In Need of a Spacious Place

From the heart of a girl who just happens to be queen.

I’m nothing without you. I’m barely breathing.//You are my joy. You are my peace. I’m laying it all down–letting go and getting lost in you.

Vulnerability. This is such an interesting concept to me and also such a freeing experience. The other night I saw United Pursuit in concert–more like they just led us in 2 hours of worship. There was so much freedom in that place– freedom in a way that people felt comfortable being themselves– dancing, jumping, singing at the top of their longs because we were in the presence and joy of the Lord. This was a response to God–who He is and who He says that we are because really we are NOTHING without Him. He has chased us down and called us His own. He has poured out His pure, deep love in each moment of our lives. He knows us. He loves us still.

At the end of the night Will Reagan prayed and thanked the Lord for the vulnerability that was shown. What? No one spoke. We just sang for two straight hours. We could not have been vulnerable—but we were. It takes vulnerability, a heart willing to set itself aside to bow down before the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and cry out “I need you.” It takes a vulnerable heart to sing with everything in you that you are laying down all the hurt and fear and doubt at the feet of Jesus. It takes a vulnerable heart to raise up your hands and declare that you are nothing without Jesus. It takes a vulnerable heart to dance around in the joy and freedom of Jesus.

I’m learning more and more each day that being vulnerable is less about me and more about the mighty hand of God in my life. For so many years I’ve been pushing hard things and sin down and letting it sit instead of bringing it to the light, laying it at the feet of Jesus and allowing grace to abound and God get the credit.

Right now I’m not really okay. I’m struggling, but I’m not hopeless. I’m in a place where I can’t just keep wishing one day I’ll wake up and be more vulnerable or that I won’t feel the pressure to have it all together. I’m trying to set aside my pride and seek guidance and seek truth in order to live in the abundant life Jesus has provided. I’m convinced that is the best place to be–in the abundance that is God, that is the love Jesus poured out for us, that is the reason for getting up each morning.

The truth is that sometimes I hate myself. The truth is that sometimes the lies of the enemy are so loud in my head that it stops me in my tracks and brings tears to my eyes. The truth is that I hardly ever let anyone in to bear burdens, to love me, to encourage me. The truth is that I believe the lie that I am not enough.

BUT… THE ACTUAL TRUTH is that I am loved by the Creator of this universe and He calls me by my name. The ACTUAL truth is that the enemy has no hold over me and Jesus has defeated sin and death. The ACTUAL truth is that God has provided some spectacular people in my life to walk through this life with me in the good and the not so good.

So why do I share this? Because I want you to know that every good thing in Emma Shappley is Jesus Christ. I  want you to know that the Homecoming Queen and the coordinator of Campus Ministries is not exempt from struggle. I do not have my life all together–not everyday and thought is a good one.

Every single good thing in me is Jesus. Oh how sometimes I try to take credit.

Emma Shappley is a sinner in need of a Savior. The Lord is working on me–pouring out His grace in every step and shining lights on the dark places in my life. My good works, my achievements, nothing on my own can make me worthy of such a sacrifice that Jesus gave. We are worthy in the eyes of God because He created us in His own image. We are worthy because Jesus took my place and bore the punishment for my sins.

“You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.” Psalm 31:8

This is what I know:

I’m trusting God to bring me to a spacious place.

I am not alone.

The victory is already won.

So do I have it all together? Absolutely not. Am I having a hard time setting aside my pride in the process of getting help? Uh yes. Is Jesus worth everything I am afraid of losing? OF COURSE.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

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More Water Park Days

My two best friends (Jared & Cameran) took me to the water park for my birthday (now doesn’t this sound like the beginning of a children’s book…HA). Anyways, I have been wanting to go all summer and they took me for my birthday… skip over the fact that my birthday was about a month ago. Nevertheless, we went and nothing really earth shattering or revolutionary happened today, but I learned some good truth and experienced some sweet joy that I wanted to share.

We need more water park days.

We need more days where we relax and enjoy the company of others. We need more days where we stop thinking about our to-do lists and worrying about this and that. We need more days where we soak up the sun. We need more days where we look around and appreciate the little joys.

We need more water park days.

