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Thursday, December 31, 2015

I Can ~

I Can ~

Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  KJV

As 2015 comes to an end, I find myself looking forward to a new beginning tomorrow.  My life has changed so much in my relationship with Christ this year.  That is so BIG.  As my spiritual life has changed and grown, so has my physical body.  Fact: The older we get, the easier it is to get lazy.  Every year, I try to accomplish a personal goal.  This year was a fail.  I got lazy.

Three years ago, I was sick of being thick.  I decided to get myself in shape again.  I was so determined.  I remember the first time I walked a mile.  I think that it took me 18 minutes.  It almost killed me, too.  Well, maybe I just thought I’d die.  

I really worked hard to get in shape.  I did a few races, three half-marathons, a duathlon, and last year, I finished a sprint triathlon, placing 3rd in my age division.  I never was very good or very fast, but I was pretty proud just to finish.  I had a best friend who encouraged me all the time. I had motivation.  I had desire.  I was driven.  And then, just like that, this year I let life get in my way.  I stopped walking, running, or biking.  I stopped making time for me.

It is so hard to stay motivated in life. We become so busy with work and family and obligations, that we put ourselves and our desires on the back burner to simmer until we “have time” to take care of them.  Well, I’m 56 years old.  I think it’s time to remember that I am important.  My health is important.  If I’m healthier, I’m happier.

Making a commitment to take care of my health will not be easy. I’ve gotten discouraged.  There isn’t an excuse made of that I haven’t thought of.  But, this is going to happen.  I will start by making it public, which will, in a sense, make me accountable.
I will call my friend who will tell me that it’s about time I stopped making excuses.  I will pray about it as well.  I know I can do this.  I’ve done it before.  With the new love I have for Jesus, I may even look forward to some time spent walking, where I can clean out my thought closet.  You can do a lot of thinking when you’re miles away from home.

Dear Jesus,  thank you for not making excuses when we come to You for help.  Thank You for giving us the promise that “we can” do what we dedicate ourselves to do with Your help.  Most of us will make resolutions today.  It may not be health-oriented.  Please be our reminder that You will strengthen us if we just ask.

Wishing all of you a safe and happy New Year’s Eve and a prosperous 2016.  Take care of yourself, because you matter.





Monday, December 28, 2015

Whosoever ~ Even Me

Whosoever ~ Even Me

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. NIV

I’ve been thinking about this one for a while now, and I am still not sure how to write it.  

When I went through my divorce, there was a time when money was so tight I didn’t know how I would make ends meet.  I was working 2 jobs and doing all that I could.  I remember one specific time that I just couldn’t pay all of my bills.  I humbled myself and went to see my pastor.  I had been a member of the church for 12 years.  Maybe they could help me just this once.  I was so embarrassed, but I had to have help and was too ashamed to ask my family.  I remember going in, sitting down and crying while I asked the preacher for $100 so I could keep my power on for my children.  I will never forget what he told me.  He said perhaps I needed another job, that their church didn’t feel that it was right to support people who chose to divorce.

I left that church feeling less than worthy.  I about stopped loving Jesus that day.  If that is how religious people help others, then I wasn’t sure that I wanted to have religion. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t stop loving me.  He kept me safe through years of stupidness.  He waited on me.  He knew I was worthy. He taught me to have compassion for women who are struggling to make ends meet.  

It took me a long time to believe that the Bible says that whosoever believes will be saved.  It says everybody. This includes the lonely, newly divorced mommy who is barely holding things together. It includes the teenagers whose hearts are breaking because their parents are divorcing and act like they hate each other.

I shared this story with you to tell you that no matter what you are going through, Jesus does love you.  He will always love you.  You will make it through your struggles.  You will be ok again. You are a whosoever.  I’m living proof that a man in a church building who made me feel less than worthy because I was divorced did not define who I became. I had to remember that I am a whosoever.  Thank You, God, for waiting on me.  Thank You for eternal life.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Giving Grace

Ephesians 4:29  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

My little family went Christmas shopping yesterday.  We sure did enjoy the day together until we went into one particular store that was having a super sale.  People were bumping into me and snatching and I almost had a total meltdown right there in the lotion aisle.  I wasn’t the only one, either.  I looked up and made eye contact with another lady.  We giggled because we were thinking the very same thing…..
“Get me out of this mess before I show up on the 6:00 news.”

What is wrong with people?  Have we gotten so greedy that we have to be rude to save a dollar?  I sure had to struggle to remember my Bible verse for today.  It would have been the perfect occasion to do the “I cuss a little” part of my blog title, but I didn’t.  Instead, I began to wish everyone who bumped into me a  “Merry Christmas”. I had to really work hard to mean it, but I said it.  I'm not sure it meant anything to anyone else, but it changed my attitude.

