Hurricane Cleanup

Last week, I flew to Panama City, Florida to help my daughter, McKenna, clean up her house.  They’ve been out of their home and living in a hotel since October 8th and are finally in a spot to be able to start the cleanup and restoration that needs to happen to the house.

To describe what I saw as overwhelming is almost too light of a word.  I don’t know what I was expecting when we drove into the city.  I can tell you, however, I was NOT expecting to see it look as if the hurricane hit just a few days before.

Mounds of debris, twisted metal, broken drywall, torn shingles, and tree limbs were piled high in front of houses and businesses waiting for the debris haulers to drive by.  Dead wires from where they’d fixed the electrical lines laid in a heap at the bottom of the poles.  Street after street met us with open roofs, tents and campers parked in the front yard, broken windows and moldy furniture.  It’s as if it hasn’t been touched. And not for lack of trying.  The city workers are racing as fast as they can to get the debris picked up and hauled off.  They just don’t have enough people or trucks to get it done fast enough.  The awe-inspiring numbers of volunteers that many other storms have had in the past seem to have skipped out on the panhandle.

Often, in disasters like this, we feel sorry for the people affected and pray for them.  We pray for safety as the storm closes in or the fires get closer, and then we see what things we can donate or if they’ll be asking for volunteers for cleanup.  But then what?  If you’re like me, it’s always been ‘on to the next story.’  We go on with our lives until the next disaster strikes.

It isn’t this way this time for me.  My child was affected.  My grandchild and son-in-law were affected.  It wasn’t just a faceless person who had their home damaged and their city torn to shreds.  It was my family.  It became real in a way I’d never known before.

One of the things I learned from this experience is that prayer and hands-on help isn’t something that goes away after a week is up or until you’ve forgotten.  People need prayer continually.  And you don’t need to be a well-spoken prayer warrior to pray for them.  God knows your heart when you speak to Him…just pray.  People still need physical help.  Don’t wait until they ask.  Offer it!  I was talking to Emily about what volunteering might look like during this hurricane recovery.  You can go through a volunteer organization.  Or you can just go!  In the case of Hurricane Michael, there are still hundreds of yards that just need debris picked up and put at the edge of the road for pickup.

We, and I DEFINITELY include me in this, need to stop looking at the places and people we don’t know as strangers and look at them more as our family in the body of Christ.  We were all created by our magnificent Savior.  Pouring out Christ’s love to others can only magnify His glory.  Let’s be a ‘family’ to all!

~Erin

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McKenna’s house
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On the way into Panama City
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Buildings just one street behind McKenna
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Coming into Panama City
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The roof has caved in
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Debris
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Debris waiting to be picked up
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Just a street away from McKenna
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On the way to Panama City Beach

Why A Chin Whisker?!

Sweet God in heaven, why would You bless me with a whisker?  Every time I turn around, I have a random hair growing out of my chin.  Or how about the mustache!?  Do I look like, at age 40, I would enjoy having hairs ripped out above my lip???

This is the current state of affairs.  My hair, my weight, my skin, it’s all become the comedy show content for my life.  I was standing in a line one day a couple of months ago with Peyton when I leaned over to her and whispered to her that she had some stray brow hairs in the middle section that borderlined unibrow status.  She leaned over to me and said if I didn’t shut up, she’d talk about my mustache out loud.  Oh, sweet girl, have you not learned in your short, 14-year life span that comments like that are what I live for.  “WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY MUSTACHE?!  I THOUGHT YOU LIKED MY CHIN WHISKER!”  I’m pretty sure the people in the back of the store heard me!

Or how about my skin!  Melasma has become my best friend.  What is melasma, you ask?  Please, let me tell you!  It’s hyperpigmentation that appears as brownish patches in different sizes or shapes.  I get it because of my hypothyroidism.  But I’m just curious why I was blessed with two patches of it symmetrically above my upper lip.  Now I just look like I have a chocolate-milk-mustache-mustache!!

All joking aside, how many times do we pick ourselves apart in a day, in a week, in a lifetime?  We’re so critical of ourselves because society standards say our skin needs to be perfect, our weight needs to be trim, our clothes perfectly trendy, and our lives with as little mess as possible.  No one can see the real us because we’re too busy snapping 16 pictures of ourselves to get the perfect selfie.  I would know.  I’m guilty of it.

But I’m learning a lot as I get older.  My daughters are watching.  Even at age 20 and 14, they see and mimic how I talk about myself and my image.  People around me hear what I say.  Maybe they have the same issue and it doesn’t bother them, but they see me talking about it as if I’m leprous and it changes their outlook of themselves negatively.

Here’s what God taught me, though and what I need to keep saying to myself over and over….GOD MADE ME.  He made me with dark spots on my upper lip.  He created me with a girl mustache of baby hairs, and he grew that whisker in my chin that makes an annoying appearance every couple of weeks.  He knew exactly what He was doing, and He tells us that over and over in the bible.

Psalm 139:14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it well.

Genesis 1:31a And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

And if that weren’t awesome enough, He could care less if we’re short, tall, skinny, heavy, have a hairy mole, or just one lone tooth.  When the priest, Samuel, was looking to anoint the next king of Israel, he met with each of Jesse’s sons.  Samuel incorrectly thought when he saw Eliab that he would be the chosen one.  Listen to what the Lord said, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” (I Samuel 16:7).

Isn’t that wonderful news!?  He made us.  He sees us.  ALL the parts of us, not just what’s on the outside.

What does this mean for me?  I’ll still be pulling that chin whisker.  But I know I don’t need anyone’s approval of my outward appearance, and I need to learn to be happy with all the parts of me, not just the parts that I think others will think is beautiful.  Because I’m ALL beautiful.  God said so.

~Erin

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When Focus Falters

I stopped in the middle of the Walmart aisle and tried to keep my composure.  I was tearing up and at a loss for words, all the while struggling to tell Kelly on the other end of the phone that it was going to be ok.

Indy, my son-in-law, had just called his mom, Kelly, on Friday to let her know McKenna was in an ambulance with Andros.  After a day of meeting with contractors in Panama City, FL to discuss the rebuild of their hurricane-damaged house, they decided to stop for a quick bite for dinner at a restaurant.  While there, sweet baby Andros began to have a seizure and 911 had to be called.  After hours of tests, he was deemed healthy. My grandbaby was diagnosed with a febrile seizure due to an incredibly fast, oncoming fever combined with an ear infection.  The doctors assured the young mom and dad that this wasn’t uncommon, and Andros should make a full recovery.  What relief!

When McKenna was able to step back long enough to call, she gave me the details of what happened.  Indy had been feeding Andros some eggs, the left side of his body started to shake, and Indy gently grasped his head to stabilize him.  McKenna immediately recognized the signs, told Indy, and got 911 on the phone.  As they waited they spoke softly to him, telling him he would be ok.  Andros, unable to communicate, stared intently into Indy’s eyes showing that he heard his dad and trusted him even though he was undoubtedly afraid.

This is how I should be during times of fear and worry…laser focus on my Heavenly Father.  Often times, that focus falters.  When situations surrounding me cause chaos or apprehension, I start looking around at the circumstances, my mind reeling with 100 different ways I can fix it or 37 things I could’ve done to make it different.  I mistakenly look at SELF to make the fear disappear instead of putting my attention on the one Person that can take that fear and trembling from me and shoulder the burden in my place.

Our Father says in Isaiah 41:13, “For, I the LORD your God, hold your right hand, it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’”  When we let ourselves trust Him and believe that He is right there holding on to us with love and concern and understanding, we can feel the security that only He can give.

Andros is totally healthy today.  He’s toddling around their hotel room again without a care in the world, not knowing the valuable lesson he and his daddy taught me through this experience.  Fix my eyes on the Father; He will see me through.

~ErinIMG_2632

The Gift in a Shoe Box

It’s hard to pack everything you’d like to give to a child you’ve never met into a small shoe box.  Balancing needs and wants can be difficult when deciding what goes in and what has to stay behind.  But when that shoe box is full, and you’ve sent it on its way, a wave of satisfaction hits you.

For those who’ve never heard or participated in Operation Christmas Child (OCC), it’s a wonderful program that uses gift-filled shoe boxes to children in need around the world to demonstrate God’s love.  Anyone can take a shoe box or a small container, fill it with things that a child might need/want and take it to a drop off location to be sent to children in more than 150 countries and territories.

When I lived in Wyoming, I was employed by a medical office where the owners were actually the coordinators for OCC in that state.  Every year, we would have a packing party!  This involved changing all of the exam rooms into “stores” with different themes.  You would start in the lobby, grab a box, put the essentials like soap, toothbrush, and washcloth and then pick an item or two from each room as you went the length of the building!  It was AMAZING!  My children were involved and enjoyed packing for kids they never met.

As Peyton, McKenna, and the other participants would pick up a box, they would pray over it; pray for the workers and volunteers touching it, pray for the child receiving it, their families, and the village and country that it would affect.  Packing those boxes is truly a moment of being the hands and feet of Jesus.

