Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Adventures in Amsterdam

With my brother, Gabe, the day before he graduated from bootcamp.
Dear friends and family,

I have exciting news to share with all of you. Many of you know that I am currently in my junior year at  a private Christian university, and one way the school does service and outreach is through mission trips. Since my freshman year, I have been particularly interested in one specific trip, and I am blessed to be able to say that this winter, I will be going with a mission team to the Netherlands to serve in Christian youth hostels in Amsterdam.

My team and I will essentially be relieving the workers at two Christian-run hostels in Amsterdam. The holiday season is the busiest time of year for the hostels, and the workers- all of whom are unpaid volunteers- are sure to be worn out and in need of encouragement and some respite. Our goal is two-fold: We want to encourage and uplift the volunteers at the hostels by taking on some of their work so that they can have a break, and we want to build relationships with the guests at the hostel in order to share Christ’s love with them through our interactions. In John 4, Jesus tells the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never be thirsty. The water I give will become a spring of water gushing up inside that person, giving eternal life” (John 4:13, New Century Version). Jesus knows that the woman is spiritually thirsty, and most of the population of Amsterdam and the people coming through the hostels are in a spiritual drought. I want this trip to be one in which God uses me to pour out His Living Water on the spiritually impoverished people in Amsterdam.

This mission trip will be impossible unless I have the support of family and friends. I need prayer support from people who are willing to supplicate God on behalf of my team, for safety, unity, courage, health, energy, positive attitudes, and open hearts. I also need financial support. In order to go to Amsterdam on mission, I need to raise $2,000 in donations by mid-December. I would like to ask you to partner with me in this trip by supporting me through prayer or finances, or both. This mission will only be possible for me if I am able to raise enough support, which I am confident will happen- if God led me to this point, He will get me to Amsterdam. I would be most appreciative if you would take the time to reflect and pray as you decide if and how you are able to support me. Any way that you choose to support me will be an incredible blessing.

If you would like to assist me by giving financial support, please email me at and send me your address so that I can mail you the form used for donations. 

If you would like to simply send a check, please make the check out to William Jessup University but do not put my name on the check.  On a separate piece of paper that must be mailed with the check, write that you are making a contribution for Dominique Talley on her trip to Amsterdam.  Send the envelope containing the check and piece of paper to:
Business Office
Mission Trips
333 Sunset Boulevard
Rocklin, CA 95765

All donations are tax-deductible!

Thank you all in advance for your prayers and support!

Humbly His,

Monday, October 3, 2011

One Year

"Wishing you were somehow here again,
Wishing you were somehow near.
Sometimes it seems,
If I just dream,
Somehow you would be here..."
("Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" - The Phantom of the Opera - Andrew Lloyd Weber)

One year later, and I still forget that he's on the other side of heaven. 
One year later, and I still think "I'll have to tell him about this," before I remember.
One year later, and I still can't figure out why.

One year later, and I'm more sure than ever that God really did give me the best grandfather in the world. 

Here's to the man that encouraged my passion for writing and my fondness for sweets, and even now inspires my faith.  Right now, I'm sure he's telling the angels the same stories and cracking the same jokes he loved to entertain us with, over and over and over.  They're lucky to have him.

Until we're both on His side of Heaven...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011






I used to balk when a certain close friend of mine described Christians with those terms. The believers that I knew had for the most part been very authentic and forthright. I assumed that his perspective was different than mine because his faith and lifestyle were different than mine. To me, hypocritical Christians were like the Pharisees and Sadducees- extreme in their self-righteousness and distant from most “authentic” people.

Then I went off to a Christian college, cloistering myself in what is referred to as “The Bubble.” Initially, I found the environment and the preponderance of fellow believers to be comforting, but by my third year in The Bubble, a strange and disconcerting stench began to make itself known to me. It was the stench of hypocrisy. The putrid smell made itself known gradually, and as it grew, so too did my disillusionment with the “Christian” community. The loss of naiveté is never pleasant, but neither is it anticipated. It was not the entire population of The Bubble from which the smell of hypocrisy emanated, but a sprinkling, here and there, some more strongly scented than others. But no matter whom or how severe, the smell was undeniably that of a self-righteous attitude.

Know that I am not casting stones here- God knows I have more ugly qualities and wretched moments in my life than I would care to remember- but rather sharing a page from my own journey. As uncomfortable as this lesson has been, it is valuable. It has taught me discernment. It has taught me of characteristics I want to avoid. It has taught me patience. It has taught me to value authenticity, to practice it and seek it out and cherish it when it is found. It has taught me of myself, opening my eyes to my own hypocrisies and other shortcomings, that I may work in His strength to remedy them. It has taught me more about Christ, because it has shown me that which is opposite Him.

They seep negativity, He radiates joy.

Their words breed gossip, His Word breeds life.

They call me “slut,” He calls me “daughter.”

It has taught me that I need to be more like Him.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Next 50 Years

I recently met a friend for coffee, and we spend a couple hours enjoying the air-conditioning and great conversation. Two things struck me about our time together- first, that fellowship is not only refreshing and enjoyable but also necessary, and secondly, that I am not alone in my confusion and concerns regarding the future. Talking with my friend reminded me that the worries about paying off student loans, managing car repairs when money is tight, determining a career path, figuring out living arrangements, and finding one’s calling in life are all a natural part of adjusting to life as an adult. There is no easy way to transition from the relative ease of youth- when parents pay for groceries and gas, and getting a date to prom is your most pressing concern- to the beautiful but brutal realm of adulthood, with its car payments, college tuition, career choices, relationship struggles, and identity crisis. There comes a time when you realize that in a few semesters time, having a job will not be simply your source of income for social activities and study-group snacks, but your means of survival. For all the choices that we young adults have to make, whether or not to have a career is one of them.

The realization that a career is nonnegotiable can cause panic in many college students. The search for the “perfect” job begins. Of course, no one will agree on precisely what makes a career right for someone, but like the inevitable necessity of a career, I have come to realize there is a nonnegotiable factor in choosing which kind of career one pursues. You must find joy and purpose in your work. You simply have to. A job without joy or purpose will drain you, and when your work leaves you depleted emotionally and mentally, the other parts of your life will suffer as well. Most people have been told often that they should choose a career that they love, doing something they are passionate about that makes them excited to go to work each day. I had an experience this summer that deeply reinforced that truth. I was lucky enough in this economy (with California’s wretched 12% unemployment rate) to find a job in May at a local retailer that sells body-care products. While having a source of income is a blessing I don’t take for granted, the work itself is truly dreadful. I dread each shift, count down the minutes while I am there, and leave work feeling as though my soul has had a bit of life sucked out of it. (This is my first time working in retail, and I guarantee you it will be my last.) Contrast this with the hostess job I got two weeks ago at a local Italian restaurant. I am excited for each shift, the work is fast-paced and exciting, and I never have to remind myself to smile. I love the interaction I have with each guest (and most coworkers), and I feel energized by my time at the restaurant. I leave each shift with a smile on my face and look forward to the next time I get to work.

The incredible contrast between my jobs has taught me how important it is to choose a career that you love. I understand that adulthood and real life come with responsibilities, and sometimes doing what you love is not enough to pay the bills. Of course it is important to consider financial stability when considering a career. But a job should not rob your soul while paying the bills. Your vocation may not be your calling, but it can and should be something that you find meaningful and enriching. I certainly do not think my calling nor career is in the restaurant business, but it is has taught me how I want to feel about any job I have from this point on. Everyone is unique, and what bores one person to tears will excite another like nothing else, so I do not think there is one, or five, or even twenty jobs that could be considered a standard for the “ideal” career. But there as many different kinds of work out there as there are folks to do them, so get out there. Explore. Figure out what makes you come alive. Then go do it.

There are plenty of choices we have to make as we launch from college into the real world- whether or not to be love what we do for the next 50 years should not be one of them.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Walking in Grace

How different would your life be if you knew, for sure and for certain, that every one of your mistakes, shortcomings, and failures were utterly and completely forgiven? Would your attitude be different? Would you hold your head a little higher, stand a little straighter? Would you be bolder in your actions and braver in your choices? Would your relationships be deeper or more abundant? Would your prayers sound different at all?

We all have an innate sense of justice, which compels us to make right what we can and causes us feel unsettled when things are not as they should be. It is this inner compass of righteousness that can make it difficult to reconcile the reality of God’s grace with the reality of our own wretchedness. We know that we deserve none of the compassion or mercy that He offers us. The bruises and blood, the torn flesh and splintered skin, the nail-scarred hands and feet- it is all rightfully mine. The eternal life, the beauty of heaven, the inheritance of spiritual riches, the intimacy with God, and the place in His kingdom as one of His own- those all rightfully belong to Jesus Christ. We deserve none of it. And yet, in His infinite goodness, the Lord of Righteousness chose to do something decidedly unfair. He did the unthinkable, taking the whips and the thorns that were mine to endure, the agony and the shame that I deserve. He took my wretchedness and He took my blame, and He obliterated all of it. And if that were not unthinkable enough, He offered me a place in His own kingdom, as His own child. Jesus endured the suffering that was meant to be mine, and at the same time offered me that which is rightfully His. I am pardoned because He took my punishment, and it is not fair- it is mercy.

So why, I ask you, is it that I still feel the compelled to attempt to justify each of my failures? I know that I am forgiven for all my failings- past, present, and yet to come- but I still try to “make up for” my mistakes and imperfections. My mind knows that my penance is not only ineffective but eternally unnecessary, but my heart will not let me rest until pain has been felt or payment given out. How can I praise God for His grace and compassion that He gives freely when I am living as though I must earn it? I am convinced that I am not alone in this struggle, as we all have within us that compass that tells us what is right and what is wrong. It makes clear the fact that we are wrong, and God is right, so when He invites us to join Him on His side, we are amazed and grateful, but also befuddled. We cannot fathom the kind of love He must have for us in order to do what He did and offer what He does. Everything in us cries out to be with Him- because we inwardly know that we were made for Him- but that nagging voice persists in its attempts to convince us that we belong elsewhere. This is where our struggle starts.

It is all too common that we grab ahold of God’s mercy without letting Him break off the chains that bind us. We have grown accustomed to the shackles of our history, and we fear the discomfort that may come with the breaking of our chains. Our frail humanity urges to cling to both the mercy of God and the shame of our past. But it is impossible because the very purpose of God’s mercy is to free us from the past. It’s as though we say, “I believe You, God! I want your forgiveness, and I want You to reign in my life, and I’m going to follow you with all I’ve got! …Oh, but You don’t mind if I bring my past with me, right?” Of course He minds! It is His own body and blood He gave up in payment to buy us back from the devil we sold ourselves to, so how dare we leave the chains of such slavery dangling from our hands as reminders of the life we knew! We are not the people we used to be, and we will not become the people we were meant to be if we remain shackled to our past. If we clutch the chains that held us captive or if we struggle to break the fetters by our own strength, we are declaring His work at Calvary ineffective. All we must do to be free is lift our hands in surrender so He can free us, and leave the chains where they fall and walk with Him. We are to walk not as slaves, but as children of the King. We are to walk in grace. It is not what we deserve, but it is what He has chosen for us.
It is not fair, because it is merciful.
Because the Lord of Righteousness is also the King of Grace.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Echo

Blood leaves its unmistakable smell in the dusty air. Sweat beads along your forehead and upper lip under the relentless heat of the sun. Your heart pounds audibly with a force that can be matched only by the terror flooding your veins. The chatter of soldiers and onlookers cannot drown out the heavy cadence of your fears.
He knows what you did.
He knows what you did.
He knows what you did.
You creep forward, pressing against the wall of fear that pushes against you. The crowd has thinned considerably in the past few hours, but there are enough people left for you to hide yourself amongst them. You keep your eyes on the ground before you, not daring to look up. The nonchalant voices around you swell as you push deeper and deeper into the gathering of bodies. No one else seems very affected by the events playing out before them. Laughter rings out, harsh and acidic, from the gather of soldiers up ahead. As you walk, you notice a crimson trickle winding its way down the hill, and you struggle to force back the nausea that rushes into your gut. You hear the cadence louder now. He knows what you did. The sounds and the smells and the heat all increase with each step you take. But you know it is not really the cacophony or the stench or the scorching sun that are keeping you from taking a full breath. It is the leaden fingers of guilt that have wound themselves around your neck, squeezing tighter and tighter until you are not sure you can take it anymore. He knows what you did.

It takes everything in you, but finally you arrive at the front of the crowd. From this distance, you can hear the soft sound of a woman weeping not fifty yards away. You lower your head, trying to stay as inconspicuous as possible. It’s ridiculous, you know it, but you hope against all logic and reason that you will not be recognized. He knows what you did. The sweat is pouring down your back now, but you no longer notice the heat, although the sun is still high in the sky. Instead your feel a chill that cuts through to the marrow of your bones. You shiver violently. He knows what you did. Your treason stretches out in your mind, a panorama of betrayal and rebellion. Time rolls by slowly as you stand there, unaware of anything but your own guilt and fear and the horrific sight of scarlet streams sliding through the sand before you. He knows what you did. Perhaps it is minutes or perhaps it is an hour before you abruptly become aware. He is watching you.

For a moment you are utterly still. You don’t breathe, you don’t think, you don’t feel your heart beat. And for the first time, you don’t hear the heavy footsteps of shame sounding in your head. You realize that you don't have a choice, and the impossible happens. You look up.

You see the wood stained red. You see the body that is flogged beyond recognition. You see the pools of blood on the ground. But that is not where you fix your gaze, because from under a thorny crown, His eyes find yours. He knows. You wait for the wrath you know you deserve. As you stand there, motionlessly looking into the bruised, blood-covered face, you see His lips move. It is barely a whisper, but His words are unmistakable.

“For you.”

And with that, the condemning cadence is silenced. In its place is the heartbeat of Love, echoing through all eternity.

“For you…”

“For you...”

“For you…”