12 Mar 2013

Being brave enough to be un-fine

This one’s for Natalie. Who wrote to me after yesterday’s post. The one about how there’s no such thing as perfect people. But maybe it’s for you too?

She reminded me how hard it is to crack open the doors of our lives to other people, not just the doors of our messy homes. How we get so used to being neatly packaged people and stories and families that we can forget how to be anything but “fine” when someone asks. Because there are messes much messier than the dust bunnies or gritty dishes. There are fears and doubts and despair and broken places that cut so deep it takes the breath away.

And we wrap them up in pretty packages of fine like so much lipstick over trembling lips.

We smile at birthday parties and play dates and in our cubicles. We smile at church and during worship and when the Pastor shakes our hand. We nod and smile and say we’re fine, the kids are fine, work is fine, marriage is fine, just fine, thanks for asking. And all the while there’s this big messy, gaping wound bleeding raw right through our perfectly fine outfit and we hope that one notices all the while desperate for somebody to care enough to see.

Oh sweet heart, sweet Nat, for a long time I hid my messes. I was afraid of them and afraid of what people would say and afraid that marriage could feel so messy. So I just kind of walked around with this bleeding gut wound, ignoring it and politely saying I was “fine” when anyone asked how I was doing.

Like maybe a Hello Kitty band aid could hold together the disaster that was living behind my living room door and bleeding out my guts.

Fine is so dangerous, isn’t it?

Fine means the end of a conversation. The beginning of nothing.

If Truth can set us free, best to start living in those places, right love?

It’s hard to admit our un-fine moments. But I’ve always found it’s in those moments that people can actually GET to us to help us. We need people. We are a body. And if one part is all bashed up and bleeding it hurts everywhere else.

Yes, let someone in, Nats. Let someone into your story.

It took me much too long to do so. It took my dad outing our broken places to my parents-in-law and them coming alongside with gentle, tender first aid. It took much more than we had.

And it was awkward and embarrassing and unpretty.

But it was also lavish, generous, grace.

And a beginning, Nat, it was a beginning.

Jesus is in the business of making all things new. And I’ve lived enough broken and loved enough friends through their own cracks to know that redeemed is not the same as fixed and that holes can still ache even when we’re whole again. Death, divorce, loss, heart break – admitting them doesn’t make us immune. Or cancel the loss. Or restore the missing.

But sometimes saying it out loud is an invitation to the God who already knows to lay Himself down in our rips and tears and hold us together – often through the arms of our friends. The people who’ve heard us whisper, un-fine.

It’s time to be brave now.

It’s time.


{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1

    Thank you for this post and for yesterday’s. Some days I feel so broken. Everything seems so messed up inside me. I know God is holding me tightly, but it would help to have friends I could be real with. Trouble is, I’m waiting for a sign that it’s okay to open up, it’s okay to stop pretending we’re not all perfect. Maybe I ought to make the first move, but dang I do hate that kind of vulnerability. I’m praying God will give me wisdom and help me as I reach out to other people, seeking the deeper and realer friendships I’m craving.

  2. 2

    Gorgeous…astoundingly right and nail-on-head “amen” and twinge-filled and “yes…crap, yes”. And more inaudible responses…this is amazing. Needed. Truthful. Cause for thanksgiving that you’ve joined the voices saying “it’s ok to not be ok all the time”. Seriously…resuscitation for drowned masses.

    Thank you Lisa-Jo. May these words of yours and others brave enough to be real (and encourage real and peel away masks because we care enough to) echo through the canyons of cracked people and awaken the hibernated. May the song of homecoming sing us all back to where we belong.

  3. 4

    What do you do when you’ve opened up and are literally bleeding in front of someone and they walk away? Every. Single. Time? Family. people who I thought were friends? I have opened myself over and over and over again. Year after lonely, cold year?

    What do you do then?

    • 5

      I’ve been there too. I’m always there. You vow to never be that person. You lean on, and collapse into, and fall face first in front of Jesus and allow him to be enough…and then you let other’s know He is too…and shine His light through you when you can. <3 Hang in there mama…I'm still waiting for someone to be that someone to me in real life too…but know that you are beautiful, your are wonderful, and no matter how broken you are loved beyond measure. :)

      • 6

        Thank you Kelley for these gracious, encouraging words. Me too. It took many awkward conversations to find the people who could wrap up our un-fine in warmth and welcome. But Jesus? He was always there.

