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.
Claiming the fact that fear has kept me from using my voice (and stepping into my calling) over the years due to what others would "think" has recently freed me. In the past, fear has halted me from allowing the words to flow about my own spiritual formation. When weeks ticked by with few posts at my healing blog or here at this blog, I wondered why I couldn't speak up and say the things in my head and on my heart. When opportunities arose to minister, I often shrugged away more quickly than I stepped forward. I was holding myself back. But, what was I afraid of?
Here is what I know. God calls us to not hide our lights. He makes us each unique. He calls us to shine our light. None of our stories are the same. None of our callings are alike (maybe similar, but none exactly alike). We each have a unique voice and creative avenue (yes, you are creative!) to express our voice. My outlet for years and years has been writing. As a young girl, in diary format. Then as a journalist. Now as a journey-er, so to speak.
Words have always been part of me. There are stacks and stacks of journals under my bed of my most intimate thoughts. Please, don't everyone rush to scour under my mattress. I doubt those words are really that intimate or exciting to anyone other than me and God!
Goodness I have learned and journeyed and studied so very much over the last 8 years of healing. But, sometimes I shrink from sharing what I learn. Why? I dislike "know it alls" and being humble is indeed a quality I seek to model. But, if I continue to shrink from sharing the growth and learning I have personally experienced, does that mean I am hiding my light?
The light that has been under repair. The light that has only flickered at times. It's not just a glowing spark any longer. No, God has lit a fire in my soul. He has ignited me with a passion. He has made me new. He has indeed installed a new lightbulb!
The quote below from Marianne Williamson nearly stole my breath yesterday as I sat reading on a plane journeying home from a writer's retreat (with some of the most amazing women I now call friends). It gave words to a concern I expressed while there and I'm certain my seat mates heard my gasp when my eyes read this statement. At the retreat, I released and let go of the fear of embracing and fully living out my calling. My calling is to not only to tell my story but to use words, yoga, retreats, spiritual direction and other ancient tools to help us each connect in a modern day world. This quote gives voice to a longing I didn't even know existed, that I could be afraid to shine. This quote and authentic community helped me finally live into my word for 2013.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people give permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others (from A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson).
I am a child of God. YOU are a child of God. We are brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous. God has formed us each in his image, my friends. So, if you doubt any or all of these things, please hear me today. You are amazing!
<- Here are some of the amazing women from Redbud Writers Guild that let their light shine around me this weekend and allowed me to fully receive permission to let my light shine too.
How about you? Do you embrace your calling? Ready to release the fear that keeps you from leaning in? Will you share below how you are being invited in to the freedom to FULLY live this life God has called you to?
Personally, I am being invited to more fully experience God's peace by releasing my human hand holding of the fear that holds me back. I am invited to shine my light and share and teach the miraculous things God is showing me (and you are too). Do I still have fear? Absolutely. But, I refuse to let it extinguish my light. I've been reminded that God made each of us to accompany and companion others through our own stories. That, we certainly cannot run from.
So, what's your story? Will you join me in embracing what is to come and let go of any fear that holds you back from shining your light?
YOU are powerful beyond measure. YOU are made in the image of God. YOU are meant to shine. And so am I.
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC