Wow. This Story Retreat. Elora Nicole, you’ve outdone yourself.
These last couple of days will go down for me as some of the best in my life. And part of me is sad, because it seems like all of the transformative retreats leave my husband and kiddos at home, far away. I miss them desperately. Maybe I’ll have to figure out how to put together a restorative family retreat. Hmmm.
But as for this weekend . . . there’s just something about these women. I don’t always feel like I connect with people. I have long felt I can turn my extrovert on and off like a switch, and be Bubbly Brandy when she’s needed. This weekend, her services were not required. I could be my introverted self. I could drink and laugh and dance and pray and still go to bed before most everyone. I could be serious or I could be funny. I could steal away to run or write for hours and still feel deeply connected to every woman. Every single beautiful soul.
That never happens. Typically, I will connect with a few people, be Switzerland to a couple of others, and nearly dislike the rest. Usually, feelings of intimidation overwhelm me and my insecurities come out to play. And it’s fine, because still, I’ve connected with that small few, and the others aren’t aware that I’ve dubbed them unapproachable.
But this weekend was different. These women are more than just casual acquaintances. They are my friends. They are my sisters. They are my anam caras. And my soul has been made better because of them.
I think part of it is that we are all writers. Even the ones of us who aren’t ready to own that title. We feel it in our blood, the words aching to get out of our guts and into the hearts of the people we long to bless. Our children. Our brothers. Our sisters. Ourselves.
This weekend was particularly special for me because I got to teach my first Shalom Session workshop. The entire week before I left for Texas, I prepped and prayed. I marveled in excitement. I knew these women online, and so I wasn’t exactly nervous, I was just full up grateful to be able to share my gifts with them in this way. I had a feeling it might go well, but it went better than I could have imagined.
Since I started the Shalom Sessions, I have used John O’Donahue’s book, To Bless the Space Between Us to pray a blessing over each of my clients at the start of the session. I pick out a special one just for that person, and I read it to them out loud. It calms us both and sets up a shalom-y mood. I love picking out their blessing, but sometimes I can’t quite find the right one. For some time, I’ve wanted to get to the point of writing a blessing for each sweet soul.
This weekend, though, working with writers, I knew I could take that one step further.
I did write a blessing, for the Story Session community at large. And then, I used the idea of the Compass that I usually create for them; I flipped it around. I asked them to look inside their answers to the probing questions I’d asked, to use the Compass to guide them to write a blessing for themselves. Because our dreams are holy and they matter. And for some, that’s the easiest thing in the world to forget.
I say it went well because they just kept referencing it. In writing a blessing for themselves, they were actually blessed. I am humbled that God used me in this way. As the weekend progressed, I started to realize how much I’d loved leading that workshop. How much I’d love to travel all over, and bless others in that way. With the Shalom Sessions, the hardest part has been figuring out how to explain why someone would need one. Once they have had one, they get it. They love it. They know.
And so, on the last day of the retreat, we were future-casting, and I was thinking about the Shalom Sessions. I asked them what they thought. If they would pay for a workshop like the one I taught.
“Brandy,” Elora smiled, “I would pay for you to come to my future retreats to do your Shalom Sessions there.”
That’s when I realized: my dreams matter too. Wow. And amen. And thank you, more please.
I’d like to share the blessing that I wrote for them. And if you would like to dive deeper into the sacredness of your own dreams, I think I can help.
For the Story Sessions
the girls we once were are coming back to us now.
whispering their stories, our stories, in our ears.
let us hear.
let us listen to the little one that is who we were that is who we are before the shame and obligation took their toll.
that voice inside of us, she knows where the shalom is.
may we trust her.
and let her lead.
may the creativity birthed in the sacred pages of the story sessions grow into a garden of hope.
a masterpiece we could not have conceived alone.
may we be brave learning to rebel as a spiritual discipline.
may we know the difference between religious bullying and the gentle whisper of our Maker.
may these sacred relationships help to heal the deep wounds we all carry.
may our scars remain visible so that we never forget the power we all possess.
the meaning and the magic,
why we share our stories.
my anam caras.
may we always know that someone who loves us is forever just a Facebook message away.