I Turned 40

I turned 40 yesterday.  I’m excited for what this new chapter will bring to my life.  So much of my life has been in Jesus while trying to wrangle in my own ways, my own solutions, my own ambition.  This turn of the page brings with it a renewed sense of self—a woman seeking Christ with every fiber of her being.  Here are five things I’ve learned over the past 39 years that I pray will help you in this journey called life.

1. There is always redemption in your story.  I’ve managed to help screw up two marriages and because of this, I became a single mom.  But God was bigger than those obstacles and poured immeasurable grace over our situation.  He showed me love and mercy when I didn’t deserve it.  Because of that, I was finally able to remove the blinders from my eyes and see what God had in store for me.

2. God is bigger than any relationship.  I jumped from relationship to relationship attempting to fill the gap of loneliness with love.  But all I needed was to trust in my Savior to lead me to what was right and best.  When I stopped chasing “I do” and trusted I AM, I found my hope again.

3. Laugh.  Life is fleeting.  If you have children, you’ll only have them close by your side for what feels like a brief moment in time.  Cherish that giggle.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  We treated small stove fires and trips to the ER for URI’s and anxiety attacks as adventures.  My children and I have memories of joy and laughter even in some of the darkest times in our lives.

4. One day, you’re going to wake up and your baby will be grown and have a baby of their own.  They’ll finally understand what you meant when you said ‘I love you and nothing you do will ever change that.’  They’ll know what it means to love something with every fiber of their being.  Let them go.  I didn’t know what I was doing when I had my sweet girl at just 2 weeks into being 20.  She’ll make mistakes just like I did. But she’ll learn and grow just like I did, too.

5. Cultivate your friendships.  Some are there for only a season and some are for a lifetime.  Each teaches you something.  I was afraid to get close to women until it was almost too late because I was afraid of being hurt or betrayed.  As time went on, the Holy Spirit showed me what I was doing and helped me to stop that habit.  Emily doesn’t know this, but it almost cost me a friendship with her when we first met. Only Jesus could’ve known what I needed in a friend and stopped me from keeping her at arm’s length.

6. And because it’s my blog, I’m throwing in a sixth.  Love yourself and those around you—we are made in God’s image.  You are beautiful to Him because you are you.  It doesn’t matter if you fat or thin, tall or short, what color your skin is, how sun damaged you are, whether you have the ability to use your legs or if you have six fingers on one hand.  And it doesn’t matter if the people around you are the same way.  Can you imagine if we loved even our enemies as Jesus loved us?? Transformational love….love that can literally change the world.  Be that for others AND for yourselves.

I’ve never been so ready to start a new phase.  I’m confident in who I am, where I’m at, and who God made me to be.  I’m ready to face the next 40 years head on.  It’s going to be a beautiful thing!

~Erin

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

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. –Psalm 19:7

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The Debt Struggle

I lease a car.  I know it goes against everything Dave Ramsey says, but I couldn’t help it.  I caved when I needed a new vehicle three years ago, and settled into my brand new Hyundai (which I adore by the way).  And now it’s time to make a decision on either leasing or purchasing.

When I went into the local dealership this morning, I spoke with the most amazing salesman.  We’ll call him Ricky.  (Which helps because that’s his actual name!)  Ricky was kind and funny, and he walked me through my options.  Peyton and I got a great chuckle when she insisted that any new vehicle we purchase needed a button start and an extra USB port, to which he replied, “Any other wants, Princess?”  He had watched me tease her about her desires for her own vehicle, and good-naturedly joined in the ribbing.

We had finally started talking numbers when the finance guy made his appearance. We’ll call him Finance Guy because I got upset enough to forget his name.  After much back and forth about what I was and wasn’t willing to negotiate, Finance Guy said to me, “You won’t really walk out over “$XXX, will you?”  And I promptly said yes, to which he replied, “Is money really that tight?”

For someone who’s never short of words, the FIRST words that came to my mind weren’t very friendly.  However, I replied to him that it wasn’t, but I had a budget and I was sticking to it.  “A $16 dollar difference may not be much to you, but I don’t need the car bad enough to go over my budget.”

At that point, Ricky very nicely offered me his card, and I told him I’ll get back to him.  This event made me realize I don’t want to lease, and when it’s time for me to actually HAVE to buy a car, I’ll definitely go to Ricky for my car needs.  Finance Guy won’t be invited.

This would never have been me years ago.  I was accustomed to buying what I wanted and credit cards always seemed like the best option to get what I wanted and when I wanted it.  A new pair of shoes?  Charge it!  Go out to eat at the fancy restaurant in the big city?  Put it on this card, please.  Darn…groceries were more than I thought.  Credit.

