Time of Their Lives

On the end of the fishing pier, there were about 20 adolescent boys fishing their hearts out.  There was no talk of school projects or grades.  No talk of girls.  No talk of parents or problems at home.  Just teenage boys razzing each other and slinging fishing rods over the Atlantic Ocean. Every day for the entire summer they were planning to meet at this pier at sunrise and wait for parents to pick them up at sunset.  They were having the time of their lives.

When was the last time you had the time of your life?  Hanging out with friends?  No cares in the world? When was the last time you had the time of your life in your Christian walk?

While in High School, I had the time of my life every summer for a week at church camp. Started the mornings with a nature walk chat with God and prayer time in small groups followed by group Bible Studies in between playing in the pool during the days, ending with worship songs and smores around a campfire in the evenings.  Learning the Word and praising God, while hanging out with my closest friends in the foothills of Mt. Hood, Oregon.

When we’re having the time of our lives, do we even recognize it? Do we know we’re in a moment that won’t ever be recreated? Do those boys know that they are living their best lives getting tan and fishing with one another every day of the summer? Did I know that I was having the time of my life at a summer church camp?

In the months leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, did the disciples know that they were in a space of time with Christ that could never be recreated? Did they recognize the miracles, the travel, the teachings, even the rebuking for what it was? It was the time of their lives.

They may have missed it.  Just like the boys on the fishing pier this summer.  Just like me at summer camp.

As summer becomes fuller with activities, I’m praying that you are taking a moment to recognize what is happening around you. Are you living in a moment where you are having the time of your life?

~Emily

Fishing

The Influencing Friends

Through the years, I’ve been blessed with friends from all over the world.   These friends have explored new cultures with me, traveled with me, drank with me, held me while I cried, celebrated life with me, and prayed with me. I truly have been blessed and touched by each of their roles in my life.

Three friends stand out as being the largest influences over my life.

The 1st is Lindy, who was my very first best friend.  We met at age three and lived two houses apart so we played together often. She had the most amazing collection of Barbie dolls, but my mom didn’t want me playing with her dolls because I had a horrible habit of biting the feet of barbies (yes, you read that correctly…I used to bite the barbie’s feet).   Lindy is the friend who taught me about sharing, about compromise, and about truthfulness.

The 2nd is Linina, who became my closest friend in the 7th grade.  We were inseparable for the next six years and I can’t imagine how I would have done High School without her.  We shared every teenage secret, church camp, wintergreen gum, and heartache over boys.  Linina is the friend who taught me about Christ’s unfailing love, about loyalty, about perseverance, and about loss.

The 3rd is Erin, who became my prayer partner mid-way through my military career.  While we lived in the same city for a short period of time, our daily phone calls for the last ten years have enhanced my life.  We stood by one another as relationships crumbled, as children grew, and our love for God became the center of our friendship.  Erin is the friend who taught me about strength, about growing, and about contentment.

As I look back on my life at these three stages of besties, I’m reminded that scripture tells us we will have similar stages of spiritual growth.

Infancy

As an infant/young child, we are just beginning our walk with the Lord.  1 Peter 2:2     relates that we are like newborn babies who desire the milk of the Word.  It’s essentially a developmental phase where we are learning about our new Christian walk.

In the flesh, a newborn is completely dependent on a caretaker.

In the spiritual, the newborn Christian must be taught how to study and read the Bible because there isn’t a developed ability to ‘feed themselves.’

I saw this phase distinctly with Lindy, as three-year old’s, embarking on our first friendships where we were being taught the principles and boundaries of friendship.

Adolescence

Maturing into adolescence, the Christian has a strong faith in God and has learned about prayer and fasting.  While spiritually strong, there is often a lack of maturity at this stage.  1 John 2:14 states, “I have written unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the wicked one.” This stage is about learning submission and patience, rather than knowledge.

In the flesh, a teenager is knowledgeable and able to care for themselves, but they can be prone to missteps in decision making based on their experience levels.

In the spiritual, the adolescent Christian must practice restraint and continue to seek guidance from authorities.

As teenagers, I saw this phase in my friendship with Linina, when we thought we knew it all but still need to submit to the authority of our parents.  It was a season of becoming stronger in friendship and holding one another accountable, while still relying on guidance from wiser Christians.

Adulthood

In our Christian walks, maturity brings the realization that heaven is not our goal, but rather it is our destiny.  Our goal is to live as close as possible to the example provided by Jesus.  This includes continued growth in our personal relationship with God, as well as loving our neighbors deeply.  Paul reiterated this when he wrote, “..for me to live is Christ…” (Philippians 1:21), which is indicating that from his own conversion until his martyrdom, everything he did was to advance the gospel and bring glory to Jesus.

In the flesh, an adult is comfortable with continued learning but is often the one sought for advice.

In the spiritual, the adult Christian strives to meet believers and non-believers, in order to enhance everyone’s knowledge of the Bible and the gift of salvation. During this stage, there is conscious effort to win souls for the Kingdom.

I have seen the adult phase develop over the last decade, as my friendship with Erin has grown. This has been a season of building relationships and Iron Porch, as a space to share the gospel.

I can clearly track my spiritual growth through these phases, as well as in my friendships. I’m still friends with all three of these lovely ladies; Lindy, Linina, and Erin (obviously, Erin).  These three ladies influenced my “being” more than any others.

One started me on learning what friendship meant, one taught me about Christ’s love, and one has studied with me on how to bring Christ to the center of a friendship.

Each of those friendships is a reflection of the women influencing “Emily” and a reflection of the stages of a Christian’s development.

Come to the porch and share who has been influencing your development…

~Emily

The Influencing Friends

 

 

When Liars Become A Distraction

The enemy engages with us when we are least expecting it.  Often the enemy uses those around us to “get into” our head.  Occasionally, the circumstances seem genuine. Sometimes red flags are raised.  That’s how spiritual warfare works…sometimes subtly and other times overtly.

A “friend,” who I hadn’t heard from in years, contacted me via social media. This is a woman who I have had a challenging past with.  It’s also someone who thinks she has a vested interest in knowing about my life. Furthermore, it’s a gal who is very much into pagan paths of spiritualism.

Despite that past and her religious thinking, I wanted to believe the best of her intentions.   I chatted via emails over the course of a couple days.  Then she wrote something about one of her recent accomplishments, but it just didn’t make any sense to me.  I asked several questions, to which she had some interesting answers that also didn’t sound right.

God bless my Spidey-senses. God bless the Google-machine.  God bless a best friend who listened to my thoughts, helped investigate, and agreed with my assessment.  I reached the conclusion that her story was false. It was a farce. An untruth.

This seems like a fairly small and possibly benign daily encounter.  Except it interrupted my day. It took up space in my mind.  It made me question her motives.  And it frankly took time away from my family and my own endeavors.

Satan wants our minds to be cluttered with nonsense so that we lose focus on what is most important to us. I could have been reading with my son, exercising, cooking, or studying.  Instead, I was surfing the internet to investigate this woman’s claims.

A subtle form of spiritual warfare.

Exodus 23:1 (NIV) states, “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.”

What can you do if there is a liar in your midst that is causing a distraction?

  1. Pray. There’s nothing better than prayer to calm a troubled heart or mind. Bring the situation to the Lord and allow Him to work on your behalf.  When we bring our angst to the Lord, He opens our eyes and our ears to truth.
  2. Create Distance. This may require a few days away from the individual. It may require a social media break. It may require a complete severing of the relationship. Distance allows us to evaluate a situation and it allows us time to spend with the Lord.
  3. Evaluate Yourself. Ensure that you reflect on your role in the situation or scenario. Have you encouraged or discouraged behavior?  Perhaps there is nothing you have done…perhaps there was.  God will help you with that self-reflection and the conclusions you come to.

I don’t need a false friend, nor do I want to condone untruths.  Yet, I didn’t want to assist the negativity by confronting her or escalating the situation.  I didn’t want to become a malicious witness.  I simply deleted the conversation.  I blocked the individual on social media.

This scenario is one small example of how we can discern if the interaction is glorifying to God.  Or if it’s one that the enemy is using to distract us.  I choose to be focused and undistracted.

I pray that God continues to allow the gift of discernment to work in my life. I pray it works in your life as well.

~Emily

Liars

 

 

Peezing

For over a year, I’ve been peeing a little every time I sneeze.  My husband and I have begun calling it “peezing” and he finds it quite hilarious when I run for the bathroom after a good sneeze.

My peezing is starting to creep into laughter now. During a boisterous card game with the girls after a women’s conference, I had to make a mad dash to the restroom due to the peezing-laughter. These girls, my closest friends, whooped it up when I can back into the room with new PJ bottoms on!

Boo-Hiss to the terrible 40s and my weakening bladder!!!

The reality is that peezing is annoying, but the connections I have with my circle of friends are anything but.  I’m content that I have close friends where I can be transparent about what’s going on in my life.  I can tell some of these ladies anything and they will drop everything to pray with me or support me.  They will call me out on my garbage and hold me accountable to the commitments I’ve made. They strengthen me. They uphold me. They walk with me, as I walk with Jesus.

The truth is that reliable friends are hard to find.  People often talk about how they could support you, but their actions do not always support their words.  Likewise, we may not always approve of the decisions or actions our friends are exhibiting, but we can always be an encourager in the ways of God. Reliability coupled with transparency makes a formula for a stronger friendship.

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable?~Proverbs 20:6 (NLT)

Many a person proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy person?~Proverbs 20:6 (CSB)

Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?                ~Proverbs 20:6 (NIV)

Most men will proclaim everyone his own goodness, but a faithful man who can find?~Proverbs 20:6 (KJV)

Whether you are being transparent about serious situations and prayer requests or it’s a silly card game that leads to peezing-laughter…we need friendships to bolster us.

Who is your go-to friend for prayer?

Who is your go-to friend for accountability?

Who do you consider to be the most reliable?

Come to the porch and tell us who is walking with you and Jesus!

~Emily

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

I58 Photo

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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Friendships & Disciples

“It takes a minute to have a crush on someone, an hour to like someone and a day to love someone—but it takes a lifetime to forget someone.” ~anonymous

I find this to be a very profound statement and strikingly relevant to my own life. How easy is it to forget the people that we run into on a daily basis…the lady at the Wal-Mart checkout counter, the teen who cut you off on the freeway, or the man that held a door open for you. But how much harder it is to forget those who touch your soul…those whom you love.

This is the way of the girlfriend…we drift in and out of each other’s lives, but we are always there for one another. It could be 5 years, or 5 minutes, but when a girlfriend is in need; we rally. This is especially true for those of us who are constantly moved via the military. I have girlfriends all over the world-or down the street-who email me, text message, snail mail and call.

We remember good times with cheer and cry while laughing through the bad times. We tease each other about former fashions and reminisce about past boyfriends (*insert cynical laughter here). We take trips and share all our hopes and fears. We encourage career changes then cry over divorces and miscarriages. We plan wine parties and paint our toenails crazy colors. We judge-apologize for judging-and judge under the term “advice.” We protect one another…in the bars, from credit card debt, from bad hair.

When we find treasure in a friend, we bring them into our fold…we add them to our family.  We allow them into the tribe.  We invite them to the circle.  We introduce them to our other friends.  Hence, the circle becomes larger and larger of those who you can call upon in times of triumph and trial.

All of these are amazing qualities to have in our friendships. But how strong are those friendships if you don’t mention your relationship with Christ? How much do you love the ladies in your life, if you aren’t concerned about their salvation? Will you mourn when you miss the opportunity to share the gospel with the unbelievers in your circle?

Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV) states “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Our mission on Earth is to create disciples for the kingdom.  The love we feel for others should include being concerned about their soul.  There is simply nothing more important than knowing if someone has been introduced to Jesus.  If I’m willing to introduce my new friends into my circles, my family, my tribe…then why wouldn’t I be willing to introduce them to the best friend anyone could ever imagine…Jesus?!?!?

There are different levels of “best friend” in my life. There’s my best friend from 7thgrade through High School, my best friend from college, my best friend from church, my best friends from the Air Force, and of course, my sister-wife best friend.

Best friend is a loose term in my vocabulary, simply because I have so many dear friends that I consider the best…the best at the moment that I needed them or they needed me. I pray that I am half the friend that these wonderful ladies are to me.  Above all, Jesus is that best friend…every time I’ve ever needed Him.

Everyone will hear what you say…

Friends will listen to what you say…

Best Friends will listen to what you don’t say…

When we aren’t speaking of Christ to our friends, we should act in a Christ-like manner…our best friends will listen to what you don’t say.

~Emily

Friends