The Story of Water


“Come, everyone who thirst. Come to the waters.” Isaiah 55:1

Watch this video for a glimpse into the 2018 theme, The Story of Water. During our first worship session, Story & Soul Team member Caroline Saunders shared the big story of scripture through the image of water. We are praying that God will be glorified and that women will be drawn to him through this retelling of his story.

If you are interested in hearing this full audio as well as the audio from our 2018 speaker Colleen Searcy, you can purchase the 2018 Curated Content in our shop.

Why Retreats Matter

Why Retreats Matter

by Caroline Saunders

Originally posted on in October 2017

I think God tends to do his most profound work in small moments—the regular practice of opening up the Bible and leaving it out on the counter for random snatches of reading, of praying in the car, of keeping an open dialogue of gospel-talk with friends, of choosing to not be offended by a weird email. I think the regular moments matter most, that it’s where our roots grow and stretch deep down into the earth, grounding our faith and making it stronger.

But I also think big events can reinvigorate small-moment living. This is the reason I believe in retreats. (This weekend I'm speaking at a women's retreat, and I’m in the middle of planning a women's retreat in December, so retreats are on my brain. Also, treats are on my brain. That’ll come up later.)

Some other reasons retreats are important:

We see so much in scripture about being set apart and setting things apart. Whether it’s the Sabbath or the tabernacle, there are some times and spaces that should be different from our regular, small-moment living.

We see so much in scripture about togetherness. Emmanuel means God with us, and the promise of Jesus’s second coming means we will be with Him again. Yet even beyond the idea of being with God, we see in Genesis that even though Adam was with God, it was not good for man to be alone. We need togetherness with God and with people. Yet often we interact with our church family on Sundays carrying a spirit of loneliness, feeling like people might sort of see us but not really know us. It’s confusing to know how to deepen the relationships. Small groups certainly help with this, but it takes a while.

Let me talk about treats for a minute (told you I’d work this in): When I was in elementary school, I had an Easy Bake Oven, which, if you did not know, cooks a very tiny cake WITH A LIGHTBULB for four billion years. Upon removing the cake from the oven with your now elderly hands, you will discover that there is no icing because the icing did not come with the kit even though there is an iced cake pictured on the box. A nine-year-old girl who loves treats should not have to wait seventeen decades for a tiny cake and then have no icing because there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. OH THE INJUSTICE! With every tiny light bulb cake that I made, part of my soul died.

I think relationships can be like that. It takes so long for us to cook this thing and make it palatable. Investing in relationships is so hard when you only have a lightbulb to cook with!

Sometimes I think back longingly to high school, when I knew that I could leave for camp with maybe only a few acquaintances yet return with a crew of people that I felt close to and excited about. There’s just something about getting out of your element that tends to spur on relationships. That's how I snagged my best friends in high school, and that’s how I snagged my boyfriend in high school.

True story: when my husband asked me to his homecoming dance in November of my junior year, we had such a blast, and I remember saying to myself, I just need one trip, and then I know we will be dating. He called me the second we got home from Winter Camp and asked me on a date. I wish I had placed money on this because I could have bought a cardigan or something, since I was really into cardigans at that time. (The last part of this sentence is likely the saddest thing a person could say about a sixteen year old.)

Unfortunately, when you’re an adult, you don't get to go to summer camp and winter camp. (SIDE NOTE: WE SHOULD HAVE ADULT CAMP.) Our trips are fewer and farther between, and they typically revolve around our families, which of course is wonderful, but we don’t have opportunity to deepen new relationships. This is why I think we need to take special advantage of retreats when our churches or other organizations offer them.

Because retreats are not an Easy Bake Oven—they’re a relationship microwave. They cook faster. Investing in the retreat experience makes our Sunday mornings more special because we no longer interact with random faces. We interact with people with whom we have experienced special, set apart things. Retreats can be the catalyst that expands our village, launches our discipleship groups, establishes our most edifying friendships.

