This past weekend, we had our CW Retreat at The Summit in Fort Payne. I look forward to it every year. It's such an awesome way to start out the new year. The worship was great, the food was wonderful, The Summit was beautiful, and the friends were the best--about 40 women were there!! This past year and this year, it has happened to fall on my birthday, but it truly makes my birthday even better. A birthday is just another day, and it's best spent with God and friends anyway! I really missed getting to see Zach on that day this year, but it was just a small sacrifice that was worth it. They say "absence makes the heart grow fonder," and I really believe that's true. He gave me my gift when I got home that Sunday, and he's taking me out to eat in Birmingham this week, so we'll make up for it.
Our theme this year was "Ordinary Friends, Extraordinary God," and we focused on our relationships with God and others. We asked ourselves if we really were good friends to others and if our relationships were Christ-centered. We took the time to forgive others for ever wounding us, and we asked for forgiveness for wounding others. Our last night there after our session, we gathered around the fireplace and had Communion- such a sweet experience!
Before Communion though, we had the best experience we'd had all weekend. We were given the chance to go to others there and say things we wanted to say. It was amazing how God moved and let us know there were women we needed to go to and say things to. A sweet friend came up to me and said something that I pray will live in my heart forever. She took my face in her hands like a mother would do to her child, and said, "Ashley, you're 25 years old today. Exactly 25 years ago today, I lost my father. I just want you to know that where I used to dread this day, you've put a little spark of joy into my life." Isn't God wonderful with his timing?! He knew that I would need to hear something like that. It's amazing how many lives we all touch, even without knowing it. We later shared with the entire group things we had said and prayer requests, and spent the late hours of the night talking, sharing and singing. It was wonderful!!
I pray that I do allow this experience change me, and never forget how close we all became on this trip. I thank Jena Forehand for being our speaker this weekend, and really giving us what God wanted us to hear. I hope that during this new year, I will strive to have Christ-centered relationships!
Also, thanks everyone for all the texts, cards, gifts and birthday wishes!! It's been a great one and I still can't believe I'm 25! I was really happy to celebrate it by having a little time off from work. Because of the snow, we left work early on Thursday and then were off all day Friday, so that was a nice early birthday present! Zach was excited to take some pictures of the snow, so I'll post those soon!