The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference 2018 Recap

If you follow me on Instagram (a horrible decision, really), you may know that I spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of this past week at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference (TGCW18 for short) in Indianapolis. I went with Arielle (my sister) and Janie (my sister-in-law), and it was an excellent time of learning and getting deluged with truth from Deuteronomy.

So I’m going to do a quick recap.

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Going Into It

Now, I am not going to pretend to be ultra-spiritual or so godly or pure-hearted here. This is it all just hanging out as it happened.

When I heard that TGCW18 would be primarily centered around texts from Deuteronomy, my little heathen heart sighed and rolled its eyes.

Just leave it to These Sort of People to try and make Deuteronomy—the slightly more endearing sibling of Numbers and Leviticus—a palatable, helpful, super meaningful, cut-me-to-my-core book. Like, only Those Sort of Christians (the wise, mature ones who actually mean it when they talk about how precious allllllll of God’s words are) actually like Deuteronomy. But I guess I should have anticipated such a thing from The Gospel Coalition since it is, after all, filled with Those Sort of Christians.

And then after hearing the gushing, opening remarks They made about Deuteronomy I rolled my eyes and thought, “You all are such nerds.”

And then They talked about how Deuteronomy is about hope for our rebel hearts. To which I internally rolled my eyes again and replied, “I don’t have a rebel heart.”

Famous. last. words.

I won’t pretend that I am now head-over-proverbial-heels for Deuteronomy, but I do intend to reread it very soon with less sighing and autopiloting and with hopefully more Holy Spirit illuminating and guiding.

Because apparently the Word of God actually is a two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit. And because apparently I have a rebel heart (shocker).

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Various Swanky Things

So, there was a massive bookstore with books from all the Christian non-fiction publishing houses I’ve ever heard of and some that I haven’t. And everything was at least 40% off.

*cue the jaw drop and the money zipping out of my bank account at the speed of light*

Did I buy more books than I should have? Of course not. Don’t be absurd. I am in perfect control of all my faculties when surround by highly discounted books. I have no idea why you would think otherwise.

Among my spoils purchases, you can find Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke (the only Tony Reinke book that I didn’t own and hadn’t read; it shall not be so for long since it now sits alluringly on my shelf), The Prayer of the Lord by R. C. Sproul, The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield, and This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years by Jaquelle Crowe.

Speaking of Jaquelle Crowe, I’ve been internet stalking following her for a while now, and I’ve been wanting to buy her book since it first released. But somehow it never landed in my cart. But due to my highly trained Instagram story watching skills, I found out that Jaquelle Crowe would also be at TGCW18.

I finally bought her book, carried it around in my conference bag for day and a half in hopes of “running into her” (i.e. – catching sight of her with my eagle eyes and swooping in), and finally found her on the last day! Annnnnnnnd, I talked like more of an awkward dork than normal and interrupted her and her mom and really wanted to get a picture with her but chickened out but did manage to ask for her to sign my copy of her book. And she did! And was so chill about my ambush! And so sweet!

(I wanted to meet her so badly that I showed her picture to Arielle and Janie and repeatedly instructed them to keep their eyes peeled for a young, dark-haired Canadian. Because that description is so helpful, obviously.)

There were around 8,000 women at TGCW18 from 27 different countries, which was so cool. During the worship time in each session, the sound of 8,000 voices singing to Jesus together was incredible. Something like what I imagine heaven will be like.

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There were seven speakers on Deuteronomy as well as a bunch of other speakers for the workshop/breakout session, and Jackie Hill Perry and John Piper were by far my favorites.

Each speaker had so much to offer that it would take many, many posts to share what they said, but I will share a few things. These aren’t direct quotes; they’re some of the quotes/paraphrases I managed to scribble down in my notes during the sessions. After each little nugget, I’ll have the name of the speaker in parentheses.

