Monday, August 17, 2015

My Favorite Things about the Moms' Retreat!

I love the deep awe I felt at each woman in our cabin from our get-to-know-you activity. 

Connecting with this year's theme, we had our moms write down several things that might appear "small and simple" but have brought great things to pass in their lives. These could be books, events, habits, people, commitments, etc. Once the activity was done I just wanted to sit still and bask in the Spirit these amazing women brought with them. 

I loved the opportunity to teach a class on how feasting on God's word plugs us into Him, which changes everything.

I love the love and nurturing every woman receives at Moms' Retreat, including an individual welcome hug from our beloved founding director, Melanie Ballard.

I love the beautiful lodge at Heber Valley Girls' Camp. I love the singing Aspen trees outside the open lodge windows. 

I love how the Moms' Retreat board decks out the lodge in beauty.

I love the wonderful speakers and musicians that come to inspire us. Did you know that the purpose of the Moms' Retreat is to create an environment where mothers can receive inspiration for their God-given missions? Isn't that beautiful? 

This year the evening speaker was potter and author Ben Behunin.

I love the cheesy goodnight skit we perform as a board to remind everyone that it's time to leave the lodge for the night. Of course there is still the star gazing activity and time to visit in the cabins. 

I love the sunrise hike. Aaaahhhhh...

This was my view from my rock on the mountain where we had quiet time at the top to ponder, pray, and write.

I wanted to take a picture of my rock to remember the special Spirit I felt there.

I love the food. I mean Moms' Retreat does food BEAUTIFULLY. 

This is my fourth year, but the first couple years that I came I felt immensely nurtured and grateful that the board put so much effort into accommodating the food sensitivities I had. For years it had been hard to watch everyone else eat delicious food and not be able to eat with them, even sometimes painful enough to miss an event. This event made me feel extraordinarily nurtured and cared for in this way. I think I even cried. Even though I can eat normal foods now, I still feel nurtured by the beauty, quality, deliciousness, and variety of the wonderful food. 

These two pictures show our beautiful breakfast spread. Is that gorgeous or what? The other meals and even bedtime snack spread were just as amazing. 

I love our Moms' Retreat directors. 

This is Tammi Michalis on the left, who is a dear friend and one of the most quality women I have ever known. I had to snap this precious picture of her husband and daughter helping in her last minute preparations before Tammi spoke to us.

Here are the other two directors, Kelli Poll on the left and Melanie Ballard on the right. 

I love the special discussion we have as a cabin group about this year's theme and the ten weeks of writings we did ahead to prepare ourselves to receive inspiration.

I love this year's theme, which was "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass" (Alma 37:6). 

It's so true. You cannot improve your life in any way -- fitness, nutrition, spirituality, education, parenting, finances, marriage, homemaking, any way -- without the small and simple things. It's God's plan. Small and simple holy habits are so powerful because those plug us into God's power. 

I love, love, love how inspiring the whole weekend is, and how the writing time after our discussion is when lots of little "packets of light" as Elder Scott calls them, come together and God's personalized take-home message for me unfolds. 

I love this picture because it captures a reverent, holy moment when God speaks to you and you capture His message in writing. Yum. 

I love the attention to detail, and the effort to place beautiful, inspiring quote memes on the trails and on the bathroom doors and stalls. 

This made my heart happy when I saw these quotes inside our bathroom because my stewardship on the board has been to find or create quote memes that go along with this year's theme and create questions to invite inspiration for several months before the writing exercises start. That way the Moms' Retreat and the current theme can bless us for more time during the year. It's wonderful to discover that your efforts helped another person. 
As President Monson has said, “The sweetest experience I know in life is to feel a prompting and act upon it and later find out that it was the fulfillment of someone’s prayer or someone’s need. And I always want the Lord to know that if He needs an errand run, Tom Monson will run that errand for Him” (On the Lord’s Errand DVD, 2008, Quoted by William R. Walker, BYU-I Devotional, May 5, 2013). 

I love being next to a person who has never been to Moms' Retreat before and hearing their amazement at all the things that are amazing about the retreat. They are awed by the amazing women, the Spirit, the presentations and music, the food, the little gift to take home, the quotes in the bathrooms and on the trails, and the little baskets of feminine products in the bathrooms along with a cute poem, and more. It's fun to hear, "Wow, this is amazing. They think of everything!" 

I love the men at Moms' Retreat. They are AWESOME. 

They work hard setting up, cleaning up, cooking, doing dishes, driving, and anything else that needs to be done for mothers to have an inspiring, nurturing experience.

I love that Moms' Retreat has been around for ten years now! Look at that adorable birthday cupcake. 

I love the beautiful gift that was created for Melanie to celebrate the tenth anniversary. A scrapbook of notes from attendees from any of the past ten years expressing what Moms' Retreat means to them. 

Here are the moms offering a standing ovation of gratitude for Melanie and the inspiring retreat. 

I love the music of Moms' Retreat. 

This is Corine on the right, the board member in charge of music. She is bursting with all kinds of musical talent, and so is her twelve year old daughter. I found out they will both be playing for President Monson's birthday concert this week! 

I love the closing musician. 

This year it was Jenny Phillips, a very talented singer, song writer, author, homeschool mom, and now curriculum writer. Her message about prioritizing our divine role as mothers above all the other work we will do really rang true. 

I love that this year I received two big blessings. 

First, being on the board and mingling with the quality women there, and second, being a cabin mother who gets to nurture and be nurtured by sisterhood, bonding, and inspiration as we discuss, share, learn, chat, hike, walk and eat together. 

I love the sisterhood and friendships we make at Moms' Retreat. I loved knowing that each of our cabin mates who were new to the retreat left with new friends.

I love seeing old, beloved friends and making new ones. 

I love the far-reaching impact of Moms' Retreat. In this picture Kelli, Kim and I had just heard a powerful story of transformation of which the Moms' Retreat was a key part. 

I love that once the retreat is over and cleaning is done, the leftover food is brought outside and board members get to take some home. This was a blessing to our family. 

I love these two beautiful women who worked so hard to make the food so amazing, Jenny and Tammi. 

I loved that the board and cabin mothers came early for a ropes course and had a wonderful debrief discussion afterward led by Jodi Palmer.

Debriefs are powerful. Until we took the time to ponder, analyze, and discuss our experience on the ropes course I didn't realize there was a powerful life lesson for me about asking, listening, and discerning voices whenever I need help. This is one of the reasons I love to blog, to journal, to discuss and teach someone else something I have learned from an experience, a class, or a book. It is like a debrief. If I just move onto the next thing, I can easily miss the pivotal lessons those things were meant to teach me. This is why my family gets so much more from scripture study when each read our handful of verses, and then take the time to summarize what we read and find a principle we can use. Debriefing in whatever way that happens is worth investing some time to experience and clarify the principles you learned. 
As Elder Scott said, "As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles. Carefully separate them from the detail used to explain them. Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances. It is worth great effort to organize the truth we gather to simple statements of principle" ("Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge," Ensign, Nov. 1993).

I love how Moms' Retreat is so unique. 

One first-time retreat mom seemed amazed that her simple collage get-to-know-you activity turned into something that evoked emotion, epiphanies, bonding, and meaning. I told her that in my opinion, you could do any activity at the Moms' Retreat and you would receive inspiration, revelation, answers to your prayers, epiphanies, and bonding moments. Because it's not the activity that matters. It's the environment of inspiration created by beauty, nurturing, sisterhood, safety, bonding, countless prayers from the board, countless prayers from the cabin mothers for their own cabin mates by name, investing in praying and pondering and writing for weeks in advance so inspiration has already been flowing and hearts and minds are already open. You could use Legos, Lincoln Logs, leaves, sticks, crepe paper, anything, and I believe it would have still created similar results, because the environment of inspiration is so rich and unique at the Moms' Retreat. Each year I come home feeling spiritually nourished, filled, recharged, and happy. Ready to dig in and become better in my God-given roles and missions. 

I want to offer a little analogy. This year the Moms' Retreat reminded me of the plan of salvation. 

