Childlike Grief

Death’s impact on our lives is so weird.

It’s been nine months since my mother-in-law passed away.  Sometimes it feels like years ago and other days it feels like moments.  Most days we remember her in joy, but there have been a few ‘sneak attack’ tearful days too.

As we planned our trip for Thanksgiving, our son asked if he could visit Gramma’s grave while we were in Pennsylvania. Specifically, he wanted to put a Christmas ornament at her grave.   I was slightly surprised to hear the request, as he seemed to be handling the death and memories fairly well.  

If I’m completely honest, I’m also a little surprised that I was surprised.  

Seriously, why was I surprised?  It seems natural he’d want to go see the gravesite.  He was very close to her, as she helped raise him in the single-Dad-toddler years and they spoke on the phone almost every day since.  Normally, I’m the sensitive one of the family that would have made the offer to take him to the cemetery.  And yet, the 10-year-old beat me to the request.

More often than not, I think we are surprised by the depth of knowledge that our children have regarding the Savior.  They may not have the depth of knowledge with theology or specific scripture, but their little hearts are perfectly attuned to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

There is something so sweet and endearing about a small child praying out loud.  I remember the little boy prayers for nerf guns to work, for kitties to be found, or for Gramma to be healed.  

There is something equally sweet about children sharing the Gospel.  When Erin’s daughter, Peyton, was 6 or 7 years old, I often watched her talk to strangers about Jesus.  

Corrections and convictions are also sweet and endearing when they come from children.  I’ve had my own son tell me I’ve hurt God’s heart when I said a swear word.  

Lesson here?  Kids are unabashed about their prayer lives.  They are confident and bold in sharing Jesus.  And they have no qualms about corrective behavior.  

The book of Matthew has so many nuggets regarding children and their place in the kingdom.  In Matthew 18:1-5 (NASB) we read, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him among them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me.”

Jesus expressly told us that children would be great teachers.  There is something to learn from our kids. We can learn about prayer, evangelism, and correction.  And we can certainly learn lessons about dealing with grief.

~Emily

Holiday Poverty

As we gear up for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, we will begin to see more and more solicitations for donations to families that are in need.  This is the time of year that thrives on canned food admissions to events, toy drives, and angel tree gifts.  Like a majority of the Iron Porch readers, I support these efforts to gather food, clothes, and items for children. 

Yet I’ve always wondered why we push so hard during the holidays for donations, but not the rest of the year.   As someone who grew up in a family that needed occasional assistance, I can attest to the fact that my parents needed food and clothing help throughout the year…not just at Christmas.  

The need for sustainable items is an example of poverty, but it’s not the one Jesus references when he speaks of the first beatitude being poor in spirit.  Initially, when we are poor in spirit we recognize that we are apart from God and that we crave the gift of salvation provided by Christ’s death on the cross as atonement for our sins.  The recognition of being separated from God, by sin, is a profound portion of being poor in the spirit.  

Being poor in the spirit doesn’t stop once we become a Christian.  Once we accept the Savior, we don’t necessarily lose the brokenness that we had when we first approached the cross.  In fact, that brokenness can drive our Christian path.  It’s fair to state that until we get to heaven, we will be in a constant state of spiritual poverty.  At this point Christians have two choices: 1. we continue to stay poor in the spirit, as we grow closer to Christ and develop ourselves as disciples or 2. we continue to stay poor in the spirit because we give into the brokenness and don’t develop as disciples.  

Personally, I’d rather identify as poor in the spirit while continuously growing.  

Except that I know it’s easy to slide into the “not developing” category.  Life takes over, we become lazy, other items take priority…but we stay in an “undeveloped” status.  Because it’s easy to slide, we can’t just push ourselves in spiritual poverty during one season, rather we need to continuously push ourselves spiritually year-round.  

As an unbeliever, we need Christ immediately, just as a family at the holidays may need immediate assistance from a canned food drive. 

Once a believer, we need to continue to develop that relationship with Christ, just as the needy family may need assistance throughout the year.  

I’m praying for those who are poor in the spirit this season (and yes, that means everyone—both believers and non-believers).  

