2017 Book List

Today is another rainy, grey day, in a string of a lot of them lately. The fog has been so thick and socked in for days, it reminds me so vividly of the Seattle winter (sending much love to my Seattle dwelling friends!). Still, we are hanging in there, at least enjoying the slightly warmer temperatures than we are accustomed to in January. Ryan is gone for the week (in Florida, whatever, it’s fine, I’m not jealous), and I find myself trying to check some items off my to-do list: a long overdue visit with a friend, the usual shopping and clean up, matching the giant basket of clean socks, and of course, compiling my 2017 book list.

Though a book list is not strictly in the style of my typical blog posts, I share because reading has become an important part of my life as of late. Also, I find reading to be a wonderful way to explore the secular and sacred connections in so many different spheres of life, whether learning from a theologian or social expert, or learning about history and the stories of people’s lives. God is always at work causing beautiful collisions of the sacred and the secular in our world, and reading is one way that I can best remind myself of that truth.

This year’s book list is especially exciting, because, well, it’s the first of its kind! I have never made one of these before, and it just feels so adult and exciting. In years past, making a book list would have been a fool’s errand, because until recently I simply didn’t enjoy the wonderful gift of pleasure reading. I’m thrilled for how that has changed in the past year or so, but I realized recently that my lack of interesting book choices had left me a bit stagnate in reading. When my dear friend Ashley Danyew finished her book list for the year, I was inspired to create my own. She and I have begun reading some titles together and writing to one another in a sort of paper-and-ink book club. (Side Note: You should check her out! Ashley is a wonderfully creative soul who inspires me regularly to dream, create, and bring beauty to the world! Website: www.ashleydanyew.com. Instagram: @ashleydanyew. Etsy: Doxology Press)

So here it is! My book list I hope to tackle this year, along with brief descriptions from Amazon, and a few snippets of my own thoughts.

  1. Wild and Free (Morgan & Connolly) “Wild and Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan is a liberty hymn for the modern Christian woman, who is held captive by the belief that she is too much, that she is not enough, and sometimes both.” Wowzah, if a description ever seemed just right for me, it’s this one. I have long struggled with the battle of being too much, and not enough, at the same time.
  2. Let’s All Be Brave (Downs) “Annie knows that courage resides inside each and every one of us, and she’s on a mission to triumph over her own fears while encouraging the reader to do the same.” I have had this book a long time, but since Ashley had it on her list, I decided I would finally get it read!
  3. Love Does (Goff) “When Love Does, life gets interesting. Each day turns into a hilarious, whimsical, meaningful chance that makes faith simple and real. Each chapter is a story that forms a book, a life. And this is one life you don’t want to miss.” Ashley highly recommended this book to me, and well, I trust her judgment.
  4. Chasing Slow (Loechner) “Through a series of steep climbs—her husband’s brain tumor, bankruptcy, family loss, and public criticism—Erin learns just how much strength it takes to surrender it all, and to veer right into grace.” I saw this book mentioned on Instagram and knew instantly I had to have it. It’s a combo of things I love: people’s stories, almost memoir-like, Christian living, and grace.
  5. The Cozy Life (Edberg) “In today’s world, we’re constantly rushing from one thing to the next and are struggling with information overload. We’re more disconnected from ourselves and our loved ones than ever before. Rediscover the joy of the simple things through the Danish concept of Hygge in The Cozy Life. This book will inspire you to slow down and enjoy life’s cozy moments!” Um, I live in Michigan, where we have lots of opportunities to embrace the cozy moments {Read: the WINTER IS ETERNITY}. I’ve already started this one and love the way I feel even when simply reading the book! It’s like a blanket and cup of tea in book form!
  6. Body Kindness (Stritchfield) “Imagine a graph with two lines. One indicates happiness, the other tracks how you feel about your body. If you’re like millions of people, the lines do not intersect. But what if they did? This practical, inspirational, and visually lively book shows you how to create a healthier and happier life by treating yourself with compassion rather than shame.” I love building my knowledge about making peace with food and with my body. I am sure I’ll blog more about this topic when the time is right, but for now, I’ll just say that I’m thankful for how far I’ve come, and excited to see how I continue to grow on this journey.
  7.  Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Metaxas) “Eric Metaxas takes both strands of Bonhoeffer’s life—the theologian and the spy—and draws them together to tell a searing story of incredible moral courage in the face of monstrous evil. Metaxas presents the fullest accounting of Bonhoeffer’s heart-wrenching decision to leave the safe haven of America to return to Hitler’s Germany, and sheds new light on Bonhoeffer’s involvement in the famous Valkyrie plot and in “Operation 7,” the effort to smuggle Jews into neutral Switzerland.” I have had this book for several years. It is intimidatingly large at 625 pages, but I recently felt the desire to finally make it through this book. I have long appreciated Bonhoeffer for his contributions to Christian thought, especially in regards to the traditional problem of evil/suffering, but I would love to increase my knowledge of his life and work. You can all pray for me on this one!
  8.  My Life in France (Child) “Julia Child singlehandedly created a new approach to American cuisine with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, but as she reveals in this bestselling memoir, she was not always a master chef.” Because Julia Child. And memoir. It doesn’t get much better for me in the realm of books.
    {PS- the rest of the books are memoir-like too because I love this genre, and it’s the genre that taught me how to love reading! And, well, I’m an adult, so I get to pick my own books!}
  9. All is Grace: a Ragamuffin Memoir (Manning) “It has been over twenty years since the publication of The Ragamuffin Gospel, a book many claim as the shattering of God’s grace into their lives. Since that time, Brennan Manning has been dazzingly faithful in preaching and writing variations on that singular theme –   Yes, Abba is very fond of you!” I’m excited to learn more about the life of Manning, whose Ragamuffin Gospel book was a beloved of mine in my young adulthood.
  10. Letters and Papers from Prison (Bonhoeffer) “One of the great classics of prison literature, Letters and Papers from Prison effectively serves as the last will and testament of the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” Like I said, I’m on a bit of a Bonhoeffer kick. This one comes from his own hand, so it should round out the story nicely.
  11. Barbara Bush: a Memoir (Bush) “Barbara Bush endures as one of America’s most popular First Ladies. She has won worldwide acclaim for her wit, compassion, and candor as both a presidential wife and mother.” I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic about the Bush family lately, especially since Barbara and George were both recently in the hospital ill. But this book has been on my list for quite some time, partly because politics interest me, and maybe partly because she wears pearls all the time. Being quite young during her tenure as first lady, I’m thrilled to have a chance to learn more through this book..
  12. Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford (Hill & McCubbin) “The assassination of one president, the resignation of another, and the swearing-in of the two who followed those traumatic events. Clint Hill was there, on duty, through Five Presidents.” See my aforementioned interest in politics, combined with my love of all things memoir. I’m excited about this one!


And there you have it! I’m chomping at the bit to get started, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to wrangle some kids into bed and grab a blankie and tea (or wine… TBD) for some snuggled in reading. Maybe I’ll be brave and build a fire in the fireplace all by myself. What’s everyone else reading these days?


Autumn Reflections

     “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

     The fall has always been my favorite season, and my love for all things autumn has multiplied exponentially since moving to a home state where we actually experience seasons. I am quite the stereotype, with my love of the cozy boots and sweaters, the crisp air and crunchy leaves, and the lattes of pumpkin spice. The autumn air makes me desire to read and to bake, almost exclusively. But the most anticipated and adored facet of autumn, for me, is the spectacular show presented by creation as the leaves change into their gorgeously varied hues.

The changing of the leaves feels even more satisfactory to me this year because I, too, feel many changes developing in my inner life. The past year has held tensions and struggles and pain, as well as joy and comfort and growth. We have walked through some scary situations and some lonely ones, too. These included medical challenges, feelings of isolation, learning experiences in marital communication, difficult parenting seasons (aren’t all parenting seasons hard in some way?), job changes, finding a church, and finally facing some long held body and food related issues. These situations changed me. I’m definitely beginning to believe that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it…”— Little did I know that what He meant was, “…whether you like it or not!”

One of the obvious personal changes is how my reading life has evolved (insert here my mother’s tears of gratitude and joy). Books became a lifeline for me this year. As I began to emerge from the fog this summer, I read three different books which all spoke to me in varying ways on the topics of being present and content. (For three fabulous books, see Niequist’s Present Over Perfect– my favorite and sort of earth shattering for me, McMinn’s The Contented Soul, and Shinabarger’s More or Less). I can feel God doing a work of peace, contentment, rest, and joy in my heart. The feeling of His work is so tangible some days I can almost taste it, which sounds ridiculous, but there it is. I hope to write more on these topics in the coming months. In the mean time, I am breathing deeply again, more deeply than I can remember breathing for years. I am savoring the sweetness in my life, and like the autumn leaves, I am changing.

Those autumn leaves give me such thrilling hope. They remind me that change is often a beautiful thing—indeed that it is a necessary part of life. Because I remember that those same sturdy trees will display their splendor again each and every fall, they bear witness to the absolute faithfulness of the Creator God. And they also remind me, when I am willing to admit it, that sometimes things have to die a little bit– or to go dormant– before they bring new life and growth. Some things in my life have had to pass away this year: my obsession with busyness, my desire to control all of the things, my longstanding struggle with my body and with food, some preconceived notions about how easy marriage and parenting and jobs and ________ (fill in the blank) ought to be. I have no doubt that I will have many more of these struggles, joys, and pains for the rest of my earthly life. Fall gives me this hope: the autumn leaves will share their glorious fall colors and too soon will give way to winter’s dormancy, but that is not the end of the tree’s story. Spring will come, most assuredly, with new life and growth and excitement. And when I look back again and again, I’m seeing that this is also the truth in my little life. Changes that sometimes even feel like little deaths always give way for new life, new growth, new joy.

My recent contemplations and those three books have also been causing me to pause and consider the earthy, tangible nature of my faith. It is no mistake that the same God who sent His son as my Savior is the very Creator God who gave me eyes to see, colors to behold, taste buds and delectable foods to enjoy, and yes, the seasons of the earth and of my life. I think the importance and interconnectedness of the whole of Creation is a concept I have sometimes neglected because of my protestant emphasis on personal salvation, but Scripture paints a picture of a God who is working to redeem ALL of creation. The Christian faith, when it gets right down to it, is actually exceedingly earthy and gritty and tangible– men created from dust, a season for every activity under heaven, a savior broken with blood and sweat and exhaustion, tables full of feasts and wine, and a someday when the lion will lie down with the lamb. It is thrilling to imagine how God is weaving together a gigantic and yet intricate story for His glory, which includes all created things, even our small but important human lives. As I watch the leaves gradually transition from lush summer to gorgeous autumn to dormant winter to hopeful spring, I may rejoice in the idea that I, too, am continuously moving forward into new seasons, where the redemptive God will be faithful to complete His good work in me. (Whether I like it or not!)


Who I Am

Sometimes I think that I am too much for people.

I am messy and loud. I am not always put-together or perfectly coiffed. I love my life, and sometimes I dance through that life with a little too much gusto. I feel a bit like someone who loves to dance but gets so excited that she accidentally steps on people’s toes. I have a loud laugh, loud clothes, loud glasses, and loud opinions. My happiness is loud. For anyone who has known me for long, you know that I have always been this way.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I am also loud in my sadness. I think if it were still culturally acceptable and meaningful, I would walk around in sackcloth and ashes during my down times, because I feel loss deeply and fully. Even in every day life, I cry easily. I feel the weight of the world when I read the news. I weep for my friends and for myself when enduring hardship. I lose my temper with my kids. I combat exhaustion and loneliness which seem to be commensurate with this season with little ones.

