Sacred Pauses

The crow and I have become good friends.

He, remaining impressively quiet in the early morning hours (I’m sure just for me!) and I, sitting on the deck or staring out the window, mug in hand, simply appreciating his presence. We are witnesses together here, of the first spring blossoms and the changing colors of the sky.

I look ahead on all the possibilities of the day, the segments held together like the juicy flesh of an orange bound by a thin membrane. Each one that goes by I want to savor, notice, taste, appreciate. I want to recognize the gifts. I want to thank the Giver.

Rarely am I able to diagnose my own needs. But at the start of this year, looking ahead at all the blank boxes of the calendar, it wasn’t too hard to sort this one out: I needed more time to pray. Or, perhaps the real truth–I needed to pray more in my time.

How much I go to God in prayer is a much better indicator of my own self-sufficiency than I could ever diagnose on my own. The more I realized how much of my day I go through with an “I’ve got this” mentality, the more I’ve been humbled by my own pride and self-importance.

This is about remembering my hourly neediness, my constant dependence on Christ.

As ten o’clock nears, the crow caws louder, hopping from roof to branches. I look up from my work at the trees whose buds are now mysteriously becoming leaves. Soon the bells will chime again, calling me to pause, let go of my drive to achieve, and take time to remember.

They say it takes seven weeks to develop a new habit. If that’s true, then this post is a bit premature, for I’ve only been setting alarms for about two weeks. There are days when I’m in meetings or with friends, and those moments sweep by without notice. There are days when prayers happen while scrubbing floors or driving home, or in a simple breath of “thank you.” But I hope, whatever it looks like, I’ll be able to build this habit of pausing six times a day to recognize the holy ground I’m walking on.

Interestingly, having a natural division of the hours in my day is helping me stay a bit more organized, maybe even get more done. Taking a few minutes to breathe in between crossing off the to-do list has given me a chance to process emotions, evaluate priorities. And yet that’s not the point. Whether or not it’s beneficial to me, I want this to be about Christ. About worship. About re-orienting my life and perspective, reminding myself not to live for self-gratification or pleasure, reminding me to look around for opportunities to do good, opportunities to give thanks. It’s about preaching the gospel to myself over and over again, repenting quickly when I’ve sinned, filling my mind with truth and praise.

This is about not getting sidetracked by pursuing justice, and neglecting the pursuit of Christ.



What I love about a cloudy morning is the way curls of steam rise like little white blossoms from the mug.

And how, when the wind blows up here on the third floor, the panes rock back and forth like a clumsy attempt to soothe all the stress and discouragement I’ve closed in.

I love how the world holds me like a blanket just long enough to feel that it’s OK to spend five extra Friday minutes staring out the window at the just-budding branches. Then suddenly, a few bright rays break through, land on my forehead like a brisk blessing, and it’s time to get back to work.

For several weeks I have felt at-odds with my desires, recognizing envy, discouragement, and selfishness in some vulnerable places. I cling to the words:

“You can’t have community with those you compete with,”


“We don’t need more things. We need more meaning.”

Unfurling from these two truths is a single word like a wisp of morning steam.


I walk through my house fingering it like a stone in my pocket.

This house-it is enough.

These daily tasks-enough.

This messy kitchen, this sticking door, the contents of these closets–enough, more than enough.

And the uncertain dreams? the middle spots with unknown endings? the relationships sometimes causing so much thought? Enormously, abundantly enough-if I choose to accept them.

Sometimes it seems the whole of life is remembering. I remind myself of these words last November, how this is the beginning of the fullest life, the biggest blessing: choosing to name this enough. I remind myself of what we read last December, what I struggled against like a cord wrapped tightly–“Embrace the small.” Embrace the downward life, because this is the way of the Kingdom.

What feels like compromise or constraint can turn out to be the greatest blessing.

What feels like “settling” can be the jar of clay with the treasure inside.

What seems insignificant  can be a gateway to glory.

What seems boring and ordinary may just be the very tool for a job this size.

“The meaning unfolds in the ordinary Wow. Thank You. Yes.”

