grapevine

Half a dozen years ago or so, after attending yet another extraverted and exhausting writing conference, I began to wonder what it would look like to host something smaller, quieter, the kind of conference where more contemplative, introverted types like me could feel at home. No jostling in a crowd or jockeying for position. No big dark rooms with deified speakers on a spotlit podium while the rest of us sat in darkened obscurity. No giant screens and state-of-the-art sound systems.

Instead, a quiet, thoughtful, even worshipful space to hear wise words from those further along the writing road than I am, to engage in conversation with one or two other kindred souls, to eat good food and reflect on and maybe play with words.

Then my twins were born, and this little seed got buried in the chaos of life with four children…until last summer when Jody Ohlsen Collins watered it with her words: she shared a similar dream, she said, and together our little seeds began to grow.

Abide is the fruit of those little seeds. It’s a 3-day writing retreat for women who want to deepen their faith, their relationships with other writers, and their craft.

Our text for the weekend is John 15, Jesus’ discourse on the vine and the branches.

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

Over the weekend we’ll ponder the words of this amazing passage, meditate on them, play with them, and let them sink deep into us, let them abide in us, and let ourselves abide in Christ so that we can bear much fruit—in our writing, our relationships, our lives. We’ll remind one another who we are and Whose we are.

We’ll worship together, enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, share stories, reflect, and write. We’ll make art and play with words. Some of us (like yours truly) will cry. We’ll laugh—a lot. We’ll relax and drink tea and eat good food and rest.

 

So you totally want to come, right?

You just have a couple of questions: when is it? where is it? how much is it? And how do I sign up???

When?

Friday, October 16th at 4 pm till Sunday, October 18th at noon.

Where?

The beautiful Grunewald Guild in the Cascade Mountains, outside of Leavenworth, Washington.

How Much?

The cost for the whole weekend is just $229.

This includes:

  • your room (Check out their facilities!)
  • board (Friday dinner through Sunday brunch, all of it as locally-sourced as possible, some of it grown in the garden on the grounds. Fellow foodies, we’ll eat our hearts out!)
  • art supplies (Yes, we writers will do art; it’s good for highly verbal people to exercise non-verbal parts of their brains. Plus it’s just plain fun.)

$100.00 is required to reserve your spot.

Sign Me Up!

I’d be happy to! Just let me know you want to come, and I’ll make sure you get a registration packet.

 

Still not certain? Feel free to shoot me an email with any questions you have.  Or just re-read this post :) And take some time to prayerfully consider coming.

But don’t take too long to consider. We only have 16 spots left! And the price goes up to $249 on June 1.

 

 

Photo by Janet Tarbox. Creative Commons via Flickr.

It’s ten p.m. I should be in bed, or at least headed in that direction. I should not be in front of a screen. Screens stimulate my brain: it takes me at least an hour after even glancing at a screen to wind down enough to fall asleep. But I figure it’ll take me an hour to fall asleep anyway, even if I don’t sit here and type this post.

It’s been 16 months since I blogged regularly in this place. 16 hard months. 16 months of letting go of almost everything I thought made me me. I let go of blogging, of writing, of my dreams of being a writer (by which I mean someone who makes something approaching a living wage from words), of my best friend (she moved to Iowa), of my beloved house, of my favorite Seattle neighborhood, of Seattle itself, of my identity as an urban mom, of my identity as a rock-star raising four kids in 800 square feet and doing it with some semblance of grace and good will. All of it, stripped away.

I can’t say I feel like Job: I still have my family and my health. I still have plenty of food to eat and a roof over my head, though I don’t much care for it, given that it’s not my sweet home in Ballard. On the surface, I really have nothing to complain about.

And yet—my heart hurts. It’s been hurting since Susan got her job in Iowa over a year ago, and it took a further walloping when we sold our home and moved to the burbs. It’s been six months, and my heart still hurts every time I drive into Seattle to visit a friend or take my kids to co-op or Tae Kwon Do.

I have wanted to write about it—blogging is cheap therapy—but I feel so stupid. For the love of God, Kimberlee, it’s just a house. People in Nepal would be giving their right hands for your life right now. Get over it. That kind of stupid.

The thing is—I would never say such a thing to another human being. Unless they were perennially self-pitying I would never even think it. And yet I behave as though it’s okay to say such things to myself, to berate myself for feeling sad when I have so much to be thankful for. It goes beyond berating. From anyone else, the stuff I say to myself would qualify as verbal abuse.

This is not the Christ-life.

We talk a lot in Christian circles about dying to ourselves. Well, this sort of self-abuse is the kind of thing we’re supposed to crucify with Christ. It’s the sin that so easily entangles, which we need to lay aside so we can run the race of life-with-Christ with joy.

There hasn’t been a lot of joy in my life of late.

I’d like that to change. I’d like to take those harpies captive for Christ and crucify them. I’d like to start living with my arms wide open, the way Jesus lived—and died—instead of curled up in a ball, staring at my own ugliness.

Writing is one thing that cracks me open, lifts my eyes off my own self, pries my clutching hands loose from whatever it is they’re clinging to. I don’t even know what they’re clinging to. Safety? Control? Pride? Whatever it is, it’s an illusion, a delusion, a death sentence.

The only way to live—not merely exist, which is mostly what I’ve been doing for the past 16 months—but really live is to fling our arms open in embrace, throw our heads back in laughter.

Risus est bellum.