Giving grace.  Building others up.  Kindness and tolerance.  It isn’t always easy for sure, but if ever there was a time in history to practice grace, it would be now.  I sure hope that all of you have a drama free time with your friends and family.  Be thankful for every minute of time you get to spend with them.

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Who You Are ~ More Than A Name



Titus 2:7-8 .7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.  ESV

People ask me why I became a photographer.  I always tell them the story.  My mom was an 18 year old girl living in Thomasville, Georgia and working at Tidwell Studios.  My dad was fresh out of the Marines.  Daddy took a roll of film into the lab for developing.  My mom said she almost wore the image off of the print looking at it before Daddy came back to pick his pictures up.  They were married six weeks later.  I guess photography is in my blood.  Fast forward to the year 2000.  This is the year I married Matt.  I was always taking pictures of our children.  One day he asked me if I had ever thought of becoming a photographer. Of course I had, but I sure never had the courage to follow through with it.  He believed in me and encouraged me, and that's how it all began.

Through the years, I have photographed hundreds of events for people.  Marriages, life stories, births, and even sessions of children with cancer who were at the end of their journey here on earth.  I love my job.  Also, I learned that social media is the gateway to networking and building clientele. I worked MySpace and then Facebook like magic.  I went from having 15 LIKES on my page to 13 thousand.  I posted anything I could think of that might draw an audience.  I did draw an audience, but not the way that I wanted.  I found myself making fun of people who I had sessions with or who I came in contact with.  Granted, some people are difficult, but it's taken me years to learn that I am a photographer, not a comedian and not a judge.

When you step out into the public in any manner, you are setting yourself up to be judged.  You are becoming a public figure.  You are going to be held accountable.  And I promise you this;  People of today are mean. I was mean. Did having LIKES on a social media page really mean more to me than hurting people?  Slowly, I began to change my tactics. I lost a lot of followers, but I gained something so much better.  I gained self-respect. I also gained a big lesson in humbleness and humility. I learned that young people were watching me. What was I teaching them?

One day I posted something about loving Jesus. Immediately, a friend called me out about my words and my actions. You absolutely cannot serve God and people. That was hard to hear, but to this day, I am thankful for this friend who boldly spoke truth into my life. On my journey to become "balanced", I am finding out so much about who I was and who I want to be.

There will be days in my future, I'm sure, when I will deal with difficult people. It's part of my job. I have to remember that people will know who I am by my name and by how I make them feel.  I have to remember that the words I speak will leave a lifetime of memories in their soul, memories that will last much longer than the photographs I take.  There will be days when Satan will be hard at work.  We live in an environment of evil and frustration.  It will be then when I have to work harder to have and to give grace.  I am Kim Stone of Kim Stone Photography.  That’s my name.  But I am also the brand for my business. I am a memory maker.  Let me make sure I leave people with the memory representative of more than my name. Let me show dignity and integrity worthy of His grace.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Real Gifts

Real Gifts

Proverbs 22:6  Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

When I was about 6 years old, I distinctly remember a lesson I learned during the Christmas season.  Our family lived in a little rental house while my daddy was building what would become our family home.  It was December and I ran out to get the mail.  (I’m about to tell everyone how old I am here.)  The brand new Sears and Roebuck catalog was in the mail that day.  My sister and I were so excited!  We got paper and pencils and went to work making our long list for Santa.  We proudly presented these lists to my mom.  I remember the look that came over my mom’s face to this day.  We were about to have a talk.  She gently told us that maybe we should rethink the lists we made and choose a few items.  Maybe we could choose one big item that we really wanted and a few smaller items.  She said that we needed to think about other children all over the world who would wake up with nothing for Christmas.  They would have their family and one day we would understand that it was time with family that was the real gift, not things you get from a catalog. She reminded us of Baby Jesus and that this is the season of giving and not getting.  In my 6 year old mind, I realized that she was so right.  I had made a list of “things” and there was nothing I truly needed or wanted... except maybe a new bicycle.

My mom is an amazing woman.  She can plan a budget and stick with it to a penny.  We never knew that there were times when we were little that we had financial struggles.  My sister and I always had everything we needed growing up.  She also made sure that we had dinner at the table every night, together, as a family.  She brought us up to value family.  She also brought us up to love and respect Jesus.

With Christmas 5 days away, I am more aware of this life lesson than ever before.  I have a big family with 4 grown children and 8 grandchildren.  I still have my parents and I have a great relationship with my sister.  I could ask them for anything in the world, and they would do their best to give it to me.  However, this is what I have picked out as my gift, and you won’t find it in a catalog, on Amazon, on Ebay, or any other internet site.  I want time with my family.  I want to see them together.  I want the mad, crazy sound of kids running through the house screaming and laughing.  I want to see my Mama and Daddy with their grandchildren and great grandchildren one more time.  I know that these moments are so precious and rare.  And I also know that there are more times like this behind us than there are ahead of us.

