Depression – What helps and hurts

Yesterday was global mental health day. I didn’t know it was until one of my friends posted a favorite quote about depression on social media. Every disease and social issue seems to have an awareness day or even a whole month dedicated to it (who gets to decide these things by the way?).

I think that awareness is very important, but sometimes it just adds to the noise and makes us think we are doing something to change the world around us when we aren’t, we are just sitting in isolation and typing up our opinions. I often see awareness as a young 20 something standing on some kind of makeshift platform with a bullhorn, trying to grab the attention of the people passing by her, all busy with their to do lists and relational priorities. Maybe what she’s saying needs to be heard, but the loudness from the bullhorn and the elevation she’s standing on to help her be seen, are actually the elements that will cause her message to feel distance and unimportant to those she’s trying to reach.


Listening hearts more than ears is what is needed for awareness to be effective, at least in my opinion. And the heart is not as easily engaged in awareness conversations.

I guess I say all that because the loud voices without action and heart engagement drives me nuts. But as someone who likes words and debating, I’m not saying I’m above this sort of passivity.

With that in mind I’m going to share a few of my thoughts on how to help people, who are struggling with depression. Depression is just one of the many mental illnesses people suffer from, but it is the most prevalent. It’s also the mental illness I have been dealing with for most of this past year.

Originally when I thought about writing a post about depression, I thought I would share my story and what I’ve been experiences with some tips for those who have loved ones who are also suffering. But I’m not at the place I can yet write about my story, so I’m just going to share a few thoughts about what was helpful and hurtful to me when I was really in a dark place, with the hopes it helps a few people better interact with their loved ones who are suffering with this illness.

A few qualifiers or items to note before I begin. These thoughts are all based upon my experience, and thus of course they won’t apply to everyone dealing with depression. Secondly, if you’re my friend and you find your actions listed on the “not helpful” list, it’s ok. So many of my actions towards many friends who dealt with depression before I had would also be listed there also. Thirdly, if you’re tired of reading already here’s my one main and plain pointer for helping your friends and loved ones who deal with depression, give them unconditional love! Show up in their lives and love them during the roller coaster of highs and lows.


(All these thoughts were written on my iPhone notes to help me cope and process during the really dark days. These helpful and not helpful actions and words were all things I actually experienced with people.)

What Helps


  1. When you hear me out and ask perceptive and insightful questions about what’s going on in my head and heart, WITHOUT judgement.
  2. When you dig past my generic answers. I want to share more, but I won’t share more because I don’t trust you actually want to hear it. So if you want to know how I really am, you’re going to have to dig a little and listen hard.
  3. When you tell me you understand and literally say “you’re not crazy.”
  4. When you remind me that you love me no matter what.
  5. Empathy without feeling the need to go into all the details of your story and assume what worked for you will work for me.
  6. Bible verses specifically about God’s love for the lowly and that He fights our battles for us.
  7. Telling me to come over to your house. I may not feel like going initially, but I always feel better when I’m there surrounded by people that love me.
  8. Asking me about suicidal thoughts (this was rarely done). I know you’re scared to ask, but you need to. Ask if I’ve thought about it, and if I have, ask if I have a plan.
  9. When you remind me about the good you see in me. I am not just my depression but sometimes I think I am. I feel as though I’ve lost myself or all my good qualities. Remind me that I haven’t. Where do you still see gold in my life?
  10. When you help me find a counselor. Compile a list, sit down with me and help me make the phone calls. Offer to help pay for some of the cost if you can. It’s so incredibly hard to make these phone calls and actually set up appointments.
  11. When you pray for me.

What Doesn’t Help or Hurts me


  1. Generic questions. “How is your relationship with Jesus?” What I hear when you ask this is, “your relationship with Jesus must not be good because you struggling so much. If you were really going to God and allowing him to move in your life He would.”
  2. The statement “You don’t have to be sad or be in depression, it’s a choice, get off the roller coaster.” (Hello, this was/is the hardest season of my life. Why would anyone choose depression?)
  3. “This is what I did and it worked.” – What I hear is, “if you were as motivated as I was you could get passed all this.” I want to hear your story and how you got through, but please first empathize. Tell me about the bad days, tell me how painful and hard it was. Don’t jump so quickly to how you go out of it, it belittles the pain I’m in and the battle I’m fighting. I want to hear truth and about your journey, but I need it from a place of caring and understanding.
  4. “Your emotions follow your thinking.” I largely agree with this, but it’s a long slow slow process. Don’t assume because I’m still struggling with depression that my mind is full of sin and lies.
  5. Lecturing me and reprimanding me when I’m in a bad emotional place. During depression, like all times in life, I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to cope in the wrong ways. Don’t lecture me about my bad decisions during my bad days. During depression I had/have good days, save the lectures for those days or figure out how to encourage me to make good choices without the lecture. I still need truth on bad days, but the kinds of truth I need right now is the reminder that God loves me and you love me and believe in me.
  6. If you’re going to be there for me then be there for me. Don’t act like you are and then not answer my calls and texts. It’s ok if you can’t be there for me, not everyone can be. But I need people I know I can go to during dark times and they are going to respond. I need safe people. If you don’t have the time or energy don’t pretend to.

