You're invited to join me for a reflective day apart offering space for God's wisdom through presence, intentional silence, and words from the Saints before us on All Saints Sunday, November 7th.
This women's soul care retreat is limited to 20 participants, please RSVP to save your spot. Your registration and $15 check must be received by 10/31/21 (or until the retreat is full). Our day retreat will be socially distanced with plenty of room outdoors (bring a lawn chair, yoga mat, 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, as well as opening and closing time in community. In case of inclement weather, we may enjoy socially distanced reflection time in the sanctuary and/or chapel.
All Saints Sunday, November 7, 2021, from 12:30 - 4:30 PM at Lebanon First UMC in Lebanon, Tennessee. This event is open to the entire community and is hosted by Lebanon First UMC, facilitated by Deaconess Whitney R. Simpson.
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.
A Guest Post by Jessica L. Luzong
Why is Spiritual Formation, and specifically Spiritual Direction, important? This quote by Luci Shaw summarizes a deeper need for it in our lives:
"The pace of life and our preoccupation with unimportant things takes so much of our attention. The significant things, like taking time to develop friendship, to read and pray,... to listen to God- these all get sacrificed on the altar of good works and... busyness." - Luci Shaw
I don't know about you, but I would rather spend my life paying attention to what really matters!
Whenever I mention moments of revelation, growth and insight I receive from a Spiritual Direction session, I'm almost always met with the question: What is spiritual direction? Despite the consistent practice of accountability Whitney has offered me over the years of our meetings together, I usually hesitate to explain exactly what it is. I hope that in sharing some of these moments and experiences, you will be stirred to taste and see for yourself the goodness of God offered through Whitney and her ministry of Spiritual Direction through Exploring Peace.
I met Whitney at a Holy Yoga retreat in October of 2014. I had never heard of the ministry of Spiritual Direction, but I was stirred to meet with her and hungry to hear from God. The only briefing I was given prior to our first meeting was: "Even though it's called 'direction' a Spiritual Director doesn't really 'direct' you." But after our first, brief encounter, I knew I wanted her to continue walking with me on my journey with God as an accountability partner and a holy listener. The reason this was so important to me was because rather than giving me direction herself, what Whitney did was open up a space and hold moments for me to encounter God directly, to be directed by his Spirit.
Since that initial meeting in 2014, I can look back on the past 7 years and see very specific ways the Lord has used Whitney in my life to help me encounter, seek, and follow, which in turn, has encouraged me in making major life decisions. Some of these include moving across the country, serving overseas, quitting jobs and starting new ones, and letting go of fear! Less dramatic but extremely beneficial examples are: seeing and celebrating God in my every day life, pausing to savor good things with gratitude or actually feel the hard things in life, or naming my desires and surrendering them into the Lord's hands and perfect timing.
When I was first called to leave a dream job working in an art museum to move to California (unemployed), I thought it would be a temporary move, but the Lord had highlighted a one-way plane ticket for me to purchase. I felt a lot of trepidation at this and immediately thought to schedule a Spiritual Direction session. Whitney asked thoughtful questions, listened alongside me, and confirmed what we both heard as direction from Holy Spirit. After that session, with the affirmation I sensed Whitney shared that it really was a prompting from the Lord, I felt confident in my faith to buy that plane ticket! When I look back on that decision, it drastically impacted my future decisions and walk of faith with the Lord. What seemed a temporary place of travel became my home for the next 6 years!
Another example of the refreshment offered me by the ministry of Spiritual Direction happened when I was ministering overseas in India. I felt a bit burned out and very misunderstood by my team, especially the leaders. I met with Whitney, who graciously co-ordinated an 11.5 hour time zone difference! She listened- really listened- affirmed my feelings, gave me space to breathe (literally!), and invited me into a deeper freedom that I had somehow lost along the way of "doing" mission work. Caring for my soul in that season was more important than ever.
Because of my own yoga practice and investment as an instructor, as well as God's design of my body's flexibility and love of dancing and movement, I really appreciate how Whitney incorporates breath and posture (and movement if desired) into our sessions. "Embodiment" was never a terminology I consciously used, but began to understand more recently, through Whitney's usage, that I have always done this naturally. With her help, I am able to intentionally put into practice the embodiment of God's Spirit living in me and knowing God is there - Emmanuel - God with us! It's one thing to know some truth in your mind, another to know in it your heart, but it's absolutely transformational when we can know in our bodies, too. This practice solidifies our faith by making what is ethereal and unseen more tangible and alive.
