Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tough Stuff Tuesday: Gossip

I recently heard a conversation similar to this before a Bible class was about to start:
Teacher: "Alright, well I think it's about time to get started if so-and-so will finish up."
Person: "Yeah, we gotta quit gossiping and get ready for Bible class."
I was truly appalled by this sentiment. Would we sit in Bible class and then, as it was time for us to dig into God's word, say, "Well I gotta quit looking at pornography so we can get started" or "Guess I should quit cussing so we can start talking about the Bible."

I know you see those two examples as absolutely ridiculous. The thing I don't understand is, why are we so casual when it comes to gossiping? Why do we treat it like it's ok, when Scripture is clear:
"And besides, they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not." 1 Tim. 5:13
Gossips and busybodies....saying things which they ought not. Ought not---are not supposed to. Could the Holy Spirit have been more plain? We are NOT to use our tongues like that. Why, then, do we constantly excuse ourselves when gossip is discussed?

The Bible has so much to say about gossip and the way we use our tongues (ie: this post will probably be long). First, I'd like to examine some New Testament passages, then we'll dive into some Old Testament proverbs. Now, let's get started!
"Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money..." 1 Tim. 3:8
This first reference may seem a little strange to you, but let me explain. While most people commonly overlook the passages that talk about qualifications for deacons and elders unless it is time to select those men to serve, I have tried to live by the rule of 'if an elder/deacon isn't supposed to do it, I probably shouldn't do it.' My aim is and will forever be to be pleasing to my God and a faithful follower and imitator of Jesus Christ. Clearly God wants/expects certain things from the men who will be leaders in Christ's church. If God has told us pretty plainly what type of person that is, why wouldn't I strive to be that type of person? It is obviously acceptable to God if you are that kind of person, so I should strive to live my life that way. Therefore, I will do my best to be reverent, not given to much wine, not greedy for money...and I won't be double-tongued.

When we gossip (and even the worldly dictionaries we use define that as 'idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others'), are we not being double-tongued? Are we not saying things about someone to other people that we probably wouldn't say to that individual's face? Let us strive to be the type of people God intends for us to be, and only use our tongues in an acceptable way. James touches on that in the epistle that bears his name:
"And the tongue is a fire, a world if iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell." James 3:6
There is a way we can misuse our tongues, and when we do--they are being 'set on fire by hell'. What does that mean? It seems to mean that Satan uses Christians' tongues to further his message/cause, instead of promoting peace and love as Christ would.

When we gossip and backbite, we are not just messing up with our tongues. James says that we defile our entire body! Think about the sins of sexual immorality. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said that they should not misuse their bodies in such a way because their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:18-20). If our tongues can cause us to defile our entire body, should we not get the same reprimand that Paul gave to the Corinthians? Stop doing that, because you aren't defiling your body, you're defiling the temple of God! Stop using your tongue to defile God's temple!

The next verse I'd like to look at comes from 2 Thessalonians 3:11.
"For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies."
The word busybodies in the original text (periergazomai) means someone who "bustles about, meddles". Someone who gets unnecessarily involved in others' business is called disorderly, and what they are doing is busying themselves with work which really isn't work at all.

I can think of a lot of different individuals I have known over the years that have busied themselves in the false work of being a busybody. They always know exactly what's going on with someone else, and never cease to share what piece of information they have most recently gathered--with as many people as they can. The Bible plainly says that is disorderly, and like we noted in 1 Timothy 5:13, that's not the way Christians are supposed to act. Instead of 'working' long hours trying to figure out what is going on with every person around you, why not use the information you gather to try to help someone, instead of spreading the gossip all around town? If you find out (and there's a difference in finding out and seeking out!) that so-and-so has run into a certain problem or situation, do what you can to help them! Spend your energy and resourcefulness trying to come up with ways to serve!

The way we use our tongues is such an important aspect of Christianity, and possibly one that we overlook far too often, or at the very least, don't spend nearly the amount of time and attention on that we should. Look at what James had to say in James 1:26
"If anyone among you thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless."
It makes me think about Paul's description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. He says that he can do all of these great and wonderful things, but if love isn't there, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans (clearly that's an Emily paraphrase). The same can be said of the way we use our tongues. Unless we are using our tongues for their intended purpose (to stir up, encourage, exhort), then our religion is useless. All of the "great things" we're doing aren't going to matter because we aren't bridling our tongues!

Let's move into Proverbs now, because the first one I'd like to look at ties in with the concept James introduced.
"An evildoer gives head to false lips; a liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue." Prov. 17:4
When we listen to gossip (aka promote and condone), we are an evildoer and a liar. Wait, why a liar? Think back to what James said: if we don't bridle our tongues, we deceive ourselves. Basically, if we thrive on gossip and tearing others down and meddling in people's lives, we're lying to ourselves if we think our religion is real. We aren't really spiritual if our tongues aren't in check.

As we can see from just these few passages, the ways we use our tongue plays a key role in our spiritual walk. Since there are so many scriptures about this topic, and I've already been writing (and you've been reading) for such a long time, I'd like to invite you back tomorrow for Gossip: Part two.

Friday, July 27, 2012

I'm 15 Today!

On this very day 15 years ago, I gave my life over to Christ. I don't think I've ever put my story in blog form, and in case I look back in 10 or 15 years and feel like I didn't know what I was doing when I was 9 years old, I'd like to be able to read the things that were going through my head.

It was a Sunday morning. Both of my sisters had been baptized not too terribly long before that day, and while the preacher was speaking I decided that I needed to be baptized, too. During the invitation song I walked down front and indicated that I'd like to be baptized. I remember the preacher asking me if I believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. In my squeaky nine year old voice I said yes, and I was whisked away to the preparation room to get changed.

I remember exactly what I was wearing that day. It was my favorite blue dress, kind of slinky, and surprisingly in style since most of my other clothes that my mom let me pick out were absolutely atrocious. I got changed into the outfit, stepped down into the baptistry, and my dad baptized me. After services I was met with tons of hugs and smiles, but I just remember my hair being soaking wet.

There is one thing that really sticks out to me about that day. You see, July 26th is my oldest sister's birthday, so after worship we were all going to my grandmother's house for lunch. I remember very distinctly walking into her house and thinking how cool it was that I hadn't sinned yet.

I know that I had a very limited knowledge of all that Christ had done for me. I know that I couldn't fully comprehend all that I was doing, and just how much I needed this washing of my soul. But I knew what sin was. I knew where sin sent you. And I knew that I once had had sin, and now I did not, because baptism washed it away.

When I'm 80 years old (God giving me that time) and have hopefully reached a much greater level of understanding, I hope that I can look back at 9 year old Emily and be proud of her, knowing that she didn't know everything, but she knew enough.

9 year old Emily saved my life. She wasn't perfect (and I'm still not!), but she knew that she needed a relationship with Jesus. That relationship faltered a lot (and still does!), but she never gave up. I know that I've posted about the time that I really started taking the relationship seriously (you can read it here), but had it not been for the courage and willingness and humility of nine year old me, I wouldn't be where I am today--because Jesus' blood wouldn't have cleansed me then and wouldn't have continued to cleanse me every single day since.

Today, as a 24 year old, I understand a little better--though definitely not as much as I hope to. And today, I am so very thankful for Jesus' blood and the way He has cleansed me and will continue to so long as I live faithfully for Him.

15 years ago wasn't about me inviting Jesus in through a prayer. It wasn't about me deciding I was saved then being baptized to show everyone else. It was about a young girl knowing she had ugly sin stains and so she submitted to what God wanted for her--to be baptized into Christ so that He could cleanse her and she could be added to His body.

When did you become a Christian? Are you still living for Him? Have you become a Christian? If you haven't, I would love to talk to you about it!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Carrying Your Cross

Last Friday was a busy day. The church secretary and I (with the help of a few others) were taking down all of the VBS decorations from the week before. There were cardboard cut-outs and teaching materials and tables and chairs and all sorts of things that needed to be picked up. I was in charge of taking all of the big visuals up three flights of stairs to the aptly named "cardboard room". One of the items I carried first was a large, wooden cross used in one of the classrooms when we talked about Jesus' victory over death.

When I picked up the cross to carry it back upstairs, I was surprised at how heavy it was. It was made of real wood, and there were jagged, rough pieces sticking out as I tried to tuck part of it under my arm.  I made it a couple of steps before the secretary asked me if I needed help. She said, "If we need to get someone else to carry it, we can."

I stopped and thought about it for a second. Sure, the prop was heavy. But then I looked at her and I said, "You know, even if it was more than I could carry, I don't think I could ever complain about carrying a cross for any amount of time."

As I made my way up the three flights of stairs, I thought about Jesus. I thought about the pain He suffered in the scourging and beatings prior to having to carry His cross. I thought about how much larger the cross would have been, and how rough it would have been to the touch. I thought about why He had to carry that cross: it wasn't for anything He'd done. No, the weight came from the sins of the world.

After I'd made it to the top of the stairs, I paused and thanked God for the gift of Jesus. Too often we minimize what Jesus did for us in coming to earth and dying on that cruel cross. I know that far too often I forget about the suffering of my Lord on my behalf simply because I'm not being made to carry a physical cross.

In Matthew 16:24 Jesus said, 
"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me."
Carrying the cross up those flights of stairs was nothing in comparison to the cross Jesus bore, yet it wasn't easy. Why, then, do we sometimes think that Christianity is going to be a walk in the park? Why do we think that it won't require any sort of change or self-denial? Why do we think that it won't really affect our day to day lives? 

Carrying a cross is work. Being a true follower of Christ should be, too. Every day we are to be on guard, ready to stand against Satan. Every day we are to be denying ourselves of worldly wants and pleasures, and seeking first the kingdom of God. Nothing about that screams easy, and yet in comparison to carrying a physical cross to Calvary, it's really nothing. It shouldn't 'burn us out' to do service to our Lord. It shouldn't get us down when we have to skip something that the world deems awesome. We should proudly serve the Prince of Peace who came to this earth and carried a physical cross so that we wouldn't have to. 

If I ever, in my service to Him, find myself discouraged or disgruntled or discontent, I just need to remind myself that the cross that He carried wasn't even His, it was mine.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tough Stuff Tuesday: Why Worry?

When I was in high school, one of my favorite songs was by a then-popular band and the song was titled "Why Worry?" Here are the opening lines:
"Why worry? I wonder all the time, why worry? It's killing me. Forget about it."
Those words hold a lot of truth, though I don't think I paid much attention to them back then. In my adult life (aka the year that I've been married and away from home and living on my own), I've noticed that I spend a lot of time worrying. Recently, I heard a sermon that started off in a very thought-provoking way. Stan Butt, Jr. was the speaker, and he said that there are a lot of things that are talked about in Scripture that Christians just shrug off because "everyone does it". One such sin is worrying.

The Bible tells us plainly, "Be anxious for nothing" (Phil. 4:6), and "Do not worry" (Matt. 6:25), yet we act as if it's a suggestion rather than a command. In Matthew 6, Jesus is the one speaking, and at the end of verse 30 He says, "O you of little faith". When we choose to worry, we choose not to have faith in God our Heavenly Father and Provider.

In James chapter 1, James says that if we ask God for something, He will give it to us liberally. Therefore, when Jesus tells us not to worry about food or clothes or anything else we may consider to be a "necessity", we can understand that because we know that God will abundantly provide for our needs.

Sometimes, though, we just don't believe it. What? You think that's a bit harsh? Well when we choose to worry over something, it sure seems like we don't believe that God will provide. It sure seems like we think we can do a better job controlling something than God can. I only say it like this because I am guilty of feeling and acting this way.

Stan Butt, Jr. went on to say,
"Worry steals today's effectiveness. If you're worrying about yesterday and tomorrow, you're likely missing the opportunities to serve others today." 
That quote hit me right between the eyes. How many times have I been guilty of neglecting something I could do to serve the Lord because I was too busy worrying and agonizing over what could be's and what might have been's. In case you are guilty of letting worry creep into your life and set up shop, I've decided to provide you with the outline that Mr. Stan gave to us.

He said from the outset that you cannot simply stop worrying: you have to replace worry with something else. Basically, worry is a habit. And to break the habit, we have to put something in it's place. Here are his list of 5 suggestions for conquering worry, and a few thoughts of my own to help it makes sense to you.

  • Get your priorities right. Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and all these things that Jesus had been talking about (food, clothing, etc.) will be added unto you. We have no reason to worry if our main focus is God. Mr. Stan said, "Worry is a sign of worldliness." Surely those whose lives are away from God are the ones who worry, because those whose focus is on heaven aren't concerned with worldly cares. 
  • Remind yourself of God's promises. God has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. He has promised to give us every good and perfect gift. He has promised to give liberally and without reproach. He has promised to give us what we ask. Trust in those promises! Maybe you're anxious that you may lose your job or that you cannot get a job to begin with. Trust that God will provide for you, whether you land that dream job or lose that dream job. If your priorities are right, you're studying from His Word. If you're studying from His Word, you know that He will take care of you. When you find yourself worrying, pull out your Bible and read God's promises.
  • Spend time praying. Matthew 7:7-12 gives us a discourse on what will happen when we ask God for something. When you feel that you need something, ask. When you feel nervous and anxious about something, talk to God. When you don't know the outcome of something and it has you all stressed out, talk to God. When something has happened and you can't seem to let it go, talk to God about it. He gives us the things we need when we ask for them. So if you ask Him to help you stop feeling like you need to be in control, I have full confidence that He'll help you! If you ask Him to give you the strength to accept whatever outcome is headed your way, I trust He will! If we are in constant communication with Him about our needs, how will we ever feel that He is not providing? 
  • Start counting blessings instead of troubles. This may be my favorite thing that Mr. Stan said. Whenever I start getting worried about something, I can usually start counting all kinds of troublesome things around the situation. Usually, it's a downward spiral of negativity that goes something like this: Well, if this happens then this will probably happen, which will of course make this happen, and before you know it this will happen and BAM....yeah, none of that ever really comes to fruition anyway. And if it does, God will get me through it. So instead of focusing on all of the things around that could make me worry, I will instead count the things that God has given me. We're all aware that Philippians 4:6 tells us to be anxious for nothing. But then it tells us to make our requests made known to God, WITH THANKSGIVING. How often to we skim right over that phrase? When I am thanking God and thanking God and thanking God, am I worrying about much? Not really. I come away from those prayers with a smile on my face. So when you start feeling worried, start thanking God for all of the things that are going right in your life. 
  • Remember those who have real (not theoretical) troubles and help them. The best way to quit worrying is to do something that gets your mind off it. Find someone who has legitimate troubles (not the kind we usually have that are "this might happen") and go help them. Bake a cake, send a card. Doing something that benefits someone else will make you forget about your own troubles, and will also make you thank God for being able to do those things. 

I want to close with a concept I learned from Dan Winkler in his class Life of Christ. He said, "Don't be an Indian giver with God." Give God your cares and concerns, and trust that He will handle them. Don't "take them over" again, doubting that God can handle it. He is bigger than any situation or circumstance that this life can throw at us.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Camp Rules for Life

Growing up, I attended a congregation that did not go to any huge Christian camps. Instead, our preacher and youth minister took a group of about 100-125 of us to the campus of Freed-Hardeman University where we were able to spend a week with the people that were in our own youth group.

There are so many memories that I could share with you from my years at "Freed Camp". Every year from the time I was in 3rd grade, that first week in June at Freed Camp was a staple. And looking back, I can still envision the piece of paper that Mr. Tim gave to us regarding the camp rules. After all, we had to know what to/not to pack. 

Thinking back, these are the rules that helped shape my life. As a pre-teen, I didn't understand some of them. As a teenager, I didn't especially like some of them. But now, as a twenty-something, I respect and appreciate them so, so much.

1: No electronic devices. Period. We couldn't even bring portable CD players/mp3 players for the 3 hour bus ride up there! Don't even ASK to bring some kind of personal gaming device. Nothing was allowed that would promote time alone. The entire week centered around getting to know and getting invested in the people around you. And if you thought that meant only the people you regularly hung out with, you were mistaken. Preteens spent time with teens, annoying boys spent time with girls that had cooties, teenagers spent time talking to the junior counselors and counselors, and everyone had an age-appropriate Bible class that required interaction. 

One of the problems I see with young people today is that they aren't forming relationships within their youth groups. In order to grow and thrive, you need those relationships. You need to form deep, spiritual bonds with people so that they can help you remain faithful during a very difficult time. Plus, forming bonds with people of every age, and even with people with personalities you might not normally want to--you are learning how to function in Christ's body. As adults, we are very aware that there are certain groups of people we feel more comfortable sitting or conversing with, but as the body of Christ, we are called to all be in fellowship. Learning how to get along at such a young age (when getting along with anyone for an extended period of time is tough) will be such a benefit later in life. 

2: No immodest clothing, at all. No spaghetti straps, no shorts that didn't go down to your knee, no white t-shirts going to or from the pool, no low-cut shirts, nothing tight, nothing see-through. There are two instances that vividly stick out in my mind in regards to "camp attire". Every year before camp I would have to go to Old Navy and stock up on boys gym shorts, because they just don't sell girls shorts that are long enough. But, if you were going to play walleyball or raquetball or basketball or anything else (and you were going to play--group activities were mandatory, even if you weren't athletic), then you wanted shorts. And, unless you wanted to be sent back to the dorms to change, you had to be wearing something appropriate. The other instance that stands out in my mind was when my preacher called out some teen girls and made them go change their shirts. They were pretty low cut shirts, but they had something under them. Still, he said that it drew attention to them and he was not going to have that. All these years later (probably about 10), I still remember that conversation and I still think about it when I get dressed. How important to have people who will challenge young people to dress in a way that reflects their Savior!

Aren't these great regulations for all us to continue practicing? I simply won't wear things that I wouldn't have been able to get away with at camp. Why? Because if I couldn't wear them there, and I wouldn't want for teenagers to wear them now, why would I promote that on my body? Why would I wear something I wouldn't be comfortable with every single person copying? 

3: Spiritual things come first. Every morning we would get together and have some "wake-up" songs by Lonnie (and you better be on time if you don't want to be singled out!), then we'd all go to breakfast together, then we would all come back and have a devotional. After the devotional, we would break up into Bible classes that lasted about an hour. After our Bible class, we came back together and had another devotional, and by that time it was time for lunch. Our entire morning was spent praising and learning about God. After lunch, we had group activities that always had a spiritual application thanks to Lonnie. Then, it was time to play sports or do crafts for a couple of hours, then we would go swimming (separately, of course). After swimming we had dinner (and you had better take modest clothing or else you would not be permitted back into the dining room), and after dinner we had about 30 minutes to shower and then be back for yet another devotional. The majority of every day was spent focusing on the spiritual, as it should be.

What a great lesson for life! What percentage of your day is spent focusing on the spiritual? Maybe Sunday's the majority is spiritual emphasis, but what about Monday through Saturday? How much time are we devoting to prayer? How often do we praise God through song? How many times do we get out our Bibles and study from His word? I know that I can learn a great deal by looking back at the schedule I kept when I was at camp. In my adult life, I definitely need to do better. 

4: You do not act silly when you are praising God. When it was time for devotionals to start, we would have periods of 20 or 30 minutes where we just sang praises to God. During those in between moments when it's oh so tempting to cut up or laugh or yell out the number that you want...we just couldn't. Those moments were precious, because we were offering the fruit of our lips to God. It wasn't a time to joke around or act up. It wasn't a time to sleep or nod off. It was a time to focus. 

I am so thankful that I was taught at such a young age that when it comes to praising God or worshipping Him, it is a time of reverence. In an age where everyone wants to be entertained and "get something out of" worship, what a great thing to acknowledge why you're there--it's not for selfish reasons at all. 

5: Respect your elders. This wasn't a suggestion. If someone older than you came in the room and you had a seat on the couch or in a chair, you got up. If a counselor of any age told you to do something, you did it. There was no such thing as usurping authority, because the threat of making your parents come get you was real (and even happened on occasion). 

In the church today, there are countless people who disrespect the elders. Jesus Christ has given authority to specific ones in the church (and it's His body, so we don't really get a say on whether we like it). Yet some people bash the elders, completely disregard what they say/ask, and speak ill toward them. I wish I could say, "Respect your elders. This is not a suggestion." If they show you something in your life that you need to change, change it. Don't act like the 13-year-old who doesn't think her shorts are too short and defiantly states she isn't changing. Have a heart that wants to submit. 

There are so many other things that I could tell you that I learned from my time at camp. Instead I will close with two valuable lessons that I learned:

 Spiritual people are more attractive. Everyone knows that the camp atmosphere produces severe crushes for young people. The thing is, at a camp like the one I went to, no one was really drawn to or attracted to the person who cut up during class or zoned out or was rude. Instead, the boys in the youth group who were the most sought-after were the ones who would lead prayers or songs. The ones who always brought their Bibles and would talk to you after Bible class to share what they'd learned. 

Why aren't more people interested in dating/marrying spiritual people? Why are spiritual people not the most attractive outside of the camp setting? I am so, so thankful that I learned that lesson so many years ago, otherwise I may have been tempted to go to Freed-Hardeman and find a "man" who slept during chapel or skipped all the devotionals or slacked off in Bible class or refused to be a leader at the Henderson 5:45 student-led service. 

You have a responsibility to those younger than you. I can remember being a 3rd through 7th grader and how fun it was to hang out with the "older kids". I'm sure we were annoying and I'm sure we didn't add much of anything to their camp experience. But wow, did they make mine that much more enjoyable! I remember hearing Mr. Tim talk about how if the older didn't invest in the next generation, the youth group would fall apart. 

I wish this lesson could be taught to every single member of the Lord's body. Take responsibility for those younger than you, because they are the future of the church. If you're 80, teach those that are 60 what they can do to fill your shoes, etc. etc. 

What kinds of things did you learn as a child that you are so thankful to have learned? 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Quotes from My Bible

Last year at Polishing the Pulpit, Robert bought me a new Bible. It has my new last name on it, and it's a note-taker Bible. I was super excited about it, and in the last 11 months, I've made quite a few notes.

On the last page there is room for you to write quite a few things, and I'm sad to say that I recently filled the entire page. I have been so blessed recently to hear some truly amazing speakers, and they have all had things to say that have pricked my heart. So, today, I want to share some of those quotes with you.
"God can forgive you of every sin, but that won't take away the consequences." - Lonnie Jones 
"We have to get back to the Bible. The Doctor has the medicine, but the patients won't take it because it may produce side effects that make me deny myself of things that I want." - BJ Clarke 
"There is a side of God to handle your every hurt." - Glenn Hitchcock 
"You cannot expect to go to heaven if you aren't trying to take the rest of the world with you." - Glenn Hitchcock 
"So many people want Jesus as their Savior, but not their Lord. He's either both, or He's neither." - Cliff Goodwin 
"Jesus never came to save people in their sins. No, He came to save them from their sins." - Cliff Goodwin 
"In order for Satan to win, Christians don't have to be destroyed; they only have to be neutralized by worldliness." - Tim Orbison

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Who Do You Follow?

Last week, one of my best friends (and a fellow preacher's wife) wrote a post about the types of things we call entertainment. If you haven't checked it out, you can do so here. In that post, she challenged me to take a closer look at the things I watch and listen to and call entertainment. Are those things that would please my God? Are those things that I would feel comfortable watching/listening to with Jesus? Sadly, some of my answers were no. 

The more I got to thinking about it, though, the more I realized that it wasn't just the things I watched; it was where my heart was. Immediately, I found myself battling callouses that had formed on my heart. This is an area where I truly struggle, and I hope that you will help me on this journey of bettering myself and calling attention to Christians who are looking too much like the world.

For those of you who are tech-savvy enough to follow my blog (or at least find it on Facebook), I'm sure you're aware of what Twitter is. For those of you who are not so familiar, it's basically like Facebook---except you can only post 140 character status updates--aka tweets.

One of the reasons Twitter has become so popular is because you can 'follow' your favorite sports teams, athletes, actors, comedians, TV shows, news stations, and friends. There are a ton of celebrities on the site, and following their updates makes you feel like you know them on a personal level.

After reading Emily's post, I went to my Twitter to see who I 'followed'. Knowing my heart had been so hardened by the world, it was no surprise to me that I was following openly gay/lesbian actors/comedians, actors who openly ridicule Christianity/Jesus, and people who use coarse, crude language. Once again, I disappointed myself. How had I let myself start looking so much like the world?

Jesus spoke often about people following Him. I'd like to notice just a few passages to help us refocus our lives on Him.

First, let's look at Matthew 16:24.
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.'"
In order to be true followers of Jesus, we have to deny ourselves. Living a Christian life is not an easy thing; it requires a considerable amount of self-control and self-denial. When I choose to be buried in baptism with my Lord, I give up self (Rom. 6, Gal. 2:20). My wants and my desires become secondary to that which my Lord requires. Why, then, do we constantly indulge ourselves with crude humor and tolerance of all kinds of things that God deems abominations? Being a true follower of Jesus means walking in His steps. Consider the people you "follow" and ask yourself if they are walking in His steps? If they are not, why are you following them? Are they not leading you away from Him?

Next, let's notice Matthew 10:37-39
"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."
Jesus tells us that when we put others (even others we are supposed to love) above Him, we are wrong. How much more wrong are we when we put things we are NOT supposed to love ahead of Him? How is it even remotely ok for me to endorse a TV show more than I endorse my Lord? When I promote certain agendas or certain shows known for affairs, homosexuality and the like, how am I promoting my Lord? How am I showing that I put following Jesus ahead of following those things?

Now, look with me at Matthew 19:21. In this passage, Jesus is speaking to the man we commonly call the rich young ruler.
"Jesus said to him, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.' But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions."
While there are numerous applications that can be made about material possessions, think about the young man's response especially. He was sorrowful because he considered the things he had and the things he liked to be more valuable than following after Jesus. Is that sometimes how we feel regarding the TV shows and movies we like?  I have too much invested (maybe six seasons?) to turn away now. Giving myself wholly to Jesus is too much to ask; it would make me too sad to stop watching that show now.

Finally, I want to look at what is to me the most eye-opening passage of all, John 8:12.
"Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.'"
In order to follow Jesus, we have to get out of the darkness. As intelligent human beings, we know that light and darkness cannot exist in the same space. Why, then, do we think we can follow after Jesus (walk in the light) and hold onto worldly things (darkness) at the same time? The two cannot exist together.

We cannot keep "following" people who use profanity and vulgar language, promote or engage openly in homosexuality or extra-marital sexual activity, and mock the Lord's name/cause, and continue calling ourselves "followers" of Jesus. We are either following Him and forsaking all that would hinder our walk, or we are following after Satan. Romans 6:16-18 tells us that we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness, but it is either one or the other, never both.

Today, choose the one that you will follow. I pray that we will not continue following after those whose ways lead to destruction, but will instead choose the narrow path that Jesus trod.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tough Stuff Tuesday: Beating Bitterness

Why aren't more people pricked by the gospel's message? Why aren't there more people filling that front pew when the invitation song is sung? Is it because the church is filled with such righteous, sinless people? Is it because there are none of us who ever mess up in a public way, or perhaps none of us need encouragement from those around us?

I don't think that's it at all.

There are so many in the church today who are living with walls and fortresses around their hearts, and for seemingly good reasons. Because the church is made up imperfect people, those who come and sit on their favorite pew week after week are hurt, jilted, and angry. They are tired of people treating them with disrespect, speaking to them rudely, or spreading rumors about them to others within the congregation.

And so, they start building walls. 'If I don't make myself vulnerable to you, you can't hurt me', some will say. And week after week, year after year, the walls get higher, the bricks more mighty. And instead of keeping other people out of our hearts, we're closing ourselves off from Jesus.

You see, bitterness is a scary thing. It is a highly contagious, fast-spreading poison. It is a creature that oftentimes sneaks its way into your life, buries itself deep within the confines of your heart, and rears its ugly head only after weeks and months of cultivation. Sometimes, before you even realize that it's there, it's woven itself into your heartstrings so tightly that it isn't a quick fix. It isn't something you can get rid of by simply willing it away. It takes time, effort, and an extreme amount of dedication.

So why should we even bother with ridding our hearts of bitterness? Don't we have the right to hold a grudge against someone who has wronged us? Especially if they have wronged us in such a deep, possibly even publicly humiliating way?

Let's look at what the Bible tells us about the sin of bitterness:
"But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there." James 3:14-16
"...lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled." Hebrews 12:15
From just these two places in scripture we see that bitterness is a serious heart disease. It is demonic. It defiles us. It incapsulates every evil thing. These aren't light, easy to swallow words. These words are harsh. These words indicate a very grave subject matter. Simply put, we cannot be people of God and people who hold grudges. We cannot be people of God and people whose hearts are given over to bitterness.

So what is the Bible's remedy for bitterness? If we are not to be people who hold grudges and have bitter hearts, how are we to change? Look at the verses surrounding those mentioned above:
"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." James 3:17-18 
"Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord." Hebrews 12:14
Without peace, we will not see the Lord. And that peace? We are to pursue it with all people. I love the way James illustrates wisdom--the way we are to behave to be pleasing to God:

  • It comes from a place that is pure. Our motives are to be like Christ, not "forgiving them" so we can use them or hurt them when they trust us again. 
  • We are gentle and willing to yield. Sometimes you have to concede and give way to others. When they hurt you, they may never apologize for it. You have to be willing to put your pride on a shelf and yield to them, knowing they are the weaker brother. 
  • We have to be full of mercy (which, as I've heard it stated, is not giving someone something they do deserve--kind of like the opposite of grace). The world may tell us that certain people or certain types of transgressions are unforgivable. We never have to trust them or love them or speak to them again. Ah, but peace is full of mercy. God's infinite wisdom shows us that. 
  • It is also impartial and without hypocrisy. When the Hebrews writer tells us to pursue peace with all people, it means just that. We do not get to pick and choose the people we forgive, or the types of things we forgive. In order to be fully forgiven, we must fully forgive (Mt. 6:14-15) and pursue peace by whatever means we have to.

There is a beautiful way to attain this type of peace, and Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7 exactly how that is possible:
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
When we are in constant contact with our heavenly Father, His peace will guard our hearts and minds. I don't know about you, but when I am at odds with someone, it tends to make me anxious. When something has gone terribly wrong and tempers have flared, it tends to stress me out and make me physically ill. But through inspiration we know that if we will simply talk to our Father about it, He will in turn grant us peace. When someone wrongs you, talk to God. If it is causing you extreme pain and you are feeling especially tempted to hold a grudge and be bitter, pray even more. The more you pray, the more peace you will be given.

I have struggled for a significant portion of my life with bitterness. There are grudges that I have been clinging to for years on end. And, by worldly standards, I may have had the right to hold these grudges. I was legitimately hurt, humiliated, forsaken, discarded, and misused. But that list? That list is nothing in comparison to the way that people treated the only begotten Son of Almighty God when He was on this earth. How did He respond? With outstretched, nail-pierced arms. Why, then, do we excuse ourselves when our attitudes are different? When our attitudes are prideful? Should we not react as Jesus did, with unconditional and abiding love?

Pursuing peace isn't easy, but it is commanded. Letting go of our personal agendas isn't easy, but it is necessary if we are going to have God's agenda. If we are seeking our own will, we aren't seeking His. May we all strive to be people of peace in this self-seeking, bitter world.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Free-for-all: Getting to Know You

While the title would suggest we're getting to know you, we are, in fact, getting to know me. You're welcome. Sometimes I just can't pass up a good The King and I song lyric.

A few years ago (2.5 to be exact), I did a post that included 25 things about me that you probably never knew. You can read that here if you wish. The thing is, though, I don't really fit into a lot of those molds anymore. There were a lot of things different about my life in December 2009. I was a student in college, Robert was my boyfriend...just to name a couple of big ones. So, I've decided, I might as well do another list (and no, it's not at all because I was completely inspired by my amazing writer bff--but, you can read hers here). So, bringing you up to speed on 24.5 year old Emily...

1: I have the most amazing husband in the entire world. He is a wonderful preacher, an incredibly hard worker, mega talented, and that's just scratching the surface. He is so thoughtful and so loving, and he takes such good care of me.

2: There are a lot of things that have helped me grow in the last year, and I am thankful to my Heavenly Father for all of them. It is true that "the testing of your faith produces endurance", and I am so thankful to have learned such valuable lessons. I am still working on "counting it all joy" when I'm neck-deep in those trials, but I trust that my Father's plans are just being worked out in my life.

3: For a long, long time my favorite verse of the Bible has been Psalm 34:18 "The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart...", but I really think that characterized a different time in my life. A time of hurt and healing. A time when I felt broken, and it was such a comfort to know that God could use the broken pieces to make an even better mold. Now, though, I think that my favorite verse(s) are Philippians 4:6-7. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Verse 7 is especially my favorite, because there is nothing better than having your heart and mind guarded by peace of God.

4: I have a job that allows me to listen to sermons all day, hang out with preachers a significant amount of the time, and travel with my husband whenever I need to. God always provides, and that has been manifested this year in the work that I've been able to do. AND, the fact that I'm using parts of my degree is just icing on the cake.

5: The people at the congregation where I attend are some of the best in the entire universe. I never knew that people could be so loving and so caring and so thoughtful. These brothers and sisters have blessed mine and Robert's lives so much, and I am so thankful to be in such a supporting place.

6: I am so blessed to have such an amazing GBF (girl best friend) that gets me, accepts my weird text messages and Facebook messages without judgment, and even flies 4538043 miles to come visit me (and my Nutella).

7: My friends are some of the strongest in the world. Two especially have been through some huge, huge things, and have come out better and closer to God on the other side, and I am so thankful for their strength and their influence in my life.

8: My one-time college roommate and now author, Emily, is seriously becoming such a huge person in my life, and I know that it is because God is actively working in my life. She is such an inspiration to me, and helps me to be a better daughter of God. If you don't read her blog or haven't read her book, The Locket, you need to stop what you're doing and check them both out. You can find her here.

9: We are currently gearing up for Polishing the Pulpit, and if you've never been, I would highly recommend it. There is no week that will recharge and reignite your spiritual fire than that week. It is the highlight of my year. I am so blessed to be able to go, and to have a husband who makes it a priority that we go.

10: There are no words that touch me quite like these: "Just as I am, Thy love unknown, has broken every barrier down. Now to be Thine, yea Thine alone. O Lamb of God I come, I come."


11: I have not had a Diet Coke in almost three weeks. Thank you for being impressed that I'm still alive. It was touch and go for a while.

12: I have almost completed a Couch to 5K program. I mostly hate every second of it.

13: Last year (October?), I cut off about 11 inches from my hair. Then, in January, I cut off about 4 more. Needless to say, it was the dumbest thing I have ever done, and I promise my hair won't get shorter than that for a long, long, long time. I would say will never, but we know that all women eventually succumb to the old lady short hair.

14: I have an unhealthy addiction to sparkling grape juice. I could probably drink the whole bottle in one sitting....and do that multiple times a day. Luckily, I ration myself to like 3 times a year. You're welcome, world.

15: You're also welcome that I don't drink Live Wire year 'round. My sister brought me two to a lock-in that we stayed at with the EH youth, and I haven't been that hyper since high school. Also, I would like to take this time to apologize to anyone who knew me in high school. I was out of control.

16: The Biggest Loser is changing my life, just a few years behind schedule. Since Netflix got the series, I've been watching it. I'm four seasons in, and I already feel like Bob Harper trains me. When I'm running, I think of Bob yelling at them and telling them to sprint the last minute. When I'm about to eat, I feel guilty because I know Bob wouldn't let them eat that. I may be one of the weirdest people you know.

17: I love kid movies so much. The Muppets--hysterical. Despicable Me, wonderful (at least, the parts I managed to see--we did watch it at 4:30am). The Lizzie McGuire Movie--my favorite movie. Don't judge me.

18: I have this crazy-ridiculous cyst in my wrist and it's so creepy and painful. Annnd welcome to TMI time.

19: For my favorite restaurant to be a Mexican place in Huntsville, I only like four things that Mexican restaurants serve: chimichangas, rice, quesadillas and cheese dip. Oh well.

20: I am officially turning into a grown up (finally, at 24). I've started cooking broccoli and cauliflower, and on tonight's menu: zucchini!

21: This year at our summer Bible school, I taught three times and I feel like I could have been a teacher. I would have chosen high school, but I still feel like I could have done it. I loved every second of teaching those kids.

22: I love my two nieces so so so very much, and I also love my adopted nieces and nephews at East Hill. Mostly, though, I love holding babies and making them laugh, then giving them back to their parents. And on that note...

23: I've never changed a diaper.

24: If you have never played the game Quelf, I'm so sorry. It is the most hilarious game in the world.

25: My current go-to drink is Diet Sundrop. That is the saddest sentence in the entire world.

*Also, you're welcome that I decided to do 10 serious, 15 not-so-serious. You would have been reading for two straight weeks had I continued to do all serious.

*Also again, it's Friday the 13th. Spooooky. For that reason I'll tell you a #26--I hate scary movies.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Think Before You Pin

I love Pinterest. At least once every two weeks, I am whipping up some recipe for Robert that I've found through the popular website (the pizza cupcakes were the biggest hit, though I love the greek yogurt cake). If you aren't on Pinterest, you're definitely missing out. You can find everything from recipes to workout tips to movie quotes to decorating tips to photography to weddings to kids' birthday themes and every single thing in between. It's magical.

Unfortunately, the website makes it so easy to "repin" things, that I think we sometimes fail to think through what we're repinning. I love looking through recipes, getting tips for organizing my house, looking at pictures of places I've visited around the globe, and even motivational quotes for running. There is some amazing stuff out there, all gathered together on this lovely little website for my convenience.

But with the good comes the bad.

Every single day that I'm on Pinterest it seems that my friends are repinning skimpy outfits or girls working out with nearly nothing on or pictures of actors with the captions "mmm!" or "lustworthy" underneath. Every time I see one of these things, I have to double check who has pinned it, because it can't be that person I went to Freed with, or it can't be that member of Christ's body. They wouldn't be doing that--they wouldn't like those things.

But, sometimes we just get in a hurry and we don't think about the negatives. We think that something as harmless as Pinterest can't be affecting our influence. After all, we're simply pinning funny quotes or pictures of actors and TV shows we like. What's the big deal?

Philippians 4:8 says,

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things."

I don't know about you, but when I'm "pinning" things, I'm generally meditating on them. I'm salivating over some dessert, I'm thinking of ways to implement a certain technique in my workout, I'm daydreaming of standing beneath the Eiffel Tower with my best friend. I DON'T want to be meditating on lust, on immodesty, on profanity, and the like. I definitely DON'T want people to think I condone such things. And please, don't get me started on the disrespect we're showing our husbands and future husbands by objectifying men and lusting over them. I would HATE for Robert to be looking through things I've pinned and find a board labeled "mmm!" with pictures of barely clothed, attractive men. What I'd hate MORE than that is finding a file on his computer titled "mmm!" with pictures of attractive women in it. That would make me feel terrible, insecure, unwanted, and just not good enough. Why would I ever want to invoke those same feelings on him? He's my husband! I'm supposed to make him feel safe (Prov. 31:11).

I have a hard time with this--especially on Pinterest where it's so easy to just save it to my board, but I'm doing my best to condition myself to "abhor what is evil; cling to what is good" (Rom. 12:9).

Please, sisters, help me out with this. Let's all take a Pinterest inventory and an inventory of our hearts, and make sure they're reflecting the same things. And if we see something on our boards that God doesn't want in our hearts, let's be willing to change.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tough Stuff Tuesday: Are We Not Ashamed?

It has been entirely too long since I've posted, and for that I am incredibly sorry. I haven't made this a priority as I should, but I am vowing to change that inasmuch as I can help it.

There has been a topic on my mind for a few weeks, and a couple of nights ago I had a dream about it...sort of. You see, I dreamed that I was asked why I hadn't blogged about such an important topic. When I woke up, I was like...uh, I guess I should post something about this?? So here I am, posting about a topic that has even invaded my subconscious.

I'm sure you've heard these two words recently: Magic Mike.

Normally, I would just leave a worldly movie alone. After all, we would have to leave this world to escape worldliness and perversion. Unfortunately, we live in a Satan-dominted world, and there are people who are sex-crazed and selfish and want their desires fulfilled on the big screen. So normally, I'd just say, "Well, I definitely won't go see it" and that's that. I don't think about it again.

But this has become a phenomenon. I have seen status after status after status about "Magic Mike" and pin after pin after pin about Channing Tatum (actor from Magic Mike--and yes, I am addicted to pinterest). The thing is, these pins and these statuses aren't from worldly people. These statuses (or Facebook tags that show me that you're actually sitting at the movie theater) are from "Christians", and I'm sorry, but I really have to use the word in quotes.

I have no desire to even google this movie, but I did find some stats on First and foremost, the movie is rated R, and shouldn't we all just purpose in our hearts not to see R-rated movies? But, if you get past that, please look at some of these sobering reports:

Imitative behavior--extreme
Inappropriate music--extreme

And those are just the "extreme" aka can't get any worse than this categories. Now, personally I've seen enough. Why on EARTH would I want to see this movie? I wouldn't even want to be talking favorably about the movie even if I had no intention of going. It looks disgusting. It sounds completely inappropriate for any sanctified individual, and yet, we have people who are struggling with the temptation of getting involved with this worldly, sensual movie.

Let's move to the Bible. Jeremiah 6 has some pretty sobering words; sentiments that sound an awful lot like he's talking to people today. Take a look at what Jeremiah says:

"Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying 'peace, peace!' when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush." (13-15)

If we even think about the movie Magic Mike, we should be blushing. We should be ashamed to post things about it or be tagged in photos or statuses about it. We should be ashamed to be associated in any way with such a vile, perverted movie. It's a movie about male strippers, after all! And don't even get me started on the hypocrisy of it all....

But think soberly about what Jeremiah said. These people were not ashamed when they committed abomination. They didn't blush when it came to sin. They were calloused. Their hearts were hardened. Sadly, that is what our country has come to.

Jesus' words still ring true: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matt. 5:8)

That is such a positive statement, but wouldn't the negative be true. Those who are not pure in heart are not blessed; they shall not see God. That is a scary, scary thought. The only goal we should have should be to get to heaven. If we miss heaven, we miss it all! How sad to put some worldly, fleshly movie above our desire to go to heaven.

I am in no way perfect. I have worldly things that I, unfortunately, place before God at times. It is my desire and my prayer that we will all put whatever it is that is getting in our way behind us, and focus solely on being pure and seeing God one day.

There are so many other topics, and I will have to continue them another day. Until then, pray for all of the Christians out there who may be tempted to give in to worldly pressure and fleshly desires.

*Also, after writing this, I found a few more interesting articles about this. I really enjoyed this one, though I don't agree with everything that is said. It's a very good, thought-provoking article for Christian women/wives: read it here. Cindy Colley also wrote a post with some very powerful Scriptures listed. You can read that one here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Must-Tell Monday: Anniversary Edition

I just love my husband so much! We had a very low key, perfectly wonderful anniversary. It was absolutely everything I could have possibly wanted and then some! We had so much fun together. Nothing too out of the ordinary--nope, just enjoying each other and celebrating the love that's gotten us this far.

For your viewing pleasure, I've included a few (phone) photos from our weekend. Enjoy!

Thank you, dear stranger, for asking if you could take a pic of us. It is always a nice gesture, though it kind of makes me nervous to hand my phone to a complete stranger. Also, when they make the picture blurry, I can't say "Oh, can you just take one more?" I'm completely incapable of doing that. 
The view from our hotel. Beautiful downtown Nashville in the background. What you can't see is the GiGi's just a block away. 
Enjoying a night up on the patio of the hotel.

Hanging out in front of the biggest bronze doors in the western world--aka hanging out at the Parthenon in Nashville, which just happens to be where we got engaged. 
The now-annual anniversary pic! Where we were a year ago. 

And also, I would like to take this time to let Robert know that I WAS correct, and our top tier should have been significantly smaller than it was because this is how our year-old cake tasted....

It was a good time, though. Best July 8th we've had so far! 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

It's Been a Year

One year ago today, my life changed forever. A little after 7pm on July 8, 2011, I made a commitment to God and to Robert, vowing to be faithful to my new husband from that day forward. It was a big deal. It was a huge day. And here I am, a year later, living to tell the tale.

Today, Robert and I celebrate our one year anniversary. In some ways, it doesn't seem possible that we've been married a year, and in others, that fateful Friday evening seems like decades ago. Alas, it has been a year, and a remarkable one at that. I heard a lot of things before I got married: "being married is soooo different", "living with a boy is sooo different", "the first year is the toughest", "you only think you know someone until you get married", etc. etc. While being married a year isn't that much in comparison to some, hitting this benchmark makes me feel like I can offer a very limited number of words that may benefit someone else who may be getting married soon, may have only been married a few weeks/months, or may be nostalgic for the days of young love. Whatever your lot, continue reading. If you disagree, you can always comment below. =)

In the past year I have learned a lot--about myself, Robert, cooking, and life in general. Here are some random observations I have noted, take them or leave them.

1: Drama is ok, as long as it makes you closer to your spouse. Regardless of what goes on around you (and you'll never be able to control it), as long as you cling to your spouse for dear life, you will make it out on the other side better off than you were before. 

2: If you marry your best friend, you aren't in for many surprises. I won't say you aren't in for any surprises, because there are just some things you don't experience until you're married to someone and living with them. But, people nearly scared me to death before I got married saying that Robert would be "so different" and that things would "change so much". Well I'm here to tell you that, nope, that hasn't happened. I knew Robert well enough before we got married that there weren't a lot of weird quirks to find out about "after it's too late"--others words, not mine. We communicated very well and very frequently prior to marriage, and that has helped us out tremendously. 

3: Spend tons of time together. Moving to Pulaski was very different for me, in that I didn't know a lot of people and didn't have any good friends to spend all of my time with. Robert and I have spent the majority of the last year by ourselves. I mean, obviously we do things with others and we worship with others and work with others, but any "free time" is usually just us. We take trips, go on dates here and there, find fun things to do together...and that's helped us a lot this year. I know it won't always be like this, and I wouldn't want it to be. But for the first year of our marriage to be spent focusing on the "cleaving" part--I think it helped us out so much. 

4: Don't sweat the small stuff. I feel like I've heard that one before. Anyway. If you're like me (and I'm sorry if you are), you may not have a ton of domesticated skills prior to marriage. I could only cook about three things: grilled cheese, pancakes, and chicken and rice. When we got back from our honeymoon, I nearly set the kitchen on fire (ok, so it might not have been that dramatic, but I know I ended up in tears in my new husbands arms). You know what, though? It didn't matter one bit. Robert and I have figured out living on our own together. We cook, clean, do the laundry, do the dishes, and take out the trash in our own way that works for us. We didn't have these preconceived ideas of how it should go, we just made it up as we went. Neither of us were "prepared" to be a spouse, but we worked it out together and it's been so much fun! 

5: Get away sometimes. We have a had a few occasions to simply get out of dodge, and it has been wonderful. It doesn't have to be extravagant or well-planned, just time away from the everyday stressors does wonders. 

I know that most of these are superficial or even too vague for you to really grasp, but these are just a few things I've noticed in the last year that I'd like to keep in mind as time progresses. Looking back, I am so thankful that 20 year old Emily had enough foresight to snatch this amazing man, because I cannot imagine being happier than I am right now. Robert is the most incredible person I know, and he is an amazing husband to me. I am so thankful to live with and be married to my best friend; it has been so fun and so rewarding, and I love him with every single piece of my heart.