A few extra thoughts

Validations empowers. Validation gives me the ability to trust myself and believe I can make good decisions. Validation is necessary to help me stand up straight and begin to try and walk again. Maybe I need to be pruned a little too, but first offer some validation.

Shame does that exact opposite. Shame is fear based and it will only weaken me further.

Look out for the “struggling but” statements. “I’m struggling or life is hard, BUT God is good.” “I’m not doing the best, BUT God’s got me.” These statements are how we cut the tension. It’s a social politeness when talking to people to cut the tension. If we were to really tell you how we are, we know it would feel like a weight or burden, so we typically cut that tension with humor or with but statements (filled with Christianese if you’re a Christian). If you want to really know how we are give us eye contact and caring and insightful questions. Better yet, offer yourself and your time so we can really share our hearts.

If I really trust you you’re going to get the full brunt of my down days. You’re going to get all the negativity without any glimmer of optimism because that’s how I really feel most days. You’re going to hear my exaggerated sentiments about my life and relationships as I express my pain and hurt. The friends who have really helped me have left me vent and told me it didn’t faze them and reinforced after that they love me.

If I offer to show someone my true pain and I’m immediately hit with advice (meant to forge optimism in me) I will shut down and trust is lost.

Sometimes it seems ungodly to not offer optimism when we share our pain and battle with depression. It may seem like we’ve lost our hope in God when we verbalize our struggle without stating we “see God” or “we know he will get us through.” But it absolutely doesn’t mean that when we state our pain without stating anything about God that we don’t hope in him. In fact we probably hope in his strong arm to save more than we ever have. Yes, we may not be completely confident he will pull us through, but still it is our hope. And even if we are 100% confident he will pull us through we also know that is not likely to happen immediately. We know that we still have a long road ahead of us, will you join us on that road? Will you walk with us a bit? Or simply point to the road marker and show us on the map where to go, wish us luck without offering any part of your time and resources?

No Man’s Land 1: Comfort Less


There are areas of my life where I try to be honest with myself. I like Starbucks and I spend too much money there. I like napping on my couch and youtube. I like snacking by myself…on my couch…while watching youtube. These are things I find comfort in.

I enjoy comfortable settings. Though I myself am not great at interior decorating, I really appreciate when people create beautiful and peaceful spaces inside their homes. I notice and it makes me feel happy, more at home, and again…comfortable.

The people I most like to spend time with are people that know me really well. And people I can relate to on a deep level or have similar interests and passions. It’s easy to converse when I feel understood.  


I guess what I’m saying is I value comfort. I know the conditions that bring me that feeling of happiness and contentment, and whether I’m always aware of it or not I find myself spending a good portion of my life pursuing that feeling.

But comfort and contentment doesn’t equal fulfillment. I’ve found it’s easy to be happy and enjoy life, while at the same time feeling hollow inside. And equally so it’s possible to feel deeply fulfilled, yet carry a mixed bag of emotions and struggles that definitely aren’t comfortable.

~ ~ ~

This fall I’m moving to a conflict zone in the Middle East. I’ll be working as a nurse in a new clinic that is being established for local and displaced people (due to security reasons I’m not able to say where exactly I will be, but feel free to ask me in private or message me). I’m telling you about my addiction to comfort, so you know that I’m no different than you. My desire for comfort and intensity of love for my couch may even be stronger than yours. I’m also telling you this because it was one of the first realizations God had to awaken me to before my eyes could see the door He was opening to this place and people that his heart is broken for.

Like I said, I try to be self aware, and forthcoming about (*some of) my weaknesses. Because consciousness is the first step towards moving myself out of hypocrisy, where my stated values don’t align with my actions. But self-awareness only gets me so far, especially when a subconscious value is so deeply rooted inside me. I mean the kind of deeply rooted where I was making life decisions through the lens of comfort without even thinking about.

I enjoy adventure and spontaneity. Actually I need those things to really thrive. I’m also a passionate person, so I speak with intensity about injustice and the truths I believe God has shown me. So people, including myself at times, could look at my life and think I’m wired for taking risks and I’m totally unafraid to go wherever God would call me.


But I have been afraid, nervous about completely jumping in. My fears don’t have to do with death, but loneliness and unknowns. I’ve felt God beckoning me to “the hard places” for a long time. My heart trembling and overtaken with grief when I see the extreme suffering that is happening, specifically to children, all over the world. But I’ve looked away, pretending like I didn’t see Jesus motioning me to follow him.


