🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken let's get going. 🎶
🎶 Episode Intro: 🎶
Hi friends. Welcome back to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. I'm your host, Melissa. I couldn't be more excited to be with you again today. I'd love to hear your feedback on this episode. Drop a comment over on the blog site at melissaebken.com/blog. Catch the video replay of this, or just watch it on video, if you prefer, over on YouTube. The channel is Melissa Ebken. Today. I'm introducing you to Kelly Skinner. Kelly is the founder of soul care and soul care is a day retreat center in Urbana, Illinois, that provides resources to nurture the soul, space for stillness, and a community to support spiritual growth for people of all faiths and any particular faith. I can't wait to introduce you to Kelly.
Melissa Ebken 0:00
Hello, Kelly, and welcome to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. How are you today?
Kelly Skinner 0:06
I'm doing great. Thanks so much for having me, Melissa.
Melissa Ebken 0:11
Kelly, you have a business after my own heart. You're in Champaign-Urbana, my old stomping grounds. I grew up in the backyard in Gibson city, and you own a business and operate the business. It's called Soul Care. S-O-U-L Care. Can you tell us about that?
Kelly Skinner 0:30
Yeah, so Soul Care is really a place where people can find resources, so that they can learn more about building a loving relationship with the Divine. And leaning into their authentic selves. It's also a place for people to find rest, because we're all just kind of overworked and busy and burnt out. And I wanted to provide a dedicated space for people to find and experience what true rest and quiet is like. And then finally, it's a it's a place and a magnet to build community, for people who are interested in spiritual wellness and self care, and just are curious and want to have kind of deep conversations about who we are and what we believe in.
Melissa Ebken 1:28
So if I'm in the middle of a workday, and I have some time, I can take 30-45 minutes and just drop in, and what can I experience?
Kelly Skinner 1:39
Yeah, so it's funny, I intentionally put soul care in the middle of our community. So we're actually in the kind of the downtown Urbana area. We're actually on the second floor of a bank, believe it or not, because I wanted to provide a space that was literally in people's, where their work and where they live, where they could have this drop in experience of what a retreat would be like. And a lot of us feel like we need to go away out into the country overnight, to get the benefits of going on retreat. But you can actually come in to Soul Care for an hour before work after work. Some of us take like mental health days, or you drop your kids off at daycare, and people can come in, and I have these lovely quiet pods. And there are spaces that are kind of about the size of a walk in closet. And people can reserve those spaces for just $10 an hour. And it's a cell phone-free zone. And you can sit in the quiet pod. There's a lovely little like undyed muslin curtain to give you privacy and a comfy and firm couch. And you can sit and you can pray or meditate. You can journal. You can think big thoughts. You can pray. I'm sorry, you can color or be artistic. You can read. Or you can take a nap. Doesn't that sound delicious?
Melissa Ebken 3:27
Oh my goodness. Yeah, I'm imagining the space in my mind. And it sounds like a little bit of heaven, in the middle of a day that's just go go go are so stressful to have, you know, 30 minutes in a place like you describe could totally turn the day back around. It could recharge your soul.
Kelly Skinner 3:46
Yeah, absolutely. And we're so conditioned to like, even when we have a little bit of a downtime, to fill it up with our phones or fill it up with, you know, if we're at home, we're going to do chores, or we're going to watch Netflix or we're going to, you know, fill the time and the space up. And not that those things aren't bad. But they're also not always life giving.
Melissa Ebken 4:14
Yeah, our soul craves those moments of stillness. And it's an easy craving for us to overlook for sure.
Kelly Skinner 4:24
Yeah. And that's where we can hear, like, what we truly want. And also where we can hear those little nudges that we get from the Divine or the universe or whatever we choose to call that.
Melissa Ebken 4:40
Now, you also mentioned that Soul Care is a place where you can have intriguing conversations, challenging conversations, open conversations. Do those run on a schedule, can you just drop in and see if someone's there? Or how does that work?
Kelly Skinner 4:55
Yeah, so I'm always here and so I have a place on our website where you can schedule a tour and come in and have a chat. So I always have some hot water on for tea and sit down on our Big Comfy Couch and just have like real conversations. We do events and programs. So like, for example, this weekend, we have a yoga class that's happening on Saturday or on Sunday. And we have a intro to breathwork class that's happening on Saturday. Every Friday morning, I do, I teach contemplative prayer practices. So you can come in and learn some different ways to kind of pray and connect with God without words. And then you can experience a quiet pod. Yeah, so those are all different ways to come in and experience Soul Care.
Melissa Ebken 5:58
Wow, that just sounds so life giving. Now, what was your inspiration to create Soul Care?
