I’m a teacher, writer, and coach. I’m also a wisdom-seeker, edge-walker, community-gatherer, and story-catcher.
I’m most happy when I can gather circles of women together to share stories, ask questions, and build community – my current passion is a women’s personal leadership program called Lead with your Wild Heart.
I pay a lot of attention to circles, because I believe circles can transform the way we gather, the way we communicate, the way we learn, and the way we journey through life.
Circles invite the feminine into the world, and so I make mandalas, walks labyrinths, paints spirals, and hosts story-circles.
I believe that questions are better than answers, messes are better than perfection, wandering is better than goal-setting, wildness is better than being tamed, chaos is better than control, resilience is better than rigidness, and curiosity is better than knowledge.
Hungry for the Sacred Bread of Stories
I am hungry for stories of my Mom. Stories are the bread that keep her alive in me.
She died three weeks ago. In the week before her spirit finally slipped out of her cancer-ravaged body, my siblings and I gathered in her home, keeping her there with us instead of sending her to a hospital. We cared for her, sang to her, prayed with her, and shared stories of what it was like to grow up with the love of a generous, fun-loving, adventurous, selfless Mom.
Friends and family got word that Mom was slipping away, and many of them came to sit with us, bringing with them even more stories. Stories were our nourishment in those dark days of grief. They fed the longing in us – a longing for more of what Mom had been in our lives.
In the end, the story of her death is one that will forever bond us as a family. We were there when she slipped away. We witnessed her last breath, and we hold the story of that unique pain between us like a sombre family meal, tasting the morsels tenderly, sorrowfully. “Remember when…”
Dad’s death was different. Killed suddenly by his farm tractor, his death brought us a sharper grief – not worse, just different. We didn’t have that week of story-gathering before we said good-bye. We couldn’t prepare ourselves with that nourishment before encountering the soul-crushing moment of his sudden death. Instead, we gathered on the farm the week after, hosting the people who came and sitting hungrily at their feet as they offered their memory stories.
The story we craved most after he was gone was the story of his departure. Unlike Mom’s death, we weren’t there to witness spirit leaving body. He died in a ditch, the blood draining out of him after the tractor and baler tore an ugly gash across his back. We went to the place were he died, trying to piece together what had happened, but there were holes in our story. We couldn’t explain why he was behind the tractor when it started rolling backward. We didn’t know if he’d been alone for his final breath. We remained haunted by the not-knowing.
And then one day, strangers stopped on the farm. Husband and wife, pastor and emergency room nurse. “We saw it happen,” they said. “He’d stopped the tractor on the edge of the driveway, and then walked around the back, probably to see where he could drop the bale. We saw his tractor and baler start to roll toward him. We honked to get his attention, he looked up, but it was too late. It crushed him. We stopped to try to help, but there was nothing we could do. He spoke to us at first. We held his hand, talked to him, and prayed with him. We waited for the ambulance to arrive. He wasn’t alone when he died.”
We asked a hundred questions of this couple, grateful that someone had been there to bear witness. Finally this piece of the story was ours. This couple gave us an immeasurable gift the day they stopped on the farm. They put an extra slice of bread on our story table, feeding our hunger for more of Dad.
I have fed on stories my whole life. The older I get, the more of their bread I crave. The more people I lose in my life, the more I need the stories their lives printed on the book of the world and the book of my life.
Stories feed the deepest needs in me – for connection, community, encouragement, validation, memories, warmth, vision, healing, and courage.
Even more than simple bread, stories are communion wafers, offering the recipient a piece of the sacred. Passed from your priestly hand to my mouth, I let the wafer melt slowly on my tongue and I receive with it the blessing that your words extend.
A little piece of God passes between us when we share our stories.
Not long ago, I invited a group of women to gather in circles of three and share with each other their stories of courage. They were simple stories of motherhood, leadership, community and personal triumph. As they shared, I wandered between them, watching, listening. What I witnessed in that time of story-sharing was pure beauty. The women’s faces softened, ripened, and shone in their profound and unique beauty. Smiles and tears and deep trust transformed their faces.
In this safe place, where sacred stories were given the space, time, and invitation to pass from one to another – communion wafers feeding hungry souls – the Holy shone with a powerful light.
In that moment, bearing witness to that sacred gathering, I knew that my work would always be to continue to spread that light, to host people as they share the bread of stories.
Stories are also medicine, offering healing to those who receive them. Recently, I wrote about my experience of being raped by a man who climbed through my apartment window. Emboldened by my story, a friend began to share her own story of rape. I have shared that story many times, and every time I do, someone comes forward to tell me “your story gave me courage and made me feel less alone. I too have been raped, but I’ve been afraid to talk about it. Your story helped me move forward, and now I want to share my story with others. This is a big step in my healing journey.”
Stories are better than advice. They don’t fix anything for anyone, they simply offer us understanding and humanity and let us know that there is possibility for healing, for courage, and for connection. They help us step out of the darkness and into the light.
An intuitive woman once said that when she thought of me, she pictured a woman carrying a large basket full of stories.
To me, those stories look like bread – some dark, some light, some round, some long, some large, some tiny. They don’t get moldy in my basket, though – I pass them around when people are hungry. With kindness, I offer you the tasty morsels that you crave, blessing them and placing them on your tongue like communion wafers, like medicine.
We are each invited to be story-gatherers, priestesses and medicine women, gathering the hungry together, inviting them to reach into the story baskets they didn’t even know they had, sharing the bread they’d forgotten could sustain them, passing around the medicine that heals them.
We have a feast before us when we bring our stories into the circle. We have the food that our souls are hungry for. We have the means to feed each other, to heal each other.
Let me be the first to break the bread…