2017: A Year in Review

At the beginning of 2017, I was convicted to challenge myself to live life engaged. I can be an avoider, and that typically comes out when things get difficult, confusing, or uncomfortable.  I realized how much I was missing out on by avoiding tension instead of embracing it, so I committed to myself to be engaged in the present, with whatever is happening, and experience it fully and head on.  With that being said, 2017 has been a year with a great amount of growth. As I look back, there’s so much to be grateful for! Here a few highlights:

Communal Living

For the first 3.5 years of our marriage, James and I lived by ourselves in an apartment, which was great and exactly what we needed at that time in our marriage,  This July, we moved into a rental house…right next door to some of our best friends…and to add to that, we also got two roommates! For an introvert like myself who values alone time, this sounds like a recipe for disaster, and I feared it would be, but it has turned out to be a huge blessing.  We literally ALWAYS have people in our house (sometimes I don’t even know them) and our house has become a hub for hospitality and ministry, and it is so fulfilling.  I love when my roommates have girls over for discipleship, or when James has 5 guys working out with him in our garage gym, or when we get to have neighbors over for dinner.  It is a revolving, open door, completely void of isolation, and I love it.


Fighting the Good Fight

About a year ago, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. In line with my commitment to myself to live engaged, I promised to be there, good or bad, for as much of it as possible. This year has been full of ups and downs; way too many visits to MD Anderson in Houston, the complexities of chemo treatments, the long, drawn out uncertainty that comes with a terminal illness. Through it all, God has taught me to live daily, trusting Him, not to worry about the future, and to be thankful for the day He has given us.  Most of all, it has been so encouraging to see my Dad have hope in God.  He knows Him and trusts Him, and there is nothing that can shake that.  Also, he has only become more involved in ministry; serving as an elder at their church, passing out meals to the poor, leading the FCA ministry for their entire region, meeting with coaches for Bible study, and so much more.  He lives daily in an attitude of victory, along with surrender, and it is so hopeful to watch.  


Oh yeah, a baby!  

On September 7th, those pink lines appeared and told us we were going to have a baby! I compare pregnancy to engagement; it is a season of waiting and preparing for a big event in your life, but having zero clue of what it will actually be like. I have also been fortunate to have the easiest pregnancy of all time, so I forget I’m even growing a human inside of me a lot of the time.  I love this season though – the anticipation of what is to come, but also savoring what is right now.  


Church and Ministry Changes

In October of this year, James was voted in to serve as an elder for our church, which is a huge honor and responsibility.  With that has come the weightiness of overseeing the flock of God, which is no small calling.  I have loved watching him thrive in this – learning to trust God more, bearing the burdens of a church, and leading in a way that is honorable.  To add to that, he is also a full time teacher and a full time seminary student.  I always knew I married an extraordinary guy, but I have only become more convinced of that the past year.  He stewards his life well.  

Also, we successfully passed off the community group we shepherded for 3 years off to some of our best friends to lead so James could focus more on eldership.  It felt a little bit like giving up your favorite child for adoption, but it has been so fun to watch them own the group and lead in their giftings, which are completely different than ours.  


All the People

I often say that the best parts of life are people, and I mean than sincerely.  We have some good people around us – amazing friends, family, and co-workers.  I’m sure there are fantastic people everywhere, but I am a little biased to think that we somehow snagged the best ones.  I could live in a shack with no income, but as long as I have good people around me, I’ll be happy.  I am a relationally driven person, and I thrive with good friendships, which I like to believe I have the best.


Here’s to 2018!

Until next time,



About 10 minutes after I told one of my best friends, Catie, we were pregnant, she was already sending me ideas for a photo shoot.  If it weren’t for her, I probably would have just posted a picture of the pee stick to announce our upcoming baby, so I am incredibly thankful for a creative, generous friend who helps beautifully document fun times in our life! Check out more of her work at catiesasphotography.com. 


Little Baby Pumpkin

Who was Epaphras?

Today I was sitting in Panera Bread preparing for a discipleship meeting, when I read the following verses:

“You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.” -Colossians 1:7-8

I was like “HOLD ON a second, who is Epaphras?!” I am no theologian, but I have read the Bible a time or two and this name has never stuck out to me.  I did a quick search on blueletterbible.com and learned that my new friend was listed a total of three times in the New Testament.  The first reference is above, and the second two below:

“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” -Colossians 4:12

“Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you” Philemon 1:23

That’s it.  That’s all that is said about him.  However, based on these verses, we learn soooo much about a faithful disciple of Jesus.  Here’s what we can gather about Epaphras:

  • He taught the people at the church of Colossae. He taught them, according to the text leading up to Colossians 1:7-8:
    • The word of truth
    • The gospel
    • Understanding of the grace of God
  • He was a faithful minister of Christ
  • His ministry is on behalf of the people in the church of Colossae
  • He relayed the love the people had in the Spirit to the apostle Paul
  • He identified as a servant of Christ Jesus
  • He prays to God
  • He struggles in prayer – on behalf of his people – always!
    • He prays for their maturity
    • He prays for assurance in the will of God  
  • He has worked hard for the people at Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis
  • He co-labored with Paul
  • He was imprisoned with Paul for the sake of Christ

We don’t know the rest of his story – who or how he was arrested and imprisoned, if he died in prison, or if he was released and continued his ministry.  We don’t know anything else about him.  We don’t know how he got saved, or what the circumstances were leading up to his ministry.  What we do know, based on the Bible, is that this is an unsung hero of the faith.  He doesn’t get the fame that Paul has (rightly) received, but he is a faithful, humble hero.  He preached the gospel.  He built up the church.  He labored in prayer.  He loved his people.  He loved Jesus.

As I sat in Panera today with Hurricane Harvey roaring outside, and the electricity flickering off and on, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for faithful people like Epaphras.  Because of people like him, faithfully carrying out the message of Jesus, I, thousands of years later, know Jesus.  He is not famous, but he was faithful to the ministry God called him to.

There are tons of people just like Epaphras who we don’t know names of, but who have been faithful disciples of Jesus, and have passed his name on to generations behind them.  I want to be like Epaphras; there’s not much said about him, but what we do know is that he loved Jesus, and that legacy is continuing to live on. We are reaping the benefits of his faith.  That is so encouraging.  The only legacy that will last is one of passing on Jesus, through discipleship, laboring over one another in prayer, for the glory of God.  That is my greatest hope for my life.  Thank you, Epaphras, for being a great example. 


Until next time,


How to have the best birthday ever

Having a big birthday party and being the center of attention within a large group of people literally is my ultimate worst.nightmare.ever.  The stress far outweighs the enjoyment I will have.  I am an introvert who love people, but I love people in smaller settings and more 1:1 conversations.  The funny thing is, I love to throw big birthday parties for other people, but I hate them for myself.  So this year for my 26th birthday, I dodged well intended plans by my friends to throw me a party, and I decided to have the best birthday ever by following these two steps:

Step 1: Tell James exactly what I want. I learned about 3 minutes into our marriage that he can’t read my mind, and expecting him to do so only leads to frustration and fits of rage. So this year, I literally made a list of what I wanted, gave it to him a week in advance, so he wan’t left guessing, and I was happy.

Step 2: Find all the free things.  I was smart this year and went online and researched all the places that;ll give you free stuff (this list was my favorite), and used an old email to sign up for all the clubs and memberships and all the other hoops they make you jump through to get free stuff.

With those two main rails in place, I was set to have the best birthday ever, perfect tailored for my introverted, frugal self.  This is what I did:

Johnny Beans Coffee

Our cute, local coffee shop advertised a free 12 oz brew for your birthday on their Instagram, so I took a screenshot of it a few weeks ago and had it ready when I walked in on my birthday morning.  Upon hearing it was my birthday, the wonderful baristas went above and beyond, and gave me a 16 oz “mocha locha” drink that is approximately 1,200 calories and positively delicious.  I sat at a table, read my Bible, and chatted with the friendly people in there.  It was the perfect way to kick off my birthday.  Way to go at being awesome, Johnny Beans!


Birthday Brunch 

I live in Austin, TX, which is the capital for original, creative, cutesy places to eat, and there are probably 400 local options within a 10 mile radius to choose for brunch, but I chose my favorite: Denny’s.  My friend Ashley and I have a tradition of going there every couple weeks or so, and I love everything about it: the laid back attitude of the wait staff, the quotes on the coffee mugs, the reasonable prices.  When you show your license, they give you a free Slam for your birthday (shout out to my girl Ashley for covering my spinach and tomatoes on my egg whites because APPARENTLY they up charge you for these fancy things).



I am low maintenance and anti-frivolous about most things, so call me a hypocrite, but I LOVE a good massage.   I recently left work in the middle of the day because my neck hurt and I “desperately needed treatment.” Listen, I don’t know what it is, but they are magical.  This item made my birthday list, and I enjoyed a perfect 60 minute massage courtesy of my mother in law (thanks Darla!).



Enough said.  I went to sleep. In the middle of the day. And I enjoyed every second of it.

More food

We decided to be “fancy” for dinner, so James and I hit up Macaroni Grill.  I don’t know what says “extravagant birthday dinner” more than coloring on the table cloths.  We decided to splurge on the only item we had to pull out a wallet for all day, so we split a meal for one.  James also talked the waitress into giving us a free birthday dessert (and they don’t sing to you, so it’s a win-win).

pasta     dessert

Look but don’t buy

One of our favorite hobbies is walking around Barnes & Noble and looking at books and games we won’t buy.  I don’t know why, but we love it and can spend a solid hour reading about new board games and checking out new book releases to keep in mind to buy when they hit the shelves at Half Price Books.  We were motivated to play the games we already own, so went home and competed in some very cut-throat rounds of Skip Bo to end the night.


Best.birthday.ever. I’m being serious.  Not to mention the coupons for free stuff I still have sitting in my inbox for Maggie Moos, Texas Roadhouse, Red Robin, Feddruckers, Genghis Grill, and Baskin Robbins that are good for the rest of the month. Even more than that, the sweet friends and family who called, texted, wrote me cards, and sent gifts.  The best parts of life are the people in it, and I’ve got good people.  I am sitting here just relishing in it.  Everyone has a birthday every year, so I know it’s not that big of a deal, but it’s so fun to feel celebrated by the people you love.  Here’s to Year 26!

cg   rents

Until next time,


The Birthday Game

My mom loves anything you can attach a tradition to.  If there is a way to incorporate a tradition into an event, you better believe she will find a way to make it happen. One of my family’s longstanding traditions is The Birthday Game.  Every time a birthday comes around, after we sing and blow out candles, but before the cake is cut, we play “the game”, which is essentially going around the table and verbally expressing our favorite thing and what we love and appreciate about the birthday guy or gal.  We have done this for as long as I can remember, and I can think back to several birthdays and recall the things people said they loved about me (including the time James got put on the spot to go first and say what he liked most about me in front of all my family and friends after we had been dating 6 weeks, freezing up completely and saying NOTHING AT ALL, wondering what kind of wacko family this girl he was dating came from).

Growing up with The Birthday Game instilled in me the importance of giving verbal affirmation to others.  Sometimes I believe we genuinely think about how much we love and appreciate the people in our lives, but those kind thoughts never get from our heads to our lips because we don’t know how to say it out loud, likely because it can be uncomfortable and awkward.  

Recently, I received my bi-annual performance review at work, and I was nervous at best because performance reviews can always be slightly terrifying, but primarily because I could never gauge how my manager felt about me.  I knew I was doing well in my position, but I had never received positive feedback from her, so I had no idea if I was meeting her expectations.  As she delivered my review to me, I was literally shocked at the things she said. Apparently, she really liked me all this time, saying things like I “boosted the morale of the team”, that she “trusted me completely” and was one of the “best hires she ever made.” I cannot overemphasize the fact I was floored by this.  I was skeptical to the possibility that she might have even liked me, and apparently she thought I was an incredible employee! How did I miss that? Because she never made it a point to tell me.  

We have all seen mean, hurtful words tear people and lives apart, and we have also seen intentionally placed affirmation spring up life and confidence into people.  I really believe that we can the ability to transform and change the course of a life simply with the words we speak.  Sometimes we have to embrace the awkwardness of verbal affirmation and just go for it.  I guarantee you everyone could probably use a healthy dose of encouragement.  We are all secretly hoping for it.  

I think it’s easy and safe to send nice text messages or write sappy social media posts about our friends, but I believe it is much more powerful to look people directly in the eyes, without a glowing screen and fanfare of likes and comments, and tell them what you see in them: their gifts, their talents, their strengths, how you noticed what they did, how you believe in what they can do.  It may be more uncomfortable, but it is definitely more powerful.  Try it.  Instead of thinking about what a great mom/teacher/wife//employee/friend so and so is, actually tell them to their face that they are rocking it.  If someone has made a huge difference or influence in your life, don’t just tell others about how awesome they are, tell them too.  When someone shows kindness to you, lavish them with appreciation.  These are all small things, but the ripple effects have the possibility to be huge.  

I have become like my mother and now use The Birthday Game as a tradition for all of my friend’s birthdays.  I get teased about it, but I insist we play at every birthday party (assuming there’s less than 100 people ;)) because I believe it is important for people to hear why they are loved.  It is a silly game, but I can see the look in people’s eyes as they hear affirmation from their friends, and that makes it worth playing every time.  

Beyond birthdays, I hope to be a person who finds more things to appreciate than critique, who praises more than complains, and who uses words to build up.  

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Until next time,



Isaiah 53

I have been reading through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John the past couple of months, and even though I have known Jesus for several years, I am continually surprised, humbled, and awed at the life he lived here on this earth.  He counters everything that we think to be important, and calls his followers to a life of denial to self and suffering, promising no worldly comfort, success, or achievement, only guaranteeing his Spirit and eternal life.  

On Wednesday night at my community group, my friend Cora read the words from the prophet Isaiah as he was telling of the Messiah who would one day come, and those words from Isaiah, which have since been fulfilled, keep replaying over and over in my head.  I can’t get over Jesus and who He is.  

He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him

How much of our lives do we waste obsessing over our personal “majesty” and “beauty” when Jesus himself was described as having none?

He was despised and rejected by men

The very men created by a holy God, in His image, and the God-man who was sent as a redeemer to pay for the sin of those who despised him.  

A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief

Jesus knows grief deeper than we ever will.

…and we esteemed him not

The King of the world, who deserves all honor, worship, and glory, came and lived his life in complete humility.  

He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities

OURS. The sins WE commit.

Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace

He bore the price to bring us peace.  He IS peace.  He suffered to give us what we didn’t even know we needed: Himself.

With his stripes we are healed

His stripes.  The physical evidence of the torture he endured on our behalf showed the hope brought to us through our Healer.


God was the genius who thought up the idea of the world and all in it, so certainly he could have creatively come up with a less gruesome, more glamorous way to show his glory and redeem His people to Himself.  But He chose the cross.  Isaiah goes on to say “it was the will of the Lord to crush him.”  God didn’t stand by idly as Jesus hung helplessly on the cross; it was his will to do so.  That literally blows my mind.  

So who is this Jesus of the Bible?

He is God, who put on flesh, and lived the most humble, simple, selfless life imaginable.  Thirty three years after his birth in a manger, he was hung on a cross, where God in Heaven poured out His wrath toward sin on Jesus, who had never committed a sin.  He hung there on our behalf, because He loves us.  

