I’ve had a secret heart’s desire for a few months now.
I’ve wanted a little get-away, some solitude, a writer’s retreat.
I have an important writing project deadline at the beginning of next year, so now that fall is almost over, this desire has been felt a bit more acutely. The idea of a retreat was not a demand or need, just a little nudge of thought in the back of my mind, a desire of my heart that only God and a couple of my besties would know about.
Desire of My Heart
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
“Be faithful in a little, and he will give you much” Luke 16:10
God has a way of weaving stories and heart’s desires and bringing them about in ways I couldn’t even begin to dream up on my own. I am in the middle of a beautiful moment in his tapestry of this life that I get to live.
It is a moment that I honestly can’t believe I get to be alive to see, much less to witness it with my own eyes. It is the moment my OLDEST DAUGHTER GETS ENGAGED!
I have had a heart’s desire since day one of each of my girls being born…a prayer of my heart; “Lord, if getting married is part of your story for them, would you build-up, raise up and hold the future men that will one day hold my girls’ hearts?
I have prayed for their potential future husbands for years. I know the importance of marrying a good, good man who trusts in a good, good, God, with Him as the foundation of their marriage.
“Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7-8
God holds stories.
God holds hearts.
God gives hearts desires to those who delight in him.
God answers his children when we ask in line with what he also desires.
A Writing Retreat and An Engagement at Highlands
I am typing away in a room in Colorado, the view out my window is snow coming down covering pine trees and mountain peaks. I’m writing snuggled under a handmade quilt on the bed, with a big “H” lovingly crafted right into the design by a local church. The corner is marked with the word “Highlands”
I am at Highlands Presbyterian Camp & Retreat Center. Located in Allenspark, CO.
It is a very special place to my Teagan and her Lucas, a place they have come for 3 years in a row to meet with God in the beauty of majestic mountains with REACH, the name of their yearly church college group retreat.
It is a place that, as of the day after I am writing this, will not only be known to them as Highlands Retreat Center but will forever be remembered as the place where they got engaged.
I am hunkered down, hiding from my daughter. I was invited by God and my future son-in-law who asked me to be here to witness. He knows our daughter well, how she would want me here…how close my Teagan and I are.
Not only are we Mother and Daughter, but close friends; another deep desire of my heart granted by God. I’m so thankful for my girl and our relationship.
I stretch my neck side to side as I write, and turn to look out the window to see if the snow is still coming down. It is.. a horizontal small-flake type of snow, proof that I made a good decision to get here a couple of days early ahead of the snow.
The wind blows and pines disappear into swirls of white for a just moment, then reappear. My eyes squint and smile as I glimpse bright red against the white. A vase in my window of 2 dozen red roses brought all the way from Nebraska.
This was my one and only task given to me by my future son-in-law. “Bring the roses,” he said.
They scented my car yesterday as I made my way up the curves of the mountain, knuckles gripped as I got the hang of twisting and turning.
The roses stayed steady, as did my eyes, although I was quite tempted to look at left and right at the breath-taking views. I breathed in the scent of an up-coming momentous occasion while car-climbing and winding up majestic mountains.
How can it be that you are this mindful of me Lord?
These plans you’ve had in store for me!! I smile at how God is not the only ones with plans.
My future son-in-law also has plans of a rose petal path leading to a proposal. I think about how pretty they will look sprinkled on snow. The wind will die down tomorrow, and skies should clear and reveal the view of mountaintops.
His plans include two professional photographers to capture the moments, a table set up to hold roses and framed photos of the forever couple that have captured their story so far. There will be candles and twinkle lights on top of a large boulder.
He scouted out the perfect spot, built steps with stacked stones and a railing out of an upended tree trunk, to steady my girl as she climbs up and takes in the view as it takes away her breath.
Rose petals will mark the place where he will kneel before my daughter on one knee and slip the ring on her finger.
While I wait on a Sunday for this momentous occasion to happen on a Monday, I marvel at how God winds and weaves this writing retreat right into their story, a gift He knew he had for me. I believe He planted that desire of my heart to get away with him in the quiet, just so we can delight together when He actually makes it happen.
I longed for quiet and He has shut down the noise of my phone, as I am high up enough for connection to not happen from my room..one of the best perks of this place if you ask me. I notice the absence of the alerts, and my body exhales and mind clears enough for words to flow.
The quiet reveals the sound of the wind. I marvel at it howling through pine trees. This is new-to-me background noise–this roaring of wind through pine trees. It reminds me of God’s power, and these verses displayed in the Highlands Lodge lobby.
I pause my typing, look around and take in all the ways he delights in me and brings me delight.
I think about how God created and delights in marriage, and imagine a boy on one knee before my girl, surrounded by pine trees clapping their hands and singing for joy.
I feel giddy.
Delightful Things I Experienced at Highlands
~ handmade quilts
~ white folded towels set out that I did not have to wash or fold. A gift for this Mom!
