January 23, 2013

Winter Retreat +

How did I start the new year? A wonderful week of Bible study with about 25 other Christians! A.K.A. Winter Retreat + at Story Book Lodge Christian Camp.

Story Book Lodge is a ministry that hosts bible retreats and bible-centered youth camps in Northern Minnesota.  All of the cabins are unique to a particular fairy-tale or tale found in your typical story book, hence the name.  But  this camp makes a ministry of telling the greatest (true) story of all time to hundreds of kids, families, and teens every year: the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Many people in our church are/were heavily involved in counseling youth camps and going to family camp so we heard about it when we moved here to Rockford 11 years ago.  We went to family camp one year later and for various reasons and schedule conflicts, haven't gone since.

My Mom thinks I need to get out more and actually interact with humans more than school books, so she suggested that I go.  Then some friends from our chapel invited me to ride with them.  Things added up and before I knew it I was studying the prison epistles and starting to pack my bags!
The girls from Rockford: Carolyn, Casey, Moi, Natalie, Carolyn

Bright and early January 1 we hopped in the car and dove into 3 days of intense Bible study.  There weren't very many people there, but I guess I'm just used to conferences with loads of people I couldn't possible hope to meet.  Here, it was more like family, and they were.  They were my brothers and sisters in Christ and everyone was there for the same reason.  To study the Bible and grow spiritually!
That is rare.  Everyone was encouraged to participate in the study (most did). 

The difference in this weekend and your typical "retreat" though wasn't what happened during the study (even though that was amazing and I actually learned way more than I usually do at conferences) it was the attitude of the people when the study ended.

Abby - Beth - Grace - Ben

It wasn't, "put away your Bible and let's talk about stuff that is going of for real."  THIS was real.  The Bible is alive and relevant!  It is changing us!  No matter what games we played (there were quite a few) or meals were eaten the focus was still the same.  God and his work.  I was able to bring up things that the Lord had been teaching me and discuss them with people...who actually wanted to listen!

It was unbelievable.  The talks I had, the people I connected with.  Wow.  It was so edifying.  I can't explain it any other way.  The atmosphere was contagious with joyfullness (and illness, actually.  Our numbers were cut at least in half by the last session.  No, they didn't die, silly.  They kept to their rooms.)

Dominoes.  I learned how to play Mexican Train.  Fun stuff. :-)  Except the 4 year old beat me I think.

Said 4 year old and his Dad. ;-)  What can I say, he is really smart.


I loved the relatively small group of people.  I had the chance to learn everyone's name and hometown, if not actually sit down and talk with them for a while.

Jordan - Anna

Grace - Eric
Chinese checkers?

Philip - Carolyn


Brittany - Hosannah - Grace - Abby - David
Berenyce - Guy - Hosannah

John - David


Mimi and Hosannah. :-)

 Jordan - Caorlyn

Abby - Kristina


Dominic and Kelly and Hadassah

oh wait...

My bad. Literally.  You should have seen my knees!  Molted purple spots each of them, 5 inches across.  And my rear-end.  It hurt to walk and sit for at least a week after camp.  Oh, and by the way?  SO worth it. :-)

Rook. (And the newlyweds. :-)

I can't seem to go anywhere without teaching someone how to swing or waltz.   This time it happened 20 minutes before we went home!


Grace - Do you know Grace?  I was astonished to finally meet her and find out that she only lives a state away!  I "know" her, and her sister Sarah from their Bright Lights ministry and Sarah's book Before you Meet Prince Charming.  I've been following Grace's blog for a while now.  I couldn't believe that she was there.  We had some really great talks and I might get to see her again this summer!  I love it when that happens. :-)

Grace and Ben. :-)

Hugging. ish?  and Photobombing. 
Love you guys.

Heel clicking.
Way to go Mimi!




Abby - Grace - Beth

Kelley - Ian
Some matching game.  Forgot the title


This felt like a little piece of heaven.  I couldn't stop smiling while I was singing, and that isn't so great for tonal quality.  It was one of those moments.  Somebody said "Sick or not, I'm singing!"

We got there just before dinner on the night of the first session and people were still there from the week before so there weren't any beds available.  Uncle Bill opened up another cabin just for us Rockford girls.  It was a blast.  After scheduled time was well over you could find us all bonding and talking and on occasion swing/waltz/or salsa dancing in our cabin.

Jeremiah - Carolyn - Philip

Hannah - Anna

Beth - Kristina - Mimi
Picture taking.

Beth - Hannah
More picture taking... on sunrise walks out over the frozen lake...

Casey - Carolyn
Posing.  On woodpile in front of the perfect light.  Yes I made my friends put there lives on the line and  sit in snow.  No I was not the one who suggested stand in the smoke.

Grace - Beth

Back rubbing

Acquaintance making  Friend making.

Casey - Natalie
Seeing. ;-)


Smiling.  It was so nice to spend time with this sweet girl.  I've known her for almost a decade, but we have lived hours apart and never really connected till we started meeting at Bible studies.

Ben apparently had a super lousy hand, so he had to show everyone who wasn't playing.

And two pictures that don't fit anywhere else.

Moi - Casey - Carolyn
Hey look!  I actually was there! (on that bitterly cold wind-swept expanse of ice) Don't worry, we only took out hats off for the picture. :-)

Memory making

Uncle Bill
Leave taking.

And there you have it!  A small sampling of the week. :-)  Next up some actual takeaways from the Bible study portion. :-)  They may be spread out throughout the year though.


  1. Joanna! Thank you for posting these pictures! Seeing them made me wish I had been there! I know most of these people... and I can't wait to go next year, Lord willing. =) Thanks again for sharing.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing, Joanna! =) SBL is such an amazing place of encouragement, isn't it?! Our family was just up there for the winter family retreat and it was such an encouraging time! (If you're interested, I just posted about it on my blog. =) It was fun to see this pictures and recognize quite a few people in them. =) Blessings, Joanna! I'm so glad you had a wonderful time!

  3. It really seems like a great time and good fellowship ! I've known this kind of retreat in my country, where it's so hard to leave, because you feel like you're learning a ton everyday...And your pics are great !
    Have a blessed day
    Marie, a reader from France