A Cranky Ash Wednesday

Being 100% honest: Lent has me cranky this year.

Usually I find Ash Wednesday to be such a vital time of reflection and repentance, but if I’m fully transparent, we’ve been living Lent for over a year now. It didn’t end. We’re still fasting out here in the desert.

But really, we’ve been in the wilderness since we left Eden. And it is because we chose the wilderness that Christ entered in after us. Yes, we gave up much, but he then knowingly gave up more.

And so, after a year that has stripped away all and left us with mostly just ourselves and our coping mechanisms, we offer up a coping mechanism. We set it aside to take up communion with our companion in suffering who has set a table before us in the wilderness. And we sit at it and take up his company, he who will not grant us coping, but instead a way to flourishing.

Do I want to give up one more thing? Not at all. I’m still salty about it. But I have also tasted that which is mine to freely gain, and for that, I’d give up everything.

(But still, let’s be honest, Lent of 2021 is compounded upon Lent of 2020, and I didn’t get paçzi before either. I appreciate your condolences at this time and offer mine to you.

Trapped and Yet

Yesterday as yet another round of lockdown restrictions were announced, I had the overwhelming realization that I had been dropped off in this small UK town at the end of August and I have absolutely no way or means of getting anywhere else now or in the foreseeable future.

And being trapped in a small European town may sound romantic and idyllic, but it completely glosses over the verb. So it’s been a bit of a mental-health rollercoaster over here.

I’m grateful for a household that is willing to talk me off the ledge. And also thankful they are willing to let me experiment with dinner as we try to process all that is happening (and not happening) here. It was a comfort to crank up the music in the kitchen and set to work with no recipe—merely what I had in the fridge. How humanizing to dwell at the table last night and mourn and laugh simultaneously alongside the two other women I am sharing this season with.

It was a comfort today for the clouds to part, and the sun to warm the countryside, and for a friend to say yes to a spontaneous invitation to walk the fields just out of town.

So yes, I am trapped in a small island town. And yes, the indefinite and ever-increasing restrictions here make it feel a little bit like a nightmare at times. But that doesn’t mean there are not ways for joy to creep in. For small reminders that we are human and beloved.

For when we don’t know how to hold hope

“It’s hard to know how to hope in healthy ways.”


I wrote this to a sweet friend who was checking in and had asked if there is a light at the end of the tunnel over here. And I can only think, “yes, maybe…?” And I think we’re all feeling this in heavy and hard ways.

Last week has knocked us back. Hopefully in ways that aren’t surprising because evil is as evil does, but it’s still disheartening and disorienting when it carelessly wreaks its brand of havoc. And after so many disappointments and loses, and the hard knocks of this very heavy time, one more thing may feel like too much.


And you don’t deserve a trite, “well, buck up, buttercup!” Instead, I offer the fact that this is too much. We’re carrying too much grief and our broader culture has not given us a language for lament.


And I really don’t know how to hold hope in healthy and helpful ways right now. But I do know how to grieve. And it’s messy, and hard, and painful. But a wordless groan of prayer is an invitation for the Spirit to carry the too much with us. To invite the man of sorrows to hold what is too heavy for us gives us a chance to process and dwell where we are and steward the burdens we have been given.


Know that I join you in crying “Kyrie Eleison,” and know that though you may not have hope to hold for tomorrow, we have hope to hold in eternity because we have a companion in suffering. May the Spirit fill you with the hope of eternity in the midst of your lament as well as the strength to pursue justice on earth as it is in Heaven.

Of Bread and Advent

The other night I was feeling particularly overwhelmed about all that needed to be done to prepare for lockdown and for Christmas. And all I will be unable to do. And out of nowhere, a friend was at the door, bringing bread. A beautiful brown loaf wrapped in wax paper, tied in twine with a sprig of rosemary. A gift given because of the pleasure it brought her to make.

Oh, how this echoes Emmanuel! God incarnate who came and endured the cross because of the joy set before him. Making possible the feast reunion that one day will be.

So what was given to remind us of both the feast to come and the cross endured on our behalf? Bread. Bread we are bid to take and eat. And to taste and see that he is good. Bread has been freely given out of joy to sustain and remind:

We have hope! There is bread. There is joy. Echoes of the feast to come.

You may not be feasting this weekend in the way you usually do. You may not be with those you dreamed you’d be with. But may this Christmas be a reminder and testament to the providence of Emmanuel. And may small, unexpected gifts be a reminder of sweet and beautiful grace.

