Orange Peels and Laughter

So I’ve been spending time with this family from Afghanistan.

I’m hesitant to talk about it, because I’m afraid it will sound like, “Look at me and all the good I’m doing!” Not gonna lie, there was a time before I jumped in to this adventure that might have been somewhat true. But the truth is?

The truth is I have way more fun hanging out with refugees than a happy hour with people from my same socioeconomic background. The truth is I love being with these new friends in my life from East Africa and the Middle East and at L’Arche because they know how to laugh. With them I don’t feel the need to be impressive or have my life together.

I was thinking about this as we celebrated Jean Vanier’s life a few weeks ago. Apparently he used to sit around the table at the end of the meal and throw orange peels at people, and this became a community tradition – to end the meal with orange peels and laughter.

“Little by little,” he said, “we became aware of what a cardinal in Rome told us, “You at L’Arche, you have achieved a Copernican revolution! Until now, it was said that we must do good to the poor, but at L’Arche you say that it is the poor who do you good!”


Jesus said, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. I’ve found this is true – not just for those who are poor in these “obvious” ways but with those who struggle with anxiety, depression, painful loss – the list could go on.

The truth is, I need the “poor.” I need them to remind me of the truth of the world we are living in. I need their laughter, their resilience, and their generosity rooted out of common empathy and struggle. When my husband and I are stressed because we can’t find affordable housing, I need what the poor can teach me, who have walked this same road for decades. When instability gives me anxiety and I struggle against a mentality of scarcity, I need the way they teach me how to hold onto hope and community even in the midst of so much unknown.

And the more I feel this – the more I know and love the poor, and even join them in some of the maddening lines at DHS and DMV, the less I want to talk about “the poor.” More and more, what I want to do is just open the doors wide and invite everyone in and say, You all need to meet each other!

Maybe someday, I will.



“And the more my world started to expand at my periphery, the more it became clear that life was more beautiful and more terrible than I had been told.”

DL Mayfield


I have left my heart in so many places.

The grief of leaving behind a place you love, even for good reasons, is a complicated grief. In the midst of new beginnings there is the quiet reminder of loss. It can seem as if all the love, time, and effort you invested in a certain place and time, in a certain vision of your future, has become only a story you will tell, like a dream you’re afraid of forgetting. Besides the story, what really remains? Continue reading

Merry Christmas from the Funkhousers!

Christmas Photo

Merry Christmas, friends! And what a year it has been. It feels like so much has happened since our letter last year.

To give you the highlights:

  • This year felt like a big learning curve in our new and growing roles at work. We’re so grateful for these opportunities and are glad we “took the plunge” last year!
  • Ben continues his work with L’Arche and just applied for PSU’s Graduate Program in Social Work. We are praying he gets in and begins next fall!
  • Jenna traveled with Loom to Tanzania in April, her first time to Africa (it was beautiful and very wet!) She is excited to to return this February.
  • We both traveled around Scandinavia visiting family this June, and spent a few wonderful days back in Amsterdam (it was beautiful and very hot!).
  • Both of us are trying out new volunteer roles: occasional dinner chef at L’Arche for Jenna and crisis line worker for Ben
  • We moved a few miles down the road in October and have enjoyed sharing a place with friends (and their cat).
  • We spent most of the year car-free which was a fun experiment
  • After much prayer and counsel, we joined an Anglican church this month and are thankful for the opportunity for spiritual formation through the ancient liturgy and practices of the Church.

In all honesty, this has felt like a year of opposites in many ways. It has been a year of making many new friends and reconnecting with old ones, of really testing out what it means to live according to our values and how to walk the delicate road of adapting without compromising. We love the direction our lives are going and yet so much still feels uncertain. It seems fitting that we write these words during Advent, the period of waiting in the mystery.

More than anything, this year has been a reminder that as John Lennon said,  “life is what happens while we are making plans.” We continue to look ahead and hope for the future, but more than anything we’re learning that wherever God takes us, we bring ourselves along. We want to invest just as much into becoming whole, healthy, mature people as we invest in getting to the next phase of life, whatever that holds.

Thank you for being a part of this journey with us. It means more than you know!

