How to make it when all goes wrong: a Thanksgiving reflection.

Everyone has their own journey, their own winding path. Some difficulties are wide open for all to see, and then some are quiet and secret, hidden away from the obvious conversations of life.

The journey of me and my husband this year has definitely been the former — the journey that was filled with so many clear, out-in-the-open struggles that it was impossible to keep it out of conversations.

As a recap…

Last year on December 15, 2018 we got married on a wondrous, whirlwind, adventurous day.

And the adventure was only about to get more adventurous.

Because… at the end of January we found out we were pregnant.

Our already-begun future plans about potential visas to visit the US, job opportunities near or far, and ideas of where to plant our lives now included carrying a pregnancy, giving birth, and all the intricate details that come along with that.

For those that were closest to us during that time, you’ll know how difficult things quickly got. 2 more tourist visa applications got denied, we struggled with figuring out timing of eventually seeing each other (which we hoped would happen during the pregnancy), navigating jobs and finances and maternity leave, and me ending my lease and having to move and store all my belongings without knowledge if they should stay there short or long term. Then struggling with deciding if I needed to plan to save and prepare to travel back to Tanzania if his spousal visa took as long as it could possibly take (1-2 years), figuring out how I’d get a passport for our son if that happened, and what I’d have to do for a job if I did have to go back. Then the other option if I stayed and waited for Peter, what I’d do if I had to single parent for an undetermined amount of time, and how I could juggle work and a newborn. Then the hardest scenario, working through if Peter didn’t make it for the birth, how I would handle that alone, what would I do if something went wrong, how sad it would be to experience that alone, how afraid I was to do all of it alone…

People, the list could go on and on with the continual stresses and potential stresses that we dealt with every day while separated. The daily unknown was hard, and then slowly watching hopes die of being together at all during the pregnancy. I don’t have really have space to explain the emotional toll that took on both of us.

So how did we get through it?

How did we bear every single disappointment, one after another, including Peter not being there in time and being present for my labor signs, admittance to the hospital, natural induction methods, unmedicated labor, baby stress signs, emergent C-section as I neared pushing, our baby Jackson being immediately admitted to NICU due to meconium aspiration, the uncertainty of waiting several days to see if there was an damage due to potential lack of oxygen, 24 longs days in the NICU while I lived on the hospital site in their Ronald McDonald House before finally going home– how did we bear it all?

How could we possible not be angry and bitter, disconnected in bearing our own sadness and emotions, and spiring out due to the continual anxiety?

How could our marriage thrive, our individual selfs feeling more close and known to the other, our bitterness wane away, and our trust in God grow?

One word.


We talked and Skyped anywhere between 2-3 times a day, and I cannot remember a single day, especially in the 2-3 months prior to birth, where at some point in the conversation we didn’t express something we were thankful for in our situation.

There was a lot to be angry and bitter and frustrated and sad about. There really was. And we talked about those things too.

But oh there was so much to be thankful for.

Thankful for my parents who took me back in to live with them.

Thankful that I didn’t have to stress about paying rent or other general living expenses.

Thankful that our family’s church in Indiana was so kind and supportive and giving, always praying all the time for us.

Thankful for all the friends who continually reached out and prayed for us and really cared about everything.

Thankful for the several work opportunities and clients I was able to get that allowed me to work from home and do only virtual work.

Thankful for my above and beyond health during my pregnancy, to the point where I actually even liked it at times.

Thankful for our baby’s health during the whole pregnancy.

Thankful for the great healthcare insurance I had.

Thankful for the total of 3 baby showers we were thrown and how we hardly had to spend any money on buying baby supplies.

Thankful for the midwife group who really cared about us and took such good care of me.

Thankful for the doulas who so fully loved us and looked out for me during my whole pregnancy and birth.

Thankful for Peter’s job that allowed him the flexibility to travel to Dar Es Salaam (very far away from his city) several times in order to take care of business at the embassy there.

Thankful for friends who graciously gave us their car shortly before our baby arrived.

Thankful that although it felt like an eternity for Peter to get his approvals for the spousal visa and Green Card, in total from beginning to end it was 5 1/2 months, and most cases are taking easily 1.5 – 2 years.

Thankful that we got pregnancy so fast because that ended up being the linchpin to Peter getting his visa so quickly and giving additional proof to the validity of our marriage.

Thankful for Kathie, and immigration specialist at a Congressional office in our town, who personally advocated for our case, getting us expedited several times along the way. Near the end she was calling the office every day to help Peter get his final interview scheduled in hopes he’d be home before the baby arrived.

Thankful that by time Peter did get all his approvals, we had enough money to cover all the crazy amounts of immigration fees and travel costs to move to the US.

Thankful that God gave me so much grace during my labor and delivery, that I didn’t really experience any anxiety and fear, which really was a complete miracle given everything that happened.

Thankful that our marriage was built on friendship, love and commitment, and that we were able to thrive on those non-superficial things even though separated for 7 1/2 months.

Thankful that we practiced self control and willingness to not give into our physical and sexual desires during our dating and engagement, which gave us so much trust in each other during our separation.

Thankful we both loved God and were mature in our faith so that this trial didn’t tear apart something weak, but rather bonded a strength even stronger.

Thankful for our journey and the stories it would bring to our children and their children one day.

Thankful we could be thankful, and that we had the gift of life.

Just… thankful.

People always said to me during that time, “Wow, you are so strong,” and I know that is what it came across as on the outside. And at first it bothered me because, you know, don’t you know how much I have suffered?!

But now I realize something.

Being thankful does make you strong. And it is possible to be strong and suffering at the same time. In fact, maybe that’s how it should be. It’s our time of both weakness and strong, because at that point God can work in us and through us, and we become most like Him and who he created us to be in the first place. Our full humanity is on display, and our full Image of God.

So be thankful today. It’s not pretending. You aren’t lying when you are going through a tough time and people ask, “How are you,” and you say, “You know, I’m really thankful for…” It broadens your perspective and thickens your emotional muscle.

You are most real when you are most honest with your weaknesses, and at the same time can speak over them about what you have to be thankful for.

It’s a bitter life to only be thankful when everything is going your perfect way. Because that will never ever happen.

So be thankful and let your real strength be strengthened, and your real Godlikeness to shine brightest.


Is it possible to be both single and happy? From yours truly, this Valentine’s Day.

Is it possible to be both single and happy?

It’s an intriguing question, really.

This is not ever really a direct question anyone says towards me, but sometimes it’s implied: how can you be single and happy at the same time? Not only do I feel that implication from the world around me at literally every corner, but I also at times come face to face with the question myself.

Is singleness and happiness mutually exclusive?

And just to heighten the intensity, let’s ask that on Valentine’s Day. On the cultural celebratory day of love, when you don’t have a lover, is it possible to be happy?

Let’s explore this.

This has been a top-of-mind topic since it’s come up in three separate conversations in the last 2 weeks. And those conversations have been specifically with women who feel that desire to be with someone, to be married, but also feel like, “Am I just waiting around to start living my life?”

It comes from a tension, an insecurity about committing to a specific path or personal values when knowing that means possibly saying no to a relationship, to marriage.

For females, this is an especially difficult conundrum. In our world, especially the Christian culture, there’s always an expectation, whether quietly implied or explicitly exhorted, to find our purpose and mission through a man and through marriage. Here’s the implication:

If you’re going to mean something to this world, it’s going to come through another human being.

Though that’s a duo-gender message, for females this is often paired with the concept of submission. To submit.

And it is until we do this flawlessly, submit our will and purpose through another human being, then we will find true happiness and meaning.

Say that out loud. Sometimes logically and verbally expressing that belief brings us to a stark realization:

That conclusion is not reflective of who God is and how God made us.

First of all, in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall and any sin, God gave a job before he gave marriage. God gave purpose in an intimately personal way before giving a path to do that alongside another person.

This means that each of us is made individually unique before God — which means we each are special, set apart, called, and meaningful. Though we need community and relationships to thrive, we only need God individually to have meaning. To tie a human being to our core purpose means to resign ourselves to co-dependency, that in order to have meaning, I must be attached to you.

So, from the beginning, we are missioned and meaning-full. When God looks at you, He sees a full person that has a unique name.


Second, let’s look at the word that trips us all up: submission. If one day I’m supposed to release my will and life to another person, then why would I start my own knowing I’d have to give that up? Would my primary value as a wife be my ability to serve men? And if I’m supposed to only find it through a husband, then why would I think I’d ever have something special to offer the world? And if submission only applied to marriage, then are singles not supposed to submit to anything?

I love what Lisa Bevere* said about this topic: “I heard a definition of submission that framed and aligned it with God’s plan for all Christians, not just couples. Consider this: the prefix sub means “under,” and mission is an assignment. Put them together, and we can draw a conclusion that submission means “under the same assignment or mission.”

This gives so much more intentionality and thought behind not just personal mission, but also marriage. Instead of fearfully thinking, “In order to be married, I have to loss my mission,” instead we can think, “When I choose a marriage partner, it’s because we are under the same mission together.”

Why would God ask you to submit to God ultimately, to be sent on His mission in the world, and then nullify that unique mission because you are now married?

God’s mission and call is always greater than man’s, no matter who that person is.

Which is why I think, as single women, we can freely and fearlessly move into outrageous acts of mission because that doesn’t deter God’s path or purpose for us. It will actually move us closer to the best outpouring of it.

What does this have to do with happiness?

Actually, I don’t think this has anything to do with happiness. Which is the point of this article.

I’ll use my own story as an example because I’ve always wrestled with that question: Am I happy?

Though I love being happy and can easily pinpoint those moments of extreme highs in my life (picture me prancing carelessly through a wheat field throwing flowers into the wind), I realized pretty early on that that picture of “happiness” never really motivated me. For such a long time I was always obsessed with one thing: purpose.

I mean, check out this blog title. And no, Vita By Design is not some sort of customized vitamin supplement. Vita means “life.” And By Design means, “on purpose.”

One life, on purpose.

I have a bit of an odd history, per se, with all the moves and experiences in my life. There were many crisis moments of change and I wasn’t satisfied with trite answers about silver linings. I wanted to know “why?” What was the purpose?

It began as a practice in youth and has continued through today. And I can’t say it’s been easy. Actually, a better word would be messy.

And throughout the time of trying so hard to find purpose in my life, I had to live with the question of singleness in the back of my mind. Am I resigning to singleness in order to find purpose?

From my perspective, it’s most likely only been down the road of singleness that I have found personal meaning in this world through God. I’ve had to let go of figuring out who I am in light of another person or of the expectations others perceive of me. I’ve sat down over long spaces of time and let God really show me who I am. Honestly, I was always terrified of that person because it’s much too abnormal. It took being threatened, mocked, and on the verge of losing everything before I was willing to stand up for myself and say, “No, I’m a person with worth who has a gifting in a specific way.”

You remembering that part about messy? You don’t even know the half. It’s been in this dirt of bitterness, shame and oppression (both outwardly and inwardly) that all seeds of goodness have been planted. And the harvest is the obvious things. That’s what you get to see — accomplishment, mercy, kind actions, goodness, justice for humanity. But you weren’t there when it was planted, all the bitterness, pain, self-shaming, hate for my life and my heart, loss of belief in any of the goodness or reality of God. No one else was there to save me from that.

Besides God.

Sometimes I wonder if we, as single women (or men I suppose), never get to taste the true God because we’re always looking for someone else to be our Savior. To tell us what to do when confused, to save us from despair when all is lost, to provide for us when we’re flat broke, to comfort us when we’re lost and afraid.

I remember at one specific epic low point in my life, after I had lost all the work I had and a job offer, I thought for the first time in my life, “Maybe this is why girls get married? So that when these things happen she can rely on someone else to provide for her?” It was a bitter moment, because I knew I could no longer provide for myself, financially or emotionally.

But that’s exactly when I found God as my true Husband. He showed up and he saved the day. I mean, there was a journey involved that was extremely hard. I remember not having money to buy food that day and realizing, “Well, looks like I’m fasting and praying this week!” And judging by where my life is today 2 1/2 years later, I would say it work 😉

Now here’s the hardest part of all of us, and I know that because I’ve fought it continually: if I step out and into a defined mission that I believe is tailored for me, then that means I won’t ever get married, because guys are only looking for girls that fit into their own life trajectory.

Now, once we say it out loud, it sounds a bit silly. But it’s TOTALLY real when dwelling on it, right?? And it does actually makes sense to a degree. When I train businesses on marketing, we intentionally lead them to define a target market, and that makes them really uncomfortable, because then that might be saying no to some people. But that’s what we want. We want some people to see their business and think, “Yes that’s for me!” and others to think, “Nope, that’s not for me at all.”

Choosing to live and stand for your beliefs and personal passions is going to immediately polarize some crowds. And I hate that feeling. But it’s true. And it’s actually a good thing that certain people will be attracted to you more than others due to your life choices.

And if anyone gets this, believe me, it’s me. I have been so torn and uncomfortable with my calling. Words like, “Inadequate, unprepared, naive, un-understanding, and pointless” are my constant companion when standing in the gap for those who have been sexually exploited and trafficked. I’ve come so close to giving up on this in the past because I’ve felt so incapable and unworthy.

On top of that, leaning into this mission means I’m committed to certain counter-culture things: doing outreach at strip clubs and other places of adult entertainment, believing in abstinence and then a monogamous life through marriage, exposing the harms of pornography, advocating for healing in our communities due to the brokenness through the sexualization of women. I really did believe and fear that moving into this calling would render me single forever because I couldn’t imagine men being vulnerable enough to partner with my mission from God. I just never saw too many examples of that.

This is also why I died a thousand times in my heart and soul when the mic taps were released of Trump’s verbal description of how he thinks about and uses women. It wasn’t simply that he did that (I see that everyday in the fight against sexual exploitation). It was the visceral defense of that action from not just the general community, but from Christians — men and women.

“That’s just how men are,” and “It’s standard locker room talk,” and “Boys will be boys,” and “Why should we have standards when that’s the way the culture is anyway?”

Watching this play out choked me with alone-ness and fear of the future of all women. That if we don’t submit to this belief that we are naive and unbelievable.

But in short answer to that fear, it’s not true. Men are not supposed to talk like that. Humans are not supposed to use each other. We should have standards for how we think about, treat, and talk to women and men. Period.

Which one will you choose?

As you can imagine, it can be an internal storm, and I don’t think I’m exempt or unusual. We live this — a fear that we’ll have to choose, man or mission.

At the end of the day, I believe each of us, married or single, have to look back and assess, “Did I live up to my God-given gifts today?”

Does it mean it’s a paid position, or a social cause, or a title? I don’t think so. At my core, I believe my life calling is Mercy. Which isn’t super popular because it doesn’t jive well with common sense. But despite what others may think or interpret it as, that is what gives me meaning each day and I have only God to answer for how well I lived that out.

Am I happy?

Finally we get here. Am I a happy and single girl on Valentine’s Day?

Honestly, I can’t say I am. Once I start asking myself “Am I happy?” I start remembering all the pain that has stolen good, happy moments in my life that isn’t necessarily even related to relationships. The wounds start throbbing again and I easily make a case for all the reasons I’m not fulfilled.


But here’s the thing: I don’t think we were made to be happy. Happy implies a lack of strains and cares. It’s a false reality we think we can obtain by building walls around ourselves and staying as safe as we possibly can, the thought that only hurt-less people are truly happy people.

I look back at my life and some of my “highest” moments were moments when I was living purely who I am and who I was made to be. It was those Mercy-filled moments when God’s purpose and my gifts collided. It hasn’t always been a happy life, per se. But it sure has been meaningful.

So, is this single girl happy on Valentine’s Day? I guess not. But I sure do have meaning.

And, you know what?

I guess that’s what makes me so happy.

I’ll end with a selection from Ron Rolheiser which has additionally inspired me recently in light of conversations with friends about singleness. I hope you lean into desiring a meaningful life today, not necessarily a happy one. I think that comes after the meaningful part.

Am I happy? Is my life a happy one? Am I happy inside my marriage? Am I happy with my family? Am I happy in my job? Am I happy with my church? Am I happy inside my own skin?

Are these good questions to ask ourselves? No. They’re questions with which to torture ourselves. When we face our lives honestly this kind of question about happiness is more likely to bring tears to our eyes than solace to our souls because, no matter how well our lives are going, none of us live perfectly fulfilled lives. Always there are unfulfilled dreams. Always there are areas of frustration. Always there are tensions. Always there are deeper hungers that are being stifled

The question should not be: Am I happy? Rather the questions should be: Is there meaning in my life? Is there meaning in my marriage? Is there meaning in my family? Is there meaning in my job? Is there meaning inside my church?

We need to ask the deep questions about our lives in terms of meaning rather than in terms of happiness because, for the most part, we have a false, over-idealized, and unrealistic concept of happiness.

We tend to equate happiness with two things, pleasure and lack of tension. Hence we fantasize that for us to be happy we would need to be in a situation within which we would be free of all the tensions that normally flood into our lives.

But that isn’t what constitutes happiness. Meaning is what constitutes happiness and meaning isn’t contingent upon pain and tension being absent from our lives:  Imagine if someone had come up to Jesus as he was dying on the cross and asked him the question: Are you happy up there? His answer, I am sure, would have been unequivocal: “No!” However, the perspective is quite different if, while on the cross, Jesus would have been asked this question: “Is there meaning in what you are doing up there?”

There can be deep meaning in something even if there isn’t happiness in the way we superficially conceive of it.

*quote from Lisa Bevere’s book, Lioness Arising.

The Most Imperfect Triathlon

I think a lot when I swim.

I think a lot about not drowning.

