Dear Riley

Dear Riley,

It was so cool to meet you last night.  Thank you for coming to Wyld Life.  I wanted you to know that you made an impact on me.  You introduced me to Copic Markers, and now I want my own set.

I loved the passion that exuded from you when you spoke about your art.  It was the coolest thing when you described it as “my art.”  I love how you own what you create, and you take such care and thougIMG_6215ht into each piece you put your hand and heart to.

I was especially drawn to a statement that you made about creating:

Sometimes I go back to drawings I did six months ago, and I’m just not happy with it.  I just look at it and think about how much better it could be.  So, I go back and work on it again.  Sometimes I feel like my work will never be where I want it to be.

I wanted you to know that I heard that, deeply.  I felt the struggle of your passion.  I can also identify with you; often I feel like what I do is never good enough; it could have always been better.  For me, it’s things like the campaigner lesson I made, the blog post I wrote, the conversation I had, the talk I gave, the day I had, the parenting opportunity I missed.

Donald Miller, an awesome writer, wrote a book called Scary Close.  In his book he says this:

“Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can’t accept their imperfections can’t accept grace either.”
As artists, we can be paralyzed by the desire to be perfect (as people we can do this too), but God knows we need grace, and that is the magical place where things come together in such a way that what we create and do (no matter how imperfect we see it) speaks to someone in a profound way.  And that is something He does; we get to sit back and say, “Thank You, God for allowing this piece be used by You.”
It’s one of the reasons why I write on this blog.  It’s like a studio space for me; an exercise is creating and being ok with it not being perfect.  It’s an exercise in trusting God to do with it what He will and allow His grace to stick to my imperfections in this process.
Riley, I’m so thankful for you.  I can’t wait to see your art.  I can’t wait for it to speak to me even louder than your words did last night at Wyld Life.  Maybe we can both remind one another to allow grace stick to us because we all need grace.  You are a gift.
Much love,




Receive and Become

561e3728abdc0f754da4d7d1Everyday  I have to fight for my life.  It sounds a little dramatic, I know.  But seriously, I’m fighting the overwhelming to do list, things incomplete, constant information, a messy house, pick ups and drop offs, and even the self-inflicted pressure I put upon myself to write this blog.

This morning I awoke to my devotional time led by Henri Nouwen (If you haven’t read any of his books, please give yourself the gift of experiencing life with him.).  This morning he led us through the Eucharist the receiving of Jesus’ blood and body through the intentional act of wine and bread.  When we receive Jesus through the intentional act of recognizing Him, taking Him in, letting Him live in our bones, muscles, and heart, we are taking in His life.  It is more than a plastic cup and a saltine cracker.  It is the holy act of taking in God.

The beauty of the taking in is what we become as a result.  Revelation 1:5-6 says this:

and from Jesus Christ who faithfully reveals all truth to us. He was the first to rise from death, to die no more.[a] He is far greater than any king in all the earth. All praise to him who always loves us and who set us free from our sins by pouring out his lifeblood for us. He has gathered us into his Kingdom and made us priests of God his Father. Give to him everlasting glory! He rules forever! Amen!

We receive Him and become priests of God.  Wowzers.  Have you thought of yourself as a priest?  It seems too holy to even mention, but that is His intention for us when we take Him in; we become holy.

Therefore, all the things I’m fighting, I have to recognize as holy acts He has given to me to participate in and experience Him:  the to do list, things to complete, picking up the house, picking up and dropping off, and the writing of this blog.  Instead of fighting against these things, I can choose to let them be my holy classroom, inviting me to have a hands on learning experience with Him.

Jesus, I want to receive You today.  Lord, in this day You have set before me, allow me the joy of becoming more like You, especially in the tasks that seem tedious.  Lord, let me see Your blessing in every moment.  Lord, in the breaking of Your body, break my preconceived notions, so that I may become more like You and share Your aroma with others (2 Corinthians 2:14).



We are Makers

561d1d4babdc0f754da4d6f3We are makers.  We come from makers (our parents), and if we really think about it, we come from The Great Maker, God, Himself.

