learning the secret

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” —Philippians 4:11-12

I’ve always thought that when Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content in all circumstances.” that meant I was supposed to learn how to be content when I didn’t have enough money for the things I wanted, or even needed and then again to be content when it was provided for me. That alone was simple enough. I was being raised well in this area already. Growing up during my elementary years, I learned how to plan a memorable party with a total budget of $10. We watched nothing but The Andy Griffith Show for a season because we couldn’t afford cable and that’s how I memorized every word of each episode. Our hearts were full, and at times, our cupboards were bare. I never went hungry (obviously). It was a happy time full of making memories and building relationships. But there just wasn’t the overflow or safety net that most of us strive for while we sit at our desks or work with sweat on our brow all day, everyday.

It wasn’t an easy season – most significantly, of course, for my parents. But I’ve found since that it’s so much more than only being thankful for the roof over my head. I found after our season of little sacrifices that what’s hardest is to be content when there is abundance.

When I’m sitting with too many things while I’m starving myself of Him for no good reason at all.

“We may be earnestly desiring to be obedient and holy. But we may be missing the fact that it is here, where we happen to be at this moment and not in another place or another time, that we may learn to love Him—here where it seems He is not doing what we expected Him to do, where He is most absent. Here and nowhere else is the appointed place. If faith does not go to work here, it will not go to work at all.”

—Elisabeth Elliot, The Path Of Loneliness (emphasis mine)

Faith that stays behind the walls full of all the pretty lies we’ve built ourselves is not real. Faith that is wilted just because of financial status is worth nothing. Faith that is comfortable and never exposed, is not faith. Faith that is not content in every place and time, blooming strongly wherever it is planted, is not the faith that comes from God alone. 

I don’t want to be known for poverty of heart in the midst of too much. I want to be known for having the fullness of Christ in the face of persecution, in sadness, whether coming up or down the mountain.

Dear God, in the face of honest prayers like these:

Emilee Blog Prayer

I want to lean harder into You, in the absence or in the presence of my words — in my countless groans. When I’m paralyzed by fear or running on confidence. When I can hear You and when I can’t. When I can see Your movements and when You feel a million miles away.

Let us walk through the woods of mundane tasks and heart cries with Your strength in us, and come out stronger than ever before.

Let us make Paul’s statement to the Philippians our anthem, whatever it looks like in the nooks and crannies of our modern lives. Let there be more than just our circumstances keeping us afloat.

Our results might end up echoing Paul’s words more than we would have first imagined. It may sound something like this on the other side, when we sit down to mentor someone as we’re writing a letter of our own:

“I have learned to love God, even when my flesh is naturally jealous of the good gifts He’s giving to other people before me.”

“I have learned to be content when I’m invited to the party, and when I have to watch the peaks of the party on Snapchat alone in my room.”

“I know what it’s like to be in love and what it’s like to be brought to the ground because of a broken heart.”

“I have learned to be content when I have texts flooding in, and when my screen stays dark.”

“I know what it’s like to be embraced emotionally, physically, and spiritually — I know what it’s like to be coldly rejected.”

“I have felt Your companionship in my singleness and barrenness, in my marriage and in my fruitfulness.”

“I have heard Your whisper in the cruel beatings and the gentle massages.”

“I know what it’s like to have a best friend and what it’s like to stand alone.”

“I have learned to love myself when I feel fat and when I feel skinny.”

“I have found You in the woods and in the clear.”

“I have learned to be content on a dirt floor or sitting on a granite counter top.”

“I have learned the secret to being content traveling to beautiful foreign places and staying still in my familiar home.”

Mosquito net and my Bible
Concrete bed I’m still smiling
Ain’t eating much but I’m smiling
I’d rather be in the jungle and in the will of God
Than anywhere else outside it

–KB, 100

“I have been brought low by depression, and brought high on Jesus and the laughter He brings in community life.”

“I have loved You in my dreams that crashed and burned, and when You made them fly.”

“I have found You when I feel  known by the people around me and when I feel forgotten.”

“We thank You when our bank accounts are low, and we thank You when they’re doing alright.”

“We’ve danced in the thunderstorm, in the snow, and with the sun on our faces.”

Teach us how to love You at Goodwill and at Gap. It’s work to love You. Help us know You’re more than worth it. Teach us how to love You when we’re safe and when we’re vulnerable. Teach us to thank You, all the time.

Yours alone is true provision. We can’t breathe, let alone be thankful in everything, without Your grace. Your strength is this divine secret. 

Let us breathe in prayers like this in and out: I’d go anywhere with You, Jesus. 

Wherever I go, You’re the same loving Father and You’ve went before me.

I’d rather be in the jungle and in the will of God, than anywhere else outside it. 

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” —Philippians 4:19

oh-so-refreshing getaway.

I stood on a glorified basketball court, with roughly 400 of my peers that were dancing and shouting.

Almost 12 hours of travel behind us.

I knew that being 8,000ft. up in the sky should make me feel like I was closer to God or something. It’s been told that Jesus makes Himself known on the mountain-tops. I figured He wasn’t going to decide to physically come back as I stood there and swayed to the music. But I figured that I should be feeling something. I dared to tell God that I just wasn’t feeling Him. I dared to ask Him where He was.

I came to Estes Park, Colorado with dry bones.

I love Jesus. I claim Him as my One and Only everyday. But I was getting sleepy.

It wasn’t visible to the common eye.

Let me say this, before our views get hazy and the rabbit trails come: there will not be one part to this post. There wasn’t one moment that spun this new era into orbit. It wasn’t just because I was at Cru’s Rocky Mountain Getaway, although that was the tool that I’m glad He used. It was a building of strong God-given layers. A tearing down of my own thin walls.

I forgot too often that while He may be the God of burning bushes, He is also the God of little miracles and tiny things and slow, burning trust that takes days and weeks and months to uncover. –Hannah Brencher

All of our speakers didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t know. Josh McDowell used the same three Greek words that every non-Greek-student-church-kid knows. I knew that I was chosen, as it says in one of Peter’s letters. But we have to be reminded. The truths are nothing to us until we experience them. 

   Through these truths, and each other, we experienced God. 

Saturday night I left yawning. Looking back, I can see how that night left me looking like this prayer written by Flannery O’ Connor:

I don’t want to be doomed to mediocrity in my feeling for Christ. I want to feel. I want to love. Take me, dear Lord, and set me in the direction I am to go.

Last month, I had mono symptoms for four, terribly long weeks. But what I hadn’t noticed was that I was becoming a servant to spiritual mono. It left me tired. I could do the Jesus thing for a few hours, or maybe even a day – but I crawled into my bed and did nothing but hide from healing when it was over. My energy wasn’t fake. It just wasn’t lasting. I wasn’t outside of God’s house. But if His love was a hotel (go with me here), I was settling for a Super 8 kind of peace when I could have been living in a Presidential suite somewhere breathtaking. In other words, satan was excited about my level of exhaustion. Because he knows that I like to run from people when they start to see behind my spiritual filters and that I like to hide from God when He’s calling me out to honesty. The devil loves lukewarm Christians who aren’t living like they believe in the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of them.

God is feeding me and what I’m praying for is an appetite. –Flannery O’Connor

Sunday morning: Marianne Jordan Ellis gave us girls one of the top-three best sex talks I’ve ever heard. She prayed as we closed in our circle tables, with chevron neon patterns and cupcakes in between us, “[Help her know that because of her sin and all of her mistakes] She is not ruined. And You have better for her.” Chills went down my spine.

Sunday afternoon I bought a prayer journal that began to resonate prayers in me that I didn’t know were necessary. My foretaste of Him had came. But I knew at this point that it was just myself getting in the way of what He had next. I had literally threw all my recent sin in the trash can. I’ve written hundreds of handwritten letters – that’s my thing. But I hadn’t finished a whole letter to Him in what felt like years, since I had a pink study Bible and an entirely different style of handwriting. Monday morning, I wrote to Him and said I thought He was mad at me. The words continued to come.

Help me to adore the size of grace. I don’t want it to just be my safety net. I want it to be my walk. Help my brokenness find purpose, because I’ve been distracted and hurt while I answered all the questions correctly. 

That same afternoon I just needed to sob into someone’s shoulder. I found a sore substitute for that shoulder in some borrowed headphones and my top bunk.

I know I am learning to wait. I think I am learning to not hold expectations so close to my chest. God didn’t promise to honor my expectations. That would be such a sad, little life. He promised to prune me and love me just as I needed to be pruned and loved. –Hannah Brencher

That night, restoration came. I began to feel awake again. I wasn’t in some spiritual dream. It was a hard afternoon on several fronts, I had wiped a few tears, hummed a few sad songs —  it was time to step out of my funk. I know it’s not necessary to feel God to know you’re safe in Him — but I’m glad when He chooses to meet us in things like conversations with friends, conviction through solid speakers, His Presence in sweet worship, and His name celebrated at a rap concert (with heavy sweat and a happy heart displayed below).

Tuesday: Drizzly rain, hot coffee, girl talk, finding the perfect hypothetical engagement ring, dreaming of buying the handwritten Greek Bibles for sale, and silly faces…

Wednesday: our last full day in chilly Colorado. A twinge of sadness. Time spent with new friends. My favorite day.

I sat with good friends during our morning session. We prayed individually and as a group for an hour in what they called a prayer concert, about surrender and by name for one another. We held hands, or laid hands, or clasped our own together – gripping the realness of God in that place and the community around us. If I had to choose one moment that was my favorite in the entire week, it would have been praying over each other during that session and hearing the whispers of everyone else doing the same for one another across the room. It was awkward for everyone at first. That’s why so many walls were forced to fall. Iron sharpens irons that way.

Wednesday afternoon we traveled over an hour to a city to hang out with strangers, ask them a few questions, and talk about a personal relationship with Jesus with them. Wednesday night, I found my song. Authentic worship comes when you recognize the depth of your sin and a sliver of the greatness of God at the same moment. I’m not a hand-raiser by tradition. I sway. That night, I was a swaying-worshiper that couldn’t stop the tears.

Now it was time to pack up, after a sad farewell prayer and a group meeting. Already.

This was the thing itching under our skin as we all discussed coming home: how do we describe this? 

So, I guess the bottom line is what we started all this with,

   He met us. We experienced God. We experienced God in our reality and our vacation from it.

And if I scan back to the exact moment I pinned that car ride into my diary, I want to eventually be able to recite the words I wrote by heart:

Life, while crazy, demands breaks. And the countryside. And conversations that cut you into two but somehow make you closer as one. And little care for calorie counts. And the promise of stars.  

Life, while crazy, is enough just like this. –Hannah Brencher, Monday morning e-mail club

It may have been in the absence or in the presence of reality. It may have been in the realization of our sin or the acceptance of letting it all fade away. It may have been with the windows down, dancing dramatically, or playing Christmas music in June.

But He let us be more aware of Him — whether it was in tears, solitude, brokenness, or hard laughter.

He gave me a much-needed new song.

Now we stand, say goodbye to our see-through spiritual filters, and we get to sing what He whispered to us on the mountain-top.

That moment— the one with the car and the music and the heat and the windows down on the highway— was the strongest sense of “enough” I’ve felt in a long time. There was no wrestling to be better. There were no tiny copper teaspoons. There was no need to wonder what you would have thought of me in that moment. It was just me and the road and my best friend and a break from reality.

It was just me being so content in that moment that I didn’t want to capture it and I didn’t want to filter it. I didn’t want to change a thing about myself. I just wanted to learn to live inside of it. –Hannah Brencher, Monday morning e-mail club

splitting headaches & my summer bucket list

Everything is changing.

What time is it? SUMMER TIME!

With every end of the school year, lots of ages come to an end and lots of new opportunities come out of the woodwork.

Bottom line: the world is spinning fast. Sometimes, your life resembles the globe.

In the middle of celebrating summer break, I’ve gotten really sick. Observation: May and I aren’t close friends. Every single May without fail it seems, I’m in the hospital for blood work or surgery.

So, I have lots of time on my hands these days (these days AKA just this week).Time for dreaming, lots of I Love Lucy, and iced coffee. Time for hanging out with friends that aren’t afraid of my cooties. Time for pinning, Instagram stalking really cool strangers, and time for list making. But mainly just time to sleep.

Here in Kansas today the high was sixty degrees – so it’s hard to believe that for most of us, summer is here. But it is. I’M SO PUMPED! Whether it’s taking part in Ann Voskamp’s challenge of #1000Gifts, to-do lists, or writing I include countless lists. In honor of everything changing, dear summer arriving, and desperately needing to press pause and look around: I’ve made two lists. One list of all my favorite things about being sick and my summer 2015 bucket list for when I am back on my feet. What are you dreaming of for this summer? A few of mine include: humid late nights on the deck, laying in the sun, lots of road trips, and (let’s be real) blogging in the air conditioning.

What I Love Most About Being Sick

  1. Close friends come over and bring you Sonic. (Shout-out to Matt and Erika!)
  2. Magazine reading.
  3. Mom ordering me to sleep in.
  4. Naps.
  5. As mentioned before, stalking really cool strangers on Instagram.
  6. Back-to-back I Love Lucy and movies in the basement.
  7. 99 cent Macaroni & Cheese.
  8. Have I mentioned naps?
  9. Pajamas all day. Or, most of the day. (The grocery store required jeans for at least half an hour.)
  10. This number doesn’t count, because I couldn’t think of anything else good #becausesplittingheadache.

Emilee’s Tentative Summer 2015 Bucket List 

  • Help in Glory’s garden.
  • Get a TAN!
  • Rhubarb fest in Illinois.
  • Spend a week in Estes Park with my youth group.
  • Read a children’s book. 
  • Camp out in some form or fashion. In someone’s living room totally counts. Little kid style forts are acceptable. Preferably will try out both indoor and outdoor *camping*.

  • Go stargazing. (Classic for a reason.)
  • Random acts of kindness.
  • Watch fireworks.
  • SO MANY BIKE RIDES.
  • Painting – custom work or just-for-fun.
  • Get fit (whether you want to or not). Again.
  • Make pancakes for supper.
  • Frozen lemonade at the county fair, my own personal tradition.

fair week = frozen lemonades

  • Cook from all the recipes my good friend and pen pal, Caley, sends me with each letter.
  • Organize my closet and wardrobe as a whole.
  • Hang out at a beach for the first time in North Carolina.
  • TAKE MORE PICTURES.
  • Hang out with my best friend in the whole wide world in August.
  • Pull an all-nighter.
  • Adventures with my home girl, Dayna, in our capital city.
  • Shopping trip to the Hat with AuD. (This goes on every season’s bucket list. It’s tradition.)
  • Read more than I have in May. (Solid goal, I promise. It’s been a slow month in the literature department.)
  • Work, work, work…
  • Catch up with Anna K and Abby.
  • Keep up with all of More Love Letter’s letter requests.
  • Make a summer playlist.
  • Have my annual wheat harvest photo shoot.
  • Lots of blogging and writing and iced coffee.

