Care for the Widows

Losing a parent is a roller coaster of emotions.  

My Dad died on Saturday morning and I felt like it was a chaotic series of ups and downs.  Joy that he was finally pain free.  Sadness for the loss.  Relief that my Mom doesn’t have to be the primary caretaker anymore.  Anxiety over all the paperwork.  Annoyance that the screen door was broken by the Funeral Home employees.  Amusement that the 1st visitor from my parents’ church brought lemon muffins and toilet paper.  

I’m not worried about my Dad. He’s home with Jesus. Not a darn thing for me to worry about there. 

But I am concerned about my Mom.  She’s got plans to create a craft room and start going to water aerobics.  She wants to shampoo the carpets and purchase a new couch.  From a grieving perspective, she’s got a healthy thought process about staying in the house for at least a year before she makes big life-changing plans.  She’s going to keep herself busy…and she’s going to get some rest.

I’m most concerned about when the sun sets.  When she has to go to bed alone after having slept in the same bed with her husband for 52 years.  I’m concerned about her finances as she waits for Social Security to transfer over.  I’m concerned about when she has to go to the funeral home alone to pick up paperwork.  I’m concerned about her safety, her sanity, her well-being.  

How can I be so assured about where my Dad is, but be so concerned about my Mom’s well-being?  It’s a sliding graph of hypocrisy to trust God with my Dad’s eternity, but question my Mom’s earthly care as a widow.  

Scripture has helped these last few days with answering those questions.  

“A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation.  God makes a home for the lonely…” ~Psalm 68:5-6

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” ~James 1:27 

“Learn to do good;  Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.” ~Isaiah 1:17

When I turn to scripture, I’m comforted and know that God will take care of my Mom better than I ever could.  God has already put in place a plan for us, as believers, to care for the widows and the orphans.  From across the country, I will rest assured her church family will care for her when I geographically can’t.  

Losing a parent is such a hard rollercoaster, but so is caring for the parent left behind.  

I’m requesting prayers this week for all the widows of the world, but most especially for those who are newly titled “widow.”

~Emily

The Business of Dying is Hard Work

Last month my mom said, “This business of dying is harder work than being born.”

She’s right.  It’s hard work for the one who is dying, but it’s especially hard work for the friends and family left after the death.  

In the last year, I’ve had friends mourn family members who died from COVID.  I’ve watched my Mom make the hard decisions about hospice for my Dad, just months after he was diagnosed with cancer.  I’ve watched my husband’s family mourn the death of their matriarch, Deea.  I’ve had High School classmates die from suicide and cancer.  

The business of dying is hard work.

So is the business of living.

In each scenario where someone has died, there are families and friends doing the hard work of continuing to live…paying bills, going to school or work, loving children, putting on a smile…all while grappling with the very real stages of grieving.  In the scenario where a spouse becomes a caretaker, it’s hard work to keep living…to juggle the knowledge that you aren’t a medically trained professional, but you are expected to advocate for your loved one.   In the instances where we just want to give up, it’s hard work to keep trucking along…to keep putting one foot in front of the other while wanting to scream profanities into your pillow.   

In John 10:10 (NASB) scripture tells us “The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  

In this verse, Jesus promises that He’s come so that we’ll have life to the fullest.  We’re warned against an enemy whose primary mission is to steal our joy and taint our memories through destruction.  How can we have that promise of a full life?  

When we choose to intentionally make God the foundation of our lives, we receive clarity about the hard work of living.  As we walk through creating focus on Jesus, we are able to see ourselves making it through the “narrow gate” that is discussed in Matthew 7.  Through that scripture we are able to see a few foundational principles.  1. The rightful place of God is on the throne of our lives. 2. Jesus Christ and our faith in Him is the requirement for entry into heaven.  3. As Lord of our lives, Jesus allows us to focus on Him, which then allows all other priorities to become easier to walk through.  

This doesn’t mean we won’t have strife and trials.  It does not mean that we won’t grieve the deaths of those around us.  It certainly doesn’t mean that we won’t be anguished and full of questions when struggling with all the issues around dying.  

It does mean that we can have comfort, peace, love, and even joy in the midst of those horrible moments…if only we allow Jesus to help us with these difficulties.  


