I had one goal in mind and I was headed directly for it. I approached gingerly and carefully spread out the netting with my fingers while casually testing its weight limits...then it was time to hop aboard the hammock I'd spotted 4 hours prior. There were a few 'Three's Company' mental flashbacks I had to fight off of John Ritter flipping out the rope swing that I was easing into, but I forged ahead and eased onto the thin green net.
Once I was there it was perfect. My twisting and adjusting had caused enough of a stir to leave me smoothly swaying from side to side for several minutes. So relaxing and so comfortable. In my euphoria I began to believe I should adopt a new form of stress relief and hang these hammocks in every room of our house. Perhaps we should donate all of our beds to Goodwill and sleep in green mesh nets strung from the ceilings?
Then my daydream was interrupted by a cramp developing in my lower leg. Hmm...the hammock vs. bed idea was losing footing and I was just 13 minutes into the ride. I tried to concentrate on the beautiful view of the river in the distance and the rustle of the Fall leaves all around me. It was working, sort of, until I knew I needed to go to the bathroom soon. I fought it off as long as I could and finally crawled out of the hammock and found the facilities.
I was attending a leadership conference I had been invited to be part of last summer by a speaker who presented at our teen girls purity retreat at Springbrook Community Church last year. It was an honor to be invited and the focus was on renewing leaders and offering them a time of rest and reflection. I had been looking forward to the weekend for months and although I knew very little about the agenda for the day in advance, I was euphoric when I heard the afternoon was unstructured time meant for personal rest. (This should explain my excitement about the hammock!)
After a few hours of back and forth time in the hammock, it was time for me to attend my previously scheduled private prayer appointment I must be honest that when I saw that I had been assigned a prayer time and a prayer partner for 45 minutes late in the afternoon, I was resistant. The idea of prayer with a stranger felt weird and I was really enjoying my time in the hammock, the thought of climbing out of my cocoon again to talk about my private stuff felt anything but relaxing and renewing. The rule breaker side of my personality was screaming in my head to ignore the appointment and claim I didn't need prayer (the rule breaker is pretty arrogant, I know!) but the people pleasing side of my personality won out and I dutifully climbed down and showed up in time for my appointment.
I thought I knew what I needed. I was tired and I needed to rest, not to drag out a bunch of prayer requests and dump them on some unsuspecting volunteer. I wanted to stay safe and unflustered and clean of the messy emotions that prayer could stir up. I didn't know what I needed, but God did. As I knocked gently on the door, a beautiful blonde woman opened the door and welcomed me in. She explained that the next 45 minutes were mine to use as I wanted, no hidden agenda, no specific requirements that had to be checked off, it was a gift and she told me she was blessed to offer it to me. Hmmm....that rule breaker persona, I'm glad I didn't let her take the lead.
My prayer partner sat down and I spilled my guts. I let loose of those issues I'd been balancing in my mind and heart all week. I talked about hurts and frustrations and joys and fears. I talked about you, my new readers, and my deepest desire to lift you up and leave you refreshed and thinking about your journey through different lenses. I shared about "my" teen girls, those I have met and those I am yet to meet, and how I can pour into them about how valuable they are and how deeply they are loved by their creator. As I let my faucet of toughts and feelings flow, the urgency of my words ebbed and flowed, much like adjusting the settings on my watering hose. It went from a fine mist when I let out the "safe" subjects to a heavy spray when I let out the deepest desires of my heart. Through it all, my prayer partner listened and she prayed. As we wrapped up, she gave me a "charge" a scripture to ponder and to propel my ministry. It was a familiar one, and at first I was a little frustrated by her lack of originality (arrogant rule breaker personality alert!), but as I've assessed and reassessed this week, I realized I was given the scripture to view through different lenses also.
She prayed Jeremiah 29:11 over me, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." This verse is a favorite among teens. It's on most every graduation card and we use it frequently to build one another up in times of stress. However, when I heard it again being prayed over 40-year-old me who is feeling really old these days, it seemed out of place. Then I let it sink in and I heard something I'd never paid attention to before. I listened to the pronouns, it doesn't say that a plan has been prepared for me, it says that "I know the plans I have for you." Wow, talk about personalized. I used to love a red monogrammed sweater I wore in the 80's, because it was specific to me. It had my initials on it, no one else's. That is what Jeremiah 29:11 is to me, an assurance of a personal monogram.
God has my plan already created. He knows what it is and He holds it. Last weekend my plan wasn't to get out of that hammock and allow a dear woman to pray for me. I kicked and screamed and tried to resist, but He knew better. I wanted to choose what was easy over what was messy and emotional, but He had already created another plan for me. My job is to be obedient.