The Journey Ends Here... (but every end has a new beginning)

I have loved this blog. I have loved writing this blog. I have loved the discussions I have gotten to have with people because of this blog.

But mostly I have loved this blog because it is what I am passionate about. I don't struggle to find things to write about. I simply share whatever is on my heart. It's actually quite easy. :)

Sadly, this is my last blog post for Dare to Love.

But I am not done writing. 

God is taking me on a new adventure. A crazy, radical, scary, exciting, humbling, beautiful journey with Him. A journey that is so amazing I hardly feel worthy of it. But He has chosen me...He has called me... and He is irresistible. When I began writing this blog and tried to convey the heart and purpose and meaning behind the title Dare to Love...this was because this is my heart, this is what I am striving for... this is the journey I am on. 

I didn't realize how radically this would play out in my own life. But God has called me to go to the nations, and who am I to ignore Him?

So here is my official announcement:

This July, I will be leaving for an 11 month mission trip to 11 different countries with an organization called AIM (adventures in missions). My team and I will partner with different churches and ministries in local communities to do things such as preach the Gospel, feed the hungry, lead camps, teach English classes, live with the gypsies, plant churches, work in orphanages, minister to women and children trapped in prostitution as a result of trafficking, and bring a message of love and hope to people from tribes and nations around the world. 

This being said, Dare to Love is not over, but I will be at a new site:

When I started writing this blog, I had no idea how seriously I would be challenged to live up to the dare I talk about in this blog. It's more than I could have ever dreamed up for myself :) 

Please follow me on this adventure. I have started writing on this new blog, and will continue writing now and throughout my year around the world. Basically, I will just be continuing to share my heart, as well as sharing about all the different things I encounter and experience while I am gone and as I am preparing to go.

It would mean the world to me if you would follow me at this new site! 

I love you all.


Making Dreams Come True

Sorry for my blogging hiatus. The holidays are here and I went home for a week to see my family...enjoy good food...spend time with old friends... and tell a million people who haven't seen me for a while about my plans for the future- everyone's favorite topic for a graduating college senior. We get these types of questions all the time don't we?

What are your plans? What are your hopes? What are your dreams?

What a loaded question. Or an exciting question, depending on your perspective. For most people in my circle, it is simply exciting. As I have grown up, I have constantly been challenged to dream big. To pursue my passions. A wall in my high school was dedicated to the quote "shoot for the moon...even if you'll land among the stars." From a very young age, I was told that I could be anything I wanted to be. That if I set my mind to it, I could do anything that I wanted.

As I've gotten older, I've realized, as many of us have, that some of this thinking is a bit unrealistic. As much as I wanted to be a jockey when I was younger, I had to come to the sad realization that I am simply too tall. Sigh. But even then...there are not many things I am striving for that I consider to be impossible.

...Because really- my opportunities are endless. I have so many options, so many paths I could take. I can become a professional. I can move to California. I can get married. I can get a job overseas. I can apply for internships. I can backpack around Europe. I can go back to grad school. I can move home if I need too. I can go be an au pair in Spain. I can save for a new car. I can be a missionary. Yes, some of these things may not work out exactly the way I want, there are certainly outside factors to consider. But they are dreams. They are not unrealistic. I have dreams that could very easily become realities. I have friends who have dreams to become doctors, nurses, pastors, journalists, musicians, teachers...its endless. Many of them are pursuing those dreams or have begun to live them. I love it. I love seeing what God is doing in their lives, how He is going to use them. I love recognizing the dreams and passions He has given me in my own life, and I love pursuing them and watching God work.

But lately...something has struck me. It's a very simple thought, really, a thought I can't fully dissect- but one I want to share with you all.

I take for granted the fact that I can dream the kind of dreams I dream. What does the rest of the world dream about?

There are women in India who dream of being free from forced prostitution and sexual slavery.
There are orphans in Uganda who dream of having just one person who loves them and will care for them.
There are street boys in Sudan who dream of having a place to sleep at night.
There are children in Haiti who dream of getting an education, but instead have been tricked into slavery- and a life of abuse and exhaustion.

There are people around the world who dream of clean water. basic healthcare. education. safety. clothing. a full meal. a source of income. a community free of war.

Many of them never get the opportunity to dream of the things I dream about. People dream of the basic necessities. They dream of surviving. Of being able to take care of their children. Of living to see tomorrow.

We dream of falling in love, having a wedding, traveling the world, buying a house, and reaching our career goals.

I'm not saying these are bad dreams to have.

But let's be thankful that we even have the opportunity to dream these dreams. And lets remember the dreams that people around the world are fighting for, are hoping for, are dying for. Let's be an active part in making dreams come true.

Sometimes God will require you to first be faithful to that which pertains to another man. It has been said that, “Whatever you make happen for other people, God will make happen for you.” Until you help someone facilitate their dream, you have no right to expect yours to come to pass. There’s something you learn from helping other people with their dreams that prepares you for your own.


Be a Whistleblower for Peace

There are so many things I know so little about. I could spend endless amounts of time researching and learning, and I still wouldn't know about all the injustices that plague our world. However, my friend from Indiana brought this one to my attention- and it was something that I had absolutely NO knowledge about...and I have a feeling that I am not alone in that. 

"When Sean D. Carasso, the founder of Falling Whistles, traveled around Africa, he saw progress and change happening everywhere. That is, until he reached the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where young boys were, and still are, being captured by the rebel army and forced to become child soldiers. Boys not big enough to hold guns are given whistles and put on the front lines.Their sole duty is to make noise to scare the enemy and then to receive–with their bodies–the first round of bullets. 
...Lines of boys fell as nothing more than a temporary barricade." --> I was unable to embed the video, but please visit this link and watch- its only a couple minutes long, and it says more than my words ever could.
Watch these as well- the second one tells the story of a boy who escaped from the Congo and is now speaking up to make a difference for this cause:

What You Can Do (from the website):
  1. Learn about Congo. To change the world we’re going to have to outsmart it. These wars are complicated, but we’ll help point you in the right direction.
  2. Buy a Whistle. Wear Your Protest. Use it as a tool to elevate common conversation.
  3. Speak Out. Tell the next person you see about Congo. Then connect with us and share on your: Falling Whistles TwitterFalling Whistles FacebookFalling Whistles MyspaceFalling Whistles YoutubeFalling Whistles Vimeo
  4. Meet Yves. Invite him to your school, church, synagogue, town hall, conference, etc. He is sharing his story and pushing for peace in the Congo. Contact for info.
  5. Congregate your community around solutions. Think for yourself. Live for others. Don’t go alone. Contact for info.
  6. Donate. The reality is that ending the war is going to require money. A lot of it. We will invest your donation in tools for whistleblowers, and in Congolese visionaries working to rehabilitate their communities and end this war.


tale of a six year old Disney princess

A couple of posts ago I talked about how I spent this past summer in Virginia leading mission trips for high schoolers. One of the things we did was put together a kids club for children in the community ages 3-12. There is a large Latino immigrant population in the area we lived, and most of our kids came from here. So Monday through Thursday every week we drove vans out to the mobile home parks and picked up our beautiful, spanish (and many bilingual, luckily for me)-speaking children. And yes, I referred to them as "my children." :) my fellow staff member Isaac and I got to know and love each of these kids- they had my heart. 

We had anywhere from 50-70 something kids on any given day of Kids Club (yikes!)- but I loved every minute of it. Clearly, with that many children, there are always a few that stick out in your mind. One of those children, for me, was a little girl named Jacqueline. Jacqueline is one of the most precious, sweet, loving six year olds I have ever met. She wore lots of pink, and 3/4 of the time had on the same little dress adorned with Disney princesses. Not to mention her pink Disney princess backpack. :) She was kinda like my shadow- piggy back rides, sitting next to me on the bus, photo shoots (she loves getting her picture taken), and just laughing and playing. Her two younger brothers came to kids club as well- and she always watched over them, made sure they were okay, and comforted them if they got hurt. Not many six year olds are that capable (or compassionate).

One day Jacqueline didn't come. Which was odd, because she was one of our children who never missed a day. We asked her cousins, but no one seemed to have a clear answer of where she was. A few hours later we got a call from one of the other parents, the sister in law of Jacqueline's father. He had been shot in the early hours of the morning. He was dead. 

And what was more disturbing about the whole incident was the WHY of his death.

Because there was no WHY. There was no reason.

He was shot...well, just because. 

He was sitting in the parking lot of his church with a couple of friends in the early hours of the morning, waiting for their ride for their shift at the chicken factory. They were approached by a few guys who asked if they had drugs (they didn't) and money (they didn't). They shot him and left the scene.

So senseless...

My heart began to break more as I talked to and heard from the family's friends, family members, and community members. Everyone was in shock. He was a good man. Jackie's little brothers came back to kids club after a few days- I think they were too young to completely understand- and  I just remember...shock. Hurt. Anger. Sadness. Jackie's mom was unable to work due to physical problems, the family was running out of money quickly, they were living in a tiny trailer with no air conditioning in the middle of the summer with 4 small children and other relatives...and there was so much sadness. Jackie's aunt, who moved in after the death to help out, told me the details of just how hard it had been on Jackie. It was heartbreaking.

I will never, ever forget the day - about a week later- that Jacqueline came back to Kids Club. I was running around outside, soaking wet (it was water day) and suddenly I see that little, pink, Disney princess dress flying towards me. I picked her and we hugged and hugged...and I knelt in front of her and struggled to hold it in as she begins to tell me how her daddy died. The rest of the day she clung to me, and talked with me, in her own sweet little six year old way, about everything she was going through,

Who could do such a terrible, senseless thing?

About a month after getting back home, I had my answer. Isaac called me and told me they had finally caught the shooter. He had sent me the link of the online article telling about the man and his arrest. I braced myself, and opened the link, not sure what I was going to feel. I expected relief that he was off the streets. Anger for what he had done to Jacqueline and her family. Disgust. Hatred.

The LAST thing I expected to feel was compassion.
...But I did.

I looked at this man's picture...a man of only 18 years, but who looked far older...and felt...sorry for him. I looked into his cold, lifeless eyes and felt compassion for this child who had been destroyed by sin. What kind of terrible things had happened to him to make him so lost? I don't know if he is sorry for what he did. There is no indication of that. But I remember, in that moment, wondering what had changed in my heart to make me feel this way towards him. And I realized...God's truth. The passage I taught high schoolers all summer, our theme verse, was REAL. it was real. and after a whole summer of teaching it, I began to actually understand just how real it was. I began to pray for this boy...this child who is so lost. To most people in our society, this thinking doesn't  make sense. Well...Jesus didn't make sense, did he? He loved those who performed the worst of crimes. He had compassion on every kind of sinner. He chose to call murderers, prostitutes, and every kind of criminal to be a part of his kingdom work. If Jesus had only seen people for their sin...well, his ministry wouldn't have been very effective, would it?  But he really loved people. All people. He even asked for forgivness for those who put nails in his hands and thorns on his head. I've had tastes of this, but I yearn for so much more. Gosh...we struggle to forgive the SMALLEST of offenses...and when we put that into perspective, doesn't that seem a bit crazy!? Many people think it is weak or doormat-like to forgive like this- but I would much rather live by God's truth then be consumed with bitterness and unforgiveness. I choose God's word.

Truly, some of the most powerful stories in my own life and that I have heard are those of forgiveness. And not easy forgiveness... but having love and compassion on someone who does not deserve it. At all. Who may, even when you forgive them, have no remorse or understanding of what they have done. This may be the kind of person you literally have to forgive "seventy times seven." It is this kind of love and compassion that changes the world. That breaks down walls. That breaks strongholds. That brings Jesus light into the darkness. 

The theme verse that I taught on this summer: 

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Luke 6:27-28


Remembering "Normal" Christianity

***Note: comments should be fixed now. I had a few people tell me that my comments weren't working (totally unbeknownst to me) but all should be fixed now. comment away!!

Continue to remember those in prison 
as if you were together with them in prison, 
and those who are mistreated
 as if you yourselves were suffering.
-Hebrews 13:3

Prison. That is a scary word. A foreign word to most of us. Prison conjures images of darkness, hopelessness, despair. A place of hardened criminals and unspeakable crimes. Of unpardonable sin. 

For some of us, prison is a form of justice. A place where people go that need to be kept away from the outside world. A place where criminals who have wreaked havoc on our families and loved ones and communities finally receive what they deserve. Where murderers, thieves, sexual predators, rapists, and drug dealers make their residence.

But what about the innocent? 

The people who are thrown into jail...for their faith?
For standing up for what they believe in?
For ministering to those who have no hope?
For loving the broken?

We forget about these people. We forget that all around the proclaim the name of Jesus is a death sentence. That those who decide to follow Him are often turned in, falsely accused of crimes, tortured, and imprisoned. Even more unthinkable...they are often turned in by family members, community members, & friends. 

For most of us, proclaiming our faith is as easy as posting a moving lyric from a Christian song on facebook. By setting our "religion" on facebook to "Christian." It's so easy, we don't even think twice about it. We don't have to decide if we are okay with losing everything and everyone dear to us, possibly our own lives, by following Christ.

People around the world are having to consciously make that choice everyday.

...and this is normal Christianity, according to the Bible. The church in the book of Acts is a very real reality all around the world. Look at the countless numbers of people in the Bible who were killed, imprisoned, and tortured for their faith. Look at the things Jesus taught us about following Him...that it would cost us everything. In fact, He promises us that we will experience persecution, hardships, and all kinds of false accusations. He promises that the world will hate us. That believing in Him would divide families and loved ones.

So do not forget these people. Do not forget your Christian brothers and sisters who are in prison. Do not forget about those who are fulfilling the Great Commission, no matter the cost. Do not forget those who are suffering. Who are purposely being subjugated to every kind of ill treatment- starvation, isolation, beatings- so that they will shut up about this man that they claim has an indescribable and saving love for His people who will accept it, even those who imprisoned them. For those brothers and sisters who are suffering all kinds of cruelties...but love those who are torturing them anyway. Who are ministering to their jailers in the midst of their beatings.

Most of us clearly cannot begin to relate to this measure of sacrifice in our faith. We live in a culture, praise the Lord, of free speech. We are allowed to choose our beliefs. To worship freely. 
...But this doesn't give us an excuse to forget. To close our eyes and cover our ears because these stories are hard to swallow...and often challenge the depth of our own faith. At the end of the day, we may not be thrown in jail for our faith- but we can remember those who are.

What we can do:
1) Pray. Stand alongside these prisoners in your prayers. As Hebrews states, REMEMBER.
2) Check out This is an AMAZING site with stories of those imprisoned and dying for their faith around the world. This site also allows you to write letters of encouragement to those imprisoned for their faith, and to write letters to government officials on their behalf. You can also subscribe to prisoner updates.


The "Trading Game"

This summer, I worked in a small town on the Eastern shore of Virginia, leading mission trips for high school youth. One night, my staff team member Isaac and I decided to implement an activity called the "trading game." We gathered all the youth in the club room and had them randomly draw 5 beads out of a bag as they came in. We gave them a couple simple rules and let them begin to trade- a handshake seals the deal, one bead for one bead only, 2 beads of the same color means an extra point, etc. After a few minutes we had them stop, and showed them the chart revealing the point values of the different color beads- and had 3 groups- high, middle, low- depending on the range of points they had. They added their totals up- and we were met with both groans and cheers, depending on the category they fell in. We let them trade again. Now, keep in mind that no one had an obligation to trade. So now that they knew the point values, it was much tougher for the people who had either traded for low beads or had the misfortune to draw low value beads out of the bag in the first place. For the most part,  no one really wanted to trade with them. Even though they did trade, only a few were able to change their points significantly enough to move to a higher level group. Somehow, a couple kids ended up moving down a group. After that round was over, we had three distinct groups- those with high point beads, those with middle value beads, and those with the low point beads. Then it got fun. The lower point group was forced to sit in a blocked off section of the room- with literally no room to even sit. The middle group (the biggest group) just kinda hung out in the middle of the room, but the high group (which was also the smallest) was allowed to sit on the stage! Not only that, but the low point group had to serve them cookies...but weren't allowed to eat any themselves. We played another round of trading. Not only were the poor suckers in the back of the room forced to serve cookies and sit in a crappy area, but they really had no hope of trading or getting out of the back. One or two kindhearted students took pity and went to the back to trade beads with them. Round over. Everyone was getting pretty excited to see what crazy thing was going to happen next. Isaac took the high group out of the room and proceeds to tell them the rules of the next round are up to them. Literally, anything they wanted to implement, they could.
Some ideas they came up with:

  • everyone has to bow to us when they trade
  • we are allowed to trade with anyone without telling them what we will give them in return
  • any trade that we want to happen, even if its unfair, has to be complied with
  • no one is allowed to approach the stage to trade with us
  • the low group has to serve us snacks
  • we are the only ones who can talk 
  • etc...
and boy, were they pumped to make this happen.

I on the other hand, went to the lower group's area of exile and asked them what rules they would like me to propose to the high group. Their ideas were along the lines of 
  • everyone has to draw new beads
  • the point values of certain beads switching
  • let us come out of the back
I can't remember all of them , but essentially all their rules were to make everything fair, to make the playing field even. 
I took the ideas to the high group- and was met with laughs, sneers, "yeah rights" and  ideas on how to mock the rather lame rules the lower group had proposed. They rejected every idea that was proposed.

We brought all the kids back in the room, had them sit down, and told them we weren't going to play the last round with the new rules.

We began to talk about the game. Asking people how they felt, if they enjoyed it etc. The answers were as you would expect. The lower group hated it, the middle group was rather indifferent, and the high group loved it. We had one or two students who didn't like the power hungry attitude of the high group, and who had intentionally traded themselves into the lower group. They seemed highly disturbed by the whole thing, and didn't care for the game at all.

We then began to talk to them about why we played this game. You see, this wasn't a game about trading. This was the poverty game. This is the game played in our world every day. Once you realize this, once it began to dawn on the kids that the "groups" represented the poor, the middle class, and the rich...everyone got really quiet. The atmosphere became quite heavy. We discussed the game some more. We asked if anyone had cheated, to be honest. A couple had. We talked about the parallels of this game to the real world- the unfairness, the way power had corrupted the high group, etc. 

The fact that No one controls the beads we draw.

We are handed beads. We don't have a choice. It's totally random. It's not because one person is better than the other. What we are born into is not a choice, it's not an earned's just life. So what makes us feel entitled to better things? To better treatment? 
I am a middle class white girl from the United States. I did NOTHING to earn that. 
so where did such a spirit of entitlement come from in this high group? ....unfortunately, that's how the "system" works. That is what power and money do to people. We lose perspective. Very few are like those couple of students who showed compassion, who gave it all up to befriend those who were cast a bad lot in the game. I so desire to be one of those. That is the cry and the prayer of my heart. That I would not turn a blind eye. That I would remember that anything and everything I have is only because of the Lord, not because of my own doing. 


Beyond Blessed

Never forget how blessed you are. Never forget how much you have to give. Don't feel guilty for the circumstances you have been born into, don't belittle the struggles you face. But never forget. Put your problems in perspective. We constantly have money struggles- the car is having problems, student loans need to be paid, groceries are costly- but in reality, if you are reading this, you are probably in the top 8% of the world's wealthiest people. Your basic needs are provided for. That in itself is pretty amazing. Don't lose yourself in "rich people"'s all too easy. When we recognize this epidemic, and realize the absurdity of the things we spend our time worrying over....well, it all seems pretty silly. You are BEYOND blessed...let's live in gratitude for ALL that God has given us and live with a generous spirit. Because the truth is....

It's Not Ours.
None of it. The money, the wealth, the job, the income, the opportunities. 

We only have what God has chosen to give us. It is HIS. All of it. Yes, there are many people who work hard for what we have. And that is commendable. But still... we would never even have that opportunity if it weren't for the circumstances God has placed us in -Right? 

...and I have a feeling He didn't give us wealth to hoard it. To simply enjoy it. He trusts you with much so that you can give much. Whether you can give $5 or $500 dollars, your time, your gifts, your talents...stop holding back the things you were never meant to keep to yourself. 

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:20)

You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God (2 Corinthians 9:11). 

Command those who are rich ... to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand (1 Chronicles 29:14)

One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty (Proverbs 11:24)