Last weekend Ellee and I attended a missionary ladies’ retreat in South Africa. Admittedly, I dreaded trying to “retreat” with Ellee in tow. She is such a clingy monkey, doesn’t want to walk anywhere, and still very much addicted to nursing; I expected it wouldn’t end up being very retreat-ish at all. Nevertheless, trying to wean her for one quiet weekend away seemed a bit rash and leaving her behind unweaned with Jono and Kyle would’ve been nothing short of a nightmare for them. So along she came. I had no idea what to expect besides hearing that the retreat was very well done and there would be tons of food. Both insights were delightfully spot-on.
Our venue was a beautiful guest farm with cottages and rose gardens and stone walkways. It was like an oasis from real life. Upon arrival I learned that reception had decided to put the two of us in an available room, which meant we would be on our own. I cannot even express how relieved I was to hear that. While Ellee sleeps fine at home, she often stirs at night when we are away and I was so anxious about how she might interfere with our roommates’ rest. Having our own room made the whole experience exponentially more enjoyable. Aside from that, I believe the room we were in was one of the nicest on the farm! It was two traditional rondovals (round huts) connected together, the first a sitting room and the second the bedroom with an adjoining bathroom. The furniture was old-timey, beautiful wood and the bathroom had a standing tub and a fancy sink. There were rugs and carpet on the floors - a real treat - and the roof was thatched. We fell asleep to drizzling rain both nights. The baby bed they’d set up for Ellee was so squishy and comfortable that I would’ve enjoyed sleeping on it! My bed was heavenly as well, although I’m not used to sleeping in a big bed by myself these days. Both nights Ellee girl slept like a log and I didn’t do half bad myself. It was so special- the quiet in my room- knowing Ellee was there with me but also enjoying the peace of being alone.
Mornings began with hot coffee delivered on a tray to our door, and snuggles in my big bed while Ellee woke up and drank her milk. Her bright eyes are so darling in the morning, slightly puffy from good sleep and her hair a mess of curls in her face. She looks so snugly in her pretty jammies. I drank my coffee and Ellee ate her cookie in the bathtub while we (I) talked about what we were going to do that day. The farm cat, Wynford, was Ellee’s first request each morning. She loved visiting the “cat-kee” whenever we could find him. After bath time, I’d dress up my living doll and fix her hair complete with a tiny bow. She sat on my bed and played with whatever I gave her as I got myself ready. Then we would venture out of our little cottage for the day.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served in a lovely dining room, each meal including no fewer than three courses; dinner had five or six! A bell was rung twice a day for tea time, first at 11:00 and again at 4:00, which was served alongside delicious baked goodies in a covered sitting area outside. We ate eggs and bacon, butternut soup and curried lamb and chocolate mousse and loads of other stuff. The homemade brown bread was fantastic and I know I ate too much of it! Ellee learned that she loves eating peas (which I never make) because they are perfect for little fingers to grab. She also likes lemon merengue pie and bran muffins and papaya.
The team of ladies from the States who came to facilitate our retreating really pampered us with chocolates, Bath & Body Works treats, and pedicures. They brought us taco seasoning and almond extract and maple flavoring and Hershey’s kisses. I love chocolate and new friends and new friends who bring me chocolate.
During Ellee’s nap times, I enjoyed worship and small group and Bible study with the other missionary ladies. When Ellee was awake, we often skipped the sessions and wandered around the farm visiting the bunnies, emus, and Wynford the cat. We sat in the lounge- a big living room with tons of fluffy couches and books and a sleeping kitty- to read books and practice walking and pet the feline. We walked around looking for the dog and at the birds and flowers.