Thursday, June 13, 2019

Grateful Glory Sheep

I despise sheep. Sheep drown and don’t think twice about it, simply dying without help. Defenseless, they frighten easily, and get lost with a turn of their head, not knowing their right from their left.  I don’t want to be a sheep, one of hundreds in a flock, who could keel over at any moment, and no one would know. I want to be known and loved; and I am, God taught me this while cruising in my green car one spring day.

As I twist through the tiny roads of rural Germany, images of brainless sheep dying in absurd ways plays on repeat in my mind. Heart attack. Drowning. Attacked by wolves. Suffocating from my own wool. Not being able to explore the world, and stuck in one place? Feels like quicksand to my soul.

As the canola fields pass by, I imagine myself, surrounded by coarse wooden boards of high fence. Claustrophobia sinking in as the fresh air of the field, is just outside my reach. No room for twirling, comfort, or joy.  As blood rushes through my ears all I can hear is, ‘’This is your allotted green space’, and I sob. I’m an emotional creature. I’ve come to terms with it. “I GUESS I AM A SHEEP” I choke out, my eyeliner becoming a smokey eye as I wipe away my tears.

My car windows open to the wind, carrying my laments to God: ‘I don’t want to be a sheep! Couldn’t I be a unicorn, or a peacock? Heck, I’d even take a meerkat, at least their fur isn’t the color of sadness.’ I’d be lying if I said no one has ever accused me of being dramatic…

In that moment, Psalm 23  echoed in my mind, ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
The tiny fencing fell away, and the wind rushed through my hair, I had a pastures to be in by the grace of God, not just one field.  I had created limitations for myself, when God had hand crafted us for freedom.

Humming ‘Wide Open Spaces’ to myself, as sun drenched field me spun, digging my toes into the rich grass, overwhelming joy welling within.  Gentle laughter trickles in, “Aj, not the pasture...this”:  As golden light pours into my car, I crested a hill.  I hear a whisper on the wind, ‘My love, look out the window. All of this is your field, the whole world I gave to all of you; my image bearers, to take care of. To thrive in. To nurture each other. To share my glory and explore`` Luke 12:32 reminds us, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’. His. Good. Pleasure.

The fields glimmering gold, sparkling in the sunset light, igniting in His presence. In the Bible God’s glory is in his presence, it has a weight to it. A layer of majesty you can soak in. My soul needs to soak.

Pulling over, with the rocks and dust from the side of the road pressing into my bare feet, I place my palms up, head back and stand in the Spirit’s presence. Gratitude and relief wash over me, as I realize we are sheep called to graze in God’s glory, not just meander through the hills of life

Germany’s golden hour; tinged with possibility and hope. I had imagined God wanted me to be a quiet sheep, bumbling about, living half lives in tiny spots. It’s simply not true. What is momentous is having a shepherd, Emmanuel, here with us. Guiding us. Desiring us to enrich the earth and share the love of God. Instead of fencing-focused: being I AM-focused .

On occasion I may still be a brainless sheep, AND I am also a glory sheep. Here to spread and soak in God’s glory, to help others look up past the false fences we construct. Anytime I feel trapped, I practice gratitude, and remember this expansive world He gave to us. May I be someone that sees and shares that God is here with us, wanting to cultivate side by side in creating a world full of justice, mercy, and grace.  

Sunday, May 5, 2019

May New Moon Renewal

New Moon Renewal: A 20 minute personal retreat made just for you

Do you ever feel like your drowning? Tossing back and forth in the waves of your menstrual cycle? Riding the high waves when you ovulate can be jarring when you crash down two weeks later as your progesterone starts to rise. Caught by surprise, a period, can leave you bemoaning your womb. Begging to brush off all duties, and throw everything either in the trash, or at least out of sight. ‘Why even try?’ you ask yourself, ‘I’m a mess.’  

Deciding you don’t have any choice but to push forward, you proceed to do just as much bleeding as you do during the rest of your cycle. Except with the lovely additions of stress, guilt, frustration, and a dash of good old fashioned frazzleness.

Girl, you need a minute to breathe. You’re in the right place.

This stage of your cycle does not have to be a mad dash to the other side each month. Yes, you are bleeding. However, you also have a higher intuition during this time, a sense of what is dissonant in your life. If you are willing to tune in, and use this time for rest, your body can recuperate from the speed of life. Letting you emerge from your period recharged, and with a new vision.