Because of this, I am in constant conversation with God about what He desires for me, uniquely me, to make.  Here is a list of things I’m involved in making:  children, marriage, family, community, ministry, writing, food (hahaha), culture, friendship, health, moments, and the list goes on.

Our society calls me a working mom, but I like the idea of calling myself a maker.  Because I believe that we’re all makers, this doesn’t put me in a category separate from others, especially my fellow women.  Being a maker makes me a part of a greater picture, and that sits with me well.  I don’t want to be in an exclusive club, but rather an inclusive community where we all have something to contribute.

As I was on the elliptical machine at the Y yesterday, I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert (writer of Eat, Pray, Love) on creativity, and she shared this quote by the accomplished writer A.S. Byatt:

“I think of my writing simply in terms of pleasure. It’s the most important thing in my life: making things. As much as I love my husband and children, I love them only because I am the person who makes things. I am who I am is the person who has the project of making a thing. And because that person does that all the time, that person is able to love all those other people.”

I love the exercise of filling in the above with your words:

“I think of my _______________ simply in terms of pleasure.  It’s the most important thing in my life: making things.  As much as I love my ________________ and ________________, I love them only because I am the person who makes things.  I am who I am is the person who has the project of making a thing.  And because that person does that all the time, that person is able to love all those other people.”

How cool would it be to identify what you love making and to recognize that we can only love others well when we are first connected to what we are making in life and who has created me to make that.

But if I’m really honest, I have a fear about the things that I’m a part of making.  What am I truly afraid of?  I’m afraid of putting too much of my identity in any one thing… my kids, my husband, my ministry, Ethiopia, my church, my community, my friends.  I’m afraid that if own too much of things that I have a hand in making, I will begin to feel like a little God of entities of life that I ultimately have no control over.  I can pour my best into these beautiful things, but I cannot control their outcome.  It’s like holding a handful of sand; eventually it seeps out from between your fingers back into a greater pile of beach.

It’s a tough thing to wrestle with.  Am I holding on too loosely or too tightly? Am I afraid to take full ownership of the things I’m involved in making, for fear that whether they succeed or fail, I will feel too much responsibility?

These are big questions I grapple with as a mother, wife, and person in ministry.  Is my identity too much in one thing?  Am I creating from a place of His Spirit, being a co-creator with Him, hopefully not trying to dictate the things He has created for me to make.  I pray that I am dancing well with His Spirit; being a good listener and acting upon His call to action.

Because we come from a Great Maker, who is always creating and inviting us into a partnership with Him, there is always hope for new creation.  I believe that even when we fail miserably, that just gives us hope and space to create something new with Him.

Let’s identify what we’re called to make.  Let’s recognize that we are at our best for others when we’re connected to His voice, leading us to things to make for His world; things that help others see God, grow in God, and ultimately enjoy a relationship with Him.



Tell Me a Story

561be3e4abdc0f754da4d60aOne of the blessings of being on Young Life Staff is that you are invited into a community of people who want to pour into you.  This past year, I’ve been amazed at the incredible people the Lord has allowed me to share life with in this ministry.  Locally, Ryan Ahlwardt is not only a great friend, but also someone who has pours tons of wisdom into me as I’m growing in my leadership; I’m utterly grateful for his desire and commitment to see me develop into a spiritual leader.  On a regional level, first and second year staffers in the Raceway Region meet monthly for a “training” we call La Casa (named by the awesome Annie Houghton).  La Casa means “home;” giving us new staffers a place to enter just as we are and through our intentional time in community, leave a little differently.  It’s a time and place to process and become.  I love its name.  Our La Casa time is now led by the creative, wise, and passionate Crystal Kirgess.  She is accomplished and sincere, and we are blessed to have her guide our time this year.

This year, we are discussing the power of story.  Jesus used parables and stories to teach others, and the Bible, from the Genesis to Revelation, is filled with stories of God’s redemptive plan for our lives.  Currently, at Northview Church (our family’s home church), we are studying God’s great love for us in the life of Joseph.  It’s powerful.

My husband and I are reading Brene Brown’s new book, Rising Strong.  I came across this quote that immediately made me pick up my pen and underline it:

The idea that we’re wired for story is more than a catchy phrase.  Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has found that hearing a story- a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end- causes our brains to release cortisol and oxytocin.  These chemicals trigger the uniquely human abilities to connect, empathize, and make meaning.  Story is literally in our DNA.  pg.6

It gives me great appreciation for the work of the Holy Spirit in the Bible to share with us His story.  Also, it gives me great appreciation for the personal stories He gives us; our stories with beginnings, middles, and ends, filled with sorrow and triumph, laughter and tears.  Often, our stories seem small and trite, but with time and distance we see a plot line leading to something epic.

Friends, I pray that in whatever part you’re in- uncertainty, joy, celebration, mourning… that you hold on for the next part and the part after that.  May His unfolding story in our lives allow us to become someone who connects, empathizes, and makes meaning in all situations.  May we be courageous to fully experience every part of the story and not give into the temptation to numb it.

I encourage you to share your stories, and to pray for His Spirit to reveal to you God’s purpose in all of it, and may we leave one another’s stories a little differently.


561abaf9abdc0f754da4d51fToday is recognized as The Day of the Girl which advocates for the equality of girls all around the world.  This is worthy of recognition because whether we are aware or not, girls all around the world are neglected and devalued based solely on their gender.

Being the mother of a daughter, this is personal for me.  Since Alex was a baby, I wanted to foster her sense of self in the Lord and a strong value in her worth as a child of God.  Unfortunately, most of the world tells girls that they are sexual objects, unworthy of education, and unable to lend a voice to big conversations in subtle and not so subtle ways (see for statistics).

My dream is to be an influence to girls and women to be great inviters into something awesome.  Because we, as females, have believed the lies the world has fed us (we are sexual objects, we aren’t worthy of voice, independence, education, etc…) we hold other women to those chains as well, holding each other down in dangerously unhealthy ways (in subtle an unsubtle ways).  Let’s be free of that.  Let’s dream something big, not just for ourselves, but for girls and women all over the world.  I truly believe that until we believe this is a dream for everyone, it will happen for no one.

Here is a list of female influencers in my life (currently alive) who are inviters of great conversations about who we are as women:

Brene Brown

Jennie Allen

Katie Davis

Shauna Niequist

Glennon Doyle Melton

Christine Caine

Sheryl Sandberg

Tina Fey

And the authors who invited me to think big:  Harper Lee, Charlotte Bronte, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Ayn Rand, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, Kate Chopin, Margaret Atwood, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Joyce Carol Oates, and many others (I’m sure).

Let’s surround ourselves with voices that call is to be a badass for the good fight, things we feel is worthy getting beat up over, things we are willing to wrestle with.  For when we wrestle, we also become stronger.



Handing out Hope

Last night, my family and I were looking for something to watch together, and we came across this documentary (on Netflix) about a little guy named Miles receiving his Make a Wish to be Batman for a day after spending most of his childhood battling leukemia.

It was an incredible story of how thousands upon thousands of people unexpectedly joined forces to make this an incredible day for Miles.  San Francisco was transformed into Gotham City for a day and people even flew in from all over the country to be a part of this experience.  The Make a Wish Foundation in San Francisco had originally planned for about 200 people to be a part of this, but it turned in to so much more.

I loved what the Director said: We are about restoring, giving something back to kids who have lost something.  For these kids, it’s a chance to give them back a piece of their childhood.

The truth is, we all need restoring.  Because we live in a fallen world, pieces of ourselves are taken from us everyday.  Often, we don’t even realize it.  And eventually, we are looking for someone or something to save us.

I was taken aback by the above image of the sign reading, “Save us, Batkid.”  Although I LOVED this story and what Make a Wish did in helping Miles and his family experience something to give him a piece of his childhood back, I couldn’t help but think of the things we do and use to try to restore or save us:  Money, activities, sports, clothes, social media, vacations, drugs/alcohol, food, boyfriends/girlfriends, family, experiences, etc…

And this was an experience that many people were drawn to in order to get something back that they felt they lost in their lives; perhaps a piece of their childhoods, hope, goodness.  It totally makes sense, and I’m thrilled that Miles’ story affected so many.

