Mid-July Reflections on a Monday

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This year has been about looking forward and making moves and steps and building on from this foundation of healing and starting over. It’s been a slow road, so the occasional reminders of how far I’ve come are vital.

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In yet another round of “my body reminds me” that at this time back in 2012 put on a full coffee gig show, I packed my little Toyota Corolla full, said my goodbyes and lept into the great adventure that I thought Chicago would be.

I drove across the country, enjoying the journey, only to arrive with a sense of unease. Welcomed into the proximity of a master manipulator, following his advice, getting the lay of the land.

It didn’t take long for him to completely ruin my life and turn it upside down, but I wouldn’t realize something was really wrong for another year and a half.

And another 2 years until I had unraveled enough of his hold on me to begin to ask the necessary questions and decide to walk away.

This leaving took tremendous courage and support. But it also meant I had to trust myself and lean into my own intuition.

Finally being free and the process of recovering from spiritual trauma and gaslighting and untangling from toxic theologies that harm women has been a vitally important journey but it has not been easy.

2016 was the year I finally left the abuse and drove off in a truck and moved in and became my nephew’s nanny, and I’m so grateful for all the time we’ve enjoyed together.

I boldly declared this the year of thriving and indeed I have felt the golden glow of the sunflower metaphor. I’m happy and content. I’m still making moves and leaping into the unknown and exploring new avenues and pursuing grad school. I’m growing and honing my skills as a teacher and mentor.

I’m excited to see where the second half of this year holds and will continue to dream big and count my blessings.

My Red Sea Road Day

 

Today (May 27, 2019) is the Celebration of my Red Sea Road – Exodus day. My liberation day. My get the hell out of there day.

To know me is to know that milestones and anniversaries are a pretty big deal to me. This is one of those days.

I began putting miles between myself and my manipulating spiritual, emotional abuser.
Literally packed up a uhaul with the help my yoga teacher and some of their friends.

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A city that I loved, unfortunately, was too much of a reminder that I couldn’t be there any longer.

I had long run out of reasons to stay. The air I was breathing had become toxic ever since the day I arrived. Maybe the nerves I felt arriving were an early indicator that something was not right. Maybe the tears I cried every time we had a conversation were an indicator that something was not right. Maybe the tension and confusion that built up in my body because “do I listen to God or the pastor?” was making me sick.

Oh, but don’t worry they just wanted me to repent and recant for calling out spiritual abuse. The ugliest, most awful email I’ve ever read and received, was full of the very manipulation they were denying.

My physical symptoms were undeniable. The wear on my psyche, my heart, my soul, and my mind and body.

Just do what you’re told. Just be the good little church girl, your voice isn’t valued here. Your gifts as a worship leader aren’t needed, your skills, your training, and your church music degree. It was like I didn’t even exist.

You will be condescendingly criticized, belittled, betrayed, manipulated and gaslit.

So yeah, I know what it feels like to leave, and I know what it feels like to be excommunicated. Only, I never understood why they felt like they had to have the last word…

A Brief Timeline:

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*I moved to Chicago in the Summer of 2012
*I found yoga in April 2014 – yoga saved my life.

*Visited my sister on Memorial Day Weekend 2015 – This was beginning of the end of the spell I was under. I was criticized and warned against visiting my pregnant sister by my abuser. On my own long weekend, which I paid for. I mentioned this particular time further in this post.

short video clip of Apollo Chorus & Northwester students rehearsing Mahler for our Northwestern University performance, followed by a performance in Downtown Chicago on Sunday.

*I left Chicago on Memorial Day 2016, just like a Red Sea parted, God made a way for me to get out. The day after performing with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, a dream come true, and the best way to leave on a high note.  Pictured, my view from the stage, my Backstage pass wristband, and after the performance with a couple of my favorite kiddos, with the stage behind us.  The same stage where I saw Andrew Belle, the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, and Idina Menzel the previous fall. mahler choir.jpg

THAT WAS THEN, NOW I’m FREE

AND NOW, 3 years after leaving

I am free.
I am whole.
I am fully alive.
I am healing.

