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respite retreat reunion

You might remember that a few years ago we had the opportunity to attend David and Nancy Guthrie’s Respite Retreat. It was such an emotional weekend but played a huge role in the healing process for us. You can read a little more about that weekend here and here.

Fast forward to this past weekend and we were back in Nashville for another retreat. This time it was a reunion.

On our way to the clubhouse the first evening Joel and I were marveling at the different place we were at this time around. Our first Respite Retreat was eight months after Cora died. We thought we might be a little crazy flying to Nashville to spend the weekend with other grieving parents we had never met, but we knew we needed something. I was pregnant with Levi but we didn’t know he was a boy. We both were convinced he was another girl. Our house was still horribly quiet. Our hearts were still totally broken and the tears were still constantly flowing. Every day. We were still trying to make sense of God’s character in context of our tragedy. We were clinging to God as our Great Comforter but still confused by what He was allowing to happen in our lives. I remember being so thankful to be with people who just “got it”, people I could be real with.

While our hearts continue to ache, the Lord has been so faithfully redeeming our story and healing our brokenness. Thank you, Lord, for your work in our lives. Thank you, Lord, for the place you’ve brought us to today. It is by Your sufficient grace alone that we are still standing.

We spent most of our time in this room talking about God’s sovereignty, prayer, fear, our kids, heaven and so much more. We heard each others stories, laughed together, cried together, worshiped together, talked about areas we’ve grown in and areas we still need to grow.

We studied God’s Word together and talked about how we filter out lies from Truth. I learned so much and came away with a renewed passion for being in the Word and a whole new list of books I want to read.

I started reading the book Wild Things on our way to Nashville. I read some aloud to Joel (he loves when I do that ;)) and we were laughing so hard at the chapter describing the 2-4 year old stage. The stories and examples were stories we are living out in our house right now. I haven’t finished the book but it is so good so far. I didn’t put it together that one of the authors, David Thomas, would be speaking at the retreat. He was so encouraging and gave us so much to think about as we parent our boys. It was a timely reminder of what a privilege it is to be a parent. He also brought along several other books that he and his colleagues wrote that might be next on my reading list.

Wild Things (if you have boys you need to read this one!), Raising Girls (the boy version of Wild Things), Raising Boys & Girls (there is a DVD that goes with this one that you can use with a Bible study or small group), Intentional Parenting (this is the one I’m reading next!)

David and Nancy fed us lots of yummy food while we were there too. Saturday night they set up tables on the porch with flowers, candles and balloons. It was so nice to have time to just sit around and talk. I learned so much from these people too!

During dinner we each wrote on a balloon and then after dinner released all the balloons together. Each balloon represented a dearly loved child. It was a surrender to the Lord…releasing our precious children, whom we long to still be here with us, into His hands.

We sat at a table with Peter and Sarah on our first night at the retreat. Their sweet daughter, Annie, died from cancer when she was six months old. Our stories, though very different, had lots of similarities. We felt like we had been friends for years and were so thankful for their encouragement to us. We are trying to get them to move to Kansas now! Too bad Kansas doesn’t have a little more appeal. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I first “met” Deb through email. She wrote me when her son, Nathan, died suddenly. I remember reading her words and feeling so burdened for her…I had been in that place too. It is such a blessing to be able to use the things that God comforted us with during our sorrow to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). I remember as I was writing just praying that the Lord would use something I wrote to comfort this lady whom I had never met. Deb told me that she remembers that I told her to cling to Jesus…and that is what she did. Praise the Lord! It was such a blessing to meet you Deb!

And Nancy…it is hard to even describe to you how much this lady means to me. Through her books and the Respite Retreat she guided me to stand firm on Truth during the darkest days of my life. Her dedication to and passion for teaching God’s Word, constantly bringing people back to Truth in the midst of incredible loss, is a daily challenge to me. She is so real. Just like you would expect her to be after reading her books. And she is lots of fun too! Joel told her as we were taking this picture that I am one of her groupies. ๐Ÿ™‚ย  If there is anyone that I could be like when I grow up it is Nancy. You have to read her books if you haven’t already. Everything she writes is great!

ย The One Year Book of Hope (this was the first book I read by Nancy…I give it to everyone I know!), Holding onto Hope (a challenging journey through the book of Job), Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow (this book encourages you to allow Jesus to speak into the many questions that come with sorrow), Abundant Life Day Book (I started this daily devotional at the beginning of the year and have loved it too!)

It is hard to share just four because all of Nancy’s books are so good. She also has a new Bible study series out…the first study is called The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis. I need to find time to do these too!

Thank you for the wonderful weekend, David and Nancy. We came away feeling refreshed, comforted, inspired by God’s Word and challenged in so many ways. The work God is doing in and through you is a blessing to so, so many…including us!

If you have lost a child I highly recommend attending David and Nancy’s Respite Retreat. I know it is a little scary to think about going to Nashville to spend the weekend with other grieving parents you have never met, but you won’t regret it. David and Nancy are great. Go check it out…and feel free to email me if you have any questions.

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One last thing…

A reader recently wrote and let me know about some friends of hers that need our encouragement. Sam and Jason lost their daughter, Alice, a few weeks ago. Baby Alice was born still in the arms of Jesus just two weeks shy of her due date. They were so looking forward to becoming parents. Sam and Jason’s friends have created a website that many generous Etsy vendors have donated to. They are hoping that this will raise some money to help cover the costs of medical expenses and the unexpected bills that come with losing a child.

Are you needing a gift? Maybe something for Mother’s Day? You can give a gift and support this sweet, hurting family all at the same time. Go here to visit Alice’s shop. They are adding new items every day. Praying for you guys as you miss your precious daughter.

disclosure: amazon affiliate links used

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  • creole wisdom - Thank you so much Jess. I so appreciate you linking the website.

    I’m so glad you were able to get away to this retreat. How neat to meat people who inspire you and get to spend time with others who have walked in your shoes.

    Your faith is so inspiring.ReplyCancel

    Jess Reply:

    Creole-Of course! I will keep praying for your sweet friends.

    • Jess - Creole-Of course! I will keep praying for your sweet friends.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - That’s awesome that you were able to have a reunion and a little getaway. I just love reading your blog. You are such an encouragement! I will definitely be checking some of those books out.ReplyCancel

    Jess Reply:

    Thanks, Elizabeth. Yes! Definitely check out some of those books…they are great!

    • Jess - Thanks, Elizabeth. Yes! Definitely check out some of those books…they are great!ReplyCancel

  • Lemonade Makin' Mama - You are so precious. So precious! I love this sweetness and how amazing God is to bring us through hurts by connecting us up with others who have survived. Love this post.

    Blessings,
    SashaReplyCancel

    Jess Reply:

    Thanks, Sasha! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Erica - Thanks for the info. I wanted to look into these weekends while we would be in the states. I sent a request for an application.ReplyCancel

    Jess Reply:

    Erica-Yes! I actually thought of you guys while we were there. You need to go!

    • Jess - Erica-Yes! I actually thought of you guys while we were there. You need to go!ReplyCancel

  • Lacie Hutchins - My daughter was stillborn three weeks before my due date almost 6 years ago! I wish I knew how to contact Sam and Jason. I helped me to speak with others who had similar experiences to mine. It is kind of a club that no one ever wants to be a part of, but when you are there are so many people who are here thT you can relate to! I don’t know if I will ever make it to a respite retreat, but I think it is an amazing thing! I look forward to finding the books you have mentioned! I have seen you a few times on Wednesday mornings when I go to pick my daughter up from preschool.ReplyCancel

    Jess Reply:

    Lacie-I’ll look into that and let you know. You might see if there is any contact info on the website??

    • Jess - Lacie-I’ll look into that and let you know. You might see if there is any contact info on the website??ReplyCancel

  • Lisa Kirkes - Dear Jess,

    I have read your blog since Cora was in the hospital. I love reading your wise and challenging posts as well as your cute family stories. I had a dear friend from my husband’s seminary days who lost a baby girl to cancer and I told her about your blog and said I thought the two of you would be instant friends if you ever had the chance to meet. Funny thing, she was already following you. After she lost her precious daughter you wrote a post about Nancy Guthrie’s books and how much they were helping you. I emailed her and offered to buy her any of Nancy’s books that she thought would be helpful. Well, she had already read your post, too, and had ordered the books on her own. Anyways, I know this is getting long, but just this morning she facebooked me a picture with the title, “Guess who I met this weekend?” I opened it up to see you, Joel, Peter and Sarah!!! My sweet friend is Sarah! I can’t tell you how happy I was to see you two meet. Although I would give up any worldly thing I own for it to have been under different circumstances. But God brings beauty out of ashes. May God continue to bless you and Joel as He binds your wounds and heals your broken hearts. Thank you for the ministry you do through your blog. You have touched many lives and I am truly grateful for you.ReplyCancel

    Jess Reply:

    Lisa-Thanks for your sweet words. I am so thankful to have met Peter and Sarah. They were such an encouragement to us and we had lots of fun together! It’s is amazing how God intertwines our stories sometimes. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

    • Jess - Lisa-Thanks for your sweet words. I am so thankful to have met Peter and Sarah. They were such an encouragement to us and we had lots of fun together! It’s is amazing how God intertwines our stories sometimes. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Damaska - I can’t put “Intentional Parenting” down~ It’s amazing and practical!
    Yay for new friendships! ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

    Jess Reply:

    Sarah-I am so glad we met! ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t wait to read Intentional Parenting…I’d better hurry and finish Wild Things!

