Sex in the City


This post is part of a Mother’s Day synchroblog. I’ve joined up with some incredible women who are passionate about eradicating sex-trafficking. Please head over to Kaylie Hodges blog to read more in this series. 

Nestled cozily amongst the ubiquitous greenery, beaming in the glint of a deep blue harbor, sits the city I call home. One of the fastest growing cities in America, we’ve officially, unofficially launched campaigns called “stop telling people about Portland.” Okay, but jokes aside, when people think of Portland, a number of things often come to mind, most notably, an unparallel culinary experience. Whether it’s food or drink, we take the cake [literally] and up you a Blue Star donut. You’re welcome.

Portland is known for having established what is referred to as “coffee culture.” We have more breweries than any other city in the world, with wine country just a short drive down the road to some of the most elegant Pinot’s you’ve ever tasted. I recently heard a pastor say this about Portland, “A few things happen when you move to Portland: one, you get a tattoo, it’s like a passport stamp, ‘Oh, I see you’ve been to Portland.’ And second, your taste in coffee and beer get very expensive, or ironic, you have a choice.”

But don’t concern yourself with it, as the hipsters say, “You probably wouldn’t understand…”

If you’re not a bona fide, high profile foodie, you may still be drawn to Portland for its outstanding beauty and conduciveness for outdoor adventuring. Home to hikers, bikers, dragon boat racers, you name it, you’ll find it. With a heart for conscious consumerism, small business and sustainable practices, Portland is almost literally the Garden of Eden.

Interested in starting a non-profit? We probably already did. You guessed it: we’ve got more non-profits per capita than any other city in the U.S. And while I could continue this rather pretentious Portland pitch [it’s surprisingly easy to make fun of Portland], that is actually not the point of this post.

Edenic imagery in mind, there is actually a disturbingly dark underbelly to the city that often gets overlooked at first glance, particularly by those just passing through on their gluttonous food tours [Yeah, we know who you are with your umbrellas in tow, your Dutch Bro’s… frappy thingys, and flagrant mispronunciation of “Couch” street]. But I’ve digressed…

As I was saying:

Food and outdoor adventuring are not the only markets we monopolize. There is actually one additional category in which we top the charts, but we don’t really like to talk about it. It’s like airing our dirty laundry, we’d rather not. We’d rather tantalize your taste buds and keep you wrapped up in the hedonism we idolize in this city than admit that we’ve been identified as a central and prominent hub for sex trafficking.

There it is, our deep, dark secret.

According the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. It is estimated to generate $32 billion a year, $28 billion of which is generated from commercial sexual exploitation. The average age of entry into the commercial sex industry in the United States is between 12 and 14. Portland is ranked second for the greatest number of children found in forced prostitution among all U.S. cities [Source].

Tragically, we often think of these sorts of issues as being far removed from our comfortable little worlds. These are systemic problems arising out of troubled economies somewhere over there in those other countries. In other words, it’s someone else’s problem. But this simply isn’t true. This egregious “industry” is running rampant in our own backyard.

All of it is our problem.

Recently, my younger sister met and immediately became inseparable with a young woman she met at work. My sister has always chosen outstanding friends, so when I had the privilege of meeting her, I was eager to hear her story.

I was driving the three of us out to the Gorge for a hike, because obviously. Within minutes I was struggling to see through my tears as she shared in such humility and transparency the intimate details of her life.

She began her story as a mere babe, roughly 4 years of age, growing up in Sikkim, India. With striking poise and grace, she recounted the instance that would change the trajectory of her entire life.

She and her sister were attempting to find higher ground during a monsoon when the taxi driver stopped to offer them a ride to safety that day. The decision to accept his offer still haunts her today; they were so young- her sister just barely in her double digits.

When the taxi driver stopped again, she had to witness her sister being mercilessly raped by this old man. She can still hear her cries; still see the blood that dripped down her leg later that afternoon in the showers at the brothel they’d been taken to.

Public transportation remains a terrifying trigger for her today. “No money in the world could get me into another taxi,” she says.

In the days and weeks that followed, she recalled her sister trying to explain to her what sex was, and where they’d been taken, and what she ought to do when the men started coming to her. But she didn’t understand. All she could comprehend is that these people gave them food and nice clothes and bangles. They sent her to dance classes and gave her a warm bed to sleep in at night.

She’d been a mere baby- 4 or 5 years old- and her virginity was worth a great deal. She was being “groomed.”

She recounted the day her sister came to her and said, “We have to run away tonight.” While she found this confusing at the time, her sister had been insistent, and ultimately, she trusted her with her life. So in the middle of the night when her sister woke her, they crept up to the rooftop where they would jump from structure to structure until they made their way to the ground. Then, they made their desperate getaway and ran for their lives. They slept in cornfields during the day, and ran at night. Eventually, by the grace of God, they would make their way back home. Her older sister was married off shortly thereafter, but because of her young age, her father would send her to America to be adopted for a chance at a better life.

“He tried to explain to me that there was this place where anything was possible. Where I could be whatever I wanted; a place where I could eat as many apples as I desired. He knew how I loved apples.

