A Different Perspective

For years, I’ve been in love with Claude Monet’s artwork.  I’ve enjoyed his impressionistic visions of his beautiful gardens, lily pads dancing across the canvas.  While I’ve always wanted to see his work in person, the opportunity has never been available for me…until last week.

I learned earlier this year that San Francisco’s De Young Museum was hosting an exhibit of 50 pieces of Mr. Monet’s later year’s artwork, and I quickly made plans to purchase tickets.  And this last week, my dream came true.  I took Chris, Peyton, and my mom to San Francisco and spent two hours staring at some of the most magnificent paintings I’ve ever seen.  When my vision filled with the first canvas as I turned the corner, it was blurred with tears.

Seeing his art up close was vastly different, however, than I had imagined.  The brush strokes were broad and sweeping.  Hardened blobs of oil paints were noticeable.  The images were almost unrecognizable.  It was fascinating.  For a brief moment, I was a little disheartened.  But as I stepped back and took in the pictures at a distance, the images transformed into the Japanese bridge and the weeping willows.  It was all about perspective, and it was breathtaking.

We sometimes look at ourselves and our circumstances in that same way.  We critique our flaws and our situations up close.  This perspective allows us to see the tiny flaws in our design.  We focus in on the details of our failures and our defects.  We dissect ourselves based on our desire to scrutinize who we are and where we’re failing.

But imagine, just taking six steps back and, voila.  The perspective changes!  We don’t see the failures anymore.  We don’t see how incomplete or broken we’ve become.  What we now see is what God created—His masterpiece.

God knew what He was doing when He created you.  What appears under close inspection to be a hodgepodge of random strokes is truly a perfect design made by our great Creator.  He doesn’t make mistakes.  He doesn’t see accidental angles or an uneven canvas.  He sees His greatest work….you.

~Erin

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Peyton staring at “Irises.”

How Does This Bathing Suit Look?

Whoever says shopping for a bathing suit is fun is a liar!  Sorry if that’s you.  But honestly, what’s so fun about it?  There are two options when it comes to trying them on, and neither are remotely appealing to me.

One:  I trudge to the department store, a.k.a. Target, because I’m a budget-mom, and start perusing the selection.  I push one hanger down the pole after another as I realize that bikinis seem to be in style.  And not just any bikinis.  The ones that are made of 4 total inches of fabric.  How on earth does that actually stretch from front to back?!  Oops…wrong size.  Head to the “Erin” section of swimwear.  Ummm, why does everything have a skirt?  And every piece is black.  I know black is supposed to be slimming, but what about those of us who rival Edward Cullen in the translucent skin category; now I’m just setting myself up to look like a pudgy Wednesday Addams.

I take the 3 ½ pieces of swimwear I found and head to the dressing room where I contemplate whether or not the salad I ate for lunch two days ago will show the dramatic ¼ pound weight loss I accomplished.  Go home with no suits.  I need more than 4 inches of fabric.

Two:  I peruse the websites, looking through pages and pages of swimsuits on models that might possibly be a hair skinnier than my right ankle.  It’s a little hard for me to envision myself in it, but maybe my 4-pack and belly button indentation won’t show in the flowery looking one.   The one with ruffles off the arm looks promising, until I start thinking about the awesome farmer’s tan I’m going to give myself this summer if I buy it.  Nope….take it out of the cart.  Thirteen more swimsuits go in the cart where I go back and forth and pull the picture no less than 12 times to then decide it won’t work on my body shape and remove it.  I finally decide on three pieces to order.  Try them on in the privacy of my own home.  Where I hope the salad I ate for lunch seven days ago will show the dramatic ¼ pound weight loss I accomplished.

Am I the only one that feels this way?!  Seriously, ladies!  I constantly struggle with my self-esteem.  This is an actual scenario from this week (minus the ordering online.  I haven’t gotten to the ‘Complete Order’ button).  I’m happy with who I am, and I’m content with where God has placed me in life.  I don’t think I’m ugly.  I know God made me exactly as He wanted.  So why is believing I’m beautiful no matter what size I am (lol…I actually mistyped there are started to write Ham).  Sorry, back on track…why is believing I’m beautiful no matter what size I am so difficult?

