Answered and Exceeded

For the last year, we have been working towards our dream of writing in order to impact women’s lives. That dream birthed the Iron Porch.  But it also birthed the start of independent stories that each us began pursuing.

Last week we started a road trip that took us up and down the east coast. It also took us up and down a rollercoaster of emotions.  You see, the dream brought us to the She Speaks Conference, sponsored by Proverbs 31 Ministries.    If you are unfamiliar with She Speaks, the premise is a location for nearly 800 women to follow the calling on their lives to speak, write, and lead for the Lord.

The dream brought us in front of real life publishers.  Let’s all take a moment to soak that in…real life…publishers!! Like for real, real life publishers!!!

While a publisher appointment is a scary thing to contemplate, there is beauty in knowing when it is God ordained.

Before the registration opened, one of us was FREAKING out that we would miss the actual registration date and miss out on the opportunity to attend.  Yet, we both received the email with plenty of time to consult before committing to workshops. We were afforded the opportunity to choose five publishers out of a list of dozens in the hopes of receiving one appointment. We prayed that we each would get one.

Weeks later, we both got the email revealing that we had each been scheduled for three appointments! Prayers answered and exceeded!

Not only had we each received three, we got the exact same three publishers.  Prayers answered and exceeded!

And if God wasn’t already amazing in these gifts, two of the three publisher appointments were back-to-back appointments…Emily at 11:45 and Erin at 12:00.  Essentially, Iron Porch had two publishers listening to our hearts for 30 minutes total!  Unrequested prayer answered…and exceeded!!

God wasn’t done answering unrequested prayers.  He allowed us an amazing amount of time with dozens of women in prayer, in fellowship, and in community.  In preparation for the conference, we prayed for our friendship. We prayed for the Iron Porch. We prayed for our books. We prayed for good feedback from the publishers. We dared to pray for “yes” from the publishers.  We prayed for our assigned prayer partners…strangers we met via email weeks before the conference. And we prayed for the staff and faculty of P31.

But we hadn’t prayed for the sense of belonging with other women called to this path. We hadn’t prayed to gain new friendships.  We hadn’t prayed to be moved to tears and laughter with strangers who had touched our hearts.

God answered the prayers that we didn’t even realize were on our hearts.

God answered the asked and unasked.

The Bible teaches us about exceeded expectations in 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV) “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

This is a lesson that we both have taken away this week.  It’s okay to ask God for what you want.  It’s okay to ask in detail.  It’s also okay to forget to ask for things.

You know why?

Because God is going to answer your heart. He’ll answer the asked and unasked.

~Emily and Erin

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When God meets you between a Pawn Shop and a KFC (Guest Blogger)

I had to stop the car… I had to! The tears streaming down my face were too much to even see the road in front of me. The weight of the world sat on my shoulders. At least, that’s how it felt…

As if the last 11 months hadn’t already been some of the toughest of my life, now I was faced with a decision that would not only alter my life, but my husband’s and daughter’s too. “God, I need you,” I whispered under my breath. “This decision is too much for me to make alone. I NEED to hear Your voice. I want to make a decision based on faith, NOT on fear, but You have to show me the way.” You see, as I sat there in that pothole-filled parking lot, with a pawn shop to my left and a KFC to my right, I needed a divine word from heaven.

Earlier that day, I was getting ready to leave the house to pick up our daughter from preschool when Sam received a phone call from his attorney. The company he previously worked for was suing him – for 1.4 million dollars. And the reason? Well, it all started 11 months prior when he called me from out of town to tell me that he’d just lost his job as partner at a tax firm because he’d committed fraud. The money they were seeking included their losses, plus the cost of forensic experts to investigate his offenses and clean up the mess I now found myself in.

We certainly didn’t have enough to give them all that they wanted, but they still wanted all that we had. The attorney said we could ‘fight’ it and claim that some of that money they were taking was mine (from my own business that I’d worked to build), and that taking everything my daughter and I had left to live on would cause a financial burden for the two of us. While the opportunity existed to ‘fight’ it, there was still a chance it could be denied and I was told, “it could look bad to the judge” who would ultimately determine my husband’s sentence. Sam left it in my hands to decide.

This is where I needed divine direction. Either way I went, there was an element of fear and an element of faith. Do I ‘fight’ handing over the money and have faith that God will grant us this “pardon”? and that my daughter and I will still have money to live on? My fear with this option was that it could have a negative impact on Sam’s sentencing if denied and we could lose the money anyway. Alternatively, I could agree to hand over every little bit of money we had left, relying solely on God to provide everything we needed from that moment on. It seemed like an impossible decision.

The idea of possibly losing my husband to jail time and being left as a single mother to care for my daughter with no money was unbearable. I couldn’t stop crying as the outcomes of both decisions swept through my mind and pierced me deep within. Through all of the tears and pleas to heaven, I noticed the sun was setting – a beautiful palette of purples, pinks and oranges. I sat there waiting… partly in confidence that God WOULD answer me, and partly because I still felt out of breath, and out of life, from all the crying… and I needed to get myself together before pulling up to the preschool. The tears began to subside as I stared off in to the beautiful, calming sunset, when suddenly it happened: I felt the Holy Spirit whisper, “What’s the right thing to do?

A simple question would become my answer: What IS the right thing to do? I thought about it for a moment… The right thing to do was to hand over the remainder of any money we had left – which would ultimately include anything that was considered mine monetarily. The company Sam had worked for was out a LOT of money because of his wrong-doing and the right thing to do was to give back what we could (even though he would still be responsible for a huge remainder of the balance when this was all said and done). I knew I had my answer, and while it was hard to imagine what was next for us, a gust of faith surrounded me.

Suddenly, I found myself saying, “Lord, I will do this in obedience to You. And therefore, I stand on YOUR promises. And Your promises are that You are a rewarder of those who diligently seek You – and I have diligently sought You in this. You say that no good thing will You withhold from those who walk uprightly. I know that You shall supply all my needs according to Your riches in glory, and God, You watch over Your Word to perform it, so I hold You to Your Word!” I spoke His Words back to Him in faith, with boldness, confidence and humility. And just like that – as I held on to the promises of my loving Father, peace flooded my soul.

A short while later, I returned home and told Sam my decision. After he spoke with his attorney, he said he was “proud” of me. I made it clear my decision was based solely in response to being obedient to Christ and not because of fear of any outcome. Man’s approval of my decision meant nothing to me, only God’s. Sam mentioned he had talked to another friend to get some advice on what to do. I asked him what his friend said. His exact words to Sam? “What’s the right thing to do?” And so, it was confirmed. That day I not only discovered my answer, but also learned when you have a heart open to hearing His voice, God can meet you anywhere – even between a pawn shop and a KFC.

Thoughts from the Blog: We can speak to God from anywhere – I’m so thankful He wasn’t restricted to a church or prayer closet when I needed Him that day. He hears His children when we speak to Him, no matter where we are, and He longs to speak back to us. It may not always be an obvious “spoken” word in the way this was, but I do believe that God will give peace and confirm His thoughts when you’re not sure if you’ve heard Him or not. Spend time in the Word – After all, those are His words to YOU. Spend time with other believers who can speak life and truth into your situation and who will pray with you. The Bible says to “Pray without ceasing,” and while there are plenty of moments in a day where we can’t literally be praying, I think it’s God’s way of saying: pray whenever, wherever, for whatever. Let your day be a continual conversation with Him – His sheep know His voice, and you will know His voice from spending time with Him.

Verses Mentioned in this Blog (my paraphrase):

  1. You are a rewarder of those who diligently seek You (Hebrews 11:6b)
  2. No good thing will You withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11)
  3. You shall supply all my needs according to Your riches in glory (Philippians 4:19)
  4. You watch over Your Word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12)
  5. Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

~Anonymous Guest Blogger

Guest Blogger This Weekend

The purpose of the Iron Porch is to allow a space for women to come share with one another without the fear of reprisal and judgment. It’s a space that Erin and I believe God wanted to provide, so that women could encourage and comfort one another. After prayerful consideration, we both feel that there will be occasions where other women should be afforded the opportunity to blog what is on their heart. This may be their only platform to do that. These guest blogs will be posted under ‘fesharp’ rather than ‘Erin’ or ‘Emily.’

On Saturday, we will be posting an entry from a woman who has had the weight of the world on her shoulders the last two years, but she has an amazing heart for the Lord. She is a beautiful mom, wife, friend….and one we are privileged to call “sister in Christ.”

At this time, she is electing to remain anonymous because of the details of her situation. However, Erin and I want you to know that she has a story to share that is filled with an amazing amount of grace.

Please join us on the porch this weekend for our first guest blogger.

~Emily & Erin

Retreat in the Pines

760F1BA0-335C-44C5-968E-29EC9B1008ED.jpegWe like long walks in the woods and cozy fireplace chats…..if you’re laughing at that right now, you should see me and Emily! What would you put on your dating site as your tag line? In all seriousness, the verse that we both meditated on this weekend was “Be still and know that I am God” ~Psalm 46:10a (NIV)

Where can you be still? We’ve gotten to spend the last 3 days together on a 30 acre plot in the woods of Texas experiencing a place of stillness in the midst of mosquitos. And pollen. And strangers. As we’re packing up to head back to our homes, we want to share some thoughts with you that we gleaned from this weekend.

Prayer:
This stillness has allowed space for us to prayed on several different levels. We’ve been able to pray silently, pray with laughter, and pray with tears. We’ve taken prayer requests and been able to ask for prayers for ourselves.

Gratitude:
Times in stillness create a platform for you to focus on things that make you grateful. We’re incredibly grateful for 2 hours, 3 days, 10 days..whatever time we can get together in person. We’re also grateful that our friendship allows the growth of a community of women from all over (Shanen, Lori, Michelle, Tricia) that can come together to just hang out. We are grateful for these women in our lives.

Conversation:
Stillness offers a chance for sharing. Sharing a cup of cinnamon coffee, a debate over whether or not start a fire, pollen covered sneakers, and sharing bug spray are all forms of sharing. It also offers space to share your heart. We were openly able to talk about our relationship with Christ.

While this space in the Texan woods was an opportunity for prayer, gratitude, and conversation…you can create that stillness anywhere in your own life. Your space may be a local park, the beach, or a hiking trail. It could even be in your own home. Wherever your space, the “being still” in His presence is the important piece.

Where are you still? What do you glean in your stillness? Come to the Porch and share…

~Emily and Erin