Fighting Our Shame with Silence: a lesson in finding the truth through gratitude


As human beings, I think if we are really honest, the painfully quiet moments are the hardest for us.

In those moments, we hear ourselves.

In those moments, we dream.

We grieve.

We speak.

We believe.

Or, we absolutely doubt.

And there, most of us are looking more at what should be than what is.


Years ago, monks flogged themselves as they roamed the halls of their holy places, a punishment and form of killing off their broken human parts and their sins.

Even though the practice is not as common today, I suppose you and I still flog ourselves, too.

When it’s really quiet and we aren’t making excuses to anyone or defending our causes, we are hurting.

We are lonely.

We beat and bruise ourselves.

We’ve missed it again.

We punish.

We are afraid.

So when we’re tired of the quiet and we can’t stand the voice any longer, we run to the chaos, to the loud, to the TV, to the music, to the drink.

There are stories of Native Americans stopping after they’ve hunted an animal to thank them for their life before they kill them.

There, a moment of silence.

There, honoring a life and giving thanks for it.

We are afraid of the quiet because we don’t know how to be thankful for who we really are.


Forget what your neighbor said about you two years ago, or what your best friend thinks you should spend your time doing.

Forget the hurt your brother caused or the unforgiveness that’s still lingering there.

Instead, stop and give thanks for your life.

Instead, stop and look at yourself.

Stop and receive the spirit of your living, breathing, gifted self.

We are not just skin and bones rattling through the days as best we can.

We are life and breath, voice and vision, flesh and blood.

“Healing may come through medicine, through prayer, through presence and scent and calming touch, or through the consecrating of the journey as holy, dignified, and not without purpose or grace.” -Rachel Held Evans

There is something about the journey of stepping through our shades of pain or hurt and walking through to the light, that brings us healing.

And our gratitude, speaking the truth over who we are and what we’re called to be– that’s what brings us out to the light, away from the shame that constantly grips us.

The lie is that God only finds us when we are good, when we are full of light and hope and there are no lies in us.


But the reality is, those beings don’t exist, and in our quiet longings, He is our friend.

In our quiet longings, in the battling of lies and the resting of our souls, He is the hunter who calls us good, who thanks us for our living, for our gifts, for the love we bring.

And then He kills off the hurt, destroys the unrest, calls us to the light, and walks with us into glorious living.

Hallelujah and amen.

The Ebenezers

“God is happening, and I am lucky enough to be in the Midst.” —Barbara Brown Taylor

When you leave a meaningful experience, or you’re changed, or you see a new side of life that you weren’t aware of before, it’s only appropriate that you take from it an Ebenezer, a sign that God was there in the midst.

Cathy has a rock collection. Those rocks sit piled around a pillar candle in her sitting room, and you only know if you stoop down and look closely that the rocks are from all over the world. Her Ebenezers.

London. Honduras. California. Greece. New Zealand.

They are forever reminders of experiences, of people and places, stories of glory.

I went to visit Cathy and her husband Mike a few weekends ago, right before my birthday and right before the fall equinox. In Minnesota, the air was already turning crisp, people were already wearing their fall layers, preparing themselves for the coming northern winter.

We attended a conference that weekend called Why Christian?, the first of its kind.

We heard women speak about the church, about the Jesus they knew who bled with the broken hearted and used spit and dirt to heal. He was the Jesus who used anyone and everyone to love, to be the church.

And I think He was also the type of guy who might grab a rock or two as an Ebenezer, just like Cathy does. He’s one who remembers, who counts the sacredness of human experience as something to be cherished.

We walked around the Sunday farmer’s market, and I ached so badly, I wanted to take every fall bouquet they had and shove them in my suitcase for home. An Ebenezer.


Three days later, I was back on a plane headed to Georgia. The cool air was evaporating with every lift in altitude, and I knew it.

I needed something to hold on to, something to remind me, some piece of that holy experience.

But I’d forgotten to grab a Minnesota rock.

I’d forgotten before I made it through airport security.

So I wandered the airport stands, looking at t-shirts that I knew I’d never wear. I looked at magnets and I looked at purses.

And then I found it.

As if the god of coffee was slapping me on the cheek saying, “Of course it’s a coffee mug! Who do you think you are?”

So I bought the black one with red letters, one that Travis and I could surely share.

I bought it to remember. I bought it to mark the weekend, to remember the moments over a steaming cup of cream and sugar and black.

Then I boarded the plane with the mug in my bag, a plane ticket home and a voucher for a free alcoholic drink.

I convinced myself to order a Heineken for once, to sit back with my journal and pen, and to remember.

With Ebenezers come a certain good and kind freedom.


I pictured Cathy’s rocks, this woman who is like another mother to me, who celebrated my birthday with cake and filled my heart with encouragement.


I remembered the steak Mike grilled for me, the way he asked what kind of wine I like, the way a loving father would.

Just days before the trip, I was someone different, but the Ebenezers I’d collected up to that moment were the experiences of God that shaped me.

Now, a few weeks later, I hold onto more of those experiences.

I look at my coffee mug as it hangs in the kitchen with all the other mugs.

I see my plane ticket taped to the inside of my journal.

When I notice rocks piled outside, I think of Cathy and whisper a prayer that one day I can collect my own Ebenezers from all over the world, that God would greet me, change me, and send me off new after every experience of His kind character and love for every season of my life.

The Evidence of the Story

“…these (stories) are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” –John 20:31


My whole life is the journey to belief, though I have not seen. My whole being is stretched to try to understand Jesus’ presence in the world, though I cannot touch his nail marks.

But what is the proof of His presence?









Your life was marked by these stories, by these stories we tell about you, the evidence of your peace poured out over people.

And so, if my life is to be marked by believing though I cannot see you, I manifest your spirit through good.

Through listening.

Through making peace.

In all things.

And there, your presence is my reality.

And there, Holy Spirit, you do your work, and the love of Jesus becomes tangible again–

not in his original body, but in my body, in the body of my children, in the body of the beggar down the road, in the body of every act of forgiveness, in the body of processing peace towards the other, the stranger, in the body of Love doing its urgent and holy work.

There, Jesus is just as real as he ever was, and we commune with him, sinner-saints that we are.

There, we gather at the table, where feet are washed, where sins are forgiven, where bread is broken and wine is poured out.


There, our humanity meets his humanity, and salvation is born.

Hallelujah and amen.

5 Ways to Show Our Kids The World


Today, more than ever in history, we can meet the world at our doorstep–

or rather, at our computer screen, where we can connect with someone across the sea with the push of a “send” button.

If this is true for us, it’s also true for our kids.

My oldest son found me crying a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t hide anywhere.

Have we already forgotten our friends, people who are fleeing, dying in the in-between, before they see the kind of freedom they are seeking?

There’s some line we are asked to walk. There is a path laid before us, a path for our  little one’s to tread, too.


I am choosing to let my boys see suffering with me, in a way that’s appropriate but real for two toddlers.

“People are just really hurting, Baby,” I tell Eliot.

“Some people lose the ones they love.”

I want him to form a bigger heart that knows how real the world is and how real the people are who fill it.

I want him to understand that sad things happen, so his heart can learn to understand the hope of Jesus, and the closeness of His spirit.

Maybe if we create a culture of world-seeking within our homes, they’ll know how to love when they venture out of our arms and into the streets outside.

Maybe we can do some things while they are young to create a world culture, even in a two bedroom apartment, even in a playroom, even on a front stoop:

1. Hang up maps to encourage curiosity and imagination. It doesn’t take much for a little one to find their curious side, and once it’s opened up, the possibilities are endless. Point to a country and tell them about it. Let them ask you questions, unafraid. Play with maps, listen to music from all over the world, embrace cultures and call them all good, people worth loving and embracing. And when you don’t have the answer (and believe me, you won’t), find it together. Learn with them.

2. Learn where your stuff comes from. Help your children understand that their clothes started in a factory, most likely across the world, most likely in conditions far worse than they’d expect. Watch this video that traces a Nike sweatshirt back to an Indonesia factory. Help your children understand that even their clothing ties them to the whole world, and to real people, and let them decide what they’d like to do about it. Shop at thrift stores, learn to upcycleand let them thrive in the creativity that comes with learning, and often learning about injustice.

3. Have cultural parties. Every year for Eliot’s birthday, we choose a different country or state or even ocean to be the theme of his party. One year it was France, another India, and this year, the Southern Ocean (by his choice and the chance to celebrate with watching Octonauts). It’s easy to do, and there doesn’t have to be a particular celebration attached to it. Cook a dish from Saudi Arabia, bake a French pastry, eat Greek olives. Find a cultural pandora station, make a world map banner or bunting, and celebrate with a few friends.

4. Cultivate compassion through conversation. Whether or not we’d like to admit it, our children hear our conversations and take in everything we say, whether we acknowledge their presence. So, include them in conversations. Talk to them about the things you’re passionate about. Tell them stories about the places you’ve traveled to. Show them pictures, name names, bring them to the edge of their world and into yours, into everything you’ve experienced.

Read books together, like this one or this one. Embrace the world through learning, through the experiences of real people and real places.

And dream with them. Ask them where they want to go. Let them dream, let their hearts yearn to reach distant lands and hug people who are different from them. They will learn compassion this way.

5. Take a big world and make it smaller. Wherever you live, there is someone different from you somewhere close by. You may live beside an immigrant or refugee population. You may shop at an international market. Maybe you shop at Wal-Mart. Even there, diversity happens. Help your kids understand that people come to our corners of the world from all over the other corners, that it’s a blessing for all of us to end up together, to learn from each other, to share with each other, to embrace each other’s lives as our own.

At the international farmer’s market where we buy most of our groceries, there are cultures of all kinds gathered together around the avocados, to sample the coffee and fresh baked bread, to choose the perfect slice of salmon.

I will cry when we have to leave this place, because it’s taught us so much.

The other day we were by the green beans, and Eliot noticed a woman in a brown burqa. He began to point and laugh, because he thought it was totally hilarious that she covered her head and face.

Travis quickly held his hand and led him to a side aisle to explain this woman’s choice, to explain that world cultures vary, that the clothes we wear often reflect our beliefs.

He led Eliot back to this woman and my little toddler looked her in the eyes and apologized for laughing, to which she told him about her faith, her beliefs, her decision. Then she laughed and said, “But if you want, I can pretend I am a ninja!” 

In our everyday experiences, we see the world. If we ever step foot outside our door, there is a chance to learn. There is a window through which we can point out and say, “Baby, that’s a piece of the world, there. That’s a person with a story, that’s a mother or a father or sister, a niece, an uncle, a brother. They are flesh and blood like you, created like you, loved like you. So you love them, Baby. You show them that kind of love.”

May our children find that the world is beautiful and awful and so full of hope, and may they learn to love the people in it, because we were able to show them how.

And when they finally take flight, may they do so with a light shining forth from their hearts, knowing our love for them, and our love for each other, wherever we are from and wherever we are going.


Hallelujah that He loved us first.

The Church Renegades


The mystery of Christ, of this deep well of a man and Savior, is that we may have known Him all our lives, and then one day we find Him all over again, as tangible flesh and Spirit awakening our hearts.

This is blessing.

I spent the weekend in an Episcopal cathedral, with pillars protruding through the middle of the building, with white light being flushed through the tinted windows high up on the walls.


I watched women speak from a stage, from behind a thin metal podium, and I saw the courage of the church grow with every word.

I’m finding in this 27th year of my life that Jesus is fully deeper and wider and bigger and closer than I’ve ever understood.

And the church is stretching herself, too, this tented being that is growing wider, like a canopy over a multitude of tired souls.

And this gathering, it stirred something up in us.

Under this little corner of the tent, we came with our burdens and lifted them up to a God who sees suffering, who welcomes questions, who isn’t just American or white, but is all things to all people, and good.


There’s a song that comes on the radio called “Renegades” by X Ambassador, and every time I hear it, my heart does this weird stretching to try and understand if the renegade idea means anything to my faith.

I’ve never quite understood that idea, until now.

The pioneers we hear stories about are people who left what they experienced every day to embark in the other direction, to seek the new, to find the unfound, pioneers like my Native American ancestors.

The funny thing about us, the renegade-pioneers of our time, is that we’re leaving something to go back to the basics of what church should have been from the beginning.

We are leaving what we know to find what truth means for us.

We are vacating our sterile, perfect churches to find the other Christians who are messy and unkempt and unafraid to be themselves– unafraid to experience the Jesus who was a renegade and pioneer, Himself.

And for us, this means that our daily lives circle in on each other, that mystery is always happening, and that we are forever being redeemed, called good, filled up, beckoned to the light.

Even in our pain.

Even in our grief.

Even in our wandering,

And even in our self-righteous judging.

And when we find this truth in a room full, in the diversity of sinner-saints, we are able to embrace this glorious mystery, claim it as ours, call it our DNA, the code that actually gives us life.

To know the mystery anew us to redefine the church, and maybe to redefine the church is to be a few inches closer to Kingdom, to wade a few feet deeper into the pool of healing, all the while calling ourselves the ones who chose other, and have found Jesus there, after all. 