I am so thankful for my sweet Mom.  She taught us so many valuable lessons throughout our lives.  She still gives of herself.  She is still training us in ways that we should go.  

That red bicycle with the banana seat and high handlebars that I got that Christmas is long gone, but the life lesson I learned that day is forever in my heart. Thank you, God, for giving me parents who invested themselves in us.  Thank you that we learned the difference between “things” and “time”.  Help me to value every minute I have with my family this Christmas season.  

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Heart of Wisdom

Psalms 90:12  “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” ESV

You will read the word balance many times  in my writings, because that is where I am in life.  As working women, I feel sometimes we get lost in the shuffle of work, school, husband, housework, children, and the list goes on and on.  We lose who we are. We find ourselves mentally and physically exhausted.  I can’t speak for all of you, but at times, I find myself being very resentful of my role in this now season of my life.  That starts a chain reaction in my home.  Remember that as women, we set the tone for our household.

For as long as there have been women on the earth, we have been  known as the weaker sex.  Really?  A man must have come up with that.  The last thing a woman is is weak.  We may be overwhelmed, but we certainly aren’t weak.  We feel like we have to do everything to make our family’s lives run smoothly.  Fact:  Life is rarely smooth.  Sometimes I don’t know if I’m coming or going.  I pass myself on the way home.  Then I get home and the guys are sitting in the recliners with their feet up watching football.  The laundry isn’t done.  Or dinner cooked.  Wait.  Scratch that.  They are going to eat.  That’s essential to their survival so they will cook, but clean clothes are optional.  Remember that line above about “resentment”?  Yes.  Now.  

During this time of the year, I am running on fumes.  I do not take the time to renew my spirit or my body.  As I get older, I am finding that I need to have time for me.  We all need time for us.  We need quiet time to be with God, too.  I am so busy, though.  How do I squeeze another moment into our day and still have time to sleep?  It’s time to reset my priorities. I am important to me.  My time is valuable.  I need to take care of me so that I can take care of everyone I love.  

The most valuable thing I have learned on this journey is that it is okay to say “no” and it’s okay to ask for help.  So many times, I am just boiling inside because my family cannot see that the chores need to be done.  What is wrong with them?  There lies the problem. Nothing is wrong with them, but with me.  I am mad because I expect my guys to be mind readers.  I am the one circling the emotional drain, going down for the last time because I am overwhelmed.  And yet, I have not opened my mouth to ask for help.  Words I should say become words I should not say.  That is totally not fair to my family.  I am choosing to be frustrated. I am choosing the tone of our household.  If I had simply sent a text before I started home asking my son to do a couple of loads of clothes, please, and to save me a plate, it would have been done.  They are good guys.  They just think differently than I do.

Dear Lord, thank You for showing me this revelation today.  I need that heart of wisdom that You spoke of in Scripture.  I need to value myself, to number my days, to ask for help, to say no so that my household works together for Your glory.  Amen

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Knowing When to Turn Loose

Psalm 32:6  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. ESV

When my son was about 5 years old, he was a walking, talking, living, breathing cowboy phase of his life.  Boots, hat, and a rope were part of his existence.  One morning, we were out in the field feeding the cows.  He was doing what little boys do, being more in the way than helping, but he was giving it his very best shot.  For some reason, he decided he was going to rope a calf.  He had tried this many time, but on this morning, his loop connected and went right around the neck of a young calf.  I don’t know who was more startled, my son or the calf.  My son started yelling, “I got him! I got him!” which in turn startled the calf more.  The calf took off down the pen with my son hanging on for dear life.  That calf drug my boy all over that pen.  Soon his elation turned to cries for help.  All I could do was laugh hysterically and yell, “Turn the rope loose, Jake.”  Thankfully, it ended well and we have a story to tell of a little guy who caught more than he could handle.

When I find myself overwhelmed in my life, I think about this story.  Most of the time, I can relate to the little boy because I have taken on more than I can handle and feel myself being drug around my current world yelling for help or being totally grumpy to people around me.  So often, we get ourselves into situations like this because we feel that we should say “yes” to projects that we have no desire to be involved with in the first place.  As women, we are helpers, nurturers, and caregivers.  We are people pleasers.  Deep down, we want to feel appreciated, so we say yes when a friend or family comes to us for help.

You know what?  There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying “no”.  Nothing.  The world will not stop if you decline to take on something else in your life, especially when you know that a project would take time away from your family, or more importantly, it would take the few precious moments that you have for yourself.  Your guilt meter in your brain may be saying, “yes, yes, yes”, but you know in your heart that you simply cannot take on one more thing. Pray before you make a decision. Jesus loves you.  He wants you to be the best you that you can be.  Don’t be the kid on the end of the rope crying out for help.  Turn to God.  He will guide you in the way that you should go.  He will give you courage to say, “Thank you for thinking of me, but I cannot help at this time.”


