Saying YES

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So I had this completely amazing experience last week. A friend of a friend invited me to a retreat in British Columbia. Part of the magic of the experience is jumping into the unknown—literally–so I won’t tell you everything about it, but there were 22 of us who met in Vancouver and traveled together from there. I knew five of them before the trip, and admired and respected several others from a distance. Also, before the trip I was scared of one of them. But that’s a story for another time. There are lots of those…

It was mystical, magical, epic, transformational. It was part grown-up summer camp, part group counseling, part spiritual retreat. I’m totally in that post-camp delirium where I miss my new best pals and am driving my friends and family here totally batty with stories. One time, at the lodge…one time, on the boat…one time…you know my new best friend? One thing she said…so hilarious, right?

Confession: yesterday I cried in the Target parking lot because I just wanted to be back there, back in that place, back with those people. I know. I’m a seventh grader after a lock-in. I know. 

I went on the trip because I had a sense that it would change me, and that I needed to be changed. I went on it because I suspected that this group of people had something to teach me. I couldn’t have imagined how true that would be. I went on the trip because there’s an openness to my future and I want to navigate that openness with prayer and wisdom. And this trip gave me more than I could have even imagined.

There are a hundred stories, a thousand profound moments, one million ways I could write about it. I’ll probably write a lot about it over coming months, as I learn and unravel and reframe. I want to introduce you to every person, invite you into every inside joke, share every story and song and image that has branded itself on my heart.

But let’s just start with one:

A dear friend had been on this retreat before, and he knew what I was about to experience. He sent me a text, one of the last I received before turning off my phone for several days. I asked him for advice, and this is what he said: “JUMP. SAY YES. And when the coconut shrimp comes out, be selfish.”

I passed on my friend’s advice to my new friends—he was absolutely right about the coconut shrimp, and those words became an anthem—SAY YES. SAY YES.

Say yes to jumping off a cliff. Literally. Say yes to telling the ugly beautiful raw truth about your life. Say yes to friendships that are built in an instant. Say yes to scrambling over rocks so that you can scream up into a waterfall, voices swallowed up in the roar of the water. Say yes to middle of the night conversations and jumping in with your clothes on.

And say yes to God’s whisper and yes to hope and yes to possibility. Say yes to a new future.

What I realized is that in the past couple years, I’ve built a life that requires me to say a lot of nos. I work a lot and push pretty hard and between writing and traveling and the kids, there’s not a lot left. Just to stay afloat, I have to say a lot of nos.

And that’s not how I want to live. I think maybe I got a little too efficient, a little too narrow, a little too serious. I created a busy, heavy life, and in order to carry it, I had to say a lot of nos.

But I’m not a no kind of person. That’s what this trip reminded me. That I believe in YES. That at my best, I’m the kind of person who says yes.

Again, there are a thousand pieces of this experience that I’m still unraveling, holding up to the light, scribbling about, unpacking.

But this is what I know: I’m done living a posture of NO.

Let’s say YES.

25 thoughts on “Saying YES

  1. Love that you had this kind of opportunity. I’ve had them too and they are life changing. I think I cried in the pick up line at school. Your vacation spot sounds so much like mine I’m living vicariously through you. We have a family cottage on a beautiful lake in Canada where I often wonder why we pack any makeup or changes of clothes because we live in our swimsuits. Three days until we get there. Can’t wait. Enjoying your book and the Bloom Book Club.

  2. Shauna,

    We have been going to Camp of the Woods in upstate NY (a Christian family camp) since I was a kid. Now that I am an adult it is kind of like ‘grown-up summer camp’! By the way my book group is reading Bread & Wine, loved it! Watermelon Salad…….yummm


  3. If you can stay at the lodge, or Malibu and not have your life altered a bit, simply from the beauty… You are a robot. Its been 9 months since I have returned from my 6 months there and I still struggle in parking lots/my bed/ everywhere. Looking forward to your stories!

