Thoughts from a Foreign Funeral

There’s something about the drone of Buddhist monks and mourning people as they blindly chant to the tune of their own sorrow. I don’t understand the words, but I don’t have to—it’s not about them. It’s the ritual, the feeling of being in unison with someone, something, even as your own world crumbles. As her whispers mingle with the cadence-keepers, she is no longer just a widow. The words, though unfamiliar, are comforting.

The funeral procession weaves its way through lanes of urban traffic, making its way to an unmarked metal building, a final resting place of sorts. Inside, a sterile lobby complete with a Keurig.

The only thing separating the living from the dead is a glass wall. We watch as a stoic man takes his place beside the casket, pushing it along into the fiery furnace, into eternity, the place where time is both absent and endless.


1/300: Saturday

Prompt No. 1: What is your favorite way to spend a lazy day? 

The fuzzy light peeks out beyond the curtain’s careful cracks, soon washing the room with its golden glow. My eyes, just now adjusting to the silent, steady intruder, flutter open once. Then twice. A new day.

For the briefest moment between sleeping and waking, I forget. I forget who I am. I forget the troubles of yesterday, the anxieties of tomorrow. Or should I say, today.

I can’t tell what’s warmer — the sunlight on my skin, the warm coffee in my hands, my toes snuggled deeply within the now-crumpled sheets this Saturday.

Stacked on my nightstand are piles of books I told myself I’d read last weekend. Nearby are the well-worn sneakers that miss me. Or do I miss them?

The option to choose is a luxury. Not the kind that leaves you feeling overwhelmingly opulent or even a little guilty. It’s more like a full body stretch that feels just right in the places you didn’t know ached. It’s like a moment of stillness when you didn’t even know you needed to catch your breath so you can finally. Exhale.

Here’s My Why

I graduated only a couple months ago, but am still thinking back to some of the thoughts that kept me going as I feel I am beginning to sink again. This article I wrote originally appeared in my university newspaper accompanied by an awful photograph of me. Here it is again, sans photograph, for your viewing and reading pleasure and my remembrance.

My younger self dreamed about college, about finally getting out of my too-tiny town and having the chance to decide what it was I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. Now I am here and I wonder if my younger self would be disappointed.

Little Phoebe read too many Magic Tree House books and longed to be an archaeologist. She then figured many of the world’s ancient artifacts would probably be unearthed by the time she was able to get to the sites herself. That’s fine, she’d always loved the ocean, so marine biologist it was. I’m not sure what happened between marine biologist and astronaut, but obviously the latter is much cooler.

We all begin college with the zealousness of a child. We dreamed different dreams, sure, but that’s just it – we dreamed. Somewhere along the way grade point averages, disappointment and, let’s face it, reality sets in. It’s not unusual to hear people in my generation complaining about the difficulties of “adulting.” I know because I’ve done it, too.

While it’s OK to admit we have areas to grow in, I would argue it’s even more important to remember what an incredible privilege it is to be a college student in the United States. We have some of the best universities in the world and here at Baylor we have the unique opportunity to pursue our vocational and Christian callings as one in the same.

There are children growing up around the world whose dreams of becoming the first woman on the moon or the next best-selling author may never be realized. There are people who would kill to be in your position, as overwhelmed or inadequate as you may feel. Don’t misunderstand this as permission to feel better about yourself because someone else was born in a different situation. None of us get to choose the cards we’re dealt, yet here we are.

I’ve had the opportunity in my short life to travel to numerous countries. I’ve seen the faded uniforms of grade-school children in Cambodian villages and the calloused feet of men and women whose bare soles leave marks in dirt paths. I’ve witnessed American excess in cities like Las Vegas and have been moved by the desperate prayers of pilgrims in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

I can’t explain why a great disparity exists within and outside of our country, but one thing that encourages me to keep dreaming is the hope educational opportunities offer all of us.

