It Doesn’t Take a Brain Surgeon To Set Me Straight


I found this post in my drafts folder from last Fall & decided it was ready to post.

The other day I heard a RadioLab podcast about a guy who had brain surgery to relieve him of seizures. A portion his brain was removed that acts like a “lid” on top of the desire center in his brain. This lid helps people filter and control their deep desires and impulses, like a conscience, or impulse control. Without this “lid,” he entertained and acted on every desire that came to him, and he did so with gusto.

As you can imagine, this eventually got him into hot water.

In some ways, I related to the story.

When I’m in a difficult moment, or in a difficult season, I have a hard time seeing my way out of it. I indulge that feeling of despair and just go with it, feeling like things will never change and I will always feel this way. It’s like I don’t have a lid that controls or filters my deepest despair.

And then I talk to a friend.

My friends are one of the many lids that filter my deepest despairing moments and remind me that I’m not alone, and that it won’t always be this way.

For instance, in the tough parenting moments (like now, for instance, when my kid won’t stop singing DO-DO-DO-DO despite my asking him to stop, like, A THOUSAND times) the floodgates of despair open and I lament the day I ever had kids.

Parenting would be easier without the kids, I joke with Bryan. But then I act on those thoughts by getting snippy with them just for walking into the room.

Friends remind me that all kids can be annoying, disobedient, whiners, not just mine, and then they point me to Jesus and tell me their own stories of bad parenting moments.

Through the “lid” of community, I can filter those moments as irritating, but not despairing. They’re normal. But when I’m isolated and avoid community, my own thoughts are the only reality check I have, and they quickly lead me to despair.

Peace Over Pieces


The other day I learned (from Tim Keller!) that the Greek word for anxiety – marimna – means “to be in pieces” or to have a divided mind with too many goals.

One example of its use is in the Mary and Martha story. I always hear this passage preached with the warning to not be too busy to enjoy Jesus. These sermons irritate me because I wonder: Who’s going to do All The Things if everyone’s sitting around appreciating the presence of Jesus?!

People like to focus on Mary and Martha’s behavior, but in the context of “marimna,” Jesus is addressing their hearts. It’s not about all the things Martha is doing; he’s saying she has too many priorities – her heart is divided.

If anxiousness is to have a divided heart and mind, then peace, the opposite of anxiety, is to be single-minded.

But peace doesn’t come merely in choosing one goal to chase over all the others; true peace comes when we are single-minded toward Jesus and let everything else gravitate around him.

According to the passage, Mary is single-minded toward Jesus. This doesn’t mean she neglects all the work – it just means she finds peace in Jesus, not in her to-do list.

Two years ago I wrote about this same thing in a post called, Restful Worship. Here’s an excerpt…

Whatever circumstances I find myself in – whether emotional turmoil, financial hardship, or even just a busy schedule – God will not only sustain me in the midst of it, but he will provide a season of peace.

But it’s not the sort of peace where I catch up on laundry, sleep, and 30Rock episodes, but a peace that’s intended to remind me of who God is and how he sustained me through the day (or week, or month, or however long I’ve been slogging along).

He provides an opportunity for restful worship.

This Fall I was feeling very anxious again and, quite frankly, a little cray-cray. My heart was in pieces, divided. I was worrying about all the circumstances around me, which led me to be controlling and argumentative, then despairing when I couldn’t control or argue my desires into existence.

Thankfully, my heart and mind are at peace again – single-minded toward Jesus.

How do you struggle with marimna? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

That’s Not My Name, Dammit.


Lately I’ve been struggling to sort out in my head what is Truth and what is a Lie. It’s been a deep, debilitating struggle, actually, in which I feel like I’m going insane.

This is obviously putting stress on my family relationships. After all, if I assume you’re lying to me, then it stands to reason I should crush you with my anger.

I am thankful for a patient husband and friends who come to the rescue with chicken pot pie and conversation at 10:00pm.

This morning I interrupted a death spiral of lies and went for a walk to clear my head in the fresh air and bright sun. As I walked briskly with music in my ears, The Ting Tings shuffled into my mix.

