The Blessing Jars

Table 8 met for our last meeting of 2019 just this last Monday, and I wanted to give something to the ladies that I had seen Emily do and had done myself a few years ago.  It wasn’t a big or expensive gift.  It was a gift that would allow them to see the blessings of their daily life.  It was a blessing jar.

For those who don’t know what this looks like or what it is, a blessing/thankful jar is a container that you can use to hold your good and fun memories for the year.  I kept mine on an end table with scraps of paper beside it.  If something exciting happened like a promotion or a visit from a friend from out of town, I’d jot down what happened along with the day’s date.  When I had mother/daughter dates, I would keep the receipt for where we went or the ticket stub from the movie to throw in the jar.  At the end of the year, my girls and I had so much fun going back through the papers that I had saved!  It reminded us of the countless good times and memories we had.

I haven’t had my jar out in several years.  But I realized this year, that it felt as if stress levels for people in general have been at an all-time high.  I decided that it was time to counteract the stress of everyday life with the blessing reminders of what God provides for us.

Rather than have one big jar for each my friends, I made smaller jars.  I explained that the smaller jars work almost identically to the large jars.  Rather than look at them at the end of the year, however, I encouraged them to do their blessings by the month!

“At the end of every month,” I explained, “pull out what you’ve put in your jar to remind yourselves of the blessings you’ve been graced with.  Save the papers in a baggie with the month marked.  At the end of the year look over all of the blessings from the last 12 months and be thankful for what God has done!”

It truly makes a difference in our attitudes when we can be reminded of the good things God allows in our lives.  I encourage you today that if you don’t have one, start one!  And if you’ve put yours away like I did, join me in bringing it back out and being encouraged by the blessings that come your way.   It’s a great way to be thankful!

~Erin

Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; –Ephesians 5:20

Waiting for Something: The Case for a Puppy

My 8-year-old recently asked, “Why don’t we have a dog yet?”

Our family has been talking about getting a puppy for a couple years, but we’ve always had parameters associated with it.

As soon as we buy a house, we’ll get a dog.

As soon as I retire from the military, we’ll get a dog.

As soon as this or that is done, we’ll get a dog.

My son has had enough of the waiting and now just flat out asks why we are still stalling.

I tried to think of a way to explain to an 8-year-old using a Bible story.  Sarah waiting on a baby, offering her maid to her husband? Nope, not a good 3rd grader type of story.  Lazarus raised from the dead? Pretty complicated for the 3rd grader. Woman healed with the blood issue? Not sure I know enough about it to explain it….

It’s so hard to be patient waiting for something we desire! Often it’s difficult to be patient with God too.  What does it mean to “wait on the Lord”?

There are a couple of key components to waiting on God. The first is a complete dependence on God and the second is a willingness to allow Him to dictate the timeline.  Both sound easy. Neither are.

I find myself praying, “Lord, give me patience…like, now.  Yep, now is when I need the patience.”

Practicing patience with God often involves waiting. When we wait on the Lord, we are developing strengthened character in our Christian walk.  That patience showcases our ability to trust the Lord. It strengthens our prayer life. In some instances, it may strengthen our desire to be into the Word more frequently.

The timing of the Lord is always perfect.  We just have to wait patiently.

The timing of the Shade puppy will also be perfect. My son just has to wait patiently.

~Emily

The case for a puppy

Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds

By Dawn Green

Sitting here waiting on my sister to come to get me for an appointment, I’m watching bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds going from flower to flower.  One hummingbird is smaller than the others, maybe a younger bird, maybe a different kind of hummingbird.  He doesn’t know he’s different, he just goes about his business.  He or she gathers and gathers and then flies to the crepe myrtle to rest a while.

My mind is kind of like that little bird.  It goes from one thing to another, sometimes I get work accomplished, sometimes flitting around gets me distracted so the desired task doesn’t get completed.  Maybe the difference between me and that tiny bird is he has one goal, food for survival, rest a little, then go gather again.

I wonder, too, as I watch, is that the hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies all feed off the same flowers.  Do they know to leave a little for someone else?  Not like the human characteristic to get it all for me.  Also, do the plants produce more nectar because the little creatures come back day after day. Of course, there are eventually new flowers during the growing season.  But some flowers remain on the bushes for several days.  I’m no botanist, however, it all works, I’m amazed at the complexity of God’s creation.  How these tiny creatures know all that they know.

As cute as they are, they are also fierce fighters among themselves, like tiny fighter jets, attacking each other over the bird feeder.  But it doesn’t seem like they ever mortally wound one another, just warn and scold and fuss at each other.  One little bird has found a place beneath the feeder where he can watch his food source and defend it, perched upon the halo of a garden angel.  Another is camouflaged in a nearby tree, where he is the same size, shape, and color of the leaves. He’ll wait and watch and then dive bomb the watching hummer.

I wouldn’t have gotten the pleasure of watching these amazing creatures if the Father hadn’t sat me down for a while, healing from pacemaker surgery.  The goal here is to heal and rest a while.  I wish it didn’t take something like this to slow me down to see God at work.  My friends and family have been generous and thoughtful to do my gathering for me.  And I’m grateful that the Father also brought these sweet people into my life.  He also helped me be settled and see that he is all around me, walking with me in this growing season.  Not to be too sappy, but can’t we be the sweet nectar in the life of another?  Serving, caring, providing, and protecting, Just as the Lord has done for us and will continue to do.

He promised, “I’ll never leave you or forsake you”.  He’s definitely all around me.

~Dawn

Hummingbird graphics

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