Sunday, July 6, 2014

That time I preached on co-laboring with Christ and discovering our lifework.

My church, Austin Mustard Seed, is my favorite. I love these people. I love our midweek meetups. I love our liturgy. I love that we talk about the working out of the mystery of Christ, right here, right now, every single week.
I preached for the first time on January 5th, 2014 and then was invited to preach again in June. Ephesians 3:1-13 was the text. There is so much there. But what jumped out at me was this idea of lifework. And I wondered, "Can we be as clear about our lifework as the apostle Paul was about his?"
A few of the quotes I shared:
  • “Let’s be clear, God builds God’s kingdom. But God ordered his world in such a way that his own work within that world takes place not least through one of his creatures, namely, the human beings who reflect his image.” — NT Wright
  • “The next Christians believe that Christ’s death and resurrection were not only meant to save people from something. He wanted to save Christians to something. God longs to restore his image in them, and let them loose, freeing them to pursue his original dreams for the entire world. Here, now, today, tomorrow. They no longer feel bound to wait for heaven or spend all of their time telling people what they should believe. Instead, they are participating with God in his resurrection project for the whole world.” — Gabe Lyons

Monday, March 31, 2014

Let's do awesome, right now

A couple of years ago, I got to see Angela Thomas at a women's event here in Austin. Until I was going through a divorce, I hadn't heard of her. But my mom's best friend knows Angela well and suggested I look her up. She wrote a book several years ago titled My Single Mom Life. I cannot, absolutely CANNOT, recommend it highly enough! If you are a single mom, you simply must buy it right now (or put it on reserve at your library, that's always smart) and begin reading it as soon as it is in your hands. It is that good.
So, when I heard that Angela was going to be speaking in Austin, I registered to go to the event. Before things got started, I saw Angela sitting on the front row. So I grabbed my copy of her book and headed up to where she was sitting. She listening to someone talk to the woman sitting next to her, so I just waited. She kept glancing at me and then she was like, "Hi, I'm Angela. Have we met?"
And yes, we had! I had met her a few years earlier at another event in Denver and we chatted for a while afterward. She remembered me!
Angela invited me to sit down and we chatted for a while about life. She is remarried to a guy named Scott and from what I can tell, they have a wonderful marriage. I asked her to sign my copy of her book (I am such a dork) and then she just looked at me with a look in her eye, like she knew there was something I wanted to ask her. So I said,
"Angela, I've been wondering. Could you ever have known how good it would be to be married to a wonderful man?"
And this was her answer:
Erin, I can say that I had hoped. I hoped for a man who would treasure me and treat me the way I know God wants me to be treated. I longed for that and I believed God wanted that for me too. And I hoped for a man who would accept all 4 of my kids. But what I never even thought to hope for was a man who would fall madly in love with me AND my 4 kids! Never even crossed my mind as a possibility. You see, the gifts that God gives us are not tied to what we think to ask for. He gives good gifts, that's who He is! There is nothing you can do make him give you a better or worse gift, He is going to knock your socks off. You just wait. Trust God. And while you're waiting, go out and live a big, awesome life with God! I mean really, don't wait, you've got to live a big awesome life now!

Tears ran down my face. I needed to hear that. And her words have stuck with me over the last couple of years. Because those were God's words. He was speaking to me through her. And I believe that message is for all of us single moms.

When we let ourselves believe that our lives will get better and finally be awesome when we meet the man who will become our husband, we are believing a lie that pins us down and won't allow us to live a big awesome life. We absolutely cannot squander these precious days away, wishing for a life with a partner.

Listen, there is nothing wrong with desiring a life partner. Nothing! But if we let that keep us from going out and doing hard things, fun things, daring things, new things, meaningful things...well, we're wasting our lives!

This morning I'm starting a new job. It's wayyyy out of my comfort zone. Way. But it's a huge gift from God and I'm excited to see where it leads. What new relationships come from it and how it stretches me and grows me.

I'll be sharing with Jenny on The Channel Mom show some of the other ways I'm living a big awesome life right now. Be watching for the link to listen!

Are you living a big awesome life right now? Yes or no, what does a big awesome life look like to you? What can you do this week to start living your life on purpose and bringing a little more awesome around?

Monday, February 17, 2014

When life is just too much to handle.

Yesterday was a hard day. It felt utterly impossible and it magnified the fact that I am a single parent. Ever have days like that?

This one was a long time coming, I suppose. Last year at the end of August, I sold my 2nd cleaning company. I had a couple of really good leads on jobs, but they ultimately did not culminate in a job offer. Instead of getting to invest my profit from the sale of my company, I ended up living on it. After a few months of that, I started getting nervous about my finances, so I went to work for a fine dining restaurant, serving tables. Not exactly the step up my career ladder I had hoped for, but a good job for the in-between.

Well, a fairly good job for the in-between, I guess. I am working 3-4 (usually 3) nights a week so that does allow me quite a bit of time with Jackson (we are part time homeschooling), but it also puts me away from home until very late a few night a week. Since I am no spring chicken, my body does not exactly "bounce back" from the 6-7 hours of walking and lifting heavy trays and going to bed wayyyy past my bedtime. Every "morning after", I feel hungover and OLD. And truthfully, it's not enough for us to live on. When I say things have been tight lately, that is the understatement of my year. (It's only February, note to self.)

So, when I received a job offer a couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled and relieved and ecstatic and happy and WOOHOOOO, I GOT A JOB!!!! The job almost seems tailor-made for me. I will get to work in my giftedness in a job that marries business and ministry. Couldn't be happier. Except...

It involves a move. And my sweet Jackson has already experienced so much challenge and change that the thought of more of it makes my heart hurt. And apparently it makes his heart hurt too because he fell apart yesterday. It started when I found that he was chatting with people he doesn't know in a multiple player web-based game. This is against our house-rules and, honestly, it completely freaks me out. He had also JUST come off a 3 week period of not having his computer because I'd found him playing on it at 2:30 in the morning, so I was really disappointed to find that he was playing inappropriately on it again. (Moms, is it just me??? What the heck! I hate computers!!!!)

So, I'm wanting to talk to him about character, integrity, internet safety (fun stuff for a 10 year old boy, no doubt) and he just lost it. He was so angry and so sad and so miffed about being moved around (we moved from Castle Rock to Denver in 2010 and from Denver to Austin in 2011) and hurt about stuff related to the divorce and man oh man, he just let it all out. I listened and I did my best to empathize. And I questioned my parenting and I questioned our future and I questioned my decisions and I just questioned it all. Because when my kid is in pain, I want to make it better and I'm willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES. But sometimes I just don't know. I don't always know. I just don't. And this is the hardest thing I ever encounter.

And in that moment, instead of trying to figure it out by myself and trying to hear God by myself, I reached out. I called some friends and asked if we could come over. They said yes and so we went over and sat in their living room for 2 hours and told them all of it. It helped so much because A) They care about us and B) They're not feeling it the same way we are so they are able to listen and see the big picture and give advice and support from the outside looking in. Jackson and I both felt better when we left. We were like 2 over inflated balloons that needed our spouts untied so we could let out some stiff air. I could almost hear the stress escaping us.

Today is a new day, we are starting from a better place. Nothing has really changed, except that my boy expressed himself and was listened to and the same goes for me. I still have some big decisions to make and change is imminent. And with change comes challenge, which is so hard but is always good for us if we let it be. Here is part of the Jesus Calling devotion for today:

Do not fear change, for I am making you 
a new creation, 
with old things passing away and new things continually on the horizon.  
When you cling to old ways and sameness, you resist My work within you. 
I want you to embrace all that I am doing in your life, 
finding your security in Me alone. 

Because, you know, that's how God is. Always communication and comforting. I believe that and I believe that He sees us, each of us, and knows the way that is best for us. It's getting past our present circumstances and hearing Him that is very hard sometimes. Which is why it is so important to reach out. 

We need to reach out more, don't you think? It's hard sometimes because we are all incredibly critical of ourselves as parents. We expect so much more of ourselves than we should. We are not the Lone Rangers! Especially us single parents. It feels like the loneliest role sometimes. But don't believe the lie that you are alone. People care and want to help, but can't unless we reach out. Be brave! Let others into your pain and confusion and difficult decision-making. It really makes a huge difference!


PS What are you dealing with right now? Is it difficult for you to reach out and let others in on your burden?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Because sometimes dreaming again is really scary.

Do you dream? I mean, do you let your mind and heart wander and allow yourself to want something more, something different?

Or are you stuck?

I think I've been stuck. I used to be a dreamer, a goal setter, a do-er. But ever since going through divorce six years ago, dreaming felt like a luxury I couldn't afford. I mean, I just needed to survive. I needed to provide for my son, put food on the table, afford a place to live, and put gas in the car. Dream? Ha! You must be joking.

A part of me has been afraid of allowing myself to desire more than what I currently know. I have been scared of reverting back to my old ways of clearing my own path, asking God to bless my plans, and setting my sights on dreams that only served myself. And I think I've also felt defeated in some ways. Going through divorce is incredibly difficult. Mine was full of hatred and pain and fear of the future. It has been easier to accept defeat than risk more failure. 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, 
but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7

Several months ago, I was having dinner with Jackson and I asked him about his dreams. I wrote them down in my journal. And then I thought, "What are my dreams? Is it okay to dream again?" I felt God prompting me to just acknowledge them and write them down. I was surprised at how great it felt. Just to admit that, yes, I would love to live in a pretty home on a safe street with lots of families for us to "play" with. How I would love to have impromptu coffee with a girlfriend from the down the street and hear the kids playing and running around the neighborhood. That I long to be able to travel more with Jackson, showing him places of history and exposing him to different cultures. It felt wonderful to admit that I long to earn a living through my calling. To imagine what it would be like to work in a job that used my gifts to encourage others and build the Kingdom. 

I wrote them down and tucked them away, knowing that they were a part of me. Instead of making a 5 step plan to realize those dreams, I asked God to lead me toward them. What I don't want to do is make the dreams my god. What I  mean by that is I don't want to put the achievement of those dreams/goals above the desire to rest in God, finding fulfillment and contentment in knowing Him. 

Can you relate?

So, fast forward a few months to January 1st. A new year. New Year's Resolution. One Word 365. Goals, dreams, intention. Phew. I normally scoff at New Year's Resolutions but this year I thought that setting some goals with our dreams in mind would be a great exercise for both Jackson and me. So, over dinner again, we talked about our dreams and asked ourselves to think of a few goals we could set that would lead us closer to those dreams. 

I've realized that dreams are important because they give us direction. And it's really good for our kids to watch us set goals and work toward them. We can dream with our kids! It doesn't have to be our dreams for them vs. our dreams for ourselves. 

Here are some of our goals for 2014:
Jackson-- Run a 10k. Move up to the next level in Parkour. Worship God more through prayer and music on his iPhone.

Me-- Clean up my credit report. Open IRA and start contributing each month. Complete 12 weeks of weight training and run a 10K. Prepare Jackson to reenter public school. Plan 2 fun activities per week. Join Toastmasters and treat my gig with Channelmom as a job. 

If you are a single mom, I want to encourage you to allow yourself to dream again and to share those dreams with your kids. Create a safe place in your home where dreams can be shared and hoped for, where God is trusted as the source of your dreams and desires. Because...


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dating and breaking up and learning that we're all PEOPLE. Valuable people.

In my talk this month with Jenny Dean Schmidt on The Channel Mom Show, we talked about a lesson I learned in a recent dating relationship. I wrote about how we talk about and categorize blessings and bad luck a few weeks ago and that's what Jenny and I were talking about in this clip:

Now, this clip made me laugh, mostly because of the funny faces Jenny makes while we're chatting. And it feels good to be empathized with. You know? And to be honest, it would be easy for me to list what this ex-boyfriend did while we were dating that I didn't like and hold that against him, all in the name of breaking up and wanting to numb the pain. I've done that before because I feared pain, I feared feeling rejected, I feared that I wasn't enough.

But I've grown a lot in the past couple of years, especially in the past year, and I've learned about shame and vulnerability and powerlessness and grace and compassion and our wholeness in Christ. And one thing I know, without a shadow of a doubt, is that I need grace and compassion and forgiveness. I will mess up and disappoint and hurt others and I will want their forgiveness. In order to rest and have peace, I have to bravely let myself feel pain and sadness and remorse and regret. It's a process. It's scary. It is an unknown way of life for me. And I am only here because it's my time. It's my time to surrender and explore the deep, dark recesses of my heart that are in need of more healing. This timing and this process cannot be rushed.

As people, humans, creatures, we are all journeying toward this process. Christ beckons us to healing through surrender and a holistic view of Him, ourselves, and our relationship with Him. And others. Through this process, my view of others has changed dramatically. I care what others think of me, instead of boarding up my heart in fear of rejection and pain. And I see people. I see their wonderfulness, their humanness, their fear and pain, their growth and goodness.

So. Through this recent break-up, I challenged myself to look at him holistically. To see him as a valuable person who has both good and bad in him. Just like me. My first instinct was to write him off, saying "screw you." That's my self-protection kicking in and a tendency to see things in black and white, all good or all bad. When I let myself continue caring for him and remembering all of the wonderful things about him and the times that we shared, I could rest. He was kind to me, a good listener, very encouraging and supportive, he made me laugh and was always thoughtful. He planned fun dates for us and I always felt at ease with him and wanted. It's good to feel wanted.

He isn't perfect and we disagreed about some things. We're different in a lot of ways. And that's okay! I'm better for knowing him. There are things I would do differently, but that's life. Close relationships are difficult to navigate because we're learning as we go. We can't script them and I'm proud of myself for dating someone who is not my usual "type" because it showed me that I can't know if there's potential unless I give it a shot. He is not less valuable to me now just because we aren't dating. It is a mistake to write someone off just because they don't fill the role they once filled in your life. These are the lessons I've learned in this season.

Learning to date well as an adult with a kid and a big, messy life ain't easy. But, friends, a good starting point is recognizing the inherent value of each person we have the opportunity to spend time with. Let's make it a point to see them as whole people, good and bad, in need of grace, compassion, and love.