In which I dream of grace upon grace upon grace

I had a lovely, weekend-long dream from which I’m hard pressed to awaken.

I was at a retreat, nestled in a scenic canyon in the Hill Country of Texas.  I had to be driven through a river to get there.  And once I got there, I couldn’t use my cell phone.  I certainly must be dreaming!   😉

A mind-blowing amount of thought, care, and love had gone into preparing this event in the midst of this vast expanse of nature:  sky, land, and water coalescing into a picture-perfect autumn postcard of peace.

canyon trees

Photo credit: Tammy Hendricksmeyer @

I didn’t arrive there with expectations, but The High Calling Retreat at  Laity Lodge was all that I could have hoped for–and more.

I read, stretched, napped, smiled, hugged, prayed, and nodded in agreement at shared experiences, the peaks and valleys in the journey of life.  Much like the craggy canyon in the background.

The temperature plummeted.  But did it really matter?  Joy and peace and worship soared in the hearts of like-minded–Christ-minded–friends.

“These are my people!” said Diane.  Yes, ma’am.  So very true.

I was in the company of strangers who were becoming friends.

Deidra and Helen - airport pickup

Best. Airport. Pickup. Van. Ride. Ever. Ms. Deidra (left), who invited me to this dream, and my roomie, Ms. Helen (right), repping for Lincoln, Nebraska. S/O to Ms. Tina for welcoming us in style!
Photo credit: Helen Fagan

There was a steady buzz of voices in the dining room,  a low, rhythmical hum of life stories being exchanged, punctuated by peals of laughter that rippled down the tables and made the meals far richer.

I sipped hot raspberry tea and devoured to-die-for bread.    Yes, I’m a self-confessed breadaholic. 🙂

I smiled at the sleight of hand of God, conveying me from the darkness of relentless routine into the glorious light of.just.being.

I was free from the tyranny of the clock.   My to-do list was MIA.  

Leaves plastered by rain to the walkways gave way to works of art and labors of love, aprons designed to bless others from the overflow of rested, happy, expressive hearts.

Chris in apron

“Musician turned model” Chris, all decked out in his handiwork, a gift for his wife Suzanne.
Photo credit: Cheryl Hyatt Smith

We honored the Creator, His creation, and the creativity in each of us.

I heard bells ringing, summoning me to partake in fellowship and food, to be present with others, chatting way after the meal was enjoyed and while tables were cleared in preparation for the next round of breaking bread.  

The conversations continued in the Great Hall, on sofas that seduced you to linger and fold yourself deep into them as you connected with yet another new friend. Divulged secrets remained secure in the safety deposit boxes of each others’ hearts.

group on sofa

Enjoying the journey to new friendships
Photo credit: Diane Bailey

 Even as I listened, I was heard, and listened to.   I was replenished by these new, God-breathed friendships.

It was a pure beginning.  Worship at its very best.  We served each other by simply being.

I stepped waaaaaaaaaaay out of my comfort zone and read a poem.  Out loud.  Before more than 50 people.  I know I’m dreaming!

I helped turn old jeans into shoes for children in Africa who are prone to develop jiggers in their shoeless feet.  Go Sole Hope!

The Sole Hope - creating shoes from jeans

Hard at work converting old blue jeans into sole-saving shoes.
Photo credit: Tammy Hendricksmeyer @

And I experienced the power of the bomb–the well-executed photobomb that detonated hysterical laughter and still brings tears of joy to my eyes.  

Jennifer's photobomb

Someone, who will remain anonymous, hijacked our carefully crafted photo.
We’re looking at you back there, Ms. Thang!
Photo credit: Tammy Hendricksmeyer @

I mused upon the challenges that were proffered…

  • To recognize that unhappy endings can lead to pure beginnings.   Thanks, Marlon.
  • To use my words to bring forth spirit and life.   Thanks, Mark.
  • To tell better stories to myself about myself.
  • To recognize that the cursor on the empty blog page is not cursed; rather, it is a blessing to all who read this blog.

I was on holy ground, and I knew it.  With logs burning in the fireplace before me, and a burning bush of fiery leaves over the water behind me, I experienced grace upon grace upon grace.  And as I partook of communion, teary eyed, a bird tweeted softly outside.  I couldn’t help but smile.  Were her tweets more than 140 characters long?  I’d soon be back to the reality of Twitter.  And Facebook.  And blogging. 

burning red bushes

Photo credit: Tammy Hendricksmeyer @

I give thanks for such a dream.  It was a pre-Thanksgiving gift that may well eclipse the real Thanksgiving Day.  Thanks to all at The High Calling, and especially to you, Deidra, for inviting me.


  1. Sounds like a wonderful experience Ali! It must have been so uplifting. I love that you turned old jeans into shoes! 🙂
    Michelle recently posted..Epiphanie Camera Bag Review and GiveawayMy Profile

    • It was a great experience, Michelle, and we had tremendous fun as we cut those pattern pieces out for the shoes. It always amazes me how the things we take for granted (old jeans sitting in the closet) can be life-saving items for someone else!
      Alison recently posted..Ten Things of ThankfulMy Profile

  2. I’m so happy to hear how your time away has been. You were definitely missed! This sounds like it was so rewarding and genuine. I remember when I was in Spain, I went to this retreat called Peniel. It was so fun. This view looks gorgeous. I loved reading your post about the ambiance and the friendly believers you were with. It was just like I was there!
    Brittnei recently posted..Pay It ForwardMy Profile

  3. I’m so glad you were able to participate! Thanks for sharing your lovely experience. The photos are lovely 🙂

  4. Alison!~ oh your words blessed me all weekend and now here. And I still can’t get over the photo bomb. Beautifully said, sister.

  5. Stunning beauty! I love the Texas hill country. So glad you had such an amazing weekend! :)-Ashley
    thedoseofreality recently posted..Would You Rather: Have To Do All Your Holiday Shopping On Black Friday Or Cyber Monday?My Profile

  6. I never get tired of looking at those pics of lovely people there with us this past weekend. Reading your words about is like a “yes and amen!” to what I felt too.
    tammy@meadows speak recently posted..when you need a safe place to fall apart–Thanksgiving thoughts {#2 of Laity Lodge, High Calling Retreat}My Profile

  7. That certainly looks/sounds like holy ground. And how wonderful of a process to have strangers turn into close friends. When I met Michelle (Dish of Daily Life) and Ilene (Fierce Diva Guide to Life), I quoted the Muppets by saying, “There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.”
    That’s how it is.
    A very Happy Thanksgiving to you. I’m thankful for your blog and the hope/inspiration/divinity you infuse in it and its readers.
    Tamara recently posted..Laughter and Meltdowns.My Profile

    • Thanks, Tamara! I love the Muppet quote. It sums up exactly how I felt at the end of the retreat: I had encountered old friends whom I had only just met. Have a lovely Thanksgiving, and take lots of awesome pictures! You inspire me to want to invest in a really good camera and give photography more than a cursory try. I took pics at the retreat with my iPad but I wasn’t happy with the overall quality. I know it’s probably me, because I’ve seen other people take really decent shots with their phones and tablets.

      Hugs, Ali
      Alison recently posted..Ten Things of ThankfulMy Profile

  8. I waited for this post Alison! Laity Lodge seems like a dream come true. So happy you got to experience the rejuvenating effects of true fellowship. Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your blessing. 2014? Are you going again? Maybe we’ll meet.

  9. Perfect. This post. You. Your poem. I loved meeting you and I’m so glad you took that risk because your words are still ringing in my heart. Bless you!

    • Hey Ann! I took the risk because you and Sam and Lore egged me on! So glad you did. It was therapeutic and cathartic in many ways. So glad to have met you in person after having read your work for so long.

      Hugs, Ali
      Alison recently posted..Ten Things of ThankfulMy Profile

  10. grace upon grace upon grace
    yes, this!
    HisFireFly recently posted..renewalMy Profile

  11. You’ve stated it beautifully. Somehow, you’ve captured it here. Perfectly. What a joy to meet you, to hear where you’ve come from, to break bread, and to sink deeply — into the couch, into God, into grace — with you.

    Happiest of Thanksgivings to you, friend. XXOO
    Deidra recently posted..SundayMy Profile

  12. An admist all of the beauty, it was looking into the eyes of new friends and hearing their hearts speak from their hidden places that made me sing. Thanks for being you. It was a blessing to commune with you at the same table, on holy ground, amidst the burning bush!

  13. Beautiful words, beautiful you. What a pleasure to meet you this weekend, Alison. I was blessed by your lovely spirit. Grace upon grace indeed.
    laura recently posted..Morning SnowMy Profile

  14. Beautiful and breathtaking pictures. I am so glad that you were able to go to the retreat. And to make shoes out of jeans for the kids–amazing! I do have a question though, what are jigglers? You mentioned that shoeless kids can get them in their feet.
    KalleyC recently posted..Being Thankful on ThanksgivingMy Profile

  15. Well here you’ve explained it! Thanks for the recap. I’m catching up on reading so I read the other post first. This was simply blessed! So glad you got the opportunity to attend. Great Thanksgiving treat!
    Joi @ Rx Fitness Lady recently posted..Thanksgiving Gratitude – This Blog is My BabyMy Profile

  16. I love this. Especially the part about safety deposit boxes. But it wasn’t a dream. We were all there, and we will remember. Thanks for adding your voice and vision to the chorus of rememberers.
    Laura Brown recently posted..Gallery: Illustrated gratitude journalMy Profile

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