A lesson in Choices.

Mom and Dad C

See that purdy thang right there? Well, they both are purdy, but I am focusing more on the beautiful lady. Yes, her! Why she would be my beautiful mother-in-love. Gorgeous, right? That’s obvious, but not my point here. That beautiful women right there celebrated a WONDERFUL birthday over the weekend, but you wouldn’t believe me if I told you her age. I promise. (She’s found the fountain but she hasn’t shared it yet. I’ll keep you posted.) Anyways, the big surprise was all six (yes, SIX) of her boys heading in from all over to surprise and celebrate the one lady responsible for loving and raising them. Really, responsible for so much of their lives (then and now). Awesome, right? Yes, the idea was just splendid and MORE THAN deserved. Goodness, more than. Well, in the end it was executed perfectly, but missing one thing: my husband. He did not go, GASP, but stay with me. He had reasoning. Although trust me, I panicked too.

For weeks these boys, well they planned and planned. Joshua added in his two cents, stay along for the ride, but inside, he said all along he felt like it was the wrong call. Not in general, but for our family, for our current season, for him… as a dad and my husband. But he ignored God’s tugs for fear of disappointing his mom, his parents, and his brothers. Joshua is not one to disappoint. This man is a wee bit of a perfectionist and his heart ALWAYS wants to keep peace and happiness for everyone- even if it has meant over the years ignoring God and himself. A journey I am JUST discovering from him. A journey he is walking currently.

So, rewind to Thursday night (the day before said departure) when Joshua comes home from work and tells me that he isn’t going. Ummm, all of the wives and DILs are with me when I responded immediately, through sarcastic (this is just crazy) chuckles, that he was… Welp, that didn’t work. He didn’t budge. He instead said he was telling the others. Okay, now, cue my desperate tears. (Crying always works, right, ladies? DON’T deny it. We’ve all gone there in our desperation. I was desperate.) I didn’t understand why, I didn’t want to get blamed, and I didn’t want hurt feelings ANY WHERE. People pleaser much? I insisted it was too late. Yet he started to explain why, which in the end was for all of the right reasons, so while I was still horrified on how it would play out, I calmed my sobs and uttered my support for him. Y’all, this was HUGE. My husband is not a rift creator. He isn’t one to step out from a crowd. He is NOT ONE TO SAY NO, especially if it could upset people. Ugh, truth: we both are awful at that, and our marriage has suffered, it has. So, while I was shocked by this “new” stance, I was also proud. I knew it wasn’t Joshua, it was God in Joshua, which was why he showed no fear or regret. He wasn’t doing it to hurt or disappoint, he was doing it because it was what was right, for us, for his family.

Now, why did Joshua make a different choice, especially so late. The truth, from his mouth, was he felt he needed to step out from the beginning, but he kept silencing it. Why would he need to step out from celebrating his sweet mama’s birthday? Well, because we, his family, had just had one of those “months”. You know the type, where “when it rains, it pours”. March was just taking us through the ringer both financially and emotionally. Work travel for Joshua, longer work days for us both, and endless “to-dos”. We were maxed. Then, Josh’s car broke. That was hundreds to fix. Then bumps arouse on our road towards becoming “Foster Parents” with the Physical Exams- which are required by everyone in the household. My boys passed with flying colors, but to no real surprise… I did not. Cue the beginning of our journey through medical loop holes. Ones desperately needed, approval or not, because let’s face it, I don’t need to just be healthy so that I can help others, I needed to face these things and become healthy for my beautiful boys now. So we started the journey running around from specialist to specialist, which takes us both. Joshua often taking off to meet up and grab Brent or wait with him in the office while I had scans performed, more out of the ordinary stress. We nearly met our deductible in ONE month, y’all, one. So, Joshua started to see his wife worry. Joshua started to see his wife well up with tears when the bills arrived, full of guilt. Joshua started to see his wife cancel future doctors appointments, so that her family didn’t have to suffer financially. Joshua started to see his wife put her desire for fostering to the side. He saw her willing to push pause, painfully, well for the two boys already in her arms. Joshua saw that this two-day trip was calling for money to be floated. Money needed to pay medical bills, to pay car bills, Money needed to take care of his family. (These are Josh’s words, not mine.) Y’all, that’s when you know you have a good husband… when you don’t have to make a scene for them to see you, to see your needs, to see your anxiety, to see your disappointment, to see your need for them- even if you aren’t asking. So, all at once Joshua made a choice. Not choosing one worthy over another, gosh he loves us both, but he looked at his current season and he did what he is called to do, he chose his family. Y’all, CUE MY FLOODING TEARS.

