Prescott Road Trip
I've been wanting to share Anthony with you for a long time. I am so proud of this man, of the things he's accomplished, of the spiritual growth he's created for himself, and for the hard things he's survived. Anthony is one of my best friends and we have talked about an interview like this for quite some time. Ready to meet him?
Thank you for sharing yourself with us, Anthony. Will you tell us about where you've come from and what sparked your own personal awakening or deconstruction?
Well for starters, I grew up in a really difficult home. My dad moved us away from my mom when I was younger. I grew up with my dad and his abusive ex-girlfriend. There was so much abuse in my home. The abuse I faced early in my childhood consisted of sexual, verbal, emotional, and mental. Amidst some of the good times I had as a child, I also remember growing up and not knowing where to run to anymore. I remember going to church. It felt safe for awhile. For a while, it all felt right. I had one big secret that no one knew. I was fifteen and walked into church knowing that I was gay. I remember hearing the guys in the youth group saying things and making fun of gay boys. I remember on one occasion, someone even made fun of me because I wasn't "manly".
I was a part of the christian church for a long time, I even worked for a church too. Not all things were negative, but I started to feel abused again. This time I felt abused differently. It was more of a spiritual abuse, because I was told I was loved by a god who also hated parts of me. I always felt unworthy and ashamed. Leaders within the church bullied me and spread lies behind my back. I wasn't nice either and I take responsibility for that. At some point, I couldn't do it anymore. I left the abuse in my home on Wednesdays and Sundays to get spiritually abused at church. I want to make it clear that they hurt me in a deep deep way, but in the beginning it was beautiful. I felt so welcomed. It was a sign of hope. I'm glad I was introduced to God, but I later realized that my God(dess) is not like theirs, and that's okay and enough for me.
I'm so sorry for the pain you've experienced at the hands of religion, friend. What kind of obstacles did you face that brought deeper awareness?
I left one church to go to another where I faced oppression in a whole new way. I was the only Latino. They made jokes they thought were okay. I was still in the closet and I died everyday. I remember waking up one day and saying, "I can't hate myself anymore, I can't keep trying to be loved by others if I don't love myself". I had to choose myself. I knew that who I surrounded myself with was like drinking poison. I left church completely. I left to be my true self. In March 2017, I met up with my friend. He and I sat together and I told him that I needed to tell him something. He said, "Whats up?" I said, "I like guys." and he said, "I have something to tell you too...I'm gay". That night changed my life. Since then I have lost friendships, family support, my best friend, and more. Has it been worth it? Is it still worth it? Absolutely. Yes. Yes. Yes. I would do it again. I am so thankful for my counselor Fatima. Wherever she may be in the world, I'm sure she is killing it.
Your evolution is so powerful How has your self view and world view changed?
I have truly begun to love myself. I realized that if I had to lose everyone to love myself, I would, and I did. I also have come to the conclusion that I still Love Jesus and God(dess). I believe that Jesus has transformed my life in the most spiritual, and physically profound ways. I believe that because he did die on the cross I am free to live as my true, authentic self. I also believe that Jesus was there in the hardest times of abuse for me and not in the form of church or his people, but in a way where He (Jesus) demolished all of the toxicity that was my home life as a kid. I also now believe God(dess) is neither female nor male. I love that new belief of mine. It rings a new bell to "We are made in God's Image" because my gender expression is fluid. I wear makeup, paint my nails, and live freely. I also believe that Love Wins. One of my favorite new things about my world view is the idea that in our healing from trauma or hurt, we get to take credit for it too. We owe it to ourselves.
I love that. We owe it to ourselves. What do you believe everyone in the world deserves to have and how does that shape the way you live your life?
I believe everyone in the world deserves to have Love. I also believe that everyone deserves to have worth and to live life without shame. Because of those two statements, I am living free. I have lots of haters, but that isn't stopping me. I wear makeup. I break the "norms". I am a lover of humans.
So many other people are going through this same awakening. What advice or encouragement would you give to someone else who is going through their own deconstruction?
Remember that you deserve to be yourself. Give yourself permission to live free and radically. Don't hold back. You will find true fulfillment in that.
Now for the Oprah question: what is one thing you know for certain?
I know that I am loved, enough and worthy. I also know that I love a good highlighter.
How can people find you and/or your work?
I'm supposed to keep all of my stuff anonymous because of my profession, but people are free to follow me on Instagram at @anthonythebrownie where I will accept their requests.
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Have you felt trapped in religion, confined to a particular way of things, and hungry for space to stretch yourself out in? Are you tired of rules that justify spiritual abuse, texts that have lost their intention along the way, and the oppressive way patriarchy breathes down your neck? Have you felt this stirring in your gut, like something else is billowing up out there? Have you smelled it in the air, like rain moving through the desert? Have you tried to be tame, to submit, to align yourself with a culture that makes less sense the further out you get from it?
Little by little you're going wild. Small death by small death you are entering the wilderness. Breath by breath you're reclaiming your soul.
Wild spirituality is the vast universe of encounter, the space where we wander in search of deeper wells and clearer voices. It's where toxic religious tradition burns off and we're left with bare bones, free spirits, and a divine expectation of more. Feminine energy thrives here, breathes herself into broader spaces here. The wide open space of the wild woman who lives in all of us, regardless of gender, knows that this is her ground. We do the terrifying, liberating work of untethering ourselves from traditions and expectations that have kept her buried and kept all of us in the dark. The more we reconcile to the fluidity of spirituality and sexuality, the more we encounter the limitless, inclusive, always expanding love of God. We find less need for language and tradition that keep us fighting each other over glorious differences. We stop caring who loves who - we just care that Love is alive and breathing into us. We stop caring about the gender of God - we just care that we are given the gift of seeing the divine spark in all of us. We stop caring about political lines - we just commit ourselves to fighting for each other. We stop caring about antiquated rules that were created to serve empire - we know now that we're going to have to level all of our walls in order to discover what is waiting in the divine flow.
In the beginning, when we first step into the wilderness, we're unsure of what's going to happen. This is all new, all unknown territory. We've never lived this life, breathed this air, traveled this road. We don't know who or what is out here, what is going to surface in us when we're alone, or if the desert ever turns into an oasis. We just know that going backwards is never an option and that moving forward means facing the wilderness. We start out with heavy bags, certain that we need these perspectives, theologies, and certainties in order to survive. We carry them like boulders strapped to our backs, but it isn't long before we begin to taste the wild air. We dismantle our survival instincts, our filters, our labels, and our attempts to be in control. Eventually, usually when we're alone in the dark, we realize we aren't carrying anything anymore. Our souls are breathing. Our minds are expanding. Our hearts are healing. Our bodies are releasing. We're going wild.
Whatever scared us about awakening the wild in us seems childlike now. We were afraid because we didn't have context for who we could be out here. We were afraid because we were told to be afraid. But here we are, thriving.
The beauty of wild spirituality is that it grows where it wants to, flourishes as it wants to, uncovers wells when it wants to. It isn't a knowing, it's an unknowing. It's a willingness to discover that we were always wrong about where God must live. It's a brave resilience and the fierce way we face storms when they come. It's the empowering uncovering of how capable we are, how strong we are, how worthy we are. The wilderness is open to everyone who seeks it, but few choose it.
I don't need to give you a list of ways to know if you are going wild. You know if you are. You feel the way it cracks open in you, slowly at first and then like a burst of stars in the deep desert. You taste the change in you when you're talking to people who are walking different paths, the way your words feel unfamiliar and true on your tongue. You know when you're stepping into the wild because you're even asking the question now. Are you dismantling? Are you facing the pain? Are you telling the truth with your whole life? Are you exploring the vastness of creation and the creatress? Are you finding divine beauty in places you were certain only held empty philosophies? Are you waking up to the sacred feminine in you? Are you soft but fierce, loud but clear, bright but dark, wild but safe? Then here you are. Thriving in wild spirituality. This is the waking up, the realization that this ground has always been holy, the reconciling of who you've been to who you're becoming. Welcome to the next right thing, love.
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There's another story in the Judeo Christian tradition about Israel's first and second kings. The first was a man named Saul who was chosen through ritual and was so resistant that when they went to find him he was hiding in the baggage. The thing about Saul is that he was tall, and attractive, and he seemed like a good fit. These people had spent generations building a new empire and shaking the narrow place out of their way of life, but we know that memories live in our bodies. Some feelings will run through grandmothers to mothers to daughters before someone is ready to release it. So here they were being ruled by prophets and judges, which makes me think that a people who come from a long line of slavery have no interest in a single leader. I see that happening now as the exodus from church grows and deconstruction becomes a broader conversation. It's an appropriate response for people who are in the thick of reclaiming themselves.
But things fade, stories grow less impactful as they travel from lived experience to records of where they've come from. Now they wanted a more traditional kind of leadership, so they did what we do and they rushed ahead to name Saul their king. Things went the way you would expect: Saul accumulated power, and wealth, and family. There were a few red flags, moments they should have seen that he was manipulative, fear driven, and self serving - but the people really believed that God had chosen him so they followed him anyway.
Let's stop there for a moment.
I look back and wish I had acknowledged past signs that a person or a situation was dangerous or toxic. I ask myself why I didn't say anything then, but I know why. It was always because the person was a master manipulator and I felt crazy for not believing them. When all of your people are on board, when the narcissist is playing to their audience, pulling the plug is a risky move. We want to hope that we're misreading the situation or that the person will change, but this is why churches, and ministries, and organizations far too often leave a trail of bodies. We are instinctively drawn to tribalism - it's what makes us feel safe and known - and no one calls for loyalty to the tribe more than the church. Even if it means that human beings are confined to a narrow place. I want you to know that there is no shame in having stayed too long or in having believed someone whose intention was to use and deceive you. Now that we know better, we do better. But shame is not a part of this story.
Back to the story. Something strange happened. A prophet named Samuel broke rank - as true prophets always do. He knew that Saul wasn't a healthy leader so he sought out a particular family and anointed their youngest son - a shepherd who wrote songs and poetry. A boy who was at home in the wilderness.
Which is where we know Divine Love actively creates healing and freedom.
Which is where this whole story started in the first place.
Imagine the intensity of that moment, of the knowing David's family carried with them from then on. This is the part of the narrative when everything starts to swell, when our vision gets broader, and we know that EVERYTHING IS GOING TO CHANGE. Remember the exodus that told us we are worth rescuing, that even the undercurrent of oppression is a system God always rejects? Now is the time. It all has to shift right now.
But when the ritual was over Samuel went home and David went back to his sheep. That was it. Nothing changed.
The deep disappointment of the wrong person maintaining a position of power deflates us. And like the Hebrews at the water of Marah we scream into the wilderness, what now?
The story unfolds the way we expect it to, Israel goes to war and David volunteers to go face to face with Goliath. He goes into battle without armor and with only a slingshot as a weapon. David's shot is clear and precise, he wins and all of Israel falls in love with the shepherd boy. It seems like things are picking up but this is actually where things start to get sticky. We already know that something has been brewing under the surface with Saul all along. Whether it was mental illness, narcissism, or a massive amount of insecurity coupled with power - Saul starts to slip. He hears the songs being sung about David, he sees the love his own son and people have for him, and he knows his position of power is being threatened. Because in reality being good looking and quick with excuses that justify the misuse of power is not enough to keep someone in control.
The story says that Saul began to have violent, unstable episodes so David offered to play and sing for him - the man who knew he was the rightful King of Israel sat at the feet of the mad king and attempted to soothe him. As is always the case with inflamed ego it wasn't long before Saul's rage increased and he tried to kill David and my favorite part of this story happens right here. David didn't pick up the spears that were thrown at him and throw them back. Instead he ducked and he kept playing. Not because he was weak, but because he was more. He was already trained in wilderness, already at home with himself, already confident that The Divine was for him. David already knew oasis.
He had to leave though. He had to get up and leave Saul and it cost him. David lost his best friend, his wife, his status, his reputation, and his tribe. He knew where to go and he knew how to survive - his life as a shepherd had prepared him for the wilderness. He was used to the cold, and the wild, and the wide open sky full of Universe. This is the life he had already lived and he didn't hesitate to live it again. I've always wondered if he ever considered going back to Israel and taking what had been promised to him or if he questioned why Samuel had ever given him the hope of something more. Whatever was happening for David out in the desert, one thing we know for sure: he wrote. His pain, and loneliness, and uncertainty poured out into poetry and songs. I know the potency of that experience and I am one million percent certain that that open conduit of creativity and vulnerability is part of what made David a man worth following. He wasn't emotionally blocked, he was wide open energy. He lived his life by ripping open his rib cage and letting his heart breathe - and that's what Rob Bell says prayer is.
Eventually discontent people started leaving Israel to seek out David. And I want you to know how important it is to know that these people were discontent. Remember that the Hebrew people had another word for Egypt that translates to "the narrow place"? And remember that when they left that life of oppression and slavery they came to the waters of Marah? Remember that the bitterness of that water would have healed them, but they didn't know yet that God was for them, so they asked for something sweet? I love that The Divine always meets us where we we're at, knowing that we're not always ready for the deepest healing. So they drank the water sweet but the invitation to deeper wells had never been retracted.
Generations later in the recorded story of David's life, these discontent people found their way to him and devoted themselves to his wilderness life. The translated word for "discontent" means bitter. Years after their ancestors had rejected the bitter water, David welcomed it into his camp. Even though his ancestors weren't ready for it, the need for healing had never stopped moving through their blood and Divine Love had kept the flow open for the one who was ready to feel it. He who had already reconciled to the hard work of being alone, of not knowing that the promise would ever come, of losing everything that had made his life safe and comfortable, of running from a mad king - he knew that The Divine was for him and that even the bitter water was for him. And let me tell you, people who have left a Saul will always be angry or bitter for awhile. It's an appropriate response to having served a manipulator who has no empathy for the people they are leading. You GET to be angry when you leave the narrow place, your heart is catching up to your body and it takes a whole lot of internal processing to feel whole again.
David had left Saul's house, but he wasn't free from Saul's abuse. Saul came for him, he raged against him, he brought armies of soldiers to try to hunt David and wipe him out. There were a few times that David had the opportunity to kill Saul and no one would have blamed him, but he refused. Because David already knew who he was and because he trusted that The Divine would either deliver the promise or not. He was open handed with his own path and the bitter water had done its work of purging the old way from David.
Those discontent people were called David's Mighty Men. They left Saul for the wilderness too - and that kind of experience creates something stronger than tribalism. It creates family. There is a knowing that some of us carry in our bodies and will always recognize in one another, a deep feeling of having lost everything in order to live free. The deconstruction of faith often happens because we have spent far too long building someone else's empire, soothing someone else's madness. We haven't taken a real breath in years and we suddenly know we just can't live this false life anymore. So we enter the wilderness, not to get lost but to be found. We don't start a war to lay claim to everything we think we are owed. We go deep into the desert and we drink the bitter water. We reconcile to ourselves there, we experience the mystical creation of love and freedom in the dark silence of wilderness. We encounter. We wake up. We let go.
There is no new life without the death of an old one. There is no promised land without leaving the narrow place. There is no cleansing without first drinking the bitter water. There is no freedom without leaving Saul.
What is meant for you will come to you and what is not meant for you will leave you, but the practice of an open hand and an open heart is the only way to finally heal what has been stirring in you since you first stepped foot outside of Egypt. It's okay if you don't trust the bitterness yet, if you don't trust The Divine yet, if you don't trust the promise of more yet. It's okay if you are grieving the loss of the life you once had - even if it was a life of oppression and pain. It's okay if you are only just beginning to shake your arms free in this new wide open space. It's okay, friend. Because this is where you are right now and The Divine/The Universe/Source/God always meets us where we're at.
The invitation to deeper wells has never been retracted.
First there is a story about slaves who had been liberated from centuries of dying from a life that was never their own. There are poetic miracles that make us want to believe in a God who wants freedom for human beings so badly that They will defy what we know to be true in order to rescue us. We align ourselves with those free people who were forging more than a path through the desert - they were conjuring up a new way of life out of dust, and heat, and fire, and a hovering cloud. We feel their breath in our bodies, the hum of human connection at the base of our own existence. We remember Ubuntu: I am you and you are me. We once left Egypt.
Alexander Shaia once said that there is a word the Hebrews used for Egypt that, when translated, means “the narrow place”. Can you see that? The way the narrow place, the smallness, the oppression, the abuse faded away behind them as they stepped into a wide wilderness? The openness of the sky and the cold night air, no more walls and doors to lock them in with the heat? The strength and exhaustion of bodies that had built someone else’s empire before standing open hearted in the sweet air of uncontained desert? The loss they carried with them, the grief of children murdered and families desperate to survive? The scars on their bodies and the cracks in their hearts? It wasn’t supposed to be that way. It was never supposed to be that way. Don’t you know you were never meant to live that way?
Something happens when we leave the old thing, when the narrow way closes behind us, when we liberate ourselves from abuse of any kind. Once we’re no longer surviving the pain, our subtle bodies catch up to us and we find out just how angry we are. The church won’t tell you this, but it’s just to be angry, it’s fair to be bitter, it’s valid to flinch when a trigger happens. You’ve been crushed, beaten down, manipulated, mistreated, used, lied about, lied to, dishonored, violated, ignored… you’ve been building an empire that doesn’t serve love and the weight of that is too much. So scream into the fucking wind and let the truth of what has happened to you exist everywhere else, but don’t let it get trapped under spiritual abuse or silencing.
At some point in the story those wilderness wanderers had been walking for three days without water. They were exhausted, depleted, and already emotionally thin - you know that feeling of being so soul dry you almost can’t get out of bed in the morning? Imagine that coupled with sheer physical despair.
But then it’s right there: water. Water enough for everyone to drink and maybe, maybe The Divine is watching out after all. Until they drink it…
The water is bitter. As bitter as their now free hearts. So bitter it burns in their mouths, stings the cracks on their lips, and drops their lingering hope onto dry desert floor. The wholehearted despair is as thick as the cloud that reminds them they were worth saving. But now the story feels dark, feels cruel, feels like God Themselves have forgotten about them. As if they were forgettable. As if humanity weren’t always the point of the entire story. As if we had left Egypt for nothing.
They do what we have all done: they go dark. They slip into the shadows of their pain and they angrily ask Moses what now? Weirdly Moses finds a stick and he throws it in the water, turning it sweet, and they’re saved by a miracle. But not really. The sweet water wasn’t the miracle, the bitter water was. The ritual with the stick wasn’t the healing, the desert pool was. We know now why the water at Marah was bitter and we know now why Divine Love offered it. The high levels of calcium and magnesium in the water would have done two necessary things for them, for us. The magnesium would have worked as a laxative, purging any parasite or disease they had carried out of the narrow place with them. They would have moved into their new life with a fresh start, cleansed. A short distance away was an oasis called Elim and they would have rested there, healed there, prepared themselves for the kind of wandering that leads us all away from the old thing and into the new.
There’s something else. Endurance athletes use something called dolomite to survive in harsh conditions and for long periods of time. Dolomite contains calcium and magnesium. The bitter water was for them. The Divine was for them. All that time in the narrow place had taught them survival, but not trust. It’s hard to believe that the universe is working for our good, that Divine Love has one goal in mind: to lead us to a good, free life. We aren’t handed this version of God, we aren’t given a picture of a god who has always been creating in deep wilderness to bring people home to themselves.
When we reframe who we think God is we do something miraculous: we face bitter water and we find that we’re willing to drink it. Not because we’re martyrs and not because “God won’t give us more than we can handle”, but because - at the core of our existence - we know that The Divine is for us. We know that the universe is propelling us forward and that surrendering to that flow is the act that sets us free. If everyone and everything is our teacher, then nothing about our experience can be used against us. Nothing can diminish the soul deep knowing of how good we are, how worthy we are, how loved we are. It is the practice of that belief that makes us a student of the wilderness and not a slave to the narrow place.
I know the exact way bitter water slides down my throat, fills my soul, and asks me to fall back into an unseen oasis. I know the bitterness of an anxiety disorder that is as present as my skin most days. I know the bitterness of being an adult long before I was done being a child. I know the bitterness of multiple sexual assaults. I know the bitterness of both men and women in churches and ministries minimizing me and suffocating the life out of my soul. I know the toxic bitterness of purity culture. I know the bitterness of a depression so deep I tried to die. I know the bitterness of a marriage that was a product of trauma and intensely painful for almost the entire 14 years we were in it. I know the bitterness of holding my convulsing, vomiting baby while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. I know the bitterness of two hours spent in an ER thinking she had died without me. I know the bitterness of pouring my life, my creativity, my heart, and my values into a ministry that I now know abuses people. I know the bitterness of leaving my own narrow place and spending years dodging assaults from the people still camped out there. I know the bitterness of losing friends I trusted. I know the bitterness of divorce. I know the bitterness of being manipulated into a relationship with a man who I painfully learned was a narcissist and a liar - but all in the name of Jesus.
The point about all of this bitterness is that it has a purpose, but it has to move through us. We can taste it, talk about it, feel it, breathe it - but we can’t live in it forever. Bitter water is meant to purge us, to cleanse us, to heal us. It’s what the wild forces of love and freedom create for the sake of bringing us closer to our deepest healing. And we only find it in the wilderness, tucked between plants that thrive off of almost nothing and mountains that give us a view of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go - because The Divine has always used the wilderness to meet with us.
There’s more though. The story stretches all the way past finding a home, planting roots, and establishing a new kingdom - one they built for themselves this time. The threads of this particular human experience make the story of David in the wilderness even more important.
And that's the part I can't wait to tell you.
*Come back tomorrow for part two of Leaving Saul
There's a particular way I have survived life from a very early age: I analyzed what people wanted from me and then I became it. I used my power as an empath to discern what was needed and then I gave it. Every last drop.
The church wanted my smallness, my purity, my submission to insecure, narcissistic men. My family wanted my steadiness, my capacity to carry the emotions that ran through our home. My childhood friends wanted my ability to agree to everything, to quietly go along with the way we did things. One friend wanted my affection and when I wouldn't give it he took a twisted version of it anyway. Ministry leaders wanted my invisibility and my learned ability to take the brunt of their own childish reactions to girls who loved Jesus. My ex-husband wanted my codependent attempts to make him feel better about a lifetime of abuse and disappointment. When I couldn't give that anymore, he wanted my submission to a narrative that made me the enemy. My former yoga community wanted my learned capacity to serve a narcissist. And my own dysfunctional self wanted to survive at all costs.
Going wild comes in waves, in pieces, in layers. It starts somewhere small, with a thin skin that didn't cause too much loss to shed. It starts with pulling back at something that you are desperate to peel off of you and then there you are. A truer part of you surfaces, takes a breath, and is born.
It's beautiful, liberating, breathtaking, and so painful. Babes, it hurts to go wild. You stretch past skin and breath and heart that have acted like boundary lines your entire life. You learn the language of your intuition and realize how often you have ignored her, leaving you in situations that still burn in your mind. You make a million mistakes when you flex new muscles for the first hundred times. You lose elements of who you have been to uncover who you have always been waiting to be. You keep waking up at 3am to grieve what was, what you will never be again. There is no unknowing what you know now and there is no going back to a compressed, lifeless existence. Your heart learns what it's like to live outside of being abused and manipulated. Your soul learns what it feels like to take such a deep inhale that you expand in every direction. You are waking up, slowly and brutally. You are coming back to life, gloriously and in full color.
I've shed purity culture and reconciled to my body and my sexuality. I started making decisions about my relationship with sex and how connected that is to my relationship with myself. I've made mistakes, but they have never felt like shame. Shame only comes when you have denied your truest self, your divine connection, or your intuition. I listened to all three and moved forward as freely as I was capable of - and then I changed course immediately if one of those three voices started to stir in another direction.
I completed my relationship with the church, not angrily or bitterly, but fully and completely. That way of life doesn't fit who I am anymore. I needed to walk through a long process of moving on, but it has only freed me to love deeper and live clearer. Leaving the church liberated me to explore the Jesus path in a new way, to find hidden truth and mercy in passages of scripture that were often interpreted to manipulate me and in new sources, writings, and explorations of where God is. I am reconciling to spirituality and letting it evolve, expand, and grow as it will.
I've released the idea that I need to be married in order to be happy or complete. I don't know that I need it anymore. Without an inch of self deprecation I've recognized that I may not be made for a long term partnership - I'm a whole lot, friends. I'm a 4 with a 5 wing on the enneagram, which means I'm all head and all heart - all the time. I'm always in process, always slowly shifting into something new, always finding new wells to dig, always working on healing or transforming something about myself. I have yet to meet someone who could hold that space with me for a long time and I'm okay with that. I keep myself open to what the universe shifts in my direction, but I've stopped needing it to happen.
I've been painfully extracting the strong desire I have for my divorce to be peaceful, or compassionate, or fair. This is where I practice the law of detachment the most. I know where I am right now, grieving and bleeding out on a weekly basis. I know where I'm going to end up, healed and whole and free from a toxic relationship. But how I get there, what happens to get me there, is not something I want to try to control. It's a daily practice to open my hands and trust that my resiliency and my commitment to peace will attract opportunities to move forward. I mantra through open hands and an open heart as often as I need to.
There's infinitely more to what going wild means for me, but here's what it comes down to: we untether ourselves from expectations, or ill fitting rules, or abuse and manipulation. We set our own hearts free and then we start feeling out the edges and corners of the life we've been living out of habit or force. We learn to really breathe again, to be moved by the force of Love that courses through our veins. We say yes when we want to say yes. We say no when we want to say no. We ask questions and, when we need to, we grieve like wolves alone in the desert. We tap into the primal instincts that make femininity sacred. We listen when our gut is speaking and we shift course when we are no longer being true to ourselves. We accept that our hearts are good and that, if we are really listening, our hearts will direct us onto the divine path over and over again. We speak when we want to speak and we cultivate solitude when we need to be spiritually fed. We let The Divine be more expansive than we were ever taught to believe They could be. We see our interactions with people as opportunities to grow or heal ourselves. We meet each other and ourselves exactly where we are at. We stop apologizing for being who we are, for walking the road to Divine Love in the way that we do. We celebrate our bodies, our hearts, our minds, our powerful personalities. We move forward, whatever that looks like.
Going wild is in us. It's something we have always needed to do and something we are warned against doing. There's a reason patriarchy and religion are so terrified of a wild woman, a reason they work so hard at keeping them in their place by using terms like "Jezebel spirit", or "submission", or "helpmeet". There's a reason the myth of virginity and the toxic percpetion of purity is shoved down young girl's throats. There's a reason the culture in general wants women to stay small and quiet. And, hear me, sometimes it sounds reasonable - especially if you were raised to normalize it. But your soul knows, the wolf in you knows, the wild in you knows. You can't keep breaking yourself to fit inside that box anymore. And, when you're ready, you'll peel away a single skin, shed one small thing, taste the way freedom burns on your tongue. When you're ready to breathe again, you'll feel your way forward and you'll know you aren't the only one. You will remember having read this post and you'll know that your wild is celebrated here, safe here, loved here.
When you're ready, set your heart wild again.
You’re on such holy ground.
The stirring, the revealing, the accepting, the healing.
We are all both light and dark and we have to learn how to live in the balance of both.
We set ourselves free by loving both, honoring both, giving space for both to breathe - that’s how we keep ourselves from being consumed by darkness or idealizing light.
It’s what every sage and mystic went to the deep desert to learn and as empaths we’re actually given a stronger tendency towards living in the balance.
We just have to hone our ability to live in the tension of being both light and dark and with self kindness and self love fueling the way we wander.
Being human and divine means being both earth and stars, both inward and upward, both grounded and rising, both gentle and strong, both light and dark.
It’s the birthright we aren’t taught to explore.
You’re exploring and that’s so fucking powerful.
You’re deep in the desert, my love.
Encountering, struggling, and encountering again.
It’s all going to shift here.
The Divine has ALWAYS dealt in wilderness.
When you feel lost remind yourself of the mantra Brene Brown wrote for us: being all light is as dangerous as being all dark, simply because denial of emotion is what feeds the dark.
Be both. Without shame or fear.
Without questioning your innate goodness.
“To love yourself should be no quiet affair, but a loud uprising.”
Exist loudly. Take up space. Be unapologetic in living your life as truthfully and as wildly as you are currently capable of. Expand. Grow. Stretch into voids and past thresholds you’ve been too afraid to cross. Choose self kindness before you choose making someone else happy. Love like a river, cutting straight through rock and carving a new life out of the old one. Forgive yourself for all the ways you have wandered off the path in search of freedom. You were never lost, only wandering. Breathe with all of your soul from the back of the room, let the sound shake the air the way the energy of om moves through creation. Unravel your heart and all of its pain as an offering, like heat rising from your rib cage. Let the Divine Healer, the Mother of the Universe reshape you with fresh air and the ancient flow of never ending mercy. Be healed. Be loved. Be more than enough. Be soft and be fierce. The only way we learn to be human is by embracing our past and our persistent existence with gentleness. Love yourself.
Some things just burn for a very long time, I guess. Some hurt just pounds away in your body until you start to mistake it for the sound of your own heartbeat. Familiar. Constant. Instinctual. And even when you lift layer after layer of the ache away into the air, there it is. There it is because there you are. And the questions that linger like smoke around the bonfire of grief in your heart, they surface when it’s time to let loose again. Maybe you forgot that it was pain at the ground floor so you let the lion through the gate, desperate for something wild to stir your soul again. Maybe you named so many aches, so many traumas, so many losses, so many abuses but this one just kept burning.
And there is now. There is you. There is this. The way you burn so deep you can hardly breathe. It’s never the pain of what is. It’s the pain of what never was.
So okay. Curl in, reach out, love yourself whole. You’ll have to do it again in the morning and again at the next curve in the road, but you are made of fire and air. You are made to rise, to lift, to release. Burn on, love.
15 years ago today I was spiraling, spinning out from the center of religion. I was cutting my heart on the glass of purity culture, relieved that after multiple sexual assaults and years of trying to be perfect and pure in an actual relationship I could know now that I was exactly what they had always said I was. I remember the cold bathroom floor that night and the name I absorbed. It’s one of those sense memories that still stirs in me sometimes. Trying to live up to manmade traditions and patriarchal expectations had only stripped me of any self kindness. Spiritual abuse and trauma is a very real thing. It distorts the image of God and turns your good heart into a resource that can be manipulated. I know too many of you know that road, friends. And I’m so sorry. I was lost in the dark, alone in my ache, and right on the cliff edge of doing whatever it was going to take to stop hurting.
15 years ago tomorrow my life began, my heart started pumping blood into my soul again, I encountered divine love in the thickest part of my desperation. Something supernatural happened for my fragmented heart that night and something human happened for my fading body. I started living because I had given up on existing.
Somewhere in the cracks of trying to go infinitely numb and being forced awake all night long I found the first sliver of myself. I started deconstructing that night because I lost everything I’d been trying to be. I kept deconstructing inch by inch for over a decade and now I would call it going wild, coming home, finding myself in the wide expanse of not needing to tame a single divine thing.
Starting tomorrow Gina Pollard, and I are leading our very first round of The Creative Act of Reconstruction. These are 4 online sessions we’ve poured our own stories into because we know that the first thing we all feel when our masks are gone is loss. We know how it feels to stumble through the dark and feel completely alone. And we know that Reconstruction is as necessary to deconstruction as the sunrise is to the sunset. The rhythm isn’t done, hope isn’t dead, you are not alone.
There’s still time to register and there is always always room for you to come just as you are. Bring the mess, babes. We’ll embrace all of it. We’ll meet you there ❤️
Hear me: the memories we carry in our bodies aren’t all ours. We collect the pain, the trauma, and the freedom of the women before us. It pools in us alongside our own life experiences and then we either overflow or we break open the dam and let it all move through us. I feel it lately, my own grandma’s life showing up in mine. The way she grabbed my hands and told me how proud she was of me, what a good mother I was, days before she died. The sacred way we filled her room and walked her to the threshold. The words that spilled out of her mouth when she was halfway here and halfway there. I didn’t know then that I carried her story in my body too, that I was living some of her own heartbreaks, that maybe she knew I would need to be bolstered by that one thing: that I was good, that I had done well.
And right now, years later, she is still bolstering me but in new ways. It feels like she is taking my hands again, looking me right in the eyes, and telling me that she knows. She lived it too. She had to rise up out of the pain too. She had to conjure badassery out of her tired soul too. And we’ll make it, we’ll survive it, we’ll heal ourselves all over again.
My sister said this to me tonight and I wrote it down so I could carve it into my life. The bloodline of women who passed their own experiences down into my body, the women who circle me now, the women I am raising. It means something right now. It anchors me somewhere deeper than myself. It pulls me forward so I can push against the dam until it breaks.
I hear @glennondoyle on repeat these days: we can do hard things. We can. We have to. We do. If you don’t know yet how powerful women are, how sacred your connection is to the women who have had a part in raising the good in you, how fucking brilliant it is to be a part of something that reveals the unbreaking of The Divine in the world - rise up in it. Explore the possibility that, even in the mess and the mistakes, you have a bloodline of women behind and in front of you who will never let you go. Let this be the moment that your hands are in my hands and you hear it: you are good.
“You're the Northern Wind
Sending shivers down my spine
You're like fallen leaves
In an autumn night
You're the lullaby
That's singing me to sleep
You are the other half
You're like a missing piece
Oh my love
Oh my love
Oh my love
You don't know
What you do to me
You are all four seasons
Rolled into one
You're like the cold December snow
In the warm July sun
I'm the jet black sky
That's just before the rain
Like the mighty current
Pullin' you under the waves
I'm the darkest hour
Just before the dawn
And I'm slowly sinking
Into the slough of despond
Like an old guitar
Worn out and left behind
I have stories still to tell
They're of the healing kind
Oh my love
Oh my love
Oh my love
If I could just
Find you tonight
If I could just find you tonight
Oh my love”
/City and Colour
Does warmer weather pull you awake? And, when it does, do you remember all the vulnerability, & heartbreak, & epic badassery you’ve built in your wake? Do you remember what you’ve already done to wash the ache out of your bones? Do you move the truth you’ve told, the lies you’ve recovered from, the softness you’ve cultivated, & the clarity you’ve fought for like stones in your hands? Do you catch your breath when you think about the way people don’t always do right by each other?
If we weren’t all so splintered love would really be love & we would walk so gently with one another. I wish we were capable of that. In some ways we are. But since pain exists, I’ll give you this: we can love anyway, risk anyway, forgive anyway. We can rinse it all off every chance we get, breathe like our lungs are still ours, we can keep our hearts clear of resentment. Even if we’re the only ones getting free, at least we are so fucking free.
And when we circle back to the thing that dropped our hearts into our guts however long ago, we can hold our own souls in our own hands & whisper it again: everything is okay. Love is still a lifeforce moving us towards the quiet feeling of being so vividly alive. It’s like the way the sky changes colors when we move away from the light. It’s so good, so true, we almost can’t breathe. We find reverence in the way light and dark touch. We exhale & call it kadosh.
I’ve had a lot of opportunity lately to reflect on who I was 20 years ago, on exactly, precisely what it was like to be wrapped up and locked down in purity culture while trying to find myself in a world that is just as fractured as I felt. I’ve carried some harshness towards who I was then, felt a little bit of a weight in my gut over what I “should” have known and how I wish it had played out differently. I’m finding softness for myself now, a deep understanding for what a fucking KID I was. The weight of shame over sitting too close to my boyfriend or ever being alone with him, over wearing shorts or - god forbid - a swimsuit, over the sexual assault I had experienced countless times before I knew what any of it even was, over having to answer inappropriate questions from adults who were “protecting” me ... that shit (and so so much more, friends) made me want to die. And I tried once.
The day after everything hit the floor in my life I started to deconstruct. Inch by inch, thread by thread - I started taking myself back and writing a new narrative. For me, for you, for my kids, for your kids, for all of us. Purity culture was spiritual abuse, without a doubt. Somehow I survived it, but not without a soul full of scars. Today I told my brother that I am MINE. I am not the Church’s, not my parent’s, not my ex husband’s, not anyone’s. I am mine and that is the free-est thing I have ever felt. Ever.
Deconstruction begins differently for all of us but it started for me in the chaos of extracting myself from a toxic, traumatic experience and it lasted for about 15 years. Long, and lonely, and slow, and thorough. I wouldn’t trade a second of it.
So, loves, there’s still time to sign up for The Creative Act of Reconstruction with me and @ginadpollard. We're starting the series on the 15th anniversary of my own beginning and I have this gut feeling that this is going to be one of the best things I have ever done with my own story. So come as you are with all the pieces of your heart, all the elements of your own trauma, shame, fear, or anger. We’ll meet you on the bridge and we’ll hold ground for you while you start rewriting your own narrative. Come on, babes. Your freedom is calling.
All the way out in the desert past the city lights glowing south of us - out where the real light gathers like clusters of prana pulsing in the dark. Out in the cold and the quiet with stars arcing across the sky and I’m catching my breath every time. Out where the only sound is the soft sound of music from the speaker and horses moving in the dark across the way. All night long under stars and surrounded by a forest of Saguaro. Coyotes found something deep in the desert and they howled out of sync with each other. This is what wild feels like.
I came out of the desert different, my heart unlocked in new ways, my energy moving through me in an untethered flow. I can’t explain it, other than this knowing that I am more reconciled now than I was before. I’ve sorted out something in me so old and with words I didn’t know I had been waiting to unleash from my throat. It had to happen this way, it had to be some sort of magic that could only happen in that exact moment.
I found a peace in being alone, in focusing all of my energy on my own awakening. I found a piece of myself I was missing and it landed smooth and soft back into my soul again. Like coming home. Like exhaling. Like taking my heart in my hands and gently putting it back in my chest.
For the first time in decades my love starved self is completely content with being in the presence of my own self, breathing my own air. Whatever it was that unlocked in me out in the desert temple priestessed me into the thing I’ve been trying to do for months. I don’t need someone else’s exhale to fuel me, to heal me, to purge the hurt from my bones. I can love myself there, all the way to wholeness.
It was healing to matter, to be remembered.
“I wanted you
and the wanting
to leave myself.
I wanted me
and the wanting
to never leave again.”
It’s just all connected. All the wanting I’ve done in my life, all the turning inside out to try to meet someone on the bridge, all the lonely parts, and all the coming home to myself. Circular, and wide, and flowing through the same energy over and over again.
This morning @anthonythebrownie told me that I am so free to be me. Which is simple, but hit deeper than I expected. It’s like I keep forgetting that I am my own and then I slide back around to meet myself again. Healing, like pain, comes in waves. I’m slowly learning to let it ebb and flow without needing to control where it goes.
PC: Lisa Boehm
“I don’t ever want to fall in love again. This time I deserve to rise up in it.”
Don’t fall, don’t fracture to fit, don’t get small to squeeze through the cracks. Just don’t. Not this time. Or the next. If it doesn’t make you expand, and stretch, and overflow it isn’t for you. If it doesn’t honor your healing, your growth, your newness it won’t ever be right for you.
Love has to be the anthem of who you are becoming, a wide open space for you both to breathe. Love has to be more than longing, more than hoping, more than needing. Love has to be both reverent and wild, both kind and free, both committed and safe. Love has to bow to the way you rise up out of the ashes of who you were. It has to be the force that unfurls your wings and sweeps the sky wide open. Love has to be the place you go to surrender together, to grow together, to bring your already whole pieces and fuse them into something powerful.
Love is not a falling, a crashing, a shattering. Don’t ever be broken by love again. Rise up in it.
I'm about to teach an online Bible Study on Spiritual Wilderness. I've been studying for this study my entire life - I'm not exaggerating. Wilderness was the theme of my life long before I knew to name it. I've always known struggle and drought, but the past 10 years have really been the thickets, driest, and yet most sustained parts of my road. I realized, while writing the study, that I've stopped waiting to cross the threshold. I've stopped resenting the liminal space; the in between space. For years I cried out for relief; I ached and groaned and prayed for something new. The Struggle had consumed me and, in my brokenness, I longed for change. But somewhere along the way I've embraced my Wilderness.
I wasn't wrong to want more. Actually, I was MADE to want more. It's in my design - it's in the DNA of humanity. We want more because there IS more. We long for relief because there IS peace. We ache for our lives to pieced together because we weren't created to be fragmented. Our souls are crying out for what they know is attainable. We are stretching towards freedom because we KNOW in our deepest spaces that freedom is our's. The desire for more is appropriate. Don't lose that, friends. That ache is a sign that you are fully alive and fully living.
But part of MORE is the recognition that the road we are traveling is the right road. The wound of living life in liminal space is soothed by the sweetness of the Presence of God in the midst of our Wildernesses. Transformation happens when we stop raging against the ache and we embrace it. Life bursts through the muck of our struggle when we realize that we are ENCOUNTERING. God deals in Wilderness. It's how he draws us to abundance; it's how he places freedom in the palms of our hands. Wilderness isn't a punshiment - it's a beautiful furnace. We need it, friends. I know those words make the ache push a little deeper into your tired heart. I know. Me too. The mere fact that you are FEELING the ache means you are traveling well. You aren't numb, or abandoned to your brokenness. You are pressing into the hard places and allowing the gift of Encounter to overwhelm the weight of Struggle.
God's Wilderness is a gift.
It was a gift to the Israelites.
It was a gift to King David.
It was a gift to Gomer.
It was a gift to Jesus.
It is a gift to us now.
Someday the weight of our long traveled roads will reveal the fiercely strong presence of Aslan, the King who travels with us. We will step over a threshold onto new land and our hearts will ache again. We will long for the Wilderness and how he met us there. We will remember his whisper in our dark night and the sound of his breath nudging us forward. We will remember who we were before we stepped into the desert. We will exhale and find immense gratitude for how the Wilderness has changed us.
Someday we will see the gift, even if for now we simply need to see the next step. Grace abounds, friends. It is the most abundant and consuming gift for you in your own Wilderness. Grace reveals the God who has never forgotten you in your long seasons nor abandoned you to them.
*Do you need some fresh air and some perspective? Join us for the virtual study on Spiritual Wilderness. Click here to register.
Summer in Phoenix is almost magical. Don't let me fool you - during the day it's unbearably hot. Our limbs melt into the seats of the car, our feet burn from the sun reflecting off the blacktop. We're miserable most of the time. It sometimes makes me wonder WHO traveled through this valley and decided to STAY.
But Monsoons roll through here in the summer. The sky turns heavy and dark grey. The pressure builds and tension rises. And THEN the world is full of lightning, thunder and, if we're lucky, rain. This year we went more than a hundred days without rain. We live in perpetual sunshine, soaking up vitamin d like it's water. But it's not water. And we need water.
So when it rains, my heart settles into something comfortable. Relief. The rain is cool, but the air is warm and nothing smells like rain in the desert. Its musty, earthy and delicious. We open the windows and the doors just to fill the house with the smell of desert rain.
Last night the monsoon was almost scary. The wind was bending the trees in my backyard, shaking birds nests from their branches. Lighting turned our room into flashes of daylight. Thunder shook the upstairs windows. I laid in bed and watched powerful forces sweep through my desert. I fell asleep wondering if something would break, uproot or fly away. But when I woke up everything was the same. Except for the birds nest, and we scooped it up - my kids were so glad there weren't any tiny eggs.
Tonight it's raining and thundering. The desert is soaking up relief. This time it's gentle. I identify with this more than any other imagery in my life. I've always been in one spiritual desert or another - waiting out the long, dry, hot days. When relief comes it's just like a monsoon. Sometimes it comes raging in, uprooting old, weak things. But then it turns into a whisper. The clouds open up and sweet, desert rain washes off the dust. We stand under the downpour and drench ourselves with gratitude. It becomes a long, slow hallelujah.
We who have had enough, who have suffered and cried out and longed for respite, fling open our doors and windows, inviting in the scent of mercy.
Do you need mercy? The sky is brewing overhead, friend. The desert can't stay barren forever. Hold on.