You Be The Vine, I'll Be The Branch

I'm kind of a control freak.

On one hand, I love spontaneity and adventure and I hate when vacations or outings are super scheduled. I tend to get really anxious when there is too much pressure on things to "be a certain way." But I also love order and logic and reason, so when it comes to my own life I actually put a lot of pressure on myself to make everything perfect and solve the whole world's problems.

Essentially, I'm a control freak who doesn't like control freaks. I'm, in the words of Sarah Bessey, "a recovering know-it-all." And, during this season in our country, it has often been difficult for me to hold back and refrain from losing my cool. I'm sure you understand what I mean.

In the last few weeks, we've all reached peak election season burnout. Last night was the final—excrutiating—presidential debate and people on Twitter were celebrating its conclusion. We're tired and restless, eager for something to believe in that's bigger than ourselves, and so we've turned two very human, very flawed people into our saviors. We've fought and bickered and raised our fists at each other until families have stopped speaking to one another and friendships have unraveled within the comment sections of Facebook.

We're better than this. We really are. I believe it in my core—in that God-shaped vestibule within my heart—but the reason we don't act like we're better is not because it's not's because it is true and we just don't believe it of ourselves. We don't believe it of each other. We point fingers and use cruel names and shoot words like arrows into the people sitting right across from us.

We have to stop pretending that our words don't mean anything.

We have to stop acting like "words are just words." 

They aren't.

Words create and words destroy. Ever read Genesis? I'm pretty sure God made the whole of the universe with nothing more than the power of His speech.

That's the example we have for what words can do in the mouth of Someone mighty...and it's time we followed it. It's time we hold the people we elect to a standard of creation, restoration, and healing and move away from people who diminish and destroy. 

I have more thoughts about this election and our candidates—Trump in particular—than I have time or energy to voice here. I have felt powerless and desperate. I have shaken my fists in righteous anger and felt the breath knocked out of me by the statements of our leaders. I have cried in the shower and prayed for wisdom. And I know I'm not the only one.

I think back to the moment, almost three years ago now, when Lucy was first placed in my arms. She was offered to me, held out over my battered body—the body she had just left—and I couldn't believe that, suddenly, there she was. Real and loud and utterly perfect. I clutched her, naked, to my chest and said, breathless with wonder and exhaustion, "Lucy."

And she looked up at me.

She knew her name. She recognized the word and the one who spoke it. 

What we're called by others is what we're named, whether we want those names or not. They might not be the truth, but they're the words we carry with us wherever we go. To pretend otherwise is both dishonest and dangerous because by pretending words are meaningless we render ourselves free of any responsibility towards the people in our lives, towards the people who are impacted by what comes out of our mouths.

I am responsible for Lucy. I am responsible for the words I call her and the words I use in her presence. But this responsibility doesn't extend to her simply because she's my daughter; it extends to her because she—like me—is a human being who was knit together by the hands of a Father who saw her worthy of being created. That is reason enough.

In America, we like to boast about the power of the individual. We like to talk until we're blue in face about personal liberty and the right to choose and the freedom to forge our own paths, but we tense up when confronted with what our choices might mean for others. We don't like to see beyond ourselves. It's uncomfortable and inconvenient.

But when the Body breaks down in one place, it will almost certainly break down in another. Maybe the heart has no control over what the brain does, but it will work in accordance with what it's told, even if what it's told goes against everything it was designed to do.

Lucy will grow up hearing that she's loved, and what we tell her will resonate with everyone she meets because what we tell her will become the voice she uses to speak. It will become the voice she hears that either urges her on towards love...or blinds her with its need to be the one who always has the power.

I don't really want to be in control of everyone. I don't really even want to be in control of myself. I've learned enough about my own humanity, especially since I became a mother, to know that I don't have all the answers. And when I try to act like I do, I usually end up making a mess.

But when I present myself to others—to their pain or joy or suffering—as a witness and nothing more, I learn how to see them better. I learn how to let go of my need to be in control and just be. I learn how to connect in ways that are impossible when I'm simply trying to be right all the time.

This, I think, is one of the many things God wants us to know. Jesus shared these words in John 5:15 near the end of His earthly ministry:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

I only recently noticed that Jesus never distinguishes anyone—any sinner, any Gentile, anyone—as not being a part of Him. He is the Vine, and we are the branches. Our status as His never changes. But it's only in our remaining, only in our commitment to Him and all that He desires for us, that we become capable of being like Him...of living like Him...of loving like Him.

It's only in choosing Christ that we find ourselves able to move past party lines and embrace one another.

It's only in remaining with Him that we are able to see people who don't look like us or vote like us or believe like us as people worth seeing.

It's only in listening to the words of our actual Savior that we will ever become able to speak those words to others.

I don't want to hear anymore callous and calculating verbiage. I don't want to see another friend be diminished for her beliefs or silenced because of her experiences. I don't want to clench my fists to keep from crying when people I love use words I never thought I'd hear from them.

I want to try listening. I want to try praying. I want to try sitting down and talking and remembering, all the while, that what you have to say comes from the filter of your own life. Just as what I have to say comes from mine. 

I want to remain in the Vine and bear the fruit of the One who created so much diversity, so much hope. He is my hope, after all. Not the opinions of others or the words of my peers or even the person who becomes our president. 

Christ, and Christ alone.

Let's remain in Him.

The Next Best Thing: Cover Reveal (And A Surprise!)

A story for you guys before I introduce the cover of my latest novel:

(Or, just keep scrolling and then come back. I trust you.)

Every self-published author has a different tale to tell: how they did it, what channels they used to distribute/market the book, who designed the cover, who formatted the book, etc. All these issues are distinct and personal and that's the beauty of this whole thing.

Now I want to tell you how I got here. Just for fun.

My journey to this place has been different from someone who has only ever self-published because my first novel, The Best Kept Secret, was published by a small press called BookFish Books (which I've written about at length). It was absolutely necessary that the cover of The Next Best Thing paired well with the first book because they're a series and they needed to reflect that. 

I wasn't going to be using the same image for the sequel (obviously) and I had no trouble locating one on my own that was free for both personal and commercial use. The tricky part was making sure that my designer, Lindsay—a sweet friend from my small group who has done graphic design for Chick-Fil-A, among many other clients—would be able to duplicate the elements of the first cover as needed. It wasn't a question of skill; it was a question of integrity. Lindsay told me that in order for something to be considered original the design needs to be changed drastically at least five times. Of course, I didn't want a drastic change; I wanted similar covers. So, at Lindsay's suggestion, I emailed the designer for BookFish and found out that she owned the rights to the original design and I would need to purchase them from her in order for Lindsay to use what she needed. It was an easy transaction and she was more than happy to turn the design over to me for a relatively small fee. Now I own the rights and can use them as I please. Always a plus!

In a matter of two days, Lindsay took the photo I selected and the original design for The Best Kept Secret and had more than five options for me to choose from. She knew exactly what I was looking for and she delivered. (Thank you, Lindsay! Love you.)

Now we're at the fun part, y'all.

Behold, the cover of my latest novel, The Next Best Thing!


Here's the original photo, in case you're interested:

I like mine better.

And, now, see everything together—the spine, the blurb, etc.—on the print version:

It's my favorite. I'm happy. And I think it captures the story perfectly. 

Only 81 more days until the release! Mark your calendars...and (SURPRISE!) click here to go ahead and pre-order The Next Best Thing on Kindle for 50% off the release day price! You can also purchase it from iBooks, Kobo, or Barnes & Noble.


What do you think of the cover? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Clean(er) Living: Compost Bins, Menstrual Cups, and Other Weird and Wonderful Things

One of the things my husband first loved about me was what he called my "free spirit." When we met, I was a junior in college and still pretty judgmental about things that most young Christian girls are (especially evangelical ones), but I was also silly, spontaneous, and deeply compassionate. Pierce thought those were some of my best qualities. Now, ten years after we started dating and nearly eight years after we got married, my husband still loves my free spirit...only these days it looks, well, different than it did back then.

The Next Best Thing: Blurb Reveal!

(An alternate title to this post is "The Next Best Thing: What The Heck Is Gonna Happen Now, Wendi?")

I've got a little something special for you guys today! If you continue scrolling, you'll be one of the first people to read the official back cover blurb for my latest novel, The Next Best Thing! I included this most-beloved photo of me at my alma mater, Georgia Southern University, because that's where the book is set, OBVS. Did you really think Emma would go to college somewhere else?

Why I'm Self-Publishing This Time Around

Okay, I've completely fallen off the blog wagon. I can't even remember the last time I wasn't writing a script, or editing my book, or working on the magazine. It's been an insane few months. We've been traveling with church, staying busy with friends and family, working a whole lot, and potty training our toddler. All good things, all good things. But it's nice to be back on this space again, if only for myself.

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin: A Review

Summer is in full swing and, guys, I know you need a good beach read. Am I right? You might actually need more than one because, if you're anything like me, you're going to sail through Emily Giffin's latest novel First Comes Love in less than two days.

I swear, her books just keep getting better and better.

First Comes Love: A Summary

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond.
Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first-grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.
On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired. 
As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover they need each other more than they knew . . . and that in the recipe for true happiness, love always comes first.
Emotionally honest and utterly enthralling, First Comes Love is a story about family, friendship, and the courage to follow your own heart—wherever that may lead.

First Comes Love: What I Think

I have to note that this novel first delighted me on a kind of superficial level because it's set in Atlanta, and I happen to be an Atlantan. I love my city, and although I spend far less time in Buckhead than Emily's characters do, she did a beautiful job of showcasing the city. Some of my favorite restaurants are mentioned and having the novel take place where I live helped me get a stronger grasp on the setting, which is always a bonus.

That being said, Emily surprised me with this one. I watched an interview with her recently where she said her characters are growing along with her, and that their struggles are becoming more and more complex. With each and every book she releases, Emily has progressively moved away from light-hearted chick lit and into the here and now, where her stories are straight-up messy, complex, and full of the intensity that real life and real families bring. First Comes Love does not tie things up into a pretty bow, although it certainly left me feeling satisfied - if unsettled - and proud(er) to have followed along with Emily's writing journey all these years. She is a damn fine storyteller.

Neither Josie nor Meredith is a very likeable character. In fact, they both showcase some of the uglier parts of myself and there was more than one moment during my reading when I had to stop and digest the story. But what Emily does so beautifully with these sisters is make me root for them, even while I disapprove of their actions or motives. Josie and Meredith are bitter and angry, sometimes for what seems like made-up reasons or even no reason at all, and the undercurrent of loss that flows through the book is what has the biggest impact on their relationship. They've spent over a decade of their lives making choices that reflect the pain of losing their brother. And isn't that what we do? We hold on to what is gone and think, somehow, we can change it all by reliving it over and over? Emily shows us that this is not the way to go. But, like Josie and Meredith, we all have to figure that out for ourselves.

First Comes Love is a tale of two sisters that had me thinking of my own siblings, and realizing that the stuff between families that's never fully settled is just a natural, and perhaps necessary, part of living and loving. For anyone who picks up Emily Giffin's latest thinking (because of the title or cover) that it's going to be reminiscent of Something Borrowed or Something Blue, they might be disappointed. First Comes Love is not that kind of book.

I think it's even better.

If you want to learn more about Emily Giffin or her fabulous novels, please visit her official website here. You can also like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @EmilyGiffin and @EmilyGiffinAuthor.

Please note, I received a free copy of First Comes Love in exchange for an honest review.

Straight, White, Cisgender Seeking Answers

I don't normally comment here on current events, at least not in any definable way. I save that for Twitter or Facebook and even then I limit my opinions, sometimes because it's not appropriate and sometimes because my heart just can't handle the trolling.