Sometimes you have to zoom out before you can refocus the camera, my friend texted me. Yes, that's what these days before Easter have been about for me. Zooming out so I can see again. Discovering focus. Discovering refuge with God.
2017 has been zoomed in so far - packed with opportunities to share and celebrate the release of Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit. And a time to soak up being in my community offering local events and workshops. April so far has been for zooming out and refocusing (and washing all the laundry!). And I'm so grateful; the timing couldn't be better.
Holy Week is nearly here! There is much to mourn, there is much to celebrate. There is much to experience, to taste, and to see! Psalm 34:8 in the Common English Bible (my current favorite version) says, "Taste and see how good the Lord is! The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy!" In zooming out, I find refuge in God. In zooming out, I find courage to journey off the beaten path. In zooming out, I can taste and see the good things.
Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey off the Beaten Path has been my Audible read during my morning walk/run lately And wow, has it come at just the right time! Many good things are happening with the ministry of Exploring Peace and amidst this my mom asked me recently, "So, are you practicing what you preach?"
Ping. I'm thankful a mother's love can survive asking such a question. Time for a bit of self-reflection.
So, you could say that read came at a good time. Erin spoke to my heart. And her book wasn't all about building boundaries and saying no to life or stuff (well, maybe some of it). Erin's message invites us to journey the path just for us. Erin invites us to taste and see what God offers us! Erin reminded me to discover joy and delight and not to rush past it.
Yes, I share and teach and offer soul care resources for others. I LOVE my job - zoomed in or zoomed out. They say we are drawn to what we long for most. I long for soul care on this journey. I think we all do. And, you know one thing that is really good for my soul? JOY! My spiritual director and I spent an entire year exploring the concept of finding joy and delight (my homework one month was to blow bubbles - a practice I often invite my retreatants to experience). Delight! And, I think I'm finally getting brave enough to pause and lavish in it. Sound ridiculous? Maybe it's time for more bubbles.
Brené Brown reminded me recently (in one of her talks, not over a cup of tea, wouldn't that be fun!?) that as a culture, we don't know how to experience joy. We rush right past it rather than embrace it. We expect the worst. We move on to the next thing. We rush past a lot, don't we? Okay, book release is complete. Oh, well. That was good...done. What's next?
Nope, I'm choosing to pause right here and give thanks for the joy of this season, for the privilege of publishing my first devotional book, for good health that allowed me a ton more travel than I'm comfortable with in a couple of months time, and now for the chance to take long walks while I learn to chase slow. If I'm being honest, finding joy in chasing slow is harder than it seems.
How are you journeying off the beaten path? How are you chasing slow?
In chasing my own slow and finding my joy, I helped set up a prayer room for my son's youth group this week. And, I couldn't find a reflection mandala that fit our theme of Psalm 34. So, I created one! This brought me joy and the only thing that brings more joy is sharing it with you. Download it here if you'd like. And if praying with mandalas is new to you, check out my friend (and fellow Upper Room author) Sharon's new book, Praying with Mandalas. It's a delightful introduction to using mandalas for prayer and reflection.
Blessings on your Holy Week. May you taste and see, may you discover joy and delight in the good around you as you find refuge in our God this Easter season.
Kristen Vincent and her work with prayer beads has impacted my own healing journey. I have shared her book and prayer bead model at retreats and workshops over the years with many of you.
It’s an honor for me to now be working alongside Kristen as an author with the Upper Room Books family of authors. Kristen is also a fellow yogini. She shared the following reflection with me and I’m so honored to share it with you in celebration of the release of her newest book and deepest sharing, Beads of Healing: Prayer, Trauma, and Spiritual Wholeness.
Guest Post by Kristen Vincent
Our yoga instructor asked us to do Pigeon Pose last week. As my class members and I leaned into this stretch, she said something interesting: “I often find stretches to be the hardest part of my practice. There is all this sensation in my body in the areas I’m stretching, and it’s hard to just be with those feelings. But sensation is just that: sensation. You don’t have to judge it. It doesn’t have to be good or bad. And if you can stay with it, sit with it, the stretch gets easier."
She's right. Pain is, by nature, uncomfortable. We do whatever we can to avoid it, whether easing up in a stretch or staying busy when a distressing memory arises. As a trauma survivor, I know this firsthand. I spent years trying to avoid painful feelings and memories. Problem is, by avoiding the pain I was allowing it to continue. I realized I was stuck in a place of fear, always trying to stay one step ahead of the pain.
It wasn’t until I took the time to be still that I learned to be present with my pain. In that space I recognized that God was there, too; indeed, God had always been present - even during the painful events - helping me to cope. Now, in the stillness, God was offering to take that pain and transform it. The more I spoke my truth and described my feelings, the more I saw God guiding me towards a place of trust, gratitude, and wholeness.
It is natural for us to want to avoid pain. But when pain takes the form of memories and feelings from past events, and we avoid that pain because we judge it as being too scary or too hard to deal with, then we get stuck. Lucky for us, God is always present, always ready to help us bear the pain and move through it to a place of deep, healing love. Thanks be to God.
As you can see from the previous post, the book signing and celebration at Parnassus was a great joy. Thanks to your support, the book was the number one seller at the bookstore and was even listed in The Tennessean as such. Truly never imagined this! They do have some signed copies left in stock, as of this week. Stop by and say hello to their amazing staff.
Many of you have sent me messages about your own 40-day journeys and your story of healing and wholeness. I’m indeed on my own journey and it gives me great honor to companion you in yours.
And you have asked, how can I help? Here are some ideas:
Simply contact me to share your thoughts. It is an honor to be a companion on your spiritual formation journey.
In Nashville, Parnassus Books is known and loved by locals and visitors alike. Just recently, I read an article from co-owner (and one of my favorite authors), Ann Patchett, about planning your travels around amazing local booksellers like Parnassus. And, if you're in Nashville, you are in for a treat as you don't have to travel far. Parnassus is a gem to Nashvillians.
So when my fantastic editor at Upper Room Books, emailed me to share that we would be celebrating the launch of Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit at Parnassus in January, I was a wee bit (okay, a lot) excited. There is much that goes in to giving life to a book. And, Parnassus fully understands and appreciates this fact. It seemed the perfect place to celebrate this devotional's birthing. Their team was awesome. I arrived to the beautiful cover (envisioned by the Upper Room team after I shared my heart and ideas) filling the window of the shop. Greeted by friendly staff and the shop dog (neither of which treated me like a "newbie" author but instead welcomed me with open arms and a wagging tail).
Book supporters (I have some pretty amazing friends, you know who you are, thank you!) began arriving as I ran to the restroom to take a deep breath. My heart was racing and I wondered how or why God invited me here. Who, me Lord? We soon ran out of chairs and strangers even paused to join us in this very special place.
In Greek Mythology, Parnassus is known as the home of music and poetry. Truth is, I am a huge music and poetry fan! Although I'm not well-versed in the myths of ancient Greece. And, while there was no audible soundtrack, it felt like it. I was asked to read some of my story from the introduction to the book and answer questions - both of which felt extraordinarily daunting. Who, me?
In a standing-room-only middle-of-a-bookstore, I shared God's nudges and longings. I invited people (some who simply came to grab their copy of Zadie's new book - which is on my reading list!) to listen for God with their whole self - breath, body, and spirit. You see, Parnassus Books may have made me feel like the special guest as a local author (I was even invited to sign their author's book), yet it isn't about me at all. It's about you - your whole self. God created you with breath, body, and spirit. God created you to listen for those nudges and dreams. God created you to release your fears. God created you to come alive with purpose. God created you.
Reflecting in Parnassus helped me claim this for myself and for you too.
Yes, Lord. Me.
I’m excited to announce Holy Listening with Breath, Body and the Spirit is now available!
You can find out more about the book and what people are saying by clicking here or by visiting Upper Room Book's site. The book is currently a #1 new release in its category on Amazon! This great response is thanks to YOUR amazing support and encouragement since the book’s official release date is not until January 1st! However, it is already available online for purchase (and yes, just in time for Christmas gift-giving).
Curious to know more? Click here to read a Q & A interview with me about how and why I wrote this devotional book and what my hopes are for you as the reader.
You're at the library or your favorite bookseller (by the way, please go visit your favorite local bookseller if you have not lately - maybe ask them to pre-order this book?!) and you hold a book in your hand eyeing the cover. You have done this before. You pick up a book and either savor the cover curious as to what is inside or... you are instantly not interested. Your senses react to the colors, the font, and the imagery you hold in your hand. From that first impression, you may decide if the book is for you or not - even before you open the pages, glimpse at the author's profile or read a description of what may actually be inside.
The first book I ever wrote (probably around age 8) was about panda bears and was created in the shape of a panda bear's head. Yes, you read that correctly. I created the cover myself from white construction paper, carefully shading the ears and eyes with a black sharpie. As the first book I will ever publish became a reality, I was honored to be able to vision and dream with the Upper Room team how this cover could invite the reader into the pages of this devotional. It definitely did not look like a panda bear, but I was not certain what it did look like. It still felt abstract, but I knew it was to be an invitation for you, the reader.
You see, this devotional is an invitation to begin listening with your body in a way that is undefined. Each person who chooses to journey with God through the pages of this book is invited to use their body to listen for God. And guess what? No two of our bodies are the same! And, no two persons will read or experience this invitation in the same way. There is no "how-to" for how you should use your body to listen for God's activity. But there is an invitation.
This book cover is for you.
As I glimpsed the cover for the first time, I noticed:
How the feet imprinted on the mat leave the impression of a heart, and they do not show how a body should look or even stand in perfect alignment.
There is no gorgeous yoga posture or person in meditation as the focal point.
There is God's grace and love.
The imperfections of the wooden flooring.
The mat has barely been used.
The title itself as an invitation to journey with God's Spirit.
Go ahead, judge this book by the cover - because this invitation is for you. You are welcome here.
Coming in January 2017 from Upper Room Books.
Whitney R. Simpson
• on a journey of #ExploringPeace
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Whitney R. Simpson,
unless otherwise indicated.
All Rights Reserved.