Our Branson MO Marriage Retreat

 

Me & Ray Branson, MO

Me & Ray
Branson, MO

Ray and I have been married for 22 years…and it’s been hell for both of us. If that offends you, I’m sorry, but that is the only accurate description of what we’ve gone through.

We’ve been to numerous marriage counselors and pastors throughout the years, to no avail. We’ve had years of betrayal, patterns of strife, unforgiveness, deep hurt, and hopelessness that things could ever change between us.

We’ve both wanted to divorce many times because it’s been so hard. Luke 1:37 says, “With God nothing is impossible,” but I think maybe Ray and I are a pretty good challenge for God!

From day one, Satan has tried to destroy our marriage because of the ministry and missions calling that is on our lives. I share about some of the problems we’ve had in my newest book, Promises In The Dark: One Woman’s Search for Authentic Love

We attend a home church (a small group at our friends’ home) on Sundays, and our friends there recently blessed us financially to attend a marriage retreat they had been to last year, I think out of sheer desperation for our marriage to be healed. It is time.

The retreat was taught by Roger and Laureen Traver with Mountain Top Marriage Ministry, and it was amazing! There were 7 couples attending this retreat.

The Traver’s marriage years ago was just like ours has been presently. They shared openly and honestly about their story. They are lovely, humble, powerfully-anointed people. 

Roger and Laureen were married in 1966. They were advised by a Christian counselor to get a divorce after Laureen became emotionally dependent on a man and committed adultery, and Roger was addicted to pornography and an alcoholic.

Roger and Laureen Traver

Roger and Laureen Traver

Laureen thought spending hours talking with this other Christian man would help her learn more about how a man thinks and figure out why her husband wasn’t meeting her spiritual, emotional, and sexual needs. The other man was always there, being polite, gentle, kind, and even praying for her.

In her book Overcoming Mountains of Fear, Laureen writes, “I enjoyed the friendship, the attention and eventually the sexual arousal I felt when I was around him. The deceptive trap was set. I took the bait and fell into an adulterous relationship with that Christian man. Satan used my own lust to lead me into deception.

They were advised by medical doctors to get a divorce after discovering Roger’s physical disability that caused them to be unable to have sex.

Through commitment, emotional and physical healing, obedience to God’s word, and a brokenness of self and pride, Jesus and the Holy Spirit turned their marriage into a victorious mountain top experience. They’ve brought healing and hope to troubled marriages, saving them from divorce, by teaching couples how to use God’s Word to have victorious marriages.

They began teaching a marriage group in their home in 1984, and now minister throughout the U.S. and in countries all over the world, teaching marriage seminars and using their own books, tapes, and teaching materials.

 

The marriage retreat

Before we left for the retreat, I had journaled and prayed the scripture Galatians 5:16-25, “But I say walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”

In the first session, Roger shared this verse and he and Laureen repeated it throughout the seminar. For me, it was confirmation that we were there by God’s divine appointment.  Ray had actually met the Traver’s years ago, and they knew mutual friends of his from Gardner, Kansas. Another precious couple attending the retreat, Bill and Joni, who are close friends with the Traver’s, also knew these friends of Ray’s well. Small world. Joni and I instantly connected. I just loved her! My friends Vickie and Jane were there, to my surprise and delight. 

As the Traver’s shared their powerful marriage testimony which so closely mirrored our marriage, I knew in my heart that we were in the right place at the right time. This was God!

 

You have to do the work

After each teaching session, we had homework that we worked on together in our rooms. Exercises of repentance to God, forgiving each other, renouncing spiritual strongholds, tests on our love languages and spiritual gifts, keys to communicating effectively, and more.  

The truth is that marriage is hard work…especially Christian marriages! Christian marriages now have the same divorce rate as secular ones, which is a sad testimony to the world! 

Laureen & Roger teaching

Laureen & Roger teaching

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” – Matthew 5:13, NIV

Time is short before Jesus returns. Satan is actively trying to destroy Christian marriages and families.

 

The fruit

By Saturday night and Sunday morning, I was beginning to feel drained emotionally. Ray is an introvert-converted-to-extrovert, and loves socializing and talking with people. I love people, too, but I’m an introvert. Being around crowds of people for long periods of time drains me. I needed some quiet time alone praying to God, reading, and writing.  

