Why You Should Host a Creative Retreat

Four years ago, I got on a plane and headed West. My friend and writing cohort suggested a weekend away to focus on our crafts, and it sounded like exactly the thing I needed to jump start a few projects. That was the birth place of our Creative Retreat.

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Today, Wendy told you how to plan and execute a Creative Retreat. I’d like to piggy back on her words and tell you why you should do it.

There is no substitute for the power of like-mindedness. As females, we crave relationships. Conversation with others is the Yin to our Yang. We thrive on those deep seeded moments of connection.

WendyWhile this is true for all women to some degree, for creative women, relationship is almost like oxygen. As Creatives, we are known to have ALL THE FEELINGS! We see life in a unique way, and by unique I mean totally different from our more realistic, left-brained peers.

Let’s just say we might still believe in unicorns and fairies.

When Creatives come together, the days suddenly feel a little more sparkly. Tuck Creatives away in a beautiful place with inspiring scenery, and a bit of magic happens. Imagination takes flight when a group of creative women comes together, because as we share ALL THE FEELINGS, and we dream the dreams, we see that perhaps this thing that we do, this creating, isn’t such a strange thing after all.

There is comfort to be found in a room full of women who agree that they’ll forgo cleaning the bathroom/kitchen/house in order to write a few more paragraphs, or edit that last batch of photos, or simply read a book. There is beauty seen when we stumble out into the early morning sunlight together because we couldn’t sleep, all the visions and stories calling us out of bed.

A Creative Retreat extends a hand out and says, “You’re not alone. I get you. Let’s do this together.”

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What makes a Creative Retreat?

Wendy gave some excellent tips on what makes up a successful gathering for the creative minds. But more than anything, a Creative Retreat is simply a place where you come together, and you enjoy designated, un-interrupted, guilt-free hours specifically on your craft.

A Creative Retreat is a getaway that allows you not only to escape your day to day home life, but also to escape fully into the gifts that let your soul breath a little bit easier.

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Why Is a Creative Retreat Important?

In the four years since Wendy and I began planning these Creative Retreats, we’ve seen the women who join us grow in their talents. The photographers, both already phenomenal in their own right, have gotten more confident in their abilities, and in their callings. The teacher has found that the time away fills her soul, preparing her to return home to pour back into both her students and her children. The writers have each expanded their reach and platform, and have accomplished project goals.

A Creative Retreat is not only fulfilling to the creative heart, but it also allows you to set and achieve goals. Concentrated time focused solely on your project can yield amazing results.

Three years ago, I wrote 50 pages in my novel in just three days. All I needed was the space and time.

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If you’re a creative who’s looking for space to breath and stretch your creative wings, I would urge you to look for a retreat that you can attend that will meet that need. And if you can’t find one?

Well, head over to Wendy’s blog to see how to start your own.

Happy Friday!

The Battle for Preference

On Sunday night, a woman that most of us never met, but who we felt like we knew, lost her brave battle with cancer. Over the past months, we’ve watched and we’ve cried, and we’ve wished it was different. It’s not supposed to be like this, is it?

Kara Tippets left this world with her family by her side. She faced her suffering head on, and she welcomed all of us into it. We watched, and we silently wondered how we would respond if her story were our own. 

Would we hide, run, leave on our own terms, or would we, too, show the world what it means to die well?

Cancer sucks. There isn’t a nicer way to say it. It is a nasty, unforgiving disease. Cancer doesn’t care if you’re a 68 year old grandfather of eight, thirty-eight year old mother of four, or a twenty-nine year old newly married with the future at your fingertips. Cancer is the great equalizer. It’s ugly, and the suffering that comes from this disease is cruel and devastating.

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On Sunday morning, before I learned of Kara’s death, I sat in a room at church while my husband taught on the topic of dying well. Our pastor had just eloquently covered the topic, and Lee was asking the follow up questions. When he got to 2 Corinthians 5:8  everything in my flesh screamed out.

“…we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord.”

It was Lee’s statement following the reading of that verse that gave me pause. “Of course, we prefer heaven,” he said, and I shook my head.

“Do I have to?” I asked. I’m known to play devil’s advocate on occasion when he teaches. I can ask the hard questions, because I’m the one sleeping with the teacher. It gives me a little license to push.

“What do you mean?” he asked me.

“Do I have to prefer heaven? I mean, do I have to? Because I’m not sure I do. Not right now.”

