The retreat in Minnesota where I spoke the first weekend in April was at the church of our former associate pastor, Neil. He and his wife Jenny have been faithful encouragers in my life for a number of years. Neil first encouraged me to blog and Jenny started telling me that I could do something like this shortly after I met her. In fact, I would never have had the guts to go through with this first retreat if they hadn't suggested it and encouraged me. I told someone that God was calling me to step out in faith and Jenny and Neil pushed me out of the nest! If you listen to my message and hate it, it is all their fault. If you like it, then I worked very hard on it and take all the credit. :-)
Actually, in reality, I don't take any credit for it. In truth, it is all God's fault. The most amazing part of the whole experience was the leap of faith it required to figure out what the heck I was going to say. My audience was completely unknown to me, except for Jenny, and I struggled initially to figure out what the "right" message might be for a group of women about whom I knew little. When I was in the early days of planning the topic I might cover, I saw a comment Neil made on our mutual friend Jeff's Facebook page. Jeff is in seminary and was preparing to give his first sermon that week. Among a few other words of wisdom, Neil told Jeff to just be himself and he would be fine. That really resonated with me. It seemed that God meant for ME to be there on that day with those people for a reason, so it made sense that sharing ME was part of His plan for our time together.
Still...Why was I even doing this? What could I possibly have to share that would be of use to someone else? Why would I want to make myself vulnerable like this in front of strangers? What if they thought I was a fool? Some of the same questions I asked when I began blogging back in 2005. Yet, like when I started the blog, my gratitude for the freedom and joy that I have found in God and His Word motivated me to step outside of the safety of anonymity and put myself "out there." My story, in the context of God's Bigger story, was my gift to give. Frankly, it was terrifying. It was also exhilarating and one of the greatest privileges of my life. In spite of my fumbling around, my tendency to go on too long, talk too fast, and repeat myself, God was able to use my offering and do something with it. Over the course of the weekend, I had the opportunity to hear how something I shared resonated personally with someone and they heard God's voice speaking to them.
It is almost painful for me to listen to the recordings because I hear all the mistakes and see all the things I want to do differently next time. I have listened once to each talk and I'm not sure I will again. Yet, even for me, there were moments when I was able to set aside my critic and hear the truths about who God is that I was sharing that day and I am again grateful that I have experienced this Love and had the privilege of sharing it with someone else. It is hard to be new at something at 46 years old, but it is also an adventure. I'm kind of excited to see what's next!
Here are the two Saturday sessions, if you have time to listen. They are each around 40 minutes long.