Marriage Without Benefits

It’s common to hear the phrase jokingly tossed around, “Friends with benefits.” You know, someone that gets to have the pluses of a relationship (normally some sort of physical contact or sex), but can still hang in the friendzone and not worry about taking things too seriously, to the next level.

There’s probably a part of many of us that pretty much looks down on that approach to dating and relationship. We disdainfully think we’d never actually stoop to such a level, to use someone else only for our pleasure so as to selfishly protect our own lives by not ever committing to them as a person.

“Friends with benefits” is shorthand for “I use you as long as I get what I want, and as long as I never have to give up anything in return.”

And we think, “Thank God I’m not like that kind of person.”

But I’m starting to wonder now that if the test of true love isn’t the decision to not live out “Friends with benefits,” but perhaps is the willingness to embrace on the opposite spectrum, “Marriage without benefits.”

What is marriage all about anyway?

Recently I’ve had to really think through what marriage is really made up of. Between the point of signing a paper together and the big house, 3 kids and a white picket fence …. where does the reality lie?

Me and my husband Peter haven’t even been married 8 months, yet we’ve had quite the wild, difficult, beautiful, crazy adventure so far. From the beginning of our relationship (a whopping 15 months ago) it was always about trying to be together. Trying to keep moving forward with the lives we currently had but doing what we could to merge them together into one.

That, my friends, proved to be pretty much impossible. We learned quickly we couldn’t hold on to our personal lives and each other.

A little background about us…

Ironically, from the very get-go of our relationship I made it very clear that I felt God was clearly leading me into school in the US for the next several years, and the only way we could date is if he followed me on this path.

Believe me, I said this with much apprehension and insecurity. I had really wrestled with the internal struggle, that I’m sure many single women deal with, that if I commit to one defined path, especially if it places me in a theoretically “higher position,” that my options for marriage would be that much more limited. That most men expect the woman to change her path and calling, and maybe even her own self, to fit him and his calling. That I’d have to have the conversation that I’m not willing to give up my calling because I believe so strongly that God has called me into it. And that I’d have to have enough self-respect and belief to actually say those words, that I’m worth sacrificing for too.

And it came to that point with Peter, because initially he wasn’t interested in moving to America at all. Actually, it was a pretty hard, “No.” He thought that because of my many recent trips to Africa and my love for the culture that I would be interested in moving there. But at that time I wasn’t– at least not right away. I literally already had a speech prepared for this exact kind of scenario — I choose this calling over marriage, if it comes down to it.

Then things took a surprising turn after a few weeks of talking. As we learned more about each other and saw the mutual connection and respect, he told me that if I was the girl God had for him, then he would go wherever I was. If that meant moving to the US, then he would do that. That if something was already in motion for me in my life, he would sacrifice his current position in life and join mine.

It really shocked me and blew my mind. He would be willing to do that? Deep down I was glad though, because I found myself drawn and connected to him in ways I’ve never encountered with another guy. It was amazing. And all that was needed next was for him to come check out my life back in the States and prepare for next steps.

And then enters the scene the road less traveled (literally, it’s that way because of immigration). I’ve traveled the world without a hitch. I’ve literally gone into semi-hostile countries and simply had to fill forms and pay fees. I have now come to realize that the US passport is often a free, easy ticket to Anywhere, World.

Not so for Peter, a Tanzanian. He was denied a tourist visa without really any explanation. That was hard to hear because that visit was supposed to happen so that he could meet my family and we could get engaged with plans of getting married in the US after I finished my one-year master’s degree at the University of Chicago.

And then it quickly got worse — a month later he tried to reapply and was denied because he reapplied too soon, and we were faced with the harsh reality he may not get to come as a visitor anytime soon. We knew this train was going towards marriage, yet at that point we were advised against the fiancé visa route, which is actually a really long process (1-2 years) and complicated and we weren’t even promised it would work given our relationship was so new and recent.

At this point we concluded that the only way to really be together and to give us the best options for the future would be to get married sooner than later. And that could only happen in Tanzania, not the US.

So rewind back before immigration stunted many options — here he was in May of last year soon after we decided to seriously date, willing to let go of his life in order to love me.

And then 3 months later, after facing the harsh realities of immigration and separation, here I was, the tables turned, realizing that I had to let go of my life in order to love him.

That meant losing some dear things to me. Not getting to have a wedding surrounded by all my friends and family. Not getting the chance for everyone dear to me to meet my fiancé. Not getting to pursue a master’s/pre-doctorate program in social enterprising that year and instead putting it off for the future. Letting go of things I didn’t realize were so tied to my expectation for meaning and happiness.

Yes, I came to realize that I knew, deep down, that when it came to marriage and lifelong partner commitment, Peter would always be my first choice.

And realizing it’s not because of how amazing he is. But because that’s who I choose to be.

And so we moved forward into engagement, and then marriage 3 months later. It was a beautiful, sweet experience getting married in Tanzania, having a wedding that was quite the unique blend of Tanzanian and American culture. And I think it would be safe to say it was something way beyond my wildest imaginations or expectations!

And so we thought that the difficult part was behind us, that once married it would make doors open easier for us with plans of the future.

But that, my friends, was a misplaced expectation.

Pregnancy and immigration don’t mix

I had not always been one to dream about starting a family and having kids. But once I met Peter, I knew I was ready to have children with him. It was as if the desired fully blossomed overnight.

We hoped, if possible, to have a child in the first year. And, well, we’ve been married and pregnant for 8 months, so I’d say that worked out pretty well! Ironically, it may be quite the only thing that has worked out for us.

We knew we were pregnant during those first married months in Tanzania, but what we didn’t know for certain is where we would, and could, live. We spent many hours working through plans A, B, and C even before we got the positive pregnancy test. Immigration and work visas are complicated no matter where you try to live in the world (yes, even in Tanzania).

Once we knew we were pregnant, we agreed that I would give birth in the US. We also at this point made the wrong assumption that being married would make it relatively easy for Peter to come visit for several months so he could be present for the birth. His organization, an international non-profit with headquarters in the US, had already offered to bring him over for a business tourist visa to do training and work-related activities.

