Exploring the Deep

Passionately pursuing life, faith and adventure…

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distracted confessions

I get easily distracted. I know what I’m supposed to do next, but then something crosses my mind and I feel the compulsion to explore it. Find out the details. Make the connection. Chase the rabbit trail…only to forget what I was originally doing.

I know this confession likely comes as a surprise to many of my friends. To so many people I am the focused one. I am the one who checks everything off the list. I am typically on-point and on-task. And this is true most of the time.

As a matter of fact, this blog post is because one of those rabbit trails (although I’d rather call it divine inspiration based off a real-life experience). One afternoon I started to write an email for work, but my mind was wandering because of a recent text I’d received. “Real quick,” I thought, “I’ll pop online and find the answer.” Sure enough, three minutes later I had found what I was looking for, but had also temporarily forgotten what I was supposed to be doing. Sigh.

How easily do we get distracted like this in our spiritual life? We get started on a good path of prayer, Bible reading, and small group gatherings but get distracted by other things that pop onto our radar. We pause and pursue, forgetting our original intent. We come back weeks later to the same chapter in the Bible we were reading – and have been reading for months. We recommit to praying each morning to “start the day off right” but hit the snooze time after time, day after day, and get off track. We sign up for a small group then forget to attend. And how often do we do this with our gym workouts or healthy eating or church attendance or calling family? The list goes on and on.

And while none of us can be perfect in our focus, there’s merit to working on being more focused. Our culture has moved away from this practice. We practically boast in the fact that we have a hard time focusing or are excellent at multitasking. It’s a badge of honor. But for so many of us, it’s an excuse to over-schedule and under-deliver. It’s an excuse because we’re bored with what we’re supposed to be doing. It’s an excuse to procrastinate and avoid working on our goals. As we multitask it’s an excuse to avoid connecting with the people around us and to keep us from authentic relationships. It’s an excuse to make our smart phones our focus.

Don’t misunderstand me…some people are amazing at multitasking and do it well. And others indeed have attention deficits and require medication to help them focus more. I’m not knocking either of those groups. But I do feel that so many of us should call ourselves to a higher standard. We need to remember what it’s like to focus, train our eyes on a single goal and accomplish it.

Where does that start? It starts with one step at a time. It starts by allowing yourself the freedom to not get distracted while you’re reading an article, researching online or writing an email (a-hem, preaching to myself here). Because let’s face it, there’s great freedom in keeping our eyes on the prize and completing a goal quickly.

Where does focus need to start for you? How do you stay focused (alone or in a group)? I’d love to hear from you!

An aside, I jotted initial notes about this post at work and promptly got back to that email I was writing. 🙂


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the big dream and why it’s ok to fail

The trend in the current generation (my generation) is to do great things. From the time we are young kids we are told that we can be president. We are encouraged that we can accomplish absolutely any dream we can imagine if we only try. We set out to be the best, come in first, take the top prize, be the leader, get the job, and have flawless skin and a perfect body. These are all accomplishable dreams, but are also short-term. Where are the goals that take time, effort and planning? But perhaps the better question is how do we learn the process of failing yet continuing?

So many people fail because their dream is seemingly unattainable. It’s too far off in the distance and they lack a clear path of how to achieve it. While making baby steps, they move too slowly, get distracted by what is immediately in front of them and forget the original focus. Or they become discouraged by the pace and give up before reaching it.

We need a reminder that life is to be lived in full from beginning to end. Life dreams (like becoming president) aren’t accomplished immediately. We must learn, mature, gain experience, fail, and experience what it means to start again. There is merit and character to gain in that process that is not gained any other way.

We must also remember that the big dream accomplished immediately is hollow. It’s a shell and only brings enjoyment for a short season before we are bored, abandon sustaining the original dream and need to find a new one.

My generation needs to stretch its eyes and look in the distance for the far-off dream. We need to look for the BHAG – the big, hairy, audacious GOAL. Then go for it! Determine how to get there, gain the experience, mature in our understanding of what the goal really is (let’s be honest, as we learn more about something we realize our original idea was not complete), fail many times, learn from our mistakes, and keep going.