The room grew silent, and I wondered if maybe I’d said too much. Maybe I’m wrong. I should prefer heaven, right? I should prefer to be absent from this broken world where pretty young women die and leave loving husbands and young children. I should prefer to be with the ones I love who’ve gone before me. And I do look forward to that. The prospect of heaven brings comfort and excitement.

But right now? In this moment, do I prefer it?

I don’t know. Because what I’ve got is pretty good. Maybe it’s too good. Perhaps this life I live is too comfortable. Maybe the suffering isn’t great enough. Maybe my surroundings are too Western, so easy that they make the prospect of heaven seem like a punishment rather than a reward.

Truthfully, if I had my choice, I’d choose to be raptured. I’d choose to enter heaven’s gates with my family by my side. I’d happily choose heaven over earth if it didn’t mean I had to leave people behind.

But I don’t get to choose.

And neither did Kara Tippetts. A few weeks ago, a short documentary was released in which Kara offered a most poignant statement. “I feel like I’m a little girl at the party whose dad’s asking her to leave early, and I’m throwing a fit. I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to go.”

What Kara understood better than I can understand is that a preference for heaven, and a desire to remain in the flesh, are not mutually exclusive. We can feel both at the same time.

I believe with all of my heart that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phillipians 1:21) What waits for us is the presence of God Himself – the full Glory of our Savior revealed. It’s better there. I know that it is.

But leaving means heartache for those who remain. Is God sufficient to care for, and minister to, the loved ones left behind? Yes. He is more than able to hold them in their grief, and walk them through their own suffering. But I don’t want my children to face that fire.

So do I prefer heaven? Yes. I prefer it someday. But to just out loud claim to prefer heaven? Right now? That’s my very real struggle. 

Am I the only one?

What To Do When Life Leaves You Weary

I am not a curse word kind of girl. I know that there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, some would actually laud that as a good thing, and it is. I’ve told my kids that curse words are really just lazy words. We can always find a better word to describe how we’re feeling without dropping a four letter word.

Unless we can’t.

A few nights ago, Annika woke up at 12:30. I had been asleep for about an hour and a half when she woke, and my sleep was good. It was that heavy, REM-style sleep that makes you feel kind of magical.

I was tired down to my bones, so when she woke up in a full out scream, I leapt from bed, heart racing, and the first word out of my mouth was a lazy, four-letter word. So unlike me, but in the moment I could think of nothing else to say. And after my heart stopped racing, I fed her and got her back to bed only to hear Lee chuckling beside me.

“That was funny,” he laughed in the darkness.

I was too tired to elbow him in the chin.

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Knee-jerk reactions tend to bring out the worst in all of us, don’t they? When we’re surprised or frightened or quickly angered, we find ourselves reacting in a way that may be atypical to our normal operating behavior. When I put Annika to bed that night, I planned for her to sleep all night. I didn’t plan on her scooting into the corner of her bed, bumping her head, and waking herself up in a wail.

What do we do when life doesn’t go quite as planned? How do we react? My vocabulary indiscretion is a lighthearted example, but all of us can point to moments in our daily lives that leave us weary, exasperated…perhaps a little loose-tongued?

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It’s exhausting being mom. It’s exhausting hearing how exhausting it is being mom, as I right? But the good news is there is Hope. There’s hope for all of us, and that Hope is alive even at one in the morning when the baby won’t stop crying.

That Hope is alive when the children threaten to tear one another’s eyes out. (Well, Hope and the belief that someday they will grow up and maybe be friends again…or at least be tolerable to one another.)

That Hope is alive when the dinner burns, the car breaks down, and the schedules require one person to accomplish the tasks of six.

Even more – Hope is alive when life doesn’t go as you planned. And this…this is the true beauty of Hope.

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It’s been two and a half months since we said our final goodbyes to my father-in-law. As the days stretch into weeks, we’ve begun to really gnaw on the permanence of death, and there have been moments when we wished with everything we had that the outcome of his cancer battle had been different.

But then I think of Herb standing at the foot of his Savior, and I remember that if he were asked to return, he wouldn’t want to, and really I wouldn’t ever ask him. Because in that trust I find so much Hope.

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There are so many moments in life that make us feel hopeless. The swell of our days rushes over like a tide, and we’re left out of breath, frustrated, and utterly, completely spent.

But Hope.

