Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Deeper Deeper

Last weekend, I was privileged to help organize and plan Deeper, a retreat for young adult women. I had the idea for this weekend about 6 months ago and started compiling a team to get the ball rolling. Finally after lots of planning, praying, stressing, laughing, eating, studying, scouting, and facebooking, it was June 18 and it was time for Deeper. God did so many amazing things last weekend, that I have to make a list so I don't forget anything! Here is Deeper by the numbers:
125 blessing notes--Anne had a great idea that each person got a blessing box at the beginning of the weekend. Throughout our time together, we were supposed to write blessings or encouraging notes to each other. We didn't open or read them until we left on Sunday. When I got home after the retreat, I was unbelievably blessed by my sisters through reading their kind words.
55 Powerpoint slides--One of the huge highlights of the trip was Sunday morning worship. Amber and Kim worked at creating a prayer concert to prepare our minds for taking the Lord's Supper. We used DEEP as an acronym to direct our thoughts--Dedication, Examine, Empty, and Promise--during this time. We sang songs and read scripture about Dedication. Then, in our prayer groups we read scripture, discussed, and prayed about these words. We also spent some time in silent prayer as well as. We repeated this process for the other three words. After focusing and looking at each of these words, we were ready to partake in communion of homemade unleavened bread and grape juice. This was one of my favorite times I have ever taken communion and I will remember it forever.
33 hands of Nertz--I haven't played Nertz in years (I think the last time was during the ice storm my junior year of college), but it was THE game of the weekend. Though we got a little bit competitive, we still had a blast together.
20 ugly mugs--Jamie scoured Vinnies (the local thrift store) looking for 20 ugly mugs for a mixer game on Friday night. We had to get into groups based on our mugs theme, like Christmas mugs, Dad mugs, Saying mugs, Boring mugs, and then answer a question. Each mug had a shape and a color written on the bottom as well, which made us switch our groups a few times. After switching three times, we found our selves in our Prayer Groups for the weekend.
15 kilos of wood
--Point Wolstoncroft has an amazing fire pit with wood benches and a stage, which is one of the reasons I fell in the love with this camp site. On Saturday night, we decided to have a bondfire, which took all 15 kilos (about 30ish lbs) of wood we brought! Who knew you needed so much wood to start and keep a fire going! We had our evening devo, led by Claire, and sang around the warm glow of the fire. Of course we couldn't have a fire without having s'mores!
13 women
--We ended up having 13 wonderful women come to our retreat. Our original goal was 20, but with uni exams, work schedules, family visiting, and new babies being born, we ended up with a smaller number for the weekend. But, it ended up being such a blessing! Because we had a smaller group, everyone got to know each other and bond on a deeper level. New friendships were born and old friendships were strengthened.
7 kilometers
--Our camp was located 3.5 kms from a point at Lake Macquarie (hence the name Point Wolstoncroft). We decided to take advantage of having such a nice walk so Saturday afternoon, Mel organized a prayer walk. Before leaving our lodge, every person filled out a questionaire about our spiritual walk--what were we struggling with? What did we want God to accomplish through us? What was our spiritual gift? ect. Then, we were put into pairs and given another person's question sheet to pray for our on our walk. Once we reached the point on the lake after our walk, the whole group met up together and was given a new partner and a new person to pray for. It was such a wonderful experience to bond with another person through prayer for someone else! And, to get to pray outside, surrounded in God's creation, just made it better. The Prayer Walk was one of the highlights for me!
4 prayer groups
--Through the genius Mug Mix-Up game, we were put into prayer groups for the weekend. The groups met to pray Friday and Saturday night. We also prayed in these groups for the prayer concert and communion service on Sunday morning. I was in a group with Jamie, Claire, and Marcelle, and LOVED every minute of it! It was so nice to be able to share my struggles, fears, and doubts with these women and take them to God.
3 classes-- On Saturday, there were three classes taught by three different people to equip us to have a deeper relationship with God. The first class was taught by Rebecca about having practical faith. Using examples in the Bible and from her own life, Bec reminded us that we really can trust God with everything in our life, if we give up control and take a leap of faith. Jamie taught the second class about Bible reading. She gave us tools to battle distractions while reading God's word, as well as introduced us to different reading plans and versions. I taught the last class of the day on prayer. I used Jesus as an example of why and how we should pray, and then gave different practices, techniques and tips for spicing up our prayer lives. I got so much out of listening and preparing for these classes, and left feeling equipped with tools to implement in my relationship with God.
2 cooks--We were so blessed to be fed so well this weekend by two amazing women: Joy Mowday and Deb Brown. Not only are these two ladies are known as some of the best cooks in Gosford, but they are also my Aussie mums. They planned menus, bought groceries, and prepared scrumptious meals that kept our tummies very full! In addition to serving in the kitchen, they also offered wisdom and insight as they interacted with the girls and participated in the prayer groups.
1 boy--I know we said the retreat was for young adult women, but we made on exception: for Joel! Since he is just a little over 3 months old, we had the pleasure of having him and his mum around for the whole weekend. His favorite parts were the 7 km walk and the bondfire.
I'll say it: The BEST prayer group!
(Claire, Me, Jamie, and Marcelle)
Our bonfire--we made it ourselves!

