Black Friday Contentment

I can count the number of times I’ve gone Black Friday shopping on one hand.  My most vivid memory of this shopping day was about 11 years ago when I managed to get a KitchenAid mixer for the fabulous price of $159.  The downside to that purchase was waiting in the line at Kohl’s that literally wrapped around the entire store to get to the register.  I still use that mixer to this day, so it was a great purchase.  But standing in line for an hour made me realize that I hated being out in the crowds during Black Friday.  Every year, even now, I get anxiety thinking about the potential brawls and arguments that will be displayed in front of small children over a vacuum or a 65” tv.

More and more, we’ve become a society built on what we want and not what we need.  We put value in things that we can own…the biggest TV, the best stereo system, the newest car.  I’m guilty of this myself in certain areas.  In the last three years, I’ve actually become addicted to, of all things, eye shadow palettes.  Never mind that I have six in several color tones.  Four weeks ago, I bought my favorite YouTuber’s new launch and a week later, a new one from another YouTuber that Peyton, my daughter, wanted.  Just this last Thursday, I went online and bought two new eye shadow palettes as part of a set because I’d never used the brand and it was a “great deal.”  When does it end?  When will it be enough?

The bible talks about being content with what we have.

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” –Hebrews 13:5 (NASB)

I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot.  In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. –Philippians 4:12 (CSB)

While it’s nice to have things, I want to know that I am content with what I have, what’s been provided.  Just because I have the money or just because it’s the newest thing doesn’t mean it has to be what I get.  There are much better uses of my money than the third palette I’ve purchased or the extra five inches of a TV screen with surround sound.  Am I tithing regularly?  Am I giving to charity?  God commands us to take care of the orphans and widows.  Am I spending my time doing that rather than purchasing ‘junk’?  Am I using my time and funds to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ?

This season, I pray that I begin to have a new outlook on what it means to be content.  Moving forward, I pray that the words in Hebrews and Philippians mold me into a woman who’s satisfied with what I have and who longs to do more for the kingdom of God.

How about you?  Do you ever struggle with this?  I’d love to hear your ideas and stories about how you’ve learned to be content with what you have!

~Erin

Black Friday Contentment

The Santa Dilemma

I never believed in Santa as a real person.  From the time I was little, my parents taught me Santa was make-believe and a fun game that everyone played around Christmas.  Their explanation was that they wanted me to believe in Jesus, who was intangible and unseen with human eyes.  If I later found out Santa wasn’t real after believing he was, would I also question the existence of Jesus?

It worked for our family and was my game plan for when I had my own children.

Until I was introduced to an adorable 2-year-old who I would later adopt.  The issue?  He already had been told that Santa was real.  He was “all-in” on the fantasy.  He still is as a 3rd grader.  How was I going to strip him of that belief when he’d already had so much turmoil and loss in his short life?

This is probably his last year believing in Santa as a real person. He has started to ask questions about the practicality of delivering gifts around the world. He’s letting us know there are some kids in his class that don’t believe in Santa. He’s paying attention to movies more and is questioning how Buddy the Elf fixes the sleigh or Tim Allen becomes Santa after falling off the roof.

He’s asking about if I believe in Santa.

I’m verbally bobbing and weaving; not lying, but definitely not telling him the truth.  I’m in a grey area that has me super worried about how he’ll take the news that Santa isn’t real.  Will he resent us for letting him believe? Will he accept that it’s a “game” everyone plays?

But most important to me, how will he maintain his belief in Jesus when Santa is no longer a real dude?  I keep coming back to Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NKJV).  As a Christian parent, I’m doing my very best to raise him up in the way he should go, but frankly, the Santa dilemma has me concerned.

“Belief”

This is the newest word that is front and center on my prayer board.  It’s on the cover of my prayer journal. It’s a post-it on my dashboard.

It has become my single word prayer over the last week.  I’m praying with all my might that this little guy will have true and wholehearted belief in Jesus Christ as his Savior.  That the news of Santa will not de-rail that child-like faith he possesses.  I pray that he holds fast to his belief.

If you have time this week, please join me on the porch praying for all the littles of the world to know Jesus…to have belief in Christ…to balance faith with earthly knowledge.

~Emily

Father God, we are so very grateful for the gift of your Son as our Savior.  Please let the children of the world have an opportunity to accept this gift and to know your love.  Let their belief in you be bigger and bolder than the beliefs in worldly concepts, like Santa.  We pray these things in your holy name. Amen.

Santa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Boundary Society

I went to a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery last week.  As you would expect, it was a somber experience filled with military honors and traditions.  When we were departing, we noticed two young people taking a “selfie” with a coffin in the background.

To say I was shocked was an understatement.

Is this where we are in society? We take selfies at funerals?  We videotape young children in fights? We try to be the 1st to post accidents on social media? Rather than becoming a first responder, we want to be the first reporter?

Have we lost all common sense or are we in a spiral where we’ve failed to teach others boundaries?

The Bible’s book of Judges illustrates the mess that humans can make when we lack boundaries.   “Everyone was doing what was right in his own eyes” Judges 21:25. This was a time in Israel when there wasn’t a king who was able to set the structure for society to follow.  Thus, everyone starts making their own structure rather than turning to God for structure.

Essentially we start to see a scenario when man’s “anything-goes” attitude is used in place of God’s stand for what is acceptable and what is not. When we have unstructured thought and behavior, harm results.  Isaiah 5:20-21 warns of what comes to people and nations as a result of this attitude.  “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight.”

I understand that cultures change and evolve.  In most regards, there are positive advancements; women can vote, slavery was abolished, public school accessible to everyone, liberty granted to all (just as a few examples).

But a lack of boundaries in our nation has allowed cursing on network television, roadside signs of scantily clothed women, questionable music lyrics, ‘PG’ movies that would have been ‘R’ 20 years ago…and selfies at a funeral.

While the world seems to be going nuts, we are blessed to have the book of standards that creates boundaries; the Bible.

At any point that behavior seems questionable, we only need to go back to the Bible.

At any point that we feel boundaries lacking, we only need to go back to the Bible.

At any point we question authority, we only need to go back to the Bible.

I can’t control young selfie-takers; nor can I control what their parents teach them.  I can control myself and what I teach my own child.  I want the Godly boundaries in our life.  I need only go back to the Bible to define those.

~Emily

Society

How Often Do You Share?

Disclaimer:  I know that some may have concern that I’m writing on this topic because the anecdote is about my younger daughter.  I asked Peyton if she would be ok with me sharing this, and she told me that she would be fine with it.  In fact, her exact words were, “Everyone at school knows I see a counselor, because I’m not afraid of my mental health…”  (Only my kid.)

 

Every other week Peyton heads into the office of a counselor to chat about what’s been going on in her life.  And every other week I tease her going in with, “Don’t forget to tell her how awesome I am,” and coming out with, “Did you tell her how I awesome I was!”  I’ve said it to her for a year and a half now.  She’s knows I’m joking, and she laughs every time and replies, “We don’t even talk about you, mom!”  It’s become this ‘thing’ between us that cracks us up.

This last visit as she got into the car, we did the routine.  You could’ve blown me over with a feather when she said, “Actually, yes I did.  I told her how you helped me with something I was struggling with and it was nice.”  I wasn’t quite sure how to respond….except in true Erin-fashion, “YES!!!!  I’M AWESOME!” which of course had us both laughing.

Truth is, in my heart I was truly happy that she had talked about me positively.  Whether selfish or not, I adore my kid and would do anything to help her.  I loved that she had vocalized that to someone else.  I wonder if God feels the same way.

There are times where, sadly, I don’t take opportunities to share Him with the people around me.  I get busy or distracted and the chance to witness to someone about His love passes me by.  When I share the Good News, does He get excited because it finally happened?!  Is He surprised that I actually said something?

He directs us to be telling the world about the gospel and His Son’s sacrifice, and I get sidetracked with chatting about what was on TV last night.  I don’t want it to be this way.  I desire for my conversation with Him to be not “did you FINALLY tell her how much I love her” but rather “who did you tell how much I love her” because He’s not astonished that I actually spoke up.

I would encourage you to be bold in your words about Jesus and His sacrifice.  Share and share often!  Don’t let days or weeks go by without telling the people around you about a love that knows no bounds.

Does anyone else struggle with this?  Come to the front porch and share your own stories!

~Erin

The Outsider

This last weekend, deer season for youth rifle started in Alabama.  That means my husband and son were out in the deer blind whenever they had extra time. About 4 hours before church on Sunday, I heard the shot in our back pasture. I knew a young buck had wandered into the line of sight of an eager 8-year-old hunter.

The boys excitedly tried to convince me to go track the deer with them.  I had zero desire to go tromping through the woods looking for drops of blood while avoiding thorny vines and ticks.  I had a long to-do list to accomplish.  I was still in my PJs.  Coffee had just started brewing.

I can just imagine the ladies of the Iron Porch all coming up with valid reasons why I should NOT go smashing through the woods!

While all of those statements were truthful, they really are excuses to not accompany my husband and son on the trail of a dead or soon-to-be-dead deer.

Excuses? Why you ask?  (I mean, besides the obvious that I hadn’t had coffee and was still braless!).  The reason is that when I go with the boys on hunting adventures I feel like an outsider.

There’s showmanship and male bonding that is occurring that makes me feel like I’m an outsider. The high-fives and fist bumps…the wiping of blood on cheeks…the chuckles about peeing out of the deer blind.  All of which makes me feel like I’m not in on the joke. It makes me feel like I’m not in the “inner circle.”

How often are people coming up with excuses to not go to church because they feel like the outsider?

The parallels between the outsider on a hunting or tracking adventure and that of church attendance weighed heavily on me throughout the day.  I started to consider if I was inclusive or exclusive while I was at church.  Did I encourage the new visitor to sit with me? Did I show her where her babies would be safely cared for while she recharged in the sanctuary? Did I pray with the gal who is struggling with her teenage daughter?

Or…

Did I sit in the same spot? Do I notice that certain couples only socialize with themselves? Did I greet the same people that I do week after week? Are there cliques at my church?  Does social media tell a story that is different from what I see in the sanctuary?  Did I chat with the same moms near the children’s area? Did I make eye contact with anyone new?!?!?!?

You see, I think we occasionally make people feel like the outsider even when we are the church.  We may not do it intentionally, but there are times where we are more consumed with our own personal connections that we fail to create personal connections for those around us.

I’ve been a recipient of this behavior in church.  There was a scenario where I wanted to make a connection with a gal, but over time I noticed this lady was uninterested in anyone who was not already in her small circle.  That stung a bit. It made me feel unworthy.  She may not have intended to have that reputation, but it was the predominate view of her relationship skills.

As a result of that personal example, I’ve tried my best to be more receptive to conversations.  I’m not perfect, however, so I know that there are times that I am drawn towards those I already know.

The next time that I notice myself be less inclusive, I’m going to be mindful to ensure that others are feeling a part of the larger group.

I know what it’s like to be an outsider.  In church and in hunting.

~Emily

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. ~Romans 15:7 (NIV)

The Outsider copy

The Tracking System

When you think of someone working from home for their full-time job, you probably think of a person lounging in their pj’s and slippers, 2½ days into their no-shower streak.  Perhaps they’re slowly drinking that steaming mug of coffee as they casually peruse their emails.  They check out a quick half-hour of the news while scanning what’s on their to-do lists.  No real accountability.  No real focus.  Just an awesome opportunity to be able to be at home while everyone else is head-long into their hour commute.

Well, the pj’s and slippers describe me fairly accurately.  To complement by hobby job at the bakery, I work full time for a hospital in Wyoming.  I’ve worked for them for six years, and I love it.  But three years ago, I made the move to California and I thought I was going to have to find a new job.  Except I didn’t have to.  My boss opted to send me with my work equipment and here I am, three years later, in my pj’s and slippers (and yes, I’m drinking that coffee as well) working from home.

We were recently told we have a new time-tracking system being installed in our computers so that the hospital can monitor what we’re doing with our time.  It’s truthfully a genius idea to make sure people aren’t just watching YouTube all day instead of working, but it really got me thinking about how much work I actively do.  And even more important, what if God tracked our work this way?

Bear with me a moment.  I know God knows and sees everything we do, just like I know that the hospital sees my final work done every day.  But what if we KNEW God had a tracking system that monitored how faithful we were to sharing the gospel with friends, co-workers, strangers, neighbors?  What if He was checking to see if we served the orphans, the widows or the less fortunate?  Or how about our attitudes—what if the checker determined how many times we were short-tempered or didn’t give grace?  How well would we do?  Would He be seeing strong effort from us, or would He see us lounging around on break all day?

Please hear me when I say that I KNOW that the bible teaches that works do not save you.  But I believe that when we begin a relationship with Jesus, our faithfulness and devotion DO push us towards honoring God’s commands, which include loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and taking care of others (James 1:27, Psalm 82:3).  He teaches to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15).

I know when I look at it like that, I fall short far more than I meet the expectation.  I know that I need to be doing more to be told, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”   I shouldn’t be relying on a time tracker to make sure I’m doing the job.  I need to be doing it and doing it to the best of my ability every day.  God deserves that from us for what He did for us.  Today, I choose to raise the bar!

~Erin

Waiting for Something: The Case for a Puppy

My 8-year-old recently asked, “Why don’t we have a dog yet?”

Our family has been talking about getting a puppy for a couple years, but we’ve always had parameters associated with it.

As soon as we buy a house, we’ll get a dog.

As soon as I retire from the military, we’ll get a dog.

As soon as this or that is done, we’ll get a dog.

My son has had enough of the waiting and now just flat out asks why we are still stalling.

I tried to think of a way to explain to an 8-year-old using a Bible story.  Sarah waiting on a baby, offering her maid to her husband? Nope, not a good 3rd grader type of story.  Lazarus raised from the dead? Pretty complicated for the 3rd grader. Woman healed with the blood issue? Not sure I know enough about it to explain it….

It’s so hard to be patient waiting for something we desire! Often it’s difficult to be patient with God too.  What does it mean to “wait on the Lord”?

There are a couple of key components to waiting on God. The first is a complete dependence on God and the second is a willingness to allow Him to dictate the timeline.  Both sound easy. Neither are.

I find myself praying, “Lord, give me patience…like, now.  Yep, now is when I need the patience.”

Practicing patience with God often involves waiting. When we wait on the Lord, we are developing strengthened character in our Christian walk.  That patience showcases our ability to trust the Lord. It strengthens our prayer life. In some instances, it may strengthen our desire to be into the Word more frequently.

The timing of the Lord is always perfect.  We just have to wait patiently.

The timing of the Shade puppy will also be perfect. My son just has to wait patiently.

~Emily

The case for a puppy