This Sucks

I had this upbeat and optimistic blog written.  But then I remembered that the Iron Porch is a place for real conversations and truth. A place of transparency.

The truth is that I’m not really upbeat and optimistic this week.  I’m overwhelmed and discouraged about being at home trying to beat technology to telework while figuring out this quasi-homeschooling thing and dealing with an 8-week-old puppy that acts like a drunk toddler.

The truth about COVID-19 shelter in place/quarantine/social distancing…the truth is that this sucks.

It sucks.

I want desperately to be the woman that says, “I’m not stuck at home, I’m safe at home.”  While I believe that statement, I’m struggling to embrace it.

I want desperately to be the woman that says, “I’m enjoying some much-needed family time.”  While I believe that statement, the constant family time is starting to create impatient moments of longing for some alone time.

I want desperately to be the woman that says, “I know that God has a plan and will see us through this.”  While I believe that, I’m having to constantly remind myself that God does have a plan.  This is not something that’s been easy for me to embrace.

In the midst of this sucky week, I’ve been praying a lot.  And holding onto the verse Isaiah 26:20, “Go into your houses, my people, and shut the door behind you. Hide yourselves for a little while until God’s anger is over.”

Come to the porch and let us know how you’re doing with all the COVID-19 changes.

~Emily

Isaiah 26-20

 

 

 

 

Seasons of Life

I saw a meme several times this week that expressed dislike for calling attention to a “season of being single.” Essentially, the meme is highlighting the unnecessary hurt caused by labeling singleness as a season.

It got me thinking about the different phases I’ve had in my life.  There was a season of being a new believer.  The phase of being a newlywed.  The time of being deliberately disobedient to God.  The time of military service. The part about of infertility disappointments.  The transition to retirement.

I thought about my own season of singleness in my mid-30s, which admittedly was really awesome at times and really sucked at others.  I’ve concluded that every single phase of life each of us faces has highlights and lowlights.  Parts of each season are incredible, which counters the parts that are cloudy darkness.

In the days leading up to Easter celebrations this last week, this meme against “single seasons” also got me wondering about the seasons that Jesus’ mother, Mary, faced in her life.

Her season of being an unwed teen pregnancy statistic. Her season of being a newlywed with an infant.  Her season of her son “running away” to the temple. Her season of learning more from her child than He learned from her.  Her season of watching His trial…of watching Him die.

How incredibly heart wrenching each of Mary’s phases must have been.  On the counter, how incredibly enriching each phase would have been.

In Luke 2:39-53, we read about how Joseph and Mary would travel to Jerusalem annually for the Feast of Passover.  Imagine how she felt when at age 12, Jesus disappeared from her sight and they don’t even notice until they are already on their way home to Galilee.  Everyone is searching frantically for him, issuing the equivalent of an “Amber Alert” 2000 years ago.  Three days later they find him in the temple sitting among the teachers.

This would have been Mary’s season of panic. Panic over a lost child.  Panic over realizing He was more knowledgeable then they could even imagine.  Panic over the thoughts of a future, which would include the child learner becoming the grown-man teacher.

This time of panic would have been laced with joy. There could have been joy and pride at seeing the child learning so intently.  Pride to hear the teachers of the temple praising Jesus’ attentiveness. A maternal love when sensing that the child was about to embark on His destiny.

In Luke 2:51, after rebuking Jesus for worrying His parents, we read “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

Mary had to make sense of what she was seeing in her child.  She knew of Gabriel’s announcement, of Elizabeth’s and Zechariah’s prophecies, and of course, she had experienced her own divine appointment with the Lord through the immaculate conception.  Imagine this question facing Mary:  How do you raise a child you believe is the Messiah?

When one looks at seasons of their own life, there is a give and take between the good and the bad of those phases.  Mary saw that first hand through the seasons of motherhood.

If Mary’s transitions offer us a glimpse into seeing both sides of a scenario, shouldn’t we be able to apply that to our own walk with Christ?   I believe that if we look at our own seasons we can discern positive qualities as well as negative qualities in each.  As in Mary’s time, this look at our “seasons of life” allows us a moment of reflection on what God is trying to teach us.

No matter the phase we are in, we are still learning.   Imagine we’re sitting in the temple at the foot of the great teacher.

I encourage you this week to reflect on your current season.  What are the negative and positive attributes of this time?

~Emily

 

 

 

Shadows & The Light

With my heart pounding out of my chest, I jumped backward, fists up, and screamed bloody murder…something incoherent with a few swear words.

Can you picture my kung-fu fighting stance? What would cause such a commotion in my life?

As I was closing the bedroom door, a shadow passed along the hallway, which scared me into the defensive position.  The shadow?  My husband coming down the hall with a fresh cup of coffee for me. A sweet gesture that was met with much aggression, simply because I got frightened.

Shadows seem scary and often they indicate a scenario where we should be on defense.

Shadow in the woods = lions and tigers and bears.

Shadow behind my car = zombie about to get me.

Shadow over my head = bird about to poop on me.

Shadow in the hallway = bad guy in the house.

The shadow mentioned in Psalm 23:4, the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” has always frightened me.  Mostly because it sounds so ominous.  The passage that seems to be most popular for funerals makes me conjure up a picture in my mind that is scary.

But more often than not, the shadow isn’t what is truly scary. Most of the time, it’s my imagination that makes the shadow scarier than it deserves to be. Shadows appear frightening, but they can’t hurt us.

Consider this:  the presence of a shadow is also an indicator of light.  When we are frightened by an object casting a shadow, we should look for the light behind the shadow.

Take the same scary scenarios above…

Shadow in the woods = sunset behind a redwood tree.

Shadow behind my car = puppy running to greet me.

Shadow over my head = cloud providing shade relief from an Alabama blazing hot sun.

Shadow in the hallway = husband bringing wife hot coffee.

There is one more super amazing light behind darkness.  Jesus.

Jesus is that light (John 8:12).  He can provide the glimmer of reassurance when we have a momentary fright.  When the shadows are imaginary, He is the light. When the shadows are overwhelming, He is light.  He the shadows indicate true danger, He is the light.

Always.  Jesus is our light in the midst of the shadows.

With that in mind, Psalm 23:4 becomes a whole lot more comforting than the imaginary picture I have previously had in my mind.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” ~Psalm 23:4 (NIV)

I’m praying that each of you have a week where the shadows are a reminder that there is always light present.

~Emily

When God meets you between a Pawn Shop and a KFC (Guest Blogger)

I had to stop the car… I had to! The tears streaming down my face were too much to even see the road in front of me. The weight of the world sat on my shoulders. At least, that’s how it felt…

As if the last 11 months hadn’t already been some of the toughest of my life, now I was faced with a decision that would not only alter my life, but my husband’s and daughter’s too. “God, I need you,” I whispered under my breath. “This decision is too much for me to make alone. I NEED to hear Your voice. I want to make a decision based on faith, NOT on fear, but You have to show me the way.” You see, as I sat there in that pothole-filled parking lot, with a pawn shop to my left and a KFC to my right, I needed a divine word from heaven.

Earlier that day, I was getting ready to leave the house to pick up our daughter from preschool when Sam received a phone call from his attorney. The company he previously worked for was suing him – for 1.4 million dollars. And the reason? Well, it all started 11 months prior when he called me from out of town to tell me that he’d just lost his job as partner at a tax firm because he’d committed fraud. The money they were seeking included their losses, plus the cost of forensic experts to investigate his offenses and clean up the mess I now found myself in.

We certainly didn’t have enough to give them all that they wanted, but they still wanted all that we had. The attorney said we could ‘fight’ it and claim that some of that money they were taking was mine (from my own business that I’d worked to build), and that taking everything my daughter and I had left to live on would cause a financial burden for the two of us. While the opportunity existed to ‘fight’ it, there was still a chance it could be denied and I was told, “it could look bad to the judge” who would ultimately determine my husband’s sentence. Sam left it in my hands to decide.

This is where I needed divine direction. Either way I went, there was an element of fear and an element of faith. Do I ‘fight’ handing over the money and have faith that God will grant us this “pardon”? and that my daughter and I will still have money to live on? My fear with this option was that it could have a negative impact on Sam’s sentencing if denied and we could lose the money anyway. Alternatively, I could agree to hand over every little bit of money we had left, relying solely on God to provide everything we needed from that moment on. It seemed like an impossible decision.

The idea of possibly losing my husband to jail time and being left as a single mother to care for my daughter with no money was unbearable. I couldn’t stop crying as the outcomes of both decisions swept through my mind and pierced me deep within. Through all of the tears and pleas to heaven, I noticed the sun was setting – a beautiful palette of purples, pinks and oranges. I sat there waiting… partly in confidence that God WOULD answer me, and partly because I still felt out of breath, and out of life, from all the crying… and I needed to get myself together before pulling up to the preschool. The tears began to subside as I stared off in to the beautiful, calming sunset, when suddenly it happened: I felt the Holy Spirit whisper, “What’s the right thing to do?

A simple question would become my answer: What IS the right thing to do? I thought about it for a moment… The right thing to do was to hand over the remainder of any money we had left – which would ultimately include anything that was considered mine monetarily. The company Sam had worked for was out a LOT of money because of his wrong-doing and the right thing to do was to give back what we could (even though he would still be responsible for a huge remainder of the balance when this was all said and done). I knew I had my answer, and while it was hard to imagine what was next for us, a gust of faith surrounded me.

Suddenly, I found myself saying, “Lord, I will do this in obedience to You. And therefore, I stand on YOUR promises. And Your promises are that You are a rewarder of those who diligently seek You – and I have diligently sought You in this. You say that no good thing will You withhold from those who walk uprightly. I know that You shall supply all my needs according to Your riches in glory, and God, You watch over Your Word to perform it, so I hold You to Your Word!” I spoke His Words back to Him in faith, with boldness, confidence and humility. And just like that – as I held on to the promises of my loving Father, peace flooded my soul.

A short while later, I returned home and told Sam my decision. After he spoke with his attorney, he said he was “proud” of me. I made it clear my decision was based solely in response to being obedient to Christ and not because of fear of any outcome. Man’s approval of my decision meant nothing to me, only God’s. Sam mentioned he had talked to another friend to get some advice on what to do. I asked him what his friend said. His exact words to Sam? “What’s the right thing to do?” And so, it was confirmed. That day I not only discovered my answer, but also learned when you have a heart open to hearing His voice, God can meet you anywhere – even between a pawn shop and a KFC.

Thoughts from the Blog: We can speak to God from anywhere – I’m so thankful He wasn’t restricted to a church or prayer closet when I needed Him that day. He hears His children when we speak to Him, no matter where we are, and He longs to speak back to us. It may not always be an obvious “spoken” word in the way this was, but I do believe that God will give peace and confirm His thoughts when you’re not sure if you’ve heard Him or not. Spend time in the Word – After all, those are His words to YOU. Spend time with other believers who can speak life and truth into your situation and who will pray with you. The Bible says to “Pray without ceasing,” and while there are plenty of moments in a day where we can’t literally be praying, I think it’s God’s way of saying: pray whenever, wherever, for whatever. Let your day be a continual conversation with Him – His sheep know His voice, and you will know His voice from spending time with Him.

Verses Mentioned in this Blog (my paraphrase):

  1. You are a rewarder of those who diligently seek You (Hebrews 11:6b)
  2. No good thing will You withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11)
  3. You shall supply all my needs according to Your riches in glory (Philippians 4:19)
  4. You watch over Your Word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12)
  5. Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

~Anonymous Guest Blogger

Word of the Year

Panic comes to me in many different forms. Not enough sleep before a big presentation-panic. Forgot to check my son’s homework-panic.   Didn’t stop to buy milk on the way home-panic. Best friend announces she’s chosen a word of the year-pure panic. She made the declaration with excitement and confidence. As with all adventures with this girl, I could not be more supportive of her having a word to focus on and move towards.

Despite my support of Erin having a word for 2018, my own panic was there. Bubbling on the surface. I saw people picking a word of the year on social media and my best friend just picked a word. Do I need a word? How do I pick a word? What do I do with that word? Am I letting Erin down by not having a word…or worse, not doing what I’m supposed to with a word?

In the midst of this panic, I simply asked God, ‘”am I supposed to have a word?” I didn’t ask if this was a seasonal gift for Erin, what my word was, what was the purpose of one word or even why one would need a word. I simply asked, “am I supposed to have a word?”

God has been radio silent on an answer.

In light of not receiving any big epiphany on having a word to represent me for 2018, I just keep going about my daily life. I continue to pray, to do laundry, text my mama, hug my son, and focus on all the words of my life without narrowing it to one.

While I wait, I realized that I have a ton of other things to focus on for 2018. This year I’m retiring from the Air Force after 24 years and I’m going to have to get a civilian job. Talk about a scary transition! This year also will celebrate the completion of my Doctorate Thesis. I joked with my husband that he’d have to call me “Dr. Emily” to which he said, “no.” Another change, another transition. Finally, Erin and I are sincerely focused on writing. This is a change….a commitment…a transition.

God is never truly radio silent.

Aimless thoughts and answered prayers go hand in hand. God gives us answers in the Bible, through others’ voices, and through quiet time with Him. He offers promises that soothe our panic. Since I was 8 years old, whenever I feel panic in any capacity, I automatically go to Isaiah 41:10 “Do not be afraid, for I am your God.” It’s the verse that has gotten me through all kinds of life transitions. It’s the one filled with hope. The verse that assures me that I will get through all my transitions this year.

…all my transitions this year.

Maybe “transition” should be my 2018 word.

~Emily