Penelope & Billy

Penelope and Billy have been friends from the time she was 3. They love to spend time together, and invite her to join them all the time. She joined in for many years until she started to realize what was really going on and began to discern some things about these two that she never realized before. So yesterday, she started to call them out. Penelope and Billy didn’t like it at all. Not one bit. But because of that reaction, she knew she was on track and is now using her voice to call them out when they show up telling her stories that scare her. She is using her voice to challenge them and they don’t like it, but the stronger the reaction of the dynamic duo, the more powerful her voice becomes. She is realizing that she can reach down into herself to draw from the Truth that lives in her already.

Story Explanation:

Andy and I went to a show the other night called Say Yes – A Liturgy of Not Giving Up On Yourself, by artist Scott Erickson. At the beginning of the show, Scott defines the word liturgy to mean story of the people. His show was created around this definition and in collaboration with others, he tells a story through visual effects, poetry, art, and the lived experiences of others both good and bad. It was a lovely show, packed full of healing messages for my soul. One thing he said that stayed with me was how he personifies his fear, calling it a name, and therefore decreasing its power significantly. So I decided to put this idea into practice for my own life and that is how Billy and Penelope came to exist. Penelope has existed for me for a little while, but she has evolved from being the voice of the critic in my head to simply being the voice of the false self, varying with degrees of intensity in the energetic stories she tells me about who I am, what I am now seeing as false stories. This story is about how I am learning that Penelope and Billy are codependent and can’t live without each other. So when they show up, I can name them for who they are and see what is really going on in me.

panic, anxiety, and sinus infections

So, the thing that has pushed me into this transformation season is a sinus infection that led to something else that led to a nerve in my face getting angry. That nerve just so happens to be the trigeminal nerve– the one in charge of three areas of your face and can effect your eye, nose, tongue, and jaw/chin. What I have experienced so far with it is a lot of pain and pressure and burning in the sinus area. When I get a headache, the inflammation causes the nerve to inflame as well and can ache along with the headache. I want to be completely honest and open about how this new experience has affected me. Perhaps you’re also in a similar situation, experiencing something new and totally freaked out about it. Well, you’re not alone, friend, be it emotional, spiritual, physical, or all of those things. This experience has connected me more deeply with the human experience, which is a good thing because I know it is developing deeper compassion and empathy in me, and for that I am grateful.

This all started back in November after the sinus infection and whatever else I had going on in my body at that time, although it is a mystery. I went on an antibiotic and that helped the sinus infection clear up, but I still had fluid backed up in my ears, and an ache in my left ear, particularly. I went to see an ENT doctor and he couldn’t find anything wrong. I went to the ER twice and the second visit got me closer to where I needed to be, which was a neurologist, which was super intimidating. Before I move on, I’ll say that the sinus infection (first time for one of those, by the way) triggered my sympathetic nervous system and I went on high alert with panic attacks and anxiety reaching a level I don’t remember experiencing before. I was very close to putting myself on anti-anxiety medication. I went through several weeks of that. I couldn’t sleep. My body was pumping out adrenaline keeping me awake, and I was frustrated at my body for not letting me sleep. I experienced all kinds of emotion. Eventually, the panic attacks lessened and my body has been recovering after this period of about two months or so. During that period I was also performing my own investigation into this trigeminal nerve situation. I was reading stories and experiences other people had with this nerve and it was terrifying. In short, I was stuck in this vicious cycle of panic, fear and anxiety.

I went to see the neurologist, who doesn’t think this is anything serious. So my analytical mind took over, based on my own investigations. How can she know for sure this isn’t something more serious? This “research”, a.k.a. typing my symptoms in Safari on my phone, has shown X, Y and Z can be happening, doesn’t she know that?! She put me on some medication and told me to call her back in a month to let her know how I am doing. I call back because I desperately want to stop taking the medicine, and she says to keep taking it for three months and to call her again at the end of March. Ugggghhh! In other words, she needs to wait and see how my body responds to this. It is in an unknown stage for now, which means I have to wait. Wait and trust and cultivate patience. It was very hard for me at first, and it is still hard. It is only February 10th for goodness sake! We’ll see what she says in March, but I will be going back in for a follow up in person in June.

