Something I Have Been Thinking ABout

In the end of chapter 2 of the book of Acts we are told about how people were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and prayer and how everyone was giving of their resources for the good of the whole group and daily people were being brought to the faith. We see the same sort of report of the early church being given at the end of chapter four as well.

We don’t have a lot of information like how much time passed but by the time we get into chapter six they are starting to suffer growing pains. Word gets out that some of the widows were being neglected and not being properly taken care of. We aren’t given much more than the bare bones description of the dispute and when Rob referenced the passage Sunday in his sermon my mind, as it is wont to do these days, began to ponder the passage.

I wondered how those widows handled their lack. Did they whine and fuss? Did the grumble and gripe to all and sunder? I’d like to think that they didn’t do those things. That maybe they were already practicing what Paul would write down later about learning to be content no matter their state. Maybe they noticed they weren’t getting as much as others in the daily distribution and just shrugged it off the first few times before going in humbleness to the people that needed to know for the situation to be addressed later on.

We don’t know though because the Bible doesn’t tell us. But it does tell us something important that hit me in a new way.

Out of the widows need came the framework for a system of church government that is still in practice today. The primacy of preaching the Scriptures and a division of labor to handle the physical needs of the church was birthed by way of their lack.

And it made me wonder how I handle my own lack and my own needs when I have to wait for them to be met. Am I patient or am I so blind to everything except what I am going without? Am I able to see past myself to see what God might be doing for someone else through my own deficit? What good work might He be doing, not just in my life but within my community? Surely our emptiness and need has a place at the table otherwise what would be the use of our talents and gifts?

If I am being honest I must admit that I really don’t want for much or go without often. But I must also honestly pray that God lets me respond rightly when it happens. Maybe that situation will bear out in much the way as it did in those early days of the Church and the word of God will continue to increase and faith will abound among the people of God.

Some Day

Some days I don’t know whether to apologize to my children for the kind of parent I am being or call my parents and apologize for the kind of child I was.

I should probably do both.

Some days, when the weather is so very gray and rainy like it was yesterday, I just want to read and cook or bake. And not necessarily anything good for you but leaning more on the indulgent side. I didn’t bake though. A Florida friend is coming to visit today and I will probably make a pound cake. Oddly enough what I am looking forward to the most is the smell. A freshly baked cake smells almost as good as bread coming out of the oven.

On Sunday Rob read a familiar passage from the last chapter of the book of John and I have been thinking about it the last couple of days. The disciples had been fishing all night but they had no fish to show for it. Jesus, whom they did not recognize at first, told them to put their net out on the right side of the boat and boy, did they score a mess of fish! And more importantly they recognized Christ. Peter was so excited he jumped into the water to get to Him as fast as he could. Once they arrived at the shore the Bible says this,

John 21:9

“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.”

That’s what jumped out to me. Do you see it? Jesus already had fish but He invited the disciples to bring their fish to the table, so to speak, after instructing them on where to catch some.

God suffers no lack yet He graciously invites us to join Him in the work of restoring and renewing the world. Not only that, He provides all that we need and equips us to do so.

How humbling is that? We should approach our days with the trembling excitement of a child being invited into the kitchen to help create the most unbelievably delicious fare.

Someday we will see ever so clearly all the ways that God allowed us to be part of His redemptive work. I think we might be surprised at how He used our to-do lists.

Learning New Things

Did y’all know my brand new son-in-law is a photographer? He is and a really good one. He’s a young whippersnapper though and has given me grief over the fact that I don’t use Lightroom (the industry standard) for my editing. All in jest of course, and much love, because he wanted to marry my daughter ūüėČ

He is actually going to second shoot a wedding with me in July though and in the interest of making life easier for both us in that endeavour I made sure my computer was up to snuff and could handle the Adobe program and I am now officially doing things like a grownup photographer.

I’m shooting in RAW and editing in Lightroom.

Turns out that young whippersnapper knew what he was talking about when he kept telling me I just needed to do it. I still have a bit of a learning curve and as of yet I haven’t worked on anything involving people but I love love love what I have been able to do so far just with some flower pictures I took in my yard.

Between the extension tubes and Lightroom I am feeling all fancy and the clover in my yard has never looked prettier.

I don’t do a whole bunch of editing but I do think I like what I have the freedom to do since the file is larger and gives me more information to work with if I do want to play with it.

I know, I know. I’m just geeking out over a few pictures and new techniques and skill sets and it’s probably not terribly interesting to you. But seriously, look at the scope of detail that God put into a simple little clover.