I was thinking about the bleeding woman in the gospels, and how if she was holding up a sign in the crowd, waiting to see Jesus, it would have said, “Save me, Jesus.”  Instead, she crawled her way through the crowd, got close enough, and touched Him…and He knew it.  He healed her right there, and then took time in the craziness of this crowd and listened to her whole story.  I cannot imagine how powerful that was for her but also for those who witnessed this.  He refused to be jostled and pulled along the crowd; He stopped, healed, and listened.

If there’s anything I want to be a part of more are experiences like that.  Here’s the thing, Jesus is so much more than a quick fix or experience, He’s a long-term solution. I believe that everyone in the crowd with the bleeding woman left that day different, and embarked on a journey with Christ that was so much more than a quick fix.

I’m thankful for organizations like Make a Wish.  Alex even said to me that she would love to work for an organization like that.  I just hope she knows that everlasting hope and goodness come from a relationship with Jesus, and along the way we can hand out His hope like candy on Halloween.



Jesus showed up at the doughnut shop

IMG_6152I got home a little early from Bible Study this morning & was able to take Jesse for a Friday morning doughnut.  There’s this cool doughnut shop in Fortville called Sunrise Bakery, and they have yummy doughnuts that they make in front of you and electric trains and all kinds of retro toys.  Jesse loves going there, but it makes me nervous as heck because he starts playing with the antique trains, and I’m praying that he doesn’t brake anything.

Jesse is there eating a chocolate doughnut, playing with trains, and one of the owners, Kaitlyn comes out with the remote control of the train set and shows him how it gets going.  J is fascinated, having the time of his life.  When Jesse is pumped about something, you know it because he starts hopping, like he can’t contain himself; it’s pretty awesome.

Then my 4 year old, in all his glory, walks over to this life size robot…  he’s playing with its arms, and I’m watching… I said, “Jesse, be gentle.  Use gentle hands.”  Well, all of a freaking sudden, the robot comes crashing down in three pieces.  I could not get up fast enough to catch it.  I wanted to die.  Jesse immediately scrunches down on the floor with his hands at his mouth (which he does when he’s nervous) in embarrassment.

Then the coolest thing happened…

Kaitlyn came over, and so sweetly helped me pick it up and put it back together again.  Jesse was still cowering, and I said, “Jesse, you need to say you’re sorry.”  He whispered it, barely audible.  Kaitlyn leaned down, looked him in the eyes, and said, “That’s ok, buddy.”  I sincerely expected her to kick us out of the store.  AND THEN she gave Jesse this little train engineer from the train set and she asked him to take it home and play with it and ASKED US TO PLEASE COME BACK with the toy AND VISIT HER AGAIN.  Who does that?  I mean, we almost destroyed this cool, life size robot, and she gives us something and asks for us to please come back.

I know you might be thinking, “Well, that’s how it is in business.  You gotta be nice to the customer.”  I’m telling you, she was sincere, and she showed my little guy Jesus this morning.  Jesus runs to us in our messes and mistakes, helps us put the pieces back together, and invites us back to hang out with Him.

This incident could have gone a lot of different ways, but it went a specific way.  I know that is something that will last in my heart and Jesse’s for a long time.

I was thinking about when Jesus met the woman at the well in John 4:1-45, and how this woman was ashamed because of her mess and Jesus purposely went right to her to give her life.  This left her different.  She was filled with His abundant Spirit and wanted to share Jesus with others as a result of this encounter.  I pray that we see and embrace Jesus in our messes and leave differently as a result.

I know I will after what Jesse and I experienced at the doughnut shop this morning.  And yes, we can’t wait to return with the train engineer and hang out with Kaitlyn.  That’s good people (and the doughnuts are so yummy too!).



You do you.

5616b929abdc0f754da4d249I came across a blog post written by a girl named Demi, whom I was acquaintances with when she was in high school.  I honestly don’t know her well, except through what other people have shared with me about her.

She boldly declares why she doesn’t drink, a very unpopular choice in college and high school.

Friends, I can’t imagine the crap she gets from her peers about her decision not to drink.  It’s not that she’s the first lady of choosing not to drink, but that is like swimming upstream; not easy whatsoever.

