While I wish it weren't so, I know that it wouldn't really be grace if it were as easily dispensed as PEZ candy. If it felt good and made me smile and came as naturally as a hearty laugh, it wouldn't be grace. It couldn't be grace— not the genuine, utterly needed and utterly undeserved kind of grace, which is really the only grace there is, because it's the need mixed with the undeserving that makes grace grace.

We call it 'amazing', but it feels anything but amazing in the moment it's given. It feels grueling and painful and impossible. It tastes like swallowed pride and bitter tears. It's as exhausting as going the extra mile and then another and then another. It feels like forgiving 70 times 7, and turning the other cheek, and kissing Judas right back.

It's nothing like a dinner table prayer and everything like a wilderness experience. It's the 40 long days and 40 long nights of saying and wishing and hoping that I can do this, but feeling like I can't. It's the heaviness of one foot in front of the other when there's no end of the road in sight.

It's enduring the heartache of betrayal, the sorrow of loss, the pain of deception, and the humiliation of being made a fool— and still locking eyes and saying 'I'm not going anywhere.'

Grace. It's what sets apart not only Christ, but also Christ followers. Without it, we are but hardened hearts and ungrateful, calloused souls. We are blind eyes and deaf ears and unfeeling hands. We are amnesiacs, quickly forgetful of our own need and undeservedness. Oh, but with it— with it, we are extensions of His likeness, reflections of His character, bearers of His light, glimpses of His face, beats of His heart.

When we extend grace, when we offer it—even through tears— like a beautifully wrapped present held out in our hands, our hearts stoop low, remembering the gift that's been extended to us, over and over and over and over again.

if i could

tree line

If I could find big enough words, I would tell you how grateful I am for the big-hearted, generous, and faithful loved ones who’ve walked with me, supported me, and strengthened me since I left African soil.

If I could find deep enough words, I would describe for you how unbelievably amazing it feels to be this settled after so many years of transitional limbo—and how good for my heart it has been.

If I could find strong enough words, I would explain my newfound understanding and awareness of grace.

If I could find clear enough words, I would recount for you my daily journey of learning to acknowledge and own that I am enough, and I have enough, because of the enoughness of Christ in me.

If I could find impactful enough words, I would articulate for you the ways I’m embracing a lack of plans, and my discovery that it really is okay.

If I could find weighty enough words, I would convey to you the matchless, anchoring, and freeing sense of home I’m discovering once again.

If I could... I would.

But I can’t...

blessed assurance

I moved to Africa with a couple of very-full suitcases, $200 in my pocket, and a heart-cocktail of faith, naivety, passion, and foolishness.

I was only 19.

younger me

I didn't know much, but I knew that I loved Africa and her beautiful people. I didn't set out on any grand mission or with any huge goals. I just wanted to meet needs where I could, and see what God would do with my meager fish-and-loaves life. I was hopeful that He could write a magnificent story for me and with me.

In the chasing of my dream, I found love. I got married, and together we pioneered a nonprofit that trained leaders and taught AIDS prevention in the poorest region of South Africa. God did astounding things. Constantly.

I watched Him open blind eyes, show up with eleventh hour provision, stop wildfires from destroying our mission base, and radically transform lives. After a decade of ministry, our team had grown to over 60 staff members, primarily African nationals. We trained over 100 pastors a year and taught 4000 public school students each week about living lives of purpose.

God was writing a story I never could have imagined.


He truly multiplied our fish and loaves to nourish the masses. He created something out of our nothing. He made life out of our brokenness.

Then everything crumbled to pieces when my husband finally confessed what I already knew to be true: He had been unfaithful. For a year and a half. With a friend of mine.

The pieces shattered even further when he announced he was done—with me and ministry. No matter how tightly I tried to cling to it all, I couldn't hold any of it together. Not my marriage or my ministry or even my life... Everything seemed to unravel out from under me.

After 13 years of ministry in Africa, I was forced to close down our operations. I permanently relocated back to the States, walking away from my home, my work, my community, my vision, my history.

I fought both my story and the Story-teller. This isn't how it's supposed to be!

It felt as though the narrative had come to a screeching halt. But He kept writing...

I've been divorced for a few years now. It still feels strange to say, and even stranger to truly accept at a heart level. Losing someone by their choice evokes a grief deeper than death. There is sadness and anger and mourning and relief and remorse. Sometimes all in the very same breath.

And underneath it all is the hole left in my everyday by the loss of someone I've lived one-third of my life with. The missing is deep. It's a missing of what was. A missing of who was. A missing of what could've been.

A missing of the story I was once living...


It's as though I lost not only my future, but also my past.

In so many ways, I lost my own history. I don't have a single person left in my life who walked that African road with me from start to finish. No one who was with me for all the memories, all the provision and lack, all the joys and heartaches. No one to corroborate what happened, to fill in the blanks where my memory fails, to simply remember with me.

There is a unique loneliness in that.

And even as I type these words with no clear end in mind, I hear Him whisper: I was there. Sigh... To be honest, it is so hard to feel content and satisfied in that. But I know it's true. He was there with me. In Him I still have history.

His. Story.

My history is more His story than mine anyway.


Even if no one else knows the details, and my fuzzy brain loses track of it all, and I never get to speak it out loud ever again, my history is still there. Still making up the fabric of my present and holding up the foundation of my future.

My story is more than the sum of my experiences. It is more than what I have seen and done and endured. It is more than what has happened to me.

I, too, am more than the sum of my chapters. I am more than my past or my present or my future. I am more than my history, forgotten or remembered.

I am His.

No matter what.

And that is my story.

Tell me your story »


Autumn Leaf  

I'm struck by how different my life looks these days. Sometimes, it stops me dead in my tracks and I just have to shake my head... Five years ago if you'd painted this picture of where I'd be, I'd have said you were crazy. Single? Nashville? Freelancing? No way...

And yet, here I am.


Some days, the disparity leaves me heartsore — because in getting here, I was forced to lose so much.

Other days, the contrast leaves me grateful — because in getting here, I've undoubtedly gained so much.


The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. 

the tomb isn't actually empty

English Bay My heart is camping out in the empty tomb today.

The empty tomb that isn't actually empty. Because it's filled with hope.


Undeserved freedom.

Scandalous grace.

The empty tomb is actually bursting at the seams, overflowing with unexpected second chances.

What seems like the end isn’t really the end.

When it’s over, lost, gone, broken beyond repair… that’s when things have really just begun.

Life after death is so much more extraordinary than life before it.

Wholeness comes from brokenness.

Beauty is birthed in ashes.

The new life of spring actually begins with the slow death of autumn.

And that, to me, is the joy of Easter. Found right here in the empty yet abundantly full tomb...

Happy Easter, friends. He is risen!

silent saturday

Grouse Mountain Waiting is hard.

Waiting in silence is even harder.

I keep thinking about this Silent Saturday wedged between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This day we know very little about.

What did the disciples do? Were they crying? Praying? Angry? Hopeful? I don't know what they were doing, but I know what they were hearing.


All they could do was wait.

For what? They didn't even know. For how long? They had no clue.

I'm sure the night-hours seemed darker. I'd imagine the questions kept coming and the fear grew crippling. I'm sure it felt like they were holding their breath, hoping against hope that Jesus was still who He said He was and that the last few years hadn't been a complete waste.

But their waiting was met only with deafening silence...

Just like yours and mine sometimes is.

So on this Silent Saturday, I'm reminding us of what we know to be true:

Keep waiting.

Redemption is coming.

why this friday is good

forest for the trees I'm thinking about this day we call Good Friday. And how it felt anything but good at the time.

It was dark and heavy.

A day with more questions than answers.

More confusion than peace.

More doubt than faith.

Despair hung thick in the air, hearts crushed and despondent. The soul-depth disappointment in God was palpable and suffocating.

How could He? Why would He? What do I do now?

None of it made sense. It didn't line up with all they had seen and heard and experienced. The miracles... the teachings... the love... it all hung in the balance of two wooden beams on a hillside.

Everything they thought their Messiah would be, died that day.

All their hopes and dreams shattered with His nail-split hands. They'd given up everything to follow Him -- families, careers, homes -- and now this. A horrible, wretched death.

Of Him.

Of their hearts.

Of their hope.

