Despair in the Air

Pandemic/COVID 19. Loss of income.  Election results. Hurricane/earthquake/tornado.  Loss of a friendship or marriage.  Adultery.  Division of a Church.   Financial hardship.  Miscarriage.

I’ve really been thinking a lot about everything that seems to have gone wrong in 2020.  In particular, yesterday was a bad day.  A sad day.  A day where I actually cried at church…in despair.

Have you been thinking about it too? When have you experienced despair?  And have you ever felt repressed by despair?  

Was it this last week, when the election showcased how politically divided Americans are?  Did you feel it when you heard Sean Connery or Alex Trebek had died?  Do reports of another natural disaster overwhelm you? 

Maybe it was a time you had to decide about school or career paths.  Perhaps a relationship had you feeling despair.  Sometimes it could be a church related issue.  The weight of that feeling; the despair feels overwhelming.

Repressed means to put down or subdue by force. For instance, to repress a rebellion.  It can also mean to end, limit or restrain by intimidation or other action.  For instance, to repress a heresy or inflation.  Essentially, you begin to feel such despair over a situation that you are repressed.  You are “put down or subdued.”  

When we feel repressed, as a result of despair, we can be blinded to the goodness God has for us.  Throughout scripture, God reminds us that despair does not mean repressed.  

we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” ~2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NASB)

In this one verse, we have such rich promises from God:

We can be afflicted, but we can’t be crushed.

We can be perplexed, but not despair.

We can be persecuted, but not abandoned.

We can be struck down, but not destroyed.  

While I felt despair today, I know that there are promises from God that counter that.  And when I remind myself of those promises, I begin to see the greatness of 2020.  I can see the blessings of family time, of school work with my child, of the antics of a new puppy, of sunshine on my face, and greatness of neighbors who share so generously.  

My feeling of “despair in the air” is slowing becoming “stressing the blessings.”

I pray that the last two months of 2020 can show you the blessings…despite the despair.

~Emily

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

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Garden Sowing

Every spring, my family plants a garden.  Some years it’s been a couple tomato plants, while other years it’s been much more extensive.  Some plants are starters from a garden shop, while others are grown from seedlings.  Each year there’s great hope that there will be enough harvest to augment our family meals.

In the weeks preparing for our garden, there is inevitably disagreements about how much we should plant and which variations of vegetable we should grow.  My husband is what I call an “over-planter.” He puts multiple seeds into one pocket of soil or multiple plants in close proximity.  On the other hand, I’m an “under-planter.”  I will place one or two seeds in a soil pocket or I’ll allow plenty of space between plants so there’s lots of space for growth.

According to scripture, I’m likely the one in the wrong, as I should be sowing generously.

2 Corinthians 9:6-9 (NIV) states, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.’”

While it seems chaotic in the world in the midst of a pandemic, there have been extraordinary acts of kindness reported on the news and in social media.  The neighbors who mow the lawns they don’t own.  People who escort the elderly veteran in the grocery store.  The medical professionals who are coming out of retirement to help assist.  These are the people who are cheerful givers.  God has blessed them abundantly so that in ALL times, they are able to abound in every good work.

According to the Bible, I should be sowing generously in both my heart of giving and in my garden.  Despite being confined to the house through social distancing, I’m going to use this season to practice sowing into those around me.

And I’m going to support my husband’s over-planting…

~Emily

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Guest Blogger (Nancy White)

The purpose of the Iron Porch is to allow a space for women to come share with one another without the fear of reprisal and judgment. It’s a space that we felt God wanted to provide so that women could encourage and comfort one another.  After prayerful consideration, we have encouraged potential guest bloggers to submit a post for consideration.  These guest blogs are always posted under ‘fesharp’ rather than ‘Erin’ or ‘Emily.’

Tomorrow we will be posting an entry from a sweet sister in Christ who is sharing her heart as a single mother to teens in the midst of a pandemic.

Please join us on the porch this Saturday to read the thoughts of Nancy White, our 1st guest blogger of 2020.

~Emily & Erin

Cilantro Pandemic

As a professionally trained chef, I know it’s an unwritten rule to state that you hate a type of food or seasoning.

And yet, here I am.  I hate the taste of cilantro. There, I said it. True Confessions of a chef.  To me, cilantro tastes like soap.

Fun fact: The people who dislike cilantro for its soap-like taste have a genetic likeness.  It’s a variation of olfactory-receptor genes that allows us to detect aldehydes, which is a compound found both in cilantro and is also a by-product of soap.  We even have a name: “cilantrophoes” which are the people who taste soap when they eat cilantro.

Two groups of people associated with cilantro.  Those who like it and those who don’t.

In the last few weeks of apocalyptic behavior with the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m also seeing two “reaction” groups of people.

One group is the chaos group.  These are the “sky is falling” people. These are the people on social media who are flaming the fire of chaos and drama.  They’re the ones trying to profit off an unstable stock market and the ones running to the store to “stock up” on more than they could possibly need for two weeks. These are the fighting in the grocery store aisles on YouTube people. They are the ones blaming everyone for everything.

The second group is the hope-filled group.  These are the “glass is half full” type of people.  They are our realists, as well as our optimists.  They are the ones giving us hopeful memes and helpful tips for survival.  As far as leaders’ decisions they hold some accountable while praising those who are doing a good job. These are the visit nursing homes through a window or open the stores early for the elderly type of people.  They might have worries but they are prepared for the outcomes.

Either group can include Christians, but I believe Christ would want His followers to be the optimists and realists who are providing guidance and hope.  They recognize that God may provide differently than we are expecting, but that He will provide.  He will provide. Every time, all the time, always.

DNA dictates which cilantro group we fall into.  Our heart and relationship with the Father dictate which “reaction” group we belong to.

As we look at the next few weeks of pandemic uncertainty, search yourself about which group you’d like to be known for…the chaos group or the hope-filled group.

~Emily

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. ~James 1:17 (ESV)

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