Strife was also raising its head again between Ray and me. But through prayer, choosing the Spirit over the flesh, and the Traver’s help, we put strife down and finished the weekend strong.

The key is for us to continue to daily apply the Biblical and practical principles we learned to have a happy, fulfilled, strong marriage. Ray and I decided that we will attend their marriage retreat again, at least once a year. We have to stay alert and look out for the enemy’s evil devices. 

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8

Ray, looking glass at Branson mountains

Ray, looking glass at Branson mountains

The Traver’s also offered a parenting class Sunday afternoon, taught at the gazebo outside by their great worship leaders Mike and Dawn, and Roger and Laureen met personally with Ray and me an hour in their room for counseling and prayer.

Mike and Dawn, Retreat Worship Leaders

Mike and Dawn
Retreat worship leaders

Mike and Dawn said this group of couples had made worship easier. They thanked us for being worshippers of God. They were humble servants and led beautiful worship during the weekend. There was a sweet presence of the Lord there.

worship

worship

 On Monday morning, Roger and Laureen and everyone in the room prayed for each couple, giving them encouraging prophetic words. The Holy Spirit’s presence was there, working powerfully among us. 

Ray and I left the marriage retreat with softer hearts that had been touched by God’s love and forgiveness, greater intimacy, and rekindled hope. It was a much needed break and time away from the daily routine. We had such a fun, and relaxing time. 

 

Pictures from the retreat

The mountains and lakes in Branson are beautiful. 

Branson, MO

Branson, Missouri

 On the way driving to Branson, you see mountain cliffs beside the highway. This reminded me of childhood summer trips to my grandparents’ house. When I was growing up, in the summertime for about 1-2 weeks, I’d go to my grandparents Gentry’s country home in Forsythe, Georgia (near Macon). I knew we were getting close to their beautiful Victorian house when I saw the red clay cliffs along the highway. 

Cliffs, Branson, MO

Cliffs
Branson, MO

 We ate supper at a cafe in Branson, where they had a Friday night special on ribs that had been smoking all day. My husband loves to eat. He is a meat man, so this made him happy. 

smoked ribs

smoked ribs

We stayed at the Bradford Inn in Branson, MO. It has 34 rooms, each with a different design and decor. Ours was called The French Room. “Very pink,” Ray said as we first walked into it, LOL. The room is painted pink with Victorian furniture.

Bradford Inn

Bradford Inn, Branson
The French Room

 It was wonderful. The bathroom has a jacuzzi tub for two. This was one of Ray’s and my favorite parts. So relaxing. We felt spoiled, and are so thankful to our friends for making this happen! We dream of having a jacuzzi in our own home one day.

jacuzzi

jacuzzi

There’s a little patio outside the room with 2 chairs, where Ray and I drank our coffee in the morning, admiring the beautiful view of the mountains. This was one of my favorite things that we did together. This made me happy!

patio

patio

Here is a view of the Branson mountains from the top level of the inn. 

view of mountains

view of mountains

I’ve been craving the beach lately, wanting to take a pic of my painted toenails in the sand...so I improvised, taking a pic of my toes as I relaxed in the big, comfy chair in our room. Yes, I am easily amused. 

my painted toenails, relaxing in the chair

my painted toenails, relaxing in the chair

Ray and I ate in the public dining area the first morning, and in our room at the little antique table and chairs the next 2 mornings. Included in the price of the Bradford Inn’s stay is a delicious breakfast each morning.

The B&B’s owner cooks the breakfast himself. You tell him how you want your eggs cooked and what you want with it: cereal, oatmeal, waffles, sausage, cinammon rolls, coffee cake, biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit. This was definitely Ray’s favorite part. 

Ray loved the breakfast!

Ray loved the breakfast!

The biscuits and gravy and sausage were SO good!

biscuits, gravy,  & sausage

biscuits, gravy, & sausage

On Saturday afternoon, we had “free time,” where we were supposed to do a homework assignment and then go on a date alone…no double dates.

Ray and I were on a strict budget for this trip, so our date was at Steak and Shake, LOL.  They had a special double cheeseburger with fries for $4.99. We are planning to go out for a steak dinner this coming payday. But Steak and Shake’s cheeseburgers and fries were good, and we had fun.

