Suffering: Expectation or Exception?

Last week I was driving downtown with a friend sharing some hard things I’ve experienced recently. She listened intently as I revealed bits and pieces of my pain and disappointment. After a while she gently and matter-of-factly shared about the people and kids she interacts with on a daily basis. Most of them do not come from privileged places. As a school teacher in South LA, my friend sees her fair share of suffering and disappointment.

As we chatted a while longer, the question of privilege entered the conversation. Was my privilege getting in the way of my suffering? The question seemed to linger in my head for the remainder of the evening. How much of my faith was built on false expectation? Expectation that God will give me a good life, help me reach my goals, make it to the next milestone. I do believe that God is good, but I don’t believe that suffering is the absence of good.

I sat in the car humbled and grieved listening to my friend outline her own experiences working with and being a person of color. For others from different racial and economic backgrounds than me, suffering may actually be the expectation. At first this didn’t sound right to me - why would God want His people to expect bad things?! But the more I thought about this, the more Biblical it started to sound.

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13

Perhaps I missed something in my theology of suffering. And perhaps my privilege (and more specifically, my entitlement) created a series of truths that suffering was an exception, something I didn’t have to experience, something I could work hard to overcome or avoid. I suppose I unconsciously believed that I could outperform and out-pray any bad thing in my life based on the opportunities and access I was given. And I’m not very proud of that.


In the last year, I’ve mourned the loss of someone very dear to me too many times to count, grieved the health of another, been let go, faced unemployment for three months, mourned my singleness while celebrating others’ partnership, and tried to start over in a new state. In short, let’s just say it’s been a hell of a year.

After a while, I realized my performance and striving prayer wasn’t getting me anywhere different. And I panicked. I felt stuck, helpless, fearful, and really, really alone. But you know what? God met me there. He chose to meet me in my own entitlement and privileged expectations. He chose to meet me in my grief, disappointment, pain, and overwhelming loss.

I cannot fix my circumstances or other people. Nor can I pray or perform away bad things. All I can do is take ownership of myself and believe somehow there’s Good in all this, too.

What I'm Most Grateful For in Year 26

I was sitting in class last week tuning out just a bit until something my professor said drew me back into the conversation, striking a deep chord in me. She was talking about gratitude and suggested that ingratitude comes dressed in restlessness and concerns about self-fulfillment and entitlement. Is there too much of a cultural emphasis on growth and success and getting our own way in the world that we forget to be grateful? 

I don't know about you, but I definitely identify with restlessness in my own life. It's so easy to focus on the unknowns and the not-yets. And to be honest, that's where my head has been at for a majority of my 20's so far. When is _________ going to happen? Why is _________ happening to me? Where am I going next? What does _________ have to do with me? 

Can you relate? I wish those questions didn't make up a large percentage of my inner dialogue, but unfortunately they do. In the last few months I've started practicing gratitude more regularly and it's totally changing the story for me. Instead of looking at what I don't have and focusing on the questions I don't have answered, I started listing the things I did have. And you know what? I've come a long way. I feel more settled, more me. 

Last year I wrote a post about 25 things I learned in my 25th year, but this year I'm going to list 26 things I'm thankful for in my 26th year. I turn 27 tomorrow and I'm full of anticipation of what it will hold.


I'm grateful for... 

1. My parents - I'm amazed at the strength, mercy, and resilience they've fought for and displayed this year. I've learned so much from them. 

2. Fuller Seminary - I was honestly a bit turned off by the idea of seminary at first, but this school has been such a gift to me so far. I love getting to learn alongside such a diverse group of people who challenge and encourage me. 

3. A summer abroad - Every time I think back to my summer in Peru, I smile. All the adventure, exploring, living daily life in a new country made me feel at home, doing / being what I was supposed to be. 

4. Modern air travel - Though I moved several time zones away from all of my family and friends, I am grateful they are only a plane flight away. 

5. Sunshine - Thank you SoCal!

6. A running buddy / new roommate - Betsy is running a half marathon with me this weekend! 

7. A new church home - It took me a while, but once I got past my own fear, I've been really grateful for the people at Epicentre Pasadena. Already feels like family to me. 

8. Class Pass - YA'LL. This app totally changed my fitness game. You can go to hundreds of different studios and classes with ONE app (plus it's cheaper than a monthly membership at places like Pure Barre and Core Power). 

9. My own room - I've shared a room the past few years (and loved it), but having my own space has been so refreshing to me. 

10. New friends - It always takes a while to transition to a new place, but I'm starting to feel more settled, largely due to the people I've met so far. 

11. Free cable - I haven't had cable since I lived with my parents in high school, so it's quite a treat, especially as March Madness begins this month. :) 

12. An all-knowing, ever-present God - This may sound cliche, but knowing the God I am relationship with knows all things and brings all things together brings me peace and allows me to rest. I don't have to know because He does. 

13. Trader Joe's (and the distance between my house and the nearest store) - Grocery shopping will never be the same. I live for TJ seasonal items. 

14. The intimacy that follows risk - I could write a whole post about this, but even when risk is hard, there's always a sweet side. I never want to stop leaning in. 

15. The Rose Bowl - I've trained for all my long runs here and it's been quite good to me. It's also only 2.25 miles from my house (mostly downhill) which is always a good mood booster to start off the long milers. 

16. The food options in LA - Nothing against my old town of Waco, but it literally cannot compete with LA food wise. I could eat any type of food imaginable within an hour of my house. 

17. Social media - I took a month off in December (which was really good, by the way), but since being back, I've gotten to see the power of using social media to build a platform and to connect with people. 

18. My sweet lil laptop from college is still plugging along - I'm praying it doesn't give out before I can afford a new one. It's survived a lot (including a major coffee spill last Spring). 

19. The time and space I've had this year to settle into myself - I've had a lot of time to think and be intentional about my next steps. Looking back, I'm realizing how rare that is and what a gift it's been! 

20. Going blonde - I just feels like it fits me. 

21. Open doors - Though there have been several closed doors, I can't ignore all the ones that have opened. I've been given some incredible opportunities, like travel and education. Each closed door has gotten me closer to where I'm supposed to be. 

22. Momentum in my writing - I can't believe I just went for it and am about to self-publish my first work guide. It comes out in less than two weeks! 

23. The confidence I've gained this year - I feel way more secure in who I am than I did this time last year. I really like who I am and I know what I bring to the table, and it feels good. 

24. Kombucha - My newfound love and beverage of choice. Call me basic, but I'm obsessed. 

25. A body that moves and changes with me - I've experimented a lot this year with different foods and options and I'm grateful God gave me this body to grow in. I still don't understand a lot of things, but I do know that what we put into our bodies matters and how we move them does, too. 

26. Finally, I couldn't close this post without thanking my dear friends. To those of you who have carried, prayed, loved, and encouraged me near and far - I cannot say thank you enough. In the midst of unknowns, pain, disappointment, new beginnings, and what-if's, my people have loved me so well. I am entering 27 reminded of how rich in relationship I am, and even though I live far away now, I know I am valued and seen. 

Thank you for making 26 a year to remember. Here's to 27! 

5 Ways to Create Momentum in Your Personal Life This Year

It's January 2nd: the day all those New Years Resolutions get put to the test. I know because I just started Whole 30 this morning and went on a run for my upcoming half marathon. Ambitious I know, but a girl's gotta do what she sets her mind to do. Some of us are feeling motivated, though others may be dragging their feet into 2018 desperately looking for some forward momentum. 


Not going to lie, I am a pretty motivated person. I'm a doer and am constantly self talking myself into the next risk or challenge. But there are definitely times I am less motivated. I'm currently coming out of one of those seasons. 

I'm also a big believer in the concept of grace. A downside to being driven by nature is an over-critical view of self (at least in my case). If I'm not careful, I start to let shame run the show instead of allowing myself the grace to be exactly where I am. 

So there has to be a middle ground. There is absolutely grace to be where you are RIGHT NOW, no matter how you got there or how long you've been there. But there is also grace to move forward. Though a lot of circumstances are out of our control, there are several things you can do NOW that are IN your control.

Below you'll find a few suggestions to help you create some momentum in your life. I hope these tools help you to feel less stuck, more motivated, and filled with grace to move forward to the next step. 

1. Do something physical. 

One of the best spiritual practices I learned in college was to move my body. As a freshman in college, I put on the infamous "freshmen 15" and by the time I was a junior in college, I wondered what had happened to my body. I transferred schools that year and decided to train for a half marathon. The experience of doing something physical with my body prompted transformation in so many areas in my life. Since then, I've tried to do something physical whenever I'm on the upswing of transition. I give myself space to be and then challenge myself physically so that my mind, spirit, emotions, ect have a chance to catch up. It gives me clarity mentally and helps me feel like I'm making steps forward. 