They call me Elle
They call me Stacey
They call me her
They call me Jane

That’s not my name
That’s not my name
That’s not my name
That’s not my…name

I’m known around the office for getting lost in my music and accidentally singing out loud while co-workers are on a conference call, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that as I hiked through the Seattle Center I shouted, “THAT’S NOT MY NAME” over and over again.

It felt good to get it out: to shout THAT’S NOT MY NAME at Satan, or my brain, or my heart, or whatever it is that’s trying to separate me from reality.

My name is Daughter, and I belong to Jesus. Everything else is a lie.

Don’t Say the Dreaded “P” Word!


Christians are really big on faith, hope, and joy.

We form these words into felt banners hung from the choir loft and sing choruses with our hands raised…

…but nobody likes to think about patience in affliction.

Ask anyone about patience, and they’ll wave at you frantically and shush you to keep your voice down.

God will hear you, you idiot!

You see, we don’t like to pray for patience, because it opens the door for the testing of our patience. And despite all the suffering and affliction Christ endured to save our sorry asses, we prefer to remain affliction free.

Consequently, we don’t really know what to do with afflicted people.

We want them to have faith! hope! and joy! despite their affliction, but mostly we’d feel more comfortable if they just got over it quickly.

But the reality is, many are afflicted with depression, grief, and physical pain that won’t just go away. And for these, all hope is lost, joy is fleeting, and faith is brittle.

Their affliction is not our burden to bear, but neither is it our place to recoil from their discomfort.

I believe it’s our place to also be patient in their affliction.

This means we sit with them, we listen to them, and we cry with them. And we don’t try to hustle them through a time lapse of their affliction, because then we’d all miss an opportunity to be patient.


See what I mean?

I should’ve kept my voice down.

It’s given us, to overcome.

The other day a friend called me. She was struggling to see light at the end of her tunnel of despair, and I hope I was able to encourage her.

We talked as I sat in my car in the Grocery Outlet parking lot because this is the reality of life in community: to go on a rescue mission between client calls and grocery shopping.

After we talked I went into the store. I don’t normally shut out the world in public. I like to smile and say hello to fellow pear squeezers. But on that day I needed to pray, to decompress, to go inward.

This song by Josh Garrels came into the mix as I rummaged through packs of chicken thighs, looking for the largest one. As I heard a particular lyric – I can’t remember which one – I gasped.

And I must have gasped out loud and not just in my head because the lady next to me turned quickly and looked concerned.

“Wow, these prices are great,” I said, and chuckled. Nothing to see here! All is well! Surely no one despairs in the meat department!

But when she turned away, I cried a little. And worshipped a little. And I can’t be sure, but I may have sung this out loud a little. I really hope I didn’t, though, because I’m no American Idol.

To be clear, my life is pretty great right now – I don’t have much to cry about. But Jesus wept with those who wept. And Job’s friends sat down and cried with him (before they turned into jerks, but we’ll ignore that part of the story for now). So if I want to cry and worship in the meat department on someone else’s behalf I think there’s plenty of Biblical argument in favor of that.

So, this song is for you, friend. And it’s for anyone who is struggling to see light at the end of despair. It’s not a battle cry that calls you to kick ass, but a meditation, a beckoning, an invitation to believe He will overcome.

It’s one of the reasons I follow Jesus. He’s a God who restores everything I lose, squander, or have taken from me.

p.s. Thank you, Bandcamp & Josh Garrels for letting me share your music with a file embed.


I hung my head, for the last time
In surrender and despair
Before I’m dead, I’ll take the last climb
Up the mountain, face my fears
The time has come, to make a choice
Use my voice for the love of every man
My minds made up, never again
Never again, will I turn round

Though they may surround me like lions
And crush me on all sides
I may fall, but I will rise
Not by my might, or my power, or by the strength of swords
Only through, your love, my lord
All we’ve lost, will be, restored

Take courage sons, for we must go under
The heart of darkness, and set them free
But don’t lose heart when you see the numbers
There’s no measure for, the faith we bring
It’s given us, to overcome
If we run, where the spirit calls us on
The greatest things, have yet to come
With the dawn, we will rise

Though they may surround us like lions
And crush us on all sides
we may fall, but we will rise
Not by my might, or my power, or by the strength of swords
Only through, your love, my lord
All we’ve lost, will be, restored

way back home

For more than ten years this song always seems to find me in my darkest hour.

