Hello! I am coming to you after an amazing weekend filled with love, teaching, and self-reflection. Have you ever been to a retreat? Or better yet, a women’s-only retreat?
Along with my small group of girls I meet with on a weekly basis, I attended the 4th Annual SMASH 48 Retreat with our church. There were over 900 women in attendance, making it the most popular year yet!
After unnecessarily detouring through questionable dirt roads on our 2.5 hour drive up, a car of four of us arrived at Spring Hill Camps right around 6 p.m. on Friday. We had just enough time to register, drop our things off at our cabin, and eat dinner before our first session.
The weekend scheduled four main sessions into the auditorium, and each one went through a different message. All four, however, covered the touchy subject of accepting ourselves.
It might sound like a pretty easy thing to do when you write it like that, but with titles like “Am I Really Lovely?”, “Shamefaced”, “Let’s Get Naked”, and “Winning the Battle”, we really dove into the sore truths and lies that hold us back from being completely accepting of who we are.
Each session included time for worship, and the music, environment, and messages were all awesome and uplifting, just as I expected them to be.
This year, the main social event took place on Friday night, and called for us to dress up our pjs for a pajama party. Our group took that direction as an opportunity to theme out, so we all brought different versions of men’s superhero garb.
I have to say, our group of Batwomen were truly representing!
Unexpectedly, we were the very first group to arrive at the social. We took that as a sign to get the party going and immediately hit the dance floor. I don’t think I have laughed that hard dancing in quite some time. It was a blast!
Also, photo booths are always a great idea. How funny are the random people in our group joining Alex and I’s sesh?
After working up a sweat and appetite, we migrated over to the cafeteria for the ice cream part of the party, regrouped, and finished the night cutting some serious rugs. It was so fun!
In true camp fashion, we skipped the showers and gathered in our cabin after the dance. I loved our cabin huddles. I feel like we have one every Monday night when we meet for our small group, and this one was no exception.
Here, we discussed the session and answered questions from a booklet to discuss the topics at hand. We also broke out Soularium Cards. Have you ever seen these before?
They’re a great tool in initiating conversations to share the Gospel. We kept it simple this time and each picked out an image that described where we are in our lives right now followed by a short description of why. It was my first time using these cards, and I thought it was a very interesting exercise. I’d love to see them again!
Tired, we called it a night soon after and set alarms for an early wake-up the next morning.
I woke up with the sunrise at 7 to get ready for a yoga class. This included walking outside to crowded bathrooms, and getting fully dressed before coffee, which is a completely new concept to me. Welcome to summer camping!
A small group of us walked into the gym, then quickly realized only half of us were going to be able to stay. I didn’t even think to bring a yoga mat with me!
They provided them last year, so I totally dropped the ball. I would have taken class without a mat… but, it was in a gym… at a summer camp. I was’t sure I wanted to be that adventurous, and I wasn’t alone in that way of thinking. Bummed, my friend Katlyn and I went back to the cabin and then set out for an early (and long) breakfast before our first 9 a.m. session.
We enjoyed the extra time to chat, then met up with our group to meet and hear the second speaker. It was a great way to kick-off the day!
Last year, Alex and I signed up for as many activities as we could. This year, we wanted to take advantage of the sunshine and spent most of our day relaxing in the grass! It was glorious.
We sectioned off into smaller groups to do different activities throughout the day, and I joined a few others in attending a session on praying persistently. We had a little bit of a walk to get there, and I loved the scenery we passed along the way.
It was a great reminder to P.U.S.H., something my mother has always instilled in me.
(Pray Until Something Happens.)
We attempted to check out the zip line, but the line was extremely long each time we went over. Maybe next year!
Appreciating an afternoon in the sun, we actually ended up leaving for a slurpee run right down the road. It felt like a true summer day, and I couldn’t have been more in my Florida girl element.
We eventually packed up around 4:30 p.m. to hop in the showers and get ready for dinner and evening activities.
I was that girl who kept stopping to take pictures everywhere. I mean, how couldn’t you? Mother Nature is so beautiful.
Enjoying the last bit of sunshine to our day, we took dinner outside and took in the atmosphere until the night session began.
I wasn’t a fan of the over-oiled brussels sprouts, but everything else wasn’t bad!
It had been a while since I was able to spend so much downtime with some of my dearest friends. I was loving every moment of sitting in the grass, and (after a cold and rainy experience last year) I was so thankful it was warm and dry enough for moments like these.
