both sides now

She sits with vases of flowers surrounding her.
Some fresh and vibrant, some with bent, dead blossoms that have been kept too long.

Suddenly I feel the weight and see the irony of my mother sitting there amongst the vases of flowers and I can’t help thinking which set of flowers she prefers or if she even notices the difference.

She seems bent over and frail like the faded blossom.
I wonder if she feels “kept too long” ?

Does she notice that her life stalled out and time has slipped by.  Years have slipped by.
And there she sits, trapped inside a wilting body.

Aging feels cruel just now as I witness the slow disappearance of who my mother was. The reality of growing old almost certainly means the loss of beauty and memory, but the worst by far is the loss of dignity.  Instead of her designer wardrobe, she wears the same old worn shirts covered with stains and crumbs.  Her hair and make up are askew, skin sagging.

It all feels too humiliating to bear.
To be human forces us to face death , but disease I fear is an atrocity.
It’s like a stripping gale force wind, robbing the soul of any illusion of control.
And we, the bystanders are not spared the winds’ force either.  It shakes everything in it’s path and cuts deep at dignity’s roots.  It pushes on us who watch, a disruptive restlessness we can’t escape.  We must grieve the loss and the sense of powerlessness in the same breath.

And I, my mother’s only daughter, am able to see the glint of longing in her hazy stare.
I see the young hopeful girl and beautiful woman all wrapped inside the thin, frail skin.
I know her secrets.
Her love lost.
Her disappointments.
Her sorrow she never let show.
And I carry it all in the words I write.  I’m giving this small voice a place to sing.

I can’t help seeing my own aging reflection in her eyes and wonder how do we both find solid ground in this sea of change.  These waves feel too overwhelming to endure just now.
My heart is trying to hold on but my grasp is a wrestling match.  This journey of learning to let go of someone who is “still here” has been gut wrenching and wrought through with confusion.

The ebb and flow between sympathy and resignation are constant.

I never know how I should feel as I gaze at the shell of skin that once contained a vibrant woman. Sometimes I look in her eyes and swear I still see that twinkle of life inside.
It’s the same spark that always showed up when she would let her guard down. When she allowed herself to feel.

Music was always the way to her heart and the strains of her favorite song often play in my head…

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairytale comes real.

I’ve looked at love that way.

But now it’s just another show
You leave em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know-
don’t give yourself away.

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
from give and take and still somehow
it’s loves illusions I recall, I really don’t know love at all.
-Joni Mitchell

These words linger with deeper meaning as I ponder life and death.  Are we meant to do both well ?  Or do we just give ourselves permission to stumble along from time to time in our wonderfully vulnerable human skin and learn as we go.

It’s a letting go and pulling back and everything in between.

It’s holding onto the way I want to remember my mom, with sun-kissed cheeks and toes in the sand and also being present at her bedside with tender affection and tears.
I fully know that death will win in the end and we both must make peace with that.

And so it is, the sun sets and rises and I receive both.
There’s no other way.
Because the receiving and the wrestling are both holy.


for Patti, who taught me about resiliency and resourcefulness…
and who showed me many important things in life like how to talk yourself out of a speeding ticket and eat avocados with a spoon while sun-bathing and how to properly shop all day and end with a glass of chardonnay. And most importantly who taught me to see the world with a twinkle in your eye.  I love you for it all.
xxoo your jamie sue


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I’ve written about gravity many times.
I see how it’s needed and all,
still i resent it’s pull on some days.

But something i’ve just discovered is that poetry lifts the weight.
Somehow, some way it brings relief to the downward pull.

How extraordinary really
and how simple is this remedy to the weighty work of soul-tending.

So like a companion that takes our hand
and walks tenderly alongside-

poetry sojourns with us.

She finds words when we cannot.
She speaks with rhythm and levity…
drawing the heart upward.

So even if for a brief time, it soars.

But it seems enough.
Just enough
to mend gravity’s pull.



I’m pretty new to the poetry thing
but here are just a few of my favorites poets:

John O’Donahue
Mary Oliver
Lucille Clifton
Rainer Maria Rilke
Victoria Erickson

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when we are little , we think we’ll never run out.
when we are old, we always want more.

it’s a funny and agonizing reality that we live under , even a little fuzzy like the picture above. the truth is, of all the stuff that we shake our fist at in day to day living…not one of us gets a day back.  they slip by just the same for each and every one of us.
like it or not.
rich or poor.
young or old.
happy or miserable.

Tempus fugit my precious grandmother used to say.  it means “time flies” in Latin.
i think she knew something long before i did as a youth…time does indeed go by quickly.
we can’t hold it down or make it stay.  so don’t miss it.  be present to the “now”. i can hear her voice in my head.

now, as a grown-up i’m finally really understanding what living in the present means for my life. and that it’s a daily choice to enjoy and take in the daily moments…and most of all to PAY ATTENTION.

not in a devouring, panic driven posture but in a settled knowing that each day is sacred and worthwhile.  this is really the only way to discover the deep substance of living connected to God moment by moment.  and letting that fill my soul up.

it’s so easy to fill our souls up with other things. therefore, it will always be an intentional choice to not fill up with every other thing that appeals and demands for our affection.

a life lived attentively and surrendered to the present is filled with invitation to live with right-sizing perspective. but it’s not easy.
because everything about life is rushing us forward…pulling or pushing.

SET GOALS!! the motivational author taunts.
stay positive, dream big, go after more.

more. more. more.

but when will it be enough i wonder. i’m not sure we fully understand this problem until we get to an age where we’ve grabbed at enough life and worked long days, weeks and years…and still come up lacking.  the gnawing empty places that we longed to satiate are still gaping.

we haven’t arrived. we’re still just here, looking around for what really matters.
and that is what my grandmother understood.

she held what really mattered and loved fiercely.

she didn’t waste time on anything false or fleeting and efficiency was never the goal.  she hung her laundry on the clothes line out back every morning, even long after clothes dryers were available and affordable. and i remember like it was yesterday, sitting in her front living room and “visiting” with friends who would stop by.  neighbors or long time friends would often come over just to catch up and it felt as though all other activity stopped and we would sit on the fancy couches and chairs connecting over stories and light conversation, always with a glass of cold lemonade.

as a little girl, this ritual enthralled me.  i loved all the pretty things that my grandmother surrounded herself with and knew she treasured the memories they held more than the things themselves. i loved the quiet stillness of her home.  i loved the way the sunlight streamed in from the big front windows.  and i loved the overwhelming settledness that came over me upon entering her home.  every time.

time actually did feel as if it stood still there.

so now, many decades later i hold all of those thoughts and practices dearly (except the clothesline part ).
and i hold time loosely.

i re-commit to being “present” with people i love and share life with, even the register clerk at the grocery store.  i reject losing myself in anxiety about the unknown and uncertainty in the world around or my circumstances. i want grace to take root instead.

i knew that my grandmother’s grace filled way of living had been forged by loss and hardship, not from living a charmed, easy life.  i knew because of the stories she would tell us of a childhood surrounded by dusty copper mines in Utah and growing up while the world was at war, twice.  uncertainty had all but swirled in the dry air above her.  scarcity and heartache had been everywhere, yet somehow she emerged with wings.
wings that somehow endured the winds of time as it flew by.

beautiful wings and hands that weren’t afraid of getting dirty.
and a heart that always remained hopeful, even in the face of pain and sorrow.

i’d give just about anything to sit across from her again in that light filled room.  i have so many more questions now that i’m older.  i miss the way time stood still with her…

maybe it just did during the minutes it took me to remember and write this.
and maybe the grace i’m asking God for is just enough for today.

and that is enough.


for Kathleen Bohn Tremellen, who held us all so well and for so long.
xxoo your jamie




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Love keeps us in the present , inviting us to wholeness by blocking our flight into places of false safety.”
-Jan Meyers    Listening to Love

today is one of those days it’s hard to be present.
it hurts to be present and feel the pain of grief.
and when pain hits, sometimes i’d like to be anywhere but where i am.

but, i’ve come to know that pain cannot be outrun or dismissed. it just doesn’t work that way.  and the well worn paths i’ve traveled to for false safety are indeed dead-ends.
because pain’s purpose is of a most sacred nature.
it is at the core, an invitation from God to let Him break our tough, fibrous heart habits…and be undone for Love’s sake.

i first began to understand this years ago when it seemed that God was stripping me bare of the familiar things i clung to. the things i thought would save me. and sooth me. and insulate me from suffering.
it felt brutal and cruel.
and disrupting.  so freaking disrupting.

i still remember how i scratched my head at the thought of God using disappointment, disillusionment and loss to turn my affections toward Him.
it certainly didn’t feel like love.

but slowly i began to really get it. i began seeing that God had something ENTIRELY different in mind for me.  He had a deep, kind and abiding Love story in mind.  one that had little to do with a pretty, safe life.

my heart began to understand and see how i had looked to God for cooperation more then a reckless and wild Lover of my soul.

this broke me in the most beautiful way.
it broke me right down to the center of my demand that God do things on my terms.
but it also freed me down to the center too.  and it gave way to the undoing and unraveling that would make space for more of God.

and so it is that i have learned to befriend pain.
because the pains purpose is always meant to transform us and draw us to the Father as only affliction can. and at it’s most basic level pain demands something from us.

it jolts us awake.
then it pushes itself , like a strong-willed child, into the tight spaces we’ve closed off.  it’s like a stray cat that clings to our leg, refusing to leave.  because pain refuses to sit quietly and patiently by…instead it takes down our walls brick by brick and begs us to feel.  it pushes into the dark, tough tissue where there is no path-and makes new blood vessels to form .  bringing light and oxygen to places that had been dead.  as author John Lynch beautifully reminds us..

