My One Word: Abide

At, readers are encouraged to ditch the long list of new year’s resolutions and instead choose one word to focus on all year long, one word to inspire you, one word that encapsulates the character you want to have.

I’ve chosen abide.


Some people might think I take this whole “one word thing” a little too seriously, but I’ve found over the last couple of years (see: sacrifice and grace) that it is so powerful to let a word– a word that really represents a lifestyle– stay near to my heart as I make big choices.

That’s why I’ve been thinking of what my 2018 word would be for quite some time, even praying about what it should be.

I kept coming back to abide.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:4-5, ESV

In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
John 14:20, ESV

I remember a class I once taught at my summer camp about a believer’s identity in Christ. I took that verse above– John 14:20– and made it an object lesson.

“Jesus,” I wrote on a slip of paper, then tucked it into a business envelope labelled “Jackie.”

“Christ in me,” I said, then put that envelope into a larger cardboard-sleeve mailer, which was also labelled “Jesus.”

“Christ in me, and I in him.” I put that whole collection into a larger bubble mailer, on which was written “GOD.”

“Christ in God, and I in him, and Christ in me,” I said, holding the whole package up, a sort of Russian nesting doll illustration with me and divinity. “Do you see how safe I am?”

This year I want to remind myself of that truth. To stay connected to the vine, and to bear much fruit. To be safe– but maybe not how you might think: to be so safe in Jesus that I can freely risk myself on others. It’s not about comfort. It’s about identity, an identity that fuels radical love and justice. 

Here’s to 2018!


Photo by Jesse Belleque on Unsplash, edited by me

Celebrating Life AND Death at Christmas

christmas celebrateIt’s not a traditional Christmas carol, but this– my favorite modern Christmas hymn– stirs my soul like no other. While most people I know have Christmas as their favorite holiday, mine will always be Easter. But, of course, they are connected.

We begin in the dark: a humble stable, a pregnant girl whose faithfulness means giving birth in a barn, a baby king with no cradle but a manger.

And it gets darker still: abuse and blood and death, a broken body in a sealed-up tomb.

But it ends (or is this actually a new beginning?) in the light: LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE.

That’s why “I Celebrate the Day” by Relient K is a holiday gem. Because it celebrates it all: light and dark, life and death and life again, the entire plan.

Listen below.



And with this Christmas wish is missed
The point I could covey
If only I could find the words to say to let You know how much You’ve touched my life
Because here is where You’re finding me, in the exact same place as New Years Eve
And from the lack of my persistancy
We’re less than half as close as I want to be

And the first time
That You opened Your eyes did You realize that You would be my Savior
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever

And so this Christmas I’ll compare the things I felt in prior years
To what this midnight made so clear
That You have come to meet me here

And the first time
That You opened Your eyes did You realize that You would be my Savior
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever

To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me
In the hope that what You did
That You were born so I might live
To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me

And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life

Merry Christmas, friends!

For Whitney & Sam: a Tribute

think tankToday, my whole “Think Tank” gang was reunited for the first time in a year and a half. It was exactly what my heart needed.

Sam stopped by campus before picking up Whitney from the airport, so Steve and I went along, and when she hopped in the car, the four of us started talking and laughing and joking and ripping on each other before she had a chance to buckle her seatbelt.

Just a much-needed heart-healing afternoon. These people changed my life, and it was like having Christmas come early to be with all of them again.


I’ve worked in the admissions office at my university since September 2003, so I’m coming up on thirteen years there. The average “lifespan” of an admission counselor is about 18 months. I’ve had a lot of co-workers. A lot of amazing ones. Too many to even list, though I will say the prize for Kept Me Laughing Too Hard to Work goes to Kyle and Josh and The Only Person I’d Let Steal My Roomie goes to Matt.

For the past while, my office mates have been Whitney and Sam. I’ve mentioned them a lot recently, since both are leaving the university to pursue their dreams. On Tuesday, Whitney will hop a plane for Vienna, Austria. Shortly after, Sam will head to grad school in Illinois.

It’s been a tumultuous, incredible journey with these two (and our honorary office-mate Steve too!). I have shared so much of my heart and my…

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Christmas: Rescue Plan GO

sadchristmasThere is an image of me on Christmas Eve that we still have somewhere at my parents’ house– me, hovering somewhere around 17-20 years old, with this look at the camera.  I can remember exactly what I was thinking in it.  I was looking at the camera and asking my future self, Are you okay yet?  I hope you don’t feel this way still.

I am SO happy I can tell that girl: I am okay. I haven’t felt that way in almost ten years now. Hold on. Help is coming. 

Tonight I’m thinking about people who spend their holidays the way I did– filled with doubt (laced with the tiniest bit of hope), depression, confusion, and sickness– and all while feeling that instead, they really ought to be happy.

This prayer is for you:

Jesus, I celebrate You– I celebrate Your marvelous incarnation, the Word becoming flesh.  Tonight, Lord, I lift up to You all those who are burdened with heavy, laboring hearts this season– whether from depression, anxiety, mental illness, or internal crisis.  YOU ARE STRONG ENOUGH TO HOLD US ALL.  Just as that first Christmas was the initiation of Your inexplicably great rescue plan, I pray that this Christmas will be the start of Your new rescue mission in the lives of these sufferers.  You are Love.  You are Truth.  You are the mighty redeemer.  I entrust my heart to You and ask that You would hold those for whom I’m praying– in a way that is felt.  Amen.

Writing Questions from Blog Readers!

Here a few questions blog readers asked me about writing:

What writing resource books you recommend?

emotional craft

Oh man, I have read so many great books about writing, both about the craft and the writing life. Here are some of my FAVORITES:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott *
The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass *
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
The Art of Slow Writing by Louise deSalvo
The Anatomy of Story by John Truby
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

* my favorites of my favorites

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? How did you develop your skills during your earlier years (such as during high school)?

I’m not sure I made a conscious decision about being a writer; writing (like wands) feels like something that chooses you. That said, I have always loved telling stories. I first decided I wanted to write a book when I was in 2nd grade. I tried my hand at fiction in 3rd grade (oh man, it is sooooo funny and dramatic!). In junior high, I wrote a soap opera in a notebook that I passed around to my friends, and in high school and college, I focused on poetry.

There are two things that writers have to do to develop their skills, no matter what age or writing-level they are at:

  1. Read. Fiction, non-fiction, in your genre and outside of it, with a healthy dose of poetry. Read like it’s your job. No, read like it’s your air.
  2. Write. It sounds silly, but just like with anything, practice is how we improve. This is true in sports and art and public speaking, in how to be a good listener, how to perform illusions, and how to train for a marathon. You have to write, write, write– and you will likely have to write a lot of crappy stuff first. But do it. Expel it. Get that time in on your training-wheels first.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to develop one’s writing! Advice/critique/feedback/workshopping (whatever you want to call it) is critical. And you can learn about techniques like metaphor and what sounds are most satisfying to the human ear and how to manipulate your readers’ emotions (manipulate is such a harsh-sounding word, but most fiction readers go into a book hoping for this!). Two of the books I listed above– The Emotional Craft of Fiction and The Anatomy of Story– are craft books that get into the nitty-gritty details.

But at any (and every) stage? Read and write.

What do you do (or tell yourself) when you are unmotivated to write? Are you ever overwhelmed with how much work it takes to write a book?

First of all, YES, I often get overwhelmed with how much time and energy goes into writing a full-length work of fiction. In fact, in college, I focused on poetry partly because a poem can be so short, whereas fiction is such a big undertaking. But that’s why I have to take a novel one word at a time, one day at a time, and why I have to split it up into about one trillion smaller tasks or, as Anne Lamott would call them, “short assignments.” (I actually do call them short assignments on my to-do list!)

When I am unmotivated to write, I go back to my lists. I either choose one small assignment I am excited about or, sometimes, I might not even be excited about it, but I tell myself, “Just 20 minutes. See what happens in 20 minutes.” In both of these cases, my wheels usually get spinning and three hours later I am sad to put the manuscript away for the evening.

How much of writing is intuitive?

10000 hoursGosh, I don’t know. Sometimes the things that feel so intuitive to me are the things my writing group and editor hate the most. Sometimes, though, those things are a stroke of brilliance– and not even a brilliance I can attribute to myself. When ideas like that come from nowhere, it truly does not feel like I deserve credit. For someone like me, whose spiritual life encompasses all other parts of my life, I can see God at work in my writing. I think, if one has read a lot of great literature and one has put in hours upon hours of writing practice (Malcolm Gladwell says you need to practice 10,000 hours to gain expertise in any field), that intuition is going to be built in you. And if you add an outside influence into that? Mmm.

What’s the most important part(s) of preparing a book for querying?

Every part.

If we are talking fiction here, the manuscript must be as polished and perfect as it can be prior to querying. Along with that, you have to write a query letter that is intriguing, plays by the rules of the agent, and ends up in the right agent’s inbox.

