Let me set the stage for some of my new followers. I started project Shine almost 5 years ago. Since then, I have been unashamedly writing my blog with no regard to trivial details like spelling and grammar. Stick with me long enough and that will become apparent to you!

I write for 3 reasons. First, have you ever filled a water balloon so full that it popped? That’s me. I am a giant balloon full of stories. If I don’t get those stories out of my head, I feel like I may legit actually pop. Hence the blog. I also write to encourage and inspire. I have seen the miraculous, and it is too big not to share! Lastly, I write to be a good steward of my pain. There have been great miracles, but there has also been great pain and sorrow. I don’t want to waste the pain. I share about the pain so that it will not have been for nothing.

If you have been reading my stories for all 5 years, you will notice a recent shift in my tone. My writing reflects my season. So much of my early writing focused on sharing about the amazing love of Jesus, and the seemingly endless miracles I was encountering.

God is good and He doesn’t change. But my seasons do change. My current season heavy. This season is often characterized by the foreboding tone of grief. I believe there is value in vulnerability. It takes courage. If you fully understand the depths of a persons struggle, then you can fully celebrate the heights of their victory.

The bi-product of engaging in my journey may be that you are encouraged in your own journey. I’m going first, and it’s uncomfortable. I feel like I’m unraveling. Next time I will let you lead!

In full disclosure, I started going to trauma therapy in the spring of 2021. I didn’t know that I was anxious. Christians don’t get anxious, they get on their knees. Christians don’t have anxiety attacks, they have faith. I didn’t know I was depressed. Christians have joy, not depression. I didn’t know that it wasn’t “normal” to never eat, never sleep, or to spend 24/7 rehearsing which of my 4 children I would save if my car drove off a bridge and quickly submerged under water. Christians don’t have trauma, they are a new creation.

Somewhere between my less-than-ideal childhood and having a chronically sick child of my own, I started shutting down. I destabilized. Christians stand on The Rock. Christians are supposed to be stable. But what happens when Holy Spirit (I call him Hank) invites a Christian to to take an honest assessment of their own mental health? I don’t know yet. I’m in the middle of it. I don’t have the answers or the victories yet.

Some of my writing will now be about this journey that I am on to find solid ground as I reprocess trauma. Its okay to not be okay. Its okay to be a Christian who feels lost sometimes. And, I hope that what I write in this new season will bring you hope. Its not very popular to discuss complex trauma and PTSD within Christian circles. But maybe it should be! Maybe its time that The Church developed a scope for mental health, trauma, and abuse.

I’m coming apart at the seams
And everyone’s pulling at me
And I am unraveling
The smile isn’t quite what it seems
But it does well to hide what’s beneath
All the pressure is staggering
And in the unraveling, father unravel me
And when I can’t feel a thing
Have mercy and let me bleed
I know it’s dumb
But I have been numb
For way too long
I don’t want to be alone anymore
I don’t want to survive anymore
And I want to feel, unravel me
Unraveling by Cory Asbury

I would like to thank Amy Watson for helping me with courageous vulnerability. Amy hosts the “Wednesdays with Watson” podcast. I highly recommend it!

Pioneering The Land of Uncertainty

I’m going to tell you a shocking and little-know fact about me. And then things are going to get weird.

I am a Leisure Professional (gasp). But, I am not the Leisure Professional that you are thinking of (Where is your mind?!). I have an Outdoor Recreation Management degree. My passion and area of expertise is wilderness survival. I am a tall, skinny, bubbly blond who wears makeup and gold hoop earrings. I bet you never saw that combination coming! I seem to embody the definition of oxymoron. I am a walking combination of opposite things existing simultaneously.

Ironically, it was another oxymoron that threw me off of a cliff a few months ago. I landed so hard at the bottom of that cliff that I realized I needed trauma therapy.
You see, I had lived my life being certain of the miracles that I have seen. In many of my worst moments I experienced supernatural and unexplained intervention. The bible tells us that faith means being CERTAIN of what is unseen. I did what I thought a good Christian SHOULD do and be certain of the supernatural intervention. I never stopped to consider that trauma and miracles can exist simultaneously. That doesn’t sound very holy, so I ignored trauma and embraced the solidarity of faith in the miraculous…until I couldn’t anymore.

I am very comfortable in the physical wilderness. I wrote an entire curriculum on physical wilderness survival. I know how to survive in the physical wilderness because I have spent much time there. It is no longer threatening, but familiar. Interestingly, I am in a metaphorical wilderness that has no survival curriculum. What jerk traversed the land of Uncertainty and didn’t write a survival guide for the rest of us?

A couple of months ago I found myself at the border of the land of Uncertainty. My backpack was overloaded with the weight of childhood trauma, questions, fear, doubt, shame, and disappointment. Why disappointment? I had incorrectly assumed that the Evangelical church would provide a Sherpa. You know, to help me navigate tough terrain and maybe carry my load for awhile when I couldn’t stand under its weight. My only tools were my default optimism, and the kind of blind faith that I was taught to cling to growing up in the church. That is pretty much the equivalent of a dull pocket knife and a couple of wet matches.

I took my first shaky steps onto the scorched land of Uncertainty. I picked up the phone and made an appointment with a Trauma Therapist. I then set up camp a few feet in to my new territory. You know, not far enough in that I couldn’t just hike back out if pioneering this new land was a poor choice.

I then unzipped my backpack and pulled out fear and shame. I soon learned that they were poor traveling companions. They sat by the campfire with perfectly good marshmallows. Yet they ignored the marshmallows and began roasting ME.

“You are going to deconstruct your faith in this wilderness.”

“You are on a slippery slope of backsliding into Atheism.”

“You will lose all credibility as a Christian speaker and writer if your audience finds out you camped in the land of Uncertainty.”

I listened in agreement. That is what I have been taught to do. Be the peace maker. Don’t cause conflict. So I passively slipped away to my tent to hide. I pulled out a pen and a piece of paper and began drawing a realistic smile. I then placed the smile on the outside of my tent to confuse fear and shame into thinking that I was happy, not hiding. Once my fake smile was firmly affixed to the door of my tent, I felt safe to think for myself.

I thought about how sad I felt to not have an Evangelical Sherpa. Even if I did, they most likely wouldn’t have a map for territories like abuse, mental health, and trauma. I thought about how insecure I felt embracing the land of Uncertainty, and all of the questions that came with it.

“How much of who I am is merely an adaptation made to survive trauma?”

“What should I take from times when I experienced trauma and divine intervention simultaneously?”

“Is the God that I know the ACTUAL God, or one that I have constructed based on indoctrination and trauma?”

“Is faith ONLY defined as certainty?”

Suddenly everything seemed so unclear. It was like thick, rolling fog had descended into my camp and concentrated in my tent. I fumbled around my tent until at last I again found my pen and paper. So much was uncertain in the land of Uncertainty. I needed to work up the courage to pioneer ahead. So I decided to write down a list of things that are unquestionably true. Surely there was SOMETHING certain in my life.

  1. I am certain that I am not 12.
  2. I am also certain that I am not yet 100.
  3. Im certain that my name is not Ruby.
  4. I am certain that I am not in the NBA.
  5. I am certain that I do not have my pilots license.
  6. I am certain that I cannot see without assistance.
  7. I am certain that the scar on my abdomen did not come from a shark attack.
  8. I am certain that I can kill aloe.
  9. I am certain that gravity exists, possibly just to mock me.
  10. I am certain that my list of uncertainties now outnumbers my list of certainties.
  11. I am certain that I do not like the worlds hottest hot sauce.
  12. I am certain that muffins are breakfast cupcakes.
  13. I am certain that I do not know my favorite color.
  14. I am certain that I want my children to experience less trauma and more joy than I did.
  15. I am certain that I do not want to grow old.
  16. I am certain that I have never been able to find my Chapstick when I need it.
  17. I am certain that I hate wearing underwear.
  18. I am certain that I feel most confident in gold hoop earrings, heels, and lipstick.
  19. I am certain that I am a disappointment to my younger self.
  20. I am also certain that my younger self set the bar way too high.
  21. I am certain that I have never known where my keys, phone, and wallet are simultaneously.
  22. I am certain that squid is not actually a food. Neither are snails.
  23. I am certain that not everybody knows that the left lane is for faster moving traffic.
  24. I am certain that all lists should not end on a number that makes sense.

I got to the end of my list and suddenly remembered a fellow sojourner I had met along the way. Anne Lamott’s brave words swept out enough fog for me to find my sleeping bag and pillow. I crawled inside my sleeping bag, zipped it up over my head, and fell peacefully asleep with her voice in my head.

“I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me–that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. Certainty is missing the point entirely.”

Anne Lamott

The Keys of Hope

In full disclosure, I honestly don’t always know how to help my kids navigate the stress and trauma of life. They have a sibling who is frequently in the hospital. That takes its toll. But specifically, I realize that our family is a threat to the enemy. Thus, we often have a target on our backs. I don’t always know how to give them a scope for this.

Truthfully, after 20 years of walking with the Lord I am still learning to navigate it for myself. I’m learning to trust God’s character in spite of my circumstances. I’m learning to rest in to the goodness of God when the swirling winds of confusion, chaos, and discouragement try to blow me over. I have life experience that testifies to God’s goodness and unrelenting redemption. I’ve seen my ashes turn to beauty overnight. But I sometimes feel helpless watching my kids walk through fire with me.

In many ways I feel that the world around us glorifies suicide. I’ve observed an ongoing narrative that paints suicide as beautiful, a basic human right, or even an art form. It is everywhere! And this is the world in which I will be raising my kids.

I love a good musical! I especially love a good musical when it has a great musical score. However, I am horrified by the popularity of Dear Evan Hansen. I also admit that I love the vocal stylings of Lewis Capaldi. I found myself singing “Before You Go” out loud in front of my kids and didn’t think anything of it. At first. I knew better than to read or watch 13 Reasons Why. However, I stepped back a minute and wondered why it was so wildly popular.

A friend in Australia recently reintroduced me to “The Pilgrims Progress” by John Bunyan. God directed me to reread the part of the story where the main character, Christian was locked in the dungeon of despair. Christian was locked in a cage and surrounded by the bones of other humans that had perished there. All day and all night giants would come in to the dungeon and whisper:

“You will never amount to anything”.

“You have no future.”

“Nobody cares about you.”

“You are worthless.”

“You are nothing but a screw up.”

Christian almost succumbed to the gravity of the whispers. But he looked around and suddenly realized WHY he was surrounded by bones. The giants didn’t actually kill the people before him. The giant just made them feel so hopeless that they killed themselves. Christian remembered that at the cross he was given a key. It was called “hope”. He reached in his pocket, pulled out hope, unlocked the cage, and walked out of the dungeon of despair.

That gave me an idea. My kids and I watched A Pilgrims Progress together. Twice. We debriefed about many things but focused on the dungeon of despair. I then presented each of my kids with a tangible key. Each key was ornate metal, just like the one Christian carried the movie. I showed them where I had already placed a key hook in each of their closets.

I then told them that if they ever found themselves in the dungeon of despair and heard the unrelenting whispers of the giants in their head, they should simply bring me their key. They wouldn’t have to explain anything. They wouldn’t have to talk at all. The key would talk for them and tell me that they needed help finding hope. The act of presenting the key to me would represent my commitment to walk with them and enter into that despair with them. From that place I would stop at nothing to fight for them. They wouldn’t have to fight alone. With Gods help, I would unlock their cage and we would walk out together.

I hold on to the hope that my kids will watch how I handle opposition and will learn from that. I’ve heard that kids learn more from observing us than from listening to us. Words fall short but how we live our lives leaves a lasting impact. My hope is that they will learn how to fight their battles through rest, trust, and authority. But if they can’t, I will gladly receive their key and fight their battles with them.

Dark Nights of the Soul

Light SHINES in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Shhhh! Let me tell you my top secret strategy. My story telling strategy has been to first introduce you to my Trinity before introducing myself.

Weird God, Friend Jesus, and Hank are the reason I’m alive to tell you my story. It is vital to have an understanding of who yanked me out of the darkness before I vulnerably share about the depths of my darkness.

Yes. This is my story. I’ve been strong. I’ve been brave. But I have had a lot of supernatural help along the way.

I’ve been very very lost before. I have seasons where I’m not okay. In the days ahead I will be sharing stories about these times. I believe that we can’t appreciate the magnitude of someone’s victories if we don’t first have a revelation of the depth of their struggle.

Please follow me in the struggle, for it is there that you will also share in my redemption, recompense, and healing.

In the days to come I will be sharing vulnerably about what I have walked through. Some of these topics include:

Childhood trauma and PTSD, Cancer, The car accident that earned me the nickname “Christmas Miracle”, Suicide, Infertility, Postpartum depression, Having a child with special needs, Miscarriage, and Loss

If you feel lost, it’s okay. I do too sometimes. I haven’t arrived yet. But I do hope that my transparency will help light the way for you when you can’t find the path out of the darkness. I’ve needed the encouragement of others to light my way too.

After all, light and darkness can’t coexist. When we walk in a dark room we don’t say “Hey! Could somebody please turn down the darkness”. No. We simply turn on a light and the darkness is extinguished.

May my stories help to extinguish some darkness in you, my fellow warrior.