The Truth is That the Trust is Worth it

In the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley, there’s a scene where Elizabeth (Knightley’s character) is spinning around on the family barn swing as the seasons pass before her. The scene is soaked with the weighty rain of emotional residue from her best friend Charlotte marrying Elizabeth’s ridiculous cousin Mr. Collins, who’d originally tried to propose to Elizabeth. On top of that, Elizabeth’s sister Jane had a sort-of-flame Mr. Bingley who just up and left, and then Elizabeth is thinking about the lack of propriety concerning her family in general, particularly her mom and three younger sisters, though she loves them…There’s just a lot going on, and something inside her knows that this is just the beginning of how the relationships in her life are going to evolve.

This is the scene and the feeling that came to me as I stood outside of the home in which I now lived, eleven in the evening, with a cold, winter rain coming down on me. My thoughts lived in the emotional residue of the past few weeks, and anticipated the emotional roller coasters to come, both as I left the new familiarity of North Carolina to return to the Shire in New York for a time, and as I prepared for and embraced Jacob’s homecoming in the spring. I felt like I rested in the quiet of a storm.

The day had been long. I spent four wonderful hours of the morning talking with Kathi, one of the ladies discipling me…Jake had been praying for deeper friendships and encouragement with the women around me while he’s gone, and his prayers have been answered evermore. The time with Kathi had been like medicine, and God settled me once again in His love and grace, and dispelled much of the shame I’d been struggling with. This is the first time in my life where I have people who are dedicated to discipling me, and prioritize challenging me and encouraging me and helping me walk with Jesus through this world. I’ve realized that if both Jesse and Kathi are committed to discipling me, then I should really take advantage of that and let them be my designated “externally processing” people and “asking all of my questions” people. Since realizing that and deciding to exercise boldness in asking them questions and sharing my life with them, God has really used conversations with them to reassure me of His trustworthiness, sovereignty, justice, and power.

After spending time with Kathi, I drove over through the cold and windy weather to The Coffee Scene. I’d experienced a burden and I had been challenged by Kathi to pray for Jake and for those couples struggling with infidelity in the army (not that Jake has ever done that or that I believe he would, but the enemy is crafty and a tremendous foe, and it would be ignorant for me to not pray for that area of our marriage, and infidelity is particularly rampant in the military).

“God shapes the world by prayers. Prayers are deathless. The lips that uttered them may be closed in death, the heart that felt them may have ceased to beat, but prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them, and prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.” —E.M. Bounds

“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30)

The familiar hodge-podge of a playlist, including Ozzy Osbourne and Echosmith, serenaded me as I took in the warm atmosphere of this coffee shop. The deep reds and browns of its interior enveloped me as I prayed for Jake in my mind and ordered some hot tea. I was introduced by one of the regular baristas to a barista-in-training. The barista-in-training’s name was Bree, and I memorized her face and assigned it to her name so that next time I came I could talk to her more in depth.

I sat at a high table and read my Bible, praying through the reassurance God gave me in Psalm 34. Sometimes I subconsciously believe that by trusting God I’m somehow missing out on something, or that He just expects me to trust Him whether I receive or am reassured of anything or not…To some degree the latter is true; God deserves my trust. But it was good to read Psalm 34, where it says “Those who seek the Lord lack in nothing” and “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord.” I think I’ve heard that concept so much that I forgot what it meant, and didn’t quite get it until now. Trusting in God offers the greatest “return”; the only way I miss out on anything is by not trusting Him.

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.” (Psalm 34:8-10)

Before leaving The Coffee Scene, I had a conversation with the older gentleman at the table next to mine after he’d asked me what I was reading. I stopped at Hannah and Matthew’s house to catch up with them, since they’d been out of town for some time. After time with them, I headed back “home” to get some homework done and eat dinner before heading out to Berean Baptist Church for the Christmas program.

And now I was back here at “home,” post Christmas program. I thought about maybe taking a walk around the neighborhood in the rain, just to think and pray aloud to the God who’d sent the rain in the first place. But I went back in my memory to middle school—yes, middle school—when I was stuck in worshiping my emotions and being a slave to their power…Man, Jesus went through puberty and did not sin! He was clearly the Son of God. When was in middle school, I would walk in the rain to gain attention from the guy in my life who didn’t care, to feel like my life was worth something. I shuddered at the thought of where I used to be.

