OUR FIRST SOUL CARE RETREAT

Perhaps some of why I was so overwhelmed was that I was busy planning our very first soul care retreat.

Even though we just got back from our honeymoon earlier this month – which I’m super excited to post about really soon – I’d been really pumped about this weekend away, just the two of us with minimal distractions to get quiet and connect more deeply with God.

I’ve been doing something similar to this for years – over a decade actually; taking time to rent out a room at a B&B, to take a pile of books (and only read half of one), take walks by myself, sit next to water and journal. I would sometimes go to a spa – alone or even sometimes house sit or stay at a friend’s home while they were out-of-town. And especially more intentional, I went on two “soul care retreats” with Holy Yoga and absolutely devoured the opportunity to join a bunch of other women stretching at their ability level, being vulnerable about their challenges in small groups and particularly finding power and love in the times of silence.

When I posted about being overwhelmed last week, I was aware that I needed this kind of time and was also aware that it was coming – I was planning it for us – but wasn’t sure how it would go for us as a couple.

I was about to share something pretty sacred and meaningful for me with my new husband and was a tiny bit nervous about how it might actually go. How might he receive it? Would he be resistant? Think it was too early for us to be taking these types of preventative, intentional, God-focused kind of getaways? I mean, we did just get married, right?

But, exactly because we are newlyweds – with past marriages and past hurts that want to rear their ugly heads at all the worst times – we needed to prioritize this retreat time away – together.

I wanted to gift this to my hubby, so I saved and set aside the money, arranged for the place to stay, did all of the shopping, created the agenda – even pre-filled the car with gas and did the driving so he could have fun relaxing into the whole thing.

48 hours – not planned to be rigid  but so that he could see what was in my heart about this time away; we had an outline of the foods/meals I’d cook, the big wins and the why behind the whole thing. It was a simple thing, though simple doesn’t always mean easy. It definitely took some effort.

While Mister was preparing for our honeymoon, I was planning for this weekend.

I prayed about it.

I thought about the desired outcome and what we would feel like returning home from the weekend if the intentions set were actually met.

I asked him to pick out recipes he really liked or wanted me to try.

I also pleaded with him not to ask questions – partially because I wanted to surprise him, but mostly because I wanted things to remain fluid; if something I wanted to happen wasn’t going to, it removed the pressure because he would never know what he was missing and not be disappointed or feel something was lost.

I shared with only a few people the details of what we were doing only a couple of days before we left.

F R I D A Y

We arrived at our location – a very generous lake house loan from dear friends – later than I’d plan because – well, traffic – but immediately unloaded the car, unpacked, got the lay of the land then settled into a conversation like old friends connecting again after a little time apart.

a favorite wine and a yummy snack
encouragement from Mister’s daughter

We sipped wine, read scriptures that were highlighted from the Bible set out at our wedding and talked about the one area we’d like the other person to work on most in our marriage, as our partner.

I’m gonna go ahead and share that my sweet husband would like for me to grow in being less nagging (even though he says I’m only a little naggy, he’d still like to have it eliminated). I won’t waste anytime telling you that I argued with him about this. It had already come up during a trip we’d taken together before we got engaged, early on in our marriage and then again on our honeymoon (which we took three months after being wed). I added bossy and sassy to the mix and told him that we would take some time the next day to get quiet with God and petition Him for help.

(Since I’m the writer and sharer here, I’ll refrain from sharing what I asked hubby to improve in – maybe he’ll want to share in this space someday – but for now, you’re gonna hear about me.)

the plan; we did about 85% of the stuff on here

I shared with him the overall agenda – hoping he wouldn’t flee from the lake house in the night at his wife’s planning abilities – and he smiled and received the plan with gratitude sharing that this was new for him.

Oh! I forgot the frozen pizza, so we snacked (glad I packed snacks) – and it was all good – see fluid!!!

We talked for a while longer and then settled into the night open to what the next day would bring.

S A T U R D A Y

We woke up without an alarm!

Even if you’re not in a position to travel or getaway for a retreat, try this one little thing on the weekend and let your body tell you when to open your eyes; game changer!

We did light fare breakfast, snacking – setting up the morning and preparing ourselves for the time to be quiet.

Mister was going to walk and I was going to sit by the lake.

Though I’ve experienced times of silence for much longer, I thought I’d ease us in as a couple this first time at 1 1/2 hours.

I knew we each needed something different in order for this to be effective. I needed to be able to journal, look up/at words and then sit still to listen and hear. Mister on the other hand, needed to be in nature, in the trees, walking and moving and interacting with the outdoors.

We arrived in the kitchen within minutes of one another.

salmon, asparagus + cauliflower lunch

As I prepared lunch – he really, really, really enjoys good fish – we started chatting about what we heard in the areas we’d mentioned the night before.

I won’t go into detail here, but we both heard the simplest, sweetest, most loving message which was basically – come to Me first and I will give you the strength you need to give the other what they most desire in this season of your marriage.

proverbs 3:26 for me

We spent time in the Word, finding scriptures to help us focus when the flesh wants to pull us away. And then we spent a couple of hours laying out a dream map; dreaming big ideas for 2019, 2021, 2023 and 2028.

Mister reading me the scriptures God gave him

Y’all there are some big, beautiful (somewhat scary) dreams on our map. But, the experience of dreaming opened us up to one another in areas of our souls we’d not yet discovered or revealed to the other. There were no major surprises, but bold, big prayers for things we’d not allowed ourselves to even put words to before.

S U N D A Y

Slept in again – yes!

omelet in a skillet in the oven – delicious

And then made another new dish for breakfast. While I cooked, he chatted and we listened to worship music.

reflecting on our assessments with this view

We spent some time down on the pier of the boathouse and opened our pre-marital counseling assessments. There are a lot of pages but rather than get into the weeds on every page, we got quiet and went through the packet separately, each chose one page and then discussed a couple of things from each page together.

We were able to be honest with one another and then prayed aloud as boaters and jet-skiers whizzed on by, while turtles popped their heads above the water and fish sometimes surprisingly leaped above the surface.

Y’all it was so wonderful.

Peaceful.

Relaxing.

Simple.

We experienced freedom from distraction and busy, laughed and played with one another as friends and partners and learned to love more about God and one another in an effort to strengthen our connection.

the smile on my face reflects the way he speaks about + to me; he was so pleased with our weekend

I recommend soul care retreats for everyone.

capturing him resting his eyes made me feel like I won everything

If you’re up for it and think you’d like to plan one for yourself or someone you love, it might help to consider for the following:

  • the distractions that need to be set aside
  • getting away for at least 36 to 48 hours
  • keeping the plan simple (don’t try to plan too much of anything)
  • make room for God to speak – get silent for a little while (don’t talk to one another)
  • share with people you trust what you’re going to do so they can ask you about it and pray for you to be focused and successful while you’re away and help you when you return
  • dream
  • choose a place that speaks to you and how you interact best with God
  • choose at least one scripture to carry away from the weekend
  • before the weekend wraps up, choose a month/time for the next one

Make it happen, make it your own and be open to what may come.

ousting overwhelmed living

After lying still for about 20 minutes with a bit of angst in my chest, I realized I’d checked my phone twelve times and the things I kept adding to my post-it notes weren’t getting closer to getting done; so not really “lying still”.

I get overwhelmed.

Not easily, but it does happen.

And I’ve felt badly about that, badly about hearing that about myself. Embarrassed even.

Then today, I realized the shame was piling on. That I was not only overwhelmed, but trying to hide from it (which also means I was trying to hide it from others).

The dark cloud that comes with being overwhelmed brings me closer to a bout of depression. It makes me sink into a pool of doubt and insecurity and then inevitably it inactivates me and makes me want to quit doing everything.

____

Do you have this in your world?

There are the things you have to do (laundry, cook, clean, pay bills), the work related things (which are great and diverse from week to week) and then there are the things that I could do, want to do, long to do, believe I’m called to do.

Things that I don’t have a lot of experience or success with.

Things I want people to cheer me on to do and complete but can be too afraid to ask.

Things I believe could help others live more fully and freely if they see me doing so.

Things that require more time in relationships than on activities.

I am overwhelmed.

The iPad is binge showing – trying to make this a thing – me the Hallmark show, When Calls the Heart (the first four seasons). While I so appreciate watching a show that is rated-G, it is so emotional as they have revealed that a lead character – with the show since the beginning – will die (or maybe he already did, I’m only on season 4). I probably shouldn’t be watching it though, with Memorial Day coming up – even though it’s been almost 13 years since the combat related death of my first husband – I am all kinds of emotional goo.

Then there is my last load of laundry that is an attempt to take at least A step toward productivity. We have days assigned for folks to use the washer and dryer here at home. Though the load is not a lot, it’s been sitting there for a bit waiting to be put away.

