This book has been one of my lifelines over the past year. With the prompts within, I came up with three words that are unique to me, and to my way of being, the myriad of ways that I express my special way of being. These three words aren’t what you might think, and I won’t be sharing those three words, but they do express themselves through yoga, nannying, music, and art. And the title is pretty straightforward, but that has been part of my journey. And this small but mighty book is very healing. If you’re at a crossroads or struggling with this idea, or concept or need to revisit and rediscover, I highly recommend this. And it’s not about over- spiritualizing your purpose, but really practical and deeply spiritual.
This journey is important to me because there are voices out there that will tell you that your gifts, your talents and your unique way of being, even your personality are a “problem.” Nope, it’s not your problem, it’s their problem and they can get out of your face. Our unique gifts and talents and interests and our unique way of expressing our being ARE what make you, uniquely YOU. And these things are guides, markers, indicators to help point you in the direction you were uniquely designed for. What lights you up? What makes you come alive? Those are such important questions. The things that matter to us, matter for a reason. That doesn’t mean we’ll know right away, there are still things that matter to me that don’t have a neat niche that I’m invested in, but I still care and maybe someday it will be a bigger part of my time. I get so frustrated when the message of self-denial is beat on your heads over and over. You can’t do any of that until you know who you really are. Celebrate the unique way you express your beings and your doings express your being.
“Our sealed orders are built into us so deeply that difficult circumstances and mistakes in our life cannot ultimately keep us from carrying out our purpose. This is true because our purpose is our essence, our particular way the light of God shines within us, a light that can never really be put out.”
I am celebrating that this past week in April was my Yogiversary! I began my yoga journey and going to weekly classes three years ago!
The best yoga teachers a girl could dream of, Sarah & Midori.
Greatly Gracious Yoga became my lifeline and place of refuge, my sanctuary. I learned so much about what I was capable physically and became stronger in that way, but also spiritually and emotionally and mentally. I learned to trust my intuition and listen to my body. I experienced the love of God in ways I never had before. I learned to listen in stillness. I became empowered and reclaimed my voice. My view of worship expanded as I observed my yoga teachers leading us in times of worship, with our heart, mind, soul, and strength. In prayer and in devotion. In love and encouragement. In experiencing peace, rest, and hope. In being refreshed and revived. I was loved back to life in that space. For that, I am forever grateful, to Sarah and Midori, Greatly Gracious women. ❤
Today was therapy Tuesday & I got some helpful affirmation & insight in our session. Afterward, I made it a point to practice on my mat this evening and flowed on the porch while the sky was painted in bright, vivid colors, the most beautiful pink and gold. I usually just practice for a little bit and very rarely get a savasana in, and I made a point of it considering our material this week was forward folds and relaxation poses. (Savasana included). I didn’t have a lot on my mind as I was practicing and focused on thinking about the muscles and alignment and breathing and counting. (A Sesame Street counting song was in my head, let’s be honest.)
After I finished my practice I realized that I felt so much more open and receptive. I was astonished because I didn’t realize just how closed I’ve been. It’s one thing to have smart, healthy boundaries and privacy, it’s another thing to be / feel closed. Wow, I knew there was a lot going on headed into therapy today, but this was a new reveal that came after therapy.
I’m not sure where this is going but..it’s going. Most people don’t know that I’m rebuilding my life and that has meant ending a lot of things. After crashing and burning and escaping a very bad situation, and spending the past year practicing spiritual sobriety, and giving myself permission to put a stop to the people and things that were wounding my soul, insulting my soul, and who I was; who I am.
My body & mental health took a huge toll and sent some major warning signals to my brain. It took months to uncover and awaken to the issues that were causing my meltdown, like crashing down from space, meteor status. And just like that, the scales came out of my eyes.
The damage is slow to undo. But my determination to live with hope and get to be myself and pursue the things that light me up, rather than those that for so long weighed me down, suffocating me.
This difficult journey has found me to be a bit spiritually homeless, an outsider, and going through faith shifts and deconstructing and rebuilding and identifying what I believe and what’s truly important to me. Spiritual addiction paired with spiritual and emotional trauma is no joke. I can no longer walk into just any old church and feel safe or at ease. I’m constantly on high alert, & always skeptical. But here I am, rebuilding.
There are aspects that I still love and connect with, but feel a great amount of tension regarding what the hell to do with it. Music is important and essential part of my life and I’m at a loss for what it could look like to sing again. I think I need to write, but I get so stuck with my less than stellar instrument skills that I feel like there is a missing piece, a collaborator or partner or fellow musician. I don’t know where to sing. I would love to branch out and sing jazz or blues or show tunes, or rock a Sara Bareilles cover band. Being part of the Apollo Choir last year was such an affirmation and reminder that music is such a huge part of what makes me tick.
One thing that I have been able to connect with is theology and studying and pretending I’m in seminary and stuff that I’m reading and beginning to write about on my blog. (So many drafts, you guys.)
Yoga instructor training has been like diving back into church. It’s been challenging material and yet even when I’m kinda iffy about this whole thing I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be and this is my path: Jesus+Yoga. Tomorrow is my last class before retreat in May and I’m so excited to continue this journey of yoga, and soon teaching yoga, as it’s been such an important part of my own healing journey and getting free. So there ya go, something you didn’t know about me.
There is a story unearthing layers as I watch the landscape bloom.
What is normally desert is lush and green. Greener than I ever remember. It almost feels like another land. The rain has poured and poured. It’s too much rain for many parts of our state, so desperately thirsty it gets drowned instead of drenched. And yet here, there are flowers blooming. Among rocks, along paths. The rocky ground, the green desert, now blooming. There is something in this landscape that is speaking to my soul, and I’m slowly putting words to it. 🌵🌺
“Remember who you were when you first arrived and reclaim the gift of true self.” – Parker J. Palmer
I have some good books to share with you. I’m obsessed with the website Goodreads. Have you heard of it? It’s a fun and helpful way to catalog books you’ve read, are currently reading, and curate a want-to-read list (and follow friends, too!). I think there is something for everyone here, with books on Women & Spirituality, books on the Soul, and finally books on Purpose & Meaning.
I’m currently actively reading about 6 books including Original Blessing, which is majorly giving me LIFE right now, finishing Artisan Soul and also Echo of the Soul; whichis tucked away waiting in the wings. Can’t wait to share more about those books soon.
Alongside the books I’ve been assigned to read for instructor training, I’ve been nerding out and digging into some extra-curricular studying along with a desire to continue nourishing my soul and reading things that are life-giving, spark my imagination and educate. (This is what happens when you’re a life-long student! And I am pretty sure it’s in my genes, with both my parents holding graduate degrees and my dad holding a PhD! Someday…someday…Masters someday!) I’ve been updating the various lists or “shelves” as they’re referred to on the site and through the app.
Here are my top 5 Non-Fiction Books for Nurturing a Healthy Soul*
I read this treasure of a book at a pivotal time in my life. Growing up without a healthy embodied spirituality left me filled with a massive burden of unnecessary shame, and what turned out to be an unhealthy body image. The shame of being a woman. A physical, embodied woman. The author, Barger, takes us on a chronological journey back to Eve, the mother of all humanity, and through church history which was dictated primarily by men or priests, often, unmarried men. This left a huge gap in the history of the church and the way the body was viewed in relation to spirituality. She gently and critically looks back and weaves this incredibly redemptive picture of the founding ladies of our faith. She draws the holy connection between Eve and Mary, the mother of Jesus. This is no critique of Eve. She invites us into a holy embodied spirituality that makes room for our bodies, not one that disconnects or over spiritualizes. It is both eloquent and incredibly insightful. I will forever recommend this book to every woman I ever meet as it is a healing book, and I’m grateful for finding it through Jonalyn Fincher, a former mentor.
Carolyn Custis James is one of my top favorite authors and theologians. Her unique insight and idea of the Blessed Alliance is incredibly redemptive and rich and full. This is not empty. (I highly recommend any of her books. I’ve read 3 of them, and have 2 more to catch up on, with Half the Churchand Malestrom next on my list.)
This book is not quite as intense or condescending as the subtitle may sound. It’s about a holistic spirituality that includes rather than excludes our emotions – heart, mind, and body. I listened to this via audiobook and found it very bolstering and holistic. He begins by talking about ten things that make for an unhealthy spirituality, like some of the following: 2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness, and fear. 3. Dying to the wrong things. 9. Living without limits. Under his second point he explains why feelings matter:
“To feel is to be human. To minimize or deny what we feel is a distortion of what it means to be image bearers of our personal God. To the degree that we are unable to express our emotions, we remain impaired in our ability to love God, others, and ourselves.”
I both read and listened to this book. I began with the audiobook and found the material so compelling and rich that I wanted to see the words for myself. It was recommended to me and it was soothing and full of incredible insight, relatable anecdotes with a bit of his personal vocational story. This Quaker insight includes concepts like “when way closes” which he describes the insight found in learning what paths aren’t working.
“For a good man to realize that it is better to be whole than to be good is to enter on a straight and narrow path compared to which his previous rectitude was flowery license.” John Middleton Murray as quoted by Parker J. Palmer
This beautiful, tender, book offers fresh language and insight into our unique way of BEing and helpful questions to help you work through your unique way of DOING that expresses your unique way of BEing, without burnout, without sacrificing your self, your nature, who you were created to be. The authors talk about Sealed Orders: personalized instructions each one of us is imparted with emphasizing the Dignity and unique meaning of each person’s life. And talk about Doings that express our unique way of BEing. The particular way the light of God shines within us. I don’t know what else to say except to point you in this direction if this piques your interest or might help the search for meaning you are looking for. For me, it’s been such a helpful, healing place to start and move forward, in finding my own voice again.
*My caveat for you is that if reading is not a helpful way that fills you up or you don’t find to be life-giving, and if you’ve already tried audio books, then prioritize those things that are helpful, life-giving, not depleting sources. If you prefer stories, then find good books that tell good stories, watch good movies that tell good stories. Whatever works for you. You are uniquely made, and what brings me life may not be the same thing that brings you life. Whatever is good for YOUR soul. Do that.
My life came to a halt four years ago when I was stopped from pursuing worship leadership. I thought it was over. I had nothing else to live for, the life was zapped from me, and I felt limp and lifeless. Then, almost 3 years ago, I started going to a weekly yoga class that was essentially a worship experience. I learned to listen in prayer, to listen in the stillness as we stretched our bodies and rested in child’s pose or savasana, laying on your back, relaxed, it’s a resting pose.
Five months later, I attended a one-day workshop where I learned some Thai Touch techniques and yoga massage. That experience solidified my desire to teach yoga as I witnessed what looked to me as our instructors leading us in worship. It was a huge moment of epiphany. They were worship leaders. It expanded my view of what I already felt was a broad and diverse understanding of worship, but with music feeling like such a deep wound, it gave me a renewed vision and renewed hope for my life.
One year ago I auditioned and was accepted into the incredible historic choir in Chicago, The Apollo Chorus and dove into the deep end with a difficult, classical, oratorio, musical work by the name of Elijah, by Felix Mendelsohn from the 18th century; 172 years ago. Intense, emotional, difficult and deeply moving. It is an epic musical work. A part of my brain that had been dormant for 3 years or more came alive and I began composing and writing again.
After I left, I began practicing Spiritual Sobriety and right now I can’t even imagine what going back into doing music in a church setting will look like. Music, hell yes, but leading worship again…it’s still so painful, and a tender wound.
And then, back to today, I remember that I’m about to begin my Yoga Instructor training, in two weeks from today and it feels almost full circle as I unwrapped two of my books from today’s mail. A name in the foreword of one of the books almost took my breath away. It was a name I came across at least a few times doing research for my undergrad studies in church music (before they began calling it worship leadership). And it didn’t scare me, it didn’t hurt.
It hit me like such a gentle “woah” moment, quiet, and gentle and like the gentlest tap on your shoulder, almost like a surprise, long awaited embrace, relief, and a coming home.
This epic odyssey continues but the coming home parts keep “woah-ing” me away.
Breathless, silent, woah. I don’t know if I’m ready, but I’m so ready for this.
I’m about to be studying worship once again, the subject that I have put so much time and energy and schooling towards. And I didn’t even realize it until this moment. Today. And after much time awaiting and wanting to go through Yoga Instructor Training, it’s finally here. Beginning officially in two weeks, and I could not be more excited!
My educational and career journey aren’t just a collection of random mismatched, aimless jobs.
I have a BA music degree, studied and completed a semester of graduate Masters in Worship studies with a 4.0, and am adding certified Yoga Instructor to my artist’s palette, or tool belt. It is slowly, gently, beginning makes sense, now. The puzzle pieces *do* go together.
Planning and arranging set-lists and putting together playlists and learning how to sequence a yoga flow…actually goes together.
Learning about design and furniture and research about how a space, room, or environment makes you feel…
Teaching a women’s workout at a gym and encouraging healthy habits.
Taking care of kids fits in there somewhere too. I love kids yoga.
Waiting tables and making espresso, fits in there too.
Learning about entrepreneurship back in 2009.
Technology and social media marketing, totally fits.
“I am so amazed that I hear his love so loud and clear during these times. Today he told me he was proud of me. If you even knew…that means pretty much everything. He sings love over me. He delights in me. He is proud of me. oh what an honor to love him back and pursue such love.”
“This is my (covert train selfie) and I’m-so-happy-and-relaxed from my first time taking a Greatly Gracious Yoga class – it was a beautiful experience. It was tender and devotional and so kind. [insert pigeon pose here, lol] I love using movement to connect with Jesus. And oh, the sweet reminders of his Love for me. Sarah was wonderful!”