Archive for March, 2012

Seven

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Yes, I am playing major catch up. For every one photo I blog, there are probably about 3 blog-able “keepers” on my hard drive. I never promised that I would be a prompt blogger. It is what it is. When was Carter’s birthday you ask? November 17th. Yes, I’m that far behind in some of my blogging.

But even though I’ve been slow to blog his birthday, I am super excited about this very special 7 year old.

I try to take a picture of each of my kids on their actual birthday. So here is Carter on 11.17.11 at the location he chose, one of our local missions.

This one wall (pictured above) makes me think of my friend, Carrie because I have photographed her there.

There is something about the colors and light and his eyes in this photo that I love.

Carter picked up on the “special-ness” of this dimly lit place. This is one of my favorites from the day.

An in-between moment that captured a typical Carter expression in front of golden, glow-y goodness:

Carter genuinely enjoyed this time that we shared together. I am so glad that he understands that I take photos of him because I deeply love him.

New Gallery Wrap Grouping

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

I moved my old gallery wrap grouping upstairs to our bedroom to cheer up those walls. I purchased three new canvases for the now vacant space.

I love the way this newer set turned out. I enjoy seeing these precious faces while I’m eating my cereal each morning or cooking dinner.

The Illuminated Word Project (March): Mercy, not Sacrifice

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

This year, I am participating in a group project with other photographers across the country. Once a month, we each select a part of the Bible and represent it some way visually through our photos.

We are a diverse group of seven women with different beliefs, and I am looking forward to an ongoing conversation with these photographers and with the people who read these blog posts.

Welcome to The Illuminated Word Project!

Mercy, not Sacrifice

And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’. For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9.11-13

The photos are down below. Don’t peek before you read.

After reading more about this passage below, please check out all of the other photographers participating in this project. The next step is Jenny and Stephanie at The Pure Life Project. Just click HERE.

I had high hopes for that Sunday afternoon. After church, we planned to eat a quick lunch; grab our bike helmets; and drive downtown to enjoy Siclovia, an outdoor bike festival. The day was perfect—sunny, dry, and crisp. Our family isn’t very good at spending time together. We struggle with it. Getting all five of us heading in one direction together is hard. Finding something that we can all enjoy is hard. In fact, it rarely happens.

Anticipating the challenges ahead, I told the kids in the car after church, “We are going to have to work as a team for this plan to happen. We are going to have to say ‘no’ to certain things in order to say ‘yes’ to Siclovia. We need each of you to get changed and to grab your bike helmet. And if you have a conflict with another person in our family, you will need to take it seriously and work it out right away.”

I was changing my clothes upstairs when I heard two of my kids racing up the steps yelling at each other and yelling at me. Each one was trying to plead their case before me louder than the other. I told them to go downstairs and try to work out their conflict on their own. I offered help if they needed it. (And yes, we have practiced and practiced working out conflict God’s way in our family so this is not new for them.) I went downstairs to throw together lunch, and it was clear that these two were still fighting. One kid in particular didn’t come clean. He threw up an emotional smoke screen of fake crying and wailing and confused, playing-dumb answers in order to avoid thinking about how he had contributed to the conflict.

My heart was angry.

I was angry that they were taking short cuts. I was angry that they weren’t applying what we have been practicing as a family. I was angry that one of them was purposefully creating confusion to sidetrack all of us. I was angry that they were derailing the plan for the day. I was frustrated that I often don’t know what to say to my kids when they are struggling with each other. I was frustrated that my own off-track heart was “snowballing” the conflict. I was feeling the hopelessness of being a parent. Yes, there is much a parent can and should do. But a mom can’t get inside her child’s heart and turn it. Only God can do that. I was so sad and discouraged that my family couldn’t simply get its act together long enough to do something fun together.

Greg and I wrestled with what to do next. Should we stay home? Should we divide and conquer? Should one parent go to the bike festival with a kid or two? Should the other parent stays home with the most off-track kid as a consequence? Does it send our kid(s) the wrong message when there is a reward (a fun activity) after a refusal to love another person in our family?

I ate lunch. I boiled inside. I went to lay down in Harrison’s bed and check out. I cried.

This Sunday wasn’t just about a single conflict between two of my kids. And it wasn’t just one instance of my angry response to feuding kids. The events of that Sunday afternoon were indicative of patterns and themes in our messed up family. Simply put, 1. our parental fatigue, 2. the burdens of our responsibilities and most importantly, 3. our sin seem to crush our little family.

I talked to Greg about what these events represented to me. And he got it. I’m thankful for that. I told him, I was finished trying to “pull our family together”. I was sick of trying to work hard to do something fun together as a family. When I went upstairs to watch some recorded show, I was saying, “I give up. The challenges of our family are more than I or we can take. We are individual and collective failures. Our family is broken.”

