Describe Yourself- Two Words

Describe yourself.

Wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, traveler, student, gardener, volunteer, Chief Master Sergeant, scrapbooker, author, blogger, retiree…the list goes on and on.

When someone asks me this question, I have a difficult time determining what information is being solicited.  Mainly because there are plenty of titles that I can proudly use to describe myself.

But what if I could only choose two words?

Christian & Veteran.

The two titles that I am most proud of and the two titles that best define me. Probably the two titles that I have been most faithful to throughout my adult life.

On this last Veteran’s Day as an Active Duty member and during the last 25 years as a military member, I have had to lean on one particular verse that I found to be applicable to both of these titles.

 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:3-4 (NIV)

It’s important to note that Paul was not advocating violence as a good soldier of Jesus, but rather he was advocating the merits of possessing the characteristics of a military member with well-defined bearing and discipline.  The military member focuses on the orders of those above them, as well as the mission…rather than the details of distractions.  Paul is encouraging the Christian to maintain a similar bearing, keeping in mind that the details of life will be cared for by our Father in Heaven, rather than becoming distracted from our mission to contribute to the Kingdom.

In my own life, it’s a beautiful reminder from God, through Paul, that I can be both a Christian and a Veteran.  The training I received as a military member should assist me with translating focus and bearing into my walk with Christ. It’s a beautiful reminder that God’s titles for my life are ones He chose for me.

If I asked you to describe yourself with two titles…what two would you choose?  How would they relate to God’s plan for you?

~Emily

Sweet land of liberty

The Gift in a Shoe Box

It’s hard to pack everything you’d like to give to a child you’ve never met into a small shoe box.  Balancing needs and wants can be difficult when deciding what goes in and what has to stay behind.  But when that shoe box is full, and you’ve sent it on its way, a wave of satisfaction hits you.

For those who’ve never heard or participated in Operation Christmas Child (OCC), it’s a wonderful program that uses gift-filled shoe boxes to children in need around the world to demonstrate God’s love.  Anyone can take a shoe box or a small container, fill it with things that a child might need/want and take it to a drop off location to be sent to children in more than 150 countries and territories.

When I lived in Wyoming, I was employed by a medical office where the owners were actually the coordinators for OCC in that state.  Every year, we would have a packing party!  This involved changing all of the exam rooms into “stores” with different themes.  You would start in the lobby, grab a box, put the essentials like soap, toothbrush, and washcloth and then pick an item or two from each room as you went the length of the building!  It was AMAZING!  My children were involved and enjoyed packing for kids they never met.

As Peyton, McKenna, and the other participants would pick up a box, they would pray over it; pray for the workers and volunteers touching it, pray for the child receiving it, their families, and the village and country that it would affect.  Packing those boxes is truly a moment of being the hands and feet of Jesus.

And don’t even get me started on volunteering at the distribution center!  I’ve had the privilege of working at the Denver location twice.  The THOUSANDS of shoe boxes you see being packed into shipping containers is nothing short of astounding.

It’s been several years since I’ve been a part of that, but this year Peyton and I decided to pack our own boxes.  We chose to fill on boy box and one girl box for the age group of 10-14 since that tends to be a harder box to fill.  We pored over selections at Hobby Lobby, the Dollar Tree, Walmart, and Michael’s to make sure we could get everything we wanted.  It still makes me smile to think about Peyton, with gritted teeth, look at me and say, “I WILL make this all fit in this box.  It WILL close!”

Not only was this time spent with Peyton cherished mother/daughter time, it was an opportunity to remind Peyton and myself about keeping ourselves busy doing the Father’s work.  It’s never done.  Whether it’s a conversation with someone about Jesus or filling a shoe box with gifts for children who might not otherwise get a gift, it’s what God commands us to do:

Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15

There’s still time to fill a shoe box if you’d like to participate in Operation Christmas Child.  National Collection Week is next week, November 12-19.  You can get more information on what can be packed and where to find your closest drop off location by clicking here.

Share below if you’ve packed a shoe box for OCC before!

~Erin

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Six years between photos and she still looks exactly the same when she prays over the boxes!

Shadows & The Light

With my heart pounding out of my chest, I jumped backward, fists up, and screamed bloody murder…something incoherent with a few swear words.

Can you picture my kung-fu fighting stance? What would cause such a commotion in my life?

As I was closing the bedroom door, a shadow passed along the hallway, which scared me into the defensive position.  The shadow?  My husband coming down the hall with a fresh cup of coffee for me. A sweet gesture that was met with much aggression, simply because I got frightened.

Shadows seem scary and often they indicate a scenario where we should be on defense.

Shadow in the woods = lions and tigers and bears.

Shadow behind my car = zombie about to get me.

Shadow over my head = bird about to poop on me.

Shadow in the hallway = bad guy in the house.

The shadow mentioned in Psalm 23:4, the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” has always frightened me.  Mostly because it sounds so ominous.  The passage that seems to be most popular for funerals makes me conjure up a picture in my mind that is scary.

But more often than not, the shadow isn’t what is truly scary. Most of the time, it’s my imagination that makes the shadow scarier than it deserves to be. Shadows appear frightening, but they can’t hurt us.

Consider this:  the presence of a shadow is also an indicator of light.  When we are frightened by an object casting a shadow, we should look for the light behind the shadow.

Take the same scary scenarios above…

Shadow in the woods = sunset behind a redwood tree.

Shadow behind my car = puppy running to greet me.

Shadow over my head = cloud providing shade relief from an Alabama blazing hot sun.

Shadow in the hallway = husband bringing wife hot coffee.

There is one more super amazing light behind darkness.  Jesus.

Jesus is that light (John 8:12).  He can provide the glimmer of reassurance when we have a momentary fright.  When the shadows are imaginary, He is the light. When the shadows are overwhelming, He is light.  He the shadows indicate true danger, He is the light.

Always.  Jesus is our light in the midst of the shadows.

With that in mind, Psalm 23:4 becomes a whole lot more comforting than the imaginary picture I have previously had in my mind.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” ~Psalm 23:4 (NIV)

I’m praying that each of you have a week where the shadows are a reminder that there is always light present.

~Emily

The Stolen Truck

“The truck was stolen!”  The words over the phone were hurried and irritated, breathless from Chris walking to the back of the store.  His co-worker had asked him where he went for lunch since his truck was moved, and after quick back-and-forth banter, Chris realized she wasn’t joking about his truck not being where it was normally parked.  Our truck had been stolen from the front of his store in the middle of the day as Chris worked his shift.

Someone had come around 1 pm and, with people walking around the shopping complex, opened the locked door and hot wired the vehicle.  No cover of night or disguises.  In plain view, they had hit us where it hurt.

Satan can often attack the same way.  While many of his assaults are subtle, others can happen in broad daylight.  We don’t expect for him to attempt to trip us up with something so obvious, when often times, the obvious is where we DO get tripped up.  In this midst of working on your marriage, a “friend” contacts you and propositions you.  You’re starting out on your usual rush hour commute, but having a bad day—every person who cuts you off gets the middle finger.  A group of you are having a discussion about religion and before you realize it, you’re yelling at the person who claims Jesus was a fraud.

These may seem silly but every one of those can are very real scenarios.  We’d like to think that as Jesus followers, we wouldn’t be tempted to act sinful.  But it happens every day.  Does it mean we’re beyond redemption?  No.  Does it mean Satan knows where to hit us?  Absolutely.

We need to have our minds consistently on Christ to help protect us from not only the sneak attacks but also the obvious ones.  While it doesn’t exclude us from sinning, a fervent walk with God can protect us from such offenses.

Daily prayer keeps you in conversation with Jesus.  Daily Bible reading or meditation on scripture keeps communication flowing between you and Him.  The Holy Spirit wants nothing more than to help you put on the Armor of God to keep you safe from the fiery arrows of the devil.  Let Him help you suit up as you take action in dialogue with your Heavenly Father.

Attacks from Satan are painful whether they are surreptitious or straightforward.  Remember Colossians 3:2-3 as you work towards keeping even the blatant attacks at bay.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Are you currently under attack by Satan?  Let us know how we can pray for you in the comments below.

