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

The Day Before Surgery

Last month my mother-in-law, Renee, earned herself a helicopter ride to the ER after having stroke-like symptoms.  Less than a week later, she was scheduled for surgery to remove a brain tumor that had metastasized from kidney cancer.  The day before her surgery, five days after her helicopter escort, she still hadn’t regained use of her right arm.

Through all the visitors who trickled in and out of Renee’s room the day before surgery, our little family was well aware that these may be our last moments with her.  We had spent much of the day laughing and storytelling.  Brittney, my sister-in-law, had the outstanding idea to pack a picnic lunch so that the grandkids could share “snacks” with Grandma one more time.

As the evening drew to a close, Brittney and I offered to wash Renee’s hair, which hadn’t been washed the entire time she’d been in the hospital.  We kicked the husbands and the kids out of the room (We weren’t sure how wet we would get, let alone how much skin would be revealed!).  We gathered towels, basins, warm water, and a little bottle of baby shampoo.  While Renee sat upright in bed with pillows propped up against her lower back and a slack right arm, Britt and I pour water and lathered suds.  We rinsed and rinsed.  We controlled drippy water like experts and Renee hummed in the satisfaction of having her hair washed.

A trio of women focused on a humanizing task…no one else in the room.  Two serving one.  Not just because Renee needed her hair washed (which she did), but because two daughters-in-law loved their mother-in-law enough to want her to feel special.

In the hallway, a nurse said, “She’s so lucky to have a family to care for her with servants’ hearts.”

That statement sat in my heart for several weeks. I wasn’t sure that “servant’s heart” was the correct phrase.  Perhaps it was; perhaps it wasn’t.  I didn’t feel like I had a servant’s heart at that moment.  I just knew that Renee had been subjected to humbling tests and treatments…ones that strip a person of their privacy.  I knew at that moment, I wanted to tag team with my sister-in-law to make Renee feel “human.”

Scripture tells us to regard our family members with acts of service.  “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” ~1 Timothy 5:8 (ESV).

Scripture also tells us how to regard our elders with acts of service.  “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” ~1 Peter 5:5 (ESV)

The act of washing hair may be worthy of saying “servant’s heart,” but it was definitely a moment where family was taking care of family. It was an act of love.  It was one where humility was exhibited by all three women.

God blessed that action; just as He has blessed every act of service done while modeling Christ’s love for one another. He’s blessed this family and He has wrapped His arms around Renee as she has faced the uncertainty of life and death this last year.  She survived brain surgery.  After a few complications, she is doing well in rehab and is starting to regain movement in her right arm.  God is good. All the time.

Cancer is a terrible road.  I wouldn’t want this reality for any family.  But I will freely admit that I wouldn’t change one moment of that “day before surgery.”  I wouldn’t change the picnic lunch or grandkids’ giggles.  I wouldn’t change the parade of visitors or watching my husband hold his mom’s hand.  I wouldn’t change the group prayer around her bed, as we left for the night.  And I certainly wouldn’t have changed any part of the hair washing.

~Emily

Mr. Parker

You know those events in your life where you see the handiwork of God and you just have to sit back and shake your head in awe at how He does it?  You think you’re making these great decisions and good choices only to realize in the middle of it or at the end that you didn’t really make that decision at all.  It was already made for you.  You just didn’t know it.  And when you realize what it truly is, you can’t help but thank Jesus for how he formulated it for you.  To describe it as magic is too worldly.  Destiny is too chancy.  It’s just….Jesus.

I attended a Connecting Women’s Conference this last weekend in Birmingham, Alabama.  I was scheduled to return home on Sunday afternoon, my flight leaving shortly before 2pm.  However, due to a personal scheduling conflict, I arrived at the airport around 8am.  When I checked in at the ticket counter I told the agent, “I know I’m a million hours early, but is it possible to at least check my bag so I don’t have to roll it around with me?”

The agent looked through the computer and let me know that if I wanted to, an earlier flight into my Atlanta connection was available.  I took it.  (Atlanta is a much larger airport with many more food options, so that was a win for me!)

An hour and a half later, I boarded the flight and took my middle seat.  An older gentleman sat down next to me, an obviously well-read book gripped in his hand.  Now, I love to read.  And I’m nosy.  So once he got settled, I asked him what he was reading.  “King Leopold’s Ghost” was his reply.  I asked him if it was any good, and told me it was his third time reading it!  Any book worth reading more than once was a book I wanted to read, so I took the information down.  That brief interaction started a 40 minute conversation and ended with a hug at the concourse and a promise to email his son’s art information.

We talked about his grown sons who are artists and chefs and his beautiful wife of 40 years, an educator in the special needs field of middle school.  We spoke about his desire to help end an epidemic of fatherless homes.  We talked about my ministry.  He gave me practical advice about working on relationships.  And we spoke of how God orchestrates random events into life-changing moments.