And so on March 12th this year we said goodbye at the airport in Mwanza, fully expecting for Peter to come join me in no more than 2 months. It wasn’t as difficult as it had been when we were engaged and having to say goodbye for a while. I had such grounded hope and faith that God had such a great plan for our lives together.

But again, the wall of dashed hopes and crushed expectations.

And to this date it’s been over 5 months since I’ve seen him in person. I’ve gone through the 2nd trimester and am well into the 3rd. So many moments have happened that I wanted, and probably needed, him here to be with me.

We hit massive levels of disappointment and crisis. They seemed to all happen at the same time in the span of a month earlier this summer. He was denied his tourist visa again. I had the heartbreaking conversation with a government immigration specialist that he would most likely never get a tourist visa because we’re married, and the only way he could come would be a spousal visa. And those normally take 1-2 years to process. And then the process of trying to apply for an expedite but having documentation returned and having to resubmit. And then trying to both visit Canada to see each other and that getting denied as well. And then moving out of my apartment and not have a place of my own to live. And then me not having regular income, on top of the stress of knowing I would not be able to work soon with the baby coming and no paid maternal leave.

It really nearly broke hope in both of us. There was a specific day where all the bad dreams came true, the fears came to life, and we didn’t have any tangible hope to cling on to. It seemed that all my worst fears would come to pass. I didn’t just want Peter to be with me; I needed him.

This was the “all is lost” moment. I didn’t know if I would see Peter again in another 5 months or 1 year. I didn’t know where I would be living after I had the baby. I didn’t know not just how I would pay my current bills, but how I as self-employed would provide for myself and a baby once I had to go on maternity leave. He wouldn’t be at my ultrasounds. We couldn’t share the gender reveal party with my family. I couldn’t decorate our own baby room. There may be no couple pregnancy photos. There may be no husband present during the birth of our child. What if something went wrong? What if I had to always be alone?

That day, that very bad, horrible day, I had to face the fears and the real future possibilities, without any “Well, maybe this positive thing will happen and everything will be okay.”

No, I had to realize I was in a marriage without benefits.

We think of and see marriage in all it’s really good, glorious terms. Going out to dinner, having friends over for the evening, being physically near to each other, having intimacy and sex, cooking together, experiencing pregnancy together, sharing financial resources, showing up at events as a couple, sharing a laugh in the moment you have it together, and even just the simple comfort of not being home alone at night.

But that day, I just had to see what “was,” and the reality of what we were living without, not pretending it’s all alright to live without these things. I had to accept that, sure, maybe one day (maybe) things will be different, but right now, this is our situation and these are the very real things we have to accept to live without.

At the end of that weeping day, and I didn’t know what to even say to Peter when we Skyped, something gave up in me. I gave up on holding out that I would get all these “benefits,” especially in regards to the pregnancy. You could also probably call them “expectations.”  I sat down, exhausted from all the crying and sleeplessness, stared at my Whatsapp screen for a moment, breathed out, and wrote,

“Sorry it’s hard for me to process right now — and every time I start working through it I can’t stop crying, so that makes everything uncomfortable. I feel like nothing is working for us, like everything is a disappointment. I don’t understand what’s going on, and it’s hard to find positive things to think about for the future. But I’ll always choose you Peter. For better and worse.”

I’m not sure why exactly, but everything changed for me in that moment. Like, everything. Yes, I’ve had my bad days on and off. But they aren’t the kind where the bottom completely drops out like they did previously. I get sad, but I don’t get terrified. I’m able to grieve the moment in the moment, but not lose sight of the deeper reality.

I’ve realized now that the real benefit of marriage is so much greater than the tangible. We don’t get to have an Instagramable life. We don’t get to have many of the benefits everyone tells you you’d better make sure you get before you commit to marriage.

This is our Instagramable marriage

But what we do have is something you can’t put in pictures or contrive on a date night.

Faithfulness. Vulnerability. Generosity. Purity. Encouragement. Selflessness.

It’s this freedom that I’m choosing to love him when there’s no particular material benefit. And also, on the other hand, to accept being loved for no other reason than me being myself, not for anything I bring to the table.

Perhaps when you come to the place where you know you choose your marriage and your person even though it’s of no material benefit to you, that perhaps you’ve entered into a pure place.

This is why marriage is so symbolic of our Faith

I also immediately felt God drawing me to another plain, to the cross, and look at the kind of love that Jesus displayed for us, for me. He of all people chose us when there was zero benefit for him to do so. He could have left the cross, but he stayed.

I am no marriage expert, but maybe before we check out of relationships and marriage, we should discern why we’re doing it. Is it because that person has ceased to offer you any additional benefits to being single?

Do we get married so that we might increase?

Or do we get married so that we give ourselves away so that the other might increase?

It’s a beautiful thing when both have that same intention. It’s unbelievably difficult when only one does, or neither.

Jesus gives us hope on both ends. We were always the ones to abandon, to betray, to dishonor, to be selfish. But he stayed. He stayed and wooed us close in covenantal love until we drew close to him. And he continues to love those who aren’t and won’t ever choose him.

So here we are, living apart but so completely together. It’s grown my faith to be so much more tangible, so much more understanding of my relationship with God. And it’s only his grace that has given me the ability to choose Peter and not get bitter because my needs aren’t met and I don’t get to have what I think would be best for me — and strength when I don’t get things that I probably do really need.

Humility to accept being loved

Can I also say that it not only takes great faith to choose marriage without benefits, but it takes great courage to accept being loved when you have nothing to offer? There are very real tangible ways I know Peter needs me, but I can’t be there for him. And there are ways I need Peter, and he isn’t able to meet those needs for me. It takes a whole lot of humility and solid identity to be able to accept love when all the things you were proud of for yourself that you felt were strengths you brought to your marriage are actually of no value at the moment.

You must wrestle with, and accept, “I am enough.”

I can’t tell you how much I admire Peter. I’ve watched him watch me struggle, knowing he wants so bad to be able to be here and take care of me and walk with me. And though that is so hard for him, it’s become clear that his faith and identity isn’t rooted in his works. He knows who he is, and that what he does does not define this worth. It’s been amazing how much stability that has brought to our relationship. Him knowing his worth has been worth more than any other material benefit.

