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Our five-year dream: Create a Carolina mountain retreat center

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December 2019

December greeted us with the answer to a parent’s deepest desire. After studying the Bible with disciples in the campus ministry of the Orlando Church, our 18-year-old daughter, Tirzah made the decision to make Jesus the Lord of her life and was baptized on December 8th, just days before my own (Kim’s) 38th spiritual birthday. The best Christmas present ever! (You can watch the video I spliced together from several who recorded the eternity-changing event for us.)

We continue to be in awe of this area. In this month’s newsletter, I also included a couple videos of my adventures with these misty mountains.

Tirzah also flew in to spend time with the rest of the family, and we visited the Highlands area east of Franklin. The waterfalls and ridges are stunning! We took some video of Dry Falls–which are anything but dry!—and took some fun family pictures.

Slowly, we keep moving forward with plans for building the retreat center. Now, it really is official as I visited the Jackson County Courthouse last week and purchased our first permit to start developing our land!

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday. 


The Pullens

November 2019


 As a native Floridian, I got my first taste of really cold weather this month. Brrr! Yes, that’s 17 degrees on November 13th. On the positive side, the colder weather is a great excuse to purchase a new wardrobe as winter approaches the Western North Carolina mountains. I never knew just how wonderful thermal underclothes could be.

Celebrating our first Black Friday in North Carolina, Russ and I skipped the mall and headed out on a 10-mile mountain bike ride through Nantahala National Forest.

As Thanksgiving approached, the last of Fall’s leaves fell from the trees. It’s pretty wild driving through the mountains now and seeing houses where only a few months ago there was nothing but foliage. Even more amazing is the current view from our backyard!

My new office is complete except for the final decorative touches and I love it. It’s my own little personal space to start working on the details for first tiny house.

Speaking of our first tiny house, we just purchased the plans for it! And here’s a preview of what it will (hopefully) look like. This is the model.

As we say goodbye to our first November in NC (and to you, our retreat center followers), we wanted to share a new first for the Pullens.

October 2019

Fall has arrived in the NC mountains. Travel down our street, Pumpkintown Road, as green summer turns to colorful fall. 

Russ is thriving at Franklin Health & Fitness. He’s become especially beloved by the retirees who attend his Water Aerobics class. Like most people, they have a hard time keeping up, but laugh the whole time they’re trying!

After hearing all the challenges that mountain living brings when you add SNOW, we decided to upgrade Russ’ little Honda Fit to a four-wheel drive 2013 Toyota Tacoma. It’s Russ’ first pick-up truck and by the picture, you can tell he and Tristan were happy with the purchase.

Tia seems to be adapting well to her new school, Jackson County Early College (JCEC). She was recently inducted into the National Honor Society! We also found out that she was an answer to prayer: Tia’s new best friend’s mom prayed for a student to move to western NC this summer, attend JCEC, and befriend her daughter!

I was asked to teach a class at the annual Carolina Women’s Retreat and spoke to 60+ women on how to transform marital pain into peace and purpose. You can watch the lesson below.

We’re still plugging away at my office. Once that’s done, our next purchase is a trailer, the base of our first NC Retreat Center tiny house!

Catch ya next month!

September 2019

It’s challenging to move from one city to another, but moving three states away…well, that’s a whole different animal. Especially when you have a special needs adult and you’re sending your first child to college in the state you left behind.


Since he aged out of public school in July, Tristan and I are adapting to being with each other full-time. Weeks after we arrived, he needed to get two molars extracted. It took some major insurance acrobatics to get everything covered, but we (God) did it. To keep this 6’4″, 230-pound young man active, three days a week, he and I visit Russ’ gym so he can get his $1 per mile on the treadmill while I resuscitate the Zumba class I taught for eight years.

While adapting to having Tristan as my daily companion, I also launched Tirzah, our eldest daughter, by returning her to Orlando for her freshman year of college. Yes, weeping ensued, but I’m getting my Tirzah-fix daily through the Marco Polo app.

