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The Value of Nurturing Our Intuition

This morning while taking an early walk around my neighbourhood park, I happened to see two fleshy, pink earthworms wriggling along the gravel path. The observation reminded me of a moment when, in 2017 on my first day ever of walking through the Cotswolds, I stopped to watch an earthworm wend its way up out of the rich, dark soil. That moment remains with me,  because in that pause I remember thinking incredulously to myself, “When on earth do you have time in your normal life to slow down enough to watch an earthworm?” Since then, I’ve made it a habit to slow down and observe nature’s most inconspicuous creatures, as I often find there is wisdom to be gained from studying their activity.

While the rain clouds threatened to burst forth above me, I peered curiously down at the pair of worms. It was then that I noticed I was surrounded by at least a dozen earthworms, slowly inching away from the higher and drier gravel path towards the lower-lying mud and grass just a few feet away. They all had the same instinctive goal of making their way towards an environment that was best suited to them and their needs. I use the word ‘instinctive’ because I’m not sure that ‘intuitive’ would be the correct description for an earthworm’s process of determining its needs. Do worms intuit or do they just follow their natural-born instincts? I’m not sure, and quite frankly, I think that’s where my curiosity ends when it comes to worms. I am, however, very much intrigued by the intuition we humans possess, and am inspired by these creatures’ drive and ambition to do what’s necessary in order to make their minuscule lives count for something.

“We were given intuition for a reason, but if it’s not nurtured, it cannot serve the purpose it was meant to fulfill” 

For the duration of my walk, I continued to ponder the value and cultivation of intuition. A couple years ago, as the fog of the pandemic began to lift, I realized that during that strange and stressful season, my intuition had taken a nosedive. My ability to make decisions with clarity and assuredness was no longer what it had once been. It wasn’t until some months later when I had the opportunity to spend 7 weeks hunting on my in-laws land in Mississippi, that my intuition received a reboot. Towards the end of our extended visit I realized there had been 3 things that helped me tap back into my intuition: silence, stillness, and solitude.

Hunting requires these three elements in spades and I was fortunate enough to experience them all at once over an extended period of time. On the days when I left the house before daybreak and made my way into the woods alone, my senses were on high alert so as to avoid a run-in with a wild hog. Whenever I crept through the woods, I had to move ever so slowly in order to observe nature’s signals without disturbing my surroundings. I noticed that the birds and squirrels would go quiet when a larger animal was present. I studied the ground for deer tracks and antler scrapes. I watched the weather and paid attention to wind direction so I could predict patterns of animal movement. When I sat for hours in a tree stand, day after day, I observed the comings and goings of the same lone spider, waiting patiently for a meal to land in its web. I was witness to the sun’s rising and setting along with my body’s own energy waxing and waning. I could not have been so alert and attuned to my intuition had I not embraced the trifecta of silence, stillness, and solitude. 

“Prior to the pandemic I didn’t realize that my intuition was something I needed to cultivate and care for. It didn’t occur to me that it could become dull or tainted. But finding time for solitude, stillness, and silence is key to tapping into our intuition.”  

On the afternoon of my 39th birthday, while seated alone in the tree stand, soaked from rain, I sensed the need to wait just a few more minutes until the last of the shooting light had disappeared. I was cold, wet, and frustrated, but my intuition prompted me to override my physical discomfort and emotions. I’m so grateful I heeded that intuitive sense, because shortly after I decided to stick it out just a bit longer, I was granted the perfect opportunity for a broadside shot. In the stillness I waited until my aim was steady. In the silence I could hear my breathing and paused until it had slowed. In the silence I could mentally run through all of the steps and safety checks I’d learned until the moment I squeezed the trigger. As a result of weeks spent re-cultivating my intuition, I was able to confidently make a clear, decisive kill that brought the animal down swiftly. By the end of our visit, I had shot a second deer and was able to fill our freezer for the next year. Even more rewarding than contributing to our family’s food supply was the return of my intuition, which would serve me long after the venison had been consumed.

Since that experience, I’ve paid closer attention to maintaining my intuition. Prior to the pandemic I didn’t realize that my intuition was something I needed to cultivate and care for. It didn’t occur to me that it could become dull or tainted. But finding time for solitude, stillness, and silence is key to tapping into our intuition. These elements give us space to think, pray, dream, hope, question, and sense, which in turn help us to navigate our spiritual growth, mental health, life circumstances, relationships, parenting journeys, physical well-being, creative expressions, and career paths.

If the concept of maintaining or tapping into your intuition resonates with you, but you’re unsure of how to integrate the process into your lifestyle, here are a few of my favourite habits that help keep up or refresh my intuition (especially since hunting isn’t an easy or consistent option for me, and probably isn’t your first choice either!):

