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!

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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

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The Debt Struggle

I lease a car.  I know it goes against everything Dave Ramsey says, but I couldn’t help it.  I caved when I needed a new vehicle three years ago, and settled into my brand new Hyundai (which I adore by the way).  And now it’s time to make a decision on either leasing or purchasing.

When I went into the local dealership this morning, I spoke with the most amazing salesman.  We’ll call him Ricky.  (Which helps because that’s his actual name!)  Ricky was kind and funny, and he walked me through my options.  Peyton and I got a great chuckle when she insisted that any new vehicle we purchase needed a button start and an extra USB port, to which he replied, “Any other wants, Princess?”  He had watched me tease her about her desires for her own vehicle, and good-naturedly joined in the ribbing.

We had finally started talking numbers when the finance guy made his appearance. We’ll call him Finance Guy because I got upset enough to forget his name.  After much back and forth about what I was and wasn’t willing to negotiate, Finance Guy said to me, “You won’t really walk out over “$XXX, will you?”  And I promptly said yes, to which he replied, “Is money really that tight?”

For someone who’s never short of words, the FIRST words that came to my mind weren’t very friendly.  However, I replied to him that it wasn’t, but I had a budget and I was sticking to it.  “A $16 dollar difference may not be much to you, but I don’t need the car bad enough to go over my budget.”

At that point, Ricky very nicely offered me his card, and I told him I’ll get back to him.  This event made me realize I don’t want to lease, and when it’s time for me to actually HAVE to buy a car, I’ll definitely go to Ricky for my car needs.  Finance Guy won’t be invited.

This would never have been me years ago.  I was accustomed to buying what I wanted and credit cards always seemed like the best option to get what I wanted and when I wanted it.  A new pair of shoes?  Charge it!  Go out to eat at the fancy restaurant in the big city?  Put it on this card, please.  Darn…groceries were more than I thought.  Credit.

It was a never ending cycle.  Now, I’m not here to tout Dave Ramsey’s plan.  I DID attend Financial Peace University twice, and it was beneficial for me and my journey to being debt free.  What I want you to feel right now, is this:  you’re not alone.  I’ve been down this road.  There are things now that I pay for that others would think is crazy.  If I want to go to a movie, I go; and I get popcorn!  My Pop would call that popcorn a ridiculous purchase.  Other things, I’m not willing to give in and pay for.  If I can’t afford the fancy shoes by paying in cash, I just don’t get them.  I cut up and closed all of my credit cards…I don’t want the temptation.

Finance Guy thought that $16 was a non-issue and it quite possibly could be for some people.  But God tells me to be a good steward of my money.  I prayed about my car situation.  I felt God’s peace over a number.  I didn’t get it, so I walked away.

When I’m struggling with where my money should go and how I should be spending it, these verses always seems to come to mind:

The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty. –Proverbs 21:5

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; -Hebrews 13:5a

If you struggle with that same problem—saving and spending in the right and God-honoring places—I encourage you to take this struggle to the cross.  Surrender your will regarding money at His feet, and ask Him to take on the burden for you.  He gladly will.

And here’s a quick practical tip that might help you when you’re in a store with a cart full of stuff you may not need.  If it’s not something I’ve already included in my budget, I walk around the store a little bit with it in my cart.  If I start second guessing whether or not I should buy it, I take it right back to its original home and walk away.  It’s not worth it if I’m questioning it at that moment!

What purchases do you struggle with that we can pray for?  I have an obsession with office supplies, namely pens and cool notebooks, so I’m literally having to ask Jesus to help me walk away from Staples or the supply section at Target on a daily basis! Share in the comments below.

~Erin

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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)

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The Desitin Covering

Do you know just how extra-strength Desitin is?!  Does anyone even know what the actual ingredients are in that stuff?  I’m pretty sure it’s part Vaseline and part cement.  And I would know.  Because my daughter covered herself in it once upon a time.

When McKenna was a baby, her dad and I worked opposite schedules so that she would only be in daycare for about 3 hours a day.  Because I worked the evening shift, I would often come home late at night wired from a day of work and relax on the couch with a good book or pop on a tv show to rest my brain.  This often resulted in short “rests” during the morning hours.

One morning, I decided I needed a mommy nap and drifted off to sleep for about an hour and woke up to McKenna babbling to me softly as she sat in front of the couch. As I focused my eyes, I realized that my sweet daughter’s rosy cheeks were gone.  In her place, sat Casper the Friendly Ghost!

As I slept, my mischievous daughter had taken a tube of Desitin and completely emptied it all over her body.  Her arms, chest, legs, toes, face, and yes, even her hair were slathered in that super strength butt paste.  It took a couple of washes to get it off of her body, and we were STILL shampooing Desitin from her scalp almost a week later.  It was a mess!

As I was recounting this story to a friend recently, I thought about that thick coat of protection she had put all over her skin.  Why don’t I cover myself like that with Jesus?

Every day, we are hit with attacks from the enemy.  Our worldly desires get in the way, and selfish ambition trumps the desire to serve others.  I’m challenged daily with whether I’m good enough—as a mom, as a leader, as a friend.  Doubts creep into my head, and I allow them to linger far longer than they should.  And on days like today, where I’m feeling especially vulnerable, I realize it’s because I haven’t covered myself like my daughter covered herself with that ointment 19 years ago.

I am thankfully covered by the blood of Jesus and I have salvation because of it, praise God!  But I should also be covering myself with prayer—conversations between myself and the Holy Spirit.  Those prayers should be pouring from my mouth for me, my family, my neighbors, my country.

I should be covering myself with scripture, staining my heart with the blessed Word of the Holy Bible.  Those scriptures are a help to me in my time of need and doubt. They are a line of defense for a friend who’s having a hard day.

I should be covering myself with praise!  God gave us the grass we stand on, the giggle of a baby, the melody of a bird, and the breath that we breathe.  Speaking praises to Jesus for those things or singing worship music proclaiming His glory should be frequently flowing from my lips.

How do you cover yourself to stay protected from the enemy?  Is there a song, a verse, or prayer that is a go-to for you?  Share in the comments below.

~Erin

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

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Grandma’s Prayer Closet

Seeing someone’s prayer closet is exciting.  Seeing my grandmother’s prayer closet was an honor.

Wilma, or Grandma as I like to call her, is one of the most influential Christian women I know.  My Pop’s mom has been a believer since long before I was even a notion in my parents’ thoughts, and she raised her children to love and believe in Jesus Christ.  My Mom often describes her as the glue that holds the family together.

Long road trips across the country began in my late 20’s to take my children to meet Grandma and Grandpa in South Carolina.  During those vacations, there weren’t many days that went by that didn’t include Grandma meeting with shut-ins to pray with them, teaching the Sunday School class, or going to assist with the prison ministry in the women’s division.  She’s dealt with more heartache and struggle than almost anyone I’ve known.  And yet.  Her resilience is astounding.  I know that this is due to her strong faith in her Savior.

I surprised her with a quick overnight visit when I was back east several weeks ago. She had no idea I was coming, and the look of shock on her face as Pop told her that someone had left “2 hams at the door” as Emily and I strode in behind him was priceless!  It was wonderful to have a little visit with her.

The morning I left, as I chatted with her, she asked me if I wanted to see her prayer closet.  I was thrilled to be able to say yes.  As we went into her room, I saw how she had transformed the space into a cozy area to be with Jesus.

A pile of devotionals, studies, and notebooks sat at her makeshift desk.  A little side table was set up with stationery for notes to be sent out for encouragement. Concordances and commentaries were behind her chair on a bookshelf.  She even added a little coffeemaker in the room!  She told me she could get out of bed, make it, and then brew her coffee to get her time in with Jesus first thing in the morning without even having to leave the room!

Grandma knows that the time spent with Jesus to start her day is not only encouraging to others, it’s needed to help her day be well from the start.  She enjoys and loves the time she spends talking with God and soaking in His wisdom and instruction.  In that prayer closet, her children all the way down to her great-great-grandchild are prayed for.  Her friends and church members are prayed for.  Her town is prayed for.

Maybe you don’t have a prayer closet, or maybe you don’t have enough space to commandeer a space just for that.  Get creative!  I use a wall in my tiny home office to tape up prayers that I want to remember to pray for.  Because I didn’t have a lot of space, I have a large open container where I keep my Bible study materials.  It has notebooks, different Bible versions, and devotionals.  When it’s time to go to my prayer closet, I take the items from the container that I need for my time with Him.

Perhaps you don’t even have room for that.  Here’s what I would say to you.  Make whatever chair or couch or porch you sit on your prayer closet and just spend some time with Him….a little bit every day.  That time with Jesus will change you and grow you.  It always does.

~Erin

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Me, Grandma, & Andros, my grandson. (Ignore photobombing Peyton in the background!)