Friday, December 18, 2015

Word Weapons


Proverbs 18:21   Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat it’s fruit.  ESV
A few months ago, I had an awakening.  I saw a little girl bounce out of the car, so happy to see her mom after a night away with the other parent.  The first words that the mother said was, “Is that how they dressed you for school today?”  The little girl lost all of her happy in that moment and embarrassment and insecurity replaced it.  Now, I know that this mother did not mean to hurt the child, because that is not her nature.  I am sure that those words were a dig towards the other parent.  The child just took the blow.  Not a physical blow, of course.  You can recover from those.  But instead she took the blow from a word weapon.
As I prepared for this writing, I cannot tell you the number of times my words have replayed in my head.  In the past, and honestly, these days, I have used my words as a weapon, especially when I felt attacked, scared, or insecure.  In 1997, I found myself abandoned after 17 years of marriage.  I’m telling you;  we made every mistake you can make through our divorce proceedings.  Our children became the rope in an emotional battle of tug-of-war.  I am ashamed of how I handled myself during those years.  To be honest, it took me years and years and YEARS to understand why I was so bitter.  I was so scared that because my husband stopped loving me, that my children would stop loving me as well.  I certainly did not want this to happen, and I would say derogatory words to my children about their father with hopes that they wouldn’t choose him over me.   How I wish that I hadn’t done any of that.  How I wish I could take back those words.  How I wish I had fostered a healthy environment for them to grow up in.
But, see, that is the thing about words.  Once they are spoken, you cannot get them back.  You can ask for forgiveness, and you can make peace with the person you have hurt, but they never really go away.  Years later, the enemy will use words that may have been spoken to plant the seed of unworthiness in my heart.  
I cannot let Satan control me by bringing up memories of mistakes I have made in the past.  I cannot let the enemy make me feel unworthy when I have been forgiven.  I can, however, learn from my mistakes and not make them in the future.  I can foster a loving environment in which my grandchildren to thrive.
There will be days in our futures when we, as wives, mothers, and/or grandmothers will want to lash out and hurl word weapons, especially when we find ourselves overwhelmed, scared, or insecure.  It is so important to remember the scripture at the top of this blog.  “Death….and life…are in the power of the tongue.”  Speak LIFE.  And when you don’t have kind words, don’t speak them at all.  You won’t implode if you keep those words to yourself.  I know.  If you would, I’d be spattered across the universe!!
Thank you, God, for continuing to teach me to use my words as fruit to speak LIFE into my family.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Meet Him at the Door With Your Lips, Not Your Mouth

Proverbs 25:34  “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.”  ESV

He walks in the door, kicks off his boots, gets a glass of tea, sits in the recliner and throws his feet up.  Then he actually looks at me and says, “You wouldn’t believe the day I’ve had.”  Yes!  He said that to me.  He hasn’t noticed the children are running through the house naked, the dogs just tore up a feather pillow on the still damp floor I just mopped, and supper is boiling over on the stove.  I’m standing here, 5:00 in the evening still in my pajamas because I haven’t had the chance to have a shower yet and he wants to tell me about his day.  Wow.

We all remember these days.  Some of you may still be living this scenario.  Once you have children, the days of greeting each other with kisses are long gone. We find ourselves greeting our spouse with our mouths, instead of that warm kiss of days gone by.  “You wait ‘til your daddy gets home,” takes on a whole new meaning.  He barely makes it in the door before unload on him what his son did today.  We have become a nagging, quarrelsome, complaining wives.  

A lot of times I truly don’t think we mean to be quarrelsome. I think that we tend to find ourselves just needing an adult to hear us and share our mommy woes. Even though we have chosen to step into the role of Mommy, we are still a wife and more than that, we are a person.  Women need love and acceptance.  Women need validation.  Women need an attagirl even when they grow up.  Finding the balance between being the girl he married and the mommy you are can be overwhelming on a good day, much less on a day like today has been.

How do you find that balance?  I feel that communication is key.  Not the communication you are thinking of, either.  You cannot lay into your spouse the moment he walks into the door and expect him to empathize with your needs.  That just lays a brick in the wall that sometimes gets built between husbands and wives when problems aren’t solved with communication.  Granted, the world is changing and men are much more into the parenting role than back in my child-raising days, but I’m not sure the typical husband has any idea what it truly means to be a stay-at-home mom.  Or even a working mom.  We have to live our lives in balance.  We have to make sure the children are fed, homework is done, baths, dinner, laundry, and the list goes on and on.

