This isn’t a story about singing Kumbaya around a campfire or skipping hand-in-hand through the forest. Whatever picture you have in your head about a Christian Women’s Retreat, you will have to rethink it after reading about us. It’s more about how pranks on the other cabins and shotguns draw us closer to each other as women.

Each year we go to this little sanctuary of a place to get some time together as women. Mt. Gilead in Sebastopol, California. To you it doesn’t sound familiar, but to us, it’s where our sisterhood revamps and preps for another year of life. Yes, we sing and pray together. But it looks more like this: swinging back and forth in unison, clapping our hands and singing very loudly. Occasionally, we are weeping with repentant hearts but more often we’re grinning ear to ear with joy for the life we’ve been given.

Typical, we are anything but. The pastor asks, “are any of you felons?” when we arrive at the skeet shooting range. We answer, “uh…we won’t tell if you don’t tell. And don’t take pics and post them on social media, okay?” Jk? Or not? (We’ll keep that just between us girls and Jesus.) I can tell you this: the other women at the retreat were blown away by our skills. Now this may offend, and we are quite aware, so dont worry, we don’t condone gun use for criminal activities. Relax. But let a girl have some fun. It’s invigorating as a woman to take aim and fire well.

A healthy competitive spirit thrives among us, so we do talk some smack to each other occaisionally. Laser tag, mud run, wall climbing, you name it. For the many adrenaline junkies among us, we have finally learned how to harness our power: we zip-line. For those of us that have trust issues, we zip-line some more! Everything is a new adventure when you have spent the majority of your life like the walking dead. We are most definitely alive. Are you?

We find freedom in praising the Lord but we see Jesus most in the relatable moments when we are together. It’s in the intimate weekends away from the world that I can literally read on their faces, “she’s not that different from me.” This is also where the belief that religion is boring or stiff or enslaving just fades away. We aren’t a religious organization or people. We are free, and open wide to all the possibilities and dreams we had buried away. We are just believers that aren’t hiding from our purposes anymore. Nothing weird or confining about that. We prank, we get inappropriate at times and we have to reel it in more often than not…and that’s OK.

Dana Bryant, the founder, spoke at this retreat. She shared about how she believed for the vision God’s given her for over 15 years now and how all 25 of us there were evidence that never giving up can lead to so many changed lives. How being proper among Christian women and women in general has its place, but we need to let our guard down, have fun and be girls sometimes. Adventure, prayer, facing your fears, getting dirty, staying up late, laughing until you pee your pants, smiling, feeling loved, feeling included, friendship, worship, and inspiration are all just so important.

A special shout out to our girl, Dawn Gould, the director at Mt. Gilead. Thank you for always allowing us to bring the party to the retreat. We all need a time of refreshing in a place where our cell phones won’t catch a signal. So grab some girls and plan a getaway somewhere where the trees cut you off from the cell towers.

Guys, you do the same. I’m pretty sure your pranks look much different than ours, but do your thing. We’ll be praying for ya while you’re gone.

We’ve grabbed a list of some places to go to. If not, we will see you next year at Mt. Gilead.