incalculable yes’s

I’m dusting off my keyboard and realizing how much I’ve neglected this page. It’s not that I’ve forgotten it was here, it’s that I’ve been staring at it in the corner of the room for a few months now wondering what there is to say. I’ve found it hard to string some sentences together because I feel I’m out of thread and the only fabric I have to offer is colorless and thin.

This season of life, though it has included a few small victories, has been so hard. 

But tomorrow, I’m leaving on a three-week, three-destination pilgrimage. It’s not really about where I’m going, but the act of going that seems to have put some color back in my cheeks. I don’t know why it is that I seem to find so much energy from the act of peregrination and sometimes I hate that about myself –  that I’ve always got my eye on the door. But I just can’t help it, at least at this point in my life. I guess I find God most easily on the road rather than in the pew.

Skogafoss, Iceland >> breathtaking! Adventures in Missions World Race www.worldrace.orgTomorrow I’m flying to Haiti and I can’t help but think about where I was four and a half years ago when the 7.0 earthquake happened. I remember, very vividly, sitting alone at a table in the dining hall watching CNN endlessly replay the same clips of the chaos in Port-Au-Prince. I put my sandwich down and watched, stunned, at the horrifying devastation. I felt so sick. I didn’t have the appetite to finish the food on my plate but I didn’t have the heart not to after watching that footage. Catch-22 I guess.

Later that night, my shock had evolved into a desperate desire to do something. I stared out the window from my desk and felt an overwhelming urge to pack a bag and go. I swear if someone handed me a plane ticket I would have left without hesitation. I wrote in my journal the next day, “I desire so badly to drop everything and go. Lord if you provided the chance, I would leave right now. Please Lord, let me do something.” But I felt so trapped because all I heard from God was silence. 

For four years, the Lord never offered a chance to go to Haiti. And to be totally honest, I sort of forgot about it. I assumed that it just wasn’t something I’d get to do, that it was one of those prayers that just sort of floats out in space and never lands any where.

There’s no such thing as floating prayers though. 

Who can relate? It's time to go.  Adventures in Missions World Race

Tomorrow, I’m boarding a flight to Port-Au-Prince, almost exactly four and a half years after that journal entry. And here’s what I’ve learned:

The word “yes”, when said from us to God, is an infinitely expansive word. The first time we say it, it’s like this little formula is programmed into our souls and over time, that formula generates and multiplies infinitely. We continue to utter more and more “yes’s” in submission to God and eventually, the first “yes” has turned into a thousand, and like Moore’s Law or Pi or the length of the universe, there’s no calculable end. 

One act of obedience, if genuine, is never just one act of obedience. 

Thinking about the way God has answered four-year-old prayers gives me hope about the prayers I’m praying now. Though this season has challenges of its own, I know that God does not let our prayers drift out to space to be lost in abyss. He grabs them and logs them and responds to them at the appropriate time.

So with just one step at a time, I will keep saying “yes” to God in this season, on this pilgrimage, knowing that my yes to God will eventually become God’s yes to me.*

That’s not to say that God says “yes” to all our prayers, because often he says no (and PTL for that). But our faithful obedience to God will produce good fruit in our lives, which is God’s yes to us.

(top two photos from Pinterest)

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yet i will rejoice

even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields are empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty;
yet i will rejoice in the lord!
the sovereign god is my strength!
he makes me as sure-footed as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.

habakkuk 3:17-19

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jesus is not in the boat

It’s thirty minutes til midnight and a giant Texas thunderstorm is dumping buckets of rain onto the old peach tree that sits stoically outside my window. Each time the lightening lights up the summer sky I hold my breath in anticipation of the thunder, which is so loud that it rattles my soul in an alarming sort of way. And as it claps, I can’t help but think of God.

It all fits so perfectly with my life right now.

I haven’t blogged in almost a month and that’s primarily because I’ve been so busy, but also it’s because I don’t know exactly what to say. The truth is, I’ve had a challenging few months. I’ve gone back and forth between fear and frustration, anger and confusion, and downright distrust of God. The last couple of weeks I’ve stalled out in a place of frustration and most of my praying has been lamentation – asking God to stop my so-called suffering and alleviate my apparently unbearable pain.