How do people really change and get out of the ever-deepening pit of selfishness and fear without Jesus?…On a somewhat related note, how do people stay married without Jesus?

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:15-18)

I fought the desire to follow the spiral of my emotions and walked inside, continued to pray, started settling down for the night, crawled into bed, and fell asleep praying.

“Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children. When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me—until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.” (Psalm 73:13-17)

“The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.” (Psalm 34:22)


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Battle Buddies

It was as I was driving to Khalida’s house, after spending some time at the Starbucks off Walter Reed Rd. praying for Anna and for the people God desired to reach through her, that I became overwhelmed by yet again another attack on my emotions.

So, I’ve realized that words mean things (what??? yep), and specifically that the word “attack” is a pretty strong word to use depending on the context. The word is defined as “to set upon in a forceful, violent, hostile, or aggressive way, with or without a weapon; begin fighting with.”

That definition is what I mean here.

The week prior to this point in time, Jake and I reached a pretty serious and difficult time in the deployment. We both felt very disconnected and wounded, struggling with deep shame, and fear. The issue that came up in our relationship with each other was not one on which we agreed, and I was hurt and felt deeply betrayed, and how this issue was resolved would determine the nature of the rest of this deployment. I spent about five days fasting and praying and trying to figure out what God wanted me to do, since Jake and I were at odds with each other. The phrase that kept coming up in my thoughts was “It’s not submission until you disagree.”

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

And so, even though I wasn’t settled on how I felt about the issue, I chose to obey God by submitting to Jake, trusting God to protect and preserve me, despite my emotions and anxieties…I can’t expect God to lead Jake in our marriage and in his life if I’m not trusting God to lead him by submitting. I can’t refuse to submit and thus take control of the relationship. I can’t stand in the way of God leading Jacob. I can’t expect Jake to obey God as his ultimate Leader if I’m not submitting to him as God has designed…that just doesn’t make sense to me…

My submission dispelled shame for Jake, set him free to lead, and empowered him to move forward in loving me, if that makes sense. But, you guys, this was SO hard…When military wives told me that deployments suck, I didn’t realize that this is what they meant, and while I knew marriage would be difficult, and even prayed for difficulty and the ability to withstand it, I never knew just how dark things could get. Submitting to Jake in this area, in this way, felt like this: I was standing on the edge of a high cliff in the dark, my back to the open space below, and someone walked up to me and told me, even though I couldn’t see it, there was a net below that would catch me, and I turned and free fell off the cliff.

Almost immediately after I’d talked to Jake about this, confessing my submission to him and trust in his leadership, and after we were okay and were rebuilding intimacy and trust, I spent the next few days being overwhelmed by lies from the enemy.

“You’re being used and taken advantage of.”

“This obviously isn’t an equal partnership if you’re expected to just go along with everything.”

“You are only worth what you can give, and you are set up in a life where you will constantly give and will never be loved in return.”

And I wondered, as these attacks came, and I took the piercing sting of the lies by the Shield of Faith (Ephesians 6:16), if the enemy pushed against me particularly because I chose to obey and submit, in a world where “submission” associated with women is taboo. In other words, was the enemy pushing back hard because of my obedience?

As I drove to Khalida’s, I sobbed over the steering wheel, my emotions assaulted by lies that pierced my deepest fears and insecurities about being used and taken advantage of, and I cried out to God, and prayed, and took the attack.

Khalida and I had planned on meeting up with Sarah, one of our friends, at the Metro Diner on Skibo for dinner before Bible Study that Tuesday night. But I wasn’t emotionally ready to be steadfast and strong for Khalida.

“But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8)

“…we were well pleased to impart to you…our own lives.” Right, I thought as I pulled into her driveway. God had been challenging me through those who were discipling me to be more transparent with the people in the body, as Paul and his guys had been transparent with the Thessalonians. This was the very vision my and Jake’s marriage was built on. Jake had already had opportunities overseas to use this same issue to be transparent with the guys in his squad.

I remembered a car ride in which Jake and I had talked about what was appropriate to share with others about each other as we sought to follow Christ and encourage others to do so as well…We’d established that our testimonies, struggles, questions, points of growth, insecurities, and relationships with Christ were completely open and available to use to help others grow. And I had been praying as of late for God to give me security in Him so that I could be truly transparent with others without being afraid of, you guessed it, being taken advantage of.

As I walked into Khalida’s house, she was getting ready to leave, and the two of us immediately started working through and talking her girl Olivia, and my girl Anna, those ladies in our lives that we were trying to disciple, mentor, encourage in their walks with Christ. We talked vision, we rejoiced with the fact that God desires to use us and the other ladies in our lives to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that [He has] commanded [us].” (Mt. 28:18-20)

In my car, Khalida observed that I was anxious, and God reminded me that I wanted to be deliberately transparent with her, and so I was. I told her about the spiritual attacks, about my struggles with Jake (without dishonoring or disrespecting him), about struggling with submission, and about what God was showing me about myself through all of it. I didn’t realize what it meant to really trust God until now. We eventually talked about marriage, about how to love others, and about how grateful we are that, despite our messiness, God is still willing to associate Himself with us.

We arrived at the Metro Diner and met up with Sarah. I’d never been to this diner, but it reminded me of a place called Bill’s in Norwich, NY, and I felt oddly comforted. As Sarah, Khalida, and I sat at our table, all I could see was the three of us wearing Armor, sitting around a large wooden table covered in maps and compasses and books on battle movements, our hands on our Swords, strategizing with our Commander the best plan of action to move against the enemy in our respective areas: Sarah in her classroom and in the lives of the girls she’s praying for, Khalida in the life of her roommate and in her workplace, and me in…well, everything.

It was there in the diner, as our waiter, Rob, bustled about with his coworkers, as Christmas music played over the intercom, as customers came in through retro glass doors and walked over the green and white tiled floors, I realized that I had real friends, including Jake, that these friends were fighting in the same war as me, and that they were on my side. And that was enough.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, so you ought to love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

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Let You Down

Ah, yes, there I was, yet again sitting in my car, crying. It’s in these moments I wonder what my emotions think they’re doing, just spilling out of my eyes like that.

So, there’s a song from Glee (I was pretty obsessed with this show during my BC time) that has been coming into my mind over the last few days. I’ve just generally felt like I kept giving and giving, and kept getting hurt, or worse, unintentionally hurting others. It climaxed in the parking lot of the Westwood Shopping Center, as Jake texted me and asked how I was doing.

Earlier in the morning, I’d sat down with God and poured my heart out to Him, unfiltered…I asked Him so many questions, trying to speak like Habakkuk in chapter two of his book, when he says, “I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected” (v. 1), and tried to avoid asking as Jonah asked things of God, to whom God responded, “What right do you have to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4). And found no respite, no rescue, and no healing. I was once again stuck on a spinning wheel of confusion.

The thought, “I just want to go home” came into my mind over and over again, but I couldn’t discern the meaning of it. It didn’t mean New York, because the world seemed like it was falling apart up there as well. It didn’t mean Jacob, because he’s human, and it didn’t mean our home together, because that too was temporary. It didn’t mean the house in which I was now living. It didn’t mean Florida, where I was originally born.

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland…now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-14, 16)

As I cried, I thought of missing God. But how could I miss God if He was always with me? Oh, right. The past week had consisted of very little quality time with Him, as I worked through pressing assignments, tried to be there for all of the girls God put in my life, tried to spend time with the family with which I lived, and also virtually catch up on my marriage to Jacob, since the majority of the deployment thus far has been our disconnection. My mind was worn down by the constant staring at a screen for online homework. Persisting indulgence in staying up late for homework or reading strained my body. And I had, to my own detriment and to God’s mistreatment, placed my relationship with the One who can heal, revive, and humble me, on the back burner.

“Turn my eyes away from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way.” (Psalm 119:37)

I had cut myself off from my source of oxygen and prioritized other things, so it was no wonder I felt like I was drowning in relational failure. Melodramatic? Oh yes. Irrational? Probably. Feeling real in the moment? Unfortunately, also yes.

“Why does this keep happening to me?” I asked. Every time I tried to love someone the way I naturally loved, it felt like it accomplished the exact opposite of what I desired and intended, and then, when I tried to figure out how to love them better, I would execute even that poorly, and would fail yet again. What was wrong with me? What was I not understanding? What truth was I missing? Why did I keep hurting people? What did I need to fix?

“Oh, God…” I said as the sun shone through the sunroof. I groaned as I realized I’d turned off the car without closing it. “I have no stinkin’ clue what I’m doing.”

My friend Christie pulled up behind me—we were meeting up for lunch at the Fayetteville Pie Company (it’s exactly what you think it is). I became angry with myself for being such a wreck, but my relationship with her had grown enough that it didn’t matter if I was a mess in front of her; she loved me anyway. We would spend the next hour or so talking through all of my hurt, confusion, and feelings, and she would lovingly speak the truth I needed and clear up thoughts that I couldn’t conquer and clarify on my own. I was reminded of how God uses the Church to check me, change me, challenge me, and cherish me.

On the way back home, I would cry more, thinking I was emotionally tapped out, but realizing I wasn’t each time I cried—I cry about everything, just in case you didn’t see that. And I just thought through everything with God as I drove into the sunset (no, there was no awesome Western music full of velvet strings playing in the background, and I drove a black Civic instead of a Stallion). I didn’t speak directly to Him, but I knew He was listening and working through the thoughts with me. I was spent, needed rest, and knew where to find it.

Things are not perfect, and I’m still struggling with a bit of exhaustion and confusion, and I still don’t think I know where to start. But God appointed this time…He appointed the time justly, anticipated the confusion, and has the clarity prepared for prescription. When it seems like, in my emotions, the foundation of the earth shakes, it is God who holds its pillars firm.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)




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Looking for a Hero Who’s Already Come

I’ve experienced a pertinent itch to write lately…Though not really about life, and more about things that are made up, about fantastical things and realistic stories with people who’ve never actually existed, because it’s fun to write about a world outside of your own.

Whenever I think about writing, I think about a day when I sat in the dusty corner of the Pratt Institute library, the second floor, at a wooden table staged with a green reading lamp. It was mid-afternoon, and I’d opened up Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” I’d recently been taught about the word “archetype,” and how my writing often revolved around steadfast characters, happy endings, war, triumph, love…all of those grand themes that seem almost cliche to the modern writing world, which had grown stale with the bitter taste of cynicism, politics, and self-dependence; one could not say, “I love you,” without the taint of sarcasm, and I was ignorant to believe I could write a hero, without making him fail in the end.

Revelation 19 seared my mind, and a picture of Christ riding in on a white horse, his cape dripping with blood, wielding a sword long enough and sharp enough to face the Armageddon to come was the scene playing out in my heart as I read Campbell’s introduction.

The author briefly traced the footprints of the hero archetype throughout culture and history, and asked the reader, “Why is this the story that we seek to tell over and over again? Where did it come from? How has it become so much a part of our very souls?” There’s Gilgamesh, all of the Greek and Roman gods and demi-gods, Odysseus, almost every single Disney princess story, and so many more.

Campbell proceeded to compare and contrast and draw themes and motifs from hero tales throughout the world, all of which he used to contribute to his psychoanalysis of this existing archetype.

And as I read, I knew. That’s why I’d started following Jesus in the first place…He’s the ultimate, original, hero. Goodness, He certainly rescued me. The hero archetype exists because God prepared the hearts of the nations to long for Him, for His redemption, for His rescue of them from their peril…When it comes to hero tales, we are all damsels in distress, and Jesus is always the hero.

I recently went to Anna’s all-day debate tournament, in which I was a judge for some of the kids competing in the Apologetics category. Each kid would come in, pick one topic out of three, take four minutes to prepare a speech about the topic, and then deliver the speech in six minutes or less. It was pretty intense.

One kid picked the question, “Do all men long for God?” In his speech, he’d mentioned that, just looking at the millions of world religions that exist, there is absolute proof of men longing for God, enough to want to bring Him to themselves. I hadn’t thought of that. It made a lot of sense.

…And yet, He’s already come to them in Jesus Christ! God has made Himself known, and yet we’re still looking for Him…

“…because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)

How do I write this theme into the lives of others? How do I draw them in with what God has given me, and train them in the spiritual discipline of courage, triumph, adventure, and heroism? How do I convince the world around me that their Hero does exist and is not merely legend, that He’s come, and that He’s everything we imagined and more? How do I call up to the top of the tower to the damsel of this earth, ask her to let down her hair, that her Prince may prove to her what He has already done in slaying the dragons of the reality of our sin, the desires of our flesh, and the distractions of this world?