It’s intimidating, this type of dreaming and goal-setting. BHAGs are just that – too big to accomplish quickly (or likely on your own), kind of ugly to comprehend the scope of what it completely entails, and way too daring to actually undertake. But that’s what makes this life so fulfilling! We have a carte blanche to set a goal beyond ourselves and go for it!

I’m personally convicted to dream bigger than I have ever before and set a BHAG. For too long I’ve been content with my little goals that are easily accomplishable. Friends have heard me say, “My goal is to make it through this week.” Granted, those were really stressful weeks, but that’s just not acceptable. As a Christian, I firmly believe what John 10:10 says, “[Jesus has] come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” And so that is what I’m resolving to do. Dreams are good, but goals are better. And BHAGs are better yet (especially if they are God-inspired).

Here’s to a year of consistent blog writing and starting to write a book!

What’s the BHAG in your heart? I’d love to hear about it.


to live present

Six days – that’s the marker for when the next big stage of my life will begin. For months I’ve been planning and prepping for my wedding day. I’ve had countless conversations about flowers and place settings and dresses and hair and food and chairs and venues. My head has spun from the endless possibilities for what this day could look like. I frequently find myself almost holding my breath, then I remind myself to exhale, breath in and out, relax, enjoy this season for all the craziness that it is. This is the one time I will experience this and I owe it to myself to fully embrace each wild moment.

To keep all of my thoughts straight for the big day I am making notes everywhere – my phone, scraps of paper, printed lists, an app, and a notebook. I’m not sure why I chose this particular notebook to keep my current life together. It’s one that normally sits on my bedside where I make little notes from the day – things I want to remember about an experience, conversation or a prayer. It even has a pro/con list about a house I considered buying last summer.

But this notebook also has notes about how I felt when I started dating my future husband. And it has a prayer I penned in Costa Rica last summer that was a deep cry of my heart:

“I want to live in this moment…not tomorrow or next week. Lord, help me to live now. To abide in You. To live full. Help me to be ever present in the moment, hearing your voice, sensing your presence.”

As I keep notes about my wedding in this journal I can’t help but feel that using this notebook was a divine moment to remind me about living present. To remind myself of how I felt when I first met Brian. To see, recognize and embrace each of these quickly passing moments. To live present.

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navigating the fog

Living in the Northwest for the past six years I’ve grown accustomed to fog. It’s a normal morning greeting living in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. And I love it. Many of my friends know of my childhood fascination with fog. I loved flying because the plane would take me through the clouds – and I knew that clouds were simply fog that was in the sky. Growing up in South Dakota I daydreamed of living on the fluffy balls, but was always disappointed when it was foggy because the reality never held up to my imagination. I couldn’t sit on the fog or make fog snowballs to throw at friends.

Yet years later, when I moved to the Seattle area I was once again enamored with fog. Thankfully I had moved past wanting to live in the clouds, but was now captured by the beautiful views it created among the mountains.

However there was a quality of fog that I didn’t have much experience with until moving west – the lack of visibility it provides. In South Dakota I remember the fog lifting nearly as quickly as it fell. But it’s different in the Pacific Northwest – especially in the outskirts of Seattle where the fog settles among the mountains.

If I want to leave my house on foggy days then I’m forced to face the consequences and drive in limited visibility. Most times this isn’t a big deal. I turn on my fog lights, brake earlier and am more alert to my surroundings (what I can see of them). But there are days when the fog is thick and it’s difficult to see more than 10 feet in front of the car. Those are the times I slow way down. I don’t stop, though, because that’s what causes accidents. I keep doing the only thing I know to do – I move forward.

As with driving, sometimes life feels as if we are walking through the fog. It can be so thick we can’t see far down the path that lies ahead of us; sometimes we can only see the length of our arm. These can be scary seasons when we question which way is forward, how close we are to a ledge, if there is danger ahead, and if we are alone in the journey.

But just as with driving, we must keep moving forward. One step at a time. While we can’t see the path ahead, we can see our next step. And once we’ve taken that step we can see the following one. We must keep moving forward, doing what we know how to do.

In 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 it reads, “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” (The Message)

It’s a scary proposition to trust so completely in God that He will not only lift the fog, but keep us safely on the path when we can’t see. Who knows, the fog may actually be a safety net for us, keeping us from seeing the big dangers that surround us! As verse 13 encourages us, what we must do is trust, hope and love. This is all we need to do during our foggy seasons. This is our moving forward one step at a time.

