2 months and 1 house later

I can't believe it's been 2 months.  Just a bit ago, one of my closest friends told me something like..."I can't believe it...you are one of the LAST people I expected to be settling down and buying a house."  And that's exactly how I feel about it too....we're on the same page.  Slight disbelief, mixed with complete peace, sprinkled with a bit of crazy.  And yet...it's so right.  I can't really question it.  From the moment I said yes to this whole crazy scheme God concocted, it has been so easy and peaceful and blessed.  His hand has been ALL over it.  And even in the milisecond I attempt to question it....I do something like drive home and see the city from the side I'm living on now and something in me SCREAMS:  HOME!!!  (ps-if you've never seen the city from the East side of the Broad River at NIGHT...well....if you had, you'd agree).

I'm sitting here on my couch in my new old house, drinking coffee, surrounded by half empty boxes and paint cans and groupings of things I need to sort through.  I just received an email from a sweet friend living in the Netherlands.  We spent a year working together in Mozambique.  I just finished replying-catching up on life and sharing where God is leading us.  Yesterday I skype-chatted with a close friend living in England whom I also spent 18 months working with in Mozambique.  2 days ago I received a package from Malaysia.  A sweet supporter and prayer partner whom I've never met physically but have shared many emails and prayers with had sent me such an encouraging note and gift for my birthday.  3 days ago I spoke to a dear friend I met right here in Nashville...she's in Kenya now, serving as a missionary.  She left just a few months after I returned home. We spent over 2 hrs together just sharing how God is working in our lives and all the girly fun friend stuff too that never seems to matter, but it so does when you're living transculturally and so far from friends and family (it seems everyone just wants to know about the big stuff).  4 days ago I was sitting in church (yes on a SATURDAY-I like the Sat evening service).  I was sitting there waiting for my friend to meet me and I opened up the bulletin and realized it was the first weekend in December which means the start of us as a church family talking about missions...Global missions.  We share and learn and listen and discuss how we can have less under our tree so we can give more to the world....where it's truly needed.  And this particular weekend, we had all our global partners from around the world back here to speak to us.  As I sat there and saw many of them dressed in traditional clothing and heard their familiar accents; the hesitations in speaking a language that is not their first, or even their second to share how God is working in their lives, through our church, and in the lives of the people God has called them to serve......I sat there.....having a bittersweet moment.  The kind where you have a peace about where you are and KNOW and BELIEVE it is right but have a bit of longing and aching in your heart for the other part too. I had closed on my house 3 days prior, had spent my first night in my new old house the night before and just 2 hrs earlier I had been opening boxes.  Bittersweet.  It made it all feel so permanent.  Well....at least for this season permanent.

It's just been one of those weeks....where I've looked around and say....HOW did I get here???  Who am I to have friends ALL over the world?  To have experienced all that I have in these 30ish (yeah yeah almost 31) years?  Did I really just buy a HOUSE?  And am I really deserving of all that God has just blessed me with?

But I know the ending to this...."to whom much is given, much is required" (Luke 12:48)....and I'm living out the required part.  Well I'm trying my best to live out the required part.  It's a daily kinda thing.  For today (and today only)....I’m committed to doing THIS.  just THIS.  and tomorrow I’ll do tomorrow’s portion as He places it in front of me.  and in that way....it's a bit easier to manage.  "And HE determined the times set for them and the EXACT places where they should LIVE.....In Him we LIVE and MOVE and have our being" (Acts 17:26-28).  I'm trying to live and move and just BE, just rest in Him...especially in this season of change and new beginnings.  And I know I am blessed and so excited to give it all back......

(So yeah....I have a house....and I love it....and it's perfect and overwhelmingly more than I asked for...there's a story in that, but maybe for another cold day and another cup of coffee....today, right now, it's time to paint...I'll post pics soon!)


The next chapter...

So I know most of you have been wondering what I’ll be doing next, when I’ll be returning to the field, and where I’ll be going.  I have to say that you’ve been in good company because I’ve felt the exact same way.  And at the end of May I think God started getting through to me and I began actually HEARING what He had been trying to tell me since at least February.  I know what you’re thinking….it’s been 4 months.  I’m going to open this by apologizing for not sending this any sooner than now, but as you read on and discover where I think God is leading me, you’ll start to understand why I’ve waited, and sat, and listened, and sought counsel, and prayed through this hard before letting ya’ll in on it.  I wanted to make sure this is where God’s leading me….and sorry for the length of this post...it's the only way to get you up to speed!

It never ever ceases to amaze me that no matter how much I am seeking His will and I think that I am listening, I often find that my will is crowding out His still small voice....but eventually God gets through and I always lay down my will to submit to whatever it is that He has planned for me, which is when He begins to truly reveal His plans to me.  Back in February I felt God once again speaking to me about laying down my own dreams and plans and things of the flesh and being willing to say yes to Him in whatever capacity that looked like, even if it might be different than what I had begun to treasure up and envision in my heart for the past 12+ months, ever since I came home with the intention to just be here for 6 months and then return to the field.  Well, as we all know, those 6 months have come and gone, and the beginning of June made a year.  And since then, I've been praying and seeking that God would show me exactly WHAT it was that I was clinging to instead of clinging to Him.  I had a discussion with a Godly missionary friend of mine serving in Kenya right now and I felt God undoing something in me I couldn't really put words to at that time.  I know God called me the first time to serve Him as a single missionary for those 2 years, but since returning home I cannot say that I feel Him telling me to return to the field and serve Him full-time long-term as a single female in this current season.  And I’ve noticed that the passion I had originally and daily struggled with of so wanting and waiting to return to the field has been removed over the past months.  I still yearn to serve Him in missions (and He keeps opening up those doors), but I felt like I was just waiting on Him to give me the next big passion to replace that which He had removed. 

God really started speaking again to me about His plans versus mine...and it came at a perfect time (as is all God's timing is) that I would leave for 14 days to be in Alabama with the only distractions being the physical training and grad school work during a missions training course through SIFAT which I attended back in May...but the rest of the time I spent seeking Him in the quiet moments and praying through WHAT my next step was to be.  In those days I had a lot of discussions, a lot of prayer time, and a lot of revelations, but I felt like it was all too overwhelming to make sense of while I was there.  So when I came home, I took a full day and spent it with God dealing with all of it, getting really honest (once again) with myself and God.  I prayed through what He started in me in February, to a specific prayer I prayed in early May turning over all my desires, goals, agendas, and dreams to Him about what the next mission chapter of my life will look like-to be in alignment with Him no matter WHAT that looked like, to the discussions I had while I was at SIFAT in AL.  What came out of that time is that I'm still quite uncertain about the tiny details of where the Lord's leading me and what the next chapter is going to look like, but I'm completely at peace with the fact that it will NOT be living full time in Mozambique or another developing country in this present season.  In fact, it was just what I had been clinging to instead of what God had been calling me to…..and as I let go of that God started reminding me of what He had placed in my heart before I left Mozambique and started my trek back home……

Some of you may remember that vision and passion…..it was beginning to meld a few passions I’ve always had into one big one-loving on children, mentoring and walking alongside women and teens, and helping people get healthy (in all ways beyond just the physical).  I felt Him combining it with the new passion He was placing in me which was to move into a community, walk alongside it, live within it and be part of an amazing transformation from the inside out-starting with one person, moving to one household, and extending to one community.  I had this sense that it would be a bit beyond my comfort zone and not the safest idea for a single 30 year old female, but I’ve trusted God time after time in some of the most outrageous of His plans, and always seen Him prove faithful, so I have no doubts in this one too.  That’s when it happened.  I took that tiny seedling and I wrapped my tiny 2 year old fingers tightly around it, shoved it deep into my pocket and started conjuring up my own dreams of how that was going to look.  I had twisted the simplicity of the plan He had put in my heart and began thinking He was calling me to get more education (which He was) and then return to Mozambique, move into a more rural community and then share Christ and help transform lives from a malnutrition clinic of some sort.

As I began listening to Him closely and loosening my grips on the plans I had begun making, He started revealing His true vision for the next chapter of my life.  I started acknowledging that since February I’ve felt God telling me that my time for this next chapter is back here in Nashville and after all this time of being home, it’s only been in the last few months I’ve finally felt released to get back involved in my community, replanting roots that I was honestly a bit scared to start putting back down.  I’ve felt Him speaking to me on how to meld all of this together.....I have been blessed with an amazing part-time job at Baptist hospital as a nurse that gives me the time, flexibility, and finances (while living extremely missionally) to share the rest of my life as a missionary here in America-tent making along the way.  I’m praying with and talking to a missions group based out of the States which would allow me to help them prepare, plan, lead, and mentor small teams to developing nations working alongside indigenous missionaries and focusing on community health and transformation projects...starting sometime in Jan (hopefully depending on my finances with finishing off paying for school)...but I also feel very led to how my life should look when I am here on the ground in the States.  God has been speaking to me very specifically about moving to East Nashville and living and walking life alongside a community....which is where that vision He had planted, which I twisted, and then He not quite so gently untwisted, and firmly revealed to me, comes very apparently crashing back in again. 

To some of you the mention of East Nashville means nothing….to others your first thought is of the super trendy part with the cute shops, local restaurants, ect is.  But that’s not quite the part I’m talking about (though that’s less than 2 miles away).  I’ve been looking in a small area of East Nashville on the other side of the Cumberland River from downtown called Cleveland park which has the highest African and Sub-Saharan Africa descendants (about 10%) living in it than any other Nashville neighborhood, predominately African-American populated, with the highest single-mother headed households in Nashville, and a higher rate of childhood poverty (those falling below the US federal poverty line).  This brings along with it other problems such as higher rates of high school drop outs, higher crime rates, drug use, prostitution, ect.  I’m sure for those of you who hadn’t already thought I was crazy, are now beginning to speculate on how crazy I just might be…..well for those of you who are still with me and haven’t quite wanted to pick up the phone and tell me I might be crazy before reading to the end of this….there’s still time.  Cause that’s not quite where it ends….God’s been speaking volumes and opening doors wide open for me to not just live and walk alongside this community but to purchase a home there and physically live there.   So that’s where I am… I finished up with school the first week of August and began praying seriously about whether or not I had heard God correctly on the whole home-ownership in the middle of a transitional neighborhood thing correctly or not with my part-time job situation (which if you had tried to sell me on all this 8 months ago I would have laughed in your face and told you that YOU were the crazy one) all while picking up as many shifts at work as they’d possibly let me.  I’ve been trying to figuring out how to connect and weave together living here, planting roots, with looking internationally.  And during this time a few song lyrics were stuck in my head that God used to continue speaking to me….

Lead me to the Cross-HillSong
“Everything I once held dear/I count it all as lost/Lead me to the cross/Where your love poured out/Bring me to my knees/Lord I lay me down/Rid me of myself/I belong to you/Lead me, lead me to the cross”

Slumber-Need to Breathe
“All these victims stand in line for/The crumbs that fall from the table./Just enough to get by/All the while your invitation…/Wake on up from your slumber/Baby, open up your eyes”

Blessings-Laura Story
"We pray for healing/For Prosperity/We pray for your mighty hand/To ease our suffering/All the while you hear each spoken need/Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things/…../What if my greatest disappointments or the achings of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy? And what if trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights, are your mercies in disguise?"

The truth is, I know I’m not called to a life of complacency or much of a life that looks anything like what most would call, the American Dream….and I’m more than ok with that.  Cause I’ve been blessed beyond belief and have more than enough….and what I feel most led to do is share that with those people around us whose blessings are going to come when the Church stands up and pours out the blessings God has entrusted them to use for His glory….there’s a quote that goes something like….”Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering and injustice when He could do something about it." "Well, why don't you ask Him?" "Because I am afraid He would ask me the same question."   My response is…I’m not afraid He would…I KNOW He would….and I know this, cause He does…..daily.  I feel ever indebted to those of you who continue walking this journey with me, praying with me, holding my hand, encouraging me, giving me such wise counsel, and helping me continually seek Him in all of this.  Ya’ll are amazing and I couldn’t continue to serve Him here at home or abroad without the sum of all of you.  I’m excited, a bit anxious, and hopeful about this next season, but I know one thing for sure….God has already gone before me, is completely in each of these details, and all things will hold together for His glory (Colossians 1:17)….and in that…I’m completely at peace.

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you for joining me on this journey….I’m aiming to keep you more updated now that I know where I’m headed and what I’m doing and things are speeding along now (oh and now that I finally have a LOT more time on my hands with school being done).


I want to let go

My name is Erin and I'm a control freak.  

Ever since I was little.  I blogged before http://emptyhandedbutalive.blogspot.com/2009/08/lord-is-good.html that sometime back in college, God really did amazing things in my life, molding, and perfecting the personality He created and gave me into a more Christ-like one that was a lot less me-world-centered.  And this was one of the big areas He helped me um tweak.  But when I get stressed, or tired, there's tons of changes all at once in my life or something is too big, it comes out again, albeit in super minor forms compare to my high school and college days.  My need to control things sneaks into the quiet moments.  And while I rarely have an incessant need to make sure all the cups' handles are at exactly the same angle any more, there's one area of my life, that I can't seem to completely unwrap my fingers from.  And this amazingly bad habit is ashamedly with God.  

It's kinda funny cause I'm not even really a worrier.  Cause, duh, it's out of my control.  There's really no use, right? And I really try hard to press in and turn to God for every decision I make in all parts of my life to seek guidance and His plan.  I earnestly want to be at the absolute center of His will for my life at all times no matter the cost.  I lift my hands up in worship and get down on my knees pleading for a glimmer of how to move next and He does what He always does....He gives me the next step or the rough draft.  ok, He doesn't deal in rough drafts, but He knows that if He gives me the full thing, I'd prob. run screaming in the opposite direction....so He tends to give me little tiny steps or rough ideas without all the mind numbing super scary (to me) details.  It's a great psychology tactic.  And God is seriously the master of it in my life.  Get me to say yes to one thing...anything so I'll stop being so stubborn, quit stomping my feet, and you can get me to say yes to anything after that.  You just have to get me to stop saying no first.  So I get His plan and the peace and hope that He always gives me with it....what comes with knowing He's taking care of the rest and that I'm just along for the ride.  He's always faithful in giving me this indescribable peace when He tells me where He's working in my life and what I need to do.  To date, His plans have never failed, never been too much for Him, never not worked out absolutely beautifully.  And yet, that's when the ugliness creeps back in.  The flesh centered, 2 year old grubby fingered, control-freak in me rears its ugly head.  And before I know it, I've taken the beauty God's given me and smashed it up into my fist and wrapped my fingers so tight around it my knuckles are white.  And THEN I try to do it on my own.  Major fail.  Now, I mean, I'm an analytical, detail-oriented, expert planner who can take something and make it happen.  But it is NEVER going to be as good as God is going to do it.  And I know for sure I kick some of the middle men out in the process who God wants to use for His purposes either in my life or theirs during that journey.  Cause, hello, it's easier to do it myself.  Less people to mess it up, right?  See where this is going....down a dark, ugly path.  

It's not really about the end result....it's the journey in the middle.  The process, the work part, the trust and faith in Him to follow Him part which is where all the good stuff happens.  It's where He changes us and others and brings glory to Him in the process.  It's those tiny surprises He throws at us because He knows our hearts better than we even do.  He cares for us so immensely that He so delights in providing for us in ways that man never can.  And it always amazes me that I would want to spoil that time and time again.  Then i wonder why I'm struggling, or feeling overwhelmed, or like I'm drowning.  Usually, after I stop to catch my breath, I notice, it's cause God entrusted some amazing plan to me, something He wants me to join Him in, and I put it in my fist shoved it deep into my dress pockets so the dream wouldn't fall out while I went merrily along my life.  And in the process, I stifled what God really wants to do.  I stopped asking Him how and when and what.  Oh how I LOVE that He has such amazing grace for me, such mercy.  He sits so patiently, waiting for me to come sit back at His feet, to open up my hands, offer it back up, and together we watch as HE unfolds the story.  I'm trying so hard to not do it again.....

I want to let go, I'm weary and bound
I'm giving it up and laying it down, 
Take it away, out of my hands 
Out of my reach and safe in your plans 

'Cause I need to know, that you can hear me
Fill me with your peace, yeah, and cover me gently, 
Like only you can...

So take me, and hold me, break me and mold me, oh
Take me, and hold me, break me and mold me
I want to let go

Cradle my hands, knuckles so white
Open them up, and say it's alright, oh
 Show me a plan, call it your own
 Make it a journey, leading me home

'Cause I need to know, that you can hear me, 
Fill me with your peace, yeah, and cover me gently,
Like only you can...

So take me, and hold me, break me and mold me, oh
Take me, and hold me, break me and mold me
I want to let go
-Lindsay McCaul

While I didn't write this....it's exactly, every word of it, how I feel.  And what I know God is whispering in my ear...

Dear friends, please join me in praying I don't get all 2 year old grubby fisted on this one.....I'm trying desperately to daily lay it back down at His feet and seek His will in each of these next steps, to follow Him in what I believe He's calling me to do this next season....and allowing Him to do all the detailing and planning and dreaming for me.

I want to let go, I'm weary and bound
I'm giving it up and laying it down, 
Take it away, out of my hands 
OUT of MY reach and SAFE in YOUR plans 


Whatever you're doing inside of me

I have 4 more weeks of grad school and I cannot tell you how excited that makes me feel.  For lots of reasons....less stress; no more studying; freedom to read for fun and attack the mounds of books I’ve been waiting to read, but can’t muster up the motivation on top of the hours I spend for schoolwork; more free time to delve into God and join Him in what He’s doing around me; free time to spend with people around me whom I love and feel like I have such little time to offer them; and time to get prepared for this next season.  Speaking of the next season, I feel like once again I’m in a season of transition as grad school is finishing up and I’m looking forward to what God has for me next.  And in this, I know it’s going to bring something new in me and for me through Him.  The song below has been playing in my head on repeat and I swear it’s on the radio every time I get in the car, but I feel like every single word of it has been my life over the last 6 months or so and will continue to be in this transition period.  I love that every day is new with Him and that He is constantly changing me, drawing me closer to Him.  It’s a continual process and won’t stop until the moment I take my last breath.  God is always doing something in my life, perfecting me into the likeness of His image.  These days, it’s just in a super concentrated amount as He’s helping me shed the old and put on the new and it’s exciting (and chaotic) to wait on Him and watch Him work.

It's time for healing time to move on 
It's time to fix what's been broken too long

Time make right what has been wrong 
It's time to find my way to where I belong
There's a wave that's crashing over me 
All I can do is surrender

Whatever you're doing inside of me 
It feels like chaos somehow there's peace
It's hard to surrender to what I can't see 
But I'm giving in to something heavenly

Time for a milestone
Time to begin again
Reevaluate who I really am
Am I doing everything to follow your will
Or just climbing aimlessly over these hills
So show me what it is you want from me
I give everything I surrender

To whatever you're doing inside of me
 It feels like chaos somehow there's peace

Though It's hard to surrender to what I can't see
But I'm giving in to something heavenly

Time to face up
Clean this old house
Time to breathe in and let everything out
That I've wanted to say for so many years
Time to release all my held back tears

Whatever you're doing inside of me 
It feels like chaos but I believe
You're up to something bigger than me 
Larger than life something heavenly
Whatever you're doing inside of me 
It feels like chaos but now I can see 
This is something bigger than me 
Larger than life something heavenly
Something heavenly

It's time to face up
Clean this old house 
Time to breathe in and let everything out
-Sanctus Real

Our pastor said this during his sermon this morning….”Faith is not what you believe about God, but the things you do because of what you believe about God.”  Simply put, it’s our belief in action.  Is it really faith that those things you say you believe are true if you can’t or don’t put them into action?  It always takes an extraordinary amount of faith for me to surrender to the things I know He’s doing in my life, allow Him to do the work, prune away, and wait on Him for my next step.  To allow myself to believe that despite the fact that it feels chaotic and doesn’t make sense, and is completely contrary to the world, that it is worth it, is completely the best for me, and is going to be so amazingly good.  To allow Him to lead and for me to simply follow the path He has laid out for me.  Pushing down my “self” daily and keeping my eyes fully on Him.  And I know that not only this transition season but the next chapter too is going to stretch that.

Whatever you're doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but I believe
You're up to something bigger than me 
Larger than life something heavenly

Navarre Beach Week

This past week I got to spend 7 days with most of my immediate and a big portion of my extended family. And it was such a blessing.  After spending so much time away and missing out on times like this as well as holidays and family events, it is just simply so nice to be blessed with the time to spend with my family.  Most of them I hadn’t seen in almost 7 months because even though I’m back in the States, my schedule with school and work have kept me pretty close to Nashville.  But this is what I always missed the most when I was living in Mozambique.   

I love these guys!  Oh yeah, and the beach was pretty nice too!


Shifting Passions

This particular post is going to share 2 purposes.  I want to begin sharing with ya'll where God is leading me as He makes it more clear to me.  And for those of you who know me best, you know I work things out and make sense of things by processing either verbally or in some written form and so here's some of the process.

Over the last 3 weeks I have started to sense God urging me to let go of some things and refocus back on Him and the new things He has for me in this next season of my life...after all, I feel like I've been waiting for forever (or just the last year) to know where He wants me and what this next season will look like and yet, I found myself being scared (again) to let Him show me what that looked like in the off chance (or the very likely chance) that it will look different than my limited earthly view of visions and dreams I'm holding on to.  So I started spending some very concentrated time with the Lord reflecting on the places He has brought me out of, how He has led me, where I am now, who I am as the woman He has created me to be, and where He is taking me.  Last Monday, I posted after a day of spending time doing just that and it led me to start pushing doors I believe God is opening for me (which I will share as I have more information and clearer vision).  But during that time He revealed things that I want to share with you here as I continue to work through them as well.

