Working On Our Stuff. And Hiking.


Panoramic view of GT mtns

When you’re hiking at a high elevation (or when you’re over forty, exercise-challenged, and hiking pretty much anywhere ever) you  get winded quickly.  You have to pace yourself.  (Hubs and I do, anyway.)

We hiked several times during our recent vacation and, as we plugged along up the Grand Teton National Park’s breathtaking trails, we stopped occasionally just to catch a breath and look around us before we kept trekking. Just when our knees were starting to burn or thirst started getting to us, we would realize how far we had come!  And, as a reward for the climb, we were Overlook at Taggert1treated with a vantage point we could never have experienced from anywhere else. It’s the best!

Any time my husband and I get away on a trip like this, or sometimes even on a date night, we try to take an inventory of what is going well and what we need to work on — as individuals, as a couple, as parents, etc.  Saying out loud to each other what we are noticing and what God is calling to our attention somehow helps solidify our commitment to keep working on our stuff.

And just to clarify, “working on our stuff” just means we invite Christ into our brokenness and obediently commit to letting Him change us from the inside out. Often we need to talk through an attitude or mindset that is hindering our growth, or sometimes we need to address fears that are paralyzing us, or a host of other things. Also, “working on our stuff” can mean tweaking how we manage our everyday life, such as how to better organize our calendars, deciding if there are obligations we need to remove from our life, setting new financial goals, that kind of stuff.

Progress has been incremental over the years —  a slow but steady climb on a very, very long hike. But during our mountain vacation, when we stopped to look back, we realized that (with His great help) we had come farther than we realized.  We felt like we had hiked to a new summit in our life and the view was more beautiful than we ever imagined.

Of course, we have many miles ahead of us. We will never stop working on our stuff. But it sure is motivating when we are able to look back and see some progress.  Maybe all the hard miles eventually did bring us to a place where we are more overwhelmed with gratitude than we are with our stuff.

Maybe you do this kind of thing a lot.  If so, I want to hear how it works for you in the comments! If you don’t, I encourage you to take a few moments to prayerfully consider where you are, what’s going well and what “stuff” needs extra attention. At first you might feel overwhelmed, like there’s too much to even know where to start. I’ve felt that feeling. Or, maybe you are doing the very best you can in every area of life and you don’t know what to work on.  God will bring something to mind if you sincerely ask Him.

No matter where you are or how much progress you do or don’t see immediately, believe me when I say that you have everything it takes to finish your journey well and get to a place where you can enjoy the vantage point as never before.  Make one “next right decision” after the next and before you know it the view will take your breath away.

The view after a tough trek is made so much better when it didn’t come easily!

A Life Lesson from Bugeling Elk


Sunset At the OxbowYou guys!  Vacation is miraculous!  Hubs and I just took a real, live, head-for-the-hills VACATION.  No kids, just us!  This is just one of the many payoffs for raising responsible human beings: they watch the house and the dogs while we go recover from a year of doing all the stuff.

We hiked through the woods, ate food that we didn’t have to prepare, and went on nightly drives in search of wildlife and perfect sunsets (like the one pictured above). It was simply glorious.

One evening, our wildlife searched took a huge step up when we  pulled off onto the shoulder of the road, rolled our windows down, and were treated to a symphony of elk bugeling. It’s something they do this time of year.  (Mating season…don’t even ask.)  Craziest thing you’ve ever heard. And you’re getting ready to hear it for yourself.

I know I haven’t exactly offered a plethora of fancy giveaways here on the blog. (Yet. But stay tuned.)  For now, by golly, I’m sharing with you a never-before-published elk bugeling symphony straight from our vacation in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (and recorded on my Samsung 5S Active). I obviously love you a lot, because I’m letting you in on  one of the most awe-inspiring moments of vacation. (You’re welcome.)

Listen to the Elk Bugeling Symphony here!

Why do I share this elk bugeling craziness (other than the fact that IT’S SO CRAZY AWESOME)? Well, here’s the thing. The high pitched little-girl-scream you hear is actually coming from a huge barrel-chested bull elk with antlers to the heavens. He was a stud!  When the moon caught him just right, we could not believe the imposing presence standing just to our left!  But bless his giant bull elk heart.  He was calling out to his herd in a pitiful, raw, screechy elk language we didn’t even know existed.

Listening to the mournful cries of these majestic elk trying to find each other in the dark reminds me of people we all know. The ones we think are shining examples of strength and dignity, yet who are crying out, hoping with everything in them that they’re not alone.

I just wanted to remind you, as “Screechy the Bull Elk” reminded us, that the most beautiful, admirable, towers of strength we know still have a raw, vulnerable self that cries out in the dark and desperately needs to know someone is there for them.

Don’t let appearances fool you.  We all need to know our tribe is with us.  If someone’s name comes to mind right now – someone strong who doesn’t seem to need anything from anyone – I encourage you to give him or her a call, set up time for coffee, or just let them know you care.

Brace yourself for more vacation stories yet to come. This one happened to emerge first for obvious reasons.  You just can’t ignore that bugeling.

The Face of Suffering & the Hands of Jesus

Syrian refugee mom with her children.

Syrian refugee mom with her children.

I mentioned in a previous post that my sweet mom had a life-altering health event a few weeks ago.  On August 12, she experienced congestive heart failure and nearly drowned on the fluid that was filling her lungs. Dad got her to the hospital just in time. All that might have seemed important that week suddenly faded into oblivion when the life of someone I love was on the line.

Heart failure, until that day, was something other moms experienced.  Not mine!  Every doctor and nurse seemed like a superhero that day.  I know they’re just humans, but in my mind they were angels doing holy work.  She is getting stronger every day and we are all so grateful that this team of able minds and willing hands were there for her at the moment when her well-being was hanging in balance.

Fresh from this very personal family crisis, the spotlight of my attention turned to an international crisis of epic proportions.  Millions and millions of terrified refugees fleeing their homelands, fearing for their lives, are now scattered across the world trying to survive in make-shift camps and borrowed shelters with dangerously few options or resources.

Suddenly something hit me like a ton of bricks – and maybe you’ll think, “DUH, Emily!”  Each of these suffering individuals belongs to someone, just like my mom belongs to me. They are siblings, parents, children, cousins, spouses, friends…most have lost a loved one (or many) unjustly and they are grieving, traumatized, hungry, and utterly destitute.  Many will not even survive the wait for a safe place to stay. These folks need some superheroes…some normal people like us willing to do holy work.

While eating lunch today, I watched a few gripping videos taken 14 years ago today, on 9-11-01.  Tears came immediately, as if the terrorist attacks were happening all over again. That tragic day began a new reality for Americans and people around the world. It seemed, after that day, like anything could happen. And so much has.
Just like 9-11, the refugee crisis is another reminder that this broken world is not our final destination. But we’re here now, and our fellow humans need us.
When I see horrifying images of refugees, terrorized and fearful for their lives, I imagine my mom’s face on just one of them, or my children’s faces on the children… and I realize all over again that these wandering, desperate souls are just as human and valuable as the people I love so very much.
I would never have sat by complacently while my mom’s lungs filled with fluid.  Yet countless numbers of precious people are in imminent danger right this minute.
“We are God’s Plan A,” as my pastor says.  He is so right.  We just can’t turn a blind eye and wait for someone else to step up.
Just when I feel powerless and too overwhelmed to think I could actually make a difference, I remember all over again that we are invited – urged – to join the Savior of the World in His work.  To offer a cup of cold water in His name, so to speak.
We’re ALL His daughters, sons, siblings and loved ones… and he came to seek and to save every single one who is wandering, and to bind up every broken, grieving, fearful heart.  Imagine how anxious He must be to empower us to carry His Eternal hope to a world that, honestly, feels utterly hopeless.
The following is a website to help those of us who follow Jesus understand how we can make a difference in the refugee crisis.  If you know of other ways to help, please add them to the comments.
Check out ways we can make a difference at:

This is big, friends.