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peace in the chaos

Five months ago I boarded a plane to visit a dear friend from high school who now lives in Costa Rica as a missionary. I had little expectation for what the trip would entail aside from sun, fun and adventure. What I got was all of that plus a major catch-up session, deep conversations about faith, memories that still come to mind and a friendship fortified through new experiences.

I’ve thought about this vacation often since returning to the States and how to best share it with others. This blog seems the natural outlet, but I’ve had a difficult time putting my experiences into words. How do you adequately describe seven days of unplugging from American culture and technology? How do you process the genuine friendliness that strangers extend? How do you share the impact deep conversations with a close friend have on your life? This is where I’ve been stuck spinning my wheels. And as I spin, time passes and the trip is further in the rear view mirror. There comes a point that it seems so long ago that it would be useless to share. And yet I have a driving sense to share.

Which brings me to this: over the next several weeks it’s my commitment to you – my family, friends and extended friends – to share about what I learned about people, culture, life and faith while in Costa Rica this summer. I realize it was a short trip and that it may seem odd that it impacted me so much – but I can’t explain it and so I must share it.

While many moments stand out and there are many I think about often, one has continued to surface several times since returning, simply because of where I live and the culture with which I’m surrounded. Being so close to Seattle and getting into the city multiple times a month, while simultaneously working for a large, busy, event-driven church, my life is often consumed with noise and activity.

IMG_3563On one of my last days in Costa Rica, in the midst of downtown San Jose, with horns honking, people walking and all manner of life happening around us, my friend and I visited a beautiful, old church. We took our time looking at stained glass windows, artwork and even sat on one of the pews near the altar for a quiet moment with God.

I took several long, deep breaths to rest and silence my mind and soul, paying close attention to God and what He was saying to me. What I felt brought a smile to my face: Even in the middle of a busy city, overflowing with life, you can find peace with Me if you quiet yourself and remove yourself from the noise and focus. I am that close. You can have peace in the chaos when you turn to Me.

Peace in the chaos. That is what I constantly seek. In the busyness of work; in the running here and there; in the explosions of relationships and life, peace in the chaos is my heart’s cry. And there God was, telling me exactly how to find it.

So as the city moved around me I stopped. I breathed. I listened. I found my pathway to peace in the chaos.

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a pep talk and sacrifice

The past several weeks have been filled with highs and lows. Days that were stellar and days that were not. I’ve run hard, pushed beyond what I thought I could, was up early and out late, and have slept poorly. I have not been at peak performance mentally, physically or emotionally. As a backstory, I’ve bought and moved into a new house, camped with a large group of friends, celebrated birthdays, led major events, experienced family medical issues, worked full time, dog sat for a week and picked up a freelance copy editing job. That I’ve been busy is an understatement.

All this time I’ve continuously given myself a pep talk that I can do it. All I had to do was just make it through August. As a proper church girl, I reminded myself of the importance to stop and give thanks to God for the oomph to get through each day without collapsing.

It was early July as I was reading through the Psalms that two verses in particular caused me come to a hard stop. Psalm 50:14-15 reads, “Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” I read it over and over: Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God. Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God. Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God.

It naturally lead to the question, have I made thankfulness my sacrifice to God? It’s not only a question of if I stop to express my gratitude to the Lord, but if it reaches the level of being sacrificial in its expression. I found it convicting that just before these verses, God tells us that He is pleased with the offerings that are being presented to Him (vs. 7-13). But they are offerings of things that are already His; they are things that He has given to us so that we can give back to Him. But what He really wants to receive as a sacrifice is us. When it comes to gratitude, it’s not about our actions; it’s about our heart.

“Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High.” To be transparent, my thankfulness wasn’t at that level. The time or effort it took to express my gratitude was not lengthy or deep or difficult. I’m not positive it’s much better now, nearly two months later, but my heart is tender and attentive to move toward sacrificial gratitude.

I absolutely love what comes next in this passage: a promise of God’s deep love for us. “Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” His care for us, however, is sandwiched between our call to express our heart to Him. As we sacrifice thanksgiving to Him, He will help us in our difficult moments. It is then our turn to again offer Him praise and the glory He deserves.

