there was a time in my life that i had no doubt.

only certainty that what i had made the center of my life was, indeed, the whole truth.

then, my foundation suddenly crumbled underneath me; after the seeds of doubt i'd been hiding in the bowels of denial put down roots and made quick work of destroying all i thought i knew.

a switch flipped one day, when i asked the question - at age 22 - newly married and just out of college: "what if it all isn't true??" i spent the next seven years desperately trying to get that switch to flip back, to turn the lights back on.

i wanted it back - the easy, certain faith of my youth.

it was a miserable seven years; full of dark confusion, desperate searching, depression, resignation, wishing for it all to end.

(i have never been more grateful than the moment i stepped out of that fog into the warm lovelight of a present God.) 

what i didn't know back then was that doubt is normal.

it is a vital piece of a vibrant, alive faith. because certainty is no faith at all.

“If we are unwilling to live askew for a while, set off balance, to wait on the ever-spacious threshold, we remain in the same old room for all our lives. If we will not balance knowing with a kind of open ended not knowing – nothing new seems to happen. Thus it is called “faith” and demands living with a certain degree of anxiety and holding a very real amount of tension.” -Richard Rohr, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective

i have found this to be oh-so-true.  once i have learned to sit with my doubts, allow them to inform my faith; accepted, rather than denied, them... brand-new doors have opened to me, doors to freedom - and even creativity - with God.

but here's what i want you to know about doubt:      ::it doesn't feel normal::

not when you've only ever known certainty, and have believed doubters to be "...like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." (James 1:6-8 NIV). my impression was that doubting was cause for shame, so i had just never gone there.

during those seven years, as i approached pastors and philosophers, apologists and religion professors, i was trying to pull myself out of what was surely a shameful situation of no longer being able to simply believe. it was incredibly painful, that upheaval of the faith i'd once known. it was excruciating to no longer know what was true, no longer know how to orient my life.

no one chooses doubt because it is the easy way out, because they're being lazy about their faith (somehow i had this impression). it is anything but easy.

i had a few people during these years tell me, with a wave of the hand: "oh yeah, of course - we all have doubts." i'd - at first - begin to breathe a little easier, until they followed that up with "that's normal; but i just keep coming back to the Bible, where it says God blah blah blah..." nobody stopped long enough to hear me that i was questioning everything. not just the specifics of where my beliefs would land, but the big things they took for granted, like God's existence or the veracity of the Bible. this doubt i was experiencing was not "normal", based on the responses i had to what i was experiencing all those years. no.one.got.it. i was alone.

the very few responses that helped me, that gave me hope, were the ones that spoke to their own personal experience of a big God. the friend who said "i will see the light for you until you can see it yourself." and refused to be anything but present. the ones who guided me deeper into my doubts to see what they were telling me - about myself, about God. these hearts held mine gently until that day that light pierced the fog.

my faith now is so much messier than it was before the lights went out. and so much more beautiful and free and real. 

now, there is daylight and there is moonless night.

they both move in my spirit, and i am with God.


this post was written as a linkup with the Doubters Anonymous group my friend Alissa runs (and i am part of) - if this is a topic that you'd like to read more perspectives on, go check it out:

AuthorJamie Bonilla
Categoriesdoubt, linkup
3 CommentsPost a comment




there was a time when i didn't know shame.

(i'm sure there must have been, there in that quietly happy childhood.)

and then there came that one day that i can remember feeling shame the very first time.

i was bullied into participating in something i didn't want, and afterwards, on the longest-ever drive across town, i remember seeing my reflection for the first time. and avoiding it. my face darkly reflected back to me in the minivan's backseat window.

it was the beginning of the hiding.

i didn't want to see my own self, and i certainly didn't want anyone else seeing that vulnerable not-quite-enough ten-year-old girl. the darkness spoke "dirty" to me, and i let it be branded on my soul. and spent the next couple of decades running the opposite direction, finding ways to be as pure as i could be.

