I always love asking women, “What arrangements did you have to make back home to come to the retreat?” Truly, stepping away from life for four days plus travel time involves some sort of coordination for everyone.
When I learned Cindy had 15 kids, I figured her arrangements involved a little more orchestration. It also sounded like she had a pretty interesting life.
Originally headed for Poland once upon a time, Cindy was divinely rerouted to North Africa in her early thirties. Trusting God with her life meant making a longer term commitment than a year of teaching. In the process, she met her husband Nathan.
Thirteen of Cindy’s 15 kids are adopted, and two are biological. She has seven teenagers (and you thought it was tough to parent one or two!), seven kids ages 7 to 9, and a two-year-old. Naturally, they’re very scheduled, so when the opportunity for the retreat came along, Nathan told Cindy he could handle the kids. (It’s amazing the number of women who end up at Thrive retreats at their husbands’ urging!) Nathan and Cindy also have a friend who knows their family schedule well enough to care for the kids when Cindy’s home so the couple can go on regular dates.
Cindy has followed Women of the Harvest, now Thrive, for a number of years. She actually lamented the day when the magazine moved from print to online because her Internet wasn’t very strong. Cindy knew attending a retreat would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (because there are so many women who still haven’t attended), so when Thrive hosted previous retreats near her, she waited, knowing she didn’t need it quite yet. Until now.
“Why now?” I asked Cindy. “Why did God bring you here this week?”
“I was exhausted,” she admitted. “I feel alone in this season, and I really need some Christian women friends.” This week, she says, has been restorative, and more than anything, she has connected with some good girlfriends.
“I can get amazing flight deals from North Africa to most of Europe,” Cindy told me. “I can fly to Pisa for 30 Euro, and Paris for about 50. What’s great about meeting women from all over Europe is that it’s reciprocal: I can visit them relatively inexpensively when I really need to get away, and they can visit me.”
Nodding to a woman in her small group, Cindy admitted, “My husband isn’t real thrilled about the idea of me visiting her in Turkey.”
The other woman empathized. “My husband doesn’t really want me to visit her country either.”
“It’s the perfect opportunity, then, for you to meet somewhere in between,” I suggested. Cindy’s friend quickly added, “How about Italy?”
Today, our guests
- Heard another message, then discussed it around their small groups
- Had several hours of self care time taking walks, reading books, napping, getting massages, counseling, haircuts, prayer, and more
- Shared embarrassing and hilarious true stories from their lives
- Shared friendship, laughter, sometimes tears, and life experiences with others who “get” their lives
Today, our volunteers
- Spent themselves laughing, weeping, listening to, and serving global women
- Went to bed exhausted and fulfilled