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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The Walmart Meltdown

I don’t often break down.  I definitely don’t break down in front of people.  I’m the kind of woman that needs to feel like she’s got her emotions in check.  I encourage women to let go and be ok with not having it all together.  But me….I don’t always take my advice.

Let’s take the Walmart incident Emily wrote about two weeks ago.  When she wrote that I had a meltdown, she wasn’t exaggerating!  I took a left at the end of McKenna’s road to head to Walmart and somewhere in that 4 minute drive, as she encouraged me to tell her what was going on in my head, I start blubbering and crying.  And she was there to help me get myself back together.  Here’s what she didn’t tell you because she felt it was my story to write.

I was afraid of judgment.  Here we were, visiting my beautiful oldest daughter and her husband, Indy, along with my sweet little grandbaby, Andros, and I was worried that I would be judged on how well McKenna was doing!  By my best friend!  How silly does that sound!?

But it wasn’t silly to me in that moment.  Would Emily see something that would reflect poor parenting?  Were McKenna and Indy thriving?  Was Andros doing well? Did McKenna love her job?  Was the house clean enough?  Were they eating healthy?
These are all things moms worry about for their grown children, but somehow in that moment, Satan had woven anxiety around me to make me feel as if I needed to question my worthiness as a parent, as a grandparent, and as a friend.

It was overwhelming to say the least.  In that 4 minute drive, I was afraid to tell Emily that I was terrified of being judged by her.  Yet, when I shared my heart, she lovingly told me that there was NOTHING that would ever make her feel as if I wasn’t a good parent, a good person, a good friend.  She reminded me that I was overwhelmed with everything going on with the trip, and that there were great things in store from God.  And that I needed to stop freaking out!

And just like that, it was over.  It was as if God had placed this blanket of protection over me through my best friend’s kind yet realistic words.  Satan’s rhetoric was banished from that car, and grace filled the air.

How many times do we do that to ourselves, ladies?  We question our value and our worth through someone else’s eyes.  We want to feel accepted and worthy of a friendship or a job.  We long to feel good enough to teach a class or learn a new skill. Yet, we forget that God sees us as worthy already.  We are good enough.  Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV) says, “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

He knew who we were before we were born, and He created us in His image.  We. Are. Worthy.  Because we are His.

~Erin

Childlike Faith

The last week of summer before school starts is always hectic with buying supplies, trying on new clothes, attending open house to meet the teacher, and cramming in the last minute summer fun.  As a child, my school always started the day after Labor Day.  For my child, Alabama schools start the 1st week of August.  That means our hectic week was last week; complete with a three-day sprint to the beach.

I was exhausted when we arrived.  Why? For several reasons.  I just completed a road trip up and down the East Coast with Erin.  I had the very stressful experience of pitching my book proposal to publishers.  Even though I’m an extrovert, I had the pressure of meeting hundreds of strangers and engaging in meaningful conversations with all of them.  All to turn around and continue living out of a suitcase for a few more days with my husband and son.  The cherry on top? I knew the three-day beach trip would primarily be focused on fishing.

On the 2nd night at the beach, I joined dozens of other parents smirking at one another in the dark with headlamps tied to our heads and death grips on our “flashlight” cell phones…all of us supervising small children as they ran after the crabs that skirted across the waves at dusk.  Literally, dozens of parents looking like coal miners following children, chasing crabs.  For a moment, I stood there looking at the dark shadows with lights at head level, up and down the beach, and reflected on how amazing parenthood truly becomes when you have unconditional love for a little person.

How else would you tolerate, let alone explain, such ridiculous requests to catch crabs in the dark?

At one point Kambell looked up at the stars and said, “Mama, isn’t the sky beautiful?  How did God know to make all of those stars for us?”

This led to a conversation about how God knows all of those stars perfectly.  How He knows about each one of the hairs on our head…and how He knows every single grain of sand that we were walking on.

After the part of about the sand, Kambell was quiet for quite a while.  Anyone who has met this child knows that it’s unusual for him to be quiet for too long.  After a few moments he said, “Our God is pretty amazing to know all that stuff.”

You know what? He is pretty amazing to know all that stuff!

Gone was the exhaustion, the stress of pushing books, the exasperation of a three-day fishing trip, and even the embarrassment of walking in the dark with a light tied to my forehead. All of it was gone with the revelation that my son was enamored with God and all that He can do.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 18:3

Ladies, this week I’m challenging you to be like a child in our awe of God.

~Emily

Answered and Exceeded

For the last year, we have been working towards our dream of writing in order to impact women’s lives. That dream birthed the Iron Porch.  But it also birthed the start of independent stories that each us began pursuing.

