Similarly, last weekend a group of 8 of us went on a retreat to Tyler Texas' Memory Lane Inn. The Inn is an old early 1900 house that has been completely renovated inside. It was GORGEOUS and comfortable. We had such a wonderful time together. We may not have gotten as much crafting done as we would have liked, but it's all about the camaraderie, right? My recently published friend (can you tell how proud of her I am?), Alisa Noble was my suite mate (she's so easy to stay over with--no snoring, not an overly light sleeper.) Also part of our awesome group were Marie Jenkins (an amazing talented lady who knows a lot about living); Cami Dilsaver (a strong, independent woman with a heart the size of Texas...and then some); Liesl Milford (a Louisiana-bred hoot and a holler all rolled up into one funny gal) Dana Suza (truly and ARTIST--she sees life through an amazing pair of eyes), and Shannon Martinson (Pink Fish Designs jewelry crafter). Most of these gals are friends I met just from being involved in various art groups and projects in the area. I am always in awe of the creative talent that surrounds me. I even get envious at times--but then I have to remember we all have different talents. I, for example, have excellent penmanship.
But the best part of the retreat wasn't just being there for 3 days devoted wholly to creating, although that in itself is pretty noteworthy. The amazing stories I heard from these women's lives filled me with such gratitude and admiration. As I listened to one lady recount the horror of her son being burned by a car explosion in a mechanic shop (and the months and months of pain and hardship they went through afterward), I felt such a love for this woman. The things she'd gone through had been really really hard, but she was so gracious and strong in sharing. I admire the strength she's gained from going through this, and other difficult life challenges. I also felt my heart fill with compassion as I listened to another woman recount a part of her life when her children were very young. Her husband, unfortunately, chose to take his own life, leaving behind a family with no form of support. It wasn't enough that she had to fight through the grief, sorrow, and even anger of the situation. On top of that, she was then faced with the realization that she was the SOLE provider for these young babes. I listened to her stories of the multiple jobs she took on, just to provide food and shelter for the children--going down the way, pulling her kids in a wagon, trying to sell dried flowers. At one point, even her own brother-in-law and his wife tried to come and "help" her by offering to take her newborn baby off her hands. Can you imagine? She clung tightly to those little ones and never slept more than a few hours a night, making sure she did everything in her power to keep them safe and well. When I see a woman overcome such hardship and not only survive, but come out victorious, I am filled with the deepest feelings of respect and kinship for her. It makes me feel better as a woman, to know there are others out there who have difficult life problems, but are overcoming them beautifully. It's as if they're saying, "We're all in this together, Honey."
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As I'm going along in my life trying to overcome problems new and old, it's such a boost to my spirit to be with other women who are facing their own challenges--but are succeeding. I'm thankful to those who open their hearts up wide enough for me to have a peek inside and share with them. That is such a privilege.