February's Finds: Books, Podcasts, and more!

Friday, February 23, 2018

It was so fun to write the 2017's Life-Changing Finds post! I heard you saying, "More please!" so I decided to make a 'Finds' post more often than once a year. When I've accumulated an impressive enough list, I'll publish it. I mean, what's more awesome than finding more awesome in the world?

Before I get into the recommendations, I'd like to draw your attention to two very important things:
1. I've compiled the entire Notes on the Cycle of Faith series into a downloadable PDF for easier reading. Click here for the link and please share with anyone you feel would benefit from knowing they are not alone in their questions.
2. Sunday morning (Feb 25) I will be sending out a very important email. Its the March issue of Strong Yellow Soul, which is my free monthly e-magazine and newsletter. It contains exclusive content that I share ONLY in the magazine, including original feature articles (that are very similar to my blog posts), poetry, and printable journal pages. This month I share a personal story about self-love, which sets the tone for the entire issue. Seriously, if you've been reading the blog and loving what you see, you want to sign up for this. Just enter your email below to sign up for the list. You'll also get a link to download February's issue, which is only available to download until Sunday! Now on to February's Finds!

Best Books:

1. The Birth of Pleasure by Carol Gilligan: If you've been following my Instagram stories or read part 4 of the Cycle of Faith Series, you'll know this book is now one of my forever favorites. My soul sis gave me this book for Christmas and once I started reading I couldn't stop. Gilligan uses the myth of Cupid and Psyche as a road map of the process of connection. With stories from her clinical research she shows that connection of the soul to self, then self to others, is essential for living in wholeness - both for society and individually.
2. Quotes for Nasty Women, Empowering Wisdom from Women Who Break the Rules; a fun little collection of sayings and quotes from women past and present. I picked this up at the library and always gives me a little snarkle (that's a snarky chuckle, for when I'm feelin' sassy) when I read it.
3. Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lense of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel: As someone familiar with the MBTI personality typing method, I was fascinated to learn about the other typing methods out there! It is a surprisingly personable read and the concepts are easy to understand. Bogel also has a podcast, What Should I Read Next. I particularly enjoyed the episode How a Book Really Gets Made, where she outlined the entire process of getting her book published.
4. Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes: I went to check this out from the library and discovered there was a huge wait list for it. I was number 36. "How is this seemingly obscure book so popular?" I wondered, then discovered Emma Watson featured it in her feminist book club. That explains it! I wish I had discovered this before I read "Spinning Straw into Gold", which I recommended in my last Finds post. Its a similar concept but SO much easier to read and relate to. The myths and stories are uniquely beautiful and Estes' insights are poignant. This is a must read!
5. Walking with the Women of the Old Testament by Heather Farrell and Mandy Williams: This is a fresh look into the lives of the well-known biblical female figures. Farrell writes about not only the standard favorites like Eve, Sarah, Rachel, and Ruth, but goes to great lengths to include every.single.woman ever mentioned in the Old Testament. Each woman's story is meticulously woven together with biblical passage, additional historical information, and insights and application for lessons for the modern woman. As if that wasn't enough, every woman also has her own artwork! Williams features real women (I know some of them, those lucky ducks) dressed in historically accurate clothing and it is a beautiful thing to behold. Such a good resource for anyone interested in the stories of biblical women!

Perfect Podcasts:

1. RobCast, Episode 163 - Wisdom | She's All Around You
2. Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert Ep 202 - Make the Brutal Into the Beautiful ft. Brandon Stanton of HONY
3. A Thoughtful Faith Episode 217 - How Patriarchy Hurts Men and Boys with Wendy Christian
4. About Progress Episode 67 - Staying Strong Through Terminal Illness with Mandie Sherman
5. LDS Perspectives Podcast Ep 62 - The Christ Who Heals with Fiona Givens

Amazing Art and Articles

1. Stuck in a Rut? - A yoga teacher and psychologist shares her blueprint for transforming negative habits.
2. Want to perform a miracle?
3. Instructions on How to be a Moon Child
4. The Earth, What She is to Me
5. If you hang out with me for too long I'll brainwash you
6. Be One

Soul Songs

3. Edge of Desire - John Mayer

Take some time in the next while to check some of these resources out. WARNING: the books and podcasts may be especially life changing.


Notes on the Cycle of Faith: Peace

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Part 6 of 6 of the "Cycle of Faith" series, which is an exploration of "faith crisis" by way of personal experience, insight, and opinion. 

Read Part 1, "Learning" here.

Read Part 2, "Losing" here.
Read Part 3, "Seeking" here.
Read Part 4, "Finding" here.
Read Part 5, "Trusting" here.

To download a PDF copy of the series (so you don't have to read post by post), click HERE.

Peace will not be rushed.

It blossoms unannounced like the first green leaves of spring.

In part 4 I mentioned the crucial turning point in my faith process was understanding connection as a process rather than a destination. In time, I came to understand that my connection with my heavenly parents has a name - peace. It is the bookends of the cycle of faith. 

I understand now that peace is not something that has to be lost. Once found, it can be kept. New cycles can begin on a foundation built from previously claimed peace. 

This idea reminds me of a scripture I once read. Doctrine & Covenants 50:24: That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

When peace is seen as part of a larger process rather than an arrival, 
when it carries forward to the next cycle of faith rather than fading away,
hope is not lost. 

In this light, the saying "trust the plan" is less a plea for mindless obedience 
and more a call for trust in a process 
of death and rebirth,
of learning and losing
and seeking and finding.

This is the wisdom of faith: 
it is not a narrow linear path through life.

Enduring to the end is not ignorant perseverance through roadblocks and distractions,
it is the relaxation into the centripetal force of the cycle of faith.

Questions will come. So will answers. 
The only ingredient needed is time.

There is a grove of citrus trees growing near the university my husband used to attend. When he was a student, we'd often pick lemons in the Arizona spring, which is right around February-April. One year we picked some gorgeous lemons and oranges in early January. We brought them home with big plans for fresh OJ, only to cut into them and taste their bitterness. It was too early for oranges and lemons. 

If you find yourself wishing for seasons of soft and sweet but can only taste the bitterness of losing: patience, love. Your peace harvest is coming. Be so gentle with yourself.

If you are sitting on the porch sipping summer's lemonade, soaking in the light of finding and trusting: rest in gratitude. Count blessings. Be so gentle with others.

Take time to eat the fruit from the trees 
and taste the bitter from the sweet.
Let's bake pies and lemon bars 
and deliver on the promises we make; 
to learn, love, and grow.

Notes on the Cycle of Faith: Trusting

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Part 5 of 6 of the "Cycle of Faith" series, which is an exploration of "faith crisis" by way of personal experience, insight, and opinion. 

Read Part 1, "Learning" here.
Read Part 2, "Losing" here.
Read Part 3, "Seeking" here.
Read Part 4, "Finding" here.

To download a PDF copy of the series (so you don't have to read post by post), click HERE.

A few months ago, I attended a women's workshop my therapist was leading. At our third meeting, my therapist asked me to follow her into the hallway for that night's exercise. She explained that she would lead me on a walk but I would be blindfolded and no words would be spoken. I agreed, filled with excited anticipation. She placed the blindfold over my eyes, then led me out the door and the adventure began.

I smiled the entire walk, full of excitement. She held my hand but didn't lead me so much as walk beside me - I practically skipped along, not knowing where we were going but sure it was going to be amazing. I laughed even though I couldn't speak. We stopped, and my hand was placed on a surface. As I moved my fingers and palm along its rough ridges and shallow canyons, small pieces broke off, leaving earthy residue on my palm. I realized I was touching a tree. I grabbed its trunk with both my hands, grateful for the moment we spent together. Soon, I was lead away to explore something new.

I was guided to touch rocks, walls, concrete, and even a trash can which, once I realized what it was, I touched with only a fingertip *OCD shudder*. Along the way, the blindfold started to fall off, but it didn't matter. I kept my eyes closed. A huge smile was plastered on my face for the entire walk. I loved every moment and was sad when it was over. As my therapist removed my blindfold, she asked me to return to the workshop room, silently invite the next person for their turn, and journal my thoughts about the experience. 

After everyone took their turn, we gathered to talk about our different experiences. My therapist explained that this experience was a "Faith Walk", an exercise designed to stimulate our innate faith response. I listened to the other women share their experience. Every one spoke of how scary and difficult it was to trust during the exercise. They explained their anxiety, fear, and confusion. One was disoriented in the darkness. One moved slowly, unsure of the next steps. Some even wondered if something terrible would happen. I was hesitant to share my experience, wondering, "What is wrong with me?" I had a totally different experience from every person present. I was alone in my joy.

"Grow up, Channing," I told myself. "Real life is hardship and tears. Normal people don't skip along in life like they are starring in the Sound of Music. Wipe that stupid smile off your face."

I decided to not listen. My heart has a rebellious kind of beat.

I shared with the group. As I did so, I felt a voice inside my soul say "Nothing is wrong with you. You were made to be different."

This experience showed me my "default setting" is faith.
My very nature is excited and hopeful.
My glass is never half anything - it is always full.
My obedience is not blind because I trust the wisdom of my soul.

Seeing this, I understood.

My purpose is to

see what I see,
know what I know,
lace my words with honey
and speak them,
glow in the dark,
and live patiently;

balance comes in understanding
change takes time
and the food of change is love.
I am someone
and I can do something.
I choose to participate in love.

The Faith Walk blessed me with a deep trust in my heavenly parent's plan and love for me. No longer did I need to be self-conscious about not "fitting in". I could give up my pursuit of perfection. I could face the world with confidence in my purpose instead of feeling burdened by it. I could balance my passions with love.

I finally felt like a new framework was being rebuilt.
Church no longer had my blind obedience.
It would have my full presence, which requires effort to make a place for me - challenges, questions, and all.
If my greatest fear was realized and I was kicked out for being myself and advocating for equality, so be it. My relationship with God is real and sincere. I trust he would work it out between us.
Finally, my faith was in God and not in Church; I saw I have freedom to choose Love and abandon everything that is not.

Honestly, I was partially shocked by my decision to stay a member of the LDS church. I still do not fully understand all the moving parts that brought me to it. I look at the hurting person who wrote parts 1-3, and can't help but feel the magic of transformation.

How is it possible to grow so beautifully from such heartache?

Seeds know.

Butterflies know.

Witches know.

Notes on the Cycle of Faith: Finding

Monday, February 5, 2018

Part 4 of 6 of the "Cycle of Faith" series, which is an exploration of "faith crisis" by way of personal experience, insight, and opinion. 

Read Part 1, "Learning" here.
Read Part 2, "Losing" here.
Read Part 3, "Seeking" here.

To download a PDF copy of the series (so you don't have to read post by post), click HERE.

Answers came. They were slow and often fine as the morning mist that rolls over land by the sea; intangible as breath.

But they were real. I could taste their salt.

I needed to find my Heavenly Mother. I felt strongly that if I knew her, if I could see her, I could peacefully allay the echoes of patriarchy I heard within in the walls of church. I sought her out for months, searching at length for any mention of her. It did not matter to me if the source was LDS or not, I absorbed every truth I could find, knowing eventually they would all combine into a singular answer. I sought earnestly, asking a bold thing:

"Mother, let me see your face."

I do not subscribe to the wide-spread idea that Heavenly mother is secretly sacred - that Heavenly Father keeps her hidden away to protect her. I believe she is his equal in every way. She loves and understands the humanity of her children to the depths the Father does, and therefore can withstand any offense mortals can cause; just as mortal mothers understand the tantrums and unregulated passions of their children. I knew she was present. I knew I could find her. I simply needed to know where and what to look for.

In this podcast episode featuring Rachel Hunt Steenblik, I saw her. 

These are scriptural symbols and imagery of Divine Mother Steenblik mentions in the podcast:
  • Wisdom, capitalized or referred to as female 
  • mountains
  • trees
  • birds (specifically doves)
  • oil
  • tree of life
  • menorah
  • Ruah (a Hebrew word meaning wind or spirit)
  • mother bear

There are other symbols I personally feel she claims, such as:
  • Earth and soil
  • bodies of water, especially oceans and rivers
  • moon
  • seeds and grain

Seeing her changed everything for me.

Reading the scriptures felt more like a treasure hunt instead of trauma. I saw that Mother had a voice and she speaks, just differently than I was accustomed to. Once I learned to tune in to her frequency, I rested in waves of comfort. She taught me bravery, courage, and strength. She helped me use my voice again after years of fearful silence.

Shortly after finding Heavenly Mother, I was asked by my Relief Society president to write a poem/spoken word piece for our Christmas activity. I struggled for words for close to a month, until I was awoken from a deep sleep one December night with words that burned to be written. The exact words are found in my piece, "Who Am I?". It is comprised entirely of inspiration straight from my Divine Mother. The most potent and powerful ideas and rhythms of that piece are not mine to claim; they came from heaven. As I presented that piece that night of the Christmas party and again for two seminary classes a week later, I felt the familiar warmth of a mother's hug around me. It felt like coming home.

In the weeks following, I felt at odds with seemingly two parts of myself: a soul that knew my Mother in the framework of the LDS church, and a heart purposed with a love that looked like equality and democracy to a society in the clutches of hierarchy. Again, I found heaviness and sorrow in my spirituality. I felt I could not keep both. Staying and leaving each brought their own consequences and loss.

Hints of hope were given. 

As I read a book a friend had given me titled the Birth of Pleasure by Carol Gilligan. Gilligan offered me a new framework of connection. Before reading her work, I thought connection was a one-time event. One either had achieved connection or they had not. But Gilligan presented connection as a continuing process of "finding, losing, and finding again." Suddenly, my experience of gaining a testimony and losing it *again* felt less like a failure and more like a normal part of spirituality. I often find and lose my connection with God, but the quality of my relationship is forged by efforts to find again. I lost sight of my Heavenly Mother but through effort, I found her again. Church and I broke ties for a time but with this understanding, losing connection with my religion no longer felt like a death sentence. I was hopeful.

In this podcast episode it was presented that many women of my generation are leaving the LDS church because of issues of equality. It was comforting to hear that because for once I did not feel completely crazy and alone in seeing what I saw. It was said that this loss of women is indeed a loss because their voices and ideas are needed. Women who leave are taking change with them. I knew then that if I left, than I would lose the ability to enact change in my spiritual framework. Hearing this, I made my choice. I would stay because church needed me just as much as I needed the gospel it provides.

I turned to my husband again for insight.
"What does working together look like?" I asked.
"Ah, I see you're asking new questions!", he said with a smile and a wink. He can't help his teasing nature.
"Yeah, yeah," I said, "but I need different ones now."

We talked more
and I began asking again:

How do I stay but not hurt myself and others?
What is my purpose right now?
How do I keep my passions in balance with my purpose?

and this time, 
the answers came clear and glittering as sunlight on a rippling lake surface.

Notes on the Cycle of Faith: Seeking

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Part 3 of 6 of the "Cycle of Faith" series, which is an exploration of "faith crisis" by way of personal experience, insight, and opinion. 

Read Part 1, "Learning" here
Read Part 2, "Losing" here.

To download a PDF copy of the series (so you don't have to read post by post), click HERE.

Dear church,

You ask so much of me. There are things I am happy to do: serve others unceasingly. Forgive. Love. Have a personal relationship with God. But there are other requests that are harder because they go against my deepest, most concrete beliefs of unconditional love and universal respect. You ask me to be at peace a hushed history of polygamy. You want me to accept deeply-ingrained conditional female equality.

I have tried for years to do what now appears to be impossible - reconcile my values with what you claim is truth.

I know where you think this is going, so let me get it out of the way. I'm not leaving. I don't want to.

But the thought of staying makes my soul tremble.

I am scared that once you hear what I really think and how I really feel, you'll realize I don't belong. I am afraid you'll try to wipe away my distrust with admonitions to "have more faith" and "trust the plan". I am afraid that the only answers I'll receive to my questions about equality in the church is an "I don't know", or worse, an "I don't see a problem." I fear you will quiet my voice with shame and threats of discipline.

My worry expands further than just my concerns of equality.
I once heard said "If you can't see God in all, then you can't see God at all."
So I looked around for God
and I found Cactus and Wind and Moon.
I tasted wild blackberries and sea water.
I saw the sky shed tears and I saw babies born.
I saw the humanity of the Other.
I saw
and I could not unsee
endless beauty and divinity.

Instead of desiring to contain and define and claim it, I simply wanted to revel in the moonlight and soak naked in the sea. I hear in church that God shows himself only in scripture but I see sunrises and towering mountains. You say, "The natural man is an enemy to God." I cry. I was made from dust.

I remember my ancient mothers' connection to Earth. I mourn the loss of Wisdom and I keep my love for nature secret. I fear if I unveil it you will see something savage and close your doors, your windows, and all your curtains to me.

I am terrified to be myself with you because you've told me for 26 years that who I am - carnal, earthy, and human - is offensive and shameful.

I've half a mind to leave because the thought of you kicking me out is more painful than walking away with my dignity intact. I know I'd be leaving so much behind. What else is the promise of divine origin, baptism, and eternal families besides the promise of belonging? This is the place I thought was home.

I have often heard it said of church doctrine, policy, and culture: "If you don't like it, leave."

I don't like all of it.
Can I still stay?

I sit in my church meetings dressed in wool, suppressing my howls of anguish. Even though I'm different now, is it still okay for me to be here? Is there a place for my pain? Is there room for my healing?

I know I'm asking questions I can't bear to hear answered "No."

If I give you my heart and show you my wild spirit, will you still love me?
If I ask for answers, will you help me find them?
If I voice my disagreement, if I tell you how much you've hurt me, if I seek change, will you plug your ears and ask me to leave?

What if you truly are the face of God

and in my nakedness,
hungering for healing, and
weeping the truth of the women who came before me,

I am turned away?

Notes on the Cycle of Faith: Losing

Friday, February 2, 2018

Part 2 of 6 of the "Cycle of Faith" series, which is an exploration of "faith crisis" by way of personal experience, insight, and opinion. 

Read Part 1, "Learning" here.

To download a PDF copy of the series (so you don't have to read post by post), click HERE.

After my discovery of patriarchy and my introduction to feminism, many questions followed. I started with what I felt was most important.
"Where is Heavenly Mother?" I asked my husband. 
"She's there, with God." he said.
"Why don't we know anything about her?" I said.
"I don't know, " he said, to his credit. I didn't either. 

"I don't understand." I said. "Children benefit from the influence of both parents - in fact, its vital. Missing one creates a huge void in development. Wouldn't that be true of souls as well? Don't we need a divine mother's influence just as we need a divine father?" I asked.
"That makes sense. What interests you about this?" he replied.
"I need hope." I said. "If being like God is what men aspire to, then women aspire to be like Heavenly Mother. I see that she is silent. I see that she is forgotten."

I began to cry. "That is not heaven for me. I need to know there is more. I need to know who she is, but I don't know where to start. I don't know if I'm even allowed to ask." I said.

"I think its okay for you to ask, Channing. I think its okay for you to know her. I don't have the answers, but I know you will find them."

I am incredibly lucky to have a husband who supports me along my wanderings. 

My other concerns were more difficult to satisfy.

After asking and searching for months and coming up with no satisfactory answers, I lost hope. I was ready to give up. I was ready to leave the church.

I cried for days. Church used to be a place of solace, a place where I felt heard and accepted. I used to have peace inside its walls and traditions. Where I used to be happy in my faith, I was now bitter. The foundational teachings still brought me joy. I loved the Savior of the LDS church. I loved the idea of continuing and personal revelation. I loved forever families. I loved the value placed on eternal marriage. I loved opportunities to serve others. But there was one thing I did not see in church, and that was equality. This single exception was acutely painful.

My heart could not bear the shame I felt in the temple. I hadn't been since my son was born. Reading the scriptures was traumatic for me because every story is about death and war and sacrifice and servitude. I could only read the New Testament, and only the scriptures of Christ's ministry. I did not trust conference talks. Sunday meetings required grit teeth through judgmental, sometimes prejudiced remarks. I felt I had lost everything that sustained me through past difficulties. In my eyes, everything was stained by patriarchy.

The feeling of loss and grief was tremendous. Part of my soul had died. There was a gaping hole in my heart where testimony used to be.

When I tried sharing my heartache with others I often heard admonitions to "have more faith". As if my struggle with faith was a question of character or grit instead of a reconciliation of pain. But I kept wondering, have more faith in what? The "only true church", one that subordinates women and is intolerant of LGBTQ friends? All I could see if I stayed was a future of denial and pain.

My husband asked, "Channing, what do you want to do?" 
"I am torn. Half my heart wants to stay and half wants to leave." I said. I continued.  
"I feel like church does not want me. Church does not want my feminism. Church does not want my radical love. Church does not want my love for Earth and animals. Church does not want my witchy, hippie yoga heart. But God wants all of me, and he put in my heart to be true to myself and share boldly. But I tried sharing it a few months ago and the message I received was clear: You are different. You are dangerous. You do not belong."
"If I leave, my problems with organized religion disappear. Then I am free to worship in a way that does not hurt me." I said.
 "Have you prayed about what to do?", he asked thoughtfully.
"No, because I know what the answer is and it hurts. I don't want to hear it." I said.
"What's the answer?"
"Then maybe its time to ask some new questions." my husband said.

So I did the only thing I know to do when I have a heart heavy with pain and questions.

I wrote a letter.
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