Guest Blog by Heather Kaufman Pamplin: Distractions

These days I’m at an age and a point in my faith where I tend to not overtly sin. Of course I slip up here and there with a bad word or a silent judgment, but for the most part I’ve got Christ in my spirit and God on my mind. That being the case, now what I find is Satan using even sneakier tactics to interfere in my hardline connection to my Savior. 

I call these interferences “distractions,” and the tactic is a lot like distracted driving. I think most people immediately think of texting, but if we’re honest, messing with your seat, changing the radio station, taking a drink of water…all of these seemingly benign actions also distract your eyes and attention from the road, and you have important business to perform when you are driving! 

Applying this to Christian life, we are “at the wheel” during all waking hours (1 Cor 15:58). God has a purpose for our lives (Jer 29:11) and we are called to always be a beacon of His light (Matt 5:14-16), intended to point to His glory. And yet, how often do you find yourself focused on a myriad other things in life, from what’s for dinner to the laundry that must be washed before Saturday morning’s little league game? There’s a reason our earthly culture keeps us busy: it is a well-devised strategy employed by the enemy to keep us focused on anything other than bringing God glory. 

Listen, there is no perfection in this world outside of Jesus Christ; don’t beat yourself up because you live in a broken place temporarily. Rather, simply be aware that the enemy is always looking for ways to set stumbling blocks in our path and disconnect us from our Lord and Savior (1 Pet 5:8). Develop habits of continual conversation and returning your thoughts to Heavenly Father. Let it be a normal part of your routine to talk to God while doing laundry or washing the car, and when you notice your mind wandering to all of the chores next on your list, extend yourself lots of grace and gently return your thoughts to your relationship with the King of Kings, knowing one day you shall live in the place he prepared for you (John 14:2). 

~Heather

Guest Blogger: Heather Kaufman Pamplin

The purpose of the Iron Porch is to allow a space for women to come share with one another without the fear of reprisal and judgment. It’s a space that Erin and Emily felt God wanted to provide, so that women could encourage and comfort one another.  After prayerful consideration, we would like to encourage potential guest bloggers to submit a post for consideration.  

On Saturday, we will be posting a submission by our sweet sister in Christ and fellow blogger, Heather Kaufman Pamplin.  Heather is a wife, mother of two, and Nonna to one sweet 4-year-old boy. She lives in Battle Ground, Washington with her family, and she and her husband own a small bookstore (replete with cat!) as well as a local real estate company. Besides her relationship with Abba, Heather enjoys community-building, volunteering, serving others, cooking, and she recently purchased a piano with intentions of learning to play like Beethoven – we’ll be expecting updates on how it goes!

Please join us on the porch this Saturday to read Heather’s thoughts in the guest blog “Distractions.”

~Emily & Erin

Prayer for the Hurting

I was just listening to the radio and they were speaking of the innocent children that were killed in Texas.  It’s just devastating.  I can’t even pretend to put myself in the shoes of those parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or community members to understand what they are going through. 

My first thought, if I’m being completely transparent, was to be grateful it didn’t happen at the school here, and the second thought was that I was glad all of my children have graduated.  Those thoughts don’t make me a bad person or a bad Christian.  They make me human.  However, in that moment directly following, I realized those thoughts hurt God’s heart and are sinful because they go directly against what the bible tells us to do.

Romans 15:1 says, “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.

And Psalm 143:8 tells us, “Let me hear Your lovingkindess in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.

Both verses speak directly against what I thought.  My thoughts were built around fear and mistrust.  They were rooted in self and not rooted in Christ.  As believers, we are called to bear the weaknesses of those without strength.  I bet those family members, those friends, that community are without strength.  Suffering a senseless loss brings unimaginable pain, and during this time Christians are called to lift them up.

Perhaps it means to write a letter or send a card to them.  Maybe you’ve gone through something like this and can relate to them on a more personal level that can help.  It could possibly mean writing your representative or senator.  And it could mean that we just pray.  Pray hard.  Pray faithfully.  Pray fervently.

The second thought speaks directly to mistrust towards God.  I long for my children to always be safe, but the truth is, my children are His.  He knows the hairs on their heads and the last breaths they will take.  I must lay aside the fear and trust that God will see them through, no matter the outcome.  They’re safe from school now that they’ve graduated but it doesn’t mean that the same thing won’t happen in a local grocery store or outside a gas station.  I must trust Him in all things.  I will never be able to completely protect my children, but our God will protect them whether it’s this side of heaven or the other.

Please be praying for the victims’ families as they grieve.  Lift them up to the Lord and do it often.  My desire is that they will be so covered in prayer by believers all over this world that there will be a tangible feeling of God’s love surrounding them.

~Erin

Surprise Attack Prayer Warrior

Last week I needed a bow for a graduation gift and stopped at the local dollar store.  As I stood in the checkout line, a woman approached me while giving me a compliment. I thanked her and she continue walking past me.  Suddenly, I felt hands grab my shoulders from behind and she began praying.  Loudly.  And long-ly (I made that word up, but it seems fitting…it was a VERY long prayer).  

It was so uncomfortable.  I didn’t know how to politely get out of the scenario.  I watched the cashier ring up my item and then shrug his shoulders at me while rolling his eyes about the praying woman.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see small children staring at the situation.  I saw others rushing past in an effort to escape, lest she turn her boisterous reverse-hug prayer litany on them.  She said “Amen,” turned around and headed to another unsuspecting woman in the make-up aisle (who, by the way, was not having it…she actually told the lady to leave her alone). 

I know she meant well and likely felt as though she was doing the right Biblical thing.  

However. 

However, I was so taken aback and so completely out of my comfort zone, that I was not able to listen to what she prayed. I couldn’t join her prayerfully, as Sisters in Christ, because I was too “in my own head” rather than in my heart for Jesus.

Interestingly enough, I had read an article just hours before about a woman who made her New Year’s Resolution to pray for a stranger every day. The article described her interactions with those she prayed with and those that she silently prayed for.  At the time of the article publication, she’d being praying for a stranger daily for two full years. 

Maybe the Dollar Store lady had a New Year’s Resolution to pray for strangers.  Maybe not.

I’m intrigued by this praying for strangers idea. Part of me feels compelled to tackle a similar resolution.  Praying for one another is good.  It’s certainly Biblical, as there are countless examples instructing us to pray for one another.

Galatians 6:2 (NASB), “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

1 Samuel 12:23 (NASB), “Furthermore, as for me, far be it from me that I would sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.”

1 Corinthians 7:5 (NASB), “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Here’s the raw truth of this from Emily’s heart. I’m all for praying over strangers.  But I think I want rules to this endeavor.  After what I experienced at the dollar store, I don’t want to ambush any strangers with prayer.   

Here are my proposed self-imposed rules:

1. A conversation has to happen prior to starting to pray (i.e.: introductions, common ground established, niceties, etc…).

2. Ask if you can pray for them—or if they have specific prayer requests (and be gracious if they say “no”).

3. Be intentional about who to pray with or over (don’t just pick someone willy-nilly because you have a daily “quota” to fulfill). 

4. Continue to pray for that person even after the interaction is over.  

I’d be interested to hear what those on the Iron Porch think about the proposed rules.  And of course, I’d be really interested to hear how you would have handled the surprise-attack prayer warrior at the dollar store!

~Emily

Acts 5:42 (NASB), “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and preaching the good news Jesus as the Christ.” 

Graduation

Tonight, my daughter Peyton will walk across the stage and accept her diploma from the principal of her high school.  After years of preparation, countless classes, and thousands of homework assignments and tests, she will be able to say she has completed what was required of her and graduate with the class of 2022.

Her journey has not been an easy one.  With school came hard work and battles that had to be faced.  There were requirements that felt difficult.  There were challenges and hurdles that needed to be overcome and there were times that she felt as if it was all for nothing.  But at the end of tonight, she will receive her congratulations for a job well done.

I think to what it will look like when I have completed my journey here on earth.  I long for the days when I can say as Paul did to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;” –2 Timothy 4:7

When we reach the end of our lives, I will imagine we that we will feel very similar to how Peyton feels today.  We will have accepted Christ as our Savior, studied God’s Word and honored His commands.  Perhaps we felt like the assignment God laid out for us seemed unusual, but we did it anyway.  Maybe we failed at times…miserably failed…and then turned back to God, asking the Holy Spirit to lead us back on track.  I wonder if we would feel that we were ‘missing out’ on worldly things, knowing that we were called to be strangers in a foreign land.

And while we know that our journey was not an easy one, the reward we receive at the end of it all will be worth it.  The bible speaks to the inheritance that is ours as believers.  When we have completed our race, when we have finished the course, our diploma is an eternity in heaven with the Creator of everything!  We have no more sadness, no sickness, no pain.  We worship God and lay crowns at His feet!  We sing with angels! 

I can’t wait for the moment when I can stand before my Heavenly Father and He says to me, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” 

Today, while I congratulate Peyton and her classmates as they complete their journey of school, I pray that I never forget the journey of life that we must go through as Christians, knowing that we will be greeted and congratulated on a job well done when our time is done, too.

~Erin

Financial Management Lessons

There’s an elderly couple who each have new vehicles plus new recreational vehicles.  Awesome for them.  I hope I’m financially savvy enough & hip-to-the-jive in my 70s or 80s to want a new car.  

The problem is that they are financing all of the items.  After monthly minimums are paid, they have very little left over and often can’t pay to heat or cool the house.  Sometimes is challenging to even purchase food to fill their bellies.   The local church and neighbors help extensively with small chores and tasks, as well as filling gas tanks and getting groceries.  

This is a beautiful example of generosity and of the kindness of others to care for this elderly couple.  It’s “do unto others…” and “love your neighbor…” in practice.  

There is also a reminder in this scenario about financial management. Jesus spoke frequently about how we should manage our money.  Who knew that the New Testament is filled with financial management lessons!?!?!?!?

1. Finances Are a Test of Our Trustworthiness

Most of us hate the idea that we’re being tested daily based on our thoughts, words, and actions.  But our finances can be boiled down to yet another test.  In Luke 16:11, we see that if we can’t be trusted with our worldly wealth, then it’s difficult to believe we can be trusted with Christ’s true riches.

So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? ~Luke 16:11 (NIV)

In visiting scripture concerning the Parable of the Talents, we are able to see the test of finances, as Jesus described them.  The parable tells of a supervisor who trusts finances with three different employees…essentially to see how they will react to the management of money.  Each employee was given a different amount of money: five talents, three talents, one talent.  The man with the most success ended up doubling his money, while the man with the least, buried his thinking saving was good enough.  The manager took the one talent back and gave it to the man who was able to make money with wise investments.  

The test was to see how they managed the money.  God will also test us in order to gauge what else we can be trusted with; perhaps once tested we’ll be trusted with ministry positions, adoptions, Gospel sharing or countless other things.

2. Financial Management Must Include Making a Budget

It may come a surprise that Jesus gave us instructions about creating a budget…and staying with it.  In Luke chapter 14, we see the example of budgeting with estimates of final costs when investing in a new building.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ ~Luke 14:28-30 (NIV).

God does not want his children to be in a scenario where we can’t finish what we’ve started due to poor planning.  We must be financially responsible to plan our purchases, our investments, and our long-term projects.  

You could argue that the design and execution of a budget is an extension of the test regarding our finances.  If we are able to budget, as well as manage money, we should be trustworthy enough to manage God’s true wealth.

You can purchase new vehicles, go on fabulous vacations, purchase wonderful gifts, and have nice items in your life.  However, those items need to be within your individual budget and managed appropriately.  

~Emily

The Beauty of Creation

Three weeks ago, I started my garden.  I plotted out what I wanted to plant and began the task of putting seeds in the soil to (hopefully) produce my family some vegetables!  I started with nothing but seeds; I didn’t do any starter plants this year, so I wasn’t sure how long it would take to see growth or if I would even actually see growth at all.

So far, I have not been disappointed!  I am astounded when I walk back there every night and see little green sprouts shooting up from the ground!  My Parisian pickling cucumbers are just stems and two leaves and my excitement would indicate they’re practically ready to harvest.  I just can’t believe how these little tiny seeds can be placed in dirt and watered and they can grow into food for us to enjoy at dinner!

This reminds me that nothing is created under the sun that isn’t created by God.  Genesis clearly tells us that He made heavens and earth, mountains, trees, grass, plants, animals and humans.  There isn’t a single thing on this planet that wasn’t orchestrated by God and it shows! 

I think of Psalm 96:11-12, “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; Let the sea roar, and all it contains; Let the field exult, and all that is in it.  Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy” where even His creation praises who He is.

