Serene September Writer’s Get-away

Black woman writer at cafe
Woman writer at cafe

Do you love writing? Do you want to write a book? Joseph Epstein, essayist short story writer, and editor, said at the beginning of the new millennium that 81% of people want to write a book and that statistic likely still holds true! It’s time to write YOUR book!

I started a new, part-time job outside the home this year, so I’ve been extra busy and blogging hasn’t made the top of the to-do list.

But I decided this weekend to just sit down and blog, and wanted to share about my Serene September Writers’ Get-away I hosted and spoke at in fall 2018. Four Christian women writers attended, and it was so fun that we want to do it again this year!

Bethany House
Bethany House

The venue for this writers’ retreat was at the Bethany House in Butler, Missouri. It’s about an hour south of Kansas City, MO. This is a beautiful, fully-furnished house with three bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms in a quiet neighborhood, that has been completely remodeled inside and out.

It is a relaxing, quiet place to pray, refill, and be refreshed. The women and I love it!

Outside porch with rockers
Outside porch with rockers

You can sit outside in a big rocker on the wrap-around porch, make some popcorn and  enjoy a chick flick on TV in the living room, watch the birds with your coffee in the morning in the sunroom, or sleep in late in the master bedroom, queen bedroom, or upstairs bedroom decorated in a children’s theme, which is where I prefer to stay because it’s so cute and comfortable!

Living room to watch a good chick flick!
Living room to watch a good chick flick!

Master bedroom

Queen bedroom

Sunroom

The sunroom is my favorite room. I love sitting in there in the morning, drinking my coffee, journaling, and watching the birds. The sun comes streaming in through the windows.

coffee in Bethany House cup
coffee in Bethany House cup

 

Windchime in sunroom
Windchime in sunroom

 

Stenciling in sunroom
Stenciling in sunroom

It is so peaceful. I’ve stayed at the Bethany House several times overnight just to be alone, think about my life, and pray. The owner of Bethany House has pretty decor like this candle and angel below to set a tone of serenity and prayer for the house’s atmosphere.

candle and angel
candle and angel

I love buying gifts for people and bought the ladies attending a gift bag, each in different colors. I included goodies like a journal (to jumpstart their writing!), Sharpie ultra-fine, black pens, sticky notes, hand lotion, a little bag of tissues with sayings on them like “Seize this moment” and “Find your fearless,” chewing gum, and a Dove chocolate bar. They loved them.

Goodies for ladies’ gift bags
Facial mask, chapstick, and chocolates

My books in gift bags, How To Write Your Book Fast: Making Your Writing Dreams Come True, and 
Walking With God (a book on prayer)
Journal & Kleenex with encouraging captions

I used my book, How To Write Your Book Fast: Making Your Writing Dreams Come True, as the primary resource for this writers’ retreat.

How To Write Your Book Fast: Making Your Writing Dreams Come True
Cover art: Copyright 2016 Beth Jones

I used my daughter Leah’s violin music stand to set my teaching notes on and we used used the formal dining room as our classroom and to eat. Both worked perfectly!

Me teaching at writers’ retreat
Writers who attended the retreat at the dining room table, where I taught the retreat.
Here we are eating the salad lunch on Saturday.
Four women attended the retreat: Krista, Liz, Missy, and Simmie. Liz and Simmie are local author friends. I am friends with Krista and Missy on Facebook, and really enjoyed meeting them.
 I’m so glad they all came!


On Friday evening, I taught the first session of the retreat. Then we went out to eat supper at the local Mexican restaurant, El Charro–fun! When we came out of the restaurant, we saw a beautiful night sky!

Afterward, the ladies made popcorn and enjoyed the chocolates I’d brought them for the weekend, and stayed up watching chick flicks in the living room and talking. I think this set the right tone!

We enjoyed chips and salsa (my addiction!) and Mexican for supper the first night of the writers’ retreat at the local El Charro restaurant.


Beautiful night sky

The next morning, I fixed the ladies breakfast (scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, yogurt, coffee). They were free to sleep in as long as they wanted! 

Two of the ladies have a house full of kids, so they really needed this time of R & R!

The house has all the amenities of a nice hotel–including little shampoos and other toiletries and soft, white robes!

Breakfast on Saturday morning
Fresh fruit: Strawberries and blueberries
Simmie and I enjoyed fresh peaches!
The ladies at breakfast Saturday morning

One of the attendees, my friend Liz, generously brought bagels from Einstein Brothers in Overland Park, Kansas, as she and her friend Simmie drove together to the retreat. She bought a variety, but one unique kind is their bagel with red onion, tomatoes, capers, and cold-smoked Nova Lox salmon. Delicious!

Yummy bagels that Liz brought from Einstein Brothers


One of the attendees, Missy, and I talked prior to the retreat and I asked her to share a devotional on Saturday morning in the sunroom after breakfast. It was so good and she did a great job! 

Missy, one of the attendees, sharing the Saturday morning devotional

I had never met Missy in person or heard her speak before, but I am led by the Holy Spirit and my gut. Neither have ever led me wrong! 

I’m so glad that Missy shared! It was anointed by God!

Missy sharing the devotional in the sunroom and Simmie

I taught several hour-long sessions during the weekend retreat, but I also gave the ladies some needed free time to be alone to pray, think, write, or to talk with each other. On Friday and Saturday night I went home to sleep, since I live right here in town and that gave the ladies more privacy.

The beautiful ladies at the Serene September Writers’ Get-away:
Krista, Liz, Missy, and Simmie

The sessions included these topics: Why do you write, Getting Started, Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing, Writing Tips, and Resources that I use each time I write a book (I’ve written 17 and am about to write my next one. You can find out more about my books at my Amazon Author Page at http://www.amazon.com/author/bethmjones.

This retreat was intense with a lot of information for beginner writers, but we also took time out for FUN! That weekend was near my birthday (September 20) and Liz’s was that weekend (September 23) , so we decided to celebrate both of ours that weekend.

I brought cupcakes and Liz and I gave each other a gift. I loved the Paparazzi earrings and necklace that Liz got me! They have such cute jewelry for just $5! The ladies sang happy birthday, too!

My pretty floral gift bag from Liz
The pretty flower Paparazzi earrings that Liz got me

I felt led by God to also offer Holy Communion at the writers’ retreat. This may sound unusual, but I desire to put God first with everything I do. He is the one who has given us this gift of writing, and I feel it is important to dedicate the writing of our books, blogs, and everything we pen to Him, for Jesus’ glory.

Communion at writers’ retreat

I ended the retreat by answering any questions they had about writing. I encouraged them that I’d be first in line to buy their books!

One of the ladies, Missy, emailed me this after the retreat: “We leave for vacation in Angel Fire, NM for the next six days and I have plans to write and take photos for my book project (an inspirational “coffee table” type book about all that I have learned “In the Valley” of this year) while I am there!  I can’t wait to just start!”

Another lady who attended, my friend Liz, has written an exciting adventure novel and a devotional book on the Lord’s rest, both which she plans to publish soon. I’m so excited for her!

Before the retreat, I also prayed for God to give me a Scripture and a song for each lady there. We concluded the retreat by praying for one another. This was one of the most powerful parts of the retreat, where the ladies and I received prophetic words for each other. We were all ministered to and cried! God is so good!

Krista praying for Missy
Missy praying for Simmie

Krista praying for Simmie
Liz praying for Krista
Simmie praying for Liz
Liz sharing song with Missy from her phone
Anointing oil and candle from Israel, decorative mirror & hearts

I brought a few visual aids to the retreat for the teaching times, such as my Cinderella glass slippers (this is my signature speech) and the Curious George monkey that was a gift to me years ago when I attended renown speaker Florence Littauer’s CLASServices speaker/writer retreat. She said always be curious!

Curious George that Florence Littauer gave me and other speakers at CLASS retreat for speakers & writers. Always be curious!

For my birthday, my family gave me some fresh beautiful red roses and sunflowers, which are my favorite kinds of flowers. They made such a gorgeous centerpiece in the sunroom! 

The ladies loved looking at them all weekend!

Beautiful sunflowers and roses that was my birthday gift from my family. It made a great centerpiece in the sunroom!

If you’d like me to speak at your women’s conference, retreat, or event sharing my powerful testimony or about writing your book, I’d love to come encourage you and your friends. You can contact me here at my website.

One of the ladies at the retreat, Missy, gave this testimonial:

“Thank you for all of your planning and prayer and preparation for the amazing retreat this weekend. Your passion for encouraging women to find and follow God’s calling to WRITE is simply contagious. Your willingness to be transparent, genuine and compassionate toward each of us was a blessing. Every detail was covered, everything we could possibly have needed was provided for, and every question we had was answered. You went above and beyond to ensure that we were thoroughly blessed, carefree and able to remain focused on what God was speaking to our hearts this weekend. Saying “Thank you” doesn’t seem like enough!  I have buried this dream for long enough. Because of this weekend, I am moving forward with three projects immediately, and I came home with a list of up to 20 additional writing projects to work on in the future. How amazing is that!”

Liz shared her experience about this retreat: “Beth had a great writing retreat in a lovely retreat center. She paid attention to a lot of little details, which added to our experience and had some great teaching time which was helpful.  I personally needed more time to write. But I ran into some personal snags which kept me from writing. The rooms were great and the food was great, too! Loved it!”

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My one word for 2019

Several years ago I stopped making New Year resolutions, because, let’s face it, they were broken the first month (sometimes the first week!)–like walking again or eating healthier! I heard about instead, creating a #oneword and a Scripture verse(s) to go along with it.

One word

When I began to do this, I no longer felt condemnation that I was breaking my New Year resolutions so quickly. I also discovered that as I earnestly prayed to God about this matter, the #oneword always turned out to be a prophetic theme for the entire year.

joy
Red cardinals joy decoration

For example, my #oneword in 2018 was JOY. At times, last year was anything but joyful! There were many hard times. I have cried a lot the last several years, more than I ever have in my entire life.

pensive woman
pensive woman

We all have stress and battle worries–relationship problems. Business or ministry challenges. Health issues. Financial struggles. But joy is a choice. You can be joyful even in adversity or a major crisis! Joy is not the same as happiness.

Smiling child

God wants us happy, just as we do our own children. But joy, like faith, isn’t based on circumstances. The joy of the Lord is our strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) We must choose faith, and we must choose joy.

Compass pointing north
Compass pointing north
Image source: Google

Usually, the last week of December of each year, I pray about the coming new year, for God to protect and bless me and my family and friends, for His guidance and presence with us, and for a #oneword and Scripture(s) for the coming year.

I ask Him to be mine and my family’s compass, our “true north.” (This expression comes from the great chick flick movie, Message In A Bottle, with Kevin Costner!)

Message in a Bottle movie
Message in a Bottle movie

God speaks in a myriad of ways to His children:

  • primarily through His holy word, the Bible;
  • by His still, small voice to our hearts as we pray and listen to Him;
  • from other people, sharing His words of truth and encouragement;
  • in nature (“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”–Psalm 19:1, NIV);
  • through signs in the sky, such as the sun, the moon, the stars, etc. (Luke 21:25);
  • in other signs, such as red cardinal birds, mourning doves, eagles, the wind, a billboard, a car’s bumper sticker, something said on a podcast, radio or TV show, a voice in a crowd, etc. Obviously, we can’t base our lives on these “signs,” but God can speak to His children however He wants to get His message of truth across to us. Sometimes it’s like He needs a two by four to get the message through our thick heads and stubborn hearts!

Just prior to January 2019 beginning, I noticed the words “humble” and “humility” in a couple of different places. First, the words Stay HUMBLE were inscribed on chapstick that I’d received in a gift box.

Stay humble chapstick
Stay humble chapstick gift

That’s interesting, I thought. The words “humble” and “humility” started popping up like Orville Redenbacher’s Movie Theater Butter popcorn on Facebook posts.

popcorn popping
popcorn popping;
Image source: Google

Then I started seeing the words a LOT! A recurrent theme.

Oh no, I thought in dread. Uh oh—wait a minute! That’s my one word for 2019, isn’t it, God?

I knew what that meant (God was going to smash my PRIDE), and heck no, I did NOT want that word! Which is probably exactly why He is giving it to me!

Why couldn’t I get a nicer, easier, funner word like adventures? Or dream bigger? Or overflow, especially in our bank account? Or laughter?

But no. My words are humble and humility! Yes, I know humility is a beautiful, Christ-like virtue and God is doing this for my own good.

You and I know there is just no use fighting God. In the end, He’s going to get His way. Because He’s God!

Jacob wrestling
Jacob wrestling with God
Image source: Google

We can wrestle with Him until daybreak like Jacob did (Genesis 32:22-32), but we’ll walk away with a painful limp. God is bigger and more powerful than you and me, so we might as well submit and obey!

So I started researching the definition of humility to begin preparing spiritually for 2019. (Here goes nothing!)

  • freedom from pride or arrogance;
  • a lack of ego;
  • lowness; an attitude of service;
  • the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance;
  • serving others for their good, as well as your own;
  • a realistic appreciation of your strengths, as well as your weaknesses.

