Thursday, November 19, 2015

Your Life IS on Track

I saw an article today... Actually, I read a lot of articles, so this is nothing out of the ordinary, but the subject matter was new to me.

read the article here

There's been a lot in the news lately... Everything from Starbucks cups to terrorism. But when I was in high school, there were two topics that were almost constantly up for debate. So I guess the headline of the article took me back to that place.

The article was written as a defense for women's reproductive rights, arguing that 100,000 women have attempted home-abortions due to lack of access to clinics in Texas (HB2).

While I do believe in the sanctity of life, I think there's a bigger issue at stake here. Most self-proclaiming Christians cheer every time a family-planning clinic closes. As if lack of access to abortion is the heart of the problem? As if that fixes what's wrong here?

Gosh... that doesn't even begin to touch God's heart.

I can say without question that God's heart breaks for every child that doesn't see day due to abortion. That's his creation being rejected: a unique individual that could have done incredible feats. But I also think God has a special place in his heart for motherhood and families.

God created the family - he designed it.

Taking away access to abortion clinics doesn't change the reason why women end pregnancies, it just makes them desperate and consider other options, be it home-abortion or adoption.

Abortion happens when a woman decides she can't be a mom to the child.

And there are a variety of reasons, normally feelings of inadequacy, inconvenience, or fear.

But while abortion has been around for centuries - home abortion is nothing new - I think self-determination is something that has historical roots here in America.

You see, at the end of the 1800s, the Women's Rights movement began to take shape. It was a long-awaited change in Victorian culture that sought to explore another side of womanhood - beyond that of a housewife, and more as a critical thinker. Role models for women were changing along with the new century - women like Susan B Anothony and Eleanor Roosevelt.

America has always stood for self-betterment and new opportunities... and this subject is no different.

The redefinition of what was acceptable for women progressed, especially with industrialization, the 20's and WWII. The Second World War was a major turning point. With most of the male population being drafted into the war, their wives and girlfriends stepped into their places, and quite frankly, were in no hurry to give back their jobs when the war ended. (Side note - that was not a jab at homelessness. That has its roots with WWI and PTSD. "Hobo" comes from homeward bound, many of the Great War vets simply never made it home and continued to wander, or struggled to work because of PTSD). 

This was the era of the working woman.

With the rise in working women, and several more human rights movements, ours has become a culture of non-conformism. We redefined woman-hood, then person-hood, and then came the sexual revolution. We are a rather self-determined lot, though at the same time, we subject ourselves to conforming to non-conformism. Anything that conforms has to be outdated, old and rejected.

Somehow, we've glorified independence at the cost of family.

Let's face it, if a young lady says, "I want to be a mommy when I grow up," she gets shamed and asked what kind of job she wants to have. She's liberated, she doesn't have to be a mommy. If she becomes a mommy, then she sacrifices any other opportunities she might otherwise have available to her.

You know, the one fear I hear quite a bit from my peers, is that by being a young mother, they might miss out on something.

I swear, our world thrives on the pendulum swing.

Motherhood used to be an incredible gift. Now, it's almost a bad thing - because you'll have to stop working, sacrifice sleep and kids are rude, sticky and loud.

I would like to turn that idea on its head.

What if we stopped looking at motherhood as a sacrifice of independence? What if we started telling little girls, you can be anything you want to be, even a mommy? And being a mom is such a cool job because you can be a mom AND a a fill-in-the-blank-here. Or just mom. You don't have to be a mom, but if you want to, you can.

What if girls believed that?

Because I don't think they do. They've been told all the horror stories of motherhood and none of the joys.

Most of them believe that if they become a mom, they're not living up to their potential... they're just pregnant. And of course, pregnancy "should only happen on purpose." As if that's the worst thing that could happen to you?

And THAT my friends, is the lie that we really need to ditch.

Because jobs will come and go

Careers can be derailed.

And impact is not limited to the world.

Because the legacy you leave is not defined by your independence or non-conformity, but by the people you love and the people who love you. If you recall all the trailblazers of the 20th century... not one of them would have a legacy if no one cared about their cause, or they didn't take the time to urge others to care.

I don't think making abortion illegal creates real change. Real change happens when we start looking at people, not matter what is happening in their lives and say, "You can do this," NOT, "Get your life back on track." That, coming from the crowd who defies the notion of a correct track? Already, I hope you see the problem. Back on the non-existent track?

Because nothing that happens to you is unforeseen by God. And God can use ANYTHING in your life. Intentional or unintentional. Your life IS on track, whether he leads you towards a job/ministry or towards a family. Neither one is bad. Just different. And God is active in every corner of life.

Once we start to believe that, unforeseen life complications won't be something to ditch... just another adventure to take on.

Monday, November 9, 2015

It Isn't Starbucks Who's Failed

I just need to preface this post by saying that I absolutely adore Christmas. I don't hesitate to say that I mark my year by the Christmas season and everything in relation to it. And in light of my faith, the season and the message behind it means a lot to me.

However, this whole Red Cup ordeal makes me angry.

And not for the reasons you might expect.

It all boils down to this: I don't expect Starbucks to be my source of holiday... I don't know, spirit, joy... whatever hoopla you want to fill in the blank? And even more than that, Starbucks has not set out on a mission to spread the gospel, they're out to provide customer service and decent coffee. That's it. If you expect more from them, then I have a new challenge for you.

