I thought I was pretty - gleanings from John chapter one

I thought I was pretty - gleanings from John chapter one

As I’ve read through the Gospel of John, so many memories have been stirring… and as I’ve worked through them, I’ve been constantly drawn to you: the young girls crying themselves to sleep at night, praying to be somebody they’re not, begging to be somebody worth knowing. I see you in my story, and I see us in John. May I share with you?


I remember being very young, around five or six, and my dad asking me what I liked about myself.

I said, "I think I'm pretty."

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Confidentiality and Identity in Foster Care

Confidentiality and Identity in Foster Care

We had a sitter once who asked about a friend’s newly adopted child, not by the child’s name or status as a son or daughter, but by the child’s ethnicity. In that very moment, I realized that I needed to be much more confidential about the reasons our foster child was in our care. Because the reasons he came into care did not define him then, and they don’t define him now. Those obstacles are not his identity, nor is the fact that he was in foster care at all. His identity is found in Christ, and in Christ alone. Sometimes I wonder if by sharing details about our foster children, we are unknowingly allowing a large misunderstanding population to assign them a false identity that will follow them the rest of their lives, along with all the stereotypes that will jump on for the ride.

No, actually… I don’t wonder if that happens. I know that happens, because I’ve seen it happen.

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An open letter to teenage girls watching Thirteen Reasons Why - Part Two

**Click here if you missed part one of this letter. 


  • Before I start, I have a bit of homework for you: I want you to think of (and write down) ONE safe and completely trustworthy adult in your life. Don't read on until you have written at least one name.

I have had a lot of conversations with so many of you recently, and one thing I know for sure... school drama and friend issues are not unique to you. These are things that are occurring in every single classmate and friend who you see at school every day. We're talking public school, private school, home school, junior high, senior high. Every. Single. Classmate. Even the punks, the mean girls, and the bullies.

Your teenage years are, in part, just going to be messy. Some more than others and in messier ways than others, but this is a fact of life for every person who has ever lived through these tough years. Mine were messy, your parents’ were, and parts of yours will be too. Don't let Hannah Baker single you out, because she wasn't alone in her torment either. Hannah's problem was that she did not accept the community around her, or share her struggles with the adults who she knew loved her and confirmed her value. She hid her pain, and it came to a point where she believed that it was too much to bear...

I want to take you through just a few truths I want your heart to hear in the wake of this series.

  • Mental illness plays an enormous role in suicide. Suicidal people are often suffering from depression, and depression is not once mentioned in this series. Friends, that is a crucial problem. This series has let you down, it has not shown you the truth about suicide, the real causes behind it, or what to do when those thoughts start creeping in your mind. Yes, Hannah Baker certainly went through trauma that could easily trigger depression... she is a broken person who has been let down and lied to by a world that has hurt her and taken advantage of her at every angle. And I know that some of you are experiencing the very same or very similar traumas that she experienced. Groups of kids at school reducing your worth to how much you resemble them in lifestyle, wealth, fashion, weight, looks, which parties you're invited to and what you do at those parties... to how they can use you best and get the most out of you. Or selfish boys objectifying you, reducing your value to what they can get from your body, both visually and physically.  And I know that this series may have triggered some scary thoughts or memories in your heart and mind, I know that many of you are journeying through depression; I have been there. Please, go to your safe adult or call the suicide lifeline. Share your struggles and your fears, ask for help, ask for HOPE.


  • I have a question for you... answer the poll to the right and please be honest, this is completely anonymous. How many of you have been asked to send a boy a nude or inappropriate photo over text, Snapchat, or Instagram's new disappearing photo feature? How many of you have done it? The statistics say that 22% of teenage girls just like you are experiencing this type of objectification every day. Maybe you're one of them... maybe not, I don't know, however, I do know this, and you need to know it too: you get to make a choice in that moment; you get to say "NO." Will you show your classmates your true God-given value? Or will they assign to you the value they believe will gain them the most? Like Hannah, will you desire for your first kiss to be innocent, but sneak out of your house in the middle of the night to share it with a boy you barely know? Justin assigned Hannah the value he believed she deserved. No boy owns the privilege to assign your value and reduce it to what they believe you deserve; that is not what you deserve, that is never what you deserve! Girls, focus your hearts on building healthy relationships and friendships with people who have earned your trust, people who have your interest at heart above their own, people who genuinely love you, and people who will point you toward Christ when the world would point you only toward its own ungodliness.

  • I want you to value yourself beyond what your peers think, say, or do to you. I want you to see your worth through the eyes of the eternal God, your Father, your Savior, the One Who gave you your worth, the one who made you royalty, gave you a name, made you a daughter of the King, a princess, an heir of His holiness and righteousness... all that is His is YOURS when you trust in Him! He has given you infinite value! (Ephesians 1:3-5, Matthew 6:25-29, Psalm 139:14) These years of your life will not last forever... journey through them holding His hand, put your rain boots on and trudge through the mud and muck that is high school drama, family problems, friendship issues, relationships. He will pull you through it, He will make you stronger because of it... He doesn't tell you He won't give you more than you can handle on your own. What He does tell you is that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)  He will provide refuge under His wings (Psalm 91), He will carry you and sustain you (Isaiah 46:4, Psalm 55:22), He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deut. 31:6), He can redeem even the most awful mess that you are walking through right now. He can even put love in your heart for the ones who are hurting you, but that doesn't mean you need to let them off the hook.


  • Suicide as an act of revenge is ineffective. Rapists will still be rapists, pedophiles will still be pedophiles, bullies will go on with their lives of bullying and high school drama will go on forever. Hannah's story is not reality, it's Hollywood romanticizing suicide to make it look like a viable option. Reality is that life will continue for most of a suicidal teenager’s peers after just a few weeks, and the life that was taken in a vengeful moment will have been in vain. That is an incredibly hopeless reality, isn't it? Hopeless only in the absence of divine intervention! I need you to know that because of your place in the family of God and your infinite value in His eyes, your story isn't hopeless at all, but FILLED with hope! And a future! And a glorious purpose in the Kingdom of God!


  • Some of you you are enduring horribly evil acts at the hands of somebody who you are supposed to be able to trust. Some of you are experiencing ongoing abuse and hurt from someone who outsiders would never expect. Some of you may look at Hannah Baker and see an exit, the easiest way out. Statistics tell us that, like Hannah, one in nine of you have experienced sexual abuse, but the statistics tell us that this abuse is more often at the hands of those you should be able to trust the most, those who are much closer to you than your classmates. The reality of those statistics may make disclosure feel impossible, complicated, terrifying. How will it affect everyone involved? Will he hurt me? Will he call me a liar? Will anyone believe me? I know that Hannah's way out may feel less complicated. There is a better way. It will take great courage, it will be hard, scary, dark... but at the end of the darkness, there will be shining a glimmer of light. Hold the hand of the ONE name you wrote down earlier, share what is happening in your life, and walk forward, praying continually for strength, courage, perseverance.


Wrapping this up the same way I started:

there's something Hannah was pretty right-on about:


Your experiences, all of them, will have an enormous impact on the world and on people around you who are going through similar things.

Share your hurts, bring them to the adult you named above, knowing that there will be no judgement toward you for somebody else doing bad or mean things. You do not deserve to have bad things done to you, you haven't brought them on yourself, you are not alone, there is healing, there is redemption, and in your disclosure, there is hope for so many who were before you or would come after you.

And one day down the road of healing, your experiences will speak into the lives and hearts of those who will come after you, who are facing the bullies and loneliness of high school, or find themselves in the hands of evil, those who are scared, who just need ONE safe person they can completely trust to love them no matter what.

And maybe that person will be you.


*Check back tomorrow for a letter to those of you who have NOT watched Thirteen Reasons Why.

An open letter to teenage girls watching Thirteen Reasons Why - Part One

Well... it's 4:00 in the morning. I just finished watching Thirteen Reasons Why and I have some things to say.

Truth...? A couple of months ago, after reading a few comments on Facebook, I was intrigued by a show that I knew would make me cry... and we all know I need to cry on a daily basis, so I thought I should look into it, since I was just waiting around for season 2 of This Is Us... you know, to keep the daily tears alive and well. So I read the synopsis, and I ultimately decided that on an emotional level, this wasn't going to be something I needed to watch, these tears wouldn't be the healthy kind...

...but then I found out how many of you are watching it. And I started reading more about it. And I started remembering our conversations. And I realized I needed to watch it. Not for entertainment, not for a new Netflix binge, not even for the tears, but for you. I needed to watch it because I know the things you're going through at school and at home, and I've been through them too. And because I know you cry when you get home because of the way you've been treated, I have cried those same tears. And because I need you to know why you have value, despite the way petty high school girls make you feel, or selfish high school boys objectify you, and replace your worth with their worthless desires. And because you don't deserve any of those things, or any of the other awful and truly horrifying cards that life has dealt you.

But let's be clear on something: what you deserve even less is some trendy book and show on Netflix telling you how to cope with the way you've been treated, how to be the hero, how to punish those who hurt you, how to change the way people treat each other, how to be a martyr for other kids like you, who are struggling with school drama, and relationships.... and that dying will achieve all of this for you. Hannah Baker was wrong about that...

...but there's something she was pretty right-on about:


And that is the scariest part of this series. Because this series will affect everything... but not in the way its creators meant it to.

There seem to be two camps when it comes to Thirteen Reasons Why... the camp that says it will do more good than harm, and the camp that says it will do more harm than good.  

I want you to look at the evidence in your personal circle and decide for yourself which camp is proving to be more accurate... then I want you to listen, because I have some words to say about this.


Look at your classmates. Are they treating each other differently? More kindly? Are you seeing less bullying and more acts of kindness between the popular group at your school and the not-so-popular group? Or are interactions at school looking the same as they did two months ago, two years ago, two decades ago?

Over the next couple of days I'll share some examples and evidences of the harm this is doing right now in people's lives and hearts, but for now look at your own... Has this series changed your heart? Do you look at people differently than you did before? Maybe you're thinking, "Yeah! I said 'hi' to a kid who was being bullied in the hall yesterday." But what about the bullies? Did you look at them differently? More vengefully? What about the people who mistreat you? Have you found yourself thinking Hannah may have been right? Or have you set your mind to recall and recite the words of Jesus, "Love your enemies, and be pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:43-45)


I need you to remember something you’ve known since you were a child: people know that their actions will affect others. This has never been in question, people have always known this, forever and ever. Not a new concept, girls. Predators and bullies know that their actions will cause lifelong damage, depression, suicidal thoughts and/or actions.  The sad reality is not that they haven't been taught or learned that their actions affect others, but that they don't care about their victims, or that their evil will affect them. Rapists will still be rapists whether or not they watch a fictional teenager kill herself after being raped on a fictional television show. In fact, these scenes may even be triggers for them, driving them toward more victims sooner than later. Bullies will still be bullies, mean girls will still be petty and shallow. Sexual assault, abuse, anger, hatefulness and all forms of evil will still exist in the world. Fiction will never create new hearts. God creates new hearts. (Ezekiel 36:26, 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Instead of hoping a TV show or book will cause people to think about how their actions affect others, you need to pray. Pray for God's intervention in the lives of your peers, your enemies, your neighbors, family members... that He would draw them in, heal their pain, begin a work in their hearts and carry it on to completion. And that He would heal your heart too. That He would erase the lies and images you have seen in this series, that He would carry you through these messy high school years, and one day use them for a glorious purpose. That He would expose any evil you may be experiencing at the hands of others, and that He would protect you in the aftermath. That your peers would see Him when they look at you. That they would see in you what He sees in you: Jesus!

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20


*Check back tomorrow for part two: This is about YOU

Never stop running like Phoebe

Twelve years ago I went on a trip to Washington DC with a group of students from Mercer. We were taking a class on the Holocaust and Genocide, and a visit to the Holocaust Museum in DC was an optional learning excursion. I ran across photos from the trip recently and, no lie, excluding my roommate who was in the class with me, I didn't recognize one. single. face... much less names or experiences from the trip. When I really sit and think about it, I can vaguely remember bits and pieces from the museum... but that's all.

These are the things I don't remember... details, people and experiences that I know I enjoyed.

And these are the things I remember:

Being the "shy girl" and being asked throughout my childhood and into adulthood why I was so quiet... and shrugging my shoulders instead of answering. I could feel the looks I knew my various answers would receive.

Because one time I did answer... I told my new friends at my new big school that I was quiet because the boys in the small school I grew up in were brutal... and the looks I got the moment I answered their question were brutal... even worse were the looks I got when those girls returned to tell me that one of those boys laughed at me in response to their gossip... that's why I was so quiet.

Or maybe because of the looks I got in a high school class when I called a group of boys I lived with "guys," and one single stupid boy in the class mocked the way I said that word. I swore I would never say another word in that class... that's why I was so quiet.

Or the look I felt from the other side of the city and through AOL Instant Messenger the time I asked my high school crush if he had "seen any good movies lately?" Could I have asked a more pathetic question??? I immediately wanted to crawl under a rock and never again see his face to confirm the look I knew he was giving me from miles away... that's why I was so quiet.

Or when I started calling myself introverted instead of shy, and hoped this new label would magically make me comfortable in my own skin, but instead I continued to feel small and uninteresting when attempting to hold even brief and simple conversations with peers who claim this same label. The way they responded, they way they looked at me... that's why I was so quiet.

Or the time I mistook one sister for another, and watched an acquaintance nearby roll her eyes and walk away, and I swore I would never speak to this family again... that is why I was so quiet.

Or how I blamed private school for not socializing me well enough and for making me shy and socially awkward, but continually saw my sister and friends who grew up in the same school easily make new friends and hold conversations like it was second nature... and realizing it wasn't private school. It wasn't the fabricated looks and words that I had been convincing myself were real for years, and it wasn't even the looks and words that were real. It was me... it was me.

That's why I was so quiet.

That's why I ate dinner on the staircase at my best friend's house when I was ten years old instead of at the table with her family and the boys who lived with them.

That's why I ate lunch in my mom's office at my new big high school instead of the lunchroom, fearing I would be lost in a group of acquaintances who I knew would be judging my silent awkwardness the moment I showed my face.

That's why I refused to go to Sunday school with my peers well into adulthood, avoiding any chance of being called on and having to say any words whatsoever.

That's why I have one single memory of attending my church's youth group growing up. I felt out of place, uncomfortable, uninteresting, not spoken to, unwanted, judged and looked at. I grew up at this church, I grew up with these people, the youth pastor was great, but I never went back.

That's why I struggle to build genuine friendships and have a very small circle of relationships that are real and comfortable to me.

And that's why I hated every. single. person. who ever asked me why I was so quiet.

"IT'S ME!" I wanted to scream.

"It's because I know you won't care about me once you get to know me!"

"It's because I know I have nothing interesting to say, and even if I did I wouldn't know how to say it in an interesting way!"

"It's because I don't have the right hair or the right clothes or enough money and even if I did I still wouldn't be enough!"

"IT'S. ME. And I know you won't like me. Please don't try to like me, you'll only get my hopes up."

This is painful, friends. Kinda baring my soul here, and I would be lying if I said my keyboard isn't wet with tears as I type this.

Reliving hard memories and raw, extremely personal emotions is just very painful.

And to be completely honest, I still experience many of these same emotions and fabrications often. This probably has a lot to do with why we don't venture out too often. It's tough to get out there with all this luggage. It's heavy, I don't like carrying it around, but when I walk out of my front door it seems to just jump right on my back for the ride... and it's easier to just stay home... maybe we'll stay home this time, maybe it won't be so hard, so painful tomorrow.

What's even more painful than carrying my own luggage is seeing my girl, my four year old, precious, wonderful, sweet, silly, extroverted, never-met-a-stranger daughter showing herself to be exactly who she is: my daughter.

"How can I preserve her spirit? How can I protect her from losing who she is the same way that I did?" I asked Chris recently, after having seen her succumb to a friend's stronger personality and sit in gloominess for quite a while, the whole time promising me nothing was wrong.

This made me wonder... why was I so insecure in who I was? Why hadn't I bought into the truth? All those years I fabricated every look and reactions I truly believed were happening or would happen if I let a word slip out of my mouth, and I never searched for and embraced the one and only opinion that mattered and who He says that I amRedeemed from the person I believed I was, claimed as an image bearer of the King. Never laughed at, never mocked from the Heavenly places. Known as beautiful, known just as He created me... known as HIS.

Very early in my life, somewhere along the line the truth got lost in all of the fear, worry and tears. Maybe it's chemical, maybe it's genetic, I don't know... I do know that it's lies. Every bit of it. And in every way possible, with Christ in front of me, I am intent on fighting these lies in my children's lives and minds and hearts.

She was barely three years old when she came home from school and asked her daddy why she wasn't pretty, and just four years old when she solemnly shared that her best friend was "replacing" her...

Believers, these are lies the enemy is constantly throwing at us, pelting us with discouragement, ugliness, looks, judgement, anxiety, fabrications... lies that tell us we are less than who we are.

Can we hand our luggage over to Christ and walk in the truth of His grace for ourselves and our families? Can we remind our children who they are through reading the words of God their Father to them? Can we pray His Scriptures for them daily? Can we even embrace the very parts of our own personalities that we have believed to be faults for our entire lives? Can we embrace them as gifts and teach our kids to do the same?

So... how did Chris respond when I cried to him over protecting sweet Mercy's spirit?

He brought Jesus.

Of course he did. Who else could teach me how to preserve her spirit and protect her from the enemy's lies?

Only Jesus can... only her Creator, who so fearfully and wonderfully knit her together. (Psalm 139) Only Jesus.

One of our favorite books is Praying the Scriptures For Your Children*. Jodie Berndt has compiled scriptures to pray over our children as they grow and go through different seasons of their lives. These days, I'm praying these specific words over my little ones, and as I pray these scriptures for them, I know these words are piercing my own heart as well:


When I was sixteen years old, my best friend and I decided to start running together. Two steps into our first run, she just about fell over laughing. "Why are you running like that??" It was about sixteen more years before I could convince myself to run again, and it required a lot of emotional work to get myself outside to do it... When I watch my girl running crazy in the backyard, complete freedom in each step, not for a second concerned about what looks someone might give her or what anyone might be saying, I find myself feeling a little envious. She has no idea that she runs like Phoebe, she's just being Mercy...

...and I hope she never stops running like Phoebe, reminding me what it looks like to live this life the way it was intended to be lived: abundantly.

In John 10:10, Jesus tell us, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."

Let's memorize that, friends, and recite it every time we want to hide and go silent, when the enemy attempts to steal our spirit, kill and destroy our joy and abundance in Christ. "Come on! That's not living! Let's go!" ...if we don't practice living abundantly in the skin God gave us, how will our kids learn to? So today let's commit to running forward, praying His scriptures, memorizing His promises and speaking them over our kids, remaining confident that He is working in this magnificent life He's given us!

*the link in this post to Praying the Scriptures For Your Children is an Amazon affiliate link