Challenge, Life, Social Justice


Maybe we aren’t so far apart. I believe there is a spectrum of feelings about immigration and refugees…and we all fall somewhere on it. But the more time I spend talking to people and reading, I think that it’s not that we are so far apart about things but that we are missing each other’s point and have stopped listening. We read a headline, form an opinion, but never hear the story. After a heated exchange that resulted in my heart being pretty hurt by a family member, I wanted to take a moment to really look at things. Take a breath. Regroup. And maybe set a few boundaries.

So, here are my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours. Really, truly. That’s what makes America great in the first place. Just please don’t say that I don’t care. Because I do. I probably care far too much.

So, I’d like to start with some basic thoughts. First of all, let’s set aside partisan politics for a moment. I realize that this is very political issue, but for the sake of conversation, let’s back up a bit. For me this is also a faith issue, but let’s set that aside too. My brilliantly smart and beautiful cousin Stephanie Marko posted this yesterday, “I think the human experience is non partisan. What is deeply important to me may not even be in your top 50 concerns. I have arrived at my beliefs because of my experiences, pain, joys, and hopes. I may be an expert on something you have never heard of or read an article about. That’s okay it works in reverse. I changed my mind on many things along the way and a few things I only believed more passionately. You might not care about IDEA but it is front and center in my life. Organ donation, addiction and mental health services, Native causes, the 2nd amendment, AIDS prevention and awareness. Things that matter to me regardless of political affiliation. I respect people enough to listen and assume perhaps they have come to their values the same way.” Yes! More of this. A million times.

And it reminded me of something critical that I also believe. I believe that racism exists. There are people who don’t want immigrants in our country because of their race or religion. That literally makes me feel ill and makes my heart physically hurt. But I refuse to assume someone is racist because they believe differently than me about an issue or a leader. What I have come to believe is that most people with concerns regarding refugees are good, honest people. They love their family and their country. They want to live without fear of terrorism. So do I. We just differ in our thoughts on how to accomplish that. So the point of this post is really to share how I came to believe what I believe and hopefully to hear what other’s think.

First off, let’s make it really clear WHO we talking about. Most refugees would be considered immigrants, but they are a very small percentage of all immigrants. In fact, in 2014 there were 1.3 million new immigrants to the US. Of these, only 69,987 were refugees. Or approximately 5% of the total new immigrants. And a mere .1% of all forcibly displaced people in the world.



The definition of an immigrant: a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country. The definition that I have seen used most prominently regarding US immigration is to include anyone not born in the US, regardless of how they enter the country. The definition of a refugee: a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. For the sake of argument, the term “refugee” will include only those who enter our country through the official refugee process.

Other immigration programs would include: family based immigration (broad, complicated system) that includes a family member sponsoring another family member through a petition and process of qualifying the family member; employment based immigration that can be temporary or permanent; refugees and asylees (different, more about that later); diversity visa program (a lottery program available only to certain countries); temporary protected status (granted to people who are in the US now but can’t go home due to “natural disaster,” “extraordinary temporary conditions,” or “ongoing armed conflict.”); and deferred enforced departure (basically for people who have been deported but their home country is too dangerous to return to). And then there are non-immigration programs that include but are not limited to: students, fiancees, athletes, business travelers, diplomats, au pairs, domestic employees, exchange students, foreign military, persons needing medical treatment, media, NAFTA,  artists, doctors, scholars, religious workers, agricultural workers, treaty traders, crime victims, trafficking victims, and tourists. Also all different processes. It’s really, really complicated and confusing. And I haven’t even mentioned those who enter our country illegally or overstay their visas.


Then there is the WHY? There are probably a million different answers to this question. But there is one common denominator. A refugee has been forced to leave their home to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. These are people that will likely die if they stay. This isn’t because American grass is greener. Which is something that matters to me. I strongly believe that WHERE you live shouldn’t be what determines IF you live.

And most importantly and probably the most misunderstood part – HOW. I have said many, many times that I believe in our refugee vetting system. I am only talking about the refugee system here. Not the other programs, because I do have issues with them. But that’s a conversation for a different day.

This is why I believe what I believe about refugees.


I am truly and completely curious about one thing. I hear a lot of people saying that we need to have more stringent vetting for refugees. But this small group of people entering our country are more stringently vetted than anyone else. A lot of people believe that terrorists plan to enter our country as refugees. I don’t know the statistical probability but I believe it’s awfully small. First of all, they would have to be randomly chosen and referred. Then they would have to be chosen by one of more than 30 countries – they don’t get to choose either. So they would have to be lucky enough to have the US chosen for them. Then they wait for 1-3 years, going through numerous checks and interviews. The screeners will go to the villages that the refugees fled from and interview people about them. So if they ever are linked to any terrorist groups or activity, they would be denied. Or they could enter with minimal checks under one of the other programs. No one is talking about the other programs. The ones with big gaping holes. Instead, we are arguing about the most vulnerable people in the world and whether their lives have worth and should be saved. I hear a lot of “All lives matter” coming from conservatives, but I don’t see that playing out here. These lives matter to God. And I hope that as a fellow human, they matter to you too.



One last thing….for my fellow Christian brothers and sisters. God never promised us safety in this life. I ask that you prayerfully consider where you stand on this issue. I ask you to turn to your Bibles and prayer. If God calls us to do something, like love our neighbor, then we need to do it. Thoughtfully. Prayerfully. But if these people are not truly “the least of these” then I don’t know who is.


Would it be easier to just not care? Yep. It would be easier to just worry about myself and my daughter. But I just cannot do that. God placed a burning in my heart to fight for justice and to speak for those without a voice. It would be easier to ignore this, to just keep my thoughts to myself. My daughter, my parents, my sister, and my friends would probably prefer it too. But I just cannot. I am not afraid of these people. They are welcome in my home, they are welcome with my child. I want my life to bless them, to comfort them, and to welcome them. And I will fight for them until my last breath on this Earth.


Challenge, Life

Refugee Lives Matter

My heart is broken. It has become a physical pain in my chest over the last day. This is not about politics. I am a Christian first and foremost. And to me, being a Christian means that I have devoted my life to serving my Jesus and loving people the way that He does. All people. It’s not America first. It’s Jesus first. It’s our time to rise up Church and stand in the gap for the lives that are being cast aside.

Let me be very clear – I also care deeply about American lives. American jobs. Americans being safe from terrorists. This executive order prevents people WHO ARE LEGAL from entering our country. People who have legal status. People who have jumped through all the hoops. This is a flawed position.

The definition of refugeea person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. These are people who have been forced to leave. They are fleeing for their lives. If you have not educated yourself on the process that a refugee goes through before coming to the US, please do so.

The stories of those forced from their homes, fleeing for their lives breaks my heart. I believe that the Bible is clear that we are to welcome the stranger into our lives and homes {Check out Matthew 25:35-40}.

Children are dying in Aleppo. Families are trapped in Kirkuk. Mosul is the setting of an ongoing war. There are innocent people who need our help. People are languishing in temporary camps around the world for years.

I believe that seeing the truth is critical to understanding and compassion. I encourage you to check out this piece in Time Magazine. Or this heart wrenching piece by CNN. And the Washington Post reports that there are only 7 doctors left in Aleppo that can treat catastrophic injuries. The hospitals are being bombed and destroyed. And since I first wrote this that has even changed – there are no hospitals in Aleppo.

I am left with mixed feelings. What can I do? What is my part in this crisis? I want my heart to be soft, like six year old Alex, who invites Omran to be his brother. I want to serve people as the Bible teaches me to serve.

This photo makes the tragedy so clear in my mind.


I believe that we can do better. I believe that we must do better. And Church, the world is watching how we respond. You can March for Life and then praise a ban on refugees, you have just spit in the face of the needy – the broken, the very people that we are called to love. If you aren’t standing for ALL life then you are not pro-life, you are anti-abortion.

I have heard an argument that other countries aren’t taking refugees. We should never base our actions on the action or inaction of others. We shouldn’t be seeking to emulate Saudi Arabia. What Saudi Arabia (or any other country) does is not the standard for our behavior.

statue-of-libertyPhoto Credit

I am finding my way. I cannot sit by and watch this fire burn. I would encourage you to follow or support awesome organizations like {my favorite} Preemptive Love Coalition, World Relief, or We Welcome Refugees. I will be on the right side of history. I will fight for those without a voice.

And I will love without fear.

Challenge, Life

Less. So there can be More.


Last year was the first time that I ditched resolutions for just one word.  You can read about that here and here.  I was inspired by both One Word 365 and My One Word.  Definitely check them out when choosing your word.

