Lauren Casper »

Created for Care: Recap.

I’ve been waiting all week to post about the retreat because I was hoping for some massive brain organization that apparently just doesn’t feel like happening. Oh well. I promise to share more on a deeper level soon. I think I might have to drag it out into a few posts because God just did so many different things over the course of the weekend. Some needed heart-healing, some inspiration and motivation, some truths spoken into my life, some awareness and education, some freedom from burdens I was placing on myself. If I tried to put it all into one post I’m afraid I couldn’t stop typing and it would all come out a jumbled mess! So be on the lookout for more serious posts soon. In the meantime here is a quick overview of the weekend!

We got the airport around 9:30am on Friday morning. We sat in the cafe to eat breakfast but my tummy could only tolerate coffee. I’m a nervous flyer. By 10:15am we realized that prolonging our goodbye was just making things worse and Mareto was pretty antsy. So we said goodbye in front of the security entrance and I bawled my eyes out. I was so upset about leaving my men that I couldn’t think straight. I tried to walk through the metal detector with my shoes still on my feet and I then I got in trouble for leaving my scarf on. Weird. Anyway, I made it on the plane and made it to Atlanta. Shortly after landing my roomie for the weekend, Wynne, texted that she had just landed. I said I would meet her at baggage claim. So 15 min later she texts that she’s at my baggage claim. I text that I’m on my way… 30 min later I text that I’m still on my way. Yea. Apparently there’s some handy little train that takes you from one end of the incredibly huge airport to the other. I missed that sign and my gate and the baggage claim were on polar opposite ends of this very long airport. So eventually I made it incredibly out of breath and sweaty. We rented a car and after about 6 u-turns we were on our way to the lodge! It was a great opportunity to get all caught up with Wynne. God is doing some awesome things in her life. I’m so inspired.

We got to the lodge and went to our room to unload first. Let me just interject a little tidbit about me and the state of my heart going into this weekend. I was nervous. Really nervous. And sick. Really sick. Why nervous? Well, I was headed into a weekend to meet 450 women in person. I could count on one hand the number of women I had seen in person before. 3. Three women were in Ethiopia with me last year. The rest were all dear internet friends. Women that I have bonded with over email, blogs, and facebook for the past few years. These are women I feel so close to and yet had never met before. Let me tell you a little something about the internet… you get to choose what you put out there for others to see. You get to select the pictures and carefully edit them so everyone sees your prettiest side. You can make your personality seem super fun and come across as much more hilarious and outgoing than you really are. There is some safety behind the screen. So I came into this weekend worried about 3 things:

  1. What if I’m way uglier than everyone thinks I am because I only put the best pictures up?
  2. What if they all realize I’m not cool and not funny and not crazy clever and outgoing?
  3. What if they think my voice is stupid? (not joking… I was most worried about this.)

I know that’s an ugly truth. Pride. That’s what I was struggling with. But God took care of my pride in a hurry…

  1. I woke up Friday morning to find a giant “blemish” in the middle of my forehead and another one on my upper lip. Then my lips got crazy chapped. Bright pink, peeling, cracking, crazy chapped! So that whole worrying about looking pretty thing just went up in the air. Yea.
  2. I mentioned I was sick. I thought it was just a cold and tried to fool myself into thinking I was really okay, but the truth is that I was feeling lousy all weekend. So any personality I thought I had just went right out the window. I wasn’t outgoing or anything – I was just trying to maintain composure.
  3. By Friday evening my voice was one crackling crazy mess. By Sunday it was practically non existent. I was speaking in whispers which is way stupider than even my normal voice (which I was teased relentlessly about in jr and sr high and that’s why I’m a bit sensitive). Remember how I said I was sick? well a trip to the doctor on Monday showed that I had laryngitis… hence the no voice.

So here’s the deal. On the internet we put our best self forward all the time. I was worried about everyone seeing that I’m not always that version of myself. So what happened? I wasn’t that version on the outside.  Which really turned out completely perfect because it allowed me to only focus on my inside self. Once the outside was a mess I was able to realize how much work God wanted to do on my insides. I am so thankful for that.

(me with Lara and Amy – two of my very best blogging friends. They are absolutely amazing women!)

