Is it COVID-19?!?!?!

My throat is sore…is it a tickle?  Is it COVID-19?

I have a raging headache…can’t think.  Is it COVID-19?!?

Am I hot…or just warm? Do I have a fever? Is it COVID-19?!?!?

Every single little twitch or twinge these days leads me down a rabbit hole of wondering if I’ve been exposed to COVID-19.  I start contemplating whether I’ve been diligent in wearing a mask or social distancing.  I wonder if I’ve been exposed…or worse, could I have exposed someone else?

Am I alone if hyper-analyzing each little upset tummy or ache and pain?

The crazy thing is that I’m not afraid of getting COVID-19.  I know my family is fairly healthy and we would likely weather the storm well.  More than that, I know that God would heal us in the physical or we would be healed completely in heaven.  There is great comfort in knowing that the believers will be healed no matter what.

This never-ending saga of not-knowing how the pandemic ends is wearing thin on each of us in different capacities.  In my case, I’ve been leaning heavily on Psalm 55:22 (NASB), “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”

How are you dealing with the continued pandemic saga?  Come to the Porch as share your thoughts!

~Emily

Is It COVID-19?!?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I am a master gardener.  And by master gardener I mean that I recently purchased my first vertical container garden.  On June 12th, I purchased and planted a total of 18 plants/seeds.  I’ve only killed the lavender so far, so I’m guessing that’s a good thing since I don’t eat lavender.

I honestly didn’t put a lot of thought into the actual science of gardening other than the fact that I really wanted to try my hand at it, and the container garden I found was such a cool system!  I know I’m Zone 9b (didn’t mean much to me at the time) and I live in California where there is plenty of sun and shouldn’t EVERYTHING grow beautifully in California?!  Eighteen days in, and I’m honestly just glad that the lavender is the only thing I’ve killed, but let’s be real…I’m only 18 days in.

But here’s where the real work starts.  The novelty is starting to wear off; I don’t have peppers hanging from my plants and tomatoes aren’t just showing up and dangling from the vine.  (FYI, I know it takes longer than two weeks to show up, just so everyone knows!)  But my desire to watch the plants mature and bear their produce has become exciting.  Now I’ve purchased a highly recommended gardening book.  I’m researching soil.  I’m looking at what grows well next to each other and whether to plant seeds or starts.  I joined a local online group of gardeners to see what works for them and what they’ve had success with planting in this area.  It’s time and effort to get these plants to grow.  And it’s time and effort that’s well worth it.

Our walk with Christ can often begin the same way.  We accept Christ as our Savior and get so excited to start a walk with God.  We find ourselves jumping straight in, soaking up as much scripture as we can, join a community for a bible study, attend church services.  Sometimes, however, when we don’t see immediate changes in our life or fantastic things start happening to us because we live for Jesus now, we can start to get frustrated in trusting Jesus during the process of us growing into spiritual maturity.  If we don’t find the immediate gratification, confusion or bitterness can sweep in and next thing you know, your walk with God is thrown to the wayside in favor of what’s right in front of us temporally.

Remember that the seeds were cast in Mark 4 into good soil and they grew up and produced a crop.  The bible didn’t say it happened overnight.  The good soil with the seeds had to be tended, nurtured, loved, and fed.  That is what our walk with Christ must be.  In order to see the growth, you have to plant yourself in the good soil of the Word of God and allow Him to tend to you, maturing you in your walk with Him.

I encourage everyone today to plant yourself in the Word of God and allow Him to grow you.

~Erin

Learning New Culture

Our son had just turned 4 years old when we moved to Alabama from Washington DC.  I’m originally from Oregon and my husband from Pennsylvania, so imagine the culture shock we experienced moving to the South.  Everything from the slower pace, to the food and sweet tea, was different.

What was one of the most noticeable differences?  The “language”!!!  For instance, when we arrived we rented a house on Lake Jordan.  The native Alabamians sounded like they were saying “Light Jerden” every time they attempted to correct our pronunciation.  Don’t even get me started on how we “mispronounce” the name of our town now!

Not long after we settled into life in the South, my boys came home from breakfast at a restaurant chatting about a bunch of ladies who sounded like sheep as they departed their morning meeting.  I asked the boys to explain why they were comparing women to sheep.  Turns out all these women saying “bye” to one another in a southern dialect was heard by the PA boys as “bah,” as in “bah-bah,” the noise sheep make!   To this day, we still giggle as a family if we hear a strong southern “bah.”

Something as small as the dialect is something that is included in figuring out the culture of a new location.  It makes me think of how overwhelmed Ruth could have been when she left all she knew in Moab to follow her Mother-in-law, Naomi to Israel.  There was a new dialect, new customs, new food, and most notably in this story, a new religion.

In Jeremiah 29:11, God offers us a promise that He is looking out for our best interest and for our future…even in the middle of culture changes.  “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” (NASB).

Imagine leaving the status of being a Moabite Princess to become a Jewish refugee in Israel. Ruth had so much to learn and a ton of new norms to become accustomed to…and yet, she did it with complete loyalty towards her husband’s family. The example Ruth provides is one of complete immersion into the culture.

Let me ask you this…when has God taken you out of your comfort zone and you’ve had to learn a new culture?  In the current climate in America, perhaps now is an appropriate time to learn about what others consider their culture.  I’m not saying you should move to another part of the country or forgo all you know, like Ruth.  I am suggesting, that it may be time to consider taking some steps towards understanding our fellow Christians and what type of cultures they hold dear.

It might be an opportunity to chat about God in a whole new way…

~Emily

Learn New Cultures

Is Church a Hobby?

Hobbies are my weakness.  When I’m bored, I love to learn about new things.  This generally means I’m buying new things.  Ask anyone who has known for me longer than five minutes, and they’ll tell you some product they’ve purchased for me at some point in my life that relates to something I just “had to have” because that was my passion.  At the moment.

When I was in my early 20’s, it was Stampin’ Up.  During my late 20’s, I loved to decorate cakes.  Once I rounded the 30’s, I was into cooking.  Two years ago, I was in love with card making.  Then, my obsession became makeup.  It’s a nasty habit that fills what little storage space we have in this house with tons of “stuff.”

Sometimes, I think that we often put church service in that category.  We get really excited about how God is working in our lives.  We are watching transformation happen.  We’re attending church regularly.  Yet, church service gets left behind for an extra hour of sleep or the new brunch time we set up with our friends.

I recognize that I’ve fallen into that trap before.  I start getting busier with my job and use that as an excuse to not attend service on Sunday.  Ummmm….I work from home.  I was up late last night working on bible study.  So I shouldn’t go to church the next day???  Does either excuse even really count?!  Even now that we’ve been under quarantine, it’s easy to continue in the same pattern and skip out on service if you’re back to meeting.

While some would say that church wasn’t a “thing” in the New Testament so why go to church now, I would say the church then was the community where the body of Christ got together to praise and worship and learn the gospel.  When we are with our fellow Christ-followers, we are surrounded with people who love Jesus, who encourage in His Word, who follow and trust Him faithfully.

While the full church functions may not be a reality at the moment for some due to health restrictions or quarantine, I would encourage each of you that are able now to find a local church and become a part as much as you can.  Whether its small groups from your congregation in your home, or small groups at the church, dig in to the community.  If your church is back to the sanctuary, I encourage you to go.  If it’s still Zoom with your pastor, do it!

There’s something special about community among believers!

~Erin

Annual Sunburn

The first sunburn of summer 2020 is in the books.

Year after year, I never learn that my pale Scandinavian skin needs a thick lather of sunscreen… as evidenced by the annual first sunburn of the summer.

Once I suffer through the first searing, and subsequent shedding of peeled skin, I won’t likely burn again for the rest of the summer.  In the past, I would claim that I only started to tan after the first sunburn, as that sunburn is the “base” for the rest of the summer’s sun-filled activities.

While there may be some truth in the “base-tan-sunburn,” the reality is the pain of that first sunburn creates a scenario where I remember my sunscreen protection for the rest of the summer.

The same is true with our sinful nature.

As with the sunburn, often our first brush with a particular sin is the “base” for continued sinful activity with or without protection.  Sinful scenarios can cause pain. They can cause a tangible reminder of the sin.  They can have “peeling” regrowth, as a result.

Also, like the sunburn, our sin can be painful enough that we will remember our protection against it.  Essentially we will experience the pain of the sin and subsequently do our best to avoid experiencing it again, as with the use of sunscreen.

What is the sunscreen protection against sin? The Word of God.  He’s given us the instruction manual on how to protect ourselves, as well as what to do when we fall short within that sinful nature.  This is why it is so vitally important, as Christians, that we are studying the Word and placing it firmly in our hearts.  It is the protection that we need.

Remember what Paul shared with us in Romans 6:14 (NASB), “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

Whether your sin/sunburn is a base for further activities, or if it is a stark reminder that you need protection, I would encourage the ladies of the Iron Porch to seek God’s will this week about how best to protect yourself.

~Emily

sunscreen

 

A Tribute to a Father

Life is so fragile.  I know you know what I mean.  We feel like we have all the time in the world to enjoy each other, to laugh with each other, to cry with each other.  We sometimes take for granted the hugs and the kisses, the jokes, even the fights because we’ll see them tomorrow.  Our family is invincible and we have forever.  But unfortunately, that’s not the case.  And our family felt it recently.

We pulled out a big box of pictures this week.  We started looking through it, and came across a home movie of a surprise party we gave Chris’s dad, Allen, for his 70th birthday.  That was 12 years ago!  It seems like a lifetime ago and yet so recent.  Last night, we popped it in and watched it.

There’s probably 50 family and friends laughing, eating, talking, there to celebrate an amazing man turning 70 years old.  Allen pops into the picture, and he’s larger than life.  He’s walking around the room talking to everyone, reminiscing about this story from the past or that friend they saw last week.  Old business partners are there.  Brothers are there.  His children-Chris and Rita, his grandchildren, nieces, nephews, everyone….there all there to celebrate a man that loves his family more than just about anything.  (Except maybe hunting.  He loves to hunt, and you can tell when he opens his gift of a rifle!)  You watch him belly laugh, head thrown back, the sound of happiness coming from him, hanging in the air.

You’d love to see his hair.  I tease him all the time about his “luscious locks” because Allen has the thickest head of beautiful white hair against his tan skin from enjoying the outdoors so much.  The man looks like he’s permanently retired on the beach!  He just looks like….joy in this video.

Back to last night when we watched this video.  It’s been 12 years, but we wish it was yesterday.  Because following a leukemia diagnosis just 2 ½ months ago, this man, this father, this brother passed away on June 7th.  It still doesn’t seem real.

We all wish there was one more moment with him.  A moment to joke with him, a moment to squeeze our arms around him, a moment to watch the news with him (it seemed to be one of his other favorite things).  And we’re left with memories.  But good ones.  Great ones.  He was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of man.

Allen, you were….you are…an amazing human being.  And your legacy lives in every life you touched over your 82 years.  We love you and we miss you.

~Your family

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2005, Idaho Family Trip
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May 2020, 82nd birthday

The Balance In Children’s Salvation

It has been a week since my son came up to me after watering the garden and said, “I’m ready, mama.”

“Ready for what, buddy?” I asked.

To which he said, “Ready to pray the prayer for Jesus.  Will you help me?”

Let me take a moment to convey the magnitude of that moment.  I literally felt my heart start racing and felt the tears welling up in my eyes.  I wanted to jump up and down inappropriately shouting “Smell My Victory!!!!”  (Although it probably would have been way more appropriate to start singing a gospel song or shouting scripture.)

Since his 2-year-old-self came into my life, I’ve been praying for the moment he would accept Christ as his Savior.  Just before Christmas last year, he started asking questions about salvation and asking Jesus to live in his heart.  Every time I’ve had a conversation with him regarding his questions, I’ve asked if he’d like to take the step to pray for forgiveness and in acknowledgment of this eternal gift of salvation.  Every time, he’s told me he wants to pray, but he was “too nervous” or “not ready.”

And let me tell you something ladies…every single time, my heart stopped. It broke. It took everything in me to casually say, “When you’re ready, buddy, I’ll be here for you.” In reality, I was choking back tears and reigning in the desire to ‘push-push-push’ for salvation.

I have found that the last eight months have been a challenge in patience.  It’s been a delicate balance between telling him the truth (to include urgency in making a declaration for Christ) and trying to create space for him to make this decision fully on his own (not in an effort to please his parents).

Since his decision to accept Christ, I’ve shared my eight-month struggle with a few Moms that have kids about the same age. Repeatedly, I heard the same story of trying to find a balance between encouraging a decision versus pushing for one. Apparently, we’re all trying to teach our children about Christ, but afraid we’ll push them prematurely into a false decision.

Yet no one is talking about it out loud.

I certainly wasn’t.  I thought I was alone with this burden.  I just walked through it and asked God repeatedly to not let me become a stumbling block to my child’s salvation.

So this week, I’d like to encourage all the Mamas, Mommies, Moms, Step-Moms, Grandmas, Mi-Mis, Nanas, Me Maws, Aunties, God-Mothers, Friends…Any woman who is praying for the salvation of a child.  I want you to know you are not praying alone.  You are not alone in walking the balance of push and pull.  You. Are. Not. Alone.

There are several of us on the Iron Porch who are or have recently been walking that balance with you.  And I will be praying for you to have peace on your hearts that your job is to sow the seed…then watch God with the harvest, so that your heart may leap for joy.

Those simple words, “I’m ready mama” brought such happiness to my heart.  While my son made that declaration on our back porch through praying out loud with me, his Dad and Erin, I know all of heaven was rejoicing with us too!

Your turn is coming soon…be patient!

~Emily

Salvation-Kids

 

 

 

 

I-80 Lost

“If I get lost from Lincoln, Nebraska to Cheyenne, Wyoming, you should question whether or not you raised a moron, Mom!” I said to her as I hit I-80.  It was a straight shot to her and the only road I have to drive between Lincoln and Cheyenne is I-80.

Somewhere along the way I hit a little construction, and my daughter, Peyton, called me at the same time to ask about cooking dinner for her dad.  And somewhere during the answering of that call, I missed a sign.  A really important sign, apparently.  About 15 minutes later, I noticed the I-76 sign.

“Why does that say 76?  Why does th…WELCOME TO COLORADO?!”  I had missed a turn off and had ended up slightly off course.  With some quick help from my Google Maps, I detoured through some beautiful farmland and ended back at I-80.  Shaking my head, I called my mom.

“Remember when I said you needed to question whether I was moron if I got lost on the ONE road I was supposed to stay on, Mom?  You raised a moron.”  She got a good laugh out of that one.

Sin can have the same effect.  We take our eyes off Jesus for just a second, a brief minute when our attention catches something else.  Before you know it, you’ve veered off course into worldly ventures and off a relationship with our heavenly Father.  The path that has comfort, strength, faithfulness and grace is moving straight ahead and we follow the bend in the road because we were thinking about other things.  The slight shift seems almost unperceivable…until you look around and notice the signs that say you’re going the wrong direction.

God’s Word is clear in what we should do in this situation in Proverbs 4:25-27 (NASB).  Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.  Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.  Do not turn to the right or the left; turn your foot from evil.

Let’s make sure we’re on the right road, heading straight into the arms of Jesus.  Watch the directions and trust the steadfast and sure walk with Christ. It’s the only way you want to go!

~Erin

life tip #38

Doritos Annoyed

My 9-year-old crunching Doritos, like I imagine a T-Rex would crunch through a bucket of KFC, is enough to drive me completely bonkers.

Loud, open-mouthed, chewing annoys me.

You know what annoys me even more than Dorito crunching?

Gossip under the guise of sharing a prayer request.

Christian women are usually fairly good at stopping themselves from outright and blatant gossip.  We understand that the Bible specifically calls gossip out as sinful.

However, some of us are guilty of gossip under the guise of sharing a prayer request.  We feel as though when sharing a prayer request, we are justified in sharing someone’s personal hurts or prayers.

As I have previously shared in the blog “The Sanctity of the Prayer Request” I take prayer requests very seriously and rarely will share them with someone else, as I want to make sure I have the original requester’s permission to share.

I recently heard an interesting thought about sharing prayer requests.  If the requester was standing right next to you, would you share their prayer request with a third party? If the answer is no, then you should not share.  Even if the answer is maybe, then you shouldn’t share the request.  This seems to be a fairly reasonable gauge to whether or not prayer requests are becoming gossip-centric.

Whether you get annoyed by chopping doritos or gossiping prayer requests, I’m praying that you are steadfast this week that your sharing does not become gossip!

~Emily

“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.” ~Proverbs 11:13

Dorito Annoyed

 

 

Regaining Quiet Time with God During Quarantine: Guest Blogger DeAnna Barber

In 2019 I ended my last day of work at an amazing job on a Friday.  On the following Saturday, I frantically packed up my life to escape the worst and scariest experience of my life; emotionally, verbally and leaning towards a physically abusive husband.  With the help of my family coming to my rescue I moved all my belongings, myself, and my son 200 miles back to my hometown to stay with my parents until I could get us back on our own again.   That Sunday was a blur, as was Monday, which was a holiday, and I began work on Tuesday.  I never took the time to breathe.  I never took time to just be still.  I was afraid to be still.  I was afraid I couldn’t make it through.  I didn’t want to reflect or think.  I wanted it all to disappear.  So I kept very busy all the time from then on.

But keeping so busy caused me to be exhausted and to struggle with setting aside quiet time with God; something that used to be my lifeline.  I never went a day without it before.  But catastrophe hit and I didn’t want to be quiet. I still had my faith and I wasn’t angry at God, I just didn’t want my mind to think about what had happened, what I had escaped, what would have happened if I had stayed or why it ever happened in the first place.  I had so many questions but I chose avoidance.

March of 2020 rolled around and another catastrophe hit which forced me to do nothing but slow down: the Covid-19 pandemic.  I was out of work and quarantined at home for 6 weeks which provided plenty of time to think and be quiet.  So I chose to take that time to rest, breathe, and get back into the groove of my daily quiet time with God.  And although I am still struggling to get back into that groove like I used to be this pandemic has helped me realize how desperately I needed this time to just be quiet, to slow down, reflect, and to enjoy the quality and quantity of time.

God’s word tells us in Psalm 46:10 to be still; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says to rejoice ALWAYS, to pray without ceasing and to give thanks no matter what; 1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all our anxieties on Him BECAUSE He cares. His word also offers comfort in Psalm 34: 17-18 that He hears us and delivers us from our troubles and that He is near the brokenhearted; Deuteronomy 31:8 promises that God goes before us and will never leave or forsake us; Isaiah 41:10 says we should not fear because God is with us, He will strengthen and uphold us.  Matthew 6:25-34 is certainly a wonderful set of verses to comfort us and remind us not to worry during this particular time in our world.  Lastly, Hebrews 7:25 states to draw near as well as James 4:8 which adds the promise that He will draw near to us.

I wish I had taken more time to be still and get closer to God this last year because 1) God commands it and desires us to get close to Him and 2) I know it would have helped me heal in a healthier way than I was choosing.  So, despite all the uncertainties of what is to come with Covid-19, I am thankful for the quarantined time I had because I was able to slow down and choose to be obedient and be still and quiet, to listen to God’s commands and to take comfort in His promises.  I allowed one catastrophe to disrupt my quiet time but God used another kind of catastrophe to help me get that quiet time back.

DeAnna

Regaining Quiet Time with God during Quarantine copy