What I wrote that changed everything. It even birthed this retreat.
I've got a juicy little tidbit for you this week (well, little is relative - it's a good long share). As I was doing some behind-the-scenes preparation for the upcoming retreat (you coming?!), I needed to comb through some old Nurture Google Docs. It took me waaayyy back to when Nurture first started and was still operating under my personal email address. While in the archives, I stumbled across an 'archeological specimen' I think you might enjoy. It is a cringe-worthy but illuminating journal entry I wrote to myself from a place of personal darkness and creative stagnancy, PRE-NURTURE.
Little did back-then me know that a mere 6 days later (!!!), I would fatefully meet a stranger - the woman whose off-handed comment unknowingly changed my life.
She gifted me with these magical words: "Well, Sonja, I don't have a magic wand to give you a farmhouse, but I DO have an idea. You should take your love of food, creativity and self care and combine them into a weekend retreat and rent a farmhouse for a few days!" This website is a good indicator of what happened from there, which is nothing short of magic (oh, and also a lot of hard work. That too.)
Below is a fair (if dramatic) representation where I was at, pre-fate-stepping-in. I use the word God from a personal place, not a religious one. It's the word that resonates with me and it is, for me, a relational term. We talk.
February 9th, 2015
Dear God (A Prayer for Purpose, with swears),
Lately you’ve been ‘telling’ me to write. I use quotations, because I’m still at a place in my faith journey where I don’t feel confident that I’m worthy of You really telling me anything. Instead, I feel little tugs in the direction of my soul, which You created, so You should know. So here I am, writing to You, because all I got was a tug and You didn’t really make it clear what I should write about.
Fuck, here I am sitting wanting this to be a perfectly edited and grammatically correct (been reading Strunk & White like it’s the gospel) essay and instead I’m trying to be editor/creator/enjoyer all at once and failing on all levels.
This is a pattern in my life.
I so badly want to create something beautiful or profound, but spend most of my time questioning my profundity and doubting my ability to actually make anything worthwhile all the while looking at other examples of work that I enjoy: saying, nay, proclaiming (from my proverbial couch) - I can do that. And probably better! From what I’ve read about writers, that behaviour is a given and I can consider myself qualified. I just ache to be funny and worthy and beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. I want people to get that thump in the thymus of recognition when they read a phrase I’ve written, or glimpse a photo, or taste something I’ve baked. I want them to know, to get it, to understand.
Being misunderstood - I’m good at that. But I’m told You understand me completely and that’s all I’ll ever need. Thank God (er, that’s You) for that, because here I am trying to be all sorts of things I’m not, while being very much me in the doing so and I imagine you get a good giggle from that, some sort of satisfied smirk, like YES SONJA. WELL DONE ON THE BATHROBE AND MOOD LIGHTING AND VIOLIN 8 TRACKS PLAYLIST. YOU ARE VERY MUCH BEING YOU RIGHT NOW and I LOVE IT.
God, you made me for a purpose. Currently, my struggle is knowing what that might be. I mean, can you use a girl who sits and types to You because she is not really in the mood for Netflix right now and can’t stand to no longer do anything with respect to her creative life?
I am resistant, God. I am so fucking lazy at times and have the best excuses, although I’m sure you’ve heard better in your, um, lifetime. Like, I feel moved by what I read in the Psalms the other day by some Psalmist who was probably as fed up as me being like (and I’m paraphrasing): "God, you gave me gifts for a reason, but it’s pretty difficult to use them when I’m down-in-the-dust despairing about all my pithy little problems or seemingly insurmountable big obstacles and blocks. So, since I’m powerless and You’re the Creator of the Universe, I suggest you DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT."
Okay, since I can say anything to you: another wave of self-hatred. In reading the above paragraphs my mouth wanted to vomit and I thought what the heck am I doing writing this shitty stuff? Like my inner editor was like quit it with the witty blogger tone and write something real, dammit. Like something with integrity and real artistry. None of this casual tone - make a statement. No one wants to read this drivel and you are wasting your time and this free computer word processor writing space.
Fuck self hatred.
This is my whole point.
God, I want to be one of those women who is so centred in You, she could CARE LESS if she wrote in capitals to imply hilarity or in poetry that stirs the soul. She would just know her own beauty and also her own sensitivities, but not in a way where she pretended she didn’t have them, or constantly apologized for being the very human woman that she is. This woman prays and knows, in her heart, that that prayer will be answered.