There is such a powerful expression of faith that comes when we invite the Spirit of God and the Human-ness of Jesus into our lives. Whitney always reminds me in our sessions to slow down, become aware, and breathe. Even though I practice doing this on my own, I often still forget, speed up, or lose sight. Spiritual Direction grounds me back into the practices in which I know I can hear clearly from God. Having another Soul Friend on the journey with me is always such a great support and help.
Through Exploring Peace, Whitney has walked with me with God through major life decisions, not only in relocating several moves, but in listening to God's miraculous work in connecting me to my husband, getting married, and (most recently) having a baby! Experiencing Spiritual Direction while being pregnant offered me an incredible invitation to practice the embodiment of God's Spirit and his Creative Power within me during that precious time! Whitney invited me to include her as a prayer partner when I went into labor, and never neglected the wholeness of me as a woman, wife, new mom, and most importantly, child of God. She has lovingly remembered and reminded me of the call of God over my life, the dreams God has planted in me, while celebrating with me as they come to pass. When I've lost sight of these things, she offers subtle reminders, without any guilt or shame, for me to come back to the Loving Presence of God and simply be with my Creator, Savior, Friend of all friends. She is always and consistently "quick to listen" and shares in my walk of life in such a profound way, gently guiding me to recognize the Hand of God and his work within and around me.
With great honor I call Whitney my Spiritual Director, and can't imagine journeying through the spiritual life as a disciple of Jesus without such a precious witness and support from her!
If you're considering Spiritual Direction but have hesitation, my encouragement to you is to try it! There is nothing more valuable than the investment you make into your soul care. Scheduling time with Whitney is scheduling time with Whitney AND Jesus, with the accountability to meet with God, hear from God, let go of distractions, and have a safe listener there for support, confirmation and guidance into what you hear. God's love is always available for you! I have never, in 7 years, finished a Spiritual Direction session without feeling the love of God, having connected my body-soul-spirit with him, and being encouraged to continue walking closely with the Lord.
For this, I say a simple: thank you, Whitney. Thank you for offering your gifts to the world through Exploring Peace!
Last week I wrote about what 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.
It's also important to know what it isn't. A Rule of Life isn't a compilation of what you hope to accomplish or achieve, it's not your goals list or your vision board. But a Rule of Life does help you find a rhythm for the life you long to live and may intersect with these. Crafting (and living) your rule may even help you reach your personal or professional goals and dreams!
So, how do you begin? There are several published books and even free resources on the web to guide you in creating a very detailed rule for your life (I'll share links for those in our Peace Seekers Community this Friday, January 29th). In the meantime, I invite you to keep it simple! Start brainstorming the habits you long to cultivate as well as things you're already doing that help you live your best life with God.
Consider talking with your spiritual director or seek out a spiritual friend to help you process and notice what's important to you in this season of your life. It's not uncommon to be overwhelmed by too many goals or resolutions at the start of a year, setting ourselves up for disappointment. Remember, your Rule of Life isn't a resolution list, it's an invitation to live your whole life with God. I've found simple is best for me when cultivating my Rule of Life. Try using the categories I am currently using below (God, Self, Creation, Companions) or create your own and jot down the habits you long to cultivate for each. This is a work in progress, one you can grow into with God.
So grab a pencil or start a note in our phone to brainstorm the habits that help you find the rhythm you long for, ones that draw you nearer to your Creator. Do you long to pray or meditate daily, move your body a certain number of times per week, get outside more, connect with loved ones on a regular basis? Once you've recognized your longings and habits, you can begin to cultivate your own rhythm and routine for purposefully living an embodied life with God.
Want to see examples from my own Rule of Life tomorrow? There's a seven day free trial to join our community, click here to join us.
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.
We often get tips for our bodies or our business at the start of each new year. But, what about tips for your soul? We're not talking goals, we're talking soul care. What makes your soul sing?
Below is a transformational tip that if you embrace this one habit this year, I believe your soul will indeed sing. I use the practice of a morning ritual in my own life and encourage you to as well.
Already have a morning ritual? Share it with me on social media! Tag me at @WhitRSimpson and show us how you're #ExploringPeace in your daily life.
How to create a morning ritual:
Set aside a few minutes to ponder, what draws you nearer to God? Then make a list (journaling, savoring silence, reading, watching the sunrise, meditating on scripture, a healthy breakfast, practicing centering prayer, movement, etc.) and place that list in your planner, journal, beside your bed, or on your bathroom mirror (somewhere you will see it!).
Enjoy your morning ritual:
Once you have your inspiration, take action for your soul and enjoy it! Here's the tip: each morning dedicate the time you have set aside to one (or more than one) thing on your list. Whether you have 5 focused minutes (not every morning is slowly savored, I get it and remember the toddler days) or a slow and savory 75 minutes (on the best day ever of you being the only one to care for), enjoy YOUR morning ritual. Consistency is my key to a soul-filled morning ritual. Contrary to popular belief, there is no time limit required for drawing near to God and you do not need to do everything on your list at once (it may actually be better that you don't). For the benefit of your soul, choose to BE with your ritual rather than DO your ritual and start with just a few minutes at a time.
