On Vacation


I am giving myself permission to do something that I haven’t allowed myself to do in the six and a half years I’ve been blogging.

I am going to take a break.

Funny story: Last week, Lee and I decided to take a spontaneous family trip to Gatlinberg, Tennessee. We rarely take vacations just the five of us – in fact, I honestly am not sure we’ve ever taken a vacation just the five of us. Most of our trips consist of traveling with people, or traveling to see people.

The problem is, I got my dates wrong. I was certain that I made our hotel reservation for Wednesday to Sunday, with the plan being we would leave Tuesday, drive half way, and arrive Wednesday. So I’ve been frantically trying to get us packed and ready to leave tomorrow for three weeks away, because after Gatlinberg, we’re sending Tia to camp in Crossville, TN, while the rest of us go to Nashville. And from there, we’re all headed to Arkansas for a week.

Are you exhausted, yet?

I realized just this morning that our hotel reservations are actually Thursday to Sunday, which means we’re leaving a day later than planned, which kind of disappoints me, honestly. But I’m also a bit relieved because trying to pack for three weeks in three different locations was giving me palpitations.

My brain is on serious summer overload, which normally wouldn’t be too much of a problem; however, I happen to be 64 27  weeks pregnant, which means sleep is already elusive. Add to that a little stress, and this mama ends up tired and emotional.

In an effort to not throw myself into an early labor, I’m unloading a few things from my plate. I simply don’t have the mental capacity to generate decent blog content right now.  As it is, I already have a few deadlines pressing down on me for other sites (the ones that actually pay me to write), and I’m in the final stages of editing my e-book, which I will hopefully get to the designer in the next few days.

So I’m going to take a couple of weeks off in this space. I’m going to breathe a little, enjoy my family, read a few books, unplug, and take in a little fresh, mountain air.

I’ll be updating on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on occasion if you want to keep up with our family and see whether or not it really was a good idea to take a trip to the mountains at 28 weeks pregnant.

Also, Lee and I are attending a celebrity charity dinner in Nashville on Sunday night. Tune in to see what my gigantic belly looks like in a nice dress, and to see if I get to rub elbows with Carrie Underwood, or if I simply stalk her from across the room.

I’ll come back here in a couple of weeks when the dust of family fun time has settled, and I can string together a coherent sentence outside of, “Did you pack your toothbrush? What about underwear?”

In the meantime, I hope all of you are enjoying some fun in the sun this summer break. Sit back with a good book, a tall glass of iced tea (sweetened, of course), and take some time to breathe.

Scenes from a Creative Retreat

This is the fourth year I’ve gathered with my group of like-minded, creative friends, and every year I find myself more blessed by our time together. Each person here is so uniquely gifted and blessed, and I learn so much from them. My soul is nourished, and I find myself lost in my craft.

Today I finished my e-book. Stay tuned, because my hope is to have it published within the next few weeks.

Last year, the photographers ruled the show. They worked to further improve their skills behind the lens, and the results were a masterful grouping of photos of each one of us.

This year, each one of us has new ventures that we are developing, and during the quiet hours of the day, we’re deepening our skills, supporting one another in our respective crafts, and sharing delicious meals filled with conversation and laughter.

It’s truly inspiring to be here, and I find myself more and more wanting to pull other women into this fold. It’s a dream that’s turning into a goal, and this weekend is fanning the flame.

As I go back to my work, I’ll leave you with a few photos of our days here. I’ve been so focused on my book that I haven’t spent much time photographing our amazing, Southern California surroundings, nor have I been overly drawn to blogging. My brain has been fully engaged in this one project, and I’m so thrilled to have finished it today.

So without further ado, I give you Scenes from a Creative Retreat






Happy weekending to you all!

Watercolor Therapy: A Guest Post

This post was written by my dear friend, soul sister, and my creative partner, Wendy. A week from today, I will be on a plane to California for our annual Creative Retreat – a time to gather with other like minded women seeking to glorify God with these gifts that He’s given us. I am thankful for her wise words. Please welcome her!

There is a time and a place for therapy.

When a muscle is strained, there’s physical therapy; for the patient who’s undergone a stroke, speech therapy; children with physical delays need occupational therapy; and those held in emotional bondage benefit from psychotherapy.


Photo courtesy of Wendy Speake.

My dear friend, and author of this blog, is in need of a little therapy right now.  Even as I write, Kelli is flying home from an intense weekend with family.  After receiving the devastating news that a loved one is battling an aggressive form of cancer, each family member came together for the deep heart therapy that can only be done in one another’s presence.

The Stuart Family lifted up their beloved patriarch with prayer therapy, before Kelli’s father-in-law began chemotherapy.  Now all the Stuarts have scattered back to their own cities and little families again.  How difficult I imagine it will be for Kelli and Lee to not be with their loved ones during the days ahead.  Which is why therapy must continue. 

Prayer Therapy:  Those who know and love Kelli and her family, I beseech you to pray for them during this time.  Pray for the healing of her father-in-law, wisdom for his doctors, comfort and peace for Lee’s mother and siblings, and lift up the grandchildren… as the sting of illness and the reality of heaven sets in.


Photo Courtesy of Tammy Labuda Photography.