Enjoying the bonfire.

Blessing boxes filled with encouraging notes to take home.

The halfway point of our Prayer Walk over-looking Lake Macquarie.
(This photo was not my idea)

Rebecca and Anne

My girls: Amber and Jamie

Our beautiful camp at Point Wolstoncroft.

Claire, Tammy, Joel, and Kim in class on Saturday

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Birthday Bliss

I'll be honest: I was actually dreading my birthday. I'm not Ashley Prybyloski who thinks their birthday is a holiday (love you Ash), but I do usually look forward to it. But this year, being in a different country away from most of my family and friends, I was kind of hoping that I could just fast forward or sleep through June 3rd. Alas, my Aussie friends wouldn't let me and I ended up having one of the best birthdays ever!
I spent my actual birthday with several of my great friends. I went out to lunch (Maccas, duh) and shopping at Erina with Sara Moad, instead of our usual Thursday bible study. It was so fun to try on clothes and catch up over french fries. Throughout the day, I had calls from Ghana and Japan wishing me happy birthday, as well as more facebook messages and emails than I can count! I felt even more special that people remembered I am a day ahead in Australia and remembered my birthday a day before. That afternoon Jamie Canham came up from Sydney to hang out, which was such a blast! This girl has become one of my best friends in Australia! Despite going to OC together for 3ish years, it took us moving across the world to make us friends. That night, Jamie, Jenn (who also came up from Sydney), Amber, Anne and I went out to see a movie and out to dinner. Being the fabulous friends that they are, they brought along extra diet coke so I could have "refills!" We went back to my house for presents, a sinfully delicious chocolate cake, and games. Gotta love playing Yahtzee and Mexican Train until 1 am.
My birthday month continued last Saturday night. Dan and Mel have been talking about throwing me a Texas birthday party for months, and they succeeded! With the help Joy, Amber, Anne, and so many people, they decked out the ministry centre to show love for my two homes: Texas and Australia. People young and old from the church came decked out in their plaid shirts, hats, and boots. Everyone brought delicious "Texas" food, which included lots of queso and every kind of dip you can think of, quesadillas, bacon wrapped chiles, sopapilla cheesecake, peanut butter pie, and so much more! After everyone had eaten, we all sat down and watched video messages from some of my friends in the States! It was so special! Then I had to break open a pinata in the shape of a cowboy boot. It took me a few tries and I almost severely injured a 2 year old, but it finally came open! After all of the lollies had been gathered up, the lights went out and 2 gorgeous cakes were put in front of me--one was decorated as the Australian flag and one was decorated as the Texas flag! They were perfect, thanks to the professionals, Joy and Mel! The night ended up with Anne and I teaching everyone how to do the Electric Slide. They don't do it in Australia! A few of us have decided that our next major event is going to be a barn dance with bush dancing (which is like square dancing) this summer! The best part of the night was just spending time with all of these wonderful people who have become family. I felt so blessed as each family came through the doors with their country clothes on, a plate of food, and a big hug for me.
I think my birthday spree has officially ended, but it was a great 2 weeks! I am so thankful to have so many loving and caring friends and family spanning the world!

With all my cupcake presents!
Delicious chocolate cake made by Jamie.
The pinata
Wonderfully talented cake creators!
Amber, Mel and Me in our cowboy clothes

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Balcony People

I was first introduced to the concept of balcony people by none other than JGray, Sr. Balcony people are the people who watch your life from the balcony of theater. They watch you grow and change from a distance or from a different time. They aren't on stage with you living out the action, but there are quietly taking it all in from a higher perspective. They lift you up in prayer, giving you not only all of their power but also envoking a Higher Power. You may not see them much in real life or ever, but you know they are always cheering you on from the cheap seats.
Of course the balcony if filled with family members like crazy aunts and even crazier great aunts, cousins and moms, and grandpas who have passed away. But it's also filled with people who aren't related to you. These are the people who have chosen to sit in your balcony and love you even though they don't really have to.
I have been blessed to have full balcony for years--a childhood preacher and his wife who are angels on earth, influential professors and deans who pushed me to be better, a high school best friend who kept me sane through that crazy 4 years, an old youth minister and his wife who recognized their relationship with me didn't end because I graduated, parents of college roommates, church family who has known me since I was born. These people, and so many more, all make up the non-family section of my balcony.
I was reminded last weekend of another couple who is in my balcony: Kent and Nancy Hartman. I first was introduced to Nancy as my mom's college roommate when I was in college. Through this connection, I got to know the Hartmans better. They convinced me to go on a campaign to Gosford, Australia which led to this life changing decision of being a HIM worker. After spending a couple of days with them, I was reminded of what an impact they have had on my life. They are so wise about missions, having a deeper relationship with God, and reaching out to others. They inspire me to be a better servant and think on a bigger scale. The Hartmans have chosen to sit in my balcony and take an interest in my life. I know when I accomplish something great or need a little encouragement, I can look up from the bright and stressful events of the stage and see them in the top level. Always there, standing firm.