Exactly one week ago, I had the most wonderful time spending a weekend away with my sisters in Christ at a beautiful lake house. It wasn't just the amazing view of the water, the sound of ducks, or the coziness of the house, but it was the instant connection, presence of God, and hunger to know more of God's Word that amazed me. As soon as I arrived on Friday, I instantly connected with Jakala who resides in SC. She and I helped set up a few hours before the ladies started arriving. As they arrived, the ladies were presented with candy-filled jars that included some HHHS souvenirs and a mini notebook we would later use for the sessions.
Some of the ladies I knew from previous bible studies and interactions while the others came from Missouri, Texas, South Carolina, and other parts of Atlanta. Our mutual friend Courtney also came but only for the Friday session. As we started to greet each other, we checked in our rooms, went outside to enjoy the view near the lake before the rain came, and then later we had an introductions/girl talk in the enclosed porch. That was our first girl talk, lol. As more ladies came, we had another session outside until dinner. After dinner, we proceeded with prayer, worship, and our first sessions with the ladies. There will be many scripture references and points so as you read please take note. Brittany and Curtisha tag teamed with the sessions "Desperate for God" and "What is the Gospel." They referenced the following verses which lays the foundation of pursuing God: James 4:8 (“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded” (NKJV), Matthew 22:37, Revelation 2:17 (also read Revelation 2:2-17) I learned from that session that we can't say we're desperate for God, if our hearts are not yielded to do the following:
2. Pursue the Lord with everything in you. (2 Timothy 2:2)
3. Make Time for God
4. Read/Meditate on God's Word
5. Quiet Time
6. Fasting/Killing The Flesh Daily
Additional points were cutting off hindrances (Matt. 5: 29-30) and living by the spirit (Galatians 5:16-25). The enemy wants to kill our desire and fire for God. That's why godly relationships/friendships and having accountability is important (1 Cor. 15:33). We must guard our fire for God with the fiber of our every being. (John 10:10)
For the 'What is the Gospel' session, we read the following verses in regards to being women anchored in the Gospel:
Hebrews 4: 14-16
1 John 2:1
When something is anchored, it has a foundation. When we as women are anchored in the Gospel, we Hope in the Gospel, Look to the Gospel, Preach the Gospel, Live out the Gospel, Rest in the Gospel, and we Believe the Gospel. The Gospel is our Rock of Offense that brings forth power and transformation (Romans 5:8) Amen. After our sessions, we ended with more girl talk and prayer. Brittany and Curtisha challenged all of us to write a short version of our testimony in the form of a rap, song, or poem and we would present it the following day as a fun game. Initially I was thinking, "how am I going to condense my long testimony into a poem?" Lol. As I prepared for bed, the idea came to me. I love acronyms so I decided to take the first letters of my name and write a short poem. I instantly wrote it. I admit I slept, but I kept waking up in the middle of the night, mainly due to the excitement of the retreat and the sound of the ducks, lol.
On Saturday, we started our morning with prayer/worship on the lake; even though the weather was slightly gloomy, it didn't take away from our experience in God's presence. Even the ducks joined us, lol. So we just reverenced in prayer and read scriptures that we were led to read. I read one of my favorite psalms, Psalm 27, a scripture that I would often reference as a teenager whenever I felt alone and hopeless. It was a beautiful moment outside. Afterwards, we gathered inside for breakfast and later had another introduction/icebreaker session. We played this fun game called "Who Am I" where 5 of us had a sticky with a biblical character on our forehead and we would ask the other 5 ladies questions to see if we could guess who we were. For instance, a question would be, "Did I save my people?" "Am I in the Old Testament and the other person would say, "yes". The answers will give clues to our guesses. In that case, the person's name was "Esther". We also did one on pop culture and ourselves. I was able to guess for both games. It was so much fun. It's a game that can be played with any subject/theme such as math, history, English, etc. After our mini energizer, we jumped into our sessions and the Word. Brittany led the first session on 'Being healed from brokenness' starting with the scripture Mark 2:17 (Jesus being the great Physician). We also read John 4:1 (Woman at the Well), John 4:6-21, John 8, and Psalm 27:10. For those who were single, we all agreed that it is difficult living for God and you get questions from others about not having a husband or children and just the pressure to be married. We read through 1 Corinthians 7, specifically starting at verse 5 where Paul talks to the singles and widows. The following points were taken from that passage:
1. Be honest in how you feel about singleness; it's not sinful to desire marriage. It is sinful when the desire of man/marriage is greater than your desire of God. This leads to us awakening love before it's time, referenced by the Song of Solomon.
2. God does not owe us a husband. Marriage is not a reward for serving God.
3. Leverage singleness to the glory of God.(Travel, disciple others, serve in your community, etc.)
4. Guard your thoughts
5. Believe God's promises; we are whole in Christ.
That led to our mini breakout sessions (Single/Marriage/Parenting) with each other before our Health/Wellness session with Curtisha. Danielle, Ebony, and I were grouped together and we were just vulnerable and transparent about where we were in our walk. The prayers for each other was so encouraging and edifying. It was more than just our opinions about our discussion. We pointed each other back to the Word of God.
