Category Archives: Retreats

A time for rest & refreshment.

Book Review: When God Made You

When God Made You opens from an attractive cover, showcasing movement and anticipation, into an explosion of color and prose. The ensuing pages do not disappoint, as the theme carries inside to fill up the pages with radiant action and a play on words.

The author, Matthew Paul Turner is a best-selling author, writer, storyteller, photographer, speaker and blogger. He has traveled considerably around the globe with World Vision. Matthew lives with his family in Nashville, TN.

The artist, David Catrow is primarily a writer and illustrator of books for children. He has worked extensively in film/TV, spending over a year creating the visual development for films such as Horton Hears A Who, Despicable Me, and others.

Together, the teaming of Turner and Catrow’s genius has produced an amazing, masterful use of story and pictures to bring out solid principles:

  • You are uniquely loved.
  • You are a masterpiece designed by God.
  • You are a part of God’s story.
  • Your personality and gifts showcase the glory of God.
  • You were brought into this world for a purpose.
  • Your creativity, insights and passions bring an important contribution to those around you.

Wow. I cannot say enough about the brilliance of creativity and tone in this book. Both the wordsmith and the illustrator color it with such vibrancy, it draws you into the rhythm with pure delight. I could not say I like one over the other, because they work hand-in-hand. It’s as if their collaboration came from one mind to create a fun and fantastic adventure for young and old alike.

Did I mention how much I like this book?! You don’t have to be in the target audience of ages 3 – 8 to appreciate an affirming word. Get it for yourself and see what a boost it will give you!


FTC disclaimer: “I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

Retreat Debrief

The letdown took longer this time. You know that feeling of “I wish it wasn’t over yet, but I’m relieved.”? Usually that emotional plunge happens right after the retreat, when I’m so tired I could drop. But this particular year, it waited for a full week to hit.

What do you do, to ease back into your daily routine after an emotionally-charged, high-energy event? Anticlimax is really not so unusual. Elijah had a big showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, but when confronted by one woman, he ran. (See 1 Kings 18:16-19:4) What happened to that powerful man of God? Didn’t he just beat out 850 false prophets? Didn’t he pray until God ended a drought?

Take a look at how Elijah made it back to the land of the living.

5 Steps for Self-care

1)      Sleep. Elijah was tired! He laid down under the shade of a tree and fell asleep. When you lead others, you will also need opportunity for rest. Set aside time to regroup.

2)      Eat. Elijah was hungry! He needed nourishment. Have you ever noticed food isn’t as appealing when you’re up against a deadline? Your mind is on the details instead of the tastes. Take time to nourish your body with lots of pure water and fresh fruits. Good nutrition will rejuvenate your mental capacity and your physical stability.

3)      Acknowledge need. The angel of the Lord knew the journey was too much for Elijah. When we plow through life, we have to pay attention to lulls in energy. They are reminders to take care of ourselves or we won’t be able to minister to anyone. Ask for prayer. Let friends know you’re having a dark day and need their intercession. They’ll surround you with love and care.

4)      Seek the Lord. Elijah went to Horeb, the mountain of God. He felt alone in his zealous activities for God. Yet the Lord revealed Himself and His servants to Elijah in a generous response to Elijah’s despondency. Do you feel alone in your work for the Lord? Is it time for one-on-one with Him in order to gain a new perspective?

5)      Enlist help. Elijah got an assistant. Let others be a part of the planning and execution of your retreat. It gives them ownership and provides you with someone to share the joys and burdens.

Are you heading for burn-out? Take a cue from Elijah and tend to your needs. You’ll gain strength required for the next project!


You can find more articles like this one here.

B & B Review: The Teacher’s Pet

A venture down a country road in Pennsylvania turns out to be an adventure to another era. Innkeepers Dave & Judy Clum have created a cozy step back in time with antiques in every nook and cranny. The rooms of their B & B are homey and inviting, with the school theme everywhere, and apple motifs bring back memories of the respect shown toward a cherished profession. Both teachers by trade, Dave & Judy’s home has become a getaway for the student in all of us, yearning for a quiet place to read a good book.

Hubby and I were greeted with mint chocolate chip cookies and a tour. We had our choice of upstairs bedrooms, both with their own bathroom. Ours had a covered four-poster bed with quilted covers and steps for my short legs to climb into the tall bed.

Our Innkeepers steered us to a lovely supper at Log Cabin Inn in Harmony, where we were treated like royalty for an unusual opportunity of uninterrupted dialogue. We finally had a chance to catch up with each other’s hearts!

