My office building caught on fire Wednesday.
Well, we weren’t sure it was a fire, the man pointed out, as there was smoke pouring out of his suite and fire fighters rushing in. There was just a lot of smoke.
It was a normal afternoon. I was stressed out, trying to prioritize too many tasks given to me at the same time, trying to figure out a way to make everyone happy. I really had to pee, but sometimes I ignore my bladder for the sake of getting work done. Healthy, I know.
I finally got up to walk to the bathroom down the hall, and smelled smoke. Not a lot, not a scary amount, but definitely smoke. I walked past a suite with the door open, smoke wafting out, and some people in the hallway. Awkward smiles, no explanations offered, I kept walking. Weird, I thought. Maybe someone blew something up in the microwave.
Until, a few minutes later, as I excited the bathroom, and I immediately smelled smoke. A lot, a scary amount, of definite smoke. I walked back and hesitantly asked, “Do we know what’s going on…?”
“Oh, there’s a fire,” a woman answered nonchalantly. Almost as if I simply asked what color her shoes were. Read More
It was February 2014.
I was at winter camp with Flood Youth, I was standing outside in the dark, and I was mad.
I had been with these students for a year and a half, seeing how far God had brought them in such a short time, seeing small glimpses of the work He was doing in their lives. I cried – me! crying! – during our church time, when girls who barely opened up to anyone stood up and shared vulnerably to the group. I held their hands as they shook from nerves, I stood next to them and belted out “Oceans” during worship, I stayed up far too late giggling with and affirming girls who had come to mean more to me than I’ll ever understand. It was a beautiful weekend, in so many ways, and I was pissed at God. Read More
“But what actually happened?”
“You know… I wish I knew,” I told him.
It was a question I often get asked, a story I often avoid going into. But for the first time, it was a person asking who would truly understand. It was someone I felt safe to unpack it with, and, even more, wanted to unpack it with. I wanted some insight, I wanted understanding. But I didn’t even know where to begin, because I still don’t know. I don’t even know.
I walked into church Sunday night exhausted. Exhausted doesn’t even come close to describing it, really. Is there a word for “every time I stop moving my body wants to fall asleep”, “there’s more things on my to-do list than minutes in a day”, “I almost cried in the aisle of Target because they were out of bananas”? Let me know.
A few hours earlier, I had to say goodbye to a friend as he heads back to Malawi. A friend that two weeks ago I never expected to see anytime soon, and yet his departure ripped a hole inside me. His surprise presence in my life over the last week has been such a source of joy. And such a source of challenge. It’s brought memories of good times and hard times. It’s brought about conversations that seem to flow so effortlessly with some people, and yet seem impossible with others. It’s brought a reminder of a person I used to be, a season come and now gone.
“Do you see me?” he asked.
He shared a brief glimpse into life as a Palestinian Christian living in the West Bank – the hardships of military rule, the reality of water rations, the acceptance of violence as the norm. He broke down and cried, as he told us of his mother dying of cancer in a hospital bed that he was unable to visit for political reasons. He bravely told us – a room of Americans – the pain he feels as an Arab, being automatically assumed to be an enemy. The pain he feels as a Christian, living in a predominantly Muslim area, of being pre-judged on a daily basis. The pain of a people group – and of a world – glancing your way yet quickly looking away …for they think they know you and your story, they presume the ugliness of your world might be too much for them to bear. The pain of not being seen. Read More
It was a peaceful Sunday afternoon. Cliche, really. I was sprawled out on my bed, finishing up Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love (soo good, you guys!), when I heard it – a weird, giant sucking noise, followed by a loud gurgle. Um, what?! That’s strange, I thought. Maybe if I pretend it didn’t happen, I won’t have to deal with it, I thought (Maturity 101). No other noises came. On with my book. I was a happy camper.
Until, of course, I walked into my bathroom maybe 10 minutes later and saw nasty, dirty water seeping up out of my shower drain. Caught between “This is so GROSS” and “Oh my gosh, what if it fills the entire shower and leaks over onto the bathroom floor?!”, I did what any other 24 year old does and called my dad, freaking out.
Here’s the thing: I grew up in the church. I grew up in private Christian school. I also grew up pretty nerdy. All that to say – I know the Bible. I don’t know Hebrew or Greek, I can’t debate you for hours on Paul’s letters, I can’t recite any whole chapters by heart. But I know the basics down pat, I can sing you a song of the 66 books of the Bible, and I was always the pinch hitter for Bible Baseball (If you never played Bible Baseball, did you even go to church in the 90s?) This doesn’t make me a better Christian, it doesn’t earn me a higher seat in heaven, but it does mean I typically know more than most people my age. Except, I recently found out, I know nothing about Easter… (Which is fine, really. That holiday isn’t too important in our faith, right?)
