Enjoy these photos from our most recent Sanctuary Retreat '16.
Have you ever asked God for something that, in the back of your mind, it almost seemed like too big of a thing to ask? You may have heard me share about this before, but when it comes to #gratefulness, I couldn't close this series out without sharing about the amazing gift from God that is known as Sanctuary.
My husband, Chresten, and I will celebrate 19 years of marriage and ministry in January. I'll never forget the first weekend of evangelistic ministry we shared together. We were married the first Saturday of January 1998 and off to "win the world for Christ" the very next Saturday! It was that first Sunday morning at a small church in southeastern Oklahoma that somebody ever called me "Sister Tomlin". I am not exaggerating when I say that I literally turned around to see if his grandmother had sneaked in the back! I was barely "Mrs. Tomlin", but I was certainly NOT "Sister Tomlin"!
Week after week, mile after mile, Chresten and I have traveled together in ministry. And meal after meal, I have sat and heard the hearts of ministry wives across the nation, many struggling, some "knocking it out of the park", others distant and guarded, but all reaching out at least a little. Being a ministry wife can be the greatest thing in the world--fulfilling the call of God alongside the man you love. But it can also be quite isolating and leave you a bit lonely. Very few truly relate to what the ministry wife does and, all too often, the ones who actually can relate, well, they can't seem to cross the Great Divide to connect and extend the desperately needed words, "Listen, I get it."
Life's cycle of seasons have written a few changes into my script now and again and through each of them I found myself saying, "Lord, I don't have the answers, but I'd sure like to connect these girls to one another!"
What launched as our first Sanctuary Retreat in February 2015 left me breathlessly in awe of just how God fulfilled those years--yes, years--of prayers. Up to that moment when I watched as ministry wives from all generations and various ministry roles gather in God's presence, allowing Him to lavish so very richly upon their thirsty souls, I had only envisioned what it might be like. I'm a details girl, so you have to know that I had visualized every moment and got quite specific with Him. Time, Lord. We need more than just one night. Food, Lord, the food must be savory, excessive, and filling. Space--Lord, we need space for privacy, prayer, and rest. What about the weather? Well, despite my intercession on that one, we got SNOW! But intimacy and soaking in Your presence, well, He got that one unbelievably right.
I stood and watched on our final night of that first retreat, tears streaming down my face, jaw virtually dropped, and finally whispered, "You did it ALL! You did it just as I requested. Wow."
When I left that retreat, I was only disappointed with one thing: another year would need to transpire before I could produce another retreat. But, as time has a habit of marching on, Winter 2016 arrived and we stood on the precipice of our second retreat. One hurdle stood in our way...the lack of peace in my heart. I was wrestling in my spirit and, to my dismay, I couldn't put my finger on the root of it. To make a long story short, my supportive husband, and team member, Casey, seemed to be hearing more clearly from the Lord and were in unity on the decision: this retreat should be delayed.
I wish I could say I was angelic in my submission to such a suggestion. I was ready to retreat, bless God! Every other detail was in place. The deposit had been made to the venue. The guest list was nearly complete. I even had a word in my heart to deliver. But I could not find peace. Therefore, I resigned to their consensus and stepped over my pouting lip to postpone, contact the venue, and deliver the news to each guest.
This may be where you came in, dear reader, as God's idea outgrew mine. When the channels cleared--it took a few weeks for me to move forward from my pity party--I heard the Spirit challenging me to build a website for Sanctuary. So, I pursued the task of learning how to do such a thing. Weeks later, we launched what is now our ministry site and opened up our social media group. Within 48 hours, our member base went from 15 to over 400! And God began to increase my vision beyond where I had, with fear and trembling, previously established its boundaries.
Flash forward to November 2016...
Today I find myself once again with the jaw-drop condition, wondering how I'll be able to wait another year for our next Sanctuary Retreat. Were I to recount the many testimonies from this year's retreat I would be holding you captive for far too long. The overall consensus: only God could do that. Even opening the guest list from a 'by invitation only' process to 'whomever registers' felt like a risky gamble. But I discovered, for the ump-teenth time, that God doesn't always need my event planning resume to execute a divine plan.
The autumn air was crisp and idyllic. The guest list, beyond 'on point'. The food, yummy. And the opportunity to receive a fresh word from God, and then have time to digest and process it? Oh my, perfection.
What are you asking God for right now? Does it feel too big or too much? Let me remind and encourage you: when you are praying according to His will, it's never too much to ask. I have found He is sitting on the edge of His seat, anxious to meet the desires of a pure heart. Just as Hannah approached God in 1 Samuel 1, year after year, our persistence will be met with a payoff. I am believing with you, dear sister, that all too soon you will return to this moment as a reference point in time. You will be holding that too-good-to-be-true promise within your grasp, and able to boldly declare, "For this I prayed!"
Ask big, girlfriend. He's your biggest fan.
"...she said, 'O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.'" (1 Samuel 1: 26-27)
Bridgette Tomlin, founder of Sanctuary, is a wife, mother of two girls, and 'minister of the et cetera' alongside her husband, Chresten from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She loves a great cup of steaming hot tea, the blessing of quiet spaces where she can think now and again, and the art of a handwritten note. While she's a vocalist, speaker, writer, and admin, Bridgette's heart is fully engaged in connecting every woman to their God-given call and gifts with authentic candor. You can follow her blog from their ministry site at www.ctministries.com.
"For This I Prayed" is ENTRY FOUR and the final entry in our #grateful series. Need to catch up? Start with ENTRY ONE!