Once upon a time, I decided to take a sabbatical from the phone and my soul woke up. Here’s what happened.

On a random Saturday, before others in the house stir from sleep, before the impossible lorry predictably barrels over speed bumps on our quiet street, I discreetly roll out of bed and tiptoe downstairs, avoiding places in the steps that creak. Enveloped in stillness, I lean against the window, gaze over the garden, and discover water droplets hanging on the sash. The wooden table is soaked from grey to smoke.

But the weather forecast predicts a round flaming sun at 10am.

Well, we have some time then, I think.

A date for a jaunt with girlfriends was set in the diary weeks ago. An outing to the Notting Hill fresh market to meander and then converse over fresh pastries and coffee at the home of one of them.

Faithful to the forecast, sky transforms from dusty shadow to bright cerulean. I lace up white trainers and scurry out the door. Past a menagerie of people and pets loitering around small café tables strewn with newspapers, cups, and plates holding evidence of flaky croissants. Cross over quiet train tracks, through a pedestrian crosswalk, up a hill, and past Simon Cowell’s house.

At the halfway point, I intersect with a friend standing at the entrance of Holland Park, her Russian accent, a sign of God’s faithfulness.  After all, I prayed for years to live in an urban city where diversity flourishes.

“Do you miss home?” I ask as we set navigation and whiz our way past pristine million-dollar homes in West Kensington.

“I don’t have enough time to remember how missing someone feels,” she says, smiling.

Stories of single parenting and small windows for presence remind me of how it feels to be the child of a single working mother again. To live in the tension of passion and everyday mundane responsibilities.

How do we say no to so many good things?

How do we say yes to resting when so much depends on what we do?

Turning the corner onto Newcombe, our pace slows upon a display of white canopies, crates of veg and our mutual friend who organized the morning for us, waving from a distance.

We follow her lead, past boxes of buxom heirloom tomatoes in every shape and shade of red and yellow, stopping at a table lined with buckets of flowers.

“You have to smell these,” she says, pulling a bunch of pale pink roses from the floral feast set before us. “Pick out another bouquet, I’m splitting them between the two of you. It’s my treat.”

“Oh, my goodness, wait a minute,” I say, “I want to take a photo, they are beautiful.”

And discover that God has a sense of humor.

The charge on my phone plummets to zero. No photos. No sharing the wealth. No documenting the sun slanting over freshly picked produce. It’s not even Sunday yet, the day I set aside to turn off my phone and stop sharing and scrolling for 24 hours.

Before disappointment sets in and steals joy in the outing, I hear a subtle whisper from God’s lips to my heart: Memorize what you see because this is just between us. I want you to become better acquainted with hiddenness and more comfortable with the unseen and not yet.

Sometimes feeding your soul with beauty means keeping the wonder and intrigue to yourself. Allow God to define creativity that shapes your soul and fits your story.

Carrying bags weighted by sweet corn, tiny white potatoes and fragrant strawberries, I follow our friend down a cobblestone street, into a mews, and through the contemporary wooden front door of her beautiful house.

We sit on tall bar stools around a white marble island presented with jams, pastries, cheeses and fresh squeezed orange juice. And I can’t help but become attentive to carefully displayed artwork, matching pots holding hydrangeas in the garden, the clean lines of charcoal kitchen counters against white cabinets, a bowl of plums blushing pink from yellow, the unobtrusive light in the bathroom illuminating a bar of soap.

I want to capture it all with my camera but a flat battery makes me impotent. Instead, words and thoughts begin stringing together from the images. A new story emerges and suddenly, my body is pulsing with adrenaline. I can’t wait to sit down and write.

“The real you involves your drives, your beliefs, your desires, even your reactions to the physical world. This is where your stories happen, if you’re a writer. It’s where your visions appear, if you’re a painter. It’s where your curiosity and tenacity live, if you are a scientist or inventor. The work that evolves from you begins in that very honest, place that I call the soul.” Vinita Hampton, The Soul Tells a Story

Lost in the details of work the week prior – deadlines, emails, travel details – I had verbalized to my family, I want to be inspired, whenever we sat down to watch a movie. But my soul was rarely satisfied by the choices.

A simple outing to a Saturday morning market with girlfriends resulted in unexpected creative inspiration.

The very thing we long for becomes available to us when we are willing to lay down what we envision and how we think we need to experience it. Trust God with mystery and encounter a soul awakening; a satisfying rush of meaning and purpose that cannot be duplicated by scrolling and the fear of missing out.

 “If you want to cast this in more clearly spiritual terms, then consider that part of what you do in order to create is to submit. As a participant, you are submitting to a divine process that is beyond you.”

This post was inspired by The Soul Tells a Story, Chapter 2, Exercises for a Writers Formation: Choose one of the following sentences, add “and here’s what happened,” and write till you complete the thought: Once upon a time, my soul woke up; Once upon a time, I met God; Once upon a time, I discovered my spiritual life.

Vinita Hampton will be the keynote speaker and workshop host for Refine {the Retreat} for Writers, March 22-25, 2018. Reserve your spot here. Hope to see you there!

What is your story? Write it out. Share it with us in the comments if you want to.