Enter Serenity. Step into Joy. by Sharon Woodry - Rancho La Puerta
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Enter Serenity. Step into Joy. by Sharon Woodry

In 2020 we continue to feature extraordinary works of writing by recent Ranch guests. Each piece focuses on The Ranch and moments of personal insight, observation, or awareness.

Watch Sharon read her winning piece of writing:

The Ranch Writes with Sharon Woodry from Rancho La Puerta on Vimeo.

Enter Serenity.  Step into Joy.
By Sharon Woodry

“Return your seat back and tray table to the upright and locked position,” the flight attendant said. comfort

As the plane from Chicago approached the San Diego airport, I stared out the window.  The clouds rippled against the blue sky like a soft white blanket. I wondered if God was giving me an image to my girlfriend, Charlotte, who awaited at the airport for our annual trip to Rancho LaPuerta.

As soon as the wheels touched down, her text message popped up on my phone.

“Just landed! Waiting for you in baggage claim,” she said.

So much had happened since last year’s annual retreat.  Just three months earlier, Charlotte had lost her 30-year old granddaughter, Amanda, after a six-month battle with cancer.  Amanda was an accomplished high school teacher, athlete, volunteer, adventurer, daughter, sister, and granddaughter who was guided by an inner compass to bring love and joy into the world.

As the plane taxied to the gate, I reflected on the photos at Amanda’s memorial service.  Her smile, vitality, and positivity dominated the images of her decorating cupcakes, helping children learn new skills, creating snow angels on a hillside, hugging her little sister, ringing Salvation Army Christmas bells, or hiking with Charlotte.  My favorite photo was Amanda peeking behind a life size poster with bold red letters that spelled — “J-O-Y” — and showed her infectious smile that matched the words and her motto.  When Amanda passed away, Charlotte lost a close companion, and I wondered if the trip to the resort would bring a little joy to Charlotte and help her heal.

Charlotte and I came to Rancho LaPuerta for the past few years as part of an annual girls’ get-away for healthy food, activities, classes, and friendship.  Since this year’s date came within weeks of Amanda’s funeral, I tiptoed around the idea of a trip on calls, cards, and email updates.  If Charlotte chose to take a pass this year, I’d give my full support.  One day, she called and said, “I want to go to RLP.”

I said, “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure,” she said.  “It will be good for me. Let’s go.”

Charlotte spotted me coming down the airport escalator. She waved and smiled but looked a little weary.  Like a beautiful rose with a sturdy stem and a few petals falling away.

We didn’t say much, just hugged, gathered our luggage, checked in with RLP’s transport team, and boarded the bus.  The one-hour drive gave us time to catch up and begin to make our plans for the week.

“Let’s take it easy,” Charlotte said.  Since this trip marked our fifth visit, we knew the resort and focused on a schedule typically packed with hikes, fitness classes, and workshops.  Like kids in a candy store, we always wanted to do everything and raced around the resort bursting with energy after every activity and the tasty, colorful meals.

“I picture us just sitting on the patio in the afternoons,” she said.  I nodded in agreement.

Although we tucked the week’s event calendar in our hip pockets, we meandered through each day.  We wrapped ourselves in hammocks and swayed for hours one afternoon.  We slithered into a warm roof-top jacuzzi and stared at the majestic hillside rock formations.  We took morning hikes, sometimes in noble silence.  We took a selfie with raised arms to celebrate reaching the summit at Alex’s Oak. We listened to the birds fly away in a wave of song while we walked the labyrinth. We meditated to soothing bells chime.  We treated ourselves to chocolate in our coffee as we curled up on a sofa at Bazar Del Sol and soaked in gorgeous mountain views.   We shared stories of loved ones.  We lounged poolside and sipped fruity smoothies.  We enjoyed the pleasure of facials, massages, and manicures that quieted the mind and healed the soul.   We made new friends — men and women with mutual interests and an intentional effort to connect.   We watched the sunset while sipping sangria and wallowed in nature’s beauty. As the week ended, RLP deepened our inner peace, spiritual connection, and gave Charlotte a little of Amanda’s joy.

On the last day, a Pilates instructor explained that the staff sets their intentions with a “word of the week.”

“What’s the word this week?” I asked.  Nothing could have prepared me for her answer.

“Joy,” she said.


Amanda Keany

“For you should go out with joy and be led with peace.”
Isaiah 55:12