Tuesday, August 31, 2010


One of the hardest things about my current living situation is the lack of meaningful involvement in any kind of community of women. For decades, I cried and prayed and laughed and learned from various women’s Bible Studies, prayer groups, book groups, garden club, etc. Although I have always adored (desperately needed) Alone Time, being a Lone Ranger all of the time is challenging. I believe there are many reasons why we are urged to make an effort to remain in fellowship as much as possible, not least of which is a need for an accountability system.

It is not always possible, however.

I miss it. It gets lonely sometimes. I miss hearing other women’s thoughts; having the benefit of their advice, wisdom, and encouragement. Hearing their stories.

But I realized something yesterday.

I have that with you.

I got a mental flash of prisoners, separated by a wall, who communicate by tapping on the stone. As we tap away on our keyboards, we connect with each other through the wall of distance.

It is a gift, this community of sharing. Not one that should take the place of flesh-and-blood interaction, when that is possible. But an added blessing.

I’ve made new friends. I’ve introduced you to Cheri before. She is one of the other earthquake survivors. Cheri has an uncanny ability to share just what I need to hear when I need to hear it.

Following the Blessers and Bleeders post, she sent me this quote from theologian Henri Nouwen. (Funny…I’ve got his book The Dance of Life sitting beside me on the bedside table. Maybe it’s a sign to dig it out of the pile and get started.)

His wise words express my feelings about boundaries much better than I do:

"You must decide for yourself to whom and when you give access to your interior life. For years you have permitted others to walk in and out of your life according to their needs and desires.  Thus you were no longer master in your own house, and you felt increasingly used. So, too, you quickly became tired, irritated, angry, and resentful.

Think of a medieval castle surrounded by a moat. The drawbridge is the only access to the interior of the castle. The lord of the castle must have the power to decide when to draw the bridge and when to let it down.  Without such power he can become the victim of enemies, strangers and wanderers.  He will never feel at peace in his castle.

It is important for you to control your own drawbridge.  There must be times when you keep your bridge drawn and have the opportunity to be alone or only with those to whom you feel close.  Never allow yourself to become public property, where anyone can walk in and out at will.  You might think that you are being generous in giving access to anyone who wants to enter or leave, but you will soon find yourself losing your soul.

When you claim for yourself the power over your drawbridge, you will discover new joy and peace in your heart and find yourself able to share that joy and peace with others."

Henri Nouwen
The Inner Voice of Love

As Cheri reminded me, even Jesus had boundaries. There were many times when he fled the crowds to have some one-on-one time with his Father. Away from the clamoring needs of hurting people, he received what he needed to minister to their wounds.

He is our example.


Thank you for being my community. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Thank you for all of the encouragement. I have invited interaction, and I welcome it. Emily, please don't "keep your mouth shut." I'm the one that needs to do more of that! Being human, our words are often imperfect and don't always reflect adequately what is in our hearts. None of us like to be misunderstood, but it is inevitable. I am grateful that you encouraged me to re-read the hastily written post and that I had an opportunity to clarify. However, I promise that I won't subject everybody to some lengthy diatribe every single time I receive a comment that indicates that there was a disconnect between my heart and words. I am heeding the advice to "put my big girl panties" on and get on with it, knowing that every word that sneaks out of these fingers (or mouth!) is not going to be perfect and pure. But it's all cool. We're covered.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I am terrible at predicting which posts will provoke the most commentary. Although many people seemed to identify with the previous one, it obviously hit some nerves as well. I am grateful for everyone who took the time to respond to my invitation to share their insights and opinions. But I’d like to address some of the concerns mentioned before moving forward. 

First of all, I want to ask forgiveness if my words were hurtful to anyone. That was not my intention, and I am sad that that may have been the case. I am not a very tough old bird myself, and am especially sensitive to hurting others because of that.

As stated in the addendum, the post was not written under the most ideal of circumstances. It was written quickly, with many distractions. In re-reading it, the phrase “…to choose the Blessers over the Bleeders” jumps out at me as harsh and inaccurate. I regret my choice of words. It sounds selfish and insensitive. I am grateful for those of you who intuited the gist behind the careless words. Although it is evident that many of you got the main point I was trying to make, I can understand how others may have misinterpreted my motives, intention, or the context. So, I would like to address several specific comments for the purpose of clarification.

In spite of the fact that I employed them in the piece, I agree with the writer who pointed out that it’s not our place to assign labels. The labels I used for purposes of identification more accurately refer to the person’s affect on me, rather than the actual person. In the first sentence, I indicated that the time period during which I used the labels was “eons” ago. The piece was emphasizing a shift in understanding that has taken place over a long period of time.

I also agree wholeheartedly with her statements that “it takes two to tango” and that “We are all bleeders, and unfortunately, the bleeders get the finger pointing at being unhealthy, when those who enable them are just as much responsible.” I asserted that my attitude at that time was “unhealthy and unbalanced.” I also stated that I had “bled some friends almost dry,” and contended that the majority of us fall into both categories at one time or another.

Another commenter suggested that I read Amy Carmichael’s poem “If,” and writings by Oswald Chambers. I adore both authors, and have read them extensively over the years. I have previously recommended them in the Books section, and have quoted Chambers at least once. 

I find both Carmichael and Chambers to be inspired, inspiring, and convicting in a helpful way. However, even they are not canonical. I’ve always been challenged by Amy’s poem, If, (actually, "Calvary Love,") but have viewed it as a piece employing hyperbole for the point of emphasis. (As I frequently do myself!) To say that one knows nothing of “Calvary Love” because one does not meet every requirement in the poem is, to me, extreme and harsh. (For instance, "If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.") There are many of us who have experienced Calvary Love in our own lives, and are attempting, with God’s grace, to extend it to others. However, until we are transformed fully into His image, our love will be merely a pale and flawed imitation of His. But that doesn’t mean that we know “NOTHING” of it. It simply means that we are in the roller-coaster process of sanctification.

However, I absolutely agree that the primary motivation in all of our interpersonal dealings should be love… above all else.

The same commenter stated in reference to the above authors, “I also commend them as precious examples of people who took extraordinary time and care before attempting to speak the word of God into human lives. Take all the time needed.”

Although I appreciate the advice, that is simply not possible. The fact that I am writing at all is, to me…knowing myself as I do… nothing short of miraculous. I don’t really “have time” to write. It is something that is happening “in spite of…”

I am aware of the awesome responsibility I have for my words.  (Not many of you should presume to be teachers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways.” James 3:1-2) However, I have stated repeatedly over the past two and a half years that: I am not a theologian. I am not speaking for a church, a ministry, an organization. I am not purporting to be an example or a role model of any kind. At the first moment when I became aware that people other than my close friends were reading my words, I made it clear in the “About Me” section of Katherine’s Mom’s Blog that I consider myself nothing more than “an average sinner” telling her personal story. That stands true today. For those who may be new readers, I have listed caveats on several occasions, such as her and here.

If I am to continue writing at all, it is with the knowledge that, on many occasions, it will be under less than the most auspicious of circumstances. It may be with a toddler crawling on me. It may be in the 20 minutes I have to myself in the mornings when I am West Coast. It may be late at night when I’m so tired I can barely string two words together. Or it might be while ensconced in my bed at home for 3 hours surrounded by concordances and commentaries. (Hey, anything is possible.)

And it will be with many flaws… not just grammatical.

Nevertheless, I feel an inner urging to continue on… one which I interpret as something more than merely a personal inclination.

I have searched high and low for a quote from C.S.L., to no avail. But in one of his works, he says something to the effect of, “If it helps you, then use it. If not, then don’t even remember it.” I pray that as well for those who read my words.

...If they help you in any way on your own journey, that’s wonderful. If not, then I pray that the breath of the Holy Spirit will blow them away into forgotten dust.

It all comes down to discernment… in both our interpersonal relationships with each other, and in deciding which words we allow to penetrate our hearts and minds.