Are you failing so horribly at your job as a Christian that you expect Starbucks to do it for you by putting, "Merry Christmas" on their cups? Are they supposed to take up the cross and spread the gospel? This is a bigger problem than a change in artwork. Because I really don't think a change in artwork should incur such a fuss as it has from the Christian community.

I want to tell you a story about Starbucks... and its not about the company, but about some individuals who work there. Real living people.

Several years ago, the local Starbucks in my town hired a young lady from a nearby church. A very kind, God-loving, diligent college student. And after working there for a while, the manager mentioned that he would be interested in hiring any of her friends because he liked her as an employee. This triggered a chain of hires, mostly college students from our church.

This story isn't about Starbucks and its image. That manager was simply looking for good employees and found a decent source. We have an opportunity as Christians to share the gospel with our lives, not with cups.

Some of us dream of working for Christian companies and organizations, because apparently, we've deceived ourselves into believing that's the best way to honor God. Where on earth did that idea come from?

We've been commissioned to go out into the world and preach the gospel to the nations. And we can't to that by Christianizing our world. We actually have to encounter the part of the world that doesn't share our values and show them something worth having.

Don't you get it? It's OUR mission. OUR job.

Our job as family members to love and care for the people we live with. Our job as citizens to honor God with our vote and participation. Our job as employees to represent Christ in our workplaces.
A cup with "Merry Christmas" on it can't do that.

So if the message of Christmas isn't going to be shared because Starbucks took the phrase off of its cups, it isn't Starbucks who's failed. It's us as Christians, who've backed out of this incredible calling we've received.

So in everything you do, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Friday, November 6, 2015


I've heard it said that we spend our whole lives searching for something. That person believed it was normalcy and happiness. But not just a feeling of happiness, but that moment where we learn what "happy" means. For most of us, it's a moment of peace we experience early on in life. A sense of "normal and good." We spend the rest of our lives trying to get back to that moment. To reclaim it.

I'd like to think that we're all searching for a place to belong. And belonging comes in so many different forms - with a person, in a place, or in having a sense of purpose. But we all crave it. To not belong, is to be on the outside, alone, and excluded.

Funny thing though, Every now and then, I find with taste of "belonging," and it's the most beautiful thing in the world. And sometimes I recognize it in other people who've found where they belong. And yet we're afraid to spoil it. Or we question it to death until we run away from it because logic - or the devil, I'm certain he loves to thwart "belonging"  - tells us that its too good to be true, or maybe our happiness has blinded us and it's not as "right" as we think it is.

Strange to ever imagine someone running from "belonging." And yet we do it all the time.

Human nature is a funny thing.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Too Afraid to Try

I need to admit something out loud. And I suppose it might sound like something that only poses a serious problem in television or movie plots, but it's so much bigger than that, because it effects my real, every day life.

Honestly, I'm deeply afraid some days.

I wish I could admit that it were something specific, like a phobia, but it general, it's just outright fear, mostly of the unknown.

Sometimes, it stems from uncertainty - questioning myself. There's a song by NeedToBreathe (The Devil's Been Talkin') that pretty much sums it up. More often than not, I question choices I've made and I wonder - am I truly capable? Do I have what it takes to pursue the things I would like to?

That question will turn into a roadblock. And it's a roadblock that leads to nowhere. It's a fear of failure. It's all the things you would do, but are afraid to do because failure stares you in the face and says, "I'm a very real possibility, so wouldn't it just be easier not to try?"

Some days, I'm afraid to try.

Other days, I'm afraid of what the future holds. I'm afraid that whatever may happen won't be right. So I play it safe. So safe, that whatever my safety net might be, it's not even always safe, rather than safe, it's simply known. And I hold on so tightly to what's known, that I never travel farther than what I can reach. My world is ever-shrinking as a result.

Sometimes, I look at my life, at what's going on around me, and I see everything that's passing me by. And all I can do is weep, because I've been too afraid to try.

And really... too afraid to trust.

Have I been wasting my talents? Out of fear, have I become the servant who buried his coin?

I know that the song, "Oceans," has somewhat come and gone in popularity, but personally, I've only begun to understand what it means to let go and let God. It's my temptation to cling too tightly to what's known, and therefore, not trust the one who holds my entire world in his hands. And what safer place could there be?

Instead, the wind and the waves have chased me back into the boat. They've kept me cowering in my so-called "safe little boat" for far too long.

But today, I want to reach out and grab hold of God with both hands. It's such an easy statement to make, when really, it's a lengthy process. Fear doesn't typically just disappear, it has to be weeded out, and boiled to the surface.

I've been discovering fears I didn't even know I had. But I know who goes before me and I know who goes behind, the God of angel armies is ALWAYS by my side. Whom shall I fear?

I can't do anything by my own strength, but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. So I guess it's time to stop doubting... stop fearing... stop cowering... and trust that God made me purposefully and has a plan for my life. Trust that God will equip me to handle anything I encounter. And trust that I am never alone. After all, it's not about me, it's about him. And it's about his plans, I just have the honor of being apart of his plan.

