In the Morning…

Give me Jesus

In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.

It’s the phrase that I woke up singing this morning.  A result of a happy heart after a night of finding out that the wolves in sheeps’ clothing are still running rampant.

On the spiritual warfare battlefield, Jesus is our great protector.

In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.

~Emily

Childlike Faith

The last week of summer before school starts is always hectic with buying supplies, trying on new clothes, attending open house to meet the teacher, and cramming in the last minute summer fun.  As a child, my school always started the day after Labor Day.  For my child, Alabama schools start the 1st week of August.  That means our hectic week was last week; complete with a three-day sprint to the beach.

I was exhausted when we arrived.  Why? For several reasons.  I just completed a road trip up and down the East Coast with Erin.  I had the very stressful experience of pitching my book proposal to publishers.  Even though I’m an extrovert, I had the pressure of meeting hundreds of strangers and engaging in meaningful conversations with all of them.  All to turn around and continue living out of a suitcase for a few more days with my husband and son.  The cherry on top? I knew the three-day beach trip would primarily be focused on fishing.

On the 2nd night at the beach, I joined dozens of other parents smirking at one another in the dark with headlamps tied to our heads and death grips on our “flashlight” cell phones…all of us supervising small children as they ran after the crabs that skirted across the waves at dusk.  Literally, dozens of parents looking like coal miners following children, chasing crabs.  For a moment, I stood there looking at the dark shadows with lights at head level, up and down the beach, and reflected on how amazing parenthood truly becomes when you have unconditional love for a little person.

How else would you tolerate, let alone explain, such ridiculous requests to catch crabs in the dark?

At one point Kambell looked up at the stars and said, “Mama, isn’t the sky beautiful?  How did God know to make all of those stars for us?”

This led to a conversation about how God knows all of those stars perfectly.  How He knows about each one of the hairs on our head…and how He knows every single grain of sand that we were walking on.

After the part of about the sand, Kambell was quiet for quite a while.  Anyone who has met this child knows that it’s unusual for him to be quiet for too long.  After a few moments he said, “Our God is pretty amazing to know all that stuff.”

You know what? He is pretty amazing to know all that stuff!

Gone was the exhaustion, the stress of pushing books, the exasperation of a three-day fishing trip, and even the embarrassment of walking in the dark with a light tied to my forehead. All of it was gone with the revelation that my son was enamored with God and all that He can do.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 18:3

Ladies, this week I’m challenging you to be like a child in our awe of God.

~Emily

Lean In

My 70+ pounds son just asked me to pick him up for a hug.  As he wrapped his arms around my neck and his legs around my waist, I tugged furiously at my shirt, which rode up exposing my tummy.  I said to him, “You’re almost too heavy for us to do this anymore.”  To which he responded, “Remember when you used to carry me like this all the time? You always told me, ‘lean in’.”

When he was straight up or leaning backwards, I had to strain against gravity.

I told him to ‘lean in’ because it made his weight closer to my center of gravity.  Essentially, it became easier to carry him.

God is constantly telling us ‘”lean in.”

When we lean in, we are learning.

When we lean in, we are relying on God.

When we lean in, we are stronger.

When we lean in, we get Godly council…because it comes from the sole source.

What does it mean to ‘lean in’ with God? It means we need to pray. We need to talk to God. We need to believe He’s for us.  It means we need to learn the Word…we need to get in the Bible.  It means we need to surround ourselves with God.

Rather than rely on ourselves, let’s rely on the Lord.

Let’s lean in so that the weight is more evenly distributed.

Let’s lean in to make bearing the load easier.

Let’s lean in.

~Emily

“Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” ~Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.                                    ~Isaiah 41:10

This is my “go to” verse. It’s the first verse my grandmother helped me memorize as a small child.  It brings me comfort.  It’s one I use routinely in prayer.  I recently got this verse on a keychain, in a covenant of prayer, along with two special girls from my husband’s family.

I’ve heavily relied on this verse the last few months. I’ve been struggling.  And those closest to me have been having a rough time too.   I have immediate and extended family, as well as very close friends battling cancer.  I’m anxious about the transition between military and civilian life.  My stepdaughter is excelling in a rehab program, but recently betrayed by her best friend.  I’ve been stricken with doubts about finishing my degree.  The suicide of a celebrity chef had me reeling for days.  It’s just been a Debbie-Downer type of season in my life.

In light of feeling “out of sorts,” I’ve taken the last few days to contemplate the words of this passage. Essentially I’ve been deciphering why it feels so special to me.

So Do Not Fear:  This gives me the security that God has chosen me. He will provide.  He has told me not to be fearful of what is next.  His plan will prevail.

For I Am With You: This is the promise of God, which is the reason we should not fear.  God is with us. He literally is telling us that He is with us.  He’s standing next to us…holding our hands…helping us lift our head in times of shame or sorrow…catching our tears…cheering for us.  If He’s with us, what do we have to fear?

