Dreadlocks and a dog


I was in the States last week. It was my first time in Michigan in over a year. It was amazing. Just a stand-up trip. I got to see everyone I wanted to see and do everything I wanted to do and eat everything I wanted to eat. My parents are so nice and so generous and my friends are great.

On my last full day in Michigan I went to visit my friend Lauracindy who just bought her very own house (you go, girl!). On my way to her very own house I passed by quite a few men experiencing homelessness. They were sitting on their respective corners with cardboard signs I tried not to read.

Sidebar: why is the homeless population so predominately male? (I’m legitimately asking.)

When it comes to people asking for money I always try to let the Spirit lead. Shane Claiborne  once said that when he gets to heaven he highly doubts God is going to say, “You gave too much money away.” It’s not my job to decide what someone does with the money I’m giving them, it is my job to be obedient and selfless with my money. So I let the Spirit lead and I give when my gut tells me to.

I had passed a couple men sitting on the corner when I stopped at a red light next to a guy with dreadlocks and a dog. For some reason the dog got me. The dog touched my Spirit. Not just because I’m a dog person and at that point I hadn’t seen my own precious dogs in over a week, but because the dog looked well fed and was on one of those retractable leashes. I looked at that dog and I thought about all that I had learned about those experiencing homelessness (most of which was learned during my time with YouthWorks in Indianapolis in 2013). That dog made me want to know this man’s story. I wanted to sit next to him on the corner and hear about his life.

The dog looked well fed and was on one of those retractable leashes, which made me think that maybe not so long ago this guy wasn’t homeless. Maybe not so long ago he had enough money to buy dog food regularly and even a nice retractable leash. Maybe he was working really hard to make ends meet. Maybe he went to school and got an education and was respectful and kind and responsible. But then something happened. Like an accident or a harmful relationship or an addiction or a fire. And everything crumbled. Because it can happen that fast, can’t it? In a world of student debt and medical debt and minimum wage and so many people just making ends meet and loan sharks and cancer and heroin… one event can destroy a life.

So I gave him $5 and he said, “God bless you,” and I said, “I’m sorry it’s not more. I hope this helps.” And I really do hope it helped. But I’m not a fool and I know that $5 is not going to change his life. And I wanted to give him something that could change his life but all I had was $5.

I drove by Lauracindy’s street and had to turn around because I was too busy crying to pay attention to where I was going. I’ve been less financially stable in the past few months than I have ever been and if it weren’t for the generosity of my parents  I don’t know what I would’ve done. The truth is I am responsible (for the most part) and educated and employed and I still don’t have enough money every month to pay my bills. The truth is, life is rough, and there’s absolutely nothing about me that makes me better than that man with the dreadlocks and the dog.

Last year I read a memoir called Mennonite in the Little Black Dress. At the end of the book I had one question for the author – “why did you write this?” I didn’t get the point. I didn’t grasp what she was getting at, what she wanted me to take away. And I didn’t like not knowing. Sometimes art is for art’s sake. Sometimes we just have to let the words be. Sometimes we have to follow God’s example – create, call it good, rest. But I’m writing this for a reason and the man with the dreadlocks and the dog stirred my spirit for a reason.

I am incredibly lucky. I am fortunate. I am privileged. I’m not blessed more than anybody else because God loves us all the same and His plans for us are different but good (if we let Him be the boss). There is nothing fundamentally different between myself and the man with the dreadlocks and the dog. I don’t deserve my house or my family or my friends more than he deserves a house and a family and friends. We are the same, us humans. We are all capable of good and big and great things and we are all one earth-shattering event away from ruin.

The Spirit in me sees the Spirit in you. The Spirit in me loves and respects and admires and calls out to the Spirit in you. Created in His image, right? Beloved beyond measure, right? All of us. Every one of us. And each one of us responsible for what we do with that truth, for what we do with our $5.

I hope that the man with the dreadlocks and the dog is dry tonight. I hope he is safe. I hope he is healthy. I hope he is seeing God in new ways every day. I hope he has somewhere to sleep tonight. I hope that new beginnings are just around the corner and that he has given over his soul to a God who makes things new, who grows things out of dust and ashes. I hope that right now today an earth-shattering event starts to put his life back together. I hope he feels value and love today and every day. And I hope that for all of us. For me and you (and our dogs, too).

