Tuesday, January 22, 2013

winter retreat 2013

Phew!  It's been a busy few days preparing for and recovering from a busy weekend.  I went away for the weekend as a youth leader for our youth group's annual winter retreat.  It is always a great experience for both the teens and the leaders and I am always amazed at the way the Lord works during that time.  

I actually was part of the very first winter retreat held.  It was back in 1999 and I was in 8th grade.  Sitting in that same building year after year brings back so many memories.  Of course back then as a teenager the thing I looked forward to the most from those weekends was spending two whole days with my crush who actually ended up becoming my husband.  Since then I have grown (thankfully!) and really, really look forward to serving the teens and seeing God work and taking some time away from my daily routine to focus on my relationship with the Lord.

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


  1. Oh what joy that confidence inspires! Thank you for sharing, Sarah. I appreciate it.

  2. What a great way of saying it... He conquered her grave!

  3. 'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus! <3

    1. Amen! That has been one of my theme songs this year. My sister-in-law and a dear family friend actually sang it at Evie's funeral. They sang it a capella and I will never forget the sound of their crystal clear voices and the cold breeze and sunshine on my face. A beautiful memory.