Tornadoes of Life

From my sliding glass door, I once watched a tornado form and touch down.  That was in Cheyenne, WY.  It wasn’t until I bought a house with my husband in Alabama that I was actually within a polygon for a tornado watch or warning.  And now…I’ve been in more than I can count.  It wasn’t until we settled into retirement in central Alabama that we found out this area is called “Dixie Alley,” as a parallel to “Tornado Alley” in the mid-west. 

In the last week, countless communities and lives have been impacted by a string of tornadoes that powered through Alabama.  The day of the storms was a tidal wave of emotions.  At first, very little concern over the weather.  Then I rush home to pick up outdoor furniture before deciding to go check my son out of school early.  While waiting in a mile-long line of parents picking up their own children early, we learned that a huge tornado had already touched down in Selma.  And we learned that the same supercell was heading toward the communities around us. 

It was a rare moment where I spontaneously began praying out loud while in line (although it was under my breath and not very “out loud”).  I prayed for protection over our small town that has already endured so many tragedies over the last year, but specifically, I was praying for the communities that had already been hit.  I had full confidence that the Lord heard these prayers.  Why?  Because in John 14:13-14 (ESV) we read, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

Do you want to know what was more touching than my simple prayers in line?  The response to those who were in need.  Within hours, massive clothing and food drives were organized. Teams of chainsaw-welding men patrolled neighborhoods.  Linemen from in and out of state restored power to all the homes of Alabama.  Social media sprung to life trying to connect photographs tossed miles from home to families. 

Why was there such an intense outpouring of love and response in the moments after these tornadoes touched down?  In some cases, it may be out of kindness or because you would hope that someone would do the same for you. 

For the Christian, it may be because Jesus told us to.  In John 15:12-13 (ESV) Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”   Jesus demonstrated an extravagant love for people.  While we can’t literally lay down our lives for others in daily life, we can choose to love extravagantly in smaller ways.  For instance, we can donate to those who need tangible items after losing everything in a natural disaster. 

God told us in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  This means that we do not have to do life alone and that we should be trying to assist one another in burdens and tragedies.  When we see others struggling, we can choose to help with our support, our love, our finances, and any other resources that we may have.  This is a physical outpouring of the love Christ shows us and we in turn can show others.

In the midst of a natural disaster that doesn’t directly impact your home, it’s easy to praise God for sparing you and yours.  However, Hebrews 13:16 reminds us “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  This is a practical reminder to continuously look for ways to impact others with blessings.

The tornadoes that ripped through Alabama last week were devastating.  Yet, it’s been refreshing to watch how much love and care is being shown to the families who lost loved ones and those who are having to rebuild their homes and businesses.  The reality is this: we should react this way during a disaster.  But we should also react this way daily…even when it isn’t tragedy. 

I truly pray that we can act this way towards one another during a crisis and during the calm. 

~Emily

Fearing Persecution

I live in Bible country.  You’ll find a large majority of people in my area who go to church regularly, memorized scripture as far back as they can remember, or who talk about Jesus without a second thought.  Around here, it’s pretty easy to speak about God or tell someone that you’re praying for them.

But what about in other areas?  What about in the places you aren’t familiar with?  What about the bigger cities or businesses you frequent?  What about your jobsite?  Would you have the same confidence that the people you are surrounded by are unfazed or irritated that you would bring up Jesus?

We see more and more these days, Christians having to defend what they say and how they believe.  Often, we’ll hold our tongues in certain situations because we aren’t familiar with the surrounding audience.

But friends, we’re told that persecution and trials will happen!  We know that some will mock us for our beliefs.  You may receive harassment for your feelings on sensitive topics.  Dare I say some of us could lose friends for standing on the Rock of our Salvation.   The Bible tells us those who willingly accept it are blessed for going through it! 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” –James 1:2-4

“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of Glory and of God rests on you.” –1 Peter 4:14

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” –2 Corinthians 12:10

We should be proud of the fact that our home is in heaven!  I saw a wonderful testament to this just this week.

Most of you have seen the NFL football game on Monday that resulted in the Buffalo Bills’ player, Damar Hamlin, going into cardiac arrest.  As they worked on him at the 50-yard-line, people were stunned, crowds quiet, many of the players and crew taking a knee as they waited to see if he would be ok. 

The following morning during a broadcast, Dan Orlovsky, an ESPN commentator, was speaking about what happened to Damar. 

Now hear me when I say, I know nothing about this man.  I’ve only read he’s an “outspoken Christian.”  I don’t know what his faith-walk looks like and I don’t know what skeletons are in his closet.  What I do know is that he courageously said on national TV that even though he didn’t know if it was the right thing to do, he wanted to pray for him right then with eyes closed and head bowed.  And he did. 

That.  Takes.  Guts.

Would we do the same?

I’m encouraged, Iron Porch!  Those that know me, know that I would talk to a door if it would talk back.  However, I want to be so fearless that I would stand WHEREVER and proclaim that I will pray to our Jehovah-Rapha, The God who Heals.  I want to be unashamed to talk to anyone about Jesus without fear of persecution because I know that persecution brings glory to our Father.

I’m asking you, dear friends…let’s stand strong in our faith, proclaiming to all the goodness and mercy of God that everyone might know who He is!

~Erin

Roman gods and the Changing of the Calendar

Time for a history lesson.

Did you know that the month of January is named after the Roman god Janus.  Janus was a god with two faces.  One face is filled with sadness and seems to look backwards.  The other face is filled with hope as it looks forward.  It becomes the two faces of the New Year…one that looks back at the previous year and one that looks forward to the new year. 

At what point in the year does that hope-filled face realize that it’s the sad face of despair again?  For me a couple weeks into January, I realize any concept of resolutions aren’t important and/or aren’t going to come into fruition.  Perhaps the hope filled face starts to slip a bit by the end of the first month of the year.

As believers, we can be assured that our hope doesn’t have to tie to the flipping of the calendar page to indicate a New Year.  Our God is the same “yesterday, and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  God is over our past, our present and our future. He’s not just there on the 31st of December as we make promises to ourselves about how much better the next year will be.

And if that’s true, well then…it doesn’t matter what the date is on the calendar.  It truly doesn’t matter which way the face is turned…the reality is that there is hope in our face of happiness and sadness.  It’s the hope of a future with Jesus. 

One of the greatest promises we can read in the Bible is when God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us in Hebrews 13:5. This promise stands year-round, year after year.

Read that again…a promise that stands year-round.  Every year.

Our God is an awesome God who provides for us through trials and tribulations.  And He provides for us through triumph and victory.  It does not matter what we are going through, He will be with us. It does not matter if we are happy or sad, He will be with us.  It simply does not matter what season of life we are in, He will be with us.


There’s no need for us to subscribe to the Roman god’s concept of having two faces for our year…we have the one true God to rely on.  I pray you know this now and every day of 2023. 

Happy New Year!

~Emily

The New Year

With a new year comes fresh starts.  Sometimes, it means setting resolutions or goals for yourself.  To others, it means looking to a Word of the Year.  Still, to some it just means another year down, another to go.  It’s something different for everyone.

Usually, I figure out a word of the year.  While I haven’t figured out what my word is, I do feel there is a shift in the air for me in 2023.  It’s been subtle, sneaking up on me.  Today, I feel like it’s practically attacking!

For many of us, change can be scary.  It can be alarming.  We’re comfortable with the norm and we don’t need to see something new.  It can sometimes feel overwhelming.  However, the subtle changes or dramatic beginnings often bring with it a fresh perspective and a new outlook.

For those who find what’s to come in the new year challenging or frightening, let me give you two verses that I’ve been reciting to myself these last couple of days.

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

“What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.” –Psalm 56:3 (KJV)

I don’t quite know what 2023 holds for me yet.   I know there’s new circumstances that I’ll be navigating.  God assures me, though, that He can be trusted as I walk through it.  I’m certain that through Him, I can navigate 2023 with grace and understanding and with a steady walk because He walks it with me.

Praise the Lord for a God who already knows what next year holds!

Friends, are you excited or nervous about something that is going to happen in 2023?  Share with us in the comments!

~Erin

The Anticipation

I finally got to see my friend again!

Three and a half years ago, I wrote a blog about my new friend, Mr. Parker.  For those who are new, let me link that blog here.  It was a chance meeting.  I was given an earlier seat on a connecting flight in February 2019, and a friendship blossomed in just 40 minutes from Birmingham to Atlanta!  Mr. Parker calls it divine intervention.  I agree!

We’ve been hoping the last several years to figure out a way to see each other in person again.  I was looking forward to meeting his wife and spending time together.  But between Covid and us living across the country from each other, it wasn’t possible.  I cherished every phone call we had talking about so many things, our families, the state of the country, the people we knew.  But we both wanted to be able to sit with each other again and see each other’s faces.  We both looked forward to the day that would happen. 

Two weeks ago, we got our wish, and I took Emily with me just a short drive down the road to have dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Parker! When I walked into the restaurant and saw them standing there and got to hug both of them, the joy I felt from anticipating this long-awaited meeting was overwhelming. 

I have the same anticipation for another meeting—the meeting of my Heavenly Father.  I think to Paul writing to the Philippians.  He was imprisoned at the time and looking to encourage the church in Philippi.  He wrote to them about the gospel being preached and how he was trusting God even during the time he was in prison.  And then he says this of his situation:

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.  But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;” –Philippians 1:21-23

He longed to be with Jesus.  He anticipated his time in heaven, worshipping the God of salvation.  While he loved his family and friends and he loved the ministry, he recognized that to be in heaven bowing at the feet of the Father far surpassed any wonderful thing he could experience on the earth.

I want to be the same way, and as we study the book of Revelation, I’m reminded even more about the joy that will come from seeing the face of Jesus.  I want to thank God for creating me.  I want show reverence to Him for His sovereignty.  I long to worship with the heavenly host singing praises about the glory of the King of Kings.

As much as I want to be here enjoying my time on this earth, I long even more to see the face of Jesus.

I pray that as we celebrate during this holiday season, we anticipate not only the celebration of His birth but the face-to-face meeting we will one day have!

~Erin

My Reflection

The other day, I was on the phone with Andros, my 5-year-old grandson.  I may sound biased, but the sweet boy is so smart.  He knows the most unusual facts and uses words that usually come from adults.  As we FaceTimed, I told him, “You know, Andros.  You’re so handsome!”  And he replied, “I know.”  I giggled and retorted, “How do you know that, buddy?!”  Without skipping a beat he said, “Because I look at my reflection!”  Well alright then!  Not only is he witty but he’s coming at me with the big words!

The truth is, he IS handsome!  And how does he know that?  Because his mom and dad tell him.  Because his Mimi and Grandpa tell him.  His Gigi and Pop Pop tell him.  He recognizes that the people who love him most would never steer him wrong.  What they tell him about himself is truthful.

Why do we have such a hard time recognizing that what God tells us about ourselves is true?!  He is our Heavenly Father, the Creator of us all.  He says so many wonderful things about us.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” –Ephesians 2:10 (emphasis mine)

“Know that the Lord is God.  It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” –Psalm 100:3 (emphasis mine)

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” –1 Peter 2:9 (emphasis mine)

These are just a few examples in the Bible that say we are special to Him.  Yet, we often look down at ourselves.  We struggle with feelings of not being enough, not being a good mother, wife, friend, co-worker. We recognize all the flaws and forget about the facts.

We are chosen.  We are redeemed.  We are loved.  We are set apart.  No matter how we may feel about ourselves, we need to recognize that our Father tells us TRUTH and that truth is that we are His.

I pray that we stop listening to the lies of the devil that tell us we aren’t worthy and lean into God-breathed scripture that tells us our identity is in Christ!

~Erin

Photo Cred: Amanda Jones Photography

She Never Complains: A Thankfulness Story

I love to hike. Why? It’s peaceful, it’s out in nature, it’s time to chat with God, time to spend with family and friends, and it’s a way to get some exercise.   I have lofty hiking goals, like completing 52 hikes in a year or section hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.

As a result of my love of hiking and my goals relating to hiking, I never complain while on the hike. 

Until this last week.

I was on an easy 3-mile hike with Erin…my first in several weeks as a result of a knee procedure. The hike was miserable…I was miserable.  Miserable and grumpy.  Erin was quite amused by this shifting of roles on this particular hike….you see, she’s normally the complainer during our hikes.  

I immediately went home and tied myself to my ice-compression machine to get a little relief.  And as I settled into the couch with ice and Tylenol, I felt a nudge of the Holy Spirit about my complaining during the hike.  There I was trying to relax and compensate for pushing my knee so hard and I kept hearing the whisper of Philippians 2:14 in my head. 

“Do everything without complaining and arguing.” ~Philippians 2:14. 

But I was hurting.  But I was hot and sweaty.  But I hadn’t stayed on top of my hiking and workouts.  But there were more hills than I remembered. But, but, but. 

Excuse after excuse came to mind to justify my grumbling.  Within a short period of time, that nudging had me re-examining how I had behaved on the hike. 

Yes, I was hurting and probably pushed too hard to go on the hike so quickly after the knee procedure.  However, that did not justify my grumpy words about the hike.  With a repentant heart, I opened my Bible to read 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

How do we ask for forgiveness for something that seems as trivial as complaining about the length of a hike? We identify the wayward behavior; we repent and ask for forgiveness…and then we shift gears. In that instance, I gave thanks to the Lord as directed by 1 Thessalonians.  I am thankful for medical interventions for my knee. I’m thankful I made it through the hike. I’m thankful for electricity and frozen water to help after the hike. I’m thankful for cool Fall weather and changing leaves.  Of course, I’m thankful for my friendship with Erin…who indulges me by going on hikes with me.  In all, I am grateful to the Lord who has provided each of these things.

She who never complains (about hikes)…she complained (about a hike).

And then this simple example of grouchiness, turned into a personal lesson about being thankful.

~Emily

“Vacation” on the Appalachian Trail

Last week I spent six days hiking and living on the Appalachian Trail.  It’s been a lifelong dream to hike the entire 2,195 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  Instead of deciding to be gone from my regular life for 5-6 months, I thought I should start with a small chunk to see if I really wanted to do it. 

At times it was hard.  The hike was 38 miles of up and down steep rocky trails. But there were flat parts, water crossings, and cool breezes. 

At times it was smelly—my feet were worse than a teenage boy and don’t get me started on my arm pits.  It was truly dirty camping night after night without showers or toilets.  But there were glorious moments like the smell of the trail as the rain started or the first sniff of shampoo off the trail. 

At times it was scary.  We saw a bear, a rattle snake and a tiny little black snake.  There were encounters with 78,000 spiders. But there was safety in numbers at the campsites and sharing of food and stories late into the nights.  There was even one night when a senior hiker got up to check on all of us at 2am when a falling branch startled us all awake.  

One of the most rewarding parts of the adventure was the time spent with God.  Each day included a conversation with God.  Each sunrise, sunset, waterfall, and mountainside view got comments of gratitude to the Lord.  Every single hard step included a plea for help.  The long sleepless nights tossing and turning on a blow-up mat included prayers.

And I used the time to concentrate on one particular scripture.  I’d tried to memorize it prior to going and just didn’t have my heart in it.  So, I wrote it in my journal page and carried it with me the entire hike. I looked at it often and while hiking mediated on the words and the context of the scripture.

“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” ~Luke 6:12

He went off to the mountains to pray.  Jesus went to the mountain to pray.  And then He spent all night in prayer.  Have you ever wondered what Jesus was praying for that night?  We know snippets that indicate He was asking to not have to be tortured and have a horrific death.  We know He prayed that He would accept that death if it was God’s will.  But did that take all night?  

Have you ever prayed so earnestly for something that it was like you were conversing all the possibilities with God?  Hours went by and you were still content to continue talking to God.  No answers yet, but just talking to God.  

That’s how I imagine that night was for Jesus. Prayerful conversations with the Father, in which He continuously talked through how He was feeling, how He wished it would go, how He loved the Father, and how He would do His will.  

What a beautiful example of how we should pray.  In the midst of chaos and challenges we can turn to the Lord and find rest.  Constant prayer is like having a consistently open phone line directly to God.  If I’m honest, I rarely take advantage of that type of prayer. I get caught up in daily life and forget to chat with God for everything.  

Except this last week while I was in the woods. I was able to connect to God like I haven’t in quite a while.  In the midst of the beauty of nature and the difficulty of a physical challenge, I was able to focus on talking to God.  And it was a remarkable time.

I want to encourage each of you to take time this week to really focus on talking to God.  Find the hypothetical mountain where you can pray…and then do it without ceasing.

It’s your own personal “vacation on the Appalachian Trail.”

~Emily

Am I a Fruity Tree?

When the girls were younger, both Peyton and McKenna preferred to sit with me in “big” church.  They were never really ones to want to go to the kid’s room where everyone their age hung out.  They never ceased to amaze after the sermon when we would discuss the pastor’s message just how much they would know and understand what had been talked about.

One Sunday, Pastor Galen spoke of Jesus cursing the fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22).  Jesus came up to the fig tree with his disciples and upon seeing that the tree was bare when it shouldn’t have been, He cursed the tree.  It withered up at once.  The disciples were shocked and from that moment, Jesus was able to speak to them on the power of faithful prayer.  

Pastor Galen expressed additional thoughts on the correlation to us living out the fruit of the Spirit and what it means to produce fruit in our walk with God.  It was rich with meaning and incredibly helpful to think about how empty our walk with God can be when we are bare and not producing fruit for the Kingdom.

On our way home, Peyton asked me if she could ask a question.  “Mommy, am I a plain tree or a fruity tree?”  At 6 years old, she was able to understand what the pastor meant in the difference between the two.  It shaped a beautiful conversation that ended with Peyton reminding herself that as a Christian she should always want to be the fruity tree and talk to her friends about Jesus.

To have the faith of a child, right?!

We sometimes think that being fruitful in our Christian life is difficult.  And don’t get me wrong.  It’s hard to handle things like patience and long-suffering.  It’s scary to talk to a random stranger about God and who He sent as a sacrifice on our behalf.  It’s demanding to think that we must die to self daily.  But isn’t that we’re meant to do?

In Colossians 1:10, Paul writes to the people and says he is constantly praying for them so that they will be filled with the knowledge of His will, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

I believe that if we came to God with the faith of a child, innocently wanting to just be a fruity tree for Him rather than a plain one, we would recognize we can trust God to help us be that fruity tree.  We aren’t meant to become fruit bearers by doing it on our own.  With faithful study and meditation on God’s Word, we can know that we are meant to lean on Him as well as walk with Him as we flourish and produce the fruit. 

That’s the beauty of having a relationship with Him!  We don’t have to be scared because we aren’t doing it alone.  We produce the fruit as a faithful child of the King!

How about you, dear friends?  Tell me, do you long to be a fruity tree for the Kingdom of God?!  Share with us in the comments below.

~Erin

Your Biblical Arsenal

From the time my children were little, they were taught gun safety.  They are aware of the ways in which to handle and carry a gun.  They know how to load and shoot guns, as well.  It was important as their parent for Chris to teach them how to use and take care of guns responsibly.

While I don’t believe in a “zombie apocalypse,” it HAS been the running joke for years that we need to have protection, know how to defend ourselves in the event of an attack and what an arsenal would look like in a situation like that. 

This makes me think of our own personal Biblical arsenal.  The Bible is the sword of the Spirit.  It is the part of the Armor of God that allows protection against the devil’s schemes and attacks against us.  It is to be used at all times!  A biblical arsenal can be a book of scripture or your actual Bible that you have with you.  Maybe you have a notebook that you’ve written some verses down in or a Bible study book that you keep handy.

Many verses in the Bible speak to knowing scripture and having scripture handy as a necessity.

This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will achieve success.” –Joshua 1:8

“I have treasured Your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.” –Psalm 119:11

“The Law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.” –Psalm 37:31

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” –Colossians 3:16

I know that I write a LOT about knowing scripture.  I do this twofold. 

The first, because I know how important it is to have a Biblical arsenal handy in times of struggle, attacks, and trials.  I can’t stress enough how calming it feels when a verse that you’ve memorized or read dozens of times pops into your head courtesy of the Holy Spirit during a time of need.  It’s comforting.  It feels like confidence.  It feels as if you’re not alone.  It also opens up the opportunity to take a moment to pray and thank God for the arsenal He’s given.

The second, because I need the reminder even now.  And I know I’m not the only one that needs this reminder.  It’s work to look up and learn verses.  But it’s work that isn’t regretted. 

When you are struggling to find joy in your day and the Holy Spirit lays on your heart Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” it allows for a moment to reflect and give praise to our Father.  It allows a change of direction in our attitude.  When we feel the attack of the devil, perhaps one of the verses you’ve got in your arsenal is “Go away, Satan!  For it is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only,’” Matthew 4:10, the words of Jesus to Satan.

If you’re not great at memorizing, I’d like to suggest something that has worked for me for years.  I’ve carried with me 3×5 spiral-bound notecards.  I found it in Walmart and started writing verses in it that were important to me.  There are verses about salvation and verses about God’s love.  There are verses like the previous ones mentioned.  There’s verses in it about prayer.  They are simply my own hand-written biblical arsenal that I can carry to help me through at a moment’s notice.

I encourage you to put together your own arsenal!  Let us know in the comments below what your biblical arsenal looks like!

~Erin