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

IMG_3706
McKenna’s house
IMG_3688
On the way into Panama City
IMG_3723
Buildings just one street behind McKenna
IMG_3695
Coming into Panama City
IMG_3697
The roof has caved in
IMG_3698
Debris
IMG_5791
Debris waiting to be picked up
IMG_5773
Just a street away from McKenna
IMG_5789
On the way to Panama City Beach

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

Shadows & The Light

With my heart pounding out of my chest, I jumped backward, fists up, and screamed bloody murder…something incoherent with a few swear words.

Can you picture my kung-fu fighting stance? What would cause such a commotion in my life?

As I was closing the bedroom door, a shadow passed along the hallway, which scared me into the defensive position.  The shadow?  My husband coming down the hall with a fresh cup of coffee for me. A sweet gesture that was met with much aggression, simply because I got frightened.

Shadows seem scary and often they indicate a scenario where we should be on defense.

Shadow in the woods = lions and tigers and bears.

Shadow behind my car = zombie about to get me.

Shadow over my head = bird about to poop on me.

Shadow in the hallway = bad guy in the house.

The shadow mentioned in Psalm 23:4, the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” has always frightened me.  Mostly because it sounds so ominous.  The passage that seems to be most popular for funerals makes me conjure up a picture in my mind that is scary.

But more often than not, the shadow isn’t what is truly scary. Most of the time, it’s my imagination that makes the shadow scarier than it deserves to be. Shadows appear frightening, but they can’t hurt us.

Consider this:  the presence of a shadow is also an indicator of light.  When we are frightened by an object casting a shadow, we should look for the light behind the shadow.

Take the same scary scenarios above…

Shadow in the woods = sunset behind a redwood tree.

Shadow behind my car = puppy running to greet me.

Shadow over my head = cloud providing shade relief from an Alabama blazing hot sun.

Shadow in the hallway = husband bringing wife hot coffee.

There is one more super amazing light behind darkness.  Jesus.

Jesus is that light (John 8:12).  He can provide the glimmer of reassurance when we have a momentary fright.  When the shadows are imaginary, He is the light. When the shadows are overwhelming, He is light.  He the shadows indicate true danger, He is the light.

Always.  Jesus is our light in the midst of the shadows.

With that in mind, Psalm 23:4 becomes a whole lot more comforting than the imaginary picture I have previously had in my mind.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” ~Psalm 23:4 (NIV)

I’m praying that each of you have a week where the shadows are a reminder that there is always light present.

~Emily

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

18E4992D-D340-486B-B3CC-299CD4566699

Modern Day Miracles of Healing

When reading the New Testament, the miracle healings touch my heart, but seem unrealistic in regards to modern medicine.  I believe they happened.  I believe they can happen.  But I didn’t think they happened often. I certainly never thought I’d have a front row seat to a miracle healing.

In October 2013, my younger brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma.  They found three large tumors on his spine, hip, and kidney with dozens of smaller tumors above and below his diaphragm.  A prayer campaign began and we were delivered a miracle 6 weeks later when his PET scan revealed zero tumors. Not one.

How do you explain a Stage 4 “pink slip” of death turning around to nothing within 6 weeks?

The medical profession was baffled.  They thought perhaps they were mis-reading the PET scans, so they ordered them to be accomplished a second time.  They continued to have some doubts that this could occur.  They explained remaining shadowing on the kidney area as “either a persistent tumor or scar tissue from the original tumor.”   They could not believe what they had witnessed. They could not explain it.

I can explain it.  It’s super simple.

God is good. God is faithful. God can do anything.

When I saw my brother in September of 2013, he was in visible pain and was having difficulty walking.  His doctors had diagnosed him with a herniated disk in June, but the reality was that the cancer had attacked his spine and hip.  My best friend since Junior High School, Linina, was with me on that visit.  She’s a nurse.  A really good one.  She told my brother that it was more than a disk issue.

God was working on a miracle before we even knew the issue. He sent knowledge and advice, through Linina, so that we could start the battle against cancer.

My brother and sister-in-law got the diagnosis on a Monday.  He called me to tell me on Thursday, as a dress rehearsal for the phone call to my parents.  He started chemo that Friday.  It was happening so fast that we couldn’t keep up with the information flow.

A prayer campaign was initiated.  I recruited every prayer warrior I knew.

