Writer’s Retreat Recap–Yes, He Abides

my friend Laura S. and I leading worship

Worship–A Pantoum
Inside, two friends bend hearts towards God
stops and starts, voices raised, a daring duo
strums and strings bring songs alive
while the Holy Spirit sings His song over you

Stops and starts, voices raised, a daring duo
carrying water for thirsty souls
while the Holy Spirit sings His song through you
deep channels, delivering life via verse and tone

Carrying water for thirsty souls
this, the joy of completing his song
channeling life via verse and voice and tone
inside, two friends bend hearts toward God.
My heart is so full I feel it will spill a torrent of words and you might all drown for the reading. 

I still can’t quite believe what God did at our little Writer’s Retreat in Leavenworth last weekend.  It was everything my friend Kimberlee and I prayed and planned for and more.
(more details on the ‘Writer’s Retreat’ tab at the top of the page.)

I have long sensed God was going to use this time as a catalyst, the beginning of a seed from His heart and mine to see women writers of faith encouraged and connected, uplifted in their communicating.

This resonated with others as well–the desire to not be well-known, but to be known well–by our Father and by each other.  The passion for God’s presence and a desire to hear His voice and be healed in the hearing.

Leading worship was a particular joy as I felt many times the power in the room, God’s light touch on my shoulder and tears on my face as He showed up.  We sounded like Heaven, I’m sure.

I shared revelations about what God did using Writing as a Spiritual Practice introducing the women to the idea of sitting with 2 or 3 questions and listening to what God might say. (prompted by my reading of ‘God in the Yard’.) The uncovering sparked many embers, lighting fires of discovery all around.

Kimberlee delighted us with playing with words and poetry as we each dove in to write a Pantoum–a poem form that is actually easy to use (look! I wrote a pantoum!) once you get the hang of it. We wrote our “Glory be to God’s” after Gerard Manley Hopkins and wished we had enough French berets for all.
Hearing the responses as women de-mystified the poetry process would have made my friend Laura Barkat swoon. 
‘Hey, look, I wrote a poem!’  Priceless.

Shhhh…..the poets are working in the Library

Our retreat site in the Cascade Mountains of Washington lent itself well to listening and looking. The Library where we met was filled with Heaven from the moment we stepped inside. The camaraderie under the apple trees, the early morning conversations on the front porch, all were strands woven together in a beautiful piece of God’s own cloth.

Fall colors were everywhere

early morning walk, Laura S.

When we shared in our Communion circle on Sunday morning, the fruit of each person’s words fed my soul:

“I’m leaving here feeling expanded.”
“The healing is real.”
“Thank you for teaching me about poetry.”
I feel refreshed, rejuvenated. Loved the reflection time.”
I learned to abide in Jesus, not in my pain.
“I love opportunities like this to be together with people who all wanted to find God in the space.”
“Writing pantoums was like Legos with words.”
“I enjoyed this, less because of the writing and more because of the people, wrestling through faith together, living through God’s calling in our life.”

As I said, my heart is full.  Here’s to Abiding.
I longed for this little Retreat to be start to more in real life encounters, particularly here in the Pacific Northwest, opportunities to eat and talk and maybe sing. Chances to share heart songs and stories amidst tea and cookies and kids.  
(Maybe there’ll be a summer picnic, who knows?)
We have a Facebook page where you can join us. 
We’re starting small and building slow, reaching out and reaching up, 
continuing to bring Him glory. 
The photos from ‘Light and Loveliness’ are Ms. Emily Allen, one of our Retreatants.
Thank you Emily!

Listening, Slowing, Telling and Showing (#SmallWonder)

Pictures, pictures everywhere. Anywhere. Any time. If you have a phone, we have a photo. Moments captured and documented, milestones shared, joys multiplied.

And while a picture often IS worth a thousand words, and they often tell a story, they don’t tell the whole story. 

The problem with the ubiquitousness (that’s a word, right?) of iPhones and Smartphones is the ease with which we grab them to capture said occasions, instead of telling our story. 