The love story in Song of Solomon resembles my journey. In SOS 2:8-17 the bride’s Beloved comes to her and invites her to come away with him. He tells her now is the right time, it’s harvest time. He reminds her of their love and his desire for her to be with him. Though she loves him, she tells him to go on without her.

“Until the day breathes and the shadows flee,  Turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle or a young stag on the cleft mountains.”

After this scene, the bride goes through a process with her beloved, one filled with trial and pain. But at the end of the story the bride is the one beckoning her Beloved to the fields. Her desires and her actions now fully match his. And she proclaims that she wishes all could see her love for him.

I’m not yet at the place where the bride is at the end of the story, but I’m hopeful that this is path Jesus has me on. And more than that I’m encouraged because I know my Beloved’s desire is for me and every step of the way his leadership is full of love. He sees me. He looks at my heart, sees my desire to live fully with Him, but also sees the barriers to me doing that, and He knows how to perfectly and gently remove those barriers. All in love.

If we love Jesus, we are all on this journey. He’s beckoning us, he’s beckoning you, to come with him to the fields. The battle fields, the harvest fields, he wants you to come and join him there. We are his chosen bride, we are dark (full of sin/compromise) but he sees past that, to our potential, and says we are lovely (SOS 1:5).

No Father would give his pride and joy, his perfect son, to be married to an unworthy bride, to be joined with a woman who didn’t love him in the same way he loves her, and who didn’t value or want the same things he does. Yet God the Father is willing to give Jesus, the most humble and righteous man, to us in marriage. We who are lovers of self, and pursuers of comfort and pleasure. But he’s also committed to making us worthy of Jesus. We can not make ourselves worthy of him. But we can take Jesus’ hand and go with him to the mountain of myrrh, the place of death. We can choose to trust his leadership and believe the best about him in times of trial and pain, because this is what he does for us.

Sometimes you can have both fulfillment and comfort. But you have to decide which are you committed to. I think God wants us to be happy. He’s a God of joy, but He has this all encompassing plan in the works, so the whole world can live in that place of joy and it’s a battle to get there. Will we join him? Will we trade our pleasure now for the reward of never ending joy in the age to come? We’re all invited to the battlefield with him. Maybe it’s Syria, South Sudan, Iraq, Chicago, the Red-light district, or so many other places that are in need of the perfect love, justice and mercy of Jesus. He wants us there, we aren’t some damsel in distress bride. We are his chosen battle companion.

One final thought

There is so much injustice and suffering happening right now in the Middle East and North Africa. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed because there is so much need and you don’t know where you are “called,” I’m inviting you to come with me. Seriously, contact me and I can help get you connected. The time for lone heroes of the faith being sent out to nations alone, never to return, was amazing and inspiring; but now is the time for a nameless, faceless generation of lovers to arise and storm the gates of hell together.



Sometimes, I post things on this blog that are basically just excerpts from my journal (or iPhone notes). That’s what this is. It doesn’t flow very well, because it was a stream of thoughts, and I didn’t want to edit it. It feels relevant, so I’m posting it. But it’s also vulnerable, so I’m nervous about doing so. I added some definitions, because I feel the need to add some objectivity into the mix; which seems to be super rare these days.

Definitions (from

Sexism:  prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially :  discrimination against women

Feminism:  the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

Racism: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

My stream of thoughts and confessions 

It’s the same as racism
It’s stereotyping an entire group of people usually in a negative way
My sexism started from a wound that never healed
It created a stronghold in my mind that kept affirming that men can’t be trusted, men are prideful, men are sexist, men are not for me, I can’t connect with men
I didn’t want this stronghold
I often thought I was wired wrong
But I wasn’t wired wrong, I just had this large stronghold in my mind
I was hoping and praying the right man would come into my life and remove it with his perfect love and affection
But that Man is already in my life
He doesn’t try to change me unless I want it and unless I’m willing to work with him
I’ve been legitimately wounded and hurt my men in this world
But not all men are like that
I’m fragile now
I see the wall and I’m beginning to tear it down, but I need help
I need men to apologize and hear me out
Then I need to accept their apology, forgive, and move on
I need to repent for looking for the bad in them
They aren’t perfect
They are weak and fragile just like me
I need to ask for forgiveness
There’s so much of this pain out there
But we aren’t getting healed in the right way
The music airways are being filled with songs about women tired of getting put down by men
We vibe with the music not realizing this is making us hard, not healed
We don’t even realize it
We are blind
We demand our right to speak and unleash our pain
But we aren’t healed from bleeding in public
We are just unveiling our woundedness
I didn’t think I was the problem
But I was part of it
I nursed my wounds which festered hate
and I don’t want to be that woman anymore

