I can’t help but tremble a little bit in my heart when I realize the truth of “Ask and you shall receive…” Matthew 7:7
This is my second crack at writing out things about this past weekend that I don’t want to ever forget. Whether for their meaning or their humor, it’s just that there are times you see God and feel God and know God so newly or truly real — these times are important to note and ponder in your heart.
My other draft is complex – it’s the story of the retreat – how it Found me. How it Found Maggie. How it Found Christie. How it Found Naomi. Maybe it was exhaustion that had me close it out, but – regardless – I imagine there are probably even more unique hidden truths buried in the way the weekend unfolded.
So. For now. Allow me to share with you some of my moments. In no particular order.
- Friday night, driving up with Tracy in her truck, with (I’m laughing right now) twenty painted boxes, a cross, a labyrinth, two cans of spray paint and a cajon. There really is nothing like a retreat packing list. Tracy’s calm and knowledge and balance are so completely whole and important to me. Her willingness to drive me to Carlinville and back on Friday so that I could help set up was such a blessing in itself. But to have her friendship in the mix — that night was so perfect in conversation and love. I am so glad I asked.
- The Sunday I got the email from Rob with the completed meditation track. I listened to a quick snippet in the workshop where we were building the boxes and saved the rest for when I got home. When I heard my beloved friend, Allison, speak a prayer at the end for the women at the retreat, tears filled my eyes. Maybe people would recognize her voice (her and Rob were part of Gathering Webster before moving back to Charlotte) but I knew that regardless of that recognition, the intention and purpose in having her speak the meditation and Rob’s skills in producing the meditation would be meaningful. I imagined the candlelit room and the peel of thunder starting the track. I prayed for that moment to do what the Lord needed done. I am so glad I asked.
- Saturday night, at the retreat, in black light yoga. Where not only was I enjoying how tan I looked in a blacklight but – in my DELIRIOUSNESS – practiced a genuine yoga class to an AMAZING Beyonce – Cameo Beiber – Can’t Feel My Face – Playlist alongside my true partners in planning this retreat: Maggie Lohmeyer and Kiley Kozel. And knowing Brinkman was one mat over made me happy. But to let loose like this and just laugh. ESPECIALLY when Maggie Berkowitz (our instructor) scared the CRAP out of Kiley during savasana. ESPECIALLY when singing / cooing / bird noising through every key change in “Love On Top” with Maggie L. It felt SO good to be silly, to feel strong, to look tan. Maggie B. pulled it off – even with pregnancy sleepiness – at 9:45, rocking a 45 minute blacklight yoga class. I am so glad I asked.
- AHHHH. Sunday. Sunday. Sunday. I woke up Sunday morning at the retreat and was amazed that I was going to go home from the retreat spiritually hungry and tired. I couldn’t believe it. I started to grieve a little bit. I made a promise never to sacrifice being present with the women for whom we produced the weekend for the tactical work of set up and execution. Then, a couple hours later, I introduced Naomi to the stage. The singer who Found her way to a house for a Made New worship event last year. The singer I started following on Instagram and reached out to in January with the scripture for the retreat and said “Hey – does this verse mean anything to you?” and proceeded to tell her what we were looking to do and what we needed. When she started on “Lord, I need You” and the combined voices of the women in that room sang their HEARTS out along with her, tears dropped from my cheeks. In honor of my Grandmother who passed but also in honor of my heart being spoon fed with every measure Naomi played. She was there. She was perfect. I am so glad I asked.
- Saturday night, at the retreat, in the worship set. Specifically – in the drum circle. When Trina started singing the words to Keep Your Lamps. Trina is such a gift to my creative life. I can’t even pinpoint when exactly Trina and I or how Trina and I connected — but we had lunch and we had lunch again and we have had breakfast and we talk about writing and being creative and God. I have listened to this recording of Keep Your Lamps multiple times and – along with the other parts of worship – Trina’s musical contributions to the weekend rounded out a part of the experience for me in a way that was personal and meaningful. I am so glad I asked.
- While I’m on music… let me jump out of the retreat weekend and go back to the planning phase. When I got a text from Kiley. Soooo… Kiley was the first musician to give me a window of fresh air, a breeze of “yes”, when it came to putting together the music for the weekend. I think my exact approach with her was “how much do you hate the idea of leading worship” lol… And she said yes to writing a liturgy. That’s all I needed. I just needed to feel movement. But that wasn’t my favorite moment. And there were many. Like the time in our first practice when Kiley got the spirit moving her to the idea of drum circle. Like the time I read a text that said “we just need to run through the drum circle” and I loved the fact that those were even words we were saying. I also loved the moment when we shared a smile on stage when I started on my super awesome “That’s Erin – on the kick drum” beat. I love her soul and her voice and her smile and her prayer. But it was when I got this text from Kiley the FIRST moment we were chatting about the liturgy. RIGHT after the window of fresh air was opened. And she shared a picture. Of her Bible. Which she opened when sitting to write the liturgy to the verse for the weekend and was met with markings from a previous life chapter Kiley who had noted – yes – seek with your whole heart and you will find GOD. She was crying. I was crying. I am so glad I asked.
