Can I Bring My Children To A Women's Retreat?

I'm not the one making decisions for who can or can't attend a women's retreat. Surprisingly, once I had a man ask me if I thought it would be OK if he could attend. After clearing my throat and trying not to laugh, the comment begged for a question:

"Sir, why would you want to come to a women's retreat?"
He quietly responds.
"My wife is handi-capped, and she rarely goes anywhere without me. She saw the topic of the weekend, looked at me with her big blue eyes and said, 'Can you take me?'"

After I pulled my foot out of my mouth, I say, "Yes, you surely can come."

I spoke for a retreat with a different flavor. In all of my retreat years, I've never encountered this. There were several young moms, not only bringing their infants, but also small toddlers. I have never been a proponent of bringing babies/toddlers/children to women's retreats. I just know that (as a mom), you'll be spending more time in the hallways than in the sessions. I also know that many other women who paid equally to come and get away, can get quite offended by the squabbles, the crying, and the disruptions. I really can't blame them. It's also very hard as a speaker to work with all the distractions.

The other side of the story, however, goes like this: Many of these young moms wouldn't be able to come without bringing their children. Some by self-induced choice; others by the fact that anyone they would remotely trust to watch their children for the weekend, are already here with them at the retreat!

So what I encountered in Clarion, PA happened so quickly and so divinely that I don't know quite how to write it. Courtney, a precocious two year old, is quite a hand full. Her mom, who I grew to love instantly, IS spending more time in the hall ways and her hotel room than in any of the sessions. She has all three of her children with her. Her life is in a crisis mode and many around her know this. I do not. At least not yet.

Courtney was in the back of the ballroom just being a typical two year old. I have to admit I was very close to frustration myself, knowing that the other women present were a little fatigued with the interruptions. I just started to sing, "Amazing Love" and I watched as Courtney separated herself from her mother and started walking slowly up the center aisle towards me. I saw her immediately. I kept singing and slowly walked towards her. I got down on my knees and sang directly to her. Face to face. She didn't move for over five minutes. I was staring into those gorgeous blue eyes, while at the same time stroking her hair, her shoulders and her hands. It was a divine interruption.

Every woman in that ballroom had tears in their eyes. I knew it was a sacred stop. I knew that the Holy Spirit had an agenda and it was up to me to flow with it or lose it. Someone captured this on video and I surely hope to pass it along here when I get it.

Courtney, her mom, her family and their situation needs a major miracle. It was in that sacred pause that I believe God showed me how to quit. To quit trying to make things work. To quit trying to force stuff. To quit being the orchestrator and let God direct the symphony.

Courtney never moved a muscle, looking deep into my eyes. After the song finished, we all sang "Yes, Jesus Loves Me" and Courtney sang with me. She was a different child from that point on. So was I.

I'm still not a proponent of bringing kids to a retreat, but I've got to say - this was a superb picture of what Jesus would do. To be "interrupted" by children, is to see the hand of God. I'm not that smart, but I knew better. This would turn that ballroom into a sanctuary. And it did.

How do you handle the interruptions in your life? Wouldn't it be amazing if you allowed yourself to flow with God-ly peace, even when it's not in your plan?

The child in me says, "Yes. Because Jesus Loves Me."

(The photo above really tells the story.... she never moved, or blinked an eye. A sacred moment)

(Also posted on SueDuffield.com)


Anonymous said...

That brought tears to my eyes! Thanks for sharing!

mary ann o' said...

Amen, Sue - and again I say Amen.

Rachel Q said...

Beautiful! :)

Jamie T said...

I was there, and it is very interesting to know your feelings, as the speaker, on what happened. We do need to be sensitive to what God brings into our paths.
If you have a chance to look at our conference facebook page, you can read some other comments.
God bless you!

Jeanne said...

God is absolutely beautiful and surprises us all the time when we let Him lead. Sue, thank you for listening to Him in your life and ministry. This is very touching and a portrayal of what God does with His unknowingly disruptive children. Beautiful!

As far as bringing children to a retreat, I (a mother of 5, grandmother of 8, pastor's wife) am not a proponent for the same reasons you stated. But, I believe that a kid-friendly retreat can support the young mother. Having classes for the young ones and a nursery for the infants are some options. I've also seen loving support from women who will take the infant/toddler to the hallway or outside so the mom can be spiritually fed.