Synonyms for humility include:

  • demureness;
  • down-to-earthness;
  • lowliness;
  • meekness;
  • modesty.

You know, traits that are so unlike me! People who know me well would NOT describe me as demure–reserved, bashful, shrinking. Instead, my sister Maria describes my approach in life more like “a bull in a china shop.” 

Antonyms (the opposite) of humility are even more revealing–and alarming!

  • arrogance;
  • assumption;
  • conceit;
  • haughtiness;
  • huffiness;
  • presumptuousness;
  • pretense;
  • pride;
  • imperiousness (domineering);
  • obtrusiveness;
  • superiority.

STOP! Is anyone else getting uncomfortable here?! Well, I sure am. But then it’s my #oneword, not yours–unless God says so!

Remember that pride, and then rebellion, was Satan’s sin. We don’t want to be like the devil, do we? I don’t!

Humility and gratitude
Humility and gratitude

Mother Teresa said, “If you are humble, then nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”

No doubt that I have some family members, or even friends, who will remind me throughout this year of my #oneword humility and how I am being so NOT humble!

Maybe humility isn’t your strong suit, either. I have good news, dear friend. When we stumble and fall, as we surely will, we can get back up.

That is why Jesus died for you and me; nobody is perfect but Him. He’s teaching us to be more like Him each moment.

You and I can breathe again, and be thankful that God’s mercies are new every beautiful morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

 

Humility book
Humility book

This week, I ordered a used copy of Andrew Murray’s book Humility from Amazon to start off the year right and plan to do other studies on this topic as well.

My Scripture verses for 2019, based on these words humble and humility are:

“The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:33, ESV)

“But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, NKJV. The NLT translation says, “And He gives grace generously.”)

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:6-7, NKJV)

This last Scripture shows me that I need to be alert in Spirit this year. Satan wants to cause destruction in mine and my family’s life, to devour and kill us. I thank God that Jesus Christ is more powerful and the battle belongs to the Lord, who has the victory already!

The great news in all this? If we humble ourselves before God and cultivate a lifestyle of humility, depending on and trusting solely in Him, the Bible says God will give us HONOR and EXALT us! (Good surprises for us, for HIS glory!) Isn’t that exciting? 

Do you have a #oneword, Scripture verse(s), and/or theme for the new year 2019? Please share it below with me! And let’s pray for each other this year to walk it out with God’s grace and help!Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Saint Mary’s Cathedral and stained glass windows: the beautiful pieces of our lives

This is post #15 and the final blog post of a blog series I’m writing including pictures of the recent amazing trip I took with our precious, beautiful daughter Leah. Here are posts:

#1, My daughter Leah and I went to Ireland,

#2, Ireland: Dreams Come True,

#3, We visited Bunratty Castle in Ireland,

#4, Bunratty Folk Park: the waterfall, the lamb, and the fairy village,

#5, The Gorgeous Cliffs of Moher,

#6, Galway Girl,

#7, Galway Girl, Part 2,

#8, Treacherous Corkscrew Hill,

#9, The ferry in Kerry County.

#10, Torc Waterfall, and

#11, Killorglin: flies, a spider, and a moving bed, and a French couple!

#12, Kenmare: Palm trees, a pub, and Irish coffee;

#13, Ladies View: A break for coffee and chocolate/;

#14, Kilkenny: A near wreck with a semi and a lesson inspired by Leah and a harpist.

We took so many pictures with our phones that I need to break up the posts, to make it easier for you to read, as I know you live a busy, hectic life like mine and you don’t have lots of spare time!

I hope these blogs inspire and bless you. I thank my Lord Jesus Christ, who made this amazing opportunity and prayer possible.

“I’m Irish not because I was born in Ireland, but because Ireland was born in me.”–Anonymous

I’m a speaker and writer, but words feel so inadequate to describe the beauty and mystery of Ireland. In my heart, I knew it was calling me and I had to go. It was such an amazing trip to take with my precious daughter Leah; we both can’t wait to go back!

As I wrap up this 15th and final blog post in this Ireland blog series, I want to share a few pics of one of the prettiest places we visited, Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney. A Roman Catholic cathedral, it is massive and had gorgeous stained glass windows, which I love.

Built from 1842 and completed in 1855, its construction wasn’t continuous due to the Great Famine and lack of funds, so the work had to be stopped several times. This reminds me of how the work God is doing in our lives is continuous until He finally completes it, the Author and Finisher of our faith in Christ. Sin and many other things can stop His working in our hearts. 

Saint Mary's Cathedral
Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney, Ireland

 

Stained glass, St. Mary's Cathedral
Stained glass, St. Mary’s Cathedral

The church is still in use today. I didn’t realize this and when Leah and I went to visit it, they were having Mass. We stood quietly at the back of the cathedral, admired its amazing beauty, and took a few pics.

altar, St. Mary's Cathedral
altar, St. Mary’s Cathedral

The architecture of the cathedral, both inside and outside, was amazing. The stonework is a mixture of brown and grey stone. Tragically, the grounds are a burial ground for dozens of children who died from starvation, and the monument was erected in their memory.

During the Mass, people light candles because God instructed His people in the Old Testament where an oil lamp was lit to “keep a flame burning perpetually” (Exodus 27:19-20); to show reverence for God and as a reminder that Jesus Christ is the source of all Light (John 8:12); to pray for people; to petition saints to pray for them (I don’t personally ascribe to that Catholic belief); and as the light is burning, to show a desire to remain in God’s presence as we go through our daily duties at home and in the workplace.

steeple, St. Mary's Cathedral
steeple, St. Mary’s Cathedral

 

People at Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral
People at Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral

 

candles for lighting at St. Mary's Cathedral
candles for lighting at St. Mary’s Cathedral

 

cross, St. Mary's Cathedral
cross, St. Mary’s Cathedral

 

arched door of St. Mary's Cathedral
arched door of St. Mary’s Cathedral

 

window at St. Mary's Cathedral
window at St. Mary’s Cathedral

 

Pretty window at St. Mary's
Pretty window at St. Mary’s

 

unique architecture of St. Mary's
unique architecture of St. Mary’s

I miss Ireland so much! I pray that Leah and I can go back one day soon. One of the famous sites that Leah really wanted to see was Giant’s Causeway, an area of about 40,000 basalt columns which are the result of a volcanic fissure eruption–very unique-looking! It was named the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom.

Giants' Causeway
Giants’ Causeway

And of course there is a legend associated with it, of an Irish giant fighting a Scottish giant!

I was going to do my best to get her there, even though it is in the far northern part of Ireland, which was opposite the direction we were driving to the B & B’s.

She finally decided that it was too long of a drive to get there (we were both getting tired toward the end of the trip), and that it’d cost too much. I told her we will see it next time we go!

From this incredible trip, I learned:

  • God can make your big dreams come true, and even exceed them!
  • Pray and keep praying–God hears the prayers of your heart!
  • Be led by the Spirit of God wherever you go and PRAY–He is your GPS! He will help guide you and to find your way, even to unexpected, wonderful places!
  • Pack light and tight. I did this but still packed too much! Leave room for souvenirs.
  • Make plans, prepare, be organized, but also be flexible and spontaneous for more fun! Some places that you planned to go, you won’t go. Other places you hadn’t even thought of–you will find!
  • Stop and listen to the music! Keep your eyes wide open.
  • Try new foods and drinks.
  • Try to sleep on the plane! Wear comfy, loose, warm clothes. Eating turkey sandwiches and bananas can help you sleep (avoid caffeine late in the afternoon/evening).
  • Stay hydrated! Stay awake and in the sun as long as possible to help with jet lag!
  • Make sweet, precious memories with your children and loved ones!
  • Always back up your pics and videos when you get home! 
  • Take time for coffee and chocolate!
  • Laugh! Have fun! Enjoy every minute!
  • Praise and thank God for His awesome blessings!

I can’t thank Jesus enough for this amazing trip with my beautiful, precious daughter Leah. I’m so thankful that she decided to go with me! We both conquered some fears and had a very exciting adventure! I believe it also gave Leah a little taste for more travel!

Praise You, God, for doing this for me and Leah and for blessing us so much! And now, here I am, Lord, send me–wherever You want me to go!

View from the plane. Goodbye, sweet Ireland!
View from the plane. Goodbye, sweet Ireland!

 

Torc Waterfall
Torc Waterfall

 

My precious beautiful daughter Leah & me at the Cliffs of Moher. A lady offered to take our pic together.
My precious beautiful daughter Leah & me at the Cliffs of Moher. A lady offered to take our pic together.

Remember, DREAM BIG BECAUSE WE SERVE A BIG GOD!

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