For us, this experience (and the journey is still continuing) has taught us that pros and cons lists are not super helpful ways to step into marriage. Yes, there are some really practical tips and signs to look for. Wisdom is a pretty big deal when it comes to choosing marriage.

But ultimately, we drastically need a mental shift.

Love is not freedom to get what you really want in the deepest part of your heart. Love is giving away from the deepest part of your heart.

It’s not self-hate or self-spite — it’s actually the most powerful form of love for another and one’s own self. We were made to do this. We were made to love and to be ultimately tested by having all gain taken away from us.

Because then we know deep down that it’s a love of purity and not ultimately for personal benefit.


And Just Like That, She Bloomed

Earlier this summer I bought a hanging plant.

There were no blooms on it yet. Just a bunch of dirt it seemed, but the price was right and I thought for sure it held some promise.

So I hung it on my balcony in a prominent place.

And waited.

And watered.

And waited.

And watered.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

But for a long time, perhaps several weeks, nothing happened. I couldn’t figure it out — was I destroying it up with too much water, or was it a dud plant, or did it get too much sun exposure?

It seemed odd. And slightly disappointing.

Maybe . . . there wasn’t even a plant there after all.

But I kept up the process, nevertheless.

Because for some stubborn notion giving up is never an option. Especially when I dropped a whole two dollars for it.

And so continued the daily drudgery of watering, waiting, watching.

Eventually, I’m a little sad to say, I stopped expecting anything. I was sure then that if it ever did bloom, it would most likely be sad, pathetic flowers that made even itself cry.

From the externals, there was no hint of anything good coming out of this plant. Even when I poured water on the plant, it seemed to go straight through and drop out of the bottom. Did it even retain anything?

But then, a day before I left for Africa, I walked out the back door, as always each morning, and about fell over myself.

It was a massive, gorgeous, stunning display of the richest purple flowers. Covering the plant, overflowing the sides. And with purple, my favorite color.

It took my breath away, because I had been inwardly longing for so long, and it happened so suddenly. And the first thought that came to my mind was,

And just like *that*, it bloomed.

What immediately followed next was a prophetic message that went deeper and struck my soul as God whispered to me,

And just like *that*, she bloomed.

And I knew at that point my life would be completely different.

The seasons were changing. The past was behind. Breakthrough had arrived.

It was as if my life flashed before my eyes and I knew one hand was releasing the past, and the other was grabbing ahold of the future. I had been dry for so long. Now is was time to bloom.

And I thought on it all, on the a story behind this — this long, suffering, blooming process.

You see, for oh-so-many years I thought there was promise, I had so much hope

That this plant of mine would come alive,

Soaking and waiting, and watering and hoping.

Living on hope until the last drop gave out.

And it seemed as if water poured endlessly into the drought.

So disappointed in how it only seemed to die

Time and time and time again.

Dripping through, no soaking up,

Bleeding out, no living out.

Depression and fear my nearest friends,

A future blurred out by a pain that never ends.

But I failed to see the journey in full

Must pass through death on its way to life,

That the driest spell is a burial ground

For the bitter wounds of shame and lies.

Dripping through – pain, betrayal, unforgiveness

Bleeding out – lust, self-loathing, pride

Day after day, dry after dry, pouring after pouring

Not giving up, not giving in — just giving, strong and weak.

The process – oh so long

The change and promise – oh so slow.

Sometimes staring too long at a thing

Develops a loss of perspective,

A resentment towards the loss of time and investment.

But then it came — like a night time firework,

A bursting fall tree, a surprise party.

And I could hardly believe it,

I — the most shocked of all.

You see, just like *that*

She bloomed

The most radiant of colors, the brilliance of form

Just — absolutely radiating, a wedding day bride

She was hiding no longer, entering into public eye

So proud, so self-respectful, so free

Not a whisper, but shouting with blossoms

All may see, all may talk, all may wonder

But to her nothing matters

Because the shackles of drought are gone

The time of truth has come

And truth has never been so lovely, so becoming

I can never go back

Blooming has changed me forever.

I’m glad that nature tells us a story that reflects the hope of life and future. Even when life dies and we want the world around us to reflect the death we feel inside, somehow Spring always comes around. Nature keeps following it’s created course.

Death, seed, water, growth, bloom.

Around and around the circle it goes.

And similarly, we get the same path in life.

Seasons. Change. Motion.

And life wouldn’t really be all that wonderful if it were always Spring, right?

Those flowers that bloomed — they really meant something to me because I poured so much time and expectation into them. The waiting can be a painful experience, but it can also be more like the waiting and anticipation of watching the fuse burn towards an exploding firework. Perhaps we have a choice in how we wait.

Dryness and death and cold and bare only make Spring that much more brilliant and wonderful.

So hold on to your dry, bedraggled plant. Water it with your tears. Sleep with it by your side.

Because you never know when the blooming day is coming.

And it’s coming. Oh yes it is!

Casting our votes: what we’re willing to fight over

Donald Trump is an incompetent liar.

Hillary is a shady crook.

Human trafficking is the greatest evil of our time. 


I’ve been analyzing a data set. Granted, it’s my own and from the results of my own posts and writings, so not a wide array of information. Nevertheless, I am aware of when I write a blog or post articles on my social media which ones get the most traffic and interest.

It’s become clear to me that comments, likes, and clicks are like votes. Each time we comment, like, or click, it’s a vote showing where our heart cares most. When we are elated and celebratory, we cast a vote. When we are offended and threatened, we cast a vote. That’s what comments and likes do. They show everyone where you spend your votes, what rules your heart.

Now I struggle with this, because as a writer it’s become increasingly clear what topics stir the pot — which opinions brings out the masses. Having access to that data, I have to consciously decide to not pursue numbers and to stick to topics that have lasting impact, the ones that are near to my heart. Every time I post something to my blog, I pray it influences just one person for good, and that’s enough, because otherwise the numbers become addicting.

But I can’t help but notice the overwhelming amounts of feedback and comments I get when I post something related to politics. Or something that may be interpreted as “political.” It’s crazy — people start doing odd things, like writing me emails, sending messages, or even calling me. If I were in business, I would be like, “I definitely found the market!”

But I have a problem with this.

