pericardiumsper·i·car·di·um - [per-i-kahr-dee-uhm] noun. the membranous sac enclosing the heart.
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yeah, that’s a big word usually associated with life science class & people in the hospital with heart troubles.  if you don’t know what it is, it’s the sac around our heart that protects it.  if a pericardium is too weak, it’s not good for our hearts because it makes it too vulnerable.  if it’s too tough, it’s not good, either, because it chokes off life.

a few months ago my acupuncturist who is part-spiritual-director-part-therapist-part-healer told me i needed to strengthen my pericardium.  she was right when it came to a particularly hard season in an important relationship.  there are times that i give too much of myself, take things too personally and make everything about me, and just don’t have enough heart protection.  at the same time, it’s also easy to swing the other way & harden and protect my heart against pain, suffering, and intimate relationship and hide behind “strong boundaries.”  the reality is that there’s a very fine line when it comes to pericardiums; a healthy pericardium means we can feel pain & engage in the realities of real life but not have it completely devastate us. 

i continue to learn what it means to develop a healthy pericardium as a pastor, mommy, wife, and friend.  it’s an art, not science. it requires faith not formulas.  it requires time & God’s grace & lots and lots of exercise and practice.

and the thing i keep learning is that a healthy pericardium does not protect us from pain.  it’s not supposed to.   it’s purpose is to give us enough protection to not let the pain overtake us & shut us down completely when it gets really, really tough. 

this week, my heart hurts.

like really hurts.

while i was in nashville speaking at outlaw preachers, i got news that one of my dearest refuge friends, an amazing & brave & survivor-of-all-kinds-of-atrocities single mommy had died.  i had broken one of my most basic speaking rules and had my phone with me on the podium because it had a quote on it i wanted to use and was too lazy to write it down.  i saw the missed calls & knew, somewhere deep inside that i can only attribute to the holy spirit, that something terrible had happened.  i knew who the calls were from.  i knew who they loved and cared for at the refuge.  i knew something had happened to jessie.  i just knew.  so when i split everyone up into small groups to process some of the material on safe people, safe communities from down we go i had to make a decision.  do i wait until i wrap up my presentation in a neat & tidy bow and pretend like something bad didn’t happen, or do i listen to the message and open what somehow i knew was going to be a flood of pain?  i knew i couldn’t wait & i listened to the message in the hallway.

it felt like my pericardium burst completely and my heart was going to stop.

i sobbed.

i felt like i couldn’t breathe.

people i didn’t know came up and held me.

i had lost a precious friend who i had journeyed in the trenches with for five solid years.  through hospital visits & disasters & more drama than you can imagine.  i wrote about her in the practice of love & down we go; her name in there is lydia, and she got into my heart & under my skin & into my bones.  she was my daughter & sister & friend.  she loved me fiercely, always had my back, and would kick the sh*t (literally) out of anyone who ever messed with me.   she didn’t just give me her heart; i gave her mine, too.

conventional pastoral wisdom would have said that my pericardium was too weak when it came to jessie.  that i let myself feel too much.  to get too close.  too care too deeply.

but they’re wrong.  you see, i wasn’t in this relationship doing stuff “to” jessie or “for” jessie.  we were in the thick of it together.  she gave me as much as i gave her.  she helped me as much as i helped her.  she cared about me as much i cared about her.  i learned as much from her as she learned from me.

and when we give our hearts this way, we get hurt.

it’s supposed to hurt.

when we’re real friends in a little pocket of love, it hurts worse.

when we’re real mothers & fathers & sisters & brothers & daughters & sons, it hurts worse.

it’s part of being connected to the body of Christ together, all tangled up in ways that far supersede showing up every week and sitting next to each other at church.  it’s about living in a little pocket of love  together and sharing each other’s burdens in ways that look crazy to people who don’t understand.

so today as i write this, my heart hurts in more ways than i can count.  for me, for her precious son, for her friends & family & all the people who loved her in all her strengths & in all her weaknesses–the way she  loved all of us, too.

however, even though my heart is in pain, i am so grateful, too. because if my heart had been hard–my pericardium too tough–i would never have experienced the love & joy & beauty & care & mercy & fun (along with the pain & sorrow & anger, too) that we shared in my wild and beautiful relationship with jessie.

damn, life together hurts.

it’s supposed to.

my pericardium is working right.


Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • I feel so blessed to have met a warrior like her. Thanks for walking alongside her.

    • oh i am so glad that you did, i forgot about that night that you arrived & your little trip over there. yeah, she was a warrior.

