Beauty for Ashes Expat Conference: Qingdao

A few weeks back I mentioned how I had had a fabulous weekend! Here in Qingdao we had an expat women's Beauty for Ashes retreat. I was so blessed to be apart of the team of women putting it together. Our vision for it was that it would be a weekend for women to be Refreshed, Revived, and Reconciled to God and each other. The Lord fulfilled that vision, His vision, that weekend in so many women's lives.  It was a weekend of tears, joy, blessings, encouragement and freedom!
Forty expat women attended the retreat, where we provided tons of snacks & coffee, speakers, prayer, worship, and small group time. The talks were amazing. They spoke into who we are in Jesus.
We are cherished, sought after, delighted in, rejoiced over! We are so very loved by Him.
We were taught how to recognize the lies that the enemy has spoken over us about who we are and we prayed for freedom from those lies in our small group times. The Lord set free! As He always does, He made beauty out of ashes and it was beautiful. I was set free of an identity and image that I had believed and spoken over myself for as long as I can remember. He replaced that horrible image with a new image, an Oak of Righteousness. **I promise I will share in more detail about that lie.. but not today. :)** This new image breathed life into me, into those places that were dead from pain & lies.
My job in the retreat was my very favorite job of all things social, hospitality! In the past few years, I have began to realize that God has really gifted me in hospitality and that I just love it . I love  to create spaces and parties where people feel excited, comfortable, loved, thought of, cared for and drawn closer to each other and Jesus.  I love to create things that people can delight in and feel delighted over by and I feel so alive when doing it. I feel closer to Jesus & more apart of His plan for my life.
God provided for every detail, including the space. A month before the retreat I realized that me and my procrastinating self had still not booked a hotel. I started calling around and found that most of the hotels here charged ridiculous prices for their meeting rooms, meeting rooms that even if we could afford them, were already booked. I started freaking out, slipping in the "Jesus please provide!" desperation prayers in my freak outs, and what do you know, of course, as He always does, He faithfully provided. Not only did He provide a hotel, but He provide one that was freaking awesome and a fraction of the cost compared to all the others. As soon as I called and found out this hotel had available dates, Zachary and I rushed out the door to check it out. Walking up to the entrance, on the wooded walkway above, I started feeling sooverwhelmed by How amazing, good and kind God is. The rest of the hotel continued to blow me away. It was just so me! It fit my personality and idea perfectly. It was cozy, yet eclectic and cool.
 It was just perfect. A gift.
 On the first day of the retreat I got there early and started brewing coffee, placing food, placing flowers and setting everything else up. I was so excited about the way everything turned out! It's crazy how just flowers, mason jars, and an accent color can really liven a place up. The women were so encouraging all weekend complimenting and thanking me. It, of course, always feels good to have someone delight in and enjoy something you've spent so much time praying over and thinking about and it felt beyond awesome to be doing something in my "element." Their words were so encouraging to me & I enjoyed doing it, but really, it was all Him and all for His glory and praise.
If you are interesting in working through this Beauty for Ashes course that was taught at the retreat, in a small group - or even on your own - you can buy the study guide (and leader's guide) here: Crown of Beauty.

"Journey with God through this twelve week Bible study and allow God to set you free to rest in His love and delight. You will display His glory as God's Spirit renews you. These studies will enable you to discover the root issues that are holding you back from a more intimate encounter with God. Discouragement, distance, or defeat will be replaced by joy, intimacy, and victory. This is most effective when studied with at least one other person, though it can be done alone. Preparation time: 30 - 45 minutes per lesson. Small group time: 1 1/2 hours. You can also purchase the Leader's Guide and teach this Bible study to a small group or to your church's women's ministry."
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,  because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,  to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,   and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy  instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord  for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61: 1-3 

***All pictures are taken by the extremely talented Catherine, from the blog Traveling with JC
Follow their blog! You'll love it!***


Beka said...

As a sister in Christ, I'm so happy you got to be a part of this. I think there is something so special about expat women meeting together and sharing their faith. The decorations are beautiful and how fun that you are gifted with hospitality =)!

Justin Esser said...

Man, this blog post looks pretty familiar!!

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