Hopespoken 2015

In March of 2014 my friends and I walked into DoubleTree hotel in Dallas,TX and headed for the HopeSpoken registration line. It took me 30 seconds to begin thinking things like, “We’ve made a mistake. Everyone here is so…TOGETHER. How do they all know each other?”

But less than an hour later we were feeling better and a year later we went back.  It’s the law that when you go to a conference you have to blog about it, so here are some things I’ve thought about since the conference last month.

People are people, regardless of their online following.

It is embarrassing the number of times I asked people at HopeSpoken what their Instagram name was, only to then search and find out they had 50,000+ followers.

[Oh…THAT’S why everyone here seems to know you. My bad.]

It was nice though, not knowing anything about anyone. Getting to know them without ever having seen their online life. You should know, they are just like you and me. They have insecurities. They get nervous before they speak in front of people. They probably even worry about screwing up their children.

Online we see 30 seconds of people’s beautiful lives- and they DO have beautiful lives. They are genuine and kind people, but they are also humans dealing with life and the good and bad that comes with that.

Make your own group.

The small groups at the conference are really great. You get to know people you wouldn’t otherwise, and process some of the things that are being taught (shout-out to Emily Anderson, small group leader 2014 and Stephanie Holden, 2015).

On the last night of the conference people are given the chance to go to a special group that is geared toward their current stage of life. It turns out to be a really great support time for people.

Both years I have fallen into one group: singles. The first year I went to that group, I quickly realized that, while it was a great group, it was not for me. I lament my singleness much less these days, so I don’t necessarily view that as my “group”. So after a little while, I texted a friend to call me so I could leave gracefully.

[I always get phone calls at 10:30 PM, guys. Duh. This escape plan is not obvious at all.]

It was not graceful. My then-new-friend Katie cornered me in the hall the next day. She was all, “I know what you DID. I feel you, gur”. This year Katie and I decided to skip that group time, and in looking for a place to sit, we happened upon a group of women. They were sitting in the bar, drinking wine, and we thought, “THESE ARE OUR PEOPLE”. So we joined them.

We made our own group. We didn’t try to force ourselves into a group that may not have been what we needed. Where we may have even taken away from the good conversation they were able to have.

We hung out with our new friends until after midnight. Had we been afraid to join them, we would have missed out on some really great conversation, and what become one my favorite parts of the conference. Make your own group. Seriously. Find your people. Even the ones that are terrifyingly put together, sitting in the bar.

There are so many other things, but this is getting wordy, so I’m cutting it off. I’m not even gonna attempt to write about all the amazing things from Jen Hatmaker, because it would take forever. She did an amazing job speaking on Friday night. As did Stephanie Holden, Lynsey Kramer, Joy Prouty and Ruth Simons throughout the weekend (lots of other speakers, but these are the ones I got to hear).

So grateful to Casey, Danielle, and Emily for putting this thing together each year and doing it so well. Ima be stalking instagram next year trying to get a last minute ticket, so hopefully I’ll see everyone there!

Observations with Cindy

You know how sometimes married people lose that loving feeling? I know where they find it again.

They find it at weddings.

Maybe just for a moment, but they find it nonetheless.

It typically starts at the actual ceremony. You see the couples steal loving glances at each other during the vows.  I assume they’re gazing at one another thinking “I just love love so much!” or maybe “I remember when I just loved love so much.”

Then there’s the reception. One minute everyone’s having a good time, chatting and singing along to a catchy song. It’s an all play.  The next minute you turn to say something to your friend, but can’t because she’s GAZING LOVINGLY at her husband.  A quick glance around the room tells you that it’s happening.

Love. It’s in the air.

Couples probably don’t notice it, since they’re the source of it. But I see it.

No…I FEEL it.

So I sip my Baptist wedding tea, or we-knew-you’d-need-something-stronger-wedding wine, take a picture of the centerpiece, and pray to God the Cha Cha slide starts playing immediately.

I mean, it’s a PROVEN FACT that the Cha Cha slide is the only thing that can snap everyone out of this moment.

Happy New Year

At the end of each year I typically have some version of this super lighthearted thought.

“Yay, I made it through another year relatively unscathed!”

I don’t take for granted when I make it through to the other side of 365 days and my world hasn’t imploded.

A lot of people are going to go to bed as early as possible tonight- just to sleep off the rest of 2014. They’ll do so with the hope I believe many people secretly have, that tomorrow will bring newness.

