Why Good?

I wake this morning to a flood of February sunshine through the window.


Later, my phone will announce the astonishing news–10 degrees warmer today than yesterday. But for now, I simply slide my legs to a cool patch of the forest green sheets from our wedding shower. I curl my arms up to the pillow which has teased my hair into a mass of wild loop-de-loops all night. Outside the bedroom door, Ben makes coffee and scrolls through email under a bright-colored quilt with a view of the city skyline. My heart wants to burst.

Later, he’ll make me earl grey–my favorite way, with honey and cream–and I’ll sit on our IKEA couch that we wrestled together with our own hands, and eat bananas with nutella toast, just like the day so long ago when we first realized we belonged together.

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The cup feels heavy in my hand. Who can explain this?

So much of the world feels under siege– full of anger, violence, pain, defensiveness, hopelessness, emptiness, downright evil-ness. Who can explain the peace of a sunny morning, the joy of a day full of promise? In a world where so much has gone wrong, who can explain the astonishing ways in which they go right?

The flash of utter gratitude feels like a fire inside, feels the way the sunshine warms my toes through the open window. I can hear the truth of it echo all the way down my spine.

If we truly believe in a broken world, it’s not the pain and failures that should undo us.

If we truly believe we were hopeless without a Savior, it’s not the evil and suffering that should derail us.

Pain, failure, evil–our souls were never created to make sense of it all. The weight of this world can feel crushing, life-sucking, and I’ll be the first to admit it rather than downplay another’s suffering. Yet I can’t help but wonder why I’ve ever been surprised by pain and evil.

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Instead, as I walk up the slate-grey steps and slide into a pew, I’m astounded by good.

I’m overwhelmed that amidst this very broken, self-destructing world–this human race who has collectively denounced our dependence on anything but ourselves–that here I can still find the very presence of God. What overwhelming mercy from one who “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” What love from one who breathes life into my lungs and whispers to the daffodils when to bloom. What faithfulness from one who still pulls the tide back and plants seeds of love and eternity in the self-seeking hearts of mankind.

The world would tell us to expect good, reach for the best, see suffering and pain as interrupting our best life. The world would tell us that mankind is basically good, that evil and violence should surprise and must be explained because the goal is always happiness.

But as the breeze floats in the open window, sending goosebumps up my arms, I see how blind I’ve really been.

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The Day After Ash Wednesday

On the day after Ash Wednesday, I sit with a circle of women who are trying to balance All The Things.


Aging parents.

Work schedules.

Families in crisis.

Homework duty.

Not one of us at the table could say we had it figured out. And right there at the end, she turns to look at me and asks the question all of us are asking: “What does it look like to spend myself for the Gospel?”

Because the truth is, we’re often one “yes” away from being burned out and worn out and we wonder if we have enough time to give towards things like ending sex trafficking? Our hearts break for stories of abuse and betrayal–but how do we make sure we don’t commit at the expense of our own children and families?

If you can relate to wondering if there’s anything left in your life to give towards justice, head over here to join me for a moment to breathe deep and find hope today. 


My New Year’s Resolution: Increasing in Love

In the fifth canto of Dante’s Paradiso, there is one of the most beautiful lines in all of poetry.

Dante has just made an unimaginable journey through the horrors of hell, the strenuous rigors of purgatory, and gets an incredible chance to glimpse the beauty of heaven. As he finally bursts into the outskirts of Divine Virtue, all who are gathered pronounce: chi crescerà li nostri amori:

Behold someone who will increase our love.

When we talk of Heaven, we often mention angels, streets of gold, perfect happiness…but more than anything it is a place of perfect love. The place where Perfect Love dwells. This is ultimate Beauty itself. This will be what we have longed for all our lives.

And the incredible idea he introduces here? Each new member of Heaven does not just take from the already-established love supply. They increase the love of Heaven by their presence.

I realize this is simply human poetry here, but I think he makes such a true and beautiful point. In some small way, the moments we practice loving purely here on earth accomplishes a similar goal. Have you ever noticed how either a negative or positive attitude gains momentum in a group of people? Like a virus, it spreads from one member to another, until someone who thought life was going pretty well suddenly finds himself restless and discontent.

In the same way, I would like to propose the thought that we can become part of a community of people increasing their love in ever-abounding ways. Suddenly, everyone we encounter becomes one “who will increase our love.”