Steak & Shake cheeseburger and fries

Steak & Shake cheeseburger and fries

 There’s lots to do in Branson, including the zipline which looks really fun and the National Tiger Sanctuary.  As I said, we were on a very tight budget, but we did amuse ourselves taking pics by this elephant. Some other people were there, and took the pic for us and we returned the favor for them. 

me & Ray by elephant Branson, MO

me & Ray by elephant
Branson, MO

The healing power of prayer

One of the most powerful times during the retreat was Monday morning, when the Traver’s and everyone prayed for each other. I knew we were going to pray for each other at this retreat (our friends had told us this ahead of time, since they went last year), but I didn’t know it would be this powerful! God is so good!

Below from left to right are the senior pastors of the non-denominational fellowship The Barn in Kansas City, MO, Todd and Vickie Bentley, Jane and Jim, and Charlie and Veronica. Charlie and Veronica have 7 children and were extremely entertaining the whole weekend, laughing and sharing transparently about their sex life and their marriage. Their openness brought great freedom to this retreat. 

prayer time for couples

prayer time for couples

The Traver’s are Spirit-filled Christians and teach on the spiritual gifts, and encourage others to use theirs so there is an atmosphere in their meetings for doing that.

Todd, Vickie, Charlie & Veronica praying for Jane & Jim

Todd, Vickie, Charlie & Veronica praying for Jane & Jim

This awesome couple praying below, Mark and Kim, have been in ministry for over 20 years and are in transition, about to move to do missions work in East Africa. 

prayer

Kim and Mark praying for Dawn & Mike

Praise God! Ray and I were able to pray not only for each other this weekend, but also for other couples, using our gifts and giving them encouraging, prophetic words. If you don’t know what your spiritual gifts are, you can take online tests here.

If you’d like to learn more about the spiritual gifts, two resources I highly recommend are The Gifts and Ministries of the Holy Spirit by Lester Sumrall and Step Out and Take Your Place by Krista Dunk

Not everyone at this retreat had been taught about the spiritual gifts and were a little uncomfortable. Sometimes God will take you out of your comfort zone to lead you into a more mature, deeper relationship with Him.

This marriage retreat was such a blessing and I’m so thankful that Ray and I were able to go and renew our marriage. Please pray for us as we work on applying the Biblical, practical principles and tools we learned about at this retreat.

We know that Satan doesn’t want our marriage restored and that he’ll be up to his old tricks, so we have to stay alert, pray and read the Word together, and fight Satan together. He is our enemy, not each other.

Ray and I have a calling from God together to the nations and need to fulfill the purpose God has for our lives. We also want to leave a godly legacy for our children and grandchildren and be an example to others of God’s love, forgiveness, and power. 

me and Ray, Branson marriage retreat

me and Ray, Branson marriage retreat

I highly recommend attending the Traver’s marriage retreats, whether you are a newly married couple, have been married for several years and just want a tune-up, or your marriage is on the verge of divorce and you need a Divine intervention.

Ultimately only God and you and your spouse can heal your marriage. Marriage is really about your relationship with God – obeying Him.

Are you willing to obey? (Am I?) Are you willing to do what it takes and die to self, so that your marriage can be a beautiful picture of Christ and the Church? (Am I?)

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121:1-2, NKJV

hills/mountains in Branson, MO

hills/mountains in Branson, MO

 

 

 

 

How to write a book (or how I wrote mine)

Woman reading book

Woman reading book

Recently a student from my Just Write! Virtual Summer Bootcamp asked me how I write my books…do I have a disciplined writing schedule, or do I just write when inspired by The Muse? (I believe The Muse is God!)

I told her that while I believe writers should have some kind of consistent schedule, the way I’ve written most of my 7 books is that I will suddenly feel inspired, and compelled, to write ~ I sit down and write for literally hours. When I’m finished, I feel spent and accomplished. 

While writing like mad, I often forget to eat or drink, something that is REALLY bad for your health, and which I told my Writers’ Bootcamp students NOT to do – “You need to take care of yourself.” It’s a disclaimer to help protect them,..even if I don’t follow my own advice in this. I’m trying to get better at it!

Do you have a writing schedule? Or do you write when inspired?

This is how I wrote Promises In The Dark: One Woman’s Search for Authentic Love:

1. God spoke to me in His still, small voice the word promises. I began noticing the word reading the Bible, and began studying in the Bible about God’s promises and His faithfulness. 

