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!

That Still, Small Voice

One of the best things about teaching Elementary School as a substitute teacher is hanging out with second graders (my favorite grade–innocent, love their teachers, AND they can usually tie their shoes).

The other thing about Second Grade is that every February pretty much every teacher talks about penguins.  Were it not for this exposure to the subject, I would not be aware of the fact there are 17 different species of penguins in the world.

Seventeen. Each one is a remarkable display of God’s creativity–from fin size to breeding habits to habitat.  Penguins are amazing creatures.

Because of the documentary ‘March of the Penguins’, a life cycle depiction of the Emperor Penguin of Antarctica, I learned something about the roles of the parents in raising their offspring. Mothers and fathers raise their chicks together, keeping them warm, fetching food from far out in the ocean and returning.

This food gathering process is what astonished me. In a colony of thousands upon thousands of penguins, when the mother returns with the food, she can hear her chick’s voice above all the others. 

She can distinguish its cry in a crowd of wall to wall black and white, fur-finned squawking creatures.
No matter how many other sounds of despair or distress she hears around her, she hones in on the one that is hers.
I feel like I’ve been drowning in a sea of voices lately.
Facebook threads and Twitter feeds with information and input and overload, opinions large and small on the state of the world.
Blog posts from far and wide with heartfelt sentiments spread across the page.

They’re not bad. They’re not all good. There are just too many.

I want to get back to listening for that still, small voice of Jesus, to bend in close and hear what He is saying and what He wants me to say to you.

If it’s not beautiful or encouraging or uplifting…….well, I’ll keep it to myself.

So–I’m going to pull back from posting, lessen the pressure (self-imposed) of coming up with something each week to say (because I always have something to say.)
Instead, I want to focus on whatever is true, beautiful, noble and of good report.

And it might take me awhile to figure that out.

But whatever Jesus gives me is yours.  As soon as I hear His voice.
Linking with Kelly for the Small Wonder link up

Writer’s Retreat–Take Deux

Last month, I issued an invitation to a Christian Writer’s retreat–‘Abide’– that my friend Kimberlee Ireton and I are planning in lovely Leavenworth, Washington, the third weekend of October.
First of all, I want to say thank you for your enthusiastic response! I am so grateful and, frankly, floored that so many people are interested.
We have fielded a number of questions about details, so for those of you who want to know what to expect, here is a preliminary schedule:
FRIDAY Oct. 16th
4:30-5:30 Arrival & Check-in
5:30 p.m. DINNER
7:00 p.m.-8 ish
Welcome, Worship & Gathering Time
Kimberlee and I will go over the vision and schedule for the weekend along with any logistical details you need to know about Grunewald’s expectations of us while we’re there.
I will be leading us in a time of singing and worship. 
Kimberlee will lead us in a time of lectio divina on John 15, our Scripture passage for the weekend. If you’re a writer and you’re not familiar with lectio, you’re going to love it. I am a writer but know NOTHING about Lectio Divina…I’m looking forward to being stretched
9:00  Coffee, Tea, Chit Chat
9:30 p.m. Quiet hours begin
SATURDAY Oct. 17th
8:30 a.m. BREAKFAST
9:30 a.m. Worship
10:00 a.m. Small Groups/Breakout Sessions
We’ll divide into two smaller groups. I will be facilitating a workshop on Writing as a Spiritual Practice.
Kimberlee will be facilitating a workshop on Playing with Words.
11:00 a.m. FREE TIME to read, write, retreat, hike, play, rest
12:30 p.m. LUNCH
1:30 p.m. Small Groups/Breakout Sessions
This time the group that was with Kimberlee in the morning will come with me for Writing as a Spiritual Practice, 
and the group that was with me in the morning will go with Kimberlee to engage in word play.
2:30 p.m.  More free time to do whatever seems most restful to you
There will be an Art Space available, and a group art project that I will be coordinating. But this is totally optional. (more details later).
5:30 p.m. DINNER
7:00 p.m. Worship & Gathering Time
I will facilitate some poetry writing. Don’t freak out. We’ll be using a pantoum form, which makes it almost impossible to not write something lovely. And you won’t have to share if you don’t want to. I will walk you through the process. It’ll be fun. Trust me.**
8:30 p.m. Tea and Chit-chat
9:30 p.m. Quiet hours begin
SUNDAY Oct. 18th
8:00-9:30 a.m. Pack Cars & Clean Up
9:30 a.m. BRUNCH
10:00 a.m. Worship/Group Sharing
We may have a Morning Prayer service. We may have communion. We may have both. We’ll see how it unfolds. (Sharing is completely optional.)
12:00 p.m. Retreat Ends
All this goodness, including your room and five meals, for only $229
(Through the end of the month; the price goes up to $249 on June 1.) 
You can pay $100 now to hold your spot (balance due August 15th). Single room prices are a possibility, also.
All you have to do to be part of it is send me an email with your name, mailing address, email address, phone number (and whether we can text you at that number), and web address or blog (if you have one). I’ll send you back my address for mailing payment.
But don’t wait too long. Spots are filling up. 
The price is going up. So you want to be signing up!
** (If you’d like to more about the pantoum form, read here. Kimberlee’s pantoum is here.)

Sharing a Little Dream–Writer’s Retreat

A Retreat for Women Writers of Faith

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing… You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will remain.”                                                   –John 15

When I first met my friend Kimberlee she had just returned from a writer’s retreat in Texas.  While we drank tea and ate sandwiches, she began to share a vision with me about a smaller, more intimate, restful kind of true writer’s retreat. You know what, it might look like if SHE were in charge.

God had been stirring a desire in my heart for the very same thing, but I held onto my Big Idea for awhile. I wanted to give it time…was this really you, God?

Then last summer I popped the question–What if? What if we did just that–started small and created a quiet, relaxed retreat for women writers? Provided space to write and rest, to pray and worship, to connect at a heart level with other like-minded creatives, and to enjoy the beauty of the natural world.  

And most of all, what if we allowed the space–physically and spiritually–to tune into what the Holy Spirit might be speaking into our lives?

In October, we will be heading into the Cascade Mountains for a weekend at Grunewald Guild, a retreat center outside Leavenworth, Washington. We have room for 17 other women to come with us, and I would absolutely love it if one of those women was you.

We’ll be meeting from Friday, October 16th at 4 pm till Sunday, October 18th at noon
at the Grunewald Guild. (You can check out their website to see photos of the campus and the rooms: Grunewald Guild.)

Many times the words of John 15 are are hard to believe, especially when we don’t see the fruit we want to see. In such moments it is easy to shrivel up inside ourselves and our disappointment and pain. Instead, we need to keep clinging to the vine —because God is infinite possibility, and only by abiding in Him can we also dwell in possibility.

Over the weekend we’ll ponder this, reflect on ways to abide in Christ, worship together, share stories, write, make art, laugh, cry, and rest.

Kimberlee and I will be leading some small groups—very small, there will only be 24 of us altogether—modeling various writing practices. We look forward during this time to having other people share as God leads as well.

The cost for the weekend (room, board, art supplies) is $229.00.
$100.00 is required to reserve your spot.  

If you have questions or want more information about the retreat, please don’t hesitate to ask! Just shoot me an email back, and I will happily answer your questions.

Will you please prayerfully consider coming? I would dearly love to have you there.
A note about Kimberlee—she lives in Seattle, is a writer and blogger, mom of four and has a wicked sense of humor.
Her two books are ‘Circle of Seasons—finding God in the Church Year’ and ‘Cracking Up—A Postpartum Faith Crisis’. Her website is http://www.kimberleeconwayireton.net/

Linking with Kelly and the Small Wonder Community.

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.