Friday, October 30, 2015


Sometimes I look out upon the world and I wonder who's really alive - who's awake and who is still sleeping. It's that feeling that everyone around you just may happen to be a robot. Cognizant or not. And perhaps each and every one of us feels that way at times? Is everyone else real?

I suppose we're all philosophers in that way. And if you've never dared to consider life so deeply, then, could it be, you've never really awakened? For indeed, we're all asleep till we're made alive in Christ. But once alive, how then do you live and move and breathe? With what awareness do you go through life? And if with none, then I challenge you to sink deep, deep, deep into your cognizance. For this is what separates us from beasts.

We can think.

And thinking must not merely be limited to choices. No. That requires little to no use of the mind. Rather, if we are indeed alive and capable of consideration, and if we are created in the image of our creator, whose mind inspired ours, then oughtn't we consider the world around us, and more importantly, the people around us?

Dive deep.

Instead, since those around us must not be robots, but cognizant human beings, then every person we encounter, must, in the words of C.S. Lewis, be a immortal, just as ourselves.
"There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors" (The Weight of Glory).
And isn't that just incredible?

When I consider such a thought, each person I encounter becomes something of a wonder. All physical appearances seems to slide off like clothing or mud. What remains, is an essence of sorts - a true character. A character comprised of experience, wisdom, foolishness, kindness and stupidity. Something of a mix, with different percentages of each, you might say, comprising a whole. And to think that each is such a unique thumbprint, each designed specifically by the Almighty.

How can, in light of this, one ever treat another human being as a robot? But instead as something eternal... outlasting... with either salvation or damnation in store? And I do pray, that it be the former rather than the latter. For if we are indeed, such intelligent creatures, then perhaps we're all subtly aware of the gaping, gnawing hole that is our desperate desire to know if there is more to this life, and perhaps the next, than, eating, breathing and pleasure.

And if indeed there is, then how much more important is it, to find the Source of greater purpose?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Kind and Ungrateful

Sometimes I wander around, going through my day, just wishing common sense on other people. Through my own philosophy of life, it just seems reasonable to treat one another fairly... to be considerate... to treat others the way I would like to be treated and so on. And quite honestly, it drives me crazy when others don't seem to do the same.

Maybe we're just a selfish lot - so focused on taking care of ourselves that treating others fairly goes out the window. Or maybe we just live in a world of senseless people. But then of course, I'm not really sure how much sense I've got. As easy as it is to question others, I question myself all the time.

And then there's this new thought: What if my idea of fair isn't quite the same as someone else's?

That one will keep you busy for days... trying to decide who's version is MORE fair.

But today, I really got to thinking about something that God's been teaching me for the last few years, and I really want others to hear this.

For myself, when I used to hear the golden rule, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," I think, in my own mind, I was actually hearing, "do unto others and they'll return the favor." Like the golden rule was some kind of guarantee.

Imagine my surprise and frustration when no matter how many favors I do, or how many smiles I paste on my mouth, people don't always respond accordingly. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't even seem to notice the effort you put out. It's somewhat of a toss up.

To be honest, that sort of thinking developed a kind of "Cinderella complex" in me. I started feeling like I was slaving away for ugly stepsisters. And that's not an ideal place to be. While from the outside looking in, it's easy to romanticize what a humble, servant's heart Cinderella had, if you take her place... just you go ahead and try not to feel bitter!

It's an extremely difficult reality to face - that ours is a broken world, where kindness isn't distributed evenly. Not everyone looks after their own messes, and few people will step in to help you when your mess gets overwhelming.

But in the midst of disappointment and hurt, Christ calls us to something bigger.

Do unto others is not a guarantee of reciprocation - it's not actually about other people. Do unto others is a command for me. It's about MY heart and MY behavior. If I start handing out favors, expecting others to be sensible, it's a bitterness trap.

I'm supposed to conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (phil. 1:27) whether others are fair to me or not. I'm supposed to go out of my way to be helpful and kind whether or not I get a thank you. It's not about the thank you or keeping a list of who owes ME a favor. Because that's the gospel we've received.  It's a gospel of grace - getting what we don't deserve and haven't earned. We love because he first loved us. That's what sets us as Christians apart and makes us different. It's totally and utterly illogical. No sense at all. But it works. And it's amazing. And humbling.

So when your roommates don't take care of their own dishes, or neglect housekeeping... do it for them, not because you're angry and bitter, but because you love them. Because you can.

When you've spent hours taking care of your friends, but they weren't there to care for you when you needed help, and they call you up one day asking for help... we're called to give anyways.
"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." Luke 6:35 ESV

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Hardest Words to Speak

When I was a little girl, I used to climb into one of the apricot trees in our backyard and sit up there for hours. My dad nicknamed me, "Emily of the trees." But for me, tree limbs were a beautiful sanctuary where my love of storytelling and daydreaming began.

All alone, up in the trees, I crafted elaborate tales about all kinds of things. And when I came back down, I would play pretend with my little brother, often acting out the stories I'd spent time plotting.

They say the whole purpose of playing is to practice for someday. That's why we pretend to be doctors, teachers, soldiers and moms.

It's fairly easy to watch a child and discover their talents - enough to make a guess at what they might aspire to become someday.

