a piece up on DineANDRhyme!

matcha 2Sometimes, in the middle of writing class assignments and web articles, you gotta’ write something just for fun! So last week, as I was trying to squeeze a paper down to its required 5-6 pages (I failed), I wrote about my favorite “office away from home,” Cafe K’tizo, and submitted my just-f0r-fun poem to DineANDRhyme, a blog of poems about restaurants.

Here’s the link to my poem about my favorite treat at my favorite place. The piece on DineANDRhyme also has a link to K’Tizo’s website. You can order teas from the website no matter where in the world you are, but if you happen to be in the western suburbs of Chicago, I would suggest visiting the store in person. Who knows–you might see me there!

Guest post: Clay

Sus's bowlThe theme of the potter and the clay is a popular one in Scripture. Isaiah and Jeremiah both used it, as did Paul in Romans, and many have learned from and written about the metaphor. My friend Susanna, a nurse, missionary with Kids Alive International (the link is to her missionary page on the KA Int’l website), artist, and oh, so many other things, just wrote about clay on her blog, and I asked if I could share her piece through my blog. (She said yes!)

Susanna's bowlSusanna is a wonderful potter (the pictures with this post are of a bowl she made and gave to me), and what jumped out at me in her piece was her perspective on the potter’s attitude toward the clay. Many of the Scripture passages emphasize the truth that we, as the clay, should accept the potter’s intent. Susanna, whose journey to the mission field has been challenging and circuitous and downright hard at times, does write about this aspect of the metaphor, but she also talks about these passages from the perspective of the potter. Working with clay brings joy to Susanna. She loves crafting even the simplest pieces. Working AND reworking the clay brings her satisfaction, and she assumes the Potter feels the same!

The potter took what was spoiled and made it into something else. Not only did he take the time to do it, but he found it good to do. It wasn’t a hassle or pain. It was a process that the potter took delight in. I know that it is in the process of creating a piece of work that I take such enjoyment and I must be reminded that the great Potter enjoys the messy process that I am.  

Click HERE to read the entire piece.



I “think” and she “letters”

churchI have a poem up today at The Well, InterVarsity’s online blog for women in graduate school and beyond. The poem is titled “Let Me Think.” While you’re at The Well, check out some of its other content. It’s fast becoming one of my favorite sites.

I’m also sharing some of daughter Em’s hand lettering today. She, Judy (the older of our two international student “daughters”), and I spent a LOT of time at our church during Holy Week. Judy, Em, and I went to every single service, spending nearly 20 hours at church between Maundy Thursday and Easter Day. It was wonderful, and Em took her notes from a few of the services and created a booklet. The only page I’m not allowed to share with you is the Easter Festival page (it’s a service at our church on the Saturday before Easter) because some ink from the facing page bled through.


good friday

easter vigil.jpg

easter sunday

The Body, Broken and Whole

I have a short story up on The Redbud Post. It’s titled “The Body, Broken and Whole.”  Here’s an excerpt. If you want to read the whole thing, just click on the link above.

Ming moved down the line of Eucharist ministers, her pastoral robes swaying gently each time she stopped. “The body of Christ, broken for you,” she said, pressing bread into the outstretched hands of the minister in front of her. Another pastor followed behind her, carrying the cup, the two of them serving communion to the ministers so the ministers could then serve the rest of the congregation. At the far end of the line, Leah dropped her head and stared at her hands. One laid over the other, they formed the shape of a cross, ready to receive the bread, but without realizing, she’d pulled them close against her stomach. She noticed her fingers were curled, ready to close tight, ready to refuse the offering.


Her head jerked up. Ming’s face was next to her own, and Leah could read concern in Ming’s dark eyes, in the expression on her almond-brown face.

Leah’s hands clenched shut. “I can’t, Ming,” she whispered. “I can’t take Communion.”

Ming looked at her a moment longer. Then she slid her arm around Leah’s shoulders and led her away from the others. Inside the small prayer room off the sanctuary, Ming nudged Leah into a chair, and then sat in one herself, pulling it close enough their knees almost touched.

“What is wrong?” Even after years in the U.S., faint traces of accent from her childhood in Cambodia still colored Ming’s voice.

Leah couldn’t meet her eyes. “I got angry with Bree this morning.”

Ming waited. When Leah didn’t say more, she asked, “What happened?”

Leah swallowed. “It was all little things. She didn’t do her homework from two nights ago, took some gum from my purse without asking, left clothes all over her room, and then, when she was supposed to be getting ready for church this morning…” How could she tell Ming what she had said?

The rest is at the Redbud Post. And while you’re there, check out some of the pieces by other Redbud writers–there’s some fantastic stuff! 

wear love

All my creativity seems to be going into other kinds of writing these days, but that’s okay! The creativity of the Word and of other friends is encouraging me. This morning I read the verse of the day on Bible Gateway (in The Message, which makes it startling–exactly what I want) and then I noticed a friend of mine had just posted something new on her blog. The verse and her post go together perfectly. May you be blessed as I was!

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:12 (the link takes you to the side-by-side translations of the verse in the Message, Amplified, and NIV).

And here’s the link to Joellyn’s post “Life in Death to Self.” And here’s a quote to encourage you to click the link and read the whole thing 🙂

We do not find joy by fulfilling all of our own desires and getting our way. Again, we have to look upside down in this world. Die to self. Lay down your life. Find real life in Jesus. … If I can get to this place of surrender I often enjoy the privilege of seeing His glorious resurrection work in action, and tasting the fruit of it myself.


Suggested Read

My sister just sent me a commentary on Matthew 6 that she found on Bible Gateway. She
called it “challenging.” She wasn’t kidding! It’s incredible–and, in my view, very, very necessary for American Christians. PLEASE read! It’s titled “Do Not Value Possessions Enough to Seek Them.”

max looking out to sea

I think the way of living described in the commentary might feel like a lonely choice AT FIRST. So I picked this picture to go with the post. But Max–the guy standing out on the rock while I stayed on the dry ground and took the picture–would have no regrets about his choice to venture out.


Annual Gifts-that-Give-Back post

Today is “Giving Tuesday,” did you know? The link takes you to a Youtube video that explains why Giving Tuesday was created to follow Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I thought today would be a great day to post my annual “gifts that give back” post. More and more we have the opportunity to give gifts that give twice: to the recipient AND to a ministry that practices Biblical generosity. If you have already completed all your Christmas shopping, then this post isn’t for you, but if you’re just starting to think about it (I’m in this camp!), then I hope to give you some good ideas in this post.


You can use Amazon.com’s Smile program and choose a charity to receive a portion of your purchase price. (Mine is locked in at Compassion International currently, but there are thousands on Amazon’s list.) The link above gives more info, and this program is not just for the holiday season but operates all year.


Check out www.mudlove.com, Bel Kai, and Belove.

MudLOVE, based in Winona Lake, Indiana (home of my wonderful in-laws and my alma mater, Grace College), sells made-on-site clay bracelets, necklaces, mugs, and more. The most popular version is stamped with a word or phrase, and you can even custom order a word or phrase that has particular meaning to you. Twenty percent of each purchase goes to provide clean water in Africa, and $5 spent provides an African with clean drinking water for a year. My girls (ages 11, 15, 16, and 18) ALL love them. (Honestly, I do, too!)

Bel Kai, which sells beautiful handmade jewelry, is another company that gives-back, and when the creator of MudLOVE married the creator BelKai, Belove was created. Great story (check it out at the Bel Kai link above) and just as great products!


Hand and Cloth sells gorgeous, one-of-a-kind blankets made from used saris by women rescued from the slave trade in Bangladesh. I’ve featured this ministry before on my blog (https://journeytojen.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/blankets-handmade-by-women-women-handmade-by-god/).  These are perfect buys for the person who appreciates beautiful, handmade artisan items (hmm—maybe that describes you yourself!). They start at $98 dollars and go up to around $200. Check out the blankets at the website—which itself is beautiful—and read their story while you are there. “Blankets handmade by women. Women handmade by God.” Wonderful work! (They also have stockings–each one unique! So cool!)

