Lord, help her to see that Your idea of success and hers might look different.

Rejection, on some day and in some way, is going to face you. Don’t worry, it happens to us all. I want you to know now, before that times hits, that your work may be rejected but you are not.

In June I committed to submitting a piece to be considered for a women’s devotional, knowing that other phenomenal writers were doing the same work. This was the first Bible study I’d ever written and the first piece I’d ever submitted. The odds of my work being chosen were slim to none.

But I got to work. I checked out books from the library and scoured the study Bibles on my shelves. I found tips online for writing devotionals. I pulled up sermon archives, filled up pages of notes, and clicked back and forth between tabs on my screen.

The words I worked so hard to study came to me like a fresh stroke of paint on the canvas, revealing to me another shade in the portrait of God.

I knew writing devotionals wasn’t my expertise; that only became clearer the further I trudged into this essay. But as I studied and strung words together on the page, I gave way to the hope that even if I failed, this would still be worth it. The narrative in my heart believed so quietly,

“But even if I lose, I still got to spend hours doing a work that I love and worshipping a Savior I love. And that’s worth it.”

Committed to the finish, I relinquished my grip on the piece and submitted it early in a physical act of forgetting any control I had.

Then I waited.

The odds that my piece would not be chosen lingered in the back of my mind, but the hope that God works in mysterious ways stayed with me. After all, He loves to surprise us, right?

In late September I received that rejection email I had been bracing myself for all along. I held on to a sliver of hope that anything was possible all the way until I opened that email. But the words were clear. My piece had not been chosen for submission.

I wasn’t surprised. But still, I sat for a moment, staring at that rejection email. Rejection has never been easy for me. My sinful tendency is to tie my productivity to my worth; it’s too easy for me to believe that if I don’t do the right things, then I’m not good enough. I waited for that familiar wave of shame rooted in my perfectionism to wash over me. Waited to feel like I wasn’t worthy today –

My lungs inhaled deeply and my voice broke through the silence in that empty room, “Okay.”


My piece might not have been chosen, but that made me no less of a writer.

My work was rejected, but I was not.

I deleted the email, picked up my bag, and headed onward. And as I moved forward in the coming moments, days, weeks, I realized that rejection was fruit. It was not a thing to shame me. It was not a roadblock.

That rejection helped me.

It required me to step outside of my safety zone, and to do something meaningful that lifted my eyes up. It was evidence that victory is growing closer to the Lord. And sometimes that means losing the thing you thought you might deserve.

I had to realize that even on this side of that “no,” I am still picked to write and picked to study the ways of God. Even if my words aren’t for everyone. Even if it doesn’t feel good enough. Even when I come up short. My calling remains because it’s in those quiet moments of writing that I feel most alive to Him. Being near to Him is the victory.

We know the truth that God chooses the unlikely ones to bring about His glory. We know that He uses the hands that appear weakest to work His will. That the ones with the smallest following can have the widest reach. We know that He uses the smallest people to display His big purposes. I’m not discounting that.

But I do think it’s possible that sometimes God will place something on your heart that you’re not meant to succeed at.

You’ll think it means victory as you see it. You’ll think it means being the chosen one or authoring the winning essay. You’ll think it means being well-liked and followed.

But sometimes victory looks like a loss.

I knew it was quite unlikely that I’d win this writing contest of sorts. Success happened the moment I examined the risk of failure, and still chose to obediently follow God’s nudging to take a step toward it.

It happened when I committed to the unseen hours of study and writing just because I felt He gave me an idea. Even before my writing was placed in the hands of someone else, success came when I chose to be faithful to the opportunity given.

Dear one, do you see it?

You are not counted out because you were rejected.

The endeavor wasn’t wasted just because your work was not deemed winner. You accepted the call, put the long hours into the practice, and believed that God had His divine purposes even in the possibility of being unchosen. Rejection can’t shake a faith like that.

I talked to Travis just last night about some feelings of jealousy and rejection heavy on my heart. Those feelings stemmed from something totally unrelated to this story. But he so fittingly prayed something like this:

“Lord, help her to see that her idea of success and yours might be different. Help her to be okay with that. I pray that she wouldn’t gauge her success on what others are doing, but help her to see what You’re is already working through her. God, Your success in her is enough. Help her look for Your success.”

As I step into new classrooms and places, greet new faces, I have to remind myself that my work might at times be rejected; but I am not. The work of my hands will come up short, but it’s already a success because God is at work in ways I may not ever get the privilege of seeing.

I’m no less called than I was before that rejection email, and that is really good news for a perfectionist just trying to make the world a sweeter place.

My 5 most played songs from last year.

The only way I have made it through the last year is by singing.

I’m not a singer, but I love to sing. I think I’ve always been like this. And for a long time, I was oddly embarrassed by it. It wasn’t until I knew Who gave me a voice that I realized why I love to sing –

I love to sing because God delights in it. He welcomes even our pitchy, off-key voice. He hears our heart.

Many have questioned why He hasn’t been around this year. And even though He may seem quiet, I know Him as comforter. As provider, fortress, a shield around me when I feel scared. I know Him as ever present in all my days.

Without him, the confusion and chaos of this year would have been unbearable. Not only has He helped me, but He’s given reason to rejoice when it would have been easier to give up.

I didn’t realize how much I rejoiced with Him until I saw my 5 most played songs from last year. As it turns out, leaning into the Lord and rejoicing in Him has been a hope I’ve clung to.