The big question I am forced to ask myself as I read this passage and write this post with fresh eyes and a fresh experience of calling on God during this difficult season is, have I truly expressed my thankfulness as a sacrifice to God? I’ll be pondering this question for weeks to come and would love to hear your experiences.

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pause and plant

“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” — 2 Peter 1:5-11

This scripture has hung in my heart and mind all week. I’ve read it before, but its call to a personal and active maturing captured my attention this time around. How often are we guilty of reading scripture, desiring to grow, but not taking the necessary steps to actual growth? True confessions: I’m guilty.

This passage in 2 Peter calls us to “make very effort.” Not to make AN effort, but EVERY effort. That means it’s up to me. It doesn’t call me to a lackadaisical approach, but a full on pursuit.

I love scripture. It captures my heart, mind and imagination with the stories of how:
– God performed miracles among the Israelite’s (the manna, parting the Red Sea, Abraham and Sarah)

– The promises God has for us today (He’s preparing a place for us in Heaven, He is FOR us and not AGAINST us, He heals the ache in the heart of the hopeless)

-And its call for higher living (love your neighbor as yourself, take care of the widows and orphans, defend the cause of the fatherless)

All of that is fine on the surface. They are nice little stories and sentences that make us feel good and give us hope. I go back to them over and over again when I feel weak or insignificant or maligned. But when I’m being honest with myself (and you), it’s not often that I pause and plant my feet in them, making a conscious effort to live them out in fullness. Sure, in part scripture encourages me and sets me back on the path. But the all-out pursuit isn’t there like it is with a fitness regimen or when I’m planning a vacation or organizing a work event. Those are times when I focus and work hard (“make every effort”) to accomplish a goal so that I’m not “ineffective and unproductive.”

When I think about my faith, what is the difference that keeps me from the pursuit? Me. Like so many, I am my worst enemy.

I write this as much for you all to consider, as for me to grasp. I feel like Paul when he wrote to the Corinthian church about running in such a way to receive the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

I am thankful that as I run the race – as I work at maturing my faith, self-control, godliness, love and the others – it is for something more than just being “better.” I’m thankful that it’s not my effort that saves me (only His grace can do that), but my efforts do confirm God’s work in me. The constant growth keeps me effective, productive and in-tune with Jesus and what His life and death means in my life. It keeps my eyes open to the pain and brokenness that surrounds. It guarantees that I will not stumble, even when life gets difficult. It confirms that I am His – not just in word, but in deed.

So let me ask the difficult question: are you making “every” effort or just “an” effort? Have you paused to plant your feet in the promises of scripture or are you tip toeing across the surface? What is holding you back from the pursuit? I’d love to hear your stories!

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Life is comprised of intersections. Some are small ones – just a stop sign where you take a quick inventory of your surroundings before moving on. Some are larger ones – a traffic light with two left-turn lanes and multiple traveling lanes that require you to stop and wait your turn before proceeding.

What we do at these intersections is what shapes our lives. Do we blow through the stop sign and risk a fender-bender? Do we wait too long at the traffic light and get honked at? Do we floor the gas off the top of a green light and risk someone running the yellow and getting hit? In all of these situations it’s a question of how we evaluate the intersection before moving forward.

Our life, thankfully, isn’t one intersection after another. Rather most of our time is spent traveling from one junction to the next. But the intersection moments are where we make the most important decisions in our lives.

I have several friends who are at intersections in their life – some large, some small and some that don’t even realize they are at a juncture. (The overlooked intersections where it’s simply two roads meeting without a stop sign or light.) From pregnancies and engagements, to job issues and love dilemmas, to house purchases and faith questions – each is an intersection moment. I’m honored to be in the car with these friends as they journey through life and make the choice to turn left, right, proceed forward or make a U-turn.

I take courage in that they are not alone as they face difficult choices and receive exciting news. And I find encouragement knowing I’m not alone as I do the same. This moment will always be part of their story – my story – your story. It will be a marker that they return to, recalling who was with them as a cheerleader or coach.