Threshold of Promise

surferI feel hands on my back pushing me into expectation
Like when a group of friends pushes you into that boy you’ve been crushing on and whispering about
but never talk to
The fear of rejection and disillusionment anchors my feet to the floor
I’m leaning my body weight against the forward movement
Better to not know
Better to live the dream only in my mind
Than face the possibility of hope deferred
My heart has been broken and bleeding too many times this past season
My eyes are dried of tears
To bleed again for the cause of faith and hope sounds valiant
But my zeal is very low
A life among the ordinary appeals to my desire for rest and safety
but I’ve burned all those bridges

And so here I stand
On an island
The only way forward is through the ocean
The waves are frightful
But I have no where else to go
My ship back to safety and comfort has already sailed
I’m looking into your vastness
I’m afraid to be consumed

But I feel a hazy sense of resurrection
It’s tingling underneath my skin
New life?
Maybe just maybe I do have the energy to rise again
To take my board and surf the waves of promise no matter how many times I’m wiped out by the waves of misplaced trust

These hands on my back feel comforting
I sense love in these hands
But what about when they stop pushing me
And there I stand
In Your presence
What will I say to You?
What will be Your response?
I’m told You’ve been whispering about me as well
But I haven’t heard many of those whispers for myself

I’m nervous
Could this be it?
I’m taking a deep breath
I’m looking up into Your eyes
And smiling

January 3, 2016


Leadership Lessons

Two weeks ago I found myself at a Christian leadership summit in Kansas City. A few hundred emerging and seasoned leaders from around the world were gathered together in a large hotel banquet hall sharing ideas, experiences, and a continental breakfast. Our purpose for being together was more straightforward and foundational than I expected it to be. And if I hadn’t been so tired from the 18 hour drive to Kansas City, and switching from night shift to day shift I would have been dancing with excitement (well, probably not actually dancing. It was a leadership gathering mind you, but you get my point. It was exciting). Our purpose was to put our heads, resources, and prayers together to strategize about completing the great commission, and seeing Jesus worshiped day and night in every nation and every language.IMG_2559Leadership Summit – Praying together over a large map of the world

It’s at times like these that I’m reminded that I am still young. I’m 25, so maybe that’s obvious. But even if I leave my age out of the picture, I know that when it comes to leadership I am young. Though I’ve been leading Bible studies, small groups, and discipleship programs for about a decade now, I still feel like a new leader.

For many years now people have affirmed my “leadership abilities,” and given me areas of oversight and people to lead. I’m so thankful for their affirmation and I’ve gained many valuable experiences from the opportunities I’ve been given. But because I had their voices always encouraging me onward,  I never really stopped to ask the Lord about how to lead or what it means to be a leader. I guess I sort of just assumed it was in me, because people told me it was, so I thought what I was doing must be the right stuff. And because of the mercy and love of Jesus, I believe some of it was.

But in the past 6 months of my life, a pause has been put on those opportunities, and God has been intensely pruning my heart and giving me a kingdom perspective and revealing his heart as a shepherd and as a king.

Leadership isn’t about you


To put it simply, he’s showed me that leadership isn’t about me or my “leadership giftings,” it’s about his sheep. In kindness, he revealed my heart motives were off track, I was viewing leadership sort of like climbing a career ladder in the ministry world. I cared about the people I led, very much, but I also cared A LOT about my needs and my success as a leader.

He reminded me that he leads his flock by laying down his life for them. So I must do the same if I am to be his disciple. I must pour out my giftings, my passions, my life to see the people I lead walk in the fullness of their callings. My goal should be to help the people I lead discern their callings and walk them through the process to get there. Meanwhile teaching them to do the same for others. 

Like a mother pours her life out for her children and doesn’t withhold her heart from them, I am to do likewise for those the Lord gives me to lead and disciple. My goal isn’t to replicate myself, my goal is to see my disciples or spiritual children walk in every good work that God has prepared in advance for them (Eph 2:10). My goal is to see them also become leaders, not necessarily a leader like myself, but a leader in whatever sphere God places them in.churchleadership

Practically speaking, I currently lead a team of about 6 people (give or take) on the Night Watch, at Gateway House of Prayer. I used to think that leadership during Night Watch meant continually casting vision for more effective prayer strategies and setting an example for my team to follow. Though that most certainly is part of my role, I believe I’m also called to lay down my life for each of my team members. Meaning, the things that have been given to me, all my talents and experiences, even my time and resources, I give to them, to see them become who they are destined to be. Of course, I’m not the only one called to pour into their lives and I can’t help them in every area of their lives, but I offer what I have. My desire is to see each of them confident in who they are, and what God has called them to do. And I believe when I do that, the prayer and worship that arises from the Night Watch will grow in effectiveness without me putting lots of effort in strategizing and casting vision. And like Paul said, I don’t claim to have already been made perfect in this area, but I press on to make it my own (Phil 3:12).
NW-ChristmasPartyNight Watch Crew

These leadership revelations are simple. Every parent understands them, and anyone who has read the New Testament will find these truths all over, especially in the gospels. But sometimes I find that even though I understand biblical truth, I still live as the world does. Because my worldview has been so shaped by human thinking. Understanding a concept is different than living it. The Pharisees and scribes knew the law, but they crucified the only man to ever fully embodied it. I want to be like that man in my leadership. I want to love Jesus through the way I lead, and he said to Peter, that to love him means feeding (taking care of) his sheep (John 21:15-19). 