~Emily

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 5:3

Pre-Holiday Breakdown

It’s mid-November.  A week before we travel to family in another state for Thanksgiving. Two weeks before my Father-in-law comes to stay with us for several weeks.  Three to four weeks before a middle school band concert, cookie exchange, Matthew West Christmas concert, mammogram, Christmas cards in the mail, packages wrapped…and the list goes on and on.

In an effort to get ahead of the holiday chaos and minimize my own stress, I wanted to get the Christmas decorations up this last weekend. See, I was thinking that I wouldn’t have to do that while we had company here and I could roll right into the festivities of December without a thought to decorating.  

Right after church, I started dragging tote after tote into the house to turn the casa into a winter wonderland.  I worked for hours while the boys washed the boat.  As the sun began to set, my attention had to turn to other chores…the chickens had to be put to bed, dinner had to be started, and clothes ironed for work on Monday.  I realized I wasn’t going to finish decorating in time.  

In a hurry I threw an empty bin into the garage, which bumped a fishing cart that promptly fell onto my foot.  I bent over in pain and screeched “poppycock!” (I’ve been making a concerted effort the last few weeks to use antiquated words—not sure I used it in the right context, but it was my 1940s word of the day).  

And then I started crying hysterically.  You know the cry.  The one where you can’t catch your breath, you turn red, your nose starts to run, and you sound like a skipping record when you try to talk.  That was me.  Hurt, but not “call 911” level hurt.  Seriously, no need for all the hysterics.  

My husband rushed over to check on me. He listened to me cry about my foot, about not finishing the decorations…and for good measure I threw in a bunch of other things like my Dad’s health, my Mom being overwhelmed, tasks to be done before we went on vacation…I even tossed in feeling sad about my pup going to the doggy day care for a week. 

He hugged me while I cried and then said, “You know, you don’t have to do the decorating or all the entertaining preparations.  You could wait.  Or not do it.  Or you could just be present with us.”

Did my husband just tell me that I’m acting like Martha, while I should be emulating Mary?!?!? 

In the 10th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we see Martha scrambling to make all the entertaining preparations, while Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to his teachings.  Martha becomes increasingly frustrated with her sister’s lack of assistance and complains to Jesus that Mary isn’t helping enough.  

In response to Martha’s complaint, scripture records Jesus’ response in Luke 10:41 (NASB).  “But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but only one thing is necessary; for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”  

If Jesus were right in front of me, where would my attention be?  On the decorations? On the meal preparations? On the cleaning?

Or would I be focused on Him? On His teachings? On His words?

I hope I would be focused on Him.  And through the gentle reminder from my husband and from the Gospel of Luke, I recognize I need to shift focus away from the pre-holiday meltdowns.  The preparations are nice and in some cases necessary…but they should not be overwhelming to the point of complaint or of shifted focus away from what is most important.  

As we all go into the next several weeks of preparing for the holidays, let us stay focused on what is important by remembering the examples of Martha and Mary.  It just might help us prevent a pre-holiday breakdown. 

~Emily

Playful Sightlessness

I was playing pretty rough with my lab, when he pushed back on his back legs with his front paws started coming forward right at my face.

I couldn’t move out of the way fast enough.  Instead, I felt an intense pain on my left eye and a burning down the side of my face.  I fully thought the dog had inadvertently blinded me.  

In that moment, I stood with tears flowing, tentatively opening my eyes with a tremendous fear that the blurriness in my left eye was indicative of my new life without sight in that eye.  

While blinking repeatedly and checking for blood, I wondered if this is how Saul felt in Acts 9 when God struck him blind prior to his conversion to Christianity.  It was in that moment, I had a glimpse into the pure panic that Saul must have felt. 

As my sight began to clear, my thoughts shifted to the parable in Luke chapter 6, when Jesus says that the blind wouldn’t be able to lead the blind.  

“He also told them this parable: ‘Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?’” Luke 6:39 (NASB)

The implication is clear. No, the blind can’t lead the blind.  You can’t lead if you yourself don’t know about particular situations.  Perhaps it means that you can’t teach if you haven’t been the student.  Maybe it means, one leader isn’t effective unless they’ve been an effective follower.  

It’s a poetic way to showcase the expectation that a strong Christian who leads, disciples, and mentors others, are likely the ones who have studied the Word, spent time in prayer, and have been discipled themselves.  

