For Grief

September, October, November and December have been most difficult months.

On September 28, we lost our precious dog, Aja.

She wasn’t a parent or a human child and I know this big wide world is rife with suffering and heartache. But she was our family. She was quite old and dogs only live so long. Yes. And… still. She was a beloved and beautiful part of creation, and God saw her and saw that she was good. If you knew us, you knew Aja was woven into all the intricacies and details of our life. Yes we are grateful for her longevity , but if I’m honest the “happy memories” hurt and the pictures make me want to pull her paws through the screen and kiss that soft spot by her ear. When you love deeply, there’s never enough time. And my goodness, do I, did we, will we always… love her, love her, love her. It’s just that now, our love doesn’t have a reply.

It’s heavy, though we have no choice but to carry on like so many of you are, too.

Social media this season captures highlight reels: Christmas tinsel and 6 year old jack-o-lantern smiles. People write things like “beautiful family” and “gorgeous girls.”

And I suppose that’s just fine. My newsfeed is full of many pretty, smiling faces. And Christmas can be enchanting.

But, as I’ve weathered this difficult season it does make me wonder what would happen if people were more forthright about the things they carry and how they shoulder them because two things I know for certain: 1. It isn’t (usually) what it seems 2. I’m not the only one grieving.

I don’t post things when I feel sad because I don’t know how to be. I don’t want to be dramatic but I want to be honest. I don’t want to be careless and impulsive, but I don’t want to be vague and withholding. I want to connect but I don’t want to be affirmation-seeking. I don’t want to be image-driven but, who am I kidding?

To participate this way, in this medium, I am not above image-drivenness.

That is, I suppose, why reflecting on social media and what it does to you and is to you is an important life-skill; as is reflecting on how we steward our health, our money and our relationships. The Internet is limitless: always on, always there, always moving. But we, small humans, are quite limited.

Our souls were not created for Facebook liking fans, they were created for flesh and bone friends.

Precious time is not given so we might anonymously peek into others’ lives, but so we might hold each other tight.

Grief, like most rich and true things takes: time, tears, effort, rest, intention, awareness and courage.

And somehow, doesn’t it seem, that our attachment to our screens chips away at these things? Whittles them to non-essentials when they might be the very reprieve we seek?

So, these past months- I have put my phone and my head down- in prayer, in rest, and mostly…in work.

I continue to grow in my work with Beacon, my private practice with children and families is quite full, and recently I was offered a part time adjunct teaching position at Baylor. There have been other good things too. The walls of our home have not been void of laughter.

This life. Tangled colors of joy and grief.

It is most natural for me to rise to challenges and seem quite fine. Getting to work is what I do best. People don’t know things are hard, and if I tell them, they usually give kind crinkle eyes and tell me: so sorry.

We have been given much during this aching season: we have friends who are family who opened their home when we came crashing in with sobs. They cleared out a space for us, made the bed, stocked the room with tissues and the cabinets with tea. They made us food and sat with us, knowing full-well what this meant. They moved us in for a month because we needed a home, and our home without Aja, felt far from one.

As time has ticked on, we have moved back in and tried to put our best feet forward. I have learned that the expectation and the hope is that time will kind of dull the rawness. I think of the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament when he says “they have dressed the wounds of my people superficially, saying ‘peace, peace’ where there is no peace.” (Jer 6:14) How might we know when a wound is dressed well? When the hurt stops? When the scab is gone? Will anyone wait with me that long? Would I wait with anyone that long? I see why staying in the shallows of life and lullabying heartache away (peace, peace) tempts me like it tempts most. Come, we say, let us rush our grief along.

The Pslams give me lanes for real, raw emotions. The Psalmist says his heart is broken, and I can too. If ever a person tells you that to be a follower of Jesus you mustn’t grieve, crack the scriptures halfway down the middle and find a psalm of lament. There was also that whole thing about Jesus being a man of sorrows and well-acquainted with grief. (But, I digress)

Though I don’t feel light, I feel heavy; though I don’t feel whole, I feel cut-off, I can say to myself: yes, Jesus came for this. Emmanuel. This is the fleshy, God-honest truth. He came for this death that has touched our home. He came for broken bodies and horrific violence and babies born still. He also came for the worn down marriage and the mind-numbing work and the incorrigible fourteeen year old. He came for stubborn grief and mundane exhaustion. Yes, Jesus came for even this.

Christ has come. Christ is here. Christ will come again. This is the great and joyous mystery of our faith.

And sometimes, it feels like the tenuous one.

Because it’s not yet right. God has not made all this new yet. He has already come, but He has not yet come. Aja does not wait in our foyer with her deep eyes and knowing face. The hospitals are filled with families who pace the waiting rooms, Christmas this year will startle many with its emptiness.

This world is a true waiting room, an in between space, in which we are learning to walk faithfully in the dark.

