On March 21st to 23rd, a group of women spent time together during our annual women’s retreat.  Led by Pastor Sara Davis-Shappell, these fifteen women were able to spend time apart reconnecting with God and each other.  One of the group members, Sue D’Amico, shares here about her experiences during the weekend and the values of time spent away on retreat.

Every year, to help prepare our hearts for the Lenten Season, the women of TUMC, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers . . . really any woman who’d like to participate, are invited to attend a weekend retreat.

On Friday evening, a group of women of all ages, some who have been before, some who are going on their first retreat ever, some who know everyone, some who know no one but the person who invited them, meet at the church.  With excitement and a bit of nervous intrepidation, and a LOT of luggage and some food and water, we all pile into the church van (well, almost all of us – some drive their own cars due to working & timing) and head out to Mariawald Retreat Center near Reading, PA.  I have gone on this retreat for three years now and every year I have a wonderful experience.  It’s a very different experience each time!

For me, the benefits of this retreat are many.  I get to relax.  The retreat center is beautiful.  You can feel the Holy Spirit all around you.  I get to laugh.  There is never a dull moment with a group of Christian woman who are away on retreat for a weekend!  I also get to cry.  Not in a bad way, but in a comforting way – because I get to share with others who are going through some of the same trials & tribulations that I go (or am going) through.  I get to reconnect with God – spend time with Him, read His Word, experience the beauty of His creation, and listen for Him to speak to me.  I am reminded that I am never alone.  I develop special bonds of friendship with other women in the group.  Most of all, I get to rest – not only from my physical responsibilities but also from the mental stress brought on by others whom I can’t control.  Escape  . . . Retreat.

To me there is nothing more relaxing & peaceful than spending time with God.  In the surroundings of Mariawald – from my TUMC “sisters” who make us laugh & cry, to the beauty of God’s creation all around us, to the sweet little nuns who take such good care of us, and Sara’s guidance – I always feel as if I’m snuggled up in God’s arms, being cared for and “nesting” in peace, quiet, comfort & love.  The experience gives me the opportunity to remember  and to try to take home the reality that God is ALWAYS with me, no matter what, and that my life, with all its trials and tribulations, is not as bad as I imagine it to be . . . God IS in control.

I believe that everyone who comes on these retreats is there for a reason.  Some come to find peace and rest, some come for the fellowship of spending a weekend with other Christian women, some aren’t really sure why they are there, as they were coaxed to come by a friend – or maybe we’re all there for all of the above, who knows?!!  But I feel that these retreats are a little piece of Heaven and I never want them to end!

More time!!  We ALL want that these days with our busy lives.  And that’s the only thing I would change about these retreats.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing about these weekends.  I love that we have a “plan”, but that God always ends up directing the weekend in exactly the right way, depending on our needs and the individuals who attend.  I always take away laughter, fun times and wonderful memories, yet I also discover new things about myself and others – things that help me long after the retreat is over.  (God is SO good!)

I wouldn’t miss this weekend for the world!  And, neither should any other woman who wants to attend.  From young to old, as someone so nicely put it this year, “There’s nothing like spending a weekend with a group of Christian “sisters” who love you, care for you & understand you.”  God is SO good!

–          Sue D’Amico

*For more information about next year’s retreat, see Pastor Sara or Cheryl Faust.