I remember a year during college, where I reached the end exhausted. That’s the only word for it. It was a difficult year where I learned that the people who are supposed to be good often aren’t. That sometimes evil wins. That life can be really, really difficult.

There are years where the world is full of babies and healthy children while you lose yours. Where the world seems full of happy marriages while you are in the midst of divorce. Your neighbor won the friggin lottery, while you’re trying to keep the lights on. Job promotions and job losses.

Entire years where it feels like our loss is constantly mirrored with others gain.

If you’re one of the people who made it through 2014 relatively unscathed, be thankful. Then, look for the people who need some assistance. The people you may be able to help carry into 2015. They are there. Don’t use Social Media as a gauge when you’re looking for these people. Social media reflects very little of what’s actually happening in our friends’ worlds. Look for what they aren’t saying. Read between the lines.

And for the ones that are worn from 2014, you MADE IT THROUGH. Go to bed early if you want. A lot of people would rather be doing that anyways.

There are a lot of cliché sayings floating around about pain. I won’t offer those. But, in the months to come, if you need help, ask for it.

Low on faith? Search for it. As much as evangelicalism would have you believe that our doubts scare God. They do not. He can and will handle it. Ask your questions. He is well aware that this world is often an Es-H-Eye-Tee storm.

Happy New Year- Make it a good one, friends. For yourself, and for those around you.

There are a LOT of words on these here internets. People are sharing links to blogs, books, videos, articles, etc. all day long. There are word everywhere.

Seriously, whatever stats people used to quote regarding the amount of words we communicate on a daily basis have probably quadrupled since the invention of social media.  

After being a frequent reader of blogs for like 5 whole years and a Twitterer for 4 (which by the way makes a person an expert on these things), I’ve decoded certain phrases:

“Just the other day…”
I’m about to tell you a story about something that has happened in my lifetime. It could have been 5 years ago, 5 days ago, 5 minutes ago. In fact, it may not have even happened yet. 

“People always ask me…”
At some point in my life, someone has asked me or someone around me, a question that vaguely resembles this one. Sure, they may have been asking for directions to the nearest gas station, but when I tell the story, they were totally asking me to explain the meaning of life.  

“A good friend of mine wrote this life-changing book.”
Someone I know wrote this book, which I may or may not have read completely, but I’m going to ask you to read it anyway because they have mouths to feed and mortgages to pay. Also, I’m hoping if I get them enough sales, they’ll help me out when my book comes out in a few months. 

I write this list jokingly, but the point is that honesty is incredibly important.

People tend to believe what they read online, and they trust people quickly for whatever reason when it comes to what they write. Perhaps because it’s much harder to discern character over the internet. But, the fact is that as soon as someone gets even an inkling they are being tricked, they’ll jump ship.

Are the words you’re writing completely true? Could you defend them if you had to?

If the answers to either of those questions is “no”, then maybe we rethink hitting “send” or “publish”.

Dear Friend

Dear Friend,

Sometimes people from our past ask me if you and I are still friends. I say “Yes”, and try to act as if I don’t know what they really mean by this question.

I think they would like me to follow up my response with something along these lines:  

“Well, you know, I love the sinner…but of course I hate the sin.”

There was a time when I would have responded with that, but the older I get the sillier that response seems. As if it is MY job or my right to offer you or anyone else grace. Or to decide what areas it is you even need grace.

There are things I am sure are wrong. Murder. Human Trafficking. Child Abuse. Lying. Stealing.

Then there are things I won’t even pretend to know the answers on. I don’t presume to know who you are deep inside. Genetically, emotionally, spiritually. At the end of the day, that’s the most honest thing I can say. I just don’t know.

So I can only act on the things I DO know.

I do know that when a group begins to act as if a personal opinion gives them the right to hate, then that’s wrong.

When I act as if anyone needs me as their friend, to help them “see the light”, I’m wrong.

I do know you don’t need my friendship. I don’t need your friendship, but I like to believe that we will continue to choose this friendship. Because you are the same hilarious person I’ve known since we were kids. A person who cares about their friends and family deeply, and doesn’t take life too seriously.

I’m sorry that others tend to define you solely by your sexuality. For the moments early on, where I was so blindsided by that part of you, that I was no longer able to see you. A person, just like me.

I’m sorry that every time there’s a natural disaster or act of inhumanity, certain groups find ways to pin that on you. If we are to believe bad things happen as a result of human brokenness then I have to believe that God is angry about a whole lot more than you. His greatest commands were to love HIM and love OTHERS. I’m sure He has a lot of questions for His followers in those areas.

Most of all, I’m sorry the church has often made you feel as if God could not love you. This is the saddest part. I mean, a God who loves us unconditionally…having very human conditions placed on that love.

I don’t know how you even feel about God. I hope you know He loves you.

He loves you more than certain groups dislike you.

He loves you for the same exact reasons He loves me.

And as your friend I care today for the same reasons I cared when we were 14 years old.

Not in spite of the person you are, but because of the person you are.


 This is what joy looks like.
When this kid watches a tv show or plays a game that he
really loves, his whole body sort of freaks out.
For example, Bubble Guppies.
The second you turn the show on for him he’s mesmerized.
As soon as the music starts, he can’t help but start dancing around.
Tenth time we’ve watched this episode? Doesn’t phase him one bit.
But the best part is that throughout the show he’ll periodically turn
and look around to make sure that everyone else in the room is
enjoying this moment as much as he is.
It’s difficult to explain, but his face lights up, and he does this
gasp/giggle/smile thing as if to say “Guys! This is the best day ever.”
It’s like he wants everyone else to understand how awesome life is.
Suddenly you’re willing to watch the episode for the 11th time
because of how freakin’ excited this kid is.
This is just a reminder:Today can be the “best day ever”.
Life really can be awesome.
Awesome really can be contagious.

There can be joy…
Even in the moments where life feels like one giant re-run.

Confusing Altar Calls

One thing I’m thrilled about in my adult life is that I don’t find myself in altar call situations as often as I once did. I can remember sitting in my seat at church camp, convocation, Sunday service, true love waits rallies, heart pounding because I was never sure if I was supposed to stay or go.

The altar call men were always strategic. They had lots of moves. Many a time I stood, only to then be riddled with doubt, “Wait, was I supposed to stand? Hm, it’s only boys standing. Oh, you know…he definitely just asked the boys to stand and commit to being good husbands one day. Yep…pardon me while I have a seat.”

Also, I’m sure I messed up a few of the salvation counts these speakers went back home with. My bad, guys.

There are some standard moves that I can recall: 

The “Speak in confusing sentences so people don’t really know what they’re coming forward for” move.

He just said come forward if you want to dedicate your life to Jesus. I already did that. Do I need to go again? He sure is yelling a lot, and I can’t really keep track of what he’s saying anymore. Hold up,’super Christian’ is going forward and the cute boy from our brother dorm is too. Ahem, right behind you guys.

The “If you aren’t saved come forward. If you hate babies, stay in your seat. If you love Jesus come forward.  If you love Satan, stay in your seat.” move.

Well, I certainly don’t hate babies and I do love Jesus. Hey guys, I’m already saved! I don’t hate babies though and Satan’s a jerk so I’m just gonna make my way to the front. 

The “Write your sins on a piece of paper and nail it to this cross we’ve placed at the front of the room” move.

It’s not that I’m knocking this little exercise, Mr. Speaker man who was “almost in the NFL”. It’s just that, if I walk up there someone is very likely going to hug me, or cry at me and I’m not really comfortable with that. Plus, me and a hammer in front of all these people? I should save us all that embarrassment. How about I just stay put, and me and Jesus will have a little chat here. In my comfy seat, that’s not at the front of the room.

Lest you think all my church related anxiety is gone. Altar call anxiety has since been replaced with communion anxiety. The church I attend does the “come forward in your own time” communion. You’re talking to a girl who had communion hand delivered to her for a long, long time. So, me, walking to the front of the room to grab communion all by myself? Anxiety city.

An Oath

There’s a chance that I will one day be married, and upon saying “I Do”, I will immediately have the desire to marry all of my single friends off.

It’s a sickness. Married people just can’t help themselves.

So, today I make a promise to you, friends of future, married me. A promise to never say the following things to you out loud. Perhaps I’ll think them, but I won’t say them. 

“You just need to put yourself out there.”
You don’t have a significant other? Clearly you must be staying home every night in your sweat pants, watching Friends re-runs and playing with your 5 cats.

“Don’t worry. It’ll happen in God’s timing”
Wait…are you supposed to put yourself out there, or are you supposed to just wait?

So. Confusing.

Actually, this one I might say to you…but it will NOT be accompanied by any of these other lovelies. Also,  I vow not to say it while you’re wallowing in a moment of “I’ll be alone forever” despair.

In that moment, I’ll just awkwardly pat your head and say whatever magic words will make you stop crying.

“Maybe you should try a new church”
You know, because all single men in the church are godly, wholesome, and exactly what they say they are...Right?

“Are you being too picky?”
Well, I did turn 3 men away today, but seriously, one was too tall,  one was too short and the third one? He smiled way too much.

Let’s be honest, some women could stand to be a bit more picky. 

That my friends, is my promise. My promise to you. I’m sure there are many more things that could be added to the list, but it’s a start right?

After the Election

Over the last few weeks, leading up to Tuesday evening, I would sum up my view of many Christians in one word.


Angry Christians, fighting with each other, when we’re on the same team. Fighting with the world, whom we’re called to love. Fighting. Mad about gay marriage. Mad about abortion. Mad about Obama. Mad about Romney.

On Tuesday night, I realized that the anger, for a lot of people, is rooted in one more word: Fear. This was confirmed throughout the day Wednesday when I saw the things being posted online and heard the conversations of others in Starbucks. Statements made by good people caught up in the emotion.

I saw Christians being jerks. Making insensitive, general remarks about those who are on welfare. Christians, who have never gone without food or shelter, talking negatively about the poor.

Back to fear. Fear is something that is naturally a part of our lives. We live in uncertain times where horrible things happen all the time.To experience fear is unavoidable. But to take the fear, and turn it into anger isn’t beneficial to anyone….and it’s wrong.

If our country falls apart, the way people seem so concerned it will, it will not be because of one man. It will be a chaos resulting from the fact that our man-made, man-run government is flawed. A fall resulting from years and years of corruption.

I couldn’t bring myself to vote for either of the men. Mainly because our party system demands that we choose the person who we agree with on one or two issues, while disregarding our disagreement on many others. A sketchy candidate claims to be pro-life, and I’m expected to choose him. Expected to disregard many other things.

Back to anger. We don’t get to be rude because someone disagrees with us. We don’t get to twist the Bible to prove ridiculous points while ignoring other key messages within the same book. We will be held accountable for things like that.We don’t get to be jerks, then call that “loving the sinner and hating the sin”. We just don’t.

Camping Out For Saturday Night Live

***I realize this is kind of detailed. However, I found the blogs of other people SUPER helpful when I was searching for information on camping out for tickets- so figured I should include some details that may help other people***

Back in August, Liz and I decided to enter the SNL ticket lottery and we won. Once we found out that Christina Applegate was hosting, we knew we had to go.  Courtney decided to go and this meant we needed a third ticket.

So, we googled the mess out of the whole “how to get standby tickets” process and found out it would involve camping out the night before at NBC studios.

So, that’s what we decided to do.

Friday night Liz got into NYC at about 5:00 and went straight to the studio to get in line. There were about 35 people in front of her. Courtney and I arrived at about 9:30 that night and got to the line as soon as possible.

We brought with us sleeping bags, blankets and lots of layers. There were others in line who brought air mattresses, folding chairs, laptops. By morning time there was around 90 people in line I assume.

Sleeping out there wasn’t bad. There’s even a security guard who watches the line all night. I did have some moments in the middle of the night where I thought, “How does one know when they’re too cold? Would I know if my toes were frostbitten? Why did I think this sleeping bag would be warm enough?”

Around 6:45 a.m. a man came by and gave out free donuts and hot beverages to the people in line. Then at 7:00 the NBC staff came out and started handing out tickets. You could choose between tickets to the rehearsal (right before the show) or the live show.  Courtney chose the dress rehearsal ticket since that’s what we had. Also, the dress rehearsal has more sketches. She got number 11, so we felt like her odds of getting into the show that night were pretty good.

That evening, Liz and I went in to the studio about 30 minutes before standby people could, and then we sat and watched for Courtney. I was SO excited when she came through the door and even more so when they seated her near us.

It was an incredible experience. The amount of time these people have to change for each skit, and the amount of dialogue they need to be able to spout off each week is unreal. And the constant set changes? All of it was just crazy to watch.

The host of the show has a staff member assigned to them. This person would literally grab Christina off the stage and drag her to her next location. It made me laugh to watch this.  If people got in her path,  that lady just shoved them out of  the way. It was fantastic.

Christina did a great job. She seemed super comfortable, and everyone just seemed to be having a good time.

Afterwards the 3 of us were pretty much in awe. On the way out of the studio we saw DotCom from 30 Rock, and stopped to talk to him for a minute. None of us knew what to say. Some might call it awkward. It was worth it though, to see Courtney and Liz so speechless.

So, was it worth the camping out? Heck. Yes.