How to Become a Freelance Writer, Part One: Why and When Experience Matters

How to Become a Freelance Writer Part 1Lately, this is the most common question I get from readers of my blog: How do I become a freelance writer? For those of you I never responded to, I apologize. I’ve been planning on addressing it on my actual blog, so, here is your answer. In a three-part mini series I’m going to, as best I can with the experience I have, address the big question of becoming a freelance writer.

For me, it all started with a coffee meeting.

A little over five years ago, I asked a friend to coffee who was a seasoned freelancer in the Nashville area. I set up the meeting because I wanted to know how to do what he did, and I had no idea how to get started. Maybe you don’t either. I’m glad you’re here. What occurred before, during and after that coffee meeting will be the framework for this mini series. I hope you find it helpful and feel free to ask questions in the comments section. I love that.

Let’s begin…

Before Coffee

What if I told you my first writing job was writing obituaries?

It’s true. My senior year of college I was a proofreader for our alumni magazine. One of my responsibilities was managing the “obits” sections. It was as glamorous and uplifting as you’d imagine. But it was also something invaluable. It was experience with the craft.

Before anyone becomes a freelance writer full time, they write. They write a lot and a lot of different things. Before that coffee meeting five years ago, I had logged hours in writing obits, I had spent a few semesters as a staff writer for my college paper, I had received a degree in English (read: I knew how to do research aside from Wikipedia), and I had been blogging for two years.

Why am I giving you my credentials? To explain that rarely does anyone simply jump into freelance writing. They’ve logged hours already. Maybe not in magazines and major websites, but in school. On their blogs. Writing a research paper. Writing a few obituaries.

The world of freelance opens up after the building up of experience here and there until you have a few things you can show a writer friend or a few links you can send to an editor. Freelance often happens after you’ve done quite a bit of work already.

For some of you, this is encouraging. You have years of writing experience and the tangible evidence to show for it. You’re ready to jump in.

For some of you, maybe this sounds discouraging. You are just starting. You have barely written a thing. To you I say, take heart. If writing is an interest but not something you’ve really done yet, start small. Start in a journal, a letter to a friend, an email. Start playing with words in the little ways and read my next post (about finding your writing niche) to see if this is something you want to pursue further. It might remain a personal interest. It might explode into a career. You’ll never know unless you start putting words down somewhere, anywhere, as often as possible.

For those of you with the experience but without the pay, think about all of the writing you’ve ever done. From research papers to a blog you’ve been piddling with to a press release you wrote for your company recently to a presentation you had to give or a pitch letter you had to write.

If you were going to have coffee with a local writer in your city, what could you send them before your meeting? What’s there? What is your base? Look at it. All of it.

To start, you have to know what you’re starting with.

My bet is, if the freelance writing bug won’t leave you alone, you probably have more experience than you realize. You’ve probably logged some hours that you’ve forgotten about. You’ve probably written more than you think. It might be time to start looking at it, and it might be time to start showing it to others.

I got a coffee meeting because my writer friend knew I blogged, and I knew I had samples I could send him later. You better believe I was blowing the dust off those college articles. When it comes to writing—you’ve heard this before—none of it is wasted. It could get you a meeting, and that meeting could get you an assignment, and that assignment could lead to a new career.

Take inventory. See what’s in your vault. Ask yourself if it’s time to jump in.

Part two of this three-part series will address what actually happened in the conversation over coffee: discussing the importance of having a writing niche. It was a game-changer for me, and I hope it will help you as you set out on this path.


A Few Thoughts on Quitting Your Job and Going Freelance

here A Few ThoughtsA little over a year ago I quit my job at a publishing house and went freelance full time. Freelance writing, that is. Which has also meant some freelance PR and some speaking and some other ways that I found out I can be “freelance.”

My overall thought on being a freelance writer is that 1. I really love it and 2. it’s really hard.

It’s not for everybody, I don’t think, and there were many times this year that I thought it wasn’t for me. Like the time in January when I had been working from a desk in my living room for four months, and I thought I was going insane, and then it turned out I just wasn’t around people enough. So in March I found an office listed on Craigslist in a building with other actual people, and I decided that my sanity was worth the extra cost per month to rent it. That turned out to be a really good decision.

