Monday, December 15, 2014

I have great news! You have a choice.

It's Christmastime. Homes are lit up with sparkling lights and through the windows, I can see decorated firs, inviting wrapped gifts to make their home underneath the branches. It's a joyful, expectant time of year.

But not always. Not for everyone.

Perhaps you are experiencing the holiday blues. I don't know your situation or what brings about some feelings of sadness or loneliness or anxiety. Or all of the above. But I know you're not alone and I know you'd give anything to feel joyful and expectant right now. I've been there. Done that. Rode that roller coaster. 

Yesterday my dear friend, April, preached a sermon on the Magnificat, Mary's song. It was the 3rd Sunday of Advent and we lit the candle for joy. April showed us that thankfulness produces joy. And she pointed out that we all have a choice when faced with circumstances that are quite unexpected. So I want to encourage you with that. You have a choice. 

Perhaps you feel like things have happened to you beyond your control and you wonder if you will ever get back to living a "normal" life. Well, the answer is "most likely" and I have great news! You can make choices NOW that will bring you closer to joy and peace.

The first choice is to realize that YOU are NOT a victim. Bad things do happen to good people. It sucks. But the good news is that YOU get to CHOOSE how you will respond, who you will surround yourself with, and what you will do differently in the next phase of life. That is some dang good news, sister!! Here's a great gift to buy yourself if you want to dig a little deeper into this subject: Safe People.

Next, how will you respond? I am not suggesting that you manufacture joy by trying to be cheerful about your circumstances if you're not actually cheerful about them. But can you find a few things to be thankful for? Perhaps this is your first Christmas away from your kids and the thought of not seeing them wake up on Christmas morning, full of anticipation, is gnawing away at your heart and mind. I've been there, it is really really really hard. But mama, I bet you need a break. Can you be thankful for some time to take care of yourself? Watch a few movies, paint your nails, go to dinner with a friend. Take some time to do a few things that you don't normally get to do and ask God to show you how He intends to care for you during this time. When you choose thankfulness, joy grows inside of you!

Finally, you get to choose to do things differently next year. Do a few things that will bring you closer to living the life you desire. (This is my favorite part!) Here's a starting place: Write it out. Pray, ask God to bring to mind the life that is His desire for you. Just start writing down everything that comes to mind. Last year, I used a tool to help me with this and it turned out to be a total life-changer. Check it out here. Nothing excites me more than thinking about what I can do now to live a fuller life. No matter what your situation, I promise you there are a few things you can change that will make a big impact on your life! This year I started playing soccer with a co-ed team, I moved to a small town from a big city, I rented a plot in a community garden so we can start growing food, and I've gotten involved with the Phi Lamb sorority at the local university. All of these choices have enriched my life and they've expanded my circle of influence. I'm influenced by more interesting people and I'm serving more interesting people. I'm healthier because soccer kicks my butt! And Jackson and I are building something together, working together, and hopefully watching the garden grow together (I tend to have a brown thumb). You can do this too! 

I know it's hard when you're feeling sad. But choose not to stay stuck in that place. Be kind to yourself, but don't enable yourself to stay in a depressed state of mind. Choose thankfulness and experience joy, sister. In what ways would you like 2015 to be different from 2014? Make it happen, baby. 

xo,
Erin

Monday, October 20, 2014

Smart Dating


I now know more about dating than I EVER hoped. As of today, I have been single (post-divorce) for 7 years. I was with my ex-husband for 10 years (all of my 20s), so I've had to learn about dating after marriage.

Dating can be really confusing. Lots of people have ideas on the correct way to date. Some people even think there is such a thing as Christian dating and they have made up a bunch of rules about it. There are thousands of books written on the subject. And most of them have conflicting ideas and approaches.

So, what's a girl to do?

In her book, True Love Dates, author Debra Fileta suggests really getting to know yourself before you venture out and start dating. I am 37 years old and I think I know myself pretty darn well, but I realized I stopped trusting myself somewhere along the way. I stopped trusting that I know what I want and what I don't want. I started thinking that maybe I need to be more open minded and push myself to date people I normally wouldn't.

Well. That hasn't really gone too well. Which you know if you've followed my story for any amount of time.

When Debra was focusing on getting to know herself and growing as a person, her mentor suggested that she make three lists. Red, Yellow, and Green. The Red list are stop signs: traits you notice in a man that tell you to STOP and proceed no further. These would be things such as addictive behavior, lying, financial irresponsibility, etc. And then some things that might be more personal for you -- like uses tobacco or isn't physically very healthy. The Yellow lists are slow down signs: traits you notice in a man that give you reason for pause. Such as he doesn't have any close friends or he's not serving others in any capacity. And the Green list is...okay you know what the green list is! This is the fun one, where you list the qualities that give you license to proceed...like, he loves Jesus, he is involved in a small group, he serves others, he seeks wise counsel, he puts others before himself, he takes responsibility for his actions, he does not have a victim mentality, he pursues open communication, etc. Wooo, I got excited just writing those down!!

Here's what I've found since writing my lists: Knowing who to say yes to and who to say no to just became a whole heck of a lot easier.

You can find Debra's blog and book at www.TrueLoveDates.com. I have not enjoyed a dating book this much, ever.

xo,
Erin

Monday, September 15, 2014

Enjoying the Promised Land

A recent encounter with someone I've been getting close to led me to say, "We are grown ups, we can do hard things." I've come to realize, and I'm guessing you have too, that just because someone is of adulthood age doesn't necessarily qualify them as a grown up.

Not all single moms act like grown ups. I'm certainly not mature 100% of the time, but I do know that I have done hard things when it's extremely uncomfortable because I believe there will be benefits in the long run.

For example:

  • Taking Jackson out of traditional school because I felt his emotional health was suffering.
  • Moving to Texas from Colorado just a few short weeks AFTER Jackson's dad moved BACK to Colorado after being gone off and on for a few years.
  • Letting go of a real estate career and starting a house cleaning company (taking a huge pay cut) in order to decrease stress in my life and increase the peacefulness of our home life.
  • Being selective about who I choose to date and, in turn, being single for 7 years.
  • Living in tiny condos because I took a pay cut and want to live below my means.
  • Going back to school as a single mom and spending nights and weekends studying and writing papers for 4 years.
  • Taking Jackson out of his beloved school and placing him back in traditional school after being out for 3 years because I felt it was time for more structure and would be beneficial to his emotional health.
  • Moving away from my community of friends in Austin to Georgetown so that Jackson could go to a great school and live in a neighborhood with kids his age.
  • Saying no to sex outside of a committed relationship because I want to protect my heart and trust God. 
  • Taking a job completely out of my range of knowledge because it allows me to stay in Texas.
  • Leaving a precious prayer group because I felt that God was leading me in a different direction. 
  • Home schooling Jackson for 1 semester in order to prepare him for entering traditional school. 
  • Enduring emotional highs and lows (mostly lows) with Jackson as he protested leaving his school and moving to Georgetown. 
  • Sticking with discipline even though it was extremely painful.
Can you relate? Are you in the middle of making grown up choices right now and wondering if it's even worth it?

Well let me tell you, IT IS!

I was just reflecting last week as I sat on my front porch with my dear, dear coffee that God had led us to our very own Promised Land. And because I know that life has its ups and downs and full of trials, I want to treasure this time and express gratitude for it and let it serve as a reminder of God's faithfulness during whatever phase comes next.

These days we are reaping the benefits of doing hard things when it's uncomfortable:

  • Jackson is loving school! He is fully equipped to do well both socially and academically.                                             
  • There are boys in our neighborhood that are in Jackson's class and they ride their bikes to each other's houses and play, play, and play. Awesome!!!
  • Jackson is happier than I've seen him in years. He has a personal relationship with God and it shows in his peacefulness and confidence.
  • My job provides very well financially and we're living in a house with a yard in a charming neighborhood with lots of families that is within walking distance of the historic downtown. 
  • Since we have a yard, we were able to get a 2nd dog and she is bonded to Jackson and not me, like our other dog. :-)
  • My degree enables me to speak with confidence in my job and I feel I bring value to my role.
  • We live very close to family now, so we get to spend lots of time together.
  • I'm able to quickly assess who can meet my romantic relationship needs because sex is not part of the equation and doesn't cloud my judgment. And when I get a break up TEXT from a guy I've been dating, it doesn't devastate me. Yes, it was in a text, friends.
  • Although it's hard to be away from my Austin friends, when I do see them, I know how loved I am because of how happy they are to see me. And that's a great feeling!
  • Jackson and I have fun together and have more opportunities to do what we love because of where we live and our financial situation. 
There's more, of course. But I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge this awesome time that God has led us to. I give him glory in the trials and I want to glorify him right now, while times aren't so tough.

Friends, I pray that you reap the benefits of being a grown up and doing hard things even when it's uncomfortable. I pray that you recognize the Promised Land when you're in it. Don't let it be lost on you! Trials are around every corner. Let's cherish the way God provides when we're in the middle of a trial AND the sweet places he takes us to between trials. 

I'm with you in the trenches!
xo,
Erin

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
http://www.austinmustardseed.org/sermon-audio-6-22-14-ephesians-31-13/

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?