Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Life and Breath and Everything


This is my first post in my write31days challenge for this year. My regular readers know that I love Jesus, and that I also began practicing yoga in January. I was mostly just looking for a way to soothe some intense, unrelenting back pain and I ended up where I am now: a passionate pursuer of Jesus with a 2+ times a day yoga habit.

Let's start with the title: it is straight from my favorite chapter in the book of Acts. Paul and Silas are traveling, spreading the good news that Jesus is the Son of God who has come to save sinners from death to life. They arrive in Athens, where they are greeted by droves of idols. Those to whom he preached were curious, and wanted to know more. Paul looked around and this is what he told them, 

Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'To the unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. Acts 17:22b-23 

These people were worshiping numerous deities, looking for answers, truth and life. and Paul had it for them. 

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:24-28a. 

This is what we have in Jesus. We have the presence of the living God dwelling inside of us. This God gives life and breath and everything, and each one is a gift that He has made. My yoga practice helps me embrace my life and everything in it as a spectacular gift from God. I am a captive that has been set free, and I am now able to live fully with a clean heart. 

I will be honest; before I started practicing, I didn't see how Christians could be involved with yoga, or why they would want to. We have Jesus. We have prayer. We have the Holy Spirit, the Bible, worship, service, the church; why yoga? I put this aside, however, and came to my first class with an open mind. And God met me on my mat. Over the last nearly ten months, He has continued to do so, and I have learned so much about myself, my world and my Jesus through the practice of yoga.

Yoga clears my head so I can be still and know that Jesus is my Savior, my God, and my sustainer. It frees me to see that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and that all the Lord has made is good.  I create art as I move with my body and remember Jesus who was there when the foundations of the world were created. I sit in uncomfortable places and let God hold me in them, and carry me out. But most of all, I think, what my practice has cultivated in me is a deep, rooted sense of gratitude. I have been able to see all of the good and gracious gifts I've been given, and praise Jesus for all that He has done, is doing, and will do when rescue is made complete.

If you're a yoga person, I hope you enjoy this expression of my faith.
If you're a Christian and a yoga skeptic, I hope you read this with an understanding that there are many kinds of spiritual disciplines and expressions. God meets me when I do yoga. It doesn't have to be your thing, but it's mine, and I am so excited to share my experiences with you.

And everyone, you are invited to come here, to breath deeply, and to enjoy your life as God's creation.

Handstand at our house

I love sitting out on our steps when it's nice out...and playing around too :) 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Handstand day 2

I left yoga class this morning and looked over at the lake and it was lightly foggy and there were tiny mountain tops and the moon was still glowing. Cue the perfect scene for a handstand. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Handstand a day

I was running myself crazy yesterday and this morning. It was only when I was driving to yoga that I figured out why:

I was reacting to my roommates' departure. J and E left for a six month Southeast Asia adventure yesterday. Even though I hadn't consciously processed my feelings about that through, I was clearly distressed at least on some level. 

So during my practice, I just tried to acknowledge my reaction without judging it or trying to manipulate it. I actually ended up a little tiny bit teary eyed in savasana (take that power yoga haters); it wasn't good or bad, it's just something that happened, and it's ok. 

I told Elizabeth I'm going to take a picture of myself doing a handstand every day she's gone. 

Today we did something a little different in class that reminded me of training pirouettes on bars: handstands with one hand on a block. It surprised me how easy, comfortable and familiar it felt. I was able to kick up on both legs and find balance to hold a handstand. Here's me doing it at home. 


Saturday, September 26, 2015

And he shall be their peace

Micah 5:5a 

The peace to come, has come already, and will come fully in the state of future grave. 

John Calvin, on what it means for Jesus to be our peace:

He shall be our peace; and we ought to be satisfied with the protection of the King whom God the father has given us. Let his shadow, then, suffice us, and we shall be safe enough from all troubles. We now see in what sense the prophet calls Christ the prince of peace of his people or of his church; he so calls him because he will drive far away all hurtful things, and will be armed with strength and invincible power to check all the ungodly, that they may not make war in the children of God, or to prevent them in their course, should they excite any disturbances. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

I just love them

This week, I've really grown in my love and care for my kids, especially the team girls. They are frustrating and crazy and drive me up a wall, but it's all because I want so much for them. They kept quitting and giving up and I finally said, I expect a lot from you, because I know how capable you are. I will ask you to do things you've never done before and I will ask you to do things you don't think you can. But I will never expect you to do something I don't honestly believe you can do. I want you to believe you're capable of more. I want you to commit to yourself and to your team and surprise yourself. Ok? Let's find out what we can do. 

And you know, there was a marked shift. I think about how my yoga practice has helped me find myself again and now I have the opportunity to bring the best out in each of them as we learn and grow together. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Life is all grace

Tonight I was listening to Boasting by Lecrae and teared up. This just goes to show the state I'm living in right now - who gets watery eyes from a rap song but one who is experience deep, earthy gratitude like never before? 

Tomorrow's never promised, but it is we swear.
Think we holding our own, just a fist full of air.
God has never been obligated to give us life.
If we fought for our rights, we'd be in hell tonight.
Mere sinners owed nothing but a fierce hand.
We never loved him, we pushed away his pierced hands.
I rejected his love, grace, kindness, and mercy.
Dying of thirst, yet, willing to die thirsty.
Eternally worthy, how could I live for less?
Patiently you turned my heart away from selfishness.
I volunteer for your sanctifying surgery.
I know the Spirit's purging me of everything that's hurting me.
Remove the veil from my darkened eyes.
So now every morning I open your word and see the Son rise.
I hope in nothin, boast in nothin, only in your suffering.
I live to show your glory, dying to tell your story.

The idea that if we got what we wanted, we'd be dead in our sins, strikes a chord with me every time. God only gives for our good. Every time I've ever complained or thought something was unfair, God gave it to me for my good. That should change everything for me. My entire life is an enormous, gracious present that I get to unwrap every day what a beautiful thing 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Bread Baking Days

I love bread making days. They are slow but intentional. You work, and then you wait. Bread baking cannot but rushed; the bread rises slowly, in its own time. But its slowness is not a bad thing. It's patience. Intention.

Emily Freeman "Here's to deep roots, strong ties, and slow art"

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. 
John 6:47-51

Friday, September 4, 2015

You're an artist; what's your art?

Emily Freeman is a beautiful writer. Her book Simply Tuesday was beautiful in stilling my soul breathing encouragement into my ordinary moments. One of her older books, A Million Little Ways, went on sale on amazon, so I grabbed it. It too, was a beauty. It's about the art that is in all of us, no matter what we do or who we do it with it. It's been inspiring me all week. Here are some quotes

Cashiers and cellists are capable of making art because they both have the power to influence, to be fully awake to their Maker and fully aware of his making of them. I can't imagine anything more dangerous to the enemy of our hearts than people who know who they are. 

You were made to live art 

It's time to live as though we believe we have something to offer 

Being an artist has something to do with being brave enough to move toward what makes you come alive 

The first thing we know about God is he made art. What is the first thing we know about people? We were made in the image of God. 

God calls you his workmanship, his poiema (greek for workmanship, poem, craft). What happens when God writes poetry? We do. We happen. 

The art you and I were born to make is released out of the core of who we truly are, where our spirit is joined in union with the Spirit of God. Any movement coming from that place reflects the glory of God. This is our highest purpose, and ultimately, our greatest joy. 

You are designed to reflect the glory of God, and when you release the fullness of who you most deeply are, we will see God because we're finally seeing you. Uncovering your art is about waking up. 

I don't believe there is one great thing I was made to do in this world. I believe there is one great God I was made to glorify. And there will be many way, even a million little ways, I will declare his glory with my life. 

You are art and you make art, but you are not your art. You are God's art. 

You are the beloved. So take some time to be the loved. 

The world needs you to come alive right where you are and not where you wish you were. 

We have the capacity to reflect the relational glory of God no matter who we're with, what we're doing, or what' gone wrong. This is when art is a verb rather a noun. It isn't something you point to, it's a way you live. 

I think perhaps everyone has crazy ideas but most people are afraid to consider thme. There are a rare few who pursue them, but they wouldn't realize it, because to them, they aren't crazy ideas. They're just ideas. 

Your greatest purpose is to reveal his glory and your greatest grief is to violate his love. 

Being who you already are no matter the circumstance of your life is what it means to release the art you were made to live. 

Take small steps toward the mystery. You aren't moving to figure things out or to catch up to an expectation, but you are moving because you are alive. You have a glimpse of what it might feel like to live life as an artist in the middle of your ordinary day. 

Eternity is not for later. 

God moves through nature - and souls - like a whisper on water and he cannot be held back. Life shoots up straight out of death and no one can make it stop. An artist lives in the midst of this wonder, breathes it in, moves around in it, uncovers her unique contribution to it, and offers it back up to God. 

Dare to get a sense of yourself in the world as you live and breathe and are. 

Last words from my journal:

Lately, there is a deeply rooted sense of gratitude in my heart. I can, when I prompt myself, name the specific gifts. But is it necessary? I love naming gifts, but what if the naming is just to cultivate the lifestyle? How can I act more consistently from these roots? 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I took a ballet class and ended up a yogi

I took my first ballet class one year ago. I was in love instantly. It was the highlight of my week, and I quickly started figuring out how to get in more time at the barre. I watched YouTube videos of full sequences and classes, read books about the history of ballet, memoirs, everything I could get my hands on. My intro class finished and I was told the intermediate/advanced class would be a fine fit for me. 

I was terrified. I had watched that class and now I was going to be in it? The first day, I was so anxious. But as it turns out, Miss Annie is one of the best teachers I've ever had. She put me in the middle of the barre so I would have someone to follow on each side. She encouraged. She pushed. She challenged. She created an environment where everyone in class felt connected to each other. We asked for and gave help. I struggled through the petite allegro - fast quick movements - but in the grande, I was noticed for the height and range of motion on my jumps. I was so sore sometimes I didn't know how I was going to walk. My teacher found out I wasn't just recovering from an injury or a long time off, and was shocked to learn I was just starting out. I finally got through a class where I went the right way at the right time and didn't miss any steps. She pushed me. She said she knew I could be better than I thought I could. And I loved her. And ballet. 

Unfortunately, my back did not. I have an old injury from cheerleading and a history of overtraining so sometimes my back gets mad. I finally made an appointment and found pinched nerves and scar tissue surrounding my hips and spine. I went to a chiropractor three times a week, then two, then one. Although I tried ballet again, I realized it really just was not good for my body. I now settle for the PNB, for documentaries and for the memoirs. 

I started taking a yoga class the same week I found out about the hot mess that was my back. The instructor told me to invert. Legs up the wall. Shoulder stand. Headstand. And it helped take the pressure off the nerves in my spine. Finally, I felt relief. I started taking two classes a week instead of one. I was still cycling and doing TRX multiple times a day, but it was Friday afternoon deep dynamic yoga that held my deepest affections. 

When I had to miss that class to substitute teach in a preschool classroom, I pushed back. I found another studio near my home with a Friday 6am class and a great intro special. I used all ten classes as quickly as I could and bought twenty more. And twenty more. My first yoga instructor moved away, and although I liked his replacement, she wasn't the same. And then, I dropped the cycling and the TRX and went unlimited at the yoga studio. I take class usually twice, sometimes three times a day. I practice at home. I am constantly discovering new things and I am so happy. 

I miss ballet, in a way, but today, I am thankful that I was brave enough to take that ballet class, to do something creative and different and new. Because without ballet, I wouldn't have yoga.