What Do We Do With Hurricane Harvey?

No one can escape the despair and pain that Hurricane Harvey has brought to our land.  Modern technology and social platforms force us to see the destruction and brokenness around us that before we could choose to shield our lives from.  Images of the elderly in flooded nursing homes awaiting rescue are impossible to forget, and most of us didn't go looking for them.  

Last night, my 7 year old daughter asked me, with genuine seriousness and urgency in her voice, "If all these people's homes are being flooded and they are losing all their special things, why doesn't God just stop the storm? I know rain is good to help things grow, but there is no good that comes from this much rain is there?"  Her questions hit me with a blow I was not prepared to absorb.   But my intention has never been to shield my kids from what's real, but rather to point them to what's true.  So we pressed in instead of turning away.

Erin Straza, in her book Comfort Detox, writes:

If I am going to be present with others in their pain, I need to come to terms with the mysteries that God chooses not to resolve.  I need to accept that negative capability is here, that it is possible some pains will not be resolved in this life.  Faith is needed to trust in spite of what cannot be seen or healed or settled.  Am I willing to stand in faith, engaged in the brokenness that is shredding the world, and proclaim that God is still God, even when life doesn't change and hurts refuse to heal?

My desire for myself, and for my children, is that our faith would be strong enough to engage in this brokenness that is shredding the world, whether it be the destruction in the wake of Hurricane Harvey or the destruction in the waves of organized racism, not with answers but with humble hands to hold, and help, and heal.  So last night, we wrestled.  We thought.  We wondered.  We chose to trust. And then we prayed for the storm to dissipate and for those affected by it. 

May we all be willing to feel the full weight of what can't be explained away, drawing away from our own comfort and near to other's pain.  

Need a place to give? 100% of your donation through Preemptive Love Coalition will go directly to hurricane response.

pace

My husband has been working longer hours than usual.  It started out as a season, but then that season seemed to never know its own end.  When it should have stepped aside to let the next one take over, it strengthened its roots like a weed that won't be pulled.  During this season, several other weeds put down gripping roots around me.  We had our 4th child, whose duplicated kidney needed some extra medical attention.  We began our 10th year of marriage, which highlighted some lagging relational values that in our early days we envisioned looking...different.  I started a small photography business, which has increased my vitality but decreased my time.  And I started reading Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner.  

With every page of Erin's book, my soul was screaming yes as it breathed huge sighs of relief, yet the life around me was full of contradiction.  I was full.  In some ways, beautifully full.  In other ways, overwhelmingly full.  

This week, I met a good friend at the park, whom I unraveled myself for.  We laughed as we shared stories about our kids.  We agreed as we shared desires for healthy family.  We, or she really, extended empathy for the difficulties in our days.  Our time together was refreshing, encouraging, and full of hope.  

Then, on the way out to a session on Friday, I listened to a podcast with a woman who shared her own experience of raising kids with a husband who works long hours, long days, long weeks, long months... As she shared about the challenges, her words always honored her husband, while giving grace to her family to function differently, and hope to still thrive.   

Then...today, I began the last chapter of Erin's book, and found this:

Through my seasons of slowing the pace, of subtracting the expectations, of compartmentalizing and tidying and decluttering and choosing, I have made every attempt to manipulate my life.  I have made every attempt to tame my lion, to outrun it.  I have made every attempt to pad my jungle- the leafy world of ambiguity--and I have made every attempt to control the style, the terms, the circumstances of my life.  I have chased more and I have chased less.  I have lived large and I have lived small.  I have sped up, slowed down, traded up, pared down, built myself up, fallen down.  But have I looked up? Laid it down? Perhaps we were never meant to change the pace.  We were meant to surrender it.  Still...we attempt to change.

Wherever you find yourself in this season, whether it's really a season, or whether season is an incredibly unfair word for the length of time you have pressed forward towards the change, may you be encouraged by this: Perhaps we were never meant to change the pace.  We were meant to surrender it.  As women, may we find the grace and strength to look at what's before us, in all its contradictions, and surrender it.  Whether you are trying to chase more or chase less, may you find the hope, the rest, the peace, and the support to choose wisely, to give fully, to forgive freely, and to change slowly.  

documentary sessions are my jam

documentary sessions are my jam

There is a current trend in society that bends toward minimalism, slowing down, decluttering, living more simply.  I can't go anywhere with my 4 kids without some stranger making sure I know that I have my hands full, and it goes by way too fast.  I know.  Believe me, I know.  This is my draw towards documentary photography.  Sure, everyone has a cell phone with a fairly rad camera always in arm's reach.  We have thousands of photos on our phone of our kids, but most of these are photos that will stay on our phones until we run out of storage and have to move them elsewhere, and almost none of these photos capture our whole family (especially me, mom).  

I want to remember the moments my husband and I shared with our kids.  Every family has their special day-to-day, month-to-month norms and traditions that are special in different ways.  Maybe you homeschool, or you have a weekly family night.  Maybe you spend a LOT of time with your little ones at the library, or outdoors digging in the dirt.  Maybe you wake up every Saturday and make a BIG breakfast together.  Sometimes, the moments you want to best remember, the cutest, most precious moments, are even more simple- like baths and bedtime, or watching your toddler try to dress himself.  

I just did a documentary session for some friends of mine that is now up on the blog!  We planned some "normal" activities and I just followed alongside.  It's beautiful to see the simple, intimate moments frozen in time.  

This Spring/Summer, I'll be offering some special promotional documentary sessions to capture these moments!  So as Mother's Day and Father's Day approaches, slip some hints to your special someone that this might be the perfect gift! Capture your family's best times together.  You won't regret it. 

come alive

I've been working on this post for a few days now- writing and deleting and re-writing paragraphs, in an unsuccessful attempt to communicate the revelations of my heart.  With each attempt, the words come up short.  

In 2016, I charged towards a door I've longed to enter through, only to have that door closed before me, again.  And as I reflected on the other path God led me down, and dreamed into where that path may lead in 2017, He spoke to me about coming alive.  He reminded me that Jesus is in my midst, and there is life to embrace in the slowness and simplicity, as well as in the charging forward.  This song says it better than I.  

i abandon my addiction to the certainty of life
and my need to know everything
this illusion cannot speak, it cannot walk with me at night
as i taste life’s fragility

i am looking for a savior i can see and know and touch
one who dwells within the midst of us
May a broken God be known within the earth beneath our feet,
let our souls behold humility
let our souls behold humility

when our plans become the casualties of getting through the day
and we begin to know our weakness
and denial isn’t strong enough to hold our fears at bay
and we can’t escape our emptiness

i see the sympathy of heaven in the earth and wind and trees
i see hope within the morning sun

i am searching for meaning
i am looking for healing
i am haunted by your reflection
i was blinded by my addictions
i am torn apart by the dying
i am giving up on escaping
will i learn to live without taking
will i learn to see beauty in the making

I can’t pretend to know
the beginning from the end
But there’s beauty in the life thats given
we may bless or we may curse
every twist and every turn
will we learn to know the joy of living

(United Pursuit; Looking for a Savior)

May you walk with a Jesus you can see and know and touch, despite all uncertainty and twists in your story.  May you see the beauty He weaves into the days you are given.  May your 2017 be filled with the joy of living.

setting our intention.

I have an addiction to fresh starts.  Since college, Dan and I have moved to a new city every two years, and often moved to a new house each year.  Many of the moves have been difficult and accompanied by tears and sorrow, but each move also brought its own measure of hope and the promise of something new.  In the transitions, there is a beautiful opportunity to evaluate the life I'm leaving behind and to dream into the life I'm about to take on.  It's a moment in time to set, or reset, my intention. 

This is why I love New Years!  During the time between Christmas and the New Year, I take time to slow down, to be still before God, and to evaluate the life of the past year and to dream into the life of the new year.  It's a time of reflection that ushers me into the presence of my God, who is ever faithful to heal and to restore, to convict and to empower, to prune and to bring life.  Every year I see how His hands have carried me.  Every year I see how His promises have not been thwarted.  Every year I see how His plans have been for my good.  And then I dream with Him for what's to come.  

I've done this over the years in different ways, but this year my friend Liz Griffin wrote a guide for reflection that I chose to work through.  I highly recommend you take time, slow down, sit with God.  Set your intention.  

 

series on prayer: for young persons

Summer has ended, and it's officially the Back-to-School season.  Parents everywhere are rejoicing and grieving as they send their children off into new places to learn and grow.  It's a time filled with anticipation and excitement, and often also a time filled with anxiety and worry.  It's a time for children to take further steps of independence, and for parents to take further steps of relinquishment.  

This year is the first year that we have sent a child to public school.  It was the first year that we have sent a child to school 5 days a week.  It felt monumental.  Dan and I were excited for her, believing this was the best place for her this year, but grieving her absence and hoping we had adequately prepared her over the last 6 years for the wonderful, confusing, hard world she was now going to explore without us by her side. 

As a mom, I want to be there to point out the important moments she misses, to redirect her when she begins focusing only on herself, to correct her when she isn't loving well, to encourage her when she is disappointed or feels slighted.  I want to speak life and truth when I see her begin to grab onto a lie.  I want to protect her from the pain and heartache.  

But as a mom, I also want to set her free.  I know that the same pain and heartache and tough decisions that I so desperately want to protect her from, are the experiences that can mold her character and strengthen her spirit.  The pain and the failure are the experiences that can drive her into the heart and hands of Jesus, and provide the tangible moments of encountering God that alone have the power to solidify the faith we desire for her to call her own.  She has to learn that He is with her.  That He is real.  So off she goes...

These are the days that I need a prayer like this to set my mind on what is good, and right, and true.  This prayer helps me release my rights to my children, and trust God with their lives.  

God our Father, you see your children growing up in an
unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways
give more life than the ways of the world, and that following
you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to
take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance
for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you,
and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

As you release your children this week, would you pray this prayer for them?  

series on prayer: for those who influence public opinion

I often find myself overcome with this desire to pray (for a people, a nation, a friend, a stranger, my kids...) yet also overcome with a loss for words.  I know the idea is that we ought to pray in line with God's will, but WHAT, pray tell, is his will?  Sometimes I have no idea what to believe for. I have no idea what the answer should be, or which outcome would be best.  Or the tragedy around me is so great, and my personal life is so shielded from it, that I'm not exactly sure what those grieving need most.  

Liturgical prayers help me start somewhere.  

This last year has been overshadowed by a heavy and heated political atmosphere in our nation.  Everyone seems to be in agreement that the stakes are high, but the differences of opinion along party lines, candidate choices, and issues of interest have overdosed our society with hate and prejudice.  I remember going to vote earlier this year with Norah and Beckett in tow, not wanting to tell them who I was voting for, for fear that they might mention it while we stood in line, and I might have to deal with some stranger's highly charged opinion.  The fear wasn't based on a lack of interest in dialogue.  I'm all for debating and sharing concerns with passion and intelligence, but the lack of respect and value for people in the dialogue I see and hear out there is enough to distance me from the discussion completely.  

Then I found this prayer.  It is a prayer for those who influence public opinion: 

Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices: Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

I can't think of a better place to start than this.  Join me in praying for the people in our nation, from the voices of experts in the media to the people going viral in twitter or Facebook feeds.  May the voices heard loudest do their part to make our hearts wise, our minds sounds, and our will righteous.  

series on prayer: thanksgiving for the social order

I've always been at home in the church.  Growing up, my home was a Baptist church.  In college, I found my home in an Evangelical, community church.  As a newlywed, my home was in a church plant started by our college community church.  Now, we find our young family at home in an Anglican church.  

My experiences in these different traditions of following Jesus taught me much about faith, transformation, mission, and family life.  There are great similarities I can trace between each one, and there are vast differences I find too.  But in each place I have called home, I have found Jesus,  and therein the inspiration for the renewal of my soul and the growth of my faith and character.  

In the Anglican church, I have found Jesus deeper through liturgical prayers.  There is something profoundly beautiful about a crafted prayer, prayed in unity, full of truth and sentiment, that withstands culture and time.  Over the next few posts, I would like to share some of the prayers that have lit up my soul with hope, expectation, and thankfulness in a God who is doing might things in our midst.  

Today's prayer is a prayer for the diversity of races and cultures:

O God, who created all peoples in your image, we thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in this world. Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellowship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Today there is a growing state of crisis across the globe along lines of diversity-whether it be the color of our skin, our chosen religious affiliation (either by practice or heritage), the candidate we support, or one of the many other aspects of our race and culture that put us at odds with those around us.  Then we add the distant and impersonal modes of communication that technology has provided for us and we exponentially increase the urges toward hate growing in the hearts of man.  

But this prayer shocks my heart back to life, from the death and hopelessness I see around me, to the life and redemption I know is coming! Will you pray it with me?  Would you ask for your life to have ever-widening circles of fellowship?  Would you look for God in those who differ most from you? Can we believe together that our knowledge of God's love will be made perfect in our love for ALL his children?  And more so, can we believe together that prayer is not just an act of ritual but a plea to a God who hears and answers? 

chains of habit

chains of habit

The chains of habit are too light to be felt, until they are too heavy to be broken. -Warren Buffet

I've been thinking a lot about habits.  Starting sometime in June, Rory, my then 16-month daughter, began waking up in the middle of the night.  I attributed it to teething most likely, because somehow with her we lucked out, and she never had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.  Well at this same time, I had recently discovered that I was pregnant with our 4th child, because, well, it happens.  Due to the combination of nausea, sheer exhaustion, and ease, rather than taking the time to help Rory get back to sleep in her own crib, I just picked her up and took her back downstairs to bed with Dan and I.  Fast forward 2 months...

Every...night...Rory wants to be rocked to sleep.  Then, she promptly wakes up around 11pm, ready  to be brought down to our bed.  Until Sunday.  Sunday I decided I was over this habit.  I wanted my bed back.  I wanted to drop her off in her crib at bedtime and not see her beautiful face until the next morning.  So for the first time in her life, we started "sleep training."  

I hate sleep training.  It's exhausting.  I actually get less sleep when I'm sleep training than when I just bring the kid to my bed.  But I also love sleep training.  It works for us.  Some, yet sometimes more than I'd hoped, extra-effort nights later, there are real improvements.  New habits are formed.  

But why does it always seem that the bad habits start out with chains "too light to be felt, until they are too heavy to be broken," yet the good habits we desire seem to have chains that start out heavy?  Those first few nights of grabbing Rory and just bringing her to my bed were thoughtless, really.  Yet, before I even realized it, we had written a new habit into our nightlife that felt daunting to break.  The habits I want, however, they start out feeling daunting!  

At the end of each year, I spend several days reviewing the previous year, praying for the next, and planning out how I want to grow and what I want to accomplish in the next year.  Then, I organize some form of strategy to see it all to fruition, which usually involves buying some new books, maybe a few apps, and mostly likely some random, cute stuff off of Etsy.  Then I reorient my life schedule, penciling in earlier wake times, windows for exercise, spaces for self-care and pursuing all this growth and accomplishment I'm surely bound for! My enthusiasm lasts for a few weeks, and then life happens and I realize I was completely insane for thinking I had all this time and extra energy for any of this! The next thing I know, it's the end of the year and I'm left discouraged, yet somehow laughing too, at how far I failed to come.  

Maybe that's the problem.  I've realized that it's me who picks up the heaviest chains for the habits I desire.  I start bad habits with a small, poor choice, whereas I always attempt to start good habits with huge, unreasonable expectations.  This last year, Norah, my 6 year old, completed Kindergarten.  Her school curriculum incorporated extensive memory work.  At 6 years old, she can now recite Proverbs 3:1-12, James 1:2-18, and a 16-line poem from memory without even really thinking about it.  It's incredible.  But she started with 1 line, or 1 verse a week.  Every day, she practiced this 1 line, this 1 verse.  After a week or so, she added another.  I remember thinking, "this is going to take forever!"  And yes, it took a long time, and the effort was light, but the fruit was lasting.  

So today, I encourage you to think about the habits you desire.  And once you settle in on 1, dream big, but start small.  Don't be afraid of the time that lies before you.  Accept the slowness of the process, believing that one day, the chains of those good habits will be too heavy to be broken.  

 

 

When Life Blooms

When Life Blooms

Recently, a desire of mine came so close I could almost reach out and grab it, but then something else came and took its place.  So naturally, I've been thinking a lot about plants...naturally.  Ok, I know, but stay with me.  

There are 8 steps in the farming life cycle: 1) crop selection, 2) land preparation, 3) seed selection, 4) seed sowing, 5) irrigation, 6) crop growth, 7) fertilizing, and 8) harvesting.   I grew up on a farm/ranch, and although I did my best not to pay much attention, I learned at least this much- it takes a LOT of work and a LOT of time.  My sister-in-law was recently here visiting and she so graciously helped my 6 year-old daughter build and plant a flower garden (because well, I don't do that kind of thing.  I may cloth diaper, but I don't grow things).  The sprouts came up quick and beautifully, but now almost 6 weeks in, there has yet to be a single bloom! I have been assured this is normal, but it is driving me crazy.  We did everything we were told to do to bring life to this garden.  There should be flowers by now! Surely.  There are big, strong, green stems.  Where. Are. The Flowers?!  

But you know what, Norah is still incredibly proud of her garden.  She shows it to everyone who comes over.  She sees life, with or without flowers.  Why?  Because there actually is life there.  It doesn't seem to bother her at all that not 1 stem has bloomed.  Her work produced something, and she doesn't yet measure the produce and find it to be not enough, and I pray she never does.  She put in the work, she did what was asked of her, and because the rest is out of her control, she can be satisfied with the produce.  

What I've discovered is this: sometimes we put in the work and the time faithfully, and something wonderful grows.  Sometimes we put in the work and the time faithfully, and nothing grows.  Other times we do no work at all, and turn around to find beautiful flowers growing in the cracks in our sidewalks!  Life happens where we plant it, and sometimes where we don't.  And shouldn't we always be satisfied with the LIFE blooming around us, whether it's what we planned for, or not?  

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. 1 Corinthians 3

Timing.

I don't know how much you know about Jesus.  So I'll start with his: the man was an incredibly interesting guy during his time on Earth.  His life, if it truly were the life of a King, was full of the unexpected.  HIs birth and upbringing were unexpected.  His friends were unexpected.  The people he paid attention to were unexpected.  What he did with his time was unexpected.  Most of his recorded words were unexpected.  Some refer to all of these surprises as an upside-down Kingdom.  

It may all seem backwards, but I can surely relate.  My life often feels more full of the unexpected than the expected.  The surprises never seem to stop coming.  I could talk well into the night with you, over a glass of wine if I wasn't pregnant, over what seems completely upside-down to me.  

As I've learned about Jesus, I've discovered that he heard God's voice and did as God commanded him.  He followed God's plan.  But like all smart, well-meaning sons, (I have one...and a few daughters), surely he had some questions and concerns along the way.  Isn't there a better way?  Can't we just do this?  And why not right NOW?  Yet being perfect and all, he still trusted his Father's voice.

One of these instances that baffles me is the story of the temple clearing.  The story goes that one day Jesus walks into a temple and overturns a bunch of tables, confronting the corruption inside as moneychangers profited at the expense of the poor and the foreigner as they sought goods from vendors (exchanging their money for the required temple shekel at unfair rates).   What I find most interesting is that Jesus had come with his family to the temple each year for Passover, witnessing this injustice over and over, year after year, since he was old enough to remember.  So why now?  What was it about that day?  Did he not care before?  

Author Alicia Chole writes of this story,

The fact that Jesus witnessed injustice in the temple courts years before His protest affirms that timing matters.  Taking action because there is a need is a very different motivation that taking action because there is a God.  In addition to being exhausting, the former is led by what our eyes see and what our hearts feel.  The latter is led by loving listening and dependance-inspired discipline. (40 Days of Decrease, p82)

 Jesus, full of compassion, exceedingly merciful, and overflowing with love, waited for years for his Father's yes.  Jesus didn't start his public ministry until his 30s, which means he walked past the hurting, the broken, and the oppressed, knowing he had the power to heal and make new, but waiting for his Father to say, "Now."  Him.  Her.  Them.  There.  Now. 

There are matters stirring in each of our hearts, and moments we are motivated to respond.  Yet many times, the weight of the matter and the gravity of the motivation still don't produce the components necessary for a response that feels like enough.  Timing matters.  

So often we wait.  We carry a burden, we hold on to a dream, we brainstorm a strategy, we tuck it in our pocket, and we wait.  But let us not wait in apathy or disappointment.  Let us wait in expectation of the unexpected.  Let us wait in hope that God's word will one day be now, because His eyes never stop seeing and His heart never stops feeling, but as a Father, His timing is purposeful.  

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand."    Psalm 19:21