He looks for light.

A few years ago I wrote about a little boy named Calvin and the way I was trying to find the light as the world seemed to be falling apart. It was 2016, and any faint semblance of morality in our culture seemed to be collapsing by the minute and it felt like darkness was really closing in. I was certain that our society had to be at least somewhere close to as low as we could go, and hopeful that Jesus would be returning soon to save us all from rock bottom.

I see now that 2016 wasn’t even close to as bad as it could get.

Maybe you are looking at the world, or looking at the Church, or looking at everything, and feeling the same sense of dumbfoundedness that I am. Maybe you’re “sitting with your mouth full of teeth” - a Dutch colloquialism for being utterly and completely speechless. I am speechless on most days, to be honest, with what is happening all around me. I watched a video of an amphitheater full of people in the United States of America, a country founded on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - who rejoiced and cheered loudly as if at a World Cup soccer game about expanding our ability to kill our very own children. I watch as many of the people who are supposed to be leading our country cast their vote that they don’t think a little baby struggling for its life in a failed abortion should be given proper medical attention and care. I watch a video, sitting with my mouth full of teeth, as a doctor named Ralph says out loud, “They will keep the baby comfortable,” and then decide if they’ll leave it there to die. I continue to hear about the sickening state of the Church and watch as our leaders gather for summits on abuse that come to nothing except words, thoughts, and more statements...once again. It is very painful to witness. I sit quietly in my pew as a representative from our diocese comes to tell us, in the beginning of Mass, that our pastor is a fraud living two lives, lying to all of us for an undetermined amount of years, thousands of people he was supposed to be leading with love. I feel utterly breathless as tears fall on my son’s head as I go forth to receive the Eucharist and tell my son out loud that it is everything, everything, everything.

Life can be a very heartbreaking thing. And the darkness of our broken world seems to break my heart in a new way every day. But in the midst of the darkness that continues to grow, I am learning from my son.

If you have ever tried to put a baby to sleep, they fight it, on some days more desperately than others. When nap time or night time comes, my son wiggles and writhes around and yelps when he realizes that sleep is overtaking him, trying to stay awake. His eyelids fall and then lift, fall and then lift again. He kicks his feet to wake himself back up, over and over. And do you know the main thing that helps him to fight the darkness of his eyelids as they overcome him?

He looks for light.

Whether it’s a sliver of light coming from underneath the door, or a ray of morning sunshine peeking through the white shutters in his nursery, he will find it. He will find it every time and he will focus everything he’s got on it to help him keep going. And I watch him intently fix his gaze on that light...and I am once again taught everything I need to know about where my focus should be and needs to be in these challenging, dark days in our world...it needs to be on what is light, and bright, and beautiful.

Hope demands that I focus on the light. Faith invites me to remember the Resurrection. Love challenges my heart to keep leaning into grace - leaning into the good and the true and the beautiful in the overwhelming darkness. And so I choose to fix my gaze on the light. I choose to pay close attention to the couple who wheels their disabled adult daughter down the aisle to receive the Eucharist every day, and watch as they remind me why we stay. I watch a warrior woman named Abby Johnson live a kind of boldness and bravery that is shaking up the world. I choose to focus on the good, honest, caring priests I know who are striving for holiness with every fiber of their being, giving all that they have to lead their flocks in boldness, authenticity, and love. I watch the great California butterfly migration of 2019 as thousands of butterflies float, dance, and soar past our balcony with a lightness we all need. And I behold the face of my son as I rock him to sleep dozens of times every week, and he teaches me again and again...

Keep your gaze fixed on the light, mom.

Keep your gaze fixed on the light.

Labor, delivery, and our sick and sorry Church.

I didn’t think the unraveling of the Catholic Church and the birth of my son would have any correlation with one another, until a woman brought me Jesus as I sat on my hospital bed the day after my son was born.

During the month before my son’s birth, I went to the pool every day at 4 o’clock. During this time, I read the book Three to Get Married by Fulton Sheen. One afternoon, as the sun was setting over the palm trees, these words resounded in my heart as my son wiggled around in my belly...

“Maternity is a natural eucharist...The mother says to her child: “As I live because of Christ, so you will live because of me.”

Motherhood, a natural eucharist. This, the reality of pregnancy, the reality of motherhood, the reality of bringing a baby into the world...a woman says to the life that comes from within her, “This is my body, given up for you.” I sat at the pool, filled to the brim with a nine-pound baby, as uncomfortable as I’ve ever been, and reflected on these words and what it means to give up your body for another. And a few long weeks later, I went into labor. My labor lasted for well over a day, and was a very long and challenging journey. Throughout the entirety of my labor, I recalled and repeated those words that pierced my heart at the pool to my son in my heart again and again...my son, this is my body, given up for you.

In the end, my body did not want to give birth, so with the care and wisdom of my doctors I ended up in the operating room so my son could be birthed safely. They spread my arms wide on the operating table, and as my weary body shook and kept shaking, I whispered to my son in our oneness, once again...this is my body, given up for you. The doctor proceeded to pierce my body so my son could have life outside my womb, and on November 3rd, his cry reached my ears for the first time. It was, indeed, one of the most majestic moments of my life.

The day after his birthday, a volunteer from spiritual care at the hospital entered our room in the maternity wing, carrying Jesus with her in the Eucharist. And I sat on my hospital bed, with a few members of my loving family and my dear husband in the room, and I remembered Christ’s words to me and I received Him into my body…

This is my body, given up for you.

And, strange though the correlation may be, I thought of all the anger, frustration, and sadness I had experienced in the few months before that moment with the incessant revelations of how sick and broken my Church is. When the Church started unraveling in August with the appalling, mind-boggling news of abuse uncovered in Pennsylvania, I was sickened to my core along with countless professed Catholics all over the world. I continue to be. And it all continues to get worse. There are evil men in my Church who have abused their power at the expense of thousands of innocent people whose lives are forever altered by such abuse, and very few men who have the power to do anything about it seem to care at all. There are spineless cowards in my Church who have covered for these monsters and done absolutely nothing to protect the vulnerable except turn a blind eye and pretend to be exhibiting “leadership.” Any person with a brain would wonder why anyone would stay when the continued cover-ups of abuse and corruption go so deep and wide it is unfathomable.

But on that Sunday in the hospital, as I sat on my bed with my baby in a clear box on wheels next to me, and this woman held up the Eucharist, I received His body, given up for me.

Those words I had spoken to my baby so many times the day before this Eucharist...they are the reason I stay.

Every time the priest holds up the Eucharist and says those same words Jesus Christ proclaimed at a shoddy table filled with shabby fishermen during that Last Supper…”Take and eat, this is my body, given for you,” I remember Christ’s sacrifice of His body for me on Good Friday...his crown of thorns, his bloody, beaten back, his hands nailed through on a splintered cross, his last breath given up on Calvary, for me. And I now understand just a minute fraction of what it means to give your body up for another in a brand new way.

A few days later I was brought home to recover, my body sewn up and changed forever for our boy. And I have told him, out loud, as he lays in his bassinet and I look at my body in the mirror, that appropriately looks like it has been through a battle...Still and always, this is my body given up for you - and my dear sweet son, how I would do it again and again, one million times over.

And in the Eucharist, I meet and receive Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice for me has nothing - absolutely nothing - to do with the behavior of the gutless excuses for men who have infested a Church that will, come what may, forever be a part of me.

It has only and everything to do with the King of Kings saying to me, personally, in each Eucharist,

This is my body, given up - and my dear sweet daughter, how I would do it again and again, one million times over...for you.

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We Know What She Holds.

         I have been carrying my son in my body for 29 weeks now. It has been another one of the greatest adventures of my life to date.

         It has been an eventful pregnancy (likely the most eventful one I’ll ever have), as my son and I have traveled across the world together. With 53 flights to over 15 states and two countries, we have met many, many people. We’ve met all kinds of different strangers in airports, hotels, restaurants, on public transit, and more - people of every race, religion, and class in every different setting imaginable. It has been wonderful, and I can’t wait to tell my son the many stories of all the places we went together with our two hearts beating inside my body.

        Something interesting happened along the way of our journey. Once my son was big enough to begin showing himself to the world in my expanding belly, there has been a way people have looked at me and treated me that is like nothing I have yet experienced in my life.

         People treat me as though I am carrying something sacred.

