Saturday, December 27, 2014

Grace

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It was a gift to me on Christmas morning to have a few quiet moments to photograph the baby in the manger.  This year I hid him, and he was missing from the nativity scene until Christmas.

I would love to say that I took full advantage of the reminder to pray for his presence to come to some needy places in my heart and in the world around me.  I took some advantage.  But that is the beauty.  It is never too late to notice, and pray.

May I take note of my poverty and remember the source of true riches.  There could be no greater gift.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Creativity Project: Family

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"Be completely humble and gentle;
be patient, bearing with one another in love."
Ephesians 4:2

We are a family with teenagers. (She says, laughing, tempted to just hit publish after that last period, because what more needs to be said? But I digress.)  As such, we are a middle-aged couple who has tested our "for better or worse".  And still, we love.

These are not as much "The Wonder Years" as the "See What You're Made Of" years--but they are no less wonderful. Truly. The irony of the Ephesians verse is palpable, because if we followed it, why would we have to bear with one another? The reality is, we take turns. Turns bearing with one, turns giving another a chance to practice bearing with us. As Sheila Walsh says in A Love So Big, "God loves you on your best days and on your worst days." It is ok that even though our desire and goal is to be humble, gentle, patient, loving and forbearing, sometimes we are not.  For then, we can have a home filled with grace and growth.

It's true in our immediate family, our extended family, our church family, and the many smaller groups that become like family for a time--if it's to work out well at all, we ultimately have to bear with one another in love.  I like to imagine a world where that is the standard.

Blogging on the theme of family with the circle of photographers in The Creativity Project today.  Next in the circle is Pam, who has a hobby-related family you will truly not want to miss.  Breathtaking photos are just a click away!  We would love to see your take on the "Family" theme this month at The Creativity Project!  Visit our Facebook wall and post photos that show what family means to you.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What are you waiting for?

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This year, I have been reading an excellent book called 
"The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year"
by Kimberlee Conway Ireton.
It has been helping me think about the invitation
known as Advent.

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Advent means "coming".
In the season before the coming, there is a waiting.
Just as the people of Israel waited over 400 years
for promise of a Savior to be fulfilled,
so we are waiting for his return, for all things to be set right.
But this is not a waiting synonymous with boredom, impatience or anxiousness.
It is a waiting synonymous with hope.

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This Advent season, I am challenged to be present in the waiting.  I love the fact that, though Thanksgiving is not a "church year" holiday, it kicks off the season with an eye to the past, reminding us of where God has been and is at work, reminding us to be thankful. Reminding us that while we turn our eye to what we do not yet see, we do it with confidence in the One whose goodness and faithfulness we have seen.

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I am not a worrier by nature, which is usually a good thing. There is a pitfall, however. I am one to look at a situation over which I have no control, maybe pray about it, and then just "leave it with God". I am not one to wait with him, though. I am right there in the garden with the disciples who could not join Jesus for one hour in the agony of life or death prayer.

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This Advent season, I'm accepting his invitation to name the empty mangers in my world, the places where I need to wait and watch and PRAY for him to come. Like a friend waiting for a transplant, a relative waiting for a job, a dear one who has given up on the whole concept of hope, a challenging situation that needs a wise, productive solution. Like those stricken by disease and waiting for a cure,  people terror-stricken, bereft and displaced, waiting for an end to evil, and like bigotry that needs to be replaced with understanding and compassion. Like someone I know who needs the ever-growing fruit of maturity--and that someone is ME.

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I'm taking my cues from Mary and Joseph and the wise men, and I'm watching for Jesus to show up.

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved, But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."  Romans 8:22-25

Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Summing it all up


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Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

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Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

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Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.


Philippians 4:4-8, The Message

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Confessions

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Photo 52, week whatever:  Confessions

Something that happened on our Photo 52 Facebook page sparked the comment that "Confessions" might be an interesting theme. In agreement, I immediately put it in the lineup for November.  There is nothing like a little frigid early November weather (on the heels of the previous "Polar Vortex" winter) to elicit some confession-worthy behavior.

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Like drowning our family sorrows in beer cheese soup, 

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or my own in extra coffee (to keep my hands warm) with extra creamer (because obviously).

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Also by way of confession, we do make our kids shovel, but we don't dictate their outerwear choices. (You knew that though, right?)  In my own defense, when I took Ben to the doctor (wearing shorts) because he couldn't stop coughing, I did ask her whether she had any problem with him wearing shorts and a t-shirt in the winter. She said as long as his skin wasn't exposed to temps or for a length of time that made him susceptible to frostbite, she had no issue. As we suspected.

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And another confession…on one cold day last week, Ben was hurriedly looking for a pair of socks as he was trying to head out the door.  He had none in his drawer he said.  On my own feet were a pair of his socks that I had just pulled out of my own sock drawer.  Rather than offer them to him I made him run downstairs and pull a pair out from between the sofa cushions.  Because that was the real reason he didn't have a whole drawer full of clean socks, I reasoned.  (Besides, I had already warmed this pair up for myself.)  That was laundry day, and after that he had nine clean pairs of socks in his drawer.  Hmmm.  I do laundry every week, so something is up here.

Moving on…

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Photo 52, week somethingorother: Roadscapes

Cool theme that someone suggested.  Mine were photographed before the leaves all fell off.  This is the road between home and school and most other places on my daily path, a road with a great view for all seasons.

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Though it's not that obvious, the bird soaring overhead is a bald eagle--
a common occurrence here, as there are lakes on both sides of the road.

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Photo 52, some week from back in October: Spooky/Scary

This cemetery sits at the top of a hill beside that same road, but a few miles down.  The towering tombstones have always caught my attention as I have driven by, so this theme made me determined to go for a visit.  I waited until the moon was full, but the night that I hoped would be the perfect opportunity, the clouds rolled in as the sun went down.  What to do?

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However, I was amazed at how old the place really was, and managed to spook myself as this tombstone caught my eye with what at first appeared to be a witch-like face, but turned out to be a cross surrounded by laurel.  (Please tell me you see the ghost of Andrew O'Grady too.)

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Finally, more in the scary category, is Ben behind the wheel for the first time.
He is actually going to do just fine.  Instructed by his dad.
With photog mom as backseat driver just to document the occasion.
Hooray for Dad!

One more confession:  I am done trying to track the weeks of Photo 52.  I love it, but I just can't keep up the blogging about it.  So while I will most likely post the photos for the rest of the year, it will be anybody's guess what week it is (and they may very well go unannounced), until week 52.  Which will be here before we know it.  A girl's gotta know when it's time to let go of something.

So those are my confessions.  Is there anything you need to let go of?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Creativity Project: Art

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A funny thing happened when I was getting my post ready for The Creativity Project this month, with the theme of "Art".  I had my photos all ready to go, a bunch of shots backlogged of the art I had seen in the last few months but never shared.  (One awesome benefit of photography is that it has taught me to see art in the most unlikely places.)  All I needed was a shot of this book that has had me pondering art lately.  

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As I set up my photo, I noticed this handy work of art that graces our table.  Bethany made it a couple years ago, and it holds the names of all our extended family members (who are works of art themselves). We pull a name out each night when we sit down to eat, and include that person in our prayers. So the prayer pot would be perfect for my shot, I thought.  And suddenly the whole scene became an invitation to see--and create--a little differently. (Those other photos will wait.) So enjoy my creative process, along with a few quotes from this book that I highly recommend! 

A Million Little Ways:
Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live
by Emily P. Freeman

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"[Here's] what artists do.  They pull back the covering on our inner life, 
allowing us to see things beneath the surface, 
things that, without their compassion, creativity, and generosity, 
we may have missed."

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"Being an artist has something to do
with being brave enough
to move toward what makes you come alive."

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"Maybe you make paintings, or maybe you make pie.
Maybe you live confidently in the midst of scary situations.
Maybe you are brave enough to listen, to wait, to trust.
Maybe you see potential in situations, and in people that others aren't able to see.
Art is what happens when you dare to be who you really are.
You have the power to influence, to move, to make, to become.
You have the capacity to perform the human act of making art,
of doing work that comes from deep within you and touches something deep within me.
We make art with our lives."

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"The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people."
~Vincent Van Gogh

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"The kind of creating God does is the kind only God can do.
But he invited human beings to join him as co-creators.
Not as equals with him, but as image bearers of him,
to carry his image into the world."

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"Much of the beauty that arises in art comes from the struggle an artist wages with his limited medium."
~Henri Matisse

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"For we are God's masterpiece.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."
Ephesians 2:10

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The photographers in The Creativity Project are such inspiring artists!
If you want to see their take on "Art", start with S. Badiyah Austin at this link.
You'll be glad you did!  Her images are brimming with life.
Then, visit The Creativity Project on Facebook to share your own art.
We would love to see your take!

Friday, November 7, 2014

In retrospect

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Our kids recently finished their fall sports season.
My girl?
She's #1.  They finally realized what I have known all along.

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She made the A team this year, which started off with a bang.
There were a few bumps in the road,
but Bethany is determined, and she did an amazing job.

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She's the kind of friend anyone would want on their team.

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And Ben?  He has been dreaming of high school football forever.

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Oh believe me, we tried to talk him out of it.
So of course the more we told him how hard he would have to work,
and how this is high school and they don't have to play you for one minute,
the more intent he was on playing.

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But hey, he worked his tail off, never missed a practice, and never complained.
So it's hard to argue with that.
He's tenacious.

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In retrospect, we can say that letting him play was a great decision.
Besides, he never got hurt.  And our prayer life got a workout.

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People have a lot of opinions about sports and kids, 
but sports have been a huge help to us 
in teaching our kids about persistence, adversity and teamwork.
Meanwhile, we are enjoying a little down time.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Periphery, Portals, and Pathways (a.k.a. Three Ps in a Picture)

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I have had the luxury of walking down many a pathway this month
to soak in all of the glory that has been autumn.

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Photo 52, Week 40:  Periphery

When October was about to roll around, I asked the participants in Photo 52 to recommend themes.
Among them were "periphery", and "portals and pathways".
I thought they were perfect for October. 

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It's been a great month for periphery because, if you give your neck a little exercise,
there has been something more to see in every direction you look.

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Up above, 

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down below,

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just everywhere.
Something I thought was interesting, 
you have to intentionally take your focus off what's right in front of you
to appreciate the periphery. 
Some would think that unwise,
to choose distraction, if you will.
It's a fine balance we walk, isn't it?

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I had a chance to go looking for autumn treasures 
with these lovelies from Photo 52.
They have excellent eyes for composition!
I loved seeing how different our perspectives were
when the pictures were posted.

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My walking friend and I have explored some fun paths this month.  

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We kept thinking each adventure was our last good chance
to enjoy the beautiful weather,

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but it seemed that every day the forecast called for more.

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Photo 52, Week 42:  Portals and Pathways

This walking spot, Lake Harriet,
 was chosen intentionally so we could capture this tiny, quaint portal.
During the milder months it is home to an elf,
who has now gone south for the winter.  You see his door is sealed.
He did leave a forwarding address, and he answers letters,
whether left here for him or mailed in the winter.
Oh my goodness, people leave a lot of stuff for him besides just letters.

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We couldn't help slowing our walking pace on this day 
to take a closer look at the portals around the lake.

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Some were more inviting than others,
many with gates that loomed large like this one,

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while this one stood wide open.
I couldn't help thinking that this is what God's door looks like.
He loves to welcome us into his presence,
whether we are presentable or not.
He never thinks of us as an interruption or a nuisance.
He loves us.

Show me your ways