In the Face of Many Firsts

For the last five days, I’ve been an emotional pendulum, swinging frantically back and forth between excitement and guilt, between the need for self-care and self-accusations of selfishness.

On Thursday I fly to Minneapolis for the Why Christian? Conference.

In nearly four years, I’ve only been away from Eliot once overnight, and Isaiah, never.

We are one of those families, you know. We snuggle in bed with our boys all night long, content to have them close to us as long as it’s needed.

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So going to Minneapolis for a few days brings a bundle of thoughts.

But it’s a list of firsts- my first flight alone, my first trip to Minneapolis, my first conference alone, the first time being away from the boys overnight.

When you face these firsts, it’s scary.

But it’s also a way to force yourself open, a preparation to breathe and receive.

Thomas Merton said,

“Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny. We are free beings and children of God.

This means that we should not passively exist, but actively participate in His creative freedom, in our lives, and in the lives of others, by choosing the truth.

To put it better, we are even called to share with God the work of creating the truth of our identity…”

In some seasons, we’re so very sponge-like. 

In some seasons, it’s all taking in, receiving, then processing and releasing what we’ve been given into someone else.

But the point is the soaking up.

So when my mothering heart isn’t accusing me of selfishness, it’s admitting a need to be filled up.

It’s admitting the truth that I want to work with God to create my identity, my vocations, my every day experiences.

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It’s the work of disciplining and loving my boys in grace, it’s the work of taking quiet for myself, it’s the tangible scrubbing of dishes and taking naps. It’s watching Gilmore Girls and decorating for fall.

It’s mourning for the hurt of the world, for mothers who don’t get the chance to fly across their country for a pre-birthday weekend, for a chance to breathe.

So here, I am thankful.

And in two days, I will set off. I will board that plane and try to become friends with the people sitting next to me. I will spill too much of my story to them in hopes that they’ll share theirs with me.

Sponges, all of us.

Friends, wherever we are, let’s soak up the life that’s been given us. Let’s take in and glean from these lessons we’re learning, and let’s pour out.

And when we need rest, let’s rest.

When we need quiet, let’s settle down and receive, especially in the face of so many firsts to be experienced.

There, may we find what we need.


Thursday I sat on my knees on the living room rug and I cried.

I wrote Abdullah Kurdi’s name on my refrigerator door to remember his family, his wife and two boys who died trying to get to safety and away from the Syrian border.

Sometimes I think God lets us look right into suffering, lets us feel it in our bones, lets the weight of it fall on our hearts and knock the breath out of our lungs.


And then He asks us to decide what to do about it.

We see battles every day.

We see violence and hate and man-killing-man, woman-destroying-woman.

We read about politicians crusading against one another.

We watch religious people cut each other down from behind a computer screen.

The other night I had a dream.

In a room full of fighting, I stood alone at the front, arms outstretched, demanding peace until I ran out of the room sobbing, because these battles we fight against  each other–

they’re killing us, friends.

I believe the world is groaning, as it always has, for a new wave of peacemaking.


Perhaps the world is ready for those peacemakers, and perhaps the world will find them in our children.

Maybe we will find it in the written word, in the song sung, in the stroke of the paintbrush, in humanity reaching out to humanity in love.

These kids in Somalia wrote words of me, too and you’re not alone.

It is possible for us to say those words, too?

In John 15 Jesus said that if we abide in Him our fruit also abides.

If we choose to become active peacemakers as He was, our fruit marks everything it touches with peace.

Peace spreads over humanity and slowly but surely, peace wins.

The barriers break down, freedom songs ring out from shore to shore, and we begin to understand the truth of Kingdom Come.

So, mark a #refugeeswelcome post.

Send a package to refugees through an organization like CARE International (Atlanta friends, this group is right here in our city. Let’s join them).

Light a candle and pray, down on hands and knees, and bring your family along with you.

Because peacemaking is a group effort.


Peacemaking is an effort of humanity.

And peacemaking is a Kingdom effort.

Let’s bring the Kingdom closer, friends, and let’s always welcome the refugees home.

The Temporary Tattoo: a lesson on self-care and servanthood

There’s an eternal example of servanthood in the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet.

I have been missing something small there, something between Jesus and Simon Peter, who cannot fathom that Jesus would want to serve him in this way.

“If I do not wash you,” Jesus pleads, “you have no share with me.”