         I have wished countless times that I could somehow capture the way people look at me. I receive daily, constant smiles from strangers simply because my belly speaks a reality without me saying a word. Beyond that, people have been willing to do anything for me. Sitting in the only spot of shade I could find on a hot day at my brother’s baseball game, a kind man walked up just to see if I needed anything. People ask me what I need all the time. People carry my bags, make exceptions for me to skip lines, and hold elevator doors longer when they’ve seen me coming. This “special treatment” has been wonderful, but something about it - my interactions with these hundreds of people - doesn’t add up with what I see our broader culture saying every day about what I am carrying.  

         I live in a country with a Senate that wouldn’t even pass a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. I live in a culture with an innumerable amount of celebrities, politicians, and the like, who champion Planned Parenthood - an organization that would happily dismember my son at any point if I walked over to them and gave them some money, because to them my sweet son is just a “fetus.” To them, killing my child would be lumped into my “reproductive rights,” because, as they say, it’s “my body, and my choice” to do what I want with it. And yet... just the other day, a young man in his twenties ringing me up at Trader Joe’s sweetly began our conversation with, “How’s your baby?” Beyond my special treatment, nobody once, in the thousands of people I have met, called my son a fetus. Nobody referred to him as a bunch of cells. Everyone always referred to him as my baby or my child - and each stranger has recognized his personhood. And I have realized one thousand times over...

         I am living a startlingly clear and firsthand testament to what humanity really knows and really believes.

          Because there is a part of each of us, deep down in the depths our hearts, that knows we were all right where my son is right now...inches from the thrum of the heartbeat of our mother for many months. We may not have memories of it, but a part of us remembers when we were there. We cannot forget it. There is a part of our human hearts that simply cannot escape the reality that yes, each of us lived in the cozy darkness for that time when we grew ...and each of us knows in the core of our being that we were as human then as we are now. Every single one of us.

         No matter what people may say, I have seen it and I have known it well the past 29 weeks...anyone can shout and scream and push their agenda all they want about women controlling their "own" bodies and what a woman is actually holding inside of her body when she is pregnant. But I have come to see with clarity that when any of us stands before a pregnant woman - in that one-on-one, agenda-less, Facebook-less, stripped down to our foundational humanity encounter, we know what she holds.

         We know she holds a human. We know she holds her child. We know she holds the future of the world.

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Wheelchairs and Waves.

       I am trying to cultivate a generation of young women who believe in themselves and who God created them to be.

       It is beautiful. It is fulfilling. It is not easy.

       One of the most wonderful surprises in life is stumbling upon a scene soaked in beauty, dripping with the heart and grace of God when you least expect it. Recently, I joined Daniël at the beach near our house to watch him surf. What I thought would be a normal afternoon at the beach became a few hours that will remain with me forever.

       When we walked down to the shore we came upon a group of people in wheelchairs sitting on the sand. It didn’t take long to see that these people weren’t there to just watch and enjoy the ocean. They were there to surf, too. There were numerous people in wheelchairs, and a team of people there to facilitate the surfing. One by one, these men and women were outfitted by the team to get their wetsuits on. One by one, a team member carried each individual on their back out to the waves.

       One of the men crawls on his hands and knees out to the waves while a young man carries his board behind him, and I am overcome.

       One of the team members lifts a young man with a blonde topknot who looks about my age onto his back, while another brings out his red board. They place him in the water with his board and give him his double-sided oar. The man begins to paddle out, headed valiantly toward the waves. The swell rushes in quickly and crashes into him, immediately flipping him over. My heart races until I see his head pop out of the water and I watch as he pulls himself back onto his board, pulling his legs back into place one at a time with his arms. He begins to paddle out again and is taken out by another wave.

       He struggles to get past the break. It happens a third time. He flips his board over and pulls himself back on with all his might, again and again. And then I witness him make it past the break and out to the surf. You should have seen him flying down the waves.

       I watch each of these individuals out in the water, battling and gritting their teeth and fighting past the break again and again against all odds. After an hour of watching this scene soaked with beauty, I wipe tears that fall behind my sunglasses as I watch them take the brushes of their lives and paint a picture of what resilience and determination look like for us all.

       God knows I needed to witness this. Because there are days when this call - this difficult work of helping women to see their value, their dignity, of empowering them to make decisions that will set them free in a world that offers them chains, of equipping them to live authentic and beautiful femininity - feels like an impossibility. Teen Vogue...Cosmopolitan...Snapchat...Celebrities and YouTubers...Man-hating feminism...a culture that tells them there’s no difference between getting an abortion and going to the dentist...it’s all just “healthcare.” All day long this culture speaks lies to young women, and millions of them. My board is flipped over constantly. I, admittedly, have cried over their power. I have sobbed at our dinner table feeling overwhelmed and helpless, while my steady heartbeat of a husband sits close and reassures. And in this moment, my heart is imprinted with an image I will think of again and again.  

     It is an image of a young man with a blonde topknot on a red board who does not give up, who does not let anything get in the way of his mission and his passion. He goes back out again and again because he remembers that feeling of flying down the waves. And this is an illustration for us all - a man who may have likely been told, “You can’t,” “That will be impossible,” “It’s not worth trying” - who pushes through and says with his life as he flies jubilantly down a wave...“Yes. I. can.”  

       The world is cold and dark and disheartening and our sick culture is as loud as ever but the wheelchairs next to me sit empty. And this young man doesn’t know my name and doesn't say a word to me but speaks to me as directly as anyone ever has..

       Do not give up. Don’t you dare give up, Emily. Tuck this into your heart and remember this for all time...this is what it looks like to keep your heart up and fight on.

Jesus, Your Love Just Isn't Enough.

      A few months ago, I was talking with a young woman who was desperate for a romantic relationship. As we conversed, she shared with me that in light of her ache for a relationship, Jesus’ love just doesn’t feel like enough.

      I felt a stinging sorrow in my heart immediately after she declared this sentence. I have had to pause and reflect on these words over and over again.

      I have taken these words and reflected on them in the depths of my soul. This reflection brought up many memories of moments when Jesus’ love didn’t feel like enough in my feeble, frail humanity and desire for empty, earthly things. I thought about those moments in my own life, moments when I just had a desire for more...moments when I treated God’s intangible love as though it was something that wouldn’t satisfy as much as that the tangible and immediate can. And I have come back to a quiet moment again and again...again and again, I have found myself on Calvary.

      I have imagined myself standing before Jesus hanging on a cross on Calvary, and I have imagined saying those words out loud…”Jesus, it just isn’t enough. I still need you to do more.”

      I force myself to say it to Him, because isn't that what my choices and thoughts sometimes reflect? Haven't I shown Him over and over again that I prefer so many things over His love? As I say it out loud to Jesus, shame immediately wells up within every cell in my body. Imagine how that would be, Mary standing beside me, grieving her only son, hearing those words come out of my mouth.

      Can you imagine?

      And yet, we say it again and again by our choices, by our despair, by our desperate grasping at the tangible and what the world tells us will satisfy...Jesus, thanks for this and all, but I need the love of a boyfriend or husband...I need more success...I need a house...I need more money...I need more recognition...in order to be happy, in order to feel like it’s all enough, in order to feel like my life was worth something, anything. Your love...well, it’s simply not enough.

      I have a very vivid memory from a conference I attended a few years ago. Adoration had just begun and one of my saintly priest friends had processed in with the monstrance and placed it on the altar. As he kneeled and we sang, he swung the thurible high and incense billowed out. I read his lips as he declared out loud with fervor...“Jesus, your love is more than enough for me. It is more than enough.” The power this moment held for me will stay with me until the end of my life.

      I remember kneeling there, thinking...this is a man who will never have what the world promises will fulfill - romantic relationships, money, sex, or worldly power. And yet, He knows that when you kneel before the King, and when you go about your day in the presence of the almighty God, and as you live your one life here on earth - His love is, and will forever be, more than enough.

      Maybe you find yourself believing that you need more than His inestimable love - that if you just had "X” then you’d finally have arrived or feel the fulfillment you deeply long for. In these moments, as I will, I want to invite you into this imagining…

      Stand before him on Calvary, and try saying it out loud,

      Jesus, your love just isn’t enough.

      See if you can even get the first two words out as He hangs there, broken and bleeding for you.

      Maybe this is the place where we need to go - to stand before Him, to gaze at Him, and to remember...this is everything. There was nothing more He could have done to prove the incalculable depths of His love. There was nothing more He could have given for you than His life. Dig into the infinite satisfaction that can be found in this love and this love alone. It is all available to you, there for the digging, for the accepting, for the seeking. If all of Himself - His body, blood, soul, and divinity - is not enough for you, what will ever be?

