It was in late June that I received the following note from a whimsical and profound pixie in the girls’ dorm where I work.  It’s taken until now—with my return to BFA imminent—for me to respond to it.  I can’t think of a more appropriate time.  Here’s what Hallie wrote:

I’ve been wanting to ask you something for a while.  Out of all the teachers at BFA, I think you’re the one I’ve noticed who has the closest, person-to-person relationships with the students, and every year they graduate and banish themselves across continents.  But you keep on forming more relationships, and you still laugh about everything (even cancer).  Most other teachers don’t do that…make relationships, that is, not get cancer!  So what I’ve been thinking about since grad is, what’s the point of continuing to get to know and love people if they always leave?  Sometimes I think it’s a silly question…”don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”  But other times, though I KNOW [the saying is true], I just don’t feel it or understand it.  So…why do YOU keep doing it?

In three days, I’ll be on a plane back to Germany—back to my other home, back to spinning too many plates on too few sticks, back to the daily challenges and joys of working with the world’s most astute and quirky and insightful and keep-you-on-your-toes teenagers, back to…  Well, back to loving.  Loving through teaching.  Loving through baking.  Loving through hosting.  Loving through exhorting.  Loving through praising.  Loving through laughing.  Loving through motivating.  Loving through being as open and real and accessible as I can possibly be.  And at the end of all that loving, as any MK who attends BFA knows, there will be another graduation, another tearing, another jarring amputation that never quite heals.  ( |—–| )

Those of you who have been following my German adventures for a while know that the exhilaration of doing what I’ve been designed and called to do with young people who stimulate and move me comes at a high cost.  And if you’ve read my June newsletters over the past 18 years, you know that the cost is paid when the school year ends, in tears and fervent hugs and question marks that leave me spent.  So—as Hallie so beautifully asked—why do I keep doing it?

Here’s my nutshell answer—a multi-compartmental, economy-sized nutshell.  I do it because I’d rather lose parts of myself by willingly investing them in the teenagers I love than by squandering them on less eternal goals.  I do it because, from the moment I set foot on BFA’s campus for my first day of work in 1991, I’ve felt that God has crafted me very specifically for the task of mentoring students whose struggles and uncertainties so closely mirror mine at their age.  I do it because I know that the inevitable pain won’t kill me, but seeing even one of them flounder and reject what is unshakable Truth would maim me.

I do it because I felt so lonely, so misunderstood and so abnormal when I was their age that I spent entire months wishing I could simply stop existing.  I do it because what I’ve overcome can be redemptive if it fuels the survival of younger, frailer souls.  I do it because something about the students of BFA galvanizes and emboldens me.  I do it because, to quote Steel Magnolias, “I would rather have [eighteen years] of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”  I do it because there is something in my spirit that keeps me coming back, year after year, to love as much as I can, teach as well as I can, and guide as wisely as I can.

Yes, the financial (and matrimonial?) sacrifice is real.  Yes, the medical insurance (and sky-high deductibles) stinks.  Yes, saying goodbye and wondering if I’ll ever see these people I’ve loved so fiercely again hurts.  Yes, there are human conflicts and frustrations on the mission field just like there are anywhere else.  But—and Hallie, how I wish you could feel this like I do!—the sense of purpose, the thrill of witnessing growth and the satisfaction of knowing that I am using the strengths God gave me to invest in people like you?  That’s inestimable…and well worth the tearing apart that is so inevitable.

I leave Canada on Monday.  It will be hard—HARD—to say goodbye to my mom again.  And it will most certainly be hard to dive into a scheduled life again.  But it will be good.  And when the students return on August 24th, when the rat race resumes, there’ll be a mile-wide smile in my soul and a year’s worth of “unpredictable potential” skipping around in my mind.  That, Hallie, is “why I do it.”


Filling orders for the first 20 pre-release books in a
well ventilated office with a beautiful view!

Trying to drum up some readership! 


  1. beautiful my dear, beautiful. this is the passion and love that i see within you. The Lord continually uses you and your journey to inspire me. I am blessed. Thank you for ministering to THIS MK who doesn’t happen to be at BFA…but still struggles on the journey.

  2. i also enjoy that through the moments that you share i come a love in a little way the kids that you care about…and pray fervently for them. it has been my joy and my delight to come to know pieces of these peoples who hold a piece of your heart in this hearts. thank you for sharing the love with us

  3. Beautiful as usual! Can’t wait to share this piece of British coast with you! hugs and love, Renee

  4. 3 John 4 “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth”. 

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