Are Spiders Really THAT Important?!

Let’s move on to spiders.  Never in my life have I seen so many creepy crawlies in one place!  I have seen the most ginormous/tiny/intricate/fat/ugly/weirdly pretty spiders in the last four weeks.  They’re everywhere.  And it doesn’t help that my new home is surrounded by woods.  My house is a magnet for long silky strands of sticky web. 

Today, I saw this tiny creature and had to snap a picture….it looked like a stinking crab floating on a web!  Turns out it’s a spiny orb-weaver which is a fancy name for harmless spider that eats bugs.  I suppose I can handle that.

As I walked away (feeling disgusted) from the spider, the Holy Spirit nudged me to remember that everything has a purpose.

For the body is not one member, but many…If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?  If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?  But now God has placed the members, each of them, in the body, just as He desired.—1 Corinthians 12: 14, 17-18

Every person in the body of Christ has a role.  The sick or hurting benefit from the prayer warrior that kneels at the foot of her bed at night.  The clean rooms that the Sunday School classrooms meet in are courtesy of the volunteer who made sure it was tidy and sanitized.  The meal that was provided to the shut-ins by the hands of the family who love serving others is vital to our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

What one piece of service or action loved by one member of the body may be a dreaded task to another.  That’s the beauty of how God created the body of Christ.  Each function is meant to complement the other.  If we were all doing the same thing, other areas that could lead people to God would suffer. 

It’s vital for us to remember that each member of the body is valuable to our Lord.  I pray that as I go through the week, I remember that each of us is a loved piece of the body of Christ.

~Erin

Stop Budging

For me, budgets are meant to not budge.  As in, I better figure out where every dollar is going and spend it according to my spreadsheet that is neatly typed in an Excel spreadsheet.  I’ve gotten pretty good about recognizing the difference between a need and a want and where something might fall into my budget.  As rigid as I am in my desire to stick to my budget, I should be the same way with my dedication to my Christian life with Jesus.  It can be very easy to waiver in a life lived for Him one “transaction” at a time.  I know.  I’ve been down this road.

Living a life that treats my body as a temple and trusting Jesus to create good and honorable desires in my heart can seem daunting.  Christians tend to be stuck on the ‘major’ sinning points, like drinking, swearing, and sex but we forget sometimes that God told us to love our neighbor as ourselves and forgive.  We forget that those are sins of the flesh, as well.  I will never judge someone who drinks, smokes, curses, has sex without being married, etc.  I’ve done it.  As a Christian, I’ve done it all.  But no matter how far I’ve strayed, God has always turned me back to the verse, Romans 12:2.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

When I’ve fought with temptation, I remember this verse.  It helps remind me that while I live in this world and I have family and friends in this place, my mind should be renewed in Christ Jesus as to what HIS will is, not mine.

I know that people have struggled with this idea.  “Where does it end, Erin?  When do you say no?”  My answer is an easy one for ME.  It says don’t get drunk, so I don’t get drunk anymore.  It says to treat my body as a temple, so I choose not to smoke anymore, and I haven’t had a cigarette in years, anyway (so that’s an easy one)!  The bible says my speech should be honoring to God, so I try to watch my mouth, my mean words, and my cursing.  Am I perfect?  Absolutely not!  It’s a struggle every day.  No sex outside of marriage?  Well, that’s either a do or a don’t, so I made the choice to honor God in that.

Is that what you should do?  I can’t answer for you, but I would say if you’re struggling with how to stand your ground and not budge on what God desires for you, then call on His name and talk to Him.  He’ll guide you to where you need to be.  Trust Him.  He knows and wants what’s best for you.

How about you?  Is there anything you’re struggling with giving to God that we can pray for?  Let us know in the comments below.

~Erin

The Scorpion Sting

Scorpions.  Who actually likes these horrifying creatures?  They are monstrous little pincher-bearing, tail –stinging beasts that make you want to burn your house down.  Never mind that the scorpions native to Alabama are generally about 1-2 inches long.  It’s 1-2 inches too long.

Enter my 16-year-old daughter, Peyton, into this discussion.  Today, as she sat completing school work in the safety and comfort of her bedroom, she noticed something fall from the ceiling to the floor, and for one brief second, she wondered what it could’ve been.  (She told me she actually thought it was a leaf in that brief second…..because we’re growing trees in our house???) 

Now, I wasn’t here to witness this event.  But as Peyton tells it, she leaned towards it.  And it started moving.  Recognizing it as a scorpion, she began screaming bloody murder, grabbed the closest tennis shoe and proceeded to beat it to death, yelling the words, “DIE! DIE, YOU STUPID SCORPION!”  Wouldn’t you know she actually left it for me to see as evidence rather than picking it up and disposing of it.  But whatever.

