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

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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

 

 

Wreaths Across America

I had the privilege of laying wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery last Saturday.  As an Air Force museum curator and advocate for enlisted history, I had a list of Airmen that I wanted to visit while I was at the cemetery. Despite being ready to walk miles in the rain laying wreaths, I wasn’t ready for the emotional reaction I had to visiting some of these graves.  I started crying at the headstones of Airmen I had met and those I’d never met.  I was truly surprised by my tears.

After the emotional morning, I did a little digging on the history of the Christmas wreath.

– Wreaths are typically evergreen as a symbol of the strength of life

– Holly symbolizes immortality

– Cedar symbolizes strength and healing

– Red of the ribbon is the bloodshed (some say by militaries; others by Christ)

– In ancient Rome & Greece, wreaths were a sign of victory of achievement

– By the 16th century, Christians in Germany used wreaths as the hope in Christ

All of these facts about the Christmas wreath seem so fitting for the fallen heroes at our National Cemeteries.

Wreaths Across America is a non-profit organization that started in 2007 as a means to honor our fallen war heroes at National Cemeteries.  Each year they coordinate the wreath-laying in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and 24 countries around the world.  https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org

Their mission includes three simple words:

Remember. Honor. Teach.

In remembering fallen military members at Arlington in learning the meaning of the wreath, I found that I focused on the three-word mission statement.  “Remember. Honor. Teach.”

Beautiful words about our military members, which are also applicable to our Christian faith.

As we head into the final weeks of madness leading to Christmas, let’s take a moment to reflect this week on what God did for us by allowing his only Son to come to earth to die for us.  Let’s remember, honor and teach this Christmas season.

~Emily

Snow Graves

Eclectic Christmas

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The small Alabama town my family calls home hovers around a population of 1000.  Each year this town hosts a walk-through Nativity scene with the assistance of dozens of churches.  This production is hosted on private property with amateur actors, real animals, campfires, and amazing singing angels.

Acting, donating, or visiting, our family has participated in some capacity for the last four years. Each year, the details of the production blow me away.

The visitor starts with a guide from one of the 12 tribes of Israel and is provided a gold coin for bribing Roman soldiers who barrage the group on horseback several times throughout the stroll.   As the group walks around a very large pond, visitors stop at stations to hear the Nativity Story.  One of the highlights is visiting the village, where fresh bread and fruits are offered, businesses are selling wares, priests are speaking…and an innkeeper is proclaiming no more room for the travelers.  Towards the end of the walk, there is an amazing stable scene with a real-life Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus amongst the sheep, goats, and donkeys.

Let me tell you why this is such an amazing community ministry. https://www.aneclecticministry.org

First; it started as a smaller church’s vision to reach the community, but has now grown to dozens of churches assisting.  There is no politics or denomination talk, but rather a presentation of the Nativity story as read in the Bible.

Second; it runs for a week each December and has been running consecutively since 2013. It has a longer past, but the formalization at its current location allows the community for miles around to have access to parking and the walk-through venue.

Third; it’s run entirely by volunteers. The clean-up crews, the marketing through the year, the costume design, the parking crew…even the sound, which we can hear through the woods over a mile away at our house (what a blessing to hear the music in our yard for a week solid every 20-30 minutes from 6-9pm!)

Fourth; the tour ends in a large white circus tent with the hosting church of the evening presenting the Gospel.  People who have church homes, meet new people. People without church homes are introduced to all of the churches participating over the week.  Unchurched folks hear the Gospel.  Folks are accepting Christ at this event.  There are souls being saved, y’all!!!

Souls being saved.  All because someone thought there should be a walking, live-action, Nativity Scene for the community.  Years later, dozens of churches later, hundreds of visitors later…and souls are still being saved!

What could happen in your community if you dreamed big dreams and let God work through your hands?  What could happen this Christmas if you listened to the nudge of the Holy Spirit?  Would souls be saved?

~Emily

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How Often Do You Share?

