Toward a Cruelty-Free Christian Kitchen

Beet salad with vinegar dressing over greens, finished pine nuts and raisins + vegan potato salad

Christian and Vegan aren’t two identifiers that tend to go hand-in-hand.

Most Christians I know are happy meat-eaters who will point to the passage in Acts 10 where God showed Peter all the unclean animals Jews used to avoid eating, and told him to “eat.” The point of this passage was to demonstrate Christian liberation from the legalism of the old Covenant. And it’s a frequently-cited passage by people who think that Christian veganism is just… well … weird.

Most Vegans I know aren’t Christian–especially if they’re vegan “for the animals,” as the phrase often goes. Because let’s be honest. St. Peter and PETA wouldn’t get along real well.

If it was good enough for St. Peter, then it should be good enough for me, right?

So how on earth did I become a Christian vegan?

Before we begin, it’s important for me to say that I affirm the Acts passage and recognize that it’s not inherently wrong to eat meat.

I believe we live in a fallen world that won’t be right or beautiful again until Christ returns. Death in all its forms–for both humans and animals–is a consequence of The Fall that can’t really be avoided.

I do my best not to judge people who choose to continue consuming animal products.

But… BUT…

I’ve had to stop and ask myself the question, “Just because death is unavoidable, does that mean I want to be responsible for more of it than necessary?”

“All things are permissible for me,” St. Paul wrote. “But not all things are beneficial.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)

For me, consuming animal products is not expedient any longer.

Here’s why.

First, I received a command from God to go vegan at a certain point in my life.

I had already been on a long journey with the Holy Spirit to clean up my temple and treat it properly so that I could hear Him better. When a friend challenged me to a Daniel Fast it transformed my life, and I really felt the desire to continue that commitment by remaining vegan after the fast.

Not everyone can claim God told them to go vegan. And I wouldn’t expect them to. But I have to admit, it’s done a lot for my spiritual life.

Not only has it cleaned a lot of toxins out of my system that (I believe) were blocking spiritual receptivity, but it forces me to be more disciplined about my food choices. And that’s always a healthy thing for my spiritual life.

Around that same time, I was also told to shave my head, let go of makeup and stop wearing a bra–both of which (along with going vegan) really were outward signs of my commitment to following God, and to finding my worth and beauty only in Him.

All of this radically changed my life–and I recommend that any Christian woman make these four commitments for a defined period of time at least once in their lives.

Your relationship with your hair, your makeup, your female body parts and your eating are likely some of the most wounded parts of your feminine self.

God in His infinite wisdom raised all this for healing.

In the other areas, I was led to return to “normal” living. But for some reason, veganism stuck. Perhaps for Reason #2.

Second, veganism is a beautiful, tangible way of expressing your longing for the Kingdom of God on earth.

It says in Revelation that one day there will be no more sorrow, no more death, and that even the lion will one day lie down with the lamb in harmony.

I long for this day. And my eating habits are one way I can show my deep desire for that restoration of the harmony once found in the Garden of Eden. Every time I sit down to a plant-based meal–especially if I’m in the company of meat eaters–I’m reminded of what I’m hoping for.

Basically, you’re all going to be vegan one day, yo. May as well get a jumpstart.

It might sound strange at first. But this principle has actually promoted a lot of joy for me in this life choice.

Every time I enjoy a satisfying meal that didn’t involve cruelty toward any creature–including removing the mother’s young or depriving her of bodily fluids (ie: milk) intended to nurture her young–I tell God how excited I am to inhabit that future Kingdom where the world really will be the way He intended it.

Third, there are just a lot of health benefits.

Can a vegan diet be imbalanced? Yes. Do vegans have to be careful about certain nutrients and supplements to ensure they’re getting everything they need? Yes.

But if we’re committed to eating healthy while we’re eating vegan, we’re not over-consuming fats and proteins. (Yes, protein really is the most overrated thing people talk about when they object to veganism.)

I firmly believe that all flesh carries life energy, and when we’re eating dead flesh, we’re consuming all the terror, sorrow and pain that went into the final moments of the creature’s life before their flesh was taken.

How healthy can it really be to have that junk in my body?

Leonardo da Vinci expressed it well when he said, “My body will not be a tomb for other creatures.”

All things are permissible, yes. But not all things are beneficial.

Fourth, veganism has inspired me to have all kinds of adventures with food.

I buy vegetables now I never would have before. I’ve learned all about sprouted grains. I’m constantly expanding my smoothie repertoire.

Since becoming vegan, I’ve actually enjoyed all kinds of amazing foods I would never have found had I remained in the animal-eating camp.

As an adventurer at heart, I will always choose the route of curiosity and discovery!

There’s much more I could say about veganism, but I hope this whets your appetite (pun intended). Over time, I’ll be sharing recipes, tips and insights on running a cruelty-free kitchen.

Come along with me on this exciting journey.

My Overpriced Coffee Date with a Dead Renaissance Scholar (AKA: Just Another Day in Basel, Switzerland)

I was one of those weird children who was obsessed things no one else bothers to know ever even existed. 

