My 2018 New Years Christ Like Project (annual update)

This is my New Years resolution list, but it actually is my focus list for life all the time. So don’t be overwhelmed by the length. Many of these things I currently do but it reflects my principles, my hopes, and the places in my life where I can connect myself to my identity in God more and find greater joy. It has been posted as a page on my blog for a couple years and every year I update the practices. This started by being inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, but if you are familiar with that book my project will look differently. What is important about my project is that it is not just about happiness, but more importantly to grow towards Christ and becoming Christ like. Thus, my intentionality guides me towards a life that in every way reflects the deep love and compassion, the awe and the wonder of Christ. So, not a happiness project but a Christ-like project.  I cannot begin to tell you how important this reframe is for me. My life is not my own, and it is not lived for myself alone.  I hope and pray that as I seek to develop myself I begin to see Christ’s image in me and in the life around me. (I do not share because I relieve you need to know the details of my life, but because I share I have accountability and encouragement)

8 Core Principles For Me

  1. Love Christ and his people.
  2. Be compassionate.
  3. Enjoy the process.
  4. Lighten up and have fun.
  5. Claim my voice.
  6. Get out of my head.
  7. Be aware of my body.
  8. Know what I want and need.

Growing Specifically: Habit Improvements


  1. Pray daily.
  2. Engage in stillness.
  3. Start each day with gratitude.
  4. Develop a Sabbath.


  1. Laugh out loud.
  2. Practice reframing.
  3. Dare to fail.


  1. Sleep better. (no phone after 10pm)
  2. Make checklists for the important stuff.
  3. Develop a daily routine.
  4. Call my family weekly.


  1. Hear the experience of others. (culture, religious, ethnic, etc)
  2. Look up and around!
  3. Be interested in the world. (listen to podcasts)


  1. Don’t stonewall.
  2. Scan for successes.
  3. Find fun together.
  4. Be physically affectionate.


  1. Play without phone distraction.
  2. Practice validation.
  3. Develop better patience.
  4. Be a teacher to the kids. (camping, games, school)


  1. Have fun with colleagues.
  2. Learn new skills.
  3. Practice saying no.
  4. Debrief my day.


  1. Read daily.
  2. Play board games.
  3. Work on a project at least once a month.
  4. Go off the path at least once a month. (new, strange, etc)
  5. Eat more sushi. (my New Years food resolution!)


  1. Be generous.
  2. Focus on others.
  3. Initiate hanging out together.


  1. Spend ahead, not in the moment.
  2. Give to church.
  3. Always have something on hand to share.
  4. Meal plan.

Pursue a Passion: Be outdoors!

  1. Play disc golf.
  2. Get a Texas State Park pass for hiking.
  3. Interact more with my dogs.

Morning by Morning (9/7/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Another gorgeous day with amazing fall weather.  What a beautiful set of days we are enjoying after last week!
  2. Seeing resilient and joyful kids around the hospital.  These little boys and girls are hope giving and inspiring.
  3. The smiling boy I met this morning, who has had a challenging couple years but is teach free and smiling full now!
  4. Time with Ryan in the mornings before I get to work!
  5. The Beads of Courage program for nurses and staff.

Picking Up The Cross of Heartache

(Note: some of the images are not my own but from other friends in Houston.)

The pictures are stunning. Perhaps a kind of remarkable that we don’t like. Sometimes, thinking about the rising waters and flooded streets and burdened reservoirs and bayous of Houston, I just have few words other than oh my. I don’t know how to make meaning of it.

That’s my suburb.  Surely it couldn’t be that much under water right? Stunned silence. But what about the city? 

I can’t even make sense of that.  So much rain and I can’t even begin to grasp the amount of water that fell.  What bayou system could survive 45″ of rain or more? What city has the capability? How did it happen? The many reasons have been shared and bantered back and forth:

  1. Too much rain period.
  2. No zoning laws that safeguard green spaces for water to escape to.
  3. Poor development habits that have overwhelmed prairie spaces that let water sink in.
  4. The flat Houston city scape, which compounds the water building up and gives no help.

We know these things, but it doesn’t change the stunned silence.  Wow. Oh my. Shaking heads.  We feel in shock by how fast the city filled, how the rain kept coming, and how the hurricane just stalled after destroying Corpus and Rockport and Victoria. We knew it was coming, felt prepared, but not that prepared.

And the images still keep coming. Water images that reflect helplessness, like hospitals that can’t take patients in dire need or send their healthy home.

