Saturday, April 19, 2014


Just do it.

That’s what I learned from the Festival of Faith and Writing last weekend. I learned a ton of things, actually, so much that it will take me quite a while to sit down and process everything. But there were certainly several themes that pervaded the entire conference, and one theme that stuck with me was the idea that in order to become a good writer, I just have to do it. I just have to sit down and put words on the page. Even if those words are crappy. Even if I don’t feel like writing. Even on the days when I really have nothing to say. Well--that’s another issue. Richard Foster had some interesting insights on the fact that there are times when one ought not to write. But more often than not, sitting down and producing words is really the first step. You can rewrite a terrible first draft but you can’t produce something that's not there.

That’s something that I’ve been mulling over lately and that has left me with some regret. I’m a fairly faithful journaler, yet I still often fail to capture important moments, like the time at the Riverwalk when we were swing dancing and a half-drunk heavily tattooed man came leering by looking for a fight and ended up in tears on the steps surrounded by us Christian college kids, giving his life over to Christ, saying over and over that he knew God was real. I’ll never forget that moment, but at the same time, it will never be as vividly clear to me as it was that night when I was sitting in my dorm room overwhelmed by the tangible reality of the Holy Spirit. The moment seemed too spiritual to confine to material language but as time passes and slowly erases the details from my mind, I wish with all my heart that I had struggled with the words and put that moment down on a page. Next time I will.

So that’s where I feel like I need to start. The past. My past. I don’t feel qualified to write about anyone else’s lives or write anything informative about any sort of subject. When I was ten years old I remember feeling completely qualified to write a parenting book. I thought it was entirely unfair that all parenting books should be written by parents--how nice would it be for parents to hear the perspective of a wise, well-informed child? I felt convinced it would be a best seller. Some of that confidence would be nice now, I think. 

So I’ll write. Because writing is what I love, and also because writing is something I need. Fiction will be very nice to get into and I am just going to have to be courageous enough to jump into it and get my hands dirty and write stupid fake little pieces of dialogue between stupid fake little characters until I can wrestle them into actual real live people. My poor perfectionistic self might force me to close my eyes while typing, but I’ll do it anyway. But I will also write about my life, capturing moments as they occur and diving into the past in the best way I know how. It is going to be painful sometimes. But you’ve got to do it. Writing about the good times makes for lovely boring crap. 

So back to the conference. I’ve been struggling a lot lately with direction for my life. That’s a massively large issue which will have to be unfolded bit by bit. Part of the looming confusion, though, is that I have been questioning whether sign language interpreting is what I want to do with my life. You always hear people say “Do what you love.” My brother just finished four years at IPFW and now he’s getting ready to head to New York City for grad school, majoring in piano performance--and he’s living his dream. He waffled for a little while between choosing piano and choosing a more financially secure career, because he is extremely intelligent and could easily be making a lot more money if he wanted to. But he chose to do what he loved and you can tell that he hasn’t regretted it for a second. Seeing that, and living at Bethel where so many people are ministry majors or have some sort of service as their end goal has made me question my choices. What am I really passionate about? The answer is definitely not interpreting. 

I think sign language is incredible, and I love learning it, but when I think about my passions my mind goes to writing, children, and social justice. Those are the things that have always excited me. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. The Adventures of James, a curious little boy who got lost in a hollow tree trunk, was a favorite of my siblings. There was the epic musical about a wicked king and heroic prince for which I roped my brothers and sisters into countless rehearsals and a final dramatic basement presentation. There were the countless poems which I put into a “Book of 101 Poems and Songs” (later editions of the volume read “Book of 109 Poems and Songs” because I had thought of eight more). And kids. I’ve just always loved them and as the second oldest of six I’ve always had a caretaker role, which helped naturally as I took on babysitting and nannying positions. I remember finding out about abortion when I was twelve or thirteen and being outraged and asking Mom what I could do to make it stop. I had this grand idea of starting an organization to fight it or something--I thought if a thirteen year old spoke up, maybe people would listen.

But I don’t want to stop interpreting. I have always had a heart for those who are oppressed and I think that’s what initially drew me to interpreting. That’s what is also becoming my frustration, because as I think about my life as an interpreter I don’t know what I will be able to do about the oppression that I may witness. Or even if deaf people will want me to help. Or even if I will be qualified or in a position to help. 

The conference (obviously) didn’t speak to sign language. But I did walk away with a clear insight that reaffirmed the direction I am heading with my life, and--ironically--confirmed my decision not to be an English major. The insight was this: in order to write well, you have to live. I don’t know that any of the speakers said those exact words, but it was the theme behind nearly every session. Plus it’s common sense. James McBride’s session was particularly encouraging. He said, “Most of what I do fails, but the difference between me and the next guy is that when I fail I just go on and forget all about it.”

I pictured my life as an English major. I would switch to English and then focus solely on writing. I would read a lot (which would be awesome) and get tons of input from incredible professors (which would be awesome) but I would be single-minded. I got this mental image of peering through a very small hole. What would I write about if my life was about writing?

