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

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Suicidal Dream

Recently, my 9-year-old son came to my bedside in the middle of the night asking to lay down with me.  He said he’d had a bad dream and wanted to snuggle. I asked him about the dream and he shared that it included a pretty explicit description of me committing suicide in front of him.

Through the years, I’ve comforted him several times after a bad dream, but nothing had prepared me for him dreaming that I’d shot myself in front of him.  I held him tight and prayed with him to have a calm spirit so that he could fall back to sleep.  He recalled a scripture from Deuteronomy 31:6, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord, your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

I felt his heart rate slow down and his breathing level out as he fell asleep.

I, however, was wide awake and troubled by his dream.  Why on earth would his little mind have created a scenario where I would abandon him in such a manner? Are these residual ideas from his birth mom and the adoption process?  For that matter, how did he even know something so horrific could happen to a mom or a child?

I untangled myself from the blankets and the kiddo so I could get on my knees and place this burden at the feet of our Lord.  While I don’t understand the dream or why my child had it, I do know that I felt relief in sharing my concerns with God.

In the days after that situation, other verses of comfort came to both me and my son.

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” ~Psalm 34:4

For the Lord says…do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine. ~Isaiah 43:1

Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” ~Isaiah 35:4

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” ~2 Timothy 1:7

The Iron Porch is a place to be transparent about real-life events.  With that in mind, I’ve got to admit my son’s dream has shaken me up for a few days.  The one thing that has kept me calm is scripture and prayer.  The constant provision of God’s word has encouraged me and reminded us that he does not want us to fear anything.

~Emily

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The Santa Dilemma

I never believed in Santa as a real person.  From the time I was little, my parents taught me Santa was make-believe and a fun game that everyone played around Christmas.  Their explanation was that they wanted me to believe in Jesus, who was intangible and unseen with human eyes.  If I later found out Santa wasn’t real after believing he was, would I also question the existence of Jesus?

It worked for our family and was my game plan for when I had my own children.

Until I was introduced to an adorable 2-year-old who I would later adopt.  The issue?  He already had been told that Santa was real.  He was “all-in” on the fantasy.  He still is as a 3rd grader.  How was I going to strip him of that belief when he’d already had so much turmoil and loss in his short life?

This is probably his last year believing in Santa as a real person. He has started to ask questions about the practicality of delivering gifts around the world. He’s letting us know there are some kids in his class that don’t believe in Santa. He’s paying attention to movies more and is questioning how Buddy the Elf fixes the sleigh or Tim Allen becomes Santa after falling off the roof.

He’s asking about if I believe in Santa.

I’m verbally bobbing and weaving; not lying, but definitely not telling him the truth.  I’m in a grey area that has me super worried about how he’ll take the news that Santa isn’t real.  Will he resent us for letting him believe? Will he accept that it’s a “game” everyone plays?

But most important to me, how will he maintain his belief in Jesus when Santa is no longer a real dude?  I keep coming back to Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NKJV).  As a Christian parent, I’m doing my very best to raise him up in the way he should go, but frankly, the Santa dilemma has me concerned.

“Belief”

This is the newest word that is front and center on my prayer board.  It’s on the cover of my prayer journal. It’s a post-it on my dashboard.

It has become my single word prayer over the last week.  I’m praying with all my might that this little guy will have true and wholehearted belief in Jesus Christ as his Savior.  That the news of Santa will not de-rail that child-like faith he possesses.  I pray that he holds fast to his belief.

If you have time this week, please join me on the porch praying for all the littles of the world to know Jesus…to have belief in Christ…to balance faith with earthly knowledge.

~Emily

Father God, we are so very grateful for the gift of your Son as our Savior.  Please let the children of the world have an opportunity to accept this gift and to know your love.  Let their belief in you be bigger and bolder than the beliefs in worldly concepts, like Santa.  We pray these things in your holy name. Amen.

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The Outsider

This last weekend, deer season for youth rifle started in Alabama.  That means my husband and son were out in the deer blind whenever they had extra time. About 4 hours before church on Sunday, I heard the shot in our back pasture. I knew a young buck had wandered into the line of sight of an eager 8-year-old hunter.

The boys excitedly tried to convince me to go track the deer with them.  I had zero desire to go tromping through the woods looking for drops of blood while avoiding thorny vines and ticks.  I had a long to-do list to accomplish.  I was still in my PJs.  Coffee had just started brewing.

I can just imagine the ladies of the Iron Porch all coming up with valid reasons why I should NOT go smashing through the woods!

While all of those statements were truthful, they really are excuses to not accompany my husband and son on the trail of a dead or soon-to-be-dead deer.

Excuses? Why you ask?  (I mean, besides the obvious that I hadn’t had coffee and was still braless!).  The reason is that when I go with the boys on hunting adventures I feel like an outsider.

There’s showmanship and male bonding that is occurring that makes me feel like I’m an outsider. The high-fives and fist bumps…the wiping of blood on cheeks…the chuckles about peeing out of the deer blind.  All of which makes me feel like I’m not in on the joke. It makes me feel like I’m not in the “inner circle.”

How often are people coming up with excuses to not go to church because they feel like the outsider?

The parallels between the outsider on a hunting or tracking adventure and that of church attendance weighed heavily on me throughout the day.  I started to consider if I was inclusive or exclusive while I was at church.  Did I encourage the new visitor to sit with me? Did I show her where her babies would be safely cared for while she recharged in the sanctuary? Did I pray with the gal who is struggling with her teenage daughter?

