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The last 8 months have been full of great gifts, hard work and new revelations. I’ve been stretched and molded in new ways, professionally and personally. I prayed over, coordinated and pulled off the second annual Rooted Chicago conference with my team. I moved to a new neighborhood. I cheered on and supported my husband in his job in urban education and my kids as they reached new milestones. I bought bananas and Gatorade for an entire high school football team, multiple times. I helped with homework, cheered at hockey games, and packed billions (or maybe just millions) of lunches. Most recently I potty trained my youngest in three days, undoubtedly the great accomplishment of all.

There were valleys, too. I cried over the death of a friend. My heart broke as another loved one battled cancer. I stared numbly at the news and hung my head over articles about this city and this country and this world that left me feeling sick and sad.

But I wrote nothing about any of it…not here anyway.

Usually there was just no time, but occationally there were just no words.

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For Those Who Run and Those Who Don’t


I used to view marathons though the lens of two categories: the people who run them and the people who don’t.   I happen to fall in the latter but I love watching marathons.  You’ll find me hanging out with the other “don’ts” cheering while happily drinking coffee and eating doughnuts.

Simone Halpin runs marathons.  She’s legit.  She’s also a wife, mother of three, director of women’s care at Moody Church and through that role has been working to launch Naomi’s House a residential home for women who have suffered sexual exploitation and trafficking.  The home (scheduled to open in 2016) will offer hope and healing through recovery, residential living, and reintegration, all centered on the transforming grace of Jesus.

I spoke with her just a few days before the Chicago Marathon last week and asked the obvious question- Are you ready for Saturday? Her response was something like:

Ready or not, I’m running anyway.

Pray for me, she added.

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NASCAR and God Are Everywhere


Yesterday I asked Siri, “How many kids does Jeff Gordon have?”

Also–How many times has Kyle Busch crashed? Does Jimmy Johnson really shop at Lowes? Does Brad Klozowski live in the city or suburbs?

These are real questions I’m asked by my kids on a regular basis.  Actually, they stopped asking me directly and now they ask me to ask Siri.

Two years ago I bought my son a small five dollar race car with an M&M’s logo on the hood and incidentally started this whole thing.  These days names like Denny Hamlin and Trevor Bayne are as common as Elmo and Dora the Explorer.  Joey Logano finally derailed Thomas the Tank Engine (thanks, Joey.  I owe you, buddy).

To say that my 5 and 6-year-old love NASCAR is an understatement.  They “played NASCAR” like it was their full-time job this summer.  Parents/Grandparents/Caregivers, I’m telling you this set up was GOLD…hours of contentment if you toss in some snacks.

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When Summer Gets Cloudy (Part 2)

city(In case you missed it, here is Part 1 of “When Summer Gets Cloudy”).

How do I do justice, love kindness and walk humbly while planning vacations and taking my kids to the pool? What does it look like to enjoy life while others are suffering? Where does this heartache/gratitude tension leave us and what do we do with it? Is it possible to rest in good things when there’s so much unrest for injustice?

This summer I’ve felt a lot of tension around brokenness and blessings.  As I welcome with open arms all the good and rest that comes with summer, I’m also burdened for the immense amount of suffering going on in the lives of strangers and people I love.  I’ve encountered and experienced at least three ways to respond: avoidance, guilt, or gratitude.

Last month I was at a fundraiser for an organization that works to fight human trafficking, talking to a man about the mission of Rooted Chicago and he said,

“Let me ask you, how do you get people to really engage in causes? Because you know what I’m thinking? These things that are happening to these people are terrible. They really are…but how about them Blackhawks, right?”

These things.  These people.  It’s bad out there; let’s change the subject.


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When Summer Gets Cloudy (Part 1)

As a kid, I still remember the magical feelings that stirred up around the start of summer break.  The anticipation of two and a half months of freedom felt like a potential eternity of freeze pops, sleepovers, family vacations and lemonade stands.   Scorching hot days spent living in your bathing suit and peaceful, dreamy nights camping under the stars.

My oldest son just finished kindergarten and as the school year wound down I was pumped for summer.  More than ready for moments like this:


















I was simply going to crush it this summer.  Freedom from The Schedule and the forecast of warm weather gave me visions of waking my kids up each morning by pulling back the curtains in their neatly organized room.  With the sun streaming in, a hot cup of coffee in hand and a smile on my face I would announce the summer-y activity for the day.  Their sleepy eyes would light up and we’d inevitably break into a dance party followed by a pillow fight, lived out in slow motion and forever engrained in their little minds.

“Wasn’t Mom awesome during the summer of 2015?” they would say to each other in 20 years.

Yes, kids.  Yes I was.

