known by our love? or our rants?

How do you set up your process of taking in information? Do you learn about current events from more than one source? Do you block someone the minute they post something that you disagree with? Do you read books or listen to podcasts with more than one worldview? Do you eat dinner with people that don’t go to your church, to any church at all, who have no interest in God? 

The world we live in is so consumed with being right. Having the last word. And excluding anyone on the other side of their argument. 

But, let me ask you this. Have you ever tried to love someone when you are completely annoyed with them?  Have you ever tried to love someone on the other side of the political line than you and not known where to draw the line? 

We can’t love people well if we spend more time judging them than praying for them. Do you see yourself winning a friend over to Christ for posting a meme that makes fun of them or been endlessly sarcastic? Do you see yourself enveloping them in a time of grief when all you’ve done is insisted on your own way? If we spend more time gossiping about them than encouraging them, who wins? Our pride. And bitterness takes root. 

We are looking for reasons to keep our knuckles clutched in fear, in anger, in confusion. We ought to live wisely and discern the events around us. We should most definitely know the fools around us and keep our distance. At the exact same time, we are called to be known by our love. What do we do with this tension? 

Can we all just admit that this is extremely difficult? And we are all trying to figure this out? 

I believe it starts with knowing the difference between discernment and judgment. They are basically siblings, they are so much alike. But if we spend our days only wanting our own truth exclaimed instead of the Kingdom of God first, it’s like that we will waste our lives judging others. 

In the family of God, there will be many differences. Don’t be mistaken. But there are meant to be no divisions. 

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. — 1 Corinthians 1:10

Isn’t that crazy to think about? In the world we live in where someone is considered our friend if they have the same preferences and vote for the same candidates? The Greek word for agree in this passage (hina pantes legete) means “to say the same thing”. The word for united (katertismenoi) means to “be made perfect or be perfectly joined together”. The word for judgment (gnome) means “judgment, purpose or will”. This means that we can be on mission with our brother and as long as we say the same thing – our understanding of the gospel is rooted in Scripture – and our purpose – furthering Christ’s kingdom – remains the same, we continue to walk together. Conflict is a way to sanctify us to be more like Christ. Our differences and the way we work through them are meant to actually help us be “made perfect”! But divisions, matters that are clearly stated against in Scripture, show us the people that we do not have the same mind with – therefore we don’t have the same purpose in life. 

Within the Christian context, discernment is defined in this way: “perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual guidance and understanding.” 

This means that we can look at our neighbor, see the error in their ways, and have nothing to do with their folly. We can learn from other’s mistakes and choose a better path. We can see their sin in separation from their personhood. We aren’t there for vengeance, because we know it is God’s alone. We are there for the sharing of words and opinions, not to make sure ours is the last. We can thank God that He has opened our eyes to truth, ask for humility, and continue to stand up for His justice and righteousness. We can love that person, respect them, and still know that His ways are higher than all of our views through faded glass.

If you want help in knowing further what this looks like, dive deep into the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Over and over we see how Jesus was outraged to the point of saying “oh you of little faith!” and proceeded to point out the error of many people’s ways. We also see him let a woman of less than moral reputation sit as his feet in worship with only gracious words. What we learn from His example is that there is not a formula for how to always interact with those that believe different than us. But there is always one goal: to honor God’s name. Throughout the Scriptures, Jesus always stood up for His Father’s name being misrepresented. He was quiet when people spoke out against Him, but He always spoke up when someone slashed the name of God. We should do the same. And when the Pharisees expected Him to make a scene, He often chose a softer response of accepting their repentance and extending grace. We should do the same.

God has pursued our hearts in a thousand unique ways, so we shouldn’t be surprised when there aren’t always one answer to how to handle this tension. But a few things are clear in the life of Jesus: He didn’t have anything to do with immorality. And He regularly ate with sinners. There is one way that we as Christians can accomplish this same goal, however imperfectly: we have to be walking with the Spirit every single day. He will guide us in whether we need to make a bold statement, a quiet embrace, or something in between. The cross will continue to be offensive to those who have blinded eyes, but we must press on for the ones who are hungering for the Good News. We will offend others and we have to be okay with that. We will love people that are hard to embrace with any sort of kindness and we have to rejoice in His grace that allows us to do so. He knows our capabilities and other’s needs perfectly. We must trust Him to lead us and obey Him when He does.

God, teach us the difference between discernment and judgment. Help us to stand firm in Your values and walk in Your Spirit. Tell us what to do – may we be quiet enough to listen. Cleanse our hearts of bitterness and our tongues of starting wildfires we cannot tame without Your help. Give us the strength to stand firm in our convictions and give us the humility to apologize when we’re wrong. Keep us from becoming hardened by the world. Keep us soft yet strong, bold and kind. Would Your love be so mightily manifested in us that it ripples out to those around us, leading to the holy shift in us all.

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our vows for the kingdom

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*settle in, put on “I Get To Love You*, and get ready to feel all the feels* Just me? Okay.

