For the past 3 years that I’ve been a business owner, I’ve always had this inherent fear of offending people. A fear of getting backlash for saying something bold. A fear of having to sort through mean, nasty anonymous blog post comments from people who choose not to do anything better with their time. And, if I’m being honest, a fear founded on worry that people aren’t going to like me. There, I said it. As much as I try to tell myself that it doesn’t matter what other people think… deep down, it would HURT to learn that nobody likes me for who I truly am. Yet I believe I’ve done a pretty good job of pretending like I don’t care anyway and sharing what I want to share. Despite all these fears, I’ve still pretty much been an open book and quite possibly the world’s least private person since the day I first opened my Facebook account. When God gives me a platform to speak to people, I tend to use it! Sadly, it hasn’t always been used for the best purpose… which is glorifying Him. THAT’S what’s been more of a challenge. I can post all day about my grades, my relationships, my travels… but when it comes to being just as open and excited about my faith, I hesitate.
What if this offends someone?
What if this leads someone to hate Christians?
What if I’m wrong about the way I interpreted this piece of Scripture?
What if people judge me when I slip up?
What if I seem ingenuine because I’m not perfect when I try to be?
These fears are actually pretty terrifying. I would never, ever want to seem like a hypocrite and give Christianity a bad name, but at the same time… I’M NOT PERFECT!!! None of us are! That’s the beauty of our God-given gift to make our own choices and follow our own paths! But when I take that leap to put myself out there… REALLY out there…. it’s like jumping off a cliff and praying my parachute opens before I hit rock bottom. THAT’S what I went into this retreat with, carrying as a weight on my heart. This crippling fear of being brave and just speaking out and sharing my beliefs… all of them.
I didn’t know what to even begin to expect from this weekend at the Delight East Coast Retreat. I had no clue what I was going to get out of the days I spent with my Delight sisters. I honestly didn’t even really know why I was there. I knew I was supposed to be there (God had made that pretty clear when the exact cost to go was literally handed to me), but I didn’t know HOW God was going to be using me exactly. I went in hoping for some practical advice on business and relationship decisions. What I got was immensely, profoundly, unimaginably more.
I started to cry as soon as I walked through the front door. I don’t think anyone noticed, and I held back the tiny little tears in my eyes as I said hello to all the girls and hugged my dad goodbye. But I could feel it. The spirit of God was IN that house. When I enter God’s presence, I cry. It’s just really my only response and usually only happens during times of intense worship. But I felt this as soon as I stepped foot in the Delight house. I was so, so happy and so full of joy and excited to meet everyone. There was this cloud of anticipation just hanging in the air for what was coming next. (I’m getting goosebumps just writing this!). All the work God was going to do in these girls’ hearts. The words He was going to speak to us. The many, many tears that would be shed… tears of immense longing and sorrow but also tears of incredible joy. Lots of tears of joy :)
It’s so hard for me to describe everything that happened because there was so much that happened. We spoke words of wisdom and encouragement over each other’s lives and into each other’s hearts. We said no to our shame and yes to our victory in freedom that comes from Jesus. And we talked photography… and ate really really good food, and played with our cameras, journaled, prayed, worshipped, and made s’mores around the fire under a clear sky sparkling with hundreds of stars. The good news is that the amazing Jordan Brittley captured a LOT of our weekend on video. The bad news is that it’s not been published quite yet, but it will be very soon!!! I can’t WAIT to see it and share it with you guys!! I just know it’s going to capture and convey the entire Delight Retreat experience so wonderfully. For now, the only thing I feel God’s laid on my heart to share is the “theme” that really played out for me and kept repeating itself throughout the entire weekend. And that was all about me not being afraid to live in the light.
The very first night of the retreat, I wrote in my journal, “The words that God has given me will not return void. The words laid on my heart are meant to bring people to the light.” I don’t know where this particularly came from (I wrote a LOT in my journal over the course of 3 days), but I know it was written down because I believed it was what God was speaking to me in that moment. I didn’t pay much attention to it and actually forgot about it until I was flipping through the pages when I got home. It was the first little inkling of what God was trying to tell me I should take home from this weekend. The second sign was when I was talking with one of our leaders, Jordan Brittley, after dinner on Friday night. Jordan is seriously amazing. She is such a godly woman and incredible wife who loves her husband, and she’s also a crazy talented photographer with a passion for telling stories. We heard so many retellings of her time on the mission field and how God would always lead her to exactly where she needed to be. I didn’t notice that the plates had been cleared and the rest of our dinner party had left… we were that deep in conversation!! At one point she looked at me and asked, “Can I tell you something that’s just been laid on my heart to tell you?” I was a little scared but mostly just excited so I said, “Of course.” Jordan looked me in the eyes and told me, “God has given you permission to radiate the light of Christ.”
I think my mouth dropped open. It was like everything I needed to hear but never knew to expect. It was perfect. And it was the second affirmation of what God was trying to tell me. The third came in the morning as I was flipping through my Bible praying for which verses to write as encouragement to the other girls. I ended up coming across a page in John, and one verse jumped out at me: “Those who do what is right live in the light so that others may see they are doing what God wants.” Ummm…. what?!?!?!? I immediately ran up to Jordan and showed her what I had just come across. She asked me to share it with the girls, and as I was trying to explain the craziness that was happening, God was literally putting the words in my mouth that I could not have come up with on my own. I told them that for too long I had been living in my safe little Christian box, reading my Bible, saying my prayers, sharing the occasional piece of Scripture with Justin or my sisters. But that that wasn’t enough. God doesn’t call us to live in the safety of our bedrooms, checking off all the little boxes of our Christian routines. We are called to be bold and LIVE IN THE LIGHT! I needed to be out there and not holding myself back from proclaiming all the amazing things God has done in my life and the plans He’s continuing to unfold. I don’t need to be afraid to be myself and share the words He’s laid on my heart because news flash… the only opinion that matters is HIS. And if I keep all this good news to myself, it’s actually kind of insulting to God!
Throughout the weekend, He continued to make clear that I was being called to RADIATE. I just love that word. It means, “to clearly emanate a strong feeling or quality through expression or bearing.” To CLEARLY shine with God’s love. It’s not the easiest mission… but it’s one that will totally and completely be worth it. I took a leap of faith by signing up for this retreat that I wouldn’t know anyone at and would be outside of my comfort zone for, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve gotten to know 24 amazing individuals that I consider such a blessing to my life. They are fountains of encouragement, light, and love in my darkest hours. They are words of wisdom in times I’m lost. And they are my sisters in Christ. I hope their inner beauty shines brightly through these images. They are all so remarkably wonderful and I love them so much. Thank you, Delight & Be, for the opportunity to enter God’s presence and undergo a lifechanging transformation of the heart and an absolute renewal of my mind. I can’t wait to see how God continues to use Delight to bring others to Christ.
Warning… HUGE amount of pictures to follow!!
Ivy… I love your hair!! (Pretty sure that’s the first thing I said as soon as I met her… haha)
The amazing Emmy G giving us some posing tips!! With Jackie as our gorgeous model :)
Still giving tips… this time with standing poses!
You know you’re at a photography retreat when…
Jackie you are so photogenic!!
Anna is so sweet and so full of courage!
EMILY!! I have so many pictures of you girl. You know how to work it in front of the camera AND behind the lens!!!
Getting some more tips from Emily Gluntz! I loved learning from her!!
And then we made her hop in front of the camera :)
You may recognize Meredith from a couple of posts ago! We accidentally met up with each other in February having no idea we were both going to the Delight retreat!!! I love her so much. She is destined for great things…!
And we’re back to Emily… fun fact: She’s gotten her picture taken by Katelyn James!!
We loved, loved, LOVED this tunnel! The light was ahh-mazing!
And here’s a few more behind-the-scenes shots of small group stuff! All three groups made a backdrop for the creative shoot on Sunday afternoon. Here’s a glimpse of ours!
And here’s my two small group leaders… Christina & Angie :)
Jordan doing what she does best!! Can’t WAIT to see how she puts it all together!
Sunday afternoon was reserved for photography. I had to leave a day early from the retreat to head home for an exam early Monday morning, but I managed to squeeze in just enough photo time!! I loved the entire idea behind this shoot- proclaiming all the great things God had spoken throughout the weekend and just being joyful in who He made us to be!
This is Hannah. She made me feel like a million bucks. The end. (Except, it’s probably more like the beginning… of a beautiful friendship :) She also shares my birthday!!! Love her.
And this is Grace! She looks like Emma Roberts but I can imagine that she’s probably 300 times nicer. And she might be more fun, too :)
We tried to get a “glitter blowing” picture…. didn’t quite turn out… but at least she looks cute!!
I call this next set, “Grace and Her Balloon.”
And last but not least… this is Emma. She braided my hair on Sunday and made me feel so pretty and I love her for that.
So there ya have it… words cannot do this experience justice… but I tried!! And I hope God is able to speak through me using this post and these images. I just loved the Delight Retreat so much and I can’t wait to possibly be involved with it in the future!! :)