Renew Project is an incredible ministry. Based in my area (Chicago’s western suburbs), it trains and employs refugee women to make beautiful items from recycled textiles. Bags, baby items, tablecloths, etc., and their work is incredible (these women are artisans!). Best of all, each purchase helps a refugee woman thrive in her new home.


If you want something other than blankets made by women rescued from the slave trade, visit WAR International. The acronym WAR, standing for Women at Risk, was started in 2006. You can find jewelry, accessories, home décor, and children’s items made by women in 13 countries, including the United States.

Narimon employs women rescued out of the sex industry in Bangkok, Thailand. the woman make beautiful jewelry, handbags, and some clothing at The Well, where the women not only work but are ministered to. Narimon is the products division of Servantworks. Seriously, their work is beautiful.

www.stoptraffickfashion.com has t-shirts, jewelry, and totes/bags made from recycled materials. Many of their t-shirts express the heart of the women who run this website. One with a barcode also has the logo “People are not products” and several sport the logo “free.loved.radiant.”

Sseko (what a cool name) Designs was started by Liz Bohannon. Read this great article about her and her business at Relevant Magazine–and shop here, too! Their tie sandals are awesome, but they’ve now branched out to bags, clothing items, scarves, etc.

Noonday Collection and Trades of Hope both offer beautiful fair trade items (primarily jewelry, scarves, bags, etc.) made by women artisans in developing countries. Great businesses, great products, great stories. I have friends involved in both of these businesses, and they are passionate about their work and what it is providing for other women around the globe. I encourage you to check out their websites.


Need to shop for kids, men, women—want to spend a little for this one, more for that one? Go to www.tenthousandvillages.com. Gorgeous jewelry, decorative items, and woven/knitted items for women; toys and games for children; even things like chess sets, bookends, and bicycle-chain frames for men. Their website is very easy to navigate and has some very helpful tools. If you click on the “gift ideas” tab at the top of the page, you can shop for holiday items, for men, women, or children, or by type of item.  You can spend a little (items as low as $4) or a lot. They also have shops (there is one in Glen Ellyn, IL) across the U.S. You can find a shop locater on the website.


Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Company has “Drink Coffee. Do Good” as its motto. It started with farmers in Rwanda (the founder saw the effects of the genocide and had to do SOMETHING) and now works with farmers in Haiti and Thailand as well. They sell 100% Arabica, fairly traded, fresh roasted coffee. They sell ground, whole bean, and decaf, teas, and coffee accessories.

I Have a Bean “was created for a purpose–to positively impact the lives of post-prison men and women, their families, and the communities in which we live.” This business employs post-prison men and women. If you’re in the Wheaton area, drop in their store on Fridays for free coffee and a chat with their awesome staff!

If you’re in Chicago’s western suburbs, drop in at River City Roasters in Wheaton (if you’re not, you can visit them virtually) and pick up a few bags of their direct-trade blends, which River City Roasters roasts themselves. Sometimes they also have their Venture blend, which supports Venture Corp (www.entertheventure.com), a small nonprofit started by some young friends of ours. Each bag purchased helps support two wonderful ministries in Africa. (I am privileged to have met both Mary and Ronnie, the leaders of the two ministries Venture supports.) Speaking of Venture, you can visit its website and support its ministries through buying beautiful Ugandan necklaces. Just click on the “enter the venture” link above.


My husband just told me about this one, and I checked it out and love their website. What a great story! A group of high school guys learned to crochet simply because they wanted unique ski hats on the local slopes. Others dubbed them the Krochet Kids. Long story short (if you want to know the whole thing, visit the website), they taught these skills to women in northern Africa and then Peru, and they sell these handmade items at www.krochetkids.org. Each item carries with it the signature of the woman who crocheted it, and you can visit the website to learn her story. They’ve also branched out and now offer several ethically-made clothing and accessory items as well.


