In the last few years, one of the ways I have been able to make sense of my illness is through writing and art. Chadash has been an integral part of that. Kelly and I began working on our third concert last fall, and I was able to write the spoken word elements and record my parts before my most recent surgery in March. Our stories, which reflect the challenges and hopes inherent in the human condition, always connect to our own individual journeys, and our  upcoming concert is no exception.

Yesterday, I wrote a description of a section of the concert that will have its world premier at the Presenting Denver Dance Festival in June. Kelly and I have talked before about how this piece has particular resonance for us because it really is our story, the story of our sisterhood. A few years ago I was privileged to be part of a group of four women of faith (we even called ourselves Soul Sisters). Now, I spend my days journaling through self reflective texts on wholehearted living with Amy Louise and creating art that imitates life with Kelly. Rereading the description, I realized that this dance expresses a most important truth about how Kelly and I, and Amy and I, support and encourage one another as we negotiate the inevitable challenges we all must face in life. The description reads:

“We live in a world in which we stand in the ashes of the barn burned down. Each of us knows a different kind of suffering, a unique brand of loss, an individual grief. Perhaps we have known the grave weight of depression, the choking grasp of anxiety, the fear of debilitating illness or even the brutal terror of suicidal thinking. One way or another, we all struggle in our universal quest to find solace and meaning—to live in hope in the midst of our suffering. Chadash tells stories, and “Reaching For Hope: A Mountain of We” is the story of a sisterhood. It tells a tale of discovery: if we are willing to risk by showing up, if we are willing to be vulnerable with one another, there is no mountain we cannot climb. Together, taking hold of the courage we need to face the darkness, we are able to discover the infinite power of the light. We are able to stand in the ashes of the barn burned down and point to the moon, to hope. We are able to live a wholehearted life.”

To live in hope in the midst of our suffering. To live a wholehearted life. I am so grateful to be a part of a sisterhood of seekers of hope and significance in this life. It is a needful gift.


Lessons Learned



My work with Chadash has given me so much more than I could have ever imagined or anticipated. It is no secret that I have been battling cancer for the last few years. During that time, I’ve learned some significant life lessons. For example, I know that I have no control over the medical circumstances my cancer generates, but I have full control over how I respond to them. I’ve learned that when I think I have reached the end of my ability to withstand a challenge, I am actually only two thirds of the way there. I have learned that joy is a choice, available to me regardless of the challenges I face. That’s true for all of us, but sometimes we need a cataclysmic life event to bring that truth home. And what’s of equal value is that I have learned what courage is, and what it is not.

There are many things that bring me joy, but nothing more so than fueling and exercising my creative spirit. I was born to be creative—to write, to paint, to teach, to direct. Each of these is an act of creativity that transports me to a place of deep joy. When Kelly and I work together to create a new concert, building on ideas, collaborating on concepts, imagining characters and their relationships and the themes that drive them, we are like a couple of tiny kids building a fort in the backyard out of odds and ends and sundry bits. Our laughter is infectious, our ideas grandiose, our camaraderie perfect. For us, the work is play. And in that play, my joy is manifest and made complete.

In this zone of creativity, there is no awareness of illness in me at all. There is no room for it. I am whole. My mind is unfettered and free. My body fills with energy (for the moment, anyway) and my spirit soars. It’s hard actually to put into words, but I know that it has something to do with living with no fear in the zone in which I was created to operate. Having found that vocational avenue that brings together all of who I am and connects me with this soul mate who shares a vision and a passion and a willingness to step out in faith, allows for the acceptance of whatever creative lightning bolt from the heavens shows up to strike us and ignite a spark that invariably becomes a blazing flame.

We build. We disagree. We agonize. We discover. Eureka! We encounter problems. We worry. God shows up. We overcome. And most of all, we grow. We sharpen one another, encourage one another, hold one another up in prayer. As in life, not everything turns out the way we would wish. But we are learning over and over that things do seem to turn out as they were meant to be. And we are learning to have both grace and courage along the way when things do challenge us. Because at the end of a show, when the costumes go back in the bin and the Marley floor gets rolled up and returned, I know exactly what my body is fighting. The physical challenges are real. Even so, they seem to become lesser in light of the great gift of creativity once again on the horizon as we look forward to our next concert. How blessed is a human being who has had the opportunity to discover that sweet spot where Vocation meets Passion and gives birth to Art!


Free blog post imageA little over a week ago, our most recent concert, “Made For Another World” opened in Roseville, California.  I always walk away from Chadash projects, especially our concerts, with a flood of mixed emotions.  Joy, exhaustion, gratitude, and sadness are just a few of these.  I am an introverted person who tends to analyze (and over-analyze!) my experiences and feelings, and this time around has been no different.

Yet my experience this time has been a little different, and I have felt prompted to share it, not only because of its peculiarity, but also because I believe most creatives/makers can resonate with what I have been feeling the past couple of days.

Every time we create, it is a hugely courageous act of vulnerability.  We are sharing and bearing our hearts and putting them out in front of the world to not only see but judge.  Everytime I walk away from the bearing of my soul in this way, I feel not only vulnerable, but also exposed.

Our most recent concert follows a “Wind Dancer” who sets out on a journey to find the Wind she thinks she has lost and along the way confronts Enemies such as Fear, Busyness, Ego, and Apathy.  The second act begins with these Enemies “assaulting” her, attacking her viciously with lies about her identity, the Wind, and the world around her.

One of the things that has always amazed me as an artist  is that oftentimes the creation that flows through us teaches and forms us.  I have become very familiar with “Made For Another World” as our January show was the second time within six months or so that we have performed this concert.  And yet. . .

And yet I was caught completely off-guard when my own insidious Enemy assault took me by surprise with savage force.  My Enemies advanced with lies on every front and left me shaking, afraid and cowering, lying on the ground, just like our Wind Dancer.  You see, my Enemies know exactly what will bring me to my knees.  They go after my insecurities, my vulnerabilities, expose my greatest fears, and leave me feeling fragile and unsafe.

And so I am thankful that just at the right time, just like our story onstage, the Wind appeared and blew every one of my Enemies away.  Not that I won’t continue to face and do battle with these Enemies, but that I am not bound by them.  That I have a choice.  I can either listen to the voice of these liars who tell me things such as “you’ll never be good enough,” or “you don’t have what it takes,” or I can make the intentional choice to listen to the voice of the Wind who reminds me of who He is, who I am, His love for me, that I do not have to be afraid for He is always with me, and that He will give me exactly what I need for each next step of the journey laid out before my feet, at just the right moment.

And I realize I am free.  Free to be who I was made to be and do what I was designed to do.

-Kelly Archer

Chadash artist in residence in documentary


“Along with Judi, the Chadash family is so pleased to share this short documentary she participated in for “This is Life With Cancer,” which allowed her to express the joy that she gets both from being a part of the Chadash family and from her creative work with our dance company. We hope our friends in California will enjoy the current Chadash production when it comes to Roseville the first week in January.” #inspirationlives