Lesson from a Twisted Clump of Wires

I want the beautiful without the messy.


Like this picture. Poofy, white clouds were building up over the palm trees and we were getting ready for a non-rainy season rain. Humidity was thick and the air desperate for just a little relief. I love this view, and I stood at our front door trying to imprint it all on to my memory.

I tried to capture this scene, but all I could see was the messy tangle of electrical wires and the sharp barbed wire and glass on top of our fence. They are reminders of some of the things that frustrate me the most and steal the beauty of the creation around me.

I’m getting ready to say goodbye for awhile to the place that has been my home for the last five years. Part of me wants to say, “So long and good riddance.” The last few months have been hard and it is easy to zoom in on the messy. Hot season has been in fully swing, dehydrating both my body and my soul. We’ve had some crazy electricity issues (remember all those clumps of wires?), and through different situations I have been reminded that human beings are far from perfect, myself unfortunately included.

Yet, just like our life, the messy and the beautiful come all together in one package. When I take a moment to look up, the tangled wires are still there, sure, but I don’t want to miss the brilliant colors of bright green against pure blue sky. I don’t want to miss the fact that even when we were trying to navigate how to fix our electricity at 7:00 pm, God sent a man we hadn’t met to be waiting outside our gate so he could make calls and explain complicated concepts outside our vocabulary bubble- and who knew those words in English too so he could help us feel more at ease. When my heart felt desperate and dejected this week, God breathed life again with a story of hope, a story of a part of our labor bearing fruit in souls transformed by our Father.

So I can’t separate these two, and together, they are a sweet gift, one that I will carry with me as I say goodbye, for now.

When You’re Ready to Call Off Valentine’s Day

Could we just cancel Valentine’s day this year? I’d like to propose a ban on heart-shaped candies, red roses and stuffed animals the size of a full-grown adult.

Okay, I admit that my heart is aching a bit this February as I think about the celebration of love. I try to ignore the longing in my heart when I see yet another friend with a sparkling engagement ring and remind myself that if God hasn’t answered my prayer for a husband yet, it probably isn’t going to happen (I mean, I live in the middle-of-no-where Asia). I head to the land of pessimistic reality where longing is a bad thing and dreaming is not for me.

There is kindness in the gaze of our heavenly Father for these moments when cynicism and bitterness fight to take over my single soul. There is tenderness in the way He opens my eyes to a love beyond anything I can comprehend, unlike any romance this world has to offer. He pulls me close in the hiddenness of intimacy with Him, speaking my name softly in the moments no one else sees.

I tend to think more like Martha, the older sister who was Jesus’ dear friend but knew how to organize a dinner and keep busy. I’m not like Mary, yet this is where He is drawing me. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. There was no rush in her encounters with Jesus, not like when I speed read through a passage and then ask for my marching orders for the day from my Heavenly Boss. I wonder what it was like to own something so precious as the oil that she poured out, to willingly lavish it as a symbol of her love. My love is not like Mary’s, but Jesus praised her.

So maybe when I’m done throwing a pity party, I can think past the love that is missing to the love I can give. Mary knew a love that spilled over just as Jesus’ love for her poured in to all the cracks and dry corners of her heart. He wants the very same for me, for us. The longing and dreams in my heart can be molded and shaped by Him and that precious gift can be my offering at His feet, my offering to the world.


Top 5 Books of 2017

PicMonkey Collage

I’ve had grand plans to write this post for about 3 weeks now, and I’m sure you are dying to know about my favorite books from 2017! I cannot disappoint you faithful blog readers, so even though we are already 21 days into the new year, here’s my top 5 list, in no particular order.

Beautiful Battle: A Woman’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare by Mary DeMuth

This is by far the best book on spiritual warfare I’ve read- and it’s not just for women. The author is balanced, hopeful and centers the whole discussion around Scripture. Instead of ending feeling intimidated or afraid, I was encouraged.

