Sweet Sanctuary – Where is Yours?

Sweet Sanctuary – Where is Yours?

The definition of sanctuary in the words of my dear friend Marianne Piotrowski is “A place of refuge, a place to feel safe & comfortable.  A place where one can de-stress from the outside world & commune with God.”  It means something different to each of us but serves us all in the same way.  Sanctuary can be your home, work, family, friends, outdoors, church – anything, really.  But what does it mean to you?

Most times, a person’s sanctuary changes depending on what stage they’re in at that moment of their life.  When things are good, it can be family or friends.  When faced with hardship – death, divorce, or job loss – many people find sanctuary in their faith.  For years, my sanctuary was work because I couldn’t bear to be at home.  Over the last couple of years, my sanctuary has shifted to my home.  I have transformed it into a place where I enjoy being, though I don’t spend nearly enough time there.  When I faced losing my home, it became very clear how much it meant to me & I fought with all of my being to keep it.  Thankfully, it worked & I feel so blessed.

What are the characteristics of your sanctuary?  Are you surrounded by people & things that you love?  Is it simply going to the beach to watch the sunset?  Is it escaping to the spa for an amazing massage?  Maybe cooking a delicious meal for your cherished family or friends?  Here’s what my sanctuary looks like:

Home.  I have a tiny condo in Huntington Beach.  To many it’s nothing special but to me it’s my escape.  I’ve decorated it with antique furniture & vintage glassware- each carefully selected based on the feeling I get the minute I see it.  If it takes my breath away, I must see it every day in my home.  I love how I can either close all of the curtains & hibernate or go out on the balcony to soak up the sun or watch the stars.  I’m just a half-mile from the beach so I enjoy riding my skateboard or bike on the boardwalk & watching the waves.  I love where I live & Marianne points out that it’s not the house that is important, it’s what you do with it to make it HOME that is significant.  She is so right!

Pets.  I’m the crazy pet lady. 3 cats, 11 lizards, a frog, a fish & a praying mantis.  It seems like it would be crowded, but it works- everyone gets along, each is well fed & loved.  The antics of them all is hilarious, I laugh hysterically at the crazy things they do!  The cats cuddle with me at night while the lizards, fish & frog just do their own things.  The praying mantis kind of freaks me out but I’m dedicated to caring for him well.

Plants.  I have an itty-bitty balcony where I keep my unique garden.  I have a “black thumb” & manage to destroy all plants that require TLC.  So, I have a succulent & cactus garden (they thrive on neglect) in which only the unusual looking plants live.  My favorite is my Night Blooming Cereus– it’s large & fragrant blooms open for just one night then wilt as the sun rises.  This plant attracts bats!  Too bad there aren’t any bats at the beach…. I can only imagine how amazing it would be to sit outside at night & watch them swoop in for a drink of nectar.

Night Blooming Cereus

Scents.  I use aromatherapy in my home to enhance my time there.  Wallflowers by Bath & Bodyworks are my favorite- the scents I use are Eucalyptus Mint for stress relief or Lavender Chamomile for relaxation.  There’s nothing better than having a great smelling sanctuary!

Paint me a picture of what your sanctuary looks like & how you created it – I’d love to know!  Maybe I can get some ideas from you on how to increase my enjoyment while in mine.  Thank you for sharing!


– Carrie


About Carrie

Hi there! I’m Carrie and I am a licensed embalmer, crematory manager & funeral director at O’Connor Mortuary. I am so blessed to have found my calling in life & am grateful to practice it at an amazing place like O’Connor. I began as a part time service director in 2004 while I was finishing mortuary school then served my embalming apprenticeship & worked my way up from there. I’m experienced in all areas of the funeral profession & love every aspect of it. I live in Huntington Beach where I enjoy riding my bike or skateboard on the boardwalk, spending quality time with friends or relaxing at home with my pets. Thank you so much for reading my blogs, I’d love to have you comment as well!

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  • Carrie –

    I love this post! I love coming home after work and either laying on the floor or just hanging out in the backyard. This allows me time to do nothing other than just sit, relax, and watch Jesse go crazy with our three dogs. Our neighborhood is pretty quite so sometimes I will just listen to the birds, frogs and crickets that live in our backyard. My other favorite place to find sanctuary is the beach, I love to sit in the hot sand and then go for a swim. The ocean has a powerful effect on me, between the sound of the waves chasing and the salt water in the air, I think I am a fish out of water. Thanks for sharing and letting us know the importance of life outside of work. Neil XOXO

    • Carrie Bayer

      Neil, I love the description of your sanctuary- it sounds very similar to mine, your home where you can absorb the peaceful environment & enjoy all creatures in it. Knowing how much you love the beach, you, Lisa & Jesse should come to HB & cruise the boardwalk with us & play in the sand with Jesse, we’d love that! You could even bring the doggies to dog beach! Thank you so much for sharing your sanctuary with me. XOXO Carrie

  • Joe

    Sanctuary what a powerful word and when you have a house full of children as I do my sanctuary actually comes from watching how they all interact in our home. Also that time when everyone is asleep and I can actually hear silence for a short time just to reflect on my families day.

    Thank You for sharing

    • Carrie Bayer

      Lovie, I love that your sanctuary is full of life- family is so important for completing our perfect place. When your kids are asleep, just knowing they are there & safe in your home is incredibly peaceful & fulfilling, I’m sure. Since I don’t have kids, I have filled my sanctuary with other life forms- furry, scaly or slippery, I love my “kids” like you love yours. Thank you for making your first blog comment on MY contribution, it means so much to me! Carrie

  • Jeff Turner

    Careless Bayer (as I affectionately call you),

    Thank you for the reminder of the importance of that special place where I go to get in touch with a different reality. Some call it the world as it really is. The quiet, un-rushed, without a to-do-list place where I can look at my heart and soul and ask questions of God and then…. listen to understand. This is not my natural tendency. Unfortunately I too often listen to respond or when I am in a really bad place, listen to ignore.

    It was the pattern Jesus demonstrated over and over in His life. Engaging community, friends and then drawing away for times of peace and reconnection with God. He seemed to most often find sanctuary in natural settings of His own creation.

    I love this glimpse into a family friend’s world that I would not know otherwise. Carrie, you have created a place where you find peace. I pray it is a salve to your soul. To my friends, if you don’t know where your sanctuary is, I pray you find it and when you get there may you find the ‘peace’ that is intended just for you.

    • Carrie Bayer

      Jef, shall we tell everyone how I got my Careless Bayer nickname? It can’t possibly be because I’m a tad bit clumsy, can it? Thank you for using humor to make me feel like it’s not so bad to have an accident or five! You say it so eloquently as you describe what sanctuary means to you- it really makes me think & look deeper at mine to realize just how special a place I truly have. You’ve been to my home but didn’t know just what it means to me. You cared & asked often how my fight to keep it was going, I appreciate that so much. Thank you for sharing your sanctuary with me! Carrie

  • nada

    wonderful blog. my sanctuary is my home also. love to watch my family enjoy themselves and interact. i have my room which is for those times when i need quiet and time to gather my thoughts. God has blessed me tremendously. i lost my husband 2 years ago. i has been a very hard 2 years not only for me but also for my boys. i lost my soul mate but my b0ys lost their dad. no he wasnt biologically their father but being their dad was something he did with love compassion and happiness. we miss him daily. this house i am in was the one he picked for me to have. we were suppose to get it together before he passed on, so i now have it. 3 weeks ago God put a man in my life. he is a wonderful human being. not only does he love me he loves my boys; so now you can understand why my home is my sancutary. may God bless you and keep you.

    • Carrie Bayer

      Nada, I’m so sorry about the loss of your loving husband- you have been thru one of the most difficult parts of life yet you have made an amazing sanctuary for your family in honor of your dear husband. I’m so glad you were able to fulfill his dream for you & your family- that is what makes your home so much more special. Thank you for telling me why your sanctuary is so special! Carrie

  • Anne Collins

    Carrie, thank you for sharing. I loved the peek into your sanctuary. I have had many over the years that were special. Currently what I look forward to all week is my Sunday sanctuary/date with Lou. My week is always overcrowded with work all day, then if I am working on an estate sale, work in the evenings or directing the work of others or researching. On Sundays, I don’t work. After church, we grab a light lunch at Nordstrom’s Cafe, then go to Dana Point, watch the boats, then walk the dogs around the outer harbor, then sit on our bench at the cove and watch the waves until peace floods over me. It is my “fix” for the week. I see God in all of it and it restores my soul.

    • Carrie Bayer

      Anne, you are one of the busiest people I know & I love that your sanctuary is spending time with Lou at a place you truly enjoy. You two have an amazing relationship that others see & admire, myself included. You are so cute & sweet with each other- it is a beautiful example of true love! Thank you for showing me what your sanctuary looks like. Carrie

  • tommy mc mahon

    Peace Sister. Carrie You Know Where I Go T o Find My Peace . On My Weekends Off I Love Going To L.A. And Visit Marilyn,Dean,Bing,Bella,Farrah,Bette And All The Rest Of My Favs. On My Working Days , A Nice Glass Of Wine In Front Of My Fish Tanks Is Pure Heaven. On Fridays A Cold Martini And A Hot Dog Also Works Very Well.

    • Lori Bristol

      Sounds like a Laderian to me!! Pale Ale, not wine in front of the fish tank though…… 🙂

    • Carrie Bayer

      Tommy, I’m so grateful that I have a friend who also loves the peaceful cemetery retreat outside of being there for work. I absolutely love losing myself in a beautiful cemetery where I can reflect on life. You have a social schedule like no other which makes for a wonderful sanctuary for you, the social butterfly. Being surrounded by people you enjoy or simply watching your fish swim in their tank, you are still surrounded by those you love. Thank you for sharing with me! Carrie

  • Lori Bristol

    I’ve often heard bits and pieces about your sanctuary, but love the full picture you have painted here.
    A place to retreat and be alone with ourselves and God is crucial for healthy mind, body and spirit.
    As an only child I have always had to have some sort of place I can go and have this time to myself.
    A dream day off for me now consists of one social event such as lunch or dinner with friends. This fulfills the need I have for relationships and interactions, whether it be carefree laughter or heart to heart conversations.
    Once I have enjoyed my people time, I look forward to long walks with Max and Bella. Yes, as you know I am a crazy pet lady too. Spending time with them brings me a great deal of peace, love and enjoyment.
    After our walk I love to sit and read with a pup laying on each leg usually.

    Thank you for your post and giving me this opportunity to reflect on my sanctuary.

    Love you,

    • Carrie Bayer

      Lori, you are so good at balancing your activities to allow for your own time as well as social time. I could take a lesson from you! Your sanctuary is very similar to mine, your home & your pets. I know how much you enjoy your alone time in the company of Max & Bella which is something that I enjoy with my animals as well. We both benefit from the time we spend in our sanctuaries, we relax & re-energize then are ready to conquer the world! Thank you for sharing! Carrie

  • Carrie,

    Sanctuary to me is getting lost in a loved ones eyes, listening to laughter, giving and feeling hugs, listening to anyone with your whole heart. Sanctuary is knowing that as you live your life, if you can say I did the best I could, then Sanctuary is your life. Sanctuary is also giving your trust to someone, trusting that they will take very good care of your loved one when you can’t. Love and thank you for being everyone’s sanctuary.