With this triathlon journey, I could’ve made a movie called, “Finding Myself,” and subtitled it, “Just keep swimming.

Let’s start at the beginning . . .

The Inspiration

While in Hawaii this past February, I finally got the opportunity to get destroyed by the ocean like I’ve always wanted. This is called surfing, I suppose.


I always wanted to try my hand at it, but I realized that you had to have proper gear.

Like a swim shirt.

Because of the endless paddling on top of the board to catch waves, you need to cover your arms with a good swim shirt to save yourself from some serious chaffing.

So I found a purple one I really liked. I figured I’d rock my favorite color AND look like a pro.



Hello, I never spend $50 on a shirt. Much less for a shirt that I would wear once while on an island I will visit rarely in my lifetime.

I was devastated.

Because of my chagrin, my sister-in-law Kristin recommended other ways I could use the shirt again, perhaps a sport or activity that included water.

So I signed up for the Chicago Triathlon.

Well that escalated quickly.

I have a relatively athletic history. It includes sports like volleyball, basketball, softball, and kickboxing.

You know what activities I have shown the least amount of athleticism in my lifetime?

Swimming. Biking. Running.

I thought, “Ooh, I have a great idea — why don’t I do all of those . . . AT ONCE??”

Off To A Rough Start

Biking – Of the three, this is probably the one I enjoy the most. However, in my mind I feel like I can defy the laws of bike shorts, to my tail bone’s demise. Sure, riding around town a few miles at a time isn’t too bad. But when you ride longer distances without proper gear or hydration, it’s an equation for a perfect (painful) storm.

Running – I don’t know if you can interpret my form as “running.” Probably more like, “Creative trotting.” For example, during my last 5k race, I was feeling really proud of my run when I was halfway through– my best one yet! And then at mile 3 I caught up to this 67 year old man. I proudly paced with him through the rest of the race (I mean, who doesn’t need a little motivation?).

Swimming – I love swimming. It’s a blast. I grew up in a pool my whole life and our family frequented the beach. However, my version of swimming includes doggie paddling, inner-tube waves, and Marco Polo, of which things I am the real MVP. But real lap swimming? I think my first time in the big kids pool I embarrassed the entire YMCA.

Those first few swims I learned a lot, like . . .

  1. Real sports bathing suits are a necessity (semi-strapless is a semi-terrible idea)
  2. You’re supposed to breathe
  3. You’re not supposed to breathe under the water
  4. Kicking is supposed to work in conjunction with stroking
  5. Breathing is supposed to work in conjunction with kicking AND stroking
  6. I always knew where the lifeguard and defibrillator were located

I had a little bit of an episode the first time I went all in. I finally had goggles and tried the whole head-in-water-while-stroking deal, but couldn’t figure out when to breathe. I may have flailed and spewed, causing the lifeguard area to think they may actually have to do work during their shift.

Guys, this is serious. Especially when you start crazy things like training in Lake Michigan and you can’t see the bottom. It get’s pretty scary. And you realize, you can’t stop. You have to keep going. Or you will sink and die.

Fear of the unknown

That was my start.

Impulsive. Rough. Unprepared. Unprofessional.

And my finish?

The day of the triathlon came and I still didn’t have any real triathlon gear, I was one of the few without a wet suit, I nearly started going backwards at one point during the swim because of disorientation, I had to rent a bike because my own weighed more than a large dog, I didn’t have bike shorts, I had to Gorilla Glue pieces of my shoe to the bottoms to keep from flapping, there was a hole in one of my socks which made my foot burn, and I had no watch to keep track of my time (phones were not allowed).

I was completely under-invested and totally not prepared.

But get this.

I finished.


I started this whole thing with a pretty wild, uninspiring, and even bad, reason: a purple swim shirt!

To top it off, I hadn’t thought through the future. I wasn’t prepared for the struggle, for the near drowning experiences. I didn’t know that the investment never ends. I wasn’t ready for the sacrifice and commitment, of early mornings, long weekend trainings, and freezing Lake Michigan swims. I didn’t know how bad I was at swimming and how humbling it was to ask for tips and help. I didn’t know I would be out of country on a missions trip for half the month of August and would miss 2 important weeks of preparation and training.

I felt weak often, and sometimes wanted to just skip the swims, or not run as far.

And I had bad training days, when I felt like my lungs would burst, when my feet were burning from worn shoes, when the wind along Lake Michigan made my biking dreadful, when I skipped a workout because I didn’t feel like it, when I ate the wrong foods because I lost self-control.

I wouldn’t consider myself a role model.

But honestly, who is?

When we miss perfection

I think we have this idea of what kind of “role model” we should be, or how our situations should develop. It involves the unlikely word: perfection.

As an idealist, I have an idea in mind that makes me and my life work really well, it’s pain-free, and I always come out on top. And if I could control it that way every time, it would.

But then . . . Life. People. Situations. Crossroads. Hurts. Disappointments. They all happen, and it makes for perfectly imperfect journeys.

And that scares me. Why would I do something when I know that down the road I’m eventually going to lose control and I’m at the mercy of a situation or another person?

I think about my friend Emily, who moved to Chicago with a little bit of money and a dream — to bring economic development to her neighborhood by employing the people. So she started a business with no idea what she was doing and no textbook. There were many what we call “throw up in your mouth” moments, when the step was too big and the fear outweighed everything in sight.

But I am so inspired that she never quit, never lost sight of the goal, even though it seemed to get delayed all the time.

I’m in my own start-up and I’m like, “Really? 5 years and we’re still trying to go this launched? This is not the MBA-method.” It always takes too long, costs too much, and, on top of all that, each of us 3 founders live in different states. Very unideal. But, we’re launching it soon. These messy 5 years produced something.

With my first townhouse out of college I had a huge heart for hospitality and hosting people, but I came to find myself in an empty, cockroach-interested house with a couch affectionately called The Rock and 10 plastic Starbucks cups. I collapsed into tears. It didn’t get better anytime soon. And just this month I look at my home and see some sort of decency, the picture I had in mind 5 years ago. But I also look back and count the number of people who I’ve hosted when they needed a place to stay, somewhere around 10.

