Confidence Shaken

It is no secret that I’m a bigger girl.  I love food far more than I should and exercise far less than I even care to admit.  The only time you’d ever catch me running is if a bear were chasing me, and if you want some real truth, I’d probably just turn around and accept my fate of being dinner.  It’s way too taxing to exert my energy into exercise.  (Please, to all health-conscious reading this, don’t come for me!)  While sometimes it’s a struggle to think about how heavy I’ve become, it is who I am, and I’m ok with it.  This weekend, however, my confidence was shaken. 

I was shopping for a dress in Birmingham with Emily and my youngest daughter, Peyton.  We went to the mall and hit the first store. I asked the associate if the location we were in had plus size dresses, to which she replied they had a “few” in another location. 

Now, I’m not looking for an entire store full of dresses, but I would’ve loved to have seen more than just six dresses for larger women, and it just didn’t happen.  In fact, every major department store we went to informed me that “IF” they had any, they’d be in whatever section to which they pointed.  Two stores said they had eliminated plus size dresses.  It was disheartening, but I was fine.  Until the last store.

The lady was kind.  And she was caring.  She did absolutely nothing wrong.  When I asked her about whether they carried plus-size dresses she replied, “I’m afraid we don’t.  We should, and I’m sorry about that.”  And it broke me!

I teared up for whatever reason.  She was so sweet, but when she said it, she might as well have said, “Hey fattie, I’m sorry we don’t carry anything big enough for you to fit in.”  The day had chipped away at my self-esteem and when the sales associate told me they “should carry them,” it just made me feel like a failure.

The bible teaches us just the opposite, however.  Powerful words in Psalm remind me that I’m not a failure and that God made me who I am.  Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

God made me and I am beautiful to Him.  While my weight may fluctuate or my skin might wrinkle, what matters is that God formed me to be me, and those traits that society may base opinions on are not what God sees. 

My inner beauty that reflects God’s goodness makes my outer beauty radiant.  And I’d much rather shine from the love of Jesus.  It makes me beautiful!

The feelings I had about myself stung, because I am human.  But when we’re struggling with how society sees us, I encourage you, dear friends, to remember who made you.

You were made in His image, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made!

~Erin

P.S. I found a dress!

Bruleed Grapefruit

Our girls shopping trip included breakfast at a well-reviewed Alabama restaurant, “Big Bad Breakfast.”  The order included a grapefruit that had been sprinkled with sugared and then torched…just like a crème brulee.  As a culinarian, the combo sounded intriguing but I wasn’t completely confident that I would like it.  The results were amazing! They were absolutely delicious and I wished that we had ordered multiple ones.    

I was surprised at how wonderfully sweet the fruit was and how amazing the crunch of melted sugar tasted on my tongue.  As I reflected on the taste, hours after leaving the restaurant, I realized that my reaction reminded me of Proverbs 27:7 “One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.” 

The supposedly tart-and possibly bitter- grapefruit was sweet like honey.

While the verse does not mean that bitter food will become sweet to us, it does have a deeper meaning about those who are hungry.  Within the Proverbs verse, the honey signifies your walk with God, your relationship with the Trinity, and possibly even the value you place on studying God’s Word.  

Specifically, the verse is also referencing those who are hungry to have a deeper relationship with the Lord.  If one feels as though they are “full” or perhaps they think there isn’t room to grow within their spiritual walk, they aren’t desperate to seek God.  The end result is that they begin to loathe the honey…essentially they pull away from God, from biblical teaching, and fellowship with other believers. 

The second half of the verse speaks to the believer who is desperate to know God more deeply.  They are hungry.  As a result of that hunger, they taste the sweetness of walking closer to God through study, prayer, and fellowship.  

What do you do about that hunger you may be feeling?

– Spend time with God in prayer: write down your prayer requests and answers to prayer

– Study the Bible…seriously study…not just read.

– Fellowship with other believers: at church, in a small group, one-on-one

Only when we initiate knowing God more fully, will we actually get to know God more fully.

Just like the bruleed grapefruit that appears to have a bitter taste but really is super sweet, our walk with the Lord should be filled with hunger to know Him on a more intimate level.  Only then can we taste the sweetness through any bitterness.

I praying for everyone on the Iron Porch to have a sweet week with God.

~Emily

Bruleed Grapefruit

2 red or pink grapefruits

2 Tbl Sugar (coarse, brown or raw)

*Optional ¾ tsp coarse sea salt, sprinkled nutmeg, sprinkled cinnamon)

  1. Halve each grapefruit crosswise, and cut a thin slice off the bottom of each half to stabilize the pieces. Remove all seeds from the grapefruit, and loosen the segments with a paring knife. Remove any excess liquid with a paper towel patted on the top of fruit.  
  2. Sprinkle each half evenly with the sugar (and optional items).  Using a torch, melt the sugar to form a golden brown and crispy surface.  You can use the broiler in your oven, but pay careful attention to not burn the sugar.  

