I had already realized that I wasn’t handling our current transition well. After years of transitions, I’ve discovered that I haven’t properly processed any of them, so I wanted to participate in the Velvet Ashes retreat and make time to hear from God.
We finished last year with the organization we were serving with in order to focus on submitting a visa application for my husband to be able to move to the UK and support my parents better after a terminal illness diagnosis. We moved out of the favela where we were serving (with the rest of the team) into a room in my mother-in-law’s house in a different city while we worked on the visa documentation.
It made such a difference that I would be able to do the retreat from ‘home’, as a toddler, our family setup and our finances wouldn’t have allowed me to go anywhere else and I was able to use a birthday gift to pay for the retreat which really sealed the deal.
I decided I would start going through the retreat material during my daughter’s afternoon nap times before the scheduled retreat weekend. I was really impacted by the welcome message—it was just so refreshing to acknowledge that even making it to sign up for the retreat or to sit down with the material really is a victory.
As I started reflecting on the teaching and questions, God showed me some things that I’d not seen before. I realized that I’d come to a place of despair and hopelessness, with tremendous multiple strains and stresses on our marriage and family, financial pressures, and the challenges of confinement and disconnection from community.
I found the first worship session so powerful that I started using it as a daily soundtrack. It reminded me that I primarily feel connection with God through music and I’d not been actively feeding my mind and soul with solid, musical truth in my first language for too long. It was so good to be able to ask for song suggestions on the retreat Facebook group and start listening to some Christ-centred, hope-filled music again.
I found the Facebook group really helpful and being able to respond to the questions personally and then see what God was bringing to and through other women in the group was invaluable.
The theme of the retreat [Yet I Will Celebrate from Habakkuk 3:17-19] was so timely for me. Habakkuk is surrounded by death and despair and yet he determines to hope in God. This is some of what I wrote during my retreat time as a response to that:
When we are in despair it seems that nothing can change, there is no hope for change. God is the one who transforms and restores. He is the one who gives beauty in place of ashes and joy in place of mourning. He enables me to stand up under anything he gives me and tells me cast my cares on Him.
I am not defined by what I do (this should not give me my identity). So if I am unable to work or if I am unable to serve the marginalized, that should not cast me adrift. My anchor needs to be Jesus and not what I can produce to show others. I cannot earn my Father’s love. It is a gift to me.
I am not defined by my intellect or intelligence. Losing my memory and not being able to remember words or names or places or being able to say clever things should not worry me. I want to learn to laugh at that. Where it is loss, I want to be able to grieve that loss well. I’m already grieving/fearful for the future loss of my Portuguese. But where it is from pride, I want to be able to lay that down.
I am not defined by others’ expectations of me and what (I believe) they feel I should be capable of as a mother. I cannot compare myself to other mothers or be swayed by others’ cultural or familial expectations of my parenting. I need to be soaked and rooted in God’s love and His Word and to allow that to inform how I parent and model His love to my husband and daughter.
I committed to my husband when we got married and that was a commitment to the whole of him not just the bits I like, just as he committed to the whole of me. We bring all of our strengths and weaknesses, victories and struggles to our marriage so we need to be gracious to one another and continue to fight for our marriage and for one another.
You are deeply loved. You do not need to perform. You do not need to prove yourself to your Father. You do not need to prove yourself to others. You are not responsible for their expectations of you. You do not need to be right. You do not need to be perfect. Your Father gifted you with your husband and He gives perfect gifts. There is hope for all the sin and ugliness that you see in your life. There will be a day when you look back and see how your Father used these tough times. And you will rejoice and celebrate then. And you can choose to rejoice and celebrate now too in the in between!
In her book, Invitation to Retreat, Ruth Haley Barton says, “The yearning for retreat: Can you feel it? That yearning is your invitation. It is the Spirit of God stirring up your deepest longings and questions in order to draw you deeper into the intimacy with the God you were created for.”
This is our heart for retreat too. We want to put tools in your hands so that you can draw close to Jesus and deepen your intimacy with Him. We create an incredibly unique retreat experience through our online format, with videos, a retreat guide, and ways to interact with others retreating too.
We are excited about a special fall retreat opportunity so stay tuned for more information on that coming soon!