But if I become a sign language major, well first of all, that’s going to be freaking hard. Not only is ASL an incredibly difficult language, but I also happen to be battling this fun little disease that’s infiltrating my whole body and attacking my immune system. So that’s cool. And then I get to graduate and work my butt off for another five years to improve my skills to be able to take my certification test. And this is all assuming that in the next couple years I somehow find a way to defeat the Lyme’s disease, because if I don’t, there’s no way I’m going to make it through interpreting. But hey. I love a challenge. And like James McBride said: “It’s okay to fail because failure teaches you success.”

So in a nutshell, my questions weren’t really answered. But I came away with peace. I’m not meant to be an English major, at least not write now. (Oh I just couldn’t resist the pun.) No, but seriously. I have a life to live. I have things to get out there and fail at. (Shut up Miss Perfectionist!) And don’t get me wrong, I am crazy excited to become an interpreter. I just, first, needed to deal with this dream of being a writer. What this conference did for me was confirm that I won’t ever stop writing. For me, writing is a lot like running. Running makes me feel incredible, I absolutely love it, and it clears my mind. I am religious about working out in the summer but during the school year it usually gets lost in the busyness--though I often think about how much I miss it and I know how much better off I would be if I could just make some time for it. Writing is the same way. I’ll always come back to it, even if it’s not my job, and maybe even more so because it’s not my job.

And that’s all for now.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


There is literally no better time than right now to cling to the Lord and let Him fill me with His grace. I can let the pain make me angry and upset and ask why. I can get mad because I have limitations. I can be upset because I really have no idea what exactly is wrong with me and because the doctors can’t figure it out either. Or I can let the pain make me patient and compassionate. I can embrace my limitations, realizing that I never really had control in the first place.

What I am realizing is: I can’t give what I don’t have. On my own I am weak and tired and totally empty. When I am healthy and not relying on God, I can usually fake some happiness of my own. But without my health I don’t have the strength to do that anymore. It’s just me. Insecure. Unhappy. Ungrateful. In pain. Without God I am ugly. Empty. Drained. With Him I am full of joy. I am patient. I am grateful. I can bear the uncertainty because I realize that He doesn’t give me more than I can bear. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Last Friday I had a meltdown. A crazy schedule, difficult classes, and some recurring health issues had joined together with a healthy dose of insecurity to create a giant monster designed to kick my butt. And that monster succeeded.

You know those days... the ones where social interactions are just a little off. You did or said something mildly embarrassing. You can’t seem to have a good hair day. You keep feeling weird and out of place. Well, it had been one of those weeks. I was gradually feeling more and more insignificant. Despite my best efforts to regain my confidence (deep down I know the outfit I’m wearing isn’t really a make or break issue!) I was clearly fighting a losing battle.

Friday night I confided in my journal: Sometimes I am just so confused. What is right? What is wrong? I am so insecure, and I know it, and I try to be confident, and I can’t because I have so many insecurities. Is life just one long process of coping?

I shed a few tears and went to bed. Nothing changed.

The next day it was like a switch had flipped. I hung out with friends all night and had a great time. On Sunday I went back to my journal and wrote a little reflection on insecurity. I have found it is a pattern in my life. I tend to fluctuate back and forth between confidence and insecurity as if I have little control over this pattern. After looking at my past experiences with this issue, I feel as though insecurity is something I cannot control or keep from happening. However, I can control what I choose to do about it.

Every time insecurity creeps in, I have a few choices to make. I can allow it to overtake me, believe the lies that I am not good enough, and sink in depression. I can try to make myself feel better by looking nice or seeking out approval. But the only thing that will truly deliver me is to look outside myself and find my identity in Christ.

Focusing on myself feeds insecurity. Intentionally searching for ways to serve others, seeking the Lord in prayer, and holding on to God’s truth and promises is what delivers me from it. 

After I reached this realization, it was like climbing a mountain. The theme “Identity in Christ” kept repeating itself in various ways: speakers, devotions, books, Bible studies. This morning our chapel speaker challenged us to take a look at our motivation. Am I motivated by the approval of man, which is fickle and unreliable, or am I motivated by the love of God which has no end?

Chapel ended with the song “How He Loves.” I’m not really a church-service-weeper but I could not hold back the tears in my eyes. He is jealous for ME! Me? Small, insignificant, failure of a person--me. How He loves me. In that moment I was overwhelmed with the realization that I need nothing else. I don’t need the approval of man. I don’t need to be accepted by my peers. I don’t need a boyfriend to tell me that he loves me. I don’t need to be praised by the people I come in contact with. God’s love is enough for me.

I write this down because I know that I will soon forget it. I will start to feel under appreciated. I will feel ugly. I will feel boring. I will compare myself to other people and wonder why I can’t have that personality or why my hair doesn’t look like hers or why I am so horribly bad at small talk. And when this insecurity creeps back into my life--I know that it will--I will remember the truth that I realized during this battle with insecurity:

God is enough.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dear Myself

I’m a huge fan of goal-setting. As summer comes to a close and the fall semester approaches, I decided to take the time to put down a few goals that I have for this semester.
  • Make time for daily devotions. When you get super busy it can be easy to set this aside and say “I’ll just do it later.” Don’t fool yourself with that lie. Do it right now, because otherwise you won’t.
  • Work out at least 3x a week. You’ll feel better, stay healthier, look better, have more energy. Just do it, even when you don’t want to! You’ll thank yourself for it later.
  • Eat right. Living in a house this year will mean more control over your diet. It might take more time to chop up a salad and fruit, but your body is worth it.
  • Give something up regularly. At least once a month, sacrifice something for a week. Facebook, sugar, social media, movies... Something. It builds character and helps to reevaluate goals.
  • Focus on intentionally deepening friendships. Relationships take time and intentionality. Don't allow busyness to cloud what is REALLY important. Spend time getting to know people and being an encouragement. This season of your life will be over before you know it! Use the time that you have surrounded by these incredible people to the fullest.
  • Study hard. There’s a reason this one is last on the list. It would take a brain tumor or something of that nature to get my perfectionist self to not study hard. This is important, so work hard and learn all you can, but remember it’s not THE most important thing.

And here's a motivational quote to close this out! :)

Daily discipline is the DOOR to full freedom. 
~Ann Voskam

Friday, July 26, 2013

Past Redeemed

"I wouldn’t ask too much of her," I ventured. "You can’t repeat the past."
"Can’t repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can!"
(The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald)

I watched the movie The Great Gatsby when it came out and then read the book a week or so later. Nothing stood out to me quite as much as this quote. After some pondering, I came to a conclusion: We may not be able to repeat the past, but we certainly have the power to change it. I’ve witnessed that firsthand. Present actions become a part of the past, and thus change those memories. Say you and your best friend have done all sorts of things together and made tons of memories. Then one day, you find out that your best friend has been spreading rumors about you behind your back. All those memories in the past will no longer be sweet. You will remember them with bitterness and regret. Or say that you have an acquaintance whom you see from time to time and never really think much about. Then one day, you find out that that acquaintance has been leaving you encouraging notes and sends an anonymous birthday present every year. Suddenly, your past friendship with this person becomes a whole lot more important.

We, as human beings, have a certain ability to alter the past through our actions in the present. And this is not something that can be taken lightly. Being kind to someone once won’t mean that that person always views you as a nice person. One act of betrayal can wipe away a whole past of good memories.

At first this was discouraging. There are memories in my past that will never be the same because of circumstances in the present. Then I remembered something I had heard once in a discussion or a book (I can’t remember exactly) about heaven. When we get to heaven, God will not only redeem us from our sins for all eternity--He will redeem our pasts as well. The redemption of the cross is powerful enough to not only make us pure and clean for all of eternity, but it is powerful enough to redeem our lives here on this earth. Just as memories in my past have been changed because of sin, one day they will be changed back because of redemption. That is the hope I can hold onto. God will make ALL things new. Not just the future, but also the past. This moment I am living in right now will one day be made pure. What a promise.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thought for today

If I am not willing to be continually seeking out the Lord’s will through patient study and hard work, I cannot expect for Him to suddenly reveal His will or pour down wisdom at a particular moment when I happen to want it.

Lord, give me the strength to persevere.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


It was this week that everything just hit me. It all became reality. I would think about where I was at at this time last year, and where I thought I would be now, and just want to cry. Over the years, my family’s annual vacation to the lake is a time we all look forward to with anxious anticipation. The year may have been hard, relationships may be strained, but when we all pack up and head to our cabin, everything is okay in my family. Stress takes a leave of absence. Our family bonds are strengthened. Family vacation has always held an incredibly special place in my heart. This has got to sound overdramatic, but I am being 100% serious... It was close to sacred.

This is the first year that family vacation happened without Dad. I thought I had completely come to terms with my parents’ divorce, but this week is when it became reality. The terrible thing about a broken relationship, I have learned, is that you do not only lose all the future moments, but in a way you lose the past as well. I think that’s one of the hardest parts. When someone lets you down in an irreversible way, you lose the potential of future moments with that person, yet you can't necessarily cling to the past memories either because they have become tainted with what has happened in the present. There’s pain everywhere you look.

2 Corinthians 12:9-11 has always been my favorite verse. It has spoke to me in countless times in a hundred different ways, and tonight once again it touches me at the core:

"And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I have realized that I have always had this picture in my head of what my life will look like in the future. It is really hard for me to face the reality that I am living in a broken family. It wasn’t just Mom and it wasn’t just Dad and it wasn’t just that random person I prayed for one time who grew up in broken families. It is now me. And that realization leaves me with so much insecurity regarding my future. But... His grace is sufficient for me. SUFFICIENT. Enough. Adequate. He is All I need. With Paul, then, can I can take pleasure in my distresses? I believe that I can. I am hurt, I am broken, I will continue to be hurt, and I am sure that I will be broken again when reality hits me in a new way. But in the midst of the tears I can claim the promise that His grace is sufficient, and though I am weak... Now I am strong.