One of our first choices in wedding planning was to write our own vows. We wanted every part of our day to be uniquely ours and centered around Christ. Personalizing our vows was a big part of accomplishing that – down to heart shaped confetti resembling the miles we travelled when we were long distance (but that’s a DYI wedding post for another time?).

We had a few requirements for our vows.

They were to be covered in prayer.

They needed to be edited or at least read by a close family friend because we were not going to hear each other’s until the pressing moment (both my maid of honor and my pastor helped me to focus on what I really wanted to say and get rid of anything unnecessary).

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Logistical things: we shared a word count so one person would not dote about their undying love for ten minutes while the other summed it up nice and tidy. Both of us are wordy individuals in our own right, so this wasn’t hard to even out.

I searched Scripture with the question, “What are the best gifts I can give to Zach as only his wife can?”

In addition, we wanted something light hearted and funny… because we could. And that’s us.

We started with a look to the past and present, but on the whole made our vows future-oriented which is something that has sadly been dismissed in modern times. Timothy Keller describes it in this way: “Weddings vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of a future love. A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel now – that can safely be assumed. Rather, in a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful, and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances.”

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Marriage in light of all eternity…

FOR THE KINGDOM. 

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You are my best pal, my world, the woman beyond my dreams and my shopgirl. We have known each other for a long time and there hasn’t been a moment where you weren’t on my radar. From working at camp until now, you have always found a way to make me smile, even on my darkest days. You are the light in my life and you are the most incredible woman and your passion for Christ has brought me so near to you.

I promise to support you in all your endeavors. I promise to love you the way that Christ loves us. I promise to lead physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I promise to take care of you in every single way whether you are sick with the sniffles or diagnosed with something terminal, I will be by your side through it all.

I promise to be as devoted to you as the Gilmore Girls are devoted to junk food. I promise to make endless puns, sarcastic comments, and be goofy every day for the rest of our lives.

I will study with you, paint, dance, and obviously play Mario Kart with you.

Times may get touch and we may not like each other in certain moments but my love and devotion towards you will not waiver for you. You are my one and only. I promise to be the husband and father that you so deserve and I will continue to make time for you and you alone even in the midst of raising miniature Zach’s.

I am so ready to be the man that you rely on in every situation and have been waiting on being able to come home to you – and not driving a copious amount of hours just to see your smiling face. I promise to communicate with you on a whole new level, and call you just because I can.

Finally I promise to grow in love every day for you and in Christ I shall grow exponentially and will forever love you until one of us is taken from one another.

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Zach, I’ve been praying for you since I was a little girl.

I have had this gift of watching the answer unfold in the form of a best pal becoming my forever love. I’ve had a front row seat to your patience and your gorgeous servant heart. Your stubborn love has changed me. When I have resisted to receive and shut you out, you have pursued me, reminded me of my unshakable identity, and proved that your heart is a safe place to land. I know the Father’s heart better because of the way you take care of me.

Today, I promise to be your teammate, to walk as coheir with you in this life. I vow to sacrificially agree with your God-given authority, and to faithfully and intentionally love you. I promise to call you up with respect and wisdom into who God says you are and calls you to be. I commit to train my eyes and my heart to seek after you only, to grow alongside you, and to chases the riches of the kingdom with you.

I will laugh at your Dad jokes and keep on kissing you at red lights. I will be your safe haven when you need me to embrace you in hardship, whisper a prayer in your need, or shout truth louder than your doubt.

I promise to expose my weaknesses in order to make God’s strength perfect. I commit my life, however broken, to be a picture to you of Christ’s unconditional, abounding love.

I make these promises not knowing where they will lead us, but knowing that the promises of God will uphold us in every sorrow, every joy, every sickness, and ultimately lead us to abundance.

Today, I fully receive your love. I entrust my heart to your leadership and affection. From this day on I choose to be your lover, your partner in mission, and your best friend until we arrive home to the Father.

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Sealed with a holy kiss. 

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“Within this Christian vision for marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to His throne.” And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, “I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!” ” — Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

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And here they sit at the foot of our bed. Our sacred space, that on any given day could use an actual or metaphorical dusting. In decades time the page edges won’t be as crisp but the contents will be tested and true. To remind us of what we’ve promised and what’s been promised to us. Of the people that God is molding. Whether we’ve messed up or cheered each other on, Christ reminds us of our vows and sustains us in the fulfillment of each one.

how to take heart in these troubled times

What a way to begin the year, right? We’ve had a celebrity death among 8 other precious souls, taken too soon. The outbreak of Coronavirus. Controversial half-time shows and award show speeches. Our world is hurting – secretly hoping for Eden although on most days I think we would settle for Mayberry or Stars Hollow. That’s just the world at large. Each of us have vibrant, full, jumbled personal lives filled with deadlines, kids to raise, immorality, estranged family members, job trouble, affairs, mental illness… and just plain exhaustion. We have every worldly reason to be devastated at times. To be frantic and confused.

So what do we do?

If I check my Facebook at any given time, (for a “break”??) I will get a political view that goes against my views, a view I agree with said in the wrong spirit, a baby picture, righteous anger, a birthday greeting, and something about animal cruelty. We are surrounded by noise. And there IS a gift to this knowledge.  But we have to decide how to handle and contribute to it with care.

It’s not always running away from the noise. There are times to take a break. There are times to fast. But are we running away from the problems of the world to seek God’s heart or because we don’t ultimately believe that He is in control? 

As Christians we are to be the most hopeful people on the planet. If there is not peace cultivated in our hearts, there will be no lasting peace anywhere. Are we going to have a voice that’s discerning and joyful and compassionate in suffering? OR are we going join the chaos? If we don’t always have a hope to share in the midst of turmoil, how big is our view of God? 

How do we navigate, enter into conversations, without adding more noise?

When I was thinking about all of these things today on my drive home from school worshipping to the song Good Good Father, I remembered a similar season in high school when I felt the world coming down around my shoulders. From my inner circle, to my family, to the community, and world at large I was particularly, more-than-usual disturbed. My best friend in high school sent me a text with only the contents of Jesus’ words. He knew that I was heavily overwhelmed and needed to get out of my own thoughts and focus on eternity with God.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. — John 16:33

This reminded me that whatever was bothering my 16 year old heart at the time, I had hope. Whatever was happening to me was nothing in comparison to my life that was hidden in Christ.

Ending in good and glory.

Maybe that’s what you need to know today? Maybe the whole of these words will be a help to you, but if you remember any of it tomorrow, let it be Jesus’ words. A text bubble of the holy Scripture received in a waiting room, nursery corner, or office desk. “…in Me and only in Me you will find rest. You will have trouble – expect it. But listen, you’ve got Me. And I’ve got this world.”

We can look at the suffering in this world and cry and be angry – so far that it doesn’t lead to cynicism and anger. Somewhere that no true believer in Christ can camp for their lifetimes. Why? Because God’s Word says that our suffering is an indicator of our future glory.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer being is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. — 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So we can look at our world and at the people around us living a kind of hell on earth and say THANKS BE TO GOD. If this injustice and troubling events are taking place and God’s Word is true, the glory will be impeccable. Beyond imagination, beyond words, beyond our wildest hope.

Jesus cried when His friend Lazarus died even though He knew that He had the power to raise him from the dead – and He would soon after. This is our answer. We allow ourselves to be deeply moved by grief. And we resolve to be deeply moved by the Spirit. (See John 11)

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. — Romans 12:12

That’s how we know we can move forward. We cry and scream and ache for all the ways this world is not like heaven, for the stark separation between humanity and God. Then, we use the power within us from the Spirit to make the next step in hope.

We feel exhaustion and trust Him for the strength to keep going. And we will find that strength when we realize that the battle is His. This doesn’t mean we don’t fight in His name – we just know that, just like our inherited salvation, it is not of our own works. We fight like no other, because we have the LORD OF HOSTS that no man-made thing can scratch. We still fight because He is the Christ who provides comfort AND asks “Where is your faith?” when a storm rattles our trust.

You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies — the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the LORD will conquer you… and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel!…. This is the LORD’s battle and he will give it to us. — excerpt from 1 Samuel 17, IMMERSE reading Bible

In Hayley Morgan’s last two podcasts, she talked about this uneasiness that comes at looking at the hurting world around us. In the most recent podcast “The coronavirus and telling ourselves a better and truer story”, she invited us to insert compassion wherever being frantic was formerly. Instead of worrying about coronavirus, could we focus on the reality – the real people infected, hurting, and scared – and show them compassion? Because, the enemy is not others, but the virus – either literally or figuratively. Our enemy is not our family member on Facebook who is against a policy we agree with or vice versa. The enemy is the virus. Whether it’s death, murder, hostility, anger – anything that separates us from others and God. That’s what we are fighting against. We waste a lot of energy when we focus on one person or post being the problem when the root of it goes all the way back to Eden.

We don’t become robots saying “Everything happens for a reason”. But our hearts that are shaped by this truth –  everything does happen for a reason  – become compelling, compassionate beacons of hope. We know that His glory will win and this propels us to love, not only to be right. Our soul can long and simultaneously hope.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope. — Psalm 130:5

We feel the brokenness and celebrate. Because the feast is coming. Hallelujah! These temporary things and church being deeply moved by the Spirit will show the bruised, waiting world that the God of Israel is still reigning today! We turn our eyes away from the transient and look to what is unseen, our only security. Our eyes widen as we see the muchness of our God. This feast – where we will sit at the massive table, with a name for each of His kids on each place setting, unhindered from the tangles of this world and taste the fullness of God.

(As a reminder of our time together in the Word today? Take one of these reminders below if you’d like. Thank you, dear friend.)

choosing to be present.

Present is my “word” for 2020.

I hesitated to even declare a word over my year because, frankly, God will do whatever He wants. I might make my word “quiet” and He’ll crank up the volume. I might make my word “joy” and be met by the deepest depression of my lifetime. It’s true. Regardless of our plans, His will surely will prevail.

For me, while I’ve chosen words over the past few years (like abundance 2018 and trust 2019) is because they heighten my awareness to what I believe He is already speaking over me in a particular season. In the first few days of January, I still didn’t know if I would choose a word for the year. But God practically broke into the things I was watching, reading, and listening to and highlighted everything that had to do with the act of presence. Choosing a word for the year isn’t declaring everything He will do, because His Word says we can’t even imagine all the good and glory He’s got around the corner. But, every single tool we find that opens us up towards the movement of the Spirit is a worthwhile pursuit.

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Small steps in the right direction: Not caring about my house or my appearance being perfect as long as my heart is available to serve (cleaning, working, homework, housekeeping) and love (give a friend encouragement, give someone a hand in the studio, drop what I’m doing for an hour if someone needs me, etc.). My ceramics professor said to us nearly every week this past fall semester, “PERFECTION IS AN ILLUSION.”

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He didn’t tell us this to keep us from trying our best. He told us this on a regular basis, because we found ourselves stuck because what we wanted just wasn’t attainable. Our desire for perfection wasn’t making us better artists, it was actually bringing our work to a defeated pause. To a bunch of struggling art students, this phrase was like water on a Kansan August day. We were worn out from the expectations of our other professors, society, and – ourselves. This serves as a reminder for me in my work and every other area that perfect isn’t the goal. The need for perfection will get me to a tidier life, but not a kingdom-building one. The act of presence will make me give my best in the moment and leave the results to God. What matters isn’t that my house looks good, I get all As, or that I look like a Pinterest ad (although those things might coincide with my goals at times), what matters is that my life is open to the blessings of God and to bless others. And that just won’t happen if I’m mad about clutter or broken out skin or a failing grade, as fickle as those things may seem.

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Other tangible ideas I’m working towards: Looking people in the eye, at least more than I can say I do now. Reading more books. Making time for fun outside and within school. Taking time to revel in awe at God and His Word. Writing, at home and in coffee shops about the good, the bad, and the ugly instead of dusting it under the rug. Being 95% “where my feet are”. (Of course, a woman’s brain is hard to untangle into one geographical location – but what would happen if we gave as much as we could in the room or discussion group or even the Instagram DMs we were in? And then moved to the next “thing” with the same amount of attention?) By the end of this year, I’m sure I’ll have many other ideas as I’ve committed many months to the same idea.

“Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem. Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairytale. Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.” — Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect

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Being present is simply the first step into what’s best for me in serving Christ and those around me. If I’m present, I’ll here His whispers quicker. If I’m present, I’ll count gifts consistently, seeing the ways in which He is constantly at work. If I’m present, life’s woes will be a lot more painful – but I won’t just ignore them, but experience God’s strength within them.

We live in a world that will take any chance it can get to numb away their lives, good or bad. If only we can drink, smoke, or buy more than enough – then we will feel relief from our days. If only we could have lots of sex and make a lot more money – then we will feel success. If I live vicariously through someone else’s bravery, I won’t have to listen to my own dreams. If I can keep all things tidy – myself, my house, my kids – then everyone will think I’m okay.

Choosing to be in the present is something that the evil one is offended by. He loves when we dwell on our past regrets and fret about the future. Oh, and he LOVES good intentions for *someday*. But he knows he will lose when believers stand up and show up to their one God-given life.

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The enemy delights in this future faith, for he knows it is powerless to accomplish any practical results. But he trembles and flees when the soul of the believer dates to claim a present deliverance, and to reckon itself now to be free from his power. . . Just as much as He [Christ!] came to deliver you from future punishment did He also come to deliver you from present bondage.  — Hannah Whitall Smith

By being present, I’ll be more awake to all the way’s He is moving. Whether it’s painful, exhilarating, or anywhere in between – wouldn’t we all prefer to say that we were awake to our own life? That we soaked up everything we could to make us better humans, His glory magnified on the earth, and our brother and sisters around us more loved? 

We should live in the present where love can touch us. — Henri J. M. Nouwen

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Being present is about being awake to it all. God is all powerful, but He doesn’t force us to listen. By making mindful choices to listen, to behold, to look up more often – we are guaranteed to be touched by love. And that love will flow through us in more powerful ways than when we were distracted by perfection.

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I’d love to know… What’s your word for the year and why?

 

 

 

 

surprised by joy

Zach and I are celebrated six months of marriage on December 15, 2019.

The first few months of marriage – maybe the first ten years – are for taking in all the experiences like a sponge. We take it all in with open eyes and raw nerves. I hesitate to celebrate such a small amount of commitment in light of a lifetime, or to offer insight as a twenty-year-old wife. Gosh, I can’t even legally order a margarita or rent a car but I’m committed to Zach for life. But here’s the thing: the reason the Israelites wondered in the wilderness for so long, the reason the rebellious teenager strays from the faith of Sunday school truths, the reason so many of us are out here floundering? It’s because we forget. We don’t celebrate the goodness and the faithfulness of God routinely – and then our routines become drudgery. 

