Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Ladies' Retreat 2019


Okay, now that it's nearly time for the couple's retreat at  The Wilds of New England, I guess I need to get busy and finish my report on the ladies' retreat ...

So last month (September 13-14), I had the opportunity to attend the Ladies' Retreat featured above.  There are usually two retreats, and sometimes I've attended both.  This year I felt like I could only do one.  I have heard Mardi Collier before, and I knew that the sessions with her would be a blessing.  They surely were.

This is probably the most unprepared I have ever been for a retreat.  I think I finished with packing maybe 90 minutes before my friends picked me up!  I don't really have a reason -- just that it was a busy day and that I had a lot of things (especially laundry) that I wanted to complete before leaving.  The Lord provided a ride to the retreat with my daughter and friends from her church, so we had great fellowship along the way!

After arriving at The Wilds of New England, we found our cabin and selected our bunks.  The cabin was one of the newer duplexes, near the bathrooms, and up a steep little hill.  After my first trip up this stony little hill, I was thankful for our hilly everyday walking route which had somewhat prepared me for it.

It was nice in many respects, but if we had known none of us would get much sleep, we might have been less enthused.  Still, it's a retreat.  No one really expects to get much sleep.

After getting our bunks all made up, we headed for the coffee shop.  It was a warm afternoon, so though others were getting hot drinks, I chose an Italian cream soda.  I like to get a combination of coconut and pineapple -- so refreshing!
 While enjoying our drinks, we took up some of the huge UNO cards and played a few rounds of Uno.  Those big cards are a bit of a challenge to keep track of, but it was fun and relaxing.
This photo by my daughter Carrie shows part of the coffee shop, Cool Beans.  The porch to the shop is visible through the door.
Time flew and soon it was time for supper, served at the fashionably late hour of 7:30.  This gives everyone time to check in, find their cabins, and get settled before the evening activities begin. The food was delicious as it always is.  I can't recall everything, but there was salad, bacon-wrapped chicken breasts, and mashed potatoes.  Dessert was an amazing pumpkin whoopie pie with what I think was a salted caramel filling.  (It's always a relief to be told that the calories have been removed from the food.  I seldom worry about such a thing on a retreat weekend anyway, because I tend to do a lot of walking.)

Interestingly, though I retouched the photo above to remove the "Instagram arrows", I cannot get the edited version to appear here.  First time that's ever happened!  I feel badly, because this one doesn't do justice to the table decor.  The various candles pictured here are such lovely ideas.  At left is a candle in a jar, placed in a candle ring made of acorns.  For some of them, the acorn cap has been glued to an acorn-sized "pearl" which makes for a very pretty acorn indeed.    The center candle is just a votive holder placed inside a glass goblet, with coffee beans filling the space between the votive holder and the outside of the goblet.  So clever!  And then the candle at right is a votive holder placed inside a smallish hurricane, with colorful silk fall leaves tucked in between the two.  The dining room decor is always so lovely for the retreats!

After dinner, we moved to the new barn at TWNE for our orientation, fun time, and our first session with Mardi Collier.  Mardi's theme was "Our Good Shepherd" and focused mostly on Psalm 23 and John 10.   Session 1 was titled "Reality" and pointed out five important truths: 1) We are sheep who are needy and need a shepherd; 2) Jesus is the Good and Great Shepherd, the only One who can meet the needs of His sheep; 3) True sheep don't listen to the false voices of strangers, but to the only way to God: Jesus, the Door of the sheep; 4)The thief wants to steal, kill, and destroy the sheep, but the Good Shepherd came to rescue and free sheep from sin and death; and 5) The Good Shepherd provides for His sheep physically and spiritually through all of their lives.  Of course there was scripture to go along with all of this.  Two quotes that I jotted down from this session were these:

If Christ can meet our deepest need -- that of salvation -- can He not meet every other need that we have?

and

"I shall not want" does not mean we never go through difficulties.  But our Good Shepherd goes through the difficulties with us.

 

There are always activities going on that first evening after the session finishes -- a campfire, Cool Beans, the Sweet Shop, games -- but I don't think I've ever had the energy to do any of them.   I usually head for the cabin and get ready for bed.   That's what I did this time, but I didn't sleep ...

There are heaters in the cabins, which is so nice.  (I can remember in the early years of TWNE when there were no heaters, which was quite the adventure and meant dressing very warmly for bed.  Some even wore hats or hoodies to bed back then.)  But for whatever reason, the heater in our cabin didn't do much.   I got up really early (4:30 or so) since I was awake already.  It was still dark when I came back from the shower, so I rested awhile in my bunk.  No real sleep for anyone -- well, just one. You know how in a cabin situation like this, sometimes people snore.  And in the morning you might speculate, maybe even joke with one another,  about who it was.  Not this time.  We all knew, because she was still sleeping.  And still snoring.  Oh well.

