Exploring the Deep

Passionately pursuing life, faith and adventure…


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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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intersections

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.


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when the grocery store trumps texting

When I was growing up I remember seeing people in the grocery store who would run into friends and stand in the produce aisle in a long drawn-out conversation. They would block the path and carry on like they were the only ones in the store. It was mildly annoying.

I’m officially one of those people. And I’m ok with it.

I love living in a town that is small enough that I often run into people that I know. (Granted, I prefer that I don’t run into them immediately after I’ve left the gym when my hair is a mess and my make-up is smeared. I digress.) I love the seemingly random meetings. I love the quick conversations about the weather or what is in each of our carts. I love the longer conversations about the important things in life: family, health, love, death, faith. I love that in those conversations a greater connection is formed. It creates something that extends beyond the cubical walls, the church doors or the espresso machines.

So much of our world is impersonal and spent behind a computer screen. True connections with others can be hard to form when our preferred communication method is email or Facebook. I’m just as guilty as the next person. It’s easier to send a text rather than make a call. But what do we lose in the process?

My grocery store run-ins fill a void that technology can’t. It’s a salve to a part of my heart that wants to read facial expressions, see a smile, hear a laugh, share a tearful moment. They are encounters I think about for several days because there was an exchange of care one for another. These run-ins are moments I cherish and enjoy every minute of…even as I block the aisle and am oblivious to the irritated shoppers around me.


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The Girl Scout song stuck in my head

Make new friends, but keep the old.

One is silver, the other is gold.

A circle is round, It has no end.

That’s how long, I will be your friend.


Yes, that me and my Girl Scout friends. Don’t you love the ’80s hair and fashion?!

This Girl Scout song has been rolling around in my head for over a week now. It’s a song that so many of us sang when we were tween girls, but its lyrics are just as true so many years later. As we grow older we make new friends based on more than who is in our neighborhood, in our classroom, or in our Girl Scout troop. We make friends who have activities and interests in common with us – friends who will stand alongside us through big decisions and small choices. Our friends are silver and gold in our lives…precious commodities that we must to be diligent to care for.

With Facebook so prominent in our lives it’s interesting to see how some people abandon their childhood friends completely, while others never leave their side. Some of my high school friends’ best friends are still their best friends from high school, while some have completely abandoned their friends from childhood.

For most of us, it’s a balance.

There is something special about my friendships that have remained over the years and distances. It’s a bond that can only be recreated with time. I have a handful of friends that I’m still in touch with that I’ve known since I was in elementary school. I love these gals like there are my sisters. We see each other every 10 years or so (thank goodness for email, phones, text messaging and Facebook stalking!). But a special bond exist that allows us to pick up the conversation as if we’d seen each other the week before. It is comfortable and easy and familiar…like home. I wouldn’t trade these friendships for anything!


Then and now: (above) with Denise and (below) with Mel…ok, these are both old pictures, but we were too busy talking the last time we saw each other to snap a pict!


Then and now: (above) with Meghan and (below) Carrie. Forgive me for the horrible middle school picture, Carrie…we’ve come a long way!

There’s is something equally as special about my friendships that are newer. There is a freshness that makes it exciting – learning something new about the other person each time I spend time with them. We connect on a level of shared interest – faith, dance, food, exercise – and a deeper appreciation for life grows from there. I embrace these friends like a sunny day: happy they are in my life and looking forward to more!


Some of my closest friends from across the country.

I love the balance of my friendships. I delight in catching up with “old” friends and adore spending time with new friends. It truly is the best of both worlds: one group that knows my history and past…and the other that  knows my present and dreams for the future. For both, the relationship is a circle…it has no end. I wouldn’t want it any other way!


More friends and fun times!


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moving past status quo

I was doing a little lunchtime reading and prep today for the Young Professionals group I lead and couldn’t resist sharing a quote from the book we are reading with all of you. We are journeying through “Why Holiness Matter” by Tyler Braun…it’s an excellent book written by and for a fellow young professional. I love the conversation this book has spurred within the group and would be delighted for you to join the conversation!

In the final chapter of the book Braun challenges his readers about whether they would pursue holiness if they knew the full cost.

“The most difficult times in life should drive us toward relationship with Him, allowing His holiness to shape us. Too often we stop short of engaging in relationship with God forcing ourselves to stay in the status quo of life.”

Isn’t this so true?! It is so much easier to keep our fingers on the problem and try to do it all on our own strength, even when we say we are giving it over to God. It’s an interesting trick we play on ourselves – a lie we tell ourselves that we trust God to work but we never actually let go. We stop short of actually walking out our faith and engaging in relationship with the One who can change the status quo.

