Who I Am (part II)

I am Marta.

I am an imperfect person made perfect through the grace of God.

I am eight inches of hair lying on the beauty salon floor.

I am the Caribou Coffee shop on Highway 65.

I am the white 2004 Buick LaSabre named Donald, whose battery is not underneath the hood but in the backseat.

I am the stained glass windows in LaGrave CRC.

I am the creek that runs behind my grandparents’ house.

I am a necklace made of two nails, soldered together to form an Ichthys.

I am a thunderstorm in Holland, Michigan summer of 2007.

I am the nights spent in my kitchen with my dad teaching me how to box out.

I am dozens of letters I never had the courage to send.

I am May 8, 2009, the day I said my first swear word out loud.

I am skype calls from Minneapolis to Sioux Center, and then eventually Sioux Center to Johannesburg, and Sioux Center to Nicaragua.

I am six million stars.

I am a job interview in Aaron Baart’s office.

I am the carpet squares in Trinity Reformed Church.

I am seat 23A from LAX to FSD.

I am a man telling me that my story mattered in the middle of a 4.87 million square foot building that was designed to tell me otherwise.

I am the cross made of wood from an old barn that hangs in the Worship Arts Room at Dordt College.

I am a forgiven sinner made whole through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

I am Marta.

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Fifteen Lessons From 2015

  1. My story is a little bit about me, but it’s mostly about God.
  2. Many conversations can come from capital letters on a bright red shirt.
  3. Walk instead of driving as much as possible.
  4. Eat your leftovers before they get moldy.
  5. If we want beautiful answers, we need to ask beautiful questions.
  6. Perfect love casts out fear.
  7. Harboring negativity only hurts yourself.
  8. Spotify Premium is worth every penny.
  9. Buy the plane tickets and just go.
  10. It is possible to survive without a microwave.
  11. Click tracks and in-ear monitors work miracles on a praise team.
  12. Ukuleles bring immense joy.
  13. No man is an island; people weren’t meant to go it alone.
  14. There seems to be a whole lot of “gray” and not a lot of “black or white” to life’s biggest questions.
  15. God is good all the time; all the time God is good.

2015 was one of the most challenging and growing years I’ve had yet. I find myself at the end of this year with far more questions than I ever could have imagined on January 1st. This was a year of exploring big words like “identity,” “surrender,” and “grace” deeper than I had ever before. There were days that left me beaten and bruised, but there were also days that exuded more love than I even knew was possible. 2015 happened in broad brushstrokes of stories; perhaps 2016 will begin to fill in the gaps.

I entered 2015 with a bit more optimism than I am exiting with . . . but I am heading towards 2016 with something different: hope. I’m entering this new year hopeful that I will continue to grow and learn new lessons, knowing that even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. Every winter has a spring. Life keeps going, and I keep growing. Here’s to a new year.

[Click here to check out my playlist of songs that pulled me through 2015]

Come Sit At The Table

I have a pretty small family; I only have four first cousins, and they’re all on my dad’s side. Every Christmas Eve, the Vander Tops gather at my grandparent’s house. The thirteen of us sit in the living room as we exchange gifts (and each year you can count on getting socks.) After all the wrapping paper is picked up, batteries are put in the new toys, and the cards are put in a safe place where they won’t get lost, it’s time for dinner.

It’s changed throughout the years . . . I used to sit at the counter with my cousin, at one point there was a kids table in the basement, but this year we all ate in the dining room. Grandma pulled the card table up to the main table, and we all ate together.

It was a tight squeeze. Everyone bumped elbows, I accidentally kicked the person across me a dozen times, someone almost spilled the milk, and I’m pretty sure I ended up with butter on my sleeve. But my youngest cousin, who sat in the head spot, said “This is perfect! We all are eating together!”

Perhaps that’s what kingdom living looks like. You bump elbows and you get messy, but everyone is together and welcome as a family. When Christ came, he entered into our humanity and our mess. God moved into the neighborhood, cleared the table, and invited all to taste His grace.

You don’t need to sit at the kids’ table in the Kingdom; we’re all here together. It’s a little messy, and it’s not always perfect, but there’s room for all. There’s grace in abundant portions; you will never leave unsatisfied.

Merry Christmas, all. May you experience His joy, peace, and grace in abundant portions tonight. There is always space at the table.

There’s hope for the hopeless
And all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There’s rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t cure

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
Lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

Slavery & Porn & Dresses & Dordt

For the month of December, my peers and I at Dordt College are participating in “Dressember.” Every day this month, we are dressing up to raise awareness of those who are silenced by the oppression of sex trafficking. We are using our voices, our wardrobes, and our social media to say “This is not okay. We recognize the wrongs, and we are going to fight against it.”

Now, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t completely on board when Dordt announced this project. How is me wearing a dress in Sioux Center, IA going to help someone being trafficked across the planet? Why aren’t we working for change in our own communities instead of working for places most of us have never been and will never go to?

Unfortunately, we are far more linked to slavery then any of us would ever like to admit. The coffee we drink, the minerals that make our cellphone vibrate, the clothes we wear . . . most of what we use can be linked to slavery. When it comes to sex trafficking, one enormous source comes straight from our North American computers: porn.

“To viewers, pornography can appear a fantasy world of pleasure and thrills. To those who create and participate in making pornography, however, their experiences are often flooded with drugs, disease, slavery, trafficking, rape, and abuse.” (fightthenewdrug.org)

I know I’ve written about pornography before, but this is something I cannot keep silent about. Sexual abuse and manipulation is something that happens worldwide, not just “out there.” It’s right here in our own communities. It is harmful and destructive for those who make it as well as those who watch it.

Through Dressember we’re fighting for the inherent dignity all people deserve simply for being human beings that were created in the image of God. Every morning when we put on our dressy attire, we pray for all the people who are trapped and abused worldwide. So let’s fight to all release these chains that Christ has broken and step into a life of grace. Let’s partner with organizations like International Justice Mission, The Enough Project, Made In A Free WorldFight The New Drug, and so many more that work to make sure each person is loved and respected. That’s what I want for you, for me, for Dordt College, and for all people of all nations. Let’s fight for humanity, for dignity, and for love.

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To donate to the Dordt College Dressember fundraiser, click here!