Can’t Not.

“Art is not about market demand… The world doesn’t need another band, per se. It doesn’t, strictly speaking, need another book or another photograph or another album. The general world population will survive without one more stage production and one more gallery showing.

This is the thing though: you might not.

We create because we were made to create… if you were made to create, you won’t feel whole and healthy and alive until you do…”

Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet*

I’ve long been obsessed with the thought that we were made in the image of a wildly creative God. One who imagined aardvarks, and giraffes, and anteaters. One who crafted waterfalls, and rainforests, and deserts, and mountains. A God who thought Florida would be the perfect opposite to Michigan, pouring sunshine on one, and snow on the other. One who took an endless palette of colors, and poured them all into the Great Barrier Reef. A God who decided that blue was the perfect color for the sky, adding a vibrant set extras for the morning and evening.

Our days on this earth are a journey of discovering the character of God and then working endlessly to adopt those characteristics into our own. We were made to be like Him – to be grace-givers and truth-speakers, lovers, forgivers, and mercy showing freedom-seekers.

What is God like? You be like that, too.

I love that Yahweh created all of existence with His words. Even though He could have thought it, merely willed it, or even breathed it, I love that He spoke it. I think there is something sacred and anointed about words, and I can’t not throw myself into the world of mixing them together.

And so I write. I write because I believe in the power of words. I write because I believe that when truth is spoken, written, or sung, lies become smaller. I write because I believe that words have the ability to reshape the way we think. And because the way we think is the prototype of the way we live, I think this reshaping is a process worthy of my best time and my deepest efforts.

And, maybe, a reason bigger than all of the others, I write because I need it. Because when I don’t write I feel as though I’m keeping from Jesus the most vulnerable and formative thing within me.

I write because I can’t not.

I’m wondering this morning about your Can’t Not. What is the thing you find time to do, no matter how busy the weeks become? Or the thing you long to do, even when the fear nearly suffocates your will to do it?

What is the thing you can’t not do?

Cause that’s what you were made for. Can you lean in a bit, and listen close? You were made for your Can’t Not. That place where your passion and your gifting crisscross. The intersection of your biggest dreams and your deepest joys – that’s your Can’t Not.

And you can’t not do your Can’t Not – you have to.

I need you to do your Can’t Not, because when you do, I believe a little more that I can do mine. When I see you believe Jesus for the big things, I get antsy in my monotony. When I see you create, I see the Creator pouring out of you and makes me want to overflow, too.

It’s not about what the world needs more of. It’s about what makes you feel whole, and purposeful, and creative. It’s about doing with excellence the thing you Can’t Not do.

Now let’s be clear: all of this, it’s not about you.

It’s not about glorifying, gratifying or bringing honor to self. It’s not about promoting your talents, as lovely and unique and irreplaceable as they are. It’s not about doing something so that others will notice you and think about how amazing you are. It’s about doing something so that others might notice you and think about how amazing God is.

And that’s the best part. The beauty is that when you do your Can’t Not, when you dig deep into the things that make you come alive, you reflect the God who Couldn’t Not make you, and you do it in a tremendously lovely way.

There’s no escaping it: you were made to create.

Go find your Can’t Not and get after it.



*Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way is so, so, so worth your time. Bittersweet


(Originally posted February, 2015.)


Just Below the Surface

If it means anything to you, I’m an Enneagram 7. Which is essentially a personality test’s way of saying that I’m a little bit reckless, very indulgent, and if you’re ever trying to talk me into something, all you have to do is frame it as an adventure and I’m in (which is precisely how I ended up running a half-marathon without training… but that’s another story for another time).

It’s also a way of saying I’m a sucker for enticing hobbies, which is why you can find blank canvases (I don’t paint), and a crochet hook (I’ve never crocheted anything in my life), and a half-knit sweater (I haven’t actually finished anything in almost a decade) pretty accessible on my craft shelf (which I honestly shouldn’t even have). So it should come as no surprise that when I happened upon the idea of planting a garden, it didn’t take long for the reckless, indulgent, Jill-of-all-trades within me to decide it was a good idea, and that it needed to begin right away.

