Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Weird and Wonderful

First off, thank you for praying over the Hope Mommies retreat this weekend.  Prayers were answered in a powerful way. 

Last Friday, I nervously pulled into Sonic to order a Route 44 ice water (I know my choice in beverage is boring) for the road.  Anyways, I sat there a little shaky and clammy, thinking, "What if this is all just too insane?"  I had been answering texts and calls all morning from 9 other girls who were having travel delays, cancellations, illnesses etc. on their way to the Hope Mommies retreat in Brady, Texas.  Satan was at work to destroy something he had already lost.  I had a small freak out moment, realizing I would be driving to Brady in a couple minutes, followed by my sweet and funny friend Lauren Collier, who did not really even know the other girls.  What on earth was I thinking?! 

Good thing we took the long way to Brady (thank you ice and snow), because I had a few extra minutes to prepare myself.  Poor Lauren, following me, had to stop and swerve to the side of the road about 5 times as I thought every single ranch gate outside of Brady was Selah Springs.  Little did I know that the ranch gate would have an ENORMOUS Hope Mommies banner across it.  For some reason the banner made me super excited, but took my breath away at the same time.  "Tisha is crazy", is all I thought.  But a fabulous kind of crazy.  :)

Driving the 1.2 mile dirt road up to the log ranch house, we were surrounded by incredible Hill Country beauty and wild exotic game animals.  "Well this is it Sarah.  You are here!  Let's do this!"  Erin and the Shuffields were already at the ranch when Lauren and I arrived.  We were welcomed by such luxurious accommodations at Selah Springs Ranch
I decided to room with Erin for the weekend because I knew she thought it was all a little weird too...okay and mostly because I just love her to pieces!!  But just in case we needed to vent and say how weird it was as we hopped in bed, I knew I was safe with Erin being a roomie. ;)  (Btw---that was really unnecessary, as the weirdness was SO outweighed by the wonderfulness of what our Saviour had in store!)

God's plans were so evident in EVERY single detail, as each girl starting arriving, despite the Blizzard of '11 attempting to hinder that.  As I hugged each girl who arrived next, Sara, Holly, Kelly, Whitney, Melissa, Mary Beth and Chelsea I felt like I was hugging girls I already knew.  I met my real-life heroes.  I texted Chet at that point and said I couldn't believe I was sitting there amidst those ladies.

Dinner was intriguing, as we learned the more "trivial facts" of each others lives, like what we do for work and what kind of houses we live in.  Getting to know each other from the inside out is something I have never done with people.  We've read each others blogs, emails and called each other on the phone with the deepest journeys in our hearts, but really did not know much about the daily lives we live.  I am NOT great with small talk, so I was worried about this part a lot.  In my mind, it compared to a first date or going to a party where you do not know anyone; I was nervous that it would be completely awkward.  We jumped in to conversation like we had been BFFs for our whole lives.  Whew, another worry crossed off.  :)

After dinner on Friday, we were blessed to worship with music by the very talented Lost Creek.  Their voices and hearts gave me goosebumps.  As I looked around the room at each girl sitting next to me, all praising the One who made it all possible that evening, I realized again how much He cares for us.  Again, I can only say surreal.  We stayed up until way past our bedtimes, like we were high school kids, laughing and crying as we got to know each other. 

Saturday morning we meandered down to a couple pots of coffee (thanks to the baristas of the weekend, Kelly, Erin and Melissa) and a lovely day starting.  We prayed and listened to Linsey Woodard as she encouraged us with a precious speech.  I believe Linsey is anointed to speak and touched us all deeply.  The Word was alive through her words.

That afternoon, several of us donned running gear and took our runs/walks.  Erin and I started out running, and ran 4 miles together.  We share such a special bond in the way that we both lost our first and only children.  I think if there were marriages in heaven (which there are not), I would be downright blessed to have Gwenny marry Holden.  They would have cute chunky babies.  Okay...enough unscriptural dreaming.  Sorry.  Anyways...back to the run...I quit at four miles in.  Erin kept going (yay her!), but I decided to walk a mile with Mary Beth and Whitney (who had already run 5 miles)...and then meet up with Kelly and Holly to walk even longer.  I'm really glad I was able to walk with them and spend the time getting to know each other more on the breathtaking land.  Mary Beth and Whitney both ran/are running half-marathons in their sweet little girls' legacy.  What a tribute to their children.  Running is very difficult, but yet they are still pushing through.  I think running long distances is such a picture of this journey...it feels impossible, yet it is not.   