Kelly Skinner 6:07
Hmm. So you know, I, the short story is that I was going through a midlife crisis. And I was kind of casting around for how I could really use all my gifts and talents and how they would all show up in one way. So I didn't have to kind of deny parts of myself or segment parts of my life. And I was actually listening to a podcast and out of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul. And there was a woman that was interviewed on the podcast that had a retreat center in her home, in St. Paul. And it sounded delightful. She did a lot more kind of scheduled retreats and things like that. And I gave her a call actually, out of the blue, I looked her up, I looked up her contact information, I gave her a call, and kind of just had a conversation with her. You know, what was that experience like? What inspired her? What did she like about it? What did she not like about it. And there was definitely a stirring within me that maybe this was something that I was invited to do in my own area. I really sat with that for quite a long time, though, because as a woman who is raised and identified as being Catholic. And as you know, I have a lot of degree in education, but I don't have like a deep, I don't have a master's degree in divinity or I haven't gone to school for theology. And I didn't feel like I didn't feel worthy to be able to do this kind of work. And I didn't really know what it would look like. And so after a lot of soul searching and talking, you know, discernment. I found myself on a four day silent retreat that I took myself on. And I actually had a pretty clear message from from God that said, this is the work that I want you to do. I have this really story about seeing the squirrels that were going around in the glade where my hermitage cabin was. And they were going around to all these different bushes and trees and like picking up seeds there and planting acorns here. And I realized that they were actually responsible for the growth and development and diversity of this glade. And that's what God was asking me to do. He was asking me to be the squirrel and inviting me to be this linchpin. And this special space and place that would really reflect the diversity of our community. And that I didn't need to have any special anything else more than what I currently had to do it.
Melissa Ebken 9:33
That's a beautiful story. There are so many things we can talk ourselves out of thinking we are not qualified or worthy. Yeah. But I love how that that experience of watching the squirrels with the acorns, how that changed everything for you because it's just the little things we're called to do. One part of the story, not necessarily the whole thing and I loved. I love that image.
Kelly Skinner 10:03
Yeah, yeah. And it's okay. I don't view myself as being kind of an expert on anything. But I am a little bit further down the path than a lot of other people. And so I do kind of see myself as a torchbearer and as you know, a leader on the trail, but not somebody who knows everything or needs to know everything, or anything really, I can just be who I am.
Melissa Ebken 10:35
Only tell you I would rather much rather work with someone who saw themselves as a torchbearer than someone who thought they knew all of the answers. For sure. Yeah, yeah. Now, how many different faiths? Do you have to be a particular faith to reap the benefits of Soul Care?
Kelly Skinner 10:56
Now, we're actually we're called, we're an Interfaith Center. So we actually are open to people of all faiths, any faith and no faith at all. So you don't have to you don't have to even believe in God if you don't want to, to come in to the center. I was talking with a friend today and she said, Oh, it's a faith fluid center.
Melissa Ebken 11:25
Goodness. Love that.
Kelly Skinner 11:28
Yeah. So I like to think of myself. Of course, I mean, I am I am a person of faith. I'm, I was raised and identify as being Catholic, although, I always say that not maybe not everybody would label me as Catholic because I have a pretty broad and progressive view of my own spirituality. But you know, we talk with everybody who identifies as being Wiccan to people who identify as being Anabaptist. And everything in between. So yeah,
Melissa Ebken 12:02
I love that. Now, you've had some pretty big obstacles and setbacks and spiritual dilemmas in your life.
Kelly Skinner 12:11
Melissa Ebken 12:14
So the episode, well, not the episode, the podcast is called Pursuing Uncomfortable because we share stories of people who have overcome really difficult things and can inspire others. Would you be willing to share your story with us of your husband's cancer?
Kelly Skinner 12:32
Mm hmm. Yeah. So I kind of joke and say that I am currently on life. 3.0. Although it might be even more than that at this point, but you know, I life 1.0 I was kind of going happily around. I went to college. I went to grad school. I met my husband, we, you know, we were together for five years before we had our children. I had to point I had two kids, we lived in a nice house. And we both worked, we were kind of upwardly mobile. And he started having, having some issues. He was having balance issues, and choking. And, you know, he went to the doctor, and they misdiagnosed him as having inner ear issue issues. And I was away at a friend's wedding in Canada of all places. And he ended up going to the emergency room. And while he was at the emergency room, they found out that he had a mass in his brain and had to do brain surgery. And after running back from Canada, and being there in time for his surgery, we kind of soon discovered that he had brain cancer. And we were in our early 30s. We had two young, you know, a young kid under one. And my daughter was three or four. And I was working full time and he was working full time. And so we had to deal with him having a brain tumor. And it was a pretty much the kind that he was diagnosed with, which was glioblastoma was as a terminal diagnosis. It's just a question of how long you're going to live with it. And it can be anywhere from a year to 20 years, but unfortunately, he was the shorter kind. And we really struggled with that for about nine months. And he was in the hospital or in a rehab center for about half of those nine months before he eventually succumbed and he passed away. So um he died. And I was left with like a one and a half year old and a four year old. And kind of it, it it really changed. I mean, literally changed my life. Going through that experience. There was a lot of learning lessons through that experience. But I also really powered through it in a lot of ways. But it, it literally changed my life.
