The first weekend of Fall 2012 was a very special time for me that I will hold dear to my heart for a very long time. Brenda, Sonja, Jeni, Frieda, Tara, Aunt Mary, Mom, Tiffany and Sheryl, you are the most precious, special women in my life. You unselfishly carved out a time set aside to celebrate our friendship, sister hood and girlfriends. Thank-you from the bottom of my heart, you made me feel so special and loved.
We all made the journey coming from different directions to meet at the picturesque Mountain Harbor Resort nestled in the Ouachita Mountains surrounded by the crystal clear waters of Lake Ouachita outside Hot Springs, Arkansas. The setting was even more beautiful than I had envisioned. The spectacular view from our deck overlooking the lake with the mountains hovering in the background was picture perfect, like a post card. The sunsets were breathtaking with their ribbons of taffy candy in deep purples, reds, pinks, gold’s, yellows, oranges and amber. The sunrises over the mountains harbor were just as exquisite, however lasting a while longer than the sunsets, as we sipped our hot coffee and hot chocolate with blankets tucked in around us to keep us toasty warm in the comfy chairs on our deck looking on to the lake. I am quite certain you each felt and saw the presence of God in all we did throughout the whole weekend. He was really showing off His Majesty and Grandeur for us; like giving us an upgrade to a bigger even better cottage for the same rate, to the beautiful scenes and harmonious sounds we beheld in every direction we turned, to the precious twin baby deer feeding with their mommy on the mountain path as we were leaving the final day, to the last hour at Loco Bonita Ranch where we loved on the horses and goats and pot belly pig and then enjoyed the creamiest ice cream cone I have had in a very long time. It was ALL PERECT!
The temperatures were terrific too; I do not think we could have placed an order for any better weather. We got to experience it all, didn’t we? The evenings were cool and crisp and the hot tub felt delightfully relaxing and then during the day we wore short sleeves and sandals as we picnicked and walked around the nature trails and ventured into town to see the city from atop West Mountain and Hot Springs Mountain. Even watching the storm roll in from the northwest over the mountains with the flashes of lighting and thunderous sounds, God was present. We all felt peaceful and calm as the cool breeze rustled through the tall pines. God just quieted our souls as sat still in His awesomeness. It was all beautiful and good!
As I take this moment to reflect back upon the highlights of our 60+ hours together, my heart is filled with warmth and I am overjoyed at the thought of my amazingly, awesome girlfriends. How do I choose a favorite moment, is it really impossible to do? From the very moment of our arrival, the anticipation of what the weekend was about to unfold was thrilling. As each group arrived, the warm embraces and hellos filled the air and the shared laughter began immediately. Gentle touches and pats on the back and encouraging words and complements filled the room as we smiled and laughed and caught up on the most recent events of our lives and our families. Some of you had never met one another, only having heard stories of mine as I introduced you. One would have thought you all had known each other for decades by the way you all laughed and carried on. We all let our hair down, had a great time, got a little crazy and maybe just a “little” noisy, but we did respect the “quiet time” didn’t we? We had no plans, no pretenses, no itinerary or agenda; we were going to flow with wherever the wind blew us. The conversation and time of sharing was extremely special to me, with words spoken in truth, honesty, love and forgiveness, something very dear to my heart. We shared stories from our lives, the struggles, survival and triumphs, some cried as they spoke while others reached out to take the hand of the one crying to offer support. We shared a time of gratitude and thankfulness and how tremendously blessed we all are to be where we are in our lives today. We shared differing perspectives and insights into one another’s lives and feelings, we prayed for one another, lifting up our petitions and requests to Father God. We encouraged one another, we sang songs of praise and worship, mentioning and speaking of the good things of God. Sonja and Jeni shared some of their thoughts and personal dealings with depression and how it touched their lives and how they dealt with the effects of it and survived to be where they are today. The two of them were so incredibly honest, sharing their hearts and baring their souls with us. How amazing it is to feel safe in the midst of women to share your true feelings?
Everyone was so accepting and loving and told how they could relate on so many levels with what others were facing and going through. We were all touched and I believe God met each of us where we were in our personal struggles and needs and supplied the right information and encouragement at the right time. We all voiced the same opinion about friendships; women tend to be so hard, critical and judgmental of other women. Making friends and maintaining friendships does not come easy for most women, they are distrusting and often times for good reasons. Many women have been betrayed and hurt terribly by another and in general, women can be mean, jealous, spiteful and hateful to other women. Being a friend and having friends takes effort and work, it takes investing in someone else. The fruit and rewards of nurturing a friendship are well worth it, from my personal experience, for I have a huge, fragrant bouquet of friends. To have friends, one must take a step out of your comfort zone and speak to someone else. It is absolutely ok to be the one that calls or visits first or more often. I have learned that many times, when that particular person is brought to your mind, there is a very good reason. They may be going through a difficult time and not necessarily know what to do, but your phone call or visit may bring the answer, often a simple note that says, ‘I was thinking of you today” can brighten a darkened moment. You can meet people everywhere, I have made a very good friend in a really awkward introduction, but we are still close today. Maybe the stranger in the exercise or yoga class or the new hire at work or the neighbor that moved in a month ago that you still haven’t spoken or maybe the new single mom that has visited your church now for a few Sunday’s; they may be your next “best” girlfriend.
