Women's Retreat 2020 | By Julie Ameli
It was September 26 and I, along with a small group from our women’s ministry team, had traveled to IF:LEAD in Dallas to better learn how to minister to women, fill our cups and hear what God wants to do next.
As we entered the conference center, my heart was flooded with joy and anticipation. I wanted to hear from God. I was ready. The worship band began to play and it was incredible; hundreds of women pouring out their hearts to God. I noticed a woman sitting alone ahead of me and what happened next caught me completely off guard. My heart was filled with compassion for this woman I didn’t know, to the point that my eyes began to fill with tears. I swallowed back a hard lump in my throat and tried to shake it off but it came back even stronger along with an overwhelming urge to hug this woman and tell her God loves her and He sees her. My heart was pounding and my breathing hastened. I questioned, “Is this you, Lord? Surely, I am making this up. But then, why do I feel this way?” I continued to worship, but every time I looked towards the woman, tears poured from my eyes and my heart felt like it was breaking for her. Finally, I surrendered. “Ok, Lord, if you want me to talk to this woman, please create an opportunity.”
It was too loud during worship and the first speaker began immediately after. I thought I had bypassed the awkward ask. As the speaker began to wrap up, she asked us to rise and read a scripture together. As we did, my phone slid off my lap and under the seat in front of me. After the session, I dug under the seats to retrieve it and as I rose from the floor, I stood face-to-face with this woman. There was my moment, the one I had asked God to create. I took a deep breath, sheepishly leaned forward and said, “I don’t know what this is about and I am really stepping out of my comfort zone here, but as we were worshiping, I had this overwhelming experience and I could not look at you without tears welling in my eyes. I am really sensing that God wants you to know that He sees you and He loves you.” Exhale. The woman’s eyes filled with tears and she explained that she had “wanted to die” because she felt so alone and wondered if God saw her in her pain. Even during worship as she fumbled with her phone to record and capture the moment, she felt as though we must all be judging her for looking at her phone. She told me she had an amazing family life and worked in various areas of ministry as she moved with her military husband, but had been feeling an inexplicable depth of loneliness so painful that she just wanted to be done and she wasn’t even sure if God saw her until that moment. All I could think was, “Wow! Here is this beautiful, put-together, vivacious women's minister; I could never have guessed the deep despair that she was experiencing. I was so grateful God created a moment of authenticity and deep intimacy with a fellow sister in Christ to fully understand His desire to connect with us and for us to connect with each other.
It’s not uncommon. The palpable, panicky feeling of being alone even in a room full of other women, even sisters in faith. In fact, sometimes being in a room full of women you perceive to “have it all together” can only intensify feelings of loneliness or inadequacy, and doesn’t the enemy love to amplify those feelings? The truth is we all are, have been or will go through “stuff” at some point in time. Our connection with God and with each other is essential to get us through the tough stuff of life and help us embrace who He has designed us to be in the midst of it.
When we met as a women’s leadership team this summer, it became evident that as a ministry we needed “to cultivate a community where women are free to be their whole, broken and beautiful selves – where they can be nurtured and transformed as they encounter Jesus in His Word and experience the power of the Holy Spirit enabling them to walk in the fullness of who the Father made them to be.” We also know that we can’t just put a statement out there saying “this is who we are.” It will take intentional development and training to give the women in our church the perspective, tools and framework to create a community where everyone is welcome, nobody is perfect and anything is possible. So this year, the focus of Women’s Retreat is just that. We are going to take time out and spend a weekend with each other developing and focusing on authentic connection with our heavenly Father and each other.
I was very convicted by Kevin’s message about going “all in” as part of the Exodus series. I passionately believe that God is calling us to go “all in” with our relationships and I expect when we do we will see an incredible movement of God in our midst. For this reason, I am asking every woman in our faith community to consider coming on the women’s retreat this year and to be willing to get comfortable with a little discomfort in the hopes of seeing God do an extraordinary, uncommon work in our midst. I am not asking you to do anything I am not willing to do myself. It was incredibly uncomfortable to reach out to that woman at IF:LEAD, but imagine if I hadn’t. We could have both missed out on what God had for us. Won’t you please join us in this daring adventure as we go “Behind the Curtain”?
March 6-8 (registration begins at 5:00 pm, retreat begins at 7:30 pm)
$220 for double room (2 queens or 1 king)*
$320 for single room*
*Register before January 13 and save $21 by using
the code EARLYBIRD.
College students save $20
Scholarships are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost includes hotel accommodations at Whitefish Lodge in Cross Lake, MN and four meals (all meals Saturday and breakfast Sunday).
Click here to register.