05 December 2012


The kids don't love each other today. Understatement. They're saying in cold, deliberate voices "I'm going to kill you." (which is worse than screaming it)

It makes my heart fall to pieces. What do you do when they hate each other, when what God has done for them means nothing to them, when they're stubborn and irrational, when they're deliberately and spitefully cruel? What do you do when they can't see past the smog of their anger? When their sinful hearts crawl like nasty little monsters out of their mouths?

What does God do with us? Does he squeeze our jaws until apologies wheeze out as if from a dying organ? Does he turn up the radio and focus on waiting for the light to change?

I know it's not either of those options. He is neither aggressive nor passive. But I'm not sure how to mimic him. I know he is patient. I know he repeats truth to us, even when we refuse to listen. I know that even in our ugliest moments his love for us is steady. I know his heart breaks too.

So after a long conversation that got nowhere, I sit in the car, enveloped by dark rain, and pray. God, help me show you to them. We need you.

I come inside and start writing these words, and in the middle of the third paragraph, E walks in. He runs up to me and hugs me tight around my waist and says simply "Megan, I'm sorry I was mean to you, and I already apologized to her, too." And I'm weak in the knees at God's kindness, and at his reassurance that he is pursuing their hearts. I have great reason to hope.

13 November 2012

11 November 2012

running is a metaphor

On one night in March of 2011 I became a runner. I had picked up running before, tossed it around a bit, every time eventually fumbling it as I tried to juggle too many pieces of life that claimed higher priority. But this time was different. I had never run more than a mile before, but on a warm spring night down lazy neigborhood streets I felt like I could keep going forever. A silver parachute floated down from heaven with a gift of five miles, and when I came in the house at midnight and woke Kalie up to tell her about it, I was hooked.

17 months, 1166 miles, and 1 heart surgery later, I ran a marathon.

This long process of committing myself to excellence at something I have no natural talent at, and doing the daily work to train my body to achieve what had been a ridiculously implausible goal, has been incredible. I was weekly humbled by the Holy Spirit's gracious gift of his own strength and sanctifying discipline as I regularly faced runs that I lacked the willpower and stamina to accomplish and he trained my spirit to pursue wisdom and discipline at the cost of my own comfortable inertia. This wasn't just about running; it was about God working bigger things in my spirit and using running as a metaphor.

Thank you to those of you who encouraged me, rolled out of bed with me at 5 am during summer vacation to run before sunrise (that's you, sisters!), made sure I didn't leave the house without water (Gram), took me out for breakfast after my first 5k (331 girls), and drove two hours with handmade signs to cheer me to the finish line (Kim & Jill).

Here's me coming down the finish stretch after running 26.2 miles (getting smoked by Girl in Pink):

But it doesn't stop here! Thanksgiving 5k with the sisters, coming soon!

14 September 2012

i'm lucky

The new staff community I'm working with at Seattle Urban Academy:

I guess they're alright.

12 September 2012

those other olympics

My lovely friend Leah posted this photostory of our recent camping trip to the Pacific coast and the Hoh Rainforest: http://www.ldankertson.com/roughhewn/?p=4260
Enjoy! And if you have a few extra minutes, take some time to look around her blog; the photos that come out of her camera and the thoughts that come out of her heart are just beautiful.

09 August 2012

to know people by name

I've had this quote on my computer desktop for a couple months now. It's really challenging to me because of the two competing desires Nouwen identifies, the second is so much stronger in me. The ministry of presence makes me uncomfortable. When you're just chilling with someone from a totally different background, you don't know what to expect. You don't know what is normal to them, you're clumsy at loving them, and it takes so much energy. It's scary and it's hard. I wouldn't do it if I hadn't been first loved.

I am praying that God will fill me with love for my neighbors, and will give me the ability and courage to communicate that love to them in ways that are truly meaningful to them.

More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems.

My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.

Henri Nouwen

28 July 2012

how to save a life

My mom linked me to this article recently, and I was surprised and impressed by it. It is noteworthy for its gentle, but unflinchingly honest, portrayal of the messiness of humans, even those who we idealize. I am the first to instinctively put survivors of oppression on a pedestal: noble, strong, exalted beacons of what humanity should be in the face of despicable evil. But the truth of who humans are is far more complicated.

This article tells the story of a fiery young Afghan woman who fled to the U.S. after suffering mutilation at the hands of her husband and in-laws. Her face was chosen to grace the cover of Time magazine, and she became an icon of oppressed Afghan women. But this story focuses not so much on Aesha, but on the caseworkers, counselors, and teachers who have poured their hearts into helping the young woman, and reveals that caring for a real person like Aesha is far more difficult, frustrating, messy, draining, and unglorious than we would like to think. I commend it to you.


