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

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

Ry2

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

Ry

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

When God Calls Your Name Twice copy

When Your Calling Isn’t “Ministry”

“God placed His calling on my heart to be a Minister/Pastor/Sunday School Teacher.”

“Writing or Speaking is God’s calling on my life.”

“God has called me to go on a mission.”

All valuable statements. All truths in someone’s life. But…

But what if the calling on your life isn’t a “traditional” Christian role? What if that calling has nothing to do with what most would see as a typical Christian position?  Does that make it less valuable? Does it make it less God honoring?

I know this gorgeous gal, Chaunte Myers, who is absolutely in love with the Lord.  The calling on her life, and that of her family’s lives, has been to establish a non-profit organization that assists military members, veterans, and their spouses with transitioning into civilian jobs.  It would become a delicate balance to walk because of dealing with government agencies that do not overtly discuss religious views.

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) states that each of us“…should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

Nearly a decade ago, this family of seven veterans followed God’s urging and created Centurion Military Alliance (CMA).

Is this a traditional “positional” calling from God? Most would say no.

Why? Probably because we’ve conditioned ourselves to think that a worthy calling on a Christian’s life is narrowly confined to leadership roles in the church, such as Pastor, worship band, small group leader, etc.

Perhaps it’s time to re-define what we believe is a “calling” on our lives.  I would contend that anytime God calls you to do something…anything…that is a calling on your life.

How do you know that you have a God-ordained calling on your life?  It’s because the work you are doing touches people. It changes them for the better. It robs you of your sleep as you pray and collaborate on how to impact lives.

CMA is able to do that. They touch lives in a ton of different ways.

Tangibly, they assist veterans with building robust LinkedIn profiles, practicing elevator speeches, and crafting military lingo into civilian verbiage on master resumes. They create space where military members are able to become gainfully employed civilians.

Intangibly, they touch lives through living a Christ-like lifestyle.  This may be one of the few times a military member is able to see a family functioning together for the pure joy of fulfilling God’s calling. It may be the first time military members are seeing someone help them without expectations of return.  It may be the first time that individuals are able to witness God’s love without feeling condemnation.

God’s calling doesn’t have to be to a traditional Christian platform.  God’s calling is simply used to touch people.  It influences the basic human needs, as well as the heart.  It answers the question of how God shows up in people’s lives.

The members who attend a CMA workshop will see how God has shown up in Chaunte’s life.  They will see how He’s showing up in their lives, through her example. They may not see it immediately, but it’s there.

The sleepless nights thinking about drafting grants or dispositions, using the traveling points to go to the next location, missing the events of the littles, and praying through development and delivery of curriculum…all of it worth it…if it touches one person’s life.

Romans 8:30 reassures us of our calling, “And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.”

 In the end, doesn’t that mean that every single calling on one’s life is a ministry?

What’s the calling on your life?

~Emily

This is my shameless plug for Centurion Military Alliance.  If you know anyone with a military connection that needs transition assistance, please have them contact CMA…they love to connect the military member with the next chapter of their employment!

ministry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking Backwards

I play a lot of what if games with myself.  Mostly I play these mental games with myself when I’m driving on my long commute.

What if I won the lottery? I start thinking of all kinds of scenarios that could occur if I won the lottery.  Nevermind that I’d have to actually play the lottery to win.  What would be my first purchase? What charities would I support? What vacations would I take? Who would I buy a house or car for?

What if I ever won an Academy Award? I think through my acceptance speech.  Nevermind that I would actually have to be in the film or music industry.  Would I thank God first? Who else would get thanked?  Do I talk louder and faster as the music starts cueing me to get the heck off the stage?

I also play this what if game with relationships from my past. Both those I’ve dated or married, as well as those I was friends with.  What if I had done such and such differently? I wonder what would happen if I saw so and so on the street.  Would this friend recognize me? Did I tell them about Christ?  Would I ever go back to that relationship?

All of these what if games are seemingly innocent.

Or are they?

The lottery and the academy award acceptance speech indicate a fanciful longing for something I don’t currently have.  Does that mean I’m not content in my life, as it is?  For some, this may indicate a dissatisfaction with what you have or perhaps a desire for more…more…more.  In my case, it’s an exercise in thinking through what is important to me.  Who would I thank? Who would I support financially?

However, the other…the thinking of past relationships. That’s more dangerous.  In an age of social media, it’s super easy to track down the ex-boyfriends to “see how they are doing.”  What is the end result? Satisfaction or glee that they aren’t doing well?  Jealousy when you see they are doing well?  Anguish over your “what if it had worked out” scenario? Guilt and a feeling of betraying your current relationship?

That look backwards at the exes isn’t good for us. Looking back isn’t ever good for us. During the time of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his family are leaving the burning of the city…the wrath of God for blatant disobedience.

In Genesis 19:17 (NIV), the angels speak to Lot “…Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain!  Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”

They flee. And they are specifically told not to look back. They run from the wrath and towards protection.  Except Lot’s wife can’t resist the temptation to look back. She was disobedient to God’s command.

“But Lot’s wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:26 (NIV)

 While the rest of her family…the rest of her life ran forward, she lagged behind.  She turned and watched fiery sulfur fall from the sky consuming the city she had grown to love.  And that fire consumed her as well.  The scripture isn’t clear exactly why she was turned to a pillar of salt. It could be because she valued her past more than her future. It could be a consequence of disobeying God.  Regardless, she looks back over her shoulder and pays more attention to a burning city than she does the future, her family, and the command of her God.

When I play the “what if” game in regards to the relationships of my past, then I’m doing the same thing as Lot’s wife. I’m glancing back over my shoulder.  Nothing good comes from looking over our shoulders and staring into the past.  It takes our eyes off the Lord. It takes our eyes off of the future.  It takes our eyes off our current friends and family relationships.

While social media makes it easy, resist the temptation to become Lot’s wife. Don’t look back ladies…let’s encourage one another to look forward.

~Emily

Flee

 

 

 

Drugs, Mental Health & Self-Worth

I can’t even imagine some of the battles that women face daily.

I can’t imagine being in an abusive relationship.  I can’t imagine being homeless.  I can’t imagine being an unwed mother.  I can’t imagine another broken heart.

And yet, I can relate.

I can’t imagine being a drug addict. I can’t imagine contemplating suicide.  I can’t imagine choosing which bills to cover.  I can’t imagine constant depression.

And yet, I can relate.

I can relate because I’ve seen other women battle those demons.  Often the battles that one woman faces, impacts the battles of another woman.

There is a young lady that I love very much. She struggles with drugs, with mental health, and with self-worth.  She’s so smart, so beautiful, and so loved. But she doesn’t always see that because of the demons that she battles.

Her mama worries about her constantly. She’s had to bail her out of jail. She’s had to draw hard lines between support and not becoming co-dependent.  This mama is so smart, so beautiful, and so loved. But she doesn’t always see it because of the demons she battles.

This girl could be anyone’s daughter.  This mama could be anyone’s friend.

These two women aren’t just anyone’s daughter or friend.  She’s is my step-daughter from a previous marriage and I consider her mom a friend.

I worry about them both.  When I don’t hear from my step-daughter for weeks, I message her mom.  And then I hold my breath, praying that the answer is not “jail, hospital, or morgue.”

Here are three women – a gal in her twenties, and her mom and step-mom.  All meshed together by the strings of our heart, all facing battles that are interwoven.  Battles that are faced alone and together.  Battles laced with worry.

Jesus told us in Luke 12:25 (NIV), “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

I hear you Jesus.  I should stop worrying.  And yet the human condition often prevails…and we worry, we doubt, we seek other refuge, we become anxious, and often we forget that Jesus can handle all of the battles.

When I find myself worrying about these two women, I simply pray. Usually, I have distinct prayers of request for their particular situations. Sometimes, I tell God that I don’t know the scenarios, but I need Him to intervene on their behalf. Occasionally, I simply request for Him to take away my own anxiety and worry over them.

When you have battles to fight; pray.  When you notice other women fighting battles; pray. When your battles overlap with others; pray.  We aren’t going to add any time to our lives, but we certainly can turn over the anxiety and worry to the Lord.

Each one of us is smart, beautiful, and so loved.  Let’s see those attributes past the battles.

~Emily

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” ~Colossians 3:15 (NIV)

kiyana