Have you ever made a berry pie that turned out to be a berry cobbler because, well, “renaming” felt kinder than “failure”? My strong and confident Mom taught me that kitchen trick.
I once attempted to write a book but it evolved into a place, a time and people – a sort of renaming.
Fifteen years ago I started that writing project, a dream of explaining how to take a personal retreat alone with the Lord – something I’d done for decades. I rearranged my life, working four ten-hour days in order to spend the fifth day writing.
For two years most of my free time was spent researching, writing, reading and editing. Eventually I pitched my book proposal to eight publishers. One was personally interested but not for publication and seven posed the same question: “What is the take-away?”
The question was a valid one. The only take-aways I had were my own. That’s when the Lord nudged me to plan two retreats for small groups of friends that would look, in every way possible, just like my own with two experiences. I’d start by sharing some things I’d learned about listening to God and conclude by gathering the ladies to share their experiences.
My book had evolved into two parts:
“Dialogue with God” cards that lead the reader to engage in a two-way conversation with the Lord – a format that changed prayer from two monologues where God talks to us about one subject and we talk to Him about another into one back-and-forth dialogue.
A silent retreat where each lady had her own room and spoke to no one for ten hours.
As I was attempting to write that first book, my frequent prayer was that ladies not just READ the book but DO the book. My shelves were full of how-to’s that I rarely got around to doing. I had no desire to add to another’s library of “hope to one day.”
So retreats began, and to my amazement, each lady had her own personal experience with the Lord just as I had through the years.
The retreats took on a couple different names (Sacred Solitude and Oasis) until I finally landed on one -- “Dare to Be Still” -- that best describes the courage to come away and the belief that if we draw close to God, He draws close to us.
Fast forward fifteen years to last weekend when twenty-two ladies gathered at a convent in Mt. Angel to experience the stillness that is so challenging to find in the demanding busyness and noise of daily living.
Half the ladies were returning for another experience. To each new participant I gave a 3x5 box of prayer prompts – “Dialogue with God” cards and all had access to a selection from my own bookshelves.
The Dialogue cards and the ladies who accept the invitation to come away have become my book (or my berry cobbler)!
Following are a few excerpts, some take-aways, from ladies at our recent retreat:
"God gave me permission to seek after and sit with my Lord, instead of the impossible goal of measuring up, which is never. One can never get enough “God” this side of heaven, or so it seems, and the time went by so fast…yet at the same time, the inner stillness was probably the greatest it’s been in my life. It was truly an amazing weekend."
"I came with a hope and intention of understanding the deep and frightening loneliness I have felt over the past 6 months…I got exactly what I needed and have clear, defined action steps to take to open up my next Chapter with my new relationship with God."
"Like never before! God revealed so much of Himself and how He loves me and has fashioned me first and foremost for intimacy with Himself before any other activity or even ministry…This weekend I didn’t just believe I loved God and He loves me. I knew it! I am my beloved’s and He is mine."
And days after the Dare to Be Still retreat I am receiving “take-aways.” Here is just one:
"I so have wanted to text or email you--but have been pretty busy since our return from the wonderful weekend with Jesus. I have been able to carve out time every day and it has been such a continuation of this last weekend. And, the nudges -- never realized there were so many until now. I reflect with awe and wonder at how it is getting easier to hear Him. I know I am riding a high, but what a good one! I also know I will have to dig deep and learn to listen with all my heart in the days to come--but what fun "practice" to have gone through. "
For the past two weeks I’ve shared a favorite book with you. Today I decided to share how my own book attempt became a simple set of cards and a unique retreat experience.
Yes, sometimes a pie becomes a cobbler, or even a tart. Something that we didn’t expect in the beginning, but in the end was a different kind of delicious.
Pull up a chair and sit still
Has God reshaped your dream into a different picture? Do you have a dream you are willing to place fully into His hands knowing He may change it – believing it will be even better? Share your own "berry cobbler" story below. I’d love to hear from you!