The swirl and flare of each petal. The movement of color from stalk to stem. Even the beautiful tea stained shade of the dying flower.

How much more does He care about the details, the smalls ones and the big ones, about your life?

I’m still hung up on the wonder leading to wisdom I guess. Because how can we not be in awe of the God who created this and not trust Him enough to live the life He calls us to? A life of genuine love and real forgiveness? One flush with steadfastness and truth, beauty, and goodness.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

We have been created with even more attention and care than the flowers and He has work for us to do, good works. So get busy. You’re supposed to glorify Him today. Go make someone marvel at what He has done.

Being Fruitful

Quick! What is the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase, “…be fruitful and multiply”? For most of us we think of pregnant bellies and sweet squishy babies and obviously it is a right thing to think. After all, we know that is what God was saying to Adam and Eve in the first chapter of Genesis and the word multiply literally means to grow in number. Here, Adam. I made this woman for you. And I have made you both in such a way that you can make more of you. Now go fill the earth with more of you and take dominion over everything.

I want to point out a couple of things on the baby having side first and then back track to look at something I think is often overlooked or overshadowed in that verse.

Firstly, in this day and age that is abundant in birth control options (some that are outright sinful and others that aren’t) I do think as a society, even among Christians, childbearing has seemingly become an option that one can exercise or not depending on how you might feel about it. But I think it is pretty clear that choosing to be willfully childless is not the way of God’s people. Anyone can have babies. But for Christians, why we have babies and how we raise them, should be vastly different from unbelievers. In reality this is true about everything. We christians do the same life things, the same activities, as people who do not know Christ as King. But because we do know Him as King it is supposed to look different in our lives. It is glorified…we reveal Christ in what we do because we do all things for His glory, to make Him known.

I do, however, believe there is a lot more theology behind “be fruitful and multiply” than just having babies and that brings me to a second thing. I do not believe this is a command to everyone to have all of the babies. We have five children. To some that is a lot. To others that is about half of a lot. But here’s the thing. God doesn’t prescribe a specific number of required offspring. To some couples He grants life for one child. For another He opens the womb for more. Sometimes someone may wish they had more. For others God seems to let them decide how many and for still others He closes the womb and opens their hearts to adoption. I certainly cannot fully grasp His providence in these matters but I know that He graciously invites us in and allows us to use wisdom and discernment in planning the size of our families so that we can faithfully tend the children we are given.

I realize a lot more can be said and teased out on this subject but I’m going to leave that part of the verse now and back up to what I have been thinking through this past week. It’s the phrase, “be fruitful” that has been tumbling around in my head.

You see, I think it is a mistake to lumb that in with the multiply part as if the whole thing is only talking about having babies. It would seem to me that if we do that we are condensing down the mandate to what is a relatively few short years out of our lives. At fifty-one my child bearing years are done so if the mission God gave humanity all the way back in the garden is just about having children what does that mean for the rest of my life? What did it mean for the years before I could have children?

A definition for the word fruitful is abundantly productive. If we are looking at it through the Genesis chapter one lens then we know we are made in God’s image. God, the Creator, is telling us to be creative, to produce something. But what? We are not all artist or musicians and what have you. Not everyone is a gardener or an accomplished cook. Are we exempt if we aren’t talented or skilled? I don’t think so. I think we may just need to think a little outside of the box in ways we can be produce fruit in our lives.

I find this quote by Edith Schaeffer very helpful in thinking creatively in how we can produce fruit in our lives ~

‚ÄúThere are various art forms we may or may not have talent for, may or may not have time for, and we may or may not be able to express ourselves in, but we ought to consider this fact-that whether we choose to be an environment or not, we are. We produce an environment other people have to live in. We should be conscious of the fact that this environment which we produce by our very ‘being’ can affect the people who live with us or work with us.‚ÄĚ 

Can’t play an instrument? Cultivate an appreciation for music by listening to good music. The kind of beautiful music that has lasted for hundreds of years or at least four or five decades. Do the same with art. Expose your children to that sort of music and art. Read the classics to them and yourself. But I don’t think we should limit ourselves to just understanding and appreciating good art, music and books and not actually trying new things. We should challenge ourselves to do things that are difficult if even just slightly so. Go ahead and plant something in the dirt. Choose a new recipe to try. Learn to do a skill that you haven’t done before.

Create balance between those tangible and intangible ways that produce fruit in our life.

