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I have a print of this hanging in my living room. It reminds me that I need help, and so does everyone else.

About six months ago my eldest, Lucy, started picking and biting her nails during the more stressful moments of her day (aka, ALL THE TIME).  Two days ago she chose to ignore all the warning signs her body told her in the form of pain and picked & bit her nail so low she made herself bleed.  She purposely and knowingly caused herself physical pain.  It’s heartbreaking for me to watch, because I modeled the behavior, which was also modeled to me.  That emotional DNA was passed down from my biological dad, to me, to her.

I also pick; I have for as long as I can remember.  These poor cuticles… I peel back layers of flesh that want so badly to stay in-tact.  It doesn’t happen very often since sobriety, but I can tell there is internal discord when I start hurting myself, when I start believing I am bad and need punishment—when I decide to ignore the feelings bubbling to my surface levels, avoiding the pains inside.

If I create the wounds on the outside, on my fingers, then I’m making some form of the internal pain REAL.

I’ve talked a lot about Ellen here, in pages past.  I’ve talked about the beautiful/murderous houseguest that is cancer, especially childhood cancer.  I’ve shown you a lot of the more inspirational moments.  But every moment of glory was stitched to a moment of horror; from the ages of six to sixteen I had many, many, many unmet needs.

One day, I do not remember the day or the circumstances, picking stopped creating the types of wounds I felt I deserved, the types of wounds that matched and mirrored the pain of my demolished heart.  And so I sliced my thigh up with my razor blade while shaving.

I’m alive, I bleed, I feel, I DO have control, here is the answer.  I cut my thigh for a year before anyone found out.  It’s all still blurry for me, but as I continue to make sense of my childhood and make peace with the trauma, bits do flash behind my eyes, and it’s all so heartbreaking.  The same kind of heartbreak I feel looking at little Lucy’s bitten bits.

One day I cut too much, too deep, on my wrists.  Lots of stitches.  Lots of shame and embarrassment.  Lots of people asking questions with worried eyes and hearts.  Lots of art therapy and journaling.  As the scars healed, so did some pieces of my heart; it hasn’t been an issue since then.  The scars are big, faded now, but still big.  Those pieces of flesh that wanted to so badly stay in-tact have done a good job making my wrist right.

You can tell trauma lived there though, which is probably exactly what I wanted at the time— you guys, trauma lives here, in this body, please help me feel it in a way that doesn’t make me pass out from blood loss!!  

This past week I’ve been picking again.  After good verbal and non-verbal processing with some friends and David and Jesus, I know why (see Triggers).  It’s ridiculous for me to remind my kid to be kind to her body when I can’t do the same.  So we talk.  We talk about why Mama picks and what I feel like when I want to do it.  Then she gets a chance to express her side of it all.

One day something will happen that causes her waaaaaay more anger and fear than a sisterly quarrel or a stressful “Strawberry Shortcake” episode.  And one day, in a long time, when she is ready and when the Spirit tells me to, I can show her the remnants on my wrist. I pray, O Lord do I pray, that by the time we are dealing with real life problems she will have enough courage and safety and practice to feel as much as she needs to.

I pray that all the kiddos will trust me, or another Mama, enough to speak those tricky things, so they don’t have to wear them.  I pray they feel heard and known.  I pray for everything Little Claire lacked.

I pray these prayers for every human, too.  Maybe we are all just wounded, not wicked? I think maybe I wasn’t really given permission to be wounded (human) while the world was constantly crashing down around my family and me.  I think that’s why I created the wounds.

I think maybe a lot of us are not given permission to be wounded (human), so we create and perpetuate and project all the anger and fear we were never allowed to feel and to voice.  We create the story of our own wickedness in our brains because we weren’t allowed to be wounded.  We starve ourselves, stuff ourselves, cut ourselves, overwork ourselves, limit sleep, limit love, make ourselves throw-up, pick and bite ourselves, pluck too much hair, drink too much alcohol, stay in abusive relationships, and so much more.

What if you’re not wicked?  What if you’re just wounded?

What if we are all wounded?  What if being wounded (human) is actually a good thing?  What if the more we embrace our humanity, the more we embrace our Divinity?  What if the more we embrace God dwelling in ALL OF us, the better able we are to Love, Serve, and Restore?

Isn’t that the Good News, the Gospel?  That we don’t have to be afraid, that it’s all already been done.  That now, all we have to do is…Love?

I think we all just need lots of hugs, since I’m an honest woman.  This week I’m going to diligently write down Truths to remind myself of His heart for me “I am loved, I am worthy, my worth is not determined by the cleanliness of my house or my children’s behavior or my weight…”

I’ll follow the Truths up with the Joys, because there’s just too much in my life to smile about, and that can sometimes slip my mind.  “Thank You for David’s job, for fall breezes and yellow aspens, my car, warm beds and full bellies, health…”

I’ll breathe when I want to bite away at my cuticles; I’ll breathe when I see Lucy biting away at hers.  I don’t deserve to hurt, I don’t want to hurt!  Nobody does! I’ll pay extra attention to the scars that prove my humanity, the scars that prove my worth.  I’ll pray they remind me of His, too.