Of course, somewhere along the lines, we come up with an idea of our "dream life." The "if everything goes according to plan," life we dearly wish for. And it's always such a GOOD plan, and God is a GOOD father who gives GOOD gifts to His children. Theoretically, those dreams we have, HAD TO have been put there on purpose. After all, God created us with purpose - to use our lives.

But what happens when, little by little, God begins to uncurl our fingers, and pry those dreams from our hands?

All that remains is an empty vessel, devoid of any idea as to what's going on.

Heartbroken and frightened.

What now?

I hate that feeling. I REALLY, really hate it. Because, in all honestly, I LOVE my dreams. I think they're beautiful and honest and good. There is nothing selfish about my dreams. They're God honoring and I want it so badly. God couldn't have put it there without a reason. And God is good, He wouldn't dangle a carrot in front of my nose just to tease me.

All I can do is wonder why my hands are empty. It's terrifying.

But maybe... Just maybe... God is a god who brings us to the end of ourselves... to that place where there's nothing to do but cling to Him and trust His plans... before He builds us back up again?

It's still a terrifying thought.

If God tears us down with the intention of building us back up again, then what if He starts changing things? Giving us new dreams, or similar, but different dreams? What if He takes those gifts and talents and rearranges them to show us something we are fully capable of doing, but never considered? Like scrabble letters. Like GOD and DOG. Same letters, different purpose.

When your dreams seem so good, it's hard to let go and let God. Of course His plan is good, but it's unknown.

And that's what's terrifying.

But when you've come to the end of yourself... and in your heart of hearts, you still trust Him... Three little words find their way into your mouth, but they're incredibly hard to speak out loud:


And thus the rebuilding begins.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

5 Things Single People Don't Like to Hear

One of the challenges of being single, but looking forward to a relationship, is all the advice and comments you get from your well-meaning friends who ARE in relationships. But I have to say, whether true or not, they’re not always very appreciated – and for some reason, always seem to have hidden meanings.

1. Be glad you have this time to yourself.

Well, I guess so. But God created us to be “in relationship” both with Him and others. And not just significant others, but friends. So whether I’m dating or not, my time is never really for me alone. And I really don’t have any desire to be unto myself. That just sounds lonely, to be honest – and life isn’t about me anyways.

and just as a comment… now that you’re in a relationship, do you miss being on your own? This almost seems to reflect more on you than me. I’m almost more concerned for YOUR relationship than my single status.

2. God must be working on you right now.

Sigh… this is actually my least favorite one. I think it comes from the idea that maybe said single person has a problem they would otherwise bring into a relationship. And honestly, that kinda hurts, mostly because it’s like a subtle way of saying, “there’s something wrong with you.” But somehow it’s okay to say because I’m pretty sure that God is always working on us.

I’d like to think that whether you’re in a relationship or not, you’re always submitting yourself to God’s work. But honestly, when someone says this, it makes me want to ask, “As my friend, I want you to hold me accountable, would you just come out and say what you’re seeing that I should be aware of?”

3. You deserve better or He/She’s not good enough for you

This normally comes when things aren’t working out with a crush. And it’s meant to be a compliment to build you up and make you feel good about yourself. But at the same time, It’s also a “bash” on him/her, which, when you like someone, reflects on your taste. Kind of a bittersweet comment.

And really, when your heart is on the line, it’s no fun to hear people bash the person you have feelings for.

4. Juggling a relationship and school/a job is hard.

This one… I understand that they’re trying to make you feel better… like you’re maybe saving yourself some stress. I mean really, the person who normally says this is the busy girl/guy who has that supper flexible, go-with-the-flow significant other. And in all their busyness, it seems that they still think it’s worth it. So… from the outside looking in, it seems like for whatever hardships come, forming a relationship is more like a worthwhile investment. So it’s hard to really take this statement in and think, “I’m content.”

5. God must be saving you for someone really special.

Ugh… this is the one we tell ourselves all the time and I don’t know, I sure that in His omnipotence, God has a great plan, but… well… normally this one ends the whole, “why are you still single” conversation. It’s that end note placate. And well, it just… okay, it’s not the worst one… but you hear it one too many times and it sort of looses its potency. It starts feeling a little flat.

Sometimes I wonder if people in relationships are trying to tell single people all the things they wish they knew beforehand, but I think they’re missing a very important point. Most single people don’t want relationship advice, or validation of “singleness.” Most of them are waiting for a new stage in life. It's not about "all they great things you can do as a single person," it's more about something that hasn't been done yet. Or even better, wanting someone to be support you in all you do (Besides God, they always seem to bring that one up)

A new season.

Really, I guess… I think most single people just want a chance to TRY.

That’s it. All the placations kind just feel like we’re being smothered. Like our frustrations aren’t valid, or you’re hinting at something.

So REGARDLESS of the merits of singlehood… just pat your single friend on the back when they’re feeling discouraged. Let them vent. And really, they’re just anxious for their chance to try.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

What on Earth is a "Good Thing?"

I always thought I was a romantic. But I guess I've come to find that sentimental is not quite the same as romantic. And on top of that... I really don't believe in Soul Mates.

And really, I don't think most of my friends believe in Soul Mates either, but every time I get a "poor you" pity glance, I start to wonder if maybe they do... they just don't want to use the word, "Soul Mate." Instead, they slap around words like, "don't settle." Which, I agree with, but if I had a nickel for every time I've had to explain my thoughts on the matter, well, you know.

