Tuesday, April 19, 2016


I have so many stories to tell and so little time with which to tell them: no time, really, considering the lesson-planning and dishes I need to do. If it's a good story, though, I try to write it anyway and in spite of, and the best story I have to tell has to do with Winsome: a Christian women's retreat held in Mann's Choice, Pennsylvania.

I guess I first heard of Winsome while in Nebraska for a different retreat; certainly, that was where I met founder and host Kim Hyland. (You can read that story, here.) I thought from summer on that I was meant to go, but Jim lost his job in late July, and we were counting pennies. I said to God something about how, if He really meant for me to go, He'd have to make it possible.

Then, just before Christmas, I received a note and a check from Debbie, whom I'd met briefly at the other retreat. "What did you say to her," Jim asked, "that she would send us money?" I had no idea. 

If I'm being honest, Debbie wasn't the only person who gave us money around that time, but Winsome hadn't crossed my mind until just then. Because of Debbie's written words, the check amount, and how she and I had met, it didn't take long for me to look at Jim with awe and say: "I think this is for Winsome." Even so, I didn't deposit the check right away but, instead, held onto and prayed about it until I was sure. 

I was a little nervous, telling Debbie what I intended to do with the money; what if she thinks I'm selfish, I wondered, for spending it on myself? She seemed delighted, though, and I asked if she could attend Winsome and room with me. In the end, given that there's no airport particularly close to the retreat location, she flew into Richmond and drove to and from Mann's Choice, Pennsylvania with me. We had an adventure inside of an adventure, then: not only attending the retreat but also, while we were together, exploring parts of Winchester, Virginia; Schellsburg, Pennsylvania; Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; and, in Richmond, Hollywood Cemetery.

There was a time, not so long ago, that I wouldn't have been able to imagine spending so much time with someone who was, for all intents and purposes, a stranger. I'm learning, though, and growing. I'm trying to actively, thoughtfully assume that I'm where I'm meant to be, with whom I'm meant to be, and if that's true, that I have things to learn and work to do. My time with Debbie was blessed. As for Winsome specifically, I connected meaningfully with several people and gained some clarity regarding what's next for me. 

I did retreat with some questions because--while Debbie and I were in route to Winsome--Jim called with details of a job offer that (after over eight months of his being unemployed) he'd just accepted. After the phone conversation, Debbie looked at me and said something like: "You know it's not a coincidence that this worked out today, right?" And yes, I did know. I knew that God had always known how it would all play out. Like we sang at the retreat, He's a good, good Father, for us and not against us, amen.

Debbie at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where her great-great grandfather was captured during the Civil War