Recently, one of my dreams came true in the mountains of Wyoming. Twenty first-responder and military spouses from across the country set their lives aside to venture into the wilderness for a brand new program they knew little about, the Empowered Spouses Retreat. They were prepared to commune with women they didn’t know and to engage in activities unfamiliar to them.
These women are brave in every sense of the word.
Many had previously been part of another unique program we offer, Revitalization Retreats. These events are tailor-made for individual couples that provide a weekend away with their spouse without the stresses of service life.
I would like to think some of these spouses trusted our team from experiences with our other programs, but this adventure still required tremendous courage. Just showing up was courageous. (Did I mention there was no cell phone reception and very little Wi-Fi access?)
Many of these brave women had never been away from their children for longer than a few hours, and certainly most had never left them for five days to travel to an area where they couldn’t be reached!
Our destination was remote and our accommodations were cabins with bunk beds and shared bathrooms. Truly like a really cool summer camp, but for grown women.
When Chris was alive, I had a dream of bringing spouses together to share their experiences and to support each other. Knowing you aren’t alone in your battles can be one of the most healing things a person can experience. Just knowing that someone might have answers and is willing to share them with you, knowing you are loved and being reminded of your strength is incredibly empowering.
After Chris was killed, I experienced things I wish I’d experienced sooner so I could have shared them with Chris. Activities like shooting clays, archery, and other outdoor sports which are therapeutic and empowering. If I could have enjoyed them alone as therapy, or found peace doing them in the great outdoors with my husband, how wonderful that would have been. It was a blessing to bring these experiences to these women.
Our mornings in Wyoming started early and we were encouraged by our awesome advocate, professional counselor, and 2015 Military Spouse of the Year, Corie Weathers. Corie is the author of Sacred Spaces, I recommend you read her book even if you do not have experience with military marriages. She is a skilled teacher and adept in the art of being intentional in marriage and in life.
Afternoons brought adventure while the women learned new outdoor skills. Each day they learned something new like archery, skeet shooting (sporting clays), fly-fishing, and yoga. They also enjoyed picturesque mountain hikes.
Most of them have never had any experiences like this. One of the highlights for me was being part of a group cheering each other on, laughing at themselves, and falling in love with sports that allowed them to focus solely on being in the moment. The effects of leaving the stress and the demands of a service life behind, even if only for a short time, can be life-altering.
These beautiful, amazing, strong, and courageous women all came from different backgrounds and from different phases of marriage. Their spouses have different jobs, different experiences, but the women had these core qualities in common: fortitude, perseverance, heart, soul, depth, character, sense of humor, passion, fear, ambition, and determination.
Everyone came to the table with different ideas of what to expect from the retreat and many left gaining something they didn’t expect at all. There was a beauty in having that breadth of knowledge and experience in one room in the middle of nowhere. We experienced an openness to new ideas, curiosity, and an ability to find common ground while learning from each other. As one woman told me, she never, perhaps in all her life, had been in a group of people where she felt entirely comfortable knowing she was not judged – even at her most vulnerable.
These women had personal breakthroughs. Friendships and love were forged so quickly, it was incredible. There were paradigm shifts that I believe were God-given, it was too powerful not to be. It was also the first time in years many of them were able to really focus on themselves without background demands, what a blessing!
I was able to attend for only a couple of the days but I can tell you this: the faces, the hugs, the tears, and the laughter I shared with these incredible women is seared into my heart. It will remain one of the highlights of my life. It was so beautiful to witness their courage, willingness to be vulnerable, and watch them do the hard work of digging deep into their emotions. They did this because of the love and dedication they have with and for their husbands. They are also the type of women who don’t quit when things get hard. I honestly love these women and I love you too for helping make it all happen.
Your support of Chris, myself, and of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation bring strength to first responder and military marriages. The CKFF team worked so hard to bring women together for this retreat and to make it something really special. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. It is a dream come true to be able to serve the marriages of those who serve. Thank you for supporting us, being a part of this life of service, and for going on this journey with me.
God Bless You,