In the last email I sent out I made mention that I will not be giving retreats from my home anymore. And I had a lot more to say about that but I didn’t make the time to go into the details of that decision.
After I sent the email, I received some very nice messages and emails and comments from women, saying things like, “Hey, I am disappointed you are stopping those retreats. I wanted to invite some friends to your next one,” etc.
I wanted to clarify what’s really going on.
Note: if you have never LISTENED to one of my blog posts, I highly recommend you try it today. Why? Well, I added a TON of details as I podcasted this particular post, which simply means that it is close to my heart. I gave backstories and side stories (which I did not write out, but that more or less flowed from my heart). If you like to know The Whole Picture, then give this a listen!
I am not going to stop giving those retreats, I am simply going to stop giving them from my home.
As I sat back and thought about how these retreats came into existence, I was able to see the Hand of God in this ol' life, how on a particular day, a particular person told me a particular comment. Those little moments moved me. And I found it super interesting to look back and go, wow, we are SO INCREDIBLY INTERCONNECTED as people! And THAT is what I want to write about today.
This post is obviously about that journey, yes, but I hope that you will see your own journey as you read about mine; you have all sorts of "mile stone moments" that are incredibly special and they have guided you to where YOU are now.
Before I jump in, to be very clear: it is my hope to keep giving retreats, just not in my home. (You may be a bigger part of this story than you realize! Keep reading!)
I am actually EXPANDING how I give retreats, including more travel AND creating remote or virtual retreats. (More on that at the end of this post.)
I believe that most of us, especially women, have a “pull” towards a group of people. Those are the ones that we minister to, whether we know it or not. Maybe you love to hang out with older people. Maybe you feel the urge to help preschoolers learn their ABC’s and how to tie their shoes. Maybe you want to help alleviate the pain that someone feels.
I have a special place in my heart for moms. I just absolutely love mothers. I love how we love. And by that, I don’t mean a quaint, gentle love. I mean, I love how, you take a woman, add a man, and sometimes, a child gets added. There is SO MUCH THAT GOES ON, so much that no one ever talks about.
The kids change and they grow and they talk back and they push our limits. Yet. We keep showing up. We keep guiding and teaching and building them.
We love like crazy. And. Sometimes, we’re just crazy. I love how surprised we are when we yell at our children, how guilty we feel, and how we learn to grow and mature through the trials of motherhood. I guess you could say that I love the mess of motherhood.
For those of you that do not know this, I have a lot of kids. My oldest is 28, my youngest is 13; when the bigs were little, I was totally mystified by them. I wondered how I was going to keep my sanity with these three kids in three and a half years. And yes, they were beautiful and wonderful…when they were sleeping…but then they would wake up! And I just had a hard time adjusting to the IDEAL of motherhood compared to the REAL of it all.
I started a letter writing ministry for moms in the late 1990’s. My goal was to offer support in the crazy even while I was knee deep in the crazy.
Helping others helped me.
I transferred my writing from letters to Facebook in 2010, where I would more or less write posts for moms on my page. I loved the ease of it.
Now, I’m like most moms and I just wanted good kids and I wanted to have this ideal family. It was around that time when I realized that my oldest son Eric had been accessing movies on the internet and they were not the kind of movies you’d want to show Grandma.
If you want to read about this from Eric’s point of view: Eric’s Side of the Story.
I am a born researcher and once I adjusted to the fact that this THING had entered my son’s life, I knew I needed to know more. So I dug. I learned. I applied.
It was a radical time of learning and then sharing. And on many levels, I hated it. And I loved it. What? Well, I hated the topic. But I loved educating moms about this, helping them prevent what we had gone through. (I also loved the idea of thwarting satan.)
I eventually started a blog, with the sole purpose of reaching more moms.
Starting a blog was the most exciting and terrifying experience. My brain hurt for two months as I learned new terms and new techniques. It was pretty painful.
But in the end, I had a platform that was all mine and I could write to moms to my heart’s content. I did want to write about the funny parts of motherhood, about the times when kids do the darndest things, yes, but I knew I was to help moms avoid the traps that were out there for their kids.
