God Doesn’t Work that Way

Beautiful Souls,

I remember sitting in a mega-church in Plano about 13 years ago and hearing the pastor stand at the podium and tell about 5,000 + people on a Sunday morning that they better not mess up their witness or God would sit them on the bench (he loved to use sports analogies). God would sideline them…take them out of the game. Well…I was in a bad place in my life. The words sunk in…God can’t and won’t use me. I felt worthless and hopeless. Just to be sure I heard him correctly I got the tape from the bookstore…yeah…God was going to bench you if you messed up your witness. This pastor was very clear.

Well I want people to know that God does not work that way. He works through the most unlikely of people. People that are not perfect. People that have messed up. People that have gone through and even created shit-storms in their lives.

Those are the very people that can best help others. Those are the very people that can best understand the heartache of others. Those are the very people that are willing to get in the trenches with others. Those are the very people that God calls off the bench and sends into this messy, human experience to rally the team. God wants us as we are…not a phony version of what we think we should be to impress the masses. Just pure, raw, authentic and yes…often broken.

-Michelle Welch

First published January 30, 2016

Love & Light

I ponder, and have for awhile, the use of the phrase “love and light” by so many. I propose we really think about what we are saying and not just loosely throw the phrase around. Here is just one of many of my journal entries on love and change: Change is just not always easy. Even when we ask for the change. One of the things I have always resisted is this saying, “people are brought into your life for a season.” I love deeply. I throw myself fully into friendships and relationships. But then I started realizing, as one child after another grew up and left home, as a marriage ended, as a career changed, as friend groups changed I found myself holding back parts of myself. I figured…well what is the point? This season will pass too and I will have invested so much! After all…they were only brought into my life for a season. I didn’t want to suffer the loss.

But now I am realizing that love is about walking through life. Love is when someone calls just at the moment you thought all hope was gone. Love is the sweet kiss of a dog or cat that just wants to please you. Love is the smile that greets you from a stranger in a store. Love is a friend that knows you need to get out because you have felt down. Love is holding a newborn for the first time. Love is the one that loves the unlovely.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”(I Cor 13:4-8a NIV)
Love is worth the risk. It is worth going through the seasons of change. Yes, there will be change, there will be bittersweet nostalgia…but the seasons of change can be beautiful indeed!

First published January 30, 2016

 

Model Behaviors: Celebrating Discovery & the Redefined Woman

A couple weeks ago, I visited a little shop in Dallas called SoulTopia. I was kind of nervous about this meeting because I wanted to come across as outgoing and confident (neither are natural states for me). But when I walked inside, immediately to my right were two walls with shelves, reaching almost floor to ceiling, filled with Tarot card decks, books about Tarot, books about crystals, and other similar reading materials. As you might recall from my post few months ago, I grew up enamored by Tarot cards, Ouija boards, fairies, and anything magical, so seeing this wall of Tarot encouraged me.

Directly in front of me was a table with incense holders and incense sticks. Tiny Buddhas stood in rows, and many varieties of crystals and stones had been arranged in aesthetically pleasing clusters. I saw a guitar and a sign next to it that said “Play me.” In the back right corner, a door led to a small room, and I heard hushed voices inside. The owner of the shop, Michelle Scheef, had emailed me the day before to let me know she had a reading with a client. While she finished up, I met Angie (the store manager) and Roger (Michelle’s husband). They welcomed me to start taking photos, so I meandered around, taking everything in, and enjoying the solitary exploration.

After her client left, Michelle and I got a chance to chat about the store, and we took a small tour.  She explained what the Crystal Bar was.

Here, customers grab a small bag and pick a “recipe” depending on what they need help with. Maybe they want to boost their self-love? Or maybe they have a big test coming up and want to amplify their knowledge and focus? Maybe someone is ill and they want to bring serenity and calm to this person’s life? Michelle has concocted crystal recipes that will help with just about anything and everything. The customer chooses the recipe and then searches for each stone to add to her bag, taking as many stones as they want, adjusting the recipe to their own liking, or even creating their own recipe!

