A Different Perspective

For years, I’ve been in love with Claude Monet’s artwork.  I’ve enjoyed his impressionistic visions of his beautiful gardens, lily pads dancing across the canvas.  While I’ve always wanted to see his work in person, the opportunity has never been available for me…until last week.

I learned earlier this year that San Francisco’s De Young Museum was hosting an exhibit of 50 pieces of Mr. Monet’s later year’s artwork, and I quickly made plans to purchase tickets.  And this last week, my dream came true.  I took Chris, Peyton, and my mom to San Francisco and spent two hours staring at some of the most magnificent paintings I’ve ever seen.  When my vision filled with the first canvas as I turned the corner, it was blurred with tears.

Seeing his art up close was vastly different, however, than I had imagined.  The brush strokes were broad and sweeping.  Hardened blobs of oil paints were noticeable.  The images were almost unrecognizable.  It was fascinating.  For a brief moment, I was a little disheartened.  But as I stepped back and took in the pictures at a distance, the images transformed into the Japanese bridge and the weeping willows.  It was all about perspective, and it was breathtaking.

We sometimes look at ourselves and our circumstances in that same way.  We critique our flaws and our situations up close.  This perspective allows us to see the tiny flaws in our design.  We focus in on the details of our failures and our defects.  We dissect ourselves based on our desire to scrutinize who we are and where we’re failing.

But imagine, just taking six steps back and, voila.  The perspective changes!  We don’t see the failures anymore.  We don’t see how incomplete or broken we’ve become.  What we now see is what God created—His masterpiece.

God knew what He was doing when He created you.  What appears under close inspection to be a hodgepodge of random strokes is truly a perfect design made by our great Creator.  He doesn’t make mistakes.  He doesn’t see accidental angles or an uneven canvas.  He sees His greatest work….you.

~Erin

IMG_4344
Peyton staring at “Irises.”

Seasons of Life

I saw a meme several times this week that expressed dislike for calling attention to a “season of being single.” Essentially, the meme is highlighting the unnecessary hurt caused by labeling singleness as a season.

It got me thinking about the different phases I’ve had in my life.  There was a season of being a new believer.  The phase of being a newlywed.  The time of being deliberately disobedient to God.  The time of military service. The part about of infertility disappointments.  The transition to retirement.

I thought about my own season of singleness in my mid-30s, which admittedly was really awesome at times and really sucked at others.  I’ve concluded that every single phase of life each of us faces has highlights and lowlights.  Parts of each season are incredible, which counters the parts that are cloudy darkness.

In the days leading up to Easter celebrations this last week, this meme against “single seasons” also got me wondering about the seasons that Jesus’ mother, Mary, faced in her life.

Her season of being an unwed teen pregnancy statistic. Her season of being a newlywed with an infant.  Her season of her son “running away” to the temple. Her season of learning more from her child than He learned from her.  Her season of watching His trial…of watching Him die.

How incredibly heart wrenching each of Mary’s phases must have been.  On the counter, how incredibly enriching each phase would have been.

In Luke 2:39-53, we read about how Joseph and Mary would travel to Jerusalem annually for the Feast of Passover.  Imagine how she felt when at age 12, Jesus disappeared from her sight and they don’t even notice until they are already on their way home to Galilee.  Everyone is searching frantically for him, issuing the equivalent of an “Amber Alert” 2000 years ago.  Three days later they find him in the temple sitting among the teachers.

This would have been Mary’s season of panic. Panic over a lost child.  Panic over realizing He was more knowledgeable then they could even imagine.  Panic over the thoughts of a future, which would include the child learner becoming the grown-man teacher.

This time of panic would have been laced with joy. There could have been joy and pride at seeing the child learning so intently.  Pride to hear the teachers of the temple praising Jesus’ attentiveness. A maternal love when sensing that the child was about to embark on His destiny.

In Luke 2:51, after rebuking Jesus for worrying His parents, we read “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

Mary had to make sense of what she was seeing in her child.  She knew of Gabriel’s announcement, of Elizabeth’s and Zechariah’s prophecies, and of course, she had experienced her own divine appointment with the Lord through the immaculate conception.  Imagine this question facing Mary:  How do you raise a child you believe is the Messiah?

When one looks at seasons of their own life, there is a give and take between the good and the bad of those phases.  Mary saw that first hand through the seasons of motherhood.

If Mary’s transitions offer us a glimpse into seeing both sides of a scenario, shouldn’t we be able to apply that to our own walk with Christ?   I believe that if we look at our own seasons we can discern positive qualities as well as negative qualities in each.  As in Mary’s time, this look at our “seasons of life” allows us a moment of reflection on what God is trying to teach us.

No matter the phase we are in, we are still learning.   Imagine we’re sitting in the temple at the foot of the great teacher.

I encourage you this week to reflect on your current season.  What are the negative and positive attributes of this time?

~Emily

 

 

 

How Does This Bathing Suit Look?

Whoever says shopping for a bathing suit is fun is a liar!  Sorry if that’s you.  But honestly, what’s so fun about it?  There are two options when it comes to trying them on, and neither are remotely appealing to me.

One:  I trudge to the department store, a.k.a. Target, because I’m a budget-mom, and start perusing the selection.  I push one hanger down the pole after another as I realize that bikinis seem to be in style.  And not just any bikinis.  The ones that are made of 4 total inches of fabric.  How on earth does that actually stretch from front to back?!  Oops…wrong size.  Head to the “Erin” section of swimwear.  Ummm, why does everything have a skirt?  And every piece is black.  I know black is supposed to be slimming, but what about those of us who rival Edward Cullen in the translucent skin category; now I’m just setting myself up to look like a pudgy Wednesday Addams.

I take the 3 ½ pieces of swimwear I found and head to the dressing room where I contemplate whether or not the salad I ate for lunch two days ago will show the dramatic ¼ pound weight loss I accomplished.  Go home with no suits.  I need more than 4 inches of fabric.

Two:  I peruse the websites, looking through pages and pages of swimsuits on models that might possibly be a hair skinnier than my right ankle.  It’s a little hard for me to envision myself in it, but maybe my 4-pack and belly button indentation won’t show in the flowery looking one.   The one with ruffles off the arm looks promising, until I start thinking about the awesome farmer’s tan I’m going to give myself this summer if I buy it.  Nope….take it out of the cart.  Thirteen more swimsuits go in the cart where I go back and forth and pull the picture no less than 12 times to then decide it won’t work on my body shape and remove it.  I finally decide on three pieces to order.  Try them on in the privacy of my own home.  Where I hope the salad I ate for lunch seven days ago will show the dramatic ¼ pound weight loss I accomplished.

Am I the only one that feels this way?!  Seriously, ladies!  I constantly struggle with my self-esteem.  This is an actual scenario from this week (minus the ordering online.  I haven’t gotten to the ‘Complete Order’ button).  I’m happy with who I am, and I’m content with where God has placed me in life.  I don’t think I’m ugly.  I know God made me exactly as He wanted.  So why is believing I’m beautiful no matter what size I am (lol…I actually mistyped there are started to write Ham).  Sorry, back on track…why is believing I’m beautiful no matter what size I am so difficult?

The Holy Spirit has been stirring up in me this last month or two the desire to look at the lies of the devil and how deceptive he can be.  If satan can get our focus off of God, then it becomes easier to stumble.  We find ourselves more inclined to listen to what the world says about who we should be rather than who God says we should be.  When we listen to the world, it says “Be whoever you want to be” but in the fine print, “Only if you look and talk like this celebrity or that influencer.”  The world says “It doesn’t matter how much you weigh” but in little letters, “Don’t think for one second we’re not limiting your options in stores.”  It shows us pictures of well-dressed moms on the go with manicured fingers and beautifully dressed children—but it doesn’t show us the 23 takes and four kids’ meltdowns it took to finally get the perfect snapshot to put on Instagram or Facebook.

Those few examples of how the devil and the world deceives may seem trivial, but it’s a reality that people face every day.  We worry about our weight, how we look, who’s going to stare, are our clothes on trend, or whether our children will get teased because of the size of their mother.

My prayer for myself, the women in my life, and the women that this post reaches is that you know God loves you, and He tells you to come to Him JUST AS YOU ARE.  He thinks you’re beautiful.  And His love conquers any junk and deception the world and the devil may try to feed you.  Be proud of who you are and the work the Holy Spirit is fulfilling in your life!  You’re worthy of His love.

Have you been struggling with self-esteem like I have?  Share your thoughts at the porch!

~Erin

come to him just as you are. you are

Prepper for Heaven

True confession time…I’m a prepper.

Seriously, I’m prepped for an electromagnetic pulse, a tornado, zombies, drought, or Armageddon.  I spend time watching videos, participating on discussion boards, learning about water purification, or researching homeopathic medical treatments. I have an elaborate “bug-out” bag for each of my family members, which includes three days of food and water for each of us.  In light of the most recent tornados in Alabama, I have recently added whistles to the outside of the backpacks so that we would be able to identify ourselves to first responders if we happened to be buried in debris.

I’m prepared for a disaster.  And I’m okay with both my husband and my best friend making fun of me for it.

I believe that in life, you must be ready for anything.  If you have a plan and don’t need it, does it hurt anyone? No.  But if you don’t have a plan and need one, then it hurts those around you.  I understand that not everyone subscribes to this thought process.  In some instance, I believe people think they have plenty of time to develop a plan so they procrastinate.

I think people also procrastinate when it comes to God.  I believe everyone must be ready for Jesus, for He will come like a thief in the night.

Matthew 24: 42-44 (NIV) says, “Therefore keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So, you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

If everyone knew when He was coming, then everyone would accept His plan.  But many don’t see the merits of having an eternal plan.  They procrastinate their decision.  Essentially they haven’t acknowledged the need for Christ’s gift of eternal life.

If you were to die tomorrow, would you be prepared? Would you have your spiritual “bug-out” bag already packed with Jesus? Or would you be wandering and helpless in the face of eternity without Christ?

While I am concerned about the lost souls who don’t know a personal relationship with Christ, I am also concerned with the Christian woman who does not know how to share her faith with non-believers.  Just as I am a prepper for the natural needs of humans, we must also be preppers for the souls who do not yet know Christ as their Savior.  It is our role and responsibility as Christians to share the gospel.  It is our role to be Preppers for Heaven.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV), “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life.  And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.”

If you don’t know how to share the Gospel, if you are intimidated by the thought of sharing the Gospel, or if you don’t see that you have any opportunities to share the Gospel, please come to the porch…Erin and I would love to chat with you about how to become comfortable sharing Christ’s love at any time with anyone.

~Emily

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ~Benjamin Franklin

Preppers for Heaven

 

 

Stop Complicating it!

Why do we always try to complicate things?  Why can’t a simple direction mean exactly as it sounds?  We find ourselves following unnecessary steps or skipping the direction to get the solution because we’ve added in perceived ideas of how the journey is supposed to look.

Look at Naaman for instance.  In the bible, it was said he was captain of the army of the king of Aram.  He was highly regarded and a “valiant warrior.”  But he was also a leper.  Back in those days, leprosy was no joke.  They usually separated you outside the city, and when you saw people coming from afar, you had better be shouting ‘UNCLEAN!’ so as to warn them not to get close to your flesh-eating zombie self.

Upon recommendation, Naaman went to Elisha, a prophet of God, to seek healing from the bacterial nightmare.  Elisha sent a messenger to him advising to go wash in the Jordan seven times and he would be cleaned.  That’s it.  End of discussion.  Go dunk in the Jordan, not once, not twice, but seven times and the leprosy will be gone.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

But the dude needs to complicate it!  Naaman gets angry and beings to leave shouting how there are better rivers than the Jordan to do something like that in!  Why can’t Elisha just wave his hand and do a little hocus pocus and cure him?!

Thank goodness for the faithfulness of his servants who reminded him in 2 Kings 5:13, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?  How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

And so that’s exactly what Naaman did.  He went to the Jordan, dipped himself seven times and saw the miraculous healing of God through the words of His prophet, Elisha.

Our Christian walk doesn’t have to be so difficult, an elaborate and legalistic 27-step process to know Him better.  Salvation isn’t some intricate series of steps we think we need to do in order to have full fellowship with Him.  He says Believe in Me, Trust in Me, Follow Me, and Go.  The rest comes with faith and devotion.  The Holy Spirit comes to live in you and helps you in your walk with our Heavenly Father.

If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, there’s never a time like right now.  Speak to Him, confessing your sins, admitting you’re a sinner, and asking Him to live in you and make you whole.  If you’ve turned your relationship with Jesus into a tricky maze of do this, do this, do that, and you’d like to renew that desire to let go of “steps” and just fall into His arms of grace and listen to what He’s telling you, now’s the time.  Ask Him to renew your faith and allow you to trust Him wholly and with abandon.

He’s right here, waiting for you.

~Erin

_My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it_ How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'__

Going Solo to a Meeting with God

What is the craziest thing you’ve done by yourself?

This is often a scary thing to contemplate. Being alone.  Going to dinner alone…at a real sit-down restaurant. Going to a movie alone.  Going to a concert, play, or a museum alone.

I often do things alone, simply because I’ve refused to miss experiences when I can’t find someone to go with me. One of the craziest things I’ve done by myself was travel to Normandy, France over Memorial Day in 2012.  I couldn’t find anyone who could get the time off or wanted to see the beaches of Normandy. But I wanted to go…so I did.

This last weekend, I did something by myself that I hadn’t ever done before.  I went to a women’s Christian conference alone.  For complete transparency, I knew there were going to be a couple of women from my church attending, but I traveled, stayed in a hotel, and arrived at the conference solo.

Rather than my normally self-confident ways, I found myself floundering in the solo-ness of the experience.

As I found a seat in the midst of over 6,000 women, I was feeling self-conscious.  Were other women looking at me and wondering why I was by myself?  Were the ladies from my church remembering that I was also attending…would they invite me to sit with them?  How was I going to get through the day without having someone to pray with, someone to nudge when there was an especially good nugget, someone to wait in the bathroom line with me?!?!?!

And then the featured speaker, Priscilla Shirer, said something that touched my heart.  The summary of what she said included, “I’m going to challenge you to pray by yourself right now…. whether you came with 100 ladies from your church, 10 of your closest friends, or by yourself…we are taking time right now for each of you to have a one-on-one conversation with the Father.  You are here to chat with an audience of One.”

It was through her that I felt the ping of the Holy Spirit reassuring me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that moment.  That reassurance included knowing it was perfectly okay to be there by myself and that I only need to be concerned with my relationship with God.

It reminded me that Christ had to do the most difficult thing ever, go to the cross to die for all of our sins, all by Himself.  Or so it seemed…

You see, it also made me reflect that Christ was not truly ever by Himself.  The Father was right there with him throughout the trial, the torture, the long walk with a heavy cross, and even in His final moments as a human.

And the Father is with me always too. Through every single experience, both good and bad, the Father has been with me. In every event I’ve attended alone in flesh, the Father was with me.  Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

God was sitting right next to me when I struggled with being solo at a women’s Christian conference.  He’ll be right next to you when you’re struggling too.

Come to the porch and tell us the scariest/craziest/most fun thing you’ve done by yourself.

~Emily

Joshua 1-9

Did I Just Throw My Kid Under the Bus?!

A few weeks ago at church, we were reading one of my favorite stories in the New Testament.  A boy, blind since birth, was given sight again by Jesus.  For those who aren’t familiar with the story, the disciples walked by this boy and asked Jesus who had sinned to make him blind, him or his parents.  Jesus answered that neither had sinned; it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9:3).

Jesus then bent over, spit into some clay on the ground to make a mud and put it over the boy’s eyes, telling him afterward to go wash in the pool of Siloam.  It was after the washing that he gained sight.  People were shocked and asking if it was the same boy since he could see now.  He was brought to the Pharisees who asked him how he received his sight and about the “man” that had enabled this to happen.

Now that’s the part of the story I’ve always loved and remembered….Jesus taking His own spit and the dust of the ground to perform a miracle.  It’s beautiful.  But what gut-checked me is what we read after that sweet part of the story.

As the Pharisees questioned him, unbelieving what the boy had to say, they called out to his parents and asked them if he was truly their son and how he could now see.  The parents’ response?  “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know.  Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself,” (John 9:20b-21).

Wow.  For fear of excommunication from the worship and fellowship of the church (John 9:22), these parents threw their child, who historians say was somewhere aged 13-20, under the bus to answer for himself.  Was it hurtful?  Yes.  In the end, was the boy thrown out of the synagogue?  Yes again.  Did the parents act maliciously towards the boy?  No.

I would like to think that I’m “so much better” than those parents who cowered to peer pressure, but I know I’m not.  I’ve done things and I’ve said things that have hurt my children.  Where there should have been trust, they may have found doubt.  Where there should have been attention, there was times of disregard.  Sometimes as parents, even when we do everything in our power to protect our children, fear and lies of the devil creep up and overtake.  Then we’re left heartbroken at the end because we didn’t stand up to the pressures of the world and our children become collateral damage.

Parents, guardians, aunts, uncles, grandparents, we are human.  We make mistakes.  What we do with those mistakes is what’s important.  Seek forgiveness from God for the sin committed, and if necessary, ask the child for forgiveness.  My girls have heard me say more than once “I’m sorry” for something I’ve done.  They appreciate it and it models a humble heart.

I’ll never be a perfect parent but with God’s help, I’ll keep getting better and better at it.

~Erin

I'll never be a perfect parent.