“God, if He is whom He claims to be, does not stop all pain or loss-but instead, wonderfully discloses channels of receptivity we did not previously know existed. Like new capillaries formed in training at high altitudes, the capacity to receive love increases.  And that, just that, somehow becomes more than enough.”

so if this alone be the reason for God’s disrupting and thwarting, wouldn’t that be worth the call to surrender ?  wouldn’t it be worth the muddling in those new directions to grow our receptivity to His love ? i want to think the answer will always be yes. but it’s still risky.
and my heart can still be timid and fearful at the idea of being rearranged.

so i cling to what i know. and i know that God’s interruptions have a divine purpose. and He means them to save us.
i consider myself saved by pain.
for it has lead me to the end of me.
it has brought me to the beginning of surrender time and again. and implored me to give in to the work of God. letting Him cut into the marrow of my soul in the most concise and beautiful way.
and this is the strangest gift of pain. it gets beneath all our strategies to keep love at a distance. it breaks down even the most stubborn soul and stretches the tidiest of lives. it makes us desperate.  and we cannot ignore it.

so today, i thank God for the affliction and loss He has allowed to come my way.
i’m not the same.
i have found His mercy in that hidden new tissue that Lynch describes.
i have let pain score itself into the tender tissue of my human heart, leaving it forever changed and rearranged.  softened and broken and grown in its capacity to receive the width and depth of God’s love.

i want to keep pushing into pain instead of pushing it away.
so Father keep blocking my flight to false safety and take me in.
cover my frailty with Your extravagant grace.
make me brave.
and keep saving me from myself.


for Campbell who we held for 7 precious and sacred days. and who scored onto our hearts the tender hope of heaven.  we long to be in that place with no more sadness or tears and see you there.  because of you sweet girl, we are forever expanded and rearranged… changed by the pain of grief in the very deepest way.  what a beautiful and profound gift.  xxoo







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holding my hands open has never come easy to me.
or naturally either.
i’ve been suspicious as long as i can remember and i often find myself holding my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
i don’t fully understand how i got so jaded. but here i am.

i wrestle with trust.  i wrestle with letting go.  i wrestle with all my parts being held with care and mattering to God.
and honestly i spend so much time wrestling, that i miss the simplicity of the gospel sometimes.

to live a whole and integrated life is the invitation of the gospel…yes, i want that,
but i can get so stuck in my small , tight fisted reality.
in truth, the gospel of Jesus is this simple… He was broken so that we can be fully restored and whole, REALLY WHOLE.  our part is to live with hands open and heart surrendered.

and our radical God gives us the choice.  i have a choice whether or not to fully open my hands.  and it’s hard sometimes.
there is still some back and forth before the surrender happens. or maybe it just happens in layers, as if God is peeling down through the tough parts of my will to get to my vulnerable , trusting self.  the self i often protect.

i know how He longs for me to show up at the foot of the cross with my open hands and disconnected heart, and let Him love me there.  and do some mending.  i really want to be brave.  i want to believe that opening up my fragile heart won’t leave me in a ditch on the side of the road. as a hit and run.

if you’ve been reading my thoughts this past year, then you know a bit of my journey to get my heart back.  to find God somewhere in the strewn out parts of me.
and to find hope again.

it’s been dark and stretching and has left me doubting if i could be put back together.  my prayers are desperate and feel cold.

but the other night i had a vision.

i was asking God how He saw my heart during a healing prayer time…and He showed me a field of wildflowers.
wildflowers up to my waist.  unkept and free.  then, i started gathering them in the golden light of the afternoon.
crazy cool. and tears, lots of tears.

i was reminded in that moment that my human skin holds a beautifully sacred and wild heart.  and that this same human skin can stir up shame and confusion too. twisting how i see my sacredness.
so it seems to me that God isn’t surprised by my wrestling or urge to self protect.

the thing is, i also believe that He longs for more for me. for us.
more freedom and more letting go.
and He wants to transform how we interpret His silence.

because this changes everything.

when our trust in God is unshakable, then the silence doesn’t mean He is absent.
and this kind of trust invites humility and risk in letting ourselves be loved just as we are.
rough around the edges.
shattered to pieces.
and desperate.

we never have to hide and push away our ugly parts or hustle for grace and favor.

this might even sound too good to be true if you’re like me…wondering how His glory could shine through this flawed human skin.

but this is what i cling to –
His favor is already on us.
we are enough.
we are fully covered by His gospel grace , no matter WHAT.  we can bring every fearful and messy part of us to the altar and let His love cover it.  so that all the “pieces of us” can be bound up and tied with the sacred grave cloth of Jesus.

making a way for us to live whole.  and open.  and liberated.
no hiding, no faking, no running and no clenching the fist.  His love allows us to look our worst and still be taken into His embrace.  and the most radical thing about gospel Love is that it undoes us.
all the strategies we’ve clung to in order to make life work, fall apart.

it’s hard to understand at first, but this too is Love.  and this falling apart is meant to bring us to our knees.  in desperate need of Jesus.

and this Love carves out the holiest space to live true and wholehearted lives.
i don’t want to resist anymore.  i’m weary of resisting. and reasoning. and doubting.

i want to risk. and be caught up.

my heart wants to be captured with this gospel Love and affection.
and i know it’s what our souls are truly made for.  this free and courageous living.
so Jesus take me there.  to this beautiful, spacious and wild place.

i’m letting go.

