WELL + PLENTY in Tennessee

At my lowest point, the days where I was just sad, I could cry without even trying. Nothing from the outside made things worse or better but everything on the inside was just… sad. That was when I got a note from my girls in Tennessee, they wanted to see me, so much so they pitched in together to pay for my plane ticket. I’ve written about this time in Tennessee here if you want to read about it. It was life altering. I might describe it differently today then I did in my post though. Now I would say that it didn’t exactly heal me… when I got home I still had a long road of recovery ahead of me, but I would say it gave me the energy I needed to take steps, each day, towards healing. Those women are so special to me. I can’t ever seem to pick the exact wording that feels sufficient in describing what they mean to me. They are rare and raw and so okay with me not being ok. Matter of fact I think they like me better without all my ducks in a row. I think they liked that I needed THEM.

When I got back I found myself on a road towards leading retreats. I didn’t know it then but that’s where I ended up. So I knew when I made the decision to do retreats there would be a day I would get to do one for them. And that day came, August 4 + 5, 2018.

This was my fourth retreat to hold and my second one away from home. I will say having them in my home is 100 times easier. I know where everything is and I know what I have and what I don’t. Having to think through each detail or the fact that I was unable to think through each detail made getting everything there impossible. My car almost wasn’t big enough and my brain definitely wasn’t. I was so thankful to have Abi, my photographer and friend, with me for the drive and prep. I didn’t realize before but I couldn’t have done it without her. It was a learning experience and I know I could do it even better next time… because there will be a next time.

This was the first retreat to be held at an AirBnb. I chose it by looking up a place that slept 12, had a hot tub and then I would look through the pictures for an area to do yoga. Beyond that I couldn’t be picky, there just wasn’t enough options. We landed on the Treehouse Mansion. It was amazing. The lot was over 500 acres. Loaded with many different buildings that looked like they were built 100 years ago. A pond with an Ark next door. A creek just outside our door. A giant sized rocking chair even, all set in the rolling green hills of Tennessee. Breathtaking. When Abi and I drove up, we squealed with excitement, it was perfect.

Setting everything up took exactly the three hours we had before the attendees were to arrive. They all showed up at the same time, right at 6! I opened the door and there they all stood, ready for something to happen though not many of them had a clue what they had gotten themselves into. They just knew they needed… something. They all came with bravery and courage especially the ones who didn’t know me. There was even one woman, we will call her Sarah, who took the place of an attendee last minute, like earlier that day. She showed up with very little knowledge of WELL + PLENTY and she didn’t know a soul. Wow!!! I knew she had to be a little scared but like I said her need for “something” overtook her fear. I was so proud of her and each woman who came.

After hugs and introductions, they dispersed and found their beds. When they returned we chowed down on a beautiful charcuterie and just got to know each other. I roamed around asking questions and listened in on conversations, hugged the ones I didn’t know, again and hugged the ones I did, over and over. I realized I was there for something too. The same energy they filled me up over a year before, I was receiving again. They can’t help it, it’s just who they are.

After mingling we sat for dinner and continued our conversation. I didn’t want it to end. Everyone got along so well. Why is it so rare to have a group of women together with not an ounce of judgement but only love and kindness? Maybe it was because they all knew there was no threat, that the space was safe, that everyone there felt the same way they did, everyone just wanted care and compassion. That is all we had for each other and it was beautiful.

We gave my icebreaker a go after dinner. A ball of yarn being passed around every time you had something in common with another person. In the end you should have a web connecting everyone to everyone else. But the yarn got tangled and we sat longer trying to undo the knots then we did actually playing the game. Luckily I had a group of optimistics and opportunists. They saw the life lessons even in the knots and continued their conversation joyfully. After what felt like forever, because I internalize mishap, we finally just cut the knot out of the string and tied it back together in a much shorter version. They got the point. We laughed about it and moved on.

