Well, as many of you may/may not know, I am on my first solo retreat. In my almost forty years, I have never gone away from home for a trip on my own. While I was pretty reluctant in doing this up until a few days ago (despite knowing it’s something I needed to do), I have to share a few pretty awesome things that have already happened today.
This morning, as I awoke with a song on my mind (“We Believe” by the Newsboys), I prayed to God, thanking Him for the opportunity to have some time away from tasks (not people mind you, I adore my people!) with just Him. My very first “retreat with Jesus”! I thanked Him for amazing family and friends who have been encouraging me to go since hearing about this last week. I thanked him for an awesome “little brother in Christ” offering to stay home with my boys so I “had nothing to worry about”. And I thanked God for providing the means for me to take a mini-trip. I asked Him to guide me, not just physically, but spiritually, to find renewal in His clarity of my purpose for Him. I asked for God to cover my kids in His Protection and encourage them to enjoy time with one another. And I asked Him to remind me who I am.
Then, I took my youngest son for a doctor’s appointment. The entire one-hour ride back from the orthodontist’s office, we belted out worship songs together with full heart, big smiles and admittedly, a couple of quickly-wiped away tears of joy. (And yes, of course Logan played “We Believe” a few times!) What a perfect way to begin this new day I thought. (Thank you, God.)
Onto my next errand. I have the blessing of being able to pay-off another small loan in an effort to reduce my monthly expenses! Yaa, happy dance on this! When I called this finance company last week to inform them I’d be paying the balance in full, and needed the exact amount for my check, they tried to talk me out of paying it off, saying “You have been such a good customer, you qualify for a much larger loan if you’d like instead.” Luckily, with lots of learning along the way (and a couple lessons in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course!), I was ahead of the game and said, “No thank you, I appreciate your offer, but I’m working on financial peace.” Last week, following that phone call and the completion of a few other “personal business items”, I had decided to wait a few days to go in said finance company’s office. Boy am I glad!
I went in this morning, in total gratitude for God’s Provision, and sat down with one of the reps. (Note: I was the only customer there with her and a co-worker sitting closely nearby.) As she gathered paperwork, she said, “Now, Ms. Stockdale, have you been pleased with our services so far?” Me, “Oh yes, thanks so much for your help with everything. You guys have been great!” She goes on to say, “…well, if you should ever need our assistance again, we hope you come back to us…you never know what could happen in life…”
I thought…ohhhh boy, yes. Yes, I’m afraid I do know what can happen…and I felt the nudge, “Share your story, Laura”. So, I start by telling her how right she is, how quickly things change. I share how I unexpectedly lost my husband 9 months ago to cancer. She stops everything, I mean everything. (Well, everything except breathing & blinking a few times.) She says, “Wait, you mean he died just this last year?” I quietly say, “Yes Ma’am, in June.” Our original conversation about my balance, the loan I had, the payment I was making, and her sales pitch had disappeared. We sat, instead, talking about faith in God. About how I was coming to understand things He wanted me to do at this point in my life, about how He loves me more than I ever understood before, and how He will meet us right where we need it. She offered how she struggles with “immediate forgiveness”, not knowing “how to do it”. Which, in turn, leads me to say, “Honestly, I don’t think we’re supposed to know ‘how to do it’. If we were, we wouldn’t need Christ to intercede, to point out how forgiven we are. How we can’t really forgive without Him. How we need Him to help us really forgive someone.” (I instantly think – “Boy have YOU changed how you look at forgiveness, Laura! If only you got that decades ago!”) As she references being frustrated with her children’s father, I tell her I believe God’s calling me to begin co-leading a small group of single women soon, to encourage us, grow our faith and find friendship in lonely moments to keep us on the path we want to stay on. This opens a new door, “where will the group be, is it through your church?” I smile again, super-wide, and explain yes, our local church, where I’m honored to lead worship, has wonderful groups, and I believe it’s where I am to begin this new group of ladies.
And then, the next question comes, surprisingly not from her, but instead from her male co-worker, “So, you’re the worship director there…what church again?” And I know, in that moment, God is IN THIS OFFICE. I hadn’t said what church I attend at this point. The woman asked for my contact information to share with other single friends, and that I write down the name of our church. And the gentlemen asked for where New Community Church was located. As my 5 minute turned-into-20-minute stop came to a close, the woman said, “You keep doing this, Girl. Your spirit is a joy, it has been since you walked in smiling…” I stopped right there, at the door, pointed toward Heaven with tears rapidly welling-up in my eyes, and said, “Thank you for the encouragement, but I can honestly tell you, it isn’t my spirit…it is His. If I can point anyone to Jesus Christ, I will continue smiling…a little bigger now, in fact.” (Ironically, tears are now beginning to spill down my face, but they are genuine tears of amazement.) I get to our car, immediately bow my head, and say, “Thank You, Jesus…I can’t believe this…”
Stop by church (I’m not really good at staying away!), start chatting with our lead pastor, tell him what just happened. Saying “Pastor Rob, we have to get people who love Jesus to share their faith. It’s just amazing, I’m blown away right now!” We talk about our church really loving people, about meeting them with love like Jesus did, about encouraging our youth to see the difference Jesus makes in people’s lives…and being honored when He calls us all to His work. A few more tears are shed and…
…now, read “I Stand Amazed”.