Everything inside me cries for order
Everything inside me wants to hide
Is this shadow an angel or a warrior?
If God is pleased with me, why am I so terrified?
Someone tell me I am only dreaming
Somehow help me see with Heaven’s eyes
And before my head agrees, my heart is on its knees
Holy is He; blessed am I.

As 2015 comes to a close, there is the obligatory reflection process that is just beginning to percolate – now that the mountain of grading has finally receded.  As I stand on the edge of change, I also feel like I am on the edge of terror.  That if I entertained the thoughts for any length of time, I would be fully consumed.  Thankfully, I haven’t allowed that process to unfold.  It’s even automatic – I don’t find myself consciously fighting it.  It would be easy for me to be cocky if I hadn’t developed the habit of questioning my stability.  I’m often suspicious of my wellness – having become painfully aware of how deceitful the heart can be.  I think this keeps me ever vigilant for the dark corners while abundantly grateful for the light.  My reliance on God, which keeps me sane, is dependent upon recognition of my fragility.

This has been a challenging year.  I’ve spent most of it in a state of reflection in order to make hard decisions.  2016 promises the challenge of enacting all of those decisions.  I’ve also watched deep relationships change…settling into a shallowness I did not expect.  At the same time, love and support has come from somewhat surprising sources.  We often don’t get what we want but He always provides what we need.  I have walked through a significant amount of grief.  I’m so familiar with the journey for obvious reasons but I had never taken inventory of the abundance of losses from day one of my life.  I get the sense that it will be a lifetime journey to unpack the losses I was too busy and/or clueless to recognize.  I stand to lose even more in the days ahead but God is leading and I’m a tad bit better at trusting Him to carry me.  It’s strange because even as the black hole of anxiety lurks at the edges of my world, there is a peace that is more present and tangible.  My heart spends way more time on its knees these days.  In the new year, my women’s group is doing a study on prayer.  How appropriate.  I’d like that discipline to align more closely with this attitude of the heart because I want heaven’s eyes.

I am not brave
I’ll never be
The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy
I’m just a girl
Nothing more
But I am willing, I am Yours

I guess I can look at this new year as a process of making space.  A terrifying prospect.  He cannot occupy cluttered spaces though so this is a non negotiable battle for one who asks for more of Him.  We throw around the phrase “less of me” like it’s so easy but it is not.  I find it funny that the older I get, the more knowledge I acquire, the less presumptuous I am about life.  What’s really cool is that before, my audacious stance was rooted in fear of the unknown.  It was threatening not to have a concrete answer to the dilemmas of life.  Now, I’m more comfortable with uncertainty because I am confident of my identity in Christ.  Ironic.

Be born in me, be born in me
Trembling heart, somehow I believe that You chose me
I’ll hold You in the beginning, You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle, make my heart Your Bethlehem
Be born in me*

Making my heart His Bethlehem.  I suppose that is the theme of 2016.  Figuring out what that means.  I’ve spent so much of my life being who others needed me to be.  I’ve been moving into the person He actually created me to be.  Birth is a messy job to be sure but I am held.  Blessed am I.


“Blessed are those which die in (the grace) of the Lord.”  (to be reborn in Him)


*Be Born in Me Lyrics by Francesca Battistelli

Shaken, not stirred

At a recent therapy appointment, I shared how I had been feeling quite out of sorts. My comment was laughable considering the level of drama I’ve been dealing with on certain issues but I was still convinced that something was “off” that I could not quite put my finger on. I started listing off the possibilities but as I pondered each one, nothing clicked. She sat back and asked the million dollar question, “so, what area of your life is stable right now?” I sat and thought….and thought. I could not name a single area and the lightbulb went off. My crankiness wasn’t necessarily related to one problem, it was about the overarching instability I had been plunged into – none of which had resolution on the visible horizon. Not one area of my life remains unshaken: home, work, health, finances. Even the significant relationships I so rely on are being affected by the changes I have in other areas. Not that those relationships won’t stay true through the chaos – they will just have to endure the ups and downs and may experience permanent changes in the way I relate. That is perhaps the most upsetting part of my current state as I so crave sameness. Nonetheless, God has seen fit to initiate a 6 richter earthquake in my life. I’ve endured a 10 richter obviously, but it was isolated to one key area. This one is lesser but permeates the entire landscape. It’s strange to know without a doubt that my life a year from now will look completely different. I suppose I should be thankful that at least I have some notice and I lament at how I am never satisfied – I hate sudden, unexpected change, but then I hate the slow, agonizing process also. God cannot win with me and thankfully, He cares little about that. He cares less about my happiness and most about my transformation and I accept that is as it should be. I’m always interested in what lesson I’m supposed to learn from my life experiences, mostly because I have come to realize that I’ll keep getting the homework until I learn – ha! Anyway, as I reflect on what purpose this season serves (I have a sense of where it’s going but why the long, painful walk?), I do believe that God continues to work on my trust in Him. Ugh..that’s a painful revelation! When will this lesson ever be over? You’d think with all I’ve endured, I would’ve gotten it by now. Judging by the fear and anxiety I’ve experienced in the past few months, I have to admit that I most certainly do NOT have it. Thus, the lesson continues.

Last week, a song came on in the car that I had heard before. As I listened intently to the lyrics, they had a fresh relevance. They reminded me that as everything under and around me is shaken, I have one source of stability to which I must keep returning: God’s presence. He has been with me through all of it. The truth…the lesson, is this:
And this is who You are
More constant than the stars up in the sky
All these years of our lives
I look back and I see You
Right now I still do
And I’m always going to

As I meditate on that, I develop a point of focus that keeps me centered in the midst of chaos. Perhaps I need to play this song every morning as a reminder!

Four Years

Head over here today to our virtual memorial to share your Christina pics, thoughts and/or memories…





Disclaimer: My posts are usually fairly composed in my head before I begin to type.  This one is a ‘process as I type’ exercise so good luck!

The trouble with unstructured time is that you have opportunity to ponder things normally left on the back burner.  Today has been one of those days.  I sure do wish it had been spent on a beach but Erika would have none of that.  I was thoroughly unsettled today reflecting on all that does not align with my hopes.  I have friends suffering in ways I cannot fix; I work in a system that hamstrings our ability to be successful – forcing me to consider plan Bs (and Cs); my church faces a fork in the road with seemingly few resources to navigate the journey; my search for personal clarity remains an exercise in frustration.  Nothing seems to be falling into place.  At the same time, I’m so intimately aware of my blessings and that keeps me grounded in the midst of my increasing desire to run away from home.  I look ahead to my trip to Italy in October which may lead to who-knows-what open doors.  I’m getting ready to start a new season of women’s bible study and I’m sure that will be an adventure.  I have amazing relationships that feed my soul.  My friends trust me with their hearts which is no small privilege.

It’s a surreal feeling to be in this conflicting place mentally and emotionally.  As I wrestled with some spiritual questions this afternoon, I started composing an email to someone I thought could offer insight.  It was not something I wanted to do really – I’ve been avoiding it for a while even though they seem a logical resource and as I wrote out my thoughts, my anxiety increased.  I decided to start exploring that fear in my writing and a paragraph later had uncovered a relational dynamic which was feeding the anxiety.  I decided not to send the email as the timing for this deeper revelation feels off to me.  Another conflicting moment as I was thankful for the insight…an opportunity to avoid harming someone I truly love but also the subversion of an opportunity to solicit guidance.  I had worked up the courage to take the step, only to end up convinced that now was not the time.  Now that I type that out, I realize that is a theme repeated in other areas as well.  What is God up to?

I guess I’m just caught up in a bit of a pity party that wishes this life was a tad bit more linear.  I’m at a place in my life where my insight seems to far surpass my power to practically implement it and that is frustrating.  I can see and practically taste what I want but there are barriers to having it.  I’m sure there is a grander purpose to this theme of frustration but I don’t yet have the motivation to find it.  I just want to get my way.  To have what I know is rooted in God’s design – what He has wired us to need.  “Fair ended in the garden of Eden” my friend tells me but I still long for it. That’s it – a day of longing.  I am reminded of portions of the prayer I composed recently:

Teach me to want rightly and help me to live in obedience to those right desires.  Recalibrate my heart’s desire for your kingdom.  Help me to trust that you will satisfy.

I guess back to the prayer drawing board it is.  God has much work to do in me….

“Sometimes when I look at you, I feel I’m gazing at a distant star.
It’s dazzling, but the light is from tens of thousands of years ago.
Maybe the star doesn’t even exist any more. Yet sometimes that light seems more real to me than anything.”
Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun

Dear Younger Me

Thanks to Pandora and it’s copies, I haven’t purchased much in the way of music these last few years.  I’ve gotten used to a somewhat mediocre musical experience – better than traditional radio but still full of songs that make me wonder what this computer is thinking.  As I planned for a season of greater focus on my relationship with God, I committed to also acquire some albums that would  fit into that process.  I started with Christy Nockel’s Let it be Jesus album.  Last week, I added Third Day’s Lead us back album.  I must say, I had forgotten the joy of playing a new album on repeat until you know the lyrics and the songs melt into your soul.

This week, I was considering Mercy Me’s Welcome to the new so I checked to see if it was in the Amazon Prime library and it was, so I started listening this morning on my way to therapy.  In my session, I used the term, “failure” which my therapist did not like.  I unpacked the wrestling I’ve been doing with decisions I made in my youth – how I’ve come to understand why but still find it important to acknowledge that I failed…to listen to God, to use wisdom, and to submit to the authorities I had over me at the time.  I shared my struggle to process the consequences of those decisions and decide the best path forward which may include further failure.  She hated the word but I also explained how growing up – failure was not an option and how I’ve lived my life under that directive for so long.  I’m working really hard to come out from that, to call a spade a spade yet truly believe that it does not diminish my worth or change God’s love for me.  She loved that.

So I get into the car after my session and connect my phone back to the stereo.  The next song to play on the album was, Dear younger me.  Wow!

Dear younger me
Where do I start
If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far
Then you could be
One step ahead
Of all the painful memories still running thru my head
I wonder how much different things would be
Dear younger me…

Dear younger me
I cannot decide
Do I give some speech about how to get the most out of your life
Or do I go deep
And try to change
The choices that you’ll make cuz they’re choices that made me
Even though I love this crazy life
Sometimes I wish it was a smoother ride
Dear younger me, dear younger me…

If I knew then what I know now
Condemnation would’ve had no power
My joy my pain would’ve never been my worth
If I knew then what I know now
Would’ve not been hard to figure out
What I would’ve changed if I had heard

Dear younger me
It’s not your fault
You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross
Dear younger me….

Every mountain every valley
Thru each heartache you will see
Every moment brings you closer
To who you were meant to be
Dear younger me, dear younger me –

You are holy
You are righteous
You are one of the redeemed
Set apart a brand new heart
You are free indeed

Would I have listened?  I don’t know but these are certainly the things I needed to understand in my younger days.  Nevertheless,

Dear younger me
It’s not your fault
You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross

Not that I don’t bear responsibility but He does not hold it against me.  I am SO blessed that God knows what I need to hear at every moment.  He attends to every detail!


My cousin Jacqui and I had several culture conversations as we analyzed and compared our current cultural experiences even as we share a Jamaican heritage. Bath is a rather upscale part of England and as we walked around, she described the efforts locals have made to be exclusive. It reminded me of Palm Beach Island ways. Thus, I was surprised as we walked by a beggar. She too shared surprise as I mentioned it, going on to describe the excellent programs they have in place for the homeless. She speculated that he must be an out of towner who did not yet know how to access services. She assured me that soon enough, a policeman would come along and see that he was taken care of. I marveled at this and commented on how we in the states could learn from this. Not for the first time, she reminded me that England is a tiny island which cannot compare to the vastness that is the US. She reminded me that it is much easier to manage British welfare and that what works for them does not necessarily translate to the huge conglomerate of states.

It finally sank in….our situation is so different and so complex.  Once again I am reminded that life does not offer one-size-fits-all solutions.  What works for me may not be what works for my client.  What works for one client may not work for the next.  I have to remain aware of the complexity of God’s creation and the creativity with which He orders each one’s steps.

That theme of “massive versus small” continued as we discussed shopping options.  She amused me with a story about her American niece who visited and was visibly annoyed when she could not purchase a drugstore-type item at the general store.  You go to a pharmacy for that.  It was the same in Greece – even more segregated actually.  I remember my boss explaining to a student who noticed this, “America is about choices…not here”.  Jacqui summed it up best when she commented on the wonder that is Target: “You can buy tires with your milk!”  Well, when you put it like that, it does seem quite ridiculous..I laughed out loud.  In the end, I realized that endless choices are rather overwhelming and stressful.  Entering the small shops of Europe felt so much more manageable.  I’m sure if I moved here, I would be irritated over the things I can’t obtain but I also believe it would be better in the end as it is not always a good thing to be able to get whatever we want, whenever we want it.  I believe that sort of society has led to a sense of entitlement in all areas, including our relationship with God.  Even the roads are an exercise in patience.  All over the village, the road would narrow to one lane and we would have to pull over and wait for oncoming cars to pass before progressing.  There was a toll bridge that was a one-lane endeavor manned by some questionable looking sorts who would collect the toll and direct the one-at-a-time traffic.  Apparently, the bridge is located on private land and so the landowners are allowed to collect a toll when anyone uses it.  I told Jacqui that this would never be tolerated in the states – there would be an uproar for something to be done about the narrow roads and likely eminent domain would seize the bridge land.  Yet, the locals accept all this as just the way things are.  I have to sheepishly admit that I am NOT this patient as God slows me down, imposes tolls, narrows the road and orchestrates all sorts of detours.  I live in a society that is rooted in convenience and expediency and I expect God to get on board.  My eyes were opened to my own sense of entitlement and my need to grow in my ability to tolerate deviations from my expectation.

This trip has driven home the benefit of stepping outside of our regular context in order to more clearly see.  It has confirmed my passion for the idea of intensive therapy retreats.  Events that will pull women away from their usual world into a completely foreign experience in order to gain clarity on the themes and patterns of their lives.  While there is no substitute for crossing the globe, there is insight to be gained by even less distant forays.

An Invitation to be Beautiful

As I have traveled, I cannot help but compare all that I see to all that I know. Learning theory does state that we acquire new knowledge by tagging it to what is already familiar. One thing I have loved about Europe is its fashion formality. The driver holding my name on a sign in the Prague airport was dressed impeccably in a well-cut suit. When I stepped up to identity myself, he shook my hand and introduced himself before taking my bag. I’ve watched the women on every bus, tram and metro. I play a game of identifying who is the tourist by looking for trainers, backpacks and shorts. The women of this continent prefer skirts, dresses and heels though beautiful ballet flats are acceptable too. It must be a mark of city life to carry a large leather tote because I’ve seen little else on Parisian women. I love the effort people here put into how they present themselves to the world. It doesn’t feel a vain sort of primping but more an appreciation for beauty and fashion as art. I suppose it makes sense for a culture surrounded by architecture created with an emphasis on aesthetics. Art and beauty are absolutely infused into the culture and perhaps that is why I feel so at home here because those concepts mean so much to me.

Life is full of suffering so every chance I get, I am drawn to beauty. I desperately wish to return to my artistic roots and hope to make some progress on that when I return home. It is important to acknowledge and process pain but I do believe it is equally important to seek out and absorb the beauty, happiness and fun of life. I was just discussing this with a friend the other day who I think has put a bit too much attention on the acceptance of pain. A healthy thing in general but I am all about balance. So, the question is – how can I help my clients focus on beauty in the midst of their suffering? I first have to focus on that in my own life. This trip has been an exercise in that process: being fully present in the wonder and beauty of my surroundings while tending to the growing ache of wishing to share it all with my baby.

I connected with this song as my life mantra when it came out years ago and I find I should return to it again. I must ask God to show me how He wants me to fulfill it at this stage of my life and then, I must ask this question about each student and client – how will I help them tell a better story?


The airport tram was packed and still she insisted on keeping her bag on the seat next to her. As more and more people squeezed in, I averted my eyes so she wouldn’t see the incredulity in my face. I silently pleaded in my head, “please don’t be American”, but I was afraid she was. Later on, I tried to convince myself that perhaps she had some kind of anxiety about people sitting next to her. What kind of counselor are you that you wouldn’t think of that? However, as she ended up on my plane sandwiched next to someone and seemingly cool as a cucumber, I had to release my mental health speculations. I also discovered, as she was close enough for me to overhear, that she was American.

Then there was the young woman, (American I discovered) who thought it was a fab idea to turn up in the Frankfurt airport with capri pants and marijuana leaf print socks – like huge leaves…there was no mistaking them. I wondered what sort of statement she was trying to make. Surely, it had to be something deeper than just, “I smoke weed”.

In Czech Republic, on my first tram ride, the driver laid on his horn every single time he was ready to move forward from a stop. Most of the time, there was another tram in front of him and so I thought perhaps he was in the habit of “encouraging” other drivers to get moving. After the fourth or fifth time he enthusiastically used the horn, I was pretty amused, and remarked on it to my travel mate. A few minutes later, she commented that perhaps it was a required action for safety reasons – notifying everyone that he was about to move. I had to give her that point and once again, my assumptions were challenged. As I rode subsequent trams however, there was only a civilized beep before every launch. I never heard the horn again, so who knows?

In line for St Vitus’ Cathedral, I was subjected to the f-bomb loaded whining of a young American girl behind me planning her drinking outings while the two young french girls in front of me, glanced back in disdain.


My view while overhearing “party girl”

As I have analyzed my surroundings, I am also keeping close watch on my reactions to said surroundings. One of the things we spoke of often in the multicultural issues class was the need to constantly attend to our own reactions. To ask ourselves what those reactions mean and where there is room for growth. This trip has confirmed that I am full of judgments. They feel less dangerous because they usually fall in favor of the culture I am visiting, rather than my own. I have had multiple moments of shame over how Americans act abroad and just how we view things in general so it is easy to excuse what is happening in my head as “progressive”. However, pitting one culture against another; choosing winners and losers is always a dangerous game – even if self-deprecating. Thus, I am pursuing a deeper conversation in my head. I make no effort to stop the flow of judgmental reactions…all must emerge if it is to be addressed. Instead, I refuse to end the discussion there. I sit with it and ask myself questions. I play devil’s advocate in my head and seek to see things from all angles, considering alternative explanations versus the one I immediately assumed. Don’t get me wrong, I still land on opinions about some approaches being healthier than others. After all, one of the things I love about travel is its ability to expose us to better ways of living that we may never have thought of otherwise. In all that however, I must avoid valuing opinions over people. I must remember that folks do that which makes sense to them at the time. These are important strategies for improving my ability to sit with others in unconditional positive regard. If I cannot go through my daily life with this skill, it will not magically appear in the counseling room. Travel has been an amazing opportunity to focus on this practice since I have little to distract me. It is my prayer that this intense season results in a kinder clinician – better able to offer a presence ever more reflective of God’s grace.


It started in the Frankfurt airport. He was no more than 3, maybe a little less and as he excitedly stared out the airport window at the tarmac, I wondered where his parent could be. No one near him was paying him any attention. He looked back and I followed his gaze – across the expanse of chairs to the aisle-way where his mom calmly stood next to a double stroller which contained one toddler. He turned back to his study with nary a concern and I continued to watch the family until it was time for boarding. In the days since, I’ve made a point to observe European children and I have confirmed what I originally noticed: the acceptable square footage of parental proximity here is far larger than it is in the US. Children wander so much further than we would ever be comfortable with but the funny thing is, I have also observed a far better quality attachment between kids and their caregivers here (in general) than in the US. Most of the time when I see kids break away from a parent in the US, they run like fugitives on the lam. As I watched a toddler here walk ahead of her mom across the street, she walked calmly and with confidence. When mom requested her hand at the curb, she willingly gave it. I have watched a similar dynamic replayed too many times to count. Meanwhile, parenting in the US has squeezed the circle of safety to a smaller and smaller size. At the same time, the level of anxiety in our kids is heading off the charts. Kids, teens and college kids are petrified to make mistakes and to take risks. They are most often either completely detached or enmeshed. As I discussed this with my US friend who joined me in Prague, she commented that the teens she just observed in her London circle of friends and family are far more confident and independent than many she knows at home. Correlation does not equal causation so I don’t make any claim to answers. I only know that as a counselor, I am challenged to question what we are doing in my home culture that would be contributing to this alarming trend and to ask what I can learn from other cultures. Often, creative solutions are as close as opening global eyes.