  4. 7
    Margaret Polino Nicholas says:

    Dear Lisa Jo , I have been reading your blog for a few weeks. Too backward to leave a comment. I thoroughly enjoy each and everyone. Keep writing. Oh and did I tell you, your blog helps people ?

  5. 9
    Elizabeth says:

    I needed to hear this today, thank you.

  6. 10

    I just love you girl..and I totally agree with you…there’s just a little problem…I’ve been there…I’ve been brave enough to be not fine…I got sick of saying I was fine all the time when I wasn’t, so I didn’t…I’d say things like “I’m here” or “I’d doin.” I figured it opened the lines of communication if someone did want to delve deeper, and I didn’t sound whiny, but I was at least being truthful…but…most people…they want to hear fine. They slink away from anything but fine. Maybe I’m just wearing a leprosy cloak, or disguised as a beggar, but all my life, there has not been many that were willing to be there for me…not to mention that there is some weird barrier that also keeps people from wanting to come to my house (even though they know nothing about me) or have their kids play with my kids…I suspect it’s money…don’t have it now, and didn’t have it growing up…at any rate…my point is that…yes…be brave enough to be not fine…but be even more brave and realize that if you’re not “fine” and the other person smiles weakly, and walks away…the REALLY brave thing to do is to lean on Jesus and know that He’s the only one you need, and the only one who can and will always TRULY be there for you.

    • 11

      Truth here Kelley. People are broken and we get things wrong and say the wrong things and don’t love on each other like we do. But keep connecting, keep opening your doors, keep leaning into the Jesus that connects us all and sometimes friendship surprises us in those unexpected places.

      • 12

        Yes! :) So true. I have been blessed with a few, real, christian friends who are just beautiful women. But yes…people are broken, and sinful, and sometimes they aren’t going to do what we hope they will…so we give them grace, and we lean on God and know His plan is perfect. <3

  7. 13

    Yes — this, LJ: “But sometimes saying it out loud is an invitation to the God who already knows to lay Himself down in our rips and tears and hold us together – often through the arms of our friends. The people who’ve heard us whisper, un-fine.

    It’s time to be brave now.

    It’s time.”

    These words are worship. Truly remarkable, wonder-filled, awe-striking worship. Preach it, girl.

  8. 14
    Rachel C. says:

    Really needed to hear this today as I am certainly “not fine”. God Bless You.

  9. 15

    People either run or preach when you go beyond fine.

    • 16

      Maybe yes. But maybe it cracks a door open to them being able to share their own un-fine? Maybe it’s the beginning. Even if it’s small. Oh praying so much for you all here today, that the body of Christ will come through even in broken, imperfect ways to love you as much as He does.

  10. 17

    You may not know friend how much I needed this today. Just yesterday I wrote about my anxiety and depression which are very real and often creep up at the most inopportune times – yesterday was one of them and I’m tired of running away from my reality. I am tired of making excuses – I’m just plain tired. But… and isn’t that a big word… but I am learning, I think, that I don’t need to run away – that it’s okay to lean into my pain to finger the edges of my wounds and fears because just there in the middle of it all I will find Him. My pastor once said “Joy cannot do an end run around the pain – it emerges in the middle of it” and as one who lives with mental illness I know this to be true… You have blessed me so much with this today… so, so much.

  11. 18

    Such a beautiful way to discuss this topic. Its so true! I spent years saying fine while all the time I was just a giant gaping wound begging for help, but not wanting to ask. Thank you so much for posting this!

  12. 19
    Melissa T. says:

    I just wanted to say, thank you for blogging and thank you so very much for sharing. Too often, we pass on the opportunity to let people know when we are “not fine”. Yes, I do know it is hard to open yourself up and give people a chance to help. But in doing so, we are helping ourselves as much as it helps them. I think you always have to have or at least try to have faith in the human spirit. I know this for a fact, since I had a tragedy occur in my life about 19 mths ago. I truly had no choice, but to say I was not fine, and if I tried, well, some people saw right through it. I now have a best friend, that I would do anything for and I know she would do anything for me. I pray that all of you would find someone like that. If you have that someone, then just take a moment to let them know how much they mean to you.
    God Bless!

