Friends, I am so excited to introduce you to Whitney R. Simpson. Whitney is a fellow member of the Redbud Writers Guild, and when we met years ago I knew I had found a kindred spirit. She recently released her new book, Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit, a gorgeous book with a 40-day plan for prayer, meditation, yoga, and more. (And below, I’m giving away a copy!) Thanks so much for joining us today, Whitney.
O Lord, all my longing is known to you; my sighing is not hidden from you. Psalm 38:9 NRSV
My work invites people to slow down and breathe deeply. On yoga mats, on retreat, in listening for God with their bodies; I invite others to take deep breaths quite often. I crave this myself. It is not uncommon I’m tempted to abandon work or home-life demands (dinner, again?) to instead sit in my own corner of the world and simply breathe (certainly this is research for my life’s call, not an escape from prepping a family meal or washing a load of clothes?).
My phone’s current background says, “Just Breathe” reminding me in the fullness of this season to listen to my own advice before I ever consider sharing it with others. I sense I am called to this work because I long for it so very much myself. I savor empowering others to discover God’s closeness, as close as their breath.
It’s interesting how people think that because I am passionate about and teach breath work and listening for God with our bodies that I live in a state of having it “all together” at all times. In fact, I think I am drawn to this work because I long for it so clearly in my own life. And clearly, I do not have it “all together” (come take a look at my laundry room for confirmation – better yet allow me to give you a tiny glimpse into the sighs of my heart today).
When was the last time you let out a big sigh? Maybe that sigh was on purpose or maybe it was on accident. Maybe it included an eye-roll or a victorious sigh of relief. Either way, the Psalms remind us that God hears our sighs. Those deep breaths are important not only for ourselves but also to our Creator (did you know there is a physical and mental reset that occurs with an audible sigh?). To me, a deep sigh often reminds me that I can not nor am I expected to hold everything together. A healthy sigh is good for my spirit. So how do we discover the deep sighs of our heart?
Before getting past the first chapter of Catherine’s new release Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline, I took a deep breath and found grace for myself. My weekend included what felt like failed parenting discussions with a 13-year old. Parenting a teen in 2017 brings challenges beyond those I experienced as a teen myself (how does one even begin to comprehend both the benefits and dangers of the Internet today?). How does one take deep breaths and continue mothering* on-line engagement in a modern world when she can’t even figure out how to communicate a longing for safe space in a space which cannot be controlled?
As I sit here writing these words, a friend just landed on my doorstep. She came by to have a good cry and take a few deep breaths per the overwhelming demands on her life in this season, the sandwich generation (squeezed between kids, business, and parents). I listened, sighed, and nodded, a lot.
It is true that we live in a time of new challenges. But has this not always been true? Have we not always had something new on the horizon? Are we not always in a new season of mothering and discovering the small things in that season?
My mothering skills continue to evolve and yours do too. I sense we do not give full credit to this fact. Just as we don’t notice the sighs of our heart or our own breath. As a matter of fact, I am discovering that just about the time I “figure out” one season, I move to a new one and find myself lamenting the one just recently past rather than breathing in the present season. Why is this so challenging? How can we stay present in the current season?
I’m kinder than I used to be to myself. There is more grace when I step back long enough to hear my own words, “take a deep breath, feel it travel throughout your entire body, notice the fullness of the breath, let out a long sigh, notice how this feels.” In mothering, God is inviting us to breathe deeply, to mutter the sighs of our heart. In all seasons and aspects of mothering, the fullness of a deep breath, or a long sigh is heard by our Creator.
God hears us, let’s breathe together.
*I love that Catherine’s book reminds you that mothering is simply a word, we’re not excluding men in this conversation or individuals who may not have given birth to small humans.
Whitney R. Simpson is the author of Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit from Upper Room Books. She offers soul care resources for exploring the gift of God’s peace with the whole self. She completed certification in spiritual formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, is a certified lay minister who serves as a spiritual director, and is a certified 500-hour yoga instructor. Whitney is a member of The Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders, Spiritual Directors International, and Redbud Writers Guild. Find out more at Whitney’s website or connect with her via social media at @WhitRSimpson.
I’ll draw the winner on Friday.