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

Going Solo to a Meeting with God

What is the craziest thing you’ve done by yourself?

This is often a scary thing to contemplate. Being alone.  Going to dinner alone…at a real sit-down restaurant. Going to a movie alone.  Going to a concert, play, or a museum alone.

I often do things alone, simply because I’ve refused to miss experiences when I can’t find someone to go with me. One of the craziest things I’ve done by myself was travel to Normandy, France over Memorial Day in 2012.  I couldn’t find anyone who could get the time off or wanted to see the beaches of Normandy. But I wanted to go…so I did.

This last weekend, I did something by myself that I hadn’t ever done before.  I went to a women’s Christian conference alone.  For complete transparency, I knew there were going to be a couple of women from my church attending, but I traveled, stayed in a hotel, and arrived at the conference solo.

Rather than my normally self-confident ways, I found myself floundering in the solo-ness of the experience.

As I found a seat in the midst of over 6,000 women, I was feeling self-conscious.  Were other women looking at me and wondering why I was by myself?  Were the ladies from my church remembering that I was also attending…would they invite me to sit with them?  How was I going to get through the day without having someone to pray with, someone to nudge when there was an especially good nugget, someone to wait in the bathroom line with me?!?!?!

And then the featured speaker, Priscilla Shirer, said something that touched my heart.  The summary of what she said included, “I’m going to challenge you to pray by yourself right now…. whether you came with 100 ladies from your church, 10 of your closest friends, or by yourself…we are taking time right now for each of you to have a one-on-one conversation with the Father.  You are here to chat with an audience of One.”

It was through her that I felt the ping of the Holy Spirit reassuring me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that moment.  That reassurance included knowing it was perfectly okay to be there by myself and that I only need to be concerned with my relationship with God.

It reminded me that Christ had to do the most difficult thing ever, go to the cross to die for all of our sins, all by Himself.  Or so it seemed…

You see, it also made me reflect that Christ was not truly ever by Himself.  The Father was right there with him throughout the trial, the torture, the long walk with a heavy cross, and even in His final moments as a human.

And the Father is with me always too. Through every single experience, both good and bad, the Father has been with me. In every event I’ve attended alone in flesh, the Father was with me.  Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

God was sitting right next to me when I struggled with being solo at a women’s Christian conference.  He’ll be right next to you when you’re struggling too.

Come to the porch and tell us the scariest/craziest/most fun thing you’ve done by yourself.

~Emily

Joshua 1-9

Release the Fear and Lies

Last week I wrote about how the meaning of our names can predict our destinies and purpose.  In order for us to walk in our destinies, we must reject the lies that we have been believing and begin to overcome our fears.

The strength that it takes to defeat the giants in the Promised Land is the same strength that will keep us in the Promised Land.  Beneath each sin or compromise we have struggled with, we can typically find a root lie or fear that we began to believe.

Before I met my husband, I was on a dating profile where I had indicated that I was training for a half marathon.  I had a knee injury and was unable to continue training for the race.  However, I believed I couldn’t find a suitable date unless men saw me as actively fit.  Because of that belief, I never changed that portion of my dating profile.  Even after months of not running, I was still matched with uber fit dudes who were surprised that I didn’t indicate my fitness ritual within the first few moments of communicating.

So, there I was believing a lie about needing to be fit in order to date.  There I was engaged in the sin of deception because I believed that lie.

Take a look at Jacob.  In Genesis 28:10-15, we read that Jacob has a dream regarding his offspring being scattered throughout the lands.  Essentially all the people of the earth would be blessed through the promises offered to Jacob and his descendants.

But by Genesis 32:22-32, we see that Jacob wrestles with a man to the point he has an afflicted hip.  Jacob tells the man he will not release him unless he first offers a blessing.  The man tells Jacob that his name is to be changed to Israel and offers a blessing. God wrestles with Jacob, changes his name, and offers a blessing.

What were Jacob’s fears or what lies was he believing?  He believed he was inadequate and unworthy.  He was insecure.  The underlying equation in this story is Jacob requiring a blessing in return for releasing the man.  He did not believe the blessings that were pronounced over him before his birth.  He wasn’t allowing God to work in God’s timing. He did not believe the dream.

