Compassion, Loving Kindness

Self-Care Houston

selfcarehoustonPodbeanToday I am very grateful that a fun idea has become a reality. I started a podcast where I host conversations with healing professionals (therapists, physicians, wholistic practitioners, psychiatrists, spiritual figures) throughout the Houston area about health and wellness topics. 

In the first episode, I have the honor of joining Shannon McLain in a conversation about the practice of Self-Compassion. Shannon is a  mind-body medicine practitioner and certified health and wellness coach at The Center for Intentional Healing.

I am thrilled to invite you along for the ride!

Subscribe on iTunes.

Compassion, Gratitude, Loving Kindness, peace

Practicing Peace Daily

PeaceI am thinking about practicing virtues. I think about it often. My church family chooses a virtue every year to practice together. Last year it was joy. This year it’s peace. I am grateful to be a part of a community asking what it means to be people of peace in times that feel disorienting. A passage from Colossians 3 is framing our year-long adventure:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12-17)

The text guides me in peace; I am thankful. The wisdom of people in my community broadens me; I am grateful. How do I become a person of peace? Clothe myself daily with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, and gratitude toward myself and others. Okay. Got it. Practice compassion, kindness, forgiveness, gratitude… sounds simple, right?


I keep getting snagged on challenges. I have been forced to spend some time around people. Frustrating people. Difficult people. I find it hard to access compassion, kindness, or gentleness. Instead, I feel anger, frustration, and sadness. Not peace.

Why is peace so hard? What about compassion and kindness?

Recently, I found comfort from Pema Chodron’s description of her own experience of cultivating love, kindness, compassion, and joy:

“Cultivating these four qualities, love, kindness, compassion, and joy, gives us insight into our current experience. It gives us understanding of the state of our mind and heart right now. We get to know the experience of love and compassion, of joy and kindness, and also of their opposites. We learn how it feels when one of the four qualities is stuck and how it feels when it is flowing freely. We never pretend that we feel anything we don’t. The practice depends on embracing our whole experience. By becoming intimate with how we close down and how we open up, we awaken our unlimited potential.

“It might feel like stretching into make-believe to say, ‘May this person who is driving me crazy enjoy happiness and be free of suffering.’ Probably what we genuinely feel is anger. This practice is like a workout that stretches the heart beyond its current capabilities. We can expect to encounter resistance. We discover that we have our limits: we can stay open to some people, but we remain closed to others. We see both our clarity and our confusion. We are learning firsthand what everyone who has ever set out on this path has learned: we are all a paradoxical bundle of rich potential that consists of both neurosis and wisdom.”

As I practice, I end up coming across my limitations, places where I need to grow and stretch my heart. Like physical exercise, these virtues take effort. When I am in familiar territory, around people I love and enjoy, I can access compassion, peace, and kindness. It comes naturally. However, when I decide to practice all day, every day, I encounter no shortage of opportunities to… well… practice. Even in times of frustration, those frustrations are opportunities for growth.

I am learning that a person of peace has to keep practicing. I need to practice with my spouse, with my children, with my church family, my coworkers, and my friends. It matters.

So, once again, it is time to go out into the world as a practitioner of peace still learning what it is to practice peace:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved… let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

Chocolate, Compassion, Dessert, Gratitude

I Am Magdalene

Today I am thankful for:

He Is Risen

Photograph by Cathleen Tarawhiti

1. A moment. She and I together. She has seen too much of life. Five children with several fathers. Time and time again, searching for love and coming up short… She looks at me, smiles, and says, “I am Magdalene.” She knows Jesus. Jesus sees her and loves her for all time. I feel as if I am in the midst of sacred beauty. Joy.

2. Happy Unbirthday. We surprised them again! Our kids came home from school, unsuspecting, to a house filled with decorations and a present for each of us. The Beatles’ Today is Your Birthday blaring on the stereo. “How did you do it again?” our daughter laughs with the biggest smile. Celebrate!

Happy Unbirthday

3. Dark Chocolate Pie! Our unbirthday celebration was made complete with dark, rich, chocolately goodness. Chocolate makes everything better!


Dark Chocolate Pie

  • 1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan. Stir in milk gradually. Add chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate. Place over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. Take off burner.
2. Give the eggs a brief whisk in a separate bowl. Take about a quarter of the chocolate mixture and, working with just a few teaspoons at a time, pour it into the eggs as you whisk continuously. Adding the chocolate mixture this slowly prevents the eggs from being cooked instantly from exposure to heat.
3. Whisk egg yolk mixture back into mixture in saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla extract.
4. Pour mixture into baked pie shell. Press a layer of plastic wrap onto filling. Refrigerate at least 4 hours but no longer than 48 hours. Remove plastic wrap before serving and top with whipped topping.

Compassion, Gratitude

Youth Group, Friends, and Storm Clouds

Today I am thankful for:

1. Time with our youth group. We gathered together to prepare some of the food for our church Christmas dinner next Sunday. Essence of onion wafted through the air as we pureed. Many onion induced tears were shed along with laughter. Kids, moms, and dads measured, mashed, stirred, chopped, boiled, fried, and hustled all over the kitchen area. Everything is better together.  cartoon cooking

2. Friends. One of my very favorite artists is Kelly Rae Roberts. I am deeply grateful to a friend who gave me the Kelly Rae Robert’s calendar today. I may have gone a little over the top as I said, “this is my favorite, no wait, this is my favorite,” about each and every painting included in the calendar. It is even autographed by Kelly Rae. I acted a little silly, but feel deeply honored that she thought of me. Blessed.