Oh, by the light of Christ and the warm glow of His people, may we learn to move wisely and well. ✨

Homemaking + Heartmaking

Homemaking is a dear and sacred thing. I’ve written about it before: my inclination for home, our project lust and my work-from-home gig.  I like thinking of home as a harbor: deep enough and safe enough to beckon and set free. At the end of the day, it’s the depth that invites us back or gives us the courage. Ships don’t anchor down or sail out of shallow water. They can’t.  To be full, humans need depth too, so this is part of my home-making: creating expansive depth for myself, my husband and the people on our path.

Indeed, my idealistic, meaning-making self has loved tapping into my inner homebody and begun to really think this through as we set our sites on home.

I know you can’t really homestead in suburbia, but if you could, I think that’s what we’re doing. We hang out a whole heck of a lot, Luke and me. Usually, it’s cozy and fun, and there’s been a lovely rhythm of work, rest and play.

While I’m upstairs pouring over treatment plans, looking for a spark of hope in the disastrous opiate crisis and trying to sound put together to a round table of psychiatrists, sparks are most likely flying in the garage.

Additionally: dry wall has been knocked down, toilets ripped out, pocket doors installed, kitchen cabinets painted white, barn wood whittled and shaved.

(And One Fine Day)


Pennies have been pinched to get projects done.  I have a furrowed forehead from trying to help solve impossible problems (I’m telling you: opiate crisis. hardest problem.) and Luke has lifted and carried more loads of barn wood from the basement to the garage than he’d care to count.

(living room project sequence)

(and again, one day…)


We’re both working hard and working differently. There are still lots of unknowns about our future and sometimes they make me edgy. But then, I wash my face, remember the faithfulness of God and choose instead, life here and now, not life near and far. This is the story I can own, the here and now– and this is the story, the month, the day, the minute God has given me, and it’s the one into which I can lean in and honor Him.

We acknowledged going into the first quarter of this year, that it was a unique opportunity for Luke to work full-time remodeling our house. In this season, we have also hunkered down and done a lot of individual and collaborative work on our values. We’ve asked questions like:

  • What do we value most individually and together?
  • What scriptural ideals are heaviest on our minds these days?
  • How will we craft a life that helps us live out of these values and ideals?
  • How can we create more clarity? 
  • Who are the people we need to care for, right now? 
  • What are the most immature, unredeemed parts of ourselves? 
  • How can we pray together for transformation?

We want to live an intentional life. And we want it to flow out of our home. So, while we are honing wood, painting cabinets and re-staining furniture, I wonder if the more important honing happens in the actual honing of our life: our nitty gritty day-to-day, sacred, ordinary life.  Actually I don’t wonder, I know. I know the question-filled conversations are more important than the buckets of paint and other buckets of other things with which has made for handiwork but not heart work.

My kitchen is lovely and bright. It really is. It’s fresh and clean and the mountains are grander than grand. Don’t get me wrong: I am not above feeling fresher and cleaner and grander because I walked downstairs to this happy, light-filled space.



And while drinking in aesthetic loveliness and the fruits of our labors is a gift, there’s a part of me that says: Careful. Home is more than this, Sarah. You know it’s more. Pay more attention to the mattering parts.  

So: may the real hard, transformative work not be in the cabinetry or the floorboards. In fact, it’s not DIY at all. Transformative work is work with God and with each other. And in so doing: may the windows of our awareness fling open and God’s love flood our innermost, cobwebby parts.  Just like that white mountain light floods my kitchen. But more.




Onward 2016!

The wildest New Year Eve I ever had was my senior year of college 2005. My friend Hillary, and I spent some time in Boston before taking the Fung Woo bus from Boston’s China Town to New York’s. It was a tight squeeze on that dragon-painted greyhound, but definitely acceptable for $10.00. Fung Woo dropped you in the middle of Chinatown hustle and then you just had to move. That’s the remarkable thing about the City, the movement, or the energy as I’ve heard enamored transplants describe. We were fast walkers and more than that, full of enthusiasm, bagels and nervous energy. So, our feet hit the pavement and we did just that, we moved with the rest of the City into the promise of the New Year.

Hillary had a friend studying at Columbia University through the January term and she hosted us in her dorm room. My spatial awareness and map-reading skills are just really, er, poor. I should work on them. But I haven’t. So, I’m always grateful when my traveling companion, like Hillary, has compass intuition. Columbia friend met us on the city street, swiped us into a very smart-looking dorm, and told us to make ourselves at home in her dorm-home. In general, college dorms feel kind of eck and claustrophobic, but when I lived in one, it was cozy, friendly, and homey. I still miss mine. Columbia friend had a big banner across the wall that said “War is not healthy for children and other living things.” I remember staring at it as I caked on extra layers of mascara and makeup and thought for just a second, about war and violence and displaced people. These were things that I didn’t think about at the University of Richmond. I thought about whether or not I believed that: that war was harmful. And if I did, just how harmful was it? Enough to care? And then I brushed it off, I’m sure, with a thought that generalized the amount of thoughts in the world that are to be had, and the amount of thoughts in the world that were not to be had. And this, this war-thought was a not-had, at least for me. At least for right now.


So, we set out into the sparkling night. We wound up at some private party with people in tweed suits and corn-cob pipes and large plans to, I think, develop a new Wall Street. You had to be on “a list,” and while Columbia friend with Columbia connections was a shoe-in, Hillary and I were not. We left, our faces still studies in enthusiasm. We were twenty. It was New Year’s.

Our night went where everyone’s did on New Year’s, except those tweed, Ivy-League people. We landed in Time’s Square. For some reason, we found it appropriate to take a picture with the police, I think, because we wanted through the crowds? We got lost? I don’t recall. These days, it would have been a selfie with NYPD, but that 2005 evening…

nypd pic


Then, the night, ended in some anti-climactic way I don’t recall. But it was 2006. The year that I graduated. The year that all kinds of things happened: spiritually, emotionally, relational-ly, vocationally, and geographically. It was an overhaul of a year. Some of it just happened, but some of it was because I opened myself up to it. Some of it was because I was paying attention.

Do you know what has stuck with me more than the sparkling night and the gussying up and the pipe-smoke and the Times Square Countdown? It was the flower on that banner in the Columbia dorm-room. It was those tiny, sparking questions I had about suffering and hope and violence. The ones I refused to really answer as I pursed my lips and glossed them with pink.

The flower I remember from that dorm banner was sad-looking. It was not stretching towards the sun or peeled open like a daisy. It was sad. It was also earthy: thick roots and shaded with browns and eggplant purple. It was very unique. Abstract even. If something can be sad, but also earthy and unique, it seems to me, there might be a bit more hope for restoration. Straight-sad is just melancholic, but sad with something else is a bit less entrenched, open even to making something of the sadness. This concept became extremely important to me.

So I drew this same flower in 2012 when I began working with sexual abuse victims at the Children’s Advocacy Center. My job, at that time, was to help call certain sadness what it was: uniquely theirs; unlike any other; God-awful. But then, we paired sadness with some other things: knowledge; deep breaths; caregivers; language; pictures; meaning and eventually, maybe, somehow: hope. This was the suffering flower on the brink of something more. This flower went on my wall.

better to raise.jpg

My wall flower

The symbol, has in fact, shaped me and ultimately brings me back to the Gospel—the deepest, truest most redemptive coupling of suffering and hope.

We never know how one year is going to recycle into the next. However, we must pay attention.I didn’t know that the flower and the questions and the tug would sit with me like they did.  So, ever since 2005, maybe 2006, that’s what New Year’s has become more about: the work of paying attention, which cannot help but bring about celebration. And in that celebration, in that gratitude, there’s a call to action for us, isn’t there? A call to action that changes us- makes us a bit more aware, a bit more focused, a bit more intentional about our words and our thoughts and our time. This is the stuff that heals, friends. When it’s lived, it heals. I always feel scared of sounding goody-goody or oddball when I say this kind of thing with conviction. But, there you have it. I believe it and I believe it brings joy, balance and wholeness to my life and my life with Luke.

 So this year, Luke and I did this in our own separate ways. I set my list of purposes using Ann Voskamp’s lovely prompts, and Luke, my kind Luke, made a list of gratitude that he taped to our bedroom door. These reflective words set our tone, our anthem- as we wriggle out from underneath the weight of our heavy 2015 moments and link them, instead, with all of the potential and promise of 2016. The past is all around us, but so is the future, and there’s far more possibility there- energy, even—like the streets of Manhattan.

luke's laundry list

Luke’s list

The past reminds me of who I was and the future reminds me of who I want to be, and in the same way blades of grass grow and flowers bloom, we, too must grow, stretch our necks to the sun, and be changed.

Onward, to 2016!

new years pic.jpg

This Kind of Giving 2015

It was hard to get this week going.  I have this thinking routine at 6 AM as my alarm does it’s  horrid noise and I lay and brainstorm reasons I really, truly, do actually need to get up. First, I say to myself: GET UP. Sarah, just GET UP. I’m not very nice about it.  And then I watch Luke who is a light-like-a-feather kind of sleeper and I think GET UP so you don’t get him up, first. Wouldn’t that be kind of sad, if he got the day going when you are the morning bird who decided to do the early morning things? And then I try to do what they do in my yoga class and take invigorating breaths.  And when that doesn’t work I try to say more  hardcore things to myself like, “Don’t think about it, just do it!”   But really, I cannot stop thinking about how cozy my covers are.  And then, I get stuck in my covers.   I tell Luke it’s quite the paralyzing spell and the reason my alarm  keeps bleeping.  Luke puts in earplugs and tells me I sleep at 500 degrees Kelvin so he’s not sure what the cozy spell is all about when  furnace is the word that comes to mind. Hey, at least he’s not stealing my covers.

Additionally, we’ve experienced some deeper heartache with our former church community and we feel lonely. I had a mentor in Waco who always said these off-the cuff sounding things but they were totally fitting. Like, “Oh,  honey, that would just make me want to pull the covers over my head.” As these past two weeks have been challenging for both of us, I can’t help but think of her words. I have added it to my 6 AM morning talk.  I really do just need the covers over ALL of me, right now. Whole body cover-up, please.

