Leaning In

Anything can happen when you’re in the air for 15 hours. In this world, you never know what awaits you as the plane lands and you’re back on solid ground. What happens while you’re in the air assaults you on televisions in the airport and social media stories as you power your phone on and see what you missed.

Last month, I landed back in the United States to news of a terrorist attack in Paris. Over the course of the next several days, there was a shift. A shift towards language of anti-immigration and fear of the other. Fear, hate, caution and uncertainty filled the air and came out of the mouths of people worldwide.

The masses cried, “It is not as it should be.”

The Church agrees: it is not as it should be. But, it has not been that for a long time.

The following Monday evening, my roommates and I watched the news from the couch, desperate to learn more about what’s going on. We’re three twenty-somethings who have been able to live with a distance between us and some of the events that have happened globally in the past decade. We follow the big stories and share our opinions, but terrorism and immigration aren’t usually conversation topics at our house. In the midst of an election season and events that have hit close to home, we’ve reach a point where the distance we’ve been privileged feels too far. We want to know more.

But as I’ve leaned into everything around me – immigration debates, fear of “the other”, rise in terrorism, and general uncertainty – I’ve been left with more questions, not the answers I so desperately desire.

And maybe, just maybe that’s what God wants of me right now; not to have established, rehearsed positions, but the courage to begin asking the right questions.

What does compassion demand of me?

What am I afraid of? Who am I afraid of?

Where is my hope? What are the implications of that?

What biases do I have? How do those biases affect my behavior?

What are my motivations? Anger? Fear?

These are the important questions that confirm and challenge convictions. As easy as it would be to ignore the gentle tugs on my heart by the Holy Spirit moving me to go deeper, I’ve learned that when I wrestle with the hard questions the growth comes. Truth moves from my head to my heart and settles itself in there, shaping me. My human instincts want to keep a distance from that which challenges my current worldview and mindset, because I feel secure sometimes on the margins of what’s going on globally.

But when I wander closer, when I dare to ask the hard questions, I’m painfully reminded of the evil within my own heart. And that’s where God wants me to sit — staring right at the cross in awe of its brutality and grace. I was an enemy of God, and yet now, I call myself a daughter of the Most High because of Christ. It is in that posture, humbled at the foot of the cross where I want to lean in further. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not answers and positions on issues that God wants me to craft, but instead a posture He wants to lead me to; a posture that reminds me of my rightful place in this story. It’s not as it should be, but one day, hopefully soon, He will return to make it right. 


May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships – so that we may live deep within our hearts. May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people – so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war – so that we may reach out our hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in the world – so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. Amen.

-Franciscan Benediction


On Seasons Ending

Moving into Indianapolis and settling into Apartment 2A was the first adult decision I made for myself.

Most of college ending and the summer that followed are blurry in my mind, but the moments I do remember are so vivid. Victoria and I sat in the parking lot of River Crossing waiting for our scheduled apartment tour for almost twenty minutes. While we sat in the car, we chatted about the little stuff – when she was going to get a spray tan for her 24th birthday, what I had recently purchased at J.Crew, and we also talked about the big stuff. We were both dealing with some confusion towards God and splintered hearts, and it felt so good to be able to hear someone say, “I know what you’re going through, and it’s going to get better.” As we walked through the vacant three bedroom apartment, trying not to seem too excited, we dreamed of the events we could hold at our apartment and the new and old relationships that the space could foster. We decided that this was the place for us.

In the two years since we moved in, painted accent walls, hosted too many parties to count, studied the book of James, danced in the kitchen, cried on the couches, and tried on clothes in my closet, I’m moving out. I’m leaving the place where I started to build my life. I’m leaving part of myself in that space, in the sweet and painful memories, but taking so much more of myself into this new season, and into a new home.

There will be new kitchen dance parties, new traditions to create, new memories to make, new friends to care for and a new (shorter!) commute to and from work. There will be new parts of myself I am able to discover and new rhythms to establish.