There was also the time that I took on too much work. In the spring I said yes to four things, and then in the fall when all four things were under contract and happening, I thought I was going to die. It was great to have the money, but it was not great to be working at night and on weekends. I am not really one of those work-all-the-time kind of people, so I have learned to think about my calendar in advance and only say yes if I know it won’t make me crazy or want to die.

So there have been times that I didn’t feel cut out for this, and I haven’t even mentioned all of the times I’ve been in Excel, and looking at my taxes, and trying to do math and attempting all the business-y things that I am not naturally good at. I especially doubt my freelance abilities on my “get your finances in order” days.

But there have been some really good days too. Like when my sole task for an entire morning or afternoon or both is writing, just writing. I don’t have to be on email constantly or go to a meeting or feel pulled here and there because this is my job now, and my boss isn’t really a person anymore so much as it is a deadline, and deadlines? Well, I like them, and I can meet them, so they are just fine for me as a boss. That’s when I feel cut out for the freelance life.

There have been other times too when an opportunity came out of nowhere that let me work with former colleagues of mine but in a totally different capacity, and I think, “I never could have done this or had the time do this if I wasn’t a freelancer.”

And, there are perks. I can adjust my working hours so that I can grocery shop at 11am when Kroger isn’t a madhouse. I can wear whatever I want, though I do try and wear real clothes most days instead of yoga pants every day. But I have had weeks… And I have my office, but I can work at a coffee shop or on my couch or on a plane or just about anywhere else if I want to or need to.

The biggest thing for me though, the thing that makes me feel deep down that I am on the right track, has been how I feel at the end of the day. When the work is done, and I close my computer, I’m not zapped. I feel energized. I feel like I can go to the gym and to dinner with a friend instead of picking just one. I feel at peace in a way that work never made me feel before. I guess this it what it feels like to do what you’re supposed to do.

I didn’t know what that felt like before or that it was possible. I grew accustomed to the frenzy and the stress and the dread. I thought that was what work was supposed to be. But now, I don’t think that anymore.

One of my biggest emotions this year has been gratitude. If that’s an emotion. I am so grateful to get to do what I do. I think gratitude and peace are probably pretty good indicators that you’ve chosen a good career for yourself. You won’t feel grateful and peaceful all the time of course, that’s just ridiculous, but underneath the less desirable feelings you have on any given day, you will be saying thank you under your breath, instead of saying obscenities, and you will feel a rest in your soul that’s assuring.

I am thankful. So thankful for this past year, even the insane lonely months in my living room, and the headache I had from January to April doing taxes. I am even grateful for the stacks of un-filed, important documents lying around my office. They are a sign that I’m getting to do what I love, and that is a rare, rare opportunity for most.

I don’t think everyone should be a freelancer, or a writer. I certainly don’t. But I do think and hope that what you do brings you some gratitude and some peace, and if it doesn’t, I hope you challenge yourself to find something that will.


Psst! After writing this, I decided I might turn some of these paragraphs into longer articles, like “should you be a freelancer?” “what is it really like to be a ‘writer’” “how to know when it’s time to quit your job” “how to never miss a deadline again!” (haha) etc etc. I have thoughts on these things. Lots of thoughts. So be on the lookout for some more focused pieces on freelancing, writing and quitting your job. And shoot me a note to let me know some questions you have on these topics. There might be a Q&A session in our future.

“I didn’t know myself without social media.” – Essena O’Neill and Knowing Ourselves

Essena O'Neill final

I don’t often drop everything to comment on newsy topics, but when it involves body image and identity, sometimes I can’t help myself.

You may have seen that Essena O’Neill, a teen social media celebrity with half a million Instagram followers, has quit social media. I didn’t know who Essena O’Neill was until yesterday, but I’m not very cool on social media, and I’m also not a teen. So I looked her up.

I read about her. Watched this video, and then read her edited captions on Instagram, which I totally loved. Her message is not just one for teen girls. It’s for me, someone ten years older than she is, and it’s for anyone who uses social media on a regular basis. Now with her new site, she is hoping to spread–what I’ve narrowed down to–three messages:

1. Social media is a ruse. It’s not real life, so don’t aspire to be social media famous, like her.
2. Social media likes and follows do not determine whether or not you are a worthy person.
3. Your physical appearance does not determine whether or not you are a worthy person

At one point in the YouTube video, she shares a story from when she was twelve years old. She used to stalk beautiful models and celebrities on social media, wanting to look like them and be like them. She would look at herself in the mirror and wonder if she was skinny like they were or pretty like they were. One day, she looked up the centimeters of different models’ waists and thighs. Then she measured her own waist and thighs to see how hers measured up.

That’s the part that got me. I know what that deep, relentless, self scrutiny feels like. I am ten years older than Essena, and I still know what that feels like.

She goes on to say, “I didn’t know myself without social media. I didn’t know myself without my appearance.”

I didn’t know myself, she said.

Essena’s message is powerful and I think it will make a difference, but that phrase right there is what she’s getting at, even if she doesn’t know that’s what she’s getting at. She didn’t know herself, but she wants to know herself, apart from the posed and strategic posts on social media. She hopes to accomplish this by getting off social media for good and spreading positive and truthful messages to others who are caught up in it.

I think when we say we want to know ourselves better, what we mean is we want to be known. For how we can be us and not know us? How can I be me and not know me? There must be something out there that knows us better than we know ourselves, and that, that is what we want.

Essena, in her own way, is expressing this universally human craving. To be known and then for our known selves to be loved.

This one thing we all want, what Essena wants, what I want, what every girl or guy on Instagram who is refreshing their feed compulsively to count their likes wants, is what we already have.

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
-Psalm 139:13-16

A lot of people quote that first part, and but I like the parts after. “When I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.”

We were known before we knew ourselves. We were known before our own mothers knew us. We were known. You were known. You are known. Nothing has changed that. This truth, it holds true.

We cannot be more known than to be known by our creator, and He knows us. Like, really as much as you can possibly know someone and more than we could possibly ever understand, he knows us. Our substance being yet unformed. Our days fashioned as yet there were none of them.

Our backwards quest for acceptance through the posting of dishonest, improved and staged images of ourselves can only be turned around by believing that we are unconditionally accepted by our creator. This, I am convinced, is the only weapon we have to fight this war on self hatred, worthiness, and the feeling of not being enough. A war that’s always existed and is greatly magnified by the social platforms that allow us to see what everybody else is doing, who they are doing it with, and what they look like while they are doing it.

My hope for Essena, for girls and for all of us is that in our search for self, we come to end of ourselves and to the beginning of something much greater, a love that was always there, a love that knows us through and through and loves us still.

Why Being Still Makes Us So Uncomfortable

Why Being Still Makes Me So Uncomfortable copyI hate being sick. I know everybody hates being sick, but I feel like I have a particularly hard time with it. I’ve had a cold since Friday, and I noticed that with this cold I was doing more than usual to try and make it go away as soon as possible.

I took a ginger and cayenne shot at a juice bar. I purchased whiskey from the liquor store—something I never buy—to make a hot toddy. I Googled “home remedies for colds” and discovered that oregano tea can help, so I made some, and it was pretty bad. I netti-potted, pill-popped, and liquid-consumed for days.

Despite my efforts, all the lemon and honey and whiskey and cayenne and oregano—I must smell like a drunken herb garden by now—my cold persists. So I have surrendered. This cold, like every other cold I have ever had in my entire life, will just have to run its course.

And in my surrender, I understand why I have been so frantic to make myself well over the last few days.

I don’t hate being sick because being sick makes me feel bad; I hate being sick because being sick limits me. I can’t do the things I normally can. I can’t work out or spend time with people. I’m not productive with my work because my attention span is the amount of time between this sneeze and the next.

I have to cancel things: a coffee date, a dentist appointment, a chiropractor appointment, a dinner I was supposed to host, a phone call. Because getting dressed, driving, having an intelligent conversation—those things take energy I don’t have when all of my body’s energy is focused on fighting a virus.

When you’re sick, you are forced into a place of rest and nothingness. You cannot produce and do. All you can do is sit and be. And that’s what I hate about being sick.

Rest has been this recurring theme in my life this year. I’ve written about it a few times. It keeps coming up in conversations. Rest in the sense of being ok with not doing for a little while.

I’m not necessarily getting better at resting. In fact, I type this in a cold-induced fog. Really, I am squinting at my screen through watery eyes, knowing I will need to return to this later for a heavy edit with a clearer head.

I’m writing, though, out of this sense that I need to do something. Accomplish something. Anything. Even though I don’t have the energy. Even though, in reality, I am ahead of a few self-imposed writing deadlines, so I don’t need to work right now.

