“All of Me” 2014 Arizona Women’s Retreat
by Tamara Grossett
“I want the truth that I believe to be the definition of me!”
With power and conviction, an all-female worship team opened this year’s Arizona Women’s Retreat with these lyrics from Mandisa’s catchy song “Definition of Me.”
About 330 women from our ministries throughout Arizona participated in the “All of Me” women’s retreat held the weekend of August 9-10, 2014 at the stunning Hilton El Conquistador resort in Tucson. I enjoyed watching us all come together – mothers and grandmothers, campus students and professionals, old friends and newcomers – to participate in two days of teaching and worship.
Together we worshipped, laughed, and listened to women share compelling stories of severe trials. We cried, prayed, rested, and played together. Rechelle Conde from Phoenix passionately performed a spoken word piece she had written for the retreat. Also for the first-time ever, an all-female audiovisual and sound team worked their magic behind the scenes!
In our main teaching session on Saturday, Gail Sciascia from Phoenix challenged us as women to give our all to Jesus. She inspired us to believe that it is only when we have the strength of character to set aside our comforts that we will do great things for God. Melissa Jones from Phoenix later reflected, “No matter the circumstances or obstacles, God still wants my “all” and I can give it – even if my “all” looks different at times.”
On Sunday, we heard from Pam Skinner from Tucson who called us to be women who are eager to make the “reasonable” sacrifices needed to live a life pleasing to God. She shared about the transformation God had made in her own heart – starting out as someone who looked down on Christians to becoming a Christian and moving overseas to be a missionary.
Pam left us with a few challenges: first, to decide what sacrifices we are willing to make for God: second, to choose a woman in our ministries whose friendship we will pursue; and last, to choose another woman with whom we will share the gospel.
I believe that God moved powerfully to give us fresh perspective, time to process, and extended quality time with friends.
“My eyes were opened, and I saw God working through people to speak directly to me.” – Sharri Myers, Phoenix
Betty Morehead and Terry Neely from Phoenix taught a class called “Path to Forgiveness.” Their lesson drew from the life of Marietta Jaeger-Lane who forgave the man who kidnapped and murdered her seven-year old daughter. For many of us, this class and the optional workshop that followed changed our view of God and relationships.
“Forgiveness is not a destination; it’s a journey toward God.”
“God is calling us to be forgiving people as a lifestyle not an event.”
“Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness.”
These were just a few of the unforgettable nuggets of wisdom from our class session on forgiveness.
Time to process
“I came away from the retreat with an even greater awareness that God wants to change me so that I am more in tune with the Holy Spirit, and he wants me to slow down to listen to what He wants me to do.” – Brenda Roberts, Phoenix
As I listened intently to Brenda Roberts from Phoenix and Jackie Bobadilla from Tucson share painful events from their lives and how God had worked to bring them closer to him in spite of their hardships, I thought about my own life – how I handle hardship and face my own pain. I think we were all motivated by these two women’s stories to draw close to God no matter what the circumstances.
Breakout sessions in the afternoon provided more time to go deeper and explore God’s will for our lives in the following areas: being a mother of young children, overcoming physical and mental health challenges, evangelism, and friendships. Eunice Catuogno from Los Angeles taught the breakout session for Spanish-speakers, and urged the women to imitate Martha and Mary who had different struggles and paths in following Jesus, but who arrived at the same place of great faith and dependence on him in the end.
“It is very important to give the best of ourselves to Jesus in all circumstances. In the church there are heroes, sisters in the faith, who are going through difficult situations such as death or illness, and still are giving the best of themselves in that situation,” said Vicky Gutierrez, who attended Eunice’s class, “Todo de Mi.”
Extended friendship time
About 100 women connected by dancing the afternoon away at our Dance fusion dance party, while others meditated on how we were all “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God despite our different body shapes and abilities during Sunday morning’s yoga session. Whether we retreated with our roommates to our hotel rooms on Saturday night, lounged by the pool, went to the movies or shopped, women were nurturing their friendships wherever they went.
We are indebted to the many people who made each part of the retreat possible – class speakers, dance and yoga instructors, the audiovisual and sound team, the worship team, ushers, the registration and hospitality team, ministry leaders, and hotel staff.
Since the retreat, my heart’s desire has been, “God, what more can I offer you? Please show me!” And I do not to want to be afraid to do the hard things that he may require of me when he answers! Without a doubt, one of the best expressions of our gratitude we can offer to God and each other as we return to our regular routine is a transformed heart that is ready to give our all again to God.
What sacrifices will you make?