“He handed me a bag of peanuts when he put me on the train that day. I was so excited about the peanuts. I could see him out the window, and remember being confused by his tears. All I could think about were the damn peanuts.”

Tragic as this story is, it has a much happier ending than most. She and her sister ultimately escaped, wounds intact. But not all are so fortunate.

This kind of evil breaks me. I’ve read all kinds of statistics and information about the rampant nature of this evil, and I still don’t know how to process it. All the information, the statistics, they feel so far away, so removed and distant.

And then I see her face. I hug her and I remember, that the statistics have faces, they have stories, and they are right here among us. Who knows, you may discover one day that a victim is closer than you ever imagined, she might just be your sister’s best friend.

Here in this beautiful city I call home, sex trafficking is alive and well. Almost more shocking is that the majority of those who live here have no idea our beloved city is home to the second largest trafficking hub in the country. And as much as I may wish to deny it, Portland is no Garden of Eden. But where you live, whether in Portland or Nepal makes little difference. That’s the point. Boundary lines can’t and don’t contain sex trafficking. Government systems aren’t able to eradicate the crime, and every well intentioned non-profit can’t protect all the young girls and boys.

But before we throw up our hands in helplessness, there are things that can be done.

Would you join me and my friends today in prayer over this horrific evil? Our prayers are heard and they do matter. And if you have the resources, would you consider making a donation to one of these organizations to help bring freedom for those trapped in a life we can’t even begin to wrap our imaginations around?

Here are some resources and ways you can help.

1) Very good summary video about the problem as it is manifested in Portland, put on by the Junior League of Portland: Waiting for the Light.

2) The Lov Foundation.

3) And of course, please visit the other posts in this series for more information, link at top of post.

 Grace, Peace and Freedom for all.

The Fault in Perfection

As a kid, I never considered myself a perfectionist. My mother always used the word to describe herself any time she undertook a project of a crafty nature. She didn’t do it too often- though more so then than now- but anytime she sketched or cut or stitched anything, even when she’d color with us, she would erase, remeasure, undo and redo until it was just so. “What can I say, I’m a perfectionist,” she’d confess.


 But I’ve never really cared much for crafts myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wanted to want to, but that’s about as far as I ever get. At the end of the day I find the thing I lack is not the talent, but rather the necessary patience and desire. So crafting is out for me. Crafting and I, we’ve made our peace. But because I always heard perfectionism in the context of all that is “artsy,” I just assumed that it was something best left to those who actually gave a damn about hand-made cards in the first place. Personally, I was perfectly content with what Hallmark had to say. Perfectionism couldn’t possibly be my thing.

A+perfectionism-239x300And so I poured my energy into less perfection-oriented pursuits, like academics. I pulled enough all-nighters in high school to ensure my transcript was filled with uninterrupted, shiny A’s, landing me at the top of my class. I color coordinated my closet, killed entire rain forests writing single essays, washed my hands so often they bled [true story]. In college, as I jumped into communal living, I often found myself seething is self-righteous amazement that people didn’t seem to know how to pick up after themselves. I’d take out my aggression by scrubbing the floor boards with a toothbrush and cleaning things until they sparkled because, “if you want something done right, you’ve simply got to do it yourself.”


But me, a perfectionist? 

I imagine by now you can sense the sarcasm dripping from every sentence. Sometimes self-depreciating humor is all that is left. In fairness, I did eventually come to realize that I held myself to an exceptionally high standard, and that that alone might in fact qualify me as a kind of perfectionist. I was able to intellectually cut ties with the idea that perfectionism was intrinsically tied to artistic pursuits. I’m not that dense. But even still, it’s really only been in the last year or so that I’ve begun to explore just how deep and wide is the pond of perfection in my life. As it turns out, its actually a lake. A very big lake, flowing into an even bigger ocean. I’m positively drowning in it.

Granted, it doesn’t look anything like my mother’s, and rarely resembles that of my peers, but a perfectionist I am. In fact, it’s come to my attention that my primary “need” – and by need I mean compelling drive – is a need for Perfection, specifically, a perfection of character, or righteousness. And as I’ve begun to examine- rather painfully I might add- this tendency of mine, I’ve begun to see with new eyes the many casualties it’s taken along the way, perhaps the most notable of all- my writing.

Writing is something I was made to do. Few things make me come alive the way writing does. Few undertakings make me feel as genuinely and generously myself, and yet, nearly every time I sit down to write, my desire to create something flawless keeps me from creating anything at all. 

This is my Achilles’ heel. 

I confess, even as I write this stupid post, I’ve been coming back to it for days. I read and reread, rephrase, reread again, edit and rewrite. If the flow isn’t just right, I rewrite it until it is. It’s so exhausting. I defeat myself before I have the chance to really get in the game. And this is the primary reason I end up not writing. It’s not really because I don’t have time- after all, time is never found, only ever made, isn’t that right? It’s because I know the amount of time it’s going to take me to finish a single thought, a single post. By the time the post is finished, it’s likely not even relevant anymore. 

