Spiritual Battles

Last Friday, I made good on a ridiculous commitment I made while my husband and I were dating.  I had casually and thoughtlessly agreed that sometime in the future I would attend a heavy metal concert.  I dodged that bullet for years.  But Friday, I finally went to my first and last head-banging-metal concert.  I am free of that commitment from this point forward.

I may be free of the commitment to go, but I’m not free of the overwhelming pain my heart felt leading up to the event, while being at that concert, and in the days afterward.

True confession #1:  I hate…seriously hate…heavy metal music.  It’s so freaking loud.  And repetitive…every song sounds like exactly the same yelling.  I don’t understand 80% of the lyrics and the few phrases I can discern I don’t believe are in concert with my Christian faith.  I despise that many of the bands in this musical genre utilize symbolology that I deliberately avoid, as a result of my own pagan past.  In truth, in the weeks leading up to this concert I was praying that something would happen that would prevent our attendance.

As it became apparent that I was going to have to actually attend, I engaged my prayer warriors to form a hedge of protection around my family while we attended the concert. I was fervently praying for God to close our ears to the enemy, to open the hearts to the non-believers, and to assist with protecting us as we entered a spiritual warfare battlefield.

I prayed as we drove to the venue. I prayed in the parking lot. I prayed in the concession line. I prayed in our seats.  I prayed for God to be with us and that Satan would get behind us. I prayed for complete and total intercession.  I prayed specifically for my family, but then I prayed for those in my row, in our section, and in the entire audience. I even prayed for all of the band members.  I prayed that everyone present would know God…would know His love…would profess Christ as their Savior.

I was praying super big prayers.

True confession #2: I was surprised at how pleasant everyone was around us.  Between sets, folks were chatting with us and offering ear plugs (little did they know I had packed several sets of plugs in my purse!).  No one was cursing. No one was fall-on-their-face drunk.  No one was spouting off about Devil worship.

Everyone was nice.  No one was directly threatening towards me or my family.  I felt God’s arms around us.

And that’s when I let my guard down.  I had prayed through most of the afternoon into the evening, but by dusk I had relaxed a little.

The sun went down.  The drunks became rowdy.  The smell of weed was prevalent.  All around us, people were super excited to hear the first beats of the drum from the headlining band.  I stood up to see the stage and when the curtain fell I was in absolute shock.  There were images that were blatantly disrespectful of Christ.  There were huge areas of literal fire balls.  When pentagrams began bouncing all over the screen, I literally burst into tears and fell back into my seat.  I know I was the only person in that arena sitting down, but I may have been the only one that was crying and praying out loud to the one true God.

Satan made his presence known.

True confession #3: Spiritual Warfare in America is real and I am fearful that many Christians are turning a blind eye to this fact.  I know it’s real because it’s a slippery slope I’ve tumbled down.  I know it’s real because I see it in daily aspects of our society.  I know it’s real because I just pitched a book about it.

It scares me to death to see how spiritual battles have influenced American society.   And yet, I took my family on a trek to see the battle field in action.   You read that correctly… “my family.”

True confession #4:  My 7-year-old son was with us.  He was one of a dozen kids that I saw in attendance.

After that confession, you would be partly justified in asking about my parenting skills.  If spiritual warfare scares me so much and if I was so concerned that I dispatched my prayer warriors, why on God’s green earth would I introduce my son to such a scene?

Why?  Because I’m raising a prayer warrior.  I’m raising a child to someday become a head of household.  I’m raising a young man who is in love with the Lord.  I can’t shield him completely from the world.  But I can teach him how to hold onto his faith, his beliefs, and his focus on God.

Do you know who was praying with me in the weeks up to the concert?  My son.

Do you know who prayed in the car that God would protect us?  My son.

Do you know who was praying that just one person would come to know the Lord that night? My son.

Do you know who shielded his eyes from the fire on stage and also prayed out loud? My son.

Spiritual warfare is alive and well in our country.  Christians are doing a disservice to the next generation if we aren’t allowing them to become equipped to fight a battle that they may not understand.  Shoot, that many of us don’t understand!

Some will say that a heavy metal concert wasn’t the place for a child.  I agree.  It wasn’t an ideal situation.  But because it was one that occurred, I used it as a teaching tool for my child to understand that God listens.  He will defend us.  He will equip us.  He will protect us.

