Part of It All

This is the time of year to be thinking – and writing – about gratitude. But instead, I find myself thinking about limits.

Every day, we run into them: limits of our physical body, our emotional reserves, and our time; limits on our perspective on the world based on the life we’ve lived; limits based on where we have been born in place and history. Limits imposed on us outwardly, or limits we keep trying to outrun that come from within. Whether we must accept limits that feel isolating and debilitating, or we simply get overwhelmed by the demands of a full life, all of us feel constrained by the limits of time, personality, or place. We long at once to be everywhere and here, experienced in all things yet an expert in a few, having more and having less.

Not until we realize that this hunger in us is a seed of eternity will we plant it deep into the soil of our finite limits, and let it grow. Continue reading

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

A Letter to Myself

Note: I wrote this letter to myself in much earlier days of this blog, but never published it. I just came across it again today and felt it was time to share it with the world. Although it emerged in the midst of much personal wrestling and prayer, I hope it strikes a chord of resonance with you as well. 

Dear you –

The one who is tired,

the one who sits there staring out the bus window,

wondering if she’s the one who has it all wrong.

The one who recognizes in herself the same criticism

the same jumping to conclusions

the same line-in-the-sand mentality

that frustrates her in others

and wonders how we ever heal from it all. Continue reading

Between the Thunder and the Lightning

At the beginning of the year, I wrote these words: “I’m not one for many New Year’s resolutions, but I know this: I want to welcome what this year brings with open hands, embrace beauty, dare to follow creativity, and refuse to be led by fear.”

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about that last part. Refusing to be led by fear.

You don’t need me to tell you that so much of the world around us is shaped strongly by fear – fear of strangers, of opposing views or political parties, of losing our retirement or the admiration of the crowds. More and more, we’re starting to talk as a nation about fear & divisions & polarization. I’m glad for that. And more and more, I realize that this culture of fear has certainly seeped into my own heart as well. Continue reading

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!

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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

Ministry Update: Looming Ahead

Hello friends! I have an exciting ministry update to share with you all! But first, a little context: 

As some of you may know, in 2005 I went on a two-week missions trip that changed my life. That summer, my youth group partnered with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) to immerse ourselves in urban outreach. It was here that my heart was deeply stirred for the cause of the vulnerable and the marginalized, and I knew then I would spend the rest of my life seeking justice and compassion for the oppressed through my love of storytelling.

The next 4 years I spent a lot of Friday nights under the Burnside bridge, washing feet and handing out socks and sandwiches. I loved getting to meet people there and I began learning the power of relationships in changing hearts. However, I still was operating from a top-down mentality. What can I give you? How can I help you? Instead of, How can we work together?

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Some time ago, I realized my normal modes of exercise–mainly biking and walking–were primarily benefiting a certain set of muscles. My legs. Although I felt in good physical shape, there was a whole half of my body that never received a very strenuous workout. In order to right this imbalance, I needed to seek out exercises that targeted these weaker areas.

In some ways, the choices I make in my life are similar to the exercises I choose. It may seem like I’m in good shape, but when I look closely I’m very heavily focused on certain areas, with whole areas of my life ignored or uncultivated. Just like my physical body, these “muscles,” if not used, will continue to stay stagnant.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about risk. After years of making choices, we are (often unconsciously) choosing what muscles in our life we want to be strongest. Years of making a safe, easy, or comfortable choice will cause those muscles to become my reflex response. The more I choose comfort and security over risk, the more I’m closing my heart off to all sorts of scary but wonderful things God might bring me.

Choosing to embrace risk, doing things that are good but scare me, is a way to begin building strength in other areas, knowing that more scary things will inevitably come and these extra muscles sure might come in handy. As reluctant as I might sometimes be, I want to keep doing something that scares me every year of my life. I want to keep saying yes and building my muscles of trust, creativity, prayer, and dependence upon Christ.


What are some things that really scare you? I’m not necessarily talking about spiders, snakes, or steep ledges–although I totally get that. But what really terrifies you deep down?

Rejection? Failure? Isolation? Meaninglessness? Not-enough-ness?

Me too.

There are some days we look at our life and think, why risk it?

The point is not that risk is inherently good, but that life is about these sort of small choices we make every year of our lives. This isn’t about gaining points by being a crazy risk-taker, but re-aligning our priorities so that we’re willing to take risks for the sake of big and beautiful things. Discerning when to step into this risk intentionally, and the process of embracing it, is what exercises our muscles of dependence on the Spirit. We learn to pray, live, and love Jesus differently when we’re out of our comfort zone.

Here’s who I want to be: someone who enters into risk with the full acknowledgement that I need both wisdom and courage, that I don’t have enough of either of these on my own. I want to step forward towards good/scary things because I know whether I fail or succeed, just the very act of stepping forward is a victory.

And once I’m there, I want to look back with a knowing smile on my face, recognizing that Jesus led me all the way, and turn my face towards the future and say,

“Let’s try again tomorrow.”


Only Love Remains

I heard once that in previous centuries time was not viewed as a line you move through, with a beginning and an end, but circular–the way the sun rises and sets, or the year always circles back to spring.

In my own heart I often recognize this circular pattern. I learn something true about living every day, and I do my best to remember it. But new thoughts come, distractions drift my mind away, and the sharpness of this truth becomes dulled. Months later, I’m reminded of these truths again and around the circle goes. My prayer is that each time becomes like the blow of a great hammer, driving it deeper and deeper into my soul. Like the unforced rhythms of grace.

When I first started this blog nearly three years ago, one of the first things I wrote about was love.  The more I live & pray about living, the more I’m convinced that this is each of our great lives’ works–the work of love.

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