We made our way over to the main auditorium and took in a serious, yet comical message followed by an outside cabin huddle and bonfire.
We were asked to write down anything that was holding us back from being happy and throw it in! That may have been the fiftieth time my eyes got teary throughout the weekend.
I felt so grateful to have an army of sisters to surround and support everything I do.
These are my people. We haven’t quite figured out which camera to look at during photos, but it’s almost better that way. Smiling and leaning on each other through the chaos is what we do best! <3
Before long, it was time to head back into the auditorium and spend the next few hours singing and dancing to worship music. I was so sore from dancing the night before (hello calves), and I actually got wind stitches while jumping around like an idiot. Worth it.
One of our girls ordered pizza for a late night dinner and… oh my. It was so good! I’m surprised I didn’t take a photo of it. We spent the night sharing some girl talk and went to bed with our hearts and bellies full.
I was dragging to wake up by 8 a.m. on Sunday. I guess the sun and camp took a lot out of me!
I got dressed, packed up my stuff, and grabbed a quick bowl of yogurt and fruit for breakfast on the way over to our last session.
This one was the most powerful to me, even though I cried at every one.
We ended the service with a couple of worship songs and a highlight reel that took us back to some of our favorite moments.
As I sit back and reflect on the entire experience while writing this post, it’s hard to put exactly how I am feeling into words. Looking back to last year’s experience made me realize how much my life has dramatically changed in the last year.
I don’t air everything out on the blog, but where I was then and where I am now is a completely different place. And, it’s one hundred percent for the better. For that, I am so thankful.
I am coming back from this incredible weekend of girl time, bunk beds, worship, and quality time with the outdoors with an extremely full heart and uplifted soul. I am thankful for the community of these girls in my life, and am already looking forward to coming back next year!
Being gone for an entire weekend has me a bit behind on the week ahead, so I’ll see you all back here tomorrow morning. I hope you have a great start to the week!
» Linking up my Weekend Snapshots with Katie and Erin.
Erin @ Her Heartland Soul
This sounds like one amazing weekend! I’m so glad you’re in a good place girly. You deserve a life full of happiness. <3
Thanks, Erin! You’re so sweet. And thanks for hosting the link-up. Happy Monday!
This retreat looks awesome! I have never heard soularium cards but that’s a really cool concept. I am not longer a part of a girls group and I miss it so much. I need to find a group to join in my new town!
It took me about 2 years to finally hunker down and connect with a community. It’s been the best decision I’ve made since moving up north!
Kelly Runs for Food
That retreat looks awesome! I haven’t participated in anything like that since my sorority days when we would bunk up in cabins for a weekend together. Looks like so much fun!
Aw, I bet that was fun with your sorority!
Stacy Walling @ Puzzle Pieces and Potatoes
I didn’t even know things like this existed. What a small world I must be living in! You have inspired me to check one out in my area. Great post!!
Oh my goodness… yes! I only wish I started attending women’s conferences years sooner. I hope you find something soon!
You are so blessed to have a group of godly women around you! I’m so happy to hear that you’re in a good place:)
Thanks so much, Kara. I feel very grateful and blessed to have them!
Wow, that looks a wonderful, relaxed retreat. :))) And I can completely identify with being the girl who wants to stop and take pictures. I wouldn’t remember it all if I didn’t.
I guess it’s not a bad trait to have if you run a lifestyle blog, eh? 😉
Katie @ Live Half Full
This looks amazing!!! I went to Spring Hill as a kid for YEARS! Now I want to go back. 🙂
Aw, you must be from Michigan! All of my friends up here have so many Spring Hill stories. They were fun to hear as the weekend went on!
I need to find a women’s group near me as well. It’s difficult being a military wife because we move so often but I would love to attend a retreat like this one.
Oh, I bet. You would love the feeling of instant community you find in retreats. <3
Your post really spoke to me tonight. I cry at everything. But especially when it comes to spirituality. I feel like it touches my heart in a remarkable, strange, strong way. I’ve got to find a group like this.
Aw, I love this. Thanks so much for reading, Hayley. I hope you find the community you are looking for!
Hello Heather, first of all thanks for sharing these awesome images from your lovely weekend. I just love all of you guys for looking so cheerful on every picture. Having trip or any party with friends is always fun and you guys provided it right again. Keep up the good work.
Thank you for reading!