Wednesday, February 25, 2015

safe people

After taking some time to process unsafe people in this post:

...I’ve had to time to read more in the Cloud and Townsend book about what safe people look like, and more importantly, how to become a safe person.

A safe relationship is one that draws us closer to God, draws us closer to others, and helps us become the real person God created us to be. This is a mere echo of discipleship, Cloud and Townsend say, knowing that our greatest call in life is to love God, love others, and grow into the person God created us to be.     
From pages 144-146 of “Safe People” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend:
A safe person is:
  • Someone who gives me the opportunity to grow
  • Someone who increases love within me
  • Someone who allows me to become the me that God intended
  • Someone whose life touches mine and leaves me better for it
  • Someone who offers us grace and is honest with us
As I finish up this book, I'm also reading Scary Close by Donald Miller and I'm finding there are many echoes, as Miller references Safe People a few times. (I find it interesting and probably quite providential on God’s part that I started to read Safe People a few weeks ago since I’ve owned it for two years… then Miller’s book was released and because I was so excited to read it, I am reading both at the same time.)

Here has been the biggest take away for me in being a safe person, especially in light of what I’ve read so far in Scary Close:

Safe people are simply people that have the ability to connect with us.  Unsafe people don’t.

I resonate with this so much, as someone who just doesn’t connect with people easily. There are a lot of reasons for this, some of which are part of my personality type and some are simply parts of my story. So I feel like the pool of people I have to draw from is really small, because in the midst of the people I do connect with, some are unsafe. And they are unsafe in that they don't connect with me.

And I think where I struggle with living this out is what to do when you feel more connected to someone than they do to you. This is where all the unsafe person stuff starts to come out… because look at this list, from chapter 12, on how to become a safe person:
  • Learned what you’ve gained (what the other person has given you)
  • Learn your friends’ “need signal” (Learn to cue in on their emotional presence)
  • Ask to help
  • Be there
  • Tell the truth
  • Go into the world (get out of your safety zone and help the lonely, the oppressed, the less fortunate.)
I think we all have people in our lives that we feel a connection with but that still aren't there when you need them, and that haven’t learned our need signals. I certainly don’t expect my friends to read my mind, but I will never forget when, in the summer of 2012, my friends picked up on the needs signals that I did not even know I was giving off and made sure I didn’t permanently crawl inside of myself. You can read about it HERE

It was the first time some friends actually put aside something and cared just for me. Without me asking, for no reason other that to help me. I honestly could not remember a time when anyone had never done that. Which is really sad, when I think about it, but I am still thankful for that day and that puzzle and that coffee. Perhaps it set a standard; an understanding in me that THIS is what love looks like. It draws close to you when you are drawing far away.

They told the truth – that they were worried about me and that they felt left out because I wasn’t telling them what was going on in my heart. There were there for me and they helped. They saw my need signal and did something about it.

As my regular readers know, a lot of work has happened in my heart since then, and I’m doing better to be vulnerable and ask for help when I need it. I’ve told the truth, even when it hurts, and I’ve reached out even though it felt desperate and embarrassing. I’ve done the hard work of connecting with those I care about.

Some have responded well and some have not. I only reached out to those I connected with, believing them to be safe. As I figure out this tangled web of intimacy and connection with people who are under NO obligation to be intimate and connect with me, I can’t help but wonder if there is any way to not be hurt in all this. Because this is pretty much the whole reason why it’s been so hard for me this last year: I had grown weary of being hurt and closed myself off from others in order to avoid this hurt. And here I am am, still hoping to avoid the hurt. Because I’ve experienced it yet again. 

It kinda feels like I’m darned if I do and darned if I don’t. 

And the darned if I do hurts a lot more.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

blogging thru Scary Close - chapters 1 and 2

“I’d have to know myself and be known.” – Donald Miller, Chapter 1, Scary Close.

Sound familiar?

I’m, of course, not accusing Don of plagiarizing me. That’s ridiculous. But when I read this, my heart stopped. Because it’s what in learned in 2013 after a very long and intense bible study. (Click HERE to read that story) and then became the subject of the workshop I did at the 2014 Women2Women conference.

And, subsequently, became the reason 2014 was one of the worst years of my life.

Not because I let myself be known, exactly. But because those people, to which I loved the most and I let myself be known, left. There were only a couple of people that it really mattered to for me, which is why I chose them.

And then it got too hard. I screwed it up. They screwed it up. We tried to move on, but it hasn’t really worked. Because when someone knows who you really are and they decide you aren’t worth it, that open heart you laid at their feet is no longer protected. And that’s why it hasn’t worked to move forward. Trust was gone. Pain rose to the surface. And like Don shares about his wife, she is wired to withhold trust until it is earned. The problem was that I thought those I chose had earned my trust.

I’m apparently a pretty bad judge of character in this arena.

[Or, you know, maybe I need to just learn how to offer more grace to people and accept that relationships ebb and flow.]

[But, like Don’s wife, I lay a foundation with trusted friends and family. And to those people I am ferociously loyal. I don’t like to give up. When I love someone, I need to fight for them. But then when I fight too hard without getting signs from them that they still love me, I start to feel desperate. Then I withdraw.]

Do you see how confusing this is for me?

Don opens up in his first chapter about how he was afraid that people wouldn’t love who he was while he was in process, so the real him hid backstage, and he pushed another part of himself forward to perform for the world.

In chapter two, Don took me down with his authenticity about his own brokenness. He shared about a painful broken engagement, and the realization of unhealthy patterns he had. Patterns so careless, “it could level a heart.” (pg 11)

But he encounters someone who defines friendship at its very core. He finds someone who could speak truth to his heart so much so that his patterns are revealed. He begins to break even further so that he can be put back together. And that friend showed up and was willing to wade through the mess of Don’s soul with him.

[We all need friends like this. Don’t we?]

I won’t tell you the story, because, well, I think you should read the book. But also, because tears.

Seriously… guys. We’re just done with chapter two. I’m exhausted.

Monday, February 23, 2015

blogging thru Scary Close - introduction

I’ve read most of Donald Miller’s books – they are quick and easy reads (I highly recommend them when you are on vacation and your mind is relaxed.) I’ve found with his books that, like with any memoir, it’s best not to go with an expectation of solid conclusions and deep theological truths. That’s not the purpose of a memoir nor is it the purpose of Don’s work. He writes in the abstract; though you wouldn’t necessary get that from a first read – because he tells stories. And he’s really good at it. But he rarely “lands the plane” and tells you what truth to extrapolate from his work. I’m ok with that.

When I heard his new book was about intimacy and the relationships with those around you, I wondered how this might be a departure from the memoir genre. Don is great at asking questions… at wondering… at leaving things open-ended. I love this kind of reading, though it’s certainly isn’t for everyone. But books on intimacy and relationships (Safe People comes to mind, as I’ve just finished it) are very concrete and pretty formulaic. Not how I would describe his previous work.

So far, Scary Close does read like a memoir. And there are a few things left open-ended. But there is also a great deal of practical and concrete advice and thoughts that are a departure from his previous books. But make no mistake - this is not a bad thing. There isn’t a formula that Don sets up, no step-by-step process, but his thoughts are something a person can hold onto. They are not nebulous questions thrown out there into space that you find yourself running toward, arms reached out, swiping frantically to catch.

He has found a way to the middle, and I’ve often pictured myself with my feet firmly planted on the ground while words and questions and truth all gathered around me. Some waiting to be caught. Some entering my heart immediately. This is really the beauty of Scary Close.

After reading the forward and the first two chapters, I’d cried three times. Not so much in grief, though there was an element of it in my tears.

But mostly in the recognition that people are hard. That grace is lovely. And we don’t try enough to engage with either. This really seems to be the heart of what I’m taking away from Don’s book.

Bob Goff, who wrote Love Does, is one of Don’s closest friends and wrote the introduction. Goff oozes grace. This is a man who knows how to love and you can simply see that in his words. He tells a story of how Don placed himself in the front door of their hut while in Uganda, during the night, because abductions were a very scary reality where they were staying. He put himself between the harm and his friend. (Yes, tears.)

Then in a very quick author’s note, Don sets us up by telling us something I did no know about him – that he lived for applause. He lived for the approval and affection of others based on his success in life (or his humor, which is revealed later.) His life was a performance and that built up a wall. “Applause is a quick fix,” he writes. “And love is acquired taste.”

Seriously... guys. We’re not even to the first chapter.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

of fragility and the way i think God works

Sometimes I think this is how God works on a feeler.

I was out on my back patio last night with a bottle of Nebraska wine and a friend and she said, “You’re being too sensitive.”

She’s not an unsafe person, although I would guess this is an unsafe thing to say. I am sensitive. And I’m okay with that. I’m also okay with owning my feelings and trying to wade my way through them until I figure out what’s on the other side. I’m not planning on becoming hard again, like I used to be, just because it seems like it’s easier. So I’ll take being "too sensitive." And being too sensitive is not the worst thing in the world, as long as I don’t stay down in the mud pit and wallow there. But I do need to stay here long enough to understand what my sadness is teaching me.

This year is a year I’m taking something on for Lent instead of giving something up. Aside from a couple of community service things I’m taking on, I had decided to take on one of the fruits of the spirit: joy

And wouldn’t you know it, yesterday was one of the saddest days I’ve had all year. [Thus the wine.]

Sometimes I think this is how God works on a feeler.

After our second glass and some more talking, plus the blooper reel of Season 8 & 9 of Friends, I went to bed feeling the irony and the unfairness of this. I’m taking on joy for Lent and yesterday I used up a fair amount of tissues. Because I was sad.

It’s not like I was sobbing. That almost never happens. But in those small spaces of every day life, when you realize how much has changed and who’s left and you feel this is a season of realizing who your real friends are... *sigh*

Those small spaces were filled with some tears yesterday.

Then some despair. (Because apparently my new response to abandonment is flight. It used to be fighting, so I don’t know what changed there. (Click HERE to see what I’m talking about.)

Sometimes I think  this is how God works on a feeler.

I’m not saying God made the sadness. Of course not. He isn’t a monster. My sadness is a result of my own sin and those sinning against me. God is not part of that. But placing it on my heart to take on joy for Lent this season, helping me discover the connection between that and the sadness I felt yesterday, teaching me what joy is in the first place, and giving me reasons for that joy? That’s all him.

This is how I think God works on a feeler.

And this Lenten season I am counting on him to help me find the joy.

new blog series

I'm about halfway through a game-changing book. It's a quick and amazing read, and I'll probably read it more than once. But just so that I can truly process it all, I've decided to blog through it chapter by chapter.

What is this book to deserve such a high (*snicker*) honor?

Scary Close by Donald Miller.

I was 13 pages in and I'd already cried three times. Not that it takes much to make me cry anymore, but still. 13 pages? Dang. That's gotta be a new record.

So I hope you enjoy it... I can't wait to start.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

in which risk is the biggest thing

People are more than the sum total of their unsafe traits…. Don’t confuse people with unsafe traits. Learn to identify what traits hurt you. *

There is such a glorious raw and open wound that happens when you own your story.

Glorious in its freedom and liberty.

Raw and open in its vulnerability.

What we’ve been through is part of who we are. These are the tiny little pieces we put together to help us try to make sense of why. Why we feel the way we do, why we do what we do, why we are drawn to who we are drawn to, why we hurt the way we hurt.

When I feel like I can’t work and hustle anymore and I wait for something… anything… and nothing comes.

The white buffalo evades. He’s really good at that.

When someone fails to do what they told me they would do, it hurts.
 If I’m honest with myself, this is just another form of rejection for me.

When someone leaves even though they know they are needed by you, it hurts.
The friendship manual we all have says, “Stay put, you idiot. Be present. You are needed in times like these.”

When I am pursuing and I am not pursued back, it hurts.
This makes me feel desperate.

And over all this, when someone knows all these things about me and they still chose to hurt me –

I must own my story. I must identify what hurts me, let those I love know I can’t have that, and then give them the power to fail me. To have a piece of me that I might not ever get back. To hurt me. All the while hoping they won’t.

I defy you to think of a bigger risk in life.

*Safe People, Cloud and Townsend. Pg. 115.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


I live in a world of “when.”

When this happens, I will…
I remember when…

When is always looking forward and always looking back.

I’m not sure how happy I am with either at this point in my life.

It’s not like I’m one of those people who doesn’t want to look back with regret. Because I believe regret teaches us a great deal. And it’s not like I’m scared of the future (ok. I probably am.)

But I’m just so weary of when.
Thinking about “what if” or “what could been” is exhausting. I’m struggling, at this point in my life, to glean what is helpful and what isn’t from when. I guess because it keeps me from being present. It keeps me from being happy right now. It keeps me from seeing all the blessings and the gifts that are right in front and me because “when” simply makes me go “WAAAAAH. I want it that way instead.”

When I get my act together, surely I will be happy.
When I was younger, things seemed so much easier.
When I just…
It was so much better when…

Waaaaaah indeed.

“Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.” -Henri Nouwen

This post is part of Five Minute Friday, when I write for 5 minutes without agonizing over every little thing I type. It's fun, sometimes. Other times it hurts. But it's always good for me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

unsafe people

I’ve been thinking a lot about safe people in the last several months, mainly because I’m in a situation where being able to have safe people is 100% needed for what I’m going through, and I need to able to identify those who are safe(who may already be in my life.)

There always seem to be people in our lives who are afraid to have the more intimate and hard conversations with you, even when it doesn't involve your own 
friendship/relationships, but maybe a difficult situation you are going through on your own.

There is the friend who avoids and says things, “Well, let’s try not to think about that.” Or the silent friend, who just doesn’t text back and after a few days of silence you’ve forgotten you’ve even asked them or told them what you were going through. (But you really didn’t, because you wouldn’t have asked them if you didn’t really want their thoughts.) There is the friend who gives you terrible advice, the friend that “can’t believe this is happening.” And the “get over it” friend.

This behavior is what many would consider sympathy and not intimacy. Here is an ESSENTIAL video to watch for understanding this.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these friends… you should cherish all those you have in your life, because I believe God has put every person in your path for a reason. But I also know that these are what Cloud and Townsend would likely label as “unsafe people”

Link to their book this here:

Unsafe people aren’t always bad people – they just don’t have the ability to be intimate with others. That makes them unsafe, especially when you try to be intimate with them.

Unsafe people act as if they have it all together instead of admitting their weakness.  And this can manifest itself in one very interesting way: they may not *actually* admit they are perfect, but they let you go on feeling as if you are the only one with problems.  For example, they might tell you that you’ve blown something out of proportion or that your feelings are invalid because “that’s not how they meant it.” Or they might say “You’re overreacting.” and tell you how you should be feeling. In this process, they make you feel like you are weak, because they never admit weakness or struggles with you. All the weakness remains on your side.

The result is feeling disconnected from them, because intimacy is born out of sharing weaknesses and friendship involves sharing vulnerabilities.

Finding and having and keeping safe people in your life is really hard. And sometimes people who don’t start out as safe end up 100% being so, because God does a tremendous work in their lives and they finally understand how to be an emotionally healthy person.

And sometimes the person you thought was safe ends up not being so, and that is painful because betrayal is usually the emotion you end up feeling. 

“The first time we get hurt by an unsafe person – or even a reasonably safe one – there is always a period of surprise as we begin the painful adjustment to the realities of unsafety.” (pg. 62)

So much of this comes down to a core question, “Can I be myself with them?” 

Do I have to try too hard? Do I have to pretend?

Cloud and Townsend give some other characteristics of unsafe people:

  • They are self-righteous. 
  • They demand trust. And when their fa├žade of perfection is stripped away they blow up or disappear. 
  • They abandon you or fight you when things get tough (especially in the context of your friendship/relationships). 
  • They make promises with which they don’t follow through. 
  • They bring out the worst in you.

These things don’t drive connection. They drive uncertainty, mistrust, emotional detachment, and fear.

I still have most of the second half of the book to finish, which talks about safe people, how to identify and how to be one. I’ll be writing about this later.

When I think about all I’ve been through in the last year, and the people who were safe and unsafe with me, I can’t help but wonder how much is mine own fault and how much isn’t. And if it’s even worth assigning blame, because at this point all I want to do is move on and get through this. 

But I also know that getting through something involves the swampland of the soul… some shame and vulnerability… some self-examination and pain.

I don’t want the swampland of my soul to be unsafe for anyone. Because I’ve felt it when someone’s has been unsafe for me and it hurts. Just like I want and need to take a shotgun to my shame, I want to take all the unsafe parts of me and blow them up, too. 

Thursday, February 05, 2015


I’ve kept you long past our expiration date.

You see, INFJs tend to do that. Because connection with others is like the white buffalo for us, we will often fight tooth and nail to keep that someone we connect with in our lives. Even when it’s unhealthy… Or one-sided...Or all about them.

But I want to keep them.

Says my inner self, who has never been known for her good decisions.

[She’s never been good at letting go, either]

Did you know that a keep is a tower built within the walls of castles during the Middle Ages? They were used as a refuge of last resort should the rest of the castle fall to an enemy.

“Last resort.” Yeah. Ok. I get it.

I guess I could keep them as a last resort, if nothing else works. But sheesh. Do you have to be so obvious, heart head?

Have you ever heard that phrase, “I just can’t quit you”?

That’s how I feel every day.

I’ve kept you long past our expiration date. I don’t care how sour the milk tastes. I love having you around.

But I love all kinds of things that aren’t good for me.

This post is part of Five Minute Friday, a link up of awesome bloggers.

Monday, February 02, 2015


I confess – I’m probably the only Christian in the world who hasn’t read the Boundaries book by Cloud and Townsend. I own a copy but I just haven’t gotten around to reading it. Last year my best friend tried to convince me of its hallowed greatness, demanding I read it, or at least part of it, while I was out in Colorado visiting him. And I did read a bit, but apparently it wasn’t enough to peak my interest at that time, because my copy still remains untouched.

He explained some of his interpretation of it to me. So that’s the idea I have in my head as I consider what it looks like to redraw boundaries with people already in my life. He explained that when someone has a disproportionate reaction to something you say or do, that’s how you figure out what their boundary is – in a nutshell, leave that subject alone and don’t bring it up with them again. That's a boundary with them.

I don’t know that I have a person in my life with which I don’t have a boundary. Maybe that’s good, maybe that's bad... I really don’t know (as I haven’t read the book.) But I know that as you grow more intimate with some people, it does seem necessary to redraw boundaries for your own mental health. Or maybe even in response to boundaries they appear to be drawing with you. I say this because as you begin to see how they react to the greater intimacy, it’s revealed to you just how much they can deal with and just how much you can deal with. (I really don’t know if that makes sense to you, but it does in my head.)

It’s all so messy and confusing. When you have someone in your life that you share a lot of yourself with, it can be hard to step back from that. I’ve discovered recently that there are some people in my life who simply don’t have a way of relating to me when I talk to them about something profound or even life-changing. But they will happily respond to something stupid or silly that I say. Because they used to respond to the profound stuff, I find myself at a loss in understanding what changed in me or in them.

I discovered this chart recently, in some research for a workshop I’m giving this weekend at a women’s conference. 

It’s from the book, Cry of the Soul, by Drs. Dan Allender (one of my favorite authors) and Tremper Longman III. They wrote the book Bold Love, which was an incredibly painful yet powerful look at Godly love for others in the midst of a sinful world. Cry of the Soul helps us understand how our emotions reveal our deepest questions about God.

Anyway, Allender and Longman created this chart.  “Although feelings often seem unpredictable and irrational they are neither random nor unprovoked.” They say. Here is a quick explanation of this chart:

Our emotions are based on our responses to how others deal with us. Our feelings are provoked when people relate to us in one of three ways: 1.) They move against us; attack 2.) They move away from us; abandonment 3.) They move toward us: love.

In the context of a sinful, fallen world, our emotional responses to these relationship movements can generally be characterized as fight or flight. The chart shows how these responses give rise to our difficult emotions.

Attack: anger revolves around the question “IS God just – will He let the wicked win?” Fear centers on the question, “Will God protect me?”

Abandonment: Jealousy asked the question, “Is God good, or will He leave me empty and bless others?” Despair asks, “Will God leave me isolated and alone?”

Love:  Contempt asks, “Does God love me or will He turn away in disgust?” Shame vocalizes the core question, “Does Go love me or will He hate me if He sees me as I really am?”

I bring this all up because I can’t help but wonder about how this connects to the boundaries others place on us or that we place on them. If someone redraws a boundary with you, and stops responding to the painful comments and questions you have about life, is this a relational movement of abandonment? And if so, what kinds of feelings of despair do they have toward you? Toward God?

Or in a far more accurate interpretation of the chart, what feelings of jealously and despair am I having (since I’m the one who feels like part of the relationship has been abandoned) toward the person or toward God?

Like my friend/cousin Meredith says, This. Sh*t. Is. Hard.


I've been remiss on my Five Minute Friday posts for so very long. At some point, when my life is no longer in shambles and I've over this transition period, I hope to be more consistent. But for the time being, I sit at a makeshift desk in a place that is not mine, and open my heart and my words to you, dear reader.

This week's word: yes


I said yes to someone who said no to me. This is not particularly easy, obviously. It's a reality of life. A confusing one, and hard one. But it's there. 

It reminded me of this chart I discovered in the book Cry of the Soul by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III, which I read early this year for a conference workshop I was preparing. You can read more about it here.

This no was about their hurt. Which grieves me. Hurting someone is just something I never want to do. It happens, though. Inadvertently, I hope, but hurt is inevitable because I am human and flawed. In the midst of this I find myself with a desire for clarification. To listen and hear about their hurt so I don't do it again. But also a chance to explain myself. A chance to beg for forgiveness.

Sometimes a no is because of misunderstandings or assumptions, and when you are not given the chance to explain and clear the air, their no and your yes just seems like the elephant in the room that won't go away. You want it one way and you want it the other. And you both think you are right. 

Moving toward someone with love and grace is a yes according to Allender and Longman. And doing this is so incredibly hard. For years my response was always to run. To avoid. To never move forward. To always say "no." And then when God finally gave me the courage to say yes and move toward someone, it ends this way. With a no. Seems a little unfair, God. 

Yet I am grateful. I can't fully comprehend why at this point. But I think in part it's because I've learned to own my piece of it. Knowing that I am imperfect, that my sin is messy, and that I hurt someone in my attempts to say yes. However, I think I am grateful because I can't say that I didn't try. I said yes.

There is more I want to say, but I will not get the chance to say it. Perhaps this is more to be grateful for. I wish for the chance to make it right, because I see this as just another side of my yes. But it's outside my control and I must learn how to be okay with that. I can only rest in knowing that my yes was enough.