Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Lighthouse Family Retreat

I am so excited to share about our week as a retreat family at the Lighthouse Family Retreat. It was the HIGHLIGHT of our summer (and keep in mind we just got back from Thaddeus' Make a Wish trip to that is saying something!) 

I will walk you through from beginning to end...

We arrived VERY late. We got our MAW flight into Orlando and rented a car and drove all the way to Destin, Florida. We arrived about 1 am but our family partners were up, smiling, and ready to greet us! My only regret of the week is not getting there in time for the first night beach bash!
We were housed for the week in the beautiful Tops'l Resort at the Beach. We were greeted with so many lovely touches by our Family Partners...Lighthouse T-Shirts and bags, water toys, FRESH BAKED many goodies!
We had a master bedroom upstairs with a separate den with a pull out bed, two huge bathrooms, a bedroom downstairs, as well as a full kitchen, dining room, family room, laundry, and patio that walked right out on to the tennis courts! AMAZING and let me remind you at NO COST to us. Crazy amazing. After the year we have all had this was such a treat.

We had two family partners that served us for the week:

These sweet girls! Cyndi, Jordan, Jada, and Jillian...


And another family James, Rachel, and Laura...
James was so fun and playful with our boys...such a sweetheart!

We just know God handpicked these families for us. 
Meet the new additions to our family...It is amazing how MUCH I love them. They were meant to be just took a few years to find them! The distance between Georgia and Nevada is nothing to God who has a plan to weave hearts and lives together. 
Looking at this makes me miss this little lady so much! Her heart is huge and her spirit is so special. There is so much to love in her teeny tiny package! She is a wonderful mother as evidenced by her beautiful, precious, sweet daughters, a beautiful child of God as displayed in her selfless and giving nature, and an all around cool chick!

These three girls make me want to pack up and move to the South!

All week they so selflessly served us. They got our plates of food, refilled our drinks as we ate, cleared our dishes, DID OUR LAUNDRY and put it away, UNPACKED OUR STUFF and put it away (as moms how often do we get someone do this stuff for us as a surprise?), cleaned our townhome, took out our trash, and just all around met our every need. At first I felt funny, then I relaxed and enjoyed it. It was actually so nice to not have any responsibilities for the week except enjoying my family and theirs. 

Every morning we started with First Watch. It was a time to sing, be served a delicious breakfast by our family partners, and hear a message from Pastor Paul.
After Morning Watch the kids went with their groups that were divided by age and gender and spent until noon doing all kinds of fun things! 
Thank God James was Thaddeus' leader and Cyndi was Juliette's; otherwise we wouldn't have been as comfortable leaving them. But God knew that ;) They had such fun each day swimming and playing with so many kids. Kids that had been through what they have, kids who had ports, kids who had lost their hair, siblings who have watched their brothers and sisters suffer, and other kids who knew none of that world and were there to SERVE these kids. So sweet and special. 
Thaddeus was proudly named King of the Court.

During this fun time for the kids, us parents went for sharing time. We had a beautiful little beach house to meet in, the SWEETEST facilitators, and just TIME and a safe place to share. We had guiding questions and each day God really used that time to forge connections between the 13 families that were gathered there. I have NO DOUBTS we were each chosen to be there at that time together (considering there are 14 retreats each year, God wanted us all at THIS one). Each day someone would share something that spoke right to the hurting spots in my heart and soul. Everyday since I have thought back to at least ONE thing shared there that has helped me get through. It has given Jamie and I such strength to know we are not alone. 

Even more beautifully is that God brought a group of men together at this retreat to love, pray and support each other even from one side of our great nation to the other. It started with a "Dads Night out Poker Game" and has progressed to sweet relationships. So thankful for the men on the retreat and their tender hearts. 

After lunch each day we had "Conched Out" time...which was where we could do what we wanted which usually revolved around calling the bus and having him pick us up outside our townhome and deliver us to the beach three minutes away! It was usually timed perfectly to beat the rain and allow us lots of sun and surf time!

No words needed to see how much fun we had! This beautiful environment was the perfect backdrop for the week. Looking out at the ocean you are reminded what a big, mighty, and powerful God we serve. It fills you with peace. This time gave our souls much needed rest.

The first full day we ended with a family luau. So fun and a great way to further bond with other retreat families and partners. We even had leis waiting for us when we returned from the beach to get ready for dinner.

The next night was a date night at a local restaurant, which the owners donated, with the other retreat families. I got to sit with the absolute BEST people Dixie and Justin, Angela and Nate, and Nanette. God was in even our seating arrangements for the night because these sweethearts are so dear to me! I am texting with Dixie as I type this about getting an RV and living next to her house on her land! 
It is pretty amazing actually as we have never left our kids with anyone other than my mom before. We, before we met our family partners, said we would find SOME reason to skip out of the date night since we would NEVER leave our kids with people we just met! God gave us the BEST family partners though and we went and never thought twice about it! 
                                Musical Chairs Champion!
The kids enjoyed an unbirthday party while we were gone. 
When we got home the kids were engaged in a wild game of hide and seek with Cyndi and James (Cyndi had the most AWESOME hiding spots!), and had clearly done just fine without us. 