If you’re bogged down by the mire of your days, feeling hopeless to dig out from under the rush of routine, of anger, of disappointment, of grief, of simply feeling overwhelmed, then I encourage you to pick up the book Hope for the Weary Mom. 

There is so much grace and truth sprinkled throughout this book. It’s like a breath of fresh air in a smoky room. Each page is filled with nuggets of wisdom and peace that you can tuck into your heart, saving them for the moments when life gets to be a little too much.

(And maybe these truths will spill out of your mouths my mouth in times of frustration instead of those pesky four letter words.)

Purchase your copy of Hope for the Weary Mom today and Choose Hope.

Happy weekend, friends!

The Slacker’s Guide to Essential Oils

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Right around this time last year, I was suffering from the side effects of the first trimester. I was tired, crabby, nauseous, and I had a terrible cold that I couldn’t medicate because of the pregnancy.

In short, I was miserable.

It was the perfect time to give Essential Oils a try. I signed up tentatively as an Independent Product Consultant, not so much to build a business, but rather to get the oils at a discount. But I’ll be honest – I was a total skeptic.

While I do see the value in treating our bodies holistically as often as possible, I also see the value in taking medication when necessary.

When I started using EO’s, I stuck with the three basics: Lavender, Lemon and Peppermint. Those are like the musical chords G, C, D – they can be combined in any variety of manner to make a song (or make you feel better).

As time went on, I branched out a bit. I got Wild Orange because it just sounded yummy, and On Guard for the health benefits it provided. And from there my collection slowly began to build.

I can now say that I use a variety of oils every single day, but I’m still not what you might call a die hard. I fall more into the moderate camp these days. I do not believe that oils will heal every ailment that afflicts us. Do they help? Yes. Sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.

But I don’t use them for everything.

For example, oils do nothing for my migraines. I’ve tried every combination imaginable, and when my head feels like it’s splitting in two the only cure is a hefty dose of Ibuprofen. It is what it is.

So with that lengthy thorough introduction, I hereby give you my Slacker’s Guide to Essential Oils

1.) Find the oils you like and stick with them

It’s okay if you prefer to use the same oils over and over. When I was pregnant, I used a few different oils than I do now, and I do believe they were effective. Let’s just say that I delivered an 8 pound baby without a single tear, and I’m fully convinced it was because of the oils I used.

I also firmly believe that my liberal use of On Guard after Landon had the stomach flu is the reason that no one else ended up with the bug. And when Annika was sick with a cold, I applied On Guard, Breathe, and Lavender multiple times a day, and she cleared up within two days.

Those instances alone made me a believer.

2.) Be wise with when and how you use the oils

Do your research before you start ingesting or applying oils on yourself or your family members. Make sure you’re using them safely and effectively. They seem harmless enough, but if not used properly they can cause some damage.

Some oils are “hot,” meaning they should be diluted before applying to the skin, especially for young children. Know which oils are safe for kids, and which should be avoided, and if you’re pregnant talk with your doctor or midwife before you begin using oils.

3.) Use good judgement

Essential Oils aren’t good for every single ailment or occasion, despite what some people may try to tell you. Use good judgment to know when you need to take medicine, and let your oils support the medications in those cases.

4.) It’s Okay

If you only want to use EO’s sparingly, that is okay. You don’t have to get caught up in the world of using them at all times for all things. For me, it’s just not possible to keep up with all of that. I use the ones that are the most convenient for me and my family. And I don’t even use them all the time, because I forget.

This is why I’m a slacker.

In the end, I do think that Essential Oils are a worthy investment. The more that we can treat our bodies naturally, the better, and using oils which have been used to treat and heal illnesses for thousands of years makes perfect holistic sense.

In addition to the health benefits, you’ll find that oils have the potential to lift your mood, help you sleep better, improve your complexion, and they make your house smell yummy.

So even a slacker can win with Essential Oils.

(If you want to know how to get Essential Oils at a discount, let me know and I can get you some information!)

 

A List of my Top Ten Essential Oils:

Lavender:

Good for relaxation and mood calming

Melaleuca:

Excellent for the skin – I use it every day. Can also be added to shampoo to prevent lice (kind of a big deal if you have small children.)

Frankincense:

Also great for your skin (although I don’t care for the smell). This oil is known for its cellular renewal properties. Lee drinks a glass of water with a couple of drops of Frank every day.

On Guard:

Excellent for obliterating germs. Has been scientifically proven to kill even the MRSA virus. Can be rubbed on the body, ingest or defused. And it smells delicious!