21 June 2012

what happens when the WHOLE kennedy fam goes on vacation?

Day 1 goodness:

How many buddies does it take to paint one set of toenails?

Hangin wit my homies...

Walkin down to the pool with Grandpa.

Finishing up the evening with the Jesus Storybook Bible? Yes please.

29 April 2012


On Thursday afternoon one of my former students, a tall, steady, 50-something, Nepali patriarch of a large, fun-loving clan who reminds me of my own dad, appeared unexpectedly in my office and handed me a brightly-colored invitation to his daughter's wedding on Saturday. Crazy, but how can you pass up an opportunity like that?!

The wedding today was one of the strangest cultural experiences I have ever had. Many friends and family had converged on the small home to celebrate, and the ceiling, walls, and floor of the garage, which was the main site of festivities, had been fully covered in an eclectic assortment of brightly colored bedsheets, and strung with garlands of balloons. Couches and chairs had been carried in to line the walls and the center of the floor was covered with an exuberant assortment of fake flowers in vases (including 4th of July leis, poinsettias, and everything in between), lit candles, plastic milk jugs filled with water, styrofoam bowls of food (offerings to Krishna), fancy gold vessels, and a coffee table with a package of paper napkins and several bowls of tikka (the red dyed rice mixture spread on the forehead). I arrived a few minutes after the start time on the invitation, so I was pretty nervous that I was going to disrupt something, but I should have known better. Instead I arrived to find just a handful of folks scattered in chairs outside the garage talking. Confused, I scanned the area for someone I knew, and spotted another former student, who welcomed me cheerfully and showed me into the house full of people, where I was passed off to the sister of the bride, who guided me into the bride's bedroom for a few minutes to see all of the girls dressed up in exquisite and vibrantly-embroidered saris, including the bride, who had a gorgeous red sari, very heavy makeup, and a big gold veil. I then followed the sister around for a few minutes, saying hello to some other Nepali friends and students, and the sister found me a chair outside by some unknown but friendly women and a cute baby who I chatted with to amuse myself.

Eventually the bride and groom came out to the garage and were seated in tall cloth-draped throne-chairs. I moved into the garage so I could see everything that was happening, and found one of my current students, a friendly girl about my age with good English, and planted myself next to her so she could explain things to me. The guests took turns coming forward and smearing tikka on the bride and groom's foreheads as a blessing, pouring water on the couple's feet and then sprinkling it on their own heads, and giving envelopes of money to the groom, bride, and attendants, all of which was passed onward to the attendants who stuffed the envelopes into large purses. The whole time this was happening, to protect the couple's beautiful clothing from being stained by drips of the red dye, a Mickey Mouse beach towel was spread across their laps. This went on for maybe forty-five minutes, and then they left the garage and disappeared again into the house. The gal I was sitting with left me and I planted myself awkwardly on the edge of a circle of Nepali conversation. Eventually the sister found me again and said "Come." So I came.

She took me in the house and had me join a group of people who were sitting at the table eating. The food was delish, of course, but the whole thing seemed so disorganized and scattered, with some people eating, some cooking and cleaning the kitchen, some sitting around chatting, some outside, the bride doing her thing in her bedroom, people going in and out. I chatted, made some new acquaintances, was warmly and kindly welcomed by all, and then meandered back outside. After another half hour or so the bride and groom came back out and sat on the floor with all of the paraphenalia while a very skinny older gentleman in khakis and a suit jacket perched on a folding chair, legs and bare feet crossed, pink striped scarf wrapped around his head and neck, huge glasses on his nose (and somehow his appearance was utterly charming) and spoke/hummed/sang pages and pages and pages of Nepali ceremonial who-knows-what, while the couple at various points dipped dandelions in water and sprinkled the water on each other, walked around the garage attached by a white cloth, mixed coins and string and wet flowers and a big rock into a pile on a yellow cloth and wrapped it into a bundle, and lots of other stuff that I didn't understand at all. At one point the bride's father and the groom's father gave each other new traditional hats and hugged, which was sweet, and at one part the sister blessed the bride and started sobbing, which also made more sense than anything I had seen that day, and then close to the end the groom put a necklace of green beads around the bride's neck, which I could get, but most of it was totally beyond me. I realize that at this point your eyes are probably glazed over because I have given up on explaining things coherently, but hopefully this will really give you a sense of what it was like to be there watching it in person.

But really, what made the whole thing so incomprehensibly weird was not the chanting and candles and unfamiliar rituals. It wasn't the different decorating style. It wasn't the foreign language. It wasn't even the fact that this ceremony went on for well over four hours. Instead, it was that the ceremony was not what you would ever call a ceremony in any American sense of the word. When I think of an American ceremony, I think of an organized, rehearsed, streamlined... performance. A performance at which the audience arrives early and sits quietly in nice neat attentive rows and applauds at the end. Not so here. The whole thing was so seemingly chaotic and disorganized. Guests would watch for a while, wander off, talk loudly to people on the other side of the room, go in and get some food, come back out, sit with their backs to the ceremony, perch on the couch behind the couple and pose for pictures, shout out directions to the couple, make jokes, and rearrange the decorations over the couple's heads. It was so so weird. The rituals were interrupted about a hundred times every time someone new would arrive (2 hours late, three hours late, no biggie) and the couple would go back to their thrones and cover up with the Mickey Mouse towel so that the new wellwishers could bless them and present their gifts. Furthermore, no one, even the people participating, really seemed to know what they were doing; it was like they were making it up as they went along. The flow of the ceremony kept stopping for conversations like this (granted, the conversations were in Nepali, but I am almost certain this is the stuff that was going down): "No, no, no, walk the other way around the fire." or "Hmm, I can't get this bag open. Can somebody run in the house and get me some scissors." or "Oh, we forgot to tear the yellow cloth into strips beforehand. Here, you do it, and we'll just keep going and go back to that part whenever you get them torn up." or "I think the maid of honor went inside to get some more pickle. Who wants to come sit up here at the front for a while with them until she gets back?"


My poor little American brain had absolutely no frame of reference for a wedding like this!

Sometimes in the course of building friendships and living life with people from different cultural communities, there are moments when I feel an electricity of connection, when I think "Wow, we may look totally different on the outside, but our hearts are completely the same." But sometimes I have experiences like today, when I drive away stunned, shaking my head, with a daunted heart, thinking "I will never, never, never understand this culture. The divide is just too big." Days like this can be discouraging.

But even today, in the midst of all of the exhausting craziness, there were reasons to be encouraged. I was so welcomed and cared for by the Nepali community present at the wedding. People kept checking in on me to make sure I was doing okay, I was offered food or drink about every ten minutes, many people made attempts at chatting with me in English, and all of their actions and words communicated complete freedom: sit if you want to sit, stand if you want to stand, eat if you want to eat, stay with us if you want to stay, if you need to leave it's okay, participate if you want to, or don't, we are glad you're here and you can just do whatever makes you feel comfortable. I felt so safe. It made me want to spend more time with this community... though I will definitely need a few months before I'm ready for another wedding.

ps- I have some sweet pictures, but I need to get permission from the family before I post them, so hopefully they'll be up here sometime soon.

24 April 2012

ah, don'tcha just miss sixth grade?

Hinda quote of the week:

"The teacher said if we didn't clean up the cafeteria, we couldn't go outside and hang out."

Pause. Sheepish smile.

"We don't say 'play' anymore. We say 'hang out' because we're cool now."

23 April 2012

the rowing endeth

Anne Sexton lived what seems like the archetypal life of an poet: a complex intertwining of great joy and great pain, creative genius, awards and accolades, depression, broken relationships, and mental illness. Her story, like that of so many artists, ended in suicide, maybe because she felt everything that happened to her intensely. She was described as being "like person with no skin, no protective layer, just a mass of exposed nerve cells, she felt every pain and could write it." Her poetry is all provocative, some because it's scandalous, and some because it incisively expresses universal human questions, fears, and hopes about what God is like.

Her last book before her death was entitled The Awful Rowing Toward God, and this is the last poem from that book. It's a raw account of a woman trying to make sense of her experience, and I'm struck by her unexpected hope in the goodness of God despite hurting so badly that she chose to die rather than endure it any longer. Of the few poems I've read, and the even fewer that I've understood, this is my favorite. Many thanks to Drs. Horne & Walters for first giving it to me.

The Rowing Endeth

I’m mooring my rowboat
at the dock of the island called God.
This dock is made in the shape of a fish
and there are many boats moored
at many different docks.
“It’s okay,” I say to myself,
with blisters that broke and healed
and broke and healed–
saving themselves over and over.
And salt sticking to my face and arms like
a glue-skin pocked with grains of tapioca.
I empty myself from my wooden boat
and onto the flesh of The Island.

“On with it!” he says and thus
we squat on the rocks by the sea
and play–can it be true–
a game of poker.
He calls me.
I win because I hold a royal straight flush.
He wins because He holds five aces.
A wild card had been announced
but I had not heard it
being in such a state of awe
when He took out the cards and dealt.
As he plunks down His five aces
and I sit grinning at my royal flush,
He starts to laugh,
the laughter rolling like a hoop out of His mouth
and into mine,
and such laughter that He doubles right over me
laughing a Rejoice-Chorus at our two triumphs.
Then I laugh, the fishy dock laughs
the sea laughs. The Island laughs.
The Absurd laughs.

Dearest dealer,
I with my royal straight flush,
love you so for your wild card,
that untamable, eternal, gut-driven ha-ha
and lucky love.

20 April 2012


It's rare that I truly appreciate a piece of poetry. It could be because I'm really picky, but I think it's more that I'm not well-enough trained in most poetic genres to be able to identify and appreciate excellence in them. Maybe someday I'll take a poetry class. I think there's a lot out there to appreciate that I'm oblivious to.

(sidenote: I feel quite vehemently that it's okay to end a sentence with a preposition. The rule saying otherwise is dumb.)

I read this poem today, and on first and second readings felt a glimmer of appreciation for it. I'm submitting it to you for your consideration. I need to let it simmer on the back-burner of my brain for a few weeks before I decide whether I really like it or not. Tomorrow I'll offer you my favorite poem I've ever read, which has thus far stood the test of time for three years and shows no signs of giving up its throne for the foreseeable future.

But here's the one from today (the second-to-last line is what really won my heart):

Starlings in Winter
by Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can't imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard, I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

21 March 2012

straight from the horse's mouth

I have two new young Somali brothers in my class, and after class today one of them came up to me and said "You're a good teacher. I've never seen a teacher like you before!"

Uhh, thanks?

At least he preceded it with a compliment.

20 March 2012

i've never liked middle schoolers, but this one's pretty cool

I tutor the same sixth-grade girl every Tuesday night for two hours. I need to make up a name for her, so you'll feel like you know her. Let's call her Hinda. Hinda is smart (tonight for a challenge problem I taught her some simple geometry and algebra), really little (which I think makes her seem even smarter, because I forget she's in sixth grade), gentle, imaginative, remarkably free of pretense (hopefully she won't lose that quality as she becomes a teenage girl), and always entertaining. Here's something she said tonight that I really enjoyed:

Hinda: I like chocolate milk, but now I'm against it.
Me: Why?
Hinda: I'm trying something new.

01 March 2012


A friend asked me tonight where I'd been over the weekend. I explained that I had had two work conferences back to back, one in Portland and one in Pittsburgh. "Pittsburgh?" he exclaimed incredulously and a bit enviously. "I've never been out of the state."


How can that be?

How can the world be that disproportionate?

How is it possible that someone the exact same age as me could have never had the opportunity in his whole life to travel outside Washington state, while I have enjoyed thirty-three states and nine countries and assumed that to be a normal part of life? Doesn't everyone's parents take them to the Grand Canyon? Doesn't everyone drive with ten of their best friends to Florida for spring break? Doesn't everyone attend a private college and study abroad in Oxford? Doesn't everyone work for an organization that pays for them to travel to conferences in Pittsburgh and Portland?

I have never felt in quite this way how much my life is characterized by wealth and privilege. Yesterday another friend mentioned nonchalantly the insults that had been hurled at her at a bar over the weekend because of her skin color. I was shocked that she thought nothing of it; it's a normal part of life for her. My race has only ever smoothed the way before me. I have been given, for no merit of my own, opportunities, experiences, and education that other people only dream of. I am beginning to understand that if my life is ever "successful", it will be 5% because of me and 95% because of my social class, family, background, education, race, nationality, wealth, and support networks.

It's humbling and a little bit scary to see my privilege. I wonder what things I might be blind to because of it.

26 February 2012

i am full

The group of women who disciple me every week say a lot of wise things. I'm so glad that they tell me the thoughts that they think so that I can think them too.

We've been reading through the book of Revelations and a few weeks ago Tiffany said something profoundly simple that made my heart tremble. First she read these words out loud:

Revelation 1:16 "In his [Jesus'] right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance."
Revelation 22:3b-5a "The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light."

Then she said this: if Jesus' face is brighter than the sun, his love must be more than enough to fill me. When Satan whispers that there are empty spaces in my heart that people need to fill, he is lying. I am full.

This screams like a megaphone into my life. I adore people so dearly that I often assume they are the ones to fill my heart. But that burden will suffocate our friendship. Our relationship is most alive, most free and vibrant and right when I receive my sustenance and value from the radiance of God's love, just as a tiny sprouting plant flourishes in the life-giving rays of the sun.

In Searching for God Knows What, Don Miller said:
“I think Jesus is saying, Look, you guys are running around like monkeys trying to get people to clap, but people are fallen, they are separated from God, so they have no idea what is good or bad, worthy to be judged or set free, beautiful or ugly to begin with...
Imagine how a man’s life would be if he trusted that he was loved by God. How he could interact with the poor and not show partiality, he could love his wife easily and not expect her to redeem him, he would be slow to anger because redemption was no longer at stake, he could be wise and giving with his money because money no longer represented points, he could give up on formulaic religion, knowing that checking stuff off a spiritual to-do list was a worthless pursuit, he would have confidence and the ability to laugh at himself, and he could love people without expecting anything in return. It would be quite beautiful, really...
Earthly love… is temporal and slight so that is has to be given again and again in order for us to feel any sense of security; but God’s love, God’s voice and presence, would instill our souls with such affirmation we would need nothing more and would cause us to love other people so much we would be willing to die for them.”

The inner struggle to rest my heart in this truth is reflected in this insight from Lewis (does it always come back to him?):
"The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes [and lies] for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back, in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind. We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through."

I long for God's love to soak through my heart like a dye, utterly permeating and transforming it. For now I only see faint tinges of color, the first traces of sunrise.

04 February 2012

the first birthday

The year in pictures!
Check out the ways that God has been faithful to Downtown Cornerstone in 2011! Maybe I'll springboard off this and collect a few photos from the past year showing what God has done this year for me. Check back later. (But no promises.)

03 February 2012

neighborhood house

Spent yesterday evening at the Neighborhood House here in my new neighborhood of High Point. It's only two blocks from my house and I walk past it every day on my way to the bus, so I couldn't resist connecting there. Got plugged in with their youth program, and yesterday was my second evening tutoring kids after school. It's a really good place to be. The kids are largely from immigrant families, which means they instantly had my heart. The program director is a woman worthy of respect; the atmosphere she creates in the program is peaceful, relaxed, hard-working, caring, but caring enough to call kids out and gently redirect them when they're distracted. The program is well structured. Both kids and volunteers know the expectations, and they are thoughtful and reasonable. The ratios are manageable: one to two kids per volunteer tutor. It's encouraging to be involved in a solid program.

Last night I listened in amazement as a sweet, soft-spoken, sixth-grade girl read me the tragic adventure story she was writing about two kids who get stuck in a pyramid during a gruesome mummification process and end up dying of dehydration and despair. Then I helped a fourth-grader with long division and a fifth-grader with graphing coordinates, and ended the evening trouncing them both (I know, it's hardly fair when your opponents are ten years old) in Chinese Checkers. The cherry on the top of the sundae was walking two blocks home. The Lord is beginning to open my heart to this neighborhood and to the opportunities waiting for me to live well here.

01 February 2012

rolling stone, but rolling after Jesus

Moved again.

6517 29th Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98126

Drop me a line sometime.

22 January 2012

love looks like lesson planning

Lesson planning is hard. It takes all of my mental agility. It takes creativity I don’t have. It takes discipline of will. It takes humility, because more days than not I have to admit I have no ideas and ask my co-teachers for help. It could always be done better. It’s frustrating because it rarely turns out the way I expected or hoped. Every day that I triumphantly complete my lesson plan, it lasts two hours and then it’s done, and I have to start again from square one for tomorrow.

That’s what love’s like. Every lesson plan is an act of love to my students. Loving people well requires time; it can’t be done in a hurry as one task to be checked off the list. Loving people well requires that you know them, that you know them well, their strengths and weaknesses and interests and insecurities and their unique process of learning and knowing. Loving well demands focus and discipline of mind and will. It takes courage and humility because you can’t make people be the way you want them to be, whether your desires for them are noble or selfish. Loving well goes against all of my natural inclinations toward pursuing ease and cherishing independence and thinking about myself first and wanting other people to be conveniently manipulatable.

I see every day that my love is not patient, nor kind. It envies, boasts, and is proud. It sets up rules where there are no rules. It is always calculating the cost. It keeps mental record books, but only for others. It compares in hope of determining itself worthy. It always has mixed motives. It is sluggish and unreliable and often frankly unrecognizable as love.

But I am first loved. Before I love well, before I love at all, before I save the day or even make one tiny sacrifice, before I fix what is broken, before I make myself loveable, I am first loved. That is the wild kind of love that is teaching me how to love.

And you all thought I was the teacher.