Lord, please help me be okay with my humanity, so I can be okay with everyone else’s.  Remind me, remind us all, that Your scars on Your wrists are proof of how deeply, wildly, and perfectly You Love us.  And may they remind us to seek to love Your universe in the same way.

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On Louis C.K. (and the art of dentistry)

Oh this hurts, doesn’t it?

Have you seen the Sarah Silverman clip?  The one where her brain and heart explode on the screen in front of us because she loves her friend Louis, but also…how?  Because he masturbated in front of all those females, and Sarah’s a stalwart in the women’s rights arena.


Do we humans have the capacity to hold the Good and the Hard in another?  No, I’ll rephrase that because we can’t offer to another what we ourselves have refused to receive.

Are you able to hold your own glory and horror?

It feels good believing that maybe God sanctioned off a few people to the side after She molded our clay on the sixth day.  That would make this world, and God, easier to digest—we wouldn’t need a Tums after consuming Christ’s reckless Love.

Remember how when you hug your own Hard too tightly it becomes Good?

Remember the tattoos.  I can see Louis, Harvey, and Spacey there, too.

Remember that you’re an abuser, too.  Because maybe you grabbed your son’s arm too tightly, and there was that one time you did that one thing mostly by accident.  Remember how we’re all wounded, not wicked?  These men made really destructive, shalom-shattering choices.  PERIOD, full stop.

I think they also forgot that God called them Good in the Garden.  I think toxic male masculinity models and shame-based purity culture fueled by empty religion really fucked us up.  Life, and forgetting, and lies have created a sticky soul plaque.  We can’t see the pearly parts because we’ve eaten too much sugar, porn, TV, video games, and pretend versions of God.

This right here, this is the dentist visit of the century for us humans.

Do you feel the grating and scratching away?  Are you sensing a little more stress and anxiety because you’re stuck in a chair (or a weeping planet) and the buzz of our collective cries just hurts too much?

Can you even believe we’re here?  You knew we had an issue, you just didn’t know how to solve it.

Here’s what happens next.

Let those layers go.  Yes, the scraping hurts.  Maybe the promise that the dentist isn’t a dick will help you?  I promise.  Let all those versions of God get sucked into that clear plastic tube that’s shoved toward the back of your mouth.

While we’re here we may as well offer up anything else that is starting to feel too tight.  The self-harm, political & tribal identities, and secrets can go now, right?  Do you have straight-to-jail-and-hell-secrets, too?  A few years ago I let those layers go and now you can see my pearly parts again.

Love held me close even with my oozing wounds—so much pus and blood and shame.  God’s outrageous grace made no sense, and in that embrace that I learned how to hug myself.  If God loves me no matter what, then I can love me no matter what.

Oh this hurts, doesn’t it?

At some point our brightness comes back.  And it gets tricky here, because we want everyone to know about the dental/soul work going on the back room.  We see the grime in others and for a moment, or a year, we focus on their yuck instead of keeping our own soul clean.

Their yuck is theirs.  Your yuck is yours.

Keep going back for your check-ups.  I try to get in daily because it’s grungy out there.  Meditate, pray, serve, drink water and eat salad, hug a kid or a dog, write down the truth.  Did you know that fear can take root in the mammalian brain in two seconds.  Something threatens us, we panic, and we’re gone—spinning in fear land.

Did you know it can take up to fifteen seconds for a positive thought to settle in?  We have evolved to choose fear over truth and joy.  Whenever I feel the heaviness, sense the plaque building up, or can start to hear the cries I go to the empty white pages in front of me and record everything I know is Truth.  It’s like brushing my teeth, but with a fine-tip fountain pen.

God’s not a dick.

God is Good, and Hard.  And Good.

I can’t fuck it up and neither can anyone else.

We’re all gonna make it.

I am capable and effective.

I am Good.

And on and on and on.

Reading words written by others who feel the heavy weight and can smell their own breath helps, too.  The psalms are just David shocked by his odor while hating on others for their own stench. #Humans.  Isn’t it nice to know that scripture was written by people who feel the same way we do?  Anne Lamott and the Twelve Steps work, too.

Do we have the ability as a nation to hold the glory and horror of humanity side-by-side?  I think we’re getting there.  In my own experience rage always comes before the sadness.  And then sadness reluctantly leaves a breadcrumb trail for glory.  First the pain, then the waiting, then the rising, as Glennon says.