Next was Holy Yoga. Upstairs was just the master suite. Large enough for 11 people to do yoga without even moving furniture. Amazing. Two walls were windows and the lamps and candles gave a soft glow, the perfect environment to get some much needed time with the Savior. I led them through a long meditation, with just a short series of Sun or Son salutations for our flow. It was simple and low key. It was emotionally deep but ended with such hope. Long story short, our lives can be overtaken by all the fast paced machines. The house, the todo list, the sports and activities, the family, the extended family, the friends, the closer friends, the maintenance, the budget, the career, the lack of any of these. They all represent a machine and we feel out of control to slow them down or even stop them. They keep us so busy that we fail to notice what is happening to our hearts and we lose the connections to our souls. The main point to the meditation was to regain that connection and to nurture it. Also to create space in those areas for God. To realize that His expectations of us are not what we assume. That all He wants is time with us. It was special. It always makes me look at God differently then how I’m use to. He is so compassionate, so full of love and grace, we are the ones setting unrealistic expectations on ourselves and our quiet time with Him. He just wants us to look to Him, to say His name, to give him space in our busy, hectic lives.

After yoga we dismissed for some healthy sweets and hot tub time. The amazing conversation continued in smaller more intimate groups, then slowly, we all found our ways to our beds.

The next morning I had breakfast ready around 8:15. Some women hung out in the kitchen and the rest went for a walk by the creek. Some got their first full nights sleep since baby, some just got a good night’s sleep. Either way we all woke, fresh faced and renewed. I saw different women in the morning then when they first showed up the evening before. Jitters we all gone and we were all at ease.

This was the moment I knew we should have made this one longer. I wanted to do too much and there just wasn’t enough time. This was my only regret, that we didn’t book a second night for those who wanted to stay, getting everything there and everything packed up again with enough time for retreat, it just didn’t fit.

We went into a craft, seeing people learn and try something new was so much fun. I love teaching so going around and helping was energizing for me. Everyone did the same thing but each piece was vastly different. We laughed with our mistakes and tried again. We commented praise on each others work and just enjoyed the time. Getting yourself outside your norm in a non scary way can be so rewarding. It didn’t matter what the final piece looked like it was the process. Even though everyone tried really hard because they wanted to hang it up in their home, there still was no pressure. I love those activities, no comparison just letting it be whatever it is going to be.

One more sweet session of Holy Yoga with meditation then we were at lunch. I worked on using everything I bought so there wouldn’t be much food to take with us. It worked out for the most part. Food is a passion of mine but with everything else needing to have thought and attention I chose easy recipes with quick prep. TACOS! You just can’t go wrong. And add mango salsa to the mix and you are set. Easy entertaining 101!

The last session we did was the Enneagram. I think looking back on it this is what needed more time. I knew I felt rushed but I really felt rushed when we got to this part. I could sit and talk about the Enneagram all day but I only had an hour and a half. Plus, cleaning up was different than we had expected so they whole thing felt out of the sorts. We sped through each number, helping each person feel as though they had landed confidently on the right number. Then explaining the ins and outs and how the Enneagram can aid in everyday living got cut a little short. Ladies, I would have given anything to sit longer with you, to hear your thoughts and answer your questions. It kills me to think it didn’t make sense or made you feel lost in anyway. I come back to the thought and prayer that “it is what God wanted it to be”. But I can’t help but wish there had been more time.

Over all it was epic. It was a change of scenery which I totally enjoyed and think the women did too. It was calm and relaxing, which for me at least is so different then my home. It was full of love and encouragement, not just from me but it flowed freely between each woman. It was a breath, at the exact moment I think we felt winded. I cannot wait to return. To make it even better next year.

To the women I got to meet for the first time, you came not knowing me or each other very well or at all. That is a big deal. You stepped out of your comfort zone to do something for yourself. Those are two things that mostly get left out of our womanly worlds. Thank you! Thank you for trusting me and allowing me to be the one who spent that time with you.

To the women I did know, you are precious to me. You all love without effort. You make me feel excepted and encouraged to be me, in all my imperfect glory. I hope and pray I returned a fraction of that love back to you. I pray you feel refreshed in your love for God and for yourselves. 

My prayer for you all is that you would continue to give yourself permission to take time for you. To set aside some of the budget or to let someone know you need time with them. Whatever it is that will refresh you, do it. You will never regret taking that time but being drained and depleted could lead you to some real lows. Love God, love yourself, love others…

I hope you feel loved, because you are, so deeply loved.

Photos taken by Abi Ruth Martin. You can find her on instagram at abi_ruth.