Category Archives: Some Other Thoughts

Holy Hell

Today was a busy 5+ hours of garage sale-ing, rock climbing, swimming, friends, family. It was jam packed with laughter and in/out, go go go go go. For the adults, we were feeling the tired feelings and watching the kids begin to express them. The tired turned to exhaustion at about 8 pm when my eldest began to lose his shit over the small stuff. His focus factor had diminished to nil and I asked for his toy so he could put his remaining energy into his teeth. He threw the toy and my youngest fled the room in tears. After 20 minutes of working to understand the rapid decline in behavior mixed with careless words and sobs, we finally got to the root of the problem.

After the long hugs and apologies, on multiple sides, he said something really interesting. “I wish I was like Jesus because he could take all these frustrating feelings and blow them up.” This was such a beautiful moment to teach my kids that all of their emotions are holy and okay.

Jesus overturned tables. He made a whip. He cursed a tree. He showed us angry. Many could even argue that it is an angry God shown through much of Scripture. And if God can show angry, we can too.

What is hard about communication in general though, whether between humans, gods, or any mix therein, is that it involves more than one. With my son, in order to understand what he is feeling and trying to communicate, I have to learn a new language. He speaks 7 year old, I speak 36 years young. He doesn’t experience things through my lens, he experiences them through his. His experience is no less valuable than mine and his emotions are just as valid.

Children are people. They are important. They have inherent worth. And so do I. So do you.

Anger is hard and uncomfortable. But it is holy and, I think, it is because anger reveals what we truly value. My eldest valued his toy and autonomy, both were violated and anger was the tool used to communicate it. So I learn, grow, and adjust. I can change how I approach him and he in turn can change how he responds to me and vice versa.

When I experience anger, my first inclination, every single time, is to evaluate whether it is reasonable or compelling. What caused this situation? Did it feel intentional or more accidental? Why am I angry and reacting with such feeling? Usually, I lose myself in other points of view because anger is such an exhausting emotion; but also I figure that expressing my feelings probably isn’t beneficial to the situation. I got the wrong order at the restaurant that I was really looking forward to? “Maybe I just ordered the wrong thing or didn’t annunciate and the waiter does look really busy, I bet he has a lot to do. And it isn’t easy waiting on all these people. Maybe I can make life easier and just eat this. Food is food.” Now, super simplified. I know. But put it in a different context such as trying to understand my past. I reach out to a person, hoping for help in understanding, and they shut it down. “Maybe I asked incorrectly? Maybe I wasn’t clear in what I was hoping for? Maybe I reached out on a bad day? I can just work it out on my own. I could have asked how I could have helped them.”

While I still want to ease the burden of those I emotionally engage with, my emotions… my perspective… my experience is just as valid as those with whom I am trying to relate. I am now aware of how much I have put my experiences, my thoughts, my emotions on hold or dismissed altogether; now the struggle is helping/letting/encouraging the voice and experience of others WHILE making sure I also embrace my own as equal. I don’t want to be on the teeter totter– it isn’t about bouncing back and forth so that people are either yelling or silent. This is about me stepping off the ride because I am beginning to value my voice and my experiences as much as I do others.

Emotions are commonly compared to a roller coaster. We allow them to control us or we shove them away or we plant them to burgeon forth another day. Anger is an easy emotion to let control the moment, but there has to be something useful about it also. Maybe if it reveals to us what we really treasure, it also provides the motivation to bring change. Change in ourselves, in our environment.

It is hard to sit with out joy and not worry when the other shoe is going to drop. It is hard to sit with our anger and try to understand from where it came. But it can be/is also hard to sit with another’s joy… another’s anger…. Another’s pain.

In Atlas of the Heart, by Brené Brown, she writes, “When we are reckless with other peoples stories, we diminish our own humanity.” With my child, his story was different than mine, but no less true. I want him to learn that his story is valuable, but that it is also valuable to listen and believe the stories of those around him. I want others to know that my story is valuable, so that meant I too needed to realize that it is… even when I am angry.


It has now been over a month since I wrote this. It began as a therapeutic process for me to understand my pain and my anger as well as claim them as my own. Your story with all of its pain, anger, and joy is vital. Share it with those you trust, who will handle you with care. Because you are important.

Boundaries.

Are. Hard.

I have experienced things in the past 16 years of life that I never anticipated growing up in my very protected Midwestern home. Those aspects of my life, who I am, what I have endured, I have accepted. Little me would not recognize old me’s identity and liberty.

But what the heck does that have to do with boundaries? Well, on the surface not much. But I only began changing my perception of myself 11 or so years ago. So, 25 solid years established really deep brain paths, but 11 years is a good start on new ones.

I used to think that to be a good Christian was to give people what ever they needed emotionally. No matter the cost to myself. Do you need to talk? Do you need a hug? Someone to just sit with you? Do you need me to do the talking? Do you need me to open up about something? And those are not bad things. I do not regret giving of myself like that and will continue to for whoever needs it, whenever they need it.

But that original understanding wasn’t complete. Because I too am a person deserving of a safe space. Or we could write that truth as this: Because I too am a person. You are a person.

Now, I don’t really strive to be a “good Christian,” I love Jesus… but that label and all it misrepresents more often than not leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t care if your are white or black, straight or part of the beautiful LGTBQIA community. In a committed relationship with one or you are more fluid and are with many. I see your color, your community, your situation, I see your joy, pain, grief, and I hold it close to my heart. Or maybe that is what it means to be a “good Christian.”

What I have realized this month is that my boundaries come into play when I ask for space in turn, for someone to care for me and that request is denied or belittled over and over again. It is usually like a giant red flag is thrown and I see it for the first time along with seven others flags already in the field. My boundaries help me to communicate, usually to myself, that I need to step back no matter if it is because of myself, someone else, or the situation requires it. This gives me the space to evaluate and reevaluate (probably multiple times) what is going on inside of me.

So here is my philosophy on empathy, compassion and the practice of holding space for people. We as people create an area for ourselves in our thoughts and the deepest parts of our soul where we ponder… cherish… protect those things that effect us the most whether positive or negative. We guard them, place boundaries around them. When we are overflowing with the bubbly feel goods, we naturally bring people into the joy to celebrate with us. When our being is crumbling because of trauma or sorrow or mental desperation, we ask people into the space to hold the line for us. Usually, I think, we are both scenarios at the same time to some extent. In that place we are simply ourselves and it is holy. Authentic. Unmasked.

Simplified down, my understanding of compassion is that at its core, it is genuine, about you, concern; empathy is compassion in gentle action. Now add that to the concept of the sacred self in you and that of the sacred in others. And here, what we have now created, is the space we hold for each other. It is hard because it requires vulnerability and openness. It is hard because it isn’t always accepted. It is hard to be the one asking if people want to come in and it is hard to be willing to come.

What is the point of humanity if not to find those people with whom we can simply be? What is the point if we can’t be that person for others? Nothing quite hurts like a expressing a need for someone to catch you in your brokenness and you hit concert. But there is also no place that is more reassuring than to be caught when you need it most. We can examine the reverse of that as well. There is nothing like trying to support someone and miss the mark, having them walk away from you and know they are more hurt than before. But there is no greater assurance of purpose than to be that safe shoulder for another.

During the last month specifically, I have come to realize that my space is as sacred as others. But I have also realized that I do not voice my boundaries very well, mainly because I have ignored all the other red flags on the field until I am overwhelmed. I now understand that I rarely use boundaries to keep people out, rather I use them to give myself the time to figure out what isn’t working in me and why. Once I understand though, I attempt to open the gates again.

Is it a perfect? Psssh. Please. Heck no, but damn it, I am proud of the trying.


A quick note. The concept of boundaries and safety need to be clearly understood. At no time, while working through my understanding of my boundaries was I physically in danger or emotionally beyond carelessness and unintentional neglect. If you or someone is experiencing physical abuse or emotional manipulation/abuse of any kind, you need to find professional help in maintaining your boundaries. Because you are a person.

“Now, just try to blend in.”

Isn’t it interesting when you have a thought then a dear friend expresses that similar thought a day later? My thought: “What is it about Sister Act that keeps bringing me back over and over again?” My mother’s thought: “What is one book, poem, or movie that you find yourself returning to again and again?” She wrote her thoughts on a book series by Penelope Wilcock, “The Hawk and the Dove,” read her thoughts here, while I find myself returning to a favorite movie.

Have you ever visited some work of art— be it written, spoken, sung, drawn, or acted— and find yourself returning to it when you find you need that little bit of something extra? This movie is one of mine. At first it called to my soul through music. (I am a theater junky. Get with it or get over it.) Then it became an unspoken tradition to watch it with my grandparents. Now, after having seen it easily a hundred times— and that is a conservative estimate, I have realized that there are parts of who I am because of this film.

I can still hear my Grandfather and Grandmother chuckle when Sister Mary Lazarus raps the table with her knuckle while talking about her convent with no running water in Canada and says, “It was hell on earth. I loved it!” Here is the truth, life here on earth is hell. There is pain, there is suffering, there is hunger, there is loss. John Milton, in Paradise Lost, wrote, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” And this film portrays that very trial gently.

Sister Act is a call to remind ourselves about the hard stuff. It is uncomfortable. It is awkward. It is dysfunctional. A black, Las Vegas show woman sees a murder and is hidden in a white washed, sequestered convent from her mob boss ex-boyfriend. And it is hilarious.

It is a poignant reflection of the church. One that has been sitting here for almost three decades now. One that we joke about understanding, but clearly do not. Make church more accessible— put in the coffee shop, brighten up the music, I don’t need to go on as you have heard it all before. But we miss the point!!!! When was the last time you saw a non- Christian speak from the pulpit of a church? When was the last time you saw a non-Christian have value outside of needing to be “saved” inside the church? When was the last time you went out into the community, just to serve the community? Btw, doing this in hopes of increasing your church numbers doesn’t count.

In many ways, it reminds me of the final song in Encanto where Abuela apologizes for holding on to tight. She sings, “The miracle is not, some magic that you’ve got, the miracle is you. The miracle is you, not some gift, just you. The miracle is you. All of you, all of you.”

This seems counter to what church teaching has been for thousands of years. But why not welcome everyone? Towards the end of the film, the nuns have taken down the chain link fences, started a soup line, created a kids playground, and at the very end, the choir performed for the Pope. The people that they served in the community showed up in all of their jewelry, leathers, and raucous applause. Quit worrying about whether they change or not… maybe they aren’t the ones that need to. After all isn’t it God’s job to separate the goats from the sheep, the weeds from the grain?

Ps: I am a huge fan girl to both Whoopi Goldberg and Maggie Smith. ❤️❤️❤️ okay. I’m done. 😬😁

Opening Up

The other day, The boys and I stepped out on to the deck to leave the house for a bit. They were fully clothed (miraculous, I know), I had my keys, wallet AND phone, we were ready. I am out the door first and I see, sitting just to the rear drivers side of the car, a bunny. Yep, there was Bugs just nibbling on the clover. So I paused and let both kids pass me on the stairs. I watched as the rabbit turned into granite as the kids hit the bottom step.

So I whispered, “Hey, guys, come back up here I want to show you something.”

And in that moment, as both boys stomped their way back up the steps, I knew that there were only a couple of realistic outcomes, I mean I have a six and four year old, you could list the viable options for me. But they reached the top step, saw the rabbit and the two opposing, possible outcomes occurred together as time slowed down.

Vulnerability is a scary, opening, brave opportunity we give ourselves. We invite a person into this space we have prepared both physically and mentally where we are giving them insight into what is important to us. That is a powerful gift, one that we give to ourselves and to others.