When Carrie was ready, we headed down to Cool Beans.  On the way, she showed me this glorious sunrise she had captured from the porch of the cabin.  So beautiful and a wonderful blessing to start off our day!
 
We hadn't expected to be able to get coffee this early; we were just going to the coffee shop as a quiet place to go where there would likely be a fire going.  However, we soon found we could order coffee if we liked, so I got a large hazelnut for each of us.  So restorative!


 We passed the time until breakfast chatting with other ladies and with one another, and getting nicely warmed up after a chilly night.  A yummy breakfast awaited us: Pancakes (with warm syrup!), sausages, peaches, and even lemon poppy seed muffins.  Bring on the comfort carbs!  We all needed them.

After breakfast we had Session 2 with Mardi, then God and I time.  Session 2 was titled "Relationship" and focused on three important truths: 1) The Good Shepherd knows everything about His sheep and wants His sheep to know Him well; 2) When sheep are afraid, quarreling, or irritated, they are unable to rest.  They need the presence of the Good Shepherd, who cares for them and wants them to be calm, content and satisfied; and 3) Sheep need to spend much more time getting to know their Shepherd.  A quote from this session:

Sheep are ruminating animals.  We need to ruminate -- meditate -- on truths about God, to chew on these truths over and over.



Carrie and I ended up going to separate, quiet tables in the closed coffee shop for our God and I time.  Mardi had given us an assignment.  I always like it when speakers do that.    She had given us a handout with information from her book, What Do I Know About My God? and instructed us to choose one or two of the things we can know about God

and to look up and write down the Scripture references.  I chose the categories "My God wants me to trust Him" and "My God wants me to "think Bible".  One of the Scriptures in the trusting category was Jeremiah 17:5-8.  I am not going to write that out for you -- it would be good to look it up if you are interested.  Something from that passage really jumped out at me.  Here's what I wrote:

 I never really (that I can recall) looked closely at the contrast between the one who trusts the Lord and the one who does not.  The person who is not trusting in God "will not see when good cometh."  He won't even recognize good when he sees it!  How sad is that?

(One time, at a couples' retreat, Mr. T and I went to the gazebo below for our God and I time.  That was a lovely place, too.)

 Following this, there was some free time.  I went back to the cabin and read and rested just a little.  Our friend Patty had the heater turned up and it was really toasty in there.  If only one of us had figured that out the night before! 😉

Session 3 came next.  It was titled "Restore" and focused on three truths: 1) All sheep want to go their own way and stray, but straying from our Good Shepherd is foolish and dangerous; 2) The Good Shepherd wants to refresh and restore us spiritually each day and will come after us when we stray; and 3) The Good Shepherd loves lost sheep and pursues them; like Him, we also should love and pursue lost sheep.

A discussion in this session that really spoke to me included the following ideas:

As sheep, we may be drawn away from our Shepherd for various reasons:
• We stalk off rebelliously
• We have unconfessed sin in our lives
• We meander off and are drawn away from what God says is important
• We become distracted in our thinking
• We believe Satan's lies about God
• We have sinful weak areas in our lives.

All of these ways of straying can begin with one common factor: not being in God's Word.  We can't know or be close to our Shepherd if we don't read His Word.

We're in a dangerous, vulnerable position if we stray from following our Shepherd.

Wow!  I found this so sobering and rebuking.  I don't want to be in that dangerous or vulnerable position ... do you?

So then we had lunch, a really nice meal of make-your-own burritos -- or maybe fajitas or soft tacos -- not sure what it was classified as, but there were flour tortillas, Mexican seasoned chicken and every topping one could think of for these.  There was also a spinach salad, I believe.

Hours of afternoon free time came next.  Carrie and our friend Gail went on a hayride, while others from our group went to the zipline and maybe laser tag ... I can't remember.  Later, Carrie and I played table games with our friends Kristina, Stacy, Gina and Beth, who were there from churches in MA.  We also enjoyed treats from the Sweet Shop at that time: in my case, a pumpkin Nor'eastah, which is like a blizzard made with vanilla ice cream and pumpkin.  Such a delicious fall treat!
Sweet Shop
The afternoon flew by and it was time for Session 4.  This one was titled "Righteousness" and had to do with following our Good Shepherd's leading, thus walking in paths of righteousness.  It covered four truths: 1) No matter what trial comes or what the future holds, sheep don't need to fear if they follow wherever their Good Shepherd leads them; 2) Submissive sheep follow their Shepherd as He leads in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.  They faithfully obey His voice; 3) Sheep should be overflowing with gratitude because of all that their Shepherd is and all that He does for them.  Sheep are eternally secure in His hand and the Father's hand; and 4) Because the Good Shepherd is good and great, goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives.