Jesus thank you for taking me by the hand into the meadow…for letting my heart have room to wrestle and run and for not giving up on me. thank you for putting together all the wild pieces of me , just so.  and for covering all those pieces with extravagant mercy and grace as You hold Your hand underneath my hand, gently keeping it open.  because i can’t do it by myself.

xxoo jamie

Miruna, thank you for capturing this moment in the fields of Wyoming . it treasure it.
this post is dedicated to all my fellow wildflower-hearted friends. my life is stirred up and inspired by your fierce love and friendship.  xo

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Do not call to mind the former things,
or ponder the things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new,
now it will spring forth.
Will you not be aware of it ?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness.
Rivers in the desert.   Isaiah 43:18-19

my heart needs reminding of this lately.
that He will make a way.
even in the desert dust.
even when the old wounds and losses pull hard and i wonder if things in life can ever be set to right.
but then i look, and right here in God’s word He promises newness.

He promises water in the desert; rivers no less.
He says don’t even ponder things of the past because He’s doing something all together different.  so don’t miss it.  (alright… i’m listening Jesus !!)

He is, in a word, saying I’m redeeming.

redemption, the Webster definition calls it a “recovery mission”.  to get back something that was lost.  to recover what once was or what rightfully belonged to us.

it’s honestly one of the most beautiful mysteries that comes from a Life with God.  and most of the time it is beyond our understanding…because it happens bit by bit, and then suddenly all at once. maybe that’s why it can be easy to miss.  but it’s as if God wants to remind us that He is behind the scenes ALWAYS.  shaping fullness from empty. recovering our losses and things we’d counted forgotten and broken…and writing a new ending to the story we thought we knew so well.

and with redemption, comes the truest foretaste of heaven for our souls.
i believe it’s as if God is saying  “pssst come see what wild things I’m up to for your good…you just won’t believe what happens next !!”

so, if you’re at all like me, and can easily forget the good that God is up to or wonder if your story could ever have a more beautiful ending…here are a few things God has been reminding me about redemption.

it always calls out hope.
it calls out hope from the deepest cracks in us.
it shakes it’s fist against what has tried to scar us and hold us down.
it’s a divine protestor against all that tries to steal our joy, against the enemy of our souls.
it is grace that comes on the heals of desert winds.  withering winds that blow hard, trying to ruin us.

redemption is the rain.
rain that floods the barren ground, washing down to the very center of us where the seeds of new Life are buried.

and here is where the miracle happens.
because those seeds are the tiniest beginnings of His glory planted into the soul of us.

i have a favorite story about my friend who loves to set beautiful tables.  she scours cookbooks and creates the loveliest food.  feasts for the senses and tables that invite deep communion.  her heart literally comes alive as she offers this gift of Life around her table.  it’s no surprise how her story left her wounded in the very place where those glorious seeds were sprouting.  that she, as a little 4 year old girl, was left time and again at the dinner table in front of a cold plate of mushy, tasteless vegetables.  she had to sit there well past the meal time until she finished every last cold pea.  and drink every last bit of warm milk.  sometimes it was hours.
alone at the table.
what was stolen in those early years   felt irredeemable.
but i’ve seen with my own eyes Dana’s glory revealed…and it shimmers.  it’s the ending God had in mind all along.

so much of the time, the assault on our most tender parts seems out of God’s reach.  we forget that He isn’t constrained by time and space when He promises to recover and reform our losses.
to make ALL things new.

to stir up love again for a widow, when she wondered if her heart could ever trust and feel for a man again. that aching place inside her felt too deep to fill and hope felt far too risky.
but God had a new adventurous love chapter still in mind.

to bring laughter again for a chemo patient who’s lost every last hair, but keeps a stash of wigs in her trunk that come in handy on those “bad no-hair days.”  then to watch this beautiful heart be made free amidst and in spite of the ravages of cancer…because God was inviting her into a far more sacred and glorious dance.

to restore hope to a momma who holds a new baby in her arms, after burying one years before. to watch her smell that delicious baby scent and be reminded that it holds both bitter and sweet thoughts and images. because now, she’s made peace with the false ideas of what goodness looks like. she knows grief and joy are both parts of God’s invitation to experience Him more deeply.

these are all pictures of redemption.
different pictures of those fresh shoots of new Life that the Lover of our souls is uncovering and recovering.

these stories all share a sweetness that is vivid , unmistakable and often unexpected. because redemption so often surprises us.  and don’t you just LOVE that about God.
how He turns “valleys of death”  into “valleys of hope”.