The coffee from a lovely coffee shop where a bold, sister in Christ is finishing her last couple of days working there before moving to a whole new state, finally pursuing a long-time desire of hers. I went in to visit with her, to say “until we meet again” and started asking her a few questions and realized that in sharing her experience, she was talking to me about some of the things that I’m preparing to step into. Overwhelmed because she went directly to addressing the very things that are freezing me in my spot – fear (of rejection, failure, judgment) and insecurity (worrying about “what if” more than trusting in the planter of these good things).

The book is another book to read. My self-imposed reading challenge is going well, so well that I’m already praying about what the next 365 days of reading will bring once this challenge is complete. But, when I read – I ALWAYS think I should be doing something else. Calling someone, praying for someone, putting away my laundry…

There is a monthly calendar that is filled with thoughts, tasks, anniversaries, plans, dreams, hopes, things I want to do for others (review the beta version of their first novel, write letters of recommendation for medical school, start a committee for an organization that develops young women, write letters to strangers in need of encouragement). I write them here in boxes planning to make them happen, but the pages fill up quickly. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, because even with all of it, it can still fell like it’s not enough.

My journal where I write quotes from wise friends or people I am fascinated by (even if I don’t agree with their outlook on the world). Where I process the things happening in my soul, the things I dislike about myself and more often the things I’m starting to admit I enjoy and respect about myself. It’s where I question, question, question. It’s great to have a place to put those thoughts, but a lot of the times – most times – the questions go unanswered or take longer than I’d like God to take to answer them for me; I hate to admit it but this often therapeutic output is causes me to feel overwhelmed.

Post-it notes, lists, magazine subscription cards (which can be overwhelming because when do I have time to read magazines). So many good things. Not bad at all. But, why am I so overwhelmed?

My palms are sweaty as I type this post.

I believe I get overwhelmed because I’m still struggling with my identity.

I forget that I am not defined by the stuff or people that I can influence.

I forget that if I don’t do any of it or even if I do all of it – beautifully, perfectly, on-time or early – it does not change who I am. It won’t change or disrupt the way God sees me. And quite simply, I think that is the issue. Rather than put the love of God for me at the top of all of the piles, the tasks, the requests, the things I want to do, I struggle with worry about what people will think.

I hate it.

I absolutely hate this about myself.

But, I’m a work in progress. And I don’t think I’m all alone.

As I venture out of overwhelmed into claiming God’s peace (my one little word for this year) and walking it out, living it – I will be stepping into even more responsibility. Much of it not even yet realized. But it fires me up. I am the healthiest I’ve been in decades and emotionally, mentally and physically able to take on more – married to a man that is so supportive, I walk in his celebration parade of me daily – it matters how I do it.

And overwhelmed is not how I want to do this.

It’s not how I want to build relationships. It’s not how I want to be married. Not how I want to build my business or read books or tackle the lists or the step into the many opportunities that I get to contemplate stepping into.

God has been whispering to me for some time now. And He continues to prove Himself trustworthy sending me a small tribe of wonderful people who are helping me oust living overwhelmed. I find some of them in our small group, my business leader, the women who are more seasoned at taking risks, the women bold enough to step into the unknown faithfully later in life, women who will speak scripture over me as I wiggle away from the calling to do remarkable things for Him…

I’m ousting living overwhelmed y’all.

Even through sweaty finger tips and a racing heart – one step, task, act of faith at a time; trusting God to guide me.

Off to put that laundry away and read a few chapters in this next book!

my mother’s day | 2018

This Mother’s Day was fabulous for me.

I wanted my guys (husband = Mister and son = Shorty – for the purposes of this blog and sharing about him in this space) to do whatever they could together. And they did.

Made our breakfast together – while I read and rested in bed.

Shorty drove to Starbucks and collected coffees for me and Mister (he passed on a drink for himself as it was the store he works at and said it was bu-say).

They watched the movies I wanted them to watch with me, together.

Shorty got me yoga blocks and a strap (more on this in a minute).

Mister cooked lunch for the three of us.

They drew my first bath in this apartment together for me. I really enjoyed their way of doing it – reflecting their willingness to learn a little from the other about who I am as a person to offer up the best way for me to relax and enjoy that time alone.

That – for me – was the best Mother’s Day celebration. Time with my people, quiet and away from everything else. We called our mothers – and my son honored me as his mother.

