The house was dim and motionless. Everyone was asleep and the visitors left in the night so it was especially quiet. I tiptoed across the wooden floors of the old homestead listening for cocks crowing or the cow calling for us to milk her in the barn. On the wobbly kitchen table I saw a piece of paper. Little did I know that this paper would change my life forever.
It was a letter. The words on the page were from the hand of a young mother. Let me tell you her story and how she impacted my life in such a miraculous way.
2 weeks ago my cousin Melinda brought her grown son, Shane, his wife, Tiarra, and their 2 children. Melinda had spent the past 9 years serving God in China but her time there had expired. In China, you are only allowed to stay there a certain amount of time. She was now living in their basement. They tell everyone they have a family of five instead of just four because they want Melinda to feel she is a part of them.
The morning they arrived was my daughters 17th birthday so I planned a birthday breakfast. I made my Dutch Babies, yogurt smoothie, and bacon. Yum. I was twirling around in my kitchen and jumping up and down for joy to have family visiting and they were so thankful to be with us.
When you live together for a longer period of time, you learn quickly if you can coexist. People have their habits and their baggage and you never know what you are getting into when you sign up for the LONG haul. Can we survive or will we thrive in this arrangement. Only time will tell, right?
Opening your home can be a test. I have had the stories. The funniest of stories of the strangest situations that come up and you are left to wonder, “What is going on with these people? What planet are they from? I thought they were Christians.” After the visitors leave, sometimes you scratch your head in disbelief. I once had to chop up a hide a bed couch and burn it after it had been so full of urine that it was never going to work again. The moment I walked into the guest room, I was hit with a wave of burning urine to the eyes and the sound of urine dripping to the floor with a pile of urine soaked towels about 2 foot high beside the bed and I called for the saws all, the splitting mall, and a fire!
Thankfully, Tiarra came prepared. She impressed me the very first night when she came walking through my kitchen with a ball of laundry and a smile. She said, “Erin, my daughter wet the bed. So sorry. I brought a waterproof mattress pad to protect your mattress just in case. Would it be okay for me to use your washer?” I dropped whatever I was doing and I ran to give her a big hug. She never read my blog nor my book but yet she was the best visitor I have ever had with children. Just wait, when you hear what I am about to say you will sit in awe.
Some of the strangest stories were with moms that should know better. Hence the reason I wrote my book Living Virtuously. It was an effort to teach moms how to keep their home and learn about some common etiquette that seems to have been lost through the ages.
Years ago, women worked. Their homes were clean and orderly. They dressed nice each day. They took pride in their homes and their appearance unlike today where everything goes and everything is respected even when it is disrespectful or out of laziness, and looked upon by the world as a new expression of their uniqueness.
Excuses and the Victim mentality…
So many women come to me with a whole line of excuses. They say they can’t do this or they can’t afford that. They have an excuse for everything and they blame everyone for the reason why they can never have a clean house, or have enough time to do all the things they want to do, or to have all that I have. They want you to feel sorry for their lot in life and that they are so pressed down and beyond what they can handle. I do feel sorry for them and Love them with all my heart. I just know they are living beneath their purpose and that they are worth so much more than they tend to give themselves credit for. They are beyond precious to Jesus and to me. I just want to scream to the top of the world that they are so worth it and they are of so much value!!!!
When the Bible says we can do ALL THINGS, I took it literally. Women look at me and they think, oh wow, Erin has it all together. But you did not know me when I was 20! When I became a mother, I took my role seriously. I had a wipe off my former life, trust in Jesus, and hold onto the hem of his garment on most days. I did not allow myself to give up. It is a state of mind, ladies. I had every excuse and every reason to give up if only you knew my tragic stories of failures, abuses, and all those times I was the victim. I just never looked back. I just pressed forward because GOD SAID so. His mercies are new each morning. There is no excuse. We can’t stand before God thinking we can just give him our list of excuses. We are here for a purpose, and we can do ALL THINGS through Christ. I was disabled for years. I could barely walk, yet I wrote a book. I could have thrown in the towel and there where days that I wanted to die because I was in so much pain. I still figured out how to do things because I was not a quitter.
Back to Tiarra…
She had a very difficult past, one that left her without the tools to know how to be a wife and mother. Her children throw fits just like so many others. She got saved as an unwed pregnant mother. She made lots of mistakes but here is the difference, She is teachable. She wants to do better. She yearns for LIFE and to live to her full potential. She also has every single excuse—back pain that causes her to not be able to clean, or cook, or train the children, or get off the couch. She feels like garbage but, BUT she was like a piece of clay in my home. So moldable.
She came to me, “Teach me. I want to be FREE. I want to have your energy. I want to learn everything from you. Teach me how to train my children, how to LIVE again.” I just wept. My love for her is so sweet because I just wanted to love her where she was at, but she did not want to stay there. She wanted more out of the life she was given than what she was living in. She is smart. She realized really quick that Life is what you make it and that she could make a decision to either continue to excuse her laziness and blame others or she could get up and LIVE.
I have never seen such a willing heart in all my life beside myself. I remember when I was her. I remember crying out for LIFE and looking at my babies and just wanting to be a good mother, a good housekeeper, and a glorious wife. I was a failure and did not know where to start. But I started. It was years of stumbling and falling, it was not overnight. She is me about 20 years ago. She has what it takes because she has started somewhere. In my kitchen, I am crying now, she started cleaning, she started here! She did my laundry. She wanted to do it all. I left one morning and came home to a perfectly clean home. She watched every move and she learned by example. She asked questions. She cooked meals that I would stamp an award on and she did it all with effortless passion. When you want something you just go for it.
Her little girl was pulling up her chair to help me with any kitchen project.
Love is what changes people. When we open our heart and our home to just bless and love on others, we have no idea how far reaching it will be. I am strict. I did not give in to fits or whims like most mothers do with their children. I hold my ground. Little Isabella so soon realized how much I loved her. She knew I would not change my mind and that no meant no. If I said she could help me only if she finished her breakfast, that was what I meant. When she would pout and push her food away, I would quickly smile, push the food back and say that I will NOT allow her to help Auntie Erin until the food was finished. She would fold her arms and scowl at me and I would just stand there smiling right back at her, with all the love of my heart. I also told her she did not have to finish. That it was okay to not finish, but that I will not let her help. She could leave the table and go on her merry way, but she wanted to help Auntie Erin so badly. After this precious 3 year old sat there for a few moments, knowing that the decision she was about to make would either make it so she could help me or not help me, she grabbed up the few morsels left of food and ate them. She looked back up at me and she smiled and said, “I am all done!” I scooped her up into my arms and twirled with joy. That is true child training when you can smile, have fun, and enjoy sweet fellowship while meaning what you say and saying what you mean. It always works.
I have met mothers that bribe, beg, and plead with their small children. They say no and then when the child puts the pressure on and resists, they give in right away. They look so worn out to me. Like a slave. The parents become slaves to the child and it seems so sad. They let the child run their life. What they do not realize is that they are training their child also. But their training leads to heartbreak, selfishness, and sin. Not life. They raise a manipulative, nasty, selfish person who only cares about their agenda and getting their way. Parents who do this do not realize the long term implications, they are just plain too lazy to hold their ground and work with the child’s heart. They will let the child win every time and what really happens is that they lose in life. It may be easier to let the child have their way, but it is really harder in the end. There is always an excuse why they can’t do it. And these parents habitually make excuses for their children for their bad behavior right in front of them so that the child LEARNS to have a victim mentality and a license for failure. They get to also have a whole list of excuses as well. Duplication occurs and we have a cycle of victims and people who will never succeed in their lives.
Tiarra, on the other hand, never makes excuses. She does not play the victim. She wants to do better. She wants her children to be sweet and loving and kind. I thought she would just be like the rest of the women I try to help, bogged down, crying, desperate, and worn out. She let me fill her cup and then it began to overflow. She was twirling in my kitchen with me. She was working with me to train her children and cleaning beside me. We were like a team. I gave her some healthy food, green smoothies, and life giving supplements. Her back pain went away completely after many years of suffering with it. I know how to fix people up! She even went out to my barn, found a barn board, a mason jar, and a candle and made the most lovely wall hanging for me! Wow!
The crazy thing is that Tiarra actually bought a matching dress just like mine and she made a DIY LIVE video on how to make one of these wall hangings. She is simply amazing. From barely alive to thriving at her max.
Her name Tiarra means Crown of LIFE. It fits her perfectly. She is a crown of life to me and a beacon of hope to others. You do not have to be perfect. You do not have to have this perfect upbringing. You just have to have a will to start somewhere. A will to work hard to get up out of your mess and brush yourself off. You need to have a teachable heart and you need to quit blaming your lack of success on others or on your unfortunate circumstances because both Tiarra and I did not let it stop us from moving forward. We all have a set amount of days, lets bloom where we are planted, find joy in all the simple things of Life and just have a will to learn and LIVE! It is FREE for all and given by the hand of God. He does promise to make each day new. Start today, it is a new beginning. For you! Life is what you make it. Take it and run with it, make it exciting and adventurous. In Christ we can do ALL THINGS.
If you are ready to weep, here is that letter she left me on my wobbly table…
“Dear Mark, Erin, Miles, Molly, Megan, Mikey, and Junior:
Thank you so much for having us! You all have blessed me more than you will ever know and I am so grateful! The time I have spent here has changed my life for the better. I have learned so much from all of you!
I am going to miss you guys so much! This has been the best (very short) two weeks of my life. When I arrived, I was struggling with depression, pain, and I had so much anxiety. Everyday I felt like a failure as a wife and a mother, not to mention a keeper of the home. All of you have brought me back to LIFE!
I’m leaving here tonight with love and joy in my heart and hope for my future!!! I hope I will someday be able to return the favor. I wish I was able to say goodbye in person. I know this is not goodbye, its just the start of a beautiful friendship! I love you all deeply!
Until next time,
Tiarra, Belle, and Eli
Leaving Lots of Love with You!
That letter changed my life because I know that I was her once. I had always wished for a Titus 2 woman to breathe the Life into me. Here I was right there to breathe LIFE into this young soul and someday she will be able to do that for the younger women that God brings to her path.
Here’s to my crown of LIFE, Tiarra, you are so ready to bloom and be all God has for you. You have all of what it takes to be the Virtuous woman of the Bible. I am the one who is blessed to have you in my life! Your life inspires me to keep writing to those out there who need someone to take them under their wing and pour LIFE into them! To God be ALL The Glory!