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How Kimberly Shultz Transformed a Divine Vision into Tranquil Retreats

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Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

How Kimberly Shultz Transformed a Divine Vision into Tranquil Retreats

The need for tranquil escapes has never been greater in the fast-paced modern world. Kimberly Shultz, a seasoned psychotherapist and the owner of Kimberly Shultz Counseling, recognized this need and founded Serenity Nature Retreats to provide a haven of peace and self-discovery. In this interview, Kimberly shares the inspiration behind her retreats, the journey from vision to reality, the unique elements that set her retreats apart, and the joys and challenges of creating serene sanctuaries for those seeking rejuvenation.

 Kimberly Shultz

The Birth of a Nature Retreat

SBS – What inspired you to start Serenity Nature Retreat?

Kimberly – I started it because God gave me a vision in 2010. It wasn’t anything that I thought of doing or wanted to do. At the time, I was in grad school to become a therapist, something else I didn’t want to do, but I kept getting led that way. While my husband and I were in the mountains in Gatlinburg for our anniversary, I was just poured with this vision. It was really, really scary because I’d never had a vision before.

This vision showed me doing retreats in nature, in the mountains. I was leading groups, I had a massage therapist, and my husband was there cooking. It was just very, very detailed, and I was freaking out a little bit. I told my husband what had happened, and he said it was a great idea. However, I said I couldn’t do that because I was very shy, didn’t have confidence, and didn’t feel comfortable talking in front of the class at school, much less doing something like this.

We were in Cades Cove, up there in the mountains, sightseeing. Then the Holy Spirit started leading me, and I told my husband we were supposed to go into town because I was being led there. We got off the loop and drove back into town, and the Holy Spirit just kept leading me into this store. The name of the store was God’s Corner. It was a Christian bookstore. I walked inside and was instructed to wait. There was a stand covered in all of these bookmarks, and a lady in front of me left one, so I was instructed to reach out and pick it up. I did so, and it was Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” I started freaking out and showed it to my husband. He wasn’t religious, but he couldn’t deny what was happening to me.

Going through town, I had all of these ideas (and I don’t get ideas. I’m not creative at all). It was a cabin that we would have, how it would be decorated, and how there was a massage room. After a while of this, I was just exhausted. I wanted to go back to the room. My husband said we needed to look up that verse (all hotels have Bibles). We go back to the room, and he opens the Bible up to Jeremiah 29:11. He says, “You’re not going to believe this. It’s underlined, too.”

At the hotel, we started writing down everything God had shown me so we’d have the notes. When we got home, I thought it was just a weird fluke and that I would never do that. I was still in school. I couldn’t see myself doing that. I didn’t want to move, I didn’t want to live in the mountains, and I was not going to do retreats.

Years went by, and a friend of mine introduced me to Dr. Ted Klontz from Nashville. He was running a retreat (I never put two and two together). I went to this retreat in Tennessee, and the vision came flooding back to me when I got there. I was freaking out because what I was at was what God showed me, very similar to what I’m supposed to be doing.

When it came time for us to do our journaling assignments, I just went upstairs and laid down because I was overwhelmed. When it was time for the group to go around the room and talk about their experiences, I apologized for not doing the assignment and explained why. When I said that, one of the ladies (she was a psychologist in Nashville) stood up, saying, “Now I know what that meant.” I didn’t know this person, so I asked, “What are you talking about?” When she went into the restroom, Jeremiah 29:11 was on the bathroom door on a picture frame, and as soon as she looked at that picture, she knew it had something to do with me. She was also freaking out. It was crazy. I had chills. She told me to keep her in the loop of when/if I create this.

A year later, I went to another of Ted’s retreats in the Smoky Mountains, and we had to pair off with everybody to introduce ourselves. The gentleman before me introduced himself and said, “I keep getting the word serenity. Does that mean anything to you?” I said yes, and I told him the story of what happened.

I just kept getting breadcrumbs about what I was supposed to do. In January of last year, I went to a retreat building to figure out all the nuts and bolts of doing it. God kept putting this in front of me, and I decided to do it. I had already taken the leap to be in private practice, and God kept sending me clients. I had some of the wildest stories. I had people flying from across the states at one time, and I would ask them how they found me. They said God led them here. I thought that if I could do private practice, then I could do a retreat. I could do all the things.

From Vision to Reality

SBS – You received that message in 2010, but when did you start the company? 

Kimberly – Last year. It took me that long because I was slowly building confidence. After graduating college and getting my master’s degree, I went from being insecure and shy to wanting to do therapy for somebody else. I was twice put into supervisor roles, leading all these other therapists and case managers, and I had these huge teams of people under me, which built my confidence that I could do this as a therapist.

