Little School Retreats With Big Impacts.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


When you're a junior at my high school, you have the opportunity to take a 3 day retreat trip called 'Encounter'. Encounter is basically an opportunity to really get to know your fellow classmates and what they're truly going through.

Last Wednesday, I left with 60 of my classmates for this 3 day retreat that was going to be full of real talk, tears, God, and lots and lots of love. 


When we got to the retreat, we were immediately divided up into small discussion groups. My small group was the 'Pretty Pandas'. I had no idea that 72 hours later I would love these people with all my heart. 

During Encounter, the Encounter leaders, who are seniors at my high school, gave speeches about struggles they've gone through and how God, friends, and their families have helped them through the pain.

The speech topics varied from death, divorce, adultery, abuse, self hatred, etc. In summary, they were deep. After the speeches and trying unsuccessfully I might add to hold back the tears, we went to our small groups to discuss the speeches and reflect. This usually led to a lot more tears and tons of hugs
The whole retreat was like a safe haven. Everyone was real. No one was wearing make-up or trying to make an impression. After opening up and showing people who we really were, there really couldn't be any more pretending.


Don't worry though, I wasn't crying all the time. We played lots of games, sat out in the cool weather and just talked (as you can see above), and ate tons of amazing food. (Can you say hamburgers, macaroni, pasta, sandwiches, salads, and candy etc? It was a dream come true!)


On the last day, we received a package of letters from our loved ones (and some strangers!). I curled up by the camp's lake and sat against a tree as I began to read my letters. All I can say is I am so blessed. I've never cried so hard nor felt so loved in my life. I received tons of letters (again SO blessed), but I've picked a few excerpts that I thought were absolutley lovely.

'I'm going to make you promise me one thing when you go to college: you better keep in touch with me. I've got girls that like me, girls that love me, girls that cook for me, girls that play basketball with me, girls with with smart humor, girls with dumb humor, girls that pick on me, girls that like the same TV shows as me, but none of them have all of that in one package like they do. None of them are my only sister.'  -My Brother.

'I have to tell you that I see a lot of myself in you. I am an old soul with a youthful desire to read, bake, and lay around like little old ladies, but we have a constant desire to do something and make something beautiful of our futures- something that can only come from being young and having the world before us.' -Morgan

'I have adored every second of watching you transform from an adorable freckled, curly headed little girl into the stunning young woman you are today. You are such a gift, and I see God working through you every time that you and I are in the same room.' -Elizabeth, my godsister.

I would write more excerpts from all my letters, but I really don't want to be reduced to a puddle of tears by the end of writing this blog post.


I'm one of those people that is terrified of opening up. Being vulnerable scares me, but encounter really allowed me to let go of my pride and fears and open up.

If I learned anything from Encounter it's that it's really hard not to love someone once you've heard their story.

So, get up an hour early to live an hour more today. Life's such a beautiful thing and we are so blessed. And no, this isn't me on a 'Jesus High' speaking.






Life's too short to live with regrets, insecurity, self-hatred, or anything besides love. So, if you're having a bad day, go stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself this:

how can anyone not laugh at this

Name 3 things you did this weekend. 3, 2, 1, Goooo!

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22 Happy Thoughts

  1. Katherine, that is beautiful. I'm so glad that the Encounter was such a life affirming occasion!! It sounds amazing!

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  2. This is AMAZING, girl! We have these too - "Youth Encounter" - but I have to wait until I'm 15 :( I'm so excited to make mine. And wow, how could you ever be sad with those letters you got?! You really are a beautiful person, Katherine :)

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  3. This sounds just like a retreat my school does called Operation Snowball! Ours is open to everyone in high school, and it is only for one night, but it happens twice a year. Also, the retreat doesn't have any religious aspects, but it leaves me with the same message about loving. The first Snowball of the year is this coming weekend. This was a beautiful post and I'm so glad you had a great experience!

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  4. That is incredible that you were able to have that experience. It sometimes takes just an open mind and a letter to make you realize how loved you are. :)

    PS: Still can not believe you are so young! You are so mature for your age.

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  5. You got me to the end of your post feeling all mushy, and then you had to go and post a pickle and make me snort :)

    Hold on to all those letters, all those feelings, and this whole experience. Opportunities like this truly have the ability to change your life.

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  6. Wow, what a positive retreat for you and your classmates!! I wish my HS had something like this when I was a junior!! I am so glad you were able to bond with classmates and have a real heartfelt experience!

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  7. Katherine, you & this post are beautiful. Everything about this retreat sounds so heartwarming, empowering, wonderful, spiritual, and just perfect. Glad you were able to experience it <3

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  8. Sounds like you had such a wonderful time!! Your family also wrote you some amazing letters which I am glad they wrote you :)

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    1. It really was wonderful! I wish everyone could get letters like those!

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  9. What an awesome experience. Emotional but so rewarding from the sounds of it. Those letters will be treasured keepsakes forever, I'm certain.

    -Amy

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    1. It was a good kind of emotional, if you catch my drift! All my letters are tear stained! I can't wait to look back at them in the future and laugh at how much I cried (and then cry again of course!)

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  10. This sounds like an amazing experience!

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    1. It was! Thanks Jessie- loved your pancake recipe!

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  11. Oh my goodness, what an amazing opportunity!! I think that is so wonderful to be able to open up and not worry about everyone else because they are too and you become SO much stronger for it! So proud for you!!

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    1. It really was SO great! You're really so sweet Beth. I have the cheesiest smile on my face now!

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  12. What an AMAZING experience. Life really is too short for anything but love. Great writing girl!

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    1. Sunnie you're so cute! I've been loving your Insta lately on an off note :)

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  13. I had the opportunity to go to something similar, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Everyone was so real and it was amazing.

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    1. I almost feel like the experience was indescribable! I wish people would be a real as they were at the retreat all the time!

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  14. Ah man. Now my eyes are a little misty too! When I went to New Orleans for a youth group trip in high school we got some letters from family members as well and I had a similar experience. My mom's was adorable and covered in a billion cute stickers :)

    On a less serious note... Why does everyone in your pictures have brown hair? Lol. Go brunettes! :D But really- is that a coincidence?

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    1. I love experiences like these! I'm so glad some of you guys have had them! Seriously, they are so beautiful.

      I live right near Mexico, so brown hair is the norm. Having lightish brown hair like me is actually pretty rare! I'd never really thought about that though! We do have some redheads and blondes, but I guess it was coincidental that I got all brunettes! Brunette power! :)

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  15. What an amazing weekend! That is so cool that your school offers that :)

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