Friendship Therapy:  We desperately need friendship when our hearts pump hard to comprehend our circumstances.  There are seasons of grief when we pull away; retreating into prayer closets, lifting up our hands in private worship.  But a time comes when friends must join in the retreat.


“Retreat: A movement away from danger, back along the original route.”


Photo courtesy of Tammy Labuda Photography

 How appropriate that Kelli and I are hosting our annual Creative Retreat at my home in one week’s time – Our safe place to move away from danger, and find our path again.

Sitting in my backyard yesterday, creating watercolors with my children, I thought of Kelli, and sent her a text:  Let’s do some watercolor therapy when you come.  She responded:  I agree. 

 Water clear and paint brush dry 

Blank canvas ‘neath the western sky 

Young woman sitting all alone 

Breaks silence with a subtle moan 

Bare shoulders kissed by heavens sun 

She lifts her eyes, bids healing come 

Picks up the brush, then comes undone. 


Photo courtesy of Wendy Speake.

Ironically, or not at all, Kelli sojourned to my home for last year’s retreat, after the heartbreak of her unfruitful adoption.  She retreated to my front porch, blindsided and raw.

 Prayers and friendship mingled with food, adventures, laughter and late nights, as healing took place.


Photo courtesy of Tammy Labuda Photography

Sometimes the therapy a heart needs most is to RETREAT.

Retreat into the healing, dry climate of Southern California’s hills,  and the quiet of a backyard, and the rhythmic movement of a paintbrush.

 If you are hurting today, which many of us are, I encourage you to retreat, to find refuge, and to dwell in the shelter of the Most High.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day… (Psalm 91:1-16)

(Thanks to one of our amazing photographers, Tammy Labuda, for always capturing moments of inspiration so expertly. Check out Wendy’s beautiful new site here.)

Technicolor Memory – On Life and Travel


We were a rag tag group, a gaggle of teenagers, most of whom were leaving US soil for the very first time. It was 1995, and the dust was still settling from the fall of the Iron Curtain.

“Don’t get over there and be loud and obnoxious,” our leader advised us before we left. “Show them that American teenagers actually do have some self control.”

We tried to do this, and most of the time we succeeded. We avoided squealing and shouting over every new experience, although being tricked into eating cow tongue on our first night in Minsk, Belarus was just short of a cruel introduction into this strange new land.

The smells are what I remember the most. That and the cold. When we stepped off the plane onto a frigid tarmac, the sky around us was grey. For a brief moment, I felt as though we’d stepped into a black and white film as the grey pavement extended into the grey horizon in such a way that made all the land before us seem devoid of color.

Oddly enough, I felt right at home.

As we entered the concrete terminal, I listened closely to this foreign language. It was the first time I’d ever heard Russian, and the words sounded like poetry. At least that’s the way I remember it. At the time, I know I was a little shell shocked. Jet lag combined with an awe and fear of the unknown didn’t leave me much time to ponder the poetic nature of my current reality.

I just remember feeling like I knew that place.

For two weeks we toured the land, and as I remember those adventures, the landscape slowly fades into this technicolor memory. It lights up as I explore the moment that I first learned who Lenin was, and what he had done. It bleeds into the first moment I stepped into a Russian Orthodox church, and realized exactly what the word “history” means.

Suddenly 1776 no longer seemed that interesting to this All-American girl. Not when I was confronted with the stories of a land that dated back  to 1067. I couldn’t even fathom the amount of story that the buildings I stepped into held.

The world changed for me on that trip. I stood in Red Square in Moscow, and I looked at St. Basils, and I had no idea how to process the world as a whole. When I walked through Lenin’s tomb, and viewed the body of a man both hated and revered depending on who you spoke with, I couldn’t wrap my mind around my smallness in this world.

All I knew was that I wanted to see and experience more of it.

Lee and I have been talking a lot, lately. Dreaming, really. We dream of exposing our children to more of the world, of opening their eyes to their smallness in this great, big land.

I’m so grateful to my parents for encouraging me to experience life to the fullest. I’m so thankful that they saw the importance of travel, and that they not only allowed me to explore this globe (usually without them), but they generally pushed it. Without their willingness to let me go and experience life through travel, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Our kids are still young, and there are some boundaries within which we feel like we must operate as a family, but we have dreams. We dream of showing them the world, of giving them a taste of it now, while they’re young. Our biggest, most-unlikely-but-still-fun-to-discuss dream is to someday live overseas for a time. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but we do love to imagine the possibility.

And when the time comes, we’ll give them whatever nudge they need to step out and explore on their own…hopefully with a little more wisdom than I showed in my solo travels.

We’ve started the process of exposing them to the world outside the United States, and we have hopes, dreams, and loose plans to do more traveling with them in the coming years. As we do this, I pray that there will come a moment for each one of them when the Lord gives a coming home moment – a slice of time that will serve as a technicolor memory.

I can’t wait to see how they use those memories in the future.

(These thoughts have been spurred on by Tsh Oxenreider’s book, Notes from a Blue Bike. If you haven’t read it yet, I cannot recommend it enough.)

Tell me your story. Have you had the chance to expose your kids to new experiences through travel, either inside or outside the country? How have you done this, and how has it impacted your family?

Subscribe to receive a FREE excerpt from the award winning Like A River From Its Course!

You have Successfully Subscribed!