Why #LoveYourSpouse Challenge is Good

I understand why people are rolling their eyes at the #LoveYourSpouse trend…  Because the reality is, life is NOT A FAIRY TALE.

And for most people who are against the trend rightly feel that it is a little too polished and perfect to be true. However, this challenge is a reminder of something all couples need a little more of.

Positivity. Bonding. Forgiveness. Solidarity. Encouragement.

#loveyourspouse

Here are three short reasons why the #LoveYourSpouse Challenge is a good thing.

-Keeping a Positive Outlook on Your Marriage is Healthy-

I’ve shared before that Tap and I have made a commitment to not bash each other in public. When we do this we feel safe in our relationship, we don’t fear embarrassment in-front of or away from our spouse. Our spouse knows our deepest and most hidden flaws, and with this rule I feel safe with him knowing all of me.

So no, facebook doesn’t show the reality of our roller coaster relationship, but it shouldn’t have to. Fights are for us in our own space and time, until they’re too big- Then they’re for us and a mutually trusted counselor or wiser couple.

-Telling and Sharing Your Story is Bonding-

In all of my communication & relationship courses in college the theme of “story” was studied. The premise was that “memory sharing” creates and reinforces a bond between two people. Just watch a couple recite their story, over time they can finish each other’s sentences and they can repeat this story with bravado! You also begin to see them lean into each other, and show outward signs of affection.

Why? Because, once you walk down memory lane it tends to resurface some of those initial butterfly feelings.

Furthermore! Every positive memory is like an investment in your relationship. So when those imperfect hard times hit, you have an investment that softens the blow! We need to keep remembering the reasons we love our spouse, as well as create more reasons and memories for future hardships.

-We all Desperately Need Encouragement-

We should never stop encouraging our spouse… or our friends, family, or other marriages and love stories.

Just after 4.5 years of my marriage, I may feel like I’m not the woman my husband married. Fear that I have disappointed him with the pounds I’ve gained, the patience I’ve lost, and the slow change of personality that happens with experience and time. We all doubt ourselves, and need the reminder and reaffirmation that our marriage is still strong in the midst of challenge or change.

Even in a healthy, loving, committed relationship, I’m glad to still hear I love you.. still.

It is important to remind each other that we did, do, and will always love one another, despite the surfacing flaws, bumps in the road, and challenges we face.

And in a world that pushes divorce, selfishness, and the pursuit of happiness over holiness, it’s good to see love conquer.

How about you? Will you be joining the challenge? Why or why not?

 

What If I Fall?

What if I fall_

 

I’ve fallen before… many times, I have scars to prove it. And as a child I don’t think I ever feared the falling. Falling from my first steps, falling from the pine tree at my sister’s as I learned to climb it, falling from my bike, my Rollerblade races, from sitting on my self-made tower of waffle blocks….

I’m sure that my parents didn’t even try to keep count of my scraped knees, the band-aids, or tears.

To this day I can still ride a bike, Rollerblade… and I’ve added long boarding, skiing, and so much more to my list.  And with time the falling grew less.

However, what I never meant to add to my list was the actual fear of falling.

Last ski trip, I was scared for the first time of riding the ski lift. I pulled the safety bar down as we climbed up into the mountain.  A thing I never did in the past, no matter how high we would climb.

When did that fear slip in?

And not only has it found me, but it’s taken over corners of my life.

Now I’m scared of what people think, fear of failing, fear of embarrassment, fear of disappointment… To the point that sometimes fear paralyzes me. It feeds me the lie- better not to try then to try and fail (in front of everyone).

Oh, but darling… What if you fly?

You could not only obtain your dream, but God could take you further than you allowed yourself to first dream.  Maybe this dream will whisk you away into a life you truly love- wrapped up in excitement, purpose, meaning. Maybe this dream is a step into a further calling.

Perhaps you’ll be as loved as those you love and admire- Beth Moore and Jen Hatmaker… Maybe you will do what you’ve always wanted to do- Write a book, or have a beloved tribe of friends.

Be surrounded by those you need, be where you need to be, doing what you were made to do.

And the only one holding you back is you.

Please don’t let fear hold you back from the life you’ll love and even more importantly- the life God has asked you to live, that He has equipped you for, the life that will breathe life into others.

Fly and Live.  Fly and Love.  Fly and Inspire.

When did fear join your journey? Why do you think you’ve given fear so much power in your life? What do you want to fly into?

My Favorite Christmas Story

One of my favorite Christmas stories comes from John 1.  I know it’s not the usual baby in a manger scene you might expect, but it helps me soak in the Christmas miracle a little better than that well-known picture of Mary and Joseph bent over a cradle.

In John 1, a picture is painted of Jesus Christ being God. The same God who was there when the world was formed, the same God who created that world and each and every one of us.

Be still, and know.

Be still and soak in the power of God, the Creator.

God, the Creator, became a man, the creation.

Photo Courtesy of Giu Vicente at Unsplash

The first thought that comes to mind is 26-year-old-me being stuck in a baby’s body. How limiting that can be… little control over my limbs, complete dependence on mom and dad to feed, change, and clothe me.

I am only 26-years-old and not nearly as wise, righteous, and amazing as God… and I don’t think I’d like going back to being a baby.

Yet God… who IS all knowing, all powerful, all present, humbles Himself to human limitations.

Not just human limitations, but baby limitations. So that He could connect with us in a tangible way, and provide us the best Christmas gift.

Philippians 2:6-8 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

Jesus Christ was fully God and fully Man. The only one completely pure, good, and just, the only one who was deserving of eternal life, left His throne for us.

Have you let the Christmas miracle soak in? Have you let the audacious love of God soak in? It’s tremendous.

What parts of the Christmas story excite you? What inspires you?

What does Jesus want for Christmas?

Every year I have the best of intentions to spend my Christmas wisely…. I tell myself to savor every moment, focus on what’s important, and remember the “reason for the season.”  Then before I know it, all good intentions aside, Christmas has come and gone in the blink of an eye.

With moving, adjusting, and getting new jobs… Christmas is approaching even more quickly this year- So I lay with my husband in bed last night and asked him, “What do you think Jesus would want from us during Christmas?”

After a few moments, we thought Jesus would want from us at Christmas-time, what He wants of us all the time.

What does Jesus Want for Christmas_

Service, Joyful Giving, Worship, Evangelism, and taking care of the widows and orphans are just a few things that came to mind. Surprisingly the “Commercial” Christmas can help us accomplish some of these goals.

Service & Joyful Giving

During the Christmas season there are a lot of extra ways to serve! Ringing the Christmas bell for Salvation Army, buying for Angel Tree, packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Find a way to serve that meets your passion, talents, and abilities!

Give! Give as big as you can! A lot of non-profits encourage end-of-the-year giving with matching opportunities.  Even if you can only give a little, what you can give can be doubled! ‘Tis the season after all!

Worship

Christmas is the only season where Christian music is accepted and played everywhere! Have you ever thought of that? Christmas carols are often represented among the “Holiday Playlists” at stores like Target, Walmart, and the mall.

Then churches everywhere work hard to make worship services extra special, to bring God our best in worship.

We can also take worship out on the streets with us by carrying the tradition of Caroling door to door!

Evangelism & Discipleship

Sharing the gospel just gets easier with Christmas around! Why are you so joyful when everyone else is a scrooge? Why do you love Christmas so much? How are you celebrating this year? What is your favorite Christmas tradition? All of these questions can give you an opportunity to share!

Share that God, creator of the universe, humbled himself to become a baby… to live as His creation, live as a human, to die for our sins and give us eternal life.

Remember that huge humbug over the red Starbucks cups? A friend of mine made it an opportunity to share the gospel! She shared how the Red cup was like the blood of Jesus and the white represented the purity of His cleansing power. She has a great blog that you can check out here.

Widows & Orphans

Jesus mentions the orphans and the widows all of the time in the gospels, asking us to take care of them. We may not have the ability to adopt, but there are plenty of ways to help. You can make donations towards adoption agencies and programs; cook, babysit, or give to families full of adopted children; give towards personal funds for families planning to adopt.

 

What do you think Jesus wants from you during the Christmas season? How do you give a gift back to Him?

For more ways to keep God in the center check out : One Gift You Should Not Forget To Give and Sparkle Box Progress Report

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

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.

Remake Your Life

Quote & Photo Courtesy of Shauna Niequist

The author of my daily devotional, Savor, posted this quote on her facebook wall. The words keep resonating in my heart and echoing through my mind.

I believe it’s worth it, too.

It’s worth it to turn the ship around, and finally begin the journey in the right direction.

Yes, we may lose something… we may lose the time we spent on the wrong career, the money we spent at the wrong school and in the wrong major, the people we called friends… maybe. Maybe not.

God has a funny way of weaving all of our experiences together to make up who we are.  Our destiny is often tied up in our past, and you never know how God will redeem it.

If you’re scared that you will lose too much, keep in mind that the sooner you turn the ship the less backtracking you will have to do.  You’ll cut your losses of time, money, energy, and you’ll have more time to invest in the right path.

Just thinking about it burns my heart up.

I want to remake my life.

All of the happiest and most successful people I know have started over and remade their lives… multiple times.

My mom and dad have had more businesses than I can count or recall. My brother has moved to Chicago, Orlando, and Minneapolis, and traded up jobs several times… all to restart again. Moving from a career in computers to one as a financial adviser.

Ed Catmul wanted to be an artist, but lacking the skills he went to school for physics and came out with a degree in it and computer science. At the time this seemed far from art.. physics? Then he did the unthinkable by blending computer science with animation, and after many new beginnings, he is the well-known president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios.

My sweet husband went to school for environmental science, but God called him out of that. Tap had to remake his life to fit God’s call, and transferred schools for Worship Ministry.

Countless entrepreneurs had to begin somewhere, and many had to begin again… and again. Usually coming out stronger, more defined, and more fueled with passion then ever before.

Life is short, wild, and ambitious. We need to rise up and meet the challenge and embrace the whims of it.

It’s better to remake your life now, than look back with regret.

Don’t wait until you have all your ducks in a row.

Don’t wait until the kids are grown.

Don’t wait until forever.

It takes time to remake your life, so you better start now.

The sooner you start the longer you can savor.

What do you want to remake your life into? What is your first step? What remaking have you already done in your life?