On Vulnerability and Boundaries

{The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging}

I am pleased to introduce you to our guest poster today, my friend, internet pastor, and mentor, Diana Trautwein. I am honored she agreed to write for us and share with us her wisdom in this writing series~ 

In the fall of 2006, I got a new boss. He arrived on the scene after two years of searching, two years marked by upheaval in my life, personally and professionally.  I had been working as an Associate Pastor, part-time, for almost ten years by then, and I was deeply relieved to welcome him and to learn to work with him and for him.

One of the first things he asked me to do was start a blog. Yes, you read that right. My boss, the senior pastor, asked me to begin writing my heart on a blog. He already had one, and used it for brief reflections on life and ministry, very rarely for anything personal.

But I’m not wired in the same way, and when I was invited to write, I chose to get pretty vulnerable, pretty quickly. And I loved it. I was careful, especially when trying to write out the difficulties that always attend a new working relationship. I tried to make it about me, and what I was thinking/feeling. And, for the most part, I found my way to a pretty good balance. I posted infrequently, about once or twice a month for that first year. I learned to import photos, and often chose to write about my family, especially my grandkids.

But in July of 2007, something hard happened. Our son-in-law was in the midst of a long and very difficult dying, suffering from the after-effects of intensive radiation to his head and neck when he was a teenager. Our daughter was trying to finish a masters’ degree in special education, so that she could go to work after fifteen years as a homemaker. Her husband was on full disability at that point, and they desperately needed medical insurance. Her program required a 10-week internship at a hospital 400 miles north of her home and she worked like a champ to make everything happen. Some weeks, her husband was well enough to go with her, but some weeks, he needed to be closer to home.

We housed her husband and two younger sons (the eldest was working at a camp on Catalina Island that summer) for one of those closer-to-home weeks. And that experience was one of the most difficult times I’ve ever walked through. Watching someone you love suffer -- and watching how that suffering impinges on the lives of two young people -- well, it was hard, sad, painful. . . there are no words.

But I tried to find them anyhow. I wrote a post, not using names, about watching this particular kind of suffering. I finished it late one night, posted it and went to bed. At 7:00 the next morning, I went in and removed it, feeling unsettled about writing something so deeply personal.

The post was up for less than twelve hours.

But in that time, someone close to him found it and was deeply wounded by it. I was crushed --   repentant, sorrowful, so sorry for causing pain and for further complicating my daughter’s life. My heroic girl was already exhausted and overwhelmed and my post made everything worse.

I crossed a line, one that I deeply regret.

My blog was silent for nearly two years after that. Even though my boss read that piece and was deeply appreciative and affirming about it, I could no longer find either the words or the courage to write them down in that space. I felt ashamed, and that shame forced me into silence, a silence that lasted a long time.

At the beginning of 2009, I tentatively returned to my site to write about my son-in-law’s beautiful memorial service. For the next couple of years, I used the blog almost exclusively to post public prayers and sermons, very seldom delving into anything personal.

Until I retired.

And something inside me opened and hasn’t shown signs of closing anytime soon. I believe that openness came from two things: 1.) a deliberate, prayerful attempt to move away from shame and to believe in forgiveness; and 2.) a delightful spaciousness in my schedule.

So, in January of 2011, I began writing in earnest - usually 2-3 times a week, and almost always about very personal things. During the months that I stepped away from the blog, I had learned about myself, about life, about writing. Most importantly I had learned this: tell stories about what I’m learning and how I’m learning it. TELL MY STORIES, not someone else’s.

Sifting that out can sometimes be tricky. I’m walking through the end of my mom’s life now, and I write about that frequently. But she knows I’m writing about it (when she can remember), and I always try to talk about her beauty, her warmth, her goodness, in addition to the harder stuff. I do not write about my grandchildren, except to proclaim how marvelous they are, never about where I’m worried or concerned for them. I write honestly about my marriage, but I don’t write about some of the deeply personal things that are just for us.

And I pray every time my fingers hit these keys, asking for wisdom, discretion, truth. I also trust: I trust that God hears and answers those prayers, I trust that if I overstep at any point, some kind soul will tell me, I trust that what I do with these words comes as a direct result of God’s call on my life to write my stories down.

A retired-part-time-pastor-learning-to-be-a-spiritual-director with a family Diana adores, she senses an increasingly urgent call to write-her-life-down, to preserve her sanity and create some space to breathe. You can find her here, at her blog, Just Wondering--where she tells the stories God is writing in her life. She can also be found tweetering here on Twitter

linking with friends, MichelleHolleyEmilyJennifer and Outside the City Gate

{**Have you seen Kelli Woodford's series: Brave Words? 
                 It'sback again! This is going to be delicious. Please stop over there 
                                      today and give her trembling, brave heart some loveClick here.}

**This here is a series on writing--Let's all gather around the table in the comments and discuss! And I hope you'll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, Kelli Woodford and I are hosting a link-up here for you to share your own stories of your writing and blogging journey. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs sometime around the end of March. (nailed-down dates to come). So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you'd like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us!

