Three years ago today, my feet were caked with the red dirt of Tanzania. On May 7, 2012, I wrote this post and it is still, to this day, my most shared post. It’s been read thousands of times over the last three years, and of course it has because the message is universal.
People need Hope. They crave and long to know that Hope is alive, and indeed it really is.
As we ambled back up the rutted dirt path it finally happened. I knew the emotions would take over at some point, but I honestly didn’t expect to be so overwhelmed my second day here. On both sides, children scrambled about watching us with bold curiosity.
“How do you handle seeing this all the time?” I asked Shaun as we stepped gingerly over a stream of muddy water flowing through the red soil. My throat burned and eyes watered as the images of the family we just visited ran through my mind. It wasn’t the condition of their home that left me so affected, though the small, concrete structure that housed two adults and nine children did leave me a bit shocked.
The situation this family lives in is dire in more ways than just physical. There was a hollow emptiness in the eyes of the mother that struck me. A desperation in the grandmother’s voice that tore through me. Abandoned and alone, these women now work only when they can and pray for daily bread in the most literal sense.
Currently, two of this young mother’s five children are being served by Compassion – twins, Doto and Kuluwa. One is sponsored, the other is still waiting. They were all quiet, eyes downcast, shy. When asked what she hopes for her children, this mother replies, “I hope that they can grow up and do business so that they can take care of me.”
Doto is sponsored. Her twin brother, Kuluwa is not.
I left this home with a quivering chin. “How do you see this all the time and not feel overwhelmed?” I asked. “It just all seems so much, like it’s impossible to ever meet all the needs.”
They didn’t have running water, and they lived on SPAM. To this day, my mom can’t look at a can of that stuff without gagging. It was hot and dusty, and the kids were constantly sick.
My grandparents finally came to a point where they knew their older children needed better schooling, so they made the decision to send them back to the States to boarding school. My mom and her uncle were ten and twelve at the time, and as summer drew to a close, the departure date closed in on them.
The problem was they didn’t know exactly when they would depart.
They kept their packed suitcases at the ready next to the door, and each day my granddad kept an eye out for landing planes. If someone happened to arrive on the dusty landing strip in South Caicos, where they lived, Poppy Jim would ask them where they were headed next.
If the answer was Miami, he asked if they had room for two children.
And so it was that my mom and her brother returned to the States each year at summer’s end – in the back of a stranger’s small plane, flying over crystal blue waters with the promise that they’d get word to their parents when they’d safely arrived.
My dad grew up in the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee. The son of a hard working father, my dad started working at age 14. He met my mom at 18, and married her when he was only 19, then worked full time and put himself through college.
So it’s not a surprise that my parents, both of whom lived quite independently at young ages, have raised a daughter who craves independence, and thrives on a bit of adventure. And though I baffle my husband at times, I’ve been blessed to marry a man who recognizes my need to explore, and gives me the freedom to do so.
I sometimes feel like I need travel almost as much as I need oxygen. If I go too long without some sort of adventure, I get antsy and start talking nonsense about maybe redecorating the house all by myself, or training to run a marathon, or some other ridiculous proposition that runs completely contrary to my nature.
This is when Lee knows it’s time to get me out of the house.
Last week, Lee came home and said that he heard he needed to travel to Germany for work. After I got my heart rate to slow down a little and my palms quit sweating, I asked if the kids and I could go with him. My parents are living in Munich right now, so it seemed the perfect time to take a new adventure across the ocean. And my sweet husband, who is generally NOT known for his spontaneity, SAID YES.
Thus began three days of intense research. Could we do this? Could we pull this off? Could I manage to get Annika an expedited passport, secure decent flights, and plan a trip for six people to Germany in only 17 days?
The answer is, yes I could. But it wasn’t going to be smart.
We would have only had a week in Germany, and with Lee working most of that time, it would have been just me and the kids with my parents. My young, jet lagged kids. It sounded equal parts SO FUN and a total nightmare. And also? Lee would have missed the kids experiencing Europe for the first time, and where’s the fun in that?!
So I blinked back tears and decided that this just wasn’t the time for us to join him.
Then my mom called.
“Hey. I found a really cheap ticket from Munich to Tampa, and I could really use a couple of weeks at home. Why don’t you come to Germany with Lee and I’ll stay with the kids.”
Two weeks from today, I will land in Germany. Lee and I will fly to different parts of the country so he can work and I can spend some time with dad. But Lee will join dad and I in Munich on the weekend, and we’ll enjoy several days of exploring together.
I’m so grateful for a husband who recognizes my need for exploration and adventure. I’m so thankful for a mom who loves her grandchildren so much she’d fly thousands of miles so she could stay with them and give me a special time away. I’m so thrilled I get to experience Munich with my dad.
There is something romantic and exciting about living life spontaneously. Obviously, when you have children a certain amount of predictability and schedule is necessary to function. But if someone came along and offered us a job that allowed us to travel the world with our kids in tow, I’m not sure that we would turn it down.
Until that happens, though, I’ll simply jump at every opportunity I get to see the world.
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.
While 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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
My brain is always going. Every moment of the day is spent watching and imagining. I see strangers on the street, and I immediately imagine their background. Characters come to life in the personalities that pass me on the sidewalk.
Observation is both the blessing and the curse placed squarely upon the writer’s shoulders.
We don’t just see the flower, we see the petals – and they dance.
We don’t just see the person, we see the way her hair floats in the breeze, or the wisdom in the lines that fan out from the corners of his eyes.
We hear the song of the birds, and the magic in a laugh that cuts through the air like the like a happy melody.
And when we stop to think about God Himself – well, the image cannot possibly be written in bulleted form. It’s a poem, because God isn’t abstract in the mind of a writer. He is the vibrant orange of the sunset. He’s the rumble of thunder, and the gentle whisper in a breeze. He’s the highest peak, and the lowest valley. He is the soft whir of a hummingbird’s wings, and he is the power behind a lion’s roar.
He is all the color and all the music, and He’s hidden in the laughter of the smallest of babies.
This is what it’s like inside the mind of a writer.
It can, at times, be utterly exhausting.
I am currently enjoying a week away with my family, and the people watching is superb. How anyone makes it through this life without observing the personalities around them is beyond me.
We are on Spring Break this week, taking a much needed time away from the daily grind of an over-scheduled life. We will be on a bit of an adventure as the six of us share one hotel room.
This could either be miraculous or a total disaster.
Either way, I will be taking a few days to enjoy my family, to read books (the kind with paper), and to make a few memories. I’ll pop in online now and then to share photos and the joys of family travel.
Blessings to you all as you head into this next week. Spring is upon us! Rejoice!