Little Moments and the Main Event

A week ago, my family was involved in one of the most beautiful weddings that I’ve ever attended. The bride was gorgeous and the groom was dashing.  The floral arrangements were perfect in the soft glow of candle light. The food was amazing and the blueberry wine was fantabulous.

The main event, as at all weddings, was the moment the bride and groom meet at the altar and pledge their love and faithfulness before God and all their friends and family members.  This wedding was no different.  The main event was a covenant between two people and their God. Everyone attending was sure to witness the main event.

But there were dozens of little moments that lead up to the main event.  These little moments are missed by many as they focus on helping the bride and groom. For instance, how many saw all the breakfast preparations that morning?  How many saw the wedding coordinator triple checking the details? How many saw the DJ take a moment to chat with the mother of the bride? How many witnessed the night-time prayers of the flower girl and ring bearer?

In the midst of constantly being told to keep their clothes clean, to be quieter, or stay off the grass, how many got to see that flower girl and ring bearer trying to blow dandelions without getting dirty clothes?UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_d611These are snapshot moments that make up the entire day.  They are the little moments that lead up to the main event.  They are examples of how each moment is in support of the bride and groom…each moment in support of a covenant with God.

It made me reflect on all the little moments that lead up to another main event that created a covenant between all of us and God: The Crucifixion of Christ.

Imagine the events of the crucifixion, as you would a wedding.  All the preparation and planning.  Ensuring all the right people were in place.  The long walk.  The prayers to the Father.  The declaration “it is done.” Everyone attending saw the main event.

But how many little moments were missed?  Who was responsible for the tree being cut down and the cross being constructed? Who was witness to the beatings and whippings of Christ the day before? Who was bore witness to the nails being created? Who watched Mother Mary weeping for her child?

All little moments that lead up to the main event.

But each of those moments were snapshot memories that made up an entire day.  They lead to the main event.  Examples of how God’s perfect plan was in motion before any of them…or us…knew we needed that perfect plan.

The little moments, such as the flower girl and ring bearer blowing on dandelions, are mere memories offered to a selected few. Yet they represent the love and support that lead up to the main event of a bride and groom uniting as one.

Each of the seemingly little moments leading to Christ’s death were seen by few. Yet they represented God’s love and support of all of us.  All of us.

This week, I’m praying that each of us takes a moment to reflect on the little moments that lead to the main events of life.

~Emily

The Wind and the Waves

I wish I had some poetic way to write what I’m feeling right now.  I always feel like I need to make sure every word is just perfect for the topic I’m writing on, but right now, the only thing running through my mind is this:

I am afraid.

My daughter, McKenna, her husband, Indy, and their one-year-old Andros evacuated their home in Panama City on Monday night as they prepared for Hurricane Michael to barrel through their city.  Indy is stationed in the Air Force there. They are all safe.  We’ve been glued to the news reports, to Facebook, to YouTube trying to catch some glimpse of what the destruction looks like.  It’s exhausting.

But I’m afraid of what they’ll find when they are allowed to return.  Will they be able to stay in their home?  Will it be destroyed?  Will there be anything left to salvage? What’s their first step, second step, third step?  I’m her mom, and I can’t fix this for her.  And it’s crushing to me.

Yet while I worry, I know that God’s plan is bigger than my own.  The two days leading up to the storm, I cried out to the Lord, “In Mark 4, God, you told the wind and the waves to ‘be still’, and they listened.  Please, Jesus, do that now.”  They raged on.  Yesterday and this morning, I prayed that God would wrap my daughter in peace that passes all understanding.  “Give her peace that only You can give.”  This afternoon, McKenna asked me to pray with her while we were on the phone.  “Jesus, we know that You know what you’re doing in this.  While we don’t get it even a little, and we don’t like it at all, we trust that Your bigger picture is better.

God’s picture, while distorted and out of focus to me or to McKenna, is in perfect focus to Him.  I can still be afraid.  I can still be angry.  I can still be frustrated.  But I need to lean on Him while I feel this way.  He is the only one that can help me through this worry and doubt and anger.  He will see this family through as they rebuild whatever needs to be rebuilt.

Here’s what I pray for you…no matter what struggle you’re going through—a devastating natural disaster, a miscarriage, a divorce, a job loss—while we don’t always see the plan, know that God sees YOU.  He knows you and loves you.  He wants to comfort you. Let Him in.

~Erin

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Making room for God in the Cancer Story

Did you know a diagnosis of “Stage 4” also comes with the knowledge that you will never officially hear the word “remission”?  Most of the time a diagnosis of Stage 4 results in death before there is ever a chance at remission.  If there is a season of healing, modern physicians will believe that there will be a relapse and thus are reluctant to ever mention true remission.

