Blubbering to Bliss

Blubbering to Bliss

Have you ever watched a friend go from meltdown to joy…all in a matter of hours?

Erin and I are on a week long road trip/writing conference…and guess what?  I watched it happen this week.  I got to witness Erin go from blubbering, overwhelmed, messy crying in a Wal-Mart parking lot to complete contentment while putting her grandson to sleep.

And it was a beautiful thing to watch.

I’m not saying her messy crying is a beautiful thing to watch.  What I am saying is this:

~How privileged am I that I get to stand next to this amazing woman while we are doing life together?

~How blessed am I to witness the meltdown and help her make sense of the nonsense while she puts the pieces back together?

~How amazing is it that God gave us an opportunity to hang out and bond with all of our kids and grandkid?

~How beautiful is it that I got to rock her grandson to sleep while praying over him? (before she came and stole him from me…I mean seriously, he was already asleep in my arms!!!)

~Or better yet, how beautiful is it that I got to watch Erin sing hymns to him while he fought desperately to stay awake? (after she woke him up from my arms)

The point is this…the meltdowns happen so quickly and sometimes for no reason that we can pin point. But the bliss erases the memory of the meltdown.

I watched my best friend blubber in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

And then just an hour later, I got to watch her love on her Grandson in a way that only Grandma’s can.

I loved watching her in both moments.  Simply because she’s amazingly real, amazingly strong, and amazingly there for everyone.  Simply because she sharpens me just by being herself.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” ~Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

I thank God everyday for this girl who makes me a better woman…she truly is a treasure trove of friendship.  I hope and pray each of us is blessed with someone like her in our lives!

~Emily

Lean In

My 70+ pounds son just asked me to pick him up for a hug.  As he wrapped his arms around my neck and his legs around my waist, I tugged furiously at my shirt, which rode up exposing my tummy.  I said to him, “You’re almost too heavy for us to do this anymore.”  To which he responded, “Remember when you used to carry me like this all the time? You always told me, ‘lean in’.”

When he was straight up or leaning backwards, I had to strain against gravity.

I told him to ‘lean in’ because it made his weight closer to my center of gravity.  Essentially, it became easier to carry him.

God is constantly telling us ‘”lean in.”

When we lean in, we are learning.

When we lean in, we are relying on God.

When we lean in, we are stronger.

When we lean in, we get Godly council…because it comes from the sole source.

What does it mean to ‘lean in’ with God? It means we need to pray. We need to talk to God. We need to believe He’s for us.  It means we need to learn the Word…we need to get in the Bible.  It means we need to surround ourselves with God.

Rather than rely on ourselves, let’s rely on the Lord.

Let’s lean in so that the weight is more evenly distributed.

Let’s lean in to make bearing the load easier.

Let’s lean in.

~Emily

“Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” ~Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)

Gossip or Guidance?

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29

When I was a young Airman, I had a supervisor tell me that I was the type of person who thrived on chaos and created drama.  That statement hurt me to my core and allowed me to have some self-reflection time about the type of woman I wanted to be known as.  And guess what? I decided I didn’t want to be known as someone who was involved with chaos, drama, turmoil…and gossip.

Gossip is such an uncomfortable topic.  It’s uncomfortable because so many of us fall into the gossip trap at some point in our lives.  There are varying levels of gossip…the seemingly innocent gossip…the outrageous made-up gossip…and even the justifiable gossip cloaked in truth. There are different players in the game of gossip.  There is the initiator, the contributor, the facilitator, and even the victim.  I know that I have been involved in each of the roles and if I’m honest, in each of the levels of gossip too.

Erin and I were recently talking about the fabric of our friendship and how we’ve never had a fight.  We’ve never gossiped about each other.  We hold each other accountable.  We disagree with one another. Heck we have even disliked decisions that the other made, but we have never fought. Why? I believe there are several reasons.  Our friendship is built on trust. It’s built on respect. It’s built on love. And it’s a friendship that is built on Christ.

What would happen to us, as Christian women, if all our relationships were built on trust, respect, love and Christ?  What if we treated all of our relationships as ones without chaos, without drama, without gossip?

Would we be happier people? Would we accomplish more? Would we reflect Christ’s love for all of His people?

Obviously, you can’t know if all your relationships are built on mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual love, or mutual relationship with God.  But you can know if you will exhibit these traits.

Let’s go back to gossip.  Women typically love to talk. And we love to talk about each other.  We are a catty group of humans.  It does not matter what label you put on yourself, women are at fault for talking about each other.  Christian women too.  Ours however, may be more dangerous gossip than that of the non-believer.  Why?  Well, we mask our gossip as “venting” or worse as “seeking council” from other Christian women.

Please know this, I believe we need to seek wise council.  Occasionally, we need to vent.  If we keep our thoughts, dreams, and prayers to ourselves then we are unable to be held accountable by other Christians.  The distinction between wise council seeking and gossip is when you make the decision about whether or not the conversation will make its way back to the subject.

Let’s imagine you take a topic to someone you trust and respect…simply to vent or to get guidance.

If you talk about someone and never intend to bring it to him or her, then it could be gossip.

If you talk about someone and intend to bring it to him or her after seeking council, then it may not be gossip…it may truly be seeking guidance.

“Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.” – Psalm 101:5

Let’s flip the script now.  Let’s imagine that someone is coming to you for a venting session or because they are seeking your guidance.

If you aren’t sending them to speak with the individual to resolve the situation, then your guidance is not holy…it is likely part of the gossip.

If you join in the venting session because you’ve been hurt by the individual, then you are contributing to the gossip.

If you ask them what their role is in the scenario, or if you ask them what they intend to say to the individual, or if you encourage them to speak to the person…then you are stopping the gossip. You are providing guidance.

“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.” – Proverbs 11:13

There’s a fine line between gossip and guidance.  It’s a hard line to see, but it’s an easy one to cross.  Our flesh wants the confirmation that we have been wronged. We crave the vindication that we are right and that we are justified in the gossiping.  As humans, we desire someone else to come beside us and share our outrage at injustices…perceived or real.

But what would happen if we stopped the gossip?

What would happen if we started building our relationships on trust, respect, love and Christ?

If we stopped gossiping and replaced that with truth talk directly to the people involved, wouldn’t we start building trust, respect, love…and show how Christ would have functioned?

There are relationships that are toxic. Ones that eventually need to be severed. But for the average relationship, trust and respect are started with honesty.  Honesty can be sometimes harsh or sometimes softer, but should never be expressed in a deliberately hurtful manner.  Honest talk builds healthy relationships.

“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip.” – Proverbs 20:19

 Let’s band together as Christian women to refine one another. Together we can start to stop the gossip within our homes, our churches, and our workplaces. Let’s identify the flaws and press into the Lord with our desire to do better.

~Emily

“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”               – Psalm 141:3

 

 

 

 

Find Your Community

Last night, our weekly women’s Bible study group met for week two of our newest venture.  You often hear me refer to them as Table 8.  When I met most of these women a little over a year ago, I was a table leader at our church’s women’s Bible study.  The names of the participants were prayed over and given seat assignments. While I’ve led Bible studies before, this was my first time leading a table at my new church in California, and I had no idea who or what to expect!  We’ve since changed table numbers, grafted new women into our group, and even started meeting outside of church to go through different Bible studies together.  But we’ve always been “Table 8.”

Table 8 has talked at length about being surrounded by a community of like-minded women to share life together.  Sometimes they’re referred to as life groups.  Others call them communities.  Often, women struggle with finding women they can fellowship with in this way.  We fear what the other people will think about our life and choices.  We wonder if they’ll judge us for our past, look down on us for how our children behave, or shy away for the depression we’re currently sitting in.

I did this for a long time.  I would get into a group only to find myself holding back. While my life is an open book which I believe God has called me to share with others, I could sense that I was keeping pieces of myself separate from the group for fear of judgment.  Many times, those pieces were exactly what I needed to share to garner advice on the situation from others, to help me heal, and to help me grow closer to my Creator.

God encourages us to have the kinds of friends that we can find in these life groups. These groups can help hold us accountable to studying and learning God’s Word. They can lift us up in prayer, comfort us when we’re hurting, and celebrate with us in victories.

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.—Proverbs 27:9

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you’re doing.—1 Thessalonians 5:11

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. –Proverbs 27:17

In the case of Table 8, each woman brings something different and unique to the table.  We’re all at different points in our lives, yet we all lift each other up exactly where we are.  With fresh perspective and God’s presence in our community, there isn’t anything we can’t handle!

My encouragement to you today is to find your community.  Even if it’s scary, pray about it and then gather a group of women together to grow in Jesus together.  Pick a Bible study that you can do.  Grab some snacks and spend some time dissecting a passage of scripture together.  Choose an evening to get together for a Prayer ‘N Praise hour, praying for intercession and praising for answered prayers.

Don’t be afraid.  You don’t have to have grown up in church or know the Bible inside and out to get a group together.  You simply need a desire to know Jesus and what He wants for us. He’ll take care of the rest for you.

God desires you to have your own Table 8.  He knit our group together.  He’ll do the same for you.

~Erin

A Sports Mom & Grace

I have a love-hate relationship with baseball season.

I’m not talking about Major League Baseball—not the Yankees and the Red Sox.  I’m talking about 7-8 coach pitch baseball.  Coaches pitching to 7 and 8 year old boys.  This was my son’s 2ndyear playing ball and his 1styear as catcher. The regular season ended last week and has provided an opportunity for me to reflect on this love-hate relationship.

I love how happy my son is being on a team, while exercising, and learning a sport. I love watching his eyes dance when he catches the ball or hits a run.  I’m content being behind the camera catching the intense moments of concentration.  I adore that the coaches pray with the boys before practices and games.  I’m grateful that he hasn’t been on a team that chose white uniform.

Despite the “love” part of being a baseball-mom, I have some issues with baseball season.  I hate 7 pm games, which means I’m in a dinner dilemma…to feed before or to feed after???  I hate that late weekday games equals cranky mornings…for the kiddo and for me.

And I have come to hate the group texting with parents for snacks and practice times.  Each time my phone indicates a text message; I start dreading the massive text chain. Why?  Probably because I’m a very organized, type A personality, who has been in the military for over 20 years. I have a hard time with loose schedules and lack of pre-planning.  I want lists of snack responsibilities.  I want to know who has scoreboard or dug out duty for each game.  I want to know when the team party and photos are scheduled. Not knowing these things in advance makes me cringe.

Not knowing makes me less gracious.

Grace has been defined in several different ways.  Typically, we think of God’s grace in relationship to His providing a way to salvation through acceptance of His son.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” ~Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Essentially grace is God providing for us even when we don’t deserve it.  Knowing about God’s grace is not enough. We have to accept God’s grace. Then the hard part…we have to demonstrate God’s grace by showing grace to one another.

Grace for others is demonstrated in our thoughts, words, and actions.

If we think dreadful thoughts, we aren’t illustrating grace.  When I have grouchy thoughts about a 7pm, mid-week game, I’m not demonstrating grace in thought.  We are given guidance on our thoughts in Romans 12:2 (NIV), “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

If we speak negative words, we aren’t speaking grace.  When I complain to my husband about the lack of snack organization, I am not demonstrating grace in speech.  We are given guidance on our voice in Colossians 4:6 (NIV), “Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

If we roll our eyes or have huffy behavior, we aren’t acting in grace. When my Type A personality encourages me “take over” team mom responsibilities, I am not demonstrating grace in action.  We are given guidance on our actions in Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV), “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

If we act in grace, then we honor the grace God has provided for us.   I need to work on turning my thoughts, words, and actions into grace-filled examples of God’s love for each of us.  I need to turn my love-hate relationships into love-love relationships. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

phdLadies,

I want to have grace flowing from my heart….not just behind the camera, but rather in all of my thoughts, words, & actions.

Do you?

~Emily

 

 

 

Hang-ups, Phobias, & Quirks

I despise glitter.  I cringe at the mention of the word “moist.” I swallow bubble gum.  If using a disposable cup, my coffee lid opening must line up with the seam of the paper cup.  My pillow case openings must face to the outside edges of the bed. I can’t read a book without first looking at the copyright date.

Hang-ups, phobias, and generalized quirks are often more problematic when you try to keep them a secret. I have some pretty obvious ones. Those closest to me either protect me or tease me about them.

I despise glitter. Glitter is such an iconic girlie symbol. I guess I’m not a true girlie-girl, because I’ve hated glitter since I was a small child. It gets everywhere and is uncontrollable.  Glitter is the herpes of the arts and craft world. I appreciate the efforts of my friend, Lori, who actually covered the front of a glittery Christmas card with clear package tape before sending.  Last year, I did not appreciate my son’s Kindergarten teacher sending “glittery dream” poems home for the night before the 1stday of school.  I don’t want it anywhere near me and it’s been banned from my house.

I cringe at the mention of the word “moist.”  In my head I know that a word, is a word, is a word.  I know it can’t hurt me.  And yet…this particular word makes me physically cringe. It sounds so yucky. So gross.  My ears delete whole conversations that contain this word.  My little one LOVES to say the word “moist” around me…just so he can watch my reaction and laugh.  A few times a year, my Facebook peeps send me the video of handsome Hollywood men pronouncing the word.  It could be the weatherman, a baking show, my cutie 7 year old or a hottie actor…it doesn’t matter who says it…it’s gross.

I swallow bubble gum. If I put a piece of gum in my mouth, within a few minutes I forget that I’m chewing gum and swallow.  Typically, I refuse gum.

If using a disposable cup, my coffee lid opening must line up with the seam of the paper cup.  I will stand at the Starbucks pick up counter and change my lid, if necessary.

My pillow case openings must face to the outside edges of the bed.  I’ve tried to let this one go.  I just lay in bed obsessing about how the pillowcases are wrong, until I finally move them.

I can’t read a book without first looking at the copyright date.  Seriously.  Why?!?!? I blame this on my 3rd grade teacher who had us look at all the title page information before we were allowed to read.

These are just a few of the silly things that make up Emily.  Silly things that I embrace about myself and I’m pretty open about them. When do the silly things become a problem?

Hang-ups, phobias, and generalized quirks become more problematic when you try to hide them.

The Bible addresses concerns about hidden sin.

“Who can discern his errors?  Acquit me of hidden faults.” ~Psalm 19:12 (NIV)

“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” ~Proverbs 28:13 (NIV)

“Have I covered my transgressions like Adam…”~Job 31:33 (NIV)

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” ~Romans 1:18

I’m not saying that quirky tendencies are sinful.  I hope that dislike of glitter or copyright dates aren’t sinful quirks!  Rather I am contending that if kept quiet, the secrets of our souls can become sinful in nature.

I have wrestled with deep-soul-secret keeping and it will wear you out.  How do you turn from secrecy?  How do you ensure you aren’t falling into a sin trap because of secrets?

To be continued…

~Emily

 

 

 

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!