I have been a total Five Minute Friday drop-out for the last couple weeks, but I have a pretty good excuse...well, for last week anyway.
Last Friday-Saturday I was at a ladies retreat with the other women from my MAF team in Tarakan. Life is so busy and often overwhelming here, especially for the ladies that have kids, so for the last few years we have been taking one weekend a year to get "away" to the one nice hotel in town (it sounds silly to "get away" to a hotel that is just minutes from our homes, but being able to spend 24 hours in air conditioning, being fairly insulated from the noisiness that is a part of life here, and even getting a break from the ants that constantly crawl around whenever food is out, all feel like a vacation) and connect with one another in an environment with less distractions.
This year we watched a two-session video designed as a kind of retreat-in-a-box by Sheila Wray Gregoire called Extreme Make-over Heart Edition. The sessions focused on Philippians 3:4-15...I won't quote the whole passage, but the verses that stood out to me as I was preparing for the retreat were:
"Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Breathren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."Philippians 3:12-14
That phrase "press on" kept ruminating in my mind, and I wanted to capture it for myself in a tangible way, as well as for the other women at the retreat. With this in mind I was tooling around Pinterest and found a cute pin from Lisa Storms' blog for felt leaf necklaces and it got me thinking...the retreat usually has an emphasis on fall (even in the tropics many of us lovingly put out fall decorations and burn those fall-scented candles to get even a whisper of the season in this eternal summer), and leaves would go with that, but how would I incorporate the "press on" phrase? After mulling for a bit I came up with these...
They are bookmarks with a big leaf in the middle with the phrase embroidered on them, and then the smaller strings of leaves on either side that I borrowed from Lisa Storms' design. It was fun to make them, and really the only way I was even able to put them together was because of my Bible study back in Michigan. At the beginning of the year the Bible study that Chris and I attended in Michigan sent us an amazing package with lots of awesome craft stuff that isn't available here like felt and embroidery floss in every shade of the rainbow, which I used to make the bookmarks. Thank you Bible study friends, your generosity was more far reaching than you could have imagined!
The ladies received these bookmarks in gift bags (made of newspaper with little leaf closures, sure wish I took a picture to show you because I thought they were pretty cute), which also had yummy chocolates in them, a little tea light candle, holder, and matches to create a relaxing mood in their hotel rooms. It's neat how we all appreciate little things so much more because it takes lots of effort to get them here!
On Friday we worshipped and prayed together, watched the first session and discussed it, had quiet time on our own, ate dinner, and then had fun just hanging out. One of the crafty ladies of the bunch, Heather, put together a project to make a decorative magnetic board, here are some of the ladies hard at work on their boards...
After the craft the laughs began as we gathered around the big jacuzzi tub in the suite we met in, soaked our feet for pedicures, and put on facial masks...
I'm hoping the ladies in this picture won't kill me for posting this...those who were opposed to their faces ending up online are not included in this shot, and I am not going to tag anyone, so hopefully I'm safe!
We also did some dancing, lots of talking, and of course ate plenty of goodies and chocolate! After many giggles we headed off to our separate rooms and then met in the morning for our second video session, discussion, and an extended time of prayer for each other. I thought it was a great, relaxing time and I am so glad we were able to make it happen despite several bumps along the way, such as the hotel having the retreat booked for the wrong night even after I had confirmed with them three times, ahhh! Serious communication breakdown! It all worked out though, and I think a good time was had by all.
Leaving the retreat I felt a bit sad knowing my time with these ladies is very limited (Chris and I head back to the States in two weeks, I can hardly believe it), but I'm thankful for the blessing they have been in my life for the last two years. I have learned so much from them and they have cared for me and given me grace and listening ears as I bumbled through this wild overseas life.
I'm excited to see who I will meet in the next chapter of life...she (they) will definitely have some big shoes to fill!