Monday, March 14, 2016

The Wonderful Women Of My Week

Last year's women's retreat.  Don't think we'll be playing broom hockey on the frozen lake this year. 
Yesterday at church, I gave an announcement about our upcoming women's retreat. (April 15-17th. You should come!) I love planning for this event each year. I love helping to provide the opportunity for fellowship, good biblical content, and a refreshingly fun time away for the women of my church (and now three other churches as well). It got me thinking about how much I love the women of my church as well as how thankful I am for the other women God has so specifically and generously placed in my life, which then got me thinking about the week-full of women that led up to yesterday.

It really was FULL.  Just take a look. 
MONDAY: This is Sarah, and I only really met her last Thursday. (Technically, I met her about four years ago at a Chili's in Ft. Worth, but that was too quick to count.) I said goodbye to Sarah and her husband Christian on Tuesday morning after spending much of the extended weekend with them ~ even went to Worcester and Boston with them all day Friday.  Robert took them to Vermont all day Monday, and then they were back here for dinner Monday night. They were here checking out the church planting scene and trying to discern a call to ministry in this part of the country. Sarah homeschools four children ages six to twelve and works part time at her church organizing the children's ministry there. Full of life and faith and spunk and practical wisdom, it was so good to laugh together and share background and ministry experiences with her. Don't tell her, but I'm hoping and praying that they come to live in Massachusetts for good.
TUESDAY MORNING: I teach at Classical Conversations all day Tuesday, but sometime early in the day I got a text from my longtime friend Shemaiah. (Not the best pic, sorry.  Had to take a pic of a pic.) We keep in fairly constant contact and prayer this way, especially lately, as the Lord has her on one of the most difficult journeys of her life so far.  It involves a very sick husband (also a longtime and dear friend) who's been in and out of the hospital more times than any of us can count at this point (actually, Shemaiah probably knows the count), and an adoption process that is quite tenuous and extremely emotional. I don't know if there is anyone in my life whom God has entrusted with the amount of trial and suffering this godly friend has carried, but she does it with great faith and strength. She is a constant reminder to me of God's power, sovereignty, and intimate involvement in our lives, and she has been since she was a freshman at Oklahoma State University (which was a LONG time ago).
 TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Our typical routine after Classical Conversations is to take all of our teens to Barnes and Noble for coffee drinks and socializing. (Sometimes I think my homeschooler has way too much socializing.  I can hardly keep up.) Lately though, they've been practicing for a Shakespeare play and have to stay at the church where we meet until after 6pm. That meant that my friend Deb and I could have a Barnes and Noble date by ourselves. I love catching up with Deb and appreciate so much her listening ear and her faithfulness to pray for me ~ always following up and even letting me know how the Lord is leading her to pray specifically.  This particular coffee date really helped me to process a couple of recent struggles, and I'm especially thankful for Deb's gentle, godly wisdom, as well as her willingness to share her own struggles.
Here's Deb again as well as four other WONDERFUL women I get to interact with on a weekly basis.
WEDNESDAY: This is Lizzie.  She's a sophomore at Smith College. (I could be her mom.) Lizzie goes to my church and comes to our Sunday lunch/afternoon discipleship group. Several Sunday mornings ago, I said this to Robert: "I'd really love to start going over to Smith and hanging out with Lizzie and maybe a few of the other girls." Fast forward a few hours, and Lizzie was standing in my kitchen after our small group asking if I might have some time to meet with her in the coming weeks. No doubt that the Lord worked that one out. This past Wednesday we planned to meet at the cafe we had met at previously, but then she texted and suggested getting ice cream at Herrell's since it was nearly 80 degrees. Perfect!  The line was long, so we opted for bubble tea and frozen yogurt down the street, and had a great conversation about her time at a political convention over the weekend, school, family dynamics, God, the Bible, boys, and marriage.  Lizzie is brilliant and brave, and earnestly seeking to grow in Christ.  What a joy to be with her.
 THURSDAY EARLY MORNING: You probably already guessed that Betsy would show up in this list.  We have a run-five-miles-every-Thursday-morning-date. (Well, except for the six Thursdays of winter that we carpool to snow ski in Vermont for a ski school program.) We pack in all of our catching up for the week in this hour of running and driveway chatting, and I love it. Betsy's faith and joy are contagious, and a Thursday never goes by that she doesn't share with me what she's reading in her Bible or praying about, wrestling through, and confessing. This enables me to freely share the same things.  I don't know about you, but this doesn't always happen naturally in friendships with other women.  I'm so thankful she paved the way for this type of authenticity.
Betsy and I have had lots of adventures together, from half-marathons, to White Mountain Backpacking Trips (Yikes), to cross country skiing, to downhill skiing, to soccer games, and basketball games, graduations, and weddings of children. I'm so, so thankful that she's a regular part of my week.
THURSDAY MID MORNING:  Ran home from Betsy's, took a shower, checked in with Kayla on schoolwork, and headed to Gardner for a late breakfast with Christina who is a fellow pastor's wife. (She is also the worship director at her church and the mom of two grown sons.) I got to hear about her recent trip to Rwanda to work with pastors and wives and their churches there.  She brought me Rwandan coffee and shared about the spiritual warfare that seemed evident on their trip overseas as well as the reality of it in their church recently. And not only the battles, but the victories, too. It helps me so much to hear her stories and gives me a more realistic perspective on church ministry. Christina is a deep thinker and full of compassion. She has been a constant and intentional encourager to me through the years (emails and texts and phone calls), and Robert and I have both been helped by Christina and her husband Neal's friendship and godly counsel lately.
FRIDAY: Lauralee and I have been trying to make a lunch date work for about a year now, and we finally accomplished it on Friday. I first met Lauralee just after Kayla (who is about to turn 16) was born and she brought over a meal and a hand painted (by her!) t-shirt as a gift. I didn't even know her! We were new to MA, and the church we attended while planting ours graciously ministered to us by providing a couple of weeks worth of meals once we got home from the hospital with baby #3. Just knowing this about Lauralee should tell you what a kind and compassionate woman she is. Recently, she and her family became members of our church, and so we have re-connected. Lauralee loves the Lord and young people so much. You can usually find her participating in some crazy Young Life skit or mission trip, cheering on teenagers (who are not even her own, but don't tell her that) at their sporting events, or shedding tears over God's goodness and work in other people's lives. We had a heart to heart about life and marriage and parenting over salads at Panera Bread.  Such a sweet time.
SATURDAY: Kayla had play practice until 6pm on Saturday evening. I picked her up and we drove straight to Wilbraham, so that we could spend the evening with one of her best friends, Mary, and one of mine, Izckra ~ Mary's mom. This is just the perfect arrangement. Really. Both moms and both daughters love each other dearly and have for over 12 years. We all went out together for my birthday last month. So fun. Saturday night Kayla and Mary ate pizza at home, baked cookies, and watched a movie while Izckra and I spent about two and a half hours at a local restaurant trying to catch up on each other's lives as best as we could. Izckra is one of the wisest, strongest women I know. And joyful. Her spirits are always up and her eyes are always on Christ even in the most difficult times. I treasure time with her so much.

Now that I've finished telling you about all of these wonderful women, I almost feel guilty. Women are not always easy to relate with, and yet so much of my week was spent being encouraged by women who are full of life and wisdom.  Women who love me for who I really am. Women who love their Lord with their whole lives. Women who are so gifted and so committed to their work, studies, husbands, children, churches. Women who make me want to grow in grace and surrender to the Spirit's work in my life. Women who challenge and sharpen me.

And this was just one week. I didn't even get to mention Kayla (my own daughter is a huge blessing and example to me), or Sarah, or Karla, or Aimee, or Amy, or Chris, or Christie, or Jenna, or Jenn, or Katie, or Kelly, or Kim, or Yvette, or Sherri, or Nichelle, or Rachel, or Rayna, or Molly, or Becky, or Deborah, or Mandie, or Melissa, or Mariah, or Melinda, or Laurie, or Romy, or Lois, or Cindy, or Isabelle or a hundred others, really.

Wonderful women from a recent summer small group.
Some weeks it's more giving than receiving, more ministry than friendship (not this week though!), but really, no matter what, I always receive something in the spending of time with women. God knows my desperate need, and He's provided so generously. Today, I'm thanking Him for the gift of many friendships with incredible women.

And I'm praying that our upcoming women's retreat fosters both intimacy with Christ and with other women.  We have so far to grow in Him and so much to gain from each other in that process.

P.S. Listing all of these women makes me think I should feature one per week on a more in-depth level.  What do you think? That would take me quite a while ~ years actually ~ but it would be really fun. If I did feature a woman per week, what questions would you want her to answer? What things would you like to know?

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