Disclaimer:  I know that some may have concern that I’m writing on this topic because the anecdote is about my younger daughter.  I asked Peyton if she would be ok with me sharing this, and she told me that she would be fine with it.  In fact, her exact words were, “Everyone at school knows I see a counselor, because I’m not afraid of my mental health…”  (Only my kid.)

 

Every other week Peyton heads into the office of a counselor to chat about what’s been going on in her life.  And every other week I tease her going in with, “Don’t forget to tell her how awesome I am,” and coming out with, “Did you tell her how I awesome I was!”  I’ve said it to her for a year and a half now.  She’s knows I’m joking, and she laughs every time and replies, “We don’t even talk about you, mom!”  It’s become this ‘thing’ between us that cracks us up.

This last visit as she got into the car, we did the routine.  You could’ve blown me over with a feather when she said, “Actually, yes I did.  I told her how you helped me with something I was struggling with and it was nice.”  I wasn’t quite sure how to respond….except in true Erin-fashion, “YES!!!!  I’M AWESOME!” which of course had us both laughing.

Truth is, in my heart I was truly happy that she had talked about me positively.  Whether selfish or not, I adore my kid and would do anything to help her.  I loved that she had vocalized that to someone else.  I wonder if God feels the same way.

There are times where, sadly, I don’t take opportunities to share Him with the people around me.  I get busy or distracted and the chance to witness to someone about His love passes me by.  When I share the Good News, does He get excited because it finally happened?!  Is He surprised that I actually said something?

He directs us to be telling the world about the gospel and His Son’s sacrifice, and I get sidetracked with chatting about what was on TV last night.  I don’t want it to be this way.  I desire for my conversation with Him to be not “did you FINALLY tell her how much I love her” but rather “who did you tell how much I love her” because He’s not astonished that I actually spoke up.

I would encourage you to be bold in your words about Jesus and His sacrifice.  Share and share often!  Don’t let days or weeks go by without telling the people around you about a love that knows no bounds.

Does anyone else struggle with this?  Come to the front porch and share your own stories!

~Erin

The Tracking System

When you think of someone working from home for their full-time job, you probably think of a person lounging in their pj’s and slippers, 2½ days into their no-shower streak.  Perhaps they’re slowly drinking that steaming mug of coffee as they casually peruse their emails.  They check out a quick half-hour of the news while scanning what’s on their to-do lists.  No real accountability.  No real focus.  Just an awesome opportunity to be able to be at home while everyone else is head-long into their hour commute.

Well, the pj’s and slippers describe me fairly accurately.  To complement by hobby job at the bakery, I work full time for a hospital in Wyoming.  I’ve worked for them for six years, and I love it.  But three years ago, I made the move to California and I thought I was going to have to find a new job.  Except I didn’t have to.  My boss opted to send me with my work equipment and here I am, three years later, in my pj’s and slippers (and yes, I’m drinking that coffee as well) working from home.

We were recently told we have a new time-tracking system being installed in our computers so that the hospital can monitor what we’re doing with our time.  It’s truthfully a genius idea to make sure people aren’t just watching YouTube all day instead of working, but it really got me thinking about how much work I actively do.  And even more important, what if God tracked our work this way?

Bear with me a moment.  I know God knows and sees everything we do, just like I know that the hospital sees my final work done every day.  But what if we KNEW God had a tracking system that monitored how faithful we were to sharing the gospel with friends, co-workers, strangers, neighbors?  What if He was checking to see if we served the orphans, the widows or the less fortunate?  Or how about our attitudes—what if the checker determined how many times we were short-tempered or didn’t give grace?  How well would we do?  Would He be seeing strong effort from us, or would He see us lounging around on break all day?

Please hear me when I say that I KNOW that the bible teaches that works do not save you.  But I believe that when we begin a relationship with Jesus, our faithfulness and devotion DO push us towards honoring God’s commands, which include loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and taking care of others (James 1:27, Psalm 82:3).  He teaches to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15).

