living sanctuaries.

Seriously? How did JUNE get here so fast? Like really? Next week is June. JUNE! Month number six in 2012. Apparently the world is supposed to end this year. But I don’t believe that. Not one bit. Know why? Because I believe that there are still GREATER things to be done. And I believe He still has SO much in store for each of us, more than we can imagine. Things that go beyond 2012. Really.

So I was going to write this really fantastic story and share with you all this incredible story (I didn’t really have a story, I was just going to write and let my hands type..ha!) but now I just have a question. That’s all. A really simple question.

Do you ever forget that He’s there? Do you ever forget to make time for Him? Like, do you ever just nudge Christ to the side so you can accomplish what’s on your to do list?

I know I do. More than I really care to say, because it’s embarrassing. However, today I put everything to the side during my quiet time. Distracting objects or apps (dumb instagram.). I put them all to the side, turned them off, and just soaked in the silence so He could speak.

And He really showed me that He ALWAYS wants to speak into us, but we so often put distractions in the way that seem louder to us, and cover up His gently guiding voice.

I approached today with the desire to find Christ in every detail. Every part of my day.

So listen. I’m a photographer, right? I have a business and I’m in the process of gathering inspiration for a busy wedding season. Gathering inspiration so I can paint an image through a camera, capture moments from different objects and people, and “freeze time”, so to speak. So this morning, when I woke up and looked outside, and I saw the beauty in EVERY detail, noticing the one pine tree on a mountain across from my house that never sways in the wind, never falls, and never leaves that mountain, I realized that THAT tree is a symbol of who Christ is. He never sways, betrays His Word, never falls down, never backs away from a promise, never forgets to love His children, never ceases to protect each of us, and never loses the desire to pursue His people.

It was then, after I really soaked in ALL that He is, I realized that I want to be a living sanctuary for Christ. Today I’m letting Him prepare me to be a living sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true.

As I prepare to dive into the upcoming weddings and business opportunities I have, I STILL have to continue to prepare my heart and strengthen my heart to be a living sanctuary for Him, a place for Him to reside, and a temple for the Holy Spirit. Because sure, He’s given me the amazing talent of being an artist to capture images, but He’s the real Artist. He’s the one who paints the sunsets every night, the one who crashes clouds together to let thunder roar, the one who creates a radiant stream of light from the sun, the one who puts the leaves on every tree, the one who blankets the sky with sparkling stars each night, the one who creates mountains, and the one who digs valleys. He’s amazing. Sometimes you have to actually take time to absorb it. Because the beauty of His creation is there all the time. Even when branches fall from trees, and even when rivers rage with waters full of debris. Even when winds howl and thunder roars, He’s just proving THAT much more, how present and how powerful He is.

And He’s just guiding us to see that we want to be living sanctuaries for Him. Each morning we wake up, He has already been working to prepare the path that will get each of us through the day. He has strategically manifested hidden treasures along the way. Some of those treasures are trials and valleys that we NEED to face so we can be that much stronger. He uses valleys and trials, thunder clouds and lightning strikes to make us stronger ambassadors for His Kingdom.

That doesn’t mean that death is any less painful to watch or pain is less frustrating to endure. I used to wonder why He chooses certain people to undergo so many trials and challenges. I didn’t get why He chooses to lay cancer on certain people, put hurdle after hurdle in front of others, place death as a barrier in so many people’s lives, let pain reign within certain people, etc. I always would say to myself, “It’s not fair,” or “They don’t deserve that,” but the truth is, we all deserve SO much more than that. In fact, we all deserve death, but instead, He chose grace. He chose selflessly to give HIS grace and HIS life so we can live to be ambassadors for Him. And that right there, makes the challenges of this life so much easier, and makes the excitement of eternity with Him so much more prominent. Because He knew that we would face challenges in this life. He knew that there would be valleys, that there would be tears, that there would be sleepless nights due to pain, that there would be tribulations and frustrations, and there would be temptations from the enemy thrown at us in every direction. And because He knew these things, He promised to guide us in our blindness, lead us when we’re weak, love us when we are unlovable, forgive us when we give in to the enemy’s lies, pick us up when we fall, let us shine His light in the darkness, protect us when we’re surrounded by fear, replace doubt with confidence, and secure our hearts with His promises.

Because there are challenges in this life, He chose to selflessly do the following, be the following, and display the following:

He displays mercy, He is slow to anger, He is quick to forgive, abundant in grace, faithful in power, bright in the midst of darkness, persevering, forgiving, merciful, faithful, Author of life, protector, redeemer, etc.