They didn't know what we know now, looking back thousands of years later. That life comes out of death. That new beginnings spring forth from the worst of endings.

That hope rises.

To me, this Friday is so very good because of the mere fact that it was so very bad.

It reminds me that the dark and heavy times of my life are not devoid of Him, even when I can't see Hm or feel Him. That doubt doesn't nullify my faith. And that questioning isn't wrong.

It reminds me to let everything I think my Messiah should be, die. Because He is so much more than my imaginary version of Him, made in my own image. He loves, redeems, and saves me in ways I would never expect and could never imagine.

And it gives me hope that someday... Someday I may even call my darkest Friday "good".

on failing well

i heard catherine rohr once say, “failure is really redirection.” that is so powerful, if only i could find a way for my heart to really grab onto it. ::

i feel like i fail a dozen times a day in a dozen different ways. while some of it is genuine mess-ups, some of it—i know—is really just that sense of not-enough-ness that hangs over me like a cloud. (i close my eyes and see that dirty little boy in the charlie brown movies—what's his name??—the one with the dust cloud that follows him everywhere.)

if i could really grasp failure as redirection, maybe just maybe that cloud would lift some...


not redirection to avoid what i’m facing. but rather to deal with what’s going on in my heart as i face it head on.


the old testament has always given me a great deal of hope. i think it's partially because those we consider men and women of faith have so much failure throughout their stories.

it makes me remember that they didn’t see themselves as people of faith in the way that we do now, gifted with the ability to look at their lives in their entirety. i bet they were just like me and—right in the midst of their grit—found themselves wondering if God could redeem their failures.

because we see their stories all the way to the end, we know He can.

i need to remember that He can see my story all the way to the end, and trust that He can redeem mine too.


perhaps failing well means choosing to trust that the story isn't finished—that the Author is still writing.

beautiful feet

"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" As a missionary, I heard that verse often. People spoke it to me, wrote it in cards, sent it in framed pictures. It was a promise, to me, of beauty in messy places.

My feet walked the dusty dirt roads of Qwa Qwa, South Africa.

They stepped into dirt-floor homes, made of one room and filled with families of 12. Or more. My feet sat me down, cross-legged, to hold precious HIV-infected little ones, too weak to lift their heads, too numb to smile. My feet carried me to my desk (because, you see, I was {mostly} an office missionary), up the hill to my class (to teach a room filled with young beautiful feet), to the shops in my tiny town (where people knew me as that "Yankee girl").

My feet held me as our property raged with a wildfire, as a twister ripped the roof off my house, as the floods broke through the dam wall and filled the landscape. My feet held me as I held others, going through storms of their own, mostly of the invisible kind. My feet took me to Africa, and my feet took me back to the States.

And here I sit, nestled comfortably on the couch, and I wonder where the beauty has gone...

I wonder if an ex-missionary's feet are only beautiful in past tense, or if there could be some glimmer of redemptive beauty that still remains.

What do beautiful feet look like after failure, after shattered dreams, after hope dried up? What does it mean to bring good news in my everyday ordinary life when there are no babies to rock, classes to teach, people asking about Jesus?

I throw back the last sip of my now-lukewarm coffee, and the dam wall breaks...

Maybe the good news is simply a kind word, a generous smile, a lingering hug. Maybe the good news is an honest conversation about my struggles and the grace that clings to me even when I can't cling to it. Maybe the good news is offering the gift of going second, letting others know they aren't alone. Maybe the good news is found in "I don't know"s rather than fabricated answers, in "You are loved"s because it just needs to be said, in humble "I'm sorry, please forgive me"s from a sincere broken heart, in honestly grateful "Thank you"s that honor the gift and the giver. 

Maybe the good news that He sees, cares, and loves is really found in someone feeling seen, cared for, and loved... by me.

And maybe, just maybe, beautiful feet are whatever vehicle used to deliver that good news. A spoken word. A thumbed-out text. A hand-hold. An understanding tear. A joyful laugh. A handwritten letter. A blog post. A not-letting-go hug.

Perhaps this ex-missionary still brings good news, and perhaps my feet are found by Him to be beautiful still.

And maybe that verse still stands as a promise of beauty in messy places.

the grace of fragility

Cozied up in my comfy chair—still in pajamas, coffee in hand, snuggled under a blanket—I close my eyes and take a deep breath. And I can't help but smile. I have a home, a job, an income. I have friends and family who love me. I have health insurance, a car, a closet full of clothes. I have all I need, really. I shake my head in wonder. All gifts. All grace.

And I whisper a "Thank You"...

I open my eyes and breathe in deeply again. This nagging thought—the same one that's been hovering just beneath the surface for weeks now—scratches again and reminds me it's still there. It lingers close, threatening to steal my exhale and my smile. Like a funhouse mirror, it plays tricks on my mind, distorting hope into a frightening creature and making fears appear larger than they really are.

The thought I can't seem to shake is how fragile everything in my life feels, in a way it never used to. I'm painfully aware of how quickly it all can vanish. How in an instant, everything can be taken away.

Realizing life's fragility is ultimately a good thing. It keeps me mindful that nothing and no one ever belongs to me. It forces me to hold things (and people) more loosely. No matter how strong my death-grip, the concept of "mine" remains a mirage. Nothing is mine. And I'm not in control.

The constant reminder of fragility also leaves me feeling unsettled... insecure... unstable. It makes it difficult to invest in relationships, trust wholeheartedly, and put down roots. It feels harder to dream, to laugh, to enjoy the good that's present right now. Joy takes more effort than it used to and anxiety comes more easily. Hope often seems like a cruel joke. Remember Lucy and the football?

Sometimes that's what hope feels like, and I'm left feeling stupid that I fell for it yet again.

Even as I say all this out loud, I know how ridiculous it sounds even in my own head. I hear the nudging reminders not to worry about tomorrow as today has enough worry of its own. I see the "choose joy" on my arm and feel the heart hug of my ever-present friend who showed me what it means to live that out. I hear God calling me to hope. Again. No matter what.

I want to believe that eventually dreaming will feel easier again, that life—though fragile—will feel more secure, and that thoughts of the future will breed more hope than fear. I want to.

So I close my teary eyes again, and take a deep breath. I hold it as long as I can, and as I let the air out I shake my head. All gifts. All grace.

And I whisper a "Thank You"...

the beginning of the end

'Autumn at Mt Macedon' photo (c) 2011, Ryk Neethling - license: past few years of my life have been filled with untold endings. The end of my marriage. The closing of my ministry. The loss of my home, job, community...

The endings can be so obvious that it's often easy for me to overlook the new beginnings. But they're there. When I take the time and make the choice to look for them — to dust for God's fingerprints — I see them. Plain as day.

The beginning of my heart re-awakening. The launch of a new journey. The start of a new home, job, community...

I am reminded once again that the new life of spring actually begins with the dying leaves of autumn.

And I'm brought back to The Beginning.

"There was evening, and there was morning—the first day."

While we usually picture our day starting with the sunrise, God created it to begin in the darkness of night. Though it seems like an ending, the night — with all its bleakness and uncertainty — is really just the beginning...

What endings are you experiencing right now where you need to dust for God's fingerprints of new life?

Originally posted at Deeper Story. Read the comments there >

grace enough

Have you seen People of the Second Chance's NEVER BEYOND campaign? It is powerful.

Each week, they launch a new poster in their NEVER BEYOND series, representing a well-known historical, current, or fictional character who is believed to have harmed society. They stand as challenging and sometimes startling reminders that none of us are ever beyond a second chance.

I've been forced to grapple with my tendency to be stingy with grace and to cling tightly to unforgiveness.

Because if I'm being most honest, there are some people I feel I can't forgive.

And there are some I simply don't want to forgive.

But maybe that's just me...

Extending grace -- to others as well as myself -- doesn't come naturally to me.

But maybe that's just me too...

Although I have a feeling it's true for all of us, in one way or another...

Since the NEVER BEYOND campaign started, I've had a nagging thought at the back of my mind. It sits there, gnawing and scratching, and I just can't shake it. My thought?

September 11th.


My heart sinks even now, just writing out that date.

There are so many emotions, piling up, adding to the heavy weight in my heart...

I wish I was in New York with my family today...

I can't help but play out the events over and over again in my mind... So awful and so horrifying...

I remember our family friend who died that day, as one of the first FDNY firemen on the scene...

I keep thinking of my friend who lost her brother-in-law in the Pentagon...

And how helpless and paralyzing it felt to be halfway around the world in Africa when it all happened...

But underneath it all, my heart is wrestling. With grace. Forgiveness. Second chances.

Because, you see, I have this unarticulated internal hierarchy of sins...

A hierarchy which says Osama bin Laden and the terrorists behind the September 11th attacks are worse than me.

They are, right?

They have to be!

But then I remember all the ways I've sinned just today, just since I opened my eyes this morning. And I remember that, like Paul, I'm the chief of sinners.

I am.

I have more in common with the Osamas of the world than I'd like to admit, but the truth is undeniable: I need grace no less than they do, and I deserve it no more than they do.

There is no hierarchy of sin in God's mind. Sin is sin, plain and simple. And He paid the price for it, once and for all.

If there isn't enough grace for Osama, there isn't enough grace for me.

Because there are no two sides to grace.

It is never deserved, but always needed.

By all of us. No matter what.

That's what makes it so scandalous, so amazing.

So today, on one of the hardest of days, I am choosing to be generous with grace.

Because grace was generous with me.

grace runs

"Avoid the appearance of evil." We've all heard it said before.

And while it comes from the Bible, I think we may have warped its original intended meaning. More often than not, I've seen it used as a weapon of divisiveness and judgment and condemnation.

I grew up in a Christian home. I went to a Christian school. We went to church religiously. And the message was drilled into me from an early age: Avoid the appearance of evil.

I was taught to avoid places, activities, and people that might raise eyebrows.

If my presence or involvement could be misconstrued, I shouldn't be there. After all... what will people think? Or worse... what will people say?

It's why we shouldn't go to bars or clubs. It's the reason we shouldn't get tattoos. It's why we shouldn't hang out with the "rough crowd". Because all of those things might give an appearance of evil.

Someone might see it or hear about it, and jump to the wrong conclusion.

Because clearly it isn't very Christ-like to be caught in a potentially compromising situation. Right?



Jesus didn't avoid the appearance of evil. He ran straight into it.

Party at the thieving tax collector's house? He's there.

Intimate conversations with prostitutes? One of His favorite pastimes.

Hanging out with the scum of society? Nowhere else He'd rather be.

Enjoying some wine with His friends? Of course.

No, Jesus didn't avoid the appearance of evil. He sought it out. He pursued it. And as a result, He quite often appeared evil.

That's why the religious leaders of the day hated Him so much. Everything He did seemed to fly in the face of their long list of do's and don'ts.

They called Him a liar.

A drunk.

A glutton.



They didn't understand His approach to life and ministry, because it was the complete opposite of theirs. He embraced what they shunned.

The scandalousness of grace is that it runs toward evil, not away from it.

Being like Christ is not about what I avoid. It's about what---and who---I embrace.

Because, after all, Christ embraced me.

And I am no different than the drunks, whores, adulterers, and all-around "rough crowd" I was taught to avoid. I am them. And they are me.

And Christ embraces us all.

Who am I to pick and choose?

Originally posted at Deeper Story. Read the comments there >

taking it deeper: the double-standard of my heart

Photo credit: taliesin from

For years I've prayed for my ex-husband’s heart to return to the Lord.

For him to feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

For the consequences of his decisions and actions to open his eyes to how deceived he’s become.

For him to hit rock bottom.

For God to do whatever it takes to get his attention.

But if I’m being most honest, I haven't been as concerned with his repentance as I am with wanting him to feel the weight of what he’s done.

The reality is that I sometimes still want him to hurt like I’ve hurt, more than I want him to live forgiven and free.

I’ve had to come face-to-face with the double-standard of my heart.

Because my struggle to genuinely pray not only for his repentance but also for his forgiveness really only means one thing—

I don’t realize just how much I’ve been forgiven.

I want to accept the work of the cross for my sins, but not for my husband’s.

As if my sins have been lesser.

Or even fewer.

When they are neither.

“…God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.”

I remember gasping out loud when I saw that verse as if with new eyes.

And I’ve wrestled with Him long and hard over the implications of it.