Maybe . . . maybe you can make it when you seem to have the worst end of the stick and it seems there’s no improvement in sight.

I can’t think of any significant accomplishment in my life where I didn’t have “throw up in your mouth” moments, unreal anxiety, troubling depression, and massive heartache.

Sometimes all we get in life is what we have, the falling-apart shoe, the sock with a hole in it, the bulky bike– or even more difficult, the missing arm, the crippled legs, the damaged eye.

And we starting hating our life because of the hand we’ve been dealt. It’s so unfair.

But it’s never fair.

We never get fair.

But we get life. We get a Life-Giver.

Is it worth it?

At one point during training I really wondered if it was worth it. This seemed like an awful amount of work and training for one day.

I’m not ready enough, I’m too tired, I have all the wrong clothes, I’m not fit enough, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m not good enough.

But I kept repeating something during the race . . .

“I’m a triathlete, I’m a triathlete, I’m a triathlete.”

I kept imagining crossing the finish line and saying those words.


Yes, it was inspiring and awesome and exciting . . . and worth it. But sometimes you have to imagine the “worth it” before you cross the finish line, or you’ll never get there.

Our endeavors, our dreams, our hopes? Worth the time, worth the sacrifice, worth the love, worth the pain, worth the obstacles.

It’s those wide open spaces, the “great unknown where feet may fail,” where you find something worth living for, worth giving your all, and, at times, worth losing it all for the gain and the promise.

I don’t think I would have felt the same elation if had decided to skip the training altogether, and just walked up to the start line, lifted a 5lb weight over my head, and said, “IT’S WORTH IT!”

Sorry, you need to go through it, the long training and the struggle.

Otherwise, you’re never grateful.

Or strong.

Or real.


And hey, if I can decide to do a triathlon because of a purple swim shirt, please, tell me your excuses.

(and by the way, that $50 for the shirt I was trying to justify? Turned into $120 for the race registration, $15 for the goggles, $10 for the swim cap, $45 for the bathing suit, $50 for the bike rental . . . )


Lean In To Loneliness

DeathtoStock_NotStock10Soul, be thankful for these lonely days when you only have your heart and time to be responsible for.

Maximize the loneliness.

Go deep.

Discover yourself through God’s eyes, for the time will come when your life will be full of pouring out what you have been soaking up in the quiet days.

The amount that I am able to impact and pour into other’s lives in the future is in direct correlation to the amount and discipline that I pour into myself.

Immerse yourself in God’s word.

Think deeply. Create unbridled. Give extravagantly.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Arm yourself for battle. Wield the weapons of warfare. They aren’t made overnight.

Remember that my strongest weapon, my character, is forged over long lengths of time and fire.

Feed richly, but only those things that promote health and energy.

Learn to listen well when no one is talking.

Discern what is God and what is noise.

Love his voice above all others so that you can love others better.

So love your loneliness, for it is a gift from God for a specific season for a specific purpose.

It is not your fault, but rather a king-sent mission.

Lean oh so strongly in to loneliness. For the longer and deeper the lean, the stronger and greater the soul muscle.

Broken, But Not Destroyed

I’ve been here one year, one whole year since moving to Chicago and totally starting over.

I came with a lot of hope, but inwardly carrying so much pain. So much pain from a betraying relationship in my personal life, and a verbally abusive power in my work life.

But even in my walk of hope into the future, in hopes away from the past, I had no idea the amount of resistance I was about to face.

You see, previously at one point in all my hope as I left to start a new season in my life, I thought I could do anything, accomplish whatever I set my heart on.

But instead of encouragement, I faced the betraying, abusive voices: “Who do you think you are?? What do you think you’re trying to do? You are nothing. You are completely unvaluable.”

The people of power and influence in my life had bullied my spirit almost into the ground.

I feel like I’ve lived with the humiliation of my hopes being dashed, and ashamed I was ashamed.

And yet– how can I say this– I knew.

I knew that I was supposed to step into a role of helping businesses be successful. I knew it was also time to partner with non-profits to build sustainable business models for them to help provide work opportunities for trafficked and abused women, to teach these beautiful women that they are more than their bodies, that they are full of potential and skills and opportunities within business.

This kind of work, this kind of “helping businesses” is otherwise known as consulting. And I thought this was it, this was my calling.

But the oppressive cloud hung over my head all year, and I couldn’t get the ridiculing, scoffing voices out.

“Who do you think you are? A consultant??”

At times this past year I have felt that all was lost.

I have had total meltdowns more than I care to recall.

I have felt like I’ve been on the verge of complete disaster continually.

I have faced very real injustice, betrayal, and brutal insensitivity.

I wanted to walk away. But I didn’t quit. I couldn’t quit— how can I explain it? I knew that I knew I was supposed to pursue this calling.

For so long I knew that God’s love was for me, and I was down with that. But I really didn’t think his justice applied to me.

Oh, but little did I realize that justice is love in action.

It’s really powerful love giving really powerful purpose. It’s hope wrapped in a gift.

It’s real. It’s received.


Here it is. A kind way God has worked justice for me.

Today I started a job as a small business consultant for a reputable consulting firm in Chicago.

Who… me??

How was I to know that they would need a consultant that specializes in marketing and non-profits, which are both my favorites and my passions.

And folks, that’s when I knew that the only voice that matters is the one that created me.

Others can point and scoff and even in pious judgment say to God, “Who does she think she is??”

And he simply smiles and answers, “The best. The most awesome. The biggest world changer. You see, she’s with me.”

It brings to me to tears, that it all had a purpose, that following a very small seed of struggling faith was much bigger than any other opposition.

Sometimes it takes being broken to realize that you can’t be destroyed.


Since When Was It All About The Results? Do Good And Love Well Anyway.

mother-teresaPeople are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

These words are credited to Mother Teresa and this is the version found written on the wall in Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta.

This is so simple. So clear.