…Do I live like Christ is the Hero? Or am I, as I try to convince others of this truth, denying it with my own self-dependence?


My Hero has come, my dragons have been slayed. I don’t have to live in the tower anymore, and can come down. Don’t worry, He’ll catch me. The night is gone, and the Son shines forth in the dawn.

“For Christ died once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18)




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Whole 30 and Synergy

I would like to inform the Internet that going to school online is VERY different from going to school in person. I realize this is probably common knowledge, but I finally put my finger on why it’s so different. When I was at Pratt, everyone’s main focus was school; academia was the environment in which we lived. But earlier this afternoon, as I was completing the Course Requirements Checklist about the syllabus for my second semester History class, all I could think was, “People’s lives are falling apart! There are more important things happening than learning about the Reconstruction of the United States after the Civil War for goodness’ sake!” (Disclaimer: I totally love History and learning about the Civil War) But I imagine I thought that way because a lot of people around me are dealing with real life things that are not on a computer; they’re not set against the backdrop of a college campus, and so therefore it feels like school is pulling away from real life, as opposed to on a physical campus, when real life felt like it was pulling away from school.

*Sigh* Small rant complete.

Everything seems to be moving incredibly fast and yet agonizingly slow throughout this deployment all at the same time, and half the time I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. I remember telling Jake, when we first started dating and I had just started a sort of Bible Study on Pratt campus, that I had no idea how to lead a Bible Study group, and he responded with “Join the club of people who have no idea what they’re doing.” It was a small reassurance that I’m not the only one 😛

Presently, I’m going through a topical study about women leadership in the church…I was challenged on why I believe what I believe about women’s roles in the body (pastor, deacon, elder, etc.), and realized I’d never actually studied it out. As I began the study, my friend Christie mentioned that the key passages (1 Timothy 2-3, Titus 1-2) can be interpreted many ways, and can be made to say whatever different people wish them to say. The concluding question will always be “Regardless of how I interpret this, what is most beneficial?” To be continued…

Another current event is this horrible thing called Whole30…So, backstory. I have never been able to defeat my sweet tooth. I have tried many times to rein in the sugar addiction and tackle the need to consume great amounts of the grainy white stuff, but always “relapse.” I recently finished reading a book titled “For Women Only:What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men” by Shaunti Feldhahn. This book opened my eyes to several major truths, confirmed by and discussed with Jake. One of those truths is that men do care about the effort their women put into their appearance, such as physical exercise, diet, and the clothing they wear. While they absolutely love their wives/girlfriends, and don’t expect them all to be a size 3 or a bodybuilder or a Victoria’s Secret Angel or whatever else, they feel loved and honored by how their women take care of themselves. I’d never heard it put that way, (Feldhahn said it much more eloquently than I am now) and it made the solving of the issue I have with dessert, bread, and sugar in general much more of a priority. Not only are all of these things awful for my body, they’re also bad for my marriage. So, for the last three weeks or so, a friend and I have been doing Whole30, which basically eliminates allergens and other foods (legumes, dairy, grains/gluten, sugar additives, rice, alcohol) for 30 days. I’ve lost a lot of weight, gotten back into running (I forgot how insanely fun running is!), and realized all over again how often I’ve sought comfort in food when I should’ve been seeking comfort in God, who is “the Father of compassion and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). The hope is to continue these habits past the 30-day mark, and doing more research on what is actually good for me.

Another thing God brought to my attention during this time is a possible lifestyle change based on Matthew 18:8-9. This passage says, “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”

God takes sin seriously…Like, really seriously. Obviously, we’re under grace, and are secure in our salvation through Jesus Christ, who left us with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee. But how God sees sin still matters…So I looked at this passage and thought, “Is there anything in my life that I ought to just get rid of completely because it consistently causes me to sin?” The answer was really hard…It’s dessert, it’s bread, it’s all sugar. Even fruit is difficult, even though it’s good for me. So I inserted “dessert” into the passage to see how it might read for me, and this is what I came up with:

“If eating dessert causes you to sin, cut it out from your diet, for it is better to enter the kingdom of heaven having never enjoyed dessert, than to enter into hell having tasted every dessert known to man…”

Well now…

I’m not sure how far this will apply, and I’m definitely not saying this ought to be the life song for everyone, but it might need to be the maxim for me…Another thing to be continued.

