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?!

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

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rough Patch

There was evil in the air last Saturday.

A horrific tragedy unfolded in my community when a husband decided to kill his wife and children, before lighting their home on fire and subsequently committing suicide.  On the same day, a friend had her basement renters also commit suicide.  On the same day, an Airman I mentor lost his brother in a terrible car accident.

These three separate events, in three separate cities, have impacted my life this week.  Not because I knew the key players, but because it has impacted people I care about. It has impacted my church’s youth group. It has impacted my military community. It has impacted the elementary school.

When I found out about my Airmen’s brother’s death, I told him that I was available if he needed to chat. He’s Muslim.  I’m Christian.  I wanted to offer prayers, but was unsure how to say that without offending him or his family.  I was treading softly, as we are both Active Duty.  He told me, “Chief, I’m going through a rough patch.”  And my immediate response was this:  “It’s okay to be going through a rough patch. It’s not okay to stay there for a long time.”

No one enjoys hard times….the rough patches.  And yet, we’ve all had a rough patch.  The rough patches could be unemployment, divorce, infertility or the rough patch could be health related.  The rough patch could be gossip, slander, low self-esteem or loneliness.  The rough patch could be death:  a family member, a murder, or a suicide.  There are thousands of reasons for the rough patches. Rough Patches are really hard when you feel as though you have done everything correctly, but you still have to suffer through the rough patch.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”        1 Peter 4:12-19 (NIV)

 In 1 Peter 4:12-19, we read that there will be suffering for the Christian.  We will see and experience the rough patches. Essentially, we should expect some amount of trial and tribulation, and yet we should also continue to press forward looking towards God for help and comfort.

The rough patch offers us time to examine ourselves while in the trial and allows us to entrust ourselves to God within the trial.

Peter warns us in verse 12 that the trials are expected. Yet, we are often surprised by the intensity of the trials.  Peter refers to the trials as a “Fiery Ordeal.” I don’t know about you, but the adjective “fiery” makes me feel like this is a super big deal!  Fiery is intense.

More than the intensity, I think I’m often surprised by the purpose of the rough patch. On a brain level, I understand that God is allowing us time to draw closer to Him.  On a heart level, I want so desperately to have everyone healthy and happy around me!  I understand the trial’s ultimate purpose, but like most of us, I would rather not fulfill the purpose through a rough patch.

When there is evil in the air…when we are facing hard times…when we are going through a rough patch, it’s so much easier to bear the burden in remembering that our God is for us. He is with us. He is allowing us to stretch and grow through trials in order to be closer to Him.

The rough patches suck.  They’re horrible.  But it’s okay to be in the rough patch.  They have purpose. They let us grow.

Just don’t stay there for too long.

~Emily

P.S. If you are contemplating staying in the rough patch too long, I am praying that you seek Godly council.Find a strong Christian woman to pray with, talk to your Pastor, call a suicide hotline…please, please, please get help.

The rough patch is meant to grow you…not break you.

A Bad Day

Ever have one of those days where nothing seems to go right?  You know the kind of day I’m talking about…you wake up, feeling great as you prepare for the day.  You’re officially off and running, and BAM!  First hit throws you for a loop.  WHACK!  Hits two and three knock you back.  And before you can recoup, THUMP!  I can’t be the only one.

Monday was a real struggle for me to believe that I could fix the day as it progressed from fabulous to just plain terrible back to at least somewhat mediocre before it was my bedtime.  Everything I did to try to get it back on track wasn’t working.  My mood was souring by the minute, and nothing I was doing was helping.

Often, when these kinds of days happen to us, we try to “fix it” by managing things ourselves.  Our instinct of self-preservation kicks in, and we attempt to think of ways to repair the situation.  In our eyes, the bad day or problem can seem like a trivial item to lay at the feet of Jesus.  Or maybe we’re so annoyed that we just plain forget to even think about giving it to Him.  We spend hours trying to rebuild the rubble of the day—alone and with no help.

But we don’t have to be alone in our crummy days.  We can give it to Jesus, and He can fix it.  Understand and know that after you’ve handed it over to Him, it still may not look any better than it did an hour ago.  You know what will look different, though?  Your outlook.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Psalms 46:1

Jesus wants to be the refuge for us in the storms of everyday life.  The relationship He longs to have with us isn’t narrowed down to seasons of pure desperation, hurt, and torment.  He asks to be our shelter in good, bad, and even mediocre situations. He’s waiting for you to simply call out.

I’d like to say I did just that on Monday, but I didn’t.  I tried to be the hero of my own day.  And I was not successful!  It wasn’t until the very end of my day, as I was recapping the day’s events to God while lying in bed that the verse in Psalms hit me.  I looked it up on my Bible app to read the whole message.  For a brief moment, I beat myself up over how silly I’d been to try and do it all myself.  Then I remembered the mercy of Jesus and the refuge He is, and I asked Him to help me do it better the next time.  Next time, I’ll just rest in Him.

~Erin