With Deepest Empathy

One of the main roles of working in campus ministry is being a listener.

When a student chooses to share a piece of their story with me – a deep hurt or current chaos – I feel both incredibly honored and wildly deficient.

Brené Brown explains empathy well in this video. It’s messier than pitying from a distance; it requires involvement, presence, with-ness. “Me too” – the ability to connect over a feeling or experience – is a powerful thing we can offer, even when we don’t have answers or resolutions to pain.

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But here’s what I wrestle with. Sometimes – many times – I can’t honestly say “me too.” I feel like I can’t actually relate to that thing. Abuse is far from me; I’m not burdened by addiction or discontentment with singleness.

And I’m tempted to think, “Well, I’m certainly not very useful here,” and write myself off because (in all truth, praise God), I have not experienced everything I hear. I can zoom out to the larger reality and relate to broken relationships, desiring control or lacking passion for scripture. But to sit with someone in a specific trial, what does that require? A relatable answer? A prayer? Redirecting them to someone obviously more equipped than me?

I’m discovering, slowly and with a constant pushing away of negative and un-affirming thoughts, that two other phrases (articulated and practiced) can be just as healing.

  1. “God sees you.”
  2.  “I’m here.”

Because He does. He sees and knows and loves you.
And I am. I’m here if you need to vent, need a meal, need to know you’re not alone.

Of course, there are healthy limits and boundaries; we can’t be anyone’s superwoman or savior. But maybe that’s exactly what frees us to move towards people, anyway, with seemingly little to offer.

Empathy begs to extend beyond “me too.” I feel like I’m just beginning to test the waters.

October Goals

I’m welcoming fall this year. The fake decorative leaves, the honeycrisp apples on sale, the cooler mornings, all of it. I guess this isn’t really a new thing for me, but something in a season shifting wakes me up a bit. Now entering October, I’m setting a few goals/reminders/would-love-to’s for the month.


  1. Finish one book. Maybe two. And I should probably give myself the guideline that cookbooks don’t count. I’m ready for another fiction read, so let me know if you have any recommendations.
  2. Clean out the closet. Then get new winter-proof boots.
  3. Make pumpkin ice cream. Probably from Joy the Baker in her book, Homemade Decadence. 
  4. Take note of what I’m learning through the month. Inspired by this post.
  5. Try something new. Vague with little direction. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Happy October, friends!

Simply Tuesday (on a Friday)

I’m reading a book on smallness. Or rather, “small-moment living in a fast-moving world.”

It’s called Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman. I’ve probably referenced her writing a dozen times on this blog over the years.

I’ve underlined and boxed in lots of text so far, but I wanted to share one of the prayers that she writes at the end of every chapter. I think we have this tendency to want to know that what we do matters. We like to be recognized for our good efforts and get a lot done in a day and call ourselves productive. And maybe this isn’t entirely wrong until we start believing that big accomplishments are more valuable than the un-fancy movements of our daily life.

The reality is we can live well and glorify God in what feels like really small ways. I’m dwelling on these words this weekend and pray them for you, too.

“May we stretch out in the fullness of small and move downward with gladness rather than upward in fear. May we let go of the constructed life and embrace a connected life, even if it leads to less. May we be marked more by our small moments than by our fast movements. May our small moments do more lasting good than our fast movements do harm. Be gracious to remind us that our souls aren’t made for fame. May we receive the gift of obscurity with joy, gratitude and a light heart” (p. 112).


A Word to the Planners

Hey, hi, hello. I hope September has been good to you so far.

The past few months have been wild, working in campus ministry during the start-of-the-semester hustle and attempting to create healthy rhythms in the midst of it.

Photo Credit: Andrej Chudy

Days are full, and although they sometimes wear me out, they’re also full of purpose. I’m continuing to process all the changes of this year – job shifts and two houses and new friendships, and I hope to share those with you in time.

But for now, I wanted to tell you about a blog post I recently wrote for Deeply Rooted Magazine about releasing expectations and seeking Jesus instead. You can find it right here!

I discovered Deeply Rooted this spring and was immediately captivated by the lovely design and honest content. I’m humbled for the chance to write for them and hope you’ll meander around the site to explore it for yourself.

Thank you for reading, and for hanging out with me on the journey.


The Best Things That Happened When I Didn’t Have a Job

In three days, I start working again after a five-month hiatus.