I know all these things, and yet I’m mourning Apartment 2A. In may ways, it was the line I drew in the sand and said there’s no turning back now. It’s been a defining season mixed with decisions I made and others made for me culminating one big decision – to step into adulthood here in Indianapolis trusting God to mold me into the woman He wanted me to be. It was here that I held out my shaking hands before the Lord and said, “Here’s my life, every messy piece of it, use it for Your glory.”

It was here that I learned that surrender isn’t always done with arms held confidently in the air, but it does mean that there’s no going back. To how things used to be or who you used to be.


Hope Does Not Disappoint

I had a doctor’s appointment earlier this month. I was unsure what the outcome was going to be. I found a lump in my armpit that scared me. Should I be worried? Should I be afraid? The uncertainty was exactly that – uncertain. I was feeling all the feels.

I texted a friend and she said, “It’s probably not a big deal, but our hope is not in that.”

Those few words have taken root in my mind. I can’t seem to stop thinking about them. Even after the doctors appointment, the conclusion being that it’s no big deal, I have been evaluating where my hope is, and what exactly that means. What is hope? Why does it matter? How are hope and faith related?

It ended up being a swollen lymph node that has since gone away, but in the days after uncovering it, I prayed for an ingrown hair, it to just disappear, or for it to be exactly what it was – a swollen lymph node. Yes, I prayed for an ingrown hair… Who does that? Me, apparently.

In the process of praying, and in the week between finding the lump and the doctor’s appointment, I was able to take my feelings and fears to God. My mindset shifted from praying for the least scary scenario, to asking God for peace and no fear, no matter the result. I do know that on this side of good news, it’s easy to say that I trusted God’s provision.

Praying for an ingrown hair versus praying for God’s will in the situation – hmmm, let’s see which one makes more sense. In this particular situation, it helped to think of the worst possible scenario. You can imagine where my mind went. And yet, all I could think of was God’s love and care for me. Even the worst possible scenario would not have surprised God. He already had it under control.

John’s words in 1 John 4:16 and 18 brought me peace. “We know and rely on the love God has for us… There is no fear in love; but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

God knows only how to love me. Not the fluffy, only gives me what I want kind of love, but sees the full picture, wants the best for me, in it until the end kind of love. The kind of love that does not punish, but sanctifies. When I fix my eyes on the love of God, even the uncertain situations cause me to trust, not to fear. This is love that I can know and rely upon. This is love I can hope in. This is love I can trust.

Fear stands in opposition to love rooted in the confidence of God’s character. God is good. He is holy. He is love. The love of God does not depend on me. It does not change. It does not punish. This is love worth building my life on. The more I place my hope and trust in God, the less room there is for fear in my mind or my heart.

If my hope is truly in Christ, then everything changes. When hope is in Christ, prayers for comfort turn into prayers for intimacy. When hope is in Christ, dreams of security turn into dreams of wild obedience. If my hope is in Christ, and I know and rely upon the love of God, fear of the uncertain and unknown dissipates. Hope in Christ does not disappoint.


Life on the Bench

This past Monday, I had the chance to cheer the Duke Blue Devils to their NCAA Basketball National Championship! I’m a sucker for sports stories, and as I watched on Monday evening, I could not take my eyes off of freshman player, Grayson Allen, who came off the bench to score sixteen points. He hustles like I’ve never seen a player before.

Even when earlier in the season, things were not meeting his expectations, he refused to let the bench breed bitterness.

For more thoughts on the game, follow me over to Ministry from a Millennial.



“Did you not hear what I just told you?” This conversation happened quite frequently at my house growing up. My mom to my dad, my mom to my sister, me to my mom, my sister to me. There were five of us under one roof, so this conversation could occur between any permutation of us. This issue is rarely ever about hearing, all five of us have perfectly normal hearing capabilities. My eavesdropping dropping skills may mean that my hearing is even above normal, but that says more about being nosy that my ears.