Cam & I were laughing about the fact that the water park is one of the most vulnerable places which kind of sounds weird, right? But think about it. We walk around with our swim suits on, no makeup, not really caring about what our hair looks like when we were just dunked underwater at the end of a slide, not being ashamed to pick the wedgie that the slide gave us, getting too close to people in the lazy river because you can’t really control where it goes, and screaming at the top of our lungs on the dark slide because why not?

We need more water park days.

Now maybe we could wear more clothing than people normally do at water parks, but I think we need to take the time to unplug and simply enjoy life. Yesterday, we left our phones in the car and just had FUN. We weren’t worried about who was posting on Insta or the things we had to do. The most I worried about was how awkward I looked trying to get going on this slide where you had to go head first.

We need more water park days.

One of my favorite moments of yesterday was when I was sitting waiting on Jared & Cam while they were on a slide. I was at the part of the park where the big bucket fills up with water and then spills over onto whoever is underneath. This probably sounds crazy but it was one of the most joyous moments to witness this scene of people standing underneath the bucket. I watched this one family of adults huddled together underneath giggling and screaming waiting for the water to pour on their heads. I watched another family of three little girls push their grandfather out in his wheelchair and they were huddled around laughing so hard waiting on the water. It was pure JOY.

We NEED more days like THIS.

Days where we take a break. Days where we huddle together and simply laugh. Days where we don’t care what we look like but soak in every moment of time that we have with the people around us.

We need more water park days.

I didn’t realize how much I needed one until I was there. I’ve been preaching for the past few weeks the importance of taking time to rest in the midst of all the craziness and busyness in order to avoid getting burnt out. All I have to say now is that I have NOT been doing a very good job of following my own advice. I’ve been going, going, going, and not allowing for my mind, my heart, anything to catch up.

We need more water park days.

We need more days where we go to the water park and on the way there we sing loudly the praises of our Savior in the car with our best friends. We need more days where we laugh like crazy at the fact we just flipped completely over in our 3 person tube at the end of the slide. We need more days where we leave our phones in the car and enjoy the company of others while we share PB &J’s for lunch.

We need more water park days.

 

God is so big in this one stop light town.

Sometimes the hardest but most purposeful work is the ministry of the interior. The ministry of bringing the people you encounter before the Almighty God and trusting that He is going to do a mighty work in their life even if we won’t be around to see that come to fruition. The ministry of the interior is planting seeds. The ministry of the interior is not seeking recognition or fame. The ministry of the interior is not about you. The ministry of the interior is saying yes to God. The ministry of the interior is loving people (even those you don’t know very well) with everything you have. The ministry of the interior is hard. The ministry of the interior is about trust. The ministry of the interior is something of great joy.

God is so big in this one stop light town.

It continually amazes me that God chooses to use such imperfect beings. It amazes me that God could use me despite all of my experiences, despite all of my sin, despite all of my fear and insecurity. It amazes me that God allows us to play even a small role in His kingdom work—what a life of purpose and joy He allows us and invites us to have.

God is so big in this one stop light town.

It’s not a perfect place or an easy place, but God is moving in ways that literally brings tears to my eyes and amazement to my heart because even though my heart doubts, GOD ALWAYS COMES THROUGH. In the ministry of the interior, God is always faithful. God is always moving. God is always teaching and growing. God is always encouraging. God is always doing immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.

God is so big in this one stop light town.

Walls are crumbling. Barriers are being broken. Friendships are forming. People are talking about the name of Jesus and His work. The body of Christ is coming together in a powerful way that only God can orchestrate. God is stirring in this one stop light time in the ministry of the interior.

God is so big in this one stop light town.

Even when we don’t see it. Even when we think hope is lost. Even when we doubt his power and goodness. Even when fear overtakes us. Even when sin creeps in. Even when the enemy whispers lies in our ear. Even when we might not be able to see the fruit like we want to.

God is so big in this one stop light town.

May we taste and see the goodness of the Lord all around us.

Immeasurably More

Well, here I am in the car with the Shappley Circus on the way back to the little town of Boiling Springs to begin year three. I am ecstatic about being back in that one stop light place that has become my home away from home. 