Soul Mates is such a funny concept. But I think, at its essence, someone who embraces the idea holds to the notion that there is someone out there who complements you better than anyone else, who will adore you the same way you adore them, and in sickness and in health, life will be roses. And I don't know... as much as I love romance and sentiment, that sounds like a bunch of hooey.

And forgive me... but I just can't find it in the Bible. Most of what I see about finding a spouse in the Bible tends to be cultural. (I'll give a few examples)

I mean: Abraham married his sister... Isaac was basically handed a wife... then Jacob worked for 14 years for a girl he thought was pretty. Ruth married Boaz because he was responsible. And then there's Mary, we really don't know overly much about what her relationship with Joseph looked like in terms of romance.

Here's what we do have:
"He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord." Proverbs 18:22
Gosh... I don't even know if that's very satisfying. I'd love to see this great blueprint for God's design for this whole ambiguous, "who's right for me?" question. (Besides the don't yoke yourself with unbelievers bit... that's a nonnegotiable 2 Cor. 6:14).

And that's what I'm talking about... "who's right for me?" Because the whole world keeps screaming, "don't settle." So who is the "I settled for you," guy and the "I'm glad I picked you," guy?

If only we knew.

Instead, the Bible offers a plethora of afterthoughts about how to BE a good spouse. And of course, that tells us a bit about who to look for. We hope that a dedicated follower of Christ will be working on developing those traits.

But instead of storing up all these dreams of what my husband will be like, I find myself in a much more practical place.

And you know what? There's something rather special about practicality. Because, believe me, I do want a family... and here's why I don't think settling is the means to that end. I think settling and giving up are used synonymously. When really... he who finds a wife finds a good thing.  It's not about giving up - it's a victory finding someone to go through life with.

Here's why "settling" bugs me so much.

1. There's NO SUCH THING as a perfect person.

Let's face facts, every person you meet will have some quirk, some problem, some issue (Romans 3:10, 3:23). And these issues can range from extreme to minor... like a propensity to not wash dishes. But I suppose that what I've found after living with 8 other girls, is that there are some issues that bother me that DON'T bother someone else.

I really can't explain it, but a dirty bathroom drives me crazy. Whereas piles here and there really aren't a problem as long as the floor is clear and vacuumed. Still, there are bigger issues... issues of politics, home life and sin struggles that might pose a more obvious problem. These will vary from person to person and come in various degrees of severity. And trust me, every person has their closet.

2. Getting along with someone, ANYONE, requires some work

As Christians, we are called to follow Ephesians 4:1-2, "I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Because really, even your best friends aren't always fun to be around. But with your best friends, you love them even when they're a dork, because the relationship matters to you. Life isn't all roses, but we hold out for the rosey moments because it's worth it. I can only imagine that choosing to live with someone won't be any different, except maybe magnified by 10.


While I totally hold to the two statements above, I believe in love wholeheartedly. I believe in attraction, both of the mind and heart. There are people you gravitate towards and crave being around. And love overlooks a multitude of flaws. We call it the rose-colored glass and it's a beautiful thing. I think we would run in the opposite direction if there weren't such a thing - every human you meet would look rather ugly otherwise.

But don't let the words of people in the middle of love, or on the other side of love discourage you. People in love, still think their significant other is perfect. People out of love can be cynical and out of hope. But I'd like to think that hope and commitment are what's truly valuable when it dawns on you that no one is perfect.

No matter what comes my way, I'd like to think it's possible to embrace someone, warts and all. To care even when its hard.

Now, I would caution that since "hang-ups" come in such a large variety, not everyone's hang-ups are necessarily right for every person to walk through. But doesn't it seem beautiful when you find someone, who's just a bit messy, but their mess doesn't scare you, even when it scares others? You look at that person and think, "Well, somebody's got to love them, and I think I could." And really, you hope that someone out there looks at you and think the same thing.

You see, it's a GRACE thing.

We've all sinned and fallen short but as Christians, we're supposed to bear with one another. To love one another the way Christ first loved us (1 John 4:7)

I once heard that God didn't design marriage with your happiness in mind, but holiness. To teach and grow you in your walk. Maybe love and happiness are just the bait that ropes us in? Or a cherry on top? The thing that makes all the hardship worth while?

I don't know for certain, but long story short, these are the things that keep me awake at night.

Don't get me wrong... I'm no cynic. But I think that marriage and family are two of the most incredible things one can aspire to. At least, that's my dream.

I would like to think I'll know God's plan when I see it. That it will stick out like a sore thumb - really obvious. But in the mean time, I think we can magnify God's glory in any relationship with any person by loving one another with Christ-like, grace-giving, love and accountability. Though some make it easier than others. Maybe infatuation and love are two very different things?

Just a thought.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Never Thought of Today as "Patriot's Day"

It's strange to think that kids born in 2001 are fourteen now. They're in high school. That blows my mind just a bit. But on a day like today, it's a bit sobering. I think of all the other National holidays I don't have first hand experience understanding, and I suppose that so called "Patriot's Day," will be similar. To be honest, I've never even thought of today by that name. It lives in my mind simply by the date, "September Eleventh."

I remember.

