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

 

 

 

 

Songs of the Heart

Two and half miles into my afternoon walk, my playlist betrayed me. After several upbeat workout songs, the slow guitar strum and strike of a piano key indicated the beginning of “Hammer and a Stone” by Seven Mary Three. My eyes welled up. I had that instant lump in the throat…you know the one I’m talking about…the one that feels like 10,000 weights are lying on your chest or a wad of bubble gum is stuck halfway down your throat. To someone watching from afar, my stride broke and I became still. My exercise session interrupted by a song; by an emotion; by a memory.

There are other songs that make me react this way. More times that I can count, I’ve stood at the position of attention in uniform, willing the tears to not fall, while listening to the National Anthem. The lyrics of “Oceans” by Hillsong make me cry nearly every time I hear them. Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”? Cry fest. “Who Am I?” by Casting Crowns…lyrics that start the water works.

How can a song impact us so completely? How can it transport us to another place? To a memory better left alone or one that should be routinely revisited? To a place of worship…a place of sadness…a place of contentment?

Song lyrics are an effective way for us to connect and explain emotions that are often inexplicable. Often a song is the journal of our heart. Sometimes they are the vaults of our memories. Occasionally, they are just fun songs that don’t have to have a specified memory, but rather mark a time in our lives.

What song do you remember from your first dance? What song was blaring from the radio when you were cruising by the beach? What was the song playing when your Grandmother took her last breath or your child their first?

It made me start wondering about God. How does He react to songs? Do songs make God cry? Does He experience similar reactions when we sing to Him? What does the Bible say about songs?

Some sources state that there are over 185 songs about God in the Bible. The book of Psalms is a book of songs for God. The Song of Solomon is one of the beautiful romance songs between a groom and his bride. The book of Lamentations is comprised of five songs of mourning over Jerusalem.

The Bible is filled with songs, but it’s also filled with countless examples of God’s people singing. Moses and Miriam sang. King David certainly sang, as did King Solomon. Imagine Samson singing! We see Deborah and Baruk singing songs of praise to God and victory. Even today, the Word of God is used in current songs.

If I have such an enormous reaction to a memory or emotion embedded into a song, imagine how God feels when He hears us sing a song to or about Him! I have a hard time imagining God with a lump in His throat, but I can very easily imagine Him looking down benevolently on those who sing His praise.

What songs are on your heart today?
~Emily

 

My Favorite Name

Yesterday at the Easter service, we watched a video clip that listed several titles used for Jesus. Some of the titles included:

The Way, the Truth, the Light

Redeemer

Savior

I Am

Emmanuel

Friend

Bride Groom

Alpha and Omega

Bread of Life

Good Sheppard

Beginning and the End

Lord of Lord

Deliverer

Rock

Lamb of God

Prince of Peace

True Vine

At the end of the service, we were challenged to think about our favorite title for Jesus. Immediately I thought “Redeemer” was my favorite, but later in the day I started thinking about other favorites. Between Easter dinner, egg hunts, and launching rockets (my husband’s family tradition on Easter), I thought about the titles that we use to describe or talk about Jesus, the Lord and Savior of each one of us. I googled “titles for Jesus.” Did you know that there are over 200 names for Jesus in the Old and New Testaments? I had no idea.

Daniel 7:13-14; Mark 14:63; John 5:27 all reference Him as “Son of Man,” while Luke 1:35; John 1: 14; John 1:49 reference Him as “Son of God.” Revelation 19:12-13 denotes Him as “Word of God.” In Acts 10:42 and 2 Timothy 4:8, Jesus is referred to as “Judge.” John 1:1 and 1 John 5:7-8 state His title as “Word.” These are just a few more titles that weren’t on the initial list. Apparently there are dozens more to contemplate.

The more and more I have thought about it, the harder and harder it has been to narrow it down to a favorite. I love the definition and implication behind every title. I love that each title speaks to a different part of my heart, my soul, and my life. I want them all as my favorite. Perhaps the name “Jesus” is enough to capture all of those titles in one word.

What is your favorite name for Jesus?

~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

5 senses

 

If you were accused…

accused-of-christian-fb

I saw this meme several weeks ago and have become obsessed with the message. What does it mean? How would it apply concerning my life? Would I stand convicted? Is there evidence that I’m leading a Christian life? I let it marinate for a couple days. I talked to my Mom about it, I wrote journal entries about it, texted Erin about it, asked my husband about it, but the question continued to plague me.

The concept of court terrifies me. In the late 90s, I had to testify as a witness in a drug trial. Maybe that is what started the terror. In 2014, I represented myself in evicting a tenant from my rental property. Maybe that pressure continued the terror. The thought of being the one on trial…the defendant…that truly terrifies me.

Is it the idea of being a defendant that is so scary to me? Or is it the concept of someone judging me as a Christian? In reality, neither of these concepts is as scary as the underlying answer to the initial question. The truth is I am most terrified that there would not be enough evidence to convict me as a Christian.

On the surface, I should not be afraid. My head tells me that this is an irrational fear. The Bible teaches us that once we accept Christ as our personal savior, we are saved. We will be with Him in Heaven. The fear that my life does not contain enough evidence of Christianity comes from human nature. Specifically, my personal human nature, as there is plenty of evidence of non-Christian activities in my own life…

-I cuss. Routinely. Daily. I especially do this in regards to other drivers. Sometimes it’s in frustration. Sometimes it’s because I believe the swear word is the perfect word.

-I talk about others. This is also in regards to other drivers, but it happens often in other scenarios too.

-I yell. But we have already discussed that in a previous post.

-I don’t have a bunch of Bible verses memorized. In fact, I even struggle with remembering where to find the Proverb “Iron Sharpens Iron, so one person will sharpen another,” which is the whole premise of this blog and the philosophy between Erin and I. For the record, it’s Proverbs 27:17.

-I have tattoos. Where are the purists “your body is a temple” folks?

-I don’t always tithe 10% to the church. We give 10% of our income monthly, but occasionally it’s to other charities or churches. It’s rarely more than 10% a month.

These are just a couple of the items that have come up as I have pondered this Christian court of conviction. What is the commonality? This list only contains things I do wrong. Not listed here are things I do right. There’s no mention of listening to Christian music daily, reading the Bible with my son, praying at each meal, conducting Bible studies, or having a prayer journal. Those are things I do each day. And while they may be “right,” I don’t believe this is what the meme was getting at in terms of evidence of living a Christian life.

It’s not enough to pray, or listen to music, or stop cussing, or tithe 10% to the church. While those things are all good and right, they are not enough. That brings us back to our question, “what then, is enough evidence to convict a person of being a Christian?”

After several weeks of pondering, I have settled on one answer. It’s enough to say, “I am a Christian. I do love Christ. He is my Savior. I can’t wait to see the glory of the Kingdom.” Keep in mind; this does not give us carte blanche to go crazy committing sins everywhere, thinking that the declaration alone gets us off the hook. That type of thinking would be enough to support a defendant showing up to court and simply saying, “I didn’t do it.”

The reason I settled on this answer became easy when I put in it into the perspective of God’s court versus Man’s court. I want God to know that I’m a Christian, and while I am flawed and sometimes sin, I desperately want to try harder each day to please Him.

With that in mind, does it even matter if there were enough evidence to convict me in a court designed by man?

~Emily

“If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”