Regaining Quiet Time with God During Quarantine: Guest Blogger DeAnna Barber

In 2019 I ended my last day of work at an amazing job on a Friday.  On the following Saturday, I frantically packed up my life to escape the worst and scariest experience of my life; emotionally, verbally and leaning towards a physically abusive husband.  With the help of my family coming to my rescue I moved all my belongings, myself, and my son 200 miles back to my hometown to stay with my parents until I could get us back on our own again.   That Sunday was a blur, as was Monday, which was a holiday, and I began work on Tuesday.  I never took the time to breathe.  I never took time to just be still.  I was afraid to be still.  I was afraid I couldn’t make it through.  I didn’t want to reflect or think.  I wanted it all to disappear.  So I kept very busy all the time from then on.

But keeping so busy caused me to be exhausted and to struggle with setting aside quiet time with God; something that used to be my lifeline.  I never went a day without it before.  But catastrophe hit and I didn’t want to be quiet. I still had my faith and I wasn’t angry at God, I just didn’t want my mind to think about what had happened, what I had escaped, what would have happened if I had stayed or why it ever happened in the first place.  I had so many questions but I chose avoidance.

March of 2020 rolled around and another catastrophe hit which forced me to do nothing but slow down: the Covid-19 pandemic.  I was out of work and quarantined at home for 6 weeks which provided plenty of time to think and be quiet.  So I chose to take that time to rest, breathe, and get back into the groove of my daily quiet time with God.  And although I am still struggling to get back into that groove like I used to be this pandemic has helped me realize how desperately I needed this time to just be quiet, to slow down, reflect, and to enjoy the quality and quantity of time.

God’s word tells us in Psalm 46:10 to be still; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says to rejoice ALWAYS, to pray without ceasing and to give thanks no matter what; 1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all our anxieties on Him BECAUSE He cares. His word also offers comfort in Psalm 34: 17-18 that He hears us and delivers us from our troubles and that He is near the brokenhearted; Deuteronomy 31:8 promises that God goes before us and will never leave or forsake us; Isaiah 41:10 says we should not fear because God is with us, He will strengthen and uphold us.  Matthew 6:25-34 is certainly a wonderful set of verses to comfort us and remind us not to worry during this particular time in our world.  Lastly, Hebrews 7:25 states to draw near as well as James 4:8 which adds the promise that He will draw near to us.

I wish I had taken more time to be still and get closer to God this last year because 1) God commands it and desires us to get close to Him and 2) I know it would have helped me heal in a healthier way than I was choosing.  So, despite all the uncertainties of what is to come with Covid-19, I am thankful for the quarantined time I had because I was able to slow down and choose to be obedient and be still and quiet, to listen to God’s commands and to take comfort in His promises.  I allowed one catastrophe to disrupt my quiet time but God used another kind of catastrophe to help me get that quiet time back.

DeAnna

Regaining Quiet Time with God during Quarantine copy

The Gum Machine, Of Course! Guest Blogger: Nancy White

Gumball Machine

With kids at home, this has been a trying time for all of us.  I know I would never be a great stay-at-home-mom or homeschool mom.  Having lots of time with them has given me time to see what the focus of their little lives is.  In a conversation with my 16 year old, he wanted money.  It went a little like this:

Him: Mom, can I have some money?

Me: No, I don’t carry cash.

Him: What, why?  That makes no sense.

Me: It is not new, I never have cash!

Him: Well can I have quarters?

Me: I don’t have quarters.

Him:  How can you not have quarters, that’s impossible!

Me: What would I need quarters for?

Him:  The gum machine…of course!

This made me think about if I am being a good example for my kids when it comes to money.  No, I give them money when they want or need it without question.  I wanted to change my ways immediately!  My youngest, 12, is now in charge of many things in the house to make money.  He will save his money and put it into an account until he has enough to buy what he wants.  And my 16-year-old who has had chores for some time is searching for a job because the chore money is not enough.  His problem is that he wants to spend money as soon as he gets it, whether for the gum machine or a video game.  He doesn’t understand he needs to build savings.

With COVID-19 affecting many aspects of my life, I am using this as a teaching moment for my boys on having savings for emergencies.  The economy is going to take a hard hit and they have been following the news with me and see how it is affecting our neighbors and friends and the community we are living in.

I want both of my boys to understand that being a good steward of money can help them later in life.  In Matthew 6:24 it says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”Nancy2

In light of the COVID-19 slow-down, start some conversations with your children.

Nancy White

 

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

Friendships & Disciples

“It takes a minute to have a crush on someone, an hour to like someone and a day to love someone—but it takes a lifetime to forget someone.” ~anonymous

I find this to be a very profound statement and strikingly relevant to my own life. How easy is it to forget the people that we run into on a daily basis…the lady at the Wal-Mart checkout counter, the teen who cut you off on the freeway, or the man that held a door open for you. But how much harder it is to forget those who touch your soul…those whom you love.

This is the way of the girlfriend…we drift in and out of each other’s lives, but we are always there for one another. It could be 5 years, or 5 minutes, but when a girlfriend is in need; we rally. This is especially true for those of us who are constantly moved via the military. I have girlfriends all over the world-or down the street-who email me, text message, snail mail and call.

We remember good times with cheer and cry while laughing through the bad times. We tease each other about former fashions and reminisce about past boyfriends (*insert cynical laughter here). We take trips and share all our hopes and fears. We encourage career changes then cry over divorces and miscarriages. We plan wine parties and paint our toenails crazy colors. We judge-apologize for judging-and judge under the term “advice.” We protect one another…in the bars, from credit card debt, from bad hair.

When we find treasure in a friend, we bring them into our fold…we add them to our family.  We allow them into the tribe.  We invite them to the circle.  We introduce them to our other friends.  Hence, the circle becomes larger and larger of those who you can call upon in times of triumph and trial.

All of these are amazing qualities to have in our friendships. But how strong are those friendships if you don’t mention your relationship with Christ? How much do you love the ladies in your life, if you aren’t concerned about their salvation? Will you mourn when you miss the opportunity to share the gospel with the unbelievers in your circle?

Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV) states “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Our mission on Earth is to create disciples for the kingdom.  The love we feel for others should include being concerned about their soul.  There is simply nothing more important than knowing if someone has been introduced to Jesus.  If I’m willing to introduce my new friends into my circles, my family, my tribe…then why wouldn’t I be willing to introduce them to the best friend anyone could ever imagine…Jesus?!?!?

There are different levels of “best friend” in my life. There’s my best friend from 7thgrade through High School, my best friend from college, my best friend from church, my best friends from the Air Force, and of course, my sister-wife best friend.

Best friend is a loose term in my vocabulary, simply because I have so many dear friends that I consider the best…the best at the moment that I needed them or they needed me. I pray that I am half the friend that these wonderful ladies are to me.  Above all, Jesus is that best friend…every time I’ve ever needed Him.

Everyone will hear what you say…

Friends will listen to what you say…

Best Friends will listen to what you don’t say…

When we aren’t speaking of Christ to our friends, we should act in a Christ-like manner…our best friends will listen to what you don’t say.

~Emily

Friends

Childlike Faith

The last week of summer before school starts is always hectic with buying supplies, trying on new clothes, attending open house to meet the teacher, and cramming in the last minute summer fun.  As a child, my school always started the day after Labor Day.  For my child, Alabama schools start the 1st week of August.  That means our hectic week was last week; complete with a three-day sprint to the beach.

I was exhausted when we arrived.  Why? For several reasons.  I just completed a road trip up and down the East Coast with Erin.  I had the very stressful experience of pitching my book proposal to publishers.  Even though I’m an extrovert, I had the pressure of meeting hundreds of strangers and engaging in meaningful conversations with all of them.  All to turn around and continue living out of a suitcase for a few more days with my husband and son.  The cherry on top? I knew the three-day beach trip would primarily be focused on fishing.

On the 2nd night at the beach, I joined dozens of other parents smirking at one another in the dark with headlamps tied to our heads and death grips on our “flashlight” cell phones…all of us supervising small children as they ran after the crabs that skirted across the waves at dusk.  Literally, dozens of parents looking like coal miners following children, chasing crabs.  For a moment, I stood there looking at the dark shadows with lights at head level, up and down the beach, and reflected on how amazing parenthood truly becomes when you have unconditional love for a little person.

How else would you tolerate, let alone explain, such ridiculous requests to catch crabs in the dark?

At one point Kambell looked up at the stars and said, “Mama, isn’t the sky beautiful?  How did God know to make all of those stars for us?”

This led to a conversation about how God knows all of those stars perfectly.  How He knows about each one of the hairs on our head…and how He knows every single grain of sand that we were walking on.

After the part of about the sand, Kambell was quiet for quite a while.  Anyone who has met this child knows that it’s unusual for him to be quiet for too long.  After a few moments he said, “Our God is pretty amazing to know all that stuff.”

You know what? He is pretty amazing to know all that stuff!

Gone was the exhaustion, the stress of pushing books, the exasperation of a three-day fishing trip, and even the embarrassment of walking in the dark with a light tied to my forehead. All of it was gone with the revelation that my son was enamored with God and all that He can do.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 18:3

Ladies, this week I’m challenging you to be like a child in our awe of God.

~Emily

Dirty Dishes

The topic of Iron Porch and what my ministry means to me came up today.  The conversation was raised from a question regarding the topic of my relationships while I was talking to two newer friends of mine who weren’t familiar with my story.  One of those dear friends said to me, “Well, now that I know you have a ministry and believe what you believe, then I know you really must not like me.” What a crushing statement against the soul of a lover of Jesus.  And I don’t even blame her for thinking that.

I know all too well what it feels like to be judged by my fellow Christians.  People have stopped talking to me because I was divorced.  I lost dinner and coffee invitations.  I’ve received looks of disapproval for being pregnant.  Shaking of heads when they saw me with a glass of wine.  Loss of mentoring and leadership roles due to “perceptions.”  I could go on for days.  These are just some of the things I’ve experienced in the last two decades, and some as recent as a year ago.  And I’m a Christian!  Can you imagine what it’s like for people who are struggling to believe in any God, much less our gracious God who freely gave His only Son for us??

The scribes and Pharisees in biblical times made a mockery of a true Christ-following lifestyle.  They noticed habits and mistakes of the people in the cities, and kept track of who wasn’t as “holy” as they were.  Do you know what Jesus said to them?

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.”  Matthew 23:25-26 (NASB).

THANK YOU, JESUS!

I can just see Him now, looking at these men who were acting like fools.  He said to those pretenders, “You make it seem to the people around you that you’re perfect, nice and shiny in My eyes, and then you judge others for their actions.  But, it’s for show!  How about you clean up the inside of yourself with My kindness, love, and grace?!  Because all you’re doing right now is drinking and eating out of dirty dishes!”

Our service and honor to Him demands that His love shines through us to others, DESPITE who they are or what they’ve done.  We are to love our neighbor, love our enemies, and be kind.  The love of the Almighty should be so bright within you that people ask what the special something is that you have that makes them feel welcome and happy, as if they’re home.

I looked at that friend and I told her to NEVER think that I think negatively about her – that I loved her sassy spirit exactly where she was in her life, and that nothing would change that.  I also told her to never believe that I would ever look down on her for anything she’s done or does because I’ve got my own sinning to worry about! The acceptance of my answer in her eyes confirmed that Jesus was present in that space, and I’m grateful He was.

Reach out, everyone!  There are people who are afraid to get close for fear that we may judge who they are.  If Jesus can look past our stupidity and thoughtless sin and see the beauty that He’s created in us, we can do it, too.

~Erin

Are you there?

When my husband travels, my 7 year old often crawls into bed with me in the middle of the night.  I almost always hear him open the door as he shuffles to my side of the bed.  90% of the times his sweet voice says, “Mama, can I snuggle with you?” I always lift the covers and let him settle in next to me.  I love that he still holds my hand as he falls back to sleep.  I love listening to his breathing even out.  I love his little tufts of hair tickling my face. I love each of these things because I know that it could end at any minute.  At any minute he could grow up—just enough—to not need his Mom in the middle of the night.

While Jeromy was on a fly fishing trip recently, Kambell opened the door and crawled into bed on Daddy’s side of the bed.  I was silent, listening to him settle into the blankets.  He whispered, “Mama?”  I answered, “Humm?”  And he simply said, “I just wanted to make sure you were there” and then he fell asleep.

I lay there thinking about how innocently he asked if I was there.  And how quickly he was reassured.  I thought about another innocent question, which requires reassurance. “Abba, are you there?”

How often do we question if our Heavenly Father is there?   It’s a simple question requesting reassurance that He’s by our side. I can think of dozens of times in my life, mostly in times of turmoil, where I doubted if God was there. Have you done the same? Is it easier to figure out your own solution because it appears God isn’t answering a prayer?

For years, my prayer was to become pregnant.  After dozens of failed attempts at In Vetro (that was super affordable on a young Airman’s salary), miscarriages, and monthly tears, I gave up on having a biological child.  Multiple military moves negated my eligibility to become an adoptive parent…even in a high-risk adoption scenario.  When the toll of all that medical intervention created a scenario where a hysterectomy was necessary, I was devastated.  I questioned if God had heard my prayers.  Did He really hold each one of my tears in His hand?  Did He know that my heart was breaking every single month? That it broke at every single baby shower I attended? That simple television commercial featuring cooing babies would send me from the room in tears?

In Genesis 16:2, we see a story of similar heartache, in regards to babies and God’s presence. God had promised Abraham that he would have many descendants.  Ten years after the promise, Sarah had yet to bare a child.  As was the custom of the day, Sarah chose to send her servant, Hagar to her husband.  When Hagar became pregnant, Abraham’s fertility heartache was over.  But Sarah’s became compounded when daily she observed a child that was not of her womb.

While I don’t understanding sending another woman to my husband’s bed, I do understand the heartache of infertility that Sarah faced.  I understand the desperation that led her to decide God wasn’t with her….that His promise was taking too long.

And yet, God is with us. Always.  He’s there to reassure us.  He’s there with His promises.  He provides His Son Jesus as a way to ensure we each have a way to Him.  Matthew 1:23 (NIV) says, “Behold, the Virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.” Immanuel translates to “God with us.”

Amazing, Abba. Providing a promise through his child, Immanuel.  Always with us.  As I lay in the bed, listening to the slumbered breath of my child, I was reassured. My God made me a mother when I least expected it.

God is with us.  He hears those prayers.  He makes a way…even when it seems there is no way possible. Ladies—be assured with your innocent questions and know that God is there.

~Emily