but who was i before that moment? the one confident enough to play the lead part in the musicals, the one who yearly filled out "My Book About Me", with different answers about my aspirations every time, who wrote songs and drew and painted?

here's the thing. the self that i have discovered, my truest self, has been recovered from so much rubble, it's hard to see what went wrong and when. it's hard to see through the dust that never quite settles, back to before. before shame entered and the lies twisted. i remember the after all too well. but the before is only present to me in kindergarten memorabilia and photographs.

the self i have uncovered is so different from how i was [molded] throughout childhood. i mean, i'm an artist! my whole life i was the one saying "i'm not creative". the one who would break out in a cold sweat when the teacher assigned creative writing, because what do you mean i can't just regurgitate facts and get an A?

and i wish i could remember her, that little girl with soft blonde pigtails, and a softer heart; the one who must have felt something, sometime... right? most of my childhood (and adulthood) were entirely numb, for no apparent-to-me reason.

what must she have longed for, before she was told she couldn't have the things she wanted, and she stopped wanting anything, ever?

i can only speculate based on who i have discovered myself to be, now that all the shoulds have been stripped away, and i have been free to embrace my truest self.

and that self? she loves to play, and swing high in the air. she loves to touch and taste and smell and see. she loves to share beauty, to create beauty, to be truthful, to invite others into her world, to snuggle close, to hold and be held, gently. she is brave and strong and lovely and... childlike.

my word this year is RESTORE, and it has been so much about becoming who i was meant to be, which is turning out to be even deeper thanthe girl i once was, because she was not the whole truth about me - precious pieces had already been buried by the time of my earliest memories.

but she is there. i am sure of it. i've seen glimpses, and the more i excavate? the more beauty i find. 

AuthorJamie Bonilla
5 CommentsPost a comment

it is one thing to be invited in.and another entirely to be invited out.

there has been a long-standing invitation of grace to enter in where it's safe, be tenderly held, soft and cozy. to let winter storms rage as we hibernate together at rest in warm presence. it is where i have felt met. seen. known. loved. in that intimate quiet inside-space.

but there is a new invitation spoken in those deep spaces, and it has sounded like cocoon-veil tearing open -almost harsh, and cold as connection is made between self-in-becoming and the air outside.

i curl against this second windy call, try to work my still-wet body deeper into the shell that has cradled me all this time.

but the voice is insistent:

"you have wings, you know."

do i? i've never seen them. maybe i don't after all. (also. why did you open the door?! i want to stay here and snuggle a little longer until i'm sure i'm ready sure i can walk. sure i can fly.)

"you can't stay in your cocoon forever."

maybe not but i like it here... (though not as much as before you ripped a window-hole)

"that's so you can breathe. so you can expand into your truest self."

i find myself saying yes to the invitation outward, and it's as if i've agreed to have the blankets ripped off against the morning air to force me conscious. i am all kinds of dripping wet naked exposed and shivering.

but then i see the others all in our various stages of becoming; we are together: shivering stretching out sticky atrophic wings using our muscles riding the wind.

we are a glorious mess and it is beautiful.


and here is your invitation:

March 8 is International Women's Day, and the Story Sessions community is inviting us (you!) to link up a post that day, themed "the girls we once were".

join us?


AuthorJamie Bonilla

i run.

and i fall down the cliffs of fear,
chest encircled by twine-expectations.
i look back to see
what it is he is yelling at me,
what path he tells me to take,
and i stumble
down to rocks that break me again.

so i slow.

take deliberate steps
that i want to take.
stop and breathe the night air,
full of salt and seaweed.
look at the tender grass
around bare feet.
see its softness. appreciate my softness.

and step.

there is a red poppy blowing long in the wind,
awaiting its air-caress each moment.
it is thin and black-tinged,
with stamens standing tall and proud,
even as it bends under pressure.
even as i could snap it from its life source
at any moment.

i swear i will not.

i will hold its stem as tender as my own soul's.
i will seek nourishment as its roots do,
shallow at first, and deeper over time.
i turn my attention to the wide vista of endless blue.
water and sky collide
and draw my eye and my heart to their
expansiveness, to my own.

i quiet.

in this moment i am unafraid.

AuthorJamie Bonilla

Image it has been over a month since i have written. like, anything.

you may not believe me, since you have seen my words here, here, and here, as i've begun guest posting, begun letting my voice be heard in new spaces.

but ever since i decided to link this previously-anonymous blog with my real name, i have felt totally paralyzed. (i think it is a fear-based-people-pleasing issue - it usually is.) i have stopped writing because WHAT IF I ACTUALLY START TO HAVE AN AUDIENCE??? something in me had previously felt safe to write whatever i wanted and post it because i knew less than a handful of people (whom i knew and trusted) would ever read it. i liked living small.

but here's the thing.

epiphany has been a new season for me. 

six weeks ago, i was given a gift as i was invited to offer a gift.

we were in the last call for the advent, christmas, and epiphany ecourse i took with tara owens, and she was reading something that described the gifts of the magi, and how we can offer similar pieces of our lives. offering jesus our gold would be offering him our gifts, the frankincense was our prayers, and the myrrh... i'm sure you have heard that myrrh was used for anointing bodies for burial. so as we walked through this part of the conversation, she invited us to offer our "dead things", to bury them deep in the ground where they belonged.

i imagined myself going into my barren backyard with its layers of wood chips and compost and burying heavy chains, right there in the dirt..

and suddenly something spoke deep inside me:





powerlessness in general


bury them in their grave and be done with them."

and so i have. something clicked in that moment that made pushing through resistance suddenly make sense, when before, it had always felt like disconnected striving. my false humility was exposed for what it was, and shame lost [some of] its power.

so instead of hanging back in silence, i have spoken up. offered my voice, my hands, my self. that is why i have guest posted, and that is why i am teaching three workshops in the next three months.

and that is why i chose, when i gave my words to new spaces in guest posting, to use my real name. because i am not helpless, and there is no need for fear and hiding.

but as soon as i made that choice, i stopped writing.

{until today.}

the shame still comes up, cyclical, but less, and leaves more quickly - because i see it for the lie it is.

you guys, i have so much to offer.

and offer i will.

i. have. a. voice.


here are the three workshops i mentioned, in case you'd like to join me:

::Be. life and the REST of it:: - a journey through lent with brandy walker - i will be teaching one week's workshop, about found poetry and encountering God. (March 3-April 20)

::Made:: - an ecourse for christian creatives. i will be offering some of my journey with scripture and art-poetry (though i am creating and submitting my workshop for this course within the next 3 months, it doesn't begin until september 1, and my workshop itself will actually be in december, advent time).

::40 Days of Art Journaling:: i will be joining Elora in leading some members of the Story Sessions community through some introduction to and interaction with art journaling, March 17-April 25.

AuthorJamie Bonilla
3 CommentsPost a comment

I’m not the same person I was ten-and-a-half years ago, when we married, barefoot on the beach accompanied by hymnsong. I had all the right answers then, in that vague half-light, and none of my own heart. I lived as I thought I should, as I was expected to, as I had been taught.

We were on a mission, and had no idea how lost I was about to feel.

I’m not the same person I was four years ago, when I birthed our first child. Then, I was six years deep in the dark.

Not the windswept wilderness darkness full of the starlight only witnessed when the moon is new. It was the cramped darkness of trying to fit my soul into poorly lit rooms, the familiar spaces now outgrown.

Hell, I’m not the same person I was yesterday.

And yet. I am the same person... [join me for the rest of my guest post over at Sarah Murray's place: A Lovely Frame]

AuthorJamie Bonilla

"A new beginning! We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life. Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promises. Imagine that we could walk through the new year always listening to a voice saying to us: 'i have a gift for you and can't wait for you to see it! Imagine!'" - henri nouwen that is exactly how my word has been so far this year. gift, and the opening of my eyes to gift.

every morning, hot cup in hand, its first warm sip making its way down my throat, i draw a word from the bowl. it is a bowl full of one-word(ish) prompts from The Art Journaler community. i take this moment as opportunity to receive spirit-whispers of intention for my day. it is always rich. but this month? this beginning of my year of RESTORE? it has had an added depth.

because each time i draw my word, consider it, glue it down, i pair it with my one word. and it becomes a prayer. 

i draw a charm bearing the words "i am tenacious", and my prayer is "restore + tenacity. make me who i am. open my eyes to who i am."

it says "loved" and my heart cries "restore + loved. remind me i am deeply loved - restore the sense of freedom from fear i have in those moments of knowing i am loved perfectly (and imperfectly)."

the day i drew the one that i had written myself: "my colorful, brave, messy, authentic, TRUE SELF", i knew it was time to paint an image that has made its home in my soul these last few weeks.

>>>                                                                                                           <<<

at the end of december, in a group spiritual direction call (led by the lovely tara owens), i confessed that i was terrified to look back at the year, in the practice of "examen". i was so scared to even consider 2013 as a whole, because it was a year that i made many unfamiliar choices, and they often came with a sense of shame, especially when met with misunderstanding or outright condemnation. there were a number of things reflected to me in those minutes that felt very deeply comforting and true. but the one i want to describe here is this:

she said she saw an image of me as a little girl sitting in a puddle of paint. i was messy and colorful and covered with life. and God was loving it. she said some people are "tidy people", but me? god made me to be messy, and he delights in it. he even stands protective, fierce against anyone who would try to get me to "clean up".

oh, how this spoke deep.

i had been hoping, on this 28th of december, for another confirmation of what my word for this year would be, and as she was describing this scene, i thought, "that was never me. i never got to be that messy, delighted little artist-girl" and immediately "whoa. God wants to restore me to more than just 'who i once was.' he wants to go even deeper, more essential, to the one i was meant to be, in all the fulness of my design." 

so. here is to restoration.

and play.

and childlike wonder.

and unselfconscious expression.

and mess.


because, hey - that's me. and i like it.

AuthorJamie Bonilla

photo-64 i have high hopes for you, you know.


i haven't borne the feathered

weight of hope in a long time.

despair was heavier,

but easier somehow;


and resignation the easiest of all.

disengaged from a life

whose possibility seemed to have run out

some time ago.


i have big dreams,

and - yes - i've dreamed them before.

but they've stuck around,

and i want you to know:


i expect a lot from you, new year.


some live absent to the moment by giving their hearts

to a future of possibilities, staying there.

dreamers, they may be;

but they can't see the beauty of right now.


i, too, have been unable to see the beauty of now

but it's not because of dreaming

or living into a future hope

it's because i give up. every day.


i've lost heart.


but in these beginning days,

this newness that hasn't yet worn off,

i find myself awake, and longing

and hopeful.


my word is restore.

and it is both promise

and prayer.


i will be restored

to ways i was meant to be, to live

in this world.

maybe that means i get messier

(because God likes that about me).

maybe it means there is deep

healing of old wounds

older than you might imagine.


because he is not just restoring me

to "the girl i once was"


to "the girl i never was [allowed]

but was always meant to be"


this is deep shit.


i'm not expecting free sailing

to the restoration Promised Land.

i suspect it will get worse before

it gets better.


but i'm all in, 2014.

and you better be, too.

AuthorJamie Bonilla


this is the story of how my word found me:

october, and i'm beginning to consider what it is my next steps might be. what word i'd want to lean into, especially as my "official" word for the new year. immediately, i say "space", and try it on for size. but i feel this internal shift in a direction i don't want to go whenever i try to embrace it.

don't get me wrong.

i still want space. still need space, long to give space, hold space, discover what lies in the spaces between.  (plus my 4-year-old is obsessed with space. it comes up OFTEN)

but when i hold that word close, weigh it against my longings, i find that the way i would be prone to engage it is to isolate. which is already my natural bent. and not something i want to intentionally go about doing.

i let go of this word, keep looking.

november now, i stop to listen, take stock of what has been speaking in my soul. i flip through The Artist's Rule by Christine Paintner, a book that spoke to my deepest soul-spaces all august and september. and i remember: "open." i heard the invitation over and over again. to open to love, to hope, to God. that's it, i think, and wait for january.

december begins with a buzz of writer-friends asking each other: "what is your word?" i hold mine close, still waiting and wondering. in one particular facebook thread as my friends are talking about their "words" (or lack thereof - this process is laced with angst for some), someone says: "i think someone in this thread has the word 'rest'." and i cry. deep tears of knowing God has been calling me to rest, and to play, and here she is speaking it. i comment that this is making me cry, and she messages me. "i think your word is 'restored'." and describes how rest is part of that.

my response? "i don't want that word - it sounds like 'a word people pick', but it doesn't resonate with me." restore? really, God? so cliché. (and it's the name of habitat for humanity's retail shop: "RE-store". ew - i don't want a word that makes me think of a secondhand home goods store... except, i really like that store, but that's beside the point.)

but because i believe she hears things, i wait and hold both words with open hands, one in each palm.

i take a walk to mull it over, and i find myself simultaneously in love with and resistant to this word, "restore".

because, here's the thing: it is all-gift.

when i consider my healing, my desires, things i would long for restoration in my deep spaces, it's not something i DO, but something i RECEIVE.

and this makes me feel immensely loved by God. it rises up giddy in my throat.


i kinda wanted a word i could "do".

i'm not in control of how this word affects my year. my only part in it is to stay... you guessed it - {open}. 

to allow for rest and healing, to turn my heart in the direction of my longings so i can engage with God in the process of seeing restoration happen. it's beautiful, really. i hold myself open to him, vulnerable to his tender touch. he restores. 

a friend describes to me some pieces of the process of restoring a painting: the incredible attention the restorer pays to the painting, his lovingly precise and gentle brush. my spiritual director explains even more: the way the restorer has to first take layers of old, unhelpful varnish off - deconstructing what was once protecting and now only diminishing the beauty of what is underneath.

i resonate DEEP with that. that has been my season these past months, a year of autumn shedding.

letting go of old stories and ways of being.

letting go of unhealthy relationships and systems.

next will be the restoring of the piece to its intended glory - the way it was designed to reflect light and depth and color in the heart of the artist.

and that, my friends, sounds amazing. i can't wait.

AuthorJamie Bonilla

they used to call me "the christmas nazi" in my family. just as they were getting in tune with wanting to live pared down, simpler for the holidays, i was returning from my first year away at college and wanted it to all feel magical.

i needed family to feel safe and christmas to feel like magic. but it didn't. it never did.

i was the one leading the charge through the cut-your-own-tree lot the day after thanksgiving (like we ALWAYS did... duh). i was the one turning on "decorate your tree with love", the same kids' musical song we had sung every time we put up our tree for a decade. they threatened no tree or a fake one that would last year after year, and i would have none of it. i absolutely had to have white lights and allthetraditions. my mom used to wrap up the baby jesus from the nativity scene, and we always had to open that one gift on the hearth before any others, even before our stockings. we had to have apple coffeecake and christmas egg casserole.

if we ignored any one piece of this, i was afraid... afraid the magic wouldn't come, wouldn't sparkle in my soul. that the shimmer life had seemed to lose in the ordinary moments over the past couple of years would never return.

and it's true. it wouldn't.

all the holidays lost their *magic* for me somewhere along the way. chalk it up to growing up. cold shoulders instead of kisses under fourth of july fireworks. family family family, complete with all their expectations on our time and giving it. driving 6 hours in the darkness that separates christmas from its eve.

and now with kids, the internal pressure to make this christmas, this birthday, this whatever-holiday JUST PERFECT. i told him today "i just don't want him to be disappointed." it is my basest and most widespread motivation for everything in life: not disappointing. not being a disappointment.

not letting holidays be a disappointment.

as life went on, there were all these years where it literally felt like a conjuring, trying to make those magic moments happen, trying to find that perfect gift, and always sing O Holy Night on the eve of the day.

and in those times, there was the added hope that maybe God would show up this time.

i had found myself lost, in a daze, and couldn't make my way out of a fog that just kept enveloping, snuffing out one more and one more candle that had lit the path of my foundation. maybe THIS year, i thought each year as christmas approached, he will come. jesus will come in the mangers, and he will take this opportunity to really COME for me.

i waited(ish)... and filled my days with christmas radio from black friday to december 25th (and not after).

[i also had the same thought at easter time: maybe THIS year, he will resurrect within my own heart, i will know his New Life for reals.]

there was something that seemed special about this time, something that carried its own magic that had nothing to do with the person it celebrated. it was fun and exciting... until it always ended... disappointing.

last year, i took a different journey, one that moved deep into my heart-spaces, abiding with prompts and my art journal, and holding that space sacred for his presence, without demanding sparkle and tinsel and lights. it was beautiful, and began a journey into his heart i'd have never taken if i'd let christmas be what it always was.

if i am really honest, there is a part of me that would rather just "fall into" the holiday season, be wrapped up in strands of christmas lights and comfort food and peppy-nostalgic music, and introduce my boys to everything i have ever loved about this time.

and yet, it just never hits my core. and i need core. i need the deep places opened in the darkness. i need flickering light and ancient paths. i need him.

this year, from advent through epiphany, i am taking a journey with a brave and beautiful woman leading a group of brave and beautiful people who are thirsty for something more than sparkle. (and i couldn't be more excited)

AuthorJamie Bonilla
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don't you hate when your computer freezes, forcing you to shut it down, just as you were finishing a blog post? and then it's somehow not even registered in your drafts, so you've lost all your words and all the formatting you just spent all that time on? and the post was all about using your voice, your words, even if you don't know anyone is listening? yeah, me neither. never happened to me.

let's see if i can bring back the highlights:


i have a voice.

it is quiet.

especially when i'm not sure people are listening. 

especially when i notice someone is listening.

it makes me want to stop and suck all my words back into my mouth, make sure they were worth saying. because if someone's listening? it means i am speaking, and maybe i have something worth saying, but maybe i don't.

i backpedal as soon as i see the eye contact, the nod, the comment. it makes me nervous when people listen. it makes me feel like something is wrong.

i only raise my hand to speak up when i know the answer. the right one.

and if my answer ends up being wrong? the heat of shame spreads fire across my face, and my words fall like ash.

but i have this sense that it is time. to open myself, open my mouth, no matter what happens.

she says, "you are an incredible writer. you just need to see it for yourself." she is right about this: i have to believe it for myself before i will start moving forward as if my voice matters. (but i'm not there yet most days)

they say, "you should sell your art! it is amazing!" (but i know all that goes into that and the energy and time commitment to dreams that may not pay off.) i've been there, done that.

but i am no longer "the stuck one",  you know.

and i really do long to move my words and art beyond the confines of this studio, to let them be held and touched on all possible sides, let them move out of me and fly free to unknown destinations, where they will have the chance to be cherished, rejected, loved, burned, seen. where they can move with another spirit in grace and freedom and truth.


i am moving toward this. toward myself. toward God. toward exercising the muscles i have been given. toward putting myself out there, going naked.


and also.


i'm doing NaNoWriMo.


the end.

goodbye october, hello november!

(here's to putting voice to the story-currents in me! *cheers!*)


AuthorJamie Bonilla
2 CommentsPost a comment

i told someone last week that i often feel like "the stuck one". i often feel powerless. powerless to be heard, understood, powerless even to let my voice free of its chorded box. powerless to change, powerless to move toward God and love and healing and beauty.

like my story is on repeat.

my life seems to add up to all these moments of feeling helpless and settling into daily resignation.

but she tells me: you are not powerless. maybe you were once powerless, when you were a child. but now? you are only as stuck as you believe yourself to be. there are all these options available to you, all this energy.