The great question is what is your responsibility in this moment? I don’t think it looks the same for anyone or any intersection, but is incredibly unique based on each person involved – both driver and passenger. Who are the people around you at an intersection moment? What is your intersection moment? Who is in the car with you? I’d love to hear your stories!

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reaching for god’s hand

Earlier this week I saw a child walking with his father along the road. The little boy was talking and laughing, lagging a few steps behind while his dad. All the while his dad kept glancing over his shoulder, keeping an eye on him and responding back as the child chattered. As my car passed by, the last thing I saw was the boy reaching up and forward for his dad’s hand. His father opened his hand and wrapped his fingers around his son’s, smiling down at him.

Isn’t that what our relationship with God, our Abba Father, should be like? We following so closely to Him, in constant conversation (prayer) and doing our best to keep in step with Him. All the while our Father keeping an eye over His shoulder at us as He leads the way.

I can imagine God’s gaze resting on me as my mouth runs wild with details of what happened that day. As I share about my dreams and fears. As I get lost in the moment and talk to Him as if He’s my very best friend, rather than the Lord of the universe. (But isn’t that what He wants anyway?)

I can imagine God smiling that all-knowing smile that says, “If you only knew that what you think are big problems are actually small issues.”

I can imagine God reaching His hand for mine to guide me with a little more surety – not for His sake, but for mine.

And yet as an adult I believe I’ve got it figured out. I know how to pray and keep in step and spend time with my Abba Father. But do I really? When I hit pause on everything in my life and focus on my relationship with the Lord, I know I’m just a child. But I’m His child. And as His daughter I want to be someone who reaches up and out to hold His hand. To feel the comfort that He is leading the way. That His grip on me will pull me forward, keep me from stumbling into danger (and traffic), and lift me up when I trip. I want to feel His gaze on me as He listens to me talking about my day and praying about the “big” things that are really so small.

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my vanilla life

To be honest, my life has been pretty normal the last few months. Vanilla with a hint of French Vanilla swirled in. Tone on tone. Monochromatic. It’s been a nice break from the roller coaster of the months leading up to this point. Life has been fairly predictable and manageable. But if I’m really being honest, I don’t like it.

While I don’t enjoy the drama that accompanies a roller coaster type of life, I do enjoy the variety and challenges it presents. It was a couple weeks ago I asked God to show Himself to me in my normal, every day life. The days when things feel mundane – that I would see His fingerprints. The days when I’m bored – that I would sense His moving under the surface. The days when I don’t have plans – that He would orchestrate divine encounters with people. I began looking and expecting to see God.

So often I turn to God when I’m in a low place: when there’s a big decision to be made, someone is sick, I’m caught in a difficult moment or I’ve fallen short. Or I turn to God when things are going well, praying that I can stay on that mountain peak. But most of life is walked out in between those two extremes. Our life is a pendulum swinging from one side to the other. The majority of it spent in every day life in between.

I am tired of feeling like the in between days don’t count for much. This is the time when life gets lived out! These are the important days when character is molded. (The difficult moments at when it is tested.) So I’ve been asking God to show up in big ways in my regular days. I’m looking for His work in the mundane, in the chance encounters, in the small conversations. I’m purposing to take advantage of the opportunities that pop up each day to share His love. I’m actively looking for His fingerprints on the things around me.

Do you know what? He is showing up.

As I’ve opened my heart more to Him and genuinely sought to see Him around me, God’s been faithful to come through. I’ve been able to pray with groups, speak life over strangers, be an ambassador of hope to friends, spiritually guide my peers (even when I only realized it when I was told). God is using me.

I haven’t felt equipped for many of the situations He’s opened up, but I was open and willing to walk in faith with Him. I am walking into situations not necessarily feeling “called,” but knowing in the moment that He has orchestrated it and is equipping me at the very moment that He’s also calling me. It’s a powerful feeling!

I’m at a place I never imagined I would ever be. Fourteen years ago when I began following Jesus I had no idea where I would be or what that decision would mean. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The opportunities it’s given me are beyond my imagination. And it keeps getting better. Each day is something new. (Even the vanilla days.) I blink hard, amazed at the responsibility God has given me and how much He trusts me to be hope, grace and His hand extended to this generation. And all I can do is lean into Him, trust Him for the future and keep asking Him to swirl some chocolate into my vanilla life.