After our mini sessions, we all came back together and we briefly shared from our sessions and Curtisha jumped right into her sessions on "Spiritual, Emotional, & Physical Well-Being" and "Breaking the Cycles of Deadly Lifestyle Habits" starting with scriptures, 1 Cor. 6:19 and Hosea 4:8. Curtisha cut us no slack as she challenged us to have a sense of urgency to wake up to the current health crisis. She went in depth as we answered the questions of 'why don't people eat healthy?' and why don't people exercise?' She informed us that many of the diseases we suffer from is due to increased intake of sugar (too much is equivalent to cocaine), high-processed foods, vaccines, pesticides, etc. She referenced the scripture Phil. 3:19 which talks about gluttony (being a slave to our bellies). The infamous saying, "you are what you eat" is so true because whatever you feed your flesh overtime will become a part of you and kill you; the same goes for your spirit; when you feed your spirit the wrong things, it becomes a part of you and over time will kill you spiritually. That's why it is so important to fast physically and spiritually. Fasting breaks food addictions and other spiritual addictions. Another point she brought up is how we as people make excuses for not eating healthy and exercising. The top three are 1. No Time, 2. It's boring, and 3. Microwave syndrome (fast and in a hurry). In the instance where the statement of "it's so expensive to eat healthy" is often said, Curtisha's rebuttal was, "either you pay now or pay later" which was so convicting, both spiritually and physically. If we can invest in our outer appearance, we can surely invest in our spiritual and physical well-being. We are no use to the Kingdom if we are not taking care of our temples. That's real. The benefits of exercise are as follows:
1. Rids toxins in the body
2. Tones body
3. Strengthens Immune System
4. Strong Heart and Lungs
5. Improves Sleep.
Some solutions to rid the excuse of not exercising:
1. Educate yourself (Romans 12:1),
2. Exercise to music you love
4. Have accountability partners.
Recap of session:
1. Choose healthy foods
4. Manage Stress
Because of the time and the way the Holy Spirit flowed in our sessions, we weren't able to do our freestyle poetry contest as planned (poem will be shared later in blog), so we all had a mini break and our Zumba session with Curtisha, who is a certified Zumba instructor with her own health/wellness company. I hadn't done Zumba in a long time and it was so much fun. The funniest part was everyone thinking the warm-up was the workout. Hilarious. The amazing thing about Zumba is you get a full body workout without doing strenuous exercises and it's fun. Afterwards we had a late lunch and just rested for awhile until our outing in downtown Atlanta.While some of the ladies were asleep, I went into the living room and listened as Ms. Beverly, Brittany and Curtisha's mom shared with us her testimony of how God restored and healed her after divorce. Such a blessing to hear. Hours later, we all got dressed and beautiful, took pictures and headed out into the city. It was rainy and cold, but it didn't stop the fun especially for the ones who were visiting. We wanted everyone to have a wonderful time and that we did at a fun karaoke spot in downtown Atlanta. I'm glad we were able to have that balance of fun and fellowship throughout the retreat. As we ended our night, we said goodbye to one of our sisters who had an early flight in the morning and prepared ourselves for our last session on Sunday. As usual we were still up resonating about the moments of the day, but we all went to sleep and woke up the next day for our final session/departure. We began the day with breakfast and prayer. Curtisha led the last session entitled, "Being Ready for the Master's Use." She referenced 2 Timothy 2:19, a topic she touched on during our Tampa fellowship a few weeks ago. She stressed to us that the Lord is looking for those who are dependable and honorable, people that he can use for the advancement of the Kingdom. The Lord can't use us if we're constantly distracted, engaging in sin with no repentance and no willingness to live upright. Our foundation must be in God and Him alone through:
1. Staying Prepared
2. Being Imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1-2)
3. Living a pleasing and obedient life for God (Acts 5: 25-29 and Daniel 1:8)
4. Needing Holy Spirit power to be effective. (Acts 1:6-8, Acts 2:17, Acts 4:8-13, Acts 6:8-10)
5. Reminding ourselves that God cannot be put in a box. (2 Chronicles 4-19)
After our session, we all shared our thoughts on the retreat and how it blessed us. Some of the sisters traveled back home and the remainder of us headed downtown for another outing at the Atlanta Fair (first fair and funnel cake in years, lol)
I think we all agreed that the retreat was a different atmosphere we needed compared to what we had experienced in the past with other conferences and retreats. Not only did I leave with more sisters and accountability, I left with more information to help me out daily. We were all given folders that included recommended resources, preachers, and books as well as important biblical terms, the breakdown of the Gospel, and the spiritual test, a list of questions that challenges us to examine our hearts daily (2 Cor. 13:5).
Overall, I'm so thankful that I was able to share in those moments with the ladies. An answered prayer from many years ago. As I close, here is the testimony poem I wrote:
LEQUVIA, From Reject to Redeemed
Lost in rejection and other's opinions
Expecting love from other people, nothing genuine
Questioning God's existence and looking for peace
Until one day, He answered
Victory through Christ Jesus
Ignited and set me free
Ashes of my former self released, I've been redeemed.
Thank you God. Because you love me, a new creature in Christ is all I can be.
Check out the retreat recap video below and be sure to check out http://highheelsandhighstandards.com/ for more resources and updates. I'm looking forward to the next retreat.
I encourage you all who read this to continue to pray and seek God in everything and to never give up, no matter how hard it gets. The Holy Spirit is here to help and guide us. May we all be transformed by the power of Jesus Christ's redemptive love. Amen.