Altars of Remembrance [the importance of looking back to see the faithfulness of God]

// When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’”

Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” //

Joshua 4:1-7

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I remember my entire body going limp and a sensation of weightlessness.

I remember my arms floating out in front of me as confusion and shock flooded my system.

I remember the windshield crumpling and a cocoon of impact sounds—a grind, a screech, a whoosh, a thud—surrounding me.

I remember the moment of absolute silence as I sat shaking right before I climbed out of the window of the SUV, body trembling with adrenaline, mind working in overdrive to figure out what had happened.

I remember walking away perfectly intact but for a few scrapes. I remember that I didn’t need to go to the hospital. I remember that my concussion was so minor that I only ever got a few headaches in the aftermath. I remember that I didn’t need stiches or even band aids. I remember that I wasn’t sore. Like, at all. I remember waking up the next morning alive and well—extremely well, unnaturally well.

That SUV rolled twice before it landed right side up, but I was completely all right.

I remember that God preserved me, that he kept me safe when I shouldn’t have been safe, that his hand covered me so much that I have no scars from that accident.

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I remember other times when God has proved his faithfulness to me, even though he is never under an obligation to bless me, even though he doesn’t need me to be safe or happy, even though he doesn’t need me at all.

I remember opening the email that told me a magazine had acquired my first short story. I remember the rush of elation so potent it brought tears. I remember talking long with God about it, trying to express my excitement and thankfulness and wonder because he never had to give me a gift like that. But he did.

I remember wrestling with God over the eleven months of rejections that followed that happy day. I remember what he taught me about myself and himself in those rejections. I remember how he gradually recalibrated my goals and ideas of success.

I remember who I was a year ago today, and I see all the ways God has grown me. I remember my bone-deep pride and my faithlessness, and I remember how he’s remade me again and again, each time with a little less of my old nature.

I remember the season of my life when I was hopelessly entangled with sin and all the depression that came with it. I remember how God pursued me, always had grace for me, made me brave enough to do what I had to do to be free of that sin.

I remember walking through wastelands, and I remember the sudden, intense floods of joy and hope and truth that God rained down upon me.

I remember times of striking loneliness where God met with me, was a friend to me.

I remember the trials of these last few years and how God was walked before me, behind me, and with me through all of it.

I remember being overwhelmed by the weight of how sinful I still am—the pride, the faithlessness, the fear, the selfishness—and thinking to myself, “How will I ever see God?” only to have him take the weight from me and remind me that Jesus finished it—all of it—on that cross.

I remember blanching at the thought of the future only to have him take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.

I remember asking for a new heart, and I remember him giving it.

I remember so many things—the person I have been but am no longer, the times in my life where I couldn’t make it, the heart-breaking twists that crushed me, the impossible coming to pass, the blessings from his hand for no other reason than because he loves me and wants me to know it in new ways, the friendships that have fallen apart and the pain they brought but looking back and seeing why, the pulling through when I didn’t have it in me but he had more than enough.

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If we do not make remembrance a habit, our heart of gratitude flatlines, and our faith and hope wither. It is in the practice of looking back—in remembering specifically what God has done in and for us personally—that we are reminded of God’s faithfulness.

We are creatures so prone to forgetfulness. I can forget in the afternoon the joy of meeting with God I had in the morning. I can forget in a couple of months the despair of being caught in sin. I can forget in a few days the urgency that should trademark how I approach evangelism. I can forget in a few minutes to love of God when a trial comes.

But I cannot—I must not—forget.

When the trial comes, we must remember who God has said and shown himself to be. When our wonder is gone, we must remember who God has said and shown himself to be. When our hope withers, we must remember who God has said and shown himself to be. When our faith dies, we must remember who God has said and shown himself to be.

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But how can we remember?

We must build a memorial beside every Jordan river that God leads us across. He gives us the rocks from his very hand, the stones that build our faith and hope and joy and love if only we remember them.

They are massive boulders. They are little pebbles. And they all build up, help us to understand in our hearts and our heads and delight ourselves in God’s goodness and faithfulness and love, readying us for when his blessings aren’t so apparent.

They are little moments of wonder, and they are life-changing events, and they are weeks and months of growth.

They are the encouraging texts out of the blue.

They are the moments when the presence of the Holy Spirit is undeniably tangible.

They are the massive, unexpected, unnecessary win at work.

They are the conversation with a friend.

They are the peonies with their hundreds of petals in full bloom.

They are the truth we are suddenly, powerfully reminded of down to our core.

They are the old friend who is still a good friend despite the time and distance.

They are the passage of Scripture that comes alive.

They are the hug of a sister.

They are the prayer of a brother.

