Thursday, November 27, 2014

New family photo

We had family over today - which meant pictures!! We got oh so many hilarious pictures with the cousins and this: an updated family photo. Squinty eyes and all - I kind of love it. You can see how tall all of my sweet not-so-little-anymore ones are getting. Wow. That happened fast!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Day 29: when the walls fall down

This is Day 29 of my 31 days of writing series. If you haven't read Day 1 yet you can click here first. 

I wrote recently about hitting my Jericho wall. I wrote about the fear. I wrote about choosing love. I wrote about being still to watch God fight my battles. Now I am here to testify God is faithful.

I few nights ago I sat in church, crying out to God. "God I don't know how much longer I can go on like this. I feel like I am hanging on by a thread." And I felt like God reminded me that yes, I am down to one thread but that one thread was Himself. He has got me. I don't have to be afraid. 

Later I confessed "God, I feel so overwhelmed by this storm. I feel like I'm in the middle of a hurricane." And God immediately gave me a picture of a lighthouse. The waves crashed and that storm raged but the lighthouse stood strong against the waves. I remembered Proverbs 18:10 that says "The name of The Lord is a strong tower. The righteous runs into it and are safe." I have been praying this month, declaring that God is the rock beneath me. This picture was like a confirmation of everything I have been praying.

A few hours later I am sitting in the dark crying out to God again. "Daddy-God, I just need a glimmer of hope." and in this moment I see it, not just a glimmer but a flood-light of hope in my darkest places.

My Jericho walls have fallen. 

God has been faithful to me.

He has fought my battles. 

He has saved the day. 

Now, I have to keep moving forward. I have to keep fighting (mostly within myself) to not slip back into old habits, to keep this ground God has given me. 

I have said this before and I will say it again now. Love wins. When you have the right to be angry but you choose love. Love wins. When a big piece of you wants to retreat with your hurt but you stay and choose love. Love wins. When you choose not to lay down but to stand there and choose love. Love wins. It's not about what he said or what she did or how hurt you feel or how you are being misunderstood and misrepresented it is about choosing love. Letting go of fear and choosing love. Placing your hope in God alone and choosing love. 

I know our circumstances are all different but our God is the same yesterday today and forever. He is faithful. He is trustworthy. His love never fails. Just wait and see.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The changing face of charity

It is getting to the point that it is inevitable, Christmas is coming. Black Friday ads are starting to pop up, Buy Local/Shop Small Saturday campaigns are gearing up & Cyber Monday is right around the corner. Here is something I want to say, right now - as the Christmas buying parties are gearing up and just before the holiday advertising hits full-throttle.

We have a choice.

We can choose to spend our holiday shopping dollars to support sweat-shops around the globe, we can fill our homes with the "cheap crap" that breaks before the Christmas decorations are put away, or maybe even worse, it drifts to the bottom of the toy box cluttering up bedrooms and getting stepped on in the middle of the night.

We can choose to get Uncle X the basket of weird meats and Aunt J the tin of odd unmarked chocolates. We can have a plant delivered to Grandma A and an iTunes gift card to Grandpa P. Or we can do something important with those purchasing dollars.

We have a choice.

Because the face of charity is changing. In the past charity was about writing a check, or clicking the credit-card box, sending money to feed the hungry. But all of that is changing. Today one of the best things we can do for the poor is to support their businesses with our purchases.

I have known about this movement for awhile but when I watched this video last month it all clicked into place. If you give someone a fish, they eat for a day, if you teach someone to fish they can feed themselves for the rest of their lives, but if you then go and buy fish from that person you give them a chance to rise up out of poverty, educate their children and employ other people. There are so many organizations that are making it easy for us to help the men and women in emerging nations build sustainable businesses. I want to shine a spotlight on one.

I've written before about Jamie and the work that she and her family are doing to support the orphan crisis in Uganda. They are doing an awesome job of finding ways that we can help the people of Africa support themselves. Jamie co-founded Pearl Ministries and through this ministry we are able to make an impact in the lives of the artists and entrepreneurs of Africa and their families. Through their website Ornaments4Orphans you can purchase Ornaments, Nativities, Stocking Stuffers & Jewelry.

Here are a couple of other resources: Noonday sells jewelry and accessories made by artisans in third world countries. Read more about their mission here. The Compassion Gift Catalog is another cool way to give a charitable gift in honor of a friend or family member.

