Cut To The Quick

I would like to think I’m a strong woman.  I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life.  I was, at one time, entrenched in sexual sin.  It’s not something I’m proud of.  However, through the Holy Spirit, I was reminded I was a beautiful child of the King who didn’t need her value and worth determined by a man.

I spent literally years praying to God and asking Him to forgive me for my actions and behaviors before I finally took heed to God’s Word.  It says in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”  Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west so far has He removed our transgression from us.”  When I finally took those verses and truly hid them in my heart, I realized I was free of that sin.  When I repented and asked for His forgiveness, God gave it to me without hesitation.

But that doesn’t mean insecurity doesn’t creep in.  Last week while chatting with a group of friends, someone made an incredibly embarrassing comment about my past.  The remark was hurtful and degrading.  While I don’t think it was meant maliciously, it cut me to the quick.  It reminded me that while I have moved on, the devil still fights to keep my testimony mired down in humiliation and regret.

For quite a while, all I could think about was how I would never live down my past and how I would ever really be able to serve women.  Could I ever be able to fully commit to a ministry when my past is the fodder for jokes?

The answer the Holy Spirit gave me was clear.  YES.  My past and my sin may be humor for some, but it is no laughing matter to Jesus, because He let it go when I repented.

“’Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord.  ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.’” –Isaiah 1:18

My sins were covered and cleansed by Christ Himself.  My past, while not ideal, gives me the testimony to speak to women today.  It shows them that Jesus Christ can and does have the victory in our lives.  It doesn’t allow for judgment or shame, because our God took that shame and cast it away with the cry of redemption.  Thank you, Jesus for that grace.

For any who are ensnared by the lies of satan that your value is measured by your past, please take one of the verses written above and memorize it.  Hide it in your heart and speak it out boldly when the enemy tries to tear you down.  Allow God to have the victory in your past, present, and your future.

~Erin

Though your sins be as scarlet

Loneliness Blues

Have you ever experienced a moment of unexpected loneliness?  A moment that leaves you feeling all by yourself?  One that takes you by surprise?

Yesterday I took my husband and son to the airport so they could visit an ailing family member over spring break.  I wasn’t able to travel with them since I just started a new job three weeks ago.  If I’m being 100% honest, I had been looking forward to the week of quiet homework-free evenings with zero expectations of dinner preparations or housekeeping chores. I was dreaming about bubble baths, kitty snuggles with a good book, and early bedtimes for this tired mama.

When I arrived home from the airport, I wandered around the house.  I was aimless and restless. I had planned to clean the house and work in the garden so that I’d have the whole week of evenings free.  That didn’t happen. I couldn’t focus on the to-do list.  I wasn’t interested in the book I was reading. I couldn’t find anything interesting on tv.

I was lonely.  I was missing my boys, even though I had just seen them a few hours earlier.  Frankly, it took me by surprise because I had been looking forward to the alone time.

Rather than wallow in my loneliness blues, I decided to do something about it.  I got up and cleaned the bathrooms top to bottom.  I transplanted blueberry plants. I changed all the sheets.  A whole bunch of busy work which still left me unsatisfied and still feeling alone.

That’s when I changed my tactic. I opened my Bible.

While reading chapter 5 of 1 Peter, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief in reading verse 7.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” ~1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

My loneliness blues were cast on Him at that moment.  I felt immediate relief. You see, the feeling of loneliness was one that I could have given to God at the very moment I identified my unrest.  But I didn’t.  Why? Because I am human…and I tried to fix it myself.  Me “fixing” things hasn’t worked for me in the past…why would I think it would this time?!?!??!

In all seriousness, I should have known.  I should have remembered. I should have trusted…that God would take the loneliness from me.  That He alone would settle my unrest.

How do you deal with your loneliness blues? Are there specific scriptures that bring you comfort?  Come to the Porch to share….

~Emily

cast all your anxiety on Him, because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5_7 copy

 

 

 

Unbiblical Teachings

bible“It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.” Job 34:12 (NIV)

Dealing with untruths, when spoken as though they are the words of God, is one of the most difficult scenarios that a Christian can face.  Churches split, relationships are damaged, and hearts break over this very issue.

A few years ago, my husband and I each had a nudge from God to attended an established church that we fell in love with.  There was a large church following without multiple services. This was a church without debt. They added on to the building when they had funds.

