Jolly Ol' Soul

Friday, December 20, 2013

There is a very long line tonight at the mall. Screaming children dressed in their best waiting for a chance to wish on the lap of the Jolly fat man. He never really does look Jolly, does he?

The parents don't either.

Oh, I've done it...more than once. We tend to skip the line nowadays.

We still tell our children about Santa, but we focus more on the Birth of Jesus. I've heard from many people that we are taking away our little ones imagination. "They" have obviously never witnessed the murals on my walls made out of spaghetti sauce, or the things we find halfway flushed down the toilet. There is an abundance of imagination at the Swaringen house.

What I hope you won't find in our home this year is an overabundance of stuff.

Why is it that tend to find "things" we NEED this time of the year?

The Lord has put it on my heart to live with less. I have found so much JOY freeing myself of things that I don't NEED.

Praying for our children to follow suite.

I am working on a short list of things that I feel I need. It's really not so short. I'm not sure I will ever learn.

You know, Paul only needed food and clothes. Look at the life of Paul.

I want to be more like Paul. Paul with an iphone (it's on my list) dont' judge!

Fulfilment doesn't come in a package. And friends, IT NEVER WILL.

We need to stop looking for it in a store because...

 There is no line for the cross. No waiting in with our ugly screaming lives that we dress up everyday.

There is room for everyone at the feet of Jesus.

Room and fulfillment.

And forgiveness.

May the thing you find you NEED this Christmas be only wrapped in swaddling cloth.

עִמָּנוּאֵל -Immanuel With Us God


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Driving down the road tonight I glance over and see all of the lights in the department store windows.

Sparkly, twinkly lights all wrapped around windows filled with material possessions that they say we must have and must buy our children.

Who are they?  The ones who ride camels too wide for the eye of the needle. Who can blame us, they speak so...


Meanwhile a child born in the thick of dung and rough, dry straw softly cries. And we struggle to hear God's gentle Immanuel.

I can't see the stable anywhere out here tonight. The lights are too bright to see past.

Then, there.

The stable, has a heartbeat and a reflection. And it is my own.

The Word of God tells us this in Isiah 60:19,

the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

He is in me, He is the light who shines through me. And through you, beloved.


For you, my friend.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Have you ever witnessed the creation of a stained glass piece? The drawing, cutting, smoothing, and washing of the fragments before it is pieced together? 

What will become of all the broken pieces? It is not the onlooker that knows nor is it the masterpiece. Only one knows at this point. The creator, the artist.

A thesaurus will define the word broken as: collapsed, crippled, crumbled.

Demolished. Smashed. Damaged. Shattered.

I wonder why my name isn't there? I have been all of these things, if not my body for sure my heart. 

My walk with Christ, My Spirit.  

Isiah 61:3

to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.[a]
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify Him.

Despair=dim spirit

We've all been a bit broken (abused,lonely,hurt,scared,heartbroken) haven't we?

Because what one undamaged sheet of glass could not do on it's on, the artist will take the shattered pieces and solder each piece together. It is not finished until the entire work has an outline of solder around it. This is where the strength comes from.

Jesus has taken my pieces, wrapped His strength around them and made me whole. Praise God. 

I am made whole in my brokenness. So are YOU.

In Christ alone.

Psalm 147:3 

He heals up the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds


you need a 40?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I know I need to blog more. I'm sorry, time just well, isn't. I will try harder...if I find time to.

So how are you my sweet friends? I hope these words find you well.

I know you all want a weight loss update don't you? See I know you...and I still love you ;)

Well, I'm going to make you wait unless you scroll to the bottom of the post but DON'T because I don't want you to miss the meat of this post on account of a set of numbers!

You've seen the movie "Fireproof" right? If no, please do yourself a favor and do. It is based on a book by the name of "The Love Dare". It has saved marriages, folks.

Marriage is hard. (I heard you say Amen!) Marriage can be amazing. (your smiling!)

There is a new book out "The Love Dare For Parents" and my husband and I are taking the challenge.

Parenting is hard. That'll preach! Parenting can be amazing too! See a pattern?

For 40 days we have committed to doing a task each day in order to build our relationships, especially with our teenagers. Life is difficult for our children. They deserve for us to love and understand them. Some of the "dares" in the book make me want to drink. Heavily.  Usually here I would insert "I can do all things through Christ" but if I am to be transparent with you ( and I so want that) then I have to say I wasn't in the habit of running to read my Bible.

With each day still being a struggle for us and our children, I have to say the book is working. It is allowing us to apply simple truths to our lives and, in turn, healing is happening. We are also building better relationships with these creatures we call teenagers.

If you have teenagers, you've probably already stopped reading and peeled out of the driveway to get to the bookstore. Go on, skip the liquor store. You don't need it. There's nothing in there strong enough to help you with teenage hormones anyway.

I'm rambling. Forgive me?

I wanted to put a little excerpt in here, I think it's pretty relevant in light of the events of the VMA's the other night with Miss Cyrus and Beetlejuice. That was ugly, but too funny to edit out. Bless him, that was an ugly ol' church suit he had on. Wasn't it?

Here goes:

"The world often sends a message that children are a burden and an inconvenience. They cost a lot of money and take up valuable time. They get in your way. They disobey. They wine. 

But when a child finally arrives and joins a family, something changes. She steals your heart and changes your life. He introduces daily wonder and adventure. What you were once content without, you now cannot live without. You would die for them. Your greatest fear becomes losing them.

Then-ironically- the world that once discouraged children now eagerly wants their attention. They constantly advertise for them to watch their programs, use their lingo, and buy their products. They recruit them to attend their events and work at their jobs. They beg them to serve their causes, vote for their candidates, and fight for their agendas." 

That's why we need to listen to the consistent counsel of genuine love rather than the shifting opinions of a self centered culture. Love helps us view them the way God views them-as one of our greatest blessings in life. A sacred trust. A privileged responsibility. A precious delight."

"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord" Psalm 127:3 (even if some days you wish you had the gift receipt)

Learning to turn to God and His Word instead of leaning into our own understand is greatly changing the way we parent. Saying no to so much internet, video games, and TV is also a contender. Do our kids like it? NOT AT ALL!

We pray for them and we aren't changing our minds. Because my precious friends, it is true they grow up so fast. You only have so much time to make a difference. Now go turn off the TV and put the Wiipod (as Phil Robertson calls it) down and do something fun with your children. Love them enough to make them different. Teach them to crave things that matter, and not waste themselves on such things as video games. Will it be hard...heck yes! Video games and TV have become our babysitter, right? I know it.

Let's stop letting the world influence our children so much!

Oh and I've lost 34-36 pounds, it fluctuates because I am woman (hear me roar)

Love y'all!

Kendrick."The Love Dare For Parents"  (B&H publishing,Nashville,2013)16 


What Had Happened

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hi, My name is Erica and I am a food addict.

I love good food. I love the company that comes with good food. I love happy people. People are happy when they eat good food. I love making people smile with my cooking.

You know, I knew all of this. I really KNEW it last month when I HAD to follow a restricted liquid only diet.  Here are a few things I pondered blending with chicken broth:

Chic fil a nuggets
Thin sliced pizza

By the end of the specified time I would have settled for a bacon bit on a crouton. It was rough, and man was it telling.

Last April my family doctor informed me (after several tests and even more different medicines) that my pancreas was overworking itself and would eventually give out. It may be five years or even ten, but it was inevitable. We started looking at my options... BECAUSE you can't live without your pancreas!

I needed to get the extra weight off FAST.

Countless hours in education seminars, libraries, online, and different doctors led  my family and I to deciding the best answer was surgery. A surgery known as Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. It would be the second chance that I needed. For months, I've been preparing my heart for this surgery.

Not possible.

Last Tuesday as I sat there staring at my husbands tear filled eyes I almost got up off of the table. I doubted. Then my surgeon walked in and I expressed my doubt and nervousness. I like the guy. He's got a memory that is sharp as a tack and a Father who had this surgery. It's important to him. He reassured me he would take care of me. I also told him that if he messed up, he would be adopting 6 new kids. He was OK with that.

The anesthesiologist was the best of the best. I never met him. I think I should make him a casserole and drop it off at the hospital. I faintly remember them removing the breathing tube and cheering me on. I spent a little while giggling with the nurses that morning. They were good to me. In fact every soul from the ICU to the discharge nurse was kind to me. That's important.

The following hours after surgery were the worst hours of pain I have ever experienced and I had a morphine pump! At one point I grabbed my nurses arm and said "This has got to be the stupidest thing I have ever done in my life!"

If you know me personally,you know that is far from true.

Jesus was tempted with food. Did you know that? wild. (Luke 4) See to me that is completely amazing  the God I worship has felt my pain. When I'm struggling..I can be confident in His comfort. That is just as important.

I will end this week's blog with gratitude for all of you who prayed for me and my family. I felt every prayer and thought about them when I was wiping away the tears, with every push of morphine, with every painful lap around the ICU.

I am officially 1 week and 1 day out. I am slow as a turtle but I'm walking laps around my block. I am still on a liquid diet, but I am learning how to eat again. I am still in a lot of pain, but I am smiling.

And my friends, I am 24 pounds lighter today than I was just a few weeks ago.

I have been given a second chance, I'm so glad you're a part of it. I love you.

Keep praying for me.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Every Sunday around dusk I slip out of the house just for a while to a little back road off post. I pull over, hop out of the car and sit on the old wooden fence post that defines the boundary of freedom to some of the most beautiful horses the Lord ever created. How funny, that such a simple ol' rickety piece of wood can contain such a tenacious creature.

My secret ritual began when I discovered that on Sundays here, there is a radio station that plays Bluegrass music- Gospel Bluegrass music. In a matter of moments, I'm in my Granny's living room floor running my hands through the bright red braided rug. Papa in his chair smiles, winks, and sings along. I can smell the biscuits and hear the laughter; both of which are rising in the kitchen. I loved Sundays when I was a child.

My love for food and fellowship stems largely from my childhood. It was glorious. The food still is. My Granny and Mama have taught me well in the kitchen and in the heart. When you think you're just making cornbread you're really learning how to dance or how it's always proper to write a hand written note; maybe you learn to care for the sick and sometimes how to gossip.

When you burn the cornbread, your learning how to curse.

And forgive.

But just like the horses in the field, there comes a day when we must realize boundaries in order to stay alive and well. Last April I began a journey of a thousand boards and nails building up my fence. It's time for me to get healthy. That would be the one thing I never learned in the kitchen.

Oh, my precious children!  I want to be around to teach each of them the essentials of making cornbread.

Am I strong enough to keep the limits placed before me?

I will fail.

I place my hope in the One who doesn't.

 Psalms 73:26 tells us that "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever"

Pray with me? For me? ( one of my favorites, enjoy!)

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