I was afraid the experiences of the weekend at Newbreak’s women’s retreat would fade with time like it often times occurs after a sermon at church. You hear it, something stirs in you, God wants to do some work through you and by sundown the enemy stole it. You go to bed discouraged because you failed. You have the truth, but it didn’t make anything anew. And you feel grateful His mercies come with the morning. Yet, despite my many distractions, I’m sitting here because I wanted to share the experience of a weekend in a mountain with a group of women, finding a place to belong, and experiencing God’s Joy. A weekend that defined for me who I am in Him. A lasting impact.
It has been two hours and I’m nowhere near the camp. As I tightly hug another curve in the road I go back and forth in my mind assessing the terrain, “don’t let the conference be here it’s too dry,” “the woods are nice, please let it be here.”
I should’ve input the address in the van’s GPS, but I opted for the cell phone Google maps app because I wanted to take the scenic route and the maps on my van are outdated. Still, it’s not easy to check how much longer I have to go and according to the directions I scanned I should’ve been there an hour ago.
But the drive it’s so beautiful it’s almost worth the hunger and leaving my husband behind after returning from his latest business trip to the mountains of Chihuahua. Now here I am in the mountains of Southern California.
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. there is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat Psalm19:1-6.
Even through the windshield I drink up all of God’s creation, surrounding me as I listen to Mumfords and Sons.
Yet, some anxiety about the weekend slowly begins to set in.
Most people who have met me would never suspect it but I have a stranger’s anxiety, mostly brought up by my public and private persona. Public Fabi is intelligent, well spoken, though with a heavy accent (my husband believes is because subconsciously I like to shout “I’m Mexican,” to my defense I don’t usually notice I have an accent until someone looks bewildered at what I’m saying) and agreeable. Private Fabi is curious, often self-deprecating, loud, with or without accent, and loves arguments. Real Fabi is probably a mix of both.
Finally I arrive to Tahquitz Pines, at the heart of Idyllwild, California. The conference has started. After a quick check-in I find an open seat in the front row. These are usually the last to be taken in the first day at a women’s conference.
Worship is lovely and our first speaker is a dynamo. She is former Disney marketing director and now is the head of the women’s ministry. While I look around the room I see how her message is driving a point in a lot of women. I’m eager to be broken. But there are different plans for me.
As the first day closes in we are invited to stay in the conference to do a simple craft and get to know one another. Crafting scares me, while I consider myself a very creative person, it’s in the execution that most of what I’ve attempted ends up looking like this: “Nailed it.”
I decide I have to give it a try. Already I feel like again in small ways I’m being challenged, but first I have to go meet my roommates for the weekend.
When I find my room at the bottom of the hill, I wish I had arrived earlier to secure some nearby parking. The room is a very small room, in no shape or form designed to host six women. Instantly I wish I had the extra money for a solo cabin.
My roommates had already picked the double bed, and the cot, so I take the bottom bunk bed despite being extra small. The top bunk simply represents a hazard for a nightwalker. When everyone shows up, I realize I’d be rooming in with only three other women, first pleasant surprise of the night.
We immediately begin to find common ground and we realize we all have Hispanic background and at least two of us break out speaking in Spanish, even if for only a couple sentences since I get self conscious when people don’t understand me for fear they might feel I’m talking about them. I remember being the one in the room who couldn’t follow a conversation.
We seem to hit if off right away and I am grateful that they seem at least down to earth. I’m a little disappointed when they decide not to join me in the craft room because I would be again on my own in the big room. I’m forced to decide whether to leave my roommates behind and go and try to channel my inner Martha Steward or stay in my new safe place with my “Chicas” and enjoy the rest of my weekend sans complications.
I actually surprise myself by enjoying the craft. Yes it was super easy that even my three year old could manage to complete, but I walk away feeling proud of my cute journal.
Because I’m a night owl I need to find something else to do. I already deleted all my social media apps for a disconnected weekend. So I wonder around and come across a group of women playing “Apples-to-Apples.” Do you know the feeling when you are around fun people and you simply want to join in? That’s how this group feels. Their ages range from 20 to 60 maybe more, but their energy and fun is contagious and ageless. I love them instantly.
Normally a clique of at least 6 women would have turned me off, but when I approach them it feels different, if feels like I… belong.
And that is the first time the word belonging hits me that weekend. A desire so deeply entrenched in my being, almost a secret. All my life wanting to belong.
When I return to my room I found my roommates still awake so we stay up talking and laughing, getting to know each other. The night has been a success and slowly my insecurities begin to dissipate.
I can feel the authentic me shining through and that gives me freedom. Unfortunately, sleep does not come easy for me. While I could sleep through snores and even the feeling of claustrophobia underneath the bunk bed, a leaky toilet is making me anxious. It’s the fixer in me. I feel a gentle push “sleep in your car.” And so I do.
With sleeping bag in tow and my iPod as companion I snuggle in the back of the van. I am grateful my husband forgot to change the oil in his truck and now I have the family van to get comfortable. First time since we got this thing that I really appreciated it. Despite being cold, I have the night sky over me while the sounds from the forest including the howling of wolves or more likely coyotes lulls me to sleep.
As I heard the howling of the animals in the forest in my mind’s eye I saw a picture that has been for a long time pinned at my cork board that never before until that point I gave much thought. A Wolf. The legend next to the picture reads: As a Wolf your happiness Secret: To Be a Force of Positive Change. It’s natural for rifts do develop, even in loving relationships. And according to the Cherokee Indians of the Southeast, gravitating to the wolf means that you are perfectly suited to noticing early signs of discontentment and reaching out to resolve problems. Wolves have wonderfully close-knit, supportive communities. Playing peacemaker will help produce a sense of harmony and togetherness within your circle.