“Your love is a fury all its own //
Sweeping the dust and turning feet towards home //
Carrying the orphans and resetting broken bones //
Your love is a fury all its own.”
– ‘Kind,’ Amanda Cook

The pages of my calendar are turning quickly. My journal is water-marked and gently warped with use. My duffle bag is getting lots of good workouts. My gas light seems to come on with increasing frequency.

Life, these days, is full.

Full of plane rides and car rides, full of soul food and breakfast food and lots of snacks in between. Full of friendship and family and community. Full of worship – because, as my wise pastor once said, all of life is worship.

I love the traveling and the go-go-going, and I confess that I try to fill my schedule with as many experiences and parties and outings as possible.

Someone asked me yesterday: “But do you miss home?”

Well, dear friend, I’m so glad you asked.

Although I adore my childhood house and my own bed and my home city, I’m learning that home – the place of peace and comfort and familiarity –  isn’t on the map. It isn’t my address or my mailbox or the place that my iPhone magically takes me to.

Because homeward isn’t a direction on the GPS but a direction of the spirit. And home isn’t the location of my body but the state of my soul.

In the midst of life’s biggest adventures, I am finding that the compass within is what is most important for me.

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Two weekends ago, I got to visit one of my dearest friends from college in Seattle.

Seattle is one of my favorite cities in the country, for a myriad of reasons. It’s humid and the air is thick and cool for much of the year, casting everything in a muted light that makes colors sing and lights dance.

There are bodies of water practically everywhere, which makes traffic a nightmare, but the views spectacular. Big cargo ships sail silently across the Puget Sound with a majestic, gentle glide, making it seem almost beautiful to be transporting giant boxes of cargo back and forth to Asia. Coffee shops and book stores, which are inherently cozy, seem even cozier against this backdrop of rain and low clouds and fog.

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Throughout my time spent with my dear friend – in the slow, unwinding conversation that comes from deep friendship – I felt a sense of home-ness. Thousands of miles away from my own pillow, it was there. Tucked in the corner of a German restaurant. In the window seat at the book shop. Atop a ledge near North Bend, staring out onto the most spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and lakes, clouds hanging just over our heads and skirting just below our feet.

Home. That feeling in my gut that’s akin to electricity and reverie all at once.

This, I thought to myself, is where my compass sings. Regardless of GPS coordinates.

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This past weekend, it came again.

I was in the mountains for a getaway with my roommate and my parents and my roommate’s parents and a bunch of family friends.

And while we drove a couple of hours away from our usual address, I felt a little bit like I was coming home when I walked into those cozy cabin doors.


I woke up Saturday morning to the sparkle of frost outside my window, the bubbling sound of coffee brewing, and the whispers of our moms in the kitchen. I breathed deep into my pillow in thankfulness, trying to soak up every possible moment and every feeling, like a piece of bread soaking up the bottom of a soup bowl.

It was the most perfect day. Everybody woke up one-by-one, the volume in the kitchen growing and growing as the breakfast casserole baked. We drank buckets of coffee and orange juice while admiring the bright, sparkling mountain views. We reclined in the cozy living room chairs to read and journal.

Then, we set out for a hike around Monarch Lake. The sky was a piercing blue and the sun shone through the trees, making the snow fall like glitter from the high branches each time the wind blew. Every turn revealed a new, beautiful mountain view, and everybody’s colorful coats made us look like an ad for REI.


Those are our parents (mine are on the far left). Aren’t they just the most fun??


And here are all of us 20-somethings! I think we had to keep up with the parents as much as they had to keep up with us.


After a full morning of hiking in the sun and snow, we went back to the cabin for piles and piles of snacks – guacamole, cheese and crackers, chips and popcorn, M&Ms. We watched movies and played games. We ate and talked and the high ceilings of the cabin brimmed over with the sounds of laughter and happy community.

And I felt it. The sense of being at home.

So, to answer your question, no. I haven’t been missing home.

Because my home goes with me.

Home is sitting close to my best friends and confidants and soul sisters and loved ones as often as I possibly can. It’s about gathering around the table for coffee and egg casserole or cheese and crackers or sloppy joes. It’s about people watching at the airport and feeling a sense of gratitude for adventure and all of the stories that fill this world.

Home is there in the cozy cabin, the window seat, and the skyscraper view. In the office and on the comfy couch. On the plane and the train and the ferry. In the mountains and by the beach. In my hometown and in a new town. With my loved ones and with friends old and new.

And it doesn’t have anything to do with the where. It has everything to do with the who.

And not only the who that surrounds me, but the who that lives within me.

The people that anchor me, not the crowd that jeers me. A Heavenly Father that calls me, not the emotions that disorient me.

In my ordinary, day-to-day, working-and-coming-home-and-making-lunch life, my true compass is no less active than when I’m on the mountaintop. It’s no less active in the hard times than in the happy season. I have found it in the biggest of American cities and in the smallest Haitian villages. In the waiting room and on the dorm room floor.

It’s an echo of the true home that awaits me at the end of my life. That day when my heart will step over the final threshold of grace into the forever family of God. When my little feet will find that eternal place of community and joy and connection and belonging that my soul longs for.

On that day, as my fingertips retrace the map of life, the feeling will still be there.

It was always with me. Even here, even now.

Day by day, my little feet turning more and more towards home.

An Ode to the Group Text Message

If you know what’s good for you, you’ve seen Jimmy Fallon’s weekly segment titled “Thank You Notes.” He waxes on about some of life’s greatest mysteries and quirks and ridiculous brands, but in the form of a “thank you,” so it’s a little kinder. And also hilarious.

(If you have not seen one of these bits – you poor soul – here’s a great place to begin. Ooh, or this segment. Or this one. Okay. They’re all good, y’all.)

Now that we have that out of the way…

This post is going to be sorta like one of Jimmy’s thank you notes. But it’s from me. And the object of my affection?

Group text messages.

Now before you go muting your notifications, do allow me to elaborate.

Group text messages have become a dear – and essential – part of my life in the past year. They connect me with all sorts of people in all sorts of areas of my life with all sorts of ease! (No, this is not a paid endorsement).

