The Language of Freedom

If you’ve known me for a while, you may or may not have noticed that my language has shifted. I’ve drastically cut back on the “religious” language that I use. This is completely intentional. It is part of my healing. It is part of my attempts at sobriety from religious addiction and trauma. Our subcultures and super-sub-subcultures have got to change.  We’re going around in circles talking about things we don’t even mean nor do we know how to say what we mean. We’re padding ourselves with religious bubble-wrap and cushioning, to keep ourselves safe. Hashtag blessed (hear the sarcasm?) From what exactly? From people who are different than us?


The language we use is very telling; and, very important. Pointed,  jagged, sharp, loaded and painful, hurtful words can sound like this:

submit, obey, character, trust, faith, choice, direction, death, self, die-to-self, surrender, sacrifice.


Here’s an example: “Your character needs to grow/change/improve.”

And slowly the word “character” digs sharper and sharper into my chest like a dagger. It sounds more like this. “We don’t like you the way you are. You need to be better. You don’t look like / operate like/ conform like us.” What is this, the survival of the fittest, most ultra spiritual person?

“You need to trust God.” or the accusatory, “You don’t trust God.”

Loaded. Bang. Bang. Do you hear it?


Oftentimes it becomes necessary and healthy to take a step back from the thorns that have entangled the true and good meaning of these words, and look again with fresh eyes at their true meaning and remove the religious stigma and legalism, and religious and spiritual addiction and spiritual manipulation, abuse and triggers.

Faith and trust can become gentle, and even trustworthy again.

A deeper listening and mindful awareness of the power of control, self-control and free will. The will to make decisions and power to consent.

Bodies and hearts are good. Intuition and wisdom are good. Paying attention, being aware and mindful of what’s going on inside your body and outside and noticing how your body is reacting or responding to various stimuli.

We don’t have to embed religious language into everything we do in order to “redeem” it. In fact, it can be quite dangerous, and unhealthy. Because you stop thinking for yourself (with your God-given brain) and you become a religious parrot, which we are not called to be. Our uniqueness and diversity is to be celebrated. You are a poem, did you know that? Our unique gifts and abilities; gifted to each one.

I dare you. Pay attention to your language. Use your thesaurus and your own words. It takes practice and it will take time. This is so important.

Not only are others desperate for this fresh, raw language, many of us on the fringes are in need of words that don’t hurt and burn and scar and wound and push us farther away.

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One Year Ago | A Uhaul & Unforced Rhythms

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One year ago I loaded up all my belongings from my second floor apartment into a small uhaul squeezed in our narrow alley along with the help of some dear friends and their friends and escaped from some really toxic relationships. To this day, I still have kitchen boxes packed. I drove over 400 miles in a Uhaul truck and moved in with my sister and became my nephew’s nanny; arriving at about 11pm that night. We took care of each other and I found refuge there with my family.

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I’ve walked with Jesus the whole way. It was his words in Matthew (below) that signaled that it was time to go. And he’s never left my side, he’s always been with me. I may never understand how I ended up where I did, or why it got as bad as it did, but what I do know is that He was the one who rescued me.  He was the original rebel; rejecting rules and religious addicts and bad religion. (cue the Gungor song, Bad Religion)

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When I found myself unable to say the words it is well with my soul,” I knew my soul was not well. I will say it, and quote this ’til my last breath, a healthy soul is an integrated soul.” (John Ortberg, Soul Keeping) It is so critically important. 


“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.” (AMP)

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So I rested. and rested and rested.

28 Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens.” (TLB)

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And I began to recover my life. With room to breathe. Room to reconnect with who I really am, not a restrictive, distorted, lifeless, suffocated version of me.
I learned that so-called holy words were twisted and forced on me and used against me. My entire being, my spirit was torn down, there was no building up. I wasn’t enough for them. I was too much for them. I wasn’t accepted for who I was and for who and how God designed me.
 

This is the face of freedom, just a few days after my move:

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Lorde (the artist/singer/songwriter) sings a haunting song that resonates with me. It is one of the things that was said to me, almost verbatim. She sings:
‘They say, You’re a little much for me
You’re a liability
You’re a little much for me”
So they pull back, make other plans
I understand, I’m a liability
Get you wild, make you leave
I’m a little much for
E-a-na-na-na, everyone’

Since that day, I have moved again, this time flying back to California with my nephew and a much lighter load, in more than one sense of the word. Just one year on with four years of trauma behind me and I still have a long road of recovery. It’s been a hard, lonely road; pursuing a healthy soul is no easy road but it is a spacious road of freedom.
 
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If you’ve experienced spiritual trauma and been hurt by the church, you are welcome here. I hope to offer spiritual sobriety here, soul care, and compassion, both for ourselves, and for each other. That is my commitment to you. Your story, your voice, your feelings are valid and you’re invited here, whether you join me on your mat in a class or online. And I’m always down for a latte and a conversation. Not everything is appropriate or ready for public consumption, and only you will know when you’re ready to tell your story, and how.

Taking My Voice Back | One Year Later

She devoted no less than half her life, time, resources, education to becoming a worship leader. Hours of practice, voice lessons, and conferences and studying, and a degree in music. Listening, taking notes, writing, reviewing, again and again. Saying yes to opportunities when they arose. Women’s retreats, women’s groups. Finding the courage to seek out more opportunities. Looking for places to belong.

And in one conversation she gave her voice away.


I should have asked more questions, taken more time to pray and contemplate what I was doing. I believed (falsely) that because someone “said so” that I needed to do what I was told.

Because I was a religious addict and thought I needed to ask permission and follow the rules even when they went against everything I believed in. I gave my power away. I settled for rules and shoved it all into a box that was ill-fitting, fit myself into a corset that wasn’t made for me. I forgot about free will and choice and using my mind and trusting the Voice within to guide me.

The problem is I never stopped believing in my calling. I just gave up, with the calling still burning inside me.

I tried to pretend that I was okay with it and even made stories up to convince myself that was the way it was going to be. I figured out a way to tell a new story, one that didn’t include music but I didn’t believe it at all. I was numb.

After a couple of years of trying to put out the fire, it became relentless, burning within me. How could I NOT do the one thing I knew I was born to do? What made me come alive, what filled my soul and brought joy to my soul, and healing to others?

It’s no wonder I became a shell of a person. I had lost my purpose and it wasn’t coming back.


Again and again, I asked. And every time the gatekeepers said “no.”

They said “no” to being who I was created to be.
They said “no” to allowing me to be myself.
They said “no” to the gifts I had to offer.
They said “you’re too much.”
They said “you’re not enough.”
They said “there’s nothing you can do to participate”.
They said my dreams needed to die.

Everything I had laid bare and had been vulnerable about was used against me.

Well, they succeeded — my soul was dead.
It’s enough to make a girl go mad.


After four years I said enough; I took my voice back and I walked away.

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Breathe Love Give | Holy Yoga Riverside | May 27th

“I had forgotten what peace felt like.  I had forgotten what I felt like.  It was the first time I felt complete removal of the monster inside.  I felt the first few beats of the heart that had died a year previous.  I felt alive and I felt hope.  I started my path to healing that day.  Yoga literally saved my life.  It brought me to a place of safety to be able to find a way to heal my PTSD.”  – Heidi Williams

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I’ve always had survivors of trauma on my heart, for as long as I can remember. One encounter took place when I embraced a woman who had recently been rescued. It was an event and all I did was sing a couple songs and she was moved, and her response and her presence absolutely overwhelmed me. I know that music has a way of speaking to our hearts and wrapping loving arms around those deeply broken places.

Then, just a couple weeks ago, I got to hear firsthand how my donations from last year’s Global campaign for Breathe Love Give were used, for new bathroom facilities and training and resources for those who work with survivors in India and around the world. I love that yoga and music have a powerful way of bringing us together to help empower and resource trauma workers and survivors. It would be my honor, and I say this trembling because I don’t know if anyone will come, but, with trembling holy confidence. We will be in an indoor location so your girl can bring her keyboard and sing for you. But if this too, is on your heart, would you, maybe think about coming? And if you have a love language that includes food, or baked goods, or some other creative endeavor that you would like to bring? A live painting? Anything.

This is not about me. This is about giving all I have and inviting you into it. See, I wasn’t even going to do an event. Who me? I am just starting, I’m new, just stepped off the training boat. I don’t know the teachers in my area yet. But, guess what, two of us are joining together for something we can’t even dream or imagine. Ready or not, diving in the deep end. Here we go!!

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Join me on your mat for a Breathe Love Give class in Rancho Cucamonga, CA as we take an outward focus and become agents of healing and change for survivors of trauma around the globe!

*LOCATION: 9255 Base Line Rd, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
(at Summit Christian Church)
*Live acoustic worship with Lori Joanne Music*
*Holy Yoga Flow taught by Hannah Ford*
*Give-what-you can, donations go to Holy Yoga Global Outreach.

Breathe Love Give is our collective outreach within Holy Yoga where we seek to create opportunities for those who have survived trauma to find healing from the inside out. Each individual that attends helps make that happen for an individual they may never meet! To learn more about the Breathe Love Give campaign check out this page: https://holyyoga.net/outreach/

Any questions, let us know 🙂 Please share, if you would.

Loved Back to Life: Redemption

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I studied music with a calling to lead worship. I was honored to have space to do this for several years. But I was restless. I attempted to get work at churches unsuccessfully for a countless number of years. Countless number of resumes and interviews, just to get my foot in the door. I was willing to settle for anything at that point.

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Seeking, I spent a year long process applying and joined cru in 2011. While I loved our training, I crashed and burned. Support raising was impossible. Broken and hungry for purpose and new direction I moved to chicago on a mission.

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My voice was taken away from me. (And I don’t mean my vocal chords). I lost all meaning and purpose in my life. For months I described my state as feeling like an empty carcass. Yeah. I felt like shit. Eventually, my body began speaking to me through anxiety. As we learned this week at retreat, “listen to your body for it knows before you do!” This has been so true in my experience.

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I found refuge in Holy Yoga. Experiential worship through movement and prayer in stillness and listening. I was loved back to life as I attended weekly classes with Sarah at Greatly Gracious.

I believe the reason God led me to chicago was to find my way to Sarah’s class that first night and to be rescued. I came back every single week, for two years. That was three years ago. The same year I attended HY Touch training with Jonnie and a month later attended the Soul Care retreat in St Louis with Jill, Laura, and Whitney. That was just the beginning.
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Every single encounter, every person I have met in the Holy Yoga family has spoken LIFE to me.
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LOVED BACK TO LIFE.
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Redemption. Are you ready for this?

I have found myself in a worship ministry. A ministry of healing and soul care and holistic ministry. I will speak LIFE and hold space for others.

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How’s that for redemption?

I’m still amazed. I can’t wait for the rest. As I dream and step into this next season in great anticipation and HOPE.
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Pictured here with some of my LIFEgroup gals who have been just that: LIFE for the past 4 months.

Memories of My Dad

I let the 21st come and go without paying attention. I knew it was coming but didn’t take time on Friday to remember. It actually explains while I’ve been feeling like 💩.

I tend to remember his birthday a bit more intentionally. It’s harder and more unsettling to remember the day he died nine years ago (after 13 months of battling a late diagnosis of stage four cancer of the esophagus / stomach.)

*This is where I always include a few disclaimers. Don’t feel sorry for me, and don’t assume you know how I feel. Yes, there is a loss. But it’s also so much more complicated. With all that said, just hold space for me. Please don’t “pray for me” to feel better. That’s not the point. The point is to remember. And I’m doing that with my words here, by giving space for these thoughts. I may not actually feel sadness today but I have felt a bit off the past week and I’m just acknowledging that. And this is actually not a sad post, it gets better 🙂 I found some fun pictures of us being “active.”

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{ Chugging our drinks after a fun run event with my dad. Crowd singing “Drink it down, down, down!” (I guess I was providing moral support, lol) }

My dad liked to be active. He played basketball in the 80’s in short shorts, hiked through jungles and went snorkeling in beautiful tropical reefs. Together we went on fun runs and spent time just the two of us on field trips or just trips to the backyard for science, or a family favorite, with trips to the zoo.

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{ my turn – probably drinking red fanta or water }

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He gave me a racquetball set for my thirteenth birthday and volleyball for another. He encouraged activity, and I’m beginning to recall those as some of my favorite times with my dad. Now that I think about it, he was most at ease and less critical and more patient during those times, he was most relaxed and I think the unofficial role he played as “coach dad” and “fun dad” was one of my favorites. When we were working on volleyball drills the summer before 11th grade he was encouraging and helpful in building my skills.

I enjoyed both racquetball and volleyball on the few occasions we got to play. As I got older I enjoyed sprinting; (My last name is Quick after all 😉 ) but hated the mandatory long distance runs in PE class (UGH!). In some small way he encouraged play. I may not love cardio, hello, that’s why I love yoga… hahah, but I love moving my body and feeling at home in it. He may have spoken unkind words to me unintentionally about my body (see, I said it was complicated) but I’m remembering the good things from my childhood whether it was badminton, 🏸 riding my bicycle or on the rocket 🚀 swing he made just for me. (Which, sadly I don’t have pictures of)

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*Another disclaimer… I spent 6 months in therapy talking about the painful times and places I was wounded emotionally, in order to bring healing, and it wasn’t until I acknowledged the grief I had of our complicated relationship and worked through a lot of that before I was able to grieve the actual death and loss of my dad. Now, nine years later, I still come up on painful memories, but more and more of the good memories, and much less hurt. Sweeping things under the rug may be a temporary coping mechanism, but from my experience, it’s much more necessaary to talk through them and work through them for the purpose of emotional healing. 

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Remembering all the good times we had playing, doing sports or science, is incredible timing considering I will soon be a yoga instructor, it’s very full circle in a way I hadn’t thought about before and that makes me very happy. 🙂 I am grateful and glad for all the good times and fun adventures we had together and miss being able to play racquetball or a fun run together. I love you, fun, silly, adventurous, playful, Coach Dad. ❤

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Healing the Purpose of Your Life

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This book has been one of my lifelines over the past year. With the prompts within, I came up with three words that are unique to me, and to my way of being, the myriad of ways that I express my special way of being. These three words aren’t what you might think, and I won’t be sharing those three words, but they do express themselves through yoga, nannying, music, and art. And the title is pretty straightforward, but that has been part of my journey. And this small but mighty book is very healing. If you’re at a crossroads or struggling with this idea, or concept or need to revisit and rediscover, I highly recommend this. And it’s not about over- spiritualizing your purpose, but really practical and deeply spiritual.

This journey is important to me because there are voices out there that will tell you that your gifts, your talents and your unique way of being, even your personality are a “problem.” Nope, it’s not your problem, it’s their problem and they can get out of your face. Our unique gifts and talents and interests and our unique way of expressing our being ARE what make you, uniquely YOU. And these things are guides, markers, indicators to help point you in the direction you were uniquely designed for. What lights you up? What makes you come alive? Those are such important questions. The things that matter to us, matter for a reason. That doesn’t mean we’ll know right away, there are still things that matter to me that don’t have a neat niche that I’m invested in, but I still care and maybe someday it will be a bigger part of my time. I get so frustrated when the message of self-denial is beat on your heads over and over. You can’t do any of that until you know who you really are. Celebrate the unique way you express your beings and your doings express your being.

*and yes this book is on my short list of all time favorites!

“Our sealed orders are built into us so deeply that difficult circumstances and mistakes in our life cannot ultimately keep us from carrying out our purpose. This is true because our purpose is our essence, our particular way the light of God shines within us, a light that can never really be put out.”

– from Healing the Purpose of Your Life by the Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

Loved Back to Life with Holy Yoga

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My love for yoga ignited almost immediately. This was taken about a month after I began attending Holy Yoga classes. 

I am celebrating that this past week in April was my Yogiversary!  I began my yoga journey and going to weekly classes three years ago!

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Early morning yoga, coffee, bonding, and prayer.

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The best yoga teachers a girl could dream of, Sarah & Midori.


Holy Yoga became my lifeline and place of refuge, my sanctuary. I learned so much about what I was capable physically and became stronger in that way, but also spiritually and emotionally and mentally. I learned to trust my intuition and listen to my body. I experienced the love of God in ways I never had before. I learned to listen in stillness. I became empowered and reclaimed my voice. My view of worship expanded as I observed my yoga teachers leading us in times of worship, with our heart, mind, soul, and strength. In prayer and in devotion. In love and encouragement. In experiencing peace, rest, and hope. In being refreshed and revived. I was loved back to life in that space. For that, I am forever grateful, to Sarah and Midori, Greatly Gracious women. ❤

 

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My Holy Yoga Teacher, Sarah Wheeler of Greatly Gracious Yoga studio in Wicker Park. Big hugs before I moved. 

 

 

 

Rebuilding

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Today was therapy Tuesday & I got some helpful affirmation & insight in our session. Afterward, I made it a point to practice on my mat this evening and flowed on the porch while the sky was painted in bright, vivid colors, the most beautiful pink and gold. I usually just practice for a little bit and very rarely get a savasana in, and I made a point of it considering our material this week was forward folds and relaxation poses. (Savasana included). I didn’t have a lot on my mind as I was practicing and focused on thinking about the muscles and alignment and breathing and counting. (A Sesame Street counting song was in my head, let’s be honest.)

After I finished my practice I realized that I felt so much more open and receptive.  I was astonished because I didn’t realize just how closed I’ve been. It’s one thing to have smart, healthy boundaries and privacy, it’s another thing to be / feel closed. Wow, I knew there was a lot going on headed into therapy today, but this was a new reveal that came after therapy.

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I’m not sure where this is going but..it’s going. Most people don’t know that I’m rebuilding my life and that has meant ending a lot of things. After crashing and burning and escaping a very bad situation, and spending the past year practicing spiritual sobriety, and giving myself permission to put a stop to the people and things that were wounding my soul, insulting my soul, and who I was; who I am.

My body & mental health took a huge toll and sent some major warning signals to my brain. It took months to uncover and awaken to the issues that were causing my meltdown, like crashing down from space, meteor status. And just like that, the scales came out of my eyes.

The damage is slow to undo. But my determination to live with hope and get to be myself and pursue the things that light me up, rather than those that for so long weighed me down, suffocating me.

This difficult journey has found me to be a bit spiritually homeless, an outsider, and going through faith shifts and deconstructing and rebuilding and identifying what I believe and what’s truly important to me. Spiritual addiction paired with spiritual and emotional trauma is no joke. I can no longer walk into just any old church and feel safe or at ease. I’m constantly on high alert, & always skeptical. But here I am, rebuilding.

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There are aspects that I still love and connect with, but feel a great amount of tension regarding what the hell to do with it. Music is important and essential part of my life and I’m at a loss for what it could look like to sing again. I think I need to write, but I get so stuck with my less than stellar instrument skills that I feel like there is a missing piece, a collaborator or partner or fellow musician. I don’t know where to sing. I would love to branch out and sing jazz or blues or show tunes, or rock a Sara Bareilles cover band. Being part of the Apollo Choir last year was such an affirmation and reminder that music is such a huge part of what makes me tick.

One thing that I have been able to connect with is theology and studying and pretending I’m in seminary and stuff that I’m reading and beginning to write about on my blog. (So many drafts, you guys.)

Holy Yoga instructor training has been like diving back into church. It’s been challenging material and yet even when I’m kinda iffy about this whole thing I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be and this is my path: Jesus+Yoga.  Tomorrow is my last class before retreat in May and I’m so excited to continue this journey of yoga, and soon teaching yoga, as it’s been such an important part of my own healing journey and getting free. So there ya go, something you didn’t know about me.

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