A Challenge for All Women.

        A few days ago I was sitting by myself having lunch at Costco, scrolling through Instagram. There are countless quotes and images swirling around these days that it’s rare one hits you straight through the heart. A kind and selfless woman I follow posted a beautiful photo of her and her children, with this quote as her caption…

“What if you wake up someday, and you’re 65 or 75, and you never got your novel or memoir written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools or oceans because your thighs were jiggly or you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big, juicy, creative life, of imagination and silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let that happen.” -Anne Lamott

       This quote struck me right in the soul and reverberated through my bones. While I may not agree with all the views of this writer, this quote paints a startling picture of the way so many of us as women live. It is amazing, the things that keep us from living full, rich, magnificent lives…jealousy, fear, insecurity, pain, apathy, laziness, bitterness. This list is long and this list enslaves. It stifles the deepest, truest parts of ourselves. It perpetually holds us back from further becoming the brilliant, bold women God created us to be.

       I sat with this quote and got to thinking long and hard about when I am 65 or 75, if God gives me that many years. When you are 65 or 75, if God gives you those years, you will be able to look back and reflect on the life you lived. Today, I pose a challenging series of questions for you that I have asked myself upon marinating deeply on the above quote, questions that I am asking myself and challenging myself with because I don’t want to look back on my life and have lived in a way that will break my heart.

       So today I ask you…years from now when you take a good, long look back on your life, would you rather have lived your life in a way that would cause you to say…

                        I. I wish I had spent less time comparing myself to other women.


I am glad I spent time learning to love myself as I am.

II. I wish I had spent less time worrying about whether or not God was going to take care of everything.


I am glad I learned to trust the hand of the Father.

III. I wish I had spent less time crying to God and being angry with Him about my relationship status.


I’m grateful I spent my time focusing on the blessings before me, trusting that God has a plan for my life and relationship or not, marriage or not, His plan for my unique life has always been good.

IV. I wish I had spent less time wanting and investing and focusing on things.


I’m so glad I spent time investing in hearts, friendships, people, and community.

V. I wish I had spent less time wishing I had what she has.


I am thankful I spent time learning to love and want what I have.

VI. I wish I had spent less time being jealous of other women’s gifts and talents.


I’m glad I took the time to ask God…what are my gifts? Please help me use them well.

VII. I wish I had spent less time hating my body and not taking good care of it.


I am so grateful I consciously chose to love my body and invested in taking good care of it.

VIII. I wish I had pushed less people away because of my fears and past hurts and rejections.


I am glad I let people into my heart and my life even though it was hard.

IX. I wish I had spent less time living and operating out of fear.


I am glad I spent so much of my life living and operating out of faith.

X. I wish I had spent less time on social media, comparing my life to everyone else’s.


I’m so happy I got outside and lived, embracing the unique and beautiful life God gave me.

       Maybe one or more of these strikes you deeply. Sit with it for a few minutes. Only you know the areas of your life where you are living in the first set of statements. Which set of statements do you struggle with the most? 

       If you find yourself living in any of the first set of statements, spending years and seasons with jealousy ravaging your heart, self-hatred dictating your days, fear of rejection enslaving you – you will look back on your life and it will surely break your heart. At 28 years old, I have already spent years pushing people away because of past hurts, and it has already broken my heart. The good news that hope brings is that I can allow my broken heart to cause me to change now. I can choose to battle against my tendency to live in the first part of VIII rather than the second part of VIII. 

       It is the good news that will stand until the day we die and the good news that I am awakening to remember every single day...we can always choose to change.

        We can always decide to work on one or more of these areas of our lives…you can decide that the moment you begin to feel jealousy creeping in about another woman’s gifts, you will stop immediately and ask God to show you what your gifts are and ask Him to help you to use them in the way He has designed you to. You can decide today that you don’t want to look back and feel sorrow that you spent your whole life hating your body…you can decide today that you want to begin to consciously learn to love it and care for it and take the first step necessary to make that happen.

       What is holding you back from living as the woman God created you to be? What is keeping you from radiating the unique love, beauty, and joy God gave you to share with the world? Your life is happening right now. The next moment or season of your life is not more important than this one. Today my challenge for myself, and for you, is this…

       Don’t let the way you lived break your heart. Let the way you lived bring you joy.

(Thank you to all my sisters who joined me on Instagram Live last night to unpack these statements and how we can live more boldly, brilliantly, and beautifully. I am grateful for your love.)

Just You Wait.

       “She is too young to really see what’s coming.”

       This was a comment made on one of my recent videos on the beauty of the sacrament of marriage.

       I’m going to bypass the problem of condescension that happy newlyweds and new mothers encounter for a moment here and unpack that on a future day.

       Everyone’s experiences of marriage are different…everyone’s life experiences take on different colors and shapes…but I see cheerful newlyweds met with one sentence all too often...

       “Just you wait.”

        Just you wait until you see what is to come, just you wait until you see how hard it will be one day. You think you’ve dealt with the tough stuff. Just. you. wait.

         I am not annoyed by this woman’s comments, nor am I offended - I am completely open to people saying what they want about me and my outlook on anything as I put myself out there for the free receipt of any commentary. I do find it interesting, however, that people think that age makes people naive or that cheerfulness or joy is a sign of naiveté…especially about marriage.

       There is not a person in this world who knows what another individual has witnessed within the marriages that surround them. When I was a small child, we took family trips to visit my grandparents in Philadelphia. I was able to witness my grandmother care for my very sick grandfather, bound to a wheelchair and quite dependent on her love and care. My parents have been married for over 31 years, an example of stunning unconditional love through incredible highs and incredible lows.  

       She is too young to really see what is coming.

       I was quite young when I witnessed what can come. When I was 12 years old, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. It was a very, very challenging time for our family...and I, a small girl, watched “sickness and health” play out - in the most heart-wrenching, concrete, beautiful way - right before my eyes. I witnessed the hanging on. I witnessed the care and the suffering. I witnessed the fear of losing my mother and watched my father live out his vow. I have witnessed what it means to walk and breathe and live one’s wedding vows for the last 27 years of my life through my parents’ marriage.

       I have watched friends and acquaintances work through serious illness, infidelity, addiction, and more in their marriages. I have watched them face problems the world would tell them are legitimate reason to take off, to part ways, to split…and I have watched them dig in their heels and stay. As they have hung on they have taught me what it looks like to strengthen your resolve and hang on when the storms rage.

       It is incredible what you can learn by paying attention.

       I hold a firm (and perhaps unconventional) belief that if marriage was really such a nightmare married couples would not attend weddings. I think if marriage was so awful and they attended weddings they would stand up and say “DON’T DO IT - YOU’RE MAKING A HUGE MISTAKE!” They absolutely would not let the people they love go through with it. But married couples do attend weddings. Couples who have been married 20, 30, 40, 50 years attend weddings. And they have all seen what is coming. Not a single one stands up and stops any of it. Many married people came to our wedding - friends and family who have been married for 5 years, 10 years, our parents who have both been married 30+ years. And what I saw was a small beach house lit up on a chilly December night filled with one hundred beautiful friends and many married couples smiling at each other, holding one another close on the dance floor and smiling joyfully into each other's eyes.

       I was not too young to see the couples surrounding us on that night who have dug in deep when the going got ugly and decided…we made a vow…we will press on, hand in hand. I watched couples who possess a love incalculably rich and deep - who know secrets only they know, only the two of them who know every turn their marriage has taken, every conversation, every moment of love and laughter that they have shared.

       I have so very much to learn about my husband and about marriage, but I have seen an expansive array of what could possibly be ahead for us. Only God knows what lies ahead, but I hold a deep awareness that life can be impossibly difficult and that Daniël and I will experience great hardship. It does not mean, however, that I will spend my days listening to those who tell me to wait for those hard times.

       Anticipating the bad times when you are living in the good ones is not a helpful or happy way for anyone to live at all.

       Perhaps people who are cheerful about marriage are not necessarily naive about it…perhaps they have seen the worst, and they are grateful to have the person they do have to walk beside them for when the worst in their life does come to be. Some may call it naiveté. I call it a choice. It is the choice to keep building on a firm foundation rather than a hill of sand, so that when the days and months and years are not joyful or happy or fun at all, there is a core to everything that we are together…the core of our faith and the heart of Jesus Christ…the Savior of the world who does not call us to the easy but calls us to the purifying and to the beautiful.

We're All In the Light

       Orange County is a brilliant and breathtaking shade of yellow right now. The mustard seeds have taken flight all over the hillsides and have lit up the vast expanses of space with a brightness I wish would last all year long.

