Confidence Shaken

It is no secret that I’m a bigger girl.  I love food far more than I should and exercise far less than I even care to admit.  The only time you’d ever catch me running is if a bear were chasing me, and if you want some real truth, I’d probably just turn around and accept my fate of being dinner.  It’s way too taxing to exert my energy into exercise.  (Please, to all health-conscious reading this, don’t come for me!)  While sometimes it’s a struggle to think about how heavy I’ve become, it is who I am, and I’m ok with it.  This weekend, however, my confidence was shaken. 

I was shopping for a dress in Birmingham with Emily and my youngest daughter, Peyton.  We went to the mall and hit the first store. I asked the associate if the location we were in had plus size dresses, to which she replied they had a “few” in another location. 

Now, I’m not looking for an entire store full of dresses, but I would’ve loved to have seen more than just six dresses for larger women, and it just didn’t happen.  In fact, every major department store we went to informed me that “IF” they had any, they’d be in whatever section to which they pointed.  Two stores said they had eliminated plus size dresses.  It was disheartening, but I was fine.  Until the last store.

The lady was kind.  And she was caring.  She did absolutely nothing wrong.  When I asked her about whether they carried plus-size dresses she replied, “I’m afraid we don’t.  We should, and I’m sorry about that.”  And it broke me!

I teared up for whatever reason.  She was so sweet, but when she said it, she might as well have said, “Hey fattie, I’m sorry we don’t carry anything big enough for you to fit in.”  The day had chipped away at my self-esteem and when the sales associate told me they “should carry them,” it just made me feel like a failure.

The bible teaches us just the opposite, however.  Powerful words in Psalm remind me that I’m not a failure and that God made me who I am.  Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

God made me and I am beautiful to Him.  While my weight may fluctuate or my skin might wrinkle, what matters is that God formed me to be me, and those traits that society may base opinions on are not what God sees. 

My inner beauty that reflects God’s goodness makes my outer beauty radiant.  And I’d much rather shine from the love of Jesus.  It makes me beautiful!

The feelings I had about myself stung, because I am human.  But when we’re struggling with how society sees us, I encourage you, dear friends, to remember who made you.

You were made in His image, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made!

~Erin

P.S. I found a dress!

Praising His Attributes

It seems like such an obvious “Christian” thing to see.  We read about them many times throughout the Bible.  It’s a concept we’ve been taught over and over.  But I’ve noticed it seems the easiest thing to overlook:  Praising God with His attributes.  Songs encourage us to praise Him in hard times and praise Him in good times.   They remind us to give glory to Him whenever we can.  But are we truly praising Him for who He is?

Table 8 (my amazing California Bible Study group) and I have been going through a Bible study that urges a deeper look into several Psalms and then allow us to write our own Psalms using a formula based on the particular Psalm we’re in that week.  One of the common denominators of the exercise is to praise God using His attributes in prayer and on paper.  It’s something I haven’t always thought about doing.

Do I think God is powerful?  Yes.  Do I believe He is the Healer?  Of Course.  Is He the Almighty Deliverer?  Yes!  An ever-present Help in my time of need?  Absolutely!  But do I praise Him out loud for that?  NO.  It’s like I just assume He knows.  (Let’s be real here for a minute…He knows.)  But the reason behind why we say these things out loud in prayer and writing them down in Psalms is not so HE can know.  It’s to remind US of His attributes!

When we pray His attributes out loud, it encourages us that He is strong, He is omniscient, and He is over all.  It prompts us to be joyful of His authority in the midst of a struggle.  It reminds us that there will be victory in God and that the battle is already won.  Ephesians 6:10 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” 

With that strength, it invigorates our faith and assures us of God’s power.

I’ve tried it first-hand.  For the last five weeks, I have been starting my prayers with speaking aloud God’s beautiful attributes before I begin any request I have.  It’s prepared my soul to know that as I bring my petitions to Him I can be confident in whatever His answer and deliverance will be.

I encourage you, dear friends, to try it!  Speak aloud the attributes of our Great God.  He is mighty!  He is powerful!  He has the victory!  Enjoy the confidence and joy you can have in the assurance of our Father’s goodness and grace!

~Erin

Talking to God

My women’s bible study group has been going through a Psalms study that looks at several different Psalms, how and why they are written, and what we can learn from them.  We are tasked throughout the week through prompts to write verses that eventually turns into a “Psalm” written by us.  It models the chapter we just studied but it is geared to what our individual hopes, laments and praises are to God.

It’s been a truly enlightening study.  It’s allowed me to dig deep and really reach for what I want to express to God.  Recently, we studied Psalm 42-43, and topic for the day was on worshiping in sorrows.  It encouraged us to really speak to God about how we truly feel.

“When we tell God the truth about what we feel and why, the Holy Spirit can minister to our needs.” –Discovering Hope in the Psalms

God knows everything.  He knows the number of hairs on our heads.  He knows what our path is.  He knows our desires, our sorrows, and our requests.  Often, however, we don’t tell Him about it.  We can discount it as trivial or simple.  Perhaps, we’ve prayed about it for days or weeks, and it seems that it’s unanswered.  Maybe you even feel it’s too silly to pray about.

Dear friend, we can go to Him with anything.  When we have a personal relationship with our heavenly Father, it allows us to come to Him with anything, anytime.  He wants us to come to Him with our needs.  It’s like any deep and close relationship with anyone.  It never gets tired of hearing I love you or I need you.  God desires us to come to Him, no matter how big or small.

He may not answer how we wish, but it doesn’t mean He’s far from us.  He’s simply walking us through something.  We can continually pour out our hearts to Him and He will never be tired of hearing it.  The psalmist often did just that, pouring out to Him over and over all the while putting their hope in God.   I pray that you may feel that you can do the same. 

“Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” –Psalm 55:22

~Erin

Grateful for the Year

One of my favorite descriptions of 2020 has to be the term “dumpster fire.”  While it’s been tough, it was funny to conjure up the image of a stinky fire in a large dirty trash bin!  And while I’ve endured a mandatory three-month lockdown in California followed by adjusted guidelines, my child doing Zoom school, and wearing masks wherever we go, there’s also been some things I’m very grateful for this year.

I moved across country with my family to live next door to my best friend.  I accepted a different position within my company that gives me something new to learn.  I’ve spent some of the best times putting together more than five 1,000 piece puzzles with Peyton, my daughter.  I learned how to navigate Zoom so that Table 8 (my California Bible study group) could continue to meet weekly and deepen our relationship with Christ.

I’m grateful to the men and women that stepped up to the plate to help fight a pandemic.  I’m thankful for the churches that rerouted what church looks like so that people could still worship even when the doors were closed.  I’m thankful for the essential workers who endured thousands of screaming toilet-paper hoarding and Lysol-buying consumers.  I’m grateful that Walmart and other major store chains stepped up to the plate and said NO to opening on major holidays so that their employees could have time with their families.

While I’m ready for 2020 to be done and excited to see what God has for me and my family next year, I honestly don’t think I’d trade this year for anything.  Our Father has been so good to walk me through this trial of a year.  He has never left my side, no matter how far he may have felt from me at times. My prayer for you, Iron Porch, is that whether you consider this year a dumpster fire or a blessing in disguise, may this new year bring peace that only God can give.

~Erin 

The Purest Love

I know Christmas doesn’t feel the same this year.  The magic in the air seems a little dim.  We’re missing our loved ones, and it feels as if it’s just another week to get through until we can put this year to rest. 

Parades were cancelled.  Holiday plans changed.  Family and friends are recovering from illness.  Some are still sick and lying alone in a hospital bed.  Churches have to be closed in some places, so there’s no sweet candlelight service to attend.  It doesn’t feel fun or inviting.  I know that it doesn’t feel this way to everyone, but I also know it feels this way to some. 

I know it doesn’t feel the same, but may I tell you there is one constant that hasn’t changed throughout this year.  It has remained in our happiness and in our sadness, in our joy and in our pain. 

That constant, the sweet thing that has never changed is the love of our Savior.

He was born 2,000 years ago in a dirty stable so that He could give you the purest love you could ever receive. It’s a love that carried Him to the cross.  It’s a love that defeats every fear and every uncertainty that we carry. It covers you in the challenging times and has sustained you through this tumultuous year.  Without that love, we would have no hope for what’s to come.

This Christmas, I pray that you know that love, and I pray that each of us feels that love from our Jesus through this Christmas and the days ahead.

Merry Christmas, Iron Porch.

~Erin

The Polishing Cloth

I took apart my Pandora charm bracelet this afternoon.  I hadn’t worn it in quite a while and it was tarnished.  The charms attached were dark and dingy from lack of care and cleaning.  It looked old but I knew I wanted to start wearing it again.  I wished for it to look as fresh and beautiful as the day it was purchased.  Each charm represents a moment or a person in my life.  Parts of my story is laid out in those tiny pieces.  

I began to wipe them down with the cloth.  But it wasn’t just any cloth.  It was a polishing cloth that had some seemingly magical ability to take the tarnish away and make it look as if it was brand new!  It was fascinating.  I don’t know quite how it worked, but following the directions, the dullness was gone!  Before me sat my first charm gleaming as if I’d just procured it.  I quickly finished the others, and the bracelet came to life with a cleanness I hadn’t seen from it in a very long time.  It may not have been perfect-looking, but it was so very close.

Our sins can be taken away in the same fashion.  No, it’s not some magic miracle that makes us clean and whole again.  It’s the gift that God gave us through His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Isaiah 1:18b says “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall become as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Our heavenly Father sent His Son to be born in a manger over 2,000 years ago.  The gift He gave to Mary and Joseph was actually a gift to all of us.  That gift, the man—Jesus, would live a sinless life only to be tortured and sacrificed on a cross to cover our sins.  His shed blood alone would make us clean again…as white as snow. And thank you, Jesus, for that sacrifice!  He tells us plainly that the wages of our sin is actually death (Romans 6:23), but because of this generous gift of Jesus on the cross, He agreed to pay the penalty so that we wouldn’t have to.  How great is our God?!

Like that polishing cloth cleaned the charms, His blood cleans our sins.  When we accept salvation and ask Him to live in us we, like the charms, are restored.  Yes, we may have wear and tear, the scars from our former life.  But we are made complete in HIS image. 

If you haven’t yet made the decision to ask God to come live in your heart, please reach out to us or someone you know who is a Christ follower.  We’d be happy to share the plan of salvation so that you might receive the best Christmas gift you could give yourself…eternity in heaven!

~Erin

Sharing the Gospel

There’s been a lot of discussion in the last several weeks in both my Sunday School as well as my Bible study about sharing the gospel.  We’ve talked about learning to give your testimony in 3-5 minutes as well as how important it is to share how God has changed your life.  If someone should want to know how to accept Christ as their personal Savior and they ask you how it’s done, the ability to talk to them about asking God to become the Lord of their life is so important.

I was thinking about this when I posted on Facebook the other day.  Now that I live in a small town, I find myself really encouraging people to shop small business.  There are many people in our area who sell their crafted goods and food at such reasonable prices.  I love being able to share their information so that they might be able to snag another customer.

Do I share that often about Jesus?  If someone came across my Facebook page, would they see notes of encouragement or verses from the Bible that are uplifting?  Would they read about how God provided me with the perfect house or a great opportunity on a deal? 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying we only should post stuff about Jesus on our pages or wear shirts that proclaim us Christians or “Jesus Freaks!”  What I AM saying is am I putting just as many things that lead people to Christ on the internet as I do the posts that show just how much ‘stuff’ I buy or how much fun I’m having?

The Bible reminds us many times to tell others of Christ.  Are we following those commands?  One of the most well-known verses that tell us this is Mark 16:15—“Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”  That’s not a request!  We are to share the gospel with everyone! 

I pray that in the next two weeks leading up to Christmas (and even past that) there be opportunity after opportunity to share about the love of God and how He can change their life.

~Erin

Are You Frazzled?

This week in Wetumpka, the next town over, they had a “Kickoff to Christmas” celebration, and I definitely wanted to go!  So I picked Emily’s son up from school and she met us in town to walk the Main Street and visit Santa.  It didn’t take long (small town living), and within a ½ hour we had visited the tables and seen the sites.  As we headed back to our cars, I started talking about how I still needed to stop at the grocery store to pick up bread, go home to pick up the house and finish up food since it was my turn to host the family dinner night.  Emily looked at me and said “Stop being so frazzled.”  It seemed like such an easy suggestion and actually kind of funny, but on my way home, I started to think about how frazzled I’d let myself get over my list of things to do.

There are many times this year where my list has grown long and full of checkmarks to be filled in.  But sometimes, that list doesn’t leave enough room for my quality daily time to spend with God. 

I’m thankful that I’m leading a great Bible study that’s going through Psalm right now.  We’re learning about what it means to meditate on scripture and really soak in God’s Word.  Because of this, it really reminds me of how important it is to reflect on who God is and what He’s done.  The more time spent in prayer and study of Him and His Words, the more calm I feel.  My long list of to-do’s would feel more manageable if the first checkmark I fulfilled every morning was my time leaning into God’s word.

“I will meditate on all Your work, and on Your deeds with thanksgiving.” –Psalm 77:12

When I’ve meditated on the grace and mercy He’s provided to me, the peace of God covers me.  It allows me to know that He will provide the time I need through the day to get things done.  He will see me through.  If I can’t get through it all, He sustains me as I reach further.  And if it has to go on tomorrow’s checklist, I’m thankful He’s allowed me to get done what I could.

During this busy holiday season, I encourage you to remember Psalm 77:12.  Take time to meditate on His work, and trust Him to help you stop being so frazzled!

~Erin

The Cranberry Jelly Can

My granny was a jellied-cranberry-sauce-out-of-the-can kind of lady.  Every Thanksgiving as we purchased our stock for the big dinner, she always reminded us to get her can.  She was the only one that ate it, and we always teased her for eating it.  It just seemed weird to me.  The jelly vacuum-packed into a can that took the shape of a can when it came out was just…weird!

In 2014, I forgot to pull out the beloved can of gelatinous goo for her!  I hadn’t forgotten to purchase it.  But I left it in the cupboard and we only remembered after we were done eating.  Granny teased me about forgetting her favorite dish.  Not to worry, I told her.  We’ll pull it out next Thanksgiving!  But it never happened.  That was the last Thanksgiving we spent with her before she went to heaven. 

The following November, we pulled out that can of cranberry jelly and it sat, unopened, on the table.  We laughed and shared memories of her.  It was beautiful.  And through two moves and five years later, I still can’t get rid of the can.  It’s been on our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter tables every year.  Every time I think about throwing it out, the contents long since expired, I just can’t let myself put it in the trashcan.  It’s belongs to one of the fondest memories I have of her.

I was unpacking here in Eclectic in September when the can came out of the moving box.  I showed Emily, and she took the can from me.  I thought she was going to throw it out and I panicked.  She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind.  “No!” she said.  “Something this special needs to be displayed, not hidden in the pantry.”  It now sits in my cupboard with glass doors, a prize to look at every time I wander into the kitchen.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that a simple, dented, and dirty can brings me such joy.  It reminds me of the strong Christian grandmother who helped raise me and the faithfulness to God she displayed.  She loved the Lord and gave thanks for the family that she adored. 

This Thanksgiving, I have no doubt that the feast at the table in heaven holds a shiny new can just for her.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with jubilation; Come before Him with rejoicing. Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.  Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courtyards with praise.  Give thanks to Him, bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting and His faithfulness is to all generations. –Psalm 100:1-5

~Erin

Forest for the Trees

I don’t know about anyone else, but sometimes I can’t see the forest for the trees.  Does anyone else ever have that issue?  I can become so wrapped up in what’s going immediately around me, and I forget that the bigger picture is much clearer than the focus on the tiny piece. 

God reminded me to pay attention to this idea in my Bible reading recently.  In Mark 8 after the Pharisees tried to test Jesus, He and the disciples climbed into a boat to travel to the other side of the sea.  They left the bread for dinner behind.  As they were traveling, the disciples began discussing the fact that they had no food for this leg of their journey.  I would like to picture Jesus looking at them like ‘You boneheads!’, eyes rolling at them the whole way across,but that would be my translation and not the bible’s translation.

Verses 17-19 says, And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread?  Do you not yet see or understand?  Do you have a hardened heart?  Having eyes do you not see?  And having ears, do you not hear?  And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?’ They said to Him, ‘Twelve.’

He goes on to ask them if they remember the SECOND time he broke the seven loaves for a group of four thousand!  They were with Him!  How on earth could they have already forgotten?! 

The truth is, I can be the same way with His provision and gifts to me.  We often thank Him for what He does in our life, and then forget that He’s still there the moment a new problem arises. 

Verses throughout the bible tell us that God provides all we need.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:19

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. –Psalm 23:1

The lions grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. –Psalm 34:10

We don’t need to be focusing on the problem.  We need to be focusing on Jesus.  He’ll take care of the rest.  We can’t forget how loving and gracious He is to us in our time of worry.  When we focus on the work God has already done in our lives, we have the hope of further provision given to us by our Heavenly Father.

Before we make the same mistakes that the disciples made and forget so quickly of the of what the Lord has done, let’s sow these verses into our hearts to always see the forest AND the trees.

~Erin