Now, in their defense, Josh’s awesome brother’s banded together and absolutely wanted to pay for Joshua, but God said no, even against his wife saying yes. Ha! For Joshua, it was far past being just about the money. God has opened his eyes to a whole new journey. God convicted Joshua about his choices. So Joshua made a choice and he stuck with it. The best part, he did this, he chose not to go, BECAUSE of his mom. This was where she SHINES, y’all. Joshua chose his wife, because of his mother. Because when he saw his wife, he saw his mother and he knew nothing would make her prouder than seeing all of the things she worked so hard to instill, play out in her grown son. To see him obey God, well, above all. He assured me that he knew he’d see her soon and that they both (introverted and quiet) would celebrate her, in their own beautifully similiar fashion, and she’d be JUST as overjoyed, if not more. He knew that this decision was not only pleasing God, but it was the best gift he could give his mama. It was living the gifts she gave him. So, off he went to explain to his parents why he wasn’t coming. To tell them that their lives, their choices, well, they had left their mark, beautifully, on how he formed his. Off he went to thank them for the gifts they taught him, gifts planted by their lived out choices. Off he went on his new journey, not phased by his wife’s desperate tears, not phased by anything. Off he went confidently down a path he said was all about choices. OBVIOUSLY, I do not have to tell you that his parents not ONLY fully understood, but they stood proud of him.

LADIES, I just cannot. I called my mom and just wept, which led to my mom weeping. A mother overjoyed and at such peace over the man who held her daughter at night, who would care for her daughter each day forward. Both a mom and woman who too knew what it meant for a man to boldly choose his wife. This wasn’t about the money or the trip, no, it wasn’t about any of that. It was about a man growing up and fully delivering on the choice he made back in the Fall of 2010. It wasn’t about being gone for a few days, it was about recognizing our season and answering his call.

So I leave you all with something from Jen Hatmaker’s new book (releasing 08/18) that so beautifully explains what my husband did. I could hardly read it through my tears, but he really did make a choice “For the Love” of both of the women in his life. He honored both of us and celebrated both of us by missing a surprise party- go figure. I stand forever grateful for the man she raised and the man she released (gah- I can’t imagine that day, I can’t.) to become my life love. Her gift does live on, every.single.day, in the choices of my beautiful husband, the one she raised for me.

Mug

“Thousands of times during a life built together, you walk up to a moment and choose: I choose your happiness, your health, your well-being. I choose to build you up rather than strip away. I choose you over the Fake Shiny Other who promises something better. I choose forgiveness because otherwise we are hopeless. I choose to believe in you. I choose this life we’ve built, these kids we’ve created, this legacy we’re forming. I choose God in you and me, making us more like his son, writing a lovely story with our life together. I choose you and I could choose you all over again.” -Jen Hatmaker

Joshua, thank you for choosing us, thank you for choosing me. Even when I don’t ask (hello pride). Thank you for protecting us, for loving us, for making HARD choices for us. The month of March tried to run us through the ringer, but I know that with you, I wont ever have to take on ANY season alone, because your love cloaks me, your arms protect me, and your choices (God led) carry me. I love you. My choice is you too, always has been, always will be. Whether that’s climbing up hill, desperately seeking out the shore, or daydreaming together in the valley. XO

“…This weekend, you were my gift. I wanted to be there, but inside, I knew it just wasn’t the right call for our season. I heard God calling me to make a decision for my family, the same way you always made all of your decisions for yours. Mom, this weekend is living proof of your impact on my life. When I choose Erin, it’s because I see her and think of my mom and how my mom, like my wife, needed someone to choose her, the same way she always chose her family and her husband. Choices. Mom, you have helped me make choices. God centered, family based choices. They aren’t always easy, but they are what is best.” -Josh, in a beautiful email to his mama thanking her for his gifts.

Advertisements

A sweet lesson in “carpe diem” with Brent.