We also set the tone for our household, so therefore, we have to make sure that we are enjoying our roles instead of resenting our roles as wife and mother.  Sometimes, we just need to greet our husband’s at the door with our lips and not our complaining mouth. Give him a kiss and hug, and then ask, “Hey, could you hold me a minute?” Let him absorb the frustrations you have.  Lean on him.  Share with him. Encourage him to listen. If that doesn’t work, you can always ask him to watch the children while you make a quick trip to the store for milk….that lasts a couple of hours, because after all, those chocolate cupcakes the kids just ate should be kicking in any minute now.  They are naked, remember?  You washed off the evidence.  He will never know until it hits them. You can apologize later with that kiss.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Feeling Human

Ecclesiastes 7:20  Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.  ESV

I’m feeling pretty human today.  I love sitting down and finding scripture for these posts.  I love learning about Jesus.  I hope that these little blogs will help other women feel that there are others who have been where they are.  But today, I am struggling.
When I decided a year ago to change my life, I truly hoped that it would be this miraculous joyride of happy attitude and loving Jesus and everything being glorious every day.  Sunshine and roses and junk.  Yeah.  Not so much today.

No matter how hard I try, sometimes things just do not go the way I need them to.  I fall back into negative ways and then my mouth….well, it just starts running with that no filter thing it has.  Before I know what has happened, I have said a string of sarcastic comments about things that are bothering me.  Then it happened.  My husband, bless his perfect little heart, points out to me that I am being a hypocrite.  I am writing one thing and portraying another.  Dammit.  I hate when he is right.   I had a revelation in my thinking in that I need to hold myself to the same standard in which I see others. I was being judgemental and negative because of someone else’s actions….or lack of action as this case may be.

I am already my greatest critic.  Once I become aware of a failure, it grows and grows until it begins to make me begin to doubt my self worth.  I truly have to battle my mind to find my balance again.  I begin to feel less than worthy.  I begin to feel as though maybe I don’t have any business trying to write a “Godly” blog.

Solomon was a wise man in the Bible.  The verse I chose for today’s blog, I’m pretty sure, covers women as well.  It doesn’t matter how hard we try, we are going to fail, sometimes epically, at leading a Godly life.  Once again, Satan had attacked me in my weakest area; my self-esteem.  I had my little pity party, and then I got over it.  I will do my best to do good.  I will sin, too, but I will not let Satan keep me from what it is that God wants me to do.  When you feel like a failure, remember this verse. It says EVERY righteous man sins.  “Righteous” person. “Righteous” woman.  Everybody sins.  I’m not making excuses for my sin. I know that it’s something that I will have to work on the rest of my earthly life.  I am thankful that we serve a mighty God who continues to love us, and forgive us, even when we are human.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Distractions

2 Corinthians 2:11  In order that Satan might not outwit us.  For we are not unaware of his schemes.

It worked out for us to go to church this morning.  I love church.  I love the messages and the feeling I get when I am filled with the Holy Spirit.  I do not, however, love distractions.  Like clicking pens.  Let me tell you, I cussed in my thoughts today.  I did not carry out the act but in my mind, I stood up, went to the back row, forcefully took the clicking pen out of the man’s hand, and threw it as far as I could throw it.

I should be ashamed for admitting that, but I’m one of those crazy people who cannot stand repetitive noises.  Besides,  who sits in church and clicks a pen over and over?  I sure had a “bless your heart” kind of moment.  I am fully aware that even an ink pen can be used by Satan to keep me (and others) distracted.  He will use anything to outwit us.  We know this.  So, why am I so easily distracted?  I wish I knew. Maybe it is from being raised Southern Baptist, where you were taught at an early age to be quiet in church. Children didn't dare even  open a peppermint!  Every mama in the church would turn around and give you “the look”. Yet here I was, knowing that I should be fully involved in the minister’s words, and I sat, instead, deciding if I wanted to take the pen and throw it, break it into pieces, or just break the guy’s clicking finger.

Lesson for the day:  Jesus purpose for my life is to follow His will. His will does not include distractions. His will involves commitment on my part; commitment to ignore Satan’s schemes to distract me. His will does not include even the withering look I may or may not have given towards the back row. Satan outwitted me this morning, God, with an ink pen. Help me to learn to focus on what is important. Help me to learn to ignore daily distractions that keep me from hearing what You want me to hear. And God, thank you for protecting the poor guy in the back row.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

You Can't Buy Love

Acts 20:35  In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

I was having my coffee and watching the news this morning.  A storyline of came on that caught my eye.  A mom of 3 children had sent in a photo of her Christmas tree.  You could barely see her tree because she had purchased 100 gifts for each of her three children.  That’s her business and that’s the way she chooses to parent her children.  I also don’t know how they live their lives so I’m absolutely not judging her lifestyle because there may be more to the story.  My first thoughts, however, was that children don’t need things, they need love.

When I was a little girl, all of our family gathered at my grandparents on Christmas morning. It was a happy time of family, Life Saver books, and plenty of food. Everyone came and everyone got along. My children chose names from an “angel”  tree and we made a big production out of buying for others.  That was a big deal for us.  We tried to model behavior that Christmas meant giving to those who had nothing. Today's society just isn't like that.  I find myself caught up in the same trap.  I want my gifts to be perfect. I am a very emotional spender.  I try to buy my children and grandchildren’s love.  Yes, that’s insecurity on my part.  I worry that I won't measure up to what the other grandparents may give. The truth is that our grandchildren are happy just to be together and play.  We are so blessed that they have such great parents who instill in these children the joy of being together.

