Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Happy 13th, Benjamin!

I can hardly believe our eldest son turn 13 today! WOW! Happy, happy birthday, Benjamin! You're full of joy, energy & life. You work with gusto at whatever you do. You're loud. You love big. You're a talker. You are really funny. You're now a man- may you ever serve your Savior, Jesus Christ!

We are planning a special birthday celebration on June 13th, so today was a bit quiet. Lots of game playing & a movie. For dinner, we had these AMAZING fish tacos (adapted slightly to be gluten & dairy free) & these brownies. (Except somehow I didn't get a brownie saved for me. Hmm... Eric may need to run to the store for some chocolate because I did a ton of dishes. A ton! Just sayin'.) Both were HUGE hits!






Monday, May 18, 2015

Cousins!

We enjoyed visiting with Eric's brother & his family this past Saturday. I even remembered to get a picture of them all (errr, Jonathan! he was much happier than he appears in this picture!):


Elizabeth loved playing with her younger cousin, Alyssa. She would hold her hand & Alyssa just did whatever Lizzie wanted to do. NOTHING like her little sister, Katherine! ;) Emily loved this crown. She told me I could bow to her. Yeah, right!



 Katherine loved Allyssa's little couch!


Friday, May 15, 2015

Dawn & Heather Read Together: Own Your Life (Chapter 5 & 6)

Like Dawn, I struggled with chapter 5. Clarkson states that God is our life coach, cheering us on in the midst of difficulty. My struggle is this: God is so much MORE than a coach! He's the Creator of all things, sustainer of life, help to the needy, giver of life! (I know Clarkson believes these things too.)

Recently, our church family was praying fervently for a young girl who was hospitalized suddenly. I was stopped in my tracks when our Pastor pointed out that while it's good & right to plea with God to heal her, we also needed to stop & consider that maybe this is exactly where God wanted her to be. As I reflected on my own trails, all the pain & tears, I saw how God used those very things to shape me to become more like His Son. Praise God we are never outside of His loving care!

I firmly believe that God is in control of all things. And yet, He never sins. BUT He doesn't sit idly by watching the world spin, wishing His creatures would change. He brings trials to form us into His image. It isn't fun & we don't have to pretend that it is! The Psalms are full of cries for God for deliverance & laments of suffering. But there is also a peace that can't be shaken because we know that our God does all things good! YES, good! Even when I can't put all the pieces of the puzzle together, I bow my head & (often in tears) praise Him, waiting for Him to deliver me.

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" (Psalm 46:10)

The big take away from chapter 5 was the reminder as a parent to not try to shelter or deliver our children from trials. That can be tough because no one wants to see their babies hurt. But more than the desire to see my children happy, I desire for them to walk closely to their God & become the men/women He created them to be. I want them to own their lives! I love how Clarkson put it:

"As his parent, I saw my role as helping him through his challenges, not removing them.... He would have to lean into the process of character training that his life required." (pg. 57)

In chapter 6, Clarkson reminds the reader to humble themselves under God. I loved the quote she shared from C. S. Lewis:

"As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you." (pg. 69)

Humility before our God helps us to remember we need Him to save us & it gives us hope because we know He is faithful to keep those promises! God is not mean- He tenderly cares for His children. I loved how Clarkson shared that God's creation often humbles & refreshes her spirit. It's so easy in the bustle of life to miss this & I love when our family finds time to soak in God's creation! Clarkson also encouraged the reader to have eyes of a child. Oh, how grateful I am for my children- they help me see the world in such a humble, simple way. They delight in God with such enthusiasm! They struggle hard against sin, often in foolish ways that need training... just like me. They teach me many things!

"I will lift my eyes to the hills- from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall persevere your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore." (Psalm 121)

At the end of chapter 6, Clarkson encourages the reader to find time each day to spend with God. I KNOW how hard this can be when your a mama of littles. There have been seasons when all I can do is pray & read a short passage. Some days I can't even read that. Sadly, sometimes my busyness isn't for good reasons- it's wasted in fruitless activity. THAT'S when I need to re-evaluate my life & make some changes. But often my busyness is because I'm doing the very things God called me to do.

Here's one great tip: post Scripture around your house & when you see it, meditate on it. Work on memorizing Scripture so you can think on it when you're working. (If you're like me, it will take AGES to finish memorizing something but that's okay.) Also, if you're in that crazy mothering season, gather your little ones around & let your time with God be time with them too! Oh, and don't forget to sing! I'd highly recommend a quiet hour for everyone so you can have some time of reflection but I also know there are seasons when this doesn't happen.

