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

Too Much To Bear

What do you do when it seems the weight of the worst in on your shoulders?  How do you handle the struggles of this life speeding straight at you?  Who are you leaning on when it feels like it’s just too much to bear?

We’ve all had these times in our lives.  The heaviness of a death, an illness, or an addiction has probably touched someone who’s reading this in such a difficult way.  And to the person in the thick of it, the man or woman dealing with it, it feels like it will never end.

I know that you may not think that God is really listening.  You feel alone and unheard.  And you don’t understand why this torture is happening to you.  Why can’t God just fix it?  Why can’t He turn back time and make it ok again?  It doesn’t seem fair that you must suffer when everyone else around you seems to go on with life.  When you’re left feeling like you’re picking up pieces all around you by yourself, it hurts the most. 

I know you might not want to hear it, but I know you need to hear it.  You need to know that there is One who hears you and sees you.  He feels your pain.  He weeps when you weep.  And when it feels like there is nothing left to hold onto, you can hold on to Him.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very ready help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth shake and the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its water roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” –Psalm 46:1-3

To the person who struggling with exactly this in this moment, I’m praying for you.  I’m fervently asking that God make His presence known to you.  You are not alone, and God will see you through.  I promise.  And He will see you through to the other side.

~Erin

The Rooster and Jonah

We have a rooster now.  He’s young and just growing into his cock-a-doodle-doo.  He came to our home just a few days ago.  Emily inadvertently had a few too many roosters hanging around and since Peyton wanted to integrate a rooster into her flock, we got Squirrel, a tiny Bantam rooster. 

What we learned in the first day of receiving him is that he’s…lively.  Peyton had him separate from the hens but in the same chicken coop.   It’s an eight-foot-tall enclosure that ensures everyone has plenty of room.  Off Peyton went in the morning to get him out of his carrier when he decided to show her that he could fly.  Right out of the coop!  That teeny tiny bird flew right over the enclosure and wouldn’t get near Peyton again.  To make it even more comical, Squirrel flew up to a power line and hung out there all night! 

Even though that was his new home and he needed to integrate with the flock, he wanted nothing to do with the coop.  It wasn’t where he wanted to be.  But it’s where he needed to be.

Jonah was the same way.  The Lord told Jonah to go to Ninevah to preach to the city because of its abhorrent behavior.  They were desperately wicked.  But Jonah wanted none of it.  The man ran for a ship going to Tarshish instead.  Think about that; Jonah tried to outrun God’s calling.  When he was on the ship, it was involved in a great storm.  Jonah knew exactly why and when given the decision on what the shipmates needed to do to calm the storm, he told them to throw him into the sea.

The bible goes on to say that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and was inside the belly for three days and nights.  When Jonah repented, the fish spit him onto dry land and he went to the city of Ninevah, preaching to them and giving them the message received from God.  Thankfully, the Ninevites repented of their sins and the Lord spared them.

We have the same tendencies at times that both Squirrel and Jonah have.  We’re not wanting to be where we are supposed to be.  Often, we second guess what God has planned for us and decide we’d rather do what we want to do.  Perhaps we think it’s only a slight veer off course.  Or maybe we just don’t feel like stepping out of the world’s embrace.  We enjoy where we’re at because it’s comfortable and it’s known.

We need to remember, however, that we must obey the will of God.  No matter how scary it may be or unknown the circumstances are, God would have us obey Him and follow His direction.  He leads us; we don’t lead Him!  Everything we do should bring glory to our Father in Heaven, and obeying His will ensures exactly that.  We bring glory to Him in our faithfulness through obedience.

I encourage you follow God’s instructions for your life.  Perhaps you are being led to give up something or witness to someone.  Maybe He’s telling you to teach a Bible study.  He might even be calling you to the mission field.  Spend some time reading, studying, and listening to God’s Word to know where He would have you be today, tomorrow, and always!

~Erin

Yes….that’s Squirrel!

The Mustard Seed

The idea of faith has been on my mind a lot.  How much do I trust God?  How much faith does it actually take to move a mountain?  If God says that faith as little as a mustard seed can move mountains, then just how strong is my faith?  I have surrounded myself was some amazing and faithful people of God.  I see their faith poured out on everything they do.  Am I the same way?

These have been just a few of my thoughts as I’ve had my morning time with God.  I’ve been reading in the book of Joshua, bits at a time as to not miss anything.  I’ve heard the story of Jericho my whole life, so this passage of scripture is not new to me.  However, at 42 I see it differently than when I was eight.

Joshua told the army to march around the city of Jericho once a day for six days.  They didn’t say anything or attack the people.  They simply walked around the outer wall of the city.  However, on the seventh day, they walked around it seven times.  When the priests blew the trumpets after the seventh time, they gave a “great shout” and the walls came tumbling down!