    • Carrie Bayer

      Kim, this brought me to tears- to think that I could be someone’s sanctuary when they need it most is amazing. I’m so grateful that I was there for you & could care for you in a way nobody else could. Every year, I think of you & your family during the month that I served you, & I will never forget your kindness to me in return. Thank you for sharing your perspective on sanctuary, it is the most amazing one I’ve ever known. Love you dearly! Carrie

  • Amy

    We could all use a place of Sanctuary. Thanks for painting the picture of what your Sanctuary looks like. I am now in search of my own Sanctuary. Thanks for your inspiration.

    • Amy, it took me years to develop mine but it was so worth the time. I just know that soon you will have an amazing sanctuary of your own & look forward to you sharing it’s characteristics with me. Carrie

  • Carrie,

    Great blog, we all need a place to call our own or at least feel at peace when we are there. I guess for me my sanctuary has always been the Ocean and the outdoors. As you described it is all encompassing, sight, smell, sound, touch, all of it. It’s pull has been so great on me and the peace and freedom I feel when close to it inevitably led me to surf and play in it as much as possible. There are times when I just have to go to it, not necessarily to surf and play but just to be. I feel so connected with all there and that energy reminds me what it is all about. No projects, no work, no mortgages or bills, no screaming kids or speeding tickets, just the connection among all of us and how important that is. Just thinking about brings a smile and a sense of peace.

    • Chuck, it’s amazing when we find that special place where we can forget all of our worries. The ocean most definitely has that ability to soothe & carry away any of life’s worries. I love how you are re-energized by its power yet calmed by it simply being there. Thank you so much for sharing your sanctuary with me! Carrie

  • Kari Leslie

    What a great subject to write on. I am all about Sanctuary, and like you, mine is my home. It’s usually full of family & friends, one form of Sanctuary. I also enjoy it in the early mornings or late evenings when it’s quiet and peaceful. I light candles, put on some soft music, and read or just sit and take it all in. I surround myself with things and people I love, in the flesh or photos, no matter. I can be outside by the pool, working in the garden, or inside snuggled up in a chair or the couch. I take a deep breath and just enjoy, maybe even sneak in a nap! I have gone so far as to adapt my surroundings to the seasons. My husband and I just purchased a new home, and so I’ve got a clean slate to work with. Looking for this new space was all about finding that Sanctuary. This new home had everything we were looking for, and as a result, my home becomes my favorite vacation spot. EVERY DAY!

    Cheers to you and your Sanctuary!!

    • Lori Bristol

      I can’t wait to visit your new sanctuary, Lucy!!!

    • Karilyn, congratulations on your new home! It’s so nice that you have a clean slate to work with in creating your new sanctuary- I’m sure it will be amazing based on the description you have given. Ours are very similar, our home & the lives in it. I can’t think of anything more perfect, thank you for sharing with me! Carrie

  • Sharon Watkins

    Such a fun article and one that made me stop and think about what my sanctuaries are! For sure my favorite one is my new condo. I love coming home. It is so peaceful and serene and I love being surrounded by the many things I love. I feel like I am surrounded by old friends, family and joy. It is a place I renew, draw closer to God, and spend time with family and friends. It is a place for me to create and rest. For most of my growing up years I didn’t feel this way about my home. Maybe that is why I appreciate these feelings even more now!

    The other places that bring me joy and serenity are the beach, the mountains or practically anywhere that is beautiful and makes me appreciate God’s amazing creations. They inspire and lift me in ways that no other places can do.

    Thanks again for our sharing time together. You are an amazing woman and I look forward to getting better acquainted.


  • Shayna Mallik

    Great post and than you for sharing your sanctuary. My sanctuary is also my home, It is a place I can escape to, whether it is staying inside on a cold night curled up by the fireplace or enjoying the summer heat outside lounging by the pool. Thank you for sharing all your parts of your special place. Great Blog!!!


  • Fitz

    What a great reminder to find a place to reflect. My place is either on the trails behind my house or at one of my kids sporting events.
    Thanks for sharing!