Save the date!
I’m hosting the writer retreat and intensive again THIS October! Here’s what you need to know:
When: Friday, October 6th (12pm EST) to Sunday, October 8th (11:30am EST)
Where: In a beautiful 5,000 square foot home on 30 acres in a small little town in PA. (Free shuttle to and from the Harrisburg airport which is about 45 minutes from the location.)
Who: I will host this retreat along with Denise J. Hughes. Special guests include Kim Todd (Spiritual Disciplines with Writing and Holy Yoga Instructor) and Don Jacobson (of D.C. Jacobson & Associates Literary Agency). Logan Wolfram (author of Curious Faith) and Amy Smoker (A Night to Breathe) will also be there, bringing the hospitality (Logan will encourage you in your writing while stirring soup and making the most delicious meals!).
Cost: There are only 16 tickets available, and the cost is around $989 (depending on bed choice) which includes your stay in a beautiful lake house, all food for the weekend (including endless cups of coffee and tea), up-close and personal time with myself, Denise, and the other special guests, one-on-one coaching, teaching sessions, space to write, and some special gifts. Full payment will be due when you purchase the ticket.
We will stay up late into the night talking about writing and publishing and all the things that go with it. We will eat chocolate and wear P.J.’s and enjoy the best food all while being surrounded by beautiful scenery.
As one of only 16 women, you will have access to Sarah, Denise, Logan, Kim, and Don, and enjoy one-on-one coaching from Sarah and Denise. We will eat together, laugh together, and breathe as we work the words out of our soul.
This retreat is an exhale for you writers out there who feel stuck or lost or blocked or discouraged. I want to be able to look into your eyes and hear your voice and listen to your story and offer whatever I can to encourage you and help you in your writing journey. I want to offer you tangible, practical help with your writing as well the inspiration to keep on in it, which is why Denise will be joining us as well. I am a visionary and have experience in writing and publishing. But I’m weak when it comes to organizing and details. Denise shines when it comes to details and figuring out, “How do I organize my book? What do I need to do for editing? PRACTICAL ADVICE PLEASE!” She will meet those needs, while I will help you with vision and ideas and the heart of your story.
If this sounds like something you’re ready for, enter your email below and you’ll be the first to know when tickets go on sale.
Yea, so I’ve been losing it the last few days. I know, you know, WE ALL KNOW. Some of it is hormones, some of it is just trying to figure out how to work (write) and raise you all well and keep a decently cleaned home (heh), homeschool you, and make dinner instead of ordering pizza, again.
But I’m just in this weird place of trying to figure it all out. I’m trying to figure out how to discipline you all so you listen and honor me and my words and for gosh sakes STAY IN BED. I’m trying. And sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy because there’s three of you and one of me and your daddy is working so hard and I just…am going to screw it all up sometimes.
Right now, I’m locked in the bedroom and one of you is singing in a high pitched voice and I want to scream, “PLEASE JUST BE QUIET.” But you’re also giggling and enjoying each other even though I was harsh with you. You’re playing together and I love that.
Sometimes I just want to hide away, go under, under, under the covers until there’s quiet. I feel guilty for this, because somewhere in me there’s this twisted notion that I should have it all together by now, especially as an adult, a mom, a Christian. But here’s the thing kids, I do not have it together. Obviously. And it’s why I need Jesus and it’s why you do too, because I will let you down. I will fail you sometimes. I will yell and I will regret it, and I will say I’m sorry a thousand times and mean it every time. And I will get better because God’s working in me, but I won’t ever be completed this side of heaven.
I am dust. And dust is messy.
You are dust too.
Here’s the good news: we are dust together, imperfect, prone to screw up, humans through and through, but we have the breath of God in us and the Holy Spirit divinely entwined with us.
I am weak and strong, holy and sinful. We have this in common, you all and me.
So what I really want to say is this: I love you so much it hurts, and I am grateful every day that you are my kids, my people, my team. I love who you are and I see God in you and I love watching you unfold into who you’re becoming. I love you and my love never changes, even when my moods do. Even when I lose it or when I hide away, it’s never you, it’s me. I am learning every day, by faith, how to keep going and mother you well and be okay with this frail me.
And don’t you think for a second that I’ll give up. I won’t. I will keep going because that’s what love does. Love never fails.
Jesus never fails. He will never let you down, and when you think He has, you wrestle it out with Him and cry and go through all the guttural feelings as you pray, “Teach me to see you, God.”
When you have wrestled it out and settled it in your soul that He is good, you will see Him. And you will know down into the deepest places of your being that He will never leave you or fail you or unlove you.
Hang on for dear life to Him.
I will too.
Because we’re in this together.
Now, as a wise older woman once said to me, “Go splash some water on your face and get back to it.”
Here I go.
Your mama, SM
“Don’t throw the ball back.”
Those were the words that released me. Those were the words I will never forget because they gave me something I could grasp and use to get away from verbal abuse and manipulation.
It was my junior year of college and we had a guest lecturer for the day. The speaker was a bald man with a black mustache and a black leather jacket, and he was there because he was some kind of alcohol counselor. I sat up a little straighter in my chair that day, wanting to hear anything and everything he had to say because my mom was an alcoholic and I wanted to know how to deal with it. I don’t remember what he talked about during the class, but I do remember going up to him after and asking him if I could talk with him. We stood in the hallway and I told him my story.
I told him about the fact that I had a mom who was an alcoholic and who knew she was an alcoholic and had no interest in changing. I told him how it drove me crazy, how being around her or talking with her made me feel like I was crazy. We were so tangled up with each other. I told him how I always felt guilty around my mom, like somehow I always did everything wrong; I could never do things right or please her. I told him how she would call me names how she would always make me feel like I wasn’t doing enough; I felt like a total screw up. I asked him for advice. That’s when he said, “Don’t throw the ball back.”
“If I have a ball in my hand and I throw it to you, are you going to catch it?”
He said, “Okay, well, you made that choice; you caught the ball. Now you have another choice to make: you can hold the ball, drop the ball, or throw the ball back.” He told me this ball throwing situation is what was going on with my mom. He said we were engaged in a game of toss. She would throw out a ball of verbal abuse or begin to manipulate me, and I always responded by throwing the ball back; I engaged with her. “Mom, I tried, I really did. I don’t know what you want me to do!” Ball toss. “Sarah, if you would have just…” Ball toss. “Mom, you’re really hurting my feelings…why do you have to be like this?” Ball toss. “Get a grip Sarah, you are way too sensitive.” Ball toss. On and on, back and forth, a seemingly never-ending game.
“If you don’t want to play the game anymore, stop throwing the ball back.”
I could choose to “stop throwing the ball” in different ways. If she called and started being verbally abusive to me or manipulating me I could hang up the phone. I didn’t have to go see her if it wasn’t going to be a healthy situation. I could walk away. It was okay to get away in order to get healthy and clear my mind and figure out what was true and what wasn’t. I had always felt like I had this responsibility to make things right, but I was completely ineffective because I was still trapped in unhealthy behaviors and tangled thinking.
I was an emotionally unhealthy person trying help an emotionally unhealthy person.
And it wasn’t working. Of course.
That today I decided to stop throwing the ball.
My eyes were opened to the fact that I wasn’t crazy, that manipulation was a real thing happening, and that I needed to get healthy before I could love her well.
So I walked away for a time. I stopped playing the game. If she started in on me over the phone, I would just say, “If you keep talking to me like this, I’m going to hang up.” If she continued, “Sorry mom, I have to go.” And hang up. No goodbye. Just, ended it. This really ticked off my mom. And of course I felt guilty about it, but eventually, I didn’t feel guilty anymore.
Because I started to see things more clearly. I was beginning to understand what manipulation was and how it was affecting how I viewed myself. I saw how our tangled mess of manipulation was destroying us. It was destroying me.
I took about six months away from her, no phone calls, no visiting, just space to think and pray and seek counsel and begin the path of unwinding all the years of manipulation.
First the revealing, then the healing.
I had to see what was going on in me, just under the surface of things, in order to get free.
Here’s what happened when I stopped throwing the ball back:
I was able to get untangled, which helped me to get on a path to clarity and emotional health. I learned more about manipulation and how to spot it and not feed it.
I learned about the lies I was believing about myself (“I’m stupid, I’m ugly, “I’m not good enough”), and how in my own efforts to protect and comfort my tender heart, I acted in sinful ways.
God uncovered deeply wounded places in my heart, and He invited me to let Him care for those places and gently bind them up. And in the wounds there was loss, and I had to mourn and lament. But I learned this throughout all of it: If you want the healing to start, you have to face the deepest wounds of your heart. And so I did, but I didn’t have to face them alone.
After the facing and the pain and the revealing and the healing my heart began to get whole.
At first, as I went through this process of healing, things got worse with my mom, but then, they got better.
They got better because I learned how to set boundaries and love her without being entangled with her.
I was able to forgive her.
I was able to really love her.
And I learned how to love myself, even when it hurt. Even when the lies popped up. Even when her words stung.
I loved her. I loved myself (in a healthy way). And God worked miracles.
I’m working on my next book, The Complicated Heart, and it’s on unhealed wounds and painful relationships and dealing with the junk that is blinding us to emotional and spiritual health. Would you share with me in the comments what you would like to see addressed in the book? I so value your thoughts and stories and hold them all so tenderly. Thank you.
Also, if you’d like to follow along with the process of this book and the unfolding and untangling of it all, follow @TheComplicatedHeart on Instagram. I’d love to see you there.
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