Cops and Robbers

As we stopped at the little mini-mart for a drink on our way to the entrance of Disneyland, a man walked into the store past Peyton and Chris, her dad, grabbed a pair of sunglasses off the kiosk right inside the door and walked back out.  He never said anything to either of them, but they saw what he did and let the owner know.  Two minutes later, we were on our way again.

We hadn’t gotten more than half a block when a cop car flew past us and cranked hard into the parking lot a few yards in front of us, lights flashing.  We heard the police officer before we saw him.  “GET DOWN ON THE GROUND!” was being shouted repeatedly, a shotgun raised at the perpetrator.  It was the man that had just stolen the glasses.  Two, three, then four cars with flashing lights were surrounding the area, and I wasn’t about to let my 15-year-old daughter walk out across the open driveway when I didn’t know what kind of threat was right before us.  So we stood just out of sight behind the giant hotel sign, Peyton holding my hand while Chris stood around the edge to see what was going on.

The man didn’t comply with their commands to get down and, in fact, started walking towards them (and in our direction).  That’s when we heard the shots.

Ten seconds can feel like a lifetime when you’re in that moment.

I can tell you in that 10 seconds, Peyton rushed into my arms as I grabbed her and put myself in front of her just in case.  I worried that Chris had been watching and perhaps something could happen to him and leave Peyton without a dad.  I wondered if I was going to see my other children again.  I didn’t know if the other man had a gun or if it was the police.  I just wanted to be safe.

In that 10 seconds, however, I can tell you that the police saved not only everyone stuck on that sidewalk with us but themselves and the perpetrator as well.  Chris glanced back at us and told Peyton the man was going to be ok.  They were shooting bean bag rounds.  It turns out the man had been in an altercation with someone just moments before he walked past Chris and Peyton at the store and had not only punched a man but had also busted a window with his bare hands.  That had been what brought the officers.

When it was all over, I realized just how much God had protected us that morning.  It could’ve very easily been Chris or Peyton who the man attacked at the store.  He could’ve been stopped at a different location that would’ve provided no shelter for us from the stand-off.  God had his hand all over the morning.  This verse popped into my head in that moment, “He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings.  His faithfulness will be a protective shield.” –Psalm 91:4

Thank you, Father, for the protection you provided us not only on that day but every day that we breathe.

~Erin

Good morning Quotes

The Back & Forth Gifts

My Mom had her 70th birthday this last week and was once again the recipient of “The Card.”  It’s a tradition between my Mom and my Aunt that is decades old.  One sent the other a birthday card that had an implication that the card was recycled.  The other, thinking they were being coy about the recycling reference, saved the card until the next birthday. So on, and so on for decades.  The card started to fall apart, so they created a more permanent Linus cardholder, but continued writing birthday notes year after year.  The card got heavier and heavier to send so there are occasional gaps in the years where they agreed to stop sending the card in an effort to save on postage.  And when they were least expecting it…the card showed up again on a birthday.

Much like “The Card” between my mom and her sister, Iron Porch has a smacking doll that gets additions year after year.  The doll is sent between Erin and me when the other is least expecting it.  The additions are hysterical to us…and probably only us.  There’s a crazy-ill-fitting-camo dress, a little pink kitty cat, a yellow purse filled with memorabilia, a hard hat from when we went to Florida after Hurricane Michael, and recently added a COVID-19 mask of protection.

While I thought that my mom and I had this super-secret transfer between co-conspirators, I recently was told by a dear friend at church that she also had a back and forth gift.  One year at a white elephant event she battled another gal for a candy dish with cinnamon candies.  She lost.  But received it soon after from the winner as a gift.  They passed it back and forth as wedding gifts and other marked occasions multiple times. I didn’t ask her, but I assume they added new candy each time they passed the gift.

I present to you three examples of women passing a gift back and forth.  Occasion to occasion.  Year after year.  All in a means to acknowledge a special relationship and have detailed memories associated with a particular object (ie: card, doll, or candy dish).

Instead of the occasion by occasion sharing of a tangible item, we shared a piece of God each day? What if day by day, we shared a prayer with those closest to us? What if we shared a scripture with one another? What if it was simply a smile or a kind word?

What if we made each other a priority in an eternal way?

Scripture gives us a model of friendship, not between two women, but rather two men: Jonathan and David.  Jonathan was heir to the throne of Israel, as his father was King Saul.  In 1 Samuel 14: 6-15, we see that he is a man of action and ready to challenge the Philistines from a military perspective.  The Israelites, and specifically Saul, were terrified of the mounting Philistine army and the giant, Goliath, who was sent in to end the conflict.

And then a shepherd boy shows up and takes the challenge (hence the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17).  At that point, it’s easy for us to see how the friendship between David and Jonathan blossomed. They both acted and had courage despite the odds being against them.  They both had faith in God’s power and experienced deliverance in battle.  They were great leaders with integrity and loyalty.

In 1 Samuel 18:1-4 (NASB) it states, “Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved his as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the rode that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.”

You see, Jonathan loved David as himself.  They were dear friends.  Because of that friendship, Jonathan gave David his gifts.  More than just the tangible gifts of his robe and his armor.  Jonathan gave David the acknowledgment that this was the man God had chosen to be Israel’s king.  Jonathan loved David as we can only hope friends will love us.

True friendship with true giving and with an eternal impact.  Back and forth, year after year, occasion after occasion…or an acknowledgment of God’s work in their lives.

From the Iron Porch, I pray that you each have some type of “Back & Forth Gift” this week!

~Emily

The Back & Forth Gifts copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When You Know, You Know

Have you ever felt like something was wrong, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was that might be wrong?

Call it a gut feeling, women’s intuition, or a sixth sense. You know something isn’t right.

You could call it discernment.  The small voice of the Holy Spirit letting you know there’s an issue needing your attention.  The spiritual gift of discernment is mentioned multiple times in scripture.

Over the last year, my husband and I felt like something was wrong at our church. I couldn’t put a name to what was wrong, but I felt unsettled.  It felt like there was discord amongst the members, a lack of communication, straying from the Word of God, and yet, there wasn’t anything specific to point out to support any of those claims.  It was “just” a feeling I had.

I considered resigning as the women’s ministry leader.  My husband did not want to attend services anymore.  I started researching other churches in our local area.  I engaged my prayer partners to start praying over the situation.

I felt like a fraud that I was continuing to serve in a ministry leadership role and praying about leaving the church.  While I was concerned about the situation, through prayer I had zero peace about resigning or leaving the church.  I did not hear God telling me that we were supposed to leave.

During our first week of the state’s “Stay-at-Home” order in March, our Pastor resigned.  The story of why he resigned is one for him or his family to share.  However, the few details I received began to make sense as to why there was a feeling of unsettlement at our church.

By no means am I saying that the Pastor’s reasons for resigning were the reason for my dissatisfaction at the church.  What I am saying, is that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart for months and let me know that “something” was not right.  It also made sense why I hadn’t gotten a clear message that the feeling of unsettlement was worthy of leaving the church.

Essentially, I was being prepared for there to be some turmoil and chaos at our church.  The Holy Spirit was talking in my ear allowing me to discern that something was amiss, while also not allowing me release to leave the situation.

John 16:13 (ESV) states, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

Call it your gut, your female intuition, or your 6th sense.  I’m going to call it discernment.

And to me, the gift of discernment is the gift of truth.

I pray you have a truth-filled week of discernment.

~Emily

John 16-13

The Puzzle Pieces

Puzzles seem to be a hot quarantine trend this year!  I see my friends putting them together all over Facebook, and about five weeks ago Peyton and I started putting them together ourselves!  I found a puzzle company that had some really sweet looking 1000 piece puzzles, and I bought one.  Then another two more.  The newest two are in the shipping process as we speak.  Peyton and I get so much satisfaction working as a team to put the pieces together, and even though it’s probably a good idea to take it slow and savor the experience, we’ve loved challenging ourselves to get it done as fast as we can!

The work to complete the puzzles reminds me of the current study of the book of Mark I’m doing from the bible.  I read a chapter.  It’s the outside edges.  I push a little more and look to the who, what, when, where.  I’ve got the corner of the puzzle together.  I’m taking notes and cross-referencing scripture to see where the Old Testament converged on the New.  The puzzle is beginning to look like a real picture.  Before long, I’ve got a notebook full of information on the time period during Jesus’s ministry, the healings, the preaching, and the places.  I’ve got the clearest knowledge I’ve ever had of a book from scripture, and it draws me even nearer to God.  The puzzle is complete.  And now, I start a new puzzle with a new book.  The cycle continues.

I’m not done studying Mark.  In fact I’ve only just started.  But the idea that I’ll have a more complete understanding of the ministry of Jesus only pushes me closer.  Psalm 119:11 says, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”  This sweet verse tells me I need to treasure the words in the bible, to know them, to understand them.

I encourage you today to pick a chapter or a book of the Bible and treat it like that puzzle.  You don’t need to rush it like Peyton and I do with the tiny little pieces!  Take one piece at a time, study and put it together to create a final and beautiful picture.

~Erin

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Our first masterpiece!

Mindfulness Exercises

In the last two months, I’ve started incorporating mindfulness exercises into my daily life in an effort to battle anxiety and depression.  Mindfulness exercises are 3-5 blips where you deliberately concentrate on an activity through assessing your senses, emotions, or memories.

For instance, you could do a “mindful listening” exercise where you put on classical music and then concentrate on only listening for the violin.  One that I really liked was the “mindful eating” challenge, where you take your favorite flavored skittle and really concentrate on eating that one skittle for the 3-5 minutes.  For me, it was the purple skittle, which was a walk down memory lane of my childhood with grape Hubba-Bubba gum.

This last Saturday I tried the “mindful walking” exercise while hiking with the 3-month-old puppy.  The task during the walk is to concentrate on the aspects of the walk for 3-5 minutes.  The crunch of dried sticks and leaves under my hiking boots.  The shimmer of sunbeams coming through the trees.  The tug on my wrist from the puppy’s leash.  The rustle of leaves in the wind. The coolness of the creek as it splashes on my shins as I cross a stone bridge.  The smell of water-moss-mud on the creek beds. The tension in my quads from climbing inclines.

For the first time, I also incorporated scripture in the mindful walking because scripture actually tells us to be mindful and meditate on what God has provided for us (including the nature found during a hike).

It seemed appropriate to start with Psalm 145:5 (NET) which states “I will focus on your honor and majestic splendor, and your amazing deeds.” In the NKJV of the same verse, it states, “I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.”

Keeping in mind the scriptural guidance of focusing on the splendor of God and meditating on His wondrous works, brought a whole new level to the mindful walking exercise!

The tug of the puppy’s leash doesn’t just become a sensation of my arm, it becomes gratitude that God created this puppy and that the puppy is part of our family.  The rustling of the wind in the treetops doesn’t just become a wonderous noise in the background, it becomes a reminder of God’s faithfulness to give me shade from those treetops and a cool breeze on my sweaty brow.

I wasn’t just centering myself in an exercise to control my anxiety…I was actually acknowledging God’s abundant gifts that are literally all around us!  I was following the direction in Psalm 96:12 (NET) “Let the fields and everything in them celebrate.  Then let the trees of the forest shout with joy.”

A mindful exercise that is full of celebration and joy!  I hope this next week is mindful for you too!

~Emily

Mindful Walking Hike copy

The Favorite Child

Anyone who’s had a child or been a child has most likely heard or used the phrase, “They’re your favorite!” once or twice in their lives.  It happened in my house since I was a child; I would constantly tell my mom that I thought my little brother, Jon, was her favorite.

My children carry on this tradition today.  Just recently, there was back and forth antics on Facebook over who was my favorite with even McKenna’s best friend, Nevada, getting in the mix saying she was sure that SHE was the one that was the favorite! There’s no winning no matter what you say!

The truth is, I love all of my children equally and yet differently.  I love McKenna’s perseverance.  I love Peyton’s tenacity.  I love Rylan’s independence.  They’re each unique in their situations and each has had their own trials and tribulations.  I have to mold the love I have for them in ways that speak specifically to their hearts.  The way for McKenna is different than the way for Peyton.

God also loves us in this unique way.  We are each His children.  He doesn’t love one more than the other.  But just like our children have their own little nuances, God’s children need different kinds of ways sometimes to see God’s love for them.  I believe He recognizes this in His children shows us His love in individual ways that we can feel and see that are known to us.  It’s beautiful, really, that He loves us equally but differently.

This Mother’s Day, celebrate the uniqueness that is you to your mother and the specialness that is your child to you!  Happy Mother’s Day to every favorite mom out there from your favorite children!

Love,

Erin

P.S.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, from your TRUE favorite child!

The Wisteria Vine

One of the things that I love about our house is wisteria vines that line the barbed wire fence in the front yard.  It’s clear that the property was well-loved based on the dozens of bulbs and trees that were planted years ago. This wisteria plant is no different.  The roots are deep, the trunk is thick, and the vines have trellised for yards and yards.

While this wisteria vine is beautiful with its lush leaves and gorgeous purple flowers, there’s one small wisteria wisp that is even more precious to me.  It’s small. It’s tender leaves and vines are barely two feet tall.  To my knowledge, it’s never bloomed purple blossoms.

Why is this little wisp so perfect for me? It’s from Erin’s oldest daughter, McKenna’s Florida house.  This perfect little wisp was dug up by the roots, carefully wrapped in wet paper towels, and transported to Alabama in a bucket during the aftermath of Hurricane Michael’s wrath on McKenna and Indy’s house in the panhandle.

This perfect little vine that I’ve been carefully nurturing for a year and a half is standing tall this spring.  Yesterday, I had to provide ties to give it support on a decorative light pole.  As I worked to train this little vine, I was able to think about how these two examples of wisteria vines are so much like my knowledge of the Bible.

There are times that I’m strong in the knowledge of some verses or stories.  That knowledge has been nurtured for years and is like a thick wisteria trunk supporting vines running for yards and producing fruit.

There are other times that I’m small and tender in knowledge (if I’m honest, this is waaaaaaay more frequent than me being strong in knowledge).  That little vine represents new knowledge that is being tended to by a loving Father in the hopes that through the years it will grow stronger and stronger…. eventually producing flowers.

One day, my little “McKenna” wisteria vine will grow into a big flower producing machine.  Each year it will be a reminder of my extended family and how we support one another.  More than that, it will also remind me to stay focused on the continuous learning of God’s Word.  Each day I know I need to keep watering it, tending to it, strengthening it with support, and loving on it.  I can’t wait to see the McKenna flowers!

~Emily

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5 (NIV)

The Wisteria Vine