We are coming off of a most awesome weekend.

We went with a group from church to Gatlinburg for Winterfest, a convention for Christian youth they have every year. We went up after school on Thursday afternoon, to make it just in time to unload and crash into bed. To set the scene: Jeremy had the pleasure of driving the 15 passenger van with all the middle/high schoolers, while I drove our Suburban and got to hang out with Esther, my friend Christie, and half of the luggage that was headed to the mountains. The rest of the luggage was in another Suburban with more friends, and a few other adults had already gone on ahead. The youth leader, sadly, had had a family emergency and didn’t get to go up with us but did join us the next evening along with a couple of others. There were ultimately 24 of us stuffed in a 5 bedroom cabin. But you know, the song says love grows best in little houses.

Our first session wasn’t until Friday afternoon, so we had a lazy morning then went into town around lunch time and let everyone explore Gatlinburg, doing all the touristy things. You know. Shopping. Sight seeing. Freezing. (Maybe that was just me.) We just so happened to do a lot of the same on Saturday afternoon.

There were sessions Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday evening, and Sunday morning. There were all sorts of wonderful speakers and performers. Each one took the theme and weaved it into their particular craft and showed us how no matter what you do you can do it to God’s glory.

This year’s theme was Shipwrecked, with the center verse being John 16:33. That scripture was repeated frequently throughout the weekend.

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Shipwrecks happen in life. Sometimes they are of our own making. Sometimes they are unavoidable. But Jesus assures us they will come. He also assures us that He has already overcome the world. Not will, but has. What have we to fear, knowing our Savior has already won? Throughout the weekend, we heard about the Titanic, and how sometimes simple decisions wreak havoc and result in disaster. We heard firsthand from a man who had actually been shipwrecked and spent 21 hours in the water with his friends, praying to God and hoping they would be rescued. We heard that even though we suffer shipwreck and become broken, the grace of God fills us, just like the gold in Japanese kintsugi repairs broken pottery and makes it more valuable (a blatant rip off of my ladies’ retreat lesson! 😉). We heard about the prophet Elijah and how when he felt shipwrecked and was ready to give up, God revealed Himself, not in the loud wind, earthquake, or fire, but in the quiet whisper, a time where we have to stop and focus and hone in on Him. And we learned that from that verse in John, we have zero control over the troubles that come, or the fact that Jesus has already overcome. Troubles will be there, and Jesus will, too. What we do have power over is the middle – the take heart. We can have courage, peace, and content, but we have to choose it. We have to decide to be ready for those troubles, and have faith that God will be there no matter what.

Our kids, and us, had a wonderful weekend learning more about God, about life, and about each other. They drew closer, and so did we. Friendships were strengthened. Memories were made. Voices were raised in praise to God. We shared laughter, tears, spaghetti, and card tricks. We thought about our own shipwrecked lives and how to love on and rescue others who are shipwrecked. It was a weekend filled with fun and fellowship, praise and prayer, scripture and the Spirit. As we drove home Sunday afternoon, we rested, reflected, and a few of us had a hymn chain over the walkie talkies.

I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my weekend.

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