2. Practice gratitude daily. 

The concept of gratitude is nothing new, but I believe it helps us engage the present moment with fresh eyes. Whenever we pause to identify the specific things we are thankful for, our perspective widens and we step back for a moment to see the full picture. Yes, I may feel stuck and depressed in this moment, but I wasn't always here. Being thankful takes me eyes off myself and gives me the gift of hope to look forward. 

3. Try something new. 

Whether you go out to a new restaurant, visit a park you've always wanted to go to, or attend a new workout class, trying something new helps us get out of our normal routine. When I try something new, it helps me combat the feeling of being stuck, because I realize I have the power to change things for myself. I can bake a new recipe, try a new writing prompt, or take a new route on my morning run. Whatever you try, adding something new to your life can help create momentum and remind us we have the ability to change if we set our minds to it. 

4. Check in with yourself regularly. 

I find it helpful to set a couple mile markers throughout the year to reevaluate where I'm at and where I want to go. For me, this means I take two personal retreats a year. I try to practice healthy self-awareness so that I can take advantage of the time before me, instead of trying to escape and avoid my current reality. Even if you're not meeting your goals, setting aside time to check in with yourself is so helpful so you can get where you want to go. If you're interested in taking a personal retreat, you can visit one of my previous blog posts. I should also mention that checking in means having the courage to be brutally honest with yourself - not to stir up shame, but empower you to move through it. You can't move on from what you don't admit. 

5. Be conscious of what you're putting in your body. 

I don't know about you, but around the holidays I always let myself splurge a little bit extra. But I've realized the negative effects sugar and other foods can have on my body when I fail to monitor my intake. Try cutting something out or just making a few healthy choices a day to see if you can create some positive momentum for your body (and your mind). It's no secret that sugar, along with other foods, can impair our thinking and our body's processes. I'm a bit fan of eating what your body craves, but I also believe in listening to my body. Sometimes my body is craving water instead of more salted popcorn, I just have to pause and listen. 

None of these ideas are rocket science; in fact, most are very simple. However, I've experienced significant breakthrough by applying these practices to my daily life. Wherever you find yourself at the start of the new year, I pray you give yourself grace and also think through what steps you can make today to start moving forward. Let us be people who keep showing up this year, even when we feel stuck. 

Living Integrated: Questions for the New Year

2017 was a big year for me. I turned 26, completed my first certification at the Cultural Intelligence Center, went to Peru (twice) then returned for the summer, moved to LA, started a new job, became a student again, passed my first quarter at Fuller Seminary, and am an official California resident (as of last week). 


I went into the new year thinking it was to be my year. And it was in some ways. But in other ways, it wasn't. There were plenty of beautiful moments and dark ones too. I think life is about string all those moments together, integrating all the pieces - both the internal and external. 

This theme of integration is on my mind exiting 2017 and entering 2018. My hope is that these questions help you reflect on all the pieces of the last year - the good, bad, internal, and external. I invite you to look at the full picture of 2017 instead of focusing on one loss, disappointment, or missed goal. That's the temptation, right? To bring whatever pain, failure or disappointment into the new year. But that wouldn't be the whole story, would it? Join me as I look back and then ahead, acknowledging each piece of myself with kindness and grace. 


1. Best moments of 2017 - list your top three to five in no particular order.

2. Can you identify the parts of yourself you gave the most attention? Maybe it was your body, your emotions, your career, ect. 

3. What about the parts of yourself you gave the least attention?

4. What about 2017 was worth waiting for?

5. What do you need to grief about 2017? Perhaps there is a disappointment, loss, or painful event you experienced that you need to recognize. Grieving is powerful, and without this step, it's often impossible to move on. 

6. What do you need to celebrate about 2017? Think about something you accomplished, learned or fought for. Maybe it's one thing you did really well this year - something you really knocked out of the park or invested your all in. Be kind to yourself and pause for a moment to soak it in. You did that. And that's worth celebrating. 

7. How did you honor your body in 2017?

8`. How did you honor your soul?