  13. 20

    Beautiful. I, too, lived for years in the broken place. But our God makes all things new. God has called me to transparency to reach out to those still hiding where I was. It’s so hard to be open and brave, and so worth it. I pray that each lady who said they have reached out and no one reached back, will be reached out to, this very day. Until then, keep bringing it to God. Joshua 1:9. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. The Lord Your God will be with you wherever you go.” Don’t give up. He is always there.

  14. 21

    Thank you so much for this post today. I had just arrived at work when I read it after a horrible morning of being totally un-fine. This morning my faith was not fine, my marriage was not fine and my parenting was far from being fine. I feel so lost sometimes and like I have no one to talk to and I go about my days saying all if fine when sometimes it is not fine at all. Today was one of those days and your post made me see that I am not alone even though at this moment I feel I am. Thank you.

    • 22

      Jen I feel a connection to you today – I have totally felt just last week like my marriage is un-fine and my parenting un-fine and then where the hell is my faith that is supposed to make this all fine??? And all I can say is that today I feel better but I know that won’t always be the case. Praying for you.

      • 23

        Thank you so much! I am praying for you as well!
        Not every day is a great day and some are just a little un-fine but today for me it is a very HUGE un-fine day! And I too am having a hard time finding the faith that is supposed to guide me through this as it does on other days.

        • 24

          Thinking of you both today, Robin and Jen. Those un-fine hurricanes? They’re bad. They’re really awful. And pretending they’re not there can make it hard to breathe. I remember. And I’ve had days when my faith felt like the furthest thing from me and walking forward was pitch black. That’s OK too. Faith has never needed eyes. Just stretch out a hand, praying Jesus takes it today and you can feel His grip even in the dark.

          • 25

            Thank you Lisa-Jo! Life has its days but your blogs really do help. They are very much appreciated and say things that I wish I could out loud to other moms.

  15. 26

    Just wanted to share that your blog along with a few others, inspired me to be bold. Inspired me to speak my truth, no matter how dingy and broken it was. Just.yesterday I blogged about it. Thank you, Lisa Jo.

  16. 27

    Oh I have used the word fine way too much in my life. I was afraid to let people in, to see my messy life. I now realize how much I have missed out. There are friends out there that want to be there and a part of my messy life and I can be there for them. Only when we open up and trust do we truly live and are able to help others.

  17. 28

    I’m sitting here in tears as I felt your words speak right to my heart. I know I am not fine, yet I do not want to cause the ripples and waves that I would by letting anyone know– at least anyone that knows me! “Fine” is a life preserver that I am too afraid to let go of.

  18. 29

    Life is messy. I have just recently created a group of women from my church to do a book/bible study of a local author. We meet, we discuss, we explode….its a very good feeling. We tell each other what has gone wrong that week, and what we should have done….Its a wonderful feeling to be able to talk to women who range between grandmothers and young women who have no children, and all in between. We share and we eat and we share some more. Its a great catharsis. Women who stuff will eventually go off. Let it out, girls!

  19. 30

    Lisa-Jo, I am fighting back tears! I am so that person that says that everything is “fine” even when I’m not. I don’t want to be “un fine”! I want to have it all together & not need anyone. I don’t want to be a burden or needy. It is so true that most people don’t want to hear when you’re not fine anyway. In my friendships, I am the friend who gives, serves & puts forth effort. I genuinely care when my friends are not fine. I tend to be the friend that is the safe place. I listen & pray & invest. I’m praying that God gives me friends that will be that for me in return, that really want to hear & care if I am “un fine”. And I try to remind myself that God is my ultimate safe place & that He can handle my neediness & all the times that I am “un fine”.

    • 31

      Sweet Karina, your friends can’t be there for you if they don’t know you need them. Go ahead, trust them, share your un-fine with them. It’s the best way to take any friendship deeper – to give it real roots. To tell our stories and give the gift of letting others love on us. I promise.

  20. 32

    I have really learned to let people see more of the real me, and been rewarded in that “me, too!” moment with friends about many things – faith, parenting, – but NOT marriage. I cannot get over feeling like talking about my marriage troubles with anyone (except obviously my husband however talking about them is part of the problem) is a betrayal to him and to our marriage. I have one friend that I can kind of “go there” but not in great detail. And of course our marriage affects everything else in our home including our kids.

