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  • Sep 29
    Women's Retreat Sierra Pines Church Oakhurst
  • Oct 14
    Faith Community Ladies' Luncheon Acampo
  • Oct 27
    Women's Retreat Fowler Presbyterian Church Oakhurst
  • Nov 4
    First Presbyterian Ladies' Luncheon Bakersfield

Sierra Pines Church

12 Ways to Turn Your Pain into Praise

Sapphires from Psalms

Better Than Jewels

One of my greatest desires is to bring joy to people by saying the right word at the right time. I want God’s love to shine through me, so I pray that my words will speak healing to those God brings across my path. And he often arranges for others to return the favor.

 Nancy’s Note

One of the best parts of my ministry is working with women at retreats. Whether I’m speaking to a group or counseling one-on-one, I feel God’s power and presence during those weekends that are devoted to him. That was true the weekend I met Nancy.

The retreat had been planned for well over a year. It would offer activities that required hours of meticulous planning. In order to attend, a lady had to be sponsored by someone else. We wanted all of the women to feel God’s attentive love as they experienced the care that went into this well-organized weekend.

The plan seemed to be working for everyone but Nancy. She was edgy and distant, even uncooperative. When it was time for a group activity, she sat alone. When we announced it was time to change activities, she became temperamental. After the first day of the event, our leaders met to debrief and assess how the women were responding. Nancy’s name came up.

“I’m afraid she’ll miss out on all the amazing revelations that God could have for her this weekend,” Janie commented.

Susan chimed in. “Valerie worked so hard on her sponsorship. She even got Nancy’s husband to write a letter that she will give her while she’s here. I don’t want either Nancy or Valerie to miss the blessings this weekend has to offer.”

“Linda, will you talk to Nancy?” the event coordinator asked.

“I’ll try,” I replied, “but she doesn’t seem to be responding to anyone. So you pray and I’ll do my part.”

As the women were being ushered toward a generous snack table, I tapped Nancy on the shoulder. “Got a minute?” I asked, beckoning her to follow me. As we walked toward a quiet spot on the church campus, I said, “How’s it going? Are you enjoying the retreat?”

“Is it that obvious?” Nancy responded. “I told my sponsor I really didn’t want to be here, but she has counted on my attending this weekend for eight months. If I didn’t think it would crush her, I’d walk away right now. I’m not in the mood to listen to a bunch of inspirational speakers. This has been the toughest week of my life.”

“What happened?” I asked, patting the chair beside me. That’s all it took. With a flood of tears, Nancy described events that would have wrecked a weaker woman.

“My husband Kal and I run a foster home for four at-risk adolescent boys. Last weekend he attended the men’s version of this retreat, so I had all four boys by myself. They’re a handful. I was looking forward to Monday so I could catch my breath. But on Sunday afternoon, my sister called and told me that her thirty-eight-year-old husband had committed suicide.

“My sister Karen is an emotional wreck,” Nancy continued. “They have two boys, twelve and fourteen. So the minute Kal walked in the door, I drove four hours north. Karen could barely keep it together, so I had to handle the funeral arrangements and manage the boys. One minute they were crying inconsolably and the next they were acting out.”

I nodded. Those grief reactions could be expected from kids that age. “You must be exhausted,” I said.

“I am. The funeral was Thursday. Karen wanted it done quickly to get closure for herself and her boys. I got home just in time to come here.”

“You were there for your sister. Who was there for you?” I asked.

“Kal would have been, but he had to care for our boys. So it’s just been God and me dealing with this. I don’t know about him, but I’m drained.” She laughed and cried at the same time.

“I’m glad you haven’t lost your sense of humor. I probably would have by now. Nancy, I think the events of this weekend could be just what you need. It’s about so much more than just hearing other ladies teach from the Bible. But if I tell you what’s to come, it will ruin some surprises your sponsor has worked so hard to prepare. I have a prayer exercise to suggest. I think it will help you dump some of your grief and stress, so you’ll be ready to receive all God has for you this weekend.”

“Won’t the leaders be frustrated if I’m not with the group? I know they already think I’m uncooperative.”
            “Let’s let them go on to the next activity. We’ll have our own retreat right here—you, me, and Jesus. What do you say?”

“I’m in,” Nancy said, with the first smile I had seen from her all weekend.

We went through the prayer exercise.[1] When we were done, a look of relief came over her. The edgy lady was gone and a caring Christian sister emerged. She prayed for me and the rest of the ladies on the retreat. We took turns praying for her sister and the boys. Time seemed to stand still as we lingered in the Lord’s presence. Over an hour later, we returned to the group. Nancy joined in. She listened, laughed, and learned with the other women. Later that day, she thanked me for taking the time to pray with her.

“It was my pleasure,” I said, hugging her.

The week after the retreat, I sent Nancy a card to let her know I was still praying for her. It had a picture of a lamb resting serenely in the arms of Jesus. The artist made clear that the Lord was so attentive to the creature he’s cradling that it could relax in utter repose. Inside, I wrote Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” I signed it, “Praying for you—Linda.”

Two years passed. I was living in a twenty-foot travel trailer with my husband and three teenagers, two dogs, and a cat. We were building a new home on six acres at the end of the world. In order to save money, we had moved to the property with no phone and no power except a generator that I had to pull-start every day in the pouring rain of an El Niño winter.

My twelve-year-old daughter, Ashley, needed to have emergency heart surgery. We literally would have to live in UCLA’s cardiac unit for a couple of weeks. As I stopped at the post office to pick up our mail, I noticed an envelope with Nancy’s return address. Opening it, I found the very card that I had sent her. She had crossed through her name and wrote my name instead. There was a note at the bottom saying, “I don’t know what’s going on in your life right now, but you have been heavy on my mind. I felt led to pray for you and send this card back to you.”

She could not have known all that I was experiencing, but our Lord did. Lord, you really do have my back. Thank you for summoning Christian friends when I need them most.

 



[1] Linda Newton, Twelve Ways to Turn Your Pain into Praise (Anderson, IN: Warner Press, 2008), 27–33.

Comments

May 23, 2016 @09:54 pm

Thx for sharing this wonderful story and what Jesus Can do for us if we let him. This story is just what I needed a to read today to help me with the faith to get through my struggles. I love that verse and have been carrying it with me recently as a reminder. Thank you!

Sheila paige
 

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