Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving - 

I wanted to share this blog today. I have been working on it in starts and stops, so not as smooth as I like, but isn't that just like life?! Not all is perfect but I still wanted to share my heart with you today. On Thanksgiving Day, On November 22, 2018, exactly 40 years to the day from when I told Kevin "YES" in Hedwig Park, near Spring Valley, when he proposed to me on Thanksgiving Day. Forgive me for my imperfections and accept this tribute shared in grace. Praying for you all and hoping you have much around you to be grateful for today and always. If you don't think you do, look again. It's there. It's all around you.  Enjoy it. Enjoy every second of it. It's Love. It's Life. And it lasts Forever.   Love, Natalie

Lake near Brenham, TX

The Journey

I fell across these words in a wonderful book I read recently...
Present not Perfect by Shauna Niequest...
and just had to share. A poem called

The Journey by Mary Oliver One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice-- though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. "Mend my life!" each voice cried. But you didn't stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do-- determined to save the only life you could save.

Morning on Lake Travis, Spicewood, Tx

I have been on quite an adventure this year. It all began with my saying "YES" to Fiji. Now, when I think back on the year, not willing to believe it could possibly be November, I just can't imagine how much my life has changed. If you had told me, I would never believe it. I truly believe it all changed by saying "Yes!" and leaning into life with all my heart and soul. I have been more countries than I ever could have imagined...
France, of course,
and many local adventures too:
Austin, Brenham, Beaumont, Galveston, TX
Northville, MI,
Cedar Point, OH,
Orlando, FL,
Los Angeles, CA,
Palm Springs, CA
and before the year ends,
New York City, NY, and Sarasota, FL.

It's been a great adventure.

Absolutely Unbelievable, Yet TRUE

I took a chance and I reclaimed my life. For me. When I went to Fiji alone, it was a reset on my life, a new start. After a week alone, I met with my friend, and while she went scuba diving, I spent hours reading, photographing, thinking, walking on the beach and claiming new dreams on a "visioning" bed suspended from the sky over the bay in Taveuni. I took a chance to love again. I trusted. I hoped and I prayed.

I met a lovely man who enjoys many of the same things I do. We enjoy sharing time together. It's new. It's different. Overall just fabulous fun. Sometimes it does feel awkward and uncomfortable to be in a new relationship I never imagined, but it's been totally worth it to lean into new life and new love and just enjoy our time together.

I got an amazing job. I am enjoying thinking again. I enjoy working again. While I want to spend my time Life Coaching, and hosting retreats, it fuels my fire and funds my bills. I'm continuing to study to build retreats, to write, and to speak wherever, whenever life leads me.

I was born to serve and I continue to do so, while at the same time, entering a new season of self-love, and self-care. It's been a long time coming. As many of you know, Kevin, my husband of 32 years passed away 7 years ago. He was ill the last three years of his life, fighting cancer full time every single day. We had a very strong love and passionate marriage, but a basket full of trouble and woes that come with the challenges of a life ending disease. It made us stronger and it made me resilient.

I have been studying resilience for several years now, or more appropriately what I call "Gumption". I've got some sass and some gumption too, I think I am resilient, And, finally, I'm learning to engage in this new lifestyle now.

We don't arrive. But we can become.
And that's the most hopeful thing I can think of.
Shauna Niequest

It's been an interesting journey: to be a widow, while still being a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I have learned so much about myself I would have never learned if not for this adventure. I would have never chosen it, but now, at least it is more familiar and in a strange way, it fits me just right. I can wear it and begin to breathe again. I can become all I was meant to be that for some reason, maybe was unable to be with him with me. It's sad to think that, but I'm beginning to believe that we were born with a purpose and our purpose evolves as we move forward and grow into it. Into a new life. Into a new Love. Into a new direction, A road less traveled, a road, not yet explored. I road I never imagined, but I'm learning to trust. I road we never meant to be on, and yet, it is beautiful in its own unique way --we are living on the road less traveled.

Vulnerability is not winning or losing; 
it’s having the courage to show up and be seen 
when we have no control over the outcome. 
Vulnerability is not weakness; 
it’s our greatest measure of courage.
Brene Brown

We are leading the way for other widows; for other women and for our daughters. Sadly, many will follow us on this journey. And the more we learn, the more we can share. Hopefully, easing their load, and directing their steps to avoid a few of the more treacherous twists and turns that appear before us. I want to serve other widows; those I have met, those I spend time with now, and those that will find us eventually. I also want to continue becoming me, for all that that means and no matter where this road leads me. I'm already there. I am trusting, truly for the first time, that the steps will come before me and I will follow along on this journey to where I'm supposed to be. Like footprints in the sand. The place I was born to Live and to Serve. I'm committed to the cause and trusting in the roadmap that is before me.