    • Jess - Sarah-I am so glad we met! ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t wait to read Intentional Parenting…I’d better hurry and finish Wild Things!ReplyCancel

  • Melinda Ross - Thank you for sharing Jess! I am so sorry we missed getting to come to the reunion. I would have loved seeing everyone. We did the Respite retreat 2 years ago and it had been 10 years since our son was killed in a car accident. This experience is like no other. Nancy and David are such a blessing. Just reading the comments, you can see how God uses each of us through our experience with loss. I never thought in a million years I would ever be doing anything like this. This is one club I never wanted to be a part of! But God had other plans and each day that goes by I see how He has used my son John’s going home to reach out to those in need. Sarah and Peter were at our retreat, I would have loved seeing them! Also I know Karla and Adam were there too! I hope we have the chance to meet. God bless you as I see God is truly using you on so many ways! By the way, we manage the Hiding Place in Clarksville TN. So y’all will have to come back sometime. I look forward to reading more! Blessings to you and your family!ReplyCancel

    Jess Reply:

    Melinda-I wish you could have been at the reunion too. I would have loved meeting you! Yes, I am so thankful that God redeems even the tragedy in our lives. We loved the Hiding Place and would LOVE to come back sometime!

    • Jess - Melinda-I wish you could have been at the reunion too. I would have loved meeting you! Yes, I am so thankful that God redeems even the tragedy in our lives. We loved the Hiding Place and would LOVE to come back sometime!ReplyCancel

  • Deb - I am so happy that we met at the respite reunion. Thanks again for being there for me when I was in such need. I am grateful to consider you a “real life” friend and not just someone who I know through the internet. Take care!ReplyCancel

  • Respite Retreat Reunion - […] Originally posted atย http://www.jessmcclenahan.com/2013/04/respite-retreat-reunion/ […]ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - Jess- your words are such an encouragement to me spiritually. We lost our third child unexpectedly while I was 5 mos. along, right before Christmas. It was so painful and I knew I needed to be in the Word but I didn’t want to. I was angry. I have followed your blog for quite awhile now and remembered all those times you clung to HIS truths even though you didn’t feel like it. He fills in and brings us through. And that’s what HE has done for me! I am 9 wks along with our 4th and go tom. morning for 1st US. I am nervous but putting it in the Lords hands. Thnks for being a blessing to so many!ReplyCancel

  • Jenae - I’m so glad you were able to attend the retreat reunion! I know it must have been very bittersweet to see those whom God brought together for no other reason than out of a common grief and love for Him. I am sure you were encouragement to so many other families as you always are to anyone you meet.

    And I’ve read “Wild Things” too…that chapter perfectly summarizes my two as well! There is one part of the book that kind of breaks my heart because I see it happening right before my eyes. The authors mentioned that little boys are pretty attached to their mamas during their young years, but around the age of 4 they really begin to gravitate towards Daddy and don’t want quite as much to do with Mom anymore. I have seen this happen with Caleb over the last year and while it makes me so happy that he has such an amazing example of a Daddy to look up to, it also makes me sad that he is growing up so fast!

    I’ll have to check out the Intentional Parenting book as well…I had to stop reading parenting books for a while because I was becoming a little too schizophrenic in my methods based on the current book sitting on my nightstand. ๐Ÿ˜‰ReplyCancel

    Jess Reply:

    Jenae-Yes, it was bittersweet…but so good. I am noticing already that Levi is beginning to gravitate towards Joel so much more. In fact, when we got home from the retreat he told me that he just missed his daddy, not me. Ha! Thank goodness they have good daddies, right?! Hope you have a good week, friend!

    • Jess - Jenae-Yes, it was bittersweet…but so good. I am noticing already that Levi is beginning to gravitate towards Joel so much more. In fact, when we got home from the retreat he told me that he just missed his daddy, not me. Ha! Thank goodness they have good daddies, right?! Hope you have a good week, friend!ReplyCancel

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