What Inspires Me

Last week’s photography theme caused me no little problem.

So much so that I didn’t do it. Usually I may be late in just posting but I try really really hard to take the picture during the specified time frame. But last week I just could not make it happen.

The theme was inspiration and for the life of me I couldn’t nail down an image that would reflect what inspires me. Bits and pieces of an answer would waft through my brain but nothing felt right or had any real substance.

Then yesterday, Claire came running inside to announce “The world’s most beautiful rainbow, Mom!” And it was one of the brightest and fullest rainbows we’ve ever seen. Even the double was pretty visible.

As I took a picture, because of  course I ran inside for my camera, I realized it perfectly represented what inspires me.

It’s life itself showing evidence of both light and shadows, the rain and the sunshine, color and clarity, faithfulness and hope…the promise of God that He has not forgotten His people despite what the news would have us believe. We are not winning or losing because He has won. We are bold and fierce as we declare His goodness through our worship, our families and the art we create. His faithfulness to us is my inspiration be it found in the face of a newborn baby, the kiss of my beloved, or a bow flung across the sky.

Think on God. Dwell on His attributes. Let it inspire you to create beauty…the tangible kind with cameras or paintbrushes or clay, or whatever. But above all let it inspire you to live beautifully…to love beautifully in the midst of the light and shadows of your life, when it rains or when the sun shines.

Something On My Mind

It seems like the whole world has gone nuts lately about models, plus size models, photoshopped superstars and non photoshopped superstars. Lane Bryant is the latest retailer to jump on board with their new ImNoAngel hashtag campaign…a direct push back to the  rail thin Victoria Secret model line of under garments.

Can I tell you what I think about all this hullabaloo?

I don’t care what size you are…just put some clothes on.

Seriously, I don’t want or need my son to see billboards or life size posters of half naked women no matter if you’re a size 00 or 18. And my girls probably wouldn’t ever think to have body image issues if advertisers would stop putting images everywhere of practically unclad totally photoshopped bodies, again no matter the size, on display for them to compare themselves to.

And ladies, please. Let’s stop talking out of both sides of our mouths – claiming that men objectify us and reduce us to sex objects but insist on dressing and carrying on in a way that shows we only mind being objectified when someone else is using that power against us instead of us using it against them.

This past summer there was a mega hit song for the debuting country duo Maddie and Tae that people just loved. Critics praised it for mocking the good ol’ boy bro country voiced by a girl who is tired of always riding shotgun and not getting to drive the truck, and always being scantily dressed.

Well I wish I had some shoes on my two bare feet. And it’s getting kinda cold in these painted on cut-off jeans. I hate the way this bikini top chafes. Do I really have to wear it all day?
Actually, honey, you don’t. You can choose to put on a pair of shorts that have an inseam longer than 3 inches and you can wear a shirt that completely covers your chest and midriff. Don’t blame the boys for liking to see you half naked when you let them talk you into taking most of your clothes off in the first place.
Here’s the thing. We’re glory makers. That is the job God created women for…we are to make things beautiful. And there is power in that task. World-altering, life-changing, life-giving power. So don’t be surprised that the enemy seeks to warp it and twist it into something less than what it is by deceiving you into thinking it’s something that it’s not.
Being beautiful, being comfortable with who you are, isn’t about being okay with the size of your body and how much of it you’re willing to publicly flaunt. Every body does count because. no matter the size, it is a human being who is made in the image of God. True lasting beauty will only be found, recognized, and appreciated when that truth becomes the defining starting point for all of our conversation about human beauty.
Until then – for the sake of modesty, my long legged daughters, and their father’s sanity – can we please lower the hem lines a few inches?

The Color of Death

Death comes to us in many shapes and forms over our life times. Physical death awaits all of us, but smaller deaths are encountered almost every day.

The death of a dream or a particular life circumstance…death of relationships…death to our own desires and wants.

To be sure death is the last desperate measure of a defeated enemy who doesn’t know he has been defeated. It brings about pain and sadness no matter the when, the where, or the how.

As I sit writing this the full brunt of autumn color is peaking. It’s my favorite time of year with its rich, vibrant hues. I look at the beautiful reds and golds and marvel that these tones only come by way of dying as the trees shed life.

Everything we do as Christians should look vastly different than the way it is done by those who do not call Christ King. Even our deaths and we should look for the opportunity to die.

For the Christian we can face death with the same sanguine and robust tones of autumn. The jeweled colors of grace and dignity should flame bright as we die to our self each day, preferring others more than ourselves, submitting our wants and desires to His good and perfect will, and yes even as we face that final death.

Because for the Christian death, any death, is really just the beginning of a resurrection. And what dies is never better than what comes after.

Strength To Comprehend

Every now and then we are given the privilege of walking along someone as they travel a difficult road.

We weep with them as they grieve with hope and we dance beside them when God turns their mourning into joy.

And then we join their chorus of praise as God blesses them abundantly more than they could have asked for.

Maybe that’s why looking at these pictures makes me teary eyed. I watched these sweet friends suffer with grace during seasons of loss and wait with hope for a baby to love. I witnessed their indescribable joy taking their son home and I’ve been humbled hearing them pray for his birth mother.

And then, in His generosity God has given them another son due in a few months.

How amazing is that?

It’s also this little fella’s cheeks…or maybe those big brown eyes…that get me when I look at him.

 I know he gives a lot of joy to his Mama and Daddy!

Such a precious family!
family portraits, Pensacola, downtown Pensacola portraits

And it doesn’t hurt that I took my most absolute favorite tummy picture of all time with them, either 🙂

baby bump portraits, belly pictures

 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family  in heaven and on earth is named,  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.
Ephesians 3:14-20

So Fast

Can you believe this lovely child wears a ladies size nine and a half sneaker? I couldn’t either except that we just bought new school shoes and sure enough that’s the size we had to buy.
It happens at the end of every summer. Even though I am with them day in and day out, watching them and feeding them, I am still surprised by how much they’ve grown in these barefootin’, sunscreening, beach going, pool swimming summer days. It catches me off guard every single time.
And it reminds me that I only have them for a little while. That the goal and purpose is to raise strong and steady warriors, arrows that we launch into the world to go further and do more damage to the enemy in the name of Christ than we have.
Sometimes the responsibility feels too heavy. But I’ve learned to accept that weight…it’s good. It reminds me that I cannot do this apart from His grace. And in His graciousness He lets Claire announces that we’re out of toilet powder (Comet cleanser) when she’s cleaning the bathroom or Abby gives me that sweet precious smile and both of those things make the weight somehow a little easier to bear…a little lighter.
He is indeed gracious and kind and considers our frame.

Oh, Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding

Not that it’s Christmas time or anything.

Nor would I know how to make figgy pudding but I did get to go to a friend’s house on Monday and pick some fresh figs. I don’t remember ever eating figs before but when I plucked one off the tree and bit into it my mind immediately flooded with memories. It was like it was the taste of my childhood in the way that Noxema is a smell of my childhood. (My Mother would slather that stuff all over us after getting sunburned at the beach.)

I tried my hand at making fig preserves yesterday which was something. I’ve only ever done something like that years ago with a friend so I am not really sure how it will taste or keep but I did it. Boiled my jars before and after and everything. I found a recipe on Pinterest (of course!) that called for a little rosemary to be boiled in and removed before canning and since I have an ambitious little bush of rosemary in my backyard decided to give it a try. I figure as long as I am experimenting with the whole process why not get creative?

And also because I am me and it’s what I do I also did a little fig photo shoot before I started cooking. I am a lover of this pinterest board and food photography in general, and the colors of the figs also inspired me. They reminded me of fall with their rich hues.

fresh figs fruit harvest

fresh figs

fresh figs

fresh figs Kim Klassen textures

Now, if the jam tastes as good as the pictures look!

Knowing The Difference

Her blue eyes were shining with delight.

“Mama! Mama! I picked these flowers for you!”

Clutched in little girl fingers was a bouquet of lovely spring like purple…weeds. Old-field toad flax to be exact.

But she didn’t care about the name. Her seven year old eyes had been captivated by the lovely color and delicate petals.

“Aren’t they pretty?”

If one is feeling charitable one could look at them as a sort of wild flower and place them in a  tiny vase to
set on the ledge. I guess I was feeling charitable since they are now in a tiny vase sitting on the ledge in my dining room.

Of course no matter how benevolent I might be feeling toward my weeds wildflowers they are still indeed weeds.

Looking at that little vase today made me think how old-field toad flax is a perfect visual metaphor for sin.

The father of lies doesn’t typically approach us with bold ugly weeds that we know instinctively will clutter up and choke the life out of us. He doesn’t come and offer us big clunky clangy weights. Instead, he comes offering the “almost the same” and “not all that different” and we want what we want so we’re willing to take it, to settle and before you know it we have a garden of weeds growing in our hearts.

Digging them up is painful hard work. The roots can sink in deep and twine themselves around all manner of things that we never intended to be a part of the bouquet we thought we were getting.
It can damage and destroy relationships if left on it’s own.

But confession is the ultimate weed killer. True repentance cuts them off and they shrivel up and die.

And forgiveness waters the ground for restoration, allowing true flowers to blossom in an array of beauty and color that can only come from The true Gardener.

Soli Deo Gloria

How Wisdom Decorates a Home

He tells us that a wise woman builds her home while a foolish one tears it down. And we smile and nod as we sweep our front porch and think of the ones we’ve known who have been folly’s handmaid. We glance around at our tidy yards and manicured bushes and maybe pluck a weed or two  thinking that this shows our humble piety and willingness to admit our own sin.

Only we’re not standing on our front porches being neighborly, we’re actually guarding the door hoping no one will want to come in any further. And if they do darken our doorway we have our fancy parlor with plastic furniture covers all pristine and ready for guests.

We don’t want to walk them down the hall past the snapshots of every hurt and injustice framed by bitterness that we’ve hung. And if they do make it to the living room they are sure to notice the major incident that defines who we are and everything we do hanging in it’s place of honor above the fireplace. On the mantle sits the vase of dried up day dreams sitting in the stagnant and murky waters of “I wishes” and “if onlys”.

Other vases full of our expectations for everyone, even God, teeter on the edge of window sills, just waiting to be knocked to the ground and shattered.

Tiny bumps of our family’s rebellion mar the smooth surface of the area rug they’ve been swept under, causing us to continue to stumble.

Sarcasm dents the walls leading into the kitchen.

Our dishes are chipped and cracked with discontentment as we pile them up in the sink barely scrapped clean. Crumbs of presumption scatter across the counter.

Through the crack of the laundry room door we see the piles of neglect as we ignore our duties and responsibilities. The utility closet bulges and is barely able to remain shut against the unforgiveness and disappointments that we’ve tucked inside.

There are many ways a foolish woman can tear her house down without it looking like she is.

But when Lady Wisdom is bid come inside, to clean and refresh, she throws open wide the windows of our hearts and minds bringing with her the Spirit of Truth that dispels the dark shadows of every corner.  We can take down the mementos of the past that shade the present and toss them into the fireplace along with the “I wishes” and “if onlys”.

We can heed her direction and empty those other vases of our expectations for the people in our lives, and more importantly the ones we have for God, and push them  to a place of security and fill them with the beautiful bouquet of His good and perfect will watered by His sufficiency.

We can stop hiding our sin and take the area rug away and wax and polish a deep shine into the hardwood flooring of obedience. The sarcasm of our speech can be sanded smooth and the vivid shade of a word fitly spoken can color our walls.

Learning the art of contentment despite our situation and circumstances makes for unmarred serving ware. Gratitude can dispose of  the taken for granted crumbs.

We can learn to be keepers of our homes, and joyful ones at that, when we see the provision God has graciously bestowed upon us. We can let go and get rid of all the junk we’ve been carrying around from house to house and relationship to relationship.

The truth is our physical homes can sometimes hide the turmoil and chaos of our souls. Other times it can be an accurate reflection of that chaos and turmoil. But in either case we have to remember that we, since we are in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle Peter says, are living stones being fashioned into a spiritual house.

May we be as diligent and willing to  clean our minds and hearts as we are to declutter and put to rights our physical dwellings.