Writing is solitary.

Perhaps we write out of our desire to find understanding and acceptance.

All those hours in front of a blank screen leave our thoughts whirling in a cyclone, twisting out of control until our words find a place to touch down.

Until then, we are floating, drifting clouds building up into thunderheads of anger and frustration during stormy times.

Dissipating into thin wispy cirrus clouds of tears and discouragement at other times.

Floating above the clouds

I fly above the clouds away from the O’Hare Airport after a long weekend with my Redbud sisters. As I rise into the cumulus clouds above the city, looking down at the landscape below, I look back on the events of my first Redbud Writers Retreat.

My fellow Redbuds have only been faces floating in the internet cloud until now. At the retreat faces took on skin and bones and arms and hugs and spoke warm words and voices. Until then our meetings were on Zoom calls or Instagram or here on the Redbud Post.

I’ve heard our Redbud president Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young speak her soothing words over her Instagram live prayer times or read them on her posts, but to be greeted by her warm voice and a warm hug at the front door of the Carmelite Spiritual Center and hear her spoken word prayer during our opening meeting put flesh and blood and heart and spirit into her beautiful words.

Words are the most powerful connector, either written or spoken.
Sometimes unspoken words break through solitude in the fellowship of prayer.

A bonding prayer

A silent urging moved me to sign up for a prayer session with Darcy Wiley, another lovely face I have only met on Zoom. I thought I was signing up to pray for the retreat. But Darcy took both my hands in hers, and asked how she could pray for me.

Solitary moments that morph into hours in front of a screen make it hard for me to open up in person about the words and thoughts running rampant in my head. And 33 years of motherhood make it hard for me to ask for prayer for myself instead of others.

Only a few moments into our prayer time, God’s spirit broke in to reveal to me areas of fear I needed to let go.

For my prayer request I asked God to show me where I needed to let go to let my words and writing go to the next level.

And he revealed to me that I need to let go of fear and worry that others, even those closest to me – will not receive or accept my words.

For here, in Redbud, I have a sisterhood of traveling kindred writers that surround me in the cloud, in Zoom calls, in emails, and most powerfully, through the Holy Spirit.

These sisters are seasoned Redbuds like our OGs Margaret Philbrick and Maggie Wallem Rowe.
These sisters are newbies like Lily Pearl Mclaughlin and Mari Hernandez-Tuten.

Even more of a gift, there are sisters of my very own heritage, like Jennifer Kinard whose words as a girl growing up Filipina in a white culture touched my heart the first time I read her essay on a screen in the Redbud Post. This same essay pierced my soul as I listened to her read her words out loud during the open share evening. Her soft voice spoke of Filipino family gatherings over the savory sweets of bibinkga and leche flan and family favorites of lumpia and pancit piled on the table. 

Her descriptions of the feasting brought a smile that resurrected my 8-year-old self. But it was her description of her family’s clothes—the moms and aunties donning their Filipina butterfly sleeve terno gowns and gracefully holding candles in the palms of their hands for the Light Dance to the sway of Filipino music that brought me to tears, the ugly cry type tears that caused my new Redbud friend Carla Gasser sitting next to me to grab my hand in comfort.

Carla became my Elizabeth that weekend, the one that Dorina encouraged us to find during her opening words the first evening. A friend of kindred spirit to encourage and inspire us. As we sat through several sessions and meals together we uncovered a kinship through shared stories of motherhood, raising families in a mixed culture, and the long journey of writing.

The gift of sisterhood

God’s gift to me that weekend was a confirmation that when I feel alone or misunderstood by friends or family, I have a sisterhood of writers, united by heart and soul and the fellowship of God’s Holy Spirit and our love for Jesus, that will carry me through the clouds and beyond. When my heart is heavy or fearful, there is a sisterhood through Redbud that will connect and encourage us as we step out to hand out our words to others.

For our words are meant to be healing, and uncovering, and recovering, and comforting. It is reciprocal. For the same bravery it takes for one sister to hand her words to me to nourish me, is the same bravery I need to take to nourish a soul who is hungry for my words.

At times I feel I am too old, and too far along the journey, for my words to have value. But it is dear Redbud sisters like Nicole Woo and Tammy Perlmutter who tell me my words matter. That they need my words of experience.

This sisterhood of traveling Redbuds encourages me to be brave. To keep trying. To keep pressing on through platforms and rejections and all that tries to pull us down. Instead we will lift our words and message above the clouds. God’s Spirit will tie us together. His Spirit will lead us above all we can dare to dream or ask or imagine.

So because of the bravery of my sisters I will hand out my words. From heart, to hand, to paper. In Tagalog, the language of the Philippines, the word for hand is kamay. To feed someone the best morsels of rice and savory meat or fish by hand is to feed by kamay.

So by kamay, by hand, I will feed my words to others. And hope they will nourish the soul. And my sisterhood of traveling Redbuds will also be in their writing kitchens preparing and gathering a feast of words to share.

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