Ann Voskamp

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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Year in Review: Top 5 Books of 2015

My goal is life is to always be spending more time reading books than I do watching TV (or, in our case, Netflix!). My dear husband hauls plenty of books home each month on his bike commute for me from our local libraries, for which I am so thankful. 🙂 In the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about all the great books we’ve read this year that have shaped our thinking and how really truly different my brain and heart are only a year later. So, here are my top five books from this year. If you’ve read one of them, I’d love to hear your thoughts! And please recommend some good ones for 2016 in the comments below! 

#1: Best Fiction

Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis


To me, this novel was fascinating for two reasons: 1. It was the retelling of an old “pagan” myth by a Christian and 2. It was full of the most intriguing plot twists, characters, and themes which made it SO hard to put down!

Even though the story was based on Greek Mythology, I actually found it extremely “Christian” in really beautiful and unexpected ways. Whether or not you identify as a follower of Christ, this book has some moving and profound comments on what it means to love.

#2: Best Non-Fiction

Newton On the Christian Life by Tony Reinke


The best compliment I can give this book is that it has made me love Christ more. Full of Newton’s own writings as a pastor, sermons, and pastoral letters to his congregation, the words in these pages are timeless, convicting, encouraging, and most of all packed to the brim with Jesus. Please read it. The End.

#3: Best Oregon Author

Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma


This year I’ve read a  LOT of books about justice, and this one really rose to the top (although Overrated by Eugene Cho was a close second). It’s informative, wise, and most of all a great blend of encouraging and realistic. I never once felt like the author was trying to guilt me into anything, or tell me that “ordinary” life was wrong. Instead, it inspired me to infuse my ordinary life with concrete, practical acts of justice that really made a difference. This is a book I’ll be re-reading in 2016 for sure.

#4: Best Writing Book

Pray Write Grow by Ed Cyzewski


This book almost reads like a “how-to,” with the author’s own experiences of prayer and writing interwoven with practical ideas to merge the two together. For me, it’s been a good reminder to pay attention to things that keep me up at night, or fill my mind during the day. These are the topics I need to embrace instead of running from. I need to pray about them, and perhaps I also need to write about them.

Overall: short, sweet, and just what I needed to convince myself to keep writing this year.

#5: Best Book I Haven’t Actually Finished Yet

Teach Us To Want by Jen Pollock Michel


This book is just beautiful. One review I just read summed it up well: “Teach Us to Want redeems the topic of desire in a Christian’s life.” I think it is normal for everyone to struggle with desire. How do I know if my longings are selfish, or God-given? When is it OK to pursue what brings me joy? What does it mean to take up my cross and follow? I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m pretty sure this is another book I’ll be coming back to again.

So there you have it! My top 5 of the year. Which books have been your favorite in 2015?

Here are a few on my list for 2016. My goal is to begin reading an even more diverse range of authors. There aren’t any on this list yet, but my goal is also to read at least one book I’m going to really disagree with. I’d love to know what you think I should add!


Our Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas from the Funkhousers!


In our last Christmas letter, Ben and I included this quote from Ann Voskamp:

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement, vowed to Awe Himself, covenanted to Christ –and I took the whole of everything He gave in this gloried world into my open arms with thanks.”

I think I could sum up by saying that if 2014 was our year of learning gratitude, 2015 was our year to KEEP learning it.

For those of you who like bullet  points, here is the recap of our year:

  • We spent three incredible months in Amsterdam, which I won’t write about because that’s what half this blog is full of anyways.
  • We moved to SE Portland and are trying hard to invest in this community long-term…
  • Although we still dream about moving back to Europe 😉
  • Ben is now past his 3 year mark at CIS and still enjoys biking to work when possible (thankful for rain gear) and learning more about active and environmentally friendly transportation.
  • Jenna quit her job as an in-home caregiver and works (close to) full time for Abolition Now as Communications Director. She is learning a LOT!
  • We started caring a whole lot more about justice, inequality, and redemptive love.

