Arise and Shine was this year’s retreat put on by my church’s women’s ministry, Women of Hope. February 25-27, 120 women all met at Camp Mokuleia for a weekend of fellowship, sisterhood, singing, s’mores, laughter, swimming in crystal clear water, and a giant tie dye adventure. It was an amazing time!
I know this entry is SUPER LONG, but its full of such good stuff and happy thoughts. (the end is the best part of the whole story btw, i’m for serious!)
How I ended up at Retreat:
Before the retreat, I didn’t even know what a retreat was. They kept mentioning it during announcements at church… but I wasn’t really sure what it entailed, I sure couldn’t afford to go, and I had no one to watch JJ. But, A few of my friends from church kept asking me if I was going, and insisting that Carly and I should go. Finally, about 10 days before retreat Carly and I talked to Pastor Tami (who was in charge of the whole shebang) and we got on the list for sponsorship. We decided that if we got sponsored, it was meant to be.
A few days later Carly and I were sitting in Church. During his sermon, Pastor Carl mentioned that some people had just recently donated to pay for scholarships to the Women’s Retreat. I just got this hunch that it was for us. After service I spoke with Tami, and it was official – we were going!
We (yes, I’m speaking for Carly here) were full of a mix of excitement and nerves. But we were officially going now, so it was time to keep an open heart and just see what happened. God obviously hooked it up, and it came at a time when we both could use a weekend away… so we were eager to make the most of it. (Carly and I are make-the-most-of-it kinda people in general anyways).
On top of covering the costs, God also found some amazing friends to watch our dogs for us, AND to drive us all the way up to the North Shore. Everything fell into place.
But wait. It gets better…
Tuesday morning (three days before retreat) I was having coffee with Laura and some other ladies. One gal complimented the tie dye shirt I had on, and I mentioned that I dyed it myself (of course I was wearing tie dye, I do pretty much everyday). I went on to say I was actually a tie dye expert, and it’s one of my most fave hobbies. Laura gets all excited and eager… and informs me that they planned a huge tie dye project for retreat, but no one is too sure on how to do it. Moral of the story is that I will gladly be helping to guide the project; talk about things just working out perfectly.
First Day of Retreat (Friday)
Whitni, Erin, Carly and I all carpooled up to Camp and had a super fun time snacking on McD’s and chit chatting in the van. When we arrived, I was so taken back by how pretty the site was. The North Shore of O’ahu is so gorgeous, and we’d be spending the weekend right on the beach taking it all in.
We checked in and went to our cabins to get settled in before dinner.
We went and ate a super tasty dinner in the cafeteria. With full bellies, we headed to the Chapel for some Praise and Worship, and some teaching from the beautiful and strong Pastor Kanani. After some silly icebreaker involving singing Christmas Carols (which obvs my team one, I know like a million), we filled the night air with sweet feminine voices, singing up our Praise.
The theme of retreat was “Arise and Shine.” The whole weekend we’re learning about how to shake off the burdens of everyday life, let God’s light on in, and shine it out for the whole world to see. We got away from our everyday routines, to relax in a beautiful location. No TVs, no chores to do. For many of the women this weekend meant no kids, no work, no carpool, no meetings. It was a time for us to be selfish in a good way, to let our hearts and bodies rest and recharge.
Friday Night’s message focused on being truly ALIVE. On making the most out of life, of living the best we can. On living for God and feeling truly alive and we’re filled with His light.
My notes from the first night’s teaching:
We can rise up and accept the Lord and as He fills us with this light we can SHINE. When we shine, we share this light and love with others. God wants us to love life, to enjoy life – too often daily life crushes us, crushes our spirits and brings us down. God’s love can un-crush us – rejuvenate our souls and give us light.
God sends the Holy Spirit into us, and that’s what fills us with light.
Proverbs 18:14, “The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, But as for a broken spirit, who can bear it?” – As long as our spirit remains intact, we can endure anything.
Given all of my health issues, past and present, the teaching on Proverbs 18:14 just spoke straight to me. I can handle being sick, I can handle any physical pain – as long as I have my spirit. I know I’ve been blessed to have a strong, optimistic spirit, and I thank God for equipping me with such a light that’s helped me get through many a hard time.
