A decade ago, in 2011, I crafted my first rule of life in a spiritual formation course while pursuing my certification. When I look back now on that first "rule" I realize now how I've grown spiritually over these past ten years, where I've been stuck (pandemic, anyone?!) and how God has met me in each stage of my spiritual journey.
A Rule of Life is an opportunity to discover your own routine with God and seek wisdom for how you long to order your days. My personality is one that swings between the rule obedience (I tried to follow) In childhood and the longing never to embrace rules others place on me as an adult. Anyone else feel like a rule rebel? But when I find the rhythm of my own rules today and embrace them, I thrive. I think this is true for most of us. If we can honor ourselves with what works for us, we can embrace discipline that helps us grow. Yet that discipline isn't the same for everyone. Afterwall, we don't have "one size fits all" bodies nor do we have "one size fits all" souls.
In the Christian community, Saint Benedict is known for inviting the monks of his order to establish the rules that shaped their lives, giving structure to what we know today in spiritual formation as a Rule of Life. While those of you reading this likely are not monks, I'm guessing you could benefit from the simple structure of a rhythm for your own life.
Living in a pandemic has invited me to revisit my rule and discover new rhythms for connecting with God. The shifting of worship, small groups, personal connection, routine, work, and everything else that had given my life structure dissolved in 2020. I was left with a shapeless routine and someone in most every room of the house logging on to a device to go about their day. I soon realized a new routine was in order if I was to connect with God.
So I began updating that Rule of Life that's undergone quite a few revisions in the past decade. And this time, it looks completely different. My Rule of Life is less structured and more inviting than ever before in regards to my daily routine. It includes good books, hot tea and time in nature. It also includes reminders of my dreams and goals and how God made me. And here's a bit of irony, there are no rules for how you create your rule.
Need some companionship in discovering your own rhythm? I'll be sharing my Rule of Life in our Peace Seekers community next week on Friday, January 29, 2021. You're invited to join our community if you'd like to be part of that conversation. This year in our private online space, we'll focus on a theme each month for ways to meet God. And in doing so, we'll be working on our own Rules for the entire year of 2021. It's not an overnight project to discover the ways you best connect with your Creator. Rather, it's a journey. You can find details to join our community by clicking here.
Have you explored a Rule of Life? What has it offered you?
For the past year, I've been amazed by the number of emails and phone calls I've received from those who have retreated with me at a Yoga & Silence event, attended one of my classes/workshops, or read Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit. They reach out to say they are "longing for more soul care on a daily basis, but not sure where to begin." I meet people in my community who ask about my work and upon my reply say "whoa - I need that but I don't even know where to start."
Maybe, you're one of those people?
Here is what I have learned from these encounters: individuals longing for soul care come in all shapes, sizes, ages, demographics, and faith backgrounds. We live all over the world and while retreating together in time set apart is wonderful, there is a desire to connect near and far, and not just on special occasions. We need soul care in our daily life.
To be honest, I've been a little overwhelmed with where to begin on offering resources of my own that support those who email me beyond offering individual private spiritual direction sessions. I've pointed you all over the internet, sent you to tons of links, and tried to offer tips in my writing on my blog.
You've asked for accountability with daily scripture readings, guided audio meditations, more Yoga & Meditation, a safe space to interact with others after a Yoga & Silence retreat. You say you long for all of this to be accessible, not distracting (like a Facebook group), meet your schedule, and be affordable. You long for safe space for your soul with others in community.
That, my friends, is a lot to ponder and quite a tall order!
That's why it has taken me a full year to launch this community. I understand that my call is to create soul care resources for exploring the gift of God's peace with breath, body, and spirit. And with the creation of a fantastic on-line resources for creators, I have discovered a way for us to do this in a safe and private space together as a community. It's called Patreon.
In 2018, I am using my creative talents to launch a soul care community for you on Patreon. This space is for those who long for soul care resources on an ongoing basis and for those who want to give back at the same time.