No matter what. Let’s do good and love well.


And there’s no way that this is easy.

Personally, during the past year or two I feel like I have run into walls depicting each of these phrases.

People, life is hard. At each and every point of goodness that you sincerely work towards, there is an equal or greater amount of resistance.

And sometimes you are knocked down and beaten.

It’s so unfair.

But — it doesn’t matter.

Do it anyway. Learn, adapt, and lean into the hard things with purpose and hope that sees beyond the small world that others project over you.

Can I give you hope is a weirdly honest way? These things are going to happen, no matter what. No matter how pure your intentions are, no matter how good of a person you are, no matter how wonderful of a cause you are pursuing.

But here’s the cool thing. Only movement instigates opposition.

Opposition is actually proving that you are doing worthwhile things.

Are there boundaries around movement? Of course. Evil actions will also face opposition eventually. But we must constantly test ourselves and our hearts against the law of love: is this pure, healthy, right, true, good, excellent and honorable?

If yes, then think on those things, and what you think on you become. And what you become you do. And what you do proves who you are.

So let’s keep moving forward and tell opposition that it can pick a fight with us as much as it wants. We’re already promised the victory.

Honest Confessions About Being Poor

Let’s have a chat, middle-class America.

Being poor is rough. Wondering how you’re going to pay the bills is the least-fun experience ever. Going through a season of uncertainty is tiring with all the anxiety and stress that wages war on your mind.

But you know what we hate more than being broke?

Being needy.

It’s okay to sometimes admit being “middle-class” and not being able to afford “luxuries.”

But being needy? Asking for help? Receiving help?

That’s out of the question.

Because then I’d have to admit I’m not self-sufficient. Run the risk of being thought of as a failure, that maybe I’m a fully-functioning adult who can’t even afford to pay the bills, much less go out and spend time with friends and community.

So what do we do? We don’t ask for help. Yet at the same time we don’t ever say “no.”

How does this pan out in our lives? Here’s where I think this death-trap leads:

Credit cardWe find another un-related party to pay for us. 

Why are credit cards and loans and payment plans so attractive? We are able to receive help from someone who doesn’t know us and is completely removed from our lives. We’re able to keep up the appearance and expectation of the life we want to live in front of the people we want to be respected by.

Virtual financial help gives us a false sense of security. I’ve never heard a person stand up in a community gathering or Wednesday night prayer service and vulnerably say, “I don’t know if I can afford gas to make it until my next paycheck.” But that same person might go to a gas company and apply for a rewards credit card.

Better than admit I can’t make it on my own.

When we find our own “resources” instead of helping each other, then we become too good to receive help and further ingrain this shame culture, that somehow I’m not valuable if I can’t live the life I think I’m supposed to live.

And feeling shamed leads to the next point:

We isolate ourselves from others.

If I can’t keep up, if I can’t afford to eat at the places everyone else eats at, if I can’t have a home that I expect to have in order to invite people over, then I might as well not spend time with people at all.

I know. I’m with you. I get it, people.

This has been hands-down the most difficult year in my life. Financially, it’s seemed near crushing at times. And I’m like, “Geez, when will this ever end?!”

And in those dark hours I had to face my fears.

“Face your fears” is such a cliche phrase and I’ve wondered if it actually meant anything.

Now I know it means that these fears lurk in the deep recesses of your heart, and you kinda know they’re there, but you work hard to keep ahead so that you never have to face them and admit you have weaknesses.

Until everything is taken away.

And then you realize that stripped down you are a whole lot more unstable than you ever thought.

When everything was gone, when last summer I lost all my work and a job offer in a single moment, I was frightened beyond anything I could imagine.

In that moment and the days to follow, I made the difficult decision to work through it instead of finding a quick healing balm to surpress the pain. Credit cards and bank loans are easy compared to reading your own Fear statement.

Now before you think about how epically brave this was, keep reading.

Though I found I was fine with not having much, I quickly discovered another issue.

The Real Fear.

Here it is.

I didn’t want to be needy.

I was fine with living simply. I just didn’t want to lose control.

And now the control was gone. I couldn’t hide any longer. And even if I tried, it wouldn’t have worked very long because the situation didn’t really change and hasn’t really yet.

So here I am, thinking now that maybe I’m supposed to learn something from this instead of just fixing the problem. Maybe I’m supposed to change. Maybe these things make you stronger because you have to accept your weaknesses in order to be stronger. Weird how that work, huh?

So thus the epiphany moment. And as I’ve been thinking big picture about this now, here’s some positive things I’ve learned this year about being broke.

Your pride barrier is lowered, thus you become more humble.

There’s nothing more humbling than being broke, because then you realize that maybe my world doesn’t revolve around me and my bank account. Maybe I’m not defined by my income.

When you become more humble, you are more relatable and empathetic. 

Humility pushes you to see the world through other people’s eyes. If you can do that, if you become a truly empathetic individual, then you have huge capacity to relate in relationships, which makes you a better person and contributor to your community.

When you don’t have much, you are free, thus you have power. 

When we give our lives over to “getting,” getting a car, getting more furniture, getting a bigger house, getting a bigger paycheck, then you also get slavery. It’s sad to see so many people that are owned by possessions.

When you don’t have much? Then you’re free. Free to give the power to things that last for a lifetime and eternity.

If you owe, you don’t have power. Someone else does. 

The moment you let someone else pay for you, you have removed power from yourself and given it to another. Isn’t crazy how we choose to give power to credit companies who could care less about us? If you must borrow, then at least borrow from someone who cares about you.

Having little is the garden that creativity and innovation grows in. 

Have you seen someone with loads of money and options? They typically aren’t very creative. Other people think for them because they don’t have to think. They have money now.

Sometimes we exchange power in thought for power in money. That’s a dire mistake.

Being poor is a mindset. 

You can choose to focus all your attention inwardly and be consumed with your lack of resources and how that affects your life.

OR you can choose to accept where your current situation, and then focus your attention outward to the opportunity you have through your current situation.

