Crashing onto the Garage

There’s a small step from my laundry room into the garage.  

One that I completely missed a couple days ago.  The misstep had me crashing to the ground in an ungraceful, slow-motion, plump-middle-aged-lady-winning-money-on-America’s-Funniest-Home-videos, type of way.  

As I stayed still on my hands and knees for a moment, I did a mental inventory of my body.  

Palms, scuffed up but no blood-check.

Knees both in terrible pain, but no blood-check.

Right ankle/foot in an awkward folded position, but not broken-check.  

Tears-check.

Fast breathing-double check. 

My first thought after “owwwwww” was “that was a lot of weight to come crashing down on my knees!”

If I’m being completely honest, I’m not pleased about the amount of weight I’ve gained since I retired from the military.  I know the magic formula…eat less calories and exercise more.  Of course, I also know all the tricks and techniques of years of yo-yo dieting.

At that “hands and knees on the ground” moment, I realized that I needed to be more serious about evaluating what I can do with myself. I need a food and exercise game plan. I wondered what the Bible had to say about exercise-besides the “your body is a temple” type of verse. I found that in 1 Timothy 4:8 (NASB), the Bible states “…for bodily traning is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things, since it holds promise for hte present life and also for the life to come.”

That verse was so convicting! I don’t just need a game plan for food and exercise…I need to have an accountable increase in spritural matters too! While the bodily training has small benefits, it is the godliness benefits that are larger. Ironically, I had just told Erin that I thought my own preparations for Bible Studies, church, devotions, and even Iron Porch could be classified as a casual Christian walk.

In the next week, I’m going to get more serious about all my game plans. Meal planning, exercising…and a more deliberate approach to my prayer life and studying the Bible. Come to the porch and let me know what types of plans you have…and how you remember that little step that has you crashing onto the garage floor.

~Emily

The Knick in the Line

Who would’ve guessed that a cable buried underground would be buried so shallow?!  We didn’t.  Which is why we knicked it with an edger on Sunday as we were putting in the dog fence! 

We wanted our pups to have some space to roam on our property while keeping them away from the road that could lead to demise.  Chris used the edger to prepare the ‘trench’ as we walked around some of the woods.  An hour later, our daughter came outside and let us know the internet wasn’t working.  When we finished the project and came into the house, we found it still not working.  I went to turn the modem off and on again and realized it was genuinely broken, and the technician that arrived late Monday afternoon let us know that we had done the damage!  It turns out that because of fear of hitting pipes, they run the cable just a mere inch under the surface!

It’s amazing how some of the simplest things can wreak havoc!  Because of the cut line, my daughter couldn’t do her research online and I couldn’t perform my job functions the next day until it was fixed. 

It made me think about some of the simplest things I do, seemingly ‘surface level’ sins that knick the line of communication with God.  Please know that there is absolutely no difference from one sin to the next.  There are no “big” or “little” sins.  They are all measured on the same yard stick in God’s eyes.  But often we, as humans, give levels to our sins.  And the sins like a mean spirit towards someone or some of the words we say are overlooked because it just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. –James 4:17

Those examples (along with 100 others I could name), while not turning me away from God, prevent an open line of communication with God because of actions I take.  Sins, unrepented, can muffle what God is saying and teaching us because our hearts are clouded with the muck and mire that just keeps building.  One by one, these sins start piling up, and just like the wire that was knicked preventing us from accessing the important information we needed, we miss how God is speaking and maturing us.  We’re bogged down with the sins of this world instead of being lifted up with the life-giving grace of Jesus Christ.

I encourage you, dear sisters, to ask God to show you where the knicks are in your life.  Repent and reestablish that sweet connection with your Savior.  He’s longing to speak to you!

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. –1 John 1:9

~Erin

Promotion Responsibilities & Expectations

Today, my sweet friend, Nancy will promote to Chief Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force. 

As many around the military know, this promotion is the highest grade an enlisted member can attain and only 1% of the military will make it to this particular rank.  With this promotion, comes much responsibility…and expectation.

There is an expectation that a Chief will be knowledgeable.  They will correct poor behavior and praise good.  They will advise, they will mentor, they will excel, they will speak well, they will encourage others, they will say the unpopular things…they will support other Chiefs.  These expectations, as well as countless others can be a burden to the one responsible for maintaining them.  

In Genesis 41:1-45, we see Joseph receiving a promotion from Pharaoh….and we know that he also had great responsibilities and expectations placed upon him.  

For instance, in Genesis 41:37-45, Pharaoh not only promotes Joseph to second-in-command of Egypt, he specifically tasks Joseph with preparing for the coming famine.  Based on previous verses, we know that Joseph is humble and repeatedly requests assistance from the Lord.  He confesses his sin and inability to meet challenges.  If we do that in our workplaces, we create an environment that attributes success to God, rather than ourselves.  

Joseph’s promotion brought overt signs of his new position of leadership.  He was offered fine clothes, official transportation, a signet ring, a new Egyptian name…and even an Egyptian spouse.  His response to these trapping could have been prideful.  However, Joseph exhibited great restraint from a worldly perspective and allowed God to receive the glory.  In short, Joseph gets a ton of stuff simply by being promoted.

In the modern military, this is true of the promotion to Chief Master Sergeant.  You’ve earned the most stripes…recognizable from a distance. You have an official parking spot at certain locations on base.  There is a reverence for the title.  You may get a bigger office or a government paid smart phone.  You even receive the new name of “Chief” and when the word Chief is mentioned, those who hold this title will respond.  This title and name “Chief” stays with you even into retirement. 

Handling promotions with all these types of extras is hard. Joseph remained humble by continuously falling back on the lessons he learned in childhood…but more than that, he also remembered where the true credit belonged: God, the Father Almighty.

When one makes Chief in the Air Force, they will often give credit to those before them who mentored them. They will acknowledge previous supervisors and mentors…they may even acknowledge those they’ve personally led.  They will thank family and friends.  And some will credit God for His hand in their promotion.  This is applicable to any job…not just the military.  

Regardless of the promotion, the expectations, or the trappings that mark the new position, leadership is difficult. It’s a challenge that stretches each person’s humbleness vs. pride.  Yet, if we look to the newly promoted leadership of Joseph, we can glean hope that it’s not an insurmountable challenge.  

While surrounded by other Chief Master Sergeants, today will mark the day that Nancy takes on the challenge.  Today marks the day she begins to comprehend a little of what Joseph faced under Pharaoh.  

I can’t wait to see how she excels as a leader and as a sister Chief!

~Emily

The Master Gardener

We’re heading into planting season, and this will be my first year planting a full-fledged, on-the-ground garden in the state of Alabama!  I’m so excited to get started, and Chris graciously took up the previous owner’s garden bed and is reconfiguring it so that I can have a few beds rather than one big space.  I’ll be ready to go any day!

Now that you know how excited I am about this, let me acknowledge that I generally kill most plants.  For those who read my previous blog on gardening, I’ll remind you that I only tried gardening for the first time last year.  I kill most houseplants.  In fact, Emily doesn’t know it yet, but I’ve already killed one of the plants in the pot she gave me as a birthday gift in September by over watering it.  (Sorry, Emily!)  I want so badly to grow fresh veggies so that we can eat what I’ve grown myself, but I’m already in worry mode that I’m going to kill it all off; we’ll be destined to eat Piggly Wiggly lettuce and tomatoes for the rest of our lives!

Aren’t we blessed that our Heavenly Father is a Master Gardener!?  We are called to spread the good news to all people.  The good news is the gospel of Jesus Christ!  People all over the world need to know that Jesus came down to earth, died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave on the third day.  They need to accept the gift of salvation.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” –Mark 16:15

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of age. –Matthew 28:19-20

That can be nerve-wracking!  Reaching out to people and sharing God’s gift can cause anxiousness out of a fear of rejection.  It’s scary to feel as if we are responsible for leading people to the Lord and helping them grow in their relationship with God once they’ve accepted Christ as their personal Savior.  However, God tells us in the bible that we are to plant the seed, but that it’s God that causes it to grow!

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about this very thing.  He let them know that he planted the seed by preaching the good news and getting them established, Apollos had watered it by continued teaching and encouragement, but that God was what caused the growth.

So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. –I Corinthians 3:7

Isn’t that comforting!?  Our job is to tell everyone the joyous news of our God-plant the seed.  Once they accept the free gift of salvation, we can encourage them as they dig in to the Word-water the plant.  But God will grow them in the knowledge of the Truth.  He is the one who will deepen their relationship with Him. 

We don’t need to be afraid to plant the seed, sweet friends!  We can be delighted in the fact that we are doing what God has called us to do.  He will do the rest!

I encourage you to reach out to at least one person this week and share the gospel.  Plant the seed so that God may tend His garden.

~Erin

The Summer of Government Cheese

Have you ever been hungry with no means to get food?  

Have you ever been unable to purchase food for your kids?

I’d venture to guess it’s a hard place to be in, when you are concerned about how to feed yourself and your children.  It seems to me, that Luke 6:30 would be my favored verse if I were in such a situation.

“And He raised His eyes towards His disciples and began saying, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20 (NASB)

Please know that this verse isn’t entirely focused on the status of being poor in the physical sense…it speaks partially to those who are poor are often richer in spiritual matters.  Regardless of the commentary about the verse, it does speak to my heart when I remember what it was like to be in the status of poor.  

There were times in my childhood when my parents needed government assistance to feed our family.  I distinctly remember the packet of tear-out papers, which were food stamps. I remember my mom getting our school lunches at a lower rate.  And one summer, I know that cheese and peanuts arrived at our house, which were stamped “Government Cheese” and “Government Peanuts.”  In all fairness, there could have been other “Government Food,” but I only remember the cheese and nuts.

Why do I remember the government cheese so clearly? Because it was a ginormous block of Velveeta type of cheese, which didn’t melt well, nor would it slice thinly for a sandwich.  It was just a gooey mess….one that gave us much needed calories (even if they were completely processed and fake).  

The peanuts, on the other hand, were as perfect as God intended them. They were blanched, but unsalted.  We ate them plain, in yogurt, mixed with popcorn, in salads, in pasta…we even tried our hand at making homemade peanut butter. That summer of the ‘government cheese,’ I became an expert on making peanut brittle.  I made so much peanut brittle, that I got to a point I didn’t even consult the recipe card. 

In the midst of being poor and my parents receiving assistance, my pre-teen self didn’t even realize we were in dire straits.  

Why?

Perhaps because my parents partially hid it from us.  

Perhaps because it was part of our lives and I didn’t question it.  

Mostly because we were blessed.  Luke 6:20 assures us of that blessing, even in the midst of being poor.  God protected us physically and spiritually.  Even if we hadn’t eaten, we still were assured of our place in the Kingdom of Heaven.

God is good.  All the time.  Even with the government cheese. 

~Emily

Learning New Things

I’ve been learning something new recently.  It all started when I read a beautiful book called Finding Allah, Seeking Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi.  From there, I caught an Alisa Childers’ podcast that featured guest John L Cooper.  This in turn led me to another book, Mama Bear Apologetics.  (See what a rabbit hole can do!?)

What I’ve been researching has been the study of Christian Apologetics.  People who are Christian Apologists study the Bible to defend Christianity against objections.  Most notably they defend Christianity and the Bible from an historical perspective.   This field is fascinating to me.  I’ve been a Christian since I was a young child and have grown up learning the Bible.  However, when I watch or listen to apologists interact with such immense knowledge of the Word of God and the time surrounding Jesus on Earth, I realize how little I know!

There is a verse that keeps coming up in my research and reading:  All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man or woman of God my be fully capable, equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:16-17

While not all of us will want to study the ins and outs of the culture at the time, the timeline of historical documents or other relevant history, we all have a responsibility to study the Word so that we may know it!  The Bible is our road map to how we should live, and when we hold tight to it, studying and immersing ourselves in the growing of that knowledge, we develop a deeper and richer relationship with God.  In turn, this allows us to do as we were called to do and share the Gospel with those around us!

When we dig into our study of the Word, much like the Apologists, we have a depth of knowledge that can allow us to plant the seeds for God’s Kingdom.  When we know the Word, we can answer questions for uncertain friends who are interested in knowing why your life feels so different.  When we’ve hidden His words in our heart, we can show hope to the unbelieving family member so that they might find hope in God.

I challenge you, sweet friends, to dig into the Word.  Know what you are reading.  Understand what God is telling you.  Let’s enrich our relationship with our Heavenly Father and share the Good News with those around us!

~Erin

Jack Daniels “Medicine”

Through the years I noticed that Renee, my mother-in-law, would occasionally take a small nip of Jack Daniels.  She called it her medicine and would do it so infrequently that you wouldn’t even be able to call it a habit.  In 2017, she came to visit us in Alabama from Pennsylvania for Christmas and “Santa” gave her a couple small bottle samplers of Jack Daniels in her stocking.

However, there weren’t any shot glasses in the house for her to have her sip.  I teased her that she could just take her “medicine” with a tablespoon, since that’s about all she would drink.  I also told her that someday, I was going to write a blog about her nipping Jack.  She giggled and told me to write the blog…she went on to say, “if Iron Porch is for women to know other Christian women are real, then we should know about our favorite little nips & sips.”  

At that point we had a lengthy discussion about Christian women and drinking.  I had been “called out” by a church member for posting a photo of my wine glass on social media, so I was a tad gun-shy about allowing others to see the social-drinking side of my life.  

She reminded me that of all masks women wear, there isn’t a single one that hides us from Christ.

Jesus literally knows everything about us…our thoughts…our fears…our dreams…our disappointments…our excitement.  And He even knows when we want to have a little nip of Jack Daniels.  

I admired that she was comfortable with others knowing that she enjoyed a small sip every once in a while.  Her example and gentle reminder allowed me to assess the portions of my life that may be inadvertently or consciously hidden from others.  She told me to take the masks off. 

On a whim this last weekend, I opened a tiny-useless drawer to the left of my stovetop, which has never been used.  Inside, I found a wrapped-up package of “shot glasses” with a post-it note on top.  It was a message from my mother-in-law from Christmas 2017, about her next trip to Alabama.  

Just a few months after she wrote that note, she was diagnosed with cancer.  And just a couple weeks ago, we laid her to rest knowing that she was in heaven singing to Jesus.  She never made it back to Alabama for another visit to use her nipping glasses. 

While she no longer needs her Jack Daniels “medicine” or the Alabama shot glasses, she left me with a reminder to be true to myself…and not wear the masks for others.

~Emily

Decisions

The heaviness of a decision lay at my feet, and it’s all I can do to figure out how to make the right choice.  Have I thought it through and how will it affect everyone?  I’m left feeling a weight on my shoulders as I calculate the cost.  What if it’s the wrong path?  Did I think it through enough?

I’m sure you’ve felt it, too.  Choices, both big and small, are always needing to be made.  The burden can be almost overwhelming when you must decide to do what’s best for you, for your family, for your life.  The chaos of this world tells us to do what we want; do what feels good or ‘right,’ but is what feels right really the right thing to do?

And while this world tells me one thing, my heart tells me another.  I have someone that I can go to.  I have someone I MUST go to when I have decisions that need to be made.  I want to hear His voice.  I NEED to hear His voice.  I know that He is good, and I know that He hears me.  Dear friends, are we going to our Savior with our decisions or are we trying to make them ourselves?

I found a verse tonight in the midst of my Bible reading.  I was actually looking up verses about knowing the Bible.  The internet led me to one verse…HE led me to more.  103 verses later, I found what my heart needed the whole time…

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word.” –Psalm 119:114 

I realized I wasn’t looking for verses about knowing the Bible.  I was looking for a verse to tell me that it was ok that I didn’t make a decision the moment a choice was handed to me.  As a Christian I must give it to God and trust that He will provide the answer whether it’s an answer I like or not.  I do that because I trust in His unchanging and unfailing wisdom to direct me to the answer that will lead me closer to Him.

I pray that you can know this sense of assurance that I felt tonight reading that verse.  If you have a decision that needs to be made, trust it to our Father.  He is Jehovah Jireh-The Lord Will Provide.

~Erin

Speeding Tickets of Life

Over the weekend, a police officer handed me a ticket for doing 80-mph in a 70-mph zone.  As I pulled away, tears started dripping down my face.  My son, who had been fascinated by the flashing blue lights and had waved with a smile to the 2nd officer that was standing near the back-seat window, was now concerned about my water works.

“Are you sad you got a ticket mama?”

When I answered no to being sad, he continued trying to guess the cause of my tears.  

My tears were ones of frustration. I had a lot on my plate.  I was exhausted, having already driven 9 of the 14.5 hours in order to get home.  It was starting to snow, causing me another level of worry about driving. My husband was another week behind coming home.  Baseball tryouts were being re-scheduled for Monday evening and new cleats/bats/gloves hadn’t been purchased yet.  Laundry and bills to be paid were waiting my arrival home.  

Now, I also had a speeding ticket.  

As I started to search vigilantly for a hotel to stop at, I began reflecting on what that speeding ticket meant.  It became symbolic.  I speed a lot.  If I’m honest and fair, I likely speed every day.  It’s easy for me to nudge up to the speed limit, as well as go over…even if it’s only one or two mph over. 

The kicker is that I don’t get caught every day.  I don’t catch myself, nor does law enforcement. Yet, I know I speed. I know I should try harder to stop speeding. I acknowledge that I deserve the accountability and discipline of a ticket nearly daily.

Sin is like that.  

We often commit sin without even acknowledging that it’s sinful behavior.  Perhaps, we exhibit a particular sinful behavior so frequently that we begin to lose the knowledge that it’s sin. We can go days, months, and even years without being held accountable for those behaviors.  Romans 3:23 states, “…for all of sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”  The longer we go without being called out on it, the easier it is to continue doing the behavior.  

Like speeding. 

This was the 1st speeding ticket I had gotten in the US since 1996; although I did get enough speeding tickets while stationed in Germany, that I actually had my US-European drivers licenses suspended for 30 days (it’s even easier to go super-fast in Germany).   

But this weekend’s speeding ticket was a reprimand for errant behavior.  It was also representative of all the other times I had broken the law by speeding…and hadn’t gotten caught.  

I deserved the ticket.  The tears weren’t ones of sadness that I had gotten caught; rather they were ones of frustration at the situation.

Take a moment this week to ask the Lord to reveal where there is repeated sin in your life so that you can repent before you end up with one of the speeding tickets of life.

~Emily

Spiritual Blessing Vs. Physical Desire

Sometimes what the world has to offer can seem so enticing.  We are in a very “me-centric” society which allows us to believe that whatever makes us feel good is ok.  If it makes our life easy or it’s enjoyable, it’s alright to do or be a part of.  Perhaps we feel that some of these things that the Bible calls a sin are ideas or events that don’t really seem to hurt you, so what’s the harm? I’ve often fallen for this trap.  And hear me when I say that…it IS a trap.

More than three thousand years ago, another person fell into that trap. The Bible says that Esau, Isaac’s son, came in from the field exhausted.  He saw that his twin brother, Jacob, had made some lentil stew and begged him for food.  Jacob told him that he could only have it if Esau sold him his birthright (as Esau was the eldest of the two).  Esau told him, “What good is my birthright if I’m dead!” and swore an oath to Jacob, giving away his birthright.  He ate the stew and left. 

If we’ve read the rest of the story in the Bible, we know that because Jacob was given the birthright, he went on to be blessed by God and his children became the 12 tribes of Israel.  All because his brother was hungry.

How many times do we, today, give up our spiritual blessings that our Heavenly Father has given us for physical desires of what is right in front of us?  We trust in the path God has allowed, following what He says.  But worldly influence or selfish desires get in the way and we sidestep.  The spiritual blessing is missed and we don’t encounter Jesus quite the way we would’ve had we not worried about the momentary gratification that the flesh gave.

We can look forward in the Bible to some New Testament truth about what we should do to help us not make the same mistake Esau did.

Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

It tells us that God’s way is the perfect way and we shouldn’t be bending to what seems like fun or ‘normal’ in the face of what God tells us is sin.  We need to be transformed or changed by what God’s Word says and His direction, not the other way around!

Dear friends, I challenge you this week to be transformed by God and look for the spiritual blessings rather than the physical desires of our heart!

~Erin