God Always Provides

God always provides.  I tell this to my Bible study ladies every single week. Sometimes, it’s hard to see.  Often we ask, “God I could really use (fill in the blank). Could you open a way to allow me to have/do that?”  When the response feels like, “You’re getting a double helping of NOT (fill in the blank),” it can be a tough reality to live.  But even as a seasoned Christian, I’m still amazed at how He provides, even the seemingly small things.

For those who know me personally, you know I’m writing a book.  To this girl who loves English and writing, who loves to teach and has to a lot to say, it’s a dream come true to finally follow my calling.

However, because of my writing style, I tend to edit as I go.  This is a nightmare. Attempting to complete a full paragraph much less an entire chapter is a giant migraine because I get so focused on crafting that perfect sentence the first time around instead of letting the editing process take place down the line.  Yes, I lean towards perfectionism.

On the other hand, give me a group of people to talk to, and I’ll talk your ear off, unedited.  I love to share my story, and I tend to get so animated and excited that it just rolls off the tongue.

The topic of this painful process came up last Monday when I was speaking to a couple of my girlfriends at Bible study and again on Tuesday when I was on the phone with Emily.  The advice given to me was simple: You need a dictation program!

Easy enough….except that dictation programs cost money, and this girl is headed to the “She Speaks” conference in just two weeks!  So while I politely accepted their advice, and thought about what brilliant advice it was, I tucked it into the one-day-my-dream-will-come-true file.

NOW, here is where I get so excited because this dilemma gave me the opportunity to see my current Bible study in action.  We’re doing a study on the names of Jesus by Kay Arthur, and God became Jehovah-jireh to me (The God Who Will Provide).

On Saturday, I popped onto my Facebook and posted about me attempting to write a chapter.  A friend from high school who I haven’t seen or talked to in years, messaged me and asked me if I was using a dictation program or a Mac.  (I have neither.)  I told him I didn’t but that I was interested in knowing about dictation programs.  He then offered to set me up with his software so that it would be easier for me to write! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!

Listen…he had no idea about the conversation.  None.  When I got the message, all I could do was praise Jesus that He provides and provides as He sees the need.  Could I write a book without dictation?  Yes.  Would it be much easier for this talker to do that with dictation software?  Uhhh….YES!

Our God is ready to provide for you!  All you need to do is ask.  As He provides, praise Him for the answered prayer, whether it was the provision you desired or the provision He felt you needed.

How about it, community?  Tell the people sitting on the Iron Porch today what you’re asking God to provide and how we can pray for you!

~Erin

Lean In

My 70+ pounds son just asked me to pick him up for a hug.  As he wrapped his arms around my neck and his legs around my waist, I tugged furiously at my shirt, which rode up exposing my tummy.  I said to him, “You’re almost too heavy for us to do this anymore.”  To which he responded, “Remember when you used to carry me like this all the time? You always told me, ‘lean in’.”

When he was straight up or leaning backwards, I had to strain against gravity.

I told him to ‘lean in’ because it made his weight closer to my center of gravity.  Essentially, it became easier to carry him.

God is constantly telling us ‘”lean in.”

When we lean in, we are learning.

When we lean in, we are relying on God.

When we lean in, we are stronger.

When we lean in, we get Godly council…because it comes from the sole source.

What does it mean to ‘lean in’ with God? It means we need to pray. We need to talk to God. We need to believe He’s for us.  It means we need to learn the Word…we need to get in the Bible.  It means we need to surround ourselves with God.

Rather than rely on ourselves, let’s rely on the Lord.

Let’s lean in so that the weight is more evenly distributed.

Let’s lean in to make bearing the load easier.

Let’s lean in.

~Emily

“Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” ~Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)

Be Bold

I’m sitting here and staring at a blank screen.  This happens a lot.  I sit down to write only to be stumped with what God is telling me to write.  I think a topic is a good idea.  Then I wonder what the topic will bring to the table in my writing.  I pause, and then I erase.  A new idea enters my head.  Yet again, I think about where I want it to go, and then I erase.  It’s a vicious cycle I have in my head.

