What’s Your Tell? {The Grove: Edge}

When I’m playing cards—especially Spades—and I’m dealt either a GREAT or a HORRIBLE hand, it is hard for me to keep my face neutral. Even when I’m trying to look like nothing special has happened, if you’re really watching, my casualness is a bit forced. I’m not overly familiar with poker, I bet you’ve heard of a poker player’s tell. Wikipedia describes it this way:

“A tell in poker is a change in a player’s behavior or demeanor that is claimed by some to give clues to that player’s assessment of their hand. A player gains an advantage if they observe and understand the meaning of another player’s tell, particularly if the tell is unconscious and reliable. Sometimes a player may fake a tell, hoping to induce their opponents to make poor judgments in response to the false tell. More often, people try to avoid giving out a tell, by maintaining a poker face regardless of how strong or weak their hand is.”

Most people try to avoid giving out a tell by maintaining a poker face regardless of how strong or weak their hand is.

Well now.

If that doesn’t just about summarize how many of us interact with:

  • those on our own teams so as not appear to be the weak link
  • supporters lest they stop supporting
  • local friends lest they don’t come to know the very One who brought us here

I find it interesting that tells are used for strong or weak hands, not for normal, every day stuff. No wonder Paul writes to the Romans to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. We tend to stink at celebrating a strong hand or mourning a weak hand. Hiding behind our tells, we too often try and play each hand as if they are the same as any other hand.

No running water? No problem. Child sick again? God will provide. Visas not coming through? God will open doors to the next assignment. I could go on. Because the theme this week is “edge,” I am focusing on the weak hands, the time when we feel we are close to the edge.

We have talked about faith crises and burnout. We take these edges seriously and want you and teammates to be seen, supported, and known in times of major edges that you may go over. You can go over the edge and be brought back. God can do it!

But not all edges are catastrophic. 

Twice in the last year I have come close to the edge. Not a huge-my-life-is-falling-apart edge, but enough of one that I did not like who I was becoming or how it was influencing me. The first time I chalked it up to a stressful season. The second time I realized I have a tell when it comes to edges.

I bet you do too.

When I am getting near the edge I have two tells:

  1. I am more resentful than normal. “Suddenly” (because it has been building over time but I hadn’t noticed I was moving towards the edge) something that would not have annoyed me too much seems to be pushing my buttons—and for me it’s the “I’m doing more than others” button.
  2. But the real kicker for me is that I start to write emails in my head.

In January I wrote three emails in my head to Danielle, Kimberly, and Patty. I tried to be calm and professional. I told them that I believe in Connection Groups, but something had to change. I was at my wits end and would never, ever, ever, ever (extreme language like “never” and repetition of words turns out to be part of my tell) coordinate Connection Groups ever, ever again.

Not being at the edge now, I look back and want to down play how I was feeling. How agitated I was on the inside. How out of proportion my reactions were to emails about Connection Groups. How often I told myself: Amy, you can make it. You just have to get to the end of the sign-up and then you never, ever, ever have to do this again. Hold it together and be civil. You’ll get yourself out of this. Walk towards the light at the end of tunnel.

Long story short, the Holy Spirit asked me what had me so close to the edge and it was the administrative piece. I’m decent with administration, but there is a tipping point when I’m working with spreadsheets more than with people and I start writing emails in my head that use words like “never” far too much. Which is to say, I am about go over the edge.

The HS asked me who I thought in Velvet Ashes was good with administration and I emailed Emily Smith. I explained my strengths and weaknesses and asked if she would like to skype with me about helping to work with and lead the Connection Groups. It was the worst sales job ever because I felt like I was saying, “There are two parts to the job: fun parts and awful parts. Would you like to do the awful parts and let me keep the fun parts?”


It gets better. Malia Heil had been a mentor, but was sensing God said for her not to mentor this spring. I asked her if she could help with graphics and praying for the mentors. PRAISES JESUS EVERY DAY this is what he wanted her to do instead of being a mentor.

Emily, Malia, and I started a Facebook group to support and love on the mentors. Want to know something hilarious? This FB group has been one of the highlights of the spring. I have loved working with Emily, Malia, and the mentors.

That’s right, I’m glad I did not send the email. It turns out God used my edge to make me miserable enough to push me towards change and to seek out solutions.

I have to say, now that I have noticed this about myself, it I feel a bit more equipped and less afraid of the next edge. I know it will come, but I think I might notice on the first mental email. The second certainly. The third? Oh please Jesus, let’s not get that close to the edge on these normal parts of life. Okay?

