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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Birthday Thoughts on the Eve Jackson's 6th Birthday

Sweet Baby J,

As we sat on the couch tonight watching Scooby Doo, your arm wrapped around me, it was the perfect end to your year. What a joyful milestone tomorrow will be.

This year was probably our most bittersweet yet. We weaved in and out of really hard days as God grew your personality. Your independent, caring self developed at a rate we were so unprepared for. So here's what we did, sweet boy, we laid it all at the feet of our Heavenly Father and asked Him to do His work in you. And oh my stars did He ever.

This year was not without tears and growing pains, but it also didn't lack in belly laughs, bear hugs and family stacks.

As we look to a new season tomorrow, your sixth birthday, I could not be more proud of who you're growing to be. Your little self is packed full of wit, courage, compassion and a love that wells up and overflows for your family and friends.

On the first day of Kindergarten back in August, Mrs. Jones had us write you a note on a little heart. Here's what I wrote you: God is mighty in you.

This was both something I knew as true and prayed God would plant as truth in your heart this year.

He is so mighty in you Jackson! God's power is made perfect in our weaknesses. Don't ever be afraid to embrace those weaknesses and see how greatly God will be glorified through you. I pray you never forget that! Over and over this year, I watched as you embraced the fullness of your personality and it has been my greatest joy.

Keep being who God has created you to be; don't shy away from the way He has created you. That's my prayer for you as we look to celebrate your sixth birthday.

The season ahead for our family is one of transitions and change, and you're already embracing this new season with hope and contentment. Thank you for encouraging me to love others well, to wonder at our God and trust that there is joy ahead even on the hard days.

Tomorrow we'll celebrate with your Thursday night dinner at Lady's house. Friday you have your belt test at Karate for your yellow belt. Saturday you've intentionally invited a handful of friends for Hi-Wire and pizza.

Let the celebrations begin! You are worthy of celebrating!



p.s. Thank you for still allowing this mama to call you her baby. It's good for my soul.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Eve Annual Interview with Jackson

With Jackson being old enough to really begin reflecting on his year and looking forward to the days ahead, I wanted to start a new tradition this year: annual New Year's Eve interviews. He knows how much I love this stuff and did pretty well answering the questions this year. Praying this will be a good way for him to reflect on his years as he grows.

What is your happiest memory from this past year?
Going to Disney World.

What is the best part about being your age?
Watching TV.

Describe yourself in one word:

What advice would you give your parents?
I'd say thank you for food and our house.

If you could be any animal which one and why?
A tiger because they have sharp teeth.

Describe the funniest thing you saw this past year.

Who is your favorite person and why?
Sullee because she let's me do a lot of things.

What is the nicest thing you did for someone this year?

What is the nicest thing someone did for you this year?

What were some of the best places you traveled to this year?
Disney World. Nashville.

What was the hardest part about this year?
Starting a new school.

What do you want to learn in 2017?
How to grow vegetables. How to start a garden.

What do you want to become better at in 2017?
Playing Pokemon

Where do you want to travel in 2017?
Disney World. Chuck E. Cheese, the beach

How can you serve God in 2017?
Give more grace to people.