Art & Faith in Venice & Bellagio

Hello Friday!

Are you ready for this December “Christmas” weekend? We have a fun Saturday ahead… a date with the Tax man! hahaha With the three retreats we did this year, it’s time for us to get all our records together… so that’s my Saturday fun. I hope you have something MUCH better going on this weekend. I’m hoping to get done so I can play with my new watercolor set from Paris this past summer.

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This Friday afternoon, we want to take a minute and THANK everyone who has signed up for next years retreat in Italy!

We’ve had quite a few people asking us about this retreat and emailing us questions that they have. Please feel free to ask away, we love to help you in organizing a trip like this! There are still some spaces open, but we try to keep these retreats small. It’s important to us that we keep the group size under 30 people so each person can get to know everyone and it becomes like a wonderful new family that you get to experience this with, and take home lifelong friends! It’s also easier when we have a smaller group size with the restaurants and places we go to. So I think as of today, we have about 8 spots left, and we’d love for you to join us if you are still thinking and praying about it.

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For those who have already signed up we sent out an email last night with all the details! So please look for that email and let us know if you have any questions. There are a few questions we need to get answered to help us plan the best trip possible for you. This is going to be an AMAZING retreat with Ruth Chou Simons AND getting to share Venice & Bellagio with all of you! We are so excited to meet you in Italy next summer! (Yes, I use way too many exclamation points… but we truly ARE excited!)

We also are setting up a private FB group for those attending and will be starting that next week so look for an invitation in your inbox, and then we can start getting to know everyone.

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If you are still thinking about this retreat, this would really make a GREAT Christmas gift for (or from) a loved one! I know a couple ladies joining us are getting this as a gift for graduation next year from their families… now THAT’S an amazing surprise! One year I had a lady’s husband contact me and give this to her for her 40th Birthday! I just love each story of how women come to our retreats. One lady had some old jewelry sitting around that she decided to sell and that paid for her trip. Another woman who just came to our October retreat was a missionary from Mozambique Africa and her and her husband felt very strongly that she needed to be at this retreat. Now it is NOT easy to come all the way from Africa to Italy… but the Lord provided financially in AMAZING ways, and she was a blessing to us all!

Here are just a few testimonials from the ladies who came to our October retreat just a couple month ago in Italy. I thought it might be fun to hear about this retreat from their words.

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“Picture yourself standing on a precipice with arms outstretched, contemplating what lies ahead.  You search, but you can’t quite see what is waiting there for you. You so want to take that leap but you are uncertain.  There is fear, anxiousness, excitement, anticipation, and hope.  Then imagine you lean into the dive and begin to free fall toward the unknown.  As you are moving, you feel loving arms around you, cradling and reassuring as they gently lay you down in a safe, soft place.  That is a tiny metaphor for my experience at the Art & Faith Retreat in Bellagio, Italy hosted by Laura McCOllough.  Despite all the trepidation, my journey of faith led me to a most beautiful place, not only in a physical way, but also in a spiritual one.  How could I have imagined such a beautiful trip with exactly the right group of women?  Once again, when I trusted the Lord, He led me to where He needed me to be.  Not only was I lavished with love, gifts and experiences, I came away with abiding friendships and a deeper relationship with Him. Laura, along with our instructor, Sheila Atchley, allowed themselves to be facilitators in God’s plan to create an atmosphere that was conducive to being present and open - to experience true JOY without exception, and to arm myself with all I needed to get through this middle thing called life. Laura was born to do this, I truly believe that.  She has such a grace and peace about her that rubs off on everyone she comes close to.  Every hour of every day was a surprise and delight as she layered genuine affection mingled with her gift of ministering to others.  I am so glad that I allowed myself to free fall into this beautiful place and time and that Laura was open to God’s plan for her.  I can’t wait to return!" ~ Lorraine Bell

”God amazingly opened up the door for my mother and I to attend the Art & Faith in Italy 2018 Retreat in October hosted by Laura McCollough with guest teacher Sheila Atchley. Just a couple of years ago, the thought had entered my mind to dream of “one day” attending a European art retreat hosted by a Christian artist with a desire to focus on God AND creativity. I really never dreamed the opportunity would arise so soon after having this “inkling.” From the beginning to the very end, we were pampered and “wined and dined!” Laura has an incredible rapport with the local people in Bellagio, who all rolled out the red carpet to each of us. Our devotionals were deep and thought-provoking. Laura showered us with so many goodies and gifts. Our accommodation was incredibly beautiful. The food was stellar. There was such a great balance between classes filled with creativity and excursions that inspired us. Most of all, the fellowship of the small group of ladies on our retreat was so rich and meaningful. I feel like I have made friends for life. We shared experiences combined with our love for beauty and our JOY in Jesus. I was encouraged greatly by each lady there and it was so clear that Laura has a gift to bring people together in this amazing way. I really can’t say enough good things about this trip. From the very beginning of correspondence, Laura worked with me on my unique situation since I live in Africa. If ever I have another opportunity to join in with one of Laura’s Creative Retreats, I would do it in a heartbeat! It was truly a refreshing and memorable experience!” ~Jen Salyer

“God knew what I needed. Exactly what I needed. I thought I was coming for yummy pasta and some watercolor and Bible journaling instruction - which I definitely had, but what God did for me was so much more. I came feeling like I was comfortable, content, and well equipped for my current life. After 5 days in Bellagio - meeting an amazing group of women, experiencing a place full of history, faith, and beauty beyond what I had dreamed - I left early to get back to my family and a hometown ripped apart by Hurricane Michael. God put things in place to fill my toolbox in these short days with ways to find “joy in the middle”. I had conversations about differences in practice, but a common faith in a God, our father, who is good all of the time. I experienced a peace in the midst of a literal storm that was beyond understanding. I know that it was because God had put just the right group of women here with an openness of heart willing to share their example of joy in the midst of great loss. I know that this time in Italy was God’s preparation for me to journey well through this barren place. He is good. He is kind. He sees me.”~ Susan Harrison

This retreat was well beyond my expectations!  I feel like the Lord just kept unfolding a specially wrapped gift for me the entire time.  Each day, each moment, each time we got together was like the Lord preparing this amazing banquet of His goodness! We ate THE best food ever and it was a delight each time to dine without rushing.  To sit quietly over a cappuccino and croissant early in the mornings. The whole retreat was lavish, it was intimate, it was spirit-filled, it was awe-inspiring, it was absolutely perfect.  The art the we saw was magnificent.  The art we created was beautiful.  We learned, we explored, we worshiped, but mostly importantly we did it together.  God truly hand picked each and every person for this time and this place.  I have no doubt that He will do exactly the same for you.” ~ Ruth Tacoma

I cry every single time I read notes from past students, who are really now such beautiful friends of mine! We hope you feel that tug at your heart from the Lord that says “go” because if He does that to you as well, I know He has something He wants to show you during out time together.

Well, we hope you have a beautiful weekend during this JOYOUS time of year! Next week we will be sharing some more Christmas gift ideas, some traditions (from my daughter’s point of view) and some Christmas Devotionals.

A few of our traditions over the years are:

~ Christmas PJ’s - a tradition that has gone on since our girls were little.

~ Trimming the Tree with music and Hot Cocoa

~ Watching the movie ELF… can’t go a Christmas season with out it!

We’d love to hear what traditions and things you have going on at this time of you too.

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So next week come on back here on the blog. We have some fun things to share with you. One of which is a story about this bible, that found our way back to our family after 100 years! Yes, it’s a pretty special story…

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Hugs,

Laura McCollough