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!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lessons from the Littles

As a church startup, our team spends the early part of our Sunday mornings loading and unloading, then setting up, everything we need to make church happen for the day.  We load in things for kids, a coffee table, concierge, all our sound equipment, TVs, etc. 

Once that's all done, we meet together to talk about what's going to happen during our gathering, and then to pray for our time together and for the people who are going to join our conversation that day.

Our team ranges in age from almost 10 months old to--well, not 10 months!  This morning, while we're praying, I saw something that really made me pause.

The 10 month old, we'll call him L, has an older sister, four and a half (don't forget the half!) year old C.  She adores her little brother.  He, in turn, loves her.  Today, all of the adults were standing in a circle, with C sitting on a step inside the circle, and little brother in front of her on the floor.  Halfway through prayer, C decided to get up and walk to her mom, wanting the closeness of family--or maybe just getting wiggles out.

L just sat there for a second.

Then his little face got determined and he spun around, crawling quickly to the feet of his big sister... who looked down adoringly.

I was struck by this.  L knew that life without his sister, even just for that moment, wasn't good.  This little boy wanted the comfort of someone who is family, who cherishes him, and who he knows so well.  It wouldn't have done for me to pick him up--he probably would have started crying, even though I love him to pieces.  He wanted the one who he KNEW was his.

It made me think of my relationship with Jesus.  When I find myself in a situation where I can't see Jesus, do I freak out?  Do I cry because I feel alone or hurt?  Or do I spin around, catch His eye, and RUN toward Him?

I know Jesus is mine and I am His.  I know that in Him alone is my safety.  I know that without Him, I am lost. I pray that the next time I find myself in the same situation that L did, a little lost and without my Jesus, I am willing to SEEK out Jesus and sprint toward His side--because I know He is always seeking me.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Don't be a Fraidy Cat


My mom came to Vegas to visit me for 2 weeks over the holidays this year.  It was LOVELY.  We had such fun--my mom and I, that is... not my cats.  (I know... there she goes, talking about cats.  Just call me Taylor Swift.)

Cosmo and Lockwood... well, they're used to having ME around.  Just me.  When other people come over, they're really good at running away and hiding.  When my mom came to stay with us, the boys were off their game.  They hid a lot, and only came out when they wanted food, water, or belly rubs.  They eventually got used to That Lady staying with us and became more comfortable interacting with her.  She even got Cosmo head-butts on her last day.

But Lockwood... Lockwood is a beast.  He's almost 25 pounds of long, black fur.  He's huge.  And you'd expect a huge beast like this to know that he could eat most things that get in his way.  That's not his reality, though.  His M.O. is to hide.  From everything.  We'd come in the door and he'd run back to my bedroom, and scramble under the end of my bed, where the blankets draped over perfectly to form a perfect cat-cave.

One day, as he was trembling in self-induced fear, I looked into the darkness, seeing bright eyes, shining huge and golden, reflecting the bathroom light, hidden safely under the blankets.  I rolled my eyes in exasperation.  "Dumb cat.  Get OUT.  You're not SAFE under there.  You're MISSING things; you're missing LIFE!  If you came out, That Lady would give you belly rubs and catnip, your favorite things in the world!"

Fat Cat
Then I stopped...  I've certainly jumped off cliffs before in my life--heck, I live in Las Vegas; that move alone was a jump--but am I missing out on God at times because I am hiding, trembling beneath the blankets?

I know there are things I've missed out on, the human equivalent of belly rubs and catnip, because I've been willing to sit at home, despite that feeling in the pit of my stomach telling me to DO X, Y, or Z.  You know what I'm talking about.  I have a feeling you've felt that feeling, too.  Where you're home or somewhere you think is safe, but your stomach starts to get tight and you feel nauseated... knowing that there's something that's a little scary out there, but you'll probably end up a better person (or at least have a lot of fun!) if you do it.

Here's my encouragement for you (in other words, my kick in the pants for myself): Next time you feel that punch in your gut that you should be doing something, I want you to put yourself in my Fat Cat's body, huddled under the bed and blankets, afraid to come out because what is outside just might be worse than the wonders that could be explored and the adventures that could be had, then make the decision to live, to choose the adventure.  Don't be a fraidy cat!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Go check out my guest blog!

I had the awesome opportunity to blog again with some of my favorite people, The Preacher Girls, last week.  You should check out my blog and then watch theirs regularly!!

Friday, December 26, 2014

The advent of Advent

The advent of Advent.  That’s what happened in my life this month.

I know, you’re thinking, “Emily, Advent is over--why are you blogging about it NOW?”

I’m talking about it now because this is the first time I’ve actually celebrated Advent… ever.  I am blogging about it now because I can look back on the last month in surprise.


Christmas has always been a happy time for me--at least a time when I wanted it to LOOK happy.  It’s quite a frenzy, trying to listen to all the music I want to hear, do the things I want to do, feel the feelings I want to feel.  And then on December 26th, I look back and wonder why I wasn’t as fulfilled as I should have been… wanted to be… and why I was left with a feeling of longing.  A feeling of "meh."

I decided to celebrate Advent because we were celebrating it as a church, not because I thought it could deal with those "meh" feelings.  I didn't know how to celebrate Advent, to be very honest with you.  Because of that, I ended up finding an Advent calendar template online and started filling it out on the first day of Advent in November.  You know those cardboard Advent calendars with the waxy chocolate inside?  You open up one door for every day and you’ve got a little treat inside!  This is the opposite of that.  Each day of Advent is blank… until you take some time out to pause and fill it in.

Every day I found a verse or a chapter in the Bible that talked about Jesus, or about the emotion surrounding the wait for Him prior to His advent into our lives.

Do you know what Advent and filling out that little calendar did for me?

It made me pause.  It made me reflect.  It gave me permission to feel everything I was trying to stuff down before.  My first entry was an entry of yearning, wanting more.  Why?  Because the world was waiting for its King and Savior.  And if the whole world felt yearning and waiting for more, I suppose it was OK for me to feel things like that, too.

Today is December 26th.  Yes, there were things I wanted to do this Christmas that I didn’t get done, and yes, I missed the traditions of Christmas past that I didn’t get to celebrate this year.  However…  I feel more fulfilled.  I’m not as nostalgic.  I’m ready to tackle 2015 head on, and meet some of the goals I talked about last week.

I’m grateful for Advent because I feel more like ME after Christmas.  And I’m looking forward to learning more new rhythms of Advent in 2015, as I wait for the ultimate advent of Jesus' return.

Friday, December 19, 2014

What are your goals?

I hate resolutions.  Seriously.  Resolutions are so often ridiculous and rarely, if ever, kept.

However… I need some kind of pressure to be motivated to DO anything, so I like goals.  Tasks.  Things that need to be accomplished WITH a due date.  And a new year is a really good time to set year-long goals.

Unfortunately, that just happens to coincide with New Year’s Resolutions.  Phoey.

Let’s review some of what makes a good goal.

It’s specific.  It’s not, “Exercise more.”  It’s, “Be able to run a mile without stopping.”
It’s achievable.  It’s not, “Read 500 400+ page books.”  It’s, “Read at least 2 books a month.”
It’s challenging.  It’s not, “Speak in Toastmasters when I can.”  It’s, “Compete in a Toastmaster’s speech competition.”

I’m trying to evaluate my life and find goals that touch multiple areas.  I probably have more goals established than I should, but mine have become very specific--that Toastmaster’s competition one is real, folks.  I also still have a couple vague ideas that sound a lot like resolutions that I’m trying to figure out how to make into a goal.  I like that process, though.  It means that I get to spend time with the goal before I commit to it.  See if it is something I want to have happen this year.  If it fits my vision for the upcoming year, maybe if it fits where the church is going for the year, and what is happening in my life.  There are a lot of very good goals out there that I have not adopted, simply because they’re not a fit right now.

So what are your goals for 2015?  This isn’t my entire list, but here are a few of mine:
  • Read at least 12 books this year, 6 novels, 6 ministry-specific (I get distracted very easily lately, so I need to remember that I LOVE reading)
  • Compete in a Toastmaster’s speech competition
  • Blog at least once a week for one year (started this month!)

Share your list!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lives Matter

I have a confession to make.  I don't know everything.

I realize that's a shock, but it's true.  As a sign language interpreter I feel like I get surface knowledge of almost everything under the sun, but sometimes the things I learn just barely scratch the surface of deep issues.

I wanted to make sure you all knew that before I dove in here today.  I don't know everything.  This post isn't about how much I know.  It isn't about who is right or wrong in situations.  It's not a news source.  It is, however, a way for me to process my thoughts and some of the thoughts of those I interact with.  Thoughts about what?

Black Lives Matter.

Ever since the decision not to indite the officer in the death of Michael Brown, I've seen the hashtag #blacklivesmatter all over my Facebook and Twitter feed.  In doing some research, I found that the hashtag actually started in 2012 after the controversy over Trayvon Martin's death.

When I first saw it, I felt unsettled.  Not because I don't believe Black lives matter.  Simply because I feel like ALL life matters.  I struggled with the fact that people were emphasizing that the lives of Black people were important, when it felt like it could be fueling the flame of anger both from the Black community and against it.  Every time I saw #blacklivesmatter, I thought #alllivesmatter.

My problem here is that once I thought #alllivesmatter, I moved on to another story.  Yes, the violence that has happened affects me, but it affects me in the way that Hurricane Sandy affected me.  I was very sad for everyone involved, I sent some money in to help rebuild, I said a few prayers for people, and then I went to my job.  I had no real change in my life as a result of it.  That's how I've responded when seeing #blacklivesmatter.  My heart hurts for those affected.  I'm irritated by protesters laying down on freeways because they're putting lives at risk.  I pray for our country to work together to solve this issue.  And then I watch the next episode of Once Upon a Time.

Nothing changes.

Nothing changes except that I'm still bothered by the hashtag, because all lives matter.

And then I read through a conversation today about this very topic and something someone said struck me.  He seemed to come from the same view that I had been having, and asked if we were going to call out every sect of life... #asianlivesmatter, #womenslivesmatter, etc.

It stopped me in my tracks.

Because I fight for women's equality in every aspect of life.  Home, church, internationally, etc.  I get angry when people (who aren't directly affected by this) say it's not that big of a deal when I see my sisters hurting.  When I saw #womenslivesmatter, I suddenly felt a kinship with the phrase #blacklivesmatter.

It's not the same.  Not at ALL.  I would never assume it is.  We're talking about momma's losing their babies, about people growing up in poverty and not knowing how to get out.  We're talking life and death here.

I finally understood, however, that #blacklivesmatter is not saying Black lives matter MORE.  It is saying that Black lives matter WITH everyone else's life.  And it doesn't matter if I agree with court decisions or not, if I'm Black, White, Middle-Eastern, or a Time Lord.  It matters that I can stand and say, "I understand you are hurting.  I will pray for your community.  I will be a peace-maker where I can.  I love and respect you as a fellow human being."

These are things that would come out of the mouth of Jesus if He were living in the middle of the United States today.  These are things that the Bible talks about: "Blessed are the peacemakers."  Jesus came for the broken.  He walked away from the self-righteous who said they didn't need healing, and cried with those who were broken and hurting.  He loved people.  He was revolutionary, because He connected with people where they were, and then allowed them to grow with Him.

And so that is my new prayer for our country.  That Jesus would be able to connect with those who are broken and hurting and angry.  That His voice would be voice they hear, both deep in their hearts and spoken loudly on the streets, in the churches, and yes, all over Facebook.  And then I pray that He would lead each hurting heart on a journey toward healing and freedom in Him.  Allowing people to work together to create healthy change, in personal lives and across our country.  I pray that #blacklivesmatter would become a resounding shout of the goodness of what God can do in people who are willing to listen.

I will pick up the banner of my friends and colleagues.  I will not pretend to understand what it feels like, but I will say that I care and will stand with them.  I will tell people that their lives matter.  And I will pray for Jesus to heal open wounds.  Why?

Because lives DO matter.