Childlike Grief

Death’s impact on our lives is so weird.

It’s been nine months since my mother-in-law passed away.  Sometimes it feels like years ago and other days it feels like moments.  Most days we remember her in joy, but there have been a few ‘sneak attack’ tearful days too.

As we planned our trip for Thanksgiving, our son asked if he could visit Gramma’s grave while we were in Pennsylvania. Specifically, he wanted to put a Christmas ornament at her grave.   I was slightly surprised to hear the request, as he seemed to be handling the death and memories fairly well.  

If I’m completely honest, I’m also a little surprised that I was surprised.  

Seriously, why was I surprised?  It seems natural he’d want to go see the gravesite.  He was very close to her, as she helped raise him in the single-Dad-toddler years and they spoke on the phone almost every day since.  Normally, I’m the sensitive one of the family that would have made the offer to take him to the cemetery.  And yet, the 10-year-old beat me to the request.

More often than not, I think we are surprised by the depth of knowledge that our children have regarding the Savior.  They may not have the depth of knowledge with theology or specific scripture, but their little hearts are perfectly attuned to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

There is something so sweet and endearing about a small child praying out loud.  I remember the little boy prayers for nerf guns to work, for kitties to be found, or for Gramma to be healed.  

There is something equally sweet about children sharing the Gospel.  When Erin’s daughter, Peyton, was 6 or 7 years old, I often watched her talk to strangers about Jesus.  

Corrections and convictions are also sweet and endearing when they come from children.  I’ve had my own son tell me I’ve hurt God’s heart when I said a swear word.  

Lesson here?  Kids are unabashed about their prayer lives.  They are confident and bold in sharing Jesus.  And they have no qualms about corrective behavior.  

The book of Matthew has so many nuggets regarding children and their place in the kingdom.  In Matthew 18:1-5 (NASB) we read, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him among them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me.”

Jesus expressly told us that children would be great teachers.  There is something to learn from our kids. We can learn about prayer, evangelism, and correction.  And we can certainly learn lessons about dealing with grief.

~Emily

Holiday Poverty

As we gear up for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, we will begin to see more and more solicitations for donations to families that are in need.  This is the time of year that thrives on canned food admissions to events, toy drives, and angel tree gifts.  Like a majority of the Iron Porch readers, I support these efforts to gather food, clothes, and items for children. 

Yet I’ve always wondered why we push so hard during the holidays for donations, but not the rest of the year.   As someone who grew up in a family that needed occasional assistance, I can attest to the fact that my parents needed food and clothing help throughout the year…not just at Christmas.  

The need for sustainable items is an example of poverty, but it’s not the one Jesus references when he speaks of the first beatitude being poor in spirit.  Initially, when we are poor in spirit we recognize that we are apart from God and that we crave the gift of salvation provided by Christ’s death on the cross as atonement for our sins.  The recognition of being separated from God, by sin, is a profound portion of being poor in the spirit.  

Being poor in the spirit doesn’t stop once we become a Christian.  Once we accept the Savior, we don’t necessarily lose the brokenness that we had when we first approached the cross.  In fact, that brokenness can drive our Christian path.  It’s fair to state that until we get to heaven, we will be in a constant state of spiritual poverty.  At this point Christians have two choices: 1. we continue to stay poor in the spirit, as we grow closer to Christ and develop ourselves as disciples or 2. we continue to stay poor in the spirit because we give into the brokenness and don’t develop as disciples.  

Personally, I’d rather identify as poor in the spirit while continuously growing.  

Except that I know it’s easy to slide into the “not developing” category.  Life takes over, we become lazy, other items take priority…but we stay in an “undeveloped” status.  Because it’s easy to slide, we can’t just push ourselves in spiritual poverty during one season, rather we need to continuously push ourselves spiritually year-round.  

As an unbeliever, we need Christ immediately, just as a family at the holidays may need immediate assistance from a canned food drive. 

Once a believer, we need to continue to develop that relationship with Christ, just as the needy family may need assistance throughout the year.  

I’m praying for those who are poor in the spirit this season (and yes, that means everyone—both believers and non-believers).  

~Emily

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 5:3

Expectation Vs Reality

We took a trip this last weekend to Mississippi for a concert.  Because it was over four hours away, we decided to get a hotel.  For road trips the task of choosing a hotel has always fallen to me.  Emily says it’s because I’m bougie.  I say it’s because it’s because I don’t want to find a cockroach sleeping next to me on my pillow when I wake up in the morning.  (It does not help that I used to be a travel agent and I also worked for a hotel, so I KNOW what hotels can be like!)

This time, I was looking at prices and trying to be a little practical and chose a hotel I wouldn’t normally choose.  Nothing is wrong with this particular chain, but if the name of the hotel doesn’t usually rhyme with Fyatt or Filton, it’s not on my radar.  Let’s just say that the pictures of this hotel and the reality of the hotel were, to quote scripture, as far as the east is from the west.  It was ok.  I didn’t die.  We got a good night’s sleep.  But my expectation versus reality was disappointing.

Aren’t we lucky that we have a Heavenly Father that is exactly as He says?! We don’t need to worry that He’s not the same as He’s portrayed in the Bible.  There were eyewitness accounts of who God and Jesus are!  Passages in the Bible show Jesus’s loving words and actions. 

We don’t have to worry about Him changing how He feels about us, because the Bible tells us that we are His children when we accept Him as our Savior.  He listens to our pleas, feels our pain, and knows our stories.  He doesn’t change His mind on a whim or lead us in a direction to say, “GOTCHA! I just wanted to mess with you!”  He’s constant, ever-present, all-powerful, and all-knowing.  He does not change!

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever. –Hebrews 13:8

I praise God that He is this way.  In a world where the ebbs and flows seem to be dramatic and wildly moveable, I give thanks that we have a God whom we can count on.  We know what He expects of us, and we know what to expect of Him.

Join with me this week in praising God for being an unmovable and unshakeable Creator.   Let’s find ways to praise God for being exactly who He says He is!

~Erin

A Praise Report

One of the things we do every week at Table 8 Bible study is spend some time discussing prayer requests.  It’s wonderful to be able to share concerns with our sisters in Christ.  However, as we began a study on prayer, I realized we weren’t looking at the praises that we were blessed with! 

It’s easy to see the struggles in our lives and what we need to pray for.  We see our friends or family hurting, a neighbor that’s sick, a test that our children are about take, maybe someone we know isn’t saved.  We seek out prayer for those things.  And we’re not wrong to do that at all!

But there is also value in seeing the ways our Father blesses our lives. It’s encouraging to hear praise reports of that neighbor on the mend, that child who got a 92%, or the peace that the Holy Spirit gave you about a decision you needed to make.  The people that have been praying get an opportunity to see God at work.  And you get a moment to acknowledge the grace of God! 

We are encouraged many times in the Bible to give Him thanks for what He has done.  It should be part of our worship to Him.

Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. –Isaiah 24:1 (NASB)

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. –Psalm 9:1 (ESV)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. –1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

Sometimes, it’s not so easy to recognize the praises in our lives.  Victories may seem small or insignificant.  Perhaps we even don’t think about how God answered a prayer or a need that we had in our life because we weren’t looking for it. 

I’ve made it a challenge to myself to really look for how God has answered prayer in my days and weeks.  Now, rather than starting off my prayer with a request to Him, I get excited to start by thanking Him for what He’s done and how He’s provided. 

This month, God answered a prayer that I’ve been praying about faithfully for 5 years!  I want to shout from the rooftops how amazing God is! 

How about you, dear friends!?  Share with your friends at the Iron Porch a praise report and let’s be encouraged at God’s faithfulness.

~Erin

What is the One Thing You Would Change?

During a visit with my dear friend Amber, she asked me a thought-provoking question.  

It’s one that I’ve thought about frequently for 2 years. 

If there was one thing in my life I could change, what would it be?

Does that mean right now?  As in, I want a different car? A different career? A different shirt?

Or does that mean something significant that would have changed the course of my life or my impact on others? 

Would it be accepting the assignment to England earlier in my Air Force career?

Getting baptized earlier? Starting a ministry in the midst of doubt?

Would it be starting my Doctorate immediately after my Masters or wait?

Adoption sooner?  More kiddos in my house?

A different retirement location?  

One thing I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would change is from the night of my Senior prom.  You see, my mom had to work that night and I’d told her that my date and I would swing by her workplace so she could see us all dressed up.  But we were running behind…and rather than be late to dinner, we skipped going by to see my mom.  I distinctly remember her face the next day saying that she was sad that she didn’t get to see me.  


I can only imagine her anticipation at work slowing turning into the realization that I wasn’t coming.  To this day, I regret disappointing my mom so completely.  

Other than disappointing my mom on prom night, my answer is pretty simple…I don’t know that there is much I would change.  Even the awful decisions and consequences of my life had purpose.  I would not be who I am today without many of these “learning opportunities.”  

I wonder if Paul (formerly Saul) would change anything from his life.  At the time of his conversion to Christianity, he was a well-known, educated Jew, who actively participated in the persecution of Christ-followers.  He was aggressive in finding Christians.  He was meticulous in punishing them. He wanted to eradicate Christians.  And he was mean in that desire.

An example of his actions is seen in Acts Chapter 7 when he gladly holds the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen, the 1stmartyr for Christianity.  In Acts 8:1 (CSB) it states, “Saul agreed with putting him to death.”  Other versions state that Saul was “delighted” by Stephen’s death.  

Delighted?   

To me, that screams of maliciousness.  It seems extremely mean-spirited.  

Yet just a one chapter later, we find ourselves reading about Saul on the road to Damascus, where he encounters the voice of Jesus and is struck blind.  Talk about the Lord getting his attention in a major way!!! The good news is that at that point Saul believes in Christ and the conversion through salvation.  He is forgiven of his sins, his sight is restored, he is renamed Paul, and he becomes a staunch supporter of the Gospel.  The epitome of forgiveness, grace and salvation.  

I imagine there was then moments of great doubt, remorse, and regret about the life he had previously led.  Hypothetically if I were Paul, I would have a few things that I’d like to change about my past.  In 1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV) we see that Paul said, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

Paul believed he was the Chief Sinner.  The worst of the worst.  

While we understand that God doesn’t rack-and-stack sinful behavior, counting one more egregious than another, what we do see from 1 Timothy is that Paul did have remorse and acknowledgment of his awful behavior in the past.  

Would he have wanted to change the past?  Probably, yes.  But I would argue that it was his aggressive persecution of Christians in his past that made him so much more relatable and a solid witness for Christ later in life.  Perhaps in the midst of regretting the past, Paul was wise enough to know that his past, while terrible, would serve a future purpose.  

You see, every bad decision and tragic event of our past makes us who we are today.  And God will use every experience in our past for His glory now.  

There’s not much in my life that I would change. Every single decision and event has shaped me into the person that I am today. 

Is there something you would change in your life? Come to the porch and share your thoughts. 

~Emily

This Past Year

I’m a few days away from being 43.  That just sounds old.  I mean, I know it’s not.  But if I think back a looooong time ago to the sweet age of 10, I thought 43 was practically retirement-village,-using-a-walker,-putting-away-my-dentures-every-night-old. 

As I do every year, I like to think back over the previous 365 days and reflect on it.  What did I do that was exciting?  What is something I wish I had done?  Did I waste time on ‘stuff’?  Am I happy with the actions I took?  A lot of people might do this at the end of the year.  I find I love to do it at my birthday, because it makes me feel like I’m not trying to do some cheesy resolution and instead really contemplating what I’ve done.

This year, I feel like I spent much more time truly meditating on God’s Word.  I was thoughtful in my Bible reading, not just looking for verses that applied to me.  Rather, I was looking meaningfully at the passages for the context, how it applied, and where I saw God in each verse.  The more I dug in, the more I found my own ‘self’ was changing!  I realized that the things that never bothered me before are now striking a chord with me, and not one that plays a sweet note. 

TV and movies don’t have the same appeal when I see the worldly actions and images across the screen.  Secular (and even some contemporary Christian) music doesn’t ring true lately when it promotes unhealthy and inappropriate relationships or a diluted message of who God is and what He does.  Foul language is becoming more and more difficult to tolerate.

To the average person, they might see this as a legalistic point of view, these things that I’ve discovered about myself from this past year.  However, I believe that it’s less about being legalistic and more about recognizing that I want my relationship with God to be pure and untainted from the ways of the world.  I don’t want my walk to be conforming but rather transformative.  I want to be different because our Father commands us to be different and not of this world.

Here are just a few verses I’ve leaned on this year without even realizing that I was doing it!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. –Philippians 4:8

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. –Romans 12:2

Beloved, I urge you as foreigners and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. –1 Peter 2:11

As I look back I realize that, while there may be things I wish I had done, I love that I have recognized the Holy Spirit prodding me to a life that’s more pleasing to God.  I’m not perfect at it.  I never will be.  But any small thing that pushes me to a closer relationship to my Heavenly Father, is a small thing I’ll do as often as I can!

Dear friends, join me in meditating on those verses this week.  Think about ways we can think on things that are honorable, true and right and remind ourselves that, as Christians, we are only visitors on this earth for a short time compared to eternity with Him!

~Erin

Restoration 49: A Coffee Shop Story

One town over from where I live, there is an adorable coffee shop, with the most amazing coffee that I’ve had in the South (and that is high praise from the girl who grew up in the Pacific NW).   Bonus points because they make their syrups in-house!  I go there often, for hours at a time, to study and work.  Most frequently, I complete Bible Study preparations for the Tuesday night class I facilitate or work on blogs for Iron Porch. Check them out on their Restoration 49 Facebook Page!

The coffee is fantastic, the Wi-Fi password is sweet and memorable, the décor is fascinating, and the people are lovely.  It’s truly a bunch of lovely baristas, who serve customers with a smile and a parting “have a blessed day!”

I have never had an in-depth conversation with any of them about religion or faith.  But if I had to guess, I’d say that most of them, if not all, have Christ in their lives.  Why would I guess that?  

I can’t guess that from their confession of faith.

I just admitted I’d never spoken with them about their faith.  Clearly, I’ve not asked and they’ve not volunteered that information.  

Maybe I could guess from subtle clues.  

Often contemporary Christian music is softly playing overhead.  There are old Church pews that separate the sitting area from the restrooms.  Based on my experiences and observations from their social media it seems like Bible Study groups meet frequently in the establishment…and so do Daddy-Daughter dances.    

I would guess that, based upon their behaviors. 

In the hours that I’ve spent working on my laptop with a notebook and Bible open at a lone table tucked in the corner, I’ve also been privileged to watch their interactions with others. 

Their behaviors:

I’ve seen them assist someone in a wheelchair with getting drinks to the table.  

I’ve seen them cleaning with a distraught mother, whose toddler went nuclear in mess-making.

I’ve seen them greet customers like old friends.

I’ve seen (and heard) them humming/singing along with the Christian music.

I’ve seen them stop and pray out loud with patrons.

This adorable coffee shop is more than just fantastic coffee.  It’s a showcase in humanity and caring for others.  

In Matthew 7:20-21 (NASB) Jesus said, “So you will know them by their fruits.  Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”

We will know them by their fruits.  

Scripture is clear that our actions will tell others about Jesus.  If a person does not show any fruit—for example, visible evidence that a change has taken place in their heart since receiving Jesus as their Savior—then perhaps they aren’t truly living a Christian lifestyle. 

Evidence of kindness, of Godliness, of humility…those are possible indications of fruit.  All of those are characteristics that I have seen while studying and sipping coffee at Restoration 49.  

Someday, I may ask. Someday, I may initiate a conversation.  But for now, I love watching them interact with their patrons in a loving manner.  

It’s soul-soothing to watch their behavior.  Plus, they have amazing coffee!

~Emily

P.S. Do you have any examples of witnessing fruitful behavior in others this week?  Feel free to come share with us!

Right Where You’re Supposed To Be

If you are engaged or just out of a toxic relationship, you are right where you are supposed to be.

If you are a thin build, an athletic build, a cushy build, or like me a “pre-menopausal” build, you are right where you are supposed to be.  

If you have a positive pregnancy test…or a negative one, you are right where you are supposed to be. 

If you are exhausted working long hours to establish a career or exhausted as a stay-at-home mom, you are right where you are supposed to be.  

If you want to be adventurous or cautious, you are right where you are supposed to be. 

Can we just pause for a moment and thank God that we are right where we’re supposed to be?  That He created us each differently, yet in His image, so that we can each fulfill a purpose for His kingdom?  What an incredible blessing that each of us is right where we’re supposed to be.  

In the reflection of how great it is to be where God wants us, I’m reminded of how both Mary and Martha were right where they were supposed to be.  One in the kitchen, frantically trying to entertain and make things amazing for her guests, and one sitting at the feet of the Jesus.  

Imagine being the sisters to Lazarus, the man Jesus rose from the dead.  Now imagine getting to host Jesus for a meal.  I would likely be like Martha, scurrying around trying to make everything delicious, clean, and perfect.  I would very much like to be like Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet learning directly from Him while being present in the moment.

In Luke 10:38-42 (NASB), we see the women in very different roles; each learning different lessons.  Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who was also seated at the Lord’s feet, and was listening to His word.  But Martha was distracted with all her preparations and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do the serving by myself? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but only one thing is necessary: for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.””

Just like Martha, I often learning my biggest lessons after complaining about some minor infraction.  Often the Lord uses these types of scenarios to turn the mirror onto myself.  I have learned to institute some self-reflection prior to complaining…but I’ve also learned that I’m usually in a scenario right where I was supposed to be.  

Regardless of their roles, both Mary and Martha were exactly where they were supposed to be in that moment.  Dare I say, where they needed to be in that moment.

And just like every other scenario we “modern” women find ourselves in, we are right where we are supposed to be.

Come to the porch this week and tell us your stories!

~Emily

Corporate Worship

There’s something about corporate worship that I just adore.  As a junior high school student, the first Christian concert I went to was DC Talk on their Jesus Freak tour!  I had never heard their music, but a youth group was going so I thought, “Why not?!”  I really didn’t even know at the time what contemporary Christian music was.  I grew up in a church with traditional hymns, a choir, piano, and organ.  I’d never really heard rock music for Jesus!  It was such a foreign concept. 

I don’t remember much of that concert.  I don’t remember the church I went with nor the people in my group.  What I do recall is thousands of people at the Denver Coliseum singing together the songs about God.  I’d never heard anything like it!

Many of you that know me, know that I love to sing and I adore music.  I’ve sung in church since I was a little girl, and it’s very important for me in worship.  So when I saw that so many could gather together and worship our Savior in one place, with one voice…I was awestruck!

Corporate worship at church is exactly the same feeling for me.  I love that people come together at service.  The choir stands to do their special.  The congregation stands to their feet and sings the hymns.  Some have their hands folded in front of them, praying silently.  Some look toward heaven.  A few have their hands raised to praise His holy name.  I see smiles on some and tears on another.  But they all have one goal, to talk with God through music.

We are told in the Bible to praise Him and to sing to the Lord!  I’m honored that we choose to do it corporately with other believers.  I’m grateful that churches have now opened back up so that we can, once again, worship together and praise His name!

“Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth.  Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” –Psalm 96:1-2

Friends, do you have a favorite hymn, song or artist with which you worship God?  Share in the comments and be encouraged by each other.

~Erin

Search and Rescue

I work in a military museum so “search and rescue” is not entirely a foreign concept to me.  We have an exhibit called “Star Catchers,” which showcases Airmen who were responsible for capturing satellites falling to earth.  A search and rescue of capsules containing cameras and film…and a race against time and sinking, as the capsule hit the massive ocean.  

Of course, there are also countless stories of Airmen searching for and rescuing other military members…in the jungles of Southeast Asia or the deserts of the Middle East.  Stories of POWs, downed aircraft, and special operations…all centered around the concept of search and rescue. 

There are plenty of times that I wonder if God feels like He’s continuously on a “search and rescue” mission.  He literally searches the Earth for His children who don’t know the Savior as their lifeline.  He searches and then offers them the rope for rescue.  He offers the solution to perilous situations.  He offers the ultimate rescue.  

Many accept God’s gift of His Son for our sins as their personal rescue.  Yet there are others who refuse that gift. 

Can you imagine the downed pilot who tells the rescue team, “No, no, I don’t need your assistance; I’ve got this under control”?

Can you envision the National Security impacts of a capsule with film sinking to the bottom of the ocean?

Can you even fathom the victim of the road side bomb refusing assistance from the first responders?

As sinful humans, our souls send out a distress signal that can only be answered by God.  When presented the Gospel, are we grasping the life-line?  Or are we refusing?  God leaves the choice up to each one of us.  Accept or reject God by accepting or rejecting the gift of salvation.  There are eternal consequences for either choice.  

Those who need rescue in an emergency situation do not refuse assistance. This next week, ask yourself if you’ve accepted the rescue of God.  I encourage you to take time in the next couple of days to pray for those who may be struggling with this decision…do they want to accept or reject their personal “Search and Rescue”?

~Emily

“To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sin and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in me.” ~Acts 26:18