In my defense the beginning of the week looked like this:


black and white has a nice, dramatic effect, yes?

Finally, even with the snow outside and the covers inside and my heavier than usual heart, I did get up. I did get the day going. And sometimes, this is the brave part. The getting up. I used to think this about the fierce and tiny souls I’d see in my little yellow counseling room, I’d think, How do they even get up? And then if the time was right, I’d tell it to them, too. I’d say, “All of that? All of that sad and mad and afraid?  I am impressed you got your day going, Sister.”   Sigh. I miss those tiny, fierce people. They were always teaching me.

So, the little spot of grief on my heart isn’t the only spot of grief in this world, is it?  Circling around social media is this tenderly true quote:

where does it hurt. everywhere

It does hurt, everywhere.  Suffering, like joy, knows no bounds. It’s so universal which is why this quote makes so much melancholy sense.  And if you scroll through, or flip open, or turn on, there will be waves. Not just a spot, waves. You know. And you, like me, will probably not have any really very good answers. And you, like me and like the tiny souls in my counseling room, will also feel a shred of  sad, mad or afraid.  Or, you might have to go write in the basement like Luke who is writing a 30 page paper on all the easy things like the Christian response to violence and the intersection  of Islam and Christianity.

So, Luke is running to the basement to write, I am running to the covers to cozy, and also mulling over this NPR piece called “French Parents Try to Explain The Inexplicable to their Kids.”  Flannery O’Conner says, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say. ” Her logic is brilliant in relationship, too. Couldn’t we also say, “I don’t acknowledge the worst parts of me until my spouse reflects them back?” Or, “I don’t know what I believe until I try and teach my kids?” Or, perhaps more telling, “I don’t know what I believe until I see my kids model it?” In the same way that Flannery’s words were windows to her deeper parts, our people are the windows to ours.

The article explains how French parents are attempting to help their children find a place for the horror. They may not know what to say, but they’re learning.  This fumbling, effort-full engagement is hopeful, to me. It’s not perfect, but it’s there. I remembering scouring the news when Sandy Hook happened looking for a similar story. I get people were helpful and kind and standing together.  But what are the adults saying?  What were the kids learning?  In my clinical work, I’ve always held to the truth that children are  excellent investigators but poorer detectives. They pick up clues like no one’s business. True intuits, they are.  But when it comes to putting together the evidence they need some help. Otherwise, their conclusions get wonky and irreversible. With our help and over time, we can grow our children’s hearts and minds in a better way. We can take a stance with our little people and say, “Yes, I think I’ve found a place for these hard, hard clues.” When it comes to experiencing pain, there is nothing as definitive as the people holding our hands.  And when you are family, you hold each other’s.

This  is why I betcha Flannery would tell you that her stories were her greatest teachers. I betcha French mamas and daddies that are doing this- this squeezing tight and drying eyes and drawing picture after picture of crying Eiffel towers would say that they are learning quite a bit, too. In real, true, transformative, spiritual relationship we help each other grasp the hard truths about ourselves and the world. We give. We give. We give. We give. We give up control and give in to community. No wonder parenting is, perhaps, the best metaphor for sacrifice:  it’s this kind of giving in.  “Thisgiving,” if you will.

This is how people become reflective,  courageous and trustworthy. My colleagues might say integrated. Brene would say whole-hearted. My dear friend Sarah says transformed. Scripture uses the word ‘koinonia‘ or the practice of fellowship and partnership.  And then together, we hope.  With candles, with flowers, with linked arms, with prayers, with Church, with poems, with Jesus, with words, with stories. With the these things that shape us, namely each other, somehow, someway we make a way for gratitude. This kind of giving makes way for Thanksgiving.

So, this Thanksgiving, whatever your spot of grief may be, do not blanket yourself. Do not cover up.  Find your people. Listen well. Share well.  Give up, give in, give of. Give Thanks.

Thanksgiving table

My Thanksgiving Ready Table 2015

thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving 2014



Advent is for the Underdogs

Happy New Year! Merry Christmastide! It’s still Christmas, you know. In the community Luke and I were a part of at this time last year, we had just started singing Christmas carols. In Advent, our friends described, we wait. Once Christmastide actually comes around, then we celebrate. When the Comfort and the Joy and the Peace finally crack the caked-on expectation then we sing.

So this season, to pay homage to my friends in Wilmore, I worked at waiting. Working at waiting is kind of horrible which is why I don’t think most of us are all that good at it. I’m much better at telling myself that I should buy or talk or change or go or do. Mental gymnastics are a true sport- the only one I’ve ever been good at, and usually, it involves convincing myself of myself- that is my own rightness, my aspirations, my dearest sentiments…you know, only the important things.