The final, big thing I’ve been learning over the last few weeks is just how much I depend on Jake as my teammate in ministry. I’ve been having a really hard time with entertaining any thoughts concerning missing him (as in, I try not to), or about his absence in general, and I’ve especially been avoiding conversations about the “negative” side of deployment, just because I can’t do anything about any of it, and so think there’s no use talking about, ya know, feelings and schtuff. This is not true, and how I’m doing emotionally is important, and it’s especially useful in how my relationships with the people around me develop while Jake is gone. To quote the many military wives around me who’ve shown me great compassion, “You need to talk to people about how you’re doing.” This be important.

But I digress.

When I do talk about missing Jake, which is rare (I feel like I’m getting better at being vulnerable with others about this part of deployment), I discover that it’s not only his presence that I miss, but it’s him. He’s my greatest ally, and I love, disciple, do all ministry better and more holistically when I know he’s there and participating. I love ministering to others with him, because his insight is invaluable, his knowledge and understanding are so different from mine that he offers things that I just don’t think about, and the way he sees God is so much bigger and more eternal than my detail-oriented mind is capable of. His leadership is courageous and stellar, and his tact is full of skill and forethought. He communicates biblical principles in a way that makes perfect sense and makes people want to go out and serve Christ through their loving obedience.

None of this is to say that I can’t be effective for Christ without Jake. There was a point when I wasn’t married and following Jesus, ya know. But without him, I feel like I’m doing everything with one hand tied behind my back…I don’t bring my best if I don’t bring Jake. And, I think, that’s how God intended for it to be. I mean, not for me to do everything feeling that way, but that He intended marriage to be like teamwork, a more complete picture of who He is and His vision for the world.

But now I’m rambling.

The point is that God continues to solidify my own convictions and methods of reaching the world for Him, challenge me in creativity and diligence concerning how to honor and submit to Jake while he’s gone, and comfort me when no human comfort can reach my heart.

“As for you, my son, Solomon, know the God of your father and serve Him with a loyal heart and a willing mind, for the Lord searches all the hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong, and do it.” (1 Chronicles 28:9-10)

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The Days I Live For

I woke up around 8:30am, immediately going through a mental checklist of all the things I needed to pack and prepare and accomplish before leaving the house that morning to meet up with Anna at Barnes and Noble, thirty minutes away. “Love is patient” was searing itself on my brain as I moved around.

Before I knew it, I was on the road headed towards Fayetteville, preparing my mind for meeting up with Anna.

We’re part of a Tuesday night Bible Study on post, and part of our homework was to share the gospel with someone via what’s called The Bridge illustration, whether or not they were a Christian. So I told Anna that today, while we were at Barnes and Noble, we were going to talk to someone and share The Bridge with them. Little did she know that I told her for the sake of my own accountability. I was nervous.

I prayed for Anna’s heart and for the people she’d eventually touch through her relationship with Christ as I drove, and I thought forward to tonight, after Bible study, when I’d be working out with Ashley, the new girl to the ministry who came up to me the second time we interacted and asked me to disciple her.

I’ve realized I have a dual reaction whenever someone asks me this question. It’s like, “Absolutely! Yes! I will help you follow Jesus!” and then the second part of that is “….Crap. I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m a total mess.” Thankfully, however, Jesus did not ask me to make disciples of myself, or to teach what I don’t know, but rather to help others as they seek to be His disciples with all that I have been given. Yeah 🙂

I picked up Anna and we headed to Barnes and Noble. Upon walking into the coffee shop section, which smelled of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies and overly-sweet pumpkin spice lattes, I scanned the room and asked God who He’d want us to talk to. The plan was that I would “take the hit” first, and share The Bridge with someone while Anna watched, and then ask Anna to find someone. But this was a skeleton plan. Again, I really had no idea what I was doing.

“And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)


I had the sudden thought that Jake was much better at discipleship than I, much more creative and deliberate, and this led me into a small spiral of sadness in feeling not as capable of ministering to others without him present. I felt like I was missing half of my brain without him. His insight was invaluable, and he was often able to pull me out of the rut of my detail-oriented thoughts to remind me of what’s important in light of eternity.

Ahem. But back to scanning Barnes and Noble.

As we walked in, I took note of a group of elderly people playing Scrabble. Some of them smiled at me as Anna and I took our seats. Maybe they’d be kind and accommodating. Sharing it with a group could be cool. There were a few elderly gentlemen further into the coffee shop, a group of predominantly Asian students sipping dark iced coffee and mocha frappuccinos, and one lady working on her laptop. Maybe the lady…

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21)

We needed to pray.

Anna and I pulled out our Bible studies, and I asked her to pray. She prayed for the person we’d be talking to, for our time together, and that we’d get something great out of studying His Word. Her prayer energized and encouraged me unexpectedly, and I was ready.

“Are you guys going to college or something?”

When I opened my eyes, I turned to the voice. There was a woman, who I had not noticed, sitting at the table next to ours. Her skin was a lovely dark, and her accent sounded like it came from Central Africa, maybe Nigeria, or perhaps Cameroon. Her hair was pulled back into a tight bun, sounding forth echoes of the military culture. She had a copy of “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu in her hands.

“Oh…” I said, like an idiot. “Actually, no.” And that began my explanation of my and Anna’s being part of the Navigator ministry on post, about our Tuesday night Bible study, and about Jesus.

“Actually,” I said. “Part of our Bible study homework is to share a gospel illustration with someone. Would you mind if we shared it with you?”

As we started talking, I realized that she was a Christian, that I’d met her previously at an evening service at Berean Baptist church, and she was indeed in the military. But I walked through The Bridge with her, which looks something like this:



She asked me questions and gave me feedback on my presentation, which was actually pretty pitiful, but sufficient (if that’s an appropriate word to use in this context). Anna eventually left us to wander around the books, and the lady and I continued talking about Jesus, about discipleship, about people we knew, and about all God is doing in our lives. She mentioned being challenged and encouraged in having a number of new verses to meditate on and use to share the gospel with others from seeing the illustration. Cool!

Eventually, we parted, and I let her get back to reading about proverbial warfare, and Anna and I started into our Bible study.

Before long I got up to go get coffee, and saw that Erika, the barista I’ve been trying to reach out to and form a relationship with was behind the counter. The line wasn’t long, and no one was behind me. So, as my and Anna’s drinks were being made, I sought to have a longer and more meaningful conversation with her than I had in the past.

She knew I was a Christian, and I’d spoken of Christ plenty of times concerning my own life, but I didn’t know where she stood even on religion in general. I asked about how her weekend was, and she freely talked to me about it. I asked her if she went to church anywhere.

“No, actually, no,” she said. “I’m not religious…I mean, I believe in something, but…”

“But not a designated thing,” I finished her sentence.


Inside I immediately wanted to encourage her to follow Christ, but thought that kind of straight up challenge being presented while she was working might not be helpful or appropriate. In the lull of my response, she asked me about my weekend. So I shared Jesus. I talked about church, about the 5k I ran with a bunch of friends on Saturday morning, and about how I’d awkwardly tried to talk about Jesus, the war of ideologies happening between America and the terrorist groups in the Middle East, and general philosophy with a warrant officer. I tried to share as much of my life with her as possible, hearing her thoughts about my thoughts, and learning more about how she sees the world.

Eventually I needed to let her go, and so I went back to the table where Anna sat. I went forward into the future in my thoughts, to how Anna might reach out to her classmates, her co-workers, people I might never meet. I went to what future conversations with Erika might look like, what ways I could serve and love her in Christ.

I reflected on God’s generosity and gentleness…He’d “spared” me the awkwardness of approaching someone to ask them if I could share The Bridge with them by immediately answering prayer and having someone engage me and Anna first…He didn’t have to do that. And then, He was generous enough to protect me from self-doubt and excuse-making when I started talking to Erika, running off the momentum of sharing The Bridge.

