054i’ve been thinking a lot lately about forgiveness.
and what exactly it looks and feels like to forgive someone.   really forgive.

it’s a word that feels like a gut-punch to me.  and if i’m honest (which i always am)
i would probably rather go to the dentist than work through the act of forgiveness. and did i mention…how much i hate the dentist ?!  nuffsaid.

understanding forgiveness has left me confused and reeling in it’s tangle of meaning and mystery.  my heart has grappled hard with “how to forgive” because i know it’s weighty either way.  there’s a cost to granting forgiveness but there’s a curse that’s even costlier to our souls in the denying of forgiveness.

well, shit.
not a clean winner of the two options. (again, let’s keep it honest here)

as author Anne Lamott says..
“Left to my own devices I’m a forgiveness denier- I’ll start to think that there are hurts so deep that nothing can heal them.  Time alone won’t necessarily do the trick.  Our best thinking isn’t enough, or we would all be fine, instead of in our current condition.  A lack of forgiveness is like leprosy of the insides, and left untreated, it can take out tissue, equilibrium, soul and sense of self.”                                     -Small Victories

ouch.  those words stung as i read them a few years back.  they still poke at my pride.
i’m guilty as charged- with a bad case of being a forgiveness denier.

102for most of my life i just never understood how-amidst my hurt and indignation- to let someone off the hook.  it’s one thing to offer pardon to a friend who runs over your bicycle, but what if it’s a hit-and-run to your heart ? and what if there’s no resolve or amends ?  what’s to be done with slander, betrayal , misunderstandings or judgements against us…especially from those we trusted most fully.

those are tricky waters to navigate in the name of “christian love” and have left me gulping in water as i flounder in the wake.

Jesus meet me here.
Jesus meet us all here.  it just feels too hard to offer grace and kindness when our hearts feel beaten up and betrayed.

i still remember sitting in the counselor’s chair years ago with a tear-stained face, asking him to walk me through it and pray over my deep wounds and hurt.  i was tired of the fight and ready to forgive but that didn’t make it easier.  the process takes some serious soul-work,  but here is what i learned…

first, Jesus fully sees us-even when no one else does. He gets it, and He weeps over the pain in our personal stories with us. and there is so much permission to feel the sense of loss and hurt deeply.

but then, He asks us to let it go-and give it over to Him.  to take the offenders off our hook and visualize putting them on God’s.   this let’s Him be the judge and not us.  it’s a generous act that’s impossible for us to muster in our flesh.  067

because if we only forgive based on our own benevolence and capacity, we can’t help feeling depleted.
used up.
empty , jaded and slightly pissed off.

this is the version of forgiveness we’ve been taught to offer…to simply overlook and quickly move on.  it never worked for me and i very much doubt it brings much healing or wholeness to anyone. i’ve met far too many people still carrying around wounds from a lifetime of wrongs against them.  you know people too. they wear their resignation and entitlement like a badge of honor, never relinquishing their right to stay mad.  but in reality their pain holds them prisoner. yikes.  i could see where i was headed.

i knew my hurt had kept me stuck and gripped and pinned down.  just like the leprosy Anne Lamott describes, it had already begun eating away days and years and was sending down some seriously ugly roots of self-righteousness.  my only hope was to open my fists and let my list of offenses and offenders…go.

to my surprise letting go wasn’t as painful as i had feared.  it felt more like letting go of the string of a kite caught up by the wind.  and the wind was grace- vast and deep and effortless- and not from anything i could give.  i felt liberated . because the grace came down over me too and rescued me right back.  this unlocks the mystery of forgiveness because that’s what grace does.

it let’s us all off the hook.

it offers us what we don’t deserve and then equips us to offer others what they don’t deserve.

that’s the whole shebang.maddie's photos 123


Jesus thank you for not giving me what i deserve, but grace instead.
make me brave where i am weak and prone to tightening the fist and remind me to call down grace readily and offer forgiveness generously and(okay,okay) …go to the dentist regularly.
xxoo jamie



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the better-tale

Patti_Formalthis is the story of a beauty-queen who became a real girl.
it’s kind of like a fairytale in reverse.

she wanted a life in the castle, but got the suburbs.
she wanted a charmed life, but got 5 wide-eyed children and one charming husband who fell very short of being a prince.

she dreamt of being swept up to a better life, all the while watching us contentedly make our sandcastles and mudpies.  and even though her longing was for safety and provision, God saw fit to write a different story.
a better story.