Each of us has doubts. Each of us has fears. Each of us believes lies that aren’t ours to believe.  When you consider Jacob’s doubt and belief in lies and fear, do you feel as though you are in good company?

This week I want to encourage you to read Isaiah 43:1-7.  What are some of the promises that God gives us in this passage?  Write those promises down and recall them to your life right now in 2019.

~Emily

Release the Fear and Lies

The Debris Hauler

Emily and I had been praying for one of the debris trucks to make their way down McKenna’s street.  It had already come once at some point before we got there to start cleanup; there were a couple of houses on their street who’d been able to get their cleanup completed.  But there was no guarantees of when the trucks would be coming again.  The city was desperately trying to be fair in getting around to streets and get to them as quickly as possible.

For us, the prayer was two-fold.  First, we didn’t want old food and moldy household items to attract rodents and pests.  The last thing McKenna needed was a raccoon infestation or a snake problem.  Second, with the pain of throwing away her memories and household items, we wanted that stuff to be gone and out of McKenna’s line of vision as she began to rebuild.  It would feel as if she was truly making a dent in her restoration, and she would be able to move forward.

Towards the end of Wednesday afternoon at around 230pm, we saw a debris hauler on the intersecting street near McKenna’s house and hope surged that it was coming towards us.  However, at the intersection it took the dreaded turn left instead of right toward the opposite end.  All three of us were joking when we saw it happen, and pretended to try and ‘will’ the truck back in our direction.

We continued raking the debris into the growing pile all the while side-eyeing that truck down the street.  McKenna saw it first.  “It turned around!  It’s coming in our direction!”

We were all so excited.  The raking and shoveling pace increased as it cleaned up the debris four houses down, then three, then two….and when he was done with their house, his truck was full.  Even writing about it now makes me chuckle.

He stopped at our driveway, and I went up to the stranger to ask if he would be back.  He was so kind.  “I’m going to go dump this, but I’ll be back.  I’ll have about 15 minutes left that I can haul it into the truck.”  I thanked him profusely and as he drove off, the pace of our work was bordering frantic!  We wanted all of it to be gone!

Ten minutes later, he drove up to the house, waved hi and began his work of running the hauler equipment as we continued to rake.  He kept smiling at us and yelled out, “Slow down!  Slow down!  You’ve got time!”  I yelled back with the clock ticking at 15 minutes, we were going to make the haul worth it!  He told us not worry—“I’ll stay until it’s done, ladies.  I won’t leave.”

And he didn’t.  He took every bit of our debris from the front, and we filled his truck to the brim with our things from the house.  We were so thankful that we asked for his name and if it would be alright to take our picture with him!  His name was Randy, and he was retiring in eight months, so we wished him a happy congratulations in his upcoming retirement and thanked him again for his willingness not to take off when his time was up.

In Philippians 4:19 the Bible says, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  Isn’t it just like God to give us exactly what we needed at the exact moment we needed it?!  We were winding down much of our cleanup, and the last hurdle we were praying for was for the debris pile to disappear.

McKenna, Indy, and Andros still have a long road ahead in their hurricane recovery.  As we speak, they’re still waiting on a new roof, new walls, and 2 new windows.  But a lot of work has been done to get them to that point, and they are at least able to live in the downstairs part of their house.   When we’ve least expected it, God has supplied McKenna and Indy with the necessary and even sometimes the extra that we only hope and wish for.  Our God is a good God!

How about you?  Tell us about a time that God has supplied your needs.  We’d love to have you share in the comments below!

~Erin

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Erin, Randy, and Emily (McKenna was speaking to her roofer in the garage!)
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The debris pile on Tuesday before we started adding outside debris in front of the driveway!
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Randy working his magic!
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The truck was amazing! Can you imagine how many trips to the dump it would’ve taken us?!

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

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McKenna’s house
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On the way into Panama City
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Buildings just one street behind McKenna
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Coming into Panama City
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The roof has caved in
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Debris
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Debris waiting to be picked up
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Just a street away from McKenna
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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