These conversations were not about hearing, they were about listening.We can hear everything, but if we are not listening, it is all moot.

I hear a lot of things throughout the day. My co-worker who shares an office with me tells me about her previous evening at home with her kids, my roommates fill me in on their days, my boss pops into my office to remind me of a task, a prospective adoptive parent shares a story over the phone, pop up ads on Facebook try to convince me to buy something, my Pandora station is interrupted for advertisements, the NPR news anchor updates me on what I missed overnight, and it goes on and on and on. My ears hear all this information. But often times, I am not listening. Not listening to the details of a story, a product or a problem. There is so much to hear and yet I listen to and am able to process so little.

In one of Jesus’ frequent metaphors, He is the shepherd and His followers are the sheep. He says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Often, I look at the lives of those I consider brave; friends taking bold steps of faith, going out into the unknown because of a call of the Lord. I wonder how they can go somewhere scary and unfamiliar. And yet, I understand. When You hear God’s voice, you listen and you obey.

There is intimacy in the way Jesus cares for His followers, but also trust in the way His followers go where He leads. It is more than just hearing a story. Obedience requires listening. Listening requires trust. The trust is rooted in knowing and being known.

I am a chronic verbal processor. I famously verbal vomit all over my friends, usually during a phone call. I feel known when a friend will ask me a follow-up question, even if we switched topics quickly, since I tend to do that throughout a monologue. I realize then that they are not simply hearing the words come out of my mouth, but they are truly listening. As they listen to me, and I listen back, our trust in each other grows and know each other increasingly better.

Shepherds lead their sheep and their sheep trust them. Just as friendship builds through two way communication, so does my relationship with the Lord. I can only go where I am led and I can only be led when I am listening. The first step to obedience is to listen.



Half-marathon training is prime character development for me. I have two hours every Saturday devoted to nothing but running; running a stupid long distance. This past Saturday, it was ten miles. Thankfully the sun was shining and the temperatures were in the forties, a huge relief from the frigid wind chills throughout the entire month of February. But even in optimal conditions, there is a reason why Paul uses the metaphor of racing to help his audiences understand faith throughout the New Testament. Because it is all hard, because it takes commitment, and because at some point throughout the training or a faith journey, you are going to want to give up.

Starting can be easy. You know where you are headed and the tank is full of gas. In fact, the first half can feel like a piece of cake, but then the excitement wears off, the fatigue sets in and the wind is in your face. Will you press on? Will you keep running? Will you honor the commitment? What if no one is watching? Endurance. It is a word that my roommate and I have been talking a lot about this year. It is becoming a theme, and a lesson. The Lord is truly pressing it into me in order to cultivate it in me. Developing a mature and complete faith and walking closely with Jesus for a lifetime – these are the goals. While I will never fully attain them this side of heaven, endurance is the way to cultivate these things. Endurance is a way of the Kingdom.

I’ve written previously about how badly I want to quit when things get tough. I just want to throw in the towel, and be done. I have a flair for the dramatic, so I don’t just bow out gracefully, I go kicking and screaming. However, God faithfully provides strength to endure, whether it is to the finish or just the next mile marker where motivation is in greater supply. Sometimes the strength is encouragement from a close friend, or a well-timed bonus, or a sudden burst of energy, but when it comes, it is a good and perfect gift from above.

Usually when the resistance feels the greatest, you’re the closest to a breakthrough.

Right before I hit my rhythm on a long run is when I want to quit. My muscles are starting to burn and I can’t get in my groove, maybe I’ll just go a shorter distance, or maybe I’ll just slow down. But then I put one foot in front of another, keep on keeping on and then the breakthrough hits.  I remember why I’m running, what the goal is, and I recount the ways that God has been faithful in the past. His commitment to me enables me to renew my commitment to the task in front of me.

When you want to give up, it is commitment that keeps you going. For me, the commitment is not just a half-marathon on the calendar, but it’s the commitment to the spirit of endurance that the Lord is cultivating in me. I am confident that He has called me to persevere even when it is hard, even when it hurts, even when the finish line is not in sight. So I press on.


“Come and See”

I love to plan. I’m not necessarily a planner, but when it comes to events, trips and parties, I put my planning hat on and dive right in. Being highly relational, I thrive on connection with others and watching others connect with one another. Our apartment has seen many gatherings over the last 18 months. Each step is fun for me – creating the Facebook event (sometimes I get out of control and come up with marketing plans), selecting food to cook, making drinks, decorating the apartment, and even cleaning up. It is a privilege to host and plan, and it brings me joy.

I’m spending the Lenten season reading through the Gospel of John. Relationship and gathering people is central in this Gospel. Four chapters in, and I’m starting to wonder if it can be summed up with the following statement – “Come and see.” The disciples started to realize early on that they could not change people hearts, only Jesus could do that, therefore, they needed to connect Jesus with the people. “Come and see,” was the invitation.

More than an invitation, it was a promise. Come, see and be changed. You wouldn’t leave the same as you came. One encounter with Jesus is all that it would take to see their lives radically changed.

The woman at the well is one of the Bible stories. I come back to time and time again, reminded that Jesus refused to let cultural boundaries and norms define the people who He would interact with. Here’s a woman outcast by society – unmarried, promiscuous, Samaritan – and yet once she meets Jesus, she tells the very people she was avoiding, “Come and see Him; meet Him for yourselves.” And lives are saved because the people meet Jesus and place their faith in Him.

I am the woman at the well. Afraid of what others think of me, the life I’ve chosen for myself, the mistakes of my past, and my current sin, I avoid those who need Jesus. I do not extend the invitation. Or instead, I am like those who avoided the woman at the well, watching from a distance and casting judgment upon someone who is different from me.

I get caught up in the details, in making it about me, but when it’s an invitation and not an agenda item, God gets the glory and lives are changed. Isn’t that evangelism? Being the connecting piece between Jesus and people who do not know Him? “Come and see Jesus” is the invitation to the eternal party, the one that will last forever in Heaven.


The Holy Dance

I have a signature dance move. It has become well-known in my circle of friends. I should trademark it, except Taio Cruz may consider that copyright infringement.

Yes, I have been known to, “throw my hands up in the air, sometimes.” I’ve tried to learn to love other dance moves, but my lack of coordination has made that very difficult. However, I love watching people dance. It’s not just the passion with which they do it, but more so the emotions they invoke in my heart. To me, that’s the moving part about art – the feelings it brings out in me.

As Lent kicked off yesterday, I’m reminded of a holy dance, the dance of the Christian, and the one that we remember

as we pass through this time of year and reflect on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross 2.000 years ago.

At the foot of the cross, life and death meet each other in a sacred dance. It is here where death and life are but one, occurring simultaneously. Death leading life and then life leading death. The boundary between the two is so thin it is almost non-existent, as two bodies hold themselves closely while keeping with perfect rhythm. Here where glory and humility intertwine. Here where you can lose yourself in Him and where His spirit comes alive in you.

I must tether myself to the foot of the cross. If I start to go too far, I hear the whisper calling me, “Come back, Beloved, don’t wander too far. Here is where you belong.” It is here where the distance between my head and my heart seems to be non-existent. It is here where His glory is what I’m focused on, and not my own. It is here where I find myself wanting to myself humble as I fix my eyes on His humility. It is here where His death and resurrection remind me of the need of death to myself so I can live in Him. It is here where truth and grace balance each other perfectly. It is here that I remember that grace is both costly and freely given to those who believe. It is here where surrender and submission are all He wants of me.

It is at the foot of the cross where I can confidently say, “Your scars will bring my healing, Lord. Your suffering has become my freedom. I will obey and I will follow.” Because as I fix my eyes upon the marvelous cross, I cannot bring myself to do anything to surrender it all – fears, failures, hopes and dreams. Here it isn’t about me, but about Him.