We create with more than clay and paint, or words or music notes, fabric or photographs. Everyday we create. And everyday we make choices to imitate what has already crafted by the Master.

We create homes that are a refuge the way He created an ark.

We create new culture when we resist the world’s culture, the world’s way of doing or being.

We create a world of reconciliation when we imitate the dark art of death in dying to ourselves that produces the kaleidoscope of color and light found in the resurrection.

We create peace when we turn the other cheek and offer the glorious poetry of forgiveness.

We create a symphony of mercy when we love and esteem others more than ourselves.

We create places of hospitality as we open our door and beckon in the poor and hungry.

We create a tapestry of grace when we weave longsuffering through our relationships with husband and wife, child and friend.

We all produce something. We all create. The question is whether it is worthy of presenting to our Creator.

In her book Loving The Little Years Rachel Jankovic makes the point that the more fruit we make the more of that fruit God will use.

“Some of those apples will fall to the ground and rot. But God uses rotten apples ~ to fertilize the ground, to start more apple trees after little animals plant them, and just to make the air smell sticky sweet. You cannot know the depth of His plan for your fruit. So throw it out there on the ground when you have no plan for its future. Waste it. Waste homemade pasta (and the mess it makes) on your family. Don’t save cloth napkins for company only ~ sew a dress your daughter doesn’t really need. Be bountiful with your fruit and free with it. The only thing you can know for certain is that God will use it.”

I don’t know about sewing a dress but I have spent some time over the last month buying up packs of fat quarters each week when I go to the grocery store. It’s probably been a dozen years since I tried to piece together a quilt and if I am honest my previous attempts, although well loved (it was a napping quilt for Claire when she started school) were less than lovely. We don’t really need another blanket either. But the fabric was so pretty and it caught my eye and on a whim I decided I wanted to do it again. It won’t be anything uber fancy but I want to work at it. I want to make sure my seams are straight this time and that my binding is even.

I’m going to use the new cake pan I got this weekend and make something pretty and delicious.

I’m going to keep taking pictures of anything and everything. I’m going to keep making cards and such with the pictures and putting them in my Etsy shop.

I’m going to keep stringing words together and blogging.

I’m going to drive Rob crazy picking out plants and flowers and designing garden beds.

I’m going to keep blowing bubbles for the puppies to chase and watch silly video clips with the girls and let Sam show me all the different bits and pieces to his latest LEGO creation.

I’m going to keep finding ways to produce truth, beauty, and goodness. And joy and laughter. And prayerfully it will also produce a deeper love and thankfulness for our great kind God who did it all first.

Join me, why don’t you? Tell me about the fruit of your hands.

What You Ought To Remember

You know what’s embarrassing? Slamming the toilet lid down in a public restroom because you forget that all toilet lids are not self closing like the ones at home.

You know what‚Äôs painful? Forgetting that you chopped jalape√Īos a few hours ago and rubbing your eye.

You know what is not embarrassing or painful? God’s forgiveness. The teaching of Scripture is that when we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us. Not just forgive either but to cleanse us from the dirt and mess of our sin. And if that were not enough, we are told He throws our sin away as far as the east is from the west.

You know what God doesn’t forget?

Us.

Me.

You.

He remembers our frame. He remembers that we are His people and He is our God.

He remembers His promises.

So many promises! But this morning I woke up thinking about forgiveness and Psalm 139. Such thoughts are, indeed, too wonderful.

You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. (Verses 5 & 6)

I hope you begin your week thinking of the promises God gives to His children. And may you walk in them.

Happy Monday y’all.

Ponderings

I’ve been reading some really good thought provoking books, having some really good discussions, and Rob has been preaching a really good sermon series on our churches liturgy. All of which combine with other random thoughts in my head.

In no particular order…

A dear friend of mine is working on a talk she will give this summer at the ACCS (Association of Classical Christian Schools) conference. Her topic is titled From Wonder to Wisdom and I am utterly smitten with the concept. For as long as I can remember I have loved Proverbs 8, in particular verses 22-31 “‚Ķthen I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man
Lady Wisdom herself wonders and delights in created world so who are we to not do the same? It doesn’t seem much of a stretch to view wisdom and wonder as two golden strands that are intertwined swirling one into the other over and over again. Much of today’s science (worldly wonder) seems to be severed from wisdom leaving it futile and surely lacking in wisdom. Thinking about this makes me wonder how it might connect to the teachings of Jesus telling us that we must come to Him as a little child? I think there might be a connection, don’t you?

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Speaking of wonder, I was walking the pups last night and sneezed. Oh my goodness, it was hilarious! They both froze for a second and then came up to me as if to make sure I was okay. They have been so fun to have around. They react adorably to singing too.
They keep a close eye on the horses behind us. Lucy is pregnant and due anytime now and we all are eagerly awaiting the arrival of her foal. I’m more than half way hoping she has it during the day and I can photograph it.
I feel like the foggy mornings make for a rather fairytale look, don’t you?

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We’ve been slowly introducing the pups into the house for short periods of time. We try to make sure the cats are tucked away but every now and then there is a stare down and as long as one of us is there to keep a hand on the dogs so they stay calm it goes okay.
Do you ever watch a cat and wish you could stretch they way they do? Or sleep? They can sleep anywhere it seems!

Other stray thoughts.

Angry people don’t always look angry.

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I want to be known as a hospitable person. Not just when feeding people, although I do delight in that. But the word hospitable means more than being generous with food. It also means ‚Äúpromising or suggesting generous and cordial welcome; offering a pleasant or sustaining environment.‚ÄĚ I want to be a hospitable wife and mother and friend. Meaning I want my people to find in me a welcoming place for their hopes and dreams and stories of their day. I want them to know I am delighting with them in those thoughts and dreams and stories of how their day went.

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Nothing feels as nice as freshly laundered sheets when you get into bed at night.

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Last random thought of today. The first picture in this post I took the other morning because I was up early enough to see the sun shooting through the trees in all its glory. This last image I took of the sunset the other night while at a Super Bowl party at some friend’s house.

I highly encourage you to make the time to watch the occasional sunrise and sunset. Wake up early just to see the start of a new day. Stop what you are doing just to see the end of a day. I promise it’s good for your soul.

Think On These Things ~ Psalm 112

Praise the LORD!

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,

who greatly delights in his commandments!

His offspring will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are in his house,

and his righteousness endures forever.

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;

he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.

It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;

who conducts his affairs with justice.

For the righteous will never be moved;

he will be remembered forever.

He is not afraid of bad news;

his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.

His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,

until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.

He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;

his righteousness endures forever;

his horn is exalted in honor.

The wicked man sees it and is angry;

he gnashes his teeth and melts away;

the desire of the wicked will perish!

The Power of Prayer

I have people in the midwest that I am praying for right now, a family in China as well.

I have people in Florida that I pray for daily and weekly.

I have people, new friends here in Sulphur, that I pray for regularly.

Some of the prayers are general in detail, others specific to situations.

To be honest, I am not really sure exactly how prayer works and recently had a light bulb moment that my own belief in the sovereignty of God, was at times, a stumbling block to my prayers.

I’m not questioning His sovereign rule over all things; that all things come by His hand. Rather, I don’t understand necessarily how my prayers fit within that and rather than ask as a child fully expecting a father to answer I was qualifying my prayers with too much, “If it’s your will…” not really believing an answer would come. Sort of like it was becoming a get out of jail free card I was giving to God so I didn’t have to be sad or angry or disappointed if he didn’t answer the way I wanted or seemingly at all.

He is not bound by my will or the desired outcomes I am asking for; I am bound by His will and the work He is doing in the lives and situations of those I pray for and about. I don’t have to remind Him of what I might want and qualify it with “Really Lord, only if it’s what You truly want.” His perfect will is always being done. There is comfort in that.

Something else about prayer that I just realized the other morning is the way prayer connects us, the prayerer and the prayee. Obviously the idea of entering into each others suffering and bearing with one another as a part of praying is real and true. (This is one of the reasons I think ministers can be worn down and fatigued to the point of burnout. When they truly walk alongside their congregants, praying for them in all the various and sundry situations we humans go through, they are taking on the burden of that person. So they may not be battling cancer or emotional trauma or what have you but they are taking on a weight that is multiplied by the number of people they minister to. The tip here is that as you pray for your pastor you help ease the burden he takes on as he prays for you and others.)

We don’t live in a vacuum. Our actions, sinful and otherwise, have an affect on the other people around us. Prayer doesn’t happen in a vacuum either and the effect works, in my opinion, in a sort of reverse way in that when I pray on someone’s behalf it can also cause me to be changed or challenged either directly or indirectly in some manner.

Here is an example of a direct connection. If I am praying that my daughter Claire would love correction, something we should all love, then I need to also pray for myself and how I am correcting her. Am I correcting her out of frustration or annoyance? Am I correcting her with a view toward godliness or just wanting her to do things the way I think they ought to be done? Is being “right” more important to me than her personhood? Am I nitpicking?

My prayer for her to love correction should cause me to examine my own reasons for wanting her to love correction as well as my own willingness to be corrected.

Indirectly, I may be challenged to love my husband better as I pray for a friend who wishes to be more joyful in her submission to her husband. I may become convicted of areas where I ought to practice more acts of mercy by providing a meal or dropping a get well soon card in the mail for someone who is sick. If I see someone who seems to be struggling with pride or some other sinful behavior as I pray for them it can be a good way for me to check myself for those same besetting sins in my own heart. We tend to see them more quickly and certainly more clearly in those around us. At least I do.

Prayer changes us in ways I cannot even comprehend much less really understand but I am becoming more and more enchanted and grateful for what a gift this tool is in the christian life. I believe genuine prayer is going to grow compassion and repentance, contentment and joy within our spirits; our connection to our Father and to each other is only deepened and strengthened by this odd, hard to understand practice.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will 
he hears us. I John 5:14

May we be confident is our asking, expecting our Father who loves us to answer.

What are you praying for?

What’s Happening Now

Ah, the first Monday of the new year. Always ripe with possibility and promise.

I love the wide open potential that buzzes in the air this time of year but I also like what happens when I look back at the past year. I am particularly amazed and humbled by all that God has done in the last twelve months. If you had told me this time last year that our family would be moving to Louisiana I probably would have snorted with disbelief.

But God has a way of surprising us, doesn’t He? I had no idea the challenges and struggles we would face, nor the beautiful ways He would show Himself faithful and kind beyond measure.

So much change. So much shifting and shaping, conforming us to the image of His Son. I look back at what He has done and look forward at what He will do and I just marvel.

One thing I came to realize over the weekend is that while we are happy and settling in here in our new home I have been waiting for things to click into place and feel normal. But a major move around the holidays, and getting not one but two puppies, doesn’t really lend itself to feeling normal so there has still been this sense of fluctuating to our days. Our place here feels comfortable so I wouldn’t say I’ve been floundering through my days. More like a joyous doggie paddle though and I am ready to feel the routine of structure.

As I was contemplating this the other day I thought of something important. In the past, any changes that came our way, even significant ones, upset the routine to varying degrees but there were key components that the upset happened within. The framework of our established life if you will, our church and community and school, all acted as a sort of buffer that the change bounced around in until it settled in its place.

I have been assuming things would just settle but the framework is completely different and to a certain extent needs to be rebuilt as we develop and grow relationships here. Although Abby and Claire are both finding their place in some ways I feel like we are in a temporary mode…with the wedding in a few months there is an unsettled feeling with regards to Emily. She has felt almost homeless I think driving back and forth from here and Monroe. And Sam is doing great but we are looking forward to finding him work and purpose outside of the house now that the holidays are over.

Even though we are putting roots down I know there are still changes to come and honesty I am excited about them even if they are as yet unknown. How could I not be with such a testimony of God’s goodness and mercy in the last year standing at my back?

Like tons of other people across the globe I am taking advantage of the new year to make some conscientious changes to my health and well being. Knowing I will need to be on the wrong side of the camera that I am less comfortable with in three short months for wedding pictures has a way of motivating me ūüôā Changes to my diet and a family membership to our local parks and rec center are definitely helping with that.

I was recently asked about what my plans are for my photography here and honestly I have no idea. I’m basically just going with the flow and seeing what develops. (See what I did there? That is high photographer humor right there is what that is.) My love did get me a mini drone for Christmas and I am super excited about using it! There is a bit of a learning curve since I am not naturally inclined toward technology and I am well, to put it kindly, directionally challenged.

You might also have noticed some changes here on the blog and hopefully there will be more to come. One plan that I do have is to spend more time here and so I think an overhaul will happen. I think my photography site will probably just migrate over here too but I haven’t decided about the recipe blog even though I don’t post there often. It would make sense to have them all back in one place and truthfully the reason I have a hard time giving up the food blog as a separate thing is simply because of the name I came up with. Which really is a silly reason if I am not actually going to be blogging recipes regularly. If I can get this one set up the way I like then more than likely it will all come under this site though.

In summary, I am looking forward to all that God has in store in the year ahead. I know there will be hard things as well as good things, severe mercies mixed with gentle ones, but if I learned nothing else in the last few years I have learned to lean into what He is doing with all my might.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.

Proverbs 3: 5-8