Sacred Spaces: Chelsea Howell Gaul

In “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” Annie Dillard writes, “Self-consciousness, however, does hinder the experience of the present. It is the one instrument that unplugs all the rest.” 

She goes on to write that it is our very self-consciousness that separates us from each other, from God, from our self. It keeps us from living in the present moment and living unfiltered experience.

These photos are an homage to the spaces where our souls feel free, the places where we can still ourselves and simply be. They are places where we can put down our hard work and feel at one with ourselves in each moment. Places where deeply meaningful things have happened in our lives and where deeply meaningful people have come into our lives. They are spaces absent of self-consciousness. They are meaningful. They are sacred.

Here, Chelsea Howell Gaul shares her place of sacredness. Let’s allow beauty to help us realize the sacredness of the spaces we inhabit, and the sacredness of our very selves.


Chelsea Howell Gaul

A farm in Benton, Missouri

The farm that was my husband’s parents’ for many years is sacred to me for so many reasons. I grew up on a farm in Southeast Missouri when I was a small child, and we played for hours in the still country without television the constant stream today presents 24/7. I worked in media advertising from the time I was 18, lived a fast-paced life in corporate America and then ran into my husband on a trip to the Kentucky Derby. We had our first date in Benton, Missouri, and I remember him asking me if I was open to moving to the farm and leaving my job when I was pregnant with baby number three. My inner child longed for that, but I didn’t know if I could handle the simplicity of life outside of the busy. I was scared. This farm is sacred to me because it is forever in my brain as the place God showed up and showed me letting go and letting him work is the only way. 

The smell of the fresh-cut grass, the way the chickens wandered in the sunset, our giant sand pit my kids played in all turned out to be just what I needed to heal. I was living with anxiety fueled by a chronic illness, struggling after a painful childhood and dealing with losing my mother when my husband asked me to move to the farm. For me, the farm offered a sanctuary to get alone with God, slow down, reflect and heal. We actually found such joy in the simple. I remember finally noticing things like the trees and the way the light hits the fields. My children and I have the best memories of cooking together, playing outside and finding such simple entertainment in livestock and harvest. It is a spot where I am overwhelmed with such gratitude, it almost brings me to tears. There is something beautiful and truly restorative about sitting in nature and slowing down. It really is full circle. I did not want to come back to Southeast Missouri, especially to a farm, but it was the thing that was just what I needed to live again. 

God called us to a new spot and to sell everything recently, and it was hard. It was scary. However, what he set in motion is what we care about, and that story is still unfolding. I believe in order to create a meaningful and beautiful life, we have to hold onto these sacred spaces in our hearts and minds in order to really see what God is doing and appreciate every little place along the way. 

Shirt and jewelry: Mother Earth in The Indie House

Photos by Mia Pohlman