This is why I’m more drawn to article writing than to blogging. Give me a prompt and a deadline, and you can bet I’ll get it done. Give me loose boundary lines, and I’ll find something better to do.

In an effort to combat this, I’ve begun to do what’s called Morning Pages, three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing first thing in the morning. People apparently swear by it, but I absolutely loathe the idea. But already I’ve begun to notice benefits, a dislodging of connected concepts that I’d not taken the time to see or unpack. Hopefully it will help dislodge my writer’s block, which, as it turns out, is just my own perfectionism. 


A House, A Table, A Sisterhood

image from

image from

[This post is part of a collaborative series on Friendship, hosted by my friend Cara over on her lovely little blog, Little Did She Know. To read more on the series, check out her page, here].

The house sat up on the hill overlooking the breathtaking skyline of downtown Portland. It was massive, in a ritzy SE neighborhood none of us could have afforded without the whole lot of us. So we pooled our resources, and six women signed their names on the dotted line and together, began the long, exhausting process of moving everything in, unpacking, and then, of course- attempting to make sense of everyone’s belongings- arranging and rearranging it all, only to rearrange it again.

I’m not sure we ever fully accomplished the task, but slowly, over the course of time, mismatched though it may have been, this house became our home. With almost 3,000 sq feet of space, this place boasted more rooms than we knew what to do with, including what we fondly referred to as the Harry Potter closet. There were many spaces I would grow to appreciate in the year we lived there, but hands down, if I had to choose, all my fondest memories bring me back to the kitchen table, the one Shannon’s dad would spend an entire afternoon disassembling in order to add the extra leaf, the one that still always seemed too small for all the people we’d attempt to cram around it.

I learned the beauty and the mess of true community in that house, gathered around that table. In the single year we lived there, we hosted more dinner parties than any one of us could recall. From housewarming parties, holiday parties, birthday parties, going away parties, barbecues, bridal showers, book clubs, game nights, wine nights, dance in your underwear nights, you name it, we gathered for it. I can’t think of a single year of my life more centered around the ideas of community, food, wine and celebration.

But of course, it was a mix of a ton of fun and a whole lot of crazy. We didn’t always get along, the six of us [hard to believe, I know]. People tried to warn us beforehand, “Six women? You’re out of your mind!” or, “I sure hope you aren’t all friends, because you won’t be for long,” they’d say. And honestly, there were moments when I thought perhaps we ought to have heeded warning; perhaps we might have avoided all the tension before it had the chance to build, culminating into those awkward, sometimes painful encounters. So many hard conversations could have been avoided all together, so many tears circumvented. But you know, the most valuable thing I learned gathered around the table that year wasn’t how to stage it for the perfect Instagram picture, it was how to remain sitting at it.

When the six of us moved in, we were a mix of friends, and friends of friends. We knew we had a lot to learn about one another, and we were aware that with six very different personalities, the situation could prove challenging. However, we also knew that more than all of this, we were a group of women who wanted to live life communally, with open doors, and with a spirit of hospitality. We knew we wanted to welcome people into our home, feed them, laugh and cry with them, and then hold them hostage until we were certain they were leaving with fuller bellies and fuller hearts.

In all honesty, I don’t think any of us had any idea how difficult it would prove to be; perhaps we were too optimistic in that regard. But nonetheless, we chose to stay seated at the table. We chose to enter into those hard conversations. Laughing together was easy, but we would have to learn to cry with one another. We would have to learn when to give space when it was needed, and when to invade that space in order to sit in the ashes with one another when that was needed too. We would have to learn how to approach the conversations that needed to be had in a way that was respectful and life-giving, and sometimes we’d get it wrong, I know I would on innumerable occasions, in which case, we had to learn how to say, I’m sorry, and please forgive me. And then we’d have to learn to give our forgiveness in return.

There were a million incredible memories carved out in that house last year, I could write an entire book to recount them, perhaps one day I shall. And yet, there is one that has left such an impression on me, I still get choked up recalling it.

It was March 21st, I remember because it was “Match Day” for our med-student friends, many whom made up a significant chunk of our friend group- in fact, our house would lose two of the six that year to residency programs. Life and community as we knew it was about to look very different on a number of different levels, and we were all processing this impending change in our own ways. But nevertheless, it was a beautiful March day and we were all in relatively good spirits despite perhaps being a bit tender emotionally.

I was standing there in the kitchen, appreciating the mid-day light as it poured in through the windows, watching as Rachael rolled out dough for crackers, flour streaked across her face, moving freely like she does in her booty-short shorts and sassy new haircut, humming unselfconsciously away to her latest favorite jam. And there was Allison, moving in effortless rhythm there alongside her, pulling tinfoil over her dessert to leave. That’s when it hit me; I had this flash-forward moment in which I realized I was peering into my future.

