Sit a spell in a rocking chair on the porch at the Training Center and watch the fog creep in until it completely covers all the blue-gray mountains in the distance.
Amble through the halls and take in the multitude of gifts given to Billy and Ruth Graham over the years as they traveled the world: the pin from Boris Yeltsin, the Russian Nesting Dolls from the Russian Delegation, or the Wooden Pestle from Romania, to list just a few.
If nature is your pleasure, choose a sturdy walking stick and follow the trail as it climbs and twists through the woods and past the creek up to the chapel. Those who are more adventurous can climb 3 miles up to the overlook.
This past weekend, I passed a sweet time meeting with the Lord during a women’s retreat at The Cove in Asheville. Be Still Mama Women’s Ministry from FBCIT hosted the event and put together a dynamic line-up of godly women to encourage us to “Choose Joy” based on John 15:1-11.
Based on my observation, I heartily recommend that you go on a retreat the next time you have the opportunity. And, if that opportunity happens to take you to The Cove, I encourage you all the more.
To begin with, the venue is absolutely breathtaking, both the surrounding, natural environment as well as the inns, Training Center, and chapel themselves. Although we were there in the middle of winter, the weather was pleasant enough to venture outdoors, walk a few trails, and take in the beautiful mountain scenery. All around you’ll see glossy, smooth magnolia and hearty cedar. It was overcast while we were there, but the heavy clouds hanging low on the mountains and even lower in the trees epitomize the mountains to me.
Imagine what the Graham home might have looked like when Ruth often stood at the door and kissed goodbye her evangelist husband as he went off yet again to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Do you see a cozy fire, creaking rocking chairs, soft rugs covering wooden floors, and shelves and shelves of books? That’s what I see, and I imagine that was the inspiration behind the homey, mountain decor that permeates the inns, the Training Center, and the chapel at The Cove.
If the interior says, “Relax. Pull up your chair and sit by the fire,” the exterior says, “Take notice. Stand tall! You’re nestled into mountain country.” Each building was built with a mix of natural stone and dark, handsome wooden beams.
And, oh the windows! They were everywhere! Some rooms, such as the dining room, had floor to ceiling windows, and lobby of the Shepherd’s Inn, where we stayed, was two-story, featuring windows from the floor to ceiling! The word ‘breathtaking’ just doesn’t even seem adequate to describe what you experience with your eyes.
You don’t just experience The Cove with your eyes though! Your nose and mouth are tantalized as well – at least 3 times a day – at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Truthfully, I hadn’t considered the food as something to look forward to on this trip. But, let me tell you, I was completely and utterly blown away by the amount and quality of food as well as the selections themselves. Breakfast was a buffet of eggs, meats, pastries, fresh fruits, yogurts…I could go on, but breakfast is my favorite meal, and now I’m hungry again. Lunch and dinner included choices such as filet Mignon, grilled shrimp, baked Parmesan chicken, salmon, pork ribs, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, salad, rolls, cornbread…you get the picture, right?! I’m not saying you should go to The Cove just for the food, but I’m saying that you won’t be disappointed by it. You’ll probably leave a few pounds heavier than when you came. (I didn’t even mentioned dessert!)
The staff was kind and helpful as well. Their demeanor added to the overall hospitable air of the place. Everywhere you were greeted with their smiling faces welcoming you in the door, asking if you needed assistance with anything, or reminding you to help yourself to the coffee, soft drink, or water stations located around the facilities. The folks waiting the tables in the dining room were especially jolly as they begged us over and over to go back for seconds and thirds. “If you leave hungry, it’s your own fault,” one lady kidded us as she refilled our water pitcher.
Now, I would be remiss if I did not also share with you what you are likely to experience on a spiritual level while there. I most certainly encountered the Holy Spirit’s presence; it was there nearly every moment. This was due in part to the group of women there with me, the caliber of speakers and the message they prayed over for weeks and weeks, the worship leader and the music she chose, and the overall design of the retreat itself by the leader of our women’s ministry.
However, added to that was the idea that this facility itself, everything at The Cove, in fact, was designed with the purpose of bringing people to a place where they can relax, refresh, and experience the Lord. You just…feel His presence. You look out over the mountains, and you encounter majesty and awe knowing that He created those mountains and those trees and those clouds, and He knew you’d be standing there in that moment, feeling so small but not alone. You look at those friendly faces assisting you, and you realize that He made those people, and He gave them attitudes of servitude so they could be His hands and feet. Even the configuration of the furnishings – a grouping of chairs here and there by a fireplace, or a couch nestled in the corner by a bookcase – invited you to breathe in fellowship and experience the Lord’s calming presence.
It’s just a majestic place. The Lord is there! I urge you to go should the opportunity arise. You will be so grateful that you did.
Have you ever been on a retreat? Was it for work, recreation, church, etc? Where did you go? What was your experience there?