The Bravest Person in America

I called my family into the living room and told them we had to have a meeting, my voice pinched and shaky.

They looked nervous.

I took a deep breath, “We have family pictures this weekend and we have to talk about outfits and coordinating them,” I said as I pointed to the wild assortment of clothes spread out on the couch.

“I’m serious. We haven’t had them in two years and this is important and I need your help!” They looked at me like I was crazy. I half felt it.

I felt a meltdown coming for days. I had held it together with off-and-on company for months, my husband in Africa when school started along with three carlines, a car wreck, broken appliances, speaking engagements, the pressure of our Mercy House fundraising Gala, stress from turning in another book manuscript, and now, I was going to lose it over clothes.

As I stood in my living room trying to get a grip on reality, the words hanging in my entryway caught my attention. You make me brave. They made me think of the young mother who approached me at the ladies retreat where I spoke recently about Mercy House who waited to tell me, “how brave I was.”

I looked at the clothes and I could almost hear the words mocking me.

the bravest person in america

Little did I know, the next day the bravest person in America would remind me that life is about more than clothes and busyness and everyday stress. It’s about more than my momentary troubles and sometimes hectic life. It’s about more than me.

The headlines read “School Shooting-Again,” and we flinched at the senseless deaths. This time, the news hit closer to home as we learned those who admitted to being Christians were killed on the spot.

I don’t know about you, but I have to wonder just how brave I would be with a gun pointed at my head. I wonder if I would hesitate or declare my faith boldly-knowing it would mean death. I want to believe I would lay down my life to stand for Christ, but it scares me just to think about it.

I’ve imagined what it must have been like for the second and third and fourth person to answer that questions as their classmates died at their feet.

I go days and weeks without thinking of losing my life to find it or picking up my cross to follow Jesus. I’m a Christian. I choose to follow Christ but I don’t know where He will lead me.

And we don’t have to travel to an oppressed country or militant region to find out, we just have to send our kids to English class at the community college down the street.

It’s terrifying to think that by raising our kids to follow Jesus, we might also be putting their lives at risk.

I wonder about this country and where it’s going and I worry about my children’s future.

No, I’m not brave.

But I know I live for something worth dying for.

As we stood and posed for our family pictures, I didn’t think about our outfit choices or how we looked or the crazy month we had. I looked at my husband and kids and whispered a prayer of thanks for the fake smiles and awkward poses.

And I asked God to make me braver.

18 Things That Are Hard to Explain to Third-World Friends

There’s nothing more fun than experiencing something new with someone for the first time -like catching your first fish, eating your first American burger, or driving by your first cul-de-sac mansion.

Seeing your life and culture through the eyes of someone else is eye opening.


It’s wild how it changes the way you see your life and gives you a completely new perspective.

It’s the kind of perspective that makes you pause and really take a look at what you need and what you want and what you have and the difference between all three.

It’s the kind of perspective that reminds you to compare your life to those with less instead of those with more.

It’s the kind of perspective that interrupts your life.

In the last few weeks, I’ve found that some things are harder to explain than others:

  1. Halloween (scary decor, decorated yards and costumed adults in public)- What can I say? I don’t even really understand this.
  2. Free drink refills- “How many times can I refill my cup?” “What happens if I refill it 17 times?” “Are you sure this is free?” A conversation we’ve had every time we’ve gone out.
  3. Savings accounts and disposable income-It’s hard to imagine having enough extra money to put it away when there’s always someone you know who doesn’t have enough to eat for the day.
  4. Storage units- “You mean Americans have so much stuff they have to rent another building besides their house to keep it in?”
  5. More emergency vet clinics than emergency rooms for people. (I will throw in explaining Petsmart just for kicks)
  6. Mega churches with mega buildings, campuses, stores (you get the point).
  7. Garage Sales-So, people sell what they don’t want or need any more and then they buy more?
  8. Complaining about terrible, horrible no-good days (in which no one dies)
  9. Costumes for pets (See #1)
  10. Hobbies-Lesiure time and extracurricular activities for kids (that you pay for)
  11. 30 minute meals-It takes hours to sort, soak and boil beans and when you finish cleaning up one meal you start on another.
  12. Bikes for the whole family (or scooters or cars).
  13. Freedom to own or use a gun.
  14. Nursing homes-Paying others to care for your family is something many cultures don’t do.
  15. $5 cups of coffee
  16. Racism.
  17. Dishwashers-Well, first you wash the dishes, before you wash the dishes…
  18. The baby equipment aisle at Target.

Learning how others live might just show us how we live, too.

The Inconvenient and Uncomfortable Truth of the Gospel

You’ve seen the refugee crisis in the news.

The pictures, the video footage, the heartbreaking stories. You’ve read about the unthinkable choices, the danger, the suffering. And if you’re like me, you’ve found them hard to ignore.


It’s a helpless feeling–wanting to do something right here, right now, but not knowing how to help or even what to do. I get it because I feel it, too.

I feel the same urge to act when I read about what Planned Parenthood does with babies or when I hear about a teen girl who chooses survival prostitution because she really has no choice or mothers who offer their child dirt cookies to stop the hungry stomach pangs.

I don’t have a solution to solve all these issues; most are too complicated for me to understand. I’m not political and I don’t have the expertise or experience to offer sound answers on borders and boundaries or the persuasive ability to turn the pro abortion tide or enough money to give hopeless girls and mothers options.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t do anything. That’s not an option.

“Whatever you do will not be enough, but it matters enormously that you do it.”  Gandhi

No, I don’t know always know what to do, but I do know I don’t want to stick my head in the sand, pull my family close and say just because it’s not happening to us, means it’s not happening.

I don’t want to turn away from the cry of the hurting.

I don’t want fear to govern what I do or don’t do.

I don’t want to be like the Christians that decided to sing louder to drown out the cries of the Jews stuffed into a cargo train passing by the church on their way to a concentration camp.

I don’t want to only surround myself with people like me because it’s safe and comfortable.  I want to teach a hindu woman how to crochet, I want to meet a buddhist refugee at the airport. I want to be friends with people who don’t agree with me, who have a different color skin, serve different gods, who choose an abortion or a homosexual lifestyle.

The inconvenient and uncomfortable truth of the gospel

I want to fill my life with people who need Jesus. Because I have Him and I want to share Him.

I was surprised by the amount of people who are questioning helping refugees because they might be Muslim. There is a danger in only wanting to help people who are like us. Christians aren’t just called to help Christians, we are called to help those who have a need, and maybe when we lend a cup in Jesus’ name, their need might be met and they might meet Him, too.

I can’t help but think of how Jesus stepped into crowds of people who were nothing like him. He sought out those who were unloved, unworthy and unsafe.

And the crazy thing is people walked miles in the desert sun to hear the inconvenient truth of The Son. Everything about the Gospel is uncomfortable. It is unattractive. Unappealing. Jesus asks us to risk our lives for it.

Maureen and her husband Oliver, who run Rehema House (the Kenyan partner to Mercy House) are staying in our home this month. It is Oliver’s first time in America and it’s humbling to introduce our great comfortable country to someone who has never been here or is new to comfort. When he saw our kitchen faucet that also detaches as a sprayer, he said, “This place is like Heaven.” It’s a convenience I’ve never even stopped to consider.

And when we stopped into one of the largest church’s in our town, his eyes grew wide at the enormous buildings, coffee shop and restaurant, bookstore and the huge children’s indoor playground. He paused to read the bulletin boards offering yoga classes, soccer teams and half a dozen other fun activities. And his question pierced me deeply, “Does this church preach the same Jesus?”

Because we’re so comfortable it’s hard for this Kenyan man who lived in a slum less than two year ago, sometimes wondering where his next meal would come from, to recognize the One who said it’s better to lose your life than find it.

When we look closely at the hard sayings of Jesus, He doesn’t say protect yourself. He says deny yourself. He doesn’t say get comfortable because this road is easy; He asks us to give up what we have. He doesn’t say love those who are like us, He tells us to love our enemies.

He doesn’t tell us to build this great, comfortable life filled with ease because we deserve the American dream. He doesn’t tell us to do what is easy, He says take up your instrument of torture (cross) and follow me.