The Holy Spirit has been stirring up in me this last month or two the desire to look at the lies of the devil and how deceptive he can be.  If satan can get our focus off of God, then it becomes easier to stumble.  We find ourselves more inclined to listen to what the world says about who we should be rather than who God says we should be.  When we listen to the world, it says “Be whoever you want to be” but in the fine print, “Only if you look and talk like this celebrity or that influencer.”  The world says “It doesn’t matter how much you weigh” but in little letters, “Don’t think for one second we’re not limiting your options in stores.”  It shows us pictures of well-dressed moms on the go with manicured fingers and beautifully dressed children—but it doesn’t show us the 23 takes and four kids’ meltdowns it took to finally get the perfect snapshot to put on Instagram or Facebook.

Those few examples of how the devil and the world deceives may seem trivial, but it’s a reality that people face every day.  We worry about our weight, how we look, who’s going to stare, are our clothes on trend, or whether our children will get teased because of the size of their mother.

My prayer for myself, the women in my life, and the women that this post reaches is that you know God loves you, and He tells you to come to Him JUST AS YOU ARE.  He thinks you’re beautiful.  And His love conquers any junk and deception the world and the devil may try to feed you.  Be proud of who you are and the work the Holy Spirit is fulfilling in your life!  You’re worthy of His love.

Have you been struggling with self-esteem like I have?  Share your thoughts at the porch!

~Erin

come to him just as you are. you are

Stop Complicating it!

Why do we always try to complicate things?  Why can’t a simple direction mean exactly as it sounds?  We find ourselves following unnecessary steps or skipping the direction to get the solution because we’ve added in perceived ideas of how the journey is supposed to look.

Look at Naaman for instance.  In the bible, it was said he was captain of the army of the king of Aram.  He was highly regarded and a “valiant warrior.”  But he was also a leper.  Back in those days, leprosy was no joke.  They usually separated you outside the city, and when you saw people coming from afar, you had better be shouting ‘UNCLEAN!’ so as to warn them not to get close to your flesh-eating zombie self.

Upon recommendation, Naaman went to Elisha, a prophet of God, to seek healing from the bacterial nightmare.  Elisha sent a messenger to him advising to go wash in the Jordan seven times and he would be cleaned.  That’s it.  End of discussion.  Go dunk in the Jordan, not once, not twice, but seven times and the leprosy will be gone.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

But the dude needs to complicate it!  Naaman gets angry and beings to leave shouting how there are better rivers than the Jordan to do something like that in!  Why can’t Elisha just wave his hand and do a little hocus pocus and cure him?!

Thank goodness for the faithfulness of his servants who reminded him in 2 Kings 5:13, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?  How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

And so that’s exactly what Naaman did.  He went to the Jordan, dipped himself seven times and saw the miraculous healing of God through the words of His prophet, Elisha.

Our Christian walk doesn’t have to be so difficult, an elaborate and legalistic 27-step process to know Him better.  Salvation isn’t some intricate series of steps we think we need to do in order to have full fellowship with Him.  He says Believe in Me, Trust in Me, Follow Me, and Go.  The rest comes with faith and devotion.  The Holy Spirit comes to live in you and helps you in your walk with our Heavenly Father.

If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, there’s never a time like right now.  Speak to Him, confessing your sins, admitting you’re a sinner, and asking Him to live in you and make you whole.  If you’ve turned your relationship with Jesus into a tricky maze of do this, do this, do that, and you’d like to renew that desire to let go of “steps” and just fall into His arms of grace and listen to what He’s telling you, now’s the time.  Ask Him to renew your faith and allow you to trust Him wholly and with abandon.

He’s right here, waiting for you.

~Erin

_My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it_ How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'__

Did I Just Throw My Kid Under the Bus?!

A few weeks ago at church, we were reading one of my favorite stories in the New Testament.  A boy, blind since birth, was given sight again by Jesus.  For those who aren’t familiar with the story, the disciples walked by this boy and asked Jesus who had sinned to make him blind, him or his parents.  Jesus answered that neither had sinned; it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9:3).

Jesus then bent over, spit into some clay on the ground to make a mud and put it over the boy’s eyes, telling him afterward to go wash in the pool of Siloam.  It was after the washing that he gained sight.  People were shocked and asking if it was the same boy since he could see now.  He was brought to the Pharisees who asked him how he received his sight and about the “man” that had enabled this to happen.

