Thursday, May 09, 2019

Better WAY late than never: Ladies' retreat 2018

This post has been in draft form for months and I kept forgetting to finish it. Even though we are now in Spring 2019, it really is high time I posted about this, for it was something I really wanted to share.  Also, if I don't post this soon, I'm likely to forget much of what transpired.  (I won't be forgetting the messages from this retreat's speaker,  Denise Cunningham, however -- she had great handouts and I look loads of notes besides, now neatly copied into a journal for future reference!)  I'm also not likely to forget how God worked out even little details to make the retreat so special and just confirm that He wanted me to be there.

Usually I go to one or both of the ladies' retreats offered at The Wilds of New England, and nearly always I've been able to travel there with other ladies from our church or with friends from another church.  This time I could only go to one retreat, as we would be in Nevada during the time of the second one.  I didn't know of anyone else from our area who would be going to this first one, but I was fairly determined to attend, even though we would be leaving for our Western trip just a few days later.  I've been reading Denise's blog,  RefreshHer, for years, and I was really excited to meet her in person and hear her speak.

(My sweet husband was determined that I should not have to drive myself to the retreat and so he left work just a bit early Friday and drove me and our granddaughter Sarah to TWNE and then came back to pick us up on Saturday evening.)

As the retreat approached, I had begun to pray that Sarah and I would have congenial cabin mates.  I knew we would want to get to bed at a decent time and that we would prefer not to be with a louder group of ladies.  Since none of my local friends would be there, it was really questionable just who we would end up with.  God had that detail all worked out, however!

I also prayed for a bottom bunk for myself.  This sounds a bit selfish but was really in the interest of my own safety.  A fall on the ice back in March injured my back, and I felt that another tumble might do some permanent damage.  Climbing down a ladder in a dark cabin in the middle of the night was probably, I felt, not the best idea.

My daughter Carrie often goes to the ladies' retreats, but with our Nevada trip coming up so quickly she felt she couldn't do it this year.

This is so much fun!  Carrie's photo was featured in a TWNE promo for one of last year's retreats!
 Carrie had emailed me: "Just took a minute to pray that you'll get a bottom bunk and congenial cabinmates! 😊 Keep me posted!  I hope you and Sarah both have a wonderful weekend!!! ❤ Drink a yummy coffee drink or cream soda for me!"
Dining room windowsill trim from a previous year's retreat
When we got to our assigned cabin,  we saw that three bunks had been made up.  All three were bottom bunks.  However, more bottom bunks were available -- a specific answer to prayer!  I promptly claimed one and Sarah chose the top bunk above me.  As we set about making up our bunks, we speculated a bit about our cabin mates.  There would still be room for several other ladies besides those who had already claimed the three bunks.  We decided that maybe the previously claimed bunks belonged to older ladies.   However, we were wrong!

After finishing with our  bunks, we headed for Cool Beans, the coffee shop and some cold drinks.  Sarah chose a strawberry smoothie and I ordered an Italian cream soda.

View from the Cool Beans window
As we waited for our order, I heard someone calling my name!  It was a young friend of mine, Stacy, and her sister, Kristina!  I had just learned that afternoon that they would be there.  After getting our drinks, we joined them, only to learn that the previously made-up bunks in Cabin 1 belonged to them and their friend Missy!

When I emailed Carrie to report this, she replied: "Well, whaddya know...I prayed that by some miracle you'd end up with [those] girls...and you did!!  Now that's pretty awesome!  God answered prayers very specifically and I think it's a sign that you're in for a great weekend.  Enjoy your yummy drinks!!  I miss being there!!!"

This specific answer to prayer was such a neat thing to see.  And she was right: we were in for a great weekend!

As the time went by on Friday night, I spotted Denise several times, but she was always deep in conversation with someone.  At least once, I saw her praying with a lady she'd stopped to chat with.  Even though I'd told Denise (via Instagram) that I'd be there and we were looking forward to connecting, I was certainly not going to interrupt divine appointments to do so.

