This is What Life Looks Like

Sometimes it is messy. Sometimes it is busy. Sometimes you just need to sit down and do nothing and breathe.

Sometimes all you can really do at the end of the day is look ridiculous because you need to work out and the most fun way to do that is hula hooping on Wii Fit Plus without an actual hula hoop. (And sometimes your fiance will just laugh at you because you are sore from hula-hooping in the middle of a room without a hula hoop.)

But life is good. Life is now. Life doesn’t begin when I get married or when I graduate from college or when we start a family.

Susan, Queen of Narnia, forgot what she once was and left behind Narnia as a place of make believe in favor of growing up and maturing.

Oh, may I never fly through this phase of life, forgetting the treasures it holds!

This is what life looks like now:
It is full of planning a wedding.
It is full of quality time with international students, with middle school girls, and with sweet friends.
It is full of cleaning and organizing and throwing things away.
It is full of love and family and traveling.
It is full of celebrating and mourning.

There is a time for all of these things, and all of these things are worth the time.

May the Lord bless the time I have in this world for His glory. May recognizing joy now be worship to Christ.

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Take a Breath

Rainy Day

This picture doesn’t capture the colorful glimpse I caught of the world yesterday. Yesterday, I saw soft blue paneling where there is actually eggshell paneling. A yellow shine on the roof reflected the light of a red setting sun. The grass sparkled green, cloaked in rain drops.

This sweet weather (grossly humid, but visually beautiful) was a pretty picture of sweet simplicity.

I took a breath.

In the midst of all the tired moments, God does not fail to provide rest and peace for his children. He amazes me with His faithfulness.

In all of the busyness of life, sometimes I forget to breathe. At least, I forget to take a deep breath. But there is so much to be thankful for and to admire.

One of the most beautiful blessings is getting to spend the rest of my life with Landon. Five weeks ago, Landon asked me to marry him, and I was so happy to say yes! This young man has blessed me. He has loved me in a way that reveals so much about the love of Christ. I couldn’t ask for more because I think he is the best already.

emily and landon 34

Landon teaches me so much about the Lord and about life. Recently, he reminded me to enjoy these moments of engagement now. This season of engagement naturally looks forward to marriage as we plan our wedding in December, but that isn’t the destination. We are in a relationship now, and it can still be filled with moments of joy and fun instead of crowded with stress and decision-making.

Enjoying the present is a difficult endeavor. But it is worth it.

With the stress of planning a wedding, it is so easy to get caught up in the details and forget to see the joy in everything. But I believe that it is more than worth it to actively pursue rest and joy.

For pursuing rest is an active quieting of the soul. It is actively trusting the Lord.

And I would rather not choose to dwell in my own stress when I can relax in the presence of the Lord.

 

A Pile of Stones

"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

She waits. She flinches. Who will it be? Who is going to cast the first rock? Where will it hit? How long will she experience the pain?

But Jesus, the righteous Judge, the One Without Sin, does not cast the first stone. Instead, he asks this woman caught in adultery where her accusers have gone. They have left. They knew their own sin.

"Nether do I condemn you."

The Sinless Christ who could condemn chooses not to do so. Rather, He forgives, and urges the woman to leave her sin behind.

Note: While the Old Testament prescribes stoning as a punishment for some sin, it can also be seen as a picture of condemnation. Stoning was a condemnation from one’s community for an act that often affected more than just that individual.

As I stand here, I am both the condemned and the condemner. I am a hypocrite. I want to cast stones, yet I deserve to have stones cast at me. I rage against those who have sinned against me, yet I know I have sinned against others.

God seems to think that it is amusing to get me in a tizzy about something and then reminds me that I do the exact same thing I am upset about someone else doing to me.

In my desire to cast stones at someone else, my desire is actually to heap stones upon myself.

Ouch.

A mental image: Think about Super Mario Bros. You’ve picked up a Koopa shell to toss. It hits the corner wrong. And now you’ve just knocked yourself out. That’s exactly what I have done. (I apologize if you have no experience with Koopa shells and have no idea what I am talking about…)

Nearing the end of the semester, I faced a lot of discouragement when I heard that several people were saying uninformed things about me and my life without knowing what was going on. People were making judgments about my life without really knowing all of the pain I was experiencing. Some were “concerned” about me, and in positions to talk to me about their concerns, yet they didn’t; they merely talked about it with others. Some of their comments had merit, yes. But to hear about these comments from someone other than the source was painful.

It hurt. I had a heaping measure of righteous anger.

I was mad about something I myself do.

I have done that. I make judgments and comments. I don’t always love my brothers and sisters with my words. I justify my words with “concern” and the “need to process.”

I hate that. I hate that I may have hurt people as I have been hurt. And I may never know who I have hurt.

 "Go, and from now on sin no more."

Jesus does not want me to walk away from His grace unchanged. He pointed out His grace to me in the midst of my frustration. He asked me to forgive and to look at my own life. Before you check the speck, examine the plank in your own eye, right?

So that’s fun.

Looking at a mirror is a little terrifying sometimes.

But there is grace. There is hope. There is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ.

Emerging from the Pool After a Long Swim

It was like leaping into a pool that was just a little bit too deep. I couldn’t find the bottom of the pool to launch myself back up to the surface.

It was. Hard. To keep. My breath.

Arms flailing, I pull myself up through the water and back to the world of oxygen.

Gasp!

Air again.

That’s is the feeling of being done with this year and this semester, in particular. For four months, I took 18 college credit hours, taught Sunday school, and worked with the college newspaper. This semester has been full of challenges and stress. It has been a season where I have experienced the most anxiety and depression. I have never had so many rough days.

But the season is over. Well, it has been for a week.

As I wind down and catch my breath, I am catching a glimpse of all of the lessons that can be learned from this past semester.

A few of those lessons:

Joy. Prayer. Mornings. Scripture. Friends. Quiet.

God has taught me that it is important to count my blessings and the moments of joy in the midst of pain. In the little things, God is teaching and calling and loving me.

Prayer is a beautiful spiritual discipline, and processing with the Lord helps me respond with more grace. The Lord has shown me so much grace in my failings and my mistakes, and I will continually need more grace. I will also need to learn, every day, how to give more grace. Prayer is a place to do that.

This semester, I learned the wonder of mornings. Without 8 am classes, I could get up, enjoy the morning, and sit in the sweet morning sunshine on my couch.

Scripture speaks. All of it speaks, and it is the Word of God. This semester, there has been a great desire in my heart to read and know the Bible, reading through the entire thing in one year. The Lord has provided for me His Word so that I may know more about His glory and His character. (I’ve never made it through the whole thing in a period of a year, and I really want to!)

With such a busy schedule and a stressful year, I have recognized the importance of friends. I have done a pretty lame job of loving and encouraging my friends well. I want to and need to be more consistent and more in tune to the people around me. Friends rebuke and encourage. Friends defend. I have seen the gift of friendship, and I endeavor to be a better friend, to love better, to cherish the moments. These people are a gift from the Lord that I have often taken for granted. He has been so gracious to me. I don’t want to be too busy with academics and outside commitments that I miss out on fun times and quiet moments with my friends.

So here we are. The beginning of a new season, having learned new lessons. I know God will use this season to teach me so much more.

Here’s to a summer of floating on the surface of the pool before I get out and jump in again. I guess I will take the time to put on a little sunscreen before I go out in the sun for too long.

Holy Rest

The Most Holy humbled Himself. In a manger, Mary made do with what she was given. The shepherds heard from the angels the resounding chorus that announced their Savior’s birth.

This. This was the Savior of the world. That was Israel’s promised rest. His was the Sabbath fulfilled. This was the end to striving. This was Holiness robing us with His righteousness.

Advent is awaiting Christ’s coming. We celebrate His first coming, and we eagerly anticipate His return.

O come, O come, Immanuel…

“God with us.”

Holiness with us. Holiness given to us. We are now robed in righteousness when we have done nothing to deserve it. We could not earn our rest. We could not earn our holiness. Yet the Lord paid the price so that we may be made holy.

Baby Jesus, Christmas, reminds us that God has not abandoned us. He remembers us. He established rest at creation, and Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath through His coming.

Hebrews 2-4 has a lot to say about that Sabbath rest:

In the Old Testament, the Promised Land was a place of rest for the people of Israel, but many of the Israelites missed the rest that the Lord’s desired for them. Many attempted to earn rest through the Law of Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6), and some blatantly disobeyed and forfeited the promise of rest (4:6).

The Lord, since the foundation of the world, established rest for the people, through faith (4:3), even though Jesus had not yet come. Joshua brought temporary rest, but Israel missed out on the even greater everlasting rest – an eternal rest for the soul (4:8). Deaf ears and disobedience kept the people in a state of restlessness.

When the author of Hebrews says to “strive to enter that rest” (4:11), it is not a command to depend on one’s own works to acquire rest, but it is a daily reminder of one’s place before God – humility leads to repentance and a desire to be obedient. As believers today, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard” (2:1) in regards to salvation, so we can rest in what Jesus did on the cross, not neglecting what we have heard and read. It is through the promised Messiah that rest is found. A Sabbath rest is an outward expression of an inner, intimate rest in Jesus Christ – a regular reminder that we do not have to work for the rest that the Lord offered us freely long ago.

Our Sabbath rest is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, His coming about 2,000 years ago.

Though rest can still be watching a movie and lounging in fuzzy pants, “holy rest” is something different.

As I mature, reading the Word of God is more and more restful. Yes, it takes more brain power than Hulu (I’m too cheap to pay for Netflix), but it is more fulfilling, by far. The Word of God is the letter that declares our freedom, our rest.

This is “holy rest.” Jesus came to give us holy rest, Sabbath rest.

So while my break could be filled with hours of television and social media and movies (that doesn’t mean I am not going to catch up on a couple favorite television shows), I think my break is better used in the Word. It is better used working hard for the glory of God. It is better used preparing for next semester.

My break is better used resting in the holiness and righteousness of God.

You are here

You are holy

We are standing

In Your glory

All Sons & Daughters, God with Us

Small Victories

From the Boat Ramp

A small victory is still a victory.

Some of you may be sick of reading about running because I write about it pretty frequently. Running just happens to be something that the Lord has used in my life to teach me a lot about myself, His character, and this life.

Back in March, I was training for a half-marathon until I went to the doctor with a lot of pain in my ankle. I wasn’t able to wear shoes that touched the back of my heel because I had Achilles tendinitis. There went my half-marathon.

I had mixed emotions. In some ways, I was so disappointed that I had built up to a faster pace and greater endurance only to have to stop running. Then, in some ways, I was relieved that I did not have to wake up before the rest of campus to run before class. It was as if injury gave me permission and a legitimate excuse to be lazy.

I think that  is why I need running in my life. It is incredibly hard. It takes time. It takes endurance. It takes a little pain. Sometimes, it is just plain disappointing. But it teaches me lesson after lesson.

The picture at the top of this post is from right before my first 3.1 miles since March. I thought that I could just pick up and run fast. I was disappointed. I finished my first mile in between 12 and 13 minutes. Discouragement abounded after such a tough and slow mile. At that moment, I had a decision to make:

1. Pity myself. Give up. Use past injury as an excuse to be lazy.

2. Ask God to strengthen me and trust that He would help me do hard things.

Although option one was very appealing, I managed to choose the second option. I knew that if I was going to run, I would have to do my part and work hard, but I could also trust the Lord to strengthen me as I trained my body. Then and there, I told the Lord what I was feeling.

God, if I am going to run, You have to help me. I cannot do this by myself. It is uncomfortable and hard. But I know I will not get better and faster if I give up now. I need Your help.

There is something very comforting about asking for God’s help. He does not leave His children on their own. I have not magically gained my speed back. But yesterday, I ran each mile in under 10 minutes, and I would say that’s pretty good progress. This is a small victory for me, but it is a victory.

Running over and over again teaches me endurance. It teaches me to control my body, bidding it to do my will for the glory of God. It teaches me to run well when things get tough and result in discouragement. It teaches me that the taste of victory is sweet. For me, there is something about running that is not just a physical victory, but a spiritual one. I am not naturally athletic. It takes hard work for me to get better, so when I do get better, I can attribute it to the grace of God. In my weakness, He is being made strong. It is for the Lord’s glory that I do things that are not comfortable for me.

That is part of why I love running; running teaches me about the character and faithfulness of God. 

Lessons from Aviation Insurance

As spring semester came to a close, I was a little disappointed that so many of my classmates were getting ready to travel the world, work at camps, or have cool internships for the summer. What was I doing? Well, the plan was to work in retail close to home since I live right by an outdoor shopping center, but I had only had time to apply for one job (they still haven’t gotten back to me – good thing I didn’t need that job).

Thankfully, God provided for me. I went to Him several times, telling Him that I didn’t have time to apply for jobs, asking Him how I was going to find a good job for the summer so that I could pay for school in the fall. I think He probably laughed. I had no idea what I was doing for the summer; it looked like my first week home, I would be going and applying like crazy, hoping I could get a job before all the high schoolers snatched ’em up.

However, finals week – my last week of school – I received an incredible email from my high school cross country coach, asking me what I had planned for the summer and offering me a paid internship at his aviation insurance office. What?!

If you have ever read about my high school cross country experience, you will know it was so great because of this coach. He wasn’t just a great coach, but he is a great boss as well. A few days after receiving that initial email, I finished my final exams and went into the office for what I thought was an interview. It was basically a job offer and settling of terms. I would have a 10-week paid internship at an aviation insurance office, answering phones, processing the mail, proofing insurance policies, mailing out certificates, and anything else they needed help with in the office. (Think Office Assistant/Receptionist with her own desk and cubicle.) It would be labeled an internship because it would be a position in which I was developing skills that would help me in any job, and I would regularly meet with my coach/boss at the end of the week to recap, ask questions, answer questions, any of that. I couldn’t think of a better job for the summer!

Some people don’t want an office job, but after 5 weeks of this, I don’t think it is too bad. I enjoy answering the phone, sorting and metering mail, and making sure I follow the checklists of mailing out policies and contacting customers. Although there are days I don’t want to wake up early, I enjoy going to work. No, I’m not working full-time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get a small taste of what this business is like.

I am incredibly thankful that the Lord provided me with a job for the summer that I enjoy. I can make the most of a lot of different situations, but sometimes it is nice when you don’t have to work too hard to do that.

For kicks, here are a few things I have learned in the first half of my internship:

1. Walking well in heels just takes a little practice. Well, if you count wedges as heels as I do. The business casual pants that I wear to work are just a little long, so I can’t wear flats with them. Since beginning my job, I would say I have had a good deal of practice of walking  in shoes that can be dangerous. Another thing I’ve noticed: things look really different from 5’6″ when you are usually 5’2″.

2. If your bites aren’t too big,  you can manage to answer the phone with food in your mouth. Without sounding like your mouth is full. I’ve mastered this one, but I always have my water cup filled, just in case. Every day, I bring my lunch with me to work so that I am not spending money on food when I can bring it from home. Part of my internship is answering the phone during lunch time. I don’t take a lunch break because my hours aren’t too long, so I just bring a small box of fruit, vegetables, and other snack items with me. Sometimes, I get a call right after I have taken a bite of something, and I manage to answer the phone without sounding like I am eating. Score!

3. BYOC. That stand for “bring your own coffee.” I’m not complaining or asking the office to change anything. I just happen to have spent a year with a handful of coffee snobs, and I am becoming one, too. My 11-year-old sister remarked the other day that I have so many things to make coffee and tea with, which is definitely true. When you regularly use a pourover, french press, coffee grinder, glass travel mug with a metal basket strainer, and who knows what else, it may come across as coffee snobbery.

4. If you aren’t careful, you can cut your lip licking envelopes. I learned this one pretty early on while mailing out 100 certificates one day. I cut my lip on something like the 7th one… Since then, I only lick envelopes on small batches of letters, and I make sure to just stick my tongue out really far so that the envelope doesn’t get anywhere near my lip.

5. If you wake up early every day, it does start to get easier. I am so excited that I am training myself to be a morning person! I’m pretty sure it is possible. It took a lot of early morning coffee and not napping, but I manage to get to bed around 10 pm and make up between 6 and 7 am. A lot of the time, I will still hit snooze, but once I get up, I’m pretty awake. Now, whether I can keep a schedule like this once I go back to college is a completely different ordeal.

6. Time spent after work can be spent well or not-so-well. There are days that I get home a little after 3 pm, and I am pretty tired. The decision then is this: I can either push through the tiredness and do some things that I want to do this summer, or I can lay around, do nothing of significance, and look back later, wishing I had accomplished some of my summer goals.

7. Instagram is not the place to keep a diary of what you wore to work everyday. I apologize to anyone who follows me on Instagram. I also want to admit that was what I was doing. I wanted to see if I could make it through the entire summer without wearing the same outfit twice. Well, there are a lot of days in the summer. And I got tired to posting pictures on myself. I’m sure you got tired of me holding up the appropriate number of fingers for the number of days I had worked. (I only made it to Day 11, but I used paper numbers for that day because I only have 10 fingers.) I should have learned after trying to post pictures of me and my pet rock every day over Christmas break – I only made it 8 days then.

8. When you work in a place filled with the language of aviation insurance, you begin to think in that language. As I have been working here, I have acquired a smidgen of the vocabulary used in the insurance business, specifically in the aviation insurance business. When I see planes and helicopters now, I wonder what their coverage includes, who their brokers are, what kind of experience their pilots have, and an assortment of other seemingly random things. I’m fascinated by the business, I have to say. And don’t even get me started on the thoughts of what claims would look like when a plane crashes in a movie…

9. Sometimes, you will forget things. And that is why you use sticky notes and checklists. Also, I couldn’t come up with a better point… It isn’t because I haven’t learned a lot, but just because I can’t think of anything else to say that you may find amusing. I’ve learned so much about how an office operates, office dynamics, and so much more, but I will have to just save those for another time perhaps.

One last thing: A lot of people ask what I do, and you got a taste of that at the beginning of this post. As for the company, I work for a handful of insurance brokers who serve as middlemen between those who own airplanes and those who write and provide aviation insurance. The brokers of the company sell insurance for aircraft, airports, and other aviation-related things. So that’s that.

I hope that you possibly got a chuckle out of this list. I also hope that you will see the Lord’s faithfulness this summer. May He show Himself to you as Provider and Strength. May He grant you wisdom and diligence for the next months and the next years. May you find beautiful joy in the funny (and the serious) lessons that He teaches you this summer.

Good to Me

Back in January, I began praying that God would give me good gifts. I wasn’t asking for a reward for my actions. What I do, I aim to do out of obedience to and love for my Lord. But I knew God was a good God who wants to bless His children.

Or did I know that?

As the semester flew by, I continued to pray this prayer. Yet, I ran smack into one of God’s good gifts and thought: This must be a joke. God wouldn’t give this to me. He teaches me so much through frustration and pain. This must be a test. A glimpse of good so that I can learn something from it when the gift is taken away.

Kind of ridiculous to think, right? But I struggled with this. I distinctly remember our last day of chapel for this past academic year. It was a Thursday, and as we sang and prayed, I wrestled with the depth of the Lord’s goodness.

Did I believe the Lord was really good? Did I believe that He was capable of giving good gifts to His children? Did I doubt that He was gracious in providing for my desires?

Satan told me that my failures were too big and too many and God’s grace was too small and too cheap. 

I had settled for cheap grace.

Doubting God’s grace and God’s goodness towards me was not a pleasant place to be. It was discouraging. It was frustrating. It was emotionally painful. But it was my own mind, believing the lies of Satan, that allowed me to live in this place of doubt. I didn’t even realize that I had settled on a cheap understanding of grace.

I was asking God for good gifts, and then looking at Him in disbelief when He placed them in my hands.

Lacking faith, I asked from God, and I did not expect to receive. 

God gives gifts when they will bring Him the most glory. His timing is perfect. His glory is the purpose. He gives us good things because He is a good Father.

In some ways, this is a difficult post to write. I do not want my words to resemble the “health, wealth, and prosperity” gospel. I am not saying that once you become a Christian, everything is great and God showers you with material blessings; may my words be honest and clear that material blessings are not a result of salvation.

So please allow me to make a few points clear:

1. As Christians, our good works do not save us. Jesus Christ saves us through His death, burial, and resurrection as the only payment for man’s sins. Good works should be done out of love for Christ, out of thankfulness for what He has done on our behalf.

2. Asking God for blessing is not sinful. This is the cry of a heart. We can come to God with our desires, but we have to understand that He will not always give us what we desire. He wants to protect us, but He also wants to bring glory to Himself through us.

3. If we receive good gifts, it is by the grace of God. If we do not receive what we ask for, it is because God has something that will better glorify Him and point to Him as the author of Goodness.

May The Lord shine upon you and reveal His goodness to you. May you never exchange a priceless, beautiful grace for a cheap, muddied imitation that seeks to draw you away from the Lord. And may your heart be open to both blessing and difficulty in this lifetime, to the glory of God.

 

The Valley of Vision, “Desires”

O THOU THAT HEAREST PRAYER,

Teach me to pray,
I confess that in religious exercises
the language of my lips and the feelings
of my heart have not always agreed,
that I have frequently taken carelessly upon
my tongue a name never pronounced above
without reverence and humility,
that I have often desired things which would
have injured me,
that I have depreciated some of my chief mercies,
that I have erred both on the side of my hopes
and also of my fears,
that I am unfit to choose for myself,
for it is not in me to direct my steps.
Let thy Spirit help my infirmities,
for I know not what to pray for as I thought.

Let him produce in me wise desires by which
I may ask right things,
then I shall know thou hearest me.
May I never be importunate for temporal blessings,
but always refer them to thy fatherly goodness,
for thou knowest what I need before I ask;
May I never think I prosper unless my soul prospers,
or that I am rich unless rich toward thee,
or that I am wise unless wise unto salvation.
May I seek first thy kingdom and its righteousness.
May I value things in relation to eternity,
May my spiritual welfare be my chief solicitude.
May I be poor, afflicted, despised and have
thy blessing,
rather than be successful in enterprise,
or have more than my heart can wish,
or be admired by my fellow-men,
if thereby these things make me forget thee.
May I regard the world as dreams, lies, vanities,
vexation of spirit,
and desire to depart from it.
And may I seek my happiness in thy favour,
image, presence, service.

-The Valley of Vision, “Desires”

Faithful

If I could label the past year with

one phrase

it would be

The Lord is faithful to sanctify.

As I look back on the 2013-2014 academic year and the start of this summer, I see that the Lord has been faithful to use every situation, be it good or bad, that I have experienced this year to teach me great lessons and glorify Himself.

He has used heartache and frustration, new friends and laughter, incredible opportunities and wasted opportunities, bad attitudes and good perspectives to bring Himself glory and to reveal Himself to me in deeper ways. He has called me near, and when I have failed to hear His voice, He has taken all the steps to bridge the gap, not waiting for me to respond to words that fell on deaf ears. He has been faithful to me when I have not been faithful to Him. The Lord has been, and continues to be, faithful to sanctify and make me more like His Son.

What a privilege to see how the Lord has taken my trials and my victories alike and glorified Himself while growing me into more Christlike character.

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:12-18

In this passage, Paul writes to the church at Corinth, explaining that the ministry of the Spirit is glorious but Christians do not need to veil their face before this glory as Moses veiled his face before the glory of God on Mount Sinai. Through Christ, the veil is removed from our heart, and we can behold the glory of Christ. With “unveiled face” we are being transformed.

Every single day, the Lord is transforming me into a more perfect image of His Son. One day, I will be glorified and made perfect in the presence of the Lord. Until then, I can stand confidently in the knowledge that the Lord is faithful to sanctify His children.

As I experience the difficulties and the triumphs of life, I see now more than ever, that the Lord will use those circumstances for my sanctification and spiritual growth.

{To read an old post about growth, repentance, and sanctification, click here.}

May you find that the Lord is faithful to sanctify you through all of your current circumstances. May the Lord’s grace be tangible to you. May His face shine upon your unveiled face because of the work that was done by Jesus Christ on the cross. Amen.