Last week we attended the Joni and Friends Family Retreatheld in Muskegon, Michigan. If you’ve never been I encourage you and your family to get yourselves to one of them!
God has repeatedly used the time for refreshment and renewal and these days it is the only family vacation we can manage. Each family is provided with a short-term missionary (STM for short) to befriend and help care for the person(s) in your family who has a disability.
In our case Luke is very quick to run away and has more intense behaviors since puberty hit, so he had two wonderful STMs. On the first full day Julie and Hannah clocked 13 miles with Luke. Talk about being the hands and FEET of Jesus, eh?
My prayers before retreat this year were pretty basic. Some might even say pathetically lacking in faith so it's a wonderful thing that the Lord is patient with me.
“Lord, please let us make the drive there and back injury free and may we all stay safe and injury free while there.”
See what I mean by basic? I really didn’t know if we would make it the full Monday-Friday.
BUT, what was I focusing on when this is all I requested of our mighty God who sent Jesus to earth? I was thinking about some injuries that have happened in the last few months when Luke gets overwhelmed and has a meltdown. I should have been pondering how powerful and loving our God is! And remembering His word saying He can do more than we ask or imagine.
As Rick Bovell, who preached at our family retreat, said, “Remembering can kill us or thrill us. It depends what we focus on.”
Because I was remembering the traumatic events in the past few months instead of who God is and all the amazing things He has done, my prayers lacked faith.
What we choose to remember not only affects our relationship with the Lord, it also affects our mental health.
When I focus on the terrible things that have happened I get depressed, stressed, and anxious. As Rick said, it kills me.
When I fix my eyes on the goodness of the Lord, recalling times I have seen Him work, and remember good things then I feel peace and contentment.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying we can pull ourselves out of a deep depression by doing this. In my own periods of clinical depression it meant I COULD NOT focus on the good, which is part of the illness itself.
It is an illness like any other and there is no easy fix.
But our thinking and what we focus on in ordinary times makes a big difference in our prayer life and how we feel.
Those of us who have been to family retreats say they are a taste of heaven.
Being back to reality this week I’ve had moments of panic but when I look at pictures from our time in Michigan and recall the many ways Jesus spoke to us, I’m thrilled and thankful to the Lord.