I have a group text with my mom, dad and sister, perfect for when mom needs to remind us of the birthday of a distant relative, or when dad has an update about car insurance. Or – most frequently – when we’ve all gone over on our cell phone data usage for the month and mom whips out the angry-face emoji.

I also have a group text going with just my mom and my sister for updates on all things Starbucks, shopping, spring break plans and checking account overages. (“WHODUNNNIT THIS TIME?!” -Mom)

There’s a group text between the members of our office (a total of five people, you guys). This feed usually indicates whether or not anyone is going to be physically in the office on any given day. Because of the nature of our work, my boss and coworkers are often attending events, networking, meeting with the clients we write for, or traveling to other cities and offices. So, sometimes there aren’t very many folks actually in the building. In addition, because of meetings or events, my Boulder-based coworkers often decide to WFH (“Work From Home.” I know, the acronym is a bit much in my opinion). And sometimes, I get their WFH notifications as I am literally stepping off the commuter train a block away from our building. And I spend the entire day solo in an echo-y office, rather than WFH-ing in my PJs. So, a lot of good that group text does for me. #Technology, y’all.

Okay, on to better examples.

I have a group text going with a group of girlfriends that I absolutely love. We spent a weekend in the mountains together this September and it was just glorious. We roomed together and zip-lined together, ate together and walked to events together. And in just a handful of hours, we knew something special had formed between us. A sisterhood. A bond. In short, the makings of a group text.

Now, we text quotes and photos to each other – some hilarious, some heart-warming, and some that remind us of each other and that weekend. We make plans and fill each other in on big life events. All with the help of emojis, through which most emotions can be expressed, am I right?? Can we take a blog moment of silence to appreciate the all-knowing, all-edifying invention that is the emoji?!

To enforce my point…below is a screen shot of one very special era in this particular group messaging saga:

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Despite the few shortcomings of the emoji keyboard – such as the exclusion of cheese, tacos, popcorn and other major food groups – there are many and varied ways to get your point across.

Anyway. Now you know why this group text – among many – is indeed a blessing in my life.

There is also a year-old group text message going for our small group, which I dare say is the envy of church community groups worldwide. We text out prayer requests, meeting updates, requests for snacks, birthday wishes, and ‘I-love-you’s. Other frequent appearances include “SOS,” “OMG,” and “send wine.” Enough said.

On some days, if I’m away from my phone for longer than 20 minutes, I will have dozens of notifications waiting for me from my trusty small group text feed.

In particular, this tends to happen when most of the group is going to a church service/birthday party/other miscellaneous event. For instance…

Setting: Ten minutes before an event

  • Texter A: “Is anyone here yet?”
  • Texter B: “I’m here!! But I can’t find a parking space!!!”
  • Texter A: “I’m pulling in now, right next to the orange van!!”
  • Texter B: “What orange van? The one that says ‘Penske’?”
  • Texter A: “Those vans are yellow. So no.”
  • Texter C: “Running late, but I’ll be there soon!”
  • Texter D: “I’m inside at the bathroom.”

All well and good, friends. But if you’re not attending this event, you can see how 65 notifications like the ones above might cause you some angst.

Thankfully, there have been many technological advancements in the group text message of late that can help manage the madness! Now you can add people to an existing conversation, give every person a cute photo to accompany their messages, share your current location so your buddies can find you (to avoid the situation above). And, yes – you can even mute all notifications from that one group that is texting you their every move at an event you weren’t able to attend. Hallelujah for that.

All of this is to say that 1) it’s truly a great time to be alive, in the era of the group text message, and 2) I am really just all-out thankful for these people. My beloved group-texters.

The ones that love me well and enough to text me dozens of times an hour and invite me to church with them. The ones that include me and put a little photo of me in their phone next to my contact info. The ones who have the sunflowers next to their names (you know who you are).

I am incredibly, deeply, cup-overflowing-ly happy in this season of my life. I have friends who are kind, wise, giving and visionary people, and they want to hang out with me just as much as I love to hang out with them. What a treasure this is. I am discovering my gifts and trying to steward them well, which is thrilling and terrifying at once, the best kind of adventure. I am growing and walking with God in ways that I used to think were out of reach for me, which testifies every day to His goodness and kindness towards His beloved.

Now, not all of this can be attributed to the all-mighty group text message. But the people behind those group texts? Yeah, they get some credit.

They remind me that I am worthy, not just because of my notifications, but because of who I am in Christ. They affirm me with their birthday wishes and gentle reminders to look for God’s fingerprints on this earth. They make me laugh out loud (Natalie, I’m looking at you, kid) and cry tears of gratitude. And, when texting just doesn’t cut it, they bring wine and snacks over to my house, or invite me over to their place for pizza, for which I will forever be in their debt.

My coworkers. Mom, Dad and Natalie. Team Freedom. The Sunflowers.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your 65 notifications an hour.

There are not (yet) enough emojis in the world to express my love for you.

Broken & Shared

“I’ve marveled at how Christ breaks us like bread and spreads the pieces of us to even more people…Even when I cannot see him, I hear the beautiful gallop of God’s heartbeat for humanity.” – Christine Caine

A crowd was gathered to listen to the words of this man, Jesus. They sat on the grass in groups, growing hungrier and wearier as the day turned to twilight.

This guy, the one they came to listen to – He takes a crusty loaf and breaks it once/twice/three times. And he keeps tearing off piece after piece, methodically, without haste or worry. And the loaf never runs out. He keeps tearing, keeps sharing. Thousands of times.

The Message version of the Bible says that Jesus, our Jesus, “lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave.”

He knelt to pray. He blessed. He broke. He gave.


Each time I have read the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, I always picture myself as one of the people out in the crowd, eating my crusty bread and marveling at the miracle.

Then, this morning on the train to work, I read those words by Christine Caine: “Christ breaks us like bread and spreads the pieces of us to even more people.”

What if we’re not always the members of the hungry crowd – what if we are the bread? The agents that God miraculously uses and multiplies and shares to reach more of our broken world?

Let this sink for a minute.

