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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Conquering Fear

I was pretty sure that Chris could hear the pounding of my heart through my chest.  I quadruple checked the restraint to make sure it wasn’t going to somehow pop open, and silently prayed that God would allow me to be able to continue to raise my last child after the three-minute-long death ride was complete.  FIVE. FOUR. THREE. TWO.  ONE….the Incredicoaster hurled me to my feared torture.  I had ended up on a roller coaster.  Willingly.

To celebrate my 40th birthday, Chris, Peyton, and I packed the car and drove south to Disneyland.  I had never been and as it was a milestone birthday, I wanted to do something big!  I had made my intentions known VERY early on that the roller coaster and the equally horrific Guardians of the Galaxy ride (former Tower of Terror) were off the table.  If Chris wanted to ride those, he was on his own.

However, at some point on Friday as we were riding rides at California Adventure, I decided I was tired of being afraid of everything that I had zero control over.  I’ve been slowly conquering my fear of flying over the course of the last couple of years.  I wasn’t about to have a 24-year roller coaster drought keep me from enjoying time with my family.  I looked at Chris and told him we could Fastpass the coaster, and he didn’t ask twice.

Let me tell you, I loved the Incredicoaster.  L-O-V-E, loved that ride!  And while I prefer to never ride what I adoringly call the Guardians of the Galaxy Death Trap again, I DID ride it, as well!  Chris got to enjoy every theme park attraction that he had wanted to, and I enjoyed the feeling of victory over fear.

Often, we let fear control the better part of our lives, especially when it comes to our Christian walk.  We’re afraid we’ll be seen as ‘weird’ or as a fanatic to the people that surround us in this world.  Sometimes, we’re afraid to trust God and step out in faith for fear that what His plan is for us is one of uncertainty or one of struggle.  We fear asking our Father for what we desire in prayer thinking it’s too trivial.

When we’re afraid, we withhold things.  It could be our time with people or places, missing out on adventures and friendship.  It could be emotions because of the trepidation of being hurt.  Perhaps it’s a ‘thing’ due to possible angst of losing control of it.  We even hold back our intimacy with Jesus.

I do it often.  I shared in last week’s blog that I let fear keep me from developing genuine friendships.  I almost did it last week, when my fear very nearly kept me from enjoying a sweet moment with Chris where he felt the joy of sharing something fun together.

There are many verses in the bible that talk about fear and many that I have to remind myself of on a daily basis.  Here’s one that helps me:

For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” –Isaiah 41:13

We don’t need to fear things.  He says to us that He will help us.  He helps us when it’s tough, and He helps us when it’s scary.  He helps us when we’re surrounded with grief and when there is uncertainty.  All we need to do is let go of the fear that holds us back and trust that our God is bigger than the circumstance we’re facing, no matter how big or small.  Nothing we are feeling and nothing we ask for is insignificant to Him.

What fear do you need to lay at the feet of Jesus?  Tell us in the comments below so we can pray for you!

~Erin

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The Incredicoaster! And I even rode that ferris wheel and didn’t die!
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I looked thrilled, don’t I?! (The Guardians of the Galaxy)

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 Debt Struggle

I lease a car.  I know it goes against everything Dave Ramsey says, but I couldn’t help it.  I caved when I needed a new vehicle three years ago, and settled into my brand new Hyundai (which I adore by the way).  And now it’s time to make a decision on either leasing or purchasing.

When I went into the local dealership this morning, I spoke with the most amazing salesman.  We’ll call him Ricky.  (Which helps because that’s his actual name!)  Ricky was kind and funny, and he walked me through my options.  Peyton and I got a great chuckle when she insisted that any new vehicle we purchase needed a button start and an extra USB port, to which he replied, “Any other wants, Princess?”  He had watched me tease her about her desires for her own vehicle, and good-naturedly joined in the ribbing.

We had finally started talking numbers when the finance guy made his appearance. We’ll call him Finance Guy because I got upset enough to forget his name.  After much back and forth about what I was and wasn’t willing to negotiate, Finance Guy said to me, “You won’t really walk out over “$XXX, will you?”  And I promptly said yes, to which he replied, “Is money really that tight?”

For someone who’s never short of words, the FIRST words that came to my mind weren’t very friendly.  However, I replied to him that it wasn’t, but I had a budget and I was sticking to it.  “A $16 dollar difference may not be much to you, but I don’t need the car bad enough to go over my budget.”

At that point, Ricky very nicely offered me his card, and I told him I’ll get back to him.  This event made me realize I don’t want to lease, and when it’s time for me to actually HAVE to buy a car, I’ll definitely go to Ricky for my car needs.  Finance Guy won’t be invited.

This would never have been me years ago.  I was accustomed to buying what I wanted and credit cards always seemed like the best option to get what I wanted and when I wanted it.  A new pair of shoes?  Charge it!  Go out to eat at the fancy restaurant in the big city?  Put it on this card, please.  Darn…groceries were more than I thought.  Credit.

It was a never ending cycle.  Now, I’m not here to tout Dave Ramsey’s plan.  I DID attend Financial Peace University twice, and it was beneficial for me and my journey to being debt free.  What I want you to feel right now, is this:  you’re not alone.  I’ve been down this road.  There are things now that I pay for that others would think is crazy.  If I want to go to a movie, I go; and I get popcorn!  My Pop would call that popcorn a ridiculous purchase.  Other things, I’m not willing to give in and pay for.  If I can’t afford the fancy shoes by paying in cash, I just don’t get them.  I cut up and closed all of my credit cards…I don’t want the temptation.

Finance Guy thought that $16 was a non-issue and it quite possibly could be for some people.  But God tells me to be a good steward of my money.  I prayed about my car situation.  I felt God’s peace over a number.  I didn’t get it, so I walked away.

When I’m struggling with where my money should go and how I should be spending it, these verses always seems to come to mind:

The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty. –Proverbs 21:5

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; -Hebrews 13:5a

If you struggle with that same problem—saving and spending in the right and God-honoring places—I encourage you to take this struggle to the cross.  Surrender your will regarding money at His feet, and ask Him to take on the burden for you.  He gladly will.

And here’s a quick practical tip that might help you when you’re in a store with a cart full of stuff you may not need.  If it’s not something I’ve already included in my budget, I walk around the store a little bit with it in my cart.  If I start second guessing whether or not I should buy it, I take it right back to its original home and walk away.  It’s not worth it if I’m questioning it at that moment!

What purchases do you struggle with that we can pray for?  I have an obsession with office supplies, namely pens and cool notebooks, so I’m literally having to ask Jesus to help me walk away from Staples or the supply section at Target on a daily basis! Share in the comments below.

~Erin

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The Desitin Covering

Do you know just how extra-strength Desitin is?!  Does anyone even know what the actual ingredients are in that stuff?  I’m pretty sure it’s part Vaseline and part cement.  And I would know.  Because my daughter covered herself in it once upon a time.

When McKenna was a baby, her dad and I worked opposite schedules so that she would only be in daycare for about 3 hours a day.  Because I worked the evening shift, I would often come home late at night wired from a day of work and relax on the couch with a good book or pop on a tv show to rest my brain.  This often resulted in short “rests” during the morning hours.

One morning, I decided I needed a mommy nap and drifted off to sleep for about an hour and woke up to McKenna babbling to me softly as she sat in front of the couch. As I focused my eyes, I realized that my sweet daughter’s rosy cheeks were gone.  In her place, sat Casper the Friendly Ghost!

As I slept, my mischievous daughter had taken a tube of Desitin and completely emptied it all over her body.  Her arms, chest, legs, toes, face, and yes, even her hair were slathered in that super strength butt paste.  It took a couple of washes to get it off of her body, and we were STILL shampooing Desitin from her scalp almost a week later.  It was a mess!

As I was recounting this story to a friend recently, I thought about that thick coat of protection she had put all over her skin.  Why don’t I cover myself like that with Jesus?

Every day, we are hit with attacks from the enemy.  Our worldly desires get in the way, and selfish ambition trumps the desire to serve others.  I’m challenged daily with whether I’m good enough—as a mom, as a leader, as a friend.  Doubts creep into my head, and I allow them to linger far longer than they should.  And on days like today, where I’m feeling especially vulnerable, I realize it’s because I haven’t covered myself like my daughter covered herself with that ointment 19 years ago.

I am thankfully covered by the blood of Jesus and I have salvation because of it, praise God!  But I should also be covering myself with prayer—conversations between myself and the Holy Spirit.  Those prayers should be pouring from my mouth for me, my family, my neighbors, my country.

I should be covering myself with scripture, staining my heart with the blessed Word of the Holy Bible.  Those scriptures are a help to me in my time of need and doubt. They are a line of defense for a friend who’s having a hard day.

I should be covering myself with praise!  God gave us the grass we stand on, the giggle of a baby, the melody of a bird, and the breath that we breathe.  Speaking praises to Jesus for those things or singing worship music proclaiming His glory should be frequently flowing from my lips.

How do you cover yourself to stay protected from the enemy?  Is there a song, a verse, or prayer that is a go-to for you?  Share in the comments below.

~Erin

Grandma’s Prayer Closet

Seeing someone’s prayer closet is exciting.  Seeing my grandmother’s prayer closet was an honor.

Wilma, or Grandma as I like to call her, is one of the most influential Christian women I know.  My Pop’s mom has been a believer since long before I was even a notion in my parents’ thoughts, and she raised her children to love and believe in Jesus Christ.  My Mom often describes her as the glue that holds the family together.

Long road trips across the country began in my late 20’s to take my children to meet Grandma and Grandpa in South Carolina.  During those vacations, there weren’t many days that went by that didn’t include Grandma meeting with shut-ins to pray with them, teaching the Sunday School class, or going to assist with the prison ministry in the women’s division.  She’s dealt with more heartache and struggle than almost anyone I’ve known.  And yet.  Her resilience is astounding.  I know that this is due to her strong faith in her Savior.

I surprised her with a quick overnight visit when I was back east several weeks ago. She had no idea I was coming, and the look of shock on her face as Pop told her that someone had left “2 hams at the door” as Emily and I strode in behind him was priceless!  It was wonderful to have a little visit with her.

The morning I left, as I chatted with her, she asked me if I wanted to see her prayer closet.  I was thrilled to be able to say yes.  As we went into her room, I saw how she had transformed the space into a cozy area to be with Jesus.

A pile of devotionals, studies, and notebooks sat at her makeshift desk.  A little side table was set up with stationery for notes to be sent out for encouragement. Concordances and commentaries were behind her chair on a bookshelf.  She even added a little coffeemaker in the room!  She told me she could get out of bed, make it, and then brew her coffee to get her time in with Jesus first thing in the morning without even having to leave the room!

Grandma knows that the time spent with Jesus to start her day is not only encouraging to others, it’s needed to help her day be well from the start.  She enjoys and loves the time she spends talking with God and soaking in His wisdom and instruction.  In that prayer closet, her children all the way down to her great-great-grandchild are prayed for.  Her friends and church members are prayed for.  Her town is prayed for.

Maybe you don’t have a prayer closet, or maybe you don’t have enough space to commandeer a space just for that.  Get creative!  I use a wall in my tiny home office to tape up prayers that I want to remember to pray for.  Because I didn’t have a lot of space, I have a large open container where I keep my Bible study materials.  It has notebooks, different Bible versions, and devotionals.  When it’s time to go to my prayer closet, I take the items from the container that I need for my time with Him.

Perhaps you don’t even have room for that.  Here’s what I would say to you.  Make whatever chair or couch or porch you sit on your prayer closet and just spend some time with Him….a little bit every day.  That time with Jesus will change you and grow you.  It always does.

~Erin

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Me, Grandma, & Andros, my grandson. (Ignore photobombing Peyton in the background!)

Cockroach Leg Eyebrows

As a small child, my mom would smooth down my eyebrows as soon as I woke up in the morning.  As a teen, I would make my eyebrows a mess by pushing them backwards against the grain…just to see if my mom would notice. She always did.  Apparently, those eyebrows were wild!

Interestingly enough, my mom has never worn make up.  Therefore, she didn’t teach me about make up.  Other than smoothing my eyebrows down, she taught me nothing about taming the beasts above my eyes.  It wasn’t until I had been in the Air Force for over four years that friends took me to a tweezing session.  That first tweezing was HORRIBLE!  My eyes were welled up and I was sneezing. I thought my brains were being pulled out!

Since then, I’ve experienced cultural eyebrow grooming throughout the world.  Most notably, the string technique in Turkey, a wicked stinky mix of wax in Korea, and a hefty German woman plucking away while swilling beer.

My eyebrows have been beaten into submission.

My husband’s eyebrows? They are a different story.  He has one that shoots out like cockroach legs. I’m constantly smoothing his eyebrows down.  What I would give to take a pair of tweezers to his caterpillars!

Alas, last week while wiping a roach leg into place, I suddenly had a thought.  Does anyone, let alone God, really care about the appearance of our wild brows?  Instantly a verse came to mind.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”                ~1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV)

Each of us have such potential to be great in God’s sight…with or without the outward adornments. God doesn’t equate the outward adornment of our eyebrows with our inner worth.

My eyebrows will continue to be tamed.

My husband’s will probably continue to get my attention.

With 1 Peter in mind, I’m going to try to give his brows less attention.

~Emily

Eyebrows