I will be able to see my roomie for the first time in 3 months, and I just told her I feel like it is Christmas Eve and she is the great present tomorrow with the red bow on it. I will be living in an apartment with my three bestie gals. I will be reunited with some of the most quality people on this planet. I will be back in the land of Hoshi, Broad River Coffee, and late night Cookout runs. I will be in a place where God continues to call me to take a leap of faith, where He continues to do immeasurably more and where He has called me to be for this time in my life. 

For some reason, I always expect it to get a little easier to say goodbye each time to my homeland of Mississippi but somehow it always gets a little harder. It is hard to leave the place where God has done such big things. It is hard to leave the late night giggles and times of obsessing over Girl Meets World with your little sister. It is hard to leave the beautiful and deep friendships I have made this summer. It is hard to leave the church and the people who have poured nothing but Jesus into you and who cheer for you so loudly on the sidelines. It is hard to leave a job that has been nothing but encouraging to you. It is hard to leave places knit to your heart, but GOD IS SO GOOD. This summer has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. If you read my last post you know that at the beginning of this summer I was a girl with a sunburn and a broken heart hoping for healing and refreshment for my soul. I am here to tell you that God has brought me a LONG way from that girl sitting in a condo in Charleston, SC.

 The past three months have definitely not been a walk in the park, but they have been filled with God’s style of immeasurably more. 

Immeasurably more has been working and serving with two high school girls from Louisiana and Georgia who easily became my sisters and encouraged my socks off by their support, love, and friendship. 

Immeasurably more has been living life and working with Cindy Townsend. A woman who has shown me what it looks like to never shrink back from God’s agenda. A woman who has shown me what it looks like to pray fervently. A woman who has shown me what it means to be a follower of Jesus, willing and ready for whatever God is up to.

Immeasurably more has been having the opportunity to see my brother, Hunter, after almost 2 years and get to spend a couple of hours in his world of New Orleans. One of the people in my life who always makes me laugh and always provides the best memories. One of the people I have always looked up to.

Immeasurably more has been being able to share short but sweet moments with my Cheetah Sistas (Mary Morgan, Molly, Shellie, Carol) because they are my heart. Forever (future) bridesmaids. Forever sisters. Forever friends I can always come home to. 

Immeasurably more has been God revealing some idols I had in my life and gently restoring me by helping me get my priorities in order. 

Immeasurably more has been spending a weekend in NC talking and preparing with your college bestie about how to love people well and deeply this year. It has been coming to find beauty and appreciation in each person’s story. 

Immeasurably more has been having best friends to come home to, to laugh with, to share with, and to know they are always there for you even if time spent together is limited. 

Immeasurably more has been going to Hawaii and seeing 14 kids come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It was being able to participate and help in their baptism. It was God confirming my call to North American missions. It was God giving me a new beginning to a fresh season in my life. It was God opening exciting and crazy doors that I’m still praying about. It was teaching kids a rap to the Great Commission and dabbing to all the Bible verses we learned.

Immeasurably more has been (even though this sounds crazy) having a fever blister on my eye and pink eye all at the same time. It was immeasurably more because I had some time to rest. It was immeasurably more because I got some quality time with my sister. It was immeasurably more because God was ever present throughout each day. 

Immeasurably more has been seeing the Gospel in such real ways. It has been having the opportunity to share the Gospel. It has been being reminded of the Gospel and its value, importance, and power. 

Immeasurably more has been God bringing me to the place I am right now. A place where God has used this summer as a launching pad for the rest of my life which is something far more than I can imagine or do on my own. A place where I am certain that God is about to do something BIG at Gardner-Webb. A place where my heart is still hurt but not broken; fragile but healed. A place where God is everything. A place where there are still challenges but confidence that God’s got this. A place where I know Satan is trying to mess up, but God has already won the victory and calls me not to shrink back. A place of complete surrender and willingness to God’s agenda and not my own. A place where I am humbled by the fact that this life is not about me. It is about God. It is about His son, Jesus. It is about confessing with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believing in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead so that we can be saved and spend eternity in heaven. It is about going and sharing the goodness and hope of Jesus Christ. It is knowing and living the fact that Jesus is worth everything you are afraid of losing. 
Praise the Lord for immeasurably more. 

