My full-time job is working for a Christian missions organization. My passion project is this: Missionary Yogi — bridging the gap between the Church community and the yoga community. It’s a lofty goal. It’s controversial. In just the last week, I found out that some close family members had serious issues with my commitment to “yoga as ministry” and were even considering withdrawing their financial support to the Christian ministry I work for because of it. Yikes.
I’ve always been somebody that pushes the envelope. A month ago I volunteered as a Trainer at World Race Training Camp. It was an intense experience. I felt like I was back on the World Race for 10 days. Which brought up all the good, bad, and ugly that that season was in my life.
One thing it brought up was this self-perception that “I’m a trouble maker.” That thought reaaaally bothered me. So much so, I found myself in tears explaining it to a Training Team Teammate in her car one morning. I know why it bothered me so much: it’s because for a lot of my life I found a part of my identity in being a good “bad-girl”. Growing up in Christian and then Catholic school, I didn’t run with the goody-goodies. I was always a part of the party-crowd. But I was in Honors classes and excelled in my academics, sports, and extra-curricular activities. On the World Race — a pretty radical Christian missions trip not for the faint of faith — I was one of the girls with a speckled past and relished in being able to answer questions about boys, marijuana, and getting drunk from my more innocent teammates.
When I got engaged to marry my husband, the son of the founder of said Christian missions organization, I felt the weight of my ‘trouble-maker’ identity issue. When talking through this delicate topic with a mentor, she commented “…you don’t want to be the one to embarrass that family.” Of course, she didn’t mean to shame me, but for someone with issues (like I clearly had), it definitely left a mark. Who wants to shame their future family? This self-perception issue also left me in tears at the end of my wedding rehearsal dinner, because my crazy college besties decided to use their time on the microphone to make jokes about me always being late to social events — while Seth’s friends gave toasts about Seth’s character, loyalty, and all-around-awesomeness. There I was ’embarrassing myself’ to my new family. Yuck.
Of course, I worked through a lot of this with Seth in our pre-marital counseling, in tough talks with close friends, and long conversations on the couch of my last single-life apartment. Seth assured me that I was exactly who he wanted to marry, that he didn’t wish I had made different decisions (because they made me who I am), and he assured me that his life needed the color and flare I would bring. Haha.
So, why 4 years post-Race and 3 years into my marriage was I crying about it while serving on a Training Team?
Well, because there are always new levels of our identity to unpack and walk out. And as we step into new seasons, God allows us to learn a little more about who we are designed to be.
I sat with the Lord and asked about this whole ‘trouble maker’ thing. And you know what He said?
“Jesus was a trouble maker.”
Jesus came into the picture and stiiiiiirrred the pot. He pushed the envelope, broke the rules, and pissed people off. God assured me that He designed and wired me to innovate, to create, to question the status-quo. And so in order to do that, I need to be OK with causing a little trouble sometimes. In my immaturity, I used this natural wiring to satisfy my flesh and my ego. But now as I (attempt) to walk out maturity, this wiring allows God to use me in some envelope-pushing realms of His work. Like yoga as ministry.
When people ask goofy self-reflection questions like, “If you were a color, what color would you be?”
My answer is “Tie–dye.”
I feel like I am a vibrant mix of color and I want to stain everything I touch — not to be blemished, but to be brighter and a little more wild. I used to live out my tie-dye nature in smoking pot and rallying people to let loose and party. Now I live out my tie-dye nature in teaching yoga and rallying people to be authentic and passionate and join causes worth fighting for. Same, same, but different. Same, same, but BETTER.
That’s what Jesus does in a situation like sifting out your identity and purpose, He comes in, tweaks it, and to makes it better, richer, healthier, and more meaningful.
What part of YOUR identity do you wonder about sometimes?
Here’s a good indicator: when you get disproportionally offended or thrown into a mental-tailspin from a comment (Ex: “you’re a trouble maker” or “you’re a hot mess” or “what are you even doing?” or “FILL IN THE BLANK” statement), it could be because it’s poking at your identity issues. You know you have a wound when what should feel like a paper cut feels like a stab.
How has God redeemed or tweaked that part of your identity to use for His purposes?
Or how would you like Him to?
I’d love to hear from you!
And PS- there’s a Part 2 of this post coming next week 😉
I’ve been prompted to write about pain ever since I got home from the World Race in 2013. I remember sitting on the beach with my parents when “a blog hit me” and I scrambled to jot it down on the inside cover of a Kingdom Journeys book. I wrote a short article on the topic of pain. I never did publish it, and I never did find the book I wrote it in. (hah!)
But I remember what I wrote. I wrote about how we don’t talk about pain. And not broken arm / sprained ankle kinda pain, but deep down pain: emotional and spiritual pain. I wrote how I think we are conditioned to not talk about it.
I had to look back to my old World Race blog to see what prompted this. Immediately, I remembered. One of my final months on the Race was in Rwanda — a country that inspired me deeply, because they embrace, acknowledge, and talk about their deepest, darkest pain as a nation — and they do it openly.
After being home for just a few weeks, I was unsettled with the stark contrast of how we don’t talk about pain. It’s like we aren’t supposed to. We act like it’s so awkward and uncomfortable. We don’t know what to say or how to deal with our or other people’s pain. Oftentimes, we say something stupid that minimizes or dismisses the pain… ’cause we’d rather they just not bring it up in the first place. Right? WRONG. I can’t stand that.
In 2015, I remember traveling to a close friend’s wedding in gorgeous Antigua, Guatemala — which barely resembles a developing world country. On one of the pre-wedding days, a big group of us traveled to a day-spa an hour outside the city. There were lots of friends of friends on the bus ride and people were going through the get-to-know-you chit chat: life in the big city, their business initiatives, houses they were buying, weddings they were planning. Then we drove by a ‘tent city’ and conversation slowed as the sight of dramatic poverty polluted the view for my new vacationing friends.
One girl asks, horrified: “Do people LIVE in there?”
Me: “Yep, they do…”
She quickly shields her eyes with her hand and says, “I can’t look! It makes me feel so bad!”
…hmmm, didn’t expect that reaction… “Why?”
A little annoyed by my question, she quickly replies something about guilt and not wanting to feel bad about her lifestlye and changes the subject.
That reaaally stuck with me. I don’t think we are supposed to shield our eyes from pain of the world. We are supposed to feel the discomfort and then A) Do something about it and/or B) Be more grateful for what we have
But the main thing that bugged me was the unwillingness to feel the pain. Just one year prior, I had visited homes just like those in Honduras. I sat in one of those tin shanty houses and cried with a mom whose teenage son had decided to join up again in the dangerous gang-life that she thought he had left behind. I couldn’t do anything but sit, cry, and pray with her in that tiny, dirty little home. But she was encouraged by willingness to sit with her in her pain — and I was blessed by the experience.
I think there’s always something God wants to show us, if we are willing to press in to pain. But it seems like we’ve been taught that it’s something better left swept under the rug. Or avoided altogether.
Just today I was reading about our ‘Millennial Generation’ and how we were protected from pain and surrounded with prosperity growing up, and that’s caused us to be super idealistic and perhaps ill-equipped for the rough journey of life. A friend wrote a short article on the topic and this line really resonated with me: “One day, hardship will awaken them to resilience they don’t know they have yet.”
I think she’s right. A lot of us DID grow up as a generation shielded from hardship. My dad told me stories of how he would take my dead goldfish to the pet store and ask them for “a fish that looked just like this one” and h replace it before I got home from school! 🙂 My dad shared with me, as an adult, that he had been exposed to so much death when he was young that he wanted to protect me from it.
As I am sure you know by now, last summer Seth and I lost a baby. The pain and the sting of death was unlike anything I ever experienced. It was particularly miserable for my parents to watch me go through it. But God used it to teach me about the depth of my faith, His trust-worthiness, and the depth of character and resilience that comes from walking through hardship.
If we can learn to really sit in the pain of the world — and the pain of our own journeys — I know God will use those experiences in great and powerful ways.
I don’t intend to talk to explain why we suffer, but you can see my father in law’s recent post about that here, but I just wanted to open up this conversation on pain. It’s a topic that’s drawn me some really worth-while places. It’s what resonated with me immediately about Beauty for Ashes (B4A), the women’s ministry I helped build at Adventures. In B4A we teach women to face their pain. Share their stories. To get to the real stuff. The raw honest stuff. The stuff that really matters. And it’s what resonates with me still about the writing of Glennon Doyle Melton, Brenee Brown, and even Emily McDowell’s greeting cards (a few pictured below).
That’s why I like to write about the hard stuff. I think talking about the hard stuff is what makes us real.
What do you think about talking about pain?
Do you think it’s SO awkward and uncomfortable to talk about your own or someone else’s pain? What has been your experience?
I’m sure this is the beginning of a much longer conversation.
Cheers. To the hard stuff. 😉
Join us on a Wholeness Journey to Thailand in Spring 2018!
** Please note this trip has been postponed to February or March 2018, due to the death of the King in Thailand. We have not announced the new dates yet, but please send me a message if you want to be notified as soon as we do! **
Do you long for something greater? Hungry to break out of your day-to-day life and connect with God, yourself, and others in a deep and powerful way?
This is an invitation to embark on a journey outside of your everyday, emerge into a new culture, and discover yourself in a new way. To adventure, minister, and experience the beauty of wholeness in mind, body, and spirit through Jesus Christ.
Thailand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Nicknamed, “The Land of Smiles,” Thailand boasts pristine beaches, tropical jungles, delicious food, exotic animals, and smiling people, making it one of the top tourist destinations in the world. But behind all Thailand’s natural beauty lies a terrible secret: modern day slavery.
As the Thai economy strengthens and more visitors choose to vacation here, tourism of a different sort flourishes. Human trafficking and sexual tourism continue to grow.
Behind the smiles of many Thai women, is the dark reality of their suffering:
• The abuse and manipulation of the sex trade causes loss of identity and self worth
• The physical, mental and sexual abuse the children and women experience can result in spiritual and even physical death
The women of Thailand need to be freed from the bondage of sexual exploitation.
We will be serving with Shear Love International , a ministry that rescues young women from the brothels of Thailand and educates them in becoming independent women through discipleship and beauty school to live sustainable lives, so they do not need to re-enter the sex-trade.
The women in Thailand long to know their true worth and value. They need to know they can be made whole through the redeeming power of Jesus Christ!
Will you join us to discover and share God’s freedom, healing, and wholeness in Thailand?
Your trip leaders, Christina Barnes and Jessica Dahl, are both trained missionaries and yoga instructors. They bring the combined experiences of The Beyond Project and Beauty for Ashes to lead you in this unique combination of a women’s mission trip and a Christian yoga retreat.
You’ll start your trip along the beautiful beaches of Thailand, as you get to know your team and pray into what the Lord has in store for your Wholeness Journey. You will conclude your trip on the island off Pattaya where you’ll create action steps to keep walking into the whole and purposeful life God has uniquely designed for you!
During your stay in Pattaya, Thailand, you will:
• Attend inspirational workshops on spiritual growth and maturity
• Enjoy rejuvenating yoga classes and fresh, local meals
• Adventure in the natural beauty of Thailand
• Learn to share your unique story, giftings, and wholeness journey with others
• Host women’s retreats where you’ll minister to hurting women of Thailand and share with them about how to cultivate Christ-centered wellness, wholeness, and beauty
Most of the young women you will get to minister to feel so much shame and guilt in their lives and don’t know how to heal from it. You will be a huge catalyst in reminding them of their wholeness in Christ as we get to share with them about their identity. They will experience healing in their bodies as the masterpieces they are, so they can express their inner beauty outwardly—and live freely into the purposes they are created for.
We were created as body, mind, and spirit. The exercise of yoga can help us:
• Become more connected with our physical body
• Increase mental clarity
• Attune our spiritual ears in meditation and listening prayer to become more sensitive to hearing God’s voice in our lives
Through this unique missions trip and personal retreat experience you will delve to new depths of faith, adventure, and wellness. You’ll step out of your comfort zone, serve women in need, and press into the wholeness God has for you as well.
Are you ready to embark on your Wholeness Journey to Thailand? APPLY HERE
Wholeness Journeys are happening!
I am thrilled to share with you about the momentum I felt coming off of our March Wholeness Journey Trip in Guatemala! This was my biggest prayer leading up to the March trip:
“God, let me feel your momentum coming off this trip. I hope, God, that it’s not just a one-time-thing.
If this is something you really want me to pursue, let there be other people want to BUILD this with me!”
And THAT, my friends, totally happened!
I have been working with one of my Wholeness Journey sisters, Anna Murphy, to build our first MissionaryYogi Retreat & Missions Trip in Asheville. The goal is this trip is to bring together women passionate about both yoga and ministry — and yoga AS ministry. And my Wholeness Journey co-founder, Jessica Dahl, and I are planning our NEXT Wholeness Journey to Thailand this October!
It looks like our vision of “sharing the love of God and the wholeness available in Christ through the practice of yoga” is the premise for a movement! But before I get ahead of myself, let me share with you more about the Wholeness Journey Guatemala trip:
We had 14 women ages 21-40 come down to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala and join us for our very first yoga retreat/missions trip: “Wholeness Journey.” It was AH-MAZING. I loved every minute of it. It was like ALL THE THINGS I LOVE in one place at one time: Jesus-focused yoga, new friends, adventure, creating experiences for people, teaching and training, Beauty for Ashes style women’s retreat activities, and amazing food. (That’s a lot of things I love!)
We studied what the Bible says about the wholeness and abundance God has for us, we hosted a women’s retreat for 50 Guatemalan women from a local church, and we practiced yoga as a form of worship — connecting with God and honoring Him in a physical way. It was SO cool how God wove it all together so seamlessly: what we taught in our small group sessions, the Lord would echo in the meditations on our yoga mats, and then the team would share with the Guatemalan women what they were learning!
The Guatemalan ladies LOVED our time together. Their leader thanked us saying,
“The work that you did was truly an expression of God’s love for us. Your girls were angels sent from Heaven!” In fact, we heard that one 17 year-old girl who had walked away from the church and her faith attended our retreat, simply because she heard there were Americans in town. She had been in conflict with her family for several months about the bad choices she was making about drinking, boys, and partying. After the retreat, she told her Mom she was sorry! She changed her mind about God and wanted to come back to church, because “she wanted to grow up and be like the girls she met from America at the retreat.” Isn’t that so great?! (If only some of us had had cool yoga-practicing, Jesus-loving role models at 17! Haha.)
As we wrapped up the trip, one Wholeness Journey participant shared,
“I’m leaving with an extreme sense of comfort — that I don’t have to go to battle alone. The Lord is on my side and I can make real friendships, not just surface level ones. And there’s been so many great insights I have learned from the Bible this week! I hear God saying, ‘The answers are in there, what are you doing?’ My Bible has been sitting on my shelf collecting dust. I’m gonna dust it off and read it!”
I left SO encouraged and motivated to keep things going!
I’ll be honest, re-entry back into America slowed me down, but God has been so faithful to connect me with women who share the same dream of yoga as ministry — and it’s HAPPENING! I am FINALLY feeling that same momentum that I felt at the end of March 🙂
And now we are open for applications to our Thailand Wholeness Journey in October! It’s going to be epic.
And if you or someone you know is passionate about connecting with other missionary yogis — join us in Asheville in July! Only a few spots left!
God is on the move and yogis are partnering with Jesus as He redeems the practice of yoga. Yes and Amen! …and Namaste 🙂
My Wholeness Journey Guatemala Sistas
Taking the PLUNGE!
This was in a ‘releasing our fears’ exercise where we went CLIFF JUMPING.
Pursuing this dream is a little scary… but I am jumping in!
Who LIKES waiting?
Nobody does. Waiting in traffic. Waiting in line. Waiting for that phone call you’re expecting. Gosh, it gives me a bitter taste in my mouth just writing those examples! In fact, my husband Seth says waiting is the “worst thing,” second only to losing. < Yep. And God gave him ME as a wife. Me: “the Tardy Queen”. No joke: I was awarded “Most Fashionably Late” as a superlative in school. Didn’t know that was a superlative? It wasn’t. They made it up for me.> So yea, that’s where we’re coming from. Neither one of us has a lot of patience. God has a sense of humor.
As you might remember from my previous posts, God asked me at the start of this year to “try” → to try for yoga ministry, try living overseas for 4 months, and try for a baby. The ‘baby try’ was the try most riddled with emotion and fear. In late March, God spoke to me again and said it was OK to stop trying for a baby, which was confusing. The only thing that was clear was that it was a part of my journey to learn obedience, even when I don’t understand. And, of course, learning to wait well.
Although I don’t want to learn to wait well, the thing I find encouraging about acquiring this skill-set is that it’s a skill that will prove transferrable to future seasons of life. I imagine waiting on a baby will NOT be the last thing I wait on. Patience, as they say, is a virtue. And, unfortunately, it’s a virtue not attained through getting what you want when you want it.
I feel like I’ve heard God tell me that the season I am in now is “set apart” and special — and that it would be terrible for me to wish it away by focusing on the one thing I don’t have.
And then, I realized something that really blew my mind: this IS the season I’ve been waiting for!
Allow me to explain: I’ve never been one of those girls who day dreamed about my babies. I never picked out baby names or nursery themes. I never sat around and thought about what it would be like to raise small humans and or what my tiny humans would be like. I always figured it would happen, but never really gave it much thought. In fact, I was more concerned with NOT getting pregnant, so that I could pursue my dreams! (…and keep partying hard, but that was a different life and another story for another blog)
The things I DID daydream about were the adventures I would have, the businesses/organizations I would build, and the kind of impact I would have on the world. I wondered about the guy God would pair me with. I’d imagine how we’d do bigger things together than we could ever do on our own. I dreamed about traveling the world with him and doing things that make a difference.
And then, it hit me: THAT IS WHERE I AM LIVING.
I am living in the season that I dreamed out.
And I realized I am being ROBBED of the JOY in soaking up the juicy goodness of THIS SEASON, because I am so fixated with anxiety of when the next season start.
Lemme tell you, I am someone who prides herself on being present. I am always the one to soak it up and be in the moment. But from the moment I saw those two lines on that pregnancy test last summer, I was already IN the next season. And then when that season was taken from me, and I was catapulted back into the previous season (which I had been enjoying), I freaked. It REALLY threw me off. I was stuck thinking about that baby. That pregnancy. That questionable blood work. Fear of the future.
I share this all with you because, as in most things, I’m sure I’m not the only one.
So I write this to any of you who are looking with anxiety-filled-eyes at the season ahead of you. I’m challenging you — and challenging myself — to focus on the good in the season you’re in now. What things did you look forward to that are already happening? What dreams have already come true? What are you supposed to be learning? What do you need to do to allow yourself to soak up the juicy goodness of NOW?
Perhaps the JOY of the NOW can overshadow the bitter taste of the waiting.
I’ll believe in that. Who’s with me? 🙂