A Breakthrough...& a Proposal!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Friends! I am ENGAGED!!!

Yeah! I know, right?!?!

It's still amazing and wonderful, and although I AM starting to come back down to earth so that I can focus on everything I NEED to get prepared for this summer, I am still floating :))

The proposal happened on Sunday, and I'll get to that. But first, a little story...

The past few weeks leading up to this have been something you might describe using the cliche term "roller coaster".  But looking back on it, I can't believe how evident God's hand was! He was preparing me for this moment the whole time. But my blinders were on, and I couldn't have possibly been aware. 

Let me start off telling you that...yes, I was THAT girl who actually dictated when her boyfriend was going to propose. I'm not someone who typically likes to be surprised. I like to know what is happening. I like to know what is coming. I like to be "prepared" for any big, life changing things {Read: CONTROL!}. So of course, we had been discussing when we planned to get engaged for awhile. He was respectful of the fact that I didn't really want to be surprised. He wanted to make sure I was comfortable. Which I appreciated. HOWEVER...........

The closer it got, the more restless I became. I started to ask myself a lot of questions, and began to overthink every little thing, wondering if any of this was right. And what did right even mean? 
A little over two weeks ago, my anxiety started to build so much that I felt physically sick. My stomach hurt so badly and my appetite was completely gone. I had to force myself to eat. Every muscle in my body was in high levels of pain, so much so that no matter how much Aleve I took, I found no relief. I had to fight off panic attacks, which was the hardest part to deal with. I haven't had a panic attack in over two years! I didn't understand what was wrong with me. I had known for awhile that I did want to get engaged, and that I did want to be married. So what was making me feel so awful?? What was bringing that ultimate highest level of anxiety back that I hadn't experienced in years??

And because my brain works in such extremes {thank you, mental illness for rearing your ugly head again}, I began to wonder if maybe this meant that I was wrong....about everything.

Well, praise the Lord {and I mean, really!} that I have friends who know how to talk me down when I work myself up this much. 
After talking to a very trusted friend about how I was feeling, she helped me realize that trying to micromanage when the proposal would happen is NOT my job. I was spending all my time anticipating the moment because I knew it was coming...and I'm not supposed to see it coming! It's supposed to be a surprise, and it's supposed to be exciting! And it's HIS job, not mine. My only job would be to say yes or no.
After putting everything into this new perspective, I felt a whole lot better. More relaxed. I talked to John-David about this, and I told him, "You propose when you want to propose." And I made up my mind that my answer would be YES.  
THEN...I finally prayed and offered the whole situation up to God, which I had not done yet {my other mistake...again, read: CONTROL}. And that brought me more peace and comfort than ever. My anxiety was gone. My appetite came back. I was no longer in what felt like endless pain. My guard came way down, and I was open to whatever God wanted. No fear. {Yeah, that's what I said...whoa!} I even found myself experiencing bursts of excitement that lasted longer than just a fleeting moment...and that wasn't normal either. Suddenly, I couldn't wait to be engaged!

Fast forward to Sunday morning...

After a great week, filled with joy and peace that only God could provide, I was in church on Sunday morning, listening to an excellent sermon. It was just the icing on the cake! And at the end, the speaker did a "listening prayer" with us, which I talked a little bit about in this post
He gave us an opportunity to hear from God directly, which is the way I've been leaning how to pray lately. He asked very specific questions, and allowed us a time of quiet and stillness to hear from God. And for the first time ever, I HEARD. I heard, and it was not seasoned with doubts and questions. No opposing inner voice was trying harder to silence God's voice. The joy and fullness I felt was overwhelming! It was so new, but it was the BEST new! I didn't even know it was possible!

Annnnndddd, fast forward to Sunday night...

It had been a lazy Sunday. My favorite kind. I read in the sunshine all afternoon.
John-David's family had planned a game night with a family friend, which is pretty much a staple in that house. It was nothing out of the ordinary. Now if any of you have played the game Settlers of Catan, you know how complex it can get. It requires asking questions of the other players and trading cards and game pieces and whatnot. Soooo...we're playing the game and everything is normal. John-David finishes his turn, and then he says, "Okay, and I have one more question to ask." Next thing I know he's up from his chair and then back down again, this time on one knee, asking me to marry him. Nothing fancy. Nothing spectacular. I didn't need that. All I needed was, "Emily, will you marry me?" And all I needed to say was, "YES!"