The Pastor spoke words from the altar that defied political correctness. He was passionate. He provided offensive sermons and was unapologetic for those messages.  More than once I questioned his Biblical basis for his claims in sermons.  Yet my husband enjoyed the church and the services.

When the Pastor came to our house, he railed my husband about not being a “true” Christian head of the household.  Again, offensive and unapologetic.  Still, my husband was drawn to him and his teaching.

When this Pastor had a sermon on being fruitful and multiplying, the stage was set for my feelings to be hurt, based on my past experiences with infertility and miscarriages.

He preached that those who did not have multiple babies were being “unwilling” or “unfaithful” to spreading the Word of God.  He stated that if you weren’t pregnant, trying to get pregnant or having babies then you weren’t a strong enough Christian.  If you weren’t able to get pregnant, you weren’t praying hard enough. He stated that God gives His faithful and prayerful people what they ask for.  Therefore, if you are not receiving what you are praying for, then you are either unfaithful or don’t have a healthy prayer life.

Imagine my shock. The dagger to my heart when I realized that he was saying that my 20+ years of praying for a baby was not enough. That I wasn’t a strong enough Christian.

It was the first time I had been in doubt about my Christian walk based on the words of a Pastor. And it was the first time I defied my husband’s lead regarding the church.

You see, my husband liked this church and he liked the Pastor.  However, that was the last day I went to that church. My husband wanted to go back, but I refused. I did not believe it was Biblical teaching coming from the pulpit. I did not believe he was speaking to the hearts of Christians about God’s message.

It was not the first time that my husband saw the spiritual gift of discernment being used in our house, but it was certainly the first time that it caused chaos and contention.

After prayerful consideration, we found another church.  That decision was not easy.  It’s not always easy to follow your heart when you hear the true voice of God speak to you.

Come to the porch and share an experience where following the voice of God was not an easy road…

~Emily

unbiblical truth

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?!

The Stay or Go Piles

Imagine yourself going through your belongings and having to decide what stays and what goes.  Every piece of clothing gets a yes or no.  Every toy is scrutinized.  Many of us do this task on a yearly basis when we do our spring cleaning.  Now imagine not even getting the opportunity to decide.  Mother Nature has decided for you.

That’s what we did when we went through McKenna’s house two weeks ago during our Hurricane Michael cleanup.  Because of the length of time the house was without power as well as the restrictions placed on the residents regarding coming into the city, many of the possessions that they owned had to be thrown away.  Fresh clothes from the laundry—discarded.  McKenna’s beautiful wedding dress—gone.  Andros’s favorite stuffed animals—into the garbage bags.  Furniture and bedding, shoes and food, coats and towels—in the debris pile.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have to go through this process, but I can tell you it destroyed this mother who had to watch her daughter make decisions on what few things she could keep for her family.  It hurt to watch McKenna feel hopeful at the amount of work we were getting done and then feel the frustration as more and more piled into the “go” pile.

There weren’t many words that I could say to her that could ease that pain of losing so much.  The only thing I could tell her?  It was going to be ok.  These things were exactly that, things.  Stuff can be replaced and it would all be ok.

Jesus had a few words about possessions, as well.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He taught the disciples the way of righteous living for those who were followers of Jesus.  Matthew 6:19-21, He said, ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’

Material possessions are temporary.  They aren’t things that can get us into heaven.  They aren’t things we can even take to heaven.  Or hell for that matter.  Possessions are just things we obtain.  They have value, either monetarily or emotionally.  And while they’re nice to have, Jesus says that they’re not important.  He doesn’t say you can’t have them.  What He DOES say is not to tuck them so deeply into our hearts that we forget what our true purpose is as Christ-followers.  We are to be storing up treasures in heaven.  When we store treasures in heaven, our heart is there.  When we store treasures for our earthly home, our heart is here.

At the end of the day, McKenna will have to replace a great deal in her home, and she’ll mourn the loss of the ‘things’ that were attached to sweet memories.  But the treasure she has in heaven as a believer far outweighs any piece of furniture she’ll need to buy.

What does a treasure in heaven look like to you here on earth?  Maybe it’s a volunteering moment that you’ve experienced or the time you gave to a friend who needed comfort.  Perhaps it’s the conversation you had with your neighbor about Jesus.  Tell us about it in the comments below.

~Erin

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

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

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