They are the healing and forgiveness after so much hurt.

They are the fireflies flickering on a summer night.

They are the safety in a dangerous place.

They are the song for the dark of night.

They are the deep sleep that refreshes and renews.

They are the victory when it seemed the fight was lost.

They are the hearts being transformed into the image of Jesus all around us.

They are the remaking of our own hearts day by day.

They are the cancer in remission.

They are the grandparent coming out of the hospital safe and sound.

They are the little things. They are the big things. They are all the things in between. These are the stones with which we build our memorials, our altars of remembrance.

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My memorial is made mainly of paper and ink.

I journal to remember, and I keep a notebook of thanksgiving. I also make playlists, and each song reminds me of something specific from different seasons of life.

On July 6—the anniversary of my accident—I buy flowers, and I set aside a little while to think back, to journal, to pray, and to worship. It’s special not because of the flowers or even because I’m alive and well and happy to be; it’s special because on that day I remember well the sovereignty and faithfulness and grace and love and power of my God.

So I encourage you—I challenge you—to remember what your memorial is made of. I challenge you to regularly identify the individual rocks and gravel bits that have built up your altar of remembrance.

Remember who God has said and shown himself to be in his Word and how he’s confirmed it in your life.

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I would love to hear from you. What are some things—big and small—that you remember? How do you remember—do you journal or make photo albums or something else entirely?

With much love,


P.S. – Here’s the original post I wrote after my accident in 2016, if you’re interested.

P.P.S. – The whole account of the crossing of the Jordan is pretty spectacular; Joshua 1-5 gives a fairly comprehensive picture of the situation.

When You Don’t Understand the Bible

I don’t know if you know this, but there’s a lot of crazy stuff in the Bible. It is out there. Like, far out there. Wild and confusing things fill the pages of Bible.

And just when I start to think that I know what’s going on, that’s when I come across a passage or book that is way over my head.

But that is okay, and I daresay, a good thing. It’s okay—good even—to be blown away and bewildered by the things that fill the Bible. It’s what we’re talking about on Penprints today (if the title of the post didn’t tell you that already).

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Let’s take just a couple minutes to talk about a few different types of literature in the Bible.

Historical Narrative

This kind of stuff is simple for the most part, once you come to grips with just how depraved humanity is,

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just how holy and righteous and sovereign God is and everything that goes along with that,

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and the literally mind-blowing miracles and such that God does all the time.

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(Why, yes, I did just use two gifs in the middle of a sentence about human depravity and God’s holiness, but it’s just one of those I-don’t-even-care-because-this-is-how-it-is posts.)


Some of the prophecies in the Bible are just… wut.

I have a fairly vivid, expansive imagination due to all the sci-fi, fantasy, and biblical accounts I’ve been exposed to my entire life (thank you, parentals), and I’ve been introduced to theories about prophetic passages my entire life as well (thank you again, parentals). But on first glance, I just don’t know what to make of a lamb standing as though it’s been slain with seven horns and seven eyes.

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actual footage of me trying to talk about prophecy

And that bit imagery is straightforward compared to some of the other pictures painted with prophecy in the Bible.



So there’s poetry.

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And then there’s ancient Hebrew poetry.

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And then there’s Holy Spirit-inspired, ancient Hebrew poetry.

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Oh, and sometimes the Holy Spirit-inspired, ancient Hebrew poetry is also poetic prophecy.

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So there’s that.


Let’s not forget these bad boys. They’re rarely as simple as all the flowery shareables online make them out to be. My goodness, no.

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The epistles read so beautifully, but it’s crazy how quickly you can come to realize that you actually don’t know what all the lovely words mean. Like, a third heaven? What? What does it meant to be “caught up” to this third heaven? And what about the other two heavens?

The point of all this is to say that it is natural to be confused by verses, passages, themes, and whole books of the Bible.

Please don’t get disheartened by what’s confounding. Don’t give up on trying to know God because of the mental strain required to grasp/reconcile the confusing things.

Don’t buy into the lies that you’re not smart enough to understand because you’re “just not cut out for it” or that you’re less spiritual because you don’t understand or that you will never understand, because they are all just that—lies.

As far as your intellect goes, understanding the Bible is not about being smart enough or having the right sort of mind for it. The Bible is richer and deeper than you or I can imagine, but God has not made it inaccessible. He didn’t write it for a select few. Maybe you’re a genius. Maybe you’re more like me. Regardless, you don’t understand parts of the Bible not because you’re “just not cut out for it”; you don’t understand parts of the Bible because the Holy Spirit hasn’t illuminated them to you yet.

(Sidenote: God is far more glorified in making the simple wise than he is in smart people figuring something out on their own.)