Favorite quote: “Spiritual warfare has more to do with the state of your heart before a holy God than a list of things to do or avoid. It involves interaction, sometimes confusion, falling down, getting back up. It involves your willingness to look foolish, to take crazy steps, to trust God’s voice. While there are principles to know and practice, it’s your ability to trust in God’s power and authority that will bring about the victorious life”.

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

This book introduced me to the Enneagram, a diagram that helps understand our motivations, fears and how this impacts relationships- basically why we do what we do. It is one of my favorite tools for learning more about how God created me (and you), and this book was a great basic overview. I’m a type 6, in case you are curious.

Favorite quote: “May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the facade of your life there is something beautiful and eternal happening. May you learn to see your self with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees in you every moment.”

A Million Little Ways: Uncovering the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman

I love the poetic way Emily Freeman tells her stories, the hope she inspires in me and her honest vulnerability. This book isn’t so much about art, but finding the ways God has gifted and filled us, and learning how to offer that to the world in a way that nourishes our souls and the souls of others.

Favorite quote: “Cashiers and cellists are capable of making art because they both have the power to influence, to be fully awake to their Maker, and fully aware of his making of them. I can’t imagine anything more dangerous to the enemy of our hearts than people who know who they are.”

Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of The Team That Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory by Lydia Reeder

It was fun reading about some of the first women’s basketball teams, the stereotypes they had to deal with the how this underdog team from Oklahoma Presbyterian College ended up winning the national championship at the height of the Great Depression.

Favorite part: learning how the coach, Sam Babb, was able to provide scholarships for these girls to not only go to college when their families wouldn’t have been able to send them, but also continue their basketball careers.

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I’m slowly collecting the books in the Little House on the Prairie series and revisiting these favorites from my childhood. I read this one during the Cambodian cold snap right before Christmas and loved it (way more than I did as kid. This wasn’t my favorite back then).

Favorite part: the creative ways the people in De Smet, South Dakota stretched resources and helped each other out to survive the winter of constant blizzards.

A few more honorable mentions:

Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk by Michelle DeRusha

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter by Annie F. Downs

What was your favorite book in 2017?

The Story Isn’t Finished

I’m not sure I have the best track record when it comes to perseverance. Speaking of track, I could never run the whole mile at our homeschool track and field day. I studied violin in high school but never actually learned to read music and haven’t played much since my last lesson before heading off to college. I have attended graduate school but will probably never get my doctorate, I studied ballet for a whole 16 weeks, split between when I was 10 and my senior year of college.

My organization has audacious goals and big faith to see God work in the hard places around the world. I get to hear stories of those pushes of the Spirit to birth disciples and churches and movements. They give me goose bumps and fill up my hope tank. But I live in a difficult place. Nothing is happening yet. I feel like I try and fail, give up, beg God to send me home or give me an out so it doesn’t look to the whole world like I have been unsuccessful. Perseverance is hard.

One thing I realized recently though, is that all those amazing stories started somewhere in darkness. The beginning was messy and uncertain, and the middle was long. I get to hear the end, the summary, and I can marvel and praise my Heavenly Father. But the story was pushed forward with perseverance, with seasons of joy and hardship. In those moments before the breakthrough came, I’m sure there was hesitation and despair. Or boredom. Or disappointment.

On an ordinary night near Bethlehem, a bunch of shepherds were going about their business. I don’t know what they were waiting for, if they were happy in their work or longing for more, looking for a way out or a better life. Maybe they were sad or just tired.

But then God showed up. He came in bright lights and angels singing, His glory brought forth in the most amazing proclamation. And He came as a little baby in a manger, when no one on earth could have known all that was still to come. The wait for the Savior spanned centuries, and the story wasn’t even finished yet. Yet everything changed because God moved and He moved in to the space that felt heavy with a reminder to never give up. The story wasn’t just about those breakthrough moments. It was about the waiting, the preparation, the darkness before He came.

