Sea Side Story
A heavy schedule kept me from attending the entire week-end at a women's retreat in the beautiful hill-top community in Central Arizona. The Women's Pastor of the church sponsoring the retreat welcomed me, and we had breakfast together. I had come to the retreat in search of rest, and I did receive that, but God opened doors of ministry in ways I found amazing.
One of the women had recently lost her husband to death. She said she was recovering from the grief, but was angry now about poor choices they had made prior to his death. The result of their poor choices meant that within a few months of his death, she was now homeless, and without a vehicle. "If only I hadn't listened to him," she said. Her anger grew hot in our small discussion group. Somehow she had forgotten that he hadn't planned to die. He thought like many of us that he had a lot of time left. He was a big, strong man, after all. I prayed and visited with that young, angry widow who really just wished she could call her husband back from the grave and bawl him out. Besides that, she missed him terribly. Grief. Loss. We prayed together while the rest of our discussion group went on without us. By the end of our time in the discussion group, she was smiling through the tears and determined to dig herself out of the financial home she found herself in. She can.
That afternoon, I visited a beautiful shrine, tucked in a large boulder and oak grove. I'd love to take time to describe it to you in detail, but it is simply the stations of the cross, the tomb--all in white and a bronze statue of the risen Christ. I walked through the Shrine to show come retreat guests how beautiful it was. We visited the tomb and the risen Christ, and the small Chapel of the Holy Ghost. As we left, we signed the guest book, and they left to visit some of the shops in the little town. I had a couple of hours before I was due back at the retreat center, so I found a shady spot not far from the Shrine and pulled out my Bible, notebook and pen. I hadn't been there 20 minutes when I saw a car approach me.
"Hi," said the driver. "Do you have time to talk with me."
I jumped out of the car! There sat an old friend. We once attended the same church, taught in the same Sunday school, and saw each other at church and events often. We hadn't seen each other for awhile -- she had moved to a town 80 or so miles from that church and except for an occasional facebook encounter we had lost contact. But here we were in the same place at the same time on a Saturday afternoon. She had come up to visit the Shrine. I was at the retreat. Amazing.
She explained that she had seen my name -- the last on the list in the guest book, and thought I muct be somewhere around the Shrine, so had rushed thrugh it looking for me. Disappointed, she had come back to her car, but as she backed out of the parking lot, she saw a white car sitting under the shade of an oak tree, and knew I was still there.
As we hugged our greeting she began to cry. She needed the hug, and asked for prayer and for a chance to talk. We spent two hours sitting on a log, talking about life, men who can't be trusted, how God loves us, how life isn't always the way we expect it to be, and how much we need/want/hope for/and pray for a man who will love us gently and passionately for the rest of our lives.
During that time, she noticed my necklace. It was a simple little pewter pendant that I'd received at the retreat. On the front was engraved a little starfish. On the back were enscribed the words, "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalms 46:10). As we talked about knowing God and how he knows us (and loves us anyway), I knew the little necklace belonged to her. I took it off and fastened it around her neck.
At last, it was time to get myself back to the retreat. I invited her to come along with me -- meet the women, stay for dinner. I even offered to pay for her evening meal before she headed back home. She declined, but she was smiling and glad that I had been in that place at that time when she needed a friend and someone who cared who could talk with her and more importantly, pray with her.
So, yes, I did have rest and quiet at the retreat. Also I enjoyed visiting and working with women who loved God, and whose needs often matched mine. I even enjoyed the marvelous food that someone else prepared! But, the idea that God put people in my path that needed him and needed to know of his love for them, showed me that my work is not over. Imagine that.
Blessings, dear ones.