A Winsome Giveaway

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Each morning when I drive through these ancient hills on my way to work, the sun is higher in the sky. I wander out into a wide awake world and daylight becomes the early bird. Time has a slippery way about it, and these days, I notice how quickly the seasons come and go. So when I get the chance to slow down—to change the scenery and open eyes wide to each moment, it feels like a celebration. That’s what the Winsome Retreat did for me last weekend—spoke kairos time into my chronos. I met so many amazing sisters, made new friends and caught up with old. I wanted to share a few of my new friends with you so you might celebrate with me also.

Jenn Hand is the executive director of Coming Alive Ministries and she is amazing. Jenn is a missionary with a heart for all God’s children. Did I mention she is hilarious? We laughed so hard when she gave her talk that my cheeks hurt after. And she is just the same at the dinner table as she is behind the podium. A genuine, generous, all-in-for-Jesus kind of gal. She tells the best stories and they always lead her listeners back to the heart of God.

Emily Dean is the founder/director of Varity Vareé, a multi-media business that takes everyday women and tells their story in a beautiful and new way. Each woman they feature participates in two photoshoots and an extensive interview. I asked Emily what gave her the idea for such a unique business. “I was doing a lot of modeling, “she said, “and I realized that when I did that work I felt like a canvas for the beauty other people wanted to project.” She wondered what would happen if every woman was given that opportunity to be in the spotlight. Varity Vareé was born out of her ability to see the beauty in every woman. She wanted to share those stories and lift them up as beautiful.  Our conversation got interrupted by Emily’s wee one—the tiny eight-week old infant she had with her at the retreat. She also sang with the worship team all weekend. A woman of many talents and much beauty.

Hilary Hyland is a photographer, artist, singer, and musician. She designed the Enough print that retreat attendees were gifted with. When I told Hilary how much her voice captivated me, she smiled and told me she had been hoarse the past few days! She said God was really using that to stretch her. But believe me, God made it work. Her earnest vocals pulled us right into the holy. Check out some of Hilary’s photography work here.

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Kim Hyland, founder of Winsome (mother to Emily and mother-in-law to Hilary) gave the opening keynote Friday night and she talked about how, as the body of Christ, we need each other and the unique gifts we all bring into this world. Winsome was a living, breathing example of that—each person there made the weekend lovelier and lovelier.

I’m still processing all the sweetness of the kairos time we had together. Because joy multiplies when shared, I want to give away a little bundle of books to one reader. Included: A signed copy of Jenn Hand’s 31 Days to Coming Alive and a copy of Deidra Riggs’s Every Little Thing (plus a couple extras). Deidra gave the keynote Saturday night and her message was Spirit-led and beautiful (just like her).

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Leave a comment by Thursday 4/21 for a chance to win. I’ll announce the winner next Friday.

Winsome: An Invitation

Winsome

[win-suh m]
from the Old English wyn (joy) and –sum (some).
sweetly or innocently charming.

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The first time I met Kim Hyland we were preparing to climb a ropes course that ended in a zipline. We were on the eastern edge of Nebraska, at the Jumping Tandem Retreat, and we were brave. I didn’t get to talk to Kim much at that retreat; just followed her hand-over-hand up the ropes. But two years later, at the second Jumping Tandem Retreat, I went to her breakout session. In that session, Kim shared about her struggle with perfectionism and finding healing through surrender. As I listened to her open her heart up to our group, I thought back to our zipline adventure and pondered how hard it must be for a perfectionist to abandon control that way she did that day.

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Brave.

Kim often speaks about how embracing brokenness has opened her to joy in ways she never imagined. At the time of that second retreat I had just released Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World a few months earlier. I was still tenderly testing the waters of sharing that part of my story—this discovery of wild joy in play. When I meet a sister who has lived that discovery, a kindred who holds fast to wonder for dear life … well, the heart sings in recognition. That’s how it has been with Kim.

I was thrilled when she asked me to be part of Winsome, the retreat she founded that is held in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. I’d love for you to join us in April. If you’re wondering whether Winsome might be a good fit for you, read this. Here are some thoughts from other women about the retreat. Visit Kim at her blog to get to know her a little better. Maybe I’ll see you there? The special earlybird registration rates are going on now, until 1/29. Read more about Winsome here and let me know if you are attending. I’d love to sit on the porch with you, sip tea together, and breathe deep the joy of the Lord.

Hidden Beauty

So. I am still thinking of Beauty.

How it calls to the Sehnsucht.

It beckons, draws me near.

God is opening my eyes to beauty I have not considered before. Had little cause to.

Yesterday, Lucy Mae and I walked down to the creek. The sky was brilliant. The sun dappled the quietly stirring water. Three deer fed lazily just beyond the bridge. A family of robins noisily bathed.

This beauty.

I close my eyes and feel the play of light on lids…caressing, soothing…opening the longing.