What does that mean for women walking with Jesus? It means that we need to ensure we are constantly strengthening our relationship with God if we are in leadership positions. It also means that we have to assess those who are in leader positions around us and discern if we are being appropriately led.  

My moment of temporary blindness from playing with my dog, was actually one of conviction.  Conviction that I need to be deliberately growing to be a better leader, as well as assessing who is teaching me. 

It’s amazing how lessons come from our everyday life…conviction from canine playing.

~Emily

Best, Worst, & Weirdest

When my son was in pre-school, he struggled with telling us anything from his day when we asked him at the dinner table.  As a result, I started asking him what was his best, his worst, and his weirdest part of the day.  It started as an exercise to get him to pay attention and recall events throughout the hours he was at school.  To this day, I still ask him these three questions each afternoon when I pick him up at the Middle School.

Most days he has thoughtful insights, but other days he shrugs with an “I don’t have one.”  

One of his most memorable best days included winning the spelling bee in 4th grade.

One of his most memorable worst days included the PE teacher called him a liar in 3rd grade.

One of his most memorable weirdest days included the janitor turning out the lights while he was still using the restroom. 

A few weeks ago, he turned the questions towards me. I gave him answers applicable to my workday.  However, it got me thinking over the next couple of days about what my best, worst and weirdest memories are involving sharing the Gospel.

Hands down, the best memories are when those around me accept the gift of salvation and become my brother or sister in Christ.  My favorite of those memories is when my own child accepted Christ.

My worst memories involve when those around me have rejected the gift of salvation. Some have been subtle rejections, while others have been rude in their overt denial of Christ.  While it hurt my feelings, I can only imagine how it must have grieved the Holy Spirit.  

My strangest interactions have come from the pagan community, specifically those within wicca. After having come out of a wiccan circle, I struggled to counter the argument that some were calling themselves Christian witches.  I was ill-equipped to share the Gospel with those who had changed truth to fit their own lifestyle and that has made for some of the weirdest moments in sharing the Good News. 

Regardless of my experience with sharing the Gospel have been the best, the worst, or the weirdest…. they’ve all been done with a spirit of trying to share the gift of salvation.  Scripture tells us plainly that we are save through faith…and that we cannot do it ourselves. 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

What part of your day…or what part of your sharing about Jesus Christ…has been your best, your worst, and your weirdest?

~Emily

The Moody Pre-Teen

I felt like I was mentally prepared for having a moody teenager in the house…in a couple years.

God help me; the mood swings of puberty have descended on my 10-year-old.  

Let’s be completely transparent.  I was not ready.  Not even a little bit.  It’s like a slow death of a 1000 paper cuts, while tip-toeing on egg shells in an attempt to not wake up (or anger) a mullet wielding dragon.  

One moment he’s my sweet, snuggly little man; the next moment pouting, angry, crying, eyerolling, muttering-under-his-breath, stomping-into-another-room, man-child. Without warning, he’s back to the little sweetheart. 

No matter what he’s still mine, but I don’t enjoy the crazy part of this pre-pubescent kid.

I’m sure God is looking at me right now thinking something similar.  I’m a cranky, huffy, temper-tantrum-throwing, moody woman who loves Jesus.  I act like a teenager in many situation (at least in my head I act that way).  

And yet…I’m still all His.  

No matter how crazy I may act; no matter how poorly I think; no matter how badly I react; I am still His Child.   How completely incredible is it that our God is 100% on our side, no matter how far we slide away or towards Him? 

It’s important to note that no matter how bad you feel like you’ve been, no matter how deep your sins, no matter what is in your past…our Father sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins and provide a path to heaven through acceptance of Jesus as your Savoir.  

Figuratively, you can have been a bratty pre-teen and still seek forgiveness of a loving Father. 

If you don’t know Christ as your Savior or if you have turned away from Christ, Erin and I would love to chat with you about where you are in life and how you can accept this gift from God.  Leave us a message if you are interested in knowing more about salvation.

I’m praying this week for all of us during times of our “moody pre-teen” behaviors and thoughts. 

