Arise Women's Ministry: "I See You, God"
November 18, 2023
“This ministry is taking off, Christi, and it’s because it was God’s idea.” Last week when my friend Kristi said that to me, I wrote it on a sticky note at my desk so I wouldn’t forget it. I believe that, God. I believe it was Your idea. And I believe that Arise Women’s Ministry is thriving because of You.
Five years ago, God spoke these words into my heart: "If there is no Christian women’s organization in this area, you should start one."
I’m so amazed by what God has done. I’m so humbled that He chose me to start this ministry and to lead. I’m so grateful for the way He, God, not me, has impacted women’s hearts and lives! I know it wasn’t me. When I look back over the last five years, I see all that I’ve gone through, and how I had so much less time and energy to devote to Arise than I expected to. But it was no surprise to God. That’s why He sent me an incredible team of leaders to help bear the load, and to help share the highs and lows of this ministry. Not long ago we were on a FaceTime call to plan the final details of our fall women’s retreat, and I sat there in awe that these five other godly women are committed to this ministry. It’s because God called them to it and because they see Him working in it! So they continue to sacrifice their time, energy, prayers, and occasionally money to continue to be part of God’s work here. Five years ago, I didn’t know who was going to help me with Arise. Two of the current leaders I hadn’t even met yet when God told me to start this ministry. I am so thankful for you, Arise Women’s Ministry leaders and board members! Jamie, Kristi, Darla, Jolynn, and Kris. Thank you for following God’s leading and for faithfully serving with me in Arise!
Who am I writing this post for? I prayed about that this morning. I’m writing it for me, to record this point in time with Arise. Five years from now I believe it will be amazing to look back on November 2023 and see where we were. Who knows what will happen in my life and with Arise in the next five years? Well, besides our God, I mean! Obviously, He knows. I get to discover it along the way in the next five years, just like I did with the last five years. And I’m writing this post for the other leaders who have all been along for the journey as Arise began. I want them to share in the joy and wonder over what God has done. They deserve to celebrate too.
I’m also writing this post for the one who has a dream that God planted in her heart, and yet there is doubt about whether God will show up to fulfill that dream. May my story give you hope. May it show you the goodness of our God and how He works in unexpected ways. He is worth following, my dear. He will walk with you every step of the way, and provide the perseverance and the resources you need, if you continue to seek His will and His timing in that dream He gave you. I can tell you that Arise does not look like I wanted it to when God first prompted me to get started. It’s growing more slowly than I expected. But I see God every step of the way, and I have continued to surrender and let Him make it what He wants, in His perfect timing. When I pray for Arise, I ask God to continue to allow it to thrive. I ask that He would increase the depth of our roots in Him. I don’t specifically ask for it to grow and increase in the number of women or the number of programs. I think that is covered by me asking God to continue to let it thrive. He knows what He’s doing. I once heard a quote from popular Bible study author Beth Moore that I still hold onto: “I concentrate on the depth of my ministry and let God worry about the breadth of it.” It’s actually very precious to me that I can see so much value in the impact of this small ministry. Every woman who has attended one of our Bible studies, prayer groups, or events is a little victory. Because God had her in mind when He told me to start Arise! Isn’t that amazing? He knew. He knew she needed it. But God has done some work in my heart to show me that the beauty of impacting one person for Him is just as beautiful as impacting 1000 people for Him. Every heart matters to Him. A ministry that is small in numbers is not small in value in the kingdom of God. His measurements are different than ours, and better! I pray that I will continue to have eyes that see like His do and that I will not be tempted to measure success by the world’s standards, in number of people, number of followers, number of likes, amount of money, etc. God measures in hearts changed for Him. And that’s a measure we can’t see with our physical eyes. We believe it in our hearts and allow Him to do what only He can: help women know and love Him more.
Some pretty big things have happened in the last five years! It’s important to me to write down each one for my own remembrance. If you want to read the full timeline, click here Arise Women's Ministry: Five Years.