If Christine’s wise words are true, then it follows that a couple of things are true about us. Remember Jesus’ actions in The Message: He prayed. He blessed. He broke. He gave.

First, Jesus prays for us.

When we are confused, muted by hurt, or unsure of where to step, Christ is the promised companion that intercedes for us and prays on our behalf. The Holy Spirit sends alerts to God in a wordless way, ensuring that even if we are speechless, God always knows what’s happening with our hearts. It’s that gift of constant connection that Jesus made possible with his work on the cross. We are prayed for.

Second, our Heavenly Father blesses us. Equips us.

The Lord has given you a unique set of gifts that mean you’re trained and ready to do battle in this world. You’re ready to encourage in a culture of shaming and competition and pressure. You’re ready to run your business with integrity, even if your neighbor cheats and makes more money. You’re ready to take what you’ve learned from the love of your family and community and welcome an unloved person into grace. Just as Jesus blessed the bread that day, we are blessed with all the tools we’ll need going forward. 

Imagine the blessing of communion, that ancient tradition passed from the table of the Last Supper all the way to the tables in our churches today. Imagine the Lord blessing and tearing off bread for all eternity, tearing and sharing, never running out. He empowered and blessed the disciples with the breaking of that first communion loaf, and his blessing continues even to the bread we break in remembrance today. His favor and blessing extends even to you, friend.

Third, if we’re the bread, as Christine says, we’re broken. God knows that we will experience disappointment. Heartbreak. Grief. But he uses even that part of our stories for the good of His Kingdom coming. This isn’t just a cliche.

You know that feeling when you’re broken-down? Your heart hurts, your eyes sag, your spirit wilts, you are exhausted and hollowed-out? I’ve heard (and witnessed with my own story) that the best way to heal from the hurt is to help another person that’s hurting. So what if that carries into this metaphor? What if, in times of grief, you’re not being broken down, but you’re being multiplied, opened up to the Father in humility and growth? What if the pieces of your past are not just cast away, but spread around in hope to help others who are hurting?

Tearing, sharing. Our pieces entering hungry hands and hearts.

Finally, Jesus gave that bread.

The truth is, friends, this life isn’t about us. It’s better – it’s bigger! We were brought to this earth to be given away. You’ve been prayed for, blessed and broken, all for the purpose of serving Our God and serving the sweet people in your life.

He’s sending your smile to your hurting neighbor, your compassionate voice to the child whose home life is rocky. He’s sharing your brilliant personality with your family, your church, your best friends. It’s that miraculous process in which humans get to reveal pieces of God himself to other humans. Tearing, sharing – passing, partaking. Like a delicious meal, like broken bread and poured wine.

He’s sending us out into our streets and sidewalks so that pieces of himself and pieces of ourselves can feed stomachs and souls. So hungry hands and hearts will find the comfort that nothing of this world will satisfy.

Being “shared” is what we were made for.

As Emily Freeman says, there are a few things we know for sure about us as humans: “We want more connecting, less competing. We want more laughter, less shame. We want more love, less fear.”

What do all these things have in common? These things we want more of? They are shared.

What if, in our pain, we chose to be shared, passed around to the hungry and the hurting with our stories of hope? What if we lived as the anointed bread, broken by the gentle hands of Jesus, and passed around, like a well-loved story, to all who are in need of comfort? What if you are helping others discover His beautiful treasure of grace and glory? What if this is the meaning of a full life?

He knelt to pray. He blessed. He broke. He gave.

Friend, I believe it’s true. It’s what you and me were made for.

Turn Off The VCR

I wrote a blog post about six months back. It was titled “I’d Rather Have The Old.”

It was some sort of extended metaphor (one of my favorite things) about how my love of vintage clothing and old furnishings and cute, old houses and my grandparents’ old postcards is a metaphor for my nostalgic heart.

I never published it.

And now, I’m so very glad it has stayed in “draft” format.

Because here’s the thing: for a long time now, I’ve been dwelling on old stuff. Mentally, spiritually. My soul does little glances backward, a pining that turns to salt like Lot’s wife at Sodom and Gomorrah. When I wrote that six-months-ago post, I was still holding on to six-months-ago hurt and fears and grief. Lost relationships. Friendships that were fractured. Jobs and roles that I knew I’d never occupy again.

I’d been playing these dusty VCR tapes over and over, breathing in the familiar sounds and the familiar-but-fleeting comfort they offered me.

I wrote “I’d Rather Have The Old” because that – in my heart of hearts – is how I felt. It was a “good ‘ol days,” mentality. It was that tendency of mine that I like to call  nostalgia. But it’s actually not that simple. It’s that turning-back tendency that makes me miss the beauty, the redemption, the growth, the good that’s all around me in the present. 


Then, this weekend, something clicked for me. Me and a bunch of my best girls went to the mountains and we played hard and prayed hard. We laughed and cried until our sides and cheeks were a little sore and raw. We played volleyball and ping pong and dodge ball and we screamed on the zipline. And suddenly, in between cries of worship and heartfelt conversation, I realized: hey, this is new. This feeling of freedom, this being-me-fully, this feeling of being known and valued and loved without guilt, and without worrying about pleasing anybody. This is new! And hey, I like it.

One of our speakers during this weekend retreat said this, right into my soul: “Some of you have been playing old tapes over and over again in your head. Old lies. An old nickname someone called you, an old pattern, an old habit. You’re chaining yourself to that old stuff and letting it have power over you.”

Listen up, friends. Listen up, she said: “You are not who you were.

Do you really hear that? You are not who you were. 6 months ago. 6 weeks ago. 6 hours ago.

This is the beauty of Christ’s aliveness in us. He’s redeeming you moment-by-moment, bit-by-bit, always. So you’re never going to be who you were. You are evermore the person you’re becoming. The person you were made to be.

Um, hallelujah.

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Right there, in a valley filled with the glitter of gold aspen trees turning, shoulder-to-shoulder with the people I love, the VCR sputtered and started making some pathetic dying noises and then stopped altogether. And I thought, “It’s time.”

“Time to take that old, dusty, six-months-ago, six-years-ago VCR player to the Goodwill. Or maybe just the dumpster.”

