The Walmart Meltdown

I don’t often break down.  I definitely don’t break down in front of people.  I’m the kind of woman that needs to feel like she’s got her emotions in check.  I encourage women to let go and be ok with not having it all together.  But me….I don’t always take my advice.

Let’s take the Walmart incident Emily wrote about two weeks ago.  When she wrote that I had a meltdown, she wasn’t exaggerating!  I took a left at the end of McKenna’s road to head to Walmart and somewhere in that 4 minute drive, as she encouraged me to tell her what was going on in my head, I start blubbering and crying.  And she was there to help me get myself back together.  Here’s what she didn’t tell you because she felt it was my story to write.

I was afraid of judgment.  Here we were, visiting my beautiful oldest daughter and her husband, Indy, along with my sweet little grandbaby, Andros, and I was worried that I would be judged on how well McKenna was doing!  By my best friend!  How silly does that sound!?

But it wasn’t silly to me in that moment.  Would Emily see something that would reflect poor parenting?  Were McKenna and Indy thriving?  Was Andros doing well? Did McKenna love her job?  Was the house clean enough?  Were they eating healthy?
These are all things moms worry about for their grown children, but somehow in that moment, Satan had woven anxiety around me to make me feel as if I needed to question my worthiness as a parent, as a grandparent, and as a friend.

It was overwhelming to say the least.  In that 4 minute drive, I was afraid to tell Emily that I was terrified of being judged by her.  Yet, when I shared my heart, she lovingly told me that there was NOTHING that would ever make her feel as if I wasn’t a good parent, a good person, a good friend.  She reminded me that I was overwhelmed with everything going on with the trip, and that there were great things in store from God.  And that I needed to stop freaking out!

And just like that, it was over.  It was as if God had placed this blanket of protection over me through my best friend’s kind yet realistic words.  Satan’s rhetoric was banished from that car, and grace filled the air.

How many times do we do that to ourselves, ladies?  We question our value and our worth through someone else’s eyes.  We want to feel accepted and worthy of a friendship or a job.  We long to feel good enough to teach a class or learn a new skill. Yet, we forget that God sees us as worthy already.  We are good enough.  Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV) says, “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

He knew who we were before we were born, and He created us in His image.  We. Are. Worthy.  Because we are His.

~Erin

The Moment of Three

I’ve always known there is significance in the number three from a biblical point of view.  You have the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Peter denied Jesus three times during His crucifixion.  Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.  I find it even more significant that I can see that same number being used by God to show His power and grace in my life.

When I visit Emily, she always puts together an amazing itinerary of sites to see or things to do.  Typically, we’ll choose a topic and the sightseeing is based on that.  This visit we chose a literary theme, and it did not disappoint.  We travelled the two hours to the quaint town of Monroeville, AL, the hometown of both Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Truman Capote (In Cold Blood).  We visited the original courthouse.  It’s been converted into a museum dedicated to both authors.  The original courthouse that was replicated for the movie To Kill a Mockingbird is on the second floor, and you’re free to walk about and take pictures!

After a bit of time walking around, we started our drive back to the house.  During that drive, the car weirdly started speeding over the speed limit for some unknown reason.  It could’ve been the car acting oddly, or it might’ve been the lead foot that was attached to the gas pedal.  Either way, we encountered a police officer who wasn’t impressed with the race car abilities of a 10-year-old Ford.  While he went back to run the information he needed, we discussed just how much we thought the ticket would cost.

The officer headed back to the window, and firmly told us we needed to slow down and that he was issuing a warning today!  Praise God!  The ticket would’ve been fair and justified, but God saw fit to allow grace on the situation.  While the stop cost us about 15 minutes on the road home, we were grateful that we didn’t have a fine to pay.

We continued on our way home while looking for exit 142; we had seen a local pecan shop on the way to Monroeville and wanted to stop on our return to see what they had.  (And for those reading this who are concerned about my state of mind as I willingly walked into a nut store, I just wanted to see what was there…I didn’t have to actually eat any!)

About 20 minutes from the exit, it started to rain mercilessly.  And just as we got to the exit, we realized there was an accident ahead.  Traffic was at a dead stop.  What we thought was just a small accident turned out to be three accidents, including a semi turning over and crossing the highway into our lane of traffic.

We couldn’t believe it!  That 15 minutes stop we had earned by the police officer had spared us a possible crash in the downpour we were experiencing.  We thanked God for the grace He had shown us yet again, and were just amazed that we had been covered with such protection.

As we drove out of the parking lot, our only choice was to turn onto the highway which was at a standstill with no idea as to how long it would take to clean up the accidents.  As we began our turn onto the ramp, an off-duty police officer was telling the car in front of us just to follow and he would take us down the back roads to go around stopped traffic.  Yet again, God’s power was evident in the fact that we had left at just the right time to encounter the officer.

Often times, we encounter what feels like meaningless moments.  Things happen around us and we don’t think about the significance of why that has happened. Sometimes, it’s truly just because life happens.  But I believe there are far more times that we realize those moments are God-breathed!

In that 1 1/2 hour time span the handiwork of God was revealed and three times, God’s provision was revealed.  I love that the significance of ‘three’ in the Bible is still just as evident in my life today!

God Always Provides

God always provides.  I tell this to my Bible study ladies every single week. Sometimes, it’s hard to see.  Often we ask, “God I could really use (fill in the blank). Could you open a way to allow me to have/do that?”  When the response feels like, “You’re getting a double helping of NOT (fill in the blank),” it can be a tough reality to live.  But even as a seasoned Christian, I’m still amazed at how He provides, even the seemingly small things.

For those who know me personally, you know I’m writing a book.  To this girl who loves English and writing, who loves to teach and has to a lot to say, it’s a dream come true to finally follow my calling.

However, because of my writing style, I tend to edit as I go.  This is a nightmare. Attempting to complete a full paragraph much less an entire chapter is a giant migraine because I get so focused on crafting that perfect sentence the first time around instead of letting the editing process take place down the line.  Yes, I lean towards perfectionism.

On the other hand, give me a group of people to talk to, and I’ll talk your ear off, unedited.  I love to share my story, and I tend to get so animated and excited that it just rolls off the tongue.

The topic of this painful process came up last Monday when I was speaking to a couple of my girlfriends at Bible study and again on Tuesday when I was on the phone with Emily.  The advice given to me was simple: You need a dictation program!

Easy enough….except that dictation programs cost money, and this girl is headed to the “She Speaks” conference in just two weeks!  So while I politely accepted their advice, and thought about what brilliant advice it was, I tucked it into the one-day-my-dream-will-come-true file.

NOW, here is where I get so excited because this dilemma gave me the opportunity to see my current Bible study in action.  We’re doing a study on the names of Jesus by Kay Arthur, and God became Jehovah-jireh to me (The God Who Will Provide).

On Saturday, I popped onto my Facebook and posted about me attempting to write a chapter.  A friend from high school who I haven’t seen or talked to in years, messaged me and asked me if I was using a dictation program or a Mac.  (I have neither.)  I told him I didn’t but that I was interested in knowing about dictation programs.  He then offered to set me up with his software so that it would be easier for me to write! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!

Listen…he had no idea about the conversation.  None.  When I got the message, all I could do was praise Jesus that He provides and provides as He sees the need.  Could I write a book without dictation?  Yes.  Would it be much easier for this talker to do that with dictation software?  Uhhh….YES!

Our God is ready to provide for you!  All you need to do is ask.  As He provides, praise Him for the answered prayer, whether it was the provision you desired or the provision He felt you needed.

How about it, community?  Tell the people sitting on the Iron Porch today what you’re asking God to provide and how we can pray for you!

~Erin

Be Bold

I’m sitting here and staring at a blank screen.  This happens a lot.  I sit down to write only to be stumped with what God is telling me to write.  I think a topic is a good idea.  Then I wonder what the topic will bring to the table in my writing.  I pause, and then I erase.  A new idea enters my head.  Yet again, I think about where I want it to go, and then I erase.  It’s a vicious cycle I have in my head.

And now, I have this crazy thought…how often do we start to tell people about us and about our testimony when we stop ourselves, erase the potential conversation and start talking about something completely different because we’re afraid of what people will think or say?  I know I’m sometimes guilty of it.

I want to start off on the right foot with people.  I don’t want them thinking I’m some crazy Jesus Freak who is unable to relate to them because I do things “God’s way”.  I gauge the temperature of the conversation before I jump in with my story or what the platform is of my ministry.

But really, what’s so wrong with being a Jesus Freak?!  I love Jesus.  My life is about serving and glorifying Him.  It doesn’t mean I’m not fun.  It definitely doesn’t mean I’m boring. I’m not going to judge someone for their sin or how they live their life…I’ve got my own sin to worry about.  So why should I be ashamed to talk about what I live for or what my calling is when they ask me about myself?!

Being a Christian is what defines me.  While being a mom and a grandma is about the best thing I could ever ask for, my life would not, could not be what it is without Jesus Christ and what He did for me.  I should not nor do I need to be ashamed or hesitant to share my love for Jesus.

I know this may not have been what you stopped by the Iron Porch to hear today, but I feel like someone, even if it’s only me, needs to hear that you don’t need to be afraid of who you are in Jesus.  It’s ok to have your life in Him and to be bold about it.  Don’t fear sharing with others what He’s done for you or how He’s changing you.  He loves you, and that just may be what someone else needs to hear.

~Erin

The Dead Sea Scrolls

We raced to the line with two minutes to spare, our 1:10 pm tickets in hand.  After heading out on the road almost 30 minutes later than I had desired, we had navigated the highways, battled the Denver traffic, and miraculously found a parking space in the coveted main parking lot just in time.  The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these ancient artifacts were just beyond those walls, and I couldn’t wait to share this moment with my girls.  We were about to see the Dead Sea Scrolls.

For those unfamiliar with the Scrolls, they are ancient Jewish manuscripts found near the Dead Sea in the Qumran Caves in the 1940’s by some Bedouin shepherds. Their importance and value were not originally realized, and the story of the initial discovery, handling and care is truly fascinating and shocking.  The Dead Sea Scrolls are significant to Christian culture because these manuscripts had writings that had been included in the Bible!

Included in the displays were artifacts from the time period including pottery, dishes, altars, and weaponry.  They guided us to a small room for a short five minute explanation of the exhibit and what we were about to see.  To say I was excited was an understatement!  At one point in those first moments Peyton looked at me and exclaimed, “Are you CRYING?! ALREADY?!”  I had to giggle and tell her to keep her voice down.

I just want to share with you a few of the pieces that pierced my heart, and put the Bible into such a new light for me.  You know what I mean; you’ve read the Bible stories, you’ve heard the lessons.  Yet, when it touches you in a new way, it feels fresh and new and….alive.

Sling-stones. Seriously. As in David and Goliath! The display contained approximately 15 of the smooth, nearly perfectly rounded spheres.  As I gazed at them, I could see David praying to God for victory and choosing the best five stones that would surely bring the giant down.  I could see Goliath in the distance with his sword and shield, laughing at the small boy they were sending his way with only a slingshot.  Can you see it?  The Israelites watching David closely as if he’s lost his mind, the Philistines amused at how easily the victory would come for Goliath.  And in a brief moment, it was over.  David landed his shot perfectly into Goliath’s forehead, and the giant lay dead at the feet of the shepherd.  God gave David the victory and that man would go on to lead a nation as king.  Goosebumps!

A small jug for oil.  Did this slight vessel resemble the one that the widow stored the last of her oil in as she prepared the bread for Elijah?  The widow only had enough for one more meal before her and her son would have nothing left and die from starvation.  Yet the man of God arrived at her doorstep asking to be fed.  No questions.  God had directed her to feed him, despite the lack of ingredients to make enough for everyone.  The scene became so vivid in my head.  I saw this woman kneading what was left of the flour and olive oil together to make the small loaf of bread for the prophet, the words of God and Elijah running through her mind, weary from worry, that the oil and flour wouldn’t run out if she obeyed.

Coins.  Coins were traded for the local currency that was needed to purchase the animals for offering at the temple.  All of a sudden, the courtyard seemed to surround me.  The animals, penned up and ready for purchase, the smell permeating the air.  Israelite men arguing with the money changers over the interest they were trying to charge for the exchange.  The buzz of daily life humming in my ears.  I could imagine the Israelite men hoping that the doves or lambs they purchased were unblemished so as not to have to purchase another with what little money they had left.

And those Scrolls….the tiny Hebrew writing.  The thinly laid, delicate parchment. The aging ink.  Can you imagine the Jewish men hunched over in the dim light, putting quill to parchment?  In this display, I saw the words from Isaiah—[He has s]treched out [his hand] over the sea, to shake the kingdoms… (Isaiah 23:11a).  The Psalms of King David were found, and Psalm 121 was laid out before me in its entirety:

A song of ascents.  I turn my eyes to the mountains; from where will [my help] come?  My help comes from the LORD, maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot [give way;] and your guardian [will] not slumber; See the [guardian of] [I]srael neither slumbers nor sleeps at night!  The LORD is your guardian, your protection at your right hand.  By da[y] [the s]un will not strike you, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will guard you from al[l harm,] He will gu[ard] your life. He will guard your going and coming now and for[ever.]

The words from the Bible were enclosed in a case right in front of me, proving to me just how true the words of God are.

As we rounded the corner towards the end of the exhibit, a large three-ton stone from the Western Wall stood in our path with a makeshift wall surrounding it. There, they had papers for people to write prayers to place in the wall (as they do in Jerusalem) that would be sent to Israel.  As I put my prayer in a crevice of the wall, I asked God that this exhibit and His word would touch people the way it had touched me.

I pray, even now, that this experience never leave my mind and that it would have a lasting impact on me as a reminder that our God, our Bible, His words are alive and real.

I know not everyone will have an opportunity to see an exhibit like this.  My challenge to you today is to ask God to open your eyes to a fresh perspective of His words in the Bible as this exhibit did for me.  Read it as the love story that it is to you. It will change your life.

~Erin

Finding the Joy

Sometimes I think my life could rival Lemony Snicket.  One thing leads to another and before long, the only thing you can do is laugh and trust that the next situation that arises is even funnier than the last.  You have to have a sense of humor to be in my family!

We arrived in Cheyenne, Wyoming late Saturday night, excited to see McKenna and Andros.  I hadn’t seen my precious 8-month-old grandson or his beautiful momma since he was born.  I couldn’t wait to squeeze their necks!

We were about 2 hours outside of town when I got a call from McKenna.  She was headed to the ER with Andros.  Not only did Andros have some kind of stomach bug, McKenna had an incredibly sore throat and it was too late for any urgent care places in town to be open.

Of course, Andros had a viral bug, and McKenna’s strep test was positive.  Two of the most important people in my life were in pain and uncomfortable, and there was nothing I could do about it.  That, however was not going to stop us from seeing them as soon as possible.  Peyton and I met them for lunch on Sunday and actually took Andros for the night so that we could enjoy some special time. (I’d like to think it was a little Momma/Mimi love that made them feel better!)

Tuesday rolled around and with it, so did mine and Peyton’s stomach.  By the afternoon, we were both down and out for the count.  We even had to cancel our plans with my brother who’s only day available was Tuesday because of this bug.  Peyton lovingly joked that she was disowning her nephew, while I quietly thought of the ways I could remove my intestines so that my stomach didn’t hurt anymore!

By Wednesday morning, we felt so much better, and Peyton enjoyed some relaxation at our rental while I went to work for a few hours.  After I returned from work, Peyton let me know her throat hurt.  Seriously?!  This can’t be happening.  We talked about whether or not she felt sick enough to go to the local urgent care to which she replied that she didn’t feel that it was that bad.  About an hour later, she peeked over the back of the chair and casually asked, “Is a strep test the one where they put the stick down your throat?”  I knew we needed to go.

Did you know that strep has to be in your system 12-18 hours before your body will produce a positive strep result?  I didn’t.  So the doctor’s words of wisdom after a negative result was produced was that it was 50/50 shot that she had strep versus a residual effect of the stomach bug from the day before.  We decided the course of action was to go ahead and treat her as if it were positive since she was exposed and a fever had started.  Going home, Peyton now joked that she was disowning her own sister, as well.

Through it all, God has been in the middle of our family!  Andros and McKenna quickly recovered.  We were in a place where my mom was around to be able to help care for us while we were laid up.  My brother was still able to meet his great-nephew for the first time.  We didn’t have to reschedule our dinner theater tickets for Thursday, and Peyton won’t be sick by the time her birthday rolls around this weekend.

God tells us to find joy in our trials, and that’s all I can do when weeks like this happen.  When God is in the midst of our lives and circumstances, I can’t help but be joyful that He still allows us to breathe and laugh at our misfortunes.

Take the time to seek Him during those moments. It will put a fresh perspective on your current situation!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kind, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. -James 1:2-3

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I a weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:10

~Erin

 

Find Your Community

Last night, our weekly women’s Bible study group met for week two of our newest venture.  You often hear me refer to them as Table 8.  When I met most of these women a little over a year ago, I was a table leader at our church’s women’s Bible study.  The names of the participants were prayed over and given seat assignments. While I’ve led Bible studies before, this was my first time leading a table at my new church in California, and I had no idea who or what to expect!  We’ve since changed table numbers, grafted new women into our group, and even started meeting outside of church to go through different Bible studies together.  But we’ve always been “Table 8.”

Table 8 has talked at length about being surrounded by a community of like-minded women to share life together.  Sometimes they’re referred to as life groups.  Others call them communities.  Often, women struggle with finding women they can fellowship with in this way.  We fear what the other people will think about our life and choices.  We wonder if they’ll judge us for our past, look down on us for how our children behave, or shy away for the depression we’re currently sitting in.

I did this for a long time.  I would get into a group only to find myself holding back. While my life is an open book which I believe God has called me to share with others, I could sense that I was keeping pieces of myself separate from the group for fear of judgment.  Many times, those pieces were exactly what I needed to share to garner advice on the situation from others, to help me heal, and to help me grow closer to my Creator.

God encourages us to have the kinds of friends that we can find in these life groups. These groups can help hold us accountable to studying and learning God’s Word. They can lift us up in prayer, comfort us when we’re hurting, and celebrate with us in victories.

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.—Proverbs 27:9

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you’re doing.—1 Thessalonians 5:11

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. –Proverbs 27:17

In the case of Table 8, each woman brings something different and unique to the table.  We’re all at different points in our lives, yet we all lift each other up exactly where we are.  With fresh perspective and God’s presence in our community, there isn’t anything we can’t handle!

My encouragement to you today is to find your community.  Even if it’s scary, pray about it and then gather a group of women together to grow in Jesus together.  Pick a Bible study that you can do.  Grab some snacks and spend some time dissecting a passage of scripture together.  Choose an evening to get together for a Prayer ‘N Praise hour, praying for intercession and praising for answered prayers.

Don’t be afraid.  You don’t have to have grown up in church or know the Bible inside and out to get a group together.  You simply need a desire to know Jesus and what He wants for us. He’ll take care of the rest for you.

God desires you to have your own Table 8.  He knit our group together.  He’ll do the same for you.

~Erin