And He promises to not only stay by our side in the midst of challenges and trials, but WALK powerfully and guide us through and out of those trials so we can climb mountains and see His beauty and power displayed so mightily.

 

Even though sometimes it’s difficult to believe and it’s hard to see His presence, He has not abandoned this sin-wracked world, He is still completely and always will be present. Sometimes you have to search deeper to find Him, but He’s always there.

So tonight, it is my prayer that we will have the greatest passion and desire to be living sanctuaries for Him. He knows our weaknesses, and replaces them with His strength. And He gently, but strongly guides us with His hand to be even greater ambassadors for the Kingdom, so we can display His power and greatness, and light up the dark through His love.

“..to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will display at the proper time–He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light..”

“..for in Him we live and move and have our being.”

 

Humbled.

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He is Risen.

Well, Hi.

It’s been three months since I’ve written anything, and there’s really too much that’s happened for me to share all at once. So, I guess I’ll start with this.

 

I’ve missed all of you.

I’ve missed hearing from all of you! So please, let me know how YOU are! I really, really want to know. Catch me up. I’m sure the last three months for you have been just as busy and hectic and overwhelming as mine.

February held some of the greatest obstacles and greatest excitements and greatest challenges, and most rewarding times. The beginning of February, my family left for ten days leaving me house-hopping from place to place..one of which including my seriously, words-can’t-express amazing pastor’s family. I’ll share more on that in a minute.

The end of February, I traveled to Las Vegas where I attended a 20,000 attendee photography conference. Except, I really didn’t go to THAT conference. Instead, I was with Showit United. Now, it would take WAY too long for me to explain it all. But really, this program was formed several years ago for web designers and photographers called Showit. It was founded by some strong believers who had a passion and went for it. Long story short, Showit United met in Vegas at the same time this other huge conference was, and had mini-classes for 50-150 people that were nothing short of spectacular. I went to a LOT of those classes,  and not to mentioned spent one night surrounded by 300+ other believers worshiping our Savior in the heart of Sin City. Powerful, powerful night.

The rest of that week included me modeling for two AMAZING shoots, forming friendships with some of the most incredible, strongest, most beautiful ladies I’ve ever known. Miss Chrissy Henry, if you’re reading this, know that you changed my life that week. You have the strongest, most beautiful heart and I’m honored to call you friend. Your beauty radiates, Chrissy. I’m SO blessed by you, and so blessed to have a friend who calls you out on things, and stays quiet when needed, and ALWAYS provides the needed humor in the most necessary of times. And sweet Elizabeth Ann King, spending an entire week with you was a HUGE extent off of the mini “meet EA” phrase I had put on my “Goals for 2012” paper. For real. I adored getting to be with you, seeing you so strong and so courageous, and seeing all that God has done and is doing through you.

I’ll post pictures from my whole experience there soon.

 

March. To be honest, I somewhat forgot all that March included. A lot of it included me recovering from Vegas, spending time with family, my brother home from college, being a student, filling out job applications, booking weddings for Lifesong Photography, planning, writing, reading, packing, unpacking, working out, strengthening my health, planning and preparing for Pursuing the Light (I’ll write a whole post on this later!),  and preparing to leave for Seattle for up to a month.

 

Seattle?

Why?

When?

For what?

 

Most of you by now have probably heard and/or read the story on Baby Mac #4. For two years now, I have attended Grace Covenant Church in Wenatchee, Washington. There’s nothing quite like it. My church family is so wonderful. The head pastor, Josh McPherson..is a man who loves the Lord. And he’s not afraid to show it. He and his wife have three beautiful children, and one on the way. Their eldest, who I’ve talked about before, sweet, sweet Ella Mae, has Spina Bifida, and each time you see her sweet face, she’ll tell you all about how she looks forward to running with her brother in heaven someday. She’s a beautiful seven year old with an independent,  brilliant, beautiful heart that loves Jesus. Levi (5) and Amelia (3) are the wittiest, smartest little ones with some of the biggest personalities. Sharon is currently pregnant with their fourth child who will be born with Myelomeningocele, the most severe case of Spina Bifida, as well as other health complications. In order to get their little guy here safely, they’ll be packing up the family for a three hour trek over the mountains to Seattle to live over there before baby is born.

 

And guess who will be moving with them!?

ME!

And guess who can’t WAIT to serve their family, cook for them, love on their kiddos, and spend some priceless time with all of them?

