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

Pink Starbursts Type of Favorite

Do you have a favorite candy?  For the most part, I have seasonal favorites.  I love the Cadbury mini eggs at Easter, the peanut butter taffies at Halloween, and the peppermint taffies or jelly bellies at Christmas.  Year-round, I love the pink starbursts.  So much so that I will by-pass the other colors to just eat the pink ones…I especially despise yellow ones.  Seriously, who likes the yellow ones that taste like I imagine pledge would taste?!?!?

**I should take a moment to publicly issue a very heartfelt thank you to whichever executive made the decision to sell totally pink starburst bags!!! Huge win for me.  Huge.

If people were like candy, then I just admitted that there are favorites all year round, that there are seasonal favorites…and there are pledge smelling ones that are the least favorite.  You are probably able to name people in your life who fall into each of those categories.  I think we all can come up with some names for each of the lists.

Interestingly enough, God only has pink starburst favorites as His children.  He doesn’t even acknowledge the categories of seasonal or least favorite.  He loves us all equally and with abandon.  While He may hate our sinful decisions, He loves us completely, as though we were His year-round favorite candy.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NASB) Paul wrote, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”

If we are striving to be like Christ, then we should be practicing loving and accepting like Christ.  And if Christ has no favorites or least favorites, then we should be practicing not having favorites.

Which brings me to the yellow starburst people in my life.  I throw yellow starbursts in the garbage.  If I’m being honest, the yellow starburst people in my life get less than my 100% attention, love, or prayers. While I don’t throw them in the trash, I don’t treat them the same as my favorite people.  In the model of Jesus, what I’m doing with those interpersonal interactions is not fair…and it’s not right.

Clearly, I have some work to do, if I want to be more Christ-like in my interactions with others!

In the next week, I’m going to challenge myself to treat everyone around me as though they are my year-round favorite.  I want to see them as Christ sees them.  Perhaps, you can join me with this challenge and tell us on the Iron Porch how it’s going for you!

~Emily

pink

All Alone In This World

Do you ever feel as though you are all alone in this world?

You’re surrounded by people every day at work, at home, at church…even at the grocery store or gas station.  You’re with your mom, your best friend, your boyfriend or husband.  And yet, you feel alone.

Throughout our lives, women tend to have similar moments where we have felt especially alone.

The few moments after your High School graduation, when you feel excited about the future, yet there’s a moment of knowing you’re leaving home to “go it alone” in the world.

Some moments at church leave us feeling solo when we see groups of other women gathered in chatty-hug-filled circles.

There are moments in a marriage where you feel so misunderstood or undervalued that you feel completely and utterly alone.

Those nights where you can’t figure out why the baby is still crying and you’re exhausted or the nights after your last child has turned 18 and moved out of the house…those are also moments where you may experience that sense of complete aloneness.

In my own life, I’ve felt alone during military deployments, in the failure of IVF, in the aftermath of divorce, when hearing of someone’s cancer diagnosis, or in the misstep of dieting.  Often when I’ve felt most alone, I’ve also felt hopeless.  And right there in that hopelessness is the lie that the enemy tells us…that we are the only ones who have ever felt that “alone” time.

In 1 Kings 19:1-18, we read that there was a time that Elijah felt utterly alone and hopeless.  At that moment, the Lord gives Elijah questions that will allow Elijah to understand that he isn’t alone.  Rather than concede that God is with him, Elijah repeats the lie two times that he is alone.

In the middle of the chaos and fierce winds, God whispers to Elijah, “You are not alone!

I think it is time that women remind each other of God’s constant whispering, “You are not alone!”  God is literally with us each step of our journey.  Yet it’s easy in the moments of despair, the moments by ourselves, or the moments steeped in sin, to forget that God has a plan for us.  And the plan was never for us to be alone.  Ever.

If you are feeling alone, remember the whisperings of God’s promise that you aren’t alone.  Remember that you are always welcome on the porch if you need to be reminded of that soft-spoken promise.

~Emily

all alone in this world

Doritos Annoyed

My 9-year-old crunching Doritos, like I imagine a T-Rex would crunch through a bucket of KFC, is enough to drive me completely bonkers.

Loud, open-mouthed, chewing annoys me.

You know what annoys me even more than Dorito crunching?

Gossip under the guise of sharing a prayer request.

Christian women are usually fairly good at stopping themselves from outright and blatant gossip.  We understand that the Bible specifically calls gossip out as sinful.

However, some of us are guilty of gossip under the guise of sharing a prayer request.  We feel as though when sharing a prayer request, we are justified in sharing someone’s personal hurts or prayers.

As I have previously shared in the blog “The Sanctity of the Prayer Request” I take prayer requests very seriously and rarely will share them with someone else, as I want to make sure I have the original requester’s permission to share.

I recently heard an interesting thought about sharing prayer requests.  If the requester was standing right next to you, would you share their prayer request with a third party? If the answer is no, then you should not share.  Even if the answer is maybe, then you shouldn’t share the request.  This seems to be a fairly reasonable gauge to whether or not prayer requests are becoming gossip-centric.

Whether you get annoyed by chopping doritos or gossiping prayer requests, I’m praying that you are steadfast this week that your sharing does not become gossip!

~Emily

“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.” ~Proverbs 11:13

Dorito Annoyed

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Wedding Anniversaries

Last week my parents celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary.  I joke a lot about if they have been married 50 years yet, to which my mom always responds “you’re lucky we got married at all.”  To most, that would sound like a more modern establishment of co-habituating rather than committing to marriage.  In reality, my parents are a product of the 60s and were more likely to reject the entire institution of marriage.

In Genesis 2:22-24, we see that God created woman from man and intended them to be united together forever once committed to marriage.  There was a specific intent from God about how our marital relationship should be constructed.   In today’s society, it more difficult to find God’s intent on display in American marriages.

I believe that we need guidance strictly from the Word of God on how marriage should be.  However, I also believe Godly counsel from others is often needed.  In relation to marriage, it’s helpful to find Christians who have long-standing marriages in order to see and hear what has worked for them. It’s helpful to be reassured in good times and assisted in turmoil.  Those Christian examples, with a healthy prayer life and studying God’s word, help us figure out how God wants us to behave within our own marriages.

I’m a lucky girl that I was able to see that modeled behavior first hand in my parent’s marriage.  They were kind to one another.  They always supported each other’s endeavors.  They dreamed together.  They stood united against any force. When things were bad, they worked through it together.  When things were good, they rejoiced together.

Despite them having been a part of the hippie generation that typically rejected the institution of marriage, they are still so in love.  So much so, that they have a tree in their backyard that has their initials carved inside a heart.

~Emily

And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman and brought her unto the man.  And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.  Therefore, shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.      ~Genesis 2: 22-24

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Culinary School Expectations

My husband and I often tag-team in the kitchen.  We normally work as a pretty good team on favorite recipes, but new ones tend to create drama. I begin to lose patience and get some attitude.  It’s usually accompanied by a snotty comment. Inevitably, my husband throws up his hands and says something to the effect of “you’re the one who went to culinary school, you do it.”

I think this is a more common reaction than we recognize.  When we lose patience or when we get aggravated, we have similar reactions.  When we feel we know better or when we feel that someone should behave a certain way, we have similar reactions.  It’s the reaction of literally or figuratively throwing up your hands and saying “you’re the one who…blah, blah, blah” and you’re able to insert whatever finish to that statement that you want.

At work, one could add “you’re the one who is in charge or has the degrees.”

At the grocery store, one could add “you’re the one who works here.”

At church, one could say “you’re the one who went to seminary or has been a Christian longer.”

I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks, and I’ve concluded that when we use this reaction at work, in relationships, and especially at church, it’s not helpful.  It becomes blame-shifting in a passive-aggressive manner while justifying why we should be held more accountable for the interaction.

When you look at the Garden of Eden, you see Adam react in this blame-shifting manner when God asks what has happened after they ate the fruit.  In Genesis 3:12-13, Adam states “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  Adam blames God and the woman.  In turn, Eve replies, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”   Neither takes responsibility for their own role in the sin.

Because we don’t accept our own sinful behavior, we end up not exercising grace. And that dear sisters is when we start to say things like “you’re the one who….blah, blah, blah.”

Even though I really did go to culinary school, I’m going to try to control my patience level and not push my husband to the point he throws his hands up at me.  I challenge you to find an area of your life that you can work on too!
~Emily

chef