One Craft, Many Ways: The Gift of Large Families and Writing Retreats


On a recent afternoon, my middle son flew off the bus and in through the front door, driven by an urgent demand.  “Mom!  Mom!  I want to buy a felting kit!  Can I buy a felting kit?” he cried, throwing his coat and backpack to the ground. 

“A what?” I asked, while reminding him to hang up his things.

“Get the computer,” he said, “I’ll show you.”

Curious, I pulled out the laptop and sank into a chair.  Isaiah and his brother, Levi, both in second grade, crowded around me, buzzing and bouncing with excitement.  I googled the words, “needle felting kit” and quickly found the set his art teacher recommended.  We placed an order and several days later, the kit arrived in a small cardboard box.

The box was packed with bags of felting wool dyed in shades from black to ruby red, as well as a foam mat, finger guards, and long, deadly-looking, metal needles.  Isaiah pounced on the kit like a hungry lion tearing apart its prey.  Bags of wool exploded in all directions and he dove into a project following the step-by-step instructions included with the kit.   

He felted like it was his job.  

He felted like his life depended on it.  

In short time, he completed one, two, then three penguins, repeating the same step-by-step directions.


Levi also ordered a felting kit.  But, being more frugal than his twin brother, he carefully sorted through options on Amazon, pouring over customer reviews, before deciding on a smaller kit that saved him ten dollars.  He was most excited about the plastic toolbox included with his kit, as well as a special pair of dangerous-looking scissors.

Levi’s box arrived a few days later than Isaiah’s and, given the intensity of Isaiah’s progress, Levi felt pressured and behind.  He chose a project and worked doggedly toward its completion, clearly not enjoying it as much as he thought he might.  Within a day, he completed an adorable owl with big blue eyes.  Then, he tucked his tools into the toolbox and placed all the wool and the toolbox into a larger cardboard crate.  This, the storing and saving, pleased him more than the crafting itself.


Finally, my third and oldest son asked if he could try felting.  Isaiah gave him a small amount of white wool and he set about felting haphazardly, without the intensity and stress his brothers displayed.  He made a small, white ball, then added a green dot, which became an eye.  Then, he added a yellow beak, followed by a short, white tail.  He laughed at every new idea, every new addition.  He was playing, improvising, like a jazz musician.

Watching him, I commented to my husband, “His work is so outside-of-the-box.”

My husband said, “I don’t think he even knows there is a “box.””


I watched my boys working at the living room coffee table over a series of several days.  I tended their needle-jab wounds and held wayward pieces of wool in place while fearing for my own fingers’ safety.  I encouraged them when the going was rough and exclaimed over their finished projects.

They were all creating, but each did it in their own way. 

This can be one of the gifts of being part of a large family, being part of a group large-enough to allow space for a variety of ways of being.  This can be one of the gifts, too, of attending a writing retreat. 


The Friday night Open Mic event is one of my favorite parts of the God’s Whisper Writing Retreat.  One-by-one writers of every genre share glimpses of where their words have taken them.  As each writer shares, the variety of voices and styles present works its magic on the group as a whole.  I can almost feel the artists in the room heave a collective sigh as it becomes clear, There’s room for my voice too, for my way of being and creating in the world.  There’s room for me AND you.

Part of the beauty of God’s Whisper Writing Retreat is that it echoes this “large family experience.” Exposure to others, coupled with the space to explore and hone your own abilities, leaves attendees with a clarity about their unique gifts and this clarity produces confidence and enthusiasm.  God’s Whisper Retreat celebrates one craft, honed and practiced in many ways.  Everyone receives the same life-giving message: There’s room for your voice too, for your way of being and creating in the world.  There’s room for me AND you.

*   *   *
Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned author, there's room for you at God's Whisper Writing Retreat - sign up NOW to register at the Early Bird Price which ends April 1st.

Prayer Loom (a Prayer What??)

Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry in which every thread is guided by an unspeakably tender hand, placed beside another thread, and held and carried by a hundred others. 
- Rainer Maria Rilke

For the past few years, we've tried to adopt a family prayer practice during the season of Lent.  By which I mean to say, we've engaged in an entirely hit-or-miss time of devotions with our older two kids after the younger ones are in bed.  It's been good - good to try, good to fail, good to lean into the long waiting season leading to Easter's joy. 

For two years, we used Praying in Color resources, coloring a simple shape to mark each day of Lent (or, let's be honest, as many days as we remembered).

This year, we're trying something new: a Prayer Loom.  


Several years ago, my Spiritual Director erected a small wooden frame in her meeting space.  At the end of our session, she invited me to weave a strip of fabric onto the frame as a symbol of my prayer for the season of Lent.  I chose a long, thin strip of cloth from a basket of assorted materials and wound it, somewhat awkwardly, on the frame.  

That was it. 

That was, as I said, several years ago, and I haven't seen or returned to the concept since.  But, this winter, the image and memory of that simple prayer practice loomed large and welcoming in the recesses of my mind. 

If I had to put words to the practice, I'd say this: a prayer loom gives us an opportunity to pray with our hands and creates a visual representation of our conversations with God.  Weaving together prayers with others (in community) reminds us how our lives and longings are knit together in God.     


Last week, I asked my husband to build two small looms - one for church and one for home.  Using old roller-blind-dowels and scraps of plywood, he constructed two simple frames, which I strung with yarn from our craft cabinet.  Then, short on fabric, I bought several spools of ribbon (on sale!) in various colors and cut it into pieces for weaving.  There's something so good about the feel and sight of those ribbons, especially here in the long, slow slog of winter's end.  

Isaiah, age 7, helped with the ribbon cutting. His involvement was, frankly, annoying.  The scissors were dull and he bobbed and wove on the kitchen stool where he was sitting, bumping into me and nearly nipping me with the blades several times.  But, his involvement piqued his interest and he was the first to use the loom, weaving one, then another prayer through the threads.  Throughout the evening and into the following morning, he kept returning to me to ask, "Mom, can I weave another prayer?"  


I made a prayer loom.  Not because I'm super holy or a tremendously amazing mother, but because I need it.  I need the color, I need the texture, I need the visible reminder that our longings toward God are more than ephemeral.  I'm sharing it here, not to make you feel impressed or jealous or shamefully inadequate.  In fact, if this post makes you feel any of those things, move right along.  Life's too short or that.  

I'm sharing it, because it's one of the things giving me life this season.  I'm sharing because I need it. Maybe you do too?  

* Local to central PA? Stop by the Grantham Church prayer room to see and use a prayer loom during this Lenten season. (Try saying that, five times fast, "Prayer Room, Prayer Loom.")

* If you want to make your own loom and don't have a fabulously-amazing woodworking friend, try googling images of prayer looms.  They don't need to be free-standing and could be easily made using branches of various sizes, dowels, or even paper. Whatever you do, keep it simple, keep it messy, don't spend a lot of money on supplies, and leave lots of room for grace.