Category Archives: God’s goodness

exciting news!!

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Ted Riley and I were matched on e-harmony August 28, 2009 (which also happens to be his birthday). We went on our first date a few weeks later, on September 13th. It was about as close to love-at-first-sight as I think any relationship could be. Ted said later that he knew by the second date he would never find someone else like me again (haha… he was right on that one… such discernment.) :)

Well we hit the ground running in September and haven’t looked back since. He met my parents two weeks later, and I met his family about a month later, when they came to town to visit (they currently live in MS). He helped me move my piano (that’s when I knew he was a keeper!), took time off work to take care of me when I was sick, camped outside Target, in the cold, for 4 hours the day after Thanksgiving so I could buy DVDs for next to nothing… over the past 5 months, he has constantly sacrificed over and over… whether it was money or time or just effort he’s given to encourage and help me. I have grown to love this man in a way I never knew was possible.

Over the past few months, we’ve talked about wanting to be married to each other. Financially, I didn’t think it would happen any time soon, since his car died (aka committed suicide by throwing a rod through the engine) shortly after we met. I’ve spent many nights learning to trust God with the timing when everything in me wanted to push (ok, there were also many times i dropped not-so-subtle hints too). :) Knowing my lease was up this coming summer was a source of struggle for me… Where would I go? What do I do then? I’m a planner by profession, i wanted to plan the next few months and years… and I couldn’t. I just had to trust that this WAS in fact going somewhere and it’d all be okay.

Well, enough blabbing… on to the real reason ya’ll are reading this… the STORY! :)

For Valentines day, Ted told me he had an entire day of surprises planned. He mentioned he’d pick me up before lunch and I would need a dressy change of clothes for dinner. He seemed a bit nervous about the whole day but I figured that was simply because it was our first Valentines day together and i know he had planned so many details (being the sappy romantic that he is) that he just wanted it to be perfect. I was also wanting the day to be perfect… and was kind of struggling with that… Ted was very helpful in reminding me that its not all about the hoop-la of the holiday, its about us enjoying each other and enjoying the time we got to spent together. That was such a helpful stress reliever and I was really just able to relax and enjoy the day with no expectations other than enjoying the day with my sweetie. Being the romantic that he is, he planned the day as a “trip down memory lane” … complete with little gifts and cards throughout the day. He came to pick me up and had flowers (really BEAUTIFUL ones) and a card. To anyone who can’t handle “sappy” you might want to stop reading now… its gonna get a little (or a LOT) mushy!

Each “surprise” was introduced with a card and a poem. This was the first poem that was in the card which came with the flowers:
1. “And now… we’ll start the day of Valentine’s
with flowers and a kiss from me
and then a walk down memory lane
with a trip for lunch to Rafferty’s.”

We first met at Rafferty’s on September 13th, exactly 5 months prior to the day. So, we sat there at lunch and just laughed about how nervous we both were that first date and how we both over-analyzed everything… from what we wore to what we said… to how many times I had to get up and pee because I was so nervous (but anyone who knows me knows that this had nothing to do with me being nervous) :) sigh.

On the way to Rafferty’s he gave me another “clue” card and a gift bag:
2. “And for the ride, you may enjoy
A song or two that rings out true.
And if you listen carefully,
You’ll hear the hope that lies in you.”

The CD is called “the hope that lies in you” by the Glorious Unseen. It was one that I had wanted to get for a while. So, we listened to that in the car as we drove around town for the rest of the day.

After lunch, another card, which read:
3. “And now that we have reminisced
And shared a meal and memories
The next location is your guess
And what you guess I want to see :)
To aid you in your figuring
I’ll offer you a simple clue:
I’d love to see you choosing stripes
But solids seem to be your due.”

We then headed to Bailey’s (where we had our second date) for a few rounds of pool, where Ted once again consistently won every game (except for the one where I cheated!) On the way there, though, came another gift:

4. “And on the way I have a gift,
Another sliver of my plan.
I hope you have a pleasant “knight”
When next you journey to Catan.”

The gift was the game “Cities and Knights” an expansion kit to Settlers of Catan (one of our favorites games). I read the instructions in the car when we were on the way to Baileys for the pool I mentioned above.

After pool (where Ted wiped the floor with me), came card #5:
5. “By now you no doubt know my plan
And what is next you clearly see
But join me if you will, my dear,
For a cup of Underground Coffee.”

On our second date, after Baileys, we went to Coffee Underground and sat there and chatted for a while. We “recreated” that date this day, except I got coffee instead of tea :)

After coffee, came card #6… and another note that had no card:
6. “Another gift I have for you
As we are heading place to place.
This gift will hang from both your lobes,
And frame your pretty, smiling face.”

The gift was a pair of silver and pearl lotus flower dangly earrings. The next note read as follows:
6b. “Another card I do not have
But somewhere else I’d like to go
But first let’s change and freshen up
Then see a bell tower lined with snow.”

So, we went back to his house to change and get dressed up for dinner. After getting changed, we headed out to Furman for a nice (albeit cold) walk around the lake. He brought the final 2 cards and one gift bags with him for our little stroll. Card #7 reads:
7. “To end the journey of today
The final stop is just ahead
If you can guess the restaurant
Then be you proud, and be well fed
The choices there are plentiful –
Exotic meats and fish and fowl
A glass of wine would go well too
So guess the place, we’ll head there now.”

Dinner was at Saskatoon, an exotic game restauraunt. Before we headed there though, he had one last gift. I opened the bag and there was nothing but a big red bow inside. With a goofy grin, he put it on his head, and then told me to open the last card:
8. “And now the day is nearly through
With only one gift left to see.
I’ve saved the best for last, of course,
And want to offer simply …ME!”

While I was looking at that and just laughing at the goofiness of Ted standing there with a bow on his head he said something to the effect of “I meant that… I really want to offer you all of me. And there’s another part to that gift.” He then got down on a knee, and at the same time, my jaw hit the pavement. I was like “what are you doing… you don’t even have money for the ring yet… where’d that come from… ??” (there were multiple thoughts going through my head all at the same time.) I mean, i KNEW what he was doing, but i just didn’t believe it! I had really convinced myself that it wouldn’t be for several more months, and was just blown away by him keeping it a secret so well (but looking back, WAKE UP EMILY… ALL THE CLUES WERE THERE!!!!) :)

He said that though he had planned the entire day, he didn’t plan what to say at this point. Being that my mind was a pile of happy mush at this point, I don’t exactly remember what he said… but I think somewhere in there was “will you marry me?” I started bawling like a fool, still in shock that he was actually proposing to me! (again, probably not a surprise that Emily started crying at a moment like this… note to self, buy a wedding dress with pockets for tissues) :) I’m assuming I said yes, being that I have a sparkly ring on my finger now. :)

We ate dinner at Saskatoon, but to me it felt more like a cloud. I am honored and humbled to have his affection and love. I look forward to soon becoming Mrs. Edward Riley and beginning our lives together as husband and wife. Stay tuned for wedding updates… :)

Psalm 71

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In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men. For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.

Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me. May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace.

But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone.

Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.

Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you?

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.

I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God;  I will sing praise to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I, whom you have redeemed. My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.

He never will leave

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I have been greatly comforted lately by the promise and hope that my God will never leave, never forsake, never dissapoint and never abandon me. 

Several months ago, I began dating a wonderful man of God and have been greatly blessed and encouraged by his deep love for God and his tender care for me.  But there have been times already where we’ve disagreed.  There have been moments where i’ve done something sinfully to make him angry and I’m sure he could have found it easier to simply walk away.  and vice versa. 

we were talking last night and I was crying and my heart was struggling with being full of fear… i am so grateful for the gift he is to me and am scared of the thought of losing him.  i’m very aware that God knows the end result and though we plan our steps that His plan may not be for the two of us to be together… or that if we end up together that one of us could die and that life may not end up looking like what we hope and plan at this point.  I hope and pray that is not the case.  well, last night, I was really struggling with trusting God and was fearing that God would maliciously or vindictively take Ted away from me to simply teach me a lesson or punish me somehow. 

Ted graciously reminded me that our God is not vindictive or harsh.  He does not hold our sins over us and his desire is for good for His children.  And as His child, that means His desire is for good for me. 

But sometimes that’s hard to believe because life doesn’t feel that way.  Yesterday was one of those days… I spent most of the day with a heavy cloud over my head and with a fear of God’s judgment or vengence.  I was yet again, more aware of my sin than of God’s grace as displayed through the cross of Christ. 

I’m grateful for the reminders God gives us in our weakness.  Yesterday, He reminded me that He is good, His mercy is everlasting and His goodness and truth endure through all generations. 

I don’t need to fear the unknown future.  I don’t need to worry about “what-ifs”.  My God has promised never to leave.  Even if all around gives way, He is the confident Rock on which I stand.  And I know that even if He were to take me down another undesired path, just like He upheld me through every path I’ve faced thus far, He will do so again.

So, I was able to sleep last night, resting in that promise.  Resting in knowing that my God will always be by my side as my friend, underneath as my support, ahead as my guide and behind as my protection.  And how grateful I am that those are truths that will never ever change.

God answers prayer…

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I got an email from a friend of mine today.  We’ve been praying for years for her grandma’s salvation…  and this is what she had to say today about that…  I was so excited that I had to share it with you all too…  :)  Praise God that He draws hearts to him… even when we lack faith in trusting Him to save…

 

… Just wanted to let you know that God is so good! That through Him all things are possible, that He indeed does answer prayer. I learned a lesson last night about God’s faithfulness, that there is no hopeless situation. God does hear our prayer, He does love us. I also learned last night how faithless my prayers are and how faithless I can be. But despite all that He does hear them. I know I’m babbling and caring on and repeating myself, but I can’t help myself. I’m so excited and so happy. I keep getting teary eyed. I bawled last night.

