Dreams So Big: 2020

A new year brings new resolutions, new promises, and occasionally new dreams.

When I was a small child, I dreamt of being an FBI agent.  My current role as a curator at a military museum could not be further from that childhood dream.  Clearly, not a dream come true.

My husband has always dreamt of being a fishing guide and/or having a fly shop where he could pass along his love of being an angler.  With the addition of a new boat in 2019, he’s begun the work of establishing a business including fish guiding and teaching classes on fishing.  Dreams are beginning to come true.

There is a sense of bittersweetness when you look at dreams that have or have not come true. You can see where God’s plans were better than your own.  And you begin to see how God’s timing is better than your own.

Are your dreams as big as God?  What do you want for your life that you think is too outrageous?!?!?  Because guess what? Nothing is too outrageous for God…He’s plans are already in the works for a dream bigger than you already dream.

Do you want to adopt a child? Start a ministry? Finish a degree? Run a marathon? (I’m not gonna lie, I’m not sure I understand why anyone “wants” to run)

It’s easy to say that you believe God is big enough to fulfill your dreams…it’s harder to actually believe that.

How can you tell if your dreams match God’s desires for you?  How do you know you are dreaming “big enough”?

Christ’s Great Commission charges us with an incredible purpose: “Make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). Beyond any of our wildest dreams, we are given a purpose to make disciples…in our homes, in our churches, and in our world.

In whatever manner you seek opportunities to disciple others, the Great Commission should partner with your big dreams. This is God’s desire for your life.  Filter all you do through the Great Commission.

  • You dream of adopting a child? Find a Christian agency and become involved with how discipleship occurs internationally.
  • You want to start a ministry? Start researching, start investing, start studying…and watch how God will give you opportunities to execute the Great Commission.
  • You’re dreaming of finish a degree? Stop making excuses! Register for the classes, do the hard work of balancing life and school. Graduate.  And then watch God open doors with that degree in a manner you never imagined!
  • You desire to run a marathon? Train, practice, run…and sign up for a marathon.  Then watch as God presents opportunities to speak about Him to others who also “want” to run.

Your dreams “so big” when matched with God’s purpose for your life, will be fulfilled.  Typically, you’ll see those dreams come to fruition in a manner way larger than you ever imagined.

Here’s to 2020…where we need to dream big and watch God work!!!

Happy New Year from the Iron Porch!
~Emily

Dreams So Big_ 2020 copy

Merry Christmas!

The hustle and bustle of Christmas has come to an end.  Presents have been opened.  Christmas breakfasts and dinners have been cooked and eaten.  For me and my family, we’re sitting lazily in our living room enjoying a Christmas movie, the last piece of warm apple pie eaten and enjoyed.

I’m so thankful for this time of year.  It’s a season to really soak in the story behind Christmas.  I know it’s a story we should all be aware of.  But during the holiday season, it’s a peaceful feeling to think about Jesus coming in the form of a tiny baby, the Hope of the world.

As we step out of Christmas and into the new year, my prayer is that we hang tight to the hope and love that is Jesus.  This gift that was given to us is a gift that never fails us.  I’m forever thankful for the gift of the newborn Lamb.

Merry Christmas to all of Iron Porch!

~Erin

The Christmas Train

When my son was 2 years old, we bought him a Polar Express train to set up under the Christmas tree.  Every year he waits anxiously for us to get the Christmas tree decorated so that we can set up the train.  As a Christmas gift, he receives one new car or piece to his train set each December.2014

He loves this tradition and occasionally mentions how many train pieces he’ll have to share with his own children someday.  He’s not obsessed with trains, but he certainly likes to ride on them and he definitely likes to play with his Christmas train set.

As I was watching him play with the train this last week, I got to thinking about how much he anticipates Christmas traditions because it includes this train. I also have great anticipation for the Christmas season. I love the anticipation of family heirlooms hanging on the tree, the sending and receiving of greeting cards and the process of finding, wrapping, and delivering gifts to those around me. IMG_5714

Scholars debate if December 25th is actually Jesus’ birthday, but indulge me for a moment and think about the anticipation Mary would have had for the birth of her child.  The anticipation of holding your small child for the first time and hearing those strong lungs announce their arrival.  The anticipation and longing to be done with the health changes pregnancy brings.  The anticipation of blending a family together.

You know what she didn’t anticipate in the days leading up to Christmas?

She didn’t anticipate fear of a king killing all the under-two-year-old boys in the region.  She didn’t anticipate life with an intelligent child who would teach Priests. She certainly didn’t anticipate watching her son suffer humiliating torture only to be crucified on the cross.