These women, somehow, at some point over the course of that year, had become my people, my home team, my girls; the ones invested in this city with me. They’d become so much more than roommates, they’d become the women I’ll go on to build homes and families and businesses alongside. And I knew in that moment that in 10 years, long after our time in that house was but a memory- when the careers have changed and husbands and kids begin to fill the frame, and Rachael’s arms become increasingly covered in tattoos, as they are sure to be- as all the natural evolutions come, and they will come, we will still, undoubtedly find ourselves in each other’s kitchens, gathered around each other’s tables. Rachael will still be a sassy, smart-mouthed dreamer who cries at the drop of a hat, Allison will still be baking her decadent sweets, consistent and kind the way she is, Amy will still be her generous self, filling our wine glasses liberally, freaking out the moment she notices they’ve been empty for all of 3 seconds; that is to say, we will still be us.

I’ll never forget the profound feeling I had as the many frightening unknowns of the days ahead dissolved in the light of that overpowering, beautiful reality.

It was a crazy year. I’m not entirely sure what I expected going in, but I can tell you what I didn’t expect: I didn’t expect that these women would become my very best friends. I didn’t expect that in the years to come, they’d still be my people. I didn’t expect that when the time came to leave that house, those of us who would remain in Portland would fight tooth and nail to find another place, a smaller place, that would work for the four of us who remained, because we would want to stay together. And I didn’t anticipate that we would cry when we finally found it, partially out of excitement, though mostly out of exhaustion and relief after a long, drawn out, fierce search. I certainly didn’t expect that as we settled into our new home on the other side of town, this one that is a fraction of the size of the house up on the hill, that here, in the smaller spaces, we’d grow even closer.

It’s funny now to consider the many stark differences: our current home is actually too small for a dinner table. In fact, most of us had to sell or otherwise dispose of most of our furniture just to fit here. We joke that our living room is our “Room of Requirement,” it is our make-shift living, dining, entertainment room, den, office, you name it, the space will become it, and we will do as we have always done, and we will gather in it.

Granted, there are days I really miss having a separate space for dining, one with a real table to squeeze people around. But it’s striking to consider the progression. You see, last year we needed that table- it was our glue, it was our home base, our gathering point; it was the centripetal force, the thing that united us in honesty and humility, it was a symbol of what it means to be community when we couldn’t remember how.

Whether by wine and laughter or by tears and confessions, the moments we chose to stay seated at that table bound us together as sisters. And now, today, while the luxury of a dinner table would be incredibly convenient, we don’t actually need it in the same way anymore. Our hearts are already invested and fastened together, our futures already indefinitely entangled. We learned what it means to stay seated at the table for the good stuff as well as for that which is not so good, and the rhythms and habits we formed around that table have enabled us to do life together, beautifully, even in its absence.

To Be Asked the Question [@ The Junia Project]


[image from The Junia Project]

I walked into the room, ill equipped for exposure to the below freezing elements outside, immediately thankful for the rush of warmth that greeted me as I crossed the threshold. It was my first Christmas party of the season, and I was still trying to rally my enthusiasm for the return of the season of high-heels, patterned tights and red-lipstick, especially when I wanted nothing more than a cup of hot tea, an over-sized sweater and a good book by the fire.

The counter boasted a beautiful spread of holiday delicacies as ladies, dressed to the nines, simultaneously relished and bemoaned all the sweet treats calling out to them while they caught each other up on the last 6 months of life flown by.

She was lovely, a school teacher for impressionable third-graders, and every bit as gracious as you would hope for the person caring for your child. She asked me what I do for a living vs. what I do in my dreams, and we discussed matters of passion and vocation.

Eventually the topic of church came up and we discovered that we used to be a part of the same congregation. When I asked her why she left, she expressed, in very simple terms, that she didn’t feel like there was a place for her there as a woman. She shrugged as she offered in complete graciousness, “there was no representation and no invitation.”

Hi all! I’m pleased to be over at the Junia Project this morning discussing more on gender roles in the church. Read the full article [here]!

Grace & Peace, Cayla

The Metamorphosis

If you’ve ever spent any significant time in the company of a fiction writer, you’re probably familiar with the popular refrain that ponders and pokes fun at the way in which characters often “take on a life of their own,” and have a bad habit of “running away with the story.” I’ve often sat in wonderment at such a thought. What does that mean exactly? Either you’re the author or you’re not, am I right? Not being a fiction writer myself, I more or less resigned that I would likely never really know the answer to this question. characters come alive However, in due course, as I’ve begun to undertake the painstaking process of drafting my own book, I’ve been amazed to consider all the ways in which this concept is strikingly on point. Sure, I write non-fiction, but this doesn’t negate that I’m still participating in the art of storytelling; painting a picture, peeling back layers, breaking down an experience or story in order that I might begin building it back up upon a foundation which will illuminate it in a new light. That is the overarching telos, if-you-will, or ultimate goalAnd to achieve this end, a distinctly creative process is inevitably involved.

I was journaling the other night my reflections on this concept. I had spent the day constructing my Introductory chapter, and had previously drafted my working “Elevator Pitch” for the book, and was struck by just how much the project has already evolved in such a short amount of time. Here’s my entry:

It’s so peculiar to watch something you’ve set in motion take on a life form all its own. I wonder if it must feel a similar kind of foreign to watch your child grow into a being, separate and independent from yourself; watching him or her evolve and morph into something wholly other than you could have ever initially wrapped your mind around.

When I set out to write this book, my ideas were more of a birds-eye-view kind of thing. But as the process has forced me to begin really articulating the project with more precision, I’ve watched my vague, overarching idea come into much sharper focus. I imagine it must be [roughly] akin to getting an ultrasound and hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time. Suddenly, I can hear the heartbeat of the book and it’s a jarring sound. I didn’t even know this is what I wanted the project to be, and yet, look there, on the page, that is in fact what I wrote, those are the very words I used. Looking at where the story landed, I’m stunned at how vaguely it resembles the original idea I set out to craft. Sure, the stories are mine, and yet, they stand alone to tell their own story at the same time. It’s this bizarre blend of terrifying and beautiful.

God help me. Suddenly I understand why it is women say the day they found out they would be mothers was the day a floodgate of prayers was unleashed unlike anything they’ve ever known.

So you can see, even as a non-fiction writer, I’m left amazed watching the stories I’m telling unfold in their own unique ways, telling the stories from their own perspectives. It’s really weird, and really cool. But mostly really weird.

My mom is always telling me how much she learns from me, but not until recently have I actually considered how much weight this carries. To have something you created and set in motion turn around and teach you; it’s an incredibly humbling experience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the middle of writing only to find myself blinking away tears I never anticipated all because I didn’t realize I felt a certain way about something until it showed up on the page before me.

And then there’s the moment when you realize the one undergoing the metamorphosis… is you.



It’s been rather quiet around here as of late, I know. And yet, I don’t really feel bad about it.

Writing a book is challenging, particularly being a rookie who really has absolutely zero idea what she’s doing. Everywhere I turn I learn, in more painstaking detail, all the things- in addition to writing the content of the book- that I need to begin, not to mention complete. For example, I need to write a well-developed book proposal. In order to do so, I first need to do market research and identify my target audience as well as those “competing voices” already in existence [that is, already in publication]. Also- and I mention this because I think it’s laughable- I must explain why it is this number crunching, cubical inhabiting, former accountant-turned nanny is “qualified” to construct creative, Christian non-fiction for the masses. Ha! I mean, I’ve made peace with my journey to be sure, but I still must acknowledge that it sounds bizarre to say the least, and perhaps rather unconvincing.

The above list, of course, is not in the least exhaustive; there are a slew of additional projects here and there I must begin, most of which don’t actually even involve writing the book itself- which is enough of a monster, I assure you- but I will refrain from unloading those here. You’re welcome.

Of much more importance is that which I have actually accomplished. That which I have actually begun and what it is I’m learning along the way.

There is an old Theosophic adage which states, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Regardless of its ambiguous, esoteric origin, it communicates a profound truth that has proven itself again and again throughout my journey, from the time I committed to writing this book to present. Doors keep opening. People keep showing up. Connections keep being made. Inspiration keeps striking. I keep feeling like I need to rub the sleep out of my eyes; this can’t really be my life can it? I can’t really be pursuing this wild, unpredictable dream, can I?

Presently, my days look a lot like me engrossed in a number of works by brilliant theologians much wiser than I, in an effort to help establish my underlying, but foundational premise, which, much to my surprise, is deeply rooted in what I understand and believe about eschatology. I think I knew that, and yet, I hadn’t really thought about it at length until recently. As such, I’ve been pouring through much by N.T. Wright and his contemporaries, in order to hone in on a mature, robust and developed theology on this issue. It almost seems silly, but this stuff makes me near giddy. Reading and absorbing content of this nature is a well of deep, immovable joy for me. I’m utterly absorbed in Wright’s “After you Believe” right now. I simply cannot get enough of this man’s brilliance and thoughtfulness.

I have an appointment scheduled in early January to grab coffee with a professor and pastor here in Portland whose knowledge, wisdom and insight I deeply value, respect and appreciate. And in an effort to not sound like a complete oaf in his coveted company, I’ve been studying like crazy, developing my questions and outlining what it is exactly I’m hoping to glean from him. What’s surprised me, however, is that throughout the process, I’ve watched my own ideas come into much sharper focus, my own stories become more clearly illuminated by what it is I’m learning.

Of course, I cannot spell all that out here, but here is the point- here is what I keep coming back to- the thing that compels me deeply and permeates my stories:

What you and I believe about eschatology deeply affects the way we understand mission [or purpose, if-you-rather] this side of resurrection. And what we understand about mission deeply affects how we live today, in the here and now. And how we live today, in the here and now, deeply affects the unfolding trajectory of God’s Kingdom story as set in motion and entrusted to us by Jesus all those years ago. That is to say, what we believe matters. It matters a great deal.

This reality is infiltrating my stories, but even cooler than that, it’s infiltrating my life. This journey is a good one.

The Repentant Reformer

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
John 1:5


I harbor a spirit of anger


I am being made new

If you’ve spent any time around our little household of four lately, it’s not unlikely you’ve found yourself confused, if not annoyed, at the constant exchange of seemingly meaningless “numbers” that pass knowingly between us, as though we were speaking in code. And of course, to be fair, that is precisely what we’re doing.

[Exhibit A]

“Oh really, you have another idea? Shocking. You’re such a 7!”

[Cue eye roll]

“And you’re a killjoy- Typical 1!”

“Girls, can’t we just stop with the number calling already?”


“Okay 6!”

Now, I consider myself to be a relatively self-aware person. As someone who is naturally hard-wired to be highly introspective, people rarely manage to tell me something about myself I don’t already know, or haven’t thoroughly contemplated. From tendencies, thought patterns, strengths, weaknesses, stressors, triggers, anxieties, fears, hopes, dreams and all the multitude of places they touch in between, I’ve spent a good deal of time turning each one over in my mind, ill at ease until I’ve connected the dots.

As such, I’ve taken a number of personality tests over the course of the years, and while I’ve found them insightful and valuable in their own right, I’ve rarely been “wowed” by them. Rather my response tends to be one of neutrality- “Yep, those things are all true of me, I already knew that. Great, moving on.”

Meyers Briggs will tell you I’m Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking and Judging.


Strengths Finder will further underscore my areas of giftedness as those revolving around the “life of the mind,” specifically: Intellection, Input, Learner, Responsibility and Connectedness.

Makes sense.

So when our friend Tammy started talking about the Enneagram at a dinner party one evening earlier this fall, I merely shrugged, doubtful it was really any different from all the others. But knowing her and the way she “totally geeks out” on this kind of thing, I listened as she described the test that “wrecked her.” And as I listened, I found myself intrigued that this particular evaluation doesn’t simply focus on one’s strengths but rather highlights root sins, temptations, and subconscious motivations/inclinations as well. Okay, now you’ve got my attention.

So I took the test, which categorized me as a “ONE” and laughed with my roommates as I read aloud how those of us in this camp often see ourselves as “the only responsible adult around.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said exactly this. I’ve lived my life by the mantra, “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” And my roommates laugh because they can attest to it- this mistrust of others to follow through- this unrealistic standard I have for, well, pretty much everything.

They laugh because they have felt it.

Classic ONE move.

ONEs are labeled “The Reformers.” We are categorized as rational, idealistic, principled, purposeful, self-controlled and perfectionistic [read: impossible to please]. We exemplify the desire to be “good,” to live up the “highest ethical standards, and to effect positive changes in the world.” We report feeling a “powerful sense of mission; a deep feeling of purpose,” which of course, is a wonderful characteristic. But our idealism gets us into trouble by setting us up for inevitable disappointment when the world and others do not live up to the standards of perfection we hold them to, ultimately leading to resentment. As such, we are often known for being opinionated, impatient, irritable, rigid, perfectionistic, critical [of self and others], sarcastic, and judgmental.

There’s a reality check if I ever saw one.

Feeling convicted, but wanting to dig deeper, I did some extended research and read, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective and sat in amazement as someone I’d never met laid bare some of my darkest struggles, my most deep-seated insecurities, and my most crippling fears. I sat alone in a cafe with my hot tea in late September and laughed at how eerily it described my temperament and instinctual inclinations as I shifted uncomfortably in my chair, and then wept as I read about my ever-present anxiety, perfectionism, and ultimately, my root sin: anger.

In his book, The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster addresses this very issue in his chapter on fasting. He has this to say: “Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear—if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we know that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us” [emphasis added].

The longer I sit with this, the more I realize how squarely I am being called out. I can no longer dance around the sobering reality that in fact this is precisely true of me.

Foster’s point immediately brings to mind the passage in Matthew 5:22 regarding murder. Jesus takes a familiar piece of Torah and further amplifies it for his audience, who would have been well-versed with the command, cutting immediately to the root of the issue- the heart– when he says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” Curious though, the King James Version spins it a bit differently, a bit more… conveniently if you will, by adding “without a cause,” words not found in the original Greek manuscripts. The text is then altered to read like this: “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…” [emphasis added]. This later addition to Jesus’ teaching is incredibly revealing because it sheds an uncomfortable light into the troubling reality of the human heart: our desire to justify our sin.


Friends, this… this rocks me, for I am indeed someone very skilled in the art of justification; very comfortable and privileged in my “rightness” [or more appropriately: self-righteousness], my warranted resentment. And what’s worse, I’ve become so accustomed to my own anger, so familiar with the protective callous that’s formed around my heart, I hardly even notice it anymore. Quite frankly, I hardly feel anymore.

In an effort to better understand myself in light of this deep-seated issue, I’ve been studying anger in the Scriptures. I think it bears mentioning that it’s Cain’s brooding anger against his brother that God addresses when he warns him, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you” in Genesis 4. He tenderly urges Cain to repent from his pride and to “do what is right.” He warns him that his anger/sin will overtake him if he allows it to smolder, and instead urges him, “you must rule over it.”

This of course then begs the question: how?

In the course of inviting God into these unredeemed parts of my life and heart lately, I’ve been deliberately unpacking the process with my community group, and what I’ve discovered is this: the more I speak about it- the more I bring it out into the light in the spirit of confession- the more it loses its hold over me.