Overall, there is a balance of happy and sad seasons in my life. I typically don’t find the sad times to be debilitating, and I still function normally and relatively responsibly during the glad ones.

I have often felt, however, that I can be a lot to handle or that people don’t know what to do with me. This may not even be a true statement, but I do feel the weight of that fear. As a reality, it may not ring true, but as a feeling, it is my experience.

My emotions are deep and full, and so are my opinions. There was a season of life when I tried to hush and quell some of these more extreme sides of my personality. I tried to be neat and more perfect. I tried to be more demure, more pleasing, and less trouble. Because sometimes that over-the-top person was kind of inconvenient. Crying at the drop of a hat can be such a pain and so embarrassing. Running happily and care-free through life can lead to misunderstandings with loved ones.

Over a year ago, I turned 30. I look around today and marvel that I have three kids chock full of my passion and qualities, good and bad. Thankfully, I married a man who loves the large nature of my personality. He loves me even when he doesn’t understand me, and he has loved and encouraged me well through a lot of self doubt and struggle. Much of the same can be said for other beloved friends and family in my life. They know my imperfections, yet they don’t seem to mind.

Blogging has been hard lately, you guys. I’ve started some entries. I’ve gotten stuck. I’ve been plagued with a fair amount of self doubt and questioning. Today was the day I decided to share some of these feelings.

Most of all, I’ve reached a point in life where I feel I’m returning to a truer, if perhaps more intense, version of myself. And the journey is itchy and hard and and imperfect, but the sacred and secular are colliding here in a big way. I am by no means complete. Some days I don’t know which end is up. I’m reading and praying and searching and processing. I am failing daily and trying again, running wild and happy and free one day and feeling insecure the next. But I do rest securely in the knowledge that the God of the universe did not err when he created even me: that loud, passionate, big, and imperfect human named Sarah. He calls me child. He calls me beloved, cherished, and redeemed. And, my friends, that is enough for me today. That unshakeable identity is enough for every day of my life. May I suggest that this identity is enough for each of us, each and every day? And may He continue to work those blessed truths down into the soil of my tender heart, that I would never doubt how absolutely loved and accepted I am in His sight.

Thanks for reading. May the secular and the sacred continue to collide in beautiful and unexpected ways for all of us, every single day.

indifference no more

I saw an article on Facebook entitled, “Muslims stung by indifference to their losses in terror attacks.”


It is wrong that our actions, or lack thereof, have caused these brothers and sisters feel so unloved and so disregarded by the world in the midst of such horrendous losses. It is unconscionable. These acts are evil. We do see you, Istanbul, Bangladesh, and Baghdad. We are imperfect, but we do see you. We stand with you against terrorism in all forms.

Based on my observations of my thoughtful and deeply feeling friends, I don’t think it’s necessarily or solely a racial or religiously charged indifference to our Muslim brothers and sisters. I think sometimes we just don’t know where to begin or how to find strength to feel more pain. Over the last several months, there have been terror attacks in Paris, Brussels, Orlando, Istanbul, Bangladesh, Baghdad, and more. We are still licking very recent wounds from Orlando’s Pulse shooting, and I think a lot of our emotional reserves are running dry.

Even over the few days that I have been formulating this post, every SINGLE day I am waking up to some other horrific news story. In less than a week, we have seen the apparently senseless shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. You guys! Black lives do matter. And just today, news out of Dallas of police officers shot, 5 fatally, in Dallas. This is not the answer! We rightly mourn for a broken justice system where guilty go free, as well as a political arena that leaves us disillusioned and angry. Honestly, I’m just one insignificant person, weeping because of all the gay lives, straight lives, white lives, black lives, Muslim lives, Christian lives, unborn lives, and everyone in between, being killed every single day. Words fail me.

There are too many horrific reports to feel broken about, and the worst part is that there are no tangible, quick, effective solutions. When will enough be enough? What kind of world will my children be forced to navigate? In a time when we will be tempted to retreat to our ideological corners, we need to dig deeper and choose love, whatever that looks like. We need to love in a way that is hard– loving those on all ends of ALL spectrums, loving freely and leaving judgment in God’s hands alone.

This blog is about the sacred and secular colliding in my life. A lot of those things have happened TO me, as they often do, when God poured grace into various situations and allowed me to see how He was working. But what if He is calling me to be a bit more active? What if He is calling me to not only experience the sacred and secular crashing together, but also to be brave enough to cause those glorious collisions to happen as often as I possibly can? So I am on a quest to ascertain what it would look like to become a sacred-secular-collision-causer. I do not have the answers, but I’m striving to figure out how I can be faithful to this calling:

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

in the wake of Orlando

Oh, Orlando.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t 100% sure how to talk about this painful tragedy, especially in the social media space where words can be so misconstrued and people can be judged or hurt so easily. Social media is a breeding ground for anger these days. I am still not certain, and I’ll be honest that writing what is in my heart makes me nervous. However, I am certain that I cannot choose silence. The silence is making me hurt. It occurs to me that my silence might also be hurting others. When I look around and feel like many people have just returned to life as usual, it makes me tremble. 49 people were ruthlessly killed. Many more injured. A city has been shaken. Families are broken. The LGBT community, in particular, is grieving and scared and hurting. Silence just doesn’t feel like an option for me.

In relation to our country as a whole, it is my belief that we must collectively resist the temptation to dig in our heels and treat other people as our enemies, even if we have never been on the same side of an issue until now. The most obvious example, perhaps, is my opinion that we must find some common ground and make positive steps in the area of gun control. We have to be humble enough to listen, learn, and work together for the good of our loved ones. Because these attacks keep happening- in schools, in places of worship, in dance halls, in work places. This one was perpetrated by someone claiming allegiance to ISIS, others have been perpetrated by mentally disturbed individuals, and the list goes on to a depressing length. Are all of the attacks preventable? Of course not. Evil people will find ways to perpetrate evil. But if we can make key changes that save even a small handful of lives, as many other countries have had success in doing, shouldn’t we try? This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are, of course, other positive changes we could make if we chose to stand in humility and love for each other.

It seems right, in addition to reaching out and honoring the victims by seeking change, to also take a hard look within to see where I personally might need to change. This may actually be the more difficult thing to change, and perhaps the more important one. I do not have easy answers. Wrestling with pertinent issues– like gun control, faith and sexuality, and Christian engagement in our culture– feels like a good place to start. The sacred and the secular have had a veritable war waging within me this week. Admitting that I do not know everything is a great and true place to start. Confessing that it is possible for me to be wrong? Also a wonderfully freeing foundation for conversation and growth.

I urge my fellow strugglers, my fellow wrestlers, to resist the temptation to dismiss opposite opinions too quickly. And let us not just let this horrific tragedy slip by and leave us unchanged. May we all choose to be like Jesus in the midst of every conversation, heeding this call: “everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

Here are some bits from moving pieces I have read which have helped me to begin processing.

From a dear friend’s blog: “This is the battle we fight in our hearts and minds. Face-to-face with violence, feeling helpless, defeated, alone. But this is not the time to shake our heads and move on. This is a time to look up, to stand together, to do something.”

In the Face of Violence

A speech that really got me thinking: “How did you feel when you heard that 49 people had been gunned down by a self-proclaimed terrorist? That’s the easy question. Here is the hard one: Did that feeling change when you found out the shooting was at a gay bar at 2 am in the morning? If that feeling changed, then we are doing something wrong.”

Utah Lt. Gov. Says ‘My Heart Has Changed’ After Orlando Shooting

From an author who always has me laughing and crying and thinking in the same 2 minutes: “Much of the Bible is confusing, but the most important parts aren’t. Sometimes I wonder if folks keep arguing about the confusing parts so they don’t have to get started doing the simple parts.”

A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On

Some months ago I read Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. Although some of my conclusions have (thus far) not aligned with hers, I could and can relate to so very much of what she expressed in her struggles with the church today. Thinking, processing, and allowing for change are all important to a vibrant and true faith. As she puts it, “I am writing because sometimes we are closer to the truth in our vulnerability than in our safe certainties.”

May our hearts not become hardened. May God graciously continue to mold and make us in His image, the image of a God who “showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8

Peace and grace to you, especially my brothers and sisters who are still grieving and hurting today. I hope that my imperfect words can at least express that my heart is with you in the trenches.

birthday thoughts

Since I am turning 31 tomorrow, I decided to make a list of 31 things that it took me just about this long to learn (or admit) about myself. As I consider all I have been given, my heart bursts with gratitude and the desire to be a blessing to others. May the next 31 years be just as full and fun and crazy and ridiculous, and may it all amount to something beautiful for the Lord.


So here are 31 observations I would like to share, some Clearly more significant than others:


1. All is grace. My whole life is grace. Every gift, every good experience, every person I love. It is all given freely by a gracious God who loves me.

2. I like to sleep. A lot. This was the single hardest adjustment to motherhood.

3. I love a lot of people. They say you usually have either a few deep friends, or you have lot of shallow ones. I have a lot of deep friends because that’s just how I roll.

4. I have always loved music because it runs in my blood. Now, I also adore theater.

5. I didn’t learn to love reading until I was 30. Now I feel like I have to make up for lost time, and I’m on book 17 since October of 2015.

6. As a general rule, I don’t carry a lot of shame, but this year I found a few areas where my soul was in need of shame resilience. Brene Brown’s book has been very helpful for this journey!

7. This year I gave up dieting. Boy, has this been a game changer. Probably more blogs to come, but a book entitled Intuitive Eating has opened my eyes to an entirely different, healthier-for-me way of viewing food. I’m still at the beginning of my journey, but I’m not going back to my old self.

8. I hate the smell of wet Cheerios. Barf.

9. My favorite type of book to read is a memoir.

10. I adore flowers, but I have a hard time keeping things alive in my yard. My poor neighbors.

11. I can’t watch scary movies, just no, and I get seriously emotionally invested in anything I watch. Tearful endings are the norm for any genre of movie, but the truth is I typically only like a movie that has a happy ending. Even then I cry.

12. Going to the dentist makes me very uncomfortable and anxious.

13. I do not like most breakfast foods for breakfast. Give me pancakes for dinner or BACON any time of day (and on anything), but first thing in the morning I would rather have a Luna bar or dinner leftovers. Also, egg whites usually make me sick.

14. Sometimes I question my mothering skills. Other times I look at my one of them and think, “oh my word, I actually know what to do right now.” Those moments are rare and fleeting, but I’m taking the victory.

15. The older I get, the more I crave hot weather. I understand more and more why retirees move south.

16. I like change.

17. When I was in high school, I figured that I would go into some kind of professional church ministry. I just didn’t realize then that my job and my ministry would be motherhood. I am so happy with my chosen “profession” and am grateful to have even had the choice.

18. I still shake or get very nervous almost every time I sing in front of anyone. Singing for another human can be extremely vulnerable.

19. I crave adventure and travel.

20. My life is a relatively open book. Clearly.

21. I do not think I actually have a favorite color. If pressed I think it might be royal blue.

22. It took until I was thirty, but now I am more comfortable with silence and alone time. Perhaps it’s just that I’m in a season where it’s rare, but this avowed extrovert enjoys some solo recharging time these days.

23. I am not that great at keeping up with relationships long-distance. I try to check in with friends often, but sometimes it leaves me feeling depleted and spread thin. I wish I had a better system for this because there are so many beloved friends spread far and wide.