Ashley pulled three small squares of paper over to the table and offered one to us. 

“Grown-up temporary tattoos,” she said.

 I chose the one stamped care for your sacred soul.

I placed it on the inside of my left arm so I could see it, so I could remember the command.

Jennifer Louden said,

“Self-care is not selfish or self indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first, then we can give from our surplus, our abundance.”

The problem with our consumer culture is that we fill up on plenty of our superficial wants, but come home severely lacking in what we actually need.




A cup of coffee.

A good book.



A long cry.

What Simon Peter did that night was let himself be served.

He let his entire being fall into rest under the hand of Jesus, and left that night with the command to serve others likewise.

So how do we give from a dry well, and what hurt do we cause when we give out of nothing, when we are really too tired ourselves to understand  how good and joyful servanthood really is?

Care for your sacred soul.

Let someone wash your feet–

let them buy you that cup of coffee,

watch that film with you,

cook you dinner,

scrub your dirty floor,

help you plan your toddler’s birthday party.

Sit in the quiet a while,

read a book.

Join a writer’s group, a book club, a grief and loss group, sit at the bar with a friend.

Care for your sacred soul, where it needs it most.

Then, pour yourself out.

Buy the coffee,

rent the film,

cook the dinner,

scrub her floor,

play with his kids.

And so the sacred cycle continues,

love person-to-person

from the root of where it all began,

Simon Peter weeping as his Savior drenched his feet in warm water, drenched his soul in the call to servant-life.

The Last of the Debts: a community story


Isaiah turned two on Wednesday.

And this morning, I paid the last of our medical bills from the day he was born.

Two years of $100 this month, only $30 the next.

For being in labor less than five hours, for giving birth about forty minutes after we arrived at the hospital, there was still a lingering attachment to that day, money to pay for the gift of a second boy.

The other day, Eliot spoke to us about his Fayetteville family.

We asked who exactly he meant, because we have no flesh and blood relatives there.

“Hannah,” he said.

“Jeff,” he said.

“Nora,” he whispered.

And then we understood.

His family is our flesh and blood, his Meemaw and Papa, his Marmee and Grandpa and all his cousins.

But his family is all the people who poured in and out of our Arkansas home, all the people we spent our days with, all those people who fell into community alongside us.

They were the people who brought us an envelope full of money, delivered by our dear friend Darryl.

I still have that envelope.

We used that money to pay the first round of hospital bills. It was the Kingdom in people loving people.

And when the Kingdom is displayed like that, friends become family to your toddlers, even after traveling hundreds of miles away to a new home, even a year later.

Isaiah is this beautifully thriving sports enthusiast of a boy, and he’s always known the love of people. He’s always known community, and so he’s always known Kingdom.

If we can learn to let go of our fear of community, our fear of knowing secrets and walking dark and light places with each other, learning to heal together, maybe then we can find that the walls of our hearts disintegrate, and we learn to give.

We learn Kingdom love.

And there, we find hospital bills paid.

We find meals made and flowers sent and we find the quiet.

We find celebration and mourning, but never alone.

And we say Hallelujah, whatever comes, because community carries me.

The Power of “Me, too”

A few months ago a friend mentioned that I might not glean from Rachel’s writing as much as a hard, type-A personality might. I tend to find myself somewhere in-between, hanging in the balance of high-strung and not strung enough.

So, when I received Rachel’s new book, Hands Free Life, in the mail, I was a little nervous.

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What I did know is that I’ve spent time in Rachel’s home over the past few months. I’ve witnessed her kindness toward myself, toward my friends and my boys, and those things go beyond a personality type.

The reality is, anyone with a cell phone should read this book.

Anyone trying to love someone else better (especially their children or partner) should read this book.

It’s full of practical mantras, words about surrendering control and letting go, about believing in the power of connection.

But it’s also full of stories. And they’re the kind of stories that leave me crying out ME, TOO! as I scribble and underline on the pages.

I’ve looked at my phone when I should’ve been listening.

I’ve rushed when I could have calmed.

I’ve missed experiences, simply because I was selfish, forgetful that I was in a moment of sacred connection.

This isn’t about a personality type.

Rachel has filled a book with words that remind me of my humanity.

The power of “me, too” is that we remember we’re not alone.

And if we’re not alone, this whole journey is so much more possible than we thought it was.

Hallelujah that we are never alone in our learning and reaching and connecting.

Hallelujah for the power of “me, too.”