So, when we practice the  church calendar and sip on waiting, we are forced to slow it on-down and face the things outside of us. Sometimes it disrupts the merry-making. Sure, silence can be contemplative and restorative, but if we are honest, it is also just wretched. Miracles are more apparent when we reflect but so is tragedy. People are still exploiting other people. Death is still ugly and still comes unexpectedly. Securities are still fake. And sure worrying is futile but still.  I can’t help but feel full of feelings when I reflect for just a moment, with these deeper things. Dear old world, while many things are very alive and lovely in you, oh how things are far from right! Fruits like justice and compassion are beautiful, but for the victims and the grief-stricken it’s altogether too late and insufficient. Some merry mystery isn’t it? Some merry mystery that I can sit here in wordy speculation while, hello, these are actual realities. This is the stuff of sharp hunger pangs, and searing loss and shivering bodies. My little Advent journal with it’s scratched out words and copied over verses and heartfelt prayers feel like some tinsel-y perfunctory Christmas package in the face of a cosmic heart-hole.

The real mysteries are not easy ones. They tug at you and make you feel woozy and anxious like any heart-hole would. But to overlook mystery is to choose instead, control, and to choose instead, control means to choose more of you and less of God. And choosing more of you and less of God makes it hard for God to be with us. We are not good receivers of God when we are puffed up by the alluring magic of self-sufficiency and comfort. The Ancient World had trouble receiving too. They expected a larger than life Deliverer. A David or a Saul. They received, instead, a baby from Nazareth born to an unwed woman. It was very weird and perfectly redemptive, and while history is replete with gods, sacrifice and love, I believe the Christian story is unique in God sending Holiness as a person. And what’s more is this person with feelings and appetites and desires, became power-less, home-less and eventually life-less. Less. Less. Less.

So this is where the heart-throbbing tension of the world becomes a little more hopeful. This is where I remember, in that silence, that indeed, the tenderness of God is with the world. But oh, how the tenderness of God is with the underdogs! Jesus was a holy underdog.  If you dig deeper into the Scriptures, His lineage wasn’t anything to write home about. But the writers of scripture did. They did write home about Rahab and Ruth and Tamar because in the quiet ones, the forgotten ones, the scandalous ones, God was creating the FULLNESS OF LIFE. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the heartbroken. Blessed are the old people. Blessed are the poor people. Blessed are the married people. Blessed are the single people. Blessed are the awkward people. Blessed are the sick people. Blessed are the underdogs. Mysteries are not what they seem and neither is the Kingdom of God, and as the Advent story would have it, when we are lessen-ed and small-ened, God’s presence is more and more at hand.

So, in my waiting and reflecting, I resolved to try and stop putting my soul out there on an auction table.  I’ll try to stop the cerebral back handsprings that give air to my hopes for some wild success or some deep admiration or some satiating adventure. However, I must be an underdog. I must get off my pedestal and release the things I think will keep me there. I must small-en myself like God small-ened his self, open up my hands and listen to another voice and another way besides my own. I could tell you 1001 ways I don’t do this. Yet in the face of such earnest striving and stark shortcomings, I am confronted again with my own need for deliverance. God, in our own and in each other’s and in the world’s desperation, help us partner with You, turn this world upside down with You and receive the gift of You. The real, rich, bread and water, food in your belly kind of gift. And while tinsel and ribbon and nostalgia, may suffice for a quick minute, it just doesn’t if you listen deep.

Listen. Do you hear what I hear? The slave is our brother. The world is weary. And by the power of God, the hopes and fears of all the years answered themselves in baby-smallness. May we be wise and small and  underdog-ish enough to receive Jesus.

Love image

(= Redemption.) from Ann Voskamps blog “A Holy Experience” 


Well, here we are in Southeast Denver in a bit of a holding pattern.  We close on our new and very first home on the 28th which makes my said holding not for much longer.   By and large this is good news as I MUST stop commuting north on a trafficky I-25. I know there are worse things. Yet the I-25  afternoon haul felt officially tiring oh, five weeks ago. Plus, somehow I always end up stopping for Chick-Fil-A. It’s Colorado so I’m sure I could find a “cleaner” sprout sandwich or the like, but I’m telling you this traffic pushes me to the nuggets.  MSG and merging lanes aside, the up-side is we’ve found great freedom in limited possessions and limited space, and great kindness in the hospitality of our family.  Funny how my western sensibilities are challenged by the notion that home doesn’t have to be YOUR house and groceries don’t have to be YOUR groceries and YOUR time can be interrupted by the ebb and flow of someone else’s routine. It’s nice and important to know this kind of curveball in our privatized lives. It’s also not all “hostess with the mostess-y” and imperfection puts me at ease. Open-homed and open-hearted these people are. We love them.

So: needless to say, I’m quite thankful and also quite excited–ready to land even,  but also…not. Holding patterns work this way– poising us and containing us so much so that I wonder if this anticipation is even warranted. So, I’m trying to do what my holding pattern does on its own. I’m trying to keep myself in check.

