Tuesday, September 25, 2012

facing my fear of missing out and what drives it

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a ReImagine conversation on overcoming the fear of missing out. This is what I wrote.

As soon as I could get a job I did. I was 15, when I got my first job as a party hostess. Being a hostess was perfect for me but it also meant that in addition to being in student council, a few honor societies, choir, voice lessons, youth group, karate, and all honors classes, I now also had a job. For the next 7 years as I transitioned from high school to college, my average schedule required that I be awake by 7 am at the latest and in bed no earlier than 1 am, but it was usually more like 6am to 2am. I wanted to do everything right, get into a good college and change the world.

My senior year of college I became sick in the middle of the night, somehow whatever was wrong with my stomach made me stop breathing. I had time to go to the doctor 3 days later. Needless to say he was rather perturbed that I had stopped breathing, but hadn't bothered to come in for three days. He asked about my life and schedule, eating habits and caffeine intake. Then determined that I was stressed, not only stressed but I was making myself very ill. After a few more questions it was revealed that my heath overall was not ideal. How could it be? I averaged 5 hours of sleep a night and lived off caffeine.

You would think that a doctor lecturing you on your health would make you change your habits. I tried. When I started seminary the following fall I was determined to only focus on school and work. No extra curricular commitments. That lasted about a month before I became terribly bored and lonely. Plus, being a full-time waitress and full-time graduate student doesn't exactly reduce your stress. So, the cycle began again. At least this time I was making it to my doctor's appointments.

Still, I wasn't getting much sleep and I was rushing around constantly, and to make matters worse I felt guilty for all the ways I wasn't doing enough. I remember often waking up to my messy room and thinking “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” so shouldn't I have time to clean this room? I know that verse had more to do with loving people and meeting the needs of others, but for me it was a reminder that I wasn't perfect.

Luckily, I was able to get a new job my second year in seminary. Being a chaplin was a better fit in that it didn't require running around taking orders, but it did require that I be available for freshman girls at all hours of the day and night. As my health wasn't improving the doctors recommended therapy, which I wasn’t excited about because I didn't want to admit that I had white girl problems. I felt spoiled sitting there talking about myself. But I wanted to figure out what was wrong with me (spoiler alert: I had ciliac, which is an actual medical diagnosis, the doctors were just too distracted by my stress level to notice I had a medical condition not a psychological one).

About 6 months into therapy my therapist asked when I became so busy. I responded that it was when I was 15, and therefore it was the only way I knew how to live. She probed about my life at home during those years, and I informed her that my parents thought I was rebellious and that getting a job created the freedom I needed to have my own life. She pointed out that 9 years later I didn't need to prove to my parents that I was independent, and in fact I had done a decent job proving it to everyone. So, we had one of those therapy moments you see in TV movies, where I cried but didn't change.

My identity was wrapped up in being good at everything and to be good at everything you have to do everything. I had good grades, a great job, a decent car, a cute apartment, a fun social life, I traveled and had done a decent amount of volunteer work. I was on leadership at church. I was doing everything I was supposed to do, and simply couldn't see what I could give up. So, I kept going, barely sleeping, and chasing every good thing I could find.

During my last semester of school I moved to San Francisco. My first year here, I had my unpaid internship, the last of my school work, and two jobs, but in an attempt to pursue simplicity I didn't run myself as ragged as I had for many of the years prior. I managed this by picking a small group of people to be friends with and really only hanging out with them, over time their lives and mine changed and I needed more friends.

My third year, I had a dramatic shift in my friendships and faith community. In a desperate attempt to fain independence and prove that I was happy I completely gave into my fear of missing out. Starting around my 28th birthday I was out nearly every night of the week, embracing every fun adventure this city had to offer. I had a great time. I am so grateful that I let myself be the hot mess I was that year. I learned a lot about myself, my friends, and my city. At the end of that year, I learned that a) I will never overcome my fear of missing out, I will probably always be a tad overbooked in pursuit of the next best thing for me b) my identity is based in who I am not what I do, but I am not sure I can separate those two things.

I have decided that I like having a full schedule and it’s ok when that schedule is full of volunteering and personal growth commitments, more than when it is packed with parties. I would love to say that my desire to spend at least one night a week at home is a result of a sense of identity independent of activity… but actually it’s due to my developed value of sleep. I also feel pretty settled when it comes to friends; I have some of the best, and they live all over the world. I am still terrified that I am not working hard enough to pursue a career worthy of my skills and that may have me running the risk of damaging other significant relationships.

What I have figured out is this: Being busy does not equate to being a good person or a bad person. Doing good for the world, and not being their for the people in your everyday life, doesn’t equate to loving your neighbor as yourself: your friends and family are your neighbors, along with the least of these. Being too busy isn’t healthy. It took the doctors over 5 years to figure out a medical diagnosis largely because my lifestyle alone was enough to make a person ill. Being chaotically busy doesn't leave space for God and stillness with God is really helpful when you are trying to figure out how to be the person God created you to be. I was recently reading On The Incarnation, and I loved how St Athanasius explains the need for Jesus. The short of it is: we were created in the image of God and we forgot who God was and therefore forgot ourselves. Uncontrolled and chaotic business makes me forgetful, I forget who God is and therefore forget myself.

Even with all of that, I want to be clear that I am talking about uncontrolled and chaotic business. I am a person with insane amounts of energy: I like that about myself. I just want to be mindful of how I live that out and what is motivating me. Busy in it of itself is not good or bad, it just is.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"You know I often think I am adventurous, and then I hear stories like that one..." she says with awe, hearing another story of another young man, who got on a bus for San Francisco. He was just 17, he had lost his home, and he was an orphan. 

