I pray because I’m not enough on my own

I’ve noticed I pray as I write.

Not research papers, or essays.

But my feature stories and journalism pieces have lots of prayer in them.

Dear God, help me to tell this story well.”

When the story is important, when I have experiences and passions and truth to convey, words seem so very delicate. And sometimes not enough. And I always feel the responsibility of doing justice to the story.

It’s humbling. Which is not a bad place to be.


January 8, 2013 at 1:20 pm Leave a comment

2012: the year you were loved

According to my facebook newsfeed and the posts on my favorite blogs – apparently New Year’s Eve is a perfect time to reflect on the last 365 days.

And label them.

“This was a hard year. This was a year of change. It was a great year. It was a year of sickness. It was a full year.”

Hey, I even got an email from WordPress with a report on “Your 2012 year in blogging.” (Great infographic, not-so-great year. But who cares? I barely wrote this year! That will change in 2013).

I don’t know what this year has held for you. But do you know that 2012 is the year you were loved? 

In your sufferings, you were held by the God who personally took on flesh and suffering and experienced all of it.

In your blessings, all good things came from His hand.

And when you forgot about Him, ignored Him, or simply had ordinary, mundane days with homework or wiping runny noses and forgetting about your laundry, again –

you were still loved more than you can imagine. 

God doesn’t sum up our days and label them like we do. He writes “LOVE” and “GRACE” and “REDEMPTION” over everything.

However you remember this year, know that it was 365 days where He never left your side.

And as we look into 2013,  know that each new day is going to be another one where He is right there with you.

Because 2013? That’s the year you were loved, too.

(Disclosure: idea from this post heavily inspired by Lisa-Jo’s lovely writing over at the Gypsy Mama. Go check it out).

December 31, 2012 at 1:54 pm Leave a comment

Six good things

1| Curling up in a new cozy scarf next to the fire and glowing Christmas tree and reading a delightful new book, with a mug of Dad’s gourmet tea in hand. 

2| Dancing with my little sister for the very first time on Christmas Eve. She was spontaneously cast as a little angel in the adult dance, and those moments of singing O Come, All Ye Faithful together, in costume, before we went on the altar steps were precious. 

3| Watching the glow of little flames of hope spread and twinkle throughout the sanctuary

4| A phone call from one of my best friends with instructions on picking up my bridesmaid dress. I love that the color is “Malibu blue”. 

5| Starting the 31 Days of Praise devotional from my thoughtful and wise sister

6| Watching the magical, fluffy snow fall on Christmas Eve and this morning. There is nothing so delightful when it’s Christmas – or you have nowhere to go. 

And a bonus: a train ticket tucked in my wallet for upcoming adventures on the prettiest lake house ever with some of my favorite people. 

December 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm Leave a comment

Christmas is a war cry.

We have a plethora of toddler-friendly Christmas decorations at our house – even though the “baby” is either in her twenties or several years removed from toddlerhood.

A Little People nativity set. A plush, finger-puppet manger scene that we’ve had since I was little. Board books with cute donkeys and sheep.

And even Mom’s Willow Tree Angel nativity set looks…peaceful.

I love cute Christmas decorations. And we all need a little bit more peace.

But this year? I need to remember that Christmas wasn’t meant to be cute. And although the angels proclaimed “good tidings” and “peace on earth” – goodness knows there wasn’t, and isn’t yet, worldwide peace with that first Christmas.

It was a war cry, friends.

I read an excellent article last week as I attempted to begin processing the Newtown shootings. And my heart is still breaking over that absolutely senseless and horrific killing spree. But while I don’t remember the author or title of the article (apologies), the author’s point was the very same: Christmas is a war cry.

Jesus didn’t come into a world where there was peace and happiness and everything was a Hallmark or Kodak moment.

He was born under a harsh government that crushed its peoples’ freedoms. His very birth prompted the murder of baby boys.

He was born into a time of evil, just like any other time. Born into a time of great weariness – it had been hundreds of years since the Jews had heard from God. Had he forgotten them?

And yet, that act of the Sovereign wrapping himself in newborn skin, coming into the smallest of worlds in the frailest of forms – that innocent, messy birth was a war cry like no other.

God acting on behalf his people. And not just acting from a distance, but physically entering into the pain, entering into the evil world to turn it on its head.

No matter what pain you are going through right now, when we cry, “God, where are you?” – he is here. He came to earth to suffer, live through pain, and die for the unlovely – so we don’t have to.

We celebrate Christmas because that manger was God splitting the skies to come down and be with us, to defeat the enemies we can’t, to kill death once for all.

To bring hope back to the world.

To bring us back to him.

Christmas isn’t gentle. It’s a war cry.

And now, we celebrate that the great battle has already been won.

December 22, 2012 at 12:21 am 3 comments

From the archives: There is room for you

(I know I’ve disappeared – forgive me? This little blog will pick back up soon. But in the meantime, I’m sharing again one of my favorite Christmas posts. I wrote it two years ago, but it seems particularly relevant now. While this has been a fantastic semester, I have also been walking beside many dear people going through serious trials and suffering. When the forced merriment makes you cry, when you just can’t deal with Christmas or even understand it anymore: this is for you.

there is room for you in the stable. 

And that’s what it’s all about, Charlie Brown.)


When Dana said that she didn’t particularly care for the “wintry fun” songs any more, it made me pause.

How can you not like Christmas songs?!  What about the spirit, the cheer, the magic of the season? 

And then I realized.  Perhaps it’s sad, but every time I turn on B101 (which I only listen to during the Christmas season, by the way) I end up turning it off again almost right away.

I love Christmas songs.  I like the “wintry fun” songs.  But ohmygosh, you can get sick of them really fast.  I’m pretty sure I never want to hear “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” again, and especially not the version that sounds like a little kid who can’t sing.  I don’t think “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” should be classified with Christmas songs (because it’s senseless out of context and is pathetic as a song – two good criteria for not playing it on the radio), and the back up girls on Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” are driving me a little crazy.  “Last Christmas” is justpathetic.  And Melody and I race each other to see how fast we can recognize that a song is “Mama’s Shoes” and turn it off.  I think we’ve each heard it once, and it was so  traumatizing that we’re never going to listen to it again if we can help it.  I don’t know if it quite classifies as a wintry fun song, but you get the point.  The radio gets turned off pretty quickly now.

And sometimes, I notice, these types of songs seem to force the gaity.  You’dbetter feel the Christmas spirit and cheer (what is that, exactly?), and if not, there is clearly something wrong with you.  You’re a Grinch or a Stooge.  You should smile all the time, lose yourself in the bubbly wonderfulness.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  (For the record, I do still love that particular song).

Although most people don’t seem to know why they should be smiling and running around and all cheery – just that they should be.

But in the Christmas carols and hymns, there is a different story.  Those songs aren’t overdone if you play them three times.  It’s not forced gaity, “just because”.  The songs don’t guilt us for not living up to the Obvious Standards of Christmas Cheer.

In these songs and the story they tell – there is room for you just as you are.  Room for the broken, the bruised, the disappointed, the grieving.

It’s not about ignoring the world’s problems or pretending that our few cents in charitable gifts will solve them.  It’s not about turning the December into a month of Disneyland happiness.

There is room for the brokenhearted in the stable.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”

This is what brings the celebration and joy to Christmas, not the gifts and cookies and “holiday spirit”.

Because Christmas, the real Christmas, recognizes that we can’t force merriment by pretending grief and pain don’t exist.  Rather, it celebrates the coming of God Himself into this tired, weary, and broken world – to fix, ransom, and redeem what we can’t.

Come, thou long-expected Jesus.

I think this is why I love “O Come O Come Emmanuel” so very much.  It’s a song of yearning, a song of pain and brokenness.

“…ransom captive Israel.  That mourns in lowly exile here, until the Son of God appears.  Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel.”

It’s a song of hope in the midst of suffering.  Rejoicing, because the people walking in darkness have seen a great light.  A promise that though I can’t change or fix anything, even myself, God can.  He does.  And He will.  He promises to make all things right again – right and glorious.

The world as we all inherently know it was meant to be.

B101 plays fun songs.  And I love fun songs.  But after the first round or two, they seem a bit empty to me.  And especially when compared to the weightiness of Christmas, and the almost opposite meaning that it really has.

It’s not about requiring cheeriness.  It’s knowing there is room for me in the stable, regardless of what I feel.

And I can see this but still want the commercial Christmas; I still want the beautiful tree and lights and cookies and gifts and parties.

I pray that this week – and always, really – my heart would be more focused.  Focused on the hope and promise that I cling to; fixed on the undeniable great yearning and simple wrongness of the world – and the God who came down to this broken world, who shed the glory and beauty and perfection of heaven for a poor and struggling family, a smelly stable, and a life of rejection.

Whatever you and I are experiencing this Christmas, He’s been there.  He knows.  And you are welcomed to the manger.

