Letting Go For Future Promises

My current everyday Bible is a very slim NKJV I received from my mom for my twentieth birthday. Just a few months later I headed off to Oxford for my first semester studying abroad with that Bible in tow. Since its maiden voyage, that Bible has been all over the world, from the States to Europe, Africa, and many places in between.

bible writing

I love my Bible. I love its textured “is it brown? is it maroon?” cover with the slightly chipped gold letters forming my maiden name in the bottom right corner. I love the quotes collected over the past six years creating a patchwork of truth on the first blank pages. I love my mom’s inscription written in her perfect cursive. I love seeing the letter Tim wrote me last summer stuck amidst the Psalms. I love the slightly bubbled pages of 1 Corinthians, aftermath of some rogue rain drops. I love the yellow colored pencil over references to God’s light. I love the sound of the paper thin sheets being turned.

Most of all, I love the underlines. I love the notes crammed in the margins, some completely illegible. I love the dates, denoting a promise or a commitment, next to a poignant verse. All of those brackets, circles, cross references, notes, stars and underlines remind me that God speaks.


He speaks to me. When I invest in His word, He is faithful to reveal Himself. Those markings prove to me that God is personal, alive and active in my heart.

But I’ve become distracted. I read and I linger over the underlines and notes, inattentive to what God wants to show me today. I rely on the familiar for comfort and strength. My notes and underlines that speak life also create traps, snares for the nuggets hidden between the lines.

I’ve decided to retire my beloved Bible for a time. A tabula rasa, if you will, takes its place. When I think to much about the blank pages ahead, I fear that they will remain blank. What if I’ve lost my ability to hear from God? What if God can’t speak to my heart? When that happens, I can just look at the slim spine sitting on my bookshelf and remember all the little piles of stones that reside among those pages, evidence of God’s faithfulness to His people, to me.

Soreness in Your Soul

The gym for your soul

My alarm went off yesterday morning with a steady cadence of groan producing honks. Normally I’m already surfacing by the time it goes off, and my hand is quick to swing over and hit the snooze button before I rouse myself enough to shut the fool thing off properly. This time, I was still cradled snuggly in dream land when my alarm started. Those steady pulses of rakish noise coming from my bedside table sent my heart pumping at an alarming clip as I moved my arm to silence the sound.

The adrenaline coursing through my body from being jolted awake wasn’t strong enough to mask the stiffness I felt as I rolled over and poked my hand out from beneath the warm covers. I could feel every muscle tighten and resist all forms of unnecessary movement. My abs protested when I sat up, a knot in my lower back making its presence known. Up and down my body, muscles I didn’t even know I had ached.

After a week off, I must have been overly enthusiastic at Shake and Tone {my favorite class at the gym}. I was sore, but a good kind of sore. Even though my muscles ache for days, I can always feel my body getting stronger after a week of challenging workouts. I have a sense of accomplishment when I leave a class red faced, breathing hard, and an even more prominent sense of progress when I wake up with sore muscles.

Sore muscles mean I have stretched my limits. Sore muscles mean I have worked hard and long. Sore muscles mean I am growing in strength and endurance. Sore muscles mean that next time around those leg lifts and lateral raises won’t be so difficult.

I willingly put my body through such riggers multiple times a week. I walk into the gym knowing I will spend an hour huffing and puffing. I will dance {it IS called Shake and Tone…}, squat, lunge, lift, and crunch until I’m dripping sweat. I’m never sorry I did it.


I’ve been feeling spiritually sluggish lately and I think I know why. I have neglected to give my spirit the same workout I so willingly give my body. Those sore muscles? I crave the same soreness for my soul.

I don’t want to languish in a convenient faith, making lame excuses for being a couch potato Christian. My faith should be dynamic, my heart pulled taught and straining with the love of Christ. My relationship with God should be growing, stretched until it breaks then rebuilt on a firmer foundation.

When Your Soul is Sore

The particulars of a spiritual workout are still developing in my heart and mind, but here are some of my initial ideas for getting my soul into shape. One thing is for sure – just like keeping in physical shape requires discipline, I know I’ll need a game plan.

  • Wrestle with God – Jacob did it and I want to as well. There is no better opponent to my doubts/fear/anxiety than God Almighty.
  • Lift others up in prayer – Interceding for others is often more healing that praying for yourself. I’m tired of my prayer life being so self-centered.
  • Record how God is working. When people ask, I want to have a ready example of God’s transformative power.
  • Memorize Scripture – What better defense is there then Truth imbedded in your heart. Added bonus: keeps your brain sharp, too!
  • Jump over any hurdles – I shudder to think, “what if I had said no?” for so many things in my life. I don’t want to let excuses get in the way of being used by God.
  • Challenge my limits – My personal best isn’t always the best I can do WITH God. He enables me to see, think, feel, and do things in a different way. It’s time to let God set the standard.

Above all, I know I need to practice. If these things are not put into action, I won’t see results. I’m a bit intimidated by this list, but there’s a spark of excitement too. I can see past the struggle and pain. I can see God molding and shaping a little lump of clay into a sturdy vessel.

I will sweat. I will cry. I will fail.

I will love. I will grow. I will stretch.

And you can bet that my soul will be sore.

GYM { I like via photopin cc } HOOP { Funky64 (www.lucarossato.com) via photopin cc }

Find Your Greatness

One of my sweet joys in life is listening to my husband talk about Jesus with students. I get to hear his passion for Christ and his care and concern for young people spill from his heart every week, especially on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Our youth group is going through Mark on Sunday mornings and last week we were talking about an oft shared story – Jesus feeding the 5,000. As Tim talked about how God is able to do mighty things with our meager offerings, I kept thinking of a certain Nike commercial.

