Miracles from Heaven

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a pre-screening of the new Jennifer Garner movie, Miracles From Heaven, coming to theatres March 16th. I was a hot mess through the whole movie, but in a good way. I was so moved and challenged that I had to share it with you.

Miracles From Heaven is a story of faith and how God works in mysterious ways. I was drawnto the quality of acting, it was authentic and pure. I was crying in the first scene as I saw a mother's love and devotion to her girls as she raises them to love God, His word and His ways.  One of the girls becomes ill and the families life is flipped upside down. Financially, emotionally and physically strained, the family is faced with dilemma of faith. How can a just God allow this to happen to a child? was one of the many questions challenged in this film. I wish I could say more but I'm sworn to secrecy until the movie is released. I will say,  I wish all pediatric specialists had the personality and care of Dr. Nurko. He made me smile every time he was on the screen. When you see the movie, I'm sure you will agree:)

I highly recommend this film. Thankful for a movie that not only has a powerful message of truth but is of a high quality in story and acting.

Pack a LOT of kleenex, and if you forget, don't say I didn't warn you!

One more thought: As I mentioned, the acting is very authentic; if you have recently experienced a loss or an illness of a child, you may need to sit this one out as it could feel overwhelming and too close to home.

 

Making Every Moment of Chaos Count

As I sit and write I am filled with anticipation, fear and uncertainty.  When you hear the reason you may think I'm being a tad dramatic but it is my reality.  I was just confronted with the realization that my girls start school next week. Most moms I know are doing the happy dance, cheering with a joyful anticipation. I sit here with dread and a heaviness.  I'm starting to process our summer of vacation and fun and questioning if I've used our summer wisely. I have the uniforms and shoes in order, backpacks and lunch kits ready on their hooks, school supplies purchased. I have everything for back to school ready, except I wonder, have I done enough this summer to shape my daughter's characters so they are equipped for the year ahead. Beyond the school supplies, are they ready for the year ahead. I begin to cry as I feel I have failed them. I've sat this week listening to them bicker and run to me with every conflict. Instead of working through the fruit of the spirit with them, I yelled, sent them to their rooms and was frustrated over and over again, thinking, "I can't wait for school to start!!!"

But now I sit thinking of missed opportunities to teach my girls about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self control.  They are about to go out into their school where they are going to be confronted with choices everyday; to yell at the boy who teases them or to have self control; to leave someone out of their group or show kindness. I'm not confident they have the tools to choose the latter.  Have I done enough to instil God's purpose and plan for them in their heart? 

I was praying about this today and was reminded that school hasn't started yet. I still have 11 more days to pour into my girls, to teach them the character in which God calls them to without the distraction of peers and homework.  We still have 11 days to build in our family the habit of family devotions. Of not just praying together but teaching the girls how to pray. Of not just building their character but teaching them the meaning of character and why it's important to have good character. 

There is an amazing book by Kara Durbin called Parenting with Scripture. It is a great resource to get started. It is a topical guide to equip you as a parent to instil God's principles into the everyday lives of our kids.  The book offers topics from A-Z and with each topic provides scripture, discussion questions, take action activities and a challenge or parenting tip. When one of my girls speaks harshly to her sister, my response is often, "Speak kindly". When they sass me, I say, "Be respectful". When my oldest complains about something I feel is entitled, I say, "have an attitude of gratitude".  All good things to teach them, but unless they understand what it means to be kind or respectful, the action is never going to get to their heart and stick.  I need to not only tell them the trait I want them to possess but I need to teach them what it means and how to posses that specific character trait.

My goal for my girls is that they love God, His church and His ways. I want them to think through and apply God's instructions for them and go to the Bible for answers. I can't accomplish this goal without toiling with them proactively, teaching them how to use God's Word as our guide. 

This school season doesn't have to be looked at in dread of what I haven't done but to be encouraged of what I am doing and be hopeful of how God will work in my girls as they grow in their faith. Every day is a new opportunity to teach, guide and lead by example. I'm choosing today to make every moment of Chaos count.

This (Messy) Beautiful Chaos...

Since my last post, I have been on a messy, beautiful journey of humbling myself before God in order to draw closer to Him to better hear his call on my life in all areas.

In January, I took a big step in joining an incredible program called Freedom Session. It is a program that walks you through steps to gain freedom from anything that holds you captive. It helps you to see why you react the way you do and addresses the inner vows you make through the years.  We offered it through Village Church. I knew going into it that I, alongside my group, would have to be authentic, vulnerable and honest in order to gain freedom in the areas God would reveal to me. I had many friends suggest I do it through a different church where I could be anonymous but I knew God wanted me to do it in my church, among the people I have been called to serve.

If you've ever been through Freedom Session or a similar program you know that my life was about to be emotionally turned on it's head.  I went in not knowing exactly what I needed to work on but quickly realized that it was all about trusting wholly in God.  From the time I was a young child I had crippling anxiety which held me captive, and I was unable to live life to the fullest because I was controlled by fear.  My strategy for coping with fear was control; I felt that if I controlled the world around me I could feel safe. As I grew into adulthood it worked, but I was only masking my fears, I didn't actually have freedom from them.

In these months, God broke me to the point of recognizing that he can be my only source of strength. You see, as much as I love God and followed His ways, I was trying to take His role in my life. I was my own god. I thought I knew best on how to do marriage, parenting, and friendship. I had to lay all my thoughts, relationships and actions at the foot of the cross and repent for trying to take the reigns. God knit me in my mothers womb, he knows my strengths and weaknesses and in that I can trust that He knows best.

My prayer for you as you is that you don't let pride hold you back from letting God reveal your weaknesses so you can grow in character. I knew the risks of being vulnerable in the church I serve, but I fear God more than my appearance to man. Don't miss out on what God has called you to for fear of looking weak, for that is the opposite of freedom.

 

Season of New Beginnings

With the new fall season approaching our home is a buzz with anticipation of change. After much prayer and persuasion from our girls we have decided to stop homeschooling and send them back to school. After a year and a half of slowing our lives down and focusing on the emotional and spiritual growth of our girls and family we feel ready for this new adventure. 

As I've mentioned in previous posts, each season begins with reflection and prayer for guidance of where God will use me. Last season was primarily on my girls and helping serve alongside my girls, hosting & caring for children as their moms attended bible study. This season, I feel is about strengthening my relationship with God through prayer and studying God's Word. I feel a calling to focus more attention on this blog; interacting and encouraging fellow ministry wives and spending time being mentored in my calling as wife, mother and ministry wife.  Stay tuned for more interviews and articles.

Have you spent time in prayer for this upcoming season? What will this season look like for you?  Is it your time to focus entirely on your personal spiritual growth or is it your time to use your gifting to serve a group? Is it a season to mentor?, to be mentored?, or both?  What is God calling you to?

Please pray for me as I prepare to send my little ones out into the world, it is bittersweet. I'm excited for the adventure but will miss spending the time with them. Pray that I can stay focused on God's calling on my life and keep open to new opportunities God may call me to. Pray for our family, that we can keep up with the new pace of life, that there will still be time for focused family time and that we will yearn to draw closer to God, even in the chaos that is our life.

Please leave a comment below or e-mail me at thisbeautifulchaosthatismylife@gmail.com with prayer requests or share how God has been speaking to use you this fall season.

Motherhood Perfection

Happy Mother’s Day! I know I’m a couple days late but if you’re a mom, you get the chaos that prevents me from doing what I set out to do in a timely matter. This year Mark and I spent our first mother’s day in 10 years with our mother’s, thus guaranteeing they received the card and present that I usually find unsent around July. Points for me this year!!

