The Retreat

She stood there admiring the bright yellow mixed in with flaming orange and red leaves on the trees as they dotted the green landscape and stood proudly over the still water of the lake, seeming to admire their reflections.  It reminded her of a giant water color painting.  It was so peaceful there.  Coming to this retreat for a week was a blessing.

It was her friend Maura who suggested it.  She and her husband were there last year and absolutely loved it.  She had watched videos on the website, the acres of land with its natural beauty and the promise of refuge and renewal and peace and presence sold her.  And here she was, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoying quiet time with the Lord and nature.

She got up early and came down here just before sunset.  After she finished praying, she glanced up and saw the sun rise.  It was the first time she had ever seen a sunrise.  For several moments, the sun appeared to be sitting on the water before it rose higher in the sky.  What a breathtaking scene and display of God’s power.  She lingered there for a while longer and then headed back to the lodge to have breakfast.

When she was leaving the dining room, a tall and very handsome man walked in.  He was alone.  He was wearing a blue sweater and jeans.  As she approached him, he turned and looked at her.  Their eyes met and held for several moments.  He smiled at her and she smiled back.  This close she saw that he had beautiful brown eyes.  “Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning,” she replied and then she walked past him and out of the dining-room.  She could feel him watching her.  He really was quite good-looking and seemed very nice.  Then, she chided herself.  You’re here to commune with God. Don’t get distracted.  She went to her room to freshen up and then to the bench facing the stream where she planned to spend the rest of the morning.

This time she took her Bible and a notebook.  The warm sunshine on her face felt good and a sigh of satisfaction, she sat down.    After she finished reading the first two chapters of the Gospel of Mark and taking notes, she set her Bible and notebook aside.  As she sat there, gazing at the lake, her thoughts drifted to the guy she saw in the dining-room.  Who was he?  Was he single?  Was he here alone?

He was the first man she was attracted to since Reuben.  It was strange but when she thought about Reuben, she didn’t feel anything.  He was like a distant memory now.  She could hardly remember what he looked like and when she tried, she saw the other guy’s face instead.  It was five years since Reuben broke up with her.  They had been dating and everyone thought they would have gotten married.  She did too and then, he shocked her by telling her that he was in love with someone else.

It turned out that while they had been dating, he had been giving Bible studies to a woman who lived in his building.  Feelings developed between them and he realized that she was the one he wanted to be with.  She was devastated but with the love and support of her church family, she was able to pick up the pieces and get on with her life.  Reuben transferred to another church and the last she heard of him, he and the woman were married and had two children.  She wished them well.   It was clear to her now that Reuben and she were not right for each other.  He was with the person he was meant to be with and one day, she would be with the person she was meant to be with.

“Do you mind if I join you?” a voice broke into her reverie and she looked around, her heart skipping a beat when she saw that it was the guy from the dining-room.

She shook her head.  “No, not at all.”  She moved her Bible and notebook closer to her, leaving enough room on the bench for him to sit down.  When he lowered his tall frame on to the seat beside her, she caught a whiff of his aftershave.  Her heart was pounding and her pulse was racing.  She realized then that Reuben never had such an effect on her.  Her hands were clasped tightly in her lap to stop them from trembling.  She could feel him watching her and she turned her head.  Their eyes met and held.  She wondered if she looked as nervous as she felt.

He held out his hand, “Brandon Lee.”

She took his hand and felt his firm clasp.  “Esther Richards.”

“Nice to meet you, Esther.  Is this your first time to the retreat?”

“Yes.  A friend of mine was here last year with her husband and she encouraged me to come.   I’m very happy I did.  It’s a beautiful place and it’s nice to get away from the city.  What about you?” She knew she sounded a little breathless but she couldn’t help it.  His closeness had that effect on her.  She couldn’t decide as yet if he was a Godsend or if he was a distraction.  She truly hoped that it was the former.

“I was here once with a group of people from my church.  It is a great place–so much to see and enjoy.  This is actually my favorite spot.  I could sit here for hours.”

“What church do you go to?” she asked.  He told her and she told him the name of her church.  “Are you involved in any ministries?”

“Yes, I am the leader of our Youth Ministry. ”

“I am involved in the Women’s Ministry and I sometimes lead out in our weekly Bible Study group meetings.  For our next Women’s Ministry retreat, I will recommend that we have it here.”

“Are you here alone?”

“Yes.  And you?”  Do you have a girlfriend?

“Yes.”  I hope she doesn’t have a boyfriend.  “Do you have family here?”

“Yes, I have lots of aunts and uncles and cousins here but my parents live in Florida.  They moved there after I graduated from university.   I usually spend Christmas with them.”  I’m glad I didn’t move to Florida too or I wouldn’t have met you.

“No siblings?”  Thank You, God for keeping her here in London or I wouldn’t have met her.

“No, I’m an only child.  What about your family?”

“My parents live in Yorkshire and I visit them on the weekends.  I live in London and my sister and her family live in Manchester.  We spend the Christmas holidays in Yorkshire.  Speaking of Christmas, have you finished your shopping as yet?”

She laughed.  “I haven’t even started.   I have no clue what I will get everyone.”

“I’m done.  My advice to you is to get gift cards.  Once you know what people, like, you just get gift cards instead of trying to figure out what they would like.  For my nieces and nephew, though, I don’t mind spending hours browsing toy stores.”

“Gift card?  I never thought of that.  Thanks for the suggestion.”

Talking to him had relaxed her to some degree.  He was easy to talk to.  She enjoyed his company.  They sat there, chatting about other things and then it was time to go for lunch.  They sat next each other at a table and continued talking to each other and some of the people around them.  After lunch, he invited her to go for a walk with him.

From that day on, they spent time together, going for walks, praying, worshipping, studying the Bible and joined in fun activities with other singles such as Finish the Sentence, Bible Pictionary, True or False, Bible Telephone, Bible Hangman, Name Game, Who Am I, Bible Bingo, Bible Scavenger Hunt, Name That Hymn and Bible Scene.  Her favorite was Finish the Sentence and when it was her turn to finish the sentence, I am blessed, she said, “I am blessed because God has shown me favor.” and she looked at Brandon when she said this.  I’m blessed because God has brought us together.  His answer was, “I am blessed because God has brought new joy into my life.”  His eyes were on her when he said that.

They spent the evenings alone together–talking or going for walks.  On the last evening before they were to leave the retreat and return to London, Brandon stopped and turned to her as they strolled the grounds.  It was beautiful night.  The full moon cast a ghostly light on them and the still water of the lake.  He reached out and took her hands in his.

“Esther, these past few days with you have been the happiest of my life.  I had planned to come to the retreat next week but I felt a very strong impression to come this week and I am thankful that I did because I met you.  I don’t want to say goodbye to you.  I want to continue to see you.  I’m not in a relationship.  Am I safe to assume that you’re not in one either?”

She shook her head.  “I’m not in a relationship,” she confirmed.

“I want to be in a relationship with you, that is if, it’s what you want too.”

“I-I want to be in a relationship with you too.”

“Good.  Tomorrow, we drive back to London together.”  He raised her hands to his lips and kissed them before they continued their stroll.

She raised her head to the starry sky and silently mouthed a prayer of thanks.  Coming to he retreat had changed both of their lives.

 

Sources: Ashburnham Place; Christian Camp Pro

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Changed

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

This was the prayer that changed Lisa’s life.

Before she prayed it one night in her room,

she was a selfish person.  She went about

her busy life, not having time for anyone.

She went to church, yes, but she never

expressed any interest in being involved

in any of the ministries.  She didn’t attend

the afternoon programs or prayer meetings.

She never joined the youth group who

visited the senior homes.  She left church

soon after the service ended.

 

She didn’t visit her family often and

when she did, she found them all very tiresome.

She preferred to be on her own.  She spent

most of her time reading a book, watching TV

or browsing shops in the mall.  Her relationships

didn’t last.  All of her exes got tired of giving and

not getting much back.

 

She managed to convince herself that she was

satisfied with how her life was.  No obligations, no

commitments and no constraints.  She was free to

come and go as she pleased.  In her estimation, she

was doing just fine.

 

But God had other plans for her.  One evening she

watched a story of an older woman named Edith

who was always kind to everyone.  She had to go to

hospital for tests.  It turned out that she was terminally

ill.  Instead of sinking into depression and being angry

at God, she accepted her fate.  She spent the time she

had in the hospital telling everyone who would listen

about Jesus.  She helped a young girl who was pregnant

and unwed.  She didn’t judge her but spoke kindly to her.

She gave her the name and address of a women’s shelter

where she could go and stay until she was able to find a job

and raise her baby.  Edith didn’t think about herself.  She

was always reaching out to those around her, talking to

them, encouraging them and sharing her faith with them.

 

By the time Edith died, many of the people whose lives

she touched accepted Jesus.  Before the movie ended,

Lisa was sobbing uncontrollably.  This woman’s unselfish

character and love for others made her feel ashamed.  She

knew that if she had been in Edith’s shoes, she would have

been lashing out and asking God why.  Not once did this

gentle woman do that.  She was always saying, “That she

was looking forward to going to sleep and then waking up

when the trumpet sounded and her Jesus came to take her

home.

 

Lisa got down on her knees and poured her heart out to

God, begging Him to forgive her and the words of the

Psalm came to her.  God answered her prayer.   Now,

she was a driver for a senior centre.   She took clients for

their appointments, treatment programs, shopping, banking

and other daily chores.  The hours were flexible.  She

loved what she was doing.

 

Like Edith, she shared her faith every opportunity she had.

She attended prayer meetings and participated in church

programs and events.  Her time was better spent now and she

felt a joy and peace she had never experienced before.  Her family

noticed the changes in her and were impressed.

 

And on a more personal note, she was in a new relationship.

He was a volunteer at the senior centre.  So far, so good.  Only

time would tell.  For now, she was happy serving the Lord who

had opened her eyes to her true spiritual condition and had

brought her to the place He had prepared for her.   He had given

her a completely different outlook and a new purpose for her life.

 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven – Matthew 5:16

 

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Sources:  Bible Gateway;  Lumacare

 

Christmas Shopping

It’s that time of the year.  Malls are packed with people as they try to get their Christmas shopping done. Whenever I go into the mall and I go in and out of the stores, I am reminded why I don’t like shopping and can’t understand why people are shopaholics.  I only go to the mall when it is absolutely necessary.

Thankfully, my husband and I have finished our shopping.  I have discovered that it’s easier and less stressful to find out what people want instead of trying to figure it out.  My family and I ask each other what we want, make our lists and then pick one or two things from the lists. Everyone is happy because we get what we asked for as opposed to getting gifts we have no idea what to do with.

Don’t stress yourself out.  Get a list of things the person might want or find out from someone who might know.  For example, I ask my sister what I could get for our mother and she gives me suggestions.  I did the same when she wanted to know what to get for my son.  Doing it this way is a sure way of not spending endless hours in the mall trying to get something you think the person might like.

For kids you can ask their parents.  If you have kids of your own, you should have an idea of what they like.  With the new Star Wars movie out, some parents are probably getting Yoda (my favorite SW character) or R2-D2 or the action figures.  I just visited the Toys R Us site and they already have lots of items from The Force Awakens.  I can imagine how busy the stores are. My husband and I are weaning our son off of toys and the action figures.  He is reading more now so I suggested to my sister that she could get books for him.  I also suggested getting a journal as he likes to write stories or a drawing book because he likes to draw.  However, as a surprise and a treat I think he deserves for doing well at school, I bought the Lego Obi Wan Kanobi for him and was delighted when I got a complimentary gift wrap.  So, I have one less gift to wrap.  Kids are easier to buy for.  They let you know what they like.   And what a joy it is to see their faces when they unwrap those presents and see the things they wished for.

Don’t spend too much.  And it depends on how many people you are buying gifts for.  I was buying for four people so I set a budget for $200.00 but I tried not to spend more than $180.00. This year, I ended up spending around $160.00, this included cards, stamps and gift bags.  I was determined not to spend more than $30.00 for a gift and look for the items that were on sale.  The most I ended up spending on a gift this time around was $33.00 and change.

Don’t wait until the week of Christmas to go shopping.  Too stressful. The parking lots of the shopping malls were full to capacity and the lines to get in and out were ridiculous.  It took my husband about over twenty minutes just to turn the corner so that I could come and pick me up. Almost everything you want is gone.  I went to get long johns for him and there weren’t any in his size.  I promised myself that next year I will shop either during the last week in November or in the first week of December.