**{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. "Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." Proverbs 17:9}

--Other posts in this series below 

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table --Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own -- a guest post from Kelli Woodford

A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth --a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace -- Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough --Nacole Simmons

In The End, Three Things Remain --a guest post from Holly Grantham

What I Want You to Know About Mental Illness, Social Media, and Community --Nacole Simmons


  1. Jody Ohlsen CollinsMarch 26, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    Diana, thank you, first of all for letting us in on more of your own personal history--it is a privilege to share that. And second, thank you for your honesty. Blogging is a two edged sword of personal and public declarations and the challenge is just as you said--to write from our own hearts and tell our own stories. So well done. (as usual!).

  2. Maybe write them down, but not out here? It's a tough line to find sometimes, Brandee. Praying for you this morning - I appreciate your words wherever I find them!

  3. Thanks so much, Jody, for your continuing encouragement and kindness! It is most definitely a two-edged sword and sometimes that edge can cut.

  4. Diana, thank you for telling your storys and for sharing them honestly. I am inspired and helped by your writing and I thank you for these words of wisdom. I have felt this very thing, and your post today affirms i must keep telling MY stories and be oh so careful with anyone elses. I need to keep having others involved in my writing especially if there is any question.

    today we return home to reality. it has been a glorious two weeks - a grace indeed.

  5. So, so glad you've had this wonderful respite time, Carol. And thanks for reading and commenting on your last day. As I said out on Facebook, I read things to my husband if I have any questions about crossing boundaries and he is a tremendous help.

  6. I always love to see your sagacity in full swing, Diana, but I must say I'm especially taken with this piece. It's so vulnerable. You're letting us see your scars, and friend? We are all better for it. I'm sorry for the pain the lesson caused you, but the fact that you have made your wounds available to us - well, I believe that they somehow bring healing with them. In us, certainly. I hope also in you.

    Thank you for being a part of this series. Such important truth here.

  7. DRT, love to see your teaching and wisdom in this space.

    Sharing personal stories is a tough thing to do, because usually they involve others. So it should be done with caution ...

    I am always hesitant to show too much of my life -- too much exposure to strangers. And yet authentic and transparent writing is important. There are some people who simply share * too much * stuff that we just don't have a right to be party to.

    Your stories and writing are always with deep introspection and personality, and yet you don't betray your friends. It's a great example -- and i see by reading this post, it is a path that has had to be learned through hard lessons.

  8. Diana, thank you so much for your honesty..I think you hit a chord here, it's important to tell our own stories, for it's the best way we can voice from one person to another God's grace in our lives...and there's always so much to share. I am learning a lot about the power of story. Both in sharing my own and also stepping back and learning from others.
    Nacole, is there a link-up with this series, I was trying to find it? :) Thanks friends.

  9. Thank you, Kelli, for these fine words of affirmation. This was a hard place for me, one I learned from and hopefully, grew from. Also one I really could not write about before now, so the timing of this invitation from Nacole - and from you, too, right? - was perfect.

  10. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, in your usual wise and encouraging way. I'm grateful for you!

  11. Thanks for reading, Julie, and for leaving such good words here. I am a big believer in the power of story. REALLY big. :>)

  12. So good Diana, your vulnerability is helpful. I think there is definitely a fine line when writing about others. It's why I don't write about my kids much and ask them before I post photos. They are very private people and I learned early about that line the hard way.

  13. Most of us do have a hard time learning this, I think. But generally, it only takes one hard error to learn it pretty well. Thanks for reading and commenting, Shelly. Always good to see you.

  14. This is so helpful to me as I try to write with both vulnerability and wisdom.

  15. Ashley Tolins LarkinMarch 26, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    I am also trying to figure out this line, this space. I never want my writing to be at the cost of anyone. It's difficult because it means that sometimes we can't tell the "whole truth" of a situation, but that also seems to be a good kind of spiritual growth...taking responsibility for what's mine and releasing some of the rest, allowing myself to be misunderstood and knowing that God holds all the people and all the pieces. Thank you for writing with such grace and honesty here today, Diana. They seem to be hallmarks of yours. Bless you.