i have a hard time believing that, looking at my dailies and the housework that never gets done and the stove that never cooks my meals, and the budget that is a thousand dollars in the red every month, and the shame that i always seem to let win, and the way i don't raise my voice to the occasions where it is required. and a defiant 3-year-old who gets his way much too often, and a baby who never sleeps. and all the emotion-spirit-body battles i can't seem to find the strength to fight, much less win.

and it is easy for me to fall into the trap of believing i truly am stuck, and it's not up to me, because i am incapable of changing any of it. because, look at how successful i've (never) been.

so i wait for that moment when the externals feel less sticky, and it never comes.

but that's okay.

because today? today, i believe her.

today, i am changing my mind.

today i am unnaming something that has long laid its roots deep in me.

i am NOT the stuck one.

i am powerful and brave and held and strong and free.


(...remind me?)

AuthorJamie Bonilla
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i am waiting, anxious for the patient to arrive. the paramedics called ahead about the 3-year-old girl they are bringing. they wheel her in, surrounded. there are EMTs on the bed with her so they can continue CPR between the ambulance and the emergency room.

compressions. breaths.

starting IVs, giving drugs, fluid boluses, electrolytes.

compressions. breaths.
compressions. breaths.

we continue what they have started as we hook her up to monitors and keep administering fluids, drugs.

compressions. breaths.

with any other patient, my morbid coworkers would have referred to her as "already dead".

but how do you give up on a 3-year-old girl?

compressions. breaths.

drugs. keep checking for any signs of life.

she is cold and we warm her. you can't "call it" until her body is still not responding, even at normal temperature.

i step in for my turn of compressions as someone continues with the mask giving her breaths to my right. i will myself to numbness as i press deep into her chest, little hope left.

compressions. breaths.

the doctor is running through all the possibilities, resisting letting go of this little one. the nurses, too, are fighting for her, refusing to give up even as the doctor is saying "time of death:..."

and yet. she was already dead.

nothing we could have done would have made any difference. but we had to try.

and then? walk away.


there came a moment for me three years ago that literally felt like a resuscitation.

i was alive for what felt like the first time.

and, so, naturally, i wanted to invite everyone into this newfound freedom. i would tell my story and ask about theirs.

but they seemed numb. they couldn't see the beauty i saw of going deeper and freer. they were content.

i kept trying to be the person breathing air into dead structures, trying to circulate Life and healing in the deepest venous caverns.

but they didn't seem to want what i was offering. they wanted to stick with their safe system that felt so soul-killing to me.

and as i offered the life i had been given, and received only offers that felt like death in return, i knew.

i had to walk away.

(for now)

(because how do you give up on them? they are still so beautiful. so worth loving.)

AuthorJamie Bonilla
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Imagemy back is against the wall as i sit on the floor in a dark house. when it is dark, i always keep my back against something.

i sit here as a dare, to see how long i can stand it before my juvenile-feeling fear of the dark kicks in and i jump up to illuminate the corners, so rats will have to scurry away, shadows disappear.

but i am finding myself strangely at peace in the darkness. it is the first time i ever remember it feeling comfortable and actually even soothing to just sit here in the calm of the night.

it is as though my vision disabled is allowing my spirit to expand farther, be aware of more. allowing me space to breathe.

i notice my breath. the shallow, the warm in and out, inhale, exhale, cycle.

i notice the sound of bubbling fountain water in the backyard next door.

but mostly i notice my internal workings.

surprised by my response to sitting alone in darkness, i am intrigued; suddenly more brave to move into the places in my own soul that have been so long darkened. those cavernous rooms that have had bits of rubble cleared away from the last cave-in before fear initiates another rumble and the way in is blocked again.

i don't want to be afraid of the dark, like i have been my entire life.

i want to leave the light pollution of the suburban sky and plunge into actual dark, where the only light is real light. starlight. moonlight. where the night is truly that perfect inky black.

i want to explore the dark side of the moon, the hidden places. the unseen.

i want to dive down beneath the first few feet of water, still warmed by the memory of the sun, to the cold sunken-treasure-filled deeps.

to move around in the cave, only by touch, and see what there is to discover, what there is that can be held close and secret.

