Home Is Where the Pieces of Your Heart Are

Thursday, September 3, 2015

“Home is where the heart is” has never been more relevant to my life. If home is where the heart is, then my heart is in a million tiny pieces sprinkled all over the country. It’s in the mountains of Colorado and the rolling hills of Georgia and on the beaches of Florida and the piney woods of Tennessee and in the sunsets of southern Texas. But the biggest piece of my heart is in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

This is my fifth move. I attended three separate middle schools in two different states. I know change, I know discomfort and loneliness. I know that finding a church home is always, always, always the worst part about any move. I know that making new friends in a new city is hard and requires you to fight for it. Moving is hard.

For well over three years I was determined to live in Texas. I just knew I would end up there. I told everyone about my big, Texas-sized dream. When you’re in college, people are constantly asking you what your plans are. Texas was always my answer. I knew my future held a job (and if I’m being really honest-- a husband, a family, and a golden retriever, duh). All in Texas.

I live in Tennessee now.

I have been here for over two weeks and I’ve only cried once so far. I think I’m doing pretty good.

Last night I was sitting in the back seat of my friend’s car and watching houses blur by. These houses have stories. And as I think about those stories, He reminds me that He’s writing mine. He doesn't put the pen down.

This started over a year ago, when a dear friend of mine half jokingly told me to move to Nashville. There was no room in my Texas sized heart for that absurd idea. Then I started hearing Nashville mentioned everywhere. On the Internet, on television. Out of mere curiosity, I did a bit of research on the city and ended up meeting her here for a long weekend. That was the weekend I realized I had never once prayed about moving to Texas. Not once had I consulted the Lord in my desire to become a Texan. Not even a little bit. That was the weekend I knew I wouldn’t move to Texas.

And that same weekend was when he nudged my heart in the direction of Music City.

The past few weeks have been filled with highs and lows. There have been moments of goodness. Of seeing Him weave it together and take my doubts, stumbles, and ungratefulness and fill it with an overflow of grace. There have been moments of absolute confusion. As to where I go from here. What’s next. But really— what’s next?? There have been answered prayers. I grumpily sat in an employment agency only to be offered the first job I interviewed for— and now love. He has made it work. I knew He would. And hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it?

When we look back, His fingerprints are easy to spot. In the middle of the unknown, not so much. It reminds me of a story I once heard about Mother Teresa. Someone had come to her with questions about a decision they had to make. They requested that she pray clarity for them. Her reply? “I won’t pray that you have more clarity. But I will pray that you have more trust in God.” Oh man. The longer and the tighter that we hold only makes it harder to let go. When we hold loosely to plans, expectations, desires… we see that He’s working behind the scenes to do something we might never have dared dream.

And yesterday, as I sat in the living room with my dear friend, I remembered. The times He has blown me away with His graciousness. His kindness. We are no longer captives of fear, but He makes us prisoners of hope. And hope, true hope, trusts. We must trust Him. It is so hard. Especially as I sit here laughing about the fact that I packed up my life and moved nine hours away from home. Away from my family and friends. From my church home and people who have poured encouragement and Biblical wisdom into me. Away from my favorite local spots and new friends and that guy I was crushing on. Leaving is so hard. But leaving is a lot easier when you know Who is holding you.

A few years ago I read the story of Mary and Martha for what was probably the millionth time in my life, but it finally stuck. Since then I’ve been hell bent on choosing the good portion. Choosing to sit at Jesus’ feet. Every time. It’s hard. I fail a lot more than I would ever care to admit. I get distracted and whiny and tired and human. But still I persist. Choose the good portion. Choosing the good portion is decidedly choosing Jesus over other things. It’s a fight. Sometimes I have to scratch and claw my way to it, but choosing Him is always worth it. And when we sit at His feet, we get to watch him take care of things. There’s a lot of peace and rest that comes with watching the Breather of Stars take care of you.

Back to Mother T. Sometimes things are clear. Something happens, and you know why. Other times things are muddy and messy and you don’t know why or how or when things will play out. The unknown is a fear of mine. It follows me around and is heavy like a ball and chain. I drag it everywhere. To work, to parties, to Church, to God. Especially to Him. Because I know that He does know. He has every answer I’ve ever longed or begged for. He’s got it. Ultimately, He himself is the answer. He holds the whole world in his hands and nothing falls through the cracks. That’s reassuring. But still my heart wrings with worry and doubt and fears. The fears swirl, but when I remember Whose I am, it slows. Time stops and all is right and I remember. There’s that word again. It’s permanently inked on my body, remember. Remember. One of the last things He did was stop and remember. Surrounded by friends and family, all the while knowing of his approaching death, he took time and space to give thanks.

