We had the amazing opportunity to experience one of God's biggest blessings to our church this past weekend. We were gone for 2 nights on a retreat with the student ministries staff, which is something we try to do every year, before the fall kicks off and a new year is underway. This year however, was such a sweet reminder of God's favor, kindness and abundant blessing. Months ago, our Church was "gifted" with a private property that officially became ours just weeks ago. A generous family gave us 400 acres of breathtaking land and amazing resources as a retreat center for our Church to use. It was and is a significant gift for so many reasons.
If you've followed my blog long enough, you know that our Church is famous for retreats :) Between Travis and I, we must go on 6-8 retreats a year easily. One or both of us is always getting ready for or just returning from a retreat! Part of that is the Minnesota "cabin culture" I think, but also the importance our Church places on getting away to do ministry and to rest and reflect. As a whole body of believers, I'm sure we spend lots of money renting other camps and retreat centers so that we can use them. Each ministry in our Church seems to have at least 1 or 2 retreat needs a year, so add those all up and almost every month 2 or 3 groups are "retreating" somewhere. Anyway, when this gift was given, you should have seen the dreaming and drooling our staff and elders began doing! Travis came home with pictures of this place months ago, but after seeing this in person, they couldn't possibly it justice. In every sense of the word, it is unbelievable. There are so many things that make this place great and yet there is still work to do in order for it to really serve large groups and certain needs, but it is most assuredly, a lavish blessing from the Lord on our Church. It will allow some strategic ministry to occur, which is a gift the staff does not take for granted. So, without further ado, I will let the following pictures tell the story of what God has done for us!
The property is nestled in the hills of Wisconsin, in a valley, outside of a charming little town. From the second we arrived, Travis was on a mission to get in that barn and get on a 4 wheeler! That barn houses several of them, in addition to a full shop, a full bathroom, an exercise room, and an office with a gorgeous view.
But, we aren't the only ones who were there to check it out. There are 4 peacocks, 2 roosters, and several dogs who also roam the property at all times! And yes, the roosters did officially "cock-a-doodle-doo" every single morning :)
This is the barn they live in and where the horses used to live too. Sadly the horses were sold, as they were just too much work and money to take care of. But, in no way has this place lost any "charm" :)
Ava agrees. She was quite "charmed" the whole time we were there!
I followed the peacocks around while they strolled through this adorable little prayer garden.
You know, the one with the cobblestone walkway and gazebo? I mean, could this place get any cuter??
Well, yes, actually. Here is the greenhouse and potting shed.
I was trying to get as close as I could to that beautiful blue peacock, but I encountered a few problems. First, I don't like birds. They creep me out. Second, every time my camera made the slightest sound, they stopped and looked right at me, making me fear for my life :) And third, such fear kept me a safe distance behind them, so I would be ready to run for it at any moment! I know, lame, but I'll say it again, I don't like birds. Or flying insects. Really, anything with wings. :)
But I digress.
Here is a smokehouse in the garden.
And a view of some of the beautiful flowers that were in bloom.
When this place was built and designed, they thought of so many details. My interior design mind was just in Heaven. There are all kinds of fun signs and decor all over the property, a great blend of vintage, old farmhouse and new modern technology.
Yes, I was trying my hardest to convey that very thought to my little apprentice :) Don't you think she's really meditating on that principle??
One of the biggest draws to this place are the activities they built. At first glance, you may think this is just a silo, but oh no. Inside is a incredible climbing tower!
And of course, when you're hot and sweaty from climbing, you could just jump into the olympic sized pool that is outside :) Well, you could actually jump, dive or slide into that pool, it's really up to you!
Or you could lay back and soak up the rays...
Or dip your feet in...
Or relax in the hot tub! Now don't worry, that hot tub has been turned off for quite awhile, so the water wasn't actually hot. It was just warmer than the pool. Perfect for babies and children on a breezy day!
Ava and her friend Julia sure liked it!
Not only does the climbing tower live in this building, but so does a full size, beautiful gym, along with 2 locker rooms and 2 bunkhouses!
For some reason, I never took any pictures inside, but to call this a gym is almost a mistake. It's so gorgeous and so well done, it's really more like rec center.
And because it was more than 100 feet away from the farmhouse we stayed in, Travis felt the need to hop on the 4 wheeler to get there :) A theme for our stay.
Now, I won't tease him too much about that because before we even got there, I kept hearing about the amazing trails and all the views that we could see. So, we handed Ava off for a few minutes and I hopped on the back with him so he could show me what he was talking about. When we got to the top of this "hill", I was just as mesmerized as he was. This is a wonderful picture of some of the property from a little cabin.
Yes, he is smitten.
And yes, so I am I. It was gorgeous!!
For those souls who love isolation, this is the cabin you could sleep in. But for those of us who worry about bears, this is the cabin you could quickly peak inside, before heading back down the hill to level ground and civilization!!
It was a fun ride and little Ava was waiting for us when we got back :)
We stayed inside the lovely, old farmhouse. It was full of antiques and beautifully decorated spaces, like this cute little nook at the top of the stairs.
We stayed in this room, in a king sized bed nonetheless, but all of the bedrooms were wonderfully charming.
And so was the bathroom.
Although praise the Lord, it had been upgraded to a more modern feel :)
This was one side of the porch, where 90% of all the meetings took place :) With the perfect weather we had while we were there, it was heavenly.
But, I have saved the "creme de la creme" for the end of our tour! In response to my husbands pressing request that we ALL 3 go for a ride, I threw my motherly instincts out the window and agreed to take Ava (in the sprinkling rain) so that we could see this darling little cottage he kept talking about. This just might Travis' favorite picture of all time! It contains his 2 favorite girls and his favorite toy :) Plus, for the first time, I can CLEARLY see Travis in Ava! This look of hers is so totally him. I couldn't believe it when I saw it :)
But, back to the cottage....umm, is that amazing or what???
At any second we really believed we might close our eyes and a Disney princess would come out the door, skipping and singing a little tune :) And the fish would jump out of the pond and the birds would get the clothes off the line...ahhh....can't you picture it??
Well, as if it couldn't get any cuter on the outside, it was actually darling on the inside. Here is the little bed, but more importantly, look at those windows, the stone walls and the stone floor!! I was drooling just as much as Ava over this place!
It had a tiny little bathroom and this sideboard, with a door the led out to...
a private little porch.
Ok, seriously, is this place for real??
Oh wait, I forgot the little loft upstairs too! Unbelievable. Makes me want to watch Enchanted again in the worst way!
But, that wasn't the only little gem hidden away in the woods. On the other side of the property, Travis took us to this sweet little chapel. Yes, it also as cute on the inside as the outside, and you can also sleep here too, but at this point it was raining a little harder and I wanted to get Ava back, so no pictures. But, imagine the most charming little pale blue and while chapel and there you go.
So yes, it was an amazing retreat to say the least. Not only was the property unreal and totally breathtaking, but the times we got to spend as a youth staff family praying, planning, laughing, dreaming, eating and having fun were just as great. The Lord has been good to us indeed. To think where he has brought our Church in the last year and to see his blessings poured out is a privilege. We can't wait to see all the ministry that will take place here over the coming years! The sky is the limit!! And we're so glad that we got to spend a couple nights here before we get to come back in October...I know, nice, right??