No matter what actually will get accomplished on this list and trust me, I’ll add lots more, I can promise you this: I’ll be sporting my sunglasses,wearing a messy bun and running shorts, having countless dance parties in the car and learning how to relax in a brand new way.

Most of all, I hope my summer will look something like this quote below combined with the happy ending of High School Musical 2. 😉

at the end of the day

april books: honesty and integrity. 

 

I read the last chapter of 2 Samuel on Easter morning. The prayers and the friendships in this book are real. Refreshing. I took away courage, a challenge in my honesty in prayer, and a thankfulness for the humanness that God uses for His purposes. 

  

11. The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. 

This big  ol’ book was my last Literature book of the year in school. I yawned through most of it, to be honest, because none of it interested me. However, the last few chapters sparked my interest – I’m not sure if that’s because I knew it was almost over, or because the story was all tying together for me at the last minute. Overall, it is summed up in these honorable words that tie binds throughout the book and close it perfectly – wait and hope. 

  

12. Seven Men by Eric Metaxas. 

Eric Metaxas is a favorite writer of mine – strictly because he introduced Bonhoeffer to me so poetically. However, this book further branched my knowledge of his writing. It is the story of these seven men – George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, John Paul II, and Charles Colson – I knew only a few of those well. It was a good refresher for the ones I did know and a great foundation for those I knew nothing about. As I read through the mini biographies I was encouraged from these men’s faith and how designated and different they all were from one another. One played baseball, one led the Catholic Church, one ran in the Olympics but never on Sunday, and one was the first president of our country – but they were all equally used of God. This coincides with my encouragement in 2 Samuel. God uses faulty humans. In weakness comes power. (Also, Seven Men was a speedy read. Powerful, but not overhwelmingly heavy.) 

   

13. Summer At Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. 

This light-hearted memoir is about a twenty-something girl and her best friend moving to New York City. For me, that story will not (or has not thus far) become old. What makes Marjorie’s different from the others is she wrote it decades after her experience in 1945 when she and her best friend Marty were the first women to work on the sales floor at Tiffany. Along with her personal account of boyfriends and work troubles, she included world history from that summer that kept the story engaging. (Side note: Because of this book, I named my FIRST car – that has been considered mine as of this month – Marjorie. 🙂 ) 

  

1 Kings touches on many bases. The most convicting verse for me was from chapter 18 and it said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions?” How long until you commit your ways to Mine and throw your worthless gods in the garbage in exchange for a new one? 

What also stuck out to me were the messages to wholly love God, to strengthen ourselves, and be loyal even when we’re weary. 

  

14. The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. 

I can now see why this book is so well praised, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I would label it as a book of processing grief and I found many relatable assets, but Didion was grieving without any hope. That’s why, to me, it was a sober book, with no joy. I was challenged as a writer, but not as a person – other than the fact that it reminds you life is short. (Great writing, just not my favorite content.) 

  

15. Bless This Mess & Other Prayers by Jo Carr and Imogene Sorley. 

I found this gem at The Dusty Bookshelf. It was written by two housewives in 1966. It’s a book of prayer, in the format of poetry that made it equally easy to read and convicting. Carr and Sorley touch on finding purpose in small things that lead to big legacies, comfort zones, and straight-Up adoration. I was challenged, not only by their messages, but to write letters to God to help my focus when my mind is wandering. 

To put in a nutshell what I learned as I closed these books: much-needed honesty in prayer, individual purpose, and integrity of heart. 

march books: layers and letters

7. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters And Papers From Prison.

This baby took me months to finish. Dietrich is my favorite theologian that I’ve discovered so far hands down. I fell in love with him through Eric Metaxas’ biography on his life, and I’ve been reading his work ever since. That being said, this book was worth the dry spells – it was all the recorded correspondence he had with family and friends while in prison, after all. But there were some deep thoughts not worth missing. I highlighted every nugget of wisdom and note that he scribbled that I somehow related to. I learned about family, working through spiritual dryness, perseverance, and true joy. 

 

 1 Samuel surprised me. Like I’ve said before, my Old Testament knowledge is dusty. I have three favorite parts in this book: Hannah’s prayer, Jonathan and David’s sweet friendship, and Abigail. Hannah’s prayer is one of the first time that a woman’s relationship with God is mentioned in the Bible. So not only was the beauty, desperation, and surrender of the prayer beautiful to me, but also because she seems to be one of the first women that was truly close in relationship with God. Jonathan and David worked together as a team, accomplishing much and it is said that their hearts were knit together. I’ve always wanted a friendship like that. Abigail was described as “beautiful and discerning” and that is proved throughout 1 Samuel. The collection of these characters spoke volumes to me. 


 8. A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

I’ve previously read one of Emily’s other books, and I’m a regular blog reader of hers. Her style is simple and elegant. This book woke me up in several ways – through the pages, Emily encouraged me to do what makes me feel alive – what my calling is – whether there is an audience or not. She also encouraged me to know that even the stuff we don’t love to do, but must, are being used for good as well. For me, the application was straightforward after finishing the last page: stop talking about what you want to do someday and just do it. Discover your art. Most importantly: haters gonna hate. (AKA hard critics will always be lurking around) Come alive. You’re creative for a reason. Don’t be so afraid of your ideas. 

 9. The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart by Deborah Digges

This book of poetry was easy to read – and not in the best way. Deborah does have a way with words, but I believe I only finished it so quickly because it was small. I’m happy to get my feet wet in poetry, but this was not my favorite collection. However, it was a big part in my writing my first poem this month. 

 10. If You Find This Letter by Hannah Brencher

I cannot measure how much Hannah Brencher means to me. I found her as I was browsing Instagram last fall. Her organization More Love Letters (click here for more info) inspired me as I wrote my first adult Sunday school lesson in February and her writing is stunning. Hannah has a new honesty that her followers can’t get enough of. This book released at the beginning of March and I read it as fast as I could. She tells her stories of how she traveled – and still travels – through depression and how founding More Love Letters has changed her life. I learned a lot about myself in this book. I found that I was a lot more afraid of letting go and what people thought of me than I was aware of. However, the application for me after I finished this book was hazy because there were so many components that it brought out in me emotionally and spiritually. But I began by writing a letter to a stranger – my first letter request – and dropping it in the mail the next day. I knew that that was the first step to discovering what was next for me to face, to tackle, to chew on. 

 These books took some energy out of me (as if I could afford that). I considered only reading fiction during the next few weeks, but that plan lasted forty-eight hours before I grabbed another biography from my bookshelf. I just can’t get enough words in me about how other people lived their lives – what they regret deeply, their friendships, how they remained in relationship with God, what made them who they are, and the legacy they’re leaving behind. Also, I think I’m allergic to reading one book at a time. I must always be at least reading two: one nonfiction, one fiction. Currently I’m reading four.

The bottom line is this:

What I’m learning is leading to bigger things. What I read this month I may not fully comprehend for my own life until October – but I’m taking baby steps where I believe the Lord wants me today. I’m writing. I’m loving God and loving my neighbor the best I know how. In the meantime, I get to read stories – true and fanciful – that teach me about myself and how to better do those three things. I hope that I am always, always thankful for that. 

gaps. 

There’s a gap when you’re gone that I can’t seem to replace.

Some Christians make me feel guilty for feeling this – any kind of emptiness. I need to just get over all those brothers and sisters in Christ that just don’t want to be considered mine anymore.

But, if we could fill every gap on earth, would it still be earth?

That sounds like the New Jerusalem to me.

So, I might not be able to fill the place you leave when you’re not here. But He’ll rest with me here in the unknowing silence. I’ll wait.

Substitutes repel us; we simply have to wait and wait; we have to suffer unspeakably from the separation, and feel the longing till it almost makes us ill. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1943

It’s okay to feel like you’re missing something or someone. Because you are.

We’re inching towards the Day of all days – but we’re not there yet. God is our portion – but we’re still human. We still enjoy earthly pleasures too much, we’re ‘too easily entertained’. But yet, God still gives.

We ought to find and love God in what he actually gives us; if it pleases him to allow us to enjoy some overwhelming earthly happiness, we mustn’t try to be more pious than God himself and allow our happiness to be corrupted by presumption and arrogance, and by unbridled religious fantasy which is never satisfied with what God gives. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1943

and, finally… what I’m trying to tie a bow around and make pretty for you to read:

It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; he doesn’t fill it, but on the contrary, he keeps it empty and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christmas Eve 1943.

So, what do I want you to remember, when you click that red box up there in the corner and leave me alone to my thoughts?

  • your gaps won’t be filled by trivial things. they will just be entertained.
  • numbing the world’s pain won’t make it go away.

But this most of all, the phrase that keeps playing in my mind on repeat as I finally “get over it”:

You’re worth more than substitutes and clenched fists.

You can’t cling to people, jobs, or situations longer than they were made for your life…and that thing you use to try to fill their place? It’s just a matter of time until it leaves you emptier than you were before.

Smile because it happened, because there was a reason. A divine reason. Just shake your head at why it didn’t continue (you may never know and that’s okay, even if it takes seven months or seven years to admit to that).

And never forget that you’re worth more than the lies you tell yourself.

Punch a hole in that dang roof, dust those shelves, and water those darling flowers. Just because you’re clean doesn’t mean you won’t miss it. Dust anyway.

Because there are some even-better-for-you friends to love on, a gap still remaining that won’t last forever, and a whole lot of life waiting for you once you decide what’s really gone is not worth your crying-tears time anymore, but rather just a respectful wave from time to time.

I wave and whisper, “Even if it seemed like nothing…thanks for being a comforting and protective dotted line on this short, moon-lit walk home.”