Chaos of Singleness and Marriage

A pastor and mentor is working his way through a sermon series on chaos. This past week was about chaos within marriage and asked if I would provide a perspective on singleness along these lines. The following is my response:
Our culture (and the church is not immune) is prone to elevate marriage or—in lieu of marriage—sexual fulfillment to the level of God.  But what happens when we elevate the pursuit of something over the pursuit of God? We were made to pursue his love, not the love of man. When we pursue anything other than the love we were intended to pursue, chaos ensues. We meet our brokenness head on. It doesn’t work. (I think that came through so clearly in your thoughts yesterday and I am grateful for it. It’s a word we all need and often!)
In the marriages of friends (or divorces of some), I’ve watched expectations that can only be fulfilled by God’s perfect love destroy what is there. The grass is not greener for my married friends—it’s just different grass. I may feel longing in wanting a companion to share things with or children to raise to love God. I may feel loneliness or feel forgotten. This is the burden I carry as a single woman. But this is one side of a coin.
On the other side, my married sisters also experience loneliness or feel forgotten within the bounds of their marriage. They have been blessed with husbands and children, yes, but that season carries it’s own hurts and burdens. They daily hurt and are hurt by their best friend and are constantly trying to extend grace and accept forgiveness and maintain love for that person despite this. Their desires are thwarted by helpless babies and willful toddlers that know no better than selfishness.
These are not the challenges of my world, but they are in fact challenges that I must remember to hold compassion for. Just because those in other seasons have blessings we do not, it does not mean we can ignore the burdens we are meant to carry for one another. It’s easy to forget the chaos others experience when we are consumed with our own.
In my own life, chaos can look like a lot of worry and a lot of anger. If God does not provide a partner for me, then will my life be valuable? Will I find community as my married friends fulfill their search for couple friends, for kids, for friends with kids, etc? What happens when my parents have passed on? What happens when I am old and my health declines and I do not have my own children to care for me? On and on it goes in the neurotic mind of this late-twenty something. I can become angry that I have devoted myself to God and his word and he has not provided the desires of my heart. I come to Him as a consumer rather than a worshiper and of course find dissonance where I expected I would get my way.
In the elevation of romantic or sexual love over the love of God in a church community, chaos can reign supreme. Couples and families are served—as they should be—but often this elevation of the nuclear family leaves the single, divorced, or widowed out of the community wondering if there is even a place for them. We do not look outside those of our own demographic to bring them into our homes, around our tables, or into our hearts because we do not see them. But the gospel—and ergo the church universal—does not exclude anyone. The body of Christ is so much the better when we embrace those different from our situation in life because we are united in Christ.
Families who have done this for me have provided the connection and stability I crave that is often absent when I am on my own. In turn, I am able to give another voice for their children, another walk with Christ to observe. I am able to challenge norms and bring a passion that has been lost in the shuffle of getting everyone between school, small groups, and sports practices.
I have received many a glimpse of singles who want to hold anger and point a finger at how the church has “forgotten” them. (I have been so guilty of this myself). It can be hurtful. It can be isolating. It takes a lot of risk to find a place in a community made for nuclear families made up of both husband and wife when you are outside of that.
So here is the ultimate question—the question not just in this type of chaos, but in all chaos: What is the telos here? What is the ultimate goal?  Is it to consume the love of man that I so often demand? To expect my relationships to fulfill me regardless of what I might or might not pour into them? Or is it to receive and extend the love of God? To live into and out of my kingdom identity?
The truth of Galatians is so clear here: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We are people in need of God’s love and made to extend that toward one another: wives to husbands, husbands to wives, Christian brothers and sisters towards one another regardless of marital relationship, financial status, or season in life.
So I can rest in the love of God knowing he is a God who provides—if not a husband, then a community of believers—a God who sees—my longings, hurts, and weaknesses and loves me anyway—and a God who wants me to value him over all else—and patiently pursues my heart in this with tenderness. I was not created to consume, but created to love. He values my holiness over my happiness and it is in pursuing holiness that I find myself whole.
And this may not result in a husband. But it will result in a deeper knowledge and love of my father—a fulfillment of my purpose.

Book Review: Love in Three Quarter Time

I’ve probably said it enough that I’m not a romance fanatic. At least not when it comes to books. I certainly hope I’ve made it clear that I’m a pretty hopeless romantic and would encourage anyone to pursue a romantic life regardless of their relationship status.

That said, I was feeling all the warm fuzzies reading Rachel McMillan’s contemporary romance novella Love In Three Quarter Time. Taking place in beautiful Vienna, Austria, you’ll be booking plane tickets after this one.

When Evelyn Watts is laid off, she is offered a once in a lifetime temporary job from her handsome Austrian work-crush. Whisked away to central-Europe, Evelyn discovers not only the beauty of traveling, but also what it means to live romantically.

Evelyn was such a relatable protagonist for any hopeless romantic introvert. I adored seeing the world from her perspective, humorous pop-culture references and all. Evelyn is opposite two intriguing characters—Rudy and Klaus—who certainly helped keep this romance plugging right along with charm and wit.

As is usual for a McMillan novel, the cities her characters inhabit are a character in and of themselves. I loved reading about placed I’ve visited in Boston and look forward to one day staying in Vienna. The richness of the setting has really made this story stick out in my mind. I can’t wait to one day take in a symphony in the birth country of Mozart or to eat a Mozart tart for that matter.

No, I do not often frequent the romance genre, but was so pleased to make this exception. The novella was a love letter to Vienna as much as it was an homage to living a romantic life whether you have a significant other or not.

This is the perfect read for a cozy-winter Saturday. Grab a blanket and some Belgian hot chocolate if you can get your hands on it. You’re in for a good time.

You can pick up your own copy of the novella for your e-reader here.

In other exciting news, Rachel McMillan is one of the fifteen authors joining us at the first ever Fiction Readers Summit in Grand Rapids, Michigan this May!

This event celebrates readers of inspirational fiction and how they push the genre forward. I would love to meet you at this event! You can find all the registration details here.

Love Vs. Loneliness

When once we get intimate with Jesus we are never lonely, we never need sympathy, we can pour out all the time without being pathetic.
—Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Reading Joy Beth Smith’s book on singleness, Party of One, I was pleasantly surprised when she slammed on the brakes after quoting this passage from Chambers that oft gets thrown at singles. “On this point, Mr. Chambers, I humbly disagree,” she writes. I didn’t even know we were allowed to disagree with Chambers!

It is easy to assume that because one is single, one also must be lonely. And that is true. But I do not think it is true because a person is single. I know plenty of married people that woke up one morning to find themselves lonelier than they ever were on their own. It would be so easy for me in moments of great longing to believe that if I were only in a relationship, this longing within me would be gone. But I know that’s a lie.

I think we get lonely because we are broken people in a broken world and loneliness is part of that bag.

I have been so fascinated by a thought from Mike Cosper’s latest, Recapturing the Wonder. He says, “We long for wonder, and we long for communion with God.” Building off a commentary of the fall from Matthew Myer Bolton’s God Against Religion, Cosper continues, “Genesis 3 isn’t fundamentally a story about broken rules but broken communion.”

How powerfully does that change our perspective of the Biblical narrative if we understand that the first sin was mankind deciding we were better off without communion—our relationship—with God? We see throughout scripture a God uncompromisingly after restored relationship with his children—his covenant with Abraham about the nation of Israel—a people of God and for God. God introducing himself to Israel on Mt. Sinai, giving them ground rules in order to have a semblance of relationship with him and a chance to pursue holiness. The ultimate coming of Jesus giving us a taste of what that unbroken communion with God is supposed to be like. Even his last supper—a picture of what he was about to do on the cross—what we now commemorate through communion—was a gathering of people around a table to relate and bear-witness with one another.

God has been after relationship with us from the beginning. He is relentless in his pursuit of that. But in order to save his people from broken communion for eternity, Jesus had to do something drastic and amazing. He had to come as a man and die in our place. And what did that mean? Complete separation from God on the cross.

Smith builds her rebuttal to the Chambers quote, “If nothing else, my singleness has taught me that you can be lonely and exhausted and in need of sympathy— even with God. Even Jesus felt this way, and in the days and moments leading to his crucifixion, we see this played out. I can think of no greater loneliness than hanging on a cross, dying for a world that despises you, and then feeling forsaken by the Father who sent you, but— glory be!— loneliness and exhaustion did not cause Jesus to crumble.”

On this side of heaven, we cannot escape loneliness. Single, married, parent, friend, child, elder—I don’t care what relationship you are a participant in, there will be moments, sometimes seasons, of loneliness. It’s part of our humanity. But how shall we respond to such deep and nagging longings?

Having an earthly relationship with Jesus does not mean I will never be lonely. (In fact, in some of my circles, I feel a loneliness because of my relationship with Jesus.)

Instead, I have come to learn that when I come to Jesus with my relational longings, he does not always meet the need relationally.  When I have come to Jesus longing for human relationship, I have found that I am more in need of an invitation. Time in prayer and meditation in the word has become a sweet invitation to behold who he is and what he’s done in love. Loneliness is often an invitation into trust promise of the perfect communion to come.

The voice that rings from the Bible is the voice of the one we long to hear from, long to know, long to find our rest in.
—Mike Cosper, Recapturing the Wonder

Most Read Blog Posts of 2017

This year has probably been the most rewarding when it comes to blogging. I have loved the conversations many of you have started with me based of what I’ve written and I’m so grateful.
Here are 5 of the top posts from this year:

1. The Metaphor and Blood-and-Guts Reality

For the last nine months I’ve been wrestling over the question, “If marriage never happens for me, will I be okay?”

And the answer varies day-to-day, I’ll be honest. But it struck me the other morning in a big way. I was lamenting the fact that I may never experience that kind of intimacy and then a new thought emerged. Maybe I was very wrong.

Continue Reading…

2. Marriage, Idolatry, And The Church

Once upon a time, I was very passionately involved in the purity culture that was so active in the late nineties and early two thousands. I had kissed dating good bye and embraced authentic femininity with Jesus as my prince charming. (And I have lots of thoughts about that time in my life, but that’s a different blog post.) There was so much teaching I subjected myself to that were, frankly, lies verging on spiritual abuse.

We were taught—and many are still taught—that we need to be sexually pure for the sake of our future spouse—not for the sake of godliness or obedience. But what if there is no spouse ahead? Then what was the point?

Continue Reading…

3.What I Wish the Church Had Taught Me about Singleness By Gina Dalfonzo

When I was in my mid-20s, I started work at a place where one of my colleagues was a 40-year-old single woman. She was a very nice woman—good at her job, easy to talk to, and pleasant to work with. But—true confession time—for a long time I felt a little bit freaked out whenever she was around.

Why? It’s hard and embarrassing to explain. Frankly, I’m ashamed when I look back at my own naïve and immature frame of mind. I felt freaked out simply because she was single and 40—and there were not many voices in my life telling me that this was a good or even an okay thing.

Continue Reading…

4.What’s on Your Summer Reading List?

I could review a book I’ve read…OR I could share with you what some lovely bookish ladies in my life are reading this summer. I am so excited about what is on my reading list for the next couple months and I knew a few people who would be equally excited about their own list.

The following are the five books on the summer reading lists of a series of folks in the writing and publishing world! I have linked to all of them so can check out these titles and add them to your own list.

Continue Reading…

5. I’m Cranky and I Know It

If I were to describe my relationship with faith and the church in this season of my life, I think there is an overarching theme that would emerge: I’m cranky.

There are parts of what I’ve grown up with that feel like a sweater I’ve grown out of—the hem doesn’t meet my jeans any longer and the sleeves are tight around my upper arms and it just feels uncomfortable. I read a book on spiritual formation for women and I wonder why so much of it is based on feelings and why it had to be directed at women instead of all of us. I leave a church service feeling grippy about the amount of first-person-personal-pronouns used in so many Christian songs today. I cross my arms feeling like I will never be respected or taken seriously in an evangelical community unless I am married with children.

Continue Reading…

My Favorite Reads of 2017

I’ve read more this year than I have since high school and I have loved it! This year has introduced me to genres I wouldn’t have otherwise touched and has added many new favorites to my shelves. Here are my top books from the year in no particular order:

Fiction

Red Rising – Pierce Brown

If you asked me in January, I would have said I was the farthest thing from a sci-fi fan. And then I encountered Pierce Brown’s debut, Red Rising. High stakes, highly original world, great themes of loyalty, love, sacrifice, and war. I would recommend this for fans of The Hunger Games and The Warded Man.

What To Say Next – Julie Buxbaum

Buxbaum writes with such strong voices for her two POV protagonists. I loved the unreliability of  both narrators without this being Fight-Club situation. YA in all it’s relatable-yet-dramatic glory. A great, short read for fans of John Green or Jennifer E. Smith’s books.

Landline – Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell has a collection of work I aspire to—great YA novels on top of funny contemporary novels, one with a dash of magical realism. Landline is packed with great pop-culture references, great character predicaments, and a magical phone. Seriously, could you want anything more? Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella or Meg Cabot.

A Trail of Crumbs – Susie Finkbeiner

The sequel to A Cup of Dust, Finkbeiner ups the ante in Pearl Spence’s world in the most heartbreaking and best way. I love the warmth of her historical fiction paired with characters that make me think of home. And one in particular that may literally harken back to yours truly…The second in a great series for fans of To Kill a Mockingbird or Jocelyn Green.

Dark Matter – Blake Crouch

As I said with Red Rising, before this year, I did not have a high view of science fiction, but you’ll notice that 2 are on my list of favorites for the entire year. Dark Matter was a relentless sci-fi thriller that I am still thinking about. Crouch’s concept was so original and mind-bending and his breakneck-pace was perfect. I have had so many great conversations about this novel and would highly recommend it for an unconventional book club pick. Great for fans of  Ernest Cline or Westworld (yes, I’m recommending a book based on TV interests.)

Non Fiction

You Are What You Love – James K.A. Smith

This book has changed my life and I’m not just saying that. Smith calls for a contemplative and intentional approach to faith that touches every aspect of life. This book has been a call back to quiet, daily faithfulness. I have been challenged and convicted by this book so many times since reading and am loving his backlist. Must read for readers of Alvin Plantinga or Augustine

Beyond Colorblind – Sarah Shin

Another convicting read, Shin’s debut book brings our culture’s racial tensions to the forefront of the church with such grace and wisdom. I think every believer needs to read what she has to say. This book is a worthy discussion about our full identities—ethnicity included—being valued in the diverse body of Christ. Great follow up read for those who enjoyed The Myth of Equality or The New Jim Crow.

Reading People – Anne Bogel

I’m a total personality nerd and have loved Anne’s podcast. Reading People was the best of both worlds—Anne’s wonderful insights and so much personality discussion. Because of this book, I’m now aware I am a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)—which those closest to me have apparently known and assumed I knew as well. A great book for those obsessed with Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram.

The Imperfect Disciple – Jared C. Wilson

Wilson’s humor and insight into the gospel have made this book one of my most recommended of the year. With snark and wisdom, he sets forth a call back to simple, gospel living. I’ve found his work so refreshing in a publishing landscape so saturated with a feelings-based theology. I would recommend this one for readers of Mike Cosper or Jen Wilkin.

At Home in the World – Tsh Oxenrieder

I love a good travel story and Tsh Oxenrieder has a few. Her memoir documenting her family’s around-the-world adventure was the perfect vacation read, especially as I got to walk in their footsteps through Italy. Her insights on home and place have stuck with me. This is a great memoir for those who enjoyed Chasing Slow or Bread and Wine.

What were your favorite reads of 2017? Share in the comments below.

People Who Walked in Darkness

I think it’s about time we all admitted it: We suck at lament.

As a culture, we’re just really bad at it.

We live in an age ruled by the power of positivity and silver linings. We’re looking for the bright side and chasing our bliss. We don’t sit still, we distract. We don’t allow things to sink in, we stay at the surface.

But we can’t. Not all the time. At least not forever.

And I think it’s during the holidays that we feel the tension of that. And I think this year more than ever, we’re all tired of pretending the tension isn’t there.

Can I just say that it’s okay that you feel tired. It’s okay that you feel sad, or hurt, or angry, dismissed, disenfranchised, unincluded, forgotten, or unloved. It’s okay to acknowledge your pain. Because if it didn’t matter, then it wouldn’t hurt.

Our world groans. In our own neighborhoods, across the globe. And we ache for a wholeness that we feel was supposed to be ours.

We feel that loss when someone hurts us, or we destroy something that was good. That hole gapes at us in the darkness and we have an innate sense that this wasn’t how it was supposed to go.

I mourn that with you, friend. We mourn it side by side and we need to. We can’t hold that much pain on our own and we were never meant to.

So why say this at Christmas?

Because this is the season where we carry the already and not quite yet. We carry the knowledge that things may be bad, but they will not always be. We hold the burden of waiting together.

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.

I lament beside so many of you and I’m grateful for those of you who mourn beside me. And we look at our brokenness and the darkness that surrounds. We don’t pretend it’s not there. But we also hold it up to the light.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called[e]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.