What have I learned from this? Well, for one, Dr. Nicole La Pera who calls herself the Holistic Psychologist, says that anxiety and panic are our teachers. Anxiety comes up to show us what needs healed, that we have work to do to face it and then work to do to heal it. She teaches methods that help individuals do their own soul work, and recommends doing breath work, meditation (which I will talk a lot about soon), mindfulness/awareness, exercise and nutrition. She also recommends doing these things daily which is something I have had a hard time with ever since I started a few years ago. Consistency is important for producing lasting change. But it’s hard to start a new regimen without our own inner resistance. And resistance has definitely come up for me.

So what I want to emphasize here is that I am learning that this requires a lot of work, that anxiety, fear and panic have surfaced to show me something else below the surface. For me, it has been facing fear of death and illness and recovering from an overload of accumulated stress from 2019. The anxiety was also present because it is the start of a brand new decade and we are currently in a season of transition as a family. All I can see in front of me is the great, vast unknown. But as I wake each day and step into the unknown, I am learning that it is okay to settle in to this discomfort of not knowing what is ahead. I am learning that real peace is experienced even inside of the tornado and that God speaks out of the storm. After three months, I am more at peace as I wait and actively participate in the unfolding of life. I had a dream a few weeks ago that Andy and I encountered this massive tornado. In the dream, I was completely at peace, even with this tornado in view ahead, a direct threat to our safety. We turned the car around and went back to the house where we were. As we checked the house for a storm cellar, suddenly the sky turned blue and the sun came out and the threat vanished completely. I have prayed about this dream, seeking God for meaning and application to this current experience. All I can muster is the wisdom that tells me that the thing I see as a threat might not actually be a threat at all and that I can trust in Divine Mystery, the Source of Love, to guide my life. I plan to update the blog as life unfolds this year. We are on our own journey and I know you are, too. It’s good to be on this journey with you.

In the meantime, to be an active participant in life’s unfolding, I have been focusing on nutrition. I’m learning some things about the gut-brain connection and about the importance of nutrition. So what I am doing is cutting out sugar (almost completely, except for fruit), increasing the amount of vegetables I eat, and cooking all of my meals at home. I have tried the meal planning thing before, but failed while listening to Penelope who is that limiting narrative in my head, telling me “I can’t”. Well, maybe Penelope can’t, but my True Self knows I can. So I printed a meal planning sheet, and have begun to plan out our meals ahead of time. I am also incorporating exercise and yoga, and lots and lots of contemplative prayer and meditation. Again, I will talk about meditation in another post. As I get into the swing of meal planning and prep, I have given myself until the start of spring to keep this as a focus until I feel more comfortable and it becomes my new habit. After that, I will begin to focus on yoga and exercise. My goal with exercise is to develop a daily regimen. I still have to figure out how it will work for me, but that will be what comes next this year. I have to say, I am finding myself thoroughly enjoying the meal planning and prep project! It’s fun perusing Pinterest for inspiration and I am opening up to creating new dishes that are good for our bodies. And I am learning new things as well. Asher isn’t enjoying this project at all, though. He is challenging with his eating, so I need to get creative and figure out how I can disguise his veggies. I found a recipe for chocolate spinach muffins. I’ll let you know what he thinks about them!

from fear to faith

I have been trying to write a blog post for the month of January and just keep accumulating drafts. I suppose I don’t have all that much to say this month.

But I am determined to write one post a month! It is a challenge I have given to myself, because I love writing and expressing myself this way. And it feels good to be writing again after taking a decade long break from it. I am not who I was 10 years ago, that’s for sure. I used to think I could teach people about spirituality. I had quite the inflated ego back then. Since then, I have discovered that I am not so much a teacher of others but a learner of lessons that I wish to share with others. So for my January post, I will share with you one thing I am learning right now.

