The Growing Up Children

Peyton has one year left of school, and it’s moving at lightning speed!  Tomorrow we’ll order her cap and gown and before long, we’ll be addressing graduation announcements to let everyone know she’s finally finished with high school.  The thought of her going to college (whether she still lives with us or not) or even just moving out on her own has me scared to death!

For 17 years, I’ve taken care of her.  I’ve been responsible for making sure she has food, clothing, an education, kisses to bed, hugs to leave for school, and bandaids for the boo-boos.  I’ve been there to talk about boys, or cry about boys, or eat gallons of ice cream over boys.  I’ve been in charge of taking her to church, leading her growth in Christ, and nurturing a Godly household.  And before I know it, my job will be over in that way, and she’ll be taking care of herself.

I worry.  What parent (or grandparent, aunt, uncle, or family friend) doesn’t?  We watch our children grow and make mistakes, most often the same mistakes we made as a kid.  And then we worry about how they will handle it when we’re not around to hold their hand and guide them to a smart decision.

During this time, I find strength in this verse.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” –Isaiah 26:3

I don’t have to worry.  When I keep my mind focused on the love of the Father, He gives me the peace I need.  It’s a peace that allows me to remember that He will watch over Peyton as she finishes high school, as she makes decisions about college, and decides when it’s time to move out.

Peyton may make decisions that I won’t like.  She may choose a path that I won’t agree with.  But I can take comfort in God’s perfect plan for her life.  I need only to trust in Him.

How about you, friends?  Do any of you worry about your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors!?  Come to the porch and share!  We’d love to pray over your children.

~Erin

This Past Year

I’m a few days away from being 43.  That just sounds old.  I mean, I know it’s not.  But if I think back a looooong time ago to the sweet age of 10, I thought 43 was practically retirement-village,-using-a-walker,-putting-away-my-dentures-every-night-old. 

As I do every year, I like to think back over the previous 365 days and reflect on it.  What did I do that was exciting?  What is something I wish I had done?  Did I waste time on ‘stuff’?  Am I happy with the actions I took?  A lot of people might do this at the end of the year.  I find I love to do it at my birthday, because it makes me feel like I’m not trying to do some cheesy resolution and instead really contemplating what I’ve done.

This year, I feel like I spent much more time truly meditating on God’s Word.  I was thoughtful in my Bible reading, not just looking for verses that applied to me.  Rather, I was looking meaningfully at the passages for the context, how it applied, and where I saw God in each verse.  The more I dug in, the more I found my own ‘self’ was changing!  I realized that the things that never bothered me before are now striking a chord with me, and not one that plays a sweet note. 

TV and movies don’t have the same appeal when I see the worldly actions and images across the screen.  Secular (and even some contemporary Christian) music doesn’t ring true lately when it promotes unhealthy and inappropriate relationships or a diluted message of who God is and what He does.  Foul language is becoming more and more difficult to tolerate.

To the average person, they might see this as a legalistic point of view, these things that I’ve discovered about myself from this past year.  However, I believe that it’s less about being legalistic and more about recognizing that I want my relationship with God to be pure and untainted from the ways of the world.  I don’t want my walk to be conforming but rather transformative.  I want to be different because our Father commands us to be different and not of this world.

Here are just a few verses I’ve leaned on this year without even realizing that I was doing it!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. –Philippians 4:8

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. –Romans 12:2

Beloved, I urge you as foreigners and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. –1 Peter 2:11

As I look back I realize that, while there may be things I wish I had done, I love that I have recognized the Holy Spirit prodding me to a life that’s more pleasing to God.  I’m not perfect at it.  I never will be.  But any small thing that pushes me to a closer relationship to my Heavenly Father, is a small thing I’ll do as often as I can!

Dear friends, join me in meditating on those verses this week.  Think about ways we can think on things that are honorable, true and right and remind ourselves that, as Christians, we are only visitors on this earth for a short time compared to eternity with Him!

~Erin

A Good Book

As a reader, I love a good book.  There’s something about diving into a story and recreating the scene in your head.  You can imagine yourself right there in the middle of it all, helping the main character figure out what to do.  While I don’t have to have a happy ending for the books I read, I do love for it to be finished, if you know what I mean.  I like to see development of a person-who they are, what they look like, the emotions they may be feeling.  I like to see the plot, no matter if it’s happy or sad.  It’s frustrating when I start reading a book and can’t really “get into it” the way I’d like.

Because of this habit, I’ve found that I’ve more than once been irritated with not knowing more about some of the people in the Bible.  What did Rahab look like?  What happened to her after the Israelites took down Jericho?  What happened to the widow and her son who fed Elijah?  Did they have an abundance of food afterward?  How about Cornelius in Acts 10?  He had a vision and was told to send men to Joppa to fetch Peter.  Were those men guards from his regimen?  Did they think he was off his rocker?  What was their conversation like on the way to Joppa?

I’d rather have the complete story.  But here’s what I’ve learned….

It’s not the point of the story.  Do we really need to know what Rahab looked like or if she took up new residence in a nearby town or went with the Israelites?  Is it necessary for us to know what the guards going to retrieve Peter were saying to each other about Cornelius’s vision?

In today’s society, we want the grand story, beginning to end, wrapped up as a complete package.  No stone left unturned.  If we don’t have the who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much, we decide it’s incomplete.  But the reality is that we are seeing exactly what God needs us to see.

In each and every one of the people I wrote about above, you know what they all had in common?  Immediate obedience.  They followed what they were told as directed by God and they were blessed because of it.  Rahab’s family was spared destruction.  The widow didn’t starve and her son was raised from the dead by Elijah.  Cornelius and his family made Jesus their Lord and Savior and are spending an eternity in heaven. 

Why?  Because they obeyed.  As we go through this week, listen and hear God’s direction in your life.  When He tells you to do something, I challenge you to obey immediately!  Don’t wait.  Follow what He says!  What a blessing it is to obey our Heavenly Father and trust what He says is good.

“But He said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” –Luke 11:28

~Erin

Do We Really Think We Can Hide?

Many years ago when McKenna was 14, she called me to ask if she could go do something with a friend.  As I was going through the list of common parenting questions and rules, I stopped and said, “Don’t you roll your eyes at me, McKenna,” to which she instantly replied, “HOW DID YOU KNOW?!”  She quickly told her friend what I had said.  We got such a kick out of it, and I used that moment to remind her that parents know everything—there was nothing she could do that was wrong and get away with it!  We still laugh about it to this day.

I thought about that story when I was reading my Bible this morning.  I’m working through the book of Joshua with Table 8 (my California Bible study group).  In chapter 7 we see that Achan has taken spoils of the battle in Jericho and has hidden them in his tent from Joshua, the other Israelites, and God.  As a result, the initial advancement into the next city of Ai results in the defeat of the Israelites.

Joshua falls to his knees and asks God why He turned His back on his people and let them be defeated.  God reveals that Israel sinned against Him by taking spoils of war when He explicitly told them to take nothing.  He led Joshua through the process of determining who it was that sinned.   Joshua 7:21 shows us that Achan admitted that he had coveted, taken, and concealed some things from the city.

The rest of the story is rich with great material to study, but let’s pause right there.  The spoils of war were taken at the battle of Jericho, and Achan decided he could hide them.  From God.  I’m guessing his coveting of the objects was so great, that he forgot that God, the Creator of the world, knows everything.  There isn’t anything that’s hidden from Him.

At first I thought, What a bonehead!  But of course, conviction set in because you know who else does that?  I do!  There are areas in my life where I covet the things around me, where my speech isn’t seasoned with love and grace, or where my thoughts are not kind and generous.  I blow those sins off as minor or simply try to forget them because “I’m human.  Mistakes happen.”  I might as well be trying to hide those sins from God.

But there are consequences for our sin.  When we try to hide our sin, it creates a wedge between us and God.  His heart is hurt for the disobedience of His child.   It can start a slippery slope of leading us further from God and the path He has called us to.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” –1 John 1:9

We are called to repent of those sins so that He may forgive us and cleanse us.

Dear friends, I urge you to stop trying to hide your sins from God.  I’m taking this week to really reflect on areas where I have tried to hide sin as Achan did and then repent of it to our Heavenly Father.  He is eager to forgive.  Will you join me?

~Erin

At Each Other’s Throats

There are days lately where my heart hurts to be on Facebook anymore.  So many people at each other’s throats about what they think or what they believe.  I see people on one side of the fence calling the other side ‘sheep’ who approve of socialism and government over-reach.  I see people on the other side saying if you don’t decide to vaccinate or wear a mask, you are a moron incapable of being able to do intelligent research.  I watch someone call the other a “stupid right-wing nut job” for thinking President Biden isn’t handling Afghanistan well.  The other side says you’re too blind to see that President Biden couldn’t handle tying his own shoes.  These are actual things I’ve seen on social media.

It’s enough to make me scream.  What happened to being loving and gracious?  When did we become a people that believe we are the only ones capable of rational thought?  When did we become a society that put politics over prayer?

As Christians, we have a responsibility to love one another whether we agree or don’t.  As people who were made in God’s image, we are called to honor what He commands us to do like praying for one another, being kind, and tender-hearted.  We’re not to prove who’s wrong or right.  We’re not meant to make sure people feel stupid for making a decision you would never make.  And loving them and praying for them doesn’t mean you approve of their decisions.  It means simply that…you’re loving them and praying for them. 

What I’m saying is that no matter what side of the vaccine, masks, or presidency we’re on, we should be coming together to love, to witness, and to pray.  Pray for our nation.  Pray for our leaders.  Pray for our friends and family.  Pray for other countries.  Pray for our neighbors.  Pray for the doctors, nurses and hospitals.  Pray for our enemies. 

Satan would love nothing more than to divide Christians and keep us from focusing solely on God.  He relishes the thought of people going after each other rather than coming together to pray to our Jehovah-Rapha, the God who Heals.

I implore you, dear friends.  Take the time to love and pray for each other, no matter what side of the fence you’re on.  At the end of the day, there’s only one side… God’s.

~Erin

To Serve or to be Seen

As a person who’s grown up in church, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing people serve in some capacity.  You volunteer for the nursery.  You donate time as an usher.  Maybe you’re part of the prayer team or the clean-up crew.  There are so many ways to give time in service to your local church and community.  The opportunities are endless.

There are many verses in the bible that speak to serving.

“Be hospitable to one another without complaint.  As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the multifaceted grace of God.” –1 Peter 4:9-10

“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters himself will be watered.” –Proverbs 19:17

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” –Ephesians 2:10

We are told to serve without complaint, to please God, and to bring Him glory.  My question to each of us serving is this:

Are we doing it to serve or to be seen?

Today’s society says ‘Look at me!  Look at what I’m doing to help!’ Everything that we see on social media screams out how good we are, how kind we are, how much help we gave when we service others.  But is that the kind of service God desires of us?

Please know that I’m not excluding myself from this question.  I find myself often having to stop and question my motives.  Am I doing this particular thing because God commands me to love, to help, and to assist, or am I doing it because it feels good to get the ‘attaboy and kudos for stepping up to the plate and serving someone or some way?

I also have to think about the way that I’m serving.  Am I skipping out on the potentially thankless job of janitorial work at the church or the tiring job of rocking a crying baby in the nursery, instead opting for the fun and noticed roles?  Am I choosing to snap an Instagram photo of me paying for a homeless man’s coffee instead of leaving an anonymous gift card for groceries for the family who’s mother just lost her job?

I’m not saying that those acts of service are not good.  Nor am I saying that they’re wrong.  What I’m asking us to examine is whether our motives are to really serve God or to be seen for our works.

I pray that my motives are never for the need to be seen.  God tells us in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

I pray that as we serve, dear friends, it’s to serve God and not ourselves. 

~Erin

My Friend, Jennifer

Last Tuesday, I lost a friend to Covid-19.  I know it can happen to anyone.  I just didn’t think it would hit me this close to home.  I met Jennifer more than 7 years ago.  One of my favorite memories with her is when her sweet oldest son took my daughter to a dance.  We got such a kick out of “grilling” Jakob on how he was going to treat McKenna that night.  He was a class act because he had a classy mom.

In the last week, there has been post after post on Facebook, people shocked at the fact she’s gone.  Story after story leaped off the page. 

“She listened to me.” 

“She gave me wise advice.” 

“She was funny.” 

“She loved Jesus.” 

“She brought me back to church.” 

“She was an amazing mom and wife.” 

“She was generous to everyone.”

Literally hundreds of people have written about how she touched their lives in some way or another.  And it got me to thinking, what impact will I leave when my time on earth is done?  You see, Jennifer was a Christian, and she lived that faith out every day of her life.  She honored her husband and you could see their love. Her children were her heritage from the Lord and she was so proud of them. She took seriously the commands to love one another, take care of the less fortunate, and spread the good news of Jesus.  She wasn’t ashamed of who she was and took pride in knowing she was a child of the King. 

Are we the same way?  There are so many verses in the bible that tell us how to live our life.

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.” –Proverbs 19:17

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:16

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” –Romans 15:13

“And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” –Mark 16:15

I want to have the kind of impact that Jennifer had on people.  She didn’t just give lip service.  She didn’t do ‘just enough’ to earn Jesus-brownie-points.  With her interactions among strangers, acquaintances, friends, or family, our Creator was the center of it all. She lived every day like she was in the presence of God because she knew she was.  She was filled with the Holy Spirit as a believer.

I pray that the light of Jesus can shine through me as much as it did in her.  My prayer for my life is that people see how God impacted me to impact them.

We’ll miss you, Jennifer.  We were blessed to know you.  You are assuredly a beautiful example of a Godly woman.

~Erin

Jennifer Levengood 1974-2021

Disney Lines

Do you know how long a Disney World line is?  That’s right—too long.  Do you know what the best part of any of the rides in Disney World is?  You’re right again—the air conditioning you get to when you get closer to the front of the line.  Followed by a second best part of the fans that blow on you while you’re having the start of heatstroke in a line in Florida in July.  (Seriously, I can’t understand why the most popular time to go there is in the summer when your face melts off, but whatever.)