God’s goal isn’t our comfort or convenience. It’s His glory and He often has to get us uncomfortable and inconvenienced to reveal it.

photo source

What Really Happens When We Do What We’re Good At (& Share It)

Last week was one of those weeks.

You know the kind—

The upstairs bathroom sinks backed up, the garage door opener was struck by lightening, I forgot to turn the crockpot on for dinner, and then I was rear ended and front ended in stop and go traffic on the way to church.

I woke up to a stiff neck, a broken car, service calls and our annual Mercy House Gala a week away –all of which made my much-needed hair appointment impossible. I rescheduled and tried really hard to be grateful (but I really just wanted to go back to bed for a week with better hair).

Have you ever had a day or maybe a year like that?

Later in the week, I drove to my hairstylist’s house for the makeup appointment. I met her at the last Fair Trade Friday Girl’s Night Out and she had me at “I do hair in my house for half the price of a salon.”

She finished prepping her dinner and we chatted before she got started. (I made a mental note of her recipe for chicken enchiladas). I told her a little about the work we do and we got to know each other while she worked her magic on my resistant grays. It was hair care ministry at its finest. Somewhere between starting Mercy House and becoming a parent to teenagers, my hair has turned on me. Literally.

We talked about a little bit of everything. Parenting. Marriage. Church.

I mentioned our upcoming Mercy House gala and all the stress that goes along with a big event and she stopped mid-rinse and said, “I know. Plus you had a car accident this week. I know you have a lot going on…And that’s why I made you and your family dinner for tonight.”

What really happens when we do what we're good at

Excuse me? Did someone say dinner?

I caught her eye in the mirror and I was speechless. “Yeah, that big pan of enchiladas I was working on when you came in is for your family. There are homemade chocolate chip cookies, too. I just wanted to encourage you and I thought dinner would make your day better. Plus, food is what I’m good at.”

And hair, I thought.

I didn’t even really know this woman and I was completely humbled by her generosity, thoughtfulness and the unexpected way she chose to serve me and my family.

With the craziness of the day, I hadn’t even thought about dinner. The kitchen isn’t my sweet spot, but I could tell it was hers. My mouth was already watering. And my heart was full.

Maybe you’re good at baking. Maybe it’s opening up your home to others, sending handwritten notes in the mail, creating art, writing, singing, serving, or coloring stubborn gray hair. It could be a host of a hundred things or just one. It doesn’t matter if it seems small or insignificance or unimportant because when you offer it to someone else, it becomes a gift.

Gifts are better shared.

When God created us, He instilled passion with us. And when we pursue what we are good at, it make us feel good. But when we share it with others, we make them feel good. And nothing feels better than that.

We have the opportunity to answer this question every day: How can I bless someone in my life by sharing something I’m good at with them?

I drove home with my rocking new hair and a stack of aluminum tins buckled into the passenger seat, and I felt lighthearted and mostly, encouraged.

Because that’s what happens when people share what they are good at with others.

Go Ahead. Do Your World-Changing Thing (And Encourage Others To Do Theirs)

By the time I hit publish on this post and drove the 7 minutes from my house to our Mercy House warehouse, I had several private messages telling me the way I was changing the world was wrong.

I walked through the door, put down my bag and I cried.

Not exactly the way I planned to greet our visitors or check in with our staff.

As I tried to explain my tears to the roomful of people staring at me, I was overcome with frustration and anger.


Why is it when we attempt to do something good, we are often met with opinions of how we should or could be doing it better?

Honestly, I felt like a failure. Because the community where we are raising money to drill a desperately needed water well is the same community where girls don’t have water to drink, much less water to reuse earth-friendly pads and I wondered how I had failed to convey that fact.

But really, it’s more than that. I have received hundreds of emails from people in the last five years letting me know all the various and detailed ways that I could improve the way I’m changing the world.

Um, thank you?

(And also, not that helpful).

Now, hear me: I don’t doubt for a second that these comments and messages were meant to be well-meaning and helpful. I’m also not an expert on everything and I love suggestions. And I have learned so much from other people . . .


So, then why does it upset me?

Probably because I’m human. I’m tired. I’m doing my best. I’m working hours and hours to remind girls and women they aren’t forgotten through the work of Mercy House. I don’t always get it right, but I keep learning and trying. I get discouraged. I doubt.

