by Debbie Altman 

“Marvelous Midlife….” Well, actually, the committee named this late night chat for Beautiful Weekend.  “Marvelous” was not the first word that came to mind when I thought of mid-life!

Let’s see.  There’s the symptoms of hormone shifts, (hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, mood-swings, to name a few!) aging parents to care for, or the grief of their passing; and young adult children leaving the nest,(or coming back!)  There’s the battle with age…we are supposed to do that gracefully…whatever that means!  Personally, I’m not that happy about it!  Even my knees are saggy!  It takes so many more hours to do all the things I’m supposed to be doing to “keep myself up” these days!  And “keeping up” in general seems harder than it used to be…did my energy and memory take a vacation?!  There is the feeling that our culture does not revere the aging as those who are wise; but are more interested in the young and trendy, and we are being pushed aside.  Then there is the idea of re-evaluating your life…questioning whether you are where you want to be, and have done the things you intended to do.  We won’t call it a mid-life crisis, but it is certainly a mid-life re-calculation!  For some dear women, tragically finding themselves “single-again” can add to the unsettling season of life this can be. 

I was trying to explain to my husband and then 26 year-old son what menopause was, and how I was in it, and what it was like.  I was trying to tell them that I loved them and to please forgive me and not take it personally if I bit their head off!  My son very innocently and inquisitively asked me…”and how long does this last?

So where is the “marvelous” you ask?!  Well, I am here to tell you that after the initial slap in the face of mid-life, there is so much to be valued! 

I went through a particularly difficult time with hormone imbalance, along with several of the other mid-life stressors I have mentioned. Out of nowhere, I began to experience debilitating anxiety, and consequently depression, and it was truly “a dark night of my soul.”  But as I re-evaluated everything in my life…spirit, soul and body…God led me through—He guided me and provided a way to healing. 

In the midst of my suffering, Jesus became even more dear to me than I could imagine.  He was my Rock and my Fortress, my Shelter in the storm, my Rescuer from the pit.  While initially being nervous about both my children being gone to other states and countries, and wondering if I would still have something to talk about with my husband at the dinner table…we found that we were having fun and enjoying the spontaneity of less responsibility for children!  I don’t have to cook as much!  Hooray!  I re-discovered the value of female friendships.  I could not have made it through without them…and I have more time for them!  And this season of life offers more opportunity to mentor the younger women around me and pour myself into them!  I’ve been able to re-define my role as a “mother.”  And there is a confidence and freedom of older age, from lessons learned, from experiencing God’s faithfulness,  that makes life more satisfying and humorous!  I may not even be considered “middle-aged” anymore…I am 55, and I think in some places that is a “senior citizen”!  But I have navigated mid-life and come out the other side, and while it wasn’t always pretty, Jesus has been my hero.  I am so thankful for the beauty He gives us in each season of our life.  He is Marvelous! 

Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading, the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games. 

by Renee Scott

Let me start by sharing one word about my experience at A Beautiful Weekend…challenging. Probably not the word you expected to hear. Let’s face it, three days on the beach surrounded by Christian women should only be described as phenomenal. That wasn’t the case this year for me.

Believe it or not, this was only my 2nd year attending the Beautiful retreat.  Since I had to teach a breakout workshop last year, I didn’t know how this years’ experience would differ from last.  I knew that I would once again greet the time away with an expectation for God to:  1. Move 2. Move mightily 3. Move how and when He wants In the midst of junk food, jamming to Just Dance, and relaxing on the beach. I intentionally listened for the voice of God. Whether He would speak through a gentle whisper or a confirming word, I knew that He would give direction.  Opening my “Tiffany” box on the first night was the beginning of wonderful whispers from God.


That was my word and its meaning was revealed time and time again throughout the weekend.  Here’s my own word for the weekend.


After briefly sitting in two breakout sessions, I didn’t feel like I had the right workshop so I kept looking until I sat down in the workshop on surrender.  Vivian taught the class and shared her experiences of truly surrendering her ALL to Christ.  Even though I have a strong faith and great relationship with Christ, I can’t say that I’d surrendered everything to Him.  There were pieces of my past that I still needed to make peace with.  God began to reveal the areas at various points throughout the weekend.  This revelation caused me to feel broken on the last night of the retreat.  I surrendered my all that day and I was left feeling broken.  This was not what I envisioned my retreat experience to be.  There would be no brownies on the beach, no late night chat with friends that last evening because I had to place myself in a vulnerable state with God so that He could restore my pieces. I woke up the next morning with a headache and bags under my eye because of the tears from the night before.  I literally cried out to God in a way that I hadn’t in quite some time.

Since the retreat, I’ve decided to take a break from teaching on Monday nights to focus on my total healing.  Memories of the past necessitate counseling, prayer, and journaling through the healing process.  I end this post asking for prayer as I journey into places unknown so that God can heal my soul.  Whatever the process entails, I know that I’m EQUIPPED to conquer it!

Share your experiences below.  We want to know how you were challenged or blessed during a Beautiful weekend.

Renee ScottRenee Scott is co-founder of the popular blog, , where she shares encouragement and inspiration to men and women all over the world.  She’s been a member of Grace Family Church for four years. She loves to run and recently completed her first half marathon. She is a wife of over 14 years and mother of two children.

