What is the One Thing You Would Change?

During a visit with my dear friend Amber, she asked me a thought-provoking question.  

It’s one that I’ve thought about frequently for 2 years. 

If there was one thing in my life I could change, what would it be?

Does that mean right now?  As in, I want a different car? A different career? A different shirt?

Or does that mean something significant that would have changed the course of my life or my impact on others? 

Would it be accepting the assignment to England earlier in my Air Force career?

Getting baptized earlier? Starting a ministry in the midst of doubt?

Would it be starting my Doctorate immediately after my Masters or wait?

Adoption sooner?  More kiddos in my house?

A different retirement location?  

One thing I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would change is from the night of my Senior prom.  You see, my mom had to work that night and I’d told her that my date and I would swing by her workplace so she could see us all dressed up.  But we were running behind…and rather than be late to dinner, we skipped going by to see my mom.  I distinctly remember her face the next day saying that she was sad that she didn’t get to see me.  


I can only imagine her anticipation at work slowing turning into the realization that I wasn’t coming.  To this day, I regret disappointing my mom so completely.  

Other than disappointing my mom on prom night, my answer is pretty simple…I don’t know that there is much I would change.  Even the awful decisions and consequences of my life had purpose.  I would not be who I am today without many of these “learning opportunities.”  

I wonder if Paul (formerly Saul) would change anything from his life.  At the time of his conversion to Christianity, he was a well-known, educated Jew, who actively participated in the persecution of Christ-followers.  He was aggressive in finding Christians.  He was meticulous in punishing them. He wanted to eradicate Christians.  And he was mean in that desire.

An example of his actions is seen in Acts Chapter 7 when he gladly holds the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen, the 1stmartyr for Christianity.  In Acts 8:1 (CSB) it states, “Saul agreed with putting him to death.”  Other versions state that Saul was “delighted” by Stephen’s death.  

Delighted?   

To me, that screams of maliciousness.  It seems extremely mean-spirited.  

Yet just a one chapter later, we find ourselves reading about Saul on the road to Damascus, where he encounters the voice of Jesus and is struck blind.  Talk about the Lord getting his attention in a major way!!! The good news is that at that point Saul believes in Christ and the conversion through salvation.  He is forgiven of his sins, his sight is restored, he is renamed Paul, and he becomes a staunch supporter of the Gospel.  The epitome of forgiveness, grace and salvation.  

I imagine there was then moments of great doubt, remorse, and regret about the life he had previously led.  Hypothetically if I were Paul, I would have a few things that I’d like to change about my past.  In 1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV) we see that Paul said, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

Paul believed he was the Chief Sinner.  The worst of the worst.  

While we understand that God doesn’t rack-and-stack sinful behavior, counting one more egregious than another, what we do see from 1 Timothy is that Paul did have remorse and acknowledgment of his awful behavior in the past.  

Would he have wanted to change the past?  Probably, yes.  But I would argue that it was his aggressive persecution of Christians in his past that made him so much more relatable and a solid witness for Christ later in life.  Perhaps in the midst of regretting the past, Paul was wise enough to know that his past, while terrible, would serve a future purpose.  

You see, every bad decision and tragic event of our past makes us who we are today.  And God will use every experience in our past for His glory now.  

There’s not much in my life that I would change. Every single decision and event has shaped me into the person that I am today. 

Is there something you would change in your life? Come to the porch and share your thoughts. 

~Emily

Transitions: Change and Growth

I am overwhelmed by all the changes that happened in my life this last week.  I officially retired from the Air Force after 24 years, 10 months, and 26 days (would it just be easier to continue saying 25 years?!?!?!).  That means I was accepted into the “blue card club”; AKA I got my retired military ID card.

As a result of that transition, I was given 30 days to establish formal residency in the state of Alabama.  That means I gave up my Oregon driver’s license this week, which I might add had a 28-year-old-Emily photo and weight.  I traded that in for a Jabba-The-Hut photo with a 25-pound weight gain on a black and white temporary Alabama ID.