There was also an entire section of the store dedicated to Michelle’s one-of-a-kind, custom pieces of jewelry. In fact, Toni wears hers all the time. Michelle’s amazing bracelets coincide with different realms of spirituality. The goddess bracelets relate to Buddhist goddess cards. Customers can draw a card to see which bracelet matches, or select a bracelet and see which card it corresponds to. I drew the White Tara, which represents compassion, inner peace, and healing. She had another set of bracelets to coincide with the major arcana of a Tarot deck. She also has malas, earrings, and necklaces. As she explained each set and how she came up with it, I was impressed by the amount of contemplation, empathy, and love she puts into every design.

Because of Michelle’s generosity in sharing her knowledge and because of her obvious passion for each and every item in SoulTopia, I’d gotten sucked up in the magic of it all.

Then, she led me toward her reading room, and my excitement and nervousness came rushing back again. I’d never had my cards read by a professional! I’d only done readings with my sister and my friend Kolbe, and a few times I had done readings for other close friends—but what if I said the wrong thing?

We settled into our seats. The lights were dim, and Michelle showed me the deck’s artwork before we began.  I gravitated toward the 9 of Pentacles, which displayed a woman in fine, courtly attire holding a white falcon on her arm. I couldn’t remember what this card meant off the top of my head, but I’ve always liked images of women and animals.

Michelle shuffled the cards, and we began the reading. According to her, she would be using the Celtic Cross spread (the only layout I’d ever used), and I drew my 10 cards, which Michelle then placed in formation. The first one was the signifier—it represented me—the person who was making the inquiry. For this reading, Michelle took a card and looked at it, quirked her head, then asked, “Is there any depression in your life?”

I hesitated. I didn’t know how to express my answer—not exactly. She gave me a moment and when I didn’t offer anything, she said, “Don’t try to force it if there’s not. It was just a thought.”

And here’s where Tarot gets tricky for some people. Earlier, while we walked around the store, I’d mentioned that I’d broken up with my boyfriend at the beginning of this year. Maybe all those crystals and their energy had me feeling more vulnerable than usual? Either way, it’s not something I usually offer up to strangers. Maybe Michelle picked up on that, and that was why she mentioned depression now. When she asked me in our reading, my mind immediately jumped to my break-up. Some people can get over an ex relatively quickly. Other people (AKA  me) are still dealing with break-ups 8 months later. Not that I’m crying myself to sleep every night, but I’m sad, and I’ll probably keep being sad. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Tarot, it’s that you get out of it what you put into it. We see what we want to see in the cards. They are mirrors. I could either sit there and say nothing, or I could say, “Okay, yeah. I’m still sad about my breakup. Still trying to figure out how I feel about it.”

We went through some more cards. We talked about my current environment and maybe some emotional blocks that held me back, that kept me from really investing all of myself into the relationship. We talked about other non-romantic relationships that might’ve been influencing that one. We talked about being too hard on ourselves. We talked about self-care. And how I maybe hadn’t been doing a very good job of it.

Then she pointed to the next card in my spread, the 4 of Pentacles. It showed a man with his hands crossed over his chest. “I feel like you need to be saving up some money,” she said. “I feel like something’s coming where you’ll need it, and see how he’s covering his heart? He’s protecting himself instead of letting his heart shine.” Then we got to the next card, the 2 of Pentacles. On the card, there’s a man, one Pentacle in each hand, and two ships on the ocean behind him. Michelle mentioned that maybe there was a trip coming up, not super soon, but possibly at the beginning of next year, and that somehow it would be related to my work. “Not that you’ll move there,” she said, “but it’s going to be important to you somehow.” Then she peered at me. “I don’t know why, but I get a really strong California vibe from you.

Last summer I attended a writing retreat in California called Djerassi, led by Nova Ren Suma (one of our MB Book Club authors!) I had a turning point in my writing. My confidence bloomed. For the first time up there in the mountains, far away from my life in Austin and the Internet and all the things that make me feel inadequate—I felt brave enough to say, “I’m a writer.” Only a month or so before my reading with Michelle, I got an email from Djerassi asking if I’d be interested in attending an alumni workshop in March of 2016. Writing is my heart’s work. It’s the joyful work. The lifelong work. The work I’ve done, am doing, will always do. Could this be my trip? Could that be where I was heading?

