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photo of Julie MillerJulie Miller, Board President

When I was a child, I was often found immersed in the natural world and completely engaged. That path of curiosity and connection to nature has not altered but has only expanded. I not only wanted to be in wild places but share that sense of raw power, tranquility and connection with it with others. I sense that my truest self communicates with the Creator best when I am in a natural setting. I pursued careers teaching environmental education to youth and as a Park Ranger in a variety of National Parks.

The practice of silence, alone or with others, as well as the skill of deep listening and reflection were first experienced when in nature but have found residence in my daily living through contemplative practices. I yearned for a way to bring my traditional church values and history alongside what I experienced in nature but did not have the exposure or language until my first year of seminary. I thought I would find a way into deeper fellowship with God by attending seminary but what I realized is that I was seeking soul connection, not head connection. I completed my Masters in Theological Studies in 2012. It was in seminary that I took an introduction to Spiritual Direction course and was exposed to practices that seemed innate to me. When I became involved in the then new Journey Center back in 2008, I finally entered into a community of like-minded people who were on a spiritual quest for more… more connection, more Spirit, more experience of God, more love. I had found my tribe.

After completing the first 2-year course in Spiritual Direction offered via the Journey Center (JC) in 2010, I became a member of the Spiritual Direction team and a member of the JC board. In 2011 I joined the team of facilitators who work with the students in the Spiritual Direction Formation Program. I enjoy leading retreats, workshops and backpacking trips through the Journey Center as well as offer 1:1 spiritual direction. I practice a contemplative, incarnational mode of spiritual direction described as “enabling a person (the directee) to: pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her; respond to this personally communicating God; grow in intimacy with this God; and live out the consequences of the relationship.” – Sue Pickering

I’ve had a deep attraction for God since I was child. I was the one who actually wanted to go to church when the rest of my family had more homebody things to do on Sundays. I question today whether I sought after God at that time in my life or if I thought that to go to church was what made me a good person. Approval was an important motivator for me as a young girl. 

In college I thirsted for something more than knowledge of God. I wanted to feel something. I was involved in a charismatic small group of college students and I felt they were onto something and I experienced some deep movement inside of me that wasn’t just in my head!

I studied Biology and Outdoor Education so people who couldn’t find a way to resolve the ideas of evolution with the creation stories of the Bible surrounded me. My peers were drawn to the outdoors and treated it, Nature, as something holy. I felt unencumbered by the trappings of the human world when I was out kayaking, walking, rock climbing or cross-country skiing. I felt that I could hear and speak to God more clearly in the outdoors, but I never confused whom or what received my devotion- creation has always pointed to the Creator for me.

Recently my life has been centered on connecting people to the Creator through the outdoors. I’m not sure I could have said that 3 years ago. Then I was dedicated to creating connections between people and nature with a goal of caring that might evolve into some action of stewardship of our planet. My definition of my life’s work has begun to expand and take on new meaning since I moved away from Yosemite National Park. I had lived and worked in the park since 1988. In 2007, not long after I married, I moved to Santa Rosa. I came knowing that I was to keep my options “open.” I’m not used to not knowing “the plan” but I came and I spent the first nine months waiting for some kind of direction. I told my husband after six months that we needed to go for a long walk. He said, “How long?” I replied that 218 miles would be about right. That is the distance from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney on the John Muir Trail. On that long walk, I again entered into wilderness time, where the voice and presence of the Holy is so much nearer for me. When we finished, I had decided to go to graduate school. The surprise was what I decided to study.

I’m currently seeking a Masters of Theological Study so that I can understand what I think and believe about my faith. I met Joanna Quintrell when she was a Pastor at Redwood Covenant Church. I asked her to mentor me so I could have a sounding board for all the learning I was going to undergo. When she moved to full time director at the Journey Center, I began to attend some of the classes and eventually, we realized that my interests and her needs for an assistant could be mutually beneficial. I took on the part time role as her assistant and have offered classes and outings under the heading of Encountering God in Creation and events under Compassion, Mercy and Justice. The first group I took out was on a snowshoe walk in Yosemite. I came back that day excited that I had spent the afternoon discussing nature and God in the same sentence, a first for me!

I have discovered Spiritual Direction through the Journey Center and am currently in the two-year training course to become a director. My desire to experience God has led me to embrace new spiritual disciplines and contemplative practices that are the foundation of following Christ and are offered at the Journey Center. Understanding my true self, the person God knew and formed before I was born, has changed the way I think of my vocation and most importantly, of how that vocation might aid people in discovering the Creator, the one who I hear in the wind, walk with under the stars and see in each person and living thing I encounter. I am on the journey of new discoveries!

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