Describe Yourself- Two Words

Describe yourself.

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

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

But what if I could only choose two words?

Christian & Veteran.

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Emily

Sweet land of liberty

The Gift in a Shoe Box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Erin

IMG_3575
Six years between photos and she still looks exactly the same when she prays over the boxes!

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

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.”

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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