Writing & Retreats, Accompanied by Angels

 Sometimes a big idea starts as a small nudge, a whisper you might ignore for the wildness of it all. You carry the dream of an idea around and wonder if someone else is hearing it, too. Then one day you jump in and ask, “Do you have a moment or two to talk about well, Something?”      
     And you make a date at the park, the one where the air show is practicing (’cause you forget when you pick the location that’s it’s August and the Blue Angels are in town) but you picnic anyway.
     And over tuna and chips you blurt out your “what would you think about????” to your bosom friend and she practically shouts (because of all that noise–remember the jets?), “Yes. I’ve been thinking that, too!!”
      And you spill out your thoughts, scribbling fast on paper (because she has four children to manage–all you had to remember was your lunch and your journal) and the dream starts to take shape.What if we did something different? Not to go against the stream, but create our own current?
     What if we found a quiet place for writing and retreating and relationships where women of faith could be encouraged to live into their gifts as Jesus grows in them?
     What if, instead of all the ‘how-to’s we gave away what we know–and Who we know–and wove that into 3 days of writing and listening and practice–and REST?                              
     What would that look like?  What would we call it?  You dub it ‘Abide’ and now that it’s named, it’s really happening….and oh….Jesus, we expect you to show up, big time.
     You find the Holy Spirit had been speaking to you both—for many, many months–about the same word–Abide. Through the same Scripture passages–John 15.  And you talk about what that might look like–a session on Lectio Divina (a phrase you’ve never heard but want to know more about) and maybe practicing poetry–even pantoums.
     And you share your passion about Writing as a Spiritual Practice–just listening to Jesus in the woods with your journal and pen and some questions.
     Then you plan and you pay and pray and you meet and over many more lunches (noisy ones, there’s all these kids…) and you cry for the connection and the peace that God is bringing with the little band of 12 women God has put together.
     Then you ask for someone to help you lead the worship and one of the attendees is a stellar guitar player and you practice (more than once) and the glory comes down like a kiss from Heaven that says, “Yes!” again.

And you know Jesus is up to something. 
Something big. As big as the sky with the angels above the trees in the blue you can’t see the end of.

And you thank God for your friend Kimberlee.
And you tremble in your boots at the big God that whispered the nudge
in all it’s wild goodness.
And you fly.
After eighteen months of prayer and planning, 
my friend Kimberlee Conway Ireton and I are heading over to the 
Cascade Mountains in Washington this weekend to scope out the setting for ABIDE.
This is our first writer’s retreat for women of faith,
a place of rest and relationship,
borne of a little dream from our big God.
You’ll come? 

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 Dream–‘Abide’ 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/

Book Launch Week! "Cracking Up"–KImberlee Conway Ireton

I have had the pleasure of knowing Kimberlee Conway Ireton for about a year.  Like in person. 

When I began blogging and discovered another Christian online writer 30 minutes away in Seattle, I boldly contacted her and invited myself to her home for a visit.  Kimberlee had written The Circle of Seasons, a book about the church year and I was interested in all of it. The ‘Circle’ book is a walk through the observances of each season in the church calendar—Advent, Lent, and so on into Ordinary Time.  The practices were all new to me and my heart soaked it in.
When ‘Circle’ came out Kimberlee already two kids and her husband told her he wanted another one.  All she wanted to do was get back to work on a young adult novel swimming around in her head (and maybe catch up on her sleep.)  As God would have it, she did become pregnant.  With twins.

Ben and Luke Ireton

When we met the first time, the twins were about 18 months old.  She told me she was writing a new book, but this time it would be about post partum depression.  As Kimberlee and I kept in touch throughout the year I heard about the process and the soon delivery of this new book.

I have personally met many women in the church who have struggled with this and sad to say, the body of Christ has not responded well.  “Cracking Up” would be an important book on a very necessary topic for all women, especially believers.
Once again I arranged for a visit to see Kimberlee, hug her, pray for and encourage her. Several weeks ago we enjoyed tea, I took pictures and we chatted about the birth of the newest book, ‘Cracking Up: a Postpartum Faith Crisis’.
How did you feel when you found out you were going to have twins?
“Let’s just say it’s a good thing I was lying down! It felt completely surreal. But you’ll have to read the book to find out all the juicy details.”
What was the biggest change in your life once the twins were born?
“Oh man. There were so many. I think the rampant anxiety was the biggest change. I’ve always had an anxious temperament, but this was unlike anything I’d ever known. It started gradually enough, but after seven or eight months of sleeping in one- or two-hour snatches, I was pretty mentally ill. I say that sort of in jest, but it’s true, too. Anxiety isn’t just “in your head.” For me, it was a full-body experience. I thought I was dying, which makes me laugh now, but at the time felt wholly believable, even true.”
What’s your biggest disappointment in having twins?
“The utter lack of personal space. I am a pretty strong introvert, and while having cuddly and super-attached babies (or, now, toddlers) has its compensations, it’s also exhausting to be constantly with other people. Most days I don’t even get to go to the bathroom by myself. Or, if I do, I have to listen to wailing on the other side of the door. But I don’t think that’s exclusive to twins. I seem to recall similar situations with my singletons. And you get used to it. I wouldn’t trade my four for anything in the world, not even a bestselling book. And that’s saying something.”
What would you say to someone with postpartum depression?
“Call your doctor. Tell him or her what you’re experiencing. Untreated, postpartum depression can escalate into a full-blown depressive disorder. You may even want to harm yourself or your children. So get medical help. If you’re part of a church community that doesn’t take mental illness seriously (and sadly, there are many, though I hope that’s changing), don’t let them stop you from getting the help you need, whether that’s counseling or medication or some combination thereof. Your baby needs you to be well. Youneed you to be well. Get medical help.”
What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
“It varies from person to person, but if you feel anxious or afraid, if you cry a lot, if you have trouble bonding with your baby, if you’re not sleeping even when you can, if you don’t feel like eating, if your moods swing all over the place—all of these are symptoms of PPD. While these can simply be normal postpartum experiences, if you have several of them and they last more than a week or two, get help. Don’t wait like I did till the darkness takes over your mind.”
How did your church community support you?
“Oh my. How didn’t they support me? They delivered meals three or four times a week for almost seven months—from the time I was put on modified bed rest at 33 weeks until the boys were six months old. A woman from my church, Melody, came every Tuesday for four or five months to help me; she made dinner, cleaned my floors, helped me bathe my babies, took my older kids to the park. Two women, on a couple of different occasions, spent the night on my sofa and took nighttime feedings so Doug could sleep all night and so I could just pump milk and go back to sleep instead of having to stay up for hours with fussy, squalling babies. God bless them!”
(And the most important question)
How can churches come alongside new moms to help them?
“Make and deliver meals—one for the fridge and one for the freezer is ideal. Put together a cleaning crew and clean her house. She doesn’t have time or energy to keep the floors and the bathroom clean. Do it for her. If she has older kids, take them to a neighborhood park so she can nap when the baby does.
Be gentle and respectful, of course, but in general, women who are postpartum don’t have the energy to know what they need let alone what they want—they probably don’t know themselves. For me, when the darkness got really dark, I just wanted to not be alone, so friends from church came every day just to keep me company, to keep me from living too much in my (sick) head.”

