The Impact – MDM Journey Retreat 2016

By: Cara Barth

“Do you ever feel like you need a new beginning? That’s exactly how I was feeling not too long ago. I was tired and frustrated, a little disoriented spiritually, disgusted with some of the things happening in the world and in Church, and distracted by so many situations that I could do absolutely nothing about! At first I just ignored all these feelings and tried to keep busy. But ignoring things doesn’t make them go away. It took a while, but finally I realized that I needed a new beginning”. Matthew Kelly, Rediscovering Jesus 

As I read this statement awhile ago, I literally yelled out in my room, “Wow, Yes, this describes me!” So, I re-evaluated, introspected, and carefully planned some “endings” to open the energy needed for some new start points.

My new beginning began with quitting corporate in 2014, starting my own business in 2015, and beginning a journey with the Motherless Daughters Ministry in 2016. This three year season of changes has introduced me to some of the most amazing, strong, openly vulnerable, grace filled and grace giving women I have ever known.

My most recent opportunity for continued growth through my “new beginnings” adventure came through introductions, observations, and insights into the world of some very courageous and spirited women. I was asked to be a part of the “Care Team” during the recent Journey Retreat created by the Motherless Daughters Ministry. The impact this last event had on me, as well as the women I shared some time with, is eloquently articulated by Maxine Harris, PhD, in The Loss That is Forever; 

“Some events are so big and so powerful that they cannot help but change everything they touch.”

The Journey Retreat brought women feeling the pain of mother-loss together in Cincinnati, OH from as far away as Canada. Various ages, cultural influences, ranges of experiences, differing places of grief, and a willingness to embrace their new beginnings, were combined in such a way that the event created community, hope, acceptance, grace and healing. As I reflect on this four day experience, I am finding it extremely difficult to express the deep reaching impact I observed these women embrace through this retreat. Because words are so limited, the actions I observed might help shed some light on the transformations felt rippling through the attendees:

  • Small groups of women were seen gathered around the dinner table bursting into spontaneous laughter from some story being told that tickled them all;
  • Silent pondering was interrupted by joyous song;
  • Long walks around the grounds were shared by newly forming friendships, letting the “slowest” set the pace;
  • Sticky note crowns were created to remind a faltering spirit that, “She is a child of God!”
  • Coloring sessions in a stain glassed chapel sparked creativity and candid conversations;
  • Tears shared over feelings expressed and hugs given freely as if to say, “I know!”
  • The weight of burdens were tangible but carried no shame, for everyone knew they had one or more of their own in which to wrestle with;
  • Three river baptisms occurred among on-looking canoers; and
  • The final “Letting Go” ceremony gave everyone the opportunity to release their heavy hearts at the foot of the cross and become empowered to move into a new place of their healing exploration.

If words could be found on the “Impact” of this time spent together, it was expressed by a very wise woman in the group as she shared, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present”. Her urgency to stay in the here and now was heard by us all as a call to cherish these new friends, embrace our story, and move through the day with the knowledge that we are all gifted new beginnings with each breath.  

So, this Journey Retreat has come to an end. We may never know the fullness of what has happened, but I do believe it will have an effect even into generations to come. Mothers, grandmothers, wives, aunts, and daughters will be moving into their days with changed spirits. Finally, little ones will be born to mothers who were given the knowledge that they are loved and their mother-loss does not have to define their tomorrows. What better beginnings than that?


  1. Reply
    Caroline says

    Beautifully written, Cara! 🙂

  2. Reply
    Cara Barth says

    Thank you Caroline! I am so glad you enjoyed it and just to say it again, “what an absolute joy to work this retreat and get to know everyone!” Have a blessed day!

  3. Reply
    Penny says

    If anyone feeling lost, frustrated, or confused could experience the love, support, concern you described in your blog, how the world would be changed.

  4. Reply
    Cara Barth says

    I believe that by working within and through this wonderful ministry, writing our blogs, facilitating our classes and hosting more retreats, we are impacting the world more than we will ever know. Bit by Bit spirits throughout the world ARE being changed! The Lord works in mysterious ways and a life we touch has the potential to touch the hurting around them and on and on it goes!

  5. Reply
    Tina says

    There are no words that I can find to express the degree to which these ladies have touched my life.

  6. Reply
    Tina says

    Beautifully spoken.

  7. Reply
    Candis says

    PLUS!!! We got to learn about Cara and her husband’s first kiss. Worth the trip!

  8. Reply
    Cara Barth says

    I am so very glad you felt blessed through your time with the MDM retreat team and attendees! You were a blessing as well and thank you for kind words.

  9. Reply
    Cara Barth says

    You make me smile and I am so very glad we all had the time to share special/silly/fun stories and make each other laugh!
    Laughter is such a healer of the soul!
    Blessings in the days ahead…

  10. Reply
    Laura says

    No additional words from here…just a huge AMEN! I love you, sister!

  11. Reply
    Lisa says

    You did a great job writing this blog and your support to the participants and the facilitators was such a gift.
    Thank you

  12. Reply
    Sue says

    This was most certainly life changing for me. I met some stellar women who all “get it”. What an opportunity of a lifetime. I also met some new friends who I will cherish forever. Love you all

  13. Reply
    Cara Barth says

    I appreciate your kind words and I am so very excited to grow into relationship with everyone in this amazing ministry and I particularly love you, your heart and the passion you have to be a vessel of healing, love and compassion. Thank you my Dear for all you do and who you are!

  14. Reply
    Cara Barth says

    What can I say?? other than Thank You for introducing me to this ministry, acknowledging that I could be useful to these women and lovingly/patiently steering me in the right direction!
    You are wonderful, appreciated more than you know and loved beyond measure!

  15. Reply
    Cara Barth says

    Thank you for taking the time, resources and energy it took to be a part of this Journey Retreat. I am so glad you believe it was, “life changing”, an “opportunity of a lifetime” and you met “new friends you will cherish”. Wow, this is so exciting to hear and re-affirms that when you follow the Lord’s nudges as Mary Ellen did, you “Get It” and can grow from there.
    Thank you again for being a part of all this!

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