You see, both dying and living are hard work.  

But both can be made slightly easier with our reliance on Christ. 

I’m praying this week for each of us who are facing or have faced death recently.  Specifically, I’m praying that we each find comfort in knowing God is walking right beside us in these trials. 

~Emily

Leadership Lessons: Moving Up The Banquet Table

Have you ever wondered how some people are given a promotion over others?  Was it because of their merit? Their work ethic? Their personality? Or was it at the expense of others? Was it because their own ambitions drove them to promotion regardless of those around them? 

In the military environment (I’m confident that this is likely true in any corporate environment), I’ve witnessed this set of questions in regards to leadership.  Specifically, when someone is given increased responsibility and/or rank, those around the leader will often remark that they are either well-deserving of the promotion, or they will comment that they were moved ahead as a result of stepping on others to get there (this self-promotion can be overt or subtle, but it eventually shows itself for self-promotion, given enough time).  It does not appear that there is an in-between, but rather only the two extremes.  One leaves the followers happy, the other leaves them scratching their heads.  

How does one end up in the category of leading the happy followers?  How do you end up being promoted based on merit, rather than circumstances that are at the expense of others?  

In Luke 14:8-10, we see the example of waiting for an invitation to move to a place of honor.

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place.  But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.”

In this parable, Jesus noticed how guests have ranked themselves at a wedding banquet.  Through this example, He is teaching the concept of humility vs pride.  In human nature it is easy to place oneself higher than others may see you in status or positional power.  Jesus is teaching us specifically to allow for the host to choose where we sit at the table, lest we embarrass ourselves (and those around us) with our own false sense of importance.  

Proverbs 25:6-7 (NASB) cross-references this concept.  

“Do not boast in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the same place as great people: For it is better that it be said to you, ‘Come up here,’ Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen.” 

These scriptures remind me of a time when I attended a family wedding.  The ushers seated me in the 2nd row of the groom side, as part of the family.  I noticed many rows behind me Uncle Kevin and Aunt Barbara, who by rights of being in the groom’s family, should be in the same row with me.  I waved to them and invited them to come sit with me.  As they moved to join me, I distinctly remember Aunt Barbara saying that it was better for them to have sat at the back and waited for the invitation to sit in the family row.  

In a seemingly innocent conversation, two people illustrated a real-life example of living out the parables that Jesus taught us about humility and waiting for the invitation.  Clearly it was an impactful showcase of this lesson, if years later I can still distinctly recall the scenario.  

Something as simple as waiting for an invitation to be moved to a position of honor, translates to humility.  It would serve us well to remember this in our daily lives, in the military promotions, in corporate American, or our political parties.  

Our promotions to the head of the banquet table should be at the host’s discretion…not because of our own self-promotion.

~Emily

What does Christmas Mean To You?

What does Christmas mean to you?  I’ve thought about this question often over the course of the last few weeks.  I think it’s important to reflect on the season and not just run through the month as if it barely exists!

There have been years where it’s meant presents and stockings.  That’s been usually as a small child.  There’s been periods of time in my life when the girls were celebrating holidays with others, and Christmas meant loneliness and sadness.  More recently, when I’ve thought about what Christmas meant to me, it was about family and time spent together.  And most often, I feel Christmas means the birth of Jesus.  It’s a beautiful time to remember the baby in a manger who came to save the world.

Sitting down this holiday season, I’ve found that my thoughts are different than the usual.  While I always remember the virgin birth, I heard something that resonated with me….the birth of Jesus, the Christmas story doesn’t end with our Savior’s birth.  It’s just the beginning of the beautiful Christmas story of Love come down to earth.

God allowed his beloved Son to become fully God, fully man.  He allowed a young girl, Mary, and a wonderful foster father, Joseph, raise Jesus.  Jesus grew up teaching people, showing love, foreshadowing what was to come and leading people into an understanding of what salvation by grace meant.  This man willingly took on our punishment, a debt we so easily deserve and yet so readily avoid.  They nailed Jesus to a cross to become the sacrificial Lamb only to see Him resurrected three days later!  Praise God that our Savior lives!

“For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” –Isaiah 9:6

That’s how I’d like Christmas to feel to me…as the start of a beautiful and redeeming story of God’s perfect love!