I’m the worst at following through, I’m kind hearted and have the best of intentions to bake for my neighbours or send a card to a friend. You ever feel like that? Like you’re really good with showing kindness in your heart? I know that may sound a bit crazy, but it’s true, if I only sent all the sympathy, thinking of you, thank you, birthday cards I wrote in my head:)

I often feel this way in motherhood, I have the best intentions to savour the moment with my girls, spend time playing with them, reading them books, teaching them God’s word. In my head it’s so smooth, we glide through our day, singing softly and smiling at one another while we dance through our day. Then I get out of bed and reality begins; constant bickering, “she took my toy, she looked at me funny, poo poo face," it takes everything in me not to lose my mind. Don’t even get me started on the messes that follow me all day long. I’m lucky if my kids get there teeth brushed some days. It is exhausting being a mother.

I make promises to my kids and husband that I can’t keep because there are only so many hours in the day. “Yes, I’ll sew the button on your shirt; we’ll build a fort tomorrow.” I try my best but sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough. Sometimes as moms, we feel lonely in our journey, not measuring up to the standards we’ve made for ourselves.

Tonight I went to see the movie Moms’ Night Out, if you are a mom, go see it. I will warn you, it starts off a bit cheezy and mediocre but it will be worth it. It was thought provoking, heartfelt and at times hilarious. As a mom there were many relatable moments.

It was about a mom who was exhausted trying to be everything to her family and never felt like she was good enough. Her house was a mess, husband travelled, kids got into mischief, she would show up to church a wreck and compare herself to the moms who looked perfect (relatable already right?). Her husband encourages her to do something for herself, which I found hilarious as he used the same analogy that Mark uses to me, “you need to use your oxygen mask before you can help others.” She plans a girl’s night with her friend and pastor’s wife and the adventure begins…

After an evening of mishaps there is a beautiful scene of her talking with a rough biker, he talks of the pressure she’s putting on herself for perfection, drawing on experiences from his own mother. He told her God knew who her children needed as a mom and He will guide her. Then he said something his mother always said, “I’m a mess, but I’m a beautiful mess. I’m His masterpiece, and that is enough.” I found that so powerful. I will put on my mirror and meditate on it. I’m a mess, but I’m a beautiful mess. I’m His masterpiece and that is enough.

Will that be enough for you this mother’s day? God made me to be me, he gave me my three girls as a gift to love and guide for as long as he allows. My prayer is that I use this time wisely, that I don’t waste this precious time chasing after perfection but I place my trust in Him to guide me through each day, giving me my manna for the day, nothing more, nothing less. 

 

Photo Credit: Ella Haus Photography

Husband vs. Girls - Guilt, Connection & Blessings

A midst the chaos of our busy life I dream about the breaks: sunny beaches, sitting by a pool in a bikini, reading a novel without interruption, holding Mark's hand as we stroll through shops. A couple months ago Mark tells me he is going to California for a conference and he'd love if I came along. We could add a couple days to enjoy quality time with one another. This is amazing, it's what I've been dreaming of, but then reality hits and I realize, I love being with my kids more, I don't want to be away from them. I decide to suck it up and go anyway.

The day before we leave, however, I melt. The overwhelming feeling of guilt over leaving my girls becomes too much. The kids don't help either, as they know how to pull my heartstrings. I begin looking into switching flights so I'm there a shorter period of time, or maybe I should cancel all together, I think. My kids need me; they are my priority.

A good friend

I called my good friend who I call when I need honest straightforward advice and wisdom (get a few of these spiritual counselors ladies! We all need them). She knows the ins and outs of our family in such a way that I knew she could speak into my life.  After sharing my fears and concerns she said, “You're forgetting one thing: Mark needs you too. He needs to be your priority. Mark needs your undivided focus and attention and you need a break so you can have strength to continue to care for the girls and the people God has put in your care.” I realized in that moment that I needed to push through and get on the plane in order to have that quiet, uninterrupted time with Mark in order to strengthen our friendship and marriage.

Peace, community and the lady by the water

We made it to L.A, and once I was there, that peace - that always seems to be welcoming me when we can get away together - flooded over me. We had a great time walking around, sitting by the pool, and having great food. Over the course of that week there were seven different women who watched our girls, loving on them and enriching their lives. Before the trip I shared with one of the ladies how hard it is for me to leave the girls, she encouraged me by saying, "Just think of it this way: you're letting them bless other people with their sweetness!" It really does take a village to raise a child, and God has given us such a great one!

As we sat by the pool, reading, and talking on our second day, a woman who was sitting on the other side of the pool, who had spent the day reading walked up to us, knelt down and said something that blew us away: "God spoke to me” she said. Mark and I looked at each other. Strange. She had no clue that we were Christians. “He told me to come up to you and tell you that He is pleased with you both and happy that you are spending time together, and that He wants to spend more time with you both."  I was like, "he said what?" I could not believe how God used this woman to encourage us and affirm in me the importance of spending time together away from the chaos of our life.

How about you?

Are you putting your children before your husband? Do you need to plan some focused time with him? It doesn't need to cost money. Maybe you could send the kids to someone's house for the night, plan a day trip that ends with an empty house, etc., Are you allowing the community that God has given you to bless your family with time spent with your kids? Sometimes ministry is about receiving.

I am so thankful for this time of laughter, quiet and fun with my amazing husband and then had a blast hearing of the adventures my sweet girls had experienced while we were away.

This trip to L.A. was a few weeks ago. This past week the staff, Elders and spouses of Village Church all went together to the Resurgence Conference at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. To be honest, I had the same stresses leading up to it as well, but once again God blessed my time away by filling me up spiritually through the speaking of some great men of God. I then came home to three very happy little girls who have special memories because of special women who had the opportunity to show love to my girls and bless Mark and I. God is good. 

Be True to Who You Are - Part 2

This past weekend I went on a great women's retreat with the women of Village Church. I had the privilege of emceeing the weekend and was my crazy, outgoing self. Many of the women were surprised by this, as they only see me on Sunday mornings, thus most assume I am just quiet and reserved. But the truth is, while I enjoy being quiet, listening to other people's stories, and working in the background of the church, supporting Mark, etc., I am naturally more extraverted, love being crazy and enjoy a good laugh with friends! That's the way God has wired me. 

What I have come to see over many years is this: I can't try to be what I wasn’t designed to be. I try. God knows I try. I see other wives of ministry leaders and I think, “God why didn’t you design me like so & so.” I know I’m not alone in thinking this way. So many wives, if they are honest, are trying to be someone they are not. These unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves are most likely not from our spouses, or our churches, and most definitely not from God.  Have you put unrealistic expectations on yourself that you will never meet?

Wives' Issues

Global Pastor’s Wives Network reports two interesting statistics: (1) that 80% of pastor's wives struggle with depression.

I believe that one of the reason for that is, at least in part, comes from women just not being themselves. We each create our own paradigm for how a pastor’s wife should act, then out of that we push ourselves beyond our natural limits to fit in the box, causing anxiety, doubt and loneliness.

Have you suppressed who God has made you? Are you struggling with finding your identity? Have you given up trying and isolated yourself?

(2) That the No. 1 reported reason pastor's leave the ministry is cited as "wives' issues.

We need to work together to stop these staggering statistics. We need to get strong in who we are and band together to encourage one another. Serving out of our strengths and passions. We need to stop comparing ourselves to each other and start finding our identity in Christ. God has made us each with our own unique personalities and gifting. We need to start staying true to who we are and not get distracted by who we think people want us to be.

When I think of each of the wives on our Village Church team I am amazed and thankful for how different we all are. God knew what each of our husbands needed in a wife. Be the helpmate God knew your husband needed. Use your God given gifts to serve your church well. Be true to who you are in Christ!

 

Be True to Who You Are - Part 1

Do you know who you are in Christ? Have you spent so many years being who you think people want you to be that you feel like you've lost yourself? Maybe you are new to ministry and you have ideals of how you think a pastor's wife should act. Growing up in the church my understanding of a pastor's wife became: A pastor's wife must be quiet; but social. A friend to all; but not too friendly. Authentic; but never let people too close or past your protective wall or you will get burned (and of course you have to play the piano, speak at women's conferences, etc., etc.,). Sounds crazy right? Trying to fit that criteria will always crush you.

Not Wrong just Different

I wish there was a Bible college course for the wives of future pastors. The syllabus would read: Success to Ministry: Be True to Who You Are!

Who are you? 

Are you outgoing or more private? Do people energize you or drain you? Are you open to share your life experiences or more closed? None of these are right or wrong - they are simply indicative of different personalities and the different roles, gifts, passions and wirings of one person to another. To quote Dr. Emmerson Eggerich as he speaks about men and women, "not wrong, just different."

Personally, I am an outgoing person who loves being with people but I also need quite a bit of alone time to re-energize. I know that if I plan something every night of the week I will crash. Through many years of trial and error I have had to find the balance of how much is too much for me and my family. I’ve usually had to learn the hard way. And I'm still learning.

What Drives you and Drains you?

Once you've figured out what drives you and what drains you, you will be able to make a plan of action for your life and ministry. Sit down with your husband and decide together what you can and can’t take on in the upcoming season. You need to take care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. It is important to understand that there are times when you simply have to protect your life from the church and not attend something, or not be a part of something for the longevity of your health and ministry, and that's alright, we have to be comfortable with that. 

But, there will also be times that you will have to step out of your comfort zone (yes, with a plan to retreat back to your safe place in order to stay healthy and strong) but to step out nonetheless. There are times that you will have to smile and converse with people when you don't feel like it. During these times, it is important to remember: we are not doing ministry for us, but for God. We are called to be a helpmate to our husband and serve the people of our church in love.

Mark has done a litany of different jobs in ministry and every one of them called us to be something different: Jr. High ministry in inner-city Toronto meant I was leading a group of young Jr. High girls who knew nothing about the Bible, didn't know their father's, and who took care of their younger siblings every day and even brought them to youth group, even though they themselves were only 11! Then High school ministry, then Young Adult Ministry (this was my hardest season as I was just a couple years older and found it intimating), then church planting. The list goes on, and every role has looked different. But one thing was common: they all involved things I didn't necessarily feel comfortable doing, but I had to as this was our calling for that season.

In the early years, I didn’t realize the importance of balance. I gave everything I had and was often depleted. I thought my role was to serve the church at all costs. The problem was, I was giving everything without being filled up. I wasn’t spending enough time in the Word and prayer. I was serving from my own strengths instead of God’s. I had close friends but I didn’t have a friend that truly understood the calling on my life.

God has been so gracious and given me a friend to journey in ministry with. We are able to talk about life in ministry, laugh together, cry together and grow in faith with one another. She sees the good, the bad and the ugly and speaks wisdom into my life. God has given us both a passion to encourage other pastors wives and we spend many hours talking on these things.

I challenge you to get into the Word, pray for God to lead you in your ministry in this season and find another woman in ministry to journey alongside. Even if it's over phone or e-mail. We are not called to do this alone.

If you need prayer or would like to be connected with another pastor's wife to journey with please e-mail thisbeautifulchaosthatismylife@gmail.com

Great Expectations - Changing Ministry Priorities

When we began Village Church, it seemed fitting that I, along with an amazing friend, would take on the leadership of starting Village Kids. We were both Early Childhood Educators and had a passion for seeing children become followers of Jesus. We were starting the church from scratch, there was a need, and we wanted to serve in our area of gifting and passion.

Looking back now, we realize that for the sake of our family and marriage it was not the best strategy. In 2010, when we launched Village Church, our girls were three and one. I would prepare lessons and resources during the week, printing all activities from our home printer, try to do leadership training, and schedule volunteers, which I was horrible at, so I would just fill in myself.

Sundays were the kicker. Mark would leave the house early to prepare and help set up the church, and I would load up our car with supplies, wake the girls up so we could get to the school by 7:00 am to set up. I would set the girls up with a bowl of cheerios and a video while I ran around with a couple other’s, setting up the children’s wing. I would then check kids in, run back and lead worship and story tell for the older grades, then jump into whatever class I didn't schedule for, and then take it all down and pack it away for the next week. I loved it. Using your gifts, and passions to serve God is life giving, but if not done with the right balance of other areas of life, it can also be a recipe for burn out. Not only was I running this ministry, I was still a Pastor's wife.

At that time we were having dinners in our home every night of the week with new attendees. It was “Guess who's coming to dinner?” almost every night for me.  I enjoyed entertaining and meeting new people, and it was so encouraging to see how God was using Village Church to change people’s lives. I always felt so blessed to be able to serve that I was unaware of how it was affecting our marriage.

I was not able to be the encouraging, supportive wife that Mark needed during this crazy season because I was caught up in the ministry myself. Rather than working on the church, alongside of him, I was working in the church.

Looking back I realize that I was so focused on being "Martha," that I wasn't able to be an encouragement. Almost every Sunday afternoon we would have the same conversation, Mark would say, "Man, I'm beat!" and I would say, "You're beat? Really, because I'm pretty sure I just did the same thing as you today, except I had the kids in tow." 

It's been a process, but over the last two years I've been slowly weaning myself out of formal leadership within the church for this season of our lives. I believe that God has called me to serve the church in relational ways: doing dinners and coffee’s with people, help pour into and bring together the Pastor’s wives, encourage young women, and most of all be a helpmate for Mark as he leads the church (Gen2:18).

Practical ways I've changed my priorities

Spend as much time in the Bible and in prayer as possible. Right now I am studying Beth Moore’s David.

Be an encouragement, a help, and support to Mark rather than be another person in ministry for him to lead and be responsible for. 

Attend one of the three services, rather than all three, so I am being filled and my kids enjoy attending church, rather than them equating it with being tired, overwhelmed and alone, as Mark and I connect with people. At one time I attended all the services so I could connect with as many people as possible - as I love this! But now I realize, as my kids are getting older, this just doesn’t work for them, so we come home, and have a relaxing afternoon until Mark is home.

Making every moment with my kids count, teaching them the ways of Jesus. Our routine as a family is - Breakfast with all of us at the table, a daily devotional (right now it is Jesus Calling for Kids), which includes the kids finding the Scripture passage in their Bible’s and reading them, and then Mark prays for the family around the table, and heads off to work, while we start school. 

God has been blessing our family through these small changes He has called me to. I am so thankful for Mark and the girls and the church family that God in his Grace has blessed us with. Looking forward to this new season of ministry.

I would love to pray for you. Please e-mail me if you have any questions or prayer requests @ thisbeautifulchaosthatismylife@google.com    Love, Erin

 

Where my journey began...

My husband, Mark, and I began dating when I was 17 years old. About 2 years into our relationship Mark felt God's call into pastoral ministry. I was excited that God had led him to this calling but I was nervous of my future, because, if I was honest, the Pastor's wives I knew personally, were not very emotionally or spiritually healthy. I was terrified that I would lose my personal identity and become just a "Pastor's wife" - lonely, and removed, which wasn't who I was, or aspired to be at all. I was scared that I would not be able to strike the very balance that over the last decade, as I have spoken to the wives of many Pastor's, we all struggle to strike: the confusing middle-ground between being completely invisible to the church, and the high-profle 'First Lady' of the church, when really I wanted neither of those things. I was too extraverted to be the former, but too private to be the latter. But I trusted that God had a plan for our lives.

We married in 2003 and six months later moved to British Columbia with a 2-year plan. I was going to work and Mark was going to complete his Masters. But God had a bigger plan for our lives and here we are nine years later...God has shown his grace to us over and over. My hope is that as I share my journey as a Pastor's wife, including the joys and struggles from those early years to now that you will be encouraged - that if God can use me, that girl that was terrified, he can use you in all your weaknesses and strengths. 

I could never have imagined when Mark came to me fourteen years ago with this call on his life that he would end up planting and leading a church like Village Church. A church we had the privilege of starting with a group of 50 other committed people in 2010, and which since, has grown to over 2000. God has a bigger plan for us then we can ever imagine.