IMG_3721Several weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to spend a weekend away at a mountain cabin with four very special girlfriends.  There were late nights spent chatting around a great stone hearth, mugs of hot tea, glasses of wine, delicious meals, whispers from God, and hours of art making.  And when I think back to that weekend, I keep returning to the way it all unfolded so naturally.  The way a collective sigh following one person voicing the need to get away from the busyness of life quickly turned into a mountain retreat just over a month later.

This circle of friends started out as a small group of two several years ago.  IMG_3737Cheryl and me.  Both of us, exhausted from the impact of raising small children with challenges, were searching for a place to share our journeys and to spiritually recharge with no further expectations.  Cheryl, being the grassroots girl that she is, offered the stools around her kitchen counter as a meeting place, a cup of coffee and the promise of being heard and that’s how it all started.  During that first year, we spent a good portion of our time together airing our challenges and tossing around different ways to approach the parenting of our spirited children.   This was the year of learning to be present and showing grace both to ourselves and our families.

The following year, our dyad grew into a cozy group of four, as Megan and Michelle joined us on our Tuesday mornings.  Megan shares her  beauty and life challenges with us, as well as her precious little girl, Anna Grace, who is an angel in our  midst.  And Michelle, brings a liveliness to our gatherings with a love of  Southern Living, Diet Coke (from McDonald’s in a large styrofoam cup) and accounts of her own spirited little ones.  It was  Michelle, who offered-up her family’s mountain cabin for our weekend get-away.

This fall, God expanded  our Tuesday morning family with the presence of Kim and Sonya.  Each week, Kim shares her nurturing spirit with us.  And being a few years ahead on the parenting spectrum, she provides a loving model for us to follow.IMG_3730  During our weekend getaway, Kim nourished our bodies with her carefully planned and lovingly made meals:  fresh fruit, egg casserole, chick-pea and onion soup, fresh spinach and pea salad, and lemon pound cake that melts in your mouth.  Seriously.  Sonya, our resident “God Whisperer,”   dresses like a fashionista and prays over people with fervor.  On this particular weekend, Sonya prepared a morning devotional entitled, “Who Am I?” which called us to worship by living-out God’s purpose for our lives on a daily basis.IMG_3753

When Sonya shared  the idea that worship sometimes leads us to step-out of our comfort zones, she offered the perfect segue into my contribution to the weekend.  Art.  While I find great peace and joy in creating art on my own, I still feel a bit uneasy leading others in this realm.  As God does so often when we allow Him, though, he knit Sonya’s devotion and my art activity together  beautifully…Unknowingly, I named the art project “I am…”  During a period of four peaceful afternoon hours, I facillitated my friends through the process of collaging  a visual of the unique person God created them to be.IMG_3766

This beautiful circle of women and the retreat we shared?  It did not happen on the merit of just one individual’s gifts.  Community happens when we recognize and celebrate the unique gifts that we each have to offer and we combine our efforts to create a whole. For “as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended.”  (1Corinthians 12:18)   It is my prayer that we all seek to know and celebrate who we are, allowing ourselves  to experience the  joy and fulfillment of working together as the body of Christ.