How does this online community work and what's the benefit for you?
Oh, I'm excited for you to click through and find out (it's a private space, less distractions, and there's an app for that too)! Starting at only $1, you gain access and receive audio downloads of weekly scripture passages (following the Revised Common Lectionary). There are plenty more community perks including guided meditations, live yoga and other teaching sessions, and more. PLUS, thanks to my amazing friends at Sacred Ordinary Days, there is a giveaway this week!
How does this community give back?
God placed a little dream inside of me to create a simple space someday where others can retreat (specifically, a rural place by the water). Our family loves retreating there now with only a pavilion and a fantastic little outhouse built by my amazing partner (who also sees this dream becoming a reality).
Rustic is the new Chic! Right?
We're working hard together as a family to make this an amazing outdoor space for personal (and hopefully small group) retreat (think Yurts or Treehouses, not the Ritz Carlton). We have invested with our time and resources (and even with broken bones for my poor husband this summer) in a pavilion to start. As a family, we have built tables, cut fields, and don't worry....we've played in the water plenty too!
Joining the Journey on Patreon begins at $1 and advances up to $20 per month. With your help, we can create spaces both on-line and in person for exploring the gift of God's peace. Every single dollar given on this platform as a member of this community will support creating an outdoor retreat space for personal retreat.
Will you join me?
Click here to find out more and Join the Journey.
I've not written in a while. At least not at my blog. Or, anywhere really. I recently put my pen down (yes, I still write with pen and paper) and picked up markers instead. The markers were sort of a desperate attempt at sabbath - to reboot my soul after a challenging summer and a truly full season of my writing being released in three publications this year (one of which was my first published devotional book - for which I'm truly grateful).
My friend, Dana, also released a book this year. It turned out her book was released into the world 38 days after her mother passed away in the care of hospice. The book was dedicated to her mom (prior to Dana knowing her mother was terminally ill or that she would only be around long enough to hold an early release copy). And so, Dana was invited into releasing For Sabbath's Sake into the world at a time when she needed sabbath more than ever - to honor her mom and her own grief. Dana shares her wisdom not only in her words but also in her actions and I'm so honored to see her live into sabbath since her mother's passing. She inspires me to remember sabbath is not a far-off dream. Think about your practice of keeping sabbath. Do you regularly keep sabbath? Is it invited or forced? Is it a set day of the week you honor or keep? Is there any sabbath space in your life? Or, does it occasionaly slip away like mine accidentally did?
My recent sabbath experience extended beyond an anticipated Sunday afternoon nap. It was not expected and actually bumped into weeks of other plans. Yet it was necessary beyond measure. Since it was uninvited by me yet clearly mandated by my body, it even included some anxiety (what about this commitment or that duty?). The more I'm honest about the fact that anxiety took hold during my recent sabbath experience, the more I realize how many of us struggle with anxiety on a regular basis. And, when that emotion hit, I panicked.
The standard tools in my tool box for soul care (writing, meditation, yoga, labyrinth walks, and retreats) offer me sabbath rest and recharge. Yet they have also become my work and I realized they were not companioning me as they had in the past. This made me anxious. Thankfully, I had some new tricks up my sleeve and per a little rest and relaxation (and even a bit of Netflix), I pulled out a new pack of markers for my newly embraced sabbath plans. And, wow! Was I surprised. Inviting in a new spiritual practice allowed me to hit the reset button and truly discover a new rhythm of sabbath. I began with a beautiful wall art poster I found at Ten Thousand Villages as well as the Upper Room book, Praying with Mandalas.
At first, I was impressed with the markers themselves. Each stroke swiftly glided across the paper with vivid color as my mind relaxed and I let go of my task list. And an amazing thing happened as the colors filled the page, I began to find rest in God's presence. My mind had been overflowing for weeks (okay, months). I was not sleeping well and my body barely desired movement (something I regularly long for). Yet with each stroke of the marker, a new tool was added to my tool box. I began to relax and unwind as I savored this quiet time with God.
And, then...I started to dream.
I'm not talking about dreaming into the future (this is a norm for me, I am always dreaming up new ideas). I'm talking about dreaming in the present, in my sleeping hours. The kind of dreams you wake up from and wonder what they had to teach you or what they may be inviting you to in the new day. Once embraced, God allowed me to find true rest when my head hit the pillow during this time of sabbath. True rest, which had recently been just a dream was a reality of the present. My nights were filled with dreams, dreams, and more dreams. Not all the dreams made sense nor did I remember every detail. Yet the dreams surfaced and my body and my soul found rest.
Sabbath is not a dream. Sabbath invites dreams. Sabbath does not have to be forced or uninvited. Sabbath may be a day a week. Sabbath may be a season. Yet how could I forget? Sabbath does not have to be a far off dream. Maybe you need this reminder too? Pick up your markers (or some other new tool for your own unwinding) and embrace your sabbath dreams with God.
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. - Anaïs Nin
It feels risky to blossom. Yet blooming is happening everywhere!
May is the season in which the roses in my back yard are in full bloom. I paused yesterday in amazement at the number of buds opening up in the last week. It is also the month that I am excited to share with you some blossoming news!
First, I will be blooming in a new location. Just as I let go of "figuring out" what is next on this journey, an opportunity to partner with Bloom Yoga Studio (located at The Mill in Lebanon, Tennessee) has appeared. I will be offering yoga and meditation classes, private and group spiritual direction sessions, as well as workshops and events. The historic space is beautiful. You're going to love it at Bloom. Near Lebanon? Come grow with us, let's bloom together (click here for my updated yoga class schedule).
And next, this month marks the third publication in which my writing appears this year. Wow, what a year 2017 has been thus far (especially for me - a writer who has blogged in various forms for over a decade and ever only dreamt of being published). I am humbled to be included in Everbloom, sharing my story of miscarriage and grief. You can find Everbloom on Amazon and other online retailers. These stories of deeply rooted and transformed lives include reflection and writing prompts for your spiritual formation journey.
Blooming? Stop and notice the roses (or other blooms) in your backyard. And, consider allowing these reflections from the women of Redbud Writers Guild to be your companion in this season.
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.
“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” ― Mother Teresa
One thing that I’ve been reminded of a lot recently (in life and in ministry) is that dreams do not come to fruition overnight. It seems I meet dreamers who think their dreams will never come true or that their dream will not matter or help another person as they envision. I am guilty of not always acting on my dreams and letting them fade into the morning sun. But, I’m learning to pay better attention and to partner with God’s nudges to “do something” about them more often. Instead of letting these dreams and ideas we may not fully understand fade, maybe we just need to do something about them and let God decide if they are reality. Recently, I’ve seen one of my dreams collide with another dream at a local non-profit and it’s been an exciting and confirming experience.
For most of us, our dreams begin as nudges or feelings in the pit of our stomach to "do something." What began as an urge to "do something" in one community five years ago has turned into a dream not only for the dreamers but also for those locals without reliable health care.
A group of individuals began meeting to dream about providing health care for those in Wilson County who were working but did not have health insurance. This small group began researching local health clinics, recruiting volunteers and within a short period of time was offering basic health care for a very small fee in a local office building. What began as a dream, quickly turned into a 501(c)3 non-profit, Charis Health Center. Thanks to the hard work, passion, and vision of the volunteers, the center continues to grow.
In 2010, Charis added a part-time nurse practitioner as the first staff member thanks to grant funding. In 2012, they hired a part-time Executive Director, Karen Rudzinski, to continue dreaming alongside the Board of Directors and office volunteers to manage grants, funding, and volunteers. Just months ago, this booming non-profit closed the doors of that original office building and moved into a much larger and spacious vacated physician's office. No longer are the volunteers just getting by with available space, but they now have dedicated medical space to offer quality health care and a prayer room for spiritual care as well. The prayer room has been made available for patients, volunteers, and the community. Charis was founded on the belief that wellness incorporates body, mind, and spirit. This faith based clinic from the beginning wanted to offer space for both health care and spiritual care for their patients.
This is where my dream fits into the picture. My dream to "do something" began after years of personal health crises (one crisis after another including cancer, stroke, and brain surgery occurred in my 20's and 30's). God nudged me during my own healing to begin walking with others in 2010. The calling was to reach out and help others find healing and wholeness through spiritual care by offering spiritual direction and retreat leadership. Charis opened their doors for my practicum coursework and we are now partnering to offer spiritual care alongside primary health care for interested patients. Studies show that patients show greater motivation to complete the task of healing when their spiritual needs are met and that spiritual care may even help improve pain management.
The vision from just a few is now helping so many. It really is amazing how God can begin working on our hearts without the full details. Just this month, a local physician, Dr. Joseph Ozenne announced he is now volunteering as the clinic's medical director. According to Dr. Ozenne, the opportunity to more fully incorporate his faith into his medical practice has been a dream of his for some time. Without following that nudge from the Holy Spirit to do something, there would be no Charis Health Center for the patients, staff or volunteers. Since opening the doors in January 2008, Charis staff and volunteers have served more than 2,800 patients and provided over 7,800 office visits. I’d say that is doing something!
We often think our dreams are unlikely, improbable, and impossible. We think we can't make a difference by starting out with just one person in need or one part of a community. We get scared off by the big picture. In reality, only God can fulfill the dreams placed on our hearts. Have a dream? Like that amazing group of people who had a dream and a vision for starting Charis Health Center, maybe you should do something about yours.
What is your dream? Who will you share and invite into your dream?
Posted originally at MinistryMatters.com. Ministry Matters supports ministry leaders with resources, community, and inspiration. Follow them: @ministrymatters on Twitter | ministrymatters on Facebook
I recently had the opportunity to see the musical production Annie at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. Annie has been a long-time favorite, ever since I was a young girl. My grandmother sewed several Annie inspired outfits (I clearly remember a romper and the red dress) and I even had a permanent during the craze to complete the Annie look with my own curls. I was nearly 8 years old when the movie was released and my parents took me to the big city of Atlanta from our small town in South Carolina to see the musical production. So, to take my son back to see the show at the same age was pretty exciting. And, to make it even more exciting, one of my cousins was in the cast of this production!
As we sat and waited for the curtain to lift, I started remembering my view of the stage as an 8 year-old, something I hadn't ever really pondered before. I had always remembered the clothes and the hair and the excitement that the film and the musical stirred in me. I also noticed the little girls in the theatre with their Annie shirts and dolls and books that some were hoping to get signed by the cast. And, as I reflected I couldn't help but wonder what was so special about this fictional character.
Of course, Little Orphan Annie had been around for many years in comic strips before she came to life on stage and on screen. But, the entire Annie phenomenon was captured for me in just one line of the musical. Annie wisely tells some "down and out" adults in Hooverville, "Well, you gotta have a dream." She is right, isn't she? If we don't have a dream, how will we ever become who we were created to be? Annie didn't accept her circumstances. She wanted to be loved. She wanted to be cared for. She wanted to be able to love back. And, after years of not giving up, she had her dreams come true...even if they were different and even much bigger than she could have imagined!
My cousin is one example of someone chasing her dreams. She has experienced a traveling Broadway show and landed a part in one of her dream productions, Annie. However, you don't become part of the Annie cast without having a plan and some dreams. And, you don't fulfill God's destiny for your life without a plan and some dreams. What are your dreams? Write them down (Annie had a letter written by her parents that she re-visited often) and share them (it was no secret that she was leaving that orphanage someday).
Annie is a great reminder to us that we should always be striving toward something greater. Afterall, "you gotta have a dream."
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC