Grief (Part 2) – Dr. Ted Wueste

Shop Talk with Brandi and James Episode 7. Listen in to part 2 of an interview with Spiritual Director Dr. Ted Wueste

One way to process your own grief is through writing of a lament. Here is one way to engage in that process.

Writing your own lament

By James Covey (adapted from Healing Teen’s Wounds of Trauma)

One positive way to deal with the hard things that go on in our lives is to create a “lament.” A lament is a way of expressing our pain to God when we feel bad. It might be done in words, in music, in dance or any other form of creative expression.

A lament helps us expose all the stuff that we have tried to hide and share it with God. This is a good way to start telling your story and releasing painful memories. As it becomes more comfortable for you to share it privately with God, creating a lament can lead to sharing your story with another person when you are ready.

There are many examples of laments in the Bible. Trauma after trauma happened to the nation of Israel as a community (wars, captivity, displacement, famines) as well as to individuals (abuse, rape, abandonment, murder). Many of them found comfort in bringing their pain to God. They had an honest way of speaking to God where they poured out their complaints to him, sometimes even as they declared their trust in him. There are over 40 laments in the book of psalms (making it the most common type of psalm). Laments have the elements below in them but they must have a complaint to be a lament. It is helpful to also have a review of God’s faithfulness and a vow of trust in God.

Parts of a Lament

  • Address to God.
  • Review of God’s faithfulness in the past.
  • Complaint. (must have this)
  • Confession of sin / Claim of innocence.
  • Request for help
  • God’s response.
  • Vow to praise / statement of trust in God.Examples Psalms 142, Habakkuk 3:17-18, Psalms 130, Psalms 13Here is Psalm 13 and the parts of a lament in it. This might help you in creating your own.1. How much longer will you forget me, Lord? Forever? How much longer will you hide yourself from me? 2. How long must I endure trouble? How long will sorrow fill my heart day and night? How long will my enemies triumph over me? 3. Look at me, O Lord my God, and answer me. Restore my strength; don’t let me die. 4. Don’t let my enemies say, “We have defeated him.” Don’t let them gloat over my downfall. 5. I rely on your constant love; I will be glad, because you will rescue me. 6. I will sing to you, O Lord, because you have been good to me.Vs 1-2 Address to God and Complaint Vs 3-4 Request
    Vs 5a Statement of Trust
    Vs 5b-6- Vow to Praise

Grief (Part 1) – Dr. Ted Wueste

Shop Talk with Brandi and James Episode number 6 (Subscribe on wherever you listen to podcasts)


followers of Christ to learn to listen to God in the context of contemplative, abiding prayer where God is enjoyed and desire for Him stirred. As I’ve learned and grown deeper in my own intimacy with the Trinity, a passion has developed to help others experience the joy of discerning God’s work and presence in their lives. Believing that God is always at work, I love the ministry of spiritual direction as a means to become aware of and responsive to Him. I desire to create a safe place for people to listen, explore, and respond to the Father.

Find out more about Dr. Ted Wueste at


Join Brandi and James as they discuss how to listen well.
It’s not about the nail (or is it???)

Active Listening Skills

  • S – S stands for sitting squarely. So you sit and face the person that you are talking to. We should sit attentively at an angle to the person, so that we can look at them directly and show that we are listening to them and paying attention to them.
  • O – O stands for having an open posture. Do not cross your arms as this can make us appear anxious or defensive.
  • L – Lean forwards to show we are interested in what the person is talking about. It also means that the person can lower their voice if they wish to, if they are talking about personal issues, for example. 
  • E – E stands for eye contact. Maintaining eye contact again shows that we are interested and listening to what the person has to say.  It doesn’t mean stare at the person as this can make them feel uncomfortable, but maintain good, positive eye contact.
  • R – R stands for relaxed body language. This shows the person that you are not in a rush to get away, but are letting them talk at their own pace.

New Years Resolutions or how to make CHANGE that lasts

Shop Talk with Brandi and James Episode 4

Join Brandi and James as they discuss how to make resolutions stick and the science behind making change.

Subscribe to “Shop Talk” a podcast with Brandi and James. Available on Apple Podcast and Android and GooglePlay

To make sure your goals are clear and reachable, each one should be:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

Professor Rubin also notes that the definition of the SMART acronym may need updating to reflect the importance of efficacy and feedback. However, some authors have expanded it to include extra focus areas; SMARTER, for example, includes Evaluated and Reviewed.


Enneagram: Interview with Jenni Swink

Join Brandi and James with expert Jenni Swink as they look at the basics of what the Enneagram is how it can be used for cross cultural workers.

Subscribe to “Shop Talk” a podcast with Brandi and James. Available on Apple Podcast and Android and GooglePlay

Recommended Resources

The best place to get started would be Check out their free test and began to explore your own Enneagram.

The Enneagram’s structure may look complicated, although it is actually simple. It will help you understand the Enneagram if you sketch it yourself.

Draw a circle and mark nine equidistant points on its circumference. Designate each point by a number from one to nine, with nine at the top, for symmetry and by convention. Each point represents one of the nine basic personality types.

The nine points on the circumference are also connected with each other by the inner lines of the Enneagram. Note that points Three, Six, and Nine form an equilateral triangle. The remaining six points are connected in the following order: One connects with Four, Four with Two, Two with Eight, Eight with Five, Five with Seven, and Seven with One. These six points form an irregular hexagram. The meaning of these inner lines will be discussed shortly.


The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Christopher L. Heuertz

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso


Podcast Episode 2

Subscribe to “Shop Talk” a podcast with Brandi and James and listen to their second episode. Available on Apple Podcast and Android and GooglePlay

What is Burnout?

“an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.” “In those situations, the demands being placed on you exceed the resources you have available to deal with the stressors.”- David Ballard.

Certain amounts of stress can be positive resulting in peak performance. However, eventually more stress does not result in more productivity. There is a point where excess stress results in a decrease in productive resulting in fatigue, discouragement and Burnout.

Symptoms of Burnout 

  • Social 
    • Withdrawing from others
    • Cynicism about self, others, work
    • Lowered frustration tolerance
    • Interpersonal Problems 
  • Cognitive 
    • difficulty concentrating 
    • forgetfulness (long term and short term memories)
  • Physical 
    • Health; blood pressure, tight muscles, 
    • Exhaustion, Loss of energy
    • Getting sick more often and easier 
  • Work 
    • Withdrawing from responsibilities
    • Lack of Motivation
    • Feeling of failure vocationally
    • Reduced sense of satisfaction or reward for hard work
    • Sense of helplessness
    • Belief you are no longer effective
    • Generally Decreased Satisfaction
    • Falling behind with an inability to catch back up, resulting in being more behind
    • Sense of Shame (feeling of failure) 
    • Feeling helpless, trapped and defeated

What to do

  • Recognize – Watch for the warning signs of burnout
  • Reverse – Undo the damage by seeking support and managing stress
  • Resilience – Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health

Some Things to help reverse symptoms of burnout. If you can’t imagine having the energy to do any of these things seek help from a counselor, coach or friend. 

  • Take rest/relaxation seriously- do the things that rest our body, mind or soul
  • Margin/Boundaries – say no to things. The challenge with this is sometimes saying ‘no’ results in feelings of shame “I’m not good enough”. Don’t buy in, burnout happens from overextending one’s abilities 
  • Cultivate a rich non work life – church, friends, family, community 
  • Sleep– good, restful sleep. It might even be helpful to monitor your sleep for a week and see how many hours of quality sleep you are getting. 
  • Organization – it may be worth not doing other things in order to plan out a day, week or month in a way that seems more sustainable 
  • Physical health; eating right, sleeping enough and well, getting exercise 
  • Social Awareness – Know when its you, and when its them
  • Find new friends.– Perhaps your networks is small, unavailable or negative

6 Tips For Working From Home

I normally work from home so the rest of the world is joining my normal reality. The nice part is you get to dress like a mullet business half and fun half. Here are some tips for working from home, especially during the current crisis.