The morning’s meal was a sight for the eyes, as well as a treat for the taste buds. Our hosts prepared fresh fruit, French toast with confectioners’ sugar, eggs, and toast with homemade blueberry preserves. I sipped from my china teacup in front of a roaring fire and realized it had been far too long since I had actually used a teacup at home. A mug says tackle the day! The teacup is a reminder to slow down and treat life gently. Another simple but special treat was the addition of orange sherbet to the orange juice. It’s one of those things that I could easily put together at home, but never thought to do. It makes an ordinary morning feel extra special.

Dave & Judy Clum

The cherry on top for our breakfast, however, was a visit with our hosts. Dave is a history buff and knowledgeable about subjects from furniture building to the George Washington Trail that runs through Portersville. The antiques they’ve amassed over the years create a warm atmosphere for a visit with new friends. And the motifs nudge a bent toward conversation on a sunny day. It was a B & B worth repeating!


How Do Your Retreat Numbers Measure Up?


As I put retreat flyers in our church mailboxes Saturday, I thought about our motives for inviting so many women. It’s not about the numbers, really.  It’s about including each and every one into our circle of friends.  That seems like a high aspiration, but it’s not all up to the leaders at that point.  When we can facilitate opportunities for relationships to happen, we are stepping up the possibility for one more woman to know she is a valued member of the human race.

That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? To connect people to each other and to the God who created them to be in relationship?

Over the eleven years of planning our spring women’s retreat, we’ve seen the group range from 48 to 77 in attendance, but the quantity is still not our main focus! We always ask, “What can we do to create an atmosphere where women will connect?”

The response may take on a different shape each year, but here are five key factors.

1) Create Fun!  Make your trip one where giggles can abound.  Where there’s laughter, healing will follow, and relationships will happen naturally.  We have ice breakers, skits, and generally role out the carpet for humor.

2) Create Intimacy!  The opportunity to share life’s burdens with another lightens the load.  One-on-one conversations and group discussions will assist the progress of new insights.  Interaction can take place at meal time or around the campfire or even while carpooling home.

3) Create Release!  Getting away from the daily routine of life is essential in order to let go of stress.  Provide walks outdoors for fresh air or indoor games for group interaction.  Have you seen grown women do cannonballs in the pool?!

4) Create Inspiration!  Give food for thought to get creative juices flowing, and to facilitate the opportunity for each to reconnect with the Lord.  Special words from speakers or quiet time with a Bible will enable the mind to cultivate renewal.

5) Create Security!  Remember the Cheers theme song?  “People are all the same;  You want to go where everybody knows your name.”  We all need a safe haven where we can feel like family, and that requires intentional effort and time to nurture.

When you focus on the individuals who come, they will bring their friends and build numbers later on. But it all begins with creating an occasion for women to remember that they are cherished and loved, one person at a time.


You can find more articles like this, here.

For more tips on Retreat Planning, see my ebook, How to Plan a Women’s Retreat!

Book Review: Lazarus Awakening

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Joanna Weaver says that which we believe will destroy us, can be the catalyst to more accurately reveal Jesus in us. Her direct, yet gentle approach paves the way to receive the truths packed throughout this three piece set of the Lazarus Awakening DVD Bible Study.

Weaver tells us, her previous book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, began a ten year journey with the family from Bethany. Her smooth writing style puts personal stories to good use to illustrate Scripture. She unwraps truth in the telling of story, with profound depth to the multiple layers of application found there. We are reminded that we all have issues we need to surrender to the Lord, and the convicting is done is such a gracious manner, you keep coming back for more. This book should be placed in the hands of every person who ever tested faith. It probes questions we usually leave simmering beneath the surface, yet has a way of clarifying Scripture in such a way that stories open up in a whole new light. Suddenly the application to my sin wound is crystal clear and reveals a Love so profound that the Truth is staggering. Weaver uses “analogies concerning the tombs we often settle for and the graveclothes we often wear, pointing us to the resurrection life Jesus came to bring.” Halfway through the book I knew I was holding in my hands a transformational key for our next Women’s Retreat! And there, on the third DVD, I found a retreat format ready to be tweaked to our own event, including power point slides, craft ideas and workshop materials.

The workbook consists of an 8-session series for personal or group study, as a companion to the video sessions. It is user friendly, with lots of tools for reflection. I like the use of journaling prompts and opportunities to flesh out what the Lord is saying through the passage. Planning Guides are also provided with action steps, and it’s packed with helpful tools for personalization and application.

