New Year's Eve Survey with Jackson

Motherhood does a funny thing to your ability to fully remember your kiddos just as they are in a season. As much as you may cherish a moment, the mind doesn't always keep all the small details. So, as a fun way to get Jackson in on my year in review practices, I started this survey in 2016 (see last year's responses). It's simple, but gets him thinking about the year behind and the year ahead. 

Revelations at the Well - Part 3

So much wisdom was gleaned at the Well with my Savior this year. You can read about much of those lessons in Part 2 of this series. Today's revelation at the well has been the overarching, life-shifting lesson of them all and deserving of it's own space.

Of all the revelations, of all the lessons learned and good things bestowed on me through the year of well here's what I'm clinging to: Jesus is not just the Good Shepherd, He is my Good Shepherd.

Revelations at the Well - Part 2

Jesus went out of His way to meet the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. He took a path that culture told him to bypass; the way that wasn't socially acceptable but filled with holy purpose. Just as Jesus met the Samaritan woman that faithful day at the well, I felt His intentional, out of the way, pursuit of me this year.

Can we pause for a minute to acknowledge what a privilege it is that the Lord of Lords would seek us out to share His love, wisdom and joy?

Little by little His word revealed to me things I'd never fully known about my walk as a daughter of God and friend of Jesus.  Through the power of the Spirit, God took His word from my head to my heart to the work of my hands.

Revelations at the Well - Part 1

For a gal who delights in choosing a word of the year, 2017 threw me for a loop. My word each year helps me keep eyes focused on the call of the Lord for that year. It helps me to seek Him and to complete the good works He prepared in advance.

As He has in the last four years, God gave me a word for the 2017: well.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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. 

2016 Word of the Year Reflections

So much of me wants to skip past this post. To just start documenting all the things God is working for the year ahead, but the Spirit is telling me to slow down. Savor the good works of the year. So that's just what I'll do.

2016 was my year of Wholeheartedness. It only felt natural after a year of Surrender (2015's word). And as I partnered with the Spirit to mind the gap of a divided heart God showed me the abundant life of John 10:10 right here in the meaningful mundane.

We had just one big plan, one big milestone at the outset of 2016: Jackson would celebrate his 5th birthday in March and start Kindergarten in the Fall. I knew everything else in this year would pale in comparison in stewarding these milestones well.

But God.

He kept showing up in the margin. He kept pursuing us in the unexpected. He kept bringing us into ordinary, hard moments of doing life and asking us to choose obedience instead of complacency.

Blessed are those who keep His statutes and seek him with all their heart. Psalm 119:2

My goals for 2016 were simple. Mainly they each stemmed from wanting to grow in my own obedient response to the Gospel. To know Him more. To deepen my joy in marriage and motherhood. To plant the seeds of deeply rooted friendships. To steward our finances well. To simplify our home and my perspective of remaining in our first home longer than planned. To loosely hold out the small business God called me to back in 2014. For my life to become Christ in action. 

God revealed Himself to me little by little as I pressed into Him and abided in Him all the more. Never have I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit so clearly as I have in 2016. Never have I also sat in such deafening silence of the Lord and learned that in his quietness there is room for good growth for His glory.

In this year of Wholehearted pursuit, God gently guided me into the margins of my own story. He pointed me away from the worldy expectations and deep into the opportunities He'd already given me to steward well.

The unexpected happened all in hand with the expected:
We went to Disney World to celebrate the 5th Birthday of our wild child, our wild miracle. And it was pure heaven. The sweetest of trips that would not have been possible without the offerings and presence of my mom.

I pushed back against the enemy's lies of not-enough and began leading a women's Bible study at our local church. This was a turning point of hearing and responding to the Spirit. This beckoning to brave obedience is not something I will soon forget. And the fruit of this obedience? The Spirit in me grew so much good fruit in response to this step of obedience: joy, peace, faithfulness.

This step of obedience opened the door to an opportunity to be apart of planting the women's ministry at our local church. I have prayed for years that our church would have an active women's ministry. Never did I think I'd have a hand in our women's ministry taking root and in just six months seeing God move mightily through our community of women. Never did I think God would so sovereignly place me with a team of women who are so different in this life but so similar in our burdens for the women of our church and reflecting Christ well.

When we least expected it God made a way for Brandon to be promoted within his company. Promoted! When we least expected it God was on the move. Exactly one year after he pursued this same position and had been turned down, God reopened the door. I could not be more encouraged by the way Brandon responded to this opportunity. The way he sought the position with grace and then transitioned into his new role with humbleness and hope.

Jackson finished pre-school and began Kindergarten at a new school. This is where our refining both individually and as a family has become a turning point in the year. God prepared my heart all year for this transition and honestly I didn't understand why until we were in the thick of it. The transition to Kindergarten has been one of our most trying moments yet. Through partnership with our pediatrician, our counselor and our family and church communities we've made progress. Two steps forward, ten steps backward some weeks, but at the very least we have made progress in knowing who Jackson is as a child of God and releasing him over to God. I will steward Him well, I pray to disciple him well, I will be his advocate as fiercely as I am able, but ultimately I have released the grips of control to God and told Him that this is His child and I trust Him. Motherhood continues to be the hardest, most refining gift I never knew I needed in this life.

I decided to close the doors to the shop God called me to open two and a half years ago. I surrendered myself over and over this year asking God to guide me, and for most of the year I sat in silence to counsel on how to move forward with our small business. Gently, over many month, God has shown me that with everything there is a season and now in this season I am being called to disciple well in my home and my local church. So, with the close of 2016, we'll close our first small business venture. As my husband said, it will likely not be our last. In the eyes of the world, our business was not a success, but in the eyes of my Father I know the fruit born from this step of obedience will multiply in my story for years to come.

This year the mundane became meaningful. We pursued gratitude and joy in the little things. In worship while doing dishes. In praying through never-ending laundry. In trusting that this messy, beautiful life right where we are is God's will for us in Christ Jesus. There in the mundane God showed off His glory, and I now savor the meaningful margin buried in moments I once counted as unremarkable.

I've seen first-hand that my life truly can be Christ in action. When I know Him and who I am in Him and when I'm brave enough to lean in, get vulnerable and live wholeheartedly my life can be a light for the Kingdom in the meaningful mundane. My every day becomes an opportunity to live on mission right where I am in the beautiful ordinary mess because Jesus is always good news.