It's Wise Women Wednesday, each week I interview a woman that I believe is inspiring, living abundantly and following her passions. These are all women who live a life of abundance and bring creativity into the world.
I've known Christyn since high school and I've always admired her. She's never been afraid to be herself and follow her passions. In high school she was a talented theater kid, and a popular cheerleader. Christyn is the type of woman who makes sure everyone has a goodie bag full of fun and encouraging items during tech week of a play, and makes sure that everyone around her is being taken care of. She is up to big things right now and I'm grateful to be able to watch from afar. I hope you'll enjoy this Wise Women Wednesday as much as I did.
Q. Who are you? What is your background?
A. Because the work of cultivating a sense of self is a creative task, I ask myself this question almost daily! I’m Christyn. I’m a work in progress. I’m still learning, though I’m proud of where I’ve come from and where I am going.
I grew up in Toledo, Ohio (and went to high school with Alisha!), and attended college at the University of Kentucky. Not knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up (still working on that), I majored in Chinese - only because I realized I had taken enough Chinese language and philosophy classes to constitute a major. But in reality, there is something absolutely enchanting about Chinese culture and language. My own practice of Christianity has always been about “doing.” Buddhism/Daoism/Confucianism, conversely, offer beautiful venues in which one may focus simply on “being.” I feel that my life as a whole is an attempt to do justice to both of these ancient practices.
After a few study trips in China, I attended a Lutheran seminary in Berkeley, California. It was a perfect blend of my love of Christ and my love of Chinese culture. While there, I met my husband, and we married a month after I graduated with my masters degree. We then moved to Los Angeles, where I worked in the music department for movies at Warner Bros. Studios while my husband worked at a church. I wanted to stay in LA forever - the culture, the sunshine, the pace, the people all enriched my soul and warmed my heart. Then my husband was asked to pastor a church outside of Kansas City, Missouri. It took a lot for me to agree to move back to the Midwest. We’ve been here for 7 years now and nearly every day I have to remind myself that this is just for a season and try to focus on the positives of this place - affordability, kind people, and a great place to raise my 2 kids. If you look at it that way, we live in abundance.
Q. What is your work?
A. You know that saying, “When you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life?” I think that’s true of my “work” - which is more of a “vocation” than a job. Though I am still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, I’ve been intentional at listening to what feeds my soul and chasing after it. I’ve worked a lot of random jobs: waitress, camp counselor, scrapbook store clerk, non-profit fundraiser, nanny, temp, and executive administrative assistant. Though all those were great, I found most joy in leading groups of people to do great things together. As a pastor’s kid, my most accessible venue for such work was church - any church, but mostly Lutheran churches. While in seminary I interned as a hospital chaplain, and when we moved to Kansas City I searched high and low for a job that not only pays bills, but also satisfies. I took an offer as a resident chaplain at a large urban hospital, thinking it would buy me time. I never expected to love it. My work was literally to talk to people all day, to offer them a smile and to hold their hand (both figuratively and literally) when life gets rough. It’s the best of the “being” and “doing” worlds. Though it’s physically (and often emotionally) exhausting to walk around a large hospital of sick people, it’s more rewarding than it is depleting. But my work as a chaplain got cut semi-short when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis just after giving birth to my son (who is now 4). It became clear that my lack of an efficient immune system wasn’t a good combination with infectious disease, so I started exploring other ministry options. Now I work as a part-time chaplain at three suburban hospitals (less diseases, more acute issues) in addition to ministering at our church alongside my husband. It’s an interesting set-up, but I’m excited to share both our passion for ministry with my best friend (and baby daddy).
Q. What is one project you are excited to be working on right now?
A. If you’re anything like me, you have been watching the news over the last few months and feel like the ground beneath your feet is turning into jello. I’ve never been into politics. I can talk about religion all day, but politics makes me green with nausea and want to leave the room. But something about this past election and events since have put an insatiable fire in my soul that can’t be quenched. It started gradually - signing petitions, talking politics with friends, subscribing to newspapers, “liking” progressive Facebook pages. Then it turned a corner when I went to a local progressive group meeting. I had found my people! I offered my help with social media development and advertising, and most importantly - painting signs, as we together figure out where we can make a difference. We have weekly scheduled meeting with our republican senator; we’ve hosted resource fairs, town halls, listening sessions, and prayer vigils. The painting of the signs - and the larger group of our “Indivisible” team - is both cathartic and feeds my soul.
Q. What is one thing you've done recently that's scared you and took courage, but you're glad you did?
A. I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind, yet I also struggle with people-pleasing. I also have to edit extra-carefully because of my work within the church. However, I see my political activism as socially, morally, ethically, theologically imperative if I want to continue to associate with my faith tradition. I’ve had to do a lot of soul-searching: is my anger justified, temporary, sound? Will it create bridges or build walls? Does it honor or embarrass others? All of these questions are subjective, of course, but the social injustices happening around us are bad enough - I don’t need to let the opinion of others keep me bound, either. Though I’ve “lost” several good friends and pissed off others, I have also made new friends - both locally and across the country - who remind me that my voice is valuable - and that I don’t need to apologize for standing up for the rights of myself and others. I am grateful for this new role as activist.
Q. What is the work you most want to be doing and are you doing it? If not why not what's stopping you?
A. Since I am still - and always - figuring out where and what I am supposed to be, there is much that I want to do/try but haven’t had the time/energy/resources. Much of this is because I’m busy raising little people (and two dogs!) and working 4 part-time jobs (all of which are lovely, btw)! Part of it is also because I have multiple sclerosis and can’t physically do that which I’d like to do. This is both challenging and liberating at the same time. Challenging because I need to reevaluate my ambitions at every turn; liberating because it forces me to focus on the ground level of what is most important to me: my husband and kids, my own health, my relationships with others, and my contribution to the world. Though I won’t allow MS to stop me from doing what I want, it has given me the chance to reevaluate my wants and appreciate what I already have, because when you love what you have, you have everything you need. I consider this living in abundance.
Q. What would you tell your high school or college self?
You’re doing a great job.
It will work out and be what it is supposed to be.
Be content with yourself, by yourself. Embrace the silence and stillness.
The only opinion of you that matters is yours. Others are too worried with how they come across to have time to worry about how you come across.
Practice more patience.
Be nicer to your brother. He’ll turn out to be super cool, actually.
Q. What's one piece of advice or motto you love and use in your daily life that you would like to share with my sweet readers?
A. “Don’t borrow trouble.” I have a tendency to over-think, over-analyze, over-plan. None of it is conducive or creative, it just steals me of my joy. When uncertainty is ahead, transform your energy into something that centers you and helps others.
Q. What keeps you creating when you don't feel like it?
It’s easy to loose your creative energy. Life’s obligations, toxic people, second guessing - all these can get in the way of feeling free enough to discover and express that which is within you. Prioritizing time to rest and recenter myself has been vital to both my physical and emotional health. I send both my children (ages 9 months and 4 years) to “school” one day a week so I can have one whole day to myself. I usually spend these days catching up on chores and errands - or throwing all my obligations to the wind and sleep all day or binge on Netflix or Candy Crush. I’m often tempted to fill the day with meetings or activism, but when I do I don’t feel recharged and I go through the rest of the week limping. In other words - I prioritize “me” time. It’s not selfish - it’s necessary.
Q. Anything else you'd like to share?
A. Alisha is a great inspiration to me. I’m so proud to see how she’s utilized her passion for yoga to create her own label and business. What an example of claiming your own abundance!
Q. What's your favorite yoga pose?
I’ll tell you what’s NOT my favorite yoga pose… the downward dog! It kills my head! I really enjoy the part of yoga when the instructor comes by and offers a brief back massage with essential oils. Guess that reveals what kind of yogi I am!
Q. How do you live a life of abundance?