By the time I was in high school, I knew more about dead medieval scholars than most adults twice my age. And I had a bit of a literary crush who was, shall we say, twice rendered unavailable:  

First, he had been dead almost five hundred years by the time I was born.  

And second, even had he managed to beat Ponce de Leon to the Fountian of Youth, he was a dedicated monk of the Catholic Church.  

Yeah, talk about love from a distance. 

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Desiderius Erasmus was born in Rotterdam, Holland, in 1469. But he managed to expire all the way over in Switzerland in 1536. Which means he lay at rest just a few hours’ bus ride south from me when I was staying in Karlsruhe, Germany, on the French and Swiss borders at New Year 2018.  

You might not be familiar with the name Erasmus. He was a great humanist and scholar of the Northern Renaissance, which doesn’t get quite as much press as its Southern counterpart in Italy. I guess the Italian were just flashier. Or better at 16th century marketing? Either way, when we think “Renaissance” we think Da Vinci and friends, not Erasmus.  

To be a “humanist” in Erasmus’ day was not necessarily to believe man is the center of the world, as is often claimed today. Back then, being a humanist meant being interested in the humanities—comprising subjects like languages, literatures, and philosophies.  He was also outspoken in his beliefs that the Catholic Church definitely needed reform. And although he did not feel kindly toward the Protestant Reformation or the Anabaptists—the spiritual lineage in which I was brought up almost five hundred years later—his work did indeed inform it. 

Especially a little book called In Praise of Folly, which criticized the abuses of the Catholic Church through sharp and witty satire. 

That’s where I got on the Erasmus train. Somehow, at age 16, I got ahold of Erasmus’s In Praise of Folly and read it. And loved it. It was amazing to laugh behind my hands at the sardonic humor of someone who had lived so many centuries before me. That book made an impact on me.  

You might say Erasmus and I, well, had a moment.  

We bonded.  

And so it happened that on a damp, cold winter’s day in early January 2018, I decided to renew that bond, though it had been many years now since Erasmus and I had our moment.

Somehow I found out that though Dutch by birth, Erasmus had chanced to expire in Basel, Switzerland, which was south of my current location in Karlsruhe, Germany. So right after the new year I boarded FlixBus—that beloved cheap transportation of college students all over Europe—and took the three-hour ride south in search of his grave. 

I fell in love with Basel at first sight. Sure, early January wasn’t the most flattering time to visit this city, through which the Rhine river continues to wind after exiting Catholic southern Germany. But still there was something charming about brightly-colored houses all shuttered up against the cold. And the warmth of the light streaming from the open shops made all the difference. 

Every shop window felt like a welcoming pair of arms ready to enfold me in a warm embrace.

The price of goods was less welcoming, I have to admit. When I arrived at the train station (where the bus debarked), I desperately needed a cup of coffee and a doughnut. But the privilege of such a small treat, which would have cost just a couple euros back in Germany, cost more than the equivalent of USD $10 in Swiss Francs.  

Well, for a girl traveling on a budget that was like my biggest expenditure in at least a week other than groceries. But I bit the bullet and enjoyed every minute of it.  

At least I can say I had a snack in one of the world’s most expensive cities.  

On my way to the Basel cathedral to pay my respects to Erasmus, I got sidetracked by the Basel Town Hall. This marvel of Swiss architecture boasted a riot of color and design more intense than anything I had seen outside of my travels in Nepal.

It almost didn’t look European, it was so … undignified. And yet the sight of it delighted me. A feast for the eyes. And proof once again that you never know what sort of surprises you’ll encounter. 

I took time to wander all around the enclosed inner courtyard, where scenes of justice from Swiss history played out in colorful murals and frescoes. The Christmas tree was a nice touch, too. 

Well, all this took some time—and then I remembered why I had actually come: to pay respects to my childhood literary crush, who was (supposedly) lying at rest beneath the floor of Basel Cathedral.

Leaving the city center, I wound my way out toward the bluffs above the Rhine River. At some points the path was so steep I wasn’t quite sure I could climb the rain-slackened cobblestones in my low-tread boots. But I managed to make it up.  

Finally, around 1 o’clock in the afternoon, I sighted my destination: the amazing Basel Cathedral. (Also known as Basel Minster.) It turns out this remarkable building is also the resting place of quite a few other notable medieval people—mostly patrons who gave for the cathedral’s construction.

Fun fact: The structure itself took almost 500 years to build, with a *minor setback* in the 1300s when the structure was almost completely leveled by an earthquake. Can you imagine building something which you never get to see completed in your lifetime?

Coming from such an instant-gratification age, I am not sure how anyone back then had the patience for these multi-century construction projects.  

The inside of Basel Minster was just as awe-inspiring as the outside. It was as if I could  feel those generations of laborers, toiling in summer heat and winter’s chill, their murmurs punctuated by the chink chink of chisels and the moan of the pulleys as each stone block was pulled up and set into place. Everywhere in Europe the old church walls resonate with all the lives lived inside them. Even, of course, as modern church attendance continues to dwindle in all these countries. 

