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Monday, December 6, 2010

Cut to the Chase

Do I really put God first? 

How do I cut God out of my world? 

Do I make room for Him all through my day? 
Or do I try to squeeze Him in between my busyness?

Does technology get in the way of connecting with God and people, including my family? 

These are questions I considered this morning after studying the book of the prophet Isaiah. He was the real deal. He didn't sugarcoat. His words were plain and simple. Cut to the chase. Totally upfront and totally encouraging at the same time. Take some time to read about what God says through Isaiah (especially chapter 9:2-7) this Christmas. 

So here is the real me. No shower. No makeup. Up close and personal. Gasp!

Still in my bathrobe at almost noon. No bonbons were in sight, but they sure were in mind! Just used my little remote on manual with window light for this photo that is a part of the self-portrait challenge over at  Click on the button below to see some amazing shots that won't make you gasp like mine did! :)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

How Not To Survive the Holidays-Through Gritted Teeth

"Paola was mother to eight boys and one girl. That fact alone would seem to excuse her from performing any other duties. But no. To get to Antigua, Guatemala (to serve as a housekeeper all day), she rode a chicken bus twenty miles from Chimaltenango, where her family slept in hammocks over a dirt floor that turned to mud during the six-month rainy season. Her day started before dawn, when she walked to and from the mill where she bought the corn meal required to make the one hundred and fifty tortillas her family ate every day, which she made herself, by hand. How dare I complain about anything? Paola had finished a full day's work before I'd finished my first cup of coffee."

When I read this for the first time, it hit me right smack dab between the eyes! I instantly realized that my busiest, most worrisome day could never compare to what this woman faced on a daily basis! With gritted teeth, I immediately vowed to keep this woman's plight in mind and to NEVER utter a single word about my minimal workload. 

How long do you think that lasted? 

I couldn't even make it a week before my measly Martha-mentality returned. With muttering breath and slamming drawers to boot, I quickly blew my "Paola" cover. I will spare you the gory details, but it might be appropriate to say that I almost became the Grinch that stole Thanksgiving. 

Of course, I could tell you about the unusual tiresome week that led up to the semi-explosion (whine...oops! I guess I just did), but that would only be an excuse. There is no excuse. It is simply a barrel of bad habits that erupt when the going gets tough. Neither outright temper tantrums nor inward passive aggressiveness exhibit the practice of leaning on the wisdom and joy of the Lord.

Hunger and weariness probably plague Paola, yet she seemingly takes it all in stride. She moves automatically, without complaint, according to Jessica O'Dwyer, author of the book Mamalita, an adoption memoir, from which I have shared the above excerpt. In Philippians 2:14, our Lord implores me to "do everything without grumbling or complaining." This small-statured woman, Paola, towers over my small-mindedness, by following this command with strength and endurance. I wonder if a discussion on considering the differences in cultural expectations is in order? Could it make my behaviors seem more understandable? No, nada. What I need reaches across cultures. 

When will I ever realize that it is on bended knee that I need to make my vows? Gritted teeth will get me nowhere. Strengthening of spirit is given through the uplifting of prayers to the One who is the Wellspring of Life. Why do I forget to fill my cup first with Him, before He can pour anything useful into the lives of others through me?

As it has done for me, I hope that hearing about Paola will remind you of your blessings and encourage you to rely on our Lord more heavily this holiday season. May your Christmas overflow with His strength and joy!

Here are some other helpful sites about the holidays:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sending Some Happiness

Fortunate. We are. Very! And, however Yoda-ish that may sound, it is exactly how I felt when my amazing friend, Vasya, a locally adopted teen, shared fond memories of receiving his very own coveted Christmas box each year, while living in one of the many Ukranian orphanages. He said it was like "sending happiness." Wow! Preparing a Christmas box suddenly became much more personal. Someone really IS on the other end waiting with delightful anticipation. Samaritans's Purse's Operation Christmas Child reaches many children all across the world each Christmas with these happiness boxes. It really is incredible that we get to be a part of that joy....don't you think? 
"If you can't feed 100 people, then just feed one," Mother Teresa.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sweet Silhouettes

I Heart Faces - Sweet Silouettes

Thought I would share these two simple silhouette images I shot recently during an assignment for an online photography course. The one on the left is of a young couple who were kind enough to let me capture an intimate moment of them by the river just minutes before sunset. It was such a joy to pray and see God bring me just the right subject at just the exact time. Simple right? Just pray and get an answer. Why don't I do this all the time? I simply went to where I thought was a good place, prayed, (worried a bit), and waited. I know God doesn't always work this way. He isn't some genie in a bottle. He is the Master of the Universe! I just thought it was wonderful how He chose to speak to little 'ole me in this very simple, sweet way. I don't know about you, but it is easier for me to accept that the Lord works in the lives of other people than it is for me to accept that He wants to work in mine....know what I mean? "The Lord longs to be gracious to you...He waits on high to have compassion on you," Isaiah 30:18.

On the right, is my dh and dd who posed on the hill downtown where people slide down on cardboard...not sure what that place is called :).  We just happened upon it when we were looking for a good silhouette spot. Btw, I entered the one on the left (in another version) in the silhouette photo challenge this week! This one is no prize winning photograph, but you can see why it is special to me. And, I love the emotion of the moment...they seemed like this may have been a first kiss?? (Check out some of the amazing shots at iheartfaces, if you get a chance).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Amazing Black and Blue

Okay, so...I am really embarrassed. Might as well 'fess up....tell the whole blog community, right? My daughter went to school today with unmatched socks. Yes, that's right...just call me "mother of the year. And, to make matters worse, one of them was her daddy's! How did I miss that? One very black men's dress sock and one very sweet navy blue little girl's knitted knee sock upon the plump legs of my precious kindergartner! Ugh! If she hadn't been wearing a skirt,  it might not have been so bad!

Good thing about my dear daughter is that she kind of liked the attention. She made her problem into a positive and used her mismatched socks as a "conversation piece." She hopped and skipped happily, chattering incessantly about her black and blue adornment, as if she were the Belle of the Ball. Her hosiery held her highest fascination. Not a care in the world. It didn't matter.

Sometimes she amazes me. She is my little rose...a beautiful gift from God. And, it amazes me that I can learn so much from an almost six-year-old....only two more sleeps! What an adventure....what a joy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cracking Myself Up Experiment

I love a good belly laugh, don't you? My five-year-old daughter is the best belly-laugher I know. She actually took this photo of me (with my big dslr). God knew what He was doing when He put us together! It was a match made in heaven; she with her big, bubbly charming self, and me with my careful, analytical approach. But I do have lighter side, and it needs to be nutured. Actually, laughter through tears is my favorite emotion (and is also one of my favorite movie quotes from Steel Magnolias). Anywho, we have all heard the statistics about children laughing 300 more times than adults. And how laughter is good for your overall health. I love the quote by Milton Berle, "Laughter is an instant vacation." Seems like I need a vacation every about you?

Instant laughter vacations help me get in touch with my lighter side. I get so caught up in the doing, that it is easy for me to forget to enjoy the journey. So this is the reason that I have devised my "Cracking Myself Up" experiment.

I have simply decided to try to see how often I can make myself laugh about situations ...not necessarily so others will know about it, but sort of with mental talk, hoping the Spirit will nudge me and say, "Hey, you! How can this be an opportunity to build some of My joy into your life, and therefore, give it to others." I hope to become more focused on this because, it is so true, "The joy of the Lord is our strength," Nehemiah 8:10.  I need His joy in order to be strong against the winds that sometimes blow me off course and bring fear or anger or some other negative emotion into my life.

In future blogs, I hope to share some of my successes related to this laughter experiment. I am not going to try to make a definite blog schedule...then I would lose my joy in the doing! If you have a similar success story, I would love to hear about it :).

What is the Water Song?

You may be wondering what I am talking about when I mention that I want to hear the "water song."  Well, the Water Song is actually a poem written by Hannah Hurnard in her well-known book, Hinds' Feet On High Places.  Here is a copy:

Come, oh come! let us away--
Lower, lower every day, 
Oh, what joy it is to race
Down to find the lowest place. 
This the dearest law we know--
"It is happy to go low."
Sweetest urge and sweetest will,
"Let us go down lower still."
Hear the summons night and day
Calling us to come away.
From the heights we leap and flow
To the valleys down below.
Always answering to the call,
To the lowest place of all.
Sweetest urge and sweetest pain,
To go low and rise again.

I love this book and its theme. So, I have taken on this poem name for my blog site, in hopes that I will gain the faith and courage to truly live out the theme of the book...happily going lower for Him, in order to be led to new heights of love, joy and victory with Him.

Blessings and until the next time, Carol