Now that’s the part of the story I’ve always loved and remembered….Jesus taking His own spit and the dust of the ground to perform a miracle.  It’s beautiful.  But what gut-checked me is what we read after that sweet part of the story.

As the Pharisees questioned him, unbelieving what the boy had to say, they called out to his parents and asked them if he was truly their son and how he could now see.  The parents’ response?  “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know.  Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself,” (John 9:20b-21).

Wow.  For fear of excommunication from the worship and fellowship of the church (John 9:22), these parents threw their child, who historians say was somewhere aged 13-20, under the bus to answer for himself.  Was it hurtful?  Yes.  In the end, was the boy thrown out of the synagogue?  Yes again.  Did the parents act maliciously towards the boy?  No.

I would like to think that I’m “so much better” than those parents who cowered to peer pressure, but I know I’m not.  I’ve done things and I’ve said things that have hurt my children.  Where there should have been trust, they may have found doubt.  Where there should have been attention, there was times of disregard.  Sometimes as parents, even when we do everything in our power to protect our children, fear and lies of the devil creep up and overtake.  Then we’re left heartbroken at the end because we didn’t stand up to the pressures of the world and our children become collateral damage.

Parents, guardians, aunts, uncles, grandparents, we are human.  We make mistakes.  What we do with those mistakes is what’s important.  Seek forgiveness from God for the sin committed, and if necessary, ask the child for forgiveness.  My girls have heard me say more than once “I’m sorry” for something I’ve done.  They appreciate it and it models a humble heart.

I’ll never be a perfect parent but with God’s help, I’ll keep getting better and better at it.

~Erin

I'll never be a perfect parent.

Cut To The Quick

I would like to think I’m a strong woman.  I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life.  I was, at one time, entrenched in sexual sin.  It’s not something I’m proud of.  However, through the Holy Spirit, I was reminded I was a beautiful child of the King who didn’t need her value and worth determined by a man.

I spent literally years praying to God and asking Him to forgive me for my actions and behaviors before I finally took heed to God’s Word.  It says in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”  Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west so far has He removed our transgression from us.”  When I finally took those verses and truly hid them in my heart, I realized I was free of that sin.  When I repented and asked for His forgiveness, God gave it to me without hesitation.

But that doesn’t mean insecurity doesn’t creep in.  Last week while chatting with a group of friends, someone made an incredibly embarrassing comment about my past.  The remark was hurtful and degrading.  While I don’t think it was meant maliciously, it cut me to the quick.  It reminded me that while I have moved on, the devil still fights to keep my testimony mired down in humiliation and regret.

For quite a while, all I could think about was how I would never live down my past and how I would ever really be able to serve women.  Could I ever be able to fully commit to a ministry when my past is the fodder for jokes?

The answer the Holy Spirit gave me was clear.  YES.  My past and my sin may be humor for some, but it is no laughing matter to Jesus, because He let it go when I repented.

“’Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord.  ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.’” –Isaiah 1:18

My sins were covered and cleansed by Christ Himself.  My past, while not ideal, gives me the testimony to speak to women today.  It shows them that Jesus Christ can and does have the victory in our lives.  It doesn’t allow for judgment or shame, because our God took that shame and cast it away with the cry of redemption.  Thank you, Jesus for that grace.

For any who are ensnared by the lies of satan that your value is measured by your past, please take one of the verses written above and memorize it.  Hide it in your heart and speak it out boldly when the enemy tries to tear you down.  Allow God to have the victory in your past, present, and your future.

~Erin

Though your sins be as scarlet

Mr. Parker

You know those events in your life where you see the handiwork of God and you just have to sit back and shake your head in awe at how He does it?  You think you’re making these great decisions and good choices only to realize in the middle of it or at the end that you didn’t really make that decision at all.  It was already made for you.  You just didn’t know it.  And when you realize what it truly is, you can’t help but thank Jesus for how he formulated it for you.  To describe it as magic is too worldly.  Destiny is too chancy.  It’s just….Jesus.

I attended a Connecting Women’s Conference this last weekend in Birmingham, Alabama.  I was scheduled to return home on Sunday afternoon, my flight leaving shortly before 2pm.  However, due to a personal scheduling conflict, I arrived at the airport around 8am.  When I checked in at the ticket counter I told the agent, “I know I’m a million hours early, but is it possible to at least check my bag so I don’t have to roll it around with me?”

