Garden Sowing

Every spring, my family plants a garden.  Some years it’s been a couple tomato plants, while other years it’s been much more extensive.  Some plants are starters from a garden shop, while others are grown from seedlings.  Each year there’s great hope that there will be enough harvest to augment our family meals.

In the weeks preparing for our garden, there is inevitably disagreements about how much we should plant and which variations of vegetable we should grow.  My husband is what I call an “over-planter.” He puts multiple seeds into one pocket of soil or multiple plants in close proximity.  On the other hand, I’m an “under-planter.”  I will place one or two seeds in a soil pocket or I’ll allow plenty of space between plants so there’s lots of space for growth.

According to scripture, I’m likely the one in the wrong, as I should be sowing generously.

2 Corinthians 9:6-9 (NIV) states, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.’”

While it seems chaotic in the world in the midst of a pandemic, there have been extraordinary acts of kindness reported on the news and in social media.  The neighbors who mow the lawns they don’t own.  People who escort the elderly veteran in the grocery store.  The medical professionals who are coming out of retirement to help assist.  These are the people who are cheerful givers.  God has blessed them abundantly so that in ALL times, they are able to abound in every good work.

According to the Bible, I should be sowing generously in both my heart of giving and in my garden.  Despite being confined to the house through social distancing, I’m going to use this season to practice sowing into those around me.

And I’m going to support my husband’s over-planting…

~Emily

Garden

 

 

 

 

 

Jealous of the Disciples

I’ve always had a secret jealous streak when I think about the relationships that the disciples had with Jesus.  They walked with Him, slept near Him, and ate with Him. They literally had a front-row seat to His teaching, to His storytelling, and to His faithful prayer life. They had THE model right there with them…day in and day out.

There are times in my Christian walk that I’ve struggled with following the guidelines provided by Jesus.  I’ve prayed and felt like I didn’t hear an answer. I’ve failed again and again.  I have this irrational thought that if I had walked at the same time as Jesus, that somehow that would make my relationship stronger with Him.

I know it’s irrational.  Yet, it makes me slightly jealous that the disciples were able to ask questions face to face. They were able to make a prayer request and hear the voice of God respond.  I wish I had the literal face-to-face time with Jesus, in the flesh.

This week, while doing my homework for my small group “Maximum Joy” by Dr. David Anderson, I had a realization.  We all have the opportunity to fellowship with the Lord, much like the disciples did.  In 1 John 1:1:3, John wrote “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Scripture tells us that if we are following the direction of the Word, as well as the insights provided by the ones who walked with Christ, then we too can have the sweet joy of fellowship with the Lord.

I’m excited that the next several months studying 1 John will help me have deeper intimacy that leads to fellowship rather than just a relationship.  I’m also excited that it’s going to dispel this idea that I should be jealous of the disciples when I too can have a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Who else is harboring secret jealousy? Come to the porch and tell us…

~Emily

Bible2

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shell Seekers

The first full day at the beach started with the boys leaving at 4:30am to go fishing and me headed to the shore to watch the sunrise over the waves.  While walking, I spent my time chatting with God.  About a mile into my conversation, I came across three siblings who were gathering seashells into plastic buckets.

The youngest girl was grabbing any shell in a willy-nilly manner.  She had no concern whether the shells were whole or broken and jagged.  She simply wanted an abundant collection and it seemed her only discriminatory thought was if they were “pretty.”

The boy was only picking up shells that were deemed “perfect.”  He disregarded dozens before he would place one gently into his bucket.  Unlike his younger sister, he had very few shells in the bottom of his bucket.

The oldest of this group was only selecting shells that had a small hole near any of the edges.  She wanted the shells that had a “pre-drilled” hole from their time with relentless ocean waves.  She was planning to string these shells into a necklace but did not want to have to create the hole herself.

I continued walking, but these three shell seekers stayed on my mind.  It reminded me that during our Christian walk we fall into one of these three categories when we allow people to speak into our lives: The abundant collector of people, The seeker of perfect people, and The one who searches purpose in people. Shells

If we are the youngest girl, we allow anyone to speak advice into our lives.  These people could speak the truth, but there is a risk that they won’t.  They may not be saved and therefore will speak from the world rather than from scripture.  I’m not saying we can’t have broken-jagged people in our lives, but rather I think we need to be careful about how much influence they have over our lives.

If we are the middle boy, we search only for the seemingly perfect people to allow into our lives.  These people are a façade.  They frankly don’t exist.  Because there has only been one perfect person to walk the earth, we will be disappointed in the lack of people we can associate with.

If we are the older girl, we align with people who serve a purpose in our lives. We know they may not be perfect on the edges, but there is something in them that is useful for enhancing our walk with Christ. Perhaps they speak truth into our situations or they offer new study techniques or they may even encourage us in a manner we weren’t expecting.

This week think about those who you allow to influence your life.  Are you the youngest, middle or oldest child?

~Emily

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”        ~Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)

The Shell Seekers

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.

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

 

 

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hang-ups, Phobias, & Quirks…Continued

When you wrestle with deep soul secret keeping, you risk your relationship with God, with yourself, and with others.

In 1998, I practiced a quickly growing, cultish behavior when I joined a Wiccan coven.  I committed; I practiced; I researched; I participated; I went all in with a pagan walk and turned my back on our Heavenly Father.

For seven years, I deliberately disobeyed God.  I denied Christ. I knew I was wrong. I kept it from my friends and family.

I became the deceivable woman.

2 Corinthians 11:3 (NIV) states, “the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness.” Deceived exapato means “to seduce wholly; “ “To persuade into disobedience.”

Utilizing the 2 Corinthians passage, we are able to see that in Genesis, Eve is an example of a woman who was persuaded to do wrong.  When she was alone, she was vulnerable to temptation.

She was the first deceivable woman.

In my last post, I stated that quirky tendencies are not necessary sinful.  It’s when we keep secrets deep in our soul that we become vulnerable to sinful behavior.

In the case of practicing Wicca, I was committing sinful behavior, which I was keeping secret.  Is there a difference? Perhaps.

Once I shared the secret of my sinful behavior with my closest friends and family, they immediately began praying for me to be restored to a Christian walk.  That did not happen immediately, but it did happen eventually.  When we selectively share our hearts with other believers, they are able to bolster us.  They are able to hold us accountable.  They are able to approach the Father on our behalf.

Last week’s hang ups, phobias, and quirks seem very miniscule when compared to my absolute avoidance of the occult aisle at the bookstore. I avoid horoscopes, moon cycles, and other pagan related calendar items.  I steer my child away from tarot cards and subtle pagan television shows. Avoiding and dismissing occult and pagan related issues has become a hang-up, phobia, and quirk.  It’s one that will not be a secret in my life, because I refuse to have that sin ever take hold of me or my house again.

I was the deceivable woman. It wore me out being that woman with the deep-seated secret.  If you have sinful behaviors that are wearing you out…that you are keeping secret…I am urging you to find a strong Christian woman to confide in so that she can go to the Lord in prayer on your behalf.

Turn from the secrecy. Ensure you aren’t falling into a sin trap because of secrets.

~Emily