The last week of September, 13 people gathered at a beautiful beach house in Waves, North Carolina–very near Rodanthe in the Outer Banks. We came from Tennessee, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Texas (x2), Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. We ranged in age from 15 (that would be my son, LOL) to 82, and everything in between. We had quilters, writers, readers, and cross-stitchers.

And something even better: the truest fellowship.

All these guests are either members of my Patrons & Peers group or a spouse (or son, of course) of one. We all know each other from our Marco Polo chats, our emails, and the texts and phone calls and visits that have resulted from this community. Though 80% of us are self-proclaimed introverts who blend into corners as much as possible in most social situations, there were no wallflowers here. Because though we’ve only known each other a year and a half or less, we are true friends. Community. Family. A tribe.

“These are my people,” Pam had told her husband, who joined her on the retreat. And we all laughed as he agreed and marveled. “I didn’t know anyone but Pam actually talked like this,” he said. Like this would mean that we sat and talked books and stories and authors, we talked about our families and our struggles, our faith and our hopes. We waved hello to each others’ kids and grandkids on video chat, we took walks on the storm-scarred, super-moon-king-tide-barely-there beach, we ate too much and laughed unceasingly, and we planned where we’d go next and when.

This was our second P&P Creative Retreat. The “rules” I set out were that in the main part of the day, we work on what brings us joy creatively. Deanna and Candice set up in the basement with their sewing machines and quilt blocks. Bethany and Cindy spent their days at the beach with books in hand. Betty alternated between reading and cross-stitching on the couch next to mine, while I wrote feverishly to get a book finished. Bonnie and Pam and Pam’s husband Steve did some sightseeing, some reading, and juggled day-jobs from their laptops. Caroline did some writing tutorials she had saved and needed quiet for, and played around with a fairy-tale retellings. Danielle got a start on the fifth story in her Harbored in Crow’s Nest series of historical romantic suspense books. My husband, David, worked on a screenplay, and my son, Rowyn (who only made appearances with the group for meals, LOL), built worlds in his favorite games.

And then we’d all converge for dinner, and we’d settle on those couches, and we’d talk about everything, we’d laugh, we’d have some ice cream, and we’d deepen the friendships that were already so miraculously strong.

As the organizer of this whole group, I have to say that the thing that struck me most and deepest was realizing that these wonderful ladies who came together there at the beach, had created such strong bonds and connections well before this. Candice talked about how she and another member, Nicole, who couldn’t join us on retreat, text regularly about books. Pam got to meet Laura on a drive through her area. Hannah F has met so many ladies who visit California. The Houston area girls get together for dinners, rodeos, and sleepovers. Lynn has hosted several ladies who came to her part of Texas, either for a meal or an overnight. We talk about each others’ families like we know them. We ask for updates, because we know what’s going on and we care. We pray for each other, we talk about everything.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “this is such an amazing group” from the members. And it is. I can take no credit for that, other than starting the thing. THEY are the ones who made it work, who opened up, who reached out, who embrace these new friends in the Spirit. They’re the ones who take the time to talk, to text, to meet up, and to travel to get-togethers like this one. They’re the ones who wrap their arms around each other and declare us all a family.

As always, I’m humbled by my awesome “Roseanna Girls,” as Bonnie has dubbed us all. I’m thrilled at the time I got to spend with them. I’m excited for the next retreat, which is already being planned and discussed and debated. I’m grateful for each hug, each word of encouragement, each glimpse of a generous and God-filled heart I received that week.

I never actually take the time to get out my phone and take pictures at these things, but the fabulous Pam lent me some of hers, and we took some group shots before various departures (we missed Cindy and Bethany though, sorry!). So here’s a glimpse of what true fun, true fellowship, true book-loving family looks like. (It’s a slider, so click to advance to the next!)

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