But mostly because it’s too easy to sit on the sidelines and make suggestions without actually doing anything.

Because it’s one thing to throw a world-changer standing in quicksand a lifeline. But it’s entirely another to stand there and offer opinions of how they should have avoided it while they feel like they are sinking.

When we read or see something that someone else is doing and say to them, “Why aren’t you doing it this way” or worse, “I could do it better,” we’ve just become their greatest discouragement.

Let’s not be those people.

Let’s be the kind of people who cheer on those who are doing something. Yeah, it might be wrong or the long way around an easy problem, but learning the hard way is still learning.

Let’s be the kind of encouragers that slow-clap when we see our others thinking of someone besides themselves.

Let’s be the kind of friends that when we see our sister loving the least of these, we put our arms around her and say, “How can I help?”


Because when we see a need to help restore dignity to school girls in Kenya, provide water for a community, a job for an impoverished women or the image of a drowned refugee toddler in red tennis shoes–and we are moved to act–this isn’t us.

This is God whispering Do something.  Don’t let the moment pass. Take your own suggestion and instead of discouraging a person trying, join them. Put your good idea to work! Because you’re probably right: you can make it better, but not by making suggestions from the comfort of home with nothing to lose. No, let’s put our faith and feet in action.

Raise money, sew a project, rally the masses and mostly, encourage those around you who are trying to do the same thing.

P.S. There’s always more to the story: We are working with local Kenyans and are assisting their current project (not taking it over or starting our own) to provide resources for girls during their menstrual cycle so they don’t have to miss school. We have suggested some long term sustainable options (like reusable pads) and will help any way we can to implement these ideas. Some girls walk for miles just to obtain clean drinking water for their families. There isn’t always water for laundry or soap. Last week, when my husband was in Kenya, he witnessed people waiting in long line for water in a slum in Kenya. He slipped into sewage and had to walk half a mile before he could find a place to wash it off. Because of this, girls might wear the same clothes for a week, including threadbare undergarments (if they have them) that won’t hold options without a sticky backing. So, reusable cups and fabric pads that require soaking and sanitizing aren’t always an option. There is a stigma and misinformation regarding menstrual cycles in many developing countries and applying our western answers to third world problems, doesn’t always work. The residents and graduates of Rehema House will be undertaking this as a future sewing project to help provide a sustainable option as a community outreach to their peers. Saving the earth comes after helping people. Sometimes we can do both, but not always. Are disposable pads the absolute best long term solution? Probably not, but this is how we can help girls stay in school immediately with dignity.

Separated By Water


That’s how many miles away my husband is from home as I type these words.

We are oceans apart, separated by water.


He is at our home-away-from-home in Kenya with a group of donors on a vision trip.

Sunday, this happened:


12 of the teen mom residents graduated and will begin to transition into the next phase of their lives in 2016.


Yesterday, his group visited one of the world’s largest slums, to the home of Pauline, one of the sponsored graduates who attends vocational school and leads a Fair Trade Friday group of twenty women who live in a nearby slum.


And then his group journeyed the tragic and heartbreaking road to Lillian’s home, the youngest resident at the maternity homes.

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Sometimes I just don’t have the words to describe someone else’s daily reality.

But the main reason he’s there is because of water.

Clean water is more precious than gold when it’s limited.

The homes that we began with Maureen in 2010 spend more $1500 a month on water.

The current underground tank  holds 21,000 gallons but it’s never more than one-fourth full. Water is controlled by the local municipality and there aren’t many wells in the area. Water is constantly shut on and off, rationed and it often runs out.

When it does, it’s trucked in at a high cost. And there are times that it’s even collected and distributed in jerry cans.


With mommas and babies and staff, there are more than 40 depending on water in our homes.


For more than 5 years, Mercy House has been working in Kenya to come up with a long term sustainable plan that would help support the maternity homes outside of Nairobi.  And after much research and planning, it has been decided that water is the life-giving answer.

Several months ago, when I was in Kenya, our Director’s handed over a geologist’s report that proved one of our properties is sitting on a natural water resource. And that’s why we want to drill a deep bore hole that will provide water–if we had our own water source, not only for these homes in Kenya, but for approximately 100 families in the surrounding community who struggle to provide it for their families.