The sanctuary of Basel Minster was so huge, it took me almost an hour (or more than an hour?) to wind my way through it, squinting at the gravestones. The diffuse dimness of afternoon clouds, pregnant with rain, was the only real light in the place.   

And there were so many gravestones. So, so many.  

Yet none of them seemed to be Erasmus. 

For more than an hour I searched for my literary beloved, but to no avail. I wondered if I had misread about his burial in Basel Cathedral—or if perhaps the author of the article had been misinformed as well. Plus the clock was ticking. My FlixBus home to Karlsruhe would be leaving in about two hours. And I still had to walk back through the old town all the way to the train station. 

Finally, I chanced to find a map of all the graves. Turns out dear Erasmus was hiding behind a pillar—in a not-so-fancy grave as many of the others, like the one in the photo above! 

I back-tracked to a modest side-sanctuary set off a bit from the grandeur of the main nave. And sure enough, that’s where I found him.  

Eighteen years after I first “met” Erasmus in the pages of Moriae Ecomium, we finally met face-to-face, 5000 miles away. Talk about a long-distance romance! 

That winter I spent in Europe was one of the roughest of my life: full of uncertainty, lack of direction and a lot of grief. But there were up moments. Like that day in Basel, Switzerland, where I found my dear Erasmus at last.

Books matter. Even when centuries pass from the time they were written. Standing there in Basel Minster, I felt like not a single year had passed at all, and that Erasmus and I were just old friends who had catching up to do.

I caught up with him, for once. And I’m glad I did. Though another five hundred years may pass before we see each other again …

What to Do When Your Creative Muse Goes AWOL

I wish my muse was better behaved. I really do. But like me, she’s a free spirit—and sometimes she takes the day off without letting me know. 

In the past, if I’m honest, she’s taken more than a day or two. Once, she even took off a whole decade. (That’s another story for another day…) But even when my Muse IS on the job, the “fits of genius” come sporadically at best. So much of the time, showing up for my art or my passion project feels like plain old work.  

What’s a creative woman to do when her deepest creative self seems to run on fumes … and she really just wants to get back in the FLOW?

First, don’t panic. 

Everyone experiences dry spells. It could even be that you are coming back to your creativity after a long dry season, or a busy season serving others, and you wonder if it’s even possible to muster up that mojo again. 

I’ve been in both scenarios, and I can say for sure that it IS indeed possible to get that mojo back. But not by trying so so so hard to make it all happen. 

I like to think about creativity like a small child, or a small animal. She only comes out when she truly feels safe. 

Rush your Muse, pressure her, or make demands—and she’ll likely run the other direction. But if you can create a relaxed, fun environment that invites her to come close without forcing it, you might be surprised how fast the ideas spring up again. 

So perhaps the best advice I can give you is to …

Relax. 

Yes, I know, woman of action: that might not come easily to you. It seems more valuable to just keep piling on the action, trying to get more done, putting yourself under and even bigger load. But the more you sweat and strive, the less far you’ll actually get. 

So put on some music that makes you feel happy. 

Take that overdue bubble bath. 

Have a glass of wine or herbal tea.

Take a hike or do some serious yoga. 

Indulge in the nap you’re craving. 

Have dinner with a friend who makes you laugh. 

Finger paint with your kids for awhile. 

Or maybe … just maybe … pull the covers over your head and try again tomorrow. 

Doing this once or twice isn’t going to change everything, either. You’re going to have to make a new habit of just … having fun. 

Because the more you allow yourself to feel pleasure and joy, the more the ideas will flow.

By releasing the “pressure valve” on your inner need to perform, you will actually create space for your muse to whisper in your ear—and actually be heard. 

All of this, though, points to something much deeper than finding the last lyric for that song or the right color for the last stroke of that painting. 

It’s about learning how to fully and deeply open up to what is happening in the present moment. 

Perhaps what your Muse needs more than anything else is simply for you to accept that feeling “blocked” is where you are right now. 

This iS what is. And it is okay. 

You don’t have to have the idea right now. It can take a little more time to make itself clear. 

Sometimes the best way to get the answer is simply to release the pressure of needing to have it. 

Because after all, your Muse has a mind of her own. Let her be who she is, and you might be surprised what she gives you in return. 

Your creativity may feel AWOL right now. But maybe it’s just around the corner, waiting for you to breathe deeply, loosen your shoulders and dance. 

In the middle of the dance, you’ll know what to do. 

 

 

Weightless Warrior: On Fencing Well at 30,000 Feet

NOTE: The following is a featured post from 2016 which first appeared on my former creative blog, Scrappy Storyteller. I’m sharing this as a way of embracing my past creative self and sharing ideas she had that, well, still matter today. Enjoy!


“Be fully present. Feel your heart. And engage the next moment without an agenda.” – Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: With Uncertainty and Change

I’ve always considered myself an armchair fencer.

My well-loved collection of fencing manuals attest to my ongoing interest in martial history. Then there’s my multi-year, still-unfulfilled intention to take an actual historical fencing class. At least, this year I started yoga again, so I can at least get back in shape for this new level of martial commitment.

One might say my interest in fencing to date has been mostly intellectual. After all, reading a manual does not make one an actual fencer. Book knowledge alone will not win a bout. Nor does intending to take a class replace for actually taking one.

Until now, I’ve been okay with that.

Let’s face it: the armchair version of combat is pretty safe. The armchair is grounded on terra firma. My backside is flat on that seat. The stakes are low, the danger nonexistent. While it’s quite entertaining to speculate how I might parry a blow or wrestle an opponent to the ground, I do not really have to do these things.

I do not actually have to dance with Death.

In fencing, there’s a fine line between fighting and dancing. An even finer line between dancing and falling flat on your face (with a sword in your back). As long as I’m tied to the armchair, I don’t have to risk much of anything. 

It’s combat, without the very thing that makes combat so exhilarating: risk. 

Recently, I’ve realized that my approach to fencing is rather indicative of my general approach to life.

While some might call me a risk-taker, and I do have a history of unconventional choices, I know deep down that I manage my level of risk pretty heavily. I only take on projects I feel have a decent chance of succeeding, according to whatever standard I’ve set up. I don’t step out very often without a lot of pre-consideration. And whatever else I do, I make sure I’ve got good old terra firma underneath my feet. 

But that was before I read Pema Chödrön’s disarmingly bold little book Living Beautifully: With Uncertainty and Change. Chodron recasts the traditional Buddhist Three Commitments—known as the Warrior Tradition—for a modern audience.

In practical terms, she argues that uncertainty is actually the only certainty in human existence. The suffering we experience is tied to our resistance to that uncertainty, not to the uncertainty itself. She renames uncertainty as groundlessness, and invites us to welcome this sense of constant shift as a welcome sign we are truly alive.

 Tallhoffer’s fechbuch is one of my favorites. Don’t these two chaps look like they’re fighting in a groundless space?

“Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet,” Chödrön writes, “to realize our dream of constant okayness . . .”

I love this mental picture of groundlessness. For me in my current stage of life, groundless often feels not just like shifting ground, but like no ground at all. When things are uncertain in my life, I feel like I’m a fencer levitating en garde at 30,000 feet. All I can feel, see and sense is the sheer lack of anything between me and the pinprick landscape below.

This, Chodron says, is exactly how things should be. And exactly how we resist them being.

She goes on to argue that groundlessness is our best training for the Warrior Tradition: the place where we really learn to live with courage, radical openness to all beings, and love that always says, “yes” to what life sends our way. In other words, for those fencing-inclined among us who are series about enlightenment, groundlessness is the perfect place to fight.

But what the heck does it really mean to fight well at 30,000 feet?

I don’t have a manual for that in my collection.

While I’m no guru on the subject, I have a few theories. To me, under these circumstances, fighting well means learning to walk on air and love the feeling. It means living each day as if you’re dancing through the clouds, knowing every lunge or pivot could break the nothingness you balance on and send you plunging to your death. 

To me, fighting well at 30,00 feet means parrying with your own mortality—and enjoy the thrill.

We can choose to see this as terrifying, or we (like Kate Winslet in Titanic) can spread our arms wide and welcome the wind.

“If we can get in touch with the sensation as sensation and open ourselves to it without labeling it good or bad,” Chodron writes, “then even when we feel the urge to draw back, we can stay present and move forward into the feeling.”

The remedy, in other words, is to stop resisting the discomfort of life at 30,000 feet. To stop looking down, and to start sitting with our anxiety, erasing the thousand storylines our brain wants to concoct about why it is “good” and “bad,” in that moment. 

The remedy, then, is to simply be.

Like warriors, we must train ourselves to fight well in any circumstances. Instead of running from the pain of uncertainty, we actually advance into those wispy clouds, blades lifted confidently, feeling the fact that we have absolutely no ground under our feet, delighting in it, and moving forward anyway.

The problem, then, is never our anxiety about uncertainty. It’s the fact that we think there’s something wrong with anxiety.

“But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it,”Chödrön says, “when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature . . .”

She promises a sense of rest and peace, of exhilaration even, that come with cultivating this practice of acceptance.

All this sounds wonderful enough between the pages of a book, of course. But what happens when life throws you a few curveballs, as it did to me just days long after I determined to start practicing my 30K-foot fencing skills? 

I can’t say as I was thrilled to see huge challenges loom up in my face. But I was not surprised, either. This sort of thing always happens after you decide to try on a new way of being. Some of the challenges, predictably, were tied to recent life situations that are still very painful for me.

 Yes, occasionally women did get in on the fencing action in late medieval society.

In that space, huge old fears loom large despite one’s own best efforts. It’s far easier to panic than keep a clear head.

But this time, instead of resisting the panic twisting in my chest, I decided to dance with it. I shut my eyes for 90 seconds and just sat with the feelings in compassion. No judgement. No sweeping it under the emotional rug. No suppressing it. (Which, by the way, only makes the panic worse.) 

I erased my mind of stories about whether these events were good, or bad, or anything at all, and just felt the sensation of groundlessness moving through my body.

And that’s exactly what it did: move through.

To my surprise, each time the panic evaporated, after about 90 seconds of focused concentration, I was able to release it completely and feel calm again. Occasionally, I was even able to get to what Chödrön calls “blue sky”—the place where you can see beyond fear-based storylines completely to consider how the anxiety-inducing event might actually open up new horizons.

Most of all, I felt a curious tickling in my chest: an urge to throw back my head and laugh out loud in sheer joy at the insanity of it all. After all, if you’re going to dance with chaos, you’ve got be able to laugh. 

When I did manage to truly laugh out loud, I felt a rush of freedom and a sense of exhilaration I don’t think I’ve ever felt in my life. I flung open my arms and said, “Bring me whatcha got, world. Bring me the biggest brand of crazy you have. ’Cause this time, we’re going to dance.”

I cannot remember the last time I genuinely laughed in the face of my own uncertainty and pain. Not a laugh of derision, spite or anger . . . but a true laugh of joy that this beautiful, crazy groundlessness means I am no longer asleep. 

I am fully awake now. And to be awake, to me, means so much more than to be “not asleep.” It means to be alive.

In those precious moments, I knew everything would be okay. Because to laugh with joy, and welcome with open arms,the opponent you fear most, nothing to stand on, is the truest form of fighting well. It also the path to freedom.

At 30,000 feet, there may not be much ground. There’s no armchair to keep me safe, and we’re fencing on a landscape of clouds.

It’s all blue sky up here.

Embracing Traditional Femininity in an Alpha Female World

I’m surprised how frequently people refer to me as an “alpha female,” or try to lump me in that category.

Usually, I think it’s meant as a compliment–a recognition that I have leadership qualities and am not afraid to step into roles of authority.

I try to receive the compliment for its intention. But really, as a woman who has invested so much time reconnecting with her innate feminine energy and living within it, the broader meaning of the term bothers me.

Like, a lot.

As I understand it, the term “alpha female” connotes a woman who recognizes and cultivates her power and leadership potential. When it comes to their femininity, alpha woman make all of their choices of how to present their femininity (consciously or subconsciously) based on which self-presentation will extend their power.

In one sense, this is true of me, and I do appreciate the recognition. I believe that femininity is a tremendous form of power God intended women to have, and these days, I like to flaunt my femininity.

But if we’re being honest, I don’t think that’s what many of the women I know mean by “alpha female.”

My observation has been that many gifted, go-getting, big-dreaming women I have known (including myself at times) spend considerable amounts of time de-feminizing ourselves, even in subtle ways, in order to gain more power. A choice which suggests we subconsciously don’t believe femininity is powerful at all.

‘Alpha Female’ is often used as a rationale to excuse competitive, hard-driving, deadline-driven behavior that encourages us as women to stuff down emotions, employ “commanding” male behaviors and even dress like men in the workplace. It may not always be used this way, but in my experience it often is. And when ‘alpha female’ is code for “being feminine is no way to gain respect” …. then no, I’m not on board with it at all.

Especially when it is used as an excuse for a woman to take on the masculine role in the home, for a husband she perceives as “too weak” to do his job … then I’m most definitely, most inexorably not on board. Because as I learned through my own marriage mistakes and my divorce, no wounded marriage will ever heal while one spouse is trying to do the other’s job.

Do I sound like a throw-back from a 1950s edition of Good Housekeeping, or some Victorian magazine like Harper’s Bazaar, with flowery language and sentimental sketches?

Perhaps.

The “me” of ten years ago would have definitely thought so.

Back then, I was an alpha woman according to both definitions above, although perhaps never brazen enough to let her full inner hard-driving “man” come out. I kept an exhausting schedule, did 1000% more than necessary at work, wore cuff links and pantsuits and most definitely made every decision from my analytic mind.

Ten years later, I still believe in women’s achievement. I still believe in attaining high positions and making a huge public impact on the world. And I still believe that women are great strategists. But I don’t believe in doing any of this at the expense of my primal, innate feminine self. Because that’s exactly the place I was operating from back then.

Though I wouldn’t have said it out loud, ten years ago I believed deep down that being feminine was part of women’s problem, and that the only way to get past the inferiority I felt and saw among my kind was to behave like “the oppressor” … ie: men.

Today, I’ve come to understand that no one can cage you or subjugate you in your own soul … except you. Slavery begins in the mind. It is an accepted state that is perpetuated in the body when people believe they can’t have anything else.

My femininity will not be subjugated to the slavery of women’s subconscious belief that they cannot have what they want, on their terms, and receive it in a deeply FLOWing, natural, connective and feminine way.

But I could only come to this conclusion once I recognized how my femininity had been wounded–both by un-conscious men acting out their ancestors’ behavior and perpetuating generations of pain toward women, and by women who had decided that the way God intended us to be (nurturing, natural, loving, soft, beautiful, tender, community-oriented, sensual, kind, gentle) was the reason for men’s bad behavior, not the solution.

