The Art of a “Thank You”

When was the last time you sent a thank-you note? Or just said thank you?  Do you routinely acknowledge when someone has given you something or offered a kind word?

There is an art to thanking someone.  According to my childhood teachings, it should be in writing, it should be timely (as in fairly soon after receiving the gift), and it should be thoughtful.  My grandma and mom taught my brother and I the art of drafting a thank you card and it’s a skill I still use today.

While my mother isn’t shocked to receive a thank you card from me or my child, there are countless examples I’ve seen where people have been surprised by one of my cards.

I’ve written to thank someone who interviewed me for a position I wasn’t offered.  I’ve drafted notes to managers of restaurants or event managers. When I made the rank of Chief Master Sergeant in the Air Force, I sent dozens of thank you letters to people who had invested in me and my career over the years. I have even mailed a thank you to my car repairman.

In each of those instances, the thank you card prompted further conversation.  The surprise of being thanked has always been mentioned.  Why would someone be surprised to receive one?  Is it because we’re too busy to write one? Is it because we haven’t been taught to write one? Is it because we don’t find there to be a need for a thank you card?

Maybe I’m old fashioned, or of a different era, but I value sending and receiving a “thank you.” Why? Because it offers a chance to acknowledge that someone has done something kind for you.  It illustrates that you are grateful for their actions or words.  It also shows them the love of Christ through your behavior.

Scripture gives plenty of examples of how to say thank you, when to say thank you, and what to say when thanking someone.

May the Lord now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favor because you have done this. 2 Samuel 2:6 (NIV)

And may the Lord reward you for your kindness … Ruth 1:8 (NLT)

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom & revelation, so that you may know him better.  Ephesians 1:15-17 (NIV)

I encourage you to hone your skills in thanking others…it will not only recognize their actions, but it will likely open the door for more conversations.

~Emily

P.S.  Thank you, to all the Iron Porch readers….Erin and I are blessed to know that you are out there encouraging us week after week!!!

The Art of a Thank You

 

 

 

Burn The Shirt

There is a huge burned hole in my shirt!

There is a huge burned hole-size piece of blue fabric adhered to my iron!

There I was.  Standing in the dining room in my cute pants, with my cute necklace and matching earrings, with my cute shoes…and a bra, while ironing my shirt. And then.  I literally burned a hole in my shirt with the iron.

That wasn’t even the worst of the morning, but rather the culmination of it.  You see, I had been woken up an hour before my alarm with an elbow to the jaw from the wild sleeper I happened to marry.  I got out of bed rubbing my jaw to promptly step in cat puke.  I dropped my toothbrush on the floor by the toilet (thank you Jesus that it wasn’t INTO the toilet). I spilled my coffee across the counter trying to avoid stepping on the Legos that my cats thought were new kitty toys.  Then I burned my shirt.

That’s a lot of stuff in one morning that could make for the foundation of a crummy day!  Our crummy days are full of circumstances…but they are full of choices too.

As I stood in my bra and pants in the dining room, holding a ruined iron and looking at a ruined shirt, I thought “this is my chance to realign my attitude towards today.”  I brought to mind Psalm 121, which I’m in the process of memorizing for a women’s small group that I’m currently co-leading.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

~ Psalm 121 (NIV)

My help comes from the Lord.  He alone will get me through those crummy mornings when I have a choice to acknowledge that circumstances sometimes are “blah,” but those “blah” moments don’t have to dictate the day.

He will not let my foot slip.  He will watch over me.  He will keep me from harm.

He alone will protect me from things that are truly detrimental to my soul.  His gift of salvation through the death of His Son, Jesus,  has already proven He protects me through all things.

The reality is that cat puke, toothbrushes & Legos on the floor, spilled coffee or even a burned hole in a shirt is truly a minor thing when it comes to the help the Lord provides to us.

I pray your crummy-shirt-burning mornings can be turned into thanksgiving to the Lord!

~Emily

Burn the shirt

 

 

When Stones Cry

I’m not Catholic, but I’ve been to plenty of Catholic churches, masses, and services.

Remember, I’m fascinated by history so most things Catholic are the mother-lode of historic happiness.

When I was about 11-years-old, my parents took my brother and me to a Catholic Church that had a statue of Mary that had reportedly wept real tears.  I remember that there was a long line to get into the church and that several people in line were crying.

As a child, I knew that there was something unusual about a statute reportedly weeping.  Yet, I could not wrap my mind around the significance of that statute being considered a miracle.  In retrospect, I suppose I still have trouble understanding how God would allow an inanimate object to express human emotion.

I am reminded that there are several lessons within the Bible where inanimate objects became a teaching point.   Some of those teaching points included human qualities being assigned to objects.  For instance, in Luke Chapter 19, we read that rocks could potentially vocalize like a person.

“And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said until Him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.  And He answered and said unto them, I tell you that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”  Luke 19:39-40 (KJV)

While this passage of scripture does not contend that the stones actually shouted, I love the thought that God could make them do so if He chose to.  I find great comfort in knowing that my God is so mighty, so powerful, so strong…that He could do anything if He wished.

If He wanted the stones to cry out, they would.

If He wanted a statue to cry, it would.

Imagine what He’s doing in our lives every day!  Every day there’s a miracle within our lives that God is orchestrating.  Every day.

A God that unbelievably able is one I want to worship always!

~Emily

Stones

Going Solo to a Meeting with God

What is the craziest thing you’ve done by yourself?

This is often a scary thing to contemplate. Being alone.  Going to dinner alone…at a real sit-down restaurant. Going to a movie alone.  Going to a concert, play, or a museum alone.

I often do things alone, simply because I’ve refused to miss experiences when I can’t find someone to go with me. One of the craziest things I’ve done by myself was travel to Normandy, France over Memorial Day in 2012.  I couldn’t find anyone who could get the time off or wanted to see the beaches of Normandy. But I wanted to go…so I did.

This last weekend, I did something by myself that I hadn’t ever done before.  I went to a women’s Christian conference alone.  For complete transparency, I knew there were going to be a couple of women from my church attending, but I traveled, stayed in a hotel, and arrived at the conference solo.

Rather than my normally self-confident ways, I found myself floundering in the solo-ness of the experience.

As I found a seat in the midst of over 6,000 women, I was feeling self-conscious.  Were other women looking at me and wondering why I was by myself?  Were the ladies from my church remembering that I was also attending…would they invite me to sit with them?  How was I going to get through the day without having someone to pray with, someone to nudge when there was an especially good nugget, someone to wait in the bathroom line with me?!?!?!

And then the featured speaker, Priscilla Shirer, said something that touched my heart.  The summary of what she said included, “I’m going to challenge you to pray by yourself right now…. whether you came with 100 ladies from your church, 10 of your closest friends, or by yourself…we are taking time right now for each of you to have a one-on-one conversation with the Father.  You are here to chat with an audience of One.”

It was through her that I felt the ping of the Holy Spirit reassuring me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that moment.  That reassurance included knowing it was perfectly okay to be there by myself and that I only need to be concerned with my relationship with God.

It reminded me that Christ had to do the most difficult thing ever, go to the cross to die for all of our sins, all by Himself.  Or so it seemed…

You see, it also made me reflect that Christ was not truly ever by Himself.  The Father was right there with him throughout the trial, the torture, the long walk with a heavy cross, and even in His final moments as a human.

And the Father is with me always too. Through every single experience, both good and bad, the Father has been with me. In every event I’ve attended alone in flesh, the Father was with me.  Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

God was sitting right next to me when I struggled with being solo at a women’s Christian conference.  He’ll be right next to you when you’re struggling too.

Come to the porch and tell us the scariest/craziest/most fun thing you’ve done by yourself.

~Emily

Joshua 1-9

The Day Before Surgery

Last month my mother-in-law, Renee, earned herself a helicopter ride to the ER after having stroke-like symptoms.  Less than a week later, she was scheduled for surgery to remove a brain tumor that had metastasized from kidney cancer.  The day before her surgery, five days after her helicopter escort, she still hadn’t regained use of her right arm.

Through all the visitors who trickled in and out of Renee’s room the day before surgery, our little family was well aware that these may be our last moments with her.  We had spent much of the day laughing and storytelling.  Brittney, my sister-in-law, had the outstanding idea to pack a picnic lunch so that the grandkids could share “snacks” with Grandma one more time.

As the evening drew to a close, Brittney and I offered to wash Renee’s hair, which hadn’t been washed the entire time she’d been in the hospital.  We kicked the husbands and the kids out of the room (We weren’t sure how wet we would get, let alone how much skin would be revealed!).  We gathered towels, basins, warm water, and a little bottle of baby shampoo.  While Renee sat upright in bed with pillows propped up against her lower back and a slack right arm, Britt and I pour water and lathered suds.  We rinsed and rinsed.  We controlled drippy water like experts and Renee hummed in the satisfaction of having her hair washed.

A trio of women focused on a humanizing task…no one else in the room.  Two serving one.  Not just because Renee needed her hair washed (which she did), but because two daughters-in-law loved their mother-in-law enough to want her to feel special.

In the hallway, a nurse said, “She’s so lucky to have a family to care for her with servants’ hearts.”

That statement sat in my heart for several weeks. I wasn’t sure that “servant’s heart” was the correct phrase.  Perhaps it was; perhaps it wasn’t.  I didn’t feel like I had a servant’s heart at that moment.  I just knew that Renee had been subjected to humbling tests and treatments…ones that strip a person of their privacy.  I knew at that moment, I wanted to tag team with my sister-in-law to make Renee feel “human.”

Scripture tells us to regard our family members with acts of service.  “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” ~1 Timothy 5:8 (ESV).

Scripture also tells us how to regard our elders with acts of service.  “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” ~1 Peter 5:5 (ESV)

The act of washing hair may be worthy of saying “servant’s heart,” but it was definitely a moment where family was taking care of family. It was an act of love.  It was one where humility was exhibited by all three women.

God blessed that action; just as He has blessed every act of service done while modeling Christ’s love for one another. He’s blessed this family and He has wrapped His arms around Renee as she has faced the uncertainty of life and death this last year.  She survived brain surgery.  After a few complications, she is doing well in rehab and is starting to regain movement in her right arm.  God is good. All the time.

Cancer is a terrible road.  I wouldn’t want this reality for any family.  But I will freely admit that I wouldn’t change one moment of that “day before surgery.”  I wouldn’t change the picnic lunch or grandkids’ giggles.  I wouldn’t change the parade of visitors or watching my husband hold his mom’s hand.  I wouldn’t change the group prayer around her bed, as we left for the night.  And I certainly wouldn’t have changed any part of the hair washing.

~Emily

Fun on FaceTime

I FaceTime my mom, on average, six days a week.  That’s right.  It’s a lot.  But after living in the same town as my mom for 38 of my 40 years of life, it’s a necessity.  And while a normal phone call works just fine (and I do actually just call on occasion), I love to see her face and show her my antics haven’t changed in the 2 years I’ve been in California.

Enter tonight’s convo.  Not unlike any other.  I literally discuss a lot of nothing with my mom.  I ramble usually for the better part of an hour about the most random things.  Tonight, I talked to her about my bible study research as well as the lunch I tried today from a local restaurant I’d found.  I talked to her about Rite Aid and how there isn’t one in Cheyenne (like she didn’t know that), and I told her about the Kokie eyeliner I’d found.

On the subject of eyeliner, we began talking about the two colors I’d picked up, Chocolate and Bronzed, and the color difference between the two.  So, I put a couple of swatches on my hand for her to see.  As the conversation wound down, and I told her I needed to get off the phone, I decided at the last minute I’d give her a better look at what the colors looked like by actually applying them to my lower lid line.  Which then led to this…

img_3942
FaceTime snapshots that my mom took!

I can’t help it.  I seize opportunities.  And when “Instagram Brow” popped into my head, my eyeliner pencil became my paintbrush.  This is typically the kind of conversations that we have.  And then I usually add one or both of my daughters to the mix to sufficiently embarrass them yet still remind them how much fun I can be!

What does this have to do with Jesus, you ask?  Everything!  Not everything has to be so serious!  It was a moment of JOY!  It was a conversation of happiness and silliness, and the bible clearly tells us that joy is good and pleasing to Him.

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22, and Ecclesiastes 3:1/4, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:  a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

When we have Jesus in our lives, we have joy filling our lives as well.  It doesn’t mean that everything is perfect.  It doesn’t mean we don’t have bad days.  It does, however, mean that we can find the joy in the seemingly silly or mundane.  We can laugh out ourselves and make other people laugh.  We can create moments with others that become fond memories in later years.  A piece of our testimony for our Father is the joy that radiates from within us because of His grace and mercy in our lives!

Find the joy in your conversations.  Fill those conversations with laughter.  You won’t be disappointed!  How about you?  Do you have a moment you can recall that brought joy to an everyday conversation?  Share with us in the comments below!

~Erin

Raindrop Races

Recently it rained for nine days straight in Alabama and it seemed we were going to float away.  Being from the Pacific Northwest, I grew up with continuous rain and know that it will end eventually.  Nothing of my childhood in the rain prepared me for nine days of rain with an eight-year-old on Christmas break.   We were both going stir-crazy and on each other’s nerves.

While we were driving during this ever-present rain, I was reminded of a game I used to play with my brother when we were younger.  We would each select fat raindrops towards the top of the window and then we would watch as the drops “raced” each other towards the bottom.

In retrospect, it was a good game to keep us quiet and occupied while my parents drove.  It also afforded an opportunity to pause and enjoy the glory of nature.  We loved the joy of inspecting raindrops, which lead to both of us to be mindful and present in nature.

God gives us the gift of nature to know He loves us completely and we can benefit from what nature provides.  In Acts 14:17 (NIV), we see an exact example of his kindness through the provision of rain. In this instance, the gift of rain is specific to the needs of the crops in order to provide food for each of us.

This look at nature should fill us with joy simply because it is tangible proof of God’s love for us.

He will testify about His love.  He has a testimony.  Through the rain, we see that testimony of love for humans being a top priority.

During times when we feel stir-crazy, joy can be found.

That joy may be in something as simple as a raindrop race.

Reflect on how God’s love, through a glimpse at nature, and tell us about the joy God provides.

~Emily

“Yet He has not left Himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons: He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” ~Acts 14:17

rain