January 19, 2016
by Jean Oswald
Co-chair of the Mennonite Women of Virginia retreat committee and a member of First Mennonite Church, Richmond, Va.

Elroy Miller, Moderator
Elroy Miller, Moderator
Aperture: 5.6Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XSIso: 800Orientation: 1
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“My story is as sacred to God as God’s story is sacred to me. Nothing is lost on the breath  of God,” became a familiar refrain by the end of Mennonite Women of Virginia retreat, October 30-November 1.

A crisp fall weekend at Massanetta Springs Resort, near Harrisonburg, Va., provided a perfect setting for relaxation and renewal. Women from as far away as North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania joined women from Virginia to celebrate God’s stories.

Through the story of Hagar (Genesis 16), Sharon Clymer Landis, spiritual director, co-author of The Spacious Heart: Room for Spiritual Awakening, and an excellent storyteller, invited women to listen deeply to their own stories and there find the “God who sees me!”

As the weekend began, women pondered their image of God, and saw how God found and loved Hagar, a scorned woman who was running from harm.

Through small reflection groups after each session, women shared their stories with each other, practicing the art of listening deeply to other’s stories. Through centering prayer and experiencing prayer while creating mandalas from materials found in nature, our stories began to heal. Sessions were deeply enriched by the music team from Harrisonburg Mennonite Church, directed by Janet Hostetter.

Saturday afternoon activities provided learning experiences. Peggy Wyse demonstrated card making. Deb Horst challenged women to be stewards of material possessions in the “Upcycle and Recycle” workshop. A workshop on stress equipped women to process and heal from trauma and stresses in their lives.

Others enjoyed knotting comforters, walking the labyrinth, hiking, and relaxing with a massage. The prayer room with guiding activities provided a place for quiet reflection and prayer.
Throughout the weekend, women renewed friendships and created new ones.

Silent auction items donated by Mennonite Women of Virginia raised over $800 for the scholarship fund for next year’s participants. The retreat offering supported the Mennonite Women USA International Women’s Fund.

In leaving, women carried the refrain, “Just to be is a blessing, just to live is holy” with them as they returned home, looking forward to next year.

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