I am a vocal advocate against spiritual abuse.
I help women reconnect with their bodies.
I sing regularly and am a valued part of my worship team.
I am writing songs, and finding my sound. I hope to have some coffee shop gigs later this summer or early fall. I hope to one day record music for television and get paid for it. I want to compose a choral piece for my women’s choir to sing. I want to write an orchestral symphony or suite.

I celebrate and savor life, delighting in the beauty found in each new day, and practicing gratitude. I practice nonjudgment and self-compassion on hard days and allow myself to feel, and go at my own unique pace. I journal and reach out to friends. I am connecting with old friends and new and building new relationships that are rooted in wholeness, being fully myself.

I am creating art, words, music, and resources for healing, spiritual agency, and wholeness.

I am a yoga teacher, integrated soul mentor, songwriter, and auntie.

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Harmonizing and drawing from my background studying art, music, worship, theology, and yoga, I teach gentle yoga classes and empower women to love their bodies in the present tense.

Interwoven with my passion for social justice, peacemaking, and spiritual agency, preventing spiritual abuse and speaking truth to power, paired with my personal story of awakening, departure from, healing and recovery of spiritual trauma by employing spiritual and personal agency.

Synthesizing contemplative Christian practices to help you live an integrated faith & embodied spirituality, rooted in love, free of religious platitudes, spiritual bypass, or legalism.

I believe deeply that we are not powerless. My desire is that you would feel less broken, more empowered, and discover your own inner wholeness. Loving our bodies is a vital element of a healthy, integrated soul.

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I am just getting started. I have risen from the ashes, and will not be silent.

My sacred calling is to create, nurture, and heal. Making space for other women to embody and integrate their faith, find healing, and embrace the sacredness that is within.

Will you celebrate with me? 

The Integrated Soul Podcast Episode 1 Shownotes

“Something Is Not Right” Show Notes

In the first couple of episodes, I begin to share my story of taking my voice back after spiritual trauma and how that led me here. I’m using my own voice to tell my story with the hopes that it will empower someone else to be free from the toxic, shame-based religion and indoctrination that’s out there.

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Some of us find freedom and find new ways to connect to our faith and spirituality. This is my story.

LISTEN HERE: anchor.fm/integratedsoulpod 

You can listen via the web app at that link or download the app to your smartphone to listen. If you use the Anchor app, you can even send messages or record a voice message for me that I can use on a future episode. I’m planning to keep it here in one place at the moment, though I am open to requests to distribute to iTunes. Leave a comment and let me know you’re listening! 🙂 If you have any technical difficulties let me know, I’m happy to help.

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You’ll hear as I mention some of the symptoms I was experiencing that were caused by spiritual abuse and trauma.


Quotes referenced on the show:

re-examine all you have been told
at school or church or in any book,
dismiss whatever insults your own soul

~Walt Whitman

Version 2

(artist, unknown; poem by Walt Whitman)

He brought me out to a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

~Psalm 18:19


Music Appreciation

Excerpts from Brooke Fraser’s song, Therapy, helping me sound kinda cool. Here’s her official lyric video: Therapy.

Links & Where to find me:

Thank you so much for listening, it means a lot to me! If you’d like you can leave a voice message or contact me if you’re interested in having a conversation on the podcast sometime!

LISTEN HERE: anchor.fm/integratedsoulpod 

One Year Ago | A Uhaul & Unforced Rhythms

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One year ago I loaded up all my belongings from my second floor apartment into a small Uhaul squeezed in our narrow alley along with the help of some dear friends and their friends and escaped from some really toxic relationships. To this day, I still have a couple kitchen boxes packed. I drove over 400 miles in a Uhaul truck and moved in with my sister and became my nephew’s nanny; arriving at about 11pm that night. We took care of each other and I found refuge there with my family.

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I’ve walked with Jesus the whole way. It was his words in Matthew (below) that signaled that it was time to go. And he’s never left my side, he’s always been with me. I may never understand how I ended up where I did, or why it got as bad as it did, but what I do know is that He was the one who rescued me.  He was the One who provided a way out, along with the help my family and some very dear friends. He was the original rebel; rejecting rules and religious addicts and bad religion. (cue the Gungor song, Bad Religion)

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When I found myself unable to say the words it is well with my soul,” I knew my soul was not well. I will say it, and quote this ’til my last breath, a healthy soul is an integrated soul.” (Dallas Willard words to John Ortberg in Soul Keeping) It is so critically important. 


“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.” (AMP)

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So I rested. and rested and rested.

28 Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens.” (TLB)

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And I began to recover my life. With room to breathe. Room to reconnect with who I really am, not a restrictive, distorted, lifeless, suffocated version of me.
I learned that so-called holy words were twisted and forced on me and used against me. My entire being, my spirit was torn down, there was no building up. I wasn’t enough for them. I was too much for them. I wasn’t accepted for who I was and for who and how God designed me.
 

This is the face of freedom, just a few days after my move:

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Lorde (the artist/singer/songwriter) sings a haunting song that resonates with me. It is one of the things that was said to me, almost verbatim. She sings:
‘They say, You’re a little much for me
You’re a liability
You’re a little much for me”
So they pull back, make other plans
I understand, I’m a liability
Get you wild, make you leave
I’m a little much for
E-a-na-na-na, everyone’

Since that day, I have moved again, this time flying back to California with my nephew and a much lighter load, in more than one sense of the word. Just one year on with four years of trauma behind me and I still have a long road of recovery. It’s been a hard, lonely road; pursuing a healthy soul is no easy road but it is a spacious road of freedom.
 
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If you’ve experienced spiritual trauma and been hurt by the church, you are welcome here. I hope to offer spiritual sobriety here, soul care, and compassion, both for ourselves, and for each other. That is my commitment to you. Your story, your voice, your feelings are valid and you’re invited here, whether you join me on your mat in a class or online. And I’m always down for a latte and a conversation. Not everything is appropriate or ready for public consumption, and only you will know when you’re ready to tell your story, and how.

My All Time Favorite Books for Nurturing a Healthy Soul

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“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; which is 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 7 Non-Fiction Books for Nurturing a Healthy Soul*
*Amazon Affiliate links are included for each book, should you decide to purchase a book, following my link simply means that I can receive a small commission that helps support my work.*

  1. Eve’s Revenge
  2. Lost Women of the Bible
  3. Ruby Slippers
  4. Soul Keeping
  5. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
  6. Let Your Life Speak
  7. Healing the Purpose of Your Life

And here is a little blurb about each of them:

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Eve’s Revenge

Eve’s Revenge: Women & a Spirituality of the Body by Lilian Calles Barger

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, her book is below.

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Lost Women of the Bible

Lost Women of the Bible: Finding strength & significance through their stories by Carolyn Custis James

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 Church and Malestrom next on my list.)

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Ruby Slippers

Ruby Slippers: how the soul of a woman brings her home by Jonalyn Fincher

This is a sparkly book that is more than meets the eye. Jonalyn has incredible depth. Hers was the first book I read that didn’t leave me with the empty feeling that something was missing, as many other women’s books often do. There is no empty stereotype or generalization of women or roles. Instead, she invites us to remove the suffocating, restricting corsets of these stereotypes about femininity. She gives a rich well of information and educates us on the soul, and explains that there is no one picture of femininity, and empowers and frees you up to be your true self.

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Soul Keeping

Soul Keeping: Caring for the most important part of you by John Ortberg

In his delightfully simple but profound way, Ortberg shares about his journey towards this idea of Soul Keeping. He tells about visiting with Dallas Willard and sitting with his wisdom, the incredibly profound insight that he offers. I love the way Ortberg unwraps the layers of the soul and demonstrates how intricate it is and the great, many needs of the soul. Needs like rest, freedom, and blessing.

“Your soul is not just something that lives on after your body dies. It’s the most important thing about you. It is your life.”

“The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self. The soul is the life center of human beings.”

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Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It’s Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature While Remaining Emotionally Immature by Peter Scazzero

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.”

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Let Your Life Speak

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer

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

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Healing the Purpose of Your Life

Healing the Purpose of Your Life by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, & Matthew Linn

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.

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*Amazon Affiliate links have been added for each book listed, should you decide to purchase a book, following my link simply means that I can receive a small commission that helps support my work. I only link to things that I wholeheartedly recommend and use myself.*

An Odyssey Moment

 

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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.


 

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my view from the stage for our first of two performances, with the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra in front of us, in the beautiful University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel

 

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.

Woah.

Like, woooooah.

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.