Thank you so much for sharing this. I pray it touches the lives of many!


Jamie T said...

This is long because I am posting the comments made on our Women’s Conference Facebook page, with names (except mine) deleted for privacy.
(Original Post) It appears that that Ladies of the Eastern Conference have made an impression on Sue Duffield. Check out her latest blog post--"Can I Bring My Children to Women's Retreat?" As we take personal inventory and as we look to future retreats, I think we need to consider what she has to say.
Sue-biquitous - sueduffield.blogspot.com
Jamie T comment: It's interesting. A few of us have discussed the idea of children at retreat, and I have some mixed feelings. Of course, you know (my daughter) took (her 4 month old baby) because he is nursing, and we thought about it a lot ahead of time. Also, one of us took him out at the first sign of fussing or noise. The other children there didn't bother me for the most part, until Saturday night. We discussed it at the business meeting and the few who spoke up said that it wasn't a problem as long as they took them out if they made noise. Then things changed. Saturday night that didn't happen. The kids were noisy and distracting - and Sue was very gracious. While I am sympathetic to the needs of mothers and children, having a couple noisy children affects all of the people there, not just the mother. It's not easy to say no to someone when they want to participate, and (our Women’s President) was in a difficult spot, but I know of several people who will check the policy before registering to go next year. Is that selfish? I don't think so. People who go to retreat are wanting to - retreat and be refreshed. And the speaker, who puts a lot of work into a presentation, deserves to be respected and heard. I am glad Sue was so gracious.
Comment: I have to agree. The only reason I took (baby) was because he was still nursing. And frankly I don't completely trust (dad) to have him for a whole weekend by himself yet. LOL I knew from last year that there were things said about the babies that were there and that they shouldn't have been. But I wanted to be able to go. However, I knew that I would sit in the back and if he was noisy that I'd leave. He was a very good boy for the most part. If I had to redo it though, I probably wouldn't have gone. As a mother, even though he was good, I was distracted and didn't really get to relax. I figure that if I can't go for a few years because of the age of my child(ren), then I won't go. I will go and enjoy it when I feel comfortable leaving my children at home so I can relax, visit, and enjoy the speaker. If I'm being distracted and missing something because of my child, I figure that somebody else is probably distracted and missing something because of my child too and it's not fair to them when they are paying just as much to go. And as much as the children are cute and adorable, that's not what the weekend is about. Where I do see the problem is single mothers who don't have someone at home to watch their kids for the weekend. And I think that's where the churches have dropped the ball. It's not just about paying for someone to go who doesn't have the money, but what about offering to miss the weekend to stay home and watch someone's child so the mother can go or helping to find someone who is willing to watch the child? I have to say that last year, because I wasn't a mother yet, I never really thought about it.

Jamie T said...

Part 2 Comments on Women's Conference FB page:
Comment: Thanks ladies for your comments and honesty. I'm sure there are many who may feel similarly. I'm also confident that the Executive Committee will take this into consideration as they plan for next year. I would have to agree with Sue's comments in her blog--I personally don't think we want to set a precedent for allowing children (who can walk and/or talk) to attend. Thanks, ______________, for your suggestion to the churches and your comments as a mom.
Comment: Great comments. I agree with all of the above....my only thought is this...when I was a mom of small children (my boys where the love of my life) and there were VERY FEW people I would be comfortable leaving them in the care of....I was so fortunate to have a very involved mother-in-law and husband. I totally understand where you are coming from ________________, regarding whether (dad)
was truly up for the challenge so soon. I am just not certain that, even if there were women willing to babysit for a weekend, moms would readily hand their babies over....that is a personal thing that would have to be worked out between them. Ya know? Like dear, close friends. We will all pray that the decisions regarding children and ladies retreat are made and settled. Not easy ones to have to deal with. I really appreciate Jamie T’s comments above. Many women will be specifically looking to see if children will be attending prior to deciding whether they will go next year. I think it would be much more harmful and hurtful for a mom, who DOES NOT take their child out during a "cranky" moment to have another woman approach her and ask her to leave with the baby, than if the decision was made up front to not allow children to attend.