I LOVE my time alone in God's Word. I LOVE my time alone soaking in His creation. But those times wax & wane with various seasons. And for me, my season has been a long one! ;) It's okay though- I'm seeking God when I can & looking to Him to sustain me. I'm grateful for a husband who gives me times of refreshment. I endeavor to do all I can to have time in prayer & His Word each day but if God ordains other things, I'm at peace. No guilt. :)

Be sure to check out Dawn's thoughts here!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

5 Minutes of Fun!

I'm shooting my first ever group senior session tomorrow so I thought it was a good excuse to rent a zoom lens. (So excited for tomorrow!) I've been dying to try out the 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII so I'm super-excited to play with it over the next week. Eeek! It may have been a poor decision because I think I'm going to love it & I'm in no position to buy it anytime soon. :)

I could only spare 5 minutes tonight & the lighting/location was less than ideal but I'm so thrilled with this lens already- it's sharp & the bokeh is to die for! Nothing will ever replace my primes (they're sharper by nature) but I think a zoom with a fixed aperture would be a good addition, especially for sessions with a family. Here's the very quick pictures I took of Benjamin tonight:


 

I'm going to have to remember to really back up with at 200mm- I shot this one crooked so I ended up chopping off his poor feet with my edit:


Again, BACK UP!!! (And shoot less crooked.) Everyone say it with me... back up, Heather!


Note: this lens is a monster! I mean it is HUGE & HEAVY! I plan on renting another zoom soon that is smaller (24-70mm f/2.8) to compare but I may just have to lift more weights & deal with this current lens. I rented from aperturent.com their service has been perfect! Plus, they have a location in Atlanta so I could pick it up & not pay shipping. Yippee!

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Water Makes Chores Fun Too!

While spacesuits help make chores fun, so does water. And pretty light makes photography fun.


She was so serious about her job!


This boy needs a lot of manual labor- he's got a TON of energy!


Thankfully, manual labor makes him happy.

Everyone got involved!





Not quite sure what this face is about:


Even Eric pitched in:



You're probably thinking our children work a lot. They do. :) But it's not all work & no play. Our steep hill on the side of the house makes for fun riding:

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Spacesuits Make Chores More Fun!

Note: this is NOT how you hold your lens! I noticed my reflection (& bad technique), so I changed my position, which also helped with the direction of light. Does this count as a selfie? ;)

So serious. I love how my children can do their thing while I click away!


Then the baby noticed I had the camera & made a bee-line for me.


Sunday, May 03, 2015

Dawn & Heather Read Together: Own Your Life (Chapter 4)


"His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." (Matthew 25:21)

For the Christian, this verse is the goal of our lives. We want to hear our Lord tell us He is pleased with us & that we can rest forever with Him. Do we think we are some kind of special people? Well, yes... BUT not because of us! Oh, no! We are special, we are loved and our Lord is pleased with us because His Son lived a perfect life so He could die for our sins. Christ then arose & lives because death had no power over Him! Our hope, our faith is built on Jesus Christ alone- without Him, we are but dust. Through Christ, we are His children, His beloved. Oh, how glorious!

"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you, by miracles, wonders and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know- Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it." (Acts 1:22-24)

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom & prudence." (Ephesians 1:7)

"Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God." (Ephesians 2:19)

In chapter 4, Clarkson challenges us to live with the end in mind. To be told we were faithful means we have to actually be faithful. Today. Right where I'm at. Ouch. Honestly, I often fail at being faithful. I do it all the time with lots of lofty excuses: I'm busy. I'm tired. So-and-so can do it better. I'm scared. I might fail. Hm. None of those excuses seem that lofty.

Here's one more really lame excuse: my life is too boring to do anything really good. I can't even believe I've thought that but I have. There have been days when mundaneness of motherhood left me wondering what the point was. Oh, shame on me! I'm serious- I feel utter disgust that I've ever thought like this. I'm nurturing the lives of little souls for His kingdom! I'm helping my husband fulfill his calling before the Lord. Why would my eyes ever look for more? Oh, Lord forgive me! AND I'm not living in a vacuum- I meet & encounter so many people who I could reach out to!!! I love Clarkson's quote here:

"Jesus has chosen you to be a picture of Him to your world too. He loved you so you could share His love with everyone you meet. He forgave you so that you could extend grace to those who need to experience the forgiveness of a real, flesh-covered person. He lavished your world with beauty so you could reflect His beauty to those in your life." (pg. 49)

Dear mama of littles, your world may simply be your children & husband for this season. Be at peace. Dig in & get to work! God sees your work & He is pleased when you are offering these sacrifices. Sally encourages the reader to pray & ask God to direct your vision. What does He want you to do? Where can you serve Him? I bet there's ways where you and your littles together can show Christ to someone else! But if all you can manage is to wipe noses and bottoms and feed your brood, then THIS is the vision He has for you. And don't worry, this season will wax into another. :)

Maybe you're not a mama or not one of littles but you still make excuses. Just like me, we need to turn to His Word & ask God to shape our thoughts after His. Then find one way to be Christ to someone else. Then find another. Keep going!

But wait a minute. Didn't I just share how Christ is the reason we are saved? So why all the emphasis on being faithful, obedience & serving? Why not just focus on His love? You see, we (you, ME!) obey because we are saved and not the other way around. Our culture doesn't want anything to do with authority & many in the church do not want to be perceived as earning their salvation (because we can't), so we make light of obedience. But salvation doesn't leave us dead (and that's what we are unless He saves us)! God gives His children His Spirit, His Word & His church to equip us to LIVE!

"If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever... I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:15-16 & 18)

It's such a balance- knowing we are saved because of Christ's work alone + pouring our lives out in service + seeking His guidance through prayer & diligent study of His Word + resting in His will. We need God's help to know how to balance it all!

Be sure to check out Dawn's thoughts on chapter 4 here! And we'd love to hear your own thoughts.