Finding Yourself in Silence

By: Jenni Taylor, Author in Chief

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.–Khalil Gibran

I spent three days on the back of a motorcycle steadily winding its way through the mountainous north of Vietnam, through the villages on the outskirts of Hanoi. The guide was driving, and because of the roar of the motor I was excused from making conversation.photo 4

It was three days of near total silence, and the silence was welcomed with open arms. Stress, responsibilities, and agonizing meetings had dominated my life recently, and a break was long overdue. So it began- one the back of this dirt bike Honda.

It was in the silence of the roads, the strength of the mountains, and the patience of the empty rice paddies where I emptied my heart like emptying lint out of old, unused pockets, and filled it up again. If eyes are the windows to the soul, my eyes were due for a window washing. I spent those hours watching the landscape and filling my eyes with beauty, with fog creeping over lakes and fisherman casting their nets.

I let my mind go free. I let thoughts float by, without judgment, just acknowledgment that they needed to exist in order to move on. I thought about places I’ve been, people I know, things I have done. Positive blended with negative in one big pool of remembrance, acknowledgment of pieces of my life I had not given thought to in a long time.

photo 1It was in the silence I began to find healing. There was no music, no conversation to drown out the honesty flashing through my mind, and I stood face to face with myself, a full look at my naked soul in a mirror. I saw someone who was tired, but strong. I saw the experiences that left marks on my heart and began to see those marks as beauty marks. I saw my soul reaching for beauty, truth, and strength.

So I took my soul by the hand and showed it the spectacular beauty, truth, and strength in the mountains surrounding me, and began to see it echoed and copied into my soul’s DNA. I soaked up nature like a sponge in a bathtub, and made it a part of me.

I so desperately needed that silence, the quiet, the roar of the motor and the flashing pavement beneath the wheels. Within another two weeks I found myself crying on a beach looking at a rainbow, and sang a song of thankfulness to the skies. Silence leads to song, and mountaintops lead to more journeys. It is in the silence when you can truly find yourself.

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Desire and Identity

By: Jenni Taylor

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. –Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

My heart is full of desires. Chiefly, in this moment, my desire is to be a strong and beautiful woman.

My grandmom, who died long before I was born, was the matriarch of the family. She was strong, and she was beautiful. Life was not kind, but she held her family together. I see her strength in my aunts and uncles, her prayers reflected in their lives, and I know her legacy lives on.

I am a teacher. A traveler. An actress. A daughter, a friend, a writer, an adventurer. I am full of titles, striving to live a life of meaning, a life that won’t be forgotten or lost in the void. But maybe the void is where I need to be.

I was lost in the woods of north Wisconsin once, with mosquitoes and ticks and aching arms. I looked around at the forest surrounding me and thought, I want to be nameless. I just want to be. I want to be my imperfect body with my soul swirling around the tree tops; I want to be naked and free, connected, and bigger somehow. I want to lose myself so I can become something more.

I say that, but the honest truth is my identity is everything to me. Letting go and becoming that person I was in the woods takes effort now. It takes intention, it takes prayer, it takes believing in something bigger and better than myself and my dreams.

I’m sitting in a cafe in Vietnam right now, watching the chaos of motorbikes and noodles and movable markets. I am blessed, and I am humbled. Yes, I want to be strong and beautiful, but by God do I also want to be connected to the lives surrounding me, the millions and billions of lives searching for peace and meaning and strength, just as I am. So I pray:

Thank you for being bigger and better than I am. Thank you for the desires of my heart. Thank you for life, opportunities, and choices. Help me to love. Help me to give. Help me to become less of my titles and more of my heart.

Thank you for this beautiful country, it’s strength, it’s women, it’s optimism.

Amen.