A Retreat Experience for Your Weary Soul

I was very pregnant when I hosted the 2020 Unplugged Retreat. I longed for fellowship due to the restricted socializing with COVID and I was desperate to be with and hear from the LORD.  At the time I was unsure whether we should fight to stay in Kenya or return to the US and so many other questions swirled within my soul.

I long to be with the Lord, but often I don’t know how to spend the time. The Unplugged Retreat was the perfect scaffolding to be with the Lord for an extended period of time. The theme was focused on the word Hinneni, Hebrew for “Here I am”. In the Lord’s mercy, He dynamically met me and the six women who retreated with me.

The solitude of the retreat is when I had time to hear from the Lord that it was indeed time to leave Kenya, a place we had called home for the past nine years. This was a scary and sad decision. What I did not know at the time was that the retreat had readied my heart to enter one of the hardest and most intense seasons of our life.

When we decided to leave Kenya about seven weeks prior to our chosen departure date, wise friends and counselors said, “A baby and an international move in 7 weeks? That is A LOT!”  And indeed, it felt like a lot!

In that 7-week span, we got the horrific phone call that Aunt N (my brother-in-law’s wife) had suddenly passed away to be at peace with the Lord. Shock. Grief. “Really, Lord?” we cried. We were already grieving leaving our home and we were due to have a baby very soon.

In God’s grace, He sustained the baby while my husband spent a meaningful, full, and quick trip to the US to attend the memorial and grieve with family as all our hearts longed to do. Trying to take it all in is still: A LOT.

My husband arrived on a Saturday night and at 1:00 am Tuesday, November 24, I woke up in labor. Several hours after birth, I noticed with shock that our sweet girl had Down Syndrome features. The prenatal ultrasound measuring the nasal bone and neck had ruled this out, suggesting a normal pregnancy and baby. Down Syndrome- it’s still A LOT to take in.

As we discussed our top three names and processed the shock, surrendering to the Lord’s plan still fresh in my soul from the Unplugged Retreat, Hinneni stood out.  Exhausted, I googled Hinneni and came across this article“Hineni”: Here I am. Send Me!)which reinforced the truths of the Unplugged Retreat: “There is a powerful word in Hebrew that sums up three words in English. The word is Hineni (הנני), which means ‘Here I am!’ But you’ve got to watch out how you say it, because it is a way of expressing total readiness to give oneself – it’s an offer of total availability.”

It took on a whole new meaning, and as I wept with joy and shock over our sweet daughter, I was again drawn to call out “Here I am, Lord”, totally available to the story He is writing. Thus, we named our daughter Hinnayni (the phonetic spelling of Hinneni).

Today I am in awe. We chose to move back to the US in response to God’s leading. In light of the tragic loss in our family, and the unexpected genetic makeup of our precious daughter, we are all the more grateful to have returned to the US. Hinnayni has since had open heart surgery to correct a congenital heart defect.

As I write this, after almost 2 years of seeking and asking the Lord for what is next, we pack a U-Haul and start our next chapter in new state, city, and role. Each day we renew our commitment to live a “Hinneni” life.  And as we embark on a new chapter, I look forward to engaging in the upcoming Unplugged Retreat- therapy for my weary but grateful soul.

If you would like scaffolding for rich time with the Father, the Unplugged Retreat is for you! You can learn more and register by clicking on the button below.


  1. Ruth August 10, 2021

    Wow, what a beautiful beautiful story I love your daughter’s name so precious.

  2. Taryn August 10, 2021

    Thank you for sharing your story. Such a beautiful name for your daughter!
    I’m so excited to retreat again this year with the Unplugged retreat.
    I’ll be praying for your upcoming transition.

    1. Ali August 11, 2021

      Thanks for the prayers!! What will your retreat experience look like this year?

  3. Theresa August 11, 2021

    You had me crying here, Alison. It all IS a lot—but such an encouragement that God has guided you and held you through it all. May God bless you as you move into this new city/role!!

    1. Ali August 11, 2021

      I cry about it still! Hope you get to enjoy the Unplugged retreat.

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