There's No Time Like the First Time
WE DID IT.
We held our very first retreat at Protectors' Peak.
I'm still over the moon about it.
We arrived at Protectors' Peak a little over a day before the retreat began. There was at least a week's worth of work to do and we had one full day to complete the highest priority tasks. With a crew of three and a 5,000+ square foot lodge to prepare for 11 guests, we woke up at the crack of dawn ready to go. We definitely had our work cut out for us! Who knows when the last time was that it had a good cleaning, but we rolled up our sleeves and went to work. Loads of bedding were washed, bathrooms were scrubbed, cobwebs swept, bedrooms were dressed up, floors were vacuumed and mopped, supplies were organized, and the kitchen was completely revamped and reorganized to make it more efficient.
Outside, old picnic tables were cleaned off and brought up to a common meeting area, grass was mowed, and a good sweeping finished off the tidying up process. Add to the mix a non-working land line, a strong-willed stove that didn't want to work, and no internet available. This one whole day was broken up into fits of cleaning, going into town to seek communication avenues (40 minutes away) and find alternative appliances for cooking-thank God for crock pots! Miraculously enough, it all worked out, the work got done, and God gave us the strength through it all. And, Nate got the stove working-a huge answer to prayer!
We were ready for our guests. Despite our exhaustion from the marathon cleaning day prior, the anticipation of serving our guests gave us a jolt of energy equivalent to a cop's daily intake of caffeine. We were pumped. We were ready. Bring it on!
There's something special about your very first time doing something you've never done before. If you're like me, you pour your heart into every little detail. I tend to go overboard because I don't want anything to go wrong. Plans A, B, and C are in place. Yet, no matter how thoroughly you plan, you can't plan for everything-there's always the unknown.
It's important to embrace the unknown because it's the space you have absolutely no control over.
The unknown is the place where God works in powerful ways. It's the place where we release our fears and expectations and invite the Holy Spirit in to do it HIS way. We can make our plans, but they only go so far no matter how superb and well thought out they are. And He ALWAYS has plans, God-sized plans. We knew one thing-God had a plan for this first LEO retreat. I believe He hand-picked our guests and brought them to a place where He could draw them to His heart and open their eyes to who He is.
Eventually, all our guests arrived safely and soundly. Yes, there was the landline glitch which was our only mode of communication, but that was solved by one simple email when I went to town and changed the plan. It seemed overwhelmingly big at the time, but from their perspective, it wasn't big at all.
It didn't take long for our guests to drink in the beauty of the area, partake in the plentiful outdoor activities and be lulled by the rhythm of rest this place provides. Laughter, teasing, and fellowship were trademarks of this retreat...and a whole lot of storytelling. The group gelled together like peas and carrots with an ease and comfort with one another that emerged effortlessly and supernaturally. They knew their walls could come down because they were amongst friends who cared for them and understood them and the job.
The verse for the weekend was Proverbs 27:17:
"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." The meaning? Consider the visual of a iron tool sharpening another until they are both more effective tools. As brothers and sisters in Christ, this is how we thrive in relationship. We build one another up, encourage each other, and hold each other accountable. There's a motivation to live out our God-given purposes when we're sharpened by others. Without this sharpening, we become dull, apathetic, and disinterested in our relationship with God and with each other. The takeaway? Be sharpeners to one another in your home and on the job.
The weekend flew.
Before we knew it, it was time to say good bye to these incredible LEOs we had the privilege of serving. Strong bonds had been formed, inside jokes were tossed around like phrase footballs, and of course, more teasing and fun-loving jabs were thrown everyone's way. But the best part was this...
God showed up. Healing began to take place. Hearts were renewed and reconnected to Jesus Christ.
Here are a few of the responses we received to the question, "How did God speak to you this weekend?"
"Through solitude and prayer I learned to hear His voice again. It was a great opportunity to reconnect."
"I learned how to pray, I never knew how to read and discuss verses from the Bible. I feel called to guide and help others experience what I experienced here."
"This weekend made me realize the need for a relationship with God. I never realized that my religion translated into a relationship."
"For the first time in my life I opened my heart and allowed him in. I have felt his love and now understand that he has a plan for my life."
Folks, this one weekend was worth the years of planning, praying, hoping, and dreaming for this ministry to come to fruition. We are undone by what God has done and will do in the lives of these LEOs. The funny thing is when it all comes down to it, I feel like I've been blessed the most.
There's no time like the first time.
I just hope the same can be said about the second time too.