Friends, I’m not who I was! Wahoo! That old VCR ain’t got nothin on me.

Here’s some old lies, old names, old tapes I’ve been believing about myself, and their year of origin:

  • Teacher’s Pet” (5th grade, 2001)
  • Little Miss Perfect” (3rd grade, 1999)
  • More of a Lamb” (11th grade, 2007)
    • I had a high school friend who told me one time: “There are two kinds of friends in the world. Some, like me, are leaders – wolves. You’re more of a follower. You’re more of a lamb. You can’t help it.” And you guys, I have believed that about myself all this time. LIKE WHAT. Going on a decade later, I still have believed that I’m not capable of leading, and not worthy of being followed. That I’m just a helpless follower forever. That my voice is small and my role is secondary to the wolves of the world. Lord, have mercy. 
  • Valedictorian” (8th grade, 2004)
  • Weak friend” (11th grade, 2007)
    • I have had a pattern of friendship in my life that has cost me many relationships and caused a lot of pain. I have latched on to people with really strong personalities and placed my identity and worth in their approval. And then, when they pull away (because they were never meant to hold my worth in their high-school-sized hands), I have been crushed, hurt and confused. I have lost more than a handful of friends this way over the course of my school days. It’s been such an inner struggle to give grace to my friends and to myself, rather than putting all my prideful, insecure eggs in the basket of pleasing them. I have been so, so afraid that this pattern will be a curse on my friendships forever – that I’m too ‘weak’ and ‘needy’ to actually have healthy, flourishing friendships. LORD, HAVE MERCY. I am NOT going to play this tape anymore. I never liked it to begin with.
  • People-pleaser” (Freshman year of college, 2009)
  • Never says no” (Freshman year of college, 2009)
  • Depressed” (Senior year of college, 2013)
  • Failure” (2013-2014. Lord, have mercy)

People, this is madness. These words had a power over me I never even knew was still playing. Will you join me in stopping the tapes and letting God’s promise of newness in Jesus become reality to you? 

Um, hallelujah.

And on the note of hallelujah, here’s the stuff that God’s writing, with new ink and new grace, in this little heart of mine:

  • “Leader”
  • “FREE”
  • “Gloriously imperfect”
  • “Courageous”
  • “Strong voice”
  • “Treasured”
  • “Worthy of wonderful friendship”
  • “Worthy of being heard”
  • “Life-giver”
  • “Confident”
  • “Beautiful”


On Monday morning, when we were back from the retreat and cursing our alarms, I got up early for my quiet time and read this, in God’s awesome timing. I dare you to read it aloud to yourself.

You shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed ‘forsaken’ and your land shall no more be termed ‘desolate.’ But you shall be called by the Father, ‘My Delight is in Her.'”  [ Isaiah 62:3-4 ]

Isn’t this totally awesome? God is talking to the nation of Israel, his Zion. He is promising that their old mistakes and wanderings would be written over in His handwriting of mercy. He is vowing to treasure those once-desolate places of the heart, those places that sting, and make them beautiful – like His treasure, His crown.

There are new names, written in God-sized handwriting. New ink and new grace, heading towards you and me straight from the heavens. Will you join me in stopping the tapes and letting God’s promises breathe life into you?

Turn off that VCR.


Grace-Filled Pace

This past weekend, my Denver roommate and I loaded bags and blankets and snacks into her car, and drove east on I-80 for a few hours until we reached this place.


It’s a place where you can really breathe. The sky is vast and beautiful, uninhibited.

Organized fields of green cascade in every direction, interrupted only by grain silos and co-op buildings, dusty dirt roads and the brick skyline of downtown shops and businesses.

Rush hour is, as a friend of mine often put it, “more like a rush minute,” as cars and trucks head home along Burlington when the clock hits 5:00.

Life is no less complicated. But it is somehow slower. Simpler.

It’s a grace-filled pace.

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This place is where I spent my happy, reckless, animated college days. Where I got my first job, and quit my first job. Where I had my first kiss and first heartbreak. Where I was blessed with lifelong friendships and incredible mentors.

And where I learned to lean on the Lord more fervently and fully than I ever have before.

It’s where I first learned the meaning of grace – in my heart, not just my head.


The weekend was an absolutely perfect Labor Day trip.

We spent the night in the college apartment where my sister lives, bags in our hands and under our eyes, but our hearts full.

We went for walks and visited old, familiar places as well as the new downtown coffee shop and the updated places on campus. We ate raspberries and marveled at the sticky, humid heat. We walked around the park and took pictures of the sunflowers. We went to the little boutiques downtown and the old mall.

When we got hot and tired, in keeping with a much-loved college tradition of mine, we went to Sonic for happy hour slushies.

We trekked to the Nebraska State fair for a country concert and a fried peach (if anything on this planet is evidence of God’s goodness, it’s a fried peach!)IMG_0038 IMG_0047IMG_1239

And we saw friends. Oh, so many sweet friends! One of my best friends from college, who happened to be driving through town Saturday night. My church family and small group, filled with people that mentored me and loved me during some hard and crucial seasons. My sweet pen pal. My friend and former coworker, who invited us around her kitchen table for coffees and croissants topped with fig jam and brie and basil (SO yummy).

The days blended together and spilled over with laughter. Life felt slow. The trip took on an old, sweet, familiar rhythm.

Life un-rushed. The pace of grace.

See, when I was last in this place, I might not have described the scenery this way.

When I last called Nebraska my home, I was having a hard time. I struggled with anxiety and depression. I felt a whip-lash as many of the things that formerly formed my identity were no longer around. Change shook me hard, and I mourned the passing of old seasons. I felt like God was hard at work tearing out stuff I would have rather kept buried in the garden of my heart.

Turns out, God wasn’t just weeding. He was also in the business of planting some stuff. And in the past year, I’ve seen the fruit of that planting.

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God has planted peace. Where I once felt anxious and fearful, God has taught me that failure is not fatal.

God has planted community – deep, deep down. With roots. I have come to love and cherish the close friends that I have in a way that is not dependent on what any of us can give or take. I have learned, though imperfectly, to lean my relationships on the pillar of Christ, rather than the false pillars of people-pleasing. This has been transformational for me.

God has planted confidence. For much of my life so far, I have believed that my story is secondary to the stories of others. I’ve been told – by others, and by the lies in my own head – that the things that others were doing were more important. I used to believe that my story didn’t matter.

But. God has written on my heart in fresh ink that everything matters in his kingdom. And when you start the desires of your heart with his kingdom? All the best fruits of this lifetime will be added.

Finally, you guys – and I say it with an unshakable assurance – God has planted grace.

He has shown me that he sees me and values me with a love that is unparalleled in this universe.

This pace of grace – it isn’t an easy one, I’m learning. But it’s fruitful.

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As I walked through town last weekend, revisiting friends and memories, both bitter and sweet, I got to see the art of God’s handwriting in my life come full circle. I felt an incredible joy as I realized the purpose in the planting that happened so many months ago.

Just one big redemption story being written day-by-day, moment-by-moment.

And with a sense of comfort and relief and peace, I am finally letting go of the fear and grief and guilt that I once held on to, an act that has been long overdue.

So, thank you to the sweet community that loved me well, this past weekend and many many weeks before. Thanks for welcoming me back to this place.

To the place where green earth and blue sky form a straight line on the horizon. The place where dusty dirt roads take you to the warmest of homes, the warmest of memories. The place where seeds are planted, harvested and shared.

The place that set the pace of my heart.

The pace of grace.

Then Sings My Soul

It was like the moment after your feet have left the diving board, but before you splash into the pool. The split second between the pitch and the crack of the bat. The time between the first tear of wrapping paper and when you actually get to see the gift.

Sheer anticipation and adrenaline and curiosity and wonder and stillness, combined with wild hope.

We stood shoulder-to-shoulder, heart-to-heart as the wind played with our hair and the city lights winked at us from below.

It was a taste of heaven.

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It was a concert, yes. Some of the biggest names in Christian music. But you wouldn’t know it, really. Because the names on stage made sure that the biggest name in the house that night was God’s. They united us all, hundreds of thousands of small names, from every suburb and far-away city, despite differences in political slant and church background and history. They united us under One Name, the Only Name, the name of the one who made the stars under which we sat.

And with a sound like a thousand tiny feet stepping over the threshold and coming home, we sang.

We sang those all-too-familiar songs that we hear on the radio, lips mouthing those phrases well-worn and well-loved. We sang with a hunger that rivaled any physical hunger I’ve ever experienced. We sang “Forever” and “Lord I Need You” and “10,000 Reasons.” We sang as Matt Maher played the piano and Chris Tomlin strummed his guitar and Matt Redman declared God’s goodness in his sweet British accent. I got chills when “How Great Thou Art” and “It Is Well With My Soul” were woven in. We sang out hearts out. We sang together.

We danced. We danced under a ceiling of only sky, the sounds of praise bouncing off those big red rocks that surround the auditorium. We danced like we were shaking off the stresses of a thousand stressful days. We danced and held one another, lifting prayers and lifting hearts to Him wordlessly, in the midst of the lyrics of each song, like questions written in between the lines.

We prayed. We prayed for our country, for our leadership. We prayed for the pastors in the house, and for those who are sick. Those who were desperate for a relationship to be healed, for a decision to be made clear. We prayed hard. Because we believe that when we pray, we are heard. And we believe that prayer shakes up the hearts of both the givers and the receivers of it. And we believe that the best days are not behind, but in God’s grace and sovereignty, they are yet to come.

It was worship unlike any I’ve yet experienced. Whole, unashamed, totally crazy good.


As a church-goer and Christ follower and broken person trying to get to know this Jesus guy, I felt like I was ready to die right then. Picture it: thousands of people unashamedly singing to God, pure joy all around, the sheer beauty of it so huge that I know it must have been heard by angels. Little me, learning and wondering, surrounded by some of my dearest friends who are on this journey with me, tears and laughter mixing together. “Heaven,” I thought. “This is what it’s going to be like that day.”

But I also thought…how do I explain something like this to my friends who aren’t really into church, or who don’t know this crazy awesome God of mine? How do I explain an experience so fulfilling that I let the tears fall? How do I explain how completely my hope rests in this life-altering love?

I really don’t know. But I will say this.

Have you ever heard the sound?

The sound of your own soul hurt when someone betrays, when your dreams don’t work out, when you got the news that you wish you could reverse?

Or maybe when you felt accepted, or heard, for the first time? When you worked so hard and your determination was rewarded? When the church doors opened to reveal the most beautiful bride you’ve ever seen?

That hurt-filled sound? That hopeful sound?

Well, God has super sonic ears. He hears when the door slams and your expectations shatter. He hears the silent moment when you decide to give up. He hears the phrase that you just can’t seem to shake out of your head.

And this night – this night was a new sound to Him. To the one who hears. As a tiny thank you for all the listening he does for us every day, we wrote a new soundtrack to our Father with the singing and the dancing and the between-the-lines thanking.

The hurt-filled sounds were replaced with a hopeful sound.

It was the sound of once-embarrassed voices belting it out without shame. It was the sound of once-mute, once-dead people erupting with their very first words of life. It was the sound of a thousand knees hitting the gravel in prayer, in hope – a thousand joints and a thousand lies cracking as we all went down.

It was like the moment after your feet have left the diving board, but before you splash into the pool. The split second between the pitch and the crack of the bat. The time between the first tear of wrapping paper and when you actually get to see the gift.

Sheer anticipation and adrenaline and curiosity and wonder and stillness, combined with wild hope.

Bitter + Sweet

I am a perfectionist, or at least a recovering one. And I’m an idealist, certainly.

I used to think that if something wasn’t perfect, I had to throw the whole thing out – literally and figuratively. A craft. A photo. A memory. I scribbled in a journal? Time to start a new one. Bad grade? Time to band-aid that up with extra credit. Fight with a friend? Couldn’t sleep until I had “fixed it.” My professor thought my photograph was rubbish? I must be an all-out failure of an artist and I must start a new career path.