In Feb I posted about clinging to the cross and how often times I get something stuck in my head and heart (not always seemingly bad and sometimes even something God has promised or revealed to me) and then I hold tight to it with the grubby fat fingers of a two year old that believes if they let go they will lose it forever so focused on what is in the palm of their hand and the moment they are living in.  Blinders fully on to the eternalness of God.  And at that time I KNEW that God was trying to tell me I was clinging on to some vision He had once given me and since that time I had taken it, treasured it up in my heart, and then greedily wrapped by 2 year old fingers around it, making a fist, scared to let go, grab hold of Him, and let Him make that vision a reality.  Monday, God pointed me back to that post to remind me He had been working that out in my heart and getting me to a place where when I sat in the church pew a month ago yesterday I could utter a prayer and fully let GO and let GOD.  In fact, I had even forgotten about that prayer until Monday.  And God brought it to mind as I wrestled with the reality that God was doing something new and I was the one who had finally given Him permission to do it a month ago when I knelt before Him and said I want your vision, your dream, your ministry to be fulfilled in me so my life can point others to Christ no matter WHAT that looks like EVEN IF it means sacrificing and letting go of the visions and dreams I have been treasuring up in my heart.  My past experiences with God have told me time and time again that He is good and will come through on all these things that He has given me but only if I let Him and only in His time and only in the ways He has planned to best glorify Him and bless me in the process....which rarely looks like what my two year old mind can conjour up because honestly....I have such a small, 5 ft in front of me, earlthy, noncreative view of the work He is doing and He says there are no limits or bounds to how He can bless and what He can do....Why would I choose to stifle that?  While I'll never understand that, I'll definately never understand how He can be so patient with me while I continously act like that 2 year old who should know better after all these years.  He never stop pursuing me, waiting on me, calling me, using me, and blessing me.  And for that I am face to the ground thankful.  So as I sat in church that day, I gave it all over (again) to Christ and asked Him to guide my next steps and show me the plan He had as I was ready to serve Him and follow Him even if it looked completely contrary to what I had been envisioning.

And He did.  And after I wrote that post acknowledging that I was going to begin pushing those doors and inviting you to pray with me, He led me to go back and read my post from Jan where I revisited Dino death at the one year mark.  And in that post, the pain was still real and the passion He has placed in my heart that had led me to Mozambique and Iris Ministries was apparent to me.  I remember still daily struggling with feeling my heart divided between that passion and the preperation phase I was in for serving Him again in that way.  And a funny thing happened.  As I sat there reading that post.....I felt like I was reading something someone else had written.  I could remember having all of those feelings and how real they had been, but as I sat there, I didn't have the same passions or feelings and I knew God had moved me from that spot to the spot where I was sitting reading that post and I hadn't even noticed.  So I spent this week knowing that God had removed the passion He had placed in my heart that led me to serve Him those 2 years because He was replacing it with a NEW passion....but I desired to know what that new passion would be and how He was asking me to use it to serve Him in this next season.  So I pressed in and spent this week asking Him to show me.

Tonight as I was in prayer and worship time, I felt God showing me, making it clearer, what He's been revealing to me over the past 2 months or so.  The shift in my passions.  While I was in Moz my passion had been to LOVE the children and Mozambicans and missionaries He placed in my life with the love He had given me so I could see individual  lives TRANSFORMED by Him.  He brought to mind so many images of the children and people I served who were dead inside and out when I first met them....there was no life or light in their eyes and they were spiritually, physically, or emotionally (or all 3) ill.  Through prayer, maybe a little medicine, and a lot of Godly LOVE these people and tiny lives entrusted into my hands for a period had been transformed....their mourning being replaced with dancing; their ashes replaced by a crown.  And when Meghann sends me pictures of these beautiful children and kids a year after I have left I know the sacrifices I made during that period and all God poured into me and I poured out onto them was WELL worth it.  I see their smiles and LIFE and love and light pouring out of their lives and I know so many individual lives have been transformed.  But while I was there, I remember starting to have a change in that passion near the end....a passion to see COMMUNITIES TRANSFORMED in the same way He was transforming these tiny lives and I wanted to be a part of that.  It was one of the reasons I came home in the first place.  To recieve more education to be able to help participate in that.

And now, I feel Him ushering in a new passion (well a renewal of what was started as I was leaving Moz...but like I said, I've been clinging to the old)....one to see communities and countries transformed by Him.  And in that, He's been reminding me of one of the things I missed the most when I was in Moz....walking life and mentoring other women....pouring into people as they found their footing in God and sought to serve Him and attempted to walk with Him while still in the chaos of this fallen world we live in.  I miss sharing those struggles and those joys...the heartache and the tears as well as the celebration and thanksgiving as we would watch God work everything out for good...in fact better than we had imagined it and better than we could have asked for.  And so now I'm seeking Him and watching Him meld those two things, those 2 passions together....walking alongside others and helping them seek to serve God while helping be a part of community transformation in countries that do not have hope or see the light of God because they are daily confronted with heartache and pain and death and cannot imagine a life or even one single day that could be better than the moment they are in.  And I am asking ya'll to come alongside of me in prayer as I seek how God is going to use me to serve Him with these passions He is placing in my heart which are growing daily.  That I will keep laying down those things I had treasured up which pale in comparison to the things of God so that He can fully use me as I cling to Him instead.  I'm praying and seeking through a ministry door I believe God is opening and I cannot wait to share it with you when the time is right and God gives me more clarity on it, as for now, it is just in the beginning stages, but I'm excited to see the next mission field He is opening for me!  Thanks for walking with me!


Getting you (and me) up to speed....

First, I wanna say yesterday marked 1 full year since I left Mozambique and I have to say that some days it seems like a blink and more and more days now, it seems like a whole other lifetime.  But as I look back over this year at where I've been and who I was when I first arrived back to where God's brought me and who I am now....I see God's hand all over it.  His provisions, His blessings, sweet moments and people He's brought into my life, such restoration, and just deeper relationship with Him.  And most days, I feel like I have no clue where He's leading me....nothing new here I guess, but I have immense peace in that.  As I can't remember a time He told me to trust Him and follow Him or made promises that He didn't fulfill....and so even though I expected to only be home for 6 months, which turned into 1 yr and I know will be more (at least Jan as I've mentioned previously)....I cannot wait to see what's next.  And I know it will be good.

Second, I can't believe it's been 4 months since I last updated....hmmm...time has a way of escaping me.  For those of you who don't get my (less than monthly at the moment) updates, you're out of the loop a bit and I'll try to catch you up in about 30 seconds or less.  Here goes.....

Winter was cold.  Very cold.  I hate winter.  And somehow I managed to fly south for the last 4 winters and my body was NOT happy with me this year.  Alas, winter has come and gone and I'm now excited summer and the heat is back!  I finished my second semester at UAB (in March) and first semester at UNC (end of April) and I'm still convinced my professors have simply quit reading my papers....I'm not sure why they still keep giving me A's.  Though I will not complain.  I applied for a scholarship through UAB's Global Outreach center to attend a 14 day World Hunger and Malnutrition training program at SIFAT (Servants in Faith and Technology) in Lineville, AL and got it!  I had one week off at the beginning of May and then all 4 of my classes (UNC and UAB combined) started right back up again.  Ah school.  So I just got back (Saturday) from those 2 weeks of learning insanely wonderful skills like solar cooking, drying leaves to make leaf powder, how to build (and use) fuel efficient cook stoves, urban gardening, and the list goes on.  All the while working on school work after 12 hr long days.  I might be crazy (though that's not really new to many of you).  While there I met some incredible people, had some really amazing conversations and prayer time and spent the day today praying through a bunch of things I feel like God has just started revealing to me over the past month or so (but possibly and more likely, longer since I'm pretty stubborn and hard headed).  I would LOVE to share (and you know I will) but only after I gain a bit more insight and clarity from God and see a bit more direction....but I have to admit, I'm kinda excited about what this next chapter might hold for me (I'll finish up both graduate certificate programs the first week in August-Praise the LORD!).

Join me in praying for a peace as I sit and wait on God to reveal my next step in serving Him, to let Him open doors, to fully trust in something I think might not look anything like I had planned (though that's not really new to me either), for discernment as I pray through options and start conversations with organizations I believe He's leading me to start exploring, and for the strength to simply say YES in the places I feel Him urging me to say yes in even when it makes absolutely no logical sense to me at all!  I am so blessed to have each of you in my life and love that ya'll give me such grace when I go silent for whole months at a time!  You know how much your prayers and emails and words mean to me!  Keep them coming and I hope to be able to share more with you in the coming weeks to months as God reveals more!  So that was probably an African version of 30 seconds....forgive me.  How bout some (I mean lots) pics from the last 2 weeks and all I learned at SIFAT.

Yeah....we ate bugs.  Apparently, they are nutritious.  And tasty??
We built a solar dryer to dry leaves on.....
 Then we learned how to pick, clean, and dry the leaves....
process them and make leaf cookies (which are suprisingly yummy)
 and then we started on the pasta....

which was amazing.
 I helped make a garden in a swimming pool
yup...we used cans under that blanket....
I think there is still red clay under my nails from that....
and before I left on Sat...we had beans sprouting which is pretty amazing since I physically touched those seeds before they went into the ground...me and my black thumb.  I don't give them another wk of life.  Sad.
 We also used tires.....
and gutters.
Next we made solar cookers.
 I know what you're thinking...no way that cardboard and tinfoil is going to cook anything....
Same thing I thought....so the next day we tried rice and chicken.....
 and after 3 hrs.....
Yeah-It was delicious.  ;) 
We mixed up clay to make bricks
There may have been a clay fight.....
But in the end we built a stove...a fuel efficient stove that WORKED.  
and it was virtually smokeless.
And then our Guatamalan cook showed us how to make Tortillas by hand
 And I made a slightly less perfect version.....we cooked it on our stoves 
and it still tasted just as yummy!
It was such a blessing to be with these men and women for 14 days, share life and talks and coffee (lots of coffee) and talk missions while learning some incredible life changing, community building skills!  I can't wait to use them....just as soon as God tells me how and when!



I love that God beats me over the head with stuff.  Ok, love's not the right word.  So you know those times when God keeps speaking to you about the same thing through every different capacity possible?.....maybe not?  maybe you were a bit wiser in listening the first time?  I've come to the conclusion that I'm doomed by genetics to be hard headed in a bazillion areas of my life (and yes, blaming it on genetics makes me feel better about it) and well.....God doesn't give up so that's good for both of us.

Over the last 2 weeks it has been on the topic of clinging.  There's this song that I've loved for a long time, but most recently I feel like God keeps reminding me of it and it keeps coming up in my worship time-corporately and privately and thus the words keep spinning over and over again in my head.  The lyrics that I can't get out of my head are "Simply to the cross I cling, letting go of all earthly things, I'm clinging to the cross.  Mercy's found a way for me.  Hope is here as I am free.  Jesus, you are all I need.  I'm clinging to the cross."  So I wasn't sure why or what I needed this message for and then....enter Beth Moore.

I love this woman as much as you can love someone you have never met or personally communicated with.  If you have never done one of her Bible Studies....you should.  This woman cracks me up, challenges me, encourages me, and simply put, brings a little Church into every session.  Anyway, I'm studying Revelation with a group of girls from my church (and Beth of course) and last night she said something that I completely know and believe and dealt with before, but still somehow shook me.  Now I get the joy of processing and praying through it and deciphering why God keeps beating me over the head with this.  She said something along the lines of you will either hang onto (insert whatever it is emotion/physical thing/dream/fear here) or you will hang onto your first love (God) but you CANNOT hang on to BOTH.  You have to let go of (insert whatever it is here) in order to cling to Him/the cross.

Ok, so now what the heck does this mean for me??  Since I don't have a clear answer on this one yet, I'm just guessing that I'm either a-not listening hard enough or b-(gasp) not wanting to hear the answer (doesn't sound a bit like me at all, huh?).  Hmmmm..........so I'll be praying about this in the next days and weeks to come (aka as long as it takes for God to get through to me) and hoping a few of you will join me.  I'm putting this on here, cause I'm hoping it will keep me accountable to doing just that.


A week of reflection

This week I was reminded of how fast time passes when you aren't looking and how far God brings us...all the details that are worked out and all the plans He has for us that I, personally, cannot even dream up.  This last week marked one year since a little boy (Dino) I had the privilege of knowing, loving, and serving left this harsh world and leapt into the arms of Jesus.  I'd be lying if I didn't say that this made for a hard week....a week of questions, reflection, praying, and lots of reminiscing.  Dino was this amazing little toddler that so embodied Christ's love and was such a beautiful picture of redemption.  And while I'll never really fully understand why God decided it was time for him to leave earth, I'll always stand firm in completely knowing and believing that God used that little boy in a mighty powerful way while he was living and walking on this earth and has continued using him over and over since his passing to bring glory to God's kingdom.  So I spent the week rereading the blogs I had written during Jan and into March when his death was quickly followed by sweet Gracinha's passing and how broken I had been in those moments.  Oh how much perspective we gain when we aren't in the midst of situations.  The situation was confounded by the fact that during that time period we were severely short-handed in the nursing world, I was way overworked, overstressed, and emotional/physically/spiritually beyond exhaustion.  I was processing a new calling that God had been speaking to me about-going back to the States, starting grad school, and returning to Moz in a very different capacity in a much more rural part of the country.  And I was attempting to come to grips with the end of my time in Zimpeto and all the goodbyes that would bring-to children that I had seen be transformed from brokeness to LIFE, that held pieces of my heart; missionaries that had walked life with me and become such close friends; Mozambicans that I had poured into for 2 years, watched grow in their faith, knowledge, and character, women that had become my friends; a country and culture that I loved and had become so much a part of me with all it's good, bad, and everything in between; and a language that sometimes has me confused when I attempt to switch back to English and sometimes makes a bit more sense with it's lyrical sound.  So Dino was kinda the final straw.

But this week as I talked with friends on different continents that have walked this same journey with me, held hands with me, prayed with and for me, offered their shoulders, and ignored my anger, sadness, tears, and frustration while simultaneously celebrating the joy and victory at the same time I realized a few things.....how much I miss Moz daily and how ready I am to be back there (and this one fact I kinda wrestle with daily, but I think I'm getting really good at putting it on the back burner and semi ignoring it most days), but in the exact same breathe how much I want my return to be in the exact perfect timing of God, in the right situation, right location, and right job with the right ministry. and that moment is not right now.  and you know what?  I don't think I could say any of these things with a lot of certainty or truthfulness if God hadn't been doing so much in my life since a year ago but most importantly over the last 7 months since I've been home.  I think most of you knew from emails, phone calls, newsletters, and perhaps even through blogs, how right the timing was for me to be back home.....I so much needed the time for rest, healing, and to simply be blessed by God.....which, when I struggle the most with being home and the timing of it all, is when God reminds me of how right it was and is and how much He is using this time I'm home to do something new in my life....how much I need this time of preparation (spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually) before I return back to the mission field.  I'm truly overwhelmed by it and thankful for it most days.  I see it in all the details He has laid out for me before I came home, and daily since I've been here.  

And in case I don't say it enough to ya'll in person......I am truly thankful for each of you that continue to stand by me through this entire journey no matter how crazy it all seems....for those of you that simply sit quietly and listen to me vent and speak my heart even though I know you don't really have the words to make it right...know that just  your willingness to sit with me is more than enough and means a lot to me....for those of you that continue to pray with me and for me during this time and for the future that God has for me....and for those of you that encourage me and give me wisdom, speaking the truth into my life even when I might not want to hear it!  Ya'll are all awesome and I am truly blessed that God has brought you into my life and alongside me for this journey.  Thanks.

You are good, You are good
When there's nothing good in me
You are love, You are love
On display for all to see

You are light, You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope, You are hope
You have covered all my sin

You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, You are true
Even in my wandering

You are joy, You are joy
You're the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life
In You death has lost its sting

Oh, I'm running to Your arms, I'm running to Your arms
The riches of Your love will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

You are more, You are more
Than my words will ever say
You are Lord, You are Lord
All creation will proclaim

You are here, You are here
In Your presence I'm made whole
You are God, You are God
Of all else I'm letting go

Oh, I'm running to Your arms, I'm running to Your arms
The riches of Your love will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

My heart will sing no other name
Jesus, Jesus
My heart will sing no other name
Jesus, Jesus

Oh, I'm running to Your arms, I'm running to Your arms
The riches of Your love will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

-Lyrics by Jason Ingram & Ruben Morgan


Mozambique Video

I'm excited to let ya'll finally view the video I mentioned months ago since most everyone that needed to see it in person during my visits have seen in.......so here it is.  It's 12.5 minutes.  I'm pretty sure it is worth the wait for the few of you that have been waiting in intense anticipation since I first mentioned it.  I hope it blesses you and really reminds you of how much this journey is just not me and God's.....but belongs to each of you as well.  Thank you so much for each and every single you have spent praying for me, writing emails, thinking of me, sending me encouragement, wisdom, and truth, as well as finances, goody packages, and long skype conversations (especially those that had 5000 dropped calls in like 10 min and yet you still stuck with me).  Thanks for the hugs and shoulders (virtual and real), for bearing through the tears and hard times and most definately for celebrating with me and God on all the victories.  Myself, the children I served, and the Mozambicans and other missionaries I served with have been eternally changed-in this life and forever.  I really cannot repay you or tell you thanks enough.  Enjoy!

Mozambique: Changing Statistics 2008-2010 from Erin Welton on Vimeo.

Well past time for an update

I'm not even going to make excuses. If you get my monthly updates (which clearly haven't been so montly lately) nothing's new or different cept for the pictures. Let's see.....we shall start in November.

Grad school finished up (UAB’s program runs for 9 weeks and very intensively at that) and by the end of that time I had written 34 papers for 4 different classes. I managed to squeak out all A’s…I have no clue how. I attended a Christian Global Missions Conference in Louisville, KY for 3 days where I was able to network with other current and future missionaries, talk about the realities of missions, get information on some cool opportunities with different organizations/projects, and just worship God together as about 1000 people with a heart to serve the Lord both here at home and abroad. It was an amazing time. Then, I headed up to Cleveland, OH to speak at 3 services of one of my supporter churches-Stow Presbyterian Church, while getting the chance to spend time with my dad’s side of the family and my grandmother. I was also able to have brunch with a young girl who’s just working through her heart for missions God’s been speaking to her about, as well as visit with 2 of my dear friends I worked with in Maputo, Mozambique who are off the mission field for the time being and living in and around Cleveland/Akron, OH. Immediate and extended family came to my place over Thanksgiving in Nashville and it was really a blessing.


I celebrated my 30th birthday with some close friends in Nashville. I was blessed to spend 7 days back in New Orleans with family for an early Christmas as well as another cousin’s wedding. Auburn won the SEC championship in football (very important stuff) and it was decided they would play for the national championship (even more important stuff). I found out that University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had accepted me into their graduate certificate program in Maternal and Child Health (online) through their public health college. My trusty car died and could not be resurrected for less than 5,500 dollars, so the decision was made to sell it and I’m not borrowing a car from my parents until I leave again. I worked through Christmas here in Nashville, but was able to get home for 5 days right after that to celebrate Christmas late with my immediate family and then ring in the New Year. During that time, I got to see and hold one of my high school gal’s first baby and visit with my dear friend and fellow nurse, Meghann for 24 hours who was home on respite from Mozambique. That’s the stuff I miss when I’m over in Mozambique.

This first week of Jan may be coming to a close but it’s already been full. I drove up to UNC for a 3.5 day intensive leadership seminar/graduate program orientation. It’s the only time I’ll have to be on campus for the 2 semester program. I met the girls I’ll be chatting and working on group projects online with over these next 2 semesters, learned a lot about myself through the personality and leadership development tools we did, and found out how the program works. I’m so excited about this opportunity. And now after what feels like an eternity of being away from Nashville, I’m back here….filling ya’ll in and getting ready to start semester #2-3 graduate classes (2 thru UNC and 1 thru UAB) on Monday. The assignments are already looming before me.

The future.....So most of ya’ll are probably wondering where I’m headed and what all this means…..good question.  My heart is still burning to be back in Mozambique and I can’t wait for the moment I get to stop off that plane and back into the sticky heat and humidity of the African continent.  I think about it and pray about it all the time.  On the grad school front, both certificate programs-UAB and UNC (all 26 hours worth) will be finished up in a total of 3 semesters (at the end of this coming August).  I’m hoping and yearning to be back on the field in Mozambique as early as September, but I know that a-this may not be the exact perfect timing for God and b-realistically grad school costs have gone up and those costs have to be paid off before I return and c-the holidays will be coming up, school will have literally finished, and I might need a bit of a break before I hit the ground running again-allowing me to see all of ya’ll again and continue working to pay off the rest of grad school costs.  Leaving in Jan would allow me to get on a schedule of being gone for 10 months and home for 2 at the holidays.  At this point, I’m still praying through and searching for the ministry God is calling me to work with when I return to Mozambique.  I feel like it will be a 3-5 year commitment and that requires a lot of prayer and thought for a decision like that.  Our God is big and prayers in this area are much needed and appreciated.  As much as I want to be back on the field, I know it has to be with the right project and in His right timing or it’s all doomed.  Please pray with me.

Finances are an area God is really continuing to bless me in through all of you.  At this point I’m living off about ½ the amount of monthly support I had coming in compared to when I was on the field.  This covers medical insurance, rent/utilities, and food.  Everything from my part-time job is covering grad school and so far it’s worked out to the penny every month.  The first semester of grad school has been paid off and I’m just hoping that I can keep up with that as it was only ¼ of what I’m going to have to pay over the entire 3 semesters.  I’ve been getting cancelled at work lately due to my unit’s low census and while that, at times, makes me a little nervous to cover everything…..it has all completely worked out-Praise to God and all of you who sent me the extra donations you didn’t know I needed and on which I wasn’t counting.  Ya’ll have truly blessed me.  

Super Important Changes in HOW to donate to me
 A few changes have been made and I wanted to let everyone know that Fellowship Bible Church in Nashville, TN will no longer be able to accept donations for me through their website or by check.  If you are a regular monthly supporter, you will be getting an email shortly with more details and what to do from here on out as well as how this affects us both.  In the meantime, if anyone would like to donate, please contact me by email (weltoem@msn.com) for the best way to do so (you have a few options).  Thanks again for continuously sharing with me what God has blessed you with!  I am always overwhelmed by your generosity!