~Emily

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. ~Acts 4:12 (NIV)

Waiting on the Huddle House

As a surprise reward for our son, my husband and I woke him up early on a Saturday morning to go to breakfast at his all-time favorite restaurant: Huddle House.

As we walked in, the cook told us that it might be a little while, as they were waiting on the arrival of a waitress.  We noticed that there were several tables with full coffee cups, but waiting to order.  We sat down, not knowing how long the wait would be, but our son was nearly giddy in anticipation of Oreo pancakes.

About 20 minutes later, we had ordered and fairly quickly were served our breakfast choices. Kambell said, “The wait made the pancakes taste even better.”

Isn’t that true of so many things in life?  

When we wait on God’s timing, wouldn’t so much of our lives be better?

For instance, instead of racing towards a new job, we wait on God’s timing on a promotion.  That tastes so much sweeter than being miserable in the job we thought we wanted.

Or what if we prayerfully considered God’s choice for our marriage partner.  Wouldn’t that be much more satisfactory than settling for a less than Godly marriage?

What if God’s timing on a major decision was markedly different from your own?  Would you appreciate that difference if you choose to wait on God’s timing?

In James 5:7-8 (NIV) scriptures says, “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”

These verses are reminders to the oppressed and persecuted disciples of Christ that the Lord will soon be coming back. At that time, He will relieve us of the pain and suffering we have endured.  At the same time, punishment will come for those who reject His Word.  

Patience is the key to waiting.  If we are faithful to the waiting in God’s timing, then we reap rewards that we were not expecting. 

Essentially the Oreo pancakes become that more delicious.

I’ll be praying for the Iron Porch readers to have patience in the waiting this week.

~Emily

The Stages Of Cancer

While some physicians still use stages and grading in cancer explanations, did you know that the medical profession is moving away from letting you know what “stage” of cancer you or your loved one may have?

Why?  Mostly because cancer, while not entirely curable, is treatable.  Even the most horrible of diagnoses usually have some type of treatment plan.  

According to WebMD, there are still distinct stages, regardless of if your doctor tells you a stage.

Stage 0 means there’s no cancer, only abnormal cells with the potential to become cancer. 

– Stage I means the cancer is small and only in one area. This is also called early-stage cancer.

Stage II and III mean the cancer is larger and has grown into nearby tissues or lymph nodes (Stage III also can indicate that the cancer has crossed a diagonal sphere in the body…for instance left breast and right kidney). 

Stage IV means the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. It’s also called advanced or metastatic cancer.

How do I know all this?  Most of this knowledge is from 2013, when my younger brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma.  A deadly diagnosis that had me praying like I’d never prayed before.  

“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:22 (ESV)

Eight years later, my brother is thriving.

Eight years later, our family is facing a slightly different scenario with just as scary diagnosis for my Dad.  The dreaded words cancer…with a physician who doesn’t use staging or grades.

But our family has been through this before, so we know the lingo and understand all the scans.  We know…even if they aren’t saying it…that this is Stage 4.

And so we start praying against cancer again…without ceasing. You see, our family has seen the Stage 4 cancer miracle before, so we know that our mighty and all-powerful God can deliver again.  

No matter what the outcome, my Dad will be healed.  On Earth or in Heaven…there will be healing.  

If you have room on your plate of prayer requests, can you please add comfort and painlessness for my Dad (Steve) and calm nerves with a full night of sleep for my mom (Wendy).  All prayers are appreciated!  

~Emily

What is the One Thing You Would Change?

During a visit with my dear friend Amber, she asked me a thought-provoking question.  

It’s one that I’ve thought about frequently for 2 years. 

If there was one thing in my life I could change, what would it be?

Does that mean right now?  As in, I want a different car? A different career? A different shirt?

Or does that mean something significant that would have changed the course of my life or my impact on others? 

Would it be accepting the assignment to England earlier in my Air Force career?

Getting baptized earlier? Starting a ministry in the midst of doubt?

Would it be starting my Doctorate immediately after my Masters or wait?

Adoption sooner?  More kiddos in my house?

A different retirement location?  