He just asks us to wait expectantly, even when we can’t fully see what’s ahead.
to wait and watch .
and believe that somehow God, against all odds, turns ashes into beauty and cold peas into a beautiful feast.


for my shimmering friend Dana on your birthday.  thank you for inviting me to your table and for being that constant reminder of what redemption looks like.  you encourage me to live courageously in the messy middle of my story while i wait for the new ending God is writing. you are a rare and beautiful gift and i promise to NEVER make you eat cooked vegetables.  with deep love and affection ,
xxoo jamie







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we spoke on the phone yesterday. do you remember ?

i said that i’m coming out to visit and that i’d like to take you to lunch. do you remember?

i’m suspended in the warm California air as i write this.  coming in for a landing soon , the captain says.  my heart is heavy suddenly at the thought of you not being at the airport, whizzing in to pick me up curbside like you have for so many decades.

times have changed these past few years and you don’t drive anymore…or even own a car.  let’s be honest though, the freeways are safer that way.  but i miss it just now.  alot.

i’m sentimental like you mom.  and i think about those days gone by, especially when i come back to my home town. childhood was good here , filled to the brim with bright and wonderful memories…most of which are lost to you now. and all of us have grown up and moved on.  now i’m older.  much older.  and this adult life gets hard sometimes.  honestly, some days i want to be a little girl again and know that you will be there to take care of me.

but now it’s my turn.  now i’m the one who takes care of you. and reminds you of the warm, lovely memories of what was. it’s almost like a game we play as i try to jog your decaying mind.

do you remember how much you loved the beach and taking long walks ?

do you remember your favorite color and what lipstick you wear?

do you remember what it felt like to travel to far away places, and how much you loved that ?

do you remember holding your grandbabies for the first time or laughing about your bad cooking ?

i want you to.  i want it all for you so badly.  i want the wholeness of life to wash over you.  but i fear you’re not really in there anymore. you’re eyes don’t sparkle like they used to. instead they stare confused.  i notice.

that is why i try to remember for you and choose to play this game.
i tell stories.  i repeat things.  again and again and again.
i choose to repeat without scolding, so you won’t notice that you’ve asked the same question 10 times.

and i hide my breaking heart from you.

i guess i don’t want to make you scared or let on that you’re not the same.  but you’re not the same.  i’ve lost you.

i’ve grieved little by little and bit by bit.  i miss you so much it hurts on some days- even though you’re still here.  i tell you i love you often, and i hope you remember that.  and i hope somehow it’s enough to keep your fragile mind from slipping away completely.

but, i’m bracing my heart for the day you don’t remember me anymore.
164this is the part of being an adult that nobody ever tells you about…that life is a long string of collecting moments, holding them closely and then releasing them back.
there’s so much letting go. and most of the time we’re not really ready for it.  we are either being pushed from the nest or pushing others from it.

ready or not, whether we want to or not.  nothing stays stagnant in this strange and beautiful dance of adulting. ( yes, i made up that word)
i want to hold you tightly mom and i don’t want you to forget the rich, full life you’ve lived.  but i can’t fix this brokenness, hard as i might try.

for now, my hand can hold your hand-aging and soft.  and my heart can hold the memory of you-complete and whole.  and i can do my best at this adult thing.

knowing that adults usually live somewhere between braveness and frailty on most days.  and that’s ok.
today is just one of the frail days.

i’ll love you forever,
xxoo jamie



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i have my mug of hot coffee in hand and my face is warmed by the morning winter sun.

lately i’ve been so aware of my need to just sit in the warmth and comfort of God’s presence.  to receive- with nothing in hand-not even the capacity to muster or pretend having it together.  it’s been the strangest few months…nothing has made sense and i have felt irreparably flawed and more confused than usual.  i started writing this in january and now it’s april. how !?

this past year has been a tough one regarding relationships. one of my darkest on record. ( thankfully, i don’t keep records.) but that’s how it all started.
this darkness.
and when it’s dark,  it’s so easy to believe that the darkness defines me, especially when i have felt like a flawed failure.

old lies along with a few fresh ones have haunted my days and nights.
pulling hard at my tattered soul and causing me to question….everything.

i’ve described my state of being as that of a dismantled car strewn out on a driveway.  parts here and there haphazardly as if a teenage boy whose wannabe mechanic skills have gotten him in way over his head.  now there is just chaos and dismay.  and a strange sense of helplessness.


even as i write this post,  i have the sense of sitting cross-legged by the edge of this driveway with deep self-awareness at how i have spiritualized this process of being dismantled in the past.  i feel the sharp elbow stab to the side as the Spirit is reminding me how i’ve been careless with my words of comfort when it comes to the process of transformation.  the truth is, i’ve been told and admittedly have told others that being dismantled is a good thing , even a sacred thing.  but i confess, it feels  more terrifying than holy in this season.