That means I’ll use the slow cooker a bit more and should try to refrain from starting movies late Sunday night. But it also means there is a role in the world of campus ministry that I can fill, and I’m excited to devote myself to something I care about so much.

IMG_3831I’ve savored the quiet days in this season more than I could’ve imagined. I was reminded that my value does not come from my job. It doesn’t hinge on having a pretty house or plans that go accordingly. I’ve learned how to change a tire, how to not feel guilty for reading for pleasure at 10am. But things weren’t sunshiney the whole time, and I often fought against the very reasons why this time was a gift – the quiet schedule.

And even though I’m ready for another change, I don’t want the lessons and memories of the last five months to fall away. I want the patterns and meditations to stick, so the following list is just as much for me as it is to share with you. It’s a list of things I’ve read, tasted and experienced that left an imprint, marking where I’ve been and (just possibly) where I’m going.

1. Humiliation & Exaltation. At the start of this non-work time, I wanted to instantly settle in – to fit and be heard and matter here. Then this: “Sometimes we want to be recognized as valuable to God in the eyes of others more than we want to be seen by God Himself.” I wrestled with this on a snowy Sunday morning and returned to it many times since.

2. The 36 Questions That Lead to Love. A study sought to determine if two strangers could fall in love based on this set of questions. One night, Thomas and I meandered through them and determined that if we could have a dinner party with anyone, Brad Pitt and Shauna Niequist would be at our table.

IMG_39963. Dexter. He wrecks my house but makes me laugh, and that’s a fair trade-off, I think.

4. The Last Granola Recipe. I haven’t made another since I found this one. I use it as a base for whatever random dried fruit/nuts/seeds are in my pantry, and I replace some of the olive oil with coconut oil. On the days I felt aimless and like nothing I did was worthwhile, granola kept me grounded.

5. Campus House. My new work home in a few days and the place where we met our Wednesday night crew. We babysit their children and eat each other’s food weekly, and I’m so thankful for these new friendships that formed right when I needed them.

6. South Carolina. The visit south to see family in May was just what we needed – full of beach time, no responsibility to four-legged ones, and this Asheville gem on the trip down reminded me why I love food so much. I say that shamelessly.

7. Beautiful Ruins. A lovely summertime book that drew me right in.IMG_4008

8. Thom’s Birthday. The night before, we celebrated with an all-request birthday menu and a big yellow cake. Then Sunday came around, and after church, we sat wondering how to make the day more special. “We can play putt-putt, or we can go home,” Thomas said. So we called our parents and somehow managed to get home in time for a carry-out pizza dinner with all of them. It was completely impractical and entirely fun, reminding me that most restrictions I perceive in life I create myself.

And that’s only a sampling. I could also mention the seven pounds of strawberries we picked yesterday, Ann Patchett’s essay collection, or how I almost like running…almost. Maybe the point is that I had the time to pay attention to all these things, so I did, and now I don’t want to let that habit go.

Here’s to something new – and recognizing the people and things that are no-nonsense good to us.IMG_4053 (1)

In Defense of Moving

For Mark, Gina & Nora; Jimi & Shannon; and those in transit. When in doubt, get more boxes.

Moving gets a bad rap. I always picture the mess – the utter chaos – in our living room on Brown Avenue as we packed up to move in the couple days following.

We all tend to picture boxes on boxes and begging recruiting family to save the date and refrigerator clean-out, and I won’t deny it; I don’t particularly like any of these things. But it dawned on me that I have been married not even two years and can claim three addresses post-wedding.

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That makes me feel restless and unstable until I think about Brown Avenue, Springdale Lane and Naschette Parkway and appreciate each home for what it was and is. How each address served us uniquely. Each house, in some way, symbolized growth and ownership (yet we’ve never owned a house; we’re seasoned renters).

Maybe you haven’t moved in 20 years, like my parents…I’m fairly certain we’d all riot if they tried to sell that house. If you haven’t moved yourself recently, you’ve surely been on the other end of the couch, awkwardly lugging it through the doorway. The joy.

But, in defense of moving, here’s what I’ve found to be true:

1. Moving encourages you to get rid of junk.

If you’re the disciplined type, you address this during spring cleaning. If you’re me, you use each move to finally shred old bank statements and high school English papers you thought would help in college. You also finally toss the exorbitant number of glass bottles you vowed to use as flower vases. We don’t want to pack/haul/unpack this stuff, so we lose it. And with each home, we notice it’s filled with more things we actually care about, and less that we don’t.