  • God gives us everything we need to trust him, and when we don’t, we forfeit his blessing. (Mary Willson)
  • Our imaginations tend to get captured by the greatness of our obstacles instead of the greatness of our God. (Mary Willson)
  • We are no match for our foes, but our foes are no match for our God. (Mary Willson)
  • We obey the Law not to get salvation but because we already have salvation. (Jackie Hill Perry)
  • All image-bearers (people) matter to God, so all image-bearers must matter to the people of God. (Jackie Hill Perry)
  • We must infuse the love of God into the regular rhythms of our lives. (Kristie Anyabwile)
  • The problem of a divided heart is a problem of idolatry. (D. A. Carson)
  • In the name of loving others, we sometimes love others more than we love God (which is idolatry). (D.A. Carson)
  • The little choices we make every day are the sum of our lives. (Melissa Kruger)
  • People who have wisdom spend time with the God of all wisdom. (Melissa Kruger)
  • If you love the stranger, you’ll become strange yourself. (Rosaria Butterfield)
  • The sin that is going to undo us is our own. (Rosaria Butterfield)
  • Generosity only flourishes when you do not fear loss. (Jen Wilkin)
  • If you cherish something—anything—more than God, that is treason. (John Piper)
  • Until you understand the condition you were saved from, you will not enjoy and spread the Gospel to the fullest. (John Piper)
  • Doing things for God is not the essence of loving God; it’s the result of loving God. (John Piper)
  • Choose life. Hold fast to him [Jesus], for he is your life and length of days. (John Piper)

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Last Things

Would I recommend TGCW to women/girls? Yes, absolutely.

The next TGCW will be held in 2020, so there’s plenty of time for you to save. PLUS, they do a very good job keeping the pricing for the conference low, and even when you add in lodging and travel expenses, it is well worth the cost to be drenched in so much knowledge and have three days carved out to focus on God.

The Holy Spirit blessed me a lot during my three days at TGCW18, and I’m very grateful to him for it. I hope you’ll consider this conference, and maybe I’ll see you at TGCW20!

In the meantime, what has been a blessing to you this year? Or what is something you’re really looking forward to in the next couple of months?

With love,


P.S. – we’re all going to ignore the fact that I totally skipped last week’s post.

P.P.S. – all flash fiction dashers, this is your last day to send your story in!

P.P.P.S. – I’ve gotten so many stories for the flash fiction dash already, and I think you all are going to love them!


What do you mean this post is supposed to have a title? [it’s something about saying the same thing again and again]

About six or eight months ago, I decided to try to post a God-related blog post every other week so that I would write and share thoughts and findings about God, the Christian life, Jesus, etc. more often because I’d been inconsistent in my posting before. Now, I’m thinking about that decision a little more critically.

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Sometimes I worry that I’m just saying the same thing over and over again on this blog.

Sad to be single? –> Be careful not to listen to your emotions too much. Pray. Focus on Jesus. Read the Bible.

Need some hope? –> Be careful not to listen to your emotions too much. Focus on Jesus. Pray. Listen to some good music. Read the Bible. You need the Holy Spirit’s help. You don’t know everything.

Struggling with sleeplessness? –> Pray. Listen to some good music. Work on memorization and meditation. Focus on Jesus. Read the Bible. Also, the Psalms.

Judging others? –> You’ve got some pride. Think about yourself in relation Jesus. Focus on Jesus. You need the Holy Spirit’s help.

Need an appetite for God? –> Think about yourself in relation to Jesus. Pray. You need the Holy Spirit’s help. Also, the Psalms. Read the Bible.

Self-control issues? –> You need the Holy Spirit’s help. Focus on Jesus.

Giving or receiving writing critique? –> You’ve got some pride issues. Be kind.

Trials? – You don’t know everything. You need the Holy Spirit’s help. Focus on Jesus.

In sum: God, Jesus, the Bible. Emotions = fickle and untrustworthy. Pride bad and you’ve got it. Here’s my current playlist on the subject. Read the Bible. You’re having daily devotions, right? The Psalms. Also, the Holy Spirit.

Anyone else noticing a theme? A few common denominators?

So I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently (aka: the last six to eight months)–if I’m just saying the same thing over and over again, should I simply stop writing about God-related things? Is it useless?

Or is it that maybe the answers to many questions are a lot more simple than we like to believe?

Because, really, how much will our lives change if the Holy Spirit is filling every breathing moment?

Because, really, how much will our lives change if we sit down everyday to carefully read and contemplate the Bible?

Because, really, how much will our lives change if we go daily to our knees and put in the effort to pray like we mean it when we say, “Thank you for this day” and “In Jesus’s name, amen”?

I believe my life, and yours too, will change in ways I cannot begin to imagine.

So while I don’t want to become a broken record on this blog, I don’t want to stop saying what’s true.

1) We over-complicate things, expecting a hundred different solutions to a hundred different problems, but the solution is really quite simple: Read the Bible; pray everyday.

