DC 2019

I spent the last few days in Washington DC with 22 of my 8th graders. I’ve been in the city before, but it’s always different experiencing a place with kids, and with people who’ve never been before. The strongest memory was visiting the MLK Jr. Memorial. Being at there will always feel special. But yesterday, standing there with my students, almost all of whom are people of color, this place felt sacred. We can argue all day about how far this nation has come in regards to race, but I plant myself firmly in the camp that we still have a painfully long way to go. My kids deserve more. They are incredible and valuable and I’ve learned more from them than I did in all my years of my own learning. They teach me daily about the fullness and vibrance of life, about what it means to be human, about how celebration and heartbreak can live in the same moment. Standing in front of an icon who changed the course of a nation, in the tension of knowing we haven’t become what he dreamt of, with my arms around these students I love so dearly - that is an honor and memory I’ll cherish always.

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After work on Saturday I headed to Lindsey & Ben’s apartment for Jockeys & Juleps 2019. It was an absolute ball and I’m thankful for the weirdos in this photo and also the ones I met at the party. Joining in to different friend circles is a gift.

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After the derby I came home to this spectacular set up. They ran a cord out our window, duct taped a sheet to the side of our apartment, and set up chairs in the parking lot to watch Hot Rod. Thankful for these Movie MacGyvers.

This weekend we celebrated Brianna’s bachelorette party & I got to spend Sunday with my home team.

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C H I C A G O || A P R I L 2019

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E A S T E R W E E K E N D || 2019

Black Party 2019 with Ashley & Jody

Black Party 2019 with Ashley & Jody

Good Friday Gathering at The Downtown Market

Good Friday Gathering at The Downtown Market

Easter @ City Chapel

Easter @ City Chapel

Easter with Anna, Lindsey, & Hannah

Easter with Anna, Lindsey, & Hannah

to the women who made me

The tattooed garden on my arm is a celebration of the women who made me—a growing collection of flowers to honor the ones who have tended my heart’s soil in its many seasons.

The Queen Anne’s lace for the woman who gave me life and reminds me daily that it is worth living. Who taught me love in its purest form. She taught me the importance of having roots, about dependence and independence, and navigating the precarious balance between them. She taught me to notice need and work to meet it. To grow wings but also to have a place to land. To appreciate a quiet evening at home. I have her smile, her natural tendency to question and wonder, her loyalty, her elbows, and her love for knick knacks, dogs, and garage sales.

The ladybug nearby for the sister who I love more than anyone in this world. She teaches me about joy, about caring for others above yourself. She teaches me that the bond between sisters is likely among the most complicated and beautiful this world has ever known. She reminds me not to take myself too seriously, that not everyone wants hugs as long as I do, and of the power of a good sense of humor.

The violet for the matriarch that raised my strong and steady father. She taught me about consistency, about patience, about showing up. She taught me the importance of giving back and giving much—of yourself, your time, your treasure. She taught me to appreciate the gift of knowing where you come from, and of spending time with your people. To follow your heart. To appreciate tradition. To trust.

The gardenia for the grandmother I never got to meet, but who’s taught me that the love of a mother, of a grandmother, can transcend the line between life and death. That a legacy is made by kind and true words coupled with kind and true actions, and that loving others to the point of exhaustion is the most beautiful way to live.

The forget-me-nots for the aunts and grandmother who have worked to keep my family sane and safe. They taught me the power of a home-cooked meal and a well-wrapped present. They teach me that faith grows and changes, and that tradition can be deep and beautiful, not just routine.

The gerbera daisy for the mentor and leader turned friend, who took a confused and emotional crew of middle-school girls and formed a tribe that still feels like home. She taught me to apologize when I am wrong, but never for who I am. She taught me that a woman who loves Jesus does not have to be a church mouse— she can be a proud and fierce warrior for the Kingdom. She gave me permission to be myself before I knew who that was.

The wild prairie rose for the girls who grew up alongside me, who taught me about family. Not the kind you’re born into, but the kind you build. The kind that knows you when you’re a chunky middle schooler and loves you anyway. The kind that knows you when you’re in the middle of your seven-year crush and loves you anyway. The kind that holds your hand when you walk away from bad relationships and toxic friendships. The kind that will always be home.

The fireweed, often the first flower to bloom after a wildfire, for the most resilient woman I know. A mother of two who has held more sorrow than life should bring for any one person. She teaches me to turn to Jesus even when life makes no sense, and to use everything life brings to bring God glory. She teaches me that no length of distance or time can lessen a friendship formed at summer camp while singing Silent Night to our campers. That hospitality, when it’s done well, is welcoming the stranger into your home and convincing them they’re family. I am better for every hour spent with her.