There is so much in the lives of women that we don’t anticipate: loss of wages, deaths of friends, failing relationships, miscarriages, smart-mouthed kiddos, dents and dings on our cars or on our hearts.

But there is so much good to anticipate when we know Jesus as our Savior.  To know you are heaven-bound makes many of the unexpected anticipations a tiny bit more bearable. IMG_8077Wouldn’t the best Christmas gift be to share with others that heaven-bound promise…the anticipation?!? That precious gift of His death for our sins is so much better than the anticipation of Christmas trains and heirloom ornaments!

In the last few hours of anticipation of Christmas 2019, let’s reflect on what we’re anticipating for our own lives and the lives around us.

Merry Christmas from the Iron Porch!

~Emily

2019

 

 

Find the Time

As a full time professional in the billing department of a hospital, I need to know what I’m talking about.  The majority of us know that medical insurance can be so frustrating and hard to understand.  My job requires me to have extensive knowledge of insurance billing for physicians, and on occasion I have to spend time explaining to patients what the charges/payments mean so that they can understand it in laymen’s terms.  It’s important for me to be doing continuous education on the insurance companies.

Do we treat our study of the bible the same way?

God wrote the most beautiful book for us.  It’s a history lesson of this earth prior to Jesus walking the streets of Jerusalem.  It’s the true story of the greatest sacrifice for love, and it’s the written promise of what’s to come.   God’s love letter is available to all of us to learn from, to grow from, to mature ourselves in our faith.  And yet I let days go between opening it to really read what God has written to me.

The psalmist wrote, “I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.  I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.” –Psalm 119:15-16.  My prayer is that I take those words to heart.

I want to develop a strong understanding of who God is and what He’s done and one of the best ways I can do that is to spend time each day meditating on His written word.  I want my study to be meaningful and give me true opportunity to dig in.  My bible can’t remain closed until I “find the time.”  Believe me, I’ve been there, and it happens to me even now.  I let things, people, phone calls, or TV take precedence over a chance to allow a scripture meaning to be revealed to me.

The challenge to myself, and one that I’m extending to you, is to set aside at least 15 minutes each morning when you first wake up.  Ask God to reveal Himself to you in the passage or verse you’ve chosen to read, read it aloud, and then use the rest of the time to find out “What does this mean to me?”  Allow yourself time to meditate on His ways.  You won’t regret it.

Is there a verse or passage that you’ve read that might encourage someone to start this challenge?  Come to the porch and share in the comments below.

~Erin

I will meditate (used)

Wreaths Across America

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

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

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

– Holly symbolizes immortality

– Cedar symbolizes strength and healing

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

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

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

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

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

Their mission includes three simple words:

Remember. Honor. Teach.

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

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

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

~Emily

Snow Graves

The Blessing Jars

Table 8 met for our last meeting of 2019 just this last Monday, and I wanted to give something to the ladies that I had seen Emily do and had done myself a few years ago.  It wasn’t a big or expensive gift.  It was a gift that would allow them to see the blessings of their daily life.  It was a blessing jar.

For those who don’t know what this looks like or what it is, a blessing/thankful jar is a container that you can use to hold your good and fun memories for the year.  I kept mine on an end table with scraps of paper beside it.  If something exciting happened like a promotion or a visit from a friend from out of town, I’d jot down what happened along with the day’s date.  When I had mother/daughter dates, I would keep the receipt for where we went or the ticket stub from the movie to throw in the jar.  At the end of the year, my girls and I had so much fun going back through the papers that I had saved!  It reminded us of the countless good times and memories we had.

I haven’t had my jar out in several years.  But I realized this year, that it felt as if stress levels for people in general have been at an all-time high.  I decided that it was time to counteract the stress of everyday life with the blessing reminders of what God provides for us.

Rather than have one big jar for each my friends, I made smaller jars.  I explained that the smaller jars work almost identically to the large jars.  Rather than look at them at the end of the year, however, I encouraged them to do their blessings by the month!

“At the end of every month,” I explained, “pull out what you’ve put in your jar to remind yourselves of the blessings you’ve been graced with.  Save the papers in a baggie with the month marked.  At the end of the year look over all of the blessings from the last 12 months and be thankful for what God has done!”

It truly makes a difference in our attitudes when we can be reminded of the good things God allows in our lives.  I encourage you today that if you don’t have one, start one!  And if you’ve put yours away like I did, join me in bringing it back out and being encouraged by the blessings that come your way.   It’s a great way to be thankful!

~Erin

Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; –Ephesians 5:20

Eclectic Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Emily

townsoldiersEclectic Christmas