Over the weekend John and I had a really sweet getaway to attend the Refresh Foster and Adoption conference put on by Overlake Church near Seattle. It’s always a little nervous-making to leave the kids at home and take off for a weekend. But with a combination of teens supervising and a variety of friend/grandma/adult sibling visits, and a few LONG phone calls home from me, everyone seemed to have survived our absence and not starved.
Refresh was just as good this our second year as it was our first. We love the church family there, and the chance to visit with old friends and meet new ones, and play a tiny part in encouraging other families. Always when I am getting ready to share with a group, I become so aware of my own imperfection and inadequacy. I so much want to bless others, but I feel certain that others could do it much more eloquently. Which certainly is true.
But you know what? The weekend I was reminded in many ways how important it is to reach out and connect honestly and share hard and offer hope to the ones God places before us– even when, especially when, we don’t have it all together ourselves. Even if our voices sometimes quaver as we speak truth. Because when it comes down to it, it’s not about us speaking perfect words. It’s about allowing the light of Jesus to shine into the heart of another fellow traveler. And certainly that happened so many times, in so many ways this weekend. We really did feel the presence of Jesus everywhere.
Last fall I met a neat group of adoptive mommas at a tiny retreat on Camano Island. It was a sweet weekend of bonding and refreshment. At the tail end of that lovely weekend, Darlene shared a bit of wisdom that an older lady had once shared with her: “We’re all just dumb sheep, but we have a really, really good Shepherd.”
We all laughingly christened ourselves the Dumb Sheep, and this past weekend we had the chance to reconnect. Thanks to Refresh, some of the husbands are getting to know each other too– so neat. I think that sometimes husbands have a harder time making connections with other men and the fact that the Refresh conference gives men that opportunity is a real blessing.
The photo above is of some of the ‘dumb sheep’ Saturday morning at a breakfast where we chatted with a delightful group of earlybirds about nurturing passions and friendships amid the busy-ness of motherhood. (Toni, Tara, me, Jennie, Lisa, Darlene and Jen are in the photo.) I’d never met Jennie before, but it was a pleasure to make her acquaintance. She also did a fabulous job sharing encouragement and telling her adoption story in one of the general sessions on Friday.
I also had some precious visiting time with my dear friend Lisa, who recently lost her precious daughter Kalkidan in a car accident. Of course there is still much sadness in their home, but the light and strength of Jesus is also showing so clearly there in her whole family. Her children shared at the conference and their precious sweet hearts were very evident. Do keep praying for their family, will you? It is a hard path they are walking.
A few other core highlights of the weekend:
~Relationship is central to this parenting journey– we need to keep reaching out to our loved ones even when, especially when growth is slow.
~God is the instigator of all growth and change, so we need to hold on and stay close to Him and trust His perfect will and His perfect timing, even in the middle of suffering, especially when the road is rough.
~Giving all our children voice is a powerful and important thing. We need to keep checking in, keep connecting, to find out how they’re experiencing life.
~ Community is a gift from God– we need to remember the importance of reaching out to others, finding ones who are safe, and sharing honestly so that they can encourage us and that we can encourage them. Yes, even in our weakness we can bless others.
Refresh next year is once again going to be the last week in February. I’d encourage you to save the date and attend if you’re an adoptive or foster family anywhere near the Seattle area. You will be blessed!