2) We’re creatures who so quickly forget. So, I’ll remind myself and anyone who reads Penprints about the simple truth, the simple Gospel, as long as I need reminding (spoiler alert: that will be a very, very, very long time).

On the other hand, topical blog posts can only take us so far.

I want to start doing something a little different here on Penprints. I want to keep writing topical posts about the Christian life when I have something to say, but I don’t want to speak just to fill the silence every other week.

To balance out the topical posts that seem to all end the same way just with different words, I want to start doing a few more exegetical study posts. I have the four Servant Songs from Isaiah and a few other passages in mind that I want to share studies from sometime this year (“sometime this year” is my way of giving myself an opportunity to procrastinate).

The point of this post.

Some things are worth repeating, but that does not give us *cough cough* me license to grow lazy and simply say the same thing over and over again because I feel like I have to say something but have nothing else new or helpful to say.

It’s just one of those things that’s hard to balance like the Force, but for all our sakes I shall do my best.

What sorts of posts do you want to see on Penprints? What are you up to this happy Monday?

With love,


P.S. – I’m sorry for how last week’s post tried to drag you out of your inbox by giving only an excerpt of the post in the email. I was fiddling with the settings and accidentally hit the wrong button. But I don’t want to be the blogger who tries to up pageviews by not giving her loyal followers the whole post by email as promised (I have unfollowed blogs for that very crime).

P.P.S. – For those of you still trying to figure out if you’re in the 15% that knows what the feature image has to do with this post, there is no 15%. The picture has nothing to do with this post. All our minds = blown. Lol, sometimes I think I’m so funny.

When You’re Sad to Be Single

This is not a post for discontented singles. There is a difference between a sad single and a discontented single. Sadness is an emotion to be felt and processed. Discontentment is a state of the heart to be softened and changed.

A contented single is satisfied in God regardless of their relationship status. They know where their identity and value are rooted. Whether subconsciously or consciously, they know and believe that God is more than enough for them.

A discontented single is the opposite. They are dissatisfied and unfulfilled in God while single. Some blame and become angry with God for their celibacy. Others battle insecurity and lack of identity, believing that if they had a special someone they would be satisfied and fulfilled.

This post is for the sad but contented single.

I’m not going to put up a case for contentment in singleness because way too many others have said it better before me, and if you’re not content yet, another blog post about the joys of singleness isn’t going to get you there. That’s between you and God.

Hopefully this helps some sad, contented singles deal with sorrow, especially since Valentine’s Day is this week.

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Being sad is not sinful, but as with all emotions, we must be careful how we handle it lest it become bitterness and/or discontentment. Different things can set off sadness. I have spent the last year amazingly happy and satisfied with God and singleness. But sometimes things happen, and I get… sad. I encounter a taste of what a relationship can be, and wistfulness and loneliness set in.

So many things can prompt this odd sense of loss, and it’s different for each person.

For those who have not always been single, it may be seeing pictures of a former girlfriend with a new boyfriend on social media. Or it maybe it’s an old anniversary that is an anniversary no longer. Or a song bringing back a wave of memories and feelings in the strange, powerful way only music can work, tying lyrics and melodies to moments and seasons in life.

For those who have always been single, it might be watching a romantic movie that leaves a longing after the credits role. Or it could be the seemingly endless stream of endlessly happy couples on social media. Or perhaps it’s something that comes in a dream from which waking feels like a loss (an especially bewildering thing since it’s a loss of something that was never actually there in the first place).

But what to do with it?

When you’re sad to be single, it’s strange because it feels almost as if you’re missing a specific person. In some cases, maybe you are, but for singles like me, there’s no person to miss but still a sense of loss and a yearning for reunion.

Obviously, I am no expert, so this is by no means comprehensive since I don’t know what it’s like to cope with and process sadness and loneliness after a relationship—whether dating, engagement, or marriage—dissolves.

Take the time to be sad and even mourn, but don’t wallow. This is one of those things that is so hard to balance since emotions—especially strong ones—need to be felt to be processed.

You can’t just stuff them down to the bottom of your heart and muscle your way through. That doesn’t work because the sadness doesn’t go away; it sits and ferments. And sadness left too long doesn’t foster and give birth to healthy emotions. Sadness can be a precursor to bitterness, anger, and depression, and it’s surprising just how quickly that can happen, especially if a rose-colored reminder of a past relationship is what brought the sadness on in the first place.