Sharing Him with strangers is getting a little easier, defaulting to having the “big picture” perspective of discipleship (seeing the world reached through one person) has been getting more reflexive and has been bringing about more patience in me…I think. I’m not sure where all of this will go, but I know it’s good 🙂

“‘As for you, my son, Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and a willing mind, for the Lord searches all the hearts and understands the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong, and do it.'” (1 Chronicles 28:9-10, NKJV)

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Review #4: I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me



We want people in our lives we can trust, confide in, and turn to when life gets tough—people who not only appreciate our gifts, but who are also fully aware of our flaws and failures, yet want to be with us anyway.

In I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me, bestselling author John Ortberg shows us how to overcome obstacles and create the kind of deep, meaningful relationships we all crave—with God and with others. You’ll learn:

  • how to recognize and respond to bids for connection
  • how to get past your fear of intimacy
  • how to sidestep common relationship pitfalls
  • how to make God an active part of your everyday life

Whether you’re a man or a woman; whether you’re the life of the party or a wallflower; whether you’re a thinker or a feeler or a category not yet known to social science, you were made for connection.”

The book I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me by John Ortberg is a principle-based work categorized in the genre of Christian living. It pursues the themes of intimacy, family, and practical love. Ortberg, through experience and research, walks the reader through many obstacles to intimacy, through learning what true intimacy is, and through ways to achieve true intimacy in every area of life.

Honestly, I feel like this whole book was enjoyable for me as a reader. This is the first book I’ve officially reviewed where I can find little to nothing to criticize. I laughed. I cried. I worried. I rejoiced. I learned. And I was able to apply. Ortberg named some of the big areas of difficulty for me in the area of intimacy, and God used this book to highlight some habits and ways of thinking that I’ve always known were bent but didn’t know how to make straight.

Still, for the sake of clarity and to avoid all the pitfalls of being vague, I will specifically name a few.

The first thing is hard, self-reflective questions. In several of the beginning chapters, Ortberg calls the reader to self-reflection concerning the “season of relationship” they’re in (e.g., “Do you have several people you could visit with little advance warning—and without apology?”), their perspective of those relationships (e.g., “Are you able to discuss differences of opinion without losing your sense of connectedness with one another?”), and even their use of technology (e.g., “Do you feel bummed when you forget to bring your cell phone into the bathroom?”). These questions brought me in and set me up to listen.

The second thing is the practical applications offered. With each obstacle to intimacy discussed, the chapter ended with hope, with “you are able to make this change/defeat this obstacle,” and Ortberg consistently brought the hope back to Christ’s example in His relationships with the disciples and God’s relationship with Israel, and then brought it closer to home with bringing in our relationship with Him. The truth ringing throughout the book is that true intimacy can be experienced with God, and it is His true intimacy that enables us to seek true intimacy with others. As we seek intimacy with God, how do we also practically seek intimacy with others? I think this aspect was the most important to me as a reader.

The third thing is the humor. Ortberg balanced the serious principles with bits of humor from his perspective and life experience, particularly from his marriage to his wife Nancy and some of his most embarrassing moments as a pastor, which made the seriousness much easier to digest. “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down” truly applied here.

In light of all this, I would recommend this book to everybody…But, specifically, I would recommend this book to anyone who feels lonely or disconnected from the people in their lives, from themselves, and especially from the God who created it all.

About the Author:

“John Ortberg is the senior pastor at Menlo Church. John’s teaching centers around how faith in Christ can impact our everyday lives with God. He has written books on spiritual formation including, The Life You’ve Always WantedWho is This Man?The Me I Want To BeSoul Keeping, and most recently, All The Places To Go. John teaches around the world at conferences and churches.

Born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, John graduated from Wheaton College with a degree in psychology. He holds a Master of Divinity and doctorate degree in clinical psychology from Fuller Seminary, and has done post-graduate work at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Prior to joining Menlo Church, John served as teaching pastor at Chicago’s Willow Creek Community Church.

John is a member of the Board of Trustees at Fuller Seminary, and is on the board for the Dallas Willard Center for Spiritual Formation. He has served on the board of Christianity Today International. Now that their children are grown, John and his wife Nancy enjoy surfing the Pacific to help care for their souls. He can be followed on Twitter (@johnortberg) and is on Facebook.”

*A complimentary copy of this book was given to me by Tyndale Press.


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