  21. 33

    Oh how important it is to remember this:

    “redeemed is not the same as fixed and that holes can still ache even when we’re whole again. Death, divorce, loss, heart break – admitting them doesn’t make us immune. Or cancel the loss. Or restore the missing.”

    My life has been changed since I have allowed a friend into my deepest, darkest places. The enemies power lies in those dark places, but when we allow someone else in his power is lost and Jesus’ power is gained.

  22. 34

    I cried my way through reading this post today. After 3 devastating years, my husband and I began the unwrapping of the “fine” face over the last year and now I feel like Shrek when Donkey calls him “onion boy”
    My “fine” has so many layers and when I think I”m getting there, there’s another deeper thing hidden in the “fine”
    It’s a work in progress. I too struggle to find that special friend to share the load, to be open and honest and messy. I’ve shared sometimes and it’s been a disaster and added to the complexity of the problem – and I say “oh yes – that’s why it’s better to nod and smile and say “fine” This is infinitely worse!!!
    Sometimes the fear feels viral, if I give it room, it will spawn in to something huge and toxic. Grateful beyond words that Jesus is the best rock, solid friend, ear and guide a girl could need, and grateful and believing that He does send the right helpers when they’re truly needed. Thanks for this post today Lisa-Jo.

  23. 35

    Lisa-Jo, Somehow you always just hit the nail on the head. After a night of sideways comments and veiled critical remarks between my husband and I, I just feel broken. I so often use ‘Fine’ or ‘Sorry’ as quick cop-outs to life’s bigger conversations. It’s easier in the short term, but makes the ‘wound’ larger and larger. The love is there, but life so often gets in the way of us sharing it.

    Thank you for including all of us in your larger perspective. Your words are soothing and encouraging. You are a much needed bright spot in some weary days!

  24. 36

    Thanks, Lisa. This is one of my very favorites of your posts, I think because I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and usually wish that others (especially my close friends) did too. It takes strength to be vulnerable. I shared on facebook. Best to you!

  25. 37

    “It’s time to be brave.” {gulp}. This is year for starting over, of sorts. A little timid but yes, it’s time, again.

  26. 38

    The common threads running through these comments is just how much this blog post was needed and how difficult it is to open up to a friend about what’s truly happening in our lives. I’ve been ‘burned’ in the past, more than once, when sharing something very private. It wasn’t very private after I shared it so walls have gone up and they get thicker and higher each passing day. Trust is destroyed and one tends to just keep saying ‘I’m fine’ rather than be vulnerable again. Gossip becomes rampant and people get hurt and even Pastors in my life have broken cofidence. Not sure what the answer is…I know Jesus is always there for us so I keep leaning on Him. Thank you Lisa-Jo for all you are doing to reach out to women who are hurting. God bless.

  27. 39

    Oh how easy to live a “fine” life, covering our messes with fine clothes and empty smiles. Plastic lives of nodding heads and shallow handshakes. Oh that we might be more: Real. Authentic. Genuine about our brokenness. Barren in abandonment to our weakness and the fact that we are hungry people seeking only a God who satisfies.

    Yet “Fine means the end of a conversation. The beginning of nothing.” Love that line!

    I think I am finally at that place of candidness. Ready to share my story. Not so that my hardships will be the focus, but so that people will know that anything and everything I am is simply a result of the goodness of Jesus. Thanks for taking the lid off our culture’s tendency towards artificial superficiality.

    Thanks for being real. Raw. Genuine with your words! Can’t tell you how needed and refreshing this is!

  28. 40
    Laura Anne says:

    Well said – fine is an overused word for sure!

  29. 41

    Beautifully put. It is sometimes easier for us to show the “pretty” then to let people in. We as friends also need to remember that if someone does let us into their “mess” then we need to not judge or critize…so easy to do sometimes.