My six year old went quiet and watched. The 4 year old shouted, “I will chase it away!” Aaaand he took off down the stairs. These are common reactions when we invite people into our safe spaces. Some will sit, grateful with wonder. Others will run and chase the wonder away, unable to sit in the moment.

Being vulnerable, in this moment, didn’t cost me much, honestly I was expecting both boys to chase the rabbit away. If anything, the rabbit was really the vulnerable one that shared the moment with us. Sometimes vulnerability is inviting a child to come see a rabbit, hoping that they embrace the quiet beauty of the moment with you. Other times, it is daring to nibble on clover while maintaining eye contact with a creature much larger than ourselves.

And there are large, intimidating creatures out there that are continually staring us down. But can we feed ourselves if we don’t acknowledge we are hungry?? We are starving to be known and there is no security in baring parts of ourselves, even to people we trust—in fact that can be even scarier, but on the flip side, there isn’t any true security in our silence either. If we are not willing to be so beautifully brave, we will simply fade more and more from lack of simple, open connection. I want more for me than that. I want more for you.

This all sounds fluffy. But it really is hard to feed ourselves the connection of openness when we are sore, battered, bruised, traumatized by a society of make believe perfection and hard core judgement. Vulnerability is freaking hard and scary. Talking about miscarriage. Or spousal abuse— physical OR emotional, being fired from work, topics of shame or fear. These are hard things, but I think vulnerability just might be the food that helps us realize we are not alone.

I Have Fallen from the Tree

I create seasonal checklists to retain my sanity and some semblance of my identity. As a stay at home parent of a five year old and a four year old, I have found this to be the simplest way to not forget myself. This checklist isn’t things that I need to do, but rather anything I would like to do if I have a spare moment or simply need to feel like I am human. It hangs on my refrigerator and is there for me— not the other way around. The list might look like:

  • Enjoy a glass of wine
  • Have a phone date with _______
  • Clean out the cupboards
  • Learn something new
  • Memorize a poem
  • Visit Montana
  • Hike the Appalachian Trail
  • Try a new recipe
  • Support a small business
  • Walk a hundred miles

It is so fulfilling to check off a box— because it is what I want. It is crazy, realistic, hopeful, everything and nothing. And every season as I sit down to create my list, I always include “Witness Something Beautiful.” I have marked it off every single time and I think it is because I am looking. Today, I checked that box again.

I was walking over to my neighbors, to help her put on her socks, when I happened to walk under a tree and was lavishly rained upon with leaves. I paused and thought, “I didn’t witness something, I was apart if it.” Clear blue skies, golden leaves raining down, and I was in the middle. Cool. I continued on my path with a heart-full smile, finished the mission, and began the short walk back. I come to the same tree and as soon as I walk up to it, it begins to rain leaves again. A holy, irreverent moment ensued.

“OKAY! I get it! You are here and present! But you know what?!?!?” I began talking to God about how I know he is there and she is good, but I have all these unanswered questions, doubts, frustrations, anger, and heartache. And in the stillness between moments, I heard a reply and was given a gift.

Thomas Merton wrote, “There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.” My faith has evolved so much since I made it my own 28 some years ago. I was sitting in a Wednesday night class when someone announced their decision to follow Jesus. I remember so clearly bowing my head and silently praying, “Uh Jesus? If that girls needs you, then you better get in here and change me cause I need you way more.”

My vision of who God was, was a simple cleaner upper of humanity. And sure, to a certain degree that is true. But as I have aged and ever so slowly matured, I have come to see that he is also okay with us being dirty. Wrestling in the mud with the hard stuff. He is okay with our doubts, our fears. God can handle our honest anger. Because we learn more about ourselves and therefore more about God when we do. When we ask the hard questions. When we wrestle with our humanity. When our hurt, pain, and anger overtake us. When our joy is complete, the cup is overflowing, and peace surrounds us. If we are willing to take the deep breath and explore the moment and all that moment involves, we can learn about who we are and who God is. If we are looking and listening.

And today, I was.

Me.