It has taken me a very long time to get to this point, but I’ve begun praying—still with tear-filled eyes—for God’s kindness to lead my ex-husband to repentance.

I’ve started asking God to smother him with His goodness and grace and mercy.

Some days it’s easier to pray that way than others.

Some days I can’t at all.

On those days, I just sit in the reality of what it truly means. And I pray for God’s kindness to lead me to repentance.

Originally posted at Deeper Story. Read the comments there >

even when i deserve stoning...

I keep thinking about the adulterous woman who was dragged before Jesus. Mainly because I can't help but see myself in her. The crowd was ready to stone her for her sin, for her failure. And then Jesus spoke. He looked the mob straight in the eye and actually challenged them to go through with it. Under one condition.

He called for the one without sin to throw the first stone.

I can only imagine the shift that instantly took place within the crowd. They knew they were just as sinful as the woman was. They were well aware of how stoning-worthy their own hearts were.

So one by one, the crowd slowly turned and walked away.

All of them.

Until Jesus was the only one left with the woman. Perfectly fitting with what He'd said... "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." He alone was sinless. He alone had the right to judge.

Yet the One without sin cast no stones.

Instead He barraged her with grace.

Just like He still does with me.

It doesn't matter how many accusations are hurled at me. Or how many I throw at myself. It doesn't matter how far I've run, how deeply I've messed up, how ashamed I feel.

He casts no stones. No judgment. No condemnation. All He casts is love.

Every single time.

[Originally posted at Deeper Story...]

velveteen heart

velveteen rabbit

I remember so vividly our Sunday morning routine when I was a child. There was screaming and fighting and swatting and tears.

Always tears.

Like an unseen bully, the volatile tension would follow us into the car, its presence thick and heavy and loud.

I'd hold my breath, and silently beg for a ceasefire. The words "please stop" would turn over and over in my mind. All the way to church.

And as we pulled into the parking lot, there came the inevitable instruction: "You better put a smile on your face before we get inside."

I'd do my best to dry my tears. Wipe my snot. Calm my blotchy skin. With my plastic smile crookedly in place, we'd walk into church. Together. A happy family.

And so I learned to live a double life.

I don't have much of a poker face -- my eyes always give me away -- so I tried my best to be invisible. In the church foyer, I'd scurry away from my family as soon as I could. I'd walk close to the wall, stick to the outskirts of the crowd, avoid eye contact. And when I inevitably still heard my mom's voice from across the room -- "Oh, praise the Lord!" -- I'd recoil inside. I'd roll my eyes, let out a groan, and inwardly seethe with resentment.

I wanted to scream; I wanted to run and hide. I hated feeling like a genuine fake. But somehow I knew that exposed truth would hurt more than hidden truth. Besides, who could I possibly tell? And how would I ever find words that could explain?

So I became good at remaining unseen. Master of the phrase "I'm fine". Proficient at simply being quiet. Skills I still excel at, even though I am desperate for different...

And so I live in the tension of my love/hate relationship with authenticity.

I despise artificiality, yet I find it strangely comfortable. I crave transparency, yet I cower away from it. I so deeply long for authenticity, but I am scared to death of being laid bare.

So I learned to be authentic in past tense. To speak of what I've overcome, how much I've changed, what I used to struggle with. But past tense authenticity isn't really authenticity at all, is it? The present tense, bare-boned kind is vulnerable and exposing. Naked, with nowhere to hide. Just me, broken and battered.

Deep down, I want to be Velveteen-Rabbit real: threadbare and worn, and loved even more for it.

But I despise my own frayed edges, torn limbs, matted fur, missing whiskers. Afraid that if anyone really saw me for who I am, there's no way they would love me... There's no way they could love me...


In an attempt at present-tense authenticity, I don't have a red bow to wrap this all together with. I don't have a grace-lined ending or some nugget of Scripture that ties this all neatly together. Just an honest confession of my constant struggle to be really real.

And I keep thinking about that stuffed bunny who became real because he was deeply loved. And how I want the opposite to be true of me.

I want to be deeply loved because I am real.

Maybe not so much despite my flaws and failures and shortcomings... but because of them.

[Originally posted at Deeper Story...]

*photo credit