What is one’s spirited little to do, trapped for hours inside the four walls of a doctor’s office, all while his mommy walks through endless loops attempting to get her physical approved by the state (life with an auto immune, y’all)?!?!?…

Why, simply initiate a serious discussion regarding this month’s “Car and Driver” with the three other Grandpas present in the room- now all “enjoying” their tiring wait alongside him. I just couldn’t get enough of all of their smiles- smitten by this little’s contagious spirit, captured (hook, line, and sinker) attentively by his precious heart and talk on fast cars. It was a serious matter, y’all, cars and all. I sat there, silent, watching them all debate makes and models, proudly boast stories with Brent about their “golden years”, and slowly release from their days and ailments back to the innocence of three again- if even just for a quick, needed glimpse.

Lord, I pray his adorable heart fights against becoming guarded or distracted by this “fast paced” world. I am continually in awe of how his spirit relentlessly floods out sweet joy 24/7, effortlessly, regardless of the circumstances, no matter the crowd. To think we, his parents, are blessed to get a front row seat each and every time. Now, I am off to sharpen my knowledge on all things cars, because wowzers was I the odd man out. Here’s to three: glorious, vivacious, passionate, and missional. Unworthy, y’all, so unworthy of his joy, but so so grateful! ❤

car and driver

#herehegrowsmeagain #littleboylife #caranddriver #daddysproud

A lesson in BIG bows with Brent.

Our dinner conversation:

“Mommy, I tink der is a girl dat I give my loves to…”

(GASP!!!- a new, foreign twinkle flashes across his eyes and I see it mirrored in his daddy’s acknowledging smile.)

“Her name starts with an M. Ma, Ma, Ma….”

(Relieved, I shout “Mommy!”)

“Welp, okay, I’ll do two gurls… Mommy and Mia!”

(MIA?!?!?!?)

“Yeah… (uncomfortable eye twinkle again), she has da BIGGEST bow strap in class.”

(Joshua and I died, and I immediately started looking at the enrollment costs of other local “all boy” schools, jk!)

#getreadygirls #youdontwantthismama #jkkkk #noimnot #helikesbigbowsandhecannotlie

big bows

A lesson in why I adore Jen Hatmaker.

The following was from Jen Hatmaker’s FB page this morning:

“A second quick word to all my Church Wounded folks. Surely you know I love you deeply. I want you to know that I am no stranger to this particular pain. In fact, church was the scene of my deepest and most devastating heartbreak. Took three years to heal. Church, at one time or another, has deeply hurt my parents, my closest friends, and my siblings.

I GET THIS. I really do.

I know what it is like to be in an unsafe church environment, and those certainly exist because unfortunately, the church is made of people and it seems there is no way around it. Those wounds cut especially deep, and I completely, fully identify with those of you in your pain still keeping arms length. (I remember asking Brandon after our own grief, “Is there anything else you can do? Do you have any other skills? Is there any way we can not do church?” Bless.)

The crazy thing is, church has healed me more than it has hurt me. It really has. I have a different space for it. I no longer expect church to do for me what only God can. That took a lot of pressure off. Church is an imperfect apparatus to bring together people searching for God. Pastors are extremely human, more than we wish. The church is definitely not a gathering of shiny new pennies.

Dear one, if you are in a season of healing, then let God heal you. He can be found anywhere. He certainly isn’t contained within a building, for the love. If you need to rest, rest. But maybe one day when you’re ready, you can try again. There is a safe faith community for you. This I know. It exists. It may be some teeny, tiny little place. It may be some big, fancy loud place. It may be with the Episcopalians or with a home church. Who knows?

And you are an important part of it. It’s not just that you will receive. You will give too. We need you. You bring something special and important to the body and don’t forget it. God heals all of us through each other. It’s this crazy weird miracle.

So all my love to you too today. I just can’t help it: I still believe that we can come together in our little places and love God and each other well…as well as humans can. I’ve just seen it happen too much. God still has to do all the heavy lifting, thank goodness. But we can come – broken, banged up, bruised.

You are so loved and precious. God can bind up even the worst wounds. And His people can be so beautiful, so loving, so healing. I pray you find them, in whatever context, wherever you are, exactly as you are.”

Oh goodness, Jen, straight tears this AM. Such truth AND hope in this message. First, my belief: Church does NOT make you anymore a believer than those who don’t attend- like at all. God is limitless, y’all. That said, we pack it up most Sunday’s and take our crazy caravan to church- gladly seeking worship, community, and His presence. Yet, while we love our church community, we do, we also both (in different ways) have been reminded through our own life experiences not to pour all of our needs and “expectations” (wooftie, lessons here) whole-heartedly onto their (church, believers, etc) plates, alone. Those needs, well, they belong with our Father. He alone is ALL we need. He alone is our Healer and Redeemer.

However, a part of my own heart awakes daily, especially on Sunday mornings, in prayer specifically for those wounded or hurt by the church or even by the believers that it holds, believers like myself. Prior to my own surrender and honestly, even at times after, some of my greatest heart wounds (released now, praise Him) have come at the hands and presumed judgement of “believers”… BUT… God. The Lord grew my heart through each of those very intentional experiences to recognize my own sinful expectations rooted deep within its chambers. He grew me to recognize that I had falsely expected sin to be absent and for a magical perfectionism to appear with salvation, so believers were NOT supposed to hurt or judge me, right?!? (Oh how He and I have laughed over this crazy, early assumption.) Jesus met me on my knees and helped me see that the real truth was that I aided them in making me feel undeserving or cast out, stripped and judged. I had done so myself by creating ridiculous standards for the church and believers, as well as placing “people” and “acceptance” above my Jesus (Whom already loved and accepted His child). Thus, I was setting us all up for failure, really.

Y’all, I am a believer, BUT I am also still a sinner with a sharp tongue of my own at times. Through each tear and alongside of me all of those years fleeing the church, myself, He pursued me, meeting me in my brokenness and faithfully reminding me time and time again that in this life only, ONLY He will never forsake me (you as well). AGAIN, guys, only He. I will love you, friend, I do in fact, but I will fail you (likely have already). I will and have failed my boys, wounding both of their hearts dearly. Yet all that aside, together, you and I, through both our hurts and our own sinful ways, y’all, we can commune together as His children- broken, real hearts and all. We can walk this continual, daily road to redemption as one body. We can help one another heal JUST as quickly as we have hurt one another- I speak this glorious Truth first hand and I praise Him for reforming my own heart when it came to such misled ideas/expectations regarding the church. I praise Him for living forgiveness, active faith, and endless mercy/redemption. I too was greatly wounded once, yet since, healed ten fold by some of those same hands and hearts. (I also have found forgiveness and healing with those who I’ve wounded- so grateful.)

We are all fallen but He is so much bigger than us and our sin, so much. He has taken what once were my wounds, causing me to flee Him, and He has used them to grow within my heart a DEEP, open armed compassion for people. I was made better by it all in the end, that can be seen in the ways my own heart desires now to serve in our church and my family- extending a vast love void of limits or presumption, because I know those wounds, personally. Yet if I do sin in this area (and I have), I also have lived His limitless redemption and forgiveness. Y’all, intention, I tell you. He takes our sin and He makes it beautiful in His own gloriously sovereign ways! Church, well it’s a place that we could see real, live Grace set straight on fire. XOXO

A “quick” lesson in ME.

new glassesHi, y’all! My name is Erin Leigh. I am southern, LOUD, energetic, outspoken, GOOFY, sarcastic, willful, passionate, wordy (bless you, readers) encouraging, opinionated (recovering, praise Him), loving, and basically put: walking, affectionate chaos. I am a beautifully redeemed HOT MESS– true story. (Did you like how I perfectly intertwined my flaws with my strengths?!? That, my loves, is how I choose to view God’s beautifully redeemed creation… ME.)

I “talk louder” in conversations to be heard. I’m extremely fickle at times, but not. Ha!, right? I love with an intensity that’s off the charts, and yet I tend to run away just as quick (in life) when I am afraid at failing at the things I want SO BADLY to succeed: like relationships, accomplishments, and Pinterest. Perfectionist much?!?!? At times I feel like I am a walking, talking irony, truly. Yet, thankfully, I am also a walking, talking redemption. Want to learn more? I am ALWAYS an open book, just try me.

