The Summer of Government Cheese

Have you ever been hungry with no means to get food?  

Have you ever been unable to purchase food for your kids?

I’d venture to guess it’s a hard place to be in, when you are concerned about how to feed yourself and your children.  It seems to me, that Luke 6:30 would be my favored verse if I were in such a situation.

“And He raised His eyes towards His disciples and began saying, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20 (NASB)

Please know that this verse isn’t entirely focused on the status of being poor in the physical sense…it speaks partially to those who are poor are often richer in spiritual matters.  Regardless of the commentary about the verse, it does speak to my heart when I remember what it was like to be in the status of poor.  

There were times in my childhood when my parents needed government assistance to feed our family.  I distinctly remember the packet of tear-out papers, which were food stamps. I remember my mom getting our school lunches at a lower rate.  And one summer, I know that cheese and peanuts arrived at our house, which were stamped “Government Cheese” and “Government Peanuts.”  In all fairness, there could have been other “Government Food,” but I only remember the cheese and nuts.

Why do I remember the government cheese so clearly? Because it was a ginormous block of Velveeta type of cheese, which didn’t melt well, nor would it slice thinly for a sandwich.  It was just a gooey mess….one that gave us much needed calories (even if they were completely processed and fake).  

The peanuts, on the other hand, were as perfect as God intended them. They were blanched, but unsalted.  We ate them plain, in yogurt, mixed with popcorn, in salads, in pasta…we even tried our hand at making homemade peanut butter. That summer of the ‘government cheese,’ I became an expert on making peanut brittle.  I made so much peanut brittle, that I got to a point I didn’t even consult the recipe card. 

In the midst of being poor and my parents receiving assistance, my pre-teen self didn’t even realize we were in dire straits.  

Why?

Perhaps because my parents partially hid it from us.  

Perhaps because it was part of our lives and I didn’t question it.  

Mostly because we were blessed.  Luke 6:20 assures us of that blessing, even in the midst of being poor.  God protected us physically and spiritually.  Even if we hadn’t eaten, we still were assured of our place in the Kingdom of Heaven.

God is good.  All the time.  Even with the government cheese. 

~Emily

Speeding Tickets of Life

Over the weekend, a police officer handed me a ticket for doing 80-mph in a 70-mph zone.  As I pulled away, tears started dripping down my face.  My son, who had been fascinated by the flashing blue lights and had waved with a smile to the 2nd officer that was standing near the back-seat window, was now concerned about my water works.

“Are you sad you got a ticket mama?”

When I answered no to being sad, he continued trying to guess the cause of my tears.  

My tears were ones of frustration. I had a lot on my plate.  I was exhausted, having already driven 9 of the 14.5 hours in order to get home.  It was starting to snow, causing me another level of worry about driving. My husband was another week behind coming home.  Baseball tryouts were being re-scheduled for Monday evening and new cleats/bats/gloves hadn’t been purchased yet.  Laundry and bills to be paid were waiting my arrival home.  

Now, I also had a speeding ticket.  

As I started to search vigilantly for a hotel to stop at, I began reflecting on what that speeding ticket meant.  It became symbolic.  I speed a lot.  If I’m honest and fair, I likely speed every day.  It’s easy for me to nudge up to the speed limit, as well as go over…even if it’s only one or two mph over. 

The kicker is that I don’t get caught every day.  I don’t catch myself, nor does law enforcement. Yet, I know I speed. I know I should try harder to stop speeding. I acknowledge that I deserve the accountability and discipline of a ticket nearly daily.

Sin is like that.  

We often commit sin without even acknowledging that it’s sinful behavior.  Perhaps, we exhibit a particular sinful behavior so frequently that we begin to lose the knowledge that it’s sin. We can go days, months, and even years without being held accountable for those behaviors.  Romans 3:23 states, “…for all of sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”  The longer we go without being called out on it, the easier it is to continue doing the behavior.  

Like speeding. 

This was the 1st speeding ticket I had gotten in the US since 1996; although I did get enough speeding tickets while stationed in Germany, that I actually had my US-European drivers licenses suspended for 30 days (it’s even easier to go super-fast in Germany).   

But this weekend’s speeding ticket was a reprimand for errant behavior.  It was also representative of all the other times I had broken the law by speeding…and hadn’t gotten caught.  

I deserved the ticket.  The tears weren’t ones of sadness that I had gotten caught; rather they were ones of frustration at the situation.

Take a moment this week to ask the Lord to reveal where there is repeated sin in your life so that you can repent before you end up with one of the speeding tickets of life.

~Emily

4th Grade Girlfriend Distractions

From the moment I fell in love with a top-heavy-head-two-year old, I knew that one day there would be a girl who would begin to consume his thoughts.  

I knew I wouldn’t be the main chick in his life forever.  

I watched in amusement how at age 3, he called both Erin and Peyton his girlfriend.

I acknowledged that he was growing up when he told our waitress she had pretty eyes when he was 6 years old.  

I even understood completely when he started giggling uncontrollably the first time he heard the word “boobs.”

But I was not expecting this “1000 shades of red” situation when you merely mention the name of a particular girl in his 4th grade class.   It seems too soon for him to be crushing so hard on this little girl, who gives him token gifts weekly, who he shares his bubble gum, who he emails in the evening, and who is forgiven when she kicks him in the shin.  

Who is this little girl who is stealing my son’s attention at age 10?!?!?!?!

I can’t even pretend to know how God feels about particular situations, but I would be willing to guess that God feels a similar questioning or exasperation when we start to pull away from Him…or when other things grab our attention more fully than our relationship with Him.   

Our work, worry about finances, our newest technology/gadgets, dating, planning parties, eating…the list goes on and on…all potential distractions from God. 

It’s dangerous to shift our focus from God to other things.  Not only do the distractions cause a separation between us and God, it also leads to more sinful behavior. For instance, the distraction of social media, could lead to unhealthy relationships that aren’t God honoring.  Likewise, removing focus from God can cause increased stress, fear, anger, and anxiety.  

Fear not, God gave us directions to avoid distractions!  In 1 Corinthians 7:25 (NASB), scripture says, “I say this for your own benefit, not to put a restraint on you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” 

Each morning while praying, I ask the Lord to deliver me from the distractions of the day.  It’s a conscious effort to focus on God, rather than the world.  It helps me set my sights on the Lord. But if I’m honest, that doesn’t “stick” most days. Despite a daily attempt, I often fall short and become distracted.  I know a God of grace and I just try again and again to be better.

It’s clear that the 4th grade crush is a distraction to my son, just as the clutter of the world can become a distraction to me concerning my relationship with God. 

Stay strong this week as you divert your attention away from the distractions of the world!

~Emily

Mismatched Socks

My sister-in-law works at a sock company and often supplies us with fun-loving, colorful foot coverings.  In the past we’ve gotten fish, kittens, avocados, sloths, mermaids, firemen, dragons and countless other ankle or knee-high socks.  

My son has taken to wearing mismatched, knee-high socks.  He doesn’t care if he’s wearing shorts or pants and he certainly doesn’t care if the socks match. 

I want to believe that he’s making a statement of individual thinking.  However, I think his mismatched sock fashion is a result of his not wanting to match the socks out of the dryer.  

Sometimes our thoughts are like mismatched socks.  We try our best to think one way, but there’s another version of the thoughts right there.  Scripture in Matthew 14:29 (NASB) reminds us that Peter’s thoughts were on Jesus and the faith to walk on water.  Jesus called him, and Peter was able to get out of the boat and walk towards Jesus on top of the water.  

Moments later, another thought enters Peter’s mind.  A mismatched thought; if you will.  He begins to doubt himself and subsequently begins to sink into the water.  Jesus saves him but chastises him for being of little faith.  

How often are mismatched thoughts entering your own mind?  

I’d like to help that single mother; contrasted with: I don’t have enough money to assist her.  

I want to spend more time studying the Bible; contrasted with: I have to pick up kids/make dinner/clean the house.  

I have an opportunity to present the Gospel to an unbeliever; contrasted with: I’m too scared that I’ll be rejected.  

Like my son’s mismatched socks, our thoughts are often in contrast with other thoughts.  This week, I’m praying that you have the wisdom and the strength to determine which thoughts you want to follow.  

~Emily

“And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” ~Matthew 14:29 (NASB)

First Day of School Jitters

As we walked out the door for my son’s first day of 4th grade, he begged me to let him stay and homeschool this year.  When I asked why he didn’t want to go to school, he started to tear up. He said, “What if kids are mean to me?  What if they call me fat?”

This was the first alarming statement from my 9-year-old that he was concerned about his weight. We agreed to discuss options that evening, to include school and how we could assist with his weight perspectives.  But before the morning drop-off line, we prayed together.  My son put these worries at the feet of Jesus and trusted that God would provide a path for nice children.

That evening he reported that it was the “best 1st day of school so far!”  Furthermore, he said no one was mean to him.  No one called him fat. He was worried for nothing.

Isn’t this a similar situation to how we converse with God?

“Please God, let me do x-y-z” which typically is a plea for something that I think will be better than a current situation.  Just like my son begging to homeschool.   I have concerns and worries.  Just like my son, thinking kids would be mean. I express myself to God but it’s as though He says, “let’s discuss it later tonight.”  Just like my son hearing we chat about options after school.

Our God is so good to each of us and He has our best interest at heart.  Countless times I’ve heard that He will provide above our wildest dreams…and He usually does. God creates space where we end up having the “best 1st day of school” despite our worrying and concerns.

When we ask for God’s provision, we see His work in our lives more clearly. In Luke 12:31 (NASB) it says, “But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

This verse offers guidance on seeking God and His Kingdom, so that blessings may be granted over your life.  When we pray to God in the midst of worry, “these things will be added to you.”

Kambell prayed for nice kids and a great school day.  He received the best 1st day of school.  His first day of school jitters turned into a praise report.

This week, I pray that those on the Iron Porch can turn their concerns into praise reports!  Let us know how we can help pray for you!

~Emily

1st day

The Balance In Children’s Salvation

It has been a week since my son came up to me after watering the garden and said, “I’m ready, mama.”

“Ready for what, buddy?” I asked.

To which he said, “Ready to pray the prayer for Jesus.  Will you help me?”

Let me take a moment to convey the magnitude of that moment.  I literally felt my heart start racing and felt the tears welling up in my eyes.  I wanted to jump up and down inappropriately shouting “Smell My Victory!!!!”  (Although it probably would have been way more appropriate to start singing a gospel song or shouting scripture.)

Since his 2-year-old-self came into my life, I’ve been praying for the moment he would accept Christ as his Savior.  Just before Christmas last year, he started asking questions about salvation and asking Jesus to live in his heart.  Every time I’ve had a conversation with him regarding his questions, I’ve asked if he’d like to take the step to pray for forgiveness and in acknowledgment of this eternal gift of salvation.  Every time, he’s told me he wants to pray, but he was “too nervous” or “not ready.”

And let me tell you something ladies…every single time, my heart stopped. It broke. It took everything in me to casually say, “When you’re ready, buddy, I’ll be here for you.” In reality, I was choking back tears and reigning in the desire to ‘push-push-push’ for salvation.

I have found that the last eight months have been a challenge in patience.  It’s been a delicate balance between telling him the truth (to include urgency in making a declaration for Christ) and trying to create space for him to make this decision fully on his own (not in an effort to please his parents).

Since his decision to accept Christ, I’ve shared my eight-month struggle with a few Moms that have kids about the same age. Repeatedly, I heard the same story of trying to find a balance between encouraging a decision versus pushing for one. Apparently, we’re all trying to teach our children about Christ, but afraid we’ll push them prematurely into a false decision.

Yet no one is talking about it out loud.

I certainly wasn’t.  I thought I was alone with this burden.  I just walked through it and asked God repeatedly to not let me become a stumbling block to my child’s salvation.

So this week, I’d like to encourage all the Mamas, Mommies, Moms, Step-Moms, Grandmas, Mi-Mis, Nanas, Me Maws, Aunties, God-Mothers, Friends…Any woman who is praying for the salvation of a child.  I want you to know you are not praying alone.  You are not alone in walking the balance of push and pull.  You. Are. Not. Alone.

There are several of us on the Iron Porch who are or have recently been walking that balance with you.  And I will be praying for you to have peace on your hearts that your job is to sow the seed…then watch God with the harvest, so that your heart may leap for joy.

Those simple words, “I’m ready mama” brought such happiness to my heart.  While my son made that declaration on our back porch through praying out loud with me, his Dad and Erin, I know all of heaven was rejoicing with us too!

Your turn is coming soon…be patient!

~Emily

Salvation-Kids

 

 

 

 

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

The Favorite Child

Anyone who’s had a child or been a child has most likely heard or used the phrase, “They’re your favorite!” once or twice in their lives.  It happened in my house since I was a child; I would constantly tell my mom that I thought my little brother, Jon, was her favorite.

My children carry on this tradition today.  Just recently, there was back and forth antics on Facebook over who was my favorite with even McKenna’s best friend, Nevada, getting in the mix saying she was sure that SHE was the one that was the favorite! There’s no winning no matter what you say!

The truth is, I love all of my children equally and yet differently.  I love McKenna’s perseverance.  I love Peyton’s tenacity.  I love Rylan’s independence.  They’re each unique in their situations and each has had their own trials and tribulations.  I have to mold the love I have for them in ways that speak specifically to their hearts.  The way for McKenna is different than the way for Peyton.

God also loves us in this unique way.  We are each His children.  He doesn’t love one more than the other.  But just like our children have their own little nuances, God’s children need different kinds of ways sometimes to see God’s love for them.  I believe He recognizes this in His children shows us His love in individual ways that we can feel and see that are known to us.  It’s beautiful, really, that He loves us equally but differently.

This Mother’s Day, celebrate the uniqueness that is you to your mother and the specialness that is your child to you!  Happy Mother’s Day to every favorite mom out there from your favorite children!

Love,

Erin

P.S.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, from your TRUE favorite child!

Dinosaurs & Dragons

The COVID-19 precaution that has caused school work to shift to home has increased the number of questions from a third grader that this mama needs help with.  I’ve had to do research on polygons versus quadrilaterals, as well as the differences between handwriting practice and daily writing prompts. Questions have included astrology, science, animal behavior, and computer technology.

This week’s questions:

If archeologists can find dinosaur bones to put on display in museums, then where are the dinosaurs and dragons in the Bible?  Were dinosaurs real?  Were dragons?

After a silent prayer that included a plea for guidance, I told my son we would do some research on that topic.  Guess what? There’s a ton of information regarding the thought process behind dinosaurs being mentioned in the Bible.

Most Christians acknowledge that there were dinosaurs at some point in the world, as a result of those archeological digs that produce museum displays.  However, most fall into two schools of thought regarding the timing of dinosaurs.  Young Earth Creationists believe that the world was created by God, as illustrated in Genesis, approximately 6,000-10,000 years ago.  This they believe that dinosaurs likely co-existed with humans and may have even been included on Noah’s Ark. The other group, Old Earth Creationists, believes many theories, but most acknowledge that earth’s creation is much older.  They tend to believe that dinosaurs were extinct well before the creation of humans.

But back to the 3rd grader question…where are they in the Bible?

Nowhere does it say “dinosaur,” “T-rex,” or “brontosaurs” in the Bible.  However, there are 28 times in the Old Testament that the Hebrew word tanniyn is used to describe an unknown animal creature that is close to a reptile.  English translations of tanniyn use the word dragon, sea-creature/sea-monster, or whale, as the term is used for water and land monsters.  Some would argue that the dragons, leviathans, behemoths, and birds with four legs are all “honorable mentions” of dinosaurs in the Bible.

Dragons:

In Ezekiel 29:3 (ESV), we see scripture specifically refer to dragons.

“…speak and say, Thus says the Lord God; ‘Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lies in the midst of his streams, that says, My Nile is my own; I made it for myself.”

In Job 41:1-34, we see scripture describe a serpent-like fire breathing creature, like a dragon.

“His sneezing flash forth light…out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth. Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke…His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth.”

In Job 7:12 (NLT), we see scripture refer to a dragon or monster of the sea.

“Am I a sea monster or dragon that you must place me under guard?”

Leviathans:

In Psalm 74:13-14 (ESV), we see scripture specifically referring to the leviathan, which is typically understood to be a water monster similar to a dragon.

“You divided the sea by your might: you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan: you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.”

In Psalm 104:26 (ESV), we see scripture specifically referring to leviathans.

“There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.”

Leviathans & Dragons:

In Isaiah 27:1 (ESV), we see scripture refer to a leviathan, as a ginormous sea dragon.

“In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.”

Behemoths:

In the book of Job, we also see scripture refer to a mighty beast as a Behemoth, which some argue was a vegetarian eating giant creature, such as stegosaurus.

“Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox. Behold, his strength in his loins, and his power in the muscles of his belly. He makes his tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are knit together. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like bars of iron.

“He is the first of the works of God; let him who made him bring near his sword! For the mountains yield food for him where all the wild beasts play. Under the lotus plants, he lies, in the shelter of the reeds and in the marsh. For his shade the lotus trees cover him; the willows of the brook surround him. Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened; he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth. Can one take him by his eyes, or pierce his nose with a snare?” Job 40:15–24 (ESV).

Birds with Four Legs:

In Leviticus 11:20-21 (KJV), we see scripture describe a bird with four legs, which some have argued could be flying reptiles, such as pterosaurs.

“All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you. Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth.”

If a 9-year-old is asking about the dinosaurs and dragons of the Bible, why haven’t I ever thought to look at it?  After this week of digging into the verses, I recognize that many of the scriptures identify creatures that aren’t familiar to us in today’s age.  I also acknowledge that there are Biblical scholars who have differing points of view on this subject.

More than that, I love that my son and I were able to dig into the Bible and come up with answers to his questions about dinosaurs and dragons.

~Emily

Dinosaurs & Dragons-3 copy

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.