When it comes to being more or less spiritual, well, I don’t believe that is a biblical measure (because don’t forget that demons are spiritual). The measure isn’t in being more or less anything than anyone else. The measure is godliness. Christlikeness. In your core, expressed in your words and actions—not in what you do or do not understand.

And you can understand. Just because something’s baffling right now doesn’t mean that it always will be. Be proactive. Take steps to understand what you don’t understand.

  • Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and help you. Don’t rely on only your mind and human resources.
  • Don’t skip the first suggestion.
  • Get a good commentary (no matter what you may have heard or think about the recent happenings at Moody Bible Institute, the Moody Bible Commentary is an excellent, trustworthy resource to have on your shelf if you’re looking for a whole-Bible commentary).
  • Get a study Bible (the ESV study Bible seems to have solid notes, as does the MacArthur study Bible. Don’t skip research when buying a study Bible. Try to get an idea of who wrote the notes and if they’re trustworthy.)
  • Ask your pastors and small group leaders questions.
  • Read the difficult passage. And then read it again. And then read it again.
  • Don’t give up. Knowing God and his Word isn’t easy, so keep working at it. Keep studying. Keep learning. Don’t throw in the towel.

Friends, when God commanded us to know and keep and love and live his Word, he did not give us an impossible task.

If you’re confused by the Bible, good. Good because it means you’re thinking about a theme or passage deeply and intentionally. It means your brain didn’t drop into autopilot while you were “reading” the Bible. It means you’re invested.

Please don’t feel silly; just seek to understand.

What have been some things from the Bible you’ve grappled with? What’s been confusing? And what do you do when you don’t understand?

With love,


P.S. – a special shout-out to 2 Corinthians for being confusing to me right now and inspiring this post.

When Something I Love Became Something It Shouldn’t

*insert witty post preface that makes you want to read this post*


This past June and July were intense writing months for me. I reread Draft Three of Beasts, found a dysfunctional story, and decided that I could and would fix it. Because that’s what I do. I fix things. And if I can’t fix something, it drives me just a little bit crazy. And so help me, I was going to fix this story if it killed me.

A lot of June went into brainstorming how this fixing was going to happen and figuring out just how much of the 90,000 word Draft Three was going to be axed. As it turns out, 85k met the sword in my pursuit of a better fourth draft. I was on a deadline, one I couldn’t move again, so I dove into rewriting (fourth time’s a charm, right?).

I enjoyed very few (translation: zero) of the hours upon hours upon hours poured into the actual rewrites. Between hating the story itself and being drained spiritually, emotionally, and mentally by the other things going on in my personal life, the last thing I wanted to do was try and put what little I had left into fixing that stupid, broken story. As I wrote, I came to dislike it even more because the story was too warped to fix in one draft, but I had to do what I could because I’d postponed the Deadline too much already (the Deadline was an editorial review with an amazing freelance editor).

So I wrote, and I hated it. Doing the writing. The words themselves. Coughing up thousands and thousands of brand new words. Feeling guilty on days I only wrote 1,000 words. Sick with stress that made my family question if it was worth it, if I should write when it so obviously drove me to further physical exhaustion, anxiety, and emotional distress. I was wound so tight that I was popping a couple times a week in one way or another.

But I’m a writer, and writers write.

So that’s what I did. I wrote. I lived and breathed that story for five whole weeks. My sun rose and fell on how much progress I’d made, how many words I’d put on the page, how many days spun between me and the Deadline, and if I thought I could make it. Because so help me, I was going to make it. My thoughts ran in a constant, dogged cycle of plot and characters and questions and cringing over how people would react. Oh, yes, I was always anxious about what people would think when they read it, a bit of black terror crunching my heart whenever I guessed what they’d say. Too dark. Too confusing. Too simple. Too choppy. Too weird. Underdeveloped. Not enough description. Trying too hard. Too many plot holes. Childish. And let’s not even get into that rushed excuse for an ending.

I finished it, though, and it came to just over 60,000 words with just one day to spare. So off it went to an editor, and I was finally freeeeeeeeeee.

Except I wasn’t.

The anxiety and fear hounded me, and the remnants of the story hung in my mind, saturating my thoughts still because the whole time I was writing, something was missing, something big. And the absence of this thing was what put me into such a frenetic state, and I knew it. I knew what was wrong, why I was so agitated and turbulent; it wasn’t just about stress or dedication or perseverance or getting too little sleep.

It came into sharp focus when I received my edits. My editor had so many good thoughts and critiques, but one thing she said, an offhand kind of comment, struck me: “I can’t wait to see what God will do with it once it’s even more polished.”