I see this beauty with my eyes closed.

These pieces of beauty are easily seen. But I am thinking of a kind of beauty that is most often hidden—a beauty that revealed itself to me this past weekend.

That is, the beauty of a woman’s heart.

At the Freedom retreat last weekend, during breaks and in between speakers, various women shared their testimonies. Listening to these tales of grace and redemption held me. Drew me. Made me cry and rejoice.

Hearts were laid open—naked, for anyone to see.

And it was beautiful.

Tina shared how her father used to put whiskey in her Sippy cup when she was a babe. He thought it was funny. She never knew who Jesus was. There was no one to tell her. When someone finally did, she fell head over heels. And hasn’t looked back since.

Jodi told of her childhood with alcoholic parents. Never feeling wanted. Never feeling loved. Her mother gave her up to a family member without so much as a raised eyebrow. Though this probably saved her in many ways, it was also a source of great sorrow for Jodi. She told, through tears, of finding Isaiah 49:15 for the first time. It says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

These transformed lives…these stories of His pursuit…

How they soften my eyes to see beauty in the hidden!

We cover ourselves. We conceal our hearts in so many ways.

In doing so, we hide our beauty.

In doing so, we hide His beauty.

For we are told that in our weakness, His power is made perfect…

Is not His beauty also proclaimed in the brokenness of our lives?

Does it not bring Him glory when we are resurrected and rise from the ashes?

These stories are beautiful, not because they are not filled with sorrow and heartbreak. No. The beauty lies in the refuge these sweet ladies found in His arms.

He thinks they are gorgeous.

Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the Beholder.

“The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.” (Psalm 45:11)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17)

New Friends

My journey began as an outsider.

My choice. Self-preservation.


I believed we had entered into fellowship with this new church for my husband’s purposes. It was my turn to step back and watch the fostering of his gifts; celebrate his coming into the Faith.


Indeed, this new community of believers embraced him and encouraged him in his spiritual growth. I rejoiced in watching.


But I became a Wallflower.


I chose not to step too far into the inner circle, for I did not know God’s plan for us yet…Still bruised from leaving behind my church family of many years–I did not want to grieve yet more loss.


But He had other plans.


I have just returned from a weekend retreat with the women of this church. I was invited, not just to attend, but to speak.


This is God’s way with me. He places me in a position of vulnerability to teach me.


I hate how He does that.


But I am nothing if not obedient.


After much prayer, I agreed to speak.


All of this comes after the decision is made: we will be returning to our old church at the start of the New Year.


They need us. And God has called. So we will go.


All of these things weigh on me as I drive into the West Virginia hills to meet with these ladies–To meet with God.


What am I doing? What are we doing? I ask Him, alone in the car.


And it seems that I am driving deeper into the wilderness.


I know that I should feel fear. I know that I should be anxious.


But all that I feel is Him. I feel Him near me. I feel His comfort.


I am walking into something that I am not prepared for.


But I feel Him there.


So I put one foot in front of the other.


The beauty He has waiting for us–for me, brings me to tears. It is a perfect fall weekend. Blue skies, crisp temperatures. The leaves are just turning; reds and golds pepper the hillsides.

Gorgeous.


I am so overwhelmed I have to stop and snap a couple pictures before I arrive at the conference center.











He is tendering my heart.


But also, I am stalling.


I arrive, and immediately am lost. These ladies know each other. They are in Bible study together. They are in home groups together.








I practice growing on the wall.


But I see.


I am watching; not belonging.


I see these women together. How they smile with their eyes. Talk with their hands. Offer their hearts. Hold each other’s burdens.


And I am swept away by the beauty of it all.


I am completely won over. I am falling in love with these women.


The theme for the weekend was freedom.


Friends, did you know there is freedom in tears? Did you know there is freedom in opening your heart? Did you know there is freedom in being…


Vulnerable.


Oh, how God spoke.


He showed me that our strength is the tenderness of our hearts. That grief deepens our souls. That vulnerability carves out a cavern in our hearts and creates a dwelling place for Him.


He showed me the deep bonds of worshiping together…and the grace there is in being a woman.









Being silly together…


(How many men do you know who will dress up like a dice to promote a bunco tournament? How many men would play bunco?)





We hold life in our bodies…and in our arms.








But it is His life that shines.


He dwells there.


Inside of us.


He revealed Himself to me in the beautiful faces of many women this weekend. I want to share some stories with you about it…


But this post is too long already.


I’ll meet you here later, my friends. Thank you for your prayers. They were heard. Though I began this journey as an outsider, by the end of the weekend God had increased my number of intimates.


(My favorite fellow retreater–Annie, our youngest attendee.)



(This is my small group…those are my boots in the foreground.)


God showed up.

He was there all along.

I can just see Him more clearly in all of this now.


And He is beautiful.