Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Project 366 -- Days 25-30

I need to do a bit of catching up since I've just traveled to northern Georgia for the Created for Care adoptive moms conference.

Day 25
I came out of my room following rest time in our house and was surprised to discover I had a fourth son...or at least a stuffed lion dressed up like an athletic boy by my third son, Alexander (12)

Day 26
Just pretty iron work in the stair railing in the lodge in which the group of 400-plus moms stayed.

Day 27
Hotel decorations--my daughter, Anna, taught me how to take this kind of close-up of an object or objects. Thanks, Anna! I love you and miss you!

Days 28 & 29
Here are a couple of photos I took on walks on the shore of Lake Lanier. I loved getting to do some macro photography (Denise's definition of the photography term: "super close-up focusing on fine details"). These bits of God's grand creation are certainly unseen in Iowa in January!

"On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate."
Psalm 145:5 NASB

Day 30
A complete switch from my travel photos--a Scrabble board laid ready for action at Panera. My husband, Jim, and I discovered several years ago that we enjoy playing games on our dates. While we don't do this every time, we've learned that laughter is good medicine for a marriage in the midst of all that raising and educating children, maintaining a home and pursuing a career demands.

Last night we never placed a single tile because I talked and talked and talked, and Jim demonstrated his love for me by listening and listening and listening...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Am I Running on Empty?

"When our mouths are empty of praise for others, it is probably because our hearts are full of love of self."
John Piper, as quoted in Practicing Affirmation, Sam Crabtree

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 24 -- Lissie's Loves

You can't know our daughter Lissie (20) long without becoming aware of two of her favorite things--dogs and reading. As I caught her cuddling with our sleepy dog Sunshine this afternoon, I accidentally captured both loves in one photo: the pup in the foreground and Lissie's bookshelf behind her.

Sunshine outgrew being a lap dog not long after we added her to the family. However, she still enjoys being held by Lissie as though she didn't extend far beyond the confines of her lap. Our family's adoption of Sunshine was utterly unexpected. The kids' dad had told them over and over that we were a ONE-dog family. Then in God's mysterious way, He lead us to rescue this quirky dog just before our adoption of Daria, Alexander and Oksana in November 2010. Through this goofy dog, who looks like a cartoon character, God has graced us with many, many laughs which He has used to knit the 14 of us together. Laughter is a powerful healer.

Moved by the Wonder of God

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come...Worthy are You our Lord and Our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things and because of Your will they existed, and were created." (Revelation 4:8b,11 NASB)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 23 -- Teamwork for a Cause

Today when I pulled out my camera it was to capture my kiddos hard at work on a fund-raising mailing for their brother, John (20).
John's going on a 10-day mission's trip in early March to the Southern Ethiopia town of Shone. He'll travel with a group made up mostly of folks from our church, with a few extra friends from other churchs. The team will be working with the group Look Development, a coalition of both Ethiopians and Americans whose heart's cry is to minister to impoverished and often orphaned children in the Shone area.

Our large family first learned to prepare a mailing four years ago during the last presidential race. We learned the truth to the idiom, "Many hands make light the work." (Did I ever mention I LOVE being part of a large (okay...extra large) family?!?)

At that point, Amy was only five, but even she had a role to play. For hours she would faithfully lick and place stamps.

As I took these photos today I could see that she'd been promoted to envelope organizer. I loved watching the efforts of her yet small hands to make the stack behave itself!

In the end, her reward was a bouquet of envelope trash.
She was just happy to help as were all of John's brothers and sisters.
in our family, what's a project for one is a project for all.

John hopes to raise $1,456 through this mailing. Would you pray for him that God does above and beyond all he could hope? (Ephesians 3:20) He's very excited to have the opportunity to meet deep needs in the people there. One of the group's endeavors will be to build a swing set for the twenty orphans who currently have zero, zip, nilch outdoor equipment to engage their hearts, souls and bodies.

The cost for the swingset, $2,000, had begun to trickle in through requests on the Nordstroms' blog Room for More, but the rest poured in on Friday night at a 'Soup, Pie and Praise Music" event. Not only that, but nearly $4,000 more came in to help cover expenses like medical supplies. Absoultely unheard of to raise nearly $6,000 in one night of fundraising in Sioux City. Major employeers have left town leaving the average incoming dwindling. But God is bigger than our expectations. "Nothing will be impossible for Him" (Luke 1:27)!
God is actively at work in all of this, and our family is so excited that John will be participating. Today his siblings were happy to lend their aid!

