Ahhhh, autumn! The leaves are changing colors, the sweltering summer heat is behind us, and the sights and sounds of college football are in the air!!!!! And it is also time for the annual Heart of Marriage Retreat!!! Vic and I had not attended for the past few years because either our schedules didn’t allow us to attend, or quite frankly we were not equally motivated to attend.
While Monica is a huge sports fan, for Vic, watching college football is a passion, to put it mildly. And due to the time of year, in many ways, football had been competition for our attendance at the marriage retreat.
So, when God moved on Vic’s heart for us to attend, I knew that something special was sure to happen for us and now, even many months later, we’re still glad that we attended.
The retreat provided a time for us to physically pause and assess our relationship. We had realized that each of us could, often unknowingly, spend a great deal of time critiquing the other person, assessing what they should or could be doing differently to positively impact our relationship and to be, who and what God has called us to be as a married couple. That assessment or critiquing of the other person can be beneficial, as feedback often is, or it can lead to a tearing down of the “goodness” and the positivity of each other and of the marriage.
The marriage retreat afforded us the opportunity to obtain insight, and to examine ourselves and our own behaviors in a healthier way. For example, an area of ongoing opportunity for us is communication. The Communication breakout provided deeper insights into our communication styles. It was beneficial for each of us to individually recognize our styles, but equally as important, it provided insight into the other person. Those insights equipped us with the knowledge and tools to contribute to more productive and meaningful conversations.
At the retreat, we intentionally chose a track of classes that fit us and the way that we are wired and approach individual and collective growth, which is centered around personal accountability. We aim for our primary approaches to be on: What can and should I be doing to contribute to the ongoing, positive, growth of our relationship? How can and should I be adjusting to meet my partners’ needs for mutual benefit? The breakout classes stimulated introspection.
Additionally, hearing personal accounts and testimonies of couples who were at different seasons of their lives during the broader sessions, really blessed us and has given us the courage to talk about issues that could confront us in the future.
And the recommitment ceremony was the perfect crescendo to the weekend. It sealed the accountability and oneness that we had been working toward through the weekend and which we were seeking even before our arrival at the Retreat.
This September, competitors to the Marriage Retreat could be the Alabama vs Ole Miss game or your favorite matchup, a commitment at work, lack of childcare or another reason, but if your ultimate goal is a marriage that is satisfying to you and your partner, and pleasing to God, few if any of the competing reasons not to attend the Retreat, will provide the lasting benefits that attendance at the Heart of Marriage retreat can provide.Vic and Monica, Atlanta, GA
Before we were married, we attended a seminar facilitated by Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages. He encouraged couples to have weekly date nights and to work on their marriages in a special way each year. The annual Heart of Marriage Retreat has provided us with the opportunity to fulfill this recommendation.
At one of the Heart of Marriage retreats, we were a part of the program and did a reading from Jeremiah 29:5-11, which has become one of our guiding Scriptures. We quoted it at our most recent birthday party that we shared this year. In this scripture, Jeremiah spoke to God’s people in exile and encouraged them to get married, have children, and increase in number. For God has great plans for us to prosper us and not to harm us, and to give us hope and a future.
This Scripture speaks to us because we have a blended family and have definitely increased our numbers. We have been blessed with a combined total of 5 adult children and 11 grandchildren, and we are still growing. Moreover, God has plans for us to prosper us and give us hope for the future.
At one of the retreats, we were blessed to attend a blended family workshop that was conducted by a psychologist, Dr. Joyce Irons. At that workshop, we learned that as we love all our children, we should remain devoted to one another. We have continued our contacts with Dr. Irons to receive her counsel and support.
We were also blessed by a prayer workshop presented by Rev. Terry Lemons. She stated that we are to let Jesus be the third strand that holds our marriage together, because three strands are not easily broken. With this in mind, we strive to make Jesus the center of our marriage and daily lives. We were given prayers to pray daily for togetherness and divine guidance.
At the third or fourth retreat we attended, we played a game that was patterned after the Newlywed Game. One of the questions asked was how many times today have you told your wife I love you. My wife’s answer was zero. Since that time, we both try say to I love you as many times as we can even if we have to text or email each other.