I may have next to nothing, but I am wealthy in every way. Because I’ve learned to measure wealth in character, in love, in relationships.

Never let anyone tell you you’re less than your wealth in character, love and relationships, that somehow you are defined by your money, possessions, lifestyle, restaurant choice, education, or job.

Because they are the poor ones. And they will never know the riches that are experienced in the things in life that don’t have price tags on it.

The Turtle’s Greatest Accomplishment

Unemployment has been amazing.

I get to sleep, read as much as I want, spend time with my family, enjoy quietness, not go out of the house, not wear makeup or put on real clothes for days on end, you know, the dream.

And then come 3 harsh realizations:

1. I don’t go out of the house because that normally requires spending money.

2. I will eventually have no money without a job.

3. I now have to enter the hades of #firstworldproblems: online job searching.

Online applications are the WORST.

the. worst.

Endless, repetitive, and stupid.

Why did I just upload my resume, sync my LinkedIn account, and create a profile only to now have to re-enter ALL my employment history, addresses of where I’ve lived in the past 15 years, every food allergy and pet in my history?

By the time I’ve finished sharing every intricate non-job-related detail of my life and changing and rechanging the input of my numbers because the database doesn’t process my phone number if there’s dashes in it…

we get to the real clincher: the EOE, Equal Opportunity Employment, questions.

It’s the Triple Threat: I’m Female, White, and Non-Veteran.

It was over before it began.

So my only chance to stand out is with those few and far between open-ended questions.

Recently one asked me to describe myself and why I’m unique in less than 125 characters. “Remember,” it claimed, “Say something that makes you stand out!”

So I wrote a limerick.

Sure, it was a throw-back to 2nd grade, but I betcha anything it made me stand out!

I haven’t heard back from them yet (surprising, I know), but this following application requirement has been my favorite one so far. Here were the directions:

Write a first person account of a turtle’s greatest accomplishment from the perspective of a turtle.

and so thus my turtle story.

I never got around much. People never thought much about me and it seemed like all the other animals got chosen to be the best pets, all soft and cuddly. I couldn’t understand what I could really do in life to contribute. I’m slow and have a super hard shell, that’s all anyone has ever labeled me, what I have only ever labeled myself. Accomplishment wasn’t in my path.

And then one day I took a walk near the road. I never venture out that way much, but for whatever reason today felt different. And I’m glad I did because when I reached the street I was about to turn around when I saw this chicken. He was dejected, slumped on the ground. I hesitated, then asked what was wrong? Ironically, he had my story. Rejected, unable to see his path, no purpose in life, ~psh~ probably couldn’t even cross that road. He’d always been too afraid, would most likely fail anyway.

As I slouched there next to him not sure what to say, suddenly the light came on. In that moment I saw me, and I also saw what I could do. I can’t do much, but I can move slowly, and I can pioneer paths for someone else to follow.

So I did what an insecure, fearful turtle has never done: I crossed the road. 

It wasn’t much, but it was a first step. For both me and then the chicken. You just do what you haven’t done before to prove you can and you are worth it. 

And he followed. He really did!

So, everyone, why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side. To take the next step. To face his fears. To create the first success of many more.

And that was my greatest accomplishment.

The End Beginning.

I don’t think I realized it at the moment, but what I wrote was just a story of myself. In high school I remember a year of deep depression I went through. And the only moment of light for me was when I suddenly looked up and saw 2 other students, younger than me, who were facing the same emotional battles I was.

I couldn’t really even help myself, but I could walk in front of them and give them hope that they can move forward. And they did. And you can’t trade that experience for the world.

I think this is for so many people. We get so overwhelmed by what we’re “supposed” to be doing and accomplishing when in reality the greatest accomplishment is right in front of us and it’s one person. You lead one person. Then it becomes two. And then it becomes four. And then one day, years down the road, you have people coming to you saying, “Can I follow you?”

And you’re like, “Um, I’m just a turtle.”

But sure, I can pioneer for you, help you have some vision, but it was you who crossed the road, it was you who actually made the decision to be brave.

I think I’d prefer to be the person who helped the chicken become famous.

I'm with you Crush.

I’m with you Crush.

All Things For Good

Have you heard these words before?

“All things work together for good.”

It’s a phrase from the Bible. Something I’m sure you’ve read or heard spoken to you at one point or another, especially living in the buckle of the Bible belt.

But let’s get real about this.

Offensive words! Who would dare repeat that phrase after truly encountering the searing pain of this life? Is this really a reality? or a cruel, well-wishing joke?

that one phrase. the most heart wrenching battle to believe, to really accept.

We wouldn’t dare say we don’t believe that God is good, and we’re sure deep down at some point he has good for us. But to honestly take this whole phrase to heart?? Some situations there is just no realistic good about it.

So it’s either the most unrealistic admonition. or the most wondrous freeing truth.

How can it be, though? Surely, some things. but not all things. Right?

all things for good.

Lost job. Not able to pay bills. Car wrecked. House foreclosed.

all things for good.

Abused. Used. Sexual explotation. Selfish manipulations.

all things for good.

Failed marriage. Victim of crime. Slanderous words spoken against you. Slander you spoke to another.

all things for good. 

Stolen from. You stole. Lies you lived under and believed innocently. Lies you lived and spoke intentionally.

all things for good.

You were cheated on. You were the cheater. Got pregnant. Can’t get pregnant.

all things for good.

Your friend was killed. You tested positive for cancer. Your engagement broke off. She said no.

all things for good.

Because all things means all things. 

Yes, all things. Really too good to be true. Because the Gospel is the too good to be true truth.

And He makes beautiful things out of dust, out of rejected messes, out of dysfunctional, out of utter disrepair, out of uncontrolled emotional despair.

He makes all things new.

The rights renewed. The wrongs renewed. The intentional sins. The unforeseen disaster.

All of it.

And he is the only one that can. Because no one has the strength of love he has. You can’t surpass his love. You can’t break the tide, reach the depth.

