It’s time to change the way we talk about purity.

“Every time you kiss a boy, you give a piece of your heart to him.”

“When a man sees a women dressed immodestly, his mind forces him to complete the rest of the picture.”

“You have no business hugging boys.”

“That’s why I didn’t kiss until I was engaged.”

“If you struggle with porn, maybe you need to get rid of your smartphone and get a flip phone.”

“Dress with dignity. Your body is a precious gift for your husband’s eyes only.”

And so on. I’m sure these statements are all too familiar to those of us who grew up in purity-saturated youth group culture. Let me make one thing clear as day before I move on so you get the right picture: I am infinitely grateful for my years in youth group. My youth leaders have been some of the most influential people in my walk with God. Having a community where I could learn and grow in my faith with others my age, supported by caring adults who truly wanted the best for us, was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. I will never for a second say that youth group is damaging.

That being said, I think there are some problems with the general rhetoric that we as a larger Christian culture have given to our teens for the past few decades. Here’s what I mean:

When I was in youth group, we were not shy about talking about sex and relationships. We usually had one or two small group units on it every year and, especially as I got older, my small group would have discussions about it outside of the week’s theme if the topic came up. I’m grateful for that. But something always fell a little short.

Let’s use this as an example. There were a few married couples in my church, not much older than my friends and me, who had saved their first kiss for their wedding day. It wasn’t super common, but it was common enough to be brought up frequently. So we would ask, “Is it okay to kiss before marriage?”

The response, whether from a leader, a blog, a book, a conference, or some other medium, always went something like this: “Well, kissing isn’t inherently evil, but kissing could lead to more things, things that actually are sinful. It’s a slippery slope, and don’t you want to save all your purity for your husband?”

Not a completely wrong statement, but there’s a fundamental error here. To understand this, we have to zoom out and see the bigger picture. Why do we pursue sexual purity, or purity of any sort, in the first place? Is it so we can arrive at our wedding night after years of suffering and striving and sweating and struggling and finally be able to say, “Babe, we made it”? Because quite frankly, that is exhausting. Constantly having to check your behavior–check if your actions cross the line or not, check if your thoughts are in the right place, check if you’re acting out of lust or out of love, check if you’re allowing yourself to keep sinning, check this and this and this and don’t forget about that–will run you into the ground.

Because, news flash: try as we might, we will never conquer sin ourselves. We are just not strong enough. Encouraging, isn’t it?

But what if purity stopped being about behavior modification? What if we stopped telling our sixteen-year-old kids who just got into relationships and are dealing with struggles way over their heads that if they only stopped texting late at night, stopped spending so much alone time together, stopped watching so many movies, stopped kissing while sitting down, stopped wearing skinny jeans around each other, that they would be able to overcome lust?

What if we understood that our sin has been taken care of?

Let us not forget that when Jesus died on that cross for us a few millennia ago, he spoke three very powerful words: “It is finished.”

The Bible tells us in that those of us born again in the Lord already have the righteousness of Christ within (check out 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Your sin is conquered and, surprise, none of it is your doing. This is absolutely revolutionary. Because all of the sudden it becomes not about how much I can clean myself up to be a good Christian and live a pure life to hopefully have a good marriage someday. It becomes about the near-incomprehensible fact that despite all the muck and the grime and the dirt of your sin, Christ still went to the cross for you because He. Loves. You.

Can you wrap your head around that for a second? Probably not fully, but give it a try. Jesus Christ, the perfect, sinless, spotless lamb of God who has all the power in the world and all the glory of Heaven decided to come down to this earth as a helpless baby born in a humble stable, live a human life with all its joy and sorrow, never sin once, and die an unimaginably brutal death and rise again on the third day, hallelujah! Because His love for you is too great for Him to do nothing about that sin. He created you, He knows you, and He wants to have a relationship with you.

Let’s zoom back in a little. If we understand this righteousness and freedom that we have in Christ because of His love, it breaks us from the bondage of always having to measure up. This view changes everything. Instead of focusing on these single issues, we start to see everything we do as Christ working out His plan through us.

When we look at the big picture, purity is not about saving your virginity for your future spouse, who, by the way, is another sinful human being. At the end of the day, it’s not about avoiding stumbling blocks so we can win some prize for being the best at saying no to temptation. It is about the glory and the gospel of God. It is about realizing that you can do nothing out of your own humanity to conquer lust and completely surrendering to Christ to work in you through the power of the forgiveness of the cross. There is something oddly liberating about admitting you cannot do this on your own and throwing up your hands and saying “Okay God! It’s time for you to take over!” And you do it again and again and again as He leads you on the path of transformation into Christlikeness. That, my friends, is what purity is about.

