Is it COVID-19?!?!?!

My throat is sore…is it a tickle?  Is it COVID-19?

I have a raging headache…can’t think.  Is it COVID-19?!?

Am I hot…or just warm? Do I have a fever? Is it COVID-19?!?!?

Every single little twitch or twinge these days leads me down a rabbit hole of wondering if I’ve been exposed to COVID-19.  I start contemplating whether I’ve been diligent in wearing a mask or social distancing.  I wonder if I’ve been exposed…or worse, could I have exposed someone else?

Am I alone if hyper-analyzing each little upset tummy or ache and pain?

The crazy thing is that I’m not afraid of getting COVID-19.  I know my family is fairly healthy and we would likely weather the storm well.  More than that, I know that God would heal us in the physical or we would be healed completely in heaven.  There is great comfort in knowing that the believers will be healed no matter what.

This never-ending saga of not-knowing how the pandemic ends is wearing thin on each of us in different capacities.  In my case, I’ve been leaning heavily on Psalm 55:22 (NASB), “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”

How are you dealing with the continued pandemic saga?  Come to the Porch as share your thoughts!

~Emily

Is It COVID-19?!?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annual Sunburn

The first sunburn of summer 2020 is in the books.

Year after year, I never learn that my pale Scandinavian skin needs a thick lather of sunscreen… as evidenced by the annual first sunburn of the summer.

Once I suffer through the first searing, and subsequent shedding of peeled skin, I won’t likely burn again for the rest of the summer.  In the past, I would claim that I only started to tan after the first sunburn, as that sunburn is the “base” for the rest of the summer’s sun-filled activities.

While there may be some truth in the “base-tan-sunburn,” the reality is the pain of that first sunburn creates a scenario where I remember my sunscreen protection for the rest of the summer.

The same is true with our sinful nature.

As with the sunburn, often our first brush with a particular sin is the “base” for continued sinful activity with or without protection.  Sinful scenarios can cause pain. They can cause a tangible reminder of the sin.  They can have “peeling” regrowth, as a result.

Also, like the sunburn, our sin can be painful enough that we will remember our protection against it.  Essentially we will experience the pain of the sin and subsequently do our best to avoid experiencing it again, as with the use of sunscreen.

What is the sunscreen protection against sin? The Word of God.  He’s given us the instruction manual on how to protect ourselves, as well as what to do when we fall short within that sinful nature.  This is why it is so vitally important, as Christians, that we are studying the Word and placing it firmly in our hearts.  It is the protection that we need.

Remember what Paul shared with us in Romans 6:14 (NASB), “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

Whether your sin/sunburn is a base for further activities, or if it is a stark reminder that you need protection, I would encourage the ladies of the Iron Porch to seek God’s will this week about how best to protect yourself.

~Emily

sunscreen

 

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

Regaining Quiet Time with God During Quarantine: Guest Blogger DeAnna Barber

In 2019 I ended my last day of work at an amazing job on a Friday.  On the following Saturday, I frantically packed up my life to escape the worst and scariest experience of my life; emotionally, verbally and leaning towards a physically abusive husband.  With the help of my family coming to my rescue I moved all my belongings, myself, and my son 200 miles back to my hometown to stay with my parents until I could get us back on our own again.   That Sunday was a blur, as was Monday, which was a holiday, and I began work on Tuesday.  I never took the time to breathe.  I never took time to just be still.  I was afraid to be still.  I was afraid I couldn’t make it through.  I didn’t want to reflect or think.  I wanted it all to disappear.  So I kept very busy all the time from then on.

But keeping so busy caused me to be exhausted and to struggle with setting aside quiet time with God; something that used to be my lifeline.  I never went a day without it before.  But catastrophe hit and I didn’t want to be quiet. I still had my faith and I wasn’t angry at God, I just didn’t want my mind to think about what had happened, what I had escaped, what would have happened if I had stayed or why it ever happened in the first place.  I had so many questions but I chose avoidance.

March of 2020 rolled around and another catastrophe hit which forced me to do nothing but slow down: the Covid-19 pandemic.  I was out of work and quarantined at home for 6 weeks which provided plenty of time to think and be quiet.  So I chose to take that time to rest, breathe, and get back into the groove of my daily quiet time with God.  And although I am still struggling to get back into that groove like I used to be this pandemic has helped me realize how desperately I needed this time to just be quiet, to slow down, reflect, and to enjoy the quality and quantity of time.

God’s word tells us in Psalm 46:10 to be still; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says to rejoice ALWAYS, to pray without ceasing and to give thanks no matter what; 1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all our anxieties on Him BECAUSE He cares. His word also offers comfort in Psalm 34: 17-18 that He hears us and delivers us from our troubles and that He is near the brokenhearted; Deuteronomy 31:8 promises that God goes before us and will never leave or forsake us; Isaiah 41:10 says we should not fear because God is with us, He will strengthen and uphold us.  Matthew 6:25-34 is certainly a wonderful set of verses to comfort us and remind us not to worry during this particular time in our world.  Lastly, Hebrews 7:25 states to draw near as well as James 4:8 which adds the promise that He will draw near to us.

I wish I had taken more time to be still and get closer to God this last year because 1) God commands it and desires us to get close to Him and 2) I know it would have helped me heal in a healthier way than I was choosing.  So, despite all the uncertainties of what is to come with Covid-19, I am thankful for the quarantined time I had because I was able to slow down and choose to be obedient and be still and quiet, to listen to God’s commands and to take comfort in His promises.  I allowed one catastrophe to disrupt my quiet time but God used another kind of catastrophe to help me get that quiet time back.

DeAnna

Regaining Quiet Time with God during Quarantine copy

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

When You Know, You Know

Have you ever felt like something was wrong, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was that might be wrong?

Call it a gut feeling, women’s intuition, or a sixth sense. You know something isn’t right.

You could call it discernment.  The small voice of the Holy Spirit letting you know there’s an issue needing your attention.  The spiritual gift of discernment is mentioned multiple times in scripture.

Over the last year, my husband and I felt like something was wrong at our church. I couldn’t put a name to what was wrong, but I felt unsettled.  It felt like there was discord amongst the members, a lack of communication, straying from the Word of God, and yet, there wasn’t anything specific to point out to support any of those claims.  It was “just” a feeling I had.

I considered resigning as the women’s ministry leader.  My husband did not want to attend services anymore.  I started researching other churches in our local area.  I engaged my prayer partners to start praying over the situation.

I felt like a fraud that I was continuing to serve in a ministry leadership role and praying about leaving the church.  While I was concerned about the situation, through prayer I had zero peace about resigning or leaving the church.  I did not hear God telling me that we were supposed to leave.

During our first week of the state’s “Stay-at-Home” order in March, our Pastor resigned.  The story of why he resigned is one for him or his family to share.  However, the few details I received began to make sense as to why there was a feeling of unsettlement at our church.

By no means am I saying that the Pastor’s reasons for resigning were the reason for my dissatisfaction at the church.  What I am saying, is that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart for months and let me know that “something” was not right.  It also made sense why I hadn’t gotten a clear message that the feeling of unsettlement was worthy of leaving the church.

Essentially, I was being prepared for there to be some turmoil and chaos at our church.  The Holy Spirit was talking in my ear allowing me to discern that something was amiss, while also not allowing me release to leave the situation.

John 16:13 (ESV) states, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

Call it your gut, your female intuition, or your 6th sense.  I’m going to call it discernment.

And to me, the gift of discernment is the gift of truth.

I pray you have a truth-filled week of discernment.

~Emily

John 16-13

Dear Diary

Day 4:  This could be interesting!  It’s an opportunity to really bond with my child and spend that time under one roof.  I’ll learn so much about her.

Day 20:  This is interesting.  It takes 12 steps to walk from my couch to the refrigerator and it’s the exact same amount of steps from my office to the refrigerator.

Day 32:  Interesting.  My daughter can say “yes, mother” in a way that evokes slight fear that I should sleep with one eye open.

Day 48:  I wonder what would happen if I took a four-hour shower.  Do you think they’d leave me alone?

Day 127:  Can I social distance from myself?

And so goes the days of shelter-in-place orders here in California.  I’ve officially been sheltered in place for four weeks….28 days of little interaction with the “outside.”  And, like Emily wrote last week, this is really starting to suck.

All of these great intentions that I’ve had for all this extra time have flown out the window, and I’d give anything to order at an actual restaurant and sit in an actual booth and hold an actual menu and laugh with an actual server.  But that’s just not how it is anymore.  And the reality is that it’s not going to be that way for a while.  And some days, it’s a little harder to deal with than others.

I find myself going from high to low to high again depending on how “claustrophobic” I feel in the house.  I wonder if that’s what David felt when he battled his own feelings of depression and despair.  One moment, he’s favored and then next, he’s despised.  While my circumstances might not be the same, my feelings of despair and loneliness mimic his own.

As I wade through what feels like Day 164, I hold to Psalm 18:19.

He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.

A broad place…Matthew Henry’s Commentary read like this, “He brought me forth also out of my straits into a large place, where I had room, not only to turn, but to thrive in.”  I don’t have to feel that claustrophobia that depression brings during a season like this.  He’s given me room to breathe and trust Him.  Thank you, God, for a broad place that gives you ample room to help me with my struggles.

~Erin

The options are endless.

This Sucks

I had this upbeat and optimistic blog written.  But then I remembered that the Iron Porch is a place for real conversations and truth. A place of transparency.

The truth is that I’m not really upbeat and optimistic this week.  I’m overwhelmed and discouraged about being at home trying to beat technology to telework while figuring out this quasi-homeschooling thing and dealing with an 8-week-old puppy that acts like a drunk toddler.

The truth about COVID-19 shelter in place/quarantine/social distancing…the truth is that this sucks.

It sucks.

I want desperately to be the woman that says, “I’m not stuck at home, I’m safe at home.”  While I believe that statement, I’m struggling to embrace it.

I want desperately to be the woman that says, “I’m enjoying some much-needed family time.”  While I believe that statement, the constant family time is starting to create impatient moments of longing for some alone time.

I want desperately to be the woman that says, “I know that God has a plan and will see us through this.”  While I believe that, I’m having to constantly remind myself that God does have a plan.  This is not something that’s been easy for me to embrace.

In the midst of this sucky week, I’ve been praying a lot.  And holding onto the verse Isaiah 26:20, “Go into your houses, my people, and shut the door behind you. Hide yourselves for a little while until God’s anger is over.”

Come to the porch and let us know how you’re doing with all the COVID-19 changes.

~Emily

Isaiah 26-20

 

 

 

 

The Wisdom of Elihu

This week has been a long week of difficult conversations with Peyton.  She’s 15 and old enough to truly understand what’s going on.  We’ve talked about what closing school looks like and what hanging out with friends looks like.  We’ve discussed what it means to truly social distance.  And we’re, even now, learning what a real “essential” is in our household.  It was only a couple of weeks ago that needing a quart of ice cream was deemed an urgent need, dropping everything to get our sugar fix.

The night before we went into mandated shelter-in-place orders, Peyton had a chat with her counselor that included ideas as to what she would do in regards to this pandemic and ways that could help rebuild the state and country as we recover from this ravaging virus.  She chose to share those ideas with me after the phone call.  My daughter….is brilliant.  She was insightful and logical and whether or not an idea like hers could ever be put into play, it showed her compassion for people along with a desire to give citizens their sense of responsibility and dignity back after such a nationwide crush of devastation.  When I told her to write it down, that maybe someone might want to hear her ideas, she looked shocked.  She mentioned that too many people discount what young people have to say.  When I mentioned the 20-somethings currently in politics, she said, “No, I mean people like me…kids my age who have good ideas.”

My bible reading this morning reminded me of this very conversation I had with Peyton.  As I’m reading the book of Job, I see the devastation surrounding him.  Everything he’s loved, cared for, and worked for, has crumbled.  Death and devastation are on all four sides.  And his two friends, older and therefore at that time considered wiser, told him repeatedly it was because of Job’s sin.  He was suffering at the hand of God and if he would repent and repent appropriately, God would remove the burden.  Chapters of conversation between these two friends and Job are written, begging him to see it was his fault.

It wasn’t until Chapter 32 of Job where you see Elihu come into the conversation.  He had refrained from speaking out of respect to the older men, but he couldn’t contain it anymore.  He reminds Job how great our God is and that there isn’t a single thing that goes by God without Him knowing and being in the end result.  He encourages Job to think about what’s God’s purpose was in his suffering.

I don’t know how old was Elihu was when he spoke into the conversation.  What I do know was that he was smart and was closer to the truth than either of the elder friends who tried to convince Job that he had offended God in some way.  He offered such sound wisdom in Job 37:13, “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen.”

During this time of uncertainty and struggle, I encourage you to talk to your children.  Let them give ideas and suggestions.  Encourage them to come up with ways to make other people smile while they’re hunkered down.  Embolden them to come up with an idea to help ease the stress in your own home.  Let them know you’re listening.  I guarantee you it will feel therapeutic for them to feel like they’re part of the bigger solution.

And they may just have the wisdom of Elihu.

~Erin

The Wisdom of Elihu

Cilantro Pandemic

As a professionally trained chef, I know it’s an unwritten rule to state that you hate a type of food or seasoning.

And yet, here I am.  I hate the taste of cilantro. There, I said it. True Confessions of a chef.  To me, cilantro tastes like soap.

Fun fact: The people who dislike cilantro for its soap-like taste have a genetic likeness.  It’s a variation of olfactory-receptor genes that allows us to detect aldehydes, which is a compound found both in cilantro and is also a by-product of soap.  We even have a name: “cilantrophoes” which are the people who taste soap when they eat cilantro.

Two groups of people associated with cilantro.  Those who like it and those who don’t.

In the last few weeks of apocalyptic behavior with the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m also seeing two “reaction” groups of people.

One group is the chaos group.  These are the “sky is falling” people. These are the people on social media who are flaming the fire of chaos and drama.  They’re the ones trying to profit off an unstable stock market and the ones running to the store to “stock up” on more than they could possibly need for two weeks. These are the fighting in the grocery store aisles on YouTube people. They are the ones blaming everyone for everything.

The second group is the hope-filled group.  These are the “glass is half full” type of people.  They are our realists, as well as our optimists.  They are the ones giving us hopeful memes and helpful tips for survival.  As far as leaders’ decisions they hold some accountable while praising those who are doing a good job. These are the visit nursing homes through a window or open the stores early for the elderly type of people.  They might have worries but they are prepared for the outcomes.

Either group can include Christians, but I believe Christ would want His followers to be the optimists and realists who are providing guidance and hope.  They recognize that God may provide differently than we are expecting, but that He will provide.  He will provide. Every time, all the time, always.

DNA dictates which cilantro group we fall into.  Our heart and relationship with the Father dictate which “reaction” group we belong to.

As we look at the next few weeks of pandemic uncertainty, search yourself about which group you’d like to be known for…the chaos group or the hope-filled group.

~Emily

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. ~James 1:17 (ESV)

cilantro