Childhood Nostalgia

Recently, my Mom and I were reminiscing about the chaos and joy surrounding the arrival of the Sunday Paper in our living room when I was younger.  Everyone pulled their favorite section and as a family, we poured over the paper for a couple hours. Before he could read, I remember reading the comics to my brother and later we would fight over who got them first.

This small conversation with my Mom had me recalling other aspects of my childhood that I remember fondly.  For instance, if the summer temperature in Oregon went over 100, we had ice cream and fruit for dinner.  I remember walking to the comic book store with my Brother so he could spend his allowance…and on the way, there was one particular ‘barkless’ dog that we would play with through the fence.  I remember going crawdad hunting with chunks of hot dogs tied to a string.  I also remember my parents dancing in the kitchen.

These are each endearing memories of my childhood.  Each remind me of how family can be structured in moments of happiness.  

I recognize that not everyone had such pleasant childhood memories or parents who were so involved in the children’s lives.  I also recognize that I’m remembering great memories and often gloss over the not so amazing memories.  It was not all sunshine and butterflies for me.  And I know it wasn’t for others either.  

However, the not so nice memories are cloaked in the comfort of scripture.  

A scripture that I often lean on when thinking about family is from Ephesians 3:15 (NASB), which reads “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”

When reading this verse, it’s important to know that the word ‘family’ is closely transplanted in the original language as ‘father.’ In both the Old Testament tradition, as well as our current society, it’s easy to think this verse is referencing families taking the name of the Patriarch’s family.  This is still seen now, as brides take their husband’s last name.  

In reality, the verse is much deeper.  It refers to ‘every family,’ as in ‘all believers’ in Christ.  All of us…as one big family.  Furthermore, we all derive our names from that belonging to Jesus when we adopt the name ‘Christian,’ as derived from the name ‘Christ.’ 

This is a family of hope and love. Can you imagine how that family will interact?  How much greater Heaven will be than pursuing the comics out of the Sunday paper?!?!? There’s no need for nostalgia with a future like that!

No matter what our childhood’s looked like, our future is one of hope through Christ. 

~Emily

“Vacation” on the Appalachian Trail

Last week I spent six days hiking and living on the Appalachian Trail.  It’s been a lifelong dream to hike the entire 2,195 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  Instead of deciding to be gone from my regular life for 5-6 months, I thought I should start with a small chunk to see if I really wanted to do it. 

At times it was hard.  The hike was 38 miles of up and down steep rocky trails. But there were flat parts, water crossings, and cool breezes. 

At times it was smelly—my feet were worse than a teenage boy and don’t get me started on my arm pits.  It was truly dirty camping night after night without showers or toilets.  But there were glorious moments like the smell of the trail as the rain started or the first sniff of shampoo off the trail. 

At times it was scary.  We saw a bear, a rattle snake and a tiny little black snake.  There were encounters with 78,000 spiders. But there was safety in numbers at the campsites and sharing of food and stories late into the nights.  There was even one night when a senior hiker got up to check on all of us at 2am when a falling branch startled us all awake.  

One of the most rewarding parts of the adventure was the time spent with God.  Each day included a conversation with God.  Each sunrise, sunset, waterfall, and mountainside view got comments of gratitude to the Lord.  Every single hard step included a plea for help.  The long sleepless nights tossing and turning on a blow-up mat included prayers.

And I used the time to concentrate on one particular scripture.  I’d tried to memorize it prior to going and just didn’t have my heart in it.  So, I wrote it in my journal page and carried it with me the entire hike. I looked at it often and while hiking mediated on the words and the context of the scripture.

“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” ~Luke 6:12

He went off to the mountains to pray.  Jesus went to the mountain to pray.  And then He spent all night in prayer.  Have you ever wondered what Jesus was praying for that night?  We know snippets that indicate He was asking to not have to be tortured and have a horrific death.  We know He prayed that He would accept that death if it was God’s will.  But did that take all night?  

Have you ever prayed so earnestly for something that it was like you were conversing all the possibilities with God?  Hours went by and you were still content to continue talking to God.  No answers yet, but just talking to God.  

That’s how I imagine that night was for Jesus. Prayerful conversations with the Father, in which He continuously talked through how He was feeling, how He wished it would go, how He loved the Father, and how He would do His will.  

What a beautiful example of how we should pray.  In the midst of chaos and challenges we can turn to the Lord and find rest.  Constant prayer is like having a consistently open phone line directly to God.  If I’m honest, I rarely take advantage of that type of prayer. I get caught up in daily life and forget to chat with God for everything.  

Except this last week while I was in the woods. I was able to connect to God like I haven’t in quite a while.  In the midst of the beauty of nature and the difficulty of a physical challenge, I was able to focus on talking to God.  And it was a remarkable time.