Me :)

I think God heard my itty-bitty selfish little prayers of wanting to be a part of Grace Covenant’s Easter service this year, and God has continued to keep Baby Mac #4 safe in momma’s tummy, so we will be moving over right after Easter in..4 days :)

I’m so honored, blessed, and blown away by this opportunity to serve and grow, learn and love with this sweet family. I’m honored.

I will be living off and on with Josh and Sharon in Seattle for the next month and a half  before baby is born and after, and in the midst, I will return home for a short time to hold the first EVER Pursuing the Light Retreat which Lifesong Photography, alongside fellow photographer, Katie Campbell, are putting together for girls between the ages of 15-20 to meet together and learn to love Jesus more, have a weekend to rest, grow, and learn, and be led in the direction in which God has called each of them. This retreat has been based on the idea that we are called to be lights in darkness, and between the days of April 19-22nd, 16 different girls will be flying from across the country and beyond to attend our first retreat, where we will continue to pursue the light of the Lord together and learn and grow together. This retreat has been designed for young photographers who desire to serve the Lord with their work. We are SOO excited to finally see this retreat coming together and how God has pieced together the thousands of details and logistics. I cannot WAIT to meet these girls face to face and see God do a powerful work in each of their hearts.

 

While I’m back from Seattle for several days for Pursuing the Light, I will also get to be a part of an incredible photography workshop founded by some of the best world-renowned wedding photographers. I was asked to model for their workshop, so I will be attending that literally right after our Pursuing the Light retreat ends. The next day, I will return back to Seattle to be with Josh and Sharon, then back home for a few days, then back over there later in May.

All the while, I will continue to be a student, prepare for finals, fill out college forms, fill out job applications for the summer, continue to help run Lifesong Photography, etc.

But really, what I’ll probably REALLY accomplish when I return from Seattle is a simple five letter word:

Sleep.

;)

Honestly, 2012 has already been one of the most powerful years of my life. I’ve been looking back on all the memories from my early teen years and seeing how much I’ve grown, changed,  learned, and been a part of. I’m blown away by how God has completely orchestrated my entire life and how He cares about EVERY little detail of my life.

 

In the last few months, I’ve found it SO difficult to actually make time to sit down and just THANK Him for His presence and power in my weakness. There’s no way I could have accomplished all that I have without Him guiding me every step of the way, and my family as my greatest cheerleaders. I’ve been so blessed.

In preparation for the next several months, I’ve been making time to just reflect, and grow and gain strength in order to serve and further His Kingdom.

I’ve been reminded that Jesus CAME to save, and there is freedom in His name. We ARE the light of the world, and we ARE the city on the hill. We are the light of the WORLD, and we have been called to shine HIS Light.

He is the Light.

And I desire to lift Him higher.

We are the city on the hill.

Just reflect on that and know that even if every little speck of electricity shut down in this world, we’d be really in darkness. Like, in the flesh, in darkness. But with Him? We’re in light. And we WANT to be the city on the hill with a light that never goes out. The light of Jesus.

Reflecting on these days before Easter, and every day, know that Christ is RISEN from the dead, making us ONE with Him again. Know that there is POWER in the Cross.

And He has invited all of us to be with Him. He wants us to know that we are NOT caught in sin anymore. He wants US to reflect upon the Cross and know that HE has freely, without force, bled for us.

So, come awake and rise UP from the grave, know that He is RISEN from the dead.

He’s waiting for you. So go, take His hand and let Him lead you.

He never lets go.

Holy smokes.

That’s really all I have to say.

2011 is done. Gone. In the past. And I can never get it back again. All I can do is reflect, remember, and relate new adventures and challenges to the ones that took place in 2011.

It’s been eight months since I was diagnosed with Reflex Neurovascular Dystrophy. Eight months. Eight months of challenges, adventures, tears, laughs, pain, and weakness, all held together by His strength.

God’s done nothing short of powerful things in me the last eight months.

So, this is going to be my story. The story of my year. The story..that changed my life.

On June 6th, 2011, I was diagnosed with Reflex Neurovascular Dystrophy. There was finally a word to describe what I have felt for two and a half years. After the diagnosis, months and months of physical therapy, acupuncture, countless hours of crying and questioning why I had to be in this battle. Moments of being carried to the car from lack of movement in my legs and arms left me helpless and scared, really leaving me to do nothing but say “Ok God, it’s Your story.”