  1. Create an office space. If you work from home or even a shared space, developing some physical boundaries for work will help you maintain life boundaries from work. That way when it’s time to ‘work’ you do it from the ‘work’ space and when work is over you leave it in the physical office space. It will help prioritize work staying at ‘work’ and home life not being interrupted. It will require practice in not allowing work things to infiltrate other parts of your house and life. An example will be if it’s an work email, only answer it from the ‘office’ location.
  2. Find opportunities for “virtual” connecting. Working so far apart means its worthwhile to try and find unique opportunities to connect in-person with teammates or like-minded workers whenever possible. Because of social distancing it means using things like: facetime, whastapp, zoom, skype, Marco polo. Use these virtual means to connect with work and non-work people. You may have to initiate but its worth it.
  3. Maintaining Margin or Work/Life Balance. Even the most structured among us may have difficulty keeping all of our daily tasks in the right category. Margin means having extra time in the week that isn’t planned but open. That way when things do come up they can take ‘work’ time in the ‘office’ and not disrupt the rest of one’s life. It may be worth recording how many actual hours are worked in a week (remember anytime answering emails is work time). Schedule in breaks from work – espcially if your families are all at home too. Play a game, do family exercise time, read a book or follow #2 and call someone.
  4. Time on Computers. This is more of a warning. Since computers are intrinsically linked to working remotely it important to be careful about the overall time spent on one. It would be a worthwhile activity to measure the time on a computer/tablet/phone over the course of a week. This would include any non-work activities on these devices. Then figure out a healthy amount of time in a day or week and limit your usage to those times.
  5. Fast/Retreat. Take time away technology and work. This means a break from all technology for certain amounts of time. This could be connected to quiet time, personal retreat or silent retreat. Regardless, replace that time with something that is good for you mentally, physically, spiritually or emotionally. As a community, lets hold each other accountable to being healthy individuals.
  6. Take Care of your health. One of the best ways to avoid illness or be prepared if you get sick is to be as healthy as possible. Increase immune boosting nutrient dense foods. Use time at home to try new recipes or swap ideas. Exercise either going outside or in your home. Get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water. Other things like vitamins or supplements can be helpful.


We are not descended from fearful men…

Ellie posing for an article I wrote on depression

I am riveted to the news much like most people all over the globe. So much of my life in the last decade has been connected to life as a global citizen as I have lived and traveled across 5 continents. I can empathize with friends and colleagues in many parts of the world trapped by decisions made by themselves and others. I happen to be in the USA right now am torn by a sense of belonging in other places with being with my friends and family here. Today Ellie and I picked up our passports with Spanish residency stamped, preparing a way for another move. Yet, life is stopped for so many people in so many places and our plans are on hold as our contingencies have contingencies. At the core of it all is a pervasive, overwhelming, controlling and rational sense of fear.
“remember that we are not descended from fearful men” Edward Murrow. Although it was a speech targeted at one individuals misuse of power it reminds me that in a time of crisis and panic that we ought not be defined as a fearful generation. This isn’t a political statement but a challenge to the fabric of what is causing panic. At the core of it all is each individual dealing with their own sense of fear (or stability) in the light of a constant changing landscape of a pandemic (panicdemic?).
This week I spoke on teens and trauma looking at unique characteristics of recent Generations, what defines them and what traumatizes them. I hope that when we look back at the current health crisis we are not ashamed at being driven by fear, letting our fear cause more damage than sickness. Children and teens will absorb the fear of adults in this time of global panic (which may be more damaging to them than the current sickness). I am suggesting that this isn’t a health crisis and I am not suggesting that we do not do the things we should to care for ourselves and our communities. Only that we take actions based out of the rational thinking part of our brains.
Panic, anxiety and fear are originated in our lower, (fight, flight or freeze) part of our brain. But we must not allow fear to continuously override the upper, thinking part of our brain when it comes to how we interact with the Covid-19 crisis. This system of our brain can become maladaptive when it has free reign to flood our body with stress hormones. What is our fear based in… Sickness? Absence of toilet paper? Lack of antibacterial wipes? Loss of Control? Death? So what should we do to manage the fear?
Take a deep breath, don’t panic buy more than you need, or make hasty financial decisions. Instead, Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Phil 4:8)