During a recent last minute trip to the happiest place on earth, we weathered several days at the Parks in the blistering sun.  While the lines weren’t as long as some might expect, it feels like it goes on forever when it’s hot and humid.

In the morning it wasn’t such a big deal.  But by midday, I just wanted the line to go fast so that we could strategically stop at a fan or, even better, hit the purchased icy air blowing from a vent.  There’s nothing like losing patience and being annoyed at Disney!

How patient are we with the direction God takes us?  Do we find ourselves like I was in that line, wondering how I could speed it up, wanting to get to the prize of the ride at the end?  Maybe we don’t like to wait and think of ways to make it easier to get to the front.  Perhaps we’re frustrated that the people further up are already at the destination and we’re upset it isn’t us!

We forget sometimes that the WHOLE journey is part of the journey.  It’s part of building your faith in Jesus.  It’s learning to trust only Him for the next step.  It’s understanding that things shouldn’t be expected to happen in our time but rather God’s time.  I found a verse in the bible that reminded me of that today.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” –Psalm 27:14

We’re told to wait for Him.  In our waiting, stronger faith is created and the end result is far sweeter.  Because the end result, when letting Him lead, brings glory to our heavenly Father.

Do you have moments like me when you want to rush the race rather than run the race that’s set before us?  Share with us in the comments and know that you are not alone!

~Erin

Corporate Worship

There’s something about corporate worship that I just adore.  As a junior high school student, the first Christian concert I went to was DC Talk on their Jesus Freak tour!  I had never heard their music, but a youth group was going so I thought, “Why not?!”  I really didn’t even know at the time what contemporary Christian music was.  I grew up in a church with traditional hymns, a choir, piano, and organ.  I’d never really heard rock music for Jesus!  It was such a foreign concept. 

I don’t remember much of that concert.  I don’t remember the church I went with nor the people in my group.  What I do recall is thousands of people at the Denver Coliseum singing together the songs about God.  I’d never heard anything like it!

Many of you that know me, know that I love to sing and I adore music.  I’ve sung in church since I was a little girl, and it’s very important for me in worship.  So when I saw that so many could gather together and worship our Savior in one place, with one voice…I was awestruck!

Corporate worship at church is exactly the same feeling for me.  I love that people come together at service.  The choir stands to do their special.  The congregation stands to their feet and sings the hymns.  Some have their hands folded in front of them, praying silently.  Some look toward heaven.  A few have their hands raised to praise His holy name.  I see smiles on some and tears on another.  But they all have one goal, to talk with God through music.

We are told in the Bible to praise Him and to sing to the Lord!  I’m honored that we choose to do it corporately with other believers.  I’m grateful that churches have now opened back up so that we can, once again, worship together and praise His name!

“Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth.  Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” –Psalm 96:1-2

Friends, do you have a favorite hymn, song or artist with which you worship God?  Share in the comments and be encouraged by each other.

~Erin

Chicken Dinner

We lost a chicken yesterday.  And by lost I mean something came in and decided raw chicken was better than fried chicken.  There were feathers everywhere.  Our teeny tiny Bantam rooster was no match for whatever got in there, and little Truffles became a meal for some creature in the woods.  

Peyton and Chris felt they had made a great enclosure.  They knew it wasn’t foolproof.  It didn’t have a real roof, but with a coop inside the large closed-in space to lock them up at night, they felt it was rather safe.  However, as the chickens got older and as Peyton started working, it was less frequent that she remembered to close the coop at night.  There hadn’t been a problem since we bought the chicks 10 months ago, and we got lazy in doing the little bit extra to keep them protected.

Are we the same way about sin?  God gives us clear scripture telling us of the need to protect ourselves from the wiles of satan.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” –Ephesians 6:11

“Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” –James 4:7

“Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” –I Peter 5:8

“And no wonder, for even satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” –2 Corinthians 11:14

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” –John 10:11

It is well known that satan will do whatever it takes to keep us from full fellowship with God.  If he can tempt us with thoughts of coveting, greed, or selfishness, he will.  If he can get us thinking about how nice it would be to skip your bible study or miss church, he’ll do it!  There’s nothing he won’t do to try and steal our devotion to God.

We should be prepared for this!  We shouldn’t only be praying “Father, keep us protected from satan.”  We should be studying scripture, digging into the word, putting on the FULL armor of God to protect ourselves.  The more we are submitting and surrendering to the will of God, the harder it is for satan to get that access to us. 

When we’re fully prepped and ready, we aren’t sitting around waiting for the attacks of the devil.  We’re ready to keep those sinful deeds at bay before they even get close enough to become an action!

Ladies, let’s stand strong in our faithfulness to God and prepare ourselves properly for a possible attack before that nasty thief even gets close! 

~Erin