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” –  John 13:12-17

Leadership is a character quality307934344-abraham-lincoln-quotes

During lunch at this leadership summit I had a conversation with another young leader in much of the same position as myself. We related on many topics, like singleness and forming meaningful relationships with people of the opposite gender, the emerging priority of prayer in our lives and the earth, and our excitement about revival. But then we started discussing how you discern who are the leaders in a community of people if they aren’t already defined. And as we talked God started revealing another layer of truth concerning leadership.

In the Kingdom of God, leadership isn’t just a role you play, but a character quality. Let me explain that a bit more, because it might be semantically confusing. There’s an action meaning for the words leader and follower, and all throughout our lives we play the roles of leader or follower in our function. This is a good thing, because God’s government is literally a kingdom, so we need to know how to follow and submit to those who are leading. But then there’s our heart posture, which Jesus is always super concerned about because it’s out of the overflow of the heart that we speak and act (Luke 6:45). And I believe we are all supposed to be leaders when it comes to our character, because we are being formed into a kingdom of kings and priests (Rev 5:10). A person who has formed leadership in their character is basically a mature follower of Christ, they are in it because of him and for him. Whereas as a follower (in character) is one who’s still mostly seeking what they can get out of something. They are followers because they follow the crowd, and whatever is trendy at the time. It doesn’t look bad on the outside, they may be doing all the right things, but their motives are off.

Those who are true leaders in character will actually make the best followers. They are the best followers because they aren’t just worried about their own needs and wants, but want to see the best outcome for everyone and the desires on the Lord’s heart fulfilled. Being a leader in character sets an example and raises a standard in how to truly follow and submit well.

Are you a leader or follower?following-the-leader

So it’s necessary to ask ourselves, “Am I acting like a leader or a follower in the things I’m involved in?” “Where is my heart?”

As I was dialoguing with the Lord about these things, I came up with list of distinguishing factors in leaders and followers when it comes to character. These lists might seem harsh, but sometimes when we really look at heart motives behind what we do it’s pretty ugly.


Leaders invest completely in the community, project or ministry.

They don’t withhold their hearts or passions.

They give because they know they will receive in due time, from the Lord primarily but also from others.

They carry the Word of the Lord for the assignment.

They take ownership, no matter if it fails or succeeds.

They put their name on it.

They aren’t afraid of criticism, because they’ve tuned their ear to heaven, so all criticism is filtered through heaven’s perspective. They can receive from it, even if it’s slimy and comes with malicious intent.

Leaders see future potential rather than just current weakness or flaws, because they know God. He uses the weak to shame the proud.


Followers invest so long as they receive more than they are required to give.

Followers are quick to criticize because they don’t take ownership for anything that goes wrong.

They look for fulfillment of their personal desires in the assignment, not necessarily the fulfillment of the Lord’s desires.

They are more attune to their own heart than the hearts of others or even the Lord.

They place blame instead of taking responsibility.

Followers might think their hearts are in it, but it’s superficial love. They love only what they receive and aren’t actually committed.

They are usually looking to receive honor.

His ways aren’t my ways


As I look at these lists, I’m super aware that in the not so recent past (as in the past few months) my character in some of the things I’m involved in was a lot more like a follower than a leader. I’m beyond thankful for this season of heart pruning and course correction. And for some reason the verses in 1 Timothy 3 come to mind, where it talks about the qualifications of an overseer (aka leader), and it says in verse 6 “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with pride and fall into sin brought on by the devil.” I’m not a recent convert in believing in Jesus as my Saviour. But in some ways I’m still pretty recently converted to living by the Spirit, and following his leadership. Though I think any leader, at any stage of life, can easily succumb to pride if they don’t guard their hearts, I understand why Paul would give this specification. Because the longer I walk with Holy Spirit, the more I see that my ways aren’t his ways. His ways of life and leading will always bring me closer to humility, and to the cross.

weak, small & mercifully humbled


It seems like a weak stance to believe in God

to pursue a life devoted to him

      and it is

If we believe this reality we become so very small

we are but a flicker of light

a single reed blown to oblivion by the wind

      we are a pebble

Compared to a divine being

who created and inhabits all materiality and spirituality

      we are seemingly insignificant

Let us stare this belief in the face

Take a snapshot of the supremacy of God

Let your heart quiver

Let your soul break

Let us arise broken


Never to regain the strength of our pride

Humbled under this weight of glory

Moleskin Revelation…thoughts on “story”

A few weeks ago I found one of my old moleskine journals hiding in my backpack. I began paging through it, and midway through stumbled on this little nugget. I felt like it was what I needed to be reminded of in the moment, so I’m going to share it.


