Sunday, June 27, 2010


New Long-term Goal - get a picture of my husband on this blog. Ok future honey, if you don't already have a awesome beard, man up and grow one and let me bake you some delicious cupcakes! Babe, I really hope I don't have to seduce you with cupcakes and 15 minutes of internet fame to get you to grow some hair.

I'm taking my comprehensive exams tomorrow and Tuesday. 8am-5pm. Sitting at my computer, surrounded by notes and books, trying to write something coherent and impressive about diagnoses, case conceptualizations, ethics, multicultural issues, theories, constructs, research design, statistical analysis, internal and external validity, etc, drinking coffee, eating sandwich wraps and greek yogurt and trying to stay calm and confident.

Then I'll be free from this madness, and will celebrate my freedom with happy hour and swimming and cycling and Toy Story 3! My new to me bike sits in my living room, waiting for me to ride it again once this is all over. Oh, and then it's back to writing manuscripts and dissertations proposals, but I'm determined to reward myself with some proper summer fun once these exams are over. And writing for myself again. I want to write about money and sexuality and cycling, but we'll see what I'm actually inspired to write once I'm no longer tied to these exams.

I could look back on this examination time as one stressful part of this Ph.D. process that I'll be relieved to be done with, but there will also be good memories. Memories of how my friends and family have supported me and surrounded my with love during this time. How they prayed for me, spoke words of encouragement to me, emailed me their notes, loaned me books, cooked me dinner, made a study play-list for me. How though these exams are a test of my individual learning and accomplishments from the past three years, how it's so obvious that I'm very much not alone during this time. Though physically alone at this table, you are all beside me, incarnating Christ into my life, breathing the Spirit into me.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Good News

What is the Gospel?

I struggle to define it, to describe it, mainly because I immediately think of the definitions and words and phrases that I've heard my whole life. There is probably truth in these recollections, but they feel a little stale and feel like I'd just be regurgitating something I've heard somewhere else instead of truly describing what the Gospel is to me, what I believe it to be, what it means to me. What words do I put together to describe that? Or maybe words aren't it. Maybe there's an image.

As I sat outside, pondering this question, I looked down at the grass. There was a small, orange, delicate butterfly perched on a blade of grass, gently opening and closing its wings. It wasn't a Monarch, but it was just as brightly orange, beautiful contrasted against the green grass.

And there was my image. It described to me a creation, a people, an individual utterly renewed by God's mercy and grace. It pointed to a coming Kingdom where all will be made right and all conflicts and disputes and lawsuits and wars and complaints and demands will cease. A Kingdom yet to come fully, but a Kingdom that can be present now. A Gospel that tells me that I am both a sinner and in need of grace and change but that I'm also fully accepted and fully loved, a Gospel that I can surrender to and that I can display as I love my family and strangers, as I love myself fully and receive God's love, as I advocate for myself and others, as I approach stresses and conflicts seeking God's grace and peace and compassion. There, I will find that delicate butterfly, renewed and beautiful.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

one week

I'm glad that I challenged myself to write one blog post a day this past week. I'm thankful for my friends who have encouraged me along the way. Looking back, I would say three of those posts I'm pretty proud of and really glad that I wrote. A couple of the others felt more like filler, but that's ok. I didn't challenge myself to write a spectacular post each day, just to write a post, and see what happened.

Beyond the end product, there was a process to this writing exercise that I'm glad that I engaged in. Before this week, I generally tended to kick around blog posts in my head for a few hours or a couple of days before I wrote them down. But this week has been different, because often I struggled to find inspiration to write something. Only one or two posts were really running around in my mind before they found their way out through my fingertips. Some were just me sitting down reflecting on my day or current status. Others emerged as the result of a friend's suggestion or essential conversations. It was these last that I'm most proud of. So, I've learned that that creativity can flow more spontaneously. Instead of trying to perfect something in my mind before giving it life, an idea can spark and lead to more associations and ideas that result in something I'm glad to have created.

