“A lifelong set of beliefs and behaviors can emerge when trauma is experienced at a young age.” Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD

My earliest memory is of rejection.

When my family was asked to leave our church, things began to break. Friendships. Rhythms. Traditions. Expectations.

The trauma of interpreting those events with a five year old’s understanding left me with a set of beliefs through which I’ve interpreted the world around me ever since.

“No one cares. No one notices. No appreciates how hard I work.”

“At any moment, an external force can act upon me to disrupt and destroy what I’ve worked so hard to create.”

“There is an unknown set of rules that I’m expected to live by, and soon will be punished for my unwitting lack of compliance.”

“I am the victim of someone else’s choices.”

Those beliefs filter external events, and most internal processes, in a self-affirming loop. My parents did what they could to keep life normal and protect us from the emotional fallout, but I felt it. We all did.

Almost four decades later, I can look back with a bit more clarity. I’ve gained understanding that we weren’t innocent victims – most likely there was a naive complicity on our behalf. I’ve reached out to other parties and engaged in honest dialogue about those handful of weeks, so many years ago. The weight of victimhood is lifting as I learn to look from other perspectives and listen to other narratives.

Those beliefs and behaviors, though, are pesky. They don’t give up easily. Unravelling those tightly wound cords happens one loop at a time.

Must you write?


Search for the reason that bids you to write; find out whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all – ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must you write?

If you may meet this earnest question with a strong a simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Alone, but Never Lonely

Solitude, by Mark Pimlott

It seems constant engagement with others isn’t the antidote to loneliness…in other words, boredom is necessary for self-awareness. Only when I know who I am can I share the deepest parts of myself with another.

What If Jesus Were Serious

When I choose to cultivate solitude and silence, I encounter a sense of self to share with God. If I fill my life with constant connection and noise, it will be even more challenging to notice the presence of God in others. Jesus spent time alone, but then reemerged to engage again with his disciples and community. When I learn how to be contended alone, I will never be lonely.

Muddy Truth

“How does the image of rain…reassure us that God is successfully at work?”

This prompt from a recent contemplative prayer brought me straight to the muddy roads of the colonias where we live. This past week had two full days of wet weather which meant a week’s worth of extra work for our home build ministry. Teams went to build sites days before to pre-cut lumber. We arranged meal and travel times to take advantage of weather forecasts, hoping to avoid the rains as much as possible. It was wet and cold. Seven homes were built for families, but it was pretty miserable. The rain added a whole other layer of difficulty onto an already challenging weekend of ministry.

When I heard this prompt I chuckled, since rain seemed like the opposite of “God successfully at work” last week.

Rain is messy.

Rain is inconvenient. 

Rain makes more work.

It would be so much easier without the rain.

God’s word often enters our lives at inconvenient moments. Things become messy and difficult. Wouldn’t it have been much easier to continue on the way we had been working, had been going, had been thinking?

If God’s work is like rain, then the absence of His word is like a drought. Lack of rain leads to loss of life. The damage from drought is far more serious than the temporary mess, inconvenience, or extra work caused by rain. How often does the desire for a clean, easy, and convenient life cause an artificial drought of God’s work?

The damage from drought is far more serious than the temporary mess, inconvenience, or extra work caused by rain.

The sunrise the morning after the rain is my favorite. The atmosphere is so clean that you can see microscopic details on the islands that dot the horizon. Individual rocks and the various hues stand out, almost as if you’re looking through binoculars. It seems like only moments after the rains have passed, green shoots are breaking ground in every bare patch of soil or crack in the concrete. Rain gives clarity and life.

God’s word doesn’t keep us in the mud. His work – just like the rain – leads us to clarity and new life. We are not destined to remain in rain-induce chaos, dragging our muddy boots towards obedience. Chaos is not proof of God at work. He is moving in the mess, inconvenience, and extra work…but he continues to move when the rains cease. God works, neither in spite of or because of chaos…or calm.

When the rain comes, embrace it. God is at work.

When the rain ceases, embrace it. God is at work.

Whether the storm is raging or the sun is shining, watch God work. Surrender what’s convenient, clean, and easy. Embrace the mess, inconvenience, and extra work while it rains. New life is moments away.

Nourishing Affirmations

I padded down the hallway, my footsteps matching the silence of the early hour. Our annual Christmas Family Getaway had just begun, and we had days of holiday adventure ahead of us. Despite the festive season, my heart was heavy. As I settled into the overstuffed chair, I mentally grimaced as I reviewed the multiple outbursts and selfish sarcasm that I’d used in biting tones towards my family. I wanted a peace-filled, family-focused week and I’d turned into into a resentful, selfish disaster.

I’d looked forward to indulging in special treats as well as special events, but as I reviewed each shameful encounter I began to see a pattern. What I ate seemed to have a direct impact on how I acted. This revelation wasn’t a new one. I’d done my share of Whole30 months and other food experiments on myself over the years, so I knew that what I put in my body affected how I felt. In the early morning hours, it struck me anew. I quickly grabbed a pencil and began to scribble out these “Nourishing Affirmations” to capture the thoughts rolling through my mind.

