Dog Days

Last week I had a big scare with our dog, Ruger.  Ruger is a sweet 8 year old lab who Chris has had since he was a pup.  I was home alone with him when he started acting funny.  He was opening up his mouth and leaning toward the sky like he was trying to grab something.  When he would look down, his jaw was tremoring, and then he would dig his nose into the floor for 15-20 seconds at a time.  I truly thought this loveable lug was having a stroke.  I shot off a couple of quick videos to Chris at work and then called him, begging him to watch them right away and tell me if I needed to get him to the vet ASAP.

After 2 minutes or so, Chris called back.  “He’s acting like he’s get something stuck in his nose?  Does he have something in there?”  To which I dutifully picked this dog’s nose like a newborn with a raisin up his nostril (THAT happened the week before).  Nothing.  Chris said, “Then check his throat.  I think he’s got something stuck somewhere!”  Ruger let me gently open his mouth.  In the very back, stuck between his farthest molars was the cap of a marker that he had chewed and managed to wedge in there!

That dumb dog, despite the fact he’s been trained as a duck dog and knows not to chew things, decided to enjoy an awesome plastic snack that ended up causing him pain and discomfort.  I was so grateful I called Chris and asked what he thought.  After I pulled it out, I started crying because I had truly thought that the dog was going to die on my watch!  I was glad he was ok.

As I sit and write this blog and share the story, I can think of so many biblical applications oddly enough that resonate with me and hit me in the eyes.

How about the fact that my husband knew what to look for?  He has taken the time to get to know his dog and how he acts.  He knows what a dog looks like stressed.  He took years of experience with dogs and was prepared for odd circumstances like this one.  Am I that prepared for the sneak attacks of Satan?

We should be vigilant because the Bible tells us to be!  It clearly tells us that satan isn’t just letting us be.  He roams around seeking those to devour (I Peter 5:8).  Have we trained ourselves to be ready for whatever affliction comes our way?  And the best way for us to be prepared is to fully surrender to God, be in constant prayer with Him and use our Sword–the Bible–daily!  When we have trained ourselves well, when things come up unexpectedly, we will be equipped with the proper outlook to help us.

How about that silly dog knowing he’s not supposed to be chewing things like that and yet he did it anyway?  Do I hide from sin that stupidly?!  Do I know what I am commanded to do biblically and still slink away trying to hide what I’m about to do as if God doesn’t see it or doesn’t know about it?!

I’m guilty of this more times than I can count!  I wish that I was constantly in God’s Word as much as I should be.  I wish I didn’t lose my temper and say mean or hurtful things.  I wish that my past didn’t include drunken nights and sexual immorality.  But I’ve done exactly as Ruger has done.  It looked fun.  It looked inviting.  So I took part.  Then shame takes over as I hide my behavior, knowing that what I’ve done is pure and simply sin.  The reminder of the disobedience, however, is never far away and then like a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar, or a dog caught with a marker top stuck between his teeth, our sin has found us out and God is waiting for repentance!

My prayer, Iron Porch, is twofold.  First, I pray that we are vigilant and aware of our surroundings, building up our faith with active prayer, Bible reading and worship so that we may know when we have a problem.  Second, I pray that we don’t hide in our sin.  I pray that we are so steadfast in our relationship with God that we actively pursue a sinless nature.  And when we DO sin, I pray that we are immediate in our repentance and turning away from the sin.  God is quick to forgive when we come to Him with a broken and repentant heart.

~Erin

Our Buddy, Ruger!

Just Call Me Mrs. Lead-Foot

Last week I got to chat with a Colorado police officer after seeing his swirling blue lights in my rear-view mirror.  He clocked me going 50mph in a 35.  The worst part? I could see the 65mph sign just a little further down the road.  

I could blame the rental car company because they set ‘set me up’ with a 2022 cherry red Ford Mustang.  I could blame this little Colorado town because it felt like a speed trap.  I could even blame the police department, since it was the end of the month and I’m wondering if quotas were being made.  

The reality was I was in the wrong. I was speeding.  It was me. Not the car and certainly not the rental agency, the speed trap, or a potential quota.

It’s easy to blame someone else when we’re in the wrong with a traffic infraction.  The same is true with sin.  We can justify sinful behavior in ourselves, when in reality we’re really in the wrong.  

In the speeding ticket scenario, I was wrong…and likely I deserve way more speeding tickets than I actually receive.  Why? Because I’m not caught by a cop every time I speed.  

Yet, God sees every sin.  Every day.  And the reality is that we are essentially “caught” each time. 

Isaiah 1:1-8 tells us about how God sees the persistence of sinful people rebelling against Him.  The Bible also discusses how God acknowledges that we are a broken people who may be generally good at heart, but must be rejected because of our sinful nature.  Several chapters to the right we find that the New Testament offers us salvation through Christ on the cross.  Our sinful nature should get us immediately rejected.  Instead it is forgiven when we accept Jesus as our Savior.  

Sin is sin to our Father.  But sin is forgiven by the act of Christ’s crucifixion and our acceptance of that gift.  

While we deserve the flashing lights and issued ticket for each and every one of our sins, God has provided a path towards salvation through grace to cover each of those infractions. 

~Emily

I Remember…

On 25 June 1996, I was an Airman First Class stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. I’d been in the Air Force for two years, but had not yet been tagged to go on a deployment.  I sat in the lounge at the hospital and watched news reports about a horrible terrorist incident in Saudi Arabia, where Airmen in a dorm area known as Khobar Towers had been directly targeted.  It wasn’t easy for my 20-year-old, fairly sheltered, self to reconcile that these were my brothers and sisters who had been killed or injured. 

We lost 19 Airmen that night; 17 were enlisted.  Hundreds, and I mean hundreds, were injured.  Over 500 purple hearts were awarded for that night alone. This event changed lives.  For forever. 

Fast forward 26 years to 2022. This last week, the museum where I work, was able to host over 200 guests who were members at the Khobar Towers, family members of those hurt and those killed, as well as currently serving members representing the KIA units.  It was the first time in Air Force history that we specifically honored those who had survived the events of that horrific night.  

The courage of the survivors is also covered with mourning.  Mourning of the loss of dreams, opportunities, and loved ones.  In Matthew 5:4, Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn.” It’s appropriate to call on this scripture when our hearts hurt from loss.  

It’s also appropriate for us to recognize that Jesus was talking about mourning over our sinful nature; not just loss.  In response to understanding our brokenness, we may be sad.  But it allows us to see our desperate need for God and that if our sin is not addressed, it keeps us from Him.  The separation from God, due to sin, is worthy of mourning.  

The true good news is that God has provided a way to maneuver through the mourning of sin towards Him.  It is belief that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and that by accepting that free gift, we can have the offered grace and forgiveness of our sins. The way to happiness is often through sadness.  The road to rejoicing is often through mourning.  When you come to the cross, you full comprehend just how happiness and mourning can co-exist.  

Each year the anniversary of Khobar Towers is hard for hundreds of families, friends, and survivors.  As I keep in mind their hearts, I am grateful for Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:4.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

I remember them…and pray they have comfort.

~Emily

Mowing Time

Recently our family added one of those manual push mowers that are reminiscent of the 1950s.  My husband wanted it to mow the steep bank near the road. I wanted it to mow without an engine near the beehives.  While I calmly pushed the mower back and forth in straight lines by the hives, I watched the bees flitter to and fro. 

While doing a seemingly menial task, I had several moments to mentally review a scripture that my small group has been memorizing as a group this last month. 

Philippians 2:14-15 (NASB) “Do all things without complaining or arguments; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generations, among who you appear as lights of the world.”

I recited it a couple times, but I kept getting distracted by the rolls of sweat that were coming off my face and straight into my eyes.  I blinked several times and then started reviewing the scripture again.  Only to have it happen several more times.  

Finally, I stopped mowing, took off the bee suit hat and face shield, removed my glasses and started wiping my face off.  Put my glasses back on and they instantly fogged up.  Put the bees hat/face shield back on.  Sweaty hair stuck to my forehead and glasses.  Take hood off, fix hair, glasses smudged…and then…sweat rolls into my eyes.  

Insert frustration, some real tears, and a few choice words.

And then a bubble of laughter came out of my mouth.  There I was half in a bee suit in 100-degree heat of Alabama, with a 1950s-ish mower, and sweat stinging my eyeballs, when the first part of my memory verse came to mind.  “Do all things without complaining or arguments…”  

While the verse is specifically addressing the previous admonitions that Paul had mentioned in the Philippians letter, it sure did feel like it applied directly to me in that moment.  All the murmurings…all the discontentment…all the complaining in that moment were not useful. They weren’t assisting me with completing the task, nor were they going to exemplify Christ in that moment.  

I’m so grateful for the corrections that God’s holy word provides us; the conviction from the Holy Spirit for us to change course.  

It got me to reassess my own attitude in the moment of “lawn mowing time” with some heat, humidity, sweat and tears all mixed together.  

For each of us, I pray this next week will be one without complaining or argument.

~Emily

Prayer for the Hurting

I was just listening to the radio and they were speaking of the innocent children that were killed in Texas.  It’s just devastating.  I can’t even pretend to put myself in the shoes of those parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or community members to understand what they are going through. 

My first thought, if I’m being completely transparent, was to be grateful it didn’t happen at the school here, and the second thought was that I was glad all of my children have graduated.  Those thoughts don’t make me a bad person or a bad Christian.  They make me human.  However, in that moment directly following, I realized those thoughts hurt God’s heart and are sinful because they go directly against what the bible tells us to do.

Romans 15:1 says, “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.

And Psalm 143:8 tells us, “Let me hear Your lovingkindess in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.

Both verses speak directly against what I thought.  My thoughts were built around fear and mistrust.  They were rooted in self and not rooted in Christ.  As believers, we are called to bear the weaknesses of those without strength.  I bet those family members, those friends, that community are without strength.  Suffering a senseless loss brings unimaginable pain, and during this time Christians are called to lift them up.

Perhaps it means to write a letter or send a card to them.  Maybe you’ve gone through something like this and can relate to them on a more personal level that can help.  It could possibly mean writing your representative or senator.  And it could mean that we just pray.  Pray hard.  Pray faithfully.  Pray fervently.

The second thought speaks directly to mistrust towards God.  I long for my children to always be safe, but the truth is, my children are His.  He knows the hairs on their heads and the last breaths they will take.  I must lay aside the fear and trust that God will see them through, no matter the outcome.  They’re safe from school now that they’ve graduated but it doesn’t mean that the same thing won’t happen in a local grocery store or outside a gas station.  I must trust Him in all things.  I will never be able to completely protect my children, but our God will protect them whether it’s this side of heaven or the other.

Please be praying for the victims’ families as they grieve.  Lift them up to the Lord and do it often.  My desire is that they will be so covered in prayer by believers all over this world that there will be a tangible feeling of God’s love surrounding them.

~Erin

Financial Management Lessons

There’s an elderly couple who each have new vehicles plus new recreational vehicles.  Awesome for them.  I hope I’m financially savvy enough & hip-to-the-jive in my 70s or 80s to want a new car.  

The problem is that they are financing all of the items.  After monthly minimums are paid, they have very little left over and often can’t pay to heat or cool the house.  Sometimes is challenging to even purchase food to fill their bellies.   The local church and neighbors help extensively with small chores and tasks, as well as filling gas tanks and getting groceries.  

This is a beautiful example of generosity and of the kindness of others to care for this elderly couple.  It’s “do unto others…” and “love your neighbor…” in practice.  

There is also a reminder in this scenario about financial management. Jesus spoke frequently about how we should manage our money.  Who knew that the New Testament is filled with financial management lessons!?!?!?!?

1. Finances Are a Test of Our Trustworthiness

Most of us hate the idea that we’re being tested daily based on our thoughts, words, and actions.  But our finances can be boiled down to yet another test.  In Luke 16:11, we see that if we can’t be trusted with our worldly wealth, then it’s difficult to believe we can be trusted with Christ’s true riches.

So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? ~Luke 16:11 (NIV)

In visiting scripture concerning the Parable of the Talents, we are able to see the test of finances, as Jesus described them.  The parable tells of a supervisor who trusts finances with three different employees…essentially to see how they will react to the management of money.  Each employee was given a different amount of money: five talents, three talents, one talent.  The man with the most success ended up doubling his money, while the man with the least, buried his thinking saving was good enough.  The manager took the one talent back and gave it to the man who was able to make money with wise investments.  

The test was to see how they managed the money.  God will also test us in order to gauge what else we can be trusted with; perhaps once tested we’ll be trusted with ministry positions, adoptions, Gospel sharing or countless other things.

2. Financial Management Must Include Making a Budget

It may come a surprise that Jesus gave us instructions about creating a budget…and staying with it.  In Luke chapter 14, we see the example of budgeting with estimates of final costs when investing in a new building.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ ~Luke 14:28-30 (NIV).

God does not want his children to be in a scenario where we can’t finish what we’ve started due to poor planning.  We must be financially responsible to plan our purchases, our investments, and our long-term projects.  

You could argue that the design and execution of a budget is an extension of the test regarding our finances.  If we are able to budget, as well as manage money, we should be trustworthy enough to manage God’s true wealth.

You can purchase new vehicles, go on fabulous vacations, purchase wonderful gifts, and have nice items in your life.  However, those items need to be within your individual budget and managed appropriately.  

~Emily

11 Pills

There’s this moment where you feel as if you’re the only one that has ever gone through this.  And that moment lasts for days, weeks, maybe months.  No one ever talks about it.  Maybe because you feel it’s not your story to tell.  Maybe because you feel embarrassed.  Maybe because you’re afraid you’ll be judged. But those thoughts couldn’t be further from the truth.  So here I am, ready to break this stigma wide open, because it needs to be done.  Particularly in the Christian community.  And I share it with the full support of Peyton.

On March 6th of this year, my sweet Peyton tried to kill herself.  Even writing it now makes me cry.  I never thought I’d be the parent who wrote those words.  But my daughter was so overwhelmed that she felt like the best option was to go to sleep and never wake up.  So she filled her small hand with pills, downed them with a glass of water and laid down. 

She has absolutely zero recollection of waking up about an hour later.  She has no memory of trying to go to the bathroom and talking to us…or attempting to.  She doesn’t recall the next hour of her dad and I trying to talk to her, putting her in the shower to see if she would be coherent, and us searching her room for the alcohol or drugs we were sure we would find.  

We thought she was drunk or high.  She’d sleep it off.  While I was going through her phone to see how she’d gotten the stuff, I made the single biggest mistake I think I’ll ever make in my life.  I opened her phone’s internet browser and I saw her search history, “How much amitriptyline do I take to overdose.”  And I thought, “WHAT A RANDOM THING TO LOOK UP.  NOT MY KID.” If it had been a neon sign, it would’ve blinded me and I still don’t think I would’ve acknowledged it.  Instead, I just kept looking for where she got the alcohol or drugs.

She laid in the living room on the couch asleep while I laid down on the love seat beside her, checking her throughout the night.

When she woke up the next morning, she was completely disoriented and didn’t understand why she was in the living room.  I looked at her and asked if she felt ok.  She said yes and just sat there for a moment before she looked up at me with tears in her eyes.

“Can I tell you something without you getting mad?” 

I said, “Tell me.”

“I tried to kill myself last night.” And she started to cry.

What we had witnessed was my daughter’s body reacting to an overdose.  Miraculously, despite my willful ignorance to her Google search, she survived.

When you’re going through a tremendously painful time like an attempted suicide, you’re not really sure who to call or talk to.  Which one of your friends will understand?  Who is going to judge you or your kid?  Who’s going to pray, and not just pray in passing but pray the host of heaven down on your child to heal her physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?  Who’s going to treat your child differently?  Who’s going to treat YOU differently?

There’s such a stigma attached to mental health and it can feel embarrassing.  But as Chris and I walked through the next 6 days of a trip to the ER followed by some inpatient time for Peyton on an adolescent psychiatric unit, we found out we weren’t the only ones.  We knew a surprising number of people who did or were going through the exact thing we were. 

It’s been two months since her attempt, and it’s been a process to work through healing for her as well as for us.  We find that the more candid we are with Peyton about what happened and what her feelings are currently, the more she feels ok to open up when she struggles.  We can’t put her in a protective bubble (which, believe me, I’d love to do) but we can ensure that we’re walking WITH her during this.  She now knows that she’s not alone in this fight because her entire family is here to fight with her.  In turn, this has allowed her to be very open about her mental health and attempted suicide with others.  She wants to know that her miraculous gift of failure in that attempt will help someone reach out before their attempt is a permanent consequence.

My walk with God is even more important than just walking with Peyton.  As a Christian mother, I know that God is bigger than trauma, than hurts, than depression.  He is bigger than the lies the devil tells her. 

These two verses are ones that I’ve held strong to since March.

“When you pass through the waters I will be with you;

And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,

Nor will the flame burn you.” –Isaiah 43:2

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33

I know that God is with us.  He sees her and He loves her.  And though there is a fight going on in her head and in her heart, He has not left her to fight this alone.  In fact, He wishes to fight on her behalf.  He wants to fight on my behalf.  I praise God that even though the world is often too invested in ‘self,’ He is invested in US.

If you are struggling with this in your home, please, I beg you, know that you are not alone.  Not only do you have a Heavenly Father who is 100% for you, you have friends here at the Iron Porch who understand and have walked in this valley, as well.  There is no judgment here.  There is no stigma here.  There is the love of a Savior and friends who stand with you.

~Erin

**If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.** 

Sweet Home Alabama

Last week I spent several days with my Mom going through my Dad’s belongings after he died.  After a few days of sorting items and helping Mom with paperwork that follows a death, I realized I really wanted to go home.  I love my Mom and I love hanging out with her.  But I wanted to be home.  Home to my husband, my child, & my pup.  It’s taken seven years, but at some point over those years Alabama became home.

I’ve been thinking about home in relationship to our walk with God.  I’ve heard sermons that reference the statement “this is our earthly home, but heaven is our eternal home.” I’d venture to guess most of us think of heaven as our true home.  It got me thinking about if there are other aspects of being a Christian where we feel that we are at home.

There are times that I feel great peace with the Lord when I’m praying, singing worship music, or journaling.  Other times, I feel that connection to the Lord while admiring nature or fellowshipping with other believers.  I even feel the love of the Lord while I study His Word.  

In Hebrews 3:4 (NASB) we read, “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” 

God, the builder of all things, has made us a home.  In John 14, Jesus told us that he will go before us and prepare a room in the mansion of his Father’s house.  I can’t wait to see that mansion.  I can’t wait to see the room for me that was prepared by Jesus himself. I can’t wait to be home.  

Here’s the reality.  I can feel peace, connection, or love during aspects of my Christian walk but I’m not truly home until I reach heaven.  Heaven.  Our true home.  

Even if Sweet Home Alabama is the temporary one.

~Emily

Care for the Widows

Losing a parent is a roller coaster of emotions.  

My Dad died on Saturday morning and I felt like it was a chaotic series of ups and downs.  Joy that he was finally pain free.  Sadness for the loss.  Relief that my Mom doesn’t have to be the primary caretaker anymore.  Anxiety over all the paperwork.  Annoyance that the screen door was broken by the Funeral Home employees.  Amusement that the 1st visitor from my parents’ church brought lemon muffins and toilet paper.  

I’m not worried about my Dad. He’s home with Jesus. Not a darn thing for me to worry about there. 

But I am concerned about my Mom.  She’s got plans to create a craft room and start going to water aerobics.  She wants to shampoo the carpets and purchase a new couch.  From a grieving perspective, she’s got a healthy thought process about staying in the house for at least a year before she makes big life-changing plans.  She’s going to keep herself busy…and she’s going to get some rest.

I’m most concerned about when the sun sets.  When she has to go to bed alone after having slept in the same bed with her husband for 52 years.  I’m concerned about her finances as she waits for Social Security to transfer over.  I’m concerned about when she has to go to the funeral home alone to pick up paperwork.  I’m concerned about her safety, her sanity, her well-being.  

How can I be so assured about where my Dad is, but be so concerned about my Mom’s well-being?  It’s a sliding graph of hypocrisy to trust God with my Dad’s eternity, but question my Mom’s earthly care as a widow.  

Scripture has helped these last few days with answering those questions.  

“A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation.  God makes a home for the lonely…” ~Psalm 68:5-6

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” ~James 1:27 

“Learn to do good;  Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.” ~Isaiah 1:17

When I turn to scripture, I’m comforted and know that God will take care of my Mom better than I ever could.  God has already put in place a plan for us, as believers, to care for the widows and the orphans.  From across the country, I will rest assured her church family will care for her when I geographically can’t.  

Losing a parent is such a hard rollercoaster, but so is caring for the parent left behind.  

I’m requesting prayers this week for all the widows of the world, but most especially for those who are newly titled “widow.”

~Emily

Puppy Dog Eyes

Our pup, Winnie, is a 5-month-old cutie pie!  She’s a little chocolate lab that’s so full of energy and mischief.  The one thing Chris doesn’t allow our older lab, Ruger, to do is get on the furniture.  But do you know how hard it is to keep a puppy off a couch?!

About 4 weeks ago, Winnie learned how to jump on the bed.  It’s a high jump, so we were really surprised!  Chris walked into the room, stopped in shock and told me to come take a look.  He sternly looked at her and said, “Winnie, you know you’re not allowed on the bed.  Get down!”

Do you know how hard it is to ignore a puppy gaze?!  That little dog looked up through her tiny eyelashes with the sweetest puppy-dog stare, and Chris completely caved.  That dog is sleeping on our bed now, and I have absolutely no room because Winnie doesn’t understand personal space!

I wonder how often we try to give God those same innocent puppy-dog eyes when we’re doing something that we know is a sin and/or out of the will of God.  We view it a “small” sin.  Perhaps we believe that as long as that thing we’re doing isn’t hurting anyone else, it isn’t a big deal.  Maybe we justify it because we know, at the end of the day, God is a loving God and “He understands.”

Is that really, though, what the Bible says? I don’t think so.

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” –James 4:17

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” –Romans 3:23

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” –1 John 1:8

God does not fall for the puppy-dog eyes the way we do.  He isn’t happy when we give Him the little stare that says, “I’m know I’m wrong, but You love me anyway so I can get away with it, right?!”

The truth is, God DOES love us no matter what.  But He hates sin.  There is no middle ground when it comes to sin.  Disobedience is exactly that…disobedience.

Praise God that we have a forgiving God.  Rather than coming with the mentality of Him looking the other way or ignoring it, our posture should be one of repentance and prayer, asking for forgiveness.  This will keep that sin from festering and instead, make us whole again in our relationship with our Savior.

He promises us in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

We thank you, Lord, for your unfailing love and grace.

~Erin

Peyton and Winnie