Salty Vulnerability

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:6

It was late, yet even in my state of exhaustion, I opened the text message. The second I clicked I recognized my mistake. A message full of accusations and presumptions about how I had mistreated a friend and her family glared on my screen. This was the not the first time this had happened with this person. My faced flushed with frustration, I read the message to my husband with dramatic inflections, adding tones where I felt most attacked. I sat back in bed with tears, not of sadness but of anger, filling my eyes. I blurted indignantly that “hadn’t I been a servant, and I don’t understand where this is coming from.” I thought we had resolved all this, but it felt like we were back to square one. Wisely, my husband told me to hold my tongue, or rather my fingers, to sleep on it, and pray to see where we could reach a point of reconciliation.

Unfortunately, reconciliation was not possible. Other people were brought into the situation, making it even more complicated. I felt like there was a surface-level truce, but honestly, underneath I was seething. Anytime I was called upon to serve that family, I grumpily served, complaining behind their backs. I was angry and tired of being misunderstood. In public, I put a smile on my face. But God knew my heart, where bitterness was taking root.


It is easier to be transparent when we have been wronged, when someone else has acted in ways that were hurtful to us. Easier, but not easy. Other times, we want to push past the difficult things and move on, not sharing where we have wounded others in our attempts to wipe the slate clean. In my own life, I have been transparent about ways in which someone else’s words have been hurtful and times when I have felt less than. I have also been transparent about the sexual abuse I faced as a child into my teenage years.

It’s harder for me to admit when I’m inflicting wounds. It is hard for me to portray myself in a less favorable light. But I think Jesus recognized that this is a universal human flaw. He warns us not to judge others, otherwise we will be judged. And he asks a question, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank is in your own eye?” The bitterness that was taking root in me was bearing fruit: rotten, spoiled, and worm-infested. It manifested itself in ways that came off harsh, backbiting, and less than servant like. And the people it affected the most were my family. My husband and children saw a woman who taught about being a servant but acted less than that.

I have discovered in the last few years a love for radishes. I especially love the beauty of watermelon radishes, the colors it adds to my salad. I recently baked a piece of white fish in parchment paper, smothered with radishes, fennel, zucchini, and carrot. With some salt, olive oil, lemon slices, dill, and a pinch of pepper flakes, my fish was balanced, hitting all the different flavor notes inside my mouth. What surprised me was how sweet the radishes tasted. The earthiness of the radishes was still present, but the bitter edge that can be off-putting was gone. And I have since learned that it was the salt that did the trick.


Salt is probably one of the most important ingredients in a kitchen. It tenderizes meat, balances sweetness, and reduces bitterness in food. Most of us were taught in our home kitchens to use sugar to balance bitterness, but Samin Nosrat says in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, “it turns out that salt masks bitterness much more effectively than sugar.” She continues that if you add a pinch of salt to grapefruit juice, “You’ll be surprised by how much bitterness subsides.”

Salt, both in the Bible and in history, was an important and valuable commodity. Without refrigeration, salt was used to preserve food. In the Bible, salt was a part of the sacrifices, symbolizing that the covenant relationship between God and man would last forever. Later in the Bible, Jesus encourages us to be “salt of the world.” By living the abundant Christian life, we are to enhance the world around us by demonstrating the goodness and mercy of God. Finally, Paul encourages believers, “Let your speech always be with grace seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” I believe this is the property of salt where it reduces bitterness between one another.

With my smile I was trying to use fake sweetness to cover up my bitterness. The result was insincerity and bad fruit. But when I stopped to really examine my own eye and asked God to change my heart, only then did the bitterness subsided. I recognized the goodness and mercy Jesus had towards me, and in applying that salt towards my life, I was able to let my speech and actions to be filled grace.

By no means do I get this right on a regular basis. I am all too human, full of flaws and imperfections. And the beauty of being human is that I don’t always have to get it right. I won’t always get it right. And in those places where I fail or have treated others unkindly, I can go to Jesus. It is His kindness that leads me to repentance. It is His grace that helps me be salt, and not saccharine fakeness.  And if I am humble enough to admit my flaws and imperfections, others can see the work God is doing in me.