And all of the ink flowers yet to bloom—for the awkward middle-schooler turned grown-up friend who inspires me to chase after my dreams and Jesus always. For the coworkers who became best friends and make Wednesday afternoons safe and sacred. For the friends who made Grand Rapids home before I was sure I even wanted it to be and who have consistently joined me in dark places until I was ready to reach for light.

To the women who made me—the permanent ink on my arm and a million thank yous will never be enough compared to the gifts you have given me. You teach me about Jesus even when you don’t mean to. You show me love when I cannot find the strength to love myself. You bring me truth when I feel surrounded by lies. You have built up this soul and this heart so that I can reap the joys of this life more fully than I could have imagined without you. I love you.

C H A R L E S T O N || S P R I N G B R E A K 2019

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A week in Charleston with two work pals & Aunt Suzanne & Uncle Terry. We visited the Angel Oak, Rainbow Row, and Magnolia Plantation, and explored downtown Charleston.

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ashes

What are you giving up for Lent?” It’s come to that time of year where, in the Christian realm, asking this question is almost as common as “How are you doing?” Until recent years only my cousins asked me this question. temporarily forgetting that I wasn’t Catholic.

When I got to chapel at my Christian liberal arts college on Ash Wednesday back in 2012, I didn’t even know it was Ash Wednesday. I’d grown up thinking that it was a strictly catholic tradition since my church didn’t practice Lent, and my cousins’ church did. When the chaplain got on stage and introduced Reverend Charlie Brown, I was taken by surprise. Firstly, by this man’s name. I mean, who, in real life, is named Charlie Brown? And secondly, by the fact that there I sat, with a Catholic priest on stage before me, explaining the holy day I never thought I’d personally recognize.

He spoke of preparation, of recognizing our immense humanity and mortality, of reverence to God’s immense divinity and immortality. Of Ash Wednesday being much more than ashes. Lent is a lot less about what we give up or add to your life, and a lot more about the mindset with which we approach the process. When we do anything for the Lord, the motive should be honoring Him and caring for His people, not to get spiritual bragging rights. In Matthew 6, Jesus addresses this idea of spiritual humility.

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets… to be honored by others… Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others… But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” (Matthew 6:1-6).

Jesus’ message is clear: that which we do for the Lord we’re to do anonymously or in secret, so that God alone is glorified. Sacrifice and prayer are not things we should do to impress others.

We so often fall victim to a sinful extreme of the human need to be seen and acknowledged. This is such an easy pit to fall into, and it starts twisting Lent’s true purpose.

When Paul writes to the church in Philippi, he urges them to, “do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like the stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life,” (Philippians 2:14-18).

Lent’s purpose is preparing us for the Easter celebration by turning our focus from our human desires to the Lord’s calling and work in our lives. We give up something that, though not be inherently negative, has become an idol in our lives.

U T A H || J A N U A R Y 2019

A week in Utah with the Sterr Clan to kick off 2019.

A week in Utah with the Sterr Clan to kick off 2019.

here i am, once again

(not torn into pieces)

September 14. Just under three weeks into the school year. This year is so different, y’all. The kids are amazing, there’s a palpable rejuvenation in the staff. We believe in each other. We believe in ourselves. Its a good thing.

A lot has changed for me in the past month. Some things I’m pumped about and others I’m still trying to sort through. I have a new place to live and a community within that building that I’m incredibly thankful for. I’ve got a new outlook on this career I have right now and I’m overwhelmed at the feeling of actually liking my job most of the time on most of the days. I’ve worked hard to tell people what I need, and even though they don’t always listen, the effort of advocating for my self is worth it.

Life is changing. GR feels more and more like home, even in the midst of my foundations here shifting. 

S U M M E R || 2018

Beach day with Kelli

Beach day with Kelli

Jenna’s +1 at a wedding in CHX

Jenna’s +1 at a wedding in CHX

Lindsey comes back for a visit and we explore Saugatuck!

Lindsey comes back for a visit and we explore Saugatuck!

Camping

Camping

Lyndsay’s Farewell Party

Lyndsay’s Farewell Party

Donuts for Fathers’ Day at Providence Church

Donuts for Fathers’ Day at Providence Church

Tuesday Adventure Crew takes Holland

Tuesday Adventure Crew takes Holland

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MKE with Bugg

MKE with Bugg

Wednesday Crew back in action

Wednesday Crew back in action

2018 so far

Here we are, just past the halfway point of 2018. The school year was hard but we made it, y’all. I thought the third year of teaching would be the simplest yet, but it brought new trials and opportunities for growth that I honestly did not want. Difficult moments in life aren’t always fair, but you’ve got to struggle through it to actually get to the other side of the mess. Approaching next year feels like picking at a scab, knowing that growth and healing are happening, but also knowing that it hasn’t always been fun, fair, or easy. Brokenness came before the healing, before the skin grew back stronger and tougher than before.

But for now, it is summer. I told anyone willing to watch my Instagram story (lulz) that the first week of June felt like the first time I had sat down or slept in 9 months. A month out, that still feels pretty true and I’m so thankful for this chance to breathe. I’ve filled my time with photo shoots, adventures across the southwest corner of this precious Mitten state, and probably too much time on my couch. Bless it.

The month ahead is promising. The wedding of two sweet friends, a visit from one of my favorite Kiwis, and taking pictures of cute kids and couples (and a dog!!!). I’m here for it and going to bask in the glory of July while she lasts.

As always, I love you for reading this, whoever you are.

restoration re-imagined

Hi, pals. It’s been a bit. 2017 has been a year, right? It started out with the second half of an incredible year of teaching but also with watching people I care for suffer deeply. The summer was spent in the wintry Southern Hemisphere with all of my favorite kiwis and it was all I wanted and then some. And the months since August, well here’s the feelings on that.

This year, God is a god of peace amidst chaos. I chose the word “restoration” as my word for 2017 and it has turned out to be a year of the demolition that precedes restoration. In these 12 months, God has torn down so many ideas I had about who I am - as a woman, as a teacher, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a Christian, a human - so many of them have been bulldozed. God has been tearing down all of the lies I have told myself and all of the lies I’ve been fed by the world. I started the year with the naive idea that I had the timeline for God’s word of “restoration” figured out, too, that the restoration would be finished when the calendar switched to 2018. God demolished that idea, too. I’m still very much in the demolition phase. The year, especially these last four months has been full on tear down, and I’ve yet to see the benefit. I have watched so much of what I thought I knew get wrecked, and honestly I’m not sure it’s finished. But still, He is good.

And now I wait and try to practice accepting God’s peace. Not the happy clappy peace where life is good and I eat a lot of chocolate and work is a breeze. God is teaching me about the peace where I have to settle into the broken bits of my life and understand that there is some purpose, though I may not see it. God is teaching me about peace that prevails when I hold the broken pieces of my life and I wait. I can’t throw them away to make room for something new to grow. I can’t piece them together into something different. Restoration in the form of peace is the restoration of my soul and my mindset, while I leave the messy life messy for a while.

I thought I knew what this year would be, and I was mostly wrong. But I also have grown in ways I never could have anticipated and 2018 is coming.

As always, I love you for reading this, whoever you are.

twenty-five

|| TWENTY-FIVE ||

Twenty-five things I know to be true after these twenty-five years.

1. Good friends feel like home. Find yourself a tribe like that, y’all.

2. This is the first birthday in a few years that I actually feel older, but I’m not sure why. I guess I’ll go rent a car or something.

3. Chocolate covered Oreos are the best (s/o to Jenna for bringing me some !!!)

4. The soundtracks for Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman are changing my life.

5. Routines are good and good for you.

6. Being an insecure puddle is a waste of time. (But I still do it sometimes)

7. Verbally processing with a verbal processor is a game changer (s/o to Keags)

8. There are few things lovelier than singing Christmas Carols with pals.

9. It’s hard to find treasure in everyone, but it’s worth it.

10. Scheduling regular time with your gal pals feels silly sometimes, but it’s good for your heart and all your feels.

11. I still cry over adoption videos and recently found a miniseries by the Archibold Project and wept through the whole thing.

12. GIFs are my favorite (I also realize they’re not a new thing but I don’;t care).

13. I use “v” as an abbreviation for "very” more than I’d like to admit.

14. Photography is my favorite. Especially at Encounter. In the last few months I have seen this talent and passion grow and it is such a weird and wonderful experience.

15. Related note - I got two new lenses in the last few months and am the MOST excited about them.

16. I am content to eat the same food for lunch and dinner all week as long as it’s good… variety? Who needs it?

17. I recently got an iPhone and it’s terrifying and magical.

18. Deep dish is always worth it.

19. Only being friends with people your age is irresponsible. Bridge the gap, people. You’re not the only interesting age!

20. Self-care is important #millennial

21. I am realizing that a lot of being an adult involves food (eating it or making it or making it for other people to bribe them to do nice things for you or just to be your friend)

22. I’m so about #21

23. People are the best (I suppose also the worst but I try not to know any of those ones).

25. God is good, even when the world feels very ugly.