{and yes, even brought out into the light of day.}

AuthorJamie Bonilla

i'm shaky as i write this.

i don't know if it's the glass of wine, or tired muscles from dreading my first nine locks, or if it's the unsteady steps i am taking toward freedom. 

i am free. i know this.

but there is a cost to living out this freedom, to choosing it - over, say, people-pleasing. 

and i have been unable to make that leap. 

but tonight, i think it finally clicked. maybe. 

tonight i danced barefoot on my front lawn under a full moon. it occurred to me more than once "what the neighbors would think/say", and i did it anyway. this is a new thing for me.

then i came inside, and with this song playing loud in my soul, i began the slow work of dreading my own hair.

i have been waiting, and i think part of me was waiting for permission from someone, in the form of agreeing to help create these dreadlocks i have been wanting for months. i hoped some kind of community would be available to me, their grace and acceptance and time and muscles. 

but tonight, as i was consciously choosing to step into my purpose, into freedom, it became clear that it was time. 

i am home alone this weekend, my boys at their grandparents, so i can engage with the Secret Rebel Club's virtual retreat. my husband doesn't even know, and here i am knotting my hair up beyond recognition.

and i love it.

i feel beautiful.

i feel like me.

i feel free.




AuthorJamie Bonilla
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when we were on fire, we let tears fall on night grass as we "rededicated ourselves to the Lord." we vowed anew to let every waking breath be spent on saving souls from hell. we were twelve.

when we were on fire, we walked to the library together and sat a seat apart so that when someone occupied the in-between one, we could conspicuously begin to discuss John 3:16 and "did you KNOW that God so LOVED the WORLD??" 

when we were on fire, we claimed our neighborhood for jesus, and walked around it 13 times (just like joshua), singing "Our God is an awesome God" and praying the walls would fall like jericho's.

when we were on fire, we decided that being a missionary was the only calling worthy of someone who was on fire.

when we were on fire, we memorized every Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Jaci Velasquez, Rebecca St. James, DC Talk, Newsboys, and Third Day song. we worked their merchandise tables and hung out with them at amusement parks. we played their songs at pool parties, and judged anyone who would dare listen to that "secular music" (except country. country was okay, for some reason... except we felt secretly guilty for loving it).


we could say all the books of the bible in one breath. 

we rejoiced when someone prayed the Sinner's Prayer at "Action House", and wept when she said "i didn't mean it" the following week. we worried about her when we went to her grandfather's funeral, and realized she came from a catholic background.

we had mountaintop experiences we tried to stretch out to all our days.

we learned about being a teenager from Brio magazine.

we signed up to be prayer partners with Dawson McAllister.


"we" became "i" as we went to separate christian colleges, and i was sorely disappointed at the lukewarmness of all around me. didn't they care? 

i was also disappointed on "mission trips" that didn't seem to have the same... fire? i'd come to expect. they would even *gasp* take one day out on the trip for touristy stuff (how can we be wasting our time here like that??). my mission trips before had always been hard. cold showers. squatty potties. scared to death reciting our memorized testimonies. serving from dawn till dusk, until every muscle ached, and it didn't matter that our tent had blown away or been flooded while we were gone. we managed. so swimming in the caribbean? touring shanghai? it felt wrong, useless. i was about more important things than that. i was on fire for God.

i kissed dating goodbye.

i didn't kiss anyone until my wedding day.


somehow, for me, being "on fire" went hand-in-hand with getting it all right. obeying all the rules, being godly, and finding the emotion to go with it in Singspiration worship nights and campfires. 

so as i have distanced myself from legalistic church structures, i find myself tempted to look at that girl that i was with disdain. how could you have fallen for all those shouldsy burdens being passed off as life? 

but i am learning, slowly, to have compassion. for myself. for my younger self. for the ones who are still on fire. to listen and welcome and embrace even those parts of me and the church that remind me of all the pharisaism of before. to witness it, and love God for what he has done, how far he has brought me into grace and the light of freedom.

when we were on fire synchroblog

AuthorJamie Bonilla
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