For years, I didn’t “feel like a woman.” I didn’t “do makeup” or get dressed up in feminine clothes. And whenever I went to a gathering of women at my church or in the community, I felt like an awkward interloper to all that feminine energy I could feel in the room. And didn’t quite know why.

I wore newsboy caps and corduroy jackets. I bought lace-up shoes. If you had looked at me on the street, you might have categorized me as a “lesbian” by some cultural stereotype–which might be someone else’s choice of identity, yes, but certainly wasn’t mine.

Really, deep inside, I was just a very wounded woman at odds with everything that womanhood represents traditionally … because I felt that womanhood itself was the reason my mother and many other women in my life had struggled at the hands of men.

Today, I embrace that struggling, hurting woman I was, and I am so grateful to have been liberated into the realization that when I embrace who God made me to be, He will naturally open doors for me to thrive and rise … without me needing to “get my alpha on.”

I still love to achieve. I still desire to hold positions of power and influence. I still have goals, and I know how to reach them. This is part of the reason people might casually (and accidentally) label me an “alpha female.”

But the difference is: today, I am much closer (more often, at least l!) to relaxing joyfully into the woman God made me to be, and trusting Him to naturally open doors so I can receive my advancement … without the fundamental orientation toward sweat, striving and struggle that defines a masculine (not feminine) way of being.

Since I let go of struggle, and let go of my need to strategize for power, things have been so much different. And better. I still have struggle days, but the struggle is not so much within me.

I’ve been free to embrace long dresses, big earrings and makeup–whether or not they “command respect” in my workplace. I dance when I feel like, love small animals and small babies, and freely indulge my enjoyment of pampering and self-care. I’ve become more connected and community-oriented, even in how I support my coworkers. I revel in being beautiful and sharing that beauty with others, both men and women.

I still have power and am called to leadership–but I see them as a compliment to, not a competition for, my role and identity as a feminine woman.

Ten years ago, I would have never believed I could be that woman. Mostly because I believe that it wasn’t safe to be her.

For me personally, that’s the fundamental concern I have with so much “alpha female” behavior: that it might be coming from a place of fear.

An orientation toward power may feel like strength–but is it possible that the people most obsessed with power might be the ones who secretly believe they can’t really have it?

It’s easier sometimes to identify with the struggle than to simply think, speak and behave as if you deserve what you want, exactly as you are.

I am a woman. God imbued me with unique powers in my feminine essence and energy. Any power or influence I require in the world, He will handle. Doors open now without me pushing them. People hand me what I need or desire without sweat or striving … because God does it for me.

Though I may stand on the fundamental right of the “alpha woman”–the right to power–I do so in a feminine way. And I’m committed to doing so in a way that allows men to lead, as well, in the ways God has destined them to.

Please don’t call me an alpha. Call me a woman. Honor my femininity.

Anything less is a denial of my true strength–and yours, as well

As The Moon Goes: Biorhythms in Creativity

Writer’s Note: This post is one of many I’m sharing from a blog I wrote several years ago called The Scrappy Storyteller. Though the blog is no longer live, I’m sharing select posts here, as a part of my quest to reconnect with and celebrate past iterations of my creative self. This post is also the 1st of 3 to explore natural planning and cycles in advance of the astrological New Year on March 21st.

Maybe in the rush of modern life, we’ve lost some vital knowledge about how to order our lives for maximum peace and productivity. It’s time to find our natural rhythm again.

Last week I wrote about the creative power of resting from our labors once in awhile.

Creative hibernation is a practice I plan to make every winter from here on out.

Hibernation, after all, is part of a kind of yearly cycle, and one toward which most of us have long lost our sensitivity. The modern pace of life (not to mention 24/7 luminescence through electric lighting) encourage us not to listen to our bodies or the natural cycles our ancestors followed for thousands of years.

Another of these prominent cycles is the lunar cycle.

It hit me recently that natural rhythms, especially the rhythm of the waxing/waning moon, probably have a lot of insight to share with us about how we work most effectively. Yet I’ve never heard anyone speak about this rhythm (or any rhythm, in fact) in terms of creative production. And I know very few people that actually plan their lives around them.

That’s about to change.

Recently I started researching the lunar calendar, specifically for how I can use it as a planning tool to bring my business and my art in harmony with them. Upon reflection, I have come to that believe these rhythms were set up by God for us to follow, for our own benefit. We learn so much else from nature. Why not this?

One of my early finds for taking this step was this lovely Moon Calendar for Entrepreneurs by Pink Elephant Academy:

This year, I started to plan my business activities (and now my art too) using this calendar. Then I made my own (as you can see above).

I’ve already noticed a difference.

Instead of running around willy-nilly, I plan at the time of the new moon and then unfold those plans day by day, ordering my activities by how “old”the moon is, which is roughly in harmony with the chart above. Some believe this practice has an astrological or magical power; I merely think it’s a smart way to live in greater harmony with God’s creative plan.

I have also found that my energy levels wax and wane in very similar fashion to the way they’re described on the guide above. This has helped me understand myself more and not get frustrated when my energy is ebbing.