That’s the motto of a small Christian school north of where I live. It means laughter is war. If there’s one thing evil can’t stand, it’s laughter. Laughter is levity, it lightens—spreads light—and it’s contagious. I haven’t laughed nearly enough these past 16 months, and I’m losing the war.

Writing restores my perspective, helps me take myself less seriously than I do when I’m stuck in my own head with the harpies swirling their nasty half-truths (and outright lies) before my eyes. Writing helps me see myself as the hilarious joke that I am. It helps me laugh at myself.

It helps me win the war.

The war against the harpies. The war against isolation. The war against despair. The war against the powers of darkness that seek to divide God’s beloved children from Him, from one another, from themselves.

I have let those powers win, simply by refusing to lift my pen, by refusing to humble myself here in this corner of the blogosphere and say, “I’m sad. I’m sad that I sold my home. I’m sad that I live in the suburbs. I’m sad that the life I thought I was going to have no longer exists, except as a lost dream that will never come true.” I was embarrassed that I was sad about that. I am even now embarrassed that after six months I am still grieving the loss of that life. I have let my sadness and my shame silence me—which drove the sadness and the shame further in, which drove me deeper into myself in a nasty inward spiral of growing self-loathing and despair.

The only way out is through. And the only way through is to get my gaze off myself. And oddly, the only way to get my gaze off myself is to write about…myself. I hate that. It’s part of why I’ve endured the past months in silence. It feels so self-involved to write about myself. It is self-involved to write about myself. But it’s better to write about myself and have a little laugh at my own expense and be done with it than to sit in a shame spiral and stare at myself for months on end.

I realize that this is not a funny post, that no one reading it is laughing. That’s okay. I’ve sort of forgotten how to laugh, but I’m cautiously hopeful that as I return to this place which has seen so many rueful self-revelations, the laughter will return, too.

In the meantime, I thought this was really funny, and totally apropos to this post:

IMG_1279

As a Christian, I want to “imaitate” Jesus. And as a writer, I think it’s generally a good idea to “imaitate” the dictionary. Here’s to “imaitation,” friends! Long may it live!

Church_ruin_ireland

On my honeymoon, almost 15 years ago now, I picked up a used copy of Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton. I tried to read it then and couldn’t make heads or tails of it. When my editor at IVP told me it was one of his favorite books ever, I tried again and still didn’t comprehend it. Over the years, I’ve picked it up a few other times, read a few pages, maybe even a whole chapter, and set it down again. It made me feel incurably stupid that I could not follow Chesterton’s thoughts, and I do not like feeling stupid.

A month ago, when I was finally unpacking all of my books, I came across it yet again and, for reasons I do not know, decided to give it another whirl. And, boy, was it a whirl! The man is funny. And crazy smart. And both insightful and incisive. And I understood him! Which tells me you actually can teach old dogs new tricks.

I could quote page after page of Chesterton’s brilliance, but I’ll forbear. On this Good Friday, there is one passage in particular that I want to share with you. I’ve read it half a dozen times in the past two days, and every time it gives me chills:

But if the divinity [of Christ] is true it is certainly terribly revolutionary. That a good man may have his back to the wall is no more than we knew already; but that God could have his back to the wall is a boast for all insurgents for ever. Christianity is the only religion on earth that has felt that omnipotence made God incomplete. Christianity alone has felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king.

If that doesn’t shiver your timbers, my friends, I don’t know what will. The first time I read it, I immediately thought of Dorothy Sayers’ poem “Desdichado,” which I love because it stirs my blood and makes me long to lay down my comfortable life and follow the Bonny Outlaw to the black-enchanted lands—or wherever else He may lead.

And that is exactly what we do on these days of the Triduum. May they be days of deep solemnity and adventurous delight for you.

One_bleeding_heart

Desdichado

—This is the heir; come let us kill him.

—Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning on her Beloved?

Christ walks the world again, His lute upon His back,
His red robe rent to tatters, His riches gone to rack,
The wind that wakes the morning blows His hair about His face,
His hands and feet are ragged with the ragged briar’s embrace,
For the hunt is up behind Him and His sword is at His side,…
Christ the bonny outlaw walks the whole world wide,

Singing: “Lady, lady, will you come away with Me,
Lie among the bracken and break the barley bread?
We will see new suns arise in golden, far-off skies,
For the Son of God and Woman hath not where to lay His head.”

Christ walks the world again, a prince of fairy-tale,
He roams, a rascal fiddler, over mountain and down dale,
Cast forth to seek His fortune in a bitter world and grim,
For the stepsons of His Father’s house would steal His bride from Him;
They have weirded Him to wander till He bring within His hands
The water of eternal youth from black-enchanted lands,

Singing: “Lady, lady, will you come away with Me,
Or sleep on silken cushions in the bower of wicked men?
For if we walk together through the wet and windy weather,
When I ride back home triumphant, you will ride beside Me then.”

Christ walks the world again, new-bound on high emprise,
With music in His golden mouth and laughter in His eyes;
The primrose springs before Him as He treads the dusty way,
His singer’s crown of thorns has burst in blossom like the may,
He heedeth not the morrow and He never looks behind,
Singing: “Glory to the open skies and peace to all mankind.”

Singing: “Lady, lady, will you come away with Me?
Was never man lived longer for the hoarding of his breath;
Here be dragons to be slain, here be rich rewards to gain…
If we perish in the seeking…why, how small a thing is death!”

—Dorothy Sayers

Photo of Irish ruins by Susan Forshey.

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