it feels confusing and dark.

the darkness usually hits in the night.  like a bony finger tapping me on the shoulder with accusing and suffocating shame. i see it for what it is.  and even when i know it isn’t the truest thing about me, i feel utterly broken and carry a strong sense that i’m too difficult to love and not worth fighting for.  i can’t seem to wriggle out from under this weight and can’t help wondering if i’ve opened a Pandora’s box in all my soul probing. or maybe i fell down a rabbit hole of sorts and can’t find my way back up to daylight. my heart wonders, is God anywhere in this darkness ?  i don’t have answers but i’ve been desperately looking.

my side table by the bed holds stacks of books that i’d hoped would stir my soul toward truth. but nothing did.  finally in january i heard some words from author Brene Brown explaining  the second step of looking at and owning our story as “the dark middle”.  it’s that place we come to in our journey where we’re too far in to turn back but not far enough in to see the light.  in military terms, it’s called the point of no return.  wow, when i first heard those words, i felt like i wasn’t alone or crazy.  in fact,  this idea brought some context and validation to the mess i was feeling.  but something in me still couldn’t muster or move toward God.  and even in my whispered prayers He seemed silent.

the only word He gave me during this long year was… mercy.

it means lavish, generous compassion.
kindness that God himself extends to us out of His affection and benevolence toward us. i had forgotten how much i ached for it.

i first became acquainted with the longing for mercy many years ago in the midst of deep grief. during that time i had the real sense that something deep inside me had gotten severed and i was bleeding out. part of me had wanted to find the quickest cure and part of me couldn’t move. but no matter how much i wanted relief from the gutting pain, i had an awareness that my soul just needed tending to.  and that’s what the mercy of God does. it takes us to the place where our most fragile human parts meet up with His most healing touch. and it covers us, like a cleft in the rock.


since those days of grief and sorrow,  i see more clearly how pain and loss can be God’s kindest provision for the soul.  i have learned to see the invitation to come empty and needy to the streams’ edge as a beautiful invitation, not a terrifying one.   i see how this dismantling has roused my longing for God.  i see now that He was covering me, even in the dark middle of my story as i wrestled through the transformation process.  i see how all my broken, shameful and dismantled parts were, and are covered by the safety of His grace and love…no matter how far strewn they have become.

my words here in no way minimize the overwhelming sadness and despair i felt during this past year, but God has reminded me in the sweetest way again and again that the emptiness and anguish we feel are His most tender gifts.  because when comfort or relief can’t be found in ordinary things, our soul-roots grow deeper for what God alone can offer. nothing else satisfies.

so here is what i know of sweet and beautiful mercy.

it finds us when we have nothing to offer.  no ability to muster or perform or earn kindness , but we know it’s suddenly all we desperately need.

we cannot arrange for it.  we cannot earn it and we certainly cannot pay it back.    self- sufficiency and control have no seat at the mercy banquet.  it’s only for the broken and needy.  for those of us who are out of options, out of good books and out of strategies for living a spiritually good life. (check, check ,check)

mercy doesn’t ever rush us to get better either.  it sits with us like Shiva grace that has no time line.  it’s the invitation for us to come curl up by the streams of Living water- the place where the kindness of God tends to the brokenness in us for as long as necessary-all the while asking nothing in return but just to surrender and soak in the flood of mercy.

taking in every drop with every new day.


so Father come. come find me and find us when we feel gut-punch broken and flawed. when we feel unworthy. when we feel restless and taken apart at the seams.

mend us. cover us and pour out Your vast kindness on us that is new every morning.

we need mercy today and every day in this broken world we live in.  it’s the only thing that stirs hope and lets a hushed hallelujah leave our lips amidst the darkness of night.

we are desperate for it, just like craving the warm winter sun on our face…
bringing with it fresh Life to our dry and weary (and sometimes scattered) bones.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends !
His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness.
His mercies begin afresh each morning.
Lamentations 3:22,23

Father, thank you for teaching me what the gift of mercy feels like. even if the path to get there is messy, dark and crushing . i believe You are up to good in the dismantling always…even when i don’t understand or see how i will be put back together.
thank you for reminding me that You do Your best work in the dark where the sparks are often hidden.
after all, a holy collision
is never a tidy affair.
xo, jamie

source: Rising Strong by Brene Brown

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belong [bi-long] verb
1. to be part of,  be in proper place  2. to be affiliated with or be a member of


the holidays are looming.
so, naturally it’s that time of year again when we start thinking more about family.

and families are quirky things.

they are usually marked by habits, traditions, opinions and insider humor.  mine is no different.  i grew up as one of five kids and we have no shortage of good stories, memories, and shenanigans that shaped our childhood.  the craziest part is that we all remember stuff a little differently…as kids of the same family often do.  and we all at times could feel a bit lost in the crowd or left out.  even so, there was still a sense that we “had each other” on our worst days.  and that our family was a sanctuary… with its faults and all.

my parents had a king-size bed that seemed enormous to us.  and one of my very favorite memories was climbing into that bed on saturday mornings.
us kids would wander in sleepy-eyed, one at a time, and jump under the covers between my mom and dad.  i remember feeling found and safe there.  i think we all did.

space would inevitably get a little cramped as we all wiggled and squished in.

