That particular retreat center holds the same sort of nostalgia as holidays. It especially makes me think of where I was the year before and what things have happened since then.
My heart was really heavy for Evie this weekend. I remember at the retreat last year I was really excited for the months to come. Josh and I had decided to stop preventing pregnancy and I anticipated adding a sweet new member to our family by the end of the year. Remembering the way I felt last year and the things I was anticipating and then coming back this year was difficult. More difficult than I thought it would be.
Over the nine years I have gone to the retreat (four as a teen, five as a leader), each time I sat in those chairs listening to the words of the speaker I was challenged to grow in my relationship with Christ and really solidify my identity in Him. Although the sessions and themes and speakers have been different every year, the ultimate message is always a challenge to give Jesus everything.
This year I felt this message in a new way. I had always wondered how well I would handle a difficult life circumstance; would I hold fast to my faith or would I crumble under the weight of my heavy heart? This year every part of the retreat was seen through my new eyes - the eyes of someone who has walked through fire and seen Jesus prove Himself the whole way through. It was such a privilege to praise the Lord and worship Him knowing from experience that He is faithful.
I could hardly hold it together during the worship times. Actually, let me rephrase that. I had tears streaming down my face every minute of every worship time and could barely eek out the words. Suffering according to God's will opens the door for such pure worship.
One particular song evoked some very raw emotions. It is called "One Thing Remains" by Jesus Culture. The first two lines are as follows:
Higher than the mountains that I face,
Stronger than the power of the grave.
Before Evie, I imagined any song that mentioned Christ conquering the grave was referring to Him conquering His own death. Certainly that gives cause for any Christian to sing praises! But after losing Evie I could sing this praise because Christ died to conquer her grave. Her earthly body may be buried but her eternal soul has been resurrected into her heavenly body and she is in glory. She is in the arms of the One who died in order that she could live, so we all could live. Praise Jesus!
This weekend was certainly emotional but I am so thankful for my new understanding, my new appreciation for the Father's love and Christ's sacrifice and the Holy Spirit's work in my heart. And I can't wait until next year and another opportunity to reflect on what the Lord has done in my life.
Being confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will continue it until the day of Christ. Philippians 1:6