Reinventing Myself/The Aftermath of Retreat (or am I really just having a midlife crisis?)

It’s been nearly 3 months since we held our women’s retreat. I had hoped to post some glorious conclusion to all the hard work I and my wonderful committee had done. But instead of coming out raring to start the next retreat and feeling inspired, I find myself questioning everything I’m doing. Don’t get me wrong, retreat turned out great and I believe God showed up and people were changed or inspired. And I did expect there to be a “let down” period following such an intense spiritual endeavor. However, I didn’t expect to find myself doubting my place in the grand scheme of things.

I believe it began with a word of prayer given me by our speaker. She said this may be a time to reinvent myself. At the time I was thinking, “This is exactly what I need.” And so began the questioning, and the doubting. I am certain that is not what God had in mind when he inspired that prayer, but somehow I’ve managed to twist it into some form of midlife crisis! I have every intention to have a sit down with my pastor and go over some of my concerns, but part of me feels silly that I am not able to come out of this on my own.

Do you ever have that feeling after a fully planned vacation that you need another vacation just to do nothing but relax? Maybe the next retreat I plan I should plan a retreat just to relax afterwards. One to just mull over all the things I learn so I can “get a feel” for how they fit in my life. A time to soak, a time to process.

Well I may not have come to any conclusions, and I probably haven’t inspired anyone by writing this post, but I wanted to bring some closure to my Adventures in Retreat Planning series and let you know I’m still alive and trying to follow God’s plan as best I can.

Sending all my love to you and praying for peace within ourselves.

In Awe of Him

I spent hundreds of dollars and countless hours a few years back, trying to follow the trend of becoming a professional blogger (read – getting paid.) I attempted a couple of classes and found a blog hosting company and opened my blog In Awe of Him as well as a second blog Sandra F. Blackburn. I had great vision of starting a magazine type blog with other writers contributing stories of the amazing things God had done in their lives. I had ideas of making a template to share with local churches where they would be able to implement the magazine for their local communities. 

I had high hopes. But I’m not too proud to admit I’ve come to the conclusion that this was a failed venture. So what you will see here are all my posts from these two blogs showing up in this blog. This is truly where I find myself in the arms of God’s grace. This is the place I find I can be transparent in my failures and successes. This is the place where I can find my hope and my joy. The Far Reaches of Grace is just another way of being In Awe of Him. But it’s home to me. We don’t deserve grace, we can’t earn grace, yet Jesus died to extend that grace to us. And I for one am very thankful he did!

Maybe we don’t need to start something new to become something new, maybe we just need to be ourselves being transformed right from where we are.

Crumbling Expectations

So my last post was about my beginning a fast of sorts, my concern, and my excitement. I had high hopes that this would be an easy, life changing, Holy Spirit encountering experience. That the hours I had previously spent whiling away my time on my iPad would quickly be replaced with meaningful study and inspirational conversations with God. To my chagrin, that has not been the case so far. I find myself truly missing the stress release the mindless games had afforded me. Our family has been dealt some stressful situations as of late. Between my husbands recent dealings at work and my father-in-laws failing health, I have been left without my support systems. I always have considered myself strong in my faith, which has seen me through tougher situations, but apart from my belief that God can and will see me through this, I am not so put together. 

My husband is an amazing man! I admire him and love him greatly. He works long hours in a high stress job and still comes home and feeds the dog and makes dinner! And now he is spending time after work with his dad, trying to fill in where he can between his brother and sister. Not to mention listening to all my complaints that seem so trivial when I compare it to what he is going through. I end up berating myself for all my weaknesses and my inability to be normal, let alone some kind of spiritual master.

My heart is very much that I would be used by God in people’s lives. That I would show love and kindness beyond my natural ability. That I would somehow be transparent enough that people could see God through me and know that he loves them just as I know he loves me. I know that this self imposed fast is just that. I know that I cannot impress God with what I do, nor gain his favor by performing “spiritual” calisthenics. But I also know that if I draw near to him, he will draw near to me. (James 4:8) I know that there is always more to learn about God and always room for improvement in my spiritual walk. I know if I do settle down enough to spend time with him, he will be there to meet with me. And I know that even when I struggle, he will help me find a way through. 

More Adventures in Retreat Planning (Fasting)

It is a common practice when planning anything spiritual that a fast would be in order. Usually one that is a day or two right beforehand. I, on the other hand, decided that for the month of August that I will give up playing all my egames. This is definitely a challenge for me! In fact the reason I am blogging at the moment is because I feel I need to do something with my iPad other than check my email and look at who’s posting on Facebook. 

I’m excited, though, I feel God is going to blow my socks off and I might find myself not even missing my playtime.

I’ll be sinking myself into our retreat scripture Philippians 2:1-4. The first verse begs the question – what does belonging to Christ mean, am I living differently because of it, and am I living fully aware?

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? NLT

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, Msg

I’ll be writing a lot more in the next 31 days. Love to all!

Coming to Terms 

These past few months I have begun to wonder if I may have some undiagnosed bipolar symptoms. My emotions seem to be on a grand roller coaster ride. One day I am feeling on top of the world, ready to take on any challenge; and the next feeling totally defeated and worthless, looking for a way to run and hide. Yesterday was one of those days I wanted to throw in the towel, as I let my emotions flow unchecked by the truth. The odd part was I had a wonderful Mother’s Day, the day before and felt truly blessed. But interwoven in my thoughts were some unresolved situations that are demanding my attention. The difference today is I am back on top and ready to handle life and I really can’t tell you why one day is so different from the next.