2. Memories and seasons of life are distinct. 

One evening on Springdale, I opened up the back door and the front windows to let the early fall breeze drift through one end of the galley kitchen to the other. The slow cooker had been on since that morning, sending the glorious smell of fresh herbs all around me as I lint-rolled the couch and set the table. It was another Friday night, and I waited for Thomas to get home from a week of training, initiating a restful weekend. I remember the anticipation I felt, parents checking in to see he arrived safely, and dessert. Lots and lots of dessert.

Here on Naschette, we routinely host euchre around our coffee table. We get excited about the drives back to see family and have a place to grill that doesn’t involve breaking apartment safety codes. Horrah!

When I recall specific memories – the gems I don’t want to lose – from the last few years, I remember the house, and that grounds them in my memory more deeply.

3. You’re forced to think. 

You learn new parts of town, quickest routes, most convenient grocery stores. I like to think my mind benefits from these spatial check-ups now and again.

4. You realize what “home” actually is.

It’s not the fabulous windows, or the storage or the backyard – even though we invest so much in aesthetics, inside and out. I’m learning every time that it’s the people who fill the home who count, followed by the stuff that makes it uniquely yours. The photographs and summer mantle decor, your dutch oven and favorite blanket and dogs.

Moving out of Springdale, the heat was off and my parents and I went back for a more thorough cleaning. It reeked of smoke from maintenance workers and was completely bare, save for a grocery bag of trash hanging from a cabinet knob. At that point, it was definitely not home.

A house is just a house. “Home” tends to go with you.

I’ve also found that, in a miraculous way, it’s possible to have multiple homes – to have the places you grew up be as steadfast and beautiful as they were when you were ten. I’d argue they can even become more beautiful when you’re gone for a while. It’s a gift, simple and solid, and one I don’t take lightly.

I understand the desire to settle and stay put, and I eventually want that for myself. Moving can be hard.

But it, too, is a gift. Not always found among the bubble wrap, but absolutely when you look back and see how you’re growing, how you encountered a season of newness, how generous an address can be.

How Lent Is Going

It seems like most years, the season of Lent comes and goes pretty uneventfully. The weeks in between Ash Wednesday and Easter pass by normally, with routine work schedules, pleas for warmer weather and maybe revamped mantle decor.

In many ways, the same has been true for this year. But, in a way, not.

Still taking advantage of my non-work days, I’ve settled into a morning rhythm. After feeding the dogs, I make coffee (or heat it up from the previous morning), and I sit in the middle of the couch. It’s still dark, and I’m still tired, so I just sit. Directly in front of me, the window points to the sky that begins to lighten in ribbons, folding into vivid colors before the sun pops over the fence and nearly blinds me.

In this time, I may read a little. But in the last week I’ve let myself wonder. And it’s nice, but it also stirs me up.

My whole life I’ve heard that Jesus died for my sins and the sins of everyone. That this is a gift, not earned. I’ve read again and again that Jesus’ death and resurrection paved the way for our salvation and restored us to God. That the God I follow stripped Himself of dignity to get us back.

For a long time, I heard and recited the phrases, but I didn’t really consider them. I didn’t let them roll around in my head to stir up questions because the questions seemed so big.

But this Lent, I find I’m more eager to be pushed toward understanding, toward the why of the gospel. Why death? Why an empty tomb? Why us now?

My earthly brain is not capable of fully comprehending the death and resurrection a Savior. That is why we’re called to faith.

But here’s what’s encouraging to me: even biblical authors didn’t just recite the phrases. After Jesus’ death, the people wanted explanation; they craved understanding.

The writer of Hebrews, for example, frames up the why of the gospel in various ways to give new followers an anchor point of understanding…something that resonated and reminded them, “Oh yes, that’s why we needed Jesus,” (See Hebrews 8-10).

I guess I’m like them. I want to talk about it and wrestle with it and have somebody spell it out for me so plainly that I feel its weight. And this isn’t just a Lent thing; for the believer, it’s a forever long process that doesn’t stop at Easter.

Push me toward understanding.

That’s my prayer these days.