When Luke and I have projects in front of us (house) we hit the ground running.  Suffice it to say: the next few months promise to be super fun and super complicated. I don’t care how methodical or organized or type triple A you are. If you are going to build new things in your house AND be craigslist savvy AND compromise AND try to show your husband what exactly you mean by rustic-creative-farmhouse style it’s going to be complicated. I have lots of ideas and will neglect basic household duties to mull over paint chips. I love color. I also love quirky patterns and cozy throws and fun textiles. I like putting things together. Sometimes it looks bad, but sifting through bad makes it good and I take the process personally.  Read: intense.  Luke, on the other hand,  has a lot of skill. He  builds things. And by “things” I mean any-thing. Vans, houses, walls, wires, windows, boats.  At the critical moment of construction, he always says, “Well, here goes nothing.” And then it turns out perfectly. Read: intense. See why we have DIY fireworks?  On paper idea-master and craftsman sound like some dyanamic duo but sometimes it’s dicey.

In yoga, they talk about finding your edge and staying there.  The “edge” is desirable because it means you are going deeper into the posture, and moving recklessly could make your form funky.   When we talk about our home, we do this. We edge-find.  It sounds small, and it probably is.  Yet small things in relationships are just code for big things, so it’s good practice for us.  We find our edge of late on the topic of home-owning. We can tell it’s our edge because I’m enunciating my words and moving my hands like chops for no good reason, we’ve eaten too many Ikea meatballs and have circled the same showroom four times.  We try to push the edge and then we look at each other mostly irritated and say: No. Not today. No more words on this today. No more words and no more cheap Swedish furniture and cheap Swedish meatballs. Let’s go home.  Edge-finding is, I suppose, just another one of those blessed holding patterns: a way to be contained and keep our egos at bay.

So, we’re leaning in and trying to love a little more gracefully. It can be annoying to live life carefully, but the opportunity to be intentional is probably the most privileged kind of challenge there is.  So, for me, perhaps part of this is remembering that before we dive fingertips first into home renovation, we might shine our hearts a little bit OUT instead of getting all glow-y over Benjamin Moore’s Olive Moss.  We have neighbors to meet, a community to learn, a church to serve and love. And didn’t I just say something about how hospitality trumps perfection? I did. And I also made some hostessy with the mostessy comment as if to imply that image and appearance is kind of annoying.  I think, in holding patterns, you are supposed to listen to yourself a little better. And sometimes, in holding patterns, you just suppose that painting the walls olive is more important.

Before I forget– I think I also should remember and show you, these: pictures of my 30th birthday trip to Breckenridge. It was awe-inspiring. Really. I wanted to sit in these mountain woods and look up at the cathedral sky ceiling forever. And of course, I didn’t want to re-arrange or re-color or re- anything a thing. That would be silly. After all, there is a great deal of beauty and creation that is a great deal beyond us.




On the Fourth of July, We Move.

I’m writing this post from Colorado where we now live. Yep. We do.

And… I know. We moved last Fourth of July. Currently, all of our stuff is in storage and we are living with gracious family members while we get details worked out. Let me tell you friends- mountain air + minimized obligations + living out a suitcase. THIS is liberty.  And of course,  the new adventure and the free spirit in me feel satisfied. We like it. The palpable potential.  So there you have it– me and myself are chocked-full of Independence Day metaphors. Too hard to resist.

Okay. Let me also say: it’s tricky to know how much to update via social media when there are many dear people I’d like to tell more personally. So, with hectic schedules and the perils of packing and missed phone calls and honestly just outright exhaustion I’ve committed to clicking “publish” this evening. And, I’d also like to begin to provide some real-life updates beyond snapshots of our adorable dog.

So, the scoop is: Luke’s degree program was transferred online and I really didn’t like my job at the VA.

I tried to like it. And then I quit trying to like it and tried to let it just be a “job.” And then, I realized that I was expending far too much of myself for things to just be job-like.  So then, I worked really hard on fine-tuning boundaries, and felt uncomfortably grumpy. Historically, it’s been easy for me to wait out a real wonky arrangement because I think something wonderful is about to happen  There I was, stomping into work, everyday, grumpy and heavy. Why on earth am I holding this cup? It feels like a JUG.

The things we all carry.

Sometimes we need to, most times we don’t. I don’t know that all carry-on items are as awkwardly heavy as mine felt but if we hold anything for long enough it makes us ache.  Put. it. down!!!! I say.   Alas,  it is just that easy and that terrible and that impossible to put things down, isn’t it?

Speaking of which, the security loving parts of me wail when I think too hard about the pension and benefits that I’ll be parting with. I think I could comfortably retire when I am 49 if I waited out this gig.  But, I know God is an abundant giver and to operate from the theology of scarcity that would keep me locked away at the VA, makes me feel like I’m in some kind of proverbial dungeon. To which I say, ” Mmmm No. I don’t think this is it.”

So, we press on, delighted and careful. Delighted that we now live in a state where we have abundant family members and dear friends, MOUNTAINS, radio stations worth listening to, -25% humidity and an overwhelming social consciousness that dogs are definitely not just dogs.  I have found a job that we are both praying will make itself cool and clear and drink-worthy instead of lemony and sour wash-like. Our ministry supporters back in Texas that are walking hand in hand with us to make Luke’s education possible have been nothing short of wonderful. They are wonderful.