The sting of the scorpion could’ve produced much pain.  But she had the victory over it in standing firm against it and declaring it gone. 

Satan reminds me of that little scorpion.  He comes in, unseen, moving around without notice.  He drops in, unannounced, at the most random times and disguises himself as something that we might want to get a closer look at or notice.  And then, BAM.  He’s stung us, and we’re caught in some web of sin.  But thanks to God, we can have victory over that.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. –1 Corinthians 15:56-57

We can let go of the sin and temptation when we do it through Jesus Christ.  He stands against satan on our behalf when we give it Him and let the victory be THROUGH Him.  Forgive me for sounding irreverent, but He’s the giant tennis shoe that stomps out that nasty devil as he crawls towards us!  He is our Savior!

How about you, dear friends?  Has there been a time where you’ve seen victory through Jesus as he stomped out a sin or sinful desire that needed to be gone?  Share how you feel led on Iron Porch!

~Erin

The Moving Truck

There wasn’t much that hadn’t been damaged.  The movers that I had hired to unpack the truck kept coming across broken glass and falling furniture.  It was like a giant game of Jenga, wondering which piece we could move next without creating more damage and could we avoid slicing our hands open on the sharp edges of what once were beautiful pieces of framed artwork.

To say I was upset is an understatement.  Watching each thing come off the truck looking worse than the last was horrifying.  We had spent money on these things—they were not cheap.  We inherited some of these things—their memories were special.  And there was a moment where I could do nothing but just cry.  The road trip to get here had not been great.  I was looking forward to unpacking our belongings and settling in to our home.  And now, I had a mountain of (what felt like) junk sitting in rooms in my house.

But God is good, and He reminded me of something in that moment.  It’s just stuff.  It’s replaceable.  And I still have the memories even if the pieces are perfect anymore.  The verse that came to mind was very appropriate.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” –Matthew 6:19-21

The fact is, God opened the doors for us to move to Alabama.  He provided a home that is right across the street from Emily.  He gave Chris a good job.  Peyton is still excelling in school.  I have a bed to sleep on.  And despite there being new holes in the back of my sofa AND love seat, I can still recline in them and relax after a long day of unpacking.

God is good.  He is my treasure.  I don’t want to have these temporal things here on earth distract me from the beautiful and best things that wait for me in heaven.

Today, sweet friends, I challenge you to think on the treasures you have for yourself in heaven and not the things we collect on this earth.  It’s a much richer treasure than you or I could ever imagine.

~Erin

Get Down, Dog!

Ruger is NOT allowed on the bed.  Absolutely no way!  His gigantic yellow lab butt is way too big for a queen size bed.  But he’s been under a lot of stress the last couple of weeks as I’ve started packing up the house.  He doesn’t know exactly what’s going on, just that something’s happening.  So I wasn’t surprised when he randomly jumped up there as I headed to bed.

I tried to call him off.  Then I yelled at him to get down.  Didn’t work.  I tried pulling by his collar to which he immediately pulled against.  I tried shoving him off by the rear, and he dug his heels in.  My final effort was to push him by his side off the edge.  That lug rolled over onto his back and stuck his feet in the air.

I went to bed with him right beside me.

We should be that stubborn and set on doing the things that God asks of us.  When the world asks us to jump in and do what ‘everyone else is doing,’ our response should be one of firm standing.  We shouldn’t be jumping off the edge because it feels good.  We should be rooted in the foundation that is Christ Jesus.

When satan attempts to shove us off the path, we should be ready and determined to not budge.  When we are planted firmly in our faith in Christ Jesus, the world will see.  Satan will know, and he’ll have no choice but to step back and resign himself to knowing we’re not going anywhere he has planned for us.

I encourage you to be stubborn and steadfast in your following of Christ.  The payoff is worth every minute in the soft refuge of His arms.

~Erin

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith -Colossians 2_6-7a

Goodbye, California!

I was struck with the weirdest thought on Sunday.  I was putting my freshly laundered sheets onto my bed when I suddenly thought to myself, ‘This is the last time I’ll be washing my sheets here in California, and it made me a little sad!  This weekend, my belongings get packed up into a moving truck, and they’ll be bound for Alabama.  I bought a house directly across the street from my best friend, and I’m set to begin a new adventure.

It seemed like such an odd thought to have.  I have actually lived in California for four years.  I’ve said for the last four years that California wasn’t a place I really wanted to live and I couldn’t wait to move!  So to have a pang of sadness seemed like such an odd reaction.

