This is the setting that provided the perfect framework for the Women of Faith’s weekend retreat at Lake Huron Retreat Center, where more than 40 women set out to engage in the retreat’s theme–biblical solitude and rest.
“We want you to rest in the Lord’s presence this weekend,” said the retreat’s coordinator Faye Martin during her opening talk to the women. “Silence your cell phones and technology, pull back a little and be still. Then go home strengthened in your roles as mothers, wives and friends.”
Dr. Kim Eckert, clinical psychologist and mother of four, helped lead the pace throughout the weekend, carefully balancing instructional sessions on biblical wholeness, identity, prayer and community, with hands-on exercises to help the women practice intentional times of aloneness with God. It was these times of stillness on the lakefront that had a profound impact on many of the women.
“The insane beauty of my surroundings, the sand between my toes, it refills me,” said Michelle Azema. “It helps center me on the Lord.”
Dyan Wiley said that for her, walking the coastline while praying and drawing images in the sand brought about a deeper understanding of the importance of not taking for granted the here-and-now.
“Ever since my family’s move to Michigan from California, I spent so much time missing what I left behind, but not appreciating what I had,” Wiley explained. “God showed me during my walks that I needed to more fully embrace my current state of life, which to me was refreshing.”
Dr. Eckert spoke about the difficulties women face when trying to achieve rest in between the busyness and noise of home and work life. As a mother, her most tangible feeling of rest involves a sense of joy and pure contentment when her 22 month-old son nuzzles his head in her shoulder after a nap.
“I think about if my humaneness delights in that, how much more does God want to hold us?” she said.
Dr. Eckert went on to discuss the various challenges women face that keep them from “crawling into God’s lap” –multitasking, distraction, fear and a sense of unworthiness. Each issue is so complex, intricately woven into the fabric of a woman, that Dr. Eckert devoted much of her two remaining sessions to addressing how to overcome them through understanding the role of women through Jesus’ eyes.
“As women, we often find wholeness in romance, children, relationships and jobs,” she said. “One of the gendered results of the fall is women losing their relational identity, dealing with an eternal unsettledness. In Christ, we have a perfect example of relating to God and other people. Learn to see yourself the way Jesus sees you. A woman worthy of respect and love.”
Many women shared how their lives were touched during the retreat through these words of instruction and encouragement, combined with sense of community amidst the serenity of the lakefront.
“We don’t quiet ourselves enough to be still,” said Dawn D’Annunzio. “This retreat helped provide a confirmation for me on how God is sovereign, how He doesn’t miss or oversee any parts of our hearts. Sometimes we don’t sit still long enough to see the blessings He has brought in our lives.”
Desiree Jewell echoed a similar sentiment as she reflected on the weekend.
“Sitting still stirs things up,” she said. “I often question my worth thinking, ‘Am I good enough?’ God provided exactly what I needed at this retreat, including specific Scripture verses that I will hold onto and never let go of.”
Carol Ramsey added that when she signed up for the retreat, she did not have any particular objectives for the weekend at the time. However, after experiencing some very recent life challenges, being surrounded by friends studying God’s word turned out to be exactly what she needed.
“Women need other women,” she explained. “The nurturing, the comforting. Yesterday, God gave me the verse 2 Corinthians 12:9. It is on Christ the solid rock I stand … He showed me I was sitting on the rock when He wanted me to stand.”
The weekend ended where it began, with more than 40 women singing the retreat’s worship theme song The Well, by Casting Crowns:
And all who thirst will thirst no more
And all who search will find
What their souls long for
The world will try but it can never fill
So leave it all behind
And come to the well