Project 366 - Day 22

After church today, we enjoyed some family fellowship while waiting for leftovers to reheat.

As the meal got close, Oksana and Amy climbed on the same bar stool to await prayer time. On Sundays as we say grace at the noon meal, we go around the family circle and each person says something for which we're grateful to the Lord. This time, Amy told the Lord she was thankful for her sister-of-one-year, Oksana. Our littlest one looked up, caught my eye and beamed.

I loved their blue-jeaned legs and bare feet dangling under the bar stool

Immediately after lunch, we started rest time and Natasha delved into a book.

The lighting was just what my photography books recommend. Cloudy skies outside a large window in our kitchen provided gentle, kind illumination, sparing me the need to use my flash. Today the quality of the light was even enhanced as it bounced off snow out side.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Project 366 - Day 21

Last night we attended a concert at the beautiful Orpheaum Theatre. I went with camera in hand and one goal--to try to get some photos of the enormous, ornate chandeliers in the lobby. I knew the low light situation would challenge my photography skills.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Joining Project 366

A good many photographers started 2012 by declaring they were going to take a picture-a-day in an effort to improve their photography skills.

I've made the decision to participate in Project 366 nearly a month after the start of the new year. (Did I ever mention I really struggle with running late?!?)

As I've reflected on the effort this intentional photography will require, its slowly dawned on me that the discipline required to meet the goal will be worth any hassle I encounter. You see, I feel as though the Lord has commissioned me to use our camera to "defend the orphan, [and] plead for the widow" (Isaiah 1:17). The time I've spent in orphanages has touched my heart. Now I want to touch the hearts of others. As the Lord makes opportunities available, I want to take photographs which will help raise awareness of the plight of "the least of these." I'll need better photography skills to do that. Thus I'm ready to force myself to practice picture taking for the remainder of the year.

A side benefit is that the photos can be a sort of journal of our family's year.

So here goes:

Day 20

I took today's photos during our family's "rest time,"an hour in the afternoon when we scatter to various corners of the house and engage in some quiet activity. After getting a loaf of bread started in the bread maker, Natasha sorted our recipe cards which had been in disarray since the box was dumped months ago.

Meanwhile, Tatiana was pouring through a book she found at the library this morning...

...and Sunshine was mourning her lack of playmates.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In Praise of Color

We've had so little snow this winter that our world has been consistently brown. To combat the bleakness, I hereby post PINK. Isn't God good to give us color?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I'm still thinking about what love is to look like according to a biblical standard. Here's an all-time favorite quote:
"Go forth and be loving. Let your heart be as large in its creature capacity as God's heart is in its divine. If He has a large heart for you, beware of a small heart for your fellow man. If His heart is open, see that yours is not closed. And since He does not depart at our sinfulness, ingratitude, injury, or unworthiness, be imitatiors of God (Ephesians 5:1,2). 'Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.' (Romans 12:21) God has so dealt with you, overcoming and winning your evil heart with goodness and love of His own. Go and do likewise towards all who have injured you, wounded you, and despitefully used you..." Octavious Winslow, Our God, pg. 16 

Friday, January 13, 2012

What is Love to My Children?

My twelve kiddos -- January 2011
As I'm pondering the nature of love--real love, not the Hollywoood version--on our approach to Valentine's Day, this quote caught my eye:
"Before we can effectively teach our children what Christ would teach, we have to teach them AS Christ would teach: gently, kindly, lovingly, patiently, persuasively, with long-suffering, not being easily provoked. We must literally be as Christ. When we teach that way, we are safe to be with. We are attractive to our children, and we attract them to us. Our words are believed, our actions emulated, and our values tend to become their values." Glenn Latham, Christlike Parenting, pg. 51.
Yikes! For me, these words stung. I realized that I tend to be a gentle, loving, long-suffering mom with some of my kids, but, sadly, not all of them--at least not enough of the time. I base my parenting all too much on my children's behavior. If a child is as obedient and mature as I would hope for his or her age, then that child gets the best out of me. But if not, then they're likely to get an exasperated, frustrated response when they do wrong. I'm all-too easily provoked.

