"For You, Oh Lord, have made me glad by what You have done; I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands." -- Psalm 92:4
"Cultivating Joy" marked the 14th (I think) Lake Murray women's retreat I have attended, and as always, the weekend passed by all too quickly with building friendships, quiet time with God, hearing Him speak through several women, making crafts, eating wonderful food (that we didn't have to cook!), studying the Scriptures, and singing His praises. As much as I adore my husband and kids, I treasure this time away from common activities to focus on God and His women.
We started off the weekend with a lovely dinner in our meeting place, Windfield Hall. After checking in and receiving our retreat packet, name tag, and goodie bag (including the very necessary items of pen, notepad, gum, and chocolate), we settled our things in our dorms and then joined the group in the hall to chat over sandwiches and salad. Below are my two friends from our town, Sheri and Teri -- Sheris' third year attending and Teri's first, catching up over dinner:
But before dinner was served, I crept into my dorm and left a little "joke" for my pal, Diana. She had asked me to save her a bottom bunk because her nightly need for the facilities was a priority, and she didn't want to wake the dorm mates by clambering down the ladder several times each night. So I left her a path to the toity, marked with encouraging notes on heart-shaped stickies (I hope she felt loved!):
The camp was lovely in the late-afternoon light. As the nearly fifty women arrived over the course of the late afternoon and early evening, I wandered in back of our dorms and snapped a few photos of the trees and fields in the early evening light:
The retreat committee did a lovely job of decorating Windfield for us. The subtitle for the retreat "Cultivating Joy" was "Living in a Cracked-Pot World," and the gardening decor around the room made the retreat all the more special, including the number of cracked, dented, broken, and even shattered pots that were displayed on the main table amidst the lush blooms and gorgeous arrangments of flowers:
We were also joined by a few young men whose company was very welcome:
Following dinner, we started off with an ice breaker: we were put into smaller groups of eight or so and were each given a small bag of M&Ms, and we had to tell something of ourselves related to the number of each color we had in our bag. We of course had to EAT the M&Ms along the way. Starting a retreat off with chocolate always bodes well. After a few issues with the sound system that our seasoned worship team managed to make the best of, we enjoyed Laurie Wortman as our first speaker on Friday evening as she spoke on God doing a work in each of us, despite all of us being "cracked pots." She stressed our effect on the rest of the "garden" -- the way our sharing of our brokenness and growth can encourage and help others. Our worship team got the sound system up and running for the most part, and we all worshiped the Lord through song. Free time was spent talking, snacking, and either playing or watching the game of Mexican Train Dominos.
The next morning several women came up for the day, joining us for a delicious breakfast in the dining hall where we sat according to placecards so that we had the opportunity to sit with different women at each meal. We clmibed back up the hill to Windfield to brush teeth and fill coffee cups before signing in worship. After worship and prayer, we listened to Leslie Dilbeck share on "Joy in Times of Desperation." Her main question was, "Is joy an emotion or an attitude?" She taught mostly through Psalm 63, reminding us that God is there for us in our aloneness; He is our help and He will indeed raise us up if we focus on Him and rejoice, no matter what our cirumstances may be. Her talk was followed by an extended Quiet Time, with many options available, including a list of suggestions on how to do a Quiet Time in the retreat folder with a Scriptural meditation on joy also available. Many devotional titles were also provided on the book table for reading during this time. Many women wrote in journals, studied, or prayed as we spread out across the camp, enjoying the beauty of God's Creation as we spent time at His feet in various ways. After a delicious lunch in the dining hall, afternoon free time ensued. Some women hiked around "the meadow" -- a five-mile trek around the town; others decided to hang around Windfield Hall or Altitude, the camp's coffee shop, while others shopped the small gift shop on the camp grounds. Plus, Rosanna was in charge of the ping-pong tournament:
And still other women gathered under the trees, chatting about this and that, enjoying each others' company:
Nine women came over to my house to see the stained glass window that Keith is working on, and another three stopped by on the hike to also see it. The group that I took over got one look at the treehouse and five of them were up the ladders and hanging over the balcony, enjoying the view of the meadow and all of us snapping photos of them:
I gave them a tour of the house and then we squeezed into Keith's shop while he explained the process of making a stained glass window and showed them the various pieces of glass, the copper foil, the soldering iron, and what he has completed thus far (about 25% of the possible 2000 pieces).
We retired back to the camp for dinner at 5 PM and met again at Windfield Hall for our evening program:
Earlier in the day we had also taken a group photo -- a few people are missing, but 46 of us (by my count) gathered on the front steps of the camp office building -- so here we are, the Lake Murray Women's Retreat 2008:
Once again we enjoyed singing hymns and praise sings with the worship team before hearing Doris Peacock, mother of Laurie, speak on "How God Taught Me to Abide in His Joy." She spoke about the difference between happiness and joyfulness -- happiness is to be pleased, free or worry and care, while joyfulness reveals strength, deep satisfaction, and abiding pleasure. Then we all became "crafty" as Camille Hyatt walked us through the creation of beautiful notecards and adorable gift bags:
Following the craft, we all decended upon the snack table as our free time began, involving chatting, snacking, and board games. Years ago we used to be up until 1:00 to 2:00 AM; now we're heading to bed between 10:00 to 11:00 PM -- I think we're getting OLD.
After our final meal in the dining hall for breakfast on Sunday morning, we settled down, coffee or tea in hand, to enjoy Julie Hogan "share" on "Growing in Grace Through the Knowledge of God's Word." She passed along the "yardstick analogy" that one of her disciplers had shared with her: when we start out in our Christian walk, we take up most of the yardstick while Christ gets 2-3 inches or so. But as we grow in our faith, we should believe along with John the Baptist in John 3:30, "He must become greater; I must become less." So He will slowly take up more and more inches on the yardstick as He fills our life with His Holy Spirit, and less and less of our life is untouched by His grace:
After Julie spoke, we gathered again to worship through song in preparation for Communion. The worship team was wonderful to sing with:
And we all worshiped the Lord with one voice:
The Communion time was wonderful -- each of us quietly took the elements from a side table back to our seat and partook after silent prayer together. We didn't have much time for sharing as the retreat closed, but before we knew it, we were packing up our bedding, taking down tables, chairs, and decorations, and preparing to go back to the real life of common days once again. As Oswald Chambers wrote in his classic My Utmost for His Highest, "The height of the mountain top is measured by the drab drudgery of the valley; but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mount, but we never live for His glory there." So it's down from the mountain top experience and back to our busy everyday lives, where we truly live for the glory of God.