Thursday, February 26, 2009

Use your faith, not your muscles.

Galations 3:2-5 NLT
2. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? 4. Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain was it? 5. I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.

Yesterday morning a friend of mine was heavy on my heart and I felt led to share a few things with her. Her family has been effected by our economy and though she is grateful for the blessings in her life, she is looking to the Lord to meet her needs. I sent her an e-mail and shared a few scriptures and words of encouragement and it filled my soul. This is what I was created for. To love and worship my creator and share his love with those around me. To lay your life down and to be willing to do his will provides such blessing and satisfaction. I'm blessed to have had the opportunity to share his love and my experiences with her and blessed again because should a day come when I need a word of encouragement she'll be the first I'll hear from. I didn't do it because I know I'll need her some day but there is something very rewarding that can only come from a Godly bond.

I continue to stand in the gap for her. My first prayer for her is that she be strengthened and filled with his peace that surpasses all understanding (Phillipians: 6 & 7). Secondly, that he not just meet her needs but that her cup runneth over. That she does not hold tight to her blessings and be held in the bondage of fear and lack but meets the needs of others around her where she can. Luke 38:6 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full - pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. May the Lord no simply meet her needs but exceed them. May he show up and show off so that those around her will see his presence and love in her life and know it is the Lord's hand at work in her life.

The scripture in Galatians reminds me of the many times I have carried my own burdens and tried to do it all on my own. The most recent is a situation of conflict. In the beginning I laid it on the alter, at the foot of the cross. I left it there for a few months but it kept glaring back at me. There wasn't enough closure for me but still I continued to leave it up to the Lord to work it out. Until, one day without even thinking I picked that bad boy back up off the alter, threw it on my back, and stormed outta there to get it done. I took matters into my own hands. Let me just tell you, it didn't work out. In the beginning, I had done what the Lord would have asked me personally to do, I did what he did by example. And though every detail hadn't been unturned, there really was closure and more importantly God's love could shine through. But, when I picked it back up, it soooo didn't work out. I lost all my dignity. I laid on the floor like a two-year-old kicking and screaming and insisting it be my way! I didn't walk in love. Oh, there is closure now for sure. Not the peaceful ending I envisioned and I certainly didn't anticipate making such a fool of myself and an ever bigger mess than there was to start with. Now instead of peace and knowing I have fulfilled his will for that situation, there is shame and regret.

We all need to remember that we have gained so much in this life by faith. Because the Lord is our helper. Because of divine intervention. We can't go around flexing our muscles and trying to perfect ourselves and the things in this life without that same faith, help, and divine intervention. Keep your eyes on him today. Seek his will for your life. And for pete's sake! If he holds up a stop sign, trust me, stop! Wait until he says it's time to go. In the meantime, praise him while you wait. So if you are looking to change yourself, a situation, or anything else in your life. Seek the Lord first and use your faith and patience to get it done. Another thing I shared with this friend earlier this week is that we are not meant to be enough. We are not meant to be all things to all people all the time. We absolutely need his presence and the gifts of the spirit in our lives daily!

I gained much insight into forgiveness this last week and have more to share in the coming posts. Although I am burdened with the way I behaved and may never have the forgiveness I seek from those around me in this life, I'm grateful to have the Lord's forgiveness. I used to just sort of toss around the idea of my forgiveness. But, this week it all became real. His level of grace and mercy and the love required to do so unconditionally is something I can't wrap my brain around but it is who He is. I'm grateful, thankful, blessed, and forgiven. There is no grace for the things we do on our own, or the Lord is at least not obligated to clean up after us. Sometimes, we make a mess and we just have to live with the results.

I added a new song to the playlist this morning. Slow Fade by Casting Crowns. I've been looking inward at the areas of sin in my life and the impact it has had on me, my relationship with the Lord, my marriage, and the example it sets for my children. This song is a reminder of how my life arrived in the areas of temptation to start with. It is indeed a slow fade. It starts with one look, one cracked door, and the process of being desensitized begins and before you know it you are staring temptation right in the face. The journey from your mind to your hands will show up in your thinking, wow, there is so much power and truth in that. There are some things that are just too shameful and too personal to publicize on my blog but know I have held the hand of sin and the whole gamut of emotions that come with it: shame, guilt, and the bondage that ties you there. But, hallelujah! I have found forgiveness and unconditional love! So can you!