  • Early morning quiet time before my family wakes up. I love sitting in front of the fireplace with my Bible, journal, and mug of tea. Notice I didn’t list my phone. I tap into my intuition best if the world hasn’t had a chance to invade my thoughts before I’ve attuned myself to God and spent some time in personal reflection following the night’s rest.
  • Walking is proven to stimulate creative thought, so whether I’m using the elliptical, walking through my neighbourhood, or hiking in nature, this activity helps to unleash questions and out-of-the-box thinking. If I schedule time to sit and write afterwards, or even follow up my walk with a voice memo, I consistently experience clarity of thought.
  • A hot shower always helps me to shed distractions and refocus my mind if I’m feeling overwhelmed by a long to-do list or am struggling to solve a problem. By the time I turn off the water, I often feel like my decision fatigue has lifted and am able to make decisions with more decisiveness and less internal conflict.
  • Creative pursuits such as painting have helped me hone my intuition. When I reach a block in my creative process, I trust that my intuitive process will lead me in the right direction. I can also sense when I need to put down my brush, because if I don’t, I’ll begin to make a mess of my work. Painting is a process that helps me to recognize when my intuition is telling me to pause. When I pay attention to that internal stop light in my creative pursuits, I am able to recognize that same alert when it flares up in other areas of my life, and pause or backtrack as needed.
  • Limiting the world’s voice through carefully curating the content I ingest is integral to keeping my intuition sharp. News, social media, and entertainment all have a place in my life, but I have to be extremely picky about the quality and the quantity I allow into my day lest it drown out God’s Word, my own intuition, wisdom of wise counsel, and the input of those who matter most to me.
  • Social boundaries are probably the hardest element to implement in order to maintain my intuition, but I know that when I am over-scheduled or there is not enough time in my schedule for the silence, stillness, and solitude needed, I risk reducing my intuitive acuity. I am a social introvert, and experience a constant tug-of-war between saying ‘yes’ to social activities and prioritizing more restful, quieter ones that help keep my intuition ‘levels’ at their peak. However, when I look at the ‘long game’, I remember that rest helps me keep my calendar, social activities, and obligations sustainable, my decisions free from guilt, and my relationships as healthy as possible.

It can feel overwhelming to know where to begin when it comes to tapping into your intuition, but taking just one quiet walk or a half an hour of solitude before the world wakes up, and then repeating the process on a regular basis, can make a massive difference in how you tap into and utilize your intuition. There are many times when, in spite of what logic or rationale may dictate, we experience a nagging feeling that nudges us towards everything from how you pray for someone, to whether or not you get that spot or lump checked out, to an unease about the presence of a certain co-worker or neighbour, to that urge to help a stranger. We were given intuition for a reason, but if it’s not nurtured, it cannot serve the purpose it was meant to fulfill.

If you are longing for an extended time of rest that would enable you to tap into your intuition more fully, why not join me on my Women’s Walking Retreat in the Cotswolds. During our week of walks through the English countryside, you’ll have the time and space to let decision fatigue fade, the natural world speak to your senses, your spiritual life deepen, your imagination flourish, and your intuition reawaken. If you’re feeling conflicted, burdened, overwhelmed, or in need of a re-set, my Women’s Walking Retreat has been designed with you in mind.

As we walk, we’ll stop in ancient churches along the way where you’ll have time to pray or journal, and where we’ll sing hymns and connect. I’ll be teaching on creativity and rest throughout the retreat so that you can take the restoration and inspiration you experience and integrate it into your rhythms back home. My co-leader is a trained therapist and will be providing support if you’d like to process with her. This retreat is designed to offer a time of restoration and inspiration that will serve you for years to come. Please email me at hello@bringinginspirationhome.com if you are interested! You can also click HERE for details.

I hope to see you there!  — Jaime

“I could not have been so alert and attuned to my intuition had I not embraced the trifecta of silence, stillness, and solitude.”  

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A Rusty Pickup & The Pursuit of Play

My husband’s 1999 dark green Dodge Dakota, with its 200,000 plus miles, broken air conditioning, and doors that don’t open properly, has been collecting cobwebs and growing rust spots while sitting on the side of our suburban driveway for the past 5 years.

“Ol’ Betsy”, Will’s affectionate nickname for his first vehicle, had been relegated to retirement  in 2018 upon the arrival of both our third child, and a new (to us) white Ford F-150 that could accommodate carseats and get us places with more reliability. In spite of my gentle yet persistent ‘encouragement’ that he wish Betsy a ‘Bon Voyage’, Will just couldn’t find the time or inclination to part ways with the pickup that had borne witness to so much of his personal history.

Recently, however, my patience had been nearing the end of its tether. Over the past year, we’ve been paying to store a pop-up tent trailer elsewhere, instead of parking it where Ol’ Betsy had taken up residence. Essentially, this meant that the truck we hadn’t been using was costing us money on a monthly basis. Each month I would narrow my eyes at the storage company’s statement that came in the mail, draw in a deep breath, and pray for patience. Finally I’d sigh in recollection of my own hangups which Will has graciously abided throughout our marriage.

And then this summer, Will’s reluctance to give up on his old pickup paid off.

While I was in England leading my Women’s Walking Retreat through the bucolic countryside, Will found himself at the centre of a wild traffic accident which involved a 19-year old flipping his Honda Civic in the middle of an intersection and landing his car atop the hood & driver’s side panel of our truck while in mid-air. Unbelievably, everyone involved walked away from the accident. Our F-150, though technically drivable, was destined for demolition. We recently accepted the insurance company’s payout and have been on the search for another pickup ever since.

In the meantime, Will has, much to everyone’s amazement, gotten Ol’ Betsy running, smog checked, and registered again. Initially the plan was for him to drive her to work and back until a replacement vehicle was found. After which we would finally sell or donate the Dodge.

But then it started. First Will mentioned needing to replace the driver’s side window so he wouldn’t need to hold it up halfway when showing his badge at his work entrance. That seemed practical and made sense to me. Next he suggested fixing the interior roof panel,  which I thought was an odd waste of time. We were sitting in the near dark under the olive tree in our garden on a warm August night, when he casually dropped the possibility of buffing the rust spots out and repainting them. Travis by his side for every trip to AutoZone. Ol’ Betsy restored to her former glory. I groaned inwardly. Ol’ Betsy hadn’t just received a new lease on life, she was going to get a full-blown engine-to-taillight makeover.

In my mind’s eye, I played out the next few years and envisioned a painstakingly slow process that would see Betsy sidled smugly up to my SUV on the driveway during her multi-year remodel and end in a triumphant finale featuring Will tossing the keys to our firstborn for her inaugural driving lesson. Exasperating in some respects, but not the worst outcome I could imagine.

So I kept my mouth shut and peered up at the first speckles of starlight gazing back at me through the silhouette of our garden grove, and realized that the possibility of redoing this truck was Will’s chance to play. To tinker, fix, and create. To teach our kids about mechanics and fixing things that still have a chance, instead of tossing something with potential and succumbing to the wild call of consumerism. It was noble and hare-brained and I loved him for it. He has loved me through, and in spite of, and because of so many creative, beautiful, wild ideas that don’t always make fiscal sense and often take up more time than they should. Here was my chance to extend the same grace and humour his desire for creative expansion.

Creative exploration & outlets do not require a purpose. Play need not have a specific outcome. Just as children require the opportunity to play in order to thrive, we too as adults need the chance to fling ourselves headlong into pursuits that allow our minds to unhinge, relax, and unravel. When this happens, all sorts of breakthroughs, solutions, and epiphanies can seep through the cracks of our stress come undone. 

I believe that through the process of working on his old truck, Will is likely to experience lightbulb moments that have nothing to do with mechanics, but provide clarity in other areas of his life. Creative play and exploration have tangible, practical effects that can help us process our past, problem-solve in our present, and plan for our future. Who knows, maybe that future looks like seeing your 5 year-old son one day hop into the driver’s seat of your pickup from the last century and drive off into the distance.  

“Creative exploration & outlets do not require a purpose. Play need not have a specific outcome” 

Do you wish you could enter into a world of play in order to explore the possibilities and lose yourself in the beauty of creative output? Join me on my next Women’s Walking Retreat through the Cotswolds for opportunities to rest, play, and pursue creative outlets. Let your imagination be reignited on our weeklong walks through the English countryside and bring inspiration home with you. Click HERE for details & dates.

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My Favourite Place to Stay in the Cotswolds

It would seem appropriate to kick off my Cotswolds Travel Journal series  with where most stories start: at the beginning.

But I’m going to hold off and start somewhere else. I’ll circle back to the very beginning soon, but I’m going to start with my most favourite place to stay in the Cotswolds. I’d prefer to share about the sense of home that washed over me when I walked up to, then into, and finally out of (it will all make sense in a minute) the Stanton Guildhouse on Day 3 of my Women’s Walking Retreat through the Cotswolds.

I felt a kinship with this house, its gardens, and most obviously its views overlooking the English countryside the instant I arrived last year. When I returned this June, a flood of something that felt akin to a homecoming swept me up in its momentum and held me there in a cocoon of rest until we departed two days later. 

The Stanton Guildhouse is a newer build that was completed in 1973, but constructed with the local (yet internationally renowned) Arts & Crafts movement in mind. Everything about the place is hewn using local building materials and traditional Cotswold styles, from the limestone facade to the hand-turned light switch pulls, from the enormous inglenook fireplace to the bank of mullioned windows peering out over the story-book setting below. It is truly magnificent, but in a decidedly comforting manner that makes you want to curl up with a good book, cup of tea, and cozy blanket.

This year, knowing what I would be returning to, I was eager to finish the final climb from the village of Stanton and gaze upon the guildhouse with its gardens spilling over in mock orange and roses aplenty. We let ourselves into the great room, instantly dropped our bags on the cool flagstone floor, then flung open the set of arched double doors revealing a stone terrace draped in blossoms and framing a feast for the eyes. Panoramic views of the Evesham Vale swept across the horizon. Sheep dotted the sunlit hillside nearby, and just below the property, a mare and her foal enjoyed a verdant pasture.

The birdsong began early and the bees buzzed late, as they are prone to do throughout the long, languid days of an English summer. Rest felt effortless, guiltless, and good. The inspiration that surrounded us was simple yet stunning

In all this, I sensed a feeling of home, though the space looked nothing like my home in California. It did, however, remind me of homes from my past. The views easily mimicked the vantage from my parents’ home where I spent my teenage years in British Columbia. The gardens reminded me of my Grandma’s floral paradise that she so expertly cultivated for many decades. The house itself, with its limestone walls, central hearth, and heavy wooden doors featuring beautifully forged iron hardware, echoed my Grandparents’ rural home set in the Canadian prairies. Collectively, aspects of the Stanton Guildhouse reminded me of some of my most beautiful childhood memories. This felt like an especially precious gift, as those homes from my past are no longer in my family’s possession.

The best part about being in a place that reminded me of the most beautiful parts of my childhood meant that I felt instantly at ease in my surroundings. Talk about an ideal setting for inspiration & restoration! As our 2-night stay at the Guildhouse included a day of rest from our village-to-village walk through the Cotswolds, we all had the opportunity to bask in the beauty of our surroundings. At one point while relaxing in a massive free-standing soaker tub, I heard strains of the score from Pride & Prejuidice wafting up to the second floor. One of my guests, Brianne, was playing the baby grand piano set snugly in the corner of the great room. For just a moment in time, I felt like Elizabeth Bennet after a long walk. But then the Downton Abbey score was carried in through the window on a breeze and I imagined Lady Mary lowering herself into the warm water after a dramatic hunt across the countryside. Ah how a soundtrack plus the English countryside can set one’s imagination adrift!

Throughout our rest day, women on the trip enjoyed coffee on the terrace, journaling with a view, a leisurely rest under a shade tree. Someone arranged fresh cut flowers in a window sill, enhancing the already impossibly lovely view. Three of the ladies hired a taxi and explored the surrounding villages for the afternoon. A few of us enjoyed a long pub lunch overlooking the valley. One of my guests pulled together a fantastic charcuterie spread for us to enjoy throughout the evening. We sat and discussed creativity and the effects of decision fatigue on our ability to thrive. The birdsong began early and the bees buzzed late, as they are prone to do throughout the long, languid days of an English summer. Rest felt effortless, guiltless, and good. The inspiration that surrounded us was simple yet stunning. I could have stayed in Stanton for a month filled with days like this, but as reality insists that is not to be, I will take everything I embraced that day and bring the inspiration home.

During my first few days back home, I am tempted to get all the things done. Be efficient, productive, make up for ‘lost’ time. Then I remind myself what the Guildhouse gave me and find time for books, pruning roses, and quiet moments with nothing but bees and birdsong to enjoy. 

If you can see yourself taking in the beauty and being restored with time at the Stanton Guildhouse, click HERE for more details on my next Women’s Walking Retreat through the Cotswolds.

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Reviews: Women’s Walking Retreat in the Cotswolds

The opportunity to reflect on the words of those who have trusted me to lead them on my Women’s Walking Retreat through the Cotswolds is such an encouragement to me. It is my hope, that if you are considering joining me on this incredible adventure, the words of past guests will encourage you to take the leap and try something extraordinary. Like slow down and walk. Observe the details around you. Pray, meditate, and process. Dream for the future. Live in the moment. Stop scrolling and turn off all your notifications. Let the rhythms of nature take over your body and allow the beauty of the English countryside to nourish your soul. All at the SAME TIME. Doesn’t that sound incredible? But don’t take my word for it. Instead, take a glance at what a few of my guests have had to say about their time on my Women’s Walking Retreat in the Cotswolds.

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.” – Henry David Thoreau.

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Are you ready to step into a time of restoration & inspiration? Join me next summer as we explore the Cotswolds together. Click HERE for details and first dibs on spots for my Women’s Walking Retreat.

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Who is my Women’s Walking Retreat For?

When I first set out to design a retreat for women who wanted to join me on a multi-day village to village walk through the English countryside, I knew I wanted inspiration and restoration to be at the heart of the experience: restoration from past hurts, struggles, and failures, and inspiration to move towards healing, new dreams, and creative expression.

As I crafted the look and feel of the trip, and arranged the logistics accordingly, women I knew who had been through specific seasons came to mind. In the same way that I had been impacted by my experience walking through the Cotswolds, I wanted to provide women with the opportunity to reflect on their past, be present and unhurried in the moment, and dream for the future.

I’ve created my Women’s Walking Retreat with the following women in mind:

A woman on the edge of, or engulfed by, burn out.

This was me when I first walked the Cotswolds, so I knew what an exhausted woman would benefit from: fresh air, minimal distractions, non-strenuous activity, nourishing food, and restful sleep. Plenty of time to be present and do less. More disconnection from the world in favour of connection with God, nature, and her own mind and body. If you’re a mom, career professional, student, caretaker, ministry worker, volunteer, or servicewoman (or likely some combination of the above) you know what it’s like to put others first and shelve your own dreams and desires. Maybe you’re at the breaking point…or you’ve broken down already and need some respite. We all need green pastures and quiet waters from time to time. My Women’s Walking Retreat offers opportunity for rest and restoration in abundance.

A woman with big decisions on the horizon or plans to map out.

Perhaps you are on the verge of a major life change or a shift in seasons. Maybe you have some dreams that need exploring and refining. It can be difficult to process big ideas and new realities on the go, or  with distractions competing for mental square footage. At the end of the day, you lack the mental capacity and energy to shift gears and get into a mindset of creating, dreaming, and planning for the future. With minimal decisions to make, and all logistics taken care of once you arrive in the Cotswolds, my Women’s Walking Retreat offers plenty of opportunities daydream, jot down your thoughts, and maybe even bounce ideas off others in the group. My daily Creative Coaching sessions along the way can help guide your approach to developing your ideas and making your dreams a reality. 

A woman who’s always wanted to travel internationally.

If you have always had the desire to travel internationally, but haven’t yet embarked on that sort of adventure, it can be daunting to know where to begin. That’s why my Women’s Walking Retreat is a perfect starting point. I’ll come alongside you to help with your flights and packing lists. Our group threads on Slack can help facilitate ride-sharing from London airports to our first stop in the Cotswolds. On my Women’s Walking Retreat through the Cotswolds, you’ll be able to enjoy the adventure without worrying about logistics.

A woman who longs to tap into her creative gifts.

Every one of us posesses a river of unbroken creative potential. If your creative output has plateaued, evaporated completely, or just been on the back burner for so long you don’t know how to access it, I’ll be providing daily coaching on how to tap into your creative gifts. Prior to the trip, you’ll receive access to the Creative Catalyst, an online course I’ve designed to help you reignite your creativity. The harmony between nature and architecture in the Cotswolds, unfolding drama of the English weather, and sheer beauty of the settings we will traverse throughout my Women’s Walking Retreat are a wellspring of inspiration for your creative endeavours. Hone your observation skills and attention to detail while walking through a landscape rife with inspirational jewels.

“A truly fantastic experience – highly recommended for the scenery, the company, and the time away where your only responsibility is to put one foot in front of the other, find joy in nature and breathe deeply. Thanks for following your passion and leading us Jaime. I think I left a piece of my heart somewhere on the Cotswold path.” – Laura W. 

A woman who wants to celebrate the wins!

It’s tempting to finally reach a goal, give yourself a pat on the back, then barrel towards the next milestone without ever stopping to acknowledge the efforts, sacrifices, and connections made on the journey. My Women’s Walking Retreat serves not only as a reward for ambitions achieved, but an opportunity to take time for gratitude and reflection. The beauty of the Cotswolds will compel you to pause and drink in the stunning surroundings. Cozy accommodations and delicious locally-sourced food and drink round out the experience in a celebratory fashion. If you’ve accomplished something big, or overcome obstacles on your path, join me in the Cotswolds and we’ll toast to your wins!

A woman who loves to travel and meet new people.

If you’ve always wanted to visit the English countryside, you’re intrigued by the idea of walking from village to village, or you like the concept of slow travel as an alternative to a whirlwind tour or jam-packed holiday, my Women’s Walking Retreat fits the bill. It also attracts women from a wide range of age groups, cultural backgrounds, and walks of life. While the retreat is perfect for someone new to travel, it’s also designed so that travellers who want to strike out on their own can venture further afield or have an experience that is more tailored to their preferences. As I’ll be teaching about tapping into your creative gifts along the way, there will be  opportunities to delve into the creative process which can provide seasoned travellers with new perspectives and experiences.

A woman experiencing heartache or loss.

If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, a season of life, a home, a job, or a dream, my Women’s Walking Retreat is designed so that those who are brokenhearted can be cared for and encouraged. From the serene landscape that beckons you to breathe deeply, to the quiet old churches that invite you to bask in their beauty and light, to the company of other women who can offer their support and presence, I designed this retreat to serve as a balm for the soul. My dear friend Yanez, a registered clinical counsellor, will be walking with us throughout the trip, and can be sought out by anyone who would like to utilize her services. I want to be especially sensitive to your loss, and want you to know that my Women’s Walking Retreat is an opportunity for you to experience the space and support you need during this time.

You may fit into one or many of these categories. I certainly did the first time I set foot in the English countryside. Maybe you don’t fit into any and still want to come. You are absolutely welcome no matter what your season or situation! God used this tranquil slice of countryside to touch me in such a lasting way that I can’t help but want to share it with other women. I hope you’ll join me on my Women’s Walking Retreat thought the Cotswolds — an extraordinary adventure that I trust will impact and inspire you for years to come.

Ready to book your spot? Click HERE for all the trip details you need!

Ready to book your spot? Click HERE for all the trip details you need!

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40 at 40

With my right hand nervously gripping the throttle of a lime green snowmobile, I tentatively circled a snowy clearing high up in the Sierra Nevada mountain range while Will and a couple of friends looked on. I spent my childhood in the Canadian prairies around snowmobiles but had never driven one myself until that moment. It dawned on me while I was maneuvering the machine over the serene white glade that it was the second weekend in a row I had done something new, and with some success to boot.

The weekend prior, I had, for the first time in my life, swam 50 laps while visiting my parents in Arizona. It was a new record for me, and came after at least a couple of years away from the pool. There were quite a few people around but I tried not to let that affect my momentum. I mentally held my insecurities at bay with each stroke, and kept adding more laps until I’d reached a number that left me stunned (and more than a little winded!). That experience gave me the confidence I needed to try taking the snowmobile out for a spin.

I generally don’t like to try new things in front of other people. I’m a perfectionist and I’m also fearful of being embarrassed. But I find that when I take small steps to build my confidence, I’m more willing to give things a go.

My husband has the sort of confidence I envy: he instinctively believes that he can attempt most things, and, if he works at them hard enough, experience some level of success. He isn’t cocky, takes advice well, and plows ahead regardless of others looking on or insecurities he might have. I admire his quiet confidence and want to to adopt this mentality more consistently over the next decade.

I’ve been excited about turning 40 for many years, and have wanted to find a way to commemorate this new decade for a while. But rather than force some contrived idea into fruition, I decided to just let an idea come to me. Finally, last weekend an idea clicked into place during that snowmobile drive around an alpine meadow.

 “I know it’s easy to settle into the comfort of routines as one gets older, and there’s something very reassuring about being content within the rhythms I’ve created, but I also don’t want to become fearful of change and risk losing out on the adventures to ahead.”  

This year, I am going to try and tackle 40 new things. Things I’ve always wanted to do, things that come up spontaneously, things I’ve never considered before, things that push me forward into this new season of life. They don’t always have to be physical, they don’t even have to be that exciting, they just need to inspire me and help me take small steps towards a more confident approach to life.

I believe this endeavour will not only help me to fight back against fear and insecurities, but help me live life to the fullest, tapping into gifts and abilities I’ve never fully recognized. I also believe that this approach to the coming year will help me discover new outlets for coping with anger, grief, and stress when they arise. It’s a preventative approach that I am confident will serve me well in the years to come. I am also hopeful that this pursuit will serve as an example to my kids, who I hope will live their lives with less fear of failure and embarrassment than I have.

Here is the list of things new things I’ve done since turning 40 two months ago:

  1. Took a road trip to Mexico with Will, the kids, and some friends of ours.
  2. Hiked in the desert among saguaro cacti (always wanted to see and photograph those!) with my mom.
  3. Swam 50 laps in the pool while visiting my parents in Arizona.
  4. Skied a new mountain for the first time, and skied for the first time in about 20 years.
  5. Drove a snowmobile by myself.

And, here are some ideas of things I might want to do during the year ahead:

  1. Walk the Golden Gate Bridge.
  2. Take voice lessons.
  3. Spend some time sketching art in the Legion of Honor.
  4. Take the kids to Yosemite.
  5. Sew the girls a couple of simple nightgowns.
  6. Go shark watching for great whites in Monterey.
  7. Bake a two-layer chocolate cake (if you have recipe recommendations, please send them my way….I am quite a novice baker).

This is not the beginning of a to-do list for the year. If I don’t accomplish any of these ideas  before I turn 41, I’m fine with that. However, being naturally inclined to list-making, it felt appropriate to come up with a few possibiltles. In addition to a list, I want to be on the lookout for opportunities I may have never considered before, or that scare me just a little. I know it’s easy to settle into the comfort of routines as one gets older, and there’s something very reassuring about being content within the rhythms I’ve created, but I also don’t want to become fearful of change and risk losing out on the adventures to ahead.

If any of this resonates with you, and you too want to take a leap into a new adventure, perhaps my Women’s Walking Retreat is just the right opportunity for you. It’s low-key, filled to the brim with beauty and inspiration, and offers the perfect setting and pace to dream for what the future might hold. I would LOVE for you to join me so I can help make that a reality for you!

Click HERE for trip details.

Want to know how the year turned out? Click HERE to subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send you the issue with the final list and photos from the experience!

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The Value of Silence in a World of Noise

One of my favourite times of the year is the beginning of a new one. I love a blank canvas, a fresh notebook, or an empty calendar, because each of them have the same thing in common: untapped potential. The thing with limitless options, however, is that I tend to want to say book them all  faster than you can say RSVP.

In the past this has lead to some problems for me, such as overcommitment, overwhelm, and overstimulation. Clearly me + ‘over’ don’t function well together. Instead I’ve discovered that a slow and steady mentality, while maybe not quite so exciting, is a much healthier mindset for me to live with on a day to day basis. More tortoise, less hare, to put it concisely.

“Instead I’ve discovered that a slow and steady mentality is a much healthier mindset for me to live with on a day to day basis.” 

So when January bursts onto the scene filled with fresh prospects and exciting opportunities, it takes everything in me not to say ‘yes’ to all of them without a second thought. Which is why I desperately need to embrace the scarcity and silence of the winter season and apply it to my daily experience. Looking for, and lingering in, silence allows me the time to consider my values and my reasons for saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to various opportunities.

Since silence is a gift that helps me make decisions, it’s something I need to reconsider at the beginning of every year, and probably more often than that. Silence helps me tap into my intuition, pray about possibilities, seek a greater purpose for my life, and question my motives. When I do these things, I tend to make choices that I’m at peace with, even if the decisions don’t thrill me.

“I require silence in order to weigh, sort, sift, and meditate on all these things, and put solid decision-making at risk if I relinquish too much time to the noise that vies for my attention.”  

In a world full of noise, I have to deliberately carve out space for silence. To choose to drive without music. Do the dishes without a podcast playing. Edit photos without a movie on in the background. Work out without a business training or tutorial to listen to or watch. Go to bed without an audio book lulling me to sleep. I love learning, growing, and understanding, so much of what I choose to ingest, media-wise, is beneficial. But too much time listening to other voices and perspectives, no matter how relevant or informative they are, can easily drown out what I need to hear most: Biblical teaching, the Spirit’s guidance, the wisdom of those whom I trust, and my own thoughts and desires. I require silence in order to weigh, sort, sift, and meditate on all these things, and put solid decision-making at risk if I relinquish too much time to the noise that vies for my attention.

I also need silence in order to allow my mind to wander, grant my heart time to feel, and let my imagination create. Too often scrolling, playlists, and the next new thing on Netflix tempt me to trade time in silence for ‘inspiration’. But for inspiration to truly take root, to have an impact beyond an ‘aha’ moment, silence is a requirement. It serves as the blank page for our creativity, and I believe that without it, we would cease to produce original thought or truly inspirational work of our own.

Last winter I had the chance to spend many hours hunting alone in a tree stand. I did listen to an audio book here and there, but I knew that if I really wanted to get a decent shot, I’d have to surrender all of my senses to the opportunity at hand. I needed to be as present and as undistracted as possible. To sit in the quiet of nature, and to practice not only silence, but observation, solitude, and stillness. The discipline paid off — I culled two deer which filled my family’s freezer for a year.

This winter, I may not have the opportunity to be enveloped by the all-encompassing practice of hunting, but I can take what I gleaned from the experience and apply it to my every day suburban lifestyle.

I can take 5 minutes in a parking lot to sit quietly before returning home from grocery shopping. I can lie in bed before I arise and think about what I’m most grateful for, BEFORE I’ve checked my inbox or social media feeds. I can sit by my kids’ bedsides once they’re asleep and devote those quiet moments to prayer. To listening. To breathing. Deeply and intentionally. I can be still and know. In the quiet moments of my day, I can listen to the still, small voice that nudges me towards my best yes.

“But for inspiration to truly take root, to have an impact beyond an ‘aha’ moment, silence is a requirement. It serves as the blank page for our creativity, and I believe that without it, we would cease to produce original thought or truly inspirational work of our own.”  

It is difficult as a mom to find moments for silence. To find moments of stillness, solitude, AND silence is virtually impossible unless I specifically carve out a time to either leave my house or have my family leave it! This trifecta often feels unattainable. But to find a moment or two for just one of these practices is usually doable if I intentionally look for them. And I need to remember that before I flood my calendar, every ‘yes’ requires some silence.

If you are looking for an extended time in which to practice silence, my Women’s Walking Retreat is a fantastic opportunity. One of the things I notice when I walk long distances is that my prayer life moves from being one of talking to God, to one of listening to Him. Being in nature and becoming attuned to the creation around oneself enhances this act of listening in silence. If you have decisions to make for the future, healing from the past to pursue, or just the desire to be present in the moment, my Women’s Walking Retreat is an experience that will enable you to embrace all three. But I promise it’s not a silent retreat! There are loads of opportunities to connect and bond with the other women on the trip. Click HERE to learn more. Bookings close March 1, 2023.

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No Ditch December

Today is December 1st. A day that, in my mind, marks the official kickoff to the Christmas season. It’s a day I look forward to all year long, as I grew up loving December and have such fondness for the memories I made as a child during the holidays.

Growing up on the Canadian prairies we had snow by Halloween and were in full-on winter mode by December. We cross-country skied at the provincial park across the road, tobogganed down the floodway, snowmobiled at my grandparents’ farm, and carved out the most impressive snow forts on our front lawn. We Christmas carolled as snowflakes dusted our faces and took moonlit hay rides with clydesdales that pranced in time to their jingling bells. At night the northern lights waved down to us in all their cosmic glory and on crystalline mornings we awoke to hoar frost icing the trees.

My friend Cheryl and I played in the deep snow-filled ditches that flanked our gravel-topped  country roads. We played out there until the sky became a dark inkblot of midnight blue well before dinnertime. We hurled ourselves into the depths of the ditches whenever a set of headlights came barreling down the road towards us. Headlights belonging to a vehicle that was most likely trying to avoid sliding off the icy road and hitting the ditch.

‘Hitting the ditch’ was not an uncommon phrase used during the winter months in the rural municipalities of Manitoba where I spent my childhood. The frigid winds swept blinding snow across fields and roads without a smidge of consideration for the driver attempting to stay on the straight and narrow. Where the roadside ended and the ditches began was anyone’s guess. And so, as one would expect, a driver might ‘hit the ditch’ and become stuck in the snow until some kind soul with chains would inevitably haul their car back onto flat ground. It happened to my mom and I one night on our way home after my piano lessons, and though ‘hitting the ditch’ wasn’t necessarily one of my favourite winter memories, the phrase never fails to take me back to Christmastime on the Canadian prairies.

“Later on Will called me back to check in. He knows how hard I can be on myself and called to speak truth into my day. The last thing he told me was to ‘Keep it between the ditches’. “What was that?” I asked. He repeated the phrase and I laughed. It was more on point than he could have fathomed.

These days, I live just east of San Francisco, where snow is something you ‘go to’ up in the Sierra Nevada mountains a couple hours away, and where you couldn’t pay me to fling myself into a ditch for fun! But today, on this first rainy day of December, I did in fact, hit the proverbial ditch, which warranted some extraction. And probably requires some explanation.

As December holds such special memories and meaning for me, I try very intentionally to  avoid it becoming a season of strain. I spend the month of November doing all of my Christmas shopping, planning, and decorating so that by the time December 1st rolls around, I don’t find myself doing much last-minute anything. 

Considering the fall roundup of sicknesses our family has endured from August through November, I have been especially eager for some really memorable experiences with the kids this December. The first one being a big field trip that not only tied in with our curriculum, but was sure to be a hit with the kids. Not only because I knew they’d love what we were doing, but because it would be the first field trip with friends all fall. However, since we had missed so many fun events and get-togethers over the past four months, I didn’t plan on telling the kids about it until the day of. Which I thought was tomorrow. But it wasn’t. It was TODAY.

I bawled. Not because the kids would be disappointed (thankfully they had no idea we had plans to go), but because I had looked forward to surprising them with this for the past month, because we were missing time with dear friends, and because I could sense myself veering between the ditches of mom-guilt and fear of what others might think of me. Oh, and then there was the tree of inadequacy looming dead-ahead. I felt doomed.

So I called Will. It’s not the first time I’ve called him at work, sobbing about something that in the grand scheme of things (or even a month from now) will seem inconsequential, and it won’t be the last. But he was gracious and had a few minutes to listen. I pulled it together and worked on thinking thoughts that were true rather than listening to the lies about self-worth I’ve been battling for a lifetime. But I still felt like I’d hit the ditch; spun around, stuck, and more than a little crummy. Later on Will called me back to check in. He knows how hard I can be on myself and called to speak truth into my day. The last thing he told me was to ‘Keep it between the ditches’. “What was that?” I asked. He repeated the phrase and I laughed. It was more on point than he could have fathomed.

He didn’t grow up anywhere near snow-filled ditches, but he did grow up in the rural south, where all manner of creatures could be hiding in the ditches astride country roads. He played in those too, albeit without snow. And he knew the perils of the ditches where he’s from, which is why he gave me the sound warning to stay out of the ditches of guilt and fear, self-doubt and despair. He’s good for me like that.

So if you are looking down the barrel of a daunting December, don’t let those ditches sucker you in! They will steal your joy and make you feel spun-out, stuck, and more than a little crummy. Speak truth into your day and keep it between the ditches as best you can. I’ll be over here doing the same.

Jaime

If you’re in a place where you need time to process the past, dream for the future, and be fully present, my Women’s Walking Retreat in the Cotswolds in designed to give you the experience you need to find restoration & inspiration. Click HERE for more details. 

I am passionate about coming alongside others to inspire them in their creative journey. With 15 years’ experience as a creative entrepreneur, I have been able to cultivate a strong repertoire of strategies to boost creative output and help others tap into their creativity. If you would like to have me speak either in person or online at your upcoming conference, workshop, or retreat, please email Jaime Fenwick at hello@bringinginspirationhome.com .

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My Inaugural Women’s Walking Retreat in the Cotswolds

I was beyond giddy when I stepped into Stow-on-the-Wold’s town square. the trip was finally happening. It had been over 3 years since I first envisioned returning to the Cotswolds with a group of women, and over 5 years since I’d been on my first long-distance walking adventure through the English countryside.

view-of-cotswolds-from-stanton-guildhouse

Initially, my Women’s Walking Retreat had been planned for June 2020, but just months before my inaugural trip, Covid-19 turned the world upside-down, and like everyone else, I watched with frustration as my plans and prospects shifted overnight. However, as 2022 approached and travel opportunities began to reopen, my spirits brightened with the hope of another chance to bring a group of women on a weeklong walk through what is known as one of England’s ‘Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.

Of the women who had booked spots on my retreat for 2020, only 2 were able to re-book and join me in 2022. They were a mother-daughter duo I knew from British Columbia. The rest of the Canadian contingent was made up of another mother-daughter pair, which included one of my past brides (I was a wedding photographer for the first 7 years of my career), a fellow photographer whose wedding I had also shot, and my friend Yanez who helped me co-lead the trip. The Americans who came included 3 women I knew from my church and homeschool community in the Bay Area, as well as 2 more women I didn’t know, another woman from California and the other from North Carolina. I was excited by the diversity in age and backgrounds. I couldn’t wait to reconnect with old friends, make new ones, and watch fresh introductions result in meaningful bonds. I also felt like I was embarking on something truly extraordinary in my life – the realization of long-awaited dreams coming to fruition.

group-of-women-hiking-cotswolds

One evening, when I was 16 years old, I found myself standing on the banks of a tributary of the Volga River in southern Russia. I was at a Russian summer camp with a non-profit organization, and it was my first experience abroad. As I watched the sun sparkle on the watery horizon, I reflected on how alive I felt. I knew in my heart that I needed to do this for the rest of my life:  ‘this’ being traveling the world and building relationships with people along the way. I was uncertain how to achieve this, but as quickly as I could form the question in my mind, an answer I knew was from God struck a chord deep inside: ‘photography’. The solution resonated with me as one that would satisfy both my practical side and my passionate bent. Over the next 23 years I pursued an educational path and photographic career that allowed me to travel and build relationships just like I’d dreamed of doing. However, each of the endeavours I embarked upon always seemed like stepping stones, training that would lead to something I couldn’t yet imagine.

Sheep-on-cotswolds-hillside

“There were fields to traverse filled with spring lambs, pot pies and pints that warmed us from the inside out after a long day of walking, and soul-stirring renditions of classic hymns sung in tiny churches that had us all in tears at some point or another.

And then this past summer I found myself on the cusp of of an adventure that had me leading a group of women to England on a long-distance walk through what is undoubtedly the most tranquil slice of countryside I’ve ever encountered. Hardly a daring feat to be sure, but as close to being in my wheelhouse as possible. I had found my niche. It was all the things I loved (travel, relationships, beauty, slowing down) combined with the things I was good at (organization, attention to detail, photography).

view-from-inside-cotswolds-church-window

Cotswolds-way-wooden-signpost

As we set out on our first leg of the trip, I was as electrified as I had been that summer evening in Russia, but this time I had decades of hindsight to reflect upon. Everything had lead to this moment and the surge of emotions welling up within was at its peak. I was excited, reflective, and nervous. I was nervous that I would get the group lost (we got turned around a few times), disappoint group members (I’m human, it happened), and things I’d never do again (the manor house some of us visited was so bizarre it won’t be repeated), but I knew that in the end, a first big excursion like this is bound to have its hiccups. Thankfully, everyone was gracious and encouraging, and I was able to learn a LOT about how and what to tweak for future trips. I love learning and growth, and stumbling is, unfortunately, a requirement for progress.

mauve-rose-in-cotswolds-village-with-dew
Cotswold-walker-at-Hailes-Abbey

Wild-roses-cotswolds-field

But overall, the trip was, if I do say so myself, a smashing success. The scenery and weather were unbeatable, the food and drink nourishing and inspirational, and the conversations and connections just as meaningful as I’d prayed for. There were fields to traverse filled with spring lambs, pot pies and pints that warmed us from the inside out after a long day of walking, and soul-stirring renditions of classic hymns sung in tiny churches that had us all in tears at some point or another. I had envisioned a Women’s Walking Retreat that would provide us all with inspiration and restoration as we explored the English countryside together and from what I’ve been told by the women who joined me, our time in the Cotswolds delivered.

Broadway-Tower-Cotswolds

There is SO much more I could say about each and every day of the retreat, and at some point in time, I’m sure I will. However, perhaps the best way to fully understand what my Women’s Walking Retreat through the Cotswolds is all about is to join me in person. If you’d like to learn more about my next Women’s Walking Retreat, click HERE to find out more. I can’t wait to see you in the Cotswolds!

women-hikers-in-Snowshill

Want to read more of my past reflections on the Cotswolds as well as my thoughts on the benefits of walking? Click HERE for more blog posts.

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