At the end of our conversation, we both agreed that me getting on that plane was not by chance.  It was a divine appointment.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (NASB)  Isn’t that the truth?!  I can think I’m making the choices, but God directs the steps I take.  He took me directly to a Jesus encounter that will forever impact my life.

Thank you, Mr. Parker, for your words of encouragement.  My world is a better place for knowing you.  And thank you, God, for taking this brief moment in my life and turning into a miracle of just Jesus.

Do any of you have moments in your life that you’d like to share?  Perhaps you’ve had a moment where you can only explain it as “just Jesus”!  Share in the comments below and encourage others!

~Erin

tHE MIND OF MAN PLANS HIS WAY, BUT THE LORD DIRECTS HIS STEPS.

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

No Service: A Distraction-Free Zone

Cell PhoneNo service or the spinning wheel of death usually causes a groan because I can’t access Google, Facebook or text messages. It often happens at the worst time, such as when I need directions in some remote area of Amish country.  Or worse, when I’m standing in a line…bored and needing some electronic entertainment. It’s annoying to not have service on my cell phone.

Except that there is one place where I don’t receive cell service that it isn’t annoying. It’s the one place I’m grateful I don’t get service.

At my church.

I don’t get one single bar.  A continuous spinning wheel of death.  Repeated “Not Delivered” messages.  Not a tiny, itty, bitty inch of service.

And I’m glad for it.  Why?  Because it’s a total and complete break from social media and obligations through my electronic lease.

It’s a relief to have that chain broken so that I can 100% focus on God and the people within the walls of the church. I literally have no excuse to not get involved, to not engage in conversation, to not fully worship and pray.  I have no buzz in my pocket tugging me away from being present in the moment.  No service means no distractions while I’m in the walls of the church.

Have you found yourself distracted while in your church?  It may be your phone, your child, your worries from work or even your spouse. Those distractions tear your attention away from God.

*Focus During Worship

Have you struggled with focusing on God while the worship music is happening? Are you self-conscious about singing in tune?  Perhaps you are wondering where the singer got her adorable dress? Fretting over clapping verses raising your hands in praise?

All of those are distractions from the true intent of focusing on God during worship time.

You can sing like an angel or roar like a lion, but not say one thing to God. You can be tone deaf or not care for a particular song, but speak to the Father fully from your heart.  I would encourage you to examine yourself and figure out if your words of worship are simply lip-service or if you are truly offering a song to the Lord.

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” ~Matthew 15:8-9 (NIV)

*Focus During Prayer

During times of prayer, does your mind wander? Are you making a grocery list? Thinking about your child’s homework? Wishing you could pray more eloquently?

All of those are distractions from the true intent of focusing on God during prayer time.

You can get loud and pray boldly, but your prayer still won’t touch Heaven. You can stumble and use verbal pauses…..ummmmmm….., but speak directly to the Father’s heart.  Examine yourself and figure out if you are just tossing words around or are you offering a sweet sound of praise and request to the Lord.

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.” ~Psalm 18:14 (NIV)

*Focus During Service to Others

When you are serving others, are you considering other things you could be doing? Do you feel a sense of obligation rather than joy? Are you watching your watch, wishing the time away?

All of those are distractions from the true intent of focusing on God during times of serving others.

You can volunteer for dozens of organizations, but your service can be unpleasant to the Lord. You can serve one person in a seemingly mundane manner, but make the Father proud of you.  Examine yourself and figure out if you are serving others for yourself or are you offering the gift of your time as praise to the Lord.

“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” ~Mark 9:35 (NIV)

These are just three examples of where we, as Christians, need to focus:                     During worship. During prayer. During service to others.

Through focusing on God, we need to mitigate distractions.

While my phone is an asset for staying connected in business and personal relationships, it can also become a distraction.   A distraction that has been eliminated based on the lack of a service area.

I am grateful for the elimination of that distraction.  It’s one step closer to staying focused on the Lord!

I pray that you have deliberately focused week that is free from the distractions of the season!

Merry Christmas!

~Emily

 

 

The Heirloom Quilt

The room is a chilly 65 degrees. It’s super dark. There are half a dozen heavy blankets on the bed.  This, my friends, is my classic formula for a wonderful night of sleep.

Recently, my husband was asking for Christmas present suggestions and I casually mentioned that I wanted to try the weighted blankets.  (Have you seen these blankets?!??!?! They are 20 or 40 pounds and lull you to sleep like you are an infant rocking in your momma’s arms!)

He looked at me, as though I’d threatened to cut off his pinky toe.  He responded, “You don’t need a weighted blanket. You have THE quilt.”

THE quilt is my favorite quilt.  THE quilt is large enough to cover a full bed, but just a tad too big for a twin bed.  THE quilt needs febreze frequently, as it’s way past the washing machine phase.  THE quilt probably weighs about 40 pounds. And yes, I have THE quilt.

The quilt was first sewn in the late 1800s by my great-great-grandmother in a small farming community of Wisconsin.  It was originally sewn from worn-out garments and was the definition of a “patchwork” quilt.