In short (the good stuff): I went to college (away) on a full academic scholarship but quickly departed (transferred, a new start was REQUIRED) my freshman year with a whopping 0.90 GPA. Did you know it went that low? (I am here to confirm it does, don’t try it.) My life: a mess. Prior to college I knew of Jesus only as a trend. Faith, well it was a fraternity/sorority that I was never invited into (wooftie, another blog, perhaps another time)- albeit I tried to fake it a few times, for “name’s sake”, ya know. Life wasn’t easy for me early on (is it really for any of us, lessons y’all, lessons), but I hid it well underneath a massive group of friends, academic success (it all came a bit too easily, I learned that in college when unstructured work was actually required), athleticism, cute clothes, and a big ole fake grin. I dated boys, went to sleep overs, Spring Break trips, dances, etc. I, well, belonged (externally), or so it appeared. Truth: inside I was SO alone for most of my childhood and early adulthood. All of y’all that did know me are likely like “whattttt?!?!?!”. Yep, I was that good at wearing a mask(s). Aren’t we all, in our own ways?

My now: after hitting BOTTOM (and I mean way down) in my early twenties, I finally surrendered controlled and agreed to meet my Creator, Sustainer, and TRUE belonging. He began to immediately clean out all of the lies and together, we started the crawl back up from academic hell, hand in hand. He helped me start to rediscover who I was always meant to be, in Him. I finally stopped having to “fake it” (oh y’all, I just can’t take the masks anymore, I can’t) and stopped all that chaotic “seeking” and “comparing” as I was now and forever FOUND.

So fast foward (the GREAT stuff): I eventually graduated college with Honors (two degrees in hand, mind you), got accepted into a prominent grad school, and married the man of my forever. (You thought I’d say dreams, right?!?, NOPE, not dreams… lovingly put: two people who intentionally chose love, together, with a fierce passion for our entire lives. Continually choosing one another daily- through the good and the bad. You know, a redeeming kind of life love.) Now, we are raising what I call “walking ADORABLE” who goes by the infamous name: Brent. Life still isn’t perfect- Hello, I am a sinner- BUT it is filled with daily love, promise, mercy, and endless hope. I am still growing, made anew in each moment of surrender (a BIG OLE DEAL for this type A controller), and slowly but steadily learning to release my grip on this “ride” through life. This blog is so you can laugh and grow with us, like a tribe. A loving, chaotic, dysfunctional, redeemed tribe. Love: this blog is my way of loving my tribe, out loud.

I enjoy sharing our ups and our downs with y’all- being, well, at times absurdly transparent. We all have our “closets”, we do, but we all also should have one another, there, loving each other out of those dark, hidden closets. Not like how it can often be displayed in our dreams or in movies, but through our daily choices- like Josh and I’s marriage. You know, a continual redeeming type of fellowship and community and I’ve learned, after nearly 30 years into this journey, it starts with honesty (with ourselves especially, as well as others). Again, oh the irony… for me at least. So, that’s a quick snip bit into my life. We will wrap it up as: raw, real, AND redeemed. That’s why this blog is about lessons, because my life… yep, you guessed it, ALWAYS about His lessons, every. single. day. XOXO

PS- Mom, Dad, thanks for always loving me, even through the 0.90 GPAs and beyond. You always knew I could and would, even when I didn’t.

A lesson in celebrating- no matter the season or holiday.

Things I (am learning to) love: 

Weeks that grow me- even if through tired tears.

Limbo- you know those seasons stocked full of intention and faith (yes, LOTS of faith, y’all).

Saturday mornings- often spent watching my giggling boys chase one another while they insist I rest, regather, and just observe it all- filling my heart and body back to full.

My husband- a man of few words, true, but gifted nonetheless with endless listening, immense compassion, and a content way of walking to his own beat in this life. He’s both insanely observant and thoughtful. Someone who listens well enough to hear me say that I want to freeze my little’s current tiny hands as they are, one who knows that I do so cherish B’s current signature (albeit a love/hate relationship when signed multiple times over), and the person who tucks away little tokens that his love picks up and nonchalantly remarks about seeing her Father’s heart written upon them. This man, who says so little verbally (which truly is a perfect balance for his two other endless gabbers) always says so much through his heartfelt actions. I use to get so frustrated that he didn’t communicate like me, true (selfish) story, but now… four years into marriage, I am SO grateful he doesn’t, so grateful. His “listening” approach to life, (one where his heart does the talking and not his mouth or pride, like me) well… it has grown me in ways I never even saw coming. He’s rare and he’s mine- totally undeserving but totally grateful that his whole heart took on this “hot mess of redemption” and has never.looked.back. Together, we literally made walking, talking, illuminating “ADORABLE” and we named it Brent, Michael Brent.

#happyTODAYyall

valentin

A lesson in the importance of short names.

Brents name

“…but Mommy, I want to write my ‘real favorite name’.”-B

I tried to sell him on just signing “B”, but a las, it appears he is rather smitten with the dreadfully long name my pregnant self insisted we bestow upon him- totally disregarding a future three-year old Brent (a perfectionist at heart, just like his mama) writing it EIGHTEEN times over. So, here’s to more coffee, staring at this sweet name (my favorite too, honestly), and thanking the Lord for raining down patience and caffeine on this mama today. Y’all, if we ever find ourselves naming a sweet little again, I am thinking “Bo (no middle) Cox”, the end. :))))) Take that preschool valentines, you wont get me again!!!! Totally kidding, we both only cried once, every minute, per card! I kid, I kid (no I don’t).

A lesson in love.

“I know how to make gurls stop talking wots (one to talk, little)…”-B

(Intrigued, we obviously questioned how that was…)

“You just kiss dem until dey stop”- B proclaimed proudly as he laid a big ole smacker on me, mid beginning to talk. Welp, it worked, that’s for sure!!!

Joshua, is this the advice you lay down during your “male bonding”?!?!?!

hearts

A lesson in throwing out encouragement…

As I sat, just now, with a sweet little wrapped in my arms, enjoying his bottle, my own little popped down the stairs and randomly said, “You’re SO good at dat, mommy!”

“What? Feeding Graham his bottle?”-me

“Nope. Not dat. At being mommy. You da best at lovin!”-B

Brent bounded right off at the same speed he arrived, not awaiting any type of reply. Yet he left his mommy speechless, with grateful tears instantly streaming down my cheeks. I felt overwhelmed last night, okay, all of yesterday, yes with the virus, but also… just with life, with me. Ever had one of those days? I was grateful, I am grateful, BUT I am also full of expectations, selfish desires, and a long-standing love/hate relationship with perfectionism. Long story short, I am still a sinner. SURPRISE!!!! (Not at all, I hope.) I have been redeemed in SO many ways, praise HIM, but wooftie do I still have so much to release, so much of me… Yet, just like my son (AND my husband, the true front-runner, really), my Father sees my frustrating days, the days I fall short and come off as snippy and lacking patience… and STILL He meets me in my tears of defeat and says, “You, there crying tears, you are SO great to me, still.” He floods this truth back into my heart through the sweet, intentional words of my three-year old. The same little who saw a twitch of “cray cray” in his mommy’s eyes yesterday as we battled a stomach virus on no sleep, solo.

I don’t always feel deserving of Brent’s (my Father’s) sweet compliments, like today, or of his endless love, I don’t. I make wrong choices minute to minute, but one choice I refuse to give up on, a choice that I didn’t really make, for myself, until my mid twenties, one I sometimes need a nudge “back” towards… is to LOVE THROUGH those days. JUST like how my Father, my life love, and my son CHOOSE to love me, undeserving, THROUGH both the hills and valleys of this life. Love… y’all, when spilled, it FILLS a tired mama back up to full. Love leaves a child feeling taken care of, even on the rough days where frustrations and germs reign over snuggles and grace. Love, even currently states apart, encourages and restores. LOVE!!!, it meets us where we are and it covers us, continually pursues us, and it changes us!

So, for now, I will thank the Lord for that needed bout of encouragement, I will take another CHERISHED sip of my coffee, cold, but there, and I will smile my way through today knowing that I don’t do it all right, I don’t, but I do just fine by love, just fine, and that counts SO much more in my book. Here’s to silencing those other silly standards (through comparison, perfectionism, etc) that I (we) set and allow to pierce me (us) with “false” failure and lies, because when it comes to love, Truth always rings louder, and I (we) have the BEST examples before me, I (we) do. Just another dose of real, y’all. Off we go, CHOOSING to LOVE (all, ourselves included) THROUGH… ‪#‎herewegrowagainandagain‬

Brent sleeping. coffee cup