It’s the knowing in my heart that I can’t seem to access as much as I’d like to. I BELIEVE (no hilarity intended, unless you’re me re-reading this and ‘accidentally’ read it in a Southern Baptist preacher-at-the-pulpit voice and snortle) in You completely, in the power of what is accomplished through You and in Your undying, unconditional Love. And I might be naive in thinking loving You will feel like the pictures I see in the well-lit, bokeh-ed photos in Christian quarterlies, like women who are so beautiful because they are in love with You, laughing and glowing like it’s an engagement spread in BRIDE OF CHRIST magazine. Oh Lordy, if that exists, truly, in real life, a part of me is peeing. Googling now. Nope. Only a site with creepy mirror-imaged clay angels on horns framing a picture of a retirement-age couple that emanates from clouds. No be-dimpled and be-hipstered blushing brides in sight.
But do you know what I mean?
What I envy in the curated Insta feeds and blog posts of the creative people I follow is the connection I sense they have to the real, true SOURCE of their beauty and talents and purpose. I know from reading their blogs that they are human and struggle with the same things I do. I want to know and trust God so that I can also know and trust myself, which is what I feel must give that glow that makes them all so. darn. attractive.
I envy the fact that my friend Jessica knows she speaks in flowers for God. How do I speak for God?
I say this seriously, but also with a bit of shame, as I know I have been gifted with many talents. It almost makes it harder.
I LOVE people who are in alignment with their purpose, or their calling. Antoinette, who waxes my eyebrows, says she knows just by looking at a face what brow would suit them most. That is a calling, in my mind, because she singlehandedly upped my confidence and how I felt about my forehead by artistically pouring and ripping hot wax off my face in the most loving and attentive way. The kids I work with are obviously born to dance. They have to, or they wither.
God, I know that when I’m not creative, I wither, and I’ve spent much of the last few years surviving on residual creativity from an older, outdated version of myself. That is no longer sustainable.
I want to know how best to serve You, praise You, glorify You.
I am a hard worker, very dedicated to excellence and beauty, especially when I am ignited by a purpose to the work I am doing. I can really get on board. So, I am writing to ask you to please ignite me. Light me up. I want to glow on the inside for you too.
p.s. I didn’t mean for that last part to read like a cover letter for Holy Purpose. After I read it over a part of me whispered: also competent on Word & Excel.
p.p.s I still mean every word.
p.p.p.s Thank you.
p.p.p.p.s Now I feel the need to say Amen, because it feels weird to talk to you and not. Amen.
p.p.p.p.p.s Just wrote that and meant it, but now I have the niggling feeling that Amen deserves its own post script.
I share this journal excerpt with you from a place of humility, and, thankfully, a sense of humour - I definitely cringed when reading parts of it again and am struck by the degree to which my grandiosity and my self hatred fought for equal air time. Two sides of the same coin.
I also share it with intense awe and gratitude at the grace available when we offer ourselves to the call within to create what our souls want to create, no matter what. My own offer, as you read, came from a place where, all internal jokes aside, I felt stuck to the point of daily inner agony and crippling anxiety. I needed to be creative or wilt, and I refused to wilt. To me, reading this a mere two years later, with a rich creative life and the kind of inner love that offers sanctuary and not more hatred when my old dark friends pay me a visit, it is nothing short of a miracle. The best part? That miracle is available to all of us, the moment we give ourselves permission to create from exactly where we're at. It makes me all the more passionate to share the way through to the kind of life where your creativity is no longer a stranger, but an old friend you can turn to in times of difficulty and joy.
Nurture was built out of a personal need for this kind of sanctuary - as a business owner, as a creative, as a woman. The fabric of my own life has since combined with that of yours - the women with whom I share this deep need, and beyond that, as Nurture offerings expand, the women and men who identify with a need for a nourishing creative space for whatever season they're in.
If you're in need of an immersive weekend with like-minded others that offers this kind of space, we still have some spots left for our spring retreat, April 25-27th - learn more about it HERE, and about the amazing workshops offered HERE. Can't wait to feed you. :)
p.s. Fun side story? My friend Jessica of the flowers? She facilitated at the first retreat. It was divine to have her there, in all senses of the word.