Last week we started a road trip that took us up and down the east coast. It also took us up and down a rollercoaster of emotions.  You see, the dream brought us to the She Speaks Conference, sponsored by Proverbs 31 Ministries.    If you are unfamiliar with She Speaks, the premise is a location for nearly 800 women to follow the calling on their lives to speak, write, and lead for the Lord.

The dream brought us in front of real life publishers.  Let’s all take a moment to soak that in…real life…publishers!! Like for real, real life publishers!!!

While a publisher appointment is a scary thing to contemplate, there is beauty in knowing when it is God ordained.

Before the registration opened, one of us was FREAKING out that we would miss the actual registration date and miss out on the opportunity to attend.  Yet, we both received the email with plenty of time to consult before committing to workshops. We were afforded the opportunity to choose five publishers out of a list of dozens in the hopes of receiving one appointment. We prayed that we each would get one.

Weeks later, we both got the email revealing that we had each been scheduled for three appointments! Prayers answered and exceeded!

Not only had we each received three, we got the exact same three publishers.  Prayers answered and exceeded!

And if God wasn’t already amazing in these gifts, two of the three publisher appointments were back-to-back appointments…Emily at 11:45 and Erin at 12:00.  Essentially, Iron Porch had two publishers listening to our hearts for 30 minutes total!  Unrequested prayer answered…and exceeded!!

God wasn’t done answering unrequested prayers.  He allowed us an amazing amount of time with dozens of women in prayer, in fellowship, and in community.  In preparation for the conference, we prayed for our friendship. We prayed for the Iron Porch. We prayed for our books. We prayed for good feedback from the publishers. We dared to pray for “yes” from the publishers.  We prayed for our assigned prayer partners…strangers we met via email weeks before the conference. And we prayed for the staff and faculty of P31.

But we hadn’t prayed for the sense of belonging with other women called to this path. We hadn’t prayed to gain new friendships.  We hadn’t prayed to be moved to tears and laughter with strangers who had touched our hearts.

God answered the prayers that we didn’t even realize were on our hearts.

God answered the asked and unasked.

The Bible teaches us about exceeded expectations in 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV) “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

This is a lesson that we both have taken away this week.  It’s okay to ask God for what you want.  It’s okay to ask in detail.  It’s also okay to forget to ask for things.

You know why?

Because God is going to answer your heart. He’ll answer the asked and unasked.

~Emily and Erin

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The Moment of Three

I’ve always known there is significance in the number three from a biblical point of view.  You have the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Peter denied Jesus three times during His crucifixion.  Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.  I find it even more significant that I can see that same number being used by God to show His power and grace in my life.

When I visit Emily, she always puts together an amazing itinerary of sites to see or things to do.  Typically, we’ll choose a topic and the sightseeing is based on that.  This visit we chose a literary theme, and it did not disappoint.  We travelled the two hours to the quaint town of Monroeville, AL, the hometown of both Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Truman Capote (In Cold Blood).  We visited the original courthouse.  It’s been converted into a museum dedicated to both authors.  The original courthouse that was replicated for the movie To Kill a Mockingbird is on the second floor, and you’re free to walk about and take pictures!

After a bit of time walking around, we started our drive back to the house.  During that drive, the car weirdly started speeding over the speed limit for some unknown reason.  It could’ve been the car acting oddly, or it might’ve been the lead foot that was attached to the gas pedal.  Either way, we encountered a police officer who wasn’t impressed with the race car abilities of a 10-year-old Ford.  While he went back to run the information he needed, we discussed just how much we thought the ticket would cost.

The officer headed back to the window, and firmly told us we needed to slow down and that he was issuing a warning today!  Praise God!  The ticket would’ve been fair and justified, but God saw fit to allow grace on the situation.  While the stop cost us about 15 minutes on the road home, we were grateful that we didn’t have a fine to pay.

We continued on our way home while looking for exit 142; we had seen a local pecan shop on the way to Monroeville and wanted to stop on our return to see what they had.  (And for those reading this who are concerned about my state of mind as I willingly walked into a nut store, I just wanted to see what was there…I didn’t have to actually eat any!)

About 20 minutes from the exit, it started to rain mercilessly.  And just as we got to the exit, we realized there was an accident ahead.  Traffic was at a dead stop.  What we thought was just a small accident turned out to be three accidents, including a semi turning over and crossing the highway into our lane of traffic.

We couldn’t believe it!  That 15 minutes stop we had earned by the police officer had spared us a possible crash in the downpour we were experiencing.  We thanked God for the grace He had shown us yet again, and were just amazed that we had been covered with such protection.

As we drove out of the parking lot, our only choice was to turn onto the highway which was at a standstill with no idea as to how long it would take to clean up the accidents.  As we began our turn onto the ramp, an off-duty police officer was telling the car in front of us just to follow and he would take us down the back roads to go around stopped traffic.  Yet again, God’s power was evident in the fact that we had left at just the right time to encounter the officer.

Often times, we encounter what feels like meaningless moments.  Things happen around us and we don’t think about the significance of why that has happened. Sometimes, it’s truly just because life happens.  But I believe there are far more times that we realize those moments are God-breathed!

In that 1 1/2 hour time span the handiwork of God was revealed and three times, God’s provision was revealed.  I love that the significance of ‘three’ in the Bible is still just as evident in my life today!

God Always Provides

God always provides.  I tell this to my Bible study ladies every single week. Sometimes, it’s hard to see.  Often we ask, “God I could really use (fill in the blank). Could you open a way to allow me to have/do that?”  When the response feels like, “You’re getting a double helping of NOT (fill in the blank),” it can be a tough reality to live.  But even as a seasoned Christian, I’m still amazed at how He provides, even the seemingly small things.

For those who know me personally, you know I’m writing a book.  To this girl who loves English and writing, who loves to teach and has to a lot to say, it’s a dream come true to finally follow my calling.

However, because of my writing style, I tend to edit as I go.  This is a nightmare. Attempting to complete a full paragraph much less an entire chapter is a giant migraine because I get so focused on crafting that perfect sentence the first time around instead of letting the editing process take place down the line.  Yes, I lean towards perfectionism.

On the other hand, give me a group of people to talk to, and I’ll talk your ear off, unedited.  I love to share my story, and I tend to get so animated and excited that it just rolls off the tongue.

The topic of this painful process came up last Monday when I was speaking to a couple of my girlfriends at Bible study and again on Tuesday when I was on the phone with Emily.  The advice given to me was simple: You need a dictation program!

Easy enough….except that dictation programs cost money, and this girl is headed to the “She Speaks” conference in just two weeks!  So while I politely accepted their advice, and thought about what brilliant advice it was, I tucked it into the one-day-my-dream-will-come-true file.

NOW, here is where I get so excited because this dilemma gave me the opportunity to see my current Bible study in action.  We’re doing a study on the names of Jesus by Kay Arthur, and God became Jehovah-jireh to me (The God Who Will Provide).

On Saturday, I popped onto my Facebook and posted about me attempting to write a chapter.  A friend from high school who I haven’t seen or talked to in years, messaged me and asked me if I was using a dictation program or a Mac.  (I have neither.)  I told him I didn’t but that I was interested in knowing about dictation programs.  He then offered to set me up with his software so that it would be easier for me to write! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!

Listen…he had no idea about the conversation.  None.  When I got the message, all I could do was praise Jesus that He provides and provides as He sees the need.  Could I write a book without dictation?  Yes.  Would it be much easier for this talker to do that with dictation software?  Uhhh….YES!

Our God is ready to provide for you!  All you need to do is ask.  As He provides, praise Him for the answered prayer, whether it was the provision you desired or the provision He felt you needed.

How about it, community?  Tell the people sitting on the Iron Porch today what you’re asking God to provide and how we can pray for you!

~Erin

Lean In

My 70+ pounds son just asked me to pick him up for a hug.  As he wrapped his arms around my neck and his legs around my waist, I tugged furiously at my shirt, which rode up exposing my tummy.  I said to him, “You’re almost too heavy for us to do this anymore.”  To which he responded, “Remember when you used to carry me like this all the time? You always told me, ‘lean in’.”

When he was straight up or leaning backwards, I had to strain against gravity.

I told him to ‘lean in’ because it made his weight closer to my center of gravity.  Essentially, it became easier to carry him.

God is constantly telling us ‘”lean in.”

When we lean in, we are learning.

When we lean in, we are relying on God.

When we lean in, we are stronger.

When we lean in, we get Godly council…because it comes from the sole source.

What does it mean to ‘lean in’ with God? It means we need to pray. We need to talk to God. We need to believe He’s for us.  It means we need to learn the Word…we need to get in the Bible.  It means we need to surround ourselves with God.

Rather than rely on ourselves, let’s rely on the Lord.

Let’s lean in so that the weight is more evenly distributed.

Let’s lean in to make bearing the load easier.

Let’s lean in.

~Emily

“Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” ~Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)