So today I ask you, where are you stopping short? How can you move past the wall and engage in relationship with God? Are you willing to sacrifice your control or is the cost too high? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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I want to be compelled.

I stumbled upon a video on Facebook Sunday morning from a church in Los Angeles where an impromptu miracle unfolded in the middle of the sermon. The pastor, to make a point that each of us can be the instrument of blessing in someone’s life, gave a woman in the choir some money. He nonchalantly asked, “Gloria, is that enough?” She looked at the money and said, “No, actually it’s not.” The pastor was a little taken aback – he didn’t realize that she actually had a monetary need. He reached into his wallet to give her more money, which she said was enough to cover her need. But that’s not where the illustration ended. The congregation wanted to be part of the miracle as well and began jumping out of their seats and running (literally) to the stage to give Gloria money. It was an outpouring of blessing in this woman’s life at a point that she needed it most.

I don’t think it’s a mistake that I saw the video on the day I did. My church, Eastridge Church, is hosting its annual conference this week about expanding our vision and faith, and seeing this video reminded me of my desire for more, both in my life personally and how my life impacts those around me.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen a video like the outpouring for Gloria. Four years ago a similar offering happened at First Baptist Church of Glenarden. The pastor of this sister church of mine was retelling of a miraculous offering of more than $1 million that Eastridge collected for our building project. Spontaneously, their members began bringing forward money to be sent to Eastridge. Thousands of dollars. The people wanted to be part of the blessing happening across the country. It was a love offering like I had never seen and it struck a cord within me that I wanted to be generous like that. I wanted to recognize an opportunity to bless and take it. To be part of something bigger and make an eternal impact in ways I couldn’t track.

Our Vision and Faith Conference culminates with a love offering next Sunday to fuel the ministry of Eastridge. I had already been thinking about this offering prior to watching the Los Angeles video and thinking about what I would bring. In my heart I want to bring something big, something outlandish, something sacrificial. My heart is over full and I want to express this to God through my gift.

While I still don’t know what I’ll bring, I know what I want my heart to look like: generous, giving, open, compelled, driven, drawn. This is how I want to be described every day of my life. I want to be known as a generous woman of God. Always giving to others – time, talent, money, words of encouragement, a smile and warm attitude, love. What this means for this week, I’m still unsure. What this means for my future, I’m sure.


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Get a grip.

Get a grip. When life seems out of control and topsy-turvy, that’s what we do. When emotions begin to overshadow reality, that’s what we do. When we lose sight of our focus, that’s what we do. When we feel like we’re losing the most important things around us, that’s what we do. We take a firm grasp and wrestle to keep control. We fix our eyes on the very thing that seems to be fading away and fight to keep focus.

Does it work? Do we regain our hold? In the physical sense, oftentimes, yes. But there are times that it doesn’t. Times when holding tightly actually kills the very thing we are gripping.

About a year ago I read “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” by Ann Voskamp. Aside from the obvious challenge set out in the title, the book offered me several other personal challenges, including trusting at a deeper level.

It’s easy to trust for some things – the stove will heat when turned on, a light will shine when a switch is flipped, a chair will hold when sat upon. But other things are more difficult to trust – a stranger to keep his word, a new recipe to work out perfectly, a sunny winter day in Seattle. But what about our relationship with God – what is your level of trust?

I have an easy time trusting my family and friends to do what they promise. We have history and they’ve proven themselves in ways that I can see and recount. Although I trust God to do what He promises, I have a more difficult time. There is a catch in my natural self that second-guesses His follow-through because I can’t see, touch or smell Him. The times when prayer wasn’t answered the way I anticipated were the times when God answered a different way. Trust wasn’t broken, but it was tested…and the fault is only my own for expecting God to do things the way I planned. It’s those moments when I remember that God is in control and to get a grip.

In “One Thousand Gifts” Voskamp writes: “All these years, these angers, these hardenings, this desire to control, I had thought I had to snap the hand closed to shield joy’s fragile flame from the blasts. In a storm of struggles, I had tried to control the elements, clasp the fist tight so as to protect self and happiness. But palms curled into protective fists fill with darkness….My one wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy….

“The secret of joy’s flame: Humbly let go. Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control…let go of my own way, let go of my own fears. Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy’s fire. Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love.”

It’s difficult to hold on to sand. The more we tighten our grip, the more it slides out from between our fingers. In order to keep it in our hands we are forced to turn our palms upward and keep them open. We must become comfortable with the balance between an open hand that can hold the sand, but that can also lose it. We must trust. It’s like our relationship with God: we must keep our hands open to receive what He is giving, but trust Him enough that if what we are holding is taken away that it is only to give us something better.

As I journey through life – professionally, relationally, spiritually – with an open hand, I find that my grasp is stronger. What do you need to release so that you can get a grip?