There are times when I just know that God has put me in a certain place at a certain time. And this weekend was one of those times, as I attended the first-ever Renew Blog Retreat at a big, beautiful mountain log cabin in Sevierville, Tennessee.
The retreat was hosted by Madison of The Wetherills Say I Do and Rachel of Oh Simple Thoughts, two bloggers who I’ve read for a while now. A few months ago they floated the idea of holding a weekend retreat for a small group of Christian women bloggers as a time to encourage and inspire one another. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go–even though the weekend fell smack dab in the middle of one of my busiest times of the year at work. And even though traveling hundreds of miles to spend a weekend with perfect strangers was
just a wee bit way out of my comfort zone. Despite all that, I really felt God calling me to go. And I was fortunate that my sister (Carrie from Talking in Space), upon hearing about the retreat, decided that she wanted to go, too, so at least we’d have each other to talk to if it turned out to be a group of weirdos. (Good news: It wasn’t.)
I took Thursday off from work to drive to Carrie’s house in Georgia, spending the night with her and my always-entertaining nieces, then we headed up to the retreat together on Friday after getting the girls off to school. It was a somewhat long drive but thankfully we had a lot of beautiful scenery along the way, most notably the Smoky Mountain National Park. We arrived at the cabin that afternoon and began the business of getting to know our fellow bloggers, most of whom had never met anyone else there and who had driven in from hundreds of miles around. In addition to Madison and Rachel, we got to meet Bailey of Becoming Bailey, Jenna of Dearest Love, Jenni of Frankly My Dear…, Meg of Me with the Three, Meg of Rivers and Roads, Robyn of Robyn’s Nest, Kaitlin of Sew My Soul, Lauren of Sunshine & Sweet Tea, Amy of Taking Steps Home, Jessa of The Jessa Olson, and Kristen of Couple of Cloyds (who drove here all the way from Michigan!).
Can we stop for a second and just bask in the glorious beauty of the scene from the deck of our cabin?
I mean, seriously–what spectacular scenery God provided for us! How could you not be relaxed and inspired by that?
Our weekend was largely unstructured by design, as Madison and Rachel wanted us to just get to know each other and let the conversation flow naturally. It did not take long for a group of 15 virtual strangers to turn into friends as we shared, ate, explored nearby Gatlinburg and laughed (a lot) together. We were a fairly varied group, with some married and some single, a couple with children, some who are relatively newly out of college and others (ahem, me) who are pretty far into our post-college years. We talked about blogging and our faith and life in general. And in less than 48 hours, friendships were formed and we were already talking about making plans for next year’s retreat.
Although this wasn’t the ideal time for me to miss three days of work, I know that it was what my heart needed right now. I feel so refreshed and encouraged after being with my fellow retreaters and I’m excited about keeping up with them through their blogs. It’s amazing how quickly God can knit hearts together, and I’m so glad for how He moved among our little group this weekend. And if the amazing scenery wasn’t enough to convince us that God was at work among us, the fact that we 15 girls were able to share three bathrooms without any conflict is further evidence in my book.