Taste of Home

In case there was any doubt in your minds, Ellie is the cook of the house. She has worked in restaurants and most recently at Hurly House, a bakery. It is her outlet for creativity and a stress reliever. Probably a contributing factor to my post marriage weight gain. Over the past week I decided to test the outer limits of my kitchen prowess by making a pumpkin spice latte. Before the mocking begins I should clarify that I needed to buy a whole pumpkin, roast it, blend it, create a spice mix, before even making the coffee. Secondly, I love the pumpkin spice flavor any time of year – even if that puts me in a camp with all of the American suburbian mothers  (My only living experience in the suburbs was less than a year with one of my best friends Andrew and his cousin. They can attest to my lack of domestic qualities and love for holiday food i.e. Little Debbie Christmas trees. Fortunately, they were both neat freaks and often cleaned up my messes. One time Terrence (the cousin) started washing my dishes before I was done cooking). Also, my dad used to make pumpkin pancakes during the holidays (to be fair he still does, I’m just never around) which also contributed to my nostalgia for the flavor. SO, I loosely followed the recipe on attempt one and wound up with a decent starbucks knockoff in taste but with the consistency my dad would call ‘too thick to drink, too thin to plow”. Ellie suggested as strainer for round 2. A few mornings later I went through the process and mashed the pumpkin up more with an immersion blender, strained the mix (loosing most of the seasoning) and put the milky pumpkin combo in my mug. I looked at it with the hunger of Esau but wanted it to be fluffy (frothy) and knew that the fancy blender on a stick could totally do that. 2 seconds later there is pumpkin milk all over the kitchen (and my clothes). Ellie was upstairs in our roof room with her language tutor and my former roommates are nearly a decade in to keeping their own houses clean. The kitchen got a good cleaning and I waited a few more days before making a successful 3rd try Pumpkin Spice Latte. Moral of the story: Worth it. 

The Holiday season (for American’s it includes Thanksgiving the end of November up to New years) is certainly a time of year I love. Especially Christmas. When living in Kenya I spent 5 straight Christmases creating many traditions. The first one was fairly lonely but with my friends Chris and Abigail (and eventually their cat, then dog, then son, then daughter) we created some amazing Christmastime traditions. The highlights were leading our church through a Arnold/Covey spectacular spontaneous drama, huge breakfast and dinner, and of course a slip and slide. Last year Ellie and I were in our home culture for our first holiday in the states, together. We got to navigate family and friends and felt loved, supported and included (and surrounded by pumpkin spice flavors).


the stocking were hung…

This year is certainly different than all those. Living in a country that the 25th of December is simply ‘Wednedsay’
and not having people around with whom we have shared Christmas connections is different. As I enter my 7th holiday season being away from home I’m finding the value in doing the little things that give me a sense of joy. On some of my international trips in the last few months I’ve been collecting ornaments, lights and some Christmas decorations (star and lights from Germany, ornaments and stockings from Malta). We have learned through our three years of marriage, living in three different countries, that a feeling of ‘home’ is worth creating. Sometimes its buying butter in Malta because of a potential shortage so you can make the Christmas cookies your family makes every year (Ellie). Or its gathering all the trimmings of a tree around the world so that your house feels right (James). It certainly draws us closer together and we have been able to create a space that feels warm, inviting, safe and yes- Christmasy. So much of this time of year in the states tends to be organized chaos as people run from one party to another (re-gifting the gift exchange item at each one). We have an abundance of calm since Christmas is not celebrated here and some new perspective. For us its prioritizing the things that bring joy. In the absence of the cultural pressures of Christmas traditions we can focus more on the whole point of Christmas and are doing this advent reading together. Don’t forget to reach out to people who matter but aren’t with you – it really makes a difference. We are hosting Christmas movies, possibly a carol sing, skyping friends and family and hopefully will find some people to celebrate with on the day….


…And making Pumpkin Spice Latte’s