My story, the story of the place I live now, isn’t finished, praise Jesus. Someday, and oh I hope it is soon, the light will break through and the unfolding account of glory and transformation will be told. Do I have to wait to share until it’s all over? Can I reveal the story right where it is now, unfinished and broken and beautiful?

I hope we can do that, all of us together in the beginning and middle and end of the stories God is writing in our lives. I think it will help us to persevere as we hear the stories that are ongoing, the glimmers of hope that shine because God is faithful in the darkness too and we can trust that He will show up. The story isn’t finished yet.

Story Isn't Finished

Letting Go of the Spotlight

I found freedom in high school on the stage. The shy, introverted farm girl became Mary on the morning after the resurrection, a detective sorting through clues, and innocent Snow White. In the safety of the bright lights and makeup and scripted dialogue, I could say the things I would never express and live out stories that sparked delight in my heart.

In a play, there’s the hero- the actor or actress with all the lines and spot on center stage. There’s the sidekick, and the folks who have no lines but get to dress up and fill out the spaces of the story. Someone needs to build the set and design the costumes and tell everyone where to stand. You don’t see them, but someone needs to run the lights and move things around when the scene changes. Each person has a role, and although one person might get the longest applause at the end, the story would not be complete without each person.

Somehow, we’ve allowed the person in the spotlight of our lives today to be the only one that matters. Well, I’m not doing this certain kind of work like them, we whisper as the comparison scale tips heavily in the other direction.

I’m just a stay-at-home mom.

I’m just the person at the cash register.

I’m just in the home office serving the people doing the hard work on the field.

I’m not really part of the production of proclaiming God’s glory to a hurting, hungry world because I’m only doing this, and not that.

But here’s the question bouncing around the edges of my heart: what if by playing my part with joy, using the gifts that God has given me, I see big things happen? Not that I alone accomplish big things. There will probably never be a biography written about my life, and people might not even read the stories I send home in newsletters. But what if my part backstage is just as important to the big picture of all that God wants to do in this world?

I remember the first time I had a line in our church’s Christmas kids’ cantata. I was so proud! I’m pretty sure I delivered that line with as much soul and character as I could muster. I gave it my all and didn’t worry that another kid got to do something funny or that this other girl had way more lines.

That’s what I want to do with the work that God has for me, the role He gives me in each season. I want to stop comparing my job to someone else’s, placing more importance on one or the other. I want to celebrate the ways that it all comes together to create art, to tell God’s story and show His beauty to a hurting and broken world. I long to find freedom in my own heart and in the world, in our homes and churches and friendships. I want to press in to being me, learning the quirky ways God chose to weave me together and the different ways He gifted others.

Doesn’t this bring our Father joy? When His kids find contentment and let go of comparison and judgment, it throws the curtain open wide for His hope to shine front and center and His glory to be the one thing that matters.

“I can’t imagine anything more dangerous to the enemy of our hearts than people who know who they are.” Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways

  • Side note- lest you are super impressed with my acting history, please know that my experience was limited to four (amazing!) years on my church’s drama team, and two semesters in college (and I didn’t actually ever make it on stage in college. I hung lights and sewed costumes). But I loved it!



When Your Roots Get Pulled Up

My heart has always been rooted in rich Nebraska soil. As a kid, my imagination transported me around the world and back again, but my feet never wandered farther than the next state over. Rootedness was not just about place, but about being known. The very same people rocked me when I was a baby, and then endured my slightly-rebellious teenage years. I did life with the same friends for the most part, because people stayed put and put up with me and knew all the ins and outs of my complicated heart.

Rootlessness is one of my biggest sorrows of living this overseas life. In the last 4 ½ years I’ve lived in 4 different houses in different towns and some of them certainly have felt more like home than others- particularly the ones that had hot AND running water. Those four houses have also meant a lot of goodbyes. It’s the way of this life, I discover over and over again- coming and going. Hello and goodbye. Investing and letting go.