God. Is. Great. He was preparing my heart and I didn't even know it!
Just a reminder, He sees the bigger picture!

One is Silver & the Other Gold...

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

It's really no secret that I'm super extroverted... 
{although...those who knew me BEFORE the last couple of years will find that difficult to believe. I will share more about that at another time...}

I love to be {and pretty much HAVE to be} around people as often as possible! 

I love long conversations that go on for hours.

I love laughing so hard until I cannot breathe anymore.

I love any opportunity to be with someone and just encourage one another and grow together.

I just love and need people in my life in order to thrive! We were not created to do life alone, and God wired me {and so many others} with an intense need for close, personal relationships!

So I'm here to talk about those type of friends today...those friends who are practically family. God has been calling me to rekindle some "old friendships" that have pretty much dwindled away over the last few years...as well as to take a brave step in allowing some current friendships to reach that next level of closeness.  Relationships with friends are so essential to our well being! We need those people who can speak truth in love to us...who can help turn us around, or lift us back up when times are too hard to handle alone.

Now...we all know what it's like to be hurt by others.
I can think of two specific instances that just completely ruined me.

The first was something that was said to me directly {and more than once}...that other people do not really care about your struggles. That they are just being polite. And of course they are going to tell you what you want to hear! What else would they say? They don't want to hear your melodramatics. All you want is attention.

The second was a friend, an older and wiser {I thought} friend that I poured out my heart to on a regular basis. She always listened intently and even seemed to offer sound advice. There was nothing I did not share with her. She knew absolutely everything about me...the good, bad, and in between. She presented herself as easily trustworthy, so it came as no surprise that pretty much anyone else who knew her fell for her extra sweet, loving, seemingly genuine exterior. And then we all found out how much of a facade that exterior truly was. I was, along with so many others, completely crushed to discover all of her hidden motives she kept behind her mask of feigned kindness. I was in total disbelief and my heart ached greatly as the same difficult truths were revealed to me through many sources. I cried for an entire week, as if grieving over a death. And in a way, I was...as it was the death of a friendship. I didn't feel like I could ever come back from this...or that I could ever fully trust someone in that way ever again.

We've all been there. We've felt that kind of pain. And, unfortunately, we carry it with us. Even if we don't think about it on a regular basis, it hinders new relationships from growing. 

In college, I was blessed beyond measure by wonderful people with whom I was able to connect! Between brilliant, caring professors, to other talented peers in the music department, I had never been around so many people who could inspire me more, or bless me further than these people from Bethel College could! They were some of the most encouraging, totally authentic, God-loving people! And I wanted to BE them! But still...I kept them at arms length. After being told on many occasions that people didn't really care about me, I was fairly certain that I was not worthy of being loved by these people, or even loving them! They were so amazing! I was not amazing. I could never be like them. In my mind, I was both "unlikeable", and unlovable. As much as I tried to "remake" myself into the kind of person I knew THEY would like, I never truly liked myself. Therefore, I didn't expect anyone else to like me either. Even when I did make a real and genuine connection, I was so convinced that they wouldn't be in it for the long haul anyway. Why invest when they are most likely just going to leave me anyway? What makes me think that I'm capable of being enough to make people want to stay? Apparently the one person I used to trust more than anyone in the world didn't think so.

Since college, I have grown so much as a person, and the Lord has brought even more incredible people into my life. I've even been able to tell when He's been super intentional and said, "Hey, see this person? She's for you. She's a sister-friend." I'm so grateful for these "sister types" in my life. BUT...again...my ability to be raw, real, and fully open with them is hindered by past hurts. I just don't think I could handle another horrible heartache. I can't lose someone else THAT important to me again. I desire deeper friendships, and yet I push against that. I fear that if I push for it, that I'll be pushing too hard...and ultimately push them away. These people have never given me any reason to question or doubt them. And they have given me EVERY reason to believe that they are with me to stay. And done nothing but pray for, love, and encourage me. But I wait for the other shoe to drop. 

