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.

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!

To-Do Lists

Anyone else a fan of lists?  I adore writing down a lengthy list of to-dos every day.  The checking off of each box feels like you’ve accomplished something.  And then I have lists of lists.  Yes…you read that right.  I inevitably lose the first list I’ve written, and I rewrite them.  Only to find the original list under a book or sitting on another table.  (Tidy is NOT my strong suit.)

For someone who works almost exclusively from home, it may seem as if a list of things I need to do is a little excessive, but here’s what the list for me looked like three days ago.

  • Make coffee
  • Colossians study
  • 2 Samuel study
  • Clean bathroom
  • Prayer time
  • Email group about dinner
  • Blog
  • Mail package

(No need to laugh over my first bullet point.  I put it on there so I know I get at least one checked off every day, and it makes me feel like a winner!)

People sometimes think I read my bible ALL THE TIME and pray 24/7 because I lead a bible study and write a blog.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  It’s a discipline that I’ve had to learn.  I have to write it on my to-do list, because it’s still something that I struggle with completing every day.  Am I light years from where I used to be?  Yes.  Am I perfect at it?  Not even close.  It’s sometimes one of the things that I think is the easiest to cut from my list.  When I skip it, I feel it in my interactions with others and my interactions with God.

In Psalm 119:105 David writes, ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.’  The Word of God guides me as I go through the day.  It illuminates the path I take and leads me in truth and grace.  It helps remove the darkness that Satan tries to blind me with and allows me to hold on to God’s promises for my life and my future.

If you’re one that struggles with Bible reading like me, I would encourage you to make your list.  Put that on it.  Remind yourself that the Word of God is your lighthouse-not something that should be ignored.  And then get to checking it off every day as you soak up His words and light up your path!

~Erinyour word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Go…And Be Perfect?

I’m not sure what I’ve gotten myself into.  I love leading Bible study.  I mean I LOVE IT!  I enjoy meeting with this community of women (Table 8) I’m surrounded by who love the Lord and have a desire to know Him better every day.  We’ve used the Beth Moore Daniel study and studied the Names of God by Kay Arthur.  We learned how to Open Your Bible with She Reads Truth, and read Romans with the Time-Warp Wife.

But I’m in whole new territory.  To quote the ever popular FB post going around, ‘Never Have I Ever’… studied a book of the bible on its own.  Like, with no help or answer key.  No prompts or suggestions.  Why, Erin?  Why did you agree to this?!  (Just kidding about that part.  Obviously it’s because God directed me to go there.)

We started studying the book of Colossians last night, and I’ve prepped for this for weeks.  I have a designated “Colossians notebook” for notes and thoughts.  I purchased a commentary on Colossians.  I have three different bible translations to see the difference in how the verses are worded.  I took copious notes on Paul (the author of the book) and Colossae (the town) so that everyone would know the background.  I even bought maps to show ‘then and now’ to get a feel for the area we’re learning about.

And when we started last night, we started with a bang.  I talked F.O.R.E.V.E.R.  If you ask Table 8 how I did, they will lovingly tell you I was wonderful.  But friends, I was NOT.  Don’t get me wrong…I wasn’t horrible.  But a lot of the information I had written in my notes, and thankfully I didn’t share all of it, was random.  Much of it as I looked to share had nothing to do with what we were talking about at the moment.  And my notes were less organized than I had remembered!

I didn’t even remember to tell them that Colossians is considered a ‘prison epistle’ because Paul wrote it while he was in prison.  That may not seem to matter to some, but for the story as it relates to Paul’s life, it’s a big deal!  Thank you, Dianne, for bringing it up with the group!

I beat myself up a little about it, and then the Holy Spirit reminded me of a wonderful verse:

Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  Mark 16:15

God gave me a calling, and I’m following it.  I’m living out this command.  God was in the middle of those two hours, and He knew exactly what was going to be said and who would say it.  He didn’t say “Go, but your delivery better be perfect when you talk about Me.”  He simply said, “Go.”  My weakness is His strength, and He’s right there assuring me that He will cover that weakness.

This gave me a completely different outlook on last night’s study.  I still have all three of my bible translations, my maps, and my commentary.  I’m still taking copious amounts of notes!  (I am, however, simply streamlining said notes to be more effective and helpful.)  But I’m reminding myself that Jesus told me to go and that’s exactly what I’m doing.  He’ll do the rest.

~Erin

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The Sanctity of Prayer Requests

When you hear a prayer request, do you really pray about it?

When you say, “I’ll add that to my prayer list,” do you really pray about it?

How many times have you been in a church-related meeting or small group that includes a prayer request time?  We go around the room and each person states a prayer request or praise.

I struggle with that format.  On a heart level, I understand that it’s a mechanism for us to share and trust one another.  On a head level, I have often wondered how often that prayer request is truly prayed over. Does anyone in the group actually go home and pray about the request? Is it just a side note on the class roster? Does it just become a list of items on a list? Is it a method of “checking the box” that we took a moment to “get to know someone”?   Do others feel like they have to share? Is that why we often hear, “unspoken prayer request”?

In some regards, I’ve felt a sense of obligation to share.  For a long time, I felt compelled to come up with something to add to the prayer request time.  I decided to stop feeling that obligation.  That means that when I do share a prayer request with an individual or a group that it’s one that is pressing on my heart and that I trust that particular group to truly pray about the situation.

I believe that there is sanctity in the act of sharing a prayer request.  There is sanctity in receiving a prayer request.  There is sanctity in praying over someone else’s prayer request.

As detailed in several scriptures, God wants us to bring prayers to Him.  He wants us to grow with one another.  He wants us to keep each other accountable.  Jesus taught us how to pray.

If God wants us to come to him in prayer and there is sanctity in sharing a prayer request, then we better be Christians of our word and actually follow through with praying.

In James 5:16 (NIV), we read “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective.”

The prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective.

That statement alone reminds us that God wants us to be prayer warriors.  In order to be effective prayer warriors, we must remember one another in prayer.  The act of requesting prayer should be sacred. And the act of praying on behalf of someone should be sacred too.

Some of my most special prayer requests that I’ve asked for or received have come through one-on-one time with someone rather than in a group setting.

If a friend invites you into their heart by asking for prayers, listen carefully to how she words the request. If she began the request with “I haven’t told anyone this…” then know that it might be code for “please don’t repeat this.”  That means she wants it kept as a secret.

Not only should we truly pray for a request when it is asked, but we also need to honor the desires of those who are requesting the prayers.  If there is a desire to keep it quiet, then keep it quiet.  If there is a desire to share, then share…with discretion.

Here are a few tips to remember how prayer requests are special:

– Know that God hears your prayer request well before any human ears do

– If you say you’ll pray for someone, do it

– When you ask for prayer, do it without a sense of obligation

– Keep the prayer request to yourself, unless you have permission to share

Remember the sanctity of a prayer request.  Become the righteous person whose prayer is powerful and effective!

Please come to the porch and tell us how we can pray for you this week.

~Emily

Pray without ceasing ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NIV)

prayer request

 

Fun on FaceTime

I FaceTime my mom, on average, six days a week.  That’s right.  It’s a lot.  But after living in the same town as my mom for 38 of my 40 years of life, it’s a necessity.  And while a normal phone call works just fine (and I do actually just call on occasion), I love to see her face and show her my antics haven’t changed in the 2 years I’ve been in California.

Enter tonight’s convo.  Not unlike any other.  I literally discuss a lot of nothing with my mom.  I ramble usually for the better part of an hour about the most random things.  Tonight, I talked to her about my bible study research as well as the lunch I tried today from a local restaurant I’d found.  I talked to her about Rite Aid and how there isn’t one in Cheyenne (like she didn’t know that), and I told her about the Kokie eyeliner I’d found.

On the subject of eyeliner, we began talking about the two colors I’d picked up, Chocolate and Bronzed, and the color difference between the two.  So, I put a couple of swatches on my hand for her to see.  As the conversation wound down, and I told her I needed to get off the phone, I decided at the last minute I’d give her a better look at what the colors looked like by actually applying them to my lower lid line.  Which then led to this…

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FaceTime snapshots that my mom took!

I can’t help it.  I seize opportunities.  And when “Instagram Brow” popped into my head, my eyeliner pencil became my paintbrush.  This is typically the kind of conversations that we have.  And then I usually add one or both of my daughters to the mix to sufficiently embarrass them yet still remind them how much fun I can be!

What does this have to do with Jesus, you ask?  Everything!  Not everything has to be so serious!  It was a moment of JOY!  It was a conversation of happiness and silliness, and the bible clearly tells us that joy is good and pleasing to Him.

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22, and Ecclesiastes 3:1/4, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:  a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

When we have Jesus in our lives, we have joy filling our lives as well.  It doesn’t mean that everything is perfect.  It doesn’t mean we don’t have bad days.  It does, however, mean that we can find the joy in the seemingly silly or mundane.  We can laugh out ourselves and make other people laugh.  We can create moments with others that become fond memories in later years.  A piece of our testimony for our Father is the joy that radiates from within us because of His grace and mercy in our lives!

Find the joy in your conversations.  Fill those conversations with laughter.  You won’t be disappointed!  How about you?  Do you have a moment you can recall that brought joy to an everyday conversation?  Share with us in the comments below!

~Erin

Raindrop Races

Recently it rained for nine days straight in Alabama and it seemed we were going to float away.  Being from the Pacific Northwest, I grew up with continuous rain and know that it will end eventually.  Nothing of my childhood in the rain prepared me for nine days of rain with an eight-year-old on Christmas break.   We were both going stir-crazy and on each other’s nerves.

While we were driving during this ever-present rain, I was reminded of a game I used to play with my brother when we were younger.  We would each select fat raindrops towards the top of the window and then we would watch as the drops “raced” each other towards the bottom.

In retrospect, it was a good game to keep us quiet and occupied while my parents drove.  It also afforded an opportunity to pause and enjoy the glory of nature.  We loved the joy of inspecting raindrops, which lead to both of us to be mindful and present in nature.

God gives us the gift of nature to know He loves us completely and we can benefit from what nature provides.  In Acts 14:17 (NIV), we see an exact example of his kindness through the provision of rain. In this instance, the gift of rain is specific to the needs of the crops in order to provide food for each of us.

This look at nature should fill us with joy simply because it is tangible proof of God’s love for us.

He will testify about His love.  He has a testimony.  Through the rain, we see that testimony of love for humans being a top priority.

During times when we feel stir-crazy, joy can be found.

That joy may be in something as simple as a raindrop race.

Reflect on how God’s love, through a glimpse at nature, and tell us about the joy God provides.

~Emily

“Yet He has not left Himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons: He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” ~Acts 14:17

rain