Revelation on “Story”

We always want to be the main characters of our stories/lives. In fact the wording “our stories” implies that idea. We control our stories, we narrate them, and we are the focus of all the events taking place.

In my life, that idea causes me to thrill seek. Because the best parts of stories are the climaxes right? Stories need characters to change. They need action, adventure, love, romance, tragedy, and comedy. Stories need conflict and momentum. And as we passively watch stories play out in books, movies, or theater, we are rooting for the hero. If all the other characters die or fade from the story we can bare it if the hero survives and “wins” out in the end. No matter the surrounding devastation.

But I think there’s something faulty in this embedded understanding of us as the heros of our stories. I think there might be just a twinge of deception. A slight side step off the path. But because the path is narrow even a slight side step, be it an honest mistake, be it a valid point, be it even admirable, is still off the path. And if we aren’t on the narrow path, what then? Well then we aren’t headed toward life.

What am I suggesting? Simply, that we aren’t actually the heros of our stories. But there’s a broader point here. One that the Lord pointed out to me when I was considering my family.

I come from a big family. I have seven siblings, and a large extended family. And recently I noticed that we each have our own “thing.” We have our own lives, but more specifically we have our own passions. And our passions are significant. Let me give some examples.

My parents are passionate about orphans and adoption. They’ve personally adopted three children (seen below), and they lead a ministry called Team 127, based on James 1:27.  Everywhere they look they see the needs of orphaned children across the world. And it seems that everything they hear reiterates God’s heart for these “forgotten little ones,” that God has by no means forgotten.

10488090_10204454109171409_2242976695648352482_n(Sister Lucy, Brothers Kaden and John-Merle, and Nephew Isaac, and Niece Sadie)

My Aunt Rhonda and Uncle Don are missionaries to European nations. They’re some of my favorite people to talk to as we carry very similar hearts for prayer and reaching the nations.

My older sister, Linsey, is one of my heros. I’ve always wanted to be like her and I still do. She’s one of the best moms I’ve ever met. Her methods of discipleship are practical. And she and her husband carry strong hearts for hospitality and simple obedience.

My brother, Kurtis, is a true servant leader. He’s 21-years-old, but is one of the men I most respect in my life. He’s has a heart overflowing in generosity, and he leads men both older and younger, because he walks his talk.

My uncle George (seen below) is a visionary, and runs a ministry at his church called “Love Works,” which reaches out to the local community in practical ways. He recently won a prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. award for his dedication to humanitarian service.


My cousin David is currently preparing to leave and be a part of a crisis intervention organization, because his heart is broken for the increase of terror happening in the Middle East. And my cousin Katie is passionate about supporting families who are dealing with chronic illness.

I could continue to talk about many other family members like my Aunt Bonnie, who’s always supported me in my endeavors, whether it was coming to a softball game when I was 9, or financially supporting all my trips overseas since I was 15.

This list is not even half my family, nor have I fully expounded upon all the ways they are truly the hands and feet of Jesus. I love the things they are doing. I’m so proud of them, and I want to share in what they’re passionate about. But can I? I mean how can I play a key role in each one of their stories and passions and maintain my own?

So here’s my larger point. It’s may be obvious, but it’s so crucial that I just need to say it, so that my own heart hears it. There’s truly something bigger than my little life going on. A universal story is  being played out. It spans all of time, and there is one hero, forever, and it’s Jesus. He gets the pedestal and he gets the throne. Because he’s the only one worthy of that title. The only guy who had everything, who legitly had the hero title, “but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant…and humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

Jesus glorious

And it’s a beautiful love story, because maybe surrendering the throne or hero title in your own life sounds ridiculous or hard (and infact it is); but Jesus is a hopeless romantic, and when we surrender our lives to him he invites us to be his valiant lover fighting at his side. So in other words I give up my own personal storyline, as the main character, to become a key role in a universal story that will last throughout eternity. This revelation makes everything I do a thousand times more significant.

Plus, my life suddenly becomes intertwined with those around me. My family’s passions are no longer individualized and separate from my own. Their lives are a part of my story, because my real story is God’s story. They each play key roles, that are absolutely needed in this grand narrative. And this gives me a restful spirit, because I don’t have the conquer the world on my own. I don’t have to prove myself through mountaintop experiences. And when my adventurous life quiets for a moment I don’t have to rush off to a foreign country, because in the steadiness of life I can better invest in the lives of those around me.


So maybe I’m not currently experiencing a “climax,” but in a month two of my best friends are getting married and I get to be a part of it. I get to share in the joy of two amazing people choosing to lay down their individual lives for a lifelong journey together. I’m not currently experiencing the joys (and terrors :)) of motherhood, but I get to be an aunt to my favorite kids in the world.