Six and a half months passed when God said, “You know what? You won’t get anywhere, and I can’t do amazing things in you, if you aren’t ready to see that I am good, all the time.” 10 hours of traveling left me standing in a valley in Oregon. 10 hours of traveling left me standing in front of the doors to a lodge. Little did I know that behind those doors, God would do amazing things. Little did I know that I would be wrecked. That I would be made new. That week, I was surrounded by some of the best photographers and Godliest people in the nation. I was surrounded. Me. By 24 people. In the middle of nowhere. God grabbed my heart, wrecked it, and asked me this, “Are you ready now?” And on one particular night, I said, “Yes, Lord, I’m ready.” Hope took flight, and my soul saw that He never lets go. He’s always faithful. He never let go when I wanted to fall. He never let go, even when I wanted to.

Almost four months have passed since He wrecked my heart. Would you like to know what He has done in me?

I’ve started a bible study with girls in my area. It’s been beautiful. Six girls come into my home, curl up with me, and we just talk. We love, we laugh, we cry, and we love.

God’s opened up the opportunity for my mom and I of Lifesong Photography and Katie Campbell of Katie Campbell Photography to found a retreat. A place for young photographers. A place for God to change hearts, inspire minds, and grow relationships. A place..to pursue the light. Together, we’ve founded Pursuing the Light. It’s a retreat that will take place April 19th-22nd overlooking Leavenworth, Washington. It’s a retreat that will include photographers like Jody Gray and Elizabeth Ann King. Holy smokes. Ahh. It’s amazing.

I’ve been asked to model for a stylized shoot called The Breakout Experience in Las Vegas with Jackie Gannon in February.

I’m traveling to Las Vegas in February to attend WPPI/Showit United. I get to see some of my favorite people ever!

I’m finishing up multiple websites in regards to Lifesong Photography’s new website that we will be launching on Tuesday! Included in that are +plus sites for our brides and grooms and their wedding days. Included in THAT is exhaustion, lots of work, lots of caffeine, and lots of music.

I’ve spent time with some pretty special people in the last month..precious times with my older brother who is now in Costa Rica, and his sweet, sweet friends. Love.

 

Really, the last four months have held nothing short of amazing opportunities, experiences, and emotional moments. There have been lots of tears shed, laughs heard, meals made, movies watched, books read, blog posts typed, photos taken, websites designed, and conversations had.

 

The past two weeks have been the longest. Really. They’ve been long. Really, really long. A few nights ago, I was curled up with my blanket, designing websites, texting friends, and reading stories when God said, “Hey, isn’t it MY turn to talk to you?” That’s when I realized that I thought I had more important things to do than reflect on who He is..His grace and His power. If it wasn’t for His faithfulness, none of the things that I’ve accomplished in the last four months would have happened.

I realized that when disaster comes, my soul can rejoice. That when waters rise, hope will take flight.

I realized that He never lets go.

He sweetly said to me, “Emily, I never let go. I never let go. Even when disaster comes, your soul can find rest. Because, I never let go of you.”

In that moment, my heart soared. I knew that He is ever faithful. He is ever true.

Even on Christmas morning, He never let go. He carried me out of bed at 7am..ok, it was worth it..to watch my family and the joy that they had. He let snowflakes fall on a snowless day. He let joy fill my heart. He let joy overflow in my heart.

On New Years Eve, I suffered with severe pain. I had probably taken too many ibuprofen when I was laying in bed at 8pm listening to 34 different voices in my home. I didn’t really pay attention to what everyone was saying, what was going on, or who was really in my home, because I was in too much pain. But I laid in darkness. My room was dark, I had ice packs on me, and music playing. And that’s when He said, “I never let go. Emily, I make beautiful things out of things that you look at as ugly. I think they’re beautiful. Can you see that too? Can you see that the pain you have will be made beautiful? Can you see that the laughter heard is beautiful?”

2012 is a new year. Most of you probably wrote your resolutions and your goals. Some of you probably have the same goals. Some of you might not. Either way, most of you probably wrote some sort of resolution, or at least thought it.

This year, I’m encouraging to see past what’s right in front of you. To have faith even in the smallest of things. To trust that He is good, all the time. To trust that He never lets go. To trust that He is ever faithful.

I know that this year, things that are bigger and greater than my dreams could happen. And I’m trusting that they will. I’m trusting that He is good. I’m trusting and knowing that He never lets go.

