turning our ingrown eyeballs up & out

blog turning our eyeballs up and out* it’s really hard to put into words my gratitude for the many responses i received on monday’s post.  so much honesty and i appreciate each of you for taking time to share.  oh, how i wish we could all be together in my living room for a deeper conversation about this! online space has its limitations, but it does open up the door for tricky topics.  we need to learn to live in the tension of disagreement without being mean.  for now, i will say that i am very glad that somehow this struck a chord and gave language for some who are wrestling with living in these kinds of painful paradoxes.  i knew i wasn’t alone but it helps to know there are many who resonate.  i have three follow-up posts to this that are swirling around in my head and will go up over the next couple of weeks–dignified dialogue, why people are afraid to be honest, and ways we can actively participate in preventing abortions.  i hope you can come back and respond.  sometimes when there are controversial posts there’s a lot of action in the initial conversation or idea and all kinds of passion about it.  i’d really love to see as much passion on practical, tangible solutions, what we can do to better listen to each other, and how to become safer people who can intersect with these issues so that more people could feel free to process not only their own pain but also what they are wrestling with theologically without feeling like they are going to get totally jumped on. the only way  to get there is to keep practicing.  

* * * * *

meanwhile, today is the november synchroblog, a small group of bloggers blogging about the same topic. this month’s theme is the spiritual practice of gratitude.  we’re centering on gratitude at the refuge’s saturday gatherings & this past week some of the stories reminded me of how complicated it can sometimes be to be grateful, especially for the hard & painful parts of our lives.

and at the same time, gratitude heals.

years ago i read something about depression and ingrown eyeballs.

it has always stuck with me–ingrown eyeballs.

it is so easy to have them, especially when life is hard or not going the way we had hoped, to turn inward and only see what’s hard, bad, icky, ugly, you-name-it-that’s-not-helpful. i’m not talking about healthy introspection here; i’m talking about self-centered-joy-robbing-all’s-i-can-see-is-bad-stuff eyeballs. it is my natural tendency to focus on what isn’t instead of what is.  to see the bad instead of the good.  to remember the negative instead of the positive.

i don’t mean to.  i don’t want to.  but without some intention and help, it’s where i often end up.

i like gratitude because it helps turn our ingrown eyeballs up & out.

for me, up & out seem to always go together.

up toward God, to remembering there’s something bigger than us, that God is with us in the midst of whatever we are dealing with, that there’s a wide world out there beyond only what we can see.  sometimes, as a spiritual practice, i look up at the sky.  i stand and turn my head up and remember God’s greatness & bigness & goodness & wildness.

“up” helps.  and points me toward God.   

and turning my eyes and heart out toward people helps, too.  to remembering the beautiful friends around me who remind me what really matters. toward the in-the-flesh relationships that continue to heal and transform me. toward gratitude for the love & grace & mercy & presence & laughter & beauty of my family & friends who love me even when i have ingrown eyeballs.  i see their faces, their hearts, and it shifts something inside of me.

“out” reminds me what really matters–people.

every spiritual practice takes intention.  not a grind-down-make-it-happen kind of intention, but an openness and willingness to try some new things.  for me, a slice of the spiritual practice of gratitude is to look up & out.

up toward God, out toward people with simple gratitude.

some days it’s not easy, but it always seems to help.

* * * * *

other bloggers who wrote about gratitude so far today:







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.


  • This reminds me of the old, “If you turn your eyes in like that, they might stay that way.” I love it! So, if we don’t practice gratitude we might become mindless, ingrown-eyeball blind zombies who can’t see any of the good in the world. I’m with you on that. I often find that turning out, to in-the-flesh relationships is my best way to get unstuck. In fact, doing this first, is often is what allows me to finally turn up. Seeing God in people can be amazingly redemptive.

    • ha ha, that’s so funny. that is the best example! i hadn’t thought of that and sooo good. yeah, that’s the best way for me, too. “seeing God in people can be amazingly redemptive.” i’m excited to see you next april!

  • I came back here as a reminder of how to do the practice. My ingrown eyeballs have gotten a bit stuck wide open. “i don’t mean to. i don’t want to. but without some intention and help, it’s where i often end up.” <—– YUP. But I can do gratitude. My eyes get stuck a lot a lot a lot, so I resonate with the idea of a discipline of practice. Because like the eyes in my head that need a really strong prescription to see, my ingrown eyeballs make everything fuzzy and distorted.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.