life beyond the well…


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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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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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Book Review: NIV Life Journey Bible

I love reading the Bible. It’s hard. It challenges me. It changes me. It pushes me to grow in my relationship with God and with others.  While I have a small NIV Thinline Bible that I carry with me to church (and I also use the Youversion app on my phone quite frequently), I love having a bigger reference bible that can provide greater help in navigating life and growing my faith.

Enter the NIV Life Journey Bible.  It’s already in my favorite translation (NIV), but what I really love about this bible are the practical inserts spread throughout–inserts on family, relationships, grief; with an overall theme of being emotionally healthy.  I think that this is hugely important, and in my own experience with church, I think that sometimes things can be so overly spiritual that there is not much attention paid to some of the real issues that people have.  Being emotionally healthy and learning how to be in healthy relationship is hugely important, and having a bible that highlights those principles as you go through it, is awesome.

I think this bible is excellent and I would recommend it to others. However, I would especially recommend it to new believers, people who enjoy devotionals, and people who value emotional and relationship health in conjunction with their spiritual health.

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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25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013

I have my dear friend Jovian to thank for this.  She sent these questions out in an email to a bunch of us, and I thought I’d tackle them in this space…because I feel that doing so makes me slightly more accountable than just answering them in my head or replying via email.

So, let’s have at it (warning- this is long):

25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013

1. What am I most proud of this year?

I am most proud of my growth as a wife.  Every day, there are new challenges and new opportunities for growth.  In our first year of marriage, we had experienced changes beyond what either of us could have imagined.  I’m proud of handling the change with faith, and by being on the same team.

2. How can I become a better person?

I ABSOLUTELY must be better by asking for help.  Note to self: It takes a strong person to admit where they are weak, and to ask for help to become stronger.

3. Where am I feeling stuck?

In my pursuit of having a more healthy lifestyle. My current reasons have not been compelling enough, nor has my discipline been where it needs to be. I’m looking forward to overhauling this area, and really understanding my “why”; as well as creating SMART goals to make sure that I see the progress I desire.

4. Where do I need to allow myself grace?

In my role as a wife. Preacherman knows this more than anyone, but I am incredibly hard on myself.  I’ve decided to adopt Emily Ley’s motto as my own: “I will hold myself to a standard of GRACE not PERFECTION.”

5. Am I passionate about my career?

Yes! I love what I do, and who I serve. It’s been a huge area for growth, but it’s been rejuvenating and fun. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help students see the possibilities, and then make them realities.

6. What lessons have I learned?

Not so much lessons, but reminders: God is a faithful. God is love. God is a provider. God is…

7. What did my finances look like?

I’m extremely proud of our saving this year- we came up with a plan that works, and with God’s provision, we were able to handle a huge move in the short-term without taking much of hit.  This year, the goal is to live lean, save more, and to look for ways to build wealth.

8. How did I spend my free time?

Pre-move: lots of time was spent serving at church, and fellowshipping with friends and family.  Post-move: lots of time was spent on organizing our new home, getting acclimated to new jobs and a new area, and creating systems to make us more efficient.

9. How well did I take care of my body, mind, and soul?

I started out on a roll with all three- exercising and eating healthy, striving to learn new things, and purposefully seeking growth in my relationship with God.  As things got busy and life happened, I didn’t do as great of a job at balancing all three- I would maybe have 2 things going well, but missing the third one.  Again, I believe that creating SMART goals for 2014, along with clarity about what’s most important in this current stage of life will help me be better at all of these in the coming year.

10. How have I been open-minded?

In seeking, hearing, believing, and trusting the promises of God beyond what I can see or feel.  The circumstances of my life this year have required that I be more open to seeing, hearing, believing, and trusting the promises of God.

11. When did I feel most creatively inspired?

I don’t know if I can identify a time, but I know that I feel more creatively inspired to write (for this blog and otherwise) when I’m most balanced in my relationship with God and can hear Him clearly.

12. What projects have I completed?

Getting the new home organized and decorated.  It’s great coming home to a place that you love.

13. How have I procrastinated?

Dissertation.  See also #15.

