I didn’t plan on spending five or six weeks of my spring 2018 in the mountains of Colorado. Not that I’m complaining, mind you: spring in Colorado is gorgeous. Witnessings the transformation into spring is even more of a marvel. But it wasn’t on my plan. (Hello, that’s why I call myself a “recovering control freak.” Because sometimes the control thing still peeks out.
Anyway, when I arrived in Colorado it didn’t look much like spring at all. In fact as late as April 20th, winter was still in full effect. Consider this photo from my first weekend in Colorado Springs, where I stayed with longtime friends on the Air Force Academy base:
Yeah, not much spring to be seen there. I despaired that God had brought me out of monochromatically gray Milwaukee, only to drop me into another monochromatic winter landscape. Everyone had been telling me how beautiful the sun would be. How plentiful the wild flowers. Yet I still couldn’t see it, even though May 1st was just around the corner.
But I was tired now. Sick of endless weeks on the road with no real purpose or activities to shape my day. Sick of always looking to the horizon for something—anything—to happen. Sick (if we’re being honest) of praying and seeing … absolutely nothing.
I started taking my friends’ dog, Buddy, for twice daily walks. Every day I kept my eyes peeled for the famous Colorado wildflowers, even while I prayed to Heaven for a glimpse of a single petal pushing above ground in my own life.
For awhile, it continued to look like this: sunny, but barren. The weather warmed. And yet nothing pushed above the soil.
By the time I left for Milwaukee to lay hold of the place God had given me there, the slopes of the Rockies were carpeted with God’s most beautiful flowers.
It took a lot longer than I would have wished, yes. But the season of flowering did come in God’s time.
Be patient through the late springs snows, and continue to watch daily for the first signs of color amid the grass. Your time of breakthrough will come if you do not grow weary.
I believe the real test of our faith is not what happens in seasons of victory and activity, but what we do in seasons of silence and barrenness.
Those six weeks of silence, during which I saw almost no flowers pop up on those daily walks, was one of the longest and hardest I have endured. My patience and stamina were nearly at an end. I napped a lot—because there was little else to do.
Still no flowers. Anywhere.
And yet, somehow in the absence of the physical evidence I craved, Spring came. During that time I really re-committed my life to do exactly what God wanted. I heard the call to begin speaking His Name and His Word more intentionally in my relationships. Things that had been “out of order” in my life got placed back into order—none of which would have been possible had I been distracted by other things.
God even sent me a few rainbows and beautiful sunsets to encourage me that His promises were true, and in the acceptable time, He would shift my circumstances.
There’s a funny thing about praying for God’s “acceptable time,” just as it says in Psalm 69. God’s acceptable time is very rarely ours. His time for flowering often does not match ours. We are impatient. He has infinite patience. We want to run ahead though we can only see in the moment. He sees what’s coming, and acts accordingly.
In God’s acceptable time, breakthrough did come. I got a huge tax refund—several months late—that enabled me to return to Milwaukee and pay the avalanche of bills that were coming due in June. I let go of the last of my old life and got on board with God’s program.
And yes, the wildflowers did come out. By the time Buddy and I finished our daily routine of walks, the hills were abloom with Colorado’s finest.
By the time I left for Milwaukee to lay hold of the place God had given me there, the slopes of the Rockies were carpeted with God’s most beautiful flowers.
It took a lot longer than I would have wished, yes. But the season of flowering did come in God’s time.
Be patient through the late springs snows, and continue to watch daily for the first signs of color amid the grass. Your time of breakthrough will come if you do not grow weary.
Writer’s Note: This is the 3rd in a 3-part series of embracing the natural, astrological or agricultural calendar that starts on the spring equinox, as a more easeful way of working for women. In Part 1, we looked at why biorhythms are so powerful, and women’s bodies natural want to follow them. In Part 2, we looked at how the natural calendar actually works throughout the year, and what it looks like to follow it. Today, we’ll look at a less-stressful way of setting “goals” for the year that incorporates a lot of potential for harmony, balance and flow.
The Spring Equinox just passed, and with it, my celebration of New Year. I’ve been running my personal life (and my business, when I was an entrepreneur) by the natural calendar for several years.
Switching from a January New Year to a March New Year is a tiny shift that has brought me so much less stress and so much more joy. I don’t feel anymore like I’m pushing my body to try to “be productive” at times it really doesn’t want to be. I ride the energy of the year up and then back down again. It’s like having the energetic wind at your back.
But as with any new year, it’s time to take stock of where things are at. So a few weeks ago, right before the new year itself, I dedicated a Friday morning–my most laid-back off day–to setting my “goals” (which I prefer to call intentions) for the new year.
I made it fun for myself by going to the beach, which is about ten minutes from my home in Dubai Marina. To get there, I have to cross this bridge. We’re having really gorgeous, balmy weather right now, and I couldn’t have been happier about how this day turned out!
Perhaps it’s worthwhile for me to stop here and talk about goals versus intentions. Goal-setting is a very masculine activity. It’s about developing fixed plans, with pre-determined destinations, which you will then strive to reach by sweat, blood and tears. Men love this. It’s what gives them their sense of accomplishment and speaks to their inner “conquering” urge that is part of their nature.
But this is not “me.” I am not a conqueror, I’m a nurturer. I’m not a striver. I’m into flow. In short, I’m a woman. And I like to chart my course like one, thank you very much.
This is where intentions come in. The idea of an intention is that it gives focus and aim to the direction I’m heading. But it’s not a fixed point. An intention allows me to let the unfolding journey guide the exact point I reach, rather than predetermining where I have to get to, exactly. Intentions allow me to love myself and discover new things through the journey of the year that will then impact my direction .
Goals own me. I own intentions. And if one of my intentions wanders into entirely new territory by the year’s end, so be it.
Last year didn’t turn out anything like I expected (mostly because, hello, I moved to Dubai on short notice!!) but I feel incredibly accomplished all the same.
One of the biggest ways we can release ourselves as women from the false guilt we carry around constantly is to let go of these hard-lined, masculine decision-making and planning structures that don’t really work for us–for our natural rhythms or our bodies.
So there I was, at the JBR Beach in Dubai Marina. I found myself a gorgeous upstairs spot at a Turkish restaurant overlooking the Arabian Gulf, where lazy brunchers were finishing off the last of their feasts, or were slouched over their shisha, scrolling their phones amid a cloud of smoke. And after I ordered by Turkish coffee, I got to writing.
For this year, I divided my life into seven areas:
I came up with things like, “Tour Dubai like a proper tourist” (which I haven’t done, almost seven months into living here). And “Get a queen-size bed for my apartment.” And “Blog every week” and “Make my yoga a consistent, daily practice that feels good.”
None of these are fixed points. They’re more about embodied ways of life. Practices I want to make a consistent, joyful way of living, rather than some fixed point I have to hit in order to feel good about myself or achieve an arbitrary goal.
I admit, along the way in this process, I might have ordered a thoroughly non-vegan, cheese-loaded veggie pide, a delicious Turkish bread dish. But oh my!!! It was so good!!And it gave me “brain food”–fuel for my work.
My idea as I worked on intentions for my seven areas is that each week, as I prepare for the week, I’ll pray over my intentions and ask God for one “next step” to take on them, or a small way to embody them in that week.
Where could I go on my day off to explore something new in Dubai? Should I allot an hour or so one day to research bed prices and options? Or troll Dubizzle (our Craig’s List) for used options? How about committing to seven days of just 15 min of sun salutations to get myself back into the groove with yoga.
These are simple steps. They aren’t rocket science and don’t require me to be a genius, climb a tall building with my bare hands, or jump off a cliff.
I’l just be weaving these activities into my daily life.
In the end, this is what I created after I journaled out all my ideas. The intentions on my wheel are super open-ended, but they represent specific paths I want to run down. I put my wheel where I can see it every day, and as I said, every week, I’ll be praying over how to manifest those intentions in that week. And the same for every month, planning for the month ahead.
I’m so excited about this new year. God has done exceedingly abundantly above all that I could ask or think here in Dubai. I know He has good things around the corner. And it’s up to me to dream big and follow Him.
I can do this best when I create intentions that partner with His heart, as I feel the beat of it now, but don’t dictate outcomes.
With intentions, there’s still room for creativity, joy and discovery on your path throughout the year.
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!
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 oldterra firmaunderneath my feet.
But that was before I read Pema Chödrön’s disarmingly bold little bookLiving 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 resistancetothat uncertainty, not to the uncertainty itself. She renames uncertainty asgroundlessness, and invites us to welcome this sense of constant shift as a welcome sign we are truly alive.
“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 ofgroundlessness. 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 levitatingen gardeat 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 thingsshould be. And exactly how weresist 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 inTitanic) 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 simplybe.
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,feelingthe 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 thatwe 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.
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 justsat with the feelingsin 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 justfelt the sensation of groundlessness moving through my body.
And that’s exactly what it did: movethrough.
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 todance.”
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 groundlessnessmeans 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 bealive.
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.
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?
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
Writer’s note: This post is the second in a series of posts exploring the natural calendar as a more easeful planing tool for women. Last week in the first installment, we looked at why biorhythms are a powerful, more harmonious way for women to get things done in tune with their bodies.
Happy New Year …. in March! We’re two days away from the Spring Equinox, which is also known as the astrological new year.
If that term “astrological” freaks you out and makes you think of fortun tellers and crystal balls, then think of it as the beginning of the “agricultural year”–the start of the planting, nurturing, harvesting, resting cycle that farmers have used since the dawn of time.
I adopted this calendar about two years ago, and it’s been one of the best changes I ever made. When I ran my own business I ran by this calendar. Now that I am working in someone else’s business again for a season, I of course have to run by the western calendar at work. But in terms of my own goal-setting and productivity at home, this is my new year.
Why would I adopt a calendar that feels so “radical” compared to how the whole rest of our whole world is set up?
It’s simple. Because the natural calendar honors my God-given feminine body, feminine way of knowing and feminine wisdom.
We’ll talk about feminine energy more another day … but for now, suffice to say that feminine energy is earthy, it is in-the-moment and it is tied to the body. This is why I believe Satan attacks so many women with sexual trauma, body shame issues and even physical assault–because the more disconnected we become from our bodies, the harder it is for us to live in the glorious natural rhythms and full internal power that is our birthright as women.
Because women are more “earthy” in our orientation and more intuitive about what’s going on around them (versus men who are more stuck in their heads …. sorry, guys!), our bodies natural pick up on the energy cycles of the universe.
Our monthly menstrual cycle is just one example; if healthy, it roughly mimics the lunar cycle. Many women I know also “just know” that something is happening even before they get confirmation–and they’re often right.
For this reason, we’re super attuned to the energy cycles of the season. And yes, the seasons do have them. Energy begins to cycle upward again at the winter solstice, but it’s really not until spring that we can ride that energy planting the seeds of something new. In the northern hemisphere, days get longer, people are outside doing more, and general life runs at a higher pace, with this pace climbing all the way through the summer solstice. Then it begins to fall again. By the autumnal equinox, we’re harvesting what we planted back in spring, and then by the winter solstice our bodies are demanding slumber during the coldest, darkest days of the year.
Come Spring Equinox, the cycle starts all over again.
The general idea here is to treat your schedule–your home improvement projects, your business, your vacations, your goals for your children, etc.–like a field you’re planting. Drop the seeds into the soil and water well in spring. Cultivate during summer. Begin to harvest the fruit of what you’ve sown in the fall and REST REST REST during the winter.
Your body already craves this. Think about how much more energy you have when it’s light later outside, and how hard it is to get out of bed at 5 AM when it’s snowing outside and dark until 8 AM.
Even here in the Arabian Desert where I live, I feel my energy spiking up HIGH now that it’s still light when I’m leaving work at 7 PM … even though the temperature has been moderate and every day has been sunny, all winter long.
So based on this cycle, it’s actually New Year coming up on the 21st of March. This, for me, is the time to commence new things, to create resolutions (which I prefer to call “intentions”–will share more about that next week), and to general increase my activity level around fresh goals.
And I absolutely love it. I ride the energy wave through the summer, begin to round things up in the fall and then have permission to take a breather in the winter when my body actually demands it.
And that’s the key: when my body actually demands it.
So much of modern life is a denial of our bodies, a denial of our natural way of working and our intuition. You might say that modern life in general is an assault on women’s ways of knowing.
Masculine energy is very much aligned toward the four-quarter business system on our traditional calendar that starts in January. Masculine energy “pushes through” no matter what the season. Masculine energy makes decisions from head, not body, and is, in general, oblivious to what is going on in the cycles and seasons of the universe.
This was not always the case. In the past, both masculine and feminine wisdom were necessary for everyone to survive, in a sense. Not so anymore.
But to live on the masculine calendar is, for me as a woman, to frustrate and grieve myself unnecessarily with work patterns that aren’t a fit for me. It leads to so much self-loathing, unhappiness and exhaustion.
In releasing that, I have found so much joy.
So what does it actually look like when I set intentions at the Spring Equinox and then begin to implement them? I’m glad you asked. We’ll tackle that next week.
* * *
Have you as a woman ever used the natural cycle or agricultural calendar to run your year? What did you find by embracing this ancient way of working?
Recently while reading my Bible, I came across the story of a woman’s healing that really gripped me. I’ve read it before, many times, but I never saw it the way I did this time around. It gave me a brand-new way to understand emotional healing that freed me to a whole new level … and I hope it blesses you, too.
“As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone.” – Luke 8:42-42 (ESV)
If you’re read the Gospels, you may recognize this as the story of the woman who had “an issue of blood.” Basically, this means she was plagued with some kind of perpetual bleeding for twelve years that could not be treated effectively by the medical wisdom of that day.
This story appears in three of the four Gospels: Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:24-34, and Luke 8:42-48. Two of three of the writers note that this woman had spent every penny she had on physicians, but nothing seemed to help. In other words: she was desperate.
Immediately I recognized myself in this text—even though I don’t have that woman’s same physical problem, for many years, I was plagued by emotional challenges that never really seemed to improve. I also thought a lot of other women might share my discovery by recognizing themselves in this story, too.
The “issue of blood” doesn’t have to be physical. Think about it in terms of any ongoing physical or emotional condition you may be experiencing: migraines, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal issues, eating disorders, negative self-talk, self-doubt, a tormenting lack of confidence: any condition that has robbed you of time, life and (of course) money going to rounds and rounds of doctors’ or therapists’ visits that never seem to heal to the real issue.
That’s what’s made this story suddenly so compelling for me: its complete hopelessness at the outset. This woman had gone out to experts, seeking solutions for a dozen years, and she’d never been able to get them.
And she’d bankrupted herself in the process.
There’s nothing more frustrating or disempowering than having a problem—any kind of physical or emotional pain—that turns into an endless prison you can never get free from. You go to “expert” after “expert,” walking away from each hopeful appointment with a progressively lighter wallet and heavier heart.
Can you relate? Does this resonate with you? It certainly does with me.
When I was struggling with the worst of my physical, emotional and spiritual pain following my divorce—which was really just the crescendo that woke me up to a lifetime of un-addressed trauma—I felt like all I did was try solutions that didn’t solve anything. I lost a ton of money in the process. And though I now walk now in total financial victory and freedom with God as my Provider, part of what He’s providing for right now is for me to pay off some residual debt associated with all those rounds of “treatment.”
In this state of poverty and hopelessness, the woman finally came to see Jesus.
“She came up behind [Jesus] and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.” – Luke 8:44 (ESV)
Such a simple recounting of a monumental event! The Mark version says, “She felt in her body that she was healed of the disease.” Our woman friend came to see Jesus. She touched nothing more than His garment. And instantly, she was whole.
Can you imagine? Actually sensing with your physical body the moment of release from your prison of pain?
Here we have this woman, who experienced the two-thousand-years-ago version of our modern treatment marathon. The text doesn’t say what her emotional state was, but she must have been desperate, because the Matthew version records her saying to herself, “If I can just get to Jesus, and touch the hem of his garment, I will be healed.”
If that’s not desperation, I don’t know what is. Other versions record that there was a huge crowd thronging Jesus the day He passed by the woman. She had to fight with the noise and the press of bodies. I doubt she was the strongest woman there that day, especially given her health issues, and yet, somehow, her desperation gave her determination. She strong-armed her way through the crowd and made it to the place where she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment as He passed by.
Think about that for a second.
She must have crouched down and reached between the ankles of people at the front of the crowd, just to touch a few threads of Jesus’ garment as he passed. Maybe it had a fringe, or tassels or some other kind of embroidery at the hem. Maybe that’s all her straining fingers could manage to brush.
Yet somehow, she made contact. And that single instant of contact changed her future.
Desperation also led her to take the most efficient action. She didn’t have money this time for more treatments. She wasn’t looking for a physical or psychological explanation for her pain. She just wanted the healing. Straight-up wellness, with no more hooplah, no more ten-step plans and no more excuses.
She just wanted to be well. And it shows … in the desperate measures she took to reach the last person she thought could help her.
I think that’s fascinating, actually, because I noticed in my own healing journey that there were times when I wasn’t really ready for 100% healing. I was ready for an explanation of my pain. I was ready for a treatment plan. I was ready to “do the work.” But I wasn’t really, truly, ready to be completely RELEASED of the weight I had been carrying around. Mostly because I had no idea what life would look like on the other side of my pain.
You might say, “Lisa, that’s crazy. I just want to be free of what I’m suffering in my body, mind and heart.”
I get that. But do you want it, really? Are you fully prepared for what your life will be like when you actually get free?
Sometimes the reason pain prolongs in our lives is because we’re holding on to it. We “get” something out of remaining in the situation we’re in. For me, I “got” a sense of comfort and identity from my pain. I got a twisted sense of safety. It was all I knew.
Inside my pain, somehow, I felt in control of my circumstances. The cage was comfortable and know-able. Everything on the other side was not.
The idea of living in total victory on the other side of anxiety, shame, low self-confidence, gastrointestinal disorders, weight fluctuation and everything else sounded good, yes. But in reality I was terribly afraid of a world where I didn’t face these things. It was the only world I knew.
The rounds and rounds and rounds of treatment—whether provided by a professional or undertaken by me in the form of self-help courses, support groups and hours of experimentation—kept me busy and feeling like I was moving forward. But in reality, they weren’t fixing the issue.
Can you relate?
“And Jesus said, ‘Who was it that touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.’” – Luke 8:45-46 (ESV)
So our woman friend is desperate. She goes to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and somehow succeeds. The text says, “And Jesus perceived that power had gone out of Him.” Some of the versions also say that He looked around and asked, “Who touched Me?”
His disciples thought He was crazy—because so many people were touching Him in the throng that day. How could it possibly be clear, who had touched the hem of His garment?
This desperate woman finally abandoned all the treatment plans and went straight to the Source of physical, emotional and spiritually healing. And Jesus, the Son of God, knew immediately when she had tapped into His power.
He was busy, but not too busy to notice her need and deliver the answer she sought.
Wow. That really hit me hard.
When we abandon our reliance on “treatment plans” and go straight to the Source of healing, He will know. Instantly. He’s not too busy to notice we’ve reached out to touch the hem of His garment. And today, with “instant access” to Jesus through prayer, we don’t have to push through a crowd to do it.
Please understand, I’m not saying you quit your doctor-approved treatment or stop going to your support group. I repeat: I am not encouraging you to go cold-turkey on your healing activities. I believe 100% in many healing practices, share them here and practice then myself.
But I am asking you to examine your heart and question whether, deep down, you truly believe that Jesus can free you from everything you’re facing, to the point that you will no longer need those healing practices or treatment plans in your life at some point? And whether you’re ready to let go of that pain so your hand is empty enough to reach out and touch Him?
So much of our physical pain has a root cause in our dis-ease of mind, emotions and spirit. As we allow Jesus to heal those root causes, many, many physical symptoms will ease or disappear completely. It happened to me, and it’s happened to many other women I know!
It might not happen instantly as it did for this woman. But by reaching out for the touch of Jesus, we ignite something powerful that will ultimately result in our healing if we submit to the process. And eventually we’ll feel the healing that’s happened deep inside.
That’s what happened to our friend, the woman. She felt that the disease (or dis-ease, as I prefer!) had gone out of her body.
Think about that.
Rarely in the Bible is it recorded that someone felt the healing. We hear that they got up and walked. Or that they could suddenly see. Or they could speak and praised God. But the feeling level is not often recorded. Not in the way it is here. As women we are so much more attuned to our feelings, and I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that this woman’s story is one of the few in Scripture where we read that she felt the healing.
Jesus felt the power go out of His body. The woman felt the healing come into hers. And it was that feeling, that sense, that encounter-from-a-distance that finally brought them face to face.
“And when the woman perceived that she was not hidden, she came trebling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And [Jesus] said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’” – Luke 8 :47-48 (ESV)
The Scripture records that Jesus stopped and asked who had touched him. In this environment, the woman was quickly forced to come out of hiding in the crowd and fall down at Jesus’ feet and confess what she had done. To me, the way the text is written, it suggests that the woman wanted to remain hiddden. Perhaps she was ashamed of her condition, or she was fearful He might reprimand or punish her for “stealing” a bit of His power.
Ultimately, however, she could not remain hidden. She had to ‘fess up in front of everyone. And when she does, Jesus treats her with compassion and even honor. Instead of reprimanding or embarrassing her, He blesses her for her faith.
“Go in peace, Daughter, your faith has made you whole.”
Your faith has made you whole.
Interestingly, Jesus never says, “My power made you whole.” Or “Your faith and my power, working together, made you whole.” He says, “Your faith has made you whole.”
What if the only thing standing between us and the healing we seek—for our minds, our emotions, our spirits and our bodies—is the faith to believe it’s truly possible?
What if we’re going everywhere else for answer, because deep down, we don’t really believe Jesus can provide the healing that we seek? And direct us to the exact people and resources that can help us heal?
I didn’t truly believe that for a long time. I intellectually knew Jesus as Healer. But I ran everywhere else for the treatment I needed instead of going straight to Him. This is strange, because there’s no crowd between me and Jesus, as there was for the woman. I can go directly to Him. And yet I didn’t.
I let all the other “healing stuff” stand the way–not as tools to be used by Jesus in my life, but as substitutes for Him as the Source.
As I said, today I believe wholeheartedly in many different methods of healing, and I teach them here on my blog and in my private counseling and coaching. But if it isn’t all coming from Jesus as the Source … it’s just not going to have long-term transformative effective.
This spring, even as I’ve experienced a tremendous season of shedding in my life, I’ve also taken huge leaps forward. I’ve opened my heart back up to life and to really, truly, fully living in a place beyond fear. And this story means more than ever to me now.
Despite the continual uncertainties I live with as a single expat woman in an expensive Gulf country, where I’m dependent on my employer for my visa and have a lot of needs to meet with one paycheck each month, and a lot of other challenging circumstances in my life … I have total peace.
Why? Because Jesus is my Source. It’s touching His garment in faith that delivers everything I need …. physical, emotional and spiritual.
So ask yourself today, “Where is my dependence?”
Is it in the doctors and the treatment plan? Or the next ten-step healing program? Have you gotten so caught up in healing modalities and all the things you need to “do” to heal, that you’ve forgotten to go straight to the One Who wants to heal you from the inside-out, with complete victory and no residual “side effects?”
Perhaps at the most basic level, do you really, truly believe you can be healed at all?
That’s perhaps the most powerful thing about the woman’s story. Despite everything she had been through with doctors and treatment-induced poverty, she still believed it was possible to live completely free of the condition that was literally leeching her life source–her blood–out of her.
If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have gone through all that trouble to get to Jesus.
Healing from any condition only becomes possible on the day we take the limits off. And we do that by having faith in the Only One who truly Iives beyond the limits of this world.
When you do, you may not experience instaneous healing in your body, but you will begin an amazing process of healing that will lead you, step by step into a life beyond your “label” and a calling that overpowers your “condition.”
Touch the garment of Jesus. Let Him call out to you face-to-face, and you most certainly will find more freedom in your body, mind and emotions than you ever thought possible.
I know, because it happened to me.
When I let go of all he treatment plans, and decided I did really want to live beyond my condition, and that I believed Jesus could do it … things changed. Radically. My flow of pain became a flow of healing and power.
So can yours. The flow of blood …. or negative thoughts, or gastrointestinal pain, or emotional heartache … or whatever “issue” is robbing you of your life force today …. can become a flow of health, healing and purpose beyond your wildest dreams.
Jesus is passing by today, beautiful woman. Will you reach out to Him?
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?
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.
“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?
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.
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.
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!”
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.
So many women ask me about the concept of FLOW. In fact, I really hadn’t thought much about it personally as a concept until I started hearing it from them.
Once I started pondering the concept, however, I realized it was a key subject of God’s teaching in my life over in three-year journey I’ve been on so far with Him. It is also a central factor in whether or not we as women feel happy, comfortable and joyful in the life that He’s given us.
To me, FLOW is a state of harmony, alignment and ease in which the people, inspiration and resources you need are simply there whenever you need them. If you need something, you ask God, and it shows up.
This seems to bear out in the lives lives of the women I’ve spoken with.
The women who’ve asked me about FLOW are tired. They are tired of struggling to get (and keep) the attention of husbands, friends and family members. They are tired of sparring with writer’s and artist’s block in their creative work, or battling constant insecurities and creative self-doubt. And they are most definitely exhausted from running the rat race or trying to make a shoestring business work.
Can you relate? I can.
Back in July of 2017, God promised me that Everything I wanted would come out of Nothing, and that Everything would “arrive” in August of 2018. For the next year I did indeed have absolutely Nothing other than a suitcase and a small Fiat 500. Many times I didn’t even know where my housing or groceries would come from next. Yet in that season I learned how to trust God for the FLOW of love, creative inspiration and money that I needed each day. And in August of 2018, He did bring me to Dubai, where my FLOW and upshifted into OverFLOW just as He said.
The thing about FLOW is that its not arbitrary. If you are seriously exhausted and feeling the lack of it in your life, take heart. This can change. But you have to be willing for it to change. That’s the first step. Sometimes we become so convinced that life can’t or won’t FLOW for us, that we actually block ourselves from receiving it.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a look at the three stages of FLOW—all of which apply to getting (and keeping) love, making friends with our muse so that she shows up on a regular basis, and attaining the resources we need to live comfortably and share abundantly with others.
FLOW Stage #1) Struggle
Technically this isn’t a kind of flow, but the lack thereof. So why would we talk about it? Well, it’s the form of flow most of us are familiar with. There’s a huge gush of love/money/inspiration, and then nothing. Or, try as we might, we can’t squeeze a drop of regularity out of that faucet.
This is where most of us live, and its the baseline we’ve been taught to accept since childhood. So we have to start there.
Struggle is sort of the “default level of flow” that most of us experience in our daily reality our entire lives, if we don’t make a radical shift. We find that one friend who really loves us for who we are. We get the one great idea—and run with it for dear life. We get a little bit of extra money and cling to it like it’s a life raft on the open sea.
We sometimes think that Struggle happens to us because we’re born into poverty, or that’s all we’ve ever seen amongst other people in our lives. But Struggle isn’t a fixed state. It’s learned and it’s perpetuated. If you grow up thinking Struggle is the norm, you’ll do things that undercut your ability to step into FLOW and cause you to perpetuate Struggle–because that’s what you know.
Stepping past Struggle begins with identifying a Struggle-based mindset in your life.
The trick with Struggle is that we think it’s the natural default pattern of God’s universe. In reality, it’s not what He intended to give us. So many times in Scripture, when God refers to himself, He refers to rivers, abundance and blessing. None of those images or terms have anything to struggle. El Shaddai is sometimes translated “The God Who Is Sufficient.”
There’s nothing sufficient about Struggle!
FLOW Stage #2) Basic FLOW
Basic FLOW, plain and simple by itself, is the next stage of this progression. When you’re operating in FLOW, you’ve stepped beyond the daily struggle for “just enough” and embraced the idea that you can have a steady supply of what you need, not just little bits here and there.
Once you understand the principle of the steady supply, you must embrace it in your thinking and in your heart. God says that we must believe first in order to receive. When you believe not just in your head, but in your heart and in your body (deep down to your toes—yes, you can feel this!), this is when you will really see your outward reality begin to shift to match your inward convictions.
When I first began to shift my thinking and live from a place of FLOW, my outward reality didn’t look all that great. I didn’t have a job or a business. I was living dollar to dollar (literally) and didn’t have a home at all. Yet my needs (and even many of my wants) were supplied on a per-day basis. Whatever I needed at that time came to me naturally. Even though my circumstances wouldn’t have looked so grand to anyone else, I actually found a lot of joy and ease by relaxing into that flow!
At the right time, a new home, financial supply and other things came back to me. But until then, all my physical, emotional and spiritual needs were still met. This is FLOW.
FLOW Stage #3) OverFLOW
OverFLOW is the highest form of flow. It’s the state that happens when you’ve gotten past struggle as your baseline and truly accepted that having enough for every day is God’s will and plan for you. As you see your “enough” show up again and again and again—even when it seems to be coming “out of nowhere”—your faith is strengthened, and God is able to bless you with more than enough.
That is the definition of OverFLOW.
Now, instead of having just enough to get by, you actually havE money left over at the end of the month, love left over in the relationship, and more creative ideas than you can actually tackle at one time. You have choices: do you invest in people/resources/art you’ve always wanted? Or do you “bank” what you have? Or do you outright give it away?
Actually having these decisions to make is a clue you’re coming into a place of OverFLOW. It also means you have to start thinking in a whole new way: toward your legacy and not just for the sufficiency of your daily needs. Where do you believe God wants you to be next year, in five years or ten years? How will you steward your resources not just for yourself but for others?
OverFLOW is the beautiful, amazing, harmonious state where you not only believe for what will meet your needs now, but for that which will meet your needs later and take care of everyone else’s. It’s where you don’t have to think twice about luxuries (like ordering in your groceries, eating out at a really nice restaurant or going on vacation) because doing so won’t “rob” from your baseline needs or affect your ability to give to others.
The trick is, you don’t get to OverFLOW by wishing or hoping. You must cultivate a conviction–right now, wherever you’re at–that everything you have is supplied at the right time. You have to learn how to cultivate that faith while you’re in a place of Struggle, which brings you to FLOW, which then allows you to believe for more and more and more in OverFLOW.
Faith is a muscle. So is FLOW. It must be exercised in order to see it really grow stronger.
I would imagine there’s a 4th stage of Over-OverFLOW, and when I get there I can tell you all about it!
– – –
What about you? Which stage defines your life right now?
What are you willing to do to upshift to the next level?
At the turn of the 20th century, a young Polish woman got on a boat bound for America. She was a land-owner’s daughter, likely accustomed to some amount of privilege, and even possibly to an ancient title of minor nobility. Yet she left it all behind to join her sister—who was already settled in a far-off place called Ohio.
The reason? An intolerable home situation. Her mother had passed away, and when her father remarried, he chose a woman not much older than his younger daughter. The two women, it turns out, didn’t get along so well.
I think I’d get a boat for the same reason. Probably more so because I’m related to that young Polish woman—as her great-great granddaughter.
Fast-forward one hundred years, and I got on a plane in Chicago this past August with the same intention my ancestor had when she said goodbye to her native land. Except that instead of going to the “land of promise,” as America was then known, I flew east, past Great-Great Grandma’s native land to a place that, back when she lived, hadn’t even yet met Lawrence of Arabia.
I doubt Great-Great Grandma ever thought much about Arabia, except perhaps to see an old lithograph or two in a Polish geography book in school. But here I am, also an emigre, just for different reasons.
Perhaps some things really do “run in the family.”
I should probably clarify at this point that no one really immigrates to the United Arab Emirates. You come here to work. Or you come with someone who’s been hired to work. And when you don’t work anymore—or your sponsor doesn’t—you leave. Period. This country doesn’t give permanent residence visas, unless you’re a property investor or a retiree with more than $300,000 US in the bank that you strictly don’t touch.
Still, every day, this dusty jungle of sand and steel welcomes the world’s misfits, from West and East alike, with open arms. And we embrace this once-forgotten, now-flourishing desert as our own, for as long as the strength of our hands and the economy will allow. Or in my case, as long as God chooses to keep me here.
I’ve thought a lot about Great-Great Grandma since I arrived here. I honestly don’t know her name, other than that her last name was (oddly enough) “Organic.” Probably a butchering of some beautiful Polish name an Ellis Island officer couldn’t spell, yo. But I now understand with much more empathy how much courage she must have had, and the dreams she must have entertained coming to the U.S.
My mother has a few memories of her great-grandmother, caring for my mom when she (mom) was very very young, at her Ohio home. Great-great Grandma married and built a life for herself in the U.S., yes. But she never learned much English. To this day, occasionally my mom uses a Polish word (like “yaitsa” for “egg”) which she learned at Great-Great Grandma’s house.
I, by contrast, landed in a country that favors Arabic as a political policy, but where in practice English is the national language. I could talk to almost anyone upon arrival. (Of course, understanding their accents has been another exercise in itself.)
Like Great-Great Grandma, however, I rub shoulders every day with people who came from vastly different places than me. And we’re all here for one reason only:
(Or for some of us oddballs, the call of God. But that’s another story for another day.)
It’s a strange day in the world when a girl with an American passport leaves home to seek opportunities elsewhere. I’m sure Great-Great Grandma never thought she’d see such a day come when America was not the only real center of opportunity. For many it still is, but for me, in God’s good plan for my life, it was a worn-out door swinging shut on rusty hinges.
I don’t regret coming to the United Arab Emirates at all. The pace of life in Dubai is insane—let’s just get that out there—but it’s also an amazing place. I’ve made incredible friends from all over the world, traveled easily to places that take forever to reach from America, and been blessed with a new measure of financial stability after several years of relying solely, like Elijah, on the ravens of God for food.
But I still can’t help feeling a pang of homesickness every now and then. The people, the places, the food. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with a vivid vision of some place in Milwaukee—the verdant slopes of South Shore Park, for example, on the beach of Lake Michigan—that I deeply love. The last summer I spent in Milwaukee was a glorious finale to ten years of loving that place very deeply and experiencing the very best of it.
Then, one day it was gone. I took off on a plane and, three planes later, got off in Ellis Island, which for me was the glittering marble and chrome of Dubai International Airport, where I was suddenly in line behind Indian women in colorful kurtas and Arab women, their whole bodies covered in black.
Life is strange, isn’t it?
Perhaps wanderlust is just in the family genes. Or perhaps God really does allow us to play out experiences of our ancestors, all over again, redeeming them for His purposes. I don’t know anything about my great-great grandmother’s spiritual life or beliefs. I don’t know if there were any other God-fearing prophetic women in my lineage.
But out of their experiences, God birthed me. And though I traveled here for Him—and not as an escape for an intolerable home situation—I still send love and respect to the memory of Great-Great Grandma.
Her courage was an example for me, long before I knew I’d even need that same courage myself.