Hear me on this: I’m not against anything; I sincerely want to be known for what I’m for and not against.

My personal experience has led me to make this decision to not drink:  For me, it’s not worth it.

I’ve seen people of great stature suffer the shame of a DUI.  It’s interesting that people argue the decimal points on a breathalyzer, but when it comes down to it, driving under the influence has serious consequences.  Last year on my birthday, I was driving home our babysitters, and I was going over the speed limit.  I got pulled over, and all I could think to myself was “Thank God I didn’t even have a sip of wine tonight.”  That was truth, y’all.

This past Friday night, my small group watched a video of a couple whose daughter died the night before she was getting ready to leave for college; they discovered that someone had slipped her an overdose of a drug in her drink.

I’ve heard of girls being taken advantage of while under the influence, something I couldn’t imagine my daughter going through, or knowing that my son partook in such a violating act because he was under the influence.

I’ve seen families destroyed over alcoholism.

And it goes on.

I’m for making decisions that I have to own and dealing with the growth that comes from that. I’m for protecting the preciousness of lives.  I’m for leaning into the uncomfortable-ness of situations rather than trying to make it easier with alcohol.  I’m for embracing the kookiness that’s naturally inside of me (or the sadness, joy, insecurity, whatever).  I’m for making people feel like they belong, not that they have to do something to fit in with me.

This is a personal choice.  It’s not about you, it’s about me.  I do not shun people who drink.  I actually have no uncomfortable-ness with people who want to have a glass of wine or whatever.  I just choose not to.  I don’t want to make it a thing, but I think sometimes people do on both sides of the choice.  It’s not about being holier than thou,  it’s just a me thing.  I won’t flinch at dinner if you order a drink, nor do I ask you to make a comment like, “Oh, that’s right.  You don’t drink.”

All I ask is that you be ok with where I am.  I ask that you be ok where Demi is and try not to call her names such as crazy or missing out or won’t last long.

The most important aspect of my life is saying this is who I am and making intentional choices to live that.  I’m not out to change people; that’s the job of the Holy Spirit.  I do think that it’s ok to feel and act on a tugging of the Spirit, even when it’s not what everyone else is doing.  Whatever that is for you, I pray that you have the quiet confidence to do you.  #youdoyou







Own your gas

imagesBeing the mom of a boy has taught me so much about the energy and messiness of boys, especially when it comes to passing gas.  My son can fart on command.  It will be dead silent or in the thick of a deep conversation in the car, and all of a sudden, he’ll put this huge grin on his face and…  Then he’ll laugh so hard at his own sound, that he’ll keep doing it, moving himself to absolute hysterics.  It doesn’t help that my husband eggs him on… boys.

When I was a teacher, one of the worst distractions was when a student passed gas, especially the silent but deadly ones (Well, it’s not any better when the teacher does it either).  The funk would crawl through the room like a slow-moving turtle, and you would just see the wave of disgust transform each kid’s face, and then the “Oh man, that’s gross!”

Then the worst happens, everyone wants to know who dealt it.  Really, who cares?  Does it really matter?  But we’re human, and because of that we have this tendency to point fingers at whomever did it, as long as it wasn’t me.

In third grade, I was sitting at my desk, and I sneezed and farted at the same time.  The air pressure in my body was all off, and the force of my sneeze pushed a loud noxious fume out the other end.  The girls sitting next to me totally called me out, and I quickly lied and said it was the squeaking of my chair on the floor.  Nobody bought it, and I was clouded in shame for the rest of the day (It’s terrible when you’re 41, and you still remember the incident from when you’re 10).

The thing about passing gas, is that we all have this gas inside of us, & we all release it from time to time.  It comes in its various forms, but it’s a universal truth for all humans.  It’s a lot like sin.  We have this nature inside us and because of that, we find ourselves sinning.  Some of us deny it.  Some of us hide it.  Some of us blame other people.  But the truly noble are those who own their gas.

I have a deep admiration for those who take full ownership of their gas and their sins, and say “it was me, I did it.”  When we do that, although it may come with snickers and jeers, it brings light to the situation and is easier to move past.  I know we don’t want to be the one who farted or the one who sinned, but we all know it’s a lie when someone says they don’t fart.  It makes people feel like they’re less than or that they haven’t been blessed with the incredible gift not to do it (which doesn’t exist).