One particular Sunday in the spring, I wandered around Walmart looking for a way to grow a garden on my back porch. I ended up two aisles down from the fabric, where I found a small wooden crate that perfectly fit the vision of my tiny garden dreams. I grabbed a bag of soil, some lining to fit the crate, and several tiny bags of vegetables and herbs.

Oh, and a last second impulse grab of a bag of Miracle-Gro Potting Mix because it *promised* my plants would grow “twice as big.”

I’m a complete sucker.

I was giddy when I returned home from WalMart, heading straight to the porch with all my supplies in tow. I added the lining to the wooden crate, filled it up with soil (and Miracle-Gro, of course), and began meticulously adding the seeds, making sure the spacing and depth were exactly what the instructions called for. I sprinkled a little extra Miracle-Gro, filled up my water can, and poured it carefully across the newly planted soil.

It only took about an hour before I was walking back to the porch, peering out the sliding glass door at the little box full of soil and freshly planted seeds hoping to see something sprout above the surface. Yes, you read that correctly. One tiny hour after planting the seeds I was looking for growth.

I’m a delusional sucker.

I peeked out the next day, and the next, and the day after that, too. And yet, there was nothing.

Just soil in a crate that looked far less glamorous than my day dreams had lended me to expect. 

I kept watering and hoping and checking several times a day. I should probably be embarrassed to admit that somewhere deep inside I thought I might actually see something in such a short amount of time. But still there was nothing.

At the end of Exodus 2 we find a small, but profound comment on the emotional state of God’s people, the Israelites, who at the time were enslaved in Egypt:

“During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.”

Exodus 2:23-25

Notice that we find this narration of their current state after we are introduced to the wickedness of the Egyptians toward the Israelites. It’s after we’re introduced to Moses. It’s after we learn of his Hebrew birth, and miraculous Egyptian upbringing. It’s after we read of his attack on the Egyptian. After we learn of him fleeing to Midian to hideaway.

It’s believed that Moses spent decades in Midian. He worked, took a bride, and had children. This was no short stay, but a significant portion of Mo’s life.

I was checking my tiny crate garden several times a day for weeks, and I was thoroughly disappointed.

“What did I do wrong?”

“Did I not use enough Miracle-Gro???”

“What’s the point if nothing grows?!”

I had all but given up, so I decided not to check for several days. Maybe if I forced myself not to think of it, I could be pleasantly surprised?

You know, it’s in the very next verse in Exodus that we read of Mo’s calling to go back to Egypt and face the new Pharaoh, demanding that he “let God’s people go.” It reads as though the people reached a breaking point, cried out to God, and then God did something about it. And in many ways, that’s true. And that truth is an encouraging one – reminding us that God does indeed see, and listen, and respond.

But I think there is something even more profound. It’s found right there in the final words of Exodus 2.

“God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.”

He knew. You see, God didn’t wait for the Israelites to groan and cry out, to cry out and groan. (Did you see both words repeated in the text? So much groaning. So many tears.) He didn’t forget to remember. He didn’t wait to consider them.

He saw and he knew and had already begun the rescue.

How do we know?

We know because of Moses.

Because at the moment the Israelites groaned and cried and cried and groaned, Yahweh God was already on Step 6 of a plan forty years in motion.

Moses had already been born.

Had already been raised by Pharaoh’s daughter.

Had already become impassioned for his native people.

Had already acted for justice, (albeit he went a little overboard).

Had already healed in Midian and was ready to return to Egypt.

And he hasn’t forgotten to remember you. He isn’t waiting to consider you.

After not checking on my garden for several days, I mustered up the courage to open the blinds and look outside.

And sure enough, there was a sprout standing tall three whole inches above the soil.


Where there had been nothing, there was now a glorious something.

And I was reminded, as I was with Moses, that often there is something happening just below the surface.

On the days of my disappointment in seeing nothing, I forgot to consider what must happen in the soil long before anything can happen above it.

When I looked at my pot of soil and saw emptiness, what I didn’t see was a seed breaking underneath. What I didn’t think of were the root hairs coming from the broken seed and growing strong. What I didn’t see where the roots growing down, pushing the seedling up, up, up.

When I thought there was nothing, the most important work was being done. Just below the surface.