In 1920, my great grandmother sewed over that quilt with another layer of worn-out garments and scraps of fabric.  She tried her best to find feminine colors, as this quilt then became my grandmother’s quilt.  My grandmother recovered the quilt when she got married and again when she had my Aunt.

By 1950, the quilt was passed to my mom as her baby blanket with another layer added.  My mom added her own crazy quilt patchwork layer in the late 1960s, as she headed off to college.  She recovered it again in 1975 as my first blanket.  She taught me to sew and let me recover the quilt when I was 10 years old. After joining the military, I recovered the quilt again.

In 2013, I recovered the quilt one more time. But this time, I could not help but really concentrate on the love and history in this blanket.  The last four generations of my mom’s family have added to this blanket, simply by covering it up with another layer.  That concentration translated to an insatiable curiosity about what the layers-upon-layers looked like.  Could I touch fabric that my great-grandmother had sewn?

As I sewed the new covering, I thought about generational blessings.  I understand that the phrase “generational blessings” is not overtly found in scripture; however, there is evidence of how generations are blessed throughout the years.

Think about Matthew 1:1, where we see the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  This is a verse that presents evidence of Jesus being the seed of Abraham.  While it does not say, “you will be blessed through all the previous generations,” it does indicate that we are indeed blessed by generational lineage.  A lineage that created the provision of the perfect Son of God, who came solely to die for us.  That is a generational blessing, indeed.

With scriptures in mind, I paused to give thanks to the Lord for that blessing and for providing a way to heaven through His Son. I also gave praise to a family of women who were resourceful in getting supplies to sew a quilt over 100 years ago.

And then I carefully cut through a seam in the middle of the quilt covering from when I was 19 and 10 years old. I cut through the quilt seam of my early childhood to my mom’s college years.  I cut through another seam and another seam…all through the years until I came to the very first thin layer of well worn-garments that was first sewn in the late 1800s.

It was dingy grey and threadbare.  Paper thin to the point I thought it may fall apart in my hands.  The tiny hand sewn stitches still holding fast after a century. As I sat looking at the seamstress work of my great-grandmother, I cried tears of happiness to have seen the center of the quilt.

I put a few loose stitches into each layer of the quilt and finally slipped the newest cover onto the old, yet still new, quilt.  A quilt of generational blessings.  THE quilt.

What family heirlooms that make your heart cry and smile in the same breath? Come tell us at the porch…

~Emily

 “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” ~Psalm 100:5 (NIV)

quilt2

Little Moments and the Main Event

A week ago, my family was involved in one of the most beautiful weddings that I’ve ever attended. The bride was gorgeous and the groom was dashing.  The floral arrangements were perfect in the soft glow of candle light. The food was amazing and the blueberry wine was fantabulous.

The main event, as at all weddings, was the moment the bride and groom meet at the altar and pledge their love and faithfulness before God and all their friends and family members.  This wedding was no different.  The main event was a covenant between two people and their God. Everyone attending was sure to witness the main event.

But there were dozens of little moments that lead up to the main event.  These little moments are missed by many as they focus on helping the bride and groom. For instance, how many saw all the breakfast preparations that morning?  How many saw the wedding coordinator triple checking the details? How many saw the DJ take a moment to chat with the mother of the bride? How many witnessed the night-time prayers of the flower girl and ring bearer?

In the midst of constantly being told to keep their clothes clean, to be quieter, or stay off the grass, how many got to see that flower girl and ring bearer trying to blow dandelions without getting dirty clothes?UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_d611These are snapshot moments that make up the entire day.  They are the little moments that lead up to the main event.  They are examples of how each moment is in support of the bride and groom…each moment in support of a covenant with God.

It made me reflect on all the little moments that lead up to another main event that created a covenant between all of us and God: The Crucifixion of Christ.

Imagine the events of the crucifixion, as you would a wedding.  All the preparation and planning.  Ensuring all the right people were in place.  The long walk.  The prayers to the Father.  The declaration “it is done.” Everyone attending saw the main event.

But how many little moments were missed?  Who was responsible for the tree being cut down and the cross being constructed? Who was witness to the beatings and whippings of Christ the day before? Who was bore witness to the nails being created? Who watched Mother Mary weeping for her child?

All little moments that lead up to the main event.

But each of those moments were snapshot memories that made up an entire day.  They lead to the main event.  Examples of how God’s perfect plan was in motion before any of them…or us…knew we needed that perfect plan.

The little moments, such as the flower girl and ring bearer blowing on dandelions, are mere memories offered to a selected few. Yet they represent the love and support that lead up to the main event of a bride and groom uniting as one.

Each of the seemingly little moments leading to Christ’s death were seen by few. Yet they represented God’s love and support of all of us.  All of us.

This week, I’m praying that each of us takes a moment to reflect on the little moments that lead to the main events of life.

~Emily