Are You as a Woman Really Ready to Start Your Own Business?

Rockin’ the solo-preneur lifestyle with my cat Jack in my home office in Milwaukee, WI, early 2017

I was 30 years old when I walked out of the highest-paying job I ever hoped to hold.  

In the preceding months, I had done everything I could to ensure my success. I hired a business coach. Got a business plan together. And even started getting beta clients for my new business’s first service package, so I could pitch it with testimonials. 

Of course, I was still scared out of my wits. But I was ready, right? I mean, as ready as I was going to be…

Sometimes I think it’s a blessing that God doesn’t tell us what’s going to happen in advance. Over the next three years, I learned how ready I really wasn’t to have my own business. And the business I did build was full of stress and struggle. Oh, I worked hard. So, so hard. But that’s just it: I did it all in my own strength. And I didn’t realize that while I had put the external foundation of the business into place, I hadn’t put the internal foundation there. 

Owning a business that served entrepreneurs and freelancing for many corporate clients forced me to come face-to-face with what was really going on inside me. 

Now, I tell women entrepreneurs: the external details of the business are important—what you are going to sell, who you will serve, what you will charge, etc. But if you are not truly strong enough inside (yet) to handle what you are stepping into … you will fail. 

Bottom line: you can’t do this business thing in your own strength. And God will use this situation to teach you that, like nothing else. 

So how can you ensure that you are truly ready internally to take this entrepreneurship journey with God?

You’re ready when … 

1) You’ve faced your fear of money.

Owning a business will show you, like nothing else, how terrified you are of money: both of not having enough, and of having “too much.” God had to break me of my “money fears” before I could stop putting limits on myself with my earning potential. I secretly believed that people who had a lot of money hurt other people. (NOTE: This presupposition is rampant in the artistic, social good and educational communities, which many women entrepreneurs identify with.) To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to get absolutely clear on the sufficiency of God to provide for you, and be willing to break through every block you have around money that will hold you back. 

2) You’ve faced your fear of self-promotion.

Oh sure, you want to have a business. But let’s talk about promoting your services, sharing your expertise and allowing your real, gifted self to be SEEN in the real and online worlds. Many women entrepreneurs I know describe themselves as “shy,” “not good in the spotlight,” and “wishing someone else would market the business.” I’m here to tell you, Sister. It does not work that way. God wants you to stand on your talents in HIM. He wants you to stand firm and tall and proclaim who He has made you to be, so the people who need you can find you. Very often this means confronting issues of self-worth and self-doubt that plague all of us. (It did for me!) If you are not ready to face these things, you are not ready for this business. 

3) You’ve faced your fear of success. 

Scraping by is okay. Having enough and a little extra is probably fine, too. But wild, over-the-top, runaway success that silences all the haters and causes people to stare in wonder? Um, yeah, that’s getting a little uncomfortable now, isn’t it? As Christians, we are so often taught that God is not interested in our success or happiness—yet I believe He is deeply interested in both. Yes, both of these may have to bow to His will for us to experience sorrow and loss for a season (believe me, I have been there!). But I believe far more often we fail to experience His best because we simply open to the fact that it IS possible. And (see Point #2) we’re not sure we deserve it. This entrepreneurial journey will challenge all of these thoughts. If you are not ready to accept success, don’t bother shooting for it. 

Owning a business as a woman—the kind of business that truly does good for others while honorably supporting you—is a noble goal. It IS possible to create these income streams. It IS possible to get out of the corporate rat race and experience the freedom and joy of owning your time and serving people you truly appreciate and want to help. 

But even these beautiful goals come at a price.

You will not be able to carry your sense of poverty, sense of self-loathing or self-doubt into this process. And if you try … well, I can say from my own experience that God has ways of knocking it all out of you. In the kindest (but most serious) way possible. 

Are you really ready to start your business? Well, you’ll never fully be ready. You might just have to take the leap. In fact, you probably will. But if you spend time really working on these three areas, you will be better positioned for success. 

I don’t regret walking out that door at age 30. I don’t miss the salary. bonus or cushy travel allowance I had—because in exchange, I was a slave in golden handcuffs. But I also, today, recognize how much I had not prepared myself internally for this new journey. 

Hard work will only get you so far. It can’t make up for the deficits you secretly believe you have inside. 

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. 

 

 

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

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Expressing my spiritual journey through cut, color and length

I’m in a struggle with my hair right now. The kind of struggle only a prophet goes through, I suppose, as she’s figuring out how to walk out her spiritual journey in her dress and hair choices.

I do believe as a daughter of God, I’m supposed to be distinctive. He loves me, He has chosen me out for a special purpose, and I ought to light up every room I walk into with His grace, joy and yes, even beauty.

In the past, when I was mired in the worst of my trauma and pain, I wanted to hide in the corner and not be noticed. And I dressed to make sure that happened. Deep inside I wanted to stand out and light up the room, but I was terrified of the power of God inside of me, and of my own radiance. It took a few years of sorting through that to really heal those fears, but I’m happy to say that I have. Now, I want to stand up and stand out—and I’m becoming bolder in my fashion choices.

But there’s the matter of my hair.

Current hair, after several months of growth

As some of you may know, in July of 2017, God told me that “Everything you want will come out of Nothing.” This began a systematic season of shedding and loss in my like that took me down to a suitcase and led me to wander the world as a vagabond for awhile. (You can read about it here.) In the process I kept letting more and more and more things go from my life, until basically only one thing remained: my hair and hairstyle I’d had for several years.

Back in April 2018, God told me to let my hair go, too, as a final symbol of letting go fully of my old life and identity. So I did, in the middle of a Nebraska snowstorm, no less, which I have detailed elsewhere on this blog if you want to read the story. I kept it shaved the entire summer. And then, once I had arrived in Dubai and gotten my job, I felt like He was saying to grow my hair out again—mostly because the season of “Nothing” was over and the season of “Everything” was now at hand.

You might say that hair, for me, has always been a barometer of where I was at in my life. Years ago I wore a cut that looked more like a boy’s, because secretly I had serious issues with being feminine. Subconsciously, I wanted to be a boy, so I wore hair like a boy’s and clothes and hats, too, that were inspired by men’s fashion.

The boy years ….

In more recent years since my divorce and the first time the Holy Spirit spoke to me in 2016, I’ve been on a journey to re-embrace my feminine identity and really own who I am as a woman. And part of that journey is making peace with my hair.

Did I mention I hate my hair? It’s plentiful but very fine, meaning it has no volume, none of the beautiful fullness and thickness other women’s hair has. So yeah, it pretty much just “lays there” when I grow it out. It’s also super oily—which means I do a lot of washing of it.

At one point I bleached it and dyed it purple. And while this wasn’t ideal for my hair’s health, it did help with the grease problem …

Wow, that really was purple!

Keeping that frustrating part of my body shaved off entirely was pretty much a dream come true for me. I loved my buzz cut, and by all accounts from the compliments I got, it loved me back. But this is a new season. This is not the season of Nothing. It’s the season of Everything according God—and having a shaved head, I suppose is not a symbol of Everything. Having really long hair is.

So, as of November I began growing my hair out. It’s entering that awkward stage now, from which it will not emerge for, like, maybe years?

Part of me has an urge every day to run to the nearest beauty parlor and ask them to shave it off again, because I don’t have my electric razor anymore!

But I’m not sure that’s what I’m supposed to do.

The big shave, April 2018

Hair, clothing and makeup are all symbols of how we see ourselves and who we think we are. What is my hair supposed to say about myself in this new season of abundance?

I’m not entirely sure, but one thing I do know …. it’s not my decision to make entirely. I am God’s mouthpiece, and therefore everything about me belongs to Him. He’s the one who gets to decide what I look like and how I present myself to the world.

I do know that I’m supposed to embrace an even more radical Bohemian style of dress. And it is true that most Bohemian fashion is traditionally associated with long flowing hair: something I haven’t had since I was like 13 years old.

I was a bald beauty on my first day in the UAE!

Funny about that—when I think back to my childhood ideal, I wanted to have really long, flowing hair “down to my butt,” as my mom always said. As a very young girl, I embraced the deep, archetypally feminine persona as my destiny. But I lost that mojo later when my femininity was attacked, through traumas I experienced as a young woman.

Cutting my hair short was the beginning of my de-association with the feminine—a rift it took me another 20 years to begin healing. Not that every woman needs to express her femininity with long hair. I’m not saying that. But I do believe our childhood desires are a key to who we really are. And for me, long hair had been an ideal I wanted to reach.

So am I really sure what I’m supposed to do with my hair now? Not entirely.

But I have an uncomfortable suspicion I’ll be growing it out.

There’s always an electric razor if I get fed up …

Dancing in the Footsteps of St. Hildegard, Part 1

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Names matter.

I’ve always loved asking people about their names, and what they mean. People, too, often ask me where the name for this blog–“That Fiery Dance”–came from.

For me, “That Fiery Dance” has many meanings. And I’m sure it may have some totally different for you.

First, for me it’s a nod to freedom. (Because what do I do when I’m totally free in body, mind and spirit? I dance!) It’s also a nod to the Holy Spirit. (Listening and following His Voice is a dance all its own.)

But mostly, it’s a nod to the woman and the prophet whose memory has inspired my own journey over the past few years: St. Hildegard of Bingen. Here’s her whole quote:

“I will tell you a secret about that divine light, about creative fire.
The more you nourish it in your heart, the more it radiates out from you.
The more you release it through your words, your deeds, of wisdom, of
loving compassion, the brighter the flame burns … and in that fiery dance,
you will find that you are, as I myself discovered, no longer aware of your years.”
St. Hildegard of Bingen

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Freedom transforms us.

It causes barriers to fall away. It lifts off our masks. It gives us the courage to get up off the sidelines and dance under all the lights where everyone can see us–and we don’t care anymore what they think.

Freedom gives us the courage to go after the dreams God has put in our hearts. To own our gifts. To stand up and let His power flow through us however He wills it to… and not to fear the outcome.

Above all, the freedom of God takes away the weight of years–literally–from our hearts, minds and bodies. It provides us a continual wellspring of Living Water within that renews and refreshes us.

No matter how dry the desert she dwells in, a truly Free Woman is young in spirit, and spry enough to dance, because she drinks from the water of eternal life.

St. Hildegard is, to me, the picture of that kind of Freedom.

Almost a year ago, I got to walk in her footsteps.

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I first learned about St. Hildegard’s life when I was researching medieval convents for a writing project about five years ago.

Even though she was born almost 900 years before me, I resonated immediately with her isolated upbringing, her love of books and learning, and the creative determination that defines her story.

In a time when more men than women made headlines, St. Hildegard became an advisor to kings and the pope, a preacher who toured Europe, the first recorded female to found a spiritual community for women in Europe and an icon of her generation.

Armed with the courage that marked her 70-some years, Hildegard became one of the first practitioners of modern medicine, a gifted herbalist who contributed treatments for women’s sexuality and health issues, a dietitian who saw the relationship between food and health in an era when many did not make that connection–and a composer whose music is still performed today.

She was also a prophet, theologian and writer who recorded original visions from God that are still not entirely understood today. And she became the spiritual mother of several convents full of women. Together, these women defied the church’s tradition for nuns to dress in plain habits and ugly veils  by donning red dresses, letting their hair down and decking themselves with pearls–because, as Hildegard insisted, they were the bride of Christ, and ought to look like it.

Along the way, Hildegard escaped being buried alive in an anchorite’s cell and almost losing her life because of her prophetic gifts. When she left that cell, after almost thirty years trapped inside it, she never looked back. Instead of letting her long confinement break her, she made it a stepping-stone to full freedom.

She also felt extremely misunderstood and, for long periods of her life, was shut away from most of society.

I was enchanted with Hildegard’s story right away. While I could not relate to her many achievements, I aspired to them. But I could connect with her experience of feeling isolated and misunderstood in my creative gifts. At that time in my life, God had not yet begun to speak to me. But as I read books about her and watched Vision, a recent German film based on St. Hildegard’s life, I wrestled with whether or not I thought this strange but magnetic woman really could have heard from God.

Foreshadowing doesn’t just happen in stories; it happens in real life. I believe God used these experiences, bumping up against St. Hildegard’s amazing story, to prepare me for the beginning of my own.

After my divorce, when God began speaking directly into my day-to-day life, St. Hildegard’s experiences didn’t seem so far-fetched anymore.  And One day, He spoke to me about her directly. When I was in Italy in September 2017, God told me to go to Germany that December, after the solstice, and retrace St. Hildegard’s steps through her home town.

And so it was, December 26, 2017, I found myself both homeless and penniless, riding a train from Frankfurt, Germany, to tiny Bingen am Rhein, Hildegard’s hometown.

I had just enough money for the hotel and food for the next three days. The German countryside was blurred with endless sheets of rain, and my soul felt just as grey. Here was the nadir of the year. I had been in Germany for almost four soul-crushing weeks. I was struggling with horrible digestive issues, not to mention a heart-wrenching lack of purpose. I had never felt less ready to make such a pilgrimage.

Though I had dreamed of visiting St. Hildegard for years, I never wanted to do it under such duress. Here I was fulfilling a life dream of following her footsteps, which had been a direct command from the Voice of God Himself. And yet I felt so beaten down. So unsure of what my own future held.

When the train pulled in to Bingen, I dragged my little red suitcase and a bag of food the 1/4 mile walk to the hotel I had booked. I remember having hot tea, prunes and a bath for my digestive condition, and going straight to bed.

I should have been excited about what was going to happen the next day. Yet I was feeling so unwell, I could hardly even think about it.

But then morning came: Wednesday, December 27, 2017.

I woke up to find that my digestive issue had been miraculously healed during the night. And I remembered one of those large facts in life that one tends to forget when they come associated with so much pain: December 27th, 2017, was also my 9th wedding anniversary.

Or would have been, anyway, had I not been divorced exactly 14 months to the day prior.

I laid there, listening to the rain on the hotel roof, remembering the hopeful young girl who had donned her wedding dress–still not entirely sure she wanted to be married, but putting on a brave face and doing what had to be done. A thousand thoughts and feelings flooded through my body at that recollection. And at all that had happened since.

Seven-and-a-half years of a life that had been aborted without warning. The roller-coaster ride that came after, including the first time of hearing God’s voice. Hildegard’s writings had carried me through that maelstrom of personal reinvention.

In many ways, I felt that, like Hildegard, I had found the key to my own cell and stepped out of it, as I began to hear the Voice of God and follow it.

And that obedience had led me here: broke, alone and empty-handed, to the womb of earth that had birthed my spiritual.

In that moment, I heard God say to me, “It’s your wedding day once again.”

I knew instantly that I had come to another kind of wedding: not the wedding of myself to someone else, but my own wedding to the vision He had given me. Coming to visit Hildegard wasn’t just another act of obedience. It was the beginning of a whole new life.

This date, which had been loaded with so much sorrow, was now reborn. December 27th will forever be “the day I visited Hildegard,” and I intend to celebrate it as such each year. Because why allow our past and our pain dictate what a day means?

Encouraged, I tramped across the rain-soaked cobblestones of Bingen, trying to imagine what it was like to be here in Hildegard’s day. Of course the town was much smaller then. And there was no railroad, nor any ferry across the Rhine River to Rudesheim, a town that also existed in Hildegard’s day, and is now dominated by a hilltop abbey of which she was abbess for many years.

I started my visit by stopping in at the permanent Hildegard installation at the Bingen City Museum, where I was able to see many artefacts I had only ever seen photos of: original paintings from Hildegard’s visions, letters she wrote to various kings and the Holy Roman Emperor, mockups of the now-destroyed monastery and various abbeys where she lived, and other documents.

Perhaps what I admire most about St. Hildegard was her willingness to be exactly who God had told her to be and speak exactly what God had told her to speak. This was her true freedom. Even as I read letter after letter where she delivered His words to popes and kings as honestly as possible … I was in awe of the authority she moved in.

“Even in a world that’s being shipwrecked, remain brave and strong,” Hildegard wrote. For many years, she herself gave testimony that fear had bound her and kept her caged in that tiny cell. But when she decided to let go of fear, she stepped into her voice and her power.

In her willingness to be exactly whom God made her, and be completely transparent about it, she made an impact that is still felt 900 years later.

In late morning, I walked up the side of a steep hill, through “downtown” Bingen, to the famous St. Rochus Chapel where a shrine stands to Hildegard’s memory.

Along the way I walked through a “garden of saints”–statues representing all of Jesus’ disciples, the Apostle Paul and others–and found my way through a muddy forest to the chapel road.

The door to St. Rochus was open, but no one was there. I stepped into a dank, chill medieval stone sanctuary, where a row of benches and a locked set of iron bars separated me from the priceless relics in the church itself. The famous icon of St. Hildegard was lit by single lightbulb on a timer; I had to keep flicking the switch to get a good look at her from afar, behind the bars that separated us.

But I was okay with the distance and the darkness, mostly. It gave me time to sit in silence, to contemplate all that had passed in the previous years and what coming to this place really meant. I felt pricked in my conscience that God was saying something me here, in this place.

Something, perhaps, about coming out of hiding myself.

Though I had not been locked up in a stone cell like Hildegard was for many early years of her life, I had been locked up in more invisible prisons than I could count. I had found the key when I had begun to find my voice, and (more importantly) the voice of God within me. But there was still a part of me that was silent and hiding.

Sitting here in the darkness, with St. Hildegard on the other side of the bars, I came face to face with that. I knew I wanted to be free to dance again–maybe for the first time in my life–and like St. Hildegard, help free other women to dance themselves.

After leaving St. Rochus, I visited the nearby nunnery, where I enjoyed a lunch cooked by the nuns from Hildegard’s original recipe, complete with wine from grapes grown on the property.

Side note: I’m in love with Dornfelder wines now, but I’ve never been able to find them in the U.S. (And good luck finding any particular kind of wine in Dubai.)

As I enjoyed this meal, I thought about St. Hildegard’s work as a healer. I myself had seen first-hand how my body had reacted to the tremendous sadness and stress I underwent during my divorce. I had enjoyed good health up to that point but found myself at the . mercy of terrible digestive issues that continued up to this day.

Every aspect of the meal I was eat was designed to heal the body. Though St. Hildegard had incomplete medical information, and not all of her medieval ideas were medically factual, she had indeed made a lot of sound conclusions. And she understood the root cause of such issues: the connection between mind, spirit and body.

What happens in the body affects the mind and the heart. And Hildegard had not been afraid to treat them together.

I have seen in my own journey how working with these three elements together brought me incredible freedom. And I want to pass that freedom on.

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As I completed my first day in Bingen, I felt that same tug in my heart that had drawn me to the city in the first place from more than 5000 miles away.

It was the tug to step into a life bigger, more courageous and more authentic than anything I had previously lived.

And just as it had begun for St Hildegard with owning her voice, her gifts and the visions God had given her … I knew it would begin there for me. This blog is the beginning of that journey. It has now been almost a year since I walked with St. Hildegard in Bingen … and God has brought me to settle in a new country and given me an entirely new life.

But have I truly stepped into my voice and my gifts? Have I really acknowledged who I am, and owned it to the whole world, regardless of what anyone thinks?

That’s a level of transparency hardly any of us reach. But this transparency is exactly the reason Hildegard’s life shines so brightly almost 900 years later.

Today, I resonate with St. Hildegard’s story more than ever. I understand now that my first attraction to her story was really God’s way of drawing me deeper toward my own calling. Like her, I hear from Him. Like her, I write down what He says–though I often am too afraid to share it. When people ask me for advice, I tell them exactly what I heard God saying to me about their situation.

I have stories to write, visions to paint, dreams to turn into dance. Not everything I have to say will be popular, or even appreciated. And I hope my life can shine brightly for some other woman who needs hope that God can transform her.

You can’t make an impact when you are sitting in silence behind prison bars. And I can’t make an impact while I’m silent, either.

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Like St. Hildegard, I found the key to my prison, and it’s time I leave it behind–and don’t look back.

The last almost three years were my first lessons in what it’s like to live without prison walls and without limits. What remains now is for me to pick up my pen, open my mouth, step into the work God has given me as His daughter and His prophet.

Because it is not in silence that we reclaim our lives. It is only in transparency can the light radiate out from us. It is only in the midst of THAT FIERY DANCE with God’s Holy Spirit and with the life that He has given us do we find that we are no longer aware of our years.

I’ve told you parts of the story but I haven’t told you the whole story. That begins here, today, in this space dedicated to speaking freely.

“I will tell you a secret about that divine light, about creative fire,” St. Hildegard once wrote. “The more you nourish it in your heart, the more it radiates out from you. The more you release it through your words, your deeds, of wisdom, of  loving compassion, the brighter the flame burns … and in that fiery dance, you will find that you are, as I myself discovered, no longer aware of your years.”  

May this blog be my sacrifice of praise and my platform of transparency.

It’s time to dance.

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