Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Where I am now.

Obviously, the "I am going to post every single day in July" thing didn't work out.  I warned you it might not.

But you know, this break from blogging for a lot of this summer has been a huge refreshment to me.  I have a few lists of topics and ideas.  I am excited about leading a few devotionals over the next semester.  What do you think about these?
  • A weekly "five things on my mind" post. Those are easy and fun to write, will update my friends and family about what I'm up to, and they'll be regular.
  • A series on prayer
  • A series of tips for incoming college students
  • What breaks the heart of God (and is it breaking ours?)
  • A few pictures of the inside of my new house and bedroom in Aggieland
  • A series about how not to be self-serving in college, creating a new college student mindset
  • Why bad things happen
  • How I survived high school without a boyfriend and what the Lord says about His love and purpose of romantic relationships (for all of my slightly younger readers)
  • A series on Ecclesiastes (one of my favorite books of the Bible)
I am pretty excited about what's on this list.  Several of these things are what the Lord has laid on my heart this summer.  I believe He's asking me to share what I am learning to minister to others and to lay out my thoughts for my own growth.

I also no longer plan to post absolutely nothing during the month of August, although I do plan to share only once or twice a week that month, depending on my schedule, my motivation, and my inspiration.  September should contain quite a few more blog posts than August.

I will be traveling back to Aggieland very soon, which should possibly give me a little more time to write.  Also, in Aggieland, spirit and inspiration are everywhere.  I am excited to have some time and personal space in which to write some more.

I am excited to share pieces of my heart with you over the next semester.  For those of you still checking up on this blog, thank you.  It means the world to me.  Obviously, I and this blog have been undergoing some changes this summer and last year.  I know internet-folk don't like change, which means that some of my regular readers don't like my not-so-daily schedule and my new blog layout and that my writing style changes as I grow older.  If you dislike the changes, I understand.  If you embrace them, then I will eagerly show you what God has been showing me.

Your emails and comments of encouragement have been so special to me.  I treasure them.  Thank you, my friends.  If you have any feedback about things that are changing or should be changing, don't hesitate to let me know.  I welcome constructive criticism, as long as it is written in love, and I certainly welcome encouragement (with tears and smiles).

Expect to see more over the next semester, although this season of my life is changing me and this blog.  I haven't left.  Things are only changing.  I'm still learning how to adjust my blogging habits to the latest season of my life.

So that's where I am right now.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chariots of Fire

2 Kings 6:15-17
When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha. 
"Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

Whatever trials you are experiencing in this moment, know this with absolute certainty: there is a battle waging around you.

The Lord is with you.  He loves you unfailingly.  He is fighting for you.  He is pursuing you.  He will not leave you.

There have been times in my life that I have felt completely and utterly alone.  Times of hopelessness.  Times of helplessness.  Times of tears and yearning and cries to the Lord, "Where are you?"  Frustration.  Bitterness.  Defiance.

And through it all, God's love has not faltered.

How powerful is that?  It's huge.  

In your darkest of times, he has never left your side.  He has never stopped loving you.  He has never stopped romancing you and drawing you near to him.  He cherishes you.  

Psalm 138:3
As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.

You are so loved.  

In your darkest of times, the Lord is near.  He is holding you.  He is daily carrying your burdens.

Don't give into discouragement today.  Don't lose hope.

He is near.  He is fighting for you.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Wilderness

Hosea 2:13-16
"...She decked herself with rings and jewelry,
and went after her lovers,
but me she forgot,"
declares the Lord. 
"Therefore I am now going to allure her; 
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
"In that day," declares the Lord,
"you will call me 'my husband';
you will no longer call me 'my master.'"

This passage is about Israel, but I believe it can also be applied to our lives as Christians.  There are times when I go through spiritual deserts.  Perhaps I become caught in a pattern of sin and pride.  Perhaps I become burdened with the weight of the worries and hurts all around me and don't place those troubles into the Lord's hands.  Whatever the case, there are certainly seasons of my life when I feel stuck in the wilderness.

I love that a bit of the Gospel is in this Old Testament passage.  Turning away from the Lord and being swept back up into His grace.  The transformation of relationship from servant to bride.

She decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot.

When I was younger, I openly denied God and placed every painful thing in my life upon my own shoulders.  I stubbornly bore my own struggles and sadness.  I hurt and cried and yet I still forgot who the Lord was.  His beauty.  His love.  His grace.  His being.

Any time I've ever put something above my relationship with the Lord, it has become my lover.  I am His bride.  Idols and priorities I place higher than Christ are lovers that keep me from falling completely in love with Him.

When I was in a place of total defiance from God, instead of leaving me to wallow in my despair, He stepped in.  He embraced me into His loving arms and when I rejected His very touch, He pursued my heart.

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.

Sometimes what best gives you a shock of reality is a painful trial.  When I was fourteen, I struggled with depression.  At fifteen, I lost a friend to suicide.  When I was eighteen and feeling completely secure and complacent in the relationships I had in my life, the Lord asked me to go to a university that was so much bigger than my comfort zone would ever willingly allow and so much further away from my hometown than I had ever wanted.  At first, every friend I had seemed to be miles and miles away and I had to learn that when I felt like I was alone in the world, God was there for me.

This summer, I have been shown that every earthly relationship will break and fall short of human expectations.  Hearts will be broken.  Trials will come over and over again.  Yet God's love is enough.

Even when I feel frustrated at the Lord, He has never left me.  He continues to allure me with His endless love.  He leads me to a place where He is all that's left and then He simply loves me.  He whispers words of beauty.  He sings songs of joy to my heart.  And when I clap my hands over my ears and stubbornly refuse to listen, He holds me close until I do.

The wilderness is rough, but it has purpose.  Every wilderness can be turned into a place of restoration.  Beauty will rise from the ashes.

There I will give her back her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.  There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

Achor means "trouble."  Even if you are stuck in a wilderness, a low place of weariness and hurt, the Lord desires to romance you.  He can bring you out of the deepest valley.  He will restore beauty into your life and make your darkest trouble a source of hope.  How beautiful.

This is the Gospel.

That summer before I started high school, after the Lord broke and transformed my heart, I was filled with a fire like I've never had before.  I couldn't get enough of the Word.  I wanted to learn.  I wanted to grow.  I wanted everyone to know about the One who had rescued me and made me whole.  I was young and childlike in my faith, but I was on fire.  This was the time He brought me out of Egypt.  As He took me from the wilderness and embraced me into His great love, I rejoiced.  I eagerly drank Him in with a thirst stronger than I had ever felt.

As the Lord brings me out of the wilderness, He restores my soul.  He replaces my troubles with hope.  And I feel invigorated again, more and more excited about what He has done and what He will do.  Because of this, I am thankful for the trials.  I am thankful for the wilderness.  It renews my hope in Him.

"In that day," declares the Lord, "you will call me 'my husband'; you will no longer call me 'my master.'"

One thing I've learned from the darkest places is that Jesus is not distant.  He hears me.  He treasures me.  He loves me.  He is not only my master.  He is my father, my friend, my groom.  And I am His bride.

This is the Gospel, my friends.

Christ brought me from the wilderness into His love.  He transformed my heart.  He loves me through my brokenness.  And instead of leaving me to my defiance, my pride, and my broken heart, He loves me with an unfailing love.

I am so thankful.

Hosea 2:18-20, 23 
I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion. 
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the Lord.
...I will say to those called "Not my people," "You are my people";
and they will say, "You are my God."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Better than Christmas.

Today is my favorite holiday.  Someone asked me how I could like this day more than Christmas.  Let me make this clear: it isn't because I'm especially patriotic, because I'm not (oh man, I may receive some heated emails after this).  Honestly, I don't care all that much whether we choose a day to celebrate America (or America's independence) or not.

I definitely enjoy being a citizen of America, I appreciate the sacrifice of our soldiers, and I love Americans (and I love people who don't live in America as well), but celebrating our country isn't something on my list of priorities.

It's only a country.  I love Americans.  I like America.

But 4th of July is my favorite holiday.  Every year, we invite family and friends over to our house to celebrate with us.  Everyone brings food: burgers, homemade ice cream, desserts of all sorts.  A few families bring fireworks, as big and bright as we can find.  And at the end of the night, after it gets dark, we have a fireworks display from our driveway.  Since my family lives out in the country, there aren't any rules against fireworks.

When ours run out, we sit out in chairs and watch the beautiful fireworks from the in-town parks color the horizon, brighter even than the lights of the city.
Ten reasons I love 4th of July more than Christmas:

1.)  It's summer!  I love warm weather so much more than cold weather. 

2.)  We get to be outside.

3.)  It's a night time holiday... and I love staying up late and watching stars and sparkling lights.

4.)  Family and friends are all together.  It's not just a family thing.

5.)  Delicious food.  Christmas food is good too, but man, homemade ice cream is the best.

6.)  There isn't stress of buying gifts and last minute shopping.  The materialism disintegrates quite a bit and is replaced with comradery, stories, and quality time (my love language). 

7.)  The funniest things seem to happen on 4th of July and wonderful memories are always made.  Everyone is in a good mood because summer just does that to you.

8.)  Fireworks are beautiful!

9.)  Sparklers.

10.)  The smells.  Every family for miles around cooking out on the grill.  The crisp and smoky scent of fireworks. 
I love this day.  Last year's Independence Day was kind of a bummer (I wrote about it), because the Panhandle was undergoing a drought and so we had a fire ban.  No fireworks anywhere and for good reason.  Grass fires swept through the edges of my city and burned down several houses.  With no rain for more than six months, fireworks could have been disastrous.

Since fireworks are a significant part of the excitement of Independence Day, it was a little disappointing to skip them for a year.  It also gave less of a reason for people to drive out to our house, so we had a smaller cookout than usual.

We couldn't even make a small bonfire, so Rebekah and I had to roast our marshmallows over a candle!  (That didn't taste so good.)  We laughed and laughed.

Last summer, I was frustrated with a few things in my life, like my job and worries about college.  God taught me a lot through the drought and lack of water.  He even gave me a new hope the day before the 4th of July.  I'm so thankful for what I was able to learn through the struggle, even if it meant no fireworks for a year. 

This summer has been much harder, so I am so thankful that the Lord allowed us to relax and have a great time for one night.  No worries.  No problems.  It was peaceful.  It was fun.  Even though it hasn't rained much this summer, it did enough.  There were big and beautiful fireworks.  There was a huge celebration.  A feast.  Many guests, family and friends.  So many memories were made.

In fact, thirty-seven people attended our 4th of July celebration at my house.  37.  It was great.

Thanks, Jesus, for letting us have this day of pure joy and quality time.  It was the best.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Goodbyes Hurt.

Today I had to say goodbye to Ali.  She's leaving to study abroad in China and will be there for a month.  By the time she returns, I will be gone for Impact Retreat and Aggieland.  So today was goodbye until at least my birthday in October.


Ali and I are best friends.  I'm not sure if we've been more than three months without seeing each other since we first met in elementary school.

Saying goodbye was difficult.  For the last couple of weeks, Ali and I have eaten lunch together every single day.  The memories we've made have been great.  So many good talks and yummy food.  I'm sure going to miss having someone to share my lunch break.

Today we ate lunch at our favorite Mexican food restaurant.  The hour passed by much too quickly.  Soon we were standing in the parking lot, hugging and crying (well, at least Ali was crying) and trying to postpone the inevitable goodbye.

There have been many times this summer when I've felt so lonely and Ali has been there to encourage me and love on me and remind me to stay strong in Christ.  I'm glad to have seen her for a month and a half, but man, I wish she could have stayed here the entire summer.

China will be great for her, I know.

But selfishly, I'll miss having her here with me.

Monday, July 2, 2012

So Many Prince Charmings

I saw Brave tonight. I've been waiting eagerly to see the movie since the first trailer came out, but because of work and traveling, I haven't been able to see it until now. It was well worth the wait.

One thing I enjoyed was that for the first time, the princess made it through an entire film without being swept away by a Prince Charming of some sort.  Even in Mulan (my favorite), while the female protagonist is strong and independent, she eventually must be rescued by her handsome prince.

And that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It is okay for a girl to be swept off her feet by her "prince."  Love and romance were created by the Lord.  They can bring glory to Him.  However, I admire the fact that a story has finally been told where falling in love isn't something that has to happen in order for the princess to feel satisfied with who she is.

I heard a friend say once, "You aren't a princess because you may fall in love with a prince. You're a princess because you're the daughter of a King."

Merida was not yet ready for love.  She was young and still searching for answers.  She enjoyed life without having to desperately wonder why her prince hadn't arrived.  It wasn't yet that time and she didn't mind at all.  I like that.

I don't want my life to be stuck on pause until my prince comes to carry me away to our happily ever after.  I want to be a girl who pursues Jesus without hesitation.  If He brings a prince who seeks to run towards Him alongside me, then I will rejoice in that.  If He doesn't, I will still rejoice.

God is enough.

Finding love is a wonderful thing.  I hope I find my prince someday too.

But I have found Love.  And as long as I have Him, I am not lacking in anything.

Psalm 16:2
I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord;
Apart from you, I have no good thing."

Sunday, July 1, 2012


It seems like every earthly promise breaks apart with time,
And I forget how You told me, "Emily, You're Mine."
When everything I've clung to sifts through my shaking hands,
There's still Your promise, Your grace, the love within Your plan.

Families break. Smiles fade. And everything feels numb.
Those times when I stand up and say, "Father, I am done."
And still You hold me tightly. You whisper, "I am not."
Your loving arms remind me of what I have forgot.

So speak to me. Shelter me. Rest me beneath Your wings.
Satisfy that stubborn place where I feel I have to see.
Bring a peace. Bring a joy. A need for You alone.
For even when I'm broken, Your love has been my home.