Silencing the Shoulder People



At the risk of sounding completely insane, I just need to address a (very) tiny elephant in the room that maybe you’ll understand.  The shoulder people.

What my sane, rational mind knows to be true is almost always challenged by pesky little people who perch their crazy selves on my shoulder and tell me lies to dishearten me.  I recently disclosed this to a brilliant, talented friend of mine and I was thrilled sorry surprised to learn that my much-admired friend has shoulder people, too!

Here’s how it plays out for me…

My rational mind knows that when the King of the Universe grants me a gift, opportunity or talent, He intends for me to embrace it, hone it, enjoy it… bring honor to Him through it.  But the shoulder people, with their little megaphones aimed at my brokenness, are all, “So-and-so does that SO much better than you do. You should leave this to them.”

My rational mind also knows that when our Perfect Creator says I’m a masterpiece, I AM (just like you are). But the shoulder people start in: “You know how your neck hurts and you’ve gained a few pounds? Well, you’re not getting any younger, so you might as well face it…your best days are behind you.”

Their voices might sound little like your 5th grade teacher, your old boss, or that bully from 7th grade, but make no mistake. These lies are the work of the evil one. Don’t believe him. EVER.

So you know what you need to do? You tell those evil shoulder critics to shut their pie-holes.

The shoulder people know you well. Think about it, they’ve been building their ridiculous case against you since you were a child. They know how to throw in one or two actual facts to convince you that the rest of their ridiculous claims are legit. (My neck really does hurt, for instance. But if God didn’t still have great plans for my life, I’d be dead.)

The seeds the shoulder people plant sometimes seem truer than they really are when they throw in an actual fact or two. That’s how the lies can blossom into thoughts we might actually start to feed on.Don’t fall for that.

Instead, fill up your mind and heart with what IS true. This world needs you to be clearheaded so you can make the difference you were created to make. You don’t have time to listen to lies if you are going to live out the incredible things for which you were created.

Seriously, friend. Are you hearing me?

Don’t entertain the shoulder people for one hot second. Even if they pretend like they’re just looking out for you and don’t want to see you embarrass yourself.  They’re liars.

You might wonder if they will ever leave you alone for good. I wonder that, too. Probably not. Mine keep coming back like a case of Shingles. But just because they’re there doesn’t mean we have to give them a single ounce of power.

Let them ride along on your shoulder and watch you ROCK your life.  Be brave, even when they make you feel small. Who knows, maybe they’ll eventually get bored and go jump in the fiery lake where they belong.

Are you with me? We can acknowledge that they’re there, but we can never, ever trust the shoulder people. It’s also helpful to have a tribe of people around us whom we can trust…those who will remind us how ridiculous the shoulder people are. And our true blue friends can warn us if we’re not suited for something.  But not the shoulder people.

We’re all friends here, right?  I would so appreciate you telling me in the comments below what your shoulder people try to convince you is true. Tell me, so I can remind you that the shoulder people are full of crap.

Some Thoughts on Courage.


keep rowingI’ve been thinking a lot about courage.

Maybe that’s because school just started and I see my 16-year-old woman-child bravely facing her big world each morning, in spite of the fears lurking at the outside corners of her mind.  Or maybe courage is on the brain because my recent graduate is blazing his own unique trail into the all-new unknowns of adulthood with heroic honesty and so much class.

I had no idea how courageous they could be, especially when I know how hard it is to be brave when you’re secretly scared inside.

My sweet mama looked her mortality square in the eye last week in a medical emergency that could have potentially ended her life.  But it didn’t.  Her heart was so heavy – literally and figuratively – yet she was so brave.  Our whole family was.  Now she is doing the hard daily work of putting one foot in front of the other with a whole new set of rules. (It’s so hard when the rules change.)  Yet courage wins again.