If Sarah and the rest of us keep showing up for this horror then we win.  Don’t look away, turn off the TV and close the computer; consider leaving your phone in another room.  Inhale and exhale, lots of times.  This dentist trip needs to happen without the Lidocaine, numbing only keeps the pain pushed away.

We have to hold it, remember?  We need to stay awake, because somewhere in the midst of the cries and drilling, the hurricanes and oil spills, you hear a still small voice.

That’s Love.

Please listen.

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Chapter 19: On Pain (and healing)

Most of us know that pain is gorilla-glued to the human condition.  I even think that most of us can summon some sort of peace in that knowledge—a nod, an honoring, I see you.

Trying to ignore the redemptive power of pain and healing in our world takes a lot of energy.  Because proof is sprouting from every inch of charcoaled land, bouncing off the bald heads in infusion rooms, and radiating from the walls of AA meetings, therapy sessions, and homeless shelters.

Wherever humanity finds a home, pain will unpack also.

But did you know that healing is stuck in that sticky, gorilla ooze, too?  That restoration is as human as tears, or pores?

There’s this patch of skin on the outside of my left heel that I just can’t stop picking at.  Little flecks of skin mostly, and every once in a while I larger piece that I rip away when the kids insult my cooking or David works late or another hurricane rolls by.

In middle and high school I tore away the entire bottom of my heel pads so that each step I took could remind me of my shit-stain status; so that I never forgot about the pain inside.  The pain proved I was alive, I could bleed, I was human & not a robot.  My wounds allowed me to fix something in my world of chaos and uncontrollable grief.

A bandaid might not be able to keep Ellen alive but it can help with the blood pooling in my shoe.

I’ve detailed the physical pain my bone marrow transplant & cancer treatment caused.  What I never had a chance, or the words, to describe, was my physical healing.  The one that gave me my life back.

You see, therapy worked really well for the first fifteen months, until it didn’t.  The pace slowed after the first year or so and I felt stuck.

But I’m still picking at my heel and my cuticle.

The aches aren’t easing.

I don’t want bandaids anymore, God.  Where is my wholeness?  I want to be healed!

…like the bleeding woman…and all humans ever…

We just want healing.  We want to feel unafraid and electric.  We want power, not too much that God would expel us from Eden, but enough that we don’t feel an overwhelming need to consume every croissant within reach.

Did you know that showing up for our healing, our purpose, our life is literally the most courageous choice one can make?

In the middle of my six-week stint at outpatient rehab, a brawny paper towel man lookalike—who was graduating and forced to sprinkle a little inspiration on the newbies—stood in front of the group and drenched us.

“As a fireman, my buddies and me, we’re considered heroes.  But you know what?”  He says with tears pooling.  “You all are the bravest people I’ve ever met.”

I want to be fucking healed!

So for the first time in my life the patch of skin is starting to heal.  It’s heel-ing.  Yes, I’ve gone months without abusing it before, but then I could fall back on butter and coffee—that is not the case anymore.

There’s nothing to fall back onto except Grace, and a Goodhardgood God.  Thanks God, for adoring me even when I black out and yell at my kid so loud she pees in fear.  Thanks for holding that so I don’t have to ingest it, or pick at it, or cut it, or drink it, or anything else with it.



How could I stop showing up for the free kingdom compost that God so gladly shovels out?  Ellen showed me how to do that, too.  She never stopped planning her “healed party” because pain and healing are a part of the glue that hold us together, something my sister understood well.

What if I told you that sometimes I go talk to Jesus in my bedroom?  And while laying on my white cloud bed in the dark I allow Him to massage me with these healing flashlights that He keeps in a burlap man purse.  A warm red glow softens up my body and melts away the fear.  And then the pain is gone.  Do you want to go?  I’ll take you to Him.

What about the fact that my brain never fully believed my cancer was gone, and that’s why radiating pain plagued my limbs for years, even after the scans came back clean?  Because in my mind and body the cancer was still killing me.

Or that it wasn’t until I realized I was finally, and truly, safe from my mom’s belts that my back pain started to soften?  Because when my roots felt safe, my core muscles could finally relax and contract, strengthen, move.

Did you know that dread causes pain?  Do not be afraid.  No wonder!  God doesn’t want us to hurt, God wants us to heal.

If pain is a part of our world, then healing is, too.

The Brawny Man is correct.  Showing up for all of your life and trusting a Healer is harder than cancer treatment, the death of a loved one, abuse, infertility, parenthood, divorce, infidelity, trying to explain to foreigners how Trump got elected, and running into burning buildings.

Hold and honor your pain, yes.  It is an awfully beautiful part of your story.  And then, when it starts to feel too itchy & the circles under your eyes become darker than you remember, you have my permission to step toward the redemption that Love offers us all every moment of every day.

To craft and claim a New Story.

It will be the hardest work you do.  It will cost you more than you thought it would.  But I can see that you’re tired of bandaids.  Me too.

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