All posts by Erin

The August Song

I love this time of year; perhaps you do too.  Many, many years ago I filled composition books with poetry; I distinctly remember standing on our back deck gazing at the moon as only a 16 year old girl can, then somberly penning the lines of a poem that eventually won the Rockford Women’s Club poetry award.  Soon after that I stopped writing poetry.  I suffered the fate of so many young artists…I took a class that included a poetry section and realized I wasn’t doing it right.  So I quit.

 

Until a few weeks ago.

 

These lines came to me on a walk.  They welled up and bounced around and wrote themselves.  They stuck, and I wrote them down when I got home.  A few weeks later, I shared them with my husband, who said, “That is wonderful.”  With his encouragement, I now share them with you.

 

Perhaps I will write more poetry, perhaps not.  I do know that it doesn’t matter if what you do matches up with what others have done or with what a textbook says is the “right” way to do it.  Art is about finding the cosmos in the chaos, the order in the disorder, the beauty in the grief.  Author Madeleine L’Engle believes the purpose of art to to take us towards wholeness.  “In art, either as creators or as participators, we are helped to remember some of the glorious things we have forgotten, and some of the terrible things we are asked to endure, we who are children of God by adoption and grace.”  I agree.

To all those who love this time of year, or perhaps did but you have forgotten, I give you The August Song.  Open your widows and doors and enjoy!  (click image to enlarge)

 

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Frame-worthy copies of The August Song (layout and design by my talented husband Aaron of Camby Designs www.cambydesigns.com) are available for purchase on my website here.

The Bus Terminal

Ever have seasons of slow?  Of in-between?  Times when you know you are waiting, but you aren’t even sure what for?

If my life could be compared to a journey by bus, the past months would look like this:

Me, at the terminal.  Buses coming and going.  I approach a bus.  “Am I supposed to be on this bus?  Is this my bus?”  “No?”

Okay then.  More waiting.

There are other buses that seem to be headed to great destinations, but the cost is greater than what I am able or permitted to pay.  Not that price, not now, maybe not ever.

Those buses can be hard to walk away from…it is hard not to try to make things happen.

“God, is this one of those times when You take me up on my ‘I will follow You anywhere’ prayers?  Okay, let’s get on the most broken-down-nasty-headed-nowhere bus in this place.”

“What?  Grow up and stop being a fake martyr?  Whew.  I was hoping You’d say that!”

So here I am, sitting in the terminal.  Watching buses come and go; watching other people embark and disembark, and trying not to be mean to them.

Feeling left out or left behind has a way of bringing out the nasty in us, or at least it can in me.

I guess it is starting to sink in that what you do in the terminal is as important as what bus you eventually get on.  In fact, terminal behavior seems to actually have something to do with what bus eventually becomes your ride.

My terminal behavior varies from fit throwing, spells of depression, times of joy and peace, loving and serving my fellow travelers, growing things like patience, grace and wisdom, and quietly listening for direction.  I am finding that the more I do the latter, the more I am the middle few and the less I do of the first two.

God is speaking, and we can hear Him, even in the bus terminals of life.

Perhaps you are in a season of slow as well.  Or a season of chaos, but not direction.  Or a time of “What next?”  Or even “Now what?”  Try some quiet listening.  Ask God to speak to you, to direct you, to fill you with truth.  He is not silent, we just so often aren’t listening.  Not really listening.

Ironically enough, while I have been working on my practice of listening, an opportunity came for me to donate 500 Hark books to the Leading and Loving it retreat that happened this past week in Las Vegas.  The story of Hark is all about listening for God’s messages (that is the ironic part) and, less ironic but equally pertinent, we don’t have the finances to do wild and crazy and generous and daring things like this.

Ok, so maybe there is some irony in that as well.

Because waiting to have “enough” resources to be generous, well, just results in more waiting, and more waiting, and more waiting…because human nature, at least my human nature, is to need just a little more to feel secure.  A little more money, a little more practice, a little more talent, a little more time, a little more support, a little more certainty.  Those buses just don’t come in.  I don’t want to spend forever in the terminal!  I want to be flexible enough to take the faith-opportunities God sends my way!

So we packed up the books and put them on the truck and wished them well.  It was actually a super awesome moment, after all, seed can’t bear fruit unless it is sown.  The story in Hark can’t be read and told and thought about and discussed if it is in boxes of books in my basement.  Now, this is not an open door for everyone to ask me for a free book!  That isn’t the point.  The point is, are we all willing to generously and vulnerably give and share?

Yeah, it is hard for me too.  I have one million reasons not to also.  But with God’s help we did it.  And you know what?  No matter what else happens, it is pretty great just to know that God sent a bus to my terminal and I did the right thing by putting the books on it.  There is peace and joy and love in that.  What wild and daring and scary and generous thing is God asking you to do?

Do it.

Here’s how:

Don’t rely only on yourself.

This quote says it well:

“When we are powerless to do a thing, it is a great joy that we can come and step inside the ability of Jesus.”  – Corrie ten Boom

Humble yourself, open up your heart and entire being to Him, and you will find yourself in His ability, doing what you thought you could not do.

We must stop with all the “I cant’s”.

If we don’t have a heart to heart until after the holiday, Happy Thanksgiving.  Make a few minutes of quiet.  Give thanks and then simply be.  Listen.  Hear.  Absorb.  Then step out!

Oh!  Check out the new Hark Resources section and the Free Stuff section on the website.  It is always a good time for free stuff.  Enjoy!



Fraidy Cats

cats

I am not usually one for cat pictures (nothing against cats), but despite their sometimes cold reputation, cats are very demonstrative when it comes to fear responses. They do what I feel.

I’ve been thinking about fear a lot lately.

I recently had surgery on my foot. Scary.

My son is walking…and falling…a lot. Sometimes he cries because it hurts, but sometimes he cries because falling is scary.

There is so much fear in the news lately. We shoot each other, because we are afraid.

In fact, I have come to believe that most of the bad behavior in our lives is fear-related.

We lie because we are afraid to tell the truth and face the consequences.

We bully others because we are afraid of being bullied ourselves.

We rebel against our authorities because we are afraid they don’t really care about us.

We have fear problems because we have a massive trust problem. The perfect love of God casts out fear…but we don’t trust Him. I know we don’t trust Him because:

God says we can trust Him to take care of us…and yet we worry so much.

God says we can trust Him to forgive us…and yet we hide our sins and hold onto shame.

God says we can trust Him for true love…and yet we hook up because we are afraid no one will ever love us.

God says we can trust Him to direct our lives…and yet we want to be in control.

God says we can trust Him to bless our money…and yet we don’t give because we are afraid our needs won’t be met.

God says we can trust His wisdom and trust the boundaries He set up for our lives are for our good…but we want to live our own way.

We feel fear, we don’t trust God, and we sin.

What a mess.

It reminds me of a story, recorded in the book of Mark.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:35-40 ESV)

I see myself in the disciples response to the scary storm –

“GOD, don’t You love me??? Don’t you care that I feel like I am dying here?”

Because we somehow have come to believe that Him loving us would mean that we don’t go through scary times. I believe that humanity has, by and large, become really bad at dealing with fear. Our response is to avoid it at all costs, and if avoidance isn’t possible we numb it out. Feeling fear and living through it just isn’t seen as an option by many.

This apparently isn’t a new human condition, as we see the disciples acting the very same way. “God, if You loved us You would make sure that we never had to go through anything scary. We don’t want to feel afraid, not ever. So if You really loved us, You would ensure a gentle ride through life.”

The truth is that we can trust in His love for us. He does love us, but what that actually means that we can have peace in scary times.  Scary times are still going to happen. Perfect love casts out fear, not hard times.  It is crucial that we come to understand this truth, because if we don’t then we are often going to be very scared, very mad at God, and very much wrapped up in whatever bad behavior (sin) we get into when we are running from fear.