At the end of the day, many things we worry about as college students won’t matter. It won’t matter what Greek organization we were or weren’t a part of, what kind of grades we made and, to an extent, what major we choose. Going into this new school year, and for some of us, this new chapter in our lives, I think it’s important to remember why we are at Baylor in the first place.

I can’t answer that for you, but here’s my why: What do I know and whose life will be changed because of it?



My family and I normally travel over the holidays. We dress like tourists, take photographs of everything from food to Fiji and hustle from site-to-site like ants preparing for harvest. While playing this role is sometimes a sigh of relief, it’s not the site-seeing that I remember most, nor is it the convention of it all.

This past December holiday season, we traveled no where. We packed smaller bags and took to crowded Texas highways to share mostly-home-cooked meals. We weren’t overwhelmed by the beauty of the Pacific Islands or the culture of a distant people. We laughed at ourselves as we crowded around a board game and ate too many snacks. We slept on floors that hurt our backs but woke up to full hearts and the smells of a simmering breakfast.

Usually when I am photographed, I am awkwardly aware of that brief moment between takes when my smile is untrue or halfway. This year I did not have to travel far to realize that before someone could count 3-2-1, I was already smiling.

Here’s to a year I hope will be full of sincere joys.

The Time of Our Lives

Life is becoming more real.

Friends are getting married, having children, creating homes.

Others are graduating university and moving on to new cities or new jobs.

As I enter my last semester of undergrad, I feel the shadow of “adulting”–I mean real adulting–looming over me. To be honest, I am not sure where I will work after I graduate. I am not even sure where I will live. I am sure these questions, and so many more, are ones everyone struggles with even years after leaving college. The reality of this uncertainty is not something that can simply be changed, but the attitude towards “real life” ought to be.

With the advent of social media and the popularity of “memes,” the tendency in the culture of my generation tends to be complaining about the difficulties:

Life isn’t how I thought it would be when I was 5, 12 or 16.

High school was the easiest part of life, by far.

Textbooks are too expensive.

I need to have a certain type of experience or expertise for the job I am applying for.

Why do I only have $3?

While graduating from college will be a scary thing in some ways, I am going to try my best to not give in to the “new normal” of complaining and of seeing the future as a big scary thing that will consume me. That’s not who we are.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 

While the future feels so far away right now, I can’t help but look at it with excitement. I am standing at a threshold, about to step out into the real world. This is life that I dreamed about when I was a child. The dreams that kept me awake and the life that I created in my mind … they all have the potential to be realized in my life right now. I am so thankful for the reality of possibility. Don’t let the negative thoughts and voices of culture influence you. Right before us is the opportunity to create the life that we always dreamed. 

Even more than just having the opportunity to realize the dreams I have always longed for, I realize my life is the one chance I have to live fully for Christ with reckless abandon. To give Him my best effort, my all. No matter what stage of life we are in, we all have this goal, this calling, if we are His. If you’re saving up for your next step, if you’re working at a job you are beginning to doubt, if you are unsure of where to go next, I encourage you to step away from the here and now and to remember your purpose. What are you doing now, and is it taking you closer to your purpose?


Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Places of Time

I can’t believe that my time in Jordan is coming to a close. My heart is both happy and sad. In all of my excitement about going home and seeing my loved ones, I never stopped to think about how hard it will be to say goodbye to the people and places I have come to love so dearly.

Isn’t it absolutely wild how a person or place can be in your life for a period of time and then you may never see them or be in that same place again?

It’s a sobering thought for sure, and depending on how you choose to look at it, a saddening one. The way I see it, however, this one small truth is but a glimpse into the bigger picture of time and space.

But first… a mini Arabic lesson:

Arabic is a Semitic language primarily comprised of three-letter roots that can then be transformed into a multitude of words. For example, the root k-t-b means to write, m-k-t-b means office (place of writing), k-A-t-b means author, etc.
The Arabic word for time is w-q-t and the word for temporary is m-w-q-t. Isn’t that so interesting? Most literally, temporary means “place of time.”

Maybe the idea of fleeting moments makes us sad and maybe even draws out a desire to cling closer to the places, people, and things that inhabit those moments. However, maybe it’s also true that the temporary, as a “place of time,” is also a place that we can reside in, as much as we can reside in an office or in a home.  It doesn’t necessarily mean living in the past or even living recklessly in the present. Perhaps the “answer” to some of life’s fleeting moments is to live consciously in them and not to let ourselves be robbed of the very things that so easily slip out of our hands.

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:15-17

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place…like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”
Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

 Stones set up at Dana Biosphere Reserve, supposedly one of the royal family’s favorite spots.
This is a photo from Greek Orthodox Church in Cairo, Egypt. It was so interesting to see a small portion of Christian heritage in a predominantly Muslim country.
Some great friends and I in the old neighborhoods of Islamic Cairo. 
A tiny library that we stumbled upon one afternoon.
The pyramids at sunset. 

The Land of the Living

I have been in Jordan for almost a month and have experienced so much already, both good and bad. There is a lot that I could possibly write, but I think it needs to sit with me longer as I continue to grow lest I share too quickly.

This post is a simple one and as such, I hope it will serve as a reminder of the truths in the following quote I read from Paul Chappell’s book Stewarding Life:

“Sometimes we think we’re in the land of the living on our way to the land of the dying; when in fact, we’re in the land of the dying on our way to the land of the living.” – Dr. Howard Hendricks



These are but a few pictures out of the many that I have taken/been taken of me during my time here. Never have I been such an avid photographer. Back home, I hardly ever take pictures, but here I am sure to try to document every single thing so that I can remember it always and of course, share it with friends and family. It might sound funny, but a part of me really dislikes these pictures. They seem to say, “Look at me! Look at how much fun I am having, how much life I am living!” Don’t get me wrong, I am having fun. And I am loving these moments with or without capturing them through photos. However, they also serve to remind me of a larger truth.

Just like my time in Jordan, pictures in general are a reminder of the temporary. We only take pictures of things that we want to remember, the things that one day will not be there. It’s beautiful, but also sad. It is sad because pictures are usually the highlight of any moment, any day, any life. How sad is it to say that the highlight of one’s existence could be contained within little Kodak moments?

The beauty of this truth is that as followers of Christ, our moment has not yet come. While we can live and walk in victory now through Jesus Christ, there is a moment soon to come when we will see our Lord face to face–our “highlights” on earth pale in comparison to this. No more hurt, no more pain, no more sin. As beautiful as life may be on earth sometimes, dear friends, it gets better. The joys and sweetness that we experience on earth are just a sweet taste of what eternity with our Lord and Savior will be like.

While I am having the time of my life studying abroad, I am humbly reminded that because my hope is in Jesus, there’s more to the story.

For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light. Psalm 36:9


A Lesson in Foolishness

After one week in Amman and having recently finished “Through Gates of Splendor” by Elisabeth Elliot… I am beginning to learn what I like to think of as “the art of foolishness.”

I have not studied Arabic very long, and upon talking to my host mother, or attempting to instruct a cab driver to take me to a destination I have never been to in a city I am unfamiliar with, it’s evident. Painfully so. Although I haven’t been here very long (it certainly feels like ages, though), in the days that I have been here, I have found that I have too easily allowed myself to slip into the background of some conversations. To listen to everyone else speak this beautiful language that I am trying to learn because I feel I am not up to par. To let others do the speaking for me because I am afraid of how I might sound or what others may think.

But here’s the things about languages, and in a way, here’s a thing about life:

You will never move forward if you remain unwilling to look a little foolish­–to put on humility and shed a little bit (or a lot) of pride.

(Note the use of the word “look.” I don’t mean the act of being foolish…I am saying that we ought to be willing to appear so, not to be so.)

In this case specifically: I now realize that I am never going to get to where I want to be with the Arabic language if I am not willing to step forward and just go for it. Sure, I might sound silly and I might feel uncomfortable, but how will I grow in my skills otherwise?

In all cases: Perhaps it is our willingness to look a little foolish–for life, for love, for adventure, whatever it may be­–that is a reflection of our devotion to whatever or whomever we are looking foolish for.

There is just something to be said about humbling ourselves to the point of foolishness. That is to say, to be so humble that it doesn’t matter what others think, it doesn’t matter how awkward or silly it makes you feel, or any other factor that could hold you back. The Greatest among us, Jesus Christ, came to earth and lived a perfect, sinless life. Jesus would be the absolute last person I would ever deem foolish, but it is probable from the Scriptures that many people in His time considered Him to be so.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
–Philippians 2:5-8
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
–1 Corinthians 1:27

Sometimes the Lord calls us to go places or to do things that may not be where we want to go or what we want to do. More often than not, it seems like we are blindly following God and allowing Him to revive and reshape our lives. Scary, isn’t it? However, I pray that doesn’t deter us. The world desperately needs people, needs followers of Christ, to be willing to look foolish for the Kingdom of God.

Perhaps the words “courageous” and “foolish” are intertwined in more ways than we imagined– if only we were willing to live more deeply in our faith and in our passions.






Great Faith

In exactly two days, I will board a flight to Amman, Jordan to study abroad for the fall semester. I feel absolutely excited, nervous, sad, and happy all at the same time. To be quite honest with you, it hasn’t really hit me that I am going to be living in the Middle East for three months, but I can tell you what has hit me:

The journey that the Lord has taken me on to get to this point has been such a season of growth to say the least. And if I am being honest, sometimes in my heart I think I have arrived at the place where I need to be or ought to be. It certainly takes a measure of faith to follow God anywhere, and when He calls you to an unfamiliar and perhaps even uncomfortable place…a part of me starts to think, “Good job, Phoebe. This is faith right here.” However, I am starting to see that this is a dangerous place to be. Complacency in the life of a Christian is dangerous. It takes the focus off of Christ and places it upon myself.

Many kind people have told me that I am brave or that they are proud of me… words that are both humbling and sweet. However, the Lord spoke to my heart tonight about what exactly it means to have “great faith.” Great faith isn’t about Phoebe looking holy or spiritual or even like a good or brave person. Having great faith is all about pointing to the One True God who is able to bestow upon us grace to take the next step in our lives, whatever step it may be and wherever it may lead us. God is the one who enables us to go forward, to reach new heights and dream new dreams that He places within our hearts. It is all about God and who He is, not who I am or what I do. It is always all about Him.

Whatever step God is calling you to make in your life right now, I pray that you and I can both take it and bring true honor and glory to Christ Jesus.

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.


A Teachable Spirit

It is currently 4:41AM on a Saturday morning. Approximately four hours ago, my mother and I were just landing at the airport after two weeks in Cambodia. The trip was rather spontaneous, we only bought the tickets a few days before our flight was scheduled to leave. I’d like to think that these are the best kinds of trips, the kind where you just throw everything in a suitcase and are off before you even have time to catch your breath. Not recommended for the faint of heart or the obsessive-compulsive.

While it is impossible to accurately depict my time in Cambodia in only a few measly paragraphs, I do think that there is a single word that captures the essence of both my short time there and the country itself: humility.

I wrote a prayer at the beginning of the first week, praying for my family and asking God’s blessing for the remainder of my time there. I prayed that I would be a witness to my family and that I would be a blessing to them in some form or fashion. However, little did I know that my family and the people I encountered would prove to be more of a blessing to me than I could ever be to them. What a change in story, what a shift in perspective.

It is funny to think that I, the American, thought that I could sweep in and bless people and then leave and come back to my first-world life. No, I never actually did say that or think it in my mind, but I didn’t have to. It was in the way that I carried myself, in the way that I spoke, even in the words that I prayed. How beautiful it is that we need not search far and wide to be touched by simplicity, authenticity, and pure grace. The humility that I was so fortunate to have observed and received has in turn humbled me. I cannot wait to go back.