I often write of my need to travel, my longing for adventure, my urge to go. I move, I roam, I journey out of restlessness in my soul, longing to soak up every tiny bit of life. Still, there are so many that move, that roam, that journey with literal hunger. My metaphors are shallow in the wake of their actual need. I roam searching for a place my heart can call home and they move searching for a roof, a chance, a meal with another meal to follow.

I am humbled by their bravery, while the city I live in creates laws to prevent them from sleeping in the doorways and loitering the streets. I hope to never loose sight of the liberty I have to travel and the urgency of their displacement. I hope that I always chose to have a place for the alien in my midst. I hope I am forever grateful that my life has offered me freedom, and I hope am alway generous with that gift.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Source: abduzeedo.com via Katy on Pinterest

I have been desperate to travel lately. I opted out of an international trip this year and opted for Austin and some time with family instead. I have to say it was worth it. I am so grateful for the simplicity of home and familiarity, especially as I live my life in a city that continues, after 4 years, to fill me with wonder at every turn. Still, I am not sure if my heart and my feet have found each other lately.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The in-between

I posted a mildly controversial cartoon on my Facebook today and got the response I expected. Posting it was more of an act of courage than you might think. Up to this point have preferred to keep my Facebook and blog politically neutral on certain issues, mostly the pro-life issue, to be exact.

From the time I was little, I knew that my family (and therefore I) was pro-life. In high school I often taught youth group at church on the night when we talked about how abortion was a sin. I knew all kinds of statistics on why it should be illegal and what harm it does to both the mother and child (obviously the child, because the child is being aborted). Mostly, I talked about how it was a sin and it was murder. We also talked about how this would only be an issue if you are already sinning by having sex when you don't want children, but that is another blog post.

Still, somehow one day my senior year, a girl that had been in the same elective as me every semester for 3 years missed class. When I asked her why she looked at me and said she had an abortion the day before. She confessed that she didn't know why she told me, but she had to tell someone and she knew I wouldn't judge her. She also said she knew I was a Christian and asked me to pray for her. I was surprised, because I honestly didn't judge her. I always had thought it was such an awful sin and anyone who would do it was obviously selfish; I didn't think that about her. I was simply shocked that she had made that choice the day before and we never talked about it again, but I did pray for her.

All through college I continued to be pro-life without thinking about it very much. The only time it came up was when I confessed I didn't vote for Bush; people asked me how I could vote for baby-killing democrats. I responded that I didn't feel like Bush did anything about abortion; therefore, it wasn't a reason to vote for him.

I finally started thinking about it again my second year of seminary. If I had a map of the Baylor campus in front of me I could point to where I was when my friend Chris looked at me and said most pro-lifers are  pro-birth. I had never thought about it that way, but it made perfect sense. For the first time I started wrestling with my thoughts on the issue on a grander scale.

I had a few more really intense conversations on the subject, and again I can tell you where I was sitting for most of them. Changing my stance on the issue wasn't easy, and when I realized I had changed my mind I went silent.

Today, I chose not to be silent. I chose to share the cartoon, not because I wanted conservative friends to be offended. I shared the post because I do feel that we have lost sight of what it means to be pro-life, and I have no desire to be pro-birth. I want society to change in a way that makes it possible for 17 year old girls to have their babies knowing that they are loved and supported by everyone around them. (I don't think it is a good idea for 17 year olds to have babies, but I think it is a worse idea to scar them for life by making them choose between being judged as sluts, raising a child they are not prepared to raise, or having an abortion. They need a fourth option.) I want women to feel that they have a better option. I want society to be set up to take women and babies and children in, I want us to raise children that were unplanned, and I want those children to experience love, I want those children to be provided for, and I want mothers to have the help they need to provide for those children. I want the same for fathers.

To be clear, if a woman chooses an abortion as a form of birth control (sadly, I have met women who have) I think she is wrong. I do not support her right to choose. However, for all other women, for most women, who wrestle with this issue, I am heartbroken that the world is not a place where they can feel the freedom to bring life into this world knowing that their child will be cared for and loved. I am heartbroken that they are afraid they will not be cared for and loved. I am heartbroken that the systems these children will be born into are designed to keep them poor, disenfranchised, and neglected. Until this changes and I see a political party that is willing to take on the systematic evil that oppresses so much of our society, I am heartbroken to admit: I am no longer politically pro-life. I am also not pro-choice. I am instead stuck in the in-between, frustrated, and searching for hope, but I am not in despair. I believe that there are people both Christian and not, that are willing to offer these women the hope and provision they need. More people like them need to be willing to take a stand.

I confess that my silence has not helped the issue, and my cartoon post was probably more polarizing than helpful. I just didn't want to be silent anymore.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"play shapes our brain, helps us foster empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups, and is at the core of creativity and innovation." Gifts of Imperfection p 100

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My name is Sarah Montoya, and I am a hipster.

Watch this and you will understand.

Important clarification: I do not have a trust fund. I am aware of my discontent with the way things are as the root of my nostalgia.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stories of Shame

Image found on pinterst 
I was recently asked to share a story of reconciliation in my life. I answered that yes, like most of us, I have so many stories of relationships that have been mended, but I just don't know how to tell those stories in a way that honors the other people. I stated that I am just not sure how I can share those stories without bringing up accusations toward people who have done me wrong, but I have forgiven. It just doesn't seem fair to them. I mean, I shouldn't share anything that might make them look bad, right? And, obviously, I am just too selfless of a person to call them out in pubic and embarrass them.