When I want to share a moment with you, all I have to do is pull out my phone–the grandkids are right there, the perfect, stunning sunset, the surprise birthday photo of a spouse–and boom! 

Without a word, every detail is there….

But not really. There is a lot lost in the translation of those pixels. 

My nephew and his wife had their first baby–a boy–on the First Day of Spring.  It was a momentous occasion—but they are far away in Texas and of course, I couldn’t be there.
My sister, the new grandma, also could not be there–she’s a teacher and still ‘on duty’ in California.
What were we to do?  Wait anxiously for pictures, that’s what.

Finally, a tag on Facebook from my daughter–there he was–new daddy kissing his wet and shiny-haired son right on top of the head.  I was in tears.
The picture quickly went around the interweb and through text messages between aunts, uncles and cousins.  Baby G was here!  

But, oh I ached for details–who did he look like? how much did he weigh?  How about those fingers and toes–who kissed them first?
And mom–how was she doing? It had been a rough go the last two weeks and we were worried for her.  I’ll bet she was relieved and exhausted.
And new Dad–nephew W.–especially proud, I’m sure and relieved after a difficult and challenging time leading up to this.

All of that was missing because I wasn’t there–no words to fill in the blanks of the feelings–tears of joy and relief, the touch of the baby’s new skin, the look of joy on the new parents’ faces at the miracle in their arms.

If I had been there to experience this newborn’s entrance into the world, I would have been paying attention–noticing, listening, watching….painting a picture with my words.

Maybe we would get better at seeing if we simply used our OWN eyes (not a camera in a phone) to record this wonderful world.
Better yet, what if, in order to really see, we take off our glasses (if we have them) and force our tired and busy eyes to relax?

Use our senses to fully experience something–pay attention, listen closely, be still enough to feel what’s happening.

I’ve been trying this more the last year because of a book I read; it has changed everything about the way I look at the world.

As often as I remember, no matter where I am, but especially outside on my deck, I tune in and listen.  

Is the wind rustling the leaves like the washing of waves on a faraway shore?

What does the breeze feel like on my skin?
I welcome the taste of the peach tea in my cup, the sweet warmth visiting my mouth with a fragrant wake up call.
I strain for the sweet sound of the birds as they praise their Creator.
I hear laughter of children, I see the clouds stacked up in the distance.

And I see and hear Jesus.  He paints a picture with His words–“I’m here. I made this. I love you.”

THAT’S what it’s like to slow and tell.  Join me?


This post is part of the #SmallWonder link up, led by Kelly Chripczuk.
Each week we choose to intentionally look for small moments of wonder, the “small sparks of presence, delight or sorrow, of true humanity” in which we see God.
You’re invited to gather and share one moment of Small Wonder from your days 
(in a brief post of 500 words or less).
And if there’s more than 500 words in what you have to say, 
you’re welcome to come as you are.

The Spiritual Discipline of Listening

On the wind
His words gently breezing
through the pinwheel
turning, iridiscent blue
blowing across the surface
moving gently, forcing 
me to hear, “I’m here”
while I ponder slowing–
less turning, more still-
like the quiet trees
hushing, the soft branches
suspended, punctuation
placed securely on the pages
of the sky,
declaring a full stop.

I’ve heard rumors of His kindness, 
long to be bathed with words.
I lean in lingering, 
straining for His voice. 
Cupping His hand o’er my ear, 
He shares secrets 
like a lover, 
and I am washed
into waking
shocked at the power
of quiet on the wind.

Three years ago this January I read a book about Spiritual Disciplines by LL Barkat–
‘God in the Yard’ and took the time to go outside on my deck for an hour every week–sometimes 2 or 3 times a week–to just listen.  I had the book to read and question prompts, but my writing responses and 
what I heard the Holy Spirit say during that time touched and surprised me.
I have attempted to make this practice a part of my week as often as I can and God is faithful to speak. This poem is from one of those times.
More thoughts on Spiritual Discipline over at The High Calling

Note to Self–Sabbath on the Page #4

More thoughts from my Deck Time, prompted by ‘God in the Yard’ (Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us)**, an ongoing full stop in the middle of my days.

