Monday, January 21, 2008

Young Ladies Christian Fellowship "Retreat"

Where have I been, and why haven't I been writing? For one thing, I went to Omaha:

“They’re not from a different planet, Mama.” – North and South, the BBC adaptation

The YLCF retreat was a fellowship of likeminded ladies. We all knew that going in, I think. Our differences struck me, though. Sometimes we had to reassure each other that we were not from different planets. Ranging from Colorado natives to a teacher from New York, and the Midwest towns and cities in between, there was plenty to compare. A few of the ladies attending (including Natalie – remember that, girls?) even lived in Japan for a while. So we enjoyed discovering how the same values applied in different lives, different families, at different places and to different interests. Some of us are writers. Some love to clean houses. Students, teachers, wives, mothers, sisters were there. There were seamstresses and dancers and photographers.

By design YLCF is an ecumenical organization, a place where ladies who share a common Savior can gather to encourage each other without debating theology. We retreated from our own churches and lives, our everyday friends with their spiritual problems, from the pressures of our ministries to engage in a real life version of that unity in diversity. Life at home was not forgotten, for once, but nor was it pressing. We took our families with us, whether by photos or book lists or cell phones or real live sisters. I saw God relating our conversations to what was happening in our lives at home. I know we each came away encouraged and refreshed. God is at work so creatively in so many lives and locations. He is awe-some.

I have to report that the YLCF gathering was most unexpectedly, but actually quite reasonably, quiet. 15 or so ladies variously occupied shared quiet conversations about lives, families, and God’s lessons for the year. For a while it felt like twenty questions or the game where a character’s name is on your back and you run around asking questions of everyone until you figure out who you are. By Friday evening, between some sort of synchronized driving by which we left Natalie’s gracious home in a caravan and arrived at the Christian bookstore independently and from different directions, and the frigid parking lot just outside the base, we hit our stride.

For me it was fascinating to observe the humanity of our online friends. Natalie is a real human being with everyday strengths and weaknesses. She is a transparent writer, and I appreciate when she shares her struggles and triumphs, her reflective journal entries. Seeing her in action was different, though. Her dogs bark at strangers. She looks different moving: laughing, walking, thinking – than in pictures. You’ve heard of the widow’s oil? It didn’t run out until all of her jars and pots, and her neighbors’, were full? We experienced Natalie’s pizza, where every pan in the house was filled before we ran out! All roads may lead to the Christian bookstore near her house, but no maps lead to her home. Every one of us got lost on the way, some worse than others. After reading YLCF, that adventure gave us all a common experience on which to build.

Maybe you had to be there, but we all dissolved into laughter when Natalie was reasoning with the security guard at the gate of the Air Force base to let all of us girls stuffed into three cars onto base. I think he liked us, because he was very cooperative. But each car wasn’t really communicating with the others, so we were trying to guess what would happen next, what was going on – reading lips and hand gestures and then proceeding with trial and error.

Gretchen was mentioned often. We peppered Natalie with questions about the origins of YLCF, and how she and Gretchen met. I was most surprised to hear that they’ve only been in each other’s physical presence five or six times. Yet what friends they are to each other!

The weekend was about ladies fair, traipsing through bitter cold and token snow cover. Our experiment with blooming tea was successful. Our trips to the thrift store were totally girly. And most of us more or less stayed up in one little hotel room watching the four hour miniseries, North and South.

Saturday, my friend and I chased the sun home to Colorado, not ready to surrender the day and its memories. For a while it seemed to be working. We kept it overhead, and the sun didn’t descend very quickly. The weekend’s activity was reviewed aloud. Heat invaded the piercing cold. My friend settled in and slept to the soundtrack of Anastasia while steadily the light dropped beneath the clouds until it regaled us with a prolonged sunset.

Then the moon, rising early, pursued us like a lamp from behind. I caught its beams over my shoulder like a car overtaking us on the highway. Even that night, at midnight finally home in Colorado, the pearly glow reflected off the day-old layer of snow welcoming me from my back yard. It was the after-glow, the still illuminating remnant of the light of a lovely day.

"For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness." ~ Psalms 107:9

To God be all glory.

3 comments:

Lady Rael said...

Lady Lisa, I am so glad you were able to go! What a blessing. Thanks for the summary, including the poetic description of your drive back.

God is indeed awesome! :-)

In Christ,
~Rael~

Clara said...

It was such fun to read this. You summed up the weekend perfectly. :-) I am so glad I got to meet you!

(Sorry if you get two similar comments...the computer was trying to eat one.)

Clara

Melian said...

I tried to stay awake--really! =) Thanks for letting me tag along with you Lisse. It was marvelous to have those hours of talking to you. And not talking. I love comfortable silences =)

And Clara, I just have to say again, it was lovely to meet you =)