About a week ago, I received an e-mail from a well-respected Pastor and friend of mine encouraging me to check out a Christian writer’s retreat called “Refocus.” My first thought initially was, “I don’t have enough money.” My job search is being put on hold for a while until I write my nursing exam, so I’m basically surviving on what is left of my student loans-and the tiny amount of savings I have left.
Another factor that came into play was the fact that I have to write my nursing exam in just over a week. I’ve been spending the majority of my time studying, well, being anxious and overwhelmed about studying-so it just seemed impossible for me to drop everything and leave. However, whenever I sense that the Lord is calling me to something higher, I seek Him through prayer and the support and guidance of others. I prayed, “Lord if you want me to go to this retreat, I pray that you would make it financially possible for me to go.” My ultimate prayer was that if this is His will, He’ll allow me to go-and He did!
For the short time that I’ve been at this retreat, I can say with humility that God is absolutely incredible. When I first arrived at the Bible Conference Centre, I was greeted by a lady whom I’ve never met, but somehow she knew exactly who I was. “You must be Sara!” she said with an excited voice. She continued to make me feel welcomed by handing me my name tag, room key, and a small gift bag. “You’re rooming with a wonderful lady, she’s actually a blogger and speaker who speaks at women’s retreats. She is also an early bird!” My eyes lit up when she told me that because of my burning desire to encourage young women in their walk with God. It was just another piece of confirmation that God had wanted me to come to this retreat.
During our opening session, we did an ice-breaker and talked about what to expect over the next few days. After our ice-breaker, we were lead into prayer and did a devotion on Phillipians 12-13. It’s amazing how God places certain scripture verses in our minds and hearts, as they can help us through our current situation. I believe the Lord was speaking to me, saying “Sara, leave those things at home behind. All of your worries, your cares, your heavy burdens-just leave them. Forget they even exist and just come to Me. Focus on My presence. Focus on My desire to fellowship with you. Focus.”
Aside from meals, there were huge chunks of time to write, read, walk, talk, pray, laugh and just rejoice in God’s goodness. It was a time to forget what we left at home prior to this retreat. It was a time to “re-focus” on the Lord, rather than ourselves. During our devotional time, we were given this scripture verse to meditate on for the day: “Brother’s and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” (Philippians 3:13). Boy, was this verse ever fitting!
At supper time, we each had a stone placed in front of us. Each stone contained a specific scripture verse and a word that related to that verse was written on the back. For my stone, it read “Phillipians 4:6-7” and on the back, it read “Peace.” I believe that the Lord is speaking to me about finding His peace-rather than the temporary peace I’ve been pursuing. You see, I’ve always thought that peace is pursued by what I do, or where I am. In fact, I’ve often told people when I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed, “I just need peace.” How can I attain peace apart from Jesus? It’s impossible because His Word says that He is our Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6).
Prior to this retreat, I prayed. I prayed that I would meet some wonderful people who would encourage and inspire me on my faith journey. It had only been two hours into the retreat, and God had already answered prayer. Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak to a number of people who have written about their own spiritual battles, some of which I could relate too. I also had the opportunity to share one of my blog posts during open mic night. Of course, there were moments on this retreat where I would doubt in my own abilities to “impress others” with my writing, but that’s not the point of why I came. I had to remind myself over and over that my presence at this retreat was not to get noticed, or have people like me, or promote myself or my writing. Instead, it was a time to refocus on why God has called me to write. He has called me to share His Word with others through writing, and I believe He has already done an incredible job. Ultimately, He is the author of our faith and I’m just here to share that with you.
I am so thankful and blessed to know that God has chosen me to be His vessel. I want to encourage you, whoever you are, that God wants that for you too. He is calling you out of a place of darkness, into a light that shines very bright. He is calling you to something greater, something that cannot be attained through worldly things. He is calling you to find His peace.