December 12, 2012 at 1:25 am 1 comment

Grace for the good girl

If there has ever been a book that has spun my world on its ear, it is Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman. I read it last year and it opened my eyes to so many places in my heart that I hadn’t seen before.

Lies I believed, masks I wore, the exhaustion that comes with always, always trying.

I’m reading it again now with a beautiful sophomore that I mentor, and frankly? It’s still wrecking me.

Which is annoying, because now that I know all this I want to move on, be free from it.

But it is sweet to see the strides I’m making, the sunlight through the trees. To know that just because I have lived like this or believed this lie, I am free and it does not define me anymore. I still struggle with choosing and wanting to hide and wear a mask and perform to prove my worth sometimes: but it no longer has the power to captivate me that it once did.

Praying for the grace to slow down and see grace instead.

{two quotes for you, in case you are in the same boat}

“The shape and intensity of our performance comes down to two things: expectations and definitions. I have the expectation of myself to be a good girl, a good Christian, a good wife, and a good mom. Not such bad things, until you understand my own personal, twisted definition of “good”. Good means I never mess up. Good means I weight the perfect amount. Good means I can handle everything, I don’t look like a fool, and I never lose my patience. Good means my husband will never be disappointed in me, my kids will always obey, and everyone basically likes me. Good means I am enough. My goodness is all about me.” (p.25)

{and my prayer}

“As good girls, we subconsciously label ourselves as the strong ones, the responsible ones, the sweet ones, or the right ones. We try to stand tall and capable as the good Christian, the good wife, the good mom, and the good one. But Jesus is calling us to a deeper, truer, freer identity. All he wants is simply you – minus your good works, minus your perfect attendance, minus your politeness. When you really believe that, you may discover that all you want is Jesus, simply Jesus. Not just to get to heaven or to help you be a good person or do the right thing, but to simply love and be loved by him.” (36)

October 3, 2012 at 6:19 pm 1 comment

Can I please do this for the rest of my life?

It doesn’t take much to get people going about their passions.

Last week, I got to talk to some brilliant students. It was just small-talk, as I was checking them in for an event and they were waiting their turn, but if you hit upon the right conversation topic even the small chit-chat can make their eyes light up. A graduating senior told me about his dream to engineer rides for Disney – and then about his actual internship with Disney. A friend told me about his new business, Mo Apparel – he has student graphic and fashion designers working with him to create cool T-shirts and apparel with messages and quotes to inspire them to achieve their dreams. And he donates some of the profits to various causes. And it’s taking off.

I watched a girl’s eyes sparkle as she told me about her upcoming theatre performance, an audition of sorts for the theatre faculty so they could understand the talents of each new student and consider them for appropriate roles.

These people are going places. They have a zest for what they’re doing and big dreams for the future. My roommate tells me about the various chains on her bike and going on her first mountain ride and passing on her skills to the new women on the cycling team. Someone else explains what it’s like to have a child finally get that concept in their student-teaching classroom, or why they are passionate about being on the morale committee for THON.

Their stories are electric. And maybe I don’t particularly care about honeybee research or engineering projects. But those subjects are captivating when I hear it from them.

Just today, I got to meet and interview a lovely professor as part of a series of profiles the Honors College is doing on our Distinguished Honors Faculty Program members. Over the course of the conversation, she briefly mentioned that when she had studied abroad in France during college, she lived with a survivor of the Holocaust. Since the woman had no living children, she gave this professor her yellow star that she wore throughout that.

Um, WHAT?????

Everything in me wanted to stop, back up, beg for the whole story. But we were running out of time and it wasn’t the focus of the interview. But I want the details, to understand that relationship, what it means now to be the guardian of such a gift.

Stories connect us to each other. In my job now, I get to tell these stories of discovery and research and innovation and success. Or I share silly little stories about my day and something cool that someone said in Bible study when I’m talking on the phone. It’s a way to invite someone else into my day and that little piece of my life. Those are the fun stories, the happy and inspiring stories.

But the other side of life needs to be told – for the painful moments must also be shared. It’s not always rosy.

We’re just wrapped up in stories, aren’t we? For stories are life. The things we talk about over potato peels and kitchen timers. The hugs we give when tears spill over. The way girls spend half an hour talking about someone’s new engagement ring and the memories and dreams it holds.

I think there will be a lot of this in this upcoming year: writing and sharing these incredibly exciting success stories, talking life over a cup of tea, and trying to weave a story out of raw data to understand the worst tragedies imaginable as I research social media and sex trafficking for my thesis.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


September 24, 2012 at 3:19 pm 2 comments

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