Maybe you don't, maybe you do. For goodness sake, I was a little second grader when it happened, but I remember. You don't forget something with the words, "terrorist attack" in it very quickly. I'm sure anyone born in the 1930's feels the same way about Pearl Harbor.

I was born in 1994, so on September 11, 2001, I was just past my seventh birthday and about a month or so into second grade. I had Mrs. Boicourt that year. Winifred Pifer Elementary. What you have to realize about this, however, is that New York is three hours ahead of California. So at 8:45 AM, it was only 5:45 AM here. But I'm pretty sure everyone knew what was on the news.

The towers were leveled at 10:30 AM... that was only 7:30 here. But it was a Tuesday and most families are up and getting ready for school by that time.

When terrorists attack, everything plays on repeat for hours. The news played that clip of the towers falling over and over again, all day.

If I remember correctly... we even watched it in my class.

As a seven year old, I just remember a sinking feeling in my chest. You don't really see something like that coming. And the mere idea of people dying like that is a bit hard to fathom.

There's this surrealism that surrounds the day, if you remember it.

You know, they say that when Pearl Harbor was bombed, everyone in California was convinced we were next. Later on, it was discovered that there was a California-bound plane hijacked on September 11, 2001. We can thank God it never made it.

But you know, it's not just "Patriot's Day." It was a pretty scary day, to tell the truth. And for my family, it's a little strange. You see... it was my grandparents' wedding anniversary, long before it became "September Eleventh." Strange how something so sentimental can take on a whole new context. "The terrorits stole my grandparents anniversary," isn't always a very funny joke.

But I guess its never been "Patriot's Day" to me... and to be honest, this is the first year I realized they actually named it.

So to conclude... God be with everyone who lost a family member that day... comfort them. And bless each man and woman that ran into danger, rather than away from it.

Amen... again and again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

God won't give you what you want.

I'm going to start off this post by saying something that might scare a lot of you.

Honestly, it scares me at times.

I've grown up with a lot of dreams... visions of the way I've always hoped my life would turn out, and to be frank, my life doesn't look the way I pictured it. Really. I'm not currently doing any of the things I planned, except going to college... that was on the list. But as far as everything else, well... God hasn't given me what I wanted.

Funny... especially when people throw around verses like:

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4 
"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:11 
"And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us." 1 John 5:14
I guess I always thought those verses meant that if I really prayed hard enough... if my heart was in the right place, if I was humble, if I asked in just the right way, my life would look the way I dreamed, that God would give me good gifts. Funny thing though... it didn't work that way.

For a while, that left me baffled, frustrated and hurt. At first, I started relying on verses about everything being in God's timing, not mine. I figured he would give me my desires someday, just not yet. Then, I started wondering if maybe, like a telephone, there was a bad connection on my end. After all, God is perfect, so the problem couldn't be on his end. So what was wrong?

Well... you probably hear it often enough... but NEVER use a verse out of context.

You want to know something funny about those verses I mentioned above? Context.

Matthew 7:11 comes from the sermon on the mount, following several verses about tangible needs... food, clothes, shelter. Needs, not wants. Darn it. And 1 John 5? Well, there a key word in that verse that's come to mean a lot to me... HIS WILL. God grants requests asked according to his will. And all that hangs on Psalm 37's "delight yourself in the Lord."

I guess what I'm trying to say is that when you focus on your relationship with God, when you really develop that relationship... when you and God are close... you grow to stop caring about the same things. Material comfort isn't such a big deal anymore. Your treasures start becoming of the eternal variety. Crazy huh? And eternal treasures? Well, that's God will. So by delighting in the Lord, my will conforms to his will, and so therefore, when I ask something of God, of course he'll say yes because it's what he wanted anyways.

Never saw that one coming.

Closing thought? I think Paul says it best in Ephesians 3

 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen
My life certainly doesn't look the way I planned, but God's in the middle of it... I trust in that... And honestly, while not perfect, I'm rather content with what God has given me. And surprises are just fine.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Revealing of a Man

Look up close
examine every part
draw near, pull back, and don't gloss over
Forget and you might miss
miss the wonder-beauty trapped within
the potential draped in rough.

Take time to wonder at creation
something yet untapped
but trying hard to surface
don't discard the shrouded rock
it's yet to be a David.
A diamond in the rough.

See the forest for the trees
as much as for the sapling
And love fellow man just as Christ
beyond what seems so plain.

So look up close to catch the treasure
then take a large step back
sit back and watch God's handiwork
the revealing of a man.

Emily Bergstrom
August 29, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015

Christian Hypocrites

You can't go on facebook or anything of the like without running into rampant posts about surfacing accusations of Christian celebrities. I'll get onto idolatry at another time. And to be completely honest, the more articles I read, the more my heart breaks. I read angry comments from other viewers who seem to be loosing their faith in humanity and God right alongside angry Christian defenders who hurl back insults along with the best of them. Some even outright deny the accusations.

To be honest, I can't deny what's happened, some have issued statements confirming the accusation. I wish I could say these people perfectly model the Christian life - but they don't. But I never put much stock in modeling my life after other Christians. The best statement I've ever heard is, "follow me as I follow Christ." And that's the real heart of Christianity and discipleship, even as we encourage one another, we should never look to people as our examples, rather, Christ is the only perfect executer of all that is good - love, grace, justice, peace.

