Soup Explosions of Encouragement

I was employed as a personal chef, preparing a sweet and savory butternut squash soup, when I made the mistake of the year.  I put hot, freshly roasted butternut squash into the blender with broth.  Then hit the pulse button.  Without venting the lid to the blender.

About 10 seconds into the spin cycle, the lid catapulted vertically.  Before I could react, I was covered in butternut squash soup.  It was soaking my hair; it was in my shoes; it was literally dripping off the tip of my nose. 

Worst…it was covering my client’s kitchen.  The ceiling, the microwave, the floor, the curtains over the sink…all of it had evidence of orange splatter.  

As I stood in the center of the kitchen, covered in what looked like baby poo, I felt the tears start—plus I literally wanted to say a swear word.  

Of course, that was the moment that the lady of the house chose to come around the corner.  She took in the scene of her chef, and more importantly, her kitchen covered in orange goo…hours before a dinner party.  Her reaction?  She immediately started laughing. Then she started helping me clean.

To this day, when I think about how to build another up or how to encourage someone, I immediately think of her reaction to my mistake of the year. I think of her example because she found humor in the situation, because she assisted in the aftermath, and because she took the time to build me up.  In Romans 14:19 (NASB), we are told “so then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”  

We’ve all heard advice over the last year of COVID that includes being kind.  We’ve all heard reminders that we don’t know what others are going through.  We’ve probably all even observed scenarios where a nice gesture would have made someone’s day.

What’s more important than the advice, reminders, and observations is that scripture demands that we encourage each other.  In most instances provided by scripture, we are to encourage other believers.  In some instances of life, we provide insight into the Christian life and the Gospel when we encourage non-believers.  When we encourage the believer or the non-believer, we are making a difference in someone’s day. 

In the midst of the butternut squash soup explosion, I was encouraged.  I pray this week that you are able to encourage others…and that you notice when others encourage you.

~Emily

 “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB)

Decisions

The heaviness of a decision lay at my feet, and it’s all I can do to figure out how to make the right choice.  Have I thought it through and how will it affect everyone?  I’m left feeling a weight on my shoulders as I calculate the cost.  What if it’s the wrong path?  Did I think it through enough?

I’m sure you’ve felt it, too.  Choices, both big and small, are always needing to be made.  The burden can be almost overwhelming when you must decide to do what’s best for you, for your family, for your life.  The chaos of this world tells us to do what we want; do what feels good or ‘right,’ but is what feels right really the right thing to do?

And while this world tells me one thing, my heart tells me another.  I have someone that I can go to.  I have someone I MUST go to when I have decisions that need to be made.  I want to hear His voice.  I NEED to hear His voice.  I know that He is good, and I know that He hears me.  Dear friends, are we going to our Savior with our decisions or are we trying to make them ourselves?

I found a verse tonight in the midst of my Bible reading.  I was actually looking up verses about knowing the Bible.  The internet led me to one verse…HE led me to more.  103 verses later, I found what my heart needed the whole time…

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word.” –Psalm 119:114 

I realized I wasn’t looking for verses about knowing the Bible.  I was looking for a verse to tell me that it was ok that I didn’t make a decision the moment a choice was handed to me.  As a Christian I must give it to God and trust that He will provide the answer whether it’s an answer I like or not.  I do that because I trust in His unchanging and unfailing wisdom to direct me to the answer that will lead me closer to Him.

I pray that you can know this sense of assurance that I felt tonight reading that verse.  If you have a decision that needs to be made, trust it to our Father.  He is Jehovah Jireh-The Lord Will Provide.

~Erin

Barking My Fool Head Off: Stuck In the Drain Pipe

Today my nearly one-year old lab was in the drainage pipe…in the creek…under our driveway, where he had trapped an unlucky duck.  He was barking his fool head off inside the pipe-tunnel when I arrived on scene.  He was making such a commotion, that for a moment I thought he was possibly stuck in the drainage pipe.

Don’t you know that I tend to make such a commotion during crisis moments that I begin to think I’m stuck?  Just last week, I had a series of overwhelming moments, conversations, and decisions that had me in tears.  After sobbing in the closet so my son didn’t hear me, I realized that my melt-down was an ugly crying ruckus.  Today I realized it was comparable to the puppy panic of being trapped.  The difference between the puppy’s commotion and mine, is that I am often stuck.