After teaching we broke for prayer and a bonfire! Some of the ladies graciously helped pray for me and for my health, they prayed for my healing. And while physically I’ve been in a rough place and going through a lot since the retreat (the update on my trigeminal neuralgia will be a totally separate blog) – I know their prayers helped me because my anxiety level relating my health has been totally reduced.
Outside of the Chapel that night I met a lovely lady, Lori (alliteration station right there, lovely lady Lori, whew!). Lori was chatting about some injuries she’s endured as a result of a bad fall she had. Hearing her talk about surgeries and medications, doctor’s visits and hospitals… I just knew she was a kindred spirit. Her positive attitude through such adversity was amazing! She fell at work, and refused to sue (knowing it was an honest accident). She bears severe pain with a smile, and unless she told you what she was dealing with – you’d never know. She embraces life and refuses to let her injuries affect her happiness. She truly has an intact spirit, and thus sickness cannot stop her – she’s so living Proverbs 18! Talking with her reinforced the nights’ teaching to me, so amazing. I love this type of life-goes-on, making the best of it, attitude.
As we kept talking, I found out that Lori was an artist. When we checked in, we were all given journals to use during the weekend. Each had a hand painted watercolor on the front. They are beautiful, and Ms. Lori here painted them ALL by hand. 120 paintings!
Since she’s an artist, Lori was originally asked to run this whole tie dye thing. Wanting to help out, she agreed – but admitted to not having any experience. She bought the supplies, got all of the fabric, and hoped for the best. When she heard that a lady with lots of experience would be at retreat (me), she was seriously relieved. We had a funny chat about how she was so glad I ended up there, and once again – things were working out so perfectly.
SIDENOTE: I mean, how uncanny and random is it that the ministry was in need of someone who knew how to tie dye, and then I was sponsored at the last minute to attend? It was all really overwhelming. Honestly, I was humbled by it all and I was just so excited to be able to help. After a stranger had paid for me to be there – I wanted to do anything I could to help out, give back, contribute. So I was excited and honored to be asked to help.
After chatting with Lori and getting some prayer, I went to the bonfire. Hooray, s’mores!!
We woke up to an insanely gorgeous sunrise:
I didn’t get much sleep that night at all… so I was in serious need of coffee first thing.
We walked the beach, chit chatted over coffee and slowly we all seemed to wake up. At 8:00am, it was breakfast time. Cafeteria breakfast! I was so excited. I happen to LOVE cafeteria food. I love the trays, I love scooping out my food. I think its so fun. So, no surprise, I was right at the head of the line rarin’ to get some bacon.
After breakfast, we spent some time enjoying our surroundings:
Mid-morning we had another session of Praise and Worship, and teaching. We all went into the chapel, ready to celebrate God together.
Saturday morning’s teaching started out on John 4:7, the story about Jesus and the Samaritan woman. As we were learning about this parable, I pulled out my iphone and went to Biblegateway.com and started reading the Scripture in so many different translations. In my journal I even wrote out “The Message” and “The Amplified” versions.
This Scripture speaks to me as Jesus didn’t judge the Samaritan woman. He went and talked to her, He showed her that He was/is the Son of God – and her choices, her sins, and the fact that she was a Samaritan has no bearing on His want to approach her.
Jesus is for everyone. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’re from. The only thing he has for us is LOVE.
Sometimes participating in a church is intimidating. In the past, I’ve been scared of being judged, of not fitting in. I was worried that if people know where I’d been they wouldn’t want me around. (I am a sinner, and trust me – I’ve sinned big and hard). But the deal is, if a church is truly Christian (Christ-like) – it doesn’t matter where I’ve been. Just like Jesus didn’t judge, and he accepted sinners, a church that is genuine should and will accept me. Reading this Scripture and knowing how open and welcoming Hope Chapel has been to me just solidifies what an amazing and genuine Church it is, this Scripture was reinforcing to me all those good, happy feelings I get when I’m doing anything with the Hope Chapel Family; its real.
The teaching went on to talk about Fragile Clay Jars (2 Corinthians 4), and the parable of the one lost sheep (Matthew 18:12-14). The teachings of the morning focused on letting go of what ties us down. We talked about how special we are to God. The theme that Pastor Kanani kept reiterating was to live your life with “no strings attached.” To not let things burden you down, and hold you down. I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes:
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,” Jim Elliot, missionary and martyr. (Kanani actually talked about Jim Elliot and his mission the night before during her teaching, full circle!).
The gist of that quote is to get rid of the things you cannot take with you, in exchange for the things that you cannot hold. Get rid of your worldly, material things. Get rid of the items that stress you out, that bog you down. Because when we die, the Chanel handbag and Gucci clothes ain’t coming with us. Instead, fill your life with the intangibles: love, happiness, laugher, pooch smooches, hugs, rainbows, smiles.
More of my notes:
We need to empty our hearts of all our worldly stuff: pride, hate, anger. And we need to fill them [our hearts] with love. With God’s love.
Kanani says: God has way more stuff than we have. Annie didn’t bring her bed from the orphanage with her into Daddy Warbucks’ house. We cannot drag what we have into Heaven, why would we?
After morning worship, we had free time before lunch to go swimming! Hooray! I love the ocean so much.
After lunch… it was TIE DYE TIME!
The Tie Dye Project
According to Wikipedia, a Pareo is a wraparound skirt. Pareos are popular in Hawaiian culture, and we would be making tie dye Pareos, that could be used as skirts, wraps, prayers shawls, tapestries, almost anything! The fabric Lori got was this really light linen. And Laura had picked out all kinds of pretty colored dye for us to use. Most of the women at camp had never tie dyed before, so it was really fun seeing them learn and get excited and just enjoy themselves.
Everyone met in the chapel after lunch and did some icebreakers, while a small group of us was outside mixing the dye. As we were mixing them up, and setting up the buckets, we realized we were way short on salt. I advocate for dying wet garments (pre-soaking in water vs. dying somethin dry; optimally soaking a garment in water w/ soda ash) – so the idea to have people soak their fabric in the ocean came up. The dye needed more salt mixed in, and the garments needed to be wet first. Perfecto!
I popped into the chapel to try and give some direction. Talking on the mic was more intimidating than I though, and I’m pretty sure my instruction was more confusing than helpful. I ended up telling everyone to just find me and I’d be down to help anyone with anything I could.
The only instructions I gave: get your fabric wet first (there was a spicket of fresh water, or the dunk in the ocean idea), choose a pattern and use rubber bands, we have gloves available so you don’t dye your hands, you can hang your pareo up to dry right away or you can bag it and let it soak over night – I recommend the soak and wait.
For the people doing the soak and wait I gave some washing tips – wash on the hottest cycle you have with a cup or so of whit distilled vinegar. vinegar will help lock in the dye (think: Easter Eggs).
THE MOST IMPORTANT TIE DYE INSTRUCTION: don’t sweat it and just let it happen. Colors will run together. It will get messy. Its supposed to, the meshing and blurring of colors makes tie dye beautiful. The imperfections make it unique and show that it was dyed by hand. Just embrace and go with it.
All that said… and they’re off:
My hippie heart is just exploding at this point: tie dying outdoors, right on the beach, dunking the fabric in the saltwater and just shooting the breeze with all these wonderful women… such a rad afternoon for me. The setting was gorgeous, and here I am teaching all of these women about one of my most favorite crafts. I was just so full of excited energy and joy.
Ready for the results? Finished products:
I helped all of the ladies tie dye for four hours. It was such a gorgeous day, we had so much fun out in the sun chit chatting and laughing and dying.
And then I realized, I hadn’t made one for myself yet!
My final product:
We had another service Saturday night. Again we started with singing worship songs, and then had some preaching and teaching. Saturday night’s theme was about being awake.
Rev 3:3 = You must wake up or you’ll miss it all
Being aware, being awake not just to what’s around us – but being honest with ourselves. Its about taking a long, hard look at ourselves; self-actualization.
God doesn’t want us to be something we’re not – He created us the way He wants us! -That said, its about living up to our potential, being the best versions of ourselves that we can be.
We need to wake up to who we really are.
We learned about asking God to wake us up, to really open our eyes to what’s inside us and what we are. This can mean so many things: tapping into potential that isn’t being used, facing and dealing with the things we’ve suppressed, learning who we really are, smashing down those walls and guards we’ve put around our hearts.
I believe this message is something really powerful. But at the same time, I was having a hard time figuring out how to live it. I feel like in the past few years I’ve gone through a huge process of learning who I really am, looking way inside me and digging up all the junk, of going through a lot of the exercises that were being discussed this night. I feel like I know the burtal honestly about who I am, and I’ve even come so far that I love the real me and I want to be the real me forever. Icing on the cake: my husband knows, loves, and accepts the total real me. (seriously, does it get any better than that?)