Press On

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:14 (NLT)

I recently started Invisalign orthodontic treatment. I have to wear plastic trays on my teeth 22 hours a day. They are uncomfortable, create a lisp when I talk and every time I eat or drink anything other than water, I need to take them out and brush my teeth and the trays before I put them back in. What a pain! I need to remind myself how nice it will be to have straight teeth and a pretty smile at the end of my 2 years of treatment because right now, I am not seeing any immediate reward, other than the fact that I may have lost a few pounds because the aforementioned post-eating ritual makes me think twice about whether or not a snack is really worth it. 

It can be hard to wait for a reward that seems so far in the future. Life gives us tough seasons. Sometimes even our walk with Jesus can be challenging. It’s tempting to chase instant gratification, however, these things that can satisfy us immediately are temporary. The eternal life Jesus promises is forever. Living with an eternal focus often goes against the messages we are constantly bombarded with in the world today, but let’s look at what Jesus says:

Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:27-29

I love that when Peter asked the very human question of “What’s in it for me?”, Jesus did not admonish him but instead reminded him of the reward given to all who follow. 

What can we do to continue to press on toward our heavenly prize? 

1.    Read the Bible- Staying in the word reminds us of Jesus’ love and promises. 

2.    Prayer- God wants to be in authentic relationship with us. Crying out to God when we are sad and even angry allows him to comfort us and draw us closer.

3.    Community- It’s important to have a good support network of fellow believers who can help encourage and pray for us when we are struggling. 

When you feel discouraged or find yourself asking “Is this worth it?”, remember the promises our Lord has made and the reward waiting for you at the end. Press on toward the prize of eternity in heaven. It will be so worth it.

~Sherry

Sherry Bliss Haase lives in Northern California with her husband and two teenage children. In addition to her favorite role, being a mom, she works in the finance industry as a Retirement Plan Educator. She is also writing a women’s devotional. You can read her blog at www.sherryblisshaase.com.

Guest Blogger: Sherry Bliss Haase

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.  These guest blogs will be posted under ‘fesharp’ rather than ‘Erin’ or ‘Emily.’

On Saturday, we will be posting a submission by our sweet sister in Christ and fellow blogger, Sherry Bliss Haase.  Sherry lives in Northern California with her husband and two teenage children. In addition to her favorite role, being a mom, she works in the finance industry as a Retirement Plan Educator. She is also writing a women’s devotional. You can read her blog at www.sherryblisshaase.com.

Please join us on the porch this Saturday to read Sherry’s thoughts in “Press On.”

~Emily & Erin

Praising His Attributes

It seems like such an obvious “Christian” thing to see.  We read about them many times throughout the Bible.  It’s a concept we’ve been taught over and over.  But I’ve noticed it seems the easiest thing to overlook:  Praising God with His attributes.  Songs encourage us to praise Him in hard times and praise Him in good times.   They remind us to give glory to Him whenever we can.  But are we truly praising Him for who He is?

Table 8 (my amazing California Bible Study group) and I have been going through a Bible study that urges a deeper look into several Psalms and then allow us to write our own Psalms using a formula based on the particular Psalm we’re in that week.  One of the common denominators of the exercise is to praise God using His attributes in prayer and on paper.  It’s something I haven’t always thought about doing.

Do I think God is powerful?  Yes.  Do I believe He is the Healer?  Of Course.  Is He the Almighty Deliverer?  Yes!  An ever-present Help in my time of need?  Absolutely!  But do I praise Him out loud for that?  NO.  It’s like I just assume He knows.  (Let’s be real here for a minute…He knows.)  But the reason behind why we say these things out loud in prayer and writing them down in Psalms is not so HE can know.  It’s to remind US of His attributes!

When we pray His attributes out loud, it encourages us that He is strong, He is omniscient, and He is over all.  It prompts us to be joyful of His authority in the midst of a struggle.  It reminds us that there will be victory in God and that the battle is already won.  Ephesians 6:10 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” 

With that strength, it invigorates our faith and assures us of God’s power.

I’ve tried it first-hand.  For the last five weeks, I have been starting my prayers with speaking aloud God’s beautiful attributes before I begin any request I have.  It’s prepared my soul to know that as I bring my petitions to Him I can be confident in whatever His answer and deliverance will be.

I encourage you, dear friends, to try it!  Speak aloud the attributes of our Great God.  He is mighty!  He is powerful!  He has the victory!  Enjoy the confidence and joy you can have in the assurance of our Father’s goodness and grace!