So what's my morning ritual look like?
My morning ritual:
It feels important to share I'm not what some would call a "morning person" which is why I believe my morning ritual is so valuable to my soul. This time set apart helps ground me and enter in to a day with a heart and a body that is set on God and not how little I love mornings.
Before my feet hit the floor, I explore a few simple yoga stretches and place my hands on my body for prayer. The normal morning hygiene routine takes place (Ayurvedic medicine has taught me about tongue scraping and I include this most days too, ever tried it?), then I cuddle into my prayer/meditation chair for either a few minutes of breath prayer, centering prayer, or a time of journaling (as an Enneagram 4, I like variety in my quiet time but I don't do all of these - I pick one). If it's a slow and savory morning, I include devotional and/or scripture reading. Note: while I prefer to draw out my mornings, many mornings are more hurried than others so this may take as few as 5 minutes, it's the intention of being present with God that is the focus of my morning ritual. Commit to pick one thing from your list and practice it daily, that's it.
Once I've enjoyed the quiet, I move from contemplation into some self-care action with prioritizing care of my physical body. Before bed, I try to prep my favorite green lemonade so I can sip on something good for my body first thing in the morning (my green lemonade recipe is lemon water with spearmint chlorophyll and green juice powder - it's an acquired taste and I love it now). A brisk walk does me good but it's true for me that my soul must be awake first. So while exercise is part of my day, it comes after my soul is awakened! Once I'm dressed and ready for the day, I visit the kitchen for two more important hydration elements. First, I brew my herbal tea then I blend my favorite smoothie (hemp protein, spinach, banana, frozen blueberries, frozen butternut squash, raw cacao, collagen, flax, chia, or whatever else I may have on hand). So yes, caring for my body is a vital part of my morning ritual. With practice, these habits have become a soulful experience to start my day for spirit rather than chores I must check off my list.
What do you do for your soul in the mornings?
Create a ritual of caring for your soul a few minutes at a time and you'll find encouragement to care for your self and grow in your spiritual practices in 2020.
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?
Did you know that nearly eight years ago the ministry of Exploring Peace began? It's always been an invitation for your breath, body, and spirit - long before my devotional book was released last year.
In 2010, I thought Exploring Peace was simply a blog name. Yet it is so much more than a blog. It is an invitation to journey with God. It is an invitation that reaches beyond myself and touches many, many more than I ever fathomed. What a humbling journey to invite others to explore the gift of God's peace with their whole self. This is one journey I truly ENJOY. And one that sometimes I forget to pause and savor for myself.
You may remember, my word for the year is ENJOY. Can you believe 2018 is now more than halfway over? Our family was surprised in a big way this summer. We moved to a "new" home (it's 100-years old) in a location where God had fantastic neighbors already surrounding us. I've now packed and moved BOTH a home and a yoga studio this summer. And, I'm tired. My body and my spirit are in need of dedicated time for ENJOYing some REST.
Me: How can I rest? There is no time to rest. There are still boxes to unpack..and...and...and.
God: Ummmm. Well, I am fairly certain we have talked about this at length, Whitney. Remember that theme on Rest you penned (see page 94-95 in the devotional book I inspired and please directly note Psalm 127:2).
Me: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Ressssttttttt.
As of this month, Exploring Peace Ministries is now an LLC. This means as an official ministry, it's definitely more than a blog. It means I have worked hard behind the scenes investing time and energy to be a good steward of the work God has called me to do. I'm so grateful for your continued support and encouragement! With this nudge and your grace, I won't be posting in the Exploring Peace online community for the remainder of the month and while I'll be sharing some photos on social media, it will only be once per week. This means, I need your presence, your support, and your prayers here online more than ever because this ministry is in such the early stages (keep reading on how you can offer support in July, please?).
You CAN find me in the studio teaching my regularly scheduled classes. And after Wild Goose Festival, you may find me on my porch reading a good book or two (or three or four!) or studying for my current yoga teacher training as I grow as both a student and teacher, or writing (because I have some ideas brewing). However, you won't find me much online again until August (okay, I will post a few pictures along the way, but then I'm signing off!). That's the main space I've clearly been invited to rest from for now.
Wild Goose Festival is the perfect place to practice my daily unplugging (because there is not much cell service in Hot Springs, NC). I'm committing publicly to log off to REST and ENJOY July because accountability is key and community is important. And, otherwise, I probably would not log off at all. Whew, admitting the truth hurts. I love social media and the connection and community I find with you online, so I will definitely be back soon.
