My apron needs some heat ya’ll, brrrr!

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Oh my goodness it is cold, Merry Christmas, and Hello! Welcome back or for the first time to my virtual “front porch” here at Aprons to Iron. I am so sorry I have not been able to visit on the front porch in a while. Please know my heart has been here and forgive me for not being found here as frequently as I would like. I have wanted to but time and other life happenings have hindered me (including things like doubts, fears, frustrations and the Devil…). I really want to be here more regularly to share with you all…I’m trying. I am still learning how to get my big girl blogging pants on (he he). There is so much I do not know but I do know I want this blog to be a ministry of love and encouragement to you, a reaching out20181204_1812551824320789638852728.png and inviting you to a place where you are always welcomed, wanted and loved, because that is exactly what Christ offers us. I’m not interested in building a following or fame, I am just using the gift of writing  to reach out to you sitting on the other side of a screen that may just be so kind to take time to read my words, need to hear them and share a bit of our worlds together.  I was wanting to blog once a week but I do not think that is doable, so my goal is twice a month. When I first started this back in July, I had such an outpouring of support and encouragement, I was and am still in grateful awe and hope that a few of you, well really I hope all of you and maybe more, will stick around and be encouraged as we struggle, strive and thrive together and I work through the “growing pains” of blogging. So if you are here today, thank you. I am honored you stopped by. Will you please pray for me? Pray I will show up here as the Lord leads, that I will make and guard the time He appoints for me to “peck” away at the keyboard, that I will have patience to “battle” technology, learn what I do not know, press through the hard and  write the words God gives for the purpose He so desires. Thank you my dear front porch sisters and friends, you being here and your prayers mean so much to me.

I need some heat in my apron! It’s a little chilly on the porch, but the sights and sounds of Christmas are beautiful. What a reflection of the glory of God we get to celebrate this 20181205_1109493791052294667820311.jpgseason! There is a cup of hot cocoa and as always a chair waiting for you. I am so glad you are here, thank you. I hope something of what I say is a gift to your heart today.

We love Christmas so much at my house we decorated our tree twice this year! Well not really, we do love Christmas, but sister decorating the tree is stressful, let’s just be real…I love the aftereffect but my holly ain’t always so jolly in the process and my “fa la la la la la la la la” can quickly turn to bah humbug! And even though I try not to get my “tinsel in a tangle” I can get pretty picky about how we decorate. (That sounds better than a perfectionist,20181204_1912196615401940353517795.jpg right? As part of my perfectionist in recovery program I did agree on going from clear lights to multi-color lights this year… I am a work in progress.) So, we got a larger than the norm tree this year, well my sister picked it out for us (now I am wondering if this wasn’t her idea of some weird Christmas joke…hmmm).  Anyhow, we got this gargantuan tree all up and decorated on this past Sunday, but by Monday afternoon I guess that tree had done lost its Christmas spirit (or had a little too much egg-nog with the elf on the shelf) and “Timber!”…

 

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Up, down and back up again!

Down she came, face plant. (I just knew I was going to see a squirrel scurry out of that tree…Which if happened and got on video would make me a YouTube millionaire as well as a need for some dry pants ehhh hmm).  I promise I was not gettin’ my “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” on when this happened.  Glass ornaments were shattered all over my carpet and several that were special to me were in pieces. Not to mention, because this tree was so huge, in nearly took me out, it missed me by inches. (Ok, more like several feet, actually I was never in any danger but that tree was about to be!)  I was like seriously, what in the world am I going to do now with this Jolly Green Giant tree laid out across the middle of our living room floor.  My dear hubs was at work or I would have yelled at him. (Well not really yelled, but I would have asked him in a really loud loving voice to quickly come to my rescue.) I was surprised at how calm I handle it (I guess that egg-nog the elf made really helped LOL, just kidding). For a brief moment I wanted to cry and have a pity-party (the elf was ready with the egg-nog) but then I heard God whisper to my heart, “Will you still give Me thanks?”

You see, all through the month of November I was purposeful about the discipline of expressing gratitude, daily giving God thanks for specific things in my life. The Lord used this to do such good things for my soul; I wanted to continue to be purposeful with this practice daily. So, just that morning during my quiet time, before our tree decided to take a “nap”, I gave God thanks for our beautiful tree, decorations and the ornaments hanging on that tree, for what they represented, all the many ways God had blessed and faithfully provided for our family and kept us together. Those ornaments tell our family’s on-going story and although it is a bit of a hassle to un-box, unwrap, hang and take off, re-wrap and re-box each one, I love the tradition our family shares and what those ornaments represent.  After the shock of the tree topple was over, and I assessed no squirrel was involved, I heard God’s whisper and realized there was a grace lesson He had for me: When what seemed so “perfect” was now a mess will I still give Him thanks, when what was beautiful now seems broken will I still give Him thanks, when life isn’t looking so “bright” will I still give Him thanks, when what was done now seems to have come “undone” will I still give Him thanks, when inconveniences seem to keep pushing their way into my plans will I still give Him thanks, when I have to start all over again will I still give Him thanks, when people, plans and hopes fail, when I fail, will I still give Him thanks.…Is  what I “treasure” solely in Him? I chose, by His grace, to still give Him thanks in that moment as I began to clean up the mess and work on getting our tree upright

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After repairing one of our personalized family ornaments, I jokingly told my hubs we may be “broke” but at least we are still together.

again. And it just so happened all the special ornaments broke in such a way that I was able to easily put them together again with my handy dandy hot glue gun. There was a grace lesson in that too: Sometimes we need to be broken, but we are never so broken that God’s grace “glue” can’t put us together again, and in doing so can make us more whole.  Brokenness can still be beautiful…Can I get a Hallelujah! (FYI: Two reasons why the glue gun is so awesome in case you did not know: you do not have to have a weapons permit or great aim to use it. Why was this amazing item not on my bridal registry many moons ago?).

 

 

 

And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.’” Luke 1:46-47, NKJV

You know the decorations are fun, beautiful and help us remember the wonder of Christmas but we do not find Christmas decorations in the Bible, rather over and over we see the glory of God adorning hearts of those adoring the hope of the Savior.  This week I have been meditating on the beautiful verses from Luke 1:46-53.  In these verses we find Mary, who just heard from the angel Gabriel that God had chosen her to be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world! She responds by praising God for His faithfulness and favor even though this blessing would not be without many difficulties. In verses 46-47 notice not so much what Mary says as what it states she is doing and the result: “My soul  magnifies the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced…(bold emphasis mine)”.  When Christ is magnified in our souls, our spirits can rejoice! Sometimes, Jesus as our focus is too small in our souls, other things are magnified and our spirits can get heavy and in a slump, kind of like my tree.

As we chat here on the porch today and let down our guards a little and allow our hearts to be transparent, can I ask you to consider what is “magnified” in your soul today? Is your spirit rejoicing in this? I know you may be really going through something difficult right now and you are struggling to hope. Christmas means something different for you this year and you do not feel like celebrating and dear one that is absolutely ok…I have been there, I too have had the hope “rug” jerked out from under me many times and the falls are hard and they hurt. I do not want to make light that there are things that make our hearts heavy, we get afraid to hope again and we are too weary and beat up to even try. But I also know the hope we have in Christ is real, alive, certain, secure, eternal and strong enough to bear that heaviness for us and bring a rejoicing to our spirits. Hope is a person who is with us, within us as believers, near us, keeps His Word and acts on behalf of and for those who are humble and broken and belong to Him. Hope begins with relationship, a relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ is our only hope giver and keeper. His hope never disappoints and never gets jerked out from under us (Romans 5:1-5). No matter what you are going through His hope is for you, it is enough, it never fails, it is certain and real and promised and it is yours if you want to receive it. Will you by faith receive His grace and choose to magnify Him as your Hope, Comforter, Healer, Peace and Savior today?  Oh dear sisters, how my prayer for you this season is that you will choose to magnify Jesus Christ and His greatness, adore Him and that your heart will be adorned with His hope and your spirit will rejoice; maybe for the first time or maybe you need your  hope restored, a fresh and anew. He can do that too! May He alone be your hope, joy and treasure and may your spirit rejoice again, over and over again! I can’t help but think how often Mary had to remind herself in prayer and praise of His hope through her own words; remembering God’s favor, faithfulness and promises as she encountered many difficult and uncertain times in the days to come. The hope she held on to is your hope too.

 “Remember Your word to Your servant. You have given me hope through it. This is my comfort in my affliction; Your promise has given me life.” Psalm 119:49-50, HCSB

Listen my dear sisters, I have not mastered, not even close to “Rejoicing always… in everything give thanks…” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) or “Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction…” (Romans 12:12). I have not mastered magnifying Him in my soul near like I need to.  But I do know it is true, when we magnify our Savior, when we focus on Him, pouring our hearts out to Him, praising and adoring Him our spirits will follow with rejoicing. I do know, we cannot “hang” our hope on any external thing in this world …no person, place, position, status, career, relationship, job, no maybe next time, tomorrow or next year, no talents, no dream, no amount of money can hold our hopes because all these things can “fall” and our hopes right along with them. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever, in Christ alone, we can always “hang” our hope securely and we are never without hope! And that is something I am so grateful for because He has proven this to be true over and over! He has never left me without hope…My dear beautiful friend if you need it, He can help you pick back up your hope too and “hang” it fully in Him.

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If we could all decorate a tree together and “hang” some hope, here are some of my favorite verses I would hang in hopes they would bring encouragement to your heart. May you choose to believe these truths, may they adorn your heart so you can exchange your heaviness for His hope, may they help you magnify Christ in your soul and bring rejoicing to your spirit.

And so Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You.  Psalm 39:7, NLT

Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear the cries and comfort them.  Psalm 10:17, NLT

In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.  Psalm 33:21-22, NLT

I pray the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what the hope of His calling…Ephesians 1:18-19, CSB

We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. This hope will not disappoint us, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given us.  Romans 5:2, 5, HCSB

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13, HCSB

Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23, HCSB

I want you to have the gift of real hope this Christmas and every day.  If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I invite you to read the following verses. If you believe from your heart what you have read and desire to receive Christ as your Savior, I invite you to say the following prayer or one in your own words, and receive the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  He truly is our only hope and the best gift we can receive this Christmas season:  Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9, 12-13.

Dear Lord, I confess that I am a sinner. I ask that you forgive me of all my sins. I believe that Jesus is your Son and You sent Him to die for my sins and that you raised Him from the dead so that I can have eternal life through faith in Him. I invite Jesus now into my heart and life to be my Lord and Savior. I now turn from my sins to follow Him. Thank You God for Your forgiveness and for saving me. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

 If you prayed this prayer I encourage you to reach out and tell someone. I would love to know!  Share with a family member, a pastor or Christian friend. Begin reading in the Bible, start in the book of John, and find a church to connect with,a community of other Christians believers so you can grow in your faith.

A funny little side note on this continuing Christmas adventure of mine, because I want to spread some good cheer: If you know me well you know I am not a fan of mice. I literally get up on the highest object around me I can find and squeal in panic when I see one. You know the ol’ Christmas poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”…you know it says, “… and all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse…” Well guess what stirred right up close to my Christmas tree then fell over and died last night?(It wasn’t a squirrel.) Yep! A mouse…ewww, I know right…but a good mouse is a dead one… “Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight” (minus one mouse) “Fa la la la la la la la laaa!”

Hey if this post encouraged you today will you give me the “gift” of a like, will you leave a short comment and let me know you stopped by and share it with other friends and please subscribe by plugging in your e-mail. I absolutely  love to hear from you, it sure does my heart good.

Merry Christmas from my front porch to yours, where you are always welcomed, alwayswp-15439518089895910788505295345578.png loved,

Rhonda

 

Copyright 2018 by Rhonda Loftis

 

 

Insta-Pots and Prayers

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Hello beloved friends. Oh how I have missed gathering with you…it has been awhile, but life has just been happening even when I ain’t so happening. My goal when I first started blogging was to put out one blog post a week, but since I am not blogging to live or living to blog, these just have to happen in the midst of  life when life lets them. However, I do love getting over here in my virtual “front porch” world and hanging out with you guys as often as I can. Happy Fall Ya’ll! So, how much pumpkin anything have you consumed and how many new Christmas decorations have you already bought at Hobby Lobby 😉

Welcome all to the Aprons to Iron virtual “front porch” where you are always welcomed, always loved and as always I have a chair waiting for you!

So have you guys jumped on the “Insta-Pot” bandwagon or it is already so yesterday? I’m telling you, I like all things “insta” quick except  for a foot massage from my man (I like that in the more slow cooker kind of time). From putting on my make-up, to shaving my 20180920_0959507142129982368236464.jpglegs, to cooking and cleaning my house, I want that “insta” mode please! We live in a world that says quicker and easier are better, anything to save time and hassle!

Recently, I read Ephesians 6:18 and became convicted that I also wanted an “Insta-Pot” like ease with my prayer life. I wanted “Insta-prayers”.  I quickly put in all the right “ingredients” (requests), give God a quick “timer setting” and poof! I get the answers I want. Sounds pretty silly right? Yet, that is my expectation at times… I want prayer to be easy and the answers quick, but that is not at all the picture of truth we get from God’s Word about prayer.

Pray at ALL times in the Spirit with EVERY prayer and request and STAY alert in this with ALL PERSEVERANCE and intercession for ALL the saints. (Ephesians 6:18, Emphasis mine)

I have been praying over some things so long and in so many different directions, it feels like I no longer have words to pray. It feels as if I am at a loss for the “right” words, the right direction and have lost hope for an answer. I assume that because the answer I want in my time has not come, my prayers aren’t working, God must not be working…my hope has been centered in a quick answer and expected outcome, not my expectancy in God alone. I confess I get wimpy and weary in my prayer life and want to give up.

Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. Psalm 62:5-6

 

There is nothing in Ephesians 6:18 that teach prayer is easy or answers come instantly. Pray at ALL times…STAY alert…with ALL PERSEVERANCE…That does not sound easy, it sounds hard and constant, like work. And yes, sometimes persevering in prayer is work but it is also the key to communion with an Almighty God who is working at all times on our behalf (see Romans 8:26-28).

After thinking on this for a bit I have come to a couple of conclusions why I believe persevering in prayer can be hard. First, we have a powerful enemy that is constantly at work against us. Satan will put forth every distraction and obstacle possible to deceive and convince us not to pray or that God has not heard our prayers (see Daniel 10:10-13 & 1 Peter 5:6-11). Second, is the constant war between our flesh and the Spirit (see Galatians 5:16-17).  Our flesh will be driven to do anything and everything other than pray! We will worry, overthink, roll around in guilt over, condemn ourselves, blame wp-15380111549925229703863171386278.pngothers, stew over, work out scenarios in our minds, eat, drink, self-medicate, clean out a closet (instead of getting in our prayer closet), nap, get on our social apps, watch T.V. , call a friend, anything but still ourselves humbly before the Lord in prayer (see Psalm 46:10). Satan and our flesh together are powerful foes that will always seek to hinder and derail our prayer efforts. Stop forfeiting the gift you have in prayer to Satan and your flesh! Persevere by pressing in, on and through with prayer wanting the presence and fullness of God more than anything!

So don’t throw away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. Hebrews 10:35-36 

Persevering prayer keeps us connected to the Spirit and His power at work within us; the Spirit gives us the strength to pray with perseverance and to pray with clarity. Persevering prayer gives us the right perspective. Persevering prayer teaches us humility, diligence, discipline and determination.  Persevering prayer keeps us alert to the work and heart of God and alert to the work of the enemy. Persevering prayer openswp-15379784235539114675142409163479.png our heart to the transforming work of God within us. This is exactly why sometimes a situation, though we pray, does not change. It is the very thing God is using to refine, prune and conform us to the likeness of Christ, to teach us how to trust Him completely and how to persevere in prayer on behalf of others. We are called to stand in the gap and persevere in prayer for other believers when they are experiencing weakness and tribulation (see Galatians 4:19).  We often are quick to pray asking God to remove the uncomfortable things from our lives rather than ask, if it is those things He has chosen to refines us, to let them remain until that work is accomplished in, through and for us (see Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:6-7). We don’t have to understand everything to persevere in prayer. We don’t have to have the “right” words.  Sometimes persevering prayer is just getting into His presence with tears and wordless gasps and moans because your heart is hurting, but God knows and hears those kind of prayers too sweet sister friend. We can persevere in prayer on the basis of God’s faithfulness, love and great compassion for us, a compassion He acts out of on our behalf in His perfect ways and timing (Lamentations 3:21-24, Psalm 25:4-6, Psalm 34:4-8,17-18).

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:3

We always have an attentive audience with our Heavenly Father. He is inclined to incline toward us (Psalm 40:1).  He always longs for us to draw near to Him in prayer and He promises to meet us there, to hear our prayers, even the ones we just don’t seem to have the strength or hope to utter(see 1 Samuel 1:9-20, Hebrews 4:14-16, Romans 8:26-27). While God does not mean for us to go through prayer “hoops”, learning to persevere in prayer through His promises strengthens our faith in His faithfulness, draws us nearer to Him and the sweetness and comfort of His presence. Persevering prayer helps us to continuously seek and  surrender to God’s sovereign rule in our lives and therefore no matter what circumstances we are facing we are kept and guarded by His perfect peace(see Philippians 4:7 and Colossians 3:15). We learn to persist in prayer by praying. It isn’t our words necessarily, as much as it is the One to whom we pray and the positioning of our hearts with which we approach Him. He is able and willing to both change our circumstances and/or change us that we are able to walk through those trying situations, becoming more like or Lord and Savior and making an impact on others around us for His glory. When we are weak, undone and ready to throw in the towel, when we go to Him in prayer and ask and believe Him for what He promises, we will receive fresh strength and hope to carry on, to persevere and to overcome in the power of His name (see Romans 8:31-39).

In ending our chat on the porch today, I want to introduce you another sweet, precious, sister friend of mine and leave you with her story of persevering prayer and praise. We share a love of coffee, big cups and a sense of humor; she has the sweetest smile and spirit. I am honored she is allowing me to share a “piece” of her with you. I am not including her name, but  it is her “apron of strength” you see in the picture below and now her story:

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 “To be a woman of faith [strength] I can know God is with me when the pain is more than I can bear. He has amazing ways to always show me that He is with me. I will share the time that I did not understand until much later because so much of me was in shock. I could function but not completely deal with each day. This was after the sudden death of my husband. The reason that I was able to function at all was because as soon as I began to wake up each morning my mind filled with the song, ‘He is Lord, He is Lord, He has risen from the dead and He is Lord. Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.’  When that moment was over I could get up and go through my limited day’s routine. Much later I realized and could share the wonder of His daily reminder each morning. I do not know how long this lasted, but there are still moments those words still fill my mind, and the peace and joy are there to reassure me that my Lord is with me, no matter how bumpy life’s journey becomes. Oh how He loves me and I just praise His holy name.”

 Ya’ll excuse and forgive me, I do not know who to credit the words or tune of this song but what a wonderful way to leave our time together until we meet again…let’s exalt together our amazing Savior and offer Him a sweet fragrance (better than pumpkin spice 😉 ) of thanksgiving with our praise today: “He is Lord, He is Lord, He has risen form the dead and He is Lord, Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

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Until next time, remember you are always welcomed and always loved by an amazing God,

Rhonda

 

Copyright 2018 Rhonda Loftis All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirty Aprons, Stones, Grace and What if…

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Hey friends, welcome to the front porch where you are always welcomed, always loved. This is where we gather just as we are, to come alongside each other to share strength for our struggles and cheers for our victories. I am so glad you are here, kick off your slippers, grab a chair and let’s chat awhile. I got some apple cinnamon muffins in the oven and some French vanilla caramel coffee in a big cup for ya!

Can you feel that Fall chill in the air? (Well, maybe not in the Deep South yet, it is more wp-15359997515753781355289238790480.pnglike Flummer, lol). Have you had your fill of pumpkin yet? I am a lover of all seasons and I so enjoy seeing the handiwork of God each unique one brings. Though sometimes, I am not so keen on certain elements of the seasons. Just like in life, I do not always like what God may be using in certain seasons of my life, I do not always love the plan, but I do trust there is a purpose for all God allows in each season so the fruit to His glory can come forth. For it His desire and to His glory we bear much fruit; each season has necessary “elements” that help produce what is needed for the fruit that is to come (John 15). We can trust the Master Gardener’s hand; He knows exactly what we need. What “season” of life do you feel you are in currently? How can you see God working in your life during this time? I feel like God has me in a season of faith stretching, leaning into Him and reminding myself of His promises sometimes minute by wordswag_15356388420282309817425408882742.pngminute. And the more I lean into Him in complete trust, the greater my peace…deeper intimacy with Him is what I want. That is what I want for you also, deeper intimacy with the God of the Universe, the Creator and Lover of your soul, the One who goes out of His way to get to you, to have all your heart. I want you to want more than anything the One who delights in you and who wants to transform your life from glory to glory as you behold Him in His beauty and holiness. I want you to be overwhelmed by His goodness and grace and filled with His fullness no matter what season you are in.  Today we are going to see a season of shame turn into a season of salvation and restoration. Today we are going to see us from different sides. This blog has long been in the making, a story that has long been swirling on my heart.

 Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. (John 8:3, Read the rest of the story in John 8:1-11)

I can hardly read the story in John 8:1-11 without tears coming to my eyes almost every time. It leaves me overwhelmed with gratitude and relief for the greatness of God’s holiness, mercy, and grace displayed in His Son, Jesus Christ. Because here is the deal, but it not for the Man in the middle, we could all be the woman in the center, standing condemned. Or one of those circled up in the crowd with hard hearts clenching stones, blinded from their own need of His mercy. We all could be her; we all could be them, if not for the mercy and grace of God (see Ephesians 2:4-7, 1 Peter 2:10).

The Woman

Her, the unnamed woman standing in the center with Jesus, brought out and exposed in her sin and marked for death. It does not say what she was feeling or how she was behaving but if you have ever been found out, caught in the act, felt the weight of guilt and shame of your sin how would you feel? I can tell you I would feel alone, fearful, helpless, dirty, guilty, ashamed, and just wanting to disappear into the air; I have felt all those things as a result of my sin. And you know what, Jesus could have distracted those circled up in that crowd and sent that woman away, but He had a much better life transforming plan in mind.  The Bible teaches us in Isaiah 53:6,

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one, to his [her] own way (Emphasis mine)

The woman turned her own way, now face to face with God in the flesh, holiness in the flesh, mercy in the flesh, grace in the flesh, truth in the flesh. The focus here is not on the type of sin, but the sinner, recognizing her need of mercy and forgiveness and the Savior who was the only one with the power to forgive and deliver. She was not in the wrong place at the wrong time; she was exactly where she needed to be. The best place for her to be, the best place for us to be, is in the center of the circle with Jesus because that is the place where His holiness takes hold of us and His mercy and grace transform us. It is in the light of His holiness our sin is exposed and we see it for what it is; we see what we truly deserve as a result of our sin, our deep need for His mercy and forgiveness and how so undeserving we are. As painful as it can be exposure is necessary for transformation.

When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they…Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord,” she answered. Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” (John 10-11, Emphasis mine)

Exposure helps us see our sin in light of God’s holiness so we can see our need for the only One who can saves us (see Isaiah 6:1-7). God’s holiness is the light we need to lead us to repentance, transformation, to conformity to the likeness of Christ. It is His mercy wordswag_15305469192287696328026219146274.pngthat allows us to experience the weight of our sin, to see its ugliness and to see our need for mercy. A loving-kindness He so readily and lavishly and richly has given us in Christ who paid our sin debt. It is His presence, light, truth and mercy that lead us to repentance and change. Notice those four words at the end of verse 11…do not sin anymore. We cannot have transformation without repentance.

 This woman was forgiven by God’s grace in Jesus Christ and it was by the same grace she was to go a different way, to turn from her sinful life to new life, a transformed life. The expectation was for her to go and live differently because of what Christ had done for her. Forgiven, saved, redeemed, restored, justified…As we receive by faith what Christ has done for us, we can stand in the center with our Savior, we can lift our heads unashamed in the face of our accuser and say, “That is not who I am, I belong to Him now, I am being made anew!” We can leave differently than how we came! That was God’s plan for this woman that day, not death, but life, new life in Christ! Those that wished to disgrace her and take her life walked her right into Grace and her freedom! Yes, exposure of our sin can be painful, consequences can be painful, but we cannot have true freedom without it. God offers us the tender compassion of a Savior and His grace to cover us as He allows those things to be used for our good and His glory.  She came wordswag_15356308914279136016194330154737.pngenslaved to sin but through forgiveness and repentance she can leave free, different, changed. Sisters, that is what grace does, and it is truly amazing. As His daughters the accuser can no longer drag us out, disgrace us, strip and expose us because we are transformed and being conformed form glory to glory, clothed with a garment of salvation and covered with His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10, 2 Corinthians 3:18,5:21, Colossians 3:5-10). After coming face to face with the Savior, full of grace and truth, we get to leave differently too!

The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” When they heard this, they left one by one… (John 8:7, 9).

The Crowd

The crowd…not caught in the act but sinners just the same. Their sin was no lesser than the woman in the center; their need for His mercy no less. The stone clenching crowd cared nothing about this woman or who she was. They just saw her as a means to use to entrap Jesus and have something to accuse Him. Their hearts were not set by mercy but hardened by hate. They were so blinded by self-righteousness they could not see their own need for Jesus. Their hardness of heart and unbelief had put great distance between themselves and God in the flesh, away from His holiness, grace, goodness, mercy, light and truth. They did not see a need only a target. The stones may have dropped from their hand but not their hearts; they still turned away from Jesus, their only Savior. Sweet friend, what “stones” are you clenching that are keeping you from experiencing the mercy, forgiveness and grace of Christ? Are you holding onto bitterness, unbelief, hate, anger, hurt, un-forgiveness, fear or jealousy? What sins do you need to repent of that are standing between you and His transforming grace? Are you so focused on casting your “stone” you are missing the forgiveness and freedom Christ wants to give you? You cannot experience His forgiveness and grace if you are unwilling to let go of your “stones”. As long as you are focused on the sin of someone else you cannot be in His light to see your own sin and your own need. Jesus’ message of forgiveness and grace is for you too, but beloved friend you have to drop the stones and turn to Him, admit your need for His mercy, ask for His forgiveness and receive His grace by faith. You too can leave differently today, He has the truth and power to free and heal you!

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The Church

Awhile back ago God again brought the story in John 8:1-11 to my mind but with a different focus. We don’t know what happened to this woman after her encounter with Jesus, we simply are just not told. I like to believe she did just as Jesus said; she went and lived differently, never willingly returning to a life of sin. Just as we are to live differently after receiving Him as Savior as displays of His splendor, glory and grace to show a lost world that Christ truly does change lives!

I started imagining what the rest of her story might have been like after she left Jesus presence, so bear with me here as I share what stirred in my heart: What if a woman, maybe just a bystander watching what was happening that day, who had been quietly following Jesus, listening and hanging on to his every word, watching his example of mercy and love and knowing her own great need for what He offered…What if she caught up with that woman who was in the center of that angry crowd, she who knew something different had happened within her. She who knew she did not want to go back to where she was, who she was, but did not know quite what to do…What if the woman who was a quiet follower of Jesus caught up with her, invited her into her home, wordswag_15306436983421180681141164638215.pnggave her fresh water to bathe in, washed her feet, gave her some clean clothes to put on…What if she prepared a meal for her, gave her a bed to rest in and then began speaking to her of all she had learned of the love of Christ and they began to grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord together. What if soon they invited a few more broken, sinful women to join them…What if they began to really love on these women and the other sinners all around them, doing good unto them without expectation, listening to their stories, inviting them to gather with them to share how Jesus had changed their hearts, how He had changed their lives and then their lives began being changed by the power, truth and love of Christ and the example of these two women. One no longer an adulteress and one no longer a bystander but both bold followers of Jesus Christ, daughters of the King making disciples, multiplying His love, furthering His Kingdom!  What if…Y’all this is what we are called to do, the church, you and me,  we are to become “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5,9-10) not casting stones. We are called to take our place in the “center of the circle” with the sinner and extended the mercy and grace of Christ because we understand how desperate we all are for Him. Sisters in Christ, we are the church! This is where we pick up, only Christ can convict, only He can forgive and save but the church carries the Gospel, this is where we pick up. We are to come alongside the broken and cast out and bring them closer to the Savior through our faithful example through obeying His truth, our humility, our love; to show them how to follow Him and 20180723_1008187980730418866752111.jpglove Him and live differently, to be extensions of His grace and mercy, to continue His Kingdom work until His return. We pick up here sisters, we pick each other up, and we become the hands, the feet and the message of Christ. Sometimes we are that woman in the center in need of mercy, sometimes like one in the crowd in need to let go of our stones and sometimes we are called to come alongside those, offering love, grace, direction and strength, to show them Jesus really does make a difference, so we can all go and live differently!