So, what are your tells when it comes to getting near this kind of edge? Do you know your spouse’s? Or kids? How about teammates?


This is The Grove.  It’s where we gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art.  So join us in the comments.  Show us your art work by adding an image. And link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt.  Click here for details and instructions. 


  1. Keri April 28, 2016


    I realize that I do not comment enough on the VA writers blog. Everyday I “write the comment in my head” but I assume no one really wants to hear it.  Two VA writers recently said to me they wished they had more comments.  So here is me trying to be faithful in the little things.

    I really appreciate this post in it’s honesty and vulnerability.  I, too, have tells and I am sure Brian could list them for you.  I am asking for wisdom from the father about being more aware of my soul in this way.  I do have to say, I am less afraid of the edge since hearing Corky’s testimony during the retreat.  He will be there to pull me back.  Praise you father for this truth.

    Thinking of you, today, Amy!


    1. Elizabeth April 28, 2016

      This is beautiful Keri — both the growing braver to comment and about remembering that even if we go over the edge, He’ll be there to catch us. Thank you for the reminder!

    2. Amy Young April 29, 2016

      Keri 🙂 . . . so lovely you’re the first to comment. You saw we got a good QB with our first pick, right? I checked the news this morning when I got up. :). Anyway, there is life outside of football. Edges. Corky’s words will preach, won’t they? I realized as I’ve reflected on them and really spent time asking myself if I fear going over the edge — I don’t fear it, but I really, really, really do not like how much it will cost those around me and how exhausting it will be for them. I know they will “pay the price” and willingly serve me.

      As I’m writing this I’m thinking of family members who have had severe depressive episodes and were suicidal. It was so awful to watch because of how awful it was and how helpless we felt. When they came back from going over the edge, they said, “It was thoughts of you all and how much my suicide would hurt you that kept me from killing myself.” I am touched so deeply by that. And the time invested with them, OF COURSE, was totally worth it and I would do it again, but it was exhausting.

      My sister has a woman in her Sunday School class who is old-ish and has multiple health problems so her husband decided he didn’t want to be with her anymore, flew with her out to Denver to deposit her at her sister’s (so he can return home to his girlfriend. Insert SCREAM). She’s having some mental breaks too, so goes from being in her right mind to not and then back to her right mind. Because of this, she can’t be left alone. The first available doctor’s appointment was three months after she arrived in Denver . . . one more week to go. This is a dear woman who has gone over the edge. I feel so sorry for her. And for how much her edge isn’t just about her, her family feels it too and it is exhausting.

      Sorry to have gone off :). It just seems many people are going off big edges around me recently. I only shared a little bit here. So I’ve been thinking about them. I’m not afraid of them, but I do feel very tired when I think of them . . . and I think that is what I fear, that deep exhaustion you can’t escape and you know it will take months to recover from. That’s what I really fear. On that note :), that’s for the comment and I’m sure I’ve scared you into never commenting again. 🙂

  2. Elizabeth April 28, 2016

    This is hilarious Amy! I’m glad you have such a noticeable and obvious edge sign in writing mental emails.

    I’m not sure I have something quite so concrete, but I will say that I’ve only recently realized that hot season sends me to the edge each year, for various reasons. Everybody acknowledges how awful hot season is, but I think I hadn’t acknowledged it enough personally. There was that one year the power cut out every night till 2 am, but the neighbors were raising roosters (we called them the “devil birds”) to slaughter for Khmer New Year, and they began crowing at 4 am. There was last year, when I got so angry and mean and unforgiving. And then there was this year, with a bunch of broken things and loud noises and me overcommitting myself to ministry, leaving nothing left to serve my family with or even for me to recuperate. Some things are of my own making: cherishing hurts instead of forgiving, or overcommitting and not setting aside enough time to rest. Other things are beyond my control: the heat, or the basic 3rd world living problems. But it’s always something this time of year!

    My clearest sign I’m about to go over the edge, besides the irritability, is my unrelenting desire to run away. I just want to go away by myself and can’t think of a time when I would want to come back. Not in an actual leave-my-responsibilities way but in a lock-myself-in-my-bedroom kind of way. I know when that happens that I actually haven’t been feeding my soul or letting my mind or body rest, but it sometimes takes a while to figure out the best way to recover so I can return to humanity. . . and to myself.

    I also want to say how very glad I am with the ending of your story! So glad God provided a way of escape for you 🙂

    1. Amy Young April 29, 2016

      Such wisdom Elizabeth! I’m now sitting here thinking of the distinction between “edges of our own making” and “edges outside of our control” — I imagine in both, our tells are similar, because we are ourselves :).