Remember might be tattooed onto my arm, but forget is the word that more accurately describes what I do. I forget that He holds me. I forget that the One who spoke the stars into being is also the author of my story. That I get the pleasure of being a part of His story. He didn’t have to create each of us, you know. Sometimes I think about that. He didn’t have to allow me to exist. It could’ve been another soul. But he wanted mine. That is magic and wonder and awe and speechlessness. That is who He is. Oh, He is good. He is ever present in the moments my mind frets over the future. He hands over the fresh manna while I’m out gathering more rotten bread. He provides, He oversees, He cares, and He keeps. He keeps close while I’m out roaming around like a blind and helpless lamb. The fact that He carries his children close to His chest like a shepherd holds his sheep is astounding to me. The Star Breather holds me close, like a shepherd holds a sheep. All He wants is to know us. Now I see why she told that man she wouldn't pray for clarity, but for trust. I think we could all do with a bit more, don't you?

Twenty-Something? More Like Twenty-What Am I Even Doing?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I have decided that being in your twenties is weird.

Lots of big, life changing transitions are happening. Friends move, get married, have kids and it can all seem a bit overwhelming. And then you realize that, "oh yeah, I'm growing up too!" Does this mean I'm supposed to start using essential oils and finally learn the names of plants?

P.S. What are essential oils? Why are they essential? I really don't understand. Do you drink them? Put them on your face? On your clothes? Are they hippie air fresheners? Fifty shades of out of that loop.

So I've started eating more vegetables and keeping a close eye on my finances. I'm taking this slowly. I'll get into essential oils later. Maybe.

While part of me is desperate to ride my bike and find jelly sandals in size 7, growing up is also this insanely liberating thing. You get to figure out who you are, what you are about, and which direction you want to head in. Me? I'm moving to a different city. I have never been so simultaneously thrilled and terrified at the same time.

But I'm one of those weirdos who is strangely introspective and wants to know who I am and who I was created to be. I always wander back to the garden. What if the Fall hadn't happened? What would Eden Emily be like? What a thought! And to know that one day I will have the answer to that one-- wow.

I want to intentionally live out of the Lord's purpose and calling. So if you're anything like me and love getting to know yourself more and how God designed you, you will be into this.

What I wanted to share with y'all is a tool that has seriously helped me see, on paper, who I am and what my character strengths are. As well as things that could use some prayer.

Martin Seligman (who's big in the psychology world) has a FREE resource that helps you see, well, you! He has created a list of 24 character traits, and the survey ranks them specifically to you.

I learned about it in a class, and have taken it once a year since. It's fun to see some stay the same, while others are strengthened and moved around. You do have to make an account, but they never ever send anything to you unless you request your password (if you've forgotten it like I ALWAYS DO).

*FYI: The VIA Character Strengths survey takes a solid 30 minutes, and is about 250 questions long - but that just means it's more detailed and accurate.

// I'm sharing this because I believe that knowing who you are is important.

Do you lead well or work better doing behind-the-scenes stuff? Do you work better individually or in a group? How much do you value kindness? What do you believe about the world we live in? How about conflict resolution? What gets you upset? Do you live your life with gratitude? What lights your heart on fire? I think it's our responsibility to find out our gifts and to use them to honor the God who gave them in the first place. I answer these questions through the filter of my faith. I adore the idea that He created each of us to be so alike, yet so magically different. The body of Christ is an astounding thing. So who are you? This little survey won't answer all your questions, but it just might get you thinking! Let's find our gifts and passions and live out of them, giving glory to the Gift-giver. Oh, that He allows us the good!

Beauty Gone Wrong

Thursday, April 9, 2015

I glanced down at my lap, wondering if they looked at me and thought I was ugly or overweight. I always think that. Or if any noticed I was eating a muffin, something most of them wouldn't dare touch. Or if they thought I was judging them for where they were. How they were.

I wasn’t.

