Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Art of Not Letting Circumstance Define You

When my alarm went off on Friday morning, the very first thought that ran through my head was this, 
“Now is the time to seize the day. Don’t be afraid and don’t delay. Nothing can break us, no one can make us give our rights away. Arise and seize the day!” 

If you don’t know 90s movie musicals like I do, that’s a song from Newsies. 1992. Christian Bale. Vinnie from Doogie Howser. Bliss. And their voices were in my head. 


No joke. 

I had tickets to see the musical, Newsies, at the Smith Center. I couldn’t wait. I sang the songs from the movie all morning long. My poor co-workers thought I was crazy, as I sang songs about New York and bringing Pulitzer down! 

I was on a high and I couldn’t wait for the curtain to rise. And then it happened. 

I work in a call center. One of the calls that came in was with someone who was both drunk and high. The callers were discussing sensitive issues. I was having a hard time with the call, but thought I could manage... until I took my next break.

Gone were the funny songs. Gone was the laughing and dancing. In their place was a cloud; dark, painful, seeing the worst in humanity.

I tried to shake it off, remembering that this wasn't MY call, it wasn't MY life, and that I serve a God who is much bigger than this. It just wouldn't go away.

Then, when I was almost home, I got a call from a good friend. He and I were discussing church, our goals, how to help people grow and seek Jesus more effectively. When I hung up, I rolled down the window, grinning at the warmth of the sun on my arms, got myself a Cherry Slush from Sonic, and felt like all was right in the world... and prepared to go have the time of my life at Newsies.

What?!
I mean... really?
Am I so fickle... am I so centered on my circumstances, that I let outside events dictate how I feel, and ultimately... who I am?

As I was getting ready that night, I started thinking. Do I really believe what God says? Do I believe what He says about me? About the other people in this world? About Himself?

I know the answers to those questions are "Yes." Maybe I should say, "Yes, mostly."

Because God says that I am the apple of His eye. That I am a treasured work of art--despite external circumstances. God says that He cares so much about the other people in this world--even those who are drunk and high and who people want to give up on--that He was willing to give His own life to bring them to Him. That they, too, are cherished. And He says that He is good, and purposeful, and works things together in the right way (albeit, maybe not the most comfortable way), and that He will never change, ever, and never leave me alone. Ever.

And if I can just learn to rely on THAT truth, instead of the things that I see during the day that can cause all kinds of uproar, I might end up feeling a little less... insane. A little more consistent. A little more the kind of person that He wants to shape me to be.

The more that I seek Jesus, the more these circumstances slide off of me and don't form who I am. The more that I seek Jesus, I see how deeply He is seeking me, and instead of allowing myself to absorb the anger and despair I see every day, I can feel His love and compassion for the circumstances that brought this about. When I'm confronted with the cultural mindset of poverty in the United States, I can choose not to judge, but instead to care. When I see people verbally abusing each other because that's all they've ever been taught, instead of cringing, I can pray. And I can live my life in such a way that can show love to people who've never felt anything other than condemnation and judgement.

This is not easy. This does not come easily to me.
But this is what Jesus would want in our world. More people loving. More people caring about others. More people depending on Him instead of letting our circumstances dictate who we are.

I will not be the same person I was on Friday, because Friday taught me something. Friday taught me that I need Jesus as my rock. So next Friday, when I have a call with someone who is drunk and high, I can commit to take one very difficult step closer to Jesus. I will grow. I will change. I will fight to lean more on Jesus and less on circumstance.

And it will be worth it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Life Well-Lived

Sometimes my heart feels like it's going to explode.

Often, I will spend a day stuck in the rut of everyday life... wake up. Shower.
Feed the cats. Drive to work and not yell at horrible drivers.
Interpret phone calls. Run errands. Go home. Eat dinner. Clean.
Do some church work. Read bible. Go to bed. 

If I'm not careful, these days run together. A blur of a life not well-lived. Simply existing. 

And then... 

I'm given an opportunity that makes me feel sick with nerves, like a speech contest. 

I am reminded of the beauty of a soul fighting for life against cancer. 

I see the sparkle of the city I call home and love so very much. 

I am able to work on the logistics of a database or a budget and feel capable and like I'm making a contribution. 

I connect with people I know and make them friends.

I get the opportunity to hug people at Sought Church, to share what Jesus is doing, or just to smile and welcome a new person. 

These things happen and I know that God has a use for a life filled with action and love and well-lived. More than simply existing. Truly LIVING and sharing that with others. 

And when that happens, my heart feels like it's going to explode.
It's such a good thing.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Guest Blog - Ditching Insecurity

Check it out!

I got to guest blog with my friends, The Preacher Girls, again! This week's blog is about ditching insecurities. It was good for me to write!

http://www.thepreachergirls.com/blog/author/guestblogs/ministers-lets-ditch-insecurity/

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Is Work Meaningless?

At church right now we're going through a series on the Meaning of Life. I seriously thought it was crazy when the idea came up... because we're based in Ecclesiastes! If you've never read Ecclesiastes, give it a try. It's a little cray cray.

I love it, though. We're going through all these experiments that Solomon, known as the Teacher, does to see where meaning in life happens.

Today, I had the privilege of talking about WORK. Solomon talks about work a lot in Chapter 2.

Basically, he's all depressed because when he dies, he DIES. His stuff goes to someone else who will probably squander it all.

But then he figures out something crazy... there's meaning in life when we recognize that work is a gift from God... because God has a PURPOSE for that work.

I wrote this message and thought it was a neat and tidy little package. And then I got a call at work on Friday (I interpret telephone calls into English and Sign Language) that messed me up for the rest of the day. That was real life. The call emptied me. The only purpose I saw at work was that I HAD to be there to pay the medical bills for my recent surgery.

Suck-fest.

On my way home, God made me re-examine what I was talking about in church. He's like, "Emily... if you can't process this today, you don't get to talk about it on Sunday." Crap.

So let me tell you about purpose, and the purpose that God has created for me, specifically, in the way in which I earn money.

1) I provide access for individuals to make telephone calls. This is amazing. That the technology is there for the integration of video and voice and that I work REALLY hard to make sure that every call sounds as natural as it can be. The rewards of this are being asked, "Are your parents Deaf?" or told, "I wish you were my interpreter EVERY time!" or "You sounded JUST like my sister."

This is good. It really is. But that is the purpose that God has for EVERY interpreter in my situation.

2) I used to work for the State. I quit my job there without being assured of another job somewhere else (only do this when you are 100% sure this is a leading from God!). Purpose? Trusting God.

I got a job as an interpreter. Purpose? Earning money. Building seniority. Understanding the job. Working somewhere with centers nationwide.

I was able to move anywhere. Purpose? I could move to Las Vegas, still earn money to pay for rent, and be available to serve God in a way in which He's designed me. Leading. Preaching. Administrationing. Creating databases and sending cards and speaking and making friends and talking about Jesus and joining Toastmasters and going to coffee shops and... Everything I'm doing here in Vegas is because of the gift that God has given me.


So even on days when I don't care for my job, or when I have rough calls or callers, or I get flipped off, or have to drop the F-bomb 27 times in one conversation, I know God still has a purpose. And I'm so very grateful for that.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Help Me!

At the end of January, I surgery on my knee. Nothing major, but it put me out of commission for a bit. My amazing mom came down to help me get back on my feet (literally), drive me around, cook and clean for me, and just be another person here so I wasn't healing at home alone.

It amazed me, however, how much GUILT I felt when I asked for help! I felt bad asking her to get me a glass of water, bring me dinner, cook me breakfast, wash the dishes. I KNEW that if I tried hard enough, I could do all of those things on my own! Except... I couldn't.

And when you can't do something you normally do, it's humbling. To have to depend on another person for some very basic things. It's harder than it seems like it will be.

I can't tell you how many times I would make a request like, "I'm sorry, but... I ran out of water... could you get me some more?... I... I'm sorry. Thank you..."

Can anyone relate?

I'm the careGIVER, not the care RECEIVER.

I think it's important, though, to be a care receiver sometimes. For me, it made me so much more grateful for my health. I'm still recovering, and I'm frustrated by how I get tired quickly, and that my knee isn't feeling PERFECT yet (even though the doctor TOLD me it would take a month or so). 

I'm grateful for the ability to walk. I'm grateful for a family that cares about me and goes out of the way to make sure I'm taken care of.  I'm grateful for a team of leaders at church who won't LET me overdo it, even when I want to--because I am thinking of what I want to see happen now, but they are thinking of what happens long term. It makes me feel loved. And even being told, "No, don't do that," makes me feel appreciated because I know that people care.

I'm not saying that everyone should go get knee surgery. But maybe everyone should be a care receiver every now and then.


And while my Christmas Tree wasn't attacking me, this is what it felt like when I asked for help (see ESPECIALLY at 1:20):

Saturday, February 07, 2015

21 Days

21 days. That's three weeks.

21 days. It's not much time, really, in the grand scheme of things. Or it's an eternity. Either way...

Several of us in Sought Church are doing a 21 day fast beginning tomorrow, February 8th. Some of us are fasting food, some are fasting TV, or something else specific in our lives. Now... I want to be really honest with you about this. When I first was presented with the idea, I wasn't happy.

"Crap," I thought. "I'm a leader. That means I have to do this, too." Because leaders are willing to be
uncomfortable to help other people grow, and let me tell you, fasting is uncomfortable.

Think about it... people won't be EATING. They won't be doing all these other things that we find pleasure in, or stress relief, or sustenance!

Instead, we'll all be looking to God. Seeking Him. Wanting more of Him. Trying our best to listen to what He's saying for our lives, for our church, for our community.

It's hard. It's kinda sucky at times.

But you know what? During that time when FB is down, or there's a deep craving for chocolate (or just food in general!), guess where we get to focus our time and energy?

On Jesus.

And that? That's the greatest pleasure of all.

Want to join our fast? Want to ask questions, or start a conversation about this? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, January 23, 2015

#RedLipNation

Some women that I hang out with online have started a new trend.  Our roles are typically seen as conservative, so our trend is... refreshing. Scary. And downright gorgeous.

These women--pastors, leaders, mothers, executives, peace-keepers, movers and shakers--keep stepping up, one by one, to reach out of their comfort zone.

Many of us have uttered the words, "I've never done this before..." Often, those words are preceded by one amazing feat--red lipstick.

I know.  You're thinking, "Emily. This post is about MAKEUP?"

Seriously, keep reading.

I wear chapstick every day. That's mostly the extent of my lip color (i.e. there IS no color).  When this discussion about wearing red lipstick started, my first thought was, "Um, I could NEVER get away with that."  But I kept seeing pictures of the most beautiful, brave women. Red lips out there, speaking words with confidence and grace.

Finally, I thought I needed to try it. I wanted to be brave. Because wearing my chapstick is NOT brave.  Wearing my chapstick hides me, helps me blend in. Having red lips makes me stand out--or at least feel like I'm standing out. And while I want to stand out in many ways (I love the spotlight!), my lips were never a way I wanted to do that!

Monday night, I went to Ulta.  (That's a makeup store. I live 5 minutes from it, it's HUGE, and I'd seriously never heard of it before.) I got some help from a girl there and went home with 3 lip colors and a lip liner. The next morning, I wore red lipstick to a minister's breakfast.

I.
Was.
Terrified.

But no one kicked me out. No one took away my credentials. No one called me a hooker.

I sat there, singing and praying, and listening to what God was doing, and I felt grateful. Strangely enough, in that bravery, fighting back the fear of what others would think of me, I felt like I was more the woman that God had created me to be. Bold. Fearless (or at least able to conquer fear). Brave.

Joshua 1:9 tells us to "be strong and courageous." No, Joshua was not talking about wearing red lipstick. But... I felt that way when I put it on. I know that red lipstick doesn't cause the Lord to go with me wherever I go, but my insecurity meant that I had to put 100% of my worth, value, everything on HIM, not on me. And that's a LOT scarier than smearing a little NYX Butter Lipstick in Licorice on my mouth.

If you don't normally wear red lipstick (and you're a woman!), go find a shade that fits you and try it. If you do, or you're a guy, try something else that brings you out of your comfort zone. You'll quickly realize just how much you need to depend on Jesus to breathe calmly when you wonder if other people are judging you, concerned about you, or... don't even care about the change.  Join the #redlipnation!