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” — 1 Samuel 7:12

So we are staking our claim – the Lord has helped us. Through six months of figuring out how to love each other like the church should devote itself to Christ, how Christ lays down His life for His friends. We lay this stone of this small victory in faith – in sureness of things not seen – that it’s one of many.

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Our first six months – setting up our home with IKEA finds and sentimental pieces of our pasts, getting and training and loving our puppy, my busiest semester yet, living the untold stories of behind-the-scenes ministry life, walking through a whirlwind of family tragedy. Panic attacks, laughter only two close friends could share, passive aggressiveness rooted in deeply hurt feelings, freedom found in open communication – you can find a bit of it all here. It has all seemed like too much at times, in good ways and bad.

This week, we brought home a present for our six month old puppy. Bones are the only thing that seem to hold his attention for longer than two minutes – with the exception of possibly his tail. Zach went to pick up only his food, but he also noticed something Usher would love – a bone that is 3/4 his length. He picked it up and as soon as I saw it, I couldn’t wait to see Usher’s face when we brought it home for him. We delighted to give the gift and he delighted in receiving it.

As Usher grabbed the bone from our hands, he could barely keep it up with his mouth. On the way to his favorite spot on the couch, he dropped the bone twice, fumbled over himself, and needed help. And was deliriously excited.

Stretch your imagination with me in this moment. Isn’t that a bit like God’s gift of marriage?

We did absolutely nothing to deserve the gift of marriage. We are not holier than the single person seeking companionship. But God saw this gift for us and He couldn’t wait to see our faces in the receiving! Even though He knew that we would need help – every single hour. Even though He knew we would make fools out of ourselves. Even though He knew it was a bit too much for us to carry on our own. He delighted in the giving and we are delighting in the receiving – of the gift and the help stewarding it.

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I’ve been thinking about the fact that if our lives were a movie, Zach and I’s story would be over. The curtain would close somewhere between our wedding ceremony and the airplane that took us to the Cayman Islands. But this, this — is a holy beginning. The world would say that we’ve got nothing else entertaining to give. And it’s true, our dating and engagement was a whirlwind of excitement. But God has just begun the good work in us, of growing love larger in our hearts every single day.

I think the crux of couples getting lost in the day to day is how they perceive a successful relationship. Is the goal to never fight, to always sync physically, to feel good?

There’s a better way. And it is the hardest, holiest way.

The thing that matters? It’s not whether I am being served or happy, while those things are included in the package deal many times. The only thing that matters is whether our marriage tells the truth about the gospel or not.

Are we irritated at each other but laying it all out on the table to work in out? Is the romance just not there today but are we rooted in the unconditional love of Christ? Is your “better half” being a jerk, but you know that when the lights go out you can use this as a conversation for growth of character and the relationship?

Is it all feeling broken, but we are leading one another to the cross?  

As long as a couple is married, they continue to display – however imperfectly – the ongoing commitment between Christ and his church. . . . The first purpose in marriage — beyond happiness, sexual expression, the bearing of children, companionship, mutual care and provision, or anything else — is to please God.

— Gary L Thomas, Sacred Marriage

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A month ago I was leaving my friend Gloria’s house. As Midwesterns have been mocked on the internet for doing lately, we were standing in the kitchen next to her back door saying our 15 minute goodbye. I looked at her with a decidedness in my voice: “I just wish that we would have been honeymooners a little longer.” By that I mean, the first time I was so angry to sleep on the couch – even in beautiful, fun, finally-no-boundaries-unplugged paradise – wasn’t even a week into our marriage. #wifeoftheyear.

“I think most of us who have been married for any substantial length of time realize that the romantic roller coaster of courtship eventually evens out to the terrain of a Midwest interstate – long, flat stretches with an occasional overpass.” — Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage

She nodded her head with understanding.

She assured me that it’s okay if your story doesn’t seem to look like someone else’s newlywed story – because it’s real. Can I lean in and say that again? It’s okay if your story doesn’t look like someone else’s. It’s you. It’s authentic. It’s good to walk through hardship – as long as we walk, crawl, and stumble together.

Gloria finished her words of encouragement: “Don’t worry. God will surprise you with joy.”

He truly has.

View More: https://lightshaftmedia.pass.us/emilee-zach

View More: https://lightshaftmedia.pass.us/emilee-zachView More: https://lightshaftmedia.pass.us/emilee-zach

the one where we get engaged!

On October 20, 2018 Zach picked me up at our mutual friend’s house where I had spent the night in Des Moines, IA. We had spent the evening before at a good friend’s wedding dancing the night away. After I said goodnight to Zach, the girl’s and I went downtown Des Moines and enjoyed the sights and the good company. As Zach and I drove the two hours to meet my best friend for lunch the next morning, we listened to sappy music that means a lot to us as a couple and talked about our week. I get to see my best girl friend, Leah, about once a year. Zach and she arranged it starting in M A Y that we would all get together over Leah’s fall break, right in the heart of beautiful October. We met her for lunch in the small town of Bonaparte, Iowa and enjoyed a lunch by the river. I tried to get Leah to hang out for longer but she said she had “plans at 1 to hang out with her family”. So we took a few photos to capture the moment of all three being together again and said our “goodbyes”.

 

Bonaparte, Iowa is where we three met. Leah and I were assigned to be in the same cabin in 2007! Zach, Leah, and I became pals in 2013 when we were all working on kitchen staff together. We spent the week laughing together, wrestling with team dynamics, and singing High School Musical.

Zach and I made the drive out to camp and memories from my childhood just flooded in. We sat on a bench outside the kitchen where out initial interest kindled over Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and washing countless dirty dishes. We talked about all the memories we had together and personally in this one stretch of land – the friends we made, the not-so-fond memories, and the way God touched our lives. I remember leaning my head on his shoulder in that moment and wondering “Why isn’t he proposing?????” 😉

We continued the walk around my favorite spots at camp and took remake photos from our time there in 2013. I even took Snapchat videos that are hilarious and sweet to look back on knowing what was just about to happen!

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Being the typical woman that I am, I didn’t like the way I looked in any of our photos so Zach said, “Let’s go to the gazebo and try some there.” We laughed and walked hands over to the gazebo. I saw picture frames lining the benches, and then Leah with the video camera, and at that moment I knew what was happening.

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The moment had finally arrived.

The moment I’ve been dreaming of long before I knew Zach and the one he’s been teasing me about since we knew the direction of our relationship was certain. Zach got down on one knee, said the things every girl longs to hear, and closed with, “Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” I said “YES!”, he put the ring on my finger, and threw the ring box aside for one amazing, life-changing-moment embrace.

At a spot drenched in sentiment in the heart of camp, we had sweet pictures surrounding us & reminding us of the long road we traveled, red roses, shaky knees, happy tears, and a promise made.

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I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves about the joy and wonder of this moment…

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“WE’RE ENGAGED!!!!”

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Where you lead I will follow, soon-to-be husband.

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Diamond ring and twelve red roses… everything she ever wanted… all those dreams and now they’re finally here. 

She’s so young and he’s so perfect… they waited for love and it was worth it… they want to feel like this for a hundred years. 

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And, before any date was settled on or food tasted or vendor booked, I knew one other thing… So, next, I popped the question and asked Leah to be my maid of honor!!!

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I could write a book about the ways her friendship is constantly life-giving to me. 

After several hours of soaking in the moment at our favorite spot, we waved goodbye to a whole new set of memories and drove to Zach’s family’s house where I thought we would have a fun dinner with family. And that we did — but with a few more people than I was imagining. The drive was several hours and we forbid ourselves to talk about plans but simply to relish the fact that we had officially committed to becoming one, whenever the Lord seemed fit. When we arrived to Zach’s parent’s house, the driveway was packed with vehicles, the house filled with beaming faces, and our hearts continued to explode as we shared the news with those closest to us. I walked in and found my brother who had traveled over four hours, my parents who had driven seven, Zach’s college friends that I am now blessed to call my own, many family members to welcome us into each other’s clan… and the last guest I found in the corner of the living room: my best friend since BIRTH. I wouldn’t be who I am without this wild, beautiful woman of God and here she is at the 2nd most important day of my life so far! That’s actually the first time my tears absolutely flowed that day, not believing she was able to come & realizing the beauty of that moment. How our God loves drawing full circles of redemption.

Goodness, what a blessing. 

(Zach did good, right? 😉 )

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My best girls.

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That priceless moment when Grandpa welcomes you into his family. Wow wow wow.
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With one of our ring bearers to be!

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We are surrounded by so much love!

Next up was a rapid morning at church, a 7 hour car ride listening to football and calling close family and friends, all leading up to another beyond sweet engagement party – this time with our Kansas crew! Unlike the night before, family gathering at this party thought they were coming to a birthday party – and we met them at the door with other news!!! This was a night of pure joy exclaimed in so many hugs, getting to finally talk to my matron of honor about all the festivities, telling my family, the most delicious cupcakes, and playing with the kiddos in my life.

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To the community surrounding us: Thank you. Your support of our lives & now our lives together keep us reflecting on the goodness of God.

 

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Since this sunny and windy day in October, we have experienced many growing pains, but they are growing us closer to God and closer to each other. We are facing so many challenges and changes at once it’s hard to keep our vision straight. But this we know: the fight for holy marriage, the fight for unity, and the fight for God’s glory? It’s always, always worth it. And He is blessing us with so much joy as we continue to sharpen each other and laugh together. We are counting down the days.

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They told us camp wasn’t the time. (And God, in His sovereignty, kept us from romantic relationship for four more years.)

They told us our friendship would fade. (And we just kept growing closer, regardless of when we were able to see each other.)

They told us that we wouldn’t make it long distance. (And by the grace of God He held us in conflicts and blessed us with the hope of what was to come.)

Let’s keep beating the odds. 

 

This love story — a massive gift of grace.

This ring on my hand, this story of “Will you be my wife?” — unreal.

This life we are building together — I can’t wait. 

sing a loud song of redemption

I was able to attend my home church a few weeks ago and a lady in the congregation approached me to congratulate me on Zach and I’s engagement. She concluded by saying,

“God certainly provides doesn’t He?”

Lately I’ve felt guilty when I might lean on the side of “oversharing” in conversations face to face and on social media about Zach and I’s relationship. It’s such a thrilling time in life that I don’t want to become too centered on our little world of marriage preparations. While there is a time and a place for when and what to share, this comment made me realize why I commit to telling our love story.

My lowest low due to love forsaken was in the summer of 2016. I sat at a youth conference in Estes Park, Colorado and was told to write down the strongest lies I believed about myself.  Scribbled on a neon orange piece of paper I wrote, “I’m not good enough. I’m ugly. And no one will ever buy me flowers.” Tears streamed down my face as I saw those thoughts on paper for the first time and reflected on the reality ensuing back home making me feel these things, the sadness of those lies being exposed to the light and losing power over me. I crumbled up the piece of paper and threw it away, thinking that no one would ever have to see those thoughts that were active in my mind. After another full day of activities and worship sessions, we returned to the same workshop with a bookmark for each participant with Scriptures attacking the lies. I’m not sure even today of who read my broken remarks, but they fought the battle of exchanging those lies for God’s truth on my behalf. The new words reminded me that I was equipped for every good work in Christ and that I was flawless and beautiful by the blood of Jesus.

And the reason I will sing of my love found, is because the love I’ve found in Zach not only gives me the joy of this earthly companionship, but his love reminds me of what’s been true all along. The way he looks at me – is forever changing me the way I love and the way I receive love from the Father. If there is something in your life that is revealing love to you in a brand new way, spoken by God or shown by Him through His creation, the world needs to hear it. God didn’t start singing over me when Zach decided to choose me across all the miles and all the obstacles in our way. We haven’t “arrived” – this is simply the path of sanctification the Lord has led us to. God was singing over me when I was stricken by grief in the mountains, when I was afraid of losing Zach’s friendship the next summer, when we promised each other forever this last October, and every step in between.

This song, it’s not about us at all. God certainly provides, doesn’t He?

The definition of provision isn’t in finding a spouse or buying that impressive house. Provision is the truth that God is singing over you right now and He won’t stop. The circumstances you are in – whether in the waiting or the fulfillment – there’s still a call for a victory dance. Because whether you’re waiting for money to pay bills, that dream to come true, that boy to call back, lab results that might have a new chapter attached to them, or those job results after an exciting interview – He is here. And He has something to speak to you in it. 

why our redemption stories, in all their variations, are worth telling:

  • to count the fruit

The good parts are not the whole story, but focuses our hearts on what matters most and how far we’ve come. Recounting faithfulness reminds us of all the goodness that can spring forth from growing unseen and maybe even unappreciated in the dark.

  • to change the language

This world is drenched in cynicism and confusion when it comes to healthy relationships, marriage specifically. What if more people in stable relationships shared their lives and their struggles openly? What if by our lives we could all beckon a bit more hope in each other’s dreams? In order for this to change, it all starts with the language we use to each other and about each other.

  • to bless our partner, our friends

Scripture says in Hebrews 10:24 that we ought to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…” One way to do this is to consistently tell your partner what you’re grateful for. It tells them, “I see you & the way you love behind the scenes.” It builds them up and it helps them to keep going with a joyful heart.

  • to show the world what true love is

When I was living out my singleness in high school, my friend Becca wrote long letters to me telling story after story about how God was working between she and her husband (then her boyfriend!). Hearing about the way Casey held her, wiped her tears, and laughed with her pointed me to hope. When I consider keeping this love only to myself, I think about how my thought processes would have been different without those stories shared by Becca and other sweet women who have let me take a glimpse into sacred pieces of their lives. If all the world is hearing is songs about one night stands and broken communication, who will tell them that sacrificial, gentle love exists? Let is start with us. 

The Gospel is the grandest love story that will ever be told. And if our one relationship, lived with intention – in all our mistakes and mishaps – points others to that One Best Story? Then who am I to stay quiet about what He has done?

Maybe you’re committed to a lifetime of singleness or you just don’t know what’s next. Your love song has already begun. Sing the song of your redemption loudly, whether it’s in the reconciling of a friendship, the Spirit working through your campus, or speaking to you over a pile of laundry. We share to not award ourselves, but to shed more light on the generous, glorious work of our Father. God is singing over you — and the hopeless world out there needs to hear echoes of that melody. Don’t be afraid to share how God is shaking things up for good – it will wake up our weary hearts.

september good list.

it’s easy to get caught up in the everydayness, in the hustle of these autumn school-laced, work-packed days. here’s how i’m counting the fruit, pausing to take in all that the Lord is doing, processing the beautiful and bittersweet in all this chaos.

coldplay playing

coffee swigging

black finger nails

breathtaking light through trees

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a perfectly sharpened pencil

a two-hour phone call with my best gal

slow mornings (when they come, if they come, they’re the best)

when someone calls me Em

sipping sweet tea and watching The Cat

campus at dusk

yummy delivery with lots of bread

love notes on my side table

crying during a sweet Disney movie

worship with Jason Gray

dancing with my man in the middle of the kitchen on an emotional Sunday night… to this song 

Michael Jackson spinning on vinyl in my room, it’s Friday afternoon

hugs from kiddos at work

long handwritten letters from a kindred spirit

thanks, God, for tiny blessings? that aren’t so tiny after all. for hearts that look after mine. for hearts to look after. for a new church family to open Your Word with. for gaps being filled. thank You for everything. 

thirty days off.

Thirty days off from what, you might ask? Social media.

Is it hard? Yes.

Do I miss it? Yes.

Is it worth it? Also, yes.

the logistics ::

My loose plan: No browsing Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. I’m replying to snapchats and Instagram DMs and looking at Pinterest with discretion.

the better yeses ::

More leaving my phone at home.

More eye contact.

More reading.

More creation.

More dreaming.

Less envy.

Less stress.

Less time doing homework because my attention span is broadened.

Less comparison.

the why ::

[part one]

Recently I read an article by Italo Calvino that talks about how when you begin to take photos of your life, you then feel compelled to take at least one photo a minute to give context. Because once you see one moment captured, you are fearful of fleeting moments and therefore become obsessed with fragmenting time through recording it in some fashion. In order to do record this moment, you have to remove yourself from the present, if even for an instant. You are recording for a memory and therefore already beginning to see the present moment in the past tense.

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Italo Calvino

These words inspires me to create more, look into the eyes of the people around me, sit with more questions. To take thirty days off. To live in the moment I’m standing in. To be awake to my own thoughts and to the people around me. I believe you can live fully present and have an active Instagram account. But if you live in this place of always, always needing to capture every good thing, the vision of your life will become blurry.

[part two]

When Mary was told by the angel that she would give birth to the Savior of the world, she asked “how?”. She said “I’m Yours” to the Father. She went to go visit Elizabeth and they praised God together. When Jesus was born it is recorded in Luke 2:19 that

…Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

All of our minutes are a gift from God, but with so much of my life changing at the moment, I don’t want to look back and feel like I’ve missed it.

exhibit a – My boyfriend Zach just moved to Kansas. For the first time in our relationship, we are minutes away from each other instead of hours! I’m working two jobs with a full school schedule. I want to build community among my coworkers, my college friends, our new church home. I want to love my people well through time, love, service.

This season is unique and it’s hard to keep up with everything shifting, in big and subtle ways. When I look around at all the GOOD (& even the ugly), I want to be more like Mary.

I want to say, “How can this be?” (I’m still in this stage. Thank You so much, God. For you. For all this change. Also, please send more coffee.)

I want to surrender to His will. (His timing is not mine. His plan is not mine. His timing and His plan are best.) 

I want to celebrate with those around me, wholeheartedly. (This requires my full attention.) 

I want to ponder these things in my heart, not missing a thing.

There is more ahead then I can imagine. So, I’m marking my first deep breath here – in the margin of an empty notification screen, a heart of reflection and anticipation.

What rhythms in your life help you to ponder and process the beautiful things going on in your life?

you deserve a seat here.

We were sitting in a nonuniform circle, partaking in the awkward string of first day of class introductions and stirrings in office chairs. It’s my intro to digital photo class. My professor is from India and he has the richest, most beautiful accent. One after another my classmates say, “This is my first official class in photography.”

I’m new here.

I’m not sure what I’m doing.

One girl sitting across from me says her name and states, “I’m not good at photography, so…”

My professor interrupts her. He questions her with curiosity, compassion. A light in his eye, a lump in his throat. “Who told you that?”

Who told you that this was your name? Who told you this couldn’t change? Who told you that you weren’t good enough? Who told you that you can’t measure up? 

She answered, “Well, me.”

He leans his head towards the girl and says firmly yet playful sarcasm, “You don’t count.”


You are your own worst critic. And those thoughts? They don’t count towards the truth of who you truly are.

You have room to grow, babe. There’s no denying that each of us have things to improve – we should complain less, stretch our legs more often, create more interesting compositions, look up at the sky more. We should be kind and consistent, hard working and at peace with our lives. And you can change to experience growth and breakthrough in your life, but you never have to change to be loved. 

You might think that you don’t belong here. Like your place in the circle doesn’t make sense, that it’s a mistake that you’re learning how the inner workings of your industry flows from the professionals or that the way he looks at you in incomparably breathtaking.

Your being __there__ is not a mistake. You being loved is not a mistake. You stepping out into brave situations is not a mistake. You working hard and dancing freely is not a mistake. The joy you feel? It’s not for someone else, it’s a gift for you.

The only mistake is that you believe you’re here to prove yourself based on human’s measurement of success, not to build the life God is calling you to and to create a more beautiful world all around you.

You deserve a seat in the circle.

So, introduce yourself. Assume challenges will come. Ask lots of questions – after all, we’re all new here. Imagine the growth you want to see. Celebrate the tiny victories. And never forget that the voice that counts calls you 

Chosen. 

Redeemed. 

Beloved.