Let me put it in a slightly different way: Greg and I aren’t at the beginning of our parenting life. We’re midway now. Our family culture is fairly developed. There is a gap between what I wanted my family to be and what it is in reality. And there is a big gap between the kind of mom I wanted to be and the kind of mom I am. I struggle with what to do with these discrepancies.

I watched TV upstairs for a long time. I wanted to doze off. I was exhausted physically and emotionally.

About an hour later, Greg sought me out. He and the kids came upstairs and interrupted me. We asked each other for forgiveness. Those type of exchanges happen a lot in our family. Greg told me and the kids to get in the car. He said, “We are going somewhere. This may be a failed experiment, but we are going to be open to having fun together.” He had packed a water for me, my iPhone, and my camera. The kids had a few little toys to entertain them.
On the road, I was battling with huge waves of disappointment as we literally drove right past the bike festival. I looked out the window at all these other people and other families enjoying the beautiful day together. I wanted that very, very much. It felt like the kids and their fighting and my anger had disqualified our family. We had self-destructed. I told Greg (at the risk of creating a conflict with him and discouraging him) how deeply disappointed I felt.

We drove for a couple of hours. I figured out where we were going, but I kept my mouth shut so that the surprise wouldn’t be ruined for the kids.

Greg was taking us to the beach. What an incredible gift!

We hadn’t “earned” this fun as a family. We hadn’t “merited” it by our good behavior. It was pure grace and mercy. This trip to the beach pointed us to the gift of Jesus Christ. God gives us rescue, salvation, and life that we don’t deserve. That is grace. God doesn’t give us condemnation and separation. That is mercy. Seeing our kids’ major awe and delight at their first encounter with the ocean was a HUGE reminder that God’s love for me and my family doesn’t hinge on our moral performance. God’s love for my family hinges on the performance and substitutionary death of His Son, Jesus Christ.

So to sum it all up: I don’t want to be a “good person”. I don’t want to be a religious success. I don’t want to have a nice, church-going, all-American family. I don’t want to be a cute mom with cute kids. I don’t want our family to have all their crap together. I want something more delicious, more wild, and more free. I want the gospel.

I choose grace and mercy. I choose Jesus’ completed work. I choose the gospel of God coming down in the flesh to rescue the world broken by sin. I reject the religion of trying to climb up to God by working hard. It is a ladder to nowhere. (Tower of Babel, anyone???) I understand the futility of trying to fabricate and maintain my own goodness. I need the borrowed goodness of Christ.

Grace and mercy are far more beautiful than religious performance.
See for yourself:

It’s not surprising that Carter made it to the ocean first. Here is his first contact with the ocean, beautiful and wild.

Sweet Harrison didn’t last long in the water. His lips turned bluish and he started to shiver so Greg took him to get warmed up in the car. He still said he had a great time.

One final note: Did I mention that Greg thought the kids would “just get their feet wet because the water was so cold” so he didn’t pack swimsuits or a change of clothes? The kids came home sandy and stripped down to their undies, wrapped up in towels. We cranked up the heat to keep them from shivering. Best afternoon ever.

My Beliefs
I think it is only fair to tell you where I am coming from. We are all religious people. We are all trying to find life, meaning, value, and purpose somewhere or in someone. What matters is what or whom we believe. This is what I believe. What do you believe?

This is what I believe: WHAT I BELIEVE
This is what I care about: WHAT I CARE ABOUT
Think Jesus Christ is irrelevant to your everyday life? JESUS CHRIST CHANGES EVERYTHING
Want to get fancy? GETTING FANCY
Have no idea where to start? Want to teach your kids about God? START HERE

Brazelton, the Donkey

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

My parents have made a new addition to the ranch. Meet Brazelton the donkey. He is a super cute and affectionate animal, and he loves the attention that my family gives him. I’ve even started to joke with Greg and call him the donkey whisperer because of how strategically he worked to gain the donkey’s trust. Yes, I caught Greg stashing carrots in his jacket pockets.

My parents will sometimes get mail for my grandparents at the post office. (There’s no home delivery where they live so it is all P.O. boxes.) Carter and I offered to hand deliver it and stopped by to say hi to Brazelton on the way. You can see the home my parents built for my grandparents behind Carter in the distance.

Wondering where the name came from? My parents let my grandfather name the donkey. Reverend Brazelton of Madisonville, KY married my grandfathers’ parents. I think he also would have baptized my grandfather and his three brothers. He served as a pastor in both Kentucky and Florida and passed away in Palestine, TX on Aug 28, 1935 at the age of 61. A photo of him with a brief bio hangs on the wall in my grandfather’s bedroom.

After we said goodbye to Brazelton, Carter shut the gate to the pasture. I have a feeling that this simple act of opening and closing gates at the ranch will be one of the memories my kids will associate with this place and their grandparents.