  • We all leave home or pre-earth life to come to a different, more rugged place to learn and grow so we can go back home better people. We all left our homes to come to a camp ground, although a beautiful one, to learn and grow so we can go back home better mothers, wives, and disciples of Christ. 
  • We prepare ahead for our experience on earth by learning and growing in the pre-earth life. For Moms' Retreat we prepared ahead by reading four months of the weekly "sharing goodness" quotes and questions, and then by doing the ten weekly writing exercises, coupled with prayer and inspiration. That made us more prepared to make the most of our time at the retreat. 
  • Usually the more we put in, the more we will get out of our earthly experiences (see 2 Corinthians 9:6). Likewise, the more effort we put in before, during, and after the retreat, the more we will get out of it. But if life is full to the brim with family and righteous duties, even if you just read and pondered the questions on the drive up, that's better than nothing and you will still be blessed for showing up. 
  • When we come to earth, it can be hard, sometimes so hard it takes your breath away, but it's worth the experience and we keep going forward. Walking up to our cabin number nine, the furthest cabin up the hill, can make you breath hard, make you hot and sweaty, or even make your body hurt, but it's so worth the beauty of the singing aspen trees, the clean air, beautiful skies, and the spiritual nourishment you're about to get at the next activity. Don't give up. Keep moving forward with faith even through the challenging times. 
  • When we take the time to utilize the small and simple things the Lord has given us like prayer, scripture study, temple, and FHE, we become rejuvenated, recharged, nourished, and plugged into God's power.  When we come to Moms' Retreat and utilize each aspect and activity offered -- the presenters and musicians, the beautiful food and nourishing conversations, the star gazing and sunrise hike, and so on, every time you get uplifted, charged, and nourished spiritually. It seems to be a cumulative effect that keeps building throughout the retreat. 
  • One of the most important things we can do while we're on earth is to find quiet time, ponder and ask God for His direction, and then write down His answers. This is why the journaling time after the cabin group discussion is so special, as well as the sunrise hike with time to journal at the top. Both give a perfect opportunity of quiet stillness to petition the Lord for revelation. 
  • The support of sisterhood and friendship supplies joy, support, and encouragement along our journey of life. So it is with the Moms' Retreat.
  • We are blessed by listening to the direction of inspired leaders who get their inspiration from God. Melanie received inspiration from God to make this retreat for us, and all of us are blessed when we listen to her direction so we can attend and make the most of all that Moms' Retreat offers before, during, and after the retreat. Likewise, following the direction of inspired leaders like prophets and apostles is a key principle that works in the pre-earth life, earth life, and post-earth life. Being good at following the inspiration of inspired leaders and our own inspiration are keys to making the most of our time at the retreat, and our time on earth. 
  • God's work and glory is to help us become like Him and return to Him. Melanie and others dedicate much of their work and energy to helping mothers progress, become more like God, and be able to return to Him having succeeded in their God-given missions, being able to hear "Well done, Thou good and faithful servant."  

If you attended Moms' Retreat, feel free to leave a comment with what you loved! 


Dana said...

Becky, I've been wanting to tell you that the most meaningful part of the Moms' Retreat for me came at the very end when I was able to have that conversation with you about finding our family's 'story.' There was something about sharing it out loud with you that brought a surge of energy and excitement and seemed to validate and confirm what I'm hoping for. Thank you for giving me that opportunity! I feel like a fog of confusion has lifted and I feel more confident going forward.
Love you!!

Angie Nichols said...

Thank you, Becky! It was such a powerful experience. Your words beautifully explained and described why it is such a spiritually powerdul event. Thank you for your hard work and energy you gave to make it so wonderful.

Becky Edwards said...

Dana, That makes me so happy to hear that! I think that shows the power of the debrief, whether it happens in a group, one-on-one, on your knees in prayer, in a journal, or in writing a fresh list of goals. You had your own little debrief where you talked through the main principle you were being taught by the Lord, you clarified and committed to do it, and the Lord gave you clarity about it. Very cool! Love you too cousin!

Angie, I'm so glad you had a wonderful time. I did too! I'm still floating on cloud nine about it. :) I'm glad we are friends.