I’ll tell y’all what. I sure hope so!

She also told me she sensed a strong male presence around that time as well, but not a romantic interest, someone who would be a guide and mentor, someone I’d look up to who will really help my life move forward.

In my head, I was like, “I’M GETTING AN AGENT!!!” But then I laughed at myself because I’m guessing the cards don’t get that specific.

The next card made me gasp. I hadn’t noticed it until this moment, but I’d drawn the 9 of Pentacles, the card with the gorgeous woman and the falcon. Michelle smiled at my surprise, obviously noticing the card’s presence much earlier than me. It was particularly striking that I’d picked this card out earlier, she told me, and that it had shown up in this exact spot in my reading now. The 9 of Pentacles is a card of success and accomplishment. It belongs to she who possesses great inner strength and a sense of purpose.

Since this card came toward the end of my reading, Michelle told me that over the next six months or so, if I continue to pursue emotional healing and learn to trust myself, I’ll discover a confidence I’ve never known before. It will come bursting through and attract great people into my life.

Whether you’re a skeptic or not, this is a message anyone can believe in. And sometimes we just need a reminder to have faith in ourselves, whether it’s from a certified Tarot reader or from your most trusted friend. I left our reading feeling invigorated and motivated, ready to dig into my work-in-progress manuscript.

I’m happy to report that last month I finished a round of revisions that I’d been toiling away on for eight months. And now I’m almost ready to start the mad hunt for an agent. I’m feeling much more confident and capable. Is this because of Michelle?

I’ll leave that up to you.

For now, here’s my interview with Michelle. I hope you come away as inspired as I am!

Courtney

 MB: Before you opened SoulTopia, you were an attorney. As you mentioned to me during my visit, you still have your license to practice law. I’m guessing a lot of people—friends, family, complete strangers—were and are shocked by the about-face in your career. How did you make such a life-changing decision?

MS: I love this quote by e. e. cummings:. “It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.”

Throughout my years as an attorney, I’ve observed many people choose their life paths based on cultural or familial expectations rather than on their true passions. Although I enjoy law, when my twenty-six-year marriage came to an end, I “woke up” to many things in my life, including my need to live authentically and my desire to foster more love and tolerance in this world. I stopped denying my abilities just because others might not understand them. I enjoy learning and teaching; therefore, I’m pursuing my doctorate in philosophy and teach ongoing classes in the spiritual arena.

My husband and I own a jewelry business named SoulStones. As an Advanced Crystal Master, I’ve studied crystals extensively and I enjoy making beautifully designed jewelry with emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental healing properties. Although we sell our jewelry at trade shows, owning and operating SoulTopia within the NOW Center allows me to roll my jewelry business and intuitive/life coach business into one location.

MB: I’m truly inspired by women who go through an “awakening” like you just described, and who then listen to their intuition. Not everyone can muster up the courage to follow their true passions because it’s downright terrifying to rearrange an entire life’s worth of decisions the way you have. I’ve been feeling a bit wobbly and doubtful of myself lately, and you gave me some great advice while we had our reading, which was basically to trust myself and not be afraid of my own inner strength and passion. How do we learn this skill, this listening to our heart of hearts?

MS: I believe this “skill” is inherent in all of us. Many choose to deny it or hide it because we are taught it is aberrant or misguided. I think of it more as remembering this skill. We accomplish it by setting aside ego, exercising our intuitive muscles, and trusting that there truly is a divine plan for our lives. It was downright scary to step off the merry-go-round of mainstream “success,” but at some point I woke up and decided I was going to begin living—not just existing, but listening to my soul and living purposefully. I intend to live each day deliberately, purposefully, and mindfully so as to fulfill my true purpose…to serve others, which is, in turn, for my highest good. Although I’m still a logical thinker, I’ve learned to put to rest previously ingrained, limiting belief systems.

Listening to our heart is natural when we’re children, but as we grow up, the world around us tells us there is “a way” to do things. We slowly stop listening to our inner guidance and begin to focus outwardly for answers and validation. This en-trained need for external validation cuts us off from knowing that which we are truly seeking. It prevents us from realizing we’re connected to God and our higher selves. We must not pinch off that connection if we want to stay tuned in to what is best for us and that which drives us, that which brings us passion, hope and life…that which is our life purpose.

MB: As a writer, I was thinking about my work the other day and how one of the most important skills I can develop is listening—to myself, to others, to the world around me. Perhaps this is why I’m so interested in Tarot and crystals. It seems important for your work, too. What advice do you have for anyone interested in learning to read Tarot cards or crystals?

MS: I agree! Listening is one of the most important skills. First, listening to the client and their issues, concerns, and feedback. But just as important, listening to the message that comes for the client.

Perhaps a client asks, “Will I find a soul mate soon?” But what they really may be asking is, “Why do I feel lonely? Why do I get dumped on time and time again? How do I prevent this in the future? What is in store for me?” It’s then incumbent upon me to listen intuitively to the message I receive (with the cards or crystals perhaps as tools). I may be shown clearly that the issue they’re working through is more about self-worth and self-love than a mate. Have I listened to the question? Yes. But the answer is often deeper than a yes or no.

The tarot or crystal reading tells us a story about what is going on in our lives. It provides us an opportunity to look at options based on different scenarios. It isn’t fortune-telling as many believe. We each have free will and can change the outcome and take charge of our own destiny. Once I listen to a client and tell them what I hear regarding the way things are headed in their life, they may choose to alter their course and navigate a new path. I’ve listened to them and I’ve listened to the information I’m given. It’s up to the querent to listen to their inner compass and chart and design their own path.

I would also advise paying attention to the world around you. Our senses are given to us for a reason. So is our imagination. When you instinctively know something, that is the remembering I spoke of earlier. Don’t second-guess your instinctive knowledge. I tell this to my students all the time. Many people will think they’re just making it up or it’s their imagination. I say use that. It’s your inner knowledge crying out to be heard.

 Finally, never underestimate the power of education and studying your craft. I study crystals. I study tarot. I study flower essences, I study psychometry, I study shamanism, I study astrology, I study chakras…you get the idea. Yes, I believe in coming by things intuitively, but I believe in coupling that with research and study. I read everything I can get my hands on. Some resonates. Some does not. I take and teach classes. Further, I’m pursuing my doctorate in philosophy with an emphasis in parapsychology and metaphysics. So listening, studying, preparing, and practicing are important in working in this field just as they are in any other.

MB: Thank you so much for your time and your wisdom, Michelle! Please visit Michelle’s website for SoulTopia or stop by her shop if you’re in the Dallas area.

You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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First published September 15, 2015

SoulTopia ~ Utopia for Your Beautiful Soul

So this is my first blog and it will be a short one. I have been asked why…why would I do “this.” I actually was asked that by a fellow attorney. And I really wanted to respond… why would you be an attorney that seems to hate what you do…but I refrained because that is the Michelle I don’t want to be anymore. I thought about the question and I said, “because it is who I have always been.”

I am a spiritual being. I am a soul. I am a beautiful soul. But somewhere along my journey, I lost sight of those things. I became religious. I became material. Now before you get up in arms, I am not saying religion is inherently bad. Yet for me it had become something rigid and pro forma…there was nothing spiritual about it anymore… for me. The church I was attending said the name of the church more than the name of the Creator (I actually tallied it in church the last time I attended and it was about 10 to 1). So although church and religion is great for some…I sought a more spiritual experience. One I knew I had experienced as a child when I spoke to angels. Yes, when I spoke to angels and they spoke to me.

I always just “knew” things before other people knew them. I was labeled as being “too sensitive.” Well now I know that is called an empath and I say thank you to such a compliment. But I wanted that childlike faith in my life once more. I wanted to be close to my Creator and to my angels and to my guides as I was when I was young. I called upon them and quickly realized they had never left me.

So I threw out the criticisms and fears that had been place on me and I embraced my authentic self. I am just me. This is who I have always been. I can tell you that I am a kinder, gentler version of me…but I am still just me. A spiritual seeker…a soul…a beautiful soul…like you.

 

First published April 6, 2015