That is who Jesus is.  He died, and later rose up straight from the dead, defeating sin, and offering Life for all who would believe in Him. That is Jesus.  The more I learn about Him, the more I am thoroughly convinced He is exactly who he claimed to be: God.  Who loved us enough to endure Hell to save his people.  I hope to never get over it.


Until next time,


More than Morality

“Integrity” is a buzzy, trendy word that is often talked about in business or group settings: everyone wants to have people on their team that will display integrity.  The company I work for has six core values we interview and hire people based off of, and one of those is integrity.  In my position, I have interviewed several people, and one question I always ask the candidate is this: “how would you define integrity?”  I have received a wide range of answers to this question, anything from a fluffy, long winded, non-clarifying answer, or sometimes a really thoughtful, compelling response, or, my personal favorite, answers like “being responsible” or “being a likeable person.

I have discovered that while most of us are familiar with term, we struggle to define it. And with what we struggle to define, we have an even harder time putting into practice.

So what is integrity? We can all vaguely guess it has something to do with honesty or morality, but I would like to propose it goes a bit deeper than that. My definition to the word is this: “staying true to your values and convictions, even when you have something to lose.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options to put integrity into practice.

Integrity in the workplace

For many of us, we spend most of our waking hours at work, and as a Christian, having integrity is one of the best witnesses so that our character is not in question and we prove to be trustworthy and a good reflection of Christ.  If your boss asks you to tell a white lie on their behalf, do you agree out of fear, or do you push back and say no, even if that meant you could lose their approval? If you have an opportunity to exaggerate numbers on a report, do you do it, or do you tell the truth and risk missing out on a bonus? If you have access to company money or credit cards, do you sneak in some personal expenses, or do you choose to be upright and honest?  There are a multitude of ways integrity can be compromised in the workplace, and it takes a conscious effort and discipline to be faithful in integrity.

Integrity in your marriage

A good, healthy marriage will be the greatest tool for growth and sanctification in a believer’s life, and a toxic marriage will be the biggest source of pain and heartache.  Integrity contributes to cultivating a safe, vibrant marriage.  Do you have transparency with your spouse about your relationships with your co-workers and people of the opposite sex?  Does your spouse have reasonable access to your email and social media accounts, or are you hiding or deleting certain emails and texts? Are you wisely confessing sin to your spouse and others?  Do you lie to manipulate or control your spouse?  All marriages are far from perfect, but creating a SAFE (infinite emphasis on safe) and gracious place for your spouse to be honest with you, free from judgement and condemnation, will grow trust, intimacy, and ultimately integrity.

Integrity in your speech

We all know the people who tell great stories or have really ambitious ideas to share, but that is quickly dampened when the general response to this person is “take what they say with a grain of salt.”  Once people lose trust in what you have to say, it is near impossible to gain back.  Are you the boy who cried wolf one too many times?  Are you known to exaggerate the details to generate a better response? Do you twist and manipulate the facts? Do you use excessive flattery to gain approval? Are you flaky, promising something and rarely delivering? (which includes showing up and being on time)  Be a person who is honest and can be taken at their word.  You will gain enormous respect for all of those around you.  

Why does integrity matter?

We have probably all seen someone who lied on their taxes, yet received a massive refund from the IRS, or interacted inappropriately with co-workers and somehow stayed under the radar, or was promoted based off false information while we sat around feeling like the good guy who always finishes last.  So why does integrity even matter? Well, I will let the Bible speak for itself:

Proverbs 11:3

The integrity of the upright guides them,

   but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

Proverbs 12:22

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,

   but those who act faithfully are his delight.

Proverbs 28:6

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity

   than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.

Psalm 11:7

For the Lord is righteous;

he loves righteous deeds;

   the upright shall behold his face.


Let’s be people who honor God with our thoughts, actions, and words, challenging each other to walk in integrity to bring Him glory.

Until next time,