We are in the throes of raising support for yet another school year for Luke, and once again my security-loving self gets so chatty and negative. I try to shush her with Psalmist kind of prayers, but as always, peace descends when I’m not mustering up a darn thing but when the Spirit of God covers me. I am thankful for this gift– so that even my run-around “what-ifs” might take a breather and say, why yes, God is my shepherd and oh yes, God’s ways are good.  And oh yes, in God’s graciousness, I will be reminded  once again, tomorrow, that God is my shepherd.  Friends: this is a most authentic and necessary lullaby.

So, we are also pressing on with care. Though I gladly farewelled my job, we were not ready to leave our friends in Wimore behind. Of course, you are never ready to leave good friends behind, but the swiftness of it all, made the ache of leaving a bit of a bigger thing to carry than anticipated. It’s a bittersweet cup that we gladly carry because it’s full of prayers and kindness and until we are reunited, this memory cup is what we have. And of course, every once in a while, when we take a good loooong sip, we will pause and cry and think, “Oh, how I miss that sweet sleepy seminary town full of sweet, life-giving people.” And then somehow, someway, the cup will be filled up again.

And as for my Luke, I am ever-grateful that he is the one who is with me in this.  The past week has been a journ-ey– as you might imagine.  I vanned (i.e. drove our rather large van) while Luke drove a 26 foot semi-truck trailing the red car behind.   Camping in the van in not so certain places– again, another humid-sticky,  feat. And loading that long, hot yellow Penske full of our stuff– horrible, horrible tetris like feat.  Yet, we did it. And gosh, does one have to dig deep to be patient and helpful and not totally 13 year old tantrum-ish. It’s in times like this that I am especially thankful for the covenant we have promised each other. I could feel  myself leaning into it thinking– okay, Luke, I do.  And sometimes to keep  “I-doing” whether its waking up to truck full of boxes or riding out the throes of total uncertainty is hard to do with patience and grace.  But, I have been given a man who is also committed to doing what it takes to make my life a little sweeter, a little less burdensome and he is full of kindness and ease. The give and take of this kind of partnership is sacred and lovely even when it’s not enchanting.

So. There are fireworks tonight. I love fireworks. We will watch them. And,  when we watch them I will probably think in poems  and thank-you prayers like I always do when perfect and nostalgic things happen. So, thank you God, for all the bright, beautiful, wise, wonderful things you give us.   And as thankful as I am, help me be just as faithful. That’s where the doing happens. The sweet, sweaty, moving-day dig-deep kind faithfulness.  And you know what? Colorado clifty mountains or Kentucky green valleys–God gives us doings that need to be done. That’s the beauty of the Kingdom of God.

To Wilmore


You are the second quirky little place I’ve lived.  The second quirky place where people liken the flow of transition to a revolving door. Oh, Wilmore, they say with  loaded affection. You’ll see.

And then, they welcomed us. Because that is how they are.

This is the second quirky place where there is an ethic of gentleness and faith is not a platitude-quilt. Rather, it is wondrous tension that pulls us deeper.

Conversation cannot stay shallow for long. It is hard, in this place, to talk about mascara and queso when there is so much at stake in our hearts.

They are risky, here.  People peel back the skin of things and say:  Here, take a look, pull on my heart-strings, because I would like to be changed. They tell me this is a formative thing: to spread our chests and yield, like this.

So, I trust them.  Because trust, I think, can wind up looking a lot like love. Yes, this place has taught me that.

This is the second quirky place where the mailman knows Greek and teaches us in our living room. Undelivered envelopes wave with his passion.

We sit at his feet, still and curious. He could go on and on but, you know, people need their packages.

Yes, we agree. They do.

And then he tells us something about the duty of the moment being filled with God’s presence.

In other words: We are all doing sacred work.

So we keep on, keeping on, together in this quirky place. Community happens, when you do this. When you do your job, deliver packages and speak a dream in a stranger’s living room.

This is the second quirky place that is more space, perhaps, than it is place. We have a space for you to grow here. Or,

Go On.

Find a third quirky place. An even easier exhale. And remember, there is always room, here.

Art of Transformation

A teacher once told me that strong writers are expert collectors. We gather the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of our surroundings, bring them home to our wily minds and allow them some space so we might become curious.  We, along with Inspiration and Practice, sift and separate our collection: these valuable collectibles until there is a fit. Finally, when there is a fit, an arrangement, we’ve made something new. Novel, even.

This is art-making. And whether it is parenting, listening, cooking, composing or writing there is usually an untrimmable light in the artist’s eye–it’s the joy of the creative process.  It isn’t magic and it isn’t sentimental… it’s art-love, and usually, this kind of love has to do with re-arranging, emptying out, maybe chucking a few things before filling up with something a bit lovelier. Come and see what you do not know, artists say to themselves and to the world. And once you see it, we start again. Curiosity and possibility keep them in love and and open. Art comes out of a deep, deep unknowing which, let’s face it, makes anyone angsty, yet the creation somehow, someway, always gets at the heart of things and makes it lovely.