Let’s go back to those introductory phrases above. One is negative towards Trump, the other towards Hillary. The thing is, my social network is pretty much split over these 2 people. Some hate one, some hate the other.

Posting something related to either of these two individuals evoke an visceral emotional reaction from, it seems, everybody. And I hear “You’re right on!” or “You’re a stupid head!

Yet for each one political post I throw on social media, I have probably shared at least 10 articles and posts talking about the realities of sex trafficking. The plight of the poor. The exploitation of the vulnerable. The lost without a home.


How children in our neighborhoods are secretly being sex trafficked.

How pornography is the fuel for the massive sex trafficking economy.

How men, women, and children are literally sold as slaves in “slave-free” countries.

How sexual assault, abuse and discrimination are rampant towards all women, including myself.

And there is nary a word in response.

Slim votes. Minor care.

After seeing all the quick and lively comments and conversation about politics, I’m sitting here thinking, “Where did all you guys go??”

Why is it we are so passionate about defending (and defeating) political positions, and yet can not have that same passion towards fellow human beings? To my own network I say, why so enthralled by majoring on the minors? You show up to “Amen” a post that affirms your political stance, or, to the other, show up to discredit the incompetence of the same post, but when it comes to things that really matter, it’s all silent on the home-front?

You’re casting your votes, showing your colors.

And I really don’t know why. I want to assume it’s because we feel too vulnerable to actually show care for sensitive topics like trafficking on open social media platforms. Or perhaps we’re just vastly unaware. I don’t know why — I just see the votes.

And I’ve been there, and still feel the pull. The gut-reaction to make sure someone is set right and knows the real truth of the matter. But I normally end up walking away feeling . . . like I wasted a lot of time and effort for something that had no tangible results (besides pitting someone against me, of course).

I’m reminded of Isaiah 58, one of the chapters in the Bible that has literally been the most transformative ones in my life. The first half is a rebuke to the religious performance of “good” people, who I’m sure had really solid, air-tight opinions:

“On your day of fasting you do as you please and exploit your workers, and it ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do and expect your voice to be heard on high.”

God then transitions to talk about the fast, the life of faith, that he directly calls us to:

“This is the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice, to see the oppressed free and break every chain. Is it not to share your food with the hungry and the provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked to clothe them? If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness.”

That’s the life I want, the life I’ve been pursing, one that is more action and less talk. But I’ve had to question things recently: do my friends, do the people in my life, seek this out as well? Who is in my circle? Those who will stand in the gap for the oppressed, or those who will point fingers and quarrel?

What are my friends voting for, and is that what I choose to surround myself with?

I think that’s why more and more I like spending time with the poor. They seem to see things a bit more clearly and aren’t concerned with winning arguments because they are just trying to live. Also, many are some of the most giving, generous people I’ve ever met. They inspire me.

Because if all we can do is defend a position, we have missed everything in life. We become troll junkies, looking for the next comment thread fix to satisfy our insatiable need of being right.

If I can suggest something, try love and ridiculous generosity. It is much harder to do. And more rewarding.

I dare you.

Impossible beauty from volcanic ashes

Beauty from ashes

I have a hard time grasping the reality of the phrase, “He makes beauty from ashes.”

If you’ve been through the fire and all you really do see around you is ashes, then your soul feels burnt and deadened.

Seems to me that seasons of ashes can’t really coexist with beauty.

But then I had a very eye-opening encounter recently. And that happened in a place where there is only beauty, no ashes, surrounding me — Hawaii.



Not to make you jealous or anything, but Hawaii has got to be hands-down the most spectacular, radiant, glorious place on earth. And it’s not just one kind of beauty; it’s a wide diversity of everything from white sandy beaches, to towering waves, to staggering cliffs, to brilliant coral reefs, to jungle forests, to commanding landscapes. And it all takes place in about 80 degrees of weather — all year round.

Now I know you want to go there, I loved my time there, and people all around the world talk about visiting there. This little, tiny speck in the Pacific Ocean has everyone a spectator and counting down the days until a live encounter.


However, Hawaii wasn’t always paradise. During a short educational film we watched before going to Hanauma Bay to snorkel in the coral reef, I learned how the Hawaiian Islands actually came to be.

Beneath the surface of the islands is what is called a “hot spot.” If you remember anything from 7th grade Earth Science, you’ll recall that the Earth’s outer crust is made up of tectonic plates. Sometimes volcanos will form in the middle of a plate where magna rises until it erupts on the sea floor — this is the hot spot. The Hawaiian Islands were formed by such a hot spot occurring in the middle of the Pacific Plate. While the hot spot is fixed, the plate is moving. So, as the plate moved over the hot spot, one by one the string of islands were formed.

How utterly fascinating.

Volcanos produced islands.

Ashes scripted beauty.

Destruction prophesied redemption.


I was thinking about this as I was snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. This particular bay was created from a volcanic explosion which created a crater and all the sediment from the destruction settled into the bay which made this perfect environment for a coral reef. And how beautiful the brightly colored coral fish were. And how perfect the sand and hot the sun.

What this nature story is telling is even deeper than first impressions (you know, the seemingly cliché “All things work together for good” stuff).

You see, this beautiful, perfect island was formed after time and time again of volcanic eruption. Again, and again, and again. The magma rising, the sediment building, volcanic bursts, and, after a long time, this paradise place started peeking out into the pacific ocean — much to it’s own surprise, I’m sure.


But what about us?

Moving away from this paradise, let’s look at our own hell, our own volcanos, our own life explosions. I get it — life isn’t easy, there’s hard times, there will be pain, and somehow we become better people through it.

But what really irks me is the “Really? Again??”

When your own history repeats itself. When you can’t shake the despairs of the past. When you think you’ve healed and then something seemingly minor (or major) triggers something too deep in your mind and emotions, and it’s the same story, like nothing has changed.

The magna rises.

The sediment builds.

When pain comes steamrolling through your door, it’s not just dealing with that pain. It’s having to relive all the other ones that happened previously. People may say, directly or indirectly, “Ok, let’s heal already. It’s time to move on,” because they can only see that isolated experience. When someone has deep wounds and scars, it’s literally harder to move on each time because you have to relive each previous one and they stack up uncaringly. Now it’s not just getting over this pain; it’s getting over 2, or 5, or 10. It keeps building up. Each time it gets harder, and more seemingly impossible. And I think, “I can’t take one more thing, go through this experience one more time.” The future is terrifying, because the choice to live is this risk, and full expectation, that this just may happen again. Some way or another.

The magna rises

The sediment builds.

I think of friends who are going through deep waters, trials that keep repeating so much it hurts my heart. A beautiful couple and good friends of mine who have recurring pregnancy loss and have gone through the loss of 5 babies already. Another friend who lost her mom to cancer as a child, lost her dad to cancer in the past year, and now received the news that her fiancé at age 26 is diagnosed with cancer just 3 months before their wedding. My aunt who lost her dad to a car accident years ago, and then her 3 month old grandson 5 years ago, and how her own 30 year old son several months ago.

It’s not just the one time. It’s the repetition. Over and over and over again.

Once again.

The magna rises.

The sediment builds.

I felt resilient years ago. Obstacles and hurts didn’t have much of a past behind it, so I was able to jump back pretty quickly. But each deep hurt is like losing a limb. Go through it once, and sure, you can keep walking ahead. But 3-4 times? All you can do is lay limb-less on the ground with hardly the will to live again.

And we all have those, “Again, God??” moments. When will I ever learn that living and loving means losing everything? How in the world am I supposed to help other people when I’m incapable of controlling myself when I am at my weakest point? I can’t even think or accomplish things. I can’t even communicate with God. God, I can’t. I can’t. I have nothing to offer. I’m lost.

The magna rises.

The sediment builds.

And then…

What is that, peeking through the surface?

Is that something green, something alive, something …. beautiful?

Can’t be. Because I know that all there was before was destruction and ashes.

But something’s rising, something … new. Totally new. Shockingly new.

What once was a calm sea is now this attention-drawing island. And with such variety. Depth. Creativity.

The magna rose.

The sediment built.

And paradise bloomed.


That corner of the ocean would never be the same again.

And that’s the hard part too. We can’t ever go back. Ever. After all the things that we have gone through, we cannot reach back into the past and regain our innocence, the times of a simpler life, the heart that is unshattered.

You see, God’s not creating the next better version of the Pacific Ocean. He’s actually building a whole new island.

He doesn’t make things better. But he does make things new.

Because that’s what love does.

New things

This ocean would never be the same. It had to accept the change. It lost one thing to gain another. Redemption is actually written into creation.

And what’s incredible about Hawaii? I get to enjoy this because something a long time ago went through fire and destruction. And it turned into something beautiful that continues to give and attract people from all over the world.

Because beautiful things will attract attention. And every beautiful thing has a past that includes a lot of ashes.

I think … I think … I want to be like Hawaii.

And I think …. that has been God’s plan all along. But there comes a time of agreement, of “yes and amen.”

That means, though, I have to embrace the trial and fire and heat and hurt and pain. It’s part of the process, the journey, the sanctification.

When it’s all said and done, when something new is starting to burst out, the point isn’t what I lost. The point is what I gain. By losing what I had, by losing my claims to my life, I gain a new one, a fuller one.

Only Love can come up with a story like that.

Inside the lava-like fire are hurts and pains that we don’t understand or think we really deserved. Yet we recognize it. We receive it. And we proclaim “Amen”. In that seed planted, we in turn receive a harvest of righteousness.

And so our life becomes an island alleluia.



To read more of the stories of my friends I mentioned above who are going through difficult but beautiful stories, read their blogs below:

Lindsay And David Blair – My Journey With Recurring Pregnancy Loss

Bobbie and Ray – Neatly Wrapped Packages 

What Are We So Afraid Of?

The Strength Of Safety

I’ve been learning a lot about being safe. Inside safe. Emotionally safe. Only allowing influencers in my life who don’t emotionally use me and take advantage of my weaknesses. Sometimes it may even come down to, “I care about you, but I’m not safe around you. I need to leave.”

I’ve realized how very important it is to set up boundaries, to decide who is allowed to have access to my heart and who isn’t. There’s a sense of purpose and power in that, that I have a say and have control over my spirit.

I have the ability to make decisions about who speaks into my spirit.

Here is the irony though about this kind of safety–

When I am the most emotionally safe, I can walk into the most unsafe circumstances and be secure. and strong. and untouched. Because the circumstances around me don’t affect my sense of security. Even the people around me don’t have power to determine my safety.

I have one heart and one spirit that God has given it to me to steward. In deciding who gets to be close to me, it allows me to grow in love, and thus grow in safety. The more love I have capacity for, the more safe I am. The more safe I am internally, the more I am able to live freely externally without fear. This is because someone’s treatment of me in response to my open life doesn’t determine my sense of security, for good or bad.

Those who are most loved are most safe. They are the ones that help others become safe and loved.

Love and safe

The Dark Side Of Fear

On the flip side, those who are the most in fear are the ones who feel the most unsafe. They are always on the lookout to protect their own safety.

I know this all too well. The amount of fear I battle seems unreal. Many times I’ve been crushed under the weight of feeling unsafe. In those moments I have to step back and consider, “Why am I afraid? What is causing me to be unsafe and feel like I have to protect myself?”

Sometimes it’s been a relationship. It’s someone who I allowed to speak into me who I didn’t have any boundaries with that expressed verbal or emotional misbehavior towards me. In the fear cycle, I often look inward and take the blame, afraid to lose the relationship, and then I become very powerless and try to find a way to protect myself, which normally means trying to control that person or the atmosphere.

Sometimes it’s been in the work place. I’m afraid of someone finding out my mistakes, so I try to hide while I make everything perfect and presentable. Because if someone finds out I don’t have it all together then they will think less of me and I’m not valuable.

Sometimes it’s been in the community. I drive through the “rough” part of town and see lots of homeless people and drug use around. I’m afraid of feeling emotional for these people or getting taken advantage of, so I avoid even eye-contact with them.

Sometimes it’s been a national threat. After 911 my fear was controlled by whether or not there was a mosque in my town or by being in a plane with someone with tanner skin than I.

