The last time I went to a retreat designed specifically for Christian women creatives was the Be Thou My Vision Retreat back in March of 2010. I was in the midst of a dark season of life and Tommy had just left for his first deployment. I had a very real feeling that God was not leading me to the retreat, but I went anyway. And while it was a beautiful, luxurious, and life-changing experience... I faced some tough things the months surrounding the trip. I just shouldn't have gone. It drained me.
So, when word of the Pursuit31 Conference started floating around social media last year, I avoided it like the plague.
"I've got all the Jesus resources I need in the southern baptist bubble of my town," I said.
"I am blessed to know a lot of other Christian women in my industry and they are enough," I said.
"I don't need a retreat," I said.
Lots of things were going through my mind, mostly excuses and convincing myself to play it safe. I didn't want to make the same mistake again. So, the 2012 Pursuit31 Conference came and went. But it was in. my. face. Oh boy, did I regret not going. As soon as people starting instagramming and facebooking about their experiences, I knew I was supposed to have been there. Because of that, I immediately made it a priority for 2013. And of course I'm so glad I did.
The retreat was nestled on a mountaintop in Rome, GA. With beautiful scenery left and right, it didn't matter if it was raining, foggy, or sunny... everywhere we looked the views were take-your-breath-away-amazing. What a better place to curl up and rest in the presence of the Lord than in an area which displays his majesty so clearly?! Am I right?
I lost count how many times the women around me would ask "What are you hoping to get out of this week?" Talk about a loaded question. I knew what I didn't want. And that was to leave feeling drained and down. So I made a conscious decision to make the week about other people. I wanted to listen to and encourage others. I wanted to be a light for them. I didn't need to hear anything from God. I mostly definitely didn't want to sit around and cry-it-out and dwell on what I thought He might possibly be telling me.
You've got to remember, I'm a recovering drama addict. Because of that, over time, events like these have become kind of uncomfortable for me... I have this fear that I'll cross over the fine line of "God is working in my life and leading me in certain directions" to a dramatic over-analyzation of what I think God MIGHT possibly be trying to tell me. The old me would constantly dwell: "Ahhh I can't figure out what God WANTS ME TO DO?!" Like it was this fun adventure game or something. Anyway, to play things safe and avoid reverting to the old me, I apparently prefer to hide away in my shell. I decided while I was at this conference, I'd just help everyone else process what they were hearing, learning, and reflecting on. No processing needed for me!
Ha. Ha ha. Ahhh, Liz.
Well God did speak loud and clear to me. Of course He did. This is what He said:
Stop thinking you are a failure. You're not.
Rest in that.
I think you are beautiful and lovely and perfect.
Rest in that.
I have hand-picked you for the roles you are in right now.
Rest in that.
I want you to let go of your expectations for yourself.
Stop wasting time on the things you're not good at. And enjoy spending time doing the things you're great at.
Enjoy this life.
The plans I have for you are to give you hope and a future.
Your heart condition is what matters to me. Not your to-do list.
Be at peace. Rest. Enjoy. Take a deep breath.
So there's that.
Each of these little messages from Him came through speakers (Bob Goff rocked my world!), conversations with friends, and prayer time.
I managed to get through the week without a huge cry-fest, so that was nice as well. I heard from God, and He was gentle and kind. I came home refreshed... truly refreshed and encouraged... with a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I am encouraged to take on the roles God has placed me in with a new confidence and peace: I am a mother. I am a friend. I am a wife. I'm a photographer. I am passionate about pregnancy and birth and connecting with women in the midst of that season of life. I am a sister and a daughter. I am passionate about capturing little moments and glimpses of life for others to cherish for years to come. I'm an aunt and a friend.
God loves me just the way I am.
And I don't have to do it all, every day.
My, how wonderful it feels to know that.
I really wasn't going to write about this. Honestly, it's uncomfortable to share "what God told me." And even harder to hit the publish button. I'm (obviously) not some perfect, Christian woman, and I don't want anyone to think that's my perspective of myself. But my whole conference experience has been on my heart... and a handful of people have asked. I also wanted to give the conference the credit it was due. I know I still have a lot of reflecting to do and God is going to use what I've learned from the conference in my life for a long time. It was a wonderful week and I will continue to attend annually as life seasons allow me. If you are a Christian woman in the creative field (photography, design, calligraphy, fine art, etc.), please come. You won't regret it.
I'd like to give a huge thanks to the speakers, the sponsors, and the staff of this retreat. Thank you for the long hours, hard work, and generosity you poured into this retreat. You are changing lives.
Kelly Moore Bags
The Organic Bloom
Justin & Mary
Ashley Barnett Mitchell (Jen + Ashley)
Beautiful Photo Props
Kraft & Jute
Southern Wedding Magazine
Totally Rad Actions
Denim + Grace Magazine
Chic Critique Forum
L&S Lockets (Lukas & Suzy VanDyke)
The Mason Bar Company
Jordanne Marie Paper and Design Boutique
Mandipidy Art & Design
Daane Promotional Products