Family Discipleship

Women’s Christian Conferences are a chance for me to refresh and reconnect to the Lord without the everyday distractions of life. It’s a time where I can literally focus 100% on the Bible and prayer with other women.  During every conference I’ve ever attended, I’ve always left with at least one new friend and a pile of scripture nuggets & observations to study further.

Last year, I was blessed to attend the Connecting Ministries, Connecting Women Conference in Birmingham, AL.  I actually blogged about a Prayer Warrior that the Lord specifically told me to engage with while I was at the conference. Prayer Warriors

Fast forward to this year’s Connecting Women’s Conference.  That Prayer Warrior and her mom sat right next to me!

You see, that appointment with God last year has led to my front row seat to watching this Prayer Warrior grow into her new role of leadership for the Kingdom.  She went from a non-volunteer-volunteer on the prayer team last year, to the prayer team leader this year.  She went from receiving daily prayer request emails before the conference to crafting them this year.  She went from praying faithfully privately to praying on the stage this year.  She went from a quiet prayer warrior to a bold and public prayer warrior.

Normally, I would take that as the significant observation and “take away” from this weekend.

But there was one other observation about this Prayer Warrior that is significant….

The Prayer Warrior was with her mother!

They sat side by side. They prayed together and with others. They raised their arms in worship together. They wept and laughed together. They illustrated family worship in a very precious way.

In Matthew 22 and in Deuteronomy 6, we see that Jesus highlighted the most important commandment in the Bible.  He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise’” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 ESV).

Interestingly enough, as soon as Jesus answers the question of the Great Commandment, God focuses our attention on family life.  He speaks specifically to parents on how to pass along the power of faith to children.  At the heart of the Great Commandment is family discipleship…how parents are a primary spiritual teacher for their children.

Now I don’t know the Prayer Warrior and her mother enough to know their entire backstory.  I don’t know when they came to know the Lord and what their trials and tribulations have been.  I don’t know if this is a relationship where the mother taught the daughter about God or if it happened in reverse.

I’ll tell you what I do know:

I know these two women love the Lord.  I know they love each other fiercely. I know they love other women.  I know they model the behavior of Christian love.  I know it was an absolute joy to watch them interact with one another and watch a Christ-focused relationship between a mom and her daughter.  I know it was a beautiful thing to watch.

I am honored to have watched this faithful sister in Christ grow in her prayer life and step into a leadership role for God over this last year.

I am humbled to have watched a mother and daughter praise God side-by-side over this last weekend.

I am grateful to a loving Father who outlined family discipleship and allowed me to witness how it works in 2019.

Watch for the Prayer Warriors.  Watch for the Family Disciples.

~Emily

P.S. Mark your calendar to join us Feb 21-22, 2020 at the Connecting Women’s Conference to see how the Lord is going to move in the next 12 months…

Children

Arm-Knitting and Parenting

About 2 months ago, an ad came across my screen on Facebook for a local business in my area.  The business, Gather Marketplace and Studio, offers classes throughout the month that include paint ‘n sip, making succulent wreaths, macramé, knitting, and even painting your furniture.  It looked super cute and fun, and after checking with Peyton, I enrolled us in a Saturday morning “Arm Knit a Scarf” class.

For you knitters out there, I applaud you.  I’m insanely jealous of the talent it takes to know where to go over and under and what goes through which confusing hole of string.  It’s a gift that I’ve attempted a couple of times which has always resulted in a stunning store bought blanket being given to a sweet infant.

This style of arm knitting seemed more our speed, and we embarked on the hour and a half journey to making a scarf.  At first we had a hard time catching on.  However, after some brief trial and error we ended up with a beautiful product.

As Peyton got into the first few stitches, there were some misunderstood directions given (by me to her) to which she told me that if it got ruined, it would be my fault!  Luckily, about 15 minutes later as she was arm knitting at the speed of light, she looked over at me and said, “Mom, I’m killing it!”

One of the other ladies that was participating in the class giggled and asked if it was always my fault if things weren’t going well.  “Definitely!” was my reply….if it’s going badly, it’s my fault.  If it’s going well, she’s a rock star and it had nothing to do with me!

Anyone else have a child like that?!

