The Cultivate Conference

I had an opportunity to attend a conference, Cultivate, this last weekend sponsored by Sisters in the Spirit.  The theme was centered on Cultivating Courage, and it was an incredible opportunity to be surrounded by women who were all interested in a deeper connection to Jesus, one that was free of fear.

When the panel of women shared their stories, I don’t think there was a woman in the room that didn’t feel a connection to at least one brave soul on that stage.  I found myself relating to the personal accounts of past mistakes, fears, hurts, and triumphs.

It reminded me of how important it is to share our testimony with others.  When we let go of our fear of being judged, there is a freedom that happens in your soul.  You transfer the power of fear into the power of faith that God has prevailed in your situation.  It also give the woman hearing it the opportunity to know they’re not alone.   Woman can often feel like they’re the battling things on their own, whether an intentional thought or not.  When we share, we connect.

Having courage is not always easy.  But when we trust that God will stand with us and carry us through, courage can always be found.

Arise!  For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act. –Ezra 10:4

~Erin

P.S.  To find out more about the ministry that put the conference together, please visit www.sistersinthespirit.net.

Reaching the Edge

This is how I describe what it feels like to me:  I’m in a pool with all of my friends and we’re just hanging around.  I’m getting tired, and I swim over to the edge.  I can almost touch it but it’s out of my reach….and stays out of my reach.  I kick my feet that last little bit only to see that the edge is still not finding my outstretched hand.  I still can’t touch it.  I’m getting tired, anxious, and overwhelmed from all the swimming.  I’m not going under.  I’m staying afloat, but I just. can’t. reach. the. edge.  And now I’m scared.

That’s what my depression feels like to me.

I was first diagnosed when I was 19, and I’ve battled it for 20 years.  Some years, it’s wonderful.  I pass through the seasons of life and everything feels peaceful.  Other years, it gets a grip on me and feels like it could swallow me whole if I let it.  I’ve been on multiple medications and gone to some of the most amazing counselors.  The resources that I’ve had available to me have been a blessing when I struggle with the monster.

No one’s depression looks the same.  It affects us in different ways.  I’ve seen it manifested for some, through cutting.  Others may have thoughts of suicide.  Some just have this sadness that they can’t escape, while others might have physical symptoms.  From the outside looking in, the symptoms are all the same, but how they’re painted on our life canvas looks vastly different from person to person.

When I’m struggling hardest with depression, I reach past the overwhelming feelings of being alone and afraid and I cry out to God.  It’s hard sometimes.  While I’ve been a Christ-follower for a long time, in my depression, it’s difficult to call out for help, even from God.  I’m the leader.  I’m supposed to have myself together.  God gave me a calling, so I shouldn’t need to be so….needy.   But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

He’s the Healer.  He’s the Living Water that keeps us nourished, even when it feels like a dry desert.  I re-read this passage of scripture the other day and it was such an encouragement to me.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord.  For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but it’s leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. –Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NASB)

Droughts will come.  Hardships, heartaches, anxiety, depression, hurt…it will come.  But if we trust Him, He will carry us through.  When we extend our roots out to the stream of Living Water, He sustains us.  And that verse reminds us that even if those dry seasons, we’re still producing fruit for His glory.

I’m in that pool right now, kicking and swimming and trying to get to the side.  And I haven’t reached it yet.  I take medication to help and I know God has me in His hand.  I’ll reach the edge soon.

Anyone have a verse that they use in the throes of depression that helps carry them through?  Share it in the comments below.

~Erin

Blessed is the man who trust in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves wil

Coffee Shop Bold

I ordered a coffee and then had confusion cloud my brain as I began to doubt if I’d called the cashier by Ma’am or Sir. I called them something but then questioned if it was the correct gender reference.  The confusion was not because I’m middle-aged, rather because the cashier was exhibiting traits that appeared to be male and female.  I wanted desperately to ask them, out of sincere concern but didn’t want to risk being offensive with my questions.

I received my coffee and went to a table to begin working on bible study homework.

The ladies at the table next to me were having a very lengthy conversation about a nightly escapade with a guy they knew. It was loud. It was lewd.  The more I tried to ignore them, the louder they got.  I desperately wanted to ask them if they knew they were sharing intimate details in a public setting, but I didn’t want to risk being told off or cursed out.

I closed my study material.  I sat back.  I prayed silently.

The cashier’s shift was over and they left. The ladies with the wild night antics were done sharing and they left.

I remained.

I asked myself and God why I was so afraid to engage with these two scenarios.  Why was I reluctant to have a conversation with individuals?  What reservations overrode the need to be bold? What if I had been bold and had used the opportunity to share Christ’s love simply through my words?  What if this was the only time those three individuals encountered someone who could share the gospel through action, rather than by being timid or worse browbeating?

I immediately thought of the verse in 2 Corinthians where it states that because we have hope (in Christ), we are bold.  I couldn’t remember the context or even the exact verse, so I had to open the Bible and dig in.

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold!

~ 2 Corinthians 7-11(NIV)

 I want to be bolder in my action.  I want to stand firmly for Christ.  I pray I’m bold as a lion!  Even if it’s simply engaging in a conversation with strangers at a coffee shop.

Ladies, be bold and be brave this week!

~Emily

 The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

~Proverbs 28:1(NIV)

 

Coffee Shop Bold

 

 

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