Monday, August 21, 2017

Pastor's Wives Retreat 2017

Two weeks ago, I hosted a retreat for some of my closest fellow pastor's wives. It ran Thursday through Saturday, but some ladies were able to come in a day early to be with us at the midweek service, and others stayed on until Sunday to join us for church then. I was able to spend time with these ladies from Wednesday until Sunday, which was a special treat in itself as I rarely get to see them face-to-face.

By the Wednesday evening service, five of us seven had arrived in town. Between the seven of us, three were pregnant, and three others had little nurslings with them.

Unbeknownst to me, the ladies in our own church had for months been planning on surprising me with a gift basket that evening, which I was presented with during the evening service. This was an incredibly generous and beautiful gesture. After I got home from the service, I had to restrain myself not to open anything until after the kids were in bed, the house was clean for the night, and I had finally packed my bag for the trip.

Then I stayed up until past midnight reading all the wonderful notes and open the many gifts.  It was beautiful and overwhelming. It made me feel very loved and appreciated. I don't live up to the high views our wonderful ladies seem to have of me, but it was very touching reading their heartfelt notes. I was thinking how spoiled I was - most people don't get anything like this in their lifetime. I could have worked at a job my entire life and retired from it, and the farewell could not have come close to being this sincere and beautiful. To everyone in our church, THANK YOU so much! I know everyone thinks their church members are the best, but ours really are. 

Also, THANK YOU to all who sent cards and gifts to include in the gift baskets for the other pastor's wives. I didn't actually put them in baskets, but rather chose canvas bags that would travel more easily and could also be reused. 

Thursday morning, we picked up the remaining two ladies at the airport and had breakfast at a little crepe restaurant in Tempe. One of my major preparations for this trip was to thoroughly research the best and tastiest food options ahead of time. Eating great food is high on my list of pleasures in life, and I knew the same would be true for the other ladies. This little cafe did not disappoint!

After breakfast, we left town and headed down to the southern part of Arizona, where we were going to be staying at a remote ranch / bed & breakfast.

Along the way, we stopped for a tour of the famous Kartchner Caverns. They are every bit as impressive as they are said to be. When we first stepped inside the first tunnel, the musty underground smell gave me a mild attack of claustrophobia, but it passed and I was able to enjoy the tour. 

The grounds outside are equally beautiful, with butterfly gardens, native plant life, and lots of hummingbirds. We had lunch at the little cafe on site.

From Kartchner Caverns, we continued on to the ranch. By this time, a monsoon storm had let loose, which is a beautiful thing to experience in the desert - especially while safely sheltered from the rain, ha!

After we checked in at the ranch, I was able to present the ladies with their gift bags. They were all very touched, and loved all the notes and gifts they received.

For dinner that night, we headed into Benson to a small Mexican restaurant called "Mi Casa". Take it from someone who has lived in the Southwest for many years now - this is the best Mexican restaurant in Arizona! It was in a literal house that had been converted into a restaurant. The entry was decorated with various awards and famous mentions of this otherwise unassuming gem tucked away in a small town. The owners are a married couple. The husband is the host, his wife is originally from Mexico and is the chef. She uses authentic family recipes passed down for generations.

We all LOVED our food. It far exceeded any expectations I had of finding good food in a small town. The fresh guacamole was incredibly good! I don't know if it's good or bad that this place is almost three hours' drive from my house. I am definitely feeling inspired to take a family day trip down south soon!

Each dish came decorated with a different fried tortilla cutout.

Being pregnant, I went to bed early Thursday night, while some of the others stayed up late fellowshipping. Our accommodations had a spacious shared living room that allowed for either. 

Friday morning, I woke up early. After my usual morning routine of Bible reading and going over the day's events, I was able to go for an early morning walk. I love going for walks first thing in the morning, but at home they are a luxury I can rarely afford. As soon as one of the little ones wakes up, they need food, and they also need to be kept from waking the rest of the house. Most of our kids are early risers so unless I want to leave for a walk no later than 5 a.m., it just isn't going to happen. At least not without reaping the consequences of having hungry, energetic kids on the loose unsupervised first thing in the morning! 

Not only was I able to go for a walk, but I was able to walk among lush green landscape in the middle of nowhere, with not a soul in sight. It was like balm to my desert-summer-weary eyes. After the torrential rains the night before, everything was especially fresh and fragrant. The ranch where we stayed had many riding/hiking trails through this beautiful outdoors. 

 I love little brooks.

Wildflowers! Imagine that!

This rock reminded me of Psalm 40:2 - "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings." God has done so many wonderful things for me in my life. Being away from the daily grind helped remind me of that.