I had a feeling that some days it would be more difficult to write than others, but overall this project was more difficult than I anticipated, mostly because I'd been sick this past week and much more tired than usual at the end of the day. The bacon post was the most exhausting day, I just wrote flippantly something to fill the void so that I could surrender myself to sleep as soon as possible. Interestingly, I also began another daily discipline this week by beginning a workbook that my church is going through together, which has also been difficult. I'm not usually big on workbooks, but I like the conversation that our church is having and doing this helps me to be more a part of it and has got me thinking more consistently about things that should more often be on the forefront of my thoughts.

So, what's next with my writing? Well, I've got some academic writing tasks ahead of me, writing a manuscript draft that I've been dragging my feet on and writing my dissertation proposal and writing answers to my comprehensive exams. All of those intimidate me, but I'd like to think that this past week of blogging has lessened my anxieties and apprehensions about those writing tasks just a little. Tomorrow I'm going to tackle that manuscript and I don't need to be a perfectionist about it. I can just write and bring things together and get moving on it. Sometimes, I need to move past my fears or my concerns about not knowing what to say and just challenge myself to keep moving ahead.

And my blog? Well, I hope that this has sparked a revival in my blog writing, but only time will tell. Will I do this sort of exercise again? I'd sure like to. Maybe again by the end of this summer, or later when I start my new job, or 6 months from now. Strangely, I like the idea of doing this again during a particularly busy time in my life (such as training for my new job or while interviewing for internship positions) as a way of forcing myself to stop, slow down, collect my thoughts, and reflect. I'm a fairly thoughtful, analytical person, but it's still easy for me to just get going and not stop to truly think about what I'm doing or learning.

Thank for reading and being on this journey with me. I look forward to writing again soon, tomorrow, in a few days, or next week. See you when I do . . .

Friday, June 11, 2010


There's a me who's kinda crazy and fun. Who wants to be spontaneous, who wants to do things because they're exciting and out of the ordinary. The me who wants to be sexy and a little wild. The fiery redhead. The party me who wants to make my own decisions as an individual and who doesn't want to be told what to do.

Then there's a me who is grounded, and wants to make wise decisions. Who wants to surrender, who wants to be giving and sacrificial. The me who wants to submit to my community and seek God's direction through them. The planner. The me who wants to do the "right" thing.

Then there's God who loves me. Who accepts me. Completely. Who created me and loves every part of me. And yes, He also wants to change me, but not in a way that I'm not me anymore.

And I recently recognized that unconsciously, I've believed that God didn't love that "party" side of me. That He didn't value my spontaneity as much as my sacrifice. And I've felt guilt over that part of me, that it was wrong or sinful and needed to be changed or needed to go away. And I'm coming to see the error of that way of thinking. There is much that is good about my "party" self and much that would be good about receiving God's love for all of me and for loving myself completely. I think that it will bring great freedom for me and freedom for me to love others more fully.

At times, I've found myself divided. Different people, different cultures, different circumstances bring out different sides of me. I feel like a chameleon at times, not that I've been acting fake or untrue to myself, but that I only show certain parts of myself at certain times and with certain people.

So I want my selves to be integrated. I want to love myself for all that I am and all that I'm not, I want to love myself in the way that God loves me, I want to remember and really recognize that He loves every part of me that He created, not just the parts that fit more closely with the religious culture around me.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Today, I found out that one of my father's best friends committed suicide. I was shocked, but not shocked. This man had been chronically depressed, suffered from a chronic health condition that caused him constant pain, and his father committed suicide by shooting himself in the house.

But this was also a man that I will always remember as wearing an unruly beard and overalls even though he worked as a pharmacist most of his life. He was kinda strange and lived an unconventional life in many aspects but there was something endearing about the image that I have of him.

And now he's gone. He bought a shotgun and two days later used it on himself. My father spoke with him three days before he died and said that he knew that he was doing "worse" but he gave no indication of suicide. I don't want my father to feel guilt or regrets, but I wish that him or another one of his friends had asked, "Are you thinking about ending your life?" when they saw their friend deteriorating.

I can talk about suicide as a clinician. I can ask clients about it. I can refer tell them to call 1-800-Suicide. I can ask about risk factors, plans, methods, intentions, previous attempts. I can talk clients through a safety plan. I can talk about my QPR suicide prevention training. Assessing for suicidality is almost second nature to me at this point in my training.

But to think about this man I knew ending his life, to think about what my father might be feeling or thinking, though it's all filtered through this clinical training, this news, these facts, the images I imagine, I don't know what to say or think. In some ways it passes right through me like a ghost, like it didn't really happen to someone I know, like I just heard about it on the news, and it other ways it reaches inside me and swirls around in my chest, never quite settling anywhere.

Suicide isn't really second nature for me to face. I hope that as much as I may encounter it with clients, that I never lose touch with how precious and fragile life is and how tragic and ugly and horrible the taking of one's life is.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

salty and sweet

Godiva chocolate bacon . . . really disgusting? Or insanely delicious?

Talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

the relationship between bananas and Jesus

"Peel, bananas, peel peel, bananas!"

He towered over the toddlers, arms stretched overhead, as he began singing and dancing in the motions of a banana peeling. They didn't dance or sing along or even giggle or smile. They just stared at him, mesmerized by this tall dancing man.

"Peel, bananas, peel peel, bananas!"

Somehow remembering this from some days at camp long ago, I began singing along and laughing as we sang as his wife laughed along with us.

"Go bananas! Go, go, bananas!"

I was there in the walkers and crawlers (a technical term referring to children under the age of two who can crawl or walk) class a couple of weeks ago because our church small groups alternate taking care of the kids during church services and I had missed a week I was supposed to serve because I had been vacationing in New Orleans. After being barraged with mass emails stating, "You missed a Sunday serving, we need YOUR help this Sunday to fill in," I finally gave in and volunteered for this Sunday after seeing that other friends of mine had volunteered too.

"Peel, bananas, peel peel, bananas!"

Round two of the song, and the kids still weren't showing any sign of wanting to sing or dance along, but continued to stare up at my tall friend. I grabbed the hands of the curly-haired blonde girl on my lap and moved her into the motions. She just stared at me with her huge blue eyes, with the same serious expression that she'd held throughout the evening. I never saw her smile and the most emotional expression I saw from this stoic child was when I sat her down on the floor prematurely and she looked up at me seriously, grunted a little, and began flapping her hands, which I took as her communication for, "Please, I urgently need you to pick me up again!" Of course, I was happy to comply with her nonverbal requests and she spent most of the evening on my hip or in my lap.

"Peel, bananas, peel peel, bananas!"

Myself and my two friends in that class helping would readily admit that we're not kid people. As I've written before and before, I feel kinda awkward around kids. I like kids, some more than others, but I often have trouble relating to little people who don't talk like adults. I think I'm getting better at this and find that I can connect with my nephew or kids from my church and it's actually pretty fun. And strangely, I've been feeling more maternal urges lately, when I've never felt like a very maternal person. Strangers' kids on the street catch my eye more often, they seem cuter than they used to, and the idea of me having my own kids sometime in a few years sounds pretty nice to me these days.

"Go bananas! Go, go, bananas!"

So, my friends and I were serving these kids. We carried them, we fed them, we held them when they cried (which thankfully all but one didn't cry too long), talked to them as if they were adults (because we didn't know how else to talk to them), sang to them, played music for them, and I even assisted as my friend changed a diaper, too much of a wimp too change it myself. Though none of us would claim to be great with kids or eagerly volunteer for babysitting, we did pretty good with them that evening. As best we could, we were Jesus to those kids.

"Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there."

Jesus valued kids and stated that the kingdom was for them, much as he valued other marginalized people groups and showed special care and concern for them. And so I'm called to show love to children, to old people, to the mentally ill, to drug addicts, to rape victims, to cultural minorities, to the homeless, to people who have been victimized or marginalized by society or somehow told that they weren't worth it. These are the people to love for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. And it challenges me. It doesn't feel natural to hang around a kid. I have friends who make it look so natural, who love being with children, who know exactly what to say or do or not say. But natural or not, I'm still called to love them.

"This is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S!"

We decided to switch it up, and brought in a G-rated version of Hollaback Girl to sing and dance too. And as much as we were Jesus to those kids, they were Jesus to us.

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

They were Jesus to me, accepting me, being patient with me, challenging me. And I'm so thankful that I had the chance to go bananas with them.

*Inspired by and dedicated to Katie

Monday, June 07, 2010


I caught a virus, and my computer did too. Or, it almost did. I don't like being sick yet I also kinda like it. I like it because it feels like my body screaming, "SLOW DOWN," and gives me an excuse to sleep as much as I want and watch movies and tv and have friends cook for me. Though mostly I don't like it, and as I relax and take care of myself and down kombucha and coldeeze, I keep hoping that I'll get better as soon as possible. I also don't like that I seem to get sick much more than I used to, which makes it seem like there's something about my lifestyle or maybe just the horrible pollen here that's breaking down my immune system

One of my friends last night told me, "Stop getting sick so much!" which annoyed me at first because really, it's not like I chose to get sick. But we talked about multivitamins and things I could do to help boost my immune system year round. I feel like I can hear a parent's voice saying, "Slow down, you're so busy, you're wearing yourself out," which also annoys me. As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been out of town more than I've been in town these past couple of weeks. So perhaps all of this travel and driving north and south and east and west has worn out my body. Perhaps multi-vitamins would help. Perhaps more exercise would help. Perhaps being done with grad school would help. Perhaps. Perhaps.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

keep it weird

It's a city that engages my mind, body, heart, spirit, and all of my senses.

A city where I receive the best massages that leave me with bruises. A city where I dance giddily with partners, laughing as if I've never smiled so much while dancing. A city where I slip and fall while dancing. A city where the guy I ran into while falling asks me to dance next.

A city where I enjoy music outside in the heat as sweat drips down my thighs. A city where music invades me as rain pours down. A city where I dance to the music I love the most. A city where I sit quietly, in awe of the sounds and sights that I'm experiencing.

A city where lost loves are mourned. A city where romance awakens. A city where I last enjoyed my grandmother.

A city where one moment I'm sweating in the heat and the next I'm shivered in the cool, invigorating spring waters.

A city where the best sushi is served from a trailer. A city where donuts are gourmet foods. A city where the best coffee is an artform.

A city where the strangest of strangers become friends. A city where I realize that great friends are more similar to me than I could have ever imagined.

A city where I experience just how much God loves me. A city where God shows up on a green hillside or in the hands of a homeless man or in the eyes of a friend or in the lyrics of a song.

Maybe it's a city where I'll reside someday, but for now, it's a city that I love. A city that I've been blessed to get to know over the past three years.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Any of these could be the opening lines to a legitimate blog post

"Girls start out more mature than guys. Their biggest weakness is their hearts, but girls just go through a few heart breaks, then they become women." "Hmm, I've been through some heart breaks, am I a woman?" Pause. "Yes, you're definitely a woman."

Are you a lover or a runner?

Since I've moved into my summer house, I've spent more nights away than I have in my home for the summer. It's been fun and exciting (very exciting at times), but also tiring and nomadic. I want to get settled in and feel at home, but I'm not sure if this summer will let me. I may have to fight my summer schedule to really feel at home, like I did last summer in a way that came so naturally and easily to me.

Packing to go to a conference on psychotherapy with men, I had a hard time deciding what to wear. I didn't want to wear something that was too "feminine." Wait, why does this matter? Gender is funny, and I've been thinking about it a lot.

Christian belief and Christian practice. The past several years, I've been very turned off from studying or thinking or talking about Christian "doctrine." Even writing the word now makes me uncomfortable. But I'm recognizing again (somewhat reluctantly) that it is important, that what I believe about my faith is important, and why I believe it is important. I readily and eagerly embrace that Christian practice is important, and I'm coming to see (and hope to learn more) how doctrine is essential to practice, that right beliefs drive right actions. I'm a reluctant theologian.

I'm recognizing how much I love dancing and how closely it relates to my confidence in myself in other areas of life. A week ago, for the first time I can remember, a friend told me that I was a good dancer. Then a few days ago, a dance partner told me that I was a confident dancer. I'm thankful to be at this place with my dancing and myself.

I'm going to teach my good friend how to ride a bike again. Sometimes, "It's just like riding a bicycle," isn't an accurate metaphor.

Just some random spattering of thoughts. This week, I'm beginning a writing exercise, I'm going to write at least one blog post a day for this entire week. Let's get into gear.