“Growth in love always involves movement beyond the hardened boundaries of isolated self to the selves-in-relationships that make up community..There is no genuine life without love. Self-interests suffocates life. Life implodes when self-interest is at the core.”

“When I am confronted with my frequent failures in love, my instinct has always been to try harder. I recognize the poverty of my love…[yet] nothing changes.

“The reason nothing changes is that the focus is still on me–my failures, my remorse, my discouragement, my efforts. Love requires leaving all of this behind–all my self-preoccupation and all my willful striving…Regardless of the amount of love I tend to have naturally in my heart, it is not enough. The love I need is the love of God as his love becomes mine.” -David Benner, Surrender to Love

What will you encounter this week? A particular difficult assignment? A frustrating coworker or family member? One interrupted plan after another? My goal this year is to see these not as setbacks, but as opportunities to grow in love.

Likewise, the beautiful and enjoyable aspects of my week give me a chance to receive love as well as give. Whether good or bad, all is grace.

“If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.”

—W. H. Auden

Happy New Year, everyone!!

Redemptive Gratitude

” Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:3-5

Identity begets service.

There is an often-quoted (and very true!) saying in Christian circles: “You worship what you love.” Jesus himself said it: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” and “No man can serve two masters.”

But I would argue that before and amidst love often comes identity. We are self-oriented beings from birth, loving those who love us, and finding happiness in things that go our way. Perhaps we often find love, place the well-being of our hearts, precisely where we find our identity and meaning. From this root, therefore, flows our worship and our service.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God…”

This is the reason John gives for such an astounding act of service. The God who created the ever-expanding universe stoops low with a towel around his waist….and serves.


He had come from God, and was going back to God.

And so have we.

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

1 Cor. 11:23-26

On this very same night, we get a second glimpse into the mind and mission of Christ. In the same moment Christ knelt as servant, in all the glorious humility of God-made-flesh, he knew one of those he served would betray him. And yet, he gives thanks.


It’s where we get the word Eucharist. Hidden in the midst is the Greek word charis, meaning “grace.” In the very act of giving thanks, Christ declares, “This too is grace.” Then he gives this broken bread out as a symbol of the sacrifice he would make with his broken body. Grace upon grace.

Gratitude begets generosity.

Gratitude begins not in the moment that I mouth the word “thankful,” but in the moment my heart declares “this is grace. This is enough–and more.” It begins in the moments of prying the white-knuckled grip around my life, and receiving it open-handed, a gift flowing both directions. It begins when I start each day with the knowledge that I have come from God, and I am going back to God. And so has everything and everyone around me.

In its deepest essence, gratitude is redemptive. It takes the ordinary, banged-up, imperfect lives we all live, and transform them into beauty. Into grace. Into enough.

So this season, may we be the people who clasp arms together and say honestly, “Sometimes, just God doesn’t feel like enough. But we choose to act on the knowledge that He is.”

May we be the people who, instead of making lists full of all we want this year, walk through our homes astounded at all the stuff we have, and who else out there could we share some with??

May we be the people who live lives that are joy-filled and overflowing, because even though things are so hard and the world is so broken and pain is so real it cannot and should not be ignored, we know where we have come from–and where we are going. And amidst it all is the unfailing grace of Christ. 

Identity and service. Gratitude and generosity. May these be the seeds we plant this season, and watch them grow throughout the new year.

Fallow Ground

“We have, indeed, to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions [and distractions,] and dwell in the gentle healing presence of our Lord. Without such a desert we will lose our own soul while preaching the gospel to others.” –Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart


Two weeks have gone by since my last post–two weeks spent reconnecting with family and friends and slipping back into (almost) all the familiar routines of life here. Already, I’m struggling with reconciling the person I wanted to be during this time with the reality of who I still am. In some ways, this time I had hoped would be such a fresh start has felt more like hitting rewind. Here I am, back living in the same apartment, with the same things on my to-do list, the same ability to be so easily sidetracked and distracted, and the same feelings of cluttered chaos already creeping in like dustbunnies in the corner.

I’m reminded today of my deep need for consistent solitude–which is not my natural inclination. I am a die-hard people person, and although I’d usually rather listen than talk, I really do hate being anywhere alone. Yet solitude is so much more than simply time for me to withdraw from the world and have “alone time.” Solitude is opening up the inner space of my heart where all my fears and hurts and misgivings come rushing out. It is bringing all myself before Christ and really confronting it there, in a place where I can no longer run or hide from it. It is the prayer that not only examines my own self, but receives His healing grace and worships His beauty.


