Usually I go to one or both of the ladies' retreats offered at The Wilds of New England, and nearly always I've been able to travel there with other ladies from our church or with friends from another church. This time I could only go to one retreat, as we would be in Nevada during the time of the second one. I didn't know of anyone else from our area who would be going to this first one, but I was fairly determined to attend, even though we would be leaving for our Western trip just a few days later. I've been reading Denise's blog, RefreshHer, for years, and I was really excited to meet her in person and hear her speak.
(My sweet husband was determined that I should not have to drive myself to the retreat and so he left work just a bit early Friday and drove me and our granddaughter Sarah to TWNE and then came back to pick us up on Saturday evening.)
As the retreat approached, I had begun to pray that Sarah and I would have congenial cabin mates. I knew we would want to get to bed at a decent time and that we would prefer not to be with a louder group of ladies. Since none of my local friends would be there, it was really questionable just who we would end up with. God had that detail all worked out, however!
I also prayed for a bottom bunk for myself. This sounds a bit selfish but was really in the interest of my own safety. A fall on the ice back in March injured my back, and I felt that another tumble might do some permanent damage. Climbing down a ladder in a dark cabin in the middle of the night was probably, I felt, not the best idea.
My daughter Carrie often goes to the ladies' retreats, but with our Nevada trip coming up so quickly she felt she couldn't do it this year.
|This is so much fun! Carrie's photo was featured in a TWNE promo for one of last year's retreats!|
|Dining room windowsill trim from a previous year's retreat|
After finishing with our bunks, we headed for Cool Beans, the coffee shop and some cold drinks. Sarah chose a strawberry smoothie and I ordered an Italian cream soda.
|View from the Cool Beans window|
When I emailed Carrie to report this, she replied: "Well, whaddya know...I prayed that by some miracle you'd end up with [those] girls...and you did!! Now that's pretty awesome! God answered prayers very specifically and I think it's a sign that you're in for a great weekend. Enjoy your yummy drinks!! I miss being there!!!"
This specific answer to prayer was such a neat thing to see. And she was right: we were in for a great weekend!
As the time went by on Friday night, I spotted Denise several times, but she was always deep in conversation with someone. At least once, I saw her praying with a lady she'd stopped to chat with. Even though I'd told Denise (via Instagram) that I'd be there and we were looking forward to connecting, I was certainly not going to interrupt divine appointments to do so.
Saturday morning as we got ready for breakfast, I told Sarah that I was really praying for an opportunity to meet Denise, but that I didn't want to interrupt any conversations ... that I was asking the Lord for the opportunity. At breakfast, we chose a table and just as we had seated ourselves, along came Denise! She graciously asked if she could join us.
Sarah looked at me and said quietly, "There's your opportunity!" What a blessing! She and I switched places so I could sit next to Denise and I quickly introduced myself. Turns out she had been looking for a chance to speak to me, as well. We had a lovely chat over breakfast, something I would never have expected to happen. It is always so exciting to see God work, isn't it?
As I mentioned previously, the sessions by Denise were simply amazing. Whenever I attend a retreat at TWNE, I am blessed. I have never come away without being hugely encouraged and challenged. I always learn something! But this time ... I had seen God work out so many details that I just knew He had something extra special for me there.
Denise spoke on the book of Ruth. But the things she shared were nothing like anything I had ever previously studied in Ruth. The title of her sessions was "Craving Connection on Life's Journey". Session 1 had to do with Detours in Life; Session 2 was on Making Connections. In Session 3 we learned about Construction Workers: the Woman God Uses, and Session 4 was titled A Journey to Joy!
I will share just a few little nuggets and quotes from the sessions and then share why "Making Connections" was the session God used the most in my my life.
So here are a few quotes:
"Any decision that takes you away from God is not the will of God."
"If we don't stay the course, we'll miss seeing what God wants us to do."
"It's marvelous what God can do with one woman who gets right with Him!"
"We get out of our comfort zone in order to comfort someone else."
"Much construction work is done at night. God's work is done in dark times."
"When we understand and appropriate the love of God FOR us, the joy of God cannot leave us."
Now, as to why Session 2, Making Connections, was so greatly used by God in my life. It prepared me for one of the most remarkable blessings I have yet experienced in my walk with the Lord.
During summer 2018, a young couple visited our church. New believers from another part of our state, they were in our area visiting family. They visited the church whenever they were in the area, so eager to be in God's Word and fellowship with other believers. Because they lived an hour away from us, my hubby and I would not have thought we could be involved in discipling them. But God had other plans!
He used Denise as a big part of that plan. She began Session 2 with the statement that God wants to use each of us. With the idea of life as a journey, she showed a photo of a highway sign: Merge Now. She pointed out that when you merge, you move into someone else's lane. She urged us not to wait to be involved in the lives of others, but to do it now. I will share her basic points.
1. You should connect because you have what others need.
A. Use your walk with God to teach.
B. Use your life's experience to help. Even the hardest things of life can be used to encourage others.
C. Use your possessions to bless. Be a friend, reach out, open your home.
2. You should connect because you need what others have.
A. Encouragement and hope. We need to have someone encourage us to move to the next level.
B. Accountability. We can challenge one another as women as to how we are doing spiritually.
C. Example. Even if you didn't grow up in a strong, godly influence, you can learn how to become that and how to begin a legacy.
3. You should connect because the needs are varied and great.
Break out of our "tribe"! There are many outside of it who need us: teenagers, young girls, young women, our daughters-in-law, our mother-in-law, our pastor's wife, and many, many more.
We finished the Basics for Believers study and have moved on to this one:
I cannot even tell you what a joy this has been. The privilege of being involved in the lives of others, the blessing of seeing them learn and grow and memorize Scripture and begin to serve God with their lives -- there are no adequate words to describe it.
I am so thankful for Denise's clear teaching and her exhortation to "Merge Now"! God certainly used her in an amazing way through that retreat to impact not just my life, but the lives of others as well!