Spiritual Battles

Last Friday, I made good on a ridiculous commitment I made while my husband and I were dating.  I had casually and thoughtlessly agreed that sometime in the future I would attend a heavy metal concert.  I dodged that bullet for years.  But Friday, I finally went to my first and last head-banging-metal concert.  I am free of that commitment from this point forward.

I may be free of the commitment to go, but I’m not free of the overwhelming pain my heart felt leading up to the event, while being at that concert, and in the days afterward.

True confession #1:  I hate…seriously hate…heavy metal music.  It’s so freaking loud.  And repetitive…every song sounds like exactly the same yelling.  I don’t understand 80% of the lyrics and the few phrases I can discern I don’t believe are in concert with my Christian faith.  I despise that many of the bands in this musical genre utilize symbolology that I deliberately avoid, as a result of my own pagan past.  In truth, in the weeks leading up to this concert I was praying that something would happen that would prevent our attendance.

As it became apparent that I was going to have to actually attend, I engaged my prayer warriors to form a hedge of protection around my family while we attended the concert. I was fervently praying for God to close our ears to the enemy, to open the hearts to the non-believers, and to assist with protecting us as we entered a spiritual warfare battlefield.

I prayed as we drove to the venue. I prayed in the parking lot. I prayed in the concession line. I prayed in our seats.  I prayed for God to be with us and that Satan would get behind us. I prayed for complete and total intercession.  I prayed specifically for my family, but then I prayed for those in my row, in our section, and in the entire audience. I even prayed for all of the band members.  I prayed that everyone present would know God…would know His love…would profess Christ as their Savior.

I was praying super big prayers.

True confession #2: I was surprised at how pleasant everyone was around us.  Between sets, folks were chatting with us and offering ear plugs (little did they know I had packed several sets of plugs in my purse!).  No one was cursing. No one was fall-on-their-face drunk.  No one was spouting off about Devil worship.

Everyone was nice.  No one was directly threatening towards me or my family.  I felt God’s arms around us.

And that’s when I let my guard down.  I had prayed through most of the afternoon into the evening, but by dusk I had relaxed a little.

The sun went down.  The drunks became rowdy.  The smell of weed was prevalent.  All around us, people were super excited to hear the first beats of the drum from the headlining band.  I stood up to see the stage and when the curtain fell I was in absolute shock.  There were images that were blatantly disrespectful of Christ.  There were huge areas of literal fire balls.  When pentagrams began bouncing all over the screen, I literally burst into tears and fell back into my seat.  I know I was the only person in that arena sitting down, but I may have been the only one that was crying and praying out loud to the one true God.

Satan made his presence known.

True confession #3: Spiritual Warfare in America is real and I am fearful that many Christians are turning a blind eye to this fact.  I know it’s real because it’s a slippery slope I’ve tumbled down.  I know it’s real because I see it in daily aspects of our society.  I know it’s real because I just pitched a book about it.

It scares me to death to see how spiritual battles have influenced American society.   And yet, I took my family on a trek to see the battle field in action.   You read that correctly… “my family.”

True confession #4:  My 7-year-old son was with us.  He was one of a dozen kids that I saw in attendance.

After that confession, you would be partly justified in asking about my parenting skills.  If spiritual warfare scares me so much and if I was so concerned that I dispatched my prayer warriors, why on God’s green earth would I introduce my son to such a scene?

Why?  Because I’m raising a prayer warrior.  I’m raising a child to someday become a head of household.  I’m raising a young man who is in love with the Lord.  I can’t shield him completely from the world.  But I can teach him how to hold onto his faith, his beliefs, and his focus on God.

Do you know who was praying with me in the weeks up to the concert?  My son.

Do you know who prayed in the car that God would protect us?  My son.

Do you know who was praying that just one person would come to know the Lord that night? My son.

Do you know who shielded his eyes from the fire on stage and also prayed out loud? My son.

Spiritual warfare is alive and well in our country.  Christians are doing a disservice to the next generation if we aren’t allowing them to become equipped to fight a battle that they may not understand.  Shoot, that many of us don’t understand!

Some will say that a heavy metal concert wasn’t the place for a child.  I agree.  It wasn’t an ideal situation.  But because it was one that occurred, I used it as a teaching tool for my child to understand that God listens.  He will defend us.  He will equip us.  He will protect us.

I’m free of the commitment to ever attend another one of these concerts…but I will continue to be vigilant to the spiritual battlefield all around us.

~Emily

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” ~1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)

1 Peter 5-8

The Walmart Meltdown

I don’t often break down.  I definitely don’t break down in front of people.  I’m the kind of woman that needs to feel like she’s got her emotions in check.  I encourage women to let go and be ok with not having it all together.  But me….I don’t always take my advice.

Let’s take the Walmart incident Emily wrote about two weeks ago.  When she wrote that I had a meltdown, she wasn’t exaggerating!  I took a left at the end of McKenna’s road to head to Walmart and somewhere in that 4 minute drive, as she encouraged me to tell her what was going on in my head, I start blubbering and crying.  And she was there to help me get myself back together.  Here’s what she didn’t tell you because she felt it was my story to write.

I was afraid of judgment.  Here we were, visiting my beautiful oldest daughter and her husband, Indy, along with my sweet little grandbaby, Andros, and I was worried that I would be judged on how well McKenna was doing!  By my best friend!  How silly does that sound!?

But it wasn’t silly to me in that moment.  Would Emily see something that would reflect poor parenting?  Were McKenna and Indy thriving?  Was Andros doing well? Did McKenna love her job?  Was the house clean enough?  Were they eating healthy?
These are all things moms worry about for their grown children, but somehow in that moment, Satan had woven anxiety around me to make me feel as if I needed to question my worthiness as a parent, as a grandparent, and as a friend.

It was overwhelming to say the least.  In that 4 minute drive, I was afraid to tell Emily that I was terrified of being judged by her.  Yet, when I shared my heart, she lovingly told me that there was NOTHING that would ever make her feel as if I wasn’t a good parent, a good person, a good friend.  She reminded me that I was overwhelmed with everything going on with the trip, and that there were great things in store from God.  And that I needed to stop freaking out!

And just like that, it was over.  It was as if God had placed this blanket of protection over me through my best friend’s kind yet realistic words.  Satan’s rhetoric was banished from that car, and grace filled the air.

How many times do we do that to ourselves, ladies?  We question our value and our worth through someone else’s eyes.  We want to feel accepted and worthy of a friendship or a job.  We long to feel good enough to teach a class or learn a new skill. Yet, we forget that God sees us as worthy already.  We are good enough.  Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV) says, “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

He knew who we were before we were born, and He created us in His image.  We. Are. Worthy.  Because we are His.

~Erin

Childlike Faith

The last week of summer before school starts is always hectic with buying supplies, trying on new clothes, attending open house to meet the teacher, and cramming in the last minute summer fun.  As a child, my school always started the day after Labor Day.  For my child, Alabama schools start the 1st week of August.  That means our hectic week was last week; complete with a three-day sprint to the beach.

I was exhausted when we arrived.  Why? For several reasons.  I just completed a road trip up and down the East Coast with Erin.  I had the very stressful experience of pitching my book proposal to publishers.  Even though I’m an extrovert, I had the pressure of meeting hundreds of strangers and engaging in meaningful conversations with all of them.  All to turn around and continue living out of a suitcase for a few more days with my husband and son.  The cherry on top? I knew the three-day beach trip would primarily be focused on fishing.

On the 2nd night at the beach, I joined dozens of other parents smirking at one another in the dark with headlamps tied to our heads and death grips on our “flashlight” cell phones…all of us supervising small children as they ran after the crabs that skirted across the waves at dusk.  Literally, dozens of parents looking like coal miners following children, chasing crabs.  For a moment, I stood there looking at the dark shadows with lights at head level, up and down the beach, and reflected on how amazing parenthood truly becomes when you have unconditional love for a little person.

How else would you tolerate, let alone explain, such ridiculous requests to catch crabs in the dark?

At one point Kambell looked up at the stars and said, “Mama, isn’t the sky beautiful?  How did God know to make all of those stars for us?”

This led to a conversation about how God knows all of those stars perfectly.  How He knows about each one of the hairs on our head…and how He knows every single grain of sand that we were walking on.

After the part of about the sand, Kambell was quiet for quite a while.  Anyone who has met this child knows that it’s unusual for him to be quiet for too long.  After a few moments he said, “Our God is pretty amazing to know all that stuff.”

You know what? He is pretty amazing to know all that stuff!

Gone was the exhaustion, the stress of pushing books, the exasperation of a three-day fishing trip, and even the embarrassment of walking in the dark with a light tied to my forehead. All of it was gone with the revelation that my son was enamored with God and all that He can do.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 18:3

Ladies, this week I’m challenging you to be like a child in our awe of God.

~Emily

Answered and Exceeded

For the last year, we have been working towards our dream of writing in order to impact women’s lives. That dream birthed the Iron Porch.  But it also birthed the start of independent stories that each us began pursuing.

Last week we started a road trip that took us up and down the east coast. It also took us up and down a rollercoaster of emotions.  You see, the dream brought us to the She Speaks Conference, sponsored by Proverbs 31 Ministries.    If you are unfamiliar with She Speaks, the premise is a location for nearly 800 women to follow the calling on their lives to speak, write, and lead for the Lord.

The dream brought us in front of real life publishers.  Let’s all take a moment to soak that in…real life…publishers!! Like for real, real life publishers!!!

While a publisher appointment is a scary thing to contemplate, there is beauty in knowing when it is God ordained.

Before the registration opened, one of us was FREAKING out that we would miss the actual registration date and miss out on the opportunity to attend.  Yet, we both received the email with plenty of time to consult before committing to workshops. We were afforded the opportunity to choose five publishers out of a list of dozens in the hopes of receiving one appointment. We prayed that we each would get one.

Weeks later, we both got the email revealing that we had each been scheduled for three appointments! Prayers answered and exceeded!

Not only had we each received three, we got the exact same three publishers.  Prayers answered and exceeded!

And if God wasn’t already amazing in these gifts, two of the three publisher appointments were back-to-back appointments…Emily at 11:45 and Erin at 12:00.  Essentially, Iron Porch had two publishers listening to our hearts for 30 minutes total!  Unrequested prayer answered…and exceeded!!

God wasn’t done answering unrequested prayers.  He allowed us an amazing amount of time with dozens of women in prayer, in fellowship, and in community.  In preparation for the conference, we prayed for our friendship. We prayed for the Iron Porch. We prayed for our books. We prayed for good feedback from the publishers. We dared to pray for “yes” from the publishers.  We prayed for our assigned prayer partners…strangers we met via email weeks before the conference. And we prayed for the staff and faculty of P31.

But we hadn’t prayed for the sense of belonging with other women called to this path. We hadn’t prayed to gain new friendships.  We hadn’t prayed to be moved to tears and laughter with strangers who had touched our hearts.

God answered the prayers that we didn’t even realize were on our hearts.

God answered the asked and unasked.

The Bible teaches us about exceeded expectations in 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV) “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

This is a lesson that we both have taken away this week.  It’s okay to ask God for what you want.  It’s okay to ask in detail.  It’s also okay to forget to ask for things.

You know why?

Because God is going to answer your heart. He’ll answer the asked and unasked.

~Emily and Erin

light

The Moment of Three

I’ve always known there is significance in the number three from a biblical point of view.  You have the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Peter denied Jesus three times during His crucifixion.  Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.  I find it even more significant that I can see that same number being used by God to show His power and grace in my life.

When I visit Emily, she always puts together an amazing itinerary of sites to see or things to do.  Typically, we’ll choose a topic and the sightseeing is based on that.  This visit we chose a literary theme, and it did not disappoint.  We travelled the two hours to the quaint town of Monroeville, AL, the hometown of both Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Truman Capote (In Cold Blood).  We visited the original courthouse.  It’s been converted into a museum dedicated to both authors.  The original courthouse that was replicated for the movie To Kill a Mockingbird is on the second floor, and you’re free to walk about and take pictures!

After a bit of time walking around, we started our drive back to the house.  During that drive, the car weirdly started speeding over the speed limit for some unknown reason.  It could’ve been the car acting oddly, or it might’ve been the lead foot that was attached to the gas pedal.  Either way, we encountered a police officer who wasn’t impressed with the race car abilities of a 10-year-old Ford.  While he went back to run the information he needed, we discussed just how much we thought the ticket would cost.

The officer headed back to the window, and firmly told us we needed to slow down and that he was issuing a warning today!  Praise God!  The ticket would’ve been fair and justified, but God saw fit to allow grace on the situation.  While the stop cost us about 15 minutes on the road home, we were grateful that we didn’t have a fine to pay.

We continued on our way home while looking for exit 142; we had seen a local pecan shop on the way to Monroeville and wanted to stop on our return to see what they had.  (And for those reading this who are concerned about my state of mind as I willingly walked into a nut store, I just wanted to see what was there…I didn’t have to actually eat any!)

About 20 minutes from the exit, it started to rain mercilessly.  And just as we got to the exit, we realized there was an accident ahead.  Traffic was at a dead stop.  What we thought was just a small accident turned out to be three accidents, including a semi turning over and crossing the highway into our lane of traffic.

We couldn’t believe it!  That 15 minutes stop we had earned by the police officer had spared us a possible crash in the downpour we were experiencing.  We thanked God for the grace He had shown us yet again, and were just amazed that we had been covered with such protection.

As we drove out of the parking lot, our only choice was to turn onto the highway which was at a standstill with no idea as to how long it would take to clean up the accidents.  As we began our turn onto the ramp, an off-duty police officer was telling the car in front of us just to follow and he would take us down the back roads to go around stopped traffic.  Yet again, God’s power was evident in the fact that we had left at just the right time to encounter the officer.

Often times, we encounter what feels like meaningless moments.  Things happen around us and we don’t think about the significance of why that has happened. Sometimes, it’s truly just because life happens.  But I believe there are far more times that we realize those moments are God-breathed!

In that 1 1/2 hour time span the handiwork of God was revealed and three times, God’s provision was revealed.  I love that the significance of ‘three’ in the Bible is still just as evident in my life today!

Blubbering to Bliss

Blubbering to Bliss

Have you ever watched a friend go from meltdown to joy…all in a matter of hours?

Erin and I are on a week long road trip/writing conference…and guess what?  I watched it happen this week.  I got to witness Erin go from blubbering, overwhelmed, messy crying in a Wal-Mart parking lot to complete contentment while putting her grandson to sleep.

And it was a beautiful thing to watch.

I’m not saying her messy crying is a beautiful thing to watch.  What I am saying is this:

~How privileged am I that I get to stand next to this amazing woman while we are doing life together?

~How blessed am I to witness the meltdown and help her make sense of the nonsense while she puts the pieces back together?

~How amazing is it that God gave us an opportunity to hang out and bond with all of our kids and grandkid?

~How beautiful is it that I got to rock her grandson to sleep while praying over him? (before she came and stole him from me…I mean seriously, he was already asleep in my arms!!!)

~Or better yet, how beautiful is it that I got to watch Erin sing hymns to him while he fought desperately to stay awake? (after she woke him up from my arms)

The point is this…the meltdowns happen so quickly and sometimes for no reason that we can pin point. But the bliss erases the memory of the meltdown.

I watched my best friend blubber in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

And then just an hour later, I got to watch her love on her Grandson in a way that only Grandma’s can.

I loved watching her in both moments.  Simply because she’s amazingly real, amazingly strong, and amazingly there for everyone.  Simply because she sharpens me just by being herself.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” ~Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

I thank God everyday for this girl who makes me a better woman…she truly is a treasure trove of friendship.  I hope and pray each of us is blessed with someone like her in our lives!

~Emily

Rough Patch

There was evil in the air last Saturday.

A horrific tragedy unfolded in my community when a husband decided to kill his wife and children, before lighting their home on fire and subsequently committing suicide.  On the same day, a friend had her basement renters also commit suicide.  On the same day, an Airman I mentor lost his brother in a terrible car accident.

These three separate events, in three separate cities, have impacted my life this week.  Not because I knew the key players, but because it has impacted people I care about. It has impacted my church’s youth group. It has impacted my military community. It has impacted the elementary school.

When I found out about my Airmen’s brother’s death, I told him that I was available if he needed to chat. He’s Muslim.  I’m Christian.  I wanted to offer prayers, but was unsure how to say that without offending him or his family.  I was treading softly, as we are both Active Duty.  He told me, “Chief, I’m going through a rough patch.”  And my immediate response was this:  “It’s okay to be going through a rough patch. It’s not okay to stay there for a long time.”

No one enjoys hard times….the rough patches.  And yet, we’ve all had a rough patch.  The rough patches could be unemployment, divorce, infertility or the rough patch could be health related.  The rough patch could be gossip, slander, low self-esteem or loneliness.  The rough patch could be death:  a family member, a murder, or a suicide.  There are thousands of reasons for the rough patches. Rough Patches are really hard when you feel as though you have done everything correctly, but you still have to suffer through the rough patch.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”        1 Peter 4:12-19 (NIV)

 In 1 Peter 4:12-19, we read that there will be suffering for the Christian.  We will see and experience the rough patches. Essentially, we should expect some amount of trial and tribulation, and yet we should also continue to press forward looking towards God for help and comfort.

The rough patch offers us time to examine ourselves while in the trial and allows us to entrust ourselves to God within the trial.

Peter warns us in verse 12 that the trials are expected. Yet, we are often surprised by the intensity of the trials.  Peter refers to the trials as a “Fiery Ordeal.” I don’t know about you, but the adjective “fiery” makes me feel like this is a super big deal!  Fiery is intense.

More than the intensity, I think I’m often surprised by the purpose of the rough patch. On a brain level, I understand that God is allowing us time to draw closer to Him.  On a heart level, I want so desperately to have everyone healthy and happy around me!  I understand the trial’s ultimate purpose, but like most of us, I would rather not fulfill the purpose through a rough patch.

When there is evil in the air…when we are facing hard times…when we are going through a rough patch, it’s so much easier to bear the burden in remembering that our God is for us. He is with us. He is allowing us to stretch and grow through trials in order to be closer to Him.

The rough patches suck.  They’re horrible.  But it’s okay to be in the rough patch.  They have purpose. They let us grow.

Just don’t stay there for too long.

~Emily

P.S. If you are contemplating staying in the rough patch too long, I am praying that you seek Godly council.Find a strong Christian woman to pray with, talk to your Pastor, call a suicide hotline…please, please, please get help.

The rough patch is meant to grow you…not break you.