He Is My Refuge

You have your life planned out.  You know what college you’re going to, who you’re going to marry, how many kids you’ll have, where you want to create a home.  You have this idea of what your life is supposed to be like.  It’s like this perfect movie playing slow motion in your head.

But life doesn’t always work out that way.  You don’t get accepted to the college of your choice.  You marriage ends in a mess of a divorce.  The house you intended to make memories in is just a memory itself.  Nothing is the way you ever envisioned, and you cry out wanting to know why this shamble of a life you feel is not the dream you ever envisioned.

You cry out, “God, where are You?  Where WERE You?  I thought I heard You and where You wanted me.  And yet, here I am. Lost and feeling like I’m fighting this battle all on my own.”  It’s so easy to feel the loss of a dream by yourself, not recognizing His presence there with you.

Are we really alone, though, in the middle of our pain?  The truth is, I’ve felt that way more than once.  I’ve never questioned God as to where He was.  But I’ve certainly prayed that I wanted to feel Him closer to help take away some of the ache of change and loss.  Even when we’ve helped create that change, it can still be difficult to manage that hurt on our own.

God tells us often that we’re not alone…that He sees us even if it feels like we don’t see Him.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”  For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark.  –Psalm 91:1-4

I’ve had to play that verse over and over in my head.  One too many times, I felt the shift of my life in a direction that I never imagined.  I’ve gotten to the point where I decided I had to work through transition on my own.  But I didn’t.  Our Father saw me then and He sees me now.  He covered me with protection and comfort then, and He does the same even now.  He is my shield from the uncertainty and struggle.  He doesn’t remove the hurt, but He protects me as I go through it.

What about you today, dear friends?  Have you reached a moment in your life where you’ve had to remind yourself that God sees you and that you’re not going through life alone?  Share in the comments below how we can pray for you.

~Erin

His faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark.

Tremble

I am a music person.  Always have been.  From the time I was a little girl, I always loved to sing…at church, in the car, the grocery store, at home.  It didn’t matter.  Music was like air.  One of my fondest memories of childhood is singing to my mom’s records of Reba!

There’s something about finding the right song to match your mood or lyrics that are exactly what you wanted to say but couldn’t figure out how to say it.  I’ve spent hours searching for the perfect piece of music that would hold me captive to what was going on for that day.  Anyone else like that?

I was struggling recently with a decision I needed to make.  I couldn’t wrap my head around what to do.  I had been praying so fervently for God’s answer.  I pored over scripture, looking for the clarity that I wanted to have. I knew what God was saying, but I was struggling with His answer to me.

Full disclosure, I haven’t been to church in many weeks.  I’ve felt the absence in my heart.  But Sunday morning, I just knew I needed to be back.  I needed to find peace in His answer.  And because music is so wired into who I am, I knew I needed to worship through music.

I walked through the doors of the church and when worship began, it was as if the Holy Spirit poured right over me.  I begged God to remove distractions from the devil, show me that I didn’t need to fear the answer—to know that He gave me the answer in love, and I was to trust Him.  And then the band began to play Tremble…..”Jesus. Jesus.  You make the darkness tremble.  You silence fear.”  Just like that, this perfect peace settled over me.  It was almost unnerving.  In that moment, I felt so calm and I knew I was supposed to let go of the fear in the answer.  It was a true gift.  It was one of those moments you have in your life that you know you’ll never forget.  It was that powerful.

My words are for you who may be struggling with a decision.  Maybe you’re not sure what you’re hearing from God because the answer seems so different from what you thought it would be.  Perhaps you don’t know why your circumstances are what they are.  You’re afraid of the question.  And you’re even more afraid of the answer.  Lean in.  Speak His name over you.  He silences the fear.  His name is so powerful, it brings a peace that only He can give.  There’s no need to be afraid anymore.

Is there a worship song that has been spoken over you that has changed how you heard Jesus?  Share with us in the comments below.

~Erin

Jesus, Jesus

 

Why Was I Scared?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  When is the right time?  When is the right time to share Jesus with someone?

Sometimes, it feels hard to share my testimony.  There’s that moment before I contemplate if now’s the right time to share and the moment I share where I wonder what they’ll think of me.  Will they think I’m going to shove the bible and religion down their throats?  Maybe they’ll see me as a fanatic.  Or as someone who pretends to play the part of a Christian.  I wouldn’t say it’s ever stopped me from sharing, but there seems to be a brief second where I allow satan to try and convince me that it’s not the right time.

I felt this way recently.  I was nervous to talk to someone about who I am in Christ.  I found myself alluding to it, but never really being brave enough to come out and stand strong in my faith and what that means for my belief system.  I caught myself holding off saying “I’ll pray for that” out of fear that they would think I was weird.  And honestly, this devastates me even writing this now.  Why?  Why would I be scared?  Because they might think differently of me?

Friends, let not be afraid to shout our love for Jesus from the rooftops.  He has provided for us.  He has sustained us.  He came to earth as a man and became a living sacrifice so that we could escape that penalty.  The gift of salvation in that is free, and we should be sharing it joyfully!

Shake off the fear of what people may think!  The very Spirit-led happiness that is given to you by God may be what causes someone to ask you, “What is it that you have, and how can I get it?”

Today, I ask Jesus for forgiveness for being afraid.  I stand firm in my faith and salvation, what I believe, and how I should live.  I encourage you to stand firm, too!

Share a moment when you were joyfully shouting about God’s love for you in the comments below!

~Erin

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

IMG_1240
Erin, Randy, and Emily (McKenna was speaking to her roofer in the garage!)
IMG_3725
The debris pile on Tuesday before we started adding outside debris in front of the driveway!
IMG_3754
Randy working his magic!
IMG_3757
The truck was amazing! Can you imagine how many trips to the dump it would’ve taken us?!