The situation with my friend was never restored. But what was restored was my heart towards Jesus and serving others. If I feel frustrated in serving today, I do a heart check and examine myself more honestly. This helps me to set healthy boundaries and lean into Jesus when I need to a keep a right spirit. And I am learning to be more generous with my salt, both literally and spiritually. Today, my pasta water is as salty as the sea, adding taste to otherwise bland pasta. And I am learning to be more generous and merciful towards others. In the hope that this is making me more salt in the world.

Soggy Cereal Dreams

“And he said to her, “Daughter, thy faith has made thee whole; go in peace” Mark 5:34

It was early morning of my eighth-grade year when I crept out of bed, got dressed, and went downstairs. I quickly fixed a bowl of Corn Pops and sat on the lumpy brown couch. It was rather quiet for a house of six people, with the faint heavy breathing of my stepfather, passed out in an alcoholic stupor and my mother sleeping soundly next to him in their bedroom. I turned on the television, frantically turning the volume down to barely audible but loud enough for me to hear CNN broadcast their half-hour news. As I listened, eating quickly to avoid soggy Corn Pops, I thought about my future. Someday, I would be in a foreign country reporting about a natural disaster or humanitarian aid in war-torn country. Someday, my name would be a byline. Someday, I would be important!

I bounded off to school that day, dreams of being a reporter still in the back of my mind as I met with my counselor to set up my freshman schedule. I was excited, anticipating all the new things I would be learning when I saw what I believed to be a misprint: Freshman English. I mumbled something to my counselor like, “Shouldn’t this read Accelerated English?” I had low Bs in my English class, but still believed that my teacher would recommend me for the advanced English class. My counselor told me to follow up with my teacher. Later that day, I asked my teacher why she hadn’t recommended me for that class. Her words, “Sherry, your writing is not good enough, you lack fundamentals and clarity.” I was stunned, feeling like I had just swallowed a lifetime’s supply of soggy Corn Pops, seeing my dreams of journalism crumble before me.

I did eventually get into an accelerated class as a sophomore in high school, but the sting of the words echoed throughout my life. I quickly changed career goals, believing that I was not cut out for journalism. I felt like an imposter all the way through college, even though I graduated with honors, believing that my writing never measured up. I even stopped journaling for years, fearful that, if I died unexpectedly, others would laugh at my choppy sentences and mixed metaphors. I let the impact of one teacher’s words follow me for decades!

There was some truth about my teacher’s conclusions. My fundamentals were lacking. It’s hard to pay attention to grammar, sentence structure, and spelling when your goal in reading is to find the happy ending. I believe the trauma I was feeling at home hindered me from seeing and understanding the beauty of words, and how a correctly chosen word paints a picture. Yes, I was a reader, but reading was a form of escape from hide all the ugly words being spoken over me.

 Decades later, I sat at my computer with a need to put my thoughts and voice to paper, or rather, cyberspace. I doubted anyone would want to read my words, confident that it would not come out in clear, well-formed sentences. I wasn’t sure I could paint a picture with words that would resonate with someone or touch their heart. Regardless, I felt a need to put my words out there in the form of a blog. I told myself, and really believed, that this writing might only before me and, if so, that was enough.

 Vulnerability is not always about sharing your story. Sometimes, it’s about taking a risk, believing your future can be different than what an eighth-grade teacher did or did not recommend. To be fair, I think she had to draw a line, and, at the time, I didn’t meet the standard. I could argue that maybe, if she had been more compassionate with me and given me some pointers on how to improve my writing, I could have been inspired. But she didn’t, and I gave power to her words for a large portion of my life.

Recently, a friend of mine reminded me of the bravery the woman with the issue of blood. This was a woman who had spent all her money on doctors looking for a cure, to no avail. Additionally, according to Jewish law, she could be punished for being out in a crowd with her blood disorder because she was “unclean”. Yet, she risked her reputation and her future in one moment of brave vulnerability. She had heard the stories about this man called Jesus who had healed others. He was in her city, on her street, and she thought that if she could only touch the hem of his garment, she might be healed. I can imagine her in her weakened state, maybe stepping outside for the first time in years. The bright sun glaring in her eyes as she moved towards the crowd. I can imagine her cautious steps as she was jostled in the crowd. Suddenly, there he was, she could see him walking by, and in one desperate motion with every ounce of remaining energy, she reached out and touched the hem of his garment, believing she would be whole.

 Jesus responded to this woman by asking who had touched him. The Bible records that he felt virtue flow out of him towards the woman. The Greek word for virtue is “dynamis”, where we get the word dynamite from. The implication was something powerful flowed to the woman, and he told her that her faith had made her whole. Her act of faith, her brave vulnerability, had made her whole. It changed her life, and made her a vibrant, active member of her community. We don’t know the rest of the story, but I can imagine that this woman told others about the goodness of Jesus. She likely reached out to others, sharing with them about her desperate moment and how Jesus responded to her faith.

 I am starting my fourth year of blogging this fall. I believe that some of my posts have touched others’ lives. I have found a place where I can clearly paint pictures of the work God is doing in me. I can share how He is making me whole. I can share ideas and thoughts that God has given me. And it started with me being vulnerably brave.

 Readers, some of you I know and some of you I don’t. Some of you might be in the middle of your life like I am, and others might be starting out in adulthood. But wherever you are, be vulnerable. Brené Brown said in a TED talk, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” Our world, individually and collectively, will only be a better place when we are vulnerably brave!

Invasion of the Flies

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16

It was late, we were on our way home after a thirteen-hour day of working and serving. We quietly talked, reminiscing about two famous people who had died that day. Both of us were looking forward to climbing into bed, reading a few chapters, and falling asleep. As Terry unlocked our front door, I glanced to the right, seeing flies darting across the front window. On closer inspection, and to my horror, I realized they were on the inside! We came in and, upon investigation, found over a dozen flies had taken up residence not only that window, but four more windows in my house! These flies were strange, they didn’t fly away as we started swatting. They were in a drunken stupor, and I caught a few with only a piece of paper towel. Within ten minutes, we had annihilated all the flies we could find. We still have no idea how they got in, or why they ignored the bowl of nectarines I had on the table. It was surreal! This mini invasion was fought off, and we still managed to squeeze in a few chapters before falling asleep.

When I woke up this morning, I thought maybe it had been a dream, only to find a few more flies we had missed buzzing around. I am hoping we are now in a fly-free zone. I had intentions of posting a different blog, but as I was praying this morning, I felt like God asked me to share this story. Honestly, I have never wanted to write about houseflies, especially an invasion of my home. Most of you have never met me and might conclude that I’m not a good housekeeper. Others might think, “I would never tell anyone about finding bugs in my cream of wheat as I poured it into the boiling water for my kid’s breakfast.” And still others might think, “I would never talk about hearing a mouse in my garage.” Again, all of these are true stories that have happened to me. And I am sharing them with the potential for others to read and judge my housekeeping skills.

But pests are a natural part of life. Even the best housekeeper living in a brand-new house will occasionally find an unwanted creature in their home. Yet, the pictures of the creatures rarely make Instagram or find their way into Facebook updates. Pests, junk drawers, overflowing closets, and recipe flops don’t quite paint the type of picture we want others to see or know. Yet, at one time or another, all of us have had to face these issues.

As much as we keep our battles with pests quiet, we keep the personal battles we face even more private. We rarely talk about the serious troubles we have had in our marriages, or the times we have been frustrated over our toddler’s spilled milk. We never share about the times others made us feel less than or the times we failed in our professional lives. We don’t discuss our financial struggles or post comments about the vacations we couldn’t plan. We don’t talk about the endings of friendships or the struggles with addictions we face. And for those of us who are Christians, we certainly don’t talk about our faith struggles or ways we have been hurt in a faith-based community. Additionally, we don’t talk about the ways we have failed others by saying spiteful or inconsiderate things.