How does this work? Through a New Moon Renewal. Think of this as your personal retreat to pause and center in to how you are actually doing. An average woman’s cycle is 28 days, just like the average moon cycle. Historically new moons have been linked to a woman’s period. Whether or not your period lands on the new moon, doesn’t matter for these renewals. This is for the new moon each month in your life. Where you need a little light, a slight pause. To bathe in the stillness, and remember who you are. You can do the renewal below whether or not you are bleeding, and regardless of your beliefs.

First, set the mood: During this time of rest, what is your intention? Time alone? Time to check in with yourself? Learn something new? Turn your phone on silent, or on vibrate. If you can, leave it in another room entirely.  Light incense or a favorite candle. Wear clothes that make you feel at home in your body. Set aside 20 minutes to focus on your personal retreat. Find a journal, some markers or crayons, and a favorite pen! Maybe it’s a sparkle gel pen like you had in 7th grade, or a skinny marker, because why not. Let’s all live our best lives.

Centering: Take a couple of minutes to sit in quiet. Quiet spa music can also help set the tone. Check in with yourself. How does your body feel? Try to breathe from your stomach instead of your chest. By placing your hands on your womb space it is easier to know when you are breathing deeply, as your hands will move with your breath. Any thoughts that come into your mind, acknowledge them and let them pass. Refocusing on your breath.

When you feel centered in your body you can read on:

Question to mull: What are a few words to describe your relationship with your cycle? What do you call your time of the month? Has what you call it that changed throughout your life?

Quote to savor:“The movements of the cycle are like the breath catching like the snagging of threads in a garment. A sudden shift in gear, a cloud scuttling across the sun, a small irritation, a distraction. Quiet, subtle, demanding your attention. Tripping you into different realities, perspectives and understandings. Breaking the mold of the cultural mind set. Stopping you from becoming an endless doing machine. Reminding you of yourself and making you sensitive to the world -Alexandra Pope

Journal: How does this quote make you feel?
Read it again and make a list, writing down the phrases that peak your attention while reading it. Once you have these phrases, for each phrase, ask yourself: what feels like this in your life? Is it something you long for? Is it something you feel is currently happening? It could be a good or bad thing, write it all down. Don’t judge what comes up, bring grace and awareness to what you put on the paper. Maybe scuttling across the sun struck a chord. For me, that feels like resting in my hammock and also doing so much busy work that I’m not productive, and I simply burn out, as if I’m squinting in the bright sun.

Creative Endeavor: Draw a stick figure of yourself, approximately a little smaller than the size of your hand. About half your page. If you would like to draw a more elaborate person you can, but keep it simple. With those bits of the quote, draw onto or nearby your person the things that you feel. Perhaps in the example I gave above where the sun feels like rest in my hammock, I draw sun rays on my face, and also jagged lines coming towards my eyes. Draw each piece of quote onto your person, in a visual way.

Journal: When you are finished with your person. Take an honest look at them. How do they look to you? How does this feel? What do you want to change? If your best friend looked at this drawing, what would they say to you? What are some action steps you could take to shift something in your drawing?
Pick one of those action steps to implement this upcoming cycle. Maybe it’s adding 5 minutes to read in the sunlight, or to remembering to say no next time you are asked to volunteer, because you can’t this month, and you can see that you are overloaded.

Closing: Our cycles have us constantly changing throughout the months and years. Don’t hold yourself to a linear fashion because you feel that’s how you have to be. Start keeping track in your journal or your planner. The days you bleed, days you feel low, or high, and you’ll be able to see when the tide is rising. It is okay to take a step back and check in with how you feel, and adjust course.

Each month we’ll release a New Moon Renewal for you to discover something new about yourself, learn about your cycle, and take a moment to pause, breathe, and reflect.
To being laced with grace, and radiant in moonlight,

Epilogue”, Wild Genie:The Healing Power of Menstruation, by Alexandra Pope, 2nd ed., New Generation Publishing, 2014, pp. 190.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Favorite Non-Fiction books I read in 2018

Good morning lovelies!

 One of my favorite things at the end of the year is going over all the books I read and seeing what I liked and disliked. I enjoy seeing the books others recommend and thought I’d share with you some of the books from my list this year that I think are worth checking out. I did a lot of reading this year in how to love well, show up, use my voice, and how being a woman in faith looks. Let me know if you read any of these and what you think! I’m also always down for recommendations, my goodreads account is brimming to overflowing with them!

Top 10 Non Fiction, Top 5 are I believe must reads.

1. Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: This was recommended to me by my best friend, as a way to cultivate your creative self. I am already a creative person, but this helped me peel back layers of dreams, ideas, and how to set up my day for intentional growth and feeding my inner artist. The biggest takeaways were Morning Pages and Artist Dates. I did it I September, it’s a 12 week workbook, and planning on doing part two this month. I’ve already given away about four copies. You won’t regret this, but you have to follow through to the end.

2. Dare to Lead by Dr. Brené Brown: This is a more technical book from the ones she has written before but it blew me away. To be honest, I had to take my time with this, every page has a new thing to learn, or way to interact with those around you. If you find yourself in a leadership position or ever talking with humans this book is a great read. If you want a more accessible book, check out Rising Strong, or Braving the Wilderness both books that also had me crying and learning new tools in vulnerablility, communication, and understanding. I cannot recommend her work enough, read at least one of her books she has written in the last six years and you will come out the otherside a more well rounded aware person.

3. Love Does by Bob Goff: Wow, talk about expansive love that is outrageous at times but makes you smile and wonder how you are loving and showing up for those around you. Where is the whimsy and wonder in your life? Stories intertwined with God’s love for us, this is a fun engaging read that will make you laugh and cry and wonder how you can bring more light to the world around you.

4. 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John C. Maxwell: This was recommended by Rachel and Dave Hollis, I listened to it on audio book but eventually I need to get myself a hard backed version of this, because as I was listening I’d pull out my phone and take notes. Don’t rent from the library, you’re going to want to highlight and tab. Great and useful hands on tips for taking a hold of your life and listening and paying attention to where God wants to take it, and how to utilize yourself to the best of your capabilities. Accessible wherever you are at in your life, or faith as long as this is something you want to learn, because he does get in depth.

5. Girl Wash your Face by Rachel Hollis: I feel like this has been one of the most talked about books of the year. But I thought it lived up to it’s potential. The book is laid out in lies we believe and the truths we need to know, mixed with her stories, it’s a great gut check of a book of what are you doing, why, and how are you using your time to do that. I also audio booked this, and bought the hard back shortly after to pass around our Red Tent. Her facebook and instagram are also chock full of good ideas, and inspiration to get your goals done.

6. Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker: If you don’t want to ask God hard questions, pry don’t open this book. A deep searching of how we as a church can be missing the point, but especially us as solo Christ followers, and how our individual lives look. This follows her journey, but gives you space, and encouragement to seek God out in new and deeper waves. This one hit me in my core. I also audio booked this one.

7. Raise your Voice by Kathy Khang: I have a feeling we will be seeing and hearing more from Kathy in the next few years. This book opens your eyes to not only how you speak up in the world but how you use your voice. As a Korean-American she shares her experience of how her voice has been heard and silenced throughout the years and her work in reclaiming it and our role to play in making sure those who don’t have voices that are often heard can speak up. There are questions at the end of each chapter, I audio booked it, so I missed many of the questions, so rent this one from your library so you can dig deeper!

8. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a world made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown: With everything currently happening in our landscape I have been more focused on listening to those I might miss. This book highlights some of the major racial injustices currently happening, and how the past is rippling through our world today. It’s a hard read, but it is good. SO so good. I book read it, but I think it would be equally good in an audio book form. Prepare for your heart to be touched and changed.

9. Seven by Jen Hatmaker:  I listened to the audio book with my husband on a road trip, and he loved it as much as me. This book goes through her journey of eliminating excess and refocusing on God. Instead of making you feel guilty, this book brings awareness on how you can use what you have to better serve God, and that stripping down the things you own, and how large our lives can be as Americans, we can lose sight of the real life going around us. She goes through 7 categories, Food. Clothes. Spending. Media. Possessions. Waste. Stress. It’s eye opening, and worth the listen.

10. Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans:
A really great book if you are wrestling with faith, or the church and want to hear someone else's honest story. Helpful to know that your frustrations with your own doubts, or questions are not the only ones. Beautiful and a salve for the soul. I read it, but it would be an easy audio book to listen to while you work or drive.

Non-Fiction Books I also enjoyed in 2018:
Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey
The Turquoise Table by Kristin Shell
Everybody Always by Bob Goff
A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd
A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian D. McLaren

Thank you for reading! Let me know if you read any of these, or have plans to! I always love talking about books, and diving into good ones! What are your book goals for 2019! I’m aiming for 45! We’ll see!
Sing your soul song lovelies,