Autumn Soul Care

Over the past two months (and on through November) as I head toward the release of Handle With Care, I wanted to quiet some of the unrest and unhealth in my soul. There have been some patterns of anxiety, ignoring my gut sense or intuition in favor of what seemed “right” or obligatory, and a general passive engagement with the Lord. In laymen’s terms, I was “going through the motions.” So, in true form, I sat down, made myself a curriculum, and set myself on it. It was robust, full, ordered, and I knew it would jar my spirit and soul in the ways I needed.

I know so many authors who pour their hearts and souls into their books and then into the marketing process, so much so that they’re always one step behind a burnout or selling themselves out just to get the book sold. I absolutely do not want this. I love writing and I want to write for a long time, so that means recognizing that I am not primarily a speaker or a marketer or a podcaster or an expert in any way. I am a writer. I will do my best not to sell this book, but to be faithful to what God is asking of me each day. Part of that, for today, is making sure my soul is well-cared for and not going into the release on empty.

This was a long way of telling you that I have been eye-ball deep in soul-care material this fall. All my prioritized reading is related to the care of my soul and I am not feeling one bit guilty about the pile of other books waiting to be read. I thought I’d share a few of the books, links, podcasts, and exercises I’ve been working through in this time. My homemade curriculum is 16 weeks and specifically tailored to areas where I needed to grow, but perhaps some of it might be helpful to you as well. I’m just sharing source materials below, the course itself has practices, written reflections, and writing exercises built into it as well. It has already been so hard and so good for me.

Screen Shot 2019-10-04 at 9.54.46 AM.png

My texts for these 16 weeks are:

Sacred Rhythms, by Ruth Haley Barton. This is my third time through her easy to read book on Spiritual disciplines and it’s my favorite Spiritual discipline book.

Who God Says You Are, by Klyne Snodgrass. My friend Mason King recommended this to me last winter as a resource for Handle With Care, but I’ve been working my way slowly through it all this year and it will probably be my book of the year.

As I Recall, by Casey Tygrett. One of the main works of the first month of this time has been working with my own memories of blessing and memories of trauma. Casey has been a good leader for me.

Holy Noticing, by Charles Stone. Again, working with paying attention to memories, histories, circumstances, and not letting those things terminate on themselves.

Soulful Spirituality, by David Benner. I haven’t gotten to this one yet in the course, but I’ve paged through it and really enjoyed The Gift of Being Yourself by Benner in the past.

The Relational Soul, by James Cofield and Richard Plass. This one has been on my to-read list for a few years now and I just haven’t prioritized it. It comes highly recommended by people I trust.

Screen Shot 2019-10-04 at 9.55.31 AM.png

I do not listen to many podcasts. Maybe because I am a little over-stimulated by them, or because I find it hard to follow when there are multiple voices involved. But I have really come to appreciate Adam Young’s podcast, The Place We Find Ourselves. I recommend starting at the beginning of the first seas onand working through it all slowly. It has been tremendously revealing for me in my own lack of emotional health.

I also appreciate Potter’s Inn Podcast on Soul Care. These are longer listens, so they just require more time for me.

Last week Mike Cosper released his episode of Cultivated with Chuck Degroat (who you should absolutely be reading) and I listened twice. I am deeply grateful for his work. Here are two recent posts he wrote (first and second) and a class he offers on contemplative prayer. In fact, it was Chuck’s words that helped me to realize that if I kept going at the rate I was, without stopping to care for my soul, I was headed for some destruction, either of my own or others.

Screen Shot 2019-10-04 at 9.55.05 AM.png

These aren’t included in my Soul Care Curriculum, but they’ve been helpful pieces or videos for me to mull on in a deeper, more reflective way the past few weeks. Perhaps one or two will bless you.

The Hazards of Online Faith Writing

On Living

Every Idle Word

What does it mean to pay spiritual and moral attention to the conflicts of our lives?

