possess.

  We need to possess the deep wells of faith that only can be imparted to us when we experience God transformational presence who loves us, ministers to us, speaks to us from the inside out. It's faith bootcamp really. If we knew in advance the painful trials we'd have to go through in order to get to the dream or the "other side", we simply wouldn't try. Our humanity would keep us in shackles and live life out of fear rather than to live by faith. 

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen, it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
— Hebrews 11:1

What about you? Are you in a mountaintop time of your life or valley? Either experience can be an incredible opportunity for faith to grow. It's a relinquishment of our stubborn will to listen to what our Creator is seeking to impart to us, and ultimately position ourselves to receive it. What I've learned that it is never meant just for my own gain, but ultimately for the sake of others.

A New Year of Restoration

Happy New Year! 

2017 is here whether we like it or not, we are destined to move forwards. We can't go back but only be present in the moment and look towards the future with hope. I have to laugh at all the times in my life where the turn of the year has pushed me to want me to be the best I can be, but truly- what are we measuring that ideal against?  

If you are like me, we often beat ourselves up that we didn't lose those extra pounds gained during the holidays, or read the books or passages that we'd like to or reestablished relationships like we ought to and we end up feeling like a failure.  We often set the bar unrealistically high when it comes to New Year's Resolutions! 

All Things Eventually Break Down

I want to declare  2017 as a new year of Restoration! One where we aren't afraid of being authentic with our stories and that being broken is not the end - but can be the beginning of something beautiful. When we realize our humanity cannot be 'fixed' by the latest fad diet, devouring the most recent self-help book nor willing ourselves to be better...we can have hope. It isn't a surprise or a disappointment to God when we come to the end of ourselves, as our Creator is waiting for us to reach out and up to the only One who knows us inside and out.    

To read more on my passion for restoration, click here and stay tuned as I blog about my own journey to restoration along with those areas in our world that break down in our hearts, our families and our world. A verse I am meditating on this month is from Isaiah 61 veres 1-3 from the NIV on the "Year of the Lord's favour". May 2017 be one such year.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Restoring Ruins

It's good to get back to blogging again! I've taken a break from it for a few months and it was not by choice, but a forced kind of way. In the spring of 2016, I received an email from a camp director in Alberta (who was about to book me to speak at a women's retreat),. giving me a heads up on an online nightmare. She informed me that when they sought to confirm the booking, they came upon my website and was shocked that it was gone.

I was like "What do you mean,... gone?"

 The annoying reality hit me 'Welcome to the world of hacking.' As I clicked on my site, up came a page I will not soon forget. As a result, I acted swiftly to assure my site host at the time quickly took off the images, erased all my content and the cyber bug added eery music and text on my page.

Yikes! A ton of personal work I had created for the last year -gone. Crud!

 All that work, all those memories shared, especially all the words I poured into my blog series on celebrating our 25th anniversary where I titled it " 25 Lessons in Love."   Devastated, I had my moments of tears and learned quite a bit about the online world of hacking through Google and the fabulous team at Sitelock. Something that we often don't think about in our day to day  communication, heh? So much of our lives are lived online: be it through blogs, social media or all the countless websites that are up that we frequent every day. They told me there are many reasons for doing their dirty deed as some are just plain nasty and others use their cyber power for good. Whoever did it, also caused some issues with an organization near and dear to my heart. Whether it was intentional or not, the initial sting felt like an attempt to rob me of my identity, steal my joy and kill any passion to write- speak- blog or express myself including my faith be it online or in my everyday life!

It made me think.  The temporary nuisance of hacking in this temporal world is likened to the work of the enemy of our souls and all of his minions of the supernatural world who would like us to do just that - Shut us up! Nope. Not going to win.  After some tears and the raw emotion of feeling violated, I moved on. I forgave the nameless hacker as it just doesn't serve me to harbor hate or anger for things out of my control. One of my personal take-aways from the many studies and mentors that have influenced my life is that we must guard our hearts on the journey of restoration. So on this minor blip on the path, I took a mini break from blogging. As a result, I actually feel stronger and more focused in my writing. During this reboot time, I stumbled upon this random Ted Talk which strangely encouraged me that sometimes, hacking can act as our internet's immune system:  

The beauty of hackers, says cybersecurity expert Keren Elazari, is that they force us to evolve and improve. Yes, some hackers are bad guys, but many are working to fight government corruption and advocate for our rights. By exposing vulnerabilities, they push the Internet to become stronger and healthier, wielding their power to create a better world.

A minor setback? Sure. But definitely not the end of the world. In fact, it would be my hope that when we do blog, it is to use our freedom to "create a better world". Lord knows the crazy things online- we must counteract the darkness and infiltrate this world with the Light. When we go through minor or major trials in life, there is a hidden gem to be discovered if we search for it. What I found is that it served as a major confidence booster! You might say, how? Sometimes, my friend, trials cause us to dig deep and to remind us truths that don't come to the surface until we undergo the fiery furnace.  I.e. being reminded where our true identity comes from- It's not what we look like, not what we've done or what we'd not done, but it is who God is and how He created us to reflect him. So as we mirror the Father's reflection on earth as it is in Heaven, I have come to appreciate that when His kids hurt- He hurts! It's a serious business of His to restore all things together for good. Not simply website and blogging tools stolen, but all things oppressed through evil and through our own sin which is destined to be restored in Jesus Christ.  I love the verse in Isaiah 44:25 where it says "I will restore all your ruins",  because He truly means it... I've seen it time and time again in my life where those ruins found restoration in my heart, in my family and in the world. 

I know it all won't be FULLY restored until we are face to face with Jesus in Heaven, but for now- I will contend for that promise that God is truly in the business of RESTORATION.

     If this post has stirred you to reflect on the ruins that you or your loved ones are facing, I pray that you will reach out to the only One who is the Restorer of all.