My temptation is to wander. Sometimes I wander so far that I start to believe it is about me, about my success, about my reputation and my selfish desires. As soon as I start to wander, I try to prove myself worthy of grace and fear that one misstep and I’m out, fallen, and forgotten. Thankfully, when I wander, I am not forgotten, and instead, His love, mercy and grace beckon me back. Back to the foot of the cross. Back to where I belong.

And there, at the foot of the cross, instead of throwing my hands up in the air and saying, “Ayo,” I lift my hands in surrender to a God whose humility brings glory, and I marvel at the holy dance of death and life.


It’s Monday


Last night I put on a borrowed leather jacket, black suede wedges, liquid eyeliner and pink lipstick. I drank one of the best margaritas in the city, surrounded by some of the best women that I know and we made sure to take pictures to document the night. Two hours later, I checked my phone with about two songs left to hear at the concert. Twenty-one Christians lost their lives to ISIS. My social media feed went from the happiness of Valentines Day to the grim reality of the world. I am feeling numb and raw today. My heart is far from chocolates and flowers, it sits heavy in my chest, longing for Jesus to make things right. I can’t quite put into words how I feel so today I’m borrowing from a great.

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” (The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

May I live in light of costly grace, instead of the cheap imitation. May I follow after the call, dedicating my life to true discipleship. May I accept that which cost Jesus His life, remembering that it is the only thing worthy of my life.


The Unfinished


In the eighth grade, I started a book that I could not bring myself to finish. It bored me and I set it aside. There was nothing wrong with the book; I just wasn’t feeling it. I really wanted to like it and I kept reading it in hopes of it getting better. But about halfway through, I stopped. I shared this with my English teacher and she said, “Life is too short to read a book you don’t enjoy. There are too many good ones.” However, it is not in my nature to leave books unfinished, in fact it is so rare that I can remember when it happens.

On the Myers-Briggs Test, I usually score as a very high J. I like to check things off a to-do list. Unresolved conflict nags at me. I long to complete tasks before starting something new. Closure is the name of my game. Sixty days into my job, I confessed to my boss that my new position felt very unnatural to me at times because I don’t thrive on doing a hundred things at once. I like to start and complete one thing. In the 18 months since then, my job has greatly enhanced my ability to work on lots of things all at the same time. You can’t work as an administrative assistant at a small business without learning the art of juggling a hundred things over the course of one day, and maybe not quite completing each of them. Some days my coveted to do list and I are worst enemies because nothing is done enough to cross off. The unfinished feels a little less unsettling. Case in point, there are currently four books on my nightstand; I’m at least 100 pages into each of them.

I am not proud to be seemingly unable to finish reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom, but I don’t feel shame about it either. I just haven’t quite reached the end. I intend to keep reading; I want to put it on my bookshelf of “Books Read in 2015.” It just isn’t there yet. Neither are the other three other books sitting right next to my bed.

I often write about how has God been faithful when I have stayed in difficult seasons. He is. He will continue to be. There are going to be times when leaving something unfinished is disobedient, but staying in something that God is calling you out of is also disobedient. Walking away before it’s over does not always make you a quitter.

I am growing more comfortable with the unfinished, with allowing God to press pause on something so I can switch gears to something else. It’s as if I’ve quit trying to solve the formula of God’s plan for my life and I’m letting it ebb and flow. The equation isn’t always going to balance. There isn’t always a beginning and an end to the storylines, and some are abandoned before you even get to the good part. Some things are good for a season and then they’re not, so we’re forced to abandon them and to leave them unfinished.

Leaving something unfinished isn’t always a discipline issue, as I used to believe. With unfinished stories, there are just parts that are not yet written. Some will complete themselves with time and others will not. There’s beauty in the unfinished and incomplete.