The Puzzle Pieces

Puzzles seem to be a hot quarantine trend this year!  I see my friends putting them together all over Facebook, and about five weeks ago Peyton and I started putting them together ourselves!  I found a puzzle company that had some really sweet looking 1000 piece puzzles, and I bought one.  Then another two more.  The newest two are in the shipping process as we speak.  Peyton and I get so much satisfaction working as a team to put the pieces together, and even though it’s probably a good idea to take it slow and savor the experience, we’ve loved challenging ourselves to get it done as fast as we can!

The work to complete the puzzles reminds me of the current study of the book of Mark I’m doing from the bible.  I read a chapter.  It’s the outside edges.  I push a little more and look to the who, what, when, where.  I’ve got the corner of the puzzle together.  I’m taking notes and cross-referencing scripture to see where the Old Testament converged on the New.  The puzzle is beginning to look like a real picture.  Before long, I’ve got a notebook full of information on the time period during Jesus’s ministry, the healings, the preaching, and the places.  I’ve got the clearest knowledge I’ve ever had of a book from scripture, and it draws me even nearer to God.  The puzzle is complete.  And now, I start a new puzzle with a new book.  The cycle continues.

I’m not done studying Mark.  In fact I’ve only just started.  But the idea that I’ll have a more complete understanding of the ministry of Jesus only pushes me closer.  Psalm 119:11 says, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”  This sweet verse tells me I need to treasure the words in the bible, to know them, to understand them.

I encourage you today to pick a chapter or a book of the Bible and treat it like that puzzle.  You don’t need to rush it like Peyton and I do with the tiny little pieces!  Take one piece at a time, study and put it together to create a final and beautiful picture.

~Erin

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Our first masterpiece!

No Fear

Andros, my grandson, just got a “bike” a few weeks ago.  And not just any bike…he got a PW50.  What is that, you ask?  It’s a dirt bike.  Yes, you read that right.  My two-year-old grandson has a legit dirt-bike-motorcycle-death-trap.  Just kidding—it’s not a death trap, but Andros can now go 30 mph on a dirt track and he’s barely two feet tall!

Andros has grown up the last two years watching his dad drift cars and ride bikes, so it only seems natural that he would want in on the action.  McKenna has been sending me videos of him riding first on straight patches of field, now progressing to a track with hills and turns.  They have special training wheels attached, but he barely uses them!  Andros. Has. No. Fear.

Which got me to thinking…why do WE when it comes to sharing the gospel?!  I know I’ve written on this subject before, but it bears repeating.  It’s especially relevant to me now with current situations in my life.  We should not be afraid to share the gospel with our friends, with our loved ones, with our neighbors and even our enemies!  Sometimes, we fear looking like the weird one, but we shouldn’t.  Jesus came to save us through a death, burial and resurrection.  People thought He was weird with the things He was teaching.  But He taught it anyway!

Your opportunity to share the gospel with someone may be the only time they get to hear it.  It’s important that people know and hear about the love of God before it’s too late.  I falter at this.  Sometimes, I miss the opportunity because I don’t want to “make waves” or cause an argument with someone who believes differently.  But all you need to do is plant the seed! God will water and grow it!

Let’s strive to more like Andros in this situation and learn to HAVE NO FEAR!

~Erin

A Boy and His Bike
McKenna had to take a shot of her sweet boy on the track!

 

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

Garden

 

 

 

 

 

A Hummingbird Cake??

I love to tout my southern roots.  I grew up on sweet tea and grits despite having never actually lived in the south.  But when your mom’s side of the family is Virginia and North Carolina and your pop’s side of the family is from South Carolina, you wear it like a badge of honor.

Today, I added a check mark to my list of southern accomplishments.  I made a hummingbird cake.  No, hummingbirds were not harmed during the making of this dessert.  Yes, I took out the pecans in the cake and in very crass humor announced to my bible study that I brought them a “neutered hummingbird, nuts on the side.”  (I’m sure they wonder how I got nominated to be the bible study leader some days.)

Y’all, it was delicious!  I had never been willing to even try it because bananas and pineapple and nuts all mixed in a cake just sounds weird.  What if it was so gross that I never wanted to eat cake again?!  I was literally afraid to try the cake.  But it was so good, and I HAD to go back and get more.

Why do we often treat our sharing of the gospel in the same way?!  As believers, we know that our heritage is in the Lord.  We are children of the King and should want to shout and live it from the rooftops!  Yet we’re hesitant to share it because we’re afraid of how it might look to our friends or the people we encounter every day.  We worry that they’ll reject us.  Perhaps we’ll look silly or like a ‘Jesus nut.’  We even sometimes feel as if we don’t know the right things or verses to say.

Friends, we don’t have to be afraid!  Our lives were purchased by the shed blood of Jesus and we need not fear what others think.  There are many ways He tells us to share in the bible.  He says to be the light in the darkness (Luke 8:16).  He tells us to go into the world, preaching the gospel (Mark 16:15).  Be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). Be an example with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  He just wants us to tell others about Him!

You may be the only Christian they come in contact with and I’d love to encourage you, dear ones, to let go and trust God to give you the courage to give it a try!  Share the gospel!  You’ll never regret the moment that you do.  You will have planted the seed.  Let God water it!

~Erin

 

Airport Observations

I’ve been traveling quite a bit over the last few weeks: cross country to California from Alabama, two trips to Washington DC and a trip to Colorado.  Throughout those trips, I’ve made some observations about what people think is appropriate clothing and behavior while on public transportation.

Before I get started, let me be clear…I’m all for comfy clothes and I adore yoga pants. However, I must be slightly old-fashioned because I feel like there should be a dress code for flying.  I’m not talking about fancy formal wear or business attire.  I’m simply stating that there is a need to stop behaviors, such as wearing sleepwear in public.

For instance, why is there a need to wear bedroom slippers thru the airport?

Why is there a need to wearing jogging pants with an Aztec peach and turquoise skirt, paired with a black and white plaid blazer and purple ankle boots?

Matching pajamas?

The sequin jacket with fur lining looks appropriate for the 8am flight…who am I to judge?

The styles of clothing, while entertaining, was just as surprising as the language.  I heard lots of swearing, lots of children being yelled out, and lots of exasperated couples.

The most memorable overheard conversation was a couple behind me in the TSA line in Washington DC. The woman turned to her husband and said, “I wish this line would hurry up.  I want to eat, poop, and get a drink…and not in that order.”  It was all I could do to not giggle…or turn around to get a visual to match the voice of such a statement!

Through all these observations, I began to reflect on how I’m observed in an airport.  While I’m not wearing bedroom slippers or a sparkly jacket, do I look like I showered? While I’m not yelling at my son or swearing at my husband, am I speaking in a kind manner?

In my actions, in my clothing, in my words…am I reflecting the love and joy of being a Christian?  This next week I’m going to focus on how my words and behavior reflect that I’m a daughter of the one true King…rather than being seen as merely an observation.

~Emily

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.” ~Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

Airport Observations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreams So Big: 2020

A new year brings new resolutions, new promises, and occasionally new dreams.

When I was a small child, I dreamt of being an FBI agent.  My current role as a curator at a military museum could not be further from that childhood dream.  Clearly, not a dream come true.

My husband has always dreamt of being a fishing guide and/or having a fly shop where he could pass along his love of being an angler.  With the addition of a new boat in 2019, he’s begun the work of establishing a business including fish guiding and teaching classes on fishing.  Dreams are beginning to come true.

There is a sense of bittersweetness when you look at dreams that have or have not come true. You can see where God’s plans were better than your own.  And you begin to see how God’s timing is better than your own.

Are your dreams as big as God?  What do you want for your life that you think is too outrageous?!?!?  Because guess what? Nothing is too outrageous for God…He’s plans are already in the works for a dream bigger than you already dream.

Do you want to adopt a child? Start a ministry? Finish a degree? Run a marathon? (I’m not gonna lie, I’m not sure I understand why anyone “wants” to run)

It’s easy to say that you believe God is big enough to fulfill your dreams…it’s harder to actually believe that.

How can you tell if your dreams match God’s desires for you?  How do you know you are dreaming “big enough”?

Christ’s Great Commission charges us with an incredible purpose: “Make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). Beyond any of our wildest dreams, we are given a purpose to make disciples…in our homes, in our churches, and in our world.

In whatever manner you seek opportunities to disciple others, the Great Commission should partner with your big dreams. This is God’s desire for your life.  Filter all you do through the Great Commission.

  • You dream of adopting a child? Find a Christian agency and become involved with how discipleship occurs internationally.
  • You want to start a ministry? Start researching, start investing, start studying…and watch how God will give you opportunities to execute the Great Commission.
  • You’re dreaming of finish a degree? Stop making excuses! Register for the classes, do the hard work of balancing life and school. Graduate.  And then watch God open doors with that degree in a manner you never imagined!
  • You desire to run a marathon? Train, practice, run…and sign up for a marathon.  Then watch as God presents opportunities to speak about Him to others who also “want” to run.

Your dreams “so big” when matched with God’s purpose for your life, will be fulfilled.  Typically, you’ll see those dreams come to fruition in a manner way larger than you ever imagined.

Here’s to 2020…where we need to dream big and watch God work!!!

Happy New Year from the Iron Porch!
~Emily

Dreams So Big_ 2020 copy

The Christmas Train

When my son was 2 years old, we bought him a Polar Express train to set up under the Christmas tree.  Every year he waits anxiously for us to get the Christmas tree decorated so that we can set up the train.  As a Christmas gift, he receives one new car or piece to his train set each December.2014

He loves this tradition and occasionally mentions how many train pieces he’ll have to share with his own children someday.  He’s not obsessed with trains, but he certainly likes to ride on them and he definitely likes to play with his Christmas train set.

As I was watching him play with the train this last week, I got to thinking about how much he anticipates Christmas traditions because it includes this train. I also have great anticipation for the Christmas season. I love the anticipation of family heirlooms hanging on the tree, the sending and receiving of greeting cards and the process of finding, wrapping, and delivering gifts to those around me. IMG_5714

Scholars debate if December 25th is actually Jesus’ birthday, but indulge me for a moment and think about the anticipation Mary would have had for the birth of her child.  The anticipation of holding your small child for the first time and hearing those strong lungs announce their arrival.  The anticipation and longing to be done with the health changes pregnancy brings.  The anticipation of blending a family together.

You know what she didn’t anticipate in the days leading up to Christmas?

She didn’t anticipate fear of a king killing all the under-two-year-old boys in the region.  She didn’t anticipate life with an intelligent child who would teach Priests. She certainly didn’t anticipate watching her son suffer humiliating torture only to be crucified on the cross.

There is so much in the lives of women that we don’t anticipate: loss of wages, deaths of friends, failing relationships, miscarriages, smart-mouthed kiddos, dents and dings on our cars or on our hearts.

But there is so much good to anticipate when we know Jesus as our Savior.  To know you are heaven-bound makes many of the unexpected anticipations a tiny bit more bearable. IMG_8077Wouldn’t the best Christmas gift be to share with others that heaven-bound promise…the anticipation?!? That precious gift of His death for our sins is so much better than the anticipation of Christmas trains and heirloom ornaments!

In the last few hours of anticipation of Christmas 2019, let’s reflect on what we’re anticipating for our own lives and the lives around us.

Merry Christmas from the Iron Porch!

~Emily

2019