24. Mosquitos like to bite me. I tell myself it’s because I’m sweet.

25. I like work out classes like Zumba, but sometimes I can’t handle the interaction and pressure, so I choose solo activities. I guess this goes back to me liking change.

26. I love to plan and make schedules, only to change plans and throw out schedules. This drives my loved ones crazy. I like to think of it as part of my winsome charm.

27. There are things I am fairly certain I would never do… like sky dive, bungee jump, hike mount Everest.

28. There are things I might like to attempt: get good at yoga, backpack with my family, find a tattoo I could commit to, and find real recipes my whole family will eat (this is a fantasy I know).

29. I’m secretly glad that I am not a perfect mother. I know I should be sorrier for my mistakes, but the truth is I think it’s more of a gospel lesson for my kids to see me repeatedly need forgiveness. Because that’s life.

30. The smell of my lilac bush in my yard makes me giddy.

31. Getting older doesn’t make me sad. Birthdays are just another reason to have parties with people I love!


Thanks for reading, momma… I am assuming I wrote this mostly for you. But as you’re the one who gave me life just about 31 years ago, this seems appropriate. I love you!


And for anyone else who read it, I love you too! I have lots of love to go around. Thanks for sharing my journey.

Love, Sarah

Follow Your Breath

I do yoga sometimes. I love it. Sometime late last fall, I decided yoga needed to be a part of my self care regimen, especially with the impending winter. I’m not really strong enough to do anything impressive in the yoga studio, but I do love it, so I go.

A younger, more rigid version of myself might have rejected yoga as new-agey and spiritually questionable. Because, well, I knew everything back then. The older I get, the less I seem to know, in some weird reversal of how the world should work. I will admit that it’s also more peaceful this way.

Anyway, I was processing my spiritual experience of yoga the other day, and I landed on a concept that I just loved. One thing the instructor says throughout the practice is that your breathing should always lead your movement, and not the other way around. “Follow your breath,” she says. As we stretch up in full salute or bend at the waist in full fold, our deep, steady breaths should be the driving force.  It is a mindful and intentional movement, slow and purposeful. When I really bring my whole self to my yoga mat and take the time to follow my breath, it is beautiful. It’s certainly different than the harried woman I find in myself during lots of my daily activities.

I think the rest of my life needs to be more like this kind of slow, purposeful, mindful, breath-inspired yoga movement. I need to take more time to slow down, be more aware, be more awake, and let my actions flow from somewhere within me. Too often my days are ruled by the tyranny of the urgent. There’s seemingly no time to be led by my breath or to ensure that my actions are coming from an authentic place within me. This mindless busy-ness seems like a haphazard way of doing life.

Lately I’ve been a good deal more introspective than usual. I’ve been reading a fabulous book by Brene Brown and doing some good, healthy soul-searching. My extroverted self is not so prone to this type of quiet and somewhat difficult growth, and somehow I feel so grown up in the midst of it all. And I like it.

More specifically, as a Christian, I think this breath concept from yoga is giving me a really wonderful picture of what it means that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (Romans 8:14) I have to admit that sometimes the role of the Holy Spirit in my daily life feels a little elusive. He’s sort of mysterious, I’ll admit.

Being led by the spirit is, I think, like being led by our breath in yoga. When we slow down and let our breath do the leading in yoga, it brings purpose and mindfulness to our movements. When we slow down and let the Spirit do the leading in our daily lives, we have more potential for moving through our day with purpose and grace. Instead of rushing from one task to another, I can breathe deeply and consider what God might have for me in that moment. Sometimes I might even feel drawn by Him to something specific- to call a friend, to ask for forgiveness, to notice His creation, or to simply slow down and enjoy something.

Today I’m taking longer, deeper breaths. I’m listening. I’m slowing down. And I’m letting my movement follow my breath, the Spirit, instead of haphazardly running from one activity to the next. And even though I might *know* a bit less as I age, I’m thoroughly enjoying the fact that strangely I’m learning more and more all the time.