The DVD was filmed in Israel, placing the study of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, in their homeland. The visual backdrop of the Holy Land is stunning, as Joanna Weaver explains God’s Word in a compelling way. Extra footage highlights interviews on location and tools for study. The piece that especially grabbed my attention, was the section with downloadable leader’s guide, promotional material, and a complete retreat laid out. Weaver has thought of everything!


Disclaimer: I received this book set from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Where do you find retreat locations?


When word of mouth gets out that you’re looking for a place to host your gang, people can be really helpful with ideas. So helpful in fact, that it gets overwhelming.  Whether you’re planning a family reunion, church getaway or a team building event for work, there are a few crucial elements to settle first.

1) Do we want to cook?  Didn’t you think the first question would be about food?  Let’s be practical!  We all want to know what’s for dinner!  The food question is a big issue because it could pare down the number of choices.  Do you want to haul in food to grill yourselves, or do you want the food to be prepared and served in a dining hall?  There are merits to both and they affect time, cost and atmosphere.

2) What kind of amenities do we want?  Swimming?   Fishing?  Campfires?  Spa Treatment?  Golfing?  The location can bolster your theme’s effect.  For instance, a Boy Scout retreat would be out of place in a 5 Star Hotel.  And many people prefer a mattress over sleeping on the ground in a camping area.  So, find what works for you.

3) What size of group do you need to accommodate?  While searching the internet for a retreat location, my co-coordinator came across a gorgeous setting with prayer gardens and a castle atmosphere.   It wasn’t big enough for our retreat, but later we used it for a leadership training event!

Try several keywords when you Google places: retreat centers, vacations, and hideaways all convey the idea.  When you think like a tourist, you can find things you may not have noticed before.

4) How far are you willing to drive?   Even though a closer location is enticing for gas savings, it also presents a unique challenge.  People feel free to come and go according to their own schedule!  That means they miss out on group bonding time, as well as cheat themselves out of the amount of time needed to unwind.  If they’re still running on their own timetable, have they really retreated from the daily grind?

5) How much will it cost?  Your answers to all of the above questions will funnel down into this last major one.  Cost will effect who can come and participate.  If the cost is too high, you may eliminate someone who really needs to be there!  Anything you can do to knock off some of the price will create goodwill and growth in the long run.  Fundraisers in the months prior to your event are helpful, as well as build anticipation for what is to come.

Don’t let too many options cheat you out of finding the best option for your retreat. A little bit of research will launch you into the next phase of planning and equip you for the nuances of a great event!

You can find more articles like this, here.

For more tips on Retreat Planning, see my ebook, How to Plan a Women’s Retreat!


Moving Party!

[ File # csp1883563, License # 1295737 ] Licensed through in accordance with the End User License Agreement ( (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / ilona75
[ File # csp1883563, License # 1295737 ]
Licensed through in accordance with the End User License Agreement (
(c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / ilona75
To celebrate my new blog, and to “lighten the load” in moving, and to celebrate the new release of my ebook on Kindle, we’re having a sale! For five days only, January 5-9, 2015, you can pick up your own copy absolutely FREE!
Are you planning a Spring Retreat? Now’s the time to start the process! Get your own copy on Amazon.

Would you be willing to post a review on Amazon or on your own blog?

It would be a big help on the Amazon Ranking to let others know what tips you will implement as you plan your own event. Get it while it’s free!
Don’t have a Kindle? I got my own copy for PC free. Check that out here.
And welcome to the party at my new home!
It’s gonna be a great year!

Welcome to my New Site!

Hi! Welcome to my workroom! Here, you’ll find out what I’ve been up to and what’s coming next.

I began writing in high school. I became editor for our youth group’s newspaper and found out I loved connecting with people through words. I wrote features about our activities as well as made assignments to my peers for their input. Who knew it would lead to something more?

I began submitting articles in 1996, when Nathanael was 5 and Anna was 2. My hubby is a pastor and we chose for me to stay-at-home while the kids were growing up. Now, both kids are in their twenties and I am caring for my father. The writing is an outlet that enables me to be available to my family.

So, what brings you here? Are you looking for speaker tips?  Are you a writer? Possibly you’re looking for encouragement on a rough day? Maybe you’re a mom looking for resources for your family?

Isn’t it awesome that we can bridge the miles through the click of a keyboard? I will be posting twice a week, and transferring files over from my previous blog, I’m looking forward to a format that is more readily available to connect with readers. Thank you for joining me on the adventure!

Sally Ferguson

Retreat Solutions for Planners

My ebook is now available for Kindle! Click to check out How to Plan a Women’s Retreat!