A few minutes after this conversation the I came to the painfully embarrassing realization about why I have a hard time thinking of a story of reconciliation I would be willing to share with a room of 50 people. I don't want embarrass me. You would think I would have recognized who I was protecting much earlier in the process, but it was about 10 minutes after I hung up the phone that I realized I didn't want to talk about my stories of reconciliation, because I didn't want to talk about my own moments of humiliation.

I don't want to be exposed. I don't want to be perceived as the type of person that is weak enough to be mistreated, abused, cheated on, lied to, mocked, judged, or even just hurt. I want to be seen as fearless, strong, capable, lovable, desirable. I don't want to share the stories of people who have hurt me and how we have forgiven each other, because I don't want anyone to think of me as wounded, broken, or even healing.

I want to be seen as perfect. I want to be perceived as someone who is so lovable that no one would want to hurt me, ever, and therefore I have no stories of betrayal. I want people to believe have no stories of neglect or rejection, because no one would dream to devalue me.

A few weeks ago I stared reading The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown. She researched shame and with that vulnerability, authenticity and wholeheartedness. I have linked her TED talks before, and I love them.

At some point in the book or video Brown states that courage is telling your story with your whole heart and her book is set up to invite people into wholehearted living.

Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done, and how much is left undone, I am enough... (pg 1)
At first glance, this can sound very self centered, at least to me. Still, one amazing thing I have realized about forgiveness and reconciliation is that it requires compassion, for everyone, including myself. I have to believe I am enough, in order to believe others are enough, and to offer them compassion. "Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It is a relationship between equals." ( pg 16)  Furthermore, if I hide the wrong that has been done, I create walls that prevent it from being undone/healed. Instead I create space for shame to take over. "Shame needs three things to grow out of control in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment." (pg 40)

So, here is the truth: I am still in process of forgiving; I have been unloved, betrayed, and wounded; I am worthy of more, and so are the people who hurt me; I desire to be unashamed of how I have been treated, and I am working to live in way that allows me to be unashamed of how I have responded.

I am still unsure of what story I will share. I am still wrestling with the shame I feel about ever having allowed anyone to hurt me. Nonetheless, I will at least admit who it is I am hoping to protect, and I will work to recognize that this same protection might be the thing that is preventing me from fully living into forgiveness.

Monday, May 14, 2012

People don't get married in California.

In recent months I have been joking with my friends that I need to move back to TX, in order to get married because people don't get married in CA. This map has proved my point.

Now to decide do I want mountains, oceans, amazing hiking trails, cool weather, amazing culture, and fabulous San Francisco living more or less than I want a hubby?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Riding my bike through the panhandle the other day I looked up and saw a woman in an adorable vintage dress ride past me. My immediate thought was, "I need a floral vintage dress! She is so cute on her adorable bike, in her adorable dress, and all I have on is a striped (vintage) dress and that isn't as awesome as a FLORAL vintage dress, and my bike only has a metal basket and hers is woven, and clearly I NEED a floral vintage dress, because I don't have one, maybe I do have one, but not one with a dark background. Why is she cuter than me?!" 

Yes, most of that really did happen in my head: I had a jealous freak out that another women, who I will likely never speak to, looked cuter than me, at least in my mind, for the 5 seconds I saw her, I think she probably, looked cuter than me.

I like to believe I am a rational person. So, how does a rational woman justify that inner dialog? I think it comes from the mistaken impression that life is a competition, and my goal is to be better than everyone around me at everything. By everything I do mean everything, even my flaws need to be better than everyone else's. I don't think I am alone in this. I have countless conversations with loving and kind, well meaning people, who at one point or another are trying to prove to me, and everyone around them, that they are in fact best/worst at whatever is being discussed. We all seem to find identity in this competition, and in this competition we are all loosing it; not simply loosing the competition, but our own sanity.

It seems that in order to win the competition we find our thing that we feel is ours and we run with it. Sadly, no matter what it is we choose, our winning thing is often very fragile. My thing is my style and the way I ride around on a cute pale blue mixie. So, when I looked up an saw another woman looking cuter than me, I had lost the competition for the day. 9:00 am is way too early in the day to loose. So, I had a spaz moment in my head. Not because she actually looked cuter than me, but because compared to her, I had lost, and therefore my identity for the day was declared less.

Comparison kills joy, and it kills identity. Here is the shockingly bad news: none of us are the best person ever at anything, and we never will be. We are also not the worst, our life is not tragically harder or worse than everyone else's ever. Someone will be cuter, smarter, more stylish, and generally more awesome than you at something, or going through a harder crisis. You can deal with this in one of two ways: be jealous of their awesomeness or celebrate it; compete with their pain or grieve with them.

I wish that I had seen that woman that day and appreciated her style. Thought to myself "wow, that was a great dress" and stopped there. Simply celebrated her beauty instead of being jealous of it. I wish that every time some shared something hard, I offered genuine empathy. I am making a goal of both of these things. I know it will take some work. It will require that I remember that someone else's success does not imply my failure: I will need to learn that my identity is not found in comparison to others; I will have to take time to be grateful for the things I have; and I will need to face my own pain so that I can sit with others in theirs. I am pretty sure if I do these things I will loose fewer nonexistent competitions at 9 am, and that sounds like better idea than buying another vintage dress.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Jaclyn's Bachlorette Is This Weekend

I am off to the Russian River and so thrilled for a weekend with friends in nature. Joy to my soul! Let the shenanigans begin! 

