Don’t Fear the Storms

Into every life a little rain must fall.

Isn’t that what they say? I’m deep into the psalms in my morning quiet time and storms do come but the testimony of God’s people is one of faithfulness and steadfast love, of rescue and salvation, of deliverance and praise.

He is mighty to save, abounding in steadfast love and mercy.

Maybe that’s why I love a good storm. I see the clouds moving in and feel the change in the air and know that the world is going to be washed clean.

After the thunder fades and the lighting ceases I know there will be a freshness, a newness to the earth. Some things will be removed and washed away. Some things will be refreshed and nurtured.

And no matter what the earth will still stand, upheld by his hand.

Do not fear the storms that come your way, friend, no matter how fierce they seem.

“When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” Psalm 94:18-19

Monday Musings

When were kids my oldest sister was the crafty creative one then as we all became adults I became the one who takes pictures and blogs, plans parties and decorates, etc. (She still gets really great ideas and can find all the parts and pieces to make things happen. It’s her gift, really.)

But recently our little sister has had the opportunity to do some writing for a women’s ministry that she is involved in and one post she shared stayed in my head and kept me thinking so I am going to piggyback on what she was talking about for a few minutes.

In her devotion she was addressing this idea in our culture of female empowerment, the constant bombardment of equality for women that disregards the true power we have in favor of the pseudo power the world would have us believe is more and better. She reminded her readers that we were designed with a purpose, formed by a rib being taken from man’s side to be his helper. She went on to explain the duties and functions of our actual ribs:

Anatomically speaking, ribs are connected to the spine. This gives strength and power to them. They are an essential connection to the very core that holds a person up. They are there to uplift. They come around and protect the heart and lungs, blood and oxygen.

We can’t survive without them. The ribs guard those inmost, core parts and protect them from harm. In this way, we are to guard our loved ones, protect them, and ensure that they have what they need to live. Ribs are small but strong bones, they may bruise but they are not easy to break. 

Toni Marie made a beautiful connection from the physical description to the spiritual. We uplift. We protect.

But did you know that ribs can pop out of place? Two weeks ago I started noticing a discomfort in my back when I moved a certain way or tried to breath too deeply. It was hard to put my finder on and explain what the exact problem was but it just felt off, not right. Turns out one of my ribs had moved out of place. Thankfully I already had an appointment scheduled with the chiropractor who found the problem, popped it back into place, and straightened me out.

Reading my sister’s words on the heels of that experience showed me how easy it is for us as women to become disjointed. We let ungratefulness, a bad attitude, bitterness, selfishness, or unforgiveness push us out of place and instead of uplifting or protecting those around us we become that dull discomfort that they try to live with and around or that sharp pain that becomes a hindrance that keeps them from doing and being what they were made to do and be.

Thankfully, the fix is just as quick as the chiropractor popping my actual rib back into place. When we confess the sinfulness that has us out of place with the body, be it in our marriage or relationships with our children, or at church, wherever it is,  the Great Physician promises to forgive us, to heal and restore us. He puts us back into our place and we are able to do that which we were made for.

That, in and of itself, is reason to rejoice.

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Think On These Things

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His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 

                                                                                                                                  ~ 2 Peter 1:3–10

 

Think On These Things

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 

                                                                                                                             Ephesians 5:14–21

Monday’s Musings

You know how sometimes you just have random thoughts bouncing around in your brain? Well, that’s one of the reasons I have a blog, because sometimes I need to make room by putting stuff somewhere.

One thing I am thinking about in particular since I am going to start up the photography business is exactly what services I will offer. Specifically, my niece is due any time now with her second baby and I am delighted to be on call to photograph the birth, a genre of photography that I absolutely love and want to do more of. But I have had more than a few moments of what-would-I do-if-she-goes-into-labor-while-I-am-doing-such-and-such and wonder how in the world you handle that if you do birth photography on a regular basis. (Total side note…all of the births I have photographed have been in the hospital. Would love love love to have the opportunity to do a home birth so if y’all know of anybody doing a home birth who’d be open to pictures hook a sister up.)

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Also, related to those thoughts I am doing a product shoot of sorts today that I am pretty excited about. A friend of mine makes these incredibly lovely hats and sells them in her Etsy shop. I have photographed some of her hats before but today we will be working with her model and I think it will be so much fun!

 

 

Sarah is also coming home today from a four day cruise to Cozumel. I can’t wait to hear all about it and hopefully see some pictures. She was seriously hoping to see sea turtles and sea horses. While she has been floating on a big boat with friends, Emily has been apartment/cat sitting. I can say without any hesitation that I am not ready for another child to move out and I am glad Em isn’t going anywhere just yet.

Also, can I just say that I am soooo over this summer heat. I have a friend living in Oregon and she got snow over the weekend, people. Snow. We had such a lovely spring and June was so mild but man, the heat showed up in July and has made itself way too comfortable. I’m just ready for a bit of cooler temperatures but that sounds a bit whiny, doesn’t it? Sorry about that.

All righty then, moving on.

So we watched Back To The Future with our kids over the weekend and all I can say is man, do we have selective memories! I think the story got caught up in the nostalgia of being part of our teenage years or something because I sure didn’t remember the language being so salty. Nor did I recall the thing with his mom being such a major theme in the story. Our children were properly appalled and took great delight in ribbing us for watching such a movie. They were also quite amused by the rather dated special effects and overly dramatic acting. Rob decided that if we want to share a movie from our childhood with our kids again we better watch it first.

Some parenting stuff I have been thinking about and piecing together starts in chapter 6 of Ephesians:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places and 2 Corinthians 10:3–4 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (Emphasis is mine.)

I also keep noodling on all the times in the OT that we were told so and so was a righteous king but he failed to tear down the high places, that is the worship places of the Canaanites.  And how our weapons of choice are prayer and worship. Intangible things that have a very concrete impact and literal affect in real time.

If we confess that our battle is not of flesh and blood, and we do, and if we confess that we fight with things that are not made of metal and stone, and we do, what does that mean about other intangible things in our lives? Our secret thoughts, hidden feelings, and tucked away sins?

I contend that those secret sins that take up that dusty dark corner of our heart will somehow manifest itself in our life in a way that is passed on to our children. We want our children to want the right things, to make the right decisions, to choose the right things, and for the most part we want the same thing for ourselves. Except for those little hidden things that no one knows about but God and we like to walk around as if they’re not there. I guess I am wondering how those insidious weeds in my own life spread their roots out to my children and others in my life.

May we have the courage to confront our high places, the desire to bring to light what we want to keep hidden and be humble enough to destroy them.

Lastly, something not quite as deep and heavy. We live in a world where words of affirmation are everywhere. Random vandalism tells us we’re beautiful. Graphic tee’s remind us to let nothing dull our sparkle. But this I saw and knew it to be the best of all encouragement ever.

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Have a great Monday!

 

 

 

 

 

Severe Mercies

She’s a planner, this child of mine. She likes to know what’s coming. She likes knowing that what she is doing now is the right thing for now as well as down the road.

Everything seems to be right there in front of her, almost within her reach. She thought she knew how the story was going to go. Or at least how the next few chapters would read. But with the turn of a page the plot changed and nothing was quite what she thought. The narrative, her narrative, suddenly became a page of letters and words with no sentence structure, line breaks or paragraphs.

And it’s not an easy place for her to be. But I watch her set her shoulders and lift her face to the Son again and again and move forward to step into this story that she doesn’t know. Trying to see a break in the letters, to find the words to read His narrative…

looking for the goodness in this new and unknown chapter and verse.

She’s being taught the lesson we all must learn.

In one hand we hold tight-fisted the things we know to be unchanging truth. Namely, the character of God; He is good and does good. He is faithful and with us always.

In the other hand we hold loosely those things we want and desire. Knowing that we only see so much and He seeks our good in far reaching corners that we cannot even imagine. Trusting that He is growing our character to suit the story He is writing.

It’s a painful lesson at times for all of us. Because sometimes we think we know best. Sometimes we just can’t envision anything better than our own imaginations. Choosing our own story over His is like declaring a comic book a Pulitzer prize winner or comparing Shakespeare to a dime store novel.

Sometimes we just can’t see the story unfolding but His story is always better so we must learn to trust His mercy in the plot twists.

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 the glory in the church and 
in Jesus Christ throughout all generations, 
forever and ever. Amen.
~Ephesians 3:20

God Shaped Victory

Last week there was a video going around Facebook that addressed the beheading of twenty one “followers of the cross” as they were called by ISIS.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…

I remember watching and realizing that my fear of a situation such as that had little to do with me and more the idea of my children facing that kind of terror and not being able to do anything to stop it for them.

That is a parent’s heart…the heart of a mother. We want to protect our children from knowing that kind of relentless fear.

Then on Tuesday it was reported that ISIS had invaded a largely Christian populated village and kidnapped at least ninety people.

Including children.

My heart wept at the thought of the parents whose children are facing that kind of remorseless terror and they can do nothing to stop it. The reality is that death is close at hand for them in a way that I cannot completely grasp.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

And as I prayed, asking God to hear the cries of His people and to pour out His mercy and judgement in overwhelming abundance of each, I questioned what victory would look like.

An opposing army of military allies who would step in and battle back the dragon? A force of protection stronger and as unrelenting in it’s defense of a people too vulnerable to defend themselves as the enemy that seeks to destroy?

I’m not arguing against this. Far from it. Please God may help come to these people!

For He who avenges blood is mindful of them; He does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

But is that the God shaped victory we should really be praying for…yearning for? And if it’s not, what does it look like?

I guess what I am asking is, is that enough? Do we call it a victory because we have stopped their suffering and put an end to the blood letting? Is it a victory because we can whisper quietly to ourselves that we ended it there so we must be safe here?

Maybe I am asking the wrong question though. Maybe it isn’t a question at all. Maybe it is a matter of seeking justice when and where we are called too but all the while knowing that the enemy will rail against the One who made them. They will gnash their teeth and seek to destroy the ones who follow in His name as if they can rid themselves of His presence.

He sits in ambush in the villages; and in hiding places he murders the innocent…

Though their task is futile they will rise up against Him. And they will be vanquished and no more. And then another will come and rise up as yet more of His people proclaim He is King over all.

But in this we have hope,

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; 
He is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, 
because they take refuge in Him.
Psalm 37: 39 & 40

Elisabeth Elliot on Motherhood

I could not say it any lovelier so I am not even going to try. Her words are perfect and full of truth. The images are mine from my favorite maternity session, one that I think captures the grace and beauty of motherhood. I realize that most of motherhood doesn’t wear beauty as we call something beautiful. It’s runny noses, dirty laundry, and other messes. But the heart of mothering is a beauty like no other.

tummy pictures, maternity pictures, Pensacola, FL, Ft Pickens
“…they’re telling us nowadays how important it is to find yourself, express yourself, and assert yourself. Maybe you’re thinking you’re nothing more than just somebody’s wife and somebody else’s mother. And what kind of life is that?
“Motherhood is a calling. It is a womanly calling…and let’s not be cowed by those who extinguish the light and joy of sexuality by trying to persuade us to forget words like manly and womanly.”
“Single or married, her level of maturity is measured by how much she gives to others. If she’s married, she gives herself to her husband and she receives. If she’s a mother, she loses her life in her child and–mysteriously–she finds it.”
“A woman knows that no one can really say where the giving ends and the receiving starts. It is no wonder we are confused when urged to look for some “better” or “higher” vocation in which to “prove our personhood.”
“This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”
If our calling is to be mothers, lets be mothers with all our hearts–gladly, simply, and humbly–like that little peasant girl Mary who spoke for all women of all time when she said, 
Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord; 
be it unto me according to Thy word.”
~Luke 1:38

Premeditated Generosity

Several years ago our family, following the leading of our church, began to orient our lives and seasons by the Church calendar. We began to recognize and mark time according to seasons and life of Christ.  It has been a wonderful way to very purposefully create opportunities to reflect and engage in various parts of our faith and the things we confess as believers.

Today, we move into a new season of our liturgical year. For many in our evangelical circles, Lent is mostly viewed as a very high churchy, old fashioned thing done by catholics. It comes on the heels of Fat Tuesday and is a time of some kind of penitence.

But really Lent is a time of preparation for Easter as Advent is for Christmas.  This journey of darkness, this time of reflecting upon our staggering need for grace, for salvation makes our celebration of Easter fuller and more robust. We confront our own lack, our own need, for something more than we can do for ourselves. We cry out knowing that we need a generosity of grace that comes from somewhere else, somewhere outside of ourselves.

For many it becomes a time of giving something up, a time of sacrifice and while this is not necessarily bad the danger is that it can become a morbid introspection with the focus on self. As a church, and within our family, we have never observed Lent as a time to fast. Rob has taught neither against it or for it.

But this year he has issued a challenge of sorts to us all. Basically, over the next forty days we are encouraged to do at least one act of generosity towards someone. Writing a note, preparing a meal, some act of kindness given to someone else, friend or stranger. It’s in doing some thing that requires something from us for the benefit of someone else that we, in a very small inadequate way, are mindful that we needed Someone to do for us something we were and are unable to do for ourselves.

Self denial, whether the giving up of something one enjoys or giving of something for the good of another, is not meant to be an end to itself. It is meant to drive us closer to Christ, to know our own need deeper. It is recognize how big the separation was between God and man, and what He did to bring us into fellowship with His Son.

Pastor Steve Wilkins puts the purpose of Lent this way,

Lent is the “winter-time” of preparation before the “spring-time” of the resurrection. Just as death leads to life, so the cross leads to glory. Lent helps us learn this lesson. It deepens our joy and love for the Savior who has given us eternal life by His willingness to die in our place. And reminds us that when we follow Him, losing our lives for His sake, we will end in joy and blessedness with Him. So here’s the goal of Lent: to see afresh the deep, deep love of Jesus, and by the Spirit to be transformed into His image so that we can follow Him and live to the glory of the Father.