I wonder, is it easier to keep these things private?  Cliches like “don’t air your dirty laundry in public” or “keep that within the family” have been part of the American lexicon for years. It has even affected how we deal with those in the public eye. I remember naively thinking that Bill Clinton was the first president to have illicit relationships in the White House, but after reading biographies about all past presidents, I learned he wasn’t the first. The difference is that the press no longer decided to hide this information from the American public.

In recent years, thinkers like Brene’ Brown and Curt Thompson have talked about the importance of vulnerability and transparency for us and within groups. Both in their books and their podcasts, they report that vulnerability leads to healing, growth, and connection. Psychologists and doctors are reporting that these private stories where we feel shame, trauma, or loneliness lead to all sorts of psychological and medical issues. It also affects future relationships including our marriages and parenting. It even affects how we relate to God!

 Although the hashtag vulnerability is trendy, the Bible records the importance of vulnerability. Jesus never shied away from addressing hard issues in people’s lives. He addressed Martha’s priorities when she questioned her sister’s unwillingness to help. He addressed Peter’s heart after Peter had denied him at the cross. He addressed the Samaritan woman’s marriage status when asking for water. In all these situations, Jesus never addressed issues to shame or condemn people. Instead, He used their vulnerability to bring them into a deeper relationship with him. Martha now knew what was important, Peter preached salvation on the day of the Pentecost, and the Samaritan woman spread the news of Jesus.

 In the next few blogs, I am going to be vulnerable about some areas in life. I am still praying about what areas to share. I do know I will cover some vulnerability about my faith journey. I hope to share with my readers places where my lack of vulnerability has caused harm to myself and others, and where my vulnerability has led to healing. I am not doing this to get a sympathetic response from my readers, instead I hope it encourages you to grow and heal.

Finally, back to the mini invasion of flies. As I was writing this today, what I thought was a fly-free zone was incorrect. I am still finding these lethargic flies around my house. I will continue to fight them, but I also need to find out how these flies are getting in. Maybe by being transparent, my readers can give me insight, because I truly believe vulnerability leads to answers!

Freezers, Old Towels, and Relief

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Matthew 6:19-20 ESV

It was early morning and I needed chicken thighs for tonight’s dinner. After taking a slug of coffee for strength, I put on my shoes and entered my garage. I stared at the 14.5 cubic feet chest freezer, taking a deep breath as I slowly lifted the lid, reaching my hand into the abyss. I shuffled through my frozen produce, bags of blanched corn, peas, and beans. I pushed aside beets and peppers along with blueberries and strawberries. I dug around my batches of homemade spaghetti sauce and apple sauce, but still no chicken thighs. I slid aside the baskets that held my jars of jams, bags of nuts, and Christmas baking chocolate, to reach the depths of the freezer. I silently thanked God that it wasn’t Christmas, where I would have to shift the containers of cookies and candy made in advance, pulled out for gifts and holiday celebrations. Finally, I found the chicken thighs along with a few bags of unidentifiable leftovers, a loose frozen cranberry, and a few crumbs. I wondered how breadcrumbs end up in the bottom of the freezer. I grabbed my chicken thighs, shifted things around haphazardly, and closed the lid.

For eight years, I repeatedly engaged in this search and rescue pattern to find the items I needed for dinner. Occasionally, I would call one of my unsuspecting teenagers downstairs and say, “Can you help me organize the freezer?” They reluctantly agreed realizing it was more of demand than a request. We would pull everything out, throw out the UFOs (unidentified frozen objects), and scrape some of the ice off, organizing the food in categories of vegetables, meats, fruits, and bread. And then, a few weeks later, the freezer would turn once again into a chaotic abyss!

For eight years, our freezer served us well, the storage for summer abundance in preparation for winter meals. After Maggie’s wedding, we decided that this freezer was too big for only two people. We no longer buy frozen waffles in bulk or eat twenty bags of frozen corn in a year! Terry took a few pictures, we listed it on Facebook Market Place, and it sold within an hour of being listed.

