Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Women at The Well

“...and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.” - John 4:6

I have to admit I ignored the announcement the first couple of times I heard it.

Attend a women’s retreat? I don’t think so.

Quite honestly, it’s hard for me to be in large groups of women. Even small ones for that matter sometimes.

Conversations often turn to comparison or unwanted advice giving. I was content hiding in my pew each week. Didn’t really need to meet other women or interact or even take a chance of being hurt. I also feared a scenario similar to this post. I would need a t-shirt to say I survived, right?

I don’t remember how I finally talked myself into going. I think it was the theme of the day retreat: rest. Or Jeff may have gently suggested I go. Either way, I figured I could slip into the back of the room and quickly out again before the event ended. I thought that maybe I’d at least get something out of the speaker.

Turns out I was right about one thing: I did get a lot out of the speaker. In fact, I still have my notes from that day.

But I was in for a surprise when it came to the women. They were present. Truly present to God and to one another. The day was set up in a way that we were encouraged to be patient with one another and allow each person to be who they are where they are.

I had never, ever heard of such a thing. I may have taken notes on that aspect too.

From that day on, I quickly checked the announcements at church hoping for more of these retreats. I needed them. My soul longed for them. I actually wanted to be with these women.

I learned from them. They didn’t just talk at me. They had no desire to control me, or shove me into a mold of their own image, or prove they should be respected. They simply sat and listened. They told funny stories about raising children. They helped me feel not so alone. They made me feel as if I could make it as a wife and mother.

I don’t think that was their agenda. That’s just what came out of those times. There was room for me there. Room for my passions and my questions. For my need to be alone and my need to process.

Over the years, through these retreats and through other times together, these women have become my mentors and spiritual mothers. They’ve become my friends.

They are the women who pray for me, write me, text me. They checked in with me regularly when I was away last year. They believe in me and in my calling. They are the ones who say, “I hold hope for you” when I just can’t hold it for myself.

I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t be the woman I am to day without the influence of these women. And they are women of all ages. They are mothers, grandmothers, and singles. The women who told stories about their children are retirement age. They offer me so much, and I hope I’m offering them something from my life too.

We talk about women and ministry. They are reading books like Half the Church because they never stop learning. They believe in women leading out of their gifts and callings. They've traveled around the world to use their own.

They long for grace because they grew up in faith communities like the one I grew up in. They know Jesus in a way I can only hope to know Him when I’m twice my age. I want these women around me!

I’m grateful I went that Saturday in June. I was tired. I needed rest. I had no idea refreshment would come in the form of an incredible circle of women. I had no idea that God would use this group of women, who were tired and thirsty and longing in their own way, to touch my heart so deeply.

I look forward to walking with them for many more seasons of my life. Together, we are His beloved. We are the women at the well.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

In A Word

It’s been quiet here for a while. I’ve started to tell about my Spring multiple times but it doesn’t come out quite right.

In the first or second week of May, we were forced to decide Jeff wouldn’t be able to walk at graduation. He has his diploma. But I was looking forward to the event. To the celebration, where he would walk among friends and shake hands with professors after But it’s a little tough to celebrate when just getting to the rehearsal and ceremony would require more than your budget can handle these days and eating ham sandwiches on the drive home would be your lunch that day. So, we decided to stay home on that Saturday.

The day we decided this had to happen, something in my heart snapped. I’ve had a hard time putting it to words. But it doesn’t stop the thoughts of “If only…” from coming. Because he was really supposed to graduate last May. But, as you know, we went to Kansas.

And Kansas took. It took more than I had to give from the day we arrived. It took and took and left pain in its wake. My brain is still trying to make sense of it all, even when I’m asleep. Nearly every Saturday I dream about that place again and wake up in a panic on Sunday morning.

You can call it resistance. You can call it spiritual warfare. Whatever you want to label it. You can give up on me. You can even scold me for being overly optimistic about the end of seminary and for being idealistic. Fine. Whatever. All I wanted to do was see my husband graduate.

The closest I’ve come to a definition is what Emily Freeman says about cynicism—it comes when she’s frustrated and passionate without hope. Oh, yes, passion mixed with frustration. Only for the last four damn years. Most days none of what we’ve walked through seems worth it.

I am simply at my end. We are on to new endeavors. I am cautiously excited about them. Praying through each step and begging God not to allow these to be taken from us too.

Because I can’t take anymore. I can’t.

And we can say that all this frustration is working out strength in me. We can quote verses about perseverance and God never giving us more than us can handle.

But I don’t feel that strength is being worked out in me. I feel incredibly weak and hurt. And tired. Mostly tired. I can’t even express myself in many words anymore.

So, I’m going to close this post now. I’ll return to the blog when I can. Sorry I can’t be my usual God-will-work-it-all-out self. I’m not saying He won’t. This is just where I am these days.