      Not to break this down to a formula, but in reading your comment and talking to a friend yesterday who is over the edge, here is what I’m learning/have sink into me deeper:

      1. Acknowledge enough personally our potential edges — I loved how you said that everyone talks about the heat, but it sounds like you held yourself to a slightly higher standard than you held others to. Yes, the heat or cold or dark or non-stop light can be a real thing. Can we be gracious to ourselves?

      2. Pray. Seems so obvious. Tend to our souls. Rest. Read. Connect with God.

      3. Talk to someone. (this actually ties into something Emily says in the next comment). In talking with my friend yesterday, she was too close to the edge to see the ideas/things to try that I could see. I forget when I am close to the edge that I don’t have to get myself “out of this mess” — others can help me too 🙂

      Thanks for chatting about this with me/us :)!!

      1. Elizabeth April 29, 2016

        You’re right, I definitely did not think hot season touched me the same way it touched others, almost like it was beneath me to be bothered.

        I was delusional.

        Silly me!

        Yes talking it through out loud has been very helpful to me!

        Interestingly enough, just last week I was teaching my girls that the body heals itself if you give it proper food and rest. And it hit me right between the eyes: I hadn’t been giving my soul either.

  3. Emily Smith April 28, 2016

    I love this. I feel like I do need to share another part of the story. Just before you wrote to me, I was on an edge of my own. I had just made the decision to move back “home” indefinitely. (not permanent…but also without a timeframe) I may have a similar tell and start to talk and think in absolutes. In my mind I was never going to get to go overseas again. I would have no way of being involved with women in the international community. I was convinced I would never be able to use any administrative gifts I might have ever again. (I know…dramatic).

    Another detail I think is pretty cool is you had no way to know if I had any ability to organize or work with charts or details. And at the same time I knew the Holy Spirit was telling me an opportunity was coming and it was okay for me to say yes. (After a year of needing to pull back from almost all leadership/responsibilities) So I was not surprised in the least to get that email asking if I would be interested in helping in some way with the Connection Groups. And then having Malia join the mix was just awesome.

    But this is the truly cool part to me. We were both on an edge. Both feeling like we were dealt a weak hand. And together it became a strength and so much fun. The groups have been a highlight for me, too. To me this just underscores again the importance of community, honesty, and vulnerability.

    1. Amy Young April 29, 2016

      Emily, this comment makes me think of Paul Harvey and his phrase, “Now for the rest of the story.” :). So fun to hear it from your perspective.

      I LOVE how you ended your comment:  To me this just underscores again the importance of community, honesty, and vulnerability.

      That will preach!!! 🙂

      1. Ellie April 30, 2016

        How beautiful that you “found each other” through the HS! I think I fear being honest and asking for help and yet that nudge is there that “there is a better way” and community requires asking for what you need.. to a certain extent at least. (Sometimes as a tired introvert I wish it didn’t and everybody was a mind reader!) And I’m finding trusting safe people who have a track record of kindness to you to ask for something and receiving it is really helpful if you have had a lot of broken trust.

        Recently I asked someone to send me a specific care package – and in my head I was like: “Can I do this?” and I thought: “this person would like to do this for me” and she did and it was wonderful on both sides.. Anyway, rambling but here’s to praying and asking for help in a good way!

        1. Amy Young April 30, 2016

          Ellie, it IS hard to ask for help :)! Even though it doesn’t seem that it should have been that hard, before I contacted Emily I wondered if she would think I was nuts. Also :), notice I didn’t ask  the whole world, I got brave enough just to ask one person :). I agree that looking for trustworthy people is important, thankfully Emily meets that bill in Spades! As, do I think, do you 🙂

  4. Kristi April 29, 2016

    My “tell” would be disproportionate or misdirected emotional reactions.  Trying to figure out what “edge” I am on now.  Not a big one, I hope.  I am much more aware of my “tells” and pay closer attention to them. The following is my reflection on the theme for this week:

    The Edge

    At times I sit on the Edge





    Tuning out the

    Warning  sights


    “I’ve.  Got.  This.”

    Your Voice only





    At the slightest









    Crying out



    “Why is this happening?”

    “Where are You?”

    “Is this how it ends?”

    My voice wears out

    Turning to whispers

    Then whimpers


    I hear

    In the hum

    An invitation




    “Yes,” I yell, but only in my mind

    Yet You hear me

    You catch me














    1. Kristi April 29, 2016

      My creative spacing didn’t show up.  Oh, well.  At least I’m not having a “disproportional emotional reaction.” LOL 🙂


      1. T April 29, 2016

        I felt your poem, and then this comment made me giggle.  You bring it all!

