Category Archives: Michelle Church

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The Religion Of Your Soul ~ Michelle Church

Each year, for more than twenty years, on Christmas day we pack our family into the car and head to the Oregon coast. It is because of this tradition that we ultimately built our home here Lincoln City. Even as I write this I am sitting on the bed next to my Mr Dreamboat and though the doors and windows are closed I can still hear the crashing waves charging the beach just steps away from where we lay. Sometimes our Christmas vacation lingers into the New Year.

The tradition of leaving our home on the homiest holiday of the year might seem strange to you as it seems peculiar even to me, and I am the author of this particular tradition.

The ocean is lovely, dark and deep...
The ocean is lovely, dark and deep…

So many years ago when our children were young, with all my soul I wanted to begin our own family traditions, away from those from our histories. There seemed no chance of doing so when we had so much family around, and so we devised a plan to pack up our little family and go away from all the things our lives were normally comprised of.

And 21 years later I am quite literally sitting on the bed of our convention. And strange as it is, I love it.

There is no doubt your traditions are lovely and comforting. I’m certain your elf on the shelf is pleasing, your Yule Log burns bright each year and figgy pudding is the great, undiscovered, practice your family holds dear.

What is wonderful to me in all likelihood feels foreign to you and vice versa. Though the religion of our fathers may be the same, the way we each honor them and live them out in our own lives has as many variations as there are people. There are as many religions as there are souls.

As we each step into the baby days of the beginning New Year, let’s celebrate our differences, find our common grounds and bring with us upon every doorstep we visit, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

doctor lucy

God & The Psychiatrist ~ Michelle Church

When Mr Dreamboat went to jail I visited a light handful of times a therapist. Chosen based on her proximity to my home, it ended up that this was not the wisest way to find a therapist. But whatayagonnado?

The reason I ultimately stopped going wasn’t because I thought she wasn’t much help but because when I asked her for another appointment she said, “Oh, you’re coming back?”

So of course the answer had to be a resounding, “No. No I am not.” Jeez… You would have thought she at least liked my money…

Ironically I remember quite a lot of the things she told me. I didn’t think much of her therapeutic methods but she lingers with me to this day.

Possibly the most thought provoking idea Dr Local gave me was the idea that I needn’t do anything to be what I should be. Indeed, she suggested that I am what I am supposed to be.

There are images of “The Beautiful People” that haunt us. There are stories of brilliance and wealth and success that dogs each one of us to some degree or another.

And so we run faster, jump higher or we give up altogether and lay on the couch in surrender, clear that we will never, can never be what we should. It’s a sucky feeling and if you ask me which of those scenarios I mean is sucky, I would simply answer, “Yes. All of them.”

If you believe in God, and I personally think it’s more fun to do so, then it is easy to believe that he created you, with your quirks and imperfections, he created you perfectly.

Dr Local shocked me clear down to my PTSD socks that day and the truth is that I’ve been chewing on the idea ever since. Because I like it. And I believe it to be true. Or at least I try to believe it and for the brief moments when I achieve it, it is glorious and magical.

And I feel good. And I want you to feel just that way too.

Like, share, comment, tweet and slow down and be yourself.

pansy and snow

The Winter That Would Not End ~ Michelle Church

The weather here in North America has been nothing short of surprising this past winter. Maybe if I’d checked the Farmer’s Almanac I totally would have seen it coming.

My friends in the Northeast were pummeled, humbled and frozen by the wrath of the angriest weather gods, while those of us on the west coast enjoyed what was the mildest winter in years. There were days so blissfully temperate I thought I’d gone to heaven.

Just yesterday I saw a picture of one of my friends celebrating the opening of the lovely gardens near her home. She did so in the snow. Spring has sprung, but perhaps only technically, depending on where you live.

And so it goes most years. We are at the mercy of the weather, we are caught by surprise, by the fickle nature of existance.

One of the benefits of getting older is that regardless of the weather we may be experiencing in the moment, we’ve come to recognize patterns. We might be freezing our toes off and barely able to remember what the sun looks like, but we remember it. We recall it fondly and we know from experience it will come again.

The last few months before Mr Dreamboat returned from Rock & Roll Camp were simply grueling. If my life had been expressed in the form of weather, it was the coldest and longest winter on record. Apocalyptic even.

As the days until his return shortened and we were advised of his release date, there came a time when it was almost impossible to believe that he would ever return to me. Winter, it seemed, might never, ever end.

Once I realized I had these feelings I simply took myself through the logical process of it all. As crazy as it sounds, I sat myself down, not just once, but every time my faith began to fail, and remembered that every single year of my life there has been a July 23rd. Not once have we skipped that date in all the years I’ve been alive.

This year would be no different.