9. What about your mind?

10. Your heart?

11. Who stood by you in 2017? In other words, who did you feel supported or loved by this year?

12. Have you thanked them? If not, send them a quick text, or better yet, write them a note. I bet it will do you both some good. 

Looking back, 2017 was made up of both loss and great joy. That's usually how it goes, right? Though there may be pain or disappointment, there is always light and life and hope for what's ahead. Now start looking ahead to the new year, anticipating all it could be and more. 


1. What are you bringing to the table in 2018? How are you different than the year before?

2. What fears are you bringing into 2018? Are you afraid of failing, not meeting your goals again? Maybe you're afraid of getting close to someone in fear of disappointment. Take a moment to identify any fears you're carrying. The more you shed light on fear, the more you have the power to overcome it. 

3. What do you want to be more of in 2018? Try to summarize your answer into a short sentence or phrase, something you can remember easily. Consider making this one of your mantras entering the new year.

4. Can you identify what you’re most hopeful for in 2018? An event, milestone, moment, ect…

5. What’s it going to take to reach that?

6. Out of the list you just made, what’s in your control and what’s not? Choose to let go of the things that aren’t and identify practical steps to move toward the things that are.

7. How are you going to honor your body in 2018?

8. Your soul?

9. Mind?

10. Heart?

11. Who are you going to invite to stand next to you in 2018? Maybe it’s your BFF or a friend you just met - whatever the case, write down that person’s name and make a conscious plan for how you plan to involve that person in your life. If there’s more than one, list them all.

12. How are you going to be kind to yourself this year? Can you identify some rhythms you want to put in place to help you stay engaged, present, and healthy? Maybe it’s going on a walk for 20 minutes each morning or setting aside time twice a year to get away. Identify at least one thing and list it below.

My hope for you this year is that you live full, integrated, healthy and aware. The more you recognize where you've come from and how you're entering this new season, the more prepared you will be to become your truest self. And I hope above all, that we all learn to be kinder to ourselves this year. 2018 is going to be good, friends. 

One Simple Skill Forgotten

I was listening to a podcast on my way home from work last month about the NFL protest and how it started as a simple act to draw awareness to racism in America, specifically police brutality. The podcast played a clip of President Trump's reaction. I got sick to my stomach as I listened to him call the athletes names as the crowd cheered and suggest they be fired and punished.

After the clip the host claimed that most American white people think the protest stands for something totally different than what it was originally intended for. Sure, there may be some players kneeling for different reasons, but the fact that our President has changed the narrative to belittle black NFL athletes for disrespecting the flag and our country is concerning. What's even more concerning to me is that most of (white) America believes him. 


This is one example of how the white voice has taken over the American narrative. If you think about it, many prominent voices in our media and culture today are majority members. Maybe this doesn't mean to much to you, but when the white voices stop listening to the minority voices, things get ugly. 

I'm not here to talk politics, nor am I hear to point fingers. I don't think either of those things are very productive, to be honest. But I am here to humbly suggest that we have a listening problem. 

In one of my classes at Fuller Seminary, we are discussing spiritual practices, one of which is the act of listening. When the lecture began, I was tempted to check out, thinking I already knew what I needed to know about listening. I mean, how hard can it be? But I leaned in as some of my fellow classmates offered stories of being dismissed, unheard, not listened to. I looked a little closer and noticed every single person that shared this kind of experience as a minority member. 

Toward the end of our class discussion, one of my classmates suggested that listening is not the same thing as silence. It's active and patient. It doesn't lead with an agenda, nor does it speak over the voice that's talking. 

I was so convicted sitting there in the back of the classroom, wondering how many times I've started a conversation with my own agenda in mind or only half-listened to take advantage of a break in conversation to share my own point of view. That isn't listening, friends. 

I may be so bold to suggest that our culture's future hinges on this one skill. As a white American, it's easy to expect others to listen to me, which is not something I'm proud of. I was raised to believe that I am worthy of being listened to. But do I believe that about my minority friends, too? 

Listening isn't rocket science. It's a simple concept, really. But it takes practice, awareness, and intentionality. It takes participating in a conversation simply to be present. It takes letting down walls, choosing not to respond defensively, and taking the time to truly understand what the person in front of us is saying. 

Don't let the media tell you what to think. Get to know people. Listen to their stories and ask good questions. This is the skill that's missing for many white Americans, including myself.