Thanks to Dr. Latham's words, I see how my approach to parenting is terribly unlike my Savior's treatment of me. While I was yet His enemy, Christ suffered and die for me (Romans 5:8). He didn't wait for me to "get" what a sinner I was.

My kids need a Christlike mom who draws them lovingly into her Saviour's arms, not a mother who bases her patience and tenderness on their ability to measure up.

I have much to confess. I have much to pray about.

Monday, January 9, 2012

What is Love?

As we head toward Valentine's day, I want to take a look at "love" as it is defined by God. Afterall, the word has been sorely corrupted by our culture. Thankfully, just two verses tell us much:
"In this is love, not that we 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. (1 John 4:10,11 NASB)
Here we learn:
  • Love initiates action that is in the best interest of the other.
  • Love does not wait for the other to do what is right.
  • Love is unilateral.
  • Love gives.
  • Love gives generously.
  • Love is self-sacrificing.
  • Love is more than a feeling.
  • Love is active.
  • Love is a set of choices I am to make based on the example of God's love for me.
  • Love of others is commanded by God.
And finally, love is costly. To demonstrate love, God sent His beloved son to earth. To demonstrate love, Jesus bore our sins on the cross that we might be reconciled to His Father.

Some of these reflections on the nature of love as described by the Creator of Love are so straightforward they seem hardly worth mentioning. Yet daily we are bombarded by messages that whisper, "Do what makes you happiest!" and "You've got to look out for youself--no one else will!" Since our culture is busy in its effort to preach that love is what gives me good feelings, the reminder can't hurt! In order to live successfully, we must think biblically.

Now, the hard part. Am I loving those in my life in a way that imitates God's love for me? Or, am I merely maneuvering people around me to "fill up my tank"?

*Propitiation--a perfect, sin-free substitute who bears the wrath we deserve as utterly imperfect, unholy sinners

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Chance to See "The Belly Bump"!

My oldest daughter, Anna, and Aaron, her husband--my son-by-marriage, will be visiting this coming weekend. Anna is pregnant with their first child and will be 18-1/2 weeks along when they're here. When we saw the "three" of them at Thanksgiving, Anna was just beginning to show.

I am so eager to see my baby now that Anna is truly showing as she carries her baby! Praise the Lord for His great goodness in breathing new life into our family! Since Aaron and Anna live in Ohio this will probably be my only chance to see her little one while he/she is still inside mommy. You can bet I'm going to wrap my arms tightly around both of them.
Here are some other photos I snatched of the nearly newlyweds as they relaxed at sunset on the shore of Lake Superior in November:

I love having the chance to capture their romance with my camera! I'm a happy mama to have a girlie who is so happy in the role of wife which the Lord has given her! I'm a happy mama to have a son-in-law who nurtures and cherishes his wife!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Conscience Jab

Today, I picked up a book that I've owned for years. When I flipped it open, the pages parted to this prayer:

"O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
Make [my] heart like Yours,
From the desire of being esteemed,
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the desire of being popular,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being *calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be more loved than I,
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase
     and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided
     that I may become as holy as I should...
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
     have mercy on [me], O Lord.

(Eileen Egan and Kathleen Egan, Prayertimes with Mother Teresa, (New York: Image Books, 1989), 134-5. Used with permission as quoted in How to Live Right When Your Life Goes Wrong, Vernick, 98-9)

I'm certain it was no coincidence that the book opened to this reflection. The Lord was intimately at work in my life at that moment, and I was duely pricked and poked as I read. I see in these words many forms of self-focus that fester in my heart. As a wife, I want to be consulted. As a mom, I'm regularly tempted to insist on being honored. As a homemaker, I'm certain I deserve to be praised.

But I don't want pride to determine my thoughts, my words or my actions. I belong to Jesus, and I want Him to rule and reign in my heart instead. I'm going to hang this prayer on my mirror to remind me to keep crying out to the great Heart-Changer that He'll remake me in the image of His Son, just as He's promised to do.

*Calumniated--Slandered; falsely accused; maliciously accused of what is criminal, immoral or disgraceful. (Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 2005)