I’m free of the commitment to ever attend another one of these concerts…but I will continue to be vigilant to the spiritual battlefield all around us.

~Emily

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” ~1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)

1 Peter 5-8

The Walmart Meltdown

I don’t often break down.  I definitely don’t break down in front of people.  I’m the kind of woman that needs to feel like she’s got her emotions in check.  I encourage women to let go and be ok with not having it all together.  But me….I don’t always take my advice.

Let’s take the Walmart incident Emily wrote about two weeks ago.  When she wrote that I had a meltdown, she wasn’t exaggerating!  I took a left at the end of McKenna’s road to head to Walmart and somewhere in that 4 minute drive, as she encouraged me to tell her what was going on in my head, I start blubbering and crying.  And she was there to help me get myself back together.  Here’s what she didn’t tell you because she felt it was my story to write.

I was afraid of judgment.  Here we were, visiting my beautiful oldest daughter and her husband, Indy, along with my sweet little grandbaby, Andros, and I was worried that I would be judged on how well McKenna was doing!  By my best friend!  How silly does that sound!?

But it wasn’t silly to me in that moment.  Would Emily see something that would reflect poor parenting?  Were McKenna and Indy thriving?  Was Andros doing well? Did McKenna love her job?  Was the house clean enough?  Were they eating healthy?
These are all things moms worry about for their grown children, but somehow in that moment, Satan had woven anxiety around me to make me feel as if I needed to question my worthiness as a parent, as a grandparent, and as a friend.

It was overwhelming to say the least.  In that 4 minute drive, I was afraid to tell Emily that I was terrified of being judged by her.  Yet, when I shared my heart, she lovingly told me that there was NOTHING that would ever make her feel as if I wasn’t a good parent, a good person, a good friend.  She reminded me that I was overwhelmed with everything going on with the trip, and that there were great things in store from God.  And that I needed to stop freaking out!

And just like that, it was over.  It was as if God had placed this blanket of protection over me through my best friend’s kind yet realistic words.  Satan’s rhetoric was banished from that car, and grace filled the air.

How many times do we do that to ourselves, ladies?  We question our value and our worth through someone else’s eyes.  We want to feel accepted and worthy of a friendship or a job.  We long to feel good enough to teach a class or learn a new skill. Yet, we forget that God sees us as worthy already.  We are good enough.  Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV) says, “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

He knew who we were before we were born, and He created us in His image.  We. Are. Worthy.  Because we are His.

~Erin

Childlike Faith

The last week of summer before school starts is always hectic with buying supplies, trying on new clothes, attending open house to meet the teacher, and cramming in the last minute summer fun.  As a child, my school always started the day after Labor Day.  For my child, Alabama schools start the 1st week of August.  That means our hectic week was last week; complete with a three-day sprint to the beach.

I was exhausted when we arrived.  Why? For several reasons.  I just completed a road trip up and down the East Coast with Erin.  I had the very stressful experience of pitching my book proposal to publishers.  Even though I’m an extrovert, I had the pressure of meeting hundreds of strangers and engaging in meaningful conversations with all of them.  All to turn around and continue living out of a suitcase for a few more days with my husband and son.  The cherry on top? I knew the three-day beach trip would primarily be focused on fishing.

On the 2nd night at the beach, I joined dozens of other parents smirking at one another in the dark with headlamps tied to our heads and death grips on our “flashlight” cell phones…all of us supervising small children as they ran after the crabs that skirted across the waves at dusk.  Literally, dozens of parents looking like coal miners following children, chasing crabs.  For a moment, I stood there looking at the dark shadows with lights at head level, up and down the beach, and reflected on how amazing parenthood truly becomes when you have unconditional love for a little person.

How else would you tolerate, let alone explain, such ridiculous requests to catch crabs in the dark?

At one point Kambell looked up at the stars and said, “Mama, isn’t the sky beautiful?  How did God know to make all of those stars for us?”

This led to a conversation about how God knows all of those stars perfectly.  How He knows about each one of the hairs on our head…and how He knows every single grain of sand that we were walking on.

After the part of about the sand, Kambell was quiet for quite a while.  Anyone who has met this child knows that it’s unusual for him to be quiet for too long.  After a few moments he said, “Our God is pretty amazing to know all that stuff.”

You know what? He is pretty amazing to know all that stuff!

Gone was the exhaustion, the stress of pushing books, the exasperation of a three-day fishing trip, and even the embarrassment of walking in the dark with a light tied to my forehead. All of it was gone with the revelation that my son was enamored with God and all that He can do.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 18:3

Ladies, this week I’m challenging you to be like a child in our awe of God.

~Emily

@#!*% Swear Words

I use swear words while driving.

It feels slightly cathartic writing that…like it’s a true confession.

I actually use swear words more than just while I’m driving.  My parents had a philosophy that words were just words…you just needed to know when it was socially acceptable to use particular words.  They taught my brother and I to expand our vocabulary and to become selective in which words we chose to use.  Words matter.  And the meaning behind each word matters.  It’s not enough to say “kind” when you really mean “considerate” or “gracious.”  My parents taught me that the meaning behind each word is important and that the use of a particular word should be deliberate.  They taught us that there was a need for cuss words, but that we should be selective when we used them.  It’s a thought that I’ve carried my whole life.

And until this last week, I didn’t think much of it.  You see, this last week my 7 year old gave me a vocabulary lesson.

I was driving and he was in the back seat. For whatever reason, I chose to use a particular word…and it’s one I chose specifically for it’s meaning.  My son said, “Mama, you shouldn’t use that word…it’s a bad word.”

So I seized the opportunity. I thought to myself, “I have this wonderful teaching moment…I have a chance to be as amazing as my own parents!”

I replied to my son, “Buddy, there aren’t any bad words…there are just words that we associate with having bad meanings.  When I use that word, does it hurt you?”

Very cautiously, very slowly, very guardedly, my little guy replied, “No….but I’m pretty sure it hurts God.”

Gut Punch to the Mama. Seriously, kid?!?!?!  I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me.  What in the Sam-Hill am I supposed to say to that?!?!?! (See, I’m still struggling with swear word replacements!).

“You know what Buddy, you’re right.  That probably does hurt God.  I’ll do my best to stop saying those words.”

I have never subscribed to the thought that the Bible specifically bans the use of curse words. However, there are plenty of scriptures that discourage the use of profanity.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” ~Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

 “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” ~2 Timothy 2:16 (NIV)

 What I have always subscribed to is the thought that our mouths either build up or tear down. This is true for the Christian and for the non-Christian.  Essentially, the words we choose can help or harm others.

This makes perfect sense when you consider how words impact your own day.  As an example, imagine yourself stopping before work to get a coffee. Someone in line tells you that they love your hair.  For nearly everyone, a compliment like that would automatically make you smile.  It lifts you up.  Yet if someone in the same line says something snarky or tells you to watch where you are going, you are automatically put on the defensive. You may react negatively or you may internalize the words. Either way, you aren’t smiling. You aren’t lifted up.

When considering building or tearing, I want to be a Godly woman who builds others up.  Even in a moment of frustration, my use of curse words does not build anyone up.  In fact, it caused my child to pause enough that he felt compelled to correct my behavior.

While I don’t believe that using profanity is the worst thing a human can do, I can agree that it is not glorifying to God.  As a result of my parents encouraging an ever-growing vocabulary, I have a stockpile of other words I could choose to use when frustrated or angry.   In order to become a “builder” of others, I want to glorify God with my word choices.

Like I told my little guy, I’m going to do my best to stop choosing those words.

~Emily

 “My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long.”  ~Psalm 35:28 (NIV)

A Sports Mom & Grace

I have a love-hate relationship with baseball season.

I’m not talking about Major League Baseball—not the Yankees and the Red Sox.  I’m talking about 7-8 coach pitch baseball.  Coaches pitching to 7 and 8 year old boys.  This was my son’s 2ndyear playing ball and his 1styear as catcher. The regular season ended last week and has provided an opportunity for me to reflect on this love-hate relationship.

I love how happy my son is being on a team, while exercising, and learning a sport. I love watching his eyes dance when he catches the ball or hits a run.  I’m content being behind the camera catching the intense moments of concentration.  I adore that the coaches pray with the boys before practices and games.  I’m grateful that he hasn’t been on a team that chose white uniform.

