Persona Non Grata

Monday, I felt like a failure.  Tuesday, pretty much the same.  And today?  Let’s not even get into today.  Anyone else raising children?  My girls are six years apart; my oldest is grown, out of the house, married and has my grandbaby while my youngest is a sophomore in high school.  I think I’d forgotten in the last few years what it was like to have a teenager in the house that thinks you’re a dumb lady who gives too many rules and asks too many questions.

Every day lately, it seems, I’ve let the enemy sneak in and ransack my thoughts.  “Your daughter thinks you’re stupid, and she’s right.  You DO ask too many questions.  Why can’t she sleep in and skip church EVERY SUNDAY OF HER TEENAGE LIFE…what’s the big deal?  It’s what everyone’s doing these days—leave her alone.  What’s your problem, Overbearing Crappy Mother?”  And because I fall prey to human nature, I listen to those words in my head and fear that I’m screwing up my daughter.

This verse pops into my head on occasion.  This week, however, I’ve found that by drowning myself in it, the verse helps remind me I’m not doing this ‘raising kids’ thing alone.

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. –Proverbs 22:6

When I say I drown myself in it, I’m serious too!  I’ve been writing and rewriting it.  I’ve been reading and rereading.  I say it out loud.  I pray it.  I made it a graphic to put on my phone.  I don’t want to forget that what I’m doing is trying to raise a child with the help of my loving Father (and when I say help, I really mean that I know God’s doing the heavy lifting).  I’m trying to instill in her a deep and meaningful love for Jesus that can’t be satisfied by the outside world.

She may feel as if I’m the adversary, but I have confidence in Jesus that I’m doing just as He instructs.   I can know that this is a short season in the grand scheme of things.  God sees the bigger picture, and I’m grateful that He’s in control.

Anyone out there had the same struggle with teenagers or children, in general?!  I’m very suspicious that I’m not alone in the “my mother is a persona non grata” feeling!  Share in the comments below.

~Erin

Train up a child in the way he should go,

Regret Reflections at a Funeral

This morning I will attend the funeral of a kind-spirited man that I served with in the military.  I didn’t know him well, but in the few times I worked with him I discovered that he was professional and genuinely nice.

I learned of his death on Facebook. To say I was shocked is an understatement.  The most shocking part?  He’s my age and died of “natural causes.”  That puts your own mortality into perspective when someone in your age bracket dies.

As a result of not knowing him well, I have only one regret about my interactions with him.

I don’t know if he was a Christian.

Lately, that’s one of the first things that comes to my mind when I hear of a tragic accident or death…were they a Christian?

Guess what?  My question is too late.  I should be asking the questions about a person’s belief in Christ prior to hearing about their demise.

This is the type of regret that lingers, even when I understand I can’t rewind time to ask the question.  This type of regret often motivates us into action.

In the New Testament, we see that Paul was a determined persecutor of Christians prior to his own conversion (Acts 9:1, Galatians 1:13, 1 Timothy 1:13).  After Paul becomes a Christ-follower, he has lingering regrets about his bloody actions against Christians (Acts 22:16).

In Ephesians 3:8, he titles himself “the least of all the saints” and in 1 Corinthians 15:9 he confesses he’s “the least of the apostles.”  He’s claimed those titles as a result of the guilt he has regarding his past violence against the church.

The reflections spurred by guilt, caused Paul to initiate mission campaigns to preach the Gospel of Christ.  He endured persecution himself but became a stronger advocate for Christ as a result of being driven into action based on his guilt.

What lesson is there to be learned through guilt?

To the degree that regret can be fixed, we should fix it.  Paul took his guilt and began sharing the Good News.  My regret over not knowing someone’s status with Christ should spur me towards sharing the Good News as well.

Don’t allow the reflections of guilt at a funeral be for nothing.

~Emily

Lest we regret-2 copy

 

 

 

Set the Pace

I stood on the balcony of our room on the ship and watched the ocean pass by at what appeared to be a snail’s pace.  It seemed as if we were barely moving.  I’m unfamiliar with how fast a cruise ship actually goes, but I was sure it needed to be faster than the speed we were going if we were going to reach any of our ports!  But somehow every morning we arrived on time.

Sometimes, I look at the race I’m running for Christ and wonder the same thing.  Am I even really moving?  Am I making progress, growing closer to Him?  It feels like I’m not really gaining any traction in my pursuit of a Godly walk, and it can be discouraging.   I want to see big victories and huge advances in thoughts and feelings.  When I struggle day after day, I feel like I’m just not making any headway.  This ship reminded me of a beautiful truth.

Even if it FEELS like I’m not going anywhere, I’m still moving forward if my eyes are on God.  He is guiding me at a slow and steady pace, a pace that’s set just for me.  Struggles don’t just disappear.  Victories aren’t always big.  When I seek Him and have Him set the speed, He advances me at the rate I need so that I can grow confidently and with purpose.

Thank you, God, that you know where we need to be and when we need to be.  I pray that we always look to You to set the pace, trusting that You know what we need to get to our next destination.

~Erin

IMG_6331

Cruise Ship Chapels

Erin and I just took our 1st cruise together and it was AMAZING!  Five days of nothing to do but relax without many expectations of either of us.  We have joked that all we did was eat and sleep. In full disclosure, we did a fair amount of both.

We also explored the entire ship.  We went to all the eating establishments and passed by every beverage station (both the coffee and alcoholic versions).  We attended the art auction.  We spent a very long-time watching people attempt to surf at the “Flow Rider,” as well as curvy slides and rock climbing.  We stepped into a silent disco (which was a surprisingly great time!), as well as entertaining the idea of watching a comedian, an ice-skating show and even a juggler.  We even watched a game of Bingo from the sidelines that brought many hoping they would win their next cruise.

We strolled through the casino but spent zero time there.  We went to the library and had a wonderful conversation with a college student leaving to join the Air National Guard soon.  We stumbled on the most delightful game of Lip-Syncing on the promenade.  We watched the ship leave port from the best Titanic location and we “supervised” the Captain from the behind the bridge on a viewing deck.

We even went to the fitness center.  Once. For a selfie.

Thank God we did not see the infirmary or the morgue, despite knowing they were both on the ship’s lower decks.

You know what we didn’t see? The Chapel.  We totally missed seeing the church area reserved on the ship.  It’s ironic that two Jesus loving girls who co-founded Iron Porch would miss that area, right?!?!?

Except that our ship didn’t have a chapel.  Many ships don’t have this area set aside for worship and/or prayer.  While some ships have chapels, but they are reserved for an exclusive wedding package.

I’ve been pondering on the lack of a chapel or religious services for a few days.  We were on a floating city for several days and had access to Wi-Fi, gambling, fitness center, spa and salon, entertainment, and impressive chef staff.  But we couldn’t go to a reserved spot to pray or read religious materials.

Interesting dynamic, don’t you think?

Does that mean the tourist and vacationing industry don’t see value in a religious space?  Is our spiritual walk not important on vacation? Does the average person take a “vacation” from their religion while they are on vacation?  In a politically correct world, are we so afraid of offending ship passengers that it was decided not to create religious space?

There are potentially bigger questions, as a result of the lack of vacation chapels.  When we aren’t on vacation, are we only seeking Jesus in a formal space, such as our churches or prayer closets?  Or are we seeking God in every and all situations, in any setting?

I’d venture to guess that many who make Jesus a priority in their lives will do it with or without a formal space, such as a chapel.  Erin and I found a way to stay close to God without a cruise ship chapel.  We prayed as we walked the outer deck and before meals. We had time to read devotions by the pool or on the balcony.

We made time to stay connected to the Lord on vacation.

I’m wondering if there were others like us who are deliberately making time.  Both on vacation and at home.  I’m wondering if the lack of formalized space, such as a chapel, leads to the temptation to step away from quality time with Jesus while on vacation…or in our everyday life.

Do you need the cruise ship chapel to be reminded to draw close to God?

~Emily

Cruise Ship Chapels

 

 

 

First Class Upgrades

This last week, I had the privilege of speaking at a conference in San Antonio.  As I was leaving the Montgomery airport, I stopped for a coffee.  There I overheard a customer order four black coffees.  He was told that they didn’t have any cup carriers.  He seemed perplexed as the cashier tried to brainstorm with him about how to get the coffees to his gate.  I interrupted and offered to carry one or two of the cups for him.  He was so grateful for the extra hands.  It was a very simple act of kindness at 5am in a semi-dark airport coffee shop.

I got on the plane and thought nothing of the coffee.  An announcement let us know that the doors had been closed and secured.  I was ready to take off for Texas.  Until I was startled by a gentleman’s voice saying, “Ma’am, can you please gather your belongings and come with me?”

**Side Bar…I’m an OCD-perfectionist who avoids conflict and trouble.  Please know my first thoughts were “I haven’t done anything wrong enough to get kicked off this plane!”

I looked up into the eyes of the coffee buyer.  And also, the pilot of the plane.

He was upgrading me to first-class simply for helping him carry the coffees for his crew.

I was shocked & surprised.  Frankly, it was embarrassing to be moved for something that I didn’t think much about.

While sitting in my new seat, I thought about Christ’s sacrificial death as an offering to first class.  We’re toiling away, doing life, occasionally being kind, when all of a sudden the Holy Spirit speaks into our lives.  “Why don’t you gather your belongings and come with me?”

Can you imagine how different life would be if we were all kind?  How different would it be if we offered help without any second thoughts…or thoughts of how it would benefit us?  How different would life be if we accepted the gift of an upgrade?

In the next week, try your best to be kind. Try your best to remind others of the “First Class Upgrade” available to all of us.

~Emily

First Class Upgrades copy

Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds

By Dawn Green

Sitting here waiting on my sister to come to get me for an appointment, I’m watching bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds going from flower to flower.  One hummingbird is smaller than the others, maybe a younger bird, maybe a different kind of hummingbird.  He doesn’t know he’s different, he just goes about his business.  He or she gathers and gathers and then flies to the crepe myrtle to rest a while.

My mind is kind of like that little bird.  It goes from one thing to another, sometimes I get work accomplished, sometimes flitting around gets me distracted so the desired task doesn’t get completed.  Maybe the difference between me and that tiny bird is he has one goal, food for survival, rest a little, then go gather again.

I wonder, too, as I watch, is that the hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies all feed off the same flowers.  Do they know to leave a little for someone else?  Not like the human characteristic to get it all for me.  Also, do the plants produce more nectar because the little creatures come back day after day. Of course, there are eventually new flowers during the growing season.  But some flowers remain on the bushes for several days.  I’m no botanist, however, it all works, I’m amazed at the complexity of God’s creation.  How these tiny creatures know all that they know.

As cute as they are, they are also fierce fighters among themselves, like tiny fighter jets, attacking each other over the bird feeder.  But it doesn’t seem like they ever mortally wound one another, just warn and scold and fuss at each other.  One little bird has found a place beneath the feeder where he can watch his food source and defend it, perched upon the halo of a garden angel.  Another is camouflaged in a nearby tree, where he is the same size, shape, and color of the leaves. He’ll wait and watch and then dive bomb the watching hummer.

I wouldn’t have gotten the pleasure of watching these amazing creatures if the Father hadn’t sat me down for a while, healing from pacemaker surgery.  The goal here is to heal and rest a while.  I wish it didn’t take something like this to slow me down to see God at work.  My friends and family have been generous and thoughtful to do my gathering for me.  And I’m grateful that the Father also brought these sweet people into my life.  He also helped me be settled and see that he is all around me, walking with me in this growing season.  Not to be too sappy, but can’t we be the sweet nectar in the life of another?  Serving, caring, providing, and protecting, Just as the Lord has done for us and will continue to do.

He promised, “I’ll never leave you or forsake you”.  He’s definitely all around me.

~Dawn

Hummingbird graphics

Guest Blogger-Dawn Green

The purpose of the Iron Porch is to allow a space for women to come to share with one another without the fear of reprisal and judgment. It’s a space that Erin and I felt God wanted to provide so that women could encourage and comfort one another.  After prayerful consideration, we would like to encourage potential guest bloggers to submit a post for consideration.  These guest blogs will be posted under ‘fesharp’ rather than ‘Erin’ or ‘Emily.’

This weekend, we are pleased to introduce you to Dawn Green, a beautiful mom, wife, friend, and our Sister in Christ.  Her heart for servanthood is seen through her faithful leadership at Isaiah 58 Ministries, as they prepare suitcases for women leaving prison.  Dawn will share her heart for slowing down our busy lives to observe what God is doing all around us.

Please join us on the porch this Saturday to read the thoughts of  Dawn Green, our guest blogger.

~Emily & Erin