- Christie Brinkman. Christie had come up between Ashley and myself as the perfect powerhouse to pull together people for breakouts. We knew that she would be reluctant but we also knew she would be perfect. She has such a good understanding of what people find valuable. And so on one rainy morning, I made my way to boot camp with her (figured I would have most luck on her turf lol) and as we were wrapping up burpees to a early 2000’s playlist, I came out with it. She said yes. Said she didn’t want to. I think I actually like shrieked. And hugged her. The amount of praise I have heard on the breakout sessions has been awesome. People were genuinely poured into and fed. Christie held the line on them and pulled it off. I am so glad I asked.
- And. Now. THE BOXES. Natalie Yule has gained my loyalty and trust forever. Not only was her carpenter – craft mastery completely instrumental in setting a stage for the weekend, but – in our time working on the boxes – I was privilege to her nurturing manner and emotional intelligence and understanding. Guys. She MADE those boxes. And they were beautiful. Are beautiful. They served as a focus, a supplement, and as meaningful gifts. She came through for me in the truest of ways. Similarly, my sister Anna got a phone call from me which started “I am headed north on sh*t creek with a small paddle” when I was in need of sanding and staining late on a Saturday night. She showed up. We laughed. We sanded. We stained. Then.. there was Leslie Hedenberg — artist behind My Home is A Happy Place. She took a blank box, some ideas for graphics, lyrics, and themes and created stencils – opened her home – provided guidance to complete the project. Rikki Fulmer, Brenda Jones and Jess Klein worked to peel all the stencils which was challenging at times with the vowels. They even SMILED when I showed them the “10,000 years and then forevermore” stencil. :) I cannot begin to express to you the joy that came from seeing these completed and being able to give them as gifts. I am so glad I asked.
- Jenny Hinkle. Jenny and I have known each other for just over a year. She helped tear down the retreat and – before we left – I asked her if she wanted to grab some lunch before leaving town. We found a pizza place in Carlinville and just sat for a minute and I was able to hear all about the retreat. I realized I didn’t know “how the retreat was” because I was on the flip side of it. She indulged me in sharing about what people talked about at lunch, the experience during worship, the takeaways from the keynotes, and on and on. It was like how I imagine my daughter feels when I indulge her in telling her the story of her birth. She was there, but she doesn’t recollect the experience so I tell her to make it real for her. And now I have a wave of emotion even now – because God really wanted something to happen this past weekend. Maybe there were mountain top moments, maybe there were just casually loving rolling hills of peace. But God was SUPER present. I was so thankful for her just telling me about the retreat as I ate small town Illinois pizza. I am so glad I asked.
- Seeing the table of Bar Church retreat goers on Sunday morning. I am in the early stages of genuine caring relationships with Lexi, Erin, and Linde. I smile. I care for the women of Bar Church like my sisters. And I wanted them at the retreat from the beginning of planning. I wanted to see them lead and serve and they did. I love that two of our breakouts were led from Bar Church leaders. I remember sitting with Lexi at Humphrey’s on some November Monday evening and planting early seeds, hoping hoping hoping they would feel compelled to come. Seeing the group sit together at breakfast, on the sunny side of the dining hall – made me happy and prayerful for them. And prayerful for my college aged self that was waaaaaaaay too busy partying to make time for a retreat but sure as sh*t needed it. It made me happy. I am so glad I asked.
- Beth BARRRRRRRRR coming over and teaching me Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop just enough to make the maps for the morning icebreaker. Oh my gosh. I was able to sit with a project I had a vision for but did not previously have the skills for and piece it together. Beth. Ah. SO Glad I asked.
I am sure there is more. I am sure I will think of more. And this may seem like it is written in a tone of “look at all these great ideas I had!” or “look at how confident I am in asking!”. But this is not the point. And there is not an ounce of that in my words. Rather, I heard OTHERS say “I am so glad you asked” MULTIPLE times. And I realized the power of asking for what you believe in. I realized after hearing four times on Sunday morning “Erin, I am so glad you asked” that I was in fact asking and receiving. And what is MOST interesting about this is that I didn’t know what exactly I was looking to receive. What I knew was that there was something I wanted to ask. All I had were questions coming from a deep place in my heart.
When I was driving to the retreat on Saturday, I had a quick fake panic of “did we do enough?” And I realized that the committee chairs have been prayerfully consulting the Lord and listening. There was no more or less we could do. The retreat was exactly as it needed to be for all who came to authentically evolve, for the retreat to authentically evolve, and for the Lord’s work to be done.
I also want to thank Meredith Hopping for starting all of this three years ago with Rooted.
Real quick before I wrap this up – when I left Natalie’s house after picking up the cross, she asked Tracy if she helped stencil the boxes. Tracy replied “nope – I’m just transportation”. And Natalie affirmed what I had been feeling by saying “what a collaborative effort, Erin.” Then she added, “You know what that means, Erin?”
“What?” I asked
“When people help like that and come together like that? That you are loved.”
Yes. It’s true. I feel loved by the power of God through all that collaborated on the retreat.
I also want to pay special love and attention to Milta. Who is my soul sister in so many ways and has been such a source of love and motivation in this retreat planning.
May God’s glory and honor continually be the center of our actions.
May love be our motive. May the spirit of peace stay strong. :) erin