By Kate Godwin
Time is one of those funny things I can never decide how to feel about. If I think about the past holistically, I think of times when I was overwhelmed with joy, but also times that I was overwhelmed with hurt and sorrow. In considering the present, I think of moments that I have been proud of exhibiting good character, but also of moments that I have been ashamed of for ignoring what I should do and instead choosing to take the easier and less Christ-like route. When I contemplate the possible avenues of my future, I am simultaneously excited for all of the positive prospects that it may hold and anxious about what I will do if everything falls apart. What we focused on at the Women’s Retreat, however, was that all of these ups and downs throughout our lives are used by God to shape us into something more than we can become on our own if only we allow God to redeem that time for us. As we were reminded, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 4:11)
I got a nice reminder of this just a week later, when I was driving home from Thanksgiving with my family in Georgia. As much as I re-routed to continuously avoid the inevitable slow-downs, I finally hit a 10-mile stretch of traffic that there was no way to avoid by the time I found it. As I slowed to a halt and sat in my idling car, I looked at a map of the traffic on my phone and saw that it would cause an estimated 1 hour and 15 minute delay to my total trip time (which did unfortunately end up being accurate). I also noticed that at the very exit I had just stopped for gas, there was a road that paralleled the highway that I could have taken. When I looked to the right off the highway, I could even see that very road. It was completely empty. Naturally, I was immediately frustrated and started grumbling to myself when all of a sudden, I realized what I was doing – hindering myself from finding God in the present moment. I was reminded of the story we heard about finding joy in all circumstances and praising God for whatever it is you do have.
I started doing exactly this. I first thanked God that it was not me that was in the wreck that was causing this delay, and that instead, I had had a safe trip thus far. I thanked Him for the fact that I had just refueled before hitting this traffic, for there being no specific time I had to arrive home, for my not having young children in the car to entertain or find a bathroom for, as I’m sure many of these drivers were having to deal with. The more I thanked Him for everything that was happening in that moment, the more peaceful and joyful I felt, despite the frustration of crawling along at 4-10 miles per hour. I then noticed that I was at a point on the map where the road that I could have taken veered off to the right a bit and should no longer be visible from the highway. I looked over at the road to see this turn, and my jaw dropped. Although there would have been no way of knowing it from simply looking at the map, the parallel road had turned to gravel at this point, and went up an extremely steep incline. There is no way my ’96 sedan would have been able to tackle that even if I had noticed this alternate route ahead of time and taken it instead. Although it wasn’t exactly a burning bush, it was still a nice reminder to me of how God can truly use any set of circumstances, including those which appear to simply be mundane and annoying, to remind you of His presence and to point you further in the direction of expressing the beauty in His creation.
So for all of the realizations from this retreat, I am thankful. I am thankful that I serve a God who can give life, meaning, and beauty to every point of my life. I am thankful that I have a church home that is full of others who share their experiences of how God does so in their lives. Most of all, though, I am thankful for the promise that He makes all things new and beautiful. Sometimes, we just need a little encouragement to notice that.
By Doris Claiborne
We just finished another wonderful, great, beautiful, very meaningful retreat. Rhonda Abbott Blevins did a masterful job leading us through the many ways we find that all things REALLY are beautiful. Rhonda’s theme was “All Things Beautiful.” She had us write poetry about our past, introduced us to chocolate as something beautiful, helped us see our lives through videos, and our meals weren’t too shabby either! I told the group that one of things I miss the most are “hugs.” Hugs seem to disappear as we age and especially if we live alone. But the greatest thing has happened as a result of the Broadway Women’s Retreat.....I am getting lots of hugs! and they feel so gooood! Rhonda is very correct.....All Things are Beautiful.