The Free Gift

A few days ago, I put two boxes of books out on the corner of our lawn with a sign that says “Free books!  Help yourself!”  These were some books that we’d already read and decided not to keep in our collection.  We thought to ourselves that maybe someone walking by would see the books and grab one or four so that they could enjoy one of the titles we had left.

The pile started with about 40 books and slowly, we’ve whittled the pile to about half that.  I’m kind of surprised that they’re not gone.  I’ve seen people walk past, stop and peek in as if to see if there’s really something in there.  I’ve also seen people start to take them and then change their mind, looking around as if to see if there’s some kind of trap I’ve set up!  Like I’m going to spring out of the bushes screaming, “IT SAYS FREE, BUT YOU CAN’T HAVE ALL OF THEM!”

Sometimes, people can be that way when we present the truth of Jesus.  God encourages us to spread the gospel to every creature.  Telling everyone about the gift of salvation is so simple and the steps to accept Christ as your personal Savior seems so easy, yet does it really have the “FREE…take it!” sign in front of it?!  It’s ours to just take?!

The answer is yes!  Choosing to have a relationship with God is a gift that He gives us freely and openly.  We only need to repent of our sins, ask forgiveness, turn ourselves over to Him, and ask Him to live in us forever.  There’s nothing fancy about the request.  There’s no special handshake or secret code you have to know.  We can take that free gift, knowing that it completely changes our lives.  I’m so thankful that I accepted that free gift so long ago!

How about you, dear friends?  Is there someone you know that needs to hear about that gift of salvation?  We can be praying for them.  Or perhaps you want to accept that gift yourself?  Message us at the Iron Porch, and we’d love to show you how.

~Erin

The Free Gift

Poop Talk Transparency

In a world full of COVID precautions, it’s been months since I have been in routine scenarios with lots of people around me. Over the weekend I went to a farmer’s market to look at the fresh produce. While strolling by the tomatoes and cheese, I overheard the most endearing conversation between two middle-aged women who were clearly friends enjoying a kids-free outing to pinch peaches and sniff homemade soaps.

The first woman turned to the other and said, “I’m about ready to talk about where we should go eat lunch.”

Her companion laughed and said, “It’s only 9 am Mary!!! Let’s go to the bookstore next, then talk about lunch.  Plus, I have to poop and I know the bookstore has a decent bathroom.”

I HAVE TO POOP!!!  She said, “I have to poop” like it was a normal conversation topic to discuss with a close friend in a public farmer’s market!

I want that poop talk transparency in my life and I want these women as my friends.  Now, don’t get it twisted…I don’t need the bathroom habits of my friends in order to have transparency, but what I do need is women in my life that are willing to say what they mean and mean what they say!

You think the pants make my butt look big…tell me! You don’t think I should date that dude…tell me!  You wish I had a different outlook on a particular topic…tell me!  I want my friends to have the ability to be transparent about their own lives and to help me be transparent in mine!

When I reflect on that type of transparency between friends, it makes me also think about if others see transparency in my life as a Christ-follower.  It makes me think to myself, “Do strangers interact with me and leave knowing I have Jesus in my heart?”

In 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB), we see that it says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

There is a nuance in this scripture that lets us know that transparency in a Christian walk includes presenting ourselves in a Godly manner, in an unashamed manner, and that we handle the Word of God with the truth.  The transparency of our walk with Jesus should be prevalent and it should be readily seen by others.

I’m not advocating for telling strangers or your best friends about your pooping needs….but I am praying for each of us to be just a little more transparent this week with sharing the love of God through our own actions and words.

~Emily

In 2 Timothy 2_15 (NASB), we see that it says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”-2 copy

Learning New Culture

Our son had just turned 4 years old when we moved to Alabama from Washington DC.  I’m originally from Oregon and my husband from Pennsylvania, so imagine the culture shock we experienced moving to the South.  Everything from the slower pace, to the food and sweet tea, was different.

What was one of the most noticeable differences?  The “language”!!!  For instance, when we arrived we rented a house on Lake Jordan.  The native Alabamians sounded like they were saying “Light Jerden” every time they attempted to correct our pronunciation.  Don’t even get me started on how we “mispronounce” the name of our town now!

Not long after we settled into life in the South, my boys came home from breakfast at a restaurant chatting about a bunch of ladies who sounded like sheep as they departed their morning meeting.  I asked the boys to explain why they were comparing women to sheep.  Turns out all these women saying “bye” to one another in a southern dialect was heard by the PA boys as “bah,” as in “bah-bah,” the noise sheep make!   To this day, we still giggle as a family if we hear a strong southern “bah.”

Something as small as the dialect is something that is included in figuring out the culture of a new location.  It makes me think of how overwhelmed Ruth could have been when she left all she knew in Moab to follow her Mother-in-law, Naomi to Israel.  There was a new dialect, new customs, new food, and most notably in this story, a new religion.

In Jeremiah 29:11, God offers us a promise that He is looking out for our best interest and for our future…even in the middle of culture changes.  “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” (NASB).

Imagine leaving the status of being a Moabite Princess to become a Jewish refugee in Israel. Ruth had so much to learn and a ton of new norms to become accustomed to…and yet, she did it with complete loyalty towards her husband’s family. The example Ruth provides is one of complete immersion into the culture.

Let me ask you this…when has God taken you out of your comfort zone and you’ve had to learn a new culture?  In the current climate in America, perhaps now is an appropriate time to learn about what others consider their culture.  I’m not saying you should move to another part of the country or forgo all you know, like Ruth.  I am suggesting, that it may be time to consider taking some steps towards understanding our fellow Christians and what type of cultures they hold dear.

It might be an opportunity to chat about God in a whole new way…

~Emily

Learn New Cultures

The Balance In Children’s Salvation

It has been a week since my son came up to me after watering the garden and said, “I’m ready, mama.”

“Ready for what, buddy?” I asked.

To which he said, “Ready to pray the prayer for Jesus.  Will you help me?”

Let me take a moment to convey the magnitude of that moment.  I literally felt my heart start racing and felt the tears welling up in my eyes.  I wanted to jump up and down inappropriately shouting “Smell My Victory!!!!”  (Although it probably would have been way more appropriate to start singing a gospel song or shouting scripture.)

Since his 2-year-old-self came into my life, I’ve been praying for the moment he would accept Christ as his Savior.  Just before Christmas last year, he started asking questions about salvation and asking Jesus to live in his heart.  Every time I’ve had a conversation with him regarding his questions, I’ve asked if he’d like to take the step to pray for forgiveness and in acknowledgment of this eternal gift of salvation.  Every time, he’s told me he wants to pray, but he was “too nervous” or “not ready.”

And let me tell you something ladies…every single time, my heart stopped. It broke. It took everything in me to casually say, “When you’re ready, buddy, I’ll be here for you.” In reality, I was choking back tears and reigning in the desire to ‘push-push-push’ for salvation.

I have found that the last eight months have been a challenge in patience.  It’s been a delicate balance between telling him the truth (to include urgency in making a declaration for Christ) and trying to create space for him to make this decision fully on his own (not in an effort to please his parents).

Since his decision to accept Christ, I’ve shared my eight-month struggle with a few Moms that have kids about the same age. Repeatedly, I heard the same story of trying to find a balance between encouraging a decision versus pushing for one. Apparently, we’re all trying to teach our children about Christ, but afraid we’ll push them prematurely into a false decision.

Yet no one is talking about it out loud.

I certainly wasn’t.  I thought I was alone with this burden.  I just walked through it and asked God repeatedly to not let me become a stumbling block to my child’s salvation.

So this week, I’d like to encourage all the Mamas, Mommies, Moms, Step-Moms, Grandmas, Mi-Mis, Nanas, Me Maws, Aunties, God-Mothers, Friends…Any woman who is praying for the salvation of a child.  I want you to know you are not praying alone.  You are not alone in walking the balance of push and pull.  You. Are. Not. Alone.

There are several of us on the Iron Porch who are or have recently been walking that balance with you.  And I will be praying for you to have peace on your hearts that your job is to sow the seed…then watch God with the harvest, so that your heart may leap for joy.

Those simple words, “I’m ready mama” brought such happiness to my heart.  While my son made that declaration on our back porch through praying out loud with me, his Dad and Erin, I know all of heaven was rejoicing with us too!

Your turn is coming soon…be patient!

~Emily

Salvation-Kids

 

 

 

 

Expiration Dates

There I was standing in the shower with lathered suds sliding down my arm when I noticed my shampoo bottle from a different angle.  It was as though I was seeing the bottle for the first time in my life.  I noticed a detail that had escaped my observation for all of my life.

Did you know that shampoo has an expiration date?  Seriously, there’s an expiration date on my bottle of shampoo!

That got me thinking what else could be expiring? I know milk and eggs can expire but does toothpaste? Oh, my goodness, does chocolate?!?!?!

What doesn’t expire? Well, when properly stored, there seems to be a few items that will theoretically last forever. Honey. Salt. Sugar. Rice. Pure Maple Syrup. Dried Beans.

You know what else doesn’t have an expiration date?  God’s love.

Before, now, and always…God has loved each and every one of us.  He truly loves us and wants each one of us in heaven with Him.  The only caveat is that we have to accept His gift.

It’s crazy to think about how God loves us so completely that He not only sent his Son to show us how to love and live, but that He also allowed that Son to be used as a sacrifice to cover our sins.  Most of us learned John 3:16 as one of our first memorization verses.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16 (NASB)

Unlike my shampoo, God has offered a gift of eternal salvation that only expires when you don’t accept the gift.  God literally allowed His Son to be our ticket to eternity…all without an expiration date!

If you haven’t already accepted the gift of salvation, consider today as the day you change your life and put your life in Jesus Christ as your personal savior!  Contact the Iron Porch if you have questions about how to commit your life to Christ!

~Emily

Shampoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

IMG_1292
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