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Couples enjoy pressure-free weekend in Blue Ridge Mountains

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–The kids stayed at home, paperwork remained at the office and someone else cooked dinner.

“This is meant to be a very low-pressure event,” Russell Johnson told married couples from as far away as Kansas who ventured to LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center for some time away from the demands of daily life.

Johnson and his wife Kristi led the worship and group sessions during a Marriage Impact weekend conference in the Blue Ridge Mountains. “The impact,” he said, “is that you guys get to do something together.”

Conference planners intentionally incorporated plenty of flexibility and options into the May 27-29 schedule so couples could choose their adventures or simply relax with one another.

While some couples took advantage of group activities such as dangling 30 feet above the ground on Ridgecrest’s high ropes course, most spent the weekend simply enjoying the peace and quiet of one another’s company.

Bill and Toni Eskridge celebrated their 21st anniversary with their trip to the Marriage Impact conference. They try to get away from home together at least every three months, but sometimes that’s difficult with five children — the oldest of whom just finished high school.

“We’re hoping to get just extra time together and to see each other in a different light,” Toni Eskridge said at the Friday evening general session.

During the first of several short group sessions, Russell and Kristi Johnson used props such as a toilet seat and cellular phone to get couples thinking about the everyday nuisances that try their patience and can spark arguments.

“Our hope is that God can do great things as you remove yourselves from those things that bog you down,” Russell Johnson said after he and Kristi performed skits depicting the simplicity and sweetness of new love versus the hassles life can throw at established marriages.

“How long has it been since you sat down and dreamed together?” he asked the couples. “We want to really focus on what you guys do together.”

The Johnsons spent the remaining group sessions discussing the three C’s of healthy marriages: commitment, communication and contact. Kristi Johnson said the success of the conference, however, should not be judged by how much information the couples absorbed.

“Them showing up was the successful part for me because it allowed them to spend time together,” she said. “When you sit down, touching that person, and you hear your spouse praying over you, that’s powerful.”

The couples at the conference ranged from relative newlyweds at only four-and-a-half years to veteran couples of nearly 40 years. While their overall level of experience differed, they attended the conference for generally the same reason.

“”We just needed to get away,” said Jewell Mabry, who attended the conference with her husband of 36 years, Sam.

Jay and Michelle Rine agreed, though they also came to “get filled” before an approaching vacation with their extended families.

“Getting out of the busy schedules develops more closeness,” Michelle Rine said. “It’s wonderful to do something not only for our marriage but to find ways to strengthen our marriage and get closer to God at the same time.”

The Rines have been married fewer than five years, but Michelle Rine said being the shortest-tenured couple at the conference helped her see they were “doing the right thing” in making a point to get away every few months.

Russell Johnson encouraged the couples to try and maintain the closeness they experienced at Ridgecrest even in the midst of life’s sometimes-overwhelming demands. He even suggested taking a rock or other souvenir home as a reminder to sometimes stop and focus on one another.
For more information about future LifeWay conference center events or other marriage enrichment opportunities, visit LifeWay.com.

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  • Brooklyn Noel