  30. 42

    I had just finished writing a few paragraphs along this vein when I read your post. You know what? I added a couple sentences, linked to this and hit publish. Thank you for the encouragement to open up with the mundane and the ugly, not just the Pinterest-worthy, because seriously, my life is not Pinterest-worthy. I don’t know why we feel like we need permission to be honest, but thank you for putting it out there. :)

  31. 43

    This was a breath of fresh air for me today, Lisa-Jo. This time of year is when I miss my sister something fierce, and it was the grief unraveled the years of “fine” I’d wrapped around myself. I cannot tell you how much I needed these words today. Thank you.

  32. 44

    Thank you sooo much for this post! My life wasn’t fine for a long time, and it isn’t still but it’s better. The shame and guilt, the fear of opening up to others, to show the mess the raw-ness the truth isn’t easy.


  33. 45

    “And all the while there’s this big messy, gaping wound bleeding raw right through our perfectly fine outfit and we hope that one notices all the while desperate for somebody to care enough to see.”

    Yes, Oh Yes.

    Has friendship always been this hard?
    How do you reach out to friends that don’t reach back?
    I mean friends that love you and care for you but are not intentional with their life and actions. They don’t think to call you to see how you are. They don’t notice when something is wrong. They don’t think to include you in girl’s night out, or an afternoon gossip session. They make no point to show they value you as a friend. And I’m not talking about grand gestures. Just the normal expressions of appreciation we have for friends. What do you do when you are the only one reaching out after 40+ years of trying?
    I don’t expect any answers because I’ve come to realize there aren’t any. Jesus is here for us, of course… but in the living now in real life in this physical world, the answers and solutions are few. People can be amazing and wonderful. They can also be oblivious and self-absorbed (to some degree).
    I just wonder if it’s always been this hard or if it was easier in ‘the good ole days’

  34. 46
    Julie Smith says:

    Oh, girl! Once again you found the window to my soul… It awes me how you always know the words I am thinking and how I am feeling. Thank you for posting each and every post, especially yesterday and today’s…how amazing they both are and how true they are. I am very guilty of hiding my ‘real life’ and that image of a ‘perfectly dressed’ person with a gaping, bleeding, raw wound hoping for someone to care enough to see it…that is something I live daily. God bless, Lisa-Jo! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  35. 47

    Thanks so much for this post. I appreciate it more than you know. I posted a sort of response here: http://itsthelittlethings4.blogspot.com/2013/03/im-not-fine.html

    Thank you for being transparent. I hope to one day reach the place where you are.


  36. 48

    Love this. Favorite lines: “Fine means the end of a conversation. The beginning of nothing.”(And I love starting conversations, so this speaks my language). And this, “…redeemed is not the same as fixed and that holes can still ache even when we’re whole again.” So good. Thank you.

  37. 49

    This is so good Lisa-Jo. I kept thinking as I read that the other side of this is for those times when the answer to our “How are you?” is a pouring out we listen with all our heart. I can remember a time when I began to open my heart only to quickly realize the other person would have preferred “fine.”

  38. 50

    I was particularly touched by your picture/definition of friendship as being able to admit you’re not fine. I’m thankful God’s given me true friends in this sense.

  39. 51

    Thank you for this real and heartfelt post :)

  40. 52
    steph mills says:


  41. 53

    “it’s time to be brave”…yes ma’am. i’m in a place right now where that fear of being un-fine is so big.
    thank you for this post darling!

  42. 54

    Thank You Lisa-Jo, for being so brave! thank you for writing about what the rest of us feel but haven’t been able to say yet! You encourage, inspire, and are highly appreciated!
    Thank You!

  43. 55

    Thanks Lisa-Jo for this encouraging post. It is well timed. :-) I have to remind myself every now and then, that if I really BELIEVE that His grace is perfected in my weakness, than by not opening up about my struggles, I’m hoarding the glory that comes out when others can see how He helps me overcome them. It is the church in action.

    I’m called to be a light, and sometimes the best light, the one that brings the most attention to the one fueling it, is the one that flickers and wavers every now and then.


  1. […] This morning I was sent this blog post about how it’s actually GOOD to be “un-fine.”  (http://lisajobaker.com/2013/03/being-brave-enough-to-be-un-fine/) […]

  2. […] stay away from stuff that involves my husband.  Plus – I hate to look bad.  But read this from Lisa Jo Baker about being brave enough to be un-fine, and it reminded me I need to write this.  So here are the […]

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