Monday, April 30, 2012


I had been in therapy for over a year when my therapist looked at me and told me I was worthy of love, and that God loved me. The words choked me with discomfort and disbelief, tears welled in my eyes and my emotions where so overwhelming I wanted to leave the room. I was in seminary, I had decided to be a Christian when I was 4, based off the belief that God loved me, I decided again when I was 13, and again when I was 18. I had pretty much decided that responding to God's love was the most important thing in my life, and I had decided it 3 times. These words shouldn't have been hard to hear. I was a chaplain. I told crying girls that God loved them nearly every day. Still, I choked on the words, my eyes welled with tears and I became uncomfortable. I didn't believe I was worthy of love and it felt uncomfortable. I wasn't sure I even wanted it. She repeated these words a few times, and I tried to let them sink in 'I am worthy of love.'

Maybe it is the 4 years I have spent in therapy, the many books/articles I read on self worth or good/bed theology, but while I was once uncomfortable with the idea that I was worthy, I now become uncomfortable when I hear Christians state that we are unworthy of God's love. I  have a hard time because for most of my life I would have agreed with them completely, and I can rattle off about a billion Bible verses that would back up the argument.

When Job questions God, God does a pretty good job letting him know he is small, but still the fact that God is speaking to him at all is a pretty huge statement that God thinks his complaint even warrants a response. David goes to God with the question of 'who am I... that you have brought us this far". David is a man after God's own heart; I am pretty sure that despite his HUGE mistakes, his attitude toward God is generally one I should aspire to imitate. Most of the book of Romans does a pretty good job establishing that as humans we are small. The entire Bible is rampant with sin and shame and terrible choices by humanity, and I am in no way superior to my fellow humans. I could go one for a while making an argument to prove that humanity is unworthy of God's love, but I am still somehow very uncomfortable with the idea.

I guess the conundrum for me is that, I want to say, above all, I believe the Bible is the source of truth, and I believe that the Bible is consistent in its overall message, and I feel that part of overall message is that humanity is loved, and simply by God's choosing to do it we are made worthy of it. I don't think I deserve forgiveness, or that I deserve to have God take on flesh and live and die and be resurrected for me, but I believe that for some reason or another God did deem us worthy of love.

If God has deemed us worthy who are we to disagree with God?

Friday, April 20, 2012

See people

Earlier this week I was on the bus and took my seat near the back. I noticed the man sitting alone in the back row, clearly already drinking despite the fact it was 10 am, but also clearly so far into his alcoholism that his functioning while drunk was pretty high. He was polite and quiet.

He noticed that I noticed him, so I said hello. He seemed surprised that I greeted him, but grateful.

I had planned to read on the bus, so I did. My reading clearly communicated that I wasn't planning to chat, and with that our interaction ended, that is until I got to my stop. As I was getting up to leave he asked if the next stop was the stop was Mission. There were multiple people closer to him, and they were all silent. He wasn't talking to me, he was talking to anyone that would listen, and they were all silent.

Silent. Unwilling to see or hear the man next to them as he asked a simple question.

I turned around and informed him that yes the next stop was Mission. His expression of gratitude was much greater than I deserved, and I am sure it came not from being glad I could offer him direction, but from the fact I was willing to see him.

As I have lived in this city for over 4 years and even as I lived in Dallas, Waco and Mobile, I have seen that one of the saddest elements of poverty is that those of us that are not poor often refuse to see. We look past and are unwilling to hear people.

I will acknowledge that I have been cursed at by many people for not giving them money- but much, much more often, when I look at someone and answer their question, even when my answer is no, they stop and are grateful to be seen.

This past week in context group we were discussing the story of Hagar. She is a slave and yet she is one of the few women in the Bible referred to by name. She is slave and yet when she flees in desperation she is seen by God and that seeing is significant. It is so significant that it is recorded as part of the narrative that gives us a framework for the covenant and the work of God through Abraham.

Furthermore, in response to being seen by God Hagar names God. She gives God a name because God sees her and that name is recorded. This is kind of shocking because as I mentioned twice already she is a slave and slaves don't get to name things, let alone name God. Nonetheless, God sees fit to allow this and to even bless her off spring, because God sees her.

God, the Creator, who has created a covenant with Abram and Sarai, not Hagar, sees a Hagar, despite the fact that she is a slave: a social nobody: the equivalent of a homeless man on a bus.

If God is willing to take the time to see a slave girl that has been discarded and we feel that we are called to follow after God, I feel like maybe we should take more time to see people.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

That kind of writer

"To be a good writer, you not only have to write a great deal but you have to care. You do not have to have a complicated moral philosophy. But a writer always tries, I think, to be a part of the solution, to understand a little about life and to pass this on." ~Anne Lamott~ Bird by Bird

I had the joy of hearing Anne Lamott speak last night. As she spoke I realized why I loved her and so many other authors like her: authors know themselves and are deeply vulnerable without asking us to take their burden. We get to laugh with them as they laugh at themselves, because they know themselves so well and love themselves so well, they can mock their flaws without belittling their own person. It is a level of love that comes only from being deeply vulnerable and honest with who they are.

I long to be that kind of writer and speaker, deeply honest about who I am and all my faults and sharing them with others not to sooth my own ego, but to say it is okay, I get it, I know that half the time you are laughing with me it is the knowing laughter of a fellow control freak and wanna be perfectionist, and having that solidarity makes life so much easier. Until I become that kind of writer, I am simply going to have to keep reading and listening and believing I will get there someday.

Side note I just got The Gifts of Imperfection in the mail. There will be a review soon.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Easter is one of my absolute favorite holidays, because of all of the deeply beautiful things it reminds me of. God became human. Our creator took on skin; skin that gets broken and bruised and dry and bloody, and God did all of that for us. God already knew grief and pain and rejection, but we couldn’t see that. We didn’t have the eyes required to understand God’s pain as he watched us hurt ourselves and live in disobedience; and because we couldn’t see, God chose to walk around among us, showing us how to be who we were created to be.