In this space of in-between, when life seems full of the small things and I’m struggling to connect the last three months to my immediate future, I want to remember that healthy soil is given time to lie fallow. I’m not always in control of the pace of my life, or how each season will evolve, but I am always able to choose what kind of person I become in the meantime. So the question then becomes not “What will I do now?” but “Who do I really want to be?” I want to celebrate this chance and never lose sight of the blessing it really is. My prayer is that this will be a season when all that I’ve learned and gained over the last three months can really germinate inside my heart. God alone knows when it will be time for the first buds–whatever they are–to grow.

Week Six!

Where has time gone?

Suddenly it’s week six, and I literally have four more days with some of the most amazing, Jesus-loving, justice-breathing people I’ve ever met. It’s been such a privilege to walk through life with these students and staff the past six weeks.

Confession: I am also exhausted and feeling ready for the end. Not in any sort of dramatic way, but the past six weeks have also been filled with a lot of hard-hitting information and a pretty busy schedule. I really look forward to moving out of the classroom and into a more hands-on role during the internship.

Since I haven’t written much lately, I thought I would just recap a few things I feel I’ve learned, and let you know what’s going on from here!

First off, the biggest thing I’ve learned during this seminar: it’s usually more complicated than we try to portray. Sometimes the line between trafficking and other methods of exploitation can be blurry. Sometimes it’s difficult to identify or rescue victims. Usually the recovery process is not quick, nor is it smooth or predicable. Additionally, trafficking looks different in literally every corner of the world. Culture plays such a huge role in both the problem and the solution. There are so many factors to consider before determining a certain approach will be a positive step for the situation we’re working in.

Yet, at the same time, this is also what I’ve learned: it’s often more simple than we make it out to be as well. Really, the root of both the problem and the solution comes down to identity. It comes down to idols. It comes down to relationships, and love–or lack of them. Time and time again, this has been what our entire discussion boils down to. Although I feel that I’m still processing this one, it has been interesting to hear such a common theme from so many speakers.

I know I’ll have a lot more detailed thoughts as I continue to look back over all that we’ve learned in the 150+ hours of teaching so far. However, I wanted to leave you with this broad overview tonight, as well as a few areas in which we would really appreciate prayer:

–For the entire team of staff and students as we finish up the week. Prayer that not only would we finish strong, but be able to transition well into the next phase and learn how to integrate this knowledge into our lives practically.

–For the few of us who are staying behind to do the internship. We would really appreciate prayer that God would be preparing our hearts for whatever we’ll be doing in the next 6 weeks.

–Continued prayer for the city of Amsterdam: its law enforcement, government officials, and for all who work here in the red light districts, bringing a message of hope and love.


Thank you all for your continued prayers! I’ll leave you with a few lines that have stayed with me throughout the past few weeks.

“God I look to You, I won’t be overwhelmed

Give me vision to see things like You do

God I look to You, You’re where my help comes from

Give me wisdom; You know just what to do.”

Why Hope Matters

Hope is the oxygen of life.

Without hope, we suffocate under the injustice and brokenness of life. It is the hope of justice, of goodness, and of a world made right that keeps us going when the world seems dark and, well…hopeless.

We need hope for our world–that even now we will get a glimpse of dead things being brought to life.

We need hope for ourselves–that we are not defined by our pasts, by our failures, or by the mistakes of generations that have gone before us.

Maybe most importantly when it comes to exploitation and abuse, we need to have genuine hope for others. When we meet with survivors, do we see them through a lens of hope and potential? Do we envision them fully healed, as they were created to be? Do we actually believe that they can find healing, find freedom, and begin a new life?

A wise woman reminded me this week that we reap the fruit of what we believe. We will become what we believe about ourselves. Often, those around us will also become what we believe they are, whether in a big or small way. Hope matters because it is only through hope that we can help others envision the future that God desires for them. Hope matters because unless we truly believe these women are more than just a victim, that they can become fully restored and live in freedom and joy, they will never be able to believe it for themselves. Hope matters because it is only through hope that transformation can occur.

