This Freedom is Not a Forever-Promise

Last January, I was diagnosed with lichen sclerosus, a dermatological auto-immune condition. In women, LS affects what I took to calling my lady parts. I hoped that term communicated a kind of breezy comfort with my own anatomy, an aspirational cheer about the reality of being a woman who could not wear pants without anxiety. […]

Why I Hate the Verb “Discipling”

When I was in college, I was “discipled” for four years. Back then, I was part of the parachurch ministry, Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru), which meant we needed to use Biblical nouns as verbs. Discipling involved meeting with a staff member, volunteer, or older student leader every month or so and discussing how […]

It’s Authentic to Name Yourself

Drawing people is a jigsaw puzzle. You look at the photograph of the woman with the pixie cut and the flowing dress, her arms improbably easy as she falls through the air, and then you look past the whole for the parts. I start with the head, the slim cap of her hair, the eyes […]

Why Bad Self-Care Is a Kind of Sin

“This author really pissed me off,” I told my husband the other day. I brandished a book called Soon: An Overdue History of Procrastination, by Andrew Santella. My anger surprised my husband. He enjoys a heated debate while I tend to shy away from black-and-white argument. But this book? I ranted about it for fifteen […]

When a New Diagnosis Brings a Storm

If I had ever been skydiving, I would know about the wind having its way with you. I could tell you, no problem, that when you’re turned topsy-turvy in an earth-less void, up and down become abstractions, not facts to orient yourself by. You lose your bearings. But I am the last person on earth […]

The Rightness of Clothes

You know that thing where you show up for a fashion show in such amazing clothes that the photographers there assume you’re Someone Famous and photograph you? But actually you’re a sixty-something Fordham social work professor and just have really fabulous taste? And because of that photo shoot, you become a fashion icon, model, and […]

The Biggest Hindrance to Creativity Isn’t Time

Originally posted April 1, 2016. Before I had kids, I got a master’s degree in creative writing at San Diego State. I had quit my job as a technical writer not long before, and my husband earned enough that I didn’t need to work. So throughout my degree program, I had all day to write. You would […]

New Leaves Are a Con Job

I do not believe in turning over a new leaf. Let’s clarify that statement with a slightly embarrassing story. A few days before junior high began, I faced the mirror in my bathroom, determined to make the coming year different. I would be more social, more popular. I would connect, I would impress people, I would […]

Integrity Is The Opposite of Cutting Ourselves

Can I tell you an embarrassing story? Picture me and a guy I liked sitting together on some stairs on our college campus. We’re having a serious DTR. Since the first time I met this guy, I thought he was super-cute, and over the last year and a half, we’ve spent more and more time […]

When Houseplants Are Zombies of the Apocalypse

Last night, after I finished packing for a long trip, I decided to move all my succulents outside for the duration of our weeklong vacation. I have nine pots of various sizes on the bookshelves in our front room: one tiny barrel cacti, four plants that look like desert seaweed, and assorted echeveria in dark […]

Revival Is Already Happening: An Interview with Carly Gelsinger

I’ve long appreciated Carly Gelsinger’s honesty about spiritual abuse and recovering from try-hard, never-enough Christianity. She wrote a memoir about her experience with radical faith, called Once You Go In, and I was eager to interview her. With so many revelations about abusive leaders coming out, I think it’s important we talk honestly about the appeal toxic […]

Dear Portia: The Spiraling Journey of Forgiveness

How Do We Know When We’re Done Forgiving? Dear Portia, What does forgiveness look like when you work through the process and do your best, but either the offender never acknowledges their sin or they continue to offend? Not asking about boundaries, that’s pretty clear to me, but how do we know when we’re done? […]