My mind connects dots in a fairly creative pattern, so thinking of TV during a message isn’t out of the ordinary. There’s been some controversy about this particular commercial, but for whatever reason, it really resonates with me. At face value, the message is generically inspirational: anyone can achieve greatness no matter what obstacles need to be overcome – all you need to do is start (Just Do It!).

The commercial speaks of personal greatness, but I think of God’s greatness.

Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is a gift reserved for a chosen few, for prodigies, for superstars, and the rest of us can only stand by watching…

God invites us to partner with Him in ministry, to make His name great. We don’t need to be amazing orators, charismatic leaders, rich and influential, or monks to make an impact on Christ’s behalf.

Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We are all capable of it. All of us.

God’s greatness is displayed in the little things just as much as in miracles. Our daily lives can be a living sacrifice to Him if we choose to let God shine instead of ourselves. We are all equipped to share God’s greatness, one breath at a time.

Five loaves and two fish is far from great, but God can do great things when we are willing to offer what we have. ( <— Tweet this! )

The weight of our sin and smallness may make us cumbersome. Our burdens and brokenness may slow us down. I often limit God because I’m convinced I have nothing to offer. I don’t serve because I think I’ll fail. I don’t talk to that person because I think I won’t have the words. I don’t initiate because I fear rejection.

But, God uses the weary and imperfect; He only asks that we get off our feet and move for His glory – even if they are baby steps.

May we all be willing to be used for God’s greatness, one step at a time.


The Best Author I Know

One thing I love about how God shapes our lives is His uncanny way of creating unforeseen twists and turns in the setting, the plot, and the cast of characters. I’m not talking about major surprises coming out of left field (though He does do that); I’m talking about subtle nuances written into one’s life that weave a story of God’s goodness, His glory, and His perfect plan for us.

The specifics of our story are expertly crafted to work together for God’s greater purpose and our greater good. { <—- Tweet this! }

God - Creator and Pulitzer Prize Winner

When we moved to Idaho in September, I hadn’t planned to work, at least for awhile. Though Tim would have supported me either way, we decided it would benefit our family most if I didn’t work straight away.

Turns out, I really needed that time to process the way our story had been written thus far. So much transition – new marriage, new location, new church community, and Tim’s new job – had been jammed into a few months. It almost felt like God had ended my story and started writing a brand new one.

Maybe in a way He did, but I like to think of it as just another volume in the set on Emily Catherine Gardner – this one entitled, The 9.0 Transition Earthquake.

I’m still processing, however, I’m finally allowing God to pen some joy back into my heart. I may prefer living closer to family and friends, but God has demonstrated time and time again that He’s a better writer than me and I should let Him shape my story. { <– Tweet this! } He’s certainly writing an interesting chapter right now, full of those subtle nuances I was talking about.

I got a job a month ago. The job simultaneously combines one of my favorite things and one of my least favorite things: traveling and talking to strangers. {I’ll let you work out which one is which.} I work for a marketing research company that does impact studies for a few major restaurant chains when they want to open a new location near an existing location. I travel to the site and survey customers.

When I got married, I thanked God that during my 24 years of single-hood I had the opportunity to travel extensively abroad for school and missions. He allowed me to explore the world while I had the freedom to do so. Though Tim is an adventurer like myself, the life of a youth pastor is not conducive to a ton of travel. I had my time of mourning for the end of my major traveling season and left it to God to help me be content in one place.

Not only has God provided a job that helps us along in our goal to be debt free {so close!}, I get to travel a lot! {Boston and Chicago last month and Orlando currently.} The travel bug bites and I no longer have to dose it in Benadryl cream.

{God’s plan – 1, Emily’s plan – 0}

author and creator

My only reluctance towards this job was the necessity of approaching countless strangers. I don’t have much initiative when it comes to talking and I generally avoid eye contact with surveyors in a restaurant or on the street. I figured this would just be the price I had to pay for traveling.

After walking up to almost 1,000 strangers {rejections included}, I have developed more confidence in my social presence. The “go say hi to people” time at church is less intimidating. Giving announcements and demonstrating absurd poses for a game at youth group {that one’s for you, Lindsay} aren’t butterfly inducing anymore.

As a pastor’s wife in a new church, I am so thankful for my new found ability to talk with strangers and be socially assertive. I’m no Chatty Kathy, mind you, and I still feel awkward at times, but I’ve made marked improvement. I’m not sure how else I could have developed that so quickly if it weren’t for this job.

{God’s plan – 2, Emily’s plan – 0}

The things that seem to just happen in life don’t just happen. They are written into the plot for a reason. Often, those reasons aren’t apparent at first. Sometimes they even appear distasteful, like talking to a bunch of people you don’t know. But God is the author and creator of our lives. He is a life-smith with a supernatural ability to write the perfect story for each of His precious kids. { <– Tweet this! }

Ordinary {Five Minute Friday}

God in the OrdinaryI am guilty; guilty of putting God in a box. My perception of God is limited by the dimensions of that box. The only thing that can change the dimensions of my box is joy.

Joy helps me to see the real God, the God who loves with no bounds, who works in intricate ways that often go looked over. My God is sovereign and powerful, yet he created the beauty of our natural world with care and concern. He hand crafted each of us to be unique representations of Himself on earth. God can’t wait to get us back, to develop community in person with each one of us.

My box gets too dull and small, when dissatisfaction distracts me from seeing God in the ordinary of my life. Joy cracks the box, letting light slip in and illuminate the ordinary.

Ordinary glows in the light of joy. Slowly, the box crumbles because it cannot contain the light or the joy. Both spill out with uncontrolled boundaries. That is anything but ordinary.

{photo credit: Cia de Foto via photopin cc}

I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday!