Strappy Sandals

Since becoming a civilian, I’ve fallen in love with wearing strappy sandals and heels.  It’s a glorious feeling after 25 years of combat boots to wear cute girlie shoes.  Except that I feel so plump and inflexible, that I can’t really latch the straps very easily.  I struggle to lean over to the buckle, only to discover I latched onto a hole that is too loose or too tight.

I keep on trying because those shoes are so cute! I feel like the reward is worth the sweaty wrestling match with my tummy rolls to latch the straps.

There are times I feel the same way about my walk with the Lord.  I’m struggling to get the “strap” to fit just right.  I become really involved with my prayer life, only to draw back and not pray. I become really involved with a Bible Study, only to withdraw to mindless tv shows.  I volunteer for service projects, only to determine I want to be at home.

Like the cute strappy sandals, I keep struggling with my faith to make it fight just right, but often it’s too tight or too loose. That does not mean I’m struggling with my faith, but rather I’m struggling to make God my first priority. And that I’m struggling to make God a priority voluntarily, not out of a sense of obligation.

The Bible is very clear that God wants to be the first and only priority.  This is evident in Exodus 20:2-3 (NIV), “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”

I want God to be the priority in my life, but how do we demonstrate that we truly love God and want His teaching placed first in our lives?

In 1 John 5:3, the apostle John offers this answer, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome.”  We illustrate loving God when we strive to keep His commandments.

John offers further encouragement in 1 John 2:4-5 “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him.”

Therefore, we keep trying to hold true to God’s commandments. We keep trying to show His love for others through our own obedience.  We keep trying to make our walk with the Lord a good fit, rather than too loose or too tight.

What isn’t fitting just right in your life?  How can you adjust to make God more of a priority?

~Emily

heels

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reaching the Edge

This is how I describe what it feels like to me:  I’m in a pool with all of my friends and we’re just hanging around.  I’m getting tired, and I swim over to the edge.  I can almost touch it but it’s out of my reach….and stays out of my reach.  I kick my feet that last little bit only to see that the edge is still not finding my outstretched hand.  I still can’t touch it.  I’m getting tired, anxious, and overwhelmed from all the swimming.  I’m not going under.  I’m staying afloat, but I just. can’t. reach. the. edge.  And now I’m scared.

That’s what my depression feels like to me.

I was first diagnosed when I was 19, and I’ve battled it for 20 years.  Some years, it’s wonderful.  I pass through the seasons of life and everything feels peaceful.  Other years, it gets a grip on me and feels like it could swallow me whole if I let it.  I’ve been on multiple medications and gone to some of the most amazing counselors.  The resources that I’ve had available to me have been a blessing when I struggle with the monster.

No one’s depression looks the same.  It affects us in different ways.  I’ve seen it manifested for some, through cutting.  Others may have thoughts of suicide.  Some just have this sadness that they can’t escape, while others might have physical symptoms.  From the outside looking in, the symptoms are all the same, but how they’re painted on our life canvas looks vastly different from person to person.

When I’m struggling hardest with depression, I reach past the overwhelming feelings of being alone and afraid and I cry out to God.  It’s hard sometimes.  While I’ve been a Christ-follower for a long time, in my depression, it’s difficult to call out for help, even from God.  I’m the leader.  I’m supposed to have myself together.  God gave me a calling, so I shouldn’t need to be so….needy.   But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

He’s the Healer.  He’s the Living Water that keeps us nourished, even when it feels like a dry desert.  I re-read this passage of scripture the other day and it was such an encouragement to me.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord.  For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but it’s leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. –Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NASB)

Droughts will come.  Hardships, heartaches, anxiety, depression, hurt…it will come.  But if we trust Him, He will carry us through.  When we extend our roots out to the stream of Living Water, He sustains us.  And that verse reminds us that even if those dry seasons, we’re still producing fruit for His glory.

I’m in that pool right now, kicking and swimming and trying to get to the side.  And I haven’t reached it yet.  I take medication to help and I know God has me in His hand.  I’ll reach the edge soon.

Anyone have a verse that they use in the throes of depression that helps carry them through?  Share it in the comments below.

~Erin

Blessed is the man who trust in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves wil

Kid Questions

“Do you have cancer?”

This was the question I heard a 5-year-old boy ask a balding gentleman, as I went into the aftercare building to pick up my son.

The adult responded with a chuckle and said, “No, I’ve just lost all my hair.”

My initial internal response was “what has this child seen or heard to make them instantly think bald equals cancer?”

My next response was “Thank you, Jesus, for the innocent questions of our little ones.”

Children have very few inhibitions when it comes to questioning the world around them.  They ask simply because they need understanding. They aren’t intimidated by politically correct wording or the emotions that questions may bring up.

Jesus asked a lot of questions too.  His weren’t always simple or designed for His own understanding. Most of His questions were crafted to get His followers thinking about God’s promises, about salvation, and about deliverance.  One of my favorite questions Jesus asked the disciples is “Who do you say I am?”

In several books of the Gospel, we read that Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus could have easily said, “I am the Christ.”  Instead, He challenged the disciples to answer the questions of their own heart.

Jesus taught using a questioning method of presentation. It creates a learning atmosphere where the disciples (and subsequently us) are able to interpret and deliver our own answers to questions.  This often lends itself to a longer retention of information…and a stronger belief in the answers that we declare ourselves.

Like small children asking strangers about lost hair and cancer treatments, we as Christians must ask about and interpret the world around us.  Lucky for us, if we’re in the Word, we’ll find answers!

What questions are on your mind this week?  Come to the Porch and share!

~Emily

Kid Questions

 

My Own Personal Scripture Book

I reached into my purse and pulled out my 3×5 spiral bound index cards.  I needed a verse.  Or a quote.  I didn’t care which.  I just needed something that I knew would bring me encouragement as I struggled.

I had read once that you should put sticky notes up on your mirror with a verse or positive thought that you could read every day to help get your day started.  While I thought (and still do) that it was a great idea, I wasn’t always in the room with the mirror.  And as someone who’s been diagnosed with depression, I knew that overwhelming thoughts could hit me anywhere and at a moment’s notice.  That’s when I decided I needed to go one step further.

I wanted something on 3×5 cards—I wanted something bigger and more durable than a sticky note.  I also wanted to have more than one verse handy.  When I was struggling, I wanted to be able to quickly read multiple verses about God’s love at the same time…my own little reference book.

I found some 3×5 cards that were spiral bound and my “Verse Book” was born.  In it, I copied one verse per card.  Then, I thought a little more out of the box; I also wrote out quotes from Ms. Laura, the director of the women’s bible study group at Cheyenne Hills Church and Pastor Galen, our lead pastor.  My goal was to surround myself with as much as I could that could help me center myself back in Christ when I was combating a rough day or season.

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. –Philippians 2:13

“The truth is, because of God and His abundant grace, we have everything we need to live the lives God longs for us to live.” –Laura Whitmore, SOWN

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. –Isaiah 41:10

“Be strong in the Lord.  Not YOUR power, but His.” –Pastor Galen Huck (referencing Ephesians 6:10)

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. –Psalm 47:1

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. –John 3:16

These are just a few examples of what was written down in my Verse Book.  I’ve carried that in my purse for years and as I’ve read them, it’s even given me opportunity to memorize them so that I can have God’s word sown into my heart.

Now I’m getting ready to start a new one, a fresh one.  Those verses and quotes still carry so much comfort to me.  However, as I’ve matured in my walk with the Lord I’ve found that new verses and quotes uplift and encourage me.  It’s time for Verse Book 2.0.

For those of you needing comfort, I’m going to encourage you to make your own Verse Book.  Put it in your own writing.  Read it often—on good days AND bad.  Carry it with you and use it as a tool to help bring you closer to Jesus.  He’s here to help.

How about you?  Is there a verse or a quote that’s encouraged you during a season of trial?  Share it in the comments below.

~Erin

Coffee Shop Bold

I ordered a coffee and then had confusion cloud my brain as I began to doubt if I’d called the cashier by Ma’am or Sir. I called them something but then questioned if it was the correct gender reference.  The confusion was not because I’m middle-aged, rather because the cashier was exhibiting traits that appeared to be male and female.  I wanted desperately to ask them, out of sincere concern but didn’t want to risk being offensive with my questions.

I received my coffee and went to a table to begin working on bible study homework.

The ladies at the table next to me were having a very lengthy conversation about a nightly escapade with a guy they knew. It was loud. It was lewd.  The more I tried to ignore them, the louder they got.  I desperately wanted to ask them if they knew they were sharing intimate details in a public setting, but I didn’t want to risk being told off or cursed out.

I closed my study material.  I sat back.  I prayed silently.

The cashier’s shift was over and they left. The ladies with the wild night antics were done sharing and they left.

I remained.

I asked myself and God why I was so afraid to engage with these two scenarios.  Why was I reluctant to have a conversation with individuals?  What reservations overrode the need to be bold? What if I had been bold and had used the opportunity to share Christ’s love simply through my words?  What if this was the only time those three individuals encountered someone who could share the gospel through action, rather than by being timid or worse browbeating?

I immediately thought of the verse in 2 Corinthians where it states that because we have hope (in Christ), we are bold.  I couldn’t remember the context or even the exact verse, so I had to open the Bible and dig in.

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold!

~ 2 Corinthians 7-11(NIV)

 I want to be bolder in my action.  I want to stand firmly for Christ.  I pray I’m bold as a lion!  Even if it’s simply engaging in a conversation with strangers at a coffee shop.

Ladies, be bold and be brave this week!

~Emily

 The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

~Proverbs 28:1(NIV)

 

Coffee Shop Bold

 

 

Brick by Brick

When I was about nine and attending Sunday School, large cardboard blocks laid stacked against the wall for free time.  They looked like real oversized bricks, allowing us to build life-size forts around the room.  They were usually our favorite things to play with.

One morning, the teacher called us to our seats.  She sat at her table and started talking to us about Jesus and His love for us.  She picked up a block and placed it in front of her.  She reminded us that Jesus loved us so much that He came to earth to die for us.  She told us how it was so important that Jesus lives in our hearts.  She stacked a large block on top of the first.  She talked about how just like we have an earthly father, we have a Father in heaven who loves us.  She arranged another block.  Another example, another cardboard block.   With just a few examples, while we could hear what she was saying, we couldn’t see her.  We wanted to see her as she told us the story.  So someone in the class asked her if she could move the blocks.  That’s when the real lesson began.

Sometimes, she said, sin is like that wall she had in front of her.  When we have Jesus in our hearts and sin, we put up our own block.  It doesn’t seem so bad and we don’t ask for forgiveness.  It’s just a block.  But then we sin again.  Another block goes up.  And brick by brick, we create a wall between us and God.  We can hear Him and He can always hear us, but it’s a wall between us that doesn’t let us have a real relationship that He really wants to have with us.

When we talk to God and ask for forgiveness, the bricks are removed.  And she pushed one block off and then another until they were all back on the floor.  We could see her again.  We could hear her better.  When the bricks were removed we could have a real conversation filled with interaction.

When God gives forgiveness, He breaks down that barrier.  He removes the shame, judgment and condemnation and replaces it with a love that only He can give.  Our closeness is restored to the Creator.

I pray that each of us removes any bricks that may be holding us back from having full communion with God.

~Erin

The Hurting Kind​

This last week my husband and son took me to see my favorite musician, John Paul White. Neither of them was excited, but that didn’t stop me from clapping like a circus
seal and smiling from ear to ear…all while jumping slightly in my seat.

John Paul White

He played several of songs off his newest album, “The Hurting Kind,” to include the song titled the same.  A song about the fairy tale of falling in love…until you discover that “your love is the hurting kind.”  Essentially it’s a song about abuse within a relationship that should be love-centered.

I was weepy listening as it was sung live, while I thought back to relationships I’ve had that were similar to the hurting kind.  The more I think about the lyrics, the more I realize that all of our relationships, in this life, are the hurting kind.

Husband snippy at wife?  Hurting kind of love.  Child disrespectful to Mom? Hurting kind of love.  A friend betrays a friend? Hurting kind of love.  Husband or Wife cheats? Hurting kind of love.  All around us, there are relationships that in some respect are hurting kind.

Except there’s one relationship that isn’t the hurting kind. God.  God is love and He loves us.  While we might understand that in our mind, we may not always truly believe it. In times of questioning, remember these keys factors of God’s love:

  • God’s love is steadfast and unchanging
  • God’s love comforts us
  • God’s love is revealed to us through His Son, Jesus Christ
  • God’s love is poured into us through the Holy Spirit
  • God’s love compels us to love one another

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!” ~Psalm 36:7 (NIV)

The only relationship, that is perfect love, is the one with God through the trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It’s the only one that isn’t the hurting kind.

~EmilyHurting Kind