Monday, February 23, 2009

The hubs and the daddy

I have a journal I picked up at the Christian book store before Christmas titled Closer to Your Husband and since I totally skipped over Valentine's Day I'd like to share a recent entry.

The prompt for this particular day was regarding conversation and couldn't have come at a better time. It is truly my belief that a coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous. In other words, there are no coincidences.

I have come to realize that our communication and how easy it is to talk to each other has always been what bonds us together. It is something I have taken for granted but I have a fresh perspective now and truly know how vital conversation is to our marriage. Talking and wearing our hearts on our sleeve really does connect us in a profound way. It deepens our love. It forms strength, love, trust, and intimacy. It allows us to share our faults, short-comings, and insecurities. It allows us to take that vulnerability and display trust, support, unconditional love, and reassurance. I can't recall a time when I've shared an insecurity or opened my heart to you and you disappointed me or weren't careful with my heart.

Lord, help me to always have in the forefront of my mind the importance of communication. Help me to always know that my husband is gentle, forgiving, kind, and empathetic. That I can trust him with my feelings, thoughts, dreams, and fears. Help me to always be vulnerable, open, and honest. To trust my heart to my husband. Help me to be patient, kind, caring, empathetic, and attuned to Todd's needs as well. Conversation does reveal the inner person and I pray Lord that you continue to use our conversations to unite us, to create trust, safety, comfort, and intimacy. Amen!

Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. Proverbs 8:6 NIV

It's easy when you first meet someone to never run out of things to talk about. Everything is new, fresh, and exciting. You are drawn to that person and want to uncover and savour every detail. Sustaining that excitement, that interest, and that desire, and level of intimacy can become a challenge. Balancing each other's needs with work, family, and community commitments is also a challenge.

For Todd and I it's been an interesting journey. He was raised in a home where he and his mom talked about everything and in my home we all found sharing our feelings much more difficult. It wasn't a safety zone for me. And although I've come a long way through the example Todd has set, I still find it easy to revert back to my own ways. Our personalities are also not defined as most men and woman would be. The hubs is more like the attention craving poodle in the home. He likes to have his ego stroked and well, he likes to be pet. What can I say? He requires physical touch and words of affirmation. That's just how the Lord shaped him. It's been challenging for me to express my love for him in a way that he receives it when it is so outside of my comfort box. But, he has been patient and kind. He discovered a way to meet my needs long before I even knew what my needs were and he's wonderful to me in every possible way. Neither of us would have been able to find our way to this place or overcome as much as we have without finding a way to fight fair, communicate, and of course tons of the Lord's grace and mercy.

I adore my man and he adores me. I miss him when he's at work or school and can't sit next to him without touching. I love holding his hand, rubbing his bald head, and when he squeezes me so hard it hurts. I loved being out last week with Mallory and Hailey last week for their birthday and the number of times the three of us said "daddy." He's not just a presence in our home. The one that creates and enforces the rules. The one who works then contributes nothing. He is my rock, my best friend, my biggest fan, my lover, and the greatest listener. But, not only is he wonderful to me but he is their "daddy."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Eternity Has Arrived

I abandoned my own blog for a week and have to admit I've not been keeping up with the blogs I typically read either; I have some catching up to do. I've got a lot of projects in the works, my munchkins are all home from school for the week for winter break, and we spent the day with Mallory and Hailey for their birthday on Wednesday. I've said this so many times this week but I thought the day would never come. When they were born, the age of five seemed an eternity away. They've transitioned from being babies to being toddlers and now from being toddlers to being little girls. The pair of them are a couple of the brightest kids I've ever known and there is so much about this time in their lives that I want to remember.

They totally and completely look up to their older sisters and brother without a doubt. They are daddy's girls and Tyler is their hero. They both love everything Faith and Karli love, from High School Musical, Hannah Montana, and The Jonas Brothers, to the silly clapping songs they learn at school that Faith and Karli teach them. They run around the house singing "bang, bang choo- choo train, wind me up, I do my thang..." on and on daily because the big girls do. Faith and Karli have taught them every word to the Taylor Swift hit Romeo and Juliet. I pray daily that they find their Prince Charming and their happily ever after. They said a girl chooses a man like her father so all my girls will be in excellent shape. Their future husbands have big shoes to fill.

They each have their own strengths and their own personalities. Mallory is strong and outgoing, a leader, and a bit bossy. Hailey, compared to her peers at school, is also a strong leader but much more passive at home. But each of them are always willing to share, trade, and make sacrifices for the other. Mallory is a bit ahead of Hailey in the learning curve at school. She recognizes a few more letters and numbers than Hailey, but Hailey can swim the length of a pool by herself. She's never taken a swim class and her daddy has taught her everything she knows. I think she's a natural.

They are both entertainers at heart. Hailey especially loves to make us laugh. They each have their own little quirky things they pull out of their hats at any given moment and before long they have us all in stitches. Dinner time is a riot around here. They love to sing and dance.

I want to always remember what it's like when we snuggle. They're my snugglebugs. I want to always remember how sweet their voice is at this age. The way they pick up a tune so easily like their Mama. The way a song just rises out of their spirits and they make up the words and sing to Jesus. I want to remember the twinkle in their eye and pray it never goes away. I pray that they grow up to be not only hearers of the word but doers also. I pray they grow to be kind, empathetic, and loving woman.

The pair of them have filled our hearts and our lives with such blessing. With so much joy; joy unspeakable. As much as the two of them are a package they are separate individuals and I pray that I have the strength and guidance to support them when it comes time for them to feel separate and be different. That they always know how special they are as individuals. That the Lord blessed us with them both on the same day merely five minutes apart but he has gifted them uniquely and has a unique design for each of their lives. Funny, at this age they think they have to grow up and marry twins! Who knows, there is a cute set of five-year-old boys that live next door. I pray they always know how special they each are to all of us.

I'm especially proud of my older children. We don't seem to have the "youngest sibling" factor in our family. The older three are just as blessed by them both as my husband and I are as parents. They each have already demonstrated how nurturing and caring they are and I know that having siblings so much younger will help form them into wonderful parents themselves.

One thing I've learned along the way...don't let your children sleep in your bed! This has always been sort of a rule for us but when the kids are sick or other circumstances exist, I'm willing to make an exception. Until this week. Mallory has had a bad cough and is having a tough time sleeping so she's crawled into bed with us a few times this week. Well, Hailey wakes up and sees her missing so she climbs in as well. Before long, I wake up sandwiched between my stocky husband and a toddlers butt cheek with another ones legs across my torso. No more sleepovers!

I saw a headline on about some essays that people had written titled "How lucky am I to have so much to lose." The conversations in my home recently have been deep and challenging but the Lord has guided those chats and broken down walls and barriers. I am truly blessed with a new revelation of just how blessed I am. I could not ask for more.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Keep Dancing!

It is crazy what a touch of warmth outside and lots of sunshine can do for a soul. I feel great this week and I'm getting a lot done too. I typically start laundry on Monday and it takes me all week to get it done, but I already folded and put away my last load and I've only got a few things to iron for the hubs. The carpet has been vacuumed. The windows and bathroom are clean. The sun is beaming in the windows. It's awesome.

I took advantage of the lack of chill in the air yesterday and photographed a few things in the backyard. It's incredible how gorgeous nature can be even in death. I'm so excited for the first spring flowers to spring up. I'm not naive enough to think that 30 degrees won't turn but a girl can hope right?

Mallory and Hailey are playing quietly in their own bedroom. That hasn't happened in eight months and it is quite refreshing for them to have their own space.

While folding I was watching Color Splash on HGTV hosted by David Bromstead who one a season of Design Star. David is an utter genius. I love every room I have seen him makeover and he covers every inch and every detail. He checks out the client's home and really listens to what they hope for the redo then brings it to life. What I love most is at every reveal he is always so unsure of himself; so humble. He is so talented and completely unaware of it. Actually, maybe he is aware of his talent but could be better phrased by saying he really wants to ensure that it's exactly what the client had in mind. I draw so much creativity and inspiration from him and I would love to get my hands on a room of my own. In due time though.

David's attitude reminds me of my own. It isn't enough for me to trust my technical skill behind the camera. It is so much more important to me that the bond, love, and relationships are transferred and brought to life in each image. I used to be the most insecure and shy person on the planet. Now I'm confident in my technical ability and truly love meeting new people and getting to know who they are and what they mean to each other to create lasting memories. The Lord has blessed me in an amazing way, pulled me out of my shell, my box, and in a way I never thought would have been possible. The aspirations He has for us greatly supersede what we ever think is possible for ourselves.

What's that new song playing? I heard it on the radio this morning and it totally won my heart. Though I'm not twenty and still looking for my dream the rest is utterly true for me. Yeah I'm full of dents and tears but grateful for every war wound because in the end I have found me. Not only have I found myself, I have finally grown into being proud of who I am and no longer apologizing for any of it. My reflection cast off of other people's opinions was a pure state of bondage. I said I was over it many, many times but today I can finally say I am free! Free to be me!

This life has been a dance. The music may skip and the steps may change but the melody goes on and we keep moving. Keep dancing!

Monday, February 9, 2009

My Provider

There is so much going on around here lately; it's starting to get a bit overwhelming again. The hubs is in the process of switching my server so I can finally debut Until now it's just been a splash page for clients to get to my photo blog and client proofing areas. But, no more, I've got a full blown web site! So exciting!

The weather finally broke around here this weekend. It was 40 degrees and it seemed so glorious. The sun was shining. It was truly a welcome change and great to finally defrost. I was hoping to head outside with Faith this weekend for her turn at updating her pictures but it didn't work out. Saturday is always such a crazy day for us. We try to squeeze in something fun with the family but have to head back for an early dinner. Our church services are on Saturday evenings temporarily so the day goes so fast. I shot for Sunday but Mom and Dad threw a wrench in those plans with a big surprise for Faith and Karli. More on that in a sec.

Just a couple of other small things. I finished up the jacket for Tyler's polish dance costume and he was photographed in it last week. Now I'm working on skirts for my four girls for recital. I've got one done but hmph, three more to go. I've got a stack of my own clothes that still need to be altered in some way that I'm hoping to finish up this week as well. Then I'll be ready to whip up something to finish off Faith and Karli's surprise. I'm trying to make sure I photograph every day and keeping up on my Flickr stream, contacts, and groups, has been fun but time consuming. It's worth it though. I'm learning so much and meeting tons of new people. I've got my first portrait party coming up this month and have some loose ends to tie up for that. Mallory and Hailey are celebrating their fifth birthday next week so plans are in the works for that. I think that about covers all the craziness.

Many of you know that eight months ago, our family made the move from our home into my parent's house. Partly due to unforeseen economical issues and partly due to bad decision making. Anyway, that first few months were super tough. Pride is a tough thing to swallow and it took me a long time to choke it down. I'm the oldest child and typical type 'a' personality, perfectionist and all. So admitting I had failed at something was difficult enough. Admitting I need help from my parents to see my way out of it was a whole new ball game for me. They have been awesome and welcomed us with open arms and have never made us feel like we've overstayed our welcome or that they're trying to edge us out. Actually, the idea of moving on makes them each shudder.

Our four girls have been sharing one bedroom with Tyler in his own. This has been especially tough on Karli, the middle child, because Mallory and Hailey just adore everything she owns. Her toys, her clothes, her jewelry, her make-up. Therefore, they are constantly getting into it. Getting homework done in the bedroom is tough with a 4-year-old climbing on your bed constantly and annoying you. My two oldest girls were desperate for their own space.

The most challenging part for all of us during our stay at the Young residence has been that we do often feel like we're all on top of each other. I try to keep the kids playing in areas where they aren't overwhelming my Mom and Dad and in their spaces all the time. Although, really, my parent's wouldn't hear of it anyway. It seemed for a while like there was no place for any of them to escape to.

Well, my parent's decide this weekend, spur of the moment, that Sunday morning we were going to build a bedroom for Faith and Karli. It just so happened that each of them were away for sleepovers Saturday night and we had the day to pull it off. By the time they both got home we had the new room complete except for the project I have for them. Furniture was in, pictures were up, beds were made, and it was all theirs. I also managed to get Mallory and Hailey's room rearranged and moved their pictures and belongings around to accommodate them as well. All four girls are pleased and punch to say the least. Mallory and Hailey of course are super tempted to cross the threshold of the one area of the house that is completely off limits but so far they're minding. There are two temporary walls in the bedroom that are bare so I'm going to make some fabric panels for those walls. I think in the long run it will pull the room together, make it unique, and demonstrate a bit of the girls likes and personalities.

I'm incredibly grateful to my parent's. They are willing to stop at nothing to accommodate us and spoil their grandchildren completely rotten! I actually quite like our living arrangements and so grateful to have the Lords' grace upon us for this season. For he is certainly in control. He is Jehovah Jirah, which means he literally knows our need and makes provisions to accommodate that need before the need even arises! Awesome stuff! He knows the road ahead and what each next step will be for us. Todd has been working hard earning his bachelor's degree and it seemed like he was going to have to continue to take classes until next December instead of finishing up in May. Well with a little divine intervention for financial aid and a dash of answered prayer in the scheduling area Todd WILL finish in May. I'm so proud of him. He's working super hard, pulling all 'A's' and remaining on the Dean's List. He attends school at least two nights per week, works full time, and has 3-day classes that are 8-hours each at least two weekends per month. It's a sacrifice but one that I'm certain will pay off. I also know I would never be able to handle it if I didn't have the company and assistance of my parent's. God is in control! He proves himself daily.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I've got quick learners folks!

So Karli has this really cute pair of corduroy pants. I think they're cute, she despises them. She also has this super cute shirt. It's thermal looking in creme with a small floral print on it. Sewn together with it is a short sleeved blue shirt so it looks like a twofor but it's really just one. Sounds cute and comfy, no? Karli despises this shirt more than the cute pants.

Karli is only willing to wear the cute clothes. I packed her bag for a sleep over at Grandma's house. Yeah, I packed the cute pants and the cute shirt. She hated them and wore and came home in her pj's because she refused to put on the clothes I love and packed for her. So, Monday came around and guess what, she wore what I packed for Grandma's house. She wasn't happy about it, in fact, I think she said she hates me even. Oh well.

So this past weekend, I packed for another sleepover and Grandma's house. Yeah, I packed the same pair of cute pants. I gave her a shirt she likes though. She came home in the cute clothes I had packed for her this time. Karli comes in and says "you know I told Grandma, the next time I sleep over and I don't like what mom packed for me, make me wear them anyway. Because if I don't, I have to wear them to school the next day."

I held my belly laugh deep down with me and just politely said "oh that's nice Karli, I'm glad you got dressed today and those pants aren't so bad are they." So now I can let out my muaaahhhhh of a laugh. I love it when they catch on quick!

Want more peace, time, and fulfillment?

You know the trouble with reading more than one book at a time while trying to complete other projects only prolongs the amount of time it should really take to read any given book. I can never make up my mind so it's typical of me to read 3-4 books at a time. One of the books I'm slowly working my way through is The Mystery of God's Will by Charles Swindoll; yeah I've been reading it forever.

You want to know who's in charge around here? The One who called the spaces into being, the One who put the clouds in place, the One who established the atmosphere in which we're able to live, the One who separated the seas and the dry land, who gave you breath for your lungs and the ability to think. The One who placed you here, now in time, for His purpose, and the One who with the snap of His divine finger will pull you from life into eternity. Mysterious though our lives may seem, God, and God alone, is in charge.

Heavy as that is, I find relief in it. I'm not in this life running around aimlessly. The Lord has a plan for my life. All things happen for a reason and will ultimately prove to be for his glory alone. I may not have a clear idea of the whole picture but thank God he does. I don't think anymore that we can really "miss" God. We may take a step in a direction that is different that what God would have chosen for us but I believe God immediately makes provisions to get us back around to where he wanted to see us go. He is almighty and all knowing. He knows what we'll say before we say it, what we'll do before we do it. He makes provisions for us accordingly.

We can't just wonder around messing up and doing what we want and expect God to clean up after us. But, if we are diligent and we seek him first we will stay under the hedge of his umbrella of protection. He is a God of love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. If we miss it, intentionally or otherwise, we are guaranteed to have at least one of those qualities bestowed upon us for help. Forgiveness, always. The Lord is not obligated to sustain us for things he hasn't called us to do so we may be without grace in an area for a season but we'll surely still have his love and mercy. If we commit to something we shouldn't be doing the quickest way to get back under his umbrella and back under his grace is to say "no" to that thing we first said "yes" to. This is tough stuff now, we may actually have to say "no" to someone or back out of a commitment, or be unable to help someone who is counting on us. Huh! Someone may not like us!

The answer is simple. Seek the Lord first and do what he has called you to do. If there isn't grace upon it, don't do it. You'll just end up miserable anyway. Oh, you may get a little bit of glory from on lookers, from man, but in the end, you won't care because you'll be miserable. Doing something you don't want to do, that you don't have time for, and probably for people you don't even like. If we said "yes" to the things we knew God wanted us to do and said "no" to all the things we did to impress others, we'd have so much more time, peace, and fulfillment.