This is the view looking out from the lawn at Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center where my church held their women's retreat this past weekend. In the post prior to this, I shared the pictures of our day up on Friday. Hubby and the kids brought me there and it was a little tough to say goodbye. The kids and I have been at my Mom's without Hubby, but I have never been alone overnight without the kids! It was my first time being away from my family as a whole. I know some of you may think I'm crazy, but it was difficult for me - not in the sense that I cannot be alone or that I cannot handle it emotionally, but because God has been busy bringing us to a certain place together as a family and there have been a lot of changes happening for us spiritually and emotionally. A lot of good things are happening and it felt weird to leave right in the midst of this because it disrupted the flow of our progress. In addition, the home school conference the weekend before was still fresh in my brain and ideas were overflowing, bumping into each other, trying to get organized in my mind. Hearing Sally Clarkson the week before was like already having been to women's retreat. So, I arrived at the conference center feeling like that old Far Side cartoon where the guy is raising his hand, asking the teacher to leave because his brain is FULL! LOL
Being primarily an introvert, I was a little bit nervous about who my roommate would be and if we would be compatible. My roomie ended up being my SS teacher's wife who had watched our girls last weekend while we were at conference. We were well matched, both being quiet and needing rest! The photo above is not too exciting, however, I am posting this here so Mom can see where I stayed. I am at the top dormer, behind that tree. I have always loved houses with dormers because they created magical, inviting spaces that are awkward sometimes to decorate, but often provide a cozy environment for reading, artistic endeavours or gazing out windows and dreaming! :o)
The only thing that would have made our dormer "better" was a cozy little love seat to sit and read. This table served the purpose and you can see my "stuff" sitting there. I spent quite a few hours here, breathing in fresh air, taking in the early morning views and pouring my heart into my journals and Bible study. Much to my surprise, this retreat was about solitude for me. I say it was surprising because solitude is generally not found in a group. But the lovely setting here and the timing of events created a wonderful environment for the work God was doing in my heart.
The rooms were not fancy, but very clean, which is more important to me! I had a double bed with a firm mattress, which is what I prefer. The first night I didn't sleep very well as it was warm and stuffy. We had been afraid to open the window too wide because the temp was in the mid to high 30s at night. The next night we opened it all the way and I enjoyed all the fresh air. It reminded me of sleeping at Grandma Hopkins' as a child.
Each room had a quilt and donated quilts were a theme throughout the conference center. This is a small quilt about 30" square and was not too appealing for my taste, but it was a homey touch to the room.
We could not have asked for a better view on the lake. We could look both towards the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the California side and to the barren, dry hills on the Nevada side. The conference center itself was 4 miles over the state line, in Nevada.
There were several short trails down towards the lake as well as plenty of benches, tables and other spots to sit and contemplate. One thing I enjoyed was that the lake views were reflected in all the windows, so everywhere you looked you saw God's glorious creation!
From the lake, looking up, this is how you viewed the conference center. The building on the right is where the dining room and kitchen were. My room was on the other side of the dining room. Where we met for the retreat was in a conference room on the middle of the ground floor of this larger section.
The retreat theme was "Spiritual Disciplines". The speaker D, whose blog I had read many times without realizing she was our speaker, did a great job. Apparently she used to attend our church before college and career took her elsewhere. She did a great job of presenting some heavy ideas in a fun, but respectful way. Many hours were put into the research and resources that she gave us in the form of handouts and a booklet to take notes. What I appreciated was that there were exercises to practice some of the things we learned about at a later time. As I said, my brain was already full, so during the quiet times, I needed to process the information that was already running around in my brain. For me the theme was "Silence is Golden"! However, this is a topic I have long been interested in and was delighted to hear more.
D broke the topics into sections and we covered different types of prayer, Bible reading and Sabbath keeping (from a personal rest perspective, not a legal/moral perspective). Some of the ideas seemed strange to a few of us, not having experienced them before. Many of my friends and a few family members do come from a high church background so it was not totally foreign for me. Many people do feel uncomfortable exploring this, feeling that it is stodgy and has no meaning or belongs to certain denominations. D did a pretty good job explaining why we shouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater. One of the most compelling reasons to try some of the liturgical prayers or other methods mentioned, was the connection to many Believing Christian Souls who have gone on this journey ahead of us.
To my surprise, when I came home from retreat, the gals on the Christian Artisans list were discussing these same topics. The conversation began from a hymns versus choruses discussion, but blossomed from there. Thankfully, that is such a loving group that we can discuss different perspectives of an often divisive topic without hurting each other or throwing fiery darts. I really appreciate this in my cyber fellowship them. For me, I have to say that I like both sides. There is a lot to be gained in some of the old hymns, liturgical prayers and so on. On the other hand, sometimes certain praise choruses cause my heart to soar and fall in love with Him all over again. This may surprise some of you, but this gray haired old lady, even occasionally loves to "rock out for Jesus"! LOL It depends on where I am and what He is working on in my life. The conclusion in our group discussions was that it is the intention of the heart - as Paul put it, whatever we do, whether in word or deed, should be done for Him. Personally, I am looking forward to trying some of these different ideas to see how they fit with our family's mission. We have already instituted a Sabbath rest of sorts, though the world always crowds in with noise and demands. But I find that, the weeks in which we are successful in finding that pause and rest, flow better and more gets done. I think we have become so selfish with "our" time that we even get stingy in sharing it with God!