You see, if I’m afraid of something, I become powerless and lose control over myself, feeling the need to fight for the safety I feel threatened that I may lose. Because I have no internal safety keeping me steady.

The Source Of Security and Insecurity

But where does internal safety come from?


Where does internal unsafety come from?


You know how powerful love is? Those who are the most steeped in love have the ability to live in the most unsafe, hazardous places. Not that they all do, but the power that makes it possible lives within them.

Because those external circumstances have no access to their heart, their source.

So if love rules our souls, if God (who is love inherently) is ruling, and the people we let speak into our souls are also reinforcing that same love, I dare say, what can we not do?

We can be powerful. We can reach further out. We can do seemingly scary things.

Because love leads us, not fear.

Since when were we promised external safety?


We ought to be the first to love when we have the most to lose. Because we count everything as loss compared to living in love like Christ and knowing him.


It’s hard, because usually we’re afraid of what we don’t understand. Like those of a different religion. Or those of a different sexual lifestyle. Or those of different economic circumstances. Or those of a different color. Of those of a different culture.

I’m in the business world. I work with business owners and get to watch their fears play out. Why is it that the owners are typically afraid of the measly lower level employees?

Because when employees make suggestions for change, it means that the owner may lose something. Change isn’t good. When you’re in a place of privilege, change is threatening. Change causes fear, afraid that your position will be removed, that the safety net of money, power, and control will crumble around you.

This is normal for those who have lived in privilege, which, compared to the rest of the world, would be middle class Americans. Change is always threatening when you’re at the top and have nowhere to go but down.

Why is it that the under-privileged are the most open to change? Because they have something to gain from it. Because when you’re at the bottom you have nowhere to go but up.

So what’s the point?

When we look to our circumstances, and laws, and nations, and officials to set our compass for safety, we will always be afraid. Because we’re not ever in complete control of them.

However, when we live in a place of love, there cannot be fear. And we can accept an unsafe world. We can walk into an unsafe atmosphere knowing that we have a power residing within us that cannot be shaken.

So that’s why I ask,

What are we so afraid of?

You know what tempts me to be afraid?

Not Muslims. Not refugees. Not mass shootings. Not pro-abortion laws. Not marriage redefinition laws. Not pimps. Not Ebola.

What I’m afraid of is spending my whole life creating a paper mâché fortress around me so that I can be protected against the external evils of this world, living internally in bondage, chained to my own fear.

I’m afraid of not ever loving.

I’m afraid of not ever risking.

I’m afraid of not ever once looking like the real Jesus.

Lord, this Christmas give me the heart that would have been one of the shepherds that received you into this world. You were not just not from this country; you were not even from this world. 

Why in the world would I jubilantly sing about accepting a helpless baby in a manger with one hand raised, while pushing away a vulnerable refugee with the other hand?

Maybe we haven’t really received the vulnerable child in the manger yet? Maybe we only want the Jesus who reigns in power and judgment over the evil in this world and not the Jesus who was a meek, helpless baby?

Would we be the Herods of this generation that destroy all that threaten our outward sense of safety, position and control?

Or would we be the ones that welcome, yet even prize, the weak and vulnerable? and accept even the miraculous— because, seriously, a virgin having a baby is seriously threatening to my religious sense of right, wrong and possible.

Jesus went through the whole process. He came from a different culture, he was a newborn exposed to animal mess in a barn, he with his parents were vulnerable refugees, he was a child, a student, an apprentice, a laborer, a leader, a sufferer, a convicted criminal, a dead man, a resurrected King.

He can relate with he most powerless and with the most powerful in this world.

He is our only model. His humility is the only way for us to live. His safety is our only confidence. His love is the only thing that empowers us to love.

And his truth trumps every other opinion.

Let’s not react in fear. Let’s not be like Peter. When he saw that Jesus was threatened in the garden (and actually, Jesus was going to be killed. Seriously. He ended up dying), Peter took out his sword and tried to kill the threat. If we Christians were Peter, we probably would have pull out our concealed weapon and defended Jesus, killing as many threats around us as possible. Because this life is all about being safe and saving our lives, right?

Jesus would be like, “What in the world do you think you’re doing? If you live by killing threats, you’ll die in the same way. If you want to gain your life, you’re going to have to lose it. Hey hey hey, Peter, you realize I’m here? You’re safe. You don’t need to be afraid and react. Stop trying to save me. You need to let me go die. Oh, and just as a heads up, one day when you are most loving me and most safe in my will, you’re going to die by crucifixion.”

This totally blows my mind. The Gospel life is so full of paradoxes that it can only be believed by faith. It’s not natural. But in the kingdom, it’s totally normal.

Is our safety determined by our circumstances? Or is our safety from within, untouched, strong and unmovable?

Maybe we can be the ones who set the standard of love, who live in soul-safety, and who walk into unsafe places and welcome the unsafe ones, loving them into the kingdom.

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.

Making Judgements About The Moon


The bright moon is rising

Captivating only my quick glance

Before I move on

Because I think I understand it,

That just because I see it

Means I “get” it.

But if only I studied– if I distrusted my initial judgment–

If only I dug deeper than my first impression

I would be floored and humbled

By my arrogant assumptions.

To think I know anything about the moon

When I never heard it’s story

When I only read books about it

When I only listened to gossip about it.

It seems that my perception could be vastly different

If I changed my method of judging.

If I stopped and considered the moon’s realities, I would see that

It’s closeness is great only because of it’s sheer mass.

It’s light is not selfish, but simply reflective.

It’s marks are not defects or self-inflicted, but massive craters

That tell of depth and time and beauty and experiences.

I think I can hold it

But I cannot.

I think I can define it

But I cannot.

I’m starting to realize the uncomfortable truth that

The only way to have intimacy of the moon

Is to visit

And listen

And discover

And study

And commit

Over a long period of time.

Only then do I dare tell you

What I think the moon is like.



Sometimes I think we make experiential assumptions about people around us.

Sometimes I think we make educated guesses about cultural issues.

Sometimes I think we try to figure out someone else’s story through the lens of our own.

Maybe it’s time to meet the person behind the statistic.

Maybe it’s time I need to stop thinking my story is “best of many” and starting thinking it’s “one of many.”