All that leads me to my real point.

While the Christian world mourns it's fallen figure-heads, I think we need to step back from our idolatry and remember that we're all sinners under grace.

And you may or may not know this, but the Church ISN'T A MUSEUM FOR SAINTS. In fact, if we were to try and build one, not one Christian would completely measure up to the standard. In reality, the whole reason we need Christ, is the fact that we aren't perfect. And needing God isn't a one time thing that happens when you accept his gift of grace. I ALWAYS NEED GOD. There's never a moment where I can do life on my own. I'm utterly dependent on him.

If it were just me, I would say and do whatever came to mind. Life would revolve around my happiness - forget taking the time to help the people around me.

Confession: When I forget to read my Bible, when I forget to pray or listen in church - if I hide away and get wrapped up in my own needs and wants - sin gets ahold of my life.

And to be honest - it's embarrassing.

By taking on the title of "Christian," I feel an enormous pressure to live up to the name of Christ. So when sin has a foothold in my life, the only response I have is to hide. To put on a good face, to look "right."

And let's face facts, I can imagine that's pretty similar to the Josh Duggar case.

It's a big lump of shame, hiding and pretending.

But don't we all do that in our own way?

That's life when we forget to depend on Christ for our strength. Our own strength just isn't enough.

So church, let's turn our attention away from these other Christians, and take a good look at our own spiritual lives. Because they are accountable before God, NOT US. And they should never have been your heroes of the faith in the first place. They're just human.

Because Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. We're all a little broken.

But isn't that the whole reason Christ came?

Don't forget to put your trust and reliance on God today.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Swedish Bröllop: Celebrate Heirtage

I love History... I really do. 

And it's not because I like dates and facts. In and of themselves, dates and facts don't have anything of value to offer. But when paired with events, people, memories, traditions... history has quite a bit to offer. 

Something that has meaning and relevance. 

When was the last time you really gave any thought to your heritage? Where your family came from?

I'm often amazed at how much influence heritage exerts. Not just in time honored tradition, but something in the DNA. I can't say exactly what. Or maybe it's patterns... the things we share with children that are passed on from generation to generation. 

But that's a conversation for another day. 

This train of thought began while I was watching an episode of TLC's "Four Weddings. 

Just for quick reference, the basic gist of the show is a competition between four brides who attend one another's weddings and vote to decide best dress, best ceremony, best reception and overall score. The winner gets a luxury honeymoon. 

But anyways...

On the particular episode I was watching, a young lady marrying a Swede happened to be apart of the competition and she made a comment about wanting to include bits of her husband's heritage. This intrigued me, so I got comfortable on the couch and waited for her turn at the alter.

Let's just say, he wore funny clothes, they misused a Dala Horse and the "frog dance" is just another version of the chicken dance.

I was incredibly disappointed.

Let me begin by saying that my family left Sweden 100 years ago and I know more about Swedish wedding traditions than this poor couple... and the groom was born there.

So, to encourage you to pursue learning about your own heritage, I wold like to... no, love to... share some of what is so special about Swedish weddings, or "bröllop."

So here goes.

4 Swedish Wedding Traditions

1. The Coins in the Shoes

 Before a Swedish bride takes a walk down the isle, she receives a gift from her parents. And it's not old, nor new, not borrowed or blue. Actually, she gets money. Sort of. While not worth anything significant, like a dowry, the bride is given a gold coin for her right shoe from her father, and a silver coin for the left from her mother so that she will, "never go without." 

 2. A Crown of Myrtle Leaves

Recently, flower crowns have become all the rage in American weddings, but Swedish brides have been wearing them for years. Most traditions would have it that the bride wears white to show her virginity, but in Sweden, it's the flower crown (sometimes replaced with a real traditional crown). 

3. Three Wedding Rings

 Well men, fork over the cash, because Swedish brides get not two, but THREE rings. The first is her engagement ring, but on her wedding day, she receives two more: one for marriage and the other for motherhood.  

 4. Shouting Vows

Normally someone in any pair has the louder, more dominant personality. But in a Swedish wedding, the couple competes to wear the pants in the relationship. There are typically two ways this one goes: One... whoever says, "I do!" the loudest, or two... whoever crosses the threshold of the church first during the recessional. I'll let you decide which you prefer. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Diamond of the Rockies Series (Kristen Heitzmann)

 I really do love Historical Fiction.

So its on this note, that I'm sharing one of my favorite series (though I do have a few).

If I have to narrow down what makes a book meaningful, enjoyable, and worth reading two dozen times (my record is about 15 times) I would say two things:
Historical accuracy and prose.
Kristen Heitzmann is well known for her Italian characters and suspense novels, but she has put out a few historicals, and her Diamond of the Rockies series is on my top ten list.

That's a hard list to make.

 To be on my top ten, a book has to be a really, REALLY good read. I have standards, you know!

But as I mentioned before, I have a short list of qualities, and my goodness, this series is beautiful - and words can be beautiful.

Just to start, in my own writing, I use this series as a standard. No exaggeration.  Someone once told me that the trick to writing a good historical fiction novel, is recognizing the fact that you're telling a story, not writing a history book. That said, if a historical anecdote is not relevant to the story, it's not necessary.