Because as a young woman who has grown up in the age of the Internet and advertising and Vogue and paper thin models and Photoshop and social media and diet pills and "BEAUTY IS PAIN" and every other ugly thing that is a broken result of beauty, I understand. It’s deep to the core, this understanding. They will find no judgment or condemnation from me.

We cry out to be lovely. To be beauty full. Perfection is a lie, dear friend. Only Jesus can fulfill that aching part of your heart. He was always meant to.

One turned and looked me straight in the eye, and that glance shattered my heart into pieces. I had never seen one so sick. She looked, dare I say it, like a corpse. It was one of those, “I don’t know what to do and should I look or should I not?” moments. So I smiled. A knowing smile. A smile that knows the pain of trying to be enough.

It’s something every girl and woman can control (generally speaking). We have the ability to nourish our bodies or to starve them.

They had chosen the latter.

And these days are the hard ones. They force me to walk right up and confront my own frequently skewed body image. An experience that makes me feel uncomfortable. But why? Why must our society insist on the shame of imperfection? Ah, the chase of perfection. The pursuit of perfection is the pursuit of God Himself, though, isn't it? A yearning for the rightness of Eden.

These days remind me that I am wonderfully and fearfully made. It says it right there in the book of Psalms. But I don’t want to believe that, because throughout my entire life I’ve been bombarded by images and media and people that have said otherwise. Thinner is always better, right? It sure doesn’t seem so for the precious life sitting in front of me in a wheelchair with an IV in her arm.

But learning to accept one's body is a weird and seemingly unnatural thing. It’s taken a lot of unlearning and several therapy sessions (side note: GO TO THERAPY, PEOPLE) to process all of the toxic things I’ve believed about myself for so long. Being “ideally thin” is not the way to worthiness or happiness. Balance is key. We are to take care of our bodies and maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Obsession is unhealthy, but so is neglect. We must pursue health for health's sake. For Christians, the body is the temple of the Most High. Let us be good stewards and treat it accordingly.

And what a perspective check it is, to see firsthand what beauty gone wrong looks like. Distorted and wholly broken. It’s silent but deadly. Ironic enough, it strips the woman of her beauty until there is nothing left but the shell. Empty and unable to fully function, and unable to rationalize because the brain is starving. They tell me that the first step in recovery is nourishment, and seeing it, I believe them. Food for thought-- literally. That’s when the healing begins.

The glamour of the disease must be taken away. Because up close, it is not the least bit glamourous. It is heart-wrenching.

I sit listening and all at once the parallels and metaphors come tumbling in. Me, stuck in sinful ways and unable to even realize it. Christ is the living water and bread of life. He sustains me. Oh, praise Him for sustaining this starving soul! Because it is starved. I can’t always see or hear Him clearly. I don’t always want to acknowledge I have a problem. And sometimes-- oftentimes-- if I’m being honest, I want to fix it myself. Like I have something to prove to Him— to take to the throne of God as an offering. A pride sacrifice… I don’t think that’s exactly what He’s looking for. He's after my heart. And yours.

This constant criticizing of our own bodies and a million other struggles reminds me of the prompting to put others first. When we choose to focus outwardly on others, we forget about ourselves.

And the light-bulb clicks.

There is a heap of reasons why we are instructed to love others as ourselves, but forgetting oneself has to be one of them. When I am focused on you and your need and loving you well or what you are sharing with me, I lose myself. What’s more, when I’m focused on my Lord, I lose myself. Being "kingdom minded" results in self-forgetfulness. What freedom to be found in self-forgetfulness! And I know that when I am less "here I am" and more "there is that person," I am far more useful to the Kingdom of God. Self-forgetfulness is freedom and humility and joy and grace and Christ-likeness.

Let us chase hard after the Lord, the living water and bread of life who is sure to strengthen us. Praise Him for doing so!

// Throw out your magazines and "fitspiration" Pinterest boards and pursue the beauty that outlasts the physical. That kind of beauty fades. Not even the Victoria's Secret models are going to be able to keep it up. Treat your body with respect, care, and love. But more than that, forget about it and remember that it is but a shell. Your body is not who you are. And know that eating disorders are real, life-threatening diseases. If you or a loved one is suffering, speak up. There is healing to be had.

You are beautiful. Not because of how you look, but because of whose you are. He's after your heart, remember?

No coward soul is mine

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven's glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear

O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality

With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears

Though Earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee

There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breathe
And what thou art may never be destroyed.

Emily Bronte