Monday, December 30, 2013

all sorts of birthdays.

Whew, it's practically the 30th.

How was everyone's Christmas? Ours was good. It was very bittersweet, because it was our first Christmas without Grandpa, but the Lord saw us through. Here are a few pictures from this past week and various celebrations.

We'll start with... Christmas Eve!

We continued our tradition that began last year by spending it at our church's evening service and then spending the rest of the evening with the Lenhart's.

Christmas morning our family exchanged our presents, 2/3 of us took a nap, & then we went to join our crew at Grandma's up the street for the rest of the day.

My cousin Nathaniel & I sporting the gear we had just received. KSU & sunglasses & cousin love. :)

On our way to Grandpa's cemetery.

After dinner, presents, & a visit to the cemetery, we played games for the remainder of the day. My Uncle & I were on a team together & beating up on everyone else - here he is with my glasses & his game face on.

On Friday afternoon, my oldest brother & his fam arrived. Austin & Jamisyn were playing with some of their presents in the picture above.

That night they both piled in & had a sleepover in Aunt Emilee's room! That toothless grin on the left makes me melt.

Last night as we were preparing for dinner, my sister-in-law, Tonya, & I came upstairs to get comfy. J-girl followed me into my room & found my Jesus Storybook Bible. "Can you read this Bible to me, Emilee?" Yes, darling, I would love to.
After dinner, the gals congregated in the dining room to play Dutch Blitz and Scrabble before the big KSU game.
This afternoon we sent them off after a morning at church and a cold afternoon of shopping.  
Today marks two special birthdays... {although I've discovered several other friends' birthday on the 29th!}
First, we'll share Miss Makenna's! She is TWO today! Can you believe it, treasures? Love that lil' light bunches.
Doesn't that lil' pink marshmallow make ya happy? Last Sunday we all met at a nearby park & I took lil' light on her first sledding adventure! 'Twas a happy afternoon.
...& last but not least tonight we went to celebrate Auntie Diane's birthday! We love her to pieces and here is one of her fun cupcakes that we enjoyed.
Now, if you'll excuse me... I have a date.
Sweet dreams, treasures!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

ready or not.

What if I'm not ready, Lord?

I'm not ready to feel this way, I'm not ready for Christmas, I'm not ready for January, or my birthday come February.

What have I been doing, anyway? I get so caught up in what I have to do, I forget about the One I'm doing it for.

Do you want some news, dear self? You don't have to make everyone happy. You don't have to make cute handmade gifts for everyone or write Christmas letters or pretend like you're someone you're not to celebrate Christmas.

See, dear heart? Steady yourself. This isn't a performance, this isn't a race - this is the good fight.
Those things that stress you out and make you tense - when you're not someone's best friend or when you still need to work on all of your Greek homework - it's because you're striving to be good enough. Yes, you should do those assignments, but first - don't make those things define you. You're human and so is everyone that hurts you. Rest. Revel.
That Momma was unloading her dishwasher and I sat at her kitchen counter speaking with her and tending to her kiddos. We've been talking about high school and mean kids a lot lately. She flashbacks to those days and I bring some of the painful present to the table. "In these situations, " ones that she still finds herself in these years later, "I often feel like I am either too much of something or not enough." That's it. I'm striving to be good enough - for everyone. The Pastor, my friend, talks about the audience of One from the pulpit and I cringe. That's what I need. Because, once we start performing for the audience of One, we aren't footwork first and heart second. The audience of One first perfects the heart before the footwork creeps in naturally somehow. If I was more concerned with what the Lord thought of me than everyone else I wouldn't be worried about keeping busy all the time - I would be more concerned about sitting with Him. I would be more concerned about seeking His will above all the doubts in the back of my head. I would choose to walk in what He has revealed to me instead of asking for something a little bit more convincing.

The snows fall and I cringe, yet again. It's Christmastime and I don't have my act together. Again.

"...a few snowflakes were finding their way down, and the sky had the appearance of being so overcharged as to want only a milder air to produce a very white world in a very short time..." -Jane Austen, Emma.

It's beautiful. I love it - I just don't think I'm ready for more wrapping paper, anymore tearing of my heart, or for this new year that is supposed to FEEL like a new beginning.

"God does not wait for the world to get ready, He enters right into the mess." -Katie Davis.

Somehow, I have it twisted in my mind of how perfect the first Christmas was. Hello! Earth to Emilee! Joseph and Mary had been traveling for such a long time, they finally arrived in Bethlehem as Joseph yawned, they found no room to rest their heads, and as Mary enters labor they find shelter in a barn. There was a lot of awe that night, but when did we get the idea that it was silent? 

Mary didn't have her bag packed ready to go to the hospital and Joseph wasn't ready to deliver the Savior of the world. Mary grimaced in pain and the angels started to rejoice.

"He's coming! The Baby is finally coming!"
In that dirty barn, a prophesy was fulfilled and history was forever changed. It was just Mary, Joseph, and God. God was becoming a man as Joseph found a rag to wrap Him in and Mary wipes the sweat from her brow. She had just delivered the Deliverer.
Do you think she was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared for all the trip to Bethlehem would hold? I don't think so. I do know, that she pondered all of this in her heart. When strangers started coming to visit, there was no front desk to check in to. The wise men just came and the shepherds started rejoicing without anyone's permission. Mary didn't tell Joseph to push them away. She knew she would have to share their Baby Boy with the world. She knew that someday a sword would pierce her own soul, too. It wasn't an easy Christmas and I wouldn't hold your breath until you find one. Christmas is hard... when you're anxious, grieving, tired, and not ready for the new year.

"He doesn’t mind that I am not ready yet and He doesn’t mind the wretched condition of my heart or the stench of my sin. God’s time is now and He enters into the mess, ready or not." -Katie Davis

It doesn't matter if I'm not ready.
God is ready. He is ready to lead me and walk with me in each new day. The first Christmas wasn't a white one or a glamorous one - it was a messy and glorious one. Which would you choose? Glorious or glamorous?
Stop putting every stressful and lovely thing upon your shoulders. Don't let everything you're not going to get done eat at you and beat you up. Walk with Him and allow Him to show you the way. He has promised that He would tell you if you need to walk to the right or to the left. Just rest and listen. Revel in the Holy Spirit's presence. It's easier said than done to trust and to listen to God's will first above everyone else's noise, but what better way to try than at such a time as this? After all, He's ready and waiting for you.
Jesus, show us how to ponder Christmas and prepare for the new year in the way that you would see fit. We love You.  
To read more of Katie Davis' thoughts that this post sprung off from, click here.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

snowy explorations.

TREASURES! Students, how is YOUR break going so far? It's snowing, friends. I'm currently messaging a camp bestie and watching the snow fall outside from my window seat. It looks awfully beautiful from this HOME of mine. ;) I'm stinkin' excited about my break. It has kicked off very happily. I just tweeted about a few of my favorite plans: "Writing & reading in this thing called free time. Coffee dates. CHRISTMAS! Family. Virtual camp bestie party. Snow." I'm here now, though, to share with you a few fun memories from today! Auntie, Uncle, Momma, Dad, and I went on a mini-roadtrip to explore some unique shops in some fun little towns farther away than we go on a monthly basis. We had a blast and it was just a breath of fresh air to not have an agenda. A few presents in mind, but no hurry. Ahhhh. Giggling. We do a lot of that, but I'm sure you couldn't tell. At the front end of our trip, thanks to SnapChat! *insert picture here of a cute shop that I can't wait to revisit that blogger won't let me upload. sad face.* The inside of this shop just topped of the whole Hallmark movie feel of the day. If I lived near this town, I would barely ever do school at home. They had some spectacular cozy coffee shops and restaurants. The best one was in a Christian bookstore. HUGE PLUS! Looking forward to the day we go back. I have contradicting emotions about mistletoes. Point to be soon proven. Hey boy... After our shop explorations and our toes were frozen, we decided to head for home in the snow storm. It took us over two hours when it should have taken us one or less. We just prayed our way through it! We were very happen to see those lighted snowflakes and wreaths around our town square. It was a fun time had by all and the perfect way to begin this break that will speed by all too quickly. With that, dear treasures, I need to be on my way to hit the hay just in case church isn't cancelled due to the still-falling huge snowflakes! Until next time, Emilee

Friday, December 20, 2013

home here or there - as long as it's with Him.


That word sitting up there all by itself stirs something in me that is hard to grasp. More than words to be described, it’s a feeling to embrace - this home.

Several months ago I started several pages in my journal with bold letters at the top to add more or less later on of further ideas on the topic. What does the page left with the least ink say?

“Home is…”

What is home to me? Is it biblical? Is it meeting a certain person’s eyes? Is it that several level house on the corner with sparkling Christmas lights?

Home is a hundred places and a thousand faces to me. There is a little bit of home for me found in my comfy bunk in my favorite cabin and there is a little bit of home I still visit in my mind from time to time in the town that I detested. There is a little bit of home in the kudzu lined roads in Mississippi and the boring landscape of Iowa. There is a whole lot of home in my favorite street in this town of mine. The shore of Lake Victoria greeting us with a surprising breeze and the intense sun beating down on our faces - that was a little bit of home.

That still doesn’t answer my question. What is home to me? I suppose home to me is every puzzle piece that is a part of my life story, even the pieces it hurts to revisit like the memories of rejection and funerals.
The pieces that comfort me when I have an aching heart, the places I check into mentally if I can’t be there physically.  
All of these places and faces - everything that is home to me - have made me who I am. Movie nights with my family in Illinois and those sleepovers in Mississippi with my best friend talking about boys until we fell asleep. Sitting on our Victorian house’s front porch with my Bible after a long day being away from home or curled up in a lawn chair on the front patio at our house in that subdivision reading my favorite book series with a cup of coffee. Maybe it's not a specific place, but it's the feeling of home that met me in those places. It’s all part of my story.

No one has asked me specifically where my hometown, except Facebook of course. The funny thing about Facebook? They will only let you name one hometown. Hence, I don’t have one on my profile. Somewhere down the road when someone does ask me, I’ll name Clay town. When I answer, though, my head will be spinning with thoughts of small town Iowa and rural Mississippi. The pieces that not just anyone wants to hear about.

With Christmas just days away, there is a lot of buzz on whether this family or that other family will be ‘home’ for Christmas or not. It’s a wonderful conversation starter, but it’s a burdening question. Biblically, will you be home for Christmas?

“Jesus answered him, 'If anyone loves me, he will keep My word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.'” -John 14:23

With much excitement, I rode home on December 1st from Illinois knowing that I would be home for the rest of the month in my beloved Kansas. Somehow, though, it’s been hard to get excited for Christmas. I will be ‘home’, but something seems off. Something is missing. Maybe it’s because I really miss my friends. Maybe it’s because I need to kneel beside the King babe lying underneath the care of His heavenly Father, virgin Mother, and forgiving earthly Father - and that shakes a person’s pride in a big way. It’s quite possibly both. On earth, the Lord gives us tastes of home when you look in someone’s eyes or when you are invited into someone’s home like they really desire you to be there. You can’t deny, though, that at the end of the day - especially when loneliness creeps in - you realize that it doesn’t ultimately matter where you are, even if that place brings comfort to you. You still desire something else & it bites at you like an annoying mosquito until you feel like you can catch it with your own two hands.

We were not originally made for all this mess. We weren’t going to have broken homes or families or lost hope. Adam and Eve ruined that one for us due to the serpent’s lies that so often make it into our own hearts. Ever since the fall, there is a lot of emptiness. I like to fill mine with silly temporary things. I hide in my loneliness and prefer to stay there rather than to risk getting hurt again. There is a desire for so much more and the fact that we can’t fully grasp all of this mess and glory braided together in the Redeemer’s name before we reach His kingdom drives us mad. We take our eyes off Jesus and we lose hope.

We can’t afford a lot of things this December, friends - but we do not have any room to waste our money on satan’s lies when we can’t afford to miss what Jesus has for us as we enter this new year. We’re strangers here and we need a Savior, a Best Friend, to come in and sweep us off our feet.

I recently dug out Tenth Avenue North’s album ‘The Struggle’ from my c.d. collection. It is so good for my soul. During Grandpa’s cancer battle I would sing these anthems on a daily basis. It’s amazing how the lyrics still apply to me this time around, but this time it’s with a few different battles.


As I was flipping through the pages of my Bible this evening in search of something to slow my heart, I skimmed several chapters in the Old Testament. What I noticed and was reminded of in that short amount of time was that whenever God talks about bring His people into the promised land - their home - it often follows with, "I will be their God and they shall be my people."

I found it. That, friends, it wherever home is. Yes, it's Kansas, family, the places you can be yourself, and wherever your WiFi connects automatically - but our real home in Christ is with the Father. For now, we're strangers in this sinful, lonely land, but we have the companion of the One that knows about that very sin and covered it all with His own blood so that we all could make it home to Him.

“I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I have to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” -Ezekiel 36:24-28

You better know that this Christmas - I'll be home. THAT is something to get excited about.

I got treasure up in heaven; I got dirt all over me,

Thursday, December 19, 2013

summer in december.

Tonight I'm taking a break from all my Christmas present preparations and simply reminiscing over my summer.

What triggered this sentimental occasion, you might ask? Frozen lemonade. As you know, I worked at a camp in Iowa for a month this summer. During that time, one of the VERY important things I missed out on was my fair favorite - frozen lemonade. Recently we found it in the freezer section of a store in the Little Apple. I jumped up and down with excitement. Of course, it means a lot more to me than just lemonade. It's walking around the fairgrounds with flip-flips on and getting dust on your toes. It's the catchy annoying country music playing in the background & the small talk you make as you pass people you know. I did miss out on that and so much more. I can't get that back, but to make myself feel better.... I slipped on my usual summer style, pulled my hair into a messy bun, and I watched all the musical performances in High School Musical 2. Joyfully I am still working on my lemonade.

While at camp, my besties and I sang musicals whether we passed one another in the barn, were doing dishes together, or making the fun walk home after a long day on our feet. The one musical that we sang the most was High School Musical 2. We indeed needed to 'Work It Out' so here's what we often sang:


So, how was camp? Camp was exhausting and emotionally frustrating. While being on my feet from 6AM to 8PM everyday was not exactly my cup of tea, it was easy to rely on God so much more than I do in the comfort of my own home.  I cried homesick tears more times than I'd like to admit, but I know now that the Lord used it all for good. It was a blessing to have such a diverse camp family - no matter how crazy they drove me some days. It was a hard month, but I learned so much. I got to watch the Lord provide the perfect people for me at the perfect times. From a visiting mother of nine that stayed up late talking to me about my dreams of a large family to talking about a junior camper about Africa... from a shooting weekend with a close friend on staff to sitting at the picnic tables talking with my best pals... The Lord didn't send a single person to camp an hour early or an hour late. He gave me the cabin to myself when all my sweet roomies went home for the weekend and old friends to come visit... nights staying up way too late than I should have on the phone either talking or texting... memories of snow cones and movie nights with besties before my departure... It really was a good summer. Looking back, it takes my breath away. It was confusing, ironic, anxious - but it was also completely God-orchestrated and sincere. He truly can bring beauty out of everything.
There's my touch of summer in December, folks. Here's to sharing more precious camp memories in the future!
Until then... I need to go write a few stories and listen to those songs that bring me back to the Kansas heat, rocking my shades, and our windows rolled down cruising my favorite town.
For an extra smile, here's the link to Disney's new movie Frozen's snowman singing about his dreams of summer: In Summerrrrrrr.
Thankful for memories that continue to make me smile and the lessons & people that the Lord will never let me forget.

Monday, December 16, 2013

dear dietrich bonhoeffer...

Happy December, y'all!

Awhile ago I finished the book Bonhoeffer. *tear*
It was a very sad day, but it was also an exciting one. I could say so much more about this book, but I hope this letter will give you a glimpse into some of my thoughts. A book whether nonfiction or fiction can absolutely change your life. It can comfort an aching heart and become a good companion. This is Bonhoeffer to me.

Dear Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

You lived and died many years ago. In fact, right now in 2013, you have been gone for sixty-eight years. I am very confident in the fact that you are now alive more than you ever were. You have written many books and many books have been written about you. I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised, but there is much controversy about you and your involvement in the unsuccessful conspiracy over killing Hitler. Although, most people know very little about you and, like most things, they judge all too quickly. I first saw your book at the bedside of the parents of some of the children I was watching. I read only the few words describing you being, “ Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.” To add to the excitement and intrigue that those words instilled into me, this book is thick. It is over five hundred pages. Before long, I purchased this book written by Eric Metaxas a few days after Christmas with a gift card to the Christian bookstore. I started reading this book simply titled with your last name in a grocery store parking lot and just most recently finished it on my front porch, eleven months later.

I loved this book through and through, but I vividly remember reading about your childhood. I peaked inside the windows in your large home to watch your Mother lead you and your siblings to the Lord and your Father supporting her; never leaving her side. When you were only thirteen, you knew that you wanted to be a theologian. The day I read that chapter, I was that very same age. That made me smile. From the very beginning you didn’t mind that you were different from what everyone else’s expectations for you were. You were more concerned about what the Lord saw in your heart and your life than what the people around you thought looking from the outside. I don’t know if I totally agree with everything you said. How can one completely agree with another, anyway? I believe, however, that you followed long and hard after the Lord in all circumstances. This is one of the many impressions about you that will continue to stagger into the pages of my own life, I hope and pray.

Your book, or rather this book about you, became my security blanket. It is bittersweet that I have finished it although I am thrilled I finally did. It is bittersweet because I took ‘you’ everywhere. I took you to my Grandpa’s radiation appointments {he is now in heaven, close to you}, I took you on a million road trips, I took you to camp, and I took you along in my purse even if I knew I would never get the chance that day to open those pages. Your words continue to linger in my mind weeks after I have finished this book. In fact, I cannot wait to read this book again. Your words were rich. I got lost in how people rightfully so admired you and what they wrote to you or about you. Your perspective, I have found, lines up with mine as well. In the areas that we didn’t line up, I was comforted simply by the fact that even among your ‘Christian’ acquaintances, you were willing to stand up for what you saw to be true and righteous. You loved people and you ministered effectively. You weren’t worried about either Protestantism or Catholicism. You were concerned about being biblical and godly. You fell in love with Maria and loved her to the best of your ability until your dying day. The day they came to arrest you, the day they came to take you to your death, you went willingly and joyfully. Thank-you for teaching all of us, especially me, so many life lessons. I may not remember all the words you said, but I will remember how you inspired me. How you will continue to inspire me. Countless time in this past year when life was hard and lonely, I came to Jesus in prayer and my Bonhoeffer book. You encouraged me to spend more time in the Word and more time on my knees. Even though your companionship came to me only through paper and ink, in some sense, you became a good friend to me from page to page, chapter to chapter. Peace was dared, encounters were pondered, costly grace was chewed on, and love letters were exchanged. Dietrich, I believe I will meet you in heaven someday and I am indeed excited about praising the Lord beside you and the rest of His kingdom. In the meantime, I look forward to meeting you in pages of some of your own books as soon as I can get my hands on them. Until that someday comes when I meet my Jesus face to face, I am excited to live obedient in my walk with Christ and learning to do life together until my
prologue is over. 

Ready to read Bonhoeffer yet, folks? You should. Hope y'all are having a splendid Christmas season so far. We'll talk to you soon, treasures.