Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Hey girls!! We had an AWESOME weekend on our retreat at Caswell in North Carolina. Awesome, but tiring...seen in the fact that I spent most of the day yesterday sleeping or being lazy!! So sorry I didn't catch you up before, but it would have looked at lot like "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" had I tried to write anything Sunday night or yesterday during the day. Even now, two days later, I am struggling to keep my eyes open! I have a very cool thing the Lord showed me from one of our Bible study days this past week, but I'll catch you up on the weekend and then write about that next.

Daniel and I left early Friday morning to board our flight to Raleigh. I was so excited cause we got 2 packs of peanuts!! (It's the little things...)We were a little bummed on the way when we heard that our numbers were not the usual 700-800 (which is typical for our fall retreats) but instead we were resting somewhere below the 300 mark. But we just trusted that those were the exact students and adults that needed to be there, and that the Lord didn't have any less of a plan of showing up than He did before. One of these days we'll learn not to put Him in a box, and in the mean time, He'll keep blowing our socks off!!

The theme of these retreats that we do is "Reach Up" from Acts 17:27 ("God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.") The whole thing is focused around empowering teenagers and helping them to realize the POWER that they have in Christ when they reach up to HIM to find what they need, instead of reaching to the things of the world to be satisfied. There is also an element of 'sharing Jesus without fear' where we continue to teach them ways to talk to their friends about Christ as they live them out themselves.

(PAUSE......Ok sorry my roommate made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing...WHAT?!?!?! :) and I NEEDED one)

I had the great privilege of teaching the high school girls bible study with two of my very best friends, Laura and Katie. (Laura is my roommate here in Nashville, and all 3 of us worked together at Caswell summer '06. Laura and I worked together 3 years, and Katie and I for 2 years.) We had about 50 girls all together and it was just SO great. At the end of the Saturday morning session, we had them all write out questions they had about life--left it completely open to WHATEVER topic or issue they wanted to ask about. We have found over the summers that their youth group and leaders back home are sadly NOT the people they feel comfortable to go to to ask questions and so they just walk around aimlessly with all these unanswered thoughts about what's ok and what's not...and then look to the wrong things for validation. So we just threw out the last bible study session and just had a question-answer time where we answered what they asked about and gave them a chance to just be REAL and DEAL with stuff. We didn't want to just 'church-it-up' and make things watered down because unfortunately they get enough of that at home. We just flat out told them like it was on a lot of issues they had questions about, and made sure that they knew it was not us yelling or lecturing at them, but that it was from the most humble place because we have BEEN THERE and don't want them to have to go through junk like we have if possible. We also told them we wanted to be that real because chances are if they had the courage to honestly ask about it, then they are probably struggling with it. You could tell by the look on their faces that a lot of them were asking with a hopeful conscious that we were about to give them some justification about their past and tell them certain screw-ups were ok because we had done them too. NOT HAPPENING! I was blown away by the amount of girls in that room who at such a young age had either 'gone to far' with their boyfriends, had experimented with cutting, eating and self-esteem issues, had horrible family situations, and the list goes on.

At the end we ran out of time and sort of briefly explained what each of our testimonies were and told them if there was anyone that needed to stay after to ask us questions about more specific things that we would most definitely stay. All three of us had about 7-8 girls stay after to talk, so we sort of had a mini-bible study in 3 different corners of the room and each got to be even more personal to certain situations and hearts that needed more attention with these issues. That was such a blessing to be able to pour into these girls at this stage in their life, hoping we could save them some heartache by the time they are our age.

The other parts of the retreat were pretty awesome as well. Laura, Katie and I, along with 5 others made up the worship band, and then we also had a speaker--Tony Nolan--and if you've never heard him, you should...he's fabulous. He is funny, wise, real, and personal...and he wears really cool artsy shirts. :)

I LOVE Caswell. LOVE IT. It has been my home away from home for over 22 years now. My dad is the youth minister at the church where I grew up (he has been there for about 18 years now) so my brother and I always got to go on trips with the youth group...and to summer camp every year. There has not been a summer of my life that I haven't spent at least a portion of it at Caswell. And when the summer comes that I don't step foot through those gates, it will probably be a little hard to comprehend. For 22 years (including the summer I was in my mothers womb) Caswell has been a place of peace, restoration, joy, love, refuge, and some very monumental memories that have marked me for life. It was the place that the Lord let me know it was ok to follow my dreams, and showed me the beginning of my plan to move to TN. Back in the day (before technology started coming out of our eyeballs) they used to have this HUGE black speaker box in Hatch (the building where we have worship services) right above the stage in the middle of everything. In my early years, I could have bet my life that God lived in that box. (Maybe that's why I try to keep Him in it?!) I just knew Caswell had to be His favorite place on earth...all those kids who came to know Him by the hundreds and thousands every summer...and the genuine worship I experienced there was like no other. My body lived in Lenoir, but my heart stayed on that island inside those gates, waiting for me to come back every summer and meet back up with it. It just refused to leave.

This weekend WAS wonderful, but I'll tell you what, there was nothing like flying into Nashville at night and seeing the lights over the city. Absolutely beautiful. When we were in the van about to leave camp, I looked at Laura and said, "I'm ready to go home." And she said, "Yeah, me too."
When I came to visit Nashville for the first time last April to apartment hunt, I called Laura about 30 minutes into my trip and said, "The weirdest thing just happened. I just left my house, but I feel like I'm driving home." It was a very scary thing, but so exciting at the same time...and peaceful. To KNOW that God has appointed me to live here in exactly this time and place...and now not even my favorite place in the world could keep me from coming back here. God's way is always the best, and His blessings are just out of this world. Thank y'all for helping me to love Him more...

More on the Bible study thing later...


Pastor Lisa said...

Welcome back!

Fran said...

Hey Abby!
How I wish that I had that camp as a kid....I had such a messed up youth that I wish desperately someone would have been honest, real, and shared Truth with me at such a young age.

YOU have made a HUGE difference to the life of a young girl this past weekend. May you feel empowered and encouraged by it to do it again and again.

Praise Him for the GREAT things He does. I'm so proud of you!!
Blessings friend. And, Welcome Home!! I missed ya!

Love ya!

BethAnne said...

Tony Nolan comes to our church every year for revival and youth conference - he is awesome. A couple of years ago in Destin, he was doing a youth retreat and he offered to do a break out session with just the girls who were there. The only girls that showed up were the girls from our church and they have never been the same. (Can you imagine getting samll group time with him and deciding not to go? - Crazy). Anyway, it sounds like you had a wonderfully productive time in the Lord. I am only 34 (still quite a bit older than you), but if I had a daughter who is as on fire for the Lord as you I would be so happy. Keep up the Kingdom work and I hope you love your new job!

Bev Brandon said...

abby's back...
oh wow that weekend sounds so awesome---would love for my 16-year-old son to have a retreat like that and the cool thing is that he would love it---his God is so real to him right now...
god in a box---i loved it...
you reminded me of acts 17:26,27 that Abby's sovereign God determined your times set for you and the exact place you should live. Your good God did this so that you would seek Him and reach out for Him and find Him BECAUSE HE IS NOT FAR FROM ABBY LANE. whoa! not far from abby lane...in Him you move...you go girl! I love love love your passion for your glorious God---He's all over you!!!

ImPerfect said...

So wish I could be there!

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Profbaugh said...

Okay Abby,

I just started teaching a brand new high school Sunday School class. I so-o-o-o-o-o wish you were here in St. Louis to talk to this group of kids. I think you could connect in a way I'll never be able to do. . but, in the meantime I'm letting the LORD lead, keeping it authentic and real and praying my butt off!!


Teri said...

Abby, you ROCK! For real! I love teenagers too and am always so encouraged when I hear testimonies like yours here!
Aunthentic people are who most teens are attracted to....keep it real and they will keep coming! I just love that your Dad is a youth pastor and has been one for 18 years! It is SO rare to stay in YM for that long...how cool!

Three Fold Cord said...

Hey girl,
Just wanted you to know that I have seen your comments on LPM and I think you are just great. I love it that you met Shelly. She is from right here in the ATL and I love reading her blog as well. Anyway, have a great day and after an 80 degree day yesterday, I am praying for that wonderful cool breeze to come back today.

Stephanie (Ocean Mommy) said...

Hey Abby,

hope it's alright, but I added you to my favorites. :)

have a great day. praying the new job is going well and everyone is adjusting!


Angela @ Refresh My Soul Blog said...

WOW-what a blessing. I LOVE girls ministry-my heart and passion is for that. I think what you are doing is awesome and those girls were very blessed I am sure with you all. They desire authenticity and that is what you gave them. You go girl, may God bless it even more!
Much love,

Sharon said...

Thank you for your sweet comments on my blog.
And welcome back!
Get some sleep.

jennyhope said...

so glad u are back and i am still in suspense over the new job

Sue @ praise & coffee said...

Oh my goodness, what an awesome time!!! You are such a blessings to those girls, keep up the awesome work for God!!!


connorcolesmom said...

Thanks for the update!
I had been praying for you and wondering how it went!
God is using you in a BIG way!
He continues to bless your obedience!!
He is good!

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