Help me, Jesus, to remember how important it is to give, but that love cannot be bought. Help all of us to remember the real reason of Christmas.  It’s not presents and Santa and lists of toys.  It’s time.  It’s love.  It’s remembering all of the people who have nothing.  Most importantly, it’s about Your birth. Help me to be thankful that God didn't give us things, He gave us You.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Love My Enemies?

Luke 6:27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” NIV

My Bible study took me to the 6th book of Luke this morning.  I almost skipped it altogether, but I know that this is a good lesson for me to read and dwell on. I’m not good with this at all, especially if my feelings are hurt. I like to keep score.

Recently, an event was held locally and it seemed the whole community was invited...except me.  I remember driving by and seeing everyone and then being filled with hateful thoughts towards the holder of the event.  It’s not that I had any desire to go, and I was working so, technically, I couldn’t go, it just hurt my feelings that I was so blatantly left out.  I was filled with negativity the rest of the way home.  Then it hit me.  Why would anybody invite someone so full of hateful thoughts to a happy event?   Whoa.  Where did that come from?  “Hey, Jesus.  Yeah.  You got me.”

None of us like to be left out.  We all need to feel wanted and loved and accepted.  We want to be made to feel special and valuable.  That’s human nature.  With the holidays coming up, I’m sure that there will be times when you, also, feel like you were left out or a relative says something that hurts your feelings.  We live in a time of blended families.
There are exes and in-laws and out-laws and the list goes on and on.  Somewhere in the family, we will have “enemies”.  Remember the talk about setting the tone for our household?  This will be a powerful time to demonstrate this principal.  Better yet, remember that to someone, YOU are the enemy.  Now, that’s kind of funny to me, because who doesn’t like us, right?  Honestly, sometimes, I don’t even like me, so I certainly can’t live in such a fantasy world to expect everyone else to like me, too.

The deal is that we have to forgive and move forward.  We all know people who remember mistakes people made 20 years ago and will bring them up the moment things get tense.  I think those people are called wives.

I have to learn the value of letting go of past hurts and showing grace.  This morning, I resisted doing the very thing God asked me to do.

“Hey, God. I guess it’s time to show grace again.  I wasn’t really through being mad, but You have shown me this morning that I’m not in Your will if I am still thinking about my poor little hurt feelings.  I’m sorry, God.  Thank you for not keeping score.  Thank you for your grace.  Help me to, in turn, show grace to others.”

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Worry

Philippians 4:6  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  NLT

My morning starts off with a cup of coffee and a look over my calendar to see what I have coming up for the week.  Everything is laid out and I begin to plan exactly where I need to be and when I need to be there.  Then someone “needs” me.  All of a sudden, my life is out of balance.  I am a planner and a scheduler.  And….I am a control freak.
I begin to worry about how I can get everything done, add something to it, and still stay on schedule.  It always works out, but still, I worry.  

That’s just the gentle side of my worry.  Let something happen to one of my family members, especially my parents!  If I am not careful, worry will consume me.  I will wake up at night and not be able to go back to sleep thinking about the problem.  Am I the only one who struggles with this?

I think that it is second nature for women to be fixers.  We like for everything to be in balance.  Sometimes, we simply cannot fix a problem, no matter how hard we worry.  But then, that is part of the problem.  We aren’t supposed to worry.  We are suppose to pray.  

I look back on the time in my life when I struggled to make ends meet.  I was working 3 jobs, taking care of my children, making sure I paid what bills I could.  All I did was worry.  I couldn’t see any way out of my situation.  I “worried in circles”.  I went over the same problems over and over in my mind.  Thankfully, I had my sister to help me learn to “worry in a straight line”.  She taught me that I couldn’t solve everything right now, but I could make a choice of what my next step should be.  Learning that life lesson has been so valuable to me.  Sometimes, we just need to make a plan.  Sometimes, we are so overwhelmed that we cannot see the end of our struggles, but we can see what we should do next.  When we get that next small step accomplished, we can make plans for the next small step.  Before long, we look back and see where we were and thank God because we made it through by making one small step at a time!!