These are views from the outside of the dining area. We were well fed spiritually and physically! I have never eaten so much in a weekend! Monday morning I fasted half the day just to give my stomach a rest! Of course it wasn't quite as good as when your Mama makes it, but it was the best institutional food that I have ever eaten. There was a lot of variety too, including a salad bar and the nummiest, most sinful desserts!
This is inside, looking at the upper part of the dining hall from the walk way near our room. The buildings here were well planned and in their design really do promote worship, contemplation and fellowship. As a creative person, I find architecture fascinating.
This is looking down into the dining area where they had just washed the floor. It gives you an idea of our experience.
Do I have any Presbyterian readers? I was curious as to the significance of the design of this cross. It appears to me that the Holy Spirit is descending upon a baptismal font, but I am not certain. The world is behind the cross and the cross is red, yellow, black and white - so I wondered if that symbolized how Jesus Christ came to save ALL His children, no matter what their ethnic or religious background. Perhaps I am reading more into it than is actually there, but it seems to be more than just a regular cross design.
As I mentioned, quilts abounded. I cropped this so that you could see the airplane on the right. Obviously some children or some rambunctious men on retreat had been here as this is up two stories from the dining hall! LOL This quilt was very pretty and I have always enjoyed the various trip around the world designs.
Don't these look innocent? I think it was a fir tree. When I touched one, pollen flew everywhere! Big mistake!
We had one session early Saturday evening and then more free time. I was excited to watch the sunset because I had watched it through the window the night before without being able to take pictures! On the way down to the water I saw these lovely lilacs.
Here is the view to the east (Nevada side) and the steps that are part of the beautiful amphitheater. The young single gals all agreed (and we did too!) that it would be a beautiful place to get married.
This is my friend L, who is also our CE director at church, in the yellow sweatshirt. She has been a great support to me with some of my challenges over the last year or so and I'm glad to have her as a friend. The gal behind her is one of the young college aged women who played keyboards for the worship at our retreat and plays on the youth worship team at church. One of the nice things about retreat is getting to know people you might not usually interact with - like nerds like me who rarely interact with the younger people at church, getting to meet them in this lovely setting. I do have a few other people pictures, but because I don't like to post images of others without permission. Since L blogs, I thought hers would be okay. Also, I need to get a flash for my camera so that the people pics I take indoors will be better quality. I did enjoy sitting with the gals to watch the sunset!
I took a lot of pictures at various settings and stages and found the ones after sunset were prettiest. In the city, naturally we still see the sunset, but it is not framed and silhouetted by nature. Having grown up always living within a half hour of the salt water and usually also near freshwater (lake, river, pond), I find that watching beautiful sunsets or "chasing" them (as we call it when we rushed to find the best spot for pictures), is one of the things that I miss living here.
I lightened this photo a little so that you could see the amphiteater. Don't you think it would be a lovely wedding setting?
And this was my one last shot before leaving. I rode home with T and M.E. It was fun. Usually I am so serious, it was nice to relax and let go and laugh and just enjoy being before heading back to the rush of daily life. Last year I gifted to T as a "secret sister" at church. It was a fun, but challenging experience because we had never interacted at church before since we usually attend different services. This gave me an opportunity to talk to her and get to know her a little. And M.E. is an interesting lady that I am getting to know too! Thanks for the wonderful ride back.
Well, it seems my Abbie kitty and my husband missed me the most. D, who had teared up when I left, gave me a hug and the girls acted like cats - looked at me like "oh, you're back" and returned to playing. Hmmm... not sure what to think of that. Hopefully it just means that they are very secure in their relationships with each of us. I was glad to see them though, even if it meant returning to the land of refereeing toy ownership disputes and "I don't want to"! :o)
Now the challenge is applying what I learned to my everyday life and walk with God. There was some discussion at the retreat for the few of us who are homeschoolers, that some traditional forms of worship and liturgical prayer could and should be introduced to our children. So, yesterday I decided to start with the Doxology (Praise God from whom all blessings flow...). This led to them deciding to sing Holy, Holy, Holy, which mentions the Trinity. Another door opened and we got out our book 3 in 1 which explains it at a simple level for children using apples as an illustration. It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful our school sessions are when the Holy Spirit is the real Teacher! So, our first introduction to liturgy and theology went well. And the beat goes on...
Now to unpack my suitcase sitting in the kitchen! LOL