Guests At The Table

When reflecting on my brother-in-law’s wedding to my sister-in-law, I remembered when I was seated in the second row with the groom’s family.  I turned around and saw my husband’s Uncle and Aunt seated several rows behind me.  I waved them forward to come sit by me since they were also part of the groom’s family. They moved forward.  

When I asked why they sat far back they responded, “Always sit towards the back and wait until you are invited to a more reverent position.”  

That sentiment has stuck with me for the last 2 years.

It also reminded me of when I was a Junior in High School and our Youth Group leader set up a dinner event for us at the church.  We could sit wherever we wanted at the table.  But it ended up being a lesson in choosing to sit at the head table verse sitting in “lesser” position.  Those of us that had sat at the head table were then asked to become the servers at the dinner party.

Both examples are reminiscent of the “Parable of the Great Banquet” or “Parable of Guests” from Luke 14:7-10.  

“And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place.But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.”

Luke 14:7-10 (NASB)

Pride dictates to us that we are worthy of sitting at the front table.  It’s pride that allows us to think we should sit in a place of honor.  

But it’s someone else’s authority that allows us to stay there. 

At a wedding, it’s the protocol of Emily Post.  At a dinner party, it’s the host or hostess’ decision.  

As a Christian, Jesus outlines that we are to wait until we are invited to move to that position of honor.   Jesus didn’t tell us this as a mean way of “keeping us in check.” Rather, He was teaching us how we can learn to control pride…before it controls us.  He was teaching us how to be humble…so that we can be an example to others.  

Through a deliberate lesson geared towards teenagers, my youth group leaders taught me the lesson early.  Years later, by demonstrating this behavior, my husband’s Aunt and Uncle illustrated a real-life lesson in that humility.  

This week, I pray that we are each humble in our decisions about where we choose to sit at the table.

~Emily

Pink Starbursts Type of Favorite

Do you have a favorite candy?  For the most part, I have seasonal favorites.  I love the Cadbury mini eggs at Easter, the peanut butter taffies at Halloween, and the peppermint taffies or jelly bellies at Christmas.  Year-round, I love the pink starbursts.  So much so that I will by-pass the other colors to just eat the pink ones…I especially despise yellow ones.  Seriously, who likes the yellow ones that taste like I imagine pledge would taste?!?!?

**I should take a moment to publicly issue a very heartfelt thank you to whichever executive made the decision to sell totally pink starburst bags!!! Huge win for me.  Huge.

If people were like candy, then I just admitted that there are favorites all year round, that there are seasonal favorites…and there are pledge smelling ones that are the least favorite.  You are probably able to name people in your life who fall into each of those categories.  I think we all can come up with some names for each of the lists.

Interestingly enough, God only has pink starburst favorites as His children.  He doesn’t even acknowledge the categories of seasonal or least favorite.  He loves us all equally and with abandon.  While He may hate our sinful decisions, He loves us completely, as though we were His year-round favorite candy.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NASB) Paul wrote, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”

If we are striving to be like Christ, then we should be practicing loving and accepting like Christ.  And if Christ has no favorites or least favorites, then we should be practicing not having favorites.

Which brings me to the yellow starburst people in my life.  I throw yellow starbursts in the garbage.  If I’m being honest, the yellow starburst people in my life get less than my 100% attention, love, or prayers. While I don’t throw them in the trash, I don’t treat them the same as my favorite people.  In the model of Jesus, what I’m doing with those interpersonal interactions is not fair…and it’s not right.

Clearly, I have some work to do, if I want to be more Christ-like in my interactions with others!

In the next week, I’m going to challenge myself to treat everyone around me as though they are my year-round favorite.  I want to see them as Christ sees them.  Perhaps, you can join me with this challenge and tell us on the Iron Porch how it’s going for you!

~Emily

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The Thank You Card

I got a card once from a dog.  Legitimately.

Two years ago, Peyton and I were talking in our living room when she gave a glance out the window and saw a dog walking past our front yard.  He was lazily sniffing around and didn’t appear to have an owner attached to him.  We walked out of the front door and called him over.

It was Jack.  We’d seen him before, because he and his buddy escaped several months ago and found their way to our house.  Jack apparently loves to visit the neighborhood. This wiry haired terrier sat still as we got the number off of his tag and left a message for his mom or dad to come rescue him from our house again.

We had to run some errands so we left Jack in our backyard.  When his mom called about 30 minutes later, we let her know where he was so that she could run over and grab him.  She was grateful that he hadn’t wondered too far off and appreciated that we’d called.

Which leads to my card!

Three days letter, we received a card in the mail from Jack.  He let us know that his owners don’t let him out much and when he can make a break for it, he does.  He thanked us for letting him hang out at our house and as a token of appreciation, treated us to a Starbucks gift card!

SO cute, right?!

What if we were all that appreciative?  Or even that friendly?!  I’m not saying we all need to go around buying a gift card for each other.  That card, however, brought so much joy to me and my daughter.  We were thrilled to get a little snail mail when we weren’t expecting it.  It was time and effort that our neighbor had put in.  The kind (and funny) words gave us a laugh and brightened our spirits.  The gift card was an unexpected treat that we were able to enjoy!

I encourage you this week to reach out to someone with a note of thanks.  Maybe they grabbed some groceries for you.  Perhaps your mailman has been putting your packages in a special place to help keep them safe.  Maybe you were having a rough day and a friend made you smile!  Whatever it is, let’s learn to give each other spirits a lift!

1 Thessalonians 4:18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

~Erin

The Favorite Child

Anyone who’s had a child or been a child has most likely heard or used the phrase, “They’re your favorite!” once or twice in their lives.  It happened in my house since I was a child; I would constantly tell my mom that I thought my little brother, Jon, was her favorite.

My children carry on this tradition today.  Just recently, there was back and forth antics on Facebook over who was my favorite with even McKenna’s best friend, Nevada, getting in the mix saying she was sure that SHE was the one that was the favorite! There’s no winning no matter what you say!

The truth is, I love all of my children equally and yet differently.  I love McKenna’s perseverance.  I love Peyton’s tenacity.  I love Rylan’s independence.  They’re each unique in their situations and each has had their own trials and tribulations.  I have to mold the love I have for them in ways that speak specifically to their hearts.  The way for McKenna is different than the way for Peyton.

God also loves us in this unique way.  We are each His children.  He doesn’t love one more than the other.  But just like our children have their own little nuances, God’s children need different kinds of ways sometimes to see God’s love for them.  I believe He recognizes this in His children shows us His love in individual ways that we can feel and see that are known to us.  It’s beautiful, really, that He loves us equally but differently.

This Mother’s Day, celebrate the uniqueness that is you to your mother and the specialness that is your child to you!  Happy Mother’s Day to every favorite mom out there from your favorite children!

Love,

Erin

P.S.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, from your TRUE favorite child!

Garden Sowing

Every spring, my family plants a garden.  Some years it’s been a couple tomato plants, while other years it’s been much more extensive.  Some plants are starters from a garden shop, while others are grown from seedlings.  Each year there’s great hope that there will be enough harvest to augment our family meals.

In the weeks preparing for our garden, there is inevitably disagreements about how much we should plant and which variations of vegetable we should grow.  My husband is what I call an “over-planter.” He puts multiple seeds into one pocket of soil or multiple plants in close proximity.  On the other hand, I’m an “under-planter.”  I will place one or two seeds in a soil pocket or I’ll allow plenty of space between plants so there’s lots of space for growth.

According to scripture, I’m likely the one in the wrong, as I should be sowing generously.

2 Corinthians 9:6-9 (NIV) states, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.’”

While it seems chaotic in the world in the midst of a pandemic, there have been extraordinary acts of kindness reported on the news and in social media.  The neighbors who mow the lawns they don’t own.  People who escort the elderly veteran in the grocery store.  The medical professionals who are coming out of retirement to help assist.  These are the people who are cheerful givers.  God has blessed them abundantly so that in ALL times, they are able to abound in every good work.

According to the Bible, I should be sowing generously in both my heart of giving and in my garden.  Despite being confined to the house through social distancing, I’m going to use this season to practice sowing into those around me.

And I’m going to support my husband’s over-planting…

~Emily

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Wedding Anniversaries

Last week my parents celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary.  I joke a lot about if they have been married 50 years yet, to which my mom always responds “you’re lucky we got married at all.”  To most, that would sound like a more modern establishment of co-habituating rather than committing to marriage.  In reality, my parents are a product of the 60s and were more likely to reject the entire institution of marriage.

In Genesis 2:22-24, we see that God created woman from man and intended them to be united together forever once committed to marriage.  There was a specific intent from God about how our marital relationship should be constructed.   In today’s society, it more difficult to find God’s intent on display in American marriages.

I believe that we need guidance strictly from the Word of God on how marriage should be.  However, I also believe Godly counsel from others is often needed.  In relation to marriage, it’s helpful to find Christians who have long-standing marriages in order to see and hear what has worked for them. It’s helpful to be reassured in good times and assisted in turmoil.  Those Christian examples, with a healthy prayer life and studying God’s word, help us figure out how God wants us to behave within our own marriages.

I’m a lucky girl that I was able to see that modeled behavior first hand in my parent’s marriage.  They were kind to one another.  They always supported each other’s endeavors.  They dreamed together.  They stood united against any force. When things were bad, they worked through it together.  When things were good, they rejoiced together.

Despite them having been a part of the hippie generation that typically rejected the institution of marriage, they are still so in love.  So much so, that they have a tree in their backyard that has their initials carved inside a heart.

~Emily

And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman and brought her unto the man.  And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.  Therefore, shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.      ~Genesis 2: 22-24

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Culinary School Expectations

My husband and I often tag-team in the kitchen.  We normally work as a pretty good team on favorite recipes, but new ones tend to create drama. I begin to lose patience and get some attitude.  It’s usually accompanied by a snotty comment. Inevitably, my husband throws up his hands and says something to the effect of “you’re the one who went to culinary school, you do it.”

I think this is a more common reaction than we recognize.  When we lose patience or when we get aggravated, we have similar reactions.  When we feel we know better or when we feel that someone should behave a certain way, we have similar reactions.  It’s the reaction of literally or figuratively throwing up your hands and saying “you’re the one who…blah, blah, blah” and you’re able to insert whatever finish to that statement that you want.

At work, one could add “you’re the one who is in charge or has the degrees.”

At the grocery store, one could add “you’re the one who works here.”

At church, one could say “you’re the one who went to seminary or has been a Christian longer.”

I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks, and I’ve concluded that when we use this reaction at work, in relationships, and especially at church, it’s not helpful.  It becomes blame-shifting in a passive-aggressive manner while justifying why we should be held more accountable for the interaction.

When you look at the Garden of Eden, you see Adam react in this blame-shifting manner when God asks what has happened after they ate the fruit.  In Genesis 3:12-13, Adam states “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  Adam blames God and the woman.  In turn, Eve replies, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”   Neither takes responsibility for their own role in the sin.

Because we don’t accept our own sinful behavior, we end up not exercising grace. And that dear sisters is when we start to say things like “you’re the one who….blah, blah, blah.”

Even though I really did go to culinary school, I’m going to try to control my patience level and not push my husband to the point he throws his hands up at me.  I challenge you to find an area of your life that you can work on too!
~Emily

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The Halo Eye

I believe strongly that I need to be a parent first to my children.  While I love being friends with them and I love that they feel they can come to me, at the end of the day they  know that my job as a mother to them far exceeds and outweighs any kind of friendship I can have them.  I’m thankful that my children know this.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun!  This week, I decided to try a new eye shadow look.  Now, for those who are beauty gurus reading this, I am FAR from experienced at any kind of fancy makeup look.  But I thought why not try a halo eye?!  For those who AREN’T beauty gurus, it’s essentially darker color across the eyelid with a lighter pop of color in the center of the lid.  (Don’t you feel ultra-informed now, (insert eye roll here)!)

Anyway, I forgot to tell Peyton I tried to do it and so I texted her (don’t judge) from the living room and asked if she’d seen it.  She wrote back that she hadn’t and what ensued was picture after ridiculous picture of my eyes, my face contorted in glorious fashion.  She came out of the room and let me know it was ‘very nice.’  We had such a good laugh over that.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.  Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’  The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. –Psalm 126:2-3

The Lord HAS done great things for me.  He gave me two parents who love the Lord.  He gave me wonderful children that I brought up in the church.  He’s provided for me day after day even when I didn’t deserve it.  He’s filled my soul with the everlasting love of the Father.  In turn, I find great joy in sharing time and laughter with Peyton!

I encourage you today to find the joy in your surroundings, no matter how big or small.  Focus on how God has blessed you and let laughter and joy flow out!  He is so good!

~Erin

P.S. You have to know I would show our text messages with proof I like to torture my daughter!

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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

The Outsider

This last weekend, deer season for youth rifle started in Alabama.  That means my husband and son were out in the deer blind whenever they had extra time. About 4 hours before church on Sunday, I heard the shot in our back pasture. I knew a young buck had wandered into the line of sight of an eager 8-year-old hunter.

The boys excitedly tried to convince me to go track the deer with them.  I had zero desire to go tromping through the woods looking for drops of blood while avoiding thorny vines and ticks.  I had a long to-do list to accomplish.  I was still in my PJs.  Coffee had just started brewing.

I can just imagine the ladies of the Iron Porch all coming up with valid reasons why I should NOT go smashing through the woods!

While all of those statements were truthful, they really are excuses to not accompany my husband and son on the trail of a dead or soon-to-be-dead deer.

Excuses? Why you ask?  (I mean, besides the obvious that I hadn’t had coffee and was still braless!).  The reason is that when I go with the boys on hunting adventures I feel like an outsider.

There’s showmanship and male bonding that is occurring that makes me feel like I’m an outsider. The high-fives and fist bumps…the wiping of blood on cheeks…the chuckles about peeing out of the deer blind.  All of which makes me feel like I’m not in on the joke. It makes me feel like I’m not in the “inner circle.”

How often are people coming up with excuses to not go to church because they feel like the outsider?

The parallels between the outsider on a hunting or tracking adventure and that of church attendance weighed heavily on me throughout the day.  I started to consider if I was inclusive or exclusive while I was at church.  Did I encourage the new visitor to sit with me? Did I show her where her babies would be safely cared for while she recharged in the sanctuary? Did I pray with the gal who is struggling with her teenage daughter?

Or…

Did I sit in the same spot? Do I notice that certain couples only socialize with themselves? Did I greet the same people that I do week after week? Are there cliques at my church?  Does social media tell a story that is different from what I see in the sanctuary?  Did I chat with the same moms near the children’s area? Did I make eye contact with anyone new?!?!?!?

You see, I think we occasionally make people feel like the outsider even when we are the church.  We may not do it intentionally, but there are times where we are more consumed with our own personal connections that we fail to create personal connections for those around us.

I’ve been a recipient of this behavior in church.  There was a scenario where I wanted to make a connection with a gal, but over time I noticed this lady was uninterested in anyone who was not already in her small circle.  That stung a bit. It made me feel unworthy.  She may not have intended to have that reputation, but it was the predominate view of her relationship skills.

As a result of that personal example, I’ve tried my best to be more receptive to conversations.  I’m not perfect, however, so I know that there are times that I am drawn towards those I already know.

The next time that I notice myself be less inclusive, I’m going to be mindful to ensure that others are feeling a part of the larger group.

I know what it’s like to be an outsider.  In church and in hunting.

~Emily

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. ~Romans 15:7 (NIV)

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