~Erin

Set your mind on things

The Hands and Feet: Isaiah 58 Ministries

In a small town of Alabama, an amazing group of ladies is acting as the hands and feet of Christ.  They are touching women’s hearts every single day. They are spreading the gospel through actions…through love.  They are making an impact for the Kingdom.

For the last five years, these ladies have met faithfully three times a week to pack suitcase for women who are leaving prison. You ask, “Packing suitcases?!?!?”

Yes, packing suitcases.  In fact, they pack 80-100 suitcases a month!!!

Isaiah 58 ministries collects gently used, as well as brand new clothes and toiletries to pack into suitcases for women who are gaining freedom from a prison or are facing a crisis, such as domestic violence or a house fire.  These women, many of whom have absolutely nothing to their name, are given several outfits to start their new life of freedom, as well as some basic hygiene products.  If the donations support, these newly released women are given non-essential items too, such as jewelry, perfume, or purses.  The suitcases also include a Bible and devotions or scriptures.

Obviously, Isaiah 58 ministries is providing tangible items to meet physical needs that each human possesses.  However, there is an intangible component to this ministry. The recently released inmates are able to have a moment, knowing God provided for them.  God is blessing this ministry to provide these items at a time when these women are scared to enter the “real world,” but also excited to be leaving prison behind.

Yet there is another very important component of this ministry.  The women of Isaiah 58 ministry are praying for every single one of these women in prison; for each one that is released and each one that isn’t released. They are praying for the ladies who are facing turmoil through crisis.  They pray for their salvation, as well as for the children and families of the incarcerated. They pray over the suitcases in hopes that this small act of kindness will bring someone closer to a relationship with God.

The blessings of this ministry don’t just extend to the women of prison system and their families. It extends to every single person who volunteers with them…every single person who donates to their cause…to their entire church congregation who supports the ministry by allowing a physical location for storage and processing.  It has become a “sweet sisterhood” of ladies working towards a common goal.

The women of Isaiah 58 ministries are a humble group of gals who will repeatedly tell you that this is all God.  God providing the donations…God providing the mechanism to assist other humans…God’s love being shown to women who may not otherwise know love.

Their words are correct in giving God the glory.

I would contend that their actions also give God the glory.

They have been obeying God’s command of “love one another.”  They are obeying God’s direction to take care of “orphans and widows…and prisoners.” They have literally become the hands and feet of Christ.

As a point to ponder this week, what are you doing in your own life to act as the hands and feet?

~Emily

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” ~Isaiah 58:11 (NIV)

If you have questions about Isaiah 58 Ministries or if you would like to support, please feel free to contact them at I58@santuckbaptist.org

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Obedience in Reconciliation

People often ask me how I ended up in sunny California.  More often than not, it’s because I’ve complained about the state, and they’re not really sure why I live here voluntarily!  Don’t get me wrong.  There are worse places to live, and I have to give it to this beautiful state; the weather is an 8 out of 10.  I do NOT miss the blizzards and -7° of Wyoming.  I moved here, however, for a far better reason than the weather.

Nine years ago, I signed my second set of divorce papers from Chris, my second husband.  My daughter, McKenna, was going through the motions of another divorce at the age of 10, and Peyton, my youngest at 5, was experiencing for the first time not living with her dad every day.  It was a difficult period in which neither of us were willing to give in to the work that a marriage required.  And with the baggage from my first divorce still not unpacked, I simply chose to add another suitcase to the pile and walk away.

It’s not something I’m proud of.  At the time, I felt I was justified in leaving.  Believe me, it felt easier.  But what’s easier isn’t always right.

For the next seven years, I went on with life.  Chris moved away, but we learned to co-parent Peyton well.  He became much more involved in her world, and somehow, we were able to put aside our anger and resentment towards each other for the sake of everyone involved.

During those seven years, I taught a DivorceCare® class at my church in Wyoming.  Every time I taught session 12, Reconciliation, I always felt the Holy Spirit nudge me.  I would tune him out because I was in a relationship and wasn’t interested in hearing what He had to say to me on the topic.  If my heart started to soften, I would remind myself how terrible our marriage had been so as not to fall into that trap ever again.

But He is never done nudging you until He’s finally gotten your attention.  The Holy Spirit just kept poking me regarding the thought of reconciliation, until finally I couldn’t take it anymore.  The conversation with God following my irritation at the topic not going away went something like this.

God, I don’t WANT to reconcile.  Not interested, for the billionth time.  I’m not broaching the topic.  I don’t want to bring it up.  I.DO.NOT.WANT.TO.GO.DOWN.THAT.RABBIT.HOLE.AGAIN.  So, God, if you want it to happen, YOU make it happen.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Very holy and reverent of me, right?!

Two years ago, I offered to pick Chris up at the airport in Denver when he flew in from California to see Peyton perform in a concert, and on that ride back into Cheyenne he asked me if I’d ever thought of getting back together.  I know….I’ve known Jesus for a long time and even I was stunned!

Several months later, after many discussions and prayer, my little family packed our belongings and moved from Wyoming to California so that we could be closer to Chris as he and I pursued reconciliation.

It’s not easy.  Reconciliation is no joke.  It takes work and effort.  Chris and I are both set in our ways.  I had seven years to be a single parent and learn to make decisions while running a household on my own.  Chris had the same learning curve.  We have many of the same habits and inclinations that we had before.  We’re just older and more stubborn.

We also still have different lifestyles.  When I met and married Chris, he was not a follower of Jesus.  He still isn’t.  I know it can be difficult to understand why I’m choosing to work on reconciliation with my ex-husband who doesn’t believe in Jesus.  But to me, the answer is simple.  God told me to.  He is in the business of healing, and He’s in the business of saving.  God is healing a disastrous relationship that I was convinced had no hope of being healed.  And while, as believers, we shouldn’t be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14), I know that God is requiring me to restore my marriage because I made the covenant before God nine years ago to love, honor and cherish Chris.

I try and weave this verse into my daily walk of restoration with Chris every day:

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.” –James 1:22 (NIV)

Today, Jesus works daily in my life to ensure I’m walking in the right steps to have a complete and whole reconciliation, one that is God-given.  I trust that full restoration will be had through His faithfulness to me because of my faithfulness to Him.  And it’s a beautiful thing.

-Erin

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Fishing Practice

It does not matter how many times my husband shouts “Ten and Two” while we are fly fishing, I’m still going to mess it up. I get the line tangled in the branches behind me.  I lose the fly or leader.  I’m still unsteady on moss covered rocks thigh deep in moving water, so I slip on the rocks and end up with freezing cold water inside my waders.

For whatever reason, I have a hard time casting the fly rod.  My husband on the other hand is graceful and fruitful with a fly rod.  I’ve been fly fishing about half a dozen times annually for the last 5 years and often get frustrated with the sport.  He’s been fly fishing every day for the last 30 years and adores it above all other forms of fishing.

The reason I’m having a hard time casting the fly rod?  Probably because I’m not practicing enough.  The reason my husband is amazing at it?  Probably because he practices every day.

Here, sweet friends, is where I struggle spiritually. I’m not practicing all the time.  I go through seasons where I feel much closer to the Lord than other times. There are times that I’m faithful to a strong prayer life and there are other times that I wean away from prayer.  I have seasons where I’m immersed in the word daily…and other times where my Bible is opened only on Sunday.

I frankly don’t practice enough.

If you are feeling the same way, I’d like to offer encouragement.  I think each of us has room to practice more in our relationship with God.  Each of us could improve some aspect of our spiritual walk.  None of us, on this side of heaven, has perfected our faith life.

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:9 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.”

From childhood many of us have heard the phrase “practice makes perfect.”  While I may not agree with the “perfect” portion of that phrase, I do agree that practice certainly brings better performance.

Just as fall has arrived in the South, I now have an opportunity to practice fly fishing more.  And in the next weeks, I’m going to focus on prayer as a place I need to practice more faithfully in order to draw closer to God.

What do you want to start practicing more?

~Emily

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