Patti_Jeffreyso she dug deep into the most beautiful and real parts of herself and decided to sprinkle glitter on her ordinary life.

she faced the hard stuff and didn’t give up.  and in doing that, this is what she gave us..
she gave her children the key to imagination.
she gave it to us – in the form of a perfectly unkept house.
in the form of play…lots of playing.
in the form of reading bedtime stories.
in the form of laughter.
in the form of being “game” for anything.
in the form of not controlling, or hovering or managing us-but letting us
have the space to just be children.
in the form of celebrating well…which made life feel bigger and brighter,
even for just that moment.
and the the most valuable key she gave us came in the form of her being an imperfect human.

she may not like me writing those words, but it was the single most beautiful thing she gave me.  because from this gift, i never thought i had to be perfect at anything.  i knew i was loved and delighted in-just for who i was.  i felt equipped and capable because of her holes.
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she wasn’t a do-it-all domestic genius, in fact she hated cooking and housekeeping.  but she did her best.
our summer’s were filled with running barefoot and spending hours digging, exploring and making messes. the chaos never seemed to bother her.

and need i mention, we tortured our fair share of babysitters.

my mom knew she was in over her head most days while raising 5 rambunctious children, but she kept showing up.  making us oatmeal, packing sack lunches, mopping floors, driving carpool, tucking in, spanking… alot, doing mounds of laundry and cooking those damn dinners.  then, waking up and doing it all over again…for lots and lots of years.

and this was how the beauty queen became real.

she took off the crown and decided to receive with grace the life before her. and now many years have passed and her children have grown and left her care but they carry the gifts with them.  the imperfect, beautiful gifts of being raised by a mother who was flawed and human but was brave enough to not quit when life wasn’t a fairytale.

jamie's iphone 070and, as is often the case, the real tales of struggle and fought-for-goodness and grace are far more valuable then the cheap stuff anyhow and those tales need a heroine of real courage.
and those tales, turn the fairytale upside-down and right-side-up…into a better-tale.

and stories like that make us who we are.  thank you mom for making me who i am.

and most importantly, when the time came for me to become a mom, thank you for showing me i couldn’t fail if i just offered my imperfect self- fully and sacrificially and wildly to the task.


this is dedicated to Patti Joye and all those delightfully imperfect mothers who are just the kind of mothers their children need.
by grace, xxoo jamie


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do you ever wonder how we can find our way back to praise when life has yielded a gutting loss ?
when we are left empty-handed.  when fear and the despair of grief are pulling hard on our shirt tails.

when darkness is haunting and hemming in our fragile hearts…sweat pulsing through face and palms- heart racing.

mind flooded and foggy with grief.

it all feels too much for a soul to endure.
the weight seems unbearable and the deep rips in our flesh feel permanent and irreparable…out of hopes’ reach.

i have been surrounded by stories of deep loss over the past years, and each time i am given the sacred privilege of hearing a story it reminds me afresh how wobbly the ground of grief is.  and how it can make us feel like life is a total loss.  pain has this strange way of eclipsing our view of joy.

all goodness feels hidden and it’s so             058
hard to believe that life could ever be beautiful again.
grief says , I’ve stolen it all- all the good days are gone.

this feels so true when we are weak with heartache and have lost sight of hope.

but this is what i know of grief;  it yields a strange and unexpected understanding of what it looks like to find joy.  it leaves us cut deep and vulnerable and fresh out of strategies for living a nice, good life.

 it catapults us into messy and this is the very place God cuts through.

He comes near to soften and melt off the hardness of winter’s edge.

then, He reckons our pain with His unending mercy. and by reckon, i mean He considers, regards, and looks FULLY upon.  He literally feels every single measure of our suffering and takes it upon Himself.  He is with us in the deepest possible way and feels the sorrow with us.  and that is the very reason we are not destroyed by pain.  He not only understands, but has walked in our shoes and has overcome it.

this alone gives us hope and speaks of life beyond the now of loss.  then little by little He invites us out to places where we can dance on the ashes of this life.  not because we forget the gash or the losses…

but to the contrary, because He has reformed them.036

and so, it’s the very remnant of our brokenness and ache which are now- against all hope- being rendered into beauty.  it’s His signature and unmistakable handiwork.

afterall, He is a God of the impossible.

and so it is from bended knee that i continue to whisper a hushed, gutted and costly yes to the life that’s been rearranged by death.  and from this sacred, tear soaked ground i choose to believe in joy again.  and if you are unable to utter these words dear one, then i will keep walking and weeping with you…and hold onto hope when you cannot.

Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. 
They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.                   Psalm 126: 5,6


for Ginnie, Jenna, Celia, Kathy, Kim, Diane,Eileen & Christi  and all those who walk this holy road of gripping loss.  may you taste of a goodness that is altogether otherworldly … meant to wet the appetite for heaven and hold us in the hope of now.   xxoo jamie

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_she decided that feeling small against the size of the mountains made her feel just right_

for my whole life …

i’ve loved forests.
i’ve loved oceans.
i’ve loved mountains.

staring out and up at the vastness has always given me that feeling of being small.
it’s a good kind of small though.  because this kind of smallness means i am not the center of life.  there are bigger things.

bigger matters, bigger elements, bigger realms.

realms that have been around since the beginning of time…long before me.  and it’s in these realms that we live our lives.  the heavens and the earth.  and God holds it all.

He’s that big.

and so it is, that in my acknowledgement of God’s  sovereignty , there comes a groundedness and settledness to my very small heart of flesh.  His rule over all of creation means that i don’t have to.

He calls me to live within this tension of His bigness and my smallness and see that this too is His provision for the human soul.  this tension keeps my perspective on this world and this life “right-sized” so that i can find rest.  we can find rest.  true rest in His vastness and love.

so when we are standing at the foot of
big problems
big hurt
big loss

we need only to remember that overcoming has nothing to do with our ability and strength to endure the burden-
but instead the very opposite.
it has to do with our ability to bend.  to surrender.

to let God be a big God.

to believe it fully with hearts that ascend to the heights of mountains because we have allowed the Father to carry them there.


yours in the smallness and sacredness of living under the skies of a big God.  keep looking up and staring into that beautiful vastness.
xxoo jamie

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” we cannot attain the presence of God.  We’re already totally in the presence of God.  What’s absent is awareness.”                           – Richard Rhor  Everything Belongs

do you ever forget to notice God’s presence in your life ?

or just think He has forgotten about you ??

we are all prone to lose sight of what’s going on behind the scenes of our everyday story.  because it’s easy to get lost in the immediate and demanding pulls that life circumstances can have,  and our eyes can be blinded by resentment, pain, hurt or suffering as it befalls us.

but what we can’t often see clearly is God’s hand-and that He is writing a beautiful story. and that His story always contains some shaking and unraveling so that we can more fully see Him.   He doesn’t want us to miss it.026

in Hebrews 12:26-28, God even promises He will shake us to sift out and separate us from the things that block our vision or from the false selves we cling to .  because what the Father is after- is our deepest, realest, raw , True self.  the tender heart that reflects His glory.

He knows that the shaking and peeling and cutting are necessary and intended to get beneath the layers that insulate us.  only then can we let the veneer fall away and hold fast to what remains.

His hands are like a sculptor’s, carving His masterpiece from the hard and formless rock…chipping away all that doesn’t belong.  because the Sculptor knows without hesitation that what lies deep within us reveals His glory.

” I once saw a stone cutter remove great pieces from a huge rock on which he was working.  In my imagination I thought…why does this man wound the rock so much ?  But as I looked longer, I saw the figure of a graceful dancer emerge gradually from the stone”   -Henri Nouwen

i’m repeatedly undone by the reality that we are the masterpiece.  we are the dancers emerging from the stone and the Father will go to any length to uncover the beauty He has deposited in us.

192so the question always comes to this…        will i let the stones be cut away and be grateful ?  will i let my eyes and heart ascend to the Father’s sometimes hidden presence and purposes- knowing He is wounding me for Love’s sake?

or will i stand in the rubble and be anxious…wringing my hands at the mess, loss and chaos around me ?

can i somehow hold fast to hope when God is shaking all that can be shaken ?                          can i choose gratitude as i count and take in what remains – and believe it to be enough ?

my soul and heart can disagree on this matter more often than not.  because my soul has come to understand that He is forming and carving me to bring about a birth of beauty from desolation.  but my heart can easily stay stuck in the brokenness and debris left by the shaking.

it hurts.  and it’s hard.

the only hope i have is to cling to gratitude.  to remember that i am flawed but i choose to be grateful for the Father’s higher purposes- even amidst what looks like disaster.          and remember that from underneath the hard stone…

007He is forming a dancer.

a beautifully wounded dancer.