Peppermint:

Smells good and opens up the sinuses. Can help with headaches, and is an energy booster.

Wild Orange:

Just yum. I put a few drops in my water for flavor, and it’s an energy booster. I love defusing Wild Orange and On Guard together. They make my house smell fabulous. (Tip: Put two drops each of Wild Orange, Frankincense, and Peppermint in your hands and rub them together, then inhale deep. It opens up your sinuses, and gives a huge boost of energy).

Deep Blue:

A necessity if you have athletes in your house. Really helps with muscle soreness.

Breathe:

Excellent for when you’re stuffed up. It’s the purest mentholated rub you can put on your skin, and it helps to defuse in the room of a sick kiddo.

Lemon:

Great health benefits. Helps with weight loss. Can be used in cooking, or in drinks. Refreshing and light.

Slim and Sassy:

This oil is beneficial to weight loss as it helps curb your appetite. And it tastes good! (Like cinnamon!)

The Stories They’ll Remember

We are coming down off the mountain of Spring Break this week. It’s been a truly lovely week together as a family, and I’m grateful for every moment of it.

I’m also grateful for the return of our routine.

One of the things Lee and I are working on is living life with intentionality. We have a lot of goals for our family – things we’d like to do and experience with the kids while they’re all living under our roof.

Unfortunately, neither one of us are planners, so we tend to fly by the seat of our pants more often than not, and life is screaming forward full speed ahead. I’m starting to feel like we’re going to miss it.

We have eight summer vacations left before Sloan goes to college.

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Just typing that makes my heart nearly burst with trepidation. I don’t want to miss a single opportunity to make memories with my kids, because the time is so short, and it goes by so quickly.

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So we made a plan this year for Spring Break. Rather than sit around the house and kill brain cells watching the Disney Channel, we booked a few nights away in St. Augustine.

We ate too much, laughed a lot, broke up fights (apparently vacation is not a magic formula for keeping the smaller people from tearing each other’s eyes out), and simply enjoyed being together as a family.

And now it’s time to go back to school.

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Vacation is fun, but so is routine. The return of routine is necessary to maintaining the peace and order inside the home. In the absence of routine, the natives become restless. And in the presence of all that togetherness, restlessness leads to mutiny.

I always have these fantastical ideas of what family together time should look like. And, indeed, most of the time our togetherness truly is fantastical. This past week, despite the arguments and the little sleep, we had a grand time. But was it fantastical all the time? Well, if you follow me on Facebook, you might think it was. But the truth?

All that togetherness was actually exhausting. It was a happy, poured out sort of exhaustion.

I returned home from St. Augustine feeling tired in a way that words can’t really describe. It was a down deep in my bones sort of tired; an I’m-gonna-need-you-people-to-give-me-some-space sort of fatigue.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t take pictures of those crazy moments when taking a family vacation seemed like a bad idea. I’m not going to take and post a picture of my children having a knock down, drag out fight. I won’t post video of the multiple times Annika woke through the night because the room was cold, and the Pack ‘n Play uncomfortable.

I don’t talk openly about the rickety pull out couch I had to sleep on so I could be near the baby, while Lee had to try to sleep with a child who flails violently when she slumbers.

And I definitely didn’t photograph the moment a glass got broken in the hotel room because people were fighting…again.

Those things happened. The few days were exhausting. But the fun outweighed the challenges. There was more laughter than there were tears. We were happy to be in one another’s presence more than we weren’t.

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That’s what it’s like being part of a family. You love one another fully in the fun times. You tolerate one another in the challenging times. And you document the smiles and the laughter, so at the end of the day when those children leave the house and head to college, they can look back on the photos and remember the good times above all else.

Unless they read this blog post, the kids probably won’t remember the broken glass, the tears of fatigue, or that moment when one of them climbed on top of the wall at the top of the Castillo de San Marcos, and I yelled in horror for him to get down prompting tears of embarrassment for yelling in front of all those people.

(Sorry again, kiddo. Mom panicked when she pictured you plummeting over the side to your death. Some day you’ll understand.)

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With any luck, our kids will look back on Spring Break 2015 and they will remember only the laughter. It will have been the best, greatest, most fun time we’ve had as a family. Because that’s the story that the pictures tell.

The photos document the majority, and they shape the memories. Through them all the stress of family trips will fade away, leaving the good times highlighted.

This is part of intentional living.