Reaching the Edge

This is how I describe what it feels like to me:  I’m in a pool with all of my friends and we’re just hanging around.  I’m getting tired, and I swim over to the edge.  I can almost touch it but it’s out of my reach….and stays out of my reach.  I kick my feet that last little bit only to see that the edge is still not finding my outstretched hand.  I still can’t touch it.  I’m getting tired, anxious, and overwhelmed from all the swimming.  I’m not going under.  I’m staying afloat, but I just. can’t. reach. the. edge.  And now I’m scared.

That’s what my depression feels like to me.

I was first diagnosed when I was 19, and I’ve battled it for 20 years.  Some years, it’s wonderful.  I pass through the seasons of life and everything feels peaceful.  Other years, it gets a grip on me and feels like it could swallow me whole if I let it.  I’ve been on multiple medications and gone to some of the most amazing counselors.  The resources that I’ve had available to me have been a blessing when I struggle with the monster.

No one’s depression looks the same.  It affects us in different ways.  I’ve seen it manifested for some, through cutting.  Others may have thoughts of suicide.  Some just have this sadness that they can’t escape, while others might have physical symptoms.  From the outside looking in, the symptoms are all the same, but how they’re painted on our life canvas looks vastly different from person to person.

When I’m struggling hardest with depression, I reach past the overwhelming feelings of being alone and afraid and I cry out to God.  It’s hard sometimes.  While I’ve been a Christ-follower for a long time, in my depression, it’s difficult to call out for help, even from God.  I’m the leader.  I’m supposed to have myself together.  God gave me a calling, so I shouldn’t need to be so….needy.   But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

He’s the Healer.  He’s the Living Water that keeps us nourished, even when it feels like a dry desert.  I re-read this passage of scripture the other day and it was such an encouragement to me.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord.  For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but it’s leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. –Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NASB)

Droughts will come.  Hardships, heartaches, anxiety, depression, hurt…it will come.  But if we trust Him, He will carry us through.  When we extend our roots out to the stream of Living Water, He sustains us.  And that verse reminds us that even if those dry seasons, we’re still producing fruit for His glory.

I’m in that pool right now, kicking and swimming and trying to get to the side.  And I haven’t reached it yet.  I take medication to help and I know God has me in His hand.  I’ll reach the edge soon.

Anyone have a verse that they use in the throes of depression that helps carry them through?  Share it in the comments below.

~Erin

Blessed is the man who trust in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves wil

My Own Personal Scripture Book

I reached into my purse and pulled out my 3×5 spiral bound index cards.  I needed a verse.  Or a quote.  I didn’t care which.  I just needed something that I knew would bring me encouragement as I struggled.

I had read once that you should put sticky notes up on your mirror with a verse or positive thought that you could read every day to help get your day started.  While I thought (and still do) that it was a great idea, I wasn’t always in the room with the mirror.  And as someone who’s been diagnosed with depression, I knew that overwhelming thoughts could hit me anywhere and at a moment’s notice.  That’s when I decided I needed to go one step further.

I wanted something on 3×5 cards—I wanted something bigger and more durable than a sticky note.  I also wanted to have more than one verse handy.  When I was struggling, I wanted to be able to quickly read multiple verses about God’s love at the same time…my own little reference book.

I found some 3×5 cards that were spiral bound and my “Verse Book” was born.  In it, I copied one verse per card.  Then, I thought a little more out of the box; I also wrote out quotes from Ms. Laura, the director of the women’s bible study group at Cheyenne Hills Church and Pastor Galen, our lead pastor.  My goal was to surround myself with as much as I could that could help me center myself back in Christ when I was combating a rough day or season.

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. –Philippians 2:13

“The truth is, because of God and His abundant grace, we have everything we need to live the lives God longs for us to live.” –Laura Whitmore, SOWN

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. –Isaiah 41:10

“Be strong in the Lord.  Not YOUR power, but His.” –Pastor Galen Huck (referencing Ephesians 6:10)

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. –Psalm 47:1

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. –John 3:16

These are just a few examples of what was written down in my Verse Book.  I’ve carried that in my purse for years and as I’ve read them, it’s even given me opportunity to memorize them so that I can have God’s word sown into my heart.

