WHERE do I even begin!?
How about the beginning...thats always a good spot right? ;-)
I don't actually remember the first time I came across info on the Connect Retreat. I've run across info/education by Zach & Jody since maybe day three of being interested in photography (thats how integrated they are in the photography world) and so I've heard bits and pieces about this Retreat for a while.
It wasn't until Paul and I started to give working together in this business some more serious thought that I kind of woke up and started to actually pay attention to what this Retreat was all about.
A Christian marriage conference for couples who work together. Seriously? Yes, seriously.
I was a little trepidatious to sign up because while Paul is a huge support and encouragement to me, he doesn't have a huge role in the business right now mostly due to time constraints. He has a full time job that keeps him plenty busy and until he retires, it's not really an option for him to join me in a larger capacity.
I knew that it was in our future though and there is nothing wrong with being proactive right? I kept a close eye on registration opening up and we signed up right away. Thank goodness because all 64 spots were sold out within hours.
This was a year ago.
We've been looking forward to really finding out what all of this was about for this entire year. With a move and adjustment to a new state and retirement getting closer and closer every day, we knew that this would be a time for us to not only grow closer in the Lord as a married couple, but also get some valuable advice and strategy for working together in the future.
I don't think either of us were prepared for what actually went down at this stunningly gorgeous and quiet place nestled in the rolling green hills of Georgia.
We knew there would be some amazing speakers. We knew there would be some great learning about what it means to work together as husband and wife. We knew there would be beautiful landscape and time to just enjoy the time away with our spouse. We knew there would be waffle fries.
Yes, the Winshape Retreat Center is founded by the same family that founded Chick-fil-a. And yes, we did get some waffle fries during a few lunches.
What we didn't know is how powerfully the Holy Spirit was going to show up. Through the incredible worship provided by Copperlilly to the vulnerability that was shared through every single speakers talks...hearts were opened and walls were broken down. It was a powerful thing to witness and be a part of.
We had a great small group of couples that talked through painful things they were going through in their families and their marriages and made awesome connections with many other couples that were there as well. We also laughed as much as we cried (I think? We cried a LOT!) and it was an amazing thing to be able to "connect" with so many other like-minded individuals who has experiences to share and stories to tell that we could all learn from.
Ok! So here's a little recap from the trip. We arrived at the airport on Monday and had a quick lunch (Chick-fil-a of course!) and then found our car buddies! We were so blessed to have the opportunity to ride to and from with Andrew and Janelle Vick. We had never met them or even really talked to them before, but we talked and chatted and laughed the entire way. Loved them!
When we arrived at the sprawling and stunning Berry College Campus we couldn't stop saying......WOW. Everything was so beautiful and serene. The Winshape Retreat was tucked in the back on a hill and we made our way there and were greeted with staff to take our bags and a welcoming committee that drew us in and made us feel like we were home!
We checked into our room and took a brief little walk around the campus just taking it all in and enjoying the fact that we were finally there!
At dinner the first night we met our small group and got to know them and then headed to the first session with Zach & Jody. From the moment worship started we knew something special was happening. Zach started sharing and there was not a dry eye in the house. We had small group meetings that night in which we were able to connect even more with the other couples in our group. It's amazing how the Lord uses all of us to do His work!
The next day we had a morning session with Katelyn and Michael and again, tears were shed and hearts were moved. After lunch we headed outside for our "experiential learning" activities!! What in the world? Ha! They were super fun though and insightful. Paul and I learned a lot about each other through each activity and made memories that we will likely remember for a very long time!
After some afternoon rest and dinner we had another session and more time with our groups and then s'mores and root beer floats!!! We were halfway through and didn't want it to end!
On Wednesday we took a group photo and then had a morning session with Amy & Jordan and then some breakout sessions in the afternoon.
Photo by Allen Adams! Nice work Allan getting everyone in!
The peeps who associate with Rising Tide Group also took a pic!
Then something amazing happened.
Paul and I went on a short drive around Berry College to just get a way for a few minutes and check out the campus. During that drive we were having some serious talks about our direction with business, how everything was going to work and we were getting nowhere. I don't even really remember the drive because I was so deep in thought and feeling desperate about the future.
Then we get back and it was time for our session with Katelyn & Michael about making big decisions. It was during the session that Paul and I came to a solid understanding of what our working together life might look like. We were blown away. Literally all of the stuff we were questioning only a few minutes earlier was essentially answered in a matter of minutes.
Seriously ya'll. It was freeing.
And I say y'all now because it's just such a fun and friendly thing to do!!
(I am obviously a master at snapping at the exact moments eyes are closed!)
Later that day we met up with some awesome new friends Kristy & Vic and did a photo swap. (More to come!) It was so incredibly fun and I'm so glad we were able to photograph each other! And you will not see me in a dress for the foreseeable future so enjoy it while you can! LOL.
We had dinner under the stars that night and then one last session where the Holy Spirit showed up in a major way. I haven't felt that in a long time and it was refreshing for the soul. This was DEEP friends. Way deeper than I ever expected this to go. And it was beautiful. Vulnerability is an amazing thing we need much more of in this world in order to truly connect with one another.
Our small group!!!
We met some great couples and connected with so many that it was impossible to get photos with everyone! But we did get a chance to grab a photo with Kristy and Vic and our new awesome friends Luke and Ashley Beasley, love them!!! And then we also grabbed a photo with the lovely Miss Katelyn, who is an amazing blessing and influence to so many.
If you've made it this far, I applaud you. I know it was a lot...but sometimes it takes a lot to really share what something meant to you. I know many people were incredibly affected by this Retreat, myself included and I think there is value in sharing that. Not only was our business strengthened, our walk together in marriage as a picture of Christ and the Church was also strengthened, which really....is the only thing that eternally matters.
And OOOPS!! Look what we did!