Think On These Things ~ Ecclesiastes 3:9-22

What gain has the worker from his toil?

I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;

also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil–this is God’s gift to man.

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.

That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness.

I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.

I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.

For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity.

All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.

Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?

So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

What gain has the worker from his toil?

I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;

also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil–this is God’s gift to man.

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.

That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness.

I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.

I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.

For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity.

All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.

Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?

So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

Good To Be Back

The year Sarah graduated she also had four cousins graduate, two were my sisters’ kids and two were my cousins’ kids. Everyone from different schools if I remember correctly.

This past Saturday I had the best time photographing two cousins from church who are graduating this year. I think they have schooled together their entire lives.

It was a great opportunity for me to get to see more of our area as we wandered the streets of downtown Lake Charles. You can still see much evidence of the back to back hurricanes that came through but there are glimpses of what it used to be.

Thankfully, nearly two years after those storms, you can also see some signs of recovery as people and business are beginning to restore and rebuild. It’s fitting to me that both of these young men will be attending New Saint Andrews in Moscow, Idaho as their slogan is Build + Fight. (Think Nehemiah and the people of Israel rebuilding the walls of the temple with a sword in one hand and a shovel in the other.)

Jackson and Wyatt both know the physical and spiritual ramifications of living life this way and I am so excited to see how God strengthens them for work He has called them to do for His name’s sake, both there in college and afterward.

Lovers of Christ, really smart and hardworking and they both play the piano beautifully.

It’s unusual for young men (actually men in general) to make a session so easy but they were quick to respond and eager to keep moving so it really was a lot of fun.

It’s been six months or so since I did a real session and I felt a little rusty. I definitely had some moments of face palming over forgetting some things but all in all it was great to be back behind the camera shooting people! I mean, how could it not have been when they actually brought a sword and a shovel with them? And they also dabbed!

Jackson and Wyatt, may the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you both as you enter this new and exciting season of life. There will be victories because there will be battles but you have been well prepared by your parents to stand fast and be courageous in them. Go, act justly and love mercy and continue to walk humbly with your God.

Come On Over

Sometimes I visit this space with a plethora of words and ideas that tumble over themselves as they escape my brain. Sometimes I sit down here to work through a knotty problem out loud. I talk to myself in real life too but there is something about being able to see my words and rearrange them, moving them to their proper place and finding the right order for my thoughts that satisfies.

Sometimes people read what I’ve written and agree or enjoy them and a conversation blooms. Other times a post I am particularly happy with does not get much traction. But the same thing happens with pictures so I don’t sweat it much. I realize I am not writing anything new or taking pictures of things that no one else has ever seen or taken a picture of before. There is a lack of pressure in that knowledge which allows me to slip in here as if we’re grabbing a cup of coffee and just visiting. Or maybe a better description in sitting down with a cup of coffee to read a letter from a friend.

The weather here this morning is pretty blah with a significant storm system moving through later. We took down my hanging plants and moved all my recently potted flowers onto the porch last night in preparation.

Did I tell you about my first experience with planting flowers here in my new lovely home state of Louisiana? About a month ago Rob and I took advantage of a local hardware store’s no tax weekend and bought lots of plants for me to put in the ground. Since my success with flowers and such last year I have been chomping at the bit for spring to arrive. Well, let me tell you…the ground here is nothing like the ground in Florida!

I dug and dug for about twenty minutes and barely scratched out three inches of earth. The ground is so hard here, especially it seems in the area of Carlyss where we live. I decided it would be messy to use the hose but I have rain boots so I could soften the ground with water and dig my holes.

😳

The ground is a dark hard clay that doesn’t absorb water the way the sandy soil in my old yard did. I ended up with a nice ol’ mud puddle for my trouble. Hence I now have about sixteen potted plants and Rob is going to have to get cracking on building me some raised beds.

The people we bought our home from are finally moving to Nashville and slowly but surely getting their stuff out of our pasture. Which means I am spending a lot of time day dreaming about the garden space Rob is letting me design and we are trying to figure out where to put the vegetable garden and a chicken house.

So many projects and plans! My beloved has to keep me reigned in because I can go shooting off in a dozen different directions at a time. My mind hops from flowers to looking at chicken coop plans to knocking down walls to reconfigure the apartment space for Sam now that Emily lives in Monroe. (That was a weird minute for me. Realizing that when she got back from her honeymoon she would not be coming here again. She doesn’t live with us anymore. I mean I was at the wedding. I knew this already. But it just sort of hit me.)

It’s been great having a space for friends to use when they’ve come to visit. I enjoy getting it ready and stocking the little mini fridge and having a tray of snacks ready.

We haven’t started renovating the space yet though so you can come for a visit if you like. We can sit down and have a cup of coffee and conversation in real life.

Of course my Louisiana people are welcome to stop by for a visit anytime. The door is open and the coffee is ready! Y’all can teach me how to grow things around here 😊

DPP ~ Day 4 Viewer’s Choice

Today was much quieter than yesterday but plenty busy.

Rob and I did some running around to find him a new tool box so he can finish getting the garage all organized and set to rights. Isn’t it funny how something as simple as a couple of trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot can qualify as a “date” when you throw in lunch together?

As is the case occasionally during the DPP I sometimes can’t choose between two images. So today you get a two for one and I don’t feel bad about it because they’re both cute pictures of the cats. You can decide which one you think is the cutest and should be the Day 4 winner 🙂

First up is Tom all sweet and napping under the Christmas tree. It is his new favorite place since we put it up.

While I was sitting on the floor snagging this shot Milo came and laid down to keep me company. And the light was just perfect.

I realize not everyone is a cat person but my goodness, these fellas are just my favorites. I sure enjoy having them around.

DPP – Day 3

What a day! Claire and I enjoyed our first 4-H field trip and it was a lot of fun. We went to a Christmas tree farm which was also a first for me I think. Growing up we had real trees but the “farm” was usually a parking lot of some sort.

Grant’s Tree Farm was o-mazing! Besides thousands of gorgeous trees in various sizes they also grow sugar cane and make syrup. A bunch of goats and other farm animals, two mazes, an awesome playground…honestly the list goes on.

They did a tour of sorts and shared the history of the farm, and explained the growing process for both the trees and sugar cane. It was fascinating.

And beautiful. They also have a huge sunflower field and a long stretch of zinnias. And you know what that means!

Flower pictures and butterflies.

So even though it’s December and there are twinkle lights aplenty and other assorted Christmas themed photo ops my offering for this third day of the DPP is one of my favorite butterfly shots from today.

I realize I could crop it closer to really force the focus onto the butterfly but then I would lose the almost watercolor-esque background and I just needed to keep it intact. I love the blur (bokeh for you technical people) I get from using my 135 lens. My one and only zoom lens spent the majority of the day on my camera but I knew when I had the freedom to do the flowers that I wanted to change it up and get a little more creative with the shots. This is the reason it’s my favorite lens.

Happy Friday, y’all!

Think On These Things ~ Psalm 119: 97-104

Oh how I love your law!

It is my meditation all the day.

Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,

for it is ever with me.

I have more understanding than all my teachers,

for your testimonies are my meditation.

I understand more than the aged,

for I keep your precepts.

I hold back my feet from every evil way,

in order to keep your word.

I do not turn aside from your rules,

for you have taught me.

How sweet are your words to my taste,

sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Through your precepts I get understanding;

therefore I hate every false way.

~Psalm 119: 97-104

Think On These Things ~ Psalm 119: 9-16

How can a young man keep his way pure?

By guarding it according to your word.

With my whole heart I seek you;

let me not wander from your commandments!

I have stored up your word in my heart,

that I might not sin against you.

Blessed are you, O LORD;

teach me your statutes!

With my lips I declare

all the rules of your mouth.

In the way of your testimonies I delight

as much as in all riches.

I will meditate on your precepts

and fix my eyes on your ways.

I will delight in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

Psalm 119: 9-16

Valley of Vision

More of a prayer than I poem I think.

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;
let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.

The Blessed Will Say

Sin begins in the mind.

“Hell is a state of mind – ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell.” CS Lewis The Great Divorce

It is a teeny tiny seed that left alone will find a place to root and then that word or two becomes a narrative, a story we tell ourselves to justify the thing we have cultivated a want for. James warns us that we are lured into sin by the desires that we conceive that eventually give birth to sin and sin, when fully grown brings death.

Because all of this happens inside our heads we like to think that sin is a private matter. But if James is right (and spoiler alert, he is) then at some point that seed produces a very visible weed.

And suddenly there is a very public nature to our private life.

We never sin in a bubble. Someone, usually more than one someone, will be affected by our sin. And it is also a solid reality that rarely, if ever, is the one who sinned the only one to pay the price for the sin.

So of course forgiveness is public in the sense that a transaction occurs between ourselves (the sinner) and the person or persons whom we have sinned against directly.

But the process of restoration is public in a much larger way. I am increasingly convinced that whether we are directly connected to the offense and the transaction of forgiveness, we all play a role in the movement toward full restoration.

Whether we are there to surround and lend strength to the one who has been weakened by sin or whether we are there to help bind up the wounds of the one sinned against, it is clear from all of the one another verses that we do these things together, as the people of God. As the family of God.

The one who sinned needs the support of others until they are strong enough to stand on their own and in due time take their place to lift up another fallen brother or sister. The other needs to be surrounded by people willing to help them keep wounds from festering or from allowing bitterness to creep in.

If we are faithful in this we are able to say, as CS Lewis says in The Great Divorce, no matter what our suffering, we have always lived in heaven.

Made To Reflect

Recently I found myself in a situation that had me trying to determine what my response and behavior needed to be toward someone.

Do I just stay quiet and reserved?

Do I stay quiet and act like nothing had happened?

Did I choose to address the situation? If so, were my words needing to be just sympathetic and spoken to validate them?

Or was ‘tough love’ what was needed? Hard words spoken with care and tenderness?

While I was mulling this over I was doing some reading and I was reminded that I am to be growing more like Christ in everyday situations I find myself in.

James Boice put it this way,

“According to the Bible, men and women are made to know and enjoy God, but when they turn their backs on God, as the unregenerate do, they isolate themselves from all that is spiritual in life and operate on a physical level only… It is a man’s calling to look up to God and become like God, in whose image he is made. But if he will not look up, the only place he will be able to look is down, and he will begin to behave like an animal.”

We are confronted a hundred times a day to look up and see the glory of God and act according to the beauty of that glory, which by the way, is in us (remember He said in John 17 that the glory God had given Him He has given to us so that we may be one as Father and Son are one.)

His glory is in us and it is ours now. And because of this we are able and called to reflect that beauty to those around us. So my earlier questions weren’t really the ones I need to be asking.

Instead I need to be asking myself how do I show God’s mercy in this situation?

Am I displaying graciousness to this person?

Am I being slow to anger?

Am I being steadfast in my love for them? Being faithful to forgive?

If I seek to answer these questions correctly the other questions will be answered rightly I think.

It also has the benefit of keeping me from looking down, as Mr Boice put it. I can not be wallowing in my fear if I am focusing on reflecting God’s glory. I cannot be rooting around in the muck and mud if I am looking up.