A quote or two from this session:

We tend to think that we can do so much better for ourselves than Christ can do for us.  But we don't need to find green pastures and still waters by ourselves.  We only need to find the Shepherd.

Sheep are also led in scary, uncomfortable places at times -- for instance, the valley of the shadow of death.  Several important points were made here:  1)We pass through the valley of the shadow of death; 2) The verse says, "For Thou art with me."  We never go through trials alone.  God goes with us; 3) We walk through the valley of the shadow; we don't panic and run.  We can walk calmly because the Shepherd is with us; 4) A shadow implies that there is light shining from somewhere. 

Wow.  I had never thought about that last one before!

And just one final thought concerning basic Christian disciplines to help us follow for His name's sake:

* Read and study God's Word carefully
* Pray
* Memorize God's Word
* Be faithful to your local church.

These seem so basic, and yet many Christians don't do them all (and some don't do them at all).  What a difference it might make if more of us worked at this!

Leaf lines by my friend Vee

Following this and just before heading home, we enjoyed a delicious pot roast supper with some amazing cheesecake bars for dessert.  What a good thing that the calories had been removed from the food!

So there's maybe more than you wanted to know about our time at the ladies' retreat.  It was such a blessing!  I hope that maybe someone who hasn't been able to attend a retreat will be blessed by this virtual account.



11 comments:

  1. I am so glad you were able to get away. I paused at the thought of it already being cold enough for heat. I have wished to not run the air conditioner:) It was another reminder of which I have had a few this past week to stop WHINING!
    I loved the notes from Mardi Collier. I am not familiar with her. That those who aren't trusting won't see the good coming. That really struck me too. How sad is that, but I am mulling that one over and I agree. They are walking around in a fog. I also liked that a shadow implies light. So true. I also know that when I feed myself daily the Word of God and talk to Him that I handle life so much better. He always feeds my soul when I stop and dig in.

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    1. I am glad that you were blessed by the notes, Sandy. It was worth sharing this post even if it was just for you!

      If you can get your hands on a copy of Mardi's book, I know it will be a blessing for you. Amazon or Thriftbooks should have it. It has definitely been a life changing book for me.

      Glad you enjoyed the quotes and points that I shared. They really hit home with me.

      So true that when we take time to dig into the Word and be in prayer, life goes so much better.

      Have a blessed day!

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  2. Oh that sounds like such a fun weekend...well maybe except for hiking to the bathrooms.lol I always enjoy seeing pictures of the Wilds New England. My aunt and some friends are in Vermont today and she is sending me the most beautiful pictures. I am afraid our leaves are just going to turn brown and fall off as it is so dry here.

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    1. Oh, how nice that your aunt is sending you pictures from Vermont! Up north we were literally on the Vermont border (and very close to the Canadian border) and actually ventured into Vermont briefly.

      Yes, the Wilds of New England is so beautiful. I hope that you get to visit there one day!

      It was a very fun weekend. Hiking to the bathrooms wasn't too bad, but hiking back up to the cabin was. Between all the walking/hiking and then sitting still for a long time during the sessions, I was feeling pretty stiff by the time I returned home!

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  3. What a joyful post to read! Thanks for sharing all your experiences, as I'm not familiar with Mardi Collier. (And the food sounds yummy!)

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    1. You are welcome, Linda! The food was indeed yummy and Mardi Collier is a very wise older Christian woman. You can find her book on Amazon and probably on Thriftbooks. I have purchased many of them to share with other people over the years. I am sure you would be blessed by this book if you can find a copy.

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  4. Sounds as if you had a wonderful time of fellowship and lessons. The lack of sleep would worry me. My pastor's wife said that it took her days to recover from the last women's retreat on the coast. Ha! Oh well. As you say, what does one expect?

    I thought those leaves looked vaguely familiar. I did not miss my calling to go into gif art. Ha! ☺

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    1. We did have a truly wonderful time and learned so much! For me that one point about the valley of the shadow -- and how "shadow" implies that light has to be shining from somewhere -- was worth the entire retreat. We know where the Light is shining from!

      Days to recover from a women's retreat -- I can really see how that is possible! Hopefully your pastor's wife was greatly encouraged by the fellowship and messages so it was worth the exhaustion factor.

      I know -- the older I get, the more lack of sleep bothers me. We did not set an alarm clock the entire time up north!

      Your leaf line is wonderful and I hope you didn't mind me using it. I wanted something small yet colorful to break up all of the information in this post!

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  5. Thank you for sharing the speaker's main points. Sounds like a wonderful retreat!

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    1. It was! And I'm glad you enjoyed reading the main points from the speaker. We think we know Psalm 23 so well, but this proved that there is much more to it than we may think.

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  6. Thank you for taking us with you "virtually". You have shared many wonderful truths to ruminate on. Thank you for this morning blessing!
    -Kath

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