And you know, I’ve really enjoyed singing to Him this year.

One day my kids and grandkids will ask how we made it through this year. I’ll remember the masks and sanitizer, the riots and political upheaval. I’ll remember these songs too.

Above all, I’ll remember the God who makes these songs true.

I’m sharing these songs of encouragement with you too. I hope you find as much joy and comfort in them as I have during this remarkable season. Wherever your journey is today – whether you’re on the road, at a desk, or doing dishes at the sink, I pray you sing knowing that God delights in your voice. Really, you.

The song I needed in the mornings before settling into my dining room table for another day of working remotely, when I wasn’t sure if I could do the new tasks and pivots ahead of me.

You Know My Name by Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Jimi Cravity

“You know my name –

and oh how You walk with me

and oh how You talk with me

and oh how You tell me

I am Your own”

The song I needed in the evenings as I lay on the living room floor with a journal, burdened by the weight of uncertainty and desiring to be near God.

Build My Home by Harp + Arrows

“Jesus, come lead me into the secret place and let me stay

as I come a little closer now, I fall to my knees and take my place”

The song I had on repeat what felt like every drive, and when I needed to refocus before heading into my classroom again.

All I Want by Red Rocks Worship

“My delight is found only in

the splendor of Your love

Your presence, oh God,

I find my joy is in Your truth”

The song that I needed to remember there’s victory even in what appears to be our loss and struggle.

Fountain (I Am Good) by Mosaic MSC

“You are the Father

love rushing through Your veins

warm and devoted

tenderness filled with strength

and You heal to the bone

You speak life to the soul”

The anthem as racial reconciliation came to the light, and for the first time in our generation as a nation, called it out and began considering how to move forward.

This is a Move by Tasha Cobbs Leonard

“bodies are still being raised

giants are still being slain

God, we believe ‘cause yes we can see that

wonders are still what You do”

Not all too long ago, our wonderfully diverse classroom would have been impossible.

I sat staring at the screen. Images of skin tones and crowds of people blurred the page; a courageous, booming voice seemed to fill the silent room where I sat. I had come face to face with these words before, but not like this. They’d never shaken me like this.

The sound of him echoing over a crowd was on loop, “I have a dream that one day little black boys and black girls will be holding hands with little white boys and white girls.”

I read it again. And again. I glanced at the clock. 11:17 AM. My time to figure out this lesson was dwindling.

At this point in my career, I’ve planned hundreds of lessons for English learners. Thousands of hours, no exaggeration, have been clocked with refugees and immigrants.

We’ve practiced some really hard grammar points and learned how to play some cultural games. We’ve practiced the hard math problems. My kiddos and I have had some practice managing our emotions and meltdowns in real time. We’ve talked about how to cope with some of the most confusing feelings going on inside of us.

Planning lessons, preparing contingencies, adapting in the moment, and teaching diverse classrooms is a part of my weekly rhythm. I know I’m still young, but I’m past a lot of my earliest classroom jitters.

But no lesson I’ve ever taught has felt as intimidating to me as yesterday’s lesson on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

He exemplified courage and commitment in the face of adversity. He remained faithful to his conviction of equality and sought change that would continue for generations. He was – is – a hero. He’s a role model we can all look to, a man of peace of wisdom. He’s the kind of person I want to teach my students about.

So why was I nervous to lead this lesson?

Because while I’m grateful for his legacy and the opportunity to honor him, it feels a shame that we ever came to that point in the first place.

How do you look at a classroom of children from 8 different countries, each beautifully wearing a different shade of skin, and explain that America hasn’t always been like this? How do you tell them that our history is tainted with the judgement of another person, just because of the color of their skin? How do you explain they wouldn’t have always been welcome here?

I couldn’t tell them this, but I know the truth: that one day, not all too long ago, our wonderfully diverse classroom would have been impossible.

I also know the harder truth: that many people still won’t welcome them here.

Although I don’t really get jitters before leading one of my classes anymore, I do often feel unqualified. I always need to remember that my ability to love and lead comes from the Lord. Not myself.

But yesterday, I felt deeply unqualified. I was keenly aware of my whiteness. It shook me more than it has before, especially this year.

How could I, a white girl from small town Tennessee, tell the story of a vile past at the hands of others who look like me with intent to harm innocent people who look like them?

How could I, this girl who has lost nothing compared to all my refugee students have lost, stand up and tell the history I wish could be undone? The same history that has not affected me like it has my colored, marginalized, and accused neighbors?

It felt unfair. To stand up in front of this beautifully colored class and talk about segregation – it was the hardest thing I’ve done in a while.

I’ve taught about Martin Luther King, Jr. before. I’ve heard his story for nearly a lifetime. But like many of you, I’m awakened to it for the first time now. It’s not just a story on a page about some man who made a big difference; it’s a cruel history still in the hard process of redemption.

I can’t change the fact that I am a white girl from small town Tennessee. I can change my actions though. I can stand up for what’s right even if my knees are shaking, I can teach a younger generation that they are valued, and I can do the work of creating diverse classrooms. I can commit myself to always learning more, to hearing every side. I can choose to not be blind.

Above all, I can humble myself. I can keep myself low before the Lord and keep working.

I’m not a perfect teacher, and despite what they might think, I don’t have many answers. However, my prayer is that they would know they are loved by this small-town white girl. My prayer is that when they are a little older and able to put together more of these complicated pieces, that they would remember how equal and fair our classroom was regardless of the nation’s messy history. My prayer is that when they remember me, they would remember felt safety.