You know, I used to look at opportunities and almost blink at them. When I did, I missed them. I missed opportunities to share the Gospel. I missed opportunities to love on amazing people. I missed the opportunities to see His faithfulness at work. Because I was too busy making sure I was happy. How bad is that? That I cared more about myself and my happiness than I did about giving it up to see Him happy with ME? That’s bad. Four months ago, that changed. I saw that even the things that I need to accomplish may not ever get done, because they’re what I want, and they may not be what He wants for me. He has proven to me so radically in the last four months that my dreams aren’t even as big as what He sees as reality. Crazy.

This year, I’m writing more letters than I did before, accomplishing bigger and better things than I’ve ever dreamed, living stronger and more radically grateful than I ever have, and trusting that He will never let go..even when I’m falling down.

He is good. All the time.

I’m trusting that in my small city, and in this big world, that GREATER things are yet to come. GREATER things are still to be done. Selflessly, I gave up what I wanted four months ago, and He has replaced my past wants with greater realities.

I had misplaced affections. I had affections for my own wants and my own desires.

Now?

They’ve been replaced. They’ve been replaced by far greater affections in the Gospel. I’m more in love than ever before. And it’s all because I finally know that He never lets go.

Ever.

forgetfulness and ingratitude.

Forget it.

Really, how many times have you said that?

How many times have you stood in line at a drive thru and the voice coming through the speakers says, “Excuse me say that again?” ..and eventually you just find enough anger inside you to blurt, “You know what, just forget it.”

How many times have you been in line somewhere and the line in front of you just won’t budge. And something like this happens..

You lose your temper.

Miss “I have to get my groceries too” won’t move.

You’re late for work or an appointment.

And you lose your temper.

In your head, you’re thinking, “God’s not gonna like me for thiiiiis.”

But you just say under your breath, “You know what? Forget it. Forget it all.”

How many times have you been in line at Starbucks and the barista cannot get your drink right? No wait. I love Starbucks.

Let’s use a different example.

Seattle’s Best. That’s an oldie. I’m not sure that place even knows how to make a frappucino or fill a hot drink to the top instead of just halfway then the rest with foam. Really.

ok..sorry if I offend any Seattle’s Best lovers. I’m just a faithful Starbucks lover. And I only get Seattle’s Best if I’m in an airport somewhere and that’s all they have.

How many times have you stood in line to get your morning paper and coffee and the barista cannot make your drink right.

And you, selfishly, think to yourself, “Why did I come here anyways? Forget it.” 

And you ditch the paper and leave the money on the counter and run out the door with the little bell that dings every time someone walks in or out.

Forget.

What does that even mean?

Forget.

It’s a funny word. It looks funny. It sounds like a French pastry.

Bonjour ma’am..un forget. Merci.”

No wait. Maybe it sounds like some Costa Rican fruit.

“Uno for-git.

Actually, it sounds like a word that we really, really don’t like hearing.

“I just got back from the store. I forgot what you wanted me to get.”

“I just forgot my appointment.”

Forget the thought of coming over anymore, I don’t need to talk to you.”

“I forgot what I was going to say.”

“Oops. Someone forgot their things.”

“I don’t know how you could forget something like that.”

It’s one of those words that makes you sink into your boots a little bit and squint your eyes and say to yourself, “please please PLEASE help that person to not forget!”

How many mornings have you woken up and forgotten to even say, “Hey God, can I talk to you later? I’m busy today”?

How many mornings have you woken up and forgotten to even think, “Oh shoot. I forgot to even thank God for this or that today. I’ll do it later”? And you never do.

How many Christmases have you woken up on, watched the snow fall, and forgotten to even wonder, “I wonder if that little girl I met last week has a warm home this morning”?

 

We’re all human. We’re born to forget. Actually, we’re called to remember. But we’re forgetters. We’re not rememberers.

When was the last time you woke up and thought about Deuteronomy 32:18 that speaks of the Rock that bore me and you? Deuteronomy 32:18 says, “You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the GOd who gave you birth.”

Or Psalm 78:11, “They forgot his works and the wonders he had shown them.”

We forget too much. And we forget too often.

We forget to even simply say, “Thank you.”

A lot of times we go straight to asking God for simple, routine things that are just a part of our lives.

“God protect me on the way to work. Protect the car, the house, help me to be focused.”

And we don’t ask for the big things.

We ask in the wrong manner. We ask with the wrong intentions.

Really. I can tell you, I’ve begun to make it a part of my life to thank Him, and ask Him. Ask and you shall receive. I’m not saying it’s not right to ask for protection for simple things, but sometimes, we have huge obstacles to jump over. And we know we can’t jump over them alone. We face obstacles within our businesses. We face obstacles with knowing how to market our businesses.