But recently I stumbled on a new thing. Or rather, I came up with a name for it. A new spot in my heart. A belief that I think has been building for a while.

What if things don’t have to be all rosy, all sweet, all perfect…in order to be good? (I know I know, groundbreaking, right? Fellow perfectionists bear with me!)

What if almost everything in life is gonna be both bitter and sweet – partly great, partly a little hard – light and dark dancing together – and what if that’s better? What if we really do need both? What if we can really embrace both?


I have been in the bittersweet place before, friends. Oh yeah, and I remember how tender and weird and scary it was most of the time. Things were changing fast, and so many things were exciting and good and new. But I simultaneously felt my heart hurting, or maybe even breaking, over what used to be, and over who I myself used to be. I was mourning and celebrating all at once, back and forth many times in the course of a single day. “It’s good,” I tried to say to myself. “The change is good and the adventure is good!”

However, I really can’t say that I felt all sweetness. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night, pillow wet with tears and heart racing in the dark, stomach growling because I hadn’t actually eaten anything for dinner either.


Graduating is this way. Moving is this way. Breakups are this way. Family changes are this way. Losing someone is this way. A diagnosis is this way.

Bitter and sweet, both. The initial grape-like juiciness of a glass of red wine, followed right in the same moment by that bitter, deep aftertaste. Or maybe a totally mustard-y, strong vinaigrette that tastes sorta sour until you finally discover the sliver of honey that reveals itself in the end.

When I am in the middle of them, my bittersweet seasons feel cruel to me. Like, why can’t things just be all-happy, all the time? Why can’t this glass of wine just taste like a Sprite? That would be my ideal world, I once thought. All sugar, all the time.

But. What if the sweet memories and the tear-stained pillows can still live together, and maybe even dwell together harmoniously? What if God uses both of them best when they’re mixed together? Kinda like how if you eat pantry ingredients separately, it won’t taste nearly as good as a whole, mixed batch of cookie dough? Or better yet, the finished cookie?


I have a lot of friends who are in the middle of these seasons right now. And, I guess, I am too.

People are getting new jobs and mourning the loss of jobs they thought would be around for a lot longer. Friends are moving to new states and new cities and totally loving the discovery of it all. But that doesn’t make it any easier to be thousands of miles away from your mom.

Best friends and siblings and loved ones are getting married, which of course is one of God’s greatest gifts and the beginning of some of life’s greatest adventures and stories. But it’s also hard to watch the old days fade and feel the family tides roll and wonder what the next chapter holds. It’s only fun to be single at so many weddings (represent!). After a while, you really do wonder when you’ll be the one in white.

We are trying to figure out who we want to be, what kind of people we’re becoming. Which is exciting and transformational, quintessentially a 20-something thing to do, full of guts and courage and faith. But the process also requires us to say goodbye to the old friends and the old habits and the old songs that no longer fit. We can’t, in fact, wear last season’s clothes. Which means we get to buy new ones, which is fun, but which means we also have to let some others go. And that’s hard. Sorta like you get to go to the mall, but you have to go naked. That’s scary, people. For all involved.

Bitter + sweet.

Friends, I think there’s hope here – right in the center of this. Right at the epicenter of the waiting and the tides of all these feelings.

I used to think that if something wasn’t perfect, I had to throw the whole thing out, or at least try to fake that I was fine. A friendship, fractured. A vacation where we actually did a lot of fighting. A whole season of life when I did a lot of crying.

But that way of thinking is not preaching the story of redemption over myself.

In Christ, I am not a slave to what was. I am not required to be perfect, feel perfect, act perfect. There is grace for me. In the bitter and the sweet. There’s grace for us to be real about how we’re feeling and talk about it. There’s grace for us to admit its hard and challenge each other to run all-out after God anyway. There’s grace for us to grow and hold each other loosely and forgive one another and forgive ourselves.

I guess when things are in your life for long enough – whether a place or a person or a practice – there is bound to be both good and bad memories wrapped up with those things.

And that is good – it’s for our good.

The sweet teaches us gratitude and the bitter keeps us strong and level-headed and moving forward.

And, although I used to think it would be easier, I am not going to eat only the sugar or only the chocolate chips. I’m signing up for the whole cookie.

In fact, I’m signing up for a whole meal that contains a thousand flavors – tart, tender, bitter and sweet, maybe all at once, all in the same mouthful.

Not all the same, and not all sweet, but rich nonetheless.


It’s Monday, and the little world around me is waking up groggily, sipping coffee and scrolling through Twitter, trying to wake up and wondering where another wonderful summer weekend went. Poolside afternoons have faded to pagers beeping and printers whirring and emails interrupting the 90-degree heat.

Hello, new week.

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I ride the train on these Mondays, these weekday mornings, and – although it could be partly the coffee talking – my heart is soaring. I look at all of these people, all of these faces, rumbling towards downtown on the light rail with me. Going to work and college. Some napping. Some reading. Some looking out the thick train windows, watching the pink sunrise cast the downtown skyline in a silhouette.

A lady is swaying gently to the beat of whatever is in her headphones. The man across from me is attempting to disarm the voice activation feature on his smartphone…and is thus speaking loudly to an inanimate object in the middle of a crowd of strangers (LOL). A jolly-looking guy with just a tiny bit of a belly is laughing heartily at the screen of his iPhone, and I wonder if he was watching Netflix or simply reading text messages from his wife.

Something about this time is extraordinary.

To think…God knew these would be our movements this morning. He fashioned us perfectly, purposefully, so that we could do these little things. Fill these spaces. Ride these trains. Be a part of the pulse of this city. Once upon a time, God drew a circle on the map of my life in the exact spot I am standing now. And the same goes for you.

I often wonder to myself, “did God actually do it all, sacrifice it all, craft it all…just so that we could do this? Live ordinary lives? Ride the train and shop for groceries and corral kids into classrooms and answer emails?”

“Did God make me so that I could listen to Phil Wickham on my afternoon run?” (current fav)

“Did God so love the world so that I could snap at my friends and snap at my parents, and then come to Him, repentant?”

“Did God give His One and Only so that I could stumble out of bed into a broken world every Monday morning?”

