[Sign generously donated by Adorned Decor on Etsy]
I don't know if you know this, but has been a heart dream of mine for several years to host a retreat for my blogging friends. Over a year ago, Rachel and I shared the dream and tossed it in the "someday" pile, every now and again letting the idea resurface then sink when the timing wasn't right.
However, last spring we decided the time was going to be right (before we truly knew how oh-so-right it would be) and scheduled what was later titled the Deep in the Heart Retreat for New Year's Eve.
We brainstormed, we Skyped for hours, we invited a few friends to give it a trial run, and then we scoured AirBnB for the perfect meeting place. At first, the plan was that 10 of us would stay deep in the heart of Texas's hill country for two days. Then when the location changed late in the game, we arranged for 7 of us to camp out in a Fixer Upper in my old college town.
Then, and before then, and during it all, life happened. A family member was lost unexpectedly, a job offer and move came within a week of one another, the world kept spinning onward for all of us, and several sweet friends could no longer make the journey. One day, we'll all get together I'm sure and look back on the year that passed with fresh perspective, hugs and tears all around.
This year though, Deep in the Heart allowed four women to get away, dig in, and give 2017 a good talkin' to. Annie, Dana, Rachel, and I dove head first into a much-needed weekend of rest, refreshment, and renewal.
When I say we stayed in a Fixer Upper, I mean it! We stayed in The German Schmear House from Season 3 of the hit HGTV series, done up by none other than Chip and Joanna Gaines! There was a kitchen island straight from heaven, subway tile and shiplap, a backyard with twinkly lights perfect for popping champagne over pizza, and four bedrooms perfect for these introverts to each have their own space.
Jeff and Sara were wonderful hosts, and it was such a small world knowing that they went to my church and alma mater. We had everything we needed and more in the house, and we made a grocery run when we first got there to do most of the cooking at home over the weekend.
In true blogger fashion, as soon as we got in the house we put our things out of the way and said that no one could unpack or make a mess until we took pictures. We ran up and down the stairs, found the best light, pushed each other out of the way for the perfect shot, and laughter was ringing out within minutes. We all agreed that staging photos and leaning precariously over kitchen tables or railings felt far less silly when there were other people around doing the same thing!
There were plenty of cozy couches and chairs to curl up in, throw blankets galore, and a perfect music selection to keep us going all weekend. (No really, we were thoroughly impressed with their music library. Kindred spirits for sure!)
Once we got settled in, we promptly found the closest Whataburger (my out-of-staters had a request which we happily obliged) and ate to our hearts' content. We caught up on life, laughed at memes and youtube videos, then we made our way across Waco to a place that still feels like home to me: Baylor University.
Waco has changed a TON since I was in school just three and a half short years ago, the campus too! But it was so fun to give the girls a walking tour around campus, from all the fountains and buildings to the statues and traditions. We sat on the green and gold swings, read all about the time capsule, teetered on the edge of the Baylor seal (don't step on it!), and found an open door into one of the most beautiful buildings on campus.
They marveled at the size, the silly superstitions, and took time to read as many of the quotes on the sidewalk as possible. Annie may or may not have rapped a quote by T.S. Elliot with two backup dancers while I filmed it for my Insta story. And by may or may not I mean she definitely did ;)
We headed back to the house to finish out 2016 lounging around and having heart talks about everything under the sun, saying "Bye, Felicia" with glee to a year that had been so hard on so many of us, and saying a big "Hello out there!" to the promise of 2017.
The next morning we slept in and had a slow morning around the house. Rachel made a breakfast quinoa that was divine, and we spent the first few hours of the new year Bible journaling, working on our goals and planners, reading and relaxing with no real agenda. Naps were had in the afternoon, a quick jaunt to Target made to grab planners for two of the gals, and then it was back to the house for more planning and introverting.
One thing I loved about the weekend is that there were no real expectations or structure set in place. We were also free to say when we were feeling overwhelmed or tired, and there was plenty of dedicated "quite time" for all of us to recharge on our own.
That night the weather was simply magical, so we made frozen pizzas and had sparkling wine with berries out on the back porch beneath the twinkly lights. No picture could really do it justice, and we all agreed. We had good intentions of going to bed early on the second night.... but I think we saw at least 1:30 am before we shut things down.
Monday morning we got up early to get the house cleaned up and to enjoy one last meal in the house before checking out. I made waffles shaped like the state of Texas (because, duh), and we perched at the beautiful faux-marble bar/island to eat.
Next came the packing of all the things (we brought SO much stuff!) and playing Tetris with my, Annie's, and Dana's things in my small Volkswagen beetle. Somehow we managed to fit it all in, plus the people, and from there we headed to Magnolia Market.
It's become a Waco stable, a hot-spot that people flock to from all over, and the whole thing still makes me laugh. My college town which had nothing in it and nothing to do is now where all my blogging friends want to visit and play tourist. Magnolia Market is pretty spectacular though. I've heard it called the blogger's Disneyland ;)
We managed to find parking pretty close to the Market around lunchtime, and we did our best to weave through the masses when were shopping and enjoying the sunshine. A major thunderstorm actually rolled through the night before and knocked outside the power inside the shop, but that didn't keep us from shopping.
There was a sign out front indicating that all Christmas decor was 75% off, and at first I didn't pay much heed. I wasn't planning to purchase anything. That is, until I saw it. I have been on the hunt for a sign to go on the small wall over a corner of my couch, but everything I loved or that was the right size was SUPER expensive, so when I spotted the "Oh Holy Night" sign for only $42, I jumped on it!
But really. I grabbed that sign so fast and headed straight for the check out line. I didn't even think about how I was supposed to fit it in my car with my friends and all our things. Oops.
A trip to the Market would not be complete without lunch on the lawn from the food trucks with a strawberry and Nutella crepe for desert. There are so many options to choose from in their outdoor eating area, and plenty of covered picnic tables and swings! It was muddy from the storm, but we didn't mind.
Once lunch was over, we wandered around a bit longer, then we made our way into one of the latest additions to the area: the bakery.
Jeff and Sara, our gracious AirBnB hosts, left us some of the cupcakes as a welcome gift, and we knew we had to make a stop before we headed out of town. I think we left with five boxes of cupcakes... don't judge ;)
Inside was just as charming as you'd expect it to be, and the treats themselves were amazing. I'm a fan of Silobration and Shiplap, personally, but there's something for everyone. There are even various pastries and cookies, too!
Somehow we managed to finagle my sign into the car with enough room for Dana and Annie, and then we made our final stop at McAlister's for some sweet tea and a gift exchange. I read an Instagram post by Nicole which shared this post by Stephanie, and I knew this was something the girls and I could all get behind. We picked our gifts and shared our stories with laughter and tears, and I will treasure those moments forever.
The goodbyes however were the hardest part. We had to send Rachel back to Kansas, and I did not want to let that sweet thing go. It helped that we were already talking about next year's Deep in the Heart Retreat and holding each other accountable throughout the year, but a three days with all of my people simply was not enough.
These girls have a huge place in my heart and I will be FOREVER grateful for the time spent ringing in 2017 together. Love y'all lots, friends. Let's do it again soon <3