Wednesday, August 31, 2016

This is The Last Blog Post

Let me begin by saying, I've been holding out on you for awhile now. Basically - the entire time you've been reading this blog.

It started out as a way for me to update our parents without actually having to call them. There's something about hearing your mom's voice over the phone from 326 miles away that just makes the homesickness worse. So I started avoiding their phone calls and writing this blog.

Over the last two years I've tried to show you pieces and snapshots of our life as brand new married people in ministry - and I like to think I've succeeded in entertaining you a least a little bit, right ...? (Nod and smile)

But from the beginning, there've been things I haven't said for fear of ... well, fear.

Every once in a while I've let you see a measured amount of hurt, struggle and sassiness, but the further I go into this life as a youth minister's wife - the more hard things I have to say, the more desperate I am to speak plainly instead of dance around the truth.

So I'm quitting.

It's weird how sometimes I feel like I'm the last person on earth to really see my sisters. I've been looking at them their entire lives, I have memorized their faces, their voices and the most embarrassing stories of their childhood. Of all the people to have existed, surely these two creatures I know.

Lately I'm realizing how hard it is to really see your sister when she grows up - I mean really take in the full picture of who she is as a human being. You can know someone's past like the back of your hand, but still struggle to notice when that person changes. It's like you look at them so often, you know them like you know yourself so much so that you stop looking. You take for granted that they will change or grow, and you hold this image of them in your mind of a tiny girl in giant glasses, the one you have to protect.

This week those images have been wrecked as both Hannah and Olivia have stunned me with the incredible human beings they are; so full of love and passion and drive and strength and the desire to sacrifice for the ones they want to protect. Don't misunderstand - I knew they were fantastic. Not just anyone can cut it as a Collins Girl (#dontbesuchacollinsgirl). But for the first time in a while I could see them as a full image - the people they've become against the past I've watched them come from. And it baffled me. It made me cry of course, and it made me decide to do something scary.

Hannah is the one who told me to quit this blog.

You heard it - my baby sister, the one I've spent so much time bossing around, told me to man up and do something hard. She told me to start saying the things I'm afraid to say. So this is me starting that today.

There's so much more to this life than I've led you to believe, I'm sure you've guessed that. But starting now, I'm going to tell you about it. Brace yourselves.

Besides the realization that my little sisters are high functioning, beautiful, fierce she-beasts - I now have a better picture of where we go from here. I have sisters I can lean on, strong, wise and compassionate. And we get to chest bump for the rest of our lives. Both in person and over text.

The new blog launches TODAY!!!

Now that you're done reading this one, head over to and check it out.

Thank you for reading this blog, it's been a lifeline through all these transitions, and so have you.

With Love,

Emily LeVault

Friday, July 1, 2016

I'm Praying For Your Cat.

I hate cats. 

You probably should know this. I hate cats and I hate recycling. If you still wanna be my friend that's cool but I put it on the Internet, so don't claim I didn't warn you. 

My time in ministry has required a good amount of tact; like eating food I don't like at the potluck, taking lots of advice I don't need from church ladies and trying to maintain a balance between sass and compassion on this blog. 

None of these compare the number of times I've had to pray for cats. 

You might know the scenario: we get to the end of small group, you ask if there's any prayer requests, they look at the floor, the ceiling, each other until finally one of them raises their hand. And you think maybe you're actually getting somewhere - until they ask you to pray for their sick cat. 

I hate cats. 

It's been a very bumpy month for us - lots of emotion, lots of anxiety, and then I turned 24. What?! 

When I'm stressed I can't sleep. These last few weeks it takes me forever to fall asleep and at exactly 5:00 A.M. I am wide awake. 

I tried everything I could think of and then some to cope, to push through but I still
couldn't shake the stress. One morning I was so desperate, so frustrated, that I got up, dug out my veryyy old running shoes and started running. If you're laughing that's ok - I'm not a runner. I'm not even athletic. But when I was in high school and my parents were getting divorced running worked, it cleared my head and made me tired enough to sleep.  So I got up and I went for a run because I didn't know what else to do. I went back to the thing I knew would work. 

Someday our kids will come back to what they believe will restore them. When they've reached the end of their rope, made that one huge mistake, when they don't know what else to do. They will come back to whatever they think will help. 

This is why I'm praying for your stupid cat. This is why loving the most annoying kid matters. If their memory of the Church is of a place where they were loved, where they belonged, where we cared about the things they cared about - this is where they'll turn when they don't know what else to do. 

Sometimes our high schoolers will ask for the equivalent of cat prayers. They'll ask me to pray for a grade, their crush,or a homecoming dress when I know they were drunk at a party the night before. I know their home life is hell, I know they are struggling with cutting, depression and sin that they cannot see a way out of. 

So I pray for their sick cat, and their homecoming date and their chemistry test. 

Someday they will ask for something more. Someday they will run out of ideas, and they won't know what else to do. I'm hoping they remember that we care about them, and I'm hoping they call. 

The more work we do on this end of praying hard for things that are small - the more important it will be to come back to Jesus, to come back to the Church, to return to the only thing they know will work.

I need you to pray for our kids. We are on our way to CIY in Cleavland, Tennessee. 

Please don't pray for safe travels, or good health or fun times. Please don't even waste a thought on those things. 

Pray that they experience Jesus in a way that changes their life. Pray that hardened hearts would be softened, that the chains of sin would be broken, that I can pray for something besides their sick cats. 

I wish I could put into a blog post the way my heart has labored over this week, these kids, the things Jesus has to say to them. We've spent a year praying for what God will do to our students' hearts through CIY Move 2016. 

So please pray with me, for a realization of depravity and the first discovery of amazing grace. Dear friends, please pray on your faces, please fast and pray, please get up in the morning to pray for this. This is a unique moment for our kids to let go of distraction and be faced with the power of the Cross. 

And there's a chance I'll get to pray with them about something way more important than their sick cat.

Thank you for your support, thank you for praying with us. I am confident and expectant: lives will be changed week

With Love,
Emily LeVault

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Pictures I Didn't Take

If you haven't heard, my friend Morgan and I are doing this crazy life experiment where we fast from seven different things for seven months. It's been challenging, we've had to admit some difficult things about what we eat, what we wear and what we give away. 

Oddly enough the month away from media landed in June. 

At first I was just taking pictures and not immediately posting them to social media. That felt like enough of a challenge in itself. 

But the more time I spent away from my phone the fewer and fewer pictures I took. Until I found myself making the conscious choice to put my phone away completely so that I could enjoy the moment. 

I do not have a picture of our yard full of kids on the last day of school. 

I don't have a picture of our Ft. Wayne boys playing cards at our kitchen table with Nathan. 

I don't have a picture of the Squad trip to Menards or late nights at Cracker Barrel

I have not a single picture of the view from my hammock at 4 am in Shea's backyard. 

Not junk food night, not the vanilla soy latte I bought or a single #ootd. 

I don't have a picture of sorting through my moms basement together or watching home videos and eating pizza. I don't have a picture of the circus that is Luke and Kenna together  or my Sunday morning walk with Hattie. 

I don't have a picture of Scott's birthday dinner, the Father's Day service on the square or Jimmy's hair at the LeVault cookout. 

I don't have a picture of the moment right before my Aunt and Uncle saw Bethany in her wedding dress, or Kelsey's face when it was time to give her sister away. 

I don't even have a two year anniversary snapshot. 

My friend Wally went to be with Jesus today. 

This past Christmas Eve we invited Wally to our house for pie. He sat in the middle of our tiny house crammed full of our family and told us stories about Mt. Pulaski and when he was in the Navy and of course complimented me on my apple pie. It's my favorite picture of Wally. 

But it's not on Instagram, The Cloud or my camera roll. I remember realizing at the end of the night after everyone had left that we hadn't taken a picture of Wally. I was so upset. Maybe today more than ever I wish we had a snapshot of that moment, but I know it's one I won't forget. 

This month has made me mindful of the time we spend with the ones we love and the images that no photographer could capture. 

I highly recommend putting your phone down so you don't miss it. 

With Love, 


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Brother Phil

 "The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." [Psalm 126:3]

I remember the day I woke up and told my mom I needed a little brother. I was about twelve when I realized that one more girl wasn't going to fix anything. I needed a baby brother. I remember her explaining to me in no uncertain terms, that my request was an impossible one. For roughly one hundred different reasons, there would be no baby brother. Naturally, I decided to do what all children do when their mom says 'no' - I went over her head, and asked God instead.

So, I started praying for a little brother.

He didn't appear, didn't arrive, didn't turn up.

I insisted that God give me a baby brother.

No brother, and no brother and still no brother.

I reasoned with the Almighty, because I will argue with anyone, that I needed a little brother. 

He never arrived and eventually I gave up.

Time passed, things changed and last March my mom started dating,which was weird all on its own. But more importantly, she met Scott. I'll spare us both the details, but they fell in love, he got her a ring, now me and my sisters are wearing identical dresses. So it's like Easter of 2002 all over again.

If I'm being honest - and I'm being very honest today - this was bittersweet for me.

Not because we don't love Scott, because we do.
Not because he's trying to replace my dad, because he isn't.
Not because I wanted my mom to be alone forever, because I never wanted that either.

All those years ago, I wanted a baby brother, because I thought that would make my dad come home, that a little brother would keep my parents from getting a divorce. I begged and reasoned and rationalized because I thought I knew what we needed, I thought I knew how to fix it, and I was so frustrated that God wasn't listening to me. I believed all along that He could do it, He could give me a baby brother and bandage my broken family in the process. But the way I saw things, He just wouldn't.

My dad moved to New Mexico and never moved back in. My parents got divorced, and I quit praying for the little brother I was never going to get.

Mom is getting married today, to a man who deserves her, if anyone really can. I'm wearing this blue dress and probably crying, because I'm happy for them and Collins girls cry about everything. I have seen my mom struggle to do what's right, to stay strong in her faith, and still manage to raise three daughters all on her own. I think she's amazing and deserves to be loved by someone who is goofy, thoughtful and good.

But this really isn't a blog post about what it was like to watch my world be split apart, how we rebuilt our family, or painted the bathroom red. I am not the mouthpiece for this family, I can't tell you how anyone else is feeling today. I'm saying that today is special to me because God answered my prayers.

Today I got my little brother.

I didn't tell anyone, for a very long time why I wanted a brother. It was one of those secrets that you keep in your soul. But I wanted you to know, to understand with me how precious this brother of mine is. Our God is faithful, and in the midst of this big change for my family I have peace. He gave me the brother I thought I needed on the same day that He gave my mom what she needed too.

God knew better than to answer my demands for a quick fix and instead He provided in a way that I could've never seen. He turned heartache into healing, and answered my childish prayer along the way.

I don't know what you've asked for, way down in your soul that you don't tell people about, but I know Someone who does. My encouragement to you is that we have a Good Father, and He will give you the desire of your heart. Just not always the moment you ask for it, or even the way you think it should arrive.

Congratulations Mom and Scott!

Welcome to the family, Phil, I've been waiting on you for a while now.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Debbie Voice

My mom's name is Debbie, in case you were wondering. I've been listening to her voice my entire life, and to celebrate Mother's Day this year, I decided to bring some of her greatest sayings to the internet, because she's spent a lot of time embarrassing me over the years. So here's some motherly advice for you this year...

"He'll never buy the cow if he gets the milk for free."

"Don't stick your lip out - a bird will poop on it."

"Butt is a cuss word."

"If it's meant to be, it will all work out."

"Crystals? Hmm... sounds New Age-y."

"What would you do if this semi suddenly lost control and all of those concrete cylinders rolled off?"

"You can't have a pet turtle, you'll get salmonella."

"Don't eat raw cookie dough, you'll get salmonella."

"You might want to hug a grizzly bear, but that would be unhealthy for you... some people are like that too."

"Don't pick up strangers with Olivia in the car."

"Gargle salt water."

"Bermuda shorts."

"Always bleach your bath towels."

"You'll know better next time."

I've  been listening to her voice my entire life, and now even when she's not here, I open my mouth and her words come out. The woman has a lot to say, and she generally says it pretty quickly. Imagine how much she's managed to tell me in the last 24 years; I know her words will be in my head as long as I live. Some of them will be what keeps me sane, and some of them will forever make me laugh. 

But I've been realizing lately that my mom's legacy has less to do with the things she's said and more to do with the example she's lived. See, even though I've been listening to her my whole life - I've been watching her just as long. I've watched her cook, put on her makeup, fold laundry, drive a car, mop a floor. I've watched her cry, pray, laugh, greet an enemy, grieve a loss, make impossible decisions. Sometimes I think the most important things she taught me were things she did instead of said. Someday I will forget the things she said, but I will always remember the way she lived. 

Dear moms, if you feel like they're not listening - you might be 100% right. But those stinking kids are still watching you, and your efforts are not in vain. Thank you to all the mothers who live out the call of Christ in their daily lives, even when it's tough. 

Mama of mine: thank you for your warmth, your laughter, your awful impressions and your rad dance moves. Thank you for teaching me how to tie my shoes, use a toilet, apologize, how to mow the lawn, paint my toes, spell my name, do what's right, work hard, how to love others, how to live like Jesus and thank you for praying through the days when I was not good at these things. Thank you for your hugs, your faith in me and for insisting that I know how to do my own laundry. It is by the grace of Jesus and your love that I am not a stripper. 

Love you Ma - Happy Mother's Day. 
- Emily

Also... We're still verrrryyy photogenic. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

4 Things I wish the Church had told me about marriage

 A lot of weddings are happening in my life this year, and our own 2 year anniversary is coming around the corner - whoa. So marriage is on my mind lately, and there are a few things I wish the Church had told me about being a Christian and being married. Specifically four. There are four big things.

I. It's more fun than dating: Why didn't you tell me this? Marriage is so much more fun than dating!!! It's awesome!!! But why didn't I know that when I was growing up? You can order the jumbo popcorn AND the sour patch watermelons at the movie theater, because you share bank accounts. You share inside jokes, secret hand gestures, failed dinner attempts and moments of worry and sorrow. When someone comes into your prayer life, you get to celebrate together the good things that God has done, and even the small ways you see Him working.

II. It's a picture of the Gospel: No one ever explained this to me. I heard a lot about submission and respect, but no one ever made the connection. Christians get married to live out the Gospel through love for one another - wow, awesome. I didn't even consider this growing up, but someone told us early on that our marriage was our #1 ministry. That's a weird way to think about it when your husband is a youth minister, because it definitely feels like our #1 ministry is YOUTH ministry. But over the summer I got a glimpse of what this can mean. One of our girls had taken my phone out and was flipping through pictures of Garrett and I. At one point she stopped on this one picture and started crying, which honestly isn't all that unusual for Jr. High girls. But eventually she told me the story of her parents' rocky relationship and ended by saying 'I can tell you know he loves you'. It hit me right in the gut. I take for granted so often the hope and assurance I have in my marriage, but it spoke to this Jr. High girl. That's the picture I want her to have of how Jesus loves her, that's how I want her to feel when she puts her faith in Him. Our marriage should tell a story full of grace and security, it should be a reflection of how Christ loves His own Bride. I keep that picture handy to remind me of our end goal: that others would know Christ's love through the way we love each other.

III. Don't marry someone who is a good dad: I hear it a lot. You probably have too. But what if you don't have kids? What if you have kids and they grow up and move out? What then? If you married him because he was going to be such a good dad, the moment your kids have left the house - he has served the extent of is purpose. Marry someone you want to have kids with, but make sure you're looking at more than that. If you marry a good man, he's going to be a good dad.

IV. It's not forever: Yikes. What? No, seriously. Why don't we talk about this? There is no marriage in Heaven, and when you think about your marriage as being a picture of the Gospel - it makes sense. We won't need reminders of the Gospel when we are living with Jesus forever. Treasure this time you have together, but also understand that it's not forever - live accordingly.

I share all of this with you because growing up, I came from a broken family and I was looking for these answers. I'm with kids every week who come from different family backgrounds and histories, but they gather in one place - the church. It's our privilege to teach our youth what marriage means to the Body of Christ and what makes it different than what the world says about two people getting married.

Marriage is awesome, its important. Make your marriage your ministry.

With Love,

Emily LeVault