That’s what it is. Helplessness. Many in their homes were helpless as water rose and seeped through cracks, doors ajar, and every gap to destroy their homes, drown their pictures and books and furniture, and pushed them up the stairs or into an attic or on the rooftop. Helpless as they stood watching out windows while neighbors houses filled up.  Helpless to stem the rising water as it forced them out of homes.  Helpless as some were stuck at the hospital where I was, but only able to call loved ones who were evacuating and being flooded out or constantly anxious about what would be lost. Some were helpless as they helped others inside one place, but whose every being wanted to help those in another. Helpless because some were far from home and had no idea what the water would do.  Helpless because toys were lost, homes were lost, pictures were lost, normalcy was lost, and stress and grief were gained. Some were separated from their babies and had little clue as to their husbands and babies and where they would evacuate to because how would they get there.

Helpless. When hurricanes or tsunamis or floods come, there is little more to feel but helpless.  And regardless of whether your home was lost, the anxiety and dreaded worry filled almost all with grief. Regardless of a death toll, the grief is real in Texas between Corpus Christi, Houston, Beaumont, and every town in between. 

This is typically where many ask about God.   

This is also typically where many tell those that grieve, “They are just possessions.” Or they say things like “you have your life at least.”  Perhaps “what is the worth if a man gains the whole world but forfeits his life.” Perhaps they say more atrocious things like “God will make it better” or “Don’t worry” or “Gods got a plan for this.”  

I will not say that. I am a hospital chaplain who sees children sick and dying almost daily and knows not to hide grief and helplessness.  

Perhaps when Jesus asks us not to hide our light under a bushel, we might not just imagine him talking about our joy.  Our pain and sorrow do not need to be hidden.  As challenging, as stunned, as grief stricken or angry as we are, we live that.  

We live it because God speaks through those to everyone else. God doesn’t speak solely through happiness. Gods speaks in the grief of a people who wrestle, who get their nails dirty in mud, who climb in boats from their kitchen doors and shake their heads towards the heavens. God speaks in the heartache of memories lost through waterlogged photo albums and the tears of people evacuated twice over because of Hurricane Katrina or the Memorial Day floods.  

In Matthew, Jesus rebukes Peter for telling him grief and ugliness would not be so.  Jesus rebuked him for denying the cross of pain and grief he, and we are called to bear.  No, losing your stuff is not the cross you bear. Grief and sadness and shock and heartache are.  Will you see with more honest eyes? Will you pick up your cross and follow Jesus into the grief and pain and trust that God is there? Will you share your burden trusting that God will speak and that Gods love still shines? Will you lament and trust that God listens? Pick up your cross and follow me. This is not a post encouraging you to gladly accept Gods plan of losing your house, or not a post encouraging you to be minimalist or resigning yourself to lives of pain or woe. Those responses aren’t denials of self, but rather ways we keep ourselves and our eyes untouched.

Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me.  Dare to experience it all and see it all with honest eyes. Did you feel the hand on your back from your friend comforting you as you tore out water logged carpet from your home? Did you deny yourself the pleasure of your own comfort and serve the broken hearted? Did you see the love in your neighbor eyes for you as you hurt losing your sons pictures or your late husbands belongings? Did you see differently? I hope I am. 

When Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, one way to hear it today is that he dares us to give up our way of seeing. Where is God here in our helplessness? Where not? Did we see God in first responders? Did we see God in people on boats rescuing families from neighborhoods? Did we see God in the chaplain who hugged the nurses who were scared for their children out there? Did we see God in the prayer circles, the hugs, the outstretched hands, the church showing up to demo your home, or the loads of musty laundry the neighbor is doing for everyone? Did we see God in the tears cried or the laughter shared in friends homes while we waited out the flood? Pick up our cross and see that somehow even the grief of Jesus cross opens space to see God is still there. 

Be heartbroken, grieve, be stunned into silence, and feel the sadness of the flood. Let Gods love come seeking you there in your brokenness, not just in your victories. Gods love can find you, even when you feel so broken and grief stricken. I don’t always know how, I struggle sometimes to see it, and I don’t understand sometimes, but we still are challenged to pick up the cross of trusting Gods love will go with us.