Some people are dotted lines and other people are destinations. Some people get you somewhere and some people are just a place to be, all in themselves. But you cannot force those dotted lines into destinations. It doesn’t really work that way. -Hannah Brencher, If You Find This Letter.

To my destinations – you’re out there, I know it. Thanks for always staying.

don’t waste your attention.

All it takes is one lyric or a deep bump in the road. All it takes is one message that says, “Sent from Kampala, Uganda” to take me there. In an instant my heart and mind are together in Uganda, smelling it’s uniqueness. I’m there at the guesthouse archway breathing in raindrops and twirling my wavy hair. I’m there handing my cup of instant black coffee to a godly man. I’m there, hearing the songs of the children and the unity of the church. I’m still, somehow, there… praying for God to fill the gaping holes in my life, to give me a gentle spirit instead of one that responds in such bitterness, and leading crafts with an interpreter to kids that don’t know my language or how to use a glue stick. But kids that are so dear to me and to God’s heart that I could burst at the seems – either from my splitting headache from being uncomfortable or from my overflowing love.

If you’ve been my friend for any period of time, you know I talk about my travels more than the average person. But here’s the thing: when diversity and unity in the body of Christ come together under one roof, you should never stop talking about it. When the Holy Spirit reveals Himself to you in new ways, with new people, or the same way every single day – your life should speak of those volumes.

That’s why I write.

That’s why I step out of my comfort zone, even when I feel like God might have to physically drag me out there.

It’s about sharing manifestations of Christ in my life. Sometimes it’s in Kansas. Sometimes it’s in memories of kudzu or polar bears or one of my ten – yes, ten – childhood bedrooms. Sometimes it’s in Africa, South America, or landing in Miami, Florida. It’s between the lines.

We’re meant to be totally present. But the Israelites? They sinned and turned their back on God because they forgot how closely He revealed themselves to Him. Over and over and over again. I believe that the reason they turned their back on God was not because they were blasphemous – maybe some of them were – but it was because they forgot how faithful – and good – there God was. Is.

And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. -Judges 2:7

They whored after other gods. They forgot.

So, friends – be present enough today that you are continually listening for new words and urges from the Holy Spirit.

But be mindful enough to know that if you don’t look back at the good or the ugly in your past, you may begin to whore after your own gods.

Don’t waste your attention on lesser loves. Don’t be afraid to let silence in, to be emptied, and to be filled.

Be right where you are, but don’t stop looking there. Where has God met you? Thirty years ago, a decade ago, six months ago, and yesterday. Don’t lose sight of where He’s touched you most intimately like a Groom and convicted you most like a Father. That’s the only way we can keep the joy of our salvation.

So tonight I’m remembering orange muddy flip flops, dark latrines with countless crawling bugs, and deep Ugandan accents. I’m remembering learning to sob silently in Ecuador next to a candle-lit dinner, a library in Tennessee that allowed me to read books that changed my life, an orange folder full of Scriptures given to a stranger, and moving out of a town that is named the definition of loneliness in my life dictionary. I’m remembering sledding on tiny town hills when I still didn’t know how to pronounce my R’s, watching the stars after chapel at summer camp, and what it first felt like to weep over a handsome guy all night long. I’m remembering those days when I felt like I belonged when I went to public school basketball games and drama on That’s So Raven was the plot twist of my day. I’m remembering feeling heavy spiritual warfare in gazes from men that are hungry for something much more fulfilling than what they think they’re looking for in a group of young girls. I’m remembering fearing for my life during turbulence in every flight, not being able to let go of my seat, but then seeing the ocean for the first time or listening to music that soothed my dread. I’m remembering bright operating rooms with masses of interns chatting about romantic comedies, mean surgeons, and cute anesthesiologists.

I’m doing my best to use these stories to apply nuggets of truth to the here and now – the Tuesday afternoon Bible study, the late night messaging, and the tough Sunday morning greetings. I’m scraping away romantic nostalgia with a hundred sharp tools and digging to the roots. The grass isn’t greener over there, Emilee. But what was God sent in that season and what thoughts needed to be forbidden? How can I look back at yesterday’s failure and see present victory? How can I look at yesterday’s goodness and not look sparingly at what I could learn in today’s desert? I’m doing my best to remember the people between every line, complicated layer, and long story. Because I don’t want to ever forget the grace that God has given in those dark, tiny, and abundant places – all these places that rid me of ever saying that I have one hometown – because I consider them all home.

february books. 



 I finished up reading Joshua at the beginning of February. Of course, I hadn’t done much study on him before, so I loved to learn from Joshua’s integrity. My favorite verse in the book, though, is 

Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. -Joshua 21:45 

Joshua’s themes include war, fighting, orders, courage – and rest. Covenant. Not one word is untrue that He speaks. 

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4: Learning To Walk in The Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor.

Life changing. I don’t say that about books that I don’t even think about afterwards. But I can’t stop thinking about this book. I took pages and pages of notes. Barbara Brown Taylor isn’t afraid of the dark. She isn’t afraid of thinking thoughts that everyone around her wouldn’t agree with. She seeks to be right in doctrine, but she’s not afraid to test everything she hears. We know the One that separated the light from dark. Our personal experiences with the literal darkness is what makes it scary. We shouldn’t be afraid of not being able to sleep at night – what keeps us up tells us something about ourselves. We should take notice to what makes us thankful. We should not be afraid of silence. If you take Him with you, the Light will never really go out, anyway. 

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5: The Ink Dark Moon is love poems written by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu. I read this book in three, short sittings. I had never read poems in this way before – I had read poems on Pinterest or in school textbooks, but never like this. It was challenging, but mostly refreshing. It made me think. Poems leave room for the imagination. I think you need that kind of literature every once in awhile, especially if you like to  write. Some you understand perfectly, and others you ponder and wonder what the author was going through. I didn’t even read the appendix, maybe someday, but I didn’t want to jade my view and interpretations of the mysterious poems. These words were one of my favorites… so simple, so sweet. 

I think, “At least in my dreams
we’ll be able to meet.”
Moving my pillow
this way and that on the bed, 
Completely unable to sleep. 
-Izumi Shikibu



Up next, Judges. My favorite verse in this book (or rather the one that spoke to me most) is in the middle of the journey – right in the middle of the fight. God’s people hadn’t won yet. But they were beginning again. Ready for Him to give their enemies into their hands. 

But the people, the men of Israel, took courage, and again formed the battle line in the same place where they had formed it on the first day. -Judges 20:22 



6. Spoken For by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke. I read this book with my young girl friend Anna K. – we started after the first of the year, and had fun reading along together every Tuesday afternoon. Every chapter was about a different identity that we have in Christ: chosen, loved, pursued, covered. I had so much fun discussing all of the small group designed questions and memorizing Scriptures we found together. I think identity in Christ is something you should never stop being reminded of. Forgetfulness of who we are leads to habitual sin. 



Here’s to embracing who we are, learning to walk in the dark, and not being afraid of twisting and turning in questions. Fight for silence. Fight – first, just show up – like you did the day before. 

dawn of day and companionship.

The birds are chirping, I’ve spent twenty minutes as a sleepy sixteen year old, and I already know that I don’t want this day to end.

Those were the first words I wrote on last Sunday morning, February the 8th. The house was being filled with only soft whispers and sunshine was just beginning to peek through the windows. Later that night I wrote…

It’s so hard writing about huge events such as today because I know that I will miss something. Because there is a depth in days like today that are unmatched….I don’t want to forget what today was. Everything that happened.

Ann Voskamp says that counting gifts stills time. I counted all weekend. Riding the hill of our humble little zoo, brown boots & black sneakers at the back door, a brisk wind chilling our noses and turning them red, exhaustion that leads to deep laughter, bittersweet, thankful, and hopeful tears, true worship in God’s presence, whip cream on my nose, my family taking time out of their day to have dessert and visit, falling asleep with the Spanish birthday song stuck in my head….

After spending time with these two friends of mine over my birthday weekend, I came away saying, “I wanna love Jesus like they do. Love people like they do.”

Meet Richard and Elizabeth Santana.

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On the Guayaquil, Ecuador boardwalk with Las Penas in the background.
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In my front yard.
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With Richard’s parents in their front yard.

If you didn’t know already, my youth group (a total of 22 people) went on a short mission trip last July to Ecuador. Long story short, that’s how I met this beautiful couple. I introduced myself first to Elizabeth as we walked through a row of cocoa trees at Richard’s family’s farm. These two and I had most of our defining conversations while in the line for the bathroom or in Richard’s parents small kitchen while everyone was getting ready for bed after a long day’s activities. Over the past six months, I’ve kept in regular contact with them through letters and social media updates.

It was my wildest dream to spend my sixteenth birthday with the Santana’s. Over Christmas break, I sent Elizabeth a message inviting them and wondering what it would all look like in reality. It took some rearranging and hours of preparation, but they left their home in Minnesota Friday afternoon and arrived here early Saturday afternoon! Seeing them on an opposite continent was so different and worthwhile. Our schedule was simple, yet went by so quickly, and we made the most of every minute.

As we sat at my favorite Mexican restaurant the I’m-horrible-at-see-you-later tears began to start. The crying began to start because next Saturday night these two beautiful people won’t be here to go on a bike ride with me, or Richard won’t be there to give me a hug goodnight, or Elizabeth won’t be there to fix my hair and drink coffee with me before church. I don’t like that I’m not good saying goodbyes, but I praise the Lord because I have so many friends, in outrageous tiny corners in the world (big corners in the Kingdom), that make saying goodbye (for now) so incredibly hard. Thanks for knowing us so much, Lord, that You send us people, friends, familia…. that we need to gain comfort, strength, and conviction from.

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Richard and I, with the church in Ecuador and the rest of the team in the background. Love this moment captured. 1,000 words, truly.
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With the Ecuador flag and familia picture at church here in Kansas!
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part of our hearts will forever be there, no matter where God leads us.

I knew that when I met Richard and Elizabeth that we clicked. Not every friendship is immediate. But I believe that, at least for me, this one was. I knew that they both were kind, accepting, hilarious, and loved Jesus. But it was God that only knew at that point that we would find so much common ground. God knew that He was giving us a friendship where we could be passionate together about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, books, writing, messy buns (well, that’s just Elizabeth and I 😉 ), homeschooling, daily grace, missions, and dreamy house plans. But He also made us different enough in early childhood beginnings, ages, and fast accents to make us listen well, hard, and repeatedly to truly understand one another. He knew that when I went behind the curtain in South America. He knew that last July when I walked into the kitchen so nervous and feeling lonely, with only my journal and a Sharpie pen, to ask for new friends’ mailing address that it would lead to iron sharpening iron. He knew.

There are two things I vividly remember my Mom saying after we gave our final wave from the front porch. Hours after they had left and my birthday party was over, I opened up my birthday present. It immediately made me smile. When I showed Mom that they had gotten me a book by Henri J. M. Nouwen (among several others) and a special pen she said three words, reflecting on the gift and the entire weekend,

They know you.

The second thing my Mom said was,

OOoohhhh! Message them and tell them to turn around! We have so much more to talk about. So many more stories to tell. 

So, mi amigos, there is so much more to talk about. Turn around soon. Or we’ll follow your generously carved path and follow you back home. Or maybe, and also hopefully, even Ecuador. God knows. Until then, I’ll leave you with these words Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in 1943.

Even if that should not be the case, we both know that we are bound together in our thoughts day by day.

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Gracias for knowing me.

sweet sixteen renovation.

Hey friends! IT’S BIRTHDAY WEEK! Almost sixteen years ago a little girl was born six weeks early before anyone had a chance to decorate the nursery. In celebration this year, my Mom and Dad gave me a total room makeover. I loved my room before, but it was time to reorganize, make it fresh, and give it a true coordinating theme (for the first time EVER). They gave me a budget to stay within and I began planning immediately! Pinterest was a substantial help, as always. Here are the before pictures.

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Keeping it totally real with my chair full of quilts and clean clothes. That’s life.
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My ‘office’ area that went unused most of the time. It was lovely, but just an easy place to gather clutter.
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Overall view as you walked in.
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Books on books on books.
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Washi tape is my best friend. Love displaying photos and my sketches this way.
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Totally unrelated. But hey, it was in the lineup. I love this dog.
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Speaking of not being related. #butfirstletstakeaselfie
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PAINTING DAY! Pictured is my Momma and Grandma Kenny making proper preparations.
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I promise I did more than take pictures.
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bye, bye tan walls….
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hellooooo, mint chocolate chip dream! (that wasn’t the name of the paint, but it should have been – in reality, cool sea air and dreamy green won out.)
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My accent walls – chalkboard paint and mint green!
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Opposite wall – cool sea air accompanied by chalkboard wall.
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I camped out in the guestroom for around two weeks in between painting day and the actual completion. It was a total mess.

*Consider this your drum roll*

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THE FINAL REVEAL! Pictures do not do it justice.
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My Dad made my pallet bed. I’ve always wanted a white down comforter so bedding was one of my top priorities. A majority of my bedding, accessories, and storage are from Target, with the exceptions of gifts, thrift stores, etc. Audrey Hepburn blanket from the movie Breakfast At Tiffany’s was a Christmas gift from Icing.
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Former desk area converted into relaxing and writing space.
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Storage for art supplies, Greek study tools, letters, and old journals.
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I can’t decide what is the most beautiful… my bookshelves, my bed, or all of the coordinating contrasts.
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Little details. Pretty storage.
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Highlight: Hollywood style lamp to the left. It’s dramatic. I LOVE the look and practicality of it. Found at Wal-Mart. Polka dot wall decals found at Target.
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A combination of Target, The Lighthouse thrift store, and Hobby Lobby. (Plus my personal Coldplay lyric drawing.)
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Giddy over these bookshelves. Pictured is the shelf of books I haven’t yet completed.
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Washi tape, doodles, Zooey Deschanel, and TSWIFT.

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My chalkboard wall will change constantly, but here is one of my first creations!

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Exciting countdowns!
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Creation currently above my bed. Props go to Hannah Brencher and Sam Smith for the gorgeous inspiration.
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My girl Audrey Hepburn.
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I’ve been watching this Fruit of the Spirit sign at The Clay Gourmet here in town for (embarrassingly enough…) years. It was one of the first purchases I made for my room and we chose the paint colors after referring to it.
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Side table for papasan chair. Table from Hobby Lobby. Vase from AcMe Gifts. It’s a simple, sweet corner filled with sentimental value as well. (Picture is one of the homes we lived in while in Mississippi. Miss that place dearly.)
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Pictured on the right is me enjoying a surprise birthday party held for me on my golden birthday on February 8th, 2007.

Thus concludes your tour! Thankful for my birthday gift. I’ll rearrange it and enjoy it for a long time to come.

If anyone is interested in an interior decorator, I just might be available. 😉