Saturday morning as we got ready for breakfast, I told Sarah that I was really praying for an opportunity to meet Denise, but that I didn't want to interrupt any conversations ... that I was asking the Lord for the opportunity.  At breakfast, we chose a table and just as we had seated ourselves, along came Denise!  She graciously asked if she could join us.

Sarah looked at me and said quietly, "There's your opportunity!"  What a blessing!  She and I switched places so I could sit next to Denise and I quickly introduced myself.  Turns out she had been looking for a chance to speak to me, as well.  We had a lovely chat over breakfast, something I would never have expected to happen.  It is always so exciting to see God work, isn't it?

As I mentioned previously, the sessions by Denise were simply amazing.  Whenever I attend a retreat at TWNE, I am blessed.  I have never come away without being hugely encouraged and challenged.  I always learn something!  But this time ... I had seen God work out so many details that I just knew He had something extra special for me there.

Denise spoke on the book of Ruth.  But the things she shared were nothing like anything I had ever previously studied in Ruth.   The title of her sessions was "Craving Connection on Life's Journey".  Session 1 had to do with Detours in Life; Session 2 was on Making Connections.   In Session 3 we learned about Construction Workers: the Woman God Uses, and Session 4 was titled A Journey to Joy!

I will share just a few little nuggets and quotes from the sessions and then share why "Making Connections" was the session God used the most in my my life.

So here are a few quotes:

"Any decision that takes you away from God is not the will of God."

"If we don't stay the course, we'll miss seeing what God wants us to do."

"It's marvelous what God can do with one woman who gets right with Him!"

"We get out of our comfort zone in order to comfort someone else." 

"Much construction work is done at night.  God's work is done in dark times."

"When we understand and appropriate the love of God FOR us, the joy of God cannot leave us."

Now, as to why Session 2, Making Connections, was so greatly used by God in my life.  It prepared me for one of the most remarkable blessings I have yet experienced in my walk with the Lord.

During summer 2018, a young couple visited our church.  New believers from another part of our state, they were in our area visiting family.  They visited the church whenever they were in the area, so eager to be in God's Word and fellowship with other believers.  Because they lived an hour away from us, my hubby and I would not have thought we could be involved in discipling them.  But God had other plans!

He used Denise as a big part of that plan.  She began Session 2 with the statement that God wants to use each of us.  With the idea of life as a journey, she showed a photo of a highway sign: Merge Now.  She pointed out that when you merge, you move into someone else's lane.  She urged us not to wait to be involved in the lives of others, but to do it now.  I will share her basic points.

1.  You should connect because you have what others need.

A.  Use your walk with God to teach.
B.  Use your life's experience to help.  Even the hardest things of life can be used to encourage others.
C. Use your possessions to bless.  Be a friend, reach out, open your home.

2.  You should connect because you need what others have.

A.  Encouragement and hope.  We need to have someone encourage us to move to the next level.
B.  Accountability.  We can challenge one another as women as to how we are doing spiritually.
C.  Example.  Even if you didn't grow up in a strong, godly influence, you can learn how to become that and how to begin a legacy.

3.  You should connect because the needs are varied and great.  

Break out of our "tribe"!  There are many outside of it who need us: teenagers, young girls,  young women, our daughters-in-law, our mother-in-law, our pastor's wife, and many, many more.

Well, I'm sure you can see that God absolutely touched my heart with the need for my hubby and me to help this couple -- to move into their lane, so to speak.  When we returned from Nevada and our young friends returned from their honeymoon, we talked about how we might make this work.  It turned out that simply getting together for supper every week or two on a Friday night was the answer.  We picked up Bible study books geared to basics for new believers.  We all worked on the lessons on our own through the week, then got together to talk about our answers over a meal.  We had already been getting together with another young man on Friday nights, so this dear couple began joining us.  It worked out so well!

We finished the Basics for Believers study and have moved on to this one:

I cannot even tell you what a joy this has been.  The privilege of being involved in the lives of others, the blessing of seeing them learn and grow and memorize Scripture and begin to serve God with their lives -- there are no adequate words to describe it.