For example, the New Moon was January 9/10, so I set rested and set my intentions around that time. This past week during the Waxing Crescent, I executed the plan: a robust series of actions that “launched”those intentions into their first stage.

Once the Full Moon hits, it will be time to tie up loose ends, wrap up projects and “reap the harvest” of what was planted, until planning and executing starts again.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of this new kind of scheduling is that it gives order to my month. (Kind of the point of having a rhythm anyway, right?) Instead of frenetically executing with little planning, I have a planned series of ups and downs, activities and rest.

It feels far less like pulling teeth. And a lot more, well, natural.

I suppose that’s why they call it “natural.”

The one challenge I have found is that my clients and friends don’t follow this cycle, so getting work scheduled during the right time of month is challenging. In the future I’ll probably stipulate that certain kinds of work happen at certain times, for best results, as part of the initial contract terms with new clients.

We’re not there yet, of course . . . but this is baby steps. Right?

By now you may be thinking I’ve gone totally off the “deep end.” But lest you think I am totally alone in this, I have heard more discussion rising recently around biodynamics and biorhythms. These rhythms and dynamics might involve something like the lunar cycle, which I’m currently using. They might involve something more personal: tracking one’s individual, unique physical, emotional and intellectual cycles over the passage of time.

Imagine knowing yourself at a much deeper level—being able to plan activities and gauge your own capacity for performance by wherever you are in your own established cycle!

Maybe we’d all have smarter expectations of ourselves.

Maybe we’d all be a little bit kinder to ourselves.

Maybe even a bit more successful.

As one writer notes:

“Much has been said recently about the importance of women’s leadership at this time and that the leaders of the future (whether male or female) will embody what we think of as “feminine” qualities.  In my view, a powerful fast track to embodying feminine leadership is working consciously with the rhythms of the moon.”
Liz Rivers

While I’m not yet convinced this is some kind of “fast track,” I am observing through my own experience that there is something to be said for the peace and progress it brings.

I’m excited to see where this new exploration takes me in the lunar cycles ahead.

In fact, I’m over the moon about it.

*  *  *

How about you?  Have you tried biorhythms or biodynamics
as a planning method for your life or creative work?
If so, what has been your experience?

Creative Flow #3

“EASTER—Just before the crack” / by Lisa England / watercolor 18 February 2019

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for a bird to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

God Is My ATM, No Matter How Offensive That Sounds

Double blessings over Tuscany, Sept 2017

I believe God wants us to have the things we are longing for—relationally, creatively and materially.

Let me say that again.

I believe God wants us to have the things we are longing for—relationally, creatively and materially.

If that sounds like I believe God is my ATM, ready to dole out relationships, artistic projects and cash when I need them …. no, you’re not crazy. And yes I do believe that.

I say “God is my ATM” frequently, and people have a visceral reaction to it. Many have told me they’re offended when I say that, because it implies God is some kind of genie ready to fulfill my desires.

I would have had that same reaction once upon a time … and today, I believe that response indicates more about the state of our hearts than the soundness of our theology.

So I’m gonna say it again:

God wants us to have the things we are longing for …. and He’s ready to send them, just like cash out of an ATM.

Before you click away, convinced I must have either lost my marbles, or decided to fashion God in my own image, hear me out. If the above statement is true, then the way we’re going about asking for what we want is not just wrong. It’s pushing us in the opposite direction of what we truly want.

Think about it. As a Christian woman, I used to approach my desires with a considerable amount of fear and suspicion. God might want me to have what I was asking for. He might not. I couched every prayer carefully to ensure I would demonstrate an openness both to receiving and not receiving, according to His will. I did my best to wrestle down my feelings of longing for the outcome I was seeking. In a sense, I tried my best to deny the desire.

Is it any wonder I rarely got what I was seeking … or wanting?

Because I wasn’t entirely convinced God wanted me to have what I desired, deep down, I would reluctantly enter into situations that didn’t reflect my desire or even drew me in the opposite direction. Surrender, I thought, demanded I be willing to do this.

If truth be told, I often ran straight into those situations as some kind of punishment, to keep me from desiring what I desired too much. Especially because it never seemed to come to fruition, no matter how hard I prayed. So God couldn’t possibly want it. Right?

I can’t count the number of times I heard preaching on Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (KJV) This teaching reinforced my doubt of the desires deep in my heart and made praying for them an experience that was one part blind hope, one part wishful thinking and one part pure anxiety.

Rarely did I hear anyone preach on Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Honestly, most of the theology I grew up with was far more focused on loss than receiving.

All that changed one day in July of 2016, when God spoke to me audibly for the first time in my life, launching my journey as a prophet. The first message He spoke to me was:

“You do not know how to receive love.”

I’ll write the details of that day some other day, but the general gist of the story is this. For the next three years, God began to show me how much He did want to give me. And that the desires of my heart—the deepest ones—weren’t purely selfish. He had put them there from the time I was a small girl. And He intended to fulfill them, if (and only if) I would come to a place where I truly opened myself to receiving them and allowed Him to give.