      2. Amy Young April 29, 2016

        Maybe it is just my computer, but your creative spacing is there :). Maybe you meant other creative spacing :)!! But what I see, really added to the feeling of the poem. This is beautiful. Will you please publish a book of your poetry? Or start a blog so I can see them in one place?

        I think this is one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing :). xox

  5. Joanna May April 29, 2016

    So good Amy. Thank you. Yes, I am an email-in-my-head-writer too! And all too often they end up as real emails and I send them and then get into trouble. I’m learning now to wait on them. (Stick them in my drafts folder and reread them a few days later.) Feelings change. I need to give God time to move first. Thanks for your honesty.

    1. Amy Young April 29, 2016

      Joanna, your comment reminds me of something I heard in a class once, “Sometimes the counselors role is just to create enough space for the brain to kick in. Because once the brain kicks in, a person will usually make a better choice.”

      Isn’t it cool to think we have The Counselor/Helper and how much he longs for us to slow down so we can hear him and make better choices :).

      Draft boxes are gifts, aren’t they? 🙂

  6. Kiera April 29, 2016

    This is brilliant. Amy, thanks so much for putting it into words that I don’t think I would have found. Reading this was as much an “aha” for me as pre and post grievers. One thing I have noticed as I faced my own edge this past week (really, that retreat is a doozy – you all are right to put up a warning), was that tears are a real tell for me, but I tend to want to short-circuit them. At the same time, I arrived at the chapter in Invitations from God (Adele Ahlberg Calhoun) on invitation to weep. Yes, I need to respond to God’s invitation to weep sometimes, and I need to realize that it can be a “tell” for me and take steps not to sweep it away but to respond and pull back and exercise care. And another thing, I think I am finally realizing is that when something starts to feel like a huge drain even though my rational side says it’s no big deal, but it feels like I am trying to pull a car behind me – that is another sign too that I need to back up and re-evaluate. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. And thanks for choosing Invitations from God for book club a long while ago. I didn’t read it with you all then, but that was my impetus for buying it and I have been slowly digesting it over the past year. Good, good stuff. 🙂

    1. Amy Young April 29, 2016

      You had me at Adele :). That book. That book!!!! It is on my top 10 — and the funny thing is, I don’t think we have actually read it for book club. I did interview her (because I love it so much and want the whole world to know about it!!), so that is probably the post you are thinking of. We need to do it for book club.

      Good grief. I’m a like a cat and shiny objects. You mention Invitations from God and I go off on a book tangent! Sorry 🙂 It’s helpful to hear everyones tells because it helps me understand myself better. I think I have more than I realized! That car thing, yup. When I start to feel resentment I’m going to ask myself if I’m pulling a car.

      I”m so thankful God, in his infinite wisdom, lead you to read the chapter on the invitation to weep on the very week you needed it. And we will keep remembering to let people know about the week after the retreat. It IS a real thing. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  7. Hadassah April 30, 2016

    So, Amy, you and I most definitely share a tell–resentment! I recently had to scale back because I found myself over functioning and hating everyone for it. My family was suffering the most, and I really didn’t like the person I was becoming to them. I had to let go of a few positions, and I’m feeling much better for having done it. Mostly, because now I’ve carved out time daily to sit with God, and I believe that is making such a HUGE difference! I agree completely with what Elizabeth said in her interview for the retreat. And, M’Lynn from earlier this week. Spending time daily in the word is a must!

    I’ve really liked this week’s topic of the edge. I believe in our line of work, most of us are pushed to the edge daily! This year alone with our work at school we’ve dealt with many situations that have almost pushed us over. Most recently, we’ve had to deal with a fire in one of our dorms (which looks like it was intentionally set –btw, this is the second fire on our campus in three years that probably wasn’t accidental), racially driven fighting between our students, and a student having a knife in class. All within the span of a week!!! The fighting was what probably shook me the most. I felt like everything was spinning out of control, and now, it’s made me wonder what difference (if any) we are making or can make in the lives of our students. That’s the edge I’m teetering on now. So, it was good to be reminded that we can only love (or teach how to love) if we have experienced God’s love in our own lives. We can’t love the way He does. We just need to allow Him to love through us. Praying that prayer this week!