In November of 2014, my family and close friends, witnessed a miracle of a Stage 4 diagnosis coming as close to remission as possible after only 6 weeks.

Our second miracle was revealed in April 2016, when my brother and his wife delivered a healthy, chunky baby girl.  My brother took to calling her the “chemo baby.”

Shortly after my niece’s birth, a routine PET scan showed that the cancer was back.  Hence, the modern medicine reluctance to acknowledge remission after Stage 4 categorization.

My brother started a different course of treatment in Fall 2016. On my birthday in Feb 2017, he was admitted into isolation at the hospital in order to receive a very aggressive 1-week dose of chemo and then 2-3 weeks of stem cell and bone marrow transplants.  This treatment completely wiped his immune system clean, as though he had never had a vaccine or illness in his entire life, which was why there was a requirement for him to be in isolation during this time.

Our family is now at 4-year anniversary of the initial doctors’ reports of cancer. My brother just completed all of his “well-baby” vaccines to reset his immune system. The doctors are seriously talking about removing his port that he’s had for the last 4 years.   He is cancer free.  As close to remission as one can get with this health issue.

It’s not enough to be in physical remission.  One must be in remission with God in order to ensure salvation.  God sent His only son to die on a cross for our sins.  Why? Because our physical death is a phase that can lead to eternal life…or eternal death.

“…Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” ~John 11:4

When a crisis, such as a cancer diagnosis, strikes there is an opportunity to testify to the glory of God.  It’s a challenge to maintain one’s own faith, but it’s an amazing opportunity to witness to what God can do.

Our God healed my brother. He brought us a new baby. Then He healed my brother again.

That is worthy of declaring the glory of God’s hand in our daily lives.

If you are facing cancer, you are not alone.  If your family is facing cancer, you are not alone.  If your friends are facing cancer, you are not alone.  I’m praying for you, for your family, for your friends.  A physical death is not an eternal death if you have Christ in your heart.  There is a place for miracle healings.

There is room in the cancer story to glorify God.

~Emily

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36 years before a big sister would hear the little brother say, “Stage 4 Lymphoma.”

 

Modern Day Miracles of Healing

When reading the New Testament, the miracle healings touch my heart, but seem unrealistic in regards to modern medicine.  I believe they happened.  I believe they can happen.  But I didn’t think they happened often. I certainly never thought I’d have a front row seat to a miracle healing.

In October 2013, my younger brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma.  They found three large tumors on his spine, hip, and kidney with dozens of smaller tumors above and below his diaphragm.  A prayer campaign began and we were delivered a miracle 6 weeks later when his PET scan revealed zero tumors. Not one.

How do you explain a Stage 4 “pink slip” of death turning around to nothing within 6 weeks?

The medical profession was baffled.  They thought perhaps they were mis-reading the PET scans, so they ordered them to be accomplished a second time.  They continued to have some doubts that this could occur.  They explained remaining shadowing on the kidney area as “either a persistent tumor or scar tissue from the original tumor.”   They could not believe what they had witnessed. They could not explain it.

I can explain it.  It’s super simple.

God is good. God is faithful. God can do anything.

When I saw my brother in September of 2013, he was in visible pain and was having difficulty walking.  His doctors had diagnosed him with a herniated disk in June, but the reality was that the cancer had attacked his spine and hip.  My best friend since Junior High School, Linina, was with me on that visit.  She’s a nurse.  A really good one.  She told my brother that it was more than a disk issue.

God was working on a miracle before we even knew the issue. He sent knowledge and advice, through Linina, so that we could start the battle against cancer.

My brother and sister-in-law got the diagnosis on a Monday.  He called me to tell me on Thursday, as a dress rehearsal for the phone call to my parents.  He started chemo that Friday.  It was happening so fast that we couldn’t keep up with the information flow.

A prayer campaign was initiated.  I recruited every prayer warrior I knew.

Unusual “coincidences” began happening.  For instance, on the Tuesday evening after this fateful phone call, I was in a class at church when out of nowhere, the Associate Pastor suddenly stopped class.  He said, “I feel like God is telling me to pray right now for someone in class…there’s someone here who has a close family member who was just diagnosed with cancer.  We have to pray right now.”  He had us raise our hands if we had an immediate family member battling cancer. Out of a class of 40, five of us raised our hands.  He had the rest of the class surround us, lay hands on us, and he began to pray for miracles of healing.

At exactly the same time, Erin was at a meet and greet with Matthew West.  As one of my favorite Christian artists, she asked him to sign a CD for me.  Instead of just signing a CD, he literally stopped the meet and greet…delayed the long line of fans who wanted to meet him…to pray with Erin for my brother’s miracle of healing.

At the exact same moment my Pastor was praying in Washington DC, Matthew West was praying with Erin in Cheyenne, WY!

 Within 6 weeks, doctors were scratching their heads in disbelief that there weren’t any visible tumors.  Modern miracle healing occurred.

 “’Unless you people see signs and wonder,’ Jesus told him, ‘you will never believe.’”         ~John 4:48

It was a season of my life, where I acknowledge I was speaking to God more than any humans around me…a season that I grew closer to God than I had ever been previous to that event.  A season where I witnessed miracle healing. I saw signs and wonder…and I believed like I never had before.

Have you had the blessing of witnessing miracles?  Come to the porch to share with us how God has answered prayers in your life.

~Emily

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In Portland, September 2013…weeks before our world crashed with one word: Cancer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conquering Fear

I was pretty sure that Chris could hear the pounding of my heart through my chest.  I quadruple checked the restraint to make sure it wasn’t going to somehow pop open, and silently prayed that God would allow me to be able to continue to raise my last child after the three-minute-long death ride was complete.  FIVE. FOUR. THREE. TWO.  ONE….the Incredicoaster hurled me to my feared torture.  I had ended up on a roller coaster.  Willingly.

To celebrate my 40th birthday, Chris, Peyton, and I packed the car and drove south to Disneyland.  I had never been and as it was a milestone birthday, I wanted to do something big!  I had made my intentions known VERY early on that the roller coaster and the equally horrific Guardians of the Galaxy ride (former Tower of Terror) were off the table.  If Chris wanted to ride those, he was on his own.

However, at some point on Friday as we were riding rides at California Adventure, I decided I was tired of being afraid of everything that I had zero control over.  I’ve been slowly conquering my fear of flying over the course of the last couple of years.  I wasn’t about to have a 24-year roller coaster drought keep me from enjoying time with my family.  I looked at Chris and told him we could Fastpass the coaster, and he didn’t ask twice.

Let me tell you, I loved the Incredicoaster.  L-O-V-E, loved that ride!  And while I prefer to never ride what I adoringly call the Guardians of the Galaxy Death Trap again, I DID ride it, as well!  Chris got to enjoy every theme park attraction that he had wanted to, and I enjoyed the feeling of victory over fear.

Often, we let fear control the better part of our lives, especially when it comes to our Christian walk.  We’re afraid we’ll be seen as ‘weird’ or as a fanatic to the people that surround us in this world.  Sometimes, we’re afraid to trust God and step out in faith for fear that what His plan is for us is one of uncertainty or one of struggle.  We fear asking our Father for what we desire in prayer thinking it’s too trivial.

When we’re afraid, we withhold things.  It could be our time with people or places, missing out on adventures and friendship.  It could be emotions because of the trepidation of being hurt.  Perhaps it’s a ‘thing’ due to possible angst of losing control of it.  We even hold back our intimacy with Jesus.

I do it often.  I shared in last week’s blog that I let fear keep me from developing genuine friendships.  I almost did it last week, when my fear very nearly kept me from enjoying a sweet moment with Chris where he felt the joy of sharing something fun together.

There are many verses in the bible that talk about fear and many that I have to remind myself of on a daily basis.  Here’s one that helps me:

For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” –Isaiah 41:13

We don’t need to fear things.  He says to us that He will help us.  He helps us when it’s tough, and He helps us when it’s scary.  He helps us when we’re surrounded with grief and when there is uncertainty.  All we need to do is let go of the fear that holds us back and trust that our God is bigger than the circumstance we’re facing, no matter how big or small.  Nothing we are feeling and nothing we ask for is insignificant to Him.

What fear do you need to lay at the feet of Jesus?  Tell us in the comments below so we can pray for you!

~Erin

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The Incredicoaster! And I even rode that ferris wheel and didn’t die!
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I looked thrilled, don’t I?! (The Guardians of the Galaxy)

When God Calls Your Name Twice

All children fear the dreaded call of both the first and middle names.  I still think I’m in peril of getting a swatting if I hear “Emily Elizabeth!”

I knew I was in serious trouble if Mama yelled both names.  God help me, if it was my Dad yelling both.

That role switches slightly when you become a parent. The constant “Mom-Mom,” “Mama-Mama,” “Mommy-Mommy” is a double name call that takes on a whole new meaning. You become skilled at interpreting if the double name call is an emergency, boredom, or revelation.

God calls our names twice too. When he calls our name twice, there is typically a reason.  Perhaps it’s a test and trial of faith.  Sometimes it’s to grab our attention.  Sometimes it’s an emergency.  On multiple occasions throughout the Bible, God calls someone’s name twice. In each instance, a significant teaching ensues.

In Genesis 22: 11-13, we see God call “Abraham! Abraham!” as Abraham is ready to obey God in sacrificing his child, Isaac.  In this scenario, Abraham is faithful and has passed a trial of faith. God is calling his name twice to stop Abraham’s actions before he actually sacrifices his son.

When Jacob finds out that his son Joseph hasn’t died, but rather he’s in Egypt, Jacob has a vision.  In Genesis 46:1-4, the vision includes God calling, “Jacob! Jacob!” when he tells him not to be afraid.

In Luke 10:41, we read “Martha! Martha!” In Exodus 3:1-10, we see “Moses! Moses!” Within the text of 1 Samuel 3:1-10, we read of God saying “Samuel! Samuel!” Jesus calls Simon Peter “Simon, Simon” in Luke 22:31-32.  “Saul, Saul” is called when Paul is blinded by the vision of a risen Jesus in Acts 9. Even Jesus calls on the Lord from the cross, “My God! My God!”

No matter who is being called twice, it gets our attention.  Something significant is occurring if a name is called twice.  Immediately, the occasion is elevated when names are called twice.  The double call requires that we understand the significance and respond.

Consider this:

  1. Has God called your name twice? When? And for what reason?
  2. Are you paying attention to when God calls your name twice?
  3. Have you heard God call someone else’s name twice?

Much like being a young child with your first and middle name called by a parent, the calling of your name by God should get your attention…for any reason.  As a sibling, I would also pay attention if I heard both my brother’s names called.  Perhaps we should also be paying attention to when God calls twice to those around us.

~Emily

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I Turned 40

I turned 40 yesterday.  I’m excited for what this new chapter will bring to my life.  So much of my life has been in Jesus while trying to wrangle in my own ways, my own solutions, my own ambition.  This turn of the page brings with it a renewed sense of self—a woman seeking Christ with every fiber of her being.  Here are five things I’ve learned over the past 39 years that I pray will help you in this journey called life.

1. There is always redemption in your story.  I’ve managed to help screw up two marriages and because of this, I became a single mom.  But God was bigger than those obstacles and poured immeasurable grace over our situation.  He showed me love and mercy when I didn’t deserve it.  Because of that, I was finally able to remove the blinders from my eyes and see what God had in store for me.

2. God is bigger than any relationship.  I jumped from relationship to relationship attempting to fill the gap of loneliness with love.  But all I needed was to trust in my Savior to lead me to what was right and best.  When I stopped chasing “I do” and trusted I AM, I found my hope again.

3. Laugh.  Life is fleeting.  If you have children, you’ll only have them close by your side for what feels like a brief moment in time.  Cherish that giggle.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  We treated small stove fires and trips to the ER for URI’s and anxiety attacks as adventures.  My children and I have memories of joy and laughter even in some of the darkest times in our lives.

4. One day, you’re going to wake up and your baby will be grown and have a baby of their own.  They’ll finally understand what you meant when you said ‘I love you and nothing you do will ever change that.’  They’ll know what it means to love something with every fiber of their being.  Let them go.  I didn’t know what I was doing when I had my sweet girl at just 2 weeks into being 20.  She’ll make mistakes just like I did. But she’ll learn and grow just like I did, too.

5. Cultivate your friendships.  Some are there for only a season and some are for a lifetime.  Each teaches you something.  I was afraid to get close to women until it was almost too late because I was afraid of being hurt or betrayed.  As time went on, the Holy Spirit showed me what I was doing and helped me to stop that habit.  Emily doesn’t know this, but it almost cost me a friendship with her when we first met. Only Jesus could’ve known what I needed in a friend and stopped me from keeping her at arm’s length.

6. And because it’s my blog, I’m throwing in a sixth.  Love yourself and those around you—we are made in God’s image.  You are beautiful to Him because you are you.  It doesn’t matter if you fat or thin, tall or short, what color your skin is, how sun damaged you are, whether you have the ability to use your legs or if you have six fingers on one hand.  And it doesn’t matter if the people around you are the same way.  Can you imagine if we loved even our enemies as Jesus loved us?? Transformational love….love that can literally change the world.  Be that for others AND for yourselves.

I’ve never been so ready to start a new phase.  I’m confident in who I am, where I’m at, and who God made me to be.  I’m ready to face the next 40 years head on.  It’s going to be a beautiful thing!

~Erin

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. –Psalm 139:14

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. –Psalm 19:7

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