Threads of Redemption
In early November, the Wolf River Refuge had the exciting opportunity to host a very special gathering of women who were all drawn together by the passion for one thing—writing--specifically writing done with an eternal perspective. This gathering of twelve women was pieced together by the efforts of one woman whose vision of her and her friends sitting around a table with a spiral notebook and coffee sharing tips and ideas about writing, turned into the most beautiful picture of not only the fellowship between mature believers but also something that no one could have ever imagined.
Heidi Lewerenz, wife to Eric and mother to 6 children, is from the Wausau area, and she was introduced to the Wolf River Refuge nearly three years ago through a family closely connected to it, who was involved in a conference called The Art of Marriage, in Wausau. Her church’s marriage ministry later hosted their first mentor retreat at the Wolf River Refuge. Heidi is a writer and has worked as a graphic designer and web developer. For the past few years, she has been trying to organize a group to go to a conference called “She Speaks” headed up by Proverbs 31 Ministries, which is held in North Carolina. The goal of the conference is to encourage women on their journey of sharing their life stories, experiences, and testimonies in whatever format that may be, whether it’s through speaking or writing, or a combination of both. Despite her efforts, Heidi’s dream of going with friends to this conference fell through this year. That is when she recalled the Wolf River Refuge and started out on her adventure to create what ended up being their very own version of a writing and speaking conference called Threads of Redemption.
Heidi and her friends wanted to explore writing and speaking, and what it meant to do both of those with an eternal perspective. Their retreat purpose was to inspire and equip Christian women to write and speak with an eternal perspective, vulnerability, and excellence. Her original vision of the retreat was very laidback. She imagined just sitting around with a group of her friends that have various interests in such as writing, blogging, speaking, and tossing around ideas and sharing tips. That was where it started, but it became a group effort, and slowly turned into something far greater than originally expected. She sent out a survey asking what people wanted to cover at the retreat and planned sessions accordingly. Additionally, the Lord gave the planning team a Scripture theme during one of their meetings-- Isaiah 43-- which focused on redemption, witness, vulnerability, and bringing God glory.
“But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’”
– Isaiah 43:1
“‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he.’”
– Isaiah 43:12-13
After planning the retreat for nearly three months, the day finally arrived when everyone gathered together at the Wolf River Refuge to embark on what was in store for them. The group consisted of Heidi and 11 other women whom she knew, but who did not necessarily know each other. The focus of the first night was first of all about building trust between the women through time just spent getting to know one another, and then it moved into a discussion on the difference between a calling to do something, in this case, writing, and a dream to write or speak. The important point was made that when the main objective, whether writing or speaking, is not just about you, but it’s about those you can reach through your story.
Saturday, day two, was focused around the idea of Your Story--those unique and personal life experiences, events, and themes that make up who you are, and which are still shaping you into the person you will become. The women did a poster board workshop which they had prepared for in advance. They spent time outlining key events in their past and color coding them by theme. The whole point of this was to look back on their lives through the lens of Isaiah 43 and to see what God has redeemed in each of their lives. This tied directly back to the theme of the retreat, which was again, called Threads of Redemption. Later, the women turned their attention to their audience—those to whom they are telling their story. This again was looked at through the lens of Isaiah 43, specifically verse eight, which says to “Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf.” The point was emphasized that as they are writing and speaking, these women are to be witnesses to those who do not know the Lord, who do not understand what He is doing in their lives and to show them, the lost, through their stories, how the Lord has redeemed them.
Later that afternoon, there was a discussion time when everyone was able to talk with one another about their different projects and where they were at in their different writing journeys. This was held up in the Raven Meeting Room, which is living room style and is perfect for creating a cozy sense of belonging to a group and community. That night, vulnerability was the center of attention and the session was mainly about what parts of your story you should share as a writer, and when is it appropriate to ask permission if details of someone else’s life is included in your story.
On Sunday, everything came full circle and the pieces were brought together. Each woman was given different colored threads of embroidery floss and wove together bookmarks which portrayed through the different colors the different themes from the Scripture that had been a focus of the weekend--Isaiah 43. They then discussed what the next step was individually, and as a group.
The weekend went very well. All of the women were so excited by the material that was presented, the sessions and workshops they participated in, and they enjoyed the atmosphere the Wolf River Refuge provided. They were distraction-free at the WRR which is tucked away in the woods, and more away than they really thought it would be, as some of the women commented. They did not need to worry about anything, as their meals for the retreat were provided. This was refreshing for the women who were in different stages of having families and who at home are busy tending to family life. At the Wolf River Refuge, they were able to take a deep breath, spend a short weekend away from their busy lives and obligations at home, and connect with other writers, building and strengthening old and new relationships alike. While there was plenty of serious time spent learning and sharing their knowledge and skills with one another, these writers and speakers also had some quality time spent with one another drinking tea and listening to music in this very relaxing environment.
Do you have an idea for your very own retreat? Have you had one in mind but did not know where to begin or where you would ever have it? Check out the Wolf River Refuge and see if we can meet your needs. We have various meeting rooms, perfect for sitting around, whether that’s on couches or at tables, and taking the time to invest in those relationships both new and old, suspected and unsuspected around you. Our cabins are great places, too, for family getaways, distraction-free, in our scenic neck of the woods. Take the time your family, small group, or friends need to get away from the busyness of life and build those relationships in a Christ-centered environment.