The Jalapeño Plant

I transplanted a jalapeño plant tonight.  It’s not something I’ve done before.  I had a vertical garden that I had planted a starter in and decided it needed to be in a container of its own.  So I put it into the new container.

I gently began working around the soil, loosening the dirt and getting rid of the dead plants in the vertical garden that were surrounding it.  I didn’t want to damage the roots, so taking as much time as I needed, this master gardener (that term is used VERY loosely for myself) did not rush the process, instead little by little loosening the plant for its extraction and into the fresh new home that was awaiting her.

When I’m doing things like this, I talk to my plants.  I know I’m not alone in this.  I tell her how brave she’s being letting me disrupt her work so that I can give her a new location, a better chance of survival.  And when I think of these things, I often think of how we, as humans, can be like those plants.

Sometimes, we’re uprooted and we take on new locations, new jobs, or new adventures.  It can be quite unnerving starting over with something different.  We can be scared and unsure of what it will look like even though we often know that what’s waiting on the other side of the newness is good and fresh.

I know a Master Gardener who has talked to us this very same way.  Joshua 1:9 says to us, “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

God gently works in our lives, extracting the distractions, moving people or objects or places out of the way.  He lifts us in HIS time into more perfect surroundings—surroundings where we can praise Him better or trust Him more.  He tells us He loves us and He’s right there with us even though our new or upcoming circumstances can be changing drastically.  He does this because He knows that His plan is better.  We just have to trust.

I pray, dear friends, that you find the Master Gardener tending to you during a time of transition that you may be having at this very moment.  Or perhaps He’s already replanted you into a refreshing new spot that has allowed for growth and trust.  Come to the porch and share your story.

~Erin

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The Free Gift

A few days ago, I put two boxes of books out on the corner of our lawn with a sign that says “Free books!  Help yourself!”  These were some books that we’d already read and decided not to keep in our collection.  We thought to ourselves that maybe someone walking by would see the books and grab one or four so that they could enjoy one of the titles we had left.

The pile started with about 40 books and slowly, we’ve whittled the pile to about half that.  I’m kind of surprised that they’re not gone.  I’ve seen people walk past, stop and peek in as if to see if there’s really something in there.  I’ve also seen people start to take them and then change their mind, looking around as if to see if there’s some kind of trap I’ve set up!  Like I’m going to spring out of the bushes screaming, “IT SAYS FREE, BUT YOU CAN’T HAVE ALL OF THEM!”

Sometimes, people can be that way when we present the truth of Jesus.  God encourages us to spread the gospel to every creature.  Telling everyone about the gift of salvation is so simple and the steps to accept Christ as your personal Savior seems so easy, yet does it really have the “FREE…take it!” sign in front of it?!  It’s ours to just take?!

The answer is yes!  Choosing to have a relationship with God is a gift that He gives us freely and openly.  We only need to repent of our sins, ask forgiveness, turn ourselves over to Him, and ask Him to live in us forever.  There’s nothing fancy about the request.  There’s no special handshake or secret code you have to know.  We can take that free gift, knowing that it completely changes our lives.  I’m so thankful that I accepted that free gift so long ago!

How about you, dear friends?  Is there someone you know that needs to hear about that gift of salvation?  We can be praying for them.  Or perhaps you want to accept that gift yourself?  Message us at the Iron Porch, and we’d love to show you how.

~Erin

The Free Gift

My Big Mouth

I have a big mouth.  I don’t mean I share secrets or anything like that.  I just know that sometimes the things I say gets me into trouble.  I’m sarcastic to a fault and my humor is often biting.  (When I write it like that, it doesn’t sound so humorous or witty!)  I don’t mean to be.  I’ve been this way for so long that it just naturally comes right off the tongue and out into space before I think about who’s around me.  And currently, the person around most to hear it is my 16-year-old daughter, Peyton.

I know I should be careful and more diligent.  I want to raise a respectful child, not one who thinks sarcasm or cutting humor is the way to go.  I want her to build people up, not say something funny at their expense or feelings.

There are about 9,245,479,111 verses in the bible about watching your speech, and of course, I ran into one when I was reading my Bible yesterday morning.

“The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. –Proverbs 13:3.

Really, God?  I need this lesson?  And the answer is YES, I DO.  I have children and grandchildren watching what I’m doing.  I have a Bible study group that counts on me to be a leader.  I have friends who need community around them that support them and share the gospel with them.

While none of these reasons hold me to a higher standard, my faith in Jesus Christ does.  He made me in His image. The last time I checked, there wasn’t a Bible verse that said I can just spew words willy-nilly out of my mouth without thought and not have an impact on my life or the lives around me!

I’ve now written this verse from the Bible on sticky notes and have it posted around the house.  My prayer and goal moving forward is that the words I speak are exactly as Christ intended.

How about you, faithful friends?  Anyone else have this speech issue?  Come to the porch and share.

~Erin

Packing Up the Memories

We’re still reeling from the loss of Allen, my father-in-law.  As you read this we’re driving up to Fort Bragg, California to go through his things and start packing mementos away.  This is an especially hard time for both Chris and Rita, his son and daughter, as they’ll begin to go through the memories of their life without him at their side.

With an ache, we’ll go through his clothes, his watch collection, his knives, hunting gear, and photos and sift through things that the grandchildren might like to have as a tangible item of their Grandpa.

I’ve often thought over the last couple of weeks how I could help them work through this coming weekend as we do this.  A verse in Romans comes to mind.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” –Romans 12:15

What beautiful words.  We will mourn for the missing piece from our family here.  I’m going to hold their hands as they cry, and I’ll feel the sadness along with them as they grieve.  I’ll comfort them as they remember.

But we’re also going to rejoice for the happy times.  We’re going to remember his laugh, his return from his hunting trips, the outings he had with his family.  We’re going to remember him constantly reminding his grandchildren to call him “Uncle Allen” instead of “Grandpa Allen.”  We’re going to remember his vibrant personality and his heartfelt desire to give to those in need.  We’re going to remember him for the great spirit he had and the love that he gave.

Thank you, Jesus, for providing me just the right verse to help us as we walk through this weekend.

~Erin

The Instruction Manual

Instructions are so tedious, aren’t they?  There are some instructions that we sit down and follow to the letter; you know the kind.  IKEA items are high on that list with 4,237 parts to assemble the perfect three-legged stool.  Blenders are not.  Do you really need to read the instructions on how to assemble it?  Turns out you do.  Peyton wanted to make smoothies, so I purchased a blender.  (Never mind that we had one tucked away in a closet that I was told about AFTER said purchase, but that’s another blog.)  As Peyton was putting it together, she didn’t realize she was missing the rubber gasket that would prevent leaks from happening.  It wasn’t until I ran down the list of parts and instructions on assembling with her that she realized that the rubber “thingie” was needed to make sure her smoothie didn’t run all over everywhere.

The bible is our instruction book.  We need to be examining it and reading it as we get ready to face our daily challenges.  In it, the Lord provides wisdom and guidance on how to handle anything!  From figuring out how to trust to learning how to navigate a loss, His direction and instruction is in there for us to soak up.  Without making sure you’re “fully assembled” and ready to go with the Word of God at the start, we miss out on the opportunity to complete our journey in the steps that we take in any given situation.  The journeys, along with the directions we receive out of the bible, help us to cultivate a closer relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I encourage you and challenge you today to open your instruction manual that is the Word of God!

~Erin

Pouring strawberry banana smoothie from the Vitamix. | Strawberry ...

The Amazon Notification

I got my first notification that my order of books from Amazon had been shipped just three days ago.  Yesterday morning, I got the notice that it was being delivered between 9:45-1145.  I then followed it as the driver was 8 stops, then 6, then I was the next house.  When I got the picture in my email of my delivered package on my front porch, I was elated!  How silly is that for me to track this package so meticulously.  It’ll get to my house one way or another, but I feel like it builds up the anticipation as it gets closer and closer.  Does it really take that long to drop off a single package?!  Get back in your truck already, Amazon Man!

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had all of our good moments delivered with notifications that it’s just around the corner?!  You’re having a bad day, but Jesus is opening the door for a raise so He notifies you, “Good news just around the corner, Erin!  Just hang in until tomorrow between 2-4pm!”  You’re struggling with depression, and ‘DING!’—“I know you’re having a tough time, but in the middle of the night tonight, I’m going to remind you of a verse, and it’ll give you some peace to help you sleep. So stop worrying.”

You know what I’ve found happens when I get those notifications from Amazon?  It’s not anticipation like I would think.  It’s impatience.  Why can’t it come faster!?  Why is it taking forever?  Prime said it would be yesterday.  WHERE IS IT?!  The notifications leave little room for surprise when I open the door to go outside and talk a walk and there is my package ready for me to open.

I don’t think I could bear the notifications of good moments.  There’s something special about trusting in God even on your worst days, believing that He will provide when the time is right at just the right moment.  We don’t need a heads up.  We just need to trust.

I’ve written a lot about trusting Him lately.  I think it’s because it’s one of the hardest things to do for me.   I want to trust Him desperately, but it would be nice if He did as I needed on my timeline and how I want.  Pretty selfish view, isn’t it?!

Friends, come to the Iron Porch and share what you need to trust Him with!  Let’s all repent together and lean into complete and total trust in Him!

~Erin

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I am a master gardener.  And by master gardener I mean that I recently purchased my first vertical container garden.  On June 12th, I purchased and planted a total of 18 plants/seeds.  I’ve only killed the lavender so far, so I’m guessing that’s a good thing since I don’t eat lavender.

I honestly didn’t put a lot of thought into the actual science of gardening other than the fact that I really wanted to try my hand at it, and the container garden I found was such a cool system!  I know I’m Zone 9b (didn’t mean much to me at the time) and I live in California where there is plenty of sun and shouldn’t EVERYTHING grow beautifully in California?!  Eighteen days in, and I’m honestly just glad that the lavender is the only thing I’ve killed, but let’s be real…I’m only 18 days in.

But here’s where the real work starts.  The novelty is starting to wear off; I don’t have peppers hanging from my plants and tomatoes aren’t just showing up and dangling from the vine.  (FYI, I know it takes longer than two weeks to show up, just so everyone knows!)  But my desire to watch the plants mature and bear their produce has become exciting.  Now I’ve purchased a highly recommended gardening book.  I’m researching soil.  I’m looking at what grows well next to each other and whether to plant seeds or starts.  I joined a local online group of gardeners to see what works for them and what they’ve had success with planting in this area.  It’s time and effort to get these plants to grow.  And it’s time and effort that’s well worth it.

Our walk with Christ can often begin the same way.  We accept Christ as our Savior and get so excited to start a walk with God.  We find ourselves jumping straight in, soaking up as much scripture as we can, join a community for a bible study, attend church services.  Sometimes, however, when we don’t see immediate changes in our life or fantastic things start happening to us because we live for Jesus now, we can start to get frustrated in trusting Jesus during the process of us growing into spiritual maturity.  If we don’t find the immediate gratification, confusion or bitterness can sweep in and next thing you know, your walk with God is thrown to the wayside in favor of what’s right in front of us temporally.

Remember that the seeds were cast in Mark 4 into good soil and they grew up and produced a crop.  The bible didn’t say it happened overnight.  The good soil with the seeds had to be tended, nurtured, loved, and fed.  That is what our walk with Christ must be.  In order to see the growth, you have to plant yourself in the good soil of the Word of God and allow Him to tend to you, maturing you in your walk with Him.

I encourage everyone today to plant yourself in the Word of God and allow Him to grow you.

~Erin

Is Church a Hobby?

Hobbies are my weakness.  When I’m bored, I love to learn about new things.  This generally means I’m buying new things.  Ask anyone who has known for me longer than five minutes, and they’ll tell you some product they’ve purchased for me at some point in my life that relates to something I just “had to have” because that was my passion.  At the moment.

When I was in my early 20’s, it was Stampin’ Up.  During my late 20’s, I loved to decorate cakes.  Once I rounded the 30’s, I was into cooking.  Two years ago, I was in love with card making.  Then, my obsession became makeup.  It’s a nasty habit that fills what little storage space we have in this house with tons of “stuff.”

Sometimes, I think that we often put church service in that category.  We get really excited about how God is working in our lives.  We are watching transformation happen.  We’re attending church regularly.  Yet, church service gets left behind for an extra hour of sleep or the new brunch time we set up with our friends.

I recognize that I’ve fallen into that trap before.  I start getting busier with my job and use that as an excuse to not attend service on Sunday.  Ummmm….I work from home.  I was up late last night working on bible study.  So I shouldn’t go to church the next day???  Does either excuse even really count?!  Even now that we’ve been under quarantine, it’s easy to continue in the same pattern and skip out on service if you’re back to meeting.

While some would say that church wasn’t a “thing” in the New Testament so why go to church now, I would say the church then was the community where the body of Christ got together to praise and worship and learn the gospel.  When we are with our fellow Christ-followers, we are surrounded with people who love Jesus, who encourage in His Word, who follow and trust Him faithfully.

While the full church functions may not be a reality at the moment for some due to health restrictions or quarantine, I would encourage each of you that are able now to find a local church and become a part as much as you can.  Whether its small groups from your congregation in your home, or small groups at the church, dig in to the community.  If your church is back to the sanctuary, I encourage you to go.  If it’s still Zoom with your pastor, do it!

There’s something special about community among believers!

~Erin

A Tribute to a Father

Life is so fragile.  I know you know what I mean.  We feel like we have all the time in the world to enjoy each other, to laugh with each other, to cry with each other.  We sometimes take for granted the hugs and the kisses, the jokes, even the fights because we’ll see them tomorrow.  Our family is invincible and we have forever.  But unfortunately, that’s not the case.  And our family felt it recently.

We pulled out a big box of pictures this week.  We started looking through it, and came across a home movie of a surprise party we gave Chris’s dad, Allen, for his 70th birthday.  That was 12 years ago!  It seems like a lifetime ago and yet so recent.  Last night, we popped it in and watched it.

There’s probably 50 family and friends laughing, eating, talking, there to celebrate an amazing man turning 70 years old.  Allen pops into the picture, and he’s larger than life.  He’s walking around the room talking to everyone, reminiscing about this story from the past or that friend they saw last week.  Old business partners are there.  Brothers are there.  His children-Chris and Rita, his grandchildren, nieces, nephews, everyone….there all there to celebrate a man that loves his family more than just about anything.  (Except maybe hunting.  He loves to hunt, and you can tell when he opens his gift of a rifle!)  You watch him belly laugh, head thrown back, the sound of happiness coming from him, hanging in the air.

You’d love to see his hair.  I tease him all the time about his “luscious locks” because Allen has the thickest head of beautiful white hair against his tan skin from enjoying the outdoors so much.  The man looks like he’s permanently retired on the beach!  He just looks like….joy in this video.

Back to last night when we watched this video.  It’s been 12 years, but we wish it was yesterday.  Because following a leukemia diagnosis just 2 ½ months ago, this man, this father, this brother passed away on June 7th.  It still doesn’t seem real.

We all wish there was one more moment with him.  A moment to joke with him, a moment to squeeze our arms around him, a moment to watch the news with him (it seemed to be one of his other favorite things).  And we’re left with memories.  But good ones.  Great ones.  He was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of man.

Allen, you were….you are…an amazing human being.  And your legacy lives in every life you touched over your 82 years.  We love you and we miss you.

~Your family

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2005, Idaho Family Trip
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May 2020, 82nd birthday

I-80 Lost

“If I get lost from Lincoln, Nebraska to Cheyenne, Wyoming, you should question whether or not you raised a moron, Mom!” I said to her as I hit I-80.  It was a straight shot to her and the only road I have to drive between Lincoln and Cheyenne is I-80.

Somewhere along the way I hit a little construction, and my daughter, Peyton, called me at the same time to ask about cooking dinner for her dad.  And somewhere during the answering of that call, I missed a sign.  A really important sign, apparently.  About 15 minutes later, I noticed the I-76 sign.

“Why does that say 76?  Why does th…WELCOME TO COLORADO?!”  I had missed a turn off and had ended up slightly off course.  With some quick help from my Google Maps, I detoured through some beautiful farmland and ended back at I-80.  Shaking my head, I called my mom.

“Remember when I said you needed to question whether I was moron if I got lost on the ONE road I was supposed to stay on, Mom?  You raised a moron.”  She got a good laugh out of that one.

Sin can have the same effect.  We take our eyes off Jesus for just a second, a brief minute when our attention catches something else.  Before you know it, you’ve veered off course into worldly ventures and off a relationship with our heavenly Father.  The path that has comfort, strength, faithfulness and grace is moving straight ahead and we follow the bend in the road because we were thinking about other things.  The slight shift seems almost unperceivable…until you look around and notice the signs that say you’re going the wrong direction.

God’s Word is clear in what we should do in this situation in Proverbs 4:25-27 (NASB).  Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.  Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.  Do not turn to the right or the left; turn your foot from evil.

Let’s make sure we’re on the right road, heading straight into the arms of Jesus.  Watch the directions and trust the steadfast and sure walk with Christ. It’s the only way you want to go!

~Erin

life tip #38