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

The Dead Sea Scrolls

We raced to the line with two minutes to spare, our 1:10 pm tickets in hand.  After heading out on the road almost 30 minutes later than I had desired, we had navigated the highways, battled the Denver traffic, and miraculously found a parking space in the coveted main parking lot just in time.  The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these ancient artifacts were just beyond those walls, and I couldn’t wait to share this moment with my girls.  We were about to see the Dead Sea Scrolls.

For those unfamiliar with the Scrolls, they are ancient Jewish manuscripts found near the Dead Sea in the Qumran Caves in the 1940’s by some Bedouin shepherds. Their importance and value were not originally realized, and the story of the initial discovery, handling and care is truly fascinating and shocking.  The Dead Sea Scrolls are significant to Christian culture because these manuscripts had writings that had been included in the Bible!

Included in the displays were artifacts from the time period including pottery, dishes, altars, and weaponry.  They guided us to a small room for a short five minute explanation of the exhibit and what we were about to see.  To say I was excited was an understatement!  At one point in those first moments Peyton looked at me and exclaimed, “Are you CRYING?! ALREADY?!”  I had to giggle and tell her to keep her voice down.

I just want to share with you a few of the pieces that pierced my heart, and put the Bible into such a new light for me.  You know what I mean; you’ve read the Bible stories, you’ve heard the lessons.  Yet, when it touches you in a new way, it feels fresh and new and….alive.

Sling-stones. Seriously. As in David and Goliath! The display contained approximately 15 of the smooth, nearly perfectly rounded spheres.  As I gazed at them, I could see David praying to God for victory and choosing the best five stones that would surely bring the giant down.  I could see Goliath in the distance with his sword and shield, laughing at the small boy they were sending his way with only a slingshot.  Can you see it?  The Israelites watching David closely as if he’s lost his mind, the Philistines amused at how easily the victory would come for Goliath.  And in a brief moment, it was over.  David landed his shot perfectly into Goliath’s forehead, and the giant lay dead at the feet of the shepherd.  God gave David the victory and that man would go on to lead a nation as king.  Goosebumps!

A small jug for oil.  Did this slight vessel resemble the one that the widow stored the last of her oil in as she prepared the bread for Elijah?  The widow only had enough for one more meal before her and her son would have nothing left and die from starvation.  Yet the man of God arrived at her doorstep asking to be fed.  No questions.  God had directed her to feed him, despite the lack of ingredients to make enough for everyone.  The scene became so vivid in my head.  I saw this woman kneading what was left of the flour and olive oil together to make the small loaf of bread for the prophet, the words of God and Elijah running through her mind, weary from worry, that the oil and flour wouldn’t run out if she obeyed.

Coins.  Coins were traded for the local currency that was needed to purchase the animals for offering at the temple.  All of a sudden, the courtyard seemed to surround me.  The animals, penned up and ready for purchase, the smell permeating the air.  Israelite men arguing with the money changers over the interest they were trying to charge for the exchange.  The buzz of daily life humming in my ears.  I could imagine the Israelite men hoping that the doves or lambs they purchased were unblemished so as not to have to purchase another with what little money they had left.

And those Scrolls….the tiny Hebrew writing.  The thinly laid, delicate parchment. The aging ink.  Can you imagine the Jewish men hunched over in the dim light, putting quill to parchment?  In this display, I saw the words from Isaiah—[He has s]treched out [his hand] over the sea, to shake the kingdoms… (Isaiah 23:11a).  The Psalms of King David were found, and Psalm 121 was laid out before me in its entirety:

A song of ascents.  I turn my eyes to the mountains; from where will [my help] come?  My help comes from the LORD, maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot [give way;] and your guardian [will] not slumber; See the [guardian of] [I]srael neither slumbers nor sleeps at night!  The LORD is your guardian, your protection at your right hand.  By da[y] [the s]un will not strike you, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will guard you from al[l harm,] He will gu[ard] your life. He will guard your going and coming now and for[ever.]

The words from the Bible were enclosed in a case right in front of me, proving to me just how true the words of God are.

As we rounded the corner towards the end of the exhibit, a large three-ton stone from the Western Wall stood in our path with a makeshift wall surrounding it. There, they had papers for people to write prayers to place in the wall (as they do in Jerusalem) that would be sent to Israel.  As I put my prayer in a crevice of the wall, I asked God that this exhibit and His word would touch people the way it had touched me.

I pray, even now, that this experience never leave my mind and that it would have a lasting impact on me as a reminder that our God, our Bible, His words are alive and real.

I know not everyone will have an opportunity to see an exhibit like this.  My challenge to you today is to ask God to open your eyes to a fresh perspective of His words in the Bible as this exhibit did for me.  Read it as the love story that it is to you. It will change your life.

~Erin

Finding the Joy

Sometimes I think my life could rival Lemony Snicket.  One thing leads to another and before long, the only thing you can do is laugh and trust that the next situation that arises is even funnier than the last.  You have to have a sense of humor to be in my family!

We arrived in Cheyenne, Wyoming late Saturday night, excited to see McKenna and Andros.  I hadn’t seen my precious 8-month-old grandson or his beautiful momma since he was born.  I couldn’t wait to squeeze their necks!

We were about 2 hours outside of town when I got a call from McKenna.  She was headed to the ER with Andros.  Not only did Andros have some kind of stomach bug, McKenna had an incredibly sore throat and it was too late for any urgent care places in town to be open.

Of course, Andros had a viral bug, and McKenna’s strep test was positive.  Two of the most important people in my life were in pain and uncomfortable, and there was nothing I could do about it.  That, however was not going to stop us from seeing them as soon as possible.  Peyton and I met them for lunch on Sunday and actually took Andros for the night so that we could enjoy some special time. (I’d like to think it was a little Momma/Mimi love that made them feel better!)

Tuesday rolled around and with it, so did mine and Peyton’s stomach.  By the afternoon, we were both down and out for the count.  We even had to cancel our plans with my brother who’s only day available was Tuesday because of this bug.  Peyton lovingly joked that she was disowning her nephew, while I quietly thought of the ways I could remove my intestines so that my stomach didn’t hurt anymore!

By Wednesday morning, we felt so much better, and Peyton enjoyed some relaxation at our rental while I went to work for a few hours.  After I returned from work, Peyton let me know her throat hurt.  Seriously?!  This can’t be happening.  We talked about whether or not she felt sick enough to go to the local urgent care to which she replied that she didn’t feel that it was that bad.  About an hour later, she peeked over the back of the chair and casually asked, “Is a strep test the one where they put the stick down your throat?”  I knew we needed to go.

Did you know that strep has to be in your system 12-18 hours before your body will produce a positive strep result?  I didn’t.  So the doctor’s words of wisdom after a negative result was produced was that it was 50/50 shot that she had strep versus a residual effect of the stomach bug from the day before.  We decided the course of action was to go ahead and treat her as if it were positive since she was exposed and a fever had started.  Going home, Peyton now joked that she was disowning her own sister, as well.

Through it all, God has been in the middle of our family!  Andros and McKenna quickly recovered.  We were in a place where my mom was around to be able to help care for us while we were laid up.  My brother was still able to meet his great-nephew for the first time.  We didn’t have to reschedule our dinner theater tickets for Thursday, and Peyton won’t be sick by the time her birthday rolls around this weekend.

God tells us to find joy in our trials, and that’s all I can do when weeks like this happen.  When God is in the midst of our lives and circumstances, I can’t help but be joyful that He still allows us to breathe and laugh at our misfortunes.

Take the time to seek Him during those moments. It will put a fresh perspective on your current situation!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kind, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. -James 1:2-3

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I a weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:10

~Erin

 

Find Your Community

Last night, our weekly women’s Bible study group met for week two of our newest venture.  You often hear me refer to them as Table 8.  When I met most of these women a little over a year ago, I was a table leader at our church’s women’s Bible study.  The names of the participants were prayed over and given seat assignments. While I’ve led Bible studies before, this was my first time leading a table at my new church in California, and I had no idea who or what to expect!  We’ve since changed table numbers, grafted new women into our group, and even started meeting outside of church to go through different Bible studies together.  But we’ve always been “Table 8.”

Table 8 has talked at length about being surrounded by a community of like-minded women to share life together.  Sometimes they’re referred to as life groups.  Others call them communities.  Often, women struggle with finding women they can fellowship with in this way.  We fear what the other people will think about our life and choices.  We wonder if they’ll judge us for our past, look down on us for how our children behave, or shy away for the depression we’re currently sitting in.

I did this for a long time.  I would get into a group only to find myself holding back. While my life is an open book which I believe God has called me to share with others, I could sense that I was keeping pieces of myself separate from the group for fear of judgment.  Many times, those pieces were exactly what I needed to share to garner advice on the situation from others, to help me heal, and to help me grow closer to my Creator.

God encourages us to have the kinds of friends that we can find in these life groups. These groups can help hold us accountable to studying and learning God’s Word. They can lift us up in prayer, comfort us when we’re hurting, and celebrate with us in victories.

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.—Proverbs 27:9

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you’re doing.—1 Thessalonians 5:11

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. –Proverbs 27:17

In the case of Table 8, each woman brings something different and unique to the table.  We’re all at different points in our lives, yet we all lift each other up exactly where we are.  With fresh perspective and God’s presence in our community, there isn’t anything we can’t handle!

My encouragement to you today is to find your community.  Even if it’s scary, pray about it and then gather a group of women together to grow in Jesus together.  Pick a Bible study that you can do.  Grab some snacks and spend some time dissecting a passage of scripture together.  Choose an evening to get together for a Prayer ‘N Praise hour, praying for intercession and praising for answered prayers.

Don’t be afraid.  You don’t have to have grown up in church or know the Bible inside and out to get a group together.  You simply need a desire to know Jesus and what He wants for us. He’ll take care of the rest for you.

God desires you to have your own Table 8.  He knit our group together.  He’ll do the same for you.

~Erin

An Open Conversation

Every parent’s worst nightmare—A group of seven men arrested at a waterpark for inappropriately touching several girls, all random targets.

On a sweltering hot day last week, hundreds of kids and adults gathered at our local amusement park to enjoy the chilly water and cool down under the blazing sun.  My daughter had asked to go with her friends, and I allowed her the freedom to join in on the fun.  At about 5:30pm, I received a call from my daughter telling me I needed to come to the park right away.  Luckily I was already there, and when I approached her she hugged me tight and told me what happened.  Thankfully, she was not one of those unfortunate victims, but she was a witness.  After providing police statements and witness accounts, we were finally allowed to go home.

During that period of waiting and statements, I was informed that my daughter was a quick thinker and told one of the victims directly following the incident that they needed to get away from the men and into a larger group immediately, then recommended that they tell a lifeguard.  The girls’ quick thinking and reporting led to the arrests before the perpetrators could leave the park.

I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to write from this experience.  How this serves as a reminder to me – that when something devastating happens in my life, I should take it immediately to the Authority, just like Peyton did that day.  Going to God as my Father and telling Him I’m scared and hurt is the best thing I could do. How going to the person in charge is best—God wants us to come to Him in our time of need and not depend on ourselves.  These lessons are true.  Yet here’s what I keep writing and erasing and rewriting….

Oh, to be that brave.  To be that strong.

Ask God to open up a dialogue with your children about what to do if something like this happens.  Don’t be afraid to talk to them about these kinds of situations.  No one ever wants to believe that their child would be put in such an abhorrent situation. Unfortunately, it happens every day.  Seek His knowledge in how to approach the discussion.  Pray for wisdom in words.  Urge Him to take away any distractions from your children as you discuss such an important topic.

One thing that has helped my daughter get through this week is knowing that she took the correct action.  She knows and feels that telling lifeguard was a smart choice and potentially helped keep more girls from becoming victims.  She also knows that no matter what happens to the perpetrators, it was right to speak up.

Below are a few verses that can help you during a trial like this, whether you’re the person it’s happened to, the witness, or the parent heart who’s grieving the actions against your child.  God IS in the business of healing and helping.  Let His words be a salve on those wounds.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. Psalm 94:19

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

~Erin

Dirty Dishes

The topic of Iron Porch and what my ministry means to me came up today.  The conversation was raised from a question regarding the topic of my relationships while I was talking to two newer friends of mine who weren’t familiar with my story.  One of those dear friends said to me, “Well, now that I know you have a ministry and believe what you believe, then I know you really must not like me.” What a crushing statement against the soul of a lover of Jesus.  And I don’t even blame her for thinking that.

I know all too well what it feels like to be judged by my fellow Christians.  People have stopped talking to me because I was divorced.  I lost dinner and coffee invitations.  I’ve received looks of disapproval for being pregnant.  Shaking of heads when they saw me with a glass of wine.  Loss of mentoring and leadership roles due to “perceptions.”  I could go on for days.  These are just some of the things I’ve experienced in the last two decades, and some as recent as a year ago.  And I’m a Christian!  Can you imagine what it’s like for people who are struggling to believe in any God, much less our gracious God who freely gave His only Son for us??

The scribes and Pharisees in biblical times made a mockery of a true Christ-following lifestyle.  They noticed habits and mistakes of the people in the cities, and kept track of who wasn’t as “holy” as they were.  Do you know what Jesus said to them?

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.”  Matthew 23:25-26 (NASB).

THANK YOU, JESUS!

I can just see Him now, looking at these men who were acting like fools.  He said to those pretenders, “You make it seem to the people around you that you’re perfect, nice and shiny in My eyes, and then you judge others for their actions.  But, it’s for show!  How about you clean up the inside of yourself with My kindness, love, and grace?!  Because all you’re doing right now is drinking and eating out of dirty dishes!”

Our service and honor to Him demands that His love shines through us to others, DESPITE who they are or what they’ve done.  We are to love our neighbor, love our enemies, and be kind.  The love of the Almighty should be so bright within you that people ask what the special something is that you have that makes them feel welcome and happy, as if they’re home.

I looked at that friend and I told her to NEVER think that I think negatively about her – that I loved her sassy spirit exactly where she was in her life, and that nothing would change that.  I also told her to never believe that I would ever look down on her for anything she’s done or does because I’ve got my own sinning to worry about! The acceptance of my answer in her eyes confirmed that Jesus was present in that space, and I’m grateful He was.

Reach out, everyone!  There are people who are afraid to get close for fear that we may judge who they are.  If Jesus can look past our stupidity and thoughtless sin and see the beauty that He’s created in us, we can do it, too.

~Erin

A Bad Day

Ever have one of those days where nothing seems to go right?  You know the kind of day I’m talking about…you wake up, feeling great as you prepare for the day.  You’re officially off and running, and BAM!  First hit throws you for a loop.  WHACK!  Hits two and three knock you back.  And before you can recoup, THUMP!  I can’t be the only one.

Monday was a real struggle for me to believe that I could fix the day as it progressed from fabulous to just plain terrible back to at least somewhat mediocre before it was my bedtime.  Everything I did to try to get it back on track wasn’t working.  My mood was souring by the minute, and nothing I was doing was helping.

Often, when these kinds of days happen to us, we try to “fix it” by managing things ourselves.  Our instinct of self-preservation kicks in, and we attempt to think of ways to repair the situation.  In our eyes, the bad day or problem can seem like a trivial item to lay at the feet of Jesus.  Or maybe we’re so annoyed that we just plain forget to even think about giving it to Him.  We spend hours trying to rebuild the rubble of the day—alone and with no help.

But we don’t have to be alone in our crummy days.  We can give it to Jesus, and He can fix it.  Understand and know that after you’ve handed it over to Him, it still may not look any better than it did an hour ago.  You know what will look different, though?  Your outlook.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Psalms 46:1

Jesus wants to be the refuge for us in the storms of everyday life.  The relationship He longs to have with us isn’t narrowed down to seasons of pure desperation, hurt, and torment.  He asks to be our shelter in good, bad, and even mediocre situations. He’s waiting for you to simply call out.

I’d like to say I did just that on Monday, but I didn’t.  I tried to be the hero of my own day.  And I was not successful!  It wasn’t until the very end of my day, as I was recapping the day’s events to God while lying in bed that the verse in Psalms hit me.  I looked it up on my Bible app to read the whole message.  For a brief moment, I beat myself up over how silly I’d been to try and do it all myself.  Then I remembered the mercy of Jesus and the refuge He is, and I asked Him to help me do it better the next time.  Next time, I’ll just rest in Him.

~Erin