Today, Emily speaks to us about how God speaks to her, processing pain and disappointment, observing Sabbath and books you will want to add to your list.
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, and I’m the oldest of 3 kids. My father worked in business, and my mother worked as a dental hygienist. We attended a local United Methodist Church, and we attended private Christian schools. (Yes, I wore red and navy plaid jumpers for 12 years in a row). We spent most of those hot Texas summers at the neighborhood pool trying to stay cool.
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: I’m learning how to process pain and disappointment. I’m learning to acknowledge, feel, and navigate emotions like anger and sadness. I’m also learning to place my identity completely and solely in being a beloved daughter of God, and not in earthly things (possessions, accomplishments, or relationships). I’m learning how to be free from the fear of man and the opinions of others. I’m learning how to receive my identity from the Word of God.
“I’m learning how to receive my identity from the Word of God.”
If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be?: “Chasing Rainbows” (though, I think Judy Garland already took this one) I love rainbows. For me, rainbows symbolize God’s faithfulness, and I frequently see them in moments when I desperately need to know that God is with me and that He sees me.
When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? I first encountered Jesus in the middle of a powerful prayer of repentance led by a dear friend on a Friday evening while I was working on a Disney cruise ship as a performer in 2013. During that prayer time, I experienced my first vision of Jesus and Him meeting me in the most painful places of my story. I tangibly encountered and received the Holy Spirit. Jesus suddenly became real; Christianity was no longer a childhood fable. I had encountered the Comforter, the Counselor, the Living God.
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season?
1. Spending time in the online prayer room of our church (Church of the City New York). They have 4 different hours of the day you can tune in and pray with others! (Pray.nyc) Allowing myself to be encouraged by the prayers of my brothers and sisters has really blessed my spirit. This has included a lot of meditating on the Psalms.
2. Honoring the practice of Sabbath. For me, this involves planning for one day a week when I turn off my phone and take a day to refrain from any work related activity. I’m not perfect at it, but when I honor the weekly rhythm of resting for a 24 hour period, the difference in my overall well-being is disproportionately better than when I do not. We weren’t made for non-stop productivity!
3. The Bible Project. Their videos and resources have helped me learn so much, and have especially helped me as I dig into the Old Testament.
4. The Chosen Series. Wow. If you haven’t watched this, I highly recommend it! Their interpretation of the gospel stories is SO powerful, and have really helped me visualize these gospel accounts.
Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): To Be Told by Dan Allender. The book is all about making sense of our stories and giving words to our experiences so that ultimately we can become healthy and whole human beings who live well. It’s taught me the importance of processing the losses and disappointments of our lives, so that we can heal from our wounds and move out into the world from a place of health.
Top three essentials:
VSCO photo editing app
How did God speak to you recently? God spoke to me recently regarding a work decision I was knotted up about. I would describe “God speaking to me” as an inaudible voice — a thought in my head — that felt like someone was speaking to me in a reassuring, loving tone. It’s that “still-small-voice” that Christians often talk about. It’s like a thought that you know is coming from the Holy Spirit because it breaks through the mind swirls, and it usually speaks deep into who you are, or who God is calling you to become (identity), and it’s always in agreement with the Word of God. The phrase I “heard” spoke deeply into which direction I should go and ultimately informed the decision I made for my business. The steps it took to get there: getting alone with God with my journal and pen, sitting and writing out my concerns, pouring my heart out to Him, and then listening for his voice. I had so much peace that came over me – that’s how I knew it was Him. God also speaks to me a lot in dreams.
Hobby: Hammocking and watching as many sunsets as humanly possible.
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong:
1. Protect your morning time. Don’t let Instagram hijack your time to meet with God. Something that’s helped me is setting a timer (I started with 20 min) and put my phone away out of reach. Even if that’s just 5 minutes of listening to a worship song, it’s powerful to give God the first of our day. I also love keeping a record God’s goodness during this time, and meditating on the amazing miracles He has done in my life!
2. Practice Sabbath. Sabbath opposes the non-stop rhythms of our world, dethroning the god of productivity. Sabbath allows us to receive God’s refreshment, so we can work FROM rest. We must refill on a weekly basis so that we are able to pour out.
3. Pray. This can take many forms. It could be alone or with others. I often feel closest to God when I’m out on a walk enjoying the beauty of nature while listening to worship music. I also often pray in the form of journaling (writing helps me process my emotions and deep thoughts with God).
“Sabbath opposes the non-stop rhythms of our world, dethroning the god of productivity.”
Favorite person in scripture? Jesus.
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? God sees us. He is El Roi, which is one of the Hebrew names for God meaning, “the God who sees me”.
“God sees us.”
How do you leave your mark on your community? My husband and I lead together on our church’s worship team, and we love using our hospitality gift (we love inviting people into our home for a meal). I also periodically provide photography for our church’s creative projects!
Favorite holiday? Easter. That story of Mary at the tomb gets me every time. #waterworks
A goal you have? To spend more time reading books and writing and less time on my phone and social media.
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: We take a week every year out of the city to unplug, reflect on the previous year, and cast vision with God for the future. This usually involves the beach or the mountains, as getting in nature really helps me connect with God.
Thing you want to raise awareness about: Codependency and abuse. From Bondage to Bonding by Nancy Groom is one of my favorite books on the topic of codependency. Dan Allender’s The Wounded Heart is another beautiful and helpful resource.
What does your morning routine consist of? Making the bed, drinking coffee, spending some alone time with God, doing some form of exercise to get the body movin’!
What is on your nightstand? My Bible, a purple water bottle, an IKEA lamp, and the latest book I’m reading — currently Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman (Thurman was a mentor to Mr. Luther King Jr.)
Define Christianity in a sentence: This is a hard one. I’ll give it a try: Christianity is the merciful kindness of a good God, who is reconciling humanity to Himself through the death and resurrection of His only son Jesus’, who paid our debt, conquered sin and death, loves us unconditionally, and invites us to participate with Him in bringing His Kingdom to earth through the power of the Holy Spirit.
For more Emily:
Until next time, keep witnessing!