We all, with unveiled faces, are beholding…the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

 Until our next visit, remember you are always welcomed, always loved in the presence of the Savior, as you are…

With much love from my porch to yours,

Rhonda

Copyright 2018 Rhonda Loftis

 

 

 

 

It is time to tighten those apron strings sister!

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The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:9

Howdy Ya’ll and welcome back (or Welcome for the first time) to the Aprons and Iron virtual “front porch” where you are always welcomed and always loved! I am so glad you are here fellow struggler, striver and thriver. Come on up and grab a chair or take a seat in the swing, let me fill up your cup up with some fresh coffee fixed just the way you like it. Grab a piece of buttery toast and slather it with some homemade strawberry jam.

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This apron was sent to me by my very special “sunshine” friend Brenda

Sit down and close your eyes a minute, take a deep breath. Now answer this question: How is your soul?  Have you been practicing resting in Christ since our last visit? Remember rest is to be a reality for our souls. When we are resting, abiding, in the security of our Shepherd we will not lack any good thing! There is nothing that helps my mind rest more than thinking on and believing in God’s goodness. God is good, do you believe that today? Last time we talked about loosening those apron strings and learning to rest but today we are talking about tightening those strings sister and taking up our shield of faith!

 

 

One of my most favorite spots to spend time with God is on my front porch in my

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I like big cups and I cannot lie lol

favorite chair first thing in the morning (and oh yes, with some coffee in my favorite big cup). Often I will start by just closing my eyes and listening to the birds as I remind myself of Matthew 6:26 and Matthew 10:29-31 where Jesus says,

 

Consider the birds of the sky. They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?”(Matthew 6:26, Emphasis mine)

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Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31, Emphasis mine)

Then I open my eyes and look at the trees and the grass, whatever is in bloom around me, and I think on Matthew 6: 28-30 where Jesus says,

And why do you worry…Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow; they neither toil nor spin…Now if God so clothes the grass of the field…won’t He do much more for you” (Emphasis mine).

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Notice in these two verses Jesus tells us to consider and observe. It is like He is saying, “Rhonda, Rhonda my child, stop, slow down, look around. Why are you worrying? Can you find any evidence proving me guilty of not being faithful to take care of my creation, to take care of you? Do you believe you are worth so much more to me than any of my creation? Have I ever failed to take care of you?” Well of course the answer to those questions is no! He has never failed to take care of me and my family. Yet, there are times I worry away, sowing seeds of fear by my “What ifs…” My mind toiling and spinning away wondering how I am going to “fix” this or solve that or control for this to keep that from happening, how I am going to get done all that I need to do? Reaping doubt and gathering up more worry for my tomorrows and though I don’t want to admit it, all the while I am questioning His goodness and committing the sin of unbelief! Three different times in these verses Jesus points to the value we have as God’s children, and because we belong to Him, He will always keep a faithful record with His own marked with His abundant goodness! I cannot and will not ever prove Him wrong with all my worry buy I can miss His peace, His rest with my unbelief.

Honestly, I have a huge tendency to be a doubter.  I tend to over-complicate and over-think things and lack confidence (a lethal combination lol). I can flat out get myself to the point where I UN-BELIEVE God. (I don’t really mean to do this but if I am honest this is what happens.) I pray and say, “God I am trusting you for…” then I set to work trying to work out my own plan, a no fail plan, a plan where I can’t disappoint God,wp-15348093631454462074048898729189.png myself or anyone (I think this is also called the sin of pride…gulp).  I want to have all the unknowns known and a plan for all the unplanned.  (Are you enjoying this look into my head? You are probably thinking, “I need a stronger cup of coffee for this chat today.”) What all this “toiling” and “spinning” away boils down to is my whittling away any room to practice faith, to depend on God for what is His to begin with and only what He can do. I leave Him no room to show forth His work and power on my behalf, so I end up doing nothing but a bunch of worrying because I can’t come up with a plan that alleviates all my fears. This isn’t faith, trust or obedience, it is self-reliance, self-protection.  It is asking, no, more like demanding, God to give me all the assurances and answers rather than trusting Him completely. It is leaning on my own understanding. Ultimately, it is my saying in my heart, “Lord, you are unworthy of my surrender and trust. I am going to believe my fears over Your truth.” (Ouch!)

 Without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who comes to God must BELIEVE that He is, and that He is a rewarded of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

I have a Spirit empowered calling on my life and if you’re His child you do too! We have spiritual gifts, experiences, testimonies and many other things God has blessed us with and we want to use those for His glory however and where ever He wants. But we have to be diligent and do our part and quickly find a detour away from Doubtville. We have to believe Him, take Him at His word and this requires the work of faith. Not a “roll up your sleeves and try harder” in our own strength “work”; it is resting by faith in the Gospel of Christ, the “It is finished” work He has accomplished on our behalf based on His worthiness, His unfailing faithfulness and the power of God who has proven time and time again He is for us, He is faithful, always good and keeps His word. We walk by faith, by keeping our eyes on the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:1-2).  Faith is the active demonstration of our belief in God alone, not ourselves, our abilities, our plans, other people or our circumstances. Every day we choose or choose not to believe Him and we will act according to what we believe! We will either sit on the ground flapping our wings in a frazzled flurry going nowhere fast or we will spread our wings and soar with His strength fueling our faith (Isaiah 40:28-31).  It is by His grace, not our grit that we get to live by faith.

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Praise the Lord, God in His goodness is not settling for me to be a chronic doubter. He is graciously helping me overcome my unbelief, and He is using something I would have never expected (Go figure!). This week marks a huge step of faith for us as a family that has been two years in the making.  This week we began our first ever homeschooling adventure with our 7th grade son! If you know me you are probably thinking, “Say what!?” (I know, right. You need another cup of coffee?) I can tell you this was such a God thing because homeschooling was not even on my life radar. I mean I was one of those people that said, “I would never home-school…blah, blah, blah…” I was the one who thought home-school people were weird and sheltering their children from the “real world”.  (Please don’t hate on me home-school peeps. I’m just being real and transparent here. I realize I was way wrong and now I am totally glad to be a part of the tribe. I am even going to get a bumper sticker that says, “Hot Home-school Mom” he he 😉 ). But God, who knows me so completely, planted the desire in my heart from what seems like nowhere and I did not understand why. But we began praying by faith that God would make His will clear. I have it marked in my prayer journal:  August 31, 2016 was the day we began committing it to the Lord in prayer and by August 2017 He had confirmed His will through Scripture, a peace that passes all understanding and He continues to confirm His plan for us to home-school through the encouragement and support of  others cheering us on and our circumstances.  This has meant some significant changes for me and our family. It has meant saying “Yes Lord” by faith even when I was not sure, and still not sure, of how it will all work out. I had to let go of my very false sense of any control I thought I had or could have.  I had to decide obedience was more important than any concerns I had and about what others would say or think. Awhile back ago I sensed God saying to me; “Rhonda, It is not your job to win the approval of others for your obedience to Me!” (#truthbomb and Yes, Sir!) That was very freeing! My job is to aim to please One, my Heavenly Father. On this journey I had to and will continue to have to overcome many fears by faith. But I so much rather be conquering fortresses of fears with my Almighty Warrior King than building them! Halleluiah, can I get a witness!  The only plan I have is to trust Him, believe His word, declare His truth, believe that what He calls me to He equips me for and obey Him and that is the only plan He wants me to have! And that is His best plan, and for whatever you are needing faith for, it is His best plan for you too! So ladies, put on your faith apron and tighten up those strings with His truth, believe in His goodness and move forward!

