God Shaped Victory

Last week there was a video going around Facebook that addressed the beheading of twenty one “followers of the cross” as they were called by ISIS.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…

I remember watching and realizing that my fear of a situation such as that had little to do with me and more the idea of my children facing that kind of terror and not being able to do anything to stop it for them.

That is a parent’s heart…the heart of a mother. We want to protect our children from knowing that kind of relentless fear.

Then on Tuesday it was reported that ISIS had invaded a largely Christian populated village and kidnapped at least ninety people.

Including children.

My heart wept at the thought of the parents whose children are facing that kind of remorseless terror and they can do nothing to stop it. The reality is that death is close at hand for them in a way that I cannot completely grasp.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

And as I prayed, asking God to hear the cries of His people and to pour out His mercy and judgement in overwhelming abundance of each, I questioned what victory would look like.

An opposing army of military allies who would step in and battle back the dragon? A force of protection stronger and as unrelenting in it’s defense of a people too vulnerable to defend themselves as the enemy that seeks to destroy?

I’m not arguing against this. Far from it. Please God may help come to these people!

For He who avenges blood is mindful of them; He does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

But is that the God shaped victory we should really be praying for…yearning for? And if it’s not, what does it look like?

I guess what I am asking is, is that enough? Do we call it a victory because we have stopped their suffering and put an end to the blood letting? Is it a victory because we can whisper quietly to ourselves that we ended it there so we must be safe here?

Maybe I am asking the wrong question though. Maybe it isn’t a question at all. Maybe it is a matter of seeking justice when and where we are called too but all the while knowing that the enemy will rail against the One who made them. They will gnash their teeth and seek to destroy the ones who follow in His name as if they can rid themselves of His presence.

He sits in ambush in the villages; and in hiding places he murders the innocent…

Though their task is futile they will rise up against Him. And they will be vanquished and no more. And then another will come and rise up as yet more of His people proclaim He is King over all.

But in this we have hope,

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; 
He is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, 
because they take refuge in Him.
Psalm 37: 39 & 40

Elisabeth Elliot on Motherhood

I could not say it any lovelier so I am not even going to try. Her words are perfect and full of truth. The images are mine from my favorite maternity session, one that I think captures the grace and beauty of motherhood. I realize that most of motherhood doesn’t wear beauty as we call something beautiful. It’s runny noses, dirty laundry, and other messes. But the heart of mothering is a beauty like no other.

tummy pictures, maternity pictures, Pensacola, FL, Ft Pickens
“…they’re telling us nowadays how important it is to find yourself, express yourself, and assert yourself. Maybe you’re thinking you’re nothing more than just somebody’s wife and somebody else’s mother. And what kind of life is that?
“Motherhood is a calling. It is a womanly calling…and let’s not be cowed by those who extinguish the light and joy of sexuality by trying to persuade us to forget words like manly and womanly.”
“Single or married, her level of maturity is measured by how much she gives to others. If she’s married, she gives herself to her husband and she receives. If she’s a mother, she loses her life in her child and–mysteriously–she finds it.”
“A woman knows that no one can really say where the giving ends and the receiving starts. It is no wonder we are confused when urged to look for some “better” or “higher” vocation in which to “prove our personhood.”
“This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”
If our calling is to be mothers, lets be mothers with all our hearts–gladly, simply, and humbly–like that little peasant girl Mary who spoke for all women of all time when she said, 
Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord; 
be it unto me according to Thy word.”
~Luke 1:38

The First Week of February

Surely I can do this for a year…after all it’s only twelve weeks. So even though this is posting a little late since the blog was down  I still wanted to share a shot from each day of the first week of February.

I can do this…I can do this…

The first day of the month fell on a Sunday. Normally our church gathers to eat together after our services but on the first Sunday of the month we meet up in each other’s homes for lunch. Our friends that joined us have a daughter who was about to turn one and we were quite happy when the rain let up long enough to scoot outside and take a few pictures.

tutu, baby girl, toes, pink, girly

Day two found me in Navarre attending my third meet up for Pursuit Community. A monthly meeting of other Christian women who enjoy photography and other creative endeavors has been good for me. It was the final push needed to make the recent changes around here and I am learning so much about this craft so close to my heart. It was our Valentines celebration and our lovely hostess made us each a sweet smelling jar of bath salts.

bath salts

On Tuesday I was at the school with the other Board of Governor’s wives serving a Greek lunch to our fabulous staff and teachers. We do it once a month from January through the end of the year with each month having a different theme. I had a really nifty shot from the day but do to some technical difficulties (it was taken with my phone) I cannot find it. Trust me it was a good one though!

Day four was rainy. A beautiful stay inside and read a good book rainy day. That’s not what I did of course but it was that kind of day.

The next day the rain cleared and it was cold and windy but some sweet friends still met up with me for some pictures. These are some of the most precious children and not only do we get to worship with them and their parents each week they also live right down the street from us.

children, Pensacola, portrait photography

I have a tradition of doing a birthday shoot for each of the kids so on Friday I picked Emily up from her yearbook meeting and we headed downtown. It was still pretty cold and she was worn out from a long day so we took a couple of pictures and then enjoyed a cup of the best hot cocoa in Pensacola from Adonna’s Bakery.

hot cocoa, sweet treats, coffee shop, cafe

The last day of the first week ended with an unexpected but wonderful day spent with my parents and two of my sisters. My Dad took us to the shooting range where we did him proud. Turns out us girls are all a pretty good shot.  After treating us to lunch he headed home and we spent the rest of the afternoon bumping around an antique shop. This case of old Coke bottles made me think of my uncle’s barn and childhood afternoon’s spent playing there.

The shop is really neat with lots of interesting things along with old staples like classic books and old toys. I also found an amazing dress for a photo shoot I’ve been working on putting together but that is a post for another day.

old books, Old Palafox Street, antiques

The rest of this month is shaping up to be pretty busy. Last week had a coffee date spent talking about art and God and His faithfulness, a sweet lunch with friends and their babies and Sam’s first major feast at the school. He brought the house down with his partner as they introduced Cronus and Gaea and kicked off Zeus’ Family Reunion.

Sometimes it can be so busy that it is hard to keep it all straight and things get forgotten easily. I think that’s why I wanted to do this first week monthly project…to take time to mark the ordinary specialness that is my life.

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

Friday Photo Journal    Best Shot Friday    Photo Friday

Premeditated Generosity

Several years ago our family, following the leading of our church, began to orient our lives and seasons by the Church calendar. We began to recognize and mark time according to seasons and life of Christ.  It has been a wonderful way to very purposefully create opportunities to reflect and engage in various parts of our faith and the things we confess as believers.

Today, we move into a new season of our liturgical year. For many in our evangelical circles, Lent is mostly viewed as a very high churchy, old fashioned thing done by catholics. It comes on the heels of Fat Tuesday and is a time of some kind of penitence.

But really Lent is a time of preparation for Easter as Advent is for Christmas.  This journey of darkness, this time of reflecting upon our staggering need for grace, for salvation makes our celebration of Easter fuller and more robust. We confront our own lack, our own need, for something more than we can do for ourselves. We cry out knowing that we need a generosity of grace that comes from somewhere else, somewhere outside of ourselves.

For many it becomes a time of giving something up, a time of sacrifice and while this is not necessarily bad the danger is that it can become a morbid introspection with the focus on self. As a church, and within our family, we have never observed Lent as a time to fast. Rob has taught neither against it or for it.

But this year he has issued a challenge of sorts to us all. Basically, over the next forty days we are encouraged to do at least one act of generosity towards someone. Writing a note, preparing a meal, some act of kindness given to someone else, friend or stranger. It’s in doing some thing that requires something from us for the benefit of someone else that we, in a very small inadequate way, are mindful that we needed Someone to do for us something we were and are unable to do for ourselves.

Self denial, whether the giving up of something one enjoys or giving of something for the good of another, is not meant to be an end to itself. It is meant to drive us closer to Christ, to know our own need deeper. It is recognize how big the separation was between God and man, and what He did to bring us into fellowship with His Son.

Pastor Steve Wilkins puts the purpose of Lent this way,

Lent is the “winter-time” of preparation before the “spring-time” of the resurrection. Just as death leads to life, so the cross leads to glory. Lent helps us learn this lesson. It deepens our joy and love for the Savior who has given us eternal life by His willingness to die in our place. And reminds us that when we follow Him, losing our lives for His sake, we will end in joy and blessedness with Him. So here’s the goal of Lent: to see afresh the deep, deep love of Jesus, and by the Spirit to be transformed into His image so that we can follow Him and live to the glory of the Father.

What, Where and Why

Blog make overs are kind of like new hair cuts.

You feel excited, hoping somebody notices and terrified that they will.

I know next to nothing about code and html and widgets and all that stuff so I was pretty much at the mercy of whatever the template provided. It was a big moment when I figured out how to change that on my own. Even then I needed an outside source to walk me through some other changes and thankfully I had friends who didn’t mind me relying on them for assistance.

But the one thing I wanted was a single column template and that was a little trickier to make happen. It’s been on the one-day list for quite a while but it wasn’t until recently that I was able to find the right template and all the pieces came together. (Thank you Etsy and Li Drake Blog Design Studio!)

The aesthetic changes have come about in conjunction with some overall changes I want to make happen here in my corner of the cyber world. I feel like after months of thinking through some things and restructuring my own thoughts I have a found a little more purpose as to why I blog. And it’s led me to clarify what I will blog.

Truth, beauty, and goodness. These three words have swished and swooshed, whispered and beckoned…promising to be the answer for questions I wasn’t even sure how to ask. I knew I enjoyed these creative escapades, the picture taking and the word grappling, but I struggled with their purpose. Were they a waste of time or was there some weight to them, no matter how small?

And the reality is that in some ways, let’s be honest in about 99% of all the ways imaginable, this blog and the pictures I take are fleeting and not likely to be remembered for long. I doubt my pictures will hang in museums or my words will be shared in beautifully crafted tomes.

That reality is true for me and the vast majority of humanity. Do you know that there have only been forty four presidents in the history of the United States? Forty four men out of the millions that have existed in the last two hundred something years. Very few of us are destined for the kind of greatness that we seem to think has significant weight.

So, what does that mean for the rest of us lowly beings that will never walk on the moon or cure a disease? Does what we do matter? Does it have purpose? Value? Should we spend any time doing anything or should we merely exist for a certain amount of time in a point in space and then we die…ashes to ashes and dust to dust, move along, next human, please.

When the children were little we started doing a catechism with them everyday. One of the very first questions they learned to answer was, what is the chief end, or purpose, of man? Simply put it is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Do we matter? Do we have a purpose? Yes, because we are made in His image and we are to display that image gloriously. In everything we do.

We create because He is the True Creator. We are a people of words because He is the Ultimate Storyteller.

Truth, beauty, and goodness. He is truth. He is beauty. He is goodness.

True truth is both beautiful and good. Real beauty is full of truth and goodness. And goodness is the expression of what is beautiful and true. God is everywhere. Truth, beauty, and goodness are everywhere if we will just have the eyes to see it.

So, that’s how I answered the questions I wasn’t sure how to ask. Why take the pictures…why post on the blog? Is it worth anything more than the brief happiness or joy they cause me?

I hope so. I would hope that whenever someone visits they will see the truth, beauty, and goodness of God reflected in each photograph and every word shared. And if it’s in an unexpected way, something that will cause them to pause and contemplate, even better.

still life, flower, pink, glass jars, simplicity

                                                            I am the Lord your God, 
                                     who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
~ Psalm 81:10