Kelly Rae Roberts
Kelly Rae Roberts

3. Gratitude. I am deeply grateful for this practice. I had a moment earlier today where I said something that may have upset someone else (open mouth… insert foot). For a time afterwards, I found myself fretting over the possible implications. Then, it dawned on me, this is one instance in several years of lovely interactions. Everyone makes mistakes and has an off moment. Right? (I hope there is a resounding “yes” right now!!!) What was really fascinating was how difficult it was to see all of the beautiful positives because of one potential negative that swooped over like a dark storm cloud. I stepped back (in my mind) and started to go over the day again, remembering the onions and laughter, breakfast with my husband, going to the donut shop, music lessons with my kids, and a pile of laundry that is all put away. Gratitude practice teaches me to be more compassionate with myself. The dark clouds begin to lift.


What are you thankful for?

Chocolate, Compassion, Dessert, Gratitude

Daring Greatly, Chocolate Chip Cookies and Dr. Who

Today I am thankful for

1. Dr. Brené Brown. A friend introduced me to her work two-and-a-half years ago just as my family was transitioning to Houston. Her work gave me permission to reach out and share my struggles with close friends (connection), be kind to myself on difficult days (c0mpassion), and have the courage to believe that I am enough just as I am. Productivity, success, and meeting up to other’s expectations do not define my value … even if I struggle sometimes feeling like they do. I am worthy of love and belonging simply because I am a fellow human being. She changed my life, and I am grateful. Over the next few weeks she is offering a free podcast (read-a-long) on her website to discuss vulnerability, courage, parenting, leadership, life, wholehearted living, our shame, and fears when we take risks, etc. Jeff got me her new book, Daring Greatlyfor my unbirthday, and I am thankful every time I pick it up. (An embarrassing moment was when I met Brené a couple of years ago and launched into a big hug before I could help myself. She was lovely and gracious.)

Daring Greatly

2. Chocolate Chip Cookies. I promise (cross my heart) that these are the best chocolate chip cookies ever. Anyone want to challenge me? 

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Jennifer Christian
350 degrees

3 1/4 c Flour
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Baking powder
3/4 tsp. Salt
1 C. White sugar
1 C. Brown Sugar
1 C. Vegetable Oil
3 Eggs
1 ½ Tbs. Boiling water
2 tsp. Vanilla
2 C. Chocolate Chips (Ghiradeli’s bittersweet at Sam’s are big and wonderful!)

 1. Mix dry ingredients together in small bowl.

2. Mix sugars, oil, eggs, water, and vanilla in large bowl.

3. Add ½ flour mixture to wet ingredients until well blended, then add other ½.

4. Add chocolate chips.

5. Drop on ungreased cookie sheets.

6. 350 degrees for 9 min.

7. Savor!

3. Thankful for Friday nights. We often take Friday evenings to have a family night. Tonight we have big plans with Dr. Who and some Chocolate Chip Cookies. Love it!

What are you thankful for?

Gratitude, Sabbath

Gratitude Project

I am normally a thankful person. I am even reading a book right now about how gratitude can change your life. (Voscamp, 2011). But last week I was irritable. I did not feel thankful, and somehow my mind seemed to gravitate toward my shortcomings. The more I focused on trying to fix the icky feeling, the more I slumped down into irritability. This went on for several days (ironically while reading a book on gratitude) until I started consciously practicing being thankful. The practice part is HUGE. I got so caught up in reading about how to be grateful that I was missing out on practicing. I know this sounds a little contrived, but when I get into a hole I can spend so much energy flailing to get out that I miss the ladder right in front of me. It dawned on me that I need to incorporate an intentional practice (project) into my life that does not depend on mood or daily circumstances. A daily/weekly/annual practice. So here goes:

1. Gratitude: Each day for the next year I intend to write down three things I am thankful for. If you would like to join me as an accountability partner, I would love to hear your three things so we can celebrate together. We can form a small community and walk this gratitude project together. The comments section has plenty of room!

2. Encouragement:  Each day for the next year I intend to write a note of encouragement to someone else. This can be either in the form of a handwritten letter or a facebook message. This is an important piece because it helps me to focus outward, look for strengths in others, and move away from occasional self-pity parties.

3. Sabbath: I intend to set aside each Tuesday to practice Sabbath. This is an important because I find it challenging to stop. Sundays are always busy. I tend to gravitate toward housework on Saturdays. My personal intention is to stay off the computer and take a day away from professional reading. This will make space to savor God’s good gifts. I intend to share recipes and other enjoyable things I learn from Sabbath practice.

4. Community: When I have a difficult day, feel down or struggle, I will call a close friend. Also, I want to be sure to pick up the phone when I am having a super duper day! I believe that God created community so that we do not have to walk this journey alone. A gratitude practice does not have anything to do with having to be happy all the time. On the days that are challenging it is important to reach out and connect with compassionate, loving friends and/or family. Dr. Brené Brown talks about the three Cs (courage, compassion, and connection) as being core components of resilience. When we have the courage to share our struggles with others and are met with compassion, we experience healing and connection. (Brown, 2007)

I intend to write about my journey over the next year and would love for you to join me on any part of this project.

So here goes:

Today I am thankful for:

1. The 70 degree breeze on my three mile hike around Memorial Park this morning.

2. Cottage cheese. It is like cheap brie (in my mind) after I go for a walk.

3. My husband’s gentle presence. We have been best friends for a lot of years, and it amazes me how being around him makes things better.

Brown, Brené, (2007). I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough.

Voskamp, Ann (2011). One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.