Thoughts on Life

Freedom from Hustling—in Weddings and in Life

This morning I woke up with bobby pins in my hair and with eyes still heavy from sleep. When I was finally upright, I rubbed my eyes and was shocked when dirt came off onto my fingers.

Wait, that’s not dirt. It’s mascara. Whew. 

As the fog cleared from my mind, the events from the previous day came flooding back. 

Preparation. Decoration. Flowers. Makeup. Laughter. Pictures, pictures, and more pictures.

My sister’s wedding.

Stock photo from

Stock photo from

My sister Christina got married yesterday, and it was beautiful. Surprisingly, I had no urges to cry during the ceremony—not even when my dad walked Christina down the aisle in her stunning white dress.

While Christina read her vows, I realized I wasn’t emotional because I had already been treating her fiancé like my brother-in-law. It was a huge adjustment for me when they’d gotten engaged, but he had slowly won my heart as a new brother.

In contrast to my positive emotions the day of the wedding, stress and anxiety plagued me in the week leading up to the big day. Worries about the wedding flitted in and out of my head like gnats that follow you around on a hot summer evening, vanishing for a moment and then stubbornly returning.

Why am I so anxious? I wondered. I’m not even the one getting married!

I took an afternoon to pray and journal, and I finally realized why I was stressed. As maid of honor and sister of the bride, I was convincing myself I was responsible for ensuring the wedding weekend ran smoothly. 

The assumption that I was responsible for these things sounds appropriate unless you’re intimately familiar with weddings (and with my family). The days leading up to weddings are often chaotic and stressful and involve scores of last-minute details and last-minute conflicts.

To put it simply, weddings are unpredictable. No one can guarantee they will run smoothly—not even the best wedding coordinator in the world. We can do our best, but we cannot ensure perfection.

Though I was relieved to identify the source of the anxiety, I was also perplexed. If I wasn’t responsible for a smooth wedding process, who was?

Later that day I took a moment to breathe, and when I closed my eyes a picture formed in my head of God with open arms, a Father ready to care for my tired body and frazzled mind.

Peace flooded my soul as I accepted His invitation—not only to hold me but also to be ultimately responsible for the wedding weekend.

I flashed back to a time months before, when wedding planning was just beginning. My family talked about the key things everyone wanted for the wedding, and the list kept getting longer and longer.

As I sought the Lord’s guidance, I thought of Mary and Martha. Martha hurried about to prepare and was concerned with the details (two key parts in wedding prep). In modern-day language, I’d say she was hustling and busting her butt.

During this time, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus. Despite the chaos of unfinished projects and in the midst of the time crunch (two more common themes of wedding weeks), she sat still.

And Jesus said, One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

One thing is necessary. 

Just one thing.

It’s not the wedding dress or the catered food or the vows or even the bride-to-be.

Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. This was the better portion.

If in the process of planning and preparing for the wedding we sat at Jesus’ feet—if we honored Him and came to know Him better through the process—all would be successful. Even if the wedding schedule was thrown off or the toasts were botched—even if the food was terrible or the rings didn’t fit—there would be no regrets.

Not if we knew Jesus more. Not if He was honored. Not if we were sitting at His feet.

One thing is necessary.

The evening before I traveled to meet my sister and help finish wedding projects, I realized just how crazy Mary was. Mary was the host of a giant party for Jesus (this was no small ordeal! He was the long-awaited Messiah, the actual incarnation of God), and she consciously chose to ignore what I would call bare necessities. 

The food. The seating. The cleanliness of the venue.

Some would call her irresponsible, a poor planner, a procrastinator, or lazy.

Jesus called her the one who chose the better portion. I’m so proud of my sister because I think she chose the better portion.

As I remembered Mary and Martha, I found I had been running from my spot at Jesus’ feet, convinced my hustling was necessary for a smooth wedding.

But there was my Father, arms open wide, beckoning me back to Him.

He was inviting me back to the place where I belong, the place where I can rest and trust He will take care of the details—the details that seem so important that no one else (not even God) can be trusted with them.

In impeccable timing, this song came out last week:

The arms of my Father
Are open to me
Here in your presence
Forever I am free

It’s no human’s responsibility to make sure a wedding runs perfectly, even if we take on the burden and label the task ours.

It’s no human’s responsibility to make sure a life runs smoothly, either.

It turns out that through this wedding process, I have indeed come to know my Savior more intimately. We’re free to trust Him with our weddings and with our lives.

Only one thing is necessary. If we choose the better portion, it will not be taken away from us.

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Living Generously in a World Full of Wanting

Stock photo from Pexels

Stock photo from Pexels

People buzzed with excitement and quickly formed a long line to the tent up ahead. Pairs of eyes peered around the shoulders in front of them. I was amazed. From the level of anticipation, I would have thought I was on a college campus and someone was handing out free Olive Garden vouchers. In reality, I lingered at a small book signing event outside of a church.

When I think back on the experience, I'm still in awe of how excited the crowd was. It seemed strange to me—but then again, flocking to famous individuals never made sense to me, anyway.