It was a never ending cycle.  Now, I’m not here to tout Dave Ramsey’s plan.  I DID attend Financial Peace University twice, and it was beneficial for me and my journey to being debt free.  What I want you to feel right now, is this:  you’re not alone.  I’ve been down this road.  There are things now that I pay for that others would think is crazy.  If I want to go to a movie, I go; and I get popcorn!  My Pop would call that popcorn a ridiculous purchase.  Other things, I’m not willing to give in and pay for.  If I can’t afford the fancy shoes by paying in cash, I just don’t get them.  I cut up and closed all of my credit cards…I don’t want the temptation.

Finance Guy thought that $16 was a non-issue and it quite possibly could be for some people.  But God tells me to be a good steward of my money.  I prayed about my car situation.  I felt God’s peace over a number.  I didn’t get it, so I walked away.

When I’m struggling with where my money should go and how I should be spending it, these verses always seems to come to mind:

The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty. –Proverbs 21:5

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; -Hebrews 13:5a

If you struggle with that same problem—saving and spending in the right and God-honoring places—I encourage you to take this struggle to the cross.  Surrender your will regarding money at His feet, and ask Him to take on the burden for you.  He gladly will.

And here’s a quick practical tip that might help you when you’re in a store with a cart full of stuff you may not need.  If it’s not something I’ve already included in my budget, I walk around the store a little bit with it in my cart.  If I start second guessing whether or not I should buy it, I take it right back to its original home and walk away.  It’s not worth it if I’m questioning it at that moment!

What purchases do you struggle with that we can pray for?  I have an obsession with office supplies, namely pens and cool notebooks, so I’m literally having to ask Jesus to help me walk away from Staples or the supply section at Target on a daily basis! Share in the comments below.

~Erin

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The Desitin Covering

Do you know just how extra-strength Desitin is?!  Does anyone even know what the actual ingredients are in that stuff?  I’m pretty sure it’s part Vaseline and part cement.  And I would know.  Because my daughter covered herself in it once upon a time.

When McKenna was a baby, her dad and I worked opposite schedules so that she would only be in daycare for about 3 hours a day.  Because I worked the evening shift, I would often come home late at night wired from a day of work and relax on the couch with a good book or pop on a tv show to rest my brain.  This often resulted in short “rests” during the morning hours.

One morning, I decided I needed a mommy nap and drifted off to sleep for about an hour and woke up to McKenna babbling to me softly as she sat in front of the couch. As I focused my eyes, I realized that my sweet daughter’s rosy cheeks were gone.  In her place, sat Casper the Friendly Ghost!

As I slept, my mischievous daughter had taken a tube of Desitin and completely emptied it all over her body.  Her arms, chest, legs, toes, face, and yes, even her hair were slathered in that super strength butt paste.  It took a couple of washes to get it off of her body, and we were STILL shampooing Desitin from her scalp almost a week later.  It was a mess!

As I was recounting this story to a friend recently, I thought about that thick coat of protection she had put all over her skin.  Why don’t I cover myself like that with Jesus?

Every day, we are hit with attacks from the enemy.  Our worldly desires get in the way, and selfish ambition trumps the desire to serve others.  I’m challenged daily with whether I’m good enough—as a mom, as a leader, as a friend.  Doubts creep into my head, and I allow them to linger far longer than they should.  And on days like today, where I’m feeling especially vulnerable, I realize it’s because I haven’t covered myself like my daughter covered herself with that ointment 19 years ago.

I am thankfully covered by the blood of Jesus and I have salvation because of it, praise God!  But I should also be covering myself with prayer—conversations between myself and the Holy Spirit.  Those prayers should be pouring from my mouth for me, my family, my neighbors, my country.

I should be covering myself with scripture, staining my heart with the blessed Word of the Holy Bible.  Those scriptures are a help to me in my time of need and doubt. They are a line of defense for a friend who’s having a hard day.

I should be covering myself with praise!  God gave us the grass we stand on, the giggle of a baby, the melody of a bird, and the breath that we breathe.  Speaking praises to Jesus for those things or singing worship music proclaiming His glory should be frequently flowing from my lips.

How do you cover yourself to stay protected from the enemy?  Is there a song, a verse, or prayer that is a go-to for you?  Share in the comments below.

~Erin

Grandma’s Prayer Closet

Seeing someone’s prayer closet is exciting.  Seeing my grandmother’s prayer closet was an honor.

Wilma, or Grandma as I like to call her, is one of the most influential Christian women I know.  My Pop’s mom has been a believer since long before I was even a notion in my parents’ thoughts, and she raised her children to love and believe in Jesus Christ.  My Mom often describes her as the glue that holds the family together.