I have spent a few posts mentioning fear recently and this is the topic I talk about most with God right now. I have spent a lot of time in the Bible in the past month or so and it is beginning to come alive again for me. The last decade of my life was a fallow one when it came to reading the Bible. I can go into detail with that in another post, because that is a story in and of itself. But reading it again has been a comfort to my soul. In addition to reading, what I have been learning is a new practice. Any time I am tempted to be afraid, I am practicing turning that fear into faith. How it works for me is simply when a fearful thought comes into my mind, as quickly as I can catch it before it spirals, I say the word faith and hold it for a moment or so until the fearful thoughts move on. I am no expert on this, but it is something small that has been helping me in a huge way in this season. This practice has been inspired by something I read in Hannah Hurnard’s Mountains of Spices. In the preface to the book, she explains the names of the characters she writes about being “the personifications of the unhappy and tormenting attitudes of mind, heart, and temper”, like “Craven Coward”. She writes a paragraph in this preface that I keep returning to as if it is God speaking through her directly to me right now, and I will share that here as a quote.

I was born with a fearful nature– a real slave of the Fearing Clan! But I have since made the glorious discovery that no one has such a perfect opportunity to practice and develop faith as do those who must learn constantly to turn fear into faith. One must either succumb to the fearing nature altogether and become a ‘Craven Coward’ for the rest of one’s life; or by yielding that fearful nature wholly to the Lord and using each temptation to fear as an opportunity for practicing faith, be made at last into a radiant ‘Fearless Witness’ to his love and power. There is no middle course.

Hannah Hurnard, Mountains of Spices

It is not an option to succumb to the fearful nature when I know that my true nature is Fearless Witness, secure and confident in my identity as God’s daughter. I have seasons where fear can feel more intense than at other times and this season it seems to be that way. Maybe it is that way for you, too. And if that is so, know that I understand. So much. And I am holding you in my heart in the flow of the love of Christ alive and strong within me. But know also that fear is not who you are. You experience fear, but your true nature in Christ is first of all love and all of the abundance of the fruitfulness of the Spirit in joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control! So go then and put on your true nature and know that fear does not control you anymore, but the Spirit of Christ does!

no more silence

Hello, dear friends. We just came home yesterday from vacationing with friends down in Florida. I told my husband Andy that I’m ready for campfires and sweatshirts and the cool, crisp air of Autumn. Anyone else feeling that way? Well, we are almost there and when it arrives, I plan to fully embrace and live in that season of life. I am planning to do that now with every season that unfolds. Even now as this summer comes to a close, I am reflecting on the ways I have been able to approach life differently than I did before.

I can’t quite explain it, but I have found myself feeling much different after about a decade long season of silent wilderness wandering. I think I could call it several things, but that seems to be the description my soul recognizes. All I know is that I am emerging from a dark place that lasted many years. And as much as I tried to escape it, I couldn’t. But this feeling I have now on the other side of that decade is one that is not totally unfamiliar. It is this familiar feeling of meeting myself again for the first time. This has been a reoccurring experience, a pattern if you will, of self-discovery and spiritual growth, and I think it may very well just mean that I am a dynamic, changing soul. We are not static beings, but dynamic; we are fully alive and growing constantly. I think this description is all I can muster for the process of spiritual (or soul) growth.

And now I have this burning passion once again to write– to document my experiences with God and share them in a raw, vulnerable way. I don’t exactly know what will come forth from what is inside, but after a decade of silence, inner wrestling, and life experience, there is no lack of material that’s for sure! All I know is that I have lived long enough in silence and that God has been softly and gently speaking to the depths of my being to come forth and show myself to the world again. It’s like God has spoken to my dry bones to rise and live once again. It’s frightening, this expression, this permission I am giving myself to once again share my soul vulnerably with the world. But I must trust that this burning passion that has been ignited once again is not solely my own, but a shared passion with the divine nature that has made its home and has settled in comfortably to the depths of my being. And it is from this place that I will write. This deep place is my truest self, it is who I have always been. It’s just funny, because I’ve spent so much time trying to find myself, but I realized that this identity I have searched for has been right here in front of me, with me, a part of me this whole time. It’s this mysterious identity planted inside that has had me experiencing unprecedented joy in recent months. Sherlock Holmes may be a fictional character, but it is true that what I have been looking for has been hidden in plain sight.