Attending The Heart of Marriage Retreat has been beneficial to us in many ways, and we plan to continue to make it an annual event. The varied topics and activities presented have enriched our marriage and encourage us to be better marital partners.Doug & Carolyn Kirk, Atlanta, GA
Coming together with other married couples at the Heart of Marriage Retreat has been one of the best experiences for Steve and me. The workshops, general sessions, date nights, dances, mingling with other couples and just the alone time with each other have helped to strengthen our marriage. To actually enact the scripture our marriage is founded upon Ecclesiastes 4:12b “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken,”, was a poignant bonding moment for us. Steve and I would encourage any married couple to attend the Heart of Marriage Retreat to connect with other married couples, to receive an arsenal of marital tools to nourish your marriage, and engage with other couples. Come and be a participant in what the Lord is doing with Couples at the Heart of Marriage Retreat in September.Steve and Sevita, Atlanta
We were blessed to have won a raffle prize of a $100 credit toward the Heart of Marriage Retreat registration. After having been interested in attending for so long but never following through, we knew this blessing was a sign to finally see for ourselves what we’d been hearing about for 6 years. We recruited grandma to watch the kids for the weekend, and headed up to Stone Mountain.
We had no expectations from the weekend other than to be fully dedicated to each other without chasing kids or being bogged down by day-to-day activities. We were pleasantly surprised to see some couples that we had known from both our church home and other churches we had attended over the years. Immediately we were able to feel a sense of support from everyone in attendance for our marriage. We also felt affirmation from all the couples we met that our attendance offered support for their marriages.
The break-out sessions were incredibly eye-opening. Hearing perspectives and engaging with experts/counselors on both big-picture and fine-tuning aspects of our union was something that we never experienced during our 9 year marriage. The 5 sessions including the single-gender discussions immediately gave us tools that helped us understand each other better. Date night gave us our first chance to put those tools to good use.
The biggest blessing from the weekend was the opportunity to be in an environment where marriage was celebrated and lifted up as something to be cherished. We understood that not every couple was in the same place in their marriage as we were with ours. But we did find lots of comfort in knowing that everyone in attendance showed an interest in doing the work, were equally supportive in their presence, and was part of a mass-dedication to making/keeping marriages strong. We’ll definitely return–with or without a raffle prize!Clayton and Margaux Wynter
We attended our first Heart of Marriage retreat three years ago. We had been married 39 years at the time. Joy and Mike invited us many times before but since our wedding anniversary is September 6; our plans often collided with the dates. That particular year we made the Heart of Marriage Retreat a priority.
Our many years of marriage taught us that marriage requires continuous work. As individuals, we grow and change with time requiring our relationships to grow and evolve. Several years prior to attending this retreat, we participated in a group lead marriage workshop with three other couples. We met weekly for several months. Although we learned a lot with and from each other, there were some serious voids. The Heart of Marriage retreat filled those voids.
Our experience with HOM provided the opportunity to hear from experienced speakers who were willing to be transparent, a chance to focus on topics of particular interest to us, dedicated time to work on issues with other couples at different stages of marriage, Biblical scholars to guide our overall experience, an occasion to make each other feel special; in other words, time to reset and recalibrate our relationship. We had a rich experience each of the three years, we attended.Eugene & Patricia Woods, Atlanta, GA
Your marriage should not be defined by the size of your struggles, but by the size of your commitment to overcome these struggles together.
This is what we learned at the Heart of Marriage Retreat the times that we have attended. We are from Cincinnati, OH but we know that this is a divine investment in our marriage. We are not alone in this. Committing to your marriage, which is ordained by God, is one that is built to be a LASTING union. But we also found that we must handle our challenges, struggles, as well as our joys, and at the same time- draw closer to God in our union. This has been so valuable to us from the Heart of Marriage retreat that we are sharing this information with several other couples in Cincinnati!
Last year, we invited another couple to come with us to the retreat and they were EXTREMELY blessed by it!!! Our marriages have grown in Christ as we are both new empty nesters, which is a transition in itself!
Here are some Marriage Points of Praise that we have experienced:
- My husband and I have committed to a “Date Night”, at least monthly and what a blessing this has been for US!!! We are focused on each other.
- On our drive home from the last HOM retreat with the other couple that attended with us, we prayed and decided to outline/plan/design a marriage retreat to organize at our home church. The planning is well underway and will occur this year!!! Praise God!!
- My husband and I have started a Newly Married Couples Class in our home and what a blessing it has been to share what we have gained from the HOM Retreat. God can do anything!!!
All in all, the Heart of Marriage has truly been something that we needed at such an appointed time. My husband has always been anti-marriage retreats/classes but now he sees their value and that the deep happiness that marriage can bring; it lies on the side of sacrificial service in the power of the Holy Spirit.
If we can begin to understand that MARRIAGE should mirror God’s covenant relationship with His people, ours will flourish as God has designed it to be.Lorenzo (Tony) & Maria Bates, Cincinnati, OH
Before attending the Heart of Marriage Retreat, my husband and I researched several different retreat opportunities in the local area. We were looking for a Christian retreat where we could grow and learn together as husband and wife. After much thought, we decided to participate in the Heart of Marriage Retreat. It was such a wonderful experience for the both of us.
My husband and I met so many couples who had overcome some of the challenges that we were facing. They were very transparent with their experiences and offered Godly advice on how to remain married. The three seminars we signed up for were extremely informative and beneficial. The seminars’ presenters openly shared their struggles and victories, while encouraging us to do the same. We left each seminar with practical and valuable ways to improve our marriage. In addition, the guest speakers were dynamic. They poured wisdom into each couple and entertained us with several personal stories.
I can’t begin to express my gratitude to the Heart of Marriage staff for putting together such a professional, spiritual, and loving retreat. My husband and I returned home with a renewed mind, more determination, and a greater sense of purpose.Maggie & Anthony, Georgia
We attended our first Heart of Marriage conference last September. The experience was truly a blessing. The workshops addressed real life issues and provided a forum for sharing and receiving new ideas. It was awesome to see couples who were newlyweds to those that were celebrating 40 years or more of marriage sharing in the same workshops. The worship services were spirit filled and brought us closer together as a couple. We also enjoyed spending time with old friends and meeting new ones. The venue helped to set the tone for a relaxing and fun weekend. Every marriage needs this kind of practical and spiritual “tune-up” this conference provides. We are planning to make this a yearly destination.Danny and Pamela Creed, Chicago, IL
Attending the Heart of Marriage Retreat made us focus on each other more, because with day-to-day life, you miss out on the oneness because of family/work/etc. It also made us realize that all marriages have problems and attending the retreat helps you to find ways to repair them. First and foremost, it made us focus on putting God first in your marriage, communication and trust. John & Antionette Watkins
The Marriage Retreat has been beneficial for our marriage! The Heart of Marriage Retreat has helped our marriage in so many ways! We are always given focus points to review with each other such as Love, Respect, and Honor! The material covered at the retreat helped us with our marriage vision. Attending the marriage retreat has taught us how to work together, solve problems together and respect each other spiritually. Most importantly, we have learned new ways to embrace each other’s differences and maintain unconditional.Keith & Val Warner
We thoroughly enjoyed the retreat and thank God for the opportunity to attend. The time together was much needed. From the moment we arrived to the time we left, the event was impactful! It was well-planned, uplifting, fun, and beneficial. We met many couples at different places in their marital and Christian walk and were able to connect on so many levels- through discussions, sermons, classes, videos, and meal sharing. The final ceremony reminded us of the vows we exchanged before God and one another. We are looking forward to the next one!Ron & Michelle Jones
The Heart of Marriage Retreat continues to revive our marriage and inspires us to make this journey more rewarding. The fellowship is incredible. This past year we were blessed with the awesome entertainment of Milkshake. The HOM Committee always operates in a Spirit of Excellence.Harvey & Verdita Monk
When my husband and I attended the 2013 Heart of Marriage (HOM) retreat, we did not have high expectations of getting much out of it since we felt that we didn’t have any “real” marital issues that needed to be addressed or resolved. We attended because it was a quick, easy, and affordable weekend getaway that was close to home. Being members of Cascade UMC, we also wanted to support Cascade’s Marriage Ministry efforts. Needless to say, we underestimated the value and benefits of attending this amazing retreat.
We were pleasantly surprised and blown away not just by how professional and well organized the retreat was, but also by the genuineness of all the couples and ministry leaders. The sessions were amazing and provided us with a wealth of information on subject matters in Finance, Communications, Intimacy, etc. Pastor Dan Williams is a phenomenal speaker; he imparted in us his personal and scriptural based knowledge for a successful marriage, in that an understanding of the gospel is central to a successful marriage.
The theme of “Oneness” resonated throughout the weekend (Ephesians 5:31). However, being ONE does not mean being the same. As Pastor Williams so eloquently stated, “If both spouses were the same, one of them would not be necessary.” We also really enjoyed having the opportunity to spend quality time with each other, and with other Christian couples. On date night, we double-dated with another couple and had an awesome time.
We are attending the retreat again this year because while we are blessed to have a good marriage, the retreat is an excellent reminder for us to always keep God in the center of our marriage, and by doing so, our marriage will continue to prosper. Even if we don’t have any specific marital issues to address, attending the retreat is like a “car tune-up” – we don’t want to wait for it to be broke before we fix it. We thoroughly enjoyed the retreat, and look forward to HOM Retreat 2014!Edwin & Greta Tifre