The truth is, I AM a little sad.  While I’m so excited to be closer to Emily and positively thrilled over the fact that we can work on other Iron Porch projects, God brought me to California for a reason.  For almost a year, I couldn’t figure out why but the fact is that I’ve had tremendous growth in the Lord during this time.  I’ve had to rely on what God’s vision was for me instead of my own.  He allowed me to be a part of the most amazing community of women from different backgrounds that all came together to study and grow in God’s Word through Bible study.  He taught me how to truly lead a group of women.  He also gave me a valuable lesson in learning to not always lead them and to let them teach me.  He taught me that it’s never my time, but His.  God also taught me how to be courageous in my witness for Him.

I’ve prayed for four years that I would find a church that was strong in the Lord, fearless in their declaration of God’s glory, and bold in the Truth.  I found Doxa Church right before I’m leaving! It’s almost comical that by the time I was led there, it’s time to go.  But the eight short months I’ve been a part of that church, I’ve been fed the biggest, fattest spiritual steak you could ever imagine!  Pastor Scott has lived out Hebrews 5:12-14 and given me some serious spiritual food to gnaw on!  I now have an even bigger arsenal in my spiritual backpack with which to boldly proclaim the gospel.

While I’m sad to be leaving, I must lean into what the Word of God says in Isaiah 1:19.  The prophet proclaimed, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land;”  I am willing.  I strive to be obedient.  And because I do, the Lord will allow me to know what the good things of the land were in California and what the good things are in Alabama.

I’ll miss you, California!

~Erin

If you are good

First Day of School Jitters

As we walked out the door for my son’s first day of 4th grade, he begged me to let him stay and homeschool this year.  When I asked why he didn’t want to go to school, he started to tear up. He said, “What if kids are mean to me?  What if they call me fat?”

This was the first alarming statement from my 9-year-old that he was concerned about his weight. We agreed to discuss options that evening, to include school and how we could assist with his weight perspectives.  But before the morning drop-off line, we prayed together.  My son put these worries at the feet of Jesus and trusted that God would provide a path for nice children.

That evening he reported that it was the “best 1st day of school so far!”  Furthermore, he said no one was mean to him.  No one called him fat. He was worried for nothing.

Isn’t this a similar situation to how we converse with God?

“Please God, let me do x-y-z” which typically is a plea for something that I think will be better than a current situation.  Just like my son begging to homeschool.   I have concerns and worries.  Just like my son, thinking kids would be mean. I express myself to God but it’s as though He says, “let’s discuss it later tonight.”  Just like my son hearing we chat about options after school.

Our God is so good to each of us and He has our best interest at heart.  Countless times I’ve heard that He will provide above our wildest dreams…and He usually does. God creates space where we end up having the “best 1st day of school” despite our worrying and concerns.

When we ask for God’s provision, we see His work in our lives more clearly. In Luke 12:31 (NASB) it says, “But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

This verse offers guidance on seeking God and His Kingdom, so that blessings may be granted over your life.  When we pray to God in the midst of worry, “these things will be added to you.”

Kambell prayed for nice kids and a great school day.  He received the best 1st day of school.  His first day of school jitters turned into a praise report.

This week, I pray that those on the Iron Porch can turn their concerns into praise reports!  Let us know how we can help pray for you!

~Emily

1st day

The Jalapeño Plant

I transplanted a jalapeño plant tonight.  It’s not something I’ve done before.  I had a vertical garden that I had planted a starter in and decided it needed to be in a container of its own.  So I put it into the new container.

I gently began working around the soil, loosening the dirt and getting rid of the dead plants in the vertical garden that were surrounding it.  I didn’t want to damage the roots, so taking as much time as I needed, this master gardener (that term is used VERY loosely for myself) did not rush the process, instead little by little loosening the plant for its extraction and into the fresh new home that was awaiting her.

When I’m doing things like this, I talk to my plants.  I know I’m not alone in this.  I tell her how brave she’s being letting me disrupt her work so that I can give her a new location, a better chance of survival.  And when I think of these things, I often think of how we, as humans, can be like those plants.

Sometimes, we’re uprooted and we take on new locations, new jobs, or new adventures.  It can be quite unnerving starting over with something different.  We can be scared and unsure of what it will look like even though we often know that what’s waiting on the other side of the newness is good and fresh.

I know a Master Gardener who has talked to us this very same way.  Joshua 1:9 says to us, “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

God gently works in our lives, extracting the distractions, moving people or objects or places out of the way.  He lifts us in HIS time into more perfect surroundings—surroundings where we can praise Him better or trust Him more.  He tells us He loves us and He’s right there with us even though our new or upcoming circumstances can be changing drastically.  He does this because He knows that His plan is better.  We just have to trust.

I pray, dear friends, that you find the Master Gardener tending to you during a time of transition that you may be having at this very moment.  Or perhaps He’s already replanted you into a refreshing new spot that has allowed for growth and trust.  Come to the porch and share your story.

~Erin

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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

pink

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