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”1

I’ve always read this verse and considered “mercy” to merely be a stand-in for God’s forgiveness, you know, like the Big Man just kind of looks the other way, if-you-will. But what I’ve been realizing is that this “mercy” we’re granted as we bring our brokenness into the light, is so.much.bigger than that. This mercy has little to do with merely overlooking a transgression and has everything to do with freedom. “God is light,”2 and as such, he longs for his kids to invite him into their spaces of darkness so that he can illuminate them and begin the process of setting us free from the chains that bind us. That is the full measure of his mercy. And because he’s in the business of revealing the “deep things of darkness and bring[ing] utter darkness into the light,”3 we must imitate him and do likewise as he makes us aware of what it is we need to confess. When we do this, we enable “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son [to] cleans us from all sin,”4 because at last, we are able to recognize our chains and thus our need for freedom. And then ultimately, we can begin to receive it.

Suddenly Paul’s words in Ephesians 5 take on a whole new dimension:

“For you were once darkness, but now you are in the Lord. Live as children of light… Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them… everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light,”5

In The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, Richard Rohr explains that each character “type” has a root sin, and a corresponding “gift” or “fruit” that marks mature persons in any category, and that it is always the reverse of the root sin. So then, the fruit of the Spirit of the ONE is cheerful tranquility.

Let it be so.


1 Proverbs 28:13
2 1 John 1:5
3 Job 12:22
4 John 1:7
5 Ephesians 5:8, 11 & 13

The cure for loneliness

As I sit here, looking out over the Siuslaw river, the rain pours down hard, dancing on the water as it returns to the place from whence it came. Five minutes ago it was the sun that was raining down, pouring its light through the glass, warming my bare toes. And even as I write this, the downpour slowly subsides making way for another patch of blue skies.

siuslaw 2

The silence has been unfolding around me gently all afternoon. I’ve hardly moved from this spot on the couch, positioned conveniently in front of four large bay windows overlooking the peaceful landscape of the coast, and I’m not at all sorry. It is with startling precision that I feel the tension seeping from my muscles and out of my body like a thawing tree after a bitter ice storm- drip, drip, drip- and as I breathe in deep, I sense the clean air sweeping through the cavernous spaces created by the absence, and I feel whole in a hollow sort of way; raw and a bit vulnerable, but whole. I hadn’t realized how wound up I was until at last I wasn’t.

There is a saying, “the only cure for loneliness is solitude,” and in this moment I know beyond all doubt that this is precisely true.

And as I allow myself to open up to the silence, to surrender to the emptiness, beauty sweeps in like a spring breeze through an old, dusty cabin. It seems the lines that separate my senses have begun to blur and blend: for the fragrance of light is penetrating and the taste of the silence is palatable. I can feel the color of the trees taking root under my skin, their lifeblood mixing and mingling with my own, and the brightness in my eyes is back. It can be startling to peer at your own reflection and realize that you recognize yourself for the first time in ages; the human staring back at you, because who was it then staring back every time before? I had forgotten my humanness I think, that is, the good and holy parts of it. I seem to carry with me always the reality of my skin and bones, blood and muscles, my ceaseless pain and anxiety, and all the weight of my limitedness, no doubt. But more often than not, I forget to take up the lightness of my spirit that was meant to animate this shell of mine.

And as I continue to fully enter into this weekend getaway, this last minute retreat, I’m reminded of the word Shalom- in the truest, fullest sense of the Jewish word- and then immediately, Shabbat; the two, it seems, are indivisible. Without genuine, revitalizing rest, there will be no Shalom, and yet it seems I can’t manage to take either word seriously until I’m wholly desperate for them to revive me. And when they do, [and they are always willing to] I am reminded that there is a profound buoyancy inherent in our humanity, if only we can cultivate it. After all, we were made to inhabit our humanity, to live into it, not to be crushed by it.

And so, as I sit here while the hours pass by, I keep fighting the thought that “if only I lived here!” I would never leave this place. This place of solitude, of peace, of wholeness. But of course, people do live here, and they are every bit as caught up in the world of busy and go, go, go as I, and must seek out and cultivate rest and the spaces that fill them as well. And it occurs to me, that we cannot live in this space. No. None of us can. And to do so would be destructive even- ultimately. But, we can visit. And we should. Perhaps much more often than we do.

Like Coming Home



This past weekend I had the great privilege of traveling to Northern California to stand beside my best friend from college as she pledged her life and devotion to a truly wonderful man. Their vows made everyone cry, I assure you. The whole affair was nothing short of steal-your-breath-away. The venue, a gorgeous vineyard in Redding, California, provided one of the most stunning backdrops I’ve seen thus far, and for a moment, standing in the warmth of the afternoon sun, wrapped in its unseasonable glow, I recalled the rain I’d left behind in Portland and wondered, in a weak moment, if I had in fact made a terrible mistake.

From the time I was a young girl I’ve been thoroughly enchanted with the idea of travel; by the sheer expansiveness of a world that lay in wait for me- by the great unknown, surely begging to be known. Adventure- I could hear her beckoning me from the four corners of the globe to come and turn over her rocks, exposing the earth’s rich history in all its untamable, boundless beauty; inviting me to breathe it in like air, and breathe it out like a blessing.