and a dancer is always caught up by the music she hears, not the size or condition of the dance floor.  instead she moves with grace and abandon wherever the music takes her.  trust in the Father is her mark of beauty so  she dances for His sake, not her own.  she has learned that self regard and hesitation are her ruin, so she let’s go and gives in to the melody of grace, going where the Spirit leads .

her heart of flesh beats from under those layers of stone where deep within comes the most glorious rhythm . it’s a raw, real and mysterious rhythm that can be heard by those who’ve walked the sacred road of surrender – and found Jesus there.                                  and the rhythm is His whisper saying all is grace.

will you trust Me to write your story ?  will you dance with Me ?                                     even if the dance means a perilous and exposed leaping from boulder to boulder between the rubble ?                                                                                                                                          even if the dance requires something to be carved out ?  can you dance with Me even then?

can you dance on cancer ?263                              can you dance on loss ?                                    can you dance on death ?                            the only way… is to lean in and listen to My voice above all other noise.  set your gaze on Me my beloved daughter and let your failing flesh hear the song I am singing over you.

hear the rhythm of My deep, abiding, relentless love for you and….come dance with Me.



Jesus, we can dance because You have overcome death.  You have danced on the grave and offer us Life .  No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in , remind us to take Your outstretched hands and trust You to make our fumbling feet of flesh to dance.

for my dear and precious friend Michelle , may you be caught up by the relentless love of Jesus as He holds you close in this beautiful dance.  i love you.   xxoo jamie



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” Despite all,  I shall always return for more,  for I can think of no other place that soothes as it rankles me, crushes yet caresses me, and no place I hold higher.  Times spent on Silver Creek are mercifully not measured by fish count.  They are gauged by the hours spent wading the currents, reveling in the surroundings and relishing the whole, in spite of the sometimes agonizing parts. ”                  A River Journal  -W. David Joye

my daddy wrote about rivers.

he understood rivers- or at least spent the better part of his life trying to.

because every devoted angler must know and understand each curve and current of his playing field.  my dad was more studious than most.  he and the river spoke to each other- and would dance together in the knee deep current for countless hours.

i can still picture him there in his waders with fly rod in hand, standing in the sway of a mountain stream with the warmth of late afternoon sun falling down around him.  these images are intrinsically woven into my childhood.

028so now i sit in this early evening glow of a December day and it all floods back. the golden hour – they call it.

when the sun sheds a golden hue down and the world somehow feels less harsh for a moment.

it stirs my heart and soul with nostalgic thoughts and longings that have been luring me for a lifetime.  luring me to look for beauty and the luster that life can sometimes offer.

its the same luster my father sought so unashamedly after and drove his pursuit for wild beauty until the day he died.  he was tireless and unwavering but he knew the pursuit to be maddening and sometimes wanting.  because perfect beauty most often comes in illusive flashes and parts instead of a satisfying fill.

still he chased on.  after adventure and the ideal. he dreamed and wandered and reached and thrashed under the weight of every dreamer’s affliction.

the affliction of wanting out of life what sometimes it cannot offer.

at least not as a whole.

for it is given only in parts most of the time.  340

and so those of us who carry this affliction must learn to receive those parts as they come.  to let the beauty settle down on us like the warmth of the golden hour.  we can’t hold it tightly- for it vanishes within our grasp.  we must learn instead- to remember.

to hold and keep in our souls,  the beauties of life in their parts.  to somehow absorb them through our skin and let them find a home there.  and to understand that this quest will be met with it’s share of angst and tension and disappointment- right along with it’s glories and breadth.

the clever thing is to figure out how to hold loosely to both parts.  to learn the art of     catch and release.

just like fishing for wild trout.  the end goal can’t be just the catch.  it’s also about the fight, the hope, and taking in the moments on the river.  because an experienced fly fisherman knows he is merely entering into the movement of what already exists.  he is entering the river with as much grace and ease as he can muster to join in nature’s dance and cast his line ,catch his prize, then to let go.  release.

this is what keeps it all in balance.  it’s the creed of all respectable fly fishermen.  this is why my dad always taught me to not take myself so seriously.  he knew the art of holding and letting go and of taking in life’s beauty in it’s parts.

