Back in March I blogged about Dreams. And how I felt God was calling me to surrender them at His feet. And I did.
A year and a half ago, I began to be coached by one of my mentors. Harriet is our District Supervisor and is one of the godliest women I have ever known. I have such a deep respect and admiration for her. It has been such an honor to be coached by her. This process has been a catalyst to amazing growth in my walk with God, in my leadership skills and in my confidence.
The last exercise she had me do was in regards to dreams. Funny how that works. I had to list 10 dreams/things I want to accomplish. It could be anything…professional dreams, spiritual dreams, recreational/hobby dreams, Family, etc. Basically – it was a Bucket List. (Sidenote: God has been so faithful to me. Within three weeks, two of my ten items on my bucket list have become a reality. One of the 10 on my Bucket List is to travel to Israel. And that is becoming a reality in the Spring! (See Israel). Through a process that she walked me through, I whittled it down to 2 out of the 10. From the 2, I had to choose 1 that she could coach me on to help me achieve it. The item on my list I chose was Oasis.
Let me explain my vision for Oasis. I have been in ministry for 16 years. I have been to countless conventions, retreats, and conferences. While I have gleaned many truths and skills from them, I always came away from them more tired than when I went. So much information was downloaded in a short period of time and a lot of talking was done AT me that I never had much time to process through some of the information. The times I was able to process was always at dinner or in our rooms afterwards where you could talk it out with friends. I hope this is making sense and that I am not coming across as critical. Conventions, retreats and conferences are important…I am in the midst of planning our Women’s Retreat now. But I always felt as a woman in ministry I needed something more.
One day I was reading in Scripture where Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt. They were tired in their journey and they came to some water and it was bitter. The Israelites began to complain. God had Moses throw wood in the water and the bitter water became sweet. They continued on their journey and soon came to Elim, which was a place that had 12 springs of water and 70 palm trees. And it says in Scripture that they encamped there by the water. (Exodus 15:22 – 27). They did not stay there long because in the next chapter they set out again. As I read that portion, it struck me that women (and men) as they journey through life get tired. I don’t care how balanced you are, tiredness is inevitable. And chronic tiredness can lead to a whole myriad of problems (bitterness being the one identified in this particular story). And God, in the midst of their journey, provided for the Israelites, an oasis, a break from the journey. That is what I want our women’s ministry at our church to be, an oasis…a break from the routine, where women’s souls can be refreshed. And I thought of women like me who are in ministry. Who are constantly serving and pastoring people along with being a wife and a mom and a daughter, etc. The last thing we need is another conference telling us how to preach better or get more things done or become a better leader (and those conferences are important…we just don’t need one more). And I thought to the times that I was most refreshed….and it led to me being able to verbalize and plan my dream….
I live in the most beautiful place. Summer on the shores of Lake Erie is amazing! Weather is pretty much perfect. There is so much to do.
So a “what if” came to me…
WHAT IF I planned a women’s Oasis for a long weekend for 3 to 4 women at a time who are in ministry. A break, a respite from their normal, chaotic, amazing, busy lives. An oasis for refreshing in the midst of their journey. I would rent a cottage on the lake, have things planned but have a very relaxed schedule. I would let the women sleep in as late as they want. Do their devotions on the beach. Eat. Take naps. Reflect. And talk and talk. And pray together.
Oasis would exist to provide:
This was the dream I had. In my mind I thought it was kind of silly…only 3 or 4 women at a time. It did not seem economically feasible to me. Who would want to come (still struggle with that bit). When I presented it to Harriet, I expected some resistance (why I don’t know). She was so excited for me and helped me set action steps. I then presented it to my Pastor. I was apprehensive about sharing the dream with him simply because it was different and it was not really under my area of responsibilities at the church. Pastor Jim is an amazing man of God and a joy to work with. When I presented him with the vision, he was excited and pledged assistance to help this come to pass. It would not have come to pass and been as successful as it was if it were not for him. I am so blessed to work for a man who encourages his staff to dream and think outside the box. Looking back I don’t know why I was apprehensive. He has a heart for leaders, especially young leaders and invests in them. This fit the mission of our church perfectly!!!
Two weekends ago, this dream God gave me became a reality. Two Bible college friends (Brenda and Stasia) from North Carolina came up for the first Oasis. I was nervous but God was so faithful. One of my friends who came is on staff at a church of 3,000 in Cornelius, NC. My other friend who came just started Senior pastoring with her husband for the first time 7 months ago. They were in different places in their journey with different responsibilities but both with the same need of refreshing.
We did a lot of talking (non-stop) and eating (almost non-stop) and relaxing. We prayed. We went to a Cleveland Indians game (someone asked Stasia what kind of women’s retreat goes to a baseball game…her reply “the kind Heidi plans.”) We went kayaking (Stasia is legally blind and for her to be able to kayak was an incredible treat for her. A young man in our church tied his kayak to hers so she could actually kayak and he just guided her. Awesome.)
We sat for hours on the beach.
I had prepared for the weekend and knew where we were headed and what I felt the end result was supposed to be but I had a hard time articulating it.
Over the weekend, many stories were shared. Triumphs and trials. Successes and failures. Joys and pains. Lots and lots of laughter. And Stasia told a story that God really used to identify all that Oasis is meant to be.
Stasia is legally blind and has her own guide dog, Duncan. She also has a white cane to help her as she walks. She has to be one of the most courageous people I know. Her blindness does not slow her down at all! She walks her two sons to the bus stop in the morning. One day, she decided she didn’t need her cane or Duncan. She felt she had done it enough that she would be fine. After the boys got on the bus, she started walking home. She got turned around. Panic began to creep in. She took a deep breath and decided to sit on the curb to get her bearings. As she sat on the curb, she thought about where she had been, where she was currently and what she needed to do to get back home. When we prayed that last evening at the cottage, God brought that story back to my attention. That describes exactly what Oasis was for us that weekend. We had spent the weekend sitting on the curb reflecting on where we all had been in life and in ministry, where we were now, and what we needed to do to get to where God was taking us. We all needed to leave some things at the curb that weekend. And we left refreshed, encouraged, and strengthened with the knowledge that we are all in this thing called life and ministry together. God is so good!!!
I am looking forward to many more Oasis’ in the future. We have even tossed around the idea of Oasis for men led by Pastor Jim.
Never give up on your dreams and ask God for big ones! Life is too short for regrets!