This past year has been such a season of growth for us as a couple. We’ve seen so many areas where we want to change. Where we want to see the world change. Where we want to see our communities and cultures change. And yet, through it all, God invites us to give thanks. To rejoice in the day he has made. To embrace His goodness, wisdom, and permanence, even while facing some of the darkest evil the world can offer.


If we were to add one word that specifically summed up the beginning of our journey in 2015, however, I would take one step past gratitude. I would add generosity and love. 

We’ve seen what a deeper level of generosity could look like in our lives, and we’re taking wobbly steps, one by one, figuring out how to get there. However, we have to be honest and say that we have sometimes felt alone in this effort. We’ve struggled against despair and cynicism and selfishness and apathy. We have made dumb decisions or reacted to things in a way that was full of frustration rather than love. If you ever think of it, we would really appreciate your prayers as we walk this road together.

We truly believe that our actions towards justice are important. They create change, support , and reveal the heart of God. But as Paul said so convictingly in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I give all I possess to the poor, and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

So here’s to a new year and new mercies every morning! May this be year of drawing closer to the heart of God in beautiful and surprising ways. May we learn more and more what it looks like to do everything rooted in the Gospel and in Perfect Love.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.


Too Little or Too Much?

“To get to my truest desires I have to be courageous enough to dive into the darkness, through the pain, and find myself on the other side in the bright sun, in the place where my false desires are exposed for what they are: fear, selfishness, comfort at the cost of others.

Rich, miraculous love exists on the other side of pain.

And to get there, I must first walk boldly into the wilderness, where God met Moses in a burning bush, where the people of God wandered for forty years, where Jesus fasted and was tempted. The wilderness is the space between the promises and the promised land. The wilderness is the pain between our shallow desires and our deeper, more real desires. We move from loving our own comfort to loving the things God loves.” -Micah Boyette

It seems I’m always starting my writing with another author’s words. But really, who can say it much better than that?? When it comes to stuff this good, the motto “reduce, reuse, recycle” seems just as applicable.

Seriously, though, these last few weeks have felt like the beginning of a little wilderness for me. I have found myself “on the other side of the bright sun,” keenly aware of my selfishness, short-sightedness, and inability to produce anything of lasting worth on my own.

A news article floats by about child labor in South America. I don’t read it. I pick up a pair of shoes at an outlet store, knowing that “Made in the DRC” probably means the working conditions for whoever made them are atrocious. I buy them anyways, because they’re cheap. Here at home, I have the opportunity to serve someone in my family or church congregation, and I let it pass me by.

When I get exhausted or overwhelmed by justice, it’s usually not that I’ve overcommitted. When I scroll past a church member’s need without seriously considering it, it’s usually not that I have literally nothing to give. It’s laziness. It’s apathy. I’m simply not willing to inconvenience myself to benefit someone I don’t know, or sometimes even those I do. 

“Our fundamental problem is not ignorance of what is right. Our problem is selfishness of heart that causes us to care more about what we want than about what is right.” –Paul David Tripp

I think for me, I find it hard to live a lifestyle of that honors the justice and love of God for two main reasons:

  1. I don’t care enough.
  2. I’m afraid of caring too much.

Now, to be clear, what I’m not trying to say is that each of us should be actively involved in every single kind of justice work that exists in the world. I think part of what I’ve had to grapple with in the past year is simply recognizing my limitations, and entrusting those to God. But when confronted with an issue of injustice, I have the responsibility to truly care. To examine whether this is something I can make a difference in. To ask myself if any of my words or actions are contributing to it, in any way. Honestly, I don’t even think it should wait until I am unavoidably confronted by it. As a student of Jesus, I have the responsibility to be proactive in love and righteousness.

There’s another reason I let those articles pass me by, and neglect researching labor practices in the DRC. Sometimes, I don’t initiate towards justice because I’m afraid of caring too much.

Have you ever felt this way before? A news story features the raping and killing of hundreds of women somewhere in Asia, or the plight of refugees fleeing Syria and you tell yourself, “I just can’t take one more story like this.” So you change the channel, or close your browser, or just plain walk away.