Thankful for a Sunburn

Thankful for a sunburn.
So yesterday I didn’t reapply sunscreen. I fell asleep on the beach, and my back got scorched.
Seriously it hurts to sit back in a chair.
BUT
For some reason I am thankful.

I am thankful because it forced me to be completely still (that is the only way it doesn’t hurt).
It forced me to take a break even from vacation and constant going that has been my life all semester to just be still.
It forced me to sit down and process a little bit of my semester with the Lord.

This was what I needed. I needed a moment to realize that my heart is in a broken state. A broken state from not just one thing but many different occurrences from this past semester. A broken state from not allowing Jesus in during the hard times.
I needed a moment to realize that Jesus is the only one that can provide healing.
I needed a moment to see that I have been using material or temporary things as a “bandaid” for my broken heart—this has provided some instant relief but the brokenness was still there.
I needed a moment to be reminded that every good thing in me is Jesus.
I needed a moment to be reminded of this constant lesson of TRUST that God is constantly calling me to.

A few weeks ago Matt Orth talked about the sunscreen lessons. The lessons that seem pretty simple but you have to be reminded of them every once in a while so that you don’t get “burned.”

Sometimes, a lot like my fiasco with the sunscreen yesterday, I forget to “reapply” the truth of God into my life. I try to do it on my own. I think I’ll be okay just for right now.
But God calls us to an action daily. Daily surrender. Daily trust. Daily stillness. Daily recognition that He is still good & He is working in a way that is immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine. It isn’t a one time kind of thing but a constant pursuit and recognition of the sovereignty of God.

My heart is broken.
It’s not gonna be fixed today.
But I’m hopeful that God is going to provide the healing it needs. Not in my timing. But His. Not in my way. But His.
Praise the Lord for the sunburn.
It pushed me to think. It pushed me to reflect. It pushed me to think about the goodness of God in my current state.

And it even let me rest and watch a few episodes of Friends.

“What is life but change?”

Maya Gonzales. A lover of avocados. A lover of Miranda Sings. A lover of cheese.

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“What is life but change?”-Maya

Change hit Maya hard in June of 2010. It was her first summer to work at a summer camp. As she was working the zip line one afternoon, her finger got caught and it ripped her thumb off (P.S. If you want to hear the full story feel free to ask her about it! She would love to share).

It was a really hard time for Maya because she had to have three surgeries, and it was difficult losing part of your body and learning how to cope with it. She wanted to go back to camp so bad but she was not able to as she was taking time to recover. That summer this extreme change helped Maya mature. She grew up a lot and did it very quickly.

Throughout this whole experience, Maya really learned about the provision of God and what it meant to trust Him in everything. They did not have to pay one single medical bill because insurance covered it all. Maya also said that this experience has been a great conversation starter.

If you could change one thing in your life what would it be?

Maya said that she would want to experience other people’s experiences but still keep her memory and her life. She would want to go through some of the other cool things people have gone through but still be Maya Gonzales and all the experiences that have brought her to today.

Also, Maya says, “I want constant access to perfectly ripe avocados and sharp cheese.”

3 things Maya is thankful for today:

-Naps

-Lovely sun

-Coffee

Change Around the World

IMG_2980 copyBecca Pittman. A lover of Jesus. A lover of popcorn. A lover of sarcasm (especially with Jacob Kirby).

Becca’s story is one of pure adventure but a lot of change. One of the biggest changes she has ever experienced was when she moved from Turkey to the United States just a few months before she embarked on her adventure at Gardner-Webb.

She said that it was super hard. It felt very lonely and out of place. She looked like she was supposed to belong here but she didn’t. Also, her parents lived in Black Mountain  so went she went “home” it felt like she was going to a random house.

As always, God proved himself faithful. Becca was able to redefine the word “home.” She found that her home was wherever God had placed her. Gardner-Webb provided her with some remarkable friends, and she was really able to become her own person and define herself.

If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?

“Make flying cheaper.”

3 things Becca is thankful for today:

-roommate coming back after being gone for a week

-church at home celebrated 15 year anniversary

-Sunshine

 

Change

Change. Sometimes we dread it. Sometimes we love it. Sometimes it is a drag at the beginning, but it turns out to be the best thing to ever happen to us.