Answer: Yes.

This, I think, is one of the things I was put on this earth to tell you. Yes. God made, and God loved, and God gave so that we could live lives that are full – full of both big moments and ordinary joys. It all matters.  

Here’s the thing. God didn’t just plop us on to this earth as if by an afterthought. He didn’t just birth us in this country, in our cities, in our homes, and with our families as if by accident.

And here’s the thing – if you believe, as I so strongly do, that these things were not by accident, then it follows that nothing is an accident. Nothing.

I mean, it wouldn’t make sense if God the Father divinely chose certain events, certain encounters, and certain meet-ups to happen, but allowed other things to just slip through the cracks. Then he wouldn’t be the all-knowing, all-good, all-purposeful, all-powerful God that He is. And friends – HE IS. He knows. He’s good. He’s full of purpose. He’s powerful.

And yes, I believe that even the things in life that are SO hard, the fires that we’re thrown into, the bruises that we don’t feel like we deserved, the news that changes everything. Even the things that suck. These things are not God’s choice for His children, but He still uses them. Even our mistakes and the times we make big messes. God gives us the freedom to choose, but He still uses that stuff. It becomes a teachable moment, not treachery.

Why? Because everything is designed to draw us nearer to the Father. The good teaches us to know Him, and the bad teaches us to lean on Him with everything. The happy teaches us to praise Him, and the grief teaches us to question Him again and again and again until we come out trusting. He promised to make us more and more like Jesus, closer and closer to Himself, our whole lives long. And He is faithful to do just that.

He is crafting us into the finest Gold. The tools He uses take all kinds of shapes and sizes – good, bad, ugly and everything in between. But I believe so strongly that he chooses each and every shaping tool on purpose.

Friend, I’m talking to you today. Imagine I’m sitting beside you with a cup of coffee, or imagine that I’ve just sent you a letter in the mail.

I know how badly it hurts. That news, that person, that shattered dream, that anxiety. I know that ache. I’ve known it before, and I’ll know it again.

But I believe more than ever that you are gold. You are being refined with an undeniable beauty by a trustworthy and good craftsman. And that stuff that you’re made of is gonna shine brighter and brighter your whole life long, polished by moments of all kinds – ordinary, extraordinary, excruciating, and all. It all matters.

It’s a new week. The Craftsman is at work. So, take heart.

You are Golden, shining brighter with every passing Monday.

How He Loves | Haiti Part 3

This trip to the beach was a special one.

The American teams that work with GVCM orphanage had never gone to the beach with a group of kids before. It was a new vision, a new dream this year. We piled into trucks, drove for three hours from the mountains down toward the coast, and were rewarded when we pulled up to a hotel property covered in flowers and set on the backdrop of the sea.

It didn’t take long for all of us to put on swimsuits and sprint for the pool.

We swam, we jumped, we splashed. We brought out squirt guns and inner tubes and beach balls. There may have been a chicken fight or two.

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It was a chance for these kids to really be kids. To laugh and play, to feel the sand between their toes and taste the salt of the sea for the first time. From what I heard, almost none of the kids had been to the ocean before. And they were born and raised on an island!

The beach was a gift – for all of us.

I think our beach stay was a unanimous highlight of this trip to Haiti, and not just because of the setting. Multiple times during our stay, I felt a kind of peace deep inside me that I can only explain as God. His delight for his children. I felt his smile, his laugh as we played. I watched my team members of all ages melt into childlike joy at the water’s edge and I watched my Haitian friends put their toes in the ocean for the first time. And it was undeniable. He loves us, I thought. His kiddos. It was freeing and fulfilling.

In between playing and laughing and taking in the sheer beauty of the view, we spent some intentional time with the young men and young women we had brought with us from the orphanage.

The guys gathered by the pool. They shared testimonies and read through Proverbs 27 – “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” And pretty soon, they started a contest to see who could do the most push-ups. Boys, I tell you.

As for the girls – we gathered on the porch. The breeze from the ocean played with our wet hair and the thin pages of our Bibles.

It was incredibly special to ask these young women – with the help of an interpreter, Gabby, who herself had lived in the GVCM orphanage – what they wanted to be when they grew up. An artist. A doctor. A teacher.

And slowly, they let us in. They told us about when they first felt God’s realness in their hearts. They told us their life verses and the verses they recite before they go to sleep. They told us what they do in those moments when they just need a mom.

We go to God,” they said.

These girls, I tell you. Wisdom beyond years.

We shared tough questions and prayer requests and the words of Isaiah:

The Lord has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3

Oil of joy. A garment of praise. A crown of beauty.

Common, everyday items take on a brilliance when they’re in the hands of our God.

We too, common guys and gals, take on a brilliance deep within us when we rest in His capable hands. We were never made ordinary. We were crafted in the image of the King – born into royalty. He loves us. 

This is the message we shared with these six young women we had gotten to know.

And to show these girls just how beautiful, how royal they are in God’s eyes, we pulled out tiny, plastic tiaras, and passed them around.


They were just tiny, party store crowns. But oh, you should have seen how those young women made them shine!

Gabby. Floncia. Alonda. Maslo. Gabby. Miriam. Shalonda. Vita. These girls took on a new beauty as they fitted the crowns into their beautiful black hair. Shoulders back, heads held high, smiling.

You are a Queen, a true gift and a daughter of the King,” their crowns seemed to say. “You have been beautifully created and intentionally placed.” 

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When Haitian pastors dream dreams for their nation, and for their people, they say that what Haiti needs isn’t money or resources or new ideas or new systems, but rather strong leaders with hearts for God who will lead the country to higher ground.

These, I pray, are some of those leaders. These sweet girls with the crowns on their heads and the knowledge of God’s love rooted deeper in their hearts. Those strong, relentless boys doing dozens of push-ups by the pool.

These men and women that made our beach trip so special.


Each time I visit the ocean, I like to take a little moment to just float on my back and soak in the grandeur of my surroundings. I let go of my feet, let go of my control, breathe deep, and look up at the sky. Something about this posture puts me in a good posture of the heart, too.