There are many times I wonder if I’m doing this parenting thing right.  The teenage years are often packed with drama-filled days, feelings of insecurity, and tumultuous friendships.  There are days when your children are riding high on the joys of being a child.  Then there are days where nothing you can say or do will be able to console them from the tears they shed because of someone’s mean comments or the struggle of grades in school.

I’m often asking God why He can’t just fix it and make it better, then backtracking and reminding myself that God is there in the middle of the struggle.  I don’t have to worry about whether He sees the pain.  He’s trying to take it off our shoulders.  If only we’ll let Him.

Psalm 29:11 speaks to me in this time of my life. “The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.”

I don’t have to create this strength to endure the struggle.  It comes from Him.  And with the strength He gives during this time of raising kids, He provides a peace that passes all understanding.  I can rely on Him to cover me and my children with that peace that I so desperately seek.

Parenting will always have its ups and downs.  But my faith in God allows me to lay those ups and downs at His feet and trust that He’s weaving a beautiful story in my and my daughter’s life.  Just like that perfect scarf Peyton made!

What do you struggle with when it comes to your kids?  Share at the porch and know you’re not alone!

~Erin

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Peyton working hard! She’s a natural!

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

When Focus Falters

I stopped in the middle of the Walmart aisle and tried to keep my composure.  I was tearing up and at a loss for words, all the while struggling to tell Kelly on the other end of the phone that it was going to be ok.

Indy, my son-in-law, had just called his mom, Kelly, on Friday to let her know McKenna was in an ambulance with Andros.  After a day of meeting with contractors in Panama City, FL to discuss the rebuild of their hurricane-damaged house, they decided to stop for a quick bite for dinner at a restaurant.  While there, sweet baby Andros began to have a seizure and 911 had to be called.  After hours of tests, he was deemed healthy. My grandbaby was diagnosed with a febrile seizure due to an incredibly fast, oncoming fever combined with an ear infection.  The doctors assured the young mom and dad that this wasn’t uncommon, and Andros should make a full recovery.  What relief!

When McKenna was able to step back long enough to call, she gave me the details of what happened.  Indy had been feeding Andros some eggs, the left side of his body started to shake, and Indy gently grasped his head to stabilize him.  McKenna immediately recognized the signs, told Indy, and got 911 on the phone.  As they waited they spoke softly to him, telling him he would be ok.  Andros, unable to communicate, stared intently into Indy’s eyes showing that he heard his dad and trusted him even though he was undoubtedly afraid.

This is how I should be during times of fear and worry…laser focus on my Heavenly Father.  Often times, that focus falters.  When situations surrounding me cause chaos or apprehension, I start looking around at the circumstances, my mind reeling with 100 different ways I can fix it or 37 things I could’ve done to make it different.  I mistakenly look at SELF to make the fear disappear instead of putting my attention on the one Person that can take that fear and trembling from me and shoulder the burden in my place.

Our Father says in Isaiah 41:13, “For, I the LORD your God, hold your right hand, it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’”  When we let ourselves trust Him and believe that He is right there holding on to us with love and concern and understanding, we can feel the security that only He can give.

Andros is totally healthy today.  He’s toddling around their hotel room again without a care in the world, not knowing the valuable lesson he and his daddy taught me through this experience.  Fix my eyes on the Father; He will see me through.

~ErinIMG_2632

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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I Turned 40

I turned 40 yesterday.  I’m excited for what this new chapter will bring to my life.  So much of my life has been in Jesus while trying to wrangle in my own ways, my own solutions, my own ambition.  This turn of the page brings with it a renewed sense of self—a woman seeking Christ with every fiber of her being.  Here are five things I’ve learned over the past 39 years that I pray will help you in this journey called life.

1. There is always redemption in your story.  I’ve managed to help screw up two marriages and because of this, I became a single mom.  But God was bigger than those obstacles and poured immeasurable grace over our situation.  He showed me love and mercy when I didn’t deserve it.  Because of that, I was finally able to remove the blinders from my eyes and see what God had in store for me.

2. God is bigger than any relationship.  I jumped from relationship to relationship attempting to fill the gap of loneliness with love.  But all I needed was to trust in my Savior to lead me to what was right and best.  When I stopped chasing “I do” and trusted I AM, I found my hope again.

3. Laugh.  Life is fleeting.  If you have children, you’ll only have them close by your side for what feels like a brief moment in time.  Cherish that giggle.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  We treated small stove fires and trips to the ER for URI’s and anxiety attacks as adventures.  My children and I have memories of joy and laughter even in some of the darkest times in our lives.

4. One day, you’re going to wake up and your baby will be grown and have a baby of their own.  They’ll finally understand what you meant when you said ‘I love you and nothing you do will ever change that.’  They’ll know what it means to love something with every fiber of their being.  Let them go.  I didn’t know what I was doing when I had my sweet girl at just 2 weeks into being 20.  She’ll make mistakes just like I did. But she’ll learn and grow just like I did, too.

5. Cultivate your friendships.  Some are there for only a season and some are for a lifetime.  Each teaches you something.  I was afraid to get close to women until it was almost too late because I was afraid of being hurt or betrayed.  As time went on, the Holy Spirit showed me what I was doing and helped me to stop that habit.  Emily doesn’t know this, but it almost cost me a friendship with her when we first met. Only Jesus could’ve known what I needed in a friend and stopped me from keeping her at arm’s length.

6. And because it’s my blog, I’m throwing in a sixth.  Love yourself and those around you—we are made in God’s image.  You are beautiful to Him because you are you.  It doesn’t matter if you fat or thin, tall or short, what color your skin is, how sun damaged you are, whether you have the ability to use your legs or if you have six fingers on one hand.  And it doesn’t matter if the people around you are the same way.  Can you imagine if we loved even our enemies as Jesus loved us?? Transformational love….love that can literally change the world.  Be that for others AND for yourselves.

I’ve never been so ready to start a new phase.  I’m confident in who I am, where I’m at, and who God made me to be.  I’m ready to face the next 40 years head on.  It’s going to be a beautiful thing!

~Erin

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. –Psalm 139:14

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. –Psalm 19:7

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Drugs, Mental Health & Self-Worth

I can’t even imagine some of the battles that women face daily.

I can’t imagine being in an abusive relationship.  I can’t imagine being homeless.  I can’t imagine being an unwed mother.  I can’t imagine another broken heart.

And yet, I can relate.

I can’t imagine being a drug addict. I can’t imagine contemplating suicide.  I can’t imagine choosing which bills to cover.  I can’t imagine constant depression.

And yet, I can relate.

I can relate because I’ve seen other women battle those demons.  Often the battles that one woman faces, impacts the battles of another woman.

There is a young lady that I love very much. She struggles with drugs, with mental health, and with self-worth.  She’s so smart, so beautiful, and so loved. But she doesn’t always see that because of the demons that she battles.

Her mama worries about her constantly. She’s had to bail her out of jail. She’s had to draw hard lines between support and not becoming co-dependent.  This mama is so smart, so beautiful, and so loved. But she doesn’t always see it because of the demons she battles.

This girl could be anyone’s daughter.  This mama could be anyone’s friend.

These two women aren’t just anyone’s daughter or friend.  She’s is my step-daughter from a previous marriage and I consider her mom a friend.

I worry about them both.  When I don’t hear from my step-daughter for weeks, I message her mom.  And then I hold my breath, praying that the answer is not “jail, hospital, or morgue.”

Here are three women – a gal in her twenties, and her mom and step-mom.  All meshed together by the strings of our heart, all facing battles that are interwoven.  Battles that are faced alone and together.  Battles laced with worry.

Jesus told us in Luke 12:25 (NIV), “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

I hear you Jesus.  I should stop worrying.  And yet the human condition often prevails…and we worry, we doubt, we seek other refuge, we become anxious, and often we forget that Jesus can handle all of the battles.

When I find myself worrying about these two women, I simply pray. Usually, I have distinct prayers of request for their particular situations. Sometimes, I tell God that I don’t know the scenarios, but I need Him to intervene on their behalf. Occasionally, I simply request for Him to take away my own anxiety and worry over them.

When you have battles to fight; pray.  When you notice other women fighting battles; pray. When your battles overlap with others; pray.  We aren’t going to add any time to our lives, but we certainly can turn over the anxiety and worry to the Lord.

Each one of us is smart, beautiful, and so loved.  Let’s see those attributes past the battles.

~Emily

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” ~Colossians 3:15 (NIV)

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