To name a few of the biggest things that have happened, God brought together the leadership team and board of Directors, we created our website and mission statement, we got established by the IRS as a 501©3 charitable organization, we opened a bank account, we have run through ten different Bible studies, we started a new prayer group called Arise Women of Prayer, we have had multiple fun activities or outings: movie nights, craft night, hikes, beach day, out for ice cream, Christmas party, packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child, and we have had two women's retreats. This last retreat is something I want to write about!
In October of 2023, we had our second women’s retreat. Ok, here I go, tearing up. This one. This was the one where God just impressed upon my heart the entire weekend to pause and look at what He had done in the last five years. It was November of 2018 that God first told me to start Arise Women’s Ministry, and here we were the first weekend of October 2023, with a group of 14 of us staying in a house at the coast, overlooking the ocean. Why were any of those women spending that weekend there at the coast? Because they desire what Arise has to offer: knowing God better through His Word and a personal relationship with Him, and having a connection with other women to go through life together, sharing the joys and the suffering, and challenging each other’s faith to grow. Wow. I wish I had a better word to describe my awe.
On Friday evening, just after we all got into the house and had unpacked and were gathering for dinner, Jamie got my attention and said, “Come here!” When I neared her, she told me to look out the window at the twilight sky over the ocean. And as I did, she held up her phone to show me the Arise Women’s Ministry logo that she had created 3 years earlier. You guys. I gasped. The colors of the sky that night at the coast were the same as the colors in the Arise logo. I had never seen a sky that looked like those exact colors before. Except on the logo. And now it was right in front of us in real life. And it just felt like God was saying, “This ministry is right where it’s supposed to be.” And He wanted to tell us He loved us and was pleased. I hugged Jamie and was so grateful that God pointed out that twilight sky to her and that she shared it with me. She went outside to get a photo of it.
The retreat was so, so good. We ate good food, we played games, we roasted marshmallows around the fire pit, we walked on the beach, and we had powerful teaching videos and discussion questions that followed.
Our theme was “Beholding His Glory,” based on 2 Corinthians 3:18.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
We used videos as the main source of teaching, and after each video, we discussed the content. The focus was on not just accepting Christ to be saved one day after you die, but also intentionally beholding Him, drawing near to Him, following Him, and living for Him every single day, in order to be transformed into His likeness and in order to have the full life He came to give us.
My personal favorite part of the weekend was the scheduled “quiet time” with God on Saturday morning. We gave the assignment to go anywhere to be alone with God, but not to talk to one another at all during this time. We provided an optional Bible passage to read with questions for thought, and we provided an optional art activity of writing a verse or prayer on an art tile and coloring it or adding a drawing.
When we dismissed from the discussion time to head into quiet time with God, I knew where I hoped to sit. The swing.
And apparently, no one else had that spot in mind since I took my time getting out there yet I found it empty. I sat down. I lifted my heart to God and the tears began. I’m emotional! It’s ok. It’s how God made me. Unfortunately, I only brought two tissues with me. I made them work hard for me. Lol. I began to pray and God directed me to look back over the last five years of my life. Look at everything God has done in five years. In my life, in Arise Women’s Ministry, and in the world overall! I mean the pandemic even happened in the time between November 2018 and now. And I lost my daddy. And I went to counseling, which I did not see coming. And now, here are these ladies, gathered together for this retreat, (ages 18-72), here seeking God, seeking the beauty of nature, and seeking fellowship with each other. I was overcome with gratitude that God had asked me to lead this ministry. I was overcome with gratitude for the other leaders and board members, Darla, Kristi, Jamie, Jolynn, and Kris, who have also poured their prayers, love, time, money, and sacrifice into this ministry. Because of their faith that God is at work here. I’m just so amazed and so humbled that I get to be part of it. I journaled about what God had done in the last five years. I drew on my art tile the colors of the sky in the Arise logo (and that God had painted right there in the evening sky the night before to reach down and touch me and Jamie with love), and I wrote the verse that inspired the name Arise.
Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
Later that evening we gave all of us a chance to share what God had done in our quiet time that morning. And I told the ladies how I was in awe of what God had done in Arise and that they were all there right then because of it, and because He knew they would be part of it. I told them I was humbled and surprised that He asked me to lead Arise. But I was so grateful. Oh, and I cried while I told them about it, of course.