Long road trips across the country began in my late 20’s to take my children to meet Grandma and Grandpa in South Carolina.  During those vacations, there weren’t many days that went by that didn’t include Grandma meeting with shut-ins to pray with them, teaching the Sunday School class, or going to assist with the prison ministry in the women’s division.  She’s dealt with more heartache and struggle than almost anyone I’ve known.  And yet.  Her resilience is astounding.  I know that this is due to her strong faith in her Savior.

I surprised her with a quick overnight visit when I was back east several weeks ago. She had no idea I was coming, and the look of shock on her face as Pop told her that someone had left “2 hams at the door” as Emily and I strode in behind him was priceless!  It was wonderful to have a little visit with her.

The morning I left, as I chatted with her, she asked me if I wanted to see her prayer closet.  I was thrilled to be able to say yes.  As we went into her room, I saw how she had transformed the space into a cozy area to be with Jesus.

A pile of devotionals, studies, and notebooks sat at her makeshift desk.  A little side table was set up with stationery for notes to be sent out for encouragement. Concordances and commentaries were behind her chair on a bookshelf.  She even added a little coffeemaker in the room!  She told me she could get out of bed, make it, and then brew her coffee to get her time in with Jesus first thing in the morning without even having to leave the room!

Grandma knows that the time spent with Jesus to start her day is not only encouraging to others, it’s needed to help her day be well from the start.  She enjoys and loves the time she spends talking with God and soaking in His wisdom and instruction.  In that prayer closet, her children all the way down to her great-great-grandchild are prayed for.  Her friends and church members are prayed for.  Her town is prayed for.

Maybe you don’t have a prayer closet, or maybe you don’t have enough space to commandeer a space just for that.  Get creative!  I use a wall in my tiny home office to tape up prayers that I want to remember to pray for.  Because I didn’t have a lot of space, I have a large open container where I keep my Bible study materials.  It has notebooks, different Bible versions, and devotionals.  When it’s time to go to my prayer closet, I take the items from the container that I need for my time with Him.

Perhaps you don’t even have room for that.  Here’s what I would say to you.  Make whatever chair or couch or porch you sit on your prayer closet and just spend some time with Him….a little bit every day.  That time with Jesus will change you and grow you.  It always does.

~Erin

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Me, Grandma, & Andros, my grandson. (Ignore photobombing Peyton in the background!)

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

Answered and Exceeded

For the last year, we have been working towards our dream of writing in order to impact women’s lives. That dream birthed the Iron Porch.  But it also birthed the start of independent stories that each us began pursuing.

Last week we started a road trip that took us up and down the east coast. It also took us up and down a rollercoaster of emotions.  You see, the dream brought us to the She Speaks Conference, sponsored by Proverbs 31 Ministries.    If you are unfamiliar with She Speaks, the premise is a location for nearly 800 women to follow the calling on their lives to speak, write, and lead for the Lord.

The dream brought us in front of real life publishers.  Let’s all take a moment to soak that in…real life…publishers!! Like for real, real life publishers!!!

While a publisher appointment is a scary thing to contemplate, there is beauty in knowing when it is God ordained.

Before the registration opened, one of us was FREAKING out that we would miss the actual registration date and miss out on the opportunity to attend.  Yet, we both received the email with plenty of time to consult before committing to workshops. We were afforded the opportunity to choose five publishers out of a list of dozens in the hopes of receiving one appointment. We prayed that we each would get one.

Weeks later, we both got the email revealing that we had each been scheduled for three appointments! Prayers answered and exceeded!

Not only had we each received three, we got the exact same three publishers.  Prayers answered and exceeded!

And if God wasn’t already amazing in these gifts, two of the three publisher appointments were back-to-back appointments…Emily at 11:45 and Erin at 12:00.  Essentially, Iron Porch had two publishers listening to our hearts for 30 minutes total!  Unrequested prayer answered…and exceeded!!

God wasn’t done answering unrequested prayers.  He allowed us an amazing amount of time with dozens of women in prayer, in fellowship, and in community.  In preparation for the conference, we prayed for our friendship. We prayed for the Iron Porch. We prayed for our books. We prayed for good feedback from the publishers. We dared to pray for “yes” from the publishers.  We prayed for our assigned prayer partners…strangers we met via email weeks before the conference. And we prayed for the staff and faculty of P31.

But we hadn’t prayed for the sense of belonging with other women called to this path. We hadn’t prayed to gain new friendships.  We hadn’t prayed to be moved to tears and laughter with strangers who had touched our hearts.

God answered the prayers that we didn’t even realize were on our hearts.

God answered the asked and unasked.

The Bible teaches us about exceeded expectations in 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV) “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

This is a lesson that we both have taken away this week.  It’s okay to ask God for what you want.  It’s okay to ask in detail.  It’s also okay to forget to ask for things.

You know why?

Because God is going to answer your heart. He’ll answer the asked and unasked.

~Emily and Erin

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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!