Yet in a world so broken, in situations so full of darkness and evil, in a life where there is so much trauma and despair, how to do we hang on to a genuine hope? How do we go about believing for these women when to road to healing is long and uncertain? How do we remain faithful in hope when circumstances can sometimes point more strongly towards despair?

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:5

The only lasting place to find our hope is in the righteous love of our Father. He alone can be trusted to do what seems impossible, because we can trust the faithfulness of his love. The Spirit testifies with our spirit that God’s love is powerful–and His love will ultimately triumph. His love is the unshakable foundation, the bedrock of confidence, and the fountain of our hope. It is his love that transforms darkness into light, injustice into righteousness, and that will one day put the entire world right.

This week our team heard from many different speakers–politicians, policemen, non-profit leaders, law students, and women who have now left the sex industry. We also had the chance to take a prayer walk in one of the more isolated Red Light Districts. In each scenario it would have been easy to search for hope in the success stories or the effective models we heard about. It also could have been just as easy to despair over the numbers, the injustice, or the deep cultural change that needs to happen in order for sexual slavery to end. However, instead of reflecting on the specific stories today, I wanted to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of our truly unshakable hope.

Thank you all for your prayers! Continue prayer for health, the growth of new relationships, and a lovely blend of hope and discernment throughout everything we do would be so appreciated. Until next time!

Beloved In Amsterdam


“Your thoughts define me

You’re inside me

You’re my reality

Abba, I belong to You…”

This week a fellow student asked me, “How do you feel God speaks to you?” While I could give a very long answer to that question, as I was pondering it later I realized one big way I often feel Him speak is through repetition. When I hear topics come up several times in different contexts, I know I’d better start paying attention.

It’s amazing how God has woven the theme of Beloved into my life in the past year. I know it is no accident that it has come up time and time again. Especially during the seasons when I have let myself give into doubt and forget Whose I am.

This week has certainly been one of those times. I arrived full of excitement and have certainly not been disappointed. The staff are incredible, students are full of passion and love for God, and the city is even more beautiful and charming than I had imagined. Yet underneath it all was this strange current of self-doubt, discouragement, and fear. At odd times it would come bubbling to the surface in haunting questions like, What do I really have to offer here? I’ve worried that I have no business speaking to these women when I have no way to relate to what they’ve been through. I’ve wasted way too many minutes worrying about what the other students think of me as well. And I’ve let my need for further spiritual and emotional maturity mentally disqualify me until I could come into this ministry less broken and just feeling more, well…put together.

Lies, all of it.

Graciously, God gave me about a million reminders of that this week. When I talk about repetition here, let’s just say I couldn’t escape it if I tried. Church sermons, worship songs, introductory prayers, session topics…all centered around our identity as beloved children of God. All centered around the truth that we need nothing except the Creator of the Universe inside of us to be qualified. All centered around Him.

I’m so thankful to have this chance to walk out my identity as the Beloved in an arena where I feel so personally unprepared and inadequate. In a way, I’m so thankful to have made this commitment to do something that (when I’m perfectly honest) sometimes terrifies me. It’s a chance to take a deep breath, remind myself of the all-sufficiency of Christ, and make the decision to be brave. Every day I am reminded of this choice–especially when it is so tempting to simply trust in my own strength, and only sign up for what I feel personally prepared to handle. But I know that the Spirit living in me is greater than he who lives in the world. I know nothing can change the fact that God has chosen to call me Beloved. I know there is a reality bigger than me and my own fears and insecurities.

In the coming weeks, I would really appreciate prayers for our whole team as we fight against any discouragement or doubts that come our way. Soon we will begin hands-on outreach in several Red Light Districts in town, as well as our daily encounters with the knowledge of sex trafficking, and even just running up against our own brokenness. Pray that we can stand firmly in our identities as children of God! And please continue to pray for this city, which I am already coming to love so much. This crazy mix of beautiful and broken actually brings me so much hope for what this city could be.

Pay Attention

In case any of you read my last post and said, “Wait a minute, I thought she said that she’s learning to value being over doing. It sure looks like there’s a lot of doing in this article to me.”…

well, never fear. In selfless consideration of your time (ha), I have split my thoughts, as usual, into several more posts of more readable length. So here we go:

In my last post, I claimed, “The biggest secret I have found in seeing the world as holy ground is this: pay attention.”