~ a never-ending supply of the creamiest of hot chocolate or hot coffee or hot herbal tea from the beverage area.
~ the stone fireplace flickering in the lobby, a place I can go if I want connection (wifi & people), as long as my Teagan is not around! Sneaky sneaky!
~ a place for everything, and everything in its place in my cozy room
~ a forced slow, by snow and just a touch of altitude sickness, a slow body but still, a clear mind to write
~ a labyrinth outside my window, the reminder to still, focus in and pray
~the views, the views, the mountain views!
~ my essential oils brought from home, with the perfect blend of citrus, spruce, clove, lemon, frankincense, cinnamon, and cypress. Mountain scents!
~ a knock at my door, my Lucas snuck away to visit and discuss the plan. I cannot believe he is hiding a ring! Weee!!
~ new heavy snow boots found on sale just weeks ago. Who knew I would need them to hike a mountain to the perfect engagement spot?! God did that’s who!
~ the sound of the wind howling through pine trees. A reminder of his power, the same that is in me.
~ the set up of communion I spot in the hall that stops me in my tracks. The reminder of his blood, shed for me so that I may know him and he, me…for all eternity.
~ how the staff here marvel at the fun of putting me up in the quietest room and being part of the surprise…the room at the end of the hall
~yummy comfort food made by the Highlands chefs
~ icicles hanging off the cabin that is hiding my car in its shadow. Water frozen in motion. God art.
~ how the sun lands directly behind the cross backlighting a Highlands directional sign
~ being reminded by staff that if I left any snack food in my car the possibility of a BEAR visiting it is quite, well… possible! I am in a place where there are bears…permagrin again!
~ the beautiful lodge lights when walking back from my car in the dark of night
~ listening to college kids sing when I came out of hiding the day after the engagement. “And I will be ever rooted in You God, ever be rooted in You, Lord.” How the words apply to marriage, too.
~ the future plans on my heart to bring my loved ones back here. A family reunion perhaps? A refreshing get-away retreat with my man? A writer’s retreat with my writing friends?
I snuggle in, calm my permagrin, and thank my Lord for Highlands.
A place where a fun, mysterious God answers the desires of my heart, and the place where my daughter’s heart was captured, permanently.
Highlands Retreat Center
I will share more about my personal experience of the engagement and my daughter’s reaction to the surprise of me being there in another post, but now I want you to know more about Highlands Retreat Center. This place that has become very special to me is so very warm and welcoming to all kinds of people, ages and groups.
The mission of Highlands is
to provide gracious hospitality & quality Christian programs
in a majestic mountain setting
& to nurture spiritual renewal & transformation
in a safe & inclusive environment.
I am witness, I’ve experienced it firsthand. They live their mission. This place and these people are the real deal and took such good care of me.
From the Highlands website:
This beautiful facility includes 24 sleeping rooms, an administrative suite, reception lobby, conference room, and kitchen and dining facilities.
Highlands Presbyterian Camp and Retreat Center encompasses 285 acres, has 42 buildings, zip-line, archery range, gaga ball pit, rock climbing, a low-elements challenge course, and access to the wilderness areas of the Roosevelt National Forest and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Highlands offers a wealth of program and lodging options for adults, youth, and children alike at our versatile 285 acre camp and retreat center. Participate in one of Highlands’ organized camps or design your own program. Let our staff assist you in planning your next family reunion, meeting, wedding, church retreat, or educational event. In addition, take advantage of recreational offerings that are unique to our mountain setting.
The location? It is ideal, in Allenspark which is just a little over an hour’s drive from Denver up to Highlands. The drive and the views are so spectacular that it felt like just minutes. Estes Park is just 30 minutes away and a bit further from there is the epic Rocky Mountain National Park.
As you read above, there is a lot to do at Highlands, much of which I didn’t get to experience as I was tucked away hiding from my daughter. I did get to walk some trails, and loved that there all types of levels of difficulty! It was hard to imagine my time being any better than it was, even though I didn’t participate in all Highlands has to offer.
Things I am looking forward to experiencing the next time I go? Exploring a “hidden room,” campfires, creek hiking, rock climbing, team building, canoeing, and taking more time than I was able in nearby Estes Park. Also, sharing all of the experiences with my husband!
I look forward to visiting again, to find quiet, community and activity:
“In a place set apart called Highlands”
Learn more about Highlands Retreat Center by visiting their website. It is full of great information!
You can also follow them on Facebook
Rachelle BarkerNovember 25, 2019 at 6:46 am
Congratulations! So happy you got to be there for the engagement. So sweet of him to include you and says a lot about the kind of young man he is! I’ve so enjoyed reading your blog over the years; amazing how God works things out in our lives. Thanks for being so authentic in all your writing.
AmyNewNostalgiaDecember 4, 2019 at 11:20 am
Hi Rachelle! So fun to hear from you. Yes, it was so meaningful and magical. <3