    In closing, I want to share a couple of songs that have spoken to me this week, in light of being on the edge and finishing our book on fear. The first is “Earthquake” by Newsboys. “I’ve lived on the edge for way too long, walking a tightrope on my own. When out of the dark I heard You call. Now, into Your hands I surrender all. So take my heart and shape it up to build me into what You want…I need an earthquake to shake me until it breaks me down.” Every edge breaks me down…but if I allow Him, He can build me up better than before.

    The second is also a Newsboys song: “No Longer Slaves.” “I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God. Love has called my name. My fears were drowned in perfect love.” Pretty much sums up all we’ve been discussing on the topic of fear. I love to sing along at the top of my lungs, “You rescued me so I could stand and sing, ‘I am a child of God. I am a child of God!'”

    Thanks for all the work you all on the VA team do. It means a lot to me and many others I’m sure:)

    1. Hadassah April 30, 2016

      I should mention…no one was hurt in any of the incidents!  Praise God!

  8. Ellie April 30, 2016

    I am sad to say that my tell is being irrationally angry/sarcastic about people who are happy! One time I was furious about some friends who had just got engaged and were really happy and I was sounding off about it and my husband was like “that’s not what’s really happening. Why are you so upset?!” and it took me about an hour of walking and crying to figure out what it was. So now I find if I’m having a weird reaction to something that should be good and I should be happy about I need to go and think about it and it’s probably that I’m feeling lack in some drastic way in my own life.. (And that’s definitely happened recently and is a sign that I just can’t cope with One More Thing.. Gah, I want to be perfect already!)

    1. Elizabeth April 30, 2016

      “Gah, I want to be perfect already!”

      Can SO relate! Have had that thought so many times. It can really become an idol in my life. I like to think it just means I want to be spiritually mature, but when I start to peel back all the layers, I find pride and self-sufficiency. Ugg. Then I start to think maybe God wants me dependent like this. . .

      NOT that it’s not annoying to not be perfect already!!

    2. Amy Young April 30, 2016

      Yes to you both! Sigh, that desire to be perfect more than dependent can run pretty deep. I feel like you have both set up tents in my head and we’re all camping together :).

  9. Lydia April 30, 2016

    Resentment is such a big tell! When I start looking at what I’m doing that I feel like other people should be doing, I know I’ve lost my way a bit… unless I’m too busy obsessing over the feeling to realize it yet. My other tell is easier for me to spot – when my mind stops working very well. When I had been on the field for about 10 months, I remember saying to someone “I feel like I’ve lost my mind. I don’t feel crazy. I just feel like it fell out of the back of my head somehow.” I can feel a thought begin to form, but the synapses don’t fire all the way and it never quite completes the journey across my mind. Someone asks me a question and I stand there frozen and unable to put feelings into words or to even understand what feelings I’m experiencing. The edge is a familiar place. I wish it were a little less familiar.

    1. Emily Smith April 30, 2016

      Yes! I’ve tried to describe this. I’ve said my brain feels stuck…not like stuck in a loop…but like my brain is trying to wade through water or deep mud. No matter how hard I try I can’t think fast. I just end up stuck and frustrated. And then angry that people keep asking so many questions or expecting so many responses when my brain just can’t move that fast.

    2. Amy Young April 30, 2016

      This sharing of “tells” is so good! I think I’m going to try and put together a list of them and create some sort of resource for people in Member Care to be able to use … and people to be able to use on themselves!! Thank you!

  10. Christina Davis May 1, 2016

    I was blessed to read the comments as well the the article the Edge, thanks for sharing. I was feeling maybe I was one of the few who actually went OVER the edge. Became pretty useless and sick and the whole bit. Always referred to as the strong and responsible one…well,let’s say it was not something I anticipated. Nor did I know what to do. I am still “recovering”. When I was in the pit, I found the Lord telling me, I know you’ve tried, and failed, and it’s OK. I love you just the same, now get out of the way and let Me work. Isaiah 15:30 and the rest of the chapter has been my gift and muse for the past 2 years…Just sitting, praying, listening, resting, reading His word…seeing His truth and love be enough have brought me back from the edge. I am in a different place now, spiritually, emotionally and physically…but still He is sustaining me and consoling me one day at a time. So I now can say there is no edge so high or so far no pit so dark, that He cannot come to you and be your consolation, nor love you less than He ever has. 🙂

    1. Kristi May 2, 2016

      Christina, I have gone over the edge. Useless was how I described myself. I’m learning that my Maker determines my use and my worth and identity are in Jesus. His Light penetrates all Daarkness, His strength all weakness, and His Love all fear. There is no place we can go that He is not with us.

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