Melissa Ebken 15:34
Yeah that's not supposed to happen. And that's especially not supposed to happen when you're 30.
Kelly Skinner 15:40
No, absolutely not. And I mean, one of the side effects was that many of my friends who are in their late 20s, and early 30s, some of whom had families, some of who didn't, it was really hard for them too, because a lot of them kind of started looking at their own, or they were forced to look at their own mortality, and they didn't really want to do that. So a good amount of our friends pulled away from us. Other friends really stepped up. And, you know, I cemented a lot of friendships through that. The people who were willing to drop everything and come and have have us be part of their lives. But yeah, I mean, I had to take care of two kids, and a, he had a lot of like mobility issues, had a lot of like side effect issues. For a while I was going to solve, you know, I was going to cure the cancer. So I'm, I'm what's called an Enneagram, eight. And I was going to, you know, through the sheer force of my will find a cure to cancer. So that was a learning experience. I really learned how to accept help, because I was a very independent person prior to that, and I had to learn the value and gift of accepting help, and being open to help. But yeah, I mean, it really, it did flip my world upside down. I had to learn how to begin expressing emotions. I was somebody who, you know, unless I got forced into a corner, I wasn't somebody who was willing to cry in front of people. So I learned how to start expressing my emotions a little bit better. Yeah, yeah, it was just rough.
Melissa Ebken 17:45
So how did all of that affect your faith? For some people? That's it; it destroys it. And for others, it deepens it? How did your faith experience interact with your life experience?
Kelly Skinner 18:01
Yeah. Well, number one, that one of the things that I found very interesting was that my husband had never had had a lot of bad experiences with the church growing up. And while he was somebody who was supportive of my faith and like, raising my kids Catholic, he had never really been kind of on board with it. But when he got sick, he started to be find a lot more sus sus sustenance, from faith. And so he ended up converting to Catholicism, which was was a neat experience. For me, I never felt like there was times that I was angry, and forlorn, and hopeless, and in all, you know, all that range of emotions. And for me, I felt like I my faith actually deepened, and became more real during that experience. So, you know, I was always a good Catholic. So, you know, I always went to Mass I always did the right things. I always follow the rules. I always, you know, went through, knew the prayers, went through the motions did all the things, but I don't know that it ever felt like real. It was very compartmentalized. So like, it was a part of my life. And I went to church on Sundays, and I, you know, did all these things, but it wasn't integrated into my life and it wasn't truly real. And during that time, I actually developed a much more personal relationship with God and felt that God was very much real and present. I'm in these like, very small, but big to me, grace filled moments. So there would be times, like, I'd be at church and like the talk at church. While everybody was there listening to it, it was for me. It was exactly what I needed, right then in that moment, and I had never had that experience before. Or, you know, when I was desperately in need of something, and I wouldn't tell anybody about it, but it would like, appear and come to me. Or I would, I would hear a song or I would read a quote in a book, or I would just have this feeling and, and this knowledge that, you know, God was right there next to me walking alongside me through through it all. And it was just very, very personal.
Melissa Ebken 20:58
That's a powerful experience.
Kelly Skinner 21:02
Very personal. And it was really sad, because I started really doing a lot of thinking about what the nature of God is. How do I believe? What, what, what happens to us after we die? And just started asking a lot of those big questions. And kind of testing the limits of like, does, like, Am I allowed to be mad at God? Am I allowed to question these things I'm, you know, moving beyond the platitudes and the kind of the rote things. But my brother in law, who was also not a very, not a faith filled person, really believed that there was nothing that happens to you like after you die, there's nothing that happens to you. And I'm, I'm still not sure what happens, but I know something happens. And I had a lot of like, peace and, and hope and, like, death to me as it is not. Like there's a grief involved, but it's not like a deep, dark, hopeless experience. And for him, because he thought that, you know, there was nothing like you die, that's the end, he was distraught. And I could not relate to that at all, because I did have a sense of like, hope and love and like big picture and wholeness and create, like ongoingness. And just, I just like, that's always really struck with me, this his sense of hopelessness and desolation, because there was nothing else.