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ironically, we spread my daddy’s ashes in the pristine waters of his beloved Silver Creek. it was a sacred and sober moment for us, his 5 children as we stood creekside at dusk.  with  the warm sun upon us and the evening hatch falling gracefully onto the water’s surface, we said a final good bye.  he would have hated us for dirtying the water but in the end we decided it was where his remains should be left.  because , after all, this is where his parts felt the most whole.

so whenever i can,  i stand in the river’s current and let it wash past.  trying not to miss the parts as they go by…for if there is anything i have learned thus far in life..it’s that if we miss the parts, we’re bound to miss the whole.

for daddy who had a way with words and rivers and fish.  and though he was an imperfect man, he loved me well.  i will always picture him standing knee deep in those gentle waters of the Idaho rivers , waiting and hoping for a fish to rise.  every golden hour reminds me of him and its because of him that i keep fighting to find beauty…wherever it lies.


xxoo, jamie


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268this is that time of year i think a lot about gifts.  giving and getting.

i feel much more comfortable in the giving to be honest.  i think it probably has something to do with fear and disillusionment from years when the gifts i received weren’t exactly what i had in mind.

i’m always a little timid to unwrap what others lay in my hand to open. but i have learned that good gifts do come in all shapes and sizes if i hold my eyes open to see into the heart of the giver.

some gifts are wrapped in glitter and bows, some frayed at the edges.  some are impeccably timed, others ill-timed.  some gifts plainly wow us, some stretch us.                  some need peeling back and turning to every angle to finally see the purpose.

and in life, we have no control of those gifts left at our door that we didn’t see coming.

these are the ones that may take some shaking , pondering, processing , lots of unwrapping and time to understand fully.

i’ve had my share of each.  and i’ve had to 240bravely look into the eyes of The Giver and believe Him to be good….no matter what.  even if the gift He gives takes me to my knees.  and the gift of loss does that to me every time.  it takes my feet out from under me.  it leaves me tossing and turning- sleepless.  it hollows me out and leaves me wondering if life will ever be the same again.

in A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis so clearly depicts the human wrestling match with grief and loss. i carry his quote with me always…mostly because i always botch it when trying to quote it from memory.

You never know how much you really believe anything until it’s truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.  It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box.  But suppose that you had to hang by that rope over a precipice.  Wouldn’t you first discover how much you really trusted it ?  Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.                               –  C.S. Lewis

and so it is with loss,  we are putting our belief to the test and asking God if His grip will hold.  i have my own theories as to the nature of how pain impacts our souls- but the truest thing i know is that it shapes us like nothing else can.

it cuts to the marrow of us.                                                                                                                it strips all pretense.                                                                                                                           it reminds us of our frailty with each waking moment -where hanging from that rope is our only option.

and these,  these realities are precious gifts.

087so “why a gift” you may ask?  how can it be that pain and loss can yield something resembling a gift ?

as unlikely as it sounds,  the gift IS the ache.

because amidst pains’ stripping- we can’t muster happiness, we can’t even manufacture a pretty life.  all we are left with is ache and brokenness.  but somehow this is the very soil of the heart that can take in the sacred presence of Jesus most deeply.

in all of our ugliness, emptiness and desperation we cry mercy.  we cry come tend to the ache,  Jesus come !  and in that place, our souls more clearly and fully see God as enough.

pain leaves us so beautifully defenseless and utterly weak-and it is here , in this space that our notion of God’s goodness is stretched and expanded.  then, those gifts of pain become etched in our stories like bookmarks.  holding the places in our lives – like reminders- of God’s extravagant mercy and love.  they are also reminders of His invitation to keep hoping, even against all odds and amidst the dark of night…because He always comes.

so as we unwrap the gift of pain we begin to see how it has yielded desire and ache from it’s acute and insatiable pangs…then with the next layer of unwrapping we understand that the ache has yielded an ascended longing for the Father above all other things.

He knows this is the truest and deepest way we can know Him.  really, completely, irrevocably KNOW it is He.  His voice becomes crystal clear.  and it is He who sweeps low, who tends our pain and calls us by name in the darkness.  this is the place the human heart and soul are unfettered enough to commune with the Father in ways that cut into our very substance and acquaint us with sufferings’ gift.  the pathway to a deep and abiding knowing that God is who He says He is.

and He is a God who invites.

261He relentlessly invites us to stop fighting and refusing His gifts- no matter the cost.  don’t hurry past pain,  but take it in if it comes knocking on your door in the dark of night. open the hand, and let’s whisper a brave yes to the invitation to drink more deeply of Life with God.


so come, will you sit at His feet and open the gifts He has for you, even if they’re not what you had in mind this year?

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.  It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift”                                – Mary Oliver




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