Bathed in the Warmth of Stories

fireBy Joyce Hollyday, a facilitator of the upcoming “Heart and Hearth: A Writing Retreat for Women.”

During Advent many years ago, I preached in the morning chapel service at a Pennsylvania college. The chaplain’s five-year-old son, Kyle, had memorized the Gospel of Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, and he was eager to recite it at lunch. He was flawless until he got to the part about the angels announcing to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace!” Forgetting the last phrase, Kyle concentrated for a few moments. Then he confidently launched in again, enthusiastically attributing these words to the hovering heavenly host: “Glory to God in the highest…and I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!”

As we enter Advent once again, I feel both the world and my soul being buffeted by winds that threaten to destroy all peace. In a time such as this, as the gales whip around us, I hunger to be more deeply grounded. I need to draw strength from kindred souls, to give birth to the stories simmering in my heart, to hear tales of hope and resilience, to share music and laughter amid all the tears. And I’d love to do all this wrapped in a warm blanket, surrounded by sisters, in front of a blazing fire with a cup of hot tea in hand.

If you too feel such a longing, consider this your personal invitation to “Heart and Hearth: A Writing Retreat for Women.” In the heart of winter, January 11-13, we’ll gather at the beautiful Skyline Retreat Center outside Detroit, Michigan. Pockets of solitude for writing will be provided, as well as plenty of moments for feasting, singing, and sharing the stories, poems, prayers, essays, and dreams that spill into words.

Whenever I think of Kyle and his version of the Christmas story, I also think of the three-year-old triplet boys who were once part of my faith community. During church they heard a vivid recounting of the biblical tale of Jonah and the whale. That night, as their mother wrestled Will into his pajamas, he crowed proudly, “I’m Jonah!” Connor, puffing out his cheeks and spreading his arms wide, immediately piped up, “I’m the big fish!” Jack’s shoulders slumped, and a crestfallen look overtook his face, as he sighed sadly, “I guess I have to be God.”

Stories are bedrock in our lives. Before they can even understand them, we tell stories to our children. They remember, and retell, and replay them, learning early on about their power. We’re always adding new stories to our lives, deepening our understanding of ourselves and the world, weaving our experience into the larger human story that encompasses us all. A particular power erupts whenever women—or members of any non-dominant group whose perspective is regularly excluded from the historical record—claim our voices and tell the truth we harbor in our hearts.

In the biblical tale as Jack heard it, Jonah was a superhero. The big fish was…well, a big fish. And God was a disembodied voice behind the scenes with a bit part. As he gets older, Jack will likely hear that story again and again. And at some point he’ll realize that as a toddler he got it wrong, that God has more than a minor role in what goes on.

As the winter winds begin to stir in my part of the world, I long to spend some time bathed in the warmth of stories. I want to drink in the wisdom of others who know deep in their bones that God is no bit player in history. I’d like to know how you see God at work in your life and the world. I hope to see you at the fire. I’ll gladly share a cup of lemon-ginger tea.

Heart and Hearth: A Writing Retreat for Women

Friday, January 11 at 6pm to Sunday, January 13 at 1pm.
Facilitated by Kate Foran, Joyce Hollyday, and Lydia Wylie-Kellermann.
$250. Scholarships available.
Hosted by Word and World

In the heart of winter, come nurture your spirit at a hearth of warmth and creativity. This retreat is for women of all ages who want to take some time apart to reflect, write, and sit among a circle of supportive sisters. We will keep a rhythm of solitude and gathering, with space to share with one another what we’re writing, for those who would like to. Writing prompts will be provided for those who want them. No writing experience is required. You are welcome whether you want to take a first step toward putting words on paper or are in the throes of writing the next best-selling novel or book of poetry. There’s sure to be fun and feasting, stories and songs to keep us warm around the fire as well.

The retreat will be held at Skyline Retreat Center (5650 Sandhill Road, Almont MI, 48003) in Focus Hall. It is about an hour outside of Detroit, MI.

The retreat cost includes programming, housing, food, and linens. Meals provided Friday dinner through Sunday lunch.

To Register, fill out the form HERE.



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