We had a family night out where the lighthouse gave each family an envelope with money in it that morning (seriously they thought of everything to make this week so, so, SO special and worry free). We met a few families at the beach and ended up at a restaurant in Seaside called Pickles. Sweet time of fellowship (we drug Cyndi and the girls along...we wanted every second we could get with their sweet faces!)
We all also took advantage of the free shaved ice at oddly popular local food truck that offered us all you can eat free shaved ice! Those things went for $7 so that was quite a treat!

Us moms even got up one morning at 6am and talked Cyndi into picking us up in her cool jeep for a sunrise on the beach mommy morning. It may not have been fun waking up, but spending the morning with those girls is a memory I am glad we made!

Moms had a special luncheon the last full day. We were able to sit with two other moms and all of our family partners and again just be served and enjoy a time of unrushed fellowship. Fellowship with two women who "get it" and other women that don't but want to help us carry our burdens. 

The last night was a talent show that the kids had worked on everyday. Thaddeus did his round off backhandspring of course, Christian was in a hair fashion show, and Juliette sang and danced. So fun! Such talent! There may or my not have been a mother burping and father dancing debacle that involved the Young and Thatcher family =).

The last day they gathered us together for "see ya' laters", doughnuts, and a sweet box of goodies to be opened on the drive. We all exchanged numbers (we have all since had non stop text chains going, prayers, precious) and hugs. These were truly see ya' SOONS...we all hope to meet up again next summer and Lord willing for MANY summers to come. 

The box contained a Jesus Calling devotional (God was in that as a grandma had shared about it in one of our sessions), a Jesus Storybook Bible, and other goodies but most importantly a mason jar jammed FULL of little strips of papers with messages, prayers, scriptures, and words of encouragement from our family partners. The kids and I took turns reading as we drove back to Orlando that day to begin Thaddy's Make A Wish much love for the hands that wrote those messages. So special.

This is what the babies looked like after we had read the last message. They were so tired from all the fun they had. Thank you Lighthouse for giving us this gift. We are so thankful! The friendships here would never have been formed without this week. We have all been through so much and having people who understand to share with is an amazing gift. Lighthouse we can never thank you enough for this retreat!

If you want more information on becoming a retreat family or if you are interested in doing a family mission trip serving families affected by childhood cancer I have included some more information below.  

Lord willing we will be able to return one more year as a retreat family and then return to serve for all the years of our lives thereafter.

THIS ministry is such a huge blessing. Consider supporting it with your money, time, talent, and prayers!


How does my family qualify to attend a retreat?
Any family that has a child (18 years or younger) that is on treatment for cancer or has been off of treatment for less than one year is eligible to apply. Immediate family members who reside in the home of the child on treatment attend a Lighthouse retreat.
How do I apply?
Visit the Experience page and fill out an online application.
Children must receive medical consent from their oncology health care team, consenting that the child is well enough to attend the retreat. Families applying are responsible for submitting the consent form within 30 days of attending a retreat.
What is the cost to my family?
The cost of the retreat (housing, meals, all “planned” activities) is free to you. However, you must pay for your own travel to and from the retreat. There is travel assistance available for families in financial need. Please visit the Experience page to find information about the Stanley P. Thornell Scholarship program.
What does a week at Lighthouse Family Retreat look like?
The retreat begins with your arrival on Monday evening, and continues with environments created to allow time for fun, time to reconnect as a family and find hope in God. Each morning starts with breakfast and a devotional time, called Morning Watch. After Morning Watch, parents will have the opportunity to connect with other parents in a safe, facilitated environment called Common Ground. While parents are away, kids will play! Kids will be separated into groups by age and gender for a time of fun in the sun!
After lunch it is time to Conch Out. Relax, take a nap, swim in the pool, or build sandcastles on the beach! Each night is a programmed activity designed for fun- from a parents’ night out and an UNbirthday party, to a luau, to a talent show like you’ve never seen before!


How can I apply to serve as a family partner?
You can apply on our website. Visit the Family Partner page for more information.
How much does it cost? Will I need to fundraise?
Once you are accepted to attend a retreat, you will need to fundraise to attend Lighthouse Family Retreat, as it is a domestic mission trip and retreat families attend the retreat for free. All Family Partners are encouraged to fundraise $3,500, which is the cost to send one family living through childhood cancer to the beach for a week. At a minimium, adults over the age of 21 are required to raise $900 per adult, $500 per student ages 13-21, and $250 per child 12 and under. Lighthouse will provide fundraising materials and tools to support you along your fundraising journey.
How will I be prepared to serve?
You will receive a manual and you will be required to attend two pre-retreat trainings. If you live outside of Atlanta, arrangements will be made to ensure that you are properly trained. You will have the support of a Family Partner Team Lead, who is in a volunteer leader for each retreat, and the Lighthouse staff.
What does a week look like serving a family living through childhood cancer?
A week at Lighthouse is exhausting and fun! As a family partner, your job is to ensure that families receive the best retreat experience possible. Family partners will help serve and prepare meals for retreat attendees, do laundry and clean the homes of retreat families, lead a Flip Flop group for retreat kids during the morning so parents can reconnect in Common Ground, to name a few! Family partners will work hard, play hard, pray hard, and build lifelong relationships. Family partners commit to a week of prayer and service, while joyfully participating in each retreat environment.

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