I want to encourage each of you to take time this week to really focus on talking to God.  Find the hypothetical mountain where you can pray…and then do it without ceasing.

It’s your own personal “vacation on the Appalachian Trail.”

~Emily

Honey Extraction

In the spring, I got my first bee hives.  I’ve used the time learning about and caring for our bees over the last several months to pray for specific people and situations, as well as reviewing scripture. Because the extra time with God and the bees has been such a blessing to me personally, I made a vow to ‘gift’ the entire first batch of honey to family and friends…many of whom had been the focus of my prayers. 

I spun my first frames last week and harvested the first honey.  It was nerve-wracking.  It was exciting.  And it was time consuming.   

From the moment I opened the hives and started making decisions about which frames to harvest to the moment I tightened the last lid on a jar, I discovered that I had to dedicate a substantial amount of time for the entire process.  

The same deliberate dedication to time well spent also applies to the relationships in our lives.  Whether it’s repairing, maintaining, or cultivating relationships within our families, church or school it takes time and deliberate actions to make those relationships impactful.  

One of the most time-consuming relationships is the one where we are forging friendships or acquaintances with non-believers.  These types of interactions are important because we literally pouring into people who may make decisions to follow Jesus based on their experiences with us.  By no means am I saying that more time equals greater chances of them becoming a Christian.  Instead what I’m saying is that the more deliberate the time we invest, the greater the chances are of them seeing Christ’s love through us.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB) stated, “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.”

Deliberate investment of time…to encourage one another and build each other up.

Seems easy enough if we’re willing to make the time to do the investing.

The harvesting of honey seems easy enough too…if I’m willing to take the time to care for the bees and go through the process of extracting the honey.

In this case, I was also able to deliberately speak to all the honey recipients about how the first batch was all gifts. It offered a chance to tell people that the bees were a quiet time with God opportunity…and it’s lead to more than one conversation about how to accept Christ as their personal Savior.

I want to encourage you this week to find someone in your life that you want to make some deliberate time for…and then invest. 

~Emily

Hitting the Wall

This last week I had several moments of anxiety and I’ve felt so overwhelmed.  I have been super weepy and easily irritated.  I told my mom that I felt like I’ve hit a wall.  

According to internet idiom sites, “hitting a wall” is to become completely exhausted, fatigued, or worn out. By that definition, I truly have hit a wall this week…at work, in finding a church, with my knee diagnosis, with family dynamics, and with coordinating schedules. 

I’m anxious.  I know I’m not alone.  Anxiety is an issue for several people, but I’m seeing more and more people talking about their mental health issues.  It’s important for us to recognize that God has always been concerned about every aspect of our lives, which includes our mental health.  

Even King David experienced anxiety.  In Psalm 94:19, he wrote, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”  David’s heart was overwhelmed, just as mine has been this week.  David expressed confidence in God and choose to find joy and peace.  

As I continue to walk through this week of ‘hitting the wall,’ I take comfort in knowing that there is noting that God doesn’t already know.   And there is comfort in knowing He is always available for me in times of need.  His Word provides the comfort when I can’t find comfort myself.  In John 16:33 God told us “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

This assurance helps me know that through His victory, we can claim victory over all anxiety.  

I may have hit the wall, but soon I’ll either go through it…or around it.  With God’s help.

~Emily

When the Bee Stings

I’ve officially been a beekeeper since March, but this last weekend was my first time being stung.  I immediately started humming the song ‘My Favorite Things’ where Julie Andrews starts singing about “when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad.” 

That pretty little gal got me right at the end of my index finger.  And it was my own fault. Up to this point, my girls have been pretty docile and haven’t minded me going into their house.  I needed to add a small box to one of the hives because they’ve been so busy making honey.  I got bold and went into the hive without my bee suit or gloves because it was supposed to be a quick task.

She wasn’t having any parts of it, and she caught me unprepared.

Scripture tells us that there will come a time when many will be caught unprepared…and it won’t be over a simple bee sting.  

The return of Jesus Christ will be a surprise to those who believe in Him, but they will be prepared for this coming.  It will be a surprise to those who believe in Him, but may be unprepared for the second coming. And it will certainly be a surprise to those who don’t believe in Him, but thought they had had it figured out or that they had more time. 

Yet, each group should be prepared and should be on alert.  

In Matthew 24:42-44 (NASB), scriptures states “Therefore be on alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.  For this reason, you must be ready as well; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” 

For the believer, preparedness means knowing the Word of God.  

-Memorize scripture

-Know it well enough to pray it back to God

-Study different versions of the Bible

-Understand apologetics and how to explain God’s Word to others.

Preparedness also means having an active relationship with God and others.

-Active & deliberate prayer life

-Daily study and reading

-Sharing the Gospel with others

-Fellowship in a church and small group

We have no idea when Jesus will return, just like I had no idea when I would first be stung by the bees I’m keeping.  As a beekeeper, I have suits, gloves, & smoke to help me be prepared.  Likewise, we have the Bible, prayer with God and fellowship with others to assist us with getting prepared.  


When the second coming occurs, don’t be unprepared; that would be way worse than getting stung on the tip of your finger by a honeybee.

~Emily

Surprise Attack Prayer Warrior

Last week I needed a bow for a graduation gift and stopped at the local dollar store.  As I stood in the checkout line, a woman approached me while giving me a compliment. I thanked her and she continue walking past me.  Suddenly, I felt hands grab my shoulders from behind and she began praying.  Loudly.  And long-ly (I made that word up, but it seems fitting…it was a VERY long prayer).  

It was so uncomfortable.  I didn’t know how to politely get out of the scenario.  I watched the cashier ring up my item and then shrug his shoulders at me while rolling his eyes about the praying woman.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see small children staring at the situation.  I saw others rushing past in an effort to escape, lest she turn her boisterous reverse-hug prayer litany on them.  She said “Amen,” turned around and headed to another unsuspecting woman in the make-up aisle (who, by the way, was not having it…she actually told the lady to leave her alone). 

I know she meant well and likely felt as though she was doing the right Biblical thing.  

However. 

However, I was so taken aback and so completely out of my comfort zone, that I was not able to listen to what she prayed. I couldn’t join her prayerfully, as Sisters in Christ, because I was too “in my own head” rather than in my heart for Jesus.

Interestingly enough, I had read an article just hours before about a woman who made her New Year’s Resolution to pray for a stranger every day. The article described her interactions with those she prayed with and those that she silently prayed for.  At the time of the article publication, she’d being praying for a stranger daily for two full years. 

Maybe the Dollar Store lady had a New Year’s Resolution to pray for strangers.  Maybe not.

I’m intrigued by this praying for strangers idea. Part of me feels compelled to tackle a similar resolution.  Praying for one another is good.  It’s certainly Biblical, as there are countless examples instructing us to pray for one another.

Galatians 6:2 (NASB), “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

1 Samuel 12:23 (NASB), “Furthermore, as for me, far be it from me that I would sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.”

1 Corinthians 7:5 (NASB), “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Here’s the raw truth of this from Emily’s heart. I’m all for praying over strangers.  But I think I want rules to this endeavor.  After what I experienced at the dollar store, I don’t want to ambush any strangers with prayer.   

Here are my proposed self-imposed rules:

1. A conversation has to happen prior to starting to pray (i.e.: introductions, common ground established, niceties, etc…).

2. Ask if you can pray for them—or if they have specific prayer requests (and be gracious if they say “no”).

3. Be intentional about who to pray with or over (don’t just pick someone willy-nilly because you have a daily “quota” to fulfill). 

4. Continue to pray for that person even after the interaction is over.  

I’d be interested to hear what those on the Iron Porch think about the proposed rules.  And of course, I’d be really interested to hear how you would have handled the surprise-attack prayer warrior at the dollar store!

~Emily

Acts 5:42 (NASB), “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and preaching the good news Jesus as the Christ.” 

Get on the Train…or Get Out of the Way

Last week I had a dream where a lady from my previous church was with her husband at a table across from mine at a charity luncheon.  In front of several people she leaned over and told me that she was sick and tired of reading my blogs on Iron Porch and that I should figure out what to do with my life.  In the dream I was shocked, as I imagine I would be in real life. I calmly told her she could easily unfollow the blog.  In my dream, I then said, “or you could write a guest blog about why you are so tired of reading other people’s blogs.”

I gave her two choices: stop reading the blog or help contribute to it.  

This was a leadership lesson that I learned early in my military career.  Get on the train (and help) or get out of the way (and stop complaining). 

In the Bible we see countless examples of complaining and grumbling.  Martha complains to Jesus about Mary.  In the Old Testament there’s complaining to Moses and Aaron.  The Disciples complain about all the riff-raff waiting for a millisecond to chat with Jesus (that was a total “Emily” paraphrase!). Even the Psalmist in Psalm 55:17 (NASB) stated, “Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and moan, and He will hear my voice.” 

All these complainers need to consider getting out of the way of the train.

Instead, what would happen if they got on the train? If they helped those in need? If they started expressing gratitude for God’s blessings in their lives? If they started sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Think about the impact they could have on the kingdom!!!

We have guidance to help us pray for one another and become hospitable to each other, which is us choosing to “get on the train.” 

What if we followed Galatians 6:2 (NASB), “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”  And what if we were able to “contribute to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality” as seen in Romans 12:13 (NASB).  Would we be better equipped to pray for others? Would we know their needs before they had to ask for help?

Perhaps if we choose to get on the train, we’d be able to live out 1 Peter 4:9…while choosing to not get out of the way with our complains.   “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” ~1 Peter 4:9 (NASB)

Each day we get these choices. You can “stop doing” or you can “help contribute.”   Regardless of the circumstances of your choices to “get on the train or get out of the way,” they are yours to make.  I’ll be praying this week that you have peace with your choice.

~Emily

Spiritual Attacks

If you are a believer, you won’t go long without encountering spiritual warfare.  The enemy would love nothing more than for us to forget that there is constantly a spiritual battle going on amongst us.  We may not always see it and we may tend to forget that it’s going on, but it continuously brings chaos, turmoil, discouragement, fear, stress, and even defeat. 

The Bible reminds us that we should stay aware of Satan’s schemes, while staying close to the Lord. We’ve been armed for battle through the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17), and also with the entire Word of God.  When we are able to pray God’s Words back to Him, we are utilizing a powerful weapon against Satan, as it’s the Truth being spoken out loud. 

Here are scriptures to read, pray, and memorize in regards to Spiritual Warfare:

Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. ~Luke 10:19 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~John 10:10 

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.  ~1 Peter 5:8-9

Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  ~James 4:7

For You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.  ~Psalm 18:39

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~2 Corinthians 10:3-5

No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord. ~Isaiah 54:17

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. ~Ephesians 6:11-17

Remember sweet readers, when we belong to Christ, Satan never has the final word over our lives. We are fully in God’s hands.  Our responsibility in spiritual warfare includes being ready to pray, meditate, and speak the Word of God.  This battle belongs to the Lord, and He has the final victory…so fear not.

~Emily

Cancer: Three Intertwined Stories of Faith

After this last week, I really feel like I want to align and certainly say a phrase, even with the bad word (the really, really, really bad word, according to my 5th grade son).  I’m sure you’ve seen the slogan on a shirt or bumper “F*!# Cancer.”  I’ll refrain from actually saying it, but it does resonate.

For about a year, my Dad has been battling liver cancer that has spread to a several locations.  My Mom has been the sole caretaker and it’s wearing her out.  Last week she called to tell me that my Dad hasn’t been eating well and she said “Cancer won’t kill him, starvation will.” 

Mid-week my husband, who hasn’t been to the doctor since 1987 asked me how to make a doctor’s appointment.  He found a good-sized spot growing on his cheek underneath his wooly beard.  Alarm bells were going off that there’s actually something going on that could make my husband want to schedule a physical.

By the end of the week I found out that my younger brother, who beat Stage 4 lymphoma in 2013, is back in monthly treatments.

My Dad, my husband, my brother…the three earthly men who have influenced my life the most…all facing differing stages of a cancer walk.  

It’s enough to make a girl say a bad word about cancer.  

And yet, I find myself repeatedly turning to God in prayer about each of the situations.  I remember that in 2013, I felt like I prayed more fervently and faithfully about my brother’s cancer than I had ever prayed about anything.  I find myself back in that space of constant prayer over cancer. 

How can I be so confident in prayer?  I have faith in God.  But it’s more than that….it’s all about God’s faithfulness to His promises that we should hold onto.  We see this in Abraham, in his aging years through a couple of verses in Romans.  

In Romans 4:19-22 (NASB) “Without becoming weak in faith, he contemplated his own body, not as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore, it was also credited to him as righteousness.” 

When we break that down, it’s much easier to consider God’s faithfulness in our circumstances.

Verse 19: We don’t need to consider and/or dwell on our own circumstances.  That takes our mind off of Jesus when we become burdened with constant worry over our situation.  

Verse 20: We shouldn’t waver in knowing that God’s promises will be delivered. The wavering is actually illustrating unbelief, which negates the knowledge that promises will be fulfilled.  In this verse we see that Abraham grows stronger.  He’s strength becomes more robust by each passing moment, as will ours when we pray and trust.  

Verse 21: This verse speaks to the fact that God is able.  Not just willing…able.  When we shift focus to God’s ability, we won’t become discouraged by our own inability. 

Verse 22: For Abraham, he is right before God because of his trust in God’s ability.  It’s the act of faith that makes Abraham righteous. 

Whether you are facing the trifecta of cancer, or any other number of trials, know that we are strong in faith when we trust God.  Trust that God has the ability to fulfill the promises He has made.  

And keep praying…

~Emily

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