I am so thankful for Denise's clear teaching and her exhortation to "Merge Now"!  God certainly used her in an amazing way through that retreat to impact not just my life, but the lives of others as well!


  1. Sounds like a wonderful learning experience from the beginning answers to prayer to the learning something that would be so beneficial to others and yourself. It is a God thing that you found this in Draft and finished it for publishing today. It is still a timely word.

    1. I agree, Vee -- definitely a God thing. I had not remembered that I had so much of this post already written. All I had to add, basically, was the material from my notes.

      Yes, it was indeed a wonderful learning experience. I have never *not* learned something from one of these retreats (that's why I try not to miss one), but this was something special.

      I was just a bit hesitant about publishing something that took place last year, but readers' comments have shown me, as you said, that it is still a timely word.

  2. I so enjoyed reading this post. Just wonderful to see how God worked even the smallest of details. I heard a wonderful message about pouring into others just a stage or two younger built around the parable of the talents. I definitely want to pour into those as I have been helped along the way. Great post!

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed it, Sandy. It was indeed so wonderful watching God work out every detail. I was leaving on a 2-week trip just a couple days later. It may not have seemed the wisest course of action but I just knew that God wanted me there. It is so wonderful to be able to see much of the reason why and some of the lessons He had for me.

      That message you mentioned sounds absolutely wonderful. Can I access it online anywhere, do you know? I have always taught ladies and girls that there is always someone younger in the Lord than you, and that they need your encouragement and example.

      Thanks so much for your sweet comments and I hope you have a blessed week!

  3. Oh I love this post Mrs T. I have read Denise's daughter's blog for years and I read Denise's blog every now and then. I also appreciate what you said about connecting I have always loved meeting new people and I have made it a point to introduce myself to the people who sit near me at our big church. Some I have seen for years but did not know their names. It is such a blessing to be able to come in and greet them by name on Sunday. In our Device Driven world, people need the human touch of kindness.

    1. You are so right, Arlene! People do indeed need the human touch of kindness. That is so good that you've made a point of learning the names of folks in your large church.

      I am so glad that you were blessed by this post. I was blessed all over again as I wrote it -- and I do think it's of the Lord that I didn't finish it until now. It has given time to see how God has working in the situation and the blessing that mentoring our young friends continues to bring!

  4. Mrs. T, thank you for sharing this! It’s always exciting to hear how God works! It’s faith building!

    1. Deanna, I am so happy you were blessed by this post. I agree with you completely -- it is exciting and faith building to see how God works. We need to share these blessed experiences of His working with others who will also be encouraged by them.

  5. Dear, Sweet Mrs. T,
    Thank you for your kind words about the teaching at the retreat - to God be all the glory. I know I learned more in my preparation than anyone who attended the retreat; I'm convinced that is why the Lord allows me the privilege to speak to women's groups.
    But I praise the Lord for the way you took the truth He taught you and applied it to your life. My heart is stirred and so blessed to read about you and your husband mentoring this young couple! May your tribe increase! Oh, the rich dividends of your obedience!
    It was my blessing to meet you and Sarah! I love that you got to attend the retreat together - another mentoring opportunity!
    Thank you for encouraging my heart today.

    1. Oh, Denise, you are so very welcome. I know that God wants us as believers to encourage one another. You surely encouraged me and it has been such a blessing to see how the Lord worked through you to encourage the hearts of others.

      It is so exciting to see how these young friends of ours have such a hunger to grow and to serve the Lord; such a strong desire to be in His word and to learn from it. I know that this is very rare among believers today, even among those who have known the Lord for many years. God has certainly given us a very special blessing to be able to be a part of this.

      Have a blessed day! I hope that sometime you and your husband will be able to do a couples' retreat at TWNE. What a blessing that would be!


Thanks so much for stopping by to visit my kitchen table! I love company here in my kitchen, so be sure to leave a comment so I'll know you've visited! I'll answer your questions and comments here on the blog unless you request otherwise.