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

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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 transparency and grace.

Confession:

I. Am. Not. Perfect…

Like at all, it’s quite laughable, now, thinking of my pursuit to be, BUT here is some truth:

I am, however, loved, redeemed, and carried by a PERFECT Lover and Creator.

My past, even my faults from yesterday, my distracted heart today AND before my Jesus… they ALL try to haunt me, consume me, and poison me.

BUT, now, let’s talk REAL: the fact is, it is MY choice (your choice) to grab up those darts and dig them in, collecting spiritually fatal wounds, OR to deny them, each and every one, any ENTRY in the name of Truth, of mercy, of a grace filled love that meets me (you), here, in the now and transforms me, daily. The pursuit of perfect is a lost cause, y’all, because it’s ONLY found in Him and His endless love of us. We can wear masks, but the latter is SO much more freeing.

So, yes, I can be crabby, guarding, doubtful, and selfish. My days “sometime” (read between the lines, lol) messy, chaotic, and hard, BUT He meets me there- relentlessly cleaning house, refocusing His child, and growing in me selflessness, faith, community, and peace. Through out all of my seasons, He’s never, NEVER denied me love or entry into His arms, never. I can’t say the same of people, myself included, but He…never, y’all.

So here’s to real, because He’s found in the real and in the raw… Where one cries out in surrender, sometimes from a closet, in the dark, eating chocolate, with heavy tears streaming. (No personal experience there, none, but I’ve heard of such.) Masks, my collection especially, they bore me, and worse they hide my never-ending need for Him and His faithful redeeming, so much already present.

<exits closet>

not perfect

A lesson in crazy… crazy grace, that is.

Y’all, real life:

I’m still in Josh’s PJs (lol), my hair…done by Brent and yet I’ve kept it all day (normal, crazy normal). I haven’t bathed (truthfully, either of us), I’ve likely made a TON of mistakes today, BUT I’ve done two things “just right”:

(1) I’ve loved this kiddo (my current season) with a fierce, “eye kinda twitches some days” love AND

(2) I’ve lived in grace, really, I’ve lived out His grace.

Some days that looks like a scattered map of mistakes, tears, apologies, mercy, and release (okay MOST days here), but He’s always there, reminding me I can do a billion things wrong by earthly standards but still do it mercifully okay in His book- by simply living for/loving Him first and then others, second.

Y’all, love today (yourself and others), forgive today, be REAL today- it’s a beautiful mess of a life we live, just gloriously beautiful, even in the mess…He is down there in the mess with you and I and LOVE.

#‎grace‬  ‪#‎motherhood‬ ‪ #‎momlife‬  #REAL

crazy

A “small” lesson in opened eyes and silent, present hearts.

Sometimes encouragement isn’t providing another outlet of advice, sometimes it can be found in a pinch of “zen”, an ounce or ten of chocolate, and within a “lot” of unspoken love, prayer, and being just, well, there. I don’t always have the best advice, many times I don’t. I’m often awkward and scatter brained, but I care, I love, and I have this particular way of showing others through small tokens of:

“Yep, I do carry you with me. I think of you, like I think about Target, and I love you both, A LOT.”

People, keep your eyes and your hearts open for those weary and in need of encouragement, even if only heard through hidden heart whispers. Love, extended love, it really can make all the difference, it can.

target candy

A lesson in content, grateful love and it’s tracks throughout our life.

This rug and I, we two, are one. When I first found her, I beamed. EXACTLY what I wanted, EXACTLY what we could afford. I did my ENTIRE decor around this very rug. A rug that holds so much of our life, as three, within her threading. I sat today apologizing to her for always frantically vacuuming her- attempting to “cover up” all of the life she proudly possesses, all for appearance sake. For throwing “life less” accusations her way and envying other new rugs, rugs surely void of her love. She’s ever faithful, this one. She’s taken on potty training, crumbs, more dog hair than what currently resides on our two dogs, three different vacuums, viruses, naps, snacks, and movies. She’s our crash, the center of our home, she’s reliable. Her ends might be fraying, her color faded from the sun, and her “new” long worn away… but now she offers me so much more. She smells of my little, she’s full of all of our snuggles, and she’s the very road map of our life here… one I’ve tried often to curse and plead to replace for trendy sake, but yet she still loves me and always welcomes my collapse, yes, loving collapse, daily. It’s you and me girlfriend- a bit worn and tattered these days, never quite as fresh anymore, but stocked FULL of love. Happy, we are happy.