Breakfast was made fresh just for us and served at the ranch. It was cooked by the owner himself, an older cowboy. Boy oh boy, was it GOOD! We had bacon, eggs, and potatoes. Which sounds like nothing extraordinary, except the seasonings really made the dishes shine. It was also obvious from the taste that they had been cooked in cast iron using real butter. There was also a buffet set up for us of fresh fruit and coffee/tea/milk/juice. It was all around lovely. 

After breakfast, we headed down to Bisbee to tour the old Copper Queen Mine. Children under 6 are no longer allowed on the tour, so we took turns with half of us watching the babies upstairs while the other half went underground. The babies all cooperated nicely and just napped in their strollers.

The tour was guided by former miners who had worked here before the mine shut down for good in 1975. They were both knowledgeable and funny. Just friendly, down-to-earth small-town folk. Even though we went deep inside the mine, I did not feel nearly as claustrophobic as I had the day before in the cavern, thanks I think due to the much better ventilation and fresh air flowing through.

After the mine tour, we enjoyed a late lunch at a really good restaurant in Bisbee. One of the pastor's wives had to leave to go back to Phoenix and fly home at this point, as she was needed back home the next day for a wedding. She had driven down in a separate car so she could take herself back to Phoenix that evening.

We made our way back to the ranch after that. Everyone was pretty tired, so we spent the evening relaxing in the pool and spa at the ranch while chatting and letting the kids play.

We had wanted to go back to the little Mexican restaurant again for dinner, but we were so stuffed from lunch that nobody felt like eating again yet, and they close pretty early (7 p.m.). Instead, we had late night pizza in Benson before retiring for the night. 

Saturday morning, breakfast once again did not disappoint. This time, we were treated to French toast made with - get this - croissants! Served alongside bacon and potatoes again, as well as real butter and maple syrup, plus the buffet with fresh fruit and beverages. I had not expected to gain new culinary hacks on this trip, but the croissants were a superb idea! I have since made them at home for my family, and even Isaac who hates eggs in anything but cookies, including French toast, came back for seconds!

After breakfast, we headed to Apple Annie's orchard in Willcox. They were hosting a peach festival. We took a hayride out to the orchard, picked and ate some peaches and apples fresh, and I also bought some to take home. 

We headed back to Phoenix around noon, stopping for lunch along the way. Most of the ladies were flying home Saturday evening, and the last one left Sunday after the morning service and a final lunch with our family.

Being a pastor's wife is a lot like being a mom. The work never ends, much of it goes unnoticed, and it's a lot harder than it looks from the outside. Just as with mothering, the blessing of seeing people grow and mature far outweigh any sacrifices. Even so, getting a short little breather can make all the difference between feeling burned out, or keeping our head above the water.

I loved hosting this retreat, and being able to participate in it. I am already looking forward to next year! My goal is to keep hosting them once per year, but in different parts of our beautiful state. Thank you again to all who contributed to this retreat!


  1. My goodness. looks like you had an amazing adventure. must have been really refreshing. you all look glowing and so genuinely happy. bright eyed and bushy tailed. I should do that with My girl friends. we could all use a refresher. maybe in the fall. (Canadian falls are the most beautiful time if year in my opinion). Glad you ladies had a great time :)

  2. Thank you so much for hosting it! It was so refreshing and so much fun getting to know all of you ladies! This will definitely be the highlight of my year from here on out. And yes...that Mexican restaurant was AMAZING! I just wish we had one of those here in Illinois! Thanks to all of you ladies who sent in encouraging notes, cards, and gift cards. It will not be forgotten. :)

  3. Sounds like so much fun, you guys deserve all of it =)

  4. So sweet of your church to do this for the ladies! I wish I could have gone. I look forward to meeting some of you next month!

  5. This sounds fantastic! So glad y'all were able to enjoy this! We're driving to Phoenix next month and "Mi Casa" is right on our route! I'm excited to try it :) Thank you for sharing!

  6. I'm so impressed, Zsuzsanna! Amazing job in planning this retreat! It sounds like a lovely event. And what a beautiful place you picked - it has GREEN things! :)

    And love that package your church ladies gave you - especially the orange thing (bag? towel?). So funny!!!

    I'm sure this was a huge blessing to those ladies who attended!

  7. How sweet and thoughtful of you and your church! I am glad you took the time to share your trip. I am glad you took the time to bless these ladies. You all needed and deserved it. Blessings to you.

  8. Looks like a wonderful time!! Thanks for sharing. I do feel awful though... I've been so busy and forgot to send gifts for all the ladies... :(

    I'm so thankful for all the ladies that remembered. You all deserve it so much.


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