Today I wanted to focus not just on paying attention when it comes to doing justice, but in seeking out the heart of God. His desire for us, beyond anything else, is for us to know Him deeply, love Him fully, and worship Him purely. Justice, and all other actions in our lives, are simply the results that flow from this. The whole “being” over “doing” thing.

So how do we cultivate a heart that knows, loves, and worships God?

I would argue that the same answer is true again: pay attention.

Have you ever lived a day–even an hour–fully and completely in the moment? If you have, you’ll know that when you do a mysterious thing happens. These moments, which we normally let fly right by without notice, suddenly develop a weightiness to them. There is a depth, a richness, a sacredness to this space of time.

This is space where we meet God.

This is the space where we breathe deep and become fully aware of His presence in the midst of our daily lives. Where we remind ourselves that we are the Beloved of God, because through Christ we have become sons and heirs. Where we delight in the reality of our perfect and holy God, whose character and commands guide us without fail. Where we remember our full reliance on Him for every breath.

And the best part is, this space can be anywhere. These sacred pauses can be while waking up in the morning, or brushing your teeth before you go to bed tonight. They can happen driving to work, or picking up the kids from school. They can happen in the midst of a conversation with a friend, or wherever you suddenly have a sense that you’re sharing this moment with Christ.

To be honest, this can be even harder for me than paying attention to the people around me. My mind is so easily distracted, so easily consumed by my problems and my to-do list. But on the rare occasions I am able to fully and completely enjoy a few moments with Him, I never leave them the same. I find myself hungry for more of these moments and the joy, peace, and richness they bring.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments,

and his paths beyond tracing out!

For from him and through him and for him are all things.

To him be the glory forever! Amen.

-Romans 11:33 & 36

He Calls Them Beloved.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

1 John 4 is a must-read for anyone looking to discover what it means to be the beloved of God. Mixed among some of the most beautiful descriptions of God’s love in all of Scripture are these constant reminders of our responsibility to pass that love on. And having the Creator and Sustainer of the universe as a role model means the stakes are raised pretty high.

I find it fascinating that although this passage does go on to describe the incredible love of God, it begins with an injunction to love one another. What’s even more fascinating, however, are the lines that come directly after this command: “for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (v7). 

In other words, every time I demonstrate genuine love, I’m acting out my knowledge of the character of God. I’m demonstrating who God is, and identifying myself with Him in some way, however small.

How often I forget this when I’m in a situation that requires self-sacrificing love! How quick I can be to accuse, to turn aside, or to push for my own way. Yet if I truly understand the character of God, I should realize that it doesn’t just end with me. The same God who sees me as beloved also sees them as His beloved. And so should I.

Think for a moment of someone to whom you struggle in showing love. It could be a coworker, a member of your Bible study, or a even a family member or friend. Consider the following list with them in mind:

  • They are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27)
  • The very hairs on their head are numbered with care (Matt. 10:30)
  • God looks on them with compassion (Matt. 9:36, 23:37)
  • He delights in them as His creation (Eph. 2:10)
  • If they believe in Christ, they are his friend, child, and co-heir (John 15:15, Rom. 8:16-17)

How does it feel to think about them in this light? Personally, I know it is very hard to be irritated with someone, and believe them to be delighted in by God at the same moment. Taking the time to remember these truths can diffuse many of the negative or harmful thoughts we have about each other. They deserve our care and respect for no other reason than being created in the image of God.

However, I believe that to truly understand what it means to live out the “belovedness” of others, we have to take it even one step further. If every act of love becomes a tangible demonstration of the character of God, then this is a powerful way to speak of Him to those we meet. Imagine if you treated every person you saw tomorrow as if they were passionately cared for by the God of the Universe. How would that change the way you talk to the person who serves your meal, rings up your purchase at the grocery store, or fixes your leaky faucet? How would that change the way you really notice the people around you, and what needs they might have? How would that change the way you pray?

Once again, it all boils down to the character of God–a God who spontaneously, generously loves every single beautiful and broken soul he created. A God who loves purely, who hates the sin that separates us from Him, and took it upon himself to provide the solution that we could not. A God who offers this redemption freely, who asks us to love him wholeheartedly, and who is concerned with the injustice in our world and the poverty not only of tangible resources, but the poverty of love.

When faced with a love this extravagant, what else can we do but give it out?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34