~Erin

Prayer as a First Choice: Not a Last Resort

Divorce, termination from a job, miscarriage, death, COVID, deer hits your car, child drops out of college…and there are countless other reasons for us to feel despair.  Reasons for us to turn to God.

In the middle of one of those storms have you ever heard someone say…or have you ever said, “All I can do is pray?”

In many instances, we use prayer as a last resort.  We can’t figure out a fix, so all we have left is a petition to God.  The only thing left to say is “all I can do is pray.”  

Do you really believe that?  Do you believe that ALL you have left to do is pray?  

All I can do is pray? That’s similar to saying “all I can do is offer you food” to the homeless person who is hungry.  It’s like saying “all I can do is offer you medication” to the person who is sick. 

I would argue that prayer should be our first stop.  I can think of countless times that I’ve tried to figure out a remedy myself rather than turn it over to God.  I can also think of just as many times where I sought the advice of others before seeking the will of God.  Perhaps we should revise “all I can do is pray” to a phrase like “all I want to do is pray” or “I will pray” or “I will continue to pray.” 

I would also contend that prayer is absolutely the answer.  It’s not all we can do…rather it’s all we should do. Prayer literally releases the power of God and opens the doors of heaven.  James 4:2 says, “You have not, because you ask not.” In Matthew 21:22 Jesus said, “And all things, whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” 

When we utter a phrase that includes “all I can do is pray” it seems like we’re insinuating that is our last resort.  It’s our final hope.  When in reality, it is our one true hope and should be our first stop. 

When a situation arises where there seems to be no answers, prayer is the answer.  Not the last resort. 

~Emily

Talking to God

My women’s bible study group has been going through a Psalms study that looks at several different Psalms, how and why they are written, and what we can learn from them.  We are tasked throughout the week through prompts to write verses that eventually turns into a “Psalm” written by us.  It models the chapter we just studied but it is geared to what our individual hopes, laments and praises are to God.

It’s been a truly enlightening study.  It’s allowed me to dig deep and really reach for what I want to express to God.  Recently, we studied Psalm 42-43, and topic for the day was on worshiping in sorrows.  It encouraged us to really speak to God about how we truly feel.

“When we tell God the truth about what we feel and why, the Holy Spirit can minister to our needs.” –Discovering Hope in the Psalms

God knows everything.  He knows the number of hairs on our heads.  He knows what our path is.  He knows our desires, our sorrows, and our requests.  Often, however, we don’t tell Him about it.  We can discount it as trivial or simple.  Perhaps, we’ve prayed about it for days or weeks, and it seems that it’s unanswered.  Maybe you even feel it’s too silly to pray about.

Dear friend, we can go to Him with anything.  When we have a personal relationship with our heavenly Father, it allows us to come to Him with anything, anytime.  He wants us to come to Him with our needs.  It’s like any deep and close relationship with anyone.  It never gets tired of hearing I love you or I need you.  God desires us to come to Him, no matter how big or small.

He may not answer how we wish, but it doesn’t mean He’s far from us.  He’s simply walking us through something.  We can continually pour out our hearts to Him and He will never be tired of hearing it.  The psalmist often did just that, pouring out to Him over and over all the while putting their hope in God.   I pray that you may feel that you can do the same. 

“Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” –Psalm 55:22

~Erin

Embarrassing Corrections

If you have broccoli in your teeth, TP on your shoe, or a tag sticking up out of your shirt, I’m the kind of girl you want to have nearby. I will not only tell you, I’ll try to help you fix it too.  I would want someone to tell me if I had something going on, so as a young teen I vowed to always tell about something embarrassing that could be corrected. 

Those are easy scenarios for me to tell someone about.  What is hard for me to tell someone is when I think they’ve said or done something wrong.  Specifically, I struggle with telling people when there has been a perceived infraction with fellow Christians.

The Lord doesn’t want us pointing out everyone’s flaws; in fact Jude 1:16 condemns us finding fault with others deliberately.  Nor does scripture allow us to correct fellow Christians based upon second hand knowledge.  However, we are to gently and lovingly correct behavior when it is observed first hand and when the Lord prompts us too.  

Recently, I had to have a conversation with someone about her actions and conversations. I witnessed it first hand and it involved a women’s class that I was facilitating.  It was sooooooo hard for me! I prayed for several days about the situation before I did anything. I wanted to make sure that a) I had God’s authority to correct the behavior and b) I was doing it with the correct motives.  

I literally had to have a pep talk with myself before I called her.  Frankly, I would have rather done anything else than had that conversation.  And yet, the conversation went well and she stated that she didn’t intend harm. It was a productive chat.  