Buy them a goat—bet they don’t have that. Seriously, go to World Vision or Compassion or Open Doors USA or International Justice Mission (the links take you directly to their online gift catalogs). The first two have items like school supplies, ducks, and clean-water wells–and goats! Open Doors has items that are specific to the needs of the persecuted church worldwide, and IJM allows you to pay for trauma counseling or legal representation for those suffering injustice. You can honor someone with your gift, and that person will receive a card telling about your gift and what it will accomplish. If you want to keep the idea of giving in front of you this season, request that a print gift catalog from either World Vision or Compassion be sent to you. It’s a fantastic tool to use with kids during this season when they are constantly faced with advertisements that fool them into thinking that their “wants” are actually “needs.”


If you have other ideas, please leave a comment and share! I’d love to hear and share other opportunities to give gifts that give back. Feel free to share this list with others.

Thanks for reading! I sure enjoyed pulling the list together.

Link Leads: global awareness; “winning=success”?; the Syrian crisis; heart-changing prayer

My feet in two of their favorite places: in boots (that means fall is here!) and on the trail!

My feet in two of their favorite places: in boots (that means fall is here!) and on the trail!

In “How to Raise a Global Teenage Girl,” Beth Bruno writes about raising a globally aware daughter, but her wisdom applies to raising/teaching all children and even to becoming more globally aware ourselves.

I love this piece by Jenny Rae Armstrong, in which she begins “In Defense of Participation Trophies” but then continues on to challenge our culture’s “success” mindset which has all too often become part of our Christian worldview as well.

And what I saw next to the path--these ginormous mushrooms growing right next to a drainpipe.

And what I saw next to the path–these ginormous mushrooms growing right next to a drainpipe.

Meant to post this piece a while ago, and I rediscovered it in my draft posts. “On the Refugee Crisis” is written by Fatima Bhutto, who lived in Syria as a refugee when she was a child. This gives her a very interesting perspective on the many Syrians who are now fleeing their homeland. She ends the piece with this: “In a connected world, how can anyone close their doors?” Beautiful writing.

This last link is to Natasha Robinson’s homepage. Please feel free to visit her wonderful blog and other offerings, but take a look at the prayer she has on the homepage. I’m praying it today.

Mudroom Blog, World Relief, Refuge, and Ink 180

PLEASE read all four parts of this post!

puzzle 2+I have a piece (unpublished here or anywhere else) up today on the Mudroom Blog (a place for the stories emerging in the midst of the mess). It’s titled “The Missing Pieces.” Below is an excerpt from the middle of the piece. Follow the link above to read the entire piece.

I sometimes aim for “tidy and orderly.” But after I get a little ways down that road to craziness/denial/anger/hypocrisy, I realize my missing pieces are actually a gift. They’re good. They check my tendencies toward sterility. They bring me back to need and the deep, true longings of my soul.  

They bring me back to Jesus. 

+World Relief (WR) is an organization that ministers to refugees around the world. I volunteer at local WR ESL classes. These classes are in jeopardy because the state of Illinois has not passed a budget for the state year that began July 1, so the funds that are meant to provide for ESL classes are not released. PLEASE visit the World Relief advocacy page to read more about this and advocate for this very important ministry.

+Refuge for Women ministers to women who have left the adult entertainment industry. The first R for W recovery home was opened in Kentucky, and now funds are being raised for a R for W home here in the Chicagoland area (it’s desperately needed). R for W Chicago is hosting Shoelapalooza, a fundraising event, this Saturday from 1-3 in Crystal Lake, IL. The slogan is “Step into a new pair of shoes and help a woman step into freedom.” You can also learn more about R for W Chicago at the event. Prices are reasonable and every dollar spent goes to Refuge.

+Willow Creek is hosting its quarterly Anti-Trafficking Forum, and the speaker is Chris Baker of Ink 180. If you’re interested in hearing more about the incredible work Chris does and more about anti-trafficking work being done in this area, follow the link above to learn more about the event.