This week also brought a switch in health care insurance to retired status for my whole family, as well as registration for voting.  The next Alabama voting season will literally be the first time I have ever voted in an actual polling booth and not through an absentee ballot.

Overwhelming transitions that changed many of my self-identifiers.

*No longer active duty…now retired.

*No longer an Oregonian…now an Alabamian (is that the correct term??!?!?!).

*No longer insured for free…now paying lots for healthcare.

*No longer absentee voter…now a poll voter.

While I was feeling overwhelmed this week, our good-good God took time to remind me that we are all in transition.  Sometimes those transitions are overwhelming and sometimes they seem minor, but those transitions are always blessings from God. Those transitions grow us into stronger women…stronger wives & mommas…stronger friends…stronger Christians.

The book of Joshua is filled with amazing reminders that we are not the only ones who have faced transition.  I would argue that after forty years of wandering through the wilderness, God’s people were facing transition as they prepared to enter the promised land.  They faced transition when Moses died.  They faced a transition when Moses’ assistant, Joshua, was placed in charge.

Joshua faced a life-changing transition from the support team to a leader.

As always, God provided guidance.  He told Joshua, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:7-8 NIV).

God’s words of direction became a foundation of Joshua’s leadership.  Our Father went on to state, “Have I not commanded you Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NIV).

Joshua’s leadership status and mission were huge transitions in comparison with me getting a couple of new ID cards.  Yet, it illustrates that transitions happen to us all. Large and small transitions happen every day.

Your identity may change.  Your status may change. Your circumstance may change. But remember this; overwhelming or not, His hand is with us in every transition.

~Emily

Military

 

This was not supposed to be my life…

Bear

I walked into the living room and stopped dead in my tracks.  Apparently my husband and my father-in-law had been busy trying their “Chip and Joanna” decorating skills in my living room while I had been at work. As my husband came around the corner, he paused–looking at me and innocently asked, “What do you think?”  As I stood there with my hands on my hips, mouth hanging wide open, remembering how to breathe, I tried desperately to come up with any appropriate response. All that came out of my mouth was “this wasn’t supposed to be my life.”

There was a bear mounted on my wall.  A BEAR. Yes, yes, yes–you read that correctly. A bear. Is. Mounted. On. My. Living room. Wall.  When I called Erin to tell her, she was imagining a bear skin mounted to the wall.  No, no, Erin.  This is a fully stuffed, hanging on a tree limb, black bear.  Did I mention this is in the living room?!??!  Seriously, what had I possibly done to give him ANY indication that this would be an “Emily approved” action? Never, ever, ever did I imagine I would be the woman who has dead animals mounted in her living room.  Never.

This was not supposed to be my life.

I wonder if this is how Esther felt about being a Jewish woman taken as a concubine to the King. The Bible tells of a woman who played a dangerous game between a powerful King and her mentor, Mordecai. I bet she was thinking, “This was not supposed to be my life.”

When Saul was removed from a life of taxes and dishonesty…when he was given a new name and occupation, did he think, “This was not supposed to be my life.”?

I wonder if Mary felt complete dismay at being chosen to birth the Savior of the world.  Did another Mary feel unworthy of forgiveness after years of prostitution? Did either of them think, “This was not supposed to be my life.”?

When a barren Sarah, brought Hagar to her husband so that they may have offspring, did she look at a child that was not hers and think, “This was not supposed to be my life.”?

One could argue that Jesus was the only human who has ever walked the Earth and was able to say, “This was supposed to be my life.”  He was the only one who had ideas, hopes, and dreams that were not altered in any capacity. He had a destiny and He fulfilled each part of it with grace.

Whether living a life that was or was not supposed to be, each of us are living the path God has planned for us.  Jesus lived the life God intended and He knew it.  The rest of us…well, we are also living the life God intended.  We just don’t always know it.  Which is why we question and make statements like “this was not supposed to be my life.”

Looking at the bear on my living room wall, I still think about how this was not supposed to be my life. I’m in good company with others who lived a life they didn’t think was supposed to be theirs.  Honestly, I’m quiet content with the life I have been given. I’m not fond of the bear on my wall, but it’s part of the life God wants me to live.

~Emily

“And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”~2 Peter 1:4 (NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

When God meets you between a Pawn Shop and a KFC (Guest Blogger)

I had to stop the car… I had to! The tears streaming down my face were too much to even see the road in front of me. The weight of the world sat on my shoulders. At least, that’s how it felt…

As if the last 11 months hadn’t already been some of the toughest of my life, now I was faced with a decision that would not only alter my life, but my husband’s and daughter’s too. “God, I need you,” I whispered under my breath. “This decision is too much for me to make alone. I NEED to hear Your voice. I want to make a decision based on faith, NOT on fear, but You have to show me the way.” You see, as I sat there in that pothole-filled parking lot, with a pawn shop to my left and a KFC to my right, I needed a divine word from heaven.

Earlier that day, I was getting ready to leave the house to pick up our daughter from preschool when Sam received a phone call from his attorney. The company he previously worked for was suing him – for 1.4 million dollars. And the reason? Well, it all started 11 months prior when he called me from out of town to tell me that he’d just lost his job as partner at a tax firm because he’d committed fraud. The money they were seeking included their losses, plus the cost of forensic experts to investigate his offenses and clean up the mess I now found myself in.

We certainly didn’t have enough to give them all that they wanted, but they still wanted all that we had. The attorney said we could ‘fight’ it and claim that some of that money they were taking was mine (from my own business that I’d worked to build), and that taking everything my daughter and I had left to live on would cause a financial burden for the two of us. While the opportunity existed to ‘fight’ it, there was still a chance it could be denied and I was told, “it could look bad to the judge” who would ultimately determine my husband’s sentence. Sam left it in my hands to decide.

This is where I needed divine direction. Either way I went, there was an element of fear and an element of faith. Do I ‘fight’ handing over the money and have faith that God will grant us this “pardon”? and that my daughter and I will still have money to live on? My fear with this option was that it could have a negative impact on Sam’s sentencing if denied and we could lose the money anyway. Alternatively, I could agree to hand over every little bit of money we had left, relying solely on God to provide everything we needed from that moment on. It seemed like an impossible decision.

The idea of possibly losing my husband to jail time and being left as a single mother to care for my daughter with no money was unbearable. I couldn’t stop crying as the outcomes of both decisions swept through my mind and pierced me deep within. Through all of the tears and pleas to heaven, I noticed the sun was setting – a beautiful palette of purples, pinks and oranges. I sat there waiting… partly in confidence that God WOULD answer me, and partly because I still felt out of breath, and out of life, from all the crying… and I needed to get myself together before pulling up to the preschool. The tears began to subside as I stared off in to the beautiful, calming sunset, when suddenly it happened: I felt the Holy Spirit whisper, “What’s the right thing to do?

A simple question would become my answer: What IS the right thing to do? I thought about it for a moment… The right thing to do was to hand over the remainder of any money we had left – which would ultimately include anything that was considered mine monetarily. The company Sam had worked for was out a LOT of money because of his wrong-doing and the right thing to do was to give back what we could (even though he would still be responsible for a huge remainder of the balance when this was all said and done). I knew I had my answer, and while it was hard to imagine what was next for us, a gust of faith surrounded me.

Suddenly, I found myself saying, “Lord, I will do this in obedience to You. And therefore, I stand on YOUR promises. And Your promises are that You are a rewarder of those who diligently seek You – and I have diligently sought You in this. You say that no good thing will You withhold from those who walk uprightly. I know that You shall supply all my needs according to Your riches in glory, and God, You watch over Your Word to perform it, so I hold You to Your Word!” I spoke His Words back to Him in faith, with boldness, confidence and humility. And just like that – as I held on to the promises of my loving Father, peace flooded my soul.

A short while later, I returned home and told Sam my decision. After he spoke with his attorney, he said he was “proud” of me. I made it clear my decision was based solely in response to being obedient to Christ and not because of fear of any outcome. Man’s approval of my decision meant nothing to me, only God’s. Sam mentioned he had talked to another friend to get some advice on what to do. I asked him what his friend said. His exact words to Sam? “What’s the right thing to do?” And so, it was confirmed. That day I not only discovered my answer, but also learned when you have a heart open to hearing His voice, God can meet you anywhere – even between a pawn shop and a KFC.

Thoughts from the Blog: We can speak to God from anywhere – I’m so thankful He wasn’t restricted to a church or prayer closet when I needed Him that day. He hears His children when we speak to Him, no matter where we are, and He longs to speak back to us. It may not always be an obvious “spoken” word in the way this was, but I do believe that God will give peace and confirm His thoughts when you’re not sure if you’ve heard Him or not. Spend time in the Word – After all, those are His words to YOU. Spend time with other believers who can speak life and truth into your situation and who will pray with you. The Bible says to “Pray without ceasing,” and while there are plenty of moments in a day where we can’t literally be praying, I think it’s God’s way of saying: pray whenever, wherever, for whatever. Let your day be a continual conversation with Him – His sheep know His voice, and you will know His voice from spending time with Him.

Verses Mentioned in this Blog (my paraphrase):

  1. You are a rewarder of those who diligently seek You (Hebrews 11:6b)
  2. No good thing will You withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11)
  3. You shall supply all my needs according to Your riches in glory (Philippians 4:19)
  4. You watch over Your Word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12)
  5. Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

~Anonymous Guest Blogger

Two Random Strangers

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a relaxing yoga retreat as part of girl’s weekend.  There were five of us in our party, and while I hadn’t met all of them before, we were all connected through various friendships, and I quickly felt like I’d known these other women for years!

As we were a larger group, we were promised the small guesthouse which housed six—a more intimate refuge that would allow for a little extra privacy.  Imagine our surprise when, upon our arrival, we were told we would instead be staying in the larger guesthouse that would have several more bedrooms for other attending guests.  Well alright then…slight disappointment, but we’ll deal.  After all, we’re grown women; we can handle anything!

Three members of our group were assigned to the downstairs bedroom, and Emily and I were given the upstairs bedroom.  Okie dokie.  We were led up the beautiful steps, through the small loft, and stepped into our bedroom….to find two EXTRA beds with random suitcases lying on top.  Ummmm, what in the name of holy downward dog is this?!  We each only need one bed!  You didn’t have to get us suitcases full of clothes as a gift!  Wait….you mean there are other actual people in this room??  We’re sharing a room with two complete STRANGERS?!  How are we supposed to stay up late talking about life?  What if I snore when I’m sleeping?  What if I toot?  Wait…what if THEY toot?!

Ultimately, after a minor internal meltdown and ensuing self-pep talk, we made the best of it!  It turned out, our roommates, Jennifer and Annie, were wonderful!  We had some great conversation, and thoroughly enjoyed our time!  (And Jennifer let me and Emily know that we were masters at being able to whisper quietly enough that she never even heard us when she was falling asleep!)

What does this have to do with anything, you ask?  I believe we are allowed or given circumstances in our lives that periodically put us out of our comfort zone.  Maybe it’s unnerving to meet new people.  Maybe your palms are sweaty because you’ve gone out on a limb and are about to present a major idea in front of your colleagues.  Or maybe your heart is racing because you’re getting ready to walk into a new church with your children, and dreading the “Are you married?” question after your recent divorce.

Often times, we try to steer clear of those obstacles so that the discomfort or pain can be avoided.  But I believe God has allowed those opportunities so that we might lean into Him.  If I haven’t heard His still-small Voice, I typically pray for Him to please shout it loud and clear so that there’s no mistaking the direction I’m to take.  But there’s also something beautiful in the picture of His voice, calm and gentle, telling me what to do, as I’m leaning in to hear Him, closer and closer so as not to miss a single breath.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV) Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not into thine own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths.

I want to encourage you to lean into Him when you’re given obstacles that are uncomfortable.  Ask Him what you’re supposed to do with the situation.  Don’t shy away from the awkward moments.  It could just be that God is giving you an opportunity for some growth and courage.  Even if it’s by sharing a bedroom with two random strangers.

What about you?  Have you had a time where circumstances were in your way that allowed some growth and reflection?  Tell us about it in the comments below!