Yes, Jesus challenge to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow me means a lot of things. But this week, it means being willing to see that we are never separated from Gods love in Christ, whether in death or life, joy or grief, sorrow or relief, height or depth, baking sun or whelming flood. God is here.  God is here in the hands, the feet, the ears, and the heart that surrounds us. God is here and speaking through it all. And regardless of how high the flood waters, I have to grieve and trust that God does not recede when the waters rise or rise when the waters recede.  I am called to bear that cross, be heartbroken, and be still.  

Morning by Morning (8/9/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. The beautiful sunny morning after a couple days of rain.
  2. Ryan learning to go to the bathroom in the toilet and learning when he needs to go.  It’s so wonderful watching him become a potty trained young boy, cheer him when he gets it right, and ultimately feel independent.
  3. The awesome staff who are working on the System Wide Bereavement Committee at Texas Children’s and who work towards consistent, compassionate care for families and the wonderful children.
  4. The gifted, sassy teenager who I know at the hospital- we will call “Alia”.  Alia is an awesome gift who always brings laughter to me and she is so inspiring in her fight and honesty.  She is a gift from God!

Morning by Morning (8/7/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. A great weekend with a bunch of friends on the beach in Galveston, where we got to laugh a lot together, celebrate Ryan’s birthday, spend lots of time at the pool, spend quality time with Aiden and Ryan, watch Ryan brave waves at the beach, walk hand in hand with Elana along the sand, and enjoy the calming waters with good friends.
  2. A Sonic soda on the way home that helped with the post trip exhaustion.
  3. The Ciudad de Angeles orphanage in Cozumel who does the heroic work or caring for children who need support, and doing it well. I appreciate their work and their love of children and their love of God.  I appreciate our church friends who went to support them earlier this summer.
  4. The voices who encourage compassion towards those with mental health issues and challenge our behaviors and disregard for them.  This weekend reminded me of this with a couple of experiences I observed.

Morning by Morning (7/8/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. The beautiful hibiscus flowers growing in our front flower bed! Beautiful!
  2. The podcast, Revisionist History, from Malcolm Gladwell.  Yesterday I listened to an episode about the Foot Soldier statue and its complicated history, which got me thinking about how history is really known through the storyteller, not solely through facts.
  3. Virgil Fry, my spiritual director and friend who celebrated another birthday yesterday.  He is a gift and a great encouragement to me! Happy birthday Virgil!

Morning by Morning (7/3/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Sitting in silence this morning in the backyard and getting to watch the birds fly by, the sun warm up the yard, and enjoy a morning.  And it was only 20 minutes but it was very nice.
  2. Doing hard labor in the backyard working on a project fire pit.  The feeling of completing a project, getting to sweat, and do good hard work is always a welcome feeling.
  3. Conversations with Aiden about some serious things today.  He was talking about dogs, missing his old dog that died, life in baseball, compassion for those who are transgender, and about his love for his dad.  Good stuff!

Morning by Morning (6/17/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. A beautiful day at the beach, with steady cooling wind and gorgeous ocean.
  2. A calm Saturday morning.
  3. The Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews and others in our country who worship in the face of alienation, persecution, and misunderstanding.  Their faith and commitment are inspiring and humbling.
  4. The voices that are crying out for justice in the case of Philando Castile.  His life does matter, and one persons abuse of authority, even if from fear or misunderstanding, does not find any excuse in the pursuit of justice in this world.  (I have never understood why being afraid/fearing for their safety means those in power can kill and not have repercussions) The voices who protest and who name that injustice are powerful prophetic voices. May God bring this world justice!

Morning by Morning (6/12/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Ryan’s faces of joy. (see below!)
  2. The growth of our butternut squash plant, that has been thanks to nothing I’ve done! It has grown well and sprawled all over the place.  It’s amazing to see it grow daily.
  3. Aidens love of baseball.  It’s so pure and he’s so connected to the sport both as a player in Little League to his fandom of the Houston Astros. It’s pretty sweet!

Morning by Morning (5/23/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Pediatric chaplains whose humor and compassion is renewing, refreshing, and sustaining for me both personally and professionally.
  2. A beautiful walk in Holland Michigan this morning.  I loved the Dutch homes, the beautiful architecture, the crisp air, and the beautiful trees.
  3. Tiffany Riley, a Funnyatrics clown and fantastic leader of our session last night.  Her familiarity and honesty with the power of play and improv in the lives of the hurting was inspiring and full of joy. But as important as the skills of play for our families, it was joyful and fun! See this clip if you want to know more about Funnyatrics: 
  4. Pics of Elana and Ryan and Aiden that sustain me while I am away!