When I was 12 years old, I received a new blue 10-speed bicycle. Having a bike meant my first taste of freedom. Exploring new places in my small town, extending beyond known borders, and speeding as fast my legs would allow gave me a growing sense of independence and adventure.
One day I was biking with some friends on a local business property. They had a high concrete hill that we would speed down, again and again, testing our limits. I began pedaling fast, flying down the hill, but at the bottom, as I swerved to the left, my tires hit gravel and my bike slipped out from under me. Raised in a generation of kids without helmets, I was lucky to come away with only a badly scraped knee.
My knee had to be cleaned and bandaged. Then the bandages came off so that the air could dry it out. I had to stay off of it for several days because my body ached badly. I needed convalescence.
I don’t ride a 10-speed anymore, but my life has become a speeding, boundary-pushing exploration of mothering, my gifts, home-management, and service. Recently the noise, the energy, and the activity became so loud, so fast, pushing me to the extent of my emotional limits. This adventure of raising many children both delighted me and fatigued me.
On one busy Saturday morning as my boys were preparing for their Cub Scout Pinewood Derby, the accumulated energy and noise took my mothering bike out from under me. I had been going faster and harder, and now I had hit the gravel of overload. My husband said, “Are you okay?” And I replied, “My soul feels scraped.”
Where my 12-year-old scraped body needed cleaning, bandaging, air, and rest, my 43-year-old soul needed those things too. I am no longer the child with a mother to tend and nurture my wounds. I am a mother who needs to create space for my Father to tend and nurture my scraped soul.
Retreat creates space for a scraped soul.
We have souls that are exposed, hurting, and in need of care and repair. The gravel and adventure of life have worn away a place in us that needs some healing and time to be made well.
My passion is to help women live simple and sustainable lives so they can live and love well. I have walked through seasons of fatigue, pain, and burnout, and I want to be a kind guide to help women recover their lives. I have found that learning a lifestyle of engagement + retreat is one of the healthiest ways to live holistically so that we can love God and others well.
I have created a small + significant tool to help women recover their lives: a free 5-day email + video series to teach you how to plan + execute a one-woman retreat.
Each day you will receive an encouraging and practical email that explains the art of taking a retreat — a space to rest, to connect with God and yourself again. I will cover the purpose, the place, the plan, the pressure points, and then give you the opportunity to purchase a 20-page PDF guide + more videos to help you go deeper.
I will show you that taking a retreat is important for renewal, planning, healing, or for getting your creative work done and that your money + time constraints don’t need to keep you from building the life-giving rhythm of retreat in your life. I give you ideas for 1/2 day at home or in-town, full day, overnight, or a weekend away and how to make it happen.
Creating Your Own One-Woman Retreat is a gift to you and I pray that it blesses you and equips you for living a whole + holy life. Head over to this page to sign up to receive your first email in the series! My prayer is that your scraped soul will find a place to be tended, nurtured, healed. Amen.
Psalm 23:2-3 (The Message):
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
On Mother’s Day, I stumbled to our front porch rockers to enjoy the cool air and heady fragrances of spring in South Carolina. The birds were chattering, lush green leaves abounding, and a cup of hot Earl Grey tea in my hands. I felt chilled so I grabbed my “Emory & Henry blue blanket” to wrap around my shoulders, and instantly I felt warm and more so, comforted.
This blue blanket was my Dad’s. He received it as a gift from a friend sometime in the 1950s or 60s. When I would get sick or sad as a child or teenager, my dad would go get the blanket and cover me in it, tucking it in all around me. This was a special treat for no one was allowed to grab that blanket on their own.
I went to summer camp one year in Black Mountain, NC. Soon after drop off, I cried and cried, barely stopping to breathe. I can still feel the pain of being separated from my parents and feeling scared of the girls and counselors. The director had to call my mom to come get me.
The next year I was heading to camp again. Maybe this time I could handle it? My dad offered me his treasured blue blanket to pack to keep me warm and comforted. My memories from that summer camp are of the safety and warmth I felt every time I saw the blue blanket on my bed and every time I crawled under it at night.
My daddy died when I was 18. I don’t have very many of his things. I can’t remember how the blue blanket ended up with me, but I hold on to it with gratitude. In years of pain, of pregnancies, of moves, of darkness, in all kinds of trials and bodily sickness, my husband walks to the linen closet, grabs the blue blanket, and covers me, tucking it in around me. He doesn’t offer words or platitudes, only his comfort and presence, a kind smile and this blue offering of safe warmth.
Comfort is hard to come by in our culture. We are a culture of arguments, of strong language, of discomfort with dark feelings. Often the church is no better and sometimes worse, offering the hurting quick prayers, off-the-cuff truths, and challenging our “weak” faith. We make “comforting” part of our Christian duty, the faith to-do list, and drop by the Christian bookstore for an “encouraging” gift.
We don’t understand that to comfort is to offer warmth. Safety. Presence.
Words are barely needed. We need not equate comfort with “fixing” the person, righting their ship, absorbing their pain. I have done this for so long, but my blue blanket is teaching me another way.