To the one who feels overlooked…

To the one who feels forgotten…

To the one with the diagnosis…

The fourth miscarriage…

The discontentment…

The failing marriage…

Take heart. The rescue plan is already set in motion. Yahweh God is already at work just below the surface. The seed has cracked. The roots are taking hold. The sprout is about to break the surface. You can’t see it just yet, but the work has begun. And soon, you’ll see a tiny green sprout burst out of the soil and you’ll wonder how it got there so quickly.

As you groan and cry out and cry out and groan, remember that you are not forgotten. You have not been overlooked. God sees you— and God knows.

The Way You See Me

“Don’t ever stop,” she said. “Don’t ever stop trying to make me see myself the way you see me.”

Not long ago, in the midst of breaking my heart with the rest of America, the hit NBC show “This Is Us” astounded me with the simplest line. I had to hear it more than once. I said it slowly a few times over to make sure I caught it.

And when I did, I cried.

It’s something Kate (an overweight and highly insecure, but incredibly talented daughter) says to Jack (her heroic, heart-throb, doting father). “Don’t ever stop trying to make me see myself the way you see me.” It’s stunning. And I just can’t stop wondering… Is there anything that better captures what a father-daughter relationship ought to be?

Better yet, is there anything that better captures what love ought to be? As a friend? A brother or sister? A daughter or son? A husband or wife?

I have a dad like Jack Pearson. I have vivid memories of being simply adored by him, both as a little girl and as an adult. Because of him, and my dear brothers (and mama and sister, too), I grew up with a confidence that wasn’t phased by the hormones of puberty or the heartbreak of unrequited love (let’s be fair, unrequited) crushes in high school. Nothing in me ever doubted how deeply I was valued, and though the factors to that reality may be multiple, the greatest one is clear:

My daddy never stopped trying to make me see me the way he saw me.

And it changed everything.

Seeing me the way he saw me meant I believed that I was brave and capable. It meant I didn’t question if I was beautiful or valued or worth being treated with respect and honor. It meant I held my head high and shared my opinions boldly and tactfully. It meant I believe I mattered.

Now, I’m not yet a mama, and I will never be a daddy who is larger than life to his little girl. But as a staff member at a local church who spends the majority of time with middle and high school students, I spend the vast majority of my time trying to help teenagers see themselves the way I see them.

Often to the point of tears, questioning passionately in my own mind, “How long until you believe me?! Your grades don’t define you! Your performance on the field… the opinions of the boy… the comments of the mean girls…” Like a broken record, I say the same things over, and over again.

You are beautiful.

You are worth loving.

You are brave.

You are capable.

You are adored and treasured and important and unique.

You matter. You matter. You matter. You matter.

Oh, what I would give for them to see them the way I see them!! Brilliant. Capable. Brave. Creative. World changers. Pure gold.

And so often they don’t believe me. And so I try, and try again. And I genuinely hope I never stop trying to help them see them the way I see them.

So, what does it really mean to love someone? Is it not to help them see them the way you see them? Fully known and fully loved. It’s looking them in eyes, in the midst of the mess, and reminding them that they are seen and deeply loved.

It’s reminding her that she’s brave when she quits her job to pursue her dream. It’s telling him that he matters when he feels overlooked. It’s telling her she’s beautiful when she doesn’t believe it. It’s reminding him he’s capable when he’s ready to quit.

Jack Pearson never stopped trying to make his family see themselves the way he saw them. And all of America adored him because of it. Mourn his loss if you must (is it too late for a spoiler alert?), but as you do, look around at the ones you love. Think of how you see them, and then promise to never stop trying to help them see them the way you see them.

And then think of the ones who love you best. The ones who have never stopped trying to make you see you the way they see you. Might you take a leap and just believe them?

Lean in. Listen close. Choose to see yourself the way they see you. Brave. Capable. Deeply adored and worthy of love.

I’m pretty sure a whole lot will change when you do. 💫

Let the Silence Linger.


Friday was heavy. It was dark and long and all hope seemed lost. When Jesus breathed his last everything seemed to shatter, and the pieces didn’t come back together nearly as quickly as we pretend they did.

We forget that heaven held its breath in a holy pause that we don’t like or understand.