God tells us that we shouldn’t be worriers, but instead we should pray and ask for guidance and wisdom, then thank Him for what He is going to do in our future.  Ok, well, maybe I’m still working on that.  I do have this “circle vs straight line” plan down, though.  Things always work out.  Don’t get so caught up in where you are, that you cannot see where you are going, because you are going places.  You will survive this now time of your life.  Remember to thank Him for His grace.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Spin cycle ~

Ecclesiastes 7:9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools. ESV
This morning I stood in front of my washing machine impatiently waiting for the load to finish so that I could continue with my day.  The number on the dial said one minute left.  About 4 minutes later, it finally clicked off.  By this time, I was so frustrated that I had been standing there waiting for things to happen when I had things to do.  I had wasted 4 precious minutes of my busy life waiting on the spin cycle. Man, I was slinging clothes, slamming lids, slapping light switches….and maybe cussin’ a little.
It hit me pretty hard that it was time to practice what I have been struggling with in the last two years, the art of finding balance in my life. Sure, I have been thrown off by an inconvenience, but would I really be willing to let 240 seconds set my outlook for the rest of the day?  I needed to just stop and regroup.
So many times, we let a minor inconvenience define our mood.  We get stuck in the spin cycle.  Once it starts and we let Satan use the power of that cycle, the faster everything seems to get out of control.  Watch and see.  The kids will start crying, the phone will ring, you’ll get 47 texts from a friend wanting to know why you’re not texting back, the dog will throw up on your brand new rug….and Satan will rejoice in the fact that you have lost your “balance”.
I could have used those 4 minutes to pray or to just take a deep breath and relax. Instead, I got all out of balance.  Am I balanced now?  Heck no.  I am not wired that way. I am “clicked off” to the mood I was spinning towards.

Thanks, God, for giving me the grace to recognize sin and mercy to forgive me for it.

Monday, December 7, 2015

God, I Just Don't Understand

1 Samuel 1:27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted my petition that I made to Him. ESV

Philemon 1:12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. ESV

I am not good with grief.  I never know what to say when someone loses a loved one.  This week has been filled with loss and grief and it’s just Monday.  One of my precious friends lost the son she was carrying.  He was born too early and just couldn’t survive.  For years, she had prayed for this child, and now halfway through the pregnancy, he was taken from her.  And God, I just don’t understand.

When Matt and I married, we wanted a child together.  I was pushing 40 so I knew that my chances were small.  Surprisingly, I conceived easily.  We were so excited, but at 6 weeks, our baby just stopped growing and died.  We were heartbroken but decided to try once more.  Again, I conceived almost immediately.  We were, again, so excited, especially when we made it into the second trimester.  I thought for sure we would have our child.  But at 14 weeks, this baby died, too.  I just couldn’t cope with the loss.  I had a terrible time dealing with the grief.  I was mad as hell that everywhere I looked, there was a pregnant teenager smoking a cigarette and their baby was fine.  I was so jealous of the blessing that they, obviously, took for granted.  My grief almost destroyed me, my marriage, and my faith in God.  But God did not lose his faith in me.  I had prayed... no, I had begged God for a child in our lives.  I lost our baby on Memorial Day, 2003.  Two months later, my daughter told me she was expecting my first grandson.  My baby.  Just not the way I had planned.

It absolutely broke my heart when our babies died.  I didn’t think that I would ever recover.  God had a purpose for what He does in our lives.  Now, at this stage in my life, I cannot imagine having a 13 year old child in my home.  But, I LOVE that I have eight grandchildren that we love and enjoy tremendously.

My friend, who lost her son this week, is exactly where I was back in 2003.  She doesn’t understand why her son gained his angel wings, but she, unlike me, knows that God had a plan and a purpose for her loss.

I don’t know how many of you have suffered the pain of miscarriage or stillbirth, but I know that the number of women who miscarry is high.  When we give our babies  back to God, we do, indeed, send a piece of our very heart.  Because we are saved, we know that one day, we will see these beautiful, healthy, whole children in heaven.  I know that that gives me peace and comfort.

Dear God, I send a special prayer to those women who have carried a child in their bodies, loved them and wanted them, but had to give them back to you before they were able to know them.  Help them to understand Your plan.  Thank you for the time we had with our babies.  Thank you for the promise that we will see them again.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

See With Your Heart ~
Matthew 6:21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ESV
As a photographer, I depend on my eyes and camera lens to do my job efficiently and effectively.
At a wedding, there is so much going on that it can be hard to retain focus.  Everybody wants something from you.  You are surrounded by people you’ve never met and they all have different personalities.  I have to think on my feet and become adaptable to these personalities.  I have to know when to talk, when to be quiet, when to step in and problem solve, and when to step away.  It is fast paced and emotions are on red alert most of the time
Sometimes, my eyes get in the way of the true story of what I am documenting.  Sometimes, I have to turn off the distractions, close my eyes, and see with my heart.  I’m looking for that one precious image that stops time.  I am looking to document a treasure for my client.
If I can “turn off” the world when I am at work, then certainly I can “turn off” the world when I sit down to study His word.  I cannot be distracted by the laundry that needs folding or dishes that need washing.  I have to remember that He has a purpose for my life, and I promise you, I won’t find it on my iPhone, the TV, the household chores, or any other distraction. I have to get in a quiet place and close my eyes and ears to the chaos around me. I have to “see Him with my heart”.  I have to let Jesus Christ be the precious image that I am looking for.  He has already documented it….years ago…on Calvary.  God closed His eyes to the fact that it was His only son on that cross.  He closed His ears to the cries of the crowds.  He only saw with His heart the love and compassion He has for us.
Our Heavenly Father, help me to turn off the world around me.  Help me to find treasure in your word.  Help my heart be filled with You.  Help me remember that I owe You the same respect that You freely give to me.  Thank You for loving me.  Thank You for Your patience with me.  My eyes will not see you while I am on this earth, but when I close my eyes, I see Your precious image in my heart.  Thank you for Your grace.



Friday, December 4, 2015

Forgiveness

Matthew 6:14-15  For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  ESV


Working through your problems can be very emotional.  I remember when I was going through my divorce, and honestly years after, I was just mad.  I was mad at my ex-husband. I was mad at the lawyers and the court systems.  I was mad at friends who no longer came around.  I was even mad at God for a while.  I wasted a lot of years being mad, years I will never get back.  I needed to be mad to survive.  It was the only emotion I had that was strong enough to keep me going at the time.

As I have matured in my faith, I am learning to find balance in my emotions.  I am learning that it is okay to be mad for a season until you work things out.  However, it is not healthy to stay mad.  I had to learn to forgive.  The first person I needed to forgive was myself. The divorce certainly wasn't all his fault. I was just as much to blame in the ending of our marriage.  Then, as I learned to have mercy for myself, I began to pray about forgiving others.  Slowly, the chains of hate and anger began to fall away.  Holding grudges and resentment inside is a bondage that God does not want us to have.  He wants us to experience the freedom of letting all of those negative feelings go from our hearts.

There is an old saying that when you are mad at someone, it’s like carrying around a hot coal in your hand and expecting the person you are mad at to be burned by it.  That is exactly how I felt for years.  I carried around this mean spirit against my ex-husband.  I hated him.  What happened to make me change my feelings?  I realized that as long as I carried hate in my heart, then my divorce was still hurting me.  I realized that I did not want waste another minute of my life being mad or hurt or hate-filled. I realized that I am happy in my life now.   I also realized that until I let that hate go, God would not forgive me for those years of darkness.  It is such a wonderful feeling to let go of that burden.  Now, I can see the good in my ex-husband.  He has made a wonderful grandfather to our grandchildren.  Do I still remember the hurt of those years?  Sure, I do.  The difference is, that hurt no longer controls me or my defines my emotions and the guilt I carried for my part in the failed marriage has surfaced so that I could deal with it appropriately.

There will be times to come, I’m sure, when I will feel like I have been wronged and I will feel like I need to be mad for a while.  I am so thankful that on this journey of life that I have learned to pray through things to find guidance on how to control that  mad instead of letting it control me.  Then in turn, God will forgive me.  Life is, indeed, too short to waste one moment carrying around a piece of hot coal.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

I Love Jesus, But I Cuss a Little 

Romans 3:23  For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  KJV

Recently, I was cruising through social media, making comments and catching up with friends, when I came across a particular post about living a perfect life.  It got my attention. The writer talked about her wonderful little children, how amazing her husband is, she had been to the gym every day for her morning workout and lost 3 pounds, and her presh friends at Bible Study.  I read over it again then came to the conclusion that it was absolutely the funniest fiction post I’d read in a long time.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live a life such as that?  I do give her credit for her positive attitude.  I’ve got great kids, some of the time.  My husband is a hard-working man, but he is a man.  What is a gym?  That’s where the kids go for PE, right?  I found her 3 pounds.  And I love Jesus, but sometimes I cuss a little.  Sometimes I cuss a little TO my presh friends who listen and love me anyway. (Greta).  In other words, this is the real world and I am human.

Don’t be offended because I said I cuss.  In my past, I thought nothing of spewing a line of offensive language.  It was a habit that I had.  Since Jesus came into my life, I’m working on that. It is never ok or excusable to use bad words.  My point is that sometimes I fall back into old ways.  It’s not just language, either.  Satan targets our weakest points and lays traps for us.  The more we try to live for God, the bigger the trap he will set.  We will face obstacles all throughout the day that will cause us to stumble.  But isn’t it wonderful that we serve a forgiving God?  He is so much more powerful that old habits.  He is our rock.  He teaches that if we come to him he will give us rest.  Sometimes we have to crawl wearily onto that rock and just lay there and regroup.

Don't let life push all of your buttons. Honestly, that's not “life”, but Satan. He will use everything in his arsenal to keep you from a balanced life. I have so many days when everything goes wrong. My frustrations build and build until I reach my “cussing” point. But now, instead of falling back into old ways, I'm learning to filter my mouth. I will never live a perfect life on this earth. I will sin and fall short of His glory.  It's not ok, but thankfully, our human actions are covered by His mercy and grace, and for that I am thankful.