For 2014, I intend to remain “Intentional” and for me, during this season of my life, this means “Less”.  And “More”.  I spent weeks thinking and praying about my word for 2014. So many good ones to choose from!  But I kept coming back. Over and over. I want more from life, but there are so many things I keep tripping over (sometimes literally!) and so many things blocking my way.  In order to get to that “More”, there has to be “Less”.

Let’s start with “stuff”.  The clutter.  You know what I am talking about – those {big} piles of stuff that fill our homes. It is living on borrowed time in my house.  Every closet, drawer, and room in my home will be decluttered {and organized} by 2015.


I will value quality over quantity. My home is a part of me and I want the message my home is sending to be one of openness, hospitality, warmth, and love.  Not chaos.  I want my home to be an inspiring place to spend time.  I want a home with space to actually live.  I want to look around my home and call it enough.  I want a place to recharge and unwind.  I want to live a more simple life, focusing on people rather than on things.

But…there is also the “More”. More relationship and connection.  But for there to be more of that, there must also be less.  Less stress, less preoccupation, and less  distractions.


I want my heart and my life to be full of more love and more compassion for others.  I want to really focus on living second.  This life it’s not about me…it’s about serving God and loving people.  I want more of that. I want meaningful face to face connections with others.  I want to be content, no matter what circumstances I find myself in. Happiness and joy come from a place of choosing happiness and joy.  You can’t buy that at Walmart or even Nordstrom.  What I have and who I am in each and every moment needs to be enough.

So, here’s where the rubber meets the road.  I won’t include my complete action plan, but every goal had to be a S.M.A.R.T. goal.  I am committing to:

  • 2014 things gone.  Plus one additional item for each one that I bring in.
  • Less social media and technology – every day.
  • More face to face time with friends on a regular (at least monthly) basis.
  • Stick to my budget.
  • Healthier food choices and menu planning every week.
  • More exercise – daily doing something.
  • Prioritizing my tasks, cutting down where I can.
  • Nurture traditions and make memories.

Some helpful resources I’d love to share with you!!  This blog series was really inspiring to me on my journey to less (and more). I am participating in this 2014 Challenge to reduce the clutter in my life.

Challenge, Life

Effects of Intentional.

So, last year I did something different.  No resolutions, just one word.  I chose Intentional.  You can read about that here.

Now is the moment of truth…did it work?

Unequivocally the answer is – YES.

I am sure that I could have been more intentional and made more, bigger changes.  But in the end, I feel that it made a lasting change.  Just because I have a new word for 2014, living intentionally is something that I do every day now.

I did become more involved in the community and I am more intentional about making a difference every single day.  

I made intentional choices to move towards better health.

I live more simply.  And I focus more on people and less on things.

I successfully met my goals.  There is still room for improvement, but it’s still success.

I can’t wait for 2014.

Challenge, Family, Life

101 Goals in 1001 Days

Inspiration Credit: It Keeps Getting Better Image Courtesy of The Graphics Fairy.

The Challenge: Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria: Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on your part).

Why 1001 Days? Many people have created lists in the past – frequently simple challenges such as New Year’s resolutions or a ‘Bucket List’. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organizing and timing some tasks such as overseas trips, study semesters, or outdoor activities.

Start Day: October 27, 2013 End Day: July 24, 2016


101 goals

  1.  Adopt a child.
  2. Read regularly with my daughter.
  3. Volunteer at Blessings Under the Bridge.
  4. Throw a theme party.
  5. Donate the things that we no longer want/use/need.
  6. Finish updating my living room
  7. Finish updating my office.
  8. Finish updating kitchen.
  9. Finish updating bathrooms.
  10. Finish updating my bedroom.
  11. Finish updating baby’s room.
  12. Finish at least one of the books I have started writing.
  13. Lose 100 pounds.
  14. Spend time in Uganda.
  15. Start my Master’s Degree.
  16. Complete my Master’s Degree.
  17. Complete Baby Step 1 (Dave Ramsey).
  18. Complete Baby Step 2 (Dave Ramsey).
  19. Complete Baby Step 3 (Dave Ramsey).
  20. Read 1 book a month for at least a year.
  21. Publish an e-book.
  22. Fast.
  23. Try geocaching.
  24. Complete 50 random acts of kindness.
  25. Go to one social outing per month for a year.
  26. Go on 5 dates (same guy, different one – doesn’t matter). (Completed 1 of 5)
  27. Grow my blog.
  28. Blog more consistently and/or use a blog schedule.
  29. Try a new fruit.
  30. Try a new vegetable.
  31. Take (and complete) a class.
  32. Go to a waterpark that we have never been to.
  33. Go on a day trip.
  34. Have a family photo shoot.
  35. Spend a week only buying absolute necessities (fuel to get to work, groceries, etc.)
  36. Watch the sunset over the ocean.
  37. Watch the sunrise over the ocean.
  38. Create organization that works in each room in our home.
  39. Make our backyard a place we want to be.
  40. Create more curb appeal on our home.
  41. Stop drinking soda.
  42. Develop a habit of clean eating.
  43. Streamline social media and online activities.
  44. Make bread (grandma’s recipe!).
  45. Help Shay & Fiona with their project — more to come on this!
  46. Have a passport.
  47. Get Fiona’s passport.
  48. Try a new recipe once a month for a year.
  49. Develop a daily exercise routine.
  50. Attend at least one conference per year. (1 of 3)
  51. Do something extravagantly special and personal for Fiona.
  52. Do something extravagantly special and personal for Daveid Michael.
  53. Do something extravagantly special and personal for my mom.
  54. Do something extravagantly special and personal for my dad.
  55. Do something extravagantly special and personal for Krysta.
  56. Do something extravagantly special and personal in memory of Dakota.
  57. Start a garden.
  58. Take a firearm safety class.
  59. Keep a journal and write consistently (at least once per week) for year.
  60. Complete FlyLady Beginner BabySteps.
  61. Find 5 new local things or places that I haven’t been to and go!
  62. Find 5 ways to simplify my life so I can spend more time living.
  63. Obtain 501 (c) 3.
  64. Create an action plan for organization.
  65. Recruit 10 solid members for organization staff and volunteers.
  66. Quit smoking. (Completed 6/1/14!!)
  67. Complete dental work.
  68. Read through the Bible.
  69. Make a workable home office.
  70. Get LASIK.
  71. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
  72. Try Zumba.
  73. Complete a 5K.
  74. Run Bloomsday.
  75. Run SpoKenya.
  76. Create a weekly meal plan for a month.
  77. Take The Joy Dare.
  78. Have a will and a living will.
  79. Go on an African Safari.
  80. Visit Leavenworth at Christmastime.
  81. Release a floating lantern. (Done May 2014 & May 2015)
  82. Create a Bucket List.
  83. Run the Dirty Dash.
  84. Run the Color Run (or a similar one).
  85. Mail a flip flop to a friend.
  86. Take a spontaneous trip.
  87. Go on a Zip line.
  88. Get a pedicure.
  89. Get a massage.
  90. Get a facial.
  91. Meet someone I really admire.
  92. Have a girl’s weekend. (Done June 2014.)
  93. Do something significant to raise awareness about orphans.
  94. Spend a weekend technology free.
  95. Give a speech.
  96. Complete a goal that is meaningful and relevant (I already have this goal, but I am not ready to talk about so this is not as vague as it sounds here! More details to come!)
  97. Complete bucket list in correlation with Goal #96 (more to come!).
  98. Learn to take better pictures and have the right tools to do so.
  99. Start an investment.  Even a small one.
  100. Ride a segway.
  101. Start a new list when this one is finished!

For Such A Time As This.

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

~ Esther 4:14 (NIV)

Have you ever had a moment where you realize that you are right where God wants you to be?

For the last several months, I have wrestled with wondering what God has for me.  I felt a little bit like what I imagine that the Israelites felt when they were wandering around in the desert.  This promise of a land and thinking you are on the path, forced to rely on God for everything — including where your next meal is coming from.  It’s a little bit scary.  But a priceless lesson to be learned.

Continue reading “For Such A Time As This.”

Challenge, Life


One of my friends has chosen a word for New Year’s the past few years and I thought this was pretty cool…then I heard about this whole movement towards choosing a word and not a resolution.  You can read more about them at One Word 365 or My One Word.

Intentional:  done with intention or on purpose; intended.  {}

I have many goals for 2013…and all of them boil down to one thing — making intentional choices for my future.

Being more involved in my community — choosing a church, choosing groups to get involved with — intentionally making a difference in the world that I live in.

Being more healthy — stopping bad habits, gaining a healthier lifestyle — intentionally doing things that I know will improve my quality of life.

Living more simply, focusing on people and not things.

I am excited to live intentionally.  I think that 2013 could be my best year yet and I can’t wait!