       I was at Costco the day after all the martyrs went to see the face of God while waving their palms and singing Hosanna in Egypt. In the morning I sobbed over the heart-wrecking photograph of the bloody pew and I let it change me in the way that you can choose to let those things change you, then I took a drive to buy fruit, beef jerky, and some salads. I met a lady named Lindalee who gave me a generous sample pour of Jose’s coffee in a small styrofoam cup, and I briefly shared how sad I was about the world upon her inquiry into how my day was going.

       She echoed my sentiments about how dark and sad and scary the world is...and then she stated quite confidently, “Don’t worry, we’re all in the light,” as she bent down to get another pot of coffee to pour out and hand out. It was the second time something had taken my breath away that day and it wasn’t even noon.

       Don’t worry...we’re all in the light.

       We celebrated the Resurrection on Sunday and it was as glorious and wonderful as ever, then Monday came along with the harsh remembering that in the everyday world one can feel quite deeply like they are swimming around in a bunch of muck...angry people in a world lost to sin and evil prowling around the corner at every turn, every click, every channel...

       I am always having to surrender to letting the glory of Easter teach me things.

       Because if I quiet and still myself...if I stop just long enough to let it do such a careful and holy thing...it teaches me that in the midst of the darkness there is a call that has been placed on my life, on our lives as Christians...the call to carry the light of the Resurrection.

       We get the opportunity to seize this responsibility...our honorable and majestic responsibility, really, to carry this light like a flaming torch through the dark, damp, cold streets of this world and let that torch shine light into the broken and cracked windows through which the light has perhaps never shone. We get to carry the light of this triumph over all the dark and scatter it like mustard seeds all over the fields of sorrow surrounding us...

       As I drive down the streets and absorb the beauty of all the yellow I continue to let Easter teach me...I reflect and remember that I believe in a God who is light, a God who broke through and has not ceased breaking through all the cracks and the darkness and who gently holds the shattered pieces of our broken and sorry world and that Saint John was not speaking in analogy when he penned it down...

God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

       You can carry the light. You can scatter the light. You are a child of the Father of lights.

       We can choose to live like the Resurrection was a nice story that didn’t really change or redeem anything or we can choose to dig into the remembering that the Resurrection was as real as anything has ever been and that it changes and redeems everything...and that while we forge through the muck, one foot ahead of the other, we are in the light...that I am a daughter of the Father of lights, who does not ever change like the shifting of the shadows in the day…

       And as I walk away from her sample table, pushing my cart, cup of coffee in my hand, I say it out loud like I believe it because I do…

       Yes, Lindalee. Yes, we are. We are all in the light.

Photograph : Trini Crocker, trinicrockerphotography.com.

Photograph : Trini Crocker, trinicrockerphotography.com.

The Symphony of Shame.

     Women share their secrets with me. It is a natural part of my work - they share things with me they feel they cannot share with others. They do this, I suppose, because they feel I am someone they can trust. I am an outsider; I am not someone who knows them, their family, their friends, their boyfriend, their husband or their life at all. It is easier to share your secrets with someone who is not woven closely into the fabric of your life.

     A woman emailed me once, opening her heart to share a very heavy burden she carries. It is a serious situation about something that happened long ago, and she has never told her husband. She is carrying a burden that is far too heavy to carry alone, afraid to share it, terrified to bring it to the light. My heart ached deeply at the knowledge of this, and the knowledge that she is not the only woman in the world enslaved by secrets.

     Secrets - when given power - can lock you in a house of great despair and loneliness. Secrets kept in the dark keep hearts in the dark. Carrying around secrets feels like carrying around a bag of bricks - they don’t let anyone feel free.

     There is no way to feel the fullness of life deep down in your bones when you don't feel free.

     As secrets pour into my email inbox from all over the world, I think about the why, the how, the reason behind why humans lock themselves in these dark houses…and the answer is always shame. And what I have come to find shame to be is the devil’s music. It is the awful, ugly noise the evil one projects into our hearts. To the evil one it is like  a symphony…he makes it sound like it is good and true and convinces us that it is what we want to be hearing… that there is no other song to listen to.

     It is the enemy who whispers to us that we should keep secrets, shame, and pain locked away…that we should remain bound in chains that keep our hands and hearts tied. It is the enemy who convinces us that we should not burden others, that we should be able to work it out ourselves, that nobody has time to listen, that sharing it would ruin everything. It is the enemy who magnifies our shame and causes it to spill over into many areas of our life, who tries to get us to believe that repulsive falsehood of a sentence…I. am. alone.

     The symphony of shame...The more you listen to it, the louder it gets. The more you listen to it, the less you can hear the song the Father is trying to sing into your heart…the song of truth and goodness and a love that runs like a river and has no beginning and no end. It is the song at the core of each soul, the song that reminds you that you were created as a child of light.

     The God I know sings this melody of light into darkness. The God of the universe sets captives free. The God I know heals and transforms and destroys the little houses of shame we build…but we have to let Him.

     It is in the light of God’s face that we find healing, it is in the light that we find that we are not alone. But setting oneself free requires incredible vulnerability, with God and with ourselves. Vulnerability and surrender are essential keys to freedom from secrets and shame. We must surrender to God’s love and mercy and allow Him to transform shame into freedom with His mighty hands. But if you’re anything like me, vulnerability and surrender are uncomfortable and on most occasions, quite painful.

     Experiencing pain to get to the beauty? We only got to the Resurrection by way of the cross.

     The Resurrection broke the chains that bind us and God always offers a path out of the darkness. He shows His face in trustworthy friends, family, husbands and wives, doctors, professionals, counselors to open our hearts, our pain, our burdens to. Perhaps you find yourself with burdens, with heavy shame, with secrets that you have stored and locked away in the cellar of your heart. Has the Creator of the galaxies - the one who intimately knows every fiber of your being - prompted you to lay them down?

     God only asks us to do things that will bring us closer to the fullness of who He created us to be. Let Him sing a melody louder than the symphony of shame into your soul. Open up and receive the healing that comes with hearing this melody and letting it penetrate into your soul, into the core of who you are.   

     Shame is a prison. The Resurrection unlocked the doors.

     Walk out of the prison and into the light. Set yourself free.  

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined. Isaiah 9:2

Let the Little Things Go.

      I was in line at the harbor for a whale watching tour. A large group of senior citizens was on a day tour and stepped behind me in line to wait. Two of the women chatted together about different kinds of things, and arrived at the conversation about their spouses.

      One spoke of her husband who was on the tour with them, and the other kindly, profoundly, and honestly said..."I lost my Ed three years ago..."

      She paused for a moment and let the silence convey a sorrow that has not diminished since the day she lost him.

      "You know," she continued. "I miss him every day. I wish I could go back and let more of the little things go...those things didn't matter in the end."

       I was struck to my bones by her statement.

       I wish I would have let more of the little things go.

       My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our first year of marriage. Many people warned me that I would likely begin to experience incredible annoyance or frustration when we moved in together and began to live a life entirely and tightly woven together. I have not found that to be so...I have instead found marriage to be an unceasing and intentional practice of letting the little things go and focusing on the roots, the heart, the core of what matters every single day.

       Marriage has been a very tangible reminder for me to live in the every day. Because the reality is - I could lose my spouse tomorrow. It has happened to many - the sudden loss of a spouse that shifts the tectonic plates of your life to unexplainable grief and ache and wonder at how to possibly move on. Some people get one year, some get ten, some get 50. I do not know how many I will get.

       I wish I had let more of the little things go, she said.

      I do not want to say this when my husband is gone. I do not want him to say this when I am gone. And I can make sure that doesn’t happen, by letting them go today.

      There are hundreds of little things that you can choose to fight over in a marriage. There are piles of them and mountains of them as you walk side by side, hands clasped within one another, in marriage. And you can let them eat away at a marriage - anyone can. Any spouse can let them consume them and lead them to resentment, anger, or frustration. The piled up little things have as much power to break down a marriage as the big things do if they are given enough thought and energy.

       But the little things are meaningless when I surrender to the reality that tomorrow is not promised to me - or to my spouse.

       It is only when they are gone that we would realize, that we would know. It is only when a spouse, a family member, a friend goes to meet God that we are able to say with all sincerity…those things didn’t matter at all now that I have the eyes that death gives us to see.