God took on flesh to live love, and lived love to the point of ultimate sacrifice. God took on physical pain, brutal betrayal, and total rejection. In doing that God joined us in our suffering in a way that we could understand, even as his his pain is still even greater than we can understand, and God did so in a way that challenges all of our views on what a savior ought to look like.

 Than after the bloody mess of the cross God showed us what is possible. God showed us redemption in the form of resurrection. God showed us that even the worst pain can be made right, even the worst rejection can be healed, and in all this, God loves, even as we fail to love.

Celebrating Easter reminds me that God not only understands the pain of being human but has chosen to live in that pain and redeem us through it. These simple truths are often easy to forget and nonetheless the basics of faith.

* I originally wrote this for my church newsletter

If you would like some additional interesting reading for Easter thoughts, I enjoyed Rachel Held Evens blog posts on the women of the Passion, 1, 2, 3, 4

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday Prayer by Henri Nouwen

Source: bit.ly via Catrina on Pinterest

We closed our Good Friday service with this prayer and it moved my heart. I hope it also moves yours.

Dear Lord Jesus,
You, “the image of the unseen God, the first-born of all creation, for whom all things are created in heaven and on earth, everything visible and everything invisible,” you hang dead on a cross. You have just spoken your last words, “It is fulfilled,” and given up your spirit.
I look at your dead body on the cross. The soldiers, who have broken the legs of the two men crucified with you, do not break your legs, but one of them pierces your side with a lance, and immediately blood and water flow out. Your heart is broken, the heart that did not know hatred, revenge, resentment, jealousy or envy but only love, love so deep and so wide that it embraces your Father in heaven as well as all humanity in time and space. Your broken heart is the source of my salvation, the foundation of my hope, the cause of my love. It is the sacred place where all that was, is and ever shall be is held in unity. There all suffering has been suffered, all anguish lived, all loneliness endured, all abandonment felt and all agony cried out. There, human and divine love have kissed, and there God and all men and women of history are reconciled. All the tears of the human race have been cried there, all pain understood and all despair touched. Together with all people of all times, I look up to you whom they have pierced, and I gradually come to know what it means to be part of your body and your blood, what it means to be human.
As I look, my eyes begin to recognize the anguish and agony of all the people for whom you gave yourself. Your broken heart becomes the heart of all of humanity, the heart of all the world. You carry them all: abandoned children, rejected wives and husbands, broken families, the homeless, refugees, prisoners, the maimed and tortured, and the thousands, yes millions, who are unloved, forgotten and left alone to die. I see their emaciated bodies, their despairing faces, their anguished looks. I see them all there, where your body is pierced and your heart is ripped apart. O compassionate Lord, your heart is broken because of all the love that is not given or received.
Blood and water flowed from your broken heart. Lord Jesus, help me to understand this mystery. So much blood has flowed through the centuries: blood of people who did not even know why they were trampled underfoot, mutilated, tortured, slain, beheaded and left unburied; blood caused by swords, arrows, guns and bombs, tainting the faces of millions of people; blood that comes forth from angry, bitter, jealous, vengeful hearts, and from hearts that are set on hatred, violence and destruction. From the blood of Abel killed by his brother to the blood of the Jews, the Armenians, the Ukrainians, the Irish, the Iranians and Iraqis, the Palestinians, the South Africans and the countless nations and ethnic groups victimized by the evil intentions of their sisters and brothers in the human race, blood has been covering the earth, and cries have gone up to heaven: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?”

Let the blood and water that flow from your heart give me a new heart to live a new life. I know that in this world water and blood will never be separated. There will be peace and anguish, joy and tears, love and agony. They will be there always—together—leading me daily closer to you who give your heart to my heart.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hungry for Change - Reflections on Day 1 & 2

Monday morning, I woke up to heat the beans I needed for my Trade as One Hungry for Change Challenge I am participating in along side 200 people from City Church. I was a day late starting and I had procrastinated too late on Sunday night to get it done, so at 6 am my alarm went off and by 7 I finally drug myself out of bed to my stove to turn the burner on for the beans I soaked over night.

I will confess I grumbled and felt sorry for myself. Poor me. I had to wake up early, and I am not going to eat a full meal until Thursday evening Seder. Nothing but oatmeal, beans, rice, water, and tea for 4 days (like I said I started a day late).

Grumbling over rolling out of my epically comfortable bed to turn on a burner, then immediately climbing back onto my memory foam mattress, I was clearly not thinking about the women and children who walk miles to get water, then create a fire in hopes that they can boil away anything in their water that will kill them or at minimum make them severely ill.

As I am coming to the end of day 2 I am aware of how much I take for granted. Hot water has been my saving grace every time my tummy pleads for more food; hot, clean, easy to access WATER.

Somehow the first time I walked over to the stove to heat up water at my work that reality hit me, and each time since I have been challenged by the fact that although this challenge is intense, it is still so much easier than the realities of half the world. Water is hard to come by and clean safe water even harder.

How is it that I have so much, when the world has so little?

How is it that the hardest work I have to do for 1000 calories is clean up the water that overflowed while I snuck back into bed? And more importantly what am I going to do about it?

I will say, by way of shameless plug: I am excited that Do Good Lab (a non-profit I volunteer with) is raising funds to help projects in the developing world.

I will also say that even with this there has to be more to be done. There has to be a better way for us to live. God created this world with enough resources for everyone. I need to learn the art of taking only my fair share.

Also, if you are interested in a more spiritual take on the challenge please read my roommates reflection on the City Church blog.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I have decided that this book might be one of the bravest books I have ever read. 

I came to this conclusion as I deleted about 10 posts I attempted to write addressing my own experience of grief.