Unique Offerings

SBS – What unique aspects make your retreat different from others? 

Kimberly – A lot of the retreats that I’ve been to were for therapists. My retreats are for deep, meaningful connections for lifelong changes. The people attending my couples retreat last year said I saved their marriage. It wasn’t my intent. I was trying to set up a couple’s retreat for fun but ended up with people who needed help. They said that was life-changing. I also led the women’s retreats last year, and people made lifelong friends there. We had fun; everybody also had meaningful conversations and learned some tools. It’s a different experience than what I’ve had at other retreats that I’ve been to (and I’ve been to a lot).

 Serenity Nature Retreats

Location Selection

SBS – In your vision, your retreat was in the mountains. How do you now select the locations for your retreats? 

Kimberly – Because I don’t have the money to buy what the vision was (I’m hoping that that will come one day), I find places through Airbnb. For my retreats last year, I was trying to find places out in nature, in the mountains, so that I could stay true to the “nature” part of the retreats. I picked the location for the couples retreat because it looked like the perfect cabin for the group work and everything else. However, there was nowhere for us to walk outside. Now, I’m trying to make sure that the surroundings of the cabins have that “nature” aspect so that we can have conversations around the fire pit and people can take a walk in the woods or the mountains. 

Overcoming Challenges

SBS – What were some initial challenges that you had to overcome? 

Kimberly – It was a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety. Am I going to get any people? Am I listening to my intuition? Am I listening to what God instructed me to do? Are the people going to show up, and if they do, am I good enough to do retreats? I can own my therapy skills. I have accepted that I am an excellent therapist. I have finally owned that because of what my clients told me for 14–15 years. But can I do retreats? Am I going to be good at this?

I was just being myself and being open to the process. What helped me the most was that I started leading groups last year and doing group therapy. It was scary at my office, but I had people wanting to do group work. I decided to dive into it, and once I got comfortable doing group therapy, I realized I could do retreats.

Crafting a Harmonious Retreat Experience

SBS – How do you ensure a balance between activities and relaxation during your retreats? 

Kimberly – I asked for a lot of feedback in my retreats last year because I wanted to make sure that there were enough activities and group work but that those of us who are introverted and get highly aroused and easily overextended can take some time to ourselves. It’s the same thing Ted did for me at that retreat when I went upstairs and lay in bed. I give everybody that space to give themselves permission to take a nap, go to town, or do something else if I have too much scheduled. I will ensure that there’s enough in the schedule so everybody’s getting what they need out of it. Regarding the workshops and the activity time, I set up an art station. My mom’s an artist, so we had paint, crayons, books. Whenever we had downtime, many people would draw, color, paint, and do things like that for self-care. 

Technology’s Role

SBS – What role has technology played in the promotion and execution of your retreats? 

Kimberly – I have Facebook pages for Kimberly Schultz Counseling and Serenity Nature Retreats. I also mention retreats on my Psychology Today profile and LinkedIn

Keeping Up with Trends

SBS – How do you stay updated with the latest trends and practices regarding retreats?

Kimberly – I look at the other retreats and see what everybody else is doing, and most of the ones that sell out fast and are highly successful are those in Greece, Italy, and Spain. I’m not there yet. It does me no good to compare myself to other retreat hosts because I’m just trying to fill up the ones in Tennessee and the one I have in Georgia in September (the women’s retreat). I do read posts about other retreats because sometimes somebody will get on there and ask a question about something, and I’ll read the comments and see if there’s anything that applies to my retreats that would be helpful. 

 Serenity Nature Retreats

Community Relationships

SBS – How do you build and maintain good relationships with local communities and vendors? 

Kimberly – People will see my posts on social media in different cities and reach out to me, so I am trying to get out of my introvertedness, and I’m out meeting the doctors, the nurses, and different people in different fields. I didn’t have to do anything when I started my private practice. I was working for an agency, and before I knew it, I had to quit my job and go into private practice because my phone rang all the time, and I was working six days a week. I had over 40 clients every week. God slammed me with people, so there wasn’t anything to do. But with retreats, I have to think outside of the box. I network, and I have to meet people now. So whenever I do, I bring my flyers and talk about my work. I’m putting myself out there now. 

Rewarding Moments

SBS – What is the most rewarding aspect of running your retreats?

Kimberly – It’s the relationships I see being formed between all the participants, the quality time they’re all having, and hearing that they’re all staying in touch with each other. It’s also the feedback that I get. I ask everybody for reviews after a retreat is over so I can look at all of the information and see what everybody got and gained from the retreats. I was so humbled that the only complaint out of all those retreats last year was I had too much food. That was amazing. That felt so good.

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How Kimberly Shultz Transformed a Divine Vision into Tranquil Retreats