Childhood Nostalgia

Recently, my Mom and I were reminiscing about the chaos and joy surrounding the arrival of the Sunday Paper in our living room when I was younger.  Everyone pulled their favorite section and as a family, we poured over the paper for a couple hours. Before he could read, I remember reading the comics to my brother and later we would fight over who got them first.

This small conversation with my Mom had me recalling other aspects of my childhood that I remember fondly.  For instance, if the summer temperature in Oregon went over 100, we had ice cream and fruit for dinner.  I remember walking to the comic book store with my Brother so he could spend his allowance…and on the way, there was one particular ‘barkless’ dog that we would play with through the fence.  I remember going crawdad hunting with chunks of hot dogs tied to a string.  I also remember my parents dancing in the kitchen.

These are each endearing memories of my childhood.  Each remind me of how family can be structured in moments of happiness.  

I recognize that not everyone had such pleasant childhood memories or parents who were so involved in the children’s lives.  I also recognize that I’m remembering great memories and often gloss over the not so amazing memories.  It was not all sunshine and butterflies for me.  And I know it wasn’t for others either.  

However, the not so nice memories are cloaked in the comfort of scripture.  

A scripture that I often lean on when thinking about family is from Ephesians 3:15 (NASB), which reads “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”

When reading this verse, it’s important to know that the word ‘family’ is closely transplanted in the original language as ‘father.’ In both the Old Testament tradition, as well as our current society, it’s easy to think this verse is referencing families taking the name of the Patriarch’s family.  This is still seen now, as brides take their husband’s last name.  

In reality, the verse is much deeper.  It refers to ‘every family,’ as in ‘all believers’ in Christ.  All of us…as one big family.  Furthermore, we all derive our names from that belonging to Jesus when we adopt the name ‘Christian,’ as derived from the name ‘Christ.’ 

This is a family of hope and love. Can you imagine how that family will interact?  How much greater Heaven will be than pursuing the comics out of the Sunday paper?!?!? There’s no need for nostalgia with a future like that!

No matter what our childhood’s looked like, our future is one of hope through Christ. 

~Emily

Naughty Words & a Kindergarten Class

When my son was 5-years old, a classmate convinced him to say a bad word while in class.  Then the other child tattled to the teacher that Kambell had used a swear word.  

It’s been quite a while since I thought about that incident, but during a speech this last week I used it as an example of learning the leadership principles of trustworthiness, conviction, and discernment.

In the bad word example, Kambell trusted the other child.  He learned about trustworthiness from the perspective of “not” trusting the child that is coercing you into saying naughty words.    He learned that trust is earned over a long time, but is broken in seconds.  

From scripture we learn that trust is mutual and when trust is violated it can cause disappointment.  For instance, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked the disciples to stay awake and pray with Him while He went alone to pray to God.  When He returned, they had fallen asleep.  He expressed disappointment in their sleeping in Matthew 26:40 (NASB), “And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” 

My sweet little kindergarten student also learned a leadership lesson about conviction.  Conviction is something inside of us that allows us to know what is right and wrong.  In the swear word instant, Kambell knew it was wrong to say the bad word; yet he did it anyways.  Immediately after saying the swear word, he felt awful.  That is also part of conviction.  As a leader, we want to tune into ourselves when we feel conviction.  It allows us to be better at leadership.  

Within scripture we see conviction working through the Holy Spirit.  This is the guidance that also allows us to know right from wrong…but just as importantly it’s the correction in our hearts when we are doing something inappropriately.  It’s the rudder that steers us away from sinful behavior.  It’s also the gauge by which we will be judged by God for our sinful and righteous behavior.  In John 16:8 (NASB) scripture tells us, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world regarding sin, and righteousness, and judgement. 

Finally, Kambell learned about discernment.  Not his; nor the other child’s discernment.  Rather he learned about discernment through the teacher’s interactions.  From a leadership perspective, discernment is the ability to look at a scenario and react to the situation.  In the naughty word scenario, the teacher had to discern who said what and why.  

From a Christian perspective, discernment is one of the spiritual gifts.  Like conviction, it allows us to know right from wrong.  More than that, it also allows us to ‘know’ and ‘feel’ things that may be hard to explain. It’s almost as though you get a glimpse into truth without being able to fully understand it. Within our society it’s important to exercise discernment in regards to false teaching, twisted scriptures, and inaccurate theology.   Titus 1:9 (NASB) states, “holding firmly the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it.” 

The leadership lessons of trustworthiness, conviction, and discernment are also applicable to our Christian walks.  I hope this week’s memory lane with a naughty words and a kindergarten class help remind you of the importance of each of these leadership principles.

~Emily

Fun vs. Folly: The Slippery Horoscope Away From God

Now that school is out for the summer, I feel like I can share a conversation that I had with one of my son’s teachers this last year.  The students were studying space; galaxies, planets, stars, and specifically the history of constellations and how to identify different constellations.  While in that section, the teacher taught of the constellations affiliated with what is commonly known as the zodiac signs.   

I was 100% behind the lessons to this point.  

Once they learned about the constellations associated with the zodiac, they were introduced to horoscopes. One step further; they were tasked with looking up their birthday, figuring out their zodiac sign, reading the personality traits associated with that zodiac, and then determining if they were aligned with their zodiac sign.  

My son came home that day and pretty innocently mentioned this activity that they’d conducted in class.  I must admit, I nearly lost my mind.  I asked dozens of questions to the point that Kambell became alarmed that something was clearly not right.    I contacted the teacher for further clarification.  I expressed my displeasure that Kambell was introduced to something that I believe is pagan and against scripture.  

She responded that it was “just a fun way for them to learn about the constellations.”  

Ummm. No, no it’s not “just a fun way…” for them to learn anything except the ways of the world and a path that Satan would love to have them on.  One that takes this kids away from God, not closer to God.  1 Peter 5:8 (NASB) says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to destroy.” 

It only takes one introduction to something pagan…one careless thought…one glimpse at a worldly concept…one misstep, which can lead to something so much more sinister.  

Please know that I’m very pleased with the public-school education that my child is receiving and I’ve fallen in love with our school district and the teachers dedicated to assisting with raising future productive citizens of our Nation.   

Please also know that I recognize that I’m a tad hyper-sensitive to pagan activities, due to having being a practicing Wiccan for seven years.  

As a result, please know that I fully understand that some think I’m taking it too far to be upset about my 5th grader learning about horoscopes.  

Those some who think I’m taking it too far…they won’t be in front of God one day justifying how they raised this child.  They will be accountable for their own actions and behaviors.  As for me, I don’t want to explain to God why I made decisions (or allowed others around my child) to decide to introduce him to less-than-Godly behaviors.  Scripture shows us in 2 Corinthians and Romans that we will each be accountable.

“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive compensation for his deeds done through the body, in accordance with what he has done, whether good or bad.” ~2 Corinthians 5:10 (NASB)

“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” ~Romans 14:12 (NASB)

When someone says “it’s just for fun,” but you still have unrest about the scenario in your heart, you should listen.  That is often the nudge of the Holy Spirit for you to further analyze and pray about the situation.  Remember also, you stand before the judgment seat by yourself.  Are you comfortable reporting to God regarding your behaviors, thoughts, and actions? 

Finally, remember that what is fun for some is likely folly for others.    

~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

The Pit of Despair

I tend to write about the season of life I’m in.  Today is no different.  This week, I’ve reached the pit of despair.  I have been beyond grateful that I have been surrounded by Christian friends who have lifted myself and my family up in prayer…who have made dinner or fed my pups (you rock, Emily).  I have always trusted in God to see me through, but this week has truly been the toughest week of my life.  And while I’ve had to put my faith in God, it’s been something I’ve literally been forced into doing.  Nothing I can do can create the outcome I desire.  It is solely in the hands of the Father.

As I’ve struggled these last few days, I’ve thought about what I can do to help me remember to lift my eyes to Him.  I’ve poured Christian music into my car, my house, my headphones at work.  I’m listening to anything that reminds me that He is the Waymaker (Thanks, Kim, for that song) and whatever glorifies the Creator of my family.  I’ve been praying nonstop…I have taken the verse, “Pray without ceasing,” and have put it into action.  I have dozens of prayer warriors interceding on my behalf, praying at different times throughout the day.  I’ve stayed in my Bible, reading anything in there.  It doesn’t matter to me what passage I’m reading.  I just want to be reading God’s Word because it a Living Book.  And I read it out loud.  There is no room for satan and his attacks on my family.

Tonight, I read a passage of scripture that felt like the Holy Spirit was speaking directly to me…

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord.  For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” –Jeremiah 17:7-8

Because I trust in the Lord, because I have no choice but to trust in the Lord, as the heat of despair comes at me full force, I’m still being nourished.  In this moment of drought, God still sustains me.  Praise Him for His everlasting grace and faithfulness to a woman who doesn’t deserve it.

I encourage you, dear friends, those who are in this season of despair, to be comforted by the words of God.  I pray that you know that you are not fighting alone. 

If you have something you would like us to pray for, please message us or leave it in the comments below.  Iron Porch would be honored to be a prayer warrior on your behalf.

~Erin

All The Cursey Words

If there had been a swear jar in the room, I would’ve owed it a $10.  Maybe $20.  In a moment of anger, frustration, and worry, I said enough expletives to make a sailor cringe.  During a conversation with my daughter, I became angry and worried about a story she told me that involved her.  I was not cursing at her, but I definitely said some things about the situation and the other people involved.

Ironically enough, the week’s Bible study for Table 8 was on the taming of the tongue—not really what I wanted to think about in that moment.  In James 3:5-12, there is plenty of scripture that reminds us that the tongue, while such a little part of the body, carries a great weight.  What come from our heart flows out through the tongue. 

It’s so true.  In the moment, I felt anger, fury, irritation.  The words that came out were exactly those feelings.  At a time where I could’ve been an example to my daughter about being slow to anger or watching my words, I did exactly the opposite.  I simply showed her words with shock-value and no substance.  What exactly does an “F-bomb” bring to the table? You’re right…nothing.

Our words should bring glory to God.  They should show people who our Father is.  They should be edifying and spirit-lifting, without malice.  Yet, often we speak what we want without thought to who around us can hear, whether it be little ears or the Holy Spirit Himself.   

“Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” –Ephesians 4:29

How do we do that?  How do we strive to purify our speech?  We can’t do it on our own, friends.  We have to ask God to tame our tongue.  We need to ask Him to help control your tongue.  And then, Iron Porch, you lean in.  Lean into the God who saves and trust the Holy Spirit will continue to do a good work in you.  And fight….put on the armor of God that you might be prepared for your heart to stay strong and not allow vile speech to flow from it.

Praise God for forgiveness! I know that with my repentant heart, God has forgiven me for the sin of my speech in that situation.  Now, I must remember to guard my heart so that it may not tempt my tongue.

~Erin

Brush Your Hair

(*I have been given permission to share this personal story in the hope that others might let go of the stigma behind mental health issues.)

My daughter, Peyton, texted me the other day begging to come home.  She didn’t want to be at school and felt overwhelmed.  Her depression was hitting a low and she was really struggling.  To make matters worse, she had been confiding in a friend about the struggle on the bus when another girl, overhearing, leaned over and made a comment that she’d noticed something was wrong because it looked like she hadn’t brushed her hair in a few days.  It felt like a gut punch.

I encouraged her to tough it out at least until lunch and if she was still struggling she could give me a call.  The call came as soon as lunch began.  She drove herself home and walked into my office.  I asked her if she was ok, and she broke down in tears, “I’m so tired of feeling like this, mom.  I just want to feel better.”  As I hugged her, I told her over and over again that she would get through this.  We would walk with her in this and that it was ok to feel like this right now.

The diagnosis doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I was diagnosed with depression in my 20’s and have worked through the same kinds of feelings for 20+ years.  I’ve learned that with medication and appropriate techniques, I can manage the symptoms and work through the ups and downs.  I’m not ashamed of it.  It’s just part of who I am.  But over the years, I’ve had to learn to figure out how to take those lows and channel them into leaning into my Creator.

More often than not, when I’m in the mire of an episode I’m not thinking, “Take this to God.”  I’m thinking how horrible this feeling is, how overwhelmed I am, how can I make this feeling go away.  I want to hole myself up in a dark room under the covers.  Sleep the day away.  

But none of those solutions are really solutions at all.  One of the first things I should be doing is calling out to my Protector and asking Him to cover me.  It’s something I’ve had to train myself to do.  It absolutely does NOT come naturally.  But when I purposely call attention to God, I allow myself permission to stop trying to control what I can’t control and give it to Him to take on.  Here are a few verses that help me when this happens.

“Answer me quickly, Lord, my spirit fails; do not hide Your face from me, or I will be the same as those who go down in the pit.  Let me hear Your faithfulness 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.  Save me, Lord, from my enemies; I take refuge in You.” –Psalm 143:7-9

“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28

“He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may take refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and wall.” –Psalm 91:4

When I pray on these verses and ask God to help me through the depression or anxiety, it allows me to recognize that my hope is in God, that He knows exactly what’s happening, and that He’s walking with me through it.  It doesn’t change the fact that I’m in the middle of a depression cycle.  But it changes who I rely on in that cycle—HIM!

I encourage you, dear friends, if you struggle with depression or anxiety to know and understand that you are not alone.  God is there beside you, fighting the fight.  And you have friends here at the Iron Porch who support you, too!

~Erin

The Christmas Gift

We celebrated Christmas with my oldest daughter and her family this last weekend.  It’s exciting to go down and have a “second” Christmas with the grandbabies, watching their excitement as they see gifts they weren’t expecting as Christmas had long since been over.

I dutifully wrapped the gifts for each of them and handed them out, one by one.  Andros, that sweet little boy, opened his first gift.  He looked at me and said, “A shirt?  I have shirts!” Everyone started giggling, but the best part of the evening was when he went to open his second gift.  To an adult, the second gift was obviously too small to be an item of clothing.  As he slowly unwrapped it, he looked at me and said, “It’s not a shirt, right?!”

We got such a giggle out of that!  He’s only four, and while his momma is teaching him about being grateful and gracious about what’s given to him, sometimes he just doesn’t quite understand and acts like the little boy he is!

Do you ever think that we are like my grandson with God?  He provides for us.  In fact the Bible tells us in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

It doesn’t mean the needs that we’ve asked for.  It doesn’t even mean He meets the needs that we want!  God knows our needs and supplies them.  However, just like little Andros, we get something and we look at it and say, “Hmmmm…that’s not what I asked for!”   When He provides for us again, we pray and say, “It’s not that one thing is it, God?”

I don’t think we do this on purpose, either!  I think in sin, we assume that we know what’s best for us.  We know what will make us happy or content or pleased.  We think that this thing or that thing will be what we need to make everything better.  In reality, God already know our needs, and He will give them to us when it’s the right time.  Often times, even though it’s hard to admit, the things that He gives us we don’t even realize we need until we look back on that moment in our life and say, “Yes!  I see where you were, God, and how You provided for me!”

I encourage you, friends, let’s take the time to ask God to supply our needs, and then step back and take all that He gives us with open hearts and gracious spirits.  You never know if the one thing you don’t think you want is exactly the one thing you’ll need!

~Erin

P.S. His second gift was a book for us to read together!

My sweet grandson with his ever-present chocolate milk mustache!

Puppies Are Work! Are We?

This house just seemed a little quieter and a little sadder with Maggie gone.  So I did what any sad mom would do.  I hopped on the interwebs and took a peek around to see if maybe I would ever like to have another dog.  Because the answer is no.  Unequivocally, absolutely, positively no more dogs.  Until I saw a puppy online on December 22, contacted the owner, and then drove three hours the next day to pick her up! 

She’s sweet and funny and has so much personality!  The best part of the entire process was surprising Peyton with her when she got home from work that night.  This little pup has stolen our hearts.  Ruger, our seven-year-old lab even likes her!

But let me tell you…having a puppy is work (which is why I didn’t want one in the first place).  The amount of energy, time and effort that goes into working with an animal is exhausting!  You think you make a bit of progress until, oops, here’s a puddle on the floor.  “No chewing” turns into new slippers being purchased because you left them in front of the couch.  Work, I tell you, work. 

I wouldn’t change anything!  We love her and we know she’s worth the energy and focus.  She’s part of the family, and we’ll do whatever is necessary to make sure she is loved and cared for.   No matter what she does, we’ll never turn her away because she belongs to us.

This reminds me, honestly, of how God loves us.  When we accept the Lord as our Savior, we are His.  He bought and paid for us with Jesus’ shed blood.   No matter how much we mess up, He doesn’t walk away.  He doesn’t get fed up with our antics and cast us aside.  He patiently and lovingly teaches us and trains us.  Even when we’re more spiritually mature or “grown”, when we make a mistake, He doesn’t assume we’ll never be any good to Him.  On the contrary, He gave us the Holy Spirit to admonish, direct and guide us back to what is good and pleasing to the Lord.

“For He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever abandon you,” –Hebrews 13:5b

And Romans 8:35, 38-39 clearly tells us that nothing will separate us from God.  This means no matter how much work is needed or how many dumb mistakes I make, as a child of God I will never be separated from Him.  He won’t give up on us!

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will tribulation, or trouble, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

PRAISE GOD!

Just like that puppy, even though we are work, there’s no chance God turns His back on us and says “nevermind.”

I pray that we are challenged this week to see where we are rough around the edges.  Let’s work on those commands and precepts that we read in the Bible given by God!  He will never give up on us.  Let’s put in the work!

~Erin

Meet Winchester (‘Winnie”)