This was all because of direction given to Joshua by God.  He told Joshua that He would give him the city.  I think about Joshua hearing that from God and maybe thinking, “Did I hear Him right?  We don’t say anything?  We don’t fight?”  I wonder about the men called to battle.  They were perhaps ready to go and defeat the city and then hear the directions and think to themselves, “Walk around the perimeter once a day?  Aren’t we just giving them open targets?  You want us to just shout at the end and that’s it??” 

Yet, they obeyed.  They had faith that what Joshua told them came from God.  They had faith that God would protect them and give them the victory.  They had faith that Jericho would be theirs.  Oh, to have that kind of faith!

I would like to think I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at God’s instruction, but I do it constantly.  My idea of faith is so worldly…I’m given a direction and I add my own 14 steps to the mix.  As a Christian, I have faith that the Bible is real, that God is real, and that Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be fully God and fully man to die on the cross for a sacrifice and raise from the dead.  But often, I second guess decisions and directions.  How silly of me when we have been given example after example of faithful men and women in the Bible who just had relentless faith that God would lead them. 

When we truly have faith, we don’t need to worry or pick our problems back up.  It doesn’t mean that things won’t be a struggle for us.  We’re fallen people in a fallen world.  However, when we have faith even as little as a mustard seed, we need not hold it the way we would without our Faithful Father. 

To have the faith as a mustard seed…this is my prayer.  Now to watch it flourish!

~Erin 

The Birthpain Trail

I made a mistake.  I told my best friend I wanted to go hiking with her.  It would’ve been fine if I had shut my mouth and pretended not to be covetous.  But noooooooo, I had to say how much I envied the fact that her and a friend went on these hikes and were getting some fun exercise in their lives.  And that is how I ended up on the trail that is straight from the pit of H-E-double hockey sticks. 

This “easy” trail consisted of a 4.7-mile winding path that took us up a 900-foot incline.  What I knew was that it had a beautiful creek running along the path and was wonderfully shaded for most of the hike.  What I didn’t know was what a 900-foot incline really meant, and that I was going to be walking uphill, both ways, barefoot in the snow.

I know that it appears I’m dramatic.  But when a person who has been on the trail says that it should be named “Birthpain Trail” because you forgot how hard the hike is from the previous time, you recognize that I’m not that far off the mark!  I thought I was going to die.  I asked Emily if I could change my mind about the hike and not be the friend that does the hike but instead the friend that has lunch ready for them at the end of the hike when they’re done.  She laughed at me.

I know I’ve had struggles that feel like that hike.  It feels like it’s an uphill battle.  You see there’s a little tough spot and you push through.  It appears there’s a reprieve, a beautiful trail along softly running water.  And then you realize that your trial has just begun and it’s about to get TOUGH.  Every step you take is pressure on your body.  You’re out of breath and tired from fighting to get ahead.  You’re weak and winded.  You feel like you’d rather quit and give up the fight.

I encourage you, friends.  Do. Not. Give. Up.  You need only cry out to God.  He says in Psalm 138:3, “On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.” 

He is fighting the fight with you and is walking with you.  When we call out to our Father, He hears our prayers and our desires.  He sees our fears and frustrations.  God desires us to lean into Him for our strength.  When we cry out to Him, we surrender the fight to HIM so that He can give us the strength to complete the journey.  When we call, He is glorified.

Let’s make sure we are calling to Him so that we may become bold with strength through Him!  Is anyone going through a struggle that we can pray for today?  Share with us in the comments, and we’d love to come along side you and pray.

~Erin

If My Life Was A Mess-Free Coloring Book…

We have the cutest coloring page on our refrigerator.  It’s one of those special pictures that only colors with the mess-free markers.  Those Crayola geniuses come up with some of the most amazing things!  It’s every parent’s dream invention that prevents those “innocent” little babies from markering up your entire dining room wall with Picasso scribbles only a toddler can make.

With Andros visiting, I wanted him to have something he could be creative with, and he just loves coloring the pictures and watching the ink appear on the page.  When he’s got the page on the table, I don’t have to worry about when he colors outside the lines or off the edge of the page.  It’s clean and neat!

Don’t we sometimes wish our lives were the same way?  If our life was the special paper and our choices and circumstances were the mess-free markers, would we stumble in what we do and how we act?  Would our reaction to trials be one of trusting God or trusting self? 

It would be great if everything stayed on the page.  When everything goes according to plan, exactly as it’s supposed to, we have no worries and no anxiety. It appears there’s no trouble.  But when our choices are not the mess-free choices that keep us within the bounds of our walk with God or hardships that we face are not within the lines of what we expect, it’s very easy to fall into despair.  How do we handle the trials that bleed off the edge of the page and throw us into frustration, fear, or confusion?    

