The Growing Up Children

Peyton has one year left of school, and it’s moving at lightning speed!  Tomorrow we’ll order her cap and gown and before long, we’ll be addressing graduation announcements to let everyone know she’s finally finished with high school.  The thought of her going to college (whether she still lives with us or not) or even just moving out on her own has me scared to death!

For 17 years, I’ve taken care of her.  I’ve been responsible for making sure she has food, clothing, an education, kisses to bed, hugs to leave for school, and bandaids for the boo-boos.  I’ve been there to talk about boys, or cry about boys, or eat gallons of ice cream over boys.  I’ve been in charge of taking her to church, leading her growth in Christ, and nurturing a Godly household.  And before I know it, my job will be over in that way, and she’ll be taking care of herself.

I worry.  What parent (or grandparent, aunt, uncle, or family friend) doesn’t?  We watch our children grow and make mistakes, most often the same mistakes we made as a kid.  And then we worry about how they will handle it when we’re not around to hold their hand and guide them to a smart decision.

During this time, I find strength in this verse.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” –Isaiah 26:3

I don’t have to worry.  When I keep my mind focused on the love of the Father, He gives me the peace I need.  It’s a peace that allows me to remember that He will watch over Peyton as she finishes high school, as she makes decisions about college, and decides when it’s time to move out.

Peyton may make decisions that I won’t like.  She may choose a path that I won’t agree with.  But I can take comfort in God’s perfect plan for her life.  I need only to trust in Him.

How about you, friends?  Do any of you worry about your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors!?  Come to the porch and share!  We’d love to pray over your children.

~Erin

Do We Really Think We Can Hide?

Many years ago when McKenna was 14, she called me to ask if she could go do something with a friend.  As I was going through the list of common parenting questions and rules, I stopped and said, “Don’t you roll your eyes at me, McKenna,” to which she instantly replied, “HOW DID YOU KNOW?!”  She quickly told her friend what I had said.  We got such a kick out of it, and I used that moment to remind her that parents know everything—there was nothing she could do that was wrong and get away with it!  We still laugh about it to this day.

I thought about that story when I was reading my Bible this morning.  I’m working through the book of Joshua with Table 8 (my California Bible study group).  In chapter 7 we see that Achan has taken spoils of the battle in Jericho and has hidden them in his tent from Joshua, the other Israelites, and God.  As a result, the initial advancement into the next city of Ai results in the defeat of the Israelites.

Joshua falls to his knees and asks God why He turned His back on his people and let them be defeated.  God reveals that Israel sinned against Him by taking spoils of war when He explicitly told them to take nothing.  He led Joshua through the process of determining who it was that sinned.   Joshua 7:21 shows us that Achan admitted that he had coveted, taken, and concealed some things from the city.

The rest of the story is rich with great material to study, but let’s pause right there.  The spoils of war were taken at the battle of Jericho, and Achan decided he could hide them.  From God.  I’m guessing his coveting of the objects was so great, that he forgot that God, the Creator of the world, knows everything.  There isn’t anything that’s hidden from Him.

At first I thought, What a bonehead!  But of course, conviction set in because you know who else does that?  I do!  There are areas in my life where I covet the things around me, where my speech isn’t seasoned with love and grace, or where my thoughts are not kind and generous.  I blow those sins off as minor or simply try to forget them because “I’m human.  Mistakes happen.”  I might as well be trying to hide those sins from God.

But there are consequences for our sin.  When we try to hide our sin, it creates a wedge between us and God.  His heart is hurt for the disobedience of His child.   It can start a slippery slope of leading us further from God and the path He has called us to.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” –1 John 1:9

We are called to repent of those sins so that He may forgive us and cleanse us.

Dear friends, I urge you to stop trying to hide your sins from God.  I’m taking this week to really reflect on areas where I have tried to hide sin as Achan did and then repent of it to our Heavenly Father.  He is eager to forgive.  Will you join me?

~Erin

Back-to-School & Temple Taxation

Every year on the 1st day of school, we take a photo of my son in a shirt that says “Class of 2029.”  Starting in kindergarten, it was clearly waaaaay too big.  While it’s still large this year, I realize it will start to fit better in the next couple years.  For us, it’s an annual tradition marking the 1st day of school.

In the Bible we know that there were several annual traditions, but one that strikes me most is the collecting of yearly taxes.  Jewish males, over 20 years of age, from across the lands would pilgrimage to Jerusalem to pay their temple taxes.  

While it was an important annual event to pay for the temple upkeep, I imagine it was also a great time of fellowship too. The women, if traveling with their men, likely looked forward to the trip so that they could converse with others, as well as trade goods.  The men would likely have looked forward to catching up on news from around the region.  

The Bible gives us clear examples of how this annual responsibility was utilized for many different reasons.  In Exodus 30, we see the example of God telling Moses it was time to collect the taxes at the time of the census.  In this example, we see a clear message of Moses following God’s directions.  

In Matthew 17:24-27, we read of Peter being confronted by the religious leaders about if Jesus was going to pay the taxes.  Jesus claimed that they were exempt, but that they would pay the tax in order to not offend the Jewish religious leaders.   This shows us a lesson in humility and following the laws of man, as long as they don’t violate God’s law.  

When we think of our own annual traditions, whether they are related to birthdays, evening meals, Christmas, or back-to-school, we should recognize the uniqueness of each of those traditions.  Furthermore, we should pause to reflect about what lessons can be gleaned from those annual traditions.

While the annual 1st day of school photo may not be steeped in following God’s voice, humility or following man’s laws, it does allow this Mama a moment each year to see just how much her little guy is growing up.

~Emily

Put Down Your Phone!

We were seated at a small table in the corner.  The restaurant wasn’t very crowded as we waited for our family to be served.  As we were talking, I noticed my younger daughter staring into her lap.  Her father, right beside her, pulls his phone out of his pocket and scrolls emails.  My eyes wide, I exclaimed, “We’re having a conversation!  Could you put your phone away?!”  To which he did the obvious….he threw his daughter under the bus.  “She’s checking her phone, too!”

Anyone else have a meal like that?!  Really, it doesn’t even have to be a meal.  It happens all the time.  People check their phones as they walk down the street with their friends, chatting with the neighbor, or standing in line with their sibling while waiting for their coffee.  We pull out the phone to keep busy as we wait for Bible study to begin or church service to start.  It’s as if we can’t function without that little piece of hardware! 

I’m guilty of it, too!  There is absolutely no condemnation coming from this end of the keyboard.  I’d like to think I’m much better about it than I used to be, but I know that I’m sometimes not any better than anyone else in this department.

For whatever reason, though, this thought has continued to pop into my head for the last couple of months:  Put down your phone! That phrase has plagued me when I’ve pulled out my phone in the middle of a conversation.  It’s hit me when I tried to film some event and realized that I’d spent so much time trying to make sure I got the perfect angle with no noise or movement that I’d missed the real enjoyment.  And it’s even hit me when I’m in the middle of my Bible studies and I pick it up to check my newest Facebook notifications.  Is it really that important?

Table 8 (my California Bible study crew) is currently going through the book of Romans, and there is a verse in there that I’m leaning into now more than ever.  In a society that’s burdened with this feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out), I’m clinging to this.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor,” –Romans 12:10

I don’t feel I’m being honoring to my friends when my face is buried in the most recent Facebook post about my neighbor’s horse.  I’m not honoring time with my family when I’m checking the headlines on an app.  I’m not honoring the work that someone put into something when I’m more worried about the right lighting than what they’re saying or performing.

I think relationships would be enriched if we all devoted ourselves as the Bible encourages us to do.  Paul, here, was encouraging the Romans to walk with one another in love as they navigated a life in Christ.  He advised them to be humble and honor others over themselves.  What better way than to put down the distraction and really engage with each other?!

I’m laying down a challenge to all of us.  Let’s spend less time on our phones and more time in real fellowship!  Let’s get back to the days where we forged our friendships and family time in conversations and face-to-face interactions.  Let’s honor each other with true quality time.  Let’s put down our phones!

~Erin

The Food Program

I participated yesterday in my first summer food program through the Elmore County Child Nutrition Program.  In our county they are providing food for the summer for any child 18 and under.  It’s enough food to allow for 7 days of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.  It’s an amazing program they’ve been offering since Covid-19 hit, and it’s been a huge blessing to the residents with children here in our region.

As this is my first summer here, I had only heard stories of what it would be like.  I was shocked to see a well-oiled machine…three stations, each set up with their own volunteers, welcoming us as we pulled up, letting us know when they’d put their portion in and guiding us to the next station.  As we rolled up to each station, I couldn’t help but be shocked at what I saw them putting in my trunk. 

Fresh local produce, meat, cereal, milk, cheese, crackers, pasta—these were items with which you could build meals.  It seems as if it’s an opportunity to not only feed the children of Elmore County, but also bring families together during mealtimes.  This was an outpouring of love from a community onto its members.  Many communities are doing things like this, but just as many are not. 

The willingness and love given to these local families reminds me of a verse.  John 15:12 says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”

This act of love helps those around us.  No, they’re not necessarily giving out of their own pockets.  However, they are giving so much time and energy and support into making sure that each child in this area has an opportunity to be fed and cared for through this outreach.  There are, I’m sure, countless hours being given to ensure a successful program. 

I encourage each of you to look around at what’s going on in your community.  If there’s a way to support the people around and show them some love, the way Jesus showed His love to us, get busy doing it!  Be a part of the programs in your community, as well!  The volunteers that dedicate their time love to see that people are taking part in the activities.  It shows just as much love to them as love to you!

Thank you, Elmore County Child Nutrition Program, for your dedication to our children.  It’s not unnoticed!  Does your community have something like this?  Share in the comments how your community is being loved on.

~Erin

Dear Army Dad,

Memorial Day, 2021

Dear Army Dad,

Last week I was driving behind you, when I saw your non-descript truck with the personalized license plates: ARMYDAD.  Initially I thought, “What a proud Father that must be to get a personalized plate.”  Then I felt an overwhelming urge to pray for you.

I know that may sound random, but I typically use my 30-40-minute morning commute to chat with God. It’s not that unusual for me to pray for strangers while driving.

The unusual part was that I started to cry.  While praying for you and a hypothetical Army Mom, I also started praying for your Soldier.  I prayed for tactics and knowledge in any situation. I prayed for health and well-being.  I prayed for safety. I prayed for peace and tranquility…for the Soldier and for the parents.  Because John 14:27 (NASB) say, “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful,” I know that your family is able to have that peace. 

I don’t know you, your family, or your Soldier, but I do know that I would never want a parent to face losing a child on a battlefield.  One who is proud enough to get a personalized plate, probably could handle a loss…but it’s not a loss I want you to have. 

2 Timothy 2:3 (NASB) reads, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him.”

On this Memorial Day, I know that there are parents, siblings, spouses, friends and countless others who are mourning the loss of their military members.  Take comfort in knowing you are not alone…I will stand with you and suffer the hardship in Christ while continuing to pray for you.

Army Dad, keep being proud, keep parenting, and keep praying.  I will too.

~Emily (USAF, Retired)

Observations: Poop vs. Sin

“Have you ever noticed that everyone else’s poop smells way worse than your own?”

This was literally the first thing my 4th grade son told me, as he got into my car last week after school.  

Let me start by admitting that poop seems to be a pseudo-normal conversation in our house…he is a boy and for some reason the “y” chromosomes of my house are obsessed with poop and farts.   But I will admit that his observation about everyone else’s poop smells had me giggling (and wondering what happened at school for him to make this observation!!!!).  

Later when reflecting on his comment, I got to thinking that often I think of sin the same way my son was thinking about poop.

Everyone else’s sin is way worse than my own.

The much beloved Reverend Billy Graham wrote, “From a human standpoint some sins are certainly worse than others; sins like murder, assault, or stealing. These things deeply hurt others. But the Bible doesn’t tell us which sin is worst in God’s eyes, and the reason is because God hates all sin. God is absolutely pure and holy; even the smallest sin is evil in His sight.”

If both the Bible and Billy Graham agree that sins are not “ranked” and one is not worse than another, when did I start thinking someone else’s sin was more egregious than my own?

I believe that the enemy has a method of whispering in my ear.  In my humanness, I listen.  Satan convinces me that the differences between right or wrong aren’t as defined as the Bible tells us.  It’s his classic move.  He started using it in the Garden of Eden with Eve.  So of course, he’s using the same tactics on me.  

I have to acknowledge that my sin is my sin. No matter how big or small it may be (or how I may perceive it), ANY sin in my life breaks God’s heart.  Romans 3:12 (NASB) reminds us that there is not one of us who will get through this life without committing sin; “They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, There is not even one.”

His judgements stand firm.  We must repent, turn from our sin, ask for forgiveness and move forward.  We (I’m specifically talking to myself here) need to fully understand that not one single sin is greater or lesser than another.  They are all an affront to God.

While someone else’s poop may smell worse than yours, their sin is not worse than yours.

~Emily

Bystander to the Hurting

I recently read a devotion that began with the question, “Which is harder; going through a painful ordeal yourself or watching someone close to you face a trial?”

I can think of dozens of examples where I would gladly go through a trial in order to save someone else the pain.  But that wasn’t the actual question….is it harder to do it yourself or watch someone else?  For me, it’s much harder to watch someone else and to know how best to support that individual.  

In Acts 16:16-24, we see that the faithful Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy had gone to preach the Gospel in Philippi.  It was a time of turmoil with great danger to those proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.  “and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, ‘These men, Jews as they are, are causing our city trouble, and they are proclaiming customs that are not lawful for us to accept or to practice, since we are Romans.’” Acts 16:20-21 (NASB)

Only two of them were arrested and flogged; Paul and Silas.

Why only two and not four?  

During a crazy time in Philippi, as a Roman colony, there was great prejudice and anti-Semitism.  While Christianity was not completely understood, Luke and Timothy were likely seen as Gentile and subsequently not arrested.  Whereas Paul and Silas were of Jewish heritage and were arrested out of hatred for that Jewish background.  

It is not easy to have the role as bystander to the hurting.  I’m confident that Luke and Timothy struggled with watching their friends punished.  They probably had turmoil over the unfairness of the situation.  Likewise, I know that I struggle watching those that I care about struggle and I certainly have trouble understanding when things seem unfair.  

God understands that it’s hurtful to observe the hurting.  Often it seems unbearable to bear witness to someone else’s pain.  He understands it so well, in part because He watches us hurting.  If He didn’t understand, He wouldn’t have given us so many examples within scripture to learn from. 

It’s not easy to watch someone else’s hurt.  Luke and Timothy had to endure that pain, as have I.  I’m sure you have as well.

In the next week, I’m praying for those around the porch who are hurting. And I’m specifically praying for those of you who are watching someone else’s hurting.  Rest assured you aren’t alone and that God understands.

~Emily

The Summer of Government Cheese

Have you ever been hungry with no means to get food?  

Have you ever been unable to purchase food for your kids?

I’d venture to guess it’s a hard place to be in, when you are concerned about how to feed yourself and your children.  It seems to me, that Luke 6:30 would be my favored verse if I were in such a situation.

“And He raised His eyes towards His disciples and began saying, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20 (NASB)

Please know that this verse isn’t entirely focused on the status of being poor in the physical sense…it speaks partially to those who are poor are often richer in spiritual matters.  Regardless of the commentary about the verse, it does speak to my heart when I remember what it was like to be in the status of poor.  

There were times in my childhood when my parents needed government assistance to feed our family.  I distinctly remember the packet of tear-out papers, which were food stamps. I remember my mom getting our school lunches at a lower rate.  And one summer, I know that cheese and peanuts arrived at our house, which were stamped “Government Cheese” and “Government Peanuts.”  In all fairness, there could have been other “Government Food,” but I only remember the cheese and nuts.

Why do I remember the government cheese so clearly? Because it was a ginormous block of Velveeta type of cheese, which didn’t melt well, nor would it slice thinly for a sandwich.  It was just a gooey mess….one that gave us much needed calories (even if they were completely processed and fake).  

The peanuts, on the other hand, were as perfect as God intended them. They were blanched, but unsalted.  We ate them plain, in yogurt, mixed with popcorn, in salads, in pasta…we even tried our hand at making homemade peanut butter. That summer of the ‘government cheese,’ I became an expert on making peanut brittle.  I made so much peanut brittle, that I got to a point I didn’t even consult the recipe card. 

In the midst of being poor and my parents receiving assistance, my pre-teen self didn’t even realize we were in dire straits.  

Why?

Perhaps because my parents partially hid it from us.  

Perhaps because it was part of our lives and I didn’t question it.  

Mostly because we were blessed.  Luke 6:20 assures us of that blessing, even in the midst of being poor.  God protected us physically and spiritually.  Even if we hadn’t eaten, we still were assured of our place in the Kingdom of Heaven.

God is good.  All the time.  Even with the government cheese. 

~Emily

Speeding Tickets of Life

Over the weekend, a police officer handed me a ticket for doing 80-mph in a 70-mph zone.  As I pulled away, tears started dripping down my face.  My son, who had been fascinated by the flashing blue lights and had waved with a smile to the 2nd officer that was standing near the back-seat window, was now concerned about my water works.

“Are you sad you got a ticket mama?”

When I answered no to being sad, he continued trying to guess the cause of my tears.  

My tears were ones of frustration. I had a lot on my plate.  I was exhausted, having already driven 9 of the 14.5 hours in order to get home.  It was starting to snow, causing me another level of worry about driving. My husband was another week behind coming home.  Baseball tryouts were being re-scheduled for Monday evening and new cleats/bats/gloves hadn’t been purchased yet.  Laundry and bills to be paid were waiting my arrival home.  

Now, I also had a speeding ticket.  

As I started to search vigilantly for a hotel to stop at, I began reflecting on what that speeding ticket meant.  It became symbolic.  I speed a lot.  If I’m honest and fair, I likely speed every day.  It’s easy for me to nudge up to the speed limit, as well as go over…even if it’s only one or two mph over. 

The kicker is that I don’t get caught every day.  I don’t catch myself, nor does law enforcement. Yet, I know I speed. I know I should try harder to stop speeding. I acknowledge that I deserve the accountability and discipline of a ticket nearly daily.

Sin is like that.  

We often commit sin without even acknowledging that it’s sinful behavior.  Perhaps, we exhibit a particular sinful behavior so frequently that we begin to lose the knowledge that it’s sin. We can go days, months, and even years without being held accountable for those behaviors.  Romans 3:23 states, “…for all of sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”  The longer we go without being called out on it, the easier it is to continue doing the behavior.  

Like speeding. 

This was the 1st speeding ticket I had gotten in the US since 1996; although I did get enough speeding tickets while stationed in Germany, that I actually had my US-European drivers licenses suspended for 30 days (it’s even easier to go super-fast in Germany).   

But this weekend’s speeding ticket was a reprimand for errant behavior.  It was also representative of all the other times I had broken the law by speeding…and hadn’t gotten caught.  

I deserved the ticket.  The tears weren’t ones of sadness that I had gotten caught; rather they were ones of frustration at the situation.

Take a moment this week to ask the Lord to reveal where there is repeated sin in your life so that you can repent before you end up with one of the speeding tickets of life.

~Emily