There’s little that can be done about the deep sorrow I feel inside me; the past cannot be undone. My only consolation is knowing that the generous, unquestioning love I offer now could play a small role in changing the future.

During our lesson, one of our students raised her hand to share a thought. She said, “I like being friends with white and black people. Everyone is so nice. I like being friends with everyone.”

I remembered that line again –

“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”

Change is happening, even in the youngest of hearts. The work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was honored in our diverse classroom yesterday. I only hope he’d be proud of the sorrowful, yet hopeful, white girl too.

How are you waiting for Jesus to arrive?

The leaves have danced off the trees and the turkey is cold again; in its place comes the Christmas season. Here comes a herald of holly and gift wrap, of warm greetings and jingle bells.

On our drive beneath the Tennessee sunset on our way to a small Thanksgiving dinner a couple days ago, advent came up. We were just at the crest of a hill, the pink and orange sky outstretched above lanes of highway, when Travis said, “Celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving makes me feel like I’m bought into consumerism.”

As the sky rolled on above us, we unpacked it. We found words for what we just naturally do in our home. Our desire is to spend November thanking God for the good things in our life. We participate in a season of reworking gratitude into our every day, because in doing so, we see our Father’s goodness all the more (James 1:17).

But when December comes, we spend it in thanking God specifically for the good gift of His Son. We ponder on the mystery of salvation. We marvel at the story of Jesus’s humble human entrance into this world. We wait.

Well, don’t let me be the one to start a debate on when the appropriate time to celebrate Christmas is. You’re welcome here, even if you’ve been listening to Christmas music since October. I’m not here to cause division, I’m simply saying that either way –

It’s time to prepare.

There are gifts to find and cards of red and green to write. We have presents to wrap, recipes to perfect, party dresses to purchase – we’re all still doing that this year, even though we’re staying home, right?

The American Christmas really does roll out quite the red carpet for this holiday season. But for the Christian, the hallmark of this season is humbly spiritual.

Our preparation is not only hanging beautiful décor and rocking around the Christmas tree. We participate in those things because it’s fun and laughable, and God has made us to enjoy life (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10).

But when the lights go out, we have more to celebrate. We prepare not merely for lights and dollars, but for a gift that will never taken away: the birth of our Life and Joy. Advent is a sacred few weeks worked into our calendar so we can wait for coming of Jesus. There’s a quiet groan aching within us as we reset our vision back on Him.

How are you waiting for Jesus to arrive? It’s a question I’m asking myself today.

I’ve found that these weeks of waiting, or advent, look different for every season of my Christian walk. There have been a few resources I’ve used more than once that have enriched the days of waiting for me. You can explore some of my recommended options below.

As we step into this beautiful, somber season of waiting, let’s cling tight to what we know to be most true: that God loved humanity in all its brokenness so much that He gave us His Son as a baby to serve and teach us. Let’s marvel at this miracle and dare to trust all the more deeply in this wonderful story.

Advent Project 2020

Provided by Biola University’s Center for Christianity Culture and the Arts, this Advent series features a daily Scripture, devotion, a work of visual art, a poem, and a piece of music.

There are two things I most love about the Advent Project, and why I continually come back to this resource:

001. Integration of art. Creation and our created projects glorify a Creator God. God loves when we create beautiful things. The art and music provided each day only enhances the beauty of the written word.

002. Different teachers, one salvation. Because each essay is written by a different professor, theologian, or friend of the university, there is a wide range of voice. But the remarkable thing is how regardless of whether the Episcopalian or the Baptist are sharing, or somewhere in between, all rest their faith in Jesus.

What a diverse, creative, beautiful universal church we get to be a part of. I look forward to the Advent Project every year. The Advent Project follows the full Advent calendar, so you get daily essays emailed from November 29 – January 6. This unique plan is rich and fulfilling.

Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones

Is this a kid’s book? Yes.

Have I used this devotionally before? Also yes.

The older I get and messier life becomes, the more I hunger to sit in the simple presence of my Savior. This children’s book is an all-time favorite, completed with lyrical wording and adorable pictures. Every story points us back to Jesus – exactly what we need day in and day out.

25 Days of Advent

Provided by Hannah Brencher, this 25-day daily email devotional is packed full of truth and beauty. The queen of storytelling and breaking the Bible down into bite-sized chunks, while not minimizing the deep theological truths of the Word, this series is a delightful read paired best with coffee in the morning.

Honest Advent by Scott Erickson

Travis and I purchased this book to read through this season, so I can’t give an honest review about Honest Advent yet. However, we chose this book for 3 main reasons:

001. The feminine perspective on the birth story that we’ve never heard before.

002. The honest, descriptive account of the outright scandal of Jesus’ birth.

003. The reflective artwork.

My prayer is that this book will take us on a journey to reclaiming the wonder of Christ afresh as we behold Him in all the goopy mess. In a world of striving and beautifying, my soul is ready to crash into the honesty of the advent season.

What if a refugee asks, “Who did you vote for?”

Photo generously provided here.

I’ve been asked a couple times over the last few weeks, “Who did you vote for?”

Not by my American friends. No, they’ve probably already assumed who I voted for. Most would choose the thrill of speculation over just asking the question.

My refugee students are different though. They’re not afraid to ask.

They’ve not asked with any hint of malice, judgement, or anger in their tones. I can’t hear a single tone of offense or unkindness in their voice. They’re just genuinely curious.