And now, I have this crazy thought…how often do we start to tell people about us and about our testimony when we stop ourselves, erase the potential conversation and start talking about something completely different because we’re afraid of what people will think or say?  I know I’m sometimes guilty of it.

I want to start off on the right foot with people.  I don’t want them thinking I’m some crazy Jesus Freak who is unable to relate to them because I do things “God’s way”.  I gauge the temperature of the conversation before I jump in with my story or what the platform is of my ministry.

But really, what’s so wrong with being a Jesus Freak?!  I love Jesus.  My life is about serving and glorifying Him.  It doesn’t mean I’m not fun.  It definitely doesn’t mean I’m boring. I’m not going to judge someone for their sin or how they live their life…I’ve got my own sin to worry about.  So why should I be ashamed to talk about what I live for or what my calling is when they ask me about myself?!

Being a Christian is what defines me.  While being a mom and a grandma is about the best thing I could ever ask for, my life would not, could not be what it is without Jesus Christ and what He did for me.  I should not nor do I need to be ashamed or hesitant to share my love for Jesus.

I know this may not have been what you stopped by the Iron Porch to hear today, but I feel like someone, even if it’s only me, needs to hear that you don’t need to be afraid of who you are in Jesus.  It’s ok to have your life in Him and to be bold about it.  Don’t fear sharing with others what He’s done for you or how He’s changing you.  He loves you, and that just may be what someone else needs to hear.

~Erin

Gossip or Guidance?

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29

When I was a young Airman, I had a supervisor tell me that I was the type of person who thrived on chaos and created drama.  That statement hurt me to my core and allowed me to have some self-reflection time about the type of woman I wanted to be known as.  And guess what? I decided I didn’t want to be known as someone who was involved with chaos, drama, turmoil…and gossip.

Gossip is such an uncomfortable topic.  It’s uncomfortable because so many of us fall into the gossip trap at some point in our lives.  There are varying levels of gossip…the seemingly innocent gossip…the outrageous made-up gossip…and even the justifiable gossip cloaked in truth. There are different players in the game of gossip.  There is the initiator, the contributor, the facilitator, and even the victim.  I know that I have been involved in each of the roles and if I’m honest, in each of the levels of gossip too.

Erin and I were recently talking about the fabric of our friendship and how we’ve never had a fight.  We’ve never gossiped about each other.  We hold each other accountable.  We disagree with one another. Heck we have even disliked decisions that the other made, but we have never fought. Why? I believe there are several reasons.  Our friendship is built on trust. It’s built on respect. It’s built on love. And it’s a friendship that is built on Christ.

What would happen to us, as Christian women, if all our relationships were built on trust, respect, love and Christ?  What if we treated all of our relationships as ones without chaos, without drama, without gossip?

Would we be happier people? Would we accomplish more? Would we reflect Christ’s love for all of His people?

Obviously, you can’t know if all your relationships are built on mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual love, or mutual relationship with God.  But you can know if you will exhibit these traits.

Let’s go back to gossip.  Women typically love to talk. And we love to talk about each other.  We are a catty group of humans.  It does not matter what label you put on yourself, women are at fault for talking about each other.  Christian women too.  Ours however, may be more dangerous gossip than that of the non-believer.  Why?  Well, we mask our gossip as “venting” or worse as “seeking council” from other Christian women.

Please know this, I believe we need to seek wise council.  Occasionally, we need to vent.  If we keep our thoughts, dreams, and prayers to ourselves then we are unable to be held accountable by other Christians.  The distinction between wise council seeking and gossip is when you make the decision about whether or not the conversation will make its way back to the subject.

Let’s imagine you take a topic to someone you trust and respect…simply to vent or to get guidance.

If you talk about someone and never intend to bring it to him or her, then it could be gossip.

If you talk about someone and intend to bring it to him or her after seeking council, then it may not be gossip…it may truly be seeking guidance.

“Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.” – Psalm 101:5

Let’s flip the script now.  Let’s imagine that someone is coming to you for a venting session or because they are seeking your guidance.

If you aren’t sending them to speak with the individual to resolve the situation, then your guidance is not holy…it is likely part of the gossip.

If you join in the venting session because you’ve been hurt by the individual, then you are contributing to the gossip.

If you ask them what their role is in the scenario, or if you ask them what they intend to say to the individual, or if you encourage them to speak to the person…then you are stopping the gossip. You are providing guidance.

“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.” – Proverbs 11:13

There’s a fine line between gossip and guidance.  It’s a hard line to see, but it’s an easy one to cross.  Our flesh wants the confirmation that we have been wronged. We crave the vindication that we are right and that we are justified in the gossiping.  As humans, we desire someone else to come beside us and share our outrage at injustices…perceived or real.

But what would happen if we stopped the gossip?

What would happen if we started building our relationships on trust, respect, love and Christ?

If we stopped gossiping and replaced that with truth talk directly to the people involved, wouldn’t we start building trust, respect, love…and show how Christ would have functioned?

There are relationships that are toxic. Ones that eventually need to be severed. But for the average relationship, trust and respect are started with honesty.  Honesty can be sometimes harsh or sometimes softer, but should never be expressed in a deliberately hurtful manner.  Honest talk builds healthy relationships.

“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip.” – Proverbs 20:19

 Let’s band together as Christian women to refine one another. Together we can start to stop the gossip within our homes, our churches, and our workplaces. Let’s identify the flaws and press into the Lord with our desire to do better.

~Emily

“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”               – Psalm 141:3

 

 

 

 

The Dead Sea Scrolls

We raced to the line with two minutes to spare, our 1:10 pm tickets in hand.  After heading out on the road almost 30 minutes later than I had desired, we had navigated the highways, battled the Denver traffic, and miraculously found a parking space in the coveted main parking lot just in time.  The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these ancient artifacts were just beyond those walls, and I couldn’t wait to share this moment with my girls.  We were about to see the Dead Sea Scrolls.

For those unfamiliar with the Scrolls, they are ancient Jewish manuscripts found near the Dead Sea in the Qumran Caves in the 1940’s by some Bedouin shepherds. Their importance and value were not originally realized, and the story of the initial discovery, handling and care is truly fascinating and shocking.  The Dead Sea Scrolls are significant to Christian culture because these manuscripts had writings that had been included in the Bible!

Included in the displays were artifacts from the time period including pottery, dishes, altars, and weaponry.  They guided us to a small room for a short five minute explanation of the exhibit and what we were about to see.  To say I was excited was an understatement!  At one point in those first moments Peyton looked at me and exclaimed, “Are you CRYING?! ALREADY?!”  I had to giggle and tell her to keep her voice down.

I just want to share with you a few of the pieces that pierced my heart, and put the Bible into such a new light for me.  You know what I mean; you’ve read the Bible stories, you’ve heard the lessons.  Yet, when it touches you in a new way, it feels fresh and new and….alive.

Sling-stones. Seriously. As in David and Goliath! The display contained approximately 15 of the smooth, nearly perfectly rounded spheres.  As I gazed at them, I could see David praying to God for victory and choosing the best five stones that would surely bring the giant down.  I could see Goliath in the distance with his sword and shield, laughing at the small boy they were sending his way with only a slingshot.  Can you see it?  The Israelites watching David closely as if he’s lost his mind, the Philistines amused at how easily the victory would come for Goliath.  And in a brief moment, it was over.  David landed his shot perfectly into Goliath’s forehead, and the giant lay dead at the feet of the shepherd.  God gave David the victory and that man would go on to lead a nation as king.  Goosebumps!

A small jug for oil.  Did this slight vessel resemble the one that the widow stored the last of her oil in as she prepared the bread for Elijah?  The widow only had enough for one more meal before her and her son would have nothing left and die from starvation.  Yet the man of God arrived at her doorstep asking to be fed.  No questions.  God had directed her to feed him, despite the lack of ingredients to make enough for everyone.  The scene became so vivid in my head.  I saw this woman kneading what was left of the flour and olive oil together to make the small loaf of bread for the prophet, the words of God and Elijah running through her mind, weary from worry, that the oil and flour wouldn’t run out if she obeyed.

Coins.  Coins were traded for the local currency that was needed to purchase the animals for offering at the temple.  All of a sudden, the courtyard seemed to surround me.  The animals, penned up and ready for purchase, the smell permeating the air.  Israelite men arguing with the money changers over the interest they were trying to charge for the exchange.  The buzz of daily life humming in my ears.  I could imagine the Israelite men hoping that the doves or lambs they purchased were unblemished so as not to have to purchase another with what little money they had left.

And those Scrolls….the tiny Hebrew writing.  The thinly laid, delicate parchment. The aging ink.  Can you imagine the Jewish men hunched over in the dim light, putting quill to parchment?  In this display, I saw the words from Isaiah—[He has s]treched out [his hand] over the sea, to shake the kingdoms… (Isaiah 23:11a).  The Psalms of King David were found, and Psalm 121 was laid out before me in its entirety:

A song of ascents.  I turn my eyes to the mountains; from where will [my help] come?  My help comes from the LORD, maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot [give way;] and your guardian [will] not slumber; See the [guardian of] [I]srael neither slumbers nor sleeps at night!  The LORD is your guardian, your protection at your right hand.  By da[y] [the s]un will not strike you, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will guard you from al[l harm,] He will gu[ard] your life. He will guard your going and coming now and for[ever.]

The words from the Bible were enclosed in a case right in front of me, proving to me just how true the words of God are.

As we rounded the corner towards the end of the exhibit, a large three-ton stone from the Western Wall stood in our path with a makeshift wall surrounding it. There, they had papers for people to write prayers to place in the wall (as they do in Jerusalem) that would be sent to Israel.  As I put my prayer in a crevice of the wall, I asked God that this exhibit and His word would touch people the way it had touched me.

I pray, even now, that this experience never leave my mind and that it would have a lasting impact on me as a reminder that our God, our Bible, His words are alive and real.

I know not everyone will have an opportunity to see an exhibit like this.  My challenge to you today is to ask God to open your eyes to a fresh perspective of His words in the Bible as this exhibit did for me.  Read it as the love story that it is to you. It will change your life.

~Erin

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.                                    ~Isaiah 41:10

This is my “go to” verse. It’s the first verse my grandmother helped me memorize as a small child.  It brings me comfort.  It’s one I use routinely in prayer.  I recently got this verse on a keychain, in a covenant of prayer, along with two special girls from my husband’s family.

I’ve heavily relied on this verse the last few months. I’ve been struggling.  And those closest to me have been having a rough time too.   I have immediate and extended family, as well as very close friends battling cancer.  I’m anxious about the transition between military and civilian life.  My stepdaughter is excelling in a rehab program, but recently betrayed by her best friend.  I’ve been stricken with doubts about finishing my degree.  The suicide of a celebrity chef had me reeling for days.  It’s just been a Debbie-Downer type of season in my life.

In light of feeling “out of sorts,” I’ve taken the last few days to contemplate the words of this passage. Essentially I’ve been deciphering why it feels so special to me.

So Do Not Fear:  This gives me the security that God has chosen me. He will provide.  He has told me not to be fearful of what is next.  His plan will prevail.

For I Am With You: This is the promise of God, which is the reason we should not fear.  God is with us. He literally is telling us that He is with us.  He’s standing next to us…holding our hands…helping us lift our head in times of shame or sorrow…catching our tears…cheering for us.  If He’s with us, what do we have to fear?

Do Not Be Dismayed: When one is dismayed, they are typically looking around themselves in a state of alarm or danger.  I think about an active shooter scenario…would I spring into action or stand there dumbfounded?  This statement from our God tells us that we can be calm and can shed any apprehension that we may harbor. We don’t have to look around in a state of alarm.

For I Am Your God: The Great I AM.  Asserting His place in our lives.  He is our God, the God of Heaven and Earth, He is God of all power and protection.  In this portion of the verse, He states His dominance of our life. I love that He isn’t just reminding us of His position, but rather He is also telling the world that He is our God.

I Will Strengthen You:  This verb “will strengthen” provides us with the emotion of attaching to someone else.  As in Isaiah 44:14, we become chosen.  We are made stronger as a result of our relationship with God. Again, we see the promise from a God that He will see us through the turmoil.

I Will Uphold You: He will enable us to bear any and all of our trials. He will stand us upright.  I have this vision of something happening that is so horrible, I want to faint away with fear or saddness…but God is standing right behind me, with His hands under my arms…”propping” me up to face the world.

With My Righteous Right Hand:  God’s hand is faithful.  It is one to rely on.  It’s on that hand that He will secure us.

When broken down, this verse provides so much insight into the heart of our God.  And it is so refreshing and reassuring that I do not have to worry about anything, as long as I believe God’s word.

Ladies, I encourage you to lean in this week and really digest a verse…any verse.  Figure out how it plays out in your life.  I’m praying we all have a week remembering that God will strengthen each of us.

~Emily

 

 

 

 

Finding the Joy

Sometimes I think my life could rival Lemony Snicket.  One thing leads to another and before long, the only thing you can do is laugh and trust that the next situation that arises is even funnier than the last.  You have to have a sense of humor to be in my family!

We arrived in Cheyenne, Wyoming late Saturday night, excited to see McKenna and Andros.  I hadn’t seen my precious 8-month-old grandson or his beautiful momma since he was born.  I couldn’t wait to squeeze their necks!

We were about 2 hours outside of town when I got a call from McKenna.  She was headed to the ER with Andros.  Not only did Andros have some kind of stomach bug, McKenna had an incredibly sore throat and it was too late for any urgent care places in town to be open.

Of course, Andros had a viral bug, and McKenna’s strep test was positive.  Two of the most important people in my life were in pain and uncomfortable, and there was nothing I could do about it.  That, however was not going to stop us from seeing them as soon as possible.  Peyton and I met them for lunch on Sunday and actually took Andros for the night so that we could enjoy some special time. (I’d like to think it was a little Momma/Mimi love that made them feel better!)

Tuesday rolled around and with it, so did mine and Peyton’s stomach.  By the afternoon, we were both down and out for the count.  We even had to cancel our plans with my brother who’s only day available was Tuesday because of this bug.  Peyton lovingly joked that she was disowning her nephew, while I quietly thought of the ways I could remove my intestines so that my stomach didn’t hurt anymore!

By Wednesday morning, we felt so much better, and Peyton enjoyed some relaxation at our rental while I went to work for a few hours.  After I returned from work, Peyton let me know her throat hurt.  Seriously?!  This can’t be happening.  We talked about whether or not she felt sick enough to go to the local urgent care to which she replied that she didn’t feel that it was that bad.  About an hour later, she peeked over the back of the chair and casually asked, “Is a strep test the one where they put the stick down your throat?”  I knew we needed to go.

Did you know that strep has to be in your system 12-18 hours before your body will produce a positive strep result?  I didn’t.  So the doctor’s words of wisdom after a negative result was produced was that it was 50/50 shot that she had strep versus a residual effect of the stomach bug from the day before.  We decided the course of action was to go ahead and treat her as if it were positive since she was exposed and a fever had started.  Going home, Peyton now joked that she was disowning her own sister, as well.

Through it all, God has been in the middle of our family!  Andros and McKenna quickly recovered.  We were in a place where my mom was around to be able to help care for us while we were laid up.  My brother was still able to meet his great-nephew for the first time.  We didn’t have to reschedule our dinner theater tickets for Thursday, and Peyton won’t be sick by the time her birthday rolls around this weekend.

God tells us to find joy in our trials, and that’s all I can do when weeks like this happen.  When God is in the midst of our lives and circumstances, I can’t help but be joyful that He still allows us to breathe and laugh at our misfortunes.

Take the time to seek Him during those moments. It will put a fresh perspective on your current situation!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kind, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. -James 1:2-3

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I a weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:10

~Erin