  • The nourishment of my body. The care of my soul. The awareness of my emotions. Together, they create the life I want to live.
  • My relationships with my family are more satisfying than any sweet treat or indulgent meal.
  • The investment and sacrifice in proactive self care is worth the reward of a peaceful and calm heart.
  • I am responsible for communicating my expectations, expressing disappointment, and celebrating success.
  • Turn the bait of self pity into a seed of gratitude.
  • Nourishing food = calm emotions.

There are three main foods that trigger negative emotions or behavior for me. Corn causes inflammation (my fingers will ache and I won’t be able to remove my wedding ring the next day). Wheat disrupts my digestion (bloating and irregular, ahem, movements). Sugar turns off the impulse brakes and any sort of self-control, often resulting in short tempers or critical remarks.

Yes, I can eat those foods. I can eat any food I want, clearly, and food is neither “good” nor “bad.” Instead, as I realized that early December morning and will continue to realize time and time again, the nourishment of my body helps create the life I want to live. If I want a calm mind, peaceful relationships, and enduring energy, then I make the choice to consume what creates those desires. If I want to indulge in something, then I buffer the results with more grace towards myself and others instead of giving myself a free pass to lose my temper or emotionally distance from others. I make the choice to nourish, or I make the choice to not. Either way, I’m responsible.

After a two hour, sugar and wheat induced nap this weekend, I’m reflecting on these realities once again. May there be grace for indulgence, and grace for nourishment.

A hairline fracture of grace

I’m not the most optimistic person. Ahem.

Let’s be honest – I’m really good at catastrophizing and jumping off of mental cliffs. A few pieces of gravel tumble down the emotional hill? CLEARLY WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE IN A ROCKSLIDE OF MENTAL BREAKDOWN.

On the other side of the coin, my evangelical-pentecostal-God-of-miracles upbringing has me looking at impossible situations and shrugging, “Eh. God’s got that.”

The space between sober reality and a faith-filled perspective is a sticky one to navigate.

Witnessing the tragedies of others can release them from trauma’s dark prison. Pausing to recognize my own suffering fosters healing and empathy. I don’t want to stay there, though, bowing at the throne of misery. I want to stand in faith and truth, knowing that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do.

I’m reading Kate Bowler’s and Skye Jethani’s recent books while texting a close friend whose mom was moved into hospice care this week. When is the prayer of faith the right prayer, and when is the prayer of lamenting the one that should tumble from my lips?

A hairline fracture of grace threads between crisis and conviction.

Some days, it feels fragile enough to shatter.

Keyboard Warriors and the Lenten Fast

Last month I received an invitation from a dear friend to join his online writing community. It’s a place for stories, thoughts, conversations – space for asking questions and paying attention to what graces us to abide.

He’s asking a small handful of friends to join, and I’m one of them. I felt simultaneously honored and under-qualified…surely there must be other writers that would make this thing the “smashing success” (can you see the sarcasm dripping?) he’s hoping for. Let’s face it – can I even call myself a writer?

Hoping for some direction from the Lord, I began my morning contemplative prayer practice a few days later.  I’d also been pondering Lent this year. Should fast something, and if so…what?

The verse for that morning’s contemplation was from James – “those who know what to do and don’t do it are in sin.”

Then, a week later, in a completely separate devotion reading, the same verse appeared. Damn you, James.

True fasting looses bonds of injustice, breaks the yokes of oppression, releases prisoners from chains. It sees suffering, witnesses pain, and is moved to compassionate action.

Here I am, considering this lingering sin of omission – knowing I need to write, yet not doing it – as my Lenten fast.

Will clacking away on a MacBook keyboard do anything for the brokenness of humanity around me?

I know I need to write. Keyboard warrior, I am not.

Words on a screen.

Choices in real life.

Here’s to 40 days of working that out.

Of Michaelmas

Today (September 29) is Michaelmas.

Today is when I learned that today is Michaelmas. I’m off to a good start, huh?

While I still don’t know the full depths of this liturgical holiday, here’s what I’ve grasped and why it’s resounding deep in my soul:

  • It marks a turning of the seasons and a time of transition.
  • It is a time to turn inward and to gather strength for the long days ahead.
  • It reveals hidden uncertainty, fear, and doubt about the future.
  • It celebrates strength and courage, and embraces their cultivation.

Today also marks an acceleration of focus on our house project. Almost overnight it seemed like it went from steady progress to sixth gear. Supplies are needed, decisions required, and at times it’s feeling like we’re trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose. Three spontaneous trips across the border to meet immediate demands so the workflow isn’t interrupted. We celebrate the breakthrough while balancing on God’s promise of provision, even when our bank account dips lower and lower.

It seemed coincidental, this holiday landing at the same time as our home’s construction pace increases. At second glance, the threads started to weave together and clarity emerged.

Yes, we are in a time of transition.

Yes, we will need strength for long days ahead.

Yes, we struggle with doubts about the future.

Yes, we need strength to be cultivated in our hearts and minds.

Seems like Michaelmas landed exactly where we needed it to be this year.