Thursday, May 15, 2014

R & R

John's Magnolia tree was amazing
Last fall, I was invited to speak at a women's retreat in British Columbia, the gorgeous province I grew up in. It was already snowing here when I was asked so of course, I said yes to May in BC, spring, and a chance to catch up with a really amazing group of women that have impacted my life in a lot of ways.  Oh, and to speak in front of a group of women as well. 

If I was enthusiastic in my yes, it was matched only by the nervousness I felt as the date drew closer, and yet, I prepared and went through with it.  The self-doubt came right on schedule with questions like, "Who do you think you are to stand up and tell people this story?" or "What if they think you're wasting their time. They paid good money for this." Argh... Writing is challenging but I tell myself it's me and the computer. It's hard at times to tell your story out loud. It's harder still when you're standing in front of a group of people, most of whom you don't know, and speaking it out loud. In my mind, I was wondering why on earth, this small story of mine would mean anything to anyone else. 

Throughout the weekend, I was able to get to know a bunch of women who really connected with the way that God weaves together lives from all different backgrounds, and brings something quite extraordinary out of the ordinary.  Sitting in the room, as I told my story, was a table surrounded by some pretty influential women in my life. They may not have ever known how influential but I was able to spend some time with them and reflect with them on what our lives intersecting has meant for all of us. Seriously, such a gift. Julie and Kim were just kids, too young for our youth group when we first started at their little church back in 1994. Daphne and Faye and Linda are great women who just give and give and give and with such joy. Little did I know how many times throughout the last 20 years I would reflect on their example and their cheerfulness and their humour in the midst of many different experiences. Michelle and her husband, Glen, were just a young couple with kids when I met them and I remember as a newlywed, looking at them, just steps ahead of us in life, and watch them as they laughed and groaned and just wrangled kids in general. One morning, I woke up early and went out and was able to sit with Faye for awhile and it was just seriously so good to just be around her. This woman has prayed for our kids and us as a couple for years.  Long before we even WANTED them, she was praying those boys into our household with great joy and mischief. 

These amazing women have been in my life for 20 years ~ lucky me!

There were such restorative moments on this trip, ever so unexpected with the tension of speaking. It was so fun to watch a variety of women hike up the mountainside to zip line down across the lake. I watched each one as they approached with every emotion on their sleeve. Some approached it with an adventurous spirit, like Daphne who didn't flinch as she got strapped in and up on the platform, to launch herself off, or Jodi, who flew upside down through the air beside me, with arms outstretched and a huge grin on her face. I snapped a few photos of her mid air, though my camera was strapped to my side, as I flew head first towards the lake.  What I really loved is how there was instant camaraderie between the women on the zip line. Standing at the top, they either shared fears or one would encourage the other....however convincingly. It really was a beautiful picture of how we should feel walking into adventure together, encouraging each other to take the leap and enjoy the ride. Too often women talk one another OUT of adventures and excitement, spurring each other on to the practical and the sensible. If I do nothing else, let me surround myself with women who will egg me on to adventure not join me in the mundane.

Tammy showing Hannah how to take on the zip line "Superman" style.
Although the retreat was not entirely restful because I was speaking, the beautiful setting put me entirely at ease. There is something about being outside in nature that really just allows me to unwind. Sad that I live in a place where the winters last so long with no skiing to speak of...

Take a hike...

This beautiful view each morning

And though I am an introvert, it was really the remaining days of my week in BC that allowed me to rest. I spent an afternoon with some girls from our first youth group there, now all grown up and gorgeous. Marah and her husband, Matt, just returned to Peachland to live and when joined by Tina, it was just a good time to hang out and catch up on life. These girls have figured friendships out and our "Peachland Girls" remain some of the dearest girls in our lives, 20 years later. We have watched them figure out life as girls in high school, as young women stretching out on their own in different directions, as wives and as moms, as single women, as career women and as leaders and contributors in their communities. They all have their own amazing qualities but put this particular group of women together and I challenge anyone to come between them and whatever they set their hearts on. I love them as fiercely as they love one another and it's always so good to just sit in their company - even when it's just one or two of them - and catch up. 
The isthmus in Oyama. 

My style guru, T.
Then, my friend, Danielle, picked me up and we headed out to her neck of the woods. We met up with Char (who is the Samwise to my Frodo) and we packed altogether too much food and fun into a weekend on the Shuswap. It was one of those weekends that flies by entirely too fast and involved a lot of laughter, tears, hiking, tromping through creeks, rope ladder climbing, fully clothed swimming in a frigid lake, scrabble, blended drinks, wine, cheese and chick flicks. I think the only time we stopped talking was when we were sleeping. There was even an impromptu dance party on the deck as we packed up to leave. All in all, it was one of those weeks that make me want to dig deeper into the relationships that I have for this. This is the payoff. Relationships that stand the double barrels of time and distance. Picking up where you left off and being able to be yourself, without pretence, these are the gifts for the awkward first days of friendship and figuring out chemistry between very different women in very different stages of life.
A short (never long enough) meander through an amazing little used bookshop in Vernon, BC. 


When I was leaving the retreat last weekend, Faye caught up to me in the hallway at one point and looked very earnestly into my face and asked me a really amazing question. She asked if Jason and I knew how very deeply we were loved and remembered for our time of ministry in their church. It caught me off guard, and the beauty of it has come back to me over the week and even this morning, as I got ready for work. We knew we were deeply loved while we were working in that church. Our first pastor, Pastor Larry, and his wife, Marilyn, showed us such love and grace and completely shared their lives with us. We knew it because we shared our lives very openly with both the kids in the youth group and with those that went to the church. I honestly believe that that openness and the depth with which we invested ourselves into those kids is the reason we have the 20 year friendships with those kids, now grown, today. When Faye asked me that, I told her that I do know that.  I did. I had heard it echo throughout the weekend spending it with her and the others who had come to the retreat.  I maybe thought the fondness and love for that time in our lives and those we came in contact was perhaps one sided or at least tilted in our favour, for we were the ones who left. Again, what a gift it is when someone speaks earnestly and truthfully about things we assume one another knows.  Thank you, Faye, from the bottom of my cracked and mended heart.

I learned a lot about myself this week. I have often been afraid to make a fool of myself even if it meant someone will enjoy the laughter of it all. I have been afraid to speak my story even if it meant that someone will see the importance of their own story. I was afraid to meet up with people I love from my past in case they saw greater flaws in me than they remembered and didn't love me quite so deeply. What I found out this week? That when I step over that roadblock of fear, that there are those willing to laugh with me, learn their own importance and love me even more deeply than I deserve.  

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