Do Not Be Dismayed: When one is dismayed, they are typically looking around themselves in a state of alarm or danger.  I think about an active shooter scenario…would I spring into action or stand there dumbfounded?  This statement from our God tells us that we can be calm and can shed any apprehension that we may harbor. We don’t have to look around in a state of alarm.

For I Am Your God: The Great I AM.  Asserting His place in our lives.  He is our God, the God of Heaven and Earth, He is God of all power and protection.  In this portion of the verse, He states His dominance of our life. I love that He isn’t just reminding us of His position, but rather He is also telling the world that He is our God.

I Will Strengthen You:  This verb “will strengthen” provides us with the emotion of attaching to someone else.  As in Isaiah 44:14, we become chosen.  We are made stronger as a result of our relationship with God. Again, we see the promise from a God that He will see us through the turmoil.

I Will Uphold You: He will enable us to bear any and all of our trials. He will stand us upright.  I have this vision of something happening that is so horrible, I want to faint away with fear or saddness…but God is standing right behind me, with His hands under my arms…”propping” me up to face the world.

With My Righteous Right Hand:  God’s hand is faithful.  It is one to rely on.  It’s on that hand that He will secure us.

When broken down, this verse provides so much insight into the heart of our God.  And it is so refreshing and reassuring that I do not have to worry about anything, as long as I believe God’s word.

Ladies, I encourage you to lean in this week and really digest a verse…any verse.  Figure out how it plays out in your life.  I’m praying we all have a week remembering that God will strengthen each of us.

~Emily

 

 

 

 

Truth Talk

I want to do what you do, so what advice do you have for me?

Recently, I witnessed a younger Airman asking a retired Chief Master Sergeant about how to become a Special Operations Airmen within the Air Force.  For those unfamiliar with the special operations community, it’s not easy. Nor should it be. These Airmen are the elite of the Air Force and as a result, they are very selective on candidates.

The Chief said, “Train hard. Be physically, mentally, and spiritually ready.  Love what you do right now.”

The Airmen responded, “Well, I currently work on computers, so I’m behind a desk all day.  I hate it. I want to be doing something I’m passionate about.”

The Chief asked, “Are you good at computers?”

“I’m alright; I just want to be in a job that I’m passionate about,” said the Airman.

The Chief then responded with a mic drop, “If you are only an ‘alright’ computer guy, you’ll just be an ‘alright’ special operations guy…and we need excellence; not just alright.”

Whoa.  Dreams dashed. Balloons popped. Hopes crushed.  And yet, I was incredibly proud of the honesty this Chief provided this Airman.  Truth talk sometimes is brutal.  In my experience, truth talk is lacking in most people’s life.

As followers of Christ, we are not called to mediocrity.  Rather, we are called to greatness.  God does not expect us to be an expert in every aspect of our lives. However, He expects we will work diligently to be the best we can be.

“Whatever you do, do your works heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men…” ~Colossians 3:23

While you aren’t expected to be an expert in a particular field, you should be your best to bring glory to God.  If you are attempting to be your best, you will be one of the best.  Even if you aren’t the best amongst your peers, you will then be your best for your God.  It does not glorify God when we settle for less than our best.

Let’s look at why mediocrity dishonors God, rather than glorying Him.  As followers of Christ, everything we do reflects upon who our God is. We are the ambassadors for the Kingdom. Thus mediocrity does not encourage non-believers to know Christ.

We may not like our job.  We may actually hate our jobs.  It might be a career or it might be an entry-level job.  Either way, dislike of the job is unacceptable when you consider that the associated emotions reflect mediocrity.

First, let’s offer gratitude to God for having a job. There are plenty of Americans struggling to get or retain a job.  If we settle for mediocre work and continuously complain about our job, we are not glorifying God.  We are insulting Him. And we are insulting those who would gladly take any job.

Second, consider giving God the glory of the job outcome, rather than focusing on the dislike of the job taskers.  You may not feel like it’s a glorifying job, but it’s truly not about you. It is about Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:16 states “For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him.”

The bottom line is this…it doesn’t matter if you are or you want to be a special operations Airmen, a computer specialist, a writer, a stay at home mom, an event planner, or a cashier…if you are attempting to be your best, then you will be your best.

And as your best, you bring glory to God.

~Emily

 

 

The Green Coffee Mug

Coffee

As my mom handed me a cup of her freshly concocted Folgers instant coffee she said, “Here’s your frappa-wrappa-crappa with extra whip, almond milk, Hershey’s syrup and a drop of peppermint.”  We both laughed.  She loves to make fun of what she calls “the foofie coffee” that I prefer to drink.

The best part of this scenario?

My mom handed me that gross instant coffee in my grandma’s mug. It’s a tiny little 1970s avocado green cup, which I distinctly remember my grandma using in her own kitchen.  At age three, while waiting for news of my brother’s birth I drank OJ from a real glass cup and she had coffee…in the green mug. I remember her using the green mug when we visited at Christmas each year…a trek from Oregon to Arizona.  She had it in her hand while we picked grapefruit off the tree in her back yard and while she supervised her grandchildren’s use of her old-fashioned wooden clothespins. I remember my Grandpa bringing her the green mug with a fresh refill.