But even when I have time to rest, I don’t.

It is hard to not do because when we don’t do, we begin to question our contribution to society, our family, our work, our world. We believe we are worth the effort we put in. And on days when you are sick and simply unable to put in the effort, you are forced to sit uncomfortably in, what feels like, your worthlessness

You don’t need to read another message about rest and Sabbath. I know. But that’s not really what this is. Right now, I just want to ask you a few questions. Do you get uncomfortable when you’re not doing? And if so, why?

Does a day of sitting still make you squirm? Do you, like me, fight illness with every remedy and pill available just so you don’t have sit in your own nothingness?

When was the last time you sat still on your couch—not reading, not listening to music, not watching anything, not looking at your phone—and sat there for a good long time? Does even the thought of that put a little pit in your stomach?

I’m reading it loud and clear. The message this cold is sending me. If I am only worth the effort I put in, I will never be worth enough because I will never put in enough effort. It’s a cycle that gets you nowhere.

It has to come from somewhere else, the worthiness. It has to come from a deep and strong place over which I have no power. It has to be something I had nothing to do with and have nothing to do with and will have nothing to do with.

The longer I write, the more inescapable writing about grace becomes. It just keeps popping up everywhere, in all things. When I’m listening to a song, when I miss a work out, when I’m sitting in church.

And now here it is, as I’m struggling through my inefficient week of sickness. The reminder, yet again, that I am not how much I do nor what I do. That as long as my things and productivity are the core of who I am, I will never be enough in this place. And, therefore, I will never feel like I deserve to be here.

In a way, that’s true. But in a bigger way, the opposite is true.

“The gospel is this:” as Tim Keller says just so eloquently, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

The gospel can whisper into every single tiny and big thing in our lives if we let it. We either breathe it in and out, or we are breathing out something else, something that we ourselves have built, medicated and treated in an effort to earn our place here.

Rest is not found at the end of our human-made paths. The path grace has built is the only one that leads to true, lasting, real and forever rest. The kind that won’t make us squirm or wonder if we should be doing something else, something better, but the kind that will allow us to take a long, deep, restful and grace-filled breath.

From Words to Deeds – A Guest Post from Sheridan Voysey

Sheridan Voysey 2015 (Blake Wisz)

Today I’m giving space to Sheridan Voysey. I met Sheridan a few years ago when I was working in publishing. He was presenting his upcoming book, Resurrection Year, and I remember when he stepped off the stage the entire room was completely silent. Sheridan had shared one of the most beautiful talks I’d ever heard about loss and moving on. The entire audience was captivated.

Now, I am honored and privileged to get to share a part of his new book with you, Resilient: Your Invitation to a Jesus-Shaped Life. Resilient launches this Wednesday (don’t miss the free giveaways here). It is a book of 90 readings tracing the theme of resilience through the Sermon on the Mount and beyond. Here is an excerpt…


“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.”
Matthew 7:24

In recent years researchers have begun exploring the factors that lead to human resilience. After physical, emotional, or spiritual trauma, what helps someone bounce back rather than collapse? Findings suggest there are four main factors.

The first factor is emotional fitness, the ability to amplify positive emotions like peace, gratitude, hope, or love, while managing negative ones like bitterness, sadness, or anger. The second is family fitness, having strong marriages and relationships by building trust, managing conflict, and extending forgiveness. The third is social fitness, having good friendships and work relations by developing empathy and emotional intelligence. And the fourth is spiritual fitness, defined as a sense of meaning and purpose from serving something greater than ourselves.

It doesn’t take much to see that Jesus’ Sermon strengthens us in all four of these areas. We’re strengthened emotionally by being the “blessed” ones comforted in our mourning, cared for by the Father, given hope for the future, and equipped to manage anger and worry. We’re strengthened relationally by living lives of faithfulness, forgiveness, honesty, and grace. We’re strengthened socially by living out the Golden Rule, the finest way to develop empathy. And we’re strengthened spiritually by serving One who is greater than all, who gives us a mission to be salt, light, and love in the world.

But here’s the thing: we don’t develop resilience only by hearing or reading about it. We develop resilience through action. Having discovered the factors that lead to it, we put them into practice and develop our fitness. Now Jesus says the same:

It’s not enough to listen to his teaching, or even to believe that it’s true.

