We had an amazing weekend. It was one of those weekends that is just filled with beauty, learning, sharing, exploration, joy, sorrow, music, and generous generous giving of time and talent, all wrapped up in LOVE.
It was one of those weekends that comes to an end and you are so overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings that you are quite sure you might burst at any moment if you don’t let something out.
Writing is my outlet, and here I am, sitting at my computer, praying that the words that flow from my fingers will accurately describe the huge feelings within me. I know that there are no words that are quite right, but here I am…willing to give it a try.
This weekend our family headed out to an isolated Christian camp in the mountains about 3 hours from our home (on a good day when there is not major construction happening. It actually took us 4.5 hours to get there on Friday.). This is generally not something that we do as a family – leaving town – we pretty much stick close to home on the weekends; Jon usually works either Saturday or Sunday so we don’t make plans to go away.
And here I’m pausing. I don’t really know how to continue. Hm.
What got us out to the mountains, you ask? Well, it was strangers.
Okay, they were only kind of strangers. We’ve actually known a couple of them for years, and one of them we knew from the past. But mostly, we went to the mountains to meet up with people that we have only met twice before. Once for a few hours on a Sunday morning and once for a potluck Thanksgiving dinner a couple of weeks ago (or was it last weekend…?). Altogether we were about 21 adults, six there for the sole purpose of cooking and taking care of our 17 children, with the help of their three whom they brought along to help.
18 of us, along with our 18 children, are planting a church in north Calgary. This weekend retreat marked the start of our journey together as a team, and the start for some of us of many hours of planning and preparation.
We spent time exploring reports of our own and each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We found that our personalities complement each other in a way that is so balanced, it is almost impossible to believe. Almost. We spent time playing team building games, discussing anything and everything that came up in structured and unstructured times, learning about each other, going over our church values, reading the Bible and praying.
One evening, we started singing. And didn’t stop for over an hour. Singing in a group…it’s powerful. Praising God with your new church family…powerful. Kids finished with their evening activity filtering into the room and cuddling up to their parents, their voices joining with the voices of the adults…so heart touchingly powerful.
I saw our children play together, eat together and make decisions as a group. Children who had just met, getting along and enjoying each other’s company!
I saw people serving God by serving us. Giving up their weekend for us, that they could drive for three (or four and a half) hours to be there for us. To feed us healthy delicious food and spend long hours entertaining children they’d never met. I do not like to cook at all, and I know how hard it can be to entertain children for hours on end, never mind 20 of them all at once in a place that no one is used to. Seriously, those people are angels. Healthy meals and childcare are HUGE gifts to me, and thinking of the effort they put in nearly brings me to grateful tears.
Speaking of tears, on Saturday night, one of our team members received word that someone close to him had suddenly passed away. We were in the middle of eating dinner, and before he left, we stopped eating, stood around him and just surrounded him with love. We cried with him, prayed through tears…made sure he knew that we are here for him. As he left to make his way back home, we returned to our seats. I had tears in my eyes as I sat; Josh asked Jon why I looked like I was about to cry, and Jon explained that sometimes we cry with our friends who are sad. I have a very soft heart, but I tend to cry in private. Andrew came over with his own tears. He said he didn’t know why he felt sad, but that he was crying because I was.
God’s love was so present in that room, and so present all weekend. This is what it’s all about. Loving people. Loving people no matter who they are, what they think, do or feel. No matter what their past or present looks like. Supporting people when they need support. Serving people. Meeting their needs when they need help. And doing it with a heart that just radiates love.
In our session after dinner, we shared about our lives – our pasts, the ways that our church families have blessed us, and our expectations for the church. Normal people who have lived normal lives. Not always smooth perfect lives. Some rough roads that made me feel that I am not alone in my experiences. Real life. Real people. Transformed by God’s love. Miracles.
My kids did not want to leave the retreat centre this morning. Andrew, of all people, did not want to leave.
I don’t know how to wrap up this post. The weekend is over, but this is just the beginning of this story. We are so excited about everything that is about to take place. Life changing, amazing things that we can’t even fathom. If you pray, please pray for us. If you want more information or to get involved, don’t be shy about letting me know.
Love and joy.