Sunday, April 20, 2014

Author of Time

First, Happy Easter! What a glorious day knowing that Jesus conquered death once and for all!

Secondly, we had a baby and now we have children. Yes, you read that right, child-REN. I will post my birth story sans the gruesome details another time. Just know, Gideon arrived safe and sound and has chunked up quite nicely in the last three months!

Now to the meat of the matter. In the midst of becoming a new mom, again, contentment keeps finding its way to the forefront of my mind. I find myself discontent with the current state of affairs and wishing for an easier phase of life. You know, the grass is always greener and so on. Not to blame my discontentment on our culture, but isn't it funny that Americans are always wanting more. Bigger and better. Quicker and easier. What happened to being happy with life as it is given to you, with being just another average Joe. No, now we all have to live in mansions, have the latest technology, and be CEO's of our very own prestigious company. Bonus points for yachts, personal islands, and being an intellectual prodigy at the age of 3.

That's not living. That's not a life-giving, Jesus-loving existence.

Yet, here I sit, laptop in hand, baby in a fancy swing, daughter in her own crib in her own room, wishing for more. If we just had enough money that we weren't scraping by every month, I'd be content. If I just had that nice minivan and some clothes from J-Crew I'd be content. If I just had my kitchen redone and yard in order, I'd be content. If staying home weren't such a financial burden, I'd be content.

That's not life. That's discontentment mixed with a lack of gratitude.

Contentment is finding joy in what you have, making the best of the life and resources you have been given. Contentment is serving and trusting the Author of Time because he is the one who knows your story. He is the one writing each adventure, each breathtaking moment. When we realize that we serve the One who provides for us, the one who has decided each person's lot, maybe then we will be a little more grateful for the good gifts he gives.

Would life be easier if we had more money? Maybe. Honestly, I don't know. Mo' Money, Mo' Problems, as they say. In this season of life, Jesus has forced us to see that He is the one who provides for us. He is the one who gives me strength to parent through a tantrum, He is the one who puts food in our cabinets, the one who provides a landing when he asks us to jump out in faith. Radical faith, the faith that causes fishermen to quite their livelihood to follow what many thought was just a crazy homeless man, does not allow for us to remain in our comfortable lives. Jesus asks us to step out onto the water and trust that we won't drown when the waves crash around us.

I am richly richly blessed but I tend to see the trees instead of the forest. The desires of my heart were: Have a family, check. Have a home, check. Have children, check. Have a husband who loves me well, check check check. Have our health, check. Be involved in ministry, check. Do I have my nice minivan with a cool moon-roof and video players, no. Do I need it? Heck no. Do I have money to spare, definitely not. Can we put food on the table and provide for our kids what they need, yes.

I may not have the desires that this world and my sin has instilled in me, but I have the desires that God placed on my heart. He hasn't failed me or let me down. His timing has seemed a bit questionable, but again trees not forest. As we have stepped out in faith, He has been there to catch us. He has yet to catch us in a big, soft pile of money, but He catches us.

You see, I get so focused on my needs, my wants that I lose sight of the big picture. Jesus didn't call us to comfort, he called us to discipleship. Who am I but a speck of sand in the dessert, yet He loved me enough to lay down his life that I would live. Why would I think I deserve more when I deserved death. What grace, that I have a home, that I have healthy children, that I have a husband who loves me. What grace that I don't live in a slum, or a shack, that I have food to feed my children. If only my fickle heart could hold on to that truth. If only the world weren't so enticing with its shiny idols that distract from the true prize.

So we push through, run the race with endurance, persevere and every other euphemism for trudging through life. We do it with hope, knowing that we were made for so much more than this. We keep going, storing up treasures in heaven where moth and rust can't touch them. We die to ourselves daily, hourly, and every single stinking minute if we have to, knowing that Jesus has called us His beloved. As the pastor said this morning, we get up, get dressed, and get out because life isn't over yet. God still has work to do! Stop wasting time worrying about what you wish you had and use what God has given you to do the work He called you to do. Maybe if I type that out fifty times I might remember it tomorrow when I'm thinking about all those things I wish I had.

I'll end with this, my prayer:
Proverbs 30:7-9
Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:
    Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
    give me neither poverty nor riches;
    feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you
    and say, “Who is the Lord?”
    or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Waiting Game

Waiting... Waiting... Waiting.

Ever had a big life event on the horizon? You know that anticipatory anxiety you get before big events, those butterflies in your stomach? Yep. Every day. Every Single Day! You see when you get married or have a big birthday or whatever you have an end date. Every contraction, every hour, every weird feeling I think "is this it?"

Even though I have a due date, due dates mean squat. Only like 5% of women actually deliver on their due date. I have yet to understand why they don't give you a due week or due month, lets be real, that's much more accurate.

Honestly, I thought we would have met little G by now. We had a false labor scare the Sunday before Christmas and thought it might even be the real thing, I mean when they checked me I was already 3 cm and 80% with contractions every 2 to 3 minutes. 2 hours after arriving, nothing changed so we went home thinking it would be any day and definitely within the week. Nope. 8 days later, still pregnant.

So I wait, and I wait and I wait.

Big G asked me  last night if I would rather know the end date or if I would rather not. Honestly, if I knew when this would all come to a head I would probably be more anxious than I am now. You see, this pregnancy has been wrought with anxiety and denial. It's not something I planned for and I have had a terrible time coming to grips with the upcoming changes. I also have a daughter to worry about this time around and I am in constant fear of something going wrong and E having to deal with the consequences of that at such a young age.

But God is faithful and trustworthy and I have had to lean on that truth over and over. I often feel lead to read Isaiah 41. I can sum the chapter up in 1 sentence. Do not be afraid, I am with you. Such grace that God has for his kids to give them that hope and assurance. "Don't be afraid of this, I will hold your hand through it. I will be with you." Thank you Jesus.

So we wait in eager anticipation for a little boy who is going to forever change our lives and bring us immeasurable love and joy over the course of his life. Someday in the very near future our little threesome will become four and our hearts will overflow with more love than we can imagine even possible. That's what excites me, so I hold on to that hope and excitement and try my darnedest to focus on what will more than likely go right than what could remotely go wrong.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What are you living for?

I wrote a brief Facebook post last night in response to an article Dave Ramsey posted on his blog. You can read the original post here:

Someone had posted it to Facebook and it piqued my interest. I came away from reading the article completely torn and honestly feeling a bit off-put. Maybe it's because I grew up poor or maybe it's something more.

His (Tom Corley not Dave Ramsey) 20 habits are all good habits and things that everyone should try to do, sure. The problem lies in his assumptions. He bases this article and hid book Rich Habits off the assumption that it is these habits that made people rich. That there is causality, not merely correlation. Causality and correlation are worlds apart. Sure these habits may very well correlate with being wealthy but that does not mean they cause wealth.

I think the hardest part for me in reading this was how it led me to view the poor. This list puts people into categories, rich vs poor. Let me tell you from experience, poor people do not often choose to be poor. They are goal setters but typically that goal is either to survive or to find a way to make enough money to simply put food on the table. They are often hard workers who have lacked the opportunities afforded to more affluent families like education, books, and gym memberships. There is a cycle of poverty, one that takes immense effort to break free from. People do it everyday, I did it, but even though I already practice many of his 20 habits I am no where near wealthy. Which brings me to my final point.

What are you living for? Are you living to acquire wealth and riches. Is that the end game? Sure we all would like to be financial well off or at least stable, but is that your goal, to live a comfortable life? To keep up with the Joneses? Or are you living for Jesus? Are you willing to do what Jesus asks of you? Are you willing to sell all of your possessions and give to the poor if that's what he calls you to?

Mark 10:21-25 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him,“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is[a] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 

Psalm 37:16 Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of the wicked. 

Psalm 49:16-17 Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he does he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down with him. 