You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith, which is more precious than gold…may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7

Living by faith isn’t taking steps toward the unknown; it is actually taking steps toward the One who knows. Our faith is strengthened because we come to know in deeper ways and greater intimacy the One that is in control and has us covered, always secure in His hand and tender, loving care. This #faithwalking is not easy, life is hard and uncertain, but God is good! Do you believe that today? I would love for you to leave a comment and share how you are #faithwalking in your life right now; you never know how your words will encourage someone else, and if you are struggling, like we all do from time to time, I would love the opportunity to pray for you.

(Here is some of my favorite fear busting truths: Isaiah 41:10, 13, 1 Peter 1:3-8, Hebrews 10:35-36 and 2 Peter 1:5-7, 9-11)

Ya’ll come back now ya hear! Until then, thank you for stopping by the porch where you are always welcomed and always loved, Rhonda

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This is a picture of my grandmother’s front porch, a place that holds such a special place in my heart. Photo credit to my amazing sister. 

 Copyright 2018 Rhonda Loftis

Loosen Those Strings

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The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul…Psalm 23:1-2

Howdy friends! Welcome to the “front porch” where you are always welcomed and always loved just as you are.  This is where we cheer each other on as fellow strugglers, strivers and thrivers.  A place where we sit a spell together to find rest on our journey, an encouraging word, a good belly laugh or silent understanding. Grab your chair or a place on the swing, kick off your shoes, grab a cup of coffee or tea, smell the fresh cut grass and butter up your muffin, “for everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven”, including a time to tighten those apron strings and a time to loosen them, today we are going to learn how to loosen those strings girl!

School time, schedules and activities (Oh my!) are about to get real again gals.  I had to start using a calendar again this past week (my calendar and I broke up for a while at the end of last school year). How many times have you said it already (or thought it) this past week or today: “I am busy…It is just a busy time of the year…Man, my week is soooo busy…I am really busy this week…It’s gettin’ busy up in here!” (my favorite version). My 20180813_1038496149399460416488567.jpgcurrent calendar has this phrase on the front: “Bloom Where You Are Planted” and all I’m thinking is, “I can’t bloom dadgumit, I’m too busy to stay planted anywhere.”

OK, so how many times have you said this, this past week: “I am resting.” I bet you nowhere near as frequent or maybe not at all, compared to the b-u-s-y word. (In fact, people would probably look at you like you were crazy if you responded with that phrase and start asking where they could get what you are on.) That word has a lot of power over our lives, it’s almost an identity. It goes like this, Friend: “Hey, how are you doing?” You: “I am doing good, just busy…” (a.k.a. “Hello, my name is Busy. I live at 101 Busy Lane, I am married to Mr. Busy and we have four kids, Busy 1, Busy 2, Busy 3 and Busy 4 and a dog named Buster Busy. I drive a car to busy and back from busy. I cook and serve up some busy most nights of the week, I wash my hair with busy shampoo, and I stay busy doing busy here and busy there. I am trying to read a book about how not to be so busy but I am too busy to read past the cover.) We do “busy” a lot and well! Of course, I am having a little fun here, but the truth is we are not lacking for some busy in our lives but busy without rest can leave us lacking!

I hate to bust our busy bubbles but sometimes I think that is exactly what we need; busy wordswag_15341147612895754011525125610393.pngis not a fruit of the Spirit and green pastures and still waters are not just poetic phrases; rest is to be a reality for our souls. How often do we say “I am busy…” but what we are really doing is stressing, worrying; we are anxiety stricken because “busy” and our perception about what busy with “balance” should look like is bossing us around and we are no match for what seems an unceasing demand on our time and mental and physical energies.  Sweet sister friends, we have to take time to guard our souls with rest because Satan loves to use the disguise of busy to keep us distracted and distant from God, our source of abundant life, rest, peace and joy.  Proverbs 4:23 says,

Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.”

How do we guard our hearts in and from busy? We go to God daily and frequently, we rest our cares in His very capable and able hands and we rest at His feet with a teachable heart through His word, prayer and fellowship with Him. We confess our need for Him and His guidance for our days and depend on His strength not our own; we abide in His love and words of life through obedience (see John 15). Resting in Christ helps us guard our hearts, guarding our hearts gives us rest.

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There is a difference in a busy necessary to accomplish work, goals and tasks as a part of our responsibilities and a busyness driven by anxiety. This anxiety driven busyness drains us physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It can cause resentment, bitterness, discontentment, discord, disappointment and discouragement. It keeps us striving to master a “performance” we can never master and keeps us from experiencing the true gift of rest for our souls.

If you have your Bible handy take a minute to prayerfully read and “chew on” Luke 10:38-42 with me. I absolutely love this story and I am sure it is familiar to many of you. I think it shows us a wonderful illustration of what it means to guard our hearts with rest and keep our busy in proper perspective. To start off with, I really like the wording the Amplified Bible uses in verse 40-41,

But Martha was very busy and distracted… (v. 40, Emphasis mine)

Martha was not just busy she was distracted. Distracted from what? There was something she needed, something that required her attention and it was not setting the table, getting the bread out of the oven, cleaning the house, getting the laundry done, getting a workout in, going to the store, etc. In verse 41 Jesus says,

Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things; but only one thing is necessary” (Emphasis mine)

Busy and distracted…only one thing is necessary.  Nope, not in my world, there are many things necessary and they all need to be done yesterday, right? Notice Jesus does not condemn or rebuke Martha because she was busy.  Jesus saw through to the priorities of her heart, He saw past what the busyness was masking; he knew her thoughts and He tenderly addresses her worry, her anxiety about so many things. Because that is what happens with anxiety, one thought left unchecked with truth, left to take on a life of its own, turns into “many things”; we kick into attempt to control gear, become consumed, overwhelmed, misguided, full of fear and even angry.  Martha was anxious, hurt and angry. I think she felt alone and forgotten, not cared for, unnoticed and maybe unloved. Maybe she was feeling like it all depended on her and she was buckling under the weight of “I can’t do this…” That is the kind of faulty (and prideful) thinking I have been fueled by many times; my busy is really an attempt to control, because I am operating in fear and not resting in Christ by faith. What I really believe is more depends on me than God (ouch!) If I was wearing the shirt to reflect this it would say, “All I need today is a whole lotta me and a little bit of Jesus.” Often Satan tempts us to “manage” our anxiety through the busyness of self-reliance which will wear-us-out-every-single-time.

Look at Luke 10:40, and imagine how the Enemy might have used this anxiety to convince Martha of what was not true. Can’t you just hear the Devil whispering to her, “Look, You think he cares about you? It seems no one really does, not even your sister. You are left to handle all this on your own as usual. He does not even notice you and all the hard work you are doing. He loves Mary more than you. In fact, he probably doesn’t love you at all or he would have already spoken with you, commended you for all you are doing, acknowledged all your efforts and commanded someone to help you. No, he does not care about or love you at all.” Have you heard lies similar to these whispered by the enemy? I have and I have believed them.  I have been so caught up in being busy, self-reliant (and self-centered) and all I think I am supposed to do and thinking “God, do you see me? Do you even care? Do you see all I have to do? You know what all I have to get done. Someone has to do these things Lord, someone has to take care of this or it is not going to get done. No one else seems to care if these things get done or not…and what if this and what if that, then what Lord…are you going to help?” Martha needed a perspective shift and a priority change, Martha needed to rest. Sometimes we need the same thing.  And Jesus was about to offer her an invitation for just what she needed. Look at verse 39 and 42,

She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was continually listening to His teaching…’for Mary has chosen the good part [that which is to her advantage], which cannot be taken away from her’.” (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine)

Our degree of busyness is a choice and it will determine our priority of or lack of rest. Notice what Jesus said to Martha, “Mary has chosen…” and Martha could choose too. We can choose. The same invitation available to Mary was the same invitation available to Martha and to us. The invitation to rest, abide in Christ continually.  Martha’s “busy”, driven by her anxiety, was keeping her distracted from Jesus; it was keeping her from abiding rest. Here is my big take home:  Lack of abiding in Christ = Lack of rest = Experiencing lack = An anxious mind.  I will feel lack when I am not abiding, when Christ is not my first and most desired thing, when I am not learning to trust Him in the busy, worry and unrest will take over my life and result in an anxious mind. I noticed I struggle more with discontentment, discouragement and distraction when I sense lack in my life; lack of abiding rest, lack of trust, lack of His truth centering my heart and guarding my mind. Psalm 34:10 says,

“But they who seek the Lord will not lack any good thing.”

Matthew 6:25-34 and Matthew 11:28-30 echo this same truth about resting in God’s presence and trusting His provision. And I love this, in Mark 4:35-41, as a massive storm is going on and the disciples fear for their lives, verse 38 says,

He [Jesus] was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion.”(CSB)

I am pretty sure if Jesus can rest in the middle of a storm then He means for us to make rest a priority too! What we do should flow from times of rest not worry.  I believe we can fully experience the peace Christ promises even in the midst of our “busy”.

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Most of the time our “busy” reflects our  labors of love. This is how we honor and glorify God  (see Hebrews 6:10-12). We are caring for and providing for our families, we are ministering to others, and we are serving in jobs and ministries and other work we are passionate about because we want to be used to make a difference, we want to love well those in our spheres of influence. Being busy is not wrong and life is truly busy! Being busy means we are using our gifts, it means we have many blessings and a healthy mind and body to do and take care of all that has been entrusted to us, but let’s make sure we are making abiding rest a priority so we can steward well and faithfully all God has given us.

Therefore my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body also rest securely. You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy…”Psalm 16:9, 11

So ladies loosen up those apron strings with me and choose abiding rest. Make time daily to sit at His feet and soak in His loving care. May your soul have rest and your busy be blessed. Thanks for stopping by the porch, come back again real soon. Until then I will save a chair just for you.

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Always loved, always welcomed on the porch and in His presence,

Rhonda

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Rhonda Loftis. All rights reserved.

 

 

Apron Armor

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Copyright 2018 by Rhonda Loftis

“God-He clothes with me with strength and makes my way perfect. You have clothed me with strength for battle”. Psalm 18:32, 39

Howdy friends and welcome to the front porch, where we don’t do fancy but we do do friendly! Have a seat, grab a fresh blueberry muffin, take a deep breath, smell the wildflowers (or coffee is my fragrance of choice) and give God thanks for something today out loud! Shout it out and bless Him with some praise! Lord, thank you for a cool, cloudy day and the sound of rain!

Did you all notice the new Aprons to Iron logo picture reveal!? It was a hard decision but many of  you helped me narrow it down, thank you(#overthinker)! I decided to go with the color picture because you can see the different style, beauty and detail of each apron. It reminds us that the Aprons to Iron front porch is a special gathering place where we each uniquely reflect the image of our Creator and Heavenly Father. Then I had a wonderful friend comment, in regards to the angle of this particular picture, “I like how your focus goes to the sky above, as if looking to God instead of comparing our aprons.” I thought that was a very cool perspective!  Because here, we choose the beauty of community over comparison.  I want to say a big “thank you” to my sweet sister friends who let me borrow their own personal aprons to help with the graphics for my blog.  I am incredibly honored they allowed me to use them.  May the new logo picture serve as a reminder of how God has you covered!  That He is your endless supply of strength, that your own unique story and purpose matter because He is for you beautiful friend, and that we all have something good we can pass along to help build another up!

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“…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

I am so glad to be taking a rest with you here on the front porch today.  Maybe you can only sit awhile…I hope the time you spend here refreshes you for the rest of what is ahead of you, because life sometimes feels like a “battle” with little rest! God has been speaking to me a lot about battles recently. In fact, right now as I am writing this, my living room has been turned into a battle field for an epic Nerf gun war between Twin #1 and Twin #2(Is it time for school to start yet lol). Dodging Nerf gun bullets as I write is not my idea of multi-tasking!

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Twin #1 and Twin #2 helping create the right kind of atmosphere for my blog theme this week

When I started this whole blogging journey my mind endured a battle with an onslaught of defeating lies like, “No one cares what you have to say…Who do you think you are…You are just trying to be like so and so…You think this blogging is going to be easy…You do not have time for a blog, this is selfish…You just want to be noticed…Your motives are not right…You will start and fail at this like you have so many times…You do not have what it takes…!” And on and on the Enemy taunted and accused me…sometimes I listened, I entertained his lies as truth, and I believed him! Just getting this blog posted on “battles” has been a battle this week! Let me let you in on a little secret the devil does not want you to know: simply believing in God is not a problem for Satan, but believing Him is! Because when we choose faith, when we actively, purposefully and diligently demonstrate complete trust in our Heavenly Father it is a threat to him. When by faith we take God at His Word in obedience and know without a doubt that “He who is faithful will do it!” in us, through us and for us…Well sister friend, that rattles the enemy’s already defeated bones and threatens him like nothing else! He does not want us to have faith; he wants us faithless and paralyzed, ineffective in our place and purpose in the advancement of the kingdom of Christ! 

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I think God has me in some battle training because my husband and I are taking some  major steps of faith, saying,  “Yes God!” in obedience to some big things and boy the devil is working hard against us.  I once had a pastor that would often say, “Where there is divine operation, there will be satanic opposition”. Ain’t that the truth! Faith works, but rarely is it a smooth and easy path; we will meet strong resistance through the world, our flesh and Satan. That is why I love the reminder in these verses: “…who through faith conquered kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight.” (Hebrews 11:33-34, emphasis mine) God always uses the “battles” of life to make us stronger!

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While we take a rest here on the porch, I would like to share a few things I am learning about fighting “battles” in hopes when we go back out we can brave our battles better. (I have shared a list of Scripture at the end that I have been reading to encourage and strengthen me with truth for my “battles”). In my battle training God is teaching me three applications through His Word: to prepare myself, position myself and praise Him! First, it is normal to be afraid when facing a “battle”.  It means we recognize we cannot go at it alone; this helps us see our need to depend on God.  Fear does not always mean there is an absence of faith.  In 2 Chronicles 20, after King Jehoshaphat received a report about the size of the enemy armies that were coming for him, verse 3 says,

“Jehoshaphat was afraid and he resolved to seek the Lord.”  (He went straight to God with his fear. ) And later on in verse 12 he says, “For we are powerless before this vast number that comes to fight against us. We do not know what to do, but we look to You (emphasis mine).”

That is faith!  When we are preparing for our “battles” our first step of faith is to run to God and cry out to Him for help. We need to humble ourselves and confess our fears, our weaknesses and powerlessness, sins we are struggling with(sometimes that is the battle), anything that will hinder our fight of faith and cry out to Him for forgiveness, strength, wisdom and courage, and not just once but every time fear rises in our hearts. “Battles” come in all different shapes and sizes, but there is not one I have or will ever be able to win on my own! And you won’t win any on your own.  Your battle may look different than mine but the need for His help and the promise of God’s faithfulness is the same.  Battles are going to come; God has taught me I need to be prepared for battle through constant prayer, His Word and keeping my eyes on Him by faith.  Since we know battles are going to come we need to learn how to take our battle position.  Again, in 2 Chronicles 20, after seeking the Lord, Jehoshaphat and the people received instruction from God through Jahaziel on how to face their enemies, how to take their position, because the only way to defeat the enemy  is to meet him head on! Look what he says in verses 15-17,

“Do not be afraid or discouraged…for the battle is not yours, but God’s.  Tomorrow, go down against them…You do not have to fight this battle [meaning physically]. Position yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.  He is with you (emphasis mine).”

Your “battle” may require certain things from you.  God may be allowing your battle to get you to a place of submission and surrender, not to the enemy but to Him! And until you do, victory will not come. There may be decisions and changes you need to make, conversations you need to have, forgiveness you need to seek and give, boundaries you need to set, some things you need to let go of, you may need to just be still and patiently wait on God. Often, my battle position requires me to let go of control, wait on and trust God! Our battles are not necessarily actual physical fights, like we read about in the OT, but they are always spiritual and require supernatural spiritual weapons (See Ephesians 6:10-20, 2 Corinthians 10:4-6). The application is to position ourselves in submission and surrender to God’s battle plan and not our own.  This requires prayer for discernment, direction and obedience. The plan and provision for and the outcome of the battle belongs to the Lord; the victory is for our good and His glory.

And finally, after we prepare and position ourselves we go forward with praise to Him for Who He is, His faithfulness and who we are in Christ.

Psalm 18: 3 says, “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised and I am saved from my enemies (emphasis mine).”

The enemy’s main weapon against us are his lies and he knows exactly where to aim them, at our greatest weaknesses.  Lies to discourage and disappoint, to create doubt in God and to draw us away from Him to defeat.  Yep, that is what he relentlessly lives to do and he is good at it, but He is no match for our Almighty God.  Ladies, we need to get better at declaring God’s praise than Satan is at spewing lies! That is why praise is so important in the battle because praise is a powerful weapon! Praise silences the enemy! Praise is how we declare God’s truth to render Satan’s lies powerless. Return one last time to 2 Chronicles 20. Verse 12 says,

“Then he (Jehoshaphat)…appointed some to sing for the Lord and some to praise the splendor of His holiness. When they went out in front of the armed forces, they kept singing: Give thanks to the Lord, for His faithful love endures forever (emphasis mine).”

We are reminded over and over again of the importance and power of praise and thanksgiving throughout the Bible.  1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 reminds us that praise and thanksgiving are God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.  Because of Christ, because of what He has already accomplished for us, because He has already crushed Satan under his feet,  we are never without something to give God thanks for.  When we focus on who He is and who we are in Christ through praise, Satan’s lies are silenced-our focus is on God and not the size of our enemy, our perspective changes and we can always expect victory to come to us  through Him.  “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

This side of heaven we are going to have to do battle, but the battles belong to the Lord and He is for us, He will give us the strength we need to overcome! Y’all there are many battle worn and weary women out there, you may be one of them, I sure have been from time to time, like this week! There are others who need to see our faithfulness in and hear our praise out from the battle, they need encouragement, help believing and hoping that the same God who is getting you through will get them through too. They need to see by our example we believe HE IS ABLE! Now excuse me as I strike my “warrior pose”.

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You are my hiding place; You, Lord, protect me from trouble; You surround me with songs and shouts of deliverance. Selah. Psalm 32:7

 (Apron “Armor” Scriptures for “battle” encouragement: Joshua 1-6, 14:9-11, 2 Kings 19,2 Chronicles 20:1-30, Psalm 18, 27, 34 ,56,91, Isaiah 41:10,13, Isaiah 54:17, John 4:1-13, 1 Corinthians 15:57-58, 2 Corinthians 10:4-6, Ephesians 6:10-20, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7, Revelation 12:10-11)

Maybe you are in warrior pose today, or maybe you are worn out and battle wearied, either way I am glad you are here on the porch because we are #bettertogether.  I want you to know you are perfectly loved and sufficiently covered by an amazing God. I am glad we always have a resting place in the refuge of our Lord and Savior, He is always with us and that is something to shout about! Please feel free to share any encouraging comments or feedback, not just for me, but because someone else may need to hear what is on your heart.  I love hearing from you! Make sure you subscribe by e-mail and if you feel led to do so, please share with a friend. One way you can do that is with a simple click on the “Facebook” button.  Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you will come back anytime!

Always welcomed and loved on the porch, from my apron to yours,

Rhonda

 

 

Copyright 2018 Rhonda Loftis. All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced without the written permission of the author.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Compare Aprons to Aprons

Front porches are great places to catch up with ol’ friends. Today that is exactly what I get to do…I get to share a chair and a cup of coffee on the porch with an ol’ friend and I get the honor of introducing her to you! I know you are just going to love her as much as I do. Because here is the deal, this front porch is big enough for many! It is not a small place of comparison but a bigger place of community. When I envisioned Aprons to Iron, it was not just a place for my voice to be heard but a place for other women of strength to share their stories of struggle, their hope, their passions; a platform to celebrate that we are more alike than different, and our differences are not to be hi-lighted as faults or color us “green with envy”, but those differences help us be better together. Because have you ever reached any place of success on your own? I sure haven’t. God has used many others in my path to inspire me, cheer me on, to teach me, to bless me, to humble me, to show me what is possible, and remind me I am not alone and I cannot do this life alone…it is not all about me! So from time to time we will have a special friend join us on the front porch to share with us some “apron” lessons of their own. I hope their words will bless and refresh you like a cool breeze, and maybe through their words God will speak strength to your soul.

Continue reading “Don’t Compare Aprons to Aprons”