Imagine This: Hills and Canyons in Texas, Part II: Arriving at the Frio

For the first part of this post, click here.

Down the back roads and by-ways of Texas hill country you continue to roll. As you head slightly south, the roadside grasses shift from brown to light green, signaling a shift in terrain to match the shift in the temperature. 

It is still hot. 

But it is no longer beastly hot. 

The directions to your next location – the last of this particular journey – are both clear and puzzling:
       “Follow the interstate to Texas Highway  41.
       Go 23 miles to Highway 83.
       Look for the sign to ‘Foundation Camps’ on the right side at the 15- mile point.
       Turn left onto a steep gravel road

and continue traveling about 1.5 miles to the river road.” 

The river road – sounds innocent enough.
What you don’t yet fully realize is that the river IS the road.
Yes, you read that right.

You drive on the limestone bottom of a shallow river for about 1/3 mile and then turn sharply up to the left.

“Nowhere else but Texas,” you softly whisper.

The Laity Lodge hangs over the cliff of a small canyon carved into the rock by the Frio River. 

Beautiful, clearly marked pathways, hand-laid stone walls, delicately worked wooden doors, oversized wrought iron hardware,

lovely, creaking wooden swings hanging from tree limbs all around the grounds.


You’ve come to a place where beauty and excellence are prized, celebrated, encouraged. The shade of a thousand trees, the gentle sounds of the river, the babble of excited conversations echoing in every corner – each of these does wonders for the knotted muscles along the left side of your neck and back. You can almost hear them un-kinking as you move into your room.

Your home for the next three nights is clean and welcoming, with care taken to provide comfort. You are late, but just squeak in a partial un-packing, a change of clothes and a hasty arrival at the opening reception.

And then – there they are.

All these ‘friends’ you’ve been making over the cyber waves these months. Smiling, offering hugs, making warm eye contact, seeing you, really seeing you.

A few more muscles un-kink and you begin to believe you’ve come to the right place as you move into the dining room – and find tables set with candles and real linen napkins and of course, the food!

Home-made bread, a fully loaded salad, pasta tossed with chicken and fresh veggies, the moistest chocolate bundt cake you’ve had in a long while.

The richness, warmth and attention to detail bring you to the edge of tears as you settle in for the evening session. Yet, still you wonder…why are you here?

This is a writer’s retreat – yet you don’t consider yourself much of a writer. A learner, perhaps, an admirer of the words and works of others.

So… why are you here?

It takes a while to realize it – most of the weekend, in truth. But slowly – in morning worship, 

at workshops, during meals, in the art center, 

on the dock, 

watching the play of leaves and sky across the waters of the Frio,

walking in the early morning or late afternoon –

you begin to see that what you’re doing here…
is finding a community of kindred spirits. 

People who wrestle like you do, articulate people who help you put words to some of your own struggles, your own questions, your own experience.

Because one of the things you’ve become painfully aware of during this first year of retirement is that you need this. You need it in all kinds of ways you cannot yet name. Just like the spiritual direction training you walked through in July, this is a brief taste of the heavenly table. A chance to be with fellow travelers on the way, many of whom have taken very different roads to get where you all end up. And that is a very, very good thing. A good thing, indeed.

“Many will come from east and west and from north and south and sit at table in the kingdom of God…”

               – from Rite 1, Holy Communion, Covenant Book of Worship, 2003. 

A few snapshots of some old/new friends from this weekend away.

Sharing with Jen at “Finding Heaven” and the soli deo gloria sisterhood 

and with Laura at The Wellspring and her wonderful “Playdates with God” series.

Get a personal letter from Diana twice a month

Sign up for *More Wondering. . . * a monthly personal letter from Diana to you, available only to email subscribers. As thanks, receive a copy of Diana's new ebook,30 Ways of Aging Gracefully.

powered by TinyLetter

To receive blog posts in your inbox, sign up below.


  1. Why were we there? Because we were summoned by our Host, the One who knew we needed it and knew what each of us needed in that place. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis–it was He who set the table. Beautiful, Diana. I’m getting so little done this week. I keep stopping to read words, look at pictures, and remember.

  2. LOVE this up-close look at Laity Lodge. I need to go there. Next year, perhaps?

  3. Oh, this puts me right back there. How you’ve used the lenses of your camera, your eyes, and your heart to re-create this time. I want to keep it with me always. And wonder now what eyes I will see it through next year.

  4. The gathering of like spirited ones at His table.. that IS what I’m hungry for…

    A bit sad here, sensing that somehow now the conneciton is so much more real for many of you, and I feel a bit left out.. but yes, God connects who HE connects and in wonderfully mysterious ways…

  5. Spot on, Nancy. Thank you.

    And YES, Michelle, come, come. You will love it.

    And Sandy, thanks for your RTs on Twitter and for being you, and being there.

    Firefly – I don’t want you to feel left out. I want you to feel invited to come and see. Please do!

  6. Isn’t it great — I mean all of it — but when I went to She Speaks, it was so amazing to make a physical connection with people with whom I’ve only had a a spiritual one.

    So glad that this was so much of everything you needed, Diana. You are such a blessing and I am so filled with joy that you were blessed.

  7. I went last year – a back issue prevented me from traveling this year – but your photos brought it all back. Wonderful place.

  8. Thanks for sharing more of your wonderful memories in perfect words and pictures. What a wonderful place!

  9. Diane, it was so great to see you at the retreat! These are such beautiful pictures.

  10. Wow, Dan – these photos are wonderful! You make me wish I’d had more mobility than I had while I was there – so glad you’ve shared what you saw!

  11. Diana,
    It was so wonderful to be there with you, feel those feelings you describe so well. Your photographs are beautiful. Such a lovely post.

  12. Diana,
    This is perfect. I love it. I’ve been thinking alot about people who are reading our comments and enthusiasm and feel… well… left out. (Do we ever forget those feelings from high school?) The ones who are sitting at home, writing… without the support, finances, confidence, affirmation or whatever… and feel alone. I have wanted to say something to them… to encourage and invite them. To let them know they can have it too… it’s not just for those of us who were there. Their fears would be quelled just like mine were. I’ve wanted to say those things… but you just did… perfectly with this post. Warm, welcoming… for the taking. You get the P.P.P.P. Award for Perfect Post/Perfect Pictures! Thanks Diana. I’m mentioning this to Marcus, as a write for next years retreat. You’re a doll. =)

  13. I’m coming back to this post again just to read it and be happy that you understand what we are trying to do–both at Laity Lodge and online.

    Thank you so much for this. It is a real gift.

  14. Diana,
    Thank you for these beautiful glimpses, so faithfully rendered.

  15. Such clarity in these pictures. Wow. 🙂

    So fun to see what caught your eye.

  16. Thanks again for stopping by – and Marcus – you even came twice! It was a rich, memorable weekend and I am so grateful to have been there.

    But Kelly – I’m not really a ‘Dan’ kinda girl. Name is DIANA. :>) And I am sorry, too, that your mobility was somewhat limited this time. I’m betting that you’ve already got a bunch of wonderful pictures from previous visits? If not, next year, right??

  17. beautiful

  18. Beautiful description. I love seeing the Texas landscape through the eyes of people who haven’t experienced it all before. So glad you made the journey – in more ways than one!

  19. Beautiful! I’ve heard/read various things about Laity Lodge and I’ve been wanting to go … now your pictures and post really make me want to go there sometime.

    Glad you had a wonderful time.

  20. Diana,

    I was sent here to read this and am now looking even more forward to my first (see how I’m numbering them?) to Laity Lodge next month! 


  21. Delighted that you’re coming, Marilyn! Looking forward to seeing you live, and in person!