I treasured all the other things that were shared by the rest of the ladies about their time alone with God. Isn’t it incredible that He meets each of us right where we are, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually, and He is able to minister to each of us and teach us something precious no matter what we are facing in any given season or moment? There are no words big enough to describe the wonder of this.
Earlier this week I was talking with a friend about God and how cool it is when you see God show up in such a personal way, just for you, and even if you can’t fully describe it to someone else, you know. You know what you asked Him for or what you needed, and then He showed up just for you, and you can say, “I see You, God. I know that was You.” And it builds the most precious and intimate relationship with Him. You get to experience Him as both God and friend. If anyone reading this does not know Him that way yet, just pray and ask Him to come into your life and be that kind of friend to you. And then watch for His leading.
There are some people who have had an incredible impact on Arise Women’s Ministry over the last five years:
My husband. He has always believed in this dream and never once thought it was silly or unimportant. He always gives me good advice when I need it. He helped me build the website and continues to assist with website questions or challenges I have, even if he’s tired. He makes it easy for Arise to meet at our church, even though it isn’t affiliated with our church. He puts announcements about Arise in our church bulletin in case any ladies from church want to attend. And I think the best part is knowing He’s proud of me.
My mom. She has always supported this dream and prayed for me in it, and she also has faithfully attended Arise Bible studies and retreats and events over the last three years since we started meeting. I love to see her relationship with the other women in the group. And she hosts Arise movie nights at her house sometimes, which have been some of my favorite evenings with Arise.
My friends and other family members. There are so many people who have supported me and helped me in this. Your encouragement is something I treasure! Thank you to those who have prayed for Arise and for me, and thank you to those who have donated money over the years! I’ve been given jars of change, bottles and cans, and cash, and now have received many donations through our website. A year ago we didn’t have enough money to pay the website renewal fees and needed $200, so I asked the ladies in the current Bible study if anyone was able to help by donating, and immediately I got more than one offer to pay the whole amount! I was so blessed and amazed. This year, Arise had more than enough money to pay the website renewal and all of our other fees, with money to spare, and it’s awesome to see that change in just a year!
To my other leaders, I cannot thank you enough for what you bring to this ministry! When God first told me to start Arise, I thought the plan would include me quitting my full-time job and working full-time for Arise, like right from the start. That has not been His plan for me so far, and He has shown me the beauty in having a team of leaders who help share the load and do things I am unable to do! There is so much more joy in leading and working together than there would be if I were doing everything by myself! He’s teaching me to continue to trust that His plan is always better than mine, and I need to let Him be God and just continue to follow.
Darla, thank you for encouraging me when I have had doubts about whether Arise is doing important work. I sometimes look at other non-profits that are doing more specifically targeted work, like providing meals or helping single moms with childcare or any number of other things that seem more “measurable” or “provable.” You have pointed out the many ways that Arise has helped the women who have chosen to be part of it, even when we can’t see it or measure it. You’re right. Thank you for helping me see that.
At the beginning of each Bible study meeting, Jolynn leads us in an icebreaker question. They are often just for fun, like, “If you could live anywhere in the world for one year, where would it be?” But last spring, I remember one night the question was, “What is something you are thankful for?” I was surprised and deeply blessed that several of the ladies, when it came to their turn, said they were so thankful for Arise. And they shared what a difference it has made for them. That’s God. I see You, God.
I dug out my old journals this week to find out the date that I first heard God tell me to start Arise. Guess what the date was? November 18, 2018. Guess what today’s date is? November 18, 2023. You guys. I have very little time or opportunity to write blog posts these days. I started this one last weekend but didn’t have time to finish. And today is the first chance I’ve had to finish. Do you think God knew that? Do you think He knew that I would finish this post exactly five years after the day He first told me about Arise? I do. I think He knew. I see You, God.
The Arise leadership team already planned the dates and location of our fall women’s retreat for next year, and we intentionally chose a place with more beds so that more women can join us next year if they want to. And my dear friend and co-leader Kristi said to me, “This ministry is taking off, Christi. And it’s because it was God’s idea.”
I wrote that on a sticky note that is at my desk.
Arise Women’s Ministry was God’s idea. And He let me be part of it. He’s my favorite.