As I quietly rocked with the blue blanket wrapped around me, my eyes welled with tears. I felt this deep sense of sadness that I have spent much of my life disconnected from the tactile, sensory experiences of living my faith in my body. Somehow the faith teaching I have absorbed made the realm of the unseen the sole focus, not honoring our humanness, the way we relate to God with our bodies and the sensate ways He relates to us. That was called “the flesh”, and maturity meant not focusing on the seen.
God is gently teaching me an embodied faith. Bread + wine. Beaches + fish. Touch. Washing feet. Seeds. Weeping. Walking. Suffering. Jesus came and connected to God and others in a body. Even still He is in His body.
On that front porch, I realized that God has used that blue blanket to comfort me for most of my life. It was His gift. I didn’t need to mature out of having a blanket or view its worth as infantile, silly, or faithless. God’s fatherly comfort comes to me in both unseen and seen ways. Through foundational truth, an enveloping hug, beautiful art, a stunning sunset, silent prayer, a sandy beach, rapids on a river, a delicious meal.
God made me. In this particular body. I am His design. He provided ongoing love and care, protection and safety with a real, visible, warm and cozy offering. Like good Daddies do. Something I can see, touch, feel. Embodied comfort. A worn blue blanket.
Dear sister, may you find His comfort today in a million little ways, wrapped around you with the warm of the sun, the presence of another, the spray of a shower, the quiet quilt of His gentle care. He is with you, all around you, offering His soft, tender embrace, the Great Comforter of us all.
I am freakishly tired today. I don’t know if it’s my seasonal allergies, the nightmares I had last night, or the cyclical issues with my gut, but I feel like I am walking through mud with weights on my arms and legs.
I have bad habits when I am tired. The more tired I feel, the more I tend to escape into Instagram stories or peruse friends’ photos on Facebook. I want to be anywhere but present in my own fatigue and inability to produce.
I made myself set the phone aside and I opened up the book Wired to Create. I love listening to podcasts and reading books about the creative process and how to build rhythms and practices to enhance creative thought and expression. As made in the image of God, we are all creators. The expressions are unique and diverse, but all of us have creative potential.
According to the authors of Wired to Create, we need creative incubation–“a change of scenery from the rest of our everyday lives that’s relatively free of stimulation and distractions”. This is a space when our minds can daydream, make connections, and see things from a different perspective. Our creative juices begin to flow and our inner lives open up to us as we allow our minds to roam free. We are allowing knowledge to simmer as our unconscious mind takes over and engages in playing with and combining ideas.
This is why many of us say that our best ideas come to us in the shower. When we have the hot water + minimal distractions, our mind is free to wander and often a creative solution will seemingly pop into our heads. This also happens when we take long walks (the beloved practice of many writers, actors, and creatives), doodle or clean the house. After disengaging from focused thought and allowing for some creative incubation, we receive a renewed sense of creative energy, solutions to a problem, or a new way to move forward. Disengaging untangles the mental mess.
As a mother, a writer, homemaker, and educator, creativity is the current that keeps this long road of faithfulness filled with beauty, curiosity, and energy.
When I neglect to view this calling as art, then my journey becomes dull, lifeless, and routine. I have forgotten that life in the home is transcendent, purposeful, and foundational for health. It requires an artist who does the tedious, cyclical daily work but also makes room for wonder, connections, and daydreaming so that the lives of her family are inspired, growing, playful and dynamic.
But here’s the thing: when I am working hard + focused in my home and then hit the wall, my mind empty of good ideas, life-giving practices, and wholesome words, instead of making room for creative incubation to renew the life of my soul and home, I scroll my phone.
We intuitively recognize that our minds need a break from teaching, instructing, writing and administrating, but instead of doing life-giving acts that fuel our creativity and energy, we *think* that scrolling social media will give us those things. And very rarely does it deliver. We usually feel more tired, drained, and emotionally vacant.
Social media and phones and the Internet are amazing and I don’t want life without them. As with most things, it’s the *timing* that is so important. My timing is off. As being wired to create, I need to recognize that as a mother, I am an artist. As an artist, I need creative incubation. Time spent staring out the window, wandering a garden, kicking up dirt on roads, showering without a time limit. Piddling.
Creative incubation will give us fresh energy when we get back to work. This is part of the rhythm of daily engagement and retreat that will help us to live richer, more vibrant lives that inspire our families and the energy in our homes. Feed your soul with great books, interesting podcasts, silence, play, walking, showering, daydreaming. Recognize that the fast pace of social media keeps our minds shallow and doesn’t cultivate deeper, soulful, creative thinking.
My body is still tired right now, but my soul feels energized. Taking the time to put my phone down, to read an interesting, thought-provoking book, to sit with the ideas for 30 minutes, and to write my connections down in this blog has not only lifted my emotional energy but also refocused my vision again on the type of life I want to create in my home.
How will you find some “creative incubation” today? In what spaces do you allow your mind to be at rest, and in doing so, find great ideas and ways of moving forward? You are an artist, creating an atmosphere of learning, life and beauty. Make the space to be a thriving one.