God knows we are flawed as humans and that we get stuck.  The best news, we’re already given our escape plan to get unstuck.  We simply need to share the concerns, the complaints, the commotion with Him.  We won’t always get answers immediately.  And we sometimes won’t like the answers.  But there is reassurance in knowing that our God has ears that hear our every prayer…and that there is nothing more that He desires than to guide us through our ‘stuck-ness.’

Psalm 55:22 (ESV) tells us “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

After my sob-fest-pity-party, I turned it over to God.  I poured out the complaints, the injustices, the fears, the griping…and even the anger.  I immediately felt better. Not because the overwhelming stuff was gone…no, it was all still there.  But rather, I felt better because I spoke it out loud to the Lord.  

This next week, I’m praying that you turn it all over to the Lord.  Give him all the ugly truth and watch what He will do with it.

For the record, the puppy wasn’t stuck.  The duck was trapped by the puppy’s excitement, but the duck was fine too.  It was seriously just a loud commotion!

~Emily

Despair in the Air

Pandemic/COVID 19. Loss of income.  Election results. Hurricane/earthquake/tornado.  Loss of a friendship or marriage.  Adultery.  Division of a Church.   Financial hardship.  Miscarriage.

I’ve really been thinking a lot about everything that seems to have gone wrong in 2020.  In particular, yesterday was a bad day.  A sad day.  A day where I actually cried at church…in despair.

Have you been thinking about it too? When have you experienced despair?  And have you ever felt repressed by despair?  

Was it this last week, when the election showcased how politically divided Americans are?  Did you feel it when you heard Sean Connery or Alex Trebek had died?  Do reports of another natural disaster overwhelm you? 

Maybe it was a time you had to decide about school or career paths.  Perhaps a relationship had you feeling despair.  Sometimes it could be a church related issue.  The weight of that feeling; the despair feels overwhelming.

Repressed means to put down or subdue by force. For instance, to repress a rebellion.  It can also mean to end, limit or restrain by intimidation or other action.  For instance, to repress a heresy or inflation.  Essentially, you begin to feel such despair over a situation that you are repressed.  You are “put down or subdued.”  

When we feel repressed, as a result of despair, we can be blinded to the goodness God has for us.  Throughout scripture, God reminds us that despair does not mean repressed.  

we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” ~2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NASB)

In this one verse, we have such rich promises from God:

We can be afflicted, but we can’t be crushed.

We can be perplexed, but not despair.

We can be persecuted, but not abandoned.

We can be struck down, but not destroyed.  

While I felt despair today, I know that there are promises from God that counter that.  And when I remind myself of those promises, I begin to see the greatness of 2020.  I can see the blessings of family time, of school work with my child, of the antics of a new puppy, of sunshine on my face, and greatness of neighbors who share so generously.  

My feeling of “despair in the air” is slowing becoming “stressing the blessings.”

I pray that the last two months of 2020 can show you the blessings…despite the despair.

~Emily

Puppy Abandonment

I had a messy-train-wreck-weepy-meltdown a few Saturdays ago.  My husband looked bewildered as we stood in the kitchen during the sob-fest before he gathered me in his arms for a big hug.

Why was I having a nuclear melt-down?

I had just dropped our 9-month-old Lab at the veterinarian to board him for 3 days while we went to the beach.  This emotional avalanche took me by surprise!  Previously I would have identified myself as an animal lover, who takes great care of my pets, but isn’t so attached that I would be boo-hooing over leaving my puppy to be boarded for a couple days.  

I kept thinking about how scared he would be without us. Was he wondering where we were? Did he hate hearing the other dogs barking? Was he being fed enough? Did he get to play enough or was he bored?  

The worst thought?  Did he think we were coming back or did he feel abandoned?

Thinking about how overwhelmed I felt about leaving him, I started thinking about how God never abandons us…even if it feels like it. God’s Word promises that he will not leave us or abandon us.  Ever.  

In Hebrews 13:5 (NASB), we are reminded “…for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

There it is.  Right in His own words.  “I will never desert you” and “nor will I forsake you.”  What an amazing promise! 


That promise is repeated several times in both the Old Testament and New Testament.  We can look at Deuteronomy or 2 Corinthians for other examples.  

“For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.” ~Deuteronomy 4:31 (NASB)

…persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…”~2 Corinthians 4:9 (NASB)

There are countless times in one’s life that they could feel that God is not there.  And yet, He is there. We know God keeps his word and we know that He promises to not forsake us, so we can make the leap to know He won’t leave.  

I can’t begin to know if my puppy felt alone and abandoned, even though I was emotional about the thought.  What I can begin to know is that even in my darkest hour of feeling abandoned, my God is there.  

He never left.

~Emily

The Scorpion Sting

Scorpions.  Who actually likes these horrifying creatures?  They are monstrous little pincher-bearing, tail –stinging beasts that make you want to burn your house down.  Never mind that the scorpions native to Alabama are generally about 1-2 inches long.  It’s 1-2 inches too long.

Enter my 16-year-old daughter, Peyton, into this discussion.  Today, as she sat completing school work in the safety and comfort of her bedroom, she noticed something fall from the ceiling to the floor, and for one brief second, she wondered what it could’ve been.  (She told me she actually thought it was a leaf in that brief second…..because we’re growing trees in our house???) 

Now, I wasn’t here to witness this event.  But as Peyton tells it, she leaned towards it.  And it started moving.  Recognizing it as a scorpion, she began screaming bloody murder, grabbed the closest tennis shoe and proceeded to beat it to death, yelling the words, “DIE! DIE, YOU STUPID SCORPION!”  Wouldn’t you know she actually left it for me to see as evidence rather than picking it up and disposing of it.  But whatever.

The sting of the scorpion could’ve produced much pain.  But she had the victory over it in standing firm against it and declaring it gone. 

Satan reminds me of that little scorpion.  He comes in, unseen, moving around without notice.  He drops in, unannounced, at the most random times and disguises himself as something that we might want to get a closer look at or notice.  And then, BAM.  He’s stung us, and we’re caught in some web of sin.  But thanks to God, we can have victory over that.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. –1 Corinthians 15:56-57

We can let go of the sin and temptation when we do it through Jesus Christ.  He stands against satan on our behalf when we give it Him and let the victory be THROUGH Him.  Forgive me for sounding irreverent, but He’s the giant tennis shoe that stomps out that nasty devil as he crawls towards us!  He is our Savior!

How about you, dear friends?  Has there been a time where you’ve seen victory through Jesus as he stomped out a sin or sinful desire that needed to be gone?  Share how you feel led on Iron Porch!

~Erin

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

IMG_2152

Cops and Robbers

As we stopped at the little mini-mart for a drink on our way to the entrance of Disneyland, a man walked into the store past Peyton and Chris, her dad, grabbed a pair of sunglasses off the kiosk right inside the door and walked back out.  He never said anything to either of them, but they saw what he did and let the owner know.  Two minutes later, we were on our way again.

We hadn’t gotten more than half a block when a cop car flew past us and cranked hard into the parking lot a few yards in front of us, lights flashing.  We heard the police officer before we saw him.  “GET DOWN ON THE GROUND!” was being shouted repeatedly, a shotgun raised at the perpetrator.  It was the man that had just stolen the glasses.  Two, three, then four cars with flashing lights were surrounding the area, and I wasn’t about to let my 15-year-old daughter walk out across the open driveway when I didn’t know what kind of threat was right before us.  So we stood just out of sight behind the giant hotel sign, Peyton holding my hand while Chris stood around the edge to see what was going on.

The man didn’t comply with their commands to get down and, in fact, started walking towards them (and in our direction).  That’s when we heard the shots.

Ten seconds can feel like a lifetime when you’re in that moment.

I can tell you in that 10 seconds, Peyton rushed into my arms as I grabbed her and put myself in front of her just in case.  I worried that Chris had been watching and perhaps something could happen to him and leave Peyton without a dad.  I wondered if I was going to see my other children again.  I didn’t know if the other man had a gun or if it was the police.  I just wanted to be safe.

In that 10 seconds, however, I can tell you that the police saved not only everyone stuck on that sidewalk with us but themselves and the perpetrator as well.  Chris glanced back at us and told Peyton the man was going to be ok.  They were shooting bean bag rounds.  It turns out the man had been in an altercation with someone just moments before he walked past Chris and Peyton at the store and had not only punched a man but had also busted a window with his bare hands.  That had been what brought the officers.

When it was all over, I realized just how much God had protected us that morning.  It could’ve very easily been Chris or Peyton who the man attacked at the store.  He could’ve been stopped at a different location that would’ve provided no shelter for us from the stand-off.  God had his hand all over the morning.  This verse popped into my head in that moment, “He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings.  His faithfulness will be a protective shield.” –Psalm 91:4

Thank you, Father, for the protection you provided us not only on that day but every day that we breathe.

~Erin

Good morning Quotes

No Fear

Andros, my grandson, just got a “bike” a few weeks ago.  And not just any bike…he got a PW50.  What is that, you ask?  It’s a dirt bike.  Yes, you read that right.  My two-year-old grandson has a legit dirt-bike-motorcycle-death-trap.  Just kidding—it’s not a death trap, but Andros can now go 30 mph on a dirt track and he’s barely two feet tall!

Andros has grown up the last two years watching his dad drift cars and ride bikes, so it only seems natural that he would want in on the action.  McKenna has been sending me videos of him riding first on straight patches of field, now progressing to a track with hills and turns.  They have special training wheels attached, but he barely uses them!  Andros. Has. No. Fear.

Which got me to thinking…why do WE when it comes to sharing the gospel?!  I know I’ve written on this subject before, but it bears repeating.  It’s especially relevant to me now with current situations in my life.  We should not be afraid to share the gospel with our friends, with our loved ones, with our neighbors and even our enemies!  Sometimes, we fear looking like the weird one, but we shouldn’t.  Jesus came to save us through a death, burial and resurrection.  People thought He was weird with the things He was teaching.  But He taught it anyway!

Your opportunity to share the gospel with someone may be the only time they get to hear it.  It’s important that people know and hear about the love of God before it’s too late.  I falter at this.  Sometimes, I miss the opportunity because I don’t want to “make waves” or cause an argument with someone who believes differently.  But all you need to do is plant the seed! God will water and grow it!

Let’s strive to more like Andros in this situation and learn to HAVE NO FEAR!

~Erin

A Boy and His Bike
McKenna had to take a shot of her sweet boy on the track!

 

Pajamas and Bed Head

Is getting dressed an essential part of my essential shelter-in-place order?  I mean, pajamas and bed head DO count as work wear these days, don’t they?  I’ve seen the memes going around that talk about not knowing what day of the week it is, and I had to laugh because that’s legitimately how I feel!  I usually base my knowledge of what happened during a week by, ‘it happened on Monday because it was right before Bible Study’ or ‘I saw them on Thursday because that’s my grocery shopping day.’ It never dawned on me when we started quarantine life two weeks ago that I’d actually have to look at a calendar to know what day it is.

And don’t even get me started on the made up words!  I read the other day that someone was “quaranteleworkingish” and today I told Peyton her “quarantEaster Basket” was probably going to be small this year!

These days, life can seem so scary and uncertain.  We’re left with questions like When are we going back to work?, When will the front lines/essential workers get some relief?, or How am I going to pay my rent this month?.  The hard part for everyone is there are no clear answers right now, and in a society where we want the solution as soon as possible, the lack of one is unnerving.  Trust me, I’m right there with you.

While I believe we should all be paying attention to what’s going on during this crisis, I would encourage you to seek out the sweet stories of hope and the stories that make you laugh, as well.  Making sure you spend some time not only looking at the crisis information but also the encouragement will lift you up in these times.

Just yesterday, I saw video of two nurses cheering a patient from the hospital room window as he was finally extubated, on the road to recovery from COVID-19.  A principal went through the drive-through of her student’s place of employment to share the wonderful news that she was this year’s valedictorian!  I’m watching video after video of parents learning dances with their children to put on TikTok…you won’t see ME doing it, but I think Peyton might have her dad convinced to try it!

These videos and stories make me smile and make me laugh.  They bring my heart a little bit of comfort in a time where I’m worried about my friends and family.  I implore you to seek these out.  Bring your heart some encouragement and a little cheer.  Know that we are all in this together and that God has not left us.  He is right here and with us as we walk through this together.

~Erin

Psalm 31:24 Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.