When you have done all of your shopping and gift-wrapping, you can breathe a sigh of relief and take a break.  Then, start planning your Christmas dinner menu….

stressed shopper

Working From Home

There are times when I actually consider working from home but then I dismiss the idea.  Today out of curiosity I checked out the Internet to see what the benefits are working from home.  I came across Freelance Mom.

The founder of FreelanceMom gives her testimony

I was first inspired to create FreelanceMom back when I was searching for work from home myself. I understand the frustration of coming upon website after website with either a clearly bogus home business opportunity, or just a page filled with advertisements for other work at home websites and no real content, or a website that did claim to have the answers but you had to purchase them!

Let’s face it, women looking for work from home often don’t have the money to take a chance on memberships, or purchase materials for start up business opportunities, etc.

I wanted to provide a resource free to the Work at Home Mom (WAHM) community. I provide all the information you need here to help you find your own work from home niche’.

The site offers women who are interested in working from home-business ideas and tips on how to recognize and avoid work at home scams.  They also give a list of home business ideas.  Apparently the most successful home businesses are born from what women truly enjoy and are talented at.  Here’s the list:

Affiliate Programs
Answering Service
Baby Hair Clips
Bookkeeping/Accountant
Cake Baking and Decorating
Candy Wrappers
Child Care
Cloth Diapers
Consultant
Data Entry
Dog Bakery
Doggie Daycare
Ebay
Editor
Errand Service
Forum Moderator
Ghost Writer

Graphic Design
Gift Basket Service
Internet Marketing
Medical Transcription
Midwifery
Music Instructor
Mystery Shopping
Personal Chef
Personal Fitness Trainer
Professional Organizer
Santa Letters
Scrapbook Business
Search Engine Optimization
Telemarketing
Transcription
Tutoring Service
Virtual Assistant
Website Design
Website Content Writer

(http://www.freelancemom.com/balance_SD.htm)

If you are interested in working from home, check out the Freelance Mom website for more ideas, tips and job opportunities but be aware that the jobs on the site are not jobs offered by FreelanceMom and they are not researched, so you have to investigate them on your own to make sure that they are legitimate.

Perhaps one of these days I might come up with a brilliant idea that could turn into a home business.  In the meantime, I will continue to get up in the mornings and drive to work with my fiance and our son.

Bad Posture

Growing up my mother always used to say to me, “Hold up your back” because I slouched.  You would think that going to ballet classes would have helped.  It didn’t.  Years later I was still slouching or hunched over my keyboard as I was typing.   My fiance used to be on my case.  He scolded me every time he saw me slouching.   He said that I had a muscle in the middle of my back which should not be there.  And it’s no wonder that I have back problems. 

Well, my back problem didn’t actually start because of my slouching.  It happened one summer when I was in London with my mother.  I was going down or up some steps (I can’t remember which) and I stumbled.  I reached down and tried to break my fall.  I must have done something to my back because it hurt so much that we had to go into a church so that I can sit down and rest.  I should have had it checked then.

After that incident, my back ached periodically when I stood too long or when I went shopping.  It felt as if a weight was pressing into it.  I had my doctor check it and there wasn’t anything wrong–that he could find.  It has gotten better now.  It aches now and then. 

Last night I thought about what bad posture does to women and decided that I would find out. 

Bad posture creates a number of conditions that result from pulling on neck, shoulder and back muscles. The downward motion created from poor posture pulls throat, abdominal and even leg muscles. Good posture that aligns the shoulders with the hips minimizes stress on the joints and connective tissues in the legs and hips and enables the body to operate at maximum efficiency. 

Bad posture not only creates a poor silhouette, it can cause additional problems such as back pain, headaches and TMJ disorder. Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder, also called TMJ, is a condition that causes pain in the jaw. Chiropractors at Chiroeco report that poor posture can lead to a hunched back and create breathing difficulties since the diaphragm doesn’t have enough room to expand. Muscles that tire easily from supporting the back can lead to increased fatigue. Additionally, poor posture makes women look older (http://www.livestrong.com/article/90412-bad-posture-women/#ixzz1F08TGdny).

These are the problems.  Now what are the solutions? I came across another website which tells you in detail how to correct your posture.  It gives you a test to figure out if you have a good posture.  How you stand, sleep, sit is very important.  Read more http://www.elegantwoman.org/correcting-bad-posture.html

Ladies, it’s time for us to stop slouching and to stand tall.  Not only would this be good for our posture but also for our health.