I know when I look at it like that, I fall short far more than I meet the expectation.  I know that I need to be doing more to be told, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”   I shouldn’t be relying on a time tracker to make sure I’m doing the job.  I need to be doing it and doing it to the best of my ability every day.  God deserves that from us for what He did for us.  Today, I choose to raise the bar!

~Erin

Are You a Consumer Or A Follower?

I mark up my bible.  I’m one of those women that highlights, makes notes, and writes the day that I heard something profound for my life from the pastor.  I was taught to do it and saw it modeled from the time I was a little girl.  It doesn’t make my bible more special than someone else’s, but it does allow me to see what I’ve learned in my journey with God and shows my children that journey, as well.

Recently, I was reading through John and I came across one of those notes.  In this particular note, I didn’t mark who preached about it, but the thought intrigued me and I wrote it down.  In John 6:1-13, he tells the story of being with the disciples and feeding thousands with just five loaves of bread and two fish.  In the middle portion of the scripture (verses 14-65), John goes on to talk of Jesus walking on the water and then Jesus speaking to the crowds about how He is the Bread of Life.  At that point, the bible says that many disciples left.  But a few stayed…THE disciples.  In verses 68-69, Simon Peter (having been asked if they want to leave as well) says to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have words of eternal life.  We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.

The first series of verses show the consumers of the gospel, but the last part of the verses show the followers of the gospel!  What a profound way to look at this.

In the beginning, we’re all consumers.  We don’t know Jesus, but maybe we check out a bible-believing church because we’re curious.  Possibly a neighbor or a friend talks to us about having salvation.  Any way we find out about Jesus, we are consumers of His word.   But what we DO with that is up to us.  We can continue to be consumers, going to a church and hearing the Word or listening to Christian music or reading a devotion, but never really digging in and fully committing to Christ.  Or we can be followers of the gospel, dedicated to following His commands and reaching out to others in service and discipleship.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be just a consumer.  I want to be a true follower!  Join me today in making the commitment to letting go of a consumer lifestyle when it comes to Jesus and instead becoming a follower of Jesus.

~Erin

The Last Time

What would you do differently if you knew it was the last time?

The last time your little one hugged you in public…

The last time you would kiss your spouse goodnight…

The last time you went to a movie theater/roller skating rink/bowling alley…

The last time you would spend Christmas with your parents…

The last time you would fall asleep peacefully…

The last time you saw a particular friend…

The last time you watched the sunset…

 

What would you do differently?

Would you pause at that moment and breathe in the sweetness of that “last” experience…?

Would you be sad or would you be happy…?

Would you take a mental photograph…?

Would you say one last “I love you” …?

While the question “what would you do differently” is applicable to death or dying, reflect on your last times because of anything that isn’t death related.  The last times could be because of a divorce, an ill-timed comment, a sickness/disease, the passage of time/growing up, a move, a promotion, finances, etc., etc.

The last times are only last times, once we recognize they were the last time.  In most instances, we don’t know that it’s the last time we’re experiencing a particular event.  It won’t be until much later that you think back “when was the last time that xyz happened?”

There’s one “last time” that we know will happen, even when we don’t know the exact timing–the last days and the last times people will have an opportunity to hear the Gospel in order to make decisions about their own salvation.

We see the phrase “end times” and “last hour” in several scriptures, such as 1 Peter 1:5, 1 Peter 1:20, or 1 John 2:18.  In fact in 1 John, “the last hour” is the closest adherence to Greek.  The concept of the last hour or last day is a foreshadowing that Christ will come to Earth once more to gather all the believers to heaven.

While scripture is not clear about the exact timing of Christ’s second coming, the prophecy of what is to come is very clear.  Christ is coming. Believers go home to Heaven. Non-believers stay on earth and they will endure unimaginable horrors.  This means we, as Christians, are tasked with fully understanding that more “last times” are coming.  Some would argue they are coming soon.

The most important thing you can do in your lifetime is to share the Gospel. With an impending end times prophecy, sharing the Gospel becomes even more important.

Don’t let the last time create a scenario where the question “what would you do differently?” includes your regret about not having shared the precious gift of God.

~Emily

The Last Time

Coffee Shop Bold

I ordered a coffee and then had confusion cloud my brain as I began to doubt if I’d called the cashier by Ma’am or Sir. I called them something but then questioned if it was the correct gender reference.  The confusion was not because I’m middle-aged, rather because the cashier was exhibiting traits that appeared to be male and female.  I wanted desperately to ask them, out of sincere concern but didn’t want to risk being offensive with my questions.

I received my coffee and went to a table to begin working on bible study homework.

The ladies at the table next to me were having a very lengthy conversation about a nightly escapade with a guy they knew. It was loud. It was lewd.  The more I tried to ignore them, the louder they got.  I desperately wanted to ask them if they knew they were sharing intimate details in a public setting, but I didn’t want to risk being told off or cursed out.

I closed my study material.  I sat back.  I prayed silently.

The cashier’s shift was over and they left. The ladies with the wild night antics were done sharing and they left.

I remained.

I asked myself and God why I was so afraid to engage with these two scenarios.  Why was I reluctant to have a conversation with individuals?  What reservations overrode the need to be bold? What if I had been bold and had used the opportunity to share Christ’s love simply through my words?  What if this was the only time those three individuals encountered someone who could share the gospel through action, rather than by being timid or worse browbeating?

I immediately thought of the verse in 2 Corinthians where it states that because we have hope (in Christ), we are bold.  I couldn’t remember the context or even the exact verse, so I had to open the Bible and dig in.

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold!

~ 2 Corinthians 7-11(NIV)

 I want to be bolder in my action.  I want to stand firmly for Christ.  I pray I’m bold as a lion!  Even if it’s simply engaging in a conversation with strangers at a coffee shop.

Ladies, be bold and be brave this week!

~Emily

 The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

~Proverbs 28:1(NIV)

 

Coffee Shop Bold

 

 

Regret Reflections at a Funeral

This morning I will attend the funeral of a kind-spirited man that I served with in the military.  I didn’t know him well, but in the few times I worked with him I discovered that he was professional and genuinely nice.

I learned of his death on Facebook. To say I was shocked is an understatement.  The most shocking part?  He’s my age and died of “natural causes.”  That puts your own mortality into perspective when someone in your age bracket dies.

As a result of not knowing him well, I have only one regret about my interactions with him.

I don’t know if he was a Christian.

Lately, that’s one of the first things that comes to my mind when I hear of a tragic accident or death…were they a Christian?

Guess what?  My question is too late.  I should be asking the questions about a person’s belief in Christ prior to hearing about their demise.

This is the type of regret that lingers, even when I understand I can’t rewind time to ask the question.  This type of regret often motivates us into action.

In the New Testament, we see that Paul was a determined persecutor of Christians prior to his own conversion (Acts 9:1, Galatians 1:13, 1 Timothy 1:13).  After Paul becomes a Christ-follower, he has lingering regrets about his bloody actions against Christians (Acts 22:16).

In Ephesians 3:8, he titles himself “the least of all the saints” and in 1 Corinthians 15:9 he confesses he’s “the least of the apostles.”  He’s claimed those titles as a result of the guilt he has regarding his past violence against the church.

The reflections spurred by guilt, caused Paul to initiate mission campaigns to preach the Gospel of Christ.  He endured persecution himself but became a stronger advocate for Christ as a result of being driven into action based on his guilt.

What lesson is there to be learned through guilt?

To the degree that regret can be fixed, we should fix it.  Paul took his guilt and began sharing the Good News.  My regret over not knowing someone’s status with Christ should spur me towards sharing the Good News as well.

Don’t allow the reflections of guilt at a funeral be for nothing.

~Emily

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