This is not in my nature. I slowly go deep, devote myself for the long haul and struggle to let go. But the goodbyes keep coming, in rapid succession it seems. I feel like a wanderer myself these days, because even though I’ve lived in one place for many months in a row, my heart feels homeless for the safety and comfort of being known.

I love that we have a God who carries our sorrows and burdens. There’s a whole book of the Bible focused on lament. And the author of these poems of mourning seems to understand the heavy days.

Lamentations 3:19-20 The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.

It’s a gift, isn’t it, when it’s like someone has read your mind and spoken out loud the words swirling in your soul. “Me too!” is one of my favorite phrases. That’s what I feel like my heart is saying as I read these verses. Homelessness, yes! Grief, yes! Loss, yes! We resonate with the heartache and the costs that come with the different seasons of our lives. Lately I’ve felt like staying there in the grief, just pulling the sheet back over my eyes and waiting for someone else to do the work, the hard work of investing in people and saying goodbye and hello again to someone new, knowing that they will leave too.

I’m grateful the author of Lamentations didn’t stay there, even if perhaps he would have liked to. Still, his courage to go on can be my courage too.

Lamentations 3:21-22 Yet, I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies begin afresh each morning.

Such good news for our weary souls, friends. There is a time for grief, for sitting with our losses and not just brushing them aside. There is a time for hope, a daring and deliberate remembering of the faithfulness of the Father every day. Even when it feels like the goodbyes are unending, He promises to never abandon us. There’s no end to His pursuit of us, His mercy that washes over all our imperfections and immaturity. In the days of mourning or joy, He is our constant companion.


Always a Bridesmaid

There’s an old saying (well, quoted in Anne of Green Gables anyway) that asserts, “Three times a bridesmaid, never a bride”. I have been a maid of honor twice and a bridesmaid once, so does that count? I’m not sure.

Being in the bridal party is my favorite spot for a wedding. You have the perfect view of those first moments as the bride rounds the corner on her dad’s arm, glowing with love and expectancy. The groom grins big and tears pool in his eyes as he watches his beloved make her way down the aisle to him. Guests smile at the beauty and sacredness of the moment, and the wedding party sees it all.

I love that John the Baptist described his position like that of a best man. John’s purpose was to point people to Jesus, even when this meant some of his followers and disciples left him. I don’t think he would have wanted it any other way. When one of his friends came to him with the report that people were going to Jesus to be baptized instead of John, this was his response.

John 3:27-30 John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater and I must become less and less.

What a powerful reminder of our role and Jesus’ role. Maybe this is just me, or the line of work I’m in, but often I want to be recognized for the impact that I am having. I write newsletters to tell of what God is doing, but I secretly hope that someone will also respond with a word of affirmation for my part in it all. I want credit for my work, to be known and valued and respected. Perhaps many of us long for these things, and yet, we are simply in the wedding party at the moment. Yes, we are part of the Bride of Christ, His absolute beloved sons and daughters who will spend eternity with Him. But when it comes to the ways He is wooing the hearts of those who do not yet follow Him, do I step up to claim recognition or point back to the Bridegroom?

We have the absolute joy of witnessing what God is doing in the world. We get to see the faces of those who are transformed and the new life and light in them. Are these the kinds of stories that I tell? Do I share in such a way that I can say like John, “He must become greater and greater and I must become less and less?” I pray that God humbles me and continues to teach me so that I can.


The Sweetness of Little Gifts {Share}

I mentored the Bible study leaders in my dorm during my junior and senior years of college. In order to find ways to support one another better, we each took a test to discover our love language and then talked through each one together over the course of a few weeks. My love language is giving and receiving gifts. Through the years I have had the delight of seeing the ways that God gives sweet gifts. My heart has been filled to overflowing by even the simplest of gifts shared with an open heart. Here are a few stories- favorites from recent months and years, but I’m sure there are so many more examples.

  • My home assignment last year was extended an extra month because I needed it. I felt like God was saying to come back to Cambodia, but there were a lot of questions in my mind. Is this the right place for me? What will I focus on? Will the rest and encouragement from being at home last longer than the first few days? After a brief stop in the capital city, I was in a van with all three of my suitcases (much to the frustration of the driver although he did manage to find a place for all of them) on my way home to our town a 6-hour drive away. My teammate was staying in the city to welcome her family members for their visit, so I watched the city skyline fade on my own as I wondered if I would be able to settle back in to life overseas. We stopped at a rest area for lunch and I joined the other passengers for a quick meal of rice and green bean stir-fry. Once we were on the road again, the two women sharing my bench seat decided to stay awake for a bit and inquired as to my language ability and praised my local lunch selection. They pulled out apple slices and happily passed them my way, offering a bit of sweetness after our meal. It was more than that for me though. I felt cared for, seen and affirmed. They took a moment to share their snack, but also kindness.


  • My teammate and I often stop in Seattle on our way from Asia to our home in the middle of the US. We have friends and a supporting church there, and warm food and sweet connections make the transition to our home culture a little bit smoother. My favorite part, though, is when I get to the Seattle airport for that final flight home. The chairs clustered around the gate are like a little haven of Nebraska accents and Husker clothing and familiarity. A couple years ago, my heart was weary and burdened from enduring a hard season overseas. When I boarded that last flight I just wanted desperately to be home, to speed up the next 3 hours until I could see my family waiting for me at the Omaha airport. The woman next to me immediately smiled and started asking me where I was coming from, my home town in Nebraska and any mutual acquaintances we might have. If you don’t know the Midwest, we have a culture of never meeting a stranger and most likely there’s a mutual friend somewhere in there. The woman next to the window pulled chocolate out of her purse like she knew just what my soul needed, and she gave me space when the tears trickled out because of her kindness. Sometimes we don’t know the impact of sharing a bit of love along the way.


  • Sharing goes both ways. When I lived in Texas, I helped with the logistics for a training on multiplying disciples. I was living with a woman at the time from the church and she hosted two of the attendees of the training. We had a lovely time in the evenings, the four of us gathered around in the living room sharing what we had learned that day and so many other life lessons and experiences. Near the end of the week, I felt strongly God say that I was to give one woman a certain amount of money that came from a gift I had received from the church for my birthday. I wrestled with it for a bit as I thought about how special it had been to receive the gift, and the needs I had as I was preparing to start graduate school. But I knew I needed to obey God’s prompting. I tucked the money in her suitcase on her last day. Several days later I received an amazing note from her! Before coming to the training she had felt God asking her to give a gift of money to someone she knew who needed it. She obeyed but was also wondering how she was going to cover some bills that month because of the shortage. But, we serve an amazing God who weaves together our stories in such beautiful ways. The exact amount that I had given her was what she had given to her friend and what she needed for that month. The result of all of us sharing in obedience to God was getting to see Him provide for each of us and feeling the joy that comes from listening to Him.

Are there ways a little gift has had a big impact in your life?

*Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week!


The Sanctification of Singleness

I grew up memorizing lots of fun Christian words in our church’s kids program on Wednesday nights. My favorites were grace and mercy, and explaining the difference between the two. Concepts like justification and propitiation were still far beyond my reach, but I could tell you the definition word for word. And maybe even spell it for you.

Sanctification is another of those big Christian words. It means the process of being made holy, to be set apart for the intended use of the Creator and Designer. It happens as we receive salvation in Jesus and are covered by His blood, but it is also a journey of God refining us as we grow and mature in our relationship with Him.

I’ve heard a lot of things over the years in the church about sanctification, especially in relation to marriage. I’ve witnessed people say over and over how marriage is sanctifying, purifying. I don’t doubt that the sacrifices and joys of pursuing a God-honoring marriage do this. I’ve always wondered where this leaves me though, a single woman in my 30s with marriage nowhere on the horizon. Do I have any hope of holiness in this lifetime?