So basically, it all comes down to trust. When we trust God’s perfect love, fear is cast out and sins are overcome. When we don’t trust God’s perfect love, fear floods in and sin explodes in our life.

If you are like me, you have a trust issue. I have grown in my trust for God over the years, but I still have much growing yet to do before my connection to perfect love is complete and fear is not a factor in my life. My trust has grown as my knowledge of Him has grown. The more scripture I absorb, the more I bare my soul and listen quietly for His response, the more I put myself in the stories of the Bible and see HIs character revealed, the more I practice gratitude, the more I offer thanks, the more I feed my soul truth from taking in good teaching, the more I step out in trust (no matter what the fraidy cat inside of me wants to do), the more His perfect love is made evident to me and fear subsides.

Join me in the journey? What are your thoughts about fear?



Truth Rises

buey

I know it has been a while since I last blogged. Summer! We have had a wonderful several weeks filled with family, road trips, Jack’s first trip to the zoo, and a beautiful wedding weekend (Jack was a very handsome ring bearer).

In the middle of all these wonderful things, I felt that I needed to post these words.

A few weeks ago, a friend called. She was struggling with depression and anxiety and needed prayer. As I prayed for her, these words began to flow.

I share these today for everyone who has ever felt the drowning of depression or the beating and pressure of wild fear.

I share these words today for everyone who has ever loved someone who struggles with depression and anxiety.

I share these words today to share hope – truth rises! As we tuck God’s truth into our hearts and minds, it will tug us to the surface where we can breathe. The most important thing you can do today is read God’s Word and take in truth. We all need it!

Truth Rises

Alone on the bottom of the sea

Cold

Darkness

Crushing

Aching to just take a breath and end it all

Then, tugging

Tugging within the heart, the mind, the spirit

Like buoys, tugging to rise to the surface of the deep

Truth

Truth is tugging at my heart, my mind, my spirit

I am not alone.

I am not on my own.

He has said over me –

I will never leave you nor forsake you.

I have loved you with an everlasting love.

I will be with you always.

My grace is sufficient for you.

So I say –

Keep in mind Christ, and Him risen from the grave.

Do not rejoice over me, the Lord will be my light.

Perfect love casts out fear.

Truth rises

Pulling, tugging me loose from the mud

Rising through the darkness

Passing through despair

Floating up through the heaviness

Breaking the surface

Truth rises

Soft, warm, calm light

Stars

Still waters

Gentle breeze

Breathing begins again

Rescued

Now I can hear You

Speak to me.  Speak hope and life and love.  Speak safety and comfort and peace. Speak rest and strength and joy.

Speak, Lord.  I am listening.



My First Mother’s Day

Jack is asleep. I am sitting at my computer…and words are few. I have only two:

Grateful.

Humble.

Grateful to God for His strong, and yet gentle, love for me every moment of every day of this journey. His care for me wasn’t always evident in the physical circumstance, but it was always present when I turned to Him for comfort along the way.

Humbled by the trust He demonstrated for Aaron & I when He brought Jack into our family.

Humility seems to be where it is at for me this past year, in a very good way. The more I embrace humility, the weaker the hold of perfectionism becomes on my life.

The more I embrace humility, the deeper my thankfulness becomes, and therefore the stronger my joy becomes!

The more I embrace humility, the more I am able to truly lean on God for guidance, wisdom, strength and creativity for life.

The more I embrace humility, the more at peace I am.

I will not be the perfect mother, or wife, or Christian. (I don’t really believe such a thing exists…they are specters created by control issues and fear.)

I will humbly accept God’s perfect love in my life, which casts out fear and floods me with gratitude and zest for life.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone out there who nurtures and loves others – Motherhood is more than giving physical birth, it is humbly loving and caring for others. Let yourself off the hook of perfectionism. Let the others in your life off the hook too! Humility is the opening that allows us to deeply accept God’s love, and then to turn around and generously give that same love away to others.

Jack just woke up; I am going to go and love on my boy.


