The woman I introduced you to in the last blog (you can read it here) returned home from her Beauty For Ashes retreat and her husband immediately noticed that she was different. Everything about her had changed- her demeanor, countenance, and joy. She was excited to tell him all the details of what she had just experienced. He listened intently and although he didn’t quite understand it all, he recognized the power in it!
This woman has a name: Tanya is a real person with a story like you and me. It was a struggle for her to return to her regular routine, even though it was only one weekend of being away. The tools she learned and the encounters she had with God brought about a deep desire to do life differently. She attempted to implement the things she had experienced and routinely retreated to her flower garden to meet with God and listen for His Voice. She doubted herself often- unsure if she was hearing God speak or if it was simply her own thoughts. However, she didn’t give up.
She began meeting with one of the leaders from the retreat weekly to read scripture together. Although she had regularly attended church she didn’t know exactly how to dive into the Bible. “Where should I begin? How much should I read? What do I do after I’ve read it?” were all questions she asked. Slowly, they began reading through one book at a time- nothing more than that- they would simply read it and then discuss it. The way God had spoken to her at her Beauty For Ashes retreat, the time she was sitting with God in her flower garden, and her time in The Word- all were encouraging her relationship with the Lord. She was deep into the journey and she wasn’t going back now!
Six weeks after Tanya’s Beauty For Ashes retreat, she decided to attend another retreat. This time it was the Abide retreat. It was a night and day difference welcoming Tanya into the home this time. Rather than nerves and anxiety, she came in with excitement and joy. She still lacked some confidence in knowing God’s Voice, but the visible growth in her was absolutely beautiful! We could see a beautiful flower blossoming right before our eyes!
At the Abide retreat, each woman learns what abiding with the Savior tangibly looks like. We teach lessons and have discussions and challenge some of our common spiritual practices. We look at Bible study versus simply abiding with Jesus, and then we put it into practice. Learning to abide can look different for each person, however, spending extended time in solitude and silence with Jesus can be extremely beneficial. Because of this, we provide 4-5 hours each day of silence and solitude. It is powerful how clearly God can speak when we remove the distractions of our lives. When we allow ourselves to become bored instead of filling the time with productivity, God will replace that boredom with Holy experiences. He will speak, teach, correct, and give revelation to His people when we come to Him without our agendas!
Tanya felt nervous to sit alone with Jesus with nothing to do for such a long period of time. “What will I do without a plan? Should I read? What if I just waste my time and nothing happens?” were all concerns she expressed. The one encouragement we gave was to scrap the agenda! Jesus wants YOU. He desires your time, not your agenda!
To directly quote Tanya’s experience of having silence and solitude with Jesus, she says,
“Having the solitude time to just BE with Jesus- having a picnic with Him and just sitting with Him- made me realize I was making [my relationship with Him] more complicated than it really was. I don’t need to do anything but just BE with Him! It was the start to a beautiful journey.”
Our DOing comes out of our BEing. This is an upside-down way of thinking. Oftentimes we are taught to DO DO DO! Read more, study more, do more! But this is not how relationships work. Relationships (all of them!) require us to simply BE with the person first. Why would we think it is any different with the Savior? Take marriages for instance: many marriages fail simply because the partners get caught up in the DOing (activities, busyness, children, etc) and they forget to simply BE with one another in relationship. Heaven forbid we place activities, even good ones, ahead of simply sitting with God. It is out of the overflow of our abiding (being) with God that we move into doing with God.
Tanya returned home from her Abide retreat assured of God’s Voice. She returned home with the freedom to relax into Jesus’ arms. His Yoke is easy and His burden is light! We like to complicate matters, whereas God likes to profoundly simplify. (How can something be so deeply profound yet simultaneously so simple?) The pressure she used to feel to “do enough” and the guilt from “not doing enough” was now gone! Having a deeper understanding on how to abide with her Savior, Tanya describes her new walk this way:
“Now I am excited and look forward to my time with Him, growing in the grace and knowledge of my Jesus! Slow and steady! I make Him a priority now. My relationship with Him is not just at certain times of the day, but all day every day. Who knew it was so simple, yet so powerful? We have the best conversations even when I am doing my laundry. I feel closest to Jesus in my flower garden first thing in the morning. I sit with Him with a nice cup of coffee. Just as the flowers need to be watered to bloom, I am being watered and fed with the Word and Love of my Lord and Savior. I am His Blossom in His garden of life!”
Tanya’s story could be each of our stories who have attended the Abide retreat. Maybe this is where you find yourself in your walk- you simply need to BE with Jesus. If you struggle in BEing with Jesus instead of DOing for Jesus, let me encourage you to come away with Him and learn to Abide.
Our next Abide retreat is in April. To learn more and sign up, click here.