I don't know what tomorrow holds for me. I do know I will survive. I will overcome. I will love and I will laugh. I will cry. I will hurt and I will pick myself up, and begin again, try again, love again, now ready to live again. This I do know. We were born to live. To live and to laugh and to lean back into life after great loss. I am doing that. I'm living it now. I'm begging you to join me and do the same. If we make a mistake, it will be OK. We can course correct. We can begin again. But if we don't, if we live in fear, we can never know the road less traveled, the love not experience, the road we never explored. We miss love and life we were meant to enjoy. We were born to do this. We were born to enjoy every second of life. We were born for this, our unique and personal journey. Let's go!!!

What Is A Widow

By Vivienne R Reich
She is a woman with half a heart.
Some say she has baggage. I say her pain was due to love.
She is a woman that now does not trust easily.
She can one day climb Mount Everest and the next day she can't get out of bed.
She has mood swings. She has traumas. Her anger is raw. She is trying to learn how to fly with only one wing.
A giving heart..because she knows that love is all that matters.
But if you give her a chance... If you get to know her... You will find. An empathic friend.. because she knows real pain.
A woman that loves deeply because she knows how fast life can be taken away.
A straight to the point friend. She is no longer interested in Drama. If you give her a chance as a partner..... You will find.
She is scarred for life and sometimes those wounds open up.
A woman that does not play games. She is to the point because there is no time to waste. Deep inside she is fragile. She is sensitive. But she is fierce. She is strong. She is a survivor.
She chooses very few people into her life. So consider yourself lucky to be part of hers.
And so whether it's a friendship or a love interest give her a chance. She might cry when you least expect it. She might laugh at the oddest things. And.....
She will love you like there is no tomorrow because she knows there is always that chance there may not be a tomorrow.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Wedding Day, August 18, 1979
St. Cecilia's Catholic Church
Houston, TX

I do...

39 years ago, today, I stepped out into the center aisle of a beautiful sanctuary to begin a walking toward the man I married, Kevin Charles Lancaster. I had no idea that that first step towards the shimmering blue eyes of a great, tall man dressed in a white tuxedo I love would bring me to this moment in time. A place of great love and beautiful memories of 32 years + one month of marriage before we lost him to the ravages of cancer, now almost 7 years ago. A love that would bring us three beautiful, intelligent, compassionate and just wonderful fun children, three great and loving grandchildren, two husbands and fathers added to our legacy of love and soo many wonderful friends.  It all adds up to life full of wonder and a wonderful life full of love.

When I was standing at the head of that aisle, waiting for my father to walk me towards this man I loved so, I could never have imagined a life with two homes, five dogs, many jobs for him and a few for me. I wouldn’t believe it if you had told me of the trips we would take together;  camping, fishing, canoeing. I dreamed we would go to the Grand Caymans, Canada to Mexico, to France where he’d met all my family, to Spain and so many more places, and we did.

You couldn’t tell me when I was about to step out into that brave, bold moment, at 21, that we would have an amazing love --a love that would last a lifetime --a love that can fill forever with beautiful, sacred memories, born in that moment on that day in the sanctuary of St. Cecelia --called home to my daughters’ baptisms and their marriages and baptisms of their children.

I had no idea of the hours I would hold our children on my breast, near my heart, in love-filled days of memories and sleepless nights of suffering. I could never imagine, the hours I would hold Kevin in my arms, in our bed, in love and in sleepless nights of suffering.

I couldn’t possibly know that I would become a widow, a widow leader and now, a widow warrior. I never dreamed I would write and take pictures and tell others of the journey from tears to triumph that this heart full of love has known. It was all real. It was all beautiful. It was all love. It is still love. It always will be love.