And grace.

Lots and lots of grace.


“We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom.”  (II Corinthians 1:12)


Anybody remember that Lewis quote?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blessers and Bleeders

The last time I was home, a friend reminded me of something I told her eons ago.

She said, “Kim, do you remember when you told me that you had more bleeders than blessers in your life?”

I had totally forgotten that I said that.

But it was true.

I have always had fairly intense relationships with people.  (Oh really, Kim? What a shock.)

When I love, I love. I can be stupidly faithful sometimes.

Mixed blessing.

Anyway, the time period to which my friend referred was when I was involved in trying to save the world and everybody in it.

That led to me feeling responsible for the happiness and well-being of a lot of basically unhappy folks. (This is sometimes described as “ministry.”) I suppose I thought that anyone who came my way had been sent, and that my job was to help them.

As a result of this thinking, there came to be a fairly large number of negative people in my life that I was trying to “fix.”

(If you’re in the vicinity of my age, you’ve learned by now how that usually goes.)

I was pouring myself into bottomless cisterns of need, and bleeding out. Then, in my fatigue and emptiness, I would run to the friends I looked upon as pillars of strength and dump on them. They would have to pump me back up so I could deal with the Bleeders again.

It was unbalanced and unhealthy.

The Boundaries book has perched, undisturbed, on my library shelf for years and years. Maybe I could have saved some time and energy if I’d ever taken the time to read it. But, as I said, I was too busy saving the world.

Meno-pots and Muffin-tops notwithstanding, there are many advantages of age. Not least of these is the ability to be discerning and discriminating in the choice of people we allow into our lives. The older you get, the more you realize that you have the right…the obligation (to your family and yourself)… to choose the Blessers over the Bleeders.

My friend’s comment took me back momentarily to that exhausting time in my life. And then I realized something:

I am not there anymore.

I can’t be.

I couldn’t function in the circumstances in which I now live if I did not have far more Blessers than Bleeders around me. I have to be selfish with my emotional energy in order to serve my family in the ways they need to be served.

This does not mean that I ruthlessly cut out from my life everyone that doesn’t make me feel good. Everyone weak or needy or difficult or angry or in trouble. (As Paul says for emphasis, By no means.) I believe that God calls us to minister to certain people because it will change us as well as them. (Or instead of them.) So that we may learn things like patience and forgiveness and unconditional love. So that we may experience the blessing of giving, while getting nothing back.

Then, there are those we just absolutely love, big hairy warts and all. And choose to pursue a relationship with, even if they drain us. And, of course, there are people you couldn’t get away from even if you wanted to, such as in the workplace, school, or other daily activity.

But I don’t believe we are “called” into vital relationship with every person who meanders in and out of our hemisphere. There are times when you have to step back and let God take over, perhaps calling someone else into the job. Disengage.

In thinking over the past several months, I realize that I’ve been involved in intense interaction with a vast variety of humanity. Being the sensitive sort, I am strongly affected by those around me, from mean people in airports to inspirational young leaders like Sarah Ott. From family to friends to acquaintances to strangers.

I’ve finally come to understand that I have to right to choose to surround myself with those who build me up, not tear me down. Who inspire, not depress. Who encourage me to go higher, not sink deeper. Who stir me up, not quench my spirit.  Who strengthen, not sap. Who incite me to keep running toward the goal. (And then pick me up when I fall.)

So do you.

Cherish those friends as gifts from God. Do your best to care for those relationships. Invest in them. Nurture them.

Perhaps the majority of us are blessers and bleeders at one time or another. Sometimes we take more than we give, and vice versa. I think I’ve probably bled some friends almost dry.

But I want to become more of a blesser with every day that passes by.

God help me to do so.


I am painfully aware of the many grammatical errors… esp. the pronoun usage!... in this piece. However, with my grandson literally crawling all over me and trying to type along with me, this is gonna be as good as it gets today. Hope it’s halfway coherent.


Okay. He's gone now. 

So, anyway...  Does anyone think this sounds harsh or selfish? To choose to surround yourself with more positive personalities than negative ones?  How do you discern which costly relationships to remain in vs. which ones to let go of? How do you differentiate between 'ministry' and being a doormat or a whipping post? Between loving unconditionally and being co-dependent? Between 'loyalty' and stupidity? Anybody got any thoughts to share?

p.s. I'm still checking the prayer lady. Please continue to feel free to use her for sharing your needs. Does any techno-genius know how to reverse the order of comments so that the most recent will be at the top? Thanks for any help! kim

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Homeless But Not Hopeless

After a 24-hour period of intense babysitting, I was off for some “Me Time.”


My favorite store in Beverly Hills was having its End-Of-Summer Clearance sale.  I needed to check out the t-shirts.

I made a fairly quick get-away, trying to flee before I was called back for one reason or another. Multi-tasking, I mapped out my destination while texting my goodbyes. Then I gunned it down the street. With a flick of the wrist, I smoothly switched lanes in my borrowed BMW, anxious to make the light.

But I didn’t.


I spotted her out of the corner of my eye.

Just another one of the many thousands of homeless people holding placards in L.A.

She stood on a narrow archipelago of median, clutching a handwritten sign.

Cars careened past her on the other side of the skinny space. “I hope she’s not drunk,” I thought. “She might fall right into oncoming traffic.”

I hesitated for a second; pretended to be busy with my cell phone; then, finally, reached for my purse and dug around for my wallet.

My peripheral vision caught the steady stream of rejections from the cars at the front of the turn lane.  For some reason, I put the car in “Park” as I searched for my wallet in the cavernous depths of my purse, causing it to jerk slightly forward. She looked at me then, a little tentatively, accustomed to rejection and recoil from people like me. I rolled down the window and looked up at her, meeting her eyes for the first time. Beckoning her to me with a slight nod.

She was older than I am. By how much, it’s hard to say.

Still… that’s old for a woman to be living on the streets.

Her hair was short and graying. She had on jeans and a Mickey Mouse t-shirt. Mickey was smiling broadly.

She held a cardboard sign up to her chest:

but not

I grabbed a bill, checking to make sure it wasn’t a $20.

It was a five.

I thrust it out the window. Her face exploded with joy, exposing a mouth devoid of any top teeth.

“You are so generous!” she effused.

“Take care of yourself,” I mumbled before rolling the window back up.

I thought of a million different things I could have said in the interminable amount of time it took for the light to change. I thought about calling her back over. Giving her something more. More money… better words… more hope…

The light changed.

I tried very hard not to mess up my eye makeup on the way to Beverly Hills.

But it was hopeless.


There are no words.

No words.

Other than

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me, a sinner.”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Text Books

If anyone could read my text messages, they’d think it was a script from Saturday Night Live.


Ask my son-in-law.

Every now and then, I need confirmation that I’m not totally delusional… crazy without just cause.

So I make him read the encrypted codes from his wife and her sisters.

He just shakes his head.

It’s a small taste of schizophrenia.

My three girls are about as different as human beings can be. (Although they would argue that point. And sometimes I agree with them.)

“Bwaaaahhhhhaaaahhhhaaaaaa,” writes one, in response to something I’ve advised.

 “What should I do about these zits?” texts another.

“Who do you think I should marry?”

“Mom, are you okay?”

“Do you like this bedspread, or the other one?”

“You’re a freak.

"At the DMV. Aaarrrggggghhhh."

“Mom, can you come help me?”


“At the Viceroy now…”

“Can you buy me this, Mommy?” (Picture accompanies.)


“James loves his Mimi.”

“At the Fairmont now…”

“ Xxxxxx is so hot.”


“Love you, Mom.”

“Miss you Mommy.”

“You’re not so bad sometimes, Vivi.”


(This is the G-rated version.)

I can’t reveal the actual text messages because
  a.) My husband would absolutely freak, and,
b        b.) I would get kicked off the internet.

