Rough Patch

There was evil in the air last Saturday.

A horrific tragedy unfolded in my community when a husband decided to kill his wife and children, before lighting their home on fire and subsequently committing suicide.  On the same day, a friend had her basement renters also commit suicide.  On the same day, an Airman I mentor lost his brother in a terrible car accident.

These three separate events, in three separate cities, have impacted my life this week.  Not because I knew the key players, but because it has impacted people I care about. It has impacted my church’s youth group. It has impacted my military community. It has impacted the elementary school.

When I found out about my Airmen’s brother’s death, I told him that I was available if he needed to chat. He’s Muslim.  I’m Christian.  I wanted to offer prayers, but was unsure how to say that without offending him or his family.  I was treading softly, as we are both Active Duty.  He told me, “Chief, I’m going through a rough patch.”  And my immediate response was this:  “It’s okay to be going through a rough patch. It’s not okay to stay there for a long time.”

No one enjoys hard times….the rough patches.  And yet, we’ve all had a rough patch.  The rough patches could be unemployment, divorce, infertility or the rough patch could be health related.  The rough patch could be gossip, slander, low self-esteem or loneliness.  The rough patch could be death:  a family member, a murder, or a suicide.  There are thousands of reasons for the rough patches. Rough Patches are really hard when you feel as though you have done everything correctly, but you still have to suffer through the rough patch.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”        1 Peter 4:12-19 (NIV)

 In 1 Peter 4:12-19, we read that there will be suffering for the Christian.  We will see and experience the rough patches. Essentially, we should expect some amount of trial and tribulation, and yet we should also continue to press forward looking towards God for help and comfort.

The rough patch offers us time to examine ourselves while in the trial and allows us to entrust ourselves to God within the trial.

Peter warns us in verse 12 that the trials are expected. Yet, we are often surprised by the intensity of the trials.  Peter refers to the trials as a “Fiery Ordeal.” I don’t know about you, but the adjective “fiery” makes me feel like this is a super big deal!  Fiery is intense.

More than the intensity, I think I’m often surprised by the purpose of the rough patch. On a brain level, I understand that God is allowing us time to draw closer to Him.  On a heart level, I want so desperately to have everyone healthy and happy around me!  I understand the trial’s ultimate purpose, but like most of us, I would rather not fulfill the purpose through a rough patch.

When there is evil in the air…when we are facing hard times…when we are going through a rough patch, it’s so much easier to bear the burden in remembering that our God is for us. He is with us. He is allowing us to stretch and grow through trials in order to be closer to Him.

The rough patches suck.  They’re horrible.  But it’s okay to be in the rough patch.  They have purpose. They let us grow.

Just don’t stay there for too long.

~Emily

P.S. If you are contemplating staying in the rough patch too long, I am praying that you seek Godly council.Find a strong Christian woman to pray with, talk to your Pastor, call a suicide hotline…please, please, please get help.

The rough patch is meant to grow you…not break you.

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)

Gossip or Guidance?

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29

When I was a young Airman, I had a supervisor tell me that I was the type of person who thrived on chaos and created drama.  That statement hurt me to my core and allowed me to have some self-reflection time about the type of woman I wanted to be known as.  And guess what? I decided I didn’t want to be known as someone who was involved with chaos, drama, turmoil…and gossip.

Gossip is such an uncomfortable topic.  It’s uncomfortable because so many of us fall into the gossip trap at some point in our lives.  There are varying levels of gossip…the seemingly innocent gossip…the outrageous made-up gossip…and even the justifiable gossip cloaked in truth. There are different players in the game of gossip.  There is the initiator, the contributor, the facilitator, and even the victim.  I know that I have been involved in each of the roles and if I’m honest, in each of the levels of gossip too.

Erin and I were recently talking about the fabric of our friendship and how we’ve never had a fight.  We’ve never gossiped about each other.  We hold each other accountable.  We disagree with one another. Heck we have even disliked decisions that the other made, but we have never fought. Why? I believe there are several reasons.  Our friendship is built on trust. It’s built on respect. It’s built on love. And it’s a friendship that is built on Christ.

What would happen to us, as Christian women, if all our relationships were built on trust, respect, love and Christ?  What if we treated all of our relationships as ones without chaos, without drama, without gossip?

Would we be happier people? Would we accomplish more? Would we reflect Christ’s love for all of His people?

Obviously, you can’t know if all your relationships are built on mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual love, or mutual relationship with God.  But you can know if you will exhibit these traits.

Let’s go back to gossip.  Women typically love to talk. And we love to talk about each other.  We are a catty group of humans.  It does not matter what label you put on yourself, women are at fault for talking about each other.  Christian women too.  Ours however, may be more dangerous gossip than that of the non-believer.  Why?  Well, we mask our gossip as “venting” or worse as “seeking council” from other Christian women.

Please know this, I believe we need to seek wise council.  Occasionally, we need to vent.  If we keep our thoughts, dreams, and prayers to ourselves then we are unable to be held accountable by other Christians.  The distinction between wise council seeking and gossip is when you make the decision about whether or not the conversation will make its way back to the subject.

Let’s imagine you take a topic to someone you trust and respect…simply to vent or to get guidance.

If you talk about someone and never intend to bring it to him or her, then it could be gossip.

If you talk about someone and intend to bring it to him or her after seeking council, then it may not be gossip…it may truly be seeking guidance.

“Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.” – Psalm 101:5

Let’s flip the script now.  Let’s imagine that someone is coming to you for a venting session or because they are seeking your guidance.

If you aren’t sending them to speak with the individual to resolve the situation, then your guidance is not holy…it is likely part of the gossip.

If you join in the venting session because you’ve been hurt by the individual, then you are contributing to the gossip.

If you ask them what their role is in the scenario, or if you ask them what they intend to say to the individual, or if you encourage them to speak to the person…then you are stopping the gossip. You are providing guidance.

“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.” – Proverbs 11:13

There’s a fine line between gossip and guidance.  It’s a hard line to see, but it’s an easy one to cross.  Our flesh wants the confirmation that we have been wronged. We crave the vindication that we are right and that we are justified in the gossiping.  As humans, we desire someone else to come beside us and share our outrage at injustices…perceived or real.

But what would happen if we stopped the gossip?

What would happen if we started building our relationships on trust, respect, love and Christ?

If we stopped gossiping and replaced that with truth talk directly to the people involved, wouldn’t we start building trust, respect, love…and show how Christ would have functioned?

There are relationships that are toxic. Ones that eventually need to be severed. But for the average relationship, trust and respect are started with honesty.  Honesty can be sometimes harsh or sometimes softer, but should never be expressed in a deliberately hurtful manner.  Honest talk builds healthy relationships.

“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip.” – Proverbs 20:19

 Let’s band together as Christian women to refine one another. Together we can start to stop the gossip within our homes, our churches, and our workplaces. Let’s identify the flaws and press into the Lord with our desire to do better.

~Emily

“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”               – Psalm 141:3

 

 

 

 

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)

 

Trivia: Did you know?

Did you know that Ruth was King David’s Great-Grandmother?!?!?

Ruth, as in ‘Where you go, I’ll go…’ Ruth.  She’s the one.  The one who was the Great-Grandma to King David. KING DAVID!!! Did she read to toddler-King David on her lap?  Tell him to ‘go get a switch’ when he was naughty?  Did she sing to him?  Present him with horribly handmade sweaters?  Why am I the only one who is freaking out about this genealogy nugget?

I figured this out while remotely completing a Ruth Bible study with Erin and the Table 8 ladies. It was early morning. I read the daily passage.  I answered the questions.  And then…I started outlining Ruth’s lineage.  I sat in shock and then quickly shot off a text to Erin about my discovery. With different time zones, early morning revelations in Alabama translate to middle of the night texts in California. I can only imagine that Erin was giggling and shaking her head at my excitement over this shocking discovery. Apparently, this Ruth-David connection is common knowledge.  Where the heck have I been?

While ecstatic about this newfound knowledge, it made me think about other connections throughout the Bible that I had possibly missed.  I started researching some trivia and unusual occurrences within the Bible.  Have you missed some too?

Did you know?

-Ehud was the 1stleft-handed man mentioned in the Bible (Judges 3:15)

-Dogs are mentioned 41 times in the Bible, but cats aren’t even mentioned once.

-Job stated that his wife claimed he had bad breath. (Job 19:17)

-Genesis never says Adam and Eve ate an apple, only that they ate fruit.

-Andrew was a disciple of John The Baptist before following Jesus. (John 1:35-37, 40)

-David is second only to Jesus in number of times mentioned in the Bible.

-Elizabeth, mother of John The Baptist, was a descendant of Aaron (Luke 1:5) and John The Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. (Luke 1:36)

-Miriam is the 1st woman recorded singing in the Bible (Exodus 15:21)

-Prior to the incident at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), everyone spoke the same language.

I already knew some of these, such as the relationship between Jesus and John The Baptist.  Their relationship is often mentioned around Christmas when retelling of Elizabeth and Mary meeting, while both were pregnant. I knew that at some point all humans spoke the same language, but I didn’t know it was the incident at the Tower of Babel that changed our languages.

This book we study, the Word of God, it is filled with wondrous facts and illustrations of relationships.  None of them are coincidences and all of them are divinely God’s plan.  I love stumbling on these bits and pieces that are so perfectly overlapping.  It makes me love the written word of God even more than I had previously.  It makes me want to read more…study more…find more curiosities that I had previously missed.  Who else is the great-grandparent to a notorious Bible figure?!?!?

Come to the porch and share something from the Bible that you have previously missed…I’m super intrigued!

~Emily