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Rooted Chicago & Working the Plan, Watching the Plan

worship2To carry out a vision it’s good to have a plan.

Let me tell you about my relationship with plans.  Almost every Sunday night in our home, my husband and I go through the usual pre-bedtime shenanigans with kids, tuck them in as early as possible, and come downstairs to close out the weekend with an exciting Hamstra Family Calendar Sync.  Full disclosure, we even have a motto: “Make the plan, work the plan.”  I’m sorry to disappoint if you were under the impression that we are fun or cool in any way.

On the organizational spectrum I lean more “free spirit” than “calendar sync-er” so a couple years ago Sunday nights were challenging (read: boring) for me.

Me: “Are we done yet? Do we have to sit at the table? Can I at least go get a snack?”

Husband: “Are you sure you’re a grown up?”

I like spontaneity, going with the flow.  Initially, mapping out our week (and sometimes month, the horror) seemed tedious, but as our little life got more involved and schedules more complex, I’ll admit it was incredibly helpful.  “Making the plan working the plan” allowed us to head confidently into a new week knowing what was ahead and what had to get done.

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Faith and Work: Behind the Scenes

In 1989, Katherine Leary Alsdorf was nothing short of successful.  She was leading strong in the industry of technology that was quickly revolutionizing the world as we knew it.  But her impressive resume and bright future still left her searching; there had to be greater significance to the life she had built and worked so hard for.  She began to sense her achievements would never be enough and any compensation or benefits still wouldn’t satisfy.  As she says, “I couldn’t handle the idea that it was all meaningless, so I just put my head down and worked harder.”

Eventually, at the encouragement of a friend she found herself sitting among the congregation of Redeemer Presbyterian Church with Pastor Tim Keller.  A few years later, she committed her life to Christ, admittedly with some angst that God would ask her to lay down a blossoming career in technology for work that would make more of a “Christian” difference.

She knew God could call her anywhere, but instead of rural Africa, he called her to Silicon Valley to be the CEO of high-tech start up.  Over the next ten years, every day of every job would cause her to wrestle and pray through what it meant to serve God in the business realm.  Little did she know, the collapse of the internet boom and eventual collapse of her company would lead her to back to Redeemer for the start of a new chapter.  She was hired to start the Center for Faith and Work and shortly after would coauthor the book Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work with Pastor Tim Keller.

This book explores how we think about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, who we are in light of the Trinity, and why our work really does matter…all of it.  Last year I had the chance to sit down and talk with Katherine about the book and the concept of “faith and work.”  As she talked, she recalled her initial impression of Redeemer and how, for the first time in church, she was given a redemptive perspective of her career.  “[Tim Keller] basically undermined a lot of my idols, a lot of the things I had been clinging to for significance, so that further opened the door for God to come in,” she says.  The way Keller presented the Gospel tore down the perceived categories of doing things for God and doing things for work.  It could all be viewed as an act of worship.  Under this umbrella she was able to apply her work in tech that was changing the world within the context of the Gospel that changes everything,

In Part 1 of 5, Katherine shares how faith shaped her leadership as a CEO in some of her company’s toughest times.  You can check out parts 2-5 over at The Barnabas Group blog.

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Sitting down with Bianca Juarez Olthoff


In February I had a chance to meet up with Bianca Juarez Olthoff and talk a little bit about who she is, the work she does and why she’s excited to be speaking at Rooted Chicago.

The vision of Rooted Chicago is that women would be mobilized to live and lead confidently and intentionally from wherever they are.  The work that Bianca does with the A21 Campaign and Propel Women aligns so well with this vision and we can’t wait to have her join us May 9.  You can find out more about her at

“…In boardrooms, or in workplaces, or in Target, or with your kids in your living room- What does it look like to fulfill the purpose, the calling and destiny that God has put in your life where you are, and to be his hands and feet in the community?”

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Interrupted with Jen Hatmaker

Four weeks, ladies.

That’s the amount of time and space between you and me and hundreds of other women coming together at Rooted Chicago to seek depth, clarity, and lives lived with greater purpose.  Who’s ready?

In part two of my interview with Jen Hatmaker, she talks about her bookInterrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity.”  Interrupted is a story of how a nagging feeling and a simple prayer for God to “raise up a holy passion” messed everything up, in a good way.  The discovery that she and her family were checking all the right boxes yet still living off-mission was racially undoing, yet became remarkably freeing.  In the following clip she expands on what it looks like to show people the church rather than just inviting them to one.


“If the gospel is good news to all then it’s not just an idea to consider, a time slot on a Sunday,  or a task assigned to a select few–

It’s a life to live.  And it’s bigger than all of us.”

-Interrupted, page 136

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