I’m still basking in the memories of the retreat as they filter through my mind while I try to get back to life here on the farm.

When I sat at this table this summer, taking notes and dreaming about what it would be like to actually have a retreat focused solely on homesteading, my dreams couldn’t begin to conceive all the emotional/relational gifts that would be mine after a weekend together with like-minded women.

After my friend and I waved good-bye to the last car as it made it’s way down the mountain, re-checked all the rooms and buildings, and put our own belongings into the truck, my very good friend suggested we sit on the back porch to “breathe” before we headed down the mountain ourselves.

While we sat in the rocking chairs, breathing in the crisp fall air of dusk, surrounded by the incredible beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, we reminisced about the activities and conversations of the last 48 hours.

And then she asked me a very poignant question – Did the weekend meet the expectations I had for a Ladies’ Homestead Retreat?

Moments before we sat together on the porch, I had to make my way up the path to the Guest House to look for a walking stick that had been left behind.  In the quiet solitude and alone with my  thoughts, I had been thinking about all the “firsts” and “victories” that had happened over the weekend for these women and my heart welled with incredible emotion, almost to the point of tears.

This retreat went far beyond my expectations….

As we rocked back and forth in our weather worn rockers, I shared with my friend that with all those “firsts”  and “victories” for the ladies, there also came a sense of accomplishment when a new skill was learned; self-worth when added knowledge was given to a conversation; self-confidence when a fear was overcome or a goal successfully achieved; a belief in who they are as a person, that they matter, when hugs and words of affirmation were given after they shared a part of their “story.”

You can never ever buy or purchase those gifts for another person – you can only offer the opportunity to try and the encouragement and hand holding to let them know you believe in them with all your heart.

The cheering and the clapping resounding in the valley when one of the gals successfully split a piece of wood with an axe; the applause and “atta girl!” for the first time teacher of one of the classes; those light bulb moments when a concept or plant identification  was understood and grasped;  the “come on, you can do it!!” whether they were trucking to the top of the mountain or picking a chicken for the first time – these are the results of sisterhood, friendship, a community of like-minded women.

Time after time this weekend, my heart rejoiced as I watched each woman receive the gift of self-worth, self-confidence, “you matter.”

This was OUR weekend, we all made it happen, we all had a part in its success…

And we all shared in the joy and blessing of friendship.

In May,when I sat at that little table on the porch of a rustic log building and scribbled notes and ideas for a ladies’ homestead retreat, little did I know that the reality of those dreams would far exceed any of my expectations.

Thank you ladies, my friends, for an incredible weekend.