One thing I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would change is from the night of my Senior prom.  You see, my mom had to work that night and I’d told her that my date and I would swing by her workplace so she could see us all dressed up.  But we were running behind…and rather than be late to dinner, we skipped going by to see my mom.  I distinctly remember her face the next day saying that she was sad that she didn’t get to see me.  


I can only imagine her anticipation at work slowing turning into the realization that I wasn’t coming.  To this day, I regret disappointing my mom so completely.  

Other than disappointing my mom on prom night, my answer is pretty simple…I don’t know that there is much I would change.  Even the awful decisions and consequences of my life had purpose.  I would not be who I am today without many of these “learning opportunities.”  

I wonder if Paul (formerly Saul) would change anything from his life.  At the time of his conversion to Christianity, he was a well-known, educated Jew, who actively participated in the persecution of Christ-followers.  He was aggressive in finding Christians.  He was meticulous in punishing them. He wanted to eradicate Christians.  And he was mean in that desire.

An example of his actions is seen in Acts Chapter 7 when he gladly holds the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen, the 1stmartyr for Christianity.  In Acts 8:1 (CSB) it states, “Saul agreed with putting him to death.”  Other versions state that Saul was “delighted” by Stephen’s death.  

Delighted?   

To me, that screams of maliciousness.  It seems extremely mean-spirited.  

Yet just a one chapter later, we find ourselves reading about Saul on the road to Damascus, where he encounters the voice of Jesus and is struck blind.  Talk about the Lord getting his attention in a major way!!! The good news is that at that point Saul believes in Christ and the conversion through salvation.  He is forgiven of his sins, his sight is restored, he is renamed Paul, and he becomes a staunch supporter of the Gospel.  The epitome of forgiveness, grace and salvation.  

I imagine there was then moments of great doubt, remorse, and regret about the life he had previously led.  Hypothetically if I were Paul, I would have a few things that I’d like to change about my past.  In 1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV) we see that Paul said, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

Paul believed he was the Chief Sinner.  The worst of the worst.  

While we understand that God doesn’t rack-and-stack sinful behavior, counting one more egregious than another, what we do see from 1 Timothy is that Paul did have remorse and acknowledgment of his awful behavior in the past.  

Would he have wanted to change the past?  Probably, yes.  But I would argue that it was his aggressive persecution of Christians in his past that made him so much more relatable and a solid witness for Christ later in life.  Perhaps in the midst of regretting the past, Paul was wise enough to know that his past, while terrible, would serve a future purpose.  

You see, every bad decision and tragic event of our past makes us who we are today.  And God will use every experience in our past for His glory now.  

There’s not much in my life that I would change. Every single decision and event has shaped me into the person that I am today. 

Is there something you would change in your life? Come to the porch and share your thoughts. 

~Emily

AC-47 Testimonies

For those who don’t know, I work as a curator at a military museum.  While we have fantastic displays and precious artifacts on display, my favorite thing about working there is interacting with veterans and their families.  This last week we hosted a group of Vietnam Veterans who had each been involved with one particular aircraft; the AC-47, known as Spooky or Puff the Magic Dragon. 

During the ceremony, one of the pilots of this aircraft during the Vietnam conflict was the guest speaker.  His speech, titled “Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow” started with what it meant to be part of the “Spooky Brotherhood.”  

He discussed where they were yesterday and when each of their yesterday’s began.  

Then he recapped how they came to design monuments, selected where they were placed, and how they have reunions.  It was the today portion of his speech.

Finally, he spoke about their tomorrows.  At that pivotal point in his speech he told them he was concerned about their salvation and if he would see them as a brotherhood in their tomorrows.  He launched into sharing the Gospel and challenging them to get right with the Lord.  

I could not believe my ears!  You see, it’s rare at a military event for the Gospel to be presented in such an overt manner.  I was so proud of him for his boldness to speak truth in a military group.

He was truly living Romans 1:16 (NIV) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

While I’m not ashamed of the gospel, there are plenty of situations I find myself in where I lose the opportunity to share. Maybe it’s the timing, or maybe it’s my own fear of rejection, or maybe it’s the atmosphere.  Regardless of why I don’t share, it’s a lost chance to win souls for heaven. 

I love that this Vietnam Vet took the step to care for the eternal souls of those in the audience.  He was not ashamed…not at all.

~Emily