      When God separates my sweet husband and I in this earthly life and takes one of us home, I don't want to ever have the urge to utter "I wish." So I attempt to live every day with this truth in my heart - that the little things are nothing. We look at them together, we try to speak kindly through them, and we quickly move on. We do not let them control us or control the sacrament we are living. We give them no power. That takes a conscious, deliberate, challenging choosing. But on many days love - all love - is conscious, deliberate, and challenging.

      I want to let go of the little things now - always and every day - in every moment, throughout the years.

      We only have to choose.

To the Young Man In the Red Sweatshirt on Humans of New York.

To The Young Man In the Red Sweatshirt on Humans of New York,

      I saw your photo and your story because someone pointed me to it.

      You shared openly and vulnerably about how you had just ended your relationship because your girlfriend does not share your Catholic beliefs and you hope for a marriage rooted in Catholicism someday.

      “I want to get married in a Catholic church. I want to raise my children to be Catholic,” you said. “It’s important to me and it’s something that we’d have to deal with eventually. So I didn’t think it would be a good idea to keep putting it off.”

      These are all very honorable things, but the general public of social media decided it was high time to mock and ridicule you for this decision and your reasoning behind it. They commented about what a stupid mistake you made - about how love is more important than any set of beliefs - that you should believe in the person right by your side over the one you have never seen. I do not know if you have seen the commentary; none of it came as a surprise to me.

      My friend, I firstly want you to know that you did the right thing. You did what you - in your heart - felt and knew was right. You are the commander in chief of your life; you have to make the calls, you have to decide what you will and will not do, and you are the one who faces all the consequences of these decisions…nobody else, no person on Instagram or Facebook lives your life, no one else knows your heart and what God is speaking to you in it.

      What these people commenting do not understand is that faith is so much more than stuff we think and believe. It is not a nice little set of flimsy and fluid ideas that can change with the wind - faith and following God, when taken seriously, is the core of who you are. Catholicism involves a rich and beautiful tradition and adhering to many difficult teachings on contraception, family life, and more. Some people do not feel that they wish to enter a marriage where they will have to explain those things, defend those things, or fight for those things and there is nothing wrong with not wanting to have to do any of these things. When young women come to me and have questions about dating men of other faiths or no faith at all, I always ask them…do you desire to date and marry a man who loves his faith deeply, who prays with you and for you, and who believes wholeheartedly that a relationship centered on God is the kind of marriage that will last? These are important questions, and from your story it appears that you have considered them and decided that for you the answer is yes, that this is what you desire, this is not negotiable for you.

      There is nothing wrong with the answer to those questions being yes.

      When I give talks about dating, I speak about two lists each person should draw up. I call them our "non-negotiables" and “negotiables." The non-negotiables are the characteristics you know you want the person you date to possess - shared beliefs, deep respect for all people, desire for children, non-smoker, etc. These are things you do not wish to compromise on, your core values that are very important to you. The “negotiables" are the things that you would like your significant other to possess, but do not have an enormous effect on the success of a relationship, such as musical interests, height, ability to dance, etc. It is clear that you know what your non-negotiables are, and it is clear that many people think that you should change the standards that you have set for yourself in dating - or that you view this ex-girlfriend of yours as less-than because she does not share your beliefs. I know this is not the case; I know you do not think any less of her, because sticking to your non-negotiables does not ever mean you think less of anyone. If more people had the strength to stick to the values, morals, and characteristics they do not wish to compromise on when they are dating for marriage, there would be many more fulfilling and joyful marriages.

      You have already experienced this, but what I have found again and again is that devotion to your faith is going to compel you to make very, very difficult decisions. They will not be easy…some indeed will cause you to sob, as you said you did. Some will be easier than others, but some will cause you temporary confusion or great pain. Some will make you a punching bag for persecution and a prime target for merciless mocking. Unhappy people say the most unkind things. What I can tell you from my years of living out my Catholic faith is this...it is all worth it.

      Christ never said that following Him would be easy…He clearly said we will each have to take up our cross. Crosses are heavy and difficult to carry but it is there where we find Christ - it is in pursuing Him where we find Him in the most unexpected of places. It is there where we find peace and refuge in a heart full of love that knows no end. It is in pursuing Him where He leads us and guides us along a path of fulfillment and deep and lasting joy.

      I could have married any man who did not share my beliefs, but I decided that it was a non-negotiable much later in my life than you did. The other night, when my husband took me in the car to the beach and pulled out his rosary for us to pray together, I was overwhelmingly grateful. I was grateful that he shares the most important part of my heart and the most important part of my life - my faith - that we can talk about it, and pray together, and keep Christ as the center of everything we are, together.

      “I’m hoping God will give me an answer,” you said. He will. He takes His time sometimes, but He will.

      Keep your heart up, my friend. Trust that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him.

Sincerely yours,



To send Emily a message or to inquire about booking, head over to the contact page here.

My Top 5 Tips for Catholic Brides

       I love weddings. There are some Saturday afternoons when I think to myself...I wish I was at a wedding right now. I am not an expert on them, but I frequently have the overwhelming responsibility of singing brides down the aisle as I have been singing in weddings, most often Catholic wedding masses, for many years. I have talked with numerous brides who have told me they had never been to a Catholic wedding Mass before their own, so I compiled a list of 5 things that I have learned from singing at many Catholic weddings and from attending my sister’s and my own last year. These tips will certainly not make-or-break a wedding day, but I hope one or even a few of these can be helpful for any bride currently crafting her beautiful day!

      1. Speak Your Vows

      I am not trying to tell you what to do here...and I am not saying that any couple who did not do this did anything wrong...but in the Mass you get two choices. You can either have the celebrant say your wedding vows (Do you, Emily, take Daniël to be your husband...in sickness and in health...all the days of your life?) to which you respond “I do,” or you can look at the man currently-in-the-process-of-becoming-your-husband and say them to him yourself! Some people feel as though they may be nervous and would rather say two words than a few sentences, which is extremely understandable with the magnitude of the day and the amount of people who will have their eyes on you, but it is so beautiful to declare the entirety of your vows to your spouse yourself.

      2. Our Father

      There’s a beautiful blessing for the married couple at the end of the Our Father - and it typically turns very awkward. People are still holding hands and are not sure whether they should let go because they know it is not the Our Father but don’t know what it is if the priest goes right into it...so they often don’t listen and miss the stunning beauty of the whole thing.

“May the grace of love and peace abide in your daughter N.,

and let her always follow the example of those holy women

whose praises are sung in the Scriptures.

May her husband entrust his heart to her, so that,

acknowledging her as his equal and his joint heir to the life of grace,

he may show her due honor and cherish her always

with the love that Christ has for his Church.”

(Just a snippet. Beautiful, right? You don’t want people to miss this stuff.)

I highly recommend asking your celebrant to let people know that they can let go of hands as he will impart a special blessing on the couple. He may already do this, but at many weddings I have attended it is not done. At my sister’s wedding, she and her husband were invited to turn toward the congregation and all guests were invited to extend hands as the priest prayed over them. It was spectacular. At our wedding, Father Dan came down to pray over each of us individually. 

     3. 33 Days to Morning Glory

     Daniël and I walked through the book 33 Days to Morning Glory while we were dating, and consecrated ourselves to Jesus through Mary. We wanted to do it again to consecrate our marriage, so we counted 33 days back from the wedding, walked through the book again, and read the final consecration prayer when we placed flowers at Mary’s feet during our wedding ceremony. I hand wrote the prayer from the book on an index card and sent it over to Daniël’s house in the morning with my wedding day gift to him, so during the ceremony he had the consecration prayer for us to read handy in his pocket. We opted out of the traditional Ave Maria and my sister and aunt sang Holy Is His Name. It was magical in that Jesus magical kind of way.

      4. Cover Ups

      I am not anti-strapless-wedding-gown in any way. I think every bride finds the dress she loves, and if it is strapless that is totally fine! However, some people like the idea of having their shoulders covered in church for a variety of reasons. I wanted sleeves for our wedding Mass, and I searched for hours and days - bought one - it ended up not fitting right...and then I finally found Polina Ivanova’s Etsy shop. I felt like I struck gold. This woman will handcraft the most beautiful lace cover up for you at a fraction of the price you will find in any bridal salon. I was so happy with the one she created for me. Find her shop here : https://www.etsy.com/shop/PolinaIvanova?ref=l2-shopheader-name.

      5. Parents wedding day photo (This does not have to do with Mass or being Catholic, but I wanted to include it anyway!)

      My parents have been married for over 30 years, and their love and marriage is the root of so much of the beauty in my life. I understand that the majority of young people who marry today have parents who have divorced for many different reasons. However, if your parents are still married, I recommend taking this photo. I brought my parent’s wedding photo in my day-of-wedding-bag, and was able to take this photo that I will cherish forever.

All photography by Elissa Anne Photography. 

All photography by Elissa Anne Photography. 

The Time I Was Scolded for Saying Hello to Jesus

      I was biking past church back when I lived in Los Angeles. I decided to stop in to the adoration chapel near my house for a brief moment. As I was entering into prayer, a woman leaned over and whispered to me...How dare you wear something so inappropriate in front of our Lord.

      I was in long Bermuda shorts and a shirt, biking home from running errands. This woman proceeded to reprimand me for about 2 minutes, pointing vigorously at her prayer book in the book of Lamentations about how the Lord laments over my lack of respect for Him and for the world’s lack of respect for Him, before I told her we needed to take this outside.

      We stepped outside. This woman, who was probably no more than 50, went on and on about my lack of decency. After politely listening for a while, I flatly told her that behavior like this is exactly what drives young people away from the Church. I asked her…if I was a 17-year-old girl (which people often think I am) who stopped by this adoration chapel for the first time in a long time or just to check it out, do you think I would ever, ever come back?

      Of course I wouldn’t.

      Scolding like this…judgment like this…not allowing people to come as they are to meet Christ…this drives people away from our Church. I personally was not upset, but completely annoyed, by this woman's actions. I am frustrated much of the time about the Church that I know versus the Church that many people have encountered - because these kind of actions do have the power to deeply upset people. I love my faith, but I do not love that commentary like this woman’s and experiences like this have driven many away, including people I hold very dear, from the Church.

      When we look at the person of Christ in the Gospels, while he lived on the same planet you and I are living on right now, he loved people right where they were. He met them where they were, he loved them in the middle of all that was transpiring in their lives. It is an unwavering truth about who Christ was as a person. He was never judgmental, condescending, or prideful. He never scolded people who came to Him in need - think of the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus, the sinful woman, the tax collectors. He did not hand out textbooks to teach people the right way to live…he told stories, parables. His first business was the business of love. He approached people with love and let that love lead the way into deeper conversation. Teaching about His way, teaching about the Cross we must pick up as we follow Him, often came later.

      But sadly, when it comes to the business of love, many people in our Church have lost their way. I watch prideful humanity displayed all too often while people in our churches scold and judge and turn their noses up to people who need to be met with love and warmth rather than hostility and rules. I watch people judge before they even stop to hear a whole story…the woman chastising me did not bother to ask why I was wearing what I was, or I would have been able to tell her that I was riding my bike to the bank and stopped in to say hello to my friend, Jesus. We scold and we scorn before we even make an attempt to know a person or hear about what is really transpiring in their life. Hostility and rules are not what Christ taught…it is a tragedy for anyone in our Church to reflect to people that it was.    

      I have been guilty of disregarding the plank in my own eye. I have not lived a judgment-free life, and it is something I continually and intentionally root out of my own life. But I believe very deeply in letting people come as they are to meet God. Do I think that Christ, the Lord and Savior of the world, should be respected and honored in every way, even in my dress? Absolutely. Do I think that the teachings of the Church are difficult to come to terms with so we should just let people off the hook for not adhering to them? No. Do I think our global Church can strive to do much better in giving people freedom to come to Christ as they are? Beyond a shadow of a doubt.

      The world is broken beyond what seems repairable and the answer is Christ. Our starving society needs real bread and our churches and chapels house the Bread of Life. When we judge others - when we question their motives - when we scold them for the ways they approach the Lord - they leave. They walk away from the bread that sustains. And often times, they blame God. They blame God because people who say they love God and love the Church treat them in judgmental and condescending ways, so that must be the kind of God they follow. How can I blame them for believing this?

      If you have been scolded, judged, or had an encounter with a human or countless encounters with many humans that made you leave the Church, I both understand and am sorry. I am sorry about the ways that frail humanity has driven so many away from the Eucharist because the God who gave us the Eucharist is Love Himself. He loves you still. He meets you where you are. Whatever it is that you have done in your life - there is room yet in his heart to forgive it and shower you with His peace.

      You do not have to have it all together, you don’t have to be perfect in any way. You can be as messy as they come. God the Father still wants you with Him. He is compassionate and loving beyond what we will ever comprehend. In all your sin, in all your shame, with all your questions, in your Bermuda shorts and brokenness…the Lord still and always wants you Home.

Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11 : 28

God the Father, God the Surfer.

       Children begin to surf at the ages of 3 and 4 where we live in Orange County. They wear the tiniest wetsuits and usually go in with mom or dad as they learn to surf the salty Pacific. It is overwhelmingly adorable.

       One weekend this summer, as I paddled back to shore from being out in the waves, I saw a dad paddling out with his daughter on his back. She was tiny - probably 4 years old - and she was clinging tightly to his neck as he glided across the water on his surfboard. Her face was the perfect combination of total thrill and complete bewilderment.

       Her father paddled with great strength and confidence to get them past the break to some calm waters to wait patiently for good surf. She hung on and laughed and enjoyed all the while. As a wave came in, her dad took a few good strokes, stood up, and she clung tightly to his entire body as she screamed and shouted with joy as they surfed the wave together. They did this over and over again as he helped her navigate the waters and grow accustomed to the rhythm of catching waves. It was a scene of magnificent beauty.

       As I sat there, I could only think…is this not the picture of the Father’s love for me? Is this not everything that our good God is constantly trying to tell me about relying on Him in everything?

       The ocean is so often a perfect picture of life. There are times when it is beautifully calm and peaceful. You can sit on your board out in the deep with little to no interruption for long stretches of time. There are times when the waves seem to be coming in perfectly, all is well and joyful, and you are able to enjoy every minute of it. There are other times when you get caught in the wrong part of the break and you get tossed around and you cannot get past it no matter how hard you paddle. The waves crash over your head and pull you around mercilessly to remind you of your littleness against its incredible power. As you get tossed, you try to make sure no one must suffer from your mistakes by getting clobbered by your board. It is a mess out there sometimes because the ocean is unpredictable. It is beautiful. Being immersed in it is an incredible adventure. Life is so much the same.

       And if we resign our lives - our unpredictable, wild, beautiful lives - to the Father, they can look like that of this little girl.

       I imagine, though, how ridiculous it would have been for this girl to hop off and tell her dad she was going to do it herself. Stubborn and naive, I imagine her saying, “I want to do it myself. I don’t need you to help me anymore!” Had she gone out herself, it would have been endless disaster, and her dad would have ultimately had to rescue her.

        That is you and I in many seasons of life - those seasons when we try to control everything ourselves and think we can handle things without God the Father. I can do it myself. It is so easy to fall into this place. Pride and stubbornness and laziness come in and we do not depend on God the Father at all - we begin to believe we are fully capable of managing life alone. I’ve got this all under control. Then the poorly timed, relentless set of waves hits and the water comes barreling in and it may feel like we are drowning - and only then do we call out to God the Father to come save us. It affects us and it can affect others deeply - just like those moments when I pray my board does not hit a soul. Only then do we pray, only then do we realize how much we need Him, only then do we find rescue and cling tightly to it.

       It does not have to be this way.

       If we choose it, our lives can look like trusting in and continually walking with the one who knows how to navigate the water, because God knows well how to surf. There is no confidence he does not have, no size wave he has not ridden. He created you and He knows the rhythm of the waves of your life. You have the option to hold on to Him who is strong and sure. You can cling tightly to the One who knows what He is doing. You can keep your arms wrapped around Him and scream for joy at the great adventure that life is - the adventures that feel just like catching a wave and dropping into it with reckless abandon. Because the rough waters will come, but if you are already holding on to the Father, there is already deep trust cultivated in your bones that He can and will take care.

       We get to choose which board we ride - our own or His - and the little girl on this day showed me the one I need to keep on riding. Because all she had to do...to experience life to its most beautiful and bewildering heights...was hold on and trust her father.

The Difficulty of Womanhood and the Glory of Sisterhood.



He has pulled up and is shouting at me from his car.

You’re beautiful! Why don’t you let me take you out for dinner sometime! You like sushi?

No, thank you. I’m married.

I am walking to my car. He keeps driving.


Yes, very happily. Thanks.


I keep walking to my car. I put my new shoes in the car. I get in my car. I drive home.

       I relayed the story to my husband, as a passing example for him to see the difficulty that it is to be a woman on some days. “Why did you respond to him?” he asks me. It’s an innocent question but it makes me upset inside. I’m upset but I know I cannot fault him for not knowing the why.

       Of course he does not know why I have to respond. My husband is a good-hearted man. Good-hearted men don’t know that you often respond because you don’t know what kind of pig this is. You don’t know if it’s the kind who, when ignored, will drive off - or the kind who, when ignored, will drive up next to you and follow you….What’s wrong? In a bad mood today? Too pretty to talk to me? Ugh. 

       There is great difficulty in being a woman. If you are a woman you know the difficulty that reaches from the trivial of dealing with nasty menstrual cycles to dealing with harassment like this when you are simply trying to buy shoes. Womanhood often feels as though it brings a new challenge each morning. It is hard to deal with the devil over each shoulder, one shouting You’re too much! and the other whispering You’re not enough. Too loud, too friendly, too bright, too animated - not skinny, not pretty, not friendly enough. It is tiring. It is disheartening. It is just plain hard. 

       A few short days after I was shouted at buying my shoes I was on Instagram following sweet Audrey Roloff’s page. She and her husband have created a blog called “Beating 50 Percent” as a way to help couples continually strengthen their marriages. It is an inspiring project. She wrote a post about the weekly communication she and her husband have built into their marriage….and the mean and hateful comments on it were absolutely appalling. Women took to it, tearing her apart….what do you know - thinking you’re an expert giving people marriage advice...ha, come back to me in 40 years...you are trying way too hard. I could see that some of the most disrespectful and hurtful comments had already been deleted.

       Men are shouting at us and we are busy shouting at each other. Why?

       When is it that women will recognize that it is so difficult to be a woman and tearing each other apart with hurtful words, disrespect, judgmental looks and pointed gossip does not help anything? Men sometimes treat us with disrespect that goes far beyond shouting from cars - but the disrespect I witness happening between women is often pointed, uncalled for, and disgusting.

       Friends, I am constantly trying to figure out when women are going to recognize that we too often make life harder for each other and lay it all down and just love one another. 

       There are days when I feel frustrated and sad about the endless cycle of the tearing apart and cutting down, but in my moments of greatest exasperation there are things I know I must hold on to. My sister’s recent baby shower will remain one of these things forever.  

       We threw my sister a pajama party baby shower. Nearly 30 women showed up at our house in their pajamas (side note : us Wilson women throw showers at night because we think they are more fun). We had donuts and drinks and an impromptu dance party. It was so apparent, the reality that there is still a teenage girl living inside every woman who can surface at any moment. It can come right back to us in an instant, the freedom to be cozy and eat Reese's Pieces and enjoy the company of friends and sisters. We surrounded a woman who will bring new life to the world and we showered her with love and laughter and joy and gifts. There were babies in bellies and babies being held and women who hope for children and women who raised children long ago and we all gathered together to rally in sisterhood. There was no judgment, no competition, no tearing down, no gossip...there was only love and celebration and generosity.

       Why is it not more like this every day?

       At the end of this shower we gathered around a sister who needs prayers - one who has endured more suffering than any young woman ever should. We sat around her and extended hands - and, as happens within the bonds of women when one of us is in need - we cried out to God aloud - we sang over her in harmonies - and in the midst of this heavenly moment there was no age, there was no religion. There was only lifting up. There was only sisterhood. There was only the core of what life is all about. 

       The difficulty of being a woman will only take away from the magnificence if we let it, if we focus on the challenge more than we remember the joy. I invite you into this today - dig deep in the joy of being a woman - remember it and live in it and relish it with everything you’ve got. And in that moment that may come by when you feel an inclination to cut another woman down, make it a point to lift her up instead, out loud or in your heart. It will be the first small step to changing everything. 

It's Because of the Bricks.

      In Holland, they build their houses out of bricks. They are beautifully and carefully constructed to last a very long time - the brick makes them quite indestructible.

      Throughout my life, I have had multiple long lengths and seasons in which people have been unusually mean-spirited and cruel to me. I do not state this to play the victim, I state it as a truth that I have had to come to terms with for a very long time. People have said their fair share of unkind things to my face, and even more cruel things behind my back. If you don’t believe me, ask my family. They know my story. They would tell you.

      I have worked for many years to sort through it all and combat the lies - and this summer I have had to break open some things that nobody likes to break open. I have had to dig up and sort through the reality that I make it very difficult for people to get close to me - to be my friend, to love me, and to allow me to be vulnerable with them. I have had to take a long look at the questions...Why do I do this? What is the root cause? And how can I change it?  

      This summer showed me well...it is because of the bricks. I look at the pretty houses in Holland and I know it and I say it to myself...Emily, it’s because of the bricks.

      That little metal triangle-with-a-handle thing people use to lay bricks is called a brick trowel. It picks up the mortar to lay down the bricks. And we all have one of our own. Its purpose is to lay bricks carefully around our hearts so that people cannot get in close enough to hurt us again. Its purpose is to keep people from entering our vulnerable places, so the chance of them saying cruel things is nearly abated, so they do not even get an opportunity to betray us. Maybe you know about this. Perhaps you have been hurt badly in your life, maybe once, twice, or many times, and you’ve begun to lay bricks, too. You have placed them, stacking them higher and higher, each time someone takes a swing at your character, at your beauty, at your talent, at your worth. It is very easy to build such a fortress - but this barrier ultimately hurts others, and hurts us too.

      The thing about these tools is that my brick trowel is always there, ready to be used. For a long time when things were really bad, I always had it in my hand. I always had wet mortar, ready to go, ready to stack and create impenetrable walls as the cruelty of others never seemed to subside. The only currency needed to pay the bricklayers in my heart was malicious words and hurtful actions that were said to my face or came my way. People have paid the bricklayers time and time again and they diligently and faithfully build the walls higher and higher when they are paid to do so...and they have built the walls high.

      It is very easy to lay the bricks, but it is backbreaking work to take a brick wall down. It involves all sorts of heavy duty tools - you must use things like wrecking bars and sledgehammers. It is not pretty work and it is not effortless work. And it is the necessary work that those of us who have been hurt and have built must enter into. It is the work that, if we wish to live bountiful lives of community and friendship, must be done.

      The beautiful news is that God is better at using a sledgehammer than we are. He will use his power and might to help me tear down the walls - and He wants to. You and I, we only have to let Him.

I Choose the Sky.

       My first book is released today and I really just can’t believe it!

       It has been quite the journey, writing I Choose the Sky. It has been a wonderful journey of prayer and soul-searching and reflecting on the lives of the women in the Bible and the lives of the people surrounding me who show me how to live the Gospel.

       This book is the story of seventeen women whose lives were woven into the tapestry of the Word of God. They are women whose lives are relevant and and important, women whose stories mattered enough to be written into the Bible. Many of their stories go untold and unknown - too many women do not know the stories of Tabitha, Esther, Priscilla, or Lydia. I wanted to bring their stories to life. But as I wrote this turned into more than just a book - it turned into a challenge for women to live the Gospel - to live virtue and charity and hospitality - to choose Jesus above all things - and most importantly, to be bold and brave in following Christ. Bringing the stories of these women to life taught me a great deal about our loving God and what it means to be a woman.

       As I celebrate this book being published today, I feel overwhelming gratitude for my most incredible parents. You will read about various people who have touched my life throughout this book, and I highlight them because they have taught me well to do what I am writing about in any given chapter. You will find my parents only on the dedication page. Why? Because they would have been every example I would have used through the book to highlight how I was taught to do all that I wrote about. You would not have read about anyone else! They are the ones who taught me how to live every theme I chose to write about...that I am loved by God, how to open your home to others, how to evangelize well, how to be bold in my faith and witness to what I believe, how to be kind, how to put God first, how to choose virtue, how to give very generously, how to use my gifts to bring glory to God, and that God wants me joyful. They are the first and most important people in my life who taught me and encouraged me to choose joy - to choose Jesus - and to choose the sky.

       This book was also made possible because my parents raised us in a faith-filled home where we were encouraged in making art. In our family home (which we call Wilson World), there is art everywhere. There are instruments galore and a painting or three on every wall. There are bookshelves filled with hundreds of books. Our creativity was always encouraged. It remains a huge blessing to have been raised in this home of artists. My father is a brilliant artist in countless forms and my mother makes the abundantly meaningful art with music and teaching children to sing. My siblings and I all make art in some way, and my words are one of my ways to create art for the world. For that, I am grateful.