We all have been hurt by other women, but keep trying. We need to put ourselves out there and open our eyes and our hearts and be open to new people and new things. For me, reaching out to someone else is how I overcame the deepest, darkest days of depression in my life. It is amazing, once you start to talk to others, you realize you are not alone, your life and your problems are at times not as bad as you thought. No man is an island; we are all connected and are all one! When we learn to stop cutting ourselves off from others, seeing ourselves as separate and start seeing we are all one, loved by God and are all His children, we will stop feeling alone and isolated.
Friendship comes in many shapes, colors, ages and professions. The group of ladies I invited to share this special time together ranged in age from 21 to 76, over a half century age gap. We had Paralegals, Nurses, Teachers, Ministers, Singers, Office Workers, Sales Professionals, Retired and Mom’s, Aunts, Sister’s and Grandma’s present. The stories, advice and lessons learned, along with lots reminiscing of dating and marriage in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 2000’s we shared, I am still soaking it all up. I have always valued my friendships and I believe each one is special, unique and valuable in many ways. This weekend, I set out to share my friends with one another and exemplify the value of friendship. Just as I prayed, it happened; new friendships were created and old friendships were reunited and relationships were rekindled. Each one left a little happier, a little lighter, more refreshed and relaxed, along with new phone numbers, addresses and memories and pictures to cherish. We all are stronger and feel as if our heads are clearer and can breathe a little deeper because of the time we set aside for this special weekend enjoying God’s creation and a little piece of Heaven.
The reason this weekend was so special for me is that I chose a 15 year period of my life that was the most difficult I had ever endured. Through those years, each of you precious ladies lives crossed mine (there were others invited but could not make it: Marsha, Lorraine, Misty, Kathy, Dawn, Sherry, Lynn, Kelli, Rosie and Rita) and some I knew before and others I met during this hard time. As I looked at each of you, your beautiful faces and smiles and you gave me the incredible healing hugs you each do so well, I think back to the day we met and the incredible journey you have made thus far and the great, influential impact each has had on my life. I am so grateful and have been so incredibly blessed with your presence in my life. Whatever it was that brought you into my life, our paths crossed for a reason. We may weave in and out of one another’s lives through the years, but when we get together it is as if we have never spent a day apart. I am so thankful for the special position you have played in my life. You each loved me at times I was unlovable, you loved me unconditionally, you rebuked my stubborn ways, you showed me when I was wrong and corrected my bad behavior, you held me in your arms as I cried, you often times cried along with me, you prayed for me, you sat with me holding my hand when no words were necessary, you laughed when I laughed and rejoiced when I rejoiced and you have remained forever close in my heart. You each have left your mark upon my life and I am where I am today because you loved me and cared enough to speak truth into my life.
Each one of you are so beautiful, you are created and chosen and highly favored by Father God, you have a special call upon your life to do a work that only you can fulfill. Each of you is unique and each has different likes and dislikes, personalities, quirks, tastes and styles, political beliefs and religious upbringings and is as different as each individuals fingerprint. Yet, we all have each other in common and the fact of how special you are to me. You were brought into my life at a precise time, “for such a time as this” and I will forever be here for you the way you have been for me. I love you with all my heart and my prayer for you is that you will come to the fullest knowledge of just how much your heavenly Father loves you. He desires to do good things for you and to bless you abundantly and beyond any of your imaginings. I pray you will be mindful and have a grateful attitude for even the smallest of blessings in your lives. May you never forget to thank Him for His amazing grace, mercy, love and forgiveness He so freely gave to us. I encourage you to take a moment each day, especially when the stresses of life begin to overwhelm you, close your eyes, take a deep breath through your nose, hold it and exhale, do it again and hold letting all your fears, worries and concerns leave your soul as you exhale. Feel your heartbeat? That is Him. Feel His arms around you? That is His very presence. Walk in that peace knowing He is with you always. He loves you; He is crazy in love with you!
I love you too my friends, I can hardly wait for next year and the celebration of our second “girlfriends retreat”!
October 1, 2012