Defining Me (& You)

I am…

…wife

…mother

…Christ-follower

…writer

…storyteller

…truth speaker

…pushing-the-lines joke teller

…animal lover

…get-it-done task-doer

…chit-chatter

…fighter

…thinker

…creator

…say-too-mucher

…hard-header

…don’t think before I speaker (this is a real problem, so I had to put it down twice)

…high-standard of excellence holder

…criticizer

…weight-struggler

…health-conscious choice maker

…daydreamer

What defines me?  Who or what am I?  This list could go on and on.  It is filled with some important roles, some positive qualities, and some not-so-positive qualities.

A few days ago, I was with a group of students that I have the privilege to talk about the Bible with once a week (check out www.focusone.com).  Currently, we are reading the four Gospels and discussing the Life of Christ, and in our overview of the Book of John it came up that he refers to himself as “the disciple that Jesus loved.”

Seems kinda arrogant.

I opened my mouth to comment, and something I had never thought of, much less ever taught before, came out of my mouth.

“Think about it.  Of all the things John could have defined himself as, he choose to define himself simply as the one that Jesus loved.  In response to the deepest questions of humankind, ‘Who am I? What am I? Why am I?’ John answered, I am the follower that Jesus loved.”

What a beautiful, powerful and profound answer to the defining questions of life.  “I am the one that Jesus loves.”  And so are you.  We are each the ones that are deeply, sweetly, perfectly, and strongly loved.  We are all the ones that are cherished and held by the transformational Ever & Always love of God.

Life has many demands.  We are each called on to fill many roles.  There will always be judgers.  We will each be tempted to define ourselves by what we do, our strengths and weaknesses, our place in this world.  In the midst of all that, I vote we stop and learn a little something from John.

The most important thing about each one of us (yes, even the co-worker that drives you nuts) is that we are all the ones that Jesus loves.

The next time life demands a definition, let’s all say:  “I am the one, he is the one, she is the one, the one that Jesus loves.”

PS. If you want to know more about this Ever & Always love of God, one place to start your journey is at the Original Conference.  Join us on April 10-12 (next week!) at Rockford First.  Register at www.originalconference.com  See you there!


A True Story

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This took place last year at the Original Conference. I promise it is all true.

It was the final session of the conference. The last Original Gives give-a-way was scheduled for this session; Jen was presenting the Guth family with an all-expense paid family vacation where they could relax and reconnect after mom Judy’s recent battle with cancer. The worship team, the ballerinas, and I were following the service backstage, clapping for the Guth’s and watching for our cues. Before Jen led in prayer for Judy, she asked anyone who also needed healing to raise their hands.

In 2001 I lost my left ovary and fallopian tube to what turned out to be stage 4 (most severe) endometriosis. At this same time it was discovered that my right ovary was also compromised.

Long story short, after years of infertility treatments, several surgeries, and top medical care, here I was standing behind the big black curtain childless and in pain. The scar tissue from the endometriosis and all the surgeries had combined to form a painful tangle that connected my colon, pelvis, ovary and uterus on my right side. It hurt. My body wanted to curl up around all that scar tissue and just lay still.

I cannot count the number of times I have raised my hand, come forward, prayed with friends and family, and personally sought the Lord for healing, with no tangible result. But I long ago decided to never close the door to healing because of disappointment. Just because it isn’t happening on my timeline or in the way I imagined it, doesn’t mean God isn’t able or doesn’t care about me. So one more time, I raised my hand.

The ballerinas, who are also some of my dearest friends and students, surrounded me. They knew what we were praying for. I didn’t have to say a word.

As Jen prayed a simple, passionate, heart-felt and faith-filled prayer (not unlike many other prayers that have been prayed), the scar tissue inside of me dissolved. It was just…gone. No fireworks, no goosebumps, no feeling of warmth from head to toe…just no more ropes knotting up my insides.

My eyes must have been miles wide. The girls knew. I began to stretch in ways I could not before. I walked around in a daze for several days. Honestly, I was waiting on the pain to return.

It didn’t.

But something else very eye-opening did happen.

My abs burned. My hip ached. My leg throbbed. The muscles on my entire right side had been twisted for so long that as my spin and pelvis settled into proper alignment, it hurt. I had also been favoring my right side, so my muscles were weak. Now that I was free of the plaguing scar tissue, I had some work to do. I had to strengthen my abs, hip, back, and leg.

And this got me thinking…When Jesus healed the blind, the lame, the crippled and the leaper…what happened next? People who had never built up muscle strength because they had never been able to walk had to then strengthen their legs. People who had never been able to work before because of their affliction had to go and get a job!

These individuals were now whole, and therefore able to wholly participate in life. Which means working (and a lot of other great things), all of which they had never done before. I bet it was a bumpy road for some of them. I know it took me by surprise that being healed would remove one kind of pain, and reveal another. Now that the endometrial tissue was gone, I could see the affect it had on my body, and I had to go to work to strengthen my muscles.

Why did God do it like this? Why dissolve the scar tissue and not stretch out and strengthen the muscles, tendons, and ligaments too?

I think it is because the moment of healing is only one part of the story. The whole story includes life after the miracle. The part where we respond to the miracle with gratitude, thanksgiving, and getting to work! God didn’t heal me so that I could curl up and lay around!

He healed me so that I could become stronger.

When God does something amazing in your life, you need to respond with gratitude and follow-through!

Two months after this miracle moment we received word that a young couple had selected us to be the adoptive parents of their child. Our son Jack was born on July 9 of this past summer. He is now seven months old, and I am beyond grateful that I am now strong enough to hold him, snuggle him, play with him, keep up with him, and love him.

I promise that this is a true story, every word. I am so glad I raised my hand for prayer, one more time. I am so glad I trusted God to be good. I am so glad that you took the time to read this story. I pray that it encourages you to be patient and to trust God. He has good, and only good, for each and every one of us. Keep raising your hand. God has not forgotten you. He has not abandoned you. He is not overwhelmed by your troubles. You just aren’t to the next chapter of your story yet. Let’s all just keep turning the pages together!

P.S. Go to www.originalconference.com to register for Original 2014, which is April 10-12! Girls, get here. Great things happen! Guys, help a girl you love get here! Great things happen!


Somebody’s Watching Me

No matter who you are, someone is watching. Someone is looking to you for leadership, permission, or approval. As I was putting Jack down for his nap yesterday, I found myself praying this right out loud –

God –

May I have faith, showing that You are faithful.

May I be content, showing that You are satisfying.

May I have joy, showing that You are good.

May I have peace, showing that You are a perfect provider.

May I have courage, showing that You are strong.

May I have love, showing that You first loved me.

May I be grateful, showing that You are generous.

May I be merciful, showing Your mercy.

May I be enduring, showing Your steadfastness.

May I be kind, showing Your gentleness.

May I be bold, showing Your power.

May I be humble and willing to apologize, showing that You are Lord.

My little one is watching, and I want him to see You in me.

Jack is watching me, and what I want him to see is God – the One True God. I know there is no way that I will present a perfect picture of God to him, to my spouse, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and those I briefly engage in the comings and goings of life. However, the Bible does say that we are to let our light shine so that others will see and glorify God (Matthew 5:16) and that no one has ever seen God, but that if we love one another, His love is brought to full expression in us, and that expression of God in us is what draws others to Him (I John 4:12).

I cannot be perfect. You cannot be perfect. But we can daily open our lives up more and more to God, asking Him and allowing Him to fill us with Himself. Less of me, more of You, until we are as Paul so wonderfully puts it it in Ephesians – wholly filled and flooded with God Himself (Ephesians 3:19).

So today, I again bowed my head and opened my heart to God – fill me today, Lord. Flood me with all that You are. I will decrease, that You may increase, because the world is watching and they are looking for You.


Jack is heavy

Most of us are always carrying something–a backpack, a huge purse, armloads of laundry, the order for table #12, a jumble of items from Target because you didn’t want to grab a cart…

…these days I am also carrying Jack.

Who is getting heavy.

So heavy that I strained a muscle in my left shoulder (in his defense, this is also the shoulder I injured years ago in a biking accident).

As I was applying heat to my aching muscle one night after Jack was asleep, this passage came to mind:

Isaiah 46:1-9

New International Version (NIV/MSG)

 1-2 The god Bel falls down, god Nebo slumps. The no-god hunks of wood are loaded on mules and have to be hauled off, wearing out the poor mules—Dead weight, burdens who can’t bear burdens, hauled off to captivity. (MSG)  3 “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth.  4 Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.  (NIV)  5-7  “So to whom will you compare me, the Incomparable? Can you picture me without reducing me?  People with a lot of money hire craftsmen to make them gods.  The artisan delivers the god, and they kneel and worship it!  They carry it around in holy parades, then take it home and put it on a shelf.  And there it sits, day in and day out, a dependable god, always right where you put it.  Say anything you want to it, it never talks back.  Of course, it never does anything either!  (MSG)  8 “Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels.  9 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

What a word picture.

The One true God carries us.  Any other “god” in our lives, anything else we are looking to for fulfillment, we have to carry.

So the question is:  Carry, or be carried?

Logically, I choose be carried–all day, every day.  Practically, I have to admit that I often squirm off God’s shoulders and try to give it a go on my own…and I end up weighed down by things I pick up along the way.  I pick up pride, selfishness, control, material comforts.  I arrogantly rely on my own intelligence, strength and talents.  I foolishly lose sight of these truths:  Nothing else is worth worshipping.  Nothing else is God.  Everything else is just heavy stuff that quickly becomes a burden.  Nothing else loves me.  Nothing else forgives me.  Nothing else satisfies my soul.

So today, I stop and look up.  I stop and reach up.  I let go of all that I am carrying, and ask God to carry me.  I choose to not rush ahead.  I choose to let Him set the pace.

“The Eternal’s beloved rests safely next to Him, protected all through the day, resting between His shoulders.”  Deuteronomy 33:12 (The Voice)


A Boat-Load of Courage

You were not given gifts and talents to impress yourself with.  You were not given them to just share with the people who seek you out and think you are awesome.  You were given the gifts, talents, abilities and loves that you have in order to add something to the whole world.  You must find your place and your way to share.

In order to do that, you are going to need a boat-load of courage.

The courage to give has to come from a love for the people you are giving it to, no matter what.

The courage to share and give and create cannot come from just loving what you are sharing or giving or creating. Ultimately, that is a self-serving kind of love.  And selfish love has limits.  It is fragile.  It doesn’t have long-haul endurance.  It can be tainted.  It cannot provide the backbone, patience, tenacity, will, fearlessness, fortitude, pluck and daring that stepping out to offer to others the gifts that God has given you will require.

When love is your courage factory, then you have a great answer for the doubts and negativity that will arise.

“You are going to share THAT?”    Yes, because someone might be blessed.

“You are nobody.”  So what?  This isn’t about me anyway.

“No one cares about what you have to give.”  I am responsible to share what God has given me.  Love does not horde.

“So, you think you are something now.”  No, love is something!  And love is why I am stepping out to share.

“I don’t like your _________.”  That is o.k. I will courageously keep going because love keeps no record of wrongs.  Love can endure some haters.

“This is a crazy idea.”  Good!  Love does some crazy big things!

If you have allowed the fear of man, fear of judgement, fear that what you have to share or give or do isn’t good enough or isn’t important, then read the following words like one hundred times until they sink into your heart:

Do not withhold the gifts, talents and abilities God knit into you when He formed you.  He gave you ideas to contribute, art and music to create, stories to tell, things to build and bake and share, wisdom to impart, and encouragement to pour out into those who need it.  Find the courage to do all of this creating and building and contributing and imparting in love.  Love for the people who will receive.  It isn’t about you, or the greatness of your gift.  It is about believing in the value and the worth of the people in this world who will miss out on your piece of the goodness and wonder and creativity of God if you hold back.

Don’t hold back.