The day she had a stroke, that mug sat next to the sink with a coffee ring gluing it to the counter. An offensive stickiness that she would have never allowed had she known her kitchen looked less than her normal perfection.  And the morning after she died, I remember holding that mug in her backyard as the sun woke up.  I held that mug to my heart and told my God that He had better take good care of her until I could see her again.

There are so many memories wrapped up into this small mug.

It is a tiny mug in comparison to most American mugs.  It looks dwarfed by my Starbuck’s city mugs.  It’s not as tall as the pretty flowery mugs I love.  It’s itty bitty next to my ‘dreaming of owning my own bakery’ macaroon mug. It stands short next to the clay Air Force mug my parents gave me when I made my final promotion.

Ask Erin. I have dozens of mugs. I love them all for various reasons. They remind me of dreams, people, and places. I use them all.   Some at work, some at home. Some for coffee or tea…some for water.  Even the broken ones find their way into usefulness as penholders or new planters in the flowerbeds.

But the avocado green mug with its tiny little stature is my favorite mug.

All because of the memories associated with that little mug.  Good memories. And hard memories.

Our God is an amazing provider, who doesn’t hold anything back from us.  How many precious memories has He given me…and let me hold on to? Too many to count. And yet, here I am looking at this tiny little mug that represents the memories I have of one woman.  Imagine all the memories you have.  Both good and bad.  All those memories are markers of how much our God has provided for us.   The good memories to reflect on, the bad memories to learn from.

I am so very grateful for that little mug. For all my grandma memories associated with that mug. And for the new ones that mom continues to make for me.  Take a moment and reflect on what memories you have that remind you just how amazing our God really is for us.

~Emily

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” ~Philippians 1:3-5 (ESV)

“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.’” ~Luke 16:25 (ESV)

 

The Empty Seat

If your child didn’t get off the bus, would you worry where they were?  If you went to the hospital to visit your loved one and they weren’t in their assigned room, would you worry where they were?  If you had a business presentation and your partner was running late, would you worry where they were?

Of course you would! The woman inside of each of us would worry about where those individuals were and why they weren’t where we were expecting them to be.

Let me ask you a harder question.  Do you worry about the empty seat next to you at church?

I’m not asking about the seat that is empty due to sickness, injury, or planned vacation. I’m asking about the seat that is empty due to spiritual sickness, lukewarm responses to the Gospel, or flat out thinking there’s something more important to do than sit in the House of the Lord.  We are not speaking of the empty seat due to plans that backfired…we are talking about the empty seat due to someone not even planning to sit there in the first place!

This empty seat is unable to sing glory to God.  The empty seat is unable to testify to answered prayers.  The empty seat is unable to witness to the newcomer.  The empty seat is unable to serve. The empty seat is unable to teach.

But the empty seat is not silent.  No. It’s not silent.  It tells a story of apathy.  It tells a story of an Easter-Christmas Christian.  It tells a story of lukewarm faith.  This is a tragedy for the walk of the lukewarm Christian’s life.

Understand this…God does not want a lukewarm reception, nor does he want a lukewarm follower.

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” ~Revelation 3: 15-16 (ESV)

Both Ephesians 1:22-23 and Colossians 1:18 & 24 state that the church is the body of Christ, over which Jesus is the head.  If you are a follower of Christ, then you know you should be attending church. This is where you connect with God, where you worship God, where you focus your prayers, and where you fellowship with other Christians.  In short, it’s where you are an active part of the body.

As I write this, I want to be clear that I acknowledge that I am often the empty seat.  It’s all too easy to sleep in on the only day of the week that is alarm clock free.  It’s easy to let errands and chores take precedent. It’s easy to make excuses that I don’t want to sit by myself when my husband is out of town or working.  It becomes a slippery slope of not going. One Sunday becomes two; two becomes three; three becomes a full month, and so on. Suddenly, it’s been months or years that the seat has been empty.

“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” ~Hebrews 2:1

I know I should be in church. I know that the Bible states church must be a priority in my scheduling. To not go is tragedy.  It’s a tragedy that causes our Lord sorrow.

 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” ~James 4:17

The empty seat represents a lack of spiritual preparedness.  It represents a willingness to allow the world to be more important that the Lord.

If women worry about an empty seat on a school bus, in a hospital room, or the boardroom, then we should certainly be concerned with the empty seat in church!

Ladies, this is our chance to exalt the Lord, to learn, to encourage one another…and frankly, these are the front row seats to Heaven that we are discussing!  We are talking about seats for our children, our neighbors, our friends, our families…and we are absolutely failing them if we are not filling the seats of our churches!

Let’s start with assessing ourselves to ensure we aren’t the empty seat.  Then let’s start to look at the empty seats around us to see if there are members we should encourage to come back to church so they can fill their seat.  Finally, we need to seek the unbelievers, so that they can fill empty seats reserved for them.

Churches should be busting at the seams.  There should be a distinct need for additional service times.  It should be standing room only.  There shouldn’t be even one empty seat…

~Emily