44 going on 13...

The chapel framing a most beautiful sky...
This past weekend I turned 44 and had the privilege of traveling to the mountains in the company of 42 thirteen year old young ladies who are preparing for Confirmation in the Spring. Originally, I wasn't going to go since it was my birthday weekend and I was inclined to be home with my family. God had something else in mind. I am always amazed at how God arranges things to make sure what He needs these beautiful young women to hear and experience, happens. The only thing He requires of the adults is to get out of His way and for once that is exactly what we did.

Whenever we plan one of these retreats there is a tremendous amount of preparation that goes into it. There are the physical details, finding and booking the retreat center, making sure there are enough chaperones, reserving the right size bus, as well as making sure all the physical needs of the girls can be met (food, snacks, extra pillows, blankets, etc.).

Then there are the spiritual preparations which I think are the most difficult since every year we take a different group of girl with a different set of issues that need God's guidance and healing. We began praying as a team two months ago for Our Lord to reveal what was going to be needed to meet the girls  needs on this weekend. What came to us in those weeks was a powerful message of unconditional love.

The lake reflecting God's beauty and love...
We (the adults chaperones) were asked to be a conduit to help introduce them to who God is...Their Beloved...Lover of Their Soul...He never dissappoints. He never makes mistakes. Jesus rushed to the cross like a lover who gave everything for the woman who holds his heart. These themes were pressed into our hearts over the course of the time we prepared to meet these girls right wherever they were in their personal relationships with God.

I knew then that this weekend would be different from the many others I had been on team for. These young woman needed to know they are loved fully and completely by their Savior,  with every fault and sin present. They were still the most precious jewels in God's eyes.

As we arrived very early Saturday morning and greeted the girls, you could feel their apprehension. They were not excited to be shuttled away to a mountain top to talk about Jesus all weekend. When we asked how many came because their parents told them they had to, more than 3/4 raised their hands. I love thirteen year old honesty. We knew God had a plan and were not intimidated by the open animosity in some of their faces. Love was the answer and love is what they received for the next 36 hours.

So many acres of beauty just makes me want to go back.
God's creation truly is stunning!
Oceans and oceans of mercy and love swept over them as we discussed how much they were wanted and needed by their Redeemer. Every individual made by God is WANTED. Every person made by God is NEEDED in this world. Every person made by GOD is part of His plan. He will never reject them. He will never abandon them. He will never leave them alone, scared and frightened in the middle of the dark. GOD DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES!

Slowly over the course of the day you could see each girl relax and open up a little more, like a flower blooming the warm sunshine. In each small group difficult things were being shared. Insecurities, deep wounds, apathy, protecting oneself with walls and barriers so no one could hurt them and lot's of fear of abandonment just to name a few. The team prayed for them and with them. There were walks along the lake and meals shared with giggles and singing. God was meeting them as they were in all their natural beauty.

We had worked through the program the team had laid out and finally it was time for Adoration on Saturday night. The chapel was lit with candles, Our Lord was present in the Monstrance. The girl's had already gone through confession that afternoon which just lifted this heavy feeling that had been hanging over all of us and pushed it out to sea. They were lighter, more free with their smiles and hugs. God was moving among them, creating new friendships and restoring old ones. The girl's raised their voices in song. When I say the Spirit was moving, I kid you not, you could FEEL His presence.

Can you see God's grace and mercy flowing through those windows??
It was powerful!
After exposing the Eucharist in the monstrance for Adoration we walked through the bible story of the Woman of Great Faith who was healed upon touching Jesus's tunic. We wanted them to know that whatever was weighing on their hearts, whatever they needed help with, whatever they needed God to heal, all they had to do was bring it before Him and He would bear it all. We offered them the opportunity to be prayed over. This can sometimes make the girls back away. They don't want anyone to hear their most intimate yearnings. We explained that no one would but God. We all knelt in silent prayer for a few moments with the team asking for God's guidance and provision of the right words for the right girls. Then two teams of two went forward and stood before Our Lord and waited for the girls that would come forward to be prayed over. Based on past weekends, I expected that maybe ten or twelve girls would do it.

It's hard to describe what happened next. All I can say is that it felt like God's heart broke wide open and just flowed over these girls like honey, sweet and pure, engulfing them in such grace. Tears spring to my eyes typing these words. 


Every single one. It was like watching a flood of need rushing to the cross for healing and mercy. In all my years of being on team for this retreat I have NEVER seen anything like it. God's generosity can never be out done.

What were they looking for? What was missing for them?

I think the general theme was a Father's unconditional love. There are so many broken families. So many girls without a father in their lives to love them and treat them like a princess. They were starving for this kind of affection and understanding. With my hands open and my arms raised I prayed harder than I have in a very long time for God's love to just flow and heal every broken corner of their hearts. 

Oh...how it flowed. 

The girls were overwhelmed and so happy. It took almost two hours to pray over each one of them but if felt like five minutes. Then the two teams called forth the retreat team. That is when I understood why God called me to be on this weekend. 

These wild daisies reminded me of the girls in their sweet innocence
trying to maintain their natural beauty and purity among all the
weeds and muck of the modern world. 
You see I have been struggling with some thing lately that I have kept very close to my heart, not sharing with anyone but my God in prayer. They have to do with my roles as daughter and as mother. Relationships are tricky and over time they can be laden with all kinds of baggage. It begins to wear on your soul and brings you down. As the prayer team prayed over me, all of this rushed forward and burst through my heart and God gave me words of strength and such ENCOURAGEMENT! 

What was said will stay between me and My Beloved but let me assure you that I awoke this morning with a completely new perspective on things. I am still His little girl and I still have a lot of work to do but He will be there all the time. He promised and I believe in a God that never breaks his promises. 

44 feels a lot like 13 I have to say. New and scary with big dreams still ahead of me. That's not a bad thing at all!