God works in each of us to refine and grow us into maturity. This happens in the heart of the believer who is obedient and open, no matter our relationship status. He DOES use the relationships we are in with family or spouse or friends, but ultimately this work is done through the Holy Spirit in us.

Just as marriage can sharpen and deepen our character, so can singleness in various ways. I have learned much and had to sacrifice and compromise in my relationships with my teammates on the field. Our opinions differ, out of which decisions still need to be made. We wrestle with personality differences, seeking understanding and celebrating the uniqueness of our gifts and weaknesses, how all of this can come together like puzzle pieces to create a beautiful picture of the church working as one. In any relationship, we have to learn to give and take, to sacrifice and receive help and love.

Even though I’m already in to my 30s, I still desire marriage and have conversations with God often about this. He has used this longing in my heart as a refining tool. Sometimes I desire marriage so much that it consumes every corner of my heart. It is my first thought in the morning and keeps me company throughout the day. Instead of happiness over a friend’s engagement announcement, all I can think is “This isn’t fair, Jesus! When will it be my turn?” By this point, marriage has become an obsession, a growing, stony idol in my heart that takes my worship away from Jesus. Then in His sweetness and love and discipline, God reveals this to me and asks me to once again surrender the longing and the dream of marriage to Him. He reminds me that the longing in my heart is not sinful, but should constantly be put at His feet in daily (or perhaps hourly sometimes) submission to Him. He should be my first love no matter what my human relationship status. He created us to be in connection and community with others and this longing should not be stuffed or guilt-tripped away. I need His correction and guidance to form this longing to be honoring to Christ.

Ultimately, I need to remember, and may I remind you gently as well, that God is the one who sanctifies us. We receive salvation in Him through the sacrifice of Jesus and not because of anything we have done to deserve this precious gift. He teaches us through His Word and the Holy Spirit, and He also uses the relationships we have with others to help spur us on to love well. Let’s remind each other, whether we are single or married, to look to our Heavenly Father who loves us and encourage each other on this journey of sanctification.

Romans 5:1-2 (NLT) Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. 


Savor, in Pictures

Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly lonely or defeated or ready to say, “Send me home, Jesus!”, I pull out photo albums. Before I left for Asia, my siblings put together a book of sweet notes and pictures of my Nebraska home, us kids through the years, the precious people in my life. I turn on a little music and lose myself in Facebook albums of college friends, visits to America, and Cambodian adventures.

These moments of feasting on pictures remind me of God’s sweet gifts. I start to think less of the problems or just how overwhelming life is at the moment and instead focus on His kindness, His grace and His provision. When I see the faces and places, when a photograph sparks a memory, it reminds me not only to savor God’s gifts from the past but the gifts in the here and now too. Yes, maybe things are hard right now. Maybe the ants seem to be on a rampage in our house lately, that conversation didn’t go quite like I wanted it too, and doors shut in my face when I was just starting to hope again. These hard things don’t have to cancel out the good. When I allow my heart to pause throughout the day, when I keep up a rhythm of thankfulness, I can savor the gifts and cling to Hope in the hard things.

So, I’m sharing a few of the reminders of God’s sweetness to me, through pictures.


Last fall, my sister Emily and I fulfilled a long-time dream with a trip to Europe! Our goal wasn’t to fit in as many tourist sites as we could. Instead, we wanted to go slow and be fully present in each and every day. I loved sipping coffee together and watching everyday life happen outside the window. I loved soaking up the beauty of history and architecture altogether different from what I normally see. I loved long sister conversations about our family lineage and sweet memories made.

Caleb and Grace

My niece and nephew bring so much joy to my life! Sometimes playing trucks and reading books over and over again might feel tedious but I love savoring these moments when they are little.


A home, in Nebraska and Texas and Cambodia. Places where I’m loved and cared for, where I am known and know others.

Hong Kong

Beautiful places I’ve had the privilege of visiting in so many parts of the world. Our Father is so creative and I’m grateful for opportunities to see the displays of His glory!

What helps you to savor God’s gifts to you?