  16. Diana, your vulnerability and wisdom share places in warming hearts and drawing souls hungry to read your words. I am one of them, deeply grateful to see your face gracing Nacole's beautiful space as well as the usual habitats!
    You give me cause to pause and ponder at the openness I reveal too. Though names are not mentioned, I haven't hesitated to draw back the curtains on a painful past and reveal wounds in need of further healing to come.
    My motives in sharing are to help others feel less alone with their struggles and challenges ~ physical and emotional ~ and to offer what hope and encouragement I can by pointing them to the Great Encourager and Comforter Himself.
    Now, I may have to have a rethink in the memoir pieces I am considering writing and (to use my old nursing maxim) try to do no harm to others in the process. Thank you for your honesty tempered with understanding and kindness. It is a great example to us all. May God continue to bless the works of your hands. :)

  17. I'm glad you found it helpful, Elizabeth - thanks for telling me.

  18. Such kind words, Ashley! Thank you so much.

  19. Thanks for the words of blessing, Joy. And please keep telling your own stories, even the hard ones. You always write from your point of view and I think that's needed. I also happen to believe that stories of abuse need to be told - very carefully, of course, but told true. Over my life, and especially during my ministry years, I came across so.many.stories of abuse, all kinds of abuse. And those need to be told. Sometimes in the privacy and confidentiality of a pastor's office. But sometimes, in a broader arena, to offer hope and promise to those who are still caught. Praying for you as you continue to sift through your own stories - and thank you for sharing them in such a way as to reach out to others who might be experiencing something similar. Particularly parents, who are looking for what NOT to do as they raise their kids!

  20. Diana, I relate so much to this post. Thank you for your honest sharing. I "shut down" as a writer in college after some very hurtful words from someone I love. It took me nearly a decade to find my voice again. I have teens now and am very sensitive to them~ and have many posts that will never hit the internet because someone mentioned, even subtly was not comfortable with it. Such a fine line. Such a great issue for discussion. Love your heart and am so glad you are writing!

  21. I deeply appreciate what you have shared here. Our "tell all world" would lead us to believe that discretion is unnecessary but I value those who have set boundaries both for themselves and for the stories of others.

  22. Thanks so much, Amy, for sharing your own story about protecting privacy. It is a really hard line some times, but parents of teenagers do need to be particularly sensitive, I think. I'm grateful for your encouragement.

  23. Our 'tell all world' - yes, indeed! I'm a big believer in vulnerability and authenticity, but always in a careful, measured, prayerful way. It is possible to tell important stories without revealing every gritty detail. There are cases when names must be used - in particular, in cases of cults and abusive churches. And sometimes, that overlaps with family. In those cases, the names are necessary, I fear.

  24. Hi, thank you for coming by and reading, and asking about the link-up. There is one more post in this series before the link-up. I have a guest-writer next Wed, and then the following week (either on Wed, or Thurs--on Apr.9th), Kelli Woodford and I will do a collaborative post together, and the link-up will be available to everyone then, to share their stories of blogging and writing! I hope you join in! Thanks, friend, for being here and sharing.

  25. Ashley, I LOVE this--"releasing some of the rest, allowing myself to be misunderstood and knowing that God holds all the people and all the pieces." Yes. Always love hearing your heart, dear friend. <3

  26. Joy, I just-- love you. *You* are always a face of grace and beauty here. I agree with Diana that you share well, and graciously. And your stories are needed, friend. You always point us in the right direction.

  27. I love what you had to say here, Kelli-- yes, Diana, we are hushed by the pain and the tenderness of this story-telling. And yet, we are thankful, so thankful and honored, friend, that you chose to show the scars you bear--for our sake--that we can say, I have hurt here, too, I had made mistakes here too-- and because someone else has done it before and this is what she learned--I see the way before me. *Thank you*.

  28. Diana, I did not know this. That the timing was that perfect--that you could have not written this before I asked-- that is SO hugely encouraging to me. Thank you for letting us know. <3 I love you. Complete and total admiration for you for writing this tender story for us to have a light to see by.

  29. I like this post, Diana. I am not a very private person, so I do worry at times that I will share something that another would think private. Telling your own story is a good plumb line, too. I am so glad you came back to writing. I would miss your voice.


  30. I wish I had no knowledge of the ultimate blogging faux pas...of hurt feelings...but I do. And bottom line I'd say it boils down to what you share here. I crossed a line and processed something that didn't belong on a blog...online. I learned the hard way and hurt a friend. Thank god I was able to apologize and she graciously forgave. I'll never forget the ugly feeling and will be careful to better balance the sharing and telling with the quiet and keeping. Thanks for your wisdom Diana.

  31. I really appreciate what you share here, Diana. "Tell stories about what I'm learning and how I'm learning it. Tell my stories, not someone else's." I have lived under the weight of so much shame all my life and hid under the blanket of denial and performing for approval. I didn't experience God's love for me till last summer and my past has haunted me. I have felt like God wants me to write and tell my story in order to combat the secrecy and shame and be healed. I have been careful what I disclose particularly with those who have hurt me - not wanting to hurt anyone. So, I have kept many areas of my life still in the dark and maybe that's okay. I still struggle with shame and lies every day and I'm still very much in need of God's healing touch. I understand that it is a process. Step-by-step. Many times I feel stupid posting on my blog because I battle inadequacy and that no one really cares to read, but who's it really for? God sees and I want to live before Him. So whatever I do, I have to remember that it's for Him because His approval is all that matters.



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