Maybe it’s time I commit to one concern, one group, one person, instead of trying to be an authority on all.

I’m starting to understand that it’s vastly unfair to speak my opinion with authority when I have no intimacy with what I’m trying to speak for or represent.

I also had no idea that this internal confrontation would happen when I sat down to watch the blue moon last week.

You never know what will trigger new questions and realities.

And sometimes they happen only once in a blue moon.

Never, ever love

While I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed last week this post caught my attention:

Never get too attached to someone because attachments lead to expectations, and expectations lead to disappointment.” 

How did she know what I was struggling with for the past days and weeks? Of course, it all makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Especially in my life. It’s tale as old as time. I move somewhere new, make new friends, become attached, share my heart, listen to their heart, reveal my dreams, help make their dreams come true…

and then like *that*, it’s all gone. Circumstances have moved us apart either relationally or geographically or both. No more person, connection, fun. Only memories now.

For real? I did it again.

I loved.

I fell for it once again.

I gave my heart, opened the secret doors of my soul, thought perhaps, “Ah, now, finally. Somebody that will be here for me who I can also be there for. I’ve found a safe place. I’m so happy. This will never end.”

But it does end. again. and again. and again.

And I suffer. I want to give up, run away, bury my pain. Yet each time thereafter I only seem to learn to love harder and deeper and then, of course, the suffering only gets worse.

When will I ever learn? When will I learn that attachment and love lead to expectations which ultimately lead to disappointment?

I mean, really, what kind of expectations are we talking about here? Were my expectations for self gain and personal advancement? that I wanted everything only for myself? No, I really do love people and absolutely feel so fulfilled and in love when I can help them succeed. What’s so wrong with that?

And then I think of stories of those around me and combined the questions get harder. These are difficult stories, difficult questions, both yours and mine. What did we expect when we decided to love? “that my church would continue to bless and change the city and be my family instead of abruptly closing? that perhaps my 3 month old son would outlive me instead of dying in his sleep? that my boss would affirm me instead of deal me verbal abuse? that my friend I brought to live with me to help would appreciate me instead of taking advantage of my house and generosity? that my 19 year old brother with a heart for the needy in depraved nations would live to spread the kingdom there instead of dying of cancer? that my boyfriend would keep to the dreams we had together instead of leaving me and dating another girl within a few months? that the guy I respected and learned to love would take care of me in our relationship and protect me instead of raping me and abusing me in total isolation? that my marriage we both committed to would last wonderfully forever instead of falling to pieces in front of my family, friends and children?”

Don’t even get me started with my list of disappointments with God. He could’ve stepped in, he could’ve saved the day, he could’ve redeemed, he could’ve healed. Isn’t that what he is? The Victor, Savior, Redeemer, Healer, Friend?  Were my expectations too much, God? Were they really evil? What do you want out of me? I thought that if I delighted myself in you then you would give me the desires of my heart? It seems all that happens to me is a lullaby of heart breaks.

Because that’s what love will do to you. It makes you feel. It moves and stirs in your heart until you explode and have to do something, anything about it. It’s real and actionary.

It’s totally unsafe. and has great expectations.

And sometimes those expectations don’t line up with reality. And then disappointment and heartache flood your life.

Because those that love most suffer most.

You want to escape pain and suffering and hurt and disappointment and tears and sobbing and sleepless nights and charred dreams?

Never, ever love.

Don’t ever give your heart away. Don’t take any risks. Never expect anything from anyone.

Be numb. Have no feelings. Close your heart. Lock the door. Throw away the key.

Because if you have no expectations, you can be sure to never get hurt, right?

Can you live like that? Yeah, neither can I. But it’s scary that I can easily talk myself into living a life like that by making small decisions moment by moment to cover my emotions and walk safely into relationships, making sure that I’ll get what I expect without hurting myself or the other person. I hate that and I declare I’m waging war on it.

Long story short, love is extremely risky, and, yes, the harder the love the harder the fall, but also the harder the joy.

Which is exactly why Jesus holds the ultimate record in both suffering and joy. Because he loves so so very much. Can you even imagine? Think of the worst tragedy you have gone through with a friend. It hurt so much because you loved that person so much. Now imagine Jesus taking every tragedy and sin and hurt and disappointment and guilt all at one time and experiencing it fully in every fiber of his being. No, it really is unimaginable. Yet he took on that suffering for the joy that was set before him. His extreme love led him directly into extreme suffering so that we wouldn’t have to ever be alone and that we could come out of the other side of love in extreme joy even through the suffering.

I want that love. The love that gives freely and, yes, even unconditionally. I’ve had to come to grips that I will love you, because I love you, because I love you, because I love you. Loving you has no condition and has nothing to do with how you treat me, what you think of me, if you stay in my life, if you date me, if you commit to me, if you reciprocate, if you affirm me, if you appreciate me. Jesus taught me that, by the way. And I want the joy he has. I’ve tasted it, and I know there’s suffering along the way, but I know the joy is worth it.

So there is a choice to love or not to love, but really, there is no choice. I simply cannot live and not love. I have my fights and struggles in it, and somehow I come out on the other end of it with revelations like this. And then I share them. which makes me accountable. Nice one, Angela.

So you’re afraid to love? Great, me too. Call your fear out, write it down, scream it out to God, ask a lot of whys, get really uncomfortable with your real thoughts. And then choose to walk into love in the midst of your fears, even if you feel like you’re drowning.

Or you can choose to never, ever love. and never, ever suffer. and never, ever enjoy anyone or anything.

Seems pretty safe (and terrible) to me.

“I’m fine” and other lies

To hell with the lies of self-protection and safe transparency.

Here is the paradox: the more safe I attempt to keep myself, in reality, the more destruction I bring to my life and the lives around me.

If you know me at all you probably have come to the conclusion that I’m a pretty direct, transparent person.

You know what’s ironic though? Sometimes I can use the guise of transparency to cover up for things I don’t want to be completely transparent about. Because if I’m always this super open person you probably won’t challenge me or ask the scary words, “So, is there anything else? Is that all?”

To be honest? I fear blogging. It scares me to death. Often I’m at the point of pushing the Publish button and think, “Do I really want to do this? I really don’t want to do this. STAHP!” Every time I post something I want to crawl under my bed and hide for a few days, hoping I never run into anyone that read what I just wrote (case in point: right now).