One of the best things about the honoring is in the gift he gave me.

A quick aside – Mister offered to buy me a gift (and with all of the refraining I’m doing as a result of lessons learned through Financial Peace University – Amen, but whew) I almost jumped at it with a short, long list. Ahem… It’s so tempting y’all, Mister is a GREAT gift-giver and celebrator of most holidays and events; truly – he’s forcing me to up my game.Which would probably be me thinking about and then remembering said holidays and events.

I eventually turned him down though. I thanked him for the sentiment and drew the line (mostly for myself) with reminding him that I am the mother to a young man who has a job and the means to buy his mother a gift.

How we do it?

We try to keep it simple.

Which is easier to type than to actually live out.

You see, I’m just learning to even receive the lavish love that these two people pour out on me daily. They really are remarkable men. They listen for the things that will put a smile on my face and do exactly that. Which I’ve realized means I n-e-e-d to mean what I say when it comes to sharing with them exactly what it is that could help them to be encouraging, loving and supportive of me. The simplicity in my expressing my wishes set them up for a clear and desired win in making me happy. Mamas, I can not reiterate it enough, make it easy and clear so your people can have a great experience honoring you.

And right now, in the midst of so much transition in my life, I’ve been focusing on only a few daily targets. I call them my “dailies”. They are small in and of themselves on a daily basis, but done repeatedly over and over again until they become a habit – life changing, legacy worthy.

This time last year, I was in the emergency room receiving three pints of blood because of severe anemia. If you know anything about hemoglobin levels – you’re doing normal if you’re at a 12, I was strolling around doing life at a 5.1.

Supposed to be stroking, having a heart attack or quite honestly – dead.

I didn’t have the energy or desire to do much of anything, but was pushing through to work full-time during a busy season, date a new man (who is now my husband) and help my child navigate graduating from high school, start college and get his driver’s license (to name a few of the transitions that pop up in this season of life).

But now, a year later – praise God – I do the energy.

And instead of stopping, quitting and resting on my former idea of health, movement, exercise (which was basically my modus operandi for years since I was so sick and didn’t even know it), I decided that May would be the month that I would tackle THREE new habits I wanted to form to add to other ones that have been sticking since healing.

In addition to taking my Juice Plus Vitamins, reading my Bible, praying, reaching out to a friend or two to see how they are/to let them know I’m cheering for them, I realized I wanted to add (1) yoga (2) resting + reflecting daily and (3) writing with pen and paper to my everyday living.

All big stretches for me.

Why? Because I have started and stopped so many things. Y’all…so many things…

But these things, I’ve put before God in prayer and He has made a way for me to prioritize them each and everyday so far in May, that I’m halfway through.

So when my son asked what I wanted for my mother’s day gift – he was elated when I answered “a yoga strap and blocks”. I went to Target, took photos of the ones I wanted (no need for creativity or guessing here – if he wants me to be happy, I have to be clear about what I really want), he carved out time in his schedule, went and purchased them (surely some other stuff he wanted to) and then presented it to me – in the Target bag (unwrapped) with a smile on his face; proud that his gift was helping me accomplish and reach my daily goals.

I’m only halfway through the month, but I”m celebrating because well – it’s how we keep going right? Tomorrow’s not promised and yesterday is covered with grace. I’ve only missed one day of yoga but since I started the day before May began, I’m cutting myself some slack. I’m on Day 15 of this FREE 30 Day Beginner Challenge – and am really liking how I feel and especially that I’m doing it.

For those who’ve known me for more than 3 years know that this is a miracle of God.

yoga blocks and strap | my mother’s day gifts

And enjoying it. (Not even a hint of sacrasm here).

When she asks us to sit for a moment and “set our intention” at the beginning of each lesson, I utter the same one – “Leslie (yoga lady), I just want to finish”.

If I miss the time in the morning, I carve it out for the afternoon or evening; it has been so encouraging. The other dailies are coming along well too. And it’s amazing how when I make room for these things, there is room for other things.

Notice I wrote “other” things, not “all the things”.

Slow and steady.

But by prioritizing my “dailies”, the benefits of this spreads into so many other things. It’s exciting, I’m proud and feel really good y’all.

Looking ahead, I’m eager to step into her 90-Day Yoga Challenge with the support of both Mister and Shorty. Excited to be better for them, myself prepared for whatever else it may be that God calls me to.

45 years old? It’s good y’all.