There’s a scientific rule, I think, about forward motion–the more intensely and quickly an object is moving, the harder it is to slow down.  Something like that.

I feel like that a lot these days–trying to be intentional about Sabbathing, slowing down of any kind–is getting harder and harder.

But I’m not giving up.  I know that being purposeful to make the time to stop and see, to rest and listen, adds to my life.  And I can’t share my life with you via my words if I’m in too much of a hurry to live it.

Maybe that’s why telling stories is harder to come by these days.  We have our Smartphones and iPhones ready as an extra appendage to snap a photo of Absolutely Everything we see.  If I can rely on a gadget to capture the image in front of me, it loses some beauty in the translation, really, because I don’t have to tell you anything, I just take a picture.

Think about it.

I don’t have to stretch to describe the colors of the sunset to you, give any thought to telling you what it felt like to just sit there and enjoy God’s creation–all I have to do is hand you my phone and say, “Look, isn’t that awesome?”

It’s a shortcut, really, that ‘gets’ us to our destination–the view–but something gets lost along the way.  You miss the scenery that gets you there, the words that pave the way for the sights and sounds.

Maybe we’d get better at seeing if, instead of grabbing our phone or our camera, we simply used our vision to record the wonderful world we see.  Or better yet, while we are looking, maybe TAKE OFF our glasses, force our busy eyes to relax so we can use our other senses to experience something.

Or close our eyes, recall the sounds, describe the texture, the depth of the color.  
Is the wind rustling the leaves like the washing of waves on some faraway shore?
Do you feel the breeze cool on your body, massaging your skin with the sure fact of Fall’s arrival?
Maybe the tea will taste better, the sweet warmth visiting your mouth with a fragrant wake up call.

Turn off the phone, tune into your senses and tell the world what you see.

Here’s what I saw and heard:
The sky like pink tissue paper, full at the top with impending water, the silhouette of the trees, like some night-time frame.
The quieting chatter of the birds as they slip home to their nests, leave the feeders and hide for the evening in their bushy homes.
The softening sounds of children’s voices, calling out to friends below.
The wide, wide view, Creator-made, to fill me with the joy at his greatness and the gentleness of his voice to me, a friend of His in this wonder-filled world.

Take the time to stop. If it can’t be for an entire Sabbath day, find your Sabbaths in the ‘in-betweens’–30 minutes stolen away to be with your Creator.  
He’s really into Show and Tell.  Promise.
If you want to read my sporadic series of posts about Sabbath on the Page, click here.

Linking with Laura for Playdates and Ms. Kelli at Unforced Rhythms.

The Divine Librarian**, Part 2

It is Week 9 (I think) of the John 15 summer memory/meditation challenge with the Do Not Depart Community and I am SO thankful for the anchor of God’s Word.
We have had relatives in our home for 3 weeks and life has been a little intense.  Part of the reason for the visit was so my sister in law could see how her mother is doing. My husband’s mother lives with us (in her own basement apartment downstairs).  She is 94 and we are grappling with finding assisted living care for her. 
There have been appointments and conversations and lists and paperwork and appointments and answering mom’s questions (the same one) 5 times in the space of 30 minutes.  She needs help with most everything; it is a transition time for all of us, especially my husband.
Hence I have had little time to myself and almost no time whatsoever to sit and write……except for now at 9:46 p.m. on a Sunday.
But God.
As I said, John 15 has been my anchor–God’s word that I need the most right now, encouraging me (telling me) to abide in Jesus ’cause ain’t nowhere else I can go.
Then this, from the pastor this morning, as we continue Ephesians Chapter 3…(a sacred echo of the Holy Spirit’s message to me):
16 May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality].
17 May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts!
May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love” (Amplified)
‘Rooted deep, founded securely, dwelling, abiding, like the wisteria vine on my deck outside, clinging for dear life. Abiding–it’s all I’ve got.
It is enough.