And really, He wants to be infused into our businesses, our lives, our thoughts, our needs. And He wants fulfill our needs. But we cannot simply just ask and ask and ask for things without speaking our hearts to Him out of humility and asking graciously for His hand to provide.

We forget to ask. And we forget to thank.

And get this, forgetfulness and ingratitude intercede. They go hand in hand. And the only thing we need, is His saving grace. Colossians 1:13 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son.”

We fail to remember..we forget that He has faithfully, without restraint, met our needs, our every need, and given us sustenance and filled us completely by His grace.

Abundant life means living  a life full of thanksgiving and praise. If we have a high standard of living, we’ll be discontent forever. We’ll never have contentment in the things we have. If we take the simple blessings, or the simple things we ask God for, for granted, like they were simply owed to us, ingratitude will thrive. It’ll grow and grow and grow. It’ll looove living in you. Because you, out of pride, forget Him. Forget His provision. Forget His hand in everything.

Society pushes and has invested so much energy into building collective self-esteem out of external beauty and phsyical pleasures that our culture has pushed the idea that we need to believe in deservednes.

What the..?

I mean, haven’t you met someone who doesn’t have anything? Anything? They’ve lost what, to you, looks like it all.

And you might not live in a fancy home, have all the latest toys, but you’re still affluent, and the more affluent you are in pleasurable things, the more demanding you become, and the more ingratitude and discontentment will love you.

We live with blinders on. We’re the ones who owe Him. Not vice versa. And too often, we forget that. We’re the debtors. Not Him. We are so not deserving of  the mercies of God, but they are graces given to us, by Him, to fallen creatures, those who He redeems out of love.

Not only do we fail to remember or forget, we like to ignore. We ignore the graces He pours out. And when that happens, it leads to a cyle of, “This is mine, it’s here every day. It was given to me. Why say thanks? It’s just here. Those mercies are here, they’re mine, there’s no reason to say thank you because they’ll be here again tomorrow.”

Meet 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive..ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of Godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”

Makes you want to pretty much say, “Well, crap. Everyone should avoid me then.”

Because for Timothy to put the word ingratitude with other words like abusive and arrogant  together is pretty much intimidating. It makes you want to pretty much throw up right? Right.

It makes you sick inside. To know that ingratitude and forgetfulness go hand in hand with arrogance, abusiveness, brutality, self-love, and recklessness.

Gratitude isn’t a word, it’s not a feeling, it’s a way of living.

Forgetfulness and ingratitude go together. If you live with gracious, radically grateful hearts, that forgetfulness will not have a habitat. Because if you’re radically grateful, you will never forget to say thank you.

So, the next time you’re in line at Seattle’s Best or the next time the lady in front of you with a cart full of groceries won’t hurry, don’t tell them or yourself to “Forget it.” Ask them how you can help them. Graciously offer your hand, just as He has offered us His.

For now.

I have a whole wonderfully legit post to put on here soon :) Promise! I can’t wait to share it with you all. God’s been working sooo much in my heart and life lately..I have story after story to share. I’ll have it up tomorrow :)

For now..check this out. It’s the Gospel. So ridiculously good.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO-Cp2kcFjc

I love Jesus.

So, it’s late. I’m getting some sleep, but I have about fourteen tabs up on my internet for posts to put up for you all to read :) night my loves. Sleep well! I’ll put something awesome up tomorrow. Promise!

you might change your mind.

I’ve had one of those weeks where my heart’s been vulnerable. Ever since that total heart-wrecking night, my heart’s had to strengthen in so many ways. Satan uses those who are vulnerable as targets. We’re like the odd ones out. The pretty fish in the water. The ones that he lures in and feeds off of. Really. He’s been out to get me, man. He wants nothing more than to destroy. Corrupt. And ruin.

Now. Follow me here.

 So I went to church this morning. I may or may not have hit the snooze button on my alarm four times because I was up all night with a pain surge that woke me up at 3am and kept me up the rest of the night. On a regular basis, I’ll have pain settle in my ankles. It’s the most miserable pain. It’s like every step weighs thirty pounds and it feels like a needle stabbing my foot every time I put my foot back down. That’s been progressively getting more painful in the last few weeks. Right? Something that would just make you grumpy and bitter? And no matter what anyone says, it just makes you even more bitter. That’s how I’ve been this week. I haven’t been easy to get along with. Really. Like one of those Magic Kingdom roller coasters that’s stuck in a cycle of going around and around and around with never stopping. That’s been me.

But every night this week, I’ve fallen asleep with the same thoughts going through my head.

I’m curled up in bed with my favorite blankets and my toes hanging out the side. My room smells like the yummy candle I had lit from earlier, and the moonlight is just barely making a shadow on the wall parallel to me. Why am I so spoiled? Spoiled. I have everything.

I have a precious Jesus who has a grace so much bigger than I deserve. A grace that has saved me. And I’ve been grumpy because I hurt. Because my body’s screaming, so somehow I think it’s okay to let that show. And sometimes it is. You can’t hide it forever. But it’s a pain that isn’t just going to go away. It’s a pain that is getting worse, but it’s growing my heart. And if it brings me that much closer to Jesus, this miserable pain that makes it so I can barely tell I have legs is worth going through. Even if I fall asleep and feel like I only have my head and torso.

I went to church this morning and this overwhelming sense of knowing that this life is not my own came over me. My body isn’t mine. I don’t own anything. I’m just simply holding what He has placed in my life, so He can supervise and work through me. Does that make sense? Acts 2:37-42 talks about Satan’s ruin. The depravity of this nation. And the hope that we have. A hope that we can rightfully proclaim. I was caught in the embrace of His love when I really noticed that I’d been in a cycle, all week, of being concerned about what would make me feel better.

When we cut ourselves, every antibody in our being rushes “to the scene” in a sense, to offer their antibody powers and fight against the pain that’s embedded in a fingertip.

In a sense, that’s what my heart and mind did this week. My legs haven’t stopped being in pain for as long as I can really remember. But this week, when my pain levels spiked up five times higher than normal, my heart just sank. I was so discouraged by it. So my heart and mind when straight to the matter of me and how I could feel better, rather than looking beyond me and seeing how I could be used in other lives. Ironic for this time of year yeah?

So let me get to the heart of what I’m REALLY trying to say.

I’ve written this whole post with the intention of saying something really heart wrenching and dramatic, something to stir up emotion and make you dig a little deeper into your heart. Ready?

What are you doing for Thanksgiving?

Really. What are you doing?

Are you staying home with your family, cooking a small meal while drinking a bottle of Chardonnay? Are you having your family over?

Have you actually taken time to sit before Him and ask what He wants of you this year? Think about the families you know who’ve lost someone special this year. The families who are going to gather together to eat a meal, an empty meal, a meal that they don’t really want to give thanks for, because they don’t see God at work in their lives. All they see is a God who takes away, they don’t want to see a God who gives, because He took away a precious one that they loved.

Think about all the moms who will gather together alone with her kids because her husband can’t be there because he has to work to provide for the little itty bitty turkey they get to have.

Think about all the children who’ve never known what it’s like to sit around a table with family and love. Think about all the kids who don’t know how to love.

Is that you this year?

Are you one of those people?

Or are you one of the ones who has a beautiful home that’s going to be somewhat empty this year?

I’m not saying it’s wrong to have a small, family thanksgiving. That’s what I’ve grown up with for years.

Until this year.

I always say every year I’m not going to ever cook Thanksgiving dinner again. Every year it rolls around again and I’m ready with my grocery list to get everything I need to make my yummy turkey and roasted mashed potatoes. Yum.

But this year, I can’t wait to make Thanksgiving dinner.

I didn’t realize how selfish I’d become until I was home alone on Friday making a pot of soup to deliver to an older couple who lives so close to me. A couple that I never see. That’s heartbreaking.

That there are so many people so close to me. People who don’t know Jesus. People who’ve never heard the Gospel. People who may not get a chance to hear the gospel before they die.

And my heart just turned upside down when I was thinking about this year’s Thanksgiving and how many people I know who don’t know what it means to gather in a place with family who loves Jesus. Our home isn’t huge, but it’s a home that’s full. A home full of love. It’s warm, and it’s cozy. It’s my home. But He lives here too. And this year, my home is being opened up to 20 different people. And I cannot wait to see them walk through the doors on a day that I hope is full of snow :) and I can’t wait to fill up mugs of hot cider for them and love on them and bless them. I can’t wait to listen to what they’re thankful for this year.

So let me ask you again, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?

Are you going to curl up and love on those who already know you love them, or are you going to love on those who don’t know what it means to be loved? You can do both you know :) No one said it’s not okay to love on those who already know they’re loved. But there’s something so, so special about watching the hearts of those who haven’t met Jesus yet and watching them just fill up with joy.

So, before you make your grocery list and finish your plans for Thanksgiving, think about what it means to love. Reconsider your plans if you know of someone special who has no plans for Thanksgiving. And see who you can love on this year. Then let me know? :)  Actually, just let me know what your Thanksgiving plans are :) I’d so love to lift each of you up in prayer this Thanksgiving.

different cities, the same goal.

I’m going to welcome you into my mind. Into my heart. Into me.

Two weeks ago, I was surrounded by individuals who changed me. They loved on me, encouraged me, inspired me, you name it, they did it. They brought me kleenex when I cried, they always asked for my snacks, because we all know that Emily carries good snacks. I like to provide a contrast between healthy and yummy. Freeze-dried strawberries, white chocolate protein bars, and turkey jerky. That’s me.

 I met these wonderful people on a Monday. When Thursday night hit, I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t want to watch them get in the car and head back to their homes. I didn’t want to see them leave. I wanted to share more cries, laughs, thoughts, snacks. I just wasn’t ready to watch them go.

But then I realized something. On Friday morning of this workshop in Elkton, Oregon, I got in the driver seat of the car and put on a playlist of Elton John, Ellie Goulding, Jonathan Helser, Fleet Foxes, Mumford and Sons, Foster the People, and Ingrid Michaelson. I love me some good music. I made my way back out to the paved highway, because we remember that I was five miles out on a dirt road. I was in the middle of nowhere. I woke up and walked outside and listened. Listened to nothing. Pure, untouched silence. And it was the perfect opportunity for God to come into my heart and teach me to listen to Him.

I followed Ginny, the founder of this retreat, to the airport in her 15 passenger van that had fingerprints on the windows and mud on the tires and dirt smudges on the back door. She’s an insane freeway driver. Seriously. I was pushing 80 in a 65 and couldn’t keep up. When we were one exit from the airport, I passed her and just held down the horn. I watched her glare over at the car. I still don’t know if she knows it was me. I waved and giggled and whispered a goodbye in my head as I watched her take the ramp off the freeway. For nine and a half more hours, I drove. I drove 600 miles and reflected on a thousand thoughts with every turn of the wheel.

I’m proud to say I only stopped for Starbucks once :)

When I pulled in the driveway to my house, this weight that I thought I had lost came back over me. Totally Satan yeah?

Yeah.

I’ll get to that weight I felt in a minute.

I unloaded a week’s worth of laundry and discarded my leftover snacks and thought of Claire and Keary and those precious conversations as we traveled to the ocean and talked about love stories and family bondings. I may or may not have wiped a salty tear off my cheek.

That night as I climbed into bed, God did another work in my heart. The weight that I felt became a reality. I knew what that weight was. It hit me that almost every person that I was with 12 hours earlier, was now thousands of miles away from me. But something special hit me too. That we have each been placed where we are in the world for a reason. We’re thousands of miles away from each other, but we’re on mission. We’re all living in different cities, we all get our mail from different post offices, we all go to a different Safeway, and we all see different snowflakes. We all see the same sun, the same moon, the same stars, and we all serve the same God. We have all been called, in our own cities, to spread the Gospel and the freedom found in Jesus. And I asked myself this.

 How can we be on mission if we’re all together in the same room? We gathered together to grow, nurture, inspire, encourage, and love. But when we took our separate roads, something special happened. We traveled our separate ways in order to fulfil the same challenges. The challenges of missional living. The challenges of living with joy. The challenges of Satan wanting to destroy everything He’s built in us. The challenges of keeping our toes warm in winter weather. The challenges of showing those around us that He is real. There are endless challenges. The challenges won’t stop. To some, that’s discouraging, but I know to each of the people that I was with two weeks ago, it’s exciting. It’s exciting to know that those challenges can draw us closer to God, and closer to each other.

Now to the part that I’ve been really excited about sharing with you :)

Since I’ve been home, I haven’t stopped learning.

More than anything, I haven’t stopped learning about who I am in Jesus. I haven’t stopped learning how my mind and heart respond to things, and how to change my responses to things to further glorify Him. I’m learning how to love those around me, encourage, listen, inspire, and grow with each of them.

Really, I’m just sharing with you that His love is an endless ocean. Endless.

If that doesn’t excite, encourage, and relieve us from fear, what will?

We’ve all been called to serve Him, and live in a missional way to bring others to Him.

Made in His image, we can accomplish things that are so, so powerful. His power goes beyond all things, and we have access to His power as He reigns and lives in us and is seen through us. And He’s called us to create with Him.

Really.

No matter city we’re in, we can have similar goals. Especially the goal of wanting to serve, grow, and love in Jesus.