These have been a busy two and a half weeks. A long weekend in the Tennessee mountains. Followed closely by a week in Hilton Head. With a few days of laundry, homeschooling, and recovery after that. Stories will follow. In the meantime, here are a few photos...
Upon our arrival at the retreat center on Thursday, October 14th, all 168 of us formed a circle around a small pond and prayed aloud, giving thanks for our safe passage to Sevierville, Tennessee, and asking for a great weekend together. The answer to our prayers became clear as the hours and days passed: "You are welcome for the safe trip. And yes, you will have a great weekend together." We most certainly did.
The theme of the retreat was "Women Under Construction." Among other things, we talked about the creation of a new blueprint for our lives. Deciding who the Architect of our lives will be. Demolition of those things which need to be knocked down. Laying a new foundation. Decorating our newly renovated selves - from the inside out. And a final walk through. We laughed, we cried, we prayed, we sat in silence, we ate way too much. The worst lesson of all: if you microwave a boiled egg, it will very likely explode when it is bitten into and both lips and tongue can be badly burned. Forturnately, I didn't learn that personally, but it happened to one of the women staying the cabin I was in. Ouch!!!
I sat at the edge of a ridge for 30 minutes of silence and solitude.
Trees, bushes, birds, ants, and me all basking in the sun on the side of that mountain.
Just before we boarded the buses for the trip back to Charlotte, we stood together in cabin groups, lit candles, shared one thing we learned about ourselves, and prayed for a safe trip back down from the mountains. It is a beautiful thing to see and hear 168 beautiful African-American women (or women of any color or background - for that matter!) with candles lit, sharing secrets, laughing, crying, and praying together.
Then on Thusday, October 21st, the four of us left for Hilton Head, South Carolina, for a week-long vacation. Daniel played in a tennis tournament over the weekend, and we stayed on in our rental house until this past Wednesday, the 27th.
I have a newly discovered addiction - biking! But only under certain conditions: it must be on flat terrain - no hills. It must be on a designated bike path, also known as a "leisure path" in Hilton Head - no riding on the street. And there must be a beach at the end of the path - no riding to the mall or the supermarket. And if I can be at the back of the pack with my camera out, then I am in full and complete bliss.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not very friendly towards animals. I mean I like them fine, but I don't touch them unless absolutely necessary. But I made a friend in this horse. Gorgeous big brown beast that came right over to me when he first saw me, and two other times during our visit to the Lawton Stables, when I approached his pen, he walked right towards me. At one point, I spoke gently to him for a few moments and he began to close his eyes. We all thought he was going to drift off to sleep and fall over. It was amazing to watch - and to experience. Don't believe my account? Ask my family; they will all concur. (I'm sure the bag of grapes didn't do any harm, but I didn't have them until the very end of our time together. I wanted to give him a special gift to remember me by...)
I never go anywhere without my journal, a fist full of markers, a mind full of dreams, and a heart empty of everything except deep-seated hopes for an unexpected adventure, a reconnection with my very old soul, and new love. I cannot remember the last time I took a trip when at least two of those hopes did not come to pass...
On a bike ride with Daniel. We stopped near a pond to look for alligators. There's one in the picture. On the left edge of the water where the grass juts out a little, there's a bump/ridge in the water. That's an alligator. Later the same day, we watched it swim across to the right side of the pond. So far, so far - and yet so close.
This photo says it all: we were sooooooo happy on Hilton Head last week. So very happy.
Me and my two beauties - and yes, they are both as tall as I am. No one is standing on a stool or a bench - although I think I will need one to be able to keep up with them pretty soon.
There will be more details, more stories to come. At the moment, however, I am deep into doing laundry, cleaning, decluttering, reacclimating to homeschooling and working off all the ice cream and other Tennessee and South Carolina delicacies and preparing to teach four times in November - one class each on solitude, journaling, doubt, and hope - four very big topics, but as with all my classes, I'm pretty sure that I'm learning a whole lot more than I will have time to teach. Plus my daughter celebrated her 17th birthday yesterday - October 30th - and she, her best friend, Arielle, and I spent the whole day wandering around in Asheville, North Carolina, eating, shopping, walking, and laughing at dogs and people in crazy Halloween costumes.
All is well. All is well.
All manner of things is so very well.
Thanks be to God.