Got Joy?

I posted this last week and accidentally saved it as a draft!!! Please forgive me “Living Water’s” retreat friends that I wasn’t here when you came looking for me! I am now on a cruise ship in the middle of the sea somewhere between Conzumel, Mexico and Mobile, AL. I’ll post more about our trip when I get home!

From last week…

I had an amazing weekend in Shepardstown, WV and today my heart is filled with indescribable JOY!! God showed up in ways I can’t even describe. The theme of the retreat was Living Waters: Receive, Rest, Renew!

We laughed, we cried, God poured His presence and His Word deeply, to satisfy the thirst of our hearts. We also ate way too much bacon and super-food thanks to our crazy-awesome worship leader Gwen Smith.

I just have to share some behind the scenes things God was doing that few know about. He showed up in a way that was so personal to me, and came through in circumstances that had depleted my joy and my strength… I just have to brag on HIM!

My body and mind were not feeling joy last week. My Andrew was sick Monday and stayed home from school. He had a cold but I wasn’t so sure he was sick enough to miss school. When he got teary-eyed as I suggested he just go in late, I decided some mommy snuggles and a day at home wouldn’t hurt. By Tuesday, I realized he was really sick as I headed to work feeling achy, foggy headed and drained!

I felt horrible by Wednesday and couldn’t sleep because my throat hurt so bad. I woke up at 3am Thursday morning, stayed up until 6am then went back to bed until 8am. I felt horrible all day. What was God thinking? I needed to review my retreat messages and finalize my preparations for the weekend.

I slurped down chicken noodle soup that night, decided to take Tylenol PM and go to bed early. I emailed friends, asking them to pray for my messages, for the women God was bringing to the retreat, and for me to get some sleep! I felt so bad that the women coming might not get the fullness of what I knew God was calling me to say and give!

Soon after I sent the email, I started feeling better. But then computer problems surfaced, slight panic set in and the unexpected dilemmas halted my bed-time plans! I was up past 10pm and still hadn’t packed. Exhausted and feeling unprepared, I crashed into bed.

I woke up Friday morning at 9am, threw my stuff in the suitcase and ran to the airport. (Notice. no mention of putting on make- up…I had no time!) I prayed on the way there that: I’d be on time, I’d be able to get Starbucks, put on make-up, check-in my suitcase without a fine for excess weight bs since I packed enough for two weeks, and that my boarding gate would not be out in Airport Egypt!

I found a great parking spot, used curbside-check-in (no fine$) and found my friend/worship leader/traveling companion Gwen waiting in the security line. Much to my delight she didn’t have her eyes on either (no mascara or eye liner). We giggled at our shenanigans as we inched our way through the line and dashed to Starbucks; then to our gate – which was one of the first ones! Yea God!!

Our sweet chauffeurs – Lisa and Stephanie – took us to Panera for paninis on the way to the retreat site. When we got there, we were given wonderful gift bags and our own beautiful rooms – with fluffy king size beds – which I wanted to throw myself into! Another sweet provision of God’s grace.

The tired, achy, scratchy, sneezy, coughy cold where you can’t sleep started settling in again so I laid my head down for a few minutes. Soon after, I realized it was time for dinner and I needed to change clothes.

Lord, I prayed as I stood in my room with my arms lifted high and my hands opened toward Heaven, please empty me of anything left of myself. Please fill me with all of you. These women deserve to hear from You tonight. They have paid money to come away, they have moved Heaven and earth to get everything arranged at home to be here. Please speak through me despite my scratchy throat. Lord, ease my piercing headache and strengthen my feeble body. I am so tired and I need you desperately.

It was an amazing night. God poured His Living Waters deep into my soul and splashed it out through my depleted body! I almost started crying as Jesus drew seven women to pray to receive Christ that night at the end of my message. It was just the beginning of a weekend at the well of Living Waters!

In my weakness, Jesus’ strength was powerfully perfected throughout the next three days. When it was time for me to be on HE showed up. And when I was done, my body caved. But then God would supply what I needed. He gave me a 3-hour nap on Saturday, along with His strength and His words for my message Saturday night. Again, my heart melted with joy as I watched more women pray to receive Christ at the end of the message.

After the Saturday night session, we had an incredible time of celebration and worship with Gwen. I felt great! So we decided to put on our pajamas and continue the fun in the retreat hospitality suite. But just as I was getting on the elevator, I started feeling sick again. This time with nausea. I left the party quickly, went to my room and climbed into bed. However, I could not sleep, so I curled up in a ball and cried out to God to PLEASE not let me lose it! I still had one more session to do. Finally, around 3:30am I dozed off.

Sunday morning came and the Holy Spirit poured His power and grace out again. It was simply amazing!! The music, the communion and the sweet message God gave me in those early morning hours was precious: Receive My Fullness, Rest in My Presence and Renew Your Heart in my Grace and Forgiveness and today as you leave, remember to REMAIN in My Love and Acceptance.

God had called me to lead these women to the well of Living Waters. And He knew I could only do that by drinking deeply myself – receiving, resting and being renewed. Jesus gave as He promised and He was enough! In HIS presence I found the fullness of joy! In dependence I found completeness. Moment by moment, hour by hour, He poured our His Living Waters continually. I was filled, His purposes were fulfilled, and amazingly I spilled… just as He provided the women at the well…He gave me a well from within, a spring of Living Water welling up to eternal life so that I could know Him somehow help others to know Him through me – a cracked and leaking vessel.

God tells us to rejoice in our sufferings – to find joy in our troubled times. He supplied everything I needed when I needed it! He is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!!!

PS. If you were at the Living Water retreat, I’d love to hear how God poured into your heart that weekend in ways only you and He could see.

PSS. Today, I am scurrying around getting ready to leave with six of my P31 girlfriends for a Girl-Get-Away cruise!! Another sweet God-gift! I am so looking forward to resting. I’ve decided that thinking will be optional, at times. My brain needs a little break. Please pray for me as I try to recoup strength and get ready for the cruise. I still feel a little achy and sneezy but I am hoping some good rest and lots of prayer will do the trick!!

Until I return to land next week, bon voyage!

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About Renee

Renee Swope is a Word-lover, story-teller, heart-encourager and grace-needer. She's also a wife, mom, friend, daughter and author of A Confident Heart, a Retailers Choice Award winning book that became a best-seller and has been published in six languages, with over 150,000 copies sold. Renee is speaks around the country at women's events and and serves on the writing team for DaySpring’s inCourage blog. For twenty years, Renee served in leadership at Proverbs 31 Ministries and as former co-host of the ministry's radio program, “Everyday Life with Lysa & Renee.

Comments

  1. Amazing God-story! I love rejoicing in “his strength made perfect in weakness” stories. Hope you’re having a fabulous time with the girls! I just read about your Moses-type driver and was laughing as the story played out in my mind. Lots of good material I’m sure. Enjoy!

  2. Amazing God-story! I love rejoicing in “his strength made perfect in weakness” stories. Hope you’re having a fabulous time with the girls! I just read about your Moses-type driver and was laughing as the story played out in my mind. Lots of good material I’m sure. Enjoy!

  3. Digging for Pearls says:

    Renee,
    How amazing God is! What a wonderful example you were of being an open, and willing vessel that He could use. Thank you for sharing your story. I am praying that you feel better and that you had a great cruise!

  4. Renee,

    I want to tell you how much of a blessing the messages God gave you to share with us on the retreat were for me. I too, came to a point in my life where I didn’t want to go on and God reminded me on the retreat of the plans that He has for me. I came away refreshed and felt an overwhelming peace I have not felt in a long time. Thank you so much for pressing on even though you weren’t feeling so well. God once again proved Himself faithful because I do not think any of us knew you were sick.

    Many blessings to you and your family.

  5. Renee,

    The entire weekend was a testiment to what happens when God’s people pray. The entire year of planning and preparation was bathed in prayer right up to the night before when you let us know you were sick. God showed up in such an amazing way using you and Gwen to bless so many of us. The post retreat comments are so positive and affirming that God led us in the way He wanted us to go. I do not know why we are surprised by His grace and love for us or when He shows up! Thanks again for sharing your love for Him with our women.

    Blessings to you and your family!

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