First of all, my sister (Meg) came with me again this year. To some, that might not sound like a big deal... but it is. For a number of reasons. If this was the only good thing that happened to me all weekend, that would have been good enough for me... but there was more...
The weather was beautiful. In the 7 years I've been going on this retreat, it's only ever been sunny 1 other time. It usually rains all weekend.
I got some alone time with Asa. And some alone time without Asa... Matt came and picked him up for the afternoon on Saturday so I could have some time without worrying about what he needed. We went for a ride with my friends Sue & Belinda with the top down to the next town and sat on the dock. It was SO relaxing. Me & Meg finally got some updated pictures together and had fun doing it...
I also had lots of moments of memories - ones that hurt, yet at the same time helped me to see the healing that has come to my heart in the last year. Two years ago, I was asked to share my testimony at the woman's retreat. The message of that weekend was 'Hope' and based on the Romans 5 verses that I used to get through my pregnancy with Rachel. I had just found out I was pregnant with her and was pretty sick that weekend - so that is where I shared with everyone that I was expecting again. I looked down at my name tag this year and it still had the Hope sticker on it from that year... made Rachel feel a little closer.
Last year I went and cried all weekend long. I was in so much pain I could hardly take it. I was pregnant with Asa, but had no desire to bring any attention to that. But it seemed that's all anyone wanted to talk about and I was DYING to talk about Rachel, but nobody wanted to.... I endured many "you've got to focus on the positive" lectures and I just wanted to crawl out of my skin - and far away from the retreat.
But this year, I felt free to talk about her, free to love Asa without anyone assuming he was a good replacement, free to cry and free to smile.... for the first time in a long time without feeling like I was being sized up or judged. I *really* needed that. I smiled, I laughed, I cried, grieved, and I missed her... like I do every day - but something felt different - and maybe that is just because people don't think I do smile or laugh (and last year I wasn't ready to and they didn't understand) so they didn't feel the need to force their 'silver lining' on me anymore?? I don't know, but part of me doesn't care. I'm just glad it felt better.
The thing I have really been wanting to share is that on Saturday, we did this exercise where we took pieces of frayed fabric and marked them with what they were calling "non-negotiable" - basically something about us or our personalities that could be considered a strength if used properly or a weakness if used poorly. Then we made them into bracelets to wear.
It was not a new idea for me. I've often said that my biggest strengths are also my biggest weaknesses... but I've never related that to my journey with Rachel. We were supposed to pick 3 so we could braid them. I wrote down the things that came to mind.... perfectionist, sensitive, and grief. They are all part of who I am today. But I couldn't help but wish that they never had a negative effect in my life. Or on the legacy that I am trying to leave for my girl.
And so I resolved to be mindful of how these very things that God gave me as a way to glorify Him could also be a way that Satan works against me. Wanting to have everything 'perfect' is good if we're talking attention to detail... not so good when it comes to going with the flow (or accepting God has a different plan than mine). Being sensitive is good when it comes to being there for other people, showing compassion and love... not so good when I replay a hurtful comment over and over in my head. Grief (or the pain that comes with it) can be a good thing if I let it drive me closer to God and to do greater things in her memory... not so good if I allow it to pull me from God or lose sight of the eternal Hope I have in Him.
And so while we were doing the exercise, we had talked about how these things really were not 'non-negotiable' and joked that they should be called 'negotiable' because we all have a choice... but what I realized is that these things are non-negotiable - it's how I use them that is negotiable...
So I made another bracelet for Rachel. I wore it for a few days to all the places I go... during worship, work, home, in the van, in my yard....
|Ironically, Rachel's is the one less frayed.....|
Then I brought one to Rachel and left it there for her. And when I did, I recommitted myself to her legacy and God's glory.... to use the parts of my character - that God put in me for a purpose - in ways that would make her and our God proud. He made me strong, determined, loyal - and even a sensitive, grieving perfectionist. (you may call this your 'strong-willed child'- look out!!) All of these things can be used for His eternal purposes and I am determined to do that. For God, for Rachel... even for me.
So I will keep going through my pain....continually surrendering my will for His... and my life for hers. I'm honored to be able to - and I know I'm not alone as I learn how to die to self... to become more like Him... trusting in His plan and waiting on eternity. He is still catching every tear.