This was progress. Real progress. I saw new window of Heaven open and pour out things I’d desired for years (emotional healing, weight loss, more loving/connected friendships, my dream apartment, world travel, courage to speak my truth).

But the biggest things—a healthy, Kingdom-focused marriage; children; a wide audience of women in need of ministry; a large and gracious home to show hospitality and use as a base for ministry; financial overflow at the highest levels—still remained elusive.

I still prayed for them, and did so with a little more faith and a little less anxiety than before. But they persisted in remaining absent from my life. Which caused me to waver in my belief that these thins were God’s will.

Maybe it was His will to send me friends, apartments and trips to Europe … but God-fearing husbands and a passel of children belonged to a much higher category?

In reality, I realize now that what I had done was expand the limits of my allowed happiness and blessing enough that I could receive some of what I want. But receiving all of what I wanted would require me to expand those limits even further. And, I realize now, it would require me to actually believe God wanted to bless me with exactly wha I was asking for.

Does that statement strike fear in your heart the way it used to mine? Or at least make you uncomfortable enough that you’re tempted to squirm in your seat, or immediately register a comeback about how “God is not a genie in a bottle” or “He’s more interested in our happiness than our holiness”?

There’s something about the possibility of getting what we want that terrifies us.

The thought that God the good, good father who is excited to bless us with our sincerest, deep-down desires (which are not simply rooted in selfishness) is one of the most fear-inducing thoughts I know.

That little tickle of fear in your gut is the ceiling I’m talking about.

That’s doubt.

Today, I believe that we have not because we ask not—not really—because we’re asking in doubt. And a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Such a person cannot expect anything from God. (Matthew 6, James 1:5-8)

I was getting warmer at this point. I began praying with more faith. But I still wasn’t sure I could trust that God actually wanted to give me Everything I was asking for. My prayers still sounded more like cajoling, begging or passionate requests undercut with, “but if it’s not Your Will, then don’t give it to me.”

Thank God He’s merciful enough not to send fire from heaven down on such faithlessness.

He’s also merciful to send us the answers we seek.

Recently, I was enjoying a post on prayer that dropped into my inbox via the Elijah List newsletter, which shares prophetic words on a daily basis. This day was like any other, and I expected the newsletter to be like any other. But what I read actually stopped me in my tracks.

The prophet of the day, John Burton, shared how he had been asking God for many of his deepest desires—like a larger space for his church to meet and the ability to quit his job to focus on ministry. Yet those prayers went unanswered, until one day God interrupted the middle of his prayer session …. to tell him he was praying completely wrong, and ought to stop now!

According to Burton, God said to him, “You are praying as if I’m resisting you. Don’t you realize I put those desires in your heart? Why are you begging Me for a desire that I initiated? I gave you the desire in the first place!”

Wow.

Just … wow.

Burton was as shocked when he heard that, as I as reading it. Because it described my prayer life for years: I was praying to God as if He were inherently resistant to my requests …. which, deep down, revealed that ceiling or limit I mentioned earlier. On the one hand, I was willing to pray for what I wanted. But on the other hand, I truly didn’t believe He could possibly want to give me those things.

In Burton’s experience, God went on to tell him that the real person resisting his desires was Satan. And that if Burton wanted to experience breakthrough, He needed to break the demonic bonds holding back his blessings.

By praying in this way, Burton crossed the line from facing God as an adversary, to joining hands with him as team members in bringing these God-given desires to pass.

Within a month, his fledgling church of 35 people received $75,000 in checks in the offering. Burton quit his day job to focus on ministry—and the church moved into a 27,000 square-foot meeting space.

This story completely overhauled how I think about praying for my biggest desires. Because for years, I prayed as if God were my “enemy” (in a loose sense, though I wouldn’t have seen it that way) keeping me from having what I wanted.

Now I understand that Satan is the enemy. As long as I am begging God for what He already wants to give—instead of standing in authority against Satan and warring for the release of my blessing—nothing will change.

So does God want to give us our deepest heart’s desires? I 100% believe He does—and the parts of our lives that bring us the most grief are a direct reflection of moments when we chose what we thought we could get rather than warring for the blessing we really wanted.

I often say “God is my ATM,” and people get mad, or accuse me of treating God like He’s at my beck and call.

He’s certainly not my slave. Not at all. But I HAVE chosen to partner with Him in this walk of faith—and as He changes me into His image and deepens certain desires in my heart—even physical and material ones—I can only choose to believe that He intends to fulfill those.

Desire, my friends. Desire hard, and war for your blessing. Desire is not the problem; our lack of faith and Satan’s crafty schemes are the issue.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. But you’ve got to clear out the unbelief inside of you, make space to receive those blessings and war for them.

When you take God at His Word, He really is like an ATM. Not perhaps for your every whim, but for everything you desire deep down, everything holy thing your spirit craves and everything you need.

And yes, many times He really does want to send the things you desire. Things that really don’t exist other than just to delight you.

He’s good like. Really good. Take Him at His word–and confront your adversary the devil.

The contents of your spiritual bank account are far greater than you could ever draw upon in 100 lifetimes.