This weekend we were so blessed to participate in SA Lifeline’s first ever Women’s Retreat: A Surrender Intensive Workshop. This workshop was a blessing to all who attended, staff and participant alike. This beautiful post was written by one of our participants, Shiree. Thanks to Shiree for being willing to share her strength, hope, and experience with all of us!
I was set! I had packed the car with my tennis rackets, my swimsuit, my favorite piano music, and my novels—this was a r e t r e a t . So why the uncertainty when I prayed the night before I left? I got straight to the point; “God? Am I NOT supposed to go?” The quiet affirmation: “You are not going on this retreat to play; YOU need to wipe the slate of what you think you know clean from your mind, wipe the fake smile off your “I’m fine” face, and be ready with Kleenex in your pockets to wipe your exhausted eyes (Ok, it wasn’t THAT direct, but I got the point. Be meek and teachable, not a know-it-all rescuer.)
Many of us later admitted our hesitancy walking up to the massive door of this House of the Unknown. Would the God of my understanding really be the God of their understanding? Would God even be there? Would I speak to these strangers with the usual guarded information and continuous filters?
Rhyll (said “Real”) Croshaw (my Celebrity of Addiction Recovery) IN PERSON informed us in our greeting meeting that our temporary home had been blessed for us as a place of safety. And imagine my surprise when they presented a wall hanging that read, “Approach this moment with an open heart, a beginner’s mind,” –just like my answer in prayer from the night before. God was already here. So I dug in.
We studied the steps of surrendering. Despite my being a regular-life church-goer, I was puzzled when I hadn’t yet recognized my own nothingness. Doesn’t self-esteem support that you are everything? We learned instead that by putting God as your center and releasing into a selfless free-fall, you then find how absolutely intriguing and full you already are, and how willing God is to be your everything because you are His, too. And ponder this: what are you desperately willing to give up to know God? I journaled on this topic in my solitude at the top of a hike we took along the canyon’s creek.
Holly, the Master of Meditation—amongst a well-qualified, sympathetic, recovering staff– took us through several relaxed visualizations. Listening with closed eyes to the quiet strains of a wordless version of “My Heavenly Father Loves Me,” we found ourselves in awe and within touch of the Master. Holly revealed He had a gift for us! Instead of handing it straight to us, He “set it by our bedside” for us to open at our choosing. Some found a heart; some later reflected on how they couldn’t open it yet. But I tore the lid off my box, and was surprised what it held. (I’ll tell you in a sec.)
Of course, there were fun parts; Zumba, the game “Where the Wind Blows,” dipping feet in the hot tub, facials, a gift bag of rejuvenation with luxuries like chocolate, bath soaps, a “You Got This” journal, and uplifting frankincense/orange essential oil . And the Food: breathtaking breakfast bake, roast beef to perfection, salivating salads, Greek Yogurt, cheeeeesecake; there was not a dull food moment.
Rhyll’s son gifted us the experience of watching BYU’s Noteworthy singing “When you Believe:” we were literally this group of marching women singing of hope. Rhyll’s husband, Steven, gently answered anguished inquiries from us wives of addicts, exhibiting his changed heart full of understanding and generosity.
As I looked uncharacteristically solidly into the eyes of those around me, I realized I didn’t have anything to hide—then or ever. I could be real. And I found that Rhyll is real. (Her secret? Never consider yourself recovered, and you’ll stay humble and real. After all, recovery is about continual progress.) The other women speaking their stories spoke my story, too; as one woman said, “This IS my tribe.” We even had a healing group hug of 22 women that pulled the strings of 22 hearts. When you truly surrender, you can see the truth of others’ realness in their eyes.
3rd day: ladies not wearing their makeup—looking more beautiful than ever; not wearing their shoes, and no one cares. What was called a “retreat” became a poignant bearing of the soul that was the most real thing I’ve ever been a part of. A tribe of physically and spiritually strong women willing to be broken to be rebuilt with God at their center.
As we gathered up our baggage and emotions, Holly took us onto an expanse of luscious lawn for our final wrap-up before heading back to the lion’s den of who-knows-what. With the comforting rays of the sun warming our upturned faces, she led us through a series of releasing and empowering yoga poses. We “pulled” the oppressing burden-energy off our shoulders and threw it to the ground with a closing “hah!” We scooped any negative energy being emitted around us in armloads and pushed it also to the earth. We turned into Warrior 2, then squatted in Goddess ingesting power we craved. Then we gathered in a circle with one hand on the back—the support system of the body– of the sister next to us and offered her by name, one by one, “You are supported.” And we finished with a prayer from the heart.
What was I “gifted” by the Savior? COURAGE to really do the things I thought I already had courage to do upon returning to my mending marriage.