Are you there?

When my husband travels, my 7 year old often crawls into bed with me in the middle of the night.  I almost always hear him open the door as he shuffles to my side of the bed.  90% of the times his sweet voice says, “Mama, can I snuggle with you?” I always lift the covers and let him settle in next to me.  I love that he still holds my hand as he falls back to sleep.  I love listening to his breathing even out.  I love his little tufts of hair tickling my face. I love each of these things because I know that it could end at any minute.  At any minute he could grow up—just enough—to not need his Mom in the middle of the night.

While Jeromy was on a fly fishing trip recently, Kambell opened the door and crawled into bed on Daddy’s side of the bed.  I was silent, listening to him settle into the blankets.  He whispered, “Mama?”  I answered, “Humm?”  And he simply said, “I just wanted to make sure you were there” and then he fell asleep.

I lay there thinking about how innocently he asked if I was there.  And how quickly he was reassured.  I thought about another innocent question, which requires reassurance. “Abba, are you there?”

How often do we question if our Heavenly Father is there?   It’s a simple question requesting reassurance that He’s by our side. I can think of dozens of times in my life, mostly in times of turmoil, where I doubted if God was there. Have you done the same? Is it easier to figure out your own solution because it appears God isn’t answering a prayer?

For years, my prayer was to become pregnant.  After dozens of failed attempts at In Vetro (that was super affordable on a young Airman’s salary), miscarriages, and monthly tears, I gave up on having a biological child.  Multiple military moves negated my eligibility to become an adoptive parent…even in a high-risk adoption scenario.  When the toll of all that medical intervention created a scenario where a hysterectomy was necessary, I was devastated.  I questioned if God had heard my prayers.  Did He really hold each one of my tears in His hand?  Did He know that my heart was breaking every single month? That it broke at every single baby shower I attended? That simple television commercial featuring cooing babies would send me from the room in tears?

In Genesis 16:2, we see a story of similar heartache, in regards to babies and God’s presence. God had promised Abraham that he would have many descendants.  Ten years after the promise, Sarah had yet to bare a child.  As was the custom of the day, Sarah chose to send her servant, Hagar to her husband.  When Hagar became pregnant, Abraham’s fertility heartache was over.  But Sarah’s became compounded when daily she observed a child that was not of her womb.

While I don’t understanding sending another woman to my husband’s bed, I do understand the heartache of infertility that Sarah faced.  I understand the desperation that led her to decide God wasn’t with her….that His promise was taking too long.

And yet, God is with us. Always.  He’s there to reassure us.  He’s there with His promises.  He provides His Son Jesus as a way to ensure we each have a way to Him.  Matthew 1:23 (NIV) says, “Behold, the Virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.” Immanuel translates to “God with us.”

Amazing, Abba. Providing a promise through his child, Immanuel.  Always with us.  As I lay in the bed, listening to the slumbered breath of my child, I was reassured. My God made me a mother when I least expected it.

God is with us.  He hears those prayers.  He makes a way…even when it seems there is no way possible. Ladies—be assured with your innocent questions and know that God is there.

~Emily

 

 

 

 

Hang-ups, Phobias, & Quirks…Continued

When you wrestle with deep soul secret keeping, you risk your relationship with God, with yourself, and with others.

In 1998, I practiced a quickly growing, cultish behavior when I joined a Wiccan coven.  I committed; I practiced; I researched; I participated; I went all in with a pagan walk and turned my back on our Heavenly Father.

For seven years, I deliberately disobeyed God.  I denied Christ. I knew I was wrong. I kept it from my friends and family.

I became the deceivable woman.

2 Corinthians 11:3 (NIV) states, “the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness.” Deceived exapato means “to seduce wholly; “ “To persuade into disobedience.”

Utilizing the 2 Corinthians passage, we are able to see that in Genesis, Eve is an example of a woman who was persuaded to do wrong.  When she was alone, she was vulnerable to temptation.

She was the first deceivable woman.

