By Dina Kennedy
This summer the Great Room participants from Williams Lake enjoyed a three-day retreat at Linwood House in Gibsons.
The weekend workshop opened the door to positive life changes for the eight lakecity participants who travelled to the event in a van loaned to them by Youth for Christ.
We left early in the morning. The skies were blue, the sun was shining. We saw a black bear and eagles, moose and ducklings along the way.
Anxiety and anticipation were high as we arrived at the centre, not knowing what to expect, although we had seen pictures beforehand.
Our theme song for the retreat was Freedom Reigns in this Place, and our workshop leader challenged us to start anew by closing doors that need to be closed, and opening the doors of our eyes, hearts and minds that needed to be opened.
She challenged us to love ourselves first, then we can love those beside us and go forth and love those even further out.
Her scripture reading and focus for the retreat was on Rev. 3:20: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
We were asked to write a short story about our lives and what it meant for each one of us to be there. Our stories will be published in a book along with those of other women who have been on similar journeys this summer.
We enjoyed each day with fresh fruit in the morning and marvellous meals and warm patio conversations with other women who came to visit and help out. A deer in the back yard joined us along with different kinds of singing birds.
We watched a film called Freedom Writers, went to the beach and met some Linwood partners at their home.
One leader shared a story about shells and passed around a tray of shells for us to choose from and then share with other workshop participants why we had picked a particular shell.
She explained how each shell is different and how some are rough on the edges, smooth or lumpy, cracked or broken, colourful or dull. She also use the shells symbolically to talk about our lives — security inside the shell and dangers lurking outside the shell.
We were each given an empty box and sent out to the ocean to find things that catch our eyes and to capture the great memories.
The smell of the ocean was wonderful, seagulls played, the waves crashed against the rocks, the wind danced on our faces. When we arrived back to the house I could hear all the laughter and excitement of what we had found and collected.
For some of these women it was a brand new experience. For others it was bitter sweet but it was a chance to step out with courage into a new adventure and to embrace an “I can do it” attitude.
After the trip to the beach we enjoyed a Mexican dinner and then worked with an art teacher to learn about expressing ourselves through art.
We closed our eyes and scribbled and then started to paint. What wonderful masterpieces!
After this, some women went to finish off a puzzle, some sat and chatted or watched television. I went for a bubble bath.
The next day a student volunteering at the centre shared her story with us about the risks she had taken in her life. She talked about the Bible story of the Good Shepherd and asked the participants to think about what kind of sheep they are: who has guided them, helped them and prayed for them in their lives.
Another workshop leader guided us in writing about some of the (emotional) luggage we wanted to leave behind at Linwood, and what we wanted to take with us to open new doors in the future.
Just before lunch we all decided to dress up for lunch in different styles of clothing from the attic and then ate lunch. What a site we were. We packed up our belongings and said our goodbyes.
As we left our workshop leader prayed for us.
My prayer for each of the women is that there be an exchange in the heavens that bring each woman closer to a life restored of value, dignity and purpose.
Dina Kennedy is The Great Room co-ordinator in Williams Lake. The Great Room operates under the umbrella of Linwood House Ministries and is a sacred space where once a week, women can come to find safety, rest, friendship and a welcoming place to share their stories and take steps toward positive change in their lives.