It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!
Two in a bed warm each other.
Alone, you shiver all night.
By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.
After more than a year of in person community being limited to screens and small gatherings, I've been craving more in person community connection. I'm so grateful for my soul friends - near and far - online and in person! And, I always long for more of those strands because I know I'm better together than alone. And I'm not alone in that. In listening during spiritual direction sessions, I have heard many prayers muttered for more authentic in person connection. Maybe you've missed your small group or worship. Maybe you've missed your in person yoga class or book club. Whatever it is you've been missing most, let that help you re-enter more purposefully into community connection. Let the longings help you find or sustain authentic connection!
This season of disconnection has helped many of us realize how important connection is in our lives (and to realize what relationships may not have been fruitful too)! We've found ways to connect or stay connected. But what will return to your schedule and what won't? What authentic relationships do you need to continue or what do you need to let go of? God created us for community, not to live life solo! Scripture reminds us, we're better together. Who are you doing life with?
I'm so grateful through our Peace Seekers Community I've been able to hold space for authentic connection near and far in this past year online! Many of us are now pondering how to authentically show up after such a long season of being tucked safely behind our screens. I've pondered this for myself and have created some journaling prompts for you below.
Consider these journaling prompts:
We pondered these questions in our online community this week and it made us more grateful for purposeful soul friends. If you're looking for authentic connection, consider joining us there.
All Saints Sunday, November 1, 2020 from 12:30 - 4:30 PM at Lebanon First UMC in Lebanon, Tennessee.
You're invited to join us for a reflective day apart offering space for God's wisdom through presence, intentional silence, and words from the Saints before us.
Space is limited to 20 participants, please RSVP to save your spot. Your registration and $15 check must be received by 10/23/20 (or until the retreat is full). Our day retreat will be socially distanced with plenty of room outdoors (bring a lawn chair, a blanket, pillow, or anything that makes you comfortable settling in for reflection). You'll receive a journal, guided prayer prompts, access to a hot beverage station and a warm fire. In case of inclement weather, please bring a mask for safety of all participants so that we may enjoy reflection time in the sanctuary and chapel.
This event is open to the entire community and is hosted by Lebanon First UMC. Our time in reflection will be facilitated by Whitney R. Simpson of Exploring Peace Ministries.
seismic shift, noun: a great change
Gracious, friends. The last time I posted anything at the blog was April. It's now...October. I had no idea it had been so long since I sat down here to write. What happened? I'm "supposed to be" a writer!
Well, I think it's a combination of quite a few things. The first component is grace. YAY for grace! I am discovering the grace to let go of my "perfect plan" and realize if you don't get a blog post from me, it is quite likely...you do not even miss it. After all, you're bombarded with words from every direction on a moment by moment basis. A dormant blog does not cause a seismic shift.
But life surely does! And, sometimes you get stuck before you can shift. Who is with me?
What has led me to my recent shift? A perfect combination of season of life challenges like parenting (being a mom to a teen is so very different than being a mom to a toddler, I'm learning) and healthcare needs (I haven't had a thyroid since I was 18 years old and my body is experiencing a shift in hormones too, anybody relate?). Nothing huge on its own, but definitely plenty of change. And I got stuck amidst the change. Stuck in my head. Stuck in my body. Stuck.
My stuck spirit needed a shift. My soul needed some TLC. Pardon me for not taking the time to share much of this shift. So, since I get asked a lot for resources, I thought popping in to share some of my recent shifting tools may be helpful.
My soul care toolbox currently includes:
NOTE: I feel like this is really important to say because people assume since soul care is my passion that I experience bliss-filled consistent meditations and hear from God every time I sit down to pray or practice. Ummmm, no. It's a practice to embrace any of these and to care for yourself, my friends. Don't think it has to be perfect or ideal. Simply start where you are and practice. It's in the practice that we find the shift.
How do you care for your body and your soul when you need to shift? Sometimes it takes getting stuck to realize we can indeed create great change in our lives and shift toward God's peace with purposeful practices and habits. If you're stuck, I pray you find a seismic shift! Let me know if you explore some of these tools and how they offer you peace on your journey. What's in your soul care toolbox these days?
For the past year, I have been writing. Actually, let me preface that - I have been writing since I learned to write! Recently, I found my first book which was bound by yarn, created in the shape of a panda bear's head (I collected stuffed panda bears as a kid and this book was ALL about pandas). I also uncovered boxes and boxes of journals in that purge, filled with pages and pages of thoughts, words, and even some poems. So, you could say writing has been part of my life for a very long time. It is one way I connect with God. And writing a published book that draws others closer to God has been a dream for many of those years (hint, hint!).
To the point of this post! For the past year, I have been writing a 40-day devotional for body and spirit. The seeds for this book idea were planted during my 500-Hour yoga teacher training with Holy Yoga Ministries. The idea kept growing to the point that I wrote the entire book before I ever shared it (although if you've been in any of my yoga classes in the past year, you've probably gotten a sneak peek without realizing it as I've shared some of the themes, scripture passages, yoga postures, and reflection questions with you!).