In my last post, I stated that quirky tendencies are not necessary sinful.  It’s when we keep secrets deep in our soul that we become vulnerable to sinful behavior.

In the case of practicing Wicca, I was committing sinful behavior, which I was keeping secret.  Is there a difference? Perhaps.

Once I shared the secret of my sinful behavior with my closest friends and family, they immediately began praying for me to be restored to a Christian walk.  That did not happen immediately, but it did happen eventually.  When we selectively share our hearts with other believers, they are able to bolster us.  They are able to hold us accountable.  They are able to approach the Father on our behalf.

Last week’s hang ups, phobias, and quirks seem very miniscule when compared to my absolute avoidance of the occult aisle at the bookstore. I avoid horoscopes, moon cycles, and other pagan related calendar items.  I steer my child away from tarot cards and subtle pagan television shows. Avoiding and dismissing occult and pagan related issues has become a hang-up, phobia, and quirk.  It’s one that will not be a secret in my life, because I refuse to have that sin ever take hold of me or my house again.

I was the deceivable woman. It wore me out being that woman with the deep-seated secret.  If you have sinful behaviors that are wearing you out…that you are keeping secret…I am urging you to find a strong Christian woman to confide in so that she can go to the Lord in prayer on your behalf.

Turn from the secrecy. Ensure you aren’t falling into a sin trap because of secrets.

~Emily

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer Warriors

I watched a prayer warrior this weekend. I wasn’t expecting to bear witness to such amazing courage, but I’m so grateful that I was there.

I attended a women’s Christian conference on Friday and Saturday. Despite engaging speakers, I found myself focused on prayer. The worship songs became my prayers, as I stood offering silent prayers. The prayer wall was unique…a chicken wire frame, where women could place their heart on a scrap of paper. The scriptures about prayer popped into my head. Towards the end of the conference, women were invited to the altar for prayer.

And that’s when I saw her.

God whispered to my heart, “Watch this Prayer Warrior.” I watched her pray with strangers who were pouring their hearts out to her. As women left, I watched her write their prayer requests down. I watched her cry with them and for them.

I was amazed by her courage, by her openness, by her example, and by her love for Christ as seen through her love of other women. I felt like God was allowing me to witness something glorious and I felt like God was standing right next to me…cheering her on. It was a moment unlike any I had experienced.

I was blessed to chat with her after the conference and she told me that the prayer team was not what she initially had volunteered to do over the weekend. She followed the direction God provided, which is how she ended up standing at the altar praying with strangers.

Please know that when we obey the directions of God, we bless others with that obedience. The prayer warrior obeyed God. She blessed the women that she prayed with. She also blessed me as I witnessed obedience and heard God’s sweet voice. Her obedience blesses you, the reader. Why? She followed God’s guidance and has allowed herself to become an example for each of us. Listen to God’s guidance for your life. Follow it.

Watch the Prayer Warriors.

~Emily

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Handle it…

God will never give you more than you can handle.

Two women were standing in front of me at the checkout this week. One was discussing her pending divorce and child custody issues, while also disclosing her mother’s major health issue. In the next breath she also told a story about her horrific supervisor. The entire time she was sharing, I kept thinking that the checker was taking waaaaaaay too long and that this lady was probably violating some type of sharing statutes. I had little patience and clearly even less grace.

Then the woman next to the over-sharer said, “Thankfully, God will never give you more than you can handle.”

Most certainly more grace than I had for the scenario.

The statement stuck with me throughout this week. God will never give you more than you can handle. I have heard several Christians say this. Frankly, I think I have heard it said to more women then men. Is it true?

The more I thought about it, the more I disagree with this statement. First and foremost, I have not seen this in the Bible, which is cause to pause and reflect why we say this to others. Secondly, I flat out don’t believe it without some caveats.

God has never intended for us to “handle” anything on our own…ever…so why would we think He’d give us any amount to “handle” on our own? The reality is this: He wants to handle every detail with us…in every scenario. So the comment that he’ll never give us more than we can handle is untrue when we take it to mean that we must singularly handle the situation. If you understand that God will never give you more than you can handle with Him…well, then I am more inclined to agree.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

The catch is that you have to handle any situation with God. With God. This requires that you talk to Him, trust Him, and rely on Him. That you allow Him to handle it for you and with you. At this point, “He will provide a way out so you can endure it.” The way out is simple. He is the way out.

God won’t give you more than you can handle…He’ll give you exactly what you can handle with His assistance.

Ladies, if you are going through a painful breakup; God wants to handle it with you.

If you have medical issues you are facing for yourself, your family, your friends; God wants to handle it with you.

If you have a horrible boss, a tough work situation, or no job at all; God wants to handle it with you.

If you lose your wallet, get in a car accident, have childhood traumas, unpaid bills, drama with the neighbor…it doesn’t matter what it is; God wants to handle it with you.

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” Matthew 11: 28-30 (NIV)

His burden is light. So trust Him by giving Him a portion of yours. As promised in the Bible, He will assist with “handling” it, so you don’t have to do it alone.

~Emily

 

 

Forever Home

I love where I live.   My family owns a little farm in a small Alabama town and I love it. I love the land, the rich history, the overt conversations about God and Church, the Southern hospitality, the slow pace and Southern drawl, and the sweet tea. Sweet baby Jesus…the sweet tea. I love that my son is flourishing here. I like hearing him blend Pennsylvania Dutch with a Southern accent. I love that my husband is fishing to his heart’s content here. I love that we belong.

As a native Oregonian who has lived all over the world for the last 24 years, I never thought Alabama would be “home.” When I first received orders to the Montgomery area, I prayed that this would not be “the forever home.”

Those who have lived in the same place for a majority of their lives may struggle to relate to this; however, those from a transient background such as the military, know that each assignment could be the last. The real last assignment. The assignment that “traps” you into staying at that location. I was so afraid Alabama would be that for my family.

Yet, here I am. Declaring that I love this place. We settled. I’m retiring from the military here. We’re staying…at least for a while.

You see…this isn’t really our home. None of it is. Our home is in Heaven, seated near Jesus, near all the Saints, and very near to our Heavenly Father. According to Philippians, our citizenship is in heaven.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”        Philippians 3: 20-21 (NIV)

In John 14, Jesus comforts His disciples by telling them that there are many rooms in His Father’s house…and He goes on to state that He is going to prepare that place for them. For You. For Us.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3 (NIV)

We aren’t meant to be anywhere on Earth as our “forever home.” We’re meant to be in the best home ever with the absolute best Father ever. It doesn’t matter how much I love the land and the hospitality of the locals in Alabama. It does not matter how much I adore my son’s developing Southern accent. It does not matter. Why? Because none of that truly matters in comparison to our true “forever home.”

I love living in small town Alabama. But I am so excited to eventually be in my “forever home” in Heaven.

~Emily

Drowning in Chocolate

Work deadlines, wash the dishes, exercise daily and eat well, tuck the kids into bed, plan a baby shower, teach a Sunday school, traffic jam when you’re late, call your mom, go to college, purchase a card for the neighbor, start a journal, check social media, baseball try outs for the little ones, read a novel, schedule a dental appointment, plan the summer vacation; these are but a few of the tasks that pull women in 1000 directions daily.

Each one of us has had an experience of feeling overwhelmed by our lives and daily activities. While some tasks are out of our control, others are very much in our control. I have often found that my excitement for projects leads me to over-filling my plate, which leads me to feeling overwhelmed. I want to be great at my job, finish my Doctoral thesis, have a successful partnership with Erin in women’s ministry, write a book, and create a wonderful garden at the “farmette” with chickens and goats. I think about owning a used bookstore or a historic Bed and Breakfast. I want to be a museum curator. I have often dreamt of sharing God with others from a stage. These are my hopes and dreams and when they are taken in totality they simply become overwhelming.

It’s as though I am drowning in chocolate. It’s a gooey delicious mixture of all the things I want to do…all the things I long to accomplish. They are all rich in depth and texture….fulfilling to the core, if accomplished. Yet, taken all together they are overwhelming. Taken all together, I start drowning in the chocolate goodness.

God does not give us talents and strengths to make us overwhelmed. Nor does he give us a “to do” list that detracts from glorifying His kingdom. He wants us to have— and to want—time with Him. He has given each of us individual gifts and talents for a job that He has planned for you. Guess what? Surprise! You might not know His plan yet.

It’s okay to not know the plan. However, we have to know that the gifts and talents we have been given are best used for God’s glory. Erma Bombeck expressed this thought beautifully when she said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.”

I love that sentiment. I want to use everything He gives me. The Bible speaks extensively about the gifts we’ve been given. In Romans and 1 Peter we see that God provides all of the gifts to be planted, cultivated, and harvested for His plan.

Romans 12:6-8 (NIV) “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.”

1 Peter 4:10-11 (NIV) “Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good servants of God’s various gifts of grace.”

I need help remembering that God’s timing with the gifts He has provided is perfect. Both the timing and the gifts are perfect. Surprise. I still don’t know the complete plan He has for me, but I want to be ready to honor Him when the plan unfolds.

Ladies, take a breath and know that God has all of your hopes and dreams in the palm of His hand. The dreams He has for you and your future are greater than any you can imagine. I’ll make a deal with each of you…if you take a breath and let God work in your life, I’ll try to do the same.

~Emily

Road Trip Worship

road-trip-sign

Ever since I was a little girl, long road trips have always included the “Five Favorite Senses” game. It’s a fairly easy concept. One person in the car starts by sharing their five favorite sounds and then it goes around the car with everyone presenting their list of five sounds. Then it moves to your five favorite smells, five favorite touches/sensations, five favorite tastes and five favorite sights. After decades of playing this game, my answers rarely vary.

My list of favorite sounds usually includes thunderstorms, ocean waves, babies cooing, kittens purring, and the click of knitting needles.

My list of favorite smells usually includes the beginning of a rainstorm, the ocean, lilacs, my mom’s favorite perfume, and line-dried sheets.

My list of favorite touches/sensations usually includes fresh shaved legs with clean sheets, Q-Tips in my ears, scratching an itch, full body massage, and the velvety softness of a rose petal (which is slightly ironic since roses are one of my least favorite smells).

My list of favorite tastes usually includes fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, iced sprite on a hot day, Velveeta macaroni and cheese, French macaroons (almost any flavor), and kettle corn.

My list of favorite sights usually includes sunsets/sunrises, puppies or kittens twitching in their sleep, someone helping someone less fortunate, starlit skies, and 4th of July fireworks.

The game has filled countless hours of road trips when I was a small girl, a teenager, a military member, and now as a mom.

God rejoices in our favorites. It’s an indication that we are pausing in our daily life to reflect on the glories of what He has provided us. It’s a pause to enjoy His creation. It’s a pause to enjoy one another and listen to someone else’s favorite things. It becomes a moment to rejoice in the Lord.

           “Rejoice in the Lord always.” ~Philippians 4:4 (NIV)

Essentially this childhood game becomes a chance to worship. Some may think of worship as the ten minute-sing-along at the beginning of church, but worship can take many other forms. The appreciation of the stars in the sky or the perfection of a child’s laughter; these forms of appreciation can translate to worship when recognition is given to the Creator. Prayer in gratitude and awe can also become a form of worship. When we serve others, whether at a homeless shelter or teaching Sunday school, we are offering ourselves as an aspect of worship to God.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”    ~Romans 12:1 (KJV)

By no means am I saying that playing the five senses game in the car is equivalent to the worship we see in the Bible. I am proposing that the five senses game is an opportunity to reflect on the blessings God has provided us. Reflecting on our blessings is a form of worship.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” ~James 1:17 (NIV)

Our God is an amazing provider. Have you reflected on that recently? Maybe the five senses game would be a fun way to start…

~Emily

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