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A Time for Personal Restoration

“Vulnerability is not about fear and grief and disappointment, it is the birthplace of everything we’re hungry for.”
– Brené Brown

As we begin to work through the topic of ‘restoration’ this month on Kitchen Fellowship, I’ll start with a deeply personal story of healing and transformation that’s unfolding in my life. I’m hesitant to share because it’s not easy to talk of dark areas of life that cause sadness to well up. But I’m hoping my transparency will encourage you to share your heart and stories along with me.

Let’s start with this picture. That’s me there…on the right.

Personal Restoration | Kitchen Fellowship

When I was little I wanted to be a professional ballerina with every fiber of my being.

Not just because that’s what little girls do or because my parents thought dance classes would be cute. It was a desire I embraced and adored.

Ballet was beautiful, healing, and a profound way to communicate without a single word. I loved infusing the world with grace through dancing.

Leotards, top-knot buns, Bach, Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Barber were my BFFs. When not in class I’d spend hours twirling around the living room. I kept a notebook to catalogue French ballet words like pirouette and relevé.

I was ALL IN until…

I took lessons in preschool on up till one day, in 4th grade or so, my mom told me I wouldn’t be able to attend lessons any more. “I’m so sorry,” I remember her saying as she kneeled in front of me, her sadness evident.

My little mind raced. I remember feeling confused and shocked.

But I pushed the sadness of a lost dream away, moved on with life, and danced an ounce here and there but never at a professional level.

Looking back, it makes sense. There were plenty of reasonable family circumstances that contributed to that decision.

Fast Forward to Present Day

I noticed that I had become excessive about setting and reaching goals. Striving to prove to myself that I could do what I’d set out to.

Frankly, it was getting out of hand. I’d set outlandish personal and business goals and feel pressure and anxiety to achieve them. When the mark was missed I’d slump into sadness or frustration because of a silly failure.

It was time to mine for the root of this behavior because I longed to live restored. After prayer and journaling the ‘ballet dream’ surfaced and confounded me. An experience I hadn’t thought of in years. Several theories rose to the top:

  • Because I couldn’t achieve that dream, I’m obsessed with making everything else in my life happen.
  • Life’s trying to teach me that failing is okay. Embrace it as a necessary path to success.

Happily armed with this new insight I assumed I could “tone it down a notch”. Embrace a slow, steady, meaningful pace in business and life.

Yet the striving continued and the sadness of unmet goals hung over my head. Have you ever been here?

Uncomfortable with a sliver of the way you’re existing but unsure how to usher in healing?

I began to evaluate and pray about this frustration because I so badly wanted to be free. Where was the pressure coming from? Was it internal or external? Did it involve my heart alone or my perception of other’s expectations?

My life coach asked a beautiful question unrelated to this story which goes like this:
“How did that feel?”

I came home from my life-coach-coffee-date, asked myself that question in relation to the ‘ballet dream’, and promptly had an ugly cry that was snotty and beautifully freeing. I was honest about how it actually made me feel for the first time.

When my mom told me that my lessons would come to an end my little mind thought:

“Don’t let her know you’re sad. Don’t let on that this disappointment hurts.” (Which is an odd belief my parents never instilled in me… so I’m not sure why these were my first thoughts. Mom was always at the ready to soothe our bumps and bruises.)

Losing ballet made me feel so sad, broken, and uncomfortable, which I’m finally able to admit to my 30-year-old self. And since I didn’t acknowledge that as a young 4th grader and grieve the loss of a long-held dream in that moment — it actually led me, unaware, into strange ways of living.

I took on the burden of ensuring others would never feel the hurt and sting of disappointment.

There it is, at long last. The root of my striving. The impetus of the up and down joy and sadness of achieving or not achieving a goal.

That realization made my heart burst with healing, freedom, and love. Like a rubber band popped inside my chest, I could breathe again, and my tired feet slowly hopped off the treadmill of managing everyone else’s happiness and sorrow.

I’ve acknowledged the good which flourished from that lost dream; how quickly I developed the ability to sense when others were hurting and honed my ability to encourage and build others up as they reach for their dreams and goals.