We must put it into practice (7:24–27).

Most Christians today have unprecedented opportunity to hear Jesus’ words. We can walk down the street and find a church, or download hours and hours of our favorite preacher’s sermons. We can read the Bible in our own language, in several different versions; buy it in softcover, red-letter, or slimline editions; hear it recorded or view it dramatized. We can watch Christian TV, listen to Christian radio, read Christian blogs, download Christian music, and buy calendars, T-shirts, coffee mugs, and fridge magnets adorned with Bible verses so we can be immersed in the Word. But Jesus says it all amounts to nothing unless we act on what we’ve heard.

Resilience is proven in a time of trial. When the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against us, do we bounce back or collapse? The rains will surely come—storms of loss, betrayal, illness, tragedy, assaults on our faith, or just plain difficulty—and the time to develop strength is before the first drops fall. Jesus says those who listen but don’t act on his words build their lives on sand. Failing to dig a proper foundation, they’ll ultimately find trouble. But those who get to work living out Jesus’ words build a base for their lives that withstands the fiercest winds (7:26–27).

For many of us, listening to another sermon or reading another Christian book is the last thing we need to do. Pause the podcast. Close the book (even this one). Go. Act. Turn Jesus’ words into deeds. Do what the Sermon is calling you to do.


Sheridan Voysey is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality. His sixth book Resilient: Your Invitation to a Jesus-Shaped Life launches this Wednesday October 21, with a bunch of free giveaways to celebrate. Follow Sheridan on Facebook, Twitter, and subscribe to his newsletter for free articles, podcasts, and ebooks.

Between the Wish and the Thing

between the wish and the thing

There is a quote from All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy that has been totally haunting me this year. It’s this: “Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.”

Have truer words ever been written?

That sentence is a bit glum on first reading. A lot of the things McCarthy writes are glum, but as I’ve turned this sentence over and over in my head, I see some hope in it. He says “the world lies waiting.” We’re all in this waiting thing together. So, so much of life is waiting for something we want to happen, and you’re not alone in that. I’m here with you. The world, we’re all here with you.

I thought about this quote while I was working out last night. I go to this class called Beatbox (If you live in the Nashville area, go.) and it is really hard. At least, it is for me, and I think it is for everybody else in there too because we are all really sweaty and breathing heavily at the end and talking about how hard/good it was.

The class is an hour long and as soon as it starts, I anticipate its ending. From the first minute, I’m so excited for the class to be over and to be doing the cool down song because working out is hard.

But you know what happens between the beginning of Beatbox and the end of Beatbox? Beatbox. The actual exercising part happens. Without the middle part there would be no sense of satisfaction at the end. There would be no reason to anticipate the ending because no work would have been done, and I would have nothing to feel proud or healthy about.

I want to start viewing the place “between the wish and the thing” like a Beatbox class. It is hard and difficult, the waiting part. It can leave you breathless, hopeless (just watch me try and do a real push-up) and discouraged. The middle part, also known as most of life, is hard, but deep down somewhere we know that our anticipation for the thing, whatever your thing is, will be meaningless without the wait. It will feel empty and unsatisfying.

Things happen during the waiting. We change. We are stretched and we grow.

What are you lying in wait for? How long has it been? Are you on the brink of giving up? I get it. I get that. Some things we lie in wait for take days. Some things take years. But if we can fight the bitterness, if we can lean on something bigger and more powerful than our own weak selves, we will turn around one day and see that during the tension, we were formed into a person with stronger, deeper, more loving, understanding and patient stuff.

The space between the wish and the thing is where we should want to be. For it is during the tension, and not at the end once the thing is achieved, that we are becoming who were meant to be all along.

7 Things I’ve Learned from 7 Years of Blogging


birthday cupcake

Yesterday was my blog’s seventh birthday.

I had big plans to celebrate seven years of blogging. I was going to re-post old blogs, one from each year. I was going to do “seven days of giveaways” to celebrate. I was going to write something important and good, but you see, I don’t really have it all together right now. Life, I mean. I’m sort of in a barely-craping-by season that requires me to say no to simple things like having coffee with a friend. It’s the season I am in right now and I’ve decided to stop worrying about it and just press in and get the work done, but it does mean I don’t get to do a big birthday bash on my blog and that sort of makes me sad.

Instead, I am going to do what I can handle and manage today, from an airplane after a glorious fifteen-minute nap during takeoff, which is this one post and jotting down a few things I’ve learned about blogging these last several years.

I wrote my first blog post on September 15, 2008, from a house in England. I had just moved there. My parents were helping me settle in, and they hadn’t left yet. After a busy few days of trying to find a house and then trying to find a store that sold things like plates and mugs and then trying to find my school to make sure I was registered and enrolled, I decided to sit down and create My first post was about an experience I had had at an ice cream shop called G&Ds.

It was fun to tell the ice cream shop story, so I told a couple more stories on my blog and then a few more and a few more and one here and one there and before I knew it, I had been blogging for an entire year. And here I sit, still blogging seven years later.

I keep seeing things on Facebook about how “blogging is dead” and now marketing professionals are speculating about what will replace it. But then I keep seeing people post on their blogs, and I keep seeing new blogs born all the time. So I’ve decided that blogging isn’t dead, and I guess I’ll keep doing it. Until it is really, actually dead. Like My Space.

I am really the last blogger on earth who should be giving blogging advice. I mean, I hardly even touched this space for the entire year of 2012. But I have made a few observations in my years of blogging, and that’s what I’d like to share with you today, the day after my blog’s seventh birthday.

Here it goes, 7 things I’ve learned from 7 years of blogging:

  1. The post you thought was awesome and that you poured your soul into, and when you hit publish you had no doubt that this was going to be “the viral one” and people were going to LOVE it. You know that post? Inevitably, for those types of posts, four people are going to read them, and no one is going to comment. And you will suffer a night of deafening internet crickets.
  1. But, you know that post you slapped together in a 30-minute rush just because you had a quick idea and wanted to get it out there? That one? One thousand people are going to like it on Facebook and every other one of them will comment. We can rarely predict what our readers need to hear when they need to hear it. It’s not really up to us, this is what I’ve decided.
  1. People Google really weird things. I cannot tell you how many people find my blog each year searching various combinations of the words “beans” and “toast.”
  1. Blogging has forced me to learn to write concisely and clearly more than most forms of writing that I do elsewhere. It is excellent practice no matter what type of writing you do for your day job.
  1. Blogs don’t have to be pretty. I would like for mine to look nicer and more professional, and I plan to get on top that here soon, but one of my favorite blogs—and one of the few I actually read on a regular basis—is Molly Wizenberg, the author, has a huge following and has been blogging since 2004, but she doesn’t even own her URL. I don’t care about that because her writing is wonderful and draws me in each and every time. Content matters most. I’ve decided to only focus on the aesthetic details as I have time for them.
  1. It’s awkward to talk about your blog with other people in real life. Whenever someone says, “Hey, I read your blog today!” and then wants to talk about it, I sort of cringe. Sometimes I prefer to live under the illusion that this is my diary and nobody actually reads it.
  1. I am at my blogging best when I’m writing on something I care about that happened recently. When I’m writing in real-time. For some reason, it seems to resonate with people more on the days that I talk about what I learned that very week. I’m not sure why, especially because usually those ideas and lessons are not fully learned or understood yet, but they seem to be what people need to hear, so I think I’ll keep doing that.

I don’t know if I’ve ever thanked any of you for reading my blog.

Thank you.

It really is amazing to have people to share my stories with. Even if I’m awkward about it in real life, I love that I live in a time in history where this type of cyber sharing and storytelling is possible.

I don’t know what my writing avenue and place will look like after the next seven years, but secretly, I hope it’s still here, in this little space.

I like it here.

What It Means to Be Loved By God

I’ve been quiet in this space lately. Work has been consuming. Any spare time I have I devote to writing other things and writing here gets pushed farther and farther down the priority list. I don’t like it, but it’s the season I’m in right now.

I listened to a song the other day that stopped me in my tracks. It stopped me so hard and rattled me so deep, it got me to finally sit down here and write. Because I want you to hear it too. It’s called “Love You More” and it’s by one of my forever favorites, Nichole Nordeman. This song speaks the truth about God’s love for us better than any song I’ve ever heard.

After listening to this, all the things I’ve been shuffling and trying to keep together and stay in front of and on top of and be on time with, all of my work and my deadlines and my emails, they all sort of tumbled to the side and made way for this one truth: God loves me. Not only does He love me, but, as the song says, He’s “been loving me since time began.”

It reminds me of Psalm 139. “My frame was not hidden from you
 when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body;
 all the days ordained for me were written in your book
 before one of them came to be” (vv 15-16).

Not only does God love us, He loves us deeply and knows us fully.

And I wonder, how many of us operate and live our lives under the assurance of this truth? And if we don’t, and I am among the ones who don’t, how could things be different if we did? What would life look like? What would it feel like to take each step knowing that God loves us so deeply, and there is no such thing as a limit to that love, and we have not strayed too far this time because he gives second chances, third chances, fourth chances…

What would it feel like to live this way?

This question stopped me in my fast-moving tracks. I looked at the balls I was balancing and I realized living under the promise of God’s love would probably look like letting some of those balls drop to the floor. It would look like putting everything down because there is absolutely nothing greater or more important than the knowledge of God’s love. Receiving it has to be the first move of our day because without it, life is up to us. Without it, we do run out of chances. When we  don’t believe, at our core, that God loves us deeply, we walk around life afraid, regretful, uncertain, and suspicious and untrusting of our God.

His love—the kind that wove us together in the depths of the earth—protects us as much as it propels us. It shifts our priorities. It takes away the fear that we’re doing it wrong or that we will do it wrong. It allows us to trust in the goodness of God.

Take a minute today and ask yourself if you believe God loves you. Do you truly believe it? No matter what you have going on today, the answer to that question is really the only thing that matters.


(Yes, I wrote down all the lyrics for you because they are SO GOOD. Read them. Sit in them. Believe them.)

Love You More by Nichole Nordeman

You said go and sin no more

though my eyes could not meet yours

I started running the third time the rooster crowed

You threw a party just for me though I squandered everything

I was blinded in the middle of the road

I climbed up a tree to see you

Swallowed by the see to flee you

Sold you for a little silver and kiss

Killed a man to love his woman

Burned a bridge back to your garden

Hung beside you while you took your final breath


You’ve been loving me since time began

You’re behind my every second chance


I love you

I’m trying to love you more

I’m ready

Please help me

love you more


I keep thinking there’s a limit

I’m sure I must be getting near it

I’ve used up every pardon and regret

But you promise there is freedom

Gathered up my broken pieces

Scattered them as far as east is from the west


You’ve been loving me since time began

You’re behind my every second chance


I love you

I’m trying to love you

I’m ready

Please help me

love you more


For all the sand that fills the hour glass

Every breath between my first and last

I love you

I’m trying to love you more

I’m ready please help me love you more

The Two Choices You Have Today

Two Choices TodayI recently returned from ten days in Peru on a mission trip with the student ministry at my church. Every day was different: street evangelism, building a house, playing with kids in the local community, encouraging the church there. We slept on the floor. We took cold showers. We stayed up too late.

On mission trips past, I’ve walked away feeling I’ve learned more about the poor, or about the needs all around the world, or about feeling more grateful for what I have and wanting others’ eyes to be opened the way mine were. I suppose I expected this to happen in Peru, but it didn’t. Well, not really.

In Peru, I was a “leader” on the mission trip. One of six other adults helping lead 30 students around a foreign country. As one of the “adults” I found myself stepping back and watching more than if I had been a student. I kept looking around and taking in aerial views of what I saw.

Of all the sights, experiences and conversations, I noticed a theme: openness. Openness among the Peruvians and openness among our students:

girls linking arms on a dirt path up a mountain

card games on the airport floor

spontaneous dance parties in the dining hall

Peruvian students and American students talking to each other and laughing as if they went to high school together and saw each other every day

We were there for ten days, but by the tears I watched being shed as we left for the airport, you would think we had been there much longer.

And in the open hearts that I witnessed, I saw the hesitation in my own. I saw a heart that is not as open as it used to be.

It made me think of summer camp when I was twelve. It was a fun week, I remember, and I made good friends. On the final night we all stood around and cried and hugged. We had known each other for six whole days. But then, at that age, we weren’t conscious of our own vulnerability. We weren’t worrying about the future and how difficult it would be to keep in touch. We were not jaded or hardened by broken relationships or dreams.

Peru made me remember when I too was open, vulnerable and had a more embracing posture toward life in general. It reminded me that growing up can chip away at our openness, making us wary of others, making us wary of our own selves.

I didn’t expect to be reminded of this in a place like Peru, but I was, and I am grateful for that. I began to ask myself why and when this chipping away happens. Is it a moment? Is it a certain event? But I think it’s more subtle than that.

Each day, we are offered two choices about our posture toward others and opportunities: open or closed. We are offered this in the tiniest of things:

Will I smile at the person I pass by on the street, or will I keep my eyes on my phone?

Will I invite these people over for dinner, or will I make up an excuse not to?

Will I say yes to this or will I say I don’t have enough time, energy, money, etc?

Will I be open to life, or will I be resistant to it?

My knee-jerk reaction is to be resistant, to make up excuses that close me off to people and experiences. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Living slightly resistant is an acceptable choice. You can still achieve things and meet people, though you are resistant to them. You can live your entire life this way. A lot of people do.

But think about this: If you can do a lot while resistant to life, imagine what you could do or who you could meet if you were open to it? I imagine worlds and worlds and worlds would appear before you that you had completely ignored, shrugged off or pushed aside before.

In Peru, I watched people live with an open posture. Arms stretched out, palms unclenched. The Peruvians, the students—they were open to each person and experience. They were open to allowing their hearts to change and their minds to be transformed by a single visit.

They were not jaded or afraid. They jumped in the water.

At some point, I forgot how to do this, and maybe you have too. The good news is, it’s never too late. Your heart remembers the way; you just have to tell your feet where to go.

Who Is God to You, Really?

Who Is God to You Really?We all paint pictures of God. Over the years, we gather some information here, some scripture there, some thoughts from a pastor here and, subconsciously, we put them together and piece them in such a way that they make up our God. Our own little personal mosaics of who God is, to us.

As we live, this mosaic changes. I lived a few years with a nice, pretty picture of a young God who was my friend. Then, it was the old man – grandfather – Santa Clause hybrid God. And most popular these days, a more stern God who is disappointed with my sin and behavior when it’s not just right.

Of course, I have days where my mosaic of God reflects love and deep, deep care, but this is a picture I’m only now learning to paint. And still, it is only a picture.

The point is, we can’t help but create God into something tangible because the only thing we understand as people, mortal people, are tangible things. Trees, mountains, dogs, etc. But confining God to a picture is dangerous. It’s dangerous to us and it’s dangerous to those around us.

Take a moment now and picture “your” God. What does he look like? If he were a painting, what form would he take? If he were a mosaic, what pieces is he made up of? And, this is important, where did those pieces come from?

Do you have the picture in your head? Good. Now I need you to do something else.

Take that picture and tear it up. Then, take the torn-up pieces and set them on fire. Then, gather the ashes into a bucket and explode it into a million billion little tiny microscopic bits.

If we want to understand who he is and how that plays into who we are and how we live, we have to be willing to let go of our paintings and our mosaics. We have to be willing to be wrong.

Over the past year this question has been on my lips, “Who are you, God, really?” It’s a question that comes from the suspicion that I have created God to be someone he is not. Whenever we feel like we have an omnipotent being figured out, that’s when we should question ourselves, back away slowly, (maybe repent…), and begin to ask God, Who are you, really?

Are you actually mad at me? Are you really watching my every move, waiting for me to mess up? Are you as distant as you feel, meaning I can operate how I please? Are you really just a nice dad who wants me to have what I want? Are you condemning others but elevating me?

When we live and breathe under our paintings of God, depending on what that painting looks like, we grow accustomed to feeling shame, or paralyzed in our decisions, or we experience the type of freedom that is really bondage. And then we begin to reflect that kind of God to others.

We glorify a Santa Clause God or a BFF God or a cruel teacher God. I wouldn’t feel inclined to worship any of those, would you?

This scripture is becoming more and more true for me these days: “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away…  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:9-10,12).

God knows us fully. We are pretty easy to understand. And, he made us. He, however, is not as easy to understand. Once you think you have him all figured out, he blows your mind with something that shatters the image of him you painted.

I don’t want to confine God to a painting anymore. Instead, I want to just keep asking, Who are you, really? And keep asking it and keep asking it and keep asking. I think the more we do and the more we genuinely seek an answer, the more glimpses we will receive of truth. And the more glimpses we receive of truth, the more beautiful God will become.