And don’t even get me started on volunteering at the distribution center!  I’ve had the privilege of working at the Denver location twice.  The THOUSANDS of shoe boxes you see being packed into shipping containers is nothing short of astounding.

It’s been several years since I’ve been a part of that, but this year Peyton and I decided to pack our own boxes.  We chose to fill on boy box and one girl box for the age group of 10-14 since that tends to be a harder box to fill.  We pored over selections at Hobby Lobby, the Dollar Tree, Walmart, and Michael’s to make sure we could get everything we wanted.  It still makes me smile to think about Peyton, with gritted teeth, look at me and say, “I WILL make this all fit in this box.  It WILL close!”

Not only was this time spent with Peyton cherished mother/daughter time, it was an opportunity to remind Peyton and myself about keeping ourselves busy doing the Father’s work.  It’s never done.  Whether it’s a conversation with someone about Jesus or filling a shoe box with gifts for children who might not otherwise get a gift, it’s what God commands us to do:

Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15

There’s still time to fill a shoe box if you’d like to participate in Operation Christmas Child.  National Collection Week is next week, November 12-19.  You can get more information on what can be packed and where to find your closest drop off location by clicking here.

Share below if you’ve packed a shoe box for OCC before!

~Erin

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Six years between photos and she still looks exactly the same when she prays over the boxes!

The Stolen Truck

“The truck was stolen!”  The words over the phone were hurried and irritated, breathless from Chris walking to the back of the store.  His co-worker had asked him where he went for lunch since his truck was moved, and after quick back-and-forth banter, Chris realized she wasn’t joking about his truck not being where it was normally parked.  Our truck had been stolen from the front of his store in the middle of the day as Chris worked his shift.

Someone had come around 1 pm and, with people walking around the shopping complex, opened the locked door and hot wired the vehicle.  No cover of night or disguises.  In plain view, they had hit us where it hurt.

Satan can often attack the same way.  While many of his assaults are subtle, others can happen in broad daylight.  We don’t expect for him to attempt to trip us up with something so obvious, when often times, the obvious is where we DO get tripped up.  In this midst of working on your marriage, a “friend” contacts you and propositions you.  You’re starting out on your usual rush hour commute, but having a bad day—every person who cuts you off gets the middle finger.  A group of you are having a discussion about religion and before you realize it, you’re yelling at the person who claims Jesus was a fraud.

These may seem silly but every one of those can are very real scenarios.  We’d like to think that as Jesus followers, we wouldn’t be tempted to act sinful.  But it happens every day.  Does it mean we’re beyond redemption?  No.  Does it mean Satan knows where to hit us?  Absolutely.

We need to have our minds consistently on Christ to help protect us from not only the sneak attacks but also the obvious ones.  While it doesn’t exclude us from sinning, a fervent walk with God can protect us from such offenses.

Daily prayer keeps you in conversation with Jesus.  Daily Bible reading or meditation on scripture keeps communication flowing between you and Him.  The Holy Spirit wants nothing more than to help you put on the Armor of God to keep you safe from the fiery arrows of the devil.  Let Him help you suit up as you take action in dialogue with your Heavenly Father.

Attacks from Satan are painful whether they are surreptitious or straightforward.  Remember Colossians 3:2-3 as you work towards keeping even the blatant attacks at bay.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Are you currently under attack by Satan?  Let us know how we can pray for you in the comments below.

~Erin

Set your mind on things

Obedience in Reconciliation

People often ask me how I ended up in sunny California.  More often than not, it’s because I’ve complained about the state, and they’re not really sure why I live here voluntarily!  Don’t get me wrong.  There are worse places to live, and I have to give it to this beautiful state; the weather is an 8 out of 10.  I do NOT miss the blizzards and -7° of Wyoming.  I moved here, however, for a far better reason than the weather.

Nine years ago, I signed my second set of divorce papers from Chris, my second husband.  My daughter, McKenna, was going through the motions of another divorce at the age of 10, and Peyton, my youngest at 5, was experiencing for the first time not living with her dad every day.  It was a difficult period in which neither of us were willing to give in to the work that a marriage required.  And with the baggage from my first divorce still not unpacked, I simply chose to add another suitcase to the pile and walk away.

It’s not something I’m proud of.  At the time, I felt I was justified in leaving.  Believe me, it felt easier.  But what’s easier isn’t always right.

For the next seven years, I went on with life.  Chris moved away, but we learned to co-parent Peyton well.  He became much more involved in her world, and somehow, we were able to put aside our anger and resentment towards each other for the sake of everyone involved.

During those seven years, I taught a DivorceCare® class at my church in Wyoming.  Every time I taught session 12, Reconciliation, I always felt the Holy Spirit nudge me.  I would tune him out because I was in a relationship and wasn’t interested in hearing what He had to say to me on the topic.  If my heart started to soften, I would remind myself how terrible our marriage had been so as not to fall into that trap ever again.

But He is never done nudging you until He’s finally gotten your attention.  The Holy Spirit just kept poking me regarding the thought of reconciliation, until finally I couldn’t take it anymore.  The conversation with God following my irritation at the topic not going away went something like this.

God, I don’t WANT to reconcile.  Not interested, for the billionth time.  I’m not broaching the topic.  I don’t want to bring it up.  I.DO.NOT.WANT.TO.GO.DOWN.THAT.RABBIT.HOLE.AGAIN.  So, God, if you want it to happen, YOU make it happen.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Very holy and reverent of me, right?!

Two years ago, I offered to pick Chris up at the airport in Denver when he flew in from California to see Peyton perform in a concert, and on that ride back into Cheyenne he asked me if I’d ever thought of getting back together.  I know….I’ve known Jesus for a long time and even I was stunned!

Several months later, after many discussions and prayer, my little family packed our belongings and moved from Wyoming to California so that we could be closer to Chris as he and I pursued reconciliation.

It’s not easy.  Reconciliation is no joke.  It takes work and effort.  Chris and I are both set in our ways.  I had seven years to be a single parent and learn to make decisions while running a household on my own.  Chris had the same learning curve.  We have many of the same habits and inclinations that we had before.  We’re just older and more stubborn.

We also still have different lifestyles.  When I met and married Chris, he was not a follower of Jesus.  He still isn’t.  I know it can be difficult to understand why I’m choosing to work on reconciliation with my ex-husband who doesn’t believe in Jesus.  But to me, the answer is simple.  God told me to.  He is in the business of healing, and He’s in the business of saving.  God is healing a disastrous relationship that I was convinced had no hope of being healed.  And while, as believers, we shouldn’t be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14), I know that God is requiring me to restore my marriage because I made the covenant before God nine years ago to love, honor and cherish Chris.

I try and weave this verse into my daily walk of restoration with Chris every day:

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.” –James 1:22 (NIV)

Today, Jesus works daily in my life to ensure I’m walking in the right steps to have a complete and whole reconciliation, one that is God-given.  I trust that full restoration will be had through His faithfulness to me because of my faithfulness to Him.  And it’s a beautiful thing.

-Erin

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The Wind and the Waves

I wish I had some poetic way to write what I’m feeling right now.  I always feel like I need to make sure every word is just perfect for the topic I’m writing on, but right now, the only thing running through my mind is this:

I am afraid.

My daughter, McKenna, her husband, Indy, and their one-year-old Andros evacuated their home in Panama City on Monday night as they prepared for Hurricane Michael to barrel through their city.  Indy is stationed in the Air Force there. They are all safe.  We’ve been glued to the news reports, to Facebook, to YouTube trying to catch some glimpse of what the destruction looks like.  It’s exhausting.

But I’m afraid of what they’ll find when they are allowed to return.  Will they be able to stay in their home?  Will it be destroyed?  Will there be anything left to salvage? What’s their first step, second step, third step?  I’m her mom, and I can’t fix this for her.  And it’s crushing to me.

Yet while I worry, I know that God’s plan is bigger than my own.  The two days leading up to the storm, I cried out to the Lord, “In Mark 4, God, you told the wind and the waves to ‘be still’, and they listened.  Please, Jesus, do that now.”  They raged on.  Yesterday and this morning, I prayed that God would wrap my daughter in peace that passes all understanding.  “Give her peace that only You can give.”  This afternoon, McKenna asked me to pray with her while we were on the phone.  “Jesus, we know that You know what you’re doing in this.  While we don’t get it even a little, and we don’t like it at all, we trust that Your bigger picture is better.

God’s picture, while distorted and out of focus to me or to McKenna, is in perfect focus to Him.  I can still be afraid.  I can still be angry.  I can still be frustrated.  But I need to lean on Him while I feel this way.  He is the only one that can help me through this worry and doubt and anger.  He will see this family through as they rebuild whatever needs to be rebuilt.

Here’s what I pray for you…no matter what struggle you’re going through—a devastating natural disaster, a miscarriage, a divorce, a job loss—while we don’t always see the plan, know that God sees YOU.  He knows you and loves you.  He wants to comfort you. Let Him in.

~Erin

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