I loved the message about not being perfect. God never asks us to be Perfect – but just to be who we are, and to try. I love that. What an empowering and liberating thing to know. I wish I could spread this message to all the women in the world, all the people even. So many people waste the fun and happy parts of life by trying so hard to be perfect, or be something they aren’t. I am who I am, and its such a freedom that I have not pretending to be anything else. I wish my lightness for everyone, I really do.
Sunday morning, after breakfast we had a different kind of service together. Pastor Ruby gave us a beautiful devotional. She talked about Psalms 102 and 103. Just the night before I had diligently studied Psalm 103, and it was so crazy to me that she was preaching on it the very next morning.
What Ruby had to say was personal, and touching, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the chapel.
After Ruby, Pastor Tami talked to all of us. She put in so much hard work to make this retreat a wonderful event. Its crazy to know she had been working and planning this all for months and months, and until a few days before I didn’t even know much about the whole thing. I’m appreciative of her hard work though, I had such a great time and I don’t have the words to properly tell her how much I look up to her.
Then the microphone was opened up for retreat testimonials. Hearing these women, my sisters, get up and just open up their hearts was amazing. Women talked about what they got out of retreat. They admitted to not wanting to come and being dragged there. Some talked about being nervous and how they ended up making friends and having fun. Some asked for prayer. Some had praise reports. It was just a cool experience to be a part of.
Last, but not least, I decided to get up on the mic myself.
I told everyone how just a couple weeks before I didn’t even know what a retreat was. But God brought me to this retreat. Someone paid for me. Someone’s husband was watching my dog. Someone even drove me there! All I had to do was pack and keep an open mind.
I explained how it had been a rough couple of months for me: My husband deployed in November with three weeks notice, I lost our baby right before Christmas, I was so ill because of the miscarriage I was unable to go home for Christmas and I spent the whole time alone on my couch, and the stress on my body has spurred up some exacerbations of pre-existing conditions that I have.
I’ve been trying very hard to get back into the swing of life. I’ve been staying busy, spending time with friends, laughing, having fun. I’ve been throwing myself into church and I’ve been loving it. I go hiking and swimming, and try to keep my heart light and move past this sadness. I like to be happy, and usually I am a happy girl. But to be really truthful, the past couple months haven’t been a cakewalk, yo.
Saturday afternoon of retreat Matthew (my husband) called me from Afghanistan. When he asked about how retreat was going I told him all the great things I was doing: I had so much bacon for breakfast and s’mores around a campfire! I went swimming in the ocean, and this afternoon I taught 120 women how to tie dye!! His response was, “sounds like your most ideal day ever, huh?” LOL, he’s so right. He also told me that I actually sounded HAPPY. I sounded genuinely happy to him and he loves to hear that, it does his heart good while he’s over there.
So I thanked these women. The chit chats, the giggling as we all had melted marshmallows covering our faces, swimming in the ocean and scaring away the sea turtles, just having someone to pray with: all of this sisterhood, in such a beautiful place away from my usual surrounding was just such a great way to hit the reset button. I felt so refreshed and alive, and I just thanked all of them for being part of it.
Then I sat down.
Well, remember how I keep mentioning that a stranger paid for me to come. After I sit down, Laura leans over and whispers in my ear, “Lori is the one who sponsored you.” Lori! LORI! The one who I related to about smiling through the pain, about doctor’s visits and being in the hospital. Lori who loves arts and crafts, and who painted those journals for us. Lori who didn’t know how to tie dye but said she would anyways and then heaved a huge sigh of relief when she found out some random gal attending knew how to do it. LORI! Talk about kismet. Talk about full circle.
I was so overwhelmed I started crying. I ran up and grabbed the mic and announced this little tidbit to the group, and everyone burst into applause. What an amazing, perfect, God-given fit. The coolest things like this always happen to me, and I love it.
Finally it was group photo time, and retreat was over. What an amazing weekend!! I was so blessed to be a part of this, and I know I’ll carry these north shore memories with me long after I leave this island. I am just so thankful.
*All of the pics with the lil asterisk are courtesy of the beautiful and wonderful Joy Pishcura. Thanks Joy!!!!!
here’s a photo of Lori and me outside church on 13-March: