May 23, 2023 -


BONUS EPISODE: Reflecting on Season 4 and Getting Personal

Created For

Created For Talks with Headshots
Created For director, Wendy Chen, joins hosts Chealsia Smedley, Kathia Avilez and Michele Davis to chat about this past season, their personal pursuits of wholeness and where God is leading them to live in light of His redemptive story.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Created For podcast, a space where our everyday lives intersect with God’s redemptive. I’m your host, Chealsia Smedley, and today’s episode is different from the rest. It’s a special and intimate conversation among friends where we process through what God has been teaching us during this season of the Created For podcast. All season we’ve been talking about being created for wholeness through the lenses of being rooted in our heritage, restoring our presence, and reimagining our flourishing. And so today I got together with some of my coworkers and friends who have been a part of this process. Kathia Avilez and Michele Davis, who cohosted with me this season and Wendy Chen, the director of Created For who has been here from the start and has really originated this whole platform.


Together we process through Season 4 of the podcast, share about how God has been working in our personal seasons of life and where God is leading us as we follow Jesus and pursure communal flourishing together. I hope that this conversation will be encouraging to you. That it will help you to know these people who you’ve been journeying with toward wholeness and toward living out exactly who God is calling you to be.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:01:37] Hi, guys. Thank you for joining me today. I’d love it if everyone would introduce themselves and share like how you’re doing. What’s life been like for you in this season? Michele, would you like to start?


Michele Davis: [00:01:31] Yeah. So, hey, everyone. Michele Davis here. It’s interesting going first, actually, because I am in a really different place in life than when we were recording this season because I actually no longer work for Cru. I now work for a different, um, ministry that’s based here in Columbus, Ohio. Um, and that transition has been really good. There’s a lot of things that God did to bring up to that, and I’m not going to go into all of them because that’s not the point of our episode per se. But I will say one of the things that I think is a little relevant is that experiencing a big change and then trying to find bearings in it has been just where I’ve been as I’ve been listening to this season, like as we’ve released episodes and it’s been cool to see how these themes of wholeness and, um, you know, being rooted, being integrated, all these things have been really meaningful to me in this in this section of my life.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:02:34] Yeah, that’s cool. I feel like I can relate to some of that, like big change transition. Um, so kind of where I’m at; I’m Chealsia to the voice you hear on the introductions of the podcast. Um, but I am in a huge spot of transition. This whole season has been, um, yeah, weird. I, in August, I moved back to the States from Slovenia. I was there for eight years, and a few months into that, I got hit by a car. Crazy and, um, have experienced surgeries and recovering and just being in constant like what, what is life? Getting bearings. And it’s funny, like as we talk about like this wholeness being rooted and integrated, like I think that the circumstances of my life, you know, like the there’s this transition model, and it’s like a plant is like rooted in its soil. And then when you like, have a move, you like take it out of its take it out of its soil. It’s like roots are, like, dangling, and then it gets put back into a new place. And so, I feel like my roots have been dangling, like, both physically and emotionally. Um, but so it’s been really, I think, grounding for me to even engage in this content and know that, like, even when I don’t feel rooted, there is like an internal rootedness that comes with following Jesus. And um, yeah, so that’s kind of where I’m at seeking wholeness and, and figuring out how to experience that when everything feels kind of scattered.


Kathia Avilez: [00:04:22] It’s funny because I feel like, I’m, Kathia, but feel like I’m approaching a new transition, and what feels different this time is like, I’m not fighting it. I feel like I really don’t like change. I like to fool myself into believing that I have a lot of control over my life. Um, but what I do feel rooted in is in my relationship with God. I think there’s like this, like deeper trust as I’ve like gone through other transitions. So, I think that feels like choosing wholeness that can depend on God, and also, I just have good community around me. And so, I can also depend on them. And so, I guess I feel really grateful that I don’t feel as alone as I have before. I think when think of my intern years with Cru, I, like, moved to New York City right out of college, and that was like a huge adjustment. And then, I moved back to Texas for another intern year, and then the pandemic happened. And so. Um. I don’t know. Life is just full of transitions, and I feel like now I’m accepting them instead of, like, fighting them and kind of, like, just going with the flow. So that’s where I find myself. But I think I feel also grateful that we’re all kind of in a transition. I don’t know about you, Wendy, but that feels nice.


Wendy Chen: [00:06:05] Yeah, it definitely doesn’t feel as lonely when you’re not the only one walking through transition that everybody else is kind of processing the same thing. Yeah. So, I’m Wendy Chen. Gosh, I feel like, yeah, transition is the theme for all of our lives. So, I’ve spent the last six months in bed and which was totally unexpected. Yeah, like I was in bed. I couldn’t walk. You know, I had surgery and recovering out of surgery for now. But, you know, I’ve been in this season of wintering. I’ve been reading this book called Wintering by Katherine May, and it’s so good. It is so good because it talks about how, like, she says, winter is when we witness the full glory of nature flourishing in lean times. Right? Like it’s easy in the spring when things are flowing and things everything’s beautiful. Like it’s easy, but in winter, that’s like the harder places to see. Right? But, but she talks about the change that happens in the winter. Right? That we see. And you can either lean into that change and that transformation, or you can lean against it, right? And when you lean against it, you, like the skin around you, becomes hardened, you know? And so, I think I’ve been this season of like wintering like whether I wanted to be or not, right? And I think now that I’m a little bit more recovered now that I can walk again, like, what do I want my life to look like? I think those are the big questions I’m asking, right? And so, it feels very unsettling, but not in a hopeless and scary kind of way or anxious, you know? Well, today, at least not in an anxious way. But I think there’s just a lot of peace in, Yeah, even exploring what this next season looks like for me.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:07:35] Yeah, it’s cool to think about like us all being in these transitionary places and then even like some of the themes from this season of the podcast, like wilderness has been a theme of like what you were saying this wintering season. It’s, like, very similar to some of the things that we’ve, we’ve been talking about, about like not seeing the wilderness as a place to run away from and get out of, but as a place to like grow and intimately experience God. Yeah. So, speaking of this season and kind of the things that we’ve been talking about, Wendy, I would love it if you could share a little bit because I feel like the Created for Wholeness was definitely like something that you spearheaded. And so, I would love to hear how you kind of landed on that.


Wendy Chen: [00:08:23] Yeah. Um, I mean, I think, you know, in light of. So, the last few years have been really hard for everyone, right? We’ve collectively walked through a pandemic, you know, depending on where you are, that’s still a big reality of our lives, right? Um, but I would say for myself a lot of my life changed in at the end of 2019. So, at the end of 2019, I was pregnant, and my body and pregnancy don’t do very well. And so, I was nauseous the whole time. I had to cancel a bunch of trips. And then, just when I was starting to feel better, I couldn’t walk. So, January 2020, I couldn’t walk. And so, I spent about the next six weeks in bed. And just as I was getting better, the pandemic happened. So, it just feels like this prolonged, like it’s been a long season, right? And I also feel like everyone I have talked to has been in kind of that same place. Right? They’ve been, you know, the world has been turned upside down, and they’re not quite sure where things will land yet. Right? And in the midst of that, like I, what I kept hearing from people and even within the like, the, you know, deep recesses of my soul is what is it look like to be whole, right? What does it look like to be whole and not in conflict with ourselves? Right? Like I think we often hear like there’s this spiritual, our soul, and then our physical body, and they’re always a conflict with each other. And, you know, there’s truth definitely in those things. But what does it look like to be fully human, to be fully in a relationship with God, right? To be like we are the Imago Dei. Like within us resides the Spirit of God. And like that, wholeness is what I think I’m longing for, right? And I think even in the arc of where we’ve been in Created For, we talked about, you know, peace, presence, and purpose the first year — talking about our calling. The second year we talked about being while becoming, right? We’re becoming something in the midst of this; we’re being transformed. Like even this wintering. We’ve been in a collective wintering for the last three years, right? As we’re coming out of it, we’re becoming something. But even in the midst of that, we are something, right? We are being formed as we are becoming. And then, kind of looking at this year, it’s like everyone we’re talking to is they want Jesus. Really. People really want Jesus. They just don’t want all the baggage that comes with it, right? In the light of where our world is politically, we’re in the conversation around Christian nationalism, in the conversation in our church. It’s been deeply disappointing, right? And so, we just, how do we hold on to Jesus in the midst of all that? And I think we can. And I think that’s the conversation that we’ve been diving into. How do we hold on to Jesus even in light of all these things?


Michele Davis: [00:11:06] I think that one of the things that came to mind when you were sharing that, Wendy, is how I don’t know, I think somebody technically declared that the pandemic is over. I’m using air quotes because what does that even mean to us now? But how for us, for our generation and for, you know, basically anyone alive right now, that that is like the biggest pinnacle of change. And there were so many other just huge and monumental revelations attached to and surrounding that time that there really is like a BC before COVID. And I don’t know what the after is called, just a mess sometimes, but that always gives me a lot of pause just thinking about how much has changed for all of us and how then this like longing to like be all of who God has made us to be and to see every part of my life and every part of my story and every part of our history is something that, um, that is spiritual. And God is in, and God created, and God can redeem. And I didn’t know how much of my life and heart were still kind of segmented; I think before some of these these things. And it does seem like, I guess, a lot of us are in that place where we’re like putting those pieces back together.


Wendy Chen: [00:12:31] Yeah, I really like that picture of putting the pieces back together. You know, there’s like some crazy statistics I’ve seen, you know, at the beginning of the pandemic when we all stopped driving, when we all stopped doing this, like, how much less damage to the earth that we have done to the planet. It was it was wild, like the number, right? And it was like this here’s this opportunity for us to actually be something different, be, you know, right? To do something different, to act differently. And, and it feels like now that we’re, you know, right after COVID or what that means, everything’s back to exactly the same. And, and it’s actually even faster, right? Because people are playing catch up. I feel like in the last three years, and so life is moving at a faster rate. And this opportunity for us to be something different, like even in that metamorphosis, like, say, in the wintering, like we decided that actually we’re not going to change, right? We’re going to be exactly who we are; you know? And I think that’s a little bit scary, right? Even in my own life, like, I don’t want to be that again. I don’t want to be the same as I was before. Yeah. Before my own medical stuff. But, like, yeah, there’s incredible fear in that. Like, I want to be transformed. I want to be different. I want to live life differently. But what does that look like? It’s hard to reconcile when the world is moving so much faster than I think I’m ready for, or I even want, right?


Chealsia Smedley: [00:13:49] And I think that, that like echoes kind of where we’re at in the church. I think one thing that I’ve appreciated about a lot of our speakers this year has been this understanding of this is a very significant time in the church where like there’s there is a lot of division, there is a lot of things that are like kind of unsettled as people find their way back into community, like we’re grappling with hurt and brokenness and like we can’t just go back to the how things were. But it takes a lot of courage in order to kind of pave a way forward or to even kind of begin to push against some of the unhealth that has been revealed in the last few years, like, both in ourselves and in our communities. Yeah. And I don’t know, I, I think for me, coming back to America this year is just shocking. Like, I hear things, I heard things from afar. But to see how much more polarized everything is in our society. And so I think it’s been really significant to talk about wholeness for me specifically in this season to think about, okay, like there are so many like I think I’m much more aware of all of the ways that we are being divided or segmented just in our culture, like how that separates us from each other, from ourselves. Sin separates us. Like this is like all of these things. And to realize like, okay, like these are like active things that are happening and like, what does it look like for me to pursue wholeness in the midst of that? Like, I think first it’s being aware of what is causing the segmented-ness. And so I don’t know. My question to you guys is, when you think about wholeness, we’ve asked a few people this, but when you think about wholeness, like what comes to mind for you, because I think it can be like this really aspirational thing. And so when we’re talking about wholeness, like, what does that mean for you guys?


Chealsia Smedley: [00:15:49] Kathia?


Kathia Avilez: [00:15:52] I think I am still figuring it out. But one thing that comes to mind is like experiencing it in my body. Like, I think it’s difficult to sit in pain or in grief. But when I think about communal flourishing and wholeness, I again feel relief because we all went through the pandemic. And I don’t want to be like afraid to look back and to see how my body has been affected and to see how other people are affected. But I, I want to be able to, like, process well and like sit in grief and do it together because then it feels less suffocating. And I think wholeness looks like holding that in tension, like knowing that we are not the same like that life should look differently, that things in the church space have been revealed, and we can’t really put up a front. And and so I want wholeness to look like having the courage to be honest and to bring that honesty in the church space, but also having play and like having times where we can have dinner together and like laugh, but also share where we may be feeling discomfort. And to me, I think having the freedom to do that, to not put up a front. I think that’s what wholeness looks like. It takes a lot of courage, though. I think a lot of times want to pull back and kind of just like sit in like like the many, like, conflicting emotions I may have. But I want to have also the courage to look outside of myself and bring people in, even if it’s uncomfortable. I think if we can get used to that, then we can all pursue wholeness together. And so that gives me, that gives me hope. So yeah, I think that’s where I find wholeness, or I want to embody wholeness, like I want to choose it, maybe because I don’t feel used to wholeness. And so maybe you had to fight for wholeness. I don’t know.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:18:13] Yeah, I think know that like, ability, I like what you said about that, like, ability to hold the tension, to not let it. Because, like, we are human and broken, but we are also like carriers of the divine. And so, like, what does that look like to hold those, those two things together, to not cut ourselves off from either side of those things like the I don’t know, I was talking to someone recently about how you think that life you go into these things like maybe it’s a new job or relationship or whatever it is, and you’re like, this is supposed to be a happy thing. And then it’s really hard. And there’s lots of, like, grieving that has to happen when you’re like entering a new space. But that, like, that’s the beauty of life and like, that’s what God has given to us is this like this joy in sorrow, like intermingling. And, um, yeah, like, the world is hard, and we’re going to go through hard things. The absence of pain is not happiness or joy, you know? And I think that’s something that I have been needing to remind myself of because I’m definitely, like, avoid pain at all costs kind of person. And yeah, to be able to see that like it is really hopeful that, okay, like there’s brokenness here, but there’s also room for joy and peace and hope. And so I feel like wholeness is that like integration of those two things, both internally and then also really like what you said about being able to invite other people into that to bring their whole selves to the table, to let their whole selves engage with, with the people around them, with God, with, with one another.


Wendy Chen: [00:19:57] So I really love, you know, Kathia, what you said about the courage, to fight for wholeness. Right? The courage. And I think, Chealsia, you spoke to the integration of those two. Like, I think it’s really easy for us to be, you know, compartmentalized, right. To keep different pieces of our lives differently. Right. How we how we’re at work versus how we’re with our family. And it might look very different. Right? And, you know, there’s areas of your life you’re like, hey, I feel great in this area, and there are other areas of your life where you feel really insecure about it, right? And so I think there’s these all these places where things are in conflict with each other, and it’s easy to keep them in conflict, right? Because you can’t figure out how to reconcile them. At least for me, it’s hard to reconcile some of those pieces. Right? Because they’re all pieces of me, right? It’s not like you’re being fake, and there’s pieces of me, but there’s just different aspects of it. And so I think like that wholeness is the fighting for all those pieces to be integrated, right? Like to be the same. Not that you have to show up the same in every space, right? But to not have those being in conflict with each other. Right? And I think that that does take courage and that does take honesty, and that does take more work than a lot of us are willing to do. Right? Yeah. So I really like that. Yeah.


Michele Davis: [00:21:06] I’m kind of stuck too, Kathia, on how you brought up like that it’s in our body. And I think, um, I don’t know, I might be taking this and running with it more than you meant, but actually, my hunch is you’re probably, like, thinking a little bit of this, too. But how? Okay, here’s how I want to say this. Like, for me, one of the areas where I experience like a disintegration  or like wholeness isn’t realized is in even just acknowledging and feeling comfortable in my own actual body, in the physicality of it and in the emotional responses it has and thinking through emotions in like what they tell me about like how this body that God gave me is experiencing the world. I somehow I have a few hunches, but somehow I’ve walked into an adulthood, really not trusting my emotions and really not being kind to my own body as something that God created and created, like for, you know, His good glory, et cetera and stuff. And I don’t know, aging has made me think about that differently, even just trying to, I’m a parent and so, like, trying to, like, help my own daughters like to navigate. Their growing physical bodies and their emotions and things have given me a lot of pause because I can’t continue in this space where emotions are just over here and they’re probably not trusted. And my body is constantly fighting against me, and it’s like never good enough. And my spiritual life is what really matters. And, you know, but instead to see that wholeness involves all of these things are part of my created given life. You know, I can’t segment them off, but I have. I have brought so much baggage into adulthood of segmenting them off. And I think that as I’m pursuing wholeness, that’s one of those tender places that that I don’t experience that, to be really honest.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:23:15] Yeah. thanks for sharing that.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:23:30] I think there’s like one just from, like knowing my own experience and then also having talked to to some of you guys, I know that like multiple of us can relate to that. And so, I would love it if we could like dig into that a little bit more. But it also reminds me of, too, I feel like I have, like our, episodes and like things in the back of my mind, and like it reminds me of Kat Armas’ episode, like reclaiming the sacred spaces of our lives. And, like, she talks about how, like, our spirituality is like material, um, like the things that are happening in the Bible are happening in the material world. And like, it’s, it’s this our faith has been like, it’s because of colonization that we are separating these two things, not because God says that we need to, you know, um, and, and then I think about Jimmy’s episode too, which touches on that too. Um, yeah, just this, like, kind of lie that we’ve bought into that the spiritual is somehow more significant than the material has been damaging. Um, yeah. How are we finding wholeness from this, like, split of like, body and spirit, or even, like, what does it look like to experience that embodied wholeness for you? What has that been like for you?


Wendy Chen: [00:24:49] Yeah, it’s, it’s really interesting because I think this is so timely for me. I think so, I spent the last three days, or I don’t even know what day it is. I spent three days in the last week at a monastery with, like, monks, you know, just to get away and to have some space to start processing and grieving some of what happened in my life in the last six months. And I think one of the things that came up was my body, right? I think I’ve been so angry at my body for the last for a long time. Right. Because my body does not do what it’s supposed to be doing. And it just, yeah, it just doesn’t do it. And I’m so mad. But I saw this quote Jen Hatmaker said, you have your body to thank for every good thing you have ever experienced. She has been so good to you. Right? And then I’m like, okay, I feel like those are fighting words. But I think I just sat there and I processed and I wrote down all these things that my, my body has done right. All the experiences my body has brought me to all the amazing and beautiful and hard things that my body has taken me into. And, and I listed all these things, and I looked at it. I’m like, of course, she’s tired. Like, of course, she needs to rest. Right? And I think it allowed me to have a lot more compassion on my body. But I think that step of, like, how do you start integrating those pieces into that wholeness and the rest of my life is, I think I’m wrestling with how do I start listening to my body, right? How do I actually pay attention and not just ignore it, right? Like when there’s something painful in my body, like not just to work through it, you know, not just to push through or if there’s conflict and other things, not just to ignore those things, but be like, okay, wait, what is my body actually telling me? Right? Because I can trust my body, right? Because every good thing I’ve ever experienced, my body has taken me there, right? But it is hard. It is really hard. And I think even Sara Billups talks about how do we carry each other? Like she she talks about carrying each other in the midst of it. Right? And how their seasons in her marriage where, you know, she’s had to carry her husband and vice versa. Right? But I think that’s like the really beautiful thing about community is that we can do that for each other, right? Like, I think in this last year, we’ve all been in different funky places, right? And we’ve been there for each other and to hold space for those questions. And so, yeah, communal, communal wholeness, right, is not just about individuals, right? Yeah. It’s not just about individuals all flourishing at the same exact time. Right? But that we hold each other in the midst of it and that we carry each other.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:27:21] Yeah, I know. I love that. The carrying each other and what you said about its not just individuals flourishing at the same time. It’s communal. Um, I think for me, um, I so my community feels, feels really weird, um, because I like, am in a new place and, and so sometimes I think I can like buy into the lie that I don’t have community. And I think one of the really sweet things that God has provided has been like virtual community. Like, like you said, Wendy, I feel like being, even though I don’t see you guys on a normal basis, I do feel like you guys have carried me in this season and have, um, yeah, just been God’s voice to me in a lot of ways. Um, like showing me, okay, you’re not alone. Like God hasn’t abandoned you. Like, um. And so, when I think about, like, my community, I think, think about, like, my, my roommate, or I think about, like, my sister who lives in another city. I think about Kathia. Like, it’s just this idea that we can. Yeah, that that we’re a part of something bigger to us than us. Even if, like, my current reality feels sequestered, like I’m still connected to you guys. I’m connected to, like, the people who came before me.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:28:44] Like, I think that has been a huge theme for me, um, this year of like looking or this season of remembering how God has worked in the lives of my ancestors and like, drawing from those experiences. Um, like this idea that that, like, I’m, I’m not just me. Like, I hold the stories and the experiences of people that come that have come before me and that are around me. And in seasons of doubt or despair, like I can remember that there are people who have gone through things that are equal to or harder or whatever, not to like say something’s harder, but like various struggles, and they have continued to hold on to their faith and like, see God be faithful. And I can, I can draw onto that as well, like draw, draw on, on their faith, borrow their faith for my own seasons. And so, yeah, I think that has been very hopeful, like so much more hopeful than this, like individual idea of like, okay, one day I’m not going to suffer anymore. But like to say like, no, like there are people who have suffered and who have been faithful and have held on to God and have seen His goodness and have gotten through. And so, I can, too, you know?


Michele Davis: [00:30:01] Yeah. Yeah. One thing I’ve been thinking about a little is how the, I want to say, individualization or the just the belief that we are we can just be on our own or we are on our own is really rooted in lies. Because, you know, even if a person is acting in their only their own interests and they’re not having a mind to community, the community around them, they are impacting a community around them. They’re just doing so negatively, most likely, you know, and how there’s really no, um, there’s no benefit from or just reality or truth in only seeing ourselves as individuals and trying to like not think of like our impact on people around us or the impact on generations to come, or the impact that generations ahead of us like before us have had on us. Yeah. And so when I was like really listening to Dina’s episode and just hearing how it’s so just so fluent for her to talk in terms of community, and that’s something that I don’t have in the same way just from my like cultural background, but that I want to like set aside what I’ve been taught and learned and think more collectively and think more about communal flourishing and embracing more of it is I feel like it’s a step to living more in reality of like, like the actual real impact of, of life. And I feel like I have so much to learn. Like, I actually was like, I need to listen to this episode again because the thought she has and like the things that she shares was just like, I want to like, allow it to like reprogram some of my like, initial thought processes are just like my initial, like, the easy words aren’t usually so hard, but today they are. But those automatic, yeah, those automatic things that you think or say, or do you know and to bring those into light, and then the light is truth, right? And so, like in, in the light, the light is what Jesus brings to us. The, the very true, real reality is that we all are made to have and be mindful of the people around us. That is like, like flourishing is found there. And the goodness and light and life is found there. You know?


Kathia Avilez: [00:32:37] It’s funny that you say that, Michele, because my faith was formed mostly like in the white evangelical space. And for the longest time, like in Latino, Hispanic culture, you’re like deeply tied to your family. There’s not really a decision you make without them. Even now, 27 years old, when I think about like a life transition or where I’ll end up, I always think about and involve my family. Like it doesn’t just my decisions don’t aren’t like solely made by myself. My parents have a say. My sister has a say. And it was confusing to, like learn about Jesus in a context of, like individual, individualization, because I was like, Oh, wait, like, okay, so my faith is more about community. Like, I struggled to see how even friendships could benefit me because, um, I just trusted my family. And so, I think it’s taken me a while to learn how to learn communal flourishing in the context of like the Christian space in America, because it is so, like individualized. It’s like only been within the past couple of years that I like, want to like translate how I view my family and how I think in terms of we instead of just me and how I can view like friends and community as family and how life together can be very beautiful. How I don’t have to be like scared of seeing and valuing friends as family or even thinking of communal flourishing outside of just me and my family. Yeah, think that’s hard because it’s almost like I’m fighting against what I’ve learned and how I’ve been formed in terms of my faith and even how I’ve seen Jesus. But I’m like, Oh wait, I didn’t have to separate the two. You know, Like, this is like how it’s meant to be. Like it’s a communal faith. Like we, we follow and are in relationship with a communal god, right? And we think about God, Father and Holy Spirit. And so I’m like, Oh, wait, I like I know how to do this, but then I don’t? You know, it just, like looks differently, but, um. Yeah, I like I want to be more. When I think about Dina’s episode, I like felt super encouraged because she’s like, Yeah, as I am going on this six month sabbatical, like I am also bringing others with me on this journey. She’s like, I know sabbatical sometimes is like seen as like this thing where you, like, you go away and it’s only you and God. But no, she’s like traveling and involving her family and connecting with people. And so I’m like, Oh, wait, this is this is how things ought to be. Like this is like communal flourishing and wholeness looks like connection with people and like, deep relationship, and that’s family. And so I’m super grateful for Dina and I think the way that she talks about being a collective person. Um. Yeah, that was like a super long thought.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:36:02] But no, it’s great.


Wendy Chen: [00:36:04] It’s so good.


Michele Davis: [00:36:05] Yeah, but like, and I’m glad you brought up like, even, like the specific part about her sabbatical, right? Because there was so much nuance to that, both in how she’s making this individual and kind of new to a lot of her community choice to rest in a deep way. But that is able to be held in tension with and to a mind towards the benefit of her community and her care for her family. And and it’s that tension held so well that I found so appealing because I think that and I’m recognizing this as a lie, I think it’s a lie. But like I think that the fear rooted in a lie is that like, oh, if I think just about this community, I lose myself. Or like there’s this kind of narrative that feels like a common narrative of, um, to truly succeed. And then in Christian space, to succeed in following God, I’m going to do something no one else is going to understand, and you know what I mean? Or like, no, like and like kind of that like it’s the narrative of the pioneer, and it’s the narrative of the, the rebel, the whatever, martyr, the yeah, all that stuff. And so, there’s something kind of just like 1 or 2 dimensional about that sort of narrative that it’s like even that person who thinks that they’re doing that on their own, they actually are impacting a community. They’re just not being very thoughtful about it, you know, And, and so to hear her articulate, you know, here’s what, like was maybe surprising about my choice to take a sabbatical. But also, here’s how basically a we move forward together in that was so instructive and so encouraging to me to hear.


Wendy Chen: [00:37:59] I think, you know, you speak to that like often it feels like you have to be communal or individualistic, and it’s not one or the other, right? It’s a little bit of both and right. Even Dina talks about it started with her, her individual therapy and her, you know, that kind of brought a lot of these healing things in her life that because she was already a communal person, it just automatically came out into her community. Right. And so, I don’t think like, you know, in every culture, there’s beauty and brokenness. Right? And there’s there is so much good about communal culture, right? Being Chinese American, like being everything is communal. There’s a lot of downsides to communal, communal cultures as well, right? Like everybody knows every single thing that’s happening in your life for the good and the bad, right? Like everybody has a comment, everybody has an opinion. Um, and if you do something that’s counter to that, you know, you’re, you’re either you’re kind of like cast out of that community, right, In some ways, right? If you step outside of the bounds of that communal rules and policies, and so there is but also like showing up with your whole self and community and trusting people with that means they see you at your worst, right? They see the messy closet that nobody wants.


Wendy Chen: [00:39:12] You don’t want anyone to see. Right. They see, um. Right. That’s like the communal piece, you know? And, um, I remember, so I was in bed. I couldn’t shower. My mom’s like, oh, I’ll come over and me and your sister will help you bathe. I’m like, no, thank you. Like, I’m fine, I’m fine. My mom’s like, well, that’s what we do. I’m like, no, that’s you might do that, but not me, right? And so, I think there’s the there’s that tension. I think, you know, it’s not one or the other is better, right? It’s like, how do we bring our whole self in the midst of that? Like as, as individual people that are part of a community, right? As individual people, Yeah. There are some things are personal and sacred, right? But that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing or that’s better. And so I think there is that tension that you constantly have to hold at odds with each other anyways. Anyways, that’s kind of what brought to mind.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:40:01] Yeah, no, I appreciate you saying that because I think a lot of the things that we’re talking about is that like both and, you know, like we’re pushing against some of these things that we’ve been, we’ve been taught or because it’s stifled this other part of us not so that we can like say, okay, only be communal now and only think about everyone else. But we’re saying like, okay, we’ve been conditioned to be really individualistic. How do we like push against that so that it’s create more balance and harmony again, wholeness?


 [00:40:43] Yeah, I’m okay. It’s really exciting for me to hear you guys talk about this because I’m just like a woman working remotely in my apartment on these episodes. And so, I want to hear more about what’s been resonating with you. Um, yeah, I feel very transformed by the content, but it’s cool to hear how it’s been encouraging you guys. So, are there any other moments that stand out to you from the season?


Wendy Chen: [00:41:09] I think it’s hard because it’s such good content across all the episodes, right? And so, what often sticks to me is the one that I listen to the most recently, right? Like that’s what keeps coming up for me. But I think there’s other things like Timothy Isaiah Cho. He talked about, you know, this business model that’s not necessarily the most strategic right, or not necessarily the most like profit first, but how do you actually put profit as a secondary? Right. And, and he’s bringing people into relationship with others that wouldn’t have normally been in relationship. Right. And he’s platforming people who would not normally be platformed. And so, it’s like here’s a way of doing business differently, right? And there’s other companies that do that, right? Redemptive entrepreneurship, like there’s other places that are doing that. I remember, you know, we had Liz Bohannan, Liz Forkin Bohannon on our first, our first season and she, she started Sseko Designs. And I remember she was on Shark Tank, she was on Shark Tank and they were asking her about profit. And they’re like, well, you can make more money and you can do this and this and this. And they’re like, Well, we’re not here to. And I remember her saying, We’re not here for profit, right? And the sharks, like they couldn’t understand that. They’re like, that doesn’t make any sense. Right. And so, I think that’s what a little bit of what Timothy Isaiah Cho talked about is like, some of the things that we do are not going to make sense, right? Because we’re we’re talking about collective flourishing. We’re talking about not how am I going to get mine the most, but how are we all going to win in the midst of this. Right. And so I think that’s really counter to how we work, right? Because it does feel like a zero sum game sometimes, right? Even in our individual, like Michele, you talked about like you’ll lose something in yourself if you’re, you know, always over the collective like that individual or that zero sum game. And that’s how we feel it is right? Our time, our attention, our profit, our all of those things feels limited, right? And if we do this, then we lose out on this. Right? And I don’t think that’s, that’s doesn’t have to be the case. Right? It can be the case because exploitive, right? But it doesn’t have to be the case. And so, yeah, I thought that was a really good timely reminder of like, what does it actually look like to show up in the world in a practical way to seek the flourishing of a whole community?


Michele Davis: [00:43:19] When I was listening to the episode with Rasool, okay, first of all, like I flashed back to the actual interview process, right, that we did. And how in, in the process of interviewing him, how it was such a pastoral moment and you even, like you say that in the episode, Cheals, like, you know. He is a pastor, and he was so pastoral and how he was talking about grief and suffering and, um, just the kind of like really difficult things that he’s been through that that many people have been through some similar things, but finding hope in the midst of that. Like, I think that’s the kind of episode that like is so evergreen because we unfortunately live in this fallen world where we’re going to keep experiencing really big disappointment points, and we have to somehow find our way to holding on to hope in the midst of lamenting and sorrow. And I mean, that’s something else I’m not so great at that I want to learn. And so it was sweet to revisit that and to be once again pastored by Rasool and to be, you know, like I mean, it’s really like a it’s like a discipleship sort of teaching of like, help, help me grow in this, help me to hold on to hope and help me to hold on to hope in a way that is really genuine, that is still honest. That’s not just like a fake hope of like, I’m just going to act happy because Christians are happy. I mean, Christians have a great source of joy for sure. But also, being a Christian also is saying this world is sinful and broken and we do need a savior. That’s actually a that’s a bummer, you know, but being able to acknowledge sin and pain and trauma and hope together, it was just it’s a really sweet gift of an episode.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:45:17] Yeah, that makes me I’m like flashbacking to all of the times this season where I said I’m going to cry and, like, almost cried while I was interviewing someone. Yeah. Um, and just like, man, I feel so discipled by these people. Like, can I say that? Is that, is that fair to say?


Michele Davis: [00:45:36] Yeah, I think it is fair to say.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:45:39] I think about Kat sharing that moment like the little, like just seeing God in the sacred moments that, like, maybe don’t mean anything to anyone else. No one else is going to think twice about it. But, like, to you, it’s everything. Because you can see that, like, God was there like God was there when she like randomly met her neighbors in a time where she was in transition. You know, like, I feel like that story stands out to me as something just to be more mindful of how God is at work in the small spaces of life. I think about just, like, how I feel, like a lot of our episodes. So, from Jasmine Holmes’ episode about, like, the histories of Black Christians or Renee Begay’s episode about carrying traditions of God’s goodness. Like we talked a little bit about this. You talked about this, Wendy, but just like the redemptive parts of culture that, um, to be able to notice, like God’s fingerprint, um, in, in our differences and our similarities, um, has also been really cool to see that like, yeah, God is present in these, in all of these different places.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:46:51] So I want to end with the same question we’ve been asking all of our guests this season. So, when you think of God’s story of redemption, like what’s one step that you want to take to participate in that redemption in your community in this season? It could be something that you’ve taken from an episode of the podcast. It could be something else that God has been speaking to you in tandem. Yeah, I would just love to hear, especially as we’re thinking about what’s next in our seasons coming up or stepping into new things.


Michele Davis: [00:47:25] Something that my husband and I have been trained to do, and it’s related to like this post-pandemic life of where we kind of forget how to have a social life, but also just taking stock of we really value actually having time with people we care about. And I don’t want to just live my life on social media, but I mean, I do live a lot of life on social media. I do. I live in 2023, and I do, but I don’t want to settle for that. And so even though it’s like there’s a bazillion challenges, and it’s so much easier to just not have anything on the calendar and just flip through Instagram or watch TV or whatever. We’re, we’re trying, to like kind of together, and it’s a bit of like a family plan situation and a bit of accountability because we’re both trying to like kind of push one another to like go hang out with your friends again. And also, like as a family, like who can we invite into our home that we are like, these are people that God has brought into our life, and we haven’t really like invested in that relationship in part because of all the things, Right? But trying to like push towards that. And I, as we have made those steps, that has been really sweet. It’s been really sweet to have physical, in-person conversation with people from different points of our life and story and history. And as we’re together, there’s like something like kind of like beautiful and restorative that happens just in those just in a simple meal, just in a simple coffee. Et cetera. And valuing those the, those relationships.


Wendy Chen: [00:49:08] I definitely agree with that. Like the losing all your social skills. Like you’re like, how do I know how to be with people? And like, am I the only one awkward? But everyone’s awkward, right? Do people eat like, oh, people hang out with people? Yeah. It’s, it’s wild to me. Like, we had a friend that was like, ‘hey, are you guys free for a birthday dinner somewhere?’ And I was like, sure. I think I could do it if I get to your, you know if I lay down, she’s like, ‘okay, great. I made a reservation for ten people at this time.’ I’m like, oh, you meant at a restaurant. Like, it just baffled me that people went to restaurants still. And I was like, oh, yeah, everyone’s living life normally. Well, I mean, to a certain degree, Like, it’s not. Anyways, that’s I’ve lost all social skills. Um, you know, think about this question like it feels like a really, really big question, right? When you think of God’s story of redemption, what’s one step you want to take to participate in God’s redemption of your community? Right? It’s like, oh, like I’m just barely learning to walk again, right? I think, so, I think it doesn’t necessarily it’s not this big, big thing, right? It’s the I think it’s in the, the everyday small things that is insignificant to other people that feels unnoticeable. Right. To other people. No one’s going to write about it. Right. No one’s going to have a podcast about it. But it’s the how do you show up wholly for the people in your community that you’re able to right? It’s the text message to someone who’s really, really depressed and you know that. And so, you’re like, Hey, I’m thinking about you, right? It’s the, it’s the the friend who’s having a birthday, but they don’t want to be around people because it’s really hard right now. Right. And so, so how do we send them reminders throughout the day that we see you and we know you? Right. I think. Yeah, I think redemption of a community is like, okay, I don’t have the energy for the redemption of community, but I think it’s how do you bring the truth of who God is, to bring the truth of the hope of Jesus? Like, how do you bring all of that with you into every conversation and every space that you’re in? Right? And it’s through these little things like, hey, here’s the coffee, here’s a meal drop off, here’s $5 on Venmo. You know, like, like I saw somebody say like, hey, guess your 20s and 30s are just sending $5 back and forth to each other on Venmo for the rest of your life. Right?


Michele Davis: [00:51:26] Listen, that ministers.


Wendy Chen: [00:51:28] Yes, absolutely. Just a coffee. Thanks. Here’s a coffee. You know, but yeah, I don’t think it’s always this big, big thing. It’s like it’s a smallest ways of how you show up. Yeah, that brings about hope and healing.


Michele Davis: [00:51:42] Wendy, I know that you said learning to walk again because you actually are physically learning to walk again in some ways, but so metaphorically that learning to walk again is I feel like I’m there in a way. Like, you know, learning to walk again, walk with the Lord, walk with people. Like, what a great little, great metaphor moment.


Wendy Chen: [00:52:05] Yeah and even with that, like, I felt, you know, I kept asking God, like, what do you want from me for the next season? Like, what do you want? And I’m like, I just heard really loudly, don’t rush. You’re just learning to walk. You’re just learning to sit again. You’re just learning to like, bend over and get stuff and you’re just learning all these things. Like don’t rush. Like no one’s going to look at a baby and be like, hey, why are you not doing more when they’re, like, teetering tottering, right? They’re just learning to walk. And I think that same compassion for ourselves that we can have for other people, right? I can look at you, Michele, and be like, Yeah, you’re right. Be gentle with yourself because you’re in a whole new season, you know? But then I’m like, oh my gosh, why am I so slow in getting this right? But I think it’s like, how do we extend that same compassion to ourselves, right? Yeah, because we are. I mean, yeah, I’m physically learning how to walk. Cheals is learning how to walk, right? But a lot of us are learning how to walk in a lot of different ways, right? And so, yeah, how do we not rush? And I think it’s hard to remember that.


Michele Davis: [00:53:00] Yeah, yeah, you do need to let yourself receive that. And also, that’s where, like, a conversation like this is like we’re bringing this up together in like the people with you can also can extend that that’s the, the way that letting communities speak into those things is helpful.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:53:35] Yeah, yeah. I feel like I can relate to that so much. Like, I think that, yeah, I feel that I need to have more compassion for myself. But even the way I say I need to have more compassion for myself is like, get it together. Chealsia, at work for yourself?


Michele Davis: [00:53:49] Yes, need compassion.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:53:53] So I’m working on it. Um, but yeah, I think I think back to that first episode with Jonathan Tremaine Thomas, where he’s like, all Moses had was a stick, you know, and like, throw your stick on the ground. And then God took the stick, and he, like, performed miracles with it. And like, yeah, that question of, like, what’s in your hand? And like, even if it is like, yeah, I don’t know what my capacity is at this point, like. It feels a lot lower than than I think, even what I’ve been working out of, you know. Um, but, like, what do I have in my hand? And it is those, like, small things, like I can do dishes for my roommate, you know, that’s a small thing. And that’s a way to, like, participate in God’s redemption. That’s like carrying this, seeing like these itty-bitty things that are so significant. And I just think about, like, all of the times in the last few months or however long I’ve been here, eight months. And the most significant moments were when I felt seen by someone else. And I think those are the moments where I’ve experienced God the most to is that too, like He sees us and what we’re going through. And so, like, I don’t know, I think I want to just see people like that’s, I think it’s can just start with that, and that’s significant enough.


Kathia Avilez: [00:55:21] Yeah, I agree. I’m like, just retweet everything that y’all are saying. But the one thing that I keep thinking about is, like, as I want to not be scared of, like holding things in tension, right? Like grief and like the suffering of this world, I tend to be on suffering like all life is suffering. Like, it’s hard. Like I need to see people and like, I need to grieve with them. And I’m like, barely able to handle my own grief. And then it just like, feels like a big black hole. And I’m like, okay, wait, this isn’t this isn’t like life giving. I don’t think this is what Jesus intends for me, right? And so, I think my hope is that as I like do think of like Sara Billups’ episode of like doing the like quiet interior work yourself in your time with the Lord of, of moving slow of, of tending to our bodies and, and allowing ourselves to breathe like literally like resetting and regulating our nervous system through, through, through spiritual breathing and like, letting us inhale and exhale. Um, and then showing up with my friends and having play and laughter, but also, like, asking intentional questions and like, being okay if it’s awkward, like, you know, when you, like, when things are like, get really deep and it’s like, okay, how do we, like, move to, like, play, you know, and like, joy, like, what does joy look like in the move?


Chealsia Smedley: [00:57:05] Yes, yeah, let’s lighten the mood.


Kathia Avilez: [00:57:07] So I’m like, okay, what does joy look like? But also, like, what does it look like to check in and see, share myself and then see other people? Um, and I think if I can learn how to navigate that, then that’s redemptive. And like, um. I think it ministers to my soul. I see Jesus. I like I feel his peace in my body. Um, and I think that’s what we all long for. And so, um, I hope to learn the language of that if you guys know how to do that a lot more smoothly than I do, um, would love to hear your thoughts, but, um, that’s, I think, what redemption looks like in my community.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:58:02] I think yeah, I think it’s like a significant place to, to kind of end the season is like we are still all figuring it out. Um, it’s a process. It’s a journey. Wholeness that you don’t arrive at wholeness. Um, but yeah, what does it look like for us to even, like, I think about even as we’re planning next season, like some of these practices? Like what does it look like for us to incorporate play? Like how do we give ourselves space to breathe like breath work and um, yeah, continue to like implement these, these little things in our life that, that are significant, you know, and that do like make, make huge change in difference in how we, how we are able to show up with one another. Um, it’s really cool.


Chealsia Smedley: [00:58:54] So, thank you so much for being here today. It was so great to talk with all of you guys and to catch up and hear how the season has been working in you. I want to ask something. This might be a little weird or awkward, but would someone pray for us and our audience to end?


Michele Davis: [00:59:18] Father God, thank you for, for who you are and that we can have a relationship with you. Thank you. That our whole selves can have a relationship with you and that you created us. That you create us for a relationship with you, with one another, and with purpose in this world. And it has been such a joy and privilege to, to bring these conversations to this place and to this audience. And, Lord, we trust that your word does not come back void, that you’re able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine, and that you see the good work you began to completion. And so, we entrust to you all of our hopes and dreams and all of our longings and our pain. We give to you and trust Jesus with them. Amen.


Chealsia Smedley: [01:00:15] Amen.


Michele Davis: For more ways to continue journeying with us, hit subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Check out the show notes for any links we referenced and then go to for a guided reflection based on this episode.

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