It makes us squirm when we think about it, and so we tend to simply not. But as broken and long and hard as we find Friday to be; we simply cannot skip over Saturday in anticipation for Sunday morning. We can’t because Yahweh didn’t. He surely could have designed history to proclaim, prophesy, and anticipate two days instead of three. He could have, and he didn’t.

It matters that we remember how Yahweh let the silence linger.

There is so much purpose to his design. He let the ones closest to Jesus wake up and live a whole day with no answers, no direction. He let them wonder. He let them hurt. He let them long for a different end to the story. He gave them the chance to remember.

And as though one whole day of quiet was not enough, Yahweh took it one step further and designed that day to be the Sabbath (Luke 23:56). The Sabbath was a day of required rest for the Jewish people and it started on Friday night at sundown. The most tragic day in history was followed immediately by a day of quiet rest. Jewish law prohibited the people to do anything unnecessary. It was not a day for work, for leisure, or for adventure. But rather, for reflection, peace and stillness.

And there just has to be a reason that Yahweh let this day be silent. He wastes nothing, you know. He assigns purpose and value to every single breath you breathe. He has designed even the darkest moments of your life for your good and His glory.

Isn’t this very weekend evidence of that?

Though I have it in my head that God’s provision must equal my comfort, Holy Saturday reminds me that following Jesus is anything but comfortable. It is sticky, and messy, and sometimes really, really hard. It reminds me that sometimes I want answers that the Lord isn’t ready to give. It reminds me that sometimes I have to sit in the thickness of unanswered prayer, and wait longingly for things I am unsure I will receive.

On a day of unanswered hope, would you let it be just that? Would you let the cavities of your heart feel the weight of a supposed Savior who seemed lost for good? Would you take time today, even if only a moment, to press into the significance of this silent Saturday? Would you press into the prayers of your heart that feel unanswered? The desires that seem looked over?

Ultimately, may the silence of this day sharpen your sensitivity to His voice, knowing that soon heaven will exhale and the silence will be broken with the most glorious news imaginable.

Table for One.

It was over a year ago now that was getting a run down of sports practices and allergies and curfews and dog protocol as the mom of my students prepared for vacation. I’d be staying with her kids for a few days and it was information overload.

In between the always do this and never do that analysis, she casually asked, “Do you have a boyfriend? He’s welcome to come hang out while you’re with the kids this weekend.”

“No, I don’t. But I’m moving to Florida this summer so…”

I honestly don’t remember what I said next. What I do remember is feeling incredibly curious over why I felt the need to justify and explain my singleness by sharing an upcoming move. Yes, I was indeed moving that summer, but I had surely not rejected a host of suitors because of it. I was single because I was single… moving to Florida was a separate reality altogether.

It seems that the older I get (which I fully recognize isn’t old at all) the more uncomfortable this conversation becomes. And because it’s uncomfortable, I stay away from it.

We tend to do that with most things, don’t we? When discomfort is on the horizon and we have the option, we move toward comfort. I’ve seen this embarrassing reality come to light a lot lately.

I never imagined I would be nearing 27 and single. But nothing in me doubts that the Lord is intricately aware and involved in this aspect of my life as much as He is in any other.

The problem is this:

We have made marriage ultimate.

That is, our American Christian culture has made marriage ultimate. This is why young adult singles in the church feel like they’re roaming, incapable of finding a fit, unable to land. We’re not in college, but we’re also not newlyweds and we don’t have a young family. So the church usually shoves us with the college kids and calls us “young professionals,” secretly hoping we meet & marry someone there so we’ll have a better place to fit.

I get it. It’s a hard season.

But I can’t override the story that Yahweh has thoughtfully and intentionally written for me. If marriage really is supreme, then it’s been a gross oversight of the Lord to withhold it from me. And if it’s really all we tell our young people to look toward (in our actions even more than our words), then we will miss connection with a massive demographic of people who walk in and out of our churches, and our lives.

The truth is my favorite adventures and greatest joys of the last four years would have not happened if I had been married when I thought I would be married. Singleness in my life has been a sweet grace from the Lord.

I know many of my married friends would say the same. Which is why the conclusion should simply be this: Jesus knows. Let Him work as He will individually in our hearts without expecting it to look the same as our neighbors.