What I know now, today, at this very moment typing this to try to tell you what I know, is that we only have love. We only have love and each other and that is truly all that matters. If we live our lives full of love and learn to love each other, we will be successful. We will be happy. We will lead full, rich lives with purpose and meaning, regardless of anything else we think we need to have or that we think we must do. I have learned this because he taught me. Kevin loved like no other. He gave all he had away to all of us and all of us who know him, carry him in our hearts. Today and always, he is with us.  As we move forward in new life, and new love, we know that he will never leave us nor forsake us, but he calls us to love. To love strong and hard, deep and sincerely and passionately. To love and to love each other. As Christ taught him, he taught us.

I honor Kevin and all our family and all our friends and all our love on this, my wedding day. I honor him and I thank him for giving me a life so rich, so beautiful, that I could do nothing less than sharing it with you. On paper with words on a page of social media driven by an invisible internet that will carry this message to your heart thru your eyes and bring you to this realization that all we have is love and each other and that we should not waste another moment fretting about something that will never matter to us some 39 years later…Truly, this is my testament to him, honoring his legacy and the life he lived. Let his love bring new life to all of us. We know he died loving us and that his loving us will always be with us and we are called to share it by loving others. It is what Kevin would want us to do. It is our message from Christ and it is certainly the legacy that Kevin left us. Love. 

Happy Anniversary, baby! I love you always, all ways, Natalie

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Fabulous Fiji!

Makaira Resort, Taveuni, Fiji

Fabulous Fiji!

I bought myself a ticket to paradise. It started last spring. I just couldn't face the idea of turning 60 alone. Widowed. Unemployed. Single. Despite my success as a public speaker, change leader and so so writer, I really don't like the focus of attention to be on moi. I hate it. So when my friend Edie called, as she sometimes does, asking if I could come with her to Fiji in February...I said "No" at first. How could an Unemployed Widow go on a trip of a lifetime to Fiji!?? I had two weeks to decide because airfare was "cheaper", and was actually reading The Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes at the time. She shares her inner struggle: 

"Whatever that spark is that makes each one of us alive and unique… mine has gone. Stolen like the paintings on the wall. The flickering flame response for lighting me up from the inside, making me glow, keeping me warm… my candle had been blown out. I was shut down. I was tired. I was afraid. Small. Quiet." 

So, I called Edie back and said "YES! Yes to Fiji for my 60th!!! Wooo Hoooo. Then, I called all my family and close friends, and asked them..."Instead of buying me any gifts -- a bday card, a stamp for my bday card, breakfast, lunch or dinner, a bottle of wine, a cup of coffee, a sparkler for my bday next January...please put whatever cash you would spend on my bday event in an envelope to help reimburse me for my expenses for my trip!" 

View from the plane to Taveuni, Fiji - LOVE!

Shonda shares "Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be.

Since I was paying for a high dollar ticket, I didn't want to just stay in Taveuni for a week, so I stayed at the Wyndham WorldMark timeshare in Nadi, which I bought with my Stewart stock when I lost my job. I wanted to see what travel alone would be like. I have been on many business trips alone and a few weekend getaways or retreats, but never several days alone on an island. It was exciting and terrifying. I felt I was taking my widow members with me. I would relax on the beach with them, I would share my meals with them, I would have a glass of wine on the terrace with them. It was wonderful, actually, and I did survive. I was brave and bold!  I went to classes, and hiked, and swam and read. There was a part of me that had imagined going out to dinner and being picked up by a romantic gentleman that took me dancing on the beach in the moonlight... I'll be honest; that never happened! I got up early and stayed outside until it was just too warm, then I came in and studied and napped, and went back out at dusk to watch the fire torches being lite and then cooked my healthy dinner. I have to say sometimes it was lonely too. I missed companionship and sometimes even got a bit bored. But overall, I had a blast! Me, myself and I - we got along just fine. I survived, enjoyed and learned to relax in the newness of the feeling. 

After a few days, I flew to Taveuni to meet my friend, Edie. Nadi is a big city, the capital, with AC and lots of tourist niceties. Taveuni is a smaller island with no electricity (we had power at our resort) one road, and people live in small huts or concrete homes with no furniture or running water...A very unique place filled with wonderful, faithful, happy people. If I had enough money, I would have everyone in the world go to Taveuni for a week. The world would be a better place. They have so much to share we could all learn from!

Yellow Fin Tuna Fishing with Captain John
(Also our Chef!) and Edie! Every been?!!
We went tuna fishing, we shopped (and bought) pearls - (ask to see my "golden" pearl!), we swam, we ate, we hiked. We read. I spent time each morning on the "visioning bed" at the Point where legend has it God passes over to grant your prayers. I made my petitions and prayers; for peace, for wellness, for courage, for help to move forward in my new voice without any doubt or fear. I asked for strength to tug and pull free from the self-imposed cocoon I have been enveloped in for too long so I can emerge to be the Butterfly I was born to be. 