Even just last week, I really struggled with this. If I let myself deeply care about everything, whether or not I feel that I am part of the solution, the weight of it can feel crushing. It’s so much easier just to adopt one “cause” and focus entirely on that–whether it be abortion, trafficking, foster care, poverty, racism, you name it. Then, when I hear about other injustice happening in the world, or even right down my street, I don’t have to care deeply–because it’s not “my cause” and therefore not my problem.

Maybe I’m the only one, but that was the story of my life until this past year. What I’m slowly learning is this: I do have the responsibility to care about all injustice, but if I truly understand the Gospel, caring should not lead me to despair.

The answer to injustice and pain is not me–it is Christ.

The answer to racism and poverty is not my efforts–it is the Gospel.

God is for justice, and the most important thing I can do is bring each area of injustice to Him in prayer. From there, He will guide me into whether or not this is something I can be involved in. Maybe I can’t say yes to every opportunity to serve my church, but I can treat each person I talk to today with dignity and love, and send a note of encouragement to someone in need. Maybe I can’t donate my money to both the refugee crisis center and my local homeless shelter, but I can look honestly at the way I’m spending my money as a steward and give as much as I truly can. Maybe I really can’t do anything about the exploitation of women and children halfway across the globe–but I can faithfully remember them in prayer.

Ultimately, the answer to injustice isn’t just doing more or giving more. The answer is Christ. When we take the burden off of ourselves and spend more time worshipping the God who holds all things in his hands, we participate in the work of redemption and remember what we were truly created for. Becoming more like Jesus Christ–this, above all, is righteousness.

If justice is going to happen in this world–if it’s going to happen in you–it will start in the little things. (Luke 16:10) Start small. Value others. Focus more on your responsibilities, and less on your rights.

When justice becomes a duty, it will weigh you down. When justice is the place where you are closest to God, giving your life away becomes your greatest delight.

…God does not call us to create our own goodness out of thin air, as if justice were something we could accomplish with a checklist and a bit of hard work.

Instead, God calls us to listen. The source of all goodness will surely have something to say about injustice. Then he calls us to obey. This is what it means to give our lives away…on behalf of others and for the glory of God.”

–Ken Wytsma

Starting Simply.

“As we behold the glory of Jesus, we increasingly participate in his image, transformed into his resemblance and character.” -Tony Reinke

I just want to know how to live my one life well.

This summer Ben and I returned from what many would have called a “mission trip.” But it was our arrival back through the US Customs Border that we were really on a mission.

We had arrived in Amsterdam like thirsty sponges, ready to learn and soak up what we could of another culture, another viewpoint, another world. We had just begun asking ourselves those big questions–what is our life really about? What are our priorities? Now, after three months, we had found a few answers–and even more questions.

We wanted to learn what it meant to be ethical consumers. How we could leverage our time and resources for justice, right where we lived. What it meant to be generous and self-sacrificing, yet live simply.

I talked in my last post about how I’m learning that sometimes, this means starting small. It means humility and discipline. It means having the same grace for myself as I give out to others.

You want to know what else I’m (humbly) learning?

It means being a worshipper.

It’s finally starting to sink in for me. In every area of my life, in everything I want to be or do, all the questions I have, it all comes down to to the gospel. It all comes down to Jesus.

“The more you know [Christ], the better you will trust him; the more you trust him, the better you will love him; the more you love him, the better you will serve him.” –Newton

Or, as Jason Fileta (founder of one of my favorite Portland non-profits, Micah Challenge,), puts it: “The response is not to live as a Justice Pharisee, but we need to respond as an act of worship. We need to rediscover worship as what we do with our daily lives.” –Jason Fileta

Ultimately, living my life well means learning from the one who lived life perfectly. Instead of trying to do more, be more, give more– I just need more of Jesus. I just need to be captivated more by His beauty.

What does this mean for me, practically? It means more prayer. More thanksgiving. More meditating on the heart of Christ. More going back, every single day, to the message of the Gospel.

And hopefully, more of that will mean less time wasted with my own Justice Agenda, trying to fix the world on my own.