Americans know this question is personal – impolite even. Our reserved and individualized culture is so deeply woven within us, this question might surprise us coming from the wrong person. Our default answer to that big question might sound something like: my vote is my vote, and it’s none of your business unless I invite you into it.

Instead of getting offended by this question, I have to step into the shoes of a refugee.

This has been my first presidential election I’ve been a part of in my time working on the field with refugees and immigrants. I was surprised to learn how invested my students have been in this great, American process. This is their front row seat to democracy in action, and that’s not a thing to be taken lightly.

Refugees don’t know what it’s like to vote.

Many of the people who resettled here in the States fled broken, war-torn countries. They had no vote or say; they were forced to leave.

But here we are, a nation of free people who each have a responsibility to exercise our right to vote so that our nation doesn’t cave in. The foundational component of our nation is our human right to vote. Though we have not always exercised that well, we’re trying. America might not be perfect, but at least our citizens have a right to speak up. We get a say in the direction we want our country to go in.

Have you ever considered how incredible that thought is?

This is very different than other nations across the world. Take the refugee friends in our communities, for example. They’ve never had a say. No one has ever asked their opinion about who should be in office. In fact, they’ve been forced to leave their heart land because of corrupt government and powerful people who said they didn’t belong. Basic human rights are stripped from the refugee, including their voice and vote to create a safe, flourishing nation.

Our right to elect arguably the most powerful position in the world is a privilege. It’s a wonder to those who can’t participate.

They can’t vote, but they can care.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve seen my formers students from Hong Kong sharing articles on social media about the U.S. election. This is mind-blowing to me – to realize that an entire world is watching how this pans out. It so happens that some of our friends of other cultures are here on American soil, unable to vote but still fully invested in the election.

I can’t speak for my friends overseas, but I know one thing for certain: our refugee and immigrant friends on American soil care how this turns out. I’m going to state this bluntly –

They love this country.

Refugees who were resettled in the States are so grateful to be here. They wish no harm to come upon our nation, this place that we both call home. They hope for freedom, peace, and opportunity just as much as much as any natural-born citizen.

They’re here for the long run. They’re impacted by our vote just as much, if not more, than we are.  What happens in this election might affect the world, but it affects us here on American soil first and foremost. And no one hopes for a safe place to build a life in more than those who have made the long, dangerous, tiring trek to be here.

The people asking these hard questions are filling in the cultural gaps and making our country richer.

Our friends from other countries might not get how impolite it is to ask someone who got their vote simply because their culture is different from American culture.

Our American hearts shrink up and lock up at a bold question from a stranger. But our refugee friends’ hearts might say, “I’m unashamed to ask and share because I belong to my community, and my community belongs to me too. We’re in this together.”

That doesn’t make them wrong. It doesn’t make us right either. It does make American soil all the richer, deeper for making space for differing opinions and perspectives.

I’m grateful for the courage of my refugee students to ask the awkward questions.

What an honor it is to be a part of a decision that will affect people for generations to come, including my refugee friends. I must not ever forget that most people in this world don’t get a voice; I’ll strive to do well with the one I’ve been given. It truly is a gift.

English learners asked me a hard question, and they might have given the most helpful perspective this entire election season.

I hope one day I get the privilege to ask, “Student, who did you vote for?” I hope they don’t take offense to the question. I’m sure they won’t think I’m rude for asking. In fact, I bet they’ll beam with pride at the opportunity to speak up and mark their vote on a ballot.

Church, even if you lose, you’re still on the winning side.

Tuesday is coming.

Americans sprawled from the east to the west coasts will watch as ballots are counted. State by state, county by county, polling location by polling location, one by one. I imagine there will be an array of feelings sweep across the nation as the numbers inch higher and higher.

Some will celebrate at the end of the night, beaming with pride, “Yeah, that was my vote. The right vote.” There may be applause, or there might be a quiet sigh of relief in homes across the nation.

Some will be on the winning side and might wonder how anyone could have voted for that one.

Others will be disappointed, maybe even outraged. Heads will shake, “How are we going to get through these 4 years?” Surely there will be angry Facebooks posts, and maybe even tears shed for the loss.

Some will be on the losing side and might wonder how anyone could have voted for that one.

This Tuesday could be a Tuesday we always remember. We don’t know how it’s going to shake out, or what’s going to happen in the wake of the results. As we prepare for it, let us remember:

The sovereignty of God is not threatened,

the Kingdom is not in trouble,

and even if you “lose,” you’re still on the winning side.

There’s not a perfect savior on this earth, unless His name is Jesus from Nazareth, the Christ. That name was 100% not found on my ballot last week. And according to my Bible, He isn’t confined to one political system. In fact, He disrupted the political system of His time.

For me, as I prayed for this election, I thought foremost of my refugee friends and students. I considered how to make my vote count for them. Their faces came to mind every time I prayed for this election. I felt a deep conviction, as I have for a few years now, to speak up on their behalf.

I’m guessing you probably had other people and ideas engraved on your heart when you considered who to vote for. Someone came to mind. Something stirred you. It may not have been my refugee friends, but someone compelled you to vote for them.

Your and my convictions might have led us to vote for different people, but neither of us are more loved by God. Neither are we more approved. Let’s boldly believe that His hand of guidance was on me just as much as it was on you too.

It’s amazing to me how a church spread across a continent can pray about who to vote for. And still, there will not be one consensus. There’s room for people representing ideas on both sides of the aisle.

God will not send down an angel to command each of us who to vote for. He did not write that verse in the Bible. No, that is not His way. Why? Because He is not a dictator, tyrant, or bully. Our hope is not in the most powerful person in the world – not even the President of the United States.

Our hope is better; it’s in Christ.

As believers step into voting booths, we’ll find there will not be only one answer to prayers. I really believe that God, in His sovereignty, will lead his church to vote for more than one person. The church will represent every name on the ballot. The church will identify with more than one candidate’s story and heart.

You know, maybe even Kanye’s.

Friends, that is the sovereignty of God. The indescribable, unknowable plans of the master craftsman. I can barely comprehend it. He is not put into a single checked box. He is not a simple answer. The sovereignty of God leads a nation of believers to vote for different people, and still accomplish His plans. The systems and politics of this world don’t perfectly align with His heart.

Our hope for something better cannot be satisfied in one vote for a political leader; the hope He offers is far greater. We don’t hope in man to work things out for us. We hope in a God who is so intimately at work in the very minds, hearts, and souls of humanity that we can’t even begin to unravel His plans.

Your vote matters, and your voice needs to be heard. But you can’t mess this up. God is still here, fighting on behalf of His church in ways that we can’t even explain.

So what do we do on an election day?

We go to God. We pray. We definitely vote. We love our neighbors, brothers, and sisters despite their vote. And we stand with an unwavering resolved to seek His glorious face, knowing that His embrace will never be loosened. We might even remind ourselves  –  

The sovereignty of God is not threatened,

the Kingdom is not in trouble,

and even if you “lose,” you’re still on the winning side.

A kids book and a man I didn’t know to say thank you to.

March: Book One | Authors: John Lewis and Andrew Aydin | Illustrator: Nate Powell

My students and I have been engaging in conversations about civil rights this summer.

It’s no coincidence that right now, during a wave of civil rights movements and a stronger push for equality, that all my students are African kids.

We’ve been reading a lot of books inspired by civil rights activists and leaders to guide our discussion. Several weeks ago, some of them and I read this one together – an illustrated graphic memoir about the early life of John Lewis.

This book left me in awe.

It’s set in Representative John Lewis’s office in Washington DC. It’s the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, and as Lewis meets a couple of kids. The boys are intrigued by his story, and Lewis shares his journey through flashbacks to his own childhood.

In these flashbacks, I learned of his earliest days in rural Alabama. I scoffed at the school situation he grew up in as a black boy, especially compared to white students.

I read about his first road trip to the north, and how strange he felt to have a white neighbor for a summer. I felt his hurt when his parents urged him to stay home, keep quiet, and not to cause a trouble.

I heard his retelling a meeting with Martin Luther King Jr. that would set him on a life-changing trajectory to fight for civil rights. I read and really understood the challenges he was faced as a black man. I celebrated with him at the victories he and his colleagues made for equality.

As we read some of the injustices he faced, my kids asked – genuinely confused –

“What? Why? But that’s not fair.”

And how do you really answer when they ask why black kids couldn’t buy ice cream that was as good as the white kids’?

How do you explain to them why black schools were smaller and older, with broken playgrounds – if they were even lucky enough to have one in the first place? How do you tell them that black people weren’t treated fairly just because of the color of their skin?

It struck a chord in me because I learned that much of Senator Lewis’ activism was birthed in Nashville. It’s here, in my city, that he sparked a movement as a college student decades ago. He collaborated with other students to form the Nashville Student Movement, a battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins.

The book mentions roads and places, universities and landmarks, that I’ve been near my whole life. These places I’ve seen and where John Lewis participated in change all those years ago are one and the same. I marveled at the courage it took for people to stand up to make lasting change in our community.

It sounds crazy, but these little photo boxes and word bubbles shook me up.

John Lewis was on the front lines courageously facilitating change.

He played an integral part in changing my city for the better, and I had no clue until just a few weeks ago. I’m grateful for his courage to not only stand up decades ago, but to continue working for justice until his last day.

You probably know how this story turns out. Lewis’ work doesn’t stop in Nashville. It continues on, eventually leading him to seat in Congress.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but this graphic novel was my first time really hearing the story of John Lewis.

Although I’m disappointed to only now begin to understand it, I’m grateful that his legacy will continue on. So this weekend, as we mourn the loss of this leader, I can’t help but whisper a word of thanks for his work.

He stood up in adversity. He cast vision when he was told it was impossible. He believed in the possibility that every person, regardless of skin color, can be equally loved and treated.

This particular page I photographed weeks ago is of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s address to Nashville. I’ve read this inspiring quote before and nearly bought the t-shirt to prove it. What I didn’t know prior to reading this story is that this “great movement” that took place in the community was worked by John Lewis. This was the movement that Dr. King drew inspiration from and had to see for himself.

This was a movement that changed Nashville forever. I’m forever grateful for it and for Senator John Lewis’ vision to lead.

I’m patiently waiting to pick up the next books in the series from the library. I’m learning a lot this summer. I hope you are too.

Only Jesus can uplift us from across a room, encouraging and teaching us without a word.

The church is meeting again, but the sanctuary feels more empty now. Our chairs are carefully measured 6 feet away from the next family’s, and we’re told to leave the room quickly after service ends so the room can be properly sanitized before the next service.