When we own it, not to gain attention, but to claim it and move on, we take the power of shame away from the situation.  It’s noble to be the one who says “I did it” when no one wants to.

We are sinners.  We sin.  It happens, sometimes very deliberately (when you eat Taco Bell, you know there will be a reaction, &/or when we hang with a certain person who always gets us in trouble) and sometimes not as aware.  Either way, I truly think Jesus wants us to own those moments.  I believe He’s about the moving on, so we’re not caught up in the covering up and hiding.  He loves us just as we are, no matter what, gas and all.  He’s not ashamed of us; He’s not throwing air fresheners at us or convenient lies to cover up the truth.

So, the next time you’re in the car or at a gathering of friends and it (“It” can be a number of things that we do that hurt others, God, and/or ourselves) happens, I encourage you to own your gas.  Take it in for what it is, claim it aloud, and move on.



We were made for Tents

11204865_10105944505560069_1742512620922805236_nOur Young Life kids went on a backpacking trip through the Rocky Mountains this past summer called Wilderness.  It’s a discipleship experience where groups of kids hike for a week with two guides and discover how God is with them in very real ways.  The kids came back with stories of adversity, danger, depth, triumph, and joy.  I freaking love that Young Life does this trip.  It’s more than an awesome memory; it’s a downright test of your comfort, strength, faith, &  idols.  Depending on your personality, it could be something that you are absolutely pumped about or makes you queasy at the simple thought of no showers for a week.

Wilderness is not just a camp trip, but can also come in different shapes and sizes.  About two weeks ago, I shared at our Leadership Summit how Steve and I were in a place of comfortably numb eight years ago right after we moved to Indianapolis.  We moved to a symbolic green pasture and were ready to settle in to a state of “this is enough.”  We didn’t want to face another mountain or valley; we wanted to plop down and forget that life is an arduous journey (especially a life with Christ).  We numbed our purpose with unhealthy things that to most would be considered good things:  socializing, building a house, activities, busyness.  I compared this to the Reubenites and the Gadites, who, in Numbers 32, asked Moses if they could settle on the hills of Moab and not cross the Jordan; essentially saying, “I’m done.  I don’t care if I see the promised land.”

The Reubenites and the Gadites experienced the Wilderness for forty years, and they had enough.  Eight years ago, when Steve and I were in the Wilderness, we didn’t engage in the conversation of how or even should we cross the Jordan River of our lives.  During that time, we built our own kingdom instead of walking toward His.  Interestingly, we had a lot of people encouraging us that we were doing great when we weren’t.  We were healthy and “comfortable,” but really experiencing a slow death that could only be felt in the quiet of our souls.

The problem is that I don’t think we were made to be comfortable.  I believe God created us for tents.  Ironically, I hate camping.  I went camping ONCE, and I’m sure I’ll be doing it again.  Here are some interesting observations I made while sleeping? in a tent:

  • Tents can easily be moved while still providing shelter.
  • Tents are warmer when you have other people in there with you.
  • You can “feel” the weather: the wind, rain, temperature, etc…
  • You can use a blow up mattress in your tent, but they often deflate in the middle of the night.
  • You are acutely aware of everyone’s movement, sounds, etc…

Because of the above observations, living in a tent is uncomfortable.  Having people in our lives and hearts make us warm, but they also come with noises and movement that can disturb our peace.  I can’t help but think that the Lord intended it to be this way all along.  We were made for the wilderness and tent living because there, we cannot rely on ourselves; we have to rely on Him.  I imagine it was this way in the Garden too.

Brene Brown says, “We can’t selectively numb emotion.  Numb the dark and you numb the light.”  Often, I want to numb the hard things in my life.  I don’t want to feel anything anymore, but I have learned that to be truly alive, I have to experience it all.  I have to feel the wind, rain, cold; the creeks, hoots, and shuffling.  My instinct is to dump the tent and get a hotel room (really), but I was made for a tent because that is the only way that He can shape and mold me.

*Romans 5:3-5:

3-5 There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!