The past few months have been restorative and wholly different as I’m learning to leave that way of relating to the world behind.

Which Brings Us to This…

Where do you need hope? What are you longing for?
Meaningful purpose?
Authentic community?
Less anger and more joy in daily life?
Peace and fulfillment as you work?
A heart of kindness as you relate to others?

How could vulnerability be the “birthplace of everything you’re hungry for”?

Could it be that barring the broken and bruised parts of your soul is the first step towards living life restored?

What’s ragged and in need healing in your life right now?

Feel free to share transparently in the comments below. We’re gentle — and with you in this journey towards restoration.

Over the next four months let’s focus on restoration!

Here and in the KF community on Facebook –>
February: Personal | March: Relational | April: Communal | May: Global

10 comments… add one

  • Laura February 5, 2015, 11:57 am

    I had the exact same thing happen to me. Ballet, third grade. I was CRUSHED. Especially since my older cousin was a ballerina and danced for 15 years, and my younger cousin danced also for over 10 years and even went to Magnet school for it. I’ve always said to myself that I’m too young to have so many broken dreams. I so understand this! I’m so glad you got to release this!! FREEDOM!!

    • Alysa February 5, 2015, 2:57 pm

      Aw, Laura! I bet plenty of kids play soccer, attempt to play the flute, wrestle, or do gymnastics for a few years and move onto something else. They probably never give a second thought to the ‘switch up’ of activities. But, OH, do I understand the sadness of leaving a soul-passion behind. I can only imagine your frustration was magnified with dancing cousins around! <3

      Yes! Sweet freedom. Professional dance just wasn't in the plan God has for my life. I would have taken it to an obsessive level and I'd just now finishing up my dance career in my 30's and thinking, "Now what? My whole life has been about dance. What’s left?” Bowing out of dance left room for so many other passions and dreams to bubble up. Thank goodness. :)

      So here’s a question for you… are you ready to seek healing from those broken dreams of yours? <3

  • Kristi February 5, 2015, 1:37 pm

    This touches me deeply. So much of my striving is rooted in my own disappointments and fears. Crazy how much of our thoughts and behaviors are motivated by the things we THINK are deeply buried bits of history. I applaud you for bravely facing the truth of your pain head on. It’s not easy to mine through our hearts! I praise God for healing your hurt and restoring your heart. Your story fuels the hope of restoration for others (like me)!

    • Alysa February 5, 2015, 3:03 pm

      I’m grateful this story spoke to you Kristi, since I was pretty nervous and hesitant to share it. Eeeeh “vulnerability hangover”…

      Yes, yes, yes! Our wounds love to hide under masks don’t they? Creeping right under the surface is what’s REALLY the matter. Praying for you this afternoon — that glimmers of hope for your own restoration are filtering into your life daily. <3

      The primary form I’ve experienced of God in my life has always been healer — so glad he showed up yet again. :)

  • Katy February 5, 2015, 2:30 pm

    Oh Alysa. This hit home with me profoundly. I think as we reach a certain age (hello 30), it becomes clear that those big big dreams we had in childhood really are not going to come to fruition. On some level, that’s ok because we’ve dreamed other dreams that have become more important and we have achieved them. We’ve filled our lives with meaningful people and experiences that we couldn’t envision or appreciate at 8 years of age.

    When I was 8, I would tell anyone who asked that I was going to be on Broadway. As I grew through high school, I realized that success on Broadway meant talent in dance and acting as well as singing. I just wanted to stand in the spotlight in a gorgeous gown and sing ballads. I also discovered I absolutely LOVED teaching others to sing and watching them find their voice. So I went to music school, took a class from an amazing professor in elementary music education, and walked down that path. I was lucky enough to continue to pursue singing personally in a community theater in my town which was thrilling. Then, the most incredible, life-changing dream came true: kids. My husband and I decided we would make the necessary sacrifices for me to be a stay-at-home-mom when the babies were young and I was and continue to be extremely grateful for this chance to spend my days with my kids.