Melissa Ebken 22:49
Do you find that once you develop that eyesight, or that spiritual insight, to experience God in those, you know, the mundane but ordinary, everyday things? That that stays with you?
Kelly Skinner 23:08
Yeah, it actually developed in me, a yearning for even more of a close personal relationship with God, and a yearning to continue to want to have my eyes opened up, and continue to have that intentionality in my life because I had a taste of it. And I wanted, I wanted more and more and more of it. So that yearning then led to exploration of different ways to connect with God and to engage with God. And also, I think, a little bit more of a personal understanding for me that like, I have, I, I and everybody else is so much more like plugged in and connected with God, like I'm in God and God's in me. And not this like God is at an arm's length or God as a puppet master or God as a an uninterested bystander. I kind of it, it led me down a path to want want to know how to engage that a lot more. And also to kind of really develop a different understanding of God.
Melissa Ebken 24:37
Love that. That's a huge difference in understanding.
Kelly Skinner 24:43
Now, that was another I mean, I would say that was another decade that took me to kind of really even be able to put some of those things into words.
Melissa Ebken 24:53
Sure. One of my favorite theologians is named Marjorie Suchocki and In one of her books, she's talking about the presence of God. And she likes the image of water. And she says, "imagine that you're in the middle of the stream. And you pick up a rock, or maybe even a piece of wood, like a log, and it's wet, the water is on it. But if you cut that log in half, the water is all through it. Every pore of that log has water there. But the presence of the water doesn't make the log any less of a log." And I love that imagery that God is or spirit, divine, however you choose to name, that universal divinity, that that spirit is so omnipresent that it's just all through us. And not only us, but all of creation. I think that's so beautiful. And that came to mind as you were describing your views and your understanding of that presence.
Kelly Skinner 26:02
Yeah, I've really, over the years, I've really connected with the concept of process theology, which is that God, like seeing God as more of a of a verb instead of a noun. And, like, God is the happening that's happening. And that God is a gerund. So it's like you were saying the God is the water that's watering God is the log that's logging, and all of that all at once.
Melissa Ebken 26:36
I love that you said process theology because Marjorie Suchocki was one of the leaders in process theology.
Kelly Skinner 26:42
Oh, I'm definitely I'm not familiar with her. So I'm gonna have to look that up.
Melissa Ebken 26:47
Well, I will inundate you with her books.
Kelly Skinner 26:50
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, that's, that's resonates with me so so deeply.
Melissa Ebken 26:59
It sounds like the depths of conversations are wildly invitational at Soul Care.
Kelly Skinner 27:09
Yeah, yeah. I do, like being able to ask open ended questions and see where people are, and invite them to explore and examine, examine their thoughts and their beliefs, and even enrich them a little bit more. One of the analogies that I love a lot or metaphors, I guess, is the a lot of Jewish rabbis. Now they're talking about scripture. But a lot of Jewish rabbis will look at things like it's an 88-sided diamond. And that, you know, there, it's a beautiful thing. And you can just turn it and see a different facet of it. And it's still a beautiful thing. So I do like to be curious and provocative. And and ask a lot of questions and why and how did you come to that? And where, where does that come from? And when you think that way, like how does then how does that then lead you to act and to see the world and to see other people and yeah, love that. Love it but gently to like I don't like I said, I don't. I don't claim to know anything.
Melissa Ebken 28:42
You're a torchbearer.
Kelly Skinner 28:44
Melissa Ebken 28:46
No, Kelly, if I'm a spiritual leader in the Champaign Urbana area, and I wanted to hold a class or a workshop or a seminar, would I be able to contact you and do that at Soul Care?
Kelly Skinner 28:59
Yes, we have a, we have a multi purpose room that can be set up in lots of different ways. There's information about renting space on my website, which is experiencesoulcare.com. And you can teach classes here, you can have private events here, or workshops. I also do facilitation both on site and in the community. And kind of can can adjust the exercises and the practices to the audience that we're working with.
Melissa Ebken 29:40
What a gift you have for the community? That's beautiful, and we will have the link to that website in the show notes. And I would encourage everyone to check that out. Also on the blog, at the Pursuing Uncomfortable blog, it's at Melissaebken.com. Head over to the blog. There's a place for you to comment and ask questions. So whatever questions you may have for Kelly, drop them in the blog. I'll make sure that she sees them and can respond. Or if you have any other questions or comments or are curious about faith or offerings of Soul Care, that's a good place to put it or just check out the website.
Kelly Skinner 30:19
Yeah, definitely. And I'm always open for good conversation.
Melissa Ebken 30:26
Those are a gift. As are you, Kelly, thank you for joining us today.
Kelly Skinner 30:31
Yeah, thank you for having me.
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