by Kelly Johnston
January is an interesting dichotomy. A chance for a fresh start and to hit the reset button on goals, both old and new. But this year it’s also ushered in frigid temperatures and icy conditions reminiscent of either a winter wonderland or a frozen tundra, depending on who you ask. But one opportunity Lakeland loves to offer in the new year: the chance to get involved through small groups, milestones and contemplative retreats.
As our Winter Small Groups kick off this month and retreats are being scheduled, it seemed like the perfect time to share Wendy Calvert’s passion for her away retreats and her service to Lakeland’s photography team.
We sit with Wendy in the Lakeland lobby, wrapping up her interview for our My Story posts. When asked about how she stays involved at the church, her face lights with a radiant smile.
“The away retreats are my passion. I went on the first away retreat and I was sold.” She pauses and folds her hands. “At that time I was kind of struggling with trying to hear God,” she finally shares, a slight frown settling on her brow. “I didn’t feel like I was hearing him and I knew it was because I was getting to a point where I wasn’t stopping to listen, but I was getting frustrated. The first retreat I was frustrated almost the whole time, I couldn’t hear him and I was trying too hard.”
Her face softens and her shoulders relax as she remembers. “But by the end of the retreat, the last morning, I was in a quiet spot and he was there and it blew me away.” Her hands come up, almost in a gesture of worship, and she smiles again, this one full of peace and joy. “I was so relieved. I was at peace. Honestly the whole weekend I was saying “I can’t hear you, where are you?” Most of the weekend it was raining which really bummed me out because I’m an outdoor person and that’s where I find God, so being inside wasn’t helping. Sunday morning the sun was out, there was a light breeze and I was just standing there.” Her fingers drift along, mimicking the wind she felt that glorious Sunday morning. “A breeze just blew over me, through my hair and over my face and he said ‘Here I am.’”
We think we see a glassy sheen in Wendy’s eyes, which wouldn’t be surprising given that her story has brought tears to the eyes of several our My Story team members. “It just opened me up. I don’t even know how to describe. And at the end of all of the retreats it’s been so exciting to just take that time and be quiet and be with him.”
Committing to a retreat can be intimidating, especially the first time. We ask Wendy what advice she has for people considering a retreat but who might be holding back. “I think we do have a few people that are feeling nervous about going on a retreat and I would just say if you are looking for a connection with God just jump off and do it and you will not regret it. I haven’t seen one person go on one of those retreats and come back saying that was the worst weekend of my life. One of the things that’s one of the scariest thing but also best thing is the solitude. The first weekend is scary, but after you get over it and you realize how different it is for you then the rest of them you look forward to.”
She leans forward, excitement radiating off her. “I remember, on our second retreat it was beautiful, gorgeous, I thought it was going to be chilly, so I just walked around to see what spoke to me. I could almost feel God saying “Come on, come this way, I’ve got this great spot” so I’m walking along and come up on a great spot, a wooded area with a creek and there was a place I could sit and watch the leaves and listen to the creek and God said ‘I’m so glad you’re here!’”
ABOUT MY STORIES
Every month Pastor Marta Gillilan and members of the Lakeland Social Media Team interview an individual, couple or family. From struggles in faith to joyful events, Lakelanders are sharing their stories through the “Humans of Lakeland” blog series. Get to know the people who call Lakeland home.