61-70 of 100

I’m still 3 books behind, but I got to go to the library yesterday so I’m doing some work this week with real books! My last bunch can pretty much be divided into two groups – ones I liked and ones I kinda liked or didn’t like at all.


I’m pretty familiar with Fight Club but I tried to read Chuck Palahniuk‘s as if I didn’t know the story and I think I succeeded because I really enjoyed it. I did, however, definitely picture Ed Norton and Brad Pitt throughout, which I think only improved the experience.

Maybe we have to break everything
to make something better
out of ourselves.
– Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, like many non fiction books, has way too long a title, but that was just about the book’s only flaw. Elizabeth kind of scared me into writing (which I totally did for a couple of days) but she also reminded me, as most writings about writing do, that I am writing, even if I’m not working on my novel, and that even if I’m not writing, there are lots of others ways I am living out a creative life. I wrote about it.

I think it’s a mighty act of human love
to remind somebody
that they can accomplish things by themselves,
and that the world does not
automatically owe them any reward,
and that they are not as weak and hobbled
as they may believe.
– Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

I’ve recently discovered crime books! They’re just like reading an episode of Criminal Minds! So I loved Lisa Gardner’s Find Her. It was well written and exciting and had me guessing till the end.

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham was just great! It was happy and thoughtful and fun. It’s the story of a young actress living in New York trying to deal with the fact that she isn’t as successful as she hoped she’d be. It wasn’t anything earth shattering, but I enjoyed reading it and I liked how Franny grew and learned. I could really relate to her as a young 20 something.

The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff is based on the true story of one of the first gender reassignment surgeries. I loved experiencing life through the eyes of a transgender individual (although as one reviewer pointed out on GoodReads, Einar probably also suffered from dissociative identity disorder), and really loved Einar/Lili’s wife, Gerda. I tried to watch the movie but wasn’t feeling it.

Three Little Words by Sarah N. Harvey was a book that I didn’t want to stop reading! I loved the characters and the story (it’s about a boy who was adopted when he was young whose biological mother is sick and biological half brother has gone missing).

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I had heard about Wm Paul Young’s The Shack for years and I finally read it. I liked it, I liked the idea (a man spending a weekend with the Triune God), but I didn’t like some specifics – why the Abba Father figure (mostly portrayed as a black woman) sometimes speaks ebonics and sometimes doesn’t, for example. So it didn’t make it to the top, but I did enjoy it.

I don’t do humiliation, or guilt, or condemnation.
They don’t produce one speck
of wholeness or righteousness,
and that is why they were nailed
into Jesus on the cross.
The Shack, Wm. Paul Young

Titanic by Gordon Korman is a children’s book and it was fun, but nothing special. I like how the four main characters’ stories intersect throughout their journey on the ship.

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant was probably my least favorite book of this bunch. It’s kind of another Criminal Minds episode chronicling the disappearances of young girls in a small town, but from the point of view of a child. It’s actually a lot of boring chapters and then a lot of action packed in the last few chapters.

I needed a quick read (still 3 books behind!) so I picked Permission to Speak Freely by Anne Jackson off my bookshelf and read it in a day or two. It’s about the questions we ask in church, or more specifically, the questions we feel we can’t ask in church. It was a great idea, and I definitely did some underlining (unfortunately haven’t typed those guys up yet), but it just didn’t make it to the top.

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Note to Self 5


Sometimes things are crazy and life is a mess and you’re rushing and playing catch up and frazzled. That doesn’t mean you did something wrong. Don’t waste time looking for the mistake that caused the rush if there’s no mistake to be found. Life is hard sometimes. That doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

Passports and mountains


One time a very concerned and loving dad brought his son to Jesus. His son had been suffering violent seizures for his entire life. This dad was hoping that Jesus could heal his son. This dad was hoping that he wouldn’t have to continue to watch his son’s body betray him and put him in danger. I imagine this dad had been to religious leaders and healers before. I imagine he’d tried medicines and prayer and lifestyle changes in attempts to heal his son. So now he’s coming to Jesus, hoping that maybe this guy will know what he’s doing.