God tells us in James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” 

How do we remain steadfast under trial? We do it by remaining steadfast in our Lord.  He is beside us all the time.  He has given us the Comforter to live inside of believers.  We trust that our Almighty God will do exactly as He promises in Scripture.  He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8).  He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  He will strengthen us and will help us (Isaiah 41:10).

I challenge you, friends.  Trust that whatever life has thrown at you, you have a Father that will hold you through it.  It’s ok if the marker falls off the page.  We have a God who is right there with you when it does.

Do any of you have a verse that helps you remain strong in the Lord when you are going through trials?  Share in the comments!

~Erin

Artist: Andros Minjarez

Funeral for a Church

As a military member, leaving a church has been a small part of my reality of orders and transition to a new location.  I never had to make the decision to leave a church without the military being the reason for moving on.  When having to make that decision on my own, I’ll be the first to admit that it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make.  I prayed over the situation for nearly two years before I felt God releasing me to move to another location.

During that two years, I continued to serve and tithe.  I continued to join small groups and lead women’s ministry.  I also educated myself about differences in doctrine, about healthy churches, about how to leave in a graceful manner. I asked questions of my church leadership and I felt comfortable in presenting any of my concerns.  I created an excel spreadsheet phase of pros and cons of nearby churches.  Ultimately, I listened to the Lord…stayed when He told me to stay…moved on when He told me to move on.  

Emotionally, the decision felt like a horrible breakup; like a divorce of the worst kind. It felt like the death of a loved one; like I was planning a funeral.  

Let me be very clear–I’m not saying the church I left was bad.  It was very right for the people who remained.  What I am saying is this; God has released me from serving at that particular church.  My focus shifted to finding another church.  However, finding a new church home has been a challenge that I wasn’t anticipating during this stage of my life.  

There are many things to consider when looking at a church.  Is the leadership teaching from the Bible? Is there sound doctrine? What are the children and youth programs teaching?  What are the affiliations?  How is the leadership structure?  Are the finances available and transparent? 

Is it a healthy church?

According to Thom Rainer in “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” there are several ways to recognize if a church is not going to survive a season of illness and to recognize if they are unhealthy.  In other words, I’ve been able to use this as a gauge to check the health of churches that we’ve been visiting.  Usually it’s a slow erosion, which highlights that there is focus inwards on the church rather than the community, as well as a distinct focus on the past (and how the “good ole’ days” used to be).  When the church doesn’t have a clear purpose, becomes obsessed over the facility or individual preferences, or worse…when the budget moves away from ministry and is primarily focused on staff or facility, then there is a disconnect in what is occurring within the church walls.  As a new visitor, it’s nearly impossible to see if these things are occurring within a church without deliberately asking questions.

Rainer contends that only 10% of churches are truly healthy, while 40% are showing some symptoms of sickness, another 40% are very sick, and the last 10% are in the final process of dying.  I know that every church has some semblance of issues.  I recognize that churches are not perfect.  However, as a result of Rainer’s analysis, I’ve been praying for my family to find a church in the healthy 10%.  I’ve also been focusing on praying for the churches in the other 90% to have open eyes and ears to become the healthy 10%.  

Through the process of finding a new church, I realized that I’m not the first one to face the challenge of church transitions.  In the past, I searched for churches based on the style of praise music, the pastor’s speaking ability, or the programs available.  Those things were important to me at the time, but now I’ve got a different set of items I’m looking for.  Specifically, I am now analyzing churches for the breadth of teaching scripture, speech on Word and truth, the management of the budget, as well as the health of leadership of the church.  

Ephesians 4:11-16 has given me direction and hope that my family will find fellowship in a new healthy church!

Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

I acknowledge that leaving a church should be a hard decision. It truly was. In so many ways, this season of transition has allowed me to rely more fully on prayer and direction from God.  I know that the building up of the body of Christ will allow our family to grow roots in a new and healthy church.

~Emily

RAINER, T., 2017. AUTOPSY OF A DECEASED CHURCH. [Place of publication not identified]: LIFEWAY CHRISTIAN RESOURCE.

Soup Explosions of Encouragement

I was employed as a personal chef, preparing a sweet and savory butternut squash soup, when I made the mistake of the year.  I put hot, freshly roasted butternut squash into the blender with broth.  Then hit the pulse button.  Without venting the lid to the blender.

About 10 seconds into the spin cycle, the lid catapulted vertically.  Before I could react, I was covered in butternut squash soup.  It was soaking my hair; it was in my shoes; it was literally dripping off the tip of my nose. 

Worst…it was covering my client’s kitchen.  The ceiling, the microwave, the floor, the curtains over the sink…all of it had evidence of orange splatter.  

As I stood in the center of the kitchen, covered in what looked like baby poo, I felt the tears start—plus I literally wanted to say a swear word.  

Of course, that was the moment that the lady of the house chose to come around the corner.  She took in the scene of her chef, and more importantly, her kitchen covered in orange goo…hours before a dinner party.  Her reaction?  She immediately started laughing. Then she started helping me clean.

To this day, when I think about how to build another up or how to encourage someone, I immediately think of her reaction to my mistake of the year. I think of her example because she found humor in the situation, because she assisted in the aftermath, and because she took the time to build me up.  In Romans 14:19 (NASB), we are told “so then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”  

We’ve all heard advice over the last year of COVID that includes being kind.  We’ve all heard reminders that we don’t know what others are going through.  We’ve probably all even observed scenarios where a nice gesture would have made someone’s day.

What’s more important than the advice, reminders, and observations is that scripture demands that we encourage each other.  In most instances provided by scripture, we are to encourage other believers.  In some instances of life, we provide insight into the Christian life and the Gospel when we encourage non-believers.  When we encourage the believer or the non-believer, we are making a difference in someone’s day. 

In the midst of the butternut squash soup explosion, I was encouraged.  I pray this week that you are able to encourage others…and that you notice when others encourage you.

~Emily

 “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB)

Decisions

The heaviness of a decision lay at my feet, and it’s all I can do to figure out how to make the right choice.  Have I thought it through and how will it affect everyone?  I’m left feeling a weight on my shoulders as I calculate the cost.  What if it’s the wrong path?  Did I think it through enough?

I’m sure you’ve felt it, too.  Choices, both big and small, are always needing to be made.  The burden can be almost overwhelming when you must decide to do what’s best for you, for your family, for your life.  The chaos of this world tells us to do what we want; do what feels good or ‘right,’ but is what feels right really the right thing to do?

And while this world tells me one thing, my heart tells me another.  I have someone that I can go to.  I have someone I MUST go to when I have decisions that need to be made.  I want to hear His voice.  I NEED to hear His voice.  I know that He is good, and I know that He hears me.  Dear friends, are we going to our Savior with our decisions or are we trying to make them ourselves?

I found a verse tonight in the midst of my Bible reading.  I was actually looking up verses about knowing the Bible.  The internet led me to one verse…HE led me to more.  103 verses later, I found what my heart needed the whole time…

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word.” –Psalm 119:114 

I realized I wasn’t looking for verses about knowing the Bible.  I was looking for a verse to tell me that it was ok that I didn’t make a decision the moment a choice was handed to me.  As a Christian I must give it to God and trust that He will provide the answer whether it’s an answer I like or not.  I do that because I trust in His unchanging and unfailing wisdom to direct me to the answer that will lead me closer to Him.

I pray that you can know this sense of assurance that I felt tonight reading that verse.  If you have a decision that needs to be made, trust it to our Father.  He is Jehovah Jireh-The Lord Will Provide.

~Erin

Barking My Fool Head Off: Stuck In the Drain Pipe

Today my nearly one-year old lab was in the drainage pipe…in the creek…under our driveway, where he had trapped an unlucky duck.  He was barking his fool head off inside the pipe-tunnel when I arrived on scene.  He was making such a commotion, that for a moment I thought he was possibly stuck in the drainage pipe.

Don’t you know that I tend to make such a commotion during crisis moments that I begin to think I’m stuck?  Just last week, I had a series of overwhelming moments, conversations, and decisions that had me in tears.  After sobbing in the closet so my son didn’t hear me, I realized that my melt-down was an ugly crying ruckus.  Today I realized it was comparable to the puppy panic of being trapped.  The difference between the puppy’s commotion and mine, is that I am often stuck.

God knows we are flawed as humans and that we get stuck.  The best news, we’re already given our escape plan to get unstuck.  We simply need to share the concerns, the complaints, the commotion with Him.  We won’t always get answers immediately.  And we sometimes won’t like the answers.  But there is reassurance in knowing that our God has ears that hear our every prayer…and that there is nothing more that He desires than to guide us through our ‘stuck-ness.’

Psalm 55:22 (ESV) tells us “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

After my sob-fest-pity-party, I turned it over to God.  I poured out the complaints, the injustices, the fears, the griping…and even the anger.  I immediately felt better. Not because the overwhelming stuff was gone…no, it was all still there.  But rather, I felt better because I spoke it out loud to the Lord.  

This next week, I’m praying that you turn it all over to the Lord.  Give him all the ugly truth and watch what He will do with it.

For the record, the puppy wasn’t stuck.  The duck was trapped by the puppy’s excitement, but the duck was fine too.  It was seriously just a loud commotion!

~Emily