We humans are so quick to run from suffering.

When things become even the slightest bit displeasing or uncomfortable, we quickly ask the Lord to take away our cup of suffering and bring us back to the Garden, where things are sweet and gentle and kind. And yet, Jesus explicitly told us that we are expected to drink from that Cup and taste that bitterness and walk through those many dry valleys in order to once again summit the mountain triumphantly.

I preached a sermon several times last year about the story of Peter walking on waves to meet with Jesus. As the storm rages on outside my bedroom window, I’m reminded once again of that story and that sermon.

I’ve spent too much time in my boat, holding on for dear life, scrambling to find life vests or emergency rafts, screaming over the wind and the rain for God to make the storm stop. And meanwhile, He’s out there in the waves, standing under the drops of heaven saying, “Here I am, Emily – in the storm. Won’t you join me?”

Jesus is not in the boat. He’s out in the storm. And he wants me to come be with him.

So why am I still in the boat?

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venture mag article

Life has kept me so busy lately, as she usually does, so I haven’t posted in a while. There are many thoughts brewing in my mind though. In the meantime, check out my article published in Venture Magazine‘s April Issue…

I sat on top of my bed, my hair still damp from the shower and my face wet from my tears. My room was dim, with only the bedside lamp illuminating my face. The air around me was so quiet and empty that it seemed to compress my lungs.

I clutched my pillow close to my chest just to feel the presence of something near me, and tears continued to slip ceaselessly down my cheeks.

Into the loud nothingness around me I said, “Where are you, Lord?”

Venture badges-01
click image to view full article



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be brave again

Sometimes the Lord reminds you of the things you’d forgotten about Him, about what He’s done and who you’ve always believed Him to be, and then your soul suddenly finds the courage it lost somewhere along the way.

Like the spring air, that courage fills your lungs, as if you’re breathing for the first time in a really, really long time. And you remember all those moments where the colors were brighter and the songs were louder, and it occurs to you that you should be brave again and you should stand taller and jump higher and probably dance more often, like you used to.

And when you do finally remember that the Lord has been good all along – even in the dark, shadowy nights and the foggy, quiet mornings, and the lonely car rides, and in the empty kitchen or the wide open backyard – you remember to thank Him. Quietly at first and then slowly with a jump and a shout because oh, it feels good to feel good again. It feels good to be brave again.

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what poverty taught me about wealth

Last year on the World Race, I didn’t spend very much money personal money on a day-to-day basis. Occasionally I would splurge – on new running shoes or a trip to the Great Wall – but on average I spent less than $100 a month. The main reason for this is because I went a year without an income. But also, I lived among the population of the world that lives on only $1 or $2 a day.

Living in poverty, even by choice, will change your spending habits pretty quickly.

Though I now have an income, I’m still hyper-aware of how I spend my money. I might even be more attentive, because there’s more money in my account and it’s easier to lose track when you’re just swiping a card instead of carrying around a bunch of bills and coins (that are different in value and shape from last month’s currency).

These days I’m noticing that the things I learned while living among poverty very much apply to how we can live - Biblically – among wealth. Here’s what poverty has taught me about wealth:

You really don’t need more to be satisfied.
Seriously, simplicity is so so liberating because you’ll finally realize what you really need to survive and be satisfied, and what is just cluttering up your life.
Last year I worked among people whose total worldly possessions would probably (on average) fit in a broom closet. Now, I’m working with some of the wealthiest people in San Antonio. Suffice it to say that in the mansions there doesn’t always seem to be much joy, but from those mud huts and shabby shacks came overflowing amounts of joy, peace, and freedom. 

Just because you can afford to buy it doesn’t mean you should.
In the Third World, a dollar goes so much farther than in the States so it’s easy to get carried away at the little tienda down the road or at the market where a whole week’s worth of fruit is 50¢. The same thing happens in America though. We see a sign for half off or get caught up in the savings of online shopping, and we end up buying stuff that we don’t really need just because we “got a good deal on it”. I have to remind myself of this all the time lately: just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. May as well save that money for something else – something necessary – than just spend it casually.