Can anyone else identify? It's so hard. It's such a self-sabotaging tendency. 
And it's really not fair to them. Because they were not the ones who hurt me. They don't deserve the expectations I've placed on them!

Those old college friendships? They faded away because I chose to end them. I decided that they were insincere people who were just pretending to love me.
The new and current friendships in my life? They don't yet have the depth that I so long for, because I continue to keep them at arms length. I've chosen to believe that they are going to be like these other people who hurt me.

That's not okay.

That's why God is slowly healing my heart, tearing down the walls {click here}. The enemy doesn't like it when God is in ANYTHING! And that includes friendships. So, yes, he's going to try and divide them with doubts and fears. But God can restore everything, if we allow Him. And He can make anything flourish, if we allow Him. I'm excited that He's leading me back to those old friendships, and giving me the desire to be intentional, and continue growing new ones.

Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is SILVER,
and the other GOLD.

I value YOU, not your vote!

Friday, May 6, 2016

I tend to stay away from posting political memes, articles, statuses, etc. on social media.

I don't comment on other people's political posts either. I'm not interested in arguing with people. That is the complete opposite of who I am, and who everyone knows me to be! To fight with someone and to have them become angry at me is absolutely the worst feeling ever!


I have to stop and think for a minute. 
If someone is angry with me over my OPINION {and, let's be honest friends...a political stance is just that...an OPINION}, or if I become angry with someone else over theirs, how is that building our relationship and making it better?

I am ALL FOR advocating for your passions! I do it all the time {here on this blog in fact!}, and I constantly ENCOURAGE others to speak up for what they are passionate for. I love that! But if you post anything at all that you believe in strongly, you are opening yourself up to negative comments as well.
I've even gotten negative comments and opposing viewpoints myself, which I kind of expect, and yet at the same time it bothers me a lot. But why?

The fact is that I am WAY too concerned with being liked by everyone. 
And in the world we live, if someone doesn't agree with you, well, it MUST mean that they don't like you. I'm not saying everyone is like that, of course, but in many, many ways, that's what we see all over the place. 
So when someone gives me their opposing view, it stings a little and I feel like I have to defend myself, and then also word my response perfectly so that they don't think "less" of me. 

But, again...wait!

I have to remind myself that if people truly do respect me as an individual, a difference of opinion is not going to change my relationship with them. Or at least it shouldn't. And if it does, then it's not a real, deep, intentional friendship or relationship.

Some of my dearest friends in the world have different political views from mine. And we're perfectly aware of those differences. Does it change our friendship? No way! Because that's not what matters to us. Even in my extended family, I know for a fact that not everyone's perspective or opinion is going to be the same as mine. But that doesn't change the fact that I love them dearly and respect them as PEOPLE.

Personally, if I am actually asked about what I think, I tend to be very "middle of the road" politically. On some issues, I lean very far right, and on others I lean very far left. And still on some, I have no idea because sometimes it's just impossible to understand it all {ha}! But I don't label myself as REPUBLICAN or DEMOCRAT. That's not what I put my faith in. It's not what matters most to me. All of those things associated with politics are going to fade away eventually...and only the Word of God will remain forever. That's where my authority lies, and the Lord is to Whom I remain faithful. 

Is it important to form an opinion? Yes! Is it important to place your vote? Absolutely! But there is always, always, always going to be someone who doesn't agree with you, and with whom you will not agree. 

But here's what I'm trying to get across here...

My friendship with you...my relationship with you...is SO MUCH more valuable to me than your political stance!

The way I see it, politics are SO not worth jeopardizing a connection...or potential connection...you have with someone!
And I'm going to stop being so scared that if someone doesn't agree with me, it changes their view of me. Because if it DOES, well, then I'm not the one with the problem. And that's not a relationship I want to invest in. 

My perspective will always be, first of all, what would God have to say about this? And secondly, how would Jesus treat this person if they were standing right in front of him? 
My goal is to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and to live life INTENTIONALLY...and that's completely genuine on my end! That's not me trying to get everyone to like me more. That's me being the woman God has called me to be.

Choosing to be defined by my political stance is not how I want to live my life.
And it is not how I choose to see the people around me either. 
There is so much more to all of us than just that.