Ah, right. God. Him. You know, the One I’ve said up and down that my writing is for blah, blah, blah. Yeah, Him.

I knew I was writing without Him, knew I was driving a wedge between us by how everything else was mastering me. I did my devotions faithfully, and I sought Him… but not as hard as I sought to fix that story. It’s sadly ironic—I didn’t like even one aspect of writing and story at the time, yet it was the writing and story that dominated my thoughts, took hold of my emotions, and consumed my energy instead of devotion to my Christ.

What I loved became something it was never intended—by me or my Jesus—to be. Ever.

It was a twisted form of worship, not to God, but to myself and what I could accomplish, had to accomplish, devoid of my greatest Vision. And after writing with and for God as much as I have tried to, I was keenly aware of how hard it was to wrestle against Him and try and make Him bless my work while I carried and would not give up a double-heart. A heart that wanted Him but not enough to make me seek Him with everything like I used to. A heart that wanted His blessings and hand in my writing but not enough to live like it. A heart that took the story He gave me and made it into something less, much less.

And I’ve spent the last month lying to myself, telling myself that it was so hard because I procrastinated (though, that did happen), it was so hard because the story was too much to fix in one shot (though, it was to an extent), it was so hard because of all the other things going sideways in life, it was so hard because blah blah blah.

Well, no, it was so hard because I did it alone, because I did it hoping to create something incredible by myself. I was all at once terrified of what people would say and yearning for their praise and approval, wanting them to tell me I had made something great and powerful. And most laughably of all, I wanted people to say that they were moved spiritually, that they understood grace a little better, that God spoke through it yet I wasn’t involving God in the writing. (And don’t mistake me: God can involve Himself in whatever He sees fit to with or without anyone knowing or recognizing it. My point here is that my heart was impure.)

What then? Now that I’m being honest—with myself and God and everyone else too—how do I untangle this? How do I put writing back where it is meant to be and bow my heart again to God?

Well, thank goodness I’m not doing it by myself. It’s been a lot of thinking and praying and wrestling with the Holy Spirit and opening hands and remembering and relearning truth I’ve somehow forgotten and coming back to full, true worship and communion with Him for the first time in weeks.

Why am I posting this on the blog? Because I’ve read that being honest and real (and ten other buzzwords like “authentic”) is important, and also because it hurts my pride more than just little to admit (on the freaking internet) that I struggled hard with things that this post and this post would have everyone believe I’m so far over.

There is always the danger that the things we love will become something they shouldn’t, will take on a role they aren’t meant to, and my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will help mightily, just like He helps me and is patient with me.

With love,

Rosalie <3

Why I Make Music a Part of My Devotions

In a previous post, I mentioned that I sing songs during my personal devotions, and this week is about why I’ve made music a part of my quiet time.


Music is a gift given to help us communicate deep thoughts and truths that we otherwise struggle to grasp or say, and music written for worship is a way to give God praise, to use our breath and our being to exalt the Most High. Songs are prayers set to melodies, outpourings of the human soul before the throne of the living God.

Music is beautiful.

I believe that music has power, and I believe that the Holy Spirit uses music to move and thaw hearts. He uses it to help me come close when my mind is scattered or my soul is raw with griefs or desires I can’t find words to express. He uses it to draw me into deeper love and wonder and humility and new understanding of the magnitude of what He’s done for me, how far I once was, how close I now am, and how much closer I can get to Him.

And when it comes to meeting with God alone, how can I not sing? How can I not give Him a joyful noise? When I’m able to go boldly before Him, how can I not use that boldness to give Him a freewill offering of praise?

I don’t think that quiet time with God is only about learning of the God Who knows no equal; quiet time with God is about coming to Him with intentionality and humility and prayer and praise with the purpose of glorifying Him.

Yes, devotions are about knowing Him as intimately as I can and taking what I know and living like I actually know it, but that isn’t all there is to it. The whole reason anything in all creation even exists is to glorify God, to give Him praise. Period. That’s it. And yes, my entire life is to be an act of worship, but when given the opportunity to lift my voice and glorify my matchless God one-on-One, when it’s just Him and me, why wouldn’t I take it?

I try to keep my music well-balanced with my prayer and study time, and I have found that beginning with some prayer and then a couple songs sets a tone of adoration for the entire time so that my heart is as engaged as my head.

How I use music depends on the day. Sometimes I grab my iPod and listen/listen and sing a few songs. Sometimes I simply pray the lyrics of a song. Sometimes I sing acapella. Sometimes I grab one of my ukuleles and play softly (though, sometimes I have trouble focusing on the words themselves and get too fixated on playing the song well, and so then I have to set my uke aside and sing without it).

I’ve made music a part of my devotions because I love to sing of my God, I love to sing to my God.

I’ve made music a part of my devotions because a few songs on Sunday just doesn’t cut it for me anymore.

I’ve made music a part of my devotions because I want to have a soulfire for God, and music about Him reminds me Who I’m burning for.

I’ve made music a part of my devotions because it helps me focus; it helps me turn my eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face.

I’ve made music a part of my devotions because I want to be consistent in my worship.

I’ve made music a part of my devotions because why not?

Let’s chat it up, peeps.

What do you think is the place of music in personal devotions? Do you think music has power? What songs draw you closer to God?

P.S. – Don’t I deserve some sort of award for keeping this post so short and sweet??? It’s not even 700 words! *collective gasp*

When I Almost Died & What I Have to Say About It

On July 6, 2016,  I was in a car accident that could have killed or crippled me.

Honestly, it was completely stupid accident. I was driving down a straight country road in the middle of a summer evening. No ice. No animals. No other cars. No pedestrians. And yet I flipped an SUV twice.


I could have been killed. I could have lost an arm. I could have broken my neck. Or I could have broken my back, just like my dad did when he was my age. I could have been hit by the debris flying through the air as the explorer was rolling. I could be dead, but I’m not.

I walked away (literally) from that wreck with a scrape on my arm, a small rub-burn on my thigh, a small rub-burn on the top of my foot, and a very minor concussion. And none of my tiny injuries are even going to scar. The poor SUV is totaled, but me, I’m doing just fine.

Some people have said that I was lucky, that thank goodness I was wearing my seatbelt.

But no, I was not lucky, and my seatbelt did not save me.

God did that.

God made sure the explorer landed between two telephone poles instead of wrapped around one.

God kept me from hitting a tree when I over-corrected the first time.

God kept my neck from snapping.

God kept my seatbelt from breaking my collarbone or a couple ribs.

God kept my seatbelt from sawing through my carotid or jugular.

God kept the debris and broken glass from pelting me.

God made sure the explorer landed upright after its second roll.

God helped me unbuckle my seatbelt once the explorer stopped moving.

God helped me climb out of the window when the door wouldn’t open.

God helped me spot my phone lying fifteen feet away on the blacktop amidst the other debris that was strewn across the road.

God made sure my phone was functional with only a couple scratches after its tumble.

God steadied my shaking hands enough so that I could call my dad.

God brought a woman and her daughter from our church down that road to help me.

I am okay, unnaturally okay, and it is because of God. The only reason that I am still alive is because God decided to save me. People have said that God was good to me. “Oh my goodness, Rosalie, God was so good to you,” “Wow, Rosalie, God was good to you,” “God was so good to you, Rosalie.” And He was. And if I’d died, He would still be so good. And if I’d been paralyzed or lost a limb, He would still be so good.

Make no mistake, I am extremely thankful that He protected me as much as He did, but I think we get into a habit of saying He’s good when He does things that we think are good. God is good. Period.

I’ve done a lot of thinking and praying since my accident, since I could have, by all rights should have, died, and this is what I know for sure: I am alive because God still has work for me to complete. I have yet to accomplish the purpose He gave me. I am so unnaturally okay so that there can be no doubt that God was there and that He is sovereign.

To God alone be the glory that I am alive and so, so well.

Now, because you’ve always wanted life advice from some random girl on the internet, here are my thoughts for life after this:

~ Rest assured that you will not die before your time. You will live until you have accomplished God’s purpose for you.

~ Live every moment with intentionality.

~ Say what you’ve been too afraid to say; be bold. Tell those you love what they mean to you.

~ Enjoy life. Drink it in and praise God.

~ Know God now.

~ Invest heavily in your relationships—with your family, with your friends, with God. Someone once told me that there are two things that last for eternity: God and people.

~ Always remember that all glory belongs to God.

~ God is always good—when things are well and when the world is falling apart.

~ Give better hugs.

~ God has put breath in you for a reason; don’t squander your time away.

~ Chase God with your whole heart—life’s too short and He’s too incredible for half-measures.

~ Fear God and God alone.

~ Give more gifts.

~ Treasure your family.

~ For goodness sake, forgive. Don’t hold onto how people have wronged you. If you’ve been saved by grace, you’ve been forgiven and commanded to forgive. Don’t waste life being bitter and angry.

~ When all else fails, praise God.

~ Every heartbeat is a gift.

So I could have died, but I didn’t. The thought staggers me every time. I think I see God more now, and for that I’m thankful. He’s reminded me how to live, and I don’t want to ever forget.

What about you? How do you live?