Glory and The Dirt Underneath My Fingernail 

I hear the pattering of feet and my seven-year-old son bursts through the bedroom door. I squirm, anticipating the end of my slumber.  Every morning, shortly after I hit my alarm at 5 a.m., he opens the door, declaring, “Mom, are you still here?”  I roll over. The door is shut. Luis is on his side, snoring. Am I dreaming? Psalm 139:14 reverberates, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” I hold on.

A few moments later, Benjamin appears in a long orange t-shirt, with curly hair standing at attention. “Mom, are you still here?” Luis mutters, “Yes.” Benjamin climbs over his dad and squeezes between us, “I love you, Mommy. Will you pick me up today?”  I say, “I’ll be there after school.” Satisfied, he pats my cheeks, climbs out of bed, hurrying to the bathroom.

I love my family. Benjamin is the youngest of four children. He has knocked on our door for as long as I can remember. He needs to see me with his eyes because I mirror something important for him.

Will I fail Benjamin, my family?It really is time to get up. What will the mirror say today?

Eyes thick with sleep, my hand flails in the dark, sweeping the nightstand for glasses. I put them on. Entering the bathroom, I turn toward the mirror. As I untangle from persistent night terrors, and efforts to contort into the safest shape for sleeping, the mirror tells me that last night’s try at rest wasn’t the right combination to beat the post-traumatic stress interruptions. I see saggy black sweats draped over a body.

It isn’t really age, wrinkles, new gray hairs, or dark circles under my eyes that are too much to bear; I am afraid I will see someone else, an Imposter.

The reflection of a failure, a broken mess. The mirror and my legs wobble. I squeeze my eyelids shut.

“MOM!” Ben yells, cracking the bathroom door. I raise my eyebrows.

“I need more toilet paper.” he reports.

I hand him a roll and shut the door. Taking off my glasses, I command myself, Look in the mirror.

An accusing voice speaks. “I see you. You raise your voice at the kids you say you love, get impatient with your friends, mutter swear words in traffic, and there was nasty sarcasm in your body when you faced your husband last night. I know all about you. Who do you think you are?”

The mirror splinters. Psalm 139:14 shorts out.

Before the voice continues, I glare in the mirror, softening the arrows aimed at my heart. The translation between my internal struggles and daily life feels like a chasm of disconnect. I fight despair. My sweats scream sloppy, not wonder. There are no cute clothes to mask the whispers of my enemy. “Imposter.”

Greg Boyle stands next to me, “Imagine, the expansive heart of this God—greater than God—who takes seven buses, just to arrive at us. In Spanish, when you speak of your great friend, you describe the union and kinship as being de uña y mugre—our friendship is like the fingernail and the dirt under it. The desire of God’s heart is immeasurably larger than our imaginations can conjure. This longing of God’s to give us peace and assurance and a sense of well-being only awaits our willingness to cooperate with God’s limitless magnanimity.”

The arrows don’t penetrate. I retreat from the war I wage against myself.

Your works are wonderful. I am His work. He came for me. Glory.

The mirror tells stories of countless early morning prayers, mother making breakfast, woman writing, advocate fighting for justice, wife walking beside her husband, mother racing down grassy hills with her children, and friend laughing. And, the struggle is real; impatience and quick-tempered responses to the requests of my loved ones are more common that I want to admit. God’s grace and its reflection of me is like the dirt under my finger nails, a mess and beauty combined, reminding me I am glorious and alive. It bridges the chasm of internal disconnect, reflecting life shining through cracks and aims the arrows of contempt and shame at the enemy, who is not me, but evil meant to destroy glory. The gray, wrinkles, and dark circles reflect wisdom, love and a battle-tested leader.

The mirror is clean, polished.

Benjamin enters, accompanied by his nine-year-old sister, clamoring to tell me about the injustices of recess. They remind me of the glory of who I am created to be, and I reflect this same glory so my children can live into who they are created to be – oh so glorious.


Mother of four and wife of one awesome Mexican, Danielle Castillejo is a 2nd year student at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, studying to get her MA in Counseling and Psychology. She works and volunteers part time in an organization in Seattle that advocates for the agency and freedom of commercial sex workers. A survivor of abuse herself she continues to fight for sanity and love every day.