2. I bought the graphic for the front cover. I saw the intriguing picture that is on the front cover of my book at Istock.com. I was immediately drawn to it and knew I had to have it for a book cover, and bought it. God gave me the title for the book when I bought this graphic. 

Promises In The Dark: One Woman's Search for Authentic Love

Promises In The Dark: One Woman’s Search
for Authentic Love by Beth Jones

Later, I had my fab graphic designer Christine Dupre´ create the amazing front cover. She also designed the back cover and spine. The graphic would motivate at me times to keep writing. I wanted to see that beautiful pic on a book cover!

3. I entitled the chapters first – just one word for each chapter. For example, Abuse. Abortion. Adultery. Later, I added subheadings to the chapter titles, relating to Cinderella.

I’ve developed a system for my books now. For each chapter, I add either a Scripture or an intriguing quote just under the chapter title.

With previous books, I’ve created the chapter title after I write the book. Some writers outline each chapter (a paragraph to a page) before writing the chapter. I don’t do this.

4. I write. Sounds silly, but you have to write to write a book! Perfectionism and procrastination are often what trips you up and keeps you from writing a book. The getting started – and the finishing – are the hard parts.

Usually if I just make myself sit down and start writing, the words flow. Most of my books have taken several months to write. This book took me about a year to write.

It was the hardest book I’ve ever written, as it contains very personal info about me. The book is my memoir, but it’s much more than that. It’s about God’s faithful promises.  I shared about how hard it was to write on Dr. Rochelle Valasek’s and Minister Sophenia Wade’s show, Testimony Tuesday.

I did extensive research for this book, that includes 178 footnotes and other resources in the back. The book has been described as “heavy” and “meat” in content (it’s not a children’s story!), but also as “riveting, powerful, raw.”

I didn’t write Promises In The Dark in order of the chapters. This is something I stressed to the students in my writing bootcamp. You can write the last chapter first, like Margaret Mitchell did when writing Gone With The Wind.

You can start in the middle. Or if you are someone who has to have all your ducks in a row, you can write the chapters in order. Chapter 1. Chapter 2. Chapter 3, and so on. Just write.

ducks

ducks

You’re going to be distracted as you write. It’s like when you decide to spend some time with God -praying, reading the Bible, or worshipping. Suddenly all hell breaks loose. The doorbell dings, a friend you haven’t heard from in years calls, your family bangs on the door for ridiculous things, you have an urge to organize or paint your office, you need to play Candy Crush (I actually don’t play Facebook games at all, but my friends do).

The devil doesn’t want you praying. And he doesn’t want you writing, either, if God has called you to write.

Deal with the distractions as best as you can – and keep writing. Here’s some tips to not get distracted.

Jeff Goins has 3 tips for distraction-free writing:

  • Don’t edit while you write.
  • Don’t format text.
  • Don’t stop until you get to the end.

 5. I edited and rewrote. Edited and rewrote again. Then my professional, awesome formatter Hanne Moon at Heritage Press did multiple edits before we went to print. 

One of my writer friends planning to write 2 books was surprised and dismayed to find out she’d have to edit and re-write. “You mean after I write the book, I have to write more?” I laughed. YES!

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

Good writing doesn’t happen by itself or happen naturally. Good writing is hard work. Less is more. Writing must be tight. Concise. Lean and strong, no excess fat, as Stephen King says.

Prime rib meat

Prime rib meat

6. I decided which POD (Print On Demand) company to use for my print book – Heritage Press. Hanne Moon rocks. She also helped me to upload my Ebook to sell on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

7. I made NY Times #1 Best Seller and raked in the millions. Just kidding. (We all dream of this as writers, right?!) What I am doing is continuing to market the book. Marketing is the hardest part! (You didn’t want to hear that, did you? You thought writing was the hardest part!)

As speakers and writers, it’s our responsibility to let others know what we offer to help them.

I believe this book has a valuable message. The world promises us so many things ~ and often leaves us empty, and many times filled with regret. God’s promises are for real and forever. You can count on Him and His faithful promises. 

You can get the book by clicking here. Please share with your family and friends. 

If you haven’t started writing your book, start today! If you have any questions, email me at elizabethdjones@gmail.com. Please leave your comments below on your thoughts on writing. 

Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.” ~ Ray Bradbury, WD