Hosanna. It’s a pretty common word, for us church folk. It’s something I grew up singing, grew up coloring in on sheets in Sunday school. It’s something I knew all about. Until, on Palm Sunday, we were reading Mark’s account of the first Palm Sunday, and I look down in my study Bible to see it explained. “Save”. Save? Save?! Hosanna doesn’t mean save. Hosanna means glory to God in the highest. Praise be to Him. Right? RIGHT? Suddenly, my whole Christian life flashed before my eyes. Everything was a lie. Is Immanuel really “God with us”? Did I even know the 10 commandments? Can I really recite the books of the Bible, or was that false information from my childhood as well?
I then started thinking about Easter. Why is it called Easter?! Why don’t I know this information? Why not Wester? Norther? Is east even an important part of it, or am I just fixating on directions now? Easter isn’t anywhere in the Bible. At least I think Easter isn’t anywhere in the Bible. WHY DON’T I KNOW IF EASTER IS ANYWHERE IN THE BIBLE? I was spiraling, fast. Read More
No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, no matter who you’re voting for this year, I think we can all agree Donald Trump has said some pretty horrible things. And by ‘pretty horrible’, I mean #$*@%!$* messed up. He’s lumped all Mexican immigrants into one, horrible group of drug dealing rapists. He’s proposed the idea of killing the families of terrorists. He’s promised to send back all refugees if he’s elected. Let’s not even get started about all of the comments he’s made about “the blacks”. He immaturely, unintelligently insults anyone speaks out against him. And he’s claimed women – half of the world – need to be treated like sh**.
And you know what? I forgive him. Read More
Two years ago, I gave a TEDx talk.
That’s pretty crazy. Somedays it feels like yesterday and somedays it feels like a decade ago. It’s pretty crazy, because somedays I still have problems speaking up in a group of more than 5 people. It’s pretty crazy, because I can still remember the strangest of details from that day. Even now, two years later, it still feels like a dream.
Somedays, I brush it off. It was only a TEDx talk, heavy on the x, light on the importance. Hundreds (thousands?) of people have given TEDx talks. I was only a student speaker. I was only chosen to mix up the topics (science-y UCSD needed a little warmth thrown in). I was only speaking on story – a simple topic, anyone could do that.
Somedays, the reputation of it is daunting. A TEDx talk? At 22? As a female? It is pretty impressive – so I try at all costs to avoid bringing it up around strangers, I inwardly shudder when someone new mentions it. Great, now I have to seem remarkable. Now I have to life up this idea they have of me. The pressure to perform in a manner of TEDx-speaker-worthy makes me want to go hide under a rock. Or, what I actually do, hide behind a laugh, a sarcastic joke, and a change of the conversation.
What I’m working on is landing in the middle: Being blown away by God’s ability to shine through our weaknesses, to use our passions to take us to places we never dreamed, to surprise us in the most amazing of ways. I still don’t fully understand why I was given such an opportunity. But I hope to use it like I use all the other privileges I’ve been given: to make this world a better place. Denying the prestige of my TEDx talk doesn’t help, neither does hiding from it. I need to be more open to ways God wants to use that, even two years later. Read More
A year ago today I finally, finally, finally landed in San Diego – a moment I had equally dreamed about and dreaded. After 6 months in Malawi, an unexpected week in Uganda, and a freezing layover in DC, I was back! I was home! Or…. was I? I had no idea where “home” was any more.
I walked off the plane …and straight into a bathroom. Where I hid for about 15 minutes. I knew my parents, my friends, and my girls were all waiting for me at the exit of the terminal. And yet, there I stood, unable to pick up my overstuffed carry on bag and carry on with my life. Hugging myself, I tried to prepare for all the attention, all the hugs, and all the people I was about to encounter. Simultaneously, I was trying to avoid it. I was terrified. I stared in the mirror, wondering who the girl was looking back at me. Read More
New years used to come with New Year’s Resolutions, anyone remember that? Yet I’m finding less and less people are into resolutions these days – it’s all about goals and dreams and the like. The really, really hip thing this year is having “a word” for 2016. I’m not quite sure if this is Reddit popular or simply just a Christian millennial thing – but its definitely a thing. I’m not knocking it or anything, because I jumped on the band wagon.
I asked God for “a word” for the next 365 days ….and I got 4. Blame it on my chronic overachieving, the fact that I’m a writer by nature, or God’s sense of humor – the fact is, I asked for one and I got quadruple the amount. Trust me, I tried. “God. I need a word. Like, one. Not four. Not two. But one, single word for 2016 – to focus on and write on my mirror and maybe turn into a cool tattoo one day. One word!” No, He reminded me gently, what you need is Me. Also, you need to listen.
[He has this conversation a lot with me.] Read More