Travel and Transformation

I’ll spare the sob story as to why it’s been so long since the last post. You can read previous posts and see the trend. Today, I left Greece after finishing my third stint teaching “Ethnicity and Multicultural Issues in Counseling” over there. The process to put the group together this year was most bizarre. A frustrating series of cluelessness, fear, lack of commitment and downright disrespect for common sense resulted in the smallest group we’ve ever taken. Needless to say, we will make many changes to the process next year as we come to accept the solid wave of millenials arriving in grad school. That said, the trip was amazing. Everything was so much easier with a smaller group. It’s too bad that financially, we need larger numbers to make the trip feasible. I am always amazed at how each class group develops its own flavor. The conversation we have in class takes on a different spin each year but I never tire of the consistent bonding process that unfolds and the transformation I see in the students as they open their hearts and minds to new ways of seeing the world and God’s people of every variety. Even in the midst of multiple accidents we’ve never seen before, God’s graceful hand was abundantly evident. As we spent some time in prayer last night over the Nea Zoi ministry work that we intersect with during our time there, I was brought to tears by the hearts of those who shared their visit into the brothels and Viorica’s challenge to forgo judgment toward the madams, clients and traffickers as we remember that any one of us could be a character in this tragedy but for the grace of God. It was humbling and it is my hope that we will never forget.

Click here to check out the students’ perspective!

Hilary and me at Sounio

Once again this year, I brought a personal guest. A former student, sort of co-worker (she worked in residential life as a student) and friend of Christina’s – Hilary. It was so fun to see her fall absolutely in love with Greece and our hosts Viorica and Dominick. As we said goodbye in the wee hours of this morning, we were both sad to leave this world behind, even as she looked forward to reuniting with her furbaby. It was cute as many folks assumed she was my daughter which is sort of hilarious when you look at us next to each other. It’s OK, I’ll claim her :) What a blessing it has been to share this experience with my loved ones – first my baby Sierra last year and then Hilary this year. It is a small consolation for the fact that I always doubled my joy in whatever I had when I shared it with Christina.

Each year, I make a greater effort to truly immerse myself in the time there – to simply “be” as much as I possibly can and to settle into a homey routine. My addition this year was to go for a walk in our campus neighborhood on each class day. I needed some way to atone for the amount of food we were packing away daily. All healthy food of a quality we can only dream of in the states but likely more than I should be consuming. This is the first year I chose not to count calories while there (I will resume my discipline when I get home) so daily exercise was the substitute. Our excursion days offered no shortage of steps. Wherever we went, I was intentional about focusing on experience versus things though I still fit in enough shopping to hit the weight limit exactly when I got to the Athens airport. I’m seriously afraid of what I will do for the rest of my trip!

I brought two books for this trip and have worked about halfway through the first. It has been an eye opener in terms of examining the sin patterns that have unfolded in my life and exploring where they stem from. I’ve been journaling throughout and I processed some of it with my boss. Probably the greatest insight has been connecting my mother’s dominating presence with the poor decisions I’ve made. Not that I’m interested in pointing fingers but I recognized a level of operating out of wounded-ness that I hadn’t fully acknowledged. I have come to appreciate Rachael more and more as the years have gone by. The past few years especially, I have missed her presence acutely. At this season of my life, as I face some major life decisions, I’ve been longing for her stabilizing, rescuing presence. I so wish I could process some of this insight with her because I believe she would have been open to the discussion and it would have brought so much healing to us both. However, I must wait for that conversation. In the meantime – I focus not on blame, but on moving forward. The more I understand the source of my errors, the more confident I feel about extricating myself from them. I’ve spent years trying to make a wrong turn morph in to the right path instead of going back to the fork in the road where I made the mistake and undoing it at the start. Even with this increasing confidence however, it’s a slow, painful process to live out. One not made easier by the fact that as I come to know myself better, I gain greater insight into my daughter as well. How I wish I could share what I’m learning with her. She was such an amazing processing partner. She had such a presence and wisdom about her. I secretly believed she would one day end up a therapist. Understanding builds intimacy and it is a special heartbreak to have greater understanding but not the object of the resulting intimacy. Instead, I hear her voice in my head a lot and believe she would be saying, “it’s about dang time mom”. I can almost see her shaking her head at me…

So I sit here in my hotel in Prague, waiting for my former student to arrive and spend the next couple of days with me exploring the city. The quest continues for transformation, presence and insight.

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