Let Your Light Shine: Braving Solo Travel to Attend the Blessed is She Retreat

shine retreat review

Just shy of two years ago, I was in my home watching Beth Davis do a Teachable Tuesday talk on Instagram. She discussed letting God know your dreams. The idea was to invite God into your life to dream with you and to not let fear keep you from sharing the desires of your heart.

I created a checklist of these dreams and prayed to God about all of them, even the ones which I thought seemed “unreasonable.” On that list, I included my desire to go on a Blessed is She retreat and to meet Beth Davis.

Shine: The 2019 Blessed is She Retreat

Fast forward a few years. I was on the Blessed is She website and saw that there was going to be a retreat in Chandler, AZ on a rare weekend that I had off work. The day I decided to go on the retreat and purchase my ticket, there was a flash sale, but only for that day.

I was even more excited to see the names of the women speaking: Sister Mary Claire Strasser, Heather Khym and Michelle Benzinger from my favorite podcast (Abiding Together), and Beth Davis.

Going Alone

I would be traveling to Arizona from Colorado without knowing anyone else going on the retreat. But I knew I needed to go.

It seemed like a leap of faith. Over the course of the months leading up to the retreat, I continued to receive small confirmations that it was meant to be.

Perfect Providence

I sold a painting I created based off of Beth Davis’ Teachable Tuesday talk on the dry bones and Ephesians. The day after I posted the finished painting on Instagram, I sold the piece. This sale helped fund my entire retreat weekend expenses (retreat ticket, flight, and AirBNB) almost exactly to the dollar. It felt like everything was coming full circle.

I had a combination of fear and excitement whenever I thought about the Shine retreat. It would be the first time I traveled solo. I would be getting my first-ever Uber and AirBNB in my longest trip away from my husband and two kids.

When the day of the retreat arrived, I was faced with the realness of spiritual warfare. I woke up with a throat so sore that I couldn’t speak. My flight was delayed multiple times. I landed in Phoenix with just enough time to check in to my AirBNB. My gracious hostess drove me to the church so I wouldn’t be late. I grabbed my swag bag and barely had time to grab some dinner from the buffet table before the retreat hall filled with the energetic music of Ike Ndolo and Mary Castner.

Sitting down in disbelief, I said to myself, “I’m here. I’m actually here.”

Oh, the Women

I was blown away by how many women were at the Shine retreat. Though I don’t know the exact number, it was somewhere along the lines of 450 women.

Many were from Arizona. There were others from California, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, and even one woman who traveled all of the way from Australia.

There were college students, moms bouncing babies, single women, married women, grandmothers, and sisters.

As we all sang praise to Jesus, I thought, “Women are alive in the Church and women are going to help heal her.”

Everyone was very welcoming. For someone like me who traveled solo, it was easy to meet new people. I reconnected with a friend of mine from college who was also attending the retreat. This friend and I first met on a college retreat. We both knew it wasn’t a coincidence that we were reconnecting on a new retreat.

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Time with Jesus, Time with the Body

We listened to incredible talks about how God works to bring new life in the darkness. All of the talks centered around the retreat’s theme, “Shine.”

We had time to reflect on this theme through Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, small group discussion, journaling, decorating prayer candles, Confession, and singing praise and worship music.

For me, one of the most powerful encounters with Christ was during the Vigil Mass on the last night of the retreat. All of the prayers candles that women had decorated during the retreat filled the church with light as we all celebrated Mass as a community.

When Mass ended, the lights were dimmed as we knelt down for Adoration. The monstrance was brought down from the altar and was walked to every single woman in that church for a personal, one-on-one encounter. It was incredibly powerful, and I was a hot mess from all of the crying!

The Retreat Doesn’t End with the End of Retreat

Chandler is just a short drive from Phoenix, which makes me think of rising from the ashes. A light/flame coming from the darkness.

I’m still processing all of the graces I received from this retreat. I pull out my retreat notebook and re-read the notes from the talks or my reflections during Adoration. I’m seeking community with my Colorado Catholic friends to further develop my prayer life.

What graces will God bestow upon you through the Shine retreat if you take the risk and dare to go?

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Amy Heyse is an artist and mother who lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her graphic design husband. You can often find her trying to squeeze in time for personal art-making between motherhood and working as an art instructor at a local paint and sip studio. You can find out more about her here.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    April 25, 2019 at 8:59 pm

    Amy, I love that you were so courageous to attend the Shine retreat on your own! I have been considering attending the one in Kansas City, but the possibility that I may have to go by myself causes me to hesitate a bit … You have given me new reasons to reconsider. Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

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