All Alone In This World

Do you ever feel as though you are all alone in this world?

You’re surrounded by people every day at work, at home, at church…even at the grocery store or gas station.  You’re with your mom, your best friend, your boyfriend or husband.  And yet, you feel alone.

Throughout our lives, women tend to have similar moments where we have felt especially alone.

The few moments after your High School graduation, when you feel excited about the future, yet there’s a moment of knowing you’re leaving home to “go it alone” in the world.

Some moments at church leave us feeling solo when we see groups of other women gathered in chatty-hug-filled circles.

There are moments in a marriage where you feel so misunderstood or undervalued that you feel completely and utterly alone.

Those nights where you can’t figure out why the baby is still crying and you’re exhausted or the nights after your last child has turned 18 and moved out of the house…those are also moments where you may experience that sense of complete aloneness.

In my own life, I’ve felt alone during military deployments, in the failure of IVF, in the aftermath of divorce, when hearing of someone’s cancer diagnosis, or in the misstep of dieting.  Often when I’ve felt most alone, I’ve also felt hopeless.  And right there in that hopelessness is the lie that the enemy tells us…that we are the only ones who have ever felt that “alone” time.

In 1 Kings 19:1-18, we read that there was a time that Elijah felt utterly alone and hopeless.  At that moment, the Lord gives Elijah questions that will allow Elijah to understand that he isn’t alone.  Rather than concede that God is with him, Elijah repeats the lie two times that he is alone.

In the middle of the chaos and fierce winds, God whispers to Elijah, “You are not alone!

I think it is time that women remind each other of God’s constant whispering, “You are not alone!”  God is literally with us each step of our journey.  Yet it’s easy in the moments of despair, the moments by ourselves, or the moments steeped in sin, to forget that God has a plan for us.  And the plan was never for us to be alone.  Ever.

If you are feeling alone, remember the whisperings of God’s promise that you aren’t alone.  Remember that you are always welcome on the porch if you need to be reminded of that soft-spoken promise.

~Emily

all alone in this world

Wreaths Across America

I had the privilege of laying wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery last Saturday.  As an Air Force museum curator and advocate for enlisted history, I had a list of Airmen that I wanted to visit while I was at the cemetery. Despite being ready to walk miles in the rain laying wreaths, I wasn’t ready for the emotional reaction I had to visiting some of these graves.  I started crying at the headstones of Airmen I had met and those I’d never met.  I was truly surprised by my tears.

After the emotional morning, I did a little digging on the history of the Christmas wreath.

– Wreaths are typically evergreen as a symbol of the strength of life

– Holly symbolizes immortality

– Cedar symbolizes strength and healing

– Red of the ribbon is the bloodshed (some say by militaries; others by Christ)

– In ancient Rome & Greece, wreaths were a sign of victory of achievement

– By the 16th century, Christians in Germany used wreaths as the hope in Christ

All of these facts about the Christmas wreath seem so fitting for the fallen heroes at our National Cemeteries.

Wreaths Across America is a non-profit organization that started in 2007 as a means to honor our fallen war heroes at National Cemeteries.  Each year they coordinate the wreath-laying in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and 24 countries around the world.  https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org

Their mission includes three simple words:

Remember. Honor. Teach.

In remembering fallen military members at Arlington in learning the meaning of the wreath, I found that I focused on the three-word mission statement.  “Remember. Honor. Teach.”

Beautiful words about our military members, which are also applicable to our Christian faith.

As we head into the final weeks of madness leading to Christmas, let’s take a moment to reflect this week on what God did for us by allowing his only Son to come to earth to die for us.  Let’s remember, honor and teach this Christmas season.

~Emily

Snow Graves

No Boundary Society

I went to a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery last week.  As you would expect, it was a somber experience filled with military honors and traditions.  When we were departing, we noticed two young people taking a “selfie” with a coffin in the background.

To say I was shocked was an understatement.

Is this where we are in society? We take selfies at funerals?  We videotape young children in fights? We try to be the 1st to post accidents on social media? Rather than becoming a first responder, we want to be the first reporter?

Have we lost all common sense or are we in a spiral where we’ve failed to teach others boundaries?

The Bible’s book of Judges illustrates the mess that humans can make when we lack boundaries.   “Everyone was doing what was right in his own eyes” Judges 21:25. This was a time in Israel when there wasn’t a king who was able to set the structure for society to follow.  Thus, everyone starts making their own structure rather than turning to God for structure.

Essentially we start to see a scenario when man’s “anything-goes” attitude is used in place of God’s stand for what is acceptable and what is not. When we have unstructured thought and behavior, harm results.  Isaiah 5:20-21 warns of what comes to people and nations as a result of this attitude.  “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight.”

I understand that cultures change and evolve.  In most regards, there are positive advancements; women can vote, slavery was abolished, public school accessible to everyone, liberty granted to all (just as a few examples).

But a lack of boundaries in our nation has allowed cursing on network television, roadside signs of scantily clothed women, questionable music lyrics, ‘PG’ movies that would have been ‘R’ 20 years ago…and selfies at a funeral.

While the world seems to be going nuts, we are blessed to have the book of standards that creates boundaries; the Bible.

At any point that behavior seems questionable, we only need to go back to the Bible.

At any point that we feel boundaries lacking, we only need to go back to the Bible.

At any point we question authority, we only need to go back to the Bible.

I can’t control young selfie-takers; nor can I control what their parents teach them.  I can control myself and what I teach my own child.  I want the Godly boundaries in our life.  I need only go back to the Bible to define those.

~Emily

Society

Regret Reflections at a Funeral

This morning I will attend the funeral of a kind-spirited man that I served with in the military.  I didn’t know him well, but in the few times I worked with him I discovered that he was professional and genuinely nice.

I learned of his death on Facebook. To say I was shocked is an understatement.  The most shocking part?  He’s my age and died of “natural causes.”  That puts your own mortality into perspective when someone in your age bracket dies.

As a result of not knowing him well, I have only one regret about my interactions with him.

I don’t know if he was a Christian.

Lately, that’s one of the first things that comes to my mind when I hear of a tragic accident or death…were they a Christian?

Guess what?  My question is too late.  I should be asking the questions about a person’s belief in Christ prior to hearing about their demise.

This is the type of regret that lingers, even when I understand I can’t rewind time to ask the question.  This type of regret often motivates us into action.

In the New Testament, we see that Paul was a determined persecutor of Christians prior to his own conversion (Acts 9:1, Galatians 1:13, 1 Timothy 1:13).  After Paul becomes a Christ-follower, he has lingering regrets about his bloody actions against Christians (Acts 22:16).

In Ephesians 3:8, he titles himself “the least of all the saints” and in 1 Corinthians 15:9 he confesses he’s “the least of the apostles.”  He’s claimed those titles as a result of the guilt he has regarding his past violence against the church.

The reflections spurred by guilt, caused Paul to initiate mission campaigns to preach the Gospel of Christ.  He endured persecution himself but became a stronger advocate for Christ as a result of being driven into action based on his guilt.

What lesson is there to be learned through guilt?

To the degree that regret can be fixed, we should fix it.  Paul took his guilt and began sharing the Good News.  My regret over not knowing someone’s status with Christ should spur me towards sharing the Good News as well.

Don’t allow the reflections of guilt at a funeral be for nothing.

~Emily

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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

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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

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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Rough Patch

There was evil in the air last Saturday.

A horrific tragedy unfolded in my community when a husband decided to kill his wife and children, before lighting their home on fire and subsequently committing suicide.  On the same day, a friend had her basement renters also commit suicide.  On the same day, an Airman I mentor lost his brother in a terrible car accident.

These three separate events, in three separate cities, have impacted my life this week.  Not because I knew the key players, but because it has impacted people I care about. It has impacted my church’s youth group. It has impacted my military community. It has impacted the elementary school.

When I found out about my Airmen’s brother’s death, I told him that I was available if he needed to chat. He’s Muslim.  I’m Christian.  I wanted to offer prayers, but was unsure how to say that without offending him or his family.  I was treading softly, as we are both Active Duty.  He told me, “Chief, I’m going through a rough patch.”  And my immediate response was this:  “It’s okay to be going through a rough patch. It’s not okay to stay there for a long time.”

No one enjoys hard times….the rough patches.  And yet, we’ve all had a rough patch.  The rough patches could be unemployment, divorce, infertility or the rough patch could be health related.  The rough patch could be gossip, slander, low self-esteem or loneliness.  The rough patch could be death:  a family member, a murder, or a suicide.  There are thousands of reasons for the rough patches. Rough Patches are really hard when you feel as though you have done everything correctly, but you still have to suffer through the rough patch.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”        1 Peter 4:12-19 (NIV)

 In 1 Peter 4:12-19, we read that there will be suffering for the Christian.  We will see and experience the rough patches. Essentially, we should expect some amount of trial and tribulation, and yet we should also continue to press forward looking towards God for help and comfort.

The rough patch offers us time to examine ourselves while in the trial and allows us to entrust ourselves to God within the trial.

Peter warns us in verse 12 that the trials are expected. Yet, we are often surprised by the intensity of the trials.  Peter refers to the trials as a “Fiery Ordeal.” I don’t know about you, but the adjective “fiery” makes me feel like this is a super big deal!  Fiery is intense.

More than the intensity, I think I’m often surprised by the purpose of the rough patch. On a brain level, I understand that God is allowing us time to draw closer to Him.  On a heart level, I want so desperately to have everyone healthy and happy around me!  I understand the trial’s ultimate purpose, but like most of us, I would rather not fulfill the purpose through a rough patch.

When there is evil in the air…when we are facing hard times…when we are going through a rough patch, it’s so much easier to bear the burden in remembering that our God is for us. He is with us. He is allowing us to stretch and grow through trials in order to be closer to Him.

The rough patches suck.  They’re horrible.  But it’s okay to be in the rough patch.  They have purpose. They let us grow.

Just don’t stay there for too long.

~Emily

P.S. If you are contemplating staying in the rough patch too long, I am praying that you seek Godly council.Find a strong Christian woman to pray with, talk to your Pastor, call a suicide hotline…please, please, please get help.

The rough patch is meant to grow you…not break you.

Truth Talk

I want to do what you do, so what advice do you have for me?

Recently, I witnessed a younger Airman asking a retired Chief Master Sergeant about how to become a Special Operations Airmen within the Air Force.  For those unfamiliar with the special operations community, it’s not easy. Nor should it be. These Airmen are the elite of the Air Force and as a result, they are very selective on candidates.

The Chief said, “Train hard. Be physically, mentally, and spiritually ready.  Love what you do right now.”

The Airmen responded, “Well, I currently work on computers, so I’m behind a desk all day.  I hate it. I want to be doing something I’m passionate about.”

The Chief asked, “Are you good at computers?”

“I’m alright; I just want to be in a job that I’m passionate about,” said the Airman.

The Chief then responded with a mic drop, “If you are only an ‘alright’ computer guy, you’ll just be an ‘alright’ special operations guy…and we need excellence; not just alright.”

Whoa.  Dreams dashed. Balloons popped. Hopes crushed.  And yet, I was incredibly proud of the honesty this Chief provided this Airman.  Truth talk sometimes is brutal.  In my experience, truth talk is lacking in most people’s life.

As followers of Christ, we are not called to mediocrity.  Rather, we are called to greatness.  God does not expect us to be an expert in every aspect of our lives. However, He expects we will work diligently to be the best we can be.

“Whatever you do, do your works heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men…” ~Colossians 3:23

While you aren’t expected to be an expert in a particular field, you should be your best to bring glory to God.  If you are attempting to be your best, you will be one of the best.  Even if you aren’t the best amongst your peers, you will then be your best for your God.  It does not glorify God when we settle for less than our best.

Let’s look at why mediocrity dishonors God, rather than glorying Him.  As followers of Christ, everything we do reflects upon who our God is. We are the ambassadors for the Kingdom. Thus mediocrity does not encourage non-believers to know Christ.

We may not like our job.  We may actually hate our jobs.  It might be a career or it might be an entry-level job.  Either way, dislike of the job is unacceptable when you consider that the associated emotions reflect mediocrity.

First, let’s offer gratitude to God for having a job. There are plenty of Americans struggling to get or retain a job.  If we settle for mediocre work and continuously complain about our job, we are not glorifying God.  We are insulting Him. And we are insulting those who would gladly take any job.

Second, consider giving God the glory of the job outcome, rather than focusing on the dislike of the job taskers.  You may not feel like it’s a glorifying job, but it’s truly not about you. It is about Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:16 states “For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him.”

The bottom line is this…it doesn’t matter if you are or you want to be a special operations Airmen, a computer specialist, a writer, a stay at home mom, an event planner, or a cashier…if you are attempting to be your best, then you will be your best.

And as your best, you bring glory to God.

~Emily