To my married friends, we love your love. We learn from it; we are encouraged by it. But we don’t have it. Making marriage ultimate in your life communicates that what the Lord has given us is somehow second best. Idolizing your marriage is just as broken as the single friend obsessed with a desire for it. Model surrender. Model reliance on Christ even as you walk in a fulfilled desire.

For my single friends, you are not a half-life. You have more potential, more freedom, and more opportunity to serve, love, and give to those around you. Your time, resources, and talents can be used toward infinite Kingdom purposes if you would only let them.

For my somewhere-in-between friends, you are not married until you say, “I do.” Don’t rush into the next stage of life and miss the fullness the Lord has for you while you are still unmarried.

Let’s be a community that fosters a fight for contentment in every life stage. Whether you find yourself unmarried, childless, or still looking for the right fit professionally.

Our unmet desires may take different forms, but our Jesus is the same, and He is the giver of good gifts. We can trust Him with the areas that feel “lacking.”

And in the mean time, can we agree to at least try to show grace to one another in the midst of the uncomfortable conversation around singleness? Here are some thoughts on things you should and shouldn’t say to your single friends:

Things you should stop saying to your single friends:

  • “As soon as you stop looking/when you least expect it, your spouse will find you.”
    • The thing is, I have friends who have searched the high heavens for a spouse and found them. I have others who are so focused on the life God has given them, and remain single. Since there isn’t a formula, let’s not promote one.
  • “If you have a desire for it, it will happen.”
    • Sadly, this just isn’t true. Scripture never promises the fulfillment of every desire, it promises Christ. Scores of people have lived their lives with unmet desires. It may be an unmet desire for a spouse, or it could be a desire for a child, for family members to come to Christ. Lean in to Christ, don’t count on the fulfillment of every hope and want.
  • “Maybe he/she is not ready for you yet.” Or “As soon as you’re ready, he/she will show up!”
    • As if marriage is a reward for being “ready”? As if people who never marry missed it because they were just never ready enough? Again, there is no formula, my dearest friends.
  • “Gosh, how are you still single?” or “But you’re so awesome! Why hasn’t anyone realized that?”
    • Just don’t. Ever.

Instead, here are some things you should start saying to your single friends:

  • “Let’s have dinner.”
  • “Come hang out with my family.”
  • “How you are leveraging your time/gifts/resources for the Kingdom?”

The church was designed to be a community that gathered together – in every life stage, in every struggle, in every success – to magnify the name of Jesus, to shout of His glory & goodness, and to bring Heaven to Earth. Let’s focus on that, and trust our good, good Father with the rest.

Lenny Jump.

Lenny Harris. Lenny. LH. Len. Len-girl.

It’s my favorite variation of nicknames, reserved only for family.

And as most nicknames in my family, it originated out of the blue and somehow found a way of sticking. When we were little, my sister, being just shy of a year older than me, couldn’t say “Jennifer.” Instead, she would try and say, “Jenny,” but her little girl lisp made it sound like “Lenny.”

At the time there was a player for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Stoltzfus family’s all-time favorite team, named Lenny Harris. And my family, being anything but stingy with nicknames, somehow caused it to stick.

Fast forward a few years from the origination of Lenny, and you’d find me in the 2nd grade, at Sarasota Christian School. I have many distinct memories from this year, including the dearest teacher named Mrs. Hunt who taught us to count to ten in French, a friend who had diabetes (I remember this mostly because she got extra snacks throughout the day (to maintain her blood sugar), and I was jeeeaaaaaalous), and the Lenny Jump.

The Lenny Jump was a term coined by my parents after the fascination of SCS faculty and staff grew every day my daddy picked me up from school (or on days he would stop by midday to share lunch, or just say hello). I can’t exactly remember if we would wait in the hallway to be picked up, or what, but I remember this: the very moment my eyes saw my daddy, I would SPRINT down the hall and leap fearlessly into his arms. He would call me pretty and tell me he loved me. He would spin me around.

And there is just no way he will ever understand how much his love taught me about Yahweh God.

Through the tenderness of my daddy, I learned to trust my Heavenly Father relentlessly. I learned to sprint full-speed toward all that He is and all that He leads me to, and I learned to jump, without hesitation, knowing I would be caught every time. I learned that I was safe and secure in Daddy’s arms. I learned that I was deeply known and deeply loved.

I grew up believing every daddy was as whimsical and endearing as my own. As I have learned the naivety of this belief, I have grown in thankfulness for who my father is and who he has encouraged me to be.

So, thank you, Daddy.

Thanks for telling me I was beautiful every day I can remember. Thanks for always telling me you loved me. Thanks for coaching my tee-ball team (even though I was the only girl) and for supporting my decision to not play softball (…because it was only girls). Thanks for building us a playhouse and a fire pit in the back yard, and for making sure it was used for fire-cooked dinners and endless summer fun.

Thanks for letting me sit in your lap and “drive” down our 300-foot driveway. Thanks for making tires into rafts when the front yard flooded. Thanks for making everything a game to played. Thanks for finding joy in everything, and for making laughter a daily part of life. Thanks for being the biggest Bucs fan in the world and for raising kids to be your only rivals of that love.

Thanks for always, always, always encouraging me to follow Jesus (no matter how far or how crazy the call), and for praying for me and writing letters every time I was gone. Thanks for trusting Jesus and teaching me to do the same. Most of all, thanks for loving Mama more than anything else on earth.

You will never fully understand how deeply you have shaped my heart and life.

Happy Father’s Day, Pops. I adore you!



be{Coming Home}

It was just over a year ago that I played Tetris with the sum of my earthly possessions. One year since I carefully packed and repacked and repacked again to ensure each item would fit tightly placed in the back of Yoda, my Toyota RAV4. One year since, through buckets of tears, I said goodbye to the town, friends, students, and families that I completely adored and followed Jesus into the unknown of Orlando, Florida.

I go back and forth between feeling like I’ve always been here and wondering why I ever came in the first place. Feelings of deep friendship battle feelings of loneliness and disconnection. Confidence in what Jesus has brought me to mixed with missing the place He had me.

It makes home a funny thought to me these days. Yes, I live in Orlando now. But I left a big ‘ole piece of my heart in Dallas. West Palm Beach is my favorite place in America. And WinShape Camps in Rome, GA will forever be holy ground to me, a place I feel utterly and entirely home. Even still, my family lives in four different cities, in three different states, way too many miles apart.

It has me thinking a lot about home & “thin places.”

It’s a Celtic idea that is rich with the pursuit of God’s presence here on earth. It’s the idea that there are places on earth (the Celts thought actual, physical places) where Heaven is nearer than others. Now, I’m not quite sure that the coordinates matter, but I’m bent on the idea that we can welcome the already pervasive presence of God and allow it to change our spaces.

I’m giddy at the idea that we could be curators of a love so divine that people sense the presence of Jesus when they’re with us… no matter where it happens to be.

The more I think about living in Orlando, and home, and missing the places I have spent days, and months, and years of my life, the more I think about the gift Yahweh has given us in creating havens for others to find rest. In the smallest sense of the word I want to be home. I don’t want to go home anymore; I want to be it. I want to be a place of refuge, consistency, and joy. I want to remind people who they really are and to Whom they really belong. I want the noble name of Jesus to show up in every conversation. Not out of obligation, but because knowing Him as changed me. It has made me better, and different, and more hopeful. It has made me kinder, more thoughtful, more loving.

I want friends and strangers alike to feel a sense of belonging and value and safety when they are with me. Be it in my living room, across the table from me with a hot cup of coffee, overseas in a Costa Rican high school, or across the globe, connected only through FaceTime.

Home doesn’t have to be an address. It’s people, full of stories and life and laughter. It’s a freedom to invite others into and a reflection of our good Father. It’s a commitment to showing up fully wherever you are. Where have you been given the opportunity to curate home? What can you do to invite and engage the Spirit of God in order to make your current location a thin place? Where can you join Yahweh in a place He is already at work?

Let’s stop coming home, and become home instead.


Unpack: Round 2

{Disclaimer: I first wrote & published this in February 2014, just months after moving from Florida to Texas. It’s now been 10 months since I moved from Texas back to Florida, and I’m finding my heart in the exact same place. I changed one word in this revision, replacing “Dallas” with “Orlando.” It’s humbling to be reminded that most lessons need to be learned over & over & over & over. Hope this one finds a place in your heart.}


I find it inconvenient, frustrating, and simply a waste of time. Whether the item to unpack is an overnight bag from a weekend adventure, or everything I own in a cross-country move. I simply hate it.

