This last weekend had been a long time in the making.
We finally made it up to “the Ranch” for a Relief Society retreat.
(The “Relief Society” consists of the women in our church congregation.)
Can you even believe how lucky that is?
You see, one woman in our RS’s family has this incredible place up in the mountains. (Dave and I happen to be dearest friends with her brother and have the best memories heading up here with them over the years, our families of young and then towering children in tow.)
And she and her family were gracious enough to invite our whole Relief Society to come up on an overnight get-away from the desert summer heat.
People are so incredibly generous (they have done this twice before a few years ago, but I wasn’t able to attend either of them).
(This is only about a third of our Relief Society, but it’s a busy time and so tough to get away for a weekend so we felt like this was a pretty great turn-out.)
We had planned dates a few times last year and it just never worked out.
But then it did.
And as I looked around at those women I love in that spot cradled in God’s creations I was overcome with the deepest gratitude.
Our Relief Society activities committee planned out the agenda and the food.
And can I just say how nice it was not to have to be “in charge”??
Except that they did ask me to lead a “guided discussion” that evening, which for some reason I felt so inadequate to do.
But it’s interesting how little nudges can help you in things like that, and for some reason I was sure nudged about what to talk about.
I decided we better be outside for that, because how can you turn down this spot for a group discussion with women you love?
I talked about how we can change our thoughts. (“The Transformer Principle“).
And how we can better “Count it all JOY” when we learn to transform our thoughts.
I had some of the women share experiences in their lives when they were able to transform their thoughts and see the miracles in the midst of tough times and they were so vulnerable and shared such beauty, which inspired others to share their own, and we sat under those stars on that porch as the shadows of the evening crept in, and basked in the unity that can come when women share and build each other up.
I gave them each a blank “spiritual creation journal” and challenged them (and myself) to write down the miracles that come our way. Because sometimes we forget those things that are important for our souls to hold tight. I also encouraged them (and me) to write down spiritual goals. Where do we see ourselves in five years spiritually?
Because I think in order to create scaffolding to “count it all joy” and to transform our thoughts, it’s good to do two things:
1) Have a working DESIRE to recognize those things, and remember them even when they’re gone.
2) Have a framework in which you can recognize them.
Of course, after things like that I always think of things I wish I had said and hope that my jumbled thoughts came across in a way that not only made sense but shared so much love, but I do feel like there was a beautiful spirit there because of what everyone shared. Love these women so much.
After the “guided discussion” we had my friend read the anonymous questions people had written and put in a bowl before the discussion, and everyone offered their thoughts. Things like “what kinds of things do you do with your husband to help you bond together?,” and “how can I learn to forgive when I am still hurt?,” and “what’s your best parenting advice?” and everyone offered the best advice and spurred some great thoughts.
Then we stayed up and talk, talk, talked.
In the morning we had a little walk and a devotional out in that gorgeous world:
And wrapped things up in that beautiful spot.
There is nothing like the opportunity to slow down and really connect one-on-one in the midst of life that tends to keep you running.
By the end there were just a few of us left. Here’s the close-up-shop crew:
And we drove away, tired as could be, but in grateful awe of that opportunity to grow together up in the mountains.