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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Red Oak Retreat!

We settled on “Retreat.” Partly because of alliteration. The pairing of the R’s. Simple satisfaction. Also, while noodling on names, Kyle had come up with a whimsical winner for a someday subtitle: Black Squirrel Bunkhouse. In honor of a frisky friend (or frisky family—hard to tell) who occupies our oaks.

Whew. Moving on…

We’d at first worried about calling it a retreat. Thinking maybe we’d sound like we’re going off grid; and not wanting to be associated with any wacky conspiracy theory. So we considered Red Oak Lodge, and it almost stuck, especially with the completion of our lodge-worthy fireplace. (More about that in a minute.) But all things considered, Red Oak Retreat best captures our vision for a warm welcome, and our invitation to “Come and rest.” So retreat it is.

We are officially move-in ready.

Monday last—hard to believe, it feels like a month—after three weeks of waiting for our stone guy to start work on the fireplace, we received the news, he wasn’t coming. Not now. Not ever. GASP. This was a bit of shocker, and the conversation behind the scenes was not in the guy’s favor. The inevitable solution—my husband would do it. Of course, he would. Never mind his current gait conjures images of the invalid in a Charles Dickens novel. (This sounds offensive, I know, but I’ve heard such comments from his very own tongue.) AND. Never mind, he was, at the time, head-to-toe swollen from a raging case of hives, secondary reaction from a recent outbreak of poison ivy. But honestly, we were out of options; even I could admit this. And Kyle did, after all, affix the very same slate stone to the house’s exterior, earlier this summer, making him a semi-expert. AND ALSO. God bless the delinquent stone guy for what could only be divine, albeit rude, timing. Our firstborn son* had moved back to the state the previous week, and was gung-ho to give his assistance. And so. Monday mid-day a new plan was in place, and by Thursday evening the job was finished to breathtaking perfection. And no one had died.

I need to pause, just now, for a shoutout to Kyle’s big brother, Brian. (There’s a good one. All those B’s—but also the brother.) Brian has been the behind-the-scenes hero in this entire operation. I believe I mentioned him briefly in a previous post, referring to his contribution of physics. But, beyond his ability to foresee potential dangers, occasionally redirecting our semi-destructive courses of action, Brian has been our righthand man nearly every weekend for the past several months. He seems to legitimately enjoy pitching in for whatever odd job or tedious task we throw his way—and tells us it’s kept him from going stir-crazy during COVID. Point taken. But beyond that, Brian has been extremely generous in his contribution of ongoing labor, his fingerprints on every DIY project, and Brian, if you’re reading, let me say it again. Please don’t stop dropping by, now that the worst of it’s finished. (We might even let you sit down for a minute.)

Because, for Brian, and all the rest of you, too—the doors of Red Oak Retreat are (nearly) open. (We’re not officially sleeping here yet, so you might want to give us a call before you stop by.) But, yesterday three of our twenty-something sons and their significant others, including our two little grands, joined us for a pod-emptying party. By day’s end we were able to clear a space between boxes for a remarkably aesthetic living room arrangement—and our first ever open hearth fire. Symbolic warm welcome at Red Oak Retreat.

And this, really is, our vision. Open doors, and open hearth—and open fridge, too. Simple hospitality (not to be confused with the art of entertaining) will likely include a cup of strong coffee, and a crockpot of soup if you’re staying for dinner. But probably not a party, and rarely the kind of fare you’d consider a feast. If it’s a banquet you’re seeking, we are a short car ride from Kyle’s parents’ townhouse, where Grammy is fast recovering from knee surgery, and would love to make your culinary dreams come true.

Our gift (we hope) is retreat. Year-round soul-satisfying REST—at fire, lakeshore or hammock. A good book, or good conversation. Someday—hopefully by summer—you can rest overnight in our Black Squirrel Bunkhouse. With permission to sleep long, and wake when convenient; pour a cup and raid the pantry for whatever you’d like.

And this, too. We hope, in this place, you will be with Jesus. That it will ultimately be HIM, not us, refreshing your souls. That you will sense His presence, and feel his favor. More than anything else, when you enter our doors, and you stay for a while—we want you to be more blessed, than impressed.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:12-13


*Grant is a chip-off-the-old-block, and a jack-of-all-trades. His childhood nickname, “Energizer Bunny” applies still, and we are indebted to him for ALL of the projects he’s tackled with his dad these past months. Thanks, also, to his wife, Kiana, who shared him with us…and gave lots decorating advice!

In addition to Grant and Brian, countless others have helped us along the way. Kyle’s brother Trent not only devoted many hours of his own labor, but brought his FRIENDS on several occasions! (Special thanks to Chris, John, and Mark.) Jimmy and Sidney were frequent workers, and were often recruited for the most precarious tasks. Luke and Nils were willing laborers whenever in town. Sid’s mom, Stacy, and my sister, Gina, did “final cleaning” while skirting our fireplace mess. Our new next-door neighbor, Marlyn, generously loaned electricity and water. Grammy brought food to feed the workers. And undoubtedly there were others.

And to whom much is given, much is required. We are blessed to be a blessing.

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