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Posts from the ‘Christian Living’ Category

A Girl Called Norman

“Tragedy has struck…”

My stomach churned as I felt an odd sense of what those words might mean. There were no details in the Facebook post, but in my mind I immediately sensed at a gut level what had occurred. I hoped I was wrong and continued scrolling.

This morning, I stumbled upon the post that proved me right and confirmed my fears.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This story doesn’t begin with a Facebook post. It really begins twelve years ago, but we’ll start with the chapter with which I’m most familiar. This past June, Zach and I had the opportunity to represent our undergraduate alma mater at the church youth camp Zach had attended as a teenager. I had visited the camp once before as a college representative, and both of us were excited to be back.

The week before we left, I began praying that God would use me to lead the young girls I would meet toward Himself and His grace. He answered that prayer by bringing me girls full of hurt. My heart broke as I listened to a few girls talk calmly, even flippantly, about being sexually abused by family members and how their mothers left because “she didn’t love us anymore.” So matter of fact. So…clinical.

And then, there was my Norman. My family has always used the name “Norman” to refer to a person in our lives that God sends our way. This person is placed in our path for us to minister to them, but often their personality clashes with our own or leaves us feeling worn down and annoyed. Even so, we meet them with the knowledge – a nudge by God Himself, perhaps – that we have been called to love this person and thus show them the love God has for them. The name comes from a book and movie that I watched in the early 2000s, and the idea has stuck with us all these years later.

This Norman was very unlike the original Norman from the story; mine was a petite, active, and inquisitive pre-teen girl with curly blonde hair rather than the large, lumbering male that inspired the moniker. Their need for love and attention was the same. Throughout the week I would find her plopped on my bed with another question about why she had to follow the dress code or if her inner thoughts and feelings were normal. I sat with her in some of the services and tried to help her focus on the Word of God. I’m not sure I was as patient as I could have been, but even so she took to me. I even had an opportunity to pray with her when she felt doubts about her relationship with God.

Fast forward to this week and the foreboding post I saw. When I read the word tragedy and the name of her youth group in the same sentence, I immediately saw her face, felt intuitively that tragedy had come to her. Unfortunately, I was right. For reasons unknown to me, my Norman lost her life to suicide this week. She wasn’t even a teenager yet.

I don’t really have words to provide application for this post. Not today. Not other than to say, love your Normans, friends. Love those who annoy you, who cling to you, who are so very, very different. Love them most of all.

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Fig Trees and Texts from Home

This past Saturday, I received a text message from my mother:

“Have daddy in ER- they are transferring him to Greenville- think he is having heart attack…”

Zach and I had gone to London for the day, and I had just paid my 50p to use the public toilet (yes, they make you pay for that here, and no, they don’t use the word restroom). And now I’m sitting in the stall, slightly hyperventilating, trying to figure out how in the world Zach can convince the worker outside that he needs to enter the women’s toilet to carry me out of there since my body seems to have stopped functioning. Somehow, I managed to pull myself together and get back to where Zach was waiting to fill him in on what was going on. He held me while I cried from the realization that England was actually quite a long way from where I wanted to be in that moment.

To quickly summarize the next few days, after several tests it was discovered that my dad did not have a heart attack, but did have two partial blockages in the artery often referred to as “The Widow Maker”. Scary stuff, but something that would not require surgery, just medication and healthy lifestyle changes. The Lord seems to have orchestrated these events to let us know there was an issue in time to fix it, and we were so grateful for His sovereignty and grace in this situation.

It’s ironic that I was visiting London on the day this all occurred, a place that was my go-to answer for years if I was asked, “If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?” Upon receiving that text, London wasn’t quite the answer I would have given if asked that question again. But we pushed through and were met with good news after our waiting.

The Sunday night after our London trip, we went to the church we’ve settled into here in Cambridge, Eden Baptist. Matt, the assistant pastor, was finishing up a sermon series on Habakkuk. It was such a timely message, and as He often does, God used His people and, even more importantly, His Word to speak to my heart in loving and convicting ways. The following verses especially resonated with me:

Though the fig tree should not blossom

And there be no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive should fail

And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock should be cut off from the fold

And there be no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will exult in the LORD,

I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17-18, emphasis added

Sometimes, even in your favorite place on earth, it’s hard to see the fig tree’s blossom. Sometimes it’s just not there. There have been times in this journey that I find myself feeling guilty over my “sad days” because, after all, Emily, this is what you wanted. This is your favorite place in the whole wide world. But sometimes, it just doesn’t feel like it. And other days (perhaps even most days), I can see the fig tree’s buds and the vine’s fruit and I am just so happy to live in this place. But whatever the morning brings to my eyes, I can still say with Habakkuk, “Yet I will exult in the LORD”, because He deserves our rejoicing, no matter where – or how – we are.

Just Keep Pedaling

Zach and I have been in England for over a week now. Long enough to get over jet lag. Long enough to explore the area, get lost a few times, learn our way home, make friends, try fish and chips, go to church. And long enough to buy bicycles.

In Cambridge, cycling is one of the most common modes of transportation. Bikes are a very important purchase, because in a large part of the city centre, roads are restricted to cycles, taxis, and buses. We’re also temporarily staying with some new friends who live about three miles from the city centre. So cycling is a necessity. Thankfully, the cycling path is so picturesque, with most of the journey taking you by the River Cam and through some lovely fields. Although yesterday Zach had to cycle off the path to avoid being plowed over by a cow, so the scenery is not without its dangers.

All this to say, I have probably cycled more in the past week than I have in my entire life. The first day of cycling into town, I thought I would just keel over and die, right there on the bike path. When I got off my bike after FINALLY reaching the city centre, my legs almost gave out from under me. I told Zach a few days ago that muscles in my waist were sore. Who knew you even had muscles in your waist?! Well, now I do. Because mine are all angry at me.

Then, Sunday afternoon on our way home from church, I was trying to catch up with Zach and Mark, our host for these in-between weeks before we can move into our apartment. We were over half-way home, and I was completely done. But then we hit a part of the path that had a slight downward slope, and I thought, “Here’s my chance! Now I can catch up!” So I pedaled with everything I had. I was doing okay until it was time to make a hard right turn at the bottom of the hill.

With some sort of odd screeching sound – that couldn’t have possibly been me? – I toppled over onto the pavement, scraping up my arms and dirtying my dress. This kind older gentleman walking behind me ran over to help me up, but I really just wanted to keep lying face first on the pavement where I’d come to a stop. Zach and Mark were there, too, grabbing my (now slightly scuffed up) purse and righting my bike so I could get back on. But now my elbow hurt as well as my thighs, and I was very concerned that I’d ripped a hole in my brand-new leggings (good news! They’re fine!).

So I took a breath, thanked random-stranger-man and assured him I did, in fact, know these people who were holding my purse, and got back on my bike to finish the trip home. I was convinced my elbow was broken – I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic – but just kept repeating to myself what had become over the weekend my cycling mantra, “Just keep pedaling, Emily. If you stop, you won’t be able to start again. Just keep pedaling.”

Thankfully, I did not break my elbow. And, after many more miles on the cycling path, my legs don’t start screaming at me now until at least mile 2.75 of 3. I’m even beginning to pedal faster. But when I do get a bit behind Zach, or when every part of my body aches from cycling all over creation, I just remind myself, “Just keep pedaling, Em. Just keep pedaling.”

This transition will not always be easy for us. I am sure there will be moments where everything within us screams for us to just stop, turn around, and go home. Try again some other time. Or never. But then we will remember that this journey is all part of the Lord’s purposes for us. And we know that through His strength, we can find it within ourselves to just keep pedaling.

Childhood Dreams, Adult Responsibilities

I was apparently no good at geography as a child.

I distinctly remember watching A Little Princess (not the Shirley Temple version, mind you, the other one) and crying big, fat, elementary-school-girl tears at the plight of poor Sarah Crewe as she was forced to work in the streets outside her orphanage. I cried for Sarah, but also for all the poor children who were faced to live and work and beg on the streets – the streets I thought were in England. In fact, I was so moved that I began to tell others that one day, I would grow up and be a missionary to England and save those poor street children.

Imagine my surprise when, while watching the movie a few months ago, I realized that Sarah Crewe lived in New York City! In case you’re no good at geography either, New York City is not in England, dear reader.

The “missionary call” to England did not last into adulthood, but perhaps this childhood dream of moving there, of immersing myself in the culture, of becoming personally acquainted with their griefs, hurts, and joys never quite left me.

So when Zach began to realize that the best schools for his area of study were in the U.K., I had to work hard to contain my budding excitement at the possibility. To squash the hope threatening to well up inside at the very thought of this childhood dream becoming a reality. There were so many steps to take before a life abroad could even be considered. Even as I type this post, only a little over a month before the date that our plane tickets tell us we’ll leave, there are still so. many. steps. Bureaucracy is no joke, y’all.

Through this whole process, though, I have been reminded over and over again of God’s faithfulness. He is faithful in all things, big and small. He is gracious enough to turn our childhood dreams into adulthood responsibilities; what we may see as the silliest of whims, He can use for His purposes and glory. He has been and will be with Zach and me every step of this journey.

He was already working in my geographically-confused, overly-emotional, childhood heart to mold me into the woman I am today, the woman who is about to become a Cambridge wife.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we could ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
Ephesians 3:20-21