But I know I’m supposed to write. I’m supposed to share my experiences and thoughts and feelings. Not because they’re extraordinary, but because they’re, well… ordinary. Transparency helps you and everyone around you realize that you’re not alone, that you’re not an exception to the rule.

Somehow, though, we’ve bought into the lie that to keep ourselves from hurt or harm we need to be safe and protected and arms-length. We need to keep our feelings and thoughts and desires and needs behind this wall, making sure that they are completely explainable and untouched. If no one sees, if no one knows, if we work through it on our own until the problem is solved, then nobody else will be unnecessarily burdened with my issues and I will feel better that I was able to come through on the wings of God’s grace. Praise the Lord, he took care of me.

Lies. all lies.

I don’t want anyone to get behind my wall without my control and see what’s there, to admit that I went through depression my senior year of high school, that somebody’s verbal abuse actually injured me and I struggle with not making that my reality, that I almost didn’t make rent last month, that God clearly spoke to me about moving me into a new season of marriage and I’m struggling with the fact that it hasn’t happened yet, that I’m dying for a lack of continual community and intentional relationships.

I claim it’s “I don’t want to bother someone else with my problems and I’m just going to keep this to myself,” when actually I’m too proud to admit I’m needy and that I don’t have it all-together and that I’m really weak because then you might think less of me.

It’s the most dishonest conversation that happens every day:

“How are you doing?”

“I’m fine. How are you?”

That’s a good one. I’m awesome at this. I say “I’m fine,” in passing and quickly get the attention off myself by asking a question about the other person, as if I’m really interested in them (which I probably am), but in reality I don’t want them to ask any follow-up questions. I’m a terrible liar so I steer clear of conversations I don’t want to be completely honest about.

But here’s the thing: God plans to meet my needs, spiritually, emotionally, and physically, through other people. It doesn’t honor God when I keep things to myself because I’m afraid to open up to others. Many many times I have realized that I prayed and prayed to God for help and an answer, and immediately afterwards I run into somebody. And they have the solution to answer my problem.

Sometimes I make God and answers so complicated. Like it’s going to be this anonymous gift or writing in the sky. Maybe he sent that friend to sit with you over coffee to give you a chance to be transparent about your need so that they could give you the help you were asking God for. God likes for his children to be Jesus to one another.

So find a community and open up those secret rooms of your heart and life. And I’m struggling with this right now because it feels like every effort I have taken to involve myself with intentional relationships and community has tanked. Between my schedule, unexpected circumstances, and general life, it’s like I have no time for what I feel like I absolutely need, a place where I can consistently open up in an encouraging, loving environment. Any suggestions?

So that’s where I’m at. I’m just a normal person that drank the koolaid of safe transparency for way too long and now I’m waging war on it every day in various ways, ie, taking defiant actions like writing this blog. I wish it were easy. It’s not. But it sure is relieving. And in the end, it’s actually the safest place in the world to be.

There. It’s out there. The post on transparency.

Now excuse while I go curl up in a fetal position and die. Call me if you want to chat over coffee or something.

Love is weird

I’d like to take the beautiful text of I Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter, and add another phrase.

Inspired? Probably not. So we’ll just stick with AUV (Angela’s Uninspired Version).

Love is patient and kind.

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.

Love does not demand its own way.

Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 

Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 

Love never gives up, never loses faith.  

Love is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Love is weird.

Such a nice ring to it. So real. cultural. trendy.

Why “weird”? Well, basically, take a good hard look at the definitions and actions of true love, flesh it out, and then imagine following a person around all day that actually practiced these phrases in real time. You’d have to come to the conclusion, “They are CRAZY!”.

To choose love. self-sacrificing love. kind hands. forgiving words. genuine smiles.

when that guy steals your iPhone right after group contra-dancing with him.

when your brother daily leaves cheese slice wrappers all over the kitchen.

when day after day your teenager openly disrespects you and refuses to talk.

when your vindictive relative stirs up animosity against you within your family.

when a new coworker is handed the job and pay raise you rightfully deserve.

when the guy you gave so much self-sacrificing love to decides to date another girl.

when your housemate breaks contract and walks away, leaving you with a monthly payment you can’t make.

when these incidents happen again. and again. and again.

and yet true love doesn’t allow you to walk away with bitterness and resentment.

And the craziness is not just about having these intentions; it’s when you practice them in front of others and speak the heart behind your decision. That’s the part I don’t like; I don’t like to stand out, to be exceptional. It draws too much attention to something so …different.

Quite frankly, love is offensive. Oh, I like to be all cute about it, share great quotes, tweet meaningful insights, buy P.S. I Love You off the $5 stack at Walmart and place it meaningfully on my shelf next to Fireproof.

But what you don’t see is that moment when every feeling and emotion and logic is screaming inside me, “I can’t stand you anymore!” And that, my friends, is when the test of true love shows up and says, “So what will you do? How far can you go?”

Because love never ends. never fails. never runs out.

And then in order to really love, a choice is made. A choice to lay down myself, my rights, my reason, my deservings, and to actually die. Then I, in that posture of sacrifice with weak, struggling, almost unwilling hands, lift that person above myself.

I typically don’t “feel” loving in that position. Actually, it’s really uncomfortable. It hurts being there. It doesn’t make sense and often I’m in an argument with myself about whether or not this is the best choice, if it’s actually helpful in the longrun.

And then God spoke this to me tonight: Mercy and love break chains.

Arguments don’t break chains. Cold, hard truth doesn’t break chains.

But love does.

And that feeling of love? Well, that will come. Emotions tend to be a bit delayed at times. But it’s coming. The joy and passion and happiness– it’s totally on it’s way. But don’t wait for it in order to act. cause you might not ever end up loving anyone in your life. not cool.

So it’s not all fluff; there’s proof and reality to true love.

And proof is in the pudding.

Actually I don’t even know what that means. and I don’t even like pudding.


Have you ever met someone that loves like that?

Yeah, it’s probably weird.

But actually…

…now I’d like to retract that word.

When you meet someone like that

it’s beautiful. 

and true beauty is love.

love never fails