“For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”  Romans 11:36 tells us that He created that seed to go in the dirt that He brought into existence.  How awesome is our Father that every intricate detail was thought of and planned.

I think that too many times I overlook simple things like this.  It’s… “second nature” to me!  I walk through the woods or see trees or gardens and I don’t even think about the fact that it was designed with purpose.  It’s incomprehensible to my human mind how complex creation is, and yet, God spoke it into existence knowing exactly how it should be!

I pray that as we go through this week, that we stop and truly see the world around us that God has allowed us to be part of.  Sing with joy for the beauty that He has surrounded us with.  Praise Him for His creation!  What He has given us is beautiful.

~Erin

Two Lanes at the Drive-Thru

True confession time.  If I pull into a drive thru and there are two lanes taking orders, I always (as in 100% of the time) contemplate leaving the establishment.  Seriously.  It does not matter if I’m thirsty, if I’m hungry, if I lack caffeine or even if I have screaming children in the back seat.  I despise the two-lane drive-thru concept.  

Inevitably, someone doesn’t understand the zipper concept and cuts into line ahead of the other lane.  At the window, chaos ensues due to the cars being out of order. It happened today when the lady in front of us ended it with our son’s chicken nuggets and our bag held her child’s cheese burgers without onion.  

I understand that the two-lane ordering assists with quicker service, but I still dislike the process.  I wish there was a green-yellow-red light for the merging part of ordering.

While I wish there was a green-yellow-red light at the drive thru, we often use the green-yellow-red thought process when it comes to sharing the Gospel.  We may use yellow as a caution (or red as an out-right stop) that the person isn’t ready to hear the Gospel.  We think they may not be ready, so we decline to fulfill our portion of the Great Commission.  Perhaps a better approach would be to assume that everyone is a green light and start sharing with everyone. 

Like the merging of two lanes requiring patience and a little intuition, the sharing of the Gospel also requires both.  The patience needed when sharing God’s love with the world is most often seen when presenting the Good News repeatedly to the same person or groups of people.  We may get frustrated that they don’t “merge into their lane at the right time” when in reality, God has their hearts ready at His time.  

In Matthew 28:19 (NASB), we read the following command, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

God said, “Go…”  He didn’t say, “convince them” or “argue with them” or “brow beat them.”  He simply said, “Go.”  We can rest assured that our God is going to take care of the rest.  

If we approach the unbelievers in our friend circles, in our workplaces, and even in the grocery store, as though they are a Green-Light, we will have accomplished the “Go.”  God will handle the rest. 

The merging of two lanes into one at a drive thru will likely always cause me grief.  But that merging of believers “going” with God’s “doing” will create an eternity filled with sinners who heard the Gospel and believed.  

This week let’s strive to be the green light and Go!

~Emily

11 Pills

There’s this moment where you feel as if you’re the only one that has ever gone through this.  And that moment lasts for days, weeks, maybe months.  No one ever talks about it.  Maybe because you feel it’s not your story to tell.  Maybe because you feel embarrassed.  Maybe because you’re afraid you’ll be judged. But those thoughts couldn’t be further from the truth.  So here I am, ready to break this stigma wide open, because it needs to be done.  Particularly in the Christian community.  And I share it with the full support of Peyton.

On March 6th of this year, my sweet Peyton tried to kill herself.  Even writing it now makes me cry.  I never thought I’d be the parent who wrote those words.  But my daughter was so overwhelmed that she felt like the best option was to go to sleep and never wake up.  So she filled her small hand with pills, downed them with a glass of water and laid down. 

She has absolutely zero recollection of waking up about an hour later.  She has no memory of trying to go to the bathroom and talking to us…or attempting to.  She doesn’t recall the next hour of her dad and I trying to talk to her, putting her in the shower to see if she would be coherent, and us searching her room for the alcohol or drugs we were sure we would find.  

We thought she was drunk or high.  She’d sleep it off.  While I was going through her phone to see how she’d gotten the stuff, I made the single biggest mistake I think I’ll ever make in my life.  I opened her phone’s internet browser and I saw her search history, “How much amitriptyline do I take to overdose.”  And I thought, “WHAT A RANDOM THING TO LOOK UP.  NOT MY KID.” If it had been a neon sign, it would’ve blinded me and I still don’t think I would’ve acknowledged it.  Instead, I just kept looking for where she got the alcohol or drugs.

She laid in the living room on the couch asleep while I laid down on the love seat beside her, checking her throughout the night.

When she woke up the next morning, she was completely disoriented and didn’t understand why she was in the living room.  I looked at her and asked if she felt ok.  She said yes and just sat there for a moment before she looked up at me with tears in her eyes.

“Can I tell you something without you getting mad?” 

I said, “Tell me.”

“I tried to kill myself last night.” And she started to cry.

What we had witnessed was my daughter’s body reacting to an overdose.  Miraculously, despite my willful ignorance to her Google search, she survived.

When you’re going through a tremendously painful time like an attempted suicide, you’re not really sure who to call or talk to.  Which one of your friends will understand?  Who is going to judge you or your kid?  Who’s going to pray, and not just pray in passing but pray the host of heaven down on your child to heal her physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?  Who’s going to treat your child differently?  Who’s going to treat YOU differently?

There’s such a stigma attached to mental health and it can feel embarrassing.  But as Chris and I walked through the next 6 days of a trip to the ER followed by some inpatient time for Peyton on an adolescent psychiatric unit, we found out we weren’t the only ones.  We knew a surprising number of people who did or were going through the exact thing we were. 

It’s been two months since her attempt, and it’s been a process to work through healing for her as well as for us.  We find that the more candid we are with Peyton about what happened and what her feelings are currently, the more she feels ok to open up when she struggles.  We can’t put her in a protective bubble (which, believe me, I’d love to do) but we can ensure that we’re walking WITH her during this.  She now knows that she’s not alone in this fight because her entire family is here to fight with her.  In turn, this has allowed her to be very open about her mental health and attempted suicide with others.  She wants to know that her miraculous gift of failure in that attempt will help someone reach out before their attempt is a permanent consequence.

My walk with God is even more important than just walking with Peyton.  As a Christian mother, I know that God is bigger than trauma, than hurts, than depression.  He is bigger than the lies the devil tells her. 

These two verses are ones that I’ve held strong to since March.

“When you pass through the waters I will be with you;

And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,

Nor will the flame burn you.” –Isaiah 43:2

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33

I know that God is with us.  He sees her and He loves her.  And though there is a fight going on in her head and in her heart, He has not left her to fight this alone.  In fact, He wishes to fight on her behalf.  He wants to fight on my behalf.  I praise God that even though the world is often too invested in ‘self,’ He is invested in US.

If you are struggling with this in your home, please, I beg you, know that you are not alone.  Not only do you have a Heavenly Father who is 100% for you, you have friends here at the Iron Porch who understand and have walked in this valley, as well.  There is no judgment here.  There is no stigma here.  There is the love of a Savior and friends who stand with you.

~Erin

**If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.** 

Sweet Home Alabama

Last week I spent several days with my Mom going through my Dad’s belongings after he died.  After a few days of sorting items and helping Mom with paperwork that follows a death, I realized I really wanted to go home.  I love my Mom and I love hanging out with her.  But I wanted to be home.  Home to my husband, my child, & my pup.  It’s taken seven years, but at some point over those years Alabama became home.

I’ve been thinking about home in relationship to our walk with God.  I’ve heard sermons that reference the statement “this is our earthly home, but heaven is our eternal home.” I’d venture to guess most of us think of heaven as our true home.  It got me thinking about if there are other aspects of being a Christian where we feel that we are at home.

There are times that I feel great peace with the Lord when I’m praying, singing worship music, or journaling.  Other times, I feel that connection to the Lord while admiring nature or fellowshipping with other believers.  I even feel the love of the Lord while I study His Word.  

In Hebrews 3:4 (NASB) we read, “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” 

God, the builder of all things, has made us a home.  In John 14, Jesus told us that he will go before us and prepare a room in the mansion of his Father’s house.  I can’t wait to see that mansion.  I can’t wait to see the room for me that was prepared by Jesus himself. I can’t wait to be home.  

Here’s the reality.  I can feel peace, connection, or love during aspects of my Christian walk but I’m not truly home until I reach heaven.  Heaven.  Our true home.  

Even if Sweet Home Alabama is the temporary one.

~Emily