Sure, sometimes we’re hesitant to sign up for these kinds of things because rooming is awkward, because it costs money, because we don’t have the energy to schedule it and make sure kids are taken care of. It's difficult, and I totally get it. But can I encourage you that this particular kind of difficult is almost always worth it? To know that the money and the time spent are wise investments in your future small-moment living? To know that you're investing in a microwave when before you only had a lightbulb?

There is really only one thing left to say, and I need you to picture me screaming it and then running to hide in a nearby bush because it is terrible joke and I’m better than this: 

RE-TREAT YO’SELF! (I am really so sorry for this terrible joke.)

Story & Soul Weekend - Why Retreats Matter

Taste and See That the Lord Is Good - Catherine Parks

Taste and See That the Lord Is Good - Catherine Parks

“God doesn’t just want us to know him intellectually. He wants us to experience him.”

-Catherine Parks

Our 2017 theme was The Story of Hunger, and we shared about the Bread of Life. How beautiful then to hear from Catherine Parks about how we can taste and see that the Lord is good. We are so grateful for Catherine’s wisdom and her willingness to let us share her talk from Story & Soul Weekend 2017.

Catherine Parks is a writer and Bible teacher who loves to help women build friendships around Scripture and prayer. She's the author of Real: The Surprising Secret to Deeper Relationships and a co-author, along with her mom Linda Strode, of A Christ-Centered Wedding: Rejoicing in the Gospel on Your Big Day. 

Along with her husband, two children, and a cute mutt named Ollie, Catherine calls Nashville, TN home.

God's Story, Your Story, Faith, and Fear - Donna Gaines

God's Story, Your Story, Faith, and Fear - Donna Gaines

“It’s only when we have an accurate view of God that we can have an accurate view of life.”

-Donna Gaines, Story & Soul Weekend 2017

If you attended Story & Soul Weekend 2017, you heard Donna Gaines speak powerfully on faith and fear. Donna graciously agreed to let us record her talk, and we are so excited to share it with you! We pray that this content will offer refreshment and renewed perspective on the joy of following Jesus. For more from Donna, you can purchase her most recent book Choose Wisely, Live Fully here.

Story & Soul Weekend - Donna Gaines

Donna is a devoted student of God’s Word and has written and taught Bible Studies for the past 30+ years.  She is the author of four books, There’s Gotta Be MoreSeated: Living from Our Position in Christ, Leaving Ordinary, Encounter God through Extraordinary Prayer and her fourth book, which came out in August of 2017, Choose Wisely, Live Fully. Donna is the wife of Dr. Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church and currently serving as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Donna is a graduate of Union University (B.S.) and Texas Woman’s University, (M.Ed.). Steve and Donna have been married for 37 years and have four children and eleven grandchildren!

The Story of Hunger


At our 2017 retreat, Team Member Caroline Saunders shared “The Story of Hunger,” a retelling of the big story of scripture through the image of bread and hunger. Interested in a digital download of the session? Email us at

The Story of Light

The Story of Light

During our 2016 event, Story & Soul Team member Caroline Saunders shared the metanarrative of scripture using the image of light. An excerpt is below, but you can read the story in full by clicking here.

“God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.’” From the third verse in the Bible, light and goodness intersect. Later in the Gospel of John, we learn that not only did God create literal light, but that He himself is symbolically light—that by which we see all things. 

We were created to be in this light, to bask in it, to live our lives in its warmth. To string it up along our Christmas trees, to reflect on its illumination and realize that God is every bit as good as He claims to be. Light reminds us that he’s good, that he provides, that he’s powerful. After all, he just spoke, and there it was—light. Is there anything more powerful than that?

But as with any story, that’s only the beginning. Darkness crept in, the way it always creeps in: When we doubt God’s light-creating words. We see it first in the Garden of Eden: Satan whispers to Eve, “Did God really say…” Eve wondered—did God really mean what he said? Is God holding out on me? Is God really good?

Adam and Eve sinned, and the sin changed everything. Instead of basking in light, sin made them want to hide: “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God” (Genesis 3:8). And so it started: hiding, shame, separation. We were created to be with him, to live in his light, but the sin divides things that are meant to be together. Cast out of the garden, Adam and Eve found themselves away from the one true light, plunged into darkness…

The Story of Light - Story & Soul Weekend 2016