life beyond the well…


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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

 


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Today.

“Today, I am here to be the best that I can be. To lift up our community, to be the best that we can be. To make each second count. To make new mistakes and learn from them. To support my teammates in our mission to make the world a better place. I am proud of my hard work, but I am humble. I still have a lot of work to do. Above all, I am grateful for those who have made my life better. I am ready to get to work.”

Every morning, our students recite our school pledge, listed above. I’ve heard it so many times that I am also able to recite it. I have it posted in my office above my desk as one of many motivating reminders when I struggle to find or remember the meaning and purpose of what I do and who I serve.

Working with children is hard. Period. My office is nestled in a space where I have the joy of hearing our elementary students and our middle school students.  I never know from day to day what I might hear.  Sometimes it’s the joyful exuberance of second graders.  Other times it’s the patient instruction of our band directors. You just never know.

Earlier this week, I heard an exchange between a teacher and a student.  Apparently the student had engaged in some form of inappropriate behavior, and the teacher was insisting that the student apologize. The more that the teacher insisted on an apology, the more the student refused. Their voices escalated, and then I heard both the teacher and the student storm down the hall.

But it was what I heard later that really caught my attention.

Maybe 20-30 minutes later, I heard the same teacher and student having an exchange.  But in this case, the teacher was apologizing to the student for the way in which he spoke to him. While I couldn’t hear the entire exchange, I did hear the teacher say, “I apologize for speaking to you that way. I should not have done that…”

Teachers make mistakes too, ya’ll.  But what I love is that this teacher owned it, and showed his student the respect that we all deserve.  Even the smallest of us deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

I won’t say that my school always gets it right. But I will say that each day the students AND adults in the building commit to that pledge, and our community is better because of it.

Until next time…

Be encouraged! Peace and blessings!


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Updates: Higher Definition Church

So, the last time I really talked about Higher Definition Church, was in this post, when we were 5 days away from launch…and that was 7 or 8 weeks ago.

We launched!

It was awesome.

Seriously, we successfully launched the church on March 15, 2015, and have been moving forward since.  Preacherman and I are so excited about how God is working in us and through us.  Every Sunday since launch, we have had people accept Jesus or rededicate their life to Him.  To God be the glory for things He has done.

A couple of things- you can access the podcasts to each of the messages through Preacherman’s website.  I encourage you to check it out, and share with others.  Because I love you so much, I’ve linked the messages below.  They’re good. For real, for real.

And- would you pray for us? It is our true desire to leave a footprint for the Kingdom in Jacksonville.  Pray for God’s guidance, for people to join us in this endeavor, for our families, for the families of those who have already partnered with us.  Pray for the city of Jacksonville- that hearts will continue to be open and receptive to the work that we have been led to do here.

Finally- connect with us! You can catch us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

I am so grateful for your love, encouragement, and support…and when you’re in Jacksonville, I look forward to you joining us at church!

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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The Danger in Disconnection

The other night, I was fixing dinner and I heard the timer “ding” on our George Foreman grill.  Excited that the grill had “preheated”, I went and placed the salmon burgers on the grill, but I was a little concerned that nothing seemed to be happening.  Under closer inspection, I discovered that the power cord was disconnected from the outlet.

While I chuckled at my dinner mistake, I later began to reflect on the danger in disconnection.  You see, there have been times in my life, where I’ve been disconnected from my power source.  I’ve been far from God, not really close to people who were trying to live a way that pleased God, and I was just doing my own thing.  Go to work. Do school work. Hang out with friends. Repeat.

But there was a point that I realized that something wasn’t right.  While I was going through the motions, I didn’t feel any real sense of purpose.  To go back to my cooking scenario, I was on the grill, but nothing was happening.  I wasn’t being prepared for the point of completion.

As believers, our ultimate source of power is God.  He is our strength and our hope.  And when we get disconnected from Him and His people, we began to lose a sense of who we are and what our real purpose is in life. We begin to handle things in our own strength, instead of trusting and depending on Him.  And then, when we don’t get the results we desire because WE didn’t do things the right way- we blame God.

I can’t blame the power source because the grill was disconnected.  It was my responsibility to make sure the grill was connected so that the food could be cooked–to completion.  In the same way, it is our responsibility to ensure that we remain connected to God so that He can work in us to completion.