    3 years in, I had necessarily ignored the other two dreams and passions that dominated my life thusfar: singing and teaching. I compensated by throwing myself full-hog into what I thought a stay-at-home-mom should do: craft, decorate, host guests and play-dates immaculately, make homemade food (like, extremely homemade to the point of creating more work for myself), keep my home and clothes reasonably clean, and have constant, fulfilling, educational entertainment for my kids. I thought these lofty home-maker goals would justify… something.

    Some odd consequences came out of my attempts to project my passion for singing and teaching into a passion for what I thought a homemaker should do: an occasionally rigid schedule that drove all of us nuts: “At 9:00 we will read and at 10:00 I will clean and you will look at stickers dear 1 year old, and at 11:00 you will help me cook and we will combine learning about nutrition with learning about the alphabet and counting as well” These bursts of extreme scheduling would eventually give way to – “Everyone is nuts – I give up: pajama/TV day. I am such a terrible mother for not dressing them and melting their brains with TV. What am I doing?!?”

    Other consequences included a struggle with identity – I actually dislike crafting and cleaning, and baking, and I have little aptitude for it. Hostessing is fun, but highly stressful for me. I wrote a blog for awhile about homemaking and hostessing, and the whole time I wrote, there was a sense that I was being untrue to myself. (I love love love teaching, art, music, learning, so our best days were “field trips” to museums or town art walks, making giant messes painting as a family or fiddling on the piano. Never wrote about that…)

    I put extremely high expectations on myself as a parent and on my kids. If I was not going to teach in a classroom, by George, my children would be reflections of the best behaved children I ever taught (even if my babies were years younger than my students.) I would be a model mother – never yell, never serve anything resembling junk food, have angelic patience 24/7, go outside everyday, adhere to the less than 2 hours or zero hours of screen-time per day rule, keep everyone and everything tidy and in order. Basically I would be Mary Poppins and my kids would be Jane and Michael Banks.

    I’m writing in past tense, but many of these things are still true. What has changed is a scary decision to step back into both my passions. It was scary because I had created a new identity for myself and funneled money and time to live in that identity: “We must craft, so we need to budget Michael’s shopping trips” “It would be a waste of time to sing for myself – besides, I have so much housework to get through and no time”) I made the conscious decision to be Mom – isn’t that all-encompassing? Surely I cannot be Mom and Singer or Mom and Teacher, or God forbid, Mom and Singer and Teacher?!?

    A true life-saver and an incredible source of fulfillment is singing with the Atlanta Master Chorale. I love it so much that I want to take a time machine back to every choir rehearsal of my life and bop myself on the head for not appreciating those experiences more.

    The second piece is the decision, a year in the making, to open an in-home music studio. This is a tiny dream in comparison to my 8-year-old goal of Broadway Diva, but for me, right now, in this moment, it is HUGE. Teaching my one student makes me feel like I suddenly reclaimed half of who am I as a person. On Tuesday, I announced my studio to my professional choir. I was terrified that I had lost all credibility as a professional after my 5 years off, and wouldn’t be able to speak professionally, but I got extremely encouraging feedback. I feel more energized than I have in 5 years. It’s a thrilling part of the process and I anticipate coming down from the high, but I know now that I certainly can be Mom and Singer and Teacher and I will be better at each one because the other two are in the picture.

    Alysa, I want you to know that you have been extremely influential through this whole process, both in encouraging me to start my business, and helping me weed through all my expectations of what I was supposed to be as a homemaker to hone in on how to make an authentically kind and welcoming home (which has always been and continues to be a goal). The work you are doing through Kitchen Fellowship and Passage Hill Studios has great great meaning and affected more people than you know.

    That said, I would humbly encourage you to find an adult ballet class in your area. It is true, you may not ascend to Prima Ballerina of the Russian Ballet, but you said this: “Ballet was beautiful, healing, and a profound way to communicate without a single word. I loved infusing the world with grace through dancing.”
    I know that feeling. I know it in my soul. And it is so very worth pursuing. Money and time can always be re-routed to those things that feed the core of who you are.

    I know I wrote a lot, but I wanted to add a few things that intimidate me still, since you asked:
    Admitting that I want to be all of me. I cherish being a stay-at-home-mom, but I do want my other passions in my life and I think I have something to contribute to the world through them. I am worried about coming off as a spoiled brat to people who may not be able to stay home with their kids, or inadvertently hurting people who are still in pursuit of the dream of family.
    I will “sound like an idiot” when I try to speak professionally on the spot after spending most of the week only speaking to small children.
    My kids will suffer and watch more TV than they are “supposed to” as I try to keep all the balls in the air. (The other side of that is, they may watch a bit more TV, but they’ll have a happier, more satisfied mother the rest of the day)
    And as always – I will fail and I really cannot be Singer or Teacher.

    (This is the oddest send-off, but I have to say that I love the font you chose for the comment section. : ) )

    • Alysa February 5, 2015, 3:30 pm

      Katy! I want to seal every word of your comment in my heart and savor your beautiful honesty! Thank you for the pure gift of your words and story here. It’s encouraging to know we don’t face lost dreams alone, that most of us grapple with unrealistic expectations and could afford to leave striving behind, and that our souls are still hungry to express passion and creativity in this world.

      I don’t have kids yet but can already see ways that I may want to slip into that ‘Mary Poppins’ mothering mentality. Hearing your story is a beautiful reminder to examine my motives and keep my dreams alive when kids come along. Thank you for that.

      Can I just say how THRILLED I am that you’ve opened your voice studio?! What an honor to have nudged you in that direction. And, wow, so proud of you for sharing it with your choir group.
      Um… we should talk. RE: I’m that entrepreneur who’s alone most EVERY day and forgets what I really want to say about my business when I’m out with people. Let’s up our business-y talk together. :D
      Thanks for sharing your fears about this next phase of life. I hear you, completely understand, and will be there encouraging you to overcome those outlandish (but ever so real in your mind) obstacles. <3

      • Katy February 6, 2015, 3:37 pm

        Alysa, yes, we should talk!! I think just the act of asking each other about our businesses would force the business owner to hone her game in a no-pressure situation. Do you have my contact? How should I send it your way?

        • Alysa February 9, 2015, 11:58 am

          I do have your contact info. Just send you an email, Katy! :) Yea! I’m excited.

  • Fiona February 6, 2015, 1:31 am

    Hi Alysa,
    I can relate to this post and the comments others have left on a few levels. While I haven’t had any major disappointments like you had that I’m aware of, there are still regrets. A few days ago I wondered, what if my parents had sent me to a really good piano teacher from the start, instead of to the 16yo student who virtually left me to “teach myself” for 6 years? Perhaps I would be a much better pianist than I am today. (but then again, perhaps not! ;) And like Katy above, I opened my own music studio again after a few years of having children, and have LOVED about ten years of teaching since having little kids, one day, Katy, it will grow, as your family can cope with it!

    What I’ve learnt in the past 6 months or so is that these emotions from childhood can still affect us physically today. The emotion we felt then caused a physical reaction, and the same emotion today can trigger the same physical reaction. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor who does NET (Neuro-Emotional Technique) to “undo” these trigger reactions, and gradually my digestive health is improving, even though I would have said my life has been very calm and uneventful. So that’s worth looking into if you have any health issues. I’m grateful that God led me to these chiropractors and while I’m there I also pray silently that I will be freed from these emotions from the past.

    And on the topic of ballet, I always wanted to do ballet, but didn’t ever have the opportunity as a child. So three years ago I enrolled in an ‘adult ballet fitness class’, which I thought would just be exercises, but led to me dancing on stage for the first time ever in Dec 2013, something I never expected to do in my life! I loved it.

    • Alysa February 9, 2015, 12:02 pm

      Hi Fiona! So great to hear from you again. The thing I loved most about your comment was that you made the connection between emotional AND physical healing. That we need to integrate our emotions and body in the healing process. And mentioning digestive health too? Wow. Thank you for that. My mom’s a physical therapist and definitely focuses a lot on Myofascial release and Cranial Sacral Therapy — which sound similar to NET. Good reminder.

      It’s so neat to hear that you have your own music studio too. What’s your favorite piece to play on the piano?

      Dancing on stage as an adult?! How fun is that. Thanks for sharing that story. I’ll seriously have to look into adult ballet fitness lessons in our area.

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