Innocently…and I can rarely use that term, so I’m enjoying it today….I signed up to go on a women’s retreat with the ladies from the new church we have recently moved to. I had a fun, enriching time at a retreat with the ladies from our former church just the weekend before. So it was like saying goodbye, then hello, all in a whirlwind week of packing our last things up and moving among a maze of stacked boxes each day. I was glad to miss out on moving out day…I am no help in carrying boxes or heavy furniture to a moving van anyway. And watching my home of the last 9 years being carted off and emptied out would have been…sad. So the retreat was just what the new church ladies had ordered and I went, ready to begin my journey into new friendships and ministry.
The Friday of the retreat, I had planned to spend the day with my wonderful, kindred friend. We started the day early so we could have more time browsing second hand shops and sipping cappuccino while enjoying each other’s company in coffee shops and local haunts we knew of…..I was really looking forward to it and it seemed to be starting off just perfectly. While eating breakfast at the best eatery in our small town, my cell phone rang. We had just been talking about a few things we wanted to do during the day, finishing a really good cuppa morning coffee. It was Charles….we needed to sign the loan papers for the house….IN Phoenix…today. *insert very sad pout* so much for our wonderful, carefree day! Off to Phoenix we drove, two and a half hours to Phoenix. No faxing of signatures would do this time…and then we saw why! The mountain of papers to sign was dreadful….no one warned me about this part….my signature started looking like chicken scratch and I started misspelling my name….silly.
Before driving away that morning for this run down ‘the hill’ (as northern Arizona residents call going to Phoenix…the elevation drop is about 6,000 feet) I had called ahead to a lady I knew was going on the retreat and arranged to ride with her to Prescott mid afternoon. Well it was closing in on mid afternoon, so I called her again and said Charles was going to have to take a detour home and take me through Prescott for the retreat. No, she wouldn’t have it…she wanted me to ride with them and I wanted to also, so she drove around the west valley, picking up 2 more ladies while I signed the remaining stack of papers. We finally got done about an hour later and met her at an interstate exit.
On our way, we laughed and talked, the four of us ladies, like we were old friends. They were fun and easy to get to know…easy to talk with. The rest of the weekend turned out to be the same thing….fun, easy, fitting in and loving it. The speaker, Jan Shrader, was so good, so timely with her Bible study on the life of Joseph. The theme was Survivor, from the *insert adjective* game show of the same name on television. So her Bible study was on surviving our Egypt….how God uses the hard times in our lives to shape us into who and what He wants us to be and do. Heavy stuff, but very well done and lots of humor added from Jan’s self described A.D.D. personality. She is a hoot! And she is friends with a dear friend of mine from back in my high school days.
Then they got a little crazy on me.
Don’t get me wrong, I like crazy….I live there a lot of the time, as my family can testify. ;) So it was an enjoyable ride. We were divided into teams and given challenges…our theme being Survivor. My team won the first challenge and used a little mind gaming in the process, so the other teams were suspicious of us after that. Our prize was a Sam’s Wholesale Club container of cheeseballs. That night, the cheeseballs went missing…and an Amber alert came in with grease stains on it and 2 cheeseballs taped to the paper. I wish I had the original message because we just laughed and laughed. We thought it was over for our little orange friends, but later that night a ransom note appeared, along with a Polaroid photo of our dear, greasy cheeseballs being held at gunpoint (this was the scariest part, knowing someone had brought a gun to a ladies’ retreat….yikes mike!) by a pillowcase ensconced woman. (it was over her head) Her arms showed though, so a thorough search of arms was performed that night in an effort to find the cheeseball nappers. The note demanded a 2 pound bag of plain M&M’s for the safe return of our cheeseballs. We refused to pay the ransom and encourage this type of behavior (cheeseballs are people too, y’know)….besides, we knew from arm inspection and a wisp of blonde hair under the pillow case in the picture who the napper was….although she calmly denied involvement. The next morning all was well, as the dear grease…er, cheese…balls were returned and placed in the back of Shirley’s van to ride back to Phoenix. We thought the adventure was over….we piled our feminine luggage back into the minivans and sports utility vehicles and started back to Phoenix. Very unfortunately (as you’ll realize in a minute) the lady I was riding back with and I stopped to get a large soda on the way out of town. I was sucking that puppy down, being ravenously thirty for some reason. (I’m not sure, but maybe this was from eating salty cheeseballs)
About an hour from Phoenix, we came to a stop on the interstate. Since it is a winding rode through mountainous desert country, we couldn’t see how far ahead the trouble was or see how long the line of stopped cars was. Gradually people stopped their engines and got out of the cars, talking, visiting, wondering. Word came down the line that there was an accident, lots of people ejected and hurt on the road, a baby less than 2 years old killed. So we waited, prayed for the victims, called other ladies from our group on cell phones, wished we hadn’t stopped for a soda on the way…..and I’m talking a large soda. Joy had laminated awards for giving out on field day at the school where she teaches gym….Cheryl, who was stopped 2 cars ahead of us had scissors….so we cut out little laminated running men….lots of little running men. =) My bladder got fussy….I knew a hike was inevitable. The desert, although it was pretty and lots of plants, has very little dense foliage….the kind you can hide behind. It was tricky, but we did it, bringing along my winter coat for a shield. It’s not easy to find privacy in the desert, beside a curve in the road lined with people and cars….and on a hill. Balance and careful planning come into play in a time like this….and making sure your foot, with your cute new Teva’s on is not downhill. (I didn’t have the forethought on that last tip, but I have now and tell you, be sure not to wear cute shoes if one foot has to be downhill to balance.) Poor shoe.
While we waited, a young man came walking up the road and Cheryl and Joy shouted, “Jeremiah! What are you doing here!” It was the son of a church member…..the interim pastor’s son in fact. They had been coming home from a preaching gig and called their wife/mom only to find out that she was at the front of the line of cars, miles away. So being a teenage boy, Jeremiah decided to walk up to his mom’s car. And he was carrying a Walmart bag. And in the bottom of that bag was…..cheeseballs. We squealed and laughed and he thought we were nuts, I’m sure. He didn’t understand (good preparation for becoming a man) why every time he walked by a car of church ladies, they laughed and squealed about cheeseballs. He thought he was just innocently bringing snacks down the line to nourish poor stranded drivers. (He had walked by Shirley’s van and she had given him a mission…nourish the multitudes.) Poor Jeremiah…he is now ‘Cheeseballboy’.
Three hours and fifteen minutes later, we got back in the van and as the sun went behind the mountain and twilight set in, we started back down the road, full of cheeseballs, a damp shoe and another survival tale. It all kinda came full circle, didn’t it?
And I feel fully initiated into the women’s ministry at this new church. It’s made the transition very easy because I have so many connections now with the women. (some will be useful for blackmail, should the need arise) Retreats will do that for you….the atmosphere lets down our defenses and our hair with each other to find we are all on common ground. They are a bit crazy and eccentric and so am I….so I’m fitting right in.