Now I’m getting ready to start a new one, a fresh one.  Those verses and quotes still carry so much comfort to me.  However, as I’ve matured in my walk with the Lord I’ve found that new verses and quotes uplift and encourage me.  It’s time for Verse Book 2.0.

For those of you needing comfort, I’m going to encourage you to make your own Verse Book.  Put it in your own writing.  Read it often—on good days AND bad.  Carry it with you and use it as a tool to help bring you closer to Jesus.  He’s here to help.

How about you?  Is there a verse or a quote that’s encouraged you during a season of trial?  Share it in the comments below.

~Erin

Brick by Brick

When I was about nine and attending Sunday School, large cardboard blocks laid stacked against the wall for free time.  They looked like real oversized bricks, allowing us to build life-size forts around the room.  They were usually our favorite things to play with.

One morning, the teacher called us to our seats.  She sat at her table and started talking to us about Jesus and His love for us.  She picked up a block and placed it in front of her.  She reminded us that Jesus loved us so much that He came to earth to die for us.  She told us how it was so important that Jesus lives in our hearts.  She stacked a large block on top of the first.  She talked about how just like we have an earthly father, we have a Father in heaven who loves us.  She arranged another block.  Another example, another cardboard block.   With just a few examples, while we could hear what she was saying, we couldn’t see her.  We wanted to see her as she told us the story.  So someone in the class asked her if she could move the blocks.  That’s when the real lesson began.

Sometimes, she said, sin is like that wall she had in front of her.  When we have Jesus in our hearts and sin, we put up our own block.  It doesn’t seem so bad and we don’t ask for forgiveness.  It’s just a block.  But then we sin again.  Another block goes up.  And brick by brick, we create a wall between us and God.  We can hear Him and He can always hear us, but it’s a wall between us that doesn’t let us have a real relationship that He really wants to have with us.

When we talk to God and ask for forgiveness, the bricks are removed.  And she pushed one block off and then another until they were all back on the floor.  We could see her again.  We could hear her better.  When the bricks were removed we could have a real conversation filled with interaction.

When God gives forgiveness, He breaks down that barrier.  He removes the shame, judgment and condemnation and replaces it with a love that only He can give.  Our closeness is restored to the Creator.

I pray that each of us removes any bricks that may be holding us back from having full communion with God.

~Erin

Trim the Fat

We are a steak and potatoes kind of family.  I have always preferred a hearty steak to a fancy piece of fish any day of the week.  I taught my girls to love it, as well.  My youngest would wait patiently by the grill, watching to see which steak had the biggest sizzling fat pieces.  If she wasn’t lucky enough to get that choice piece on her plate, she would remind us as we were eating that if we were cutting that off, she wanted it!

The fat in that steak always brings so much flavor.  She knew it.  We all know it.  When we go to the grocery store, we’re looking for the piece of steak that has the perfect marbling.  We want those beautiful white lines knowing that while it’s not healthy for us, it brings so much yumminess to the dish.

Their heart is covered with fat, but I delight in Your law. –Psalm 119:70 (NASB)

Just like the fat in that delicious steak, sin in this world can seem so enticing.  It’s hidden under the guise of fun, excitement, and/or satisfaction.  We don’t want to think that our sinful actions can really hurt us.  It’s “not as bad as (fill in the blank).” And so while we know what we’re doing is wrong, we fall prey to the enemy who’s always seeking to divide our allegiance to God.

Time and time again we’re warned by God to stay away from sinful nature.  He advises us to flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14).  He tells us to put to death sexual immorality (Colossians 3:5).  Romans 6:12 tells us not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies.  We’re reminded that God’s laws or rules are there to protect us, not control us.  And when our hearts are covered with the “fat” of this world, it creates unhealthiness in a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Let’s choose today to remove the fat from our hearts and delight in His law.

Thank you, Lord, for giving us laws to live by that protect our hearts and our minds.  Please help me trust You and Your ways that I might keep my heart clean and renewed.

~Erin

Their heart is covered with fat, but I delight in your law.

Persona Non Grata

Monday, I felt like a failure.  Tuesday, pretty much the same.  And today?  Let’s not even get into today.  Anyone else raising children?  My girls are six years apart; my oldest is grown, out of the house, married and has my grandbaby while my youngest is a sophomore in high school.  I think I’d forgotten in the last few years what it was like to have a teenager in the house that thinks you’re a dumb lady who gives too many rules and asks too many questions.

Every day lately, it seems, I’ve let the enemy sneak in and ransack my thoughts.  “Your daughter thinks you’re stupid, and she’s right.  You DO ask too many questions.  Why can’t she sleep in and skip church EVERY SUNDAY OF HER TEENAGE LIFE…what’s the big deal?  It’s what everyone’s doing these days—leave her alone.  What’s your problem, Overbearing Crappy Mother?”  And because I fall prey to human nature, I listen to those words in my head and fear that I’m screwing up my daughter.

This verse pops into my head on occasion.  This week, however, I’ve found that by drowning myself in it, the verse helps remind me I’m not doing this ‘raising kids’ thing alone.

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. –Proverbs 22:6

When I say I drown myself in it, I’m serious too!  I’ve been writing and rewriting it.  I’ve been reading and rereading.  I say it out loud.  I pray it.  I made it a graphic to put on my phone.  I don’t want to forget that what I’m doing is trying to raise a child with the help of my loving Father (and when I say help, I really mean that I know God’s doing the heavy lifting).  I’m trying to instill in her a deep and meaningful love for Jesus that can’t be satisfied by the outside world.

She may feel as if I’m the adversary, but I have confidence in Jesus that I’m doing just as He instructs.   I can know that this is a short season in the grand scheme of things.  God sees the bigger picture, and I’m grateful that He’s in control.

Anyone out there had the same struggle with teenagers or children, in general?!  I’m very suspicious that I’m not alone in the “my mother is a persona non grata” feeling!  Share in the comments below.

~Erin

Train up a child in the way he should go,

Set the Pace

I stood on the balcony of our room on the ship and watched the ocean pass by at what appeared to be a snail’s pace.  It seemed as if we were barely moving.  I’m unfamiliar with how fast a cruise ship actually goes, but I was sure it needed to be faster than the speed we were going if we were going to reach any of our ports!  But somehow every morning we arrived on time.

Sometimes, I look at the race I’m running for Christ and wonder the same thing.  Am I even really moving?  Am I making progress, growing closer to Him?  It feels like I’m not really gaining any traction in my pursuit of a Godly walk, and it can be discouraging.   I want to see big victories and huge advances in thoughts and feelings.  When I struggle day after day, I feel like I’m just not making any headway.  This ship reminded me of a beautiful truth.

Even if it FEELS like I’m not going anywhere, I’m still moving forward if my eyes are on God.  He is guiding me at a slow and steady pace, a pace that’s set just for me.  Struggles don’t just disappear.  Victories aren’t always big.  When I seek Him and have Him set the speed, He advances me at the rate I need so that I can grow confidently and with purpose.

Thank you, God, that you know where we need to be and when we need to be.  I pray that we always look to You to set the pace, trusting that You know what we need to get to our next destination.

~Erin

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Late to the Game

I feel sometimes like I’ve come late to the game.  I knew I had a calling in my life to minister to women, specifically to women who felt broken or sometimes unworthy.  But it never really occurred to me to give it a “face” or to even just actually move forward with the vision from God!  I had helped in bible studies, facilitated DivorceCare classes, and met with women to mentor but felt like God saw it bigger even when I didn’t.  It wasn’t until Emily pushed me out of my comfort zone and said “God said we’re doing it, so we’re doing it” that Iron Porch was created.  I was 39.

I was reminded of that feeling when I read Matthew 20:1-16 a few weeks ago.  It’s the parable of the landowner who went and found workers in the morning, in the afternoon, and again in the evening, paying them all the exact same thing at the end of the day…even the ones who only worked an hour.  The idea behind the parable was two-fold.  And while both ideas are important, this is the one that stuck to me.

There is reward in the willingness to serve whether you come early or late.

It’s ok that God put it in motion at 39.  I could’ve started sooner.  Maybe I should’ve started sooner.  But God’s timing is always perfect.  And the Holy Spirit gave the conviction at just the right moment to begin when it was supposed to begin.  Perhaps at 30 or even 38, I wasn’t ready.  God was still shaping that desire to serve women.  When I start to feel like I wasted years, I can read Jesus’ words in Matthew and be encouraged that God sees my heart to serve, not the length of time I’ve served.

How about you?  Share at the porch a time that Jesus has told you “now is the time” no matter how late to the game you felt.

~Erin

God's timing is always perfect.