The kingdom of heaven is here all around me and also within me. My heart is beating again and I am saying yes to God in ways that have surprised me. So here goes nothing. Feel free to walk with me and know that I am also walking with you as your own journey unfolds before your eyes. May you light up like never before and learn that you don’t have to go anywhere to find what you are looking for. It’s right there, right next to you and right inside you. Go in there and see for yourself. It’ll be the adventure of a lifetime!

a snippet of my story

On Christmas Eve, at the end of 2017, I was getting ready to play piano and sing for the first of two evening Christmas Eve services at church. I wasn’t feeling well physically, and I actually ended up coming down with a virus and was sick the whole week of Christmas that year. But more than that, my mental, emotional, and spiritual health had been in decline mode for the last 7ish years. Andy (my husband) and I had been leading worship together for as long as I can remember, really. We led worship for various church related events before we even dated each other. When I look back, music is what brought us together. It was our thing that we did together. I always wanted that in a partner– to share life and have something we could call “ours”, so I assumed it was music.

Naturally, it was difficult for me to tell him that I didn’t want to do it anymore. Imagine how that conversation went! Actually, it was a series of conversations over the previous few years that culminated in that one, really dramatic conversation on Christmas Eve. I quit right there and left him hanging for those services. I remember feeling like I was losing my mind. I don’t know how I came across to him that day, but inside I was a mess and knew I needed to step away to care for myself for a while. There is a lot more to this story, but it has taken nearly 20 years for me to realize that I’m not called to music ministry like I thought I was back as a teenager. I swallowed that idea whole (you know the one I’m talking about, right? “What is God calling you to do?”), and believed for many, many years, that I was called to sing and lead worship. My dream was to travel the world and sing to glorify God! I didn’t give much thought to it back then; it seemed like a given to me.

So much of life has happened to close that door, though, and I was not as aware of it until more recent years. This has been one of the most difficult challenges of my life. I suffered with years of inner conflict over it, too, but in the end, reality was staring me down. I knew from somewhere deep within that this was not my path and I had to face that reality. Not only was I conflicted because this was what we did together, but I was also conflicted because of the opinions of other people in my life. For years, I chose to go along with the opinions of others, while living in a state of inner conflict. I pushed through, always telling myself “it will get better” and “everyone is stressed out; stress is normal and to be expected.” But the truth is, simply, that I don’t want to be on a stage. I don’t have any desire to continue on that path. I realize now that I am the only one who can know how God is guiding and directing me from within. I love the people in my life and I believe they are sincere and well intentioned, but when it came to this area, I needed to learn to hear God’s voice and discern between that voice and the noise of outside voices. For me, it took stopping myself in my tracks and stepping away from the noise itself.

I write this today for no reason other than to share the story of my own journey to God and sorting through this whole “life’s calling” thing. I think our lives have purpose, yes. I think God calls us, absolutely. I’m still asking questions about those two ideas, but I think that “whole-making instinct” has been awakened (thanks, Jung). I am on the path to wholeness in my entire being; on the way to living life from my deepest, truest Self. And it’s not at all what I expected. Andy and I are learning how important it is to cherish the time we do have together, and we are getting more creative about what it looks like to share life now.

Hello (again)

Hi, there. I’ve decided (once again) to make a blog and put myself “out there”, artistically, to the world. I blogged for a little while about a decade ago, and decided to quit, for reasons I can’t even remember fully now. All I know is that it takes great courage for anyone to share their soul in the world. So to all you bloggers out there: well done, courageous soul.

A lot has changed since then, yet much is still the same. I’ve had some major spiritual transformational shifts occur, which makes me feel like a lot has changed. It feels like the shy, intimidated, insecure, self-conscious woman I once was has practically all but vanished completely.

I suppose she will visit me every once in a while, but I no longer identify with her.

My intent for this blog is to share my heart. I am no authority, but I am passionate about spirituality and humanity, and the interconnectedness of every living being.