Or…

Did I sit in the same spot? Do I notice that certain couples only socialize with themselves? Did I greet the same people that I do week after week? Are there cliques at my church?  Does social media tell a story that is different from what I see in the sanctuary?  Did I chat with the same moms near the children’s area? Did I make eye contact with anyone new?!?!?!?

You see, I think we occasionally make people feel like the outsider even when we are the church.  We may not do it intentionally, but there are times where we are more consumed with our own personal connections that we fail to create personal connections for those around us.

I’ve been a recipient of this behavior in church.  There was a scenario where I wanted to make a connection with a gal, but over time I noticed this lady was uninterested in anyone who was not already in her small circle.  That stung a bit. It made me feel unworthy.  She may not have intended to have that reputation, but it was the predominate view of her relationship skills.

As a result of that personal example, I’ve tried my best to be more receptive to conversations.  I’m not perfect, however, so I know that there are times that I am drawn towards those I already know.

The next time that I notice myself be less inclusive, I’m going to be mindful to ensure that others are feeling a part of the larger group.

I know what it’s like to be an outsider.  In church and in hunting.

~Emily

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. ~Romans 15:7 (NIV)

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Roots of Bitterness

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. ~Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)

Imagine this: so much had been changing with the policies at my job that I considered looking for new employment.  I did not want to become bitter towards an organization that I’d given my adult life towards, so I began to think about when would be a good time to transition.

As I read Hebrews 12:15, it reminded me of the sentiment towards my job, but I was unsure if the roots of bitterness referenced in Hebrews were the same that I was feeling towards my employer.  Using prayer and research, I decided to dig in.

The scenario occurred well over a year ago, but it’s given me plenty of time to spend time in Hebrews and Deuteronomy trying to understand the “roots of bitterness.”

The KJV refers to the root of bitterness springing up and troubling you, which in turn will cause many to be defiled.  Within the NIV, one can see that bitter roots grow and cause trouble.  As you read this verse, it appears that the passage is directed at the entire church of believers rather than just one individual battling bitterness.

The context of the passage becomes even more clear when you consider Hebrew culture, where any poisonous plant was referred to as bitter.  If poison destroys, then the author of the book of Hebrews could arguably be using the metaphor of a bitter root for something that would destroy the church, much like poison would.

Taking this New Testament passage and crossing it to the Old Testament, one sees that in Deuteronomy 29:18, Moses cautions of being vigilant to the growth of bitter roots of poison.  In reviewing the covenant between God and Israel, Moses is referencing the “bitter root” of idolatry.  There are other references in the Old Testament where the concept of a bitter root is mentioned. For instance, in Amos 6:12 the unfaithful are called out as a bitter root.

Much like in nature, a bitter root in a church or individual’s life starts as a tender shoot.

If it’s nurtured and cared for, it begins to grow longer and stronger as the days go by.  The poison of that root begins to gain strength, subsequently becoming more and more dangerous.  The sin of the bitter root in a person’s life or within the church must be dug up, cut off, and not allowed to continue growing.  If it’s allowed to continue, there are catastrophic consequences: the spiral of more sin begotten of other sin or the lack of unification in church membership.  Essentially that bitter root becomes a stronghold for the enemy to mess with our lives.

Within the church, we are all responsible for cutting off the root of bitterness. It’s time to practice grace with one another. It’s time to speak truth to one another. It’s time to hold each other accountable.  It’s time to support one another.  It’s time to stop gossiping.

It’s time to stop nurturing the root of bitterness.

For me and my job challenges, I had to assess if bitterness was going to take root.  If it was, then I had choices to make in order to cut off that root.

During the next week, look at your life and determine if there are shoots that need to be pulled before they begin to take root!

~Emily

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Conviction Truth

Recently I had a gal from my church share some truth with me….and it involved one of my Facebook posts from several months ago.  There was nothing sinful about the post, but she pointed out that the content could be a stumbling block for others, considering I am in a leadership position as the women’s ministry director.

Her truth gave me pause.  It created a scenario where I went to the Lord in prayer to ask for forgiveness and ask for Him to reveal any other places in my life where I may have been blind to such occurrences.

She was right.  And more than that, she was right to tell me.

How often have I known that I should speak to someone about a perceived wrong or sinful behavior? The Lord has prompted me before but I’ve been reluctant to follow that nudge.

Why? Why am I negligent in confronting truth with other Christians?  I know I’m capable of it. I am able to tell Erin when I think something is wrong. I’m able to speak to my husband about truth. Why can’t I tell others?

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days and I’ve concluded that it’s primarily fear that inhibits me from speaking truth into another’s life.  I don’t want to be shunned, or I don’t want to be wrong, or I don’t want to tarnish the relationship.

The truth of the matter is this…if God wants someone to feel convicted about a sin in their life, then He’s going to somehow let them know.  That may be through my words, or it could be through a podcast, or a Bible study, or countless other methods.

However, that does not absolve me of my responsibility to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Repeatedly throughout scripture, Christ-followers are instructed to hold one another accountable to “right” living.  For instance, Colossians 3:16 (NIV) states “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

I am grateful to those around me that are bold enough to speak truth into my life…and for pointing out where I may be straying.

As I walk through this next week reflecting how to better speak truth into other’s lives, I would love to hear your thoughts on truth convictions.  Come to the porch and share your thoughts!

~Emily

Conviction Truth