It’s different from the church I’m used to – the one where we’re packed closely together on long pews, the church where we look for those to wrap our arms around as soon as the music stops. It’s different from the days when we slowly watched others leave as we stood around talking, and looked for people to connect with.

Church may look different during this season, but one thing I am certain of: our gathering is not in vain.

Last week, I stood in that big sanctuary, swaying along to music. Under my mask, my face felt warm as I sang along to words I know by heart. My arms hung loosely by my side.

Out of the corner of my eye, movement caught my eye. I looked across the sanctuary to see a mom clapping with her young son. He was maybe 6 or 7. The lyrics continued spilling from my lips as I watched her carefully. This momma was clapping, swaying, air drumming along to the music with her little guy.

But not just her. Next to her, who I assume to be, her husband had a toddler on his hip. He wasn’t air drumming, but he was swaying and swinging her around. He was looking right at her, and he smiled broadly as their lips moved with the words of the music.

And together, this small family worshipped Jesus.

Even from across the room, their joy was evident. Each one of them were loving this moment together. They looked like they were having the time of their lives while worshiping Jesus, and I immediately thought: I hope I can be a mom like that one day.

The stream of hopes for the future came –

I hope I can teach the next generation the joy of singing to Jesus. I want to be bold enough to move for Him. I want to be that mom that sways and dances and smiles for Him too. I want my little ones to look at me as the momma who makes loving Jesus exciting, joyful, full of life. I hope, I hope, I hope. One day.

This family looked like there was nowhere else they’d rather be in the world than in this mask-filled, socially distanced sanctuary praising the Lord. And yet, here I was in awe of them, waiting for some distant day to suddenly worship in a way that reflects the true joy in my heart.

I was loving this family’s joy and counting myself out of it. My own arms suddenly felt stiff, hanging heavily by my side.

But a strange thing happened. I realized that joy is promised to all believers. No conditions or prerequisites, other than loving Him first.  

I continued singing, and I felt a smile draw on my face – I realized that I don’t have to wait for that joy. I have full permission in my Savior to celebrate Him joyously now. I don’t have to be a mom to let my happiness in Him be evident, or to encourage others. I get to live that now. I get to sway, sing, dance, air drum – if I so please – even now.

I get to enjoy worshipping Him today.

I looked around the sanctuary and saw other dads holding their daughters, sons standing on their seat with an arm around their momma’s neck – so many sweet pictures of gospel love. Our voices were lifted up to our King, and my arms raised in obedient joy. I didn’t air drum that morning, but I was refreshed in the Lord by this family’s simple desire to worship happily.

So to the moms and dads worried about making it to church during this season, I am watching from you and am learning so much from you right now. Children’s classes may be cancelled, but there is truly no need to worry what the rest of us think of your kids in the sanctuary. Your leading them in worship is leading me too. Your joy is filling the space; you’re setting an example for so many of us.

By the way, this is why we’re going to church right now. Only Jesus can uplift us from across a room, encouraging and teaching us without a word. There are challenges to meeting together, and it may feel strange to wear a mask while singing, but the joy of lifting our voices to the Lord together is incomparable.

I’m really grateful for family worship this COVID-19 season has unexpectedly lavished upon us, because we get to see love in new ways. The discomforts of the season are worth the opportunity to even be nearer to other believers, and to witness firsthand accounts of loving well.

Friend, whether you’re the mom air drumming or the shy girl just faithfully singing along, I bet your worship is encouraging others from across the room in more ways than you can see. Don’t shy away. Someone (me) draws so much strength from your love for Jesus.

It’s good to be back.

Hang On, Heaven is Coming

We are told to be alone right now, and I keep thinking about heaven.

We are hunkered down at home. Some of us have finally gotten around to, and even finished, those projects we never thought we’d start. Others of us have given an embarrassing amount of time to Words With Friends; I somehow land in both categories.

We can’t go anywhere, and it’s not normal. Well, I suppose it’s our “new normal.”

The loss still feels strange. All the coffee dates that never happened, and the concerts and weddings that were cancelled. Everything we used to do and not think twice about is gone for now. Every plan we dragged our feet about making was postponed before it even made it on the calendar.

Perhaps for the first time in our Westernized lives, we are experiencing what it means to have our wants, comforts, and everyday routines removed from us. We’ve never really treaded these waters before. In our culture that prizes comfort, where even our poorest live in luxury compared to others in the world and throughout history, having anything taken from us is hard.

But it’s not just our favorite coffee houses or local shops that have been taken. Our entire sense of normalcy has been uprooted. And as we get honest with ourselves in these quiet moments, we’re realizing how people – friends, family, coworkers, strangers at the grocery store – play a vital role in our daily rhythm.

We are a people who are learning to look ahead to the right things now, and the more I think on this, the closer it brings me to heaven.

Of all the losses, not being at church has been the hardest.

We can’t gather in the sanctuary to worship God. No one is crowding in living rooms with Bibles open. There’s not a host welcoming you in for dinner right now. This isn’t time to pull a friend into a hug as you pray grace over her, or look into someone’s eyes to ask, and wait for the response, “How are you doing?”

In its place is a schedule of Zoom calls and livestreams, a never-ending stream of Marco Polos and text messages.

At first it was exciting. Oh, let’s gather in our neighbor’s home to watch the church service. We’ll cook breakfast, and it’ll be fun.

Then we said, Let’s watch the church service in our living room, snuggled with the cats with a cup of coffee in hand, fresh cinnamon rolls in front of me. We can get through this. This isn’t so bad.

