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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To Vote or Not To Vote

Dear America: Please Vote

This post isn’t about the candidates. It’s about voting. I’ve heard quite a few reasons people are considering not voting this November, such as “It’s against my conscience” and “I don’t like either delegate” and “My state’s always _____ (insert political party), so what’s the point?” These aren't new statements; one site claims only 57.5% of the eligible American population voted in the 2012 elections, with reasons ranging from disinterest to not liking the candidates. Regardless of whether we're fans of the candidates or not, we need to address some misconceptions and consider why we vote in the first place.

First off, this election is not the apocalypse.

It is not the end of the world. A certain candidate being elected does not mean the world—or America—will certainly come to an end.

Could it (the world or America) come to an end during the next president’s term? Absolutely.

Could it come to an end tomorrow? Umm, yes.

With all the mind-boggling acts of terrorism, shootings, and major international tension, I don’t think I have to convince anybody we simply don’t know what the future holds. We don't know what next year holds or what tomorrow holds, and the truth is, we don’t even know what our next breath holds. Or if we’ll have a next breath. Ask anyone in healthcare, or law enforcement, or that one friend who always watches the news. We don’t know what our future holds. The chaotic state of the world can and probably will continue no matter who is elected president.

This election is not the be-all, end-all. 

Living for six months in a country where people have a “vote” but have no confidence their vote counts in the midst of corruption changes one’s perspective on politics.

We are electing a leader for four years. Four years! The person who is elected will move into the White House, and then in just four years we’ll do it all over again.

This isn’t forever. I recently stayed in a country where the prime minister has been in power for 30 years, and frustrated citizens are convinced nothing but natural death will get him out of office. My guess is there are more countries than not where it is a miracle if power is handed off to another leader without bloodshed. In light of this, four years is so little time. In light of this, waiting for another election is a gift, not a chore. 

It makes sense practically to vote.

The vast majority of America is crying out this is a choice between “the lesser of two evils” (I hear you, Facebook posts, memes, and small talk comments from just about everyone I know). That may be true. What I also know is true is this:

We have to select someone to run this country for the next four years. We have our choices before us. It’s up to us to look at our options and then choose who we believe to be the best candidate.

It’s like if you enter a restaurant with your child, and no matter what, you know your child will be fed. Your child has to eat, and if you don’t feed him, someone else will. You can slam the menu shut because you can’t believe the only options are brussels sprouts or liver, or you can look at your options and choose the best one.

Our vote is that simple. We look at our choices, and we make a decision. It’s a practical action.

You may think your options are like brussels sprouts and liver (you either love it or you hate it), but you still have options. Someone will be president for the next four years, and the fact we have options at all is pretty amazing in itself.

Voting is a privilege—with a price too high to count.

Remember the part in the last line of our national anthem—“the laaand of the free” (the part where the vocalist’s voice soars as high as the following fireworks)?

We are free.

We are free to vote and elect a leader for our country and yell and scream our opinions in the street, no matter if they support or condemn the government. This freedom—including the ability to vote—came at the price of human lives. From the Revolutionary War all the way up to now.

Some may find this hard to swallow, but we are not entitled to vote. We, as humans, are not entitled to live in America or have air conditioning or have the ability to vote. As American citizens, it is indeed our right to vote. But as human beings, there is nothing different between us and the human beings around the world who don’t get a say in who runs their country.

If you want to arrive at the polls and write your own name on the ballot, please do! By all means, follow your conscience—don’t vote for someone you feel you cannot morally support. Write your name or your grandma’s, or vote Third Party or Republican or Democrat, whatever you are comfortable with. To me, what matters more than whom you vote for is that you cast a vote. 

Some argue that people who don’t vote lose their right to talk or complain about politics. While this does seem fair, I believe when we don’t vote, we lose so much more than that. By not voting, we are taking for granted a gift paid for by very lives, a privilege for which millions don’t even have a thread of hope. Perhaps the only vote truly "thrown away" is the one that was never cast.

Dear America, you have a privilege. On principle, maybe you can’t vote for either political party. On principle, please still show up at the polls. Oh America, please vote.


To find out how to register to vote in your state, click here.


Harden, Seth. "Voting Statistics." Statistic Brain. Statistic Brain, 25 Aug. 2015. Web. 27 July 2016.

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Beyond the Smiles (Part II)

(For Part I, click here.) 

I remember him laying there. The bare white mattress in the Emergency Ward. The blanket stained with sweat and dirt wrapped around his waist. His ribs protruding from his thin, malnourished frame.

I remember him turning onto his side, obviously in pain. I remember his mother standing at the bedside, anxiety and fear written clearly across her face.

A group of American healthcare workers, part of a medical mission team I was working with, flocked around him and hooked up an ancient ECG machine to confirm a diagnosis of pericarditis—a diagnosis for which nothing more could be done in this rural Cambodian hospital. 

As they gathered around the bed adjusting ECG leads and talking among themselves, I stood in the back. Listening, observing, and praying.

I took in a deep breath, and I let it out. This young man was dying. There was nothing we could do about it. With all our knowledge, with all our experience, with all our compassion and good intentions, there was nothing we could do to prevent this man’s suffering and death. 

There was a time when seeing a patient like this young man broke me. It led me on a journey of desperate brokenness and incredible healing. It led me to face truths concerning what I believed about God and myself. Ultimately, it led me to rest in knowing I don’t have to be enough.

This time, as I stood near the patient's bed, everything was different. Outwardly, I was surrounded by Americans, and I was grateful to be with so many whose education and experience exceeded mine. Things had shifted inwardly, too; I found I had courage to reach out to this patient in a way I was too timid to do before but was incredibly important.

When I close my eyes, I am back in the hot, humid, Cambodian Emergency Ward. I breathe in deep, and I choose to rest in this truth: I don’t have to be enough, for Christ is enough. When I stop worrying about how much I can’t do because I am not enough, I hear Jesus’ quiet invitation to sit in His presence, even in the midst of such deep suffering. And I accept. 

I sit in His presence and bring this young man to Him, praying he would know the peace of Jesus’ presence, too. I sit in His presence and bring myself and my broken heart to Him, finding space to grieve and freedom to be sad because when I’m with Jesus, the lie that “I have to be the strong one” crumbles. Jesus is the strong one. I never have to act like I have it all together—because I don’t. Jesus knows this. He's okay with this.

The Americans clear out, and it’s just my dad and me left. With the help of our friend and translator, Dad explains why the American team is there, to teach and work with the local doctors. The patient’s mother looks up tearfully and asks if her son will live.

All our knowledge, all our diagnostic powers, all our education and good intentions—it means nothing in this moment. We have nothing to offer this woman and her son. Nothing except Jesus. So we ask if we can pray, and I reach out my hand to touch this patient’s dirt-smeared blanket and lift him up to Jesus.

And I know in all our heartbreak, in all their heartbreak, Jesus is enough, and He is with us. 

His presence is so strong. It always is, if we'll just acknowledge it. If we'll just accept His invitation and stop our striving to be everything, fix everything, and know everything. Perhaps this is the most important thing I’ve learned about poverty in the past few years. Poverty and suffering highlight our sense of helplessness, and so often our response is to push this uncomfortable feeling down and ignore it or to grit our teeth and take it upon ourselves to eliminate disparities. Yet I’ve found no freedom there. 

No, freedom is found in Jesus' presence, in trust. It's found in trusting God is enough, trusting He cares and is big enough for all the hurts in the world and my grief over poverty and suffering and death, and trusting God is, indeed, good.

He is good. Even when everything around us seems to be wrong and impossible and heart-wrenching and clouded with evil. He is, indeed, good, and He is enough.

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Beyond the Smiles

I remember her lying there. The bare metal bed frame. Her hair pulled back behind her head. The blood on the floor. The coughing and then the bright red vomiting as her thin frame twisted and shook. And the pool of blood grew.

This woman had no family. In this Cambodian hospital, family members are the ones who bathe, clean, clothe, reposition, provide food for and feed patients. They are the ones who faithfully stand at the bedside and move plastic fans back and forth, back and forth, creating air movement in an un-air-conditioned building and preventing the ever-present flies from landing on the sick. 

This woman had no family. 

Her eyes were closed, her body weak. There was nothing with which to clean up the crimson puddle. “Wait,” they told me. “The cleaning lady will come later with the mop and bucket.”

I remember the moral dilemma when a doctor told me they had no more blood to transfuse for this woman. The need for blood, the safety concerns if I dared donate, the fact that even with several transfusions this woman may not live because we could not correct the bleed at this facility… These are the moments that pushed me to the end of my rope again and again until eventually, when I came back to the States, I felt I had completely lost the rope a long, long time ago.

Yet, as Bethany Williams writes in The Color of Grace, “when our level of desperation becomes greater than our pride, true healing can begin.”1

It has been in the pride-swallowing desperation following those experiences that I have discovered true healing. 

True healing, I found, requires courage—and learning what courage is. Courage isn’t going without water heaters and microwaves; it isn’t forcing my eyes open to watch drivers navigate the wildly crowded streets of Phnom Penh. It isn’t becoming comfortable riding on a motorbike or even eating fried crickets and silk worms.

Courage is living the story that is happening beyond the smiles, beyond the Facebook posts and beyond the Instagram snapshots. Courage is struggling—hard—and being vulnerable with others about those struggles. Courage is walking into a counselor’s office; courage is asking for help. 

Courage is learning to acknowledge grief and wrestle with suffering, being willing to embrace my humanity, and humbling myself enough to recognize I'm in over my head. In that moment in the Cambodian hospital, standing at the bedside of a dying woman, I felt helpless and defeated. What had eaten away at me for years was shoved in my face: I was not enough. This time courage meant wading through years of lies to find the truth that although I am not and never will be enough, I don’t have to be.

True healing, I found, happens in the presence of Jesus. 

I can never do enough, say enough, sacrifice enough, love enough; I can never be enough for Cambodia, for those around me, or for myself. Yet when I relive that moment in the Cambodian hospital remembering that Jesus was present, too, I find that He is enough.

As healing happens within, grace creeps into the relationships with those around us. We don’t have to be enough, for God is enough. When we believe this truth for ourselves, we can extend grace to ourselves for our imperfections and failures. When we believe this truth for others, that they don’t have to be enough either (for God is more than enough for all of us), we can extend grace to them. True healing embraces Truth, brings forgiveness, and overflows with grace.

Healing is a process, and it requires humility and perseverance and sincerity. It is not easy. But the freedom on the other side is well worth the work. For me, it has brought freedom from the pressure to please, perform, and perfect. I am free to feel and to fail and to forgive, to be the imperfect me He created me to be.

If healing happens in the presence of Jesus, what glorious news that Jesus is Immanuel, that Jesus is here with us! And He is enough. His sacrifice is enough for our sins. His love is enough for our souls’ deepest needs. His compassion is enough for our grief. His strength is enough to catch us when we fall. His presence is enough to heal. He is enough.

Deepest gratitude to my wonderful counselor, Lynette, who continually ushers me into Jesus’ presence and who walks with me in this healing process. I am truly thankful, from the bottom of my heart…

1) Williams, B. (2015). The color of grace: How one woman's brokenness brought healing and hope to child survivors of war (p. 29).

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