As I have been busily marking off tasks on my to do lists and writing self-indulgent posts, I have also been grieving and at times running away from the experience of grieving.

So, tonight I leave you with this quote and book recommendation.

"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear."
- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Friday, March 30, 2012

Smarty Pants

I am pretty sure I have known everything there is to know about the Bible since I was like 5. No, really no one has ever needed to teach me anything, because I know it all. Every youth minister, and pastor, and Sunday school teacher I have ever had can attest to my knowledge.

Or total lack there of. (Proof that I didn't real know everything: In 12th grade I thought that Calvinism had died with the pilgrims. I told my youth minister that. He was a Calvinist. Oops!)

Growing up, I was that kid in church and as an adult I am that woman in church: the one who knows everything. Even worse, I am now armed with an MDiv to prove it.

Seminary should have broken me of this: as the main thing I was confident of upon graduation was that there was so much more I needed to learn. Still, there are some lessons that are just too easy to forget.

Recently, I started taking the Eucharist University Class at my church (aka- Bible study on crack, in which we are given geography quizzes!) Armed with my MDiv I should be doing fine, but I am behind in my reading and realizing with each reading assignment how much I don't know/don't remember. (My professors at Treutt where pretty awesome, so I am more than confident they taught me this stuff: I just don't remember it.)

I am writing this out not simply as another confession on a now very confession oriented blog- but to say what I am learning about my arrogance as I observe it.

  • It makes me silent with fear of being exposed as a fraud, and lazy when I should dig deeper and ask more questions. 
  • It makes me feel superior to people and therefore prevents me from learning from them, loving them, and serving them. 
  • Most significantly it prevents me from living in the way of Jesus and following his example.
When Jesus was 12 he went to the Great City for the Great Feast and his parents left him there. When they returned they didn't find him scared and hiding or even playing. They found him in his Father's House with the teachers. He was listening to them and asking them questions! (Luke 2) If Jesus, the Son of God who gave the scriptures to us, can see the need to spend his time learning and growing in wisdom and knowledge I am pretty sure I should rethink the smarty pants act. 

Even more as I look to Holy Week next week I should remember what real humility looks like. It looks like that same child 21 years later willing to take on the ultimate shame of the cross. Jesus taught with wisdom and truth that changed peoples lives. His knowledge of the Law was perfect. Even armed with more knowledge than I will ever posses: he didn't feel the need to prove himself, instead he gave himself.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.~Philippians 2:3-11 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The SOLD Project

I got to meet Tawee tonight. After three years of supporting The Sold Project's work in Thailand, it was an honor to meet the Thailand Director. His story was inspiring! His passion was evident and his vision for his village is amazing.

Most impressive to me is how he talked about the girls that 'made bad choices' but still needed support. His desire to continue to offer grace even when prevention has failed but the girls still need a place to come back to, is so beautiful.

He told the story of a young girl in their programs who was shamed by her family and the village. She left for the city. She was in school in the city, but she dropped out and got a job at as a beer girl. Still, The Sold Project pursued her and invited her back. The admitted that because the village had hurt her they would need to earn back her trust, but they offered her support and a way back into the community. Tawee said it better than I did, but more than anything he made the point:

Prevention is meaningful and hard and necessary, even if what you are preventing is preventing them from going back.

Please watch the video and learn more about how you can help prevent child prostitution.

Stand 4 Freedom from The SOLD Project on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

“It’s a gift to joyfully recognize and accept our own smallness and ordinariness. Then you are free with nothing to live up to, nothing to prove, and nothing to protect. Such freedom is my best description of Christian maturity, because once you know that your 'I' is great and one with God, you can ironically be quite content with a small and ordinary 'I.' No grandstanding is necessary. Any question of your own importance or dignity has already been resolved once and for all and forever.” Richard Rohr

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Good books

I am grateful for good books and coffee.

I am grateful the opportunity to learn and grow, for the luxury of reading and imagination, for the chance to loose myself in someone else's story and from that experience become better able to understand my own.

I am grateful.

Monday, March 26, 2012


I am grateful for friend's kids to take photos with.

I am grateful for a job that I love and coworkers who check in on me with genuine interest.

I am grateful for trips out of the city.

I am grateful for rainy days.

I am grateful for opportunities to volunteer for an amazing organization that is seeking to support work done in the developing world. (Do Good Lab - you can volunteer too!)

I am grateful for opportunities to grow in my faith, and reminders that Holiness is not sin management but finding identity in my Creator.

I am grateful for Mad Men parties and vintage dresses and hair and makeup that gets a reaction.

I am grateful for late night movie showings on opening weekend and chocolate covered espresso to keep me awake for it.

I am grateful for cheese and gluten free crackers.

I am grateful for lattes and americanos and coffee.

I am grateful for the reminders to grieve, even when I don't want to and even when all I can do is cry for the fictional character, because crying for the real life and death of those I have cared for still feels like too much.

I am grateful for Christian family and biological family and for the reminder that I was created to be in relationship and I that I want to find love and I need to find love and I am grateful that that reminder reminds me that seeking love is worth the risk, even if it is hard.

I am grateful for close friends and best friends and sisters.

I am grateful that God chose to take on flesh and show us what living a life of love looks like.

I am grateful for reconciliation and forgiveness and hard conversations that lead to better relationship.

I am hopeful that the issues of racism in our country that are being brought to light will someday lead to greater reconciliation as we acknowledge that we have yet to fully seek restoration but have instead sought to hide our mistakes. I am grateful for friends and community that are willing to take these issues on and seek healing and renewal and admit that we are still wrong.