Weeks in and the coffee seems to get cold a little faster. And the cinnamon rolls? Not as fresh.

This seeps into every aspect of community. I usually share an office space with some of the God-loving women I most admire, but for 5 weeks now, my “office space” has been a blue plastic tote next to my dining room table and my “work attire” has been chinos and house shoes.

The coffee just gets colder when we’re alone.

Even the most introverted, home-bodied of us all need to be near others.

As I’ve settled into self-isolation, there is an aching growing at the center of me. It’s this humble confession: I long to be in community again.

I’m restless to raise my hands in worship with the congregation, and to be with my brothers and sisters again. I want to hear a whole body of believers lifting their voices in adoration to the Lord, and to feel the friend beside me scripting notes as the pastor leads us through a passage.

There has to be something, someone, some group you miss too? Not one of us has walked this season without giving up something.

We were not meant to be alone. I am understanding that now – in these wild days of global pandemic – more than ever. As I look ahead to the day when I can be in community again, away from this exile on the Persinger’s carpeted island with the olive wreath on the door, it’s all I can do to think how tightly I’m going to hug some people.

I have a feeling that when we go back to church, when everything gets back to normal, we will love the people when we walk through the doors more honestly and openly than we ever have before.

Can you imagine how amazing those greetings are going to be?

Friends, we are getting ready for a glimpse of heaven.

I know we feel alone and disconnected right now. Even the most introverted of us; I know because I’m one of them. We long for hugs and to lock eyes with another person. My soul feels it – that need to pull another person in close, to hear the voice of a brother singing, to see a sister’s face light up and hands raised in worship.

At the end of these days await once-in-a-lifetime reunions. And these will be glimpses of heaven we’ve not ever seen before. I really believe this.

Because at the end of this isolation are restored greetings with brothers and sisters, people we have missed. And not just any reunion; it’s going to be a reunion of tears. Tight hugs. Laughter and wide smiles. Waiting for us around this corner is a renewed love for the gifts we have, starting with the congregation of God.

I don’t have answers for most things in this life, including the whys and hows of this pandemic we are living in. But if there is one thing I am certain of in this life it’s that God doesn’t waste. He’s going to use this, and is already, to tell us something.

I’m not the first person to think this. I’ve heard other believers, both friends and leaders alike, voice this too. But, what if just one way that God is speaking to us right now is by giving us a unique opportunity to savor this moment of looking forward to being with brothers and sisters again?

What if He’s allowing us to truly miss and appreciate the gift of friendship and camaraderie that we take for granted every week? What if we are being beckoned into a deeper love for the community He has given us?

So this is how, as I sit in the quiet of my home, busying myself with tasks and spending extra time FaceTiming, I can’t help but feel drawn toward heaven.

We are looking ahead to the most rich, genuine earthly reunions we’ve ever been a part of. Our arms will be stretched wider than ever before, and our joy will run in tears down our faces as we finally feel together again. Sometimes when I imagine that first Sunday back at church, in some future day, that hope is enough for the moment; it’s only a snapshot compared to the glorious reunions we’ll experience in heaven, and yet, it’s enough.

They say we’re living in unprecedented times, but I think the remarkable thing about it all is that when these days of heaviness are lifted, the joy and gratefulness to follow will be unlike anything we’ve experienced here before.

So when this is over, when we’re a little wiser and patient and quicker to show our love to others, just remember that this is our glimpse into the heavenlies.

We’re eager to greet one another at the end of this season. There’s another day we’re eager for: it’s the day when our mourning and sojourning on earth will finally be brought to an end, and we’ll make it the glory of heaven we were created for. We’ll see our beloved brothers and sisters in restored bodies, and meet our Savior face to face. There will no tears or fear, but we will only know how to love and live in community without any disease or fear; there will be no comparison to that joy.

But hang on, because pretty soon, we’ll return to the sanctuary on earth and we’ll get to peer into the heavenlies disguised as long-missed earthly gatherings.

Let’s sit in the presence of this season, yes, but let’s also look ahead. Let’s not miss the opportunity to catch a glimpse of glory, even here.

That’s a Wrap


An Ode to the Wins and Setbacks of 2019

If you know me, you know I love tradition and can tie sentiment to anything. But this winter, we gave up some things – traditions, expectations, rituals, shopping adventures.

This season, working to get out of student loan debt has made a tremendous impact on our lifestyle; I especially felt it this season. The way we shopped, wrapped, and participated in the whole season is changing. Has changed.

You see, the deeper we go into this journey, the more I realized it’s not about the debt. It’s about my love for “stuff.” It’s our society’s constant message: you don’t have enough and you need this to be happy. It’s the constant, tortuous game of comparison and discontentment.

We blocked out that message of comparison shouted to our society. It might sound silly, but we made a choice to have a smaller Christmas to stay in budget. What we didn’t anticipate is that by choosing to engage in smaller ways, we would actually open a wider breadth in which to celebrate and be present with others.

We would actually prove to ourselves that we can love and serve well with little; we can live big moments with little things. But, it required some sacrifice. (Albeit little things to you, but these were initially hard for me to release):

  • We gave up matching Christmas PJs and got matching socks instead.

  • We chose 1 gift for each of our people because 2 would be out of budget (even though we really wanted to do more and look ahead to the day when we can be outrageously generous).

  • We made coffee at home before hitting the road, instead of buying Starbucks. We packed snacks instead of hitting a drive thru.

  • We received and displayed Christmas cards with joy instead of sending them (I LOVE snail mail!).

  • We shared presents in gift exchange games, and had to learn how to agree on gifts to contribute together.

  • We said NO to cat stockings (even though I love them so much).

  • We reused the same wonky tree, whose branches are still bent from the cat’s last year and only got more out of shape this year.

  • We only used decorations we had from previous years; absolutely zero new decor was purchased.

  • We sought ethical and local gifts, and chose to be okay with the small stack under the tree.

  • We made a choice to look at our Christmas, and enjoy it, even though it was small.

I should rewind. This theme of minimizing and simplifying, this mantra of defying the rules of American consumerism and consumption, has really been in the works this entire year. It’s not a switch I turned on December 1. Actually, these ideas began rooting within me before we ever flipped the calendar to 2019.

But I owe it to 2019 for all she’s done to serve this desire well. All she’s taught me. This year was simple and peaceful in our home. It was calm. It was small. It was decluttered.

The biggest decision we made this year was this: to stay.

We renewed the lease on our apartment for a second year. We hosted friends for dinner, and became members at a church we’ve fallen in love with over the last year and a half. We set our alarms every morning and showed up to the same office and workshop every day. We continued praying for family and friends, students and ministries. We had monthly supper clubs with our old college friends. We set goals every month to pay down that student loan bill.

We were just… here. Nothing big or mighty, special or particularly impressive. We were here, doing the faithful and often monotonous work of living the faith in the places we’ve been called.

And it is because of our commitment to small living this year, that I can say with total confidence that what has happened this year has been from the hand of God. We’ve done next to nothing, and certainly nothing of extreme impressiveness with own hands.

The wins of 2019, y’all. Wonderful wins.

After years of endless prayers and tears, my father came to Christ. Just weeks later, I witnessed he and my mom finally exchange hands in marriage. These are gifts I’ll treasure in my heart forever; these are gifts that most kids don’t get to witness – the choice of their father to follow his Heavenly Father and their parents’ wedding. Two marriages I will never forget. But God did it. What a win.

We watched healing and restoration ripple in relationships in my life. Obstacles and hurts, frustrations and burdens that once overtook my heart were stilled. Honestly, I can’t explain it. Forgiveness and love swept through our souls in ways I can’t make up.

I set a reading goal for the first time in my life, and not only met it, but surpassed it – 25/24 books read!

Travis and I both found wonderful favor with our bosses. He received bonuses and pay raises, and my position became a full-time gig.

I wrote more than I ever have. I started and continued a book, and set up this blog. When a friend found it, she said, “Wow, you’re so consistent.” I’m no where near where I want to be, but I’m practicing and I’m getting there; that’s a win.

Travis and I dove deeper into community with a small group of friends. We began serving at our church. Transitioning to a new church home is daunting work. I say this from a believer who actually wants it, and I can’t imagine how hard it is for people who are skeptical of church. But our roots grow deeper every day.

I prayed more than I have in my entire Christian walk. Even when I didn’t feel like it, I did it because I knew my soul needed it. I learned new tools and practices to prayer, and they helped me tremendously. Discipline is hard, but 2019 is the year I began deciding what I want to be disciplined in- something I want to do even when I don’t want to, you know? And prayer was on the list.

Travis and I made honest, tight monthly budgets. We made some cuts and sacrifices, but also gave grace, and we doubled our student loan repayment in this second year of marriage. We are now past the halfway mark of paying down our student loan debt, and are determined to be at $0 by the end of 2020.

I shouldn’t just give you the wins; 2019 certainly had setbacks too.

Not including the condition of politics in America, Twitter explosions, and outrageous headlines, some of my every days were hard too.

I lost friendships – as in, cut out, don’t-want-to-talk-to-ya-again, completely erased from memory. And I deeply feared losing others; I missed home and people. I struggled with comparson and the heavy weight that I never meet expectations. I felt anxious when the Lord was quiet because our lives were quiet. I feared that Travis and I are rats in a wheel, doing the same things in the same places we’ll be doing for the rest of our lives. I dealt with other fears. I often didn’t feel like praying or reading.

2019 handed me some difficult challenges and losses, some of which I’m still recovering from. But woven intricately in it all, and above all, in 2019 I saw the kindness of God.

I saw his faithfulness. I saw him supply more when I lacked. He set a Spirit of empowerment and joy in me, refusing to be swayed by the craziness of our culture. He began working a boldness to live… differently.

It was in the works all year. But my simple, sweet, little Tennessee Christmas was pure evidence of all this work.

He beckoned me into his quiet presence and peace, assuring me that he is at work even when I’m not. Perhaps that is why I’m seeking a simple, quiet life right now. Maybe that’s why contentment and minimalism are tiny anthems plastered over my heart – because God knows that he is enough for me. And 2019 was a launching pad; how much more I have to go.

One day, older and wiser me is going to thank this younger me that we began this process of simplifying and allowing ourselves space to be present, while unashamedly combatting consumerism and comparison.

I’m still learning how to live “weird” unapologetically, but this season – this whole year – was a big step. It was simple and calm, and I’m beginning to think that sustainable and content living is truly possible. It’s not glamorous, but it’s beautiful.

So, if you had a small Christmas too, and gave up things you wanted for better fruit, welcome to the club. If you’re walking away from 2019 feeling like you accomplished absolutely nothing of extraordinary impressiveness, I’m walking with you.

I’m still here, relishing in it too.