I encourage you to do what it takes to stay connected.  Dedicate time in your schedule to reading the word, to spending time with Him in prayer and worship.  Don’t let the things of this world distract you to a point of disconnection.

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!

 


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The Path of Resistance

Working with students (and their families) is something that brings me great joy.  There’s nothing like working alongside people to help them reach their goals, or to put them on the path to reaching their goals.  In some ways, I like to think that part of my responsibility with my work is to create opportunity–to help them navigate paths and open doors that lead to many opportunities.

What I find challenging in this work is that more and more, I’m faced with students (and parents) who believe that opportunities come without resistance.  That things should be easy and without challenge–and that if there IS any sign of opposition then the opportunity must not be for them.

That frustrates me.  And it makes me sad.

The idea that things must always be easy and without challenge is a lie that is fed to us to keep us from reaching our full potential. The second that things get difficult, we’re ready to quit- and when we quit, we lose the opportunity to become more than we are in that moment.

I’ve heard Pastor Steven Furtick say it like this: “What has not been tested cannot be trusted.”  I’ve heard Preacherman say it like this: “There is no victory without opposition.”

In my own life, I’ve found that resistance is a sign that I’m on the right track.  It’s a sign that I’m pushing for a higher level, an increased capacity. And the result is that, I get stronger. I get better. My faith increases and deepens. But that doesn’t make it easy.  When you start working out and you exercise and strengthen your muscles, you feel a pain and tension.  But if you (when you) keep going, the pain and tension goes away, leaving you stronger and equipped to handle more.

Lord, help us to embrace resistance, knowing that as You call us, You equip us. Help us to trust Romans 8:28- that in ALL things You work for the good of those who love You and are called according to your purpose. -Amen

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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The Appointment

It’s not something that’s on my schedule.  If you were to check my iPhone and my Outlook calender, you’d notice that the space between 4:45pm and 5:00pm Monday-Thursday is always empty. It’s the end of the day, and during that time, I find myself doing two things: prepping for the next day and waiting.

Waiting for my appointment.

I don’t know when it became an “appointment”.  It kind of just happened.  She would get dismissed from her class and swing by my office before heading downstairs to get picked up.  Initially, it was just to ask a question about high school or college. But eventually it became more- the visits became more frequent and the questions (and conversations) became about life.  Real life stuff- the kind of stuff that can trip up even the smartest, most talented person if they aren’t equipped to deal with it.  She shares, and asks questions.  I listen- until she’s ready for me to ask questions or provide feedback.

After talking with Jesus, and praying with Preacherman, this is one of the best parts of my day. When working with students, you often wonder if you’re really impacting their life.  You wonder if what you do, what you say, how you teach and instruct is helping to move the needle; not just in the classroom, but outside of it as well.  Most days, I’m given this appointment- this 15 minutes to plant some seeds, water other seeds, and pull up some weeds in this student’s life.  It’s something that I cherish- and I’m grateful to God to be entrusted with this responsibility.  My life is better because of it- and I pray that hers is as well.

Until next time…

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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Respond with Grace…

I really struggle with rudeness and lack of manners.  Working with students, I realize that these often provide the opportunity for teachable moments.  But when I encounter these traits in adults, it is a harder pill to swallow.  Mainly because there’s an assumption that as an adult, one would know how to treat other adults.  But I’ve come to realize that isn’t always the case.  And sometimes people DO know better, but something has happened that has broken their filter, and their ability to appropriately manage their behavior and their response is in flux.

My solution: respond with grace.

This is NOT easy.  When I’m mistreated or wronged, my natural tendency is to want to respond in the same manner- even when I know better.  Even when I know that responding in the same way serves only to escalate a situation that doesn’t need to be escalated.  Even when I know that what is really needed in the situation is grace, mercy, and love.

But what does that look like?

That looks like: utilizing manners. Being overly respectful. Not raising my voice. Choosing to listen. Choosing my words carefully. Making sure the other person is (and feels) heard and respected.

I’ve learned that in MANY situations- their frustration isn’t about me.  It’s about a million other things that have brought them to this moment.  And since it’s not about me, I can choose to not take it personal and to respond in a way that is totally about them- by extending kindness.

I am a product of grace and mercy.  Every day, God pours these two over me, in conjunction with his love and as a result, I have been blessed.  In tough and challenging moments, I am given the opportunity to share this grace, mercy, and love to someone else.

Who could use some of your kindness, grace, mercy, and love today?

Be encouraged.  Peace and blessings.


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2015 Book List

I love to read.  Since I was a kid, reading has been one of my favorite ways to pass time.  Preacherman and I have a ridiculous number of books in our home, and we can’t seem to stop adding to the collection.  Unfortunately, other than reading the Bible, blogs, and news articles, I haven’t had time for much book reading.  It’s something that makes me sad, and that I’ve committed to fixing for 2015.

I took some time during the latter part of 2014 to create my 2015 book list.  I’m pledging to read all of the books listed below, and if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to squeeze in a few more.  Here’s what we’re looking at (in no particular order):

  1. Instinct by T.D. Jakes
  2. Make it Happen by Lara Casey
  3. Purpose Awakening by Touré Roberts
  4. Start with Why by Simon Sinek
  5. Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo
  6. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  7. The Marshmallow Test by Walter Mischel
  8. Hand to Mouth by Linda Tirado
  9. The Best Yes by Lysa TerKerst
  10. Rhythms of Grace by Kerri Weems 

I’ll also be reading The Bible again, and I plan to re-read Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life.  While I’m excited about reading all of the books listed above, I’m probably most excited to dig into The Best Yes by Lysa TerKerst.  I’ll be reading it with one of my college best friends, and I’m looking forward to the growth that comes through sharing and accountability.

So, there you have it- my plan to get back in the act of reading for enjoyment.  I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going!

What are you reading this year?

Be encouraged!  Peace and blessings!


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I. CAN’T. BREATHE.

I can’t breathe.

That’s what Eric Garner said over and over again, as the NYPD officer held him in an outlawed choke hold, pressing his knee into his back, eventually leading to his death.

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe. I may not be in a physical choke hold, but this- these cases of police misconduct and the killing of unarmed people of color is choking the life out of me, out of my people, out of our communities, out of our children.

I can’t breathe because I am (we are) in this abusive relationship that forces me (us) to be afraid of those who are in place to protect me (us), and I (we) see no way of escape. There are no shelters where I (we) can escape for my (our) protection. I am (we are) searching for refuge, for equal footing, for right standing and it doesn’t appear to be available.

I can’t breathe because I (we) spend all of this energy trying to be the “good” or “safe” black person, even though I (we) know that while I (we) can change my (our) name, neighborhood, job, clothes, education level, friends, behavior…I (we) CANNOT change the very thing that makes other people feel afraid or threatened: my (our) skin color.

I can’t breathe because I am (we are) exhausted by the constant stream of microaggressions I (we) face, of having to deal with “good decisions” that have racist implications, of having to decide if I (we) should speak up because of knowing (expecting) the response to be that I am (we are) “playing the race card” or “being too sensitive”.

But.

If I have to “play the race card” or “be too sensitive” because it forces you to be more careful, more thoughtful, more intentional in your interactions and decisions regarding people like me- so be it.

I will not continue to be uncomfortable so that you can maintain your comfort. No. It’s time for us to be uncomfortable together.

Discomfort produces action. Appropriate action produces change.

What is appropriate action? I challenge our communities, ESPECIALLY our communities of faith to address these issues, then act.  Hear the stories of hurt, of anger, of fear- and then do the work that helps to change hearts. Share the gospel. Love like Jesus. While I hear and understand the cries for justice, I know that the true need is Jesus. True acceptance of Jesus compels our hearts and our minds to change.

My prayer in this situation is best encompassed in the lyrics of “Build Your Kingdom Here” by Rend Collective Experiment: 

“We are Your church.
We pray revive this earth.
Build Your kingdom here.
Let the darkness fear.
Show Your mighty hand.
Heal our streets and land.
Set Your church on fire.
Win this nation back.
Change the atmosphere.
Build Your kingdom here.
We pray.
Unleash Your kingdom’s power
reaching the near and far.
No force of Hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts.
You made us for much more than this!
Awake the kingdom seed in us!
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ.
We are Your church.
We are the hope on earth.”

Amen.