placeFinding My Place at the Five-Minute Friday Retreat

I sniffed my pits before closing my car door and heading towards the place where we would register. I shrugged. Without facing the registration process, I wouldn’t receive a room key for the retreat. And until I had that room key in my hot and sweaty hand, I couldn’t shower. I’d have to go in smelling slightly ripe, covered in grime (birding is dirty business), and wild-haired.

Once again, I found myself just a little late. Only this time, I didn’t know what to expect when I walked in the door of a strange building filled with women I had only ‘met’ online. As I passed Christy’s van in the parking lot, I smiled with relief. Someone would know me (and my penchant for bird watching). Christy had graciously hosted me at her place the night before (and I had showed up in the same been-birding-got-dirty condition).

When I entered the lobby of the building, everyone seemed to know me at once. Ladies jumped up to give me hug (despite my warning about dirt and bad smells). My heart filled with calm and gratitude that a bunch of in-real-life strangers would accept the in-real-life me without hesitation.

Without pretensions, we became an instant community. We sang together, prayed together, bared our souls, and confessed our sins. Although we signed up for a writing retreat, we ended up fellowshipping as the body of Christ—a church without a building or a specific place.

I don’t know anyone’s denomination, but I know everyone loves Jesus. We don’t all write in the same genre or style, but we all write to glorify our God.

Why Can’t Church be Like That?

placeAlthough I’m not a hugger (I don’t mind hugging, it just seems awkward without an invitation), I learned that I need to hug the strangers that walk in the doors of my church more often. I need to invite them into conversation and relationship. Even if they smell ripe and arrive unwashed with crazy hair.

All too often I fail at the one job I know God has given me to do—love. Love without hesitation, reservation, or conditions.

Too often I judge others based whether or not they look and smell and act like me. I subconsciously place a value on everyone, forgetting that we all cost the same—Jesus’ life.

So, I challenge each of you to forget the place where you worship God, and remember your place in his kingdom. Include people—even the odd ones. Give hugs liberally—even to those that you don’t know well. Smile often, listen more, and pledge to learn from others.

We all have a story, and something to teach the world.

All too often, I fail at the one job God gave me to do: Love others #fmfparty #Christianduty Click To Tweet



  1. Awww, Anita. I loved this post. And I was beyond thrilled to meet you face to face. To talk, to see your beautiful smile. And, I so appreciate your exhortations to love well, especially at church. To hug, to welcome those who are different from myself. Beautiful reminder, my beautiful friend!
    Jeanne Takenaka recently posted…Place: Finding Our Heart PlaceMy Profile

  2. Me, too, Anita. All too often I fail at the one job I know God has given me to do—love. Love without hesitation, reservation, or conditions. I think my one word for 2018 will be love.

  3. You otter be the place, eh, Anita?

    When I read that you sniffed your pits I had a laugh, because I read it as “I sniffed my Pitts.”

    A Pitts Special is a small aerobatic biplane (I built one in my garage), and it does have a signature smell made up of oil, petrol, primed steel and doped fabric, and the slight whiff of sweat from all those who have occupied that seat.

    It’s a good smell.

  4. When other’s love us unconditionally – it shows us how to love others! I’ve found that the women in our blogging community, who have reached out in prayer and care, have shown me how to love my own community that I walk in daily better! I love that you were slightly abashed but fully you – and because you were who you are, you experienced something wonderful – instead of trying to sneak in. THAT is a great story, too!

  5. Anita, I am humbled and energized at the same time! Isn’t it amazing how God shows us we are no different than others? I appreciate your story of stinking when you arrived at the retreat and how it is our calling to follow Jesus, which means loving ALL. Thank you and may you feel His presence today, Julie

  6. I love that you found fellowship at the retreat. I seem to be just fine at that level of friendship (I don’t mind hugging the occasional stranger!), but things seem to disintegrate in the long term. My goal is to be invested not only for the moment, but for the long haul. Blessings to you.

  7. Beautiful. I am messy, unkept, and often feel unhuggable. I feel so out of place in the world (especially the church) so I hide. But, I know my mission, my reason for existing is to Love people. It’s tough sometimes.
    See although I feel unwelcome in many places, I’m guilty (knowingly or unknowingly) of pushing people away or judging people based on silly external things or my perceptions.
    Love one another —> Love at ALL times = this is what God has placed on my heart for some time now. It’s not a challenge to love the ones I want to, it’s the ones that most turn their backs on – those I’m called to Love which is challenging.
    It’s a stretching and an acceptance of my position with God without Christ.
    SaraBeth recently posted…The Place I’d Rather BeMy Profile

  8. Even as we hugged in my doorway, I never smelled your pits, lol.

    I love this right here:

    So, I challenge each of you to forget the place where you worship God, and remember your place in his kingdom. Include people—even the odd ones. Give hugs liberally—even to those that you don’t know well. Smile often, listen more, and pledge to learn from others.
    Christy recently posted…Not a normal Thursday My Profile

  9. Anita,
    well I’m sorry to have only seen the polished you. I’d have hugged you regardless. 😀 And I’m so grateful that you came, because you needed to know how loved you really are!
    I see in your heart that desire to love. You express this love constantly at your school, Anita. You love far more than you think you do. And you smell like love.

  10. Well, this one just smacked me right in the face. (Don’t worry; it’s a good thing).

    My church has been going through a really hard season. Our senior pastor left in October 2016 and we have yet to find a new one. His leaving exposed some things that had been hidden for far too long. Not sin, really, just a lot of…apathy. Laziness. We hemorrhaged members for several months and are down to less than 50.

    There are days when I just want to leave. I want to chuck the whole thing. I’m tired of complaints and I’m tired of not knowing what’s going to happen. Your post reminded me that I’ve got to love this little band of believers, warts and all.
    Marie recently posted…Five Minute Friday: PlaceMy Profile

    1. I’m so sorry, Marie. That’s had. We finally have a new pastor at our church who opened Wednesday night prayer meeting with, “I’d like to get your ideas on how you think prayer meeting should be.” Hallelujah! It’s about time! May God continue to bless you as you hang in and love your fellow toads…um, warty Christians.
      Anita recently posted…A Palette of New Releases for AugustMy Profile

  11. Indeed we all have a story to tell! Jesus would have been the first to welcome and hug the dirty grimy stranger. You’re right….we need to be more like him. Sounds like the retreat was such a good time. I’m in the 62 spot this week.

  12. Anita, I love your posts! They are always insightful and there’s always this sense of humour…even though I’ve never met you, I can almost see you smiling as you tell this story. 🙂
    You are right, we have to BE the places for others. I am learning this at the moment and the encounters I have are definitely worth it!

  13. Thank you, Anita! I love the reminders, and I am grateful for your peek into the retreat. Isn’t it funny how sometimes we can accept and hug strangers so readily and at other times keep a distance?

    I love the way you communicate truth!
    Thank you, and I bless you with a feast of JOY in Jesus today! Lisa

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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