life beyond the well…


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Weekly Word- B

Happy Wednesday! As I shared last week, I’m trying a new way to memorize scripture this year by finding a verse each week that starts with a different letter of the alphabet.  With 52 weeks in a year, I should go through the alphabet twice; and my hope is that this will challenge me to grow in my knowledge of God’s word (as opposed to relying on the same scriptures all the time.  Here’s the word for this week:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. –Ephesians 4:32

When we recall the grace and mercy that God has so freely extended to us, and the magnitude of his forgiveness of our sins, we should be willing to extend that same forgiveness to others.

To be clear, forgiveness is difficult and messy. Forgiveness is a process.  Forgiveness does not mean that we excuse someone’s behavior, but it does mean that we stop holding grudges, and we actively pursue God’s healing so that we (and they) can be made whole.

In order to get where God is calling us, there are things that we must leave behind. Who do you need to forgive so that you can truly move forward?  I’m praying that in 2018, your heart won’t be burdened by previous hurts and wrongs, and that God’s strength and power will enable you to forgive and move forward.

Until next time…

Be encouraged! Peace and blessings!

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Only the Father Will Do

There’s a running joke in our home that the first person to grab BabyAlmondJoy and get him his milk/breakfast after he wakes is his favorite person for the day. It’s as if whoever meets that first, most immediate need for him is the best parent ever, and over the course of the day, he will generally indicate a preference for that person. We attempt to tend to his needs equally; however, there are days and tasks that lend themselves to one person over the other.  Parenting (in the midst of the many other things we have going on) lends itself to teamwork and an ebb and flow as it relates to who does what. That said, sometimes I am the best parent ever, and other days, Preacherman wins the award. We cheer for each other, and make sure that above all, BabyAlmondJoy knows he is loved and cared for by both of us.

BabyAlmondJoy and I recently had a bout of sickness (really the entire time from Thanksgiving until Christmas) that left us oscillating between feeling okay and terrible, but never at 100%. After multiple trips to the doctor, and a few rounds of medication, we both showed signs of improvement; however, just before Christmas break, BabyAlmondJoy encountered yet another virus (complete with fever, rash, and general irritability).  We took another trip to the doctor, only for them to tell us that, “It’s a virus” and, “You just need to give it time”. And so we did.

During that time, BabyAlmondJoy could ONLY be consoled by Preacherman. Despite my best efforts to be the nurturing mama, he let me know that in this moment, only his father would do. My attempts and desires to console and care for him were nice, but he knew that what he needed to feel better was wrapped up in the arms of his father.  And so, for about 36 hours BabyAlmondJoy stayed glued to Preacherman. It was only when he reached a certain point of restoration and wellness that he allowed me and his sister to really engage with him.

Though my mama feelings were slightly hurt, my soul was encouraged; and I was reminded that there are situations in life where only the Father will do. While there will be times that God will send people to work on his behalf, there are also times where I need to rest in Him until I reach a place of healing, restoration, and wellness before I engage with others. In those times, I need to press into His presence so that I can be given and accept the healing that is needed.

Until next time…

Peace and blessings.

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” – 3 John 1:2

 


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Managing Motherhood

It’s been just over 13 months since Baby Ethan Toddler Ethan arrived, and at almost every turn, I find myself in a new situation.  These situations are usually solved by Google and other Mommy friends, but the overwhelming amount of “new” that I have encountered in the past year has done a number on my soul.

You see, I appreciate patterns, traditions, dependability, and reliability. Schedules and systems make me happy. Consistently venturing into the unknown is far from my idea of fun. Having an infant a toddler frequently means that a good chunk of what I’m doing from day to day is venturing into the unknown. While there are skeletal plans and routines, I’m never quite sure when a diaper blowout or projectile spit up can cause a readjustment of the plans. Just when I feel confident that we’ve gotten into a good routine, a growth spurt or teething or a sleep regression happens. And while that absolutely throws us off, in many ways, my ability to thrive through this phase of life depends on my willingness to be flexible, have appropriate expectations, and give myself grace.

Managing motherhood, as I’m coming to realize it, has been much more about how I manage me…as opposed to how I handle this tiny person to whom God has entrusted in my care. It’s been about developing a different kind of trust and faith, that truly believes that God equipped me to “Mama” this wonderful little human, and that we will be just fine.

Is it hard? Absolutely.

Is it exhausting? In the best kind of way.

Is it worth it? Totally.

More than anything, the experience has allowed me to begin to grasp the magnitude of love that God has for us. A love that delights, rejoices, and corrects because we are made in His image, and He desires for us to live a life that reflects that.

To God be the glory.

Until next time…

Be encouraged! Peace and blessings!

 


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4 (and a half) Months a Mama

It’s hard to believe that it’s been roughly 4 and a half months since we welcomed our sweet baby Ethan into our home.  I feel like every day I’m learning something new, and I’m watching him grow right before my eyes. Seriously–how is it possible that he gets longer while he’s away at daycare?

Being a mama has stretched me (literally and figuratively).  While I’d like to think that I’m the same person that I was prior to Ethan’s birth, I know that’s not true. And that’s not a good or bad thing- it’s just the reality of this new life that I’m learning.

There have been days where I have cried from frustration and exhaustion, wondering how it would all get done. There are moments in each day where I feel that my heart will explode from joy as I see the sweet face of my baby boy. There are days where the state of our country overwhelms me and I worry about the opportunity (or lack thereof) awaiting my beautiful black boy.

There’s much more that swirls through my mind and my heart, but more than anything; these 4 (and a half) months of being a mama have taught me how to trust God in a new way, because now it’s just not about me. It’s one thing for me to believe for me–it’s something totally different for me to believe God for someone else.

There’s a press that I have to operate at a higher level in God because I want Ethan to know God authentically, and Preacherman and I are his first teachers. I’m trusting and believing God for more, because I want my son to have a better life than what I have.

Trusting God as a mama has also comes in other forms- like when you live away from family and have to make decisions about your pediatrician, daycare, babysitters (send some, Lord!), and overall day-to-day care. At every turn, I’m being pushed to trust God more, to listen more for His voice, and to lean on the people that He has sent us in Jacksonville.

I struggle to remember my life before Ethan, and I’m so blessed to be a mama- and to be HIS mama. Truly, the Lord has done great things for me, and I am filled with joy! (Psalm 126:3)

“’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Be encouraged! Peace and blessings!

 


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The Best Kind of Boring

Last week I had the opportunity to drop in to the 5th Grade Band Class.  My purpose was really just to quickly speak with the teacher, but since he was clearly occupied, I thought I’d sit for a few minutes and just observe the teaching and learning process taking place.

To be clear, I’m ever so slightly biased towards band/music programs.  I was forced to take piano lessons as a child, and the family legacy of playing in the band starting in middle school was incredibly strong.  My father was a percussionist in the marching band when he was high school at Hillside in the 1970s.  Simply put, I always knew that I was going to be in band- at least for a year.

Well, that year ended up being way longer that we all expected.  I spent summers going to band camp at UNC-G and made sure to register for band through middle school and high school.  I started out playing trumpet, but quickly moved to clarinet after getting my braces and struggling to get any type of sound out of my trumpet.

I’m digressing.

So, I’m in this band class, and the ENTIRE class is focused on getting the ALL of the clarinet players to get a sound out.  Some of the scholars are able to do this effortlessly.  Others are competing for front row seats on the struggle bus.

All the while, I’m watching our band teacher repeat the same process- sometimes with students individually, sometimes with the group.  He never raises his voice- he’s steady in his delivery of correction and also consistent in providing praise.  And as time passes, I watch these students get closer to the goal.

It was, quite simply, the best kind of boring.

Doing something over and over and over and over and over again- until the results came.  Accepting correction and praise, making necessary adjustments, and persisting until they reached the goal.  It made me mindful of the fact that while we often dislike the boring and mundane tasks, they can also produce the results that we’re searching for if we’re willing to accept correction and praise, make adjustments, and persist.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9 NIV

Until next time…

Be encouraged! Peace and Blessings!


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Book Review- The Miracle in the Middle

I first heard Charlotte Gambill preach at Celebration Church in the Fall of 2014.  She was one of the guest speakers for their annual women’s conference, and both Preacherman and I really liked her message.  We left the service and stocked up on some of her materials, and on a road trip I found myself going through message after message.  To say that she is a phenomenal teacher of the word of God and biblical principles would be an understatement.

All that said, I was overly excited to get my hands on a copy of the book “The Miracle in the Middle”.  I’ve found myself “in the middle” of quite a few circumstances and situations, and wondering when/where/how the Lord was going to move me from the middle to the other side.  Gambill provides great insight for enjoying that uncomfortable middle spot, and recognizing it for the miracle that it is- as well as encouragement for us to press through to get to the other side.

I must admit that prior to reading the book, I had already heard her preach a sermon by the same name.  Despite that fact, I still found the book to be insightful, well-written, and a blessing to me.  My approach to my “middles” is much different, as I’m learning to look at it as an opportunity for growth as just a place where I’m stuck until something changes.  I’m also realizing that as I change my perspective, things around me change- regardless of if there’s an actual shift in position.

I would encourage you to check out this book, as well as some of Gambill’s other messages!  The practicality with which she delivers her messages makes it easy to understand and apply to your life.

Until next time…

Be encouraged! Peace and Blessings!

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions are mine


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Lessons in Weeding

One of the greatest blessings for us was moving into a new home.  After what seemed like an endless process, we were finally able to move…and after a longer process, I can finally say that we feel relatively settled.  The process for making a house a home is lengthy, and while I still wonder what color I want certain walls, I’m willing to enjoy the peace that comes with a blank slate.

Preacherman handles most of our landscaping needs with the exception of weeding the mulched areas.  The weeding is my responsibility.  It seemed like a small, yet appropriate and meaningful task to for me to handle.  While I long to have the patience of my grandmother or some of my aunts when it comes to working in the yard, I’m not there yet.  So I’ll start with something small, and believe that over time, my patience will grow.

Earlier this week, I tackled the weeding as Preacherman was handling the rest of the yard.  And there were some lessons that I learned in the process:

  • It doesn’t take long for weeds to take root.
    • We’ve lived in our house now for just under 4 months.  I was amazed at how quickly weeds had taken root in two of the mulched areas.  Ironically enough, both of those mulched areas are relatively close to our sprinklers.  Here’s the thing- we must be mindful of what is taking root (and subsequently being watered) in us.  It doesn’t take long for weeds of sin to take root; eventually taking the very nutrients that we need for our survival.
  • Something that’s small on the surface can be deeply planted.
    • I made an assumption that some of the weeds wouldn’t be “that bad” because they were small.  I was mistaken- and it was the smaller weeds that gave me the most grief when trying to uproot them.  What we must remember- it can take a while for what’s planted to surface. Just because it seems small, doesn’t mean the root isn’t deep. The “little things” that we may tend to overlook can actually hold strong roots in good. We must be diligent in planting and watering the right things and weeding out the wrong things. 
  • Just because it doesn’t look like a weed doesn’t mean that it’s not a weed. 
    • One of the challenges I had in one of the areas was determining if something was actually a weed or part of the landscaping because they looked similar. After close examination and checking our neighbor’s landscaping, I realized it was a weed.  Here’s the thing- we must be careful to know what’s a weed and what’s actually supposed to be planted in us.  Looks can be deceiving.  In a world that is constantly telling us what we need to have, who we should be, and what we should look like, if we aren’t sure what should be rooted in us (and what shouldn’t be rooted in us) and what that looks like- we’ll be horribly confused. 
  • You must be committed to the weeding process.
    • As much as I’d love to think that I’m done with the weeding, I know that’s not the case.  It’s an ongoing process that I must be committed to if I want our yard to not just look healthy, but to BE healthy.  Likewise- we must be committed to the difficult process of weeding in our own lives.  What weeds and other things need to be uprooted in our life to ensure that we are living the life that God has called us to live?

While I can’t say that I enjoyed the weeding, I’m grateful for the heart check that God gave me during the process.  If I desire to bear much fruit in 2016, I’ll have to undergo and endure the weeding process.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” -John 15:1-2 NIV

Until next time…

Peace and Blessings…


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When Social Becomes Sinful

I love social media.  I especially love the ability to use social media to stay in touch with people and current events.  I’m always excited to receive a friend request from someone that I knew, and I love seeing pictures of people getting married, having babies, graduating, getting promotions, etc.

But…there’s also something that I don’t like about social media (and perhaps technology in general).  I really don’t like that social media seems to give people the license to be mean at the expense of others.

Here’s what I mean- far too often our social media behavior is making fun of others.  Talking bad about them; saying things about them that we might not ever say if they were standing in front of us.  Sometimes it’s about people we know, sometimes it’s about people we used to know, sometimes it’s about celebrities (who are people too), and sometimes it’s about strangers.  The whole “People of Walmart” or “World Star Hip Hop” phenomenon…to air someone’s less clean laundry bothers me.

Seriously- what is happening IN us that we feel the need to document, comment on, and share someone else’s shortcomings?

I love a laugh as much as the next person.  But, laughing and publicly sharing and shaming someone else? That’s not cool.

The great thing about social media is that it can be used to reach the masses.  With the same energy that we use to shame, we can encourage, inspire, uplift, and glorify God.  Here’s the thing- anything that we have can be used as a tool to lead others to Christ.  Social media provides us with this platform

I know that everyone may not agree with this, and I’m fine with that.  I know that there are people who may view social media solely as an outlet for expression.  And while it is absolutely an outlet for expression, here are my questions:

  • As I stated before- what is happening IN us that we feel the need to document, comment on, and share someone else’s shortcomings?
  • Isn’t there a way that we can express ourselves without it being at the expense of someone else?
  • Would you say ____________ to the person/people directly? (If the answer is no, why are you saying it at all?)

The word teaches that death and life are in the power of the tongue, advises us against unwholesome talk, and instructs us to encourage one another.

When I was in college (as social media just started to exist), a friend’s mom gave us some good advice on speaking, telling us, “Before you speak, ask yourself if what you’re about to say is nice, necessary, and the truth.” I think that’s all something we could stand to abide by now.

Until next time…

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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8 months.

“Now death where is your sting
Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated

Forever, He is glorified
Forever, He is lifted high
Forever, He is risen
He is alive
He is alive”

I talk to him frequently now.  That wasn’t always the case. After years of being caught in the crossfire as he battled addictions of various kinds, I made the decision to let go of the weight prior to getting married.  As I was on the brink of beginning my new life, I knew that it was important to deal with the issues that plagued me and to make clean breaks where necessary.

It was a tough decision, but when you watch someone you know struggle and wallow in the depths of addiction for years, I knew that my behavior had to change.  I could no longer be a partial enabler to destructive behavior.

So, I made my break.

It hurt.

I cried.  I prayed.  I believed.

I cried.  I prayed.  I believed.

I had gotten to the point where my prayer was not for our relationship to be reconciled, but for him to be delivered and come to know Jesus.  What good is reconciliation on this end, if we spend eternity apart?

And then, last November just days prior to leaving on an anniversary getaway with Preacherman, I got a phone call.  The phone call that you don’t want to get.  The phone call that changes everything.

Something had happened to him.  There wasn’t a definitive answer as to what.  But after a few more phone calls, it became clear that we needed to be there.

And so we went.  Uncertain of what we might see.  Unsure of what we might hear.  We went in faith, believing that this would be the point of no return; from whence his life would be changed.

When you hit bottom, it’s a long way up.

But he’s climbing.  God answered our prayers that this time would be different.  And when I spoke to him a couple of weeks ago, a few days shy of his birthday, he told me that he’s been clean for 8 months.

8 months and counting.  After battling some form of addiction for the last 17 years, 8 months clean is amazing.  God has done a wonderful, transformative work; not just in his life, but in our relationship.

I included Kari Jobe’s “Forever” lyrics at the top because I have yet to identify a better description of what has taken place in his life.  Through the power of God, death has been defeated in his life.

I have enjoyed many things in this life, but nothing compares to watching someone go from death to life. To God be the glory for the things He has done.


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Note to Self: On Vacation.

Dear Erin,

You need that vacation.  You need that time to unplug, to veg out, to read books endlessly, to watch HGTV on repeat, to laugh and love Preacherman, to live without being tied to your Outlook Calendar and the endless demands that create a home in the dungeon known as your work email account.

You need it. And it doesn’t make you weak to acknowledge that. You are a better woman, a better wife, a better steppie, a better friend, a better employee when you have taken the time to recharge your battery and make sure that you are overflowing with the things that really make your heart full.

You are not your work. Your work is what you do, it is not who you are. And while what you do is important, who you are matters more.  Are you taking the time to develop who you are so that you can be the best you for the people who need you and are there for you before 8am and after 5pm?  Are you making sure that you’ve put aside some time in your schedule for the things that you enjoy? What are you reading for pleasure? When was the last time you decorated your planner? Have you downloaded the many ideas in your brain into your blog?

Take the vacation. Self-care is not selfish, it’s necessary. Reflect, rest, rejuvenate- and then when it’s time to go back to life as usual, you’ll return as a better, stronger, healthier you.

Those people that you do life with deserve to have the best you.  And you deserve to be the best you.

Love,

You