I'm committing to log on only once per week to offer REST for my #BreathBodySpirit in July.
Your challenge is to post any image with the #BreathBodySpirit hashtag that connects with one of the 40 themes from the devotional book (click here to download the book's appendix and find a theme that inspires YOU this month).
When I return to regular postings on social media in August, I hope to see lots of #BreathBodySpirit hashtags because one of you will be receiving a Breath Body Spirit shirt as well as a handmade aromatherapy bracelet to say thanks for supporting this ministry and offering me a bit of encouragement as I find some sabbath REST on this journey with God.
Will you join me?
It is pointless that you get up early and stay up late,
This past month has been turned upside down, full of surprises! Our family is moving back to the town where we built our first home (in the same county, not that far down the road). Everyone keeps saying, "I didn't know you were moving!" Guess what? We didn't know we were moving either! We weren't expecting it. We weren't planning it. Yet we are leaning in and very excited to settle in our new-to-us (100 year-old) home.
Since last month's blog post (which quite a few of you told me you've been using, yay!), I have had so many opportunities to practice mindfulness and not only while packing up our current home. Recently, my body has experienced some new health challenges which have pushed me to a place of discomfort and pain in my abdomen and pelvis. Mindfulness, breath work, my physical therapist, yoga, and naps have been my friend this past month. And amidst my self-discovery, I realized I have been mad at my body and my digestive system. I have been mad at myself for things over which I have no control (and some of which I do have control). It saddens me, I have not been kind and loving to myself.
In my teaching, I share lots of love. Love for those tight hamstrings, love for that achy back, love for wandering minds in meditation, love for yourself. In class today, one of my students from Rest Stop Ministries, repeated my words back to me when I could not model for her the full expression of a posture (due to my physical limitations). She looked right at me and reminded to send some of that love I teach to myself. Note to self: love yourself, all of yourself!
Is it hard for you to receive love sometimes? What about in certain parts of your body or with your body image? Do you throw love around like confetti to the rest of the world? Are you kinder to your neighbor or even that stranger than you are to yourself? Do you overlook the imperfections in someone else and then analyze your own imperfections? Do you see yourself as God sees you?
Friends, I am not perfect. You are not perfect. The one who loves us and created us, loves us like crazy. Yet our Creator did not create us to be flawless. We are perfectly imperfect, even when life is upside down and we forget to love ourselves!
Thank goodness God's love never lets go. Thank goodness when I spot the imperfections and the failings and the pain, God sees love and light and hope, upside down or not.
God sees creation.
God sees me.
God sees you.
God sees love.
Do you? How will you love yourself today?
Your faithful love lasts forever, Lord!
By the way, yes that is me upside down in front of some local Lebanon Love! This amazing mural is on the side of one of my favorite boutiques in Lebanon, TN (around the corner from Bloom Yoga Studio). Iddy & Oscar's is a "Give Back Boutique" educating Kenyan orphans. If you have not yet strolled and shopped the Historic Lebanon Square, come visit us soon!
Need a mindset shift? Believe it or not, you don't have to be amidst the perfect place to recenter and refocus. Interested in an exercise to practice presence in just a minute or two, anywhere? You just have to notice.
Recently, I've had quite a few opportunities to share mindfulness tools with others. One of my favorite tools for sharing is an exercise some call 5 Senses. I like to think of it as 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
This exercise, whatever you call it, is an opportunity to use your five senses to practice mindfulness quickly and in most any situation! From kids to adults, it really is an easy way to for all of us to practice presence.
Notice five things you can see.
Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see around you. Try to notice the less obvious things or 5 things in detail (i.e. the green couch cushion rather than the couch).
Notice four things you can feel.
With your own touch, notice things you can feel. It may be your hair, your shirt or pants, the wind, your own skin, the chair you're seated in, or anything else you can feel.
Notice three things you can hear.
Quiet yourself and listen then notice three things you can hear. You may notice your own breath, the chirping of a bird, the sounds of an appliance, or cars passing by.
Notice two things you can smell.
Breathe in and notice what you smell - pleasant or unpleasant. This may be your own scent or a scent nearby.
Notice one thing you can taste.
Is there a taste in your mouth right now? If so, notice it. If not, consider savoring a taste, just one taste.
To recap, notice....
5 things you can see
4 things you can feel
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
This mindfulness exercise is quick and a fairly easy way to shift your presence and state of mind. Then notice what you feel, sense, experience after this exercise. What do you think? Have you tried this one? Will you notice? What might it offer you to take just a moment and notice right now?
Whitney R. Simpson
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Content @ 2010-2021
Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC