· Meet Ally ·

I’ve enjoyed ‘routine’ for as long as I remember. I wake early in order not to miss too much of any given day. Three meals are not an option. The rhythm of four seasons elates me. When I gave birth to my eldest child, ‘routine’ took on a whole new meaning. I became a bit obsessed. Feeding time. Nap time. Bedtime.  I set rules and followed them. Then, I became a prisoner to the routines I created. The ordinary nature of the same schedule each day overwhelmed.

Amidst all this monotonous day-in/day-out, I was learning about God, and how God is with me. But, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where? If Christ is with me, then, where?” It was easy to see God’s hand in the wonderment of life, or to call on God in times of need, or to simply talk about faith with friends. However, noticing Christ at 2am with a crying baby on my hip was an anomaly. This simple question, “Where?” began my quest to find the sacred in the ordinary.

I set off on adventure to the mountains of North Carolina in the Spring of 2013 for my first class in Spiritual Formation. Over the weekend, I came face to face with some new terminology: contemplative, mystic, practice, and quite honestly, spiritual formation. As new as these terms were, it was also as if they had always been with me. As if the experience of each term was buried deep in my bones. As the weekend continued, my cells seemed to breathe, “Yes! This is genuine. This is real.”

Since then, additional classes (and the friends I’ve made) have helped me let go of a “One Size Fits All” form of Christianity where one truth is to be believed. I’ve been reacquainted with the gifts of saints, silence and rituals from my Catholic upbringing. Nowadays, they are wrapped in an understanding of grace from my evolving Christian journey. The discovery of Spiritual Formation has given me tools to reconsider my understanding of God, community and myself. I’m noticing details. Realizing the importance of practice. Healing from past hurts. Spending time in silence. Wrestling with the paradox of life. Considering life as prayer. Asking questions. Permitting doubt. Getting comfortable in my own skin. This life-giving toolbox allows me to view the expansive nature of Christ.

Much of the way I go about processing my faith and inner life is through creating. I create with words, art, paint & paper. This creating place is my meeting place with God. An altar of sorts. A place of give and receive. A push and pull. A fed and be fed. Through my writing, I explore prayer, poetry and musings surrounding God, identity and creativity. Spiritual formation is woven through all of it. My art is whimsical, colorful and prayerful. The suffering in my life and the world is often the starting place for my work. From grief, I am able to offer words and art of healing and hope.

I’d love for you to join me on the quest to unwrap the creative, ordinary sacred in your life.

Here are some of the pertinent influences on my Christian journey over the last eight years (transformative books I’ve read are in italics); listed with those most recently read first:
The Bible; I enjoy the NIV version and The Message written in Contemporary Language
Matthew Fox; Creativity
Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond; Yes, And; daily subscription to his devotionals found here
Jan Richardson; In the Sanctuary of Women
Christine Valters-Paintner; The Soul of a Pilgrim; The Artist’s Rule
Rob Bell, How to Be Here; weekly podcasts found here, Velvet Elvis; Sex God; Love Wins
Parker Palmer; Let Your Life Speak
Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son; The Way of the Heart
Sue Monk Kidd, When the Heart Waits; The Dance of the Dissident Daughter
Jane Vennard, A Praying Congregation
Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart
Brian McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?; We Make the Road By Walking
Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix; Accidental Saints
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World; Leaving Church
Marjorie Thompson, Soul Feast
Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow; Traveling Mercies
Sara Miles, Take This Bread
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
Kelly Minter; No Other Gods
Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God
Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?; The Jesus I Never Knew
Margaret Feinberg, Sacred Echo; Organic God; Scouting the Divine
Donald Miller; Blue Like Jazz; A Million Miles in a Thousand Years