Things I learned in Ohio

America is often called the “melting pot,” because a large variety of cultures melt together to make it. It’s exciting that one country can hold so many distinct differences, yet be one.

Born and raised in Illinois, I didn’t think Ohio would be much different…. I suppose our country isn’t quite as “melted” as you may expect.  Sprinkles are called Jimmies in the east. You all becomes Ya’ll in the south… and on it goes.

Here are a few things I learned about Ohio.

  • People eat things called “Hummingbird Cake” and “Shoefly Pie
  • A “Carry-in” is the preferred term for a “Pot-luck”
  • The DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), is actually a BMV (Bureau)
  • If you want to meet a group of people out at Buffalo Wild Wings, it’s nickname is no longer Bdubs, but B.W.3s.  (this one makes no sense to me)
  • “Sweepers”… This was a whole new term for me, I assumed it was the item used to sweep which would only include brooms and swiffers in my book.  In Ohio it can mean a lot of things, even a vacuum or duster.
  • Ohioans seem to always vacation in Michigan, yet they dislike MI when it comes to sports.
  • They claim to have a lot of corn, but I think Illinois still wins.
  • Gas Stations, without gas, that you can drive through… they’re everywhere.
  • They do not have Mel-O-Cream donuts, and this is very sad.
  • If someone yells “O-H” you’re supposed to yell back “I-O”
  • Buckeyes are peanutbutter balls with chocolate, and everyone sells them and eats them and brings them to parties.
  • Highlander Grogg is a coffee flavor found in every local coffee shop.
  • UDF has amazing milkshakes, it doesn’t matter how jank it may look.

What are some Ohio-specific things you have learned about? Have you ever visited another state and were surprised by how different yet similar it could be? Share your fun stories, words, etc. in the comments below!

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Comfort or Impact?

Since Tap and I made the decision to move from Ohio back to Illinois, I would be lying if I didn’t say I’ve gotten cold feet a few times.

In many ways it feels like we are moving backwards instead of forwards- Moving back into my parent’s home, making less money in a less passionate field of work (for the time-being), and Tap is still seeking employment.

But my friends reminded us that we aren’t “moving backwards,” we are simply re-adjusting our path.  Making a few turns forward, rather than turning around and retreating all-together.

Courtesy of Jean-Frederic Fortier at StockSnap.io

They encouraged me, and reminded me that all of this was to straighten our path back out so that we could seek the true goal- to be in alignment with God’s will and make an impact for His Kingdom.

 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

Over the last couple of years, our goal had changed. Our goal was to obtain comfort.

We had plans to pay off our school debt- a worthy goal -but that goal was driven by a motivation to travel more, upgrade our possessions, and buy more stuff…

I wanted to see Italy, Greece, and Ireland. We talked about our priorities being a new car, then a new computer, then a new whatever. Once debt was out of the way, we would have a new flow of income that would sustain our hobbies and desires.

Again, these are ok things and things we still want, but our focus had gotten off-track.  Our goal was comfort instead of impact.

We have chosen to go back to school so that we can have a bigger impact.

In times of cold-feet, I hear whispers that say: “You can’t teach.” “You’ll get another degree that you’ll never use.” “You are being foolish, wasting so much money and time… again.”

I believe this is the fear talking…  It would be a lot more comfortable to NOT go back to school, to NOT have to pay for an education, to NOT work or study or try.  But staying comfortable usually results in less impact.

As uncomfortable as it is, I want to live a life of impact.

And for me, I think that means moving to Illinois, studying hard, and getting another degree. A degree that will help me pour into the college students (the age many lose faith), to equip them with God’s word and wisdom, and to send them forth into the world- multiplying impact through a classroom.

This has been stirring in our hearts and minds…. a seed of an idea planted in us. That we’ve decided to water with a lot of prayer and a little action. Please pray with us as we weigh our options and make these big decisions.