We still haven’t found a new place to move into yet, but I am currently de-cluttering my home in preparation of moving. A friend recommended a book called “The Joy of Less” by Francine Jay. As a self-proclaimed minimalist, she asks some hard questions like, “How many paper clips do you really need?” She then outlines some principles and shows you a path toward ridding your home of all the extras. I believe her approach is similar to the wildly popular “KonMari” method. As I read the book, I find myself feeling anxious and relieved at the same time.

The anxious feelings indicate that maybe I am too attached my stuff. Terry and I went through our coffee mug collection, eliminating the ones we didn’t love due to size, shape or design. I was so excited when we eliminated ten coffee mugs. Feeling proud, I had Terry count how many coffee mugs we had left. He reported he had four, but I still had sixteen! I delight in having a different mug every morning, but maybe sixteen is still a bit excessive. Once again, I am going to pull out my mugs and make some tough decisions.

We all have our “things”, things we believe we can’t live without. Mine might be coffee mugs, serving dishes, and cake plates. My husband’s “things” are office supplies, including his collection of binder clips. Yet, if we take those things aside, I still find we have a pan for Danish pancakes, a broken laptop we haven’t discarded, outdoor Christmas lights we never used, and grapefruit spoons that crowd my utensil drawer. This stuff takes up space in my house that either gets moved around when looking for something else or finds itself on a shelf collecting dust.

Why do I hold on to things I don’t want, need, or use? Let’s take the Danish pancake pan. I bought it over twelve years ago, envisioning making stuffed round pancakes, the name of which I can’t pronounce. I did make one batch, stuffing them with pumpkin butter. They were so much work that, honestly, I don’t even remember how they tasted. Yet, I have held on to the pan because I spent money on it, and occasionally see Bobby Flay making a stuffed pancake on his brunch show and I feel inspired. But after my fleeting fancy, the pan remains in the back of my cabinet, unused and unwanted. Yes, I spent money on it and maybe it was a bit foolish. But the reality, is that I can’t return the pan, and it consumes mental energy and space that should be freed up. So, I am moving the pan to my rummage sale pile, and hopefully it will find a home with someone who wants to make ebelskivers!

The other pile of stuff that I hang onto is the rainy-day pile. A few years ago, Terry and I started to replace our fifteen-year-old bath towels. The new plush bath towels soon were the chosen ones, pushing aside the old, frayed towels. Eventually, I had enough new towels for everyday use, but I still didn’t throw out the old ones. I replay messages in my brain from well-meaning people: old towels are good for cleaning up grease spots and paint spills. First, my husband never changes his own oil or messes around with our car, therefore we have never had grease spills. And as far as paint goes, my husband is a careful painter, and we have never had huge globs of spilled paint. Thus, the old towels need to go, along with any broken appliances and old bedding that hasn’t been used in years.

As I work through my anxiety, I start to feel relieved. Less stuff means less to clean or clean around. It means less to move and store. It also frees me up from needless spending. If I live a more minimalist lifestyle, I am less likely to purchase a book on a whim, instead checking it out at my local library for free. I am less likely to buy another shirt on a clearance, without thinking about what I am willing to give up. And I can’t honestly think of a single small kitchen appliance I still need to get except a spice grinder. It frees my budget up for travel and experiences, which, in this stage of life, are more important to me.

Finally, de-cluttering reminds me that I can’t carry this stuff with me when I am gone. I want to keep the things that are useful, that bring me joy, and help me connect with other people. I think my home is already a comfortable space for family and friends, but I want to keep it uncluttered so that it remains a welcoming place.

Francine Jay sums up a thought in her book that I want to carry with me for all future decisions. She says, “Once we’re warm, safe, and fed, we shouldn’t feel compelled to browse a shopping mall or surf the Internet to find more things to buy. Instead, we could devote that time and energy to other more fulfilling pursuits-such as those of a spiritual, civic, philosophical, artistic, or cultural nature.” When I follow those pursuits, I create memories which cost nothing and don’t require dusting. And so I continue, going room by room, and choosing carefully what I really need!