       Today, I am also thankful for the love and encouragement of my dear ministry mentor Mrs. Nick. After reading Mulieris Dignitatem in 2009, a passion was set aflame within me for helping young women, but I did not at all know how to channel it. When our life paths crossed, Mrs. Nick was the one who taught me how to do just that…to channel my passion and my love for showing young women who Christ is and helping them to see that a life spent conscious of every waking moment of His love was a life of great joy. I continued to learn how to express myself in words by listening to her talks, by poring over her writing, and in conversing with her every day as we rocked back and forth in our chairs in campus ministry. I do know in my soul that part of what I do is carry the torch of the ministry she created for young women for 20 years - it is an honor and a privilege to have learned from her and to have seen her steadfast, undying, unshakeable love for young women and leading them to Christ. She helped water the seed God planted in my heart when I read Mulieris Dignitatem. While she is not here on earth with us to read my book, I know she would be very proud of this work, and the thought of that brings me joy.

       So, friends, I am honored to have words on paper, I am honored to have been raised by the most wonderful disciples of Jesus, and I am grateful to be a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to women all over the world. Why He chose me to do this work, I do not know, but I am happy, humbled, and blessed that He did.


Order my book here : http://store.lifeteen.com/ichoosethesky.aspx

To the Girl Being Used by the Guy Next to Me at the Gym.

Dear sister,

       I don’t know who you are. I don’t know your name. But I wish very much that I did.

       I am writing to you because I was sitting next to a guy at the gym tonight who knows you. It was very clear he isn’t your boyfriend, but that he “hooks up,” as he says, with you, or sees you just about every night of the week.

       He and his friend were having a conversation tonight as they lifted next to me, and he said some things about you that I want you to know. He apparently thinks he has you hooked and invested, completely enamored with who he is and the role he is playing in your life. “If only she knew what your game plan was on guys night out! She’d be crushed!!” his friend says as they laugh together. I was growing more upset for you as this conversation went on.

       “Yeah, I’ve got her hooked. And she is going to need some heavy duty scissors to cut herself loose.” These two go on and on. Typical guys you can often find in the gym living in the beach cities of California - muscular, tan, good-looking. “You don’t care about how she feels?” “Heh, of course not. I’ll drag it out, get in a couple fights, then let her go.” 

       They never said your name. They never spoke about you as though you were a woman with real feelings - more than an object for pleasure or play. I’ve been feeling the weight heavy lately - the weight of the sadness women who settle for being disrespected and used - and you know, I don’t know you, but I went to the bathroom and couldn’t help but shed a few tears for you and for all the women settling for garbage like this. I wanted so badly to stand up for you - but my heart is too heavy and I just couldn’t hold it together for long enough to do that.

       I wish I knew who you are because I want to tell you that you deserve more than what you are settling for. This guy deserves nothing from you - he has not earned it. And I tell you this with compassion, not judgment. I want you to know that there is better than this. I want you to know that you are worth so much more than use. You deserve to date a man who wants to commit to you, to treasure you, and to show you the respect you deserve. 

       I want you to know that it is sad that this guy is using you but it is also sad that you are allowing yourself to be used. That you are giving your body away to a guy who could not care an ounce less about your heart, or your feelings, or your soul. I admit I do not know how you feel about the whole situation - I do not know how you have come to this place - I do not know if anyone has ever stopped to tell you just how important and priceless you are. 

       I receive many emails from girls who have friends in situations like yours - friends letting themselves be used by one or many guys like this one. They don’t know what to say to friends who are letting themselves be objectified and played and manipulated. Their hearts are broken but they don’t know how to approach the situation. My sister, we as women have an obligation to one another that is hard, but necessary, to uphold and live out. We are responsible - if we are going to be real, true, good friends - for taking the hands of our friends and looking them in the eyes to say…you deserve better than what you are settling for. Not in judgment, not in condemnation, but in love. We must do this for one another. It is what any shred of an authentic friendship requires - it is what sisterhood demands of us. Too many of us do not do it - we fear our friends will think we are judging, are shaming - but if one person gathers the courage to tell a friend she deserves better, that could just be the one thing she needed to hear to change her ways. We must remind our sisters of their worth. It is our grand responsibility to one another.

       I do not know if this letter will get to you. Maybe one of your friends will see it and share it with you. Crazier things have happened. But I hope that before this guy can drag it out, get in a couple fights, and cut you loose…that you call him and tell him that you deserve better...that you end this thing - and for the rest of your days you only give your time to men who honor and respect you for the glorious girl you are and were created to be. 

You are loved, you are loved more than you know. 

Your sister,




If you would like to bring Emily to your conference, event, or school - visit the contact page and send us a message! Social media : @emwilss. YouTube : emwilsonmusic.

The First Female President We Actually Need.

       I have hoped for a female on the Presidential ballot since 1992. 

       My amazing mother brought me to the polling booth when she voted for President in that election. I was just over 3 years old, and as my mom engaged me in what she was doing, she told me the choices we had were Ross, Bill, and George. 

       “No girls?”  

       No girls, indeed.

       Yes, I have hoped for a female President since the age of three. It is possible that I will see a female President in my lifetime, and as someone who works closely with women of all ages day in and day out, there are some things I see that women are in great need of…and there are attributes I pray that our first female President, whenever she may be elected, possesses. 

"Women naturally seek to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish, and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning." -Edith Stein

       This is my hope. 

       I hope that our first female President represents America well, and most importantly represents who we are as women very well. 

       I hope that the first female President is one who champions what women were created for - love. We were made to love, nurture, and care for others - it is woven into the fabric of our God-given DNA. We cannot deny it or escape it. We have “maternal instincts,” which, when encouraged and cultivated properly, have an extremely beautiful impact on the world around us. Women come to life when they are able to carry out their natural longings - when we are encouraged to live compassion and selflessness and grace. We need women who have come alive - not women trying to compete, trying to push, trying to fight - but women alive with love who exist with an inner peace that can transform the world. 

       I hope that the first female President is one who encourages women to be peaceful, kind, gentle, and strong. We were made to be incredibly strong and stand up for ourselves in every situation and season of life, but we were not created to be aggressive. True womanhood and aggression cannot coexist. Aggression is contrary to femininity. Our culture is vehemently promoting the opposite - it pushes the agenda that they cannot exist apart from one another. It is essential to teach women growing up today that this is not the case. 

       I hope for my 3-year-old self that our first female President is a woman who truly supports women, yet helps women to understand clearly that there are consequences to our decisions and our actions. 

       I pray she is a woman who recognizes that a woman who becomes pregnant and unable to care for the child must be supported and loved - not encouraged to kill the child within her. I hope she is a woman who knows and is not afraid to proclaim that abortion is and always will be an act which goes against every fiber of our being…and that support, love, and encouragement toward avenues that will not leave them with lasting and excruciating regret is what mothers who find themselves terrified, lost, or alone truly need. 

       I hope that in her revolutionary role of leadership she sees clearly that "women’s liberation” should be about freeing us from the chains of the culture’s lie that we need Planned Parenthood, freeing us from the lies being told to us that our identity as women is almost solely entwined with the fight over “reproductive rights", and making clear the true definition of women’s empowerment - to empower women to live out their feminine genius.

       I hope that she fights for equality of pay among men and women, because men and women certainly deserve equal pay for executing the same profession. But I also hope she recognizes that men and women are not one in the same. We both deserve to be treated rightly and justly, but are each individually different and contribute magnificent, yet different, offerings to the world. 

       I hope she is a woman who understands that every woman needs to be cheered on and supported well in this trying, taxing, beautiful life - the single woman in Mississippi who has been taking orders at the same small diner for twenty years - the married mother of 7 in Iowa who is running a messy, wonderful household - the twenty something entrepreneur in New York who spends her days climbing the corporate ladder and running business meetings - the single mom in Oregon working 3 jobs and trying to hold her family and herself together. They all need to know they are remembered - they all need to be encouraged to keep on keeping on. 

       She will have a massive job – politics, I know, is a very ugly world. However, there is no denying we have had some great leaders of our country in the past few hundred years – men of great integrity, men who value life, men who were not aggressive or dishonest but had a quiet strength that carried this country to good things.

       There is no way to tell if it will happen in my lifetime – but I pray that if one day a female walks into the Oval Office to lead our nation, she represents the men and women of our country well – and that she embodies who we are meant to be as women by seizing her role with great power and integrity, with authenticity and compassion, and with tremendous strength and virtue.

“The truth is no one else can fill that role. It is a perfect fit, divinely designed… this, the role women are called to live for the common good.” - Mrs. Nick