Unusual “coincidences” began happening.  For instance, on the Tuesday evening after this fateful phone call, I was in a class at church when out of nowhere, the Associate Pastor suddenly stopped class.  He said, “I feel like God is telling me to pray right now for someone in class…there’s someone here who has a close family member who was just diagnosed with cancer.  We have to pray right now.”  He had us raise our hands if we had an immediate family member battling cancer. Out of a class of 40, five of us raised our hands.  He had the rest of the class surround us, lay hands on us, and he began to pray for miracles of healing.

At exactly the same time, Erin was at a meet and greet with Matthew West.  As one of my favorite Christian artists, she asked him to sign a CD for me.  Instead of just signing a CD, he literally stopped the meet and greet…delayed the long line of fans who wanted to meet him…to pray with Erin for my brother’s miracle of healing.

At the exact same moment my Pastor was praying in Washington DC, Matthew West was praying with Erin in Cheyenne, WY!

 Within 6 weeks, doctors were scratching their heads in disbelief that there weren’t any visible tumors.  Modern miracle healing occurred.

 “’Unless you people see signs and wonder,’ Jesus told him, ‘you will never believe.’”         ~John 4:48

It was a season of my life, where I acknowledge I was speaking to God more than any humans around me…a season that I grew closer to God than I had ever been previous to that event.  A season where I witnessed miracle healing. I saw signs and wonder…and I believed like I never had before.

Have you had the blessing of witnessing miracles?  Come to the porch to share with us how God has answered prayers in your life.

~Emily

Ry

In Portland, September 2013…weeks before our world crashed with one word: Cancer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conquering Fear

I was pretty sure that Chris could hear the pounding of my heart through my chest.  I quadruple checked the restraint to make sure it wasn’t going to somehow pop open, and silently prayed that God would allow me to be able to continue to raise my last child after the three-minute-long death ride was complete.  FIVE. FOUR. THREE. TWO.  ONE….the Incredicoaster hurled me to my feared torture.  I had ended up on a roller coaster.  Willingly.

To celebrate my 40th birthday, Chris, Peyton, and I packed the car and drove south to Disneyland.  I had never been and as it was a milestone birthday, I wanted to do something big!  I had made my intentions known VERY early on that the roller coaster and the equally horrific Guardians of the Galaxy ride (former Tower of Terror) were off the table.  If Chris wanted to ride those, he was on his own.

However, at some point on Friday as we were riding rides at California Adventure, I decided I was tired of being afraid of everything that I had zero control over.  I’ve been slowly conquering my fear of flying over the course of the last couple of years.  I wasn’t about to have a 24-year roller coaster drought keep me from enjoying time with my family.  I looked at Chris and told him we could Fastpass the coaster, and he didn’t ask twice.

Let me tell you, I loved the Incredicoaster.  L-O-V-E, loved that ride!  And while I prefer to never ride what I adoringly call the Guardians of the Galaxy Death Trap again, I DID ride it, as well!  Chris got to enjoy every theme park attraction that he had wanted to, and I enjoyed the feeling of victory over fear.

Often, we let fear control the better part of our lives, especially when it comes to our Christian walk.  We’re afraid we’ll be seen as ‘weird’ or as a fanatic to the people that surround us in this world.  Sometimes, we’re afraid to trust God and step out in faith for fear that what His plan is for us is one of uncertainty or one of struggle.  We fear asking our Father for what we desire in prayer thinking it’s too trivial.

When we’re afraid, we withhold things.  It could be our time with people or places, missing out on adventures and friendship.  It could be emotions because of the trepidation of being hurt.  Perhaps it’s a ‘thing’ due to possible angst of losing control of it.  We even hold back our intimacy with Jesus.

I do it often.  I shared in last week’s blog that I let fear keep me from developing genuine friendships.  I almost did it last week, when my fear very nearly kept me from enjoying a sweet moment with Chris where he felt the joy of sharing something fun together.

There are many verses in the bible that talk about fear and many that I have to remind myself of on a daily basis.  Here’s one that helps me:

For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” –Isaiah 41:13

We don’t need to fear things.  He says to us that He will help us.  He helps us when it’s tough, and He helps us when it’s scary.  He helps us when we’re surrounded with grief and when there is uncertainty.  All we need to do is let go of the fear that holds us back and trust that our God is bigger than the circumstance we’re facing, no matter how big or small.  Nothing we are feeling and nothing we ask for is insignificant to Him.

What fear do you need to lay at the feet of Jesus?  Tell us in the comments below so we can pray for you!

~Erin

4DBB5266-5784-46C9-905C-B86FEC163A24
The Incredicoaster! And I even rode that ferris wheel and didn’t die!
E060EBEA-A892-4A03-B25D-9E81FCB69182
I looked thrilled, don’t I?! (The Guardians of the Galaxy)