Identify your “comfort buys” and cut back on them.
If you’ve ever lived abroad, you’ll know how comforting American food can be. After being away a while, you’ll start buying American brands and products just because they’re familiar, regardless of whether you actually buy those things at home. And in America, we have our own “comfort buys”. They may be cheap trinkets, food from a particular restaurant, something in the checkout aisle that grabs our attention. Whatever it is, it’s something we habitually buy because it’s probably cheap and it somehow comforts us with its familiarity or nostalgic qualities. It’d be wise to identify such products and refuse to be controlled by the impulse to buy them.

The Lord always always always provides. Thank Him grandly when He does.
When you’re broke, it feels a lot more necessary to rely on God to provide for you. But when you’re less broke, it can be easy to take credit for your own prosperity. In both circumstances, it’s important to remember that the Lord faithfully provides for His children – every time. And when He does, we need to respond with grateful, humble hearts.

You shouldn’t feel guilty for having more; you shouldn’t feel ashamed for having less.
I’ve been on both sides of the fence on this one. But here’s the deal: you have what you have – financially and materially. Be grateful for it, and use it well. Work hard and be faithful,  just doing the best with what you’ve got right now. Don’t sweat it (or boast about it) if everyone around you is in a different situation.


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god’s promises at the bottom of the pool

The other night as I closed my eyes to fall asleep, I suddenly remembered something that happened several months ago.

It was the last day of the World Race, a day full of emotions, whose every color and sound all seemed to indicate that the credits were starting to roll on that season of my life.

I was at the pool of a fancy hotel with my three female teammates. They decided to swim but I stayed at the water’s edge, not wanting to get in because I’d already showered and done my hair for our last squad event later that evening.

But as I watched them swimming, those three women with whom I’d spent every single day for a year, and as I looked out at the sun setting starting to crawl behind the waves of the ocean’s horizon, I thought, What on Earth am I doing sitting with my feet in the water instead of jumping in with them? I will never get this moment back.

So I pulled off my sundress and dove in. (I’d conveniently worn my swimsuit underneath, as though I knew all along that I’d end up in the water some how).

Google Image of the actual pool in La Union, Philippines

We splashed and swam around, and the sun kept sinking behind the waves. When it finally did slip over to the other side of the earth, I swam up the the pool’s edge. It was an infinity pool, so from where I rested my arms I could look down below to see the whole beach swarming with people: some packing up their towels for the day, others running out into the waves for a final swim before dark. From somewhere nearby a DJ played loud dance music and my teammates laughed at something from the other side of the pool.

My emotions in that moment were so strong, so irrefutable, so consuming. It’s almost indescribable, the way it feels to feel so much at one time.

It’s the last day of this journey, I thought. Starting tomorrow, it will all start to change.

My friends had started to get out of the pool and gather their things. Dinner was soon and after that, our final squad meeting. Before I too got out of the pool, I decided to dip down below the water’s surface one last time.

I sucked air into my lungs, then propelled myself towards the bottom, kicking my legs until I was as far from the surface as I could be. The further I sank, the quieter things became. The music from the beach dwindled to an indiscernible murmur. I could no longer hear my friends either.

The silence of the water around me seemed to calm my frazzled heart and the stillness of the empty pool gave me this sort of unexpected peace. That silence surrounded me in the most comforting way.

In the quietness, I asked God what He wanted to say to me about all this – about the changing seasons and my fear of the unknown, about everything that had just happened and all the stuff that was still to come.

And in the muted chlorine waters of that pool, I heard the Lord say,

This is just the beginning.

I could hear the grin in His voice.

I smiled, closed my eyes, and allowed myself to float to the surface again. As my face felt the salty air, I took a deep breath and once again heard the loud sounds of the beach nearby begin to besiege my senses.

the last team TAE picture

the last team TAE picture

Since that moment, lots of life has happened. So much so, that I nearly forgot that promise the Lord whispered to me under the water. This is just the beginning.

But the Lord allowed that memory to resurface just as I drifted to sleep so that He could remind me that the best has yet to come. There is infinitely more in store for my life as I continue to walk with Him. The thrills of following Him have not run out for me. And so I stand on those promises that He’s whispered to me over the years.

What promises has He made you?

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