“Just like me”–seeking greater understanding, unity, and love

Sometimes you've got to get really close to see the beauty.

Up close, you get to see incredible beauty.

Someone recently told me about a young member of our military who shared with his mother some of the trauma he’d experienced on deployment. One time he was told to clear a building. He entered a room and discovered a man with a gun. The man moved to shoot, but the soldier was faster, and the man was killed. “We found his wife and children hiding in another room,” the young soldier told his mother.

She saw his distress and tried to reassure him, “Sweetheart, you didn’t want to kill him. It was kill or be killed. You’re not at fault.”
But he didn’t want to debate fault. “Mom, he was just like me. His wife and kids, just like me. They’re not any different.”
I don’t share that story to make any judgment on our armed forces or its members. (I’m not even making a statement on our police forces and their members, other than to say this: all our police need to have the same attitude as that young man; it should rank as a requirement well above a person’s ability to handle a weapon. I’m very thankful for the many police officers who DO have that attitude, who treat people—no matter the color of their skin or their background—with dignity and respect, but we cannot excuse those who do not).
I share that story to make this personal: I need that attitude. I need it with those in my neighborhood who look different than I or parent differently or work different kinds of jobs; I need it with the wealthy moms at my kids’ private school; I need it with the members of my own household.
But I need it, too, with those whose lives or perspectives seem so different as to be polar opposite mine.
butterflyI work with an organization that reaches out to women involved in the adult entertainment industry. Some of these women have been trafficked, but not all. The leader of our organization is adamant that we don’t make a distinction. Here’s her point: We know—through both statistics and stories—that the vast majority of the women we reach out to have really good reasons for doing what they do. When we look at their backgrounds, we think, “Yes, I can see why this looks like a viable option to them—or their only option.”
But what if that’s not the issue? What if a woman is simply involved in adult entertainment because she makes more at it than she would at another job? Does that mean I’m allowed to say, “That’s some messed-up, sinful thinking!” and write that woman off?
I don’t think so. In fact, I’m beginning to see that it’s not my right to know why a woman is in the life; it’s her decision to tell me or not, and if she does, it’s not my business to form any sort of judgment based on what she tells me. I can’t even say, “But for the grace of God, that could be me” because that still sets me apart. It makes me different. It implies they didn’t receive grace; that there was some reason I “got grace” and they didn’t. It sets up and subtly reinforces a difference between us.
I need to see and know—deep, deep down—that woman is just like me in all the ways that really matter. I’m human; she’s human. I’m broken and bent by sin; so is she. I need a Savior; she does, too.
When I talk and text with women who are in a life that looks so very different from mine, this is what I want to remember. This is what I want them to know: you and me, we’re alike in all the ways that matter.
I’ve found it interesting that the more I work with the issue of adult entertainment, the less inclined I am to write about it. Every statistic, every story, every generalization is becoming more personal for me. The women our team members talk with, text with, hang out with, pray with, eat with—they’re not statistics; they’re women.
I rarely write in-depth about my family members on this blog, and when I do, I generally don’t use their names. I don’t want them to become an example or a generalization or even simply a character. I want to protect them; I want to maintain their dignity. I want them to own the rights to their own stories.
That’s how I’m beginning to feel—and not just think—about the women I meet who are in the industry. I need to maintain their dignity as people, and they need to tell their own stories.
I’m winding through several points in this blog post to get to a final one: though I don’t write much here on the impact of the adult entertainment industry on women and on our culture or on the issue of racial reconciliation (one that is very personal for my family), that doesn’t mean I don’t care passionately about them. I’ve felt convicted of late that I don’t share this passion enough through my blog. So, even though right now I don’t plan to do more personal writing on these issues, I would like each week or so to share something I’ve encountered about these and/or other issues. The perspectives of the authors/speakers may be very different than mine or yours, but I am praying that as we read and listen, we will be able to let go of our fears of “different”; that we will empathize and step into the shoes of others; that we will be drawn into greater understanding, greater unity, and greater love.