What’s up with the faith crisis of your subtitle?
“Yeah, that’s an interesting question. (The milquetoast version was, “The Year of Tea and Jesus”, but that didn’t convey my thoughts well.)  Anyway, I had the privilege of riding to Laity Lodge(a Christian writer’s retreat in Texas) last fall in the same car with John Medina, the neuroscientist, and I asked him the same thing: Why was it so hard to believe in God? He couldn’t answer that question exactly, but he said it’s not uncommon for depressed people to find their faith seems to darken with their minds. Why this should be so, that my faith would seem to flee when I most needed it, I don’t know.

What I do know is this: my faith only seemed to flee. I had it still, even in the dark, and what is more, God had me.”


Friends, if you know a new mom or a mom who is feeling overwhelmed or struggling with depression, get her this book. 
(help get the word out?  we’d be grateful if you’d repost this or Tweet it. 
Thank you!)
Linking with Miss Emily over at Imperfect Prose


A Circle of Seasons–Book Review

Halloween has come and gone, the elections are settled. Now it’s begun–the Holiday Season is officially upon us.

How do I know?  Because Advent officially starts on November 25th this year.

I had never before paid attention to the idea of Advent until I met Kimberlee Conway Ireton.

Kimberlee is a lovely Christian author and speaker who also happens to live in Seattle–a rare and blessed thing. We connected online and set a time to meet a few weeks back.  When we got together (in between playing on the floor with her children and drinking tea) she shared her book with me– The Circle of Season Meeting God in the Church Year.
The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year

I’ve been chewing on little morsels of its pages ever since.

Preparing for or even thinking about Advent is an all-new process for me.  You see, I don’t do Advent. Although the liturgies of the church calendar have not been part of my worship tradition, I’ve participated in the observances in other churches and have been very moved by them. This new way of marking time makes so much sense, for “all time is sacred because God is present in it.” (from the Introduction, p.13).

             “ As with much of Christianity,
the church year can be radically countercultural,
a much-needed light showing a better way to live. 
In a culture that is too often hurried and distracted,
the church year helps us pay attention
because it draws our focus continually back to Christ.” (p. 16)

In light of focusing continually on Christ I am finishing Chapter One–Advent, A Season of Waiting. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas–this year it is November 25th. (To remind us once more).

Advent is a slow build of anticipation to the celebration of Christ’s birth.  As the outside seasons slowly turn rather than ‘click’ from Summer to Fall with the snap of a finger, so this time of pondering helps us prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ.

I’m learning the days are not just numbers to check off on a calendar.  They can be filled with rich meaning and purpose. Each Sunday focuses on a word–Wait, Prepare, Rejoice and Love. These are observed by lighting a candle, either pink (joy), purple (the color of repentance) or blue (hope).


The Sunday words of Advent:

  • In Hebrew, the word for ‘WAIT’ is also the word for hope. We are hoping while we wait.
  • To ‘PREPARE’ is to be mindful of–pay attention to, be on guard
  • When we ‘REJOICE’ we can be ‘joyfully aware of the presence of God in our lives’
  • When we remember the fourth Sunday, ‘LOVE’, we are ‘gathered around a promise’ (Henri Nouwen)

From the first chapter alone I can tell I want to read more as Kimberlee has already provided morsel after morsel of rich food for thought. Whether you are new to the church year traditions as I am, or have practiced them forever, you’ll perhaps find a thought shared in a new way or an idea you’d never considered.

Kimberlee also provides some practical ideas at the end of each chapter, giving suggestions of things you might do in your own home that involve young children. How to incorporate the Advent candle lighting into your family’s time is shared in a precious way. These are precious reminders of how to teach the next generation, too, these treasures of the season, in one circle after another.

One thought from Kimberlee,

“The coming of Christ into our midst requires that we rethink our desires and that we learn to hold them lightly, allowing the desire of God to supplant –or increase–our own desires.” (p. 21). 

Increasing my desire for God is one I hold dearly, the particular reason why this #cluelessEvangelical is looking forward to learning more about the Church Year liturgies and traditions. Circle of Seasons is the perfect primer for that~I hope you’ll find it as well.

*header image by Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash