Want to hear something ironic? I like to hike and camp and get as little sleep as possibe in my hammock, surrounded by 15 to 20 other people and giant raccoons in the Wichita Mountains mountains for “rest”. But honestly, I love it so much! Joey started the Rest Retreat in 2012 to be a sort of detox from school for the university students. That was my first event with the University Ministry of FBC Norman. Every year since then, the Rest Retreat has been the mark on my calendar for something significant ending or about to happen in my life.
2012-The first year
I had just finished my junior year of college and was about to spend the whole summer in China serving in missions. My best friend Kaitlin asked me to go with her on this camping trip with her University Ministry, since she had never really been camping before and knew how much I loved it. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that she asked me, and that I went! We stayed at the Doris Campgroud, site C, in tents. I think there were only two people who slept in a hammock that year. We took a hike up Mt. Baldy to watch the sun set and have some quiet time with the One who created it. I got to reflect on all that God had been doing in my life that year, and spiritual prepare for the journey he was about to take me on overseas. It was amazing and refreshing. The second day, we took another little silent hike to the Narrows, right by a peaceful creek. This silent hike was designed to make it feel like we were hiking alone. We would send one student after another down the trail, sort of staggered so that we weren’t all bunched up together. I loved doing that! I was able to notice things on the trail that I may not have noticed with a bunch of people walking around me. I heard what I may not have heard had I been talking with those around me. It instantly became a disciple I wanted to practice more, and got to in China later that summer. Then we went rock climbing. Joey use to work for a rock climbing co. in…Colorado? Sorry, Joey, I forget! But anyway, he had two of his friends come with their climbing equipment and dog, and they helped us climb and repel. I will not forget how encouraging everyone was! I normally don’t get scared of heights, but for some reason I became a little timid at the crux of my climb and was about ready to give up. Joey and Kate did not let that happen, though. Thanks you two. For everything. We returned home that day, smelly and sleepy, but honestly so rejuvenated.
2013-The second year.
The end of my undergrad. The weekend before this retreat, I was celebrating my graduation with friends and family and again, planning to return to China to work more with one of my previous team members (shoutout to Rachel!). Needless to say, I was in need of some rest. I could not have asked for a better way to spend time with Jesus, thanking him for getting me through that last year of school. We had some really good talks over those two days spent in his beautiful nature. We kept the same schedule as the year before, only we took out the rock climbing/repelling part out. Instead, we spent more time at the creek and Narrows. Kate and I did free climb a 90 degree cliff, though! Okay, maybe not quite 90 degree, but it was pretty intense-and in chacos. That was also the first year she and I had slept in a hammock. We were really becoming quite the mountain women. Anyways, we thought this would be my last year for Rest Retreat, you know since I graduated and all, so Joey decided it would be funny to name the sunset hike the “In memory of Laura Robertson” hike. I told him no. He did it anyway. But little did we know, folks, LITTLE DID WE KNOW!
2014-The third year.
Yes, I went to Rest Retreat yet another year. Only this time, as the University Ministry Intern. When I got back from China the previous semester, I wasn’t sure what my next step would be. I had secretly prayed and hoped I could work at the church with Joey somehow, but I did not know that could really be a possibility. He asked me a week after I got back. So instead of just being an attendee of the retreat, I actually got to help plan it! And in my humble opinion, it was so fun. We had some new faces that year, and some friends who were not there from previous years. God continued to speak sweetly to my soul about what it meant to rest in him, and to spend time with him in that specific element. I truly believe he has allowed for the mountains (even the little ones of Oklahoma) to be a sanctuary of worship of him, and a place for me to meet with him. This retreat also marked a year of learning to go deeper in the community and friendships God had given me. It was not easy, and I had to learn some things about my character and life in general that I did not wish were true, but I also learned how to give that up to God and let him work through my weaknesses. And through this community and time of surrender, I felt God calling me to go to seminary.
2015-The fourth, and maybe final, year.
You may have noticed I am the only one who has showed up in all four of these pictures. I like to brag about that sometimes, but only to be silly, of course. But honestly, these pictures are a reminder to myself of how far God has brought me. This year was almost an entirely different experience for me. It was the first retreat I planned all on my own, even though I kept nearly everything the exact same. Now, being the Interim University Minister, I was the one to make sure the site-the same Doris Campground, site C-was reserved, that we had plenty of food, a way to cook that food, that we had gas in the van, everyone on board and with something to sleep in, and that there was some sort of curriculum for the students to go through. And we did. Praise God, we did! And I know that there is absolutely no way I could have done it really on my own. First of all, God. Secondly, everyone you see in these pictures. And if Chris hadn’t gone, we may have froze or starved. Who knows really, but I’m glad he was there to help tremendously. These people. Let me tell you. I love them so much. They have made this journey of student-to-intern-to-interim-ship a complete blessing! Some of them have heard all about my struggles and self-doubts, but all of them have been encouraging and pointed me to Jesus through it all. And I hope I have given back to them at least a bit of what they have given to me. This time on the sun set hike, I did not go through the devo guide we have (mainly because I wrote it and that felt weird), so I sat on Mt. Baldy and journaled, watching the sun sink into that big bowl of the mountains. I wrote a lot of thank yous, most of them belonging to Jesus for letting us be there and being the wonderful Father that he is. Who else can love so deeply? We continued the tradition of the silent hike, and saw the creek at it highest point. We returned home smelly and sleepy, just like that first year; and also like the years before, rejuvenated in the Lord.
These retreats have taught me so much about resting in the Lord, and how that can be an act of worship and service just as much as working for him. They have given me some of the most meaningful times of reflection on my college and post-undergrad experiences, and I am forever thankful I have gotten to go every year, in each capacity, with every individual who has gone as well. I do not know what next year holds for FBC Norman UM, if it will bring about another rest retreat, or if I will be a “guest” there or not, but I do know Who holds me and this community in his creative hands; my Jesus.
Thank you Jesus. Thank you, thank you, thank you.