Friday, January 22, 2016


Last week about this time, we were in our first session at a marriage retreat in Gatlinburg with our small group from Englewood.  We started going to the small group last year about the time the couples left for the retreat, and I knew that it was something I wanted to do the next year.  However, this made me really step out of my comfort zone and actually take off a day of work.  I had not taken a personal day off of work in the eight years I have been teaching.  As a teacher and with my OCD personality, it is hard for me to let go, do substitute plans, and leave my students in a sub’s hands.  However, I knew this was very much needed and I happen to get lucky to get Mrs. Cheri Velotta, my 2nd grade teacher, as my substitute.  Since the kids had done all their work and tests for the week, I was able to leave some fun activities for them to do.  I knew they were in great hands.

We were also blessed to have my parents agree to keep Adelaide through the weekend.  They had a trip planned to The Children’s Museum in Memphis so I knew she would have lots of fun.

These things made it easier for me to leave and not worry about my responsibilities at home.

Here is a recap of our weekend:

On Thursday, I had everything packed ready to go before I left for work at 6:15.  (I may or may not have stayed up until after 1 and got back up at 4 to make sure this happened.)  I went into work for the majority of the day so that I could test my students for the week.  Kevin took Adelaide to my parents that morning and made sure our vehicle was serviced and detailed before leaving.  My assistants watched my class at 1:15 so that I could go on and leave.  (Thankfully we are given GOOSE, Get Out of School Early, passes every once in awhile that we are able to use to leave an hour early.) Kevin and I met at the house and began the journey to Gatlinburg.

After stopping to get a late lunch and to stretch our legs, we made it to our cabin around 8:30 that night.  We had three other couples staying in our cabin, but only one of them had made it there.  We were glad to find our room and get settled in for the night.

Cabin in the Daylight

On Friday, Kevin and I got up early like normal.  Kevin went to the closest McDonald’s to get us breakfast while I did my morning devotion.  Once everyone was up and ready, we walked down to The Cub (the cabin where our group sessions were held). 

It was nice to see everyone together.  27 couples all together for one purpose, to strengthen their marriage.  We found our seats (bar stools), which probably were the least comfortable ones in the house but great for Kevin’s long legs.

Mike and Mitzi started our session welcoming everyone to the retreat and introducing our speakers, Jordan and Audra Easley.  (Jordan is the pastor at Englewood.)

Jordan and Audra led the group session that day on “The 10 Principles of Marriage”.  It was very informative and led to lots of conversations.

After our group session, the guys and girls broke off.  The guys went with Jordan to another cabin for a session while the girls stayed with Audra for a session with her.  It was nice to have some girl time discussing girl things.

We got done around lunchtime.  We were planning on going to Ober Gatlinburg that afternoon to snow tube, but it was raining.  Instead, a bunch of the group decided to go to Mellow Mushroom in Gatlinburg for lunch.

After eating, we headed back to the cabin to relax.  Adam and Kevin decided to jump into the hot tub.

(I will probably be in a lot of trouble for posting this pic, but it was too great to leave out.)

That night we had a date night where we were encouraged to have a one-to-one dinner with our spouse.  We went to Bullfish Grill in Pigeon Forge to eat.  During our dinner, we had to answer some questions that Jordan and Audra gave us.  They were really good questions that opened up lots of conversations that we had not taken the time to talk about.  This was a much-needed time away from the hustle and bustle of real life.

After our date night, the guys wanted to go to the Beef Jerky Outlet.

On our way back to the cabin, we stopped in downtown Gatlinburg where we ran into Mike and Mitzi at Mayfield’s.


Saturday began pretty much the same way.  Adam and Kevin did go to Krispy Kreme and get us donuts for our breakfast.  Our session that morning was on “Landmines in our Marriage”.  The visual from that session will forever be embedded in my memory. 

In between our group session and break out sessions, we took some group pictures of everyone in their matching shirts.
The Group
The Girls
The Guys

After our morning sessions, we went to the The Pancake Pantry in downtown Gatlinburg to eat.   It was well worth the wait!  From there, we went into Pigeon Forge to do a little go-cart racing.

This was no ordinary go-cart racing.  This was Xtreme Racing, the fastest go-carts in Pigeon Forge reaching speeds up to 30-40mph.  

After spending lots of hours at the go-carts, we went and ate at J.T. Hannah’s Kitchen before calling it a night.


On Sunday morning, we had to be packed and ready to go before our group session.   It was refreshing to see that snow had fallen throughout the night and was covering the tops of the trees.   Jordan and Audra had to leave on Saturday so that Jordan would be back at Englewood to preach, but Mike was prepared to do our group session.  We started our session with a song, “Great Are You Lord”, led by Tosh and Leslie Newman.

Mike followed with a great lesson on "The Impact of a Missional Marriage".

 After our session, everyone said goodbye and began to depart back to West Tennessee.

It was great to see our exit and get back to our baby girl.

Kevin and I have truly blessed with the friendships we have formed in our small group over the past year at Englewood.  It was nice to get away and not only grow as a couple but also grow with our friendships with others in the group. 

We are forever grateful for the time that Mike at Mitzi has invested in our lives this past year.  We also appreciate the time that Audra, Jordan, Debbie, Jube, Drew, Fowler, and countless others spend investing in lives at Englewood.

It has been amazing to see how God has been working in our lives, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for the Lovelaces. 


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