So, usually, I just throw my (figurative) hands up in the air, and yell, “They’re your problem now, not mine!!!”

Relinquish, disengage, distance, step back, relinquish.



She’s yours, not mine.


Not mine.

Not mine.

I love them all beyond reason.

But they’re not mine.

I was just the oven.

Still, I like to remind them all of this:

You are not your own, you were bought with a price…

I have a friend whose mother yelled this at her as she was walking into a cool, but bad, peer group situation.

At least one of mine loved this story.

(Thanks, Barbara.)


Mother-daughter relationships are said to be the most complex there are. Does anyone have any observations on that complicated transition time when little girls become women?

Little Women... almost

Monday, August 16, 2010


 When James and I made a little expedition to Target yesterday, I was stunned to see a huge area of Back-To-School supplies. It’s hard to believe that it’s already that time again… especially since summer hasn’t even really hit Southern California yet. We’re still wearing sweaters in the mornings and evenings. Hear me: I AM NOT COMPLAINING. I was in Georgia long enough to have had my fair share of summer at it’s worst. (And we’ll be sweating it out here in September and October with no air conditioning.) Nevertheless, the display reminded me of how rapidly the supposedly carefree days have flown.

Summers are definitely not as carefree as they once were.

There were several blessed respites this summer, but it some ways it was a hard and harsh season. As I’ve vented previously, being home with Katherine and James was a rude awakening. There was fresh grieving. There were disappointments and disillusionments.

I realize that a lot of it had to do with interactions with other people… in both public and personal contexts. Positive and negative. Affirming and discouraging. Life-giving and draining.

Aren’t we an endlessly fascinating and complex species? Shockingly diverse, yet the same in so many ways. I agree with Mr. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice that there are worse ways to spend one’s time than in the study of human nature.

In spite of my misanthropic musings a couple of posts back, during the past two+ years we have been given the gift of relationships with some extraordinary people. Men and women who have helped to restore my faith in mankind. People who have made me want to become a better person.

I usually discover that these are the ones who have sacrificed their rights and their egos in order to become malleable clay in the Potter’s hands.

In the midst of my oppressive summer gloom, one of these blew into our lives like a brisk ocean breeze beneath a radiant sky.

She absolutely radiates life and joy. She breathes inspiration.

Her name is Sarah.

She was a sorority sister of Katherine’s at Samford. They were friends, although not in the same immediate circle.

But when she heard of Katherine’s AVM rupture, she felt called to come alongside us in a powerful, major way. To go through it with us. She has been amazing, constantly flying in just in the nick of time when we’ve needed help or major encouragement. It’s like she has a heavenly hotline. So we were thrilled to have the opportunity to give back to Sarah, by loaning her our cabin at Lake Hartwell for a retreat for a women’s group she’s started in Atlanta.

She asked Katherine to share her story with the group. It was evidently an incredible weekend for all involved. (Our little cabin is “holy ground” now.)

I asked Sarah to share a little about her ministry, “Establish Her” (Est.Her.) Sarah’s thoughts about abiding versus activity echo my own, as does her view of the purpose of suffering in our lives.

I have a feeling you’ll be hearing more about Sarah Ott. She is a visionary young woman.

Sarah wrote:

Est.Her was birthed in my heart many years ago, though her name and existence just came into being in October, 2009. Through pain and suffering in my own life, the Lord led me to I Peter 5:10 the same week I was speaking on Esther at a women's conference. I Peter 5:10 says, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God who called you according to His grace, will Himself, perfect, confirm, strengthen, establish you.” The words dried my tears as I realized suffering is not only an inevitable part of life, but it is a divine gift that has an alpha and omega, too. Suffering is never a wasted cistern but a meaningful catalyst for perfecting my identity in Christ, confirming my call from Him, strengthening me for my calling, and ultimately establishing me through Jesus. He is life not merely an addition. So preparing for my Esther talk, I flipped the pages from I Peter back to Esther and my eyes enlarged. "Establish Her" was written in Est.Her. He wants to establish women, whether married or single, through the artistry of suffering. It is in this place of need, Christ awareness, and humility that intimacy with Christ is ushering in; perfecting our identity in Christ, confirming our callings from Him, strengthening us for our responsibilities, and then, of course, firming us up deep as women in God, not just women of God.