  4. Oh Shauna, I love this.
    Yes is a terrifying, wonderful, free place to be. I am learning about being there as well. Thank you for sharing this, it answered a cry of my heart today.

  5. This made my heart smile. (And I’m resisting the temptation to put an emoticon right there; apparently, those inner 7th graders never go away.)

    I wonder if it’s a season of life thing, if being a mom to young ones and building a life forces us to erect boundaries and say, “No. Not now. Not this time.” How wonderfully freeing to see that it’s time, again, to say yes.

  6. A sister seven in her glory! :) I’m coming into this kind of season, myself, and it’s exhilarating. I feel like Madonna or Cher, the way I’m rediscovering and reinventing myself. I can’t wait to see who you become and the kind of life you create in this next space. Happy discovering!

  7. Yesterday, I realized that I needed to upgrade my attitude. I had fallen into a negativity trap brought on by overwork and exhaustion. The moment I was able to step back enough to see what was going on, my day improved. And now I find you. This place you have created here, and these other strong women who are commenting on this post, you are like spirit sisters, speaking the same truths, recognizing the call of our deep, authentic selves, crying to be freed of these limitations that have been imposed on us while we were busy doing other things. Almost as if all of the nos have shut us off from what we really want.

    It IS time to say yes! Yes to trusting that we know what we need. Yes to hearing that brave voice that speaks up in spite of having been told no a thousand times. Yes to finally taking that leap of faith, the one you have been dreaming about, the one you know is the right thing to do.

    So…cheers! You have a new, loyal reader, and I have found just exactly what I needed. Thank you!

  8. Thank you for sharing your experience and the beautiful perspective you gained. Thank you for reminding me I need to continue to say YES. Hope you will share more about this trip, because it sounds AMAZING. As always, I’m so grateful for your words!

  9. This reminds me of times coming back after being at Camp Paradise, Blast or Kanakuk. Such amazing memories. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I was praying for all of you on your trip, (2 people I love, and several people I admire, yourself included were on that journey). Admittedly, I was a little bit envious of it too. While I’ve lived vicariously through the stories, photos & amazing experiences, I decided to not live vicariously anymore and said “yes” to a really big/little adventure of my own. I drove to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park last weekedn. After just a day of hiking in the rain and a lot of talking with God, I found myself with the overwhelming desire to start saying YES to my life again! Saying YES is can shift everything! I’m ready for some big changes, beginning now!

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I love how deeply your stories touch my heart at just the right moments!

  11. This is so much me, Shauna. Thank you for posting. How awesome you got to have this experience. I’ve been wanting to go on a ‘retreat’ for awhile now. Your writing brings me to good tears, often. You’re great.

  12. I want to be a yes person, but I struggle in the no! I can’t wait to hear what God has in store for you! I’m also in a transition time, nervous to see how God is moving. Thanks for all your inspiring words! I’m reading Bread & Wine and LOVING it! I am reading it with my Bible Study summer book club and we can’t wait to have a pot luck to discuss it! You are inspiring!

  13. Honestly, one thing I’ve LOVED about this summer is following along with “Bread and Wine” with the Bloom Book Club. I’ve read all three of your books, but seeing you in video has been awesome! Thank you for all of your written words, blog posts, ect. I’m loving them all! :-)

  14. YES. Saying yes has literally changed my life this summer (at camp as well!). So thankful for the opportunities God is giving us to LIVE and experience His glory by saying yes. Thankful for you!

  15. Without shame I will say that I grew up, and after some brief love affairs with other states, and still live in the aforementioned lovely state of Michigan.

    Sign me up for a t-shirt. I will wear it with pride!

  16. Shauna- your experience sounds so beautiful, and it has made me realize how much I would love to attend a retreat or small conference where I can take a deep breath and find some refreshment…even take time to ask questions of my heart that there is never enough time to ask. Are there any events or places that you would recommend? I’m apprehensive of a large women’s conference or anything too corporate, but I am unsure about how to find anything else. I love your heart and would trust your ideas if you have any thoughts on this. Thanks!!

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