We’d like to end with these marvelous words which have been such an encouragement to us during this season. May it bless you as well as we “trust in the slow work of God’ together.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

The Great Cousin Adventure

One thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is how highly I value the simple act of being present. This is especially true in relationships – nothing brings me greater joy than sitting down with someone to enjoy a meal, a beautiful view, or a cup of tea. As our circle of friends and family has continued to expand around the world, I (and my husband) have tried to make the time and space to visit them. There’s probably nothing we love more than learning from people in different places, cultures, and backgrounds.

So when a cousin of mine married a gal from Sweden last year, we knew we wanted to make every effort to visit them. Very long story short, I also have a lot of family in the Midwest I don’t get to see very often, and it turns out they wanted to visit them too. And the Great Cousin Adventure was born!

Continue reading

Coming to terms with my number

I am a two.

To those who are familiar with the Enneagram, I basically just told you all my dirty secrets. Although the Enneagram is considered an ancient personality typing method (making a trendy comeback), I would consider it more of a rigorous soul assessment. It has forced me to confront everything lurking in my heart: hopes, dreams, fears–both what I would die for and what I would die to avoid.

And, as much as I’ve tried to run from it, I am a two.

So what does that mean?  Continue reading

Merry Christmas from the Funkhousers!

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn-
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn-
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

-Madeleine L’Engle

This has been a year of many changes (but then again, aren’t they all?). We have both experienced the “risk of birth” this year as we step into new & unknown directions. Through it all we have been so grateful to have a Father who has gone before us, taking the ultimate “risk of birth” by coming down in human form to bring us hope & eternal security through his son.

Per tradition, here’s the bullet point version of our year:

  • We’re still living in Southeast, the longest we’ve lived in an apartment by far. We’re enjoying the chance to continue getting to know some neighbors and hope to keep investing in the community. Plus, our mice neighbors have finally been evicted, a definite reason to rejoice.
  • Jenna had a series of scary health issues Feb-May of this year. One of the bummers of this was that we had to cancel our trip to Amsterdam. Thankfully she is feeling much better now & is actually grateful for some of the things she learned during that season. It was a hard but good season of trusting and relying upon God. (Although we still hope to make it back to Amsterdam before long!)
  • Ben completed his fifth year of working with CIS, then took the exciting step of following his passions towards a more people-oriented career. He is now working for L’Arche Portland, an intentional community for people with disabilities.
  • Jenna also took on a new position with Loom International on their Marketing/Communications team. So far she loves it, and will hopefully be planning a trip soon to visit some of their work on the field.
  • We traveled to Chicago this June and attended the Justice Conference, a dream come true for both of us.  We were especially inspired to broaden our perspectives by pursuing relationships with those who see the world differently.
  • Great memories with family: Celebrating both parent’s 30th anniversaries this year, and visiting Ben’s parents in August. In October we had the opportunity to visit family in Oklahoma and also went to Sunriver with Jenna’s family.

During this year, we have also been so thankful for each of you, our friends & family who have rallied around us in the hard times and cheered us on in the good. We hope you know how much you have blessed us this year! May 2018 bring you peace, joy, and perseverance as we go further up & further in together.


Ben & Jenna


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The Great Asia Adventure

Hi friends!

Jet lag is beginning to wear off, so I thought it was probably about time to share some photos from our recent trip to Sri Lanka and Indonesia. This trip was special because it wasn’t just vacation–it was the chance for me to FINALLY visit one of my best friends in the whole world, and her husband. We had a fabulous time and it was hard to come home– I just wanted to keep traveling and keep spending time with friends forever. We are so thankful we had the opportunity to visit after talking about it for nearly three years. Continue reading

May I know their names.

One of the things I’ve realized this year is how our society is growing more and more segregated. In our neighborhoods, work, schools, and churches it is common to have a single demographic disproportionately represented. We can easily spend 90% of our time with people who see the world very similarly.

And so we might talk about poor people or rich people without really knowing any. We might talk about refugees without having ever had a friendship with one. We might even discount the validity of race issues or privilege or global warming. Of course, this is a huge generalization, but I’ve seen it true all too often in my own life.  Continue reading