Brene Brown shares in her book, The Gift of Imperfection, that: "Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow; a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each of them -- We can only Love others as much as we Love ourselves."

Beach of Worldmark Resort, Nadi, Fiji
I read Matthew Kelly's The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion & Purpose while I was in Fiji. It is the foundation of my new 2 H.O.P.E Again Retreat series. Matthew wrote this book when he was 24 years old, just out of college. This book changed my life at 60! He shares some amazing insights: "Following your star is about discovering who you are and what you are capable of. Following your star is about learning to be yourself. You must be prepared to dare to be different in a word where uniformity is safe and rewarded. Search yourself. Discover something deed with that is yours and no one else's. Uncover your uniqueness. Your chance at greatness in intrinsically linked to being yourself. Become a champion of selfhood and you will meet with unimaged success."

Spa Burro, Makaira Resort, Taviuni, Fiji

Carolyn Moor, our Founder of Modern Widows Club, once shared a photo of a stack of books she has enjoyed to heal herself. One of them was The Untethered Soul, by Michael A. Singer. He shares: “There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind - you are the one who hears it. Only you can take inner freedom away from yourself, or give it to yourself. Nobody else can.”

I think I went to Fiji to find myself. Being away from "home" and my daily routine and schedule, responsibilities and timelines, and deadlines helped me really detach, analyze, relax and begin again. I feel I am reborn - more focused on being the brand new me I have been wanting to become. She's been with me this whole entire time, waiting to emerge and grow and stretch to new heights. 

"Our Beach" just below Makari, with Captain John's boat 
No matter where your journey leads you, don't be afraid to go. Go and let go. It's time to evolve into all that you were meant to be. Don't be afraid. Let go of FEAR. Be who you are and all you were meant to be. If you don't, not only do you miss out on your best life ever, we miss out on the unique gifts you are to share with us. You were born for all of us. And if you don't share your unique gifts and talents, we miss out. We need you to be you in all your glory

Oceanside, Wyndham WorldMark Resort, Nadi, Fiji

Accept my challenge to steal away and do something YOU long for. Remember, I went to Fiji: I did it for me, but I want it for you. You define your own "Fiji" - You can do anything you put your mind to. My favorite Pablo Picasso quotes says, "All you can imagine is Real", and I believe! It is always about Commitment & Decision. That is what I have learned and that is what I teach. You must be willing to take a chance to make a choice to make a change. 

I leave you with one of my very favorite poems, given to me by my sister in law, Leslie. I found it while I was decluttering, but I am becoming "Her" for the first time now...

Finding Her Here by Jayne Relaford Brown

I am becoming the woman I’ve wanted,

grey at the temples,

soft body, delighted,

cracked up by life

with a laugh that’s known bitter,

but, past it, got better,

knows she’s a survivor—
that whatever comes,
she can outlast it.
I am becoming a deep
         weathered basket.
I am becoming the woman I’ve longed for,
the motherly lover
with arms strong and tender,
the growing-up daughter
who blushes surprises.
I am becoming full moons
        and sunrises.
I find her becoming,
this woman I’ve wanted,
who knows she’ll encompass,
who knows she’s sufficient,
knows where she’s going
and travels with passion.
Who remembers she’s precious,
yet not at all scarce—
who knows she is plenty,
        plenty to share.

Monday, February 5, 2018

2 H.O.P.E Again Retreat - Registration

Morning View of Lake Travis,

2 H.O.P.E Again Retreat
March 2 - 4, 2018
Villa Jabez, Spicewood Texas

Come and join us for our 
2 H.O.P.E. Again Retreat
at Villa Jabez
Spicewood, Texas 
March 2 - 4, 2018

We will be learning about HOPE
Health & Healing (with Jenn Johnson)
Opportunity & Outreach
Purpose & Passion
Enrichment & Enjoyment
Begin living the life you dream of...

Cost covers
2 Nights, 3 Days, 5 Meals 
10 hours of  Learning & Activities
to Register by February 15, 2018

We are ready to enjoy every 2nd with You!

Villa Jabez is our 5 Bedroom, 5 Bathroom Lakehouse in Spicewood, Tx.