People-making,  people-working, people-helping…this is artwork too. I know I’m not the only helping professional who gets pegged as saint-like. I suppose it’s nice to be called nice, but I would also say that I don’t like my work because it lets me be nice. I would say that I like my work because it lets me be artsy. Relationships are curious and open-ended and really, really artsy. At least the ones I’m interested in having. The problem is, whether you see yourself as a helper-saint or a helper-artist both involve some serious ego so things can get a little dicey. Especially when you feel like your art is not unfolding itself like art should.
When someone tells me the deeply intimate details of his life and I listen, look, and try very hard to communicate an appreciation of their “collection”–all of its eclectic, human and relatable matter—from their beliefs to their eye contact to their self-image to their parents to their addictions to their style—all of it–and I say:

I see this!!! Here is an idea. What if we take this tiny, special, little piece of your collection and use it to support this other rougher part of your collection…what if we try that. Shift it. Just a smidge. Could we? We’ll do it together. This would be a small, creative, change—a tiny little change— and there would be just the slightest new arrangement. Verrrryy, verrry slight. It would be strange, but also, still, familiar. Remember, that is how art works. And remember? You are art. Let’s. Just. See. How. This. Fits.

It’s not been like that for me. Not only is it not like that, it feels impossibly like that. Instead the moment and the interaction and the whole creative process that I promise I am trying to trust feels closed up and unable to play out. And I know that running too fast and pushing too hard shortens moments instead of widening them, so I really am trying to go easy. But still, the moments feel abrupt and uninspired.

Nevertheless, I am not called to give up on the art of transformation. This is how my work and my faith must be together forever because when my work and my God say, “Go! Break into darkness” and the people, this art before me say, “I much prefer the protection of this darkness. STOP MESSING AROUND WITH THE DARKNESS. I would like to make a very big hedge around my heart and you, crazy hopeful lady, are making me want to make it BIGGER.” And while the particular instance to which I’m speaking may be a professional one—the dynamic is perhaps, even more accurately a relational one—the one that happens between parents and children and friends and neighbors and husbands and wives and if it’s not happening it may just be that together, there is not enough push for true authenticity and true community. Because, art is also one of the grandest ways human beings have ever come up with to make the strange and the bizarre and the unknown BEAUTIFUL.

So if my patients are refusing to be beautiful for me I have no choice but to turn up the soil of my own heart and pray as organically as I know. Please God, could you recycle my human-matter and the world’s human-matter, and any other skunky matter that has crept in the past couple of weeks… could you please recycle into anything really, but it would be lovely if you could recycle it into something made of more wisdom made of more patience made of more goodness. Lilacs maybe? Could I grow a lilac bush in my heart please? If its truth, I need it. And not only does God have the license, but God, really can create the most beautiful out of the most inconceivably beautiful. I believe this. God can create tens of millions of lilac rows out of this pitted mulchy mess.

So, already, there is comfort in this. Isn’t there? Comfort in this for my unpleasant patients who despise others and themselves and the constant reminders that this is so, comfort for me who is beginning to dislike my unpleasant patients because they make me look at me and remember that my heart is not so big and certainly not creative enough for all of this. Comfort for the parent trying to protect uncontrollable children that they love to smithereens but must set free at the same time. Comfort for the woman trying to understand what it means to care for herself and love others with courage and kindness. It’s comforting not just because it’s possible but because it’s the same prayer all around. No one can say that they do not need the soil of their hearts turned up. In the hardship, whatever it is, there are invitations for even greater re-arrangement and masterpiece because we are all workmanship and we are all too sacred to ever be finished. Love works on things. And in love, God works on things. No one likes to be “worked on.” So, thank God, we are not alone. And thank God that love working on things might mean there begins to emerge within us an even greater semblance of truth.

The deepest reminder of this is the way God, who is beyond any kind of loveliness, sent a divine person, Jesus, to work on things. A person, Jesus, to be light in dark things.  A person, Jesus to re-arrange things. To majorly, majorly overhaul the soil of all things. And this person, Jesus, was strange because of where He came from, and who He sat with, and what He said. And what may have been stranger still, is how people clung to this strangeness. In droves, all of them, together, they went to him and clung to his garments and his strangeness. Jesus embodied the strange AND the familiar and these things together, made the Gospel truth. Truly. So they clung. They lingered. Because Jesus was grace and truth incarnate.

So, today, God is using people, and community and each other, so that we might cling with our hearts, to all of the strangeness, because there is speck of it that resembles truth. And then might we let ourselves see a larger speck and a larger speck and before you know it we we will totally shoveling out our heart soil….all of it….over and over again…even the lilac bushes….saying here, take it, each day, take it. We are giving ourselves up to God and each other, longing for more transformation. More art. There is always more art! These are the saints, to me. Not necessarily the big hearts, or the nice hearts or the creative hearts or even the most inspired hearts. They are not necessarily the most responsible ones, or most hard-working ones, or most passionate ones. The saints are the ones whose hearts have been so shoveled out that every day, they look up and give up and in faith, make more and more room. And say, yes, yes and yes.

Everything will be made beautiful in its time.