I’m not writing this as one who knows everything or even one who claims to. I am a twenty-year-old virgin who has only ever been in one relationship and serious though it was, I know I have only scratched the surface of this issue. But I have been learning some revolutionary things lately and it would be wrong to keep it to myself.

Some resources:

It’s Sacred Sexuality week in chapel here at Northwestern. A week that brings about a lot of nervous laughter, a lot of avoided eye contact, and a lot of comments about saving up chapel skips so you don’t have to go to “sex week.” But I believe that many students really do care about this issue and like me, are searching for answers. Last night, hundreds of students gathered to watch the film The Heart of Man. This dramatic documentary brought about some of the best discussion you can have in a carousel classroom with 200 people. It’s intense, it’s thought-provoking, and it’s needed. I won’t write everything about it here (this isn’t an ad anyway), but if the topics in this blog post spoke to you in any way, I’d highly encourage you to check it out. I think it’s on Netflix.

Another discussion that started to change how I view purity and relationships is this YouTube video by Katie Gregoire Emmerson. She explains this viewpoint so beautifully and so passionately, and I want more people to learn what she has to say.

The Fair Project: April

Hello again!  It’s time for another installment on living fair!

April was a busy month of projects, social events, and performances.  I haven’t actually purchased much this month, which my poor-college-student bank account is thanking me for.

I did spend quite a few days in some of my favorite secondhand skirts and dresses!  Check out the photos below to see how I styled my outfits.

On an outing to Minneapolis with some great friends, I wore this adorable midi skirt that I got at TurnStyle last spring.  I can’t remember where the top came from, but it’s pretty easy to find basic v-necks secondhand.


(Post-choir rehearsal with my lovely friend Jessica!) This.  Skirt.  This has been deemed “my color” this year, and I’ve worn it a bunch of times–it’s so versatile, and works great for cooler weather because it’s made of a heavier fabric.  I bought this at Clothes Mentor this fall.  The top and shoes were purchased before I was so convicted about secondhand shopping, but I’ve gotten a bunch of wear out of them.  I’m also wearing my maroon lipstick from The Body Shop!


In this picture from Easter, I’m wearing my favorite item in my closet.  I got this adorable dress at TurnStyle last spring, and it fits me (and my style) perfectly.  My earrings came from Clothes Mentor this winter.  My sister (the one in the black and white dress) got her dress that same day, and she’s been taking up secondhand shopping with me!  Also pictured is Jaci (in the middle with the purple tights), the other writer for the Fair Project, as well as some others of my best friends in the world.

I went to Northwestern’s annual film festival on April 10, which is always a fancy event.  It was a blast to see other students from my department show off their work–their dedication was evident in everything that shone onscreen.

I bought my dress from my work, and I absolutely loved it!  Everyone told me that it was “so me,” which is always nice to hear.  I plan on wearing it for some more events this summer and next year.

A night of celebrating student-made movies!  Supporting independent artists, whether they’re doing it for class or for fun, is always important.


My beautiful roommate Abbie and I both wore secondhand dresses!  Hers came from the “Underground Target,” a Target/Salvation Army hybrid that’s a hidden gem of Minneapolis.


April’s weekends were filled up by working at my favorite formalwear consignment shop, helping girls find their perfect prom dresses and taking in ones that had already been worn to be given a second chance to make a magical night.   I also got to go on a choir tour!  The UNW Women’s Chorale participates in a college women’s choir festival called “Still I Rise” every April.  Five schools came together this year to benefit a women’s shelter in Duluth, Minnesota, coming alongside survivors of domestic violence.  While it’s not exactly the same as human trafficking, it is still an issue close to my heart–no one should be treated as less than human, especially by someone who promised to be a loving partner.  Singing alongside hundreds of other young women, lifting up the broken together, was incredibly empowering.  Two weekends later, we went on a short day-tour to a few high schools, and then stopped at the Mall of America (where I showed my friends a few of the fair-trade places I like) before seeing Wicked at the Orpheum theatre in Minneapolis.  I had bought a dress from a friend through the UNW online garage sale and wore it that day.  It got a ton of compliments!  She had only worn it once, and I’ve already worn it twice, so it’s definitely getting its use.


If you have friends who are similar clothing sizes as you, it opens up a whole new wardrobe!  I let another friend of mine borrow one of my dresses for that day, and it was just as fun for her as getting a new dress, but she didn’t have to spend the money.  This is one of my favorite things about college–there are so many opportunities to borrow and share things that we don’t need to use every day.  Even if you aren’t living in a dorm like me, ask around to friends and family when you’re looking for an item you might only use once or twice.  That way, you don’t have to spend money on something that you won’t use to its full value.  It saves you money, fosters community, and if we all tried to have this attitude, it would send a message to the makers of these products that we really don’t need nearly as much as they’re producing.  Simplicity is a more complicated lifestyle than one would think, but it’s a brave and worthwhile one.  Our convenience is not worth anyone’s freedom.

The Fair Project: March

Welcome back to The Fair Project!  Spring is here, and I’m pumped to break out my sundresses and sandals!

My March started with spring break, which for me meant work, family, and relaxation.  I have a few awesome jobs, and I spent a great deal of my spring break working at Bridal Aisle Off-the-Rack and Consignment.  It’s a joy of a job–there are always stories to be heard, and I love seeing everyone so excited about big events in their lives.  I’ve worked here since my junior year of high school, long before I was so passionate about secondhand shopping, but it’s managed to fit perfectly into the way I view money and material things.  We all have so much stuff and it’s easy to just get rid of it when something new catches our eye, so consignment shops are a great way to cut down on excess.  Especially with formals, which are typically worn once or maybe two or three times if they’re more versatile, it’s important that we know of places that can take our unwanted items off of our hands.  For example, the dress pictured below came in over my break: it was worn once for prom and had no visible damage–you wouldn’t know it from one of our new off-the-rack dresses.

This dress retailed for over $300 and was sold at our shop for $215!  It was only there for three days, and you’d never know it had been worn before!  So glad it could go to make another girl feel beautiful–it’s great to give your items a second life.

Not only do I love my job because it promotes secondhand shopping, but also because it’s made me realize that it’s imperative to support small, local businesses.  I’ve watched our store grow in size and popularity so much over the last two years, and I know it wouldn’t have happened without the owner putting in countless hours of hard work.  Small businesses are wonderful places to shop because the employees are usually so much more involved and passionate and really work to form a personal connection with the customers.  I know that in my time at Bridal Aisle, I’ve often wished that I could keep up a connection with my brides and prom girls after they leave because I’m excited for their events and have managed to form a small friendship with them in the short time they were there.  I’ve even cried or come close to tears at a few bridal appointments!  The other fantastic thing about shopping small is this: your money isn’t going to line the pockets of another wealthy CEO.  It’s going to support a family, to support dreams coming true, and to invest directly in the personal lives of people who are doing hard, honest work.  I’m not going to write a big, long advertisement for us on here, but if you’re interested in shopping or consigning with us, check out our website, as well as our Facebook page and Instagram, and feel free to contact me as well!

Another highlight of my spring break was a trip with my family to the Mall of America.  I went with one goal in mind: to visit The Body Shop.  I mentioned them in my first post in this series, and I was finally able to visit their one physical location in Minnesota.  From the moment I came in, I loved it!  The staff was extremely personable and involved in our entire time shopping; they answered every question we had, tested products on us to help find the right ones, and gave us plenty of recommendations and suggestions to fit what we were looking for.  When one of the workers asked why we were shopping there, I told her about my passion for fair-trade items, and she told me that that was the reason she wanted to be part of the company, and we instantly bonded.  It was so encouraging to be in a place with like-minded people who understood why I care so much about workers getting paid fair wages in every part of the process, from ingredient sourcing to sales.  They had fantastic customer service from start to finish–they gave us a bunch of free samples of products with our purchase, and seemed genuinely happy that we were supporting their business.


The Body Shop is a place to love for a number of reasons: they’re an all-natural, cruelty-free company with a number of community-trade ingredients in all of their products.  They just added their twentieth and are aiming to double the number in the next few years.  They aim to enrich, not exploit the community, which not only means fair pay for the workers, but also being mindful of the environment and stewarding the manufacturing and agricultural parts of the process well.  Not only do their products uphold the values of ethical production, but they also don’t sacrifice quality in doing so.  My mom and I both bought this concealer, and it’s worked quite well.  My only complaint is that the stick broke soon after I bought it, but that could’ve been because I rolled it up too high or was too rough with it.  I also bought this lipstick (pictured below), and am absolutely in love with it!  It’s long-lasting with a beautiful color and doesn’t dry out my lips as much as I thought a matte liquid would.  My sister got a tea-tree face wash, and her skin looks absolutely amazing after having used it for even a short time.  I’m excited to begin transitioning my drugstore products to theirs, and I’ll keep you all updated as to how I like them!

The Body Shop Matte Lip Liquid in Mauritius Dahlia (feat. Northwestern’s beautiful Nazareth Chapel lobby)

I had a public speaking class this semester, and one of the biggest assignments we had was a persuasive speech.  I originally wanted to do mine on joining a music ensemble, but it didn’t fit the requirements as well as I had hoped, so I decided to do it on a more common topic that I’ve almost exhausted for myself: secondhand shopping.  Don’t get me wrong, I love informing people on why I shop the way I do, but it felt like that was something everyone already knew about me.  I reluctantly gave in and pulled up the topic again, and God must have wanted me to do it because it went quite well!  I normally despise people watching my speeches, but in the spirit of vulnerability, it’s posted on my Facebook!  I spent a great deal of time watching the documentary The True Cost for this project, and I would highly recommend it to anyone.  It goes in depth with firsthand accounts about the environmental, economic, and personal impacts of the clothing industry.  The filmmakers traveled around the world interviewing people from all stages of production, which added great credibility to the film and helped me understand the deeper effects of the industry as well as how interconnected it is.  It’s available on Netflix, but if you’re like me and one of the few people left in this country without it, fear not: you can rent it online at their website.

Other fun things: I’ve gotten a few cute items of clothing from the Northwestern Online Garage Sale page on Facebook (aka where UNW girls’ money goes to die), and got a fair-trade chocolate bar in the mail from my uncle!  I also received this skirt from a friend–it didn’t fit her, but she couldn’t return it, so she generously let me have it, and I adore it!

Secondhand mer-cat skirt from a lovely friend (plus secondhand white dress shirt)…heart eyes for days!  (Also, what are the chances I find such a cute thing to match it the day I happen to wear it?)

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about secondhand shopping and fair-trade items as I’ve been talking about it, and people generally seem proud that I’m doing it, but not willing to jump into it themselves.  I’d encourage you to pick one item and start buying it secondhand or fair-trade, and then go from there.  Fair-trade coffee is pretty easy to find, as well as chocolate.  You could start buying secondhand accessories instead of getting them all at the mall.  All it takes is that first step, and then if you’re intentional about it, the attitude will come with time.  Curiosity is key–when you start wondering about who made what you’re eating or wearing, you’ll be that much more likely to look into it and then do something about it.  Please let me know if you’re interested in shopping fair-trade and secondhand; I would be thrilled to talk to you about it!  Sometimes all you need is more information.  For those of you on this journey with me, keep pressing on and living simply so others may simply live.

Until next time!


The more I experience life and its beauty and ugliness, the more I realize just how much we don’t know about each other.  My life has lately been change after change after change–it’s my first year of college, so what did I expect?  I’ve grown in ways that I never expected and have been learning far more than just how to be a good journalist.

The tumult of life can make casual conversation awkward.  When someone passes me on my way to class and asks “how are you?” out of friendliness or courtesy, I don’t feel like I can give them an answer in the time that they have.  If my short answer is “good,” it’s probably because God is showing me new things, I’m having a good time with the new friends I’ve made, and my classes are confirming my calling, and I want to tell them about that.  If my short answer is “alight” (translated: definitely not alright), there’s another whole slew of reasons as to why I’m “alright,” and those won’t fit into the five seconds of passing on the sidewalk.

Everything in life right now is too big for these causal conversations, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.  When I go about my day, I often hear little snippets of people’s stories.  They feel like little windows being opened up to help me understand more about who they are and why they do what they do.  These snippets are teasers; they never provide the full view, but they’re immensely helpful in our understanding of one another.  Before we know each other’s stories, there is a wall preventing the kind of communication and interaction that truly feeds the soul because it knows it.  Obviously our stories are not for everyone, but the awareness alone that there is more than meets the eye is often a huge game changer.  We must give grace in our dealings with one another because we simply don’t know what someone was carrying when they came into the room–not just their recent struggles and victories, but their whole life.  Stories have an incredible power to humanize.  They put a face to statistics, assumptions, and stereotypes.  They help us understand a person’s behavior, character, attitude, and actions.  Our world would be a much more peaceful place if we could start to understand why.  Too often, we jump to conclusions and fill in the blanks with our own assumptions in order to understand, but we often don’t jump to the truth.

I’m currently the Assistant News Editor of our campus newspaper, and it’s a job that I dearly love.  We have a little section in every issue called the “Campus Character,” in which we feature one student and one faculty/staff and write about what makes them interesting.  I’ve written a few of these stories this year, and it’s shown me just how much we don’t know about people.  I wish I could do a Campus Character about every person at this school because of how much I learn about people.  How often do we pass each other on the street, having no idea that he just went through a breakup, she just landed her dream internship, he finally finished a project that kept him up all night for weeks, or she has a dear family member suffering from cancer?  Every time I read a “Humans of New York” post, I’m amazed that these stories are just walking around on the city streets and that the people around them are clueless as to the movie-plots-waiting-to-happen and the unbelievable true tales that are contained in the individual right next to them.  It makes me want to sit down and interview everyone I come across.  We can spin thrilling tales of fiction as much as we want, but the best stories are the ones that have truly been lived.

The Fair Project: February

Well, it’s March now, but this post is for February.  It’s been a busy month for me with lots of projects, midterms, and fun in between!  My spring break started yesterday so now I finally have some time to sit down and tell you all about how I’ve been living fair this month.

I actually purchased a few items of clothing this month!  I picked up a tie as a gift from TurnStyle a few weeks ago–it was only $7.50 and was as good as new.  Fun tidbit for local friends: the TurnStyle in Coon Rapids is so much more than just clothes!  They’ve got tons of decor, furniture, and other home goods to expand your range of secondhand shopping.  The same day, I also purchased a somewhat-tacky blouse for an old lady costume I needed for an event for my dorm floor, and in the spirit of vulnerability, here it is:


Luckily it was only $5, and I plan to donate or resell it, so if you’d like it, let me know!

I always say that my mom finds everything good in my life, and she continued to prove that to me by picking up an adorable blazer and peplum top–two of my favorite things to wear–from a huge sale that Clothes Mentor was having.  She knows my love for secondhand shopping and my inability to do so often because of my busy schedule, so she did a little for me.

My favorite purchase this month is easily my black-and-white polka-dotted dress.  Northwestern has an “online garage sale” group on Facebook, and it’s a great way for us poor college students to make a few extra bucks or buy something for very little money.  I love the idea of this because when we feel like our dorms from bursting at the seams, it’s an easy solution to getting rid of some of our unwanted stuff without throwing it right into the trash or having to figure out when and how to get to a donation center.  It also fosters connections between students whose paths wouldn’t ordinarily cross, and it’s a fun way to add to your wardrobe without your money supporting labor trafficking!

Processed with VSCO with ke1 preset

Because February was too warm for its own good, I just had to wear this dress as soon as I got it.  It’s pretty simple, but one of the keys to simplistic living is having a few basic pieces that you can build off of using scarves, layers, jewelry, different color palettes, and ways to dress up/dress down.  It may feel like you’re wearing the same thing over and over, but if you’re really looking to downsize, save space, and not be a clothes-hoarder (preaching to myself…yikes), it’s a great decision to make.

One thing I could have improved on this month is my makeup purchases.  I had a mascara emergency one day: I opened up the bottle and it was bone-dry, so I made a Target run that night and picked up some Maybelline stuff.  It’s what I’ve been using for a while and I love it, but the company doesn’t align with the fair shopping path I’m on.  I’ll hopefully be visiting Minnesota’s one physical location  of The Body Shop soon–in the Mall of America!  Their products are bit more pricy, but they have a great pledge of not only trading fairly, but also not testing on animals and sourcing ingredients in an environmentally-friendly manner.  I think I’m willing to pay a little extra for a product that I know is kind to the world and the people in it.

February also brought National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, promoted by the #enditmovement, on the 23rd.  I was able to attend a special informational chapel session about it, and was glad to see the turnout we had.  To those of you who attended the chapel, drew a red X on your hand, or learned more about human trafficking that day, I challenge you to go beyond the red X.  Go beyond February 23.  Now that you have the awareness, it’s time to move to action.  Take the first step towards living fair: choose to purchase fair-trade coffee, chocolate, or tea.  Start buying your clothes secondhand.  Be conscious of how your purchases affect the world, because we don’t often realize how interconnected everything is.  There are 27 million individuals enslaved in this world–more than at any point in history.  There’s so much awareness today than even a few years ago, but we’ve still got a long way to go.  I get a lot of positive responses when I tell others about The Fair Project, but not many people have considered joining it themselves.  My question is, “why not?  What’s stopping you?”  A few common responses to this are:

  • “Fair-trade items are hard to find/too expensive.”  I completely understand that, but if you just look a little harder, ask around, and consider buying a little less of something to make up for the cost of buying something that supports fair labor, you’ll find a way that works for you.  The StoryChangers Facebook group for people who have signed the Fair Pledge is a great resource!  We post our fair-trade purchases frequently, making it easy to get informed on how and where to buy ethically-produced items.
  • “I don’t like the idea of wearing someone else’s clothes.”  Most consignment stores require clothes to be washed before being brought in, and they have very high standards of quality, so the items are like new when you purchase them.  If anything, maybe an inside tag has been cut off or a belt is missing from a dress, but those are really the only problems I’ve run into.

As we venture into March, I’ll be exploring the world of fair-trade beauty products, spending some time at the bridal consignment shop where I work, and hopefully introducing my mom to Whole Foods!  Let’s go change the world.

The Fair Project: January

I am so excited to announce that I’ll be partnering with Stories Cafe in The Fair Project!  Read below for the introduction and how you can make a change.

I’m Jenny.  I’m a nineteen-year-old first-year sophomore in college, studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Northwestern–St. Paul.  I love Jesus and people, and He has given me a passion for using my words to tell other people’s stories.  I first learned about human trafficking when I was in eighth grade.  I was appalled that slavery still existed in this day and age, and even more shocked to find out that it was happening in my own backyard.  The thought of another person with a heart and a soul and a story, made in the image of God, was being sold for their body, being used like an object, broke my heart.

It wasn’t until about the last year that I realized the role I played in modern-day slavery.  No, I wasn’t supporting pimps and allowing twelve-year-old girls to be prostituted, but I found out that human trafficking is much more than that.  I found out that my love for shopping was robbing men, women, and children across the world of their dignity and forcing them into unfair and inhumane working conditions.  The clothing industry is one of the largest players in the worldwide game of the sale and purchase of human beings.  I couldn’t live with the fact that my desire for that $10 sundress at Target, easily purchased without second thought, supported this industry.  Towards the end of 2016, I decided to make a change.

I began only shopping at consignment stores.  Buying clothes secondhand slows the demand for new ones to be made, which slows the industry.  I became more observant of what I was buying, where it was made, and how little it cost.  If a dress only costs $10 after the store has marked it up from the original factory price, how much did it cost to make, and how much of that money did the worker see?  I found myself asking “do I really need that?  Is it worth supporting unfair labor for something that will just make my overstuffed closet more full?”  These questions quickly squelched my desire to buy whatever item I’d been eyeing.

I’ve never been huge on New Years’ resolutions; they’re often too vague and don’t last.  However, for 2017, I knew that I wanted to be intentional about my purchases.  My resolution had two parts: first, I would try to limit how much clothing I purchased in the first place.  As a college student living in the dorm and sharing a closet with two other girls, I don’t have much space be putting new clothes every month as it is.  Secondly, when the need for new clothing arises, I will continue in my trend of only buying secondhand (excluding socks and underwear, but if anyone knows where I can purchase those fair-trade, let me know!).  This doesn’t only apply to clothes, shoes, and accessories, but to nearly everything in my life, because not only does buying secondhand slow the human trafficking industry, but it also reduces how much stuff ends up in landfills.  Oftentimes we get rid of perfectly good items–be they clothes, furniture, electronics, or really anything else–because of small, fixable damages or simply because we found something new and better.  If we tried to fix the damages or gave them to someone who didn’t mind, we wouldn’t need to constantly buy new things.  Our reliance on convenience only fuels the system.

I would love to see you embark on this journey of justice and simplicity with me.  Over the next few months, I’m going to begin transitioning to more natural and fair-trade beauty products (check out The Body Shop), as well as making some of my own!  I will keep you all updated as to what works and what doesn’t.  Be conscious of your purchases.  Know where your items are from.  Slow the system.  Dare to live simply so others may simply live.

Agony, Suffering, and the Truth

All my life, I’ve heard people say “God is good despite our circumstances.”  For the longest time, that was an easy concept for me to grasp: God is above the ups and downs of this world and works all things together for His glory.  Even in the hard times I had throughout my life, I always knew He had a plan.

But what about when your earth shatters and life as you know it is suddenly a big black question mark on an empty white background?  In the moments when your heart drops and you come face-to-face with the deep, potent emotions that you desperately wish to shove back into their lairs in the rarely-opened parts of your soul, how do you respond?  When you can physically feel the wrenching in your heart and your only way of expressing the anguish you feel is through a stream of uncontrollable tears, when you cannot even find the simplest words to formulate a prayer, when you sit shaking from the pain of living in a bruised and tattered world, how do you lean on the Rock?  You know that God’s goodness is still alive and well and more real than ever, but so is your despair.  You feel as if saying “I know God has this all under control,” even though you do know that, ignores the agony that is still fresh and present.

I survey my surroundings and I see countless signs of God’s goodness.  The leaves on the giant maple outside the Robertson Student Center are just beginning to shift to the slightest tinge of yellow.  At the same time, its neighbors are lit up in a fiery blaze of reds and oranges, looking like a watercolor painting on the rain-dampened campus.  The sidewalks are carpeted with remnants of maple and oak, each leaf a testament to the creativity of the Creator.  I’ve heard of three engagements this week, and it’s only Wednesday.  I’ve laughed at the stupidest puns and stories even in the midst of a rough spot in life.  I’ve been blessed to be at school and learn more and more about my Lord each day, surrounded by peers and professors whose life goals are to know Him and make Him known.  I’ve heard stories of children of God who have overcome obstacles that they thought were going to knock them down for the rest of their lives.  Perhaps God’s goodness in the midst of our trials is the most evident in the little things–the seemingly insignificant daily blessings that bring a genuine smile back to a distressed face.

In the turmoil that comes with transition, in the campus conflicts, in the cancer diagnosis of someone you hold dear, in the feelings of loneliness, in the yearning to be surrounded by people who truly know your heart and soul, on the days in which you feel especially crappy, and in all the feelings that come with these trials and more, know this: God’s goodness, God’s plan, God’s love, grace and mercy do not change with our feelings.  He is still His majestic and glorious self even when we don’t know how to begin to identify our pain.  Open up your heart’s doors to receive your emotions to their full degree; do not bury your pain.  In this, still know truly in your heart that He is above our struggles and through that, you can rejoice.  We as Christians are always told to rejoice in our sufferings, so much so that it’s become a “Christianese” phrase that we don’t think about in its fullness.  It seems like a normal thing to do– that is, until you actually have to do it, because not only are we called to rejoice in our sufferings, but also because of our sufferings.  James goes far enough to tell us to consider it pure joy when we face trials of any kind (James 1:2).  That seems impossible and insane, but consider this: our sufferings are a humbling reminder that the world is not as it should be; that we are not where we belong. The season of confusion that we may be walking through today cannot begin to compare to the glory that awaits us in the land of the Lord (check out Romans 8, especially verses 18-30 for Paul’s beautiful and powerful writing on this).

So take heart, dear friends.  If nothing more, rejoice in the fact that your pain is temporary and that this world is strangely dim compared to our Heavenly home.  God is still good in the chaos and the pain and the unspeakable heartbreak, and His goodness doesn’t change just because we can’t feel it.  What a joy we have in knowing that truth!

To a Senior

I really need to update my blog more often.  My last post was about graduating, and here I am in my third week of college not having written anything.

Anyway, this post is for my good friends who will be starting their senior year tomorrow.  It’s a year of unknowns, hopes and dreams, anxiety, and excitement.  Hopefully you all can learn some lessons from the mistakes I made and take my advice for the things that went right.

People are constantly telling you to “make the most of your senior year.”  Listen to them.  Not only make the most of it, but approach it with a joyful attitude.  You will be hit with scary numbers, life-changing decisions, important dates, and big questions.  Make the decision now to have a positive attitude in the face of these carriers or anxiety.  I walked through all of these situations in fear, and it changed me as a person.  Put your trust in God and His eternal wisdom instead of worrying about the things of this life that come and go like the morning mist.

Something else I’ve heard often is that the friends you make in high school “don’t mean anything” once you graduate and that you realize that you were only friends because you saw each other daily.  While that may be true for some people in your life, I challenge you to defeat that stereotype for the people you’re closest to.  I made some excellent friends in high school and I’m already even a few weeks into college.  Not every high school friend has to be your best friend, but don’t give up on a friendship because life is changing.  It’s okay to “not close the yearbook.”

High school isn’t everyone’s favorite time of life, but I believe it is what you make it.  Your senior year is no exception.  I loved high school despite all its dumb rules and drama because I found ways to enjoy it–I made friends with great people, I got involved (even if it took me till my senior year), and I connected with my teachers.  You might be itching to get out and be on your own, away from a place that can feel restrictive or overbearing, but don’t wish your precious days away.  Life moves too quickly; take it all one day at a time because things will be done before you know it.

Junior year may have been difficult for you with the ACTs and hard classes and college tours and I’m sure you’re all looking forward to some degree of “senior slide.”  Senior year isn’t easy, believe me, but it’s a different kind of hard that junior year.  It’s emotionally stressful, but it won’t overcome you if you don’t let it.  Face every obstacle in optimism and every trial with determination, knowing that even in the darkest valley, things will get better.  I survived!  You have nothing to worry about.  I believe in all of you.  Utilize your advisors, your study tools, your admissions counselors, your recruiters, your friends, your family, your pastors, your mentors, and all the things you’ve been taught up to this point.  Then get out there and go conquer the world!  I cannot wait to see what you all do this year and with the rest of your lives.


Lots of love,


From a Senior

Graduation party season is upon us!  Soon we’ll be spending our Saturday and Sunday afternoons eating crock pot meatballs and Costco sheet cakes, playing ladder-ball on someone’s lawn surrounded by streamers and plastic tablecloths in the school colors of the graduate.  While milling around with friends, you’ll eventually encounter the person for whom this party is being held, and without thinking, ask him or her the inevitable question: “So what are you doing next year?”  Everyone wants to know.  I understand–I want to know the future plans of the students with whom I’m graduating.  It’s an exciting time of life, and everyone does it differently.  However, I far too often feel that all seniors can ever think about is the upcoming year.  We’ve just finished a significant era of our lives, but all anyone ever wants to know is what we’re going to do next.

Here’s some advice from a soon-to-be graduate: when you go to those grad parties, make sure to acknowledge the last four years, not just the next four.  Ask the graduate what they were involved in during their time in high school and what some of their memories are.  Ask about teachers that have had an impact on them.  Ask about their favorite classes.  Absolutely ask about what they’re going to do in their future, but don’t forget about what they just accomplished.  I guarantee that they’ll be happy that they don’t have spit out the same answer to you that they told their great uncle ten minutes ago.  Help them celebrate the accomplishments of high school as well as the excitement of what’s up next.

The Weight of my Worry

Anxiety is probably my biggest struggle.  It creeps up on me unexpectedly, causing me to worry myself to a point of illogical thinking on whatever issue it decides to attack.  I’ve been a worrier for as long as I can remember, and it is not an enjoyable way to live.  The constant fear of not being good enough or not doing everything correctly or messing up my only chance at something haunts me with everything I do in life.  I live in a constant state of “what if”–what if I don’t raise my ACT high enough to get more scholarships?  What if my food is expired and I get sick and have to miss school tomorrow?  What if everyone in my choir secretly hates me for being so passionate about singing?  What if my friends are all truly annoyed with me all the time and just pretending they like me?–and so forth.  I don’t recommend it to anyone.

I’ve tried to conquer my worry many times over the years.  I’ve surrendered it to God in prayer, in tears, in screaming and shaking and sobbing.  I wrote it down on a piece of wood and burned it at church camp.  I stayed up late one night and scribbled “let it go” over a piece of paper until I could feel the weight lifted from my shoulders.  All of those things felt amazing.  I felt like I didn’t have to worry anymore.  I knew God was taking care of me.  For a long time, the anxiety stayed relatively at bay unless I had a performance or a big test coming up.  Fast forward a few years–I’m a senior in high school, I’ve applied and been accepted to a private Christian college, I’ve filled out the FAFSA, and I’m in a year-and-a-half long committed relationship.  College is freaking me out.  I have no idea how I’m going to pay for the education and experience I want so badly, and I also have no idea what my life will look like at this time next year, especially when it comes to my relationship.  A long distance relationship scares me, but there’s still so much undecided, so I’m just sitting here, left to the mercy of finances and parents and admissions officers.  I hate not knowing, and I hate the thought of shaking up the world I know and love.

I know this is a lesson in trusting God, and I’m trying to.  I know He knows better; He can see the future and has laid all this out for His glory.  I know that He is going to put me on the path that will glorify Him in the most beautiful way, even if I have to go through pain.  I know this is not about me and that there are so many things I can’t see due to my limited earthly perspective.  I know all these things logically in my head, but when emotions get involved and worry stomps its heavy foot down on my heart and crushes the strength I had built up by letting it go in the first place, my logic goes out the window.  I don’t know how to shed this beast that keeps finding its way into my heart and mind.  I feel like I’ve tried everything and it just keeps coming back.  Am I going to live with this for the rest of my life, constantly warring against myself for my own peace of mind?  I’ve given it to God so many times, but it always ends up attacking me again.  I want the feeling I had after I watched the stick with “worry” written on it go up in flames; I want to feel the freedom of letting God carry my burdens once again, but I just can’t seem to shed this weight.  I am burdened down tonight.