Last weekend I went to the women's retreat with my church. I hadn't been to a retreat in probably 5 years because my last experience wasn't a pleasant one. I felt very isolated at the last one, but this year's retreat was so much different!
I met up with Jenn Steip at my apartment to drive to Murrieta Hot Springs together. It was a 3 hour drive due to traffic, but it seemed to go by quickly since I was in the company of a friend/family. We arrived at 6:45, just in time to check in and then go to dinner. Dinner was delicious and the company was great. All the ladies at our table were quite animated and everyone seemed to have fun.
After dinner we had our first session. The theme of the retreat was "Great is our God." Marcy Bradford (the outreach pastor's wife) was the MC and she started out by giving everyone earplugs! Haha, some people apparently have issues getting to sleep with 4-5 other "noisy" roommates. :) She also led a cute parody of "All the Single Ladies" and instead of the lyrics "Put a ring on it", all the ladies dancing (it was like a flash mob) had ring pops on their fingers and sang "Purity ring on it." It was hilarious! The session was a quick one with mainly worship time, since it was "late" (9:30 by the end of it). I was actually pretty tired and so was Jenn so we went and found our rooms and just talked for a little bit. I was remarking to Jenn that the whole vibe of this retreat was already so much more upbeat than my previous experience.
For the last year and a half, I had felt very distant from God. I was excited about the theme of the weekend because I really needed the reminder of how great God really is. I slept very soundly that night (no earplugs required) and woke up unexpectedly at 6:10, even though I had planned to get up at 6:45, since breakfast was at 8am. I was wide awake and asked myself "Why am I awake?" and then I tried rolling over, but my eyes popped open and it was clear: God wanted me to go to the early morning prayer.
I'm not what you would call a prayer warrior. I have no problem praying in a group or praying out loud (although I am not a fan of popcorn prayer for fear of cutting someone off) but praying isn't really my forte. But I listened and obeyed, getting out of bed and getting ready for the prayer session. I walked around the lake and into the foyer of the sanctuary where Marcy Bradford and Mena Hughes were sitting with a few other women. I went over and got a cup of coffee and sat down.
Marcy opened the prayer and for the first 5 minutes or so I felt nothing really. Discouraged, I said to myself, "I don't feel God. God's not here." And as soon as I thought that I heard very clearly "I AM HERE!" That got my attention and was reassured that God was with me. The night before, during our praise and worship time, I stopped and wrote the following:
"Your holy presence living in me"
I feel as if Your holy presence is there--a mere ember in the pit of my stomach. Lord, I've been feeding it antacids to try and stiffle Your presence in my life. I don't want to stiffle You, Lord. Help me by breathing oxygen on the fire of Your spirit so that it can grow and grow and I can be holy in You. I want to breathe out your presence, living my life for You and obeying Your will for my life. Lord, help me.
After that moment during morning prayer and throughout the weekend, I felt God telling me "I AM HERE" to continue to reassure me. I also witnessed His presence in the lives of others through His answer of others prayers immediately. After prayer time I witnessed a very tearful answer to prayer that showed He is with us all!