You see, God will bless some and they will be wealthy and others he will call to poverty. In the end we can't take anything with us. We can't make ourselves rich, God is our provider. He is our source of everything good. He provides what we need, not always what we want. The Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years. 40 YEARS. Are you ok if God calls you to wander the desert for 40 years. To be forced to trust Him and his provision and not in your abilities to make yourself wealthy, healthy, and wise? 

The rich young man went away sorrowful because he had put his trust in the provision. Not the Provider. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Little Update

I felt the urge to write while Ellia takes an early nap, but honestly I am having a hard time deciding where to place my focus. So, lets just do a little post on the random thoughts that tumble through my brain.

1. Baby Time! In somewhere around 7-8 weeks we will be bringing home a new baby. I still cannot fathom how quickly this pregnancy went. I am getting more and more excited to meet our little warrior and we finally have a middle name. However, I feel completely unprepared this time and that is causing my nesting instinct to freak out a little.

2. I feel hopeful lately. For quite some time I have felt very dry, and very stuck in our situation. Things are still tough but I feel God beginning to move things around. I don't know if its just that I have become more grateful for what we do have or if there really is something brewing, but I am hopeful. I feel like this season of drought might finally be coming to an end. I hope and I pray it is.
hope shines brightest in the darkest moments... Above all things.. Hope!

3. Worry steals, joy gives life. You will never regret a moment spent in joy, but you will regret those lost to worry and fear. This thought hit me last week. I have worried so much in my life. I worry about everything and it often succeeds at stealing my joy in most situations. Instead of excitement over meeting our little boy I have been racked with fear. The enemy comes to steal and destroy, and he does so through worry and fear. Jesus comes to bring abundant life full of joy and hope. So I choose joy. I don't want to waste my life worrying about the would be's or could be's. Instead, I want to enjoy the is's and are's.
4. Happy Holidays. This is my very favorite time of year. Since we can't travel for christmas this year my family will be coming to us. I cannot tell you how excited I was to find out that they were all willing to come to us the weekend before. So thankful!

5. Prayers, please. There are some opportunities that may be making themselves available to us. We desire God's will over all and we know that it is only by His will that things will work out. So we ask and pray and hope that God will move in a mighty way. I know its all very vague, but please just pray that God would be moving in our situation and that His grace and His glory would prevail.

6. Update on One Thousand Gifts. I am still working on writing things down. I have not done the best job recently but I do feel it continually shifting my view from the negatives to the positives. I am thankful for the change in perspective. We have so much to be grateful for, but life often distracts us and pulls us away from the good in our lives. I keep jotting new things down and God continues to remove the scales from my eyes one by one.
gratitude- this is so very true and what I live by- quit griping people and suck it up!!!! God bless you today! :)
7. Happy little E. E is such a joy. I honestly could not have asked for a happier child. I prayed often before she was born that she would be full of joy and boy did God answer me. She makes people smile everywhere we go, and I pray that God would continue to grow that joyful spirit that she would just be such a light in the darkness. She is to me every single day.

That was all over, but sometimes it is nice to just sit and reflect on what God is doing.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Men and Women Want

Before I get into my point I should warn you, I haven't been single since high school. I won't pretend to know the struggle of waiting day after day for my prince charming. However, getting married young and moving forward has been challenging in its own ways and altered the course of my life in ways that being single wouldn't have. I wouldn't trade it for the world, but know that it is a challenge to be married as well.

I have been seeing a lot of articles circulating about facebook titled things like What Men Want in a Godly Woman and What Women want in a Godly Man

I have read both and wholeheartedly agree with many of the points made, but I have some reservations about what singles may take away.

I fear women and men will read them and think; OK, I'll just fix this, this, and this about myself and then a man will come. Then Jesus will finally approve of me enough to send me the desires of my heart. I will be whole and therefore ready for any man who rings my bell, and by golly he will be The One. If I can be all of these things I will be worthy of a husband/wife. Then, they try and try to fix all their faults, to be better, to be less emotional or more masculine and nothing happens. Men/Women don't come flooding in and they are left wondering what else they need to change to finally be lovable.

Women are always comparing themselves to each other. We want to be like Sally, Josie, or Betsy, because they are married and happy and have everything they have ever wanted. They shine like beacons a midst a grey and dingy world of singleness. Single women are left wondering what is wrong with them that they don't have that? What is wrong with them that they haven't found their partner, their helpmate?

Here is the thing. Women, you will never be wholly what a man wants. Men, you will never fully live up to a woman's expectations. We have ridiculously high expectations. These articles, although true and good, read as though you can make yourself those things and then a man will want you. Until you realize that living for the approval of a man is useless, you will continue to try harder to be better and keep failing. The only man you need gain approval from is Jesus. He is the only one you ought to be living to impress.


Here is the kicker, if you are truly living for Jesus, those things will fall into place. Many of those attributes are attributes of God. Honestly, loyalty, masculinity, right emotionality. Those are God traits, that is why we want them in our men and women. Women want a man who loves Jesus with his whole being, because if he does, he will no doubt be honest and loyal. Men want a woman who has a heart of compassion and loves like her Father loves. Jesus is faithful as we follow Him to make him more like us, to make us new creations, over time.

God is God of your love life.

However, and here is the second kicker and probably biggest challenge. You will not find a perfect man. The man God intends for you will not be perfect. (Men, neither will the woman). He will fail you, and heaven knows you will fail him again and again. I fail my husband weekly, if not daily. He fails me just as much.  We are human. Sinful, messy, humans. The perfect man for you will not meet every item on your checklist, and you can bet your bottom that you will not meet his. As long as you are itemizing every character trait that your future spouse must have you have completely forgotten grace. Grace is what keeps us going in life, and especially in marriage. Without grace, we are nothing. Without grace in a marriage, it will fail. (This is not saying you should be unequally yolked, but that's another discussion for another time)
"I will hold myself to a standard of GRACE not perfection." Anonymous
So rely on Jesus, hide yourself in Him, clothe yourself in his righteousness and accept His grace and love. In doing so, you will be able to show grace and love to others. You don't need to be better, you need more of Jesus. We all need more of Jesus.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Single Digits

As I was walking with my friend last week we were chatting about my current pregnancy and she asked how far along I was. I am 31 weeks along and she exclaimed, "Oh! Your in single digits" and I thought, "Oh crap, I am"

Where did the time go? I remember waiting for what felt like an eternity to reach my due date with E. It feels like Baby G just started cooking yesterday.

31 weeks.

Less than 9 weeks to go.

January 3rd is now less than 2 months away.

What. Is. Happening!

I still don't feel like I have fully wrapped my head around what it will be like to go from a family of three to a foursome. Often, I get excited thinking of what little G will look like or be like, but just as often I worry about what an upheaval this will be for E. I feel sad that her reign as an only child is coming to an abrupt end and she isn't even old enough to fully understand what is happening. I know she will be a wonderful big sister and the fact that she is young should actually work to her advantage in the long run, but its odd to think about her not being the "baby" anymore.

If you haven't noticed I tend to worry a lot.

Fear is something that has ruled my life for quite some time, I am often fearful of most things. So it is only natural for me to fear what this means for my family and my sweet girl. Thankfully, most things rarely live up to my fears and even if they do I often handle it far better than I imagine I could. God truly gives us the strength we need when we need it. So I may freak out now, but I know that all will be well in the end.

Speaking of upheaval, if any of you out there have tips for how to help an 18 month old transition to siblinghood, please please share the love! Even just thoughts on going from 1 to 2 children would be greatly appreciated. It is amazing how God equips us in the moment, but I also fully believe in the mantra "it takes a village to raise a child." Villagers, what say ye?!

2 months.

2 months until we meet our little man, a little boy. 2 months until our house goes from pink to blue and bows and ribbons turn into bow ties and suspenders. What a wonderful worry to have, that I have been graced with 2 children to love and parent. What a blessed mess of a life.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A PSA from a Wedding Photographer

A Friendly Public Service Announcement for Fancy Camera Yielding Wedding Guests:

Since starting my journey into photography I have shot a number of weddings, I have also attended or was in my fair since beginning to shoot as well. Since DSLR's (fancy cameras) have become all the rage among amateurs and pro's alike, it's only reasonable that etiquette may need to be explained to those interested in and excited about photography. 

This post is made in good jest and hopefully you can read it with a sense of humor! If you are guilty of any of these, that's OK, in fact you should tell me about it in the comments! We are all human and we all make mistakes, its even better when we can look back on them and laugh at our silliness. (Like the time I told a pregnant woman she looked far farther along than she was, DOH! See, I started us off!)

1. Thou shalt not have more/equal equipment to the main photographer

When attending a wedding I rarely, if ever, will take along my DSLR. Now, there is no issue with you bringing yours, but it is important to realize that the bride and groom have shelled out a pretty penny for someone to come and make them smile and pose and do all sorts of awkward things, they don't need Aunt Berta asking them to do the same. If you do bring your fancy camera, leave the extra lenses and external flash at home. How many pictures of someone else's wedding will you be hanging on your walls anyways?

At one wedding I had to actually ask someone to put away their equipment in fear of them trying to do the same as me during some vital shots. It's always an awkward conversation. Nobody likes awkward, so leave your extras at home!

2. Thou shalt not plagiarize the photographer. 

Wait, plagiarism, isn't that when people copy and paste cliff notes instead of actually writing their term paper? Well, yes, but it is very possible to plagiarize a photographers work. I never thought of this one until I was working on my wedding contract and reading through various others I found on the internet. Many, including mine, ask that family and friends refrain from taking pictures while the photographer is doing the posed shots (think family, couple, bridal party). And then I began shooting more weddings and this became all the more real to me. 

Example 1: At one wedding as I was focused on posing my bride and groom along with some family members, I began to walk backward down the aisle to get a better view. In the process I ran over the man behind me with his fancy DSLR and external flash who was quite literally shooting over my shoulder. This is plagiarism. I did all the work to pose and set up the shot, he now gets to claim the picture he took as his work and doing. 

Example 2: I was once in a wedding where the photographer had to ask a guest with a fancy camera to stop taking pictures while she took bridal party pictures. The guest was not pleased and threw quite the death stare the photographers way. Don't be them, if the photographer asks you to stop be polite and move on. 

Now, there is a caveat to this. If Grandma Jane is snapping away with her point and shoot, or maybe even a DSLR, I will rarely ask them to stop. It doesn't bother me if family is just taking some candid shots while I do the main deal, but as soon as you turn on your flash or get in my way during the posed shots, I will probably say something. Which brings us to number 3

3. Thou shalt not use flash

Please please please don't use flash at a wedding unless you absolutely have to. I know everyone does it. Try not to, at least while you see the photographer actively shooting. The flash from someone else's camera can completely ruin a shot for a photographer. If you need to use it, just be aware of whether or not the photographer is in the middle of shooting and try to take it in between their shots. 

4. Thou shalt not try to direct the photographer

Unless you are the bride, groom, wedding planner, DJ, or venue professional you should probably avoid telling the photographer what to do. Most of us have done this before and should have done our research on how to best manage our shots. Trust us, we have a plan. If we ask you a question, answer us then, otherwise just sit back, relax and enjoy the wedding!

5. Thou shalt have fun

I am not sure if you realize this but most weddings I shoot are 9-12 hour work days with much standing, bending, laying on the ground, kneeling, sweating, and all together running around. A photographer's job is not easy, it is entirely fun, but not easy. If you are a wedding guest you have the distinct pleasure of sitting back and enjoying a beautiful day, and you get to eat cake!  (I do too, but you get to enjoy yours) Enjoy the wedding, be present. Take candid pictures, take pictures with your friends (seriously, I love taking pictures of people taking pictures), dance, have fun. You have the easy job, bask in the glory that is being able to actually be present and focused on making memories! 

Those are my five commandments, now go with your knew knowledge and use those fancy cameras wisely! If you have a fancy camera you should be using it, but don't forget to enjoy what's around you first before you focus on the perfect shot.