So he says, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” The Bible says that Jesus said, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” But I imagine there was a “pfft” in there somewhere. “Pfft! If I can? Have you not heard of me?” Something like that.

Then this poor long-suffering dad cries out, “I believe, help my unbelief!”

And for the past couple of months this has been my life verse.

My favorite part of this exhausted father’s exclamation is that it’s one sentence. It’s one, seemingly contradictory thought. I believe, help my unbelief. I get it, I have no idea. I understand the Bible, it doesn’t make any sense. I love God, I barely know Him. I am capable, I need lots of help. I’m fine, I’m crying.

I believe that until the day I die I will be able to cry out this crazy proclamation with this loving dad. I believe that I’m settling in to the truth that we can never know it all, that for our whole entire lives we can believe with our whole hearts while knowing at the same time that even that belief is dependent on the God who empowers and enables us. I believe, help my unbelief.

It’s another in a long line of the “fake it till you make it” scenarios that make up my life. Even when I’m not sure what I believe, I know exactly who to call out to for help. I know that I can confidently and shakily stand on the completely mysterious foundation of Jesus sure that I believe in Him but not always sure what that means.

The other day I was talking about the Bible with two Jehovah’s Witnesses and a German doctor with a lot of questions. One of my favorite parts of the conversations was when the skeptical German asked a question and I said, “I don’t know! I have no idea.” I believe, help my unbelief.

A couple days later I was looking for my passport for my upcoming trip to the States. I usually keep my passport in the same place but I had needed it for something and instead of putting it back in the usual spot I put it somewhere else. Except it wasn’t where I thought I had put it. So I decided to start in one corner of my house and look very carefully until I found it. Before I started looking I twirled around my kitchen and prayed. (That’s how everyone prays, right? Twirling?) I said, “Lord, you said that if I believe I can move mountains, I can actually move mountains. Well, I believe that no matter where my passport is right now that You can put it somewhere where I can find it.”

And He did. Not 10 minutes later I found my passport in a random empty binder on the shelf. I definitely did not put it there.

But then I said, “But God, I also believe, I really, really believe, that you can get all the cancer out of the 6th grade girl at Las Palmas. And I really, really believe that you can heal my friend’s mom. With the same faith I had about my passport! So why don’t you do that? We believe, Lord! Why isn’t the mountain moving?” We believe, help our unbelief. 

The thing is, if we believe what He said about moving mountains, we have to believe what He said about working all things together for our good, even when cancer feels like everything NOT good. He loves us, right? He knows what He’s doing, right? I believe, help my unbelief.

Big Magic Changed My Life


This week I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and it changed my life.

I think I say that a lot, that something changed my life, but that’s how we grow. We experience something and we let it change us. We read, for example, My Notorious Life by Kate Manning and we let it change (or at least broaden) our thinking on abortion and birth control. We see a picture of a child, a child that could’ve been any one of our children, washed up dead on a beach and we let it change (or at least broaden) our thinking on the refugee situation in our world today. We hear about the pipeline that a big oil company wants to put through the Dakotas and we let it change (or at least broaden) our thinking on oil and the economy and our resources and what is right.

So I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and I let it change my thinking on creativity, specifically my own creativity. The whole book is about creative living, but as I was reflecting this morning on my life as a whole I realized Elizabeth Gilbert had taught me a thing or two about living in general.

Today was supposed to be my day off. Once a week I get one day completely off when I don’t have to come to the hostel or answer emails about the hostel or even think about the hostel! Of course, as how in the first month or so of each school year all of my dreams are about school, most of my dreams are still about the hostel, so we’re working on that last one.

So that was today, my day off! But then yesterday a few new reservations came in. And then this morning my boss’s mother wanted to take her out to lunch before going back to her home a couple hours away. So I am currently sitting in the hostel, for the seventh day in a row since my last day off (last Thursday), not having a day off. Not a complete day off, anyway.

This morning as I was preparing to come to work I started to cry. I started to pout about poor me and how my life isn’t fair and I work harder than anyone and all I wanted was one measly day off amidst seven 9 hour days at work and my boss just doesn’t appreciate me and she thinks her life is more important than mine.

I know. Pretty dramatic stuff.

But then the gentle Holy Spirit reminded me of what’s true, of what’s truer than my feelings. About how the other day my boss surprised me with an entire giant pizza all for myself for no reason other than that she appreciates me. About how every single day about five times a day my boss thanks me for doing my job. About how not once since I started has my boss paid me my salary, but is always giving me giant and generous tips. About how the one who was making my boss’s life (and consequently the hostel) more important than my life was not my boss, but me.

I’m going to type up that last point again because it changed my life. The one who was making my job the most important thing in my life was me.

So here’s what I learned from Elizabeth Gilbert: I learned that done and bad is better than perfect and unfinished. I learned that WHEN I finish my novel, if it’s not very good, it won’t actually matter very much. I learned that the important part is the doing, the creating. I learned that the songs I make up throughout the day about my dogs or my pizza or my broom are the building blocks of a creative life. And above all I learned (again) that I am in charge of my life. I’m the boss of my life!

Which means if my job is the most important thing in my life, that’s all on me. If I’m letting work and Netflix squeeze their way into all of my creating time then that’s on me, baby. Every time I would joke, “Oh, I can stay late, I don’t have anything better to do,” or say, “It’s not like I have a life,” I was making work the most important thing. I was belitting my own life! And if I’m not going to stand up for my own life, who is?

Here’s the thing. I do have things to do and I do have a life. I might not have a lot of local friends or appointments or lunch dates (with people other than myself) but I have work to do, dammit! I have a book to finish and yoga to practice and songs to make up and books to read. And all of that is important, but only if I say it is.

The whole point of me moving to Jarabacoa was to build my own life from the ground up. To listen carefully to what God is asking me to do and to do it. To decide what is most important. And guess what? It’s not my job. At least not anymore.

51-60 of 100

This latest batch is a diverse bunch of books. From pen pals to psychos, from time travel to space travel, I’ve read some tales! I’m still four books behind but determined to catch up.


Why do non-fiction books always have such long titles? Nothing beyond the colon is necessary. It’s like movie previews these days! They give everything away.

Everybody needs to read Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Everybody. It’s about women, the strength and the struggles and the abuse and the education and the empowerment and the beauty and the brokenness and the dignity of women everywhere. (Nonfiction, Feminism)

In general, the best clue to a nation’s growth
and development potential
is the status and role of women.
– Half the Sky, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed reminded me in all the most amazing ways of Glennon Doyle Melton. Cheryl and Glennon both have this wonderful ability to see someone, to really see them, and to speak boldly and lovingly into that someone’s very self, and to challenge and comfort. When you’re doing reading Half the Sky, read Tiny Beautiful Things. (Nonfiction)

My grief is tremendous
but my love is bigger.
Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed

I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch is super endearing. I was bracing myself the whole time for some horrible disaster but nothing came! It’s just the true story of selfless giving that stems from pure friendship. (Nonfiction, Africa)

Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller is, unfortunately, a book that probably could’ve stayed a blog post. While Miller’s point is a good one – that being a Christian is about a relationship, not a formula – it’s not enough for a whole book. It quickly became repetitive, which made me want to skim, which meant I almost missed some of the good points! Not my favorite from Donald Miller. (Nonfiction, Religious)

I like the Bible. Now that I
no longer see it as a self-help book,
it has infinitely more merit.
It has soul.
– Searching for God Knows What, Donald Miller


Sever by JM Miller was intense! I read it in one day, in two sittings. The story jumps back and forth between past and present, the past informing and explaining the present. The past is basically just a sequence of sex scenes, but I like that the author didn’t try to make a teenage relationship what it wasn’t. The teenagers of Sever acted and talked like teenagers and I appreciated that. (New Adult, Romance)

Stone Alliance is the second in the Demon’s Heart series by Emily H. Bates. I really enjoyed the pace of this book. It keeps moving, there are no unnecessary or prolonged conversations and it makes for a quick and exciting read. I’ll definitely be eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series! (Young Adult, Fantasy)


The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson reminded me a lot of The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells only I didn’t really like Greta Wells or her story and I did like Katharyn/Kitty and her story. In fact, I wrote a blog post about it! (Historical Fiction)

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood was entirely too long. I know that is a common complaint of mine and it’s not because I don’t have the stamina for a long book, it’s just that I don’t have the patience for a lot of words that don’t actually say anything. This one jumped between past and present, like Sever, only Atwood doesn’t clue you in on that and it took me a long time to figure out how the two parts were connected, and by that point I didn’t really care anymore. This was my least favorite of the bunch, which was a disappointment because I loved The Handmaid’s Tale and The MaddAddam series by Atwood. (Historical Fiction)

It wasn’t so easy, though,
ending the war.
A war is a huge fire;
the ashes from it drift far,
and settle slowly.
The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood

This Night So Dark by Amie Kaufman is actually a short story but I counted it as one of my 100 books because a while ago I read half of Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, which is justifiably long (881 pages!), unlike some books I know, and then my rental of the ebook expired and I couldn’t get it back because there’s a wait list and now I don’t think I’ll ever go back and finish it. So half of Seveneves + 1 short story = at least 1 book. Anyways, This Night So Dark is part of the Starbound series that I started years ago and am anxious to continue reading. This installment is nothing earth shattering, but it informs the overall narrative. Here’s a story from when I was reading the first book in the Starbound series, These Broken Stars. (Young Adult, Science Fiction)

Armada by Ernest Cline was underwhelming because I recently read Ready Player One and it was awesome. If you are a lover of Science Fiction, though, I’m sure you will enjoy Armada. I was afraid it would be a poor man’s Ender’s Game (of which I am a big fan), but Ender’s Game is referenced a few times in the story, so Cline is nobody’s story mooch. I was also afraid it would be just like Ready Player One because I read that Armada also included a lot of 80s and early 90s references and centered around a video game, but while the two are definitely written in similar styles, they are two completely different stories. (Science Fiction)

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I’ve lost weight


Over the past couple of months I have lost some weight. I’m not sure how much because I don’t own a scale and even if I owned a scale to weigh myself now I’d have no idea how much I weighed before, because I think the last time I weighed myself was 2 Christmases ago. All I know is that in October of 2014 I weighed 240 pounds and that in August 2016 I weigh, well, less than that.

I know I’ve lost weight despite my not owning a scale because my collarbones stick out a bit more, my one pair of jeans that used to be kind of tight are falling off, my feet look skinnier (didn’t know that was a thing), and I can kind of feel my hip bones sometimes. Plus everyone keeps telling me I look skinny.

Accidental weight loss is the only kind I know, since I’ve never had any desire to do the things one generally does in order to lose weight (eating right, exercise, giving up my delicious fountain sodas, etc.). Not to mention the desire to be skinny, which I haven’t felt in years. But since I’ve been so successful at my unintentional weight loss, I thought I’d share my stumbled-upon wisdom, the method to my unanticipated success.

Step 1: Eat a lot of fast food. Like, eat fast food at least once a week for about ten years. Make sure you always get a large Coke/Dr Pepper/Cherry Pepsi.

Step 2: Get a job that doesn’t require a lot of movement. Do a lot of sit down activities. Play a lot of board games. Read a lot of books. Watch a ton of Netflix. This will set the losing weight bar super low.

Step 3: (This is where things start happening!) Move to a city that doesn’t have any fast food restaurants. Become forced to make your own food. Build your diet around cheap and easy options like eggs and pasta and free fruit. You can acquire free fruit by moving to a house with numerous fruit trees and also by being nice enough to the motoconcho drivers that he thinks he might have a shot at dating you so he’ll bring you fruit.

Step 4: Get a new job, a job that requires you to work about twice as hard for about half the money. Even if there were fast food in your new town you wouldn’t be able to afford it! Make sure your new job requires a lot of lifting and is in a building with stairs. Be sure to be easily distracted and forgetful so you have to go up and down the stairs more than necessary.

Steps 3 and 4 really go hand in hand, of course, because once you get home from walking up and down stairs all day the last thing you want to do is cook, so you’ll settle for half a pineapple or two hard boiled eggs with crackers for dinner. The transitional stress will curb your appetite as well, making you want to eat less for at least the first month in your new job/home. Added bonus!

So there you have it. Four easy steps to a lighter, more exhausted, certainly more poor you.