One final thought narrow-path-sun-rays-a

It’s interesting that the basics of Christianity are lay down your life, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. Yet so often I find myself and many others in a state of restlessness over finding or living our “callings.” My calling each day is very simple, lay down my own selfish ambition and do what Jesus does. Ah yes, that is the narrow path.

Inspired by real lives


Recently I was listening to an audiobook during my daily drives on the back roads of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It was one of those books that Christians often read and discuss in small group settings. One of those books where the author is trying to make particular points on a theological topic or Christian worldview, and usually tends to point out how far away we are from actually living those ideas.

If you’re hearing a slight patronizing tone in what I’m saying it’s because it’s there. But the reason for it is because the hypocrisy that tends to bother you the most is usually the things inside of you. I’m fairly critical of teachers, preachers, and book writers because I enjoy doing all the above. Words, understanding, and profound revelation are like doorways into my inner woman. And without even knowing it the fingers of criticism I tend to point at others are really fingers pointing back at my own insecurities.

I crave understanding. I am forever wanting to understand what is happening in this story of humanity, and most especially in my own little life. But then I begin reading the Bible (my supposed source for this understanding), and Paul hits me with things like, “For since in the wisdom of God the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:21-25). And in the same letter Paul states the gospel isn’t a matter of eloquent words of wisdom, it’s the power of the cross of Jesus. For a woman who loves words, especially eloquent words, this wakes me up. I would love to dive deeper into the verses above, but that’s not exactly the direction I want to head today.

I actually really respect the author of the book I was listening to, Francis Chan is his name. I respect him because he strives to live his words. But while listening to his book I noticed something, my favorite parts of the book were the endings of each chapter when Chan would describe a person or couple he knew, that lived lives surrendered to the Holy Spirit. It’s only been a few weeks since I listened to the book, and I can’t think of a single theological statement he made in the book (not that they didn’t impact me at the time). But the stories of current day people loving their God and loving people still come alive in my memory.

The part of humans where we compare and contrast ourselves with other individuals is often painted in a negative light. But I think this same part of humans is what allows us to be inspired by other people, which I see as a really beautiful thing. It’s beautiful because it’s a life inspiring another life, not through words but through the actual living out of their lives.

I believe God made us this way on purpose, and it’s why so much of the Bible is stories of the lives of real people. Their actual lives put substance into the truths about God that their stories show. And the life of Jesus proves to me that this is how God designed us. God could have written a book, describing the attributes of himself, his kingdom and his expectations for us. But Jesus is God’s word that put on human flesh and lived a life that fully embodied the truths of God, because He is God. He is the highest level of human aspiration.

This understanding began to really stir in me about two weeks ago while I was sitting outside on the back porch of my grandparents house and I began thinking about my grandma (seen below). I don’t remember how I stumbled on it, but suddenly I realized she embodies selflessness. I began going through a bunch of scenarios in my head and couldn’t think of one where I thought my grandma wouldn’t give of whatever she had for the sake of another person, especially her family. I compared those scenarios with how I might act in the given situation and knew I didn’t come anywhere close. This realization not only humbled me, but gave me new eyes to see my grandma and the life she lived. By most standards she’s lived a normal middle class American life. But considering her life made me realize that selflessness doesn’t always look like giving away all your possessions and moving to a developing nation, selflessness is a lifestyle. It’s a life lived with open hands to freely give what you’ve freely received. My grandma’s life inspires me. She’s not someone that I usually tend to have deep theological discussions with, but her life highlights to me a virtue I want to see more in my own life.


I don’t think I’m ever going to not love words and metaphors and deep understanding, and I think that’s ok. But I don’t want to hide behind them either. Jesus wrote to the church in Sardis in Revelation 3, “You have a reputation for being alive, but you’re dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain.” Those words penetrate my heart, as a constant reminder to wake up and actually live my life. Because faith without action is dead. And words, without a person who is actually living them, mean nothing.

“Love looks like something”

Mother Teresa quote

Experiences in life are 4D. They aren’t linear, and there always seems to be four or five different themes going on at the same time. So when people ask me about Brazil, I either give them a few standard lines that I’ve said before, or if I can see they are looking for a more detailed response I usually ask them for a moment and then try and rack my brain for some sort of theme or experience I think might appeal to the person asking me.

For this post, I’m going to speak to one of the most powerful and practical “themes” of my time in Brazil. The title of this post is actually a Heidi Baker quote, “Love looks like something, yet it has no limits.” I can’t remember when I first heard this quote, but it’s the essence of a deep and confoundingly simple revelation I received while at the Iris Global school in Brazil.

I’m sure you probably can already guess where I’m headed with this, but let me ask a needed question. What’s the purpose of missionary work?

To feed the poor? Provide clean drinking water? Set-up a health clinic for a week? Maybe microfinance a small business?