177my younger brother michael was always the last one in for some reason and his words of dismay have become one of our favorite family sayings- “there’s no pwace” (place) he would whimper while standing at the foot of the bed with mounded up people and covers.

in response, my daddy would always pat the place next to him on the bed and exclaim-“yes there is” !!  then we’d all squish some more and plead him to jump in.
i can still remember his little expression turning from sadness to joy.
from disbelief to belief.
from a sense of exclusion to inclusion.

and don’t we all want that ?  to belong.  really belong.

when we know that we belong somewhere or to someone it does something to our souls.  it grounds us with a sense that we have a “pwace”.
a spot just for us where we are known and invited into… without hesitation.

for some of us, our families offered a taste of this.  but for others of us there remains a hole.
either way, the truth is , the longing to belong is one of the most beautiful ways we bear God’s image.

our heart connections always speak of our worth and weight in this world,  and that somehow our little frail existence matters and is noticed.  and more amazingly, that God Himself designed us with a need to connect to others.

basically, we need each other because God is, at His core, a relational God.  He lives in trinitarian community and shared love -always.  so our very image has a beautiful basis and sacred design for neediness.  yay. (said sarcastically under my breath)

i don’t know about you, but if i’m honest, this feels slightly terrifying and unnerving.  not exciting or expectant.  i feel a bit like my little brother standing at the foot of that huge king-size bed. wondering if there is room for me.

118i much prefer to not be needy.
i much prefer self-reliance and no risk of exclusion.

in fact, most of my earliest “heart wounds” as a little girl stemmed from being left out or uninvited with groups of neighbor girls and friends.
as the years have passed,  hoping to belong has often felt too painful and way too risky.  my middle aged heart can so quickly feel like my five year old heart.

but the truth is without taking the risk of relationship, part of me dies off.  and part of my heart becomes numb and detached, choked off by self protection.

it’s a downright ugly place to be. and it’s riddled through with disbelief in God’s good heart for me. it keeps me stuck in believing i am alone and that there’s no “pwace” for me.  so i choose to keep wrestling when i’m tempted to quit.  knowing that it’s a daily risk to live expectantly and to walk fully in my God given image and to offer my sacred need for relationship to the others around me.  to invite them in and trust that God is the One who sees, even if they miss or reject me.  and this reminds my heart that life with God is more about risk than safety.  as author Jan Meyers so beautifully words this invitation

“Life with God conspires to bring us back, over and over again, to a childlike place where we are breathlessly caught off guard by Love and reminded of all that we were created for and desire.  And then we are brought back to a place where we must lean in and ask for those things the way a child does, depending fully on someone bigger than ourselves.”
-Listening to Love

when i consider my sense of  neediness and dependence to be childlike, it doesn’t seem nearly as counter-intuitive. because that is the essence and beauty of being a child. children ask with exposed and unapologetic hearts.

so, why don’t i ?  how did my childlike heart get lost and covered up along the way in this life ?

i desperately want to live that way. to feel with a childlike heart and to believe my Papa has good in store, and that i belong to Him.   i’m becoming braver bit by bit.  but it’s hard to go backwards…from being a grown-up, back to a child.  to let my heart soar with expectancy like when i was a little girl. cynicsm can so quickly creep in and cut off hope at the knees.   yuck.

it somehow feels really big that i “get” this idea, that we “get” this idea… because God keeps bringing me back here.

we belong to Him.

and belonging to Him goes far beyond family or friends, because even at their best, these kinds of belonging can fall short.

the truth is, the kind of belonging that God offers is not just some far-off, flowery or religious promise.  we are , in fact, part of the trinitarian dance . this grounds us and reminds us that we are the beloved children of a relentless , good God.
His Fathers heart is always inviting us into relationship with generous grace and kindness.
i love picturing God as a Father with arms outstretched, patting the spot next to Him , saying… you are chosen
               you are seen
               you are wanted
               you are found in every way.  and you belong to Me, so jump in.


my resistance to feeling needy melts off when i let myself be taken in by this sacred affection.  it makes way for my little girl-heart to come out and be willing to enter into relationships…and be the arms of God to the people i love.

michael's 50th birthday 016reminding them, that they belong too.

so, if you find yourself among dear friends or quirky family in the coming months, don’t forget to take each other in.  put your arms around each other and hold tight to your “people”, whoever they may be.  make your heart a safe and kind place. tell each other “you matter” and that there will always be a “pwace” for their weary soul.

wishing you joy and blessings from my family to yours  xxoo jamie


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107i’ve lost some things and i’ve found some things since i’ve last written.
i realize it’s been nearly 3 months but i’ve been away awhile and i’ve been processing. wondering if i could find the words to tell a bit of my journey. here goes.

for 8 days in August i walked the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain  (also called The Way of St. James).  it’s epic and ancient and has been drawing seekers for centuries for all sorts of reasons.  it’s a “bucket list” kind of experience.   most who come to walk are looking for something or to become something…different or reformed or at the very least cleansed !!  deep down i wanted all of that too.

so, there i was on that misty , cool morning in late summer ready to begin.  i had brought with me a longing for adventure, a sense of reverence and a backpack far too heavy.

241i had prepared physically but it didn’t take very  long to understand that this was far more about a journey of the soul and the civil war that wages on inside-between the heart and head.

as i walked, part of me felt like a stranger and part of me felt grounded and familiar.  i had grown more certain about some things and confused about a great many more things.
which is a good thing.
not an easy thing though.
it left me feeling a bit lost.  yet somehow-in the end- delivered.

feeling stretched in thought and soul and body left me weary and grateful and delivered-all at the same time.

so here is what the miles taught me…

i learned that merely walking 100 miles doesn’t change a person.  but the miles do strip away the insulation that acts like a buffer between our best and worst selves.

basically, it’s just really hard to keep your shit together after 13-18 mile-long days of hiking. day after day.

by day 2 , i felt plain old.  i was in fact the oldest one in our group of 32.  my age had never really bothered me…until then.  i longed to throw my hair up into an effortless”messy bun” and look beautiful.  i wanted ease instead of struggle. i wanted to wriggle out of my imperfect, aging body.

the truth is, everyone was tired, whether young or old.  our feet were blistered and knees ached.  as we rose each day before the sunrise, we all had to reach down into the strongest and most resilient parts of us.  for me, those parts felt anything but beautiful.

all of this made me aware of what really mattered.  at first, my make-upless and slightly beaten up appearance wasn’t a big deal , but i struggled to feel like “myself” as the days went on.  my skin felt saggy and my hair looked like that of a homeless man.  the grey hairs were especially unruly and it pained me to gaze at my reflection in the mirror.  so i didn’t.  i felt downright ugly.  inside and out. ( i’m keeping it real here)

each day i felt more unraveled and stripped and stuck with myself.

yet somehow, amidst the angst i heard the invitation from God…”can you make peace with yourself in this life ?”
i know we all grow old, we age and we have a choice about what we cling to amidst this sacred tension. the truth is…it is NOT an easy thing to sort out…in fact, the words aging gracefully couldn’t be in more contrast. as i walked i had only of sliver of dignity to hold onto…and i had The Camino.  the ancient path that had held so many other pilgrims before me-all in search of something.  all fellow wrestlers.

and so, i began to see The Camino as a sort of midwife as i walked.  moving me toward a deliverance.  not a deliverance away from what i didn’t love about myself, but a deliverance unto a deeper level of self-acceptance as i age.

it pushed me out of self-consuming thoughts and into a broader capacity to come to terms with my humanity.  after all, the entire role of a midwife is to assist in a birth.  and the birth is inevitable…so she merely assists in bringing about- a sort of “giving into”-as the new life is delivered.  the whole way through, the midwife holds the laboring mother with firmness and tenderness and affirmation.

244in this same way, the Camino held me.
this road of dirt and rocks had held centuries worth of seekers.  now it held a strand of pilgrims that i was amongst – all looking and hoping to come out on the other end- somehow changed.  so there i was felling ugly and worn and the road held the mess that i was.  it wooed me with its beauty and whispered with its winding tendrils-filled with delight and discovery.  it undid my fleshly strength with each kilometer i walked…yet with each step i felt more and more delivered unto my truest self.  ( the amazing spainish coffee along the way helped greatly in this process too)

at journeys end,  i had walked 150 kilometers but knew i was really at a beginning.
i stood on the sacred ground…having been delivered from my own ugliness.  i had wrestled with it and owned it and laid it down… oh, and i almost forgot to mention the tears! i cried a good many cleansing tears over it. as i look back, i’m still certain that i would have paid 100 euros for a hairdryer, round brush and a hot bath.  but i also understand that discomfort is part of the pilgrimage, in fact it’s the very thing that brings the soul to the end of itself. i also finally get that this IS the very reason people have been coming to walk for centuries.

i had begun this journey believing i would walk away from the parts of myself i didn’t like.  but here- at the end- i finally understood that it was far more about receiving those parts with radical self-compassion.

so it was on that well-worn and holy Way…the birth of deep grace became my truest deliverance.

Father, sometimes i don’t know how to pray.  i am once again brought to my knees in utter dependence and humility.  it is a good place to be but not easy.  meet me here and keep peeling away the shame and ugly parts so i can be fully alive to Your healing grace.
leaning into You, xxoo jamie


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