Tag Archives: authenticity

Happy New Year! But wait…

So 2017 has come and gone. It’s the time for reflection and resolutions. I tend to prefer to reflect and forego the resolutions. And so instead of the traditional Christmas letter, here are my musings and thoughts on the past year, which was busy and full of changes both big and small.

Last January brought a season of job searching and interviewing as I continued to seek a change in career from full-time clinical work to a career in academia. God always proves himself faithful. (It is a mystery why I continue to doubt this truth when He proves it over and over.) By March I accepted an offer to continue to teach at Central College and I am currently in the first year of that three year contract.

With some added stability to my future, it seemed time to buy a house. God has been teaching me about being rooted and established in his love, now it was time to put down roots in a community I’ve been investing in for almost ten years already. And again, God proved faithful. And on September 1st I closed on and moved into a home more beautiful than I could have dreamt of on my own.

And the final big news of 2017 is I was able to launch a research project, my first since completing my dissertation in graduate school. I’m so excited to explore the relationship between mission trip participation and spiritual development. I’m collecting data now and so feel free to take my survey! It only takes 10-15 minutes to complete and anyone can participate. (Here’s the link! – https://centralpsychology.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_baBvP9N6aN5TjGB)  Not only is this a topic I’m passionate about, but I also get to share the findings with colleagues at a conference in April.

So that’s the Christmas card version – you know, the events of the last year made pretty and any low or challenging parts neatly and cleanly edited out. But that’s not reality, nor is it authentic. The reality is this past year was full of incredible highs and the accompanying lows. It was ripe with growth, and the expected growing pangs. There was celebrating exciting new beginnings and grieving the necessary endings. And it was all a blessing.

You see, it is so tempting to deny the painful and only focus on the Christmas card version of the past year. Or it can be equally tempting to become overwhelmed by the hard times the previous year held and simply write it off as a total loss and eagerly see the New Year as a chance to start over with a completely clean slate. But both of these approaches are incomplete. Life is lived forward but only understood when we look back. Accurate reflection requires holding and experiencing the tension of both the good and the bad, the victories and the disappointments, and joyful and the painful.

So the joy of a new job comes with the sadness of letting go of an old one. The conviction of pursuing a newfound calling comes with the doubts and fears of being able to succeed (and sometimes fearing God won’t come through – even though He always does)! The excitement of buying a new home comes with the disappointment of losing three previous houses to other offers. The relief of an accepted offer comes with the anxiety of actually spending the down payment money you’ve been saving for years (and have unknowingly been leaning on for a sense of security). The incredible outpouring of community that surrounds you on move in day can give way to loneliness when at the end of the day you return to a large home instead of a small apartment. And feeling like a competent adult can melt away before your very eyes when you can’t quite find a way to get your gutters clenaed out or you’re not entirely sure how to mow anymore because you haven’t done it since high school. And the spiritual growth and intimacy that results from pressing in during times of uncertainty eventually gives way to feeling distant from God and spiritually dry.

So whether 2017 was the best year of your life or one of the worst, it is important to reflect and embrace it in its entirety. To ignore or deny the good or the bad is inauthentic and incomplete. The truth is every year involves both – no year is simply one or the other. If 2017 was one of your best, don’t forget to acknowledge the darker moments that made the good moments shine that much brighter. And if it is a year you’d rather forget, then it is all the more important to spend time today and throughout this week reflecting on the hidden blessings and ways God brought you through. Fight the urge to simply forget and move on.

I gladly welcome 2018 and expect it to be a wonderful year. But I won’t completely say good bye to 2017 before properly reflecting on all it held and thanking God for every aspect of the past year. I hope you do the same and invite you to share any lessons learned or insights gained from the past year in the comments below. HAPPY NEW YEAR (and happy reflecting too)!


The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

If you’ve been following my story, you may think deciding to change careers was the hardest thing. Nope. Completing my doctorate? Close, but no. Become a spin instructor? No. Launch a ministry? Still no. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is actually something I have committed to keep doing on a very regular basis: confession. Letting someone know what my real life struggles, faults, and failures are is by far the most difficult thing I’ve done. We all know no one is perfect, but it sure feels good to pretend and is incredibly vulnerable to actually name the ways I’m not!


Sin creates a great deal of shame and shame is an incredibly powerful emotion. It’s subtle and sneaky. It quietly creates an inner dialogue of self-condemnation. Shame makes us shrink back and away from others, the isolation only increasing its power. And shame disrupts our ability to be God’s image bearers because it stunts our courage to create, which is one of the most powerful ways we are like God.


Even in our shame, God longs to be with us and relate to us. We see this in God’s response to Adam’s shame in the aftermath of sin and in Jesus incarnate. Though shame turns us away from one another, God draws us towards himself and back into relationship with others. In fact, that is the way toward healing – towards one another. And we move towards one another by sharing our stories, even the shameful ones.

Christian psychiatrist, Curt Thompson says, “The first verse of Hebrews 12 alludes to a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that allows us to ‘run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’…[This] includes Christians today who know me deeply and whom I confide in personally. These are individuals whom I allow to see everything there is to see.” He points out that we have to “name things to tame things.” There is great healing available when we put words to emotions and experiences we don’t even want to acknowledge and do so in the presence of another. When I voice my shame and acknowledge my fears, faults, and failures, the community is able to point me towards God’s love for me. Thompson points out that shame can’t tolerate transparency, which means the antidote to shame is sharing anything and everything that may lead to shame, including sin.

So although confession is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it is also the most healing thing I’ve ever done. I have never vulnerably laid my shame before my cloud of witnesses and had them respond with more shame, shun me, or scorn me. Not one time. No, instead when I am vulnerable within the safety of a trusted cloud of witnesses, I am met with tender care, kindness, and gentle accountability. The fear of vulnerability is that others will reject and push you away. However, in the midst of and wake after moments of vulnerability, a well chosen cloud of witnesses draws you in.

vulnerability 2

So press into possibly the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Risk being exposed and vulnerable within trusted community. Give yourself the opportunity to hear someone with skin and bones draw you in with great acceptance in the midst of all the shame. Allow yourself to hear them say, “I’m so sorry you are struggling with this sin. I’m here for you. I love you. I still accept you. And so does God.”

Who are your “great cloud of witnesses”? Maybe you don’t have one. Pray that God would bring those people into your life. If you do, what keeps you from being vulnerable and authentic regarding confession with them?

We’re All “Undone”.

Stories connect us to one another. In Undone: A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life, Michele Cushatt, a master story teller, welcomes us in to her home and in to her heart to hear her story. Hers was meant to be a neat and tidy life of blessings reaped from service sown to her Lord and Savior. However, divorce, cancer, and unexpected children led to a life unraveled and laying Undone before her very eyes.


Stories connect us to one another. Stories highlight the commonality of human emotion. Joy and disappointment, heartache and hope, pride and embarrassment are feelings we are all too well acquainted with and Undone is a story that contains them all. Michele reveals her story with profound vulnerability and authenticity, which invites her readers to examine their own stories with new levels of the same. Vulnerability isn’t always pretty, but it almost always leads to compassion and intimacy with one another and with God. As Michele puts it, “Sometimes messy is the necessary beginning to the makings of extraordinary (p. 137).” In fact, at the heart of Undone is a call for all towards greater authenticity, to remove the masks that hide our true selves. Undone calls its readers to reveal their heart to a loving God regardless of how broken and battered it is. After all, “Our God is a refuge for the broken, not a shelf for the display of the shiny. No more pride for those who have it all together, or shame for those who don’t (p. 214).”

Stories connect us to one another. Stories connect us through the life lessons learned. Michele seamlessly weaves her stories into the truths taught in Scripture by the Author of each of our stories. Michele shares sacred and holy moments of revelation and redemption between her and her Heavenly Father. Undone challenges us all to examine the life lessons God is tenderly teaching us in our own stories. In the midst of trying to keep an “undone” life pieced together, Michele states, “Peace isn’t a byproduct of control, the payout of a happy conclusion. Peace is the infiltrating, life-giving presence of a very real God. One who loves nothing more than to step into the middle of locked and darkened rooms and impossible circumstances, close enough to touch (p. 57).”

Stories connect is to one another. Michele’s story is both unique and ordinary. It is ordinary in that we have all been touched by the fear of a cancer diagnosis whether a dear friend, family member, or from the lips of our own doctor. It is ordinary in that divorce, even among Christian communities, is sadly more common than not. It is ordinary in that many choose to step up and raise children with no where else to turn. It is ordinary in that everyone who has breath has come to grips with life’s cruelty and unfair ways. The ordinary in the story makes it relateable, for we all know what it’s like to watch our perfectly laid plans fall apart, to feel Undone.

The relateability of the story is precisely what makes it so unique. It is unique in Michele’s willingness to share life’s twists and turns, frailties and failures, disappointments and unrealized dreams. Michele’s story is unique in that in the midst of the pain, Michele finds hope. In the midst of chaos, she finds peace. And in the face of fear, Michele chooses faith. Ultimately, Michele concludes, “Faith is choosing the anchor of your focus. It’s about turning your eyes away from the questions that lead to fear, and instead locking eyes with the one who knows the answers (p. 202).”

So, do not delay. I rarely review or endorse a book, but this is a must read. Because frankly, we are all Undone.