My Grandma called me last night with the best news! She had been to visit Dr. Davis (He’s the pastor of First Baptist Durham) a wonderful man of God. My whole family highly respects this guy. Anyway he took her through Romans 9 and God reached down and touched my Grandma’s heart and saved her!!!!! I need to stop thinking about this; people won’t understand why I’m crying. :)  But I can’t stop thinking about it and praising God! It’s surreal in a way… it’s wonderful!

the room

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(by Joshua Harris)

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order.  But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read “Girls I Have Liked”. I opened it and began flipping  through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn’t match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I Have Betrayed”. The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. “Books I Have Read”, “Lies I Have Told”, “Comfort I Have Given”, “Jokes I Have Laughed At”. Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “Things I’ve Yelled at My Brothers.” Others I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done in My Anger”, “Things I Have muttered Under My Breath at My Parents”. I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 16 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature. When I pulled out the file marked “Songs I Have Listened To”, I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts”, I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: “No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!” In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore “People I Have Shared the Gospel With”.  The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused.  I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.  And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him.  Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally, He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me.  I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. “No!” I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was “No, no,” as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.” I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door.  There were still cards to be written.

perfect peace

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my soul this week has not been characterized by peace, let alone perfect peace.  many times, for many reasons, i have struggled with worry…  worry over health, worry over seeing friends walking through very hard situations, worry over the future…  i could write a long list of the things i’ve worried about over the past few days.  but i know I should focus on where I know God wants me to focus… on His care for me, His power over my life and His goodness…

He has blessed me lavishly.  I don’t deserve His kidness.  I am overwhelmed at His patience with me.  I so often am tempted to see my sin as greater than Christ, but then He reminds me that its not.  What hope that gives to me when all seems dark. 

A friend of mine reminded me about a year ago that it is when life seems the darkest that the stars shine the brightest… and don’t forget to look up.  As I was reading through my journal last night, I came across that reminder again.  So, though my heart feels overwhelmingly dark right now and each step is clouded by confusion, here are a few of the “stars…”

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!  Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!  Psalm 27:13-14

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?  Numbers 23:19

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.  I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me…Psalm 57:1-3

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.  The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  Psalm 103:2-8

bless the Lord

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Emily, you are commanded to bless the Lord.  Use every ounce of strength within you to give praise to his holy name.  Even when your soul is tempted to despair and give up hope, bless the Lord.  Do not forget what He has done for you. 

He forgave all your countless sins on the cross.  Every single one.  Even the ones that your conscience still condemns you of.  To show he has power to heal your soul, He has also in mercy healed your physical diseases many times in the past.  Remember when he healed your hip that Sunday on the steps of the church?  Remember when your pastors prayed for you and your migraines started to get better?  Remember the bus ride when you were so afraid?  Look back!  Remember what He has done!  Do not give up hope – He has the power to do it again now.  He pulled your life up from the pit that you had dug for yourself.  Instead of leaving you in rags, He gave you His righteousness. 

Though it was your head that deserved to be crushed and wounded for your sin, He gave love that never changes and he showed you great mercy.  Though you deserve punishment and his wrath, He instead looks on you in favor, because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

Not only did He forgive you but He satisfies your soul with countless good things.  Remember your church?  Have you forgotten what a gift those people are to you?  Remember your home?  Remember the little things you prayed for and He graciously gave you?  Do not grow weary… He provides the strength in your weakness.  He gives you renewal and power, like an eagle flying gracefully above the storms, he will renew your weary soul too. 

When it seems that others get away with evil, rest in knowing that God is just.  He will punish those who oppress you unjustly. 

This is the same God that led Moses and showed his power to the nation of Israel.  He did not give up on them when they sinned and failed to trust him.  Find comfort in looking back and seeing how merciful He was to them.  He is just as merciful and gracious to you.  He is not angry at you when you fail, rather He overflows in unchanging love towards you.  Remember he does not just work by “teaching you a lesson” and He is not angry with you. 

God is merciful… He does not give you what you deserve.  What you deserve is death yet he graciously forgives your sins.  Through Christ, God displayed his steadfast love for his children, by removing your sins far from you… as far as east from the west and heavens from the earth.  

Like a loving father, God shows compassion to you.  He does not expect perfection from you, He knows that you are very weak.  You are weak like grass or like a flower.  Even just a little wind can knock you off your feet and completely throw your world upside down.  But through every change in life, the steadfast love of the Lord will never end.  It will continue to your children, and to their children. 

The Lord rules over the earth. His kingdom is supreme over everything. 

Bless the Lord, you angels, those created to do His will.   Bless the Lord, the hosts of heaven, you who have gone before me and are an example to me of suffering in patience and trust.  Even creation blesses the Lord, the One who rules over them and provides for their every need. 

Oh my soul, my weary soul that is so prone to discouragement, bless the Lord.  He has done so many great things.  He is worthy of my praise.  Bless the Lord.

Psalm 103 (in the words of me)