Scrapbooks and photo albums cover an army of sweat pant legs folded on the floor of the retreat center. Laughter over big hair and shoulder pads the size of pillows turn heads to the corner of the room in unison. However, I notice that some aren’t laughing or holding a scrapbook.

It was an insensitive oversight on my part as the leader. How I asked a couple hundred women to bring their wedding albums to the retreat for a fun evening of looking back in time. I didn’t even think about it, until I noticed a few women huddled together without anything on their laps.

They just met, relieved to be sitting next to each other.  They didn’t bring albums because one was on her third marriage and the other got married on a New Year’s whim in Vegas.

I was giving away prizes for the funniest hairdo, most changed, married the longest and I alienated several in the room by the small lens of my own experience. And every retreat, small group and bible study I’ve led since, these women remind me to think inclusive.

Luckily, Kelly (left) and LuAnn (right) turned out to be my closest friends.

Because sometimes in the midst of your biggest blunders, God redeems it with a gift you weren’t expecting.

My friend LuAnn just moved to Phoenix, joined the Mom’s group I led and bravely decided to come to the annual women’s retreat alone. She didn’t know anyone yet. It turns out that what I assumed to be courageous, was actually an act of faith.

She and her husband were on the heels of surviving his affair. And I represented the very thing that shattered her marriage, a pastor’s wife. In my ignorance, I assigned her to a room with the wife of the senior pastor.

Or maybe it was providence?

The three of us, we’ve shared tears in the delivery room of grace, swimming lessons by the pool, family vacations, and laughter about stages that come with wrinkles. We’ve acquiesced over the loss of muscle tone, of loved ones and the loss of community between us, now separated by thousands of miles.

Whenever we open the gift of wrapping our arms around each other, it’s often in the context of a retreat. We return to a similar setting, the way God joined us together the first time, with one exception. LuAnn speaks from the platform on many of those occasions.

I’m hoping for a reunion here in April, where I’m honored to play a small part in the dream of another friend. Because we’ll be talking about harnessing dreams and giving them voice and I want to share that with you and my two friends. The friends who forgave my insensitivity and helped transform dreams into reality, just by loving me.

Have you ever been to a retreat? Do you have close friends that live far away? I always say two days away with girlfriends, accelerates friendship two years. I hope you’ll consider coming to Nebraska for Jumping Tandem: The Retreat. Deidra’s dreaming up an amazing weekend with you in mind . I’d love to meet you there.

Early registration begins October 1st and space is limited.

Linking with friends Jennifer and Emily (they’re speaking at the retreat), Duane (I write with him at on Friday’s for Living the Story – check it out), WLWW and Walk with Him Wednesday.