Life can be really, really terrifying!  I try not to dwell on it, because it can really freak me out how scary life gets.

If you are anything like me, perhaps you could use a little reminder that YOU CAN DO THIS. Definitely. You SO can!

If you are facing proverbial uncharted waters (and really, who isn’t?!) fear can paralyze you. OR.  It can just motivate you to keep rowing.  The “keep rowing” option doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. I know (believe me, I know) it is easier said than done to move forward when you’re afraid.

Courage doesn’t keep us from feeling scared.  But courage does keep fear from winning.

But here’s the really great part: We’re all in the SAME BOAT.

We all get scared. But we don’t have to be scared alone, and we don’t have to stop rowing just because of a little (or big) fear.

I know life is terrifying.  But the One Who created us said: “…Take heart, for I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

If we follow Him, and stick together, and row, row, row our boat… we will go places and do things we never dreamed possible.

What are the things you’d dream of doing if fear wasn’t an issue?  Because I’m just sayin… fear isn’t nearly a nice enough companion to rob you of your dreams.

The Truth About Woman Power.


flowers&lighteningDaughter and I recently had “the talk.”

No, not THAT talk. The other one.

It’s the talk about how important it is for women to understand our power.  So many women walk around threatening, or being threatened by, other women. We need each other too much to do this, sisters.

I’m treading on thin ice here, but this needs to be said…

Every single woman is given a certain beauty, whether or not we recognize it, and a unique set of gifts that empower us to change the world. These God-given gifts are like a superpower.  They come with a grave responsibility.

(Did you here that sweet girls? GRAVE. Responsibility.)

Some of us find this superpower terrifying, others find it intoxicating.  But it’s there, nonetheless. And it’s powerful.

Little girls learn quickly how to use their femaleness to manipulate and control. This mode of operation leads to less confidence, rather than more, and turns us into people we don’t even like.

Our Maker empowers us to influence the world in ways that are as unique as our DNA. But it is short-sighted to use these gifts to turn on each other or manipulate to meet our neediest needs. He surely did not give us the gift of beauty so we could look cute while we jerk each other around, or influence so we could make another human being feel small and less loved.

Woman power gone wrong is an abuse of power that we don’t like to talk about.  It ruins marriages, teams, churches, business relationships and brings important kingdom work to a grinding halt. I see it every day, all the time. I’m sure you do, too.

Misdirecting good qualities like beauty, influence and charm to serve ourselves takes us backward rather than forward as a species. It sounds counterintuitive, but trust me on this. It takes us so far backward.

Women like to remind men that we have a voice. Because we DO. We will call men out when they misuse their power.  And we MUST.  But when a woman misuses her superpowers, we hesitate to call it what it is. We prefer words like, “goal-oriented” or “strong.”  “She knows what she wants,” sounds nicer, right?

It’s no nicer.  Being goal-oriented and strong is GREAT. Just not at the expense of someone else.

No wonder loneliness is so palpable among our species.  We’re afraid. What might happen if we didn’t defend ourselves and self-protect? I get it.

It’s just so easy for us to forget how very much we are loved by our Creator — flaws and all.  We are so tempted to go grabbing for it with both fists, shielding our insecurities behind the perfect lipstick.

We really don’t have to do all that. Because our Maker gave us another gift.  Each other.

There is no more powerful way to make our mark in this world than, in Jesus words, to…“Love one another as I have loved you.”

Let’s face it, there is nothing like the rush of a good old-fashioned power trip.  But it’s a short-lived rush that is so not worth the price.

Genuine, unselfish, world-changing love opens the floodgates for all our other gifts to be leveraged for eternity.  Powerful, get-over-ourselves LOVE frees us to tap into otherworldly strength. THE Power, who moves mountains without us having to manipulate a single human being.

My daughter is watching our every move.  All our daughters are watching. Let’s show them how this is done.