Friday, November 10, 2017

Fruitful Friday: Week 1

One of the sweet spots in 2016 was counting the fruit each night with my boys. As I leaned into asking God what gives with 2017, He reminded me of the joy we had in counting the fruit in the meaningful mundane. So, in the spirit of reclaiming joy in this season I'm going to start sharing fruit from the week.

My 2018 Powersheets and Simplified Planner are both here! Usually I wrap these up and tuck them under the Christmas tree counting them as gifts from Brandon, but this year I plan to get them messy well before 2018 arrives and I'm not sad about it!

My Dad is stateside and made a short but sweet appearance this week. 

Jackson has a belt test tonight for his orange/black-stripe belt. I love watching him grow in his skills and enjoyment at karate. 

One of the toughest transitions in our new home has been no workshop (garage) leaving no home for our many, many tools. That all changed this week when our new workshop was delivered! Think shed but residential looking. Brandon has worked diligently this week to make the shed look at home in our backyard and I'm so thankful. I cannot wait for him to get back in the rhythm of taking on projects and the joy it brings to him. 

I actually wrote! One of the things I intended to do more of this year was writing for myself. Honestly? I hadn't gotten around to this out of fear. Writing has always brought me joy but it's often the first thing to go when life gets chaotic. No more! Reclaiming joy in this season means writing for myself again.

God gifted me with discernment on my year of well. This is the best fruit of the whole week if not the month, if not the year! Praying for continued revelation as I behold His faithfulness. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Hurried Hearts and Reclaiming Joy

My heart feels hurried. I wish I could claim it was just a season, but if we're being honest with one another this has been a forever kind of hurry. Perhaps you know this hurried feeling.

The hurried heart weighs on our spirit.

The hurried heart is robbed of joy in the ordinary every day.

The hurried heart misses the opportunity to see the glory of God in the mess of the mundane.

I'm no stranger to the hurried heart.

Here's the Word God's speaking over my hurried heart this week:

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Luke 8:15

We stand at a crossroad every morning to decide what kind of Sower will we be.

Will we move out hastily allowing our seed to fall along the path being swooped up by the enemy? Will we grab the seed only in our need and want never allowing it to take root? Will we allow it to fall among the thorns being choked up and suffocated? Or will we intentionally see that our seeds are sown in good soil.

It's time we take back what the enemy has stolen, and reclaim the joy of sowing seeds in good soil.

It's a process, though, to be Sowers of seeds in good soil. There's a cultivating that takes place in the little by little tending of our hearts. It takes slowing down and settling into what He has for us.

Here's what I know: we've got to be intentional to ask His seed to fall on good soil in our life and to receive it well. Are we confident enough to ask that? Are we courageous enough to ask the Lord to bless us with a harvest yielding a hundredfold? 

Here's the crossroad of my season: To pray for harvest in a season of grief, loss and illness requires more faith. Seasons of praying for ongoing harvest is easier. It just is. But God uses our seasons of suffering to grow our dependence on Him. In my suffering He is sending seeds (His Word) deeper into the soil of my soul shooting out roots that can withstand the harsh winds of hard seasons.

Coming out of the harvest of 2016 into the sowing, suffering season of 2017 has been tough on my heart and tested my ability to persevere. Meanwhile God has begun to whisper a message He sowed into my Spirit years ago: get back to wholehearted joy even in this hard season. 

Did you know the olive trees in the Holy Land need both the harsh East wind and the refreshing West wind in order to be fruitful? Similarly, it takes both the gentleness of the West wind and the harshness of the East winds for us to flourish in the way He intended. It takes both calm and chaotic seasons for us to bear fruit. We cannot have the hundredfold harvest without the suffering. 

So, I'm digging in. I'm seeking His wisdom and revelation on this year of well (my word of the year). I'm counting the fruit of 2017, as meager as it may feel at first blush. Most importantly, I'm rejoicing that His seeds on good soil produce a persevering crop despite harsh winds. 

Here's to a God who hushes hurried hearts, reclaiming our joy and seeds in good soil.

Around October each year God begins to prick at my heart lessons from my Word of the year. Most years this discernment is an overflow of the harvest. In this year hard stuff, God is calling me deeper to hear His still, small voice. He has me leaning in, looking to a past season where I wrote out my wholehearted joy and unpacking how it parallels to this hard year.

Here's what I'm asking myself and how you can join me in reflecting on your year: What has He been teaching you through the seasons of 2017? How has He blessed you? What revelation has God meant for your year, for your growth as a believer?

Start a conversation with God about your year now. Don't wait until December winds down to begin reflecting on your year; He wants to grant us discernment and that takes time for us, friends.

Beth Moore said in a study, "the soil of every season is fertile ground." Let's believe that with her as we go deeper still with Him.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Rounding Out My Twenties

As I close out this decade of my life, it's been a joy to reflect on some of the big moments that shaped these years and everything in between. This decade has been such a sweet and hard journey. God has grown and transformed me in unimaginable ways. Each moment, good and bad, of the last ten years have been covered by His grace.

So here we go. In my last 10 years...

I got married to my best friend 2008. What a gift this has been. Our story isn't like most and we hit a hard season early on. Looking back God gets the glory for how He used that hard season to lay a firm foundation for the future of our relationship.

Graduated from college with a journalism degree 2009.

Added Baxter to the fam in Fall 2009.

Moved to my hometown in 2010 after finding out our family of two was growing by one.

Became a mom, March 23, 2011. Hands down one of the best days of my life - definitely of my twenties.

Bought our first home September 23, 2011. Our little home at 510 is where we'd reside until July 2017 when God made a way for us to move into a bigger place and new school zone.

Started my first post-grad job when we moved to Columbia. This job was for a season and prepared my heart for the job God had waiting. March 26, 2012 I began at La Firm B. Much of who I am has been wrung out and built up through this job. This month I'm staring down the last few weeks with one of my bossmen. Embracing the change that's ahead!

We travelled. Not as much as teenage Erin would've wanted, but still enough to get in some good memories.

To Cancun for our honeymoon.

To Vegas for an almost done with college getaway.

To Middle Tennessee more than anywhere else to see our fam. Photo above from Christmas at Opryland December 2016.

To Edisto for family beach trips.

To Disney World -twice! 2009 for Mom's birthday and 2016 for Jackson's 5th Birthday.

To D.C a few times - to celebrate Jimmy's life and ceremony at Arlington and for two inaugural balls.

To Chicago for BlogHer 2013.

To Orlando for Chi Omega's National Convention in Summer of 2014.

To Asheville for anniversary trips.

To Pawley's Island for Girl's Beach Week.

To NYC for a belated anniversary and early 30th birthday celebration.

I dedicated my life to Christ August 24, 2014. Every milestone memory above and every mundane moment in between are all the hand of God in the last ten years of my life. Even when I ran from Him in my early twenties, He pursued me. He drew me back to Himself moment by moment, day by day, year by year over the last decade.

We've celebrated birthdays. We've mourned the loss of a dear friend (Jimmy) and of some of our beloved grandparents (MeeMaw and Doc). We've laughed and cried. We've argued and made up. We've made the most of what we had and tried our best to steward it well.

What a joy the last decade has been. God has gently revealed to me who I am in Him. He's broken strongholds and pulled away chains that hindered me for so many years. He's literally taken me from darkness to light. And I know He's not done with me yet.

Here's to the next decade. May it be abundant in God's refining grace, hope and joy.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Letters to Lilly: Mother's Day 2017

It has been nine months since the Spirit moved in my soul and burdened me with the knowledge of you. It is a morning I will not soon forget. A closeness with our Heavenly Father like I've never experienced. And there in the midst of the morning commute with your brother, He spoke almost audibly: you have a child in China, go and get her.

And so sweet girl, since that day we started a story of surrender to this calling.

This Mother's Day morning, I thought I'd get that story down in writing for you and for me and for our family to remember the faithfulness of our God. Because, baby girl, He has already shown his sovereignty over our story in this short time and I think it deserves to be noted.

Any story of surrender begins with fervent prayer. I hope you'll come to know that same process one day. Before obedience comes time on your knees communing with your Father. And so we prayed. And your dad and I talked. Alot. About this burden God gave me. Over time, as I prayed, and I rallied a few dear prayer warriors I saw your dad's heart soften and he came to this conclusion: if you believe this is the calling for our family then I'm all in.

Do not think this was a quick "all in" process. Five months of prayer. Five months of asking God if I heard Him right. Five months of saying "God we think we heard you, but here on earth it doesn't make sense." And it didn't. But when your dad told me he was all in then we couldn't say no to God. All we could do was surrender.

Here's what surrender looked like: Telling the God of the universe that we would come for you. That we would do on the earthly level what was needed of us. But we're not fools. We handed over the earthly impossible and told God He'd have to work out the impossible in the heavenly realm.

Here's one thing you will learn about God, Lilly: nothing is impossible with Him if it is within His desire and will for you.

Tears are flowing now because I need that truth in this process of obedience and seeking you, sweet girl. Last night, for the first time in this process, I doubted God. I faltered for a second and so I need that reminder as much as I pray you'll one day learn it.

I overlooked a qualification for parents in the adoption application. I missed it completely. Yet another earthly requirement placed by the Chinese government that your dad and I don't meet right now. And I was devastated.

As I sat on the couch sobbing at this realization, I saw your dad out of the corner of my eye scrolling his phone. A few minutes later he spoke up telling me all the ways we could make this happen and then all the ways He knew God could make it happen if we really heard this calling correctly. And he was right.

God's past faithfulness equips us to trust Him in future providence. 

We had no clarity on this calling. But in five months God pressed on our hearts and softened our steps with surrender through discernment and revelation.

We had no home with space - no place to bring you into. But in three months after we told God we're all in, He provided a home with space. 

We had no excess finances to begin saving for initial adoption fees. But in four months after we told God we're all in, He provided additional finances allowing us to save.

We had no hope when we learned our net worth had to be a certain amount. And so now, we look to God's past faithfulness and trust He will work this out for our good and His glory just as He has already done the impossible in just nine months. 

So on this first Mother's Day knowing I have a child half way across the world I hit my knees and trust God is working in our story. Lilly, you are loved. You are prayed for. And we are coming for you in God's perfect timing. Just hang in there.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Good Reads: Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen

In the last year, I've challenged myself to make margin to read good words. I've always made the excuse there's no time to read, but friends when we get intentional with our days there's plenty of time to commit to reading books.

Here are two guidelines I have for choosing books:
1. The topic must be one which presses into my current season.
2. The author should be someone who compels me better myself/life in some way.

Simple but intentional. Choose guidelines that fit your season and make margin for good words!

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to be apart of Jennie Allen's launch team for her Nothing to Prove book. I read Jennie's book, Anything, in the Summer of 2016 and it shifted my heart. So adding this book to my 2017 book list was an easy decision!

As I make my way through my 2017 books, I'll be sharing my favorite takeaways. Here's the top 20 from Nothing to Prove. Confession: I couldn't narrow it down to 20; you get 29 for this one!

"We've been deceived by the lies of an enemy who knows exactly how to twist our thirst to his purposes. And we desperately need to open our eyes to his perverse tactics."

"But now many of you are awake. You are in the Word and on your knees. God is moving through you, and you are getting dangerous. You are free and leading other people to freedom. The old lies are no longer adequate."

"The enemy promises water, but every time we go to his wells, they are empty."

"God is not after great performances or great movements.  He is after us! God already knows we are not enough, but He's not asking us to be."

"God is not surprised by our failures and disappointments and baggage. They are actually reminders of our need for God.  He will use whatever means possible just to get close to you and to be with you."

"What if we stopped doing things for God and started doing them with God? When we make that shift, we will be different. Because when you are with Him, you see Him for who He is and He changes you. This is a journey into greater faith.  Believing God and who He says He is and who He says we are.  it is a journey into a life not of trying so hard. It is a road to enjoying our abundant God rather than working so hard for Him."

"Jesus didn't come desperately needing something from us, He came to be with us."

"When we see ourselves the way God sees us, we don't have to strive. Being near to God doesn't produce pressure or legalism; it produces worship"

"The mundane parts of life aren't the enemy to God's movement; they are the soil for it."

"I want to be full of Jesus to the point He is pouring out of me."

"We have nothing to prove because we're living out of His abundance and letting it spill over into all the thirsty lives around us.  The point is this: to know God and to give Him away."

"He is enough so we don't have to be."

"The nearness of Jesus is enough to infuse joy in the midst of everyday experiences."

"We want to do things for God without spending time with God. It is an epidemic in the church, and we wonder why we are so empty and unhappy.  God built us for himself, and all our attempts to manage life apart from intimacy with Him only further expose our ache for Him."

"When we hide, we diminish ourselves, we diminish our worth, we diminish our belief in God."

"Being known is what happens when you realize you are already known, and because of Jesus, you are already accepted. You don't have to keep searching for what you already have. The living water that eternally quenches our souls is filling us up."

"Because God is enough and has enough, we can rest."

"Seeing need and knowing only God can meet it causes us to run full of confidence, which means we can rest rather than strive."

"Our confidence comes from trusting God can do anything, then stepping back and letting Him."

"But Jesus lives on the other side of our comfort zones.  And as we step out of the boxes we have built, our hearts wake up.  The Spirit of God stirs us toward a wild uncontrolled adventure, even if that plays out in the mundane parts of our lives."

"Emotions are designed by God to point to an ache for Him and for heaven.  Emotions are compasses, not destinations."

"Jesus pours His streams of hope into our suffering, and I believe we'll find abundance and life there."

"When you have nothing to protect and nothing to prove, God moves through you.  When you have nothing to protect and nothing to prove, you know freedom."

"Our inclinations to strive and prove ourselves point to our need to be rescued.  Our greatest needs begin to be filled when we admit we have a great needs and turn to the only One able to meet them."

"We are not defined by our worst or our best: we are defined by our God."

"The degree to which we believe and embrace our identity as a Spirit-filled child of God will be the degree to which His light shines through us. We are God's and He is ours. He is in us and through us and with us.  That is our identity. And that changes everything."

"When we aren't secure in our identity, our actions toward others become more about pride and performance than service and ministry."

"We do not change the world with might and power and creative strategies.  We watch God change the world when we pray and abide and believe."

"Make it your goal to love and know Jesus as much as humanly possible and ministry will happen."

Nothing to Prove: Why we Can Stop Trying so Hard by Jennie Allen

*photos via Nothing to Prove Book tumblr