But wallowing can result in the same thing. If, instead of bottling it up, you sit in it and dwell on it, sadness and what follows will control you. Your thoughts will start to circle back to it more and more until you’re under the thumb of your emotions.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway just in case: the only thumb any of us should be under is the Holy Spirit’s. He should be the guiding and controlling force. He is altogether trustworthy; our hearts and feelings are not (like, at all).

Be honest with yourself and God. Don’t bury it or ignore it. Don’t revisit it again and again. Don’t pretend it’s more than it is. Don’t pretend it’s less than it is.

Pray and do whatever else you must to work through it. Talk to a trusted friend or mentor. Journal. Read some Psalms. Listen to good music. Take a walk. Exercise. Write a song. Paint. Give the dog a bath.

And if you’re not “getting better” after a little while, get a little more aggressive with your dealings with your sadness.

Pray more and suit up. Take time to remember specifically how God has satisfied and met all your needs as a single thus far. Read 1 Corinthians 7 aloud (and when I say read it aloud, I mean actually read it aloud). Tell someone you know will pray with and for you that you’re struggling; this is no time for embarrassment or going at it alone. Read Psalm 16 aloud (yeah, actually read it aloud). If you must cry, cry out to God.

Turn away from sorrow and run towards joy. Run towards the joy of your salvation–Jesus. Race after the lover of your soul–Jesus. Hurtle towards your greatest reward–Jesus. Fix Jesus—His character, His faithfulness in all things—at the front of your mind and go.

Acknowledge and work through your sadness. It’s not something to be ashamed of; it’s a reminder that we are not complete—we are not perfect—until the day we look Jesus in His holy, flaming eyes. Watch out for depression, bitterness, and anger. Remember that sadness is not for forever, and so don’t live like it is.

With much love,


Winter Bucketlist 2018

Since we are almost halfway through winter, I should probably have put this up on the ol’ blog a while ago or not at all, but whatevs. I like winter, and I haven’t even gotten to most of the stuff on this list, so it’s basically new.

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  • Finish Draft Five of Beasts. Yeah, this old rag. Right now I’m doing a lot of re-evaluating of themes and characters. It’s an unruly story, and if it’s not careful, it will get torn down and rebuilt again.
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this gif makes all the blood, sweat, and tears I’ve poured into Beasts okay

  • Reread The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber. The sequel–Reclaiming Shilo Snow–comes out on March 6, so I need to refresh on this beautiful, difficult story.
  • Reread Unblemished by Sara Ella. The final book in the trilogy comes out this May, and so I need to start in on the reread of Unblemished and read Unraveling so I’m all set for when Unbreakable comes out (I’ve had Unraveling for several months, but I decided to wait until closer to Unbreakable‘s release to read it since I’ve heard it’s a heart breaker).
  • Register for Realm Makers. (Done!)
  • Memorize Psalm 46. There are so many Psalms I want to memorize, but Psalm 46 is currently one of my favorites. It’s only eleven verses, so I think it shouldn’t take me too long to get this baby down.
  • Submit two pieces for publication. (one down, one to go)
  • Some sort of polar plunge thing. Apparently all the official polar plunges take place on New Year’s Day. In case you hadn’t noticed, that’s already long gone. SO, I’ll probably wait until some of the ice melts on the lake and just go jump in with a few people hanging around to make sure they can drag me out in case I black out from the cold. (Fun fact for you: this is actually research for Flickering Lights.)
  • Visit an art museum. (Done!)
  • Read a book about French impressionists. As it turns out, I enjoy French impressionist paintings a lot. So I’m on the lookout for a good book about those French geniuses.
  • Go ice skating. I’ve only done it once before in my life. I had a very up-close and personal relationship with the ice and a bunch of bruises by the time I left the rink, but it was fun! I definitely want to try it again.
  • Go on an early morning walk in the snow. This needs no explanation.
  • Walk on a frozen lake. (Done!)
  • Go sledding. This is mainly because I recently rewatched The Giver and love the wonder of the main character when he goes on his first sled ride. I want to relearn some of that wonder.
  • Go snow skiing. I’ve also only done this once before–maybe I’ll tell you guys about that adventure sometime–and I MUST DO IT AGAIN.
  • Electronic detox. E’rebody needs one of these periodically, and it’s about time I had another one.
  • Watch Black Panther. No explanation needed.
  • Rewatch Gifted. I cannot stop thinking about this movie. I must rewatch it and take notes. So good.
  • Go to an open mic. Probably not to perform anything but just to get out of the house and do something I haven’t in a while.

What about you? Are there any things you want to do before spring melts the snow??

With love,


P.S. – nine days until Valentine’s Day, people.

The Things that Wake Up When the Lights Go Out [thoughts on sleeplessness]

A lot of things came together to inspire this post.

I’m not usually an insomniac, but a few times a month something comes up that keeps me awake when I’m trying to sleep, something that wakes up when the lights go out. My Grandpa rarely—if ever—sleeps through the night because of all his broken parts. The little boy I nanny suffers from nightmares. Many dear ones feel the weight of life most keenly when it’s time to sleep and they’re alone with their thoughts. And there are so many others. Thus, this post.

So this goes out to all those who are as wakeful as I am and especially to those who are more so. These are the measures I take to make use of the time when I’d rather be sleeping and/or combat the things lurking in the dark. Pick and choose what proves helpful for you.

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Things can go… bad in the dark, after the lights have been turned off, the covers have been snuggled under, and the silence has set in.

Sometimes the mind shakes off any semblance of sleepiness and decides to wake up all the way and ruminate over the stresses of life—the next bill to be paid, the child who left God, the mess that is the relationship with a friend, the car that is currently throwing that check engine light again (like, it must be doing it just for kicks now, right?), upcoming tests that you feel like you should be cramming for instead of trying to catch up on all your sleep debt, or whatever other stressers might be robbing you of your sleep.

Sometimes the mind takes a darker turn, one toward self-harm and inadequacy and silent tears and a sense of helplessness. Isolation folds in and a millstone drops on the chest, suffocating, crushing, draining.

Sometimes the mind twists toward something else, something more alluring. Fantasies in the dark can feel anonymous, an inviting cocoon to drop into in the wake of loneliness and unfulfilled emotional and physical desires.

Other times, the mind runs its merry way right to sleep… but then the whole body is frozen awake by a nightmare that leaves the heart racing and the mind shivering. Every sound in the hall is the footstep of humanity’s most depraved approaching the bedroom door.

And yet other times still, wakefulness isn’t due to stress so much as it’s due to bones that were once broken and still ache enough to keep you awake. A hip, a back, a migraine, something physical that won’t let rest come.

So here are four things that help me.

Pray. I am a firm believer in the sweet tenderness that God has for his people and that he is more than able to meet every one of my needs—including pouring out the purest comfort on my unsettled heart and mind. So, when rest is not restful, I pray with honesty. There’s nothing more peaceful than taking refuge in God and falling asleep aware of his presence. That begins with prayer. And don’t pray only for yourself. Sometimes it seems as though God is keeping me awake just so I can pray for the people he brings to mind.

Music. Music helps pull my mind from wherever it is to look at God and offer tranquil worship as I rest on the truth shared beautifully in the lyrics. Some of my favorite restful songs include Fall Afresh by Jeremy Riddle, Come Thou Fount performed by Kings Kaleidoscope, Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy by Shane and Shane, Far Too Wonderful by Shane and Shane, Sweet Hour of Prayer performed by Casting Crowns, and Captain by Hillsong (feel free to check out my sleep playlist on Spotify). Pick some songs that encourage and calm you and play them quietly when you’re having trouble sleeping. (You do have to be careful that you don’t train yourself to rely on music to fall asleep.)

Psalms. I’m a bit over the moon about the book of Psalms (which may be part of why I cannot recommend the entire Psalms Vol. II album by Shane and Shane enough; seriously, go look the album up and listen to Lord of Hosts – Psalm 46 first). The Psalmists knew how to commune with God, and they understood the dearness of intimacy with the Lord of Hosts. Turning on a lamp and slowly reading some Psalms draws me back to the God of peace.

Meditation. Take advantage of the opportunity to meditate on Scripture or work on whatever passage you are currently memorizing. Remember that this is the mightiest of swords we’re talking about here; there is no foe that can withstand the words of God. So use the Sword; make it part of your heart, mind, and soul. There are few better uses of your sleeplessness.

All these things help me, and I hope they help the restless of you too.

Do you struggle with insomnia? What do you usually do? What would you add to my list?

With love,


P.S. – did anybody notice that these four suggestions in this order make “P.M.P.M.”. Which is kind of swanky since we sleep at nighttime which is called “The P.M.”. Just sayin’.

P.P.S. – also, extra points to me for taking a picture of my meager seaglass collection and randomly throwing it up on the ol’ blog for a post on sleeplessness. #winning