Some "Gems" from the CCM Genre

Monday, May 2, 2016

I have found, all too often, that the task of finding artists in the Contemporary Christian music genre who are UNIQUE, ORIGINAL, or SUBSTANTIAL can be rather difficult.

So many CCM artists today have songs that pretty much reiterate the exact same things, just rearranging the wording somehow. Or they simply follow the same chord progression over and over...and you really can't tell which song it is until it gets to the chorus. They remain incredibly surface-y, and...well...for lack of a better word....kinda "hokey" a lot of the time.

I was very much turned off from CCM music because of this for a very long time.
I wanted to hear songs that were fully rooted in biblical truths. I wanted songs with lyrics that ran much deeper and that could make me think. Music is in my soul, and it's how I connect with just about everything, and that's how I like to connect with God too. But all of the songs I was hearing on the radio just were not doing that for me.

For so many of us, the struggle is real!  I've seen Facebook statuses, and Twitter posts about this! I've had several conversations with people in my life about this! Why does it seem that there are so few Contemporary Christian artists out there who offer biblical and "non-cheesy" music? Well, I've been doing some digging...and I've managed to weed out some great ones! Just to help the rest of you out ;))

In no particular order, here are some incredible CCM artists that are so worth listening to, and whose lyrics go deeper than just scratching the surface...

Danny Gokey
He was an American Idol contestant, and has an absolutely killer voice! His lyrics speak with genuine conviction of painful, challenging, real life experiences...and the hope that has seen him through all of it. The words in this song were ultimately what brought me back around to listening to Christian music again...

Singer Tiffany Lee, aka Plumb, knows about stuff, let me tell you! She writes about deeply personal issues...like this song bravely written about self injury. And, in my opinion, her voice kind of reminds me of Amy Lee from Evanescence.

Brandon Heath
Brandon has a beautiful testimony of God's grace in his life. His songs reflect all of that on his own personal level, but his words will resonate with just about everyone. But even so, songs like this one will really get you thinking about certain things that you may just overlook or take for granted in every day life. {oh! And p/s....he also has a great Christmas album!}

Matthew West
Another great guy with great stories, but there is one thing in particular that I love about Matthew West...His songs are inspired by the stories he hears from OTHERS!  Real life people with real life struggles, who have found hope in Christ themselves! Like this one, based on the story of a woman who nearly lost her daughter in a serious car accident, and learned what strength that comes from the Lord truly is. {and yes, he also has a fantastic Christmas album!}

Meredith Andrews
Meredith bravely speaks out about her struggles with doubt and fear throughout her lyrics. And yes, it's true that doubt and fear are things that every Christian struggles with at one point or another, but Meredith is so honest about how low she actually was!
This line here, "You cry yourself to sleep, because the hurt is real, and the pain cuts deep. All hope seems lost, with heartache your closest friend, and everyone else long gone. You've had to face the music on your own..." described so perfectly what life was like for me when I went through a really dark season of deep depression. And to me, Meredith clearly understood what that meant.

Okay...where do I even start with these guys! They are awesome! First of all, not a single one of their songs sounds like the one before it. They are the very definition of unique! Secondly, I think that NeedToBreathe has some of the most biblically grounded truths in their music that I've ever heard from A Christian group. I had a hard time choosing just one song of theirs to share with you here {seriously! They are all just THAT good! Go find all...the...songs!!}. But I do think this one is my favorite, especially going back to how wonderful and unique just their SOUND is, as well as the words! Really though, if you don't listen to any other song on this list, just listen to THIS ONE!!

Caedmon's Call
Beautiful acoustics, beautiful vocals, originality that I've literally never heard from anyone else! And they are way lesser known than they should be! They've pretty much disappeared over the last few years, which is unfortunate. I love listening to them!

This is kind of a "bonus" one, as Switchfoot isn't exclusively a Christian band, although they do have multiple songs that mention God directly. BUT, sprinkled throughout ALL of their lyrics are truths on which to build our lives. In this way, lead singer and songwriter Jon Foreman ministers to and influences Christians and non-Christians alike. This one's my personal favorite...

Hope you were able to discover some great new music here! Or maybe you were reminded of a song or artist you forgot about and need to listen to again! Either way, there's some great Christian music out there, friends! And it's not all cliche!

Did I leave anyone out? Who else should I have included on this list? Comment below!