Activity is one of the greatest enemies to intimacy with Jesus. Establish Her was born for and through women who are hungry for intimacy in Christ, not merely activity for Him. Oh, may our hearts not be far from Him while our hands work for Him. So much of our activity is fruitless because it is not truly birthed out of abiding in Christ. Abiding, at least for me lately, has been deepened through a keen sense of need. That keen sense is not developed on the pinnacle, as much as it is in the pits or "prisons" of life. Even Paul wrote from prison, “I have learned to be content with whatever the circumstance."

This group of women is open for anyone who loves and needs the Word of God as an anchor through life. It is joyous to be a daughter of Christ, in spite of our lack of perfection. Establish Her celebrates the validity and application of the whole council of Scripture, while also enjoying and profiting from the individual voices and ‘establishment stories’ of broken women made whole. Every other Monday and Tuesday, women meet to break bread together, share an establishment story, capitalize on a passage of Scripture, fervently pray, and worship the Living God together. Truly, He inhabits the praises of His people and inhabits us, indeed. Where two or three are gathered He is present in Spirit and peace. This Bible study that stemmed from my own misery now births ministry for others. How thrilling to do life in community with one another as women, while enjoying the person of Jesus Christ, not only as our Savior and Lord, but LIFE utterly!”

I wish there were more Sarahs in the world. Her enthusiasm and joy are contagious. 

I hope that when I grow up, I'll be more like Sarah.


Some of the ladies of Est.Her

Wearing "Katherine Lived" T-shirts as a sign of solidarity
Praying for healing


Click here for Sarah's blog. If you are in the Atlanta area, and would like more information about Est.Her, contact Sarah at  ottsarah@gmail.com.  Website coming this fall.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I’m sorry it’s been so long since you’ve heard from me after the last couple of heavy posts.

I’ve been away from internet for a rather longish weekend.

(That was a good thing.)

We had a mini-family-vacay… the only one this year will all members of The Immediate present.

Even if it’s only a token vacation, I still think it’s important to go through the motions. To say, WE MATTER TO EACH OTHER… enough to take a few days off from work. To go somewhere special, even if it’s just an hour and a half away.

To set this (very brief) time apart for us to just be with us, away from distractions and diversions. And other people we know. And schedules and obligations and internet and work. (Of every kind.)

To rest.

And revel. (A bit.)

I had a magic moment.

They are very few and far between… rare and precious… these days.

To me, a magic moment is a sudden realization that, for that pinpoint of time, there is nothing left to want.

A moment where you feel completely full. Totally satisfied. Relaxed in an active way. A moment where you forget everything you worry about on a regular basis. A moment in which you live fully and gratefully, even while carrying an awareness that it will pass. But the acknowledgement of the transience of the moment only serves to make it more fulfilling and satisfying. A rare blessing… a glimpse of future bliss, where every single moment and millennium will be magical.

The moment came while strolling on a wharf with my husband and James.  The brilliant sunlight was warm and comforting, but an ice-tea cool breeze blew in off the sparkling water. For that moment…those few moments… all was well. Very, very, very well.

In T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the narrator mourns that “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”

I think our lives are measured in moments.


Lord, help me to be aware that each and every passing moment is precious. Help me to live more fully in all of my moments… magical or not.

How do you live "more in the moment?"


p.s. Thanks to those of you who responded to the last couple of intense posts with compassion. My goal was not to provoke sympathy, but to provide a clearer depiction of the new reality faced by those who have gone through injury or accident. I am sorry that I was not more aware before our family went though our "earthquake."

Katherine's response was to tell me that "I don't feel handicapped. I'm just grateful I get to go to the front of the line."

Sometimes, attitude is everything.