Eric and I are both very open and we have learned a ton from other people. We knew that God wanted to use our story for good, so we shared.
I loved writing at my first blog, Prayer and Duct Tape. It was fun. We (Eric and I) were asked to give presentations in our community, which we loved.
In one sentence: our goal is to help parents enter into their children’s world in such a way that guides and protects them from early exposure to hard core porn.
In 2018 some changes happened to both Eric and myself. I guess the only way I can describe it is this: we met God the Father. Not together, but individually, and we were both radically transformed.
What I learned is just how much I am loved. And I learned to trust that. It was a powerful, life-changing message and it is one that I continually give to others.
Why is this particular part of the journey so important? Well, I felt like my behavior, especially in the odd realm of addictive tendencies (I had a hard time controlling myself around certain foods), more or less disqualified me from being loved by God.
What I learned: trusting that I am unconditionally loved by God changed my behaviors.
When my identity was given to me (think of a fairy godmother putting her little wand on my head and pronouncing me “beloved” in such a way that I knew it in my bones), my behavior matched my understanding of self.
LIBERATION. FREEDOM. JOY.
And I knew in my heart of hearts that I HAD to share that with other women. Why? Well, most of us are a bit lost. Especially kids. And we somehow think that our bad behaviors, or our “wanderings” disqualify us from God. But when we can know, on the inside, that we are truly seen, known and loved, that radiates to our “outside” behaviors.
I love this line from Jay Stricker: “Your wanderings do not change your belovedness. But your belovedness changes your wanderings.”
Transformation happens on the inside of us and permeates to the outside. So I created a course called Inside Out.
I released that course in May of 2019 and the response was more than I could have imagined. The women responded to everything that I had written and they shared their journeys with me. They said it helped them mother their kids way more effectively, which was my hope.
Then Covid hit the scene in the early months of 2020; while my kids were doing online school, I decided to take that very odd time to focus on getting one of my projects done; I wanted to create a newer version of our flagship course on parenting in the realm of pornography education. So that’s what I did. I rewrote the original course and on September 8, 2020, we released The Parenting Dare Proactive Course.
Eric and I didn’t do a lot of big speaking gigs during that time, because, well, Covid. And it was not easy to promote a course to people when they were worried about the health of their family. I mean, really. So we just hit the pause button (AND married three sons within nine months, let’s not forget that! YEAH!).
The Midwest Catholic Family Conference was scheduled for August of 2021, which is a huge event in middle America, drawing families from all over the United States. My two oldest sons, Eric and Mitchell, were asked to give presentations to the high schoolers at that conference.
As part of their package, they were given a table in the vendor area. I used it and set up an information booth for The Parenting Dare.
How did I use that table? Well, I basically accosted women that were walking by the table, engaging them in conversation and asking them to sign up for our emails as well the free series I had just created for moms called Raising Strong Kids. (If you have not taken that series, go for it. That series was written for you, the mother.)
Guess what happened at that conference? I had a TON of intimate conversations with the most incredible women. They shared their struggles with me, from finding that one of their children had accessed porn, to realizing their husband was still dealing with his own addiction, to wondering how to keep loving and growing when they felt like the forces coming into their lives were so fast and furious.
Over and over and over. Woman after woman. I heard their hearts.
And I realized, that as amazing as it was to give big presentations and create online courses, that I NEEDED to be connected more intimately with the hearts of women.
That was reinforced when a mom friend, Sarah Winslow, asked me to come into her home and speak with a small group of moms about the importance of self-care. As I spoke with that group, I knew that the small group format was incredibly important in this realm.
So. I knew I was to pivot a bit, but I wasn’t sure what that looked like. I took a friend and one of my personal therapists of sorts, Amy Martin, to coffee, and we pondered my life, which sounds very egotistical, but I needed her input. Desperately. Covid had put a halt to all of our speaking gigs. And even though Eric and I had fabulous online courses, people were focused on buying toilet paper, not improving their family culture.