And eventually, I would.

sunriseEventually I would board planes, chasing the sun till my feet met the cobblestone streets of Europe; I’d head underground and hop on subways in search of the secrets told by a city that never sleeps. I’d take buses and cabs and boats and I’d tread by foot the same soil traveled by countless others who’ve come before me. Sometimes those travels would leave me standing in awe of the relic beauty and robust hisotry present in the ancient, Gothic architecture of France. Other times it would have me caked in the dust of poverty, arms intertwined with the fragile limbs and bodies of orphan babies as I rocked and sang them to sleep in the sticky, marshy African air, praising God for his Common Graces- faint breezes like a whisper, evening rainstorms as a reprieve from stale heat, the reviving nature of human touch- which He generously bestows to all without partiality; all of which I so thoroughly overlook in the midst of my Western comfort.

And still, there is no denying I’ve only begun to skim the surface of all that is to be explored in the vast expanse of creation. Many have seen much more than I, and could speak with far greater authority to the world’s many wonders. God willing, my journeys are far from over; there is certainly so much more I pray my eyes bear witness to before my lips breathe their final hallelujah. There’s something inherently stretching involved with traveling to new places: a palpable reminder that the world is far bigger than my daily perimeters extend; that it does not revolve around me and my trivial, selfish agendas. It helps ground me in the hope that there is still much to learn and discover in life. It’s humbling in so many ways, and this is good. I need humbling.

But even so, I often find that these same experiences tend to breed something of another nature within me as well, that is, a spirit of discontentment. I would argue that our exceptionally mobile and digital age has contributed to a fear of commitment that largely exceeds the generations before us. As our options for travel and consumption have vastly expanded, there is tremendous temptation to flea or escape when life gets hard, or a little scary, or even just too routine. We begin to ask ourselves what else is out there.

What exactly is behind door number 2 anyway? 

As our journeys expose us to far away, exotic places, there creeps in a gnawing thought that haunts us: perhaps we have been cheated in some way; perhaps life is keeping some grand secret from us, for surely we were born in the wrong city, state, country, era, body and so on and so forth. We’d rather envy the greener grass in another’s yard than cultivate our own. And we begin to believe the lie that what we have is not enough.

It’s an age-old story really, and I regret to say how often I feel this way.

But on Saturday, when I landed in Portland, something instantly felt different. I pondered what it could be as I slowly made my way up the steps and through my front door. I trudged my belongings upstairs, exchanged my California garb for a more appropriate fall sweater, then immediately headed back down to the kitchen to make myself the first good cup of coffee since my departure three days earlier. Then, in an effort to unwind from a busy weekend, I grabbed my mug and journal and made my way to the front porch. And as I sat there, breathing in the cool, fall air, watching the clouds drift lazily across a sky of vibrant blue, something strange began to happen: it was as though I began to unfold in that moment.

If you know me, you know I am not exactly a details person. Generally speaking, I’m so often in my head, distracted by my own thoughts, that my external surroundings just sort of pass me by in a blur. But on this particular afternoon, it was as though all my senses were heightened: I noticed the way the sunlight streamed through my kitchen window as I made my coffee, reflecting off the water in my aero press, casting its light onto the countertop in a lovely dance; I couldn’t help but smile. I wondered if the trees had overnight decided to light their tops ablaze, exposing their autumn hues, or if I’d simply missed it until now. It was something like making the switch from cable to HDTV. Everything came into precise focus. Everything, and I mean everything was beautiful. I felt almost as though I’d put my skin on again- the skin that’s mine, and mine alone to wear- the skin that’s comfortable and at ease. And it hit me as I sat there sipping my coffee, that this thing I was feeling, this peace and alertness to all the beauty around me, it was the feeling of coming home. And I had to give pause to the moment and thank God, but for his perfect wisdom and goodness, I’d still be searching for such a place.

For surely, of all the roads we travel in life, few are as satisfying as the roads that leads us home.



Building Fences & Taking Sides [@ the Junia Project]


I’m a big advocate for what I like to call “tension living.” If this life has taught me anything, particularly where faith is involved, it’s that black and white do in fact occupy a significant amount of mutual territory, and there is more than enough grey to go around. Ryan O’Neal from Sleeping At Last puts it beautifully in his song “101010”: “grey is not a compromise – it is the bridge between two sides. I would even argue that it is the color that most represents God’s eyes.” So… Sovereign God? or Free Will?


And I’m comfortable sitting in that tension. Some things aren’t for knowing yet and I think God quite enjoys that we can’t pin him down with our cold, hard precision and logic. So you see, I agree.

Except when I don’t.

The more I dive into the cause of women and gender [in]equality, both within the church and around the globe, the more personal the issue becomes for me, and the more determined I become to build a fence simply to demonstrate that I will not be found sitting on it.

I’m thrilled to be over at the Junia Project today. Click here to read the rest of my post!

Grace & Peace,