Pull up a chair & let me tell you a story ...
I’ve always been a curvy girl. My mum will tell you I was put on my first diet when I was just three months old and over the years I’ve tried all manner of different diets and eating plans.
We're told that any and all of them work, so long as you stick to them. It was that “stick to them” piece that I, like countless others before me, always had issues with because you and I weren't designed to live in a state of near-starvation. At some point it all gets too much and we throw in the towel, until the next time. Rinse and repeat. Talk about depressing!
What I find hilarious now though, as I share this story with you, is how God used that one constant theme, the one thing that had always been an issue, to show me a brand new picture of who He is and, as a result, launched me on a trajectory that, quite literally, saved me from myself.
Yes, this is the real behind the scenes story of Youier.
About a decade ago, through a series of “coincidences” (nope, I don’t believe there’s any such thing either. I like to call them “God-incidences”) I landed upon yet another weight loss course. This one was a little bit different because this time it was bible-based. (Bible-based but still a diet. I wasn't ready at that point to do battle with diet culture but that's another story for another time. Let's simply say at this point that God met me where I was at.)
I grew up in a Christian home, “prayed the prayer” when I was 12 or 13, but after a few years of being a total weirdo for God, I stopped talking to Him and just focussed on school and friends and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.
From medicine to pharmacy to music (yet another story for another time) and, after playing in the pit for a few local productions, the dream of playing clarinet and saxophone for the West End musicals. I loved the camaraderie between the musicians and yes, the after-show parties were fun too!
I had an unconditional offer of a place to study music in Bath but then, after falling head over heels in love and deciding that I couldn’t possibly leave the love of my life to travel hundreds of miles away, I switched to a music teaching degree in my local town.
Fast forward just a few years and I found myself every Sunday in my local church. I still wasn’t really talking to God but with the boyfriend I couldn’t leave behind now my policeman husband working shifts, I started going to church with our young baby.
My parents and some of my siblings were attending the same church so it was a great opportunity to spend some time with them on an otherwise lonely Sunday morning.
Every Sunday I’d sit and promise God that this would be the week I’d read my bible more and pray more after listening to an earnest petition from the pastor or preacher. Week after week, month after month, the same pattern.
In-between Sundays I’d put my best face on, step up and try to be the mother and wife I felt I was supposed to be. Our young baby grew up and was joined by her two siblings, each some two years apart. It was like the perfect family unit. Falling in love, getting married and having children was all I’d aspired to as a young adult. I was living the dream!
Except that when I reflect back on that time in my life, all I can remember is the anger and frustration. Thankfully my children don’t remember angry, shouty Mum. They see photos of themselves as little tots of 5, 3 and 1 and just see the smiles but I remember the tears and the pent up anger like it was yesterday.
Apparently I did a fairly decent job of playing pretend because even my husband doesn’t recognise the angry El I remember. I am of course incredibly thankful for this but it does leave me thinking now, with the benefit of hindsight, about the mask I’d chosen to wear.
My life could quite easily have carried on along that same trajectory except for that one fateful day when I happened upon the bible-based weight loss course. I didn’t know then the course-correction God was setting me up for.
It was like stepping from black and white into technicolour as I was introduced to a God who was interested in every aspect of my life, including what I put into my mouth. Talk about a revelation!
Little by little God led me on a journey into His love, a love that met me exactly where I was, quirks and foibles and eccentricities and all.
And like a daisy opening her petals under the glow of the warm sunshine, I started to open up and accept who I was instead of trying to earn the love of the people around me by being who I thought I needed to be.
Because the reality is that I was trying to fit into a picture of what it meant to be “normal” and, quite frankly, I am anything but. I’m a total weirdo! As a kid I would be called weird and take it as a compliment but somewhere along the way I started to see being different as “wrong” or “not safe”.
Coupled with the messages heaped upon us about how to show up, the expectations we choose to allow society to put on us, and it’s no small wonder I was quietly cracking up!
But little by little things started to change as I embraced who I really was.
- Where others would easily remember who needed to be where, when and with what, I started to build systems of reminders and notes to myself in a bid to stop the important things from falling through the cracks.
- Where others would do a terrific job of ensuring their little ones wrote and sent thank you notes every birthday and Christmas, I got great at saying sending a less traditional “thank you” - and saying sorry for those times when I forgot!
Where others would have birthday presents for family members planned, bought and wrapped ahead of schedule, birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper until at least March became the norm.
Life is messy and we’re all total weirdos in our own way!
It was only by getting comfy with the mess, coupled with a deep-seated knowing I was loved, no matter what, by a Creator who knew exactly what He was doing when he crafted me, that I was finally able to say goodbye to years of anger, frustration and borderline depression.
And I thought that was it, that the rest, as they say, is history.
Except, God was only just getting started with me!
Having showed me just how much He loved me and helped me embrace who He made me to be, I started sharing this Youier message, without knowing when I did that there was still more to unpack.
Because this isn't simply about you being you. This is about you being you, in relationship with God - using the biggest, most expansive definition possible.
Active, daily, talking to each other and hearing one another's hearts kind of relationship. God wants to do life with you!
Quite candidly, I didn't know that kind of relationship with God was even possible. I'd embraced "relationship over religion" with gusto but hearing God in a tangible, practical way? That was for super "holy" people.
But that's simply not true! You and I are sons and daughters of the King. We can hear from God. He wants us to hear His heart. Not just every once in a while, now and again, but every single day!
And so now, having spent nearly a decade inspiring you to be you, full to the top with God's love, everything He created you to be, my next mission is to help you move from "You" to "Youier".
Because when you embrace the fullness of Youier, it changes everything!
Your relationships with the people you love, your day to day happiness and joy, what you do for work and in work. Everything!
And all it takes is a head shift because you can be Youier right now today. You simply need to be you, in relationship with your Creator and Greatest Encourager - and that starts with, "hello".
And that’s what Youier is really about - helping you have fun with God, normalising conversations with Him, so it moves from something mysterious or uncommon and instead is simply a part of what it means to be fully human, fully alive.
Because when you let Him love you, when you realise that you can hear from God and have that daily, active relationship with Him, that's when you can hear His heart for you and step into the fullness of what it means to be you. Youier!
Youier and the Itchy Soul Playground is built on the principle of love and Jesus.
That said "love and Jesus" can result in some ambiguity and questions but that's okay, I love questions!
What follows then are the things that we believe here at Youier, principles for how we do life.
If any of seems weird or uncertain to you or simply not a way of doing life that you’ve come across before, we can explore your questions together, with the understanding that this is the foundation we’re building those questions on.
There is only one true and living God, revealed in three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit or, as you'll often hear me refer to them, Papa, Jesus & Sam.
All people are made in God's image, His precious work of art, treasured and loved unconditionally.
The Bible is the inspired Word of God, written during specific times in history such that the leadership, teaching and guidance of Holy Spirit is important in helping us apply God's Word in day to day life.
Jesus was born as a baby - fully God and fully human - a love gift from heaven to demonstrate just how loved we really are.
Jesus suffered and died to draw all people to Himself - and on the third day He came back to life and is now seated at the right hand of the Father, an ever-present reminder of just how loved we are.
The real battles we face are not against the things we can see in the physical world but against the forces of evil in the spiritual world but thanks to the work of Jesus on the cross, the battle is already won! We can live as victorious children of the King!
God is whispering His love to you, He wants to be known by you. He is not distant or aloof and you can hear from God and live life in a close, intimate relationship with Him. It's what you were born for!
God the Holy Spirit empowers us, teaches us, is our ever-present companion and guide to live day by day in relationship with God.
The Itchy Soul Playground is your safe space to practice being Youier, to ask questions and to explore how you hear God and those things that feel like they get in the way of that.
We welcome everyone, regardless of where they're at in their journey with Jesus, so how do we keep our love on and help ensure this space remains safe whilst remaining true to our spiritual foundations?
One word ... love!
We're not always going to agree but, God-helping us, we can treat everyone with unconditional respect and kindness.
Some practical tips:
💖 If someone shares something and they don't explicitly ask for advice, ask first. There is incredible power in being heard. Not everything shared needs an answer.
💖 Recognise that we're all on a great big God adventure but not everyone is at the same point in the story.
💖 If you don't believe the same things as someone else, that's okay. Asking each other questions and listening can be great. Sometimes though, you'll simply need to agree to disagree.
💖 Written communication can be tricky, it lacks body language and intonation. Read your words before posting. Consider adding emojis. We love to see when you're smiling! 😁
💖 All our live calls are held on Zoom. If you're able to be in a quiet space with your camera and mic on, this allows for richer, deeper conversation.
Like any community, the more you put into the Itchy Soul Playground, the more you'll get from it. At the same time, this is not about putting more on your already over-stuffed "to do" list!
Instead, what follows is an outline of what's included as part your Itchy Soul Playground membership and some hints & tips for making it work for you.
Every week day: An email with the Holy Spirit Love Note for the day. The full text is included in each email & ends with a suggested question to explore with Holy Spirit and an easy link to add a comment in the Playground, sharing what you explored with God.
Important reminder: There's no playing "catch up" with Holy Spirit. You're exactly where you need to be and all the Holy Spirit Love Notes are available in the Playground so if don't read an email, delete it and read the next one instead!
Every Friday: An additional email, labelled Pompoms Included. This is your celebration prompt - plus an opportunity to take some time to plan the week upcoming with God.
Never forget: This is about you being Youier, the person God created you to be, in relationship with Him. Meaning? If you miss a week, the sky will not fall down! Yes, accountability is great and at the same time, this is about you being Youier in real life.
Final Sunday of every month: Our one-day live event, on Zoom (so you can join from anywhere in the world!) with recordings available for those members who can't join us live.
Hint: All our live calls are held on Zoom. If you're able to be in a quiet space with your camera and mic on, this allows for richer, deeper conversation.
🎉 Any time: Need prayer? Share a win? Ask a question? Explore a niggle? Share anything & everything in the Itchy Soul Playground!
The Itchy Soul Playground costs £27 (≈$37 USD) per month or £270 (≈$370 USD) per year & scholarships are available.