14. In what ways can I re-structure my time?

Reducing some of the social media activity (although I LOVE the debates and conversations that take place on Twitter and FB), Scheduling meetings in the mornings, blocking out my day tasks- and not being afraid to say no to someone else’s “urgent” (your emergency is not my emergency) when it could be detrimental for me.

15. How have I allowed fear of failure hold me back?

Dissertation- the feedback that I have received while working on my dissertation has been the most critical feedback that I’ve ever received in academic work.  I’ve always enjoyed school, and I’ve always done well at it.  While I enjoy this, I find myself in a situation where I’m doing a ton of work that is extremely time consuming…only to get a significant amount of feedback of where you can improve.  It can be paralyzing to know that you’re doing all that you can to submit your best work and you KNOW that you’re going to get  a return email with your document…and even more corrections to make.  I definitely let this affect my mental approach to this work, and that CANNOT happen this year.  I need to keep the end goal in mind.

16. Where has self-doubt taken over?

In appearance- turning 30 in a workplace where the average employee is a female around the age of 23 or 24 and has their college metabolism and college body really forced me to think about what I wanted 30 to LOOK like and feel like for me, and how to really get to “my best self”.

In competence- my school work transitioned from classes to sole work on my dissertation.  I thought that without having classes, I’d miraculously have more time and the ideas and words would flow freely.  But that’s totally not what happened…and while I had moments of progress and inspiration, it wasn’t nearly as much as I’d hoped for.  When I coupled that with my inability to really master my time in the best way, I began to doubt my ability to complete the task at all.  I ended this year on a high note, making much progress and getting positive feedback from my dissertation chair.

17. When have I felt the most alive?

In moments with Preacherman and/or our little- working on math problems, making funfetti pancakes, watching the Cosby show, helping to wrap Christmas presents, singing “Jesus Loves Me” before bed, reciting our confession of faith together in the mornings.  All the little moments that I won’t always have.

18. How have I taught others to respect me?

Setting appropriate boundaries- especially at work has been extremely helpful here.  Being vocal about what I need, and refusing to take on too much has been incredibly helpful here also.

19. How can I improve my relationships?

Be more diligent in maintaining and creating them.  This is a challenge as an introvert, but it’s one that I need to overcome…particularly if I want to keep friends and make new ones.

20. Have I been unfair to anyone?

I hope not (LOL!).  I’ve probably been most guilty of being unfair in not extending the same grace to others that I would want extended to me.

21. Who do I need to forgive?

There are a few people who really hurt me over the past few years, and while it doesn’t hurt anymore; there are times where I find myself angry or frustrated about the way things panned out, especially after doing what I could to reconcile the situation. I need to be better about taking any negative thoughts captive and committing my mind to complete forgiveness.

22. Where is it time to let go?

Overworking/being a workaholic.  I need to place better energy on being productive while at work, and not always allowing things to carry over into home life. My first responsibility is to be the wife and steppie that God has called me to be.

23. What old habits would I like to release?

Being mean to myself/being too hard on myself. Grace, not perfection.

24. What new habits would I like to cultivate?

Consistency in reading: The Bible, devotionals, and other books to promote learning and growth

25. How can I be kind to myself?

As mentioned above, I think Emily Ley’s motto sums it up perfectly: “I will hold myself to a standard of GRACE not PERFECTION”


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Lessons from My 5K

This weekend, I ran my first 5k.  With Preacherman accompanying me the entire time, I ran (the whole time!) and finished right at my goal time!  It was tough, but it was good.

Now, in my former life, I was a runner.  Let me correct that- I was a SPRINTER.  I say that because there is a difference between being a sprinter and being a distance runner.  Preacherman, in his younger days, was a cross country champion.  He started “training” for the 5k about 3-4 weeks before the race.  I started training about 6-8 weeks before the race.  I knew that while I had running experience, it wasn’t going to be enough to get me across the finish line so I was determined to prepare accordingly.

Despite my desire to prepare accordingly, I wasn’t able to complete my running plan due to some changes in our schedule.  As a result, I came into the race on Saturday having not run (at all) since the previous Monday. I ran the first half of the race pretty easily- and felt great.  After that, I began to struggle, probably feeling my lowest between 2 and 2.5 miles.  Through it all, Preacherman was super encouraging, and never left me behind.  Though there were points where I was able to push myself, I really struggled.

As we approached the end of the race, I felt myself being able to provide a burst of energy to finish (and meet my goal time).  I finished, almost  in a full-out sprint, and was overjoyed.  One of my bucket list items was complete and I had pushed myself beyond what I believed I could do.  This experience was great physically, but also mentally.  Here’s some things that I learned from my 5K:

  1. It’s not enough to train for the race.  You have to train for the course.
  2. You need to have people on your team who’ve been where you been to encourage you for where you’re going.
  3. While it’s great to finish strong, you should train in such a way that you can be strong for the duration of the race, not just the end. 

 

Lesson 1: It’s not enough to train for the race.  You have to train for the course.

I did ALL of my training for the 5k in the gym, on the treadmill.  For about 6-8 weeks, about 3 times  a week, I hit the gym and followed my training plan.  While I did increase the speed as I was training, never once did I increase the incline.  When it came time to run the race, my body was shocked at the number of hills we were climbing.  Had I prepared for the course, instead of just preparing for the race, I would have been better equipped and could have possibly finished faster than I did.

Lesson 2: You need to have people on your team who’ve been where you’ve been to encourage you for where you’re going.

As I mentioned, Preacherman is a former cross country runner.  He ran the race with ease and confidence.  His support was integral to my finishing the race and meeting my goal.  Since he has run many 5Ks over the course of his life, he was able to effectively encourage me for the race.  If we had run separately, I probably would have finished 10 minutes slower than I did.  With his encouragement, I was able to run the race marked out for me with perseverance.

Lesson 3: While it’s great to finish strong, you should train in such a way that you can be strong for the duration of the race, not just the end. 

On the way home after the 5k, Preacherman told me how proud he was of me for my strong finish.  But then he said, “You know, if you were able to finish strong, you probably could have done more the entire time.”  I was initially shocked, but I realized that he was right.  With better, more consistent training, I would have been able to not only have more endurance, but more speed.  While I am proud of my strong finish, my goal for the next 5k (and there will be more) is to run a stronger race for the duration of the race.  I need to work on my timing and my pacing.

I’ve been mulling over these lessons for the past few days, striving to apply them not just to my running, but to my life.  In the race of life, I want to be prepared for the race and (as much as possible) the course.  I want to build a team of mentors who can encourage me as I strive to get to the next level.  I want to run a strong race with endurance to the end.  And at the end, I want to get the prize.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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Choosing to Be Healed

I’ve been fortunate to not have to deal with allergies.  When the spring comes and people are struggling to breathe, and are suffering through itchy eyes, I’m usually just annoyed by the way pollen desires to make itself known on my car.  However, over the past few years, I started to have sinus problems; having my first sinus infection in 2009, and some other ones since then.

On Monday, I woke up feeling kinda blah, and I attributed it to the change in weather.  I forced myself to go to the gym, and while there, I could feel my sinuses starting to bother me.  I pressed through my workout, and while I was on my way home, I was praying to the Lord to allow me to feel better, and asking Him to show me things that I could do so that my sinuses wouldn’t bother me anymore.  And then I heard this:

“Do you want to feel better or do you want to be healed?”

After thinking about it, and processing what I heard, I realized that what I really wanted was to be healed.  I want to be free from the issue altogether, and never have to worry about having to deal with it again.

I came to this conclusion after some thought, but I also began to think of how often I have chosen just to “feel better” instead of “be healed”.  It’s so easy to choose options that treat the symptoms but don’t cure the ailment.  While a treatment is good (and praise the Lord for treatments), what I want is to be healed.

Our society has become so medicated, and so into wanting a “quick fix” that we will often choose feeling better over being healed.  The truth is that being healed requires work.  And often times, we’d rather take the pill for the next 5 years instead of putting in the work over the next 5 months to be healed.  I’m determined to NOT live my life that way.  While the “quick fix” can temporarily make me feel better, I pray for the strength to always choose to be healed; despite the work that it may require.

I encourage you to choose to be healed over just feeling better.  Be willing to do the work that is required and press for your healing, instead of settling for a quick fix.  You’re worth it.

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!