Be Generous With Your Words

I have to pinch myself sometimes when I think about how incredibly blessed I am by the amazing women God has put in my life. It really is like a dream. Women far and near who love and encourage and pray for me, each put there for a reason.

Being a “gifts” love language person, I want to buy them all beautiful, thoughtful gifts in appreciation for the ways they’ve spoke life and love into my world. Well, really, I’d like to fly us all to a private island for a week where we could laugh and cry and be refreshed. And eat anything we want. And not change any diapers. And get a tan. But those things kind of cost money…a lot of it…and that’s just not possible.

What I do have is words. Words are free, but they carry so much value. When we want to bless others in big ways on a small budget, words are the way to go.

God laid it on my heart as I approached my 33rd birthday to be generous with my words. I started a list of the women who have blessed my life over the years and pretty soon I was at 33. Family, friends, mentors, colleagues. The list kept growing. And I started writing.

A few cards a day, with carefully chosen words, filling ME up with joy and gratitude and being sent on their way. Friends, I thought I was doing this because God wanted me to bless the women in my life, and I’m sure that was part of it, but He just heaped more blessings on me in the process. And I’m still going. This cheering on of others is addictive.

Notecards

The value of a cute notecard and stamp, when paired with a little time and an open, encouraging heart, multiplies infinitely in the hands of God. And when we are generous with our words and obedient to His calling to share, His timing is always perfect. I can’t even tell you the number of times a handwritten card has shown up in my mailbox with just the words I needed to hear on that very day. He is so good like that.

When you feel like you have much to be thankful for, but don’t have much to give, can I encourage you to be generous in the giving of encouraging words to those you love? Don’t hold back in speaking words of life to others. Tell them they matter to you and to God and you are giving them something worth more than anything money could buy.

Be Generous With Your Words

How do you give your words generously? Are an email or snail mail encourager? Which do you prefer to receive?

I love to use little blank notecards like the ones above, but my favorite cards in the WORLD to send are always from DaySpring. They are unique and sweet and faith-filled and I can always find one with just the right words. Now through June 30, 2014, all DaySpring boxed card sets {affiliate link} are buy two get one free with the code B2G1Cards at checkout! I especially love the Holley Gerth Heart to Heart boxed set!

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A Gift from the One Who Sees Me

In elementary school, the teacher would sit us all in a circle, criss-cross applesauce, for an ice-breaker activity.

“Think of a word to describe yourself that begins with the first letter of your first name.”

Ooh, how I loved these circle times. Exciting, excellent, enthusiastic! I even liked when the challenge varied a little bit. Favorite animal? Elephant! Place you want to visit? Europe!

“E” words were special to me from a young age. They felt like mine.

I spoke at my first conference this weekend – two sessions on finding freedom in healthy living at the Refresh My Heart conference – and loved every single minute. Lelia, the founder of the conference, put together an amazing weekend of Jesus and brave, inspiring women. I was so honored to be a part of it and found myself renewed as I left.

Over and over again, my fellow speakers shared stories of our God who sees and knows us better than anyone else has or ever will. Stories of God showing up and showing off His great love for us in ways only He can. The way He uses clouds and running and notebooks to say, “I see you. I love you.”

And then He showed up and showed off for me, right there in the middle of a general session.

A Gift from the One Who Sees Me

Michelle, Lelia’s sister, had been praying about a way to bless each of the ladies attending Refresh My Heart and this is what happened next… {in Lelia’s words}

She ordered wooden hearts and bought a wood burning kit. Michelle and our mom burned the edges of each heart. Then my sister found 60 words and was going to use each word twice, but my daughter Alyssa insisted that they find a word for each woman.

They found the words and Michelle began to engrave a word on each heart. Then she turned the hearts over and prayed about them for weeks about what name to put on what heart. She never flipped the hearts over to see what word was going with what name, not even on her own heart. She engraved a name on each heart then she placed it in a little box and they tied a ribbon around it.