We dream of providing a consistent, affordable water resource that could change this community.

Water is life.

Unless it’s unclean.

Can you imagine being separated from the opportunity to have clean, consistent water?

Separated by water.


Learn more about our efforts to raise the remaining $25,000 to bring water to those we love so that we can introduce Living water to those He loves.

Water may separate us.

But it doesn’t have to.

10 Truths to Share With Our Kids As They Go Back to School

She sharpened every pencil and carefully placed them in her new pencil bag. She looked up and smiled.

“I can’t wait!” my brand new third grader said. She was glowing.

About that time, my 8th grade son came down the stairs for his Meet the Teacher in a stained shirt, wrinkled shorts and uncombed hair, and said, “Oh, I can wait.”

My teen daughter got up from the table and held up her hand as if to say, “Don’t even ask.”

I didn’t.

Ah. Back to school.

It’s amazing how quick kids lose that new school shine. And sort of heart breaking. My son became a man over the summer and my teen daughter is talking about SAT tests and pours over a college scholarship book for fun reading. One minute they are excited about all a new year holds and the next they are close to tears with the trauma of Who will I sit by at lunch?

It’s enough to make a momma long for more summer. You know, unless that actually means more summer. Talk about mixed feelings.

This morning, I dropped three nervous kids off at three schools. I felt relief and sorrow all rolled up into what I think is best known as motherhood. Gah, this is hard.

I’m just as excited and nervous to hear about their days–who they ended up sitting by at lunch (this can always go either way), what teacher they love, what class they dread, what friend made their day better.

10 truths for our kids as they go back to school

Good days are coming. So are bad ones. And I plan to remind them this school year of these 10 truths, during both:

1. God sees you

When kids hit their tween and teen years, they usually just want to blend it. They don’t want to stand out. But sometimes when they get what they want, they don’t feel seen at all. Because at the same time, they long to be heard and known. They are a lot like us. I think a core truth we need to reiterate to our kids is that God sees them–all the time, everywhere. Not in a creepy or judgmental way, but in a you matter more than you ever know way. 

2. You’re not alone

I’m in the season of door slamming and room retreating with a couple of my children. But I’ve learned just because they crave solitude sometimes, it doesn’t mean they want to be alone. Our kids need to know that wherever they go, whatever they do, even if we don’t understand, we will walk through their highs and lows with them.

3. You can be yourself

My daughter’s words felt like a stone in my heart, “I’m looking forward to school, I just hate that everyone judges you when you don’t conform.” I think there’s a lot of cultural truth in that statement. But I still want my kids to know that it’s okay to be themselves-especially when it’s not the norm. But, hey, we all know that’s a tough truth to embrace when you’re a kid or a, uh, 42 year old mom. God created us uniquely different. We were created to be different and that’s okay.

4. Be bold

I’m raising a houseful of introverts and sometimes it’s plain painful watching my kids navigate life. (Probably because it’s like watching myself). But being quiet or even shy has nothing to do with being bold. I want them to know what they believe and stand up for it when the time comes.

5. Fear is normal but fear not

I don’t think my kids slept a wink last night. They were excited and anxious and maybe a little worried. Anxiety and worry are types of fear and I want them to know they can resist them, even in the scariest situations. God tells us to fear not–not because school, work or that Algebra test isn’t scary, but because He is with us.

printable scripture cards

6. You are more than what you wear

While my kids slept last night, I taped encouraging notes and these scriptures in places where they work on their appearance (mirrors, closet doors, etc). The pressure to look and dress a certain way in school is real. And it can be a struggle that isolates and destroys self esteem. I want them to know who they are on the inside is more than what is showing on the outside. I want them to know they are more than a bad hair day or the latest trend.

7. I may not understand, but I will stand with you

The other day my daughter said, “You just don’t understand how I feel!” I thought about her words and my temptation to respond with, “Yes, I do.” But when I stopped and really thought about it, I told her she was right. In her world, in her heart, I didn’t understand everything she was feeling. But that didn’t mean I didn’t want to, that didn’t mean I wouldn’t stand with her while she figured it out. Sometimes that’s all our kids need to know.

