The Stages Of Cancer

While some physicians still use stages and grading in cancer explanations, did you know that the medical profession is moving away from letting you know what “stage” of cancer you or your loved one may have?

Why?  Mostly because cancer, while not entirely curable, is treatable.  Even the most horrible of diagnoses usually have some type of treatment plan.  

According to WebMD, there are still distinct stages, regardless of if your doctor tells you a stage.

Stage 0 means there’s no cancer, only abnormal cells with the potential to become cancer. 

– Stage I means the cancer is small and only in one area. This is also called early-stage cancer.

Stage II and III mean the cancer is larger and has grown into nearby tissues or lymph nodes (Stage III also can indicate that the cancer has crossed a diagonal sphere in the body…for instance left breast and right kidney). 

Stage IV means the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. It’s also called advanced or metastatic cancer.

How do I know all this?  Most of this knowledge is from 2013, when my younger brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma.  A deadly diagnosis that had me praying like I’d never prayed before.  

“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:22 (ESV)

Eight years later, my brother is thriving.

Eight years later, our family is facing a slightly different scenario with just as scary diagnosis for my Dad.  The dreaded words cancer…with a physician who doesn’t use staging or grades.

But our family has been through this before, so we know the lingo and understand all the scans.  We know…even if they aren’t saying it…that this is Stage 4.

And so we start praying against cancer again…without ceasing. You see, our family has seen the Stage 4 cancer miracle before, so we know that our mighty and all-powerful God can deliver again.  

No matter what the outcome, my Dad will be healed.  On Earth or in Heaven…there will be healing.  

If you have room on your plate of prayer requests, can you please add comfort and painlessness for my Dad (Steve) and calm nerves with a full night of sleep for my mom (Wendy).  All prayers are appreciated!  

~Emily

What is the One Thing You Would Change?

During a visit with my dear friend Amber, she asked me a thought-provoking question.  

It’s one that I’ve thought about frequently for 2 years. 

If there was one thing in my life I could change, what would it be?

Does that mean right now?  As in, I want a different car? A different career? A different shirt?

Or does that mean something significant that would have changed the course of my life or my impact on others? 

Would it be accepting the assignment to England earlier in my Air Force career?

Getting baptized earlier? Starting a ministry in the midst of doubt?

Would it be starting my Doctorate immediately after my Masters or wait?

Adoption sooner?  More kiddos in my house?

A different retirement location?  

One thing I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would change is from the night of my Senior prom.  You see, my mom had to work that night and I’d told her that my date and I would swing by her workplace so she could see us all dressed up.  But we were running behind…and rather than be late to dinner, we skipped going by to see my mom.  I distinctly remember her face the next day saying that she was sad that she didn’t get to see me.  


I can only imagine her anticipation at work slowing turning into the realization that I wasn’t coming.  To this day, I regret disappointing my mom so completely.  

Other than disappointing my mom on prom night, my answer is pretty simple…I don’t know that there is much I would change.  Even the awful decisions and consequences of my life had purpose.  I would not be who I am today without many of these “learning opportunities.”  

I wonder if Paul (formerly Saul) would change anything from his life.  At the time of his conversion to Christianity, he was a well-known, educated Jew, who actively participated in the persecution of Christ-followers.  He was aggressive in finding Christians.  He was meticulous in punishing them. He wanted to eradicate Christians.  And he was mean in that desire.

An example of his actions is seen in Acts Chapter 7 when he gladly holds the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen, the 1stmartyr for Christianity.  In Acts 8:1 (CSB) it states, “Saul agreed with putting him to death.”  Other versions state that Saul was “delighted” by Stephen’s death.  

Delighted?   

To me, that screams of maliciousness.  It seems extremely mean-spirited.  

Yet just a one chapter later, we find ourselves reading about Saul on the road to Damascus, where he encounters the voice of Jesus and is struck blind.  Talk about the Lord getting his attention in a major way!!! The good news is that at that point Saul believes in Christ and the conversion through salvation.  He is forgiven of his sins, his sight is restored, he is renamed Paul, and he becomes a staunch supporter of the Gospel.  The epitome of forgiveness, grace and salvation.  

I imagine there was then moments of great doubt, remorse, and regret about the life he had previously led.  Hypothetically if I were Paul, I would have a few things that I’d like to change about my past.  In 1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV) we see that Paul said, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

Paul believed he was the Chief Sinner.  The worst of the worst.  

While we understand that God doesn’t rack-and-stack sinful behavior, counting one more egregious than another, what we do see from 1 Timothy is that Paul did have remorse and acknowledgment of his awful behavior in the past.  

Would he have wanted to change the past?  Probably, yes.  But I would argue that it was his aggressive persecution of Christians in his past that made him so much more relatable and a solid witness for Christ later in life.  Perhaps in the midst of regretting the past, Paul was wise enough to know that his past, while terrible, would serve a future purpose.  

You see, every bad decision and tragic event of our past makes us who we are today.  And God will use every experience in our past for His glory now.  

There’s not much in my life that I would change. Every single decision and event has shaped me into the person that I am today. 

Is there something you would change in your life? Come to the porch and share your thoughts. 

~Emily

AC-47 Testimonies

For those who don’t know, I work as a curator at a military museum.  While we have fantastic displays and precious artifacts on display, my favorite thing about working there is interacting with veterans and their families.  This last week we hosted a group of Vietnam Veterans who had each been involved with one particular aircraft; the AC-47, known as Spooky or Puff the Magic Dragon. 

During the ceremony, one of the pilots of this aircraft during the Vietnam conflict was the guest speaker.  His speech, titled “Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow” started with what it meant to be part of the “Spooky Brotherhood.”  

He discussed where they were yesterday and when each of their yesterday’s began.  

Then he recapped how they came to design monuments, selected where they were placed, and how they have reunions.  It was the today portion of his speech.

Finally, he spoke about their tomorrows.  At that pivotal point in his speech he told them he was concerned about their salvation and if he would see them as a brotherhood in their tomorrows.  He launched into sharing the Gospel and challenging them to get right with the Lord.  

I could not believe my ears!  You see, it’s rare at a military event for the Gospel to be presented in such an overt manner.  I was so proud of him for his boldness to speak truth in a military group.

He was truly living Romans 1:16 (NIV) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

While I’m not ashamed of the gospel, there are plenty of situations I find myself in where I lose the opportunity to share. Maybe it’s the timing, or maybe it’s my own fear of rejection, or maybe it’s the atmosphere.  Regardless of why I don’t share, it’s a lost chance to win souls for heaven. 

I love that this Vietnam Vet took the step to care for the eternal souls of those in the audience.  He was not ashamed…not at all.

~Emily

The Trolls of Life

According to internet slang, a social media troll is someone who creates conflict on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit (although it can be any site) by posting messages that are particularly controversial or inflammatory with the sole intent of provoking a typically negative emotional response from other users.

We’ve all seen them in action. 

On the Iron Porch, we’ve been blessed to have had minimal interactions with social media trolls.  However, the social media accounts that I am an admin for at work…those have plenty of social media trolls.  People who love to create conflict and drama. At work, we’ve found they use their real names, but they occasionally use fake accounts in an attempt to hide their cyberbullying.    

Some ways to spot a social media troll is that they occasionally use derogatory language, have an inability to listen to reason, and their internet fights seem to indicate lots of free time to start arguments.  They are soooooo persistent.  

Do you have the aggravating and provocative trolls in your personal life?  The people who create chaos and thrive in drama?  

In the world of social media trolls, the advice includes not taking it personally and not engaging with the troll.  

That’s hard to do with real-life people.  

As Christians, we’re often reminded to turn the other cheek, but that’s just as difficult in some scenarios. We’re are also reminded that our tongue becomes a weapon, so not speaking back to a troll is also a hard part of Christian living.  Of course, it’s also hard to not take it personally when we’re attacked in degrading ways.  

A verse that has been helping me keep the social media trolls at bay is Proverbs 20:3. “A fool’s anger is known at once, but a prudent person conceals dishonor” (NASB).  I particularly like the New International Version of the same verse that states, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” 

I keep the verse written out in the folder that holds all my documents concerning my work-related social media accounts.  It helps remind me that I don’t have to engage with the trolls, nor do I have to take it personally. 

I know it’s not easy to have a troll in your life…in person or on social media.  I’d love to hear what scriptures you have been using for yourself while dealing with the trolls of life.

~Emily

Focus, Squirrel…Focus!

During the creative process of writing academically, fiction, or the blog, I often find myself following a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with my original intent in writing.  I start researching or reading tangents (likely the reason I know so many bits of useless information).  I become engrossed in the television if it’s on.  I start singing to music even if it’s background noise.  

I am notorious for distracting myself.  Squirrel.  

The point is that I often have to tell myself, “Focus, Emily, Focus.”

I need that phrase for my life’s walk with Jesus too.  Focus, Emily, Focus.  

Paul does a fantastic job of teaching us the need for focusing in Philippians.  

“Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on fi I may also have hold of that for which I as even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.  I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 3:12-14 (NASB)

This text reminds us that in order to grow in our faith with Jesus, we have to remain focused.  We must reach forward.   We must press on towards the goal.   No rabbit hole research projects allowed. No distracting media platforms.  No squirrels.

Our salvation is clearly outlined in the Bible as grace alone through faith….but the growth in our relationship with God requires work to remain focused.  

A few verses before, Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10 (NASB), “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”  In this verse, we can glean a few goals that Paul had for remaining focused on the Lord, and they are goals that I want for my own focus.  

He wanted to know Jesus in a more personal way, as do I. 

He wanted to really know the power of Christ’s resurrection, as do I.

He wanted a similar attitude to Jesus in the face of suffering, as do I. 

He wanted connection to Jesus through His death, as do I. 

Like any other goals in our lives, we can’t be successful at accomplishing the goals without being specific with the goal writing.  In the military (and in other leadership courses), I was taught the SMART method in regards to goal writing:  

– Specific (details of the goals)

– Measurable (how do I know if I’m accomplishing the goal)

– Achievable (can I actually accomplish what I’m setting out to do)

– Realistic (is it within reach and relevant to my life)

– Time-framed (is there an end/stopping point to determine goal accomplishment)

If my generalized goal is to remain focused on the Lord so that I can build a closer relationship with him, then I know I should use the SMART method to refine that goal.  Otherwise I risk not fulfilling my goal.  When going through a goal setting process, I often find that I begin to set “mini-goals” in order to accomplish the larger task.  

For instance, my larger goal is that I want to have a stronger relationship with God.

My mini goals, that will assist with attaining the larger goal, could include:

– Specific Bible reading plans

– Planning prayer times

– Making corporate worship a priority

– Stretching myself in personal study of the Bible

Each of those mini-goals can be tracked with the SMART method and lend themselves to the larger goal.  Utilizing goal setting, specifically a method that showcases growth, allows for me to stay focused.  No distractions…just focus.  

I’m sure I’ll have to keep saying, “Focus, Emily, Focus,” but I’m happy to know I can redirect that focus back to something very specific.  

Will you join me in “focusing” this week?

~Emily

Automatic Doors of Life

A little boy stepped on the automated rubber mat…jumping on it over and over again as the glass doors slid open and shut. He was not deterred by the gentle tug of his mother’s hand.  The jumping continued even with his arm stretched out further and further by his mom.  All he saw in that moment was that he controlled the opening/closing of the sliding glass doors.  He was enthralled with his new-found superpower.  

If only I could control my life like that!

Have you ever wished that you had the ability to jump on a rubber mat in order to open and close doors?  I’ve desired the control over simple and more complex things of my life. 

You know which opening and closing glass door I can control?  My own mouth.

While there are dozens of examples in the Bible of how we should control our mouths.  Here are just three of those examples:

Proverbs 13:3 (ESV) “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

1 Peter 3:10 (NASB) “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” 

James 1:19 (NASB) “You know this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Now everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger…”

Scripture gives us clear direction that our mouths are controllable, but we often let them go wild without constraint.  We lose control over our mouths in such detrimental ways.  It may be through gossip, or a false statement. We lose control when we use a swear word, or a harsh criticism.  It’s even when we repeat an inappropriate joke or sing along to the popular song that is not so wholesome.  

Instead of randomly jumping up and down on a rubber mat; allowing our mouth to open and close at any ol’ time, perhaps now is the time to slow down and become more deliberate in controlling our tongue.  

By no means do I have control over my own tongue (and as evident by prior blog entries, I have struggled with profanity).  However, I’ve written down some goals that I’m going to implement so that I have better control over what I am saying.

1. Slow down on the cursing (stopping all together is the ultimate goal)

2. Replacing sketchy lyrics from the radio with Gospel Music/Contemporary Christian Music

3. Offering a compliment…even when I want to offer the criticism

4. Issuing silent prayers/pleas for help to the Lord when I’m in contentious conversations

I may not be able to control everything in my life, but I can wrangle in some control over my tongue. I’m going to stop jumping on the rubber mat, watching the door open and close on its own.  Instead, I’m going to start being deliberate about closing my mouth when it should stay shut, and opening it only when necessary and when its kind words flowing from it.

How are you working on the automatic doors of your own life?  Come to the porch and share your goals with us!

~Emily

Restoration 49: A Coffee Shop Story

One town over from where I live, there is an adorable coffee shop, with the most amazing coffee that I’ve had in the South (and that is high praise from the girl who grew up in the Pacific NW).   Bonus points because they make their syrups in-house!  I go there often, for hours at a time, to study and work.  Most frequently, I complete Bible Study preparations for the Tuesday night class I facilitate or work on blogs for Iron Porch. Check them out on their Restoration 49 Facebook Page!

The coffee is fantastic, the Wi-Fi password is sweet and memorable, the décor is fascinating, and the people are lovely.  It’s truly a bunch of lovely baristas, who serve customers with a smile and a parting “have a blessed day!”

I have never had an in-depth conversation with any of them about religion or faith.  But if I had to guess, I’d say that most of them, if not all, have Christ in their lives.  Why would I guess that?  

I can’t guess that from their confession of faith.

I just admitted I’d never spoken with them about their faith.  Clearly, I’ve not asked and they’ve not volunteered that information.  

Maybe I could guess from subtle clues.  

Often contemporary Christian music is softly playing overhead.  There are old Church pews that separate the sitting area from the restrooms.  Based on my experiences and observations from their social media it seems like Bible Study groups meet frequently in the establishment…and so do Daddy-Daughter dances.    

I would guess that, based upon their behaviors. 

In the hours that I’ve spent working on my laptop with a notebook and Bible open at a lone table tucked in the corner, I’ve also been privileged to watch their interactions with others. 

Their behaviors:

I’ve seen them assist someone in a wheelchair with getting drinks to the table.  

I’ve seen them cleaning with a distraught mother, whose toddler went nuclear in mess-making.

I’ve seen them greet customers like old friends.

I’ve seen (and heard) them humming/singing along with the Christian music.

I’ve seen them stop and pray out loud with patrons.

This adorable coffee shop is more than just fantastic coffee.  It’s a showcase in humanity and caring for others.  

In Matthew 7:20-21 (NASB) Jesus said, “So you will know them by their fruits.  Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”

We will know them by their fruits.  

Scripture is clear that our actions will tell others about Jesus.  If a person does not show any fruit—for example, visible evidence that a change has taken place in their heart since receiving Jesus as their Savior—then perhaps they aren’t truly living a Christian lifestyle. 

Evidence of kindness, of Godliness, of humility…those are possible indications of fruit.  All of those are characteristics that I have seen while studying and sipping coffee at Restoration 49.  

Someday, I may ask. Someday, I may initiate a conversation.  But for now, I love watching them interact with their patrons in a loving manner.  

It’s soul-soothing to watch their behavior.  Plus, they have amazing coffee!

~Emily

P.S. Do you have any examples of witnessing fruitful behavior in others this week?  Feel free to come share with us!

Back-to-School & Temple Taxation

Every year on the 1st day of school, we take a photo of my son in a shirt that says “Class of 2029.”  Starting in kindergarten, it was clearly waaaaay too big.  While it’s still large this year, I realize it will start to fit better in the next couple years.  For us, it’s an annual tradition marking the 1st day of school.

In the Bible we know that there were several annual traditions, but one that strikes me most is the collecting of yearly taxes.  Jewish males, over 20 years of age, from across the lands would pilgrimage to Jerusalem to pay their temple taxes.  

While it was an important annual event to pay for the temple upkeep, I imagine it was also a great time of fellowship too. The women, if traveling with their men, likely looked forward to the trip so that they could converse with others, as well as trade goods.  The men would likely have looked forward to catching up on news from around the region.  

The Bible gives us clear examples of how this annual responsibility was utilized for many different reasons.  In Exodus 30, we see the example of God telling Moses it was time to collect the taxes at the time of the census.  In this example, we see a clear message of Moses following God’s directions.  

In Matthew 17:24-27, we read of Peter being confronted by the religious leaders about if Jesus was going to pay the taxes.  Jesus claimed that they were exempt, but that they would pay the tax in order to not offend the Jewish religious leaders.   This shows us a lesson in humility and following the laws of man, as long as they don’t violate God’s law.  

When we think of our own annual traditions, whether they are related to birthdays, evening meals, Christmas, or back-to-school, we should recognize the uniqueness of each of those traditions.  Furthermore, we should pause to reflect about what lessons can be gleaned from those annual traditions.

While the annual 1st day of school photo may not be steeped in following God’s voice, humility or following man’s laws, it does allow this Mama a moment each year to see just how much her little guy is growing up.

~Emily

Right Where You’re Supposed To Be

If you are engaged or just out of a toxic relationship, you are right where you are supposed to be.

If you are a thin build, an athletic build, a cushy build, or like me a “pre-menopausal” build, you are right where you are supposed to be.  

If you have a positive pregnancy test…or a negative one, you are right where you are supposed to be. 

If you are exhausted working long hours to establish a career or exhausted as a stay-at-home mom, you are right where you are supposed to be.  

If you want to be adventurous or cautious, you are right where you are supposed to be. 

Can we just pause for a moment and thank God that we are right where we’re supposed to be?  That He created us each differently, yet in His image, so that we can each fulfill a purpose for His kingdom?  What an incredible blessing that each of us is right where we’re supposed to be.  

In the reflection of how great it is to be where God wants us, I’m reminded of how both Mary and Martha were right where they were supposed to be.  One in the kitchen, frantically trying to entertain and make things amazing for her guests, and one sitting at the feet of the Jesus.  

Imagine being the sisters to Lazarus, the man Jesus rose from the dead.  Now imagine getting to host Jesus for a meal.  I would likely be like Martha, scurrying around trying to make everything delicious, clean, and perfect.  I would very much like to be like Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet learning directly from Him while being present in the moment.

In Luke 10:38-42 (NASB), we see the women in very different roles; each learning different lessons.  Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who was also seated at the Lord’s feet, and was listening to His word.  But Martha was distracted with all her preparations and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do the serving by myself? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but only one thing is necessary: for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.””

Just like Martha, I often learning my biggest lessons after complaining about some minor infraction.  Often the Lord uses these types of scenarios to turn the mirror onto myself.  I have learned to institute some self-reflection prior to complaining…but I’ve also learned that I’m usually in a scenario right where I was supposed to be.  

Regardless of their roles, both Mary and Martha were exactly where they were supposed to be in that moment.  Dare I say, where they needed to be in that moment.

And just like every other scenario we “modern” women find ourselves in, we are right where we are supposed to be.

Come to the porch this week and tell us your stories!

~Emily

The Kitty Kam…not a Nanny Cam

The new security cameras took longer than we thought to hook up.  As a result, one stayed on the dining room table facing the kitchen for several hours.  At one point, I heard the “ding” notification on my phone that motion had been detected in the kitchen.  When I looked at the video feed I saw that my black tuxedo kitty, Gatsby, had jumped on the table.  An absolute no-no in our house.

I pressed “speak” on my phone and in a deepened voice I sternly said, “Gatsby! Get off the table!”

For a millisecond, it seemed as though he levitated before he bolted off the table and into the other room.  In reality, he was startled by a voice from thin air, which had caught him in the middle of doing something wrong. 

Don’t you wish that a big loud voice would alert you to your own misbehavior?  I know I wish there was a voice that startled me into doing the right thing.  Maybe it would yell my name as I start think sinfully…or maybe it would just clear its throat when I start to stray off a righteous path.  

Oh wait.  *Palm to forehead moment.*  There is a voice that corrects me…I just have to tune in and actually listen.  If I truly listen to the Lord, I hear Him tell me when He’s pleased and when He’s displeased.  He becomes my big booming voice to correct my behavior. 

How do we implement listening to God into our daily lives?

1. Prayer life. Most certainly this seems easier said than done.  It takes discipline and time, but we are assured that when we pray God hears us.  Likewise, when we pray coupled with listening, we benefit.  “And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” 1 John 5:15 (NASB)

2. Studying the Bible.  There is a distinct difference between reading your Bible and studying your Bible.  Study means greater understanding through digging deeper into verses.  2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB) states “All scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness.”

3. Meditate on Scripture.  Simply stated, we need to pair our prayer life with studying the Bible so that we have an opportunity to actually meditate on the Word.  Joshua 1:8 (NASB) directs us in this manner. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written…”

Through prayer, studying my Bible and meditating on the Word, I draw closer to the Lord.  And when I draw closer, I am able to hear His voice.  Scripture tells us in John 10:27 (NASB), “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  

The reality is that I already have the voice that desires my success and is willing to correct my behavior.  I don’t need a kitty cam to scare Gatsby off the kitchen table…I have a mighty God.

I pray you make time this week to pray, study and meditate…all in an effort to hear God’s voice.

~Emily