What's Dressember and why am I involved?
In 2005, the founder Blythe Hill began hearing about the issue of sex trafficking. Despite her deep sense of urgency to help, she felt helpless. She didn't think she had much to offer to the fight. In 2009, she challenged herself to wear a dress every day of December (hence: Dressember). The next year, a few friends joined in. By the third year, her friends' friends began to participate, and it occurred to Blythe that there was more to this challenge than she originally thought. This movement has blossomed into something completely unexpected - an international campaign to aid the fight against sex trafficking.
December is a special month for me, one that celebrates my own survival - a different kind (I had a stroke 12 years ago this month, on my birthday, in 2005). My healing journey has been inspired this year by new friends - women rescued from sex trafficking. I have known this issue is real in other parts of our world, I now understand it's real everywhere. For me, Dressember is an opportunity to raise awareness that slavery is a real and much larger problem than many people realize - around the world AND in our own communities.
This December, I turn 43. My goal is to bring greater awareness to modern day slavery and celebrate survivors, reclaiming the dress as a symbol of FREEDOM & POWER.
Will you help me celebrate my birthday this December?
1. Give to a cause close to your heart that impacts or educates those affected by slavery/trafficking - locally or globally. 2. Make a donation toward my $100 goal for the Dressember fundraising campaign
3. Make an effort to purchase gifts this month that are ethically made (more suggestions to come on this topic).
4. Wear a dress this month - educating others in your community and reclaiming the dress as a symbol of FREEDOM & POWER.
5. Let me borrow a dress (this yogini currently owns about three dresses).
6. Donate a gift card as a stocking stuffer for local women who have been rescued from trafficking (I will be delivering these to Rest Stop Ministry this month, click here to find out more about this organization).
This challenge is way out of my comfort zone. And, I'm honored to participate. I'll be writing about my journey here at my blog, so stay tuned...
How will you join me this Dressember (1, 2 ,3 ,4 , 5, or 6)?
Edited to add:
THANK YOU! My financial goal was met and I delivered a bagful of gift cards to my friends at Rest Stop Ministries. This month truly shaped my journey. I learned that I could not have survived this challenge without leggings, that you really can do anything in a dress, that we have much work to do in regards to advocacy and equality both locally and globally, and that you and I TRULY have a voice!
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.
"The most powerful weapon on earth, is the human soul on fire.”
The world we live in challenges us now more than ever to discover and embrace Soul Care. After my own crisis and burnout, I quickly discovered that while my life had been quite full, my soul was actually quite empty. I knew God but I had a new longing to be with God. That longing for a life with God took over and I began training as a spiritual director and later as a Holy Yoga Instructor. Like Spiritual Direction, Holy Yoga offers individuals an opportunity to practice being in the presence of God - literally. Holy Yoga instructors have the privilege of helping others not simply know God, but to be with God as they care for both their body and their soul.
Unfortunately, we can easily be so busy planning or "doing" ministry that the needs of our own soul become distant and lost. This is true for most individuals in ministry, whatever the ministry may look like. Without a real concentrated effort on care of the soul, we can easily lose sight of our calling and face discouragement and burnout. As a spiritual director, I meet with overworked pastors, stay-at-home parents, and exhausted care givers. There is one common trait for each, God longs for us to spend time with him and to care for the person he created us to be, no matter the demands of our daily life.
Quite often I hear that soul care seems selfish or overrated and is the first to fall away when the demands of everyone else top our lists. But, put simply soul care is a mandatory part of being a servant of God. When your soul is on fire, you can not help but live a life with God. So, how do we kindle the fire in our soul?
Dallas Willard says, "the secret for caring for our souls is Practicing the Presence” of God. So how do we not only teach practicing presence but fully live into it? How do we ignite this fire within us and keep it burning? How do we not let the stressors and realities of every day life extinguish the flame?
Soul Care does not mean we cease from activity. It means we care for the very part of us that God created so that we can continue to be his hands and feet in this world. It means that we find greater joy in the tasks of ministry. It means we know God even more intimately and ourselves more deeply. It means we find both our passion and our rest in God. It means we truly are servants of God and our souls are on fire.
Whitney R. Simpson
• author • yoga & meditation teacher • spiritual director • creating soul care resources for exploring the gift of God's peace with breath, body & spirit •
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Whitney R. Simpson,
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