How about you, Iron Porch friends?  What does Christmas mean to you?  Share in the comments!

~Erin  

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth (…or two hearing aids)

Hearing aids are such curious items.  Think about how advanced the electronics are, how tiny they can be, and how they emit just the right frequencies to assist with specified hearing deficits.  

For the last two weeks my Father-in-Law had been visiting us from Pennsylvania.  He wears fancy hearing aids that have their own charging case and boast a clear wire that sticks up behind the ear.  In short, they resemble small bugs with an elongated neck…or a squirrely solo leg.  

Four days into his visit, our cats decided that they were small bugs to be played with.  They managed to get ahold of both of his hearing aids; one had teeth marks and a broken case, while the other had been placed poetically in the toilet.

My heart sunk. Because my early years in the Air Force were as an Ear, Nose, & Throat Technician, I know just how expensive hearing aids are.  To make this right, our family was going to have to come out of pocket quite a bit of money…at Christmas time with our son’s birthday days away.  And yet, this was a moment where our son was watching how we were going to react to our cats “eating” several thousand dollars in a game of high-stakes “cat & mouse.”

Galatians 6:9 (NASB) states, “Let us not become discouraged in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not become weary.” 

Doing the right thing, also known as integrity, is something we must make conscious decisions to pursue.  It becomes a constant process to continuously make good decisions, as well as behaving in a righteous way.  It’s a simplistic way that we get to imitate Christ’s behavior when He walked the earth as flesh and blood. The verse further encourages us that we can’t become weary while making these conscious decisions. Both parts are hard to do…the reacting appropriately and to do it with a joyful attitude is difficult. It takes practice.

In the nano-second that I heard our cats had destroyed an expensive set of hearing aids, I immediately said, “we’ll pay for the replacements…what do we have to do to make this right?”  It wasn’t until later that I started to panic about cost and the impact on Christmas or Birthday celebrations.  That didn’t change the ultimate thought…we still needed to make it right by paying for new aids.  The difference is the acknowledgment of the statement ‘what is right is right….no matter the impact.’ 

Pappy gets new hearing aids and his grandson has an example, albeit an expensive one, of how to treat people and how we should own our roles and responsibilities. Our son gets a Galatians 6:9 example in real life.  

Meanwhile, I’m humming “All I want for Christmas is…two new hearing aids!”

I’m praying for all the Iron Porch readers this week that we are encouraged rather than discouraged and that we continue to be joyful rather than weary!

~Emily

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

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

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)

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

Mentored By Another Generation: The Titus 2 Woman

A few months ago, my sweet friend trusted me enough to introduce me to her Aunt Bonnie.  If I had to guess, Aunt Bonnie is probably in her 80s, but mentally in her 30s.  I was enamored with her from the moment I met her and to her extended family’s amusement, I was also calling her Aunt Bonnie immediately. 

She showed me her craft room, encouraged me in learning quilting, asked about my childhood, and invited me to come spend the summer with her in Texas so we could gab and craft together.  This woman was lovely and I so honored to have met her for a brief afternoon.

My friend trusted me with her family treasure.  You see, I could have been stand-offish, impatient, rude, or unengaged. When we introduce our friends to our family, we have a small idea of how they will interact, but there is no guarantee that they will hold the same esteem for our older family members that we may. 

In my case, I jumped at the chance to learn from this lovely gal who clearly was more well versed in quilting than I was.  Not only was it selfish on my part to learn from her, I would also consider it Biblical.  

Titus 2:3-5 (NASB) states, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, no malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” 

Our conversation was not about religion, as we chatted about quilting techniques.  But here was a more mature woman, mentoring a middle-aged woman…and in that wonderful conversation, I had an example from her about loving my husband and child, about being sensible and pure, about working at home and being kind.  She was the Titus 2 older woman to me.  

As Christian women, we need to either be seeking a more mature woman to sit under…or we need to be the more mature woman willing to allow others to sit with us. 

While the Titus 2 description is specifically geared towards life as a Christian woman, remember that these mentoring sessions could also be opportunities to share the Gospel.   In both directions!  Be open to being a mentor.  And be open to finding one for yourself too!

Come to the porch this week and tell us about your mentors!

~Emily