The agent looked through the computer and let me know that if I wanted to, an earlier flight into my Atlanta connection was available.  I took it.  (Atlanta is a much larger airport with many more food options, so that was a win for me!)

An hour and a half later, I boarded the flight and took my middle seat.  An older gentleman sat down next to me, an obviously well-read book gripped in his hand.  Now, I love to read.  And I’m nosy.  So once he got settled, I asked him what he was reading.  “King Leopold’s Ghost” was his reply.  I asked him if it was any good, and told me it was his third time reading it!  Any book worth reading more than once was a book I wanted to read, so I took the information down.  That brief interaction started a 40 minute conversation and ended with a hug at the concourse and a promise to email his son’s art information.

We talked about his grown sons who are artists and chefs and his beautiful wife of 40 years, an educator in the special needs field of middle school.  We spoke about his desire to help end an epidemic of fatherless homes.  We talked about my ministry.  He gave me practical advice about working on relationships.  And we spoke of how God orchestrates random events into life-changing moments.

At the end of our conversation, we both agreed that me getting on that plane was not by chance.  It was a divine appointment.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (NASB)  Isn’t that the truth?!  I can think I’m making the choices, but God directs the steps I take.  He took me directly to a Jesus encounter that will forever impact my life.

Thank you, Mr. Parker, for your words of encouragement.  My world is a better place for knowing you.  And thank you, God, for taking this brief moment in my life and turning into a miracle of just Jesus.

Do any of you have moments in your life that you’d like to share?  Perhaps you’ve had a moment where you can only explain it as “just Jesus”!  Share in the comments below and encourage others!

~Erin

tHE MIND OF MAN PLANS HIS WAY, BUT THE LORD DIRECTS HIS STEPS.

Arm-Knitting and Parenting

About 2 months ago, an ad came across my screen on Facebook for a local business in my area.  The business, Gather Marketplace and Studio, offers classes throughout the month that include paint ‘n sip, making succulent wreaths, macramé, knitting, and even painting your furniture.  It looked super cute and fun, and after checking with Peyton, I enrolled us in a Saturday morning “Arm Knit a Scarf” class.

For you knitters out there, I applaud you.  I’m insanely jealous of the talent it takes to know where to go over and under and what goes through which confusing hole of string.  It’s a gift that I’ve attempted a couple of times which has always resulted in a stunning store bought blanket being given to a sweet infant.

This style of arm knitting seemed more our speed, and we embarked on the hour and a half journey to making a scarf.  At first we had a hard time catching on.  However, after some brief trial and error we ended up with a beautiful product.

As Peyton got into the first few stitches, there were some misunderstood directions given (by me to her) to which she told me that if it got ruined, it would be my fault!  Luckily, about 15 minutes later as she was arm knitting at the speed of light, she looked over at me and said, “Mom, I’m killing it!”

One of the other ladies that was participating in the class giggled and asked if it was always my fault if things weren’t going well.  “Definitely!” was my reply….if it’s going badly, it’s my fault.  If it’s going well, she’s a rock star and it had nothing to do with me!

Anyone else have a child like that?!

There are many times I wonder if I’m doing this parenting thing right.  The teenage years are often packed with drama-filled days, feelings of insecurity, and tumultuous friendships.  There are days when your children are riding high on the joys of being a child.  Then there are days where nothing you can say or do will be able to console them from the tears they shed because of someone’s mean comments or the struggle of grades in school.

I’m often asking God why He can’t just fix it and make it better, then backtracking and reminding myself that God is there in the middle of the struggle.  I don’t have to worry about whether He sees the pain.  He’s trying to take it off our shoulders.  If only we’ll let Him.

Psalm 29:11 speaks to me in this time of my life. “The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.”

I don’t have to create this strength to endure the struggle.  It comes from Him.  And with the strength He gives during this time of raising kids, He provides a peace that passes all understanding.  I can rely on Him to cover me and my children with that peace that I so desperately seek.

Parenting will always have its ups and downs.  But my faith in God allows me to lay those ups and downs at His feet and trust that He’s weaving a beautiful story in my and my daughter’s life.  Just like that perfect scarf Peyton made!

What do you struggle with when it comes to your kids?  Share at the porch and know you’re not alone!

~Erin

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Peyton working hard! She’s a natural!