Fourteen years ago, John and I moved to Phoenix with a 10 month old baby boy. We had no idea how our lives would change by living in the desert for 4 years.
Notably, it was the people we met who changed our lives the most.
This past weekend I was in Dallas with 3 girlfriends from that season of being in seminary. These women are deep waters, the kind of friends you can plunge the depths of your soul even when we haven’t for months (or years). The last time we were all together, was 3 years ago. We met in Phoenix that year for my 40th birthday and was our first big get together. That weekend filled my cup so much I knew I had to do it again. One of the friends and I have been together annually since. All three of the women are pastors’ wives. All four of us are in ministry in different states. Between us there are 16 children between the ages of 14 and 3.
It’s no easy feat to get away. But man, so worth it.
We talked about EVERYTHING this weekend. I love being with them. We hold space for each other to process life. Being together is a time to listen and be listened to. There is freedom to ask hard questions of each other and of God. To laugh — and cry.
Getting away with a couple of friends in my life stage has been invaluable. The four of us are hovering around 40. I’m the oldest and my personality lends itself towards leadership so I’ve accepted the responsibility to rally the troops, make sure the weekend happens and also give direction to our time.
Usually in January, I start texting, “Who’s in this year?” Then followed by, “Which weekend works best?” These questions are usually dictated by childcare and our husbands’ schedules. Most of us live away from extended families and childcare is the biggest hurdle…especially when your husband is a pastor and works all weekend. The next question is, “Who has connections for lodging?” In years’ past, we’ve used time shares from someones’ parents. This year I emailed a few of my friends to ask if anyone had lodging connections in Dallas (so I could drive and my friends fly). The Lord was gracious to provide a free condo near Love Field.
A month or so before we meet up, I start sending questions to think about in advance. I’m an extroverted verbal processor and isn’t it funny how God gives me friends? They are decidedly on the introverted side and prefer to think inside their heads before anything ever comes out. So I have discovered that for the best discussions, I should give my friends advanced warning of what I want to talk about.
Questions for Contemplation and Conversation
Grant Cardone says, “Good questions are like jet fuel for success…” and this year I sent my friends a slew of questions from him. I love to reflect on these kind of questions in the new year. Something about being 40+ and now that my kids are in elementary school (no more diapers, naps, etc.) causes me to feel like I’m at a whole new season of life and it’s crazy exciting. This list of his questions really got the jet fuel pumping in my veins.
As a reader, of course I want to know which books have influenced them since we last talked. We all brought our favorite books so we could hold them, talk about them and let our friends read a bit. Rachael gave a copy of her favorite book to us all – Fully Alive. In no particular order, the rest of the top books were:
The Flavor Bible, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Simply Clean (home keeping), Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, The Hardest Peace (mother of 4 dying of cancer), Between Us Girls (moms & daughters), Cozy Minimalist (decorating), When the Soul Listens, Zoe’s Hiding Place+ 2 other similar titles. You’ve seen some of these titles from me before and also recommended by my friends!
I also told them I wanted to hear about people and events that have shaped them over the past 1-3 years.
While I was brainstorming topics of conversation, a house guest and fellow Cru staffer told me about the 5H’s as a way of getting to know people. I told my friends to prepare 15 minutes of telling the rest of us about their Heritage (growing up years), Hobbies, Highlight (of the last year), Hardship (of the last year), and Hope (future expectation).
The purpose of storytelling is not to help with your struggles, find your voice, or solve your problems, but to be lifted out of your self-obsession and into the larger story of God. –Larry Crabb
As we thought through the following questions, I reminded my friends to ask the Holy Spirit to show them His narrative.
- What is God using to conform you more into his image? i.e. What is refining you currently?
- Think of a time of darkness, when you wondered, “Where is Good?”
- How is your marriage?
- Can a woman be too selfless? (This is a question I have really wrestled with in the last 12 months.)
The below questions I used 3 years ago at our first retreat, and I think they came from Tsh Oxenrider, though I’m not 100% sure. I printed these and left them on our dining table to use as fodder for evening conversation.
- If I gave you $1000, what would you do with it? (You can’t give it away)
- In what area of life or specific situation would you like input or advice?
- If you had one, what was a genius move you had over the past year?
- If you had one, what was one idiot move you had over the past year?
- What’s inspiring you?
- What refills your tank? what do you do on a daily/weekly basis to recharge?
- What’s something that helped your household run more smoothly–a tip, a practice, something you decided to let go of…
- What’s a recipe you make on repeat? Current crowd pleaser for the family.
Rachael and I arrived Thursday night. Sara came Friday morning. I picked her up at the airport (Rachael stayed back for alone time). Sara and I went to Ikea for several hours (without children!!). Angela arrived Friday afternoon. Casual dinner, book recommendations and talking late into the night.
Saturday we were in pajamas all day. Breakfast on your own then Stillness and Silence (read, journal, nap, whatever you want) until lunch. Then we talked at the table until dinner. Made dinner together (I taught them how to make Fijian Indian chicken curry) and talked into the night.
Sunday morning silence for a couple hours – we wrote love notes to our husbands. Then talking, lunch and praying until the mad dash to leave for the airport at 2pm.
As you can see, we didn’t do much except talk. And we talked about everything. Lots of phase of life, turning 40 conversations mostly because I had gone to a workshop on phases of life (+ lunch with Beth & David English) that really resonated with where I am and what I’m experiencing. It probably comes as no surprise that we also talked about body image struggles, food, food, food and more food, children, parenting, church, grief from the death of a sister, another lost her father-in-love. We talked husbands, their jobs, self care, friendships, mentoring, sleep, Bible study, praying together, and eating an inordinate amount chocolate. So much chocolate!
Because food is my love language, I planned the menu, grocery shopped and brought some meals already made. I didn’t want to spend the whole weekend in the kitchen. Nor did I want to waste any precious time by leaving our haven of conversation to find food. Maybe in future years we will venture out more. But this year it just felt right to hunker down and stay inside.
Two of us are committed to making this happen annually, whatever it takes. The other two need to decide year by year, and that’s OK. This kind of weekend fills my soul so well, I can’t imagine NOT doing it next year.
What about you?
Think of two friends you’d like to spend the weekend with. Send them a link to this article and ask them to consider.