As a writer, it's SO easy to get sucked down endless holes and lost down rabbit trails of research. One little detail will lead to another so fascinating, it's difficult to resist putting on the page, whether relevant or not. But that's not even half the struggle. The real struggle is finding the perfect way to set the scene - blending foreign concepts into the story without confusing the reader.

 For this reason, I truly admire Heitzmann's style. The way she sets the scene - describing the Sonoma, California of the 1880s as well as the mining town of Crystal Colorado. The cities come alive without sounding unreal. They have a certain grit to them, like you're standing in the world of antiques - but come alive.

I can't exactly put words to it, but something that bothers me about Hollywood and novels, is the unrealistic nature of their settings. the places and scenes feel more fictional and corny than a place and time in history.

Heitzmann brings a bygone era to life, putting texture and taste to history - and I do mean taste. My mouth waters when I read about Carina's cooking. There is nothing quite like a word picture of Italian food.

Even the characters fit into this old world - their language, their clothing, mannerisms, values - it all feels so real. You can't impress modern values on a historical character. Heitzmann however, takes historical values and makes them relevant to the reader. And isn't that the point of history?

But I said I had two things on my short list - here's the second.


Now, let me begin by saying that not all of my favorite books are poetic, metaphoric, and full of symbolism - I don't think that's always the best approach. Instead, Heitzmann enters into her characters and brings their unique perspective onto the page.

Carina Maria Degratia is Italian - a passionate spitfire - small, yet full of emotion. She speaks with her hands, pulls, her heart makes deep, poetic connections to those around her.  
Quillan Shepard is a loner. He's the strong, silent type with a rogue's smile. While extremely protective of every emotion he experiences, he has the heart of a poet, and can memorize entire books upon reading them. 
These two characters come through very strongly whenever they are featured as the POV character. Carina's passion and compassion are almost heartbreaking - moving - as a reader. You heart will bleed. While I LOVE reading Quillan's poignant wording. Like an artist, his thoughts paint word pictures. It's not flowery prose for the sake of it - it's the characters' unique perspectives. And it's beautiful.

On another note, if you are thinking about looking into the series, I would say that even for a Christian novel, consider the fact that the books follow a married couple and the more intimate side of their relationship is discussed (though not shown). Show discretion. I read them for the first time in High School. Make your own judgement.

Still, the moral values in this story are incredibly strong. Interestingly... Carina is Catholic, while her husband's journey is much more protestant. Still, the differences between Catholic theology and Protestant are not strongly emphasized. Carina crosses herself on multiple occasions and seeks advice from the local Father Antoine. Her favorite expression is "Madonna mia!" But much of the salvation content comes from Quillan's conversations with protestant preachers and a close friend. But as a whole, marital fidelity, even in the face of extreme hardship is a core and central theme. Other themes include forgiveness, trust and justice.

This series really is one one my favorites. I hope you'll give it a chance.
"Driven by hope and vengeance, Carina Maria DiGratia leaves her idyllic home in Sonoma, California, for a new life in the mining town of Crystal, Colorado. Though the town has a rough element, Carina is determined that it is the place her dreams will come true. Early on, two men vie for her trust, but neither is what he seems. Will Carina discern the truth in time to prevent tragedy?"
Click here to find in on Amazon (the first book is free on kindle!)
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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Through Waters Deep (Sarah Sundin)

My first year attending the Mount Hermon Christian Writers' Conference, I met another writer of Historical Fiction - Sarah Sundin. Interestingly enough, that same year, she received, "Writer of the Year" for her book, "A Distant Melody."

I picked up that book, figuring it had to be good if she was awarded for it, and it quickly became one of my favorites. I've been purchasing her novels ever since and I've yet to read a book of hers I didn't like.

"Through Waters Deep" arrived in my mailbox about a week ago. And honestly, I didn't know what to expect - Sarah Sundin's previous books were very well written, historical romance, taking place predominantly in Europe with the characters' primary involvement in the Air Force, be it the pilots of B-17's or flight nurses. This novel, ventures into new waters (see what I did there?).

Here's the BCC:
War is coming. Can love carry them through the rough waters that lie ahead? 
It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Handsome and outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. On shore, Jim encounters Mary Stirling, a childhood friend who is now an astute and beautiful Boston Navy Yard secretary.  
When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is discovered, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges--and dangers--await them.
See what I mean? Still WWII, but now we're pre-war, home-front, Navy, and not just historical romance... but a mystery. Very Nancy Drew.

But while different... I LOVED EVERY MINUTE.

Sarah Sundin does not disappoint.

I haven't read a mystery novel since I was in elementary school, but my goodness, the ah-ha moment - you'll appreciate it. And the very sweet, budding romance between Mary and Jim was adorable. I think every young woman who's ever felt mousey will instantly love Mary. And Jim - he's wonderful in an out-of-step sort of way. The characters are perfectly endearing and you'll be rooting for them the whole way.

But I have to say... Sarah Sundin is a master of "will-they-or-won't-they." I was on the edge of my seat for several hours, frustrated (in the best sort of way) and worried for the characters as they press forward, facing challenges that only with God's strength and courage can they overcome.

Looking forward to #2 in the Waves of Freedom series

Click here to find it on Amazon
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