Yes. Yes I would.
I savour the warm, gooey embrace of a predictable chick flick, a sappy romance novel and an estrogen-fueled women’s gathering. I’m a fan of baby showers, wedding parties and craft circles. My favourite, however, is a time-honoured church tradition: The Ladies Retreat. With youth group and summer camp in my rear view mirror, this is where I go for a regular dose of silly fun.
A lot has been written online about this phenomenon, and women’s ministry in general, over the past few years. One of the bloggers I love most wrote a piece this past weekend, while I just HAPPENED to be at our church’s bi-annual Ladies Retreat. Her account was funny, honest and mostly positive, in a surprised and begrudging way. Many I’ve read are not nearly so gracious.
I get it. I do. They’ve had bad experiences. I have too. There are judgmental cows. There are sugary sweet phonies. There are women who live to make everyone miserable in the name of God.
As someone who used to organize these events, I have heard every complaint in the book. It’s impossible to please everyone… The die-hard athletes and the girlie crafters. The all-night-gigglers and the crack-of-dawn-whistlers. The girls-who-just-wanna-have-fun and the women-with-deep-thoughts-to-share. The single-and-loving-it-professionals and the babies-are-my-life-wives. Then there’s the food and the location, the uncomfortable beds and finding a speaker who is just the right mix of fun and profound.
There’s a lot that can go wrong. It’s not for everyone. My husband would rather cut off his own thumbs than attend a men’s retreat. It ranks right up there with third degree burns and eating peanut butter for him. Knowing him as I do, this is the right call. Ladies Retreat might not be for you.
But it is for me.
Every time I read the mocking posts or hear the complaints I shrink a little inside. Suddenly I’m back in Jr High and the cool kids are snickering at me. They’re too grown up to play. I wonder if it is childish and wrong.
I wonder if I am.
I’m that dork in the front row, with tears streaming down my face as the speaker shares an emotional anecdote. I’m the belly laugh during the “share an embarrassing story” activity. I’m front of the line for silly games. I’m the introvert who is comforted by schedules and ice-breaker games and name tags. I’m the lady rushing around doing Very Important Work, so I don’t have to mingle so much, but still be part of the group all the same. I’m the one taking a nap and solitary walks during free time, because this is such a luxury. I hear God in the nature and the songs and the words of the women around me.
It’s not perfect and I barely sleep and I always have a few awkward, this-isn’t-working-for-me moments. But I push through, because there’s more good stuff than bad.
I LOVE Ladies Retreat!
So to all those people rolling their eyes and folding their arms: We get it. You’re too
cynical and insecure cool for this stuff. That’s your perogative.
With a critical streak a mile wide myself, not to mention a cynical husband, it’s something I understand. There may even be some truth in it. You don’t have to come to the parade, but please, try not to rain on the rest of us.
When I look at the women I admire most, they aren’t the ones on the sidelines. Last weekend I sat beside 80-something year old Gladys. She was gearing up for the Sun Run race the next day. “I take a lot of rests, mind you, dear.” She wore a grass skirt to the tropical dinner and was front and centre, neon pool noodle in hand, for the ball relay. She knows how to laugh at herself and she’s game for anything. I want to be like her when I grow up.
I’m not in Jr. High anymore. I’m learning to embrace my enthusiastically dorky side. It’s not for everyone. But I’m glad I’m me.
I’ll take EXTRA cheese, please!
So here’s me, after a totally awesome Ladies Retreat. Carolyn Arends (one of my FAVOURITE authors) was our funny and insightful speaker – and she remembered me!!! – but I was totally cool about it (sort of). It feeds my soul – the beautiful decorations, the goofy games, the Indian Head Massage (developing a slight girl-crush on Lisa), the worship time, the hanging out with friends, the path by a waterfall, and most of all, no one needing anything from me for a day and a half!
NOTE: My friend Jessica attended this retreat with me. It’s not really her thing, but she’s a good sport like that. She has plenty of good reasons to stay on the sidelines, but she doesn’t, and I respect that a lot. Her post Be Kind to the Cynics is the slap upside the head I needed, a reminder to be more patient and understanding. It had me doing some soul searching today. Not always comfortable and rarely fun, but definitely good for the soul.
I thought about ignoring it. I thought about deleting this post or parts of it. I thought about rewriting. I thought about chocolate (cause that always helps). In the end, I decided to add this link and hope you will read it too!