So I asked Amy to meet with me and I told her that my extremely patient husband had told me that my ministry had become an expensive hobby. He said it’s time to grow this or get out. I looked at Amy and just poured my heart out to her. She listened and we began to brainstorm ways that I could branch out and meet the needs of the moms in my realm.
She suggested that I consider giving retreats to women. At first I resisted, wondering how that would even happen. I mean, there were a lot of moving parts to giving a retreat. But a part of me was instantly running with this idea. And I loved that.
I then spoke on the phone to another wonderful friend, Becky Knapp, who is in charge of about half of our diocese in many amazing ways and she said the same thing. I needed to give retreats for women.
So, because the idea was given by one friend and confirmed by another, I considered that as being Spirit approved, I began researching retreats. How does one go about this?
With some fear and trembling I put a retreat together; I took my own conversion and focused on moms and the conversions that needed to happen within our own souls. I knew that how we viewed God determined how we mothered our kids. I wanted to help moms create a shift in their deepest thinking.
That first retreat was incredibly well-received. So I made plans to do more.
Then I went to the most amazing library with my good friend, Lisa Coyne, and while we were basking in the sun READING, she told me that I needed to branch out and do other retreats. She suggested that I think about doing a retreat on marriage.
Her idea was like a flower that bloomed right in front of me. I kept doing the motherhood retreats but I also began doing a lot of reading on what makes a strong marriage and eventually created a marriage retreat. Here’s the funny thing. I thought I had a strong marriage. But I learned a TON and my husband was pretty happy with the changes that I was able to implement in our marriage.
My first marriage retreat was in February of 2022 and I gave those women my whole heart; they not only received it, they received it with their whole heart, which sums up the whole human experience. I see you. I know you. I like you. Be with me. Share with me.
I gave my third marriage retreat just last weekend, on Friday, April 29, 2022. I spent the next morning journaling and praying. I loved those women so much. They were amazing. I loved sharing with them. I loved how they received. So glorious.
So. Why in the heck would I stop something so remarkable? Well, I will blame it on a wonderful woman by the name of Cyndi Weber. I met Cyndi at the Catholic Family Conference. She came to my mother's retreat. She came to a marriage retreat.
And she said, “Lori, could you give a retreat for moms in my home?”
The idea was novel to me. I said yes, let’s see how this works. We set a date that worked for both of us. She asked two friends to help her invite others. And I created a unique link for her retreat.
She chatted with her friends, explained the idea of a mom retreat, told them a bit about me and then if they sounded interested, she sent them the link.
Thirteen women signed up.
Here’s the AMAZING, LIFE-CHANGING PART.
I simply took my computer and showed up at Cyndy’s house, where I presented the mama retreat material to her friends. They were just as amazing as all the rest of the women that I have met; I listened in on some of their small group discussions and was blown away by their hearts. Women are so beautiful. Fragile. Yet strong. I love women.
That experience helped me see two big facts:
To have someone else do the heavier lifting for me was life-changing.
And that understanding came at the perfect time because we are going to be redoing our kitchen and living room AND Eric and I are adding to our core ministry in powerful ways. (I cannot wait to share that with you!)
So, how can you participate? Well, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in hosting a retreat. I will send you all of the info needed and help you plan it.
Okay, so that is all good and beautiful for the women in my area. But what about those that live in other far-away states?
Well, because I am freeing myself from doing all of the work of a retreat, I have TIME to give a different TYPE of retreat to women.
I would like to explore the best way to give a retreat to women in places other than Wichita, Kansas.
If you live in another community and would like to be part of these retreats, I’d love your feedback. There are three basic ways I can give retreats remotely:
Please email me at email@example.com and give me your thoughts. Think of your life. What sort of option would work best for you? I am open to all three, but need some feedback! Thank you!!
Okay, so to sum up this rather long post: I love moms. I love how we love and how we struggle in our loving. I love the mess of it all. But most of all, I love how God can transform our messes into something beautiful. Thank you so much for your time today. I know this was a bit longer than normal, but I appreciate you and your valuable input!!!
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