Thanks for the Blessing

Elizabeth Marchman deer
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God ~ Psalm 42:1

Each May, our church’s women’s ministry hosts a retreat.  It lasts from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon.  It is a wonderful time of reflection, spiritual reconnection with God and for many, a time of healing.  The first year I went, I was nervous.  Never having been to a retreat, I had no idea what to expect.  I also had a non-committal attitude.  I did not want to lead prayer, a small group or be involved in anything administrative.  If I went unnoticed for the entire weekend that suited me just fine.  I remember praying to God, “Just make me anonymous”.  At the time, I was a newer member to our congregation and I was a back-pew-dwelling-slink-out-as-the-last-word-of-prayer-was-uttered kind of Christian girl.  On Saturday night of our retreats, we have a Prayer and Healing service.  The lights are dimmed, soothing voices whisper scripture and the worship team softly plays and sings hymns.  That first healing service I sat adamantly glued to my chair.  I wasn’t going to a prayer corner.  I refused to be prayed over.  However, this was as far as God would allow me to go and remain anonymous.  I knew I needed healing.  I knew why.  I knew for what.  Still, I made every argument to God about why I shouldn’t have to go and He made it impossible for me not to obey.  As I stumbled over my own two feet, tears streamed in a river down my cheeks.  I couldn’t speak, but it did not matter.  Prayers began to be lifted up to God, hands were laid on my shoulders, my back, my head.  I was anointed with oil.  I can not tell you how long the praying lasted, but when it was over there were so many women around me that a chain had been formed so that the women in the outer circle were linked to the women touching me.  Before that night, I had never experienced the Holy Spirit in such a mighty and all-consuming way.  And make no mistake, I was consumed.  For the next year, I spent time exploring how God was transforming me, how He was preparing me, and for what.  I no longer wasted time questioning the whys.  I questioned the whats.  Constantly on my lips was the question, “what’s next God?”

Last year was my second opportunity to attend our women’s retreat.  I was asked to help with the art committee and I agreed.  Then I said, “Ok, God, I’ll give a little, but not too much ok?”  Later that night, as I lay in bed, I was flooded with the memory and emotion of the previous year’s retreat.  God had required nothing of me, but had given me a priceless gift of emotional healing.  I changed my prayer and offered myself up to God, “You tell me what you need God.  This time I want to be there for you.”  Now, this came with an unspoken disclaimer – I am no public speaker.  God knows this, but of course, God has a sense of humor like no other.  Over the next few weeks, I assisted the art committee with this and that – nothing special, just filling in with small things that needed to be done.  Finally, the weekend of the retreat arrived and by then, I had also agreed to lead a small group.  I assumed this was the extent of God’s request of me and I went about my business.  I thanked God for the opportunity, but begged Him not to let me screw it up.  He honored my request.  Then, He his fun with me began. Everywhere I turned it seemed, someone wanted me to speak about something.  Could I speak about how Secret Sisters had impacted me?  Could I lead morning prayer?  As my head screamed, “No! No! No! This requires public speaking”.  My heart said yes because I had promised whatever He needed.  It was important to me that I prove to God He could trust me and it was also important that I understand that I could trust God to work through me in the tasks He chooses for me to accomplish.  If memory serves correctly, there were about 43 women there and most, seasoned and eloquent “public” speakers and prayers.  But He asked me.  If He asked me, He had confidence in me.  And if God has confidence in me to complete some task He has asked me to do, then who can change the course He has set.  Who can change the words He wants spoken?  So with His words on my lips, I spoke and I prayed and through the weekend I was quietly told from other women how my testimony blessed and about the sweetness of my morning prayer.  And that was enough confirmation for me to know that God was pleased with my obedience.  

But here is the real blessing.

On Sunday morning, after our service, I quietly slipped out.  The retreat center is on the other side of a neighborhood.  Between the two is 100 yards of a connecting asphalt.  I left the parking lot and rounded the corner turning onto this connecting road.  It had been raining all weekend and the morning was misty and cold.  Through the mist, I saw a deer standing in the middle of this road.  I stopped the car.  I waited.  From the side of the road, two more deer appeared and they all crossed together.  I was so happy, I said a quick prayer of thanks.  I love to see deer along country roads.  I always get excited to just see one and here were three.  I slowly eased forward sure that I would be able to watch for a moment as they foraged for food on the other side.  As I pulled forward, more deer began to emerge.  I was so happy at this point, and a little embarrassed to admit, that I actually squealed with delight.  One deer kept looking back from where they had come.  I followed its gaze.  In the edge of the wood were eight more deer waiting for it to be safe to cross the road.  I turned off the car and waited.  A moment later, they all crossed together.  All total, there were twelve deer.

A gift from God because He delights in my happiness.

Yesterday, I drove to the retreat center because I had a meeting since – you guessed it – I am head of the art committee.  I took a friend along for the ride.  Yesterday morning, as I was contemplating my blog entry, I was telling God, “I remember the deer from last year.  Maybe it would make a nice post.”  And wouldn’t you know it, when we were leaving the retreat center, I was telling my friend, “this is where I saw those deer last year”.  And she smiled as she looked past me.  I turned to look out my window and there were 5 deer standing at the edge of the road amongst the trees and snow.  We stopped and watched and they watched us back.  This time I had my camera.  This time I have pictures.  As I drove away, I was given a new revelation into the depth of God’s character – when I speak, God listens.  Not just when I am asking for a prayer to be answered.  Not just when I have a need or I am venting frustration.  He listens when I speak because He is the ultimate friend.  Always there in good times and bad with a heart to share joy and a shoulder to catch tears.  Yesterday, He gave me joy.  Not because I asked.  Just because He is God.  And God is good.

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