8. Normal is overrated

Upstream parenting in a downstream world is hard. And if it’s challenging for us, it might just be brutal for our kids. Normal is easy. Being yourself is hard. But it’s worth it. I want to encourage and inspire my kids to go against-the-flow. Sometimes it’s just a small thing and sometimes it’s big. Every step in the opposite direction matters.

9. One friend is enough

The other day my son and I ran into a childhood friend at the store. It had been a pivotal friendship for my son back in the second grade. You see, his friend had some severe special needs and had been integrated into my son’s class for part of the day. I will never forget when my little guy was given a Citizenship award for including and mentoring this kid. He was confused what all the fuss was about and said, “I shouldn’t get an award for being a friend.” I want my kids to always, always go back for the one, to look for the person by themselves at lunch or on the bus. I want them to know that one good friend is enough. It might just be a friendship they will never forget.

10. This will pass

Everybody has bad days. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that my kids have them–just like I do. And they need a safe place to fall apart. I decided a long time ago, I want that place to be home (and not school, church, or with someone else). I want them to know that their current struggle will pass, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important today. And if it’s a really really bad day, they might just get a free pass to spend it with me.

Happy first day of school, kids! I can’t wait to hear all about it.

How Then Should We Respond (to the Falling of Josh Duggar)?

I never got into the Duggar’s TV show.

Maybe it’s because the thought of tater tot casserole makes me queasy or because I stopped watching most reality shows after Season 2 of Survivor. But mostly, it was because I didn’t identify with the large, homeschooling, “good” family. (They just made the unruly, eye-rolling, sarcastic people in my house look even more unrighteous.) While I’m sure there was some common ground, I could only see the things we didn’t have in common.

But when I read Josh Duggar’s statement yesterday, admitting he not only struggled with a pornography addiction, but was also unfaithful to his young wife and children–all this after he resigned from his faith-based spokesperson job because of his wrong-doing when he was younger, I didn’t rejoice. I felt ill. Knowing what his family is enduring is heartbreaking. And I don’t have to be a “fan” to recognize it.

No, I didn’t gloat. My first urge was to shout, “Man down!”


It’s what I screamed ten years ago when I lived my own personal hell after my husband confessed his on-going struggle with pornography. (The sin was different by comparison, but earth shattering is earth shattering). I knew the other side of my husband-the one who tenderly loved his family and worked his tail off to provide for us, the one who had just left his youth pastoring career. I knew he deeply loved God and wanted to make a difference in the world. It was hard to reconcile this dark side of him–the one that was trapped in a secret sin and was willing to lose everything in order to know true freedom.

My marriage and home became a gut-wrenching private hell. (If you read Rhinestone Jesus, you know the whole story). But we found Jesus together and for the first time, I knew and loved all the layers of my husband. I also learned that my greatest act wasn’t righteousness; it was forgiveness. Was my husband a hypocrite? Maybe. But sin has a way of deceiving and convincing us there is no way out. It made all the difference to me that he confessed his sin instead of being caught or outed.

It’s hard to know if Josh’s Duggar contrition this week came because he got caught or because he was truly repentant or because he has nothing left to lose. We might never know. While I think it matters privately to his wife and family, it’s really none of our business. This is ground zero and hopefully redemption and help will follow.

Should the TV show be off the air? Absolutely. (Maybe the real question is should it have ever been on TV?) Should this family be taken off a pedestal? Definitely. (All families are messy, even the “good” ones). Should we pick up a rock and join the mob? Only if we’re perfect. Should we worry about our own hypocrisy? Probably. Should we get on our knees and pray for our world? You bet. Should we avoid tater tot casserole at all costs? You know it.

The world may never understand that Christians are a mess of sinful humanity trying to follow Jesus, but they will see that we eat our own and wound our wounded.

It’s easy to use “love” as an action word for our lost world–those we don’t agree with in alternative lifestyles and in abortion clinics, but it’s harder to show it to people who are more like us than we care to admit.

How then should we respond to the falling of Josh Duggar or anyone else? Our heart should cry, “Man down! Family shattered! God help them! God help us!”

Because someone probably shouted it for us.