When Dreams Die

Tools for the Art of Living from OnBeing

Screen Shot 2019-10-04 at 9.55.17 AM.png

Finally, as I do this work, here are the two playlists I’ve been listening to:

We Were Going to Move to Chattanooga

A year ago today Nate and I were standing on the pinnacle of a familiar mountain, a place I called home for years and a place that still holds a piece of my heart. We were quietly dreaming, after a year of crushing disappointments, heart-ache, trauma, and loss. We were asking the questions "What if?" and "Where might?" It was the first time I felt hope in over a year. We made the beginning of a plan that weekend: to move to Chattanooga and settle there. 

There's a lot that happened between Labor Day 2016 and Labor Day 2017, but the shortest way to say it is that we're back in Texas, in the place we met and married, but not the place we fell in love.

The place we fell in love is everywhere and everything. 

It was honeymooning in the Aspen trees and buying a house on July 4th and learning things weren't as they seemed at my new job and losing a baby we didn't know was beginning and losing his job we thought was certain and coming home to a police-taped home near Thanksgiving and cutting down our first tree together in the Rocky Mountains and witnessing the shooting of a cop on my birthday and and losing the beginning of another life we were sure of and navigating a church conflict we felt blindsided by and being disappointed again and again and again by hopeful job interviews and no call backs and packing all of our stuff again and moving again to another side of our country and losing more money than I'd ever dreamed of even having and living in our second 1800s home with creaky floors and uneven doors and charm and still feeling so alone every single moment. It was bringing home Harper and struggling to find a church home and learning the Chattanooga job market was another Denver job market and our dreams of moving there would not be realized. It was packing again, and moving again, back to the south. It was unpacking in a home we knew wasn't guaranteed or our "forever home" or secure or would be full of children or dreams coming true. 

What I'm trying to say is we can make a lot of plans, but our hope is in the Lord and he carries us through—and grows our capacity for life and love within it all. 

I get a lot of emails from you, dear readers, asking about love and marriage and singleness and how do you know and what is settling and all that. I guess I just wanted to say to you today: you can make a lot of plans and have a lot of dreams and just envision how your life should be and think it is all somewhat certain. Because you have a certain "call" or a certain "desire" or feel you were made by God for a certain "purpose," it can become so easy to believe life will turn out that way, all you have to do is make the people in it and the jobs you take and the decisions you make fit within that call or dream or purpose. 

I want to say to you, friends, that this is a lie. It's a sneaky one because it sounds good to have purpose and to aim for it straight. But the lie is that we think we're somehow owed the life we desire, even if God has not yet granted it and might never do so. 

You may feel called to be a mother or a husband or a pastor or a teacher or a writer or a wife or a single or a speaker or a counselor, but a sense of calling does not mean God will fulfill things in your order or way. The way to be a successful wife is not to have the perfect husband, the way to be a successful pastor is not to have a pastor's wife, the way to be a successful writer is not to have a successful book, and the way to be a successful single is not to be undistracted by the opposite gender. No. The way to be successful is simply to be faithful with today. 

And tomorrow.

And the next day.

And the day after.

Someday, when you are very old, or maybe not very old, and just in the middle of your life, you will look behind you at a series of crushing disappointments, plans that went awry, ways you felt stolen from and lied to, and you will see the faithfulness of God pressing you into the way of a faithful servant. This is the mark of a successful child of God. 

The answer to the questions we're all asking can be summed up with another question: What is the presence of the Holy Spirit inside of you—within the confirmation of Scripture—telling you to be faithful in today? 

That's it. That's our answer. 

Your life will take many twists and turns and near fails and falters and wins and losses, but if you're pent up inside trying to situate yourself in such a way for success as you determine it, you will feel lost on the way. No matter how strategically you play the pieces of your life, you are not guaranteed the win you envision. You are only guaranteed the win you have been promised in Scripture. The sooner we can all learn things won't turn out like we planned because life is not some choose your own adventure book like we all think it ought to be, the sooner we can rest in the comforting presence of the Spirit, the true promises of Scripture, and the beckoning care of the Father. 

Whatever decision it is that's tying you up in knots today? What does it look like to open your hands around it, obey the Spirit (as hard as it might be), and let the trajectory of your life take an unexpected and—perhaps—painful turn? I promise you, no, Scripture promises you! There is the joy of your Master at the end of the story of your life—a story you can't even imagine today he would write for you.  

That time we made a plan to move to Chattanooga and didn't. 

That time we made a plan to move to Chattanooga and didn't.