“Wow.” I think as the waves rock me, body and soul. “God, you’re big. You imagined this body of water, its motion and its vastness. And you knew that, one day, I’d splash my little feet in it and laugh with a deep, unhindered joy.” 

I have done this little float, along with a little prayer, in the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean. The choppy inlet off of Catalina Island in California, the bright-turquoise shallows in Key West, the frigid waters off the western coast of Ireland.

And on the sixth day of our trip to Haiti, I floated here.


Near me, our team was covering the stony beach with laughter and fellowship. Kids, one and all, bounced off of the giant water trampoline into the waves. Several of our team members were teaching little ones how to swim. Travis dove in to pick up a starfish from the bottom of the ocean. We then passed it around, all of us ooo-ing and ah-ing over its tiny pores.

Wow,” I thought, these blissful sounds muted by the saltwater in my ears. “God, you imagined all of us with the same care you used when imagining your oceans.”

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For the Girls | Haiti, Part 2

She touched her little forehead with her index and middle fingers, then curved her hand over to the side of her face, forming the letter ‘B’ against her cheek. The word for “brown.” She pointed to her skin.

Then, her tiny hand formed the letter ‘Y’ and shook it gently. The word for “yellow.”

She pointed to me.

After a pause and a confused expression, I finally grinned in understanding, giggling at myself. And she grinned back.


One of my most treasured experiences in Haiti was sitting in the concrete courtyard at the orphanage, surrounded by shrieks of laughter and the sounds of tiny bare feet, speaking in sign language with this girl, and several of her classmates.

“Jesus.” “Friend.” “Good morning.” “Mama.” “Papa.” “Boy.” “Girl.”

We were a funny group, pointing to the most basic of objects and then motioning to these girls to show us the correct equivalent in sign language.

Those sweet kids. They couldn’t hear much – but they said much.


This is Darlia. As you can see from that first picture, she has the most stunning blue eyes – a rarity. Her demeanor was quiet and reserved at first, but when I started to learn a few words, and she saw my efforts to speak her language, she bloomed. She laughed as I messed up basic signs and she gently tugged at my hand so she could show me her friends, her teachers, her classroom. So she could tell me that I was her friend.


This is Amanta. Oh you guys, how I wish you all could have met Amanta! I think she was one of the first kids I met when we unloaded on our first day. That was her MO – first on the scene. First with a big smile, a hug, an over-exaggerated handshake that made you feel totally welcome. And an absolutely contagious laugh! She had the best laugh. She loved playing hand clapping games with us girls, and roared with laughter anytime anyone messed up. And we knew she was laughing with us, not at us.

One afternoon, she was teaching me to say “good day” in sign language, and I apparently was a little too eager with my movements because she collapsed into giggles. When she imitated me so I could see my mistake, she made it look so exaggerated that she made the sign into a dance move! So, from then on it was our dance move. Whenever I saw her, she’d give me a clever smile, put her hand on her hip and do the “good day” move. Oh she made me laugh! I think she made all of us laugh. And, on our last day, this joyful girl cried the hardest at our departure.

With her big personality, big smile and big heart, joy followed her everywhere.


This girl – this is Mylove. She was the most patient with me when it came to learning new signs…and when it came to revealing pieces of her heart. One night, during a rousing game of duck-duck-goose in the concrete courtyard, she snapped her flip flop. After insisting and saying “please! please!” in sign language, I convinced her to take my flip flops as a backup. From there, we were close.

She taught me the signs for “mom” and “dad” and “home.” And then she put those words into context. She told me, in fluid movements that I was just learning, how her dad had passed away from old age, and how her mom still lived outside of the orphanage, but she hadn’t seen her in a really long time. Mylove told me that it made her sad, but that she was happy to have found a home at the orphanage all the same. She showed me to her room, introduced me to one of her teachers, and wore my old flip flops with more pride than I ever did.

She told me that, before she came to the orphanage, her name was “Myloe.” But when she arrived, she couldn’t hear or communicate well, so when the leaders finally figured out her name, it came out as “Mylove.”

It seemed fitting to me.

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Finally, Emma.

Full of sass. Spunky. Clever. Observant.

She loved to call me crazy – shaking her fingers at me – and then scamper away, almost as if to say “you’re weird. I don’t know if I want to hang out with you.” But it wouldn’t be long before she’d be back. One time, she came back to the courtyard with a workbook filled with Bible verses – and how to say them in sign language. It was so fun to go through the pages with her, trying to keep up, while she giggled at my halting signing abilities.

One afternoon, she threw up this sign. One I knew by heart – one that I think all of us know. One that transcends barriers of all kinds, for all kinds. I – Love – You.IMG_1967

Those sweet kids. They couldn’t hear much – but they said much.

That’s what makes a trip like ours special. If your friend or family member has come back from a mission trip and they are over the moon about the kids, this, I think, is why.

Their sweet faces welcome you instantly with their expressions. Their tiny frames tuck themselves under your arm in a hug before they even know your name. The shy ones bloom into their personalities with every passing day. And suddenly you feel like you can be one of them. Your inner child kicks in, and with it, a kind of freedom. You start to see yourself as they seem to see you – special, unique, filled with possibility, worthy of love.

These orphans – they don’t have a mama to tuck them in at night or to care for them when they’re sick. There isn’t someone to tell them, every day, that they are special. And yet, they are more open, more faithful, and more courageous than I am at age 23. I learned a lot from them.

It was beautiful and special to see our team members bond with different sweet kids throughout the week, laughter bouncing off of concrete walls, bonds forming with a special kind of glue that can’t ever be severed. Many of our team members were returning to the orphanage for their second or third or fourth or fifth time, so they got to come back and reconnect with those little ones who had already occupied a special spot in their hearts before.

They themselves got to reconnect with what it feels like to be a child. Maybe not saying much, but in their hearts, knowing.

They are beloved. They are counted special. They are held by the Father.

So. This is for the girls – Darlia, Amanta, Mylove & Emma.

Be strong. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Know that you are free to be you. You are treasured, gifted and unique in every way, designed to do great things while you’re here.

You are beloved. You are counted special. You are held by the Father.