Are you his child? He will make all things new. You want him to make all things new? Become his child. Be redeemed in his love. It’s his love that draws you to repentance, not the shame and guilt and repetition of your mess-ups or someone else’s.

And let me make one thing very clear: As his child you are not just some starry-eyed well-wisher who blindly states the positive of every situation just because silver linings sound cheery. You are a beaten, bruised worn soul who with eyes blurred by tears crawls through the present muck and raises your hands with hope undeferred yet faith feeble and cries with trembling wounded voice, “All things work together for good for those who love God! And I — I am one of those.”

Because you know who he is. Because once you meet him no other love will compare and your life is now wrecked to future lovers. Because he is the only one who has been completely faithful to you.

And his love has forever changed your eyes so that they look at the sinking mess that you’re dwelling in yet they see God, they see his love, and you have hope that doesn’t make sense, that defies logic, shaking your fist in the face of pain and the shame of it. That others wish they had but they can’t until they’ve encountered the Love you have.

That, my friends, is the reality of all things for your good. You cannot reckon with the force of his love so lay down and worship. And accept his love. Or otherwise you will be overcome by the world and it’s pain and the terrors of people and of your own flirting fleeting heart.

Becaus once he is in your heart, greater is he that is in you that whatever is in the world. On your own there are no lasting victories, but in his love you are more than a victor, more than a conqueror, more than 100 Medals of Honor, more than the greatest warriors in history.

And there are warriors, there are great and mighty victors, there are those that are more than the greatest of conquerors.

And then there’s you.

More than all those. and his child in love.

And being in love is not a feeling. It is a position. A reality. A victory. And that is the kind of victory you have in his love. And you have yet to own it, to realize it, to live world changing life. Because before the world can be changed you must first be.

And being in love, living in love, bound up in it, is the only reality that is true and safe and comforting. He offers it, with kind eyes and tender hands. Can you see it?

Love the one in front of you

How do you change the world?

Heidi Baker said it well:

Love the one in front of you.

Change does not happen through programs and speeches and books and status’s and tweets and music and community groups and fundraisers and blog posts.

One day we have to realize that the only person responsible for making change happen in our community and city and country and world is ourselves.

I cannot control my circumstances or the people who appear in my day. But I do have everything to say about my choices in response to each and every person in front of me every day.

I used to search out change, dream about changing the world, create plans of action to really impact the world.

And then about a year ago a subtle change happened and I really didn’t realize it until others called it out. I think it’s because I was just living who I was in my natural environment but my perspective on people had shifted somehow.

Just over a year ago my vision for Greenville unexpectedly became This is my city“, and when you own something you naturally act differently towards it.

Suddenly the homeless person walking by my company to buy alcohol and drugs across the street to feed his addiction was my problem. When Michael’s trailer became condemned and he had nowhere to live that was my problem. When a friend came to my house after being abused for months that was my problem. When a couple driving through Greenville needed their laundry done that was my problem. When a new friend quit a strip club job because of her choice to follow Jesus and had no place to live that was my problem.

It was pretty difficult. And often awkward. I mean, seriously. Whenever someone admits need and you give them something, it’s pretty awkward. It would’ve been so much easier to complain. “I can’t believe there was an open drug deal outside our office. We work in such a bad neighborhood.” “Why doesn’t Salvation Army take care of Michael? That’s what they’re there for.” “Man, people always have an agenda when they ask for something. They’re such manipulators.” “Wow, some men are just abusive pigs and some poor girls just fall for it. Let’s pray about it.”

I would say the past year I’ve been stretched financially more than I ever could have imagined. My heart was split open over life stories. I had several emotional breakdowns. I had to deal with using my last dollar to provide for someone and then watch them use money they were given to buy dress shoes and eat out. I had to learn to be rejected, and then to forgive, and then to keep giving when my ability and desire was completely wasted away. I had to deal with other people (Christians) upset about my generosity because it interfered with their lives. I often felt alone and unable to know how to make decisions.

So, yes, from that perspective it was hard. Loving was challenging. Giving was an obstacle.

And yet…

I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Look, you could offer to totally pay off my school debt (which is a lot) in return for the past year and I would laugh and say to you…

I told you the struggle, but now let me tell you the joy.

The joy of inviting that laundry couple over for dinner and hearing them tell me how they met Jesus radically a few days earlier, having the husband drill me about why I live the way I live, and then laughing at their ridiculous story of “rafting” down a river in Louisiana on an air mattress. The joy of driving Michael to church a year after we met him, watching him get baptized while I am wrecked into tears about his crazy story and our experiences. The joy of standing next to my friend during worship as she raises her hands in tears in praise to God for freeing her soul and I have to stop singing because I realize that only a month ago she had been in a strip club, broke, lonely, and had no hope to cling to. The joy of realizing that all the promises of Isaiah 58 are mine to claim and then watch them unfold in my life.

I didn’t search for these joys. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to find someone and impact their life. I think I realized who I was, which is a chosen child of God, which means the Spirit lives in me, so I naturally think and act like Jesus, so when a person in need is in front of me, I simply act like Jesus did.

Sometimes that was surprising. Sometimes it was celebrated. Sometimes it was impressive. Sometimes it seemed like I became a celebrity.

Can I just say that when we know who we are that acts of love and kindness and generosity and healing are completely normal? Why is it not normal that we have the homeless living with us? That we feed the hungry out of our paycheck? That we personally give our good clothing to those in need?

Isaiah 58 became my rallying cry and my source of promise when things got in deep and dark. And FYI, it’s for all of us. And it’s not figurative. It’s literal.

We are all world changers. The question is will we live up to our potential? And I believe that potential is very simple: Love the one in front of you.

One. just one.

And it’s funny. After you love one, suddenly it becomes two. And then three. And pretty soon people start thinking you’re this courageous, impressive person and you’re like, “Um, I’m just living. like a normal person. that knows Jesus. Hey, you can too! We’re really not that different.”

Stop the meetings. Stop the bullet points. Stop the noise. And let’s live our normal day with Kingdom eyes and watch some pretty freakn’ amazing things start happening.