Once the conversation was over, I was relieved that I’d followed God’s lead.  I was glad that I had addressed the conversation privately, as is outlined in Matthew 18:15 (NASB) “Now if your brother sins, go and how him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

Fear of offending or losing a friend/acquaintance often leads us to negate the task of correcting others.  In Proverbs 18:19 (NASB) we see that scripture warns us of rebuking leading to loss, “A brother who is offended is harder to be won than a strong city, And quarrels are like the bars of a citadel.”

When we negate corrective behavior with other Christians, we could be found guilty of sin ourselves.  While some may argue that salvation questions are the only corrective conversation, I would argue that we also need to correct behavior that brings a dark light on God or other Christians.  

What was my deciding factor that lead to a corrective conversation with this gal?  Pray & God.  

After prayerful consideration, I knew it was my obligation as a fellow Christian and as a leader to address the situation, despite how uncomfortable it made me.  

It would have been so much easier for me if she had broccoli in her teeth or toliet paper on her shoe…

Come to the porch this week and tell us about any scenarios where you had to correct someone or you were corrected.

~Emily

Grateful for the Year

One of my favorite descriptions of 2020 has to be the term “dumpster fire.”  While it’s been tough, it was funny to conjure up the image of a stinky fire in a large dirty trash bin!  And while I’ve endured a mandatory three-month lockdown in California followed by adjusted guidelines, my child doing Zoom school, and wearing masks wherever we go, there’s also been some things I’m very grateful for this year.

I moved across country with my family to live next door to my best friend.  I accepted a different position within my company that gives me something new to learn.  I’ve spent some of the best times putting together more than five 1,000 piece puzzles with Peyton, my daughter.  I learned how to navigate Zoom so that Table 8 (my California Bible study group) could continue to meet weekly and deepen our relationship with Christ.

I’m grateful to the men and women that stepped up to the plate to help fight a pandemic.  I’m thankful for the churches that rerouted what church looks like so that people could still worship even when the doors were closed.  I’m thankful for the essential workers who endured thousands of screaming toilet-paper hoarding and Lysol-buying consumers.  I’m grateful that Walmart and other major store chains stepped up to the plate and said NO to opening on major holidays so that their employees could have time with their families.

While I’m ready for 2020 to be done and excited to see what God has for me and my family next year, I honestly don’t think I’d trade this year for anything.  Our Father has been so good to walk me through this trial of a year.  He has never left my side, no matter how far he may have felt from me at times. My prayer for you, Iron Porch, is that whether you consider this year a dumpster fire or a blessing in disguise, may this new year bring peace that only God can give.

~Erin 

New Year’s Priorities with “Reasonable” Expectations

I love to scrapbook, but I feel like I can’t get caught up on decades worth of photos that are well organized in folders.  Each of these folders is waiting to be creatively placed with stickers on the pages of my books.  I have an entire basket of photos from the two years I was stationed in Europe…in 2010-2012!!!  What fun it would be to sit down and reminisce all the places I traveled, all the people I met, and all the food that I ate!   

While I want to eliminate the backlog of photos, I do not prioritize this as something that must be done.  Clearly other things have captured my attention over the years that have taken precedence over scrapbooking.   Things like getting married, finishing a degree, raising a child, or retiring from the military.  Other things were a greater priority to me than scrapbooking.  

If I were to set a goal to scrapbook the decades of photos that are waiting page placement, I would likely fail to meet the goal based upon it not being a priority to me. 

In fact, when I set goals in relationship to New Years, I tend to fail. I set unreasonable expectations.  And then I fail.  Finances, weigh-loss, relationship mending, Bible Studies, gardening…doesn’t matter what the topic, there seems to be a failure involved.  

As I assess the craziness of 2020 and what might come in 2021, I decided that I won’t make resolutions.  No resolutions this year. Instead, I’m setting priorities with reasonable expectations. 

And I’m only setting one.  

I’m making God a priority in 2021.  I want to make time each day to spend in the Word.  I recognize that some days may be an hour, while others might be 15 minutes.  The reasonable part of this priority is this: I’m going to spend time with my Bible each day and I am not setting a specific timeframe for how long it will be each day.  

I recently acquired a yearlong Billy Graham devotional, as well as a 90 day walk with Paul by Beth Moore.  Both of these resources have me excited to start.  However, I need to be clear about my priority of spending time with God in 2021…I’m committing to spending time studying the Bible each day…in addition to any other study or devotion that I might also be doing.  

In James 4:8 (NASB), we are instructed to spend time with God and we are told what happens when we do.   “Come close to God and He will come close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Come close to God and He will come close to you.

That is my priority for 2021.  I’m setting a reasonable expectation that I will do it every day without a time constraint. 

Come to the porch and share your priorities and expectations for 2021.  

~Emily

P.S.  I hope I get a little scrapbooking time too!!