  • Kathy,

    thanks for being who you are and for sharing yourself so vulnerably; i’m so sorry for the loss of your fellow sojourner and friend and hang in there sister….

    • thank you my friend. i am so excited to see you guys, it will be good for my soul!

  • Kathy, this past Thursday, I lost a dear friend. He was two weeks shy of 40, and he died of brain cancer. Life looks a lot different, a lot less full of laughter and joy after Peter’s death. I wish that his death didn’t hurt so bad in the same breath that I am grateful that it does. Because like you said, our hearts are working right when it hurts. Thanks for these words, they were good words, I needed them.

    • oh ryan, i am sorry to hear this. $*@^#@%^*(! i love what you said “i wish that his death didn’t hurt so bad in the same breath that i am grateful that it does….” beautiful. and i know what you mean. sending love & prayers across the way. xo

  • Kathy,
    Our thoughts and prayers are with you guys. Thank you again for responding to this tragedy in my presence. I got to see what pain looks like and I realized that I rarely ever express it correctly. Love you guys.

    • thank you, my dear friend john. i am so grateful for that time spent together and that you were there in this moment. i was telling mike today how glad i was for our time in TN & even though it ended so weird, it was such a great few days together. thanks for the love & prayers & encouragement, i always feel it.

  • Oh Kathy my heart goes out to you in this time of loss, you words are so true though…this life together does hurt.

  • Oh my heart aches too. It is crazy how much love and friendship and tears and pain and laughter can be exchanged in two years. In just “sitting in the pew time”, that would be not really amount to much, but in sharing the depth of your heart and experience, it is a lot. I have actually been judging my perceived weakness of my pericardium, I guess, by how much I hurt missing her.

    Reading this reminded me that I let love in, and when it is gone, despite the amoount of time, it was still very real. A first instinct is to close of my heart to not feel again, but I know on so many levels that that is not the answer. We are here to reallylove and be really loved, as I am learning. She modeled more for me than she ever knew or believed, and I really hurt with you. xoxo

    • oh i am glad to be next to you in the hurt. you are an awesome teammate and friend-here-in-the-muck-and-mire-of-real-and-beautiful-life. xo

  • Kathy, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to meet Jessie a few weeks ago. Our prayers are with her seven year old son, you and those who cared for Jessie.

  • Oh Kathy, I’m so sorry for the loss of your dear friend. Thank you for sharing and allowing us to help you carry the burden.

  • Kathy,

    Thank you for opening your heart and for sharing this with us. My prayers are with you and the others at the refuge who are experiencing this loss together. God Bless you for your amazing heart to love others.


    • thanks fedex for the love & prayers. i always feel your support and it means a lot. know you are always close in my heart and prayers, too, in the beautiful & costly commitment you’ve made to live in the pain & hope with others. are you able to come and hang out with us next week? let me know, oh it would be so great to have your voice & heart & stories here!

  • Kathy:

    Thanks for sharing. We were looking forward to meeting her. I want to continue to thank-you for the reminder of with “with” aspect. Sometimes, I think it gets lost and you continue to point in that direction. I long for some of the connections that I hear you share. Thanks for the stories and memories. The community will be in my prayers.

    • thanks, jeff, my second to last conversation with her was about being on the panel when you guys are here. i am so sad you will never get to meet her, you would have loved her and she had a lot to teach. love and prayers for our time together next year, too, we hopefully will learn a lot from each other and have a lot of fun, too.

  • I am sorry for your loss. it’s true. A symptom of a healthy heart is an ability to feel pain, but to move forward after. A few days ago, I broke down in heart-breaking sobs over an offense someone felt against me. I never knew how deeply I had offended this person unintentionally. I was grateful that I could cry. I love this person enough to cry over the problems in the relationship. Yet, I know, that I need to be strong, too. Strong enough to look for God for comfort and direction. And the amazing thing was that God did answer me with comfort and strength in an amazingly personal way that only God could accomplish.

    • thanks laurie, oh that’s a beautiful image you just shared of soft enough yet strong enough hearts….love from the north. xo

  • Kathy I’m so very sorry for the loss of your friend. Thank you for sharing your heart so openly. I just received your book today, “Down We Go”. I’ve only read the introduction and have been blessed beyond words. I can hardly wait to read more. So glad to have found your blog, a true blog with a heart and substance, and I’ve enjoyed the content so very much. I emailed you too.

    • thanks for taking time to comment, betty jo, i’m so glad you’re here. i sent you an email too. i look forward to hearing your thoughts on down we go & what it stirs up! peace from colorado.


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