The rest of the weekend was full of amazingness. Spending time with over 400 mama’s who share the same heart for adoption and orphan care was an incredible blessing. The first night I stood in awe as we all stood and worshiped the Father together. It was pure and beautiful and my soul just soaked it all in. There were incredible panelists and guest speakers. I learned so so much.

My first breakout session was Using Your Blog for Outreach and Ministry. There were several bloggers on the panel and a moderator. It was lots of fun because I follow each of the blogs represented and have relationships with 2 of the bloggers. I learned a lot about using my blog to advocate for adoption, orphan care, missions, and more. I also learned a lot about how to use my blog wisely (as in, what not to share), how to deal with negative readers (yes, I do have some of those), and how to keep the balance… my favorite quote along that line was “You don’t work for the blog – the blog works for you!” Awesome.

(Kristi, Wes, and me. Kristi is another wonderful blog/fb friend who has been a real blessing in my life)

I signed up for two breakout sessions on Saturday: News about HIV & Orphans and Realistic Expectations in Adoption and Helping Your Child Know and Experience God. Then I snuck into the end of a third session: I Drive a Bus (all about large families).

The HIV session was awesome. I learned so much and a lot that I already knew was confirmed. I think the best part for me was to see a room FULL of women who have either adopted HIV+ children or were there because they want to learn more to be open to adopting HIV+ children. Amazing. God is really  moving in this area and I see so much hope for these precious children. We heard a lot of encouraging facts but they also didn’t sugar coat the harder parts. I think the hardest part about HIV adoption is the stigma. There is still so much ignorance surrounding this disease and the ones to suffer most are the children who are emotionally hurt by rude and insensitive people. All the more reason to speak out on behalf of these children – we need to get rid of this stigma and tell the TRUTH – that HIV is a manageable chronic disease that CANNOT be spread in any way other than through sex, sharing of needles, or giving birth/breast feeding. More to come on this.

(me and Betsy!! It was so wonderful to get together with Betsy again. We were in Ethiopia together for both trips and share that special bond from our experiences there. I truly count her as one of my very best friends.)

I loved the session about helping our children know God. A wonderful children’s minister led this and I came away feeling so encouraged and armed with great and practical ideas. Mareto is still small but I am already implementing some of the tools I learned through this.

Yes, I did break the rules. I snuck into the tail end of the session about large families. These mama’s were hilarious! I loved the differences in personality and parenting styles. Each of them had at least 6 children and one mama on the panel has 10!! All have adopted more than one child. It was great! I laughed a lot.

(Sara and me! I couldn’t wait to meet Sara! Our boys were roomies at Hannah’s Hope. They were a couple weeks behind us in the process so we just missed each other by a couple weeks in Ethiopia. Even MORE exciting – they are in the pilot program for Ghana with us!! Our babies will be roommates once again! It was wonderful to be able to share our excitement, fears, and encourage each other.)

By far, for me, the most incredible part of the weekend was something called “Date with God.” I signed up for the Saturday 11am time slot with a little bit of reservation. I didn’t quite know what to expect. All it said was “creative quiet time.” When I walked into the room there were stations set up along the walls and I felt a little out of my comfort zone. But the woman who was overseeing the whole thing made me feel completely at ease. I didn’t get to all the stations, but I did go to 4 of them. God really did some incredible work in my heart during that time. I still haven’t decided if I’ll share that yet. It’s so precious to me and I need to let it really sink in for awhile. I may choose to keep this in my own heart. : )

(A bunch of AGCI mama’s. There was probably triple this amount, but I was on the phone with Mareto when the main group pic was taken, so I jumped into a few smaller group photos. Any time there were a bunch of us gathered in one place there would be a picture taken. I love each of these women so much. They are sisters to me.)

Sunday was more worship and encouragement with a rush of picture taking before we packed up and headed out to the airport. Wynne had an earlier flight (that she actually missed because we got distracted chatting at lunch and were running behind and then hit traffic). Mine left on time and I got back to my men by 7pm… physically exhausted but spiritually refreshed and so happy to be back in their arms!

… and if you’ve made it this far then you are awesome! : )

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