I am grateful for grace.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Finding Sabbath

As this weekend approached I pretty much had every minute booked up. To be honest I was kind of dreading the weekend of unrest, despite the fact that I loved everyone and everything that would be filling up my hours. Then a flu outbreak (not me or anyone I know) canceled my Saturday morning plans, and my friends postponed a crafting party scheduled for Sunday afternoon. I almost feel guilty about how relieved I felt to get the news about both of these events, almost.

With that said, I think it is highly appropriate timing that I am about to read the book Sabbath with a group of lovely women. Despite the fact that I have written on Sabbath a few times here, I am terrible at it. Even more in the past few months I have given myself intentional permission to over book myself, and I am happier than I have been in a long time. I am a bit torn and tired. I have a handful of friends who are dealing with some really heavy things and I am not sure that I have been able to be there for them the ways that I would like to. To be honest I just spent much of my evening with an amazing woman, mostly talking about me. So, clearly, I do not have my life figured out. Nonetheless, being busy is making me happy, while observing the Sabbath is a commandment I tend to forget. 

With just 9 minutes left in the seventh day of the week, I am confessing: I need to develop this discipline, evan as I am loving the sense of productivity I am feeling these days. I need to take a day each week to trust that God can get everything done without my help and take that day to celebrate and enjoy God's goodness. I did that today, as my plans changed the day opened itself up to only fun and relaxing endeavors, and it was wonderful, and I am deeply grateful. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Give it and feel love

Lately I feel like I am constantly taking new risks, making new friends, and allowing my desire to know people to let me be a bit more on the side of pursuit than pursed. I often feel terrified that all of me is too much. Tiny rejections leave me in fear that my friendship is undesired or misread and I am a burden to bear. I hate crying. I buy girly dressed just to stare at them in my closet each morning afraid to wear them for fear that they make me look childish and weak. I hate vulnerability, risk, and shame. I am terribly embarrassed by the idea that I have ever and will ever again have a crush on someone that sees me with nothing but a great deal of respect, but has little to no desire for me. I am equally terrified of pursuing friendship only to have hard times made harder by the reality that I have no idea who to call when I need someone to cry with.

I am surrounded by friends, and being highly respected is worth more to me than being thought of a pretty/desirable. I cannot think of anyone in my life that doesn't speak wisdom and love into everything I do and seek to do. I have amazing people all over the world who love me. So, I have to ask myself: why is that I am constantly chasing more? What is it that I am chasing or holding onto with clinched fists?

I am reading Free of Charge by Miroslav Volf. (I bet no one expected a Zooey Deschenel quote to be followed by a theological reference.) In reading this book I am constantly feeling challenged to accept the gifts of God in order to give them, to be a channel. How can I be a channel of God's gifts if I am afraid of truly experiencing them? The primary gift I am thinking of is God's bountiful love and acceptance.

I also have become a HUGE fan of Brene Brown's work on vulnerability and shame. (Thank you TED talks!) In her first talk she talks about those who experience love are the ones who most believe they are deserving of love. So, my fear of being undeserving of love seems to be the biggest thing blocking me from it, well isn't that just nifty.

I guess this a confession. I am deeply joyful and deeply discontent all at once in my one heart and soul, and it feels about bit overwhelming. Yet somehow, I think that by being fully myself in the world: a bit overwhelmed by both its goodness and its brokenness, and filled with both love and rejection, I am more able to offer love and to give the gifts I have been given. At least that is my hope. It is my hope that even as a am deeply afraid, I can also be courageous to face my fear and offer love. It is also my hope that in doing so, I will inspire others to face their own fear and offer love.

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. ~Mother Teresa~

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Gratitude and Lament

I remembered tonight that part of Lent is lament, and therefore maybe my goal of happy gratitude as I prepared my heart for Easter might have been a little misplaced. Instead it might be wiser to think of gratitude in terms of repentant thanksgiving for who God is and what God has done and given for me. This reminder came today from an unexpected story.

In my Context Group (read: Bible Study, Life Group, Community Group, Small Group, whatever your church calls the smaller meeting of people during the week) we are going through Genesis. In three weeks we have busted through creation, eating the fruit, and fratricide. So today we were discussing that lovely nursery decorating, children's story of Noah's Ark. You know the story, where all of humanity aside from one family is drowned in a massive flood. In short one of the messier and darker stories of the Bible that we tend to dress up as something cute, because we don't want to deal with the harshness of it.

I realized tonight how much of the story I have missed. Not in that I don't know the details, or the historical context it was written in or any of that, but I realized I have read the character of God wrong. I always read the story as the story of an angry God, but if you read it closely most of the emotions attributed to God are the emotions of grief and sorrow. Yes, there is judgment, but there is a redemptive plan and sorrow: unspeakable painful sorrow, for the state of the world. GOD IS SAD, that he* created humanity because humanity is evil, and in this evil we are hurting ourselves.

Furthermore, even after the flood God is resigned to deal with our evil instead of choosing to destroy us once and for all. He goes so far as to enter into covenant with us, knowing that our hearts are evil.

In response to this, as best I can, I want join God in God's sorrow instead of taking it on as my own. I want to remember that God has been at work redeeming this world over and over again, and he has done it at the cost of his own heart and his own sorrow. I want to say that I am grateful for holy memories of the story of God.

*Being a bit on the feminist side and a HUGE fan of inclusive language for God, I want to apologize for calling God 'he' all the time. I just sometimes find the inclusive language more distracting than helpful. If you need to mentally edit to 'she' I will not be offended. ;)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I said I would post daily during lent. I would post about the things I was grateful for. To be honest, I hadn't thought about how that commitment would play out if anything bad happened. I didn't think about how writing daily would work when I was grieving or angry. I had thought that finding joy and beauty in the little things would make it all better and I would grow in my relationship with God.