Building a Dream

Slow and steady is the way you build a dream. And that’s how we plan to build our retreat center, fully anticipating God to continue aiding in the process. To that end, Russ and I created a calendar with the goal of completing our first tiny house by April 2020.

In the meantime, we are working on zoning, pricing trailers (the foundation for the tiny house), and researching designs. To get us warmed up for the construction process, we are revamping a canning room in our detached garage and creating an office/AV studio for me. Yay!

Our first investment, though—especially before winter—is a four-wheel drive truck. With how challenging these mountain roads are to traverse in the fall, I can only imagine the difficulty with a foot of snow on the ground!

While it’s still warm, Russ is also carving out trails through the woods from our backyard into the Natahala National Forest. He’s already created a one-mile trail, and he took a five-mile trail-bike ride through state lands. The views are amazing! So far we’ve seen foxes, deer, raccoons, chipmunks, wild rabbits, dozens of hummingbirds, and yes, even fresh bear scat!

We know autumn is approaching as the trees surrounding our house rain down acorns on our roof every few minutes, and we’re looking forward to our first North Carolina leaf-changing season!

See you next month!

August 2019

My opportunity to become flexible for yoga is nothing compared to my need to become flexible and adaptable to this new life in the mountains. They have something up here called “mountain time” and for “A” type personalities like me, it takes you to a whole new world of patience. I’m learning that EVERYTHING takes longer up here: Longer to get anywhere, longer to get financial things done, and definitely longer latency for internet (that means I often feel like I’m using dial-up).

I keep reminding myself that this is good for my character, and that God is trying to transform me. Or as Russ keeps reminding me, “just get done what you can get done and save the rest for tomorrow.”

There are some bright spots: We DID get internet (finally), we unpacked most of the boxes from the house, and I’m actually finding my way around Sylva and Franklin, NC without Google Maps. Also, here’s a few videos while we were enjoying our property:

July 2019

After some serious obstacles three days before our Orlando home closing (and then a few more after we closed on our Sylva home), we finally made it to our mountaintop in an area locally known as Pumpkintown.

The ride has been full of joys, challenges, surprises, and friends. Our biggest challenge has been securing consistent internet and cell phone service. And with three young adults in the family and a mom who relies on the internet for work, that’s a big deal! We gave in and got a landline (haven’t had one of those in YEARS), and should have our internet in place soon.

Meanwhile, Russ started his job at Franklin Health & Fitness Center and is getting used to working 8-5 after being a subcontractor for many years. We also connected with our spiritual family in Asheville, and are rekindling old relationships and building new ones.

June 2019

We found it. Our dream home (and future retreat center) is on 15 acres in southern Jackson County, NC, at an elevation of almost 4000 feet. The property backs up against 3000 acres of the Natahala National Forest so there is unlimited access to nature quite literally in our (future) backyard. Our offer on the house has been accepted and we are currently in the due diligence phase of the contract. What’s more, Russ secured a full-time position at a hopping local NC gym.

In the meantime, we have also accepted an offer on our Orlando home. Our tentative closing date is July 18th.

God has cleared our path in more ways than I can recount here, but it’s surely to be recorded as legend in the future annals of the Carolina Mountain Retreat center. Continuing to pray to our God who has already done immeasurably more than we asked or imagined. 

May 2019

It’s official. We put our Orlando home up for sale May 15, 2019 (are you looking for a 4/2?). We’ll be heading to Jackson County, North Carolina this summer. It’s exciting because God has been working in so many ways, clearing our path.

We’re excited to be part of the Asheville Church and connect with friends and “family”. Our son, Tristan, and our youngest, Tia, will be going with us, but our daughter, Tirzah, will be remaining in Central Florida to attend Valencia College.

It’s almost time to embark on our long awaited adventure! 


October 2018 Trip Gallery

January 2017 Trip Gallery

Dockside Mountain
Russ Snoozing by Lake
Kim Resting on Bench
Dockside Mountain
Morning Mountain Mist
Little Choga Community Church
Little Choga Rd, NC
Soco Falls, NC
River through the Trees
Road to Moutaintop
The Family at Soco Falls