So here we go into my thoughts for today: as I was waking up this morning, thinking and praying about my feelings and what I should be doing or saying, I had one of those “aha” moments, as the Holy Spirit nudged me to contemplate the famous Serenity Prayer. This is what I realized: 

  1. God is my “go to”. If I need serenity (peace), courage, or wisdom I need to ask God. Why? Because I can’t figure this life out by myself, it’s way too complicated. I don’t always understand why things happen or why I can’t fix things. God, on the other hand, has the better perspective. And besides being omniscient, He is omnipotent. Which is just a fancy way of saying He knows everything already and if we look to Him instead of ourselves He is powerful enough to work in our lives and overcome any obstacle set before us.
  2. There are some things I cannot change. Some of these things are obvious like the weather, but some are not as clear. Can I change my kids? Or my husband? Or my work or church? My psychologist at one time told me there is a difference between influence and control. I have influence in these areas of my life but I do not have control. I cannot make other people behave a certain way, I can only affect my response.
  3. There are some things I can change. This is where it gets messy. I have to own up to my own choices. I could just give the excuse that “it’s just the way I am” or “I’ve always been like that” or “if I just have some chocolate I’ll be able to handle things.” Is change ever easy? I guess that is why we need courage. And the reason we need it from God, is because people can let us down. Even if they want to be supportive, they often have their own issues they are dealing with. Making the change, doing the work, facing the possibility of failing and having to try again, takes courage.
  4. Figuring out what falls into the category of what should I change and what should rest on the back burner is another challenge. If I tried to change everything at once, I would be totally overwhelmed. Some changes take planning and research. Whereas some changes are beyond me and I need to deal with them by default. Some situations require compassion, grieving, or acceptance (things I cannot change) while others require action (things I can change). But every change requires wisdom in knowing my responsibility moving forward. 

So I will pray this prayer today: Heavenly Father, I have both situations in my life right now, things I can change and things I cannot. I release into your care all my worries, concerns, fear, anger, heartbreak, and frustrations. And in their stead I ask for Your peace, Your wisdom, and Your strength to fill me and overflow me into every area of my life. Amen.

(Disclaimer: I mention my husband and children merely as way of illustrating a point.)

Writing is Cathartic

Writing is cathartic. Which just means it is a way of purging strong emotions. I think that is why I usually write when life is hard. It’s important not to keep things bottled up and it’s important to stop and look at the feelings and not just ignore them. I found out something today that I don’t know how to deal with my feelings. I can’t really talk about it to anyone without breaking confidence because it is not mine to share. But my feelings are great sorrow mixed with anger and helplessness. 

This would be enough to make me down, yet it is not the only situation affecting me. There is another situation that affects not just me but my entire family, especially my husband. Again it is not my story to share, and again I am feeling sorrowful and helpless. 

The best thing I know to do is write and pray. This helps me keep my feelings from overwhelming me so I can be there for my friends and family. The greatest commandment Jesus gave us was to love one another. I’m thankful that I can share my feelings in writing, or I would be awake all night thinking about all this. And I’m thankful that God will hear my prayers and His answers will be good. I’m thankful for this opportunity to think of others and I pray my love will be expressed sincerely and not just with words but with actions as well.

Adventures in Retreat Planning – Part 3

It’s not about me! And it is about me! After facing another setback and nearly having a complete breakdown, I had to take a look at why I was taking on planning a retreat. Was I “called” to do this? What was God’s intention? I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit reminding me that it wasn’t about me, but it was His plan for this body of women and when I found resistance it was to His work and not mine. In the same way it is about me. About maturing my spirit to be able to work through the setbacks, placing my hope and my trust that God does have a plan, and it is to prosper His people. More to come, but time to head to work…

Adventures in Retreat Planning – Part 2

I promised to bring you along this adventure with me and I have been remiss. This has been a true challenge to my ego. I had challenges to my concept, I had challenges to the location, I had challenges to the choice of speaker, and I lost a key committee leader. But with all the challenges I have seen God bring unexpected answers. Things are shaping up into exciting upgrades from the original plans. This can get confusing when you think things are getting worse and they are actually getting better! 

We have a great facility with more included for less money and a seasoned speaker whose heart is right in line with our vision. We are in the process of planning a social/fundraiser to introduce the retreat concept to our ladies and help financially with easing the cost for everyone.

It’s still all a bit scary and I have trouble leaving the worry behind and fully trusting God’s ability to get us through all the hoops and obstacles. 

Romans 12:9-12 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. NLT

My hope, as I’m pouring my heart into this retreat, is to learn to be loving in my relationship with others. Learning how to think about what will be a blessing for them and not letting my ego get in the way. 

I continue to look forward to the unveiling of God’s design as he helps us along the planning process.

A Poem Today

A poem today! A poem today?
Can I write a poem today?

Must it rhyme on every line?
Or simply flow like sweet red wine?

Without a catch, without a care,
Like laughter in the open air!

Not to please, or to appease,
Or to impress like the fanciest dress.

Not to uplift, or to bring down,
Or for a smile, or for a frown.

Nor to claim a moments fame
Or shine a light upon my name.

But just for fun and not to boast,
For I find joy when I hit – POST!

You are a Gift

You are a gift.
There is no one on this earth
That can take your place.
No one who has your experience,
No one can tell your story.

You are one-of-a-kind!
Specially designed and crafted
By the Maker of Heaven and Earth.
You are no less miraculous,
You are no less amazing!

You should be dead,
But you are alive!
Your life declares the Glory
Of His Grace!

He has willingly gone to the cross for you.
So you may live and tell His story.
No power on earth
Can undo what He has accomplished
On your behalf!

So why be shy about who you are?
Declare it on the mountaintop!
Were you lost? Were you blind?
Then speak the truth;
For those who are lost and cannot see,
May find the hope because you speak.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.