The Cranberry Jelly Can

My granny was a jellied-cranberry-sauce-out-of-the-can kind of lady.  Every Thanksgiving as we purchased our stock for the big dinner, she always reminded us to get her can.  She was the only one that ate it, and we always teased her for eating it.  It just seemed weird to me.  The jelly vacuum-packed into a can that took the shape of a can when it came out was just…weird!

In 2014, I forgot to pull out the beloved can of gelatinous goo for her!  I hadn’t forgotten to purchase it.  But I left it in the cupboard and we only remembered after we were done eating.  Granny teased me about forgetting her favorite dish.  Not to worry, I told her.  We’ll pull it out next Thanksgiving!  But it never happened.  That was the last Thanksgiving we spent with her before she went to heaven. 

The following November, we pulled out that can of cranberry jelly and it sat, unopened, on the table.  We laughed and shared memories of her.  It was beautiful.  And through two moves and five years later, I still can’t get rid of the can.  It’s been on our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter tables every year.  Every time I think about throwing it out, the contents long since expired, I just can’t let myself put it in the trashcan.  It’s belongs to one of the fondest memories I have of her.

I was unpacking here in Eclectic in September when the can came out of the moving box.  I showed Emily, and she took the can from me.  I thought she was going to throw it out and I panicked.  She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind.  “No!” she said.  “Something this special needs to be displayed, not hidden in the pantry.”  It now sits in my cupboard with glass doors, a prize to look at every time I wander into the kitchen.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that a simple, dented, and dirty can brings me such joy.  It reminds me of the strong Christian grandmother who helped raise me and the faithfulness to God she displayed.  She loved the Lord and gave thanks for the family that she adored. 

This Thanksgiving, I have no doubt that the feast at the table in heaven holds a shiny new can just for her.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with jubilation; Come before Him with rejoicing. Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.  Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courtyards with praise.  Give thanks to Him, bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting and His faithfulness is to all generations. –Psalm 100:1-5

~Erin

The Fallen Leaf

The Fallen Leaf: Your Purpose

In the past, I’ve been asked what my favorite season is and I’ve always struggled to answer.  I love different aspects of each season. I like the process of transition and I like the knowledge that it will soon change again.

When Autumn arrives, I cherish the changing colors of the trees and the crunch of fallen leaves under my feet as I walk through the woods.  Leaves fluttering through the air as they fall to the Earth is one of the most peaceful moments I can think of (next to watching snow fall slowly).

Does the leaf know its lifespan is over? Does it know it’s fulfilled its role for the tree? 

Or…

Is the leaf able to recognize that it’s about to create joyful play-space for small children and dogs as they jump into piles?  Is it able to recognize that it’s about to fertilize the ground beneath the tree, continuing to provide nutrients for the tree and the vegetation nearby?

In the same way that the leaf has continued purpose, even after it falls from the tree, we have purpose in transitions during our Christian walk.  

  • As you step down from a committee at church, you are steered towards a different ministry.
  • As you complete a Bible Study, you are given opportunity to share what you learned with others.
  • As you watch others leave your church, you are able to volunteer in new roles.
  • As you observe a seemingly fruitless prayer life, you become aware of the work God is doing in your life.

Most of us are familiar with Ecclesiastes 3:1, which states “For every season, there is an appointed time. And there is a time for every matter under heaven.”

We may even be familiar with how that passage gives us direct guidance on the timing of transitions in verses 2-8:

A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.


A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.


A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

If we read further to Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NASB), we read, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, without the possibility that mankind will find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.”

Each time we think we’re done, we must remember that God has purpose for our lives.  He has purpose for each of those endings…and each of the subsequent beginnings. 

Just as the fallen leaf continues to have purpose, keep in mind your Christian walk has purpose in all of your transitions.

~Emily

Despair in the Air

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can be perplexed, but not despair.

We can be persecuted, but not abandoned.

We can be struck down, but not destroyed.  

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

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

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

~Emily

Danger in the Lion’s Den…I mean Driveway

It was still dark and gusty when I ventured out of our house to discover that Hurricane Zeta had caused two trees to fall across our driveway across the power lines that run from the street down the ¼ mile length of our drive.  

Lines were laying on the ground between my car and my husband’s truck, as well as looping over the brushes and trees.  The wisteria that normally looks elegant against barbed wire fencing, now appeared to be holding naked Christmas lights.  

With a massive amount of trepidation, I tiptoed around the truck, watching every single step I took.  I shone the spotlight down the driveway and saw a humongous tree draping it’s self dramatically across the power lines.  At that point, I couldn’t see the 2nd tree, but I knew we had a dangerous situation with wires on the super soaked ground and gusts of wind still shaking our tall trees.  

We have had power outages before, but they’ve never been a result of the direct lines coming into our home.  I have always heard to steer clear of downed lines, but never have seen them in real life!  I immediately called the power company and they told me to not touch the wires or anything near a broken line.

As I was standing in my driveway, wearing my PJs and a headlamp, I acknowledged this was dangerous.  I had a 9-year-old and a puppy to consider, as well as cars stuck on the “wrong” side of the downed wire.  Never mind the trees blocking the drive, a pretty small wire laying on the ground had me trapped.  

I prayed out loud in the aftermath of the storm that God would protect my family from being electrocuted.  As I prayed, I remembered that Daniel was saved from a dangerous situation too. In Daniel Chapter 6, the King has Daniel thrown into the pit where the lions were, which was essentially a death sentence.  Daniel prays to the Lord for deliverance and God sends an angel to protect him. The next morning, Daniel emerges unscathed.  

The lesson we learn from the Book of Daniel is that our God, who is capable of saving Daniel in the lions’ den, would also be capable of having saving Israel from captivity. 

In 2020, it also means that the same God who saved Daniel is able to save and protect us.  In the days after Hurricane Zeta, with our dangerous situation of downed power lines, our God is there.  He heard my prayer and is protecting my family, just as He protected Daniel.

I pray that you have a chance to see how God is protecting you too!

~Emily

“My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.” ~Daniel 6: 22 (NIV)

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)

Uncomfortable Moments

This last week, I’ve had a few uncomfortable moments.  There was the afternoon where I got insulation on my forearm, which became an itchy mess. Friday around midnight, I let the dog out and then had to stand outside in my PJs calling for him repeatedly when he wouldn’t come in.  And then today there was the sliding sock in my work boot while I turned the compost piles. 

Each scenario was an uncomfortable moment, that was annoying.

I also get uncomfortable teaching Sunday School.  I start to doubt my abilities to lead the class.  I wonder who will actually show up to class. I worry that someone else will know the lesson better than me. I occasionally feel like I’m not prepared enough. 

Every week, without fail, I have a slight uncomfortable moment as I walk into the Sunday School class.  And every week, without fail, I remind myself that God is in charge of the Sunday School class. It doesn’t matter with someone is in the class that is more knowledgeable than me. It doesn’t matter if one or twenty people come to the class.  It doesn’t matter if I’m prepared or if I have the ability to lead.  God will take care of it.  

There are numerous examples in the Bible of God providing in the aftermath of uncomfortable moments.  Imagine being Jonah in the belly of a whale.  That would have been uncomfortable, but God provided.  Imagine being Lot, realizing your wife just turned to a pillar of salt.  That would have been an uncomfortable moment, but God provided.  Imagine being Eve, having to admit to God what you have eaten.  That would have been an UBER uncomfortable moment, but God provided.  

Here’s the deal—God wants us to step out of our comfort zone and experience that uncomfortable moment.  Why? Because that’s when we are most able to see just HOW He is providing for us!  

Whether it’s itchy insulation, midnight runaway dogs, lazy socks, or teaching Sunday School, each of our uncomfortable moments are a reminder that God will provide.

I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone this week…watch how God provides!!!

~Emily

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB)

Barn Raising; Not The Amish Way

A barn is being built on our property.  It’s a very large barn structure with electricity and a cement floor with super high rafters.  And it seems like it’s taking forever to complete.

The process has been tedious.  First trees stumps were removed.  Extra dirt was brought in and leveled.  Poles (or are they called studs?!??!) were cemented into place and structure began to take shape.  All this before the cement truck arrived to pour the flooring.  

We still need walls.  We still need a roof.  We still need two ginormous garage doors and a man door installed. We still need insulation and electricity.

If I’m honest, this barn raising process feels like it will never end!  There’s construction equipment and supplies all over my yard.  We play “shuffle” the vehicles every day to make room for whoever happens to be leaving for work first the next morning. If we were near the Amish, where my husband grew up in Pennsylvania, our barn would have likely been done in one weekend.

If this were a brick or stone building, we would have started with the cornerstone, which is the first laid stone and guides the construction of the rest of the building.  Most Christians have heard the metaphor of Jesus being the cornerstone of the church.  Jesus being the rock, in which we are each built upon.  He is he strength of the first laid stone; the guide for all the geometry that follows. 

For me, the barn raising journey isn’t a reminder of the cornerstone piece; rather it’s a constant reminder of my need to practice patience.  While I want the barn done and the yard cleaned up, I need to recognize that the process takes a little bit of time.  From a safely perspective, I don’t want this to be a rushed process. 

Patience is not natural to me.  For either the barn raising project or with the people in my life.  In my experience, the more I practice being patient, the more likely I am to actually naturally exercise patience.  When we are able to behave with kindness and patience, we are more often demonstrating Christ-like behavior towards others.  

As I struggle each day with the chaos in my yard during the barn raising, I am also reminded to be patience.   

~Emily

 “…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love…” Ephesians 4:2 (NASB)

Goodbye, California!

I was struck with the weirdest thought on Sunday.  I was putting my freshly laundered sheets onto my bed when I suddenly thought to myself, ‘This is the last time I’ll be washing my sheets here in California, and it made me a little sad!  This weekend, my belongings get packed up into a moving truck, and they’ll be bound for Alabama.  I bought a house directly across the street from my best friend, and I’m set to begin a new adventure.

It seemed like such an odd thought to have.  I have actually lived in California for four years.  I’ve said for the last four years that California wasn’t a place I really wanted to live and I couldn’t wait to move!  So to have a pang of sadness seemed like such an odd reaction.

The truth is, I AM a little sad.  While I’m so excited to be closer to Emily and positively thrilled over the fact that we can work on other Iron Porch projects, God brought me to California for a reason.  For almost a year, I couldn’t figure out why but the fact is that I’ve had tremendous growth in the Lord during this time.  I’ve had to rely on what God’s vision was for me instead of my own.  He allowed me to be a part of the most amazing community of women from different backgrounds that all came together to study and grow in God’s Word through Bible study.  He taught me how to truly lead a group of women.  He also gave me a valuable lesson in learning to not always lead them and to let them teach me.  He taught me that it’s never my time, but His.  God also taught me how to be courageous in my witness for Him.

I’ve prayed for four years that I would find a church that was strong in the Lord, fearless in their declaration of God’s glory, and bold in the Truth.  I found Doxa Church right before I’m leaving! It’s almost comical that by the time I was led there, it’s time to go.  But the eight short months I’ve been a part of that church, I’ve been fed the biggest, fattest spiritual steak you could ever imagine!  Pastor Scott has lived out Hebrews 5:12-14 and given me some serious spiritual food to gnaw on!  I now have an even bigger arsenal in my spiritual backpack with which to boldly proclaim the gospel.

While I’m sad to be leaving, I must lean into what the Word of God says in Isaiah 1:19.  The prophet proclaimed, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land;”  I am willing.  I strive to be obedient.  And because I do, the Lord will allow me to know what the good things of the land were in California and what the good things are in Alabama.

I’ll miss you, California!

~Erin

If you are good

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

Mindfulness Exercises

In the last two months, I’ve started incorporating mindfulness exercises into my daily life in an effort to battle anxiety and depression.  Mindfulness exercises are 3-5 blips where you deliberately concentrate on an activity through assessing your senses, emotions, or memories.

For instance, you could do a “mindful listening” exercise where you put on classical music and then concentrate on only listening for the violin.  One that I really liked was the “mindful eating” challenge, where you take your favorite flavored skittle and really concentrate on eating that one skittle for the 3-5 minutes.  For me, it was the purple skittle, which was a walk down memory lane of my childhood with grape Hubba-Bubba gum.

This last Saturday I tried the “mindful walking” exercise while hiking with the 3-month-old puppy.  The task during the walk is to concentrate on the aspects of the walk for 3-5 minutes.  The crunch of dried sticks and leaves under my hiking boots.  The shimmer of sunbeams coming through the trees.  The tug on my wrist from the puppy’s leash.  The rustle of leaves in the wind. The coolness of the creek as it splashes on my shins as I cross a stone bridge.  The smell of water-moss-mud on the creek beds. The tension in my quads from climbing inclines.

For the first time, I also incorporated scripture in the mindful walking because scripture actually tells us to be mindful and meditate on what God has provided for us (including the nature found during a hike).

It seemed appropriate to start with Psalm 145:5 (NET) which states “I will focus on your honor and majestic splendor, and your amazing deeds.” In the NKJV of the same verse, it states, “I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.”

Keeping in mind the scriptural guidance of focusing on the splendor of God and meditating on His wondrous works, brought a whole new level to the mindful walking exercise!

The tug of the puppy’s leash doesn’t just become a sensation of my arm, it becomes gratitude that God created this puppy and that the puppy is part of our family.  The rustling of the wind in the treetops doesn’t just become a wonderous noise in the background, it becomes a reminder of God’s faithfulness to give me shade from those treetops and a cool breeze on my sweaty brow.

I wasn’t just centering myself in an exercise to control my anxiety…I was actually acknowledging God’s abundant gifts that are literally all around us!  I was following the direction in Psalm 96:12 (NET) “Let the fields and everything in them celebrate.  Then let the trees of the forest shout with joy.”

A mindful exercise that is full of celebration and joy!  I hope this next week is mindful for you too!

~Emily

Mindful Walking Hike copy