We experience some sort of change almost everyday. Change and our adaptation to change makes us who we are. In our world today we are experiencing a lot of changes as big as the President of the United States to as little as the type of music that is coming out.

Change is in everyone’s story.

Zane Gray. Native of Georgia. English major. Lover of movies. Lover of Reece’s pieces.

A time of change and transition in Zane’s life was when he came to Gardner-Webb. He met his roommate, Joseph, through the online roommate directory that the school provided and for the fiDSCN3228rst month they hardly spoke to each. After the first month Zane’s phone broke which provided a great segue for roommate bonding.

Before coming to college, Zane was overwhelmed, but he was excited to take on new things. He discovered that people were more open in college. College, specifically Gardner-Webb, was a place full of caregivers. High school was a place where no one really respected your opinion. College provided a place where you could be who you wanted to be and strive for what you wanted to in your future.

One of the positive things that came from this transition from a place that was familiar to an unknown adventure was Zane’s faith. He has been challenged and poured into by many individuals on this campus.

Today Zane Gray is thankful for:

-the opportunity to come to know so many people

-family that loves him and a home to go to

-the most ideal roommate he could ever ask for

Another Day, Another Blog

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Another day. Another blog. Another story.

Sophie Shappley. Next week she will be 7 years old. It is incredible that amount of joy that has been shared among the Shappley family with the past 7 years.

When my parents got remarried, my mom really wanted another baby. My mom had three miscarriages before she got pregnant with Sophie. I was really doubtful when my mom told me she was pregnant for the 4th time. The Lord, yet again, proved His faithfulness and mighty power.

The day Sophie was born was one I will never forget. Hospital at 6am. Sky still dark. Excitement level out of the roof.

We waited in the waiting room for what seemed like forever. I remember standing in this bland hallway in front of two tan double doors. Finally, my grandparents and I could see through the small cracks of the door my dad walking down the hall in his blue scrubs. It literally took my 12 year old breath away when he walked through with a beautiful baby girl in his hands.

To this day, I cannot recall another time when I felt as much joy and the overwhelming presence of the Lord.

March 2 continued to be a fantastic day. They put Sophie in a little bed where we could look at her from the window. I remember all of our friends and family coming by and there were tears and hugs and smiles and laughter. One of great family friends even brought me pig in a blanket because he knew they were my favorite. The day continued to be one of craziness but one of joy. There was so much laughter. So much meaningful conversation. So much excitement. We even caught the season finale of The Bachelor that night in the hospital room.

A story worth remembering. A story that certainly continues and remains to be another chapter in the Shappley Circus.

 

Here’s a fun video of Rachel & Ross with their baby in the show Friends:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQglwughEyc

A Story Worth Sharing

Today I am going to share one of my favorite stories of all time. It is a story that has shaped my life in more ways than one and brought me to the place I am today.

Side note: I thought it might be good to share a little bit of my story in the process of sharing the stories of other people.

Once upon a time there was a family. A  family that seemed to measure up to what “normal” looks like in this day and age.

When I was 5 years old my parents got divorced. A hard thing for a child, but today it has, unfortunately, become the norm.

My parents were divorced for 4 years.

4 years of it just being me and my mom. 4 years of “Daddy’s day” every Tuesday. 4 years of mac & cheese dinners and VHS movies on our 12 inch TV. 4 years of my dad going down the wrong path. 4 years of my mom earnestly praying for him. 4 years of the Lord telling my mom they were going to get back together. 4 years of my dad saying no, but 4 years of the Lord working things out for the good. 4 years of the Lord’s redemption at work in such a real way.

The Lord did an amazing work in my dad’s heart. The Lord did an amazing work in my mom’s heart. The Lord proved His faithfulness once again. By the grace of the Lord, my parents got remarried. It was a beautiful picture of God’s redemption. It was a hard adjustment. It took a lot of work. It was one of the greatest moments of all our lives.

There was a wedding in our apartment. I got to be the flower girl, the maid of honor, the best man, and the pianist.

God healed something that was broken for His glory.

The story definitely continues and the Lord’s faithfulness in the Shappley family never stops. It has definitely not been easy, but God has brought us closer to Him and to each other. I even have a 7 year old little sister now but that is a story for another day, another blog.

 

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Wedding Round 2

 

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”