You see, I’m a lover. I want to dive right into life. I want to meet the people, drink the coffee, and see the town. I want to discover how many stars I can see from my backyard on any given night. I want to memorize the skyline. I want to find old bookstores and hidden coffee shops and outdoor markets with sunflowers and fresh blueberries. I want to, for goodness’ sake, get anywhere with using the navigation on my iPhone.

I don’t want to find a new space for every possession I found worthy of a cross-country move. I don’t want to rewash dishes that have sat in cardboard boxes or iron clothes that have been tightly shoved in suitcases. I don’t want to be reminded that I have too many t-shirts, and books, and coffee mugs.

But my recent cross-country move has forced me to face a reality that ran far deeper than the boxes in the bedroom:


Not just for aesthetics, but for my heart.

I realized that these habits represent far more than my tendencies in moving to a new home, or city, or state. It’s not just the “inconvenience” of unpacking. It’s the refusal to sift through what I carry. And it has nothing to do with the dishes in my cabinet.

No. It’s the fear of failing, the strained friendships, the heartbreaks, and the feeling like I’ve disappointed the people I love. It’s the familiarity I thought I was so ready to leave, but now miss more desperately than I ever thought possible. It’s the insecurities, the fear, and the doubting of everything I once felt sure of.

It’s refusing to unpack a thousand experiences worth of memory, and joy, and hurt. It’s the fear of what I might find hiding behind my deepest longings. The comments that hurt for reasons I don’t want to understand. The comparison I subject myself to when I see the posting of distant friends litter my newsfeed, reminding me of all the things I’m not. It’s the inclination to run at the first sign of vulnerability, and it’s a pitifully dreadful impulse.


Would you lean in to the full on, all out, renovation of your worthy-of-wholeness heart? Would you, piece by piece, empty the boxes you’ve shoved in the attic and left unlabeled, hoping to avoid the shame of all you know you put inside? Would you take out every article of clothing with intentionality and care, as if it was best outfit you’ve ever owned? You know, the pink eyelet dress with strappy brown wedges, or the flowy sky blue sweater that makes you feel like you could fly. Treat it all that way. And taking each piece, fingering a myriad of fabrics, decide what can stay and what must go.


Here’s the thing: so much of what you’ll find packed away in those boxes should stay. You may need to do a little dusting, but find a place on the shelf you pass every evening and celebrate life every time you steal a glance. Decide why it should stay, and then rejoice that you have it, that it’s yours.

But so much needs to go. Dig deep down and find the strength to say goodbye. Carefully box up your bitterness and mark it for the trash. Take each ounce of fear and throw it away. Look under the bed and in the drawer of your nightstand and find the doubt you talk to on the nights you can’t sleep. Make sure there’s not a hint remaining, and toss it out. Find every piece of “I-wish-it-were-different” hiding in the corners and repurpose it. Our deepest hurt can set the stage for our greatest glimpses of glory, and then (and only then) it can stay.



Thoughts on the Refugee Crisis: Mourn. Act. Pray.

I am by no means the most learned or the wisest. You could find a better-written article with more research, I’m certain.

But I do know this: I cannot say nothing.

Here’s what else I know: Yahweh God has ALWAYS fought for the displaced. He has always taken care of the sojourner and commanded His people to do likewise.

More than the dreamiest sunset or the most breathtaking mountain range, Yahweh put His image in humans. We are the image bearers. Muslim refugees are the image bearers. Let us not forget that.

So what we can do?


It has to start here. Jesus calls us to mourn & be comforted (Matthew 5:4). Paul exhorts us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). There are scores of people weeping tonight. Let us weep with them.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

I will weep with the refugees. I will weep for the Christians whose view of Yahweh has become so distorted. I will mourn that the shadows of humanity’s brokenness are nearly overcoming in these days.


We CAN do something. No- we MUST do something.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Write to your representative. Use your voice to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.


Pray. Pray. Pray.

It seems like so little, but our best fight and loudest voice is at the Mercy Seat.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the through of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

In case you’ve forgotten, Jesus was a Middle Eastern refugee. He gets it. Pray that He might be near to the refugees right now.

Prayers for the Muslim refugee:

  • Pray that God might intervene on their behalf.
  • Pray that they might not associate the wicked decisions of our President with the merciful heart of Yahweh God.
  • Pray that they might meet Jesus. It is often heard from Muslim converts that they met Isa (the Arabic name corresponding to Jesus) in dreams leading to their conversion. Pray desperately that Muslims might meet Jesus in dreams and come to know His heart and character.

Prayers for the American Christian:

  • Pray fervently that life on this earth will never be our highest aim. May His Kingdom be our greatest prize and His glory our highest desire.
  • Pray that our highest allegiance is to the King, not a nation.

Prayers for our President:

  • Pray that Yahweh God might radically capture the heart of Donald Trump.
  • Pray that President Trump would be sensitive to the voices raised against the Refugee Ban in the coming days.
  • Pray for the people on the various councils that will have a voice in this matter.
  • Pray that the decision is revoked.

I am sick to my stomach and weepy at the reality of our world right now. I am longing for Christ’s return. But until then, we can mourn. We can act. We can pray.

Join me?

Get Your Hopes Up.

“But I’m trying not to get my hopes up.”

It’s a tag line I hear often, assuming one is brave enough to say the wild, crazy thing that maybe, might just happen. It’s a caveat I insert myself, just to level the ground of expectation and potential reality.

Because let’s be honest, worst-case scenario is not not getting what we hope for. We deal with that all the time. Worst-case scenario is people knowing it. People knowing that we wanted something badly, and it didn’t work out.

And so we lie.

We say we aren’t excited about the job. We say we aren’t trying for the baby. We say we aren’t interested in the boy. We say we don’t care what school we get accepted to or what scholarships we are offered. We dilute our desires and muddle down our longings.

I was curling my hair early on a Sunday morning not long ago, my mind wandering to dreams for upcoming adventures and ministry potential. I was letting myself get carried away before quickly chiding myself “not to get my hopes up.”

And ya know, it’s not too often that I hear the voice of God so undeniably. But with half my head still looking much like a lioness, as I slowly curled it piece by piece into something presentable, it came so clearly:

“I want you to get your hopes up, Gwen. It’s one of my favorite things. Have you forgotten? I am the God of Hope.”

The God of Hope.

The God who loves it when our dreams seems unattainable. The God who delights when we desire things that haven’t come to pass. The God who let’s us wait and anticipate because it draws us closer and closer to Him in the process.

There is a cavern of God’s character that you will simply not experience if you refuse to hope. You could stifle deep desires and still see them fulfilled. But you will miss tender, dear moments with the God who loves it when you hope.

Here’s the thing about hope: it stops being hope the moment it becomes tangible.

“Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:24-25

The moment you’re offered the job. The moment the girl says, “Yes.” The moment the word “pregnant” appears as you sit anxiously on the bathroom floor.

And this is what I’m learning: The more honest we are about what exactly we’re hoping for, the more glory our sweet King Jesus will get. The more honest you are about what you hope to see happen the more your tribe can enter into it with you. Whether in mourning or in celebration.

Mourning. It sucks. And it’s hard. It’s painful. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12) But I am convinced that mourning alone for the thing you refused to acknowledge as a genuine desire is exponentially more painful than mourning with your people for the thing you boldly hoped for.

And I’m just as sure that celebrating alone for the thing you were afraid to want is just a fraction of the fun it is when your home team knows what you’ve been hoping for and shows up with champagne and party hats when that thing comes to pass.

Hope is scary. It’s a world of unknowns. It is pages of “maybes” and “if onlys.” And it’s terrifying. But I’m convinced that it leads us to experience the heart of God in an immeasurably precious way.

It is worth the risk. It’s worth the wait. Cause you just can’t out hope the God of Hope. You can’t out dream Him. You can’t out imagine Him.

So, “May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

Get your hopes up because it’s the genuine desire of your heart.

Get your hopes up because it honors God.

Get your hopes up knowing some of them will never come to pass.

Just get your hopes up.