Starting Small

I came back from Amsterdam wanting to do BIG things. Start prayer groups. Raise money for organizations. Write amazing articles for my organization’s website. Grow my blog readership. Basically, become the NW’s version of Ann Voskamp overnight, mixed in with Scott Sauls and Micah Boyett. And if you don’t know who these amazingly gifted writers are yet, your homework for today starts here.

Yet in all my great hopes and dreams, I”m finding it hard to remain content, to remain humble, to remain ultimately centered on and fulfilled by Christ. I’m getting so caught up in my own ideas, plans, and the opinions of others. It’s time to go back to the roots.

Over and over again, the Lord has been reminding me this past month that although I have big dreams, I need to trust him first with the small things right in front of me. “You have been faithful with little, I will put you over many things,” as the parable of the talents states. And who knows what He considers “little” and “big” anyways?

Could it be that these “small” things are really the biggest of all? Being a wife, a friend, a church member–could these actually be my biggest work, wherever else life takes me?

It’s not that I believe big dreams are bad. I just think, sometimes, they can distract us from being present and faithful in what we already have. From always feeling the pressure to do more, be more, impress others with the radical amazing things we’re doing with our lives.

“And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love.”

This year, I want to become a genuinely involved member of my community. I want to foster healthy and generous relationships. I want to keep reading books and articles that expand my vision, and write about what God is slowly unfolding in my heart.

I want to gather with women in my church and pray for “big” and “small” things–all the things that matter in our lives. I want to risk saying crazy things and getting humbly corrected later down the road as I continue to learn and grow. But most of all, I want to take advantage of the small. Small purchases, small moments, small interactions with others, small ways I can give sacrificially. And in it all, I want to take some deep breaths and allow myself to be OK with that.

“…But I also sense an invitation, one that brings a desire to commune with Jesus and with others in a way that the big I think I want may not allow. Daily I’m given the opportunity to recognize the gift of obscurity, trusting Christ is doing invisible kingdom work in the stairwells of my everyday life.

“Let’s stretch out in the fullness of small and move downward in gladness rather than upward in fear.
“Let’s let go of the constructed life and embrace a connected life, even if it leads to less.”
–Emily Freeman (read the full article, Hope For Your Soul When You Feel Small)

“God has not called you to be awesome. He has called you to be humble, faithful, and free. Leave the awesome to him.” Scott Sauls

I remind myself to breathe deep of the morning air, the scent of possibilities.

There is surely grace enough here.

Recollecting Gratitude (guest post!)


You guys are in for a treat–a guest post from Ben today! He did a really great job at expressing a lot of the emotions we’re still processing right now. Coming back from Amsterdam has been really sort of a turning point for us, as we discuss future goals, ministry opportunities, and just how in the world to live justly and gospel-centered with every aspect of our lives. We still have a lot more questions than answers–but honestly, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think the point is sometimes no longer even having a perfect answer, as it is living out the questions.

Lots of thoughts in my brain this morning.  Thinking about the priorities I want to have and where I want to see life in the next several years.  To be honest, I’m also fighting off some heavy nostalgia and the desire to be back in Europe.  I like being here in Portland, I really do, I just miss the kind of magical places in Europe that just mesh with my personality; riding trains and bikes, walking everywhere, hearing different perspectives on the world.  Yet there is so much I’m thankful for here as well, and I do feel pretty thankful this morning…

I’m thankful for mountains and ocean beaches (the most beautiful non-tropical sea vistas in the world).  I’m thankful for Stumptown coffee and our cozy apartment and my roadbike.  I’m thankful for forested bike trails and light rail and trees… trees everywhere!  And for a good public library, and local grocery stores, and a solid, Bible-teaching church.  I’m thankful for family nearby and for hot summer weather and for Tillamook dairy products of all forms.


At the same time, I desire to be more than thankful for these comfortable things. I want to be thankful for the challenges around me and to be caught up into one of the stories God is playing out in the city I live in.  I want to be more than a consumer of my city, I want to be a creator, imaging God’s goodness and light.  God, please broaden my perspective and help me to see how I can be more involved in this city around me as a creative force to work against the darkness and bring more light.