Monday, November 10, 2014

a prayer for your Monday

I was praying this for myself over the weekend. I was praying this for the mission team from my church this weekend too. Now I am praying it for you:

May you be overwhelmed 
by NOTHING but God

May you be overwhelmed by God's faithful provision for you more than you are aware of your feelings of lack.

May you be overwhelmed by God's unfailing steadfast faithful love for you more than you are overwhelmed by the chaos, clutter and noise of daily life.

May you be overwhelmed by God's covering of grace more than you are aware of the moments when you totally blow it.

More than your to-do list
More than your problems
More than your worries
More than your heartache

May you be overwhelmed by God

Who knows me
Who sees me
Who guides me
Who provides for me 
Who rejoices over me with singing
Whose steadfast love will never depart from me 
Whose faithfulness towards you and me is the rock under our feet
Whose grace had led us into wide open spaces
Whose plan for our lives is to give us hope

The God who made the heavens and earth
Who sees all
Who knows all
Who needs nothing
Still knows me by my name

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It is well

Sometimes, in the waiting, in the wondering what in the world is going on right now, God asks us to just be still and see what He is going to do. I am in that moment right now. I feel God reminding me to not be afraid, to wait confidently and patiently to see the thing He is going to do. Sometimes, in that moment you hear a song that is exactly what you need to hear. For me, this week, it was this one. We sing this song at church sometimes - this past Sunday it was exactly what I needed to hear and has been my heart-cry all week long.

P.S. I refreshed my photography class page!! I offer affordable easy-to-understand photography mentoring and tutorials for everyone from the average smart-phone photographer to the Digital SLR owner dreaming of when their hobby will become something more and everyone in between. I also offer specialized classes for taking photos of children and also one for bloggers & online shop owners. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Day 28 - Jericho

It is 11:50 on October 31st as I sit down to write this post on my phone and while it kind of feels like I ought to I'm not done yet. want to write all 31 days of my challenge. So here is my day 28. Sometimes you hit a Jericho wall.

In case you don't know the story - let me give you the short version: God freed His people who were enslaved in Egypt (maybe you remeber the whole "Let my people go" thing from the movie or the song "When You Believe" from the cartoon) God promised to bring them to their promised land. Looooong story short - when they get there the one of first things they come to is a massive walled city. They are just the children of slaves, not soldiers and they have no idea how to reclaim their land. So their leader (who by this time is a guy named Joshua) goes off away from the camp and prays for God to give him a strategy to win their first decisive victory. The angel of The Lord appears to him and give him this strategy: walk around the wall etc. etc. blow your horns and yell. If that had been me I would have been like:


That makes a lot of sense. 

Okay, sure.

But Joshua followed God's instructions and God came through for him. 

In my life, right now, I'm facing my own personal Jericho wall. I walked into it face first and after I cried for a little while I got off by myself, on a walk. Listening for an answer to all of my problems (insert the sound of crickets chirping)  I had to keep taking each hour one minute at a time and like a fog doesn't usually disappear in a minute my own personal fog took awhile to clear. To be honest, I think it is probably still in the process if clearing but here is one thing I know for sure right now: you can't live your life by fear. It doesn't work. Life is hard and you are going to get hurt one way or another, it is better to be brave and choose love and get hurt than to fear and not be able to give or receive love. Fear and love don't mix. I don't need to be constantly trying to protect myself. 

I also believe you can trust God to fight your battles that doesn't mean always being passive or placating but it does mean trusting God with the outcome. 

The end of the story of Jericho is that God held up his end of the deal. The walls of this city fell down, and every other city was filled with terror so great that they didn't dare go to war against this small emerging nation wandering through their promised land.

I believe when we get to a Jericho moment, when there is no clear next step and it seems like there is nothing you can do - that is the moment you step back to see what God is going to do. 

Then you watch Him fill you with love, and give you peace and the endurance necessary to get to the next thing, or the bravery to speak the honest words you have been too afraid to speak. You fight in your spirit against all of the lies of the enemy, you keep holding onto God's word and His promises. He will fight for you, you'll see. You just need to be still.

I'm saying this to you - because maybe you need to hear it too. I'm saying it out loud because tomorrow I might feel like laying down in passivity. But I will do the hard work of fighting through my fear. Choosing love, holding onto hope, embracing honesty, trusting God to guide me through.
Continue reading in this series "when the walls fall down"

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