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Blog

Full or Filled? | An Invitation to Be Still Retreat

Emily Dean

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Our family just returned from the annual week at the river. For almost thirty years we’ve packed up the kids . . . one, then two, three . . . then six, five, four . . . and this year, only one. A lot changes in three decades.

But some things stay the same.

Like the first glimpse of the wide blue river as we come around the bend and the way it makes me feel like a five year old even as it soothes my fifty year old stress.

And finding the first shark tooth on the sliver of beach by the house. Small piles begin to gather followed by names Sharpied possessively on sandwich bag treasure chests.

Random numbers are called out, as collections grow. Who can find the biggest tooth? Even better, the smallest?!

Card games, way-too-late movie nights, paddle boards and kayaks. Sunburn and aloe. Bug bites, beach fires, the berry farm, and Angelo’s pizza.

The rhythm and routine of tradition lifts the burden of decision and carries us on its shoulders like a fun dad at the carnival.

And then there’s the food . . . the junk food.


Things I’d never buy at home have become special treats at the “beach house.”

Oatmeal cream pies, Nutty Buddy Bars, an array of sugar cereal, Northern Neck Ginger Ale, Tootsie Roll Pops, Moose Tracks ice cream . . . it seems the list grows longer every year.

This year the teens, Sam and his buddy Ellis, and our son-in-law Ethan made the grocery trip to stock up. Seventy-five dollars later, we had more junk food for a week than I normally buy in months!

But while the junk food list grows longer by the year, I’ve noticed the week-end leftovers grow as well. It seems young adult and even teenage tastes grow up, and digestive systems mature and become more intolerant.

And after a few early week binges, we all are reminded of the difference between being full or being filled.



You know this. It’s the feeling you have after eating the whole bag of chips compared to a fresh summer salad. The chips make you full, but the salad fills and sates you.

Our stomach isn’t the only appetite that can be full or filled.

Our hunger for information can be full from hours of mindless scrolling or filled by a good book, or even minutes of intentional social media.

The hunger for community and conversation can be full of gossip and complaints or filled and nourished by listening well, sharing wisely, and laughing with a friend.

Our longing for rest can be full of self-indulgence (or more often, neglect) or filled with purposeful soul care . . . fresh air, stillness, movement, creativity, and prayer.

Living filled versus full takes focus and intention. Ignoring the true hunger and mindlessly responding to the cravings of my body, mind, soul, and spirit might make me full yet leave me unfulfilled, malnourished, and weak.

This is another reason why I retreat.

Of course, my favorite kind of retreat is the one measured in days and not hours. But whether it’s five minutes or three days, I’m learning to listen better to the hungry rumblings of my soul and to fill it with the nourishment it needs rather than stuffing it full of “empty calories.”

And as I slow down and listen, I hear beyond the cravings and to true simple desires . . . like the warm sun on my face, nourishing meals, the laughter of those I love best, fresh air, prayer, being still . . . and even the occasional Nutty Buddy



Your turn . . .

Consider your answer to each of these questions in regard to your body, mind, soul, and spirit . . .

  • Do you feel hungry, full, or filled?

  • What do you tend to consume that makes you full but not filled?

  • What fills and nourishes you?


You’re invited to BE STILL: A Guided Retreat, September 19/20-22, 2019 held at White Sulphur Springs in Manns Choice, PA. Join founder Kim Hyland and a small group of women for a retreat where every woman is an integral part of a weekend of celebration, encouragement, inspiration, healing, and rest.


Special discount of $75 off registration just for the Vv Community.

Use discount code is VERITY until Tuesday, 9/10.


Photography by, Benjamin Hyland | Article by, Kim Hyland