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Redefining Value

Something of magic happens when the weather turns a few degrees warmer, hinting at spring and open windows.

I know we’re not the only ones who dragged our grill to the back deck, swept off the front door mat and walked around sockless. We moved here in deep winter, and even the slight uptick in temperature has us refreshed, hopeful and craving more. We’re coming up on three months in this house. I’ve not been working, which has been a great blessing in that I’ve been available to support Thomas through sleep-altering schedules and nutty stories.

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So I think about these fast three months and wonder at them. The freedom of un-rigid days that sometimes, somehow, still felt daunting. The idea that I’d use this season to do or make progress on, or, at least, plan something substantial for my writing or other another big idea. Like a productive sabbatical where the stars would align, bolstering my ambitions and hindering obligation to other people’s needs. It was going to be my time.

In an ironic turn, a different message keeps pressing into me. In our church small group, through sermons, blogs, books and hard conversations, what I’m hearing has nothing to do with goal-setting, productivity or self-preservation.

Instead, I’m asking questions like:

“How can I give more of myself away?”

“What actions and pursuits have long-term value?”

“How can I love those directly around me and tend to this small piece of the kingdom I’ve been placed in?”

My body fights it. I want to protect myself and my season of freedom so I can accomplish something concrete. I don’t want to be taken advantage of by always taking care of others. Every ounce of culture tells me I’m entitled to pursue what I want, like we’re all little soldiers fighting for our rights.

So again, I think of these fast three months and see a lot of small, seemingly inconsequential actions…dinner-making and dog-bathing and candle-burning on the nights our friends come over. In terms of things I’m doing, it all seems average.

But the idea that it’s not all about me and what I accomplish has been refreshing and satisfying. The quiet days with tiny victories, un-pressured and un-hurried, have been generous to me.

I’m redefining what’s valuable and learning that even the inconspicuous and intangible have worth. I’m reconsidering what is pleasing and good, productive far beyond me and not just about right now.

Every meal made, every person cared for, every prayer uttered, every dream chased and every idea set aside for now – I think God uses all of this, shows up in all that seems small, so we don’t need to worry about what we’re not accomplishing by the world’s standards.

And for that, I am so thankful. It’s exhausting to always lead the charge, to always feel the need to achieve, to feel that our achievement is who we are.

This is ongoing for me. Releasing what has no place here, pursuing what is good, and differentiating between the two.

That’s the journey I’m on. And, maybe, the one we’re all on together.

P.S. I’d be lying if I told you the only thing on my horizon was more cookie-baking. This June, I’ll begin working at Purdue Christian Campus House, a church that primarily serves college students and a growing number of young professionals. I’m thrilled for the opportunity and will certainly keep you posted!

To Remember

We got a new puppy last week.

His name is Dexter, he likes to chew on the leaves of our fig tree and our carpet is a new level of dirty because of him. But he’s an excellent snuggler.

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In part because of him, and in part because of Thomas’ new shift at work that has severely thrown off sleep schedules, I’m coming out of a place of mental exhaustion. Last week, I was especially tired, anxious and homesick. Weary of demands and lacking creative motivation. Craving more.

I’m emerging, slowly, surely. One thing that’s helped has been the act of remembrance – reflecting on what was and noticing what is. Emily Freeman recently wrote in this post, The practice of paying attention serves as an anchor for the soul in a fast-moving world.”

If you’re in a phase of just trying to keep afloat, maybe these practices will help you like they help me. Partnered with some crying, good reading, and a group yoga class to reinforce you’re not alone, they’re pretty much infallible (disclaimer: I’m not a therapist).

1. Remember your “first things.”

A recent sermon at church outlined how Jesus frequently directed people to the one thing that they needed (see Mary and Martha). Instead of being burdened with the distractions of wealth, tasks, popularity or worry, he encouraged people to simply seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. As a follower of Christ, this one thing should be my first thing. Under the realization that Jesus is all I need to thrive, my anxieties can be rightly minimized. Not saying this is easy, but it’s the hierarchy I’m seeking after.

2. Remember to be grateful.

I may not get eight hours of continuous sleep each night. I may be cooking dinner for one most evenings. I may feel confused about what’s next, or nervous to ask myself how our marriage is adjusting to a new season, but at least I feel safe where I live. At least I can eat until I’m full and have socks to cover my cold feet. Life is undeniably kind to me once I get out of the way to notice it.

3. Remember (and trust) your path.

I choose to believe, through any doubt, that God paved the way for where we are right now, in this city, with these jobs and friends and dogs. To back down in fear of what’s foreign would be to deny how He’s worked in us the last two years, and beyond. We’re on a path we like. It’s scary sometimes, but we trust it.

4. Remember your vision.

When we moved to this new-ish place, I had very specific daydreams about cooking in a bigger kitchen, taking walks in the park and hosting friends often. I imagined volunteering and writing and abiding in things I really cared about. When I start thinking negatively and my mood swings low, it’s helped much to remember what I originally desired of this season. Although some of these may take stronger shape than others, it keeps me focused on using time intentionally…not letting days slip by unannounced.

5. Remember weakness is not an enemy.

In fact, weakness is the very thing that keeps us able to relate to other people. I guess two twenty-somethings could bond over their impeccable decorating taste (with what budget?) or how preparing and slicing a perfectly crisp roasted chicken is soooooo simple. But the riskier conversation – the one about loneliness or big choices – will surely lead to a deeper relationship. And that’s the one I want. Expressing even small pieces of what I’m feeling helps. It’s like passing a little palmful of vulnerability to someone and praying they won’t drop it. I’ve found that most of the time, they don’t.

So there you have it. What would you add?

I’ll Leave the Porch Light On

To the person who enters our home:

I’ll leave the porch light on, so you can be sure you’re at the right place. Feel free to knock and come right in, or maybe don’t worry about knocking at all. But if you don’t, announce yourself so we don’t get spooked. Preferably in a funny accent.

You can leave your shoes at the door, or keep them on. Nothing here is too pristine for dirt, but some people have a thing about others seeing their socks. Hopefully you don’t mind our dog shoving her face in between your legs. We think it’s darn adorable and never discouraged it, so that’s our fault, I suppose.

I’ll try to have some music on and drink options ready. And we’d truly be happy to give you something other than water. We may or may not have time to lint roll the couch, so do expect a trace (or so) of dog hair…part of the glories of pet ownership. Push aside the pillows or prop one behind your back. Put your feet on the coffee table or tuck them under you. You are welcome here.

Our dining chairs are super creaky, so you may immediately feel the need to sit very still; this is unnecessary. We’ll all be there together, creating a big creak-fest, so don’t let that bother you.


Let us tell you that we love hosting stuff. Football games and weeknight dinners and weekend breakfasts. We think these things keep families together and friendships constant. So in this, we have a few goals.

1. We’ll try to be as accessible as possible. We’ll try to remain open enough to not have to schedule out dinner two weeks in advance. We’ll agree to be spontaneous with evening plans to make this relationship thrive, even if it means running to the grocery store for more chicken at the last minute. If it’s 8pm and you need dessert and company, say so. If you need a change of scenery on a Thursday and our house is your only hope without going to Target and spending money (been there), tell us. We can’t guarantee that our floors will be glossy, the counters cleared off and laundry won’t be in progress, but we’ll try our hardest to be available.

This is a good practice for me, too, you know. I’m working on being less rigid and more flexible, so you nearly surprising me will be an exercise in rejecting balled up fists for a more serene, joyful and open frame of mind. It’s a win-win.

2. We’ll ease into the mess. We’ll chat you up about all the snow we’ve had, new babies in the family and how work is going. But then we’ll tell you how it’s challenging for us to be on opposite schedules, or no schedule at all. We’ll bring up homesickness and hope and church, and that’s our invitation to you to let us in on your life. We’ll feed you and laugh with you, but we really want to know you. So we’ll ask you questions and sometimes backtrack to rephrase our words and ask a better one. We’ll hope you’re not too uncomfortable and wishing you picked up a pizza for dinner by yourself instead.

We won’t be the perfect hosts. I may be distracted trying to time the meal so the potatoes come out of the oven as the meat’s resting. Thomas might talk your ear off about dog training or the code book of Indiana law. We might have an ant problem. But we hope you can look past these things and come over anyway.

We want you in our home. We love each other, sure, but we also love having different voices in the conversation; different stories and quirks and laughs. Taking into consideration humans’ innate desire to connect, we need you in our home.

I’ll burn the candles, then make make sure the porch light’s still on when you leave.

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