She had no idea what I would be talking about and how well this went with my message, about how God sees us and how we need to believe what He thinks of us. 

After my message, I told everyone to open their boxes and see what God thinks about them…

One woman shouted, “No way!” Some smiled. Some laughed. Some cried. It was absolutely beautiful. Only God could do something like that. Something to let us know, “I see you.”

What a God!  

What a gift of time and love from Michelle and Alyssa to each of us women. I was moved even before I opened my box.  And then I did…

Gift From God

…and flipped over my heart…

Exquisite

Exquisite. An “e” word. Just for me. Because only He could know. My breath was taken away for a moment. And I was that little girl in elementary school again, treasuring a word that seemed to be just for me.

The Hubby would later tell me “exquisite” has always been one of his favorite words.

A sweet friend I met at the conference learned of my word and texted me the definition:

exquisite: of special beauty or charm, or rare and appealing excellence

He sees me. He thinks I’m exquisite. He knows just what I need right when I need it.

I may be turning 33 today, but inside, I am His little girl treasuring the “e” word He picked just for me.

What a God. What a gift.

 

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Hello, My Name Is…

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

Hello, my name is regret
I’m pretty sure we have met

Our family has loved the song “Hello, My Name Is” from Matthew West since it was released. Dancing to it in the kitchen, adding it to our running playlists, and singing loudly along with the chorus every time it comes on the radio. It is a fun song!

It is also a really important message and one God has been trying to cement in my spirit in several ways recently.

As I’ve mentioned, the past few years have involved many life changes for our family that left me tired, overwhelmed, unorganized, and uninspired. I lost my spark, but I also let these words become me.

Hello, my name is tired.

Hello, my name is overwhelmed.

Hello, my name is defeat
I know you recognize me
Just when you think you can win
I’ll drag you right back down again
‘Til you’ve lost all belief

These have been my labels for myself.

I just started a wonderful new book by my friend Holley Gerth called You’re Going to Be Okay. In the first chapter, she asks us to write down three words to describe who we are based on where we are in life right now. My words were the ones I wrote above, not because I am currently feeling that way, but because those are the words I have used to describe myself the most in the past year. She followed up this exercise with these important words…

Whatever you wrote is where you’re at, not who you are.

BAM. Nail hit on the head, Holley.

But what do we do with those labels, those things that have become who we think we are? Sometimes the labels are too sticky because they have been stuck on us {usually by our own selves} for so long. Pulling it off is so hard because we’re holding on to it as our excuse or we think moving past it might be painful.

In may case, I’ve been ready to move forward in life and joy and vitality, but I kind of forgot about removing those labels first. It’s hard to show who you really are wearing a name tag that defines you based on your circumstances.

That’s where we need God. And a little push from a good friend. For me, that good friend were Holley’s words as I read this weekend…

I love how Hebrews reassures us, “It is impossible for God to lie” {6:18}. Your circumstances will lie to you. Your emotions will lie to you. Even other people will lie to you. But not God. And because of this, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” {6:19}. Your identity is secure. Nothing going on in your life can change it.

I may feel tired, but that is not who I am. I may have let my to-dos pile up, but that overwhelming list is not who I am.

I am claiming myself as who God made me. How He sees me.

Hello My Name Is

So we’re going to do a little exercise together today because I’m feeling like we need to start this week throwing out the lies and garbage and bringing in the Truth.

Hello, my name is child of the one true King
I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, and I have been set free
“Amazing Grace” is the song I sing
Hello, my name is child of the one true King

Copy the sentence below and fill in the blanks with what you need to remember about how God sees you, sharing in the comments if you want to join in… {Please share – I want to pray for you and rejoice together in God’s names for us!}

I have been calling myself __________ , but that is not who I am. Hello, my name is _________.

Here is mine:

I have been calling myself tired and overwhelmed, but that is not who I am. Hello, my name is delight to the Lord my God. {Zephaniah 3:17}

Don’t cling to your circumstances and feelings. Don’t be ashamed to claim the wonderful things God sees in you. His Word is true for you and for me. And you are who HE says you are.

*****

You’re Going to Be Okay by Holley Gerth releases February 4, 2014. It needs to be on your reading list. I received a copy as a gift from Holley and Revell Books, but I was not asked to write a review. I just couldn’t keep her words to myself :)

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Divine Service

My focus has been off lately. My heart has not been in the right place.

Each time I sit down to have some time with the Lord, I feel it heavy in my heart. But each time I also hear specifically from Him about how to turn it all around.

And He did so again last night, after a morning of power struggles with a child and an afternoon of trying to clean up the full cup of coffee that spilled all over the presents and tree skirt and carpet…

For three days in a row, I had written in my journal something on the matter of focus.

Focus matters.

Where is your focus, Erin?

The focus of my heart is not on Him…

The day-to-day, the little disasters and pitfalls, the crazy of this season had narrowed my focus on to only me. And, if there is one thing I’ve learned, when I focus on ME ME ME, I am NEVER happy. Or at least, not for long.

This especially goes for my views on motherhood and homemaking. With my heart in the wrong place, the children and chores are annoyances and interruptions to my day. And as I threw a pity party over these very things yesterday, God interrupted ME with these words from Charles Spurgeon…

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We’ve always had the verse before this in Colossians posted in our homeschool room:

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. ~Colossians 3:23

I have not been modeling this well for our children, working more for what I want or to please other people, not wholeheartedly giving myself to the work God has give me to do.

And it feels horrible. And stressful. And not at all what He intended for me.

The Morning + Evening devotion I was reading concluded with this…

“Divine service” is not a thing of a few hours and a few places—but all of life becomes holiness unto the Lord; and every place and thing, becomes as consecrated as the tabernacle and its golden candlestick!

I found so much hope, so much beauty in these words. The laundry room is just as holy as the church sanctuary when I consider the work I am doing as unto the Lord. Changing diapers and washing dishes are acts of divine service, not to be met with disdain, but embraced with joy.

Each and every hour of my day is holy when approached as divine service. Each and every place I set my foot in the perspective of divine service in motherhood and homemaking and marriage and writing is holy. And to do each of these things to glorify and serve God is joy.

My heart wants more focus, but not just any kind. Jesus, joy, and divine service are the path He has set me on and I will keep my focus there.

Where is your focus right now? What divine service has He called you to?

 

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How to Enjoy Your Holiday Weekend

If you do only one fun thing this weekend, make it this…

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And then your face can look like this…

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That’s his “this is SO good” face. Or he’s in sugar shock.

You can thank me later.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

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Jump: Living the Dream

I can’t even believe some of the things I actually did this weekend.

I am a raging extrovert, but being an extrovert and being courageous are not the same thing. I wasn’t quite sure how God would show up for me this weekend at the Jumping Tandem Retreat, maybe instilling bits of courage here and there. I thought He may nudge me towards one dream or whisper to me about another.

Instead, I found Him painting boldly on my heart with strokes of passion and clarity and, yes, the courage to jump, both literally and figuratively.

He took His dream for me, the one I had only mentioned in passing, nervous and scared that someone might hold me to it, and He made me SPEAK that dream OUT LOUD to others.

Amazing

He took my biggest dream obstacles – the ones in my head – and He spoke through Jennifer to help me lay them down – no, even better, throw them out and bury them for good.

He surrounded me with other dreamers…

Erin and Lisa-Jo

Lisa-Jo, the greatest (in)courager and cheerleader for moms there ever was…

Jessica, Erin, and Vickie

My new Pacific Northwest heart sisters, Jessica and Vickie, pursuing and encouraging love in community over at Walk Agape

Sarah and Erin

My fabulous roomie for the weekend, Sarah, who entranced me with her energy and stories of life in musical theatre!

…other dreamers all feeling the nerves and excitement and fear and indigestion that come along with the BIG things He has planned to draw us closer to Him. We dreamed together. We worshipped together {Oh, did we worship}. We believed together. And from my dear friends Holley and Lisa-Jo, we rediscovered the meaning of success in relation to our dreams…

Success is obedience to God.

Unlike any other conference or gathering I had ever attended, I did not walk away overwhelmed with a million things to try or be or do. I walked away from this weekend ready to jump. And to take that jump with joy, knowing that just getting started on His dream for me was success.

In a rare moment of bravery, when I registered for this retreat, I signed up for the additional “Be Brave” activity as well. I later learned that activity would involve net-climbing, tall towers, and a zip line, and my bravery turned to knocking knees and chattering teeth {from the nerves AND the cold, windy weather!}.

Raw Emotion

I climbed up that two-story net, worked my way up another tangled mess to the second platform, and within seconds of scooting myself off that 54-foot high platform and flying across the air, I knew exactly why God had me up there.

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The guide told me the steps I would take leading up to my jump: they involved me sitting on the platform, her unclipping me, and me moving myself forward whenever I was ready. She did the unclipping, I yelled to let the ground crew know I was on my way, and I JUST WENT.

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I knew that if I sat there for even a second longer, I might not jump at all. I didn’t think. I left no time for doubt or worry or fear. I just jumped.

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And God said, “Now do EXACTLY THAT with the dream I’ve given you.”

I’ve spent way too much time sitting on the edge of His dream for me, looking down, afraid and doubting and feeling inadequate. It’s time for obedience. I am living the dream.

Deidra's smile

Thank you, lovely, wonderful Deidra, for being obedient to His dream for YOU which has now inspired each of us who were in attendance. It was all blessing.

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P.S. The zip line was AMAZING, as was experiencing it with this bunch of awesome women. If you ever get the chance, DO. IT.

*THANK YOU to the most lovely Laura for the zip line pictures. You captured each moment so perfectly!

**Later this week, or whenever I have some more time to process the sessions, I will post more of the words of inspiration shared by the fabulous speakers! Good, good stuff.

I’m linking up with Holley and the God-sized dreamers this week about how we PLAY in the middle of our dreams. Zip-lining counts, right?! 

 

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Realistic Refreshment

I just adore that two lovely blog friends have been focusing on refreshment lately. Jessi and Hayley are doing such a wonderful job encouraging us as women to step back and fill up our own tanks before we burnout. Last week they focused on refreshing yourself with some new fun and easy hair, makeup, and wardrobe tips, as well as sharing some things they find refreshing in their own lives.

I’ve latched on quite tightly to one of their “movements” the last few weekends and it has been my biggest source of realistic refreshment: analog weekends.

From Friday evening to Sunday evening, I stay off of social media. I focus on home and family and reading and writing and interacting right here, right now.

This was my third weekend of social media blackout. I can’t even tell you how freeing it has been. I say “yes” a lot more to my family. When there’s some downtime and I’m tempted to reach for my phone and check Facebook, I grab a book instead. More projects are getting done.

My head is clearer and my thoughts are more my own. It’s funny how clearing the social media voices out of the mind can do that!

I didn’t go to a spa. I didn’t go away for the weekend. I didn’t take a bath or get a massage. I was with my family all weekend {except for my running & working out time}, but I still feel refreshed and ready to take on this next week. Between managing homeschool and little ones and a doctor’s schedule and managing a few websites and… {I’ll just stop there} weekends like these are what I call realistic refreshment.

And this is what realistic refreshment looked like this weekend…

French Dip

French dip for Friday supper, leftovers all weekend.

JJ Bread Lover

Our little bread lover!

Monkey Bread

Monkey bread. Enough said.

WWII Puzzle

1000 piece puzzle picked out by Big J at Costco Friday. Started Saturday. This much done by Sunday night, mostly by The Hubby, some by me, a little by Big J.

I want to issue a challenge to you this week. First of all, read the Refresh posts from Hayley and Jessi. Pick one of their refresh ideas and run with it this week – try a new hairstyle, change up your make-up, put together a new outfit from clothes in your closet. And then take the week to think about this…

What is ONE way you could find refreshment this upcoming weekend?

The challenge part is that the ONE thing cannot involve leaving your house, hiring a babysitter, or spending any money. How is that for realistic? Pick something now and then make plans this week to make sure it actually happens!

I can’t wait to hear your answers! Let’s inspire one another!

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Dreaming for Another Year

Birthdays are cause for celebration!

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You didn’t have to tell Little J that twice – he made me feel like the most important, special person in the whole world on my birthday. I felt totally celebrated by all of my guys!

I’m also finding my birthday to be a great time of reflection and dreaming! Instead of lamenting turning another year older, I did some birthday praying and dreaming about all God has in store for the next year!

It almost feels a little like New Year’s to me, but I’m not making resolutions to lose weight or get more organized. I’m taking my God-sized dreams and laying out a few areas that I want to see grow in the next year. God spoke three things very clearly into my life as we celebrated my birthday yesterday. Seriously, there was no mistaking what He wants to work in me as I move towards 33…

1. I want to understand grace more fully and practice it more regularly, especially within our family.

Grace is not a new word to me, but after having read Connecting Church & Home by Tim Kimmel {review coming soon}, author of Grace-Based Parenting {which is on my t0-read list}, I’m realizing I don’t really know much about living a life full of grace, especially in relation to my children. I just know I want to know more about grace and how to live it out.

2. I want to experience greater intimacy with God and with The Hubby.

Our busy lives don’t allow much time for depth of relationship. I’m not ok with that. I want a closer, deeper relationship with my Savior, not just cramming in Bible study before the kids wake up. I want spend more time talking and connecting with The Hubby, particularly when his schedule only allows for us to see each a couple hours a day.

3. I want to discover what a true Sabbath looks and feels like for our family.

I took last weekend “off” from social media. It was the most restful two days I’ve had in as long as I remember. But that’s just a piece of figuring out how our family is best refreshed on the weekends, or another Sabbath day when The Hubby’s work hours don’t allow for Sunday rest. My sister gave me 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life for my birthday and I’m really looking forward to soaking up those insights on a Sabbath day.

I feel like this is the real-life living out of my God-sized dream – the nuts and bolts of being able to grow closer to God, bless my family, and write to encourage other families with integrity and without burning out!

What areas do you hope to grow in as you approach another birthday, whether it is next week or next year?

Read more stories of God-sized dreams lived out in real-life over at Holley’s place today!

*This post contains affiliate links.

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Joy in the Right Places

Joy

The sounds of instrumental worship music and the scent of my favorite candle wafted through the air as I sipped a warm cup of coffee. This is my happy place as I spend time communing with my Father before the day begins, particularly before anyone else is awake, but also sweet when the older two are reading their Bibles alongside me.

The littlest let out squeals of laughter as I pretended to eat his chubby cheeks. His oldest brother said, “Again! Make him laugh again!” So I did. And we laughed until he got the hiccups. He pulled himself to standing and then let go, proud grin on his face all the while, several times today.

The Hubby was able to call more than once throughout the day. Just hearing his voice is enough to improve whatever attitude I may have developed in the midst of the responsibilities and chaos of home. The phone call saying he is on his way home is the sweetest. Later that night, we would sit on our bed, eat some popcorn, and watch The West Wing {our fifth or sixth time through the whole series} and all feels right with the world.

We cuddled up on the couch, just the two big boys and I, to read some picture books about Easter. After they settled into bed, we started a new chapter book as the night wound down. And they begged to talk to each other for “just five more minutes” before they had to go to sleep.

These are the joys of my everyday – the part of my God-sized dream that God has called me to keep FIRST. Whatever else may come of my God-sized dream, THIS stuff is always meant to be my main source of joy.

My God-sized dream is to encourage families to grow closer to God and closer together through my writing while keeping my relationship with God and my own family as my first priorities.

But that other part brings joy as well…

When I get away to write, it’s just me and Him, and writing feels like an act of worship.

The ideas He plants in my head to write are often more for me than anyone else. Writing to encourage other families has been the encouragement I needed for me and my own family!

And then there are the comments, the emails, the words from YOU that frequently bring me to tears. The joy that comes from being used by God to encourage someone else is entirely humbling and quite amazing.

Joy. In the everyday and the dreaming world, there is plenty of joy to go around.

What brings you joy?

Read more about the joy of other God-sized dreamers over at Holley’s place today!

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Too Busy Living Life To Write About Life!

Well, hello again!

Yes, I am alive! Yes, we are doing well! I just took a little unscheduled break here as life at home picked up and some exciting things were happening in other areas of this online space!

First, for the “real life” stuff…

The Hubby spent four days working noon to midnight shifts in the ER. Yikes. I. MISSED. HIM. But two days off were the reward at the end of that not-so-fun streak!

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We’re glad to have him home and he’s glad to be around when we’re all awake!

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Big J was invited to test for his next Taekwondo belt! He started Taekwondo in November and has really enjoyed it. I love the mix of fun and discipline these taekwondo lessons have been for him! The test was a combination of physical skills and memorization of the Taekwondo oath and tenets. He did SO well at his test, but we won’t find out the results for another week or so! We are proud of him either way!

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Double J started clapping this week, so all day long I just want to play pat-a-cake and find new ways to make him clap because it is TOO CUTE. And Little J has us in stitches with his funny voices, dramatic reading of books, and all-around craziness. The older boys also started AWANA at our new church and are already loving it!

I was able to witness a miracle as dear friends who were on the brink of divorce renewed their vows over the weekend. There were some major tears as we watched God redeem what seemed beyond hope. Nothing is beyond hope with God. I was blessed and honored to be there. Praise the Lord that He still works in mysterious and wonderful ways!

My local Bible study started up again last week, and this time around we’re reading Desperate! We hadn’t met since November and I missed those girls! I’m really looking forward to our regular meetings again, especially talking about coming alongside each other in our motherhood journeys! I also has a blast at our church’s ladies’ craft night! Everybody just ate and chatted and worked on their own creative projects – loved it!

And then there is this blog-o-sphere…

Today, I’m posting over at the Tommy Nelson blog with a fun way to get those younger kids actively involved in Bible stories! After being stuck inside on below-zero wind chill days, this activity has helped us get some crazies out more than a few times! And it involves animals, which the boys loved! Head over there to check it out!

But the majority of my computer time has been spent working on behind-the-scenes details for the new site, Raising Hearty Boys! As most of you know, I’m the co-founder of The MOB Society {for mothers of boys}, and we’re in the middle of some major expansion right now! In January we added Boy Dads: In the Trenches of Fatherhood to our network, which is now Raising Boys Media! Raising Hearty Boys is set to launch next as a place for parents to find all things food and fitness related for boys! I have always loved to cook and bake, and exercise has become such an important part of our family life, so I am thrilled to be serving as editor for this new site! I’ll post more details as the launch date approaches!

And last, but not least, I’ve been working on my God-sized dream. If you’ll remember, part of my dream is to do what God is calling me to do while keeping Him and my family prioritized. As I sit down to write this post, I realize just how many times in the past week I’ve chosen time with Him and time with the boys before getting online or sitting down to write. It feels good. It feels right. And I have a lot more inspiration to draw from when the time to write comes! What a blessing!

That’s a full plate right there, but life is good! What’s been on your plate lately? How can I pray for you?

 

 

 

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