Every spring since 1996 the postman delivers to my mailbox a brochure announcing the ladies' spring retreat the last two weekends of April. That little brochure brings to remembrance the many retreats I attended and that I can re-live with a yearning to return ... until I remember that I am not quite as young or brave as I was in the past.
If you are looking for a retreat where you can just go and be pampered, Brookhill Ranch is not the place for you. Down country roads outside Hot Springs, Arkansas the ranch is nestled in the hills and was built about 40 years ago by Hettie Lu (pretty cool name, huh?) and her husband. The camp would be a summer camp for kids where they would teach them about Jesus and how to live a successful Christian life. Rustic ... bunkhouses ... down home food. After a few years, parents who brought their kids every year and heard about all the fun they had asked
The first year I attended one of the ladies' "seminars," about 14 of us "older kids" caravaned together, leaving behind husbands, kids, jobs, (
So, we learned after that first year of roughing it, there was a special place for lodging above the kitchen in the main pavilion that was called the Upper Room. This room was actually heated
But the little hardships out in the bunkhouses or in the crowded bathrooms (steam rooms - 6 or 8 ladies in a bathroom taking showers, hairdryers adding heat to the steam, ladies trying to see themselves in steamy mirrors) were nothing to be compared with the wonderful times of praise, worship, fellowship, getting away from the routines of our everyday city lives, and just having so much fun.
Every year Hettie's retreat had a different theme, and she and her team decorated just about everything that could be decorated all over the mountain and in the pavilion according to that theme. They were so creative. She and her team were able, through teaching, drama, dance, and singing, to re-create the aura of being in a little town somewhere in Israel where Jesus walked and mingled with humanity. Twinkling lights all over the ceiling of the pavilion and grapevines and well ... this gives you somewhat of an idea. I'm really not a descriptive person.
I get a little misty-eyed though, thinking about the love that Hettie displayed to every woman who came. She was no spring chick when we attended our first retreat and she is now about 81 years old and still teaching. That woman of God could preach it and still be standing when the rest of us were falling off those hard folding chairs.
The meals that were served, communion on the mountain, and always, always, Hettie had special little gifts for each of us. I have saved every one of them and display them in my home because the memories or the lessons are so fondly remembered. Two of them are especially precious to me because they were special little gifts to me from the Lord. A tambourine was one of the first surprises (something I had always wanted to play - :-D) and the other a tallit (prayer shawl from Israel). Now DH and I have travelled to Israel twice and neither time did I buy one. But on the way to the retreat that particular year, my dear friend, Tamara, and I were talking about Israel, and in telling her some of the highlights of that trip, I shared with her how it had been my regret that I never had bought a tallit. That night ... you guessed it!!! That was our special gift from Hettie. A tallit from Israel with the priestly blessing on it from Numbers 6:24-26. What a blessing that was to me. Another one of those "God kisses."
There were always the beautiful times of praise and worship and enjoying Hettie's granddaughter, Jessica, and others, whose gift was ministering in dance. It was so lovely and so reverent.
|Graceful, worshipful dancers|
I will have to say that the bottom line of our times at Hettie's was the people we got to bring with us to share these blessings and the fun. A couple of them - their lives were changed forever by being brought into new life with Jesus Christ. Hettie's aim for each of us was to go back home shining the love that had been shared and giving back to the loved ones with whom we lived each day.
|In the pines|
|A quick stop to shop at Cracker Barrel on the way home.|
Mutt and Jeff here with sweet Twala in the middle. ;-)
(I'm the tall one - the short one is my
very dear friend Bettye)
"The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace."