Created In His Image

Edith Schaeffer is quoted as saying, “A Christian, above all people, should live artistically, aesthetically, and creatively.” 

I’ve joked before how I have the soul of an artist but the skill of a preschooler, the desire to create and make something always felt within but rarely finding a satisfying outcome. Of course then I discovered photography and that gave some expression to the desire to create. But sometimes even that outlet hasn’t been enough and I’ve longed for something more, something intangible in a tangible world. The rest of Mrs. Schaeffer’s quote explains it a little better I think:

We are supposed to be representing the Creator who is there, and whom we acknowledge to be there. It is true that all people are created in the image of God, but Christians are supposed to be conscious of that fact, and being conscious of it should recognize the importance of living artistically, aesthetically, and creatively, as creative creatures of the Creator. If we have been created in the image of an Artist, then we should look for expressions of artistry, and be sensitive to beauty, responsive to what has been created for our appreciation.

We have been created in the image of the Creator and because of this we should long to create. I know what some of you are thinking though. But I’m not crafty! I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler! I’m all thumbs when it comes to yarn and needles. The sewing machine tries to commit suicide if I come to close. I can’t even finger paint!

We’ve boxed in our definition of art and creativity. But even when we try to move outside the box we have problems. I don’t know how to decorate. I’m not that good of a cook. We have our reasons for thinking that we just aren’t that crafty or creative.

With simple words stars and planets were flung across the heavens. The very sound of His voice caused mountains to break free and rise out of the ground. Every shade of color, every hue and tone sprang from the imagination of the ultimate Artist. Within the ear of God a song was composed and given voice in the waves of the sea and the birds of the air. With His own hands He sculpted man out of the dirt and breathed life into his nostrils.

We will never be able to achieve the artistry that is God.

Michael Angelo, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Beethoven,
Mozart, none of them at their greatest creative moment rival all that God has made. Unfortunately the limitations we put on our definition of creativity and art we also try to impose upon God.  But He exist outside of our bounds and so we must look beyond our own understanding of artistry. It’s not just about the “thing” created but so much more. Consider this quote also from Edith Schaeffer:

“There are various art forms we may or may not have talent for, may or may not have time for, and we may or may not be able to express ourselves in, but we ought to consider this fact-that whether we choose to be an environment or not, we are. We produce an environment other people have to live in. We should be conscious of the fact that this environment which we produce by our very ‘being’ can affect the people who live with us or work with us.” 

We create with more than clay and paint, or words or music notes, fabric or photographs. Everyday we create. And everyday we make choices to imitate what has already crafted by the Master.

We create homes that are a refuge the way He created an ark.

We create new culture when we resist the world’s culture, the world’s way of doing or being.

We create a world of reconciliation when we imitate the dark art of death that produces the kaleidoscope of color and light found in the resurrection.

We create peace when we turn the other cheek and offer the glorious poetry of forgiveness.

We create a symphony of mercy when we love and esteem others more than ourselves.

We create places of hospitality as we open our door and beckon in the poor and hungry.

We create a tapestry of grace when we weave longsuffering through our relationships with husband and wife, child and friend.

We all produce something. We all create. The question is whether it is worthy of presenting to our Creator.

Call and Response

We did some gardening this year. We have long held to the romantic notion of gardening but our only feeble attempt was years ago when the kids were little and I didn’t have much inclination about anything except keeping them alive. It also left Rob with an abiding dislike and grudge against squirrels.

But the kids are much older now and we have plenty of friends growing stuff and what with quarantine a few months back and a desire to cover space in the yard to cut down on trying to keep grass alive in Florida, my love built me some fabulous raised beds and it has been one of the greatest things we have ever done.

There has been something very life affirming and soothing about working our small garden. It has also given me a new appreciation for all of the garden/growing/reaping/weeding metaphors found in Scripture…the actual hands in the dirt and watching stuff grow and seeing it all in action I guess.

One thing that stood out to me again and again was seeing the fruit of a plant blooming and blossoming at various stages right next to each other. A barely ripe berry growing right beside a ready to pick and enjoy berry. Same stalk, same nutrients but completely different rates of growth.

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Throughout the New Testament we are exhorted with a whole bunch of “one another” verses.

Be at peace with each other ~ Mark 9:50

Be welcoming to one another ~ Romans 15:7

Bear with one another ~ Colossians 3:13

Love one another ~ I John 3:11

Forgive one another ~ Ephesians 4:32

Serve one another ~ Galatians 5:13

The list goes on and on and on. Basically we are commanded to do life together even when we are in different stages of  of growth. Even when we are maybe further along than those around us in some areas or a little behind in others.

One of the things I love about my church is our liturgy that requires a call and response between the pastor and congregation. Every Sunday my husband calls us to repentance and as we kneel together we confess corporately our need for grace and forgiveness. Every week he will ask us, “Church, what do you believe?” and as a group we will say the creed of our faith.

Together.

Sometimes you can hear someone get a little ahead of everyone else just by a syllable or maybe two. Or someone else is lagging just a bit. Tempos and cadences have to be adjusted and that means we have to listen and know where everyone else is.

Because we are speaking together we can hear when we get a little too far ahead and need to slow down. Or we notice that we are needing to focus despite distraction and pick up the pace a little. It is more than just saying the same things. It’s also about saying them at the same time.

It is a practical way to remind us that we are one body…one voice…united to each other…connected to each other whether still a little green or ripe with color. It is a beautiful way for us to practice being one body despite differences from one to the next, family way to family way. It seems like a gift of grace each week to be reminded that we belong to each other.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  ~Romans 12:3-5

 

 

Think On These Things Week Four ~ Love

God Is Love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

We love because he first loved us.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 

~1 John 4:7–21

advent

Think On These Things Week Three ~ Joy

The Ransomed Shall Return

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;

it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.

No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. 

~Isaiah 35

advent

A Child No More

So our last child has officially  entered her teen years. It was so odd to realize that the chapter of “childhood” has come to a close for us. We are a houseful of adults and teenagers now with all that accompanies such a season.

On Claire’s actual birthday I shared a post about growing up and I stand by each word but man, looking through the lens and seeing the last visage of girlhood round on her cheeks knowing that over the next few months and years it will completely fade as she becomes a young woman squeezed my heart a bit.

Certain angles and expressions reveal the face of the woman she is on her way to becoming.

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Like most girls her age she gets a bit self conscious in front of the camera but I still managed to catch a couple of smiles.

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I told Rob how funny it was to see glimpses of her sisters in her but also a certain expression of mine that is so familiar on her face. It’s something to do with the lift of her eyebrow.

IMG_0207 (1) There is something so beautiful about this moment in the life of a girl I think. All of the innocence of childhood still present at the same time womanhood is beginning to bloom and hints of it peek through.

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It’s an interesting intersection of past and present and future.  The next image is one of my favorites from our day out and let me tell you it was quite a little adventure to get to this spot. We had gotten off the boardwalk because I could see another photographer doing a family session and wanted to stay out of their way but the spot I wanted to get too was a little further down.

To get to my spot we had to hoist ourselves back onto the boardwalk without the aid of stairs…me with my camera and $900 rented lens and Claire in her gown holding onto all four rocks she had picked up on our walk by the railroad tracks and beach. We managed it but I am really glad no one was around to see our little circus sideshow.

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Claire has been a collector of rocks since she was a little bitty girl. Her tastes are finally becoming more discriminant thankfully but she still wants all the rocks so limits have to be in place. I had to laugh as we headed to the parking lot to see her juggling her treasures.

It was a relief to this mama’s heart to still see the little girl fascinated with bits and pieces of earth even as I had been seeing so clearly all the changes that show she is growing up.

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This woman child living in my home is so full of energy and life! It’s work to restrain it and direct it to an appropriate direction sometimes but I wait full of expectation and anticipation to see where God takes this bright soul to reveal Himself through her.

“I have one desire now ~ to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.” ~Elisabeth Elliot

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Throwback Thursday ~ When They Were All 13

In our house we have tried to mark becoming a teenager in a very specific way. We hate the whole just-wait-until-they’re-a-teenager attitude that is so pervasive even within the church as if we have no choice but to have deep rebellion and bad attitudes from our kids.

Obviously, the teen years are at times tumultuous and emotional because there is a whole lot going on. Growing up and growing pains are par for course but that doesn’t mean it has to look like defiance and sneaking out of windows. We can set an expectation and lay ground work to help our kids know that they are not at the mercy of all the boiling emotion and changes they will experience during this time.

One of the ways Rob and I decided to mark this special time with our girls was to actually carry on a tradition my father did with me and my sisters. The girls are each given a ring as a reminder as the approach the age of boys and relationships that their father is there to guide and help protect their hearts until the right time for them to wear another ring placed on their finger by a young man as they prepare to marry.

We also wait for the girls to get their ears pierced so after a special dinner and getting their ring, Rob takes them to have that done. My part in all of this has been to take some formal portraits of our daughters. We choose to do formal dresses to mark the transition from girlhood to young womanhood in a way that is feminine and special.

Claire turned thirteen in November and it marked the end of this era in our family. It was a bit of a moment as my last child entered into her teen years. She wanted to wait until after her ears were pierced to do her pictures and we finally got the window of time to do them last weekend. Tomorrow I will share more of hers but today I thought it would be fun to look back at all four girls’ 13th birthday pictures.

To say my skills behind the camera have improved through the years is an understatement.

Be that as it may, it was bittersweet to look back at such a significant day in the lives of our girls and remember the innocence between girlhood and womanhood.

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Emily loved horses and some dear friends let us come over to their place and include one of their horses in her pictures.

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Abby turned thirteen the year that Frozen came out. We were doing her pictures in a local park when this little girl came running across the field with her mother trying to catch her. She was convinced Abby was Elsa and was all starry eyed.

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Claire.

Man, the mix of it being the baby and the official close to a part of life had all the feels.

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Four daughters. Four. Daughters.

Rob gets ribbed a lot about those four daughters…the emotions, the drama, the weddings! And sometimes the weight of raising four women to image God in a world that hates all that God would have for women as good is heavy.

But it is a heavy blessing rich with joy.

Our 12 Days of Christmas

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Celebrating Christmas for twelve whole days can seem a bit daunting at first and people are usually quite curious when they hear it’s what we do in our family. Hopefully, this post will clear up some of the mystery and answer the “What does it look like?” question we usually get.

But let me take a minute and answer the second most asked question we get.

“Isn’t it expensive?”

Well, yes and no. In the long run we probably do spend a little bit more than we used to. Honestly, I prefer the deliberate and meaningful generosity in this way of gift giving though. And to be clear we are a single income family. A single pastoral income…we’re not talking big bucks here so I work at planning in order to be as frugal as possible. Also, since it is spread out over time that means the cost is spread out too. And hello after Christmas sales! I have found that I am bound more by my creativity than I am by money constraints. Some days are more expensive than others but none of them have to be a huge expense. For us there are just some things we do not do often during the year because it’s expensive for a family of our size to do them and they become the perfect gift for one of our 12 days.

For example two family outings that we do not typically do during the year are going to the movies or eating out as a family. Just about everywhere has gift certificates or cards these days so I can purchasing them well ahead of time and tuck them away until our movie day or dinner out.

How this looks seven or eight years in is different from how it looked when we first started. And this year will look different because Sarah, our oldest, works all but three or four of the days. Plus she has her own apartment. (It was really sweet back in June when she moved out…three of her siblings voiced their concern over how we would handle Christmas this year.)

But the great thing is that we have a basic framework in place so it’s not a complete overhaul each season. I basically just add a few things in the empty spots around what I call our anchor days. These are the days that are non-negotiable and happen every year.

Christmas Morning ~  They always get that one thing they have really been wanting. They also open their presents from the grandparents but it’s one gift from their father and myself.

Giving Days ~ This didn’t come into being until several years after we started but honestly it’s one of my favorite things about our celebration. Each one of the kids has their giving day when the do not receive anything but they give gifts to each of their siblings. They also get to pick out and prepare a meal of their choice for the family. Sarah’s meal has evolved to include another family and she and Mary will plan a delicious and fancy dinner that usually takes them all day to prepare. Sam usually chooses tacos. Obviously the personalities of the kids make these days what they are.

Favorite Things Basket ~ This is something the kids look forward to every year and cannot be left out. I get a large basket and buy all the fun stuff that I always or nearly always say no to. Giant jars of nutella and Biscoff cookie spread. Lemon curd. Yoohoo drinks. Pop Tarts. V8 Fusion. Certain cereals. Particular chips or snacks. All the things that either don’t fit our everyday grocery budget or are so awfully bad for you that I can’t do it on a regular basis. No off brands either, the real deal name brand. Something everyone will enjoy but some things are put in because of a specific child. Like the lemon curd. Anyone can enjoy some but it is in there because Claire loves it. Sometimes if I find a cheap dvd of a childhood favorite movie or game I will add that into the basket as well.

Ice Cream ~ This activity originally started out as a trip to our local frozen yogurt shop with another family that does not mark the 12 days as we do but it has become as much a tradition for them as it is for us. We’ve got some hilarious stories to come out of this yearly adventure and the telling of them is all part of the process. Although this year we have options because a Baskin Robbins opened and a place called Tastes Buds. My money is leaning toward Taste Buds because they have these amazing freak shakes. (This is where planning ahead helps. The money for this outing has already been tucked away in a sock drawer.)

Day Twelve ~ We always end our celebration with their Christmas stocking and this is where those after holiday sales really shine. Apparently I put tooth brushes and such in them last year and I have been informed that is a no-no. I also forgot the Mementos and apparently those must come back.

So for our family, five kids plus the other four anchor days, means nine of the days require nominal planning to happen. The remaining three days can be an individual gift for each of them, an activity, or an outing of some sort.

Here are some ideas that we’ve done.

A book day. Sometimes we pick the books out and gift wrap them and a few times we’ve planned a jaunt to Barnes and Noble and everyone got to pick out their book.

We have also done a music day and everyone either received sheet music, records or cds. A shoe day (with four girls someone is always seeing cute shoes they want or need.)

We’ve had a game day and everyone got some kind of card or board game. Some friends of ours do their own version of this and spend the day playing games.

Doing things with another family adds to the festivities and fun. We’ve done gingerbread house contests with friends when our kids were younger. It got so big one year we had to do it at the church. One year we packed a picnic dinner and went to see Christmas lights with another family. One of the first families to join us in the 12 days knows a lot of stuff about hockey and they began the yearly tradition of a hockey game. We usually  go to dinner (Sonny’s Bar B Que) and an Ice Flyers game and sometimes the kids ice skate afterwards. There was utter shock expressed when I mentioned it might not happen this year due to work schedules conflicting with the game schedule. I’ve no idea why it is so or why my normally peace loving non-violent children become blood thirsty hooligans but that’s just the way it is.

The ideas and possibilities are really endless. Have a gift card day! Pick up random gift cards throughout the year and spend a day using them. You can choose to do a service project as a family, visit a nursing home, have a baking day and then deliver the goodies to the local fire or police department. Invite people to join you. No matter how small the activity or actual gift may be celebrate big.

Because really what we are celebrating is the most extravagant gift that has ever been given. We are echoing the generosity of our Father who sent His Son to not just rescue us from death and hell but to give abundant life. We celebrate robustly and fully because that is the life we have been granted in Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Think On These Things Week Two ~ Peace

Comfort for God’s People

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

~Isaiah 40:1–5

Advent

An Advent Throwback Thursday

My all time favorite snapshot I have ever taken is this one of Sam when it was his turn to light the Advent candles. There is something so hilarious and profound of the juxtaposition of what the wreath and candle represent and the Grinch shirt he is wearing.

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The 12 Days of Christmas

Our family has been celebrating the 12 days of Christmas for quite a few years. Every year I get asked about it and rather than writing a new post saying the same things I am re-sharing a post I did a few years ago. Later this week I will talk about the practical aspect to celebrating this way.

Repairing the ruins.
That’s a phrase commonly heard in our reformed classical circles as it relates to taking back the way we educate our children. As I’ve been thinking through writing this blog post in response to some questions I’ve gotten about how our family celebrates Christmas I realized it’s a rather fitting phrase for more than just classical education.
The truth is that our job as Christians is to be continually at work repairing the ruins. Now obviously we cannot ignore the truth that through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ God has put all things back to rights. But neither can we ignore that we live in the now and not yet-ness of what God has done, is doing, and will do. Or that we have been giving the joyful task of joining Him in that work.
One of the smallest but biggest changes our family has made in recent years is aligning our lives more closely with the Church calendar which functions along the life of Christ. So in one sense we are currently marking the start of the new year as we celebrate Advent even as we recognize the close of the traditional calendar.
Practicing Advent each year was the starting point for us and then we also started looking for ways to change how we celebrate the birth of Christ. I was familiar with the “12 days of Christmas” but always as a time leading up to Christmas, not marking time from His birth to the time traditionally celebrating Epiphany, the arrival of the wise men.
This is important because for most of the western mainstream church the 25th of December is the climax of weeks long anticipation but December 26th doesn’t mean much. Or the 27th, the 28th, and so on. Of course January 1st is marked but then life collapses back into normal until months later when Easter Sunday is celebrated. But there is so much more.
Marking the 12 days leading up to Epiphany means we are celebrating and marking the glorious Truth that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It’s not just about spiritualizing the holiday as a way of rejecting the commercializing of the one real Holy day most of us agree is actually holy. It’s twelve days of commemorating the greatest gift ever given…God Himself taking on human form and becoming one of us.
There is no Biblical command to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas so not doing so is certainly no sin. And that also means that each family is free to set up their 12 days as they see fit. Our days have evolved and changed over the years with some days becoming set in stone staples and other days being flexible and changing from year to year. The important thing is that we are working to restore the glory of a world changing event that the enemy has sought to tear down and bury under a pile of cheap spit and shine made up thrill meant to distract from the thrill of hope that causes a weary world to rejoice.

Tomorrow I will share some of the ways we celebrate the 12 days but let me give a few highlights we’ve found in this process. First, the fact that it is spread out means that although there is significant planning (I mean we have five children so I have to kind of have my act together) it doesn’t all happen on one day. Less pressure. Less stress.

Which brings me to point number two and one that we really like…hello after Christmas sales! You can take advantage of some major deals.

And third I think our children, and us adults for that matter, can enjoy and savor the time more because it isn’t hitting us in the face at a breakneck pace. It’s lost the overwhelmingness that sometimes comes with major events that leaves us feeling limp, exhausted and slightly underwhelmed because of the momentous days and days of lead up.

An added benefit that we have enjoyed more and more as the years have gone by and others have joined us in marking the 12 days is the sense of community it brings. There are certain activities that we enjoy during this time that are enriched because we share them with friends.

The important thing to remember whether you celebrate one day or twelve is well summed up by Jeff Smith, the Frugal gourmet guy:

“…on our own, Christmas does not work. It is not the tree, or the dinner or the planning, or the weather, or the relatives that make the Mass of Christ. It is the Child. Come to the manager and be amazed…”

Think On These Things Week One ~ Hope

During Advent the TOTT Tuesday posts will be connected to the theme for each of the four weeks.
For to Us a Child Is Born

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.

You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. 

~Isaiah 9:1–7