Rug

A lesson in team building.

It is 2pm here and y’all I still am in my PJs, with smeared eye make-up, and laughable hair (curly heads unite). My husband did breakfast, soccer, ran six miles, made lunch, and has showered. Yet we are both are smiling for me, because I have laughed with my sister, caught up on some reading, rested my sore muscles (squats hate me, they do), and allowed myself to be served. Marriage for us has been about melting, becoming a team, rejoicing for one another, and serving one another- allowing one to take a load off. Marriage is seasons and flexibility. Arguments and make-ups. Grace, marriage is an endless soft-serve machine of flowing grace. We came into it selfish but praise Him for continually breaking us to find our selfless. Okay, now I will shower, because I love them more than my stink.

family photo

A lesson in life, yes, girl life…

I read something last night that struck me. Okay, honestly, it knocked me and my heart flat out:

“I do not like to make other women feel less than…”

Ugh.

I found my heart still pondering over this today, in fact, crying about it during my entire “hot mess” of a run. ANYWAYS, there I was, asking myself (well, pleading, really) if this was true of me. I’m nice, helping, loving, but what’s at my core, tucked away. I believe it to be true of me, now…, but the reality is, as I ran, I found myself sparring off with my spirit on why, if I didn’t want women to feel less (myself included), did I (do I) fall all too easily all of these years to competition, exclusivity, envy, comparison, gossip, judgement, etc. Worse yet, why didn’t and don’t I see the “mean girl” behind it all…immediately. Even more convicting, my ability to hide it inside of me. Yep, another mask, possibly even from myself- I’m that convincing. Why am I not flat on my face with conviction daily, because y’all, I’ll be real- whether or not I choose to recognize it for what it is, I have still subtlely measured my worth at times and my success off of y’alls… your lives, your seasons, your success, and much worse, I fear, your failures. I have ignored exclusivity and participated in it. I’ve stayed in my comfort and avoided reaching out. I’ve presented myself at times, rather than allowing you to grow and live with me in the raw.

The end result of it all today: a finished run, some crazy looks at the red faced girl running with tears streaming, and a heart broken open and raw to the urgency of facing this epidemic in my life and attacking it’s root(s) head on: insecurity, pride, people pleasing, a longing to be liked and to belong… just to name a few. I have felt the Lord, on His own, move mountains in this area of my life, redeeming and cleansing out the yuck and lies stored away, but I know more likely lays, still. Because I still hold back on spilling endless encouragement to anyone and everyone, I fixate on my issues and ignore yours written across your discouraged face, I withhold my mess to make you see only my clean side, I filter, I hold my tongue on “what’s right” and I miss standing up for those who need a lift, all for the sake of peace and favor with people.

Y’all, I have been a “mean girl” in my life (intentional and unintentional) and I, too, like you, have wept at the hands of “mean girls”, yes, still even as a 29 year old (my poor husband will confirm-bless him). It’s just a vicious cycle, y’all. One we can choose to end by choosing to value and love ALL, without an agenda or benefit. We are ALL glorious and beautiful and better yet, SISTERS. Consider this my apology, truly. I likely owe too many to count. My tears fell for y’all, cleansing tears, eye opening tears.

I keep hearing this term “lifer”, okay, I’ve said it too, but the reality is: we are all in this, together, created by the same Creator, living our lives, well, as “lifers”. Enough mean girls, enough masks, enough with the games and facades. It is SO much easier to CHOOSE joy, acceptance, transparency, community, and LOVE…so much. Why we ever choose anything else, well, it befuddles me. Yep- I befuddle me. SO, here’s to living the fact that Y’ALL, different as we may or may not be, yes, are all as perfectly imperfect as me.

hot cocoa pic