How do you influence the world around you? What impact are you making on the people in your life? How can you multiply and deepen that impact?

I should have __________.

How many “I should have”s do you have on your plate?

This weekend I went to visit my great friends in St. Louis, and as I was waiting for them to arrive for lunch at the Boathouse I met a woman named Culeta.

She was sitting on a bench with three adorable dogs- 2 pomapoos and 1 toy poodle by the name of Kennedy.  As we sat and chatted I learned about her, her passions, and I was inspired by a few of her smart and witty comments.

Cue, that’s what her friends call her, said that God planted an idea in her head that just never seemed to go away. She said it started in her mind, went to her heart, and then started to burn in her belly.  Although it took years, she finally gave into God’s calling and she opened a non-profit called Reprieve.

She said something to the likeness of… “I’m getting too old to carry the burden of ‘I should have’s, so I just did.”

God was ready to use her, and as soon as she agreed, he readied her path.

photo courtesy of AJ Montpetit at stocksnap.io

I carry a few “I want to”s in my pack.

I want to make an impact for God’s Kingdom. I want to inspire others with my blog. I want to find a career that’s perfectly suited for my talents, passions, and purpose. I want to travel….

My hope and prayer is that these turn into statements of “I did” rather than a long list of “I should have done.”

I don’t want to drive past the homeless, and later add “I should have fed him” to my burden of should haves.

I don’t want to brush off a question in fear, instead of embracing a vigorous discussion of theology. To sacrifice a soul for comfort, than to embrace a conversation of life, hope, and saving grace.

I don’t want the burden of… “I should have gone back to school,” “I should have fought harder to save our marriage,” “I should have visited him in the hospital,” “I should have….”

I don’t want to retire and see that I lived a life of comfort instead of impact.

I don’t want my list of “Should have”s to be long, but to be as short as possible.

I want to jump in, dive deep, get uncomfortable for the sake of keeping that list short.

 

What moments have you passed up, adding a “I should have” to your list? What wants and needs are you wrestling with that you need to take action on?

 

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

1 Peter 4:10

We are Moving! From Ohio to Illinois

Yesterday our church announced that Tap handed in his resignation at TCN to pursue a calling to move back to Illinois.

Moving fromOH to ILAfter losing my job at the end of September, we felt a lot of strings had already been cut for us… it was just a matter of choosing to loosen a few more or to bind new ones.

The decision was not an easy one, and it was not made quickly. We have been praying earnestly and wanted to be sure that this calling was from God, not merely our own thoughts or desires.

However, in-time we felt a lot of peace, nudges, and signs that this was the right direction for this season in our life.

I was nudged out of my job. Our hearts were stirred to minister to the people we know and love in Illinois in more tangible ways.  Passions to pursue higher education were fanned by Tap’s first seminary class and walking on campus again in October. Affirmation from congregation members spoke life into my desire to become a professor of Biblical Studies.

Blogs, devotions, speakers, podcasts, books, sermons… they were all lining up with a similar message to Take a Leap of Faith. To dive in and Remake Your Life.

Although we are excited for this new adventure, we want you to know how much we have appreciated our time in Ohio.

TCN took a leap of faith in my husband, offering Tap his first full-time job in Worship Ministry. He was able to learn and grow in a loving environment. He was challenged to balance hymns and contemporary music; to schedule, nurture, and disciple individuals; to play any and every instrument when needed; and to organize and develop a culture of integrity and greatness out of reverence to our God who deserves our best.

Marriage Works OH! took a leap of faith in me, offering me my first full-time job as a supervisor- and in a field I was passionate about! I was able to study marriage and relationships and share what I learned in college and at work with teams of marriage educators. I was able to teach classes to couples who were hanging by a thread using the class as their last effort to save their marriage, and to teach others who wanted to start their marriage prepared, and even more who were just excited to kick their romance up a notch. I loved the opportunity to pour into these marriages directly, and indirectly through the supervision of my team.

We are so thankful for the opportunities to grow, learn, and serve here in Ohio. And there are plenty of people we will miss- who poured themselves into us while we were here.

In the next few weeks, our last few days, we plan on leaving strong. Giving it all we got, so that our impact can outlast our presence. We still care and pray for the ministries we are leaving behind, but we look forward to the new as well. The new lives that await us; Lives that God has tilled in preparation for the seed He’s asked us to plant.

We would love for you to continue to be a part of our lives in prayer and support of this new journey.

Thank you for everything!

Build Each Other Up

Kids tend to make people the punchlines of their jokes.

They often grow-up, but don’t grow out of it. The jokes may take different set-ups, forms, or turns… but people still end up battered on the other end. Their bruises covered by laughter.

In highschool, I was blessed with a positive influence. My youth pastor, Brian, made it our mantra that we would not tear each other down, but that our job was to build each other up.

Whenever we said something negative about someone else, we had to apologize and list three things we liked about that person- and the mantra would be spoken again “Build Each other up.”

Ryan McGuire at StockSnap.io

Life is hard, why make it harder for each other? We have the power to tear down and the power to build up. Why not stand together to make the burden lighter?

How are you using your voice?

As I get older the challenge has changed.

Instead of redeeming negative comments with positive ones, I should be keeping my mouth shut before I say anything negative in the first place.

Bob Goff shared that every time he says something critical to another person he logs into his bank account and gives away $500.  He said this helps him stop and think, “Do I really want to say this, or would I rather take my sweet Maria on a trip?

Most of the time he picks a trip with his wife, keeps his mouth shut, and instead focuses on speaking words of “life and encouragement.”

This is the next step… Speak life and encouragement into others without prompting.

I want to live my life as an encourager… a builder.

This is especially important in my marriage. As a wife, my sole job is to be a helper and encourager to my husband.

As a wife, I get to see the worst side of my husband, but I am called to be his greatest cheerleader despite it. This is oxymoronic, but that paradox gives it even greater power.

Knowing his faults, yet respecting, loving, encouraging, and believing in him anyways is what makes it mean more.

As I try to master being an encouragement to my husband, I need to let that habit flow into all of my relationships.

What would it be like if we used our words to build instead of tear down?

Build up our family, friends, leaders, servers, or the next generation.

I think we will find that a kind word goes much farther than a critical one.

 

Is it easier for you to speak negatively or positively about others? Is there someone you are specifically speaking life into during this season of your life? Who do you know that could use some life-giving words right now?

 

 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

-Philippians 4:8

 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

-1 Thessalonians 5:11

The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

-Proverbs 14:1

Jobless

Perhaps you have graduated from college with a beautiful degree that you’re not entirely sure how to use… Then you apply for job after job, finding that while the world loves your education, they are really looking for some more experience on that resume…

I get it, I’ve been there.

This is extremely common today for college graduates; Building an anonymous career can be confusing and painstaking.

Joshua Earle at Stocksnap.io

In my journey, so far, I cling to this one line of hope that experience has taught me:

Every job leads to the next.

Serving on Social Life Committee gave me experience in event planning that landed me an internship in a radio station’s promotions team.

Pressing t-shirts for an apparel company led to creating and managing the same company’s social media accounts.

My volunteer work for Authentic Intimacy led to a promising career as a Marriage Education Program Supervisor.

From Walmart to Aerie, Apparel to Car Parts, to Board member and Supervisor.

Unfortunately, a job I loved came to a halt one year into my experience. We were not chosen to receive our primary grant funding, and the whole operation was closed- rendering me jobless.

And now I am on the edge of a cliff waiting to take another risky jump to dive deep into a new body of experience.

However cliche it might be- with every door closed, another opens. After a brief time of shock and grief, an excitement has stirred in me.

Why?- because every job leads to the next.

What will the next be this time?

I enjoyed my job- updating my educators on marital trends, training them in solid curriculum, all for the purpose of holding families together and enriching their relationships with communication and resolution tools.

My husband and I were right on track to kick our loans to the curb by 2017.

We had it all planned out, we could handle it all on our own.

But now we have to lean on God to handle it, and we are trading our plan in for His plan.

Not too long ago I talked about how I wanted to “remake my life” and now I have no strings attached, nothing holding me back from embracing that goal.

A new door stands open, and a new adventure awaits! As I think about it, I can’t help but be a bit excited.

When have you felt a chapter closing in your life? Were you excited or scared for a new beginning? What might you be called to close or jump into today?

I am the Vine – John 15

This summer I had the opportunity to speak God’s Word from the stage of TCN- the church where my husband works.

Our pastor was on sabbatical for 6 weeks, leaving 6 volunteers the chance to step in and preach on one of the “I AM” statements found in the gospel of John.

After volunteering, I was given “I am the vine” found in John chapter 15.

Emilie studying for "I am the vine"I loved preparing for this challenge. I spent over three hours in the library reading multiple commentaries on John, looking up key words like “vine,” “abide,” and “fruit.” Escavating the cultural context of this passage, and discovering Jesus’ true intention of these verses, rather then leaning on my own interpretation.

Then it took several drafts to widdle down my discoveries to the key components and making the message tangible to the audience. I was truly blessed by the process and the time I was able to invest in God’s word.

My prayer was that God would reveal to me the meaning of the passage, I asked that I would be emptied of my own bias and pride, so that I could effectively deliver as a humble servant.

If you want to hear the end result, here is the sermon on “I am the vine” from John 15: 1-17

 

Tappy supporting Em before she got on stage

Seasons of Life: the hopeless and the hopeful

The seasons are changing… From Summer, my favorite – a time of shorts and tank tops, flip-flops and icecream. The embrace of the sunshine and days spent with dirt between our toes, grass-stains on our knees… Everything is alive and full.

To Fall, my husband’s favorite – a time to reminisce our dating days, layering up in the cutest scarves and hats. Filling our tummies with pumpkin anything and everything. Hopping from a fall festival to picking apples to a haunted house…

Then will come winter… Beautiful with it’s snow and the joy of the holidays, but quickly turning sour with the bitter cold that never ends.

Our life is full of seasons, as well.

Photo credit: Heather Wilson Smith at stocksnap.io

We have seasons of joy, passion, and purpose. Seasons of pain, loss, and change. Season of child-bearing, and empty nesting. Seasons of marital bliss, and those of strife.

Just yesterday my husband and I were reminded of a tough season in our life, which we finally feel has passed! We were both dealing with loneliness, living in a new state away from our families for the first time. This loneliness mixed with a lack of purpose and direction in my life had turned into a bit of depression and anger.

Tap describes this season as “walking on egg shells.” Every time he called me out on my short fuse, it broke my heart. I felt like I was failing him as his wife. I wasn’t the out-going, happy-go-lucky lady he fell in love with. My shame buried me deeper, and took me farther from the wife he knew.

Thankfully, from the other side, I can say that this was just a season.

Soon, another “summer” came into my life. It was a slow process. That winter of my soul seemed to last as long as the winter of 2013. After a lot of prayer and tears, God placed the right people and right opportunities into my path.

I was put on the Board of Heart-Song, Inc. Through them, I took a class to rediscover my purpose and create action steps for living it out. In time, I found a new job that aligned more accurately with my skills, degree, and passion. Then, my schedule opened up for even more opportunities to pursue the hobbies I love- like art, ministry, and now dance.

I’m not sure what season you are in right now, but know that it is just a season.

Savor the drippy icecream cone of your life, or

Cling to the hope that your winter will pass.

Regardless of what season you find yourself in, it will pass.  But every season also holds a lesson or a promise.  In every dark season, I can see the lessons I’ve learned or the muscles that grew.  Muscles of mercy, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control. I learn peace, and I grow in love.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 8

What season of life are you in?  What season did you just leave? What lessons were learned?

It’s time to let it go

Our hands can only hold so much.

I can think of several examples, let’s see if you can relate.…

One time, I grabbed every single grocery bag in my car and began to carry it towards the apartment. When I reached the door, I realized that I couldn’t possibly grab my keys, unlock the door, and walk in without dropping half the bags to the ground. #overzealous #fail

So the next time, I unlocked the apartment, left the door open, and then tried the same thing. I went and grabbed every bag so that I would only have to make one trip, and then a bag breaks…. Bananas bruise or the cans begin to roll.

from StockSnap.io by Santalla

Our hands can only hold so much.

I picture full hands and toddlers yanking on your legs or trying to hand you their toy. Making dinner while children scream and your husband tries to tell you a story. I picture ripped grocery bags and bruised bananas.

I picture chaos.

 

And in each of these scenarios, it is best to drop one thing in order to grab another.

It is best to set the groceries down before you try to open the door. It is best to stop stirring the pot and look your husband in the eyes. It is best to let it go, before you grab something else.

 

The Bible often mentions this idea: to let go, in order to grab something better.

To let go of seeking material possessions, and instead grab onto the things that last.  Matthew 6:19-24

To let go of all our grudges and all the sins against us, to grab onto the powerful grace and mercy of God and the forgiveness He offers us. Matthew 6:14-15

To let go of anything holding us back from holding on to God’s blessings, and His exciting plans for our life.

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…

Philippians 3:8-9

We have to let go of our own desires: Vanity, materialism, busyness, sleep, television. Whatever it may be that is distracting us from developing a holy desire to do good for the world.

We have to let go of our grudges and our unforgiveness: the time our parents missed our basketball game, the rumor that was spread like wildfire, the friend who stood us up, the person who broke your heart.

Whatever grudges that are holding you back from understanding grace to it’s fullest potential, you need to let go. Let it go so you can finally receive it and offer it to everyone else.

If we hold tightly to the things of this world, our hands will be too occupied to grasp the new, the good, the great.

God wants to fill our hands with blessings, with mercy, love, and peace. If we hold tight to the wrongs of others or the vain pursuits of our selves, we won’t ever be able to grasp the amazing things he has in store for us.

 

Do you have vain pursuits that keep you busy from pursuing God? Do you have someone you desperately need to forgive in order to move forward with peace? Do you keep a record of wrongs?

It’s time to let go, and grab hold of God.

Where to Begin Planning a Wedding

How do you plan for a wedding?  Where do you start?!

My facebook feed is full of happy tears, giant smiles, and sparkly rings. If you are one of these giddy new fiances, this one is for you!

Planning a weddingThese are the steps we took –  or should have taken  – in preparing for the Big Day.

This is my all-time favorite marriage book. It helped me focus on what marriage truly is, not what Hollywood (or myself) makes it out to be.

It gave me an opportunity to reflect on my unrealistic expectations, and ground myself in God’s purpose for my marriage, not my own.

This is a SOLID way to start. It was truly humbling… changing the perspective of “Marriage is to make me happy” into “Marriage is to make me holy.”

  • Figure out how much you will spend. e.g. Absolutely no more than $__

We need to start off with a well defined price cap. Once we begin planning a wedding, one decision leads to another, and every little expense adds up big time.

It is easy to be pressured by perfect pictures on Pinterest, pushy salesmen, and blindsided by wedding etiquette. Be sure to know your price-line early, and NEVER cross it.

Keep in mind that the research shows the less you spend on your wedding, the lower the divorce rate. Also, you don’t want to start your life off with a huge pile of debt!

  • Choose your priorities

For me it was: 1) Dress 2) Photographer 3) Dancing.

When you know your priorities, you know where most of your money should go. When the money starts getting slim, remind yourself that the priorities have already been taken care of.

Equip yourself to say no to good things, in order to say yes to the best things. Knowing your priorities will give you the courage to skimp on the decorations or the location.

  • Make a Budget

Now that you know your price cap and your priorities, it’s time to make a Zero Line Budget.

This means, every single dollar of the budget needs to be allocated to something. You can give yourself wiggle room by having a miscellaneous category.  If you need more money for a certain category, you learn that you have to decrease another category to make up for it.

Here is a suggested Budget Breakdown according to Dave Ramsey’s daughter Rachel Cruz:

-Reception 55%
-Ceremony 12%
-Photographer 10%
-Dress 8%
-Wedding Planner 10%
-Misc 5%

  • Schedule Top-Quality Pre-Martial Counseling (it’s worth it)

I know a lot of Pastors offer pre-marital counseling, some for free. However, many of them do not have the time or the expertise to give you the best.

Tap and I spent 6 weeks with a wise couple who gave us tests, assessments, and discussed the nitty-gritty details with us.They listened and tailored our meetings to meet our needs and potential problem areas.

I highly recommend starting your marriage off on a strong foundation. After all, you are really preparing for a marriage, not a wedding day.

If you are unsure of local pre-marital counselors or have a long-distance engagement, check out Don Miller’s resource: Before You Get Married. Or find someone certified to give the Symbis assessment.

Focus on the Family just advertised this Ready to Wed kit, saying that couples who do pre-marital counseling are 80% more likely to stay together! Wow.

  • Choose a season/rough date

Venues can book up a year in advance, so I wouldn’t be too specific on a date. Pick a season, most likely the venue will guide you to the actual date.

  • Start a Date Night Tradition : With NO Wedding Talk

Planning a wedding is really exciting… Thoughts of cake and flowers and decoration details begin to fill your mind 24/7 and live even in your sleep.

However, these details can get really taxing. Discussing them All.The.Time can get really annoying.

Start a date night tradition now, where wedding talk is off limits. Your future spouse will appreciate it.

Also, this tradition can carry on into marriage! Only then, you’ll have to put all arguments on hold, or talk of in-laws and children.

  • Find a location for the wedding and the reception.

If you can’t find a suitable location on a Saturday, be willing to consider a Friday or Sunday wedding. Like I said, Saturdays book up fast!

Some locations are even cheaper than the premium Saturday prices.

  • Hire a photographer for your engagement and wedding photos

Good photographers take the time to know you, your vision, and how best to portray your personality through the photos. Having the extra time to spend together through an engagement shoot will prepare all of you for the Wedding date itself.

A trusted photographer and professor of mine has put together “The Smart Bride’s Photo Guide.” This would be a great place to get an extensive look at how to pick your photographer.

  • Select a Stress-free Wedding Party

Your bridal party or the groomsmen are what can make or break your day. Don’t feel pressured to have a large party, have the same number on both sides, or pressure to ask someone who expects to be up there.

A lot of friends are here just for seasons, but some are full-lifers. Find the friends that love you and support your upcoming marriage. Friends that will last through the changes ahead of you and will only enrich your day- not fill it with drama.

  • Agree on the Guest-list

Be sure to ask your parents if they have any “must-invite” guests.  You may not know them as well as the girl that lived three doors down in your dorm hall, but they watched you grow up.  They prayed over you, taught you in Sunday School, and want to witness your special day and bless you with their presence and possibly present… (and they have a bigger budget then that dorm-mate).

  • Enjoy Planning! Find your florist, cake, caterer, dress, and tux! Just don’t stress it, enjoy it!

Remember… It is one day, your marriage is a lifetime.

What are some tips you would give the blushing bride? What absolutely made your wedding? What would you have changed?

To see how our wedding turned out take a look:

How We Met

The Proposal

Engagement Photos

The Wedding Day

My Wedding Album

Our Honeymoon