Then last summer while attending a writer's workshop at SoulFeast (a spiritual retreat hosted by Upper Room), I was nudged to submit a proposal for this project. Since summer is nearly here again, you can guess that this book has been many many months in the making. For the last couple of months, I have known we were moving forward yet certain details had to be in place in order to finalize and share. In that timeframe, I also submitted devotionals for the Disciplines 2017 publication. And finally, I can share with you that my 40-day devotional (title and details coming soon) will be published in 2017 by Upper Room Books!
Honestly, my heart beats fast as I share this news with you. One reason for this is that when I submitted the proposal for the devotional, the publisher specifically asked me to include more about me - my stroke and brain surgery story and how that led me toward work fostering care of both body and spirit. It's vulnerable to tell your story. But I believe it is important. I will tell parts of (because all those journals would never fit in one book!) my own story to escort you on the journey of body and spirit and to encourage you to embrace your story, after all.......these are God's stories!
Another reason my heart beats fast is because our son has been sick for weeks with sinus problems - which usually seems simple to heal - yet he has had many allergic reactions to medicines and it has simply been a very slow journey toward wellness. His body is tired and worn out. My body is tired as his caregiver (my awesome Fitbit helps me see how well I've rested and when I've moved, lately both have been lacking) and yet it proves I am ecstatic and full of energy at the same time (elevated heart rate!).
Recently, my grandmother (who is almost 95 and slightly frustrated with her body - as she broke a shoulder and hip last month) told me she always wanted to be a writer and that she could not imagine anything more important to write about than the spiritual life with God. My heart beats fast as I honor my grandmother and lean in to writing a book that I hope will help you draw closer to God with the gift of your own body!
My heart beats fast because God uses the gift of our bodies to help us listen and embrace our journeys (no matter your stage of life).
If you've made it this far in the post, surely you have questions because this is a unique approach to a devotional and emphasizes holy listening with your body. It will include yoga postures, breath prayers, aromatherapy, scripture passages for lectio divina, and of course journaling questions (tools we often use in spiritual direction and yoga)! I truly look forward to sharing more details with you soon! In the meantime, I'll be putting finishing touches on the book, finalizing lots of tiny details that most do not realize take place in publishing (I surely didn't), and gaining hands on experience caring for our son - in body and spirit.
Thanks for allowing my heart to beat fast as I share the news that #IAmWriting with you today! If you want to stay in the loop on details of the book (and I hope you will - there will be freebies along the way), sign up for my monthly(ish) newsletter below. The Upper Room has been a formational part of my faith journey, I'm ecstatic to be part of the Upper Room family of writers and look forward to what is to come. Hope you'll join me on the journey.
Journaling. You either love it or….you don’t. It’s true. When asking others if they journal, they often tell me of the notebooks stacked in their closet. Or, they roll their eyes and insist journaling is not for them! While I’m inconsistent in how often I journal, journaling is vital to my prayer life. And I believe it was the first spiritual discipline I embraced as my own. I’m not sure if it was church camp or Sunday School, but somewhere along the way I learned about writing "Dear God" letters in lieu of “Dear Diary” letters. In my struggling teen years on through adulthood, I’ve poured my heart out to God on paper. I remember clearly the three ring binder where I kept those first love letters to God. And, I’m pretty certain I wrote in green ink on those pages (I do still use colored ink, it seems to liven things up a bit). Journaling has taught me more about myself over the years than any other spiritual discipline. There is wisdom in reading the words that come from your heart to God and I believe they give clarity.
Here’s the secret, writing letters to God does not have to be eloquent or complicated. Pick up your pen (or pencil or head to your keyboard) and share your heart. Your "Dear God" letters may simply be bullet points on a list, they may be sketches on a page, they may not even use a pen/pencil and instead stored in a “cloud” electronically.
This week, as you spend time with God, consider writing one or more “Dear God” letters. Consider sharing with God things like: how scripture is speaking to you in this season, where you see the holy in the world around you, the truth of your relationships, your daily triumphs or struggles, and the dreams of your heart.
God knows. But, do you? Be BRAVE. Pour out your heart to God.
If you regularly journal, consider exploring your previous prayers (or journal consistently for a week then review to notice any patterns or prominent longings of your heart). How have your prayers changed? What prayers have been answered? What prayers continue to tug at your heart?
Watch for research this week (I'll be posting links on social media) about WHY journaling is good for the soul (and the brain). In the meantime, just write.
If you've stumbled here for the first time, welcome! On Mondays through this Fall, I'm posting a list of scriptures for reflection as well as a different way to pray each week. Pray one scripture or pray them all, this is simply an invitation to journey deeper as we explore God's peace together. Click here to find out more and join us on the journey.
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC