It’s another installment of Speak Up! with Amber and me! This month’s topic is independence.

Head over to Amber‘s to hear her thoughts on one of our nation’s core values. We’d love to hear yours as well, so link up below! Please remember to add your permalink and comment on at least two other vlogs.

keepin’ it fresh.

About a year ago, I took my inaugural visit to Traverse City for Margaret‘s bridal shower. We took an evening wander downtown and I bought this bumper sticker to put on my car. (Spoiler: it’s still not on my car.)

Michigan touches four of the five Great Lakes, all of which are freshwater. They are the largest freshwater lakes in the world, comprising our backyard, and we forget just how blessed we are to have them, especially when it feels like God has gathered one of them up in His arms and dumped it over the state, like it has for a few weeks running now.

I take the Living Water as much for granted. It’s unsettling and frustrating to find yourself at the point of realizing that you, in an umpteenth recitation of the cycle, have felt caught in the quicksand, striving by your own power to cut through the muck, when Jesus is standing there, eyes pleading, Child, only take My hand and you’ll come free.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Nevertheless, that’s where I found myself a few weeks ago when summer life group offerings were announced and I discovered that one of my favorite couples in all the land were hosting a life group to study Matt Chandler’s Explicit Gospel. And despite having the gospel pounded in my head from birth, practically, I still need to hear it approximately every other second. So I signed up and here we are.

(Really, here I am and wish you were too, because if you are human, you need to hear this.)

“The gospel changes everything,” I listened to Meredith Andrews sing last night, but the question is will we let it? Because truth is truth, regardless of how we take it. God is good, mighty, strong to save, seated on His throne, extending His right hand in mercy, loving us despite everything for Christ’s sake. We can take it or leave it. He died for us to have that choice.

So we can hear the gospel but miss the point, or we can listen carefully to the good news and let it transform us completely. Because that is the miracle. For people who don’t believe God does drastic miracles anymore, He does, because He is doing them in us if we will only offer our lives for His glory.

The problem is, we don’t understand that. We don’t understand what being saved is because we don’t understand what we would be saved from. And to simply say “sin” is too little, I think. We assume sin are certain stigmatizing behaviors and leave it at that instead of diving into the minute intricacies and manifestations of sin in our lives.

Sin is not only the things we’re so used to hearing condemned from the pulpit, but anything we do that is contrary to God’s character. So it’s snapping at your coworkers out of anger where Jesus would extend grace (guilty), which Jesus tells us in Scripture is tantamount to murder. It’s disobeying and therefore dishonoring your mother when she asks you to do the dishes (guilty), the only commandment with a promise attached. It’s choosing not to speak to the new person at church because you are preoccupied with your friends or too scared or just don’t want to (guilty), deliberately withholding the love of Christ when He says His followers will be known by how they love. It’s saying you deserve something, anything (guilty), when you don’t deserve anything at all except death because of how filthy and wretched we are. It’s withholding mercy and forgiveness (guilty) when the entirety of your earthly and eternal lives depend on the mercy and forgiveness God either has or is willing to grant you upon repentance. It’s the smallest lies, the most subtle manipulations, the slyest insinuations. Guilty, guilty, guilty.

But for His grace, I am done for.

And that is the gospel. That is the good news.

The good news is that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). The good news is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). The good news is we do not have to be conformed to the world, but can be transformed by the renewing of our minds in Christ Jesus (Romans 12:2).

The good news is amazing grace, that saved a wretch like me, an angry, bitter, selfish, manipulative woman, whom God is transforming more like Himself by the work of His Spirit in me, made possible by Jesus’s sacrificial work on the cross at Golgotha. Because of HIS great love, we are not forsaken. Because of HIS great power, we are saved to Him and made new. Because of HIS great mercy, we no longer walk in the darkness and are set free to walk in His light.

So often I forget that. And that, itself, is sin: living in ignorance of God, not remembering Him, not reading His word, not speaking to Him. But, praise Him! we don’t have to stay there. His heart beats desperately for us and He has every power to move us forward. I want to remember. I want that knowledge to invade every fiber of my being, to change my hard and stony heart, to unclench tiny fists shaken in spiritual tantrum, to open my eyes to the goodness and greatness of our sovereign God. I want His love to pour over my parched soul and bring it back to life. I want to be made new; I want to love Jesus more fully.

I want to keep it fresh.

going on a picnic

I want to apologize for how long it took me to post this! I’ve been having technology & Internet issues for a couple months now and the blog has suffered greatly as a result. Thank you for your understanding!


Amber and I are so stoked to welcome you to the sixth installment of Speak Up!

This month’s topic is: if we were going on a picnic, where would we go, what would we eat, and what would we do?

Be sure to head to Amber‘s to hear what sunny California setting she’d host her picnic at!

And remember, please link your post permalink instead of directly to your blog, as well as comment on two other linked posts.

Please also note: Between going to Jamaica in April and transferring my blog to WordPress, I wasn’t able to comment on your posts those months. I apologize for that! Amber and I firmly believe in making this a space where we encourage and learn from one another. To that end, I will be spending this weekend watching your vlogs from the past three months. Again, I apologize for the delay! I’m super excited to hear about your celebration and growth, as well as this month’s picnics.

invitation to home.

It’s a glorious afternoon when I walk out of a parking garage to find the post office.

0963fcIt’s paradoxical, perhaps, that a stationary building represents adventure to me, but it does. I think of all the words printed or written painstakingly on various types of paper, fitted into envelopes, making their way on planes and trucks to mailboxes around the country.

It’s one of my favorite things to visit in every new town; even when city buildings and libraries and stores are being built modernly, the post office is always quaint.

I’m still learning the rhythms of my new town, even though I’ve lived here since September. And today, I stepped into a blustery Saturday, watching cars breeze down Main Street and people wander casually down the sidewalk. I made my own way, by instinct, to the Bean and Leaf Café, where my roommate and our friend sat, laptops already open for the afternoon of work ahead.

It’s stability and connection, the post office, uniting the two as perhaps nothing else does. The building’s always there, the letters always rushing through, giving us glimpses of friends and family miles away and the opportunity to celebrate their joys and mourn their sorrows. I felt comforted as I saw it; I have not wandered often into ROMI’s downtown, but it felt like a warm invitation, letters embossed firmly into a thick paper, requesting no RVSP but a “drop by whenever you like.”

wednesday wreads, vol.22

Am I Selfish for Travelling?” by Ashley

So am I selfish for making my dreams of travelling a reality? Am I a bad person for making my family wonder and worry about me while I take off to gallivant around the globe? Does chasing my dream justify the fact that I’m abandoning my friends and family for extended periods of time? Am I crazy for not wanting to settle down and start popping out babies?


Holy Moments” by Tabitha

The rest of the day flies by, and depending on the day, nothing or everything gets done. We have become frequent fliers at the library, Costco, and even through the Dunkin Donuts drive-through. I love hanging with my son. He seems to enjoy being out and about and I find myself pushing my introversion just for him.


I Don’t Want to be a Christian” by Courtney

Jesus rode a donkey. Not a Porsche. He wore a robe and sandals. Not Chanel and Jimmy Choo’s. He carried with Him the presence of the Almighty. Not a Michael Kors bag.


The In Between” by Cassie

Of course I want to be a mom one day. A mom that is present and invested. However, I also want to have a job that is fulfilling and gives me purpose outside my role as a wife and mother. That doesn’t mean it’s more important, it’s just something I need personally AND I feel like it was a gift I was given. To help people.


Small, Messy, Un-Glamorous Days” by Sarah

Billy and I get in the car, strap the kids in, and drive around with coffee in hand. We do this multiple times a week. It’s lovely because of the coffee, the company, and the fact that my children are able to communicate but unable to run around.


To You, vol.3” by Brittani

To the single twenty-something,
I can see the despair of an expectation that wasn’t met sitting in the back of your already busy mind as you drive home, alone, to the apartment you rent by yourself.
It’s a thought that crosses your mind daily; you wonder if it’ll always be this way, or if this is just an abnormally long season of life.  These seasons come and go; school, a new job, transition, but this one just seems…different.  And you discover that it is much, much harder.

the stretch.


I accidentally shut my video off in the middle of recording and then couldn’t get iMovie to export the two sewn together, so you get two clips from me this month.

Be sure to head over to Amber’s blog to hear how she’s been growing!

A few reminders before you link up: Please make sure you are linking your permalink and not to your blog in general. Also, please comment on at least two other blog posts! We’re trying to build a community and one of the ways that’s best facilitated is by commenting.

Next month’s topic is more of a prompt than just a word: if we went on a picnic, where would we go, what would we eat, and what would we do?


Four and a half years ago, one of my college roommates snapped what would become an iconic photo of me.

Fall 2010 • Grand Valley State University

I didn’t realize until the first Influence Conference how much this picture defined my image online. I think it was Tammy who told me she couldn’t think of me not by a tree. And someone else, when I introduced myself, went, “Oh! You’re the – ” and made the face I’d made in that picture.

Ever since I realized that, when I’m out by a tree, I have to recreate the picture, with varying degrees of abject failure.

Nothing can compare to the original, after all.

Summer 2013 • Shiawassee Park

There are some things, that once attached, are a better combination than peanut butter and jelly. One of those things is that photo of me next to a tree. I’m not naturally an outdoorsy person, although I do enjoy it, so it’s funny and ironic this picture became such a defining point of my brand.

But there are other things, that once attached, are not, in fact, a better combination, and in fact wear out their welcome. One of those things is this blogging space. I’ve been mending the seams of online wear and tear on Blogger for years, dreaming of and debating a move to WordPress. And last night I bit the bullet, bought hosting and a transfer, and took a deep breath of relief.

Once I get a better idea of a timeline, I will let y’all know, but I am going to postpone any in-depth writing on Jamaica (or anything else, really) until the blog is transferred over and redirected. I can promise you it will happen fairly soon and the domain will stay the same.

A new design is also in the works, to come a little later, and for the first time in the history of WSS, it will not be of my design. That was one of the seams I kept mending and mending, pressing on with a dull needle and an outdated skill set. I’m super stoked and relieved to hand over the design part of blogging, much as I have enjoyed putting it together on my own in the past.

I want to thank you all for your consistent support and love. It means more than I can say. The past five and a half years have been an absolute joy to travel with you and I’m looking forward to our journey as it continues on WordPress!


Speaking of Jamaica and trees:

Spring 2015 • Big Tree, Mandeville, Jamaica