Back at the house, Tisha and JJ were already photographing the girls.  They are all so beautiful!  I was not thrilled about this part for my own personal photos, but I am so glad the Shuffields captured my friends' beauty!!  I forgot my camera this weekend, so I am REALLY glad we had the very best photogs in Texas there.  I didn't forget it on purpose (I promise Tisha!), but that means you will have to go check out the other girls' blogs, as well as Shuffield Photography, the official photographers of the weekend.  We got together to wear our Hope Mommies t-shirts (thank you Erin!) for a photo.  The 9 women I stood next to in that picture represent His grace and mercy in a such an amazing way.  I get teary thinking of how we don't even know how exactly we all met each other.  But we did.  We did because the Lord in His unfailing mercy placed our lives together.   

After running and photographs, we had another delicious dinner and made s'mores on the porch.  We came in and enjoyed a glass of wine while Tisha passed out gifts of love from women of faith all over the place.  Tisha had organized prayer warriors to pray over each of us and write us letters.  I also know many of my friends were praying over this weekend as well.  A dear saint made each of us a beautiful handmade security blanket.  How sweet, huh?!  Saturday ended up being another late evening filled with sharing stories, albums and scrapbooks.  It was bittersweet.

Sunday morning, we said our goodbyes to Mary Beth, since she needed to fly back to the West Coast for work.  :(  It was really tough, as I wanted to spend more time with her!  Tisha's close friend Tina Young came to speak to us over breakfast in pajamas (I stayed in my pj's until about 2 or 3 I think).  Tina's honest and real heart captivated me, as she spoke about how the Lord can turn tragedy into glory.  What a blessing. 

Lauren left Sunday afternoon.  Lauren is further away from when her baby was born into heaven, so she brought all of us hope this weekend.  She also made us laugh so hard our stomachs hurt.  I think I need more Lauren in my life...maybe my midsection would be flatter.  ;)  It was so sad to say goodbye to her too. 

This brings me to my very favorite part of the whole weekend; sitting on the rocks in the river praying together.  The Spirit surrounded that place and healed our hearts.  It is a moment I will never forget.

Erin and Chelsea had to leave Sunday evening, before we headed to Fredericksburg for dinner.  Once again I realized how much more time I would like to spend with these girls.  ((sigh))  Tisha drove us to Fredericksburg where we walked around and enjoyed laughing together over good Mexican food.  Scratch that...great Mexican food.  (Mamacita's)  I really did not know if there would be laughter this weekend, and my prayer was that we could have JOY this weekend.  We certainly did.  :)  Sunday night we were blessed to hang out more.  Kelly shared her heart in a precious way.  I love that girl!

Monday morning I woke up really amazed that I would be sad about our weekend coming to a close.  I'm a homebody, and usually by day two of any vacation I am ready to be home.  Kelly, Whitney and Melissa loaded up in the car to head to the airport.  Holly and I had a little time before we headed out. 

All these girls have changed my life in such a profound way.  Each girl has a beautiful heart, and I look forward to being lifelong friends.  We are together because of something we wish we never had to be a part of.  But because we are, we can share in each others joys and trials in a way that no one else can.  Chelsea put it in words, "We can talk about our Hope Babies to each other without ever thinking we have talked about them too much." 

Erin has been given an amazing opportunity to use Gwendolyn's life for His kingdom, as she pursues starting the Hope Mommies organization.  PLEASE be in prayer for her (and all involved), as Hope Mommies will be used to bless hundreds of women in the near future. (Expect a blog post about it all soon!)  Babies going to heaven before their parents is something my human mind and heart cannot fathom, but I know that His will and plans are bigger than my human plans.  I just know I would not be here today without the HOPE I have through eternal life.  Hope Mommies can spread this hope. 

Driving home was so much different than my drive there.  I thanked the Lord for His perfect love towards us the entire time.

My mind was processing way too much to sleep on Sunday night.  I thought about the little boy who was born on August 28, 2010 who was the reason I was even laying in that bed.  I would trade all of the above for just one day with my son on earth, yet I cherish the fact that He is bringing light to darkness.  I love you, Holden Newell.


  1. yeah, cute chunky babies!! that made me laugh. i love hearing your thoughts, and am so thankful to have you as a deep, soulful friend on this journey. you are precious to me, just like holden.

  2. Oh, Sarah. I found your blog through Erin's. I've known her for years and am so thankful for your presence in her life! You are such a beautiful writer. And I love your son's name. My brother's name is Holden :)

  3. Love it! :) Sounds like a wonderful, inspiring time and I am so glad you went. :)

  4. Thank you all...Erin, I am glad you laughed. I love our CHUNKY sweeties.
    Katie, thank you. The name Holden is so special...obviously. Thank you for sharing that. :)
    Amber, thanks for praying over the weekend!

  5. Sarah, your weekend sounds amazing. I have never heard of Hope Mommies. What a sweet time together.

    Holden is such a handsome name! I'm so sorry he is not in your arms right now.