**CONGRATULATIONS Mary! Your name was chosen as the winner of the Come With Me Devotional by Suzanne Eller. I will contact you via email.
I remember standing there as if it were yesterday. Out of breath from running for what seemed like miles. My school books scattered across the lawn.
Fear pulsing through my veins.
The elderly woman who owned the home ran outside like a silver-haired angel rushing to my rescue. As my would-be attackers circled around to harm me, this woman boldly stood in the gap and demanded they leave at once.
I was thankful when they left, but the damage had been done. A young girl’s heart was crushed. Her soul was wounded. Her trust was as scattered and torn as those school books.
I was fine physically, but my soul had taken a beating.
The woman begged me to stay so she could call for someone to pick me up, but I was embarrassed. I knew the girls had gone and I just wanted to get home — to be safe.
I don’t remember much else about that day, except feeling utterly alone as I walked home. Thirteen was hard. I had just entered “womanhood” that same year. It’s devastating to discover in the middle of Social Studies that you don’t wear white skirts when you are new to menstrual cycles — and certainly not your older sister’s favorite white skirt.
Life was difficult and uncertain in my teenaged world.
Fast forward thirty years.
I was preparing to attend a retreat in Northwest Arkansas, celebrating the release of Suzanne Eller’s Come With Me Devotional. I’d only met Suzie once before, but had never met any of the other 50-plus women attending. I was excited for a new adventure!
Then, unexpected news rattled my well-laid plans.
As I hung up the phone, the words “cancer” and “surgery” still hadn’t sunk in. Compared to what others around me were battling, especially where the nasty “C” word is concerned, this wasn’t the worst news. It also wasn’t what I’d hoped.
The retreat was two months away, and now I needed surgery on the centerpiece of my face — and plastic surgery if necessary. Combined with other medical issues I was battling, I felt like a bonafide mess.
The enemy preyed upon my fears. I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide.
In a recent blog post, Suzie tells about the second unexpected cancer diagnosis she’s received in just the last few months — not to mention the cancers her mom and daughter have also been battling recently. Her latest cancer is the same as mine, Basal Cell Carcinoma. Mine is on the tip of my nose, and hers is on the top of her lip. What a pair we’d make!
While we can thankfully ease the worry with light-hearted laughs, cancer is scary. When a woman is told she’ll need surgery on her face, it’s typically not a welcomed thing, unless you’re looking for a nip, tuck, or plump — which we aren’t. Not yet anyway.
Suzie’s bravery is contagious. These aren’t the first cancers she’s faced. She’s a 25-year breast cancer survivor! I knew the fear telling me not to go to the retreat was straight from the enemy.
Jesus said, “Come with Me, Rebecca.” But Lord, do you know what that means!?
In her new Devotional, Suzanne Eller writes:
Plans to drive to the retreat had become an impossibility, which meant my intense fear of flying would also have to be overcome. Not once. Not twice. Not three times. The trip would entail four different planes — two there, and two back. A quadruple whammy.
The Lord whispered again,“Rebecca, trust in Me.”
When my second flight finally landed in Arkansas, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. My white knuckles were thankful, too.
Women from all across the nation made their way to this retreat. It was beautiful, exciting, and if I’m honest, completely terrifying.
I’ve never done anything like this in my life. First time flying alone, and this far. First time attending a retreat by myself. First time spending a weekend with women I’d never met. If I’m really honest, that may have been my deepest fear.
I know women who swear by the bond of their female friendships, but for me women have never felt safe. Brokenness, hurt, fear, mistrust, crushed soul. Those were the words that defined my experiences with women, which is why I was unprepared for what happened at the retreat.
A whirlwind of beautiful.
New friendships. Fireside laughter (with S’mores, of course). Creekside blunders. Worship and rejoicing. Long writer talks. Quiet surrenders. Storybook mornings. And a whole lot of fun!
I signed up to do the zip line. Another fear-defying first! Just before climbing the 45-foot vertical pole to the platform I would apparently jump from, I met Jodie — my zip-line buddy. I nearly gave up several times on the way up. Jodie and the other women shouting “You can do it, Rebecca!” somehow lifted me to the top.
Minutes later, by some sort of a miracle, Jodie and I stepped off the platform and zipped across that Arkansas sky; two women leaving their fears behind with the sound of laughter (and a few screams). How did that happen? I’m still not sure, but I’m so glad it did.
I felt Jesus whisper, “Aren’t you glad you trusted Me, Rebecca?”
In just two days, I formed such sweet friendships. Claudia, Cheryl and Sarah were my carpool companions and bunkmates at the retreat. The Lord arranged the perfect women, at the perfect time. Claudia is a warrior and an overcomer. Her story is actually featured in the Come With Me book. Cheryl is a deep well of laughter and joy, who listens to people with her whole heart. Sarah is a quiet and gentle soul, and our long talks are something my soul needed desperately.
When everyone gathered for morning worship on our last day, I was emotionally wrecked. Everything had been so much in so little time. These women were beautiful. Different backgrounds. Different states. Different professions. Different dreams. Different reasons for following Jesus to this place.
At the end of worship, Suzie called her assistant to the center of the large wooden deck where we’d gathered. Crystal has been battling serious medical issues which doctors are still trying to fully diagnose. Suzie asked us to lay hands over Crystal and send up bold requests to our great Healer and Father.
What I didn’t expect was for Suzie to also call me to the center of the prayer circle.
Before I knew it, more than 100 hands stretched out from a circle of women I’d only just met. Prayers lifted from their voices and tears fell from every eye there. I think a million fell from my own.
I was undone.
I felt much like that wounded young girl so long ago, only this time I was surrounded by women who weren’t there to harm me, but to battle for me.
I felt the Lord whisper, “You are safe here, Rebecca.”
In her Come With Me Devotional, Suzanne Eller asks “What is your invitation?” In that moment, my invitation became clear.
Last weekend, I learned how to trust again. I learned how to trust other women, how to trust myself, and how to trust God.
I left a lot of baggage back at New Life Ranch. I won’t miss it. I’m ready to accept God’s invitation to trust — one shaky, brave step at a time.
**Suzanne Eller’s Come With Me Devotional is available at online retailers and bookstores everywhere. From now until October 12th, I am running a GIVEAWAY of the book right here. You can also read my review of the Devotional.
To enter the Giveaway:
- Leave a comment telling me what your Invitation might be.
- Visit Suzie’s blog to leave a comment, share, or send her love by liking and/or subscribing to her blog.