Marriage Retreat 2020

Hello my tribe. My husband and I attended our first marriage retreat over a long weekend last month. After much thought I gathered it would be sweet to share the experience. If all the marriage retreats were as productive as this one we attended, we regret foregone ones in our past we did not attend. I hope to do a good job describing our experience and encourage other married couples to try it out. Just before we left for the retreat I had reminded our Grandsons we were leaving and my 13 year old Grandson said," Nana why are you going to a marriage retreat?" " You and Papa have a perfect marriage"! My response was there is always room for improvement Gabriel Michael. With that being said, it really does not matter how many years you have been married or how good your marriage is, all married couples can benefit from a good marriage retreat.

This particular marriage retreat was organized through our local church here in Crossville, Tennessee, Redemption Church. This is approximately the 8th one they have organized. This year was their largest with 30 couples attending! Randy and I committed and paid for this retreat nearly a year in advance and actually had forgotten about it as we were planning our winter trip to Arizona for family and friend time, barrel racing and of course the warm weather and sun. We ended up returning home a month early well into a Tennessee winter to attend and I am very glad we did despite the awful weather. It was easy for us to make excuses to back out and stay the extra month in Arizona. We both were voicing messages like, we have been married for nearly 24 years, we do not need a retreat at this time. We noticed many couples were talking about how excited they were to get away from work, children, life in general and wanting be in lock down with their spouses for several days. They were looking for a mini vacation with God ever so present. Don't say I blame them, but that did not fit very well into our minds as we are both retired and spend every moment together nearly already even in a small space for two months while in the Southwest. My husband can vouch for this, I am a woman who honors her word! The only thing that would hold us back from the marriage conference would have to be something extremely important to our health or family/friends in need. Do believe me though when I tell you the fiery darts were coming in with the purpose to keep us from going in several ways. The weather decided to turn for the worst the morning of our two hour travel to the town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Snow, freezing rain, poor visibility and lots of traffic and I was contending with a brutal backache. Randy was not wanting to make the drive at all and I kept telling him God is covering us and he did. We got there safe and sound along with 29 other couples.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by our pastors wife, Teresa and assigned to our room. The event was held in a wonderful resort style town with some nature not far off and a ton of tourism close by. Our housing was in a beautiful rustic style resort that had FULL accommodations and then some extras like a theatre room for movies, game tables, pools, hot tubs, etc.. Several couples from our church had dedicated themselves to organizing this retreat and their hearts were really in it! We arrived into our room to find a beautiful hand made wooden box with antique looking handles on it. They stained the box with such a beautiful dark hue stain. The box included ceramic coffee cups with a handmade material wrap around with a bear or moose on it. Each handmade wrap with the animal on it was different than anyone else's that was there to help us to locate our mugs. There was a hand sewn coaster in plaid which was the theme for the retreat. No two plaid coasters were the same either we were told. There was a prayer book for couples, a candle, sweet treats, a t-shirt and other items. There were hand dipped chocolate strawberries and other chocolates on our bed. We were both feeling very special and welcomed on arrival.

Twenty days prior to the retreat, we started receiving one text each day with a question or goal for us to both to work on. An example of one of those questions is " What is your idea of a date night"? I really appreciated this because it helped us stay focused, get into prayer for the retreat and prepare for twenty days prior and up to the retreat date. We were also given a tentative schedule of the event and assigned a group number to assist in kitchen prep and clean up.We had no idea what they had planned on the food menu which drove us to bring most of our own food. Our guest cabin was attached to a beautiful kitchen which had all the amenities needed for refrigeration, storage and cooking. So we loaded up our pantry,refrigerated and frozen items and stopped at whole foods in Knoxville on the way to the retreat. We of course brought too much. But we were prepared.

The event coordinators master minded a game to play for all the couples. They had requested a baby picture from each of us taken before the age of 5. They then had displayed all these baby pictures plus a few more random ones. We were given a sheet of paper with numbers on it and we were asked to guess who the baby pictures were. The couple who got the most correct won the gift baskets. Randy and I were no good at this game. It was fun and playing the game helped us to get to know more couples and ask questions. I think most people enjoyed it whether they were good at it or not.

We had lots of free time during the event and lots of opportunism to have several dates or dates with others attending the retreat. On our first date night we were headed into town on foot and ran into one of our church members whose wife was recovering from a bad cold which meant he was alone as she desired rest. Randy and I felt it was a divine appointment and asked him if we could join him for supper. It was a great night of sharing as Randy and him had a lot in common, including military service. We seriously enjoyed our time with Burgess especially his sense of humor. This man served our country in a way that caused him to put his own life on the enemy line hundreds of times or more. His love for the Lord was highly intoxicating to me. We had a super night walking, chatting and eating with Burgess.

Our retreat had sermons and prayer times scheduled in. To Randy and I this was the most rewarding for us. Our Pastor Jerry is so real and holds nothing back. He let us know that he struggles too in walks of life including in his precious marriage. He told us some up close real and personal stories that makes him so raw and relatable. He is not embarrassed to share with us that he makes messes too. He also knows how to repair his messes with Gods consistent love and grace. All my life I have put all my pastors on pedestals thinking they had little to no issues in their relationships. Why would I think that when I perfectly know good and well that is not true or even possible. I must have come to a conclusion that they were all so heavily entwinned in the spirit, they could not make a mistake or sin-NOT, again that is not true or possible. If I had just seen them in the raw, maybe I would of had a more truthful image of them that would have brought through a better understanding of Gods mercy. Just a thought. Jerry, our pastor is so real, I find myself being extremely emotional nearly at all of his sermons. I felt his sermons at the retreat were spot on and very helpful in my marriage. Another one of our church leaders also shared some of his stuff that goes on in his marriage which definitely hit home with me. Breaking our 30 couples up into three groups and then giving a coupled leader for each prayer team. There was enough time for each couple in one of the three groups to all have a prayer time. Everyone was actively involved and it was a beautiful site to see people get strongholds broken off and healings being prayed into. Pressing in like that in numbers is so powerful. Everyone and I mean everyone had something to offer up be silent or loud. It was just a beautiful welcomed time for Randy and I. Our last night we enjoyed a more formal sit down dinner that was catered in. The dress code was plaid. Randy and I must have missed that memo but by the grace of God we had packed matching plaid shirts, lol! We enjoyed more fellowship that last night and the cheesecake was not bad either! I decided to treat myself that night. I live by the 90/10 rule and that was a 10 rule. I eat healthy 90 percent of the time and on a special occasion or when I don't have a choice , its the 10 percent rule where it is not the healthiest item to eat.

Randy and I went into this retreat with maybe knowing half the people there. There were a few couples that came that were not members of our church but some of those now are! I love that. We had a chance to get know the ones we already knew better and then meet more of the ones we did not know. We got to team play in the kitchen with food prep and clean up. We got to share the movie theater with each other and join in laughter and tears with the chosen movie. Sharing meals and a simple cup of coffee. Taking a nature walk and a picnic by the river. Sleeping in I am sure was a favorite for the young hard working parents, we even enjoyed not having to rise early. Our first marriage retreat was a success and a unforgettable time for both of us. I thank God for bringing us to Tennessee and showing us Redemption Church and I thank God for helping us with our armor and not letting the enemy talk us out of going!! He failed again all while we grew stronger in the Lord and got closer to our church body.

May the peace of God infuse you all the days of your life,