OR maybe the more religious sounding answers, like preaching the gospel. Saving lost souls. And my heroic-sounding favorite, “advancing the kingdom of God.”

These are all awesome things, but maybe just slightly missing the real bull’s eye. I believe the purpose of missions is for people to have love encounters.

I know this sounds like blissfully simplified theology and/or fashionably hipster. But when you get it, like I got in Brazil, it’s compelling, supernatural, and deeply satisfying. Let me share a glimpse of how God revealed this truth to me.

There’s a place in Rio de Janeiro our school visited called Gramacho. Literally it’s a dump. A large landfill where garbage was dumped every day for 34 years until it closed in 2012. Thousands of people live in this place. Children grow-up here, and their parents make their living from the items they retrieve from the garbage. It’s an unimaginable life, for almost any American, and even most Brazilians. It’s a truly devastating situation.

Here’s the part that really got me though, at Gramacho people get “saved” frequently. Sometimes it’s even weekly. Christians come in, hand out some food, and the people “accept Jesus.” But their lives aren’t changed. They still live in the dump and their daily lifestyle isn’t any different than before.

Steph Gramacho

But some amazing heroes of mine are beginning to change that story. They are Brazilian Iris missionaries, who know Jesus, and know that He desires, more than anyone, to see this situation changed. They have built real relationships with the people living in Gramacho. They listen to their stories, they laugh together, pray together, eat together. And often they help meet physical needs as well, like caring for their wounds, giving them food, and taking them places. But their focus isn’t on what they are “doing” for the people of Gramacho. Their focus is truly loving them. And because of their genuine love, people are having supernatural encounters with the living God.

There are many stories of inspiring individuals I could tell you about, like Adriana (seen below) who encountered God supernaturally one day when Stephanie (an Iris missionary, who’s given up her career as a Brazilian model to serve and love these people full-time – shown in picture above) was simply talking and laughing with her. Adriana is now a powerful woman of prayer, she takes care of her seven children and her disabled mother, she runs a small store, she’s a preacher, and God has told her that she will not always be living in the dump. She has become like a spiritual mother to Stephanie and their bond of love for each other is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.



What’s also exciting is that God is providing ways for the people to literally get out of the dump. Land has been purchased, where houses will be built and Iris missionaries and many of the people from Gramacho will live together in these homes.

It’s hard for me to translate my experience in Gramacho through words alone. Because what’s going on there, the interactions between the Iris missionaries and the residents of Gramacho is something so special. It’s so real, that words alone can’t do it justice. It’s real love that’s happening, and it’s changing everything.

1 Corinthians 13 is probably one of the most famous chapters in the Bible. Paul goes through a list of really awesome things; like giving away all you have, and having faith to move mountains, and understanding all mysteries. And then he says, “but if I have not love, I gain nothing.” Why? Because love is the essence of God. Love is who He is, and it’s what He’s given us.

But what really is love? I don’t think I can sum it up much better than John did.

1 John 4:7-12 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

I used to think love was too simple and weak to really be the gospel. But then I’m reminded that God chooses the foolish and weak things of the world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). I’m reminded that Jesus said that the whole Bible (which was the law and prophets back then) are summed up in two commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:36-40).

See people are hungry, poor, sick, and living in hopeless situations. But giving them everything they need to become a person of middle class wealth and health will not solve deeper issues. Neither will throwing a few Bible verses at them and saying a quick prayer. People need love, real love. And real love comes from one man, Jesus. Because there is no one else that loves like He does. He loved us and gave His life for us, while we were still His enemies. Love isn’t good feelings and goosebumps. Love is self sacrifice. And we who carry within us Jesus’ Spirit, must walk in that love. Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

(I listened to this 4-track Misty Edwards & David Brymer CD nonstop in Brazil. The songs are like the soundtrack to my time in Brazil. This song really sums up this post.)

Everyday God loves me, He loves me with all of Himself. And everyday He asks me to do the same. He asks me to love Him by loving His children. In John 21, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loved Him. Every time Peter said, “yes Lord, you know that I love you.” And every time Jesus responded then “feed my sheep.”

I don’t live out this revelation of His love. But I want to, more and more each day. Loving the one in front of me. Loving not in word or talk, but in deed and truth (1 John 3:18). This could look like smiling at the cashier at the grocery store, it could look like holding someone close and just listening, it could look like sharing material possessions, or giving that stranger a ride to the bus stop. It could look like verbally sharing truth through the word of God, or moving into the bad part of town to build relationships with single moms and people addicted to drugs. “Love looks like something, but it has no limits.” This revelation on love truly is so simple, that I almost feel silly that I never really “got it” before Brazil and Iris ministries. But I feel like He’s now given me “eyes to see” and with these new eyes He’s giving me the opportunity to love Him more, by loving His precious children. Not loving them with my own affection that is inclined to take and not give, but with His perfect, sacrificial, and steadfast love.

(A small taste of Iris Ministries)