As sure as the sun is to rise, as sure as spring follows winter and July 23rd rolls around every single year, the things with which we struggle, they too will wane. It is a gift that is sometimes hard to remember, but is ever so.

Spring has sprung quite a lot early here on the Young Family Ranch. Every day when the sun shines and the trees blossom, I am caught up in the delight. And as sure as it has come to my house, no matter what you might be feeling in this moment, it will come to yours too.

Like, share, comment, tweet and “Be still and know…”

michelle and mary

Join Us For Michelle Church In A Soulless Hotel Room

As I write this I am sitting on my comfortable bed in a Marriott Hotel in California. Maybe it’s something about the soulless hotel room that somehow robs me of the words I love so much. Who’s to say?

What I know for sure is that over the last three days I’ve set at the feet of master teachers and communed with like-minded individuals. It is for further training in my career that I am here, and though I miss Mr Dreamboat, there’s no other place I’d rather be. I feel both full and empty, full of love and light and possibility… and empty of coherent thought.

Or maybe that’s just the soulless room talking.

These last three days have taught me things I never knew and reminded me in a powerful way of things I already did. Perhaps what’s come most clearly into focus is that knowing a truth is quite different than knowing about it. If I am not living it, the depth of the knowing is of little worth.

If I preach judge not and yet I judge, I don’t know it’s true. If I say kindness is the best of all attributes but I am miserly and mean, what is it I really know?

It is of little concern to me to what particular religion you subscribe. What it is I’m far more curious about is how you live, how you love and what beliefs are so deep in your soul that you don’t just know about them, but you breathe them into your life and the lives of those with whom you cross paths.

This week I’ve been reminded of the things that I know about and the things I wish to bind with my DNA in a way that is everlasting. I want to live in such a way that when we meet you feel cared for and loved.

These days I concern myself less with “the great mysteries” I’ve yet to divine, and more with the simple things that really matter to me. I gather these things along the way and with a little luck and a lot of perseverance, they won’t just be a few nice thoughts in my collection, but they will equal a life of knowing the things that really matter.

Whatever your truth, live it. Whatever your beliefs, share them with others by living them. And whatever you know about, be about.

Like, share, comment, tweet and can I get an amen?

forgive

Forgive Me ~ Michelle Church

Classes on forgiveness should be taught in every school at every level. Were I Tsar Of The Universe, I would make this so.

The test for knowing whether or not we might need such a class is simple. Are you breathing? Then the answer is a resounding Yes!

From the driver who cut us off on the freeway to the thoughtless child who did nothing but criticize the meal we made for them, life is a constant lesson in opportunities to forgive.

I know, you’re saying you learned all about forgiveness in church and I would have to agree with you. Years of church attendance produced dozens of lessons on the matter, but a how-to guide would have been very helpful.

While I know it’s imperative to our well being to forgive, I don’t think it’s ever been described to me as a practice, a muscle to be strengthened.

But that it is.

Perhaps there are a few lucky schmucks out there whittling away at the simpler trespasses against them (think driving infractions and bad restaurant service), very few of us get down the road without some of the heavy hitters making onto our stage (think divorce, betrayal and abuse).

The heavy hitters are the tricky ones. The heavy hitters make a surly restaurant server look like our own personal fairy godmother.

As Tsar Of The Universe, we could reframe forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t a onetime act and not a decision made one day over the morning paper. In so doing, we could see it as the behemoth it sometimes is.

We would know on the days when we’re not so good at it, or when old hurts reared their ugly heads, that this is okay. That it’s a natural part and tomorrow, luckily for us, we can practice it again.

Over the years of “trespasses” against me, I am certain I have given opportunity for others to have need to forgive me right back. And therein lies the rub. If I am incapable of letting go the hurts that have come my way, I may never figure out how to forgive myself for being fallible and human.

Forgiveness is a practice. It is a gift we give not to those we need to forgive, but we give that gift to ourselves. We clear out space in our heads where we’ve held grudges and hurts and we make room for things that are good and pure and joyous. Things that can grow.

I’m not as adept at forgiveness as I need to be, as I want to be. But at this point in my life I’m clear I get to practice it every day. Sometimes with ease and others with an inflexibility that would give me away as a novice. But every day I get up again and I practice.

That’s all we can ask of ourselves, or anyone else.

Like, share, comment, tweet and say your prayers and brush your teeth and forgive others, as you would have them forgive you.

you are good

How To Be Bad ~ Michelle Church

Somewhere along the way I began to focus on those things I didn’t do over those that I did. That is to say, I found myself worthy based on those things I abstained from over the things I did in every day life.

There is something not right here. Something off.

Making choices in favor of well being is wise. Choosing not to do drugs or abuse our bodies is never a bad idea, but it is not a definition of who we are. And it is most certainly not a definition of who anyone else is relative to us.

We’re all subject to these tiny indulgences. Defining our goodness based on self-sacrifice and control is a vice none of us doesn’t indulge in from time to time. But it’s never healthy. It’s certainly not a worthy practice.

For much of my life I had very specific ideas about what and who was right and what and who was wrong. Based on my own background and history, there were “bad” things and “good” things in every circumstance.

What troubles me most about this very illogical line of thinking is how much judgment is going on. By definition I judged myself as a good person or a bad person depending on the day, the mood or the situation.

As much as I’d like to be able to say I judged no one else along the way, by definition all the world is dragged into our judgments by comparison. If I’m good because I do this, then you are bad if you don’t. Boom. Now no one has to wonder.

I remember being very young and very aware of myself as good or bad. I think the judgments tended to lean toward “bad” when I was still a little kid, for whatever reason.

There’s no denying that by anyone’s account I made some pretty bad decisions as a teenager. I did things that were dangerous and chose relationships that weren’t healthy for me. And I judged myself.

But if you were to ask my mother if I was a “bad kid” I am certain she would tell you I was not. I know her and she’s known me my whole life and while I wouldn’t call her opinion particularly objective, I would say we each know how it feels to love someone regardless of their decisions. Are they good or are they bad? Who’s to say? Not us.

It is only when I can release myself from judgment that I can release you too. You make some good decisions and you make some bad ones. It’s how being human works, but at our essence, we are whole and perfect. We are wabi sabi. And when we can embrace that at our most essential core, we can then gift it to others.

No matter what they do or don’t do.

Like, share, comment, tweet and repeat after me, “I am whole, perfect, strong, powerful, loving, harmonious, happy and grateful.” Feels niiiiiice…

tim mcgraw wisdom

love hug

Vicar Michelle & The Rebel Jesus

I have chaffed against The Rules for the entirety of my life. Rubbed raw by their inflexible edges, it is likely they troubled me because I took them so seriously. Perhaps most of all when I was breaking them.

As a teen I imagined myself a rebel. Rules were burdensome and so I threw them off to shatter on the floor of my life. This is a good way to hurt oneself, but the rules tend to remain undamaged.

Some people say Jesus was a rebel. I cannot speak to that. I’m no historian. But I like the idea of it. The idea of the powers that be, saying how things are and a man, a gentle and kind man, perhaps even a son of deity, standing up and saying, “This thing, I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

My kind of rebellion wasn’t nearly so worthy. I was irresponsible. I smoked and drank and practiced a sophisticated level of self-loathing.

This was nothing more than unattractive and a little sad.

But today, inspired by the Rebel Jesus, I wish to be a nonconformist once again. This new rebellion would look nothing like it did in my youth, all bold and aggressive and daring others to call me out. No. This kind would look kinder, gentler and loads more loving.

Every day we cross paths with people who deserve love but in our complicated society have none. Maybe they don’t fit into our norms, the norm for color or sexual preference or perhaps they are sad rebels practicing their version of self-loathing. But in a radical and rebellious world, they too would receive love. In this world, everyone is found worthy.

Conditional love is not really love at all.

I am grateful for rules. We all should be. Without them we would be slaves to our appetites, aimlessly wandering from one diversion to the next. But I am also grateful to understand rules and their inherent limits.

I will never chafe against the rules again. Just as anything else in this transient world, they are to be understood and evaluated and depending on whether or not they are found worthy, they are to be respected or thrown out like the garbage so many of them are.

They say Jesus was a radical in all the best kinds of ways. Let’s do that.

instinct

God Is On The Combine ~ Michelle Church

I was 13 years old and working in the potato fields of southeastern Idaho. The sun was pouring down from the early October sky and I was being paid to simply sit there. It was not a bad gig though the farmer paying me while he went to find parts for a broken tractor couldn’t have been as thrilled as I was.

Like this, only it was so long ago the world was black and white.
Like this, only it was so long ago the world was black and white.

There’s no way to know the name of the girl I worked with that summer. We were not bosom friends, we didn’t even really like each other but circumstances required quality time as the hours passed that afternoon.

“I sure hope the second coming isn’t soon,” she confided. My initial response I did not verbalize. I think, considering her line of thought, she would not have resonated with my, “What the hell are you talking about?”

As the afternoon unfolded she shared her concern that she hadn’t yet done her family history and it was troubling her young soul. I cannot recall what exactly it was that I did say, but it is my hope that I somehow assuaged her seemingly real pain.

It’s almost certain this wasn’t the first time I’d considered the state of my immortal soul, but it was the first time I think I’d ever felt so very far away from God. At least in my childish mind I had bigger fish to fry than simple sins of omission.

Since that time so many sunny days ago, I have struggled and suffered in the name of God.

Far from simple family history concerns, I have made massive mistakes. Gluttony and selfishness, lying and laziness. Name the sins and it’s likely I’ve dabbled in at least most of them.

Who amongst us, if we’re being honest, hasn’t?

The trouble doesn’t arise from being human, I don’t think, the trouble comes when we believe the love of God is painful. That it should hurt. The problem is when we believe that to be lovable and to be loved we must run faster, jump higher, give and serve and love and pay penance and painfully pray that we may in some way measure up.

Because we never will.

It is said about human love that it should not hurt. And I submit to you that the love of our Creator should go beyond that and not only not hurt, but it should heal.

And if we consider ourselves followers of God, the love we give should be the same.

From time to time I think about that girl on the combine, laying in the sun and daydreaming about her eternal salvation. And I want to give her a big hug. I want to tell her it’s okay and that life is a journey and it’s about experiences and about honesty and weakness. It’s about being like the God you say you love, a God that is worthy of love.

And while I was there, I would give me a big hug too. Maybe that’s where it all starts. Self love.

Like, share, comment, tweet and allow yourself all that you wish others to have.

water balloon

God Is Not A Water Balloon ~ Michelle Church

Sometimes I think too small. If I’m being completely transparent, most of the time I start out thinking small. This does not serve me. In my dream version of Michelle I start out with big dreams, but it’s just not my way. I build up. I think some good thoughts, little ones, and when those work out, I build a few bigger thoughts.

Sadly, for me, this is how spirituality and God have worked as well. Did I mention that sometimes the whole “building” process is a very slow one?

For years God has been, what I like to think of as, a water balloon. Metaphorically speaking of course.

This Idea had specific attributes, tangible and understandable. Fluid, lifegiving and knowable. A sort of comfortingly understandable concept. Tidy even.

Here I find myself in my 47th year and in my mind I am standing with an orange water balloon in my hands. It is warm and cozy. ocean blue At the edge of the ocean I watch as the waves crash conversationally. I can see the vastness, the depth and the breadth of something beyond my understanding.

I can see it, and yet I know It cannot be fully understood. It is massive. It is life, and not even the most brilliant of scientists know everything about it.

So I pop the water balloon, and it releases into the sand, into the earth and ultimately it will become a part of the deep.

It makes a lot of sense that I’ve made the idea of God/The Universe into something understandable and finite, but I don’t think I was doing myself any favors by stopping there. And while certainly the water balloon might come from and be a part of the ocean, the differences are seemingly infinite as well.

I am standing at the edge of the ocean without my water balloon. And I feel a little like a child who grew fond of a toy now broken. I am disappointed and a little sad.

But oh! The discoveries that lie ahead.

Like, share, comment, tweet and embrace the metaphor as weird as it may be…

laughing buddha

I Thought I Saw The Face Of God ~ Michelle Church

It seems I have filled my days in a way that every morning of the week requires an alarm clock. I am not complaining about this, well, maybe I’m complaining a little bit just because I’m tired right now. But by and large I like the level of busy my life currently demands. Not big, bad busy, but enough to get me up, moving and shaking every day.

So it was on Friday morning after dropping the youngest man cub off to school I headed into the big city. As I drove into civilization the skies changed. Closer to the Zombie Apocalypse Sanctuary the world was covered in a deep, dense fog. As we neared Chase’s school the fog lifted higher into the sky like so many tiny white balloons, both revealing and veiling the sun.

the face of godIt was dazzling. The dark, bare trees of the northwest reaching up to the light in a silent hallelujah. The misty, morning clouds covering its brilliance just enough that I could stare directly into the sun for just a moment and imagine I could see the face of God.

The dancing, morning light was so enchanting that no text message ever made me more dangerous on the road. I could not get enough of it. I wished to stay in that moment always.

Instead, I drove down the road to my next destination. I drove on highways and freeways and finally across the bridge into Oregon where the unfiltered morning light caught me unawares. And it was beautiful. Truly. Touching on the green blades of winter grass and sparkling off the Columbia River.

I will not complain about a cloudless, blue sky. Ever. I’ve seen too many dark days to take even one of them for granted. But if I’m being entirely honest, the clear blue sky couldn’t hold a candle to the filtered, cloudy, morning light from the moments before.

My life has been full of sunny days. I have been so high on life that the beauty of it infiltrated my very DNA and I take those times with me wherever and whenever I go.

It can also be said that the days I felt I could almost see the face and ways of God where those not short on clouds when the path was not always clear but the light shone through in a way that took my breath away.

Like, share, comment, tweet and look not for days without clouds but for a life that is breathtaking.