A Beautiful weekend consisted of laughter, tears, smiles, friendships and memories. But most of all, it consisted of Gods presence. Many women walked away from a Beautiful weekend changed, healed and set free. During the month of October, we will hear how God showed up in mighty ways at A Beautiful Weekend from our bloggers and speakers. We hope that a Beautiful Weekend changed your life just as much as it changed ours. 

By Leslee Stewart           

There’s nothing like receiving an unexpected gift. From untying the ribbon, to opening the present, there’s always a little excitement in seeing how someone has chosen to surprise you.

On the first night of this year’s A Beautiful Weekend, the ladies came into the grand ballroom to discover a surprise gift at each place setting – a beautiful, Tiffany-blue box, tied up with a white satin ribbon. We were told we couldn’t open them right away…oooh, the suspense! The ladies around me began to wonder what was inside. Jewelry? A chocolate truffle? Money?

When we were instructed to open them, we were surprised to find a laminated card on the inside with only a single word printed on it. They explained that the Beautiful Weekend committee had prayed over a list of words they believed God wanted each woman to have – words that describe how our Heavenly Father sees us. They then gave each woman one of the words as her gift from God for the weekend, and instructed us to ask Him to show us why that particular word was meant for us.

When I opened my box, I saw that my word was “Embraced.” At first I wasn’t sure exactly why I had received that word, but I did as I was told and just asked God to show me throughout the weekend why He chose that word for me.

It didn’t take long to begin to see why that was my word. For the last year, God has had me in a season of surrendering things to Him – my children, our finances, my job – it has felt like pretty much everything that has been important to me, God has asked me in one way or another to lay it down and trust Him to deliver it His way and in His time.

For a self-diagnosed control freak like me, it hasn’t been an easy road. But all along the way, when I truly surrendered my plans, my ideas, my ways in exchange for His plans, His ideas, His ways, I was overwhelmed at the outcome. Debt that I thought wouldn’t be paid down for years; we suddenly had the finances to pay off. A challenging relationship with my children began to be healed and restored. God even asked me to let go of my job in ministry to focus on being more available for my family; a decision that wasn’t easy, but one that He blessed once I surrendered it to Him.

So when I opened the “word box” at the weekend, I half expected mine to say, “surrender.” But God began to reveal to me was that He was replacing my time of surrender for a season of being “embraced” by Him. Even though where I sit today doesn’t necessarily look like what I thought it would, He wants me to embrace it – Embrace my Place. He has called me, equipped me and prepared me for exactly the season I am in. Now my job is to embrace it and not spend my time trying to get ahead of Him, or hurry Him along. There is a tremendous amount of peace that comes from knowing I’m right where I’m supposed to be – embraced by Him and exactly where He wants me.

Thank you God, for my word – Embraced. Thank you for loving me enough to see past my control and fear, and place me right where you want me to be. You adopted me as your daughter, embraced me as your own, and now I choose to embrace the season You’ve set me in. Help me to have patience to wait on Your perfect plan and timing, and to always trust that You have nothing but good in store for those who love You. Amen.

Leslee Stewart is a wife, stay-at-home mom of two boys and former communications executive. She and her husband love the adventure of parenting and sharing their journey with others. When she’s not cheering her boys on at the ball field, you can find her in the aisles of HomeGoods adding to her throw pillow addiction. She loves cheap jewlery, junky old furniture and can sing all the parts of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” 

by Mary Giraldo

When I thought about “second chances” my mind was immediately brought to a lively gospel choir of green assorted vegetables belting out the tune “Our God is a God of Second Chances”.  Ridiculous to imagine, I know…but any mom with a child who loves Veggies Tales Jonah will understand exactly what I’m talking about!  The life of Jonah in the Bible is a great lesson on second chances not only for children but also adults.  Jonah tried desperately to escape God’s will for his life just as we all do time and time again.  We constantly second guess God’s way and convince ourselves that our plan has to be better than God’s.  Eventually our choices to fulfill our own desires can lead to unfortunate consequences and I know this all too well. 

My dad has been sitting in Florida State prison for 7 years with 1 and a half years to go.  He, like Jonah, continued to choose his own path and at the age of 57 the Lord caught up with him and he had no choice but to stop running.  When he was arrested he thought he had lost everything; his family, his home, but most importantly his freedom.  The greatest lesson he would learn is although his sin had terrible consequences, God most certainly is a God of second chances.  I remember every detail of the day I received the phone call from my dad to tell me that he had done something terrible and the police were on their way.  At that very moment I had a choice; to forgive my father who has shown me nothing but love my entire life and offer to get him help or to turn my back on him for the betrayal and hurt I had just learned of.  I look back at my choice and I praise God for the ability to offer to him the same thing that God offers me every day, a second chance.  Psalm 130:3-5 says, If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.  

Sin can have dire consequences, but our promise for a second chance comes in the form of our Savior who paid the ultimate price to wipe our slates clean.  I look back now and I see the beauty behind my dad’s second chance, which would in turn reveal my own second chance at life.  Before his arrest I was consumed with me and “that me” didn’t see the need for Jesus!  I wouldn’t have been able to endure the past 9 years, had God not come to my rescue.  My dad has said that although he doesn’t have physical freedom like we all do on the outside, he is most grateful for the freedom he has received on the inside through Christ; and he uses every opportunity to share the love of Christ with those in desperate need of a second chance.