It turns out it isn't that easy.

I don't want to be ungrateful to God for all the truly good things he has done. I will confess I am a bit frustrated with myself for how easily my devotion to God crumbles when I feel God has been unjust, and when I think just maybe he didn't ration out his love the way I think he ought to have.

So, tonight as I think about gratitude: I am grateful that God's love doesn't falter as easily as mine.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Grateful Day 7 or something... I just know I missed a few

Writing about my gratitude feel frivolous and hard today, not because I am not grateful, but because I can't find words strong enough to state how grateful I am and how broken the world is all at the same time.

I am grateful for the opportunity to do work that impacts people's lives, and I grieve that sometimes those lives cannot embrace change.

I am grateful for colleagues who are willing to hold space and think through how we can best create safety for the people we serve.

I am grateful for pastors all over the country that are seeking to live out the Kingdom in their communities.

I am grateful that I serve a God that cares deeply and loves more fully than I love and offers infinitely more grace than I do.

I am grateful for conferences, and adorable hotels, and southern hospitality, and Irish pubs, and friends I have not seen in years, and flights that don't connect so that I end up spending the night in Dallas with an old friend who lives in Africa but is in Texas for a few months.

I am grateful for friends that are able to understand my emotions.

I am grateful for people who are willing to listen.

I am grateful for hope.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grateful day 2

I am grateful for chats with friends, sitting in the car stressing out with people who are honest enough to tell me I am in fact crazy, thinking about why I doubt and why I believe, a work week well done and full of best efforts, a wardrobe of fabulous clothes covering my floor and no one to tell me I need to clean it up, opportunities to learn, late nights followed by early mornings, the chill in the evening air, cheese, chocolate, hot showers, hopeful day dreams, and good books with good coffee.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Whatever is pleasing... think about these things

During Lent I am aiming to be more grateful and to see the gifts of God in all that I am surrounded by. Here is my visual and written account of gratitude for today.

I am grateful for a city filled with flower shops, and for flowers in mason jars and tiny shot glasses that former roommates left behind.

I am grateful for street finds of globes and silly things that have been on my wish list forever, appearing in my life at no cost to me. 

I am so very grateful for my dog Ella, who ran over a mile with me tonight (a feat for a dog with short little legs), and I am grateful for my younger sister who gave Ella a sock monkey for Christmas (it might be her favorite toy!).

I am grateful that I live in a city with clean water and I am able to connect with organizations that want to help others have clean water (Do Good Lab).

I am grateful for a job that allows me to help people pursue the best for themselves and transition out of poverty. 

I am grateful for sunny days and the ability to ride my bike to work.

I am grateful for new friends and growing relationship.

I am grateful for community and places of welcome. (Both City Church and Eucharist are amazing sources of both for me.)

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in crafting up a wonderful DIY wedding for an amazing couple! (J & N, I love you!)

More than all of this, I am grateful for seasons of my life intended to remind me to reorder my priorities.

"Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and receivedand heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you."
- Philippians 4:4-9

Monday, January 30, 2012

Murdered Potentials (or reflecting on my day)

"It may be that what you could be haunts you. It is real. It is a weight you have to carry around. Each failure to become, to be, is a weight. Each state you could inhabit is a burden as heavy as any physical weight, but more so, because it weighs on your soul. It is the ghost of your possibilities hanging around your neck, an invisible albatross, potentials unknowingly murdered." Ben Okri
I read this quote this morning and kind of hated how much it felt like my life, but it also stood in odd contrast to the other passage I spent my morning and day reflecting on. 
As Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, he will always love one and ignore the other” (Matthew 6:24). Our first and final loyalty is to one kingdom: God’s or our own. We can’t really fake it. The Big Picture is apparent when God’s work and will are central, and we are happy to take our place in the corner of the frame.
Because I am a part of the Big Picture, I do matter, and substantially so. Because I am only a part, however, I am rightly situated off to stage right—and happily so. What freedom there is in such truth! We are inherently important and included, yet not burdened with manufacturing or sustaining that private importance. Our dignity is given by God, and we are freed from ourselves!
Adapted from Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr, pp. 13-14
You see the first passage has me feeling that I am of epic importance. If I fail I will somehow let all of the world down, because clearly the world needs me to relieve my own soul of the burden of my failure, and I can only do this by becoming who I could be. The second passage has relieves me of the burden of my own importance and allows me to be a participant in God's good work, but I am only a participant. If I fail God will take care of the rest. (To be clear I am not certain either author would love how I have internalized their words.)

Nonetheless, I am not sure that I am saying this two ideas are mutually exclusive or that either is wrong (they both came from daily meditations by Christian websites that I really enjoy). But maybe they balance each other out a bit. You see maybe, I am carrying the weight of murdered potentials - killed by my fear, anxiety, or search for stability, and maybe, I am not so important that I have to carry that weight. Maybe, instead my unmet potential is something that God is already aware of and working in and carrying for me. Further as I am only part of the story, it is likely that other parts of the story are taking on and filling in the gaps left by of my failure. My unmet potential is only part of the work of the kingdom, just as my accomplished potential is also part of the Kingdom and none of that is the point because the Kingdom is the point. My success is not the point, nor is my need to take on the injustice of the world the point,  but God's restoring work in the world, that I get to be part of, is the point. 

So, I am still burdened by my failure to be perfect. I am still haunted by what could be if I could just work a bit harder and do a bit more and take on my next great challenge, and I should be. I am significant to this world and the skills and abilities I have matter, none of them should be abandoned, and I am not let off the hook to cease striving. Still all of those things are only part of the work of the Kingdom, and I am not the point, I am a participant. 

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