Have any inspiration for young writers or those just getting started?

Yes! I love this:


Have other writing-related questions for me? Click here to ask me anything! 🙂

My Slow Journey to Woke

Note: I wrote this in the days after the horrid events in Charlottesville, and I didn’t post it before because I wanted some friends to read over it first and give me the green light. So … here I go. Please know that I share my story with a humble heart. If I offend, or if you need clarification, I invite you to please contact me. Here’s my story.

wokeI grew up very conservative in a small town where I can recall nine students of color in our local schools. I was born in 1982, so I lived my teen years smack-dab in the nineties evangelical subculture (think: Joshua Harris and cheesy t-shirts and conferences meant to generate intense spiritual experiences). Oh, and I had undiagnosed OCD with the flavor of religious scrupulosity, which magnified everything times a thousand.

I went to college. I met Christians who truly, deeply loved Jesus and yet had different theological beliefs than I did. I had friends from other cultures, friends with skin that doesn’t glow in the dark like my own pasty self. I read Transformed into Firewhich sowed seeds in my heart that would grow into a full-blown embrace of my truest self. I was finally diagnosed with OCD and underwent exposure therapy, which broke my chains of perfectionism. I watched friends get married, sometimes separate, sometimes divorce, sometimes lose their faith. I learned about all the myriad shades of gray in between the black and white ideas I’d grown up with.

I started this blog, which helped keep me vulnerable and transparent in an Instagram world that usually only shows the smiles and laughter. And as I did so, I found that it created a safe space for other people to share too– and my friends actually liked me more for showing my imperfections. And I liked myself more too.

It was as if all of that was preparing me to become Who I Really Am. I had to get out of my small town and out from under the thumb of OCD and out of my own way first.

After that, God ushered people into my life– people who did life with me, who sat with me, talked with me, cried with me; people who– yet again– loved Jesus so deeply and yet approached things from a different angle than I ever had. And those people would passionately share their thoughts with me over and over again until one day–

something clicked.

I read this article. All of my experiences, and most especially the friends who had spoken into my life, were like one trillion pounds on me, a girl built to “withstand” one trillion pounds, and then this article was a bird that landed on my shoulder, and bam: my whole LIFE changed.

It was like having my eyes opened for the first time ever. I guess that’s why people say “woke.”

These simple truths suddenly made sense to me, suddenly seemed simple, seemed obvious.

  • Just because something is not my experience doesn’t mean it’s not someone else’s.
  • White people are uncomfortable talking about racism, so they dismiss it. This is part of what we call privilege. Victims of racism don’t have the option to dismiss it.
  • My first steps toward becoming an ally are/were to admit that, as a white person, I have some sort of internalized racism. To realize that, to acknowledge that, did not destroy my awakening. It propelled my awakening.

Every meaningful change in my life has been accompanied by humility. 

I am trying to listen, to ask good questions, to come alongside (and not to speak over) my sisters and brothers. I am not even close to doing this perfectly, but I will spend my life in pursuit of these goals, and maybe over the years, I’ll inch a tiny bit closer.

On Saturday morning after the horrid events in Charlottesville, I woke up to news of what happened, and all those old hypotheticals we white kids would ask ourselves when reading books about the Underground Railroad, the Holocaust, etc. — what would I have done if I was there? — they were not hypothetical anymore.

Listen, I will not be found on the wrong side of history.

So, in case it wasn’t clear: I denounce racism and hate speech and hate crimes. I denounce white supremacy. I am proud to stand alongside my sisters and brothers of color. I humbly admit that there is almost certainly institutionalized racism in my heart, and I pledge to spend my life eliminating it. I declare these things in the name of Jesus, the Middle-Eastern Jewish man who saved my soul.  

Should You Trust Your Therapist? Depends.

Got this excellent question from a blog reader:

I think I have HOCD but I’m not sure. My therapist is doing CBT but I don’t think it’s ERP and it’s making me anxious. Like what if this therapy goes know where and just becomes me talking about my problems.(what happened with my last therapist). Should I trust that she knows what she is doing? Her Website says she does CBT so by saying she does CBT does that mean she is also an expert on ERP?

It’s sad, but so many mental health professionals are not very educated on OCD or how to treat it. CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) is a pretty vague, blanket term, whereas ERP (exposure and response prevention) is a specific type of CBT.

Two things I’d suggest:

  1. Read up about ERP. As much as you can. It will help you recognize if it is being done correctly. Start with this article on the IOCDF website. Also read any/all of the CBT/ERP posts at
  2. Ask your therapist the following questions. These questions– and the answers you should listen for— are pulled from this page on the IOCDF website.
  • “What techniques do you use to treat OCD?”If the therapist is vague or does not mention cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) use caution.
  • “Do you use Exposure and Response Prevention to treat OCD?”
    Be cautious of therapists who say they use CBT but won’t be more specific.
  • “What is your training and background in treating OCD?”
    If they say they went to a CBT psychology graduate program or did a post-doctoral fellowship in CBT, it is a good sign. Another positive is if a therapist says they are a member of the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) or the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapists (ABCT). Also look for therapists who say they have attended specialized workshops or trainings offered by the IOCDF like the Behavior Therapy Training Institute (BTTI) or Annual OCD Conference.
  • “How much of your practice currently involves anxiety disorders?”
    A good answer would be over 25%.
  • “Do you feel that you have been effective in your treatment of OCD?”
    This should be an unqualified “Yes.”
  • “What is your attitude towards medication in the treatment of OCD?”
    If they are negative about medication this is a bad sign. While not for everyone, medication can be a very effective treatment for OCD.
  • “Are you willing to leave your office if needed to do behavior therapy?”It is sometimes necessary to go out of the office to do effective ERP.


Hogwarts Yule Ball Couture

Even though the next Tri-Wizard Tournament is not scheduled till 2019, word has it that the Hogwarts students have since insisted that the Yule Ball be an annual event. And who can blame them, since most days they have to wear robes and there’s nowhere really to take a date besides Hogsmeade?

Here’s what’s trending this year in the wizarding world.

In Ravenclaw Tower, the catchphrase is “Make Bronze Great Again.” Let’s be honest, the movies perpetuated a false idea that Ravenclaw’s colors were blue and silver, when every student at Hogwarts knows they are really blue and bronze. The trendiest witches this year are doing all they can to reclaim their roots.

Ravenclaw 2017

Marcella earrings, $180 (here)

Gryffindor has long been known for its daring and nerve, which is why this year’s Yule Ball fashions are saying “All eyes on me!” But the lion pride of witches wants everyone to know they have a softer side too, so watch for frilly details like bows and ruffles this season. The ROAR a la Lily Evans Potter plus the AWW a la Lily Luna Potter equals a hearty Gryffindor RAWR.

Gryffindor 2017

Lion ring, $30 (here) | Valentino bow pumps, retail $825, on sale (here) for $199 | Toriska clutch (here)

Those patient little badgers have been waiting all year to say, “Look, this sweet skirt may represent fair play, but this lacy crop top is not playing fair!” Some say this attitude was inspired by last year’s Head Boy Teddy Lupin, but regardless, Hufflepuff’s coming out so you’d better get this party started, Hogwarts.

Hufflepuff 2017

Amelia Full yellow maxi skirt, $75 (here) | Linda Flora bracelet, $29 (here) | Betsy Johnson flats, $99 (here)

The latest trend in Slytherin House is the vampy pantsuit, noting that it suits them, as Albus Dumbledore once said, to have “a certain disregard for the rules.” But if some unwritten rule said not wearing a dress to the Yule Ball was wrong, we don’t want to be right! These serpents are turning the rules on their heads … and turning all heads on their new rules.

Slytherin 2017

Jumpsuit #1, $67 (here) | Jumpsuit #3, $33 (here) | Jumpsuit #4, retail $240, on sale (here) for $97 | Snake on vine necklace, $75 (here) | Antique snake necklace (here)

Your turn to weigh in: Which was your favorite look? Is it from the Hogwarts House you’re in? Would you wear any of these outfits in the muggle world?

Holidays are Hard for Some of Us

Thinking of everyone who struggles through this time of year. Hugs!


This time of year– i.e., “the hap-happiest season of all”– is difficult for many people, including me. It has been since I was about fifteen or sixteen years old. That’s over half of my life spent wishing that Thanksgiving and Christmas and even New Years would just hurry up and be over already.

It’s not that I don’t love family. I do.

It’s not that I don’t love what the holidays represent. I do.

It’s not that I’m some bah-humbug Scrooge who is annoyed with it all. I’m not.

I think it mostly has to do with the dark. It’s so much, so suffocating. It’s waking up in blackness and having it already be dark when you leave work.

But it also has to do with the light– that is, the cheer, the general good tidings, the comfortable coziness that seems to accompany the holidays for most people. For some…

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