Despite the “love” part of being a baseball-mom, I have some issues with baseball season.  I hate 7 pm games, which means I’m in a dinner dilemma…to feed before or to feed after???  I hate that late weekday games equals cranky mornings…for the kiddo and for me.

And I have come to hate the group texting with parents for snacks and practice times.  Each time my phone indicates a text message; I start dreading the massive text chain. Why?  Probably because I’m a very organized, type A personality, who has been in the military for over 20 years. I have a hard time with loose schedules and lack of pre-planning.  I want lists of snack responsibilities.  I want to know who has scoreboard or dug out duty for each game.  I want to know when the team party and photos are scheduled. Not knowing these things in advance makes me cringe.

Not knowing makes me less gracious.

Grace has been defined in several different ways.  Typically, we think of God’s grace in relationship to His providing a way to salvation through acceptance of His son.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” ~Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Essentially grace is God providing for us even when we don’t deserve it.  Knowing about God’s grace is not enough. We have to accept God’s grace. Then the hard part…we have to demonstrate God’s grace by showing grace to one another.

Grace for others is demonstrated in our thoughts, words, and actions.

If we think dreadful thoughts, we aren’t illustrating grace.  When I have grouchy thoughts about a 7pm, mid-week game, I’m not demonstrating grace in thought.  We are given guidance on our thoughts in Romans 12:2 (NIV), “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

If we speak negative words, we aren’t speaking grace.  When I complain to my husband about the lack of snack organization, I am not demonstrating grace in speech.  We are given guidance on our voice in Colossians 4:6 (NIV), “Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

If we roll our eyes or have huffy behavior, we aren’t acting in grace. When my Type A personality encourages me “take over” team mom responsibilities, I am not demonstrating grace in action.  We are given guidance on our actions in Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV), “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

If we act in grace, then we honor the grace God has provided for us.   I need to work on turning my thoughts, words, and actions into grace-filled examples of God’s love for each of us.  I need to turn my love-hate relationships into love-love relationships. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

phdLadies,

I want to have grace flowing from my heart….not just behind the camera, but rather in all of my thoughts, words, & actions.

Do you?

~Emily

 

 

 

Are you there?

When my husband travels, my 7 year old often crawls into bed with me in the middle of the night.  I almost always hear him open the door as he shuffles to my side of the bed.  90% of the times his sweet voice says, “Mama, can I snuggle with you?” I always lift the covers and let him settle in next to me.  I love that he still holds my hand as he falls back to sleep.  I love listening to his breathing even out.  I love his little tufts of hair tickling my face. I love each of these things because I know that it could end at any minute.  At any minute he could grow up—just enough—to not need his Mom in the middle of the night.

While Jeromy was on a fly fishing trip recently, Kambell opened the door and crawled into bed on Daddy’s side of the bed.  I was silent, listening to him settle into the blankets.  He whispered, “Mama?”  I answered, “Humm?”  And he simply said, “I just wanted to make sure you were there” and then he fell asleep.

I lay there thinking about how innocently he asked if I was there.  And how quickly he was reassured.  I thought about another innocent question, which requires reassurance. “Abba, are you there?”

How often do we question if our Heavenly Father is there?   It’s a simple question requesting reassurance that He’s by our side. I can think of dozens of times in my life, mostly in times of turmoil, where I doubted if God was there. Have you done the same? Is it easier to figure out your own solution because it appears God isn’t answering a prayer?

For years, my prayer was to become pregnant.  After dozens of failed attempts at In Vetro (that was super affordable on a young Airman’s salary), miscarriages, and monthly tears, I gave up on having a biological child.  Multiple military moves negated my eligibility to become an adoptive parent…even in a high-risk adoption scenario.  When the toll of all that medical intervention created a scenario where a hysterectomy was necessary, I was devastated.  I questioned if God had heard my prayers.  Did He really hold each one of my tears in His hand?  Did He know that my heart was breaking every single month? That it broke at every single baby shower I attended? That simple television commercial featuring cooing babies would send me from the room in tears?

In Genesis 16:2, we see a story of similar heartache, in regards to babies and God’s presence. God had promised Abraham that he would have many descendants.  Ten years after the promise, Sarah had yet to bare a child.  As was the custom of the day, Sarah chose to send her servant, Hagar to her husband.  When Hagar became pregnant, Abraham’s fertility heartache was over.  But Sarah’s became compounded when daily she observed a child that was not of her womb.

While I don’t understanding sending another woman to my husband’s bed, I do understand the heartache of infertility that Sarah faced.  I understand the desperation that led her to decide God wasn’t with her….that His promise was taking too long.

And yet, God is with us. Always.  He’s there to reassure us.  He’s there with His promises.  He provides His Son Jesus as a way to ensure we each have a way to Him.  Matthew 1:23 (NIV) says, “Behold, the Virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.” Immanuel translates to “God with us.”

Amazing, Abba. Providing a promise through his child, Immanuel.  Always with us.  As I lay in the bed, listening to the slumbered breath of my child, I was reassured. My God made me a mother when I least expected it.

God is with us.  He hears those prayers.  He makes a way…even when it seems there is no way possible. Ladies—be assured with your innocent questions and know that God is there.

~Emily

 

 

 

 

The Runaway

 

“I’m moving to California if you won’t play with me!”  When Peyton was 7 years old, she decided that she was no longer going to live in Wyoming with me because McKenna, her sister, wouldn’t play with her.  I tried to explain to her to no avail that sometimes big sisters who are 6 years older don’t always like to play the same things that little sisters like to play.  That went over like a lead balloon.  Peyton was determined to pack her belongings and move to California to live with her dad.  After trying to reason with her, she asked me to leave her room so that she could pack.  In response, I did what any loving mother would do…I asked her if she could at least pick up her room before she left so that I didn’t have to do it, and then I shut the door behind me.

Fifteen minutes later, she emerged from her room rolling a suitcase behind her.  I asked her if she wanted me to take it downstairs for her.  Of course, my independent girl said no.  After lugging that thing down 14 steps, she turned around to McKenna and said, “If you want to say goodbye to me, here’s your chance.  I won’t be coming back for a while.  And you’ll wish you’d played with me, McKenna.”  She offered me a hug and an ‘I love you’ and walked out the front door.

Now, I’m not the kind of mother that panics.  I never have been.  When she walked out the door, instead of running after her, I just told her it was a long walk to California.  And then I raced up the stairs to watch her from my bedroom window. She walked about 15 feet, stopped, and looked back towards the house, searching for signs of someone running out of the door, asking her to come back.  She then went forward another 30 feet or so and turned around again.  This went on for a few minutes before she finally turned back towards home and walked back in the door. “I’ve decided I will give this family one more chance.  I’m staying.”  I smiled at her, gave her a big hug and told her I was happy to hear it.  Then, I unzipped the suitcase to see what she’d actually packed.  I had to laugh—books, stuffed animals, some clothing, and her ‘Say Your Prayers’ sign that was hanging on the wall.  Not bad for a little girl!

What hits my heart today, years later, is that I’m just like that little girl who walks out of the house and keeps turning around to see if anyone is watching.  I do it to Jesus all the time.  I’ve made a lot of impulsive and rash decisions in my life that caused hasty reactions that almost never included Jesus in the mix.  Every time I made one of those decisions that ultimately ended in mistake and heartache, I would get angry and say “That’s it, God!” and turn my back on Him to run away. I thought by running away I could fix myself and make it better.  I thought that no one could help me get through my tough times better than me.  Why would God want me sticking around anyway when I just made a fool of myself, yet again?  When I ran, however, I would always look back over my shoulder, checking to see if God still cared.  Was He still listening to me?  Did He still love me?  And each time, He wasn’t hiding at the window, watching to see if I’d turn around.  He was standing at the door, watching me walk away but holding His outstretched arms towards me. He was always waiting for me to turn back to Him to seek repentance and refuge.

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4 (NIV).

I’ve made a commitment to never run away from Him again.  I don’t need to look back and try to catch His eye to see if He’s still there for me.  He says He’ll never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).  He’ll be that refuge that I desperately need daily.  It’s a beautiful promise He’s given to believers, and it’s something I never want to forget.

~Erin