What stood out to me was how everyone wanted something from this author. This was the motive behind the long lines, the bubbling excitement, the eager squirming. They waited for a signature, a picture, a conversation. They wanted to take away something they didn't have before.

It all seemed so superficial and selfish, and over the next few weeks, I began to recognize this desire to get something all around me.

In Waco, I regularly hear stories of over-enthusiastic fans (and downright stalkers) of Chip and Jo from the show Fixer Upper. People travel the world for a handshake, a photo, or boasting rights on social media.

Music enthusiasts purchase backstage passes to meet artists. Diehard sports fans arrive early for an autograph. Groupies compose lengthy fan mail and posts and hope for a reply, a mention on Instagram, or a retweet on Twitter. The lengths to which devotees go is often exorbitant (laughable, even!). 

We want something from our heroes, whether they're athletes or authors or politicians or the "popular" person in our social circles. We want signatures or fame or affirmation; but deeper than that, we want to be recognized. We want to be known by our heroes.

Slowly, I began to realize this striving to connect with people we respect and admire reflects something deeper. Sown into each of our beings is an innate need, a craving to be known by the ones we adore. Not known from afar but in a real, intimate way. Not known as a member of a crowd at a concert but as a unique individual backstage, where we're close enough to see and touch and converse.

Children crave to be known and loved by their parents, students by their teachers, all of us by our mentors and role models. Perhaps fanbases are simply a byproduct of this natural craving.

When I was surrounded by people at the book signing, I made a conscious decision not to approach the situation with an attitude of wanting something but with a readiness to give. The perspective shift was refreshing, and I wondered how to apply this change more broadly.

As I've observed this deeper desire fueling fanbases—the need to be known—the antidote for always wanting something became obvious.

There is One before whom we are fully known, who has more influence than we can imagine and can fill our heart's deepest craving. When we meet with him and rejoice in being known and loved by him, a perspective shift happens naturally. We no longer feel the need to be known by a well-known artist, by some influential businessperson, by that particular pastor, teacher or leader.

I am fully known. The One who matters most is the One who loves me most. Great joy lives in this truth.

When we operate from this knowledge each day, we don't have to decide consciously to interact with an attitude of giving, not getting. We don't have to remind ourselves not to make a fool of ourselves to gain someone's approval or attention.

No, when this deep desire in us is met, giving comes naturally. It comes subtly and subconsciously. Compliments, encouragement, tips, and gifts slip out of our mouths and out of our hands.

When the Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not want. When the Lord is our Shepherd, we can't help but give.

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What Therapy Taught Me About Tithing

Therapy and tithing. What an odd combination of topics.

Counseling is not cheap. I learned this after I graduated college and was looking for a therapist. I was still riding the waves of the emotional hurricane of Cambodian hospital experiences as well as trying to fight off my own personal archenemy, depression.

Counseling is not cheap, but I am. (At the time I was as stingy as Scrooge, and the only difference was I’d had the excuse of being a college student for the previous four years so people didn’t judge me quite so hard.) But you see the equation—something had to give. Well, really, I had to give. If I wanted counseling, that is.

When I first started going to counseling, it was up for debate in my head how often I would go. I was hesitant about spending so much money on myself. It seemed…excessive. Exorbitant, even. However, after the first couple sessions, the decision was no longer a difficult one—because after counseling, I didn’t feel like I was drowning anymore. I felt a little hope rise up in my chest; the suicidal thoughts faded after counseling.

This, I decided, was worth any amount I could pay. If someone had told me I could pay to have the feelings of suicidality go away…it would have been a dream come true. For so many long days and miserable nights, I had wished I could buy freedom from depression—I would have emptied my bank account in a heartbeat!

And here, in a counselor’s office, I finally found that a little bit of freedom was indeed available. Suddenly, the price seemed so small a sum of money compared to the alternative torture of riding the fence of suicide day in and day out.

Photo via

Photo via

It wasn’t a decision, really, because not being suicidal was so valuable to me.

The cost wasn’t even a question anymore because mental health had become so important to me. Every single time I spent money, I weighed the benefit and the cost, but I had never witnessed the scales tip so drastically in favor of the benefits before.

One day, as I was driving home from counseling, I began thinking about money and my mind wandered to tithing. I often found it hard to tithe, just as I found it difficult to write a check to my therapist those first couple of sessions. I cringed a little inside as I thought of the expenses on my budgeting spreadsheet adding up, and I hesitated to add tithing to the list.

Yet as I recognized this feeling—this hesitance to let go of money and a sense of control and security—I thought of the scales weighing benefit and cost, and I had one of those moments where I realized how good God was to me all over again.

God is so good to me. His love is unconditional, and His presence is constant. He gives me breath in my lungs and plants hope in my heart every morning. He doesn’t withhold His goodness if I withhold my tithe or if I rebel or for any reason at all. He is the Wonderful Counselor, and He is everpresent, Emmanuel.

He doesn’t require me to pay for His relationship; in fact, He paid the highest price—His Son’s very life—for me already. For me to spend not a session but eternity with Him. He gives us life itself, and He gives us Him self

Suddenly, tithing seems like nothing. How incredible that He asks for (not demands or requires, but requests) money.

Material money.

Of course He can have it. It’s His, anyway. And when I think of His love, His goodness, His companionship…all the money in the world cannot buy these things. Tithing transforms from a sacrifice to an honor as I realize again how grateful I am for Him, for a relationship with Him, for His love, for His presence, for His promises.

He who paid the highest price for us invites us to walk with Him each day. What a privilege it is to offer back to Him a few dollars in gratitude.

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'Daring to Hope' Book Brings Personal Revelation

Breathe, Allison.

In, out. In, out.

I wiped away tears with the back of my cardigan sleeve and held back my sniffles. I glanced over to my right, where the lady in the middle seat of the airplane row peered down at her book, politely pretending she didn't notice the woman in the window seat had become an absolute mess.

I looked down at the pages of the book again, and then up at the seat back in front of me, and then back down at the book. I stared at the page until the words appeared blurry from tears. I read and reread it:

"As humans, each of us just as lacking as the next, I think the most powerful thing we can do for another person is not to try to fix his or her pain or make it go away, but to acknowledge it. I cannot heal. I cannot perform miracles. Even for all my trying I cannot make sure that someone will receive salvation from Jesus. But I can be a witness.

I can look at another's broken, bleeding mess and I can say, 'I see you. I am with you. I will not turn away.'" - Katie MajorsDaring to Hope

Stock photo from

Stock photo from

These words transported me back to a hospital on the other side of the world, where three summer ago I met Cambodian patients and a searing sense of helplessness as I watched suffering and active dying. I remembered how these experiences had opened my eyes to the Lord's precious, comforting and healing presence.

"I see you. I am with you. I will not turn away."

This is what Jesus had done for me and for the patients, and this was enough. It was enough to fill me to overflowing and to bring tears of relief to my eyes.

But Katie wasn't talking about Jesus in this paragraph. She was talking about humans. She was talking about us. 

Something magical happened in my heart in that window seat on the plane that day. For the first time, I was able to believe that perhaps my presence was a gift, too. Perhaps my presence was a valid contribution; perhaps my presence meant something and made a difference.

Could it be that my presence was enough? For most of my life, I found my identity in being a caretakerA caretaker, I learned, fixes problems and meets needs and gains a sense of identity from it. In contrast, caregivers act from an overflow, with an identity rooted deeply in confidence, humility, and unconditional love for self and others. Caregivers give care without needing anything in return—no recognition or contribution to a sense of identity.

I mulled over these thoughts, and I wondered. In that rural Cambodian hospital, I had believed I had nothing to offer; I had no magician's hat or Mary Poppins purse from which to pull antibiotics or an MRI machine. Yet here, in the pages of Katie Majors' book, I discovered perhaps I had given an offering of the utmost importance to those beloved patients. I had given my presence.

It had nearly killed me on the inside to show up day after day to Kratie Referral Hospital, but show up I did. I could not offer resources or cures. I watched when it pained me, when I wanted to run from the building crying and screaming. I offered up prayers as I passed by beds with children with malaria and mothers, brothers, and sons in a coma. I stood beside an infant in a crib, alone in an empty room. I watched her tiny toes wiggle and adjusted the pulse oximeter and served as a witness to her condition. No more, no less. A witness.

For all these years, I thought I had given nothing. But what if I had given everything? What if my presence was the ultimate gift I could give, and what if this gift made a difference?

In that that airplane window seat, I let the tears stream down my face. I knew I was not having a breakdown but a breakthrough. 

As an introvert, I already know that my presence at a party or event is usually the only gift I can muster. Perhaps though, presence is also the gift of highest value we have to offer, anytime and anywhere. To show up, to engage, to be present and to be a witness. Perhaps this is not only of great value in situations where we have nothing else to offer, but perhaps it is the greatest gift at all times. Perhaps it is more valuable than our entire bank accounts or the most thoughtful gifts or the ability to fix everyone's problems and bring physical healing.

Perhaps the worth of our presence outweighs all these things and more, for we are made in the image of God.

When I first learned I would have the opportunity to be a part of the launch team for Katie Majors' new book, Daring to Hope, I thought I'd be inspired and maybe humbled—and I did find these things in her book, but I also found much more. In an unexpected move, the Holy Spirit showed up in the pages and brought healing and revelation. He brought me to tears and whispered I had not failed in that hospital all those months ago. I had offered all I had, and what I offered was enough. His presence is enough for me, and at times my presence alone is enough for others. He will take care of the rest.


Katie's book comes out on October 3, 2017, and I highly recommend it!! You can preorder it here. Katie has a way of weaving vulnerable, honest stories with Scripture in a unique way that opens the door for the Lord to show up and speak to each reader in a personal way. In other words, her writing invites us into His presence, the greatest place to be.
Special thanks to Waterbrook & Multnomah and Katie Majors for welcoming me onto their launch team. For full disclosure, I did receive a free copy of Daring to Hope, and the Amazon links to the book are affiliate links, which means I might get a small commission if you purchase using the link (which will probably go to pay for the official copy of Daring to Hope I just preordered!). Let me know if you end up reading the book; I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!

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