Whether I am depressed, wallowing, full of rage, or drenched in the stench of my own selfishness, the Truth in these words sets my heart straight.

And it’s not just the words themselves, but the way in which I get to shout them out at the back end of the song – a full body submission to the true Owner of my heart.

I did this tonight in my kitchen. On repeat.

I’m struggling in particular with my selfishness these days. Sometimes I think I’d like to spend my days walking alone, writing the great memoir, drinking tequila, and listening to really loud music. I’d spend my nights similarly, only maybe without the walking & a little more tequila.

The fantasy never includes disobeying children, hard conversations with husbands, and poop-eating dogs.

I hear a lot of messages out in the wild. I hear that I deserve to be happy, that I need to do what’s right for myself, that I’m in control of my own destiny. These are very tempting messages for me because I think I would make a very good brooding & reclusive writer if I put my mind to it.

I also possess just enough sass and mystery to drive the men wild.

But when I find myself in this dark place where it’s me & Lisbeth Salander against the world, I am shaken by the fact that I am not the center of the universe, that it’s not my destiny to do what’s right for myself, and that happiness doesn’t come from getting whatever I want.

On the contrary, I am called to worship Him – to set aside everything I ever thought I wanted for myself and trust that He knows me better than I know myself.

Jesus calls me to unclench my fisted heart. In turn he fills it with joy no matter what circumstance I find myself in.

And so tonight I sang in my kitchen. I turned it up to eleven and I yelled into the window as I did the dishes:

take the first of my thought
take the first of my time
take the throne of my heart
crush all other gods
you alone sit on the throne

Ruthie finally came in and burst my little worship bubble and yelled at me that she couldn’t hear her movie on the Hallmark channel (there’s many things wrong with that, believe me). So I stepped back into the real world and practiced living according to my re-set heart.

I pray I never give into my fantasy. I pray the lies of that false happiness are destroyed. And I praise God for songwriters who point me back to His Truth.

Inspired by Jose Cuervo and Florence & the Machine


I’m a little crazed these days. I think I’ve had something on the calendar every night since the beginning of December, and that never goes over well with Introverts like me.

I’ve definitely hit a wall.

For me this looks like oversleeping, over eating, over drinking, and writing blog posts when I should be working or making dinner. These are the days you find me working in my pajamas and starting happy hour around 2pm.


Ironically, this is the first December in six years that I haven’t been depressed. Despite the work stress (good stress! busy! lots of clients!) and heavy social schedule, I don’t have a dark cloud following me around.

If I’m moping, it’s because I’m mopey, not because life has no meaning.

Hilariously, busy + stress + no depression = no Christmas planning*guiltless to the power of infinity.

Translation: have not sent Christmas cards and have not bought presents and have barely decorated my house and I am 100% okay with this. I am truly living in the moment, not embittered by failed expectations, and enjoying what the day bring IN THAT MOMENT.

And if you know me in person, you’ll know THIS IS NOTHING LIKE ME.


‘Tis the Season to be… bawl-ly?

Christmas09I hate feeling like I “survived” Christmas, but that about sums it up.

Regular life typically feels overwhelming to me, particularly during the depressing rainy months. Christmas adds more errands, more spending, more pressure to perform, and more guilt when it all falls short.

I know what the season is about – Joy, Peace, and the Gift God gave in his Son who redeems us. This is what I treasure about Christmas.

Is it possible to embrace the MEANING of Christmas, but still hate Christmas?


Christmas Tree Decorating: Spectator Sport?


That’s how I feel.


Four days before Christmas and I feel Bleh.

We managed to get a tree, we managed to decorate, and despite a very frustrating iTunes issue that threatens to end my marriage, I managed to gain access to a few Christmas songs.



If you want fun and good cheer and a chuckle or two, you’ll have to visit my humor slash cute blog over at Babysaur. I put on a good face for the Cheezburger crowd.

Or, you can get a good chuckle out of Thomas and Ruthie watching Bryan put Christmas lights on the tree. As you can see, they were pretty into it.

A flare-up of the Uns


I feel like I’m depressed again. I have that overwhelmed, I just want to stay in my pajamas, can’t handle more than what’s in front of me kinda thing going on. I wake up, put out fires, and go to bed. I feel unfocused, unproductive, and unlovely.

I have a case of the Uns.

But to be honest, I’m really busy, too, and I have a low tolerance for busy.

Busy makes me shut down. Busy makes me cling to things like my husband and my couch and my bowl of cereal. Busy makes me say no to fun things because it’s too much work to have fun.

So now I wonder, have I picked my sliver well?

I think it’s time to regroup, refresh, and reset my priorities.

Nothing cures a case of the Uns like a dose of the Re’s, amiright?

The Heart of Anger

“…God will not ask you to follow any biblical mandate without providing the grace and ability to carry it out.” – Lou Priolo, The Heart of Anger

The other day I watched a substitute mail carrier drive up to our cluster of boxes, tinker around, then drive away. When I opened the box I saw only the Netflix DVD I’d left there to be sent back.

Irritated I wouldn’t be getting my next movie when I wanted to, I called the post office to complain. Later that day as I was driving, the thought occurred to me that I was waiting for the arrival of another Netflix movie for the kids. Could it be possible the mail carrier took the old Netflix and left the new Netflix, and because we received no other mail it only looked like the old Netflix was still sitting in the box?

When I got home I rechecked the box, this time taking out the DVD to inspect it, and sure enough, it was a new movie. I immediately felt horrible and embarrassed that I’d called the post office to complain. I’d sprung into action quickly, and my folly bit me in the ass.

Everything I read about anger boils it down to this simple heart issue: it is a response to thwarted or delayed expectations – whether real or perceived.

In his book Cry of the Soul, Dan Allender writes:

Anger propels us into battle. It is a response to a perceived or actual injustice that attempts to destroy the wrong done to us. Whether righteous or unrighteous, anger triggers activity: Our breathing quickens, muscles tighten, eyes narrow and focus on the enemy…. Many of us make choices with an internal chip on our shoulder. Anger is an adrenaline that increases our courage to move in a world that seems to oppose our desire.

For me, this anger is triggered by even the most trivial things, such as the Netflix misunderstanding I described earlier, or the take-out joint sending home the wrong soup, or my kids waking up from their naps before my work is done. I will actually stew in my bitterness over such things, often to the point of my entire day being ruined because from henceforth on no one or no thing can give me back what I first wanted.

I’ve overcome many of these patterns of anger the last few years, but I still struggle. It’s “easier” to let my temper fly in the moment, and it feels “better” to release the mounting tension, while slowing down my brain to process through my disappointment and getting my adrenaline rush under control takes patience and hard work.

When I read the above Priolo quote it reminded me of this scripture:

1 Corinthians 10:13 (New International Version)

13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

I don’t have to fall headlong into anger anymore – God promises this by way of being our defender, shield, and warrior. In the face of real or perceived injustice, scripture calls me to be still and wait on the Lord to bring justice:

Psalm 27:14 (New International Version)
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

Psalm 33:20 (New International Version)
20 We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.

Psalm 130:5 (New International Version)
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.

heart of anger.JPGI’ve enjoyed a long respite from struggling with or thinking about my anger issues, but I’m realizing the absence of symptoms doesn’t always mean the absence of problems. Sometimes it means my circumstances haven’t provided the opportunity to practice overcoming them.

This has been a tough month, marked by stress, busy schedules, and a bout of depression to stir up a perfect pot of inner chaos. But as I notice many of the same patterns of anger in Ruthie that I’ve struggled with my whole life, I now seize the opportunity to help her build a tool box for addressing disappointment while dusting off my own tools and putting them to good use.

I’m reading the book, The Heart of Anger, by Lou Priolo, about dealing with anger in our children. Early in the book Priolo suggests parents read this book twice – once for ourselves, and then again for our angry child. I found this to be valuable advice, so I’m taking it slow.

Also, saw the doctor yesterday and and received some support for my adrenal hormones – this tactic always seems to take the edge off any depression and fatigue.

I feel hopeful that I’m looking at a peaceful, soul-searching summer, letting God fight my battles for me while resting behind his very big shield.

the flood is too deep

Nobody warned me about the last two weeks of school. I think plenty of you had ample opportunity to wave your arms in the air, wild-eyed and frazzled, somehow communicating to me that I would be run ragged with year-end crap.

So, THANKS for that.

Also, who said I could be depressed? I didn’t order up any depression! It’s been sunny and hot for 28 days, for crying out loud – WHAT DO I HAVE TO BE DEPRESSED ABOUT? But no matter what I do, I just can’t stop crying. And no, it’s not that – how shall I say? time of the month – to be crying, either. And besides, that time of the month doesn’t last forEVER, and that’s how long I’ve been crying. IT’S JUST NOT NORMAL.

And then there’s all the Stuff that keeps happening and needs to be Figured Out. And the Money that needs to be Found. And the Stress that needs to be Waded Through.

So yeah, when I heard this song, I cried the Ugly Cry, because I’m spent and need a twenty year nap.

Ghost Ship: Speak (listen here)
The rain is pouring down
There’s water flowing out
of a puncture in your side
it soaks me to my bones

This flood is too deep
for me to catch a breath
and I feel I will sink
to a certain death

this flood is too deep
this flood is too deep
the blood is washing over me
your ___ that set me free

and you’ve washed me now I’m clean
you’ve washed me now I’m clean
you’ve washed me now I’m clean

on suffering openly

I’d seen Bryan around, but I first noticed him when he officially introduced himself to the group at a staff meeting. He was from southern Colorado, his wife left him, and he came to Seattle trying to make sense of the last six years of his life.

I took note.

It wasn’t that I reveled in rescuing lost puppies; but rather, because he suffered, I knew he wasn’t shallow.

I look around me now, at my closest friends, and they all know or have experienced suffering. Some I have watched suffer; some suffered before I knew them. But it is their Story of pain and tragedy that allows me to trust them, to let them watch me as I writhe in my own confused, dark places.

I’ve had a few people tell me I’m stand-offish, that I’m hard to get to know. This confused me, because my commitment to friends is deep and forever. But when I think about it, when I think about who makes these claims, I realize it’s the people I don’t really know – the ones who lie to themselves and everyone else about their suffering, who want to pretend they have it together, who avoid suffering at all costs.

And they’re right: I’m stand-offish to them.

I have to be, because in relationship I don’t hide much, and it would be foolish for me to expose myself to the untested.

A few years ago I lost a friend. She met me on the doorstep as I came to pick up my kids at her house, and she told me we couldn’t be friends anymore. She didn’t really explain, and it didn’t make any sense. Conflict was happening around us, but I wrongly assumed we were tight, that we would persevere, that our friendship could withstand it all.

Ironically, as I walked over to pick up my children that morning I felt compelled to acknowledge all that was swirling around us. I was planning to tell her I loved her, and that I wanted us to pray together for Peace in the midst of The Ugliness, and that I wanted to wrestle through our friendship.

So her confrontation was quite a blow.

But it let me know I had chosen wrongly in her as a friend, that my vulnerability was given to her untested. As the following weeks unraveled, everything I thought I knew about our friendship turned out to be a polite facade that covered gossip, disdain, and betrayal. Despite the fact I could see how she suffered, it turns out she never let me in. She was pushing me away, and I never even saw it.

It took two and a half years for me to understand this – to understand we did not feel the same way about suffering and friendship. In fact, I don’t think I understood it until around paragraph seven of this post.

Thankfully, that experience did not cause me to retract my vulnerability, but it did open my eyes to Caution. I think back on what it is I saw in Bryan, and in my friends, that drew me in to their Story – and I believe it is the limps and scars and weathered skin that tell me I’d be safer in their boat than in a greenhorn’s.

Opening the shutters, dusting off the curtains.

After a summer of abnormal female issues I won’t get into except to say I took one pregnancy test (negative), I finally went to my Fabulous Doctor. I explained my female issues to her, and in passing conversation also mentioned I was tired all the time. Like, dragging all day, napping in the afternoon and still falling asleep early in the evening.

After taking my blood pressure, she was concerned. I’m normally low, but on that day I was 78/50. The low end of the normal range (I think) is 90/60. I’m used to doctors asking if I feel feint when I stand up or change positions, and I never am. I’m just normally low. But, I don’t recall ever being THIS low.

So she had my blood tested for hormone issues, adrenal gland issues, thyroid issues, iron issues, and a whole bunch of other issues. All came back normal, except that I’m anemic. For no apparent reason.

Since I prefer CLEARLY EXPLAINABLE diagnoses over Well, It Could Be’s, all the worst possible scenarios were running through my head.

But I’m sure it’s nothing.

0709atinygrain-thumb.jpgFast forward through the holidays to early January when I finally went by the Fabulous Doctor’s office to pick up all the little brown bottles full of magic liquids she set aside for me. After six months of lethargy, lost libido, and a particularly depressing December, I was feeling extra gloomy about the possibility of anything ever feeling good and happy ever again.

But after just a couple weeks of taking all of her magic potions I feel as invincible as Iron Man. I wake up early, I Get Things Done, I keep moving, I’m nice, I don’t crash in the afternoon, and I go to bed appropriately tired and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Oh, and I’m really excited about … coloring… again (*cough*).

I’ve even gone so far as to wearing make-up and jewelry and shirts with actual buttons. This was largely unheard of even before all the strange symptoms set in, so apparently the potions in those little brown bottles also remedy slovenliness.

At any rate, I feel stellar. I’m catching up on things I’ve let go around the house, and I’m expecting to find more time to write.

Now, if only there were magic potions for potty training uninterested four year old boys…

Winter Hibernation


“Maybe like me, instead of hard circumstances causing you to cling deeply to Him and to meditate on your relationship with him, you allow it to divert your focus away from Him.”

I’ve been meditating on this post by Wendy all week. Well, sort of. The truth is I remembered that I’d read it, and that it resonated with me, but it passed so quickly in and and out of my distracted mind that there was no real meditation at all. Just a nagging feeling that I should go back to it again and read it more slowly… and with my brain turned on.

So now that I’ve done that, I’m sighing with relief that someone else wrote down how I’m feeling so I don’t have to. So just go read that post, and know pretty much what’s going on with me these days.


“We are choked from fruitfulness when we become consumed with the cares of this temporary world….”

I’ve been a surface level kind of girl lately – putting out fires and generally tackling the loudest distraction in the moment just to make it shut up. My container is cracked and leaking from multiple contusions. I can’t hold a thought or motivate to action. The other night I had drinks with a friend, and I couldn’t think clearly enough to calculate a tip.

I am stressed. I am grouchy. I am anxious.

It occurred to me recently that when I feel overwhelmed it doesn’t draw me closer to God. Not immediately. It’s not my first reaction. I prefer to spin my wheels, turn in circles, and take care of myself. Sort of. But in attempting to take care of myself I actually run myself into the ground.

And THEN I grasp into the air for God.


“Many Christians are more convinced of the reality of their daily problems than the reality of their God.”

My circumstances loom large over me. Always. I cling to my success or failure at just making it through the day, and give myself extra points if I make it without a stain on my shirt. I haven’t always felt like this. For most of 2008 I felt exactly the opposite of this. I’ve been radiant, balanced, and content even if circumstances were not stellar. But December’s got me down.

My bread machine broke today and I cried. It fell on the floor and warped and now the door won’t stay closed. I cried because I couldn’t fix it, and I couldn’t go back in time to before it fell and push it back just a little from the edge of the counter. And I cried because right now it just feels like nothing could ever replace the bread machine I loved so much.

But given a little hindsight, maybe it wasn’t really the bread machine I was crying about.


“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…” (Ephesians 1:18).

It is now one week after I wrote these thoughts, and I’m thankful I chose to hold off on publishing them. I woke up Christmas Eve feeling despair and weight. I wondered whether I was being overcome by depression or if I was choosing to wallow – this is always my question, now, when I dip into dark places – Am I falling into darkness because I do not look into The Light?

But by late afternoon, after the multi-vitamins with an extra dose of Vitamin B kicked in, we braved the snowy roads to our Christmas Eve service. Surrounded by candlelight and children’s voices and music about the savior who came to redeem us, who humbled himself and became one of us – suddenly I remembered it isn’t about me. That no matter what happens around me or inside my head, Jesus is still the Giver of Hope.

December was blue, but I am already feeling hopeful.