Archive for April, 2012

The Illuminated Word Project (April): Renewal & Restoration

Wednesday, April 25th, 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!

Renewal & Restoration

Lately, I’ve been asking God some big questions, questions like:
Are you big enough to mature me spiritually in places where I have struggled for years?
Are you big enough to breathe life into my most challenging relationships?
Are you big enough to teach my children Your worth so that they live for You instead of being enslaved to lesser things?
Are you big enough to show my friends and family members who are battling addiction that You alone give life and hope and meaning?
Are you big enough to give light and clarity when we are blinded by self deception?
Are you big enough to give comfort and wisdom when you call us to endure some extremely challenging trials?

God, do you really change people?

I am clinging to this promise given in Revelation:
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (REVELATION 21.5)

God is making all things new. He is making people new. He is in the business of renovating lives.

***After reading more about this promise 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’m attempting to compare how God works in our lives with the process of restoring a disorderly house. Even though I think this analogy is helpful, it’s important to remember that any analogy breaks down at some point.

I am not talking about becoming a Christian. On becoming a Christian, the Bible teaches us that we are dead in sin (see Ephesians 2). We are not “fixer uppers” that “have good architectural bones”. We don’t just need cosmetic, superficial change or a “little Jesus”. We need a heart transplant. We need life.

What I am talking about is the experience of being a Christian. Being a Christian is following Christ. We follow the God who became a man. This God got down and dirty with our sin and suffering. He battled sin and death and won. He lived a perfect life that we get credit for. He received the punishment we deserve.

THEN He sends His Spirit. The Spirit takes up residence inside of us. The Spirit goes room by room opening up the doors in our lives. He exposes the junk and chaos and the pretend gods that we serve. And He starts to put our lives in order. He shows what we love more than Him. He shows us the misery of running from God. He shows us His kindness. He reminds us of Christ’s completed work. He equips us to battle our sin.

The Spirit’s work in us is much like the work of remodeling a dilapidated home.

David Powlison hits the nail on the head when he writes about God’s transforming love. God’s love is better than “unconditional”. Although wonderfully accepting, divine love is also intrusive, intimate, personal, and active. Instead of simply loving us as we are, God loves us enough to change us (Powlison). If you want to be stretched and comforted about God getting in your business, check out this booklet HERE.

Meet my Aunt Marja and her husband, Don. My mom is the oldest of four kids. Marja is the youngest. Marja and Don are remodeling a two bedroom house in North East Texas. They made the bold choice to move away from Marja’s 3 grown/semi grown kids in Florida to this tiny town in Texas to care for my grandparents. Her beautiful life has grown out of the soil of a very difficult first marriage and a battle with alcohol addiction.

The house that they are remodeling is a visible word picture for the way God has been at work in her life. I am so very grateful that she was willing to share more of her story with me and with you.

Listen to her story in her own words.

I started by asking her some questions about the house.
Q: What was the house most in need of? What were the biggest challenges and problems?

A: The whole thing had to be redone. Only the wood floors were intact and even they had to be redone. Everything that was in that house had to be “touched” in some way to give it life.

Q: What challenges have you faced while remodeling your house? What setbacks did you experience?

A: The biggest challenge has been discovering the next thing that was wrong that we didn’t think of yet. You start working on the old doors. . . and you realize that it wasn’t properly mounted from the get-go. So a project of just taking off the door and redoing it turns into needing to change the door jamb because it is not square. So something simple turns into a multi week project. So why ignore it and say that we can just patch it and cover it up? It may give way in 5 years.
The incredible thing is the amount of money that we needed is what we had.

Q: What excites you most about your new house?

A: It’s not just the same old “we built it so that it is beautiful”. It is our forever home. That is something that I have always wanted. Not a perfect home. But the home that is going to feel the most like home. We have both had other marriages. We’ve both raised kids in other houses. We wanted enough land to make a garden and to have an area for kids to play in. We wanted space to have social events and have multiple families over. There is something about the fullness. And land enough for my husband to have a shop. (Rachel’s note: He is a welder.)

And then, I asked her some questions about her life.
Q: What things used to own your heart? What used to control you?

A: Materialism, material things, and other people

Q: What people, truths, circumstances, and trials did God use to change you?

A: From my first marriage I learned how I didn’t want to be or think or choose.
It is such a beautiful thing because I learned it was me who was making those choices. At the time, I thought that those things were being dictated. I didn’t understand that I had a choice. I wasn’t a good decision maker. I did not comprehend that I had the choice to grow with God as my leader.

Q: What has been the most painful part of following Christ into maturity?

A: I created [my own] pain by going in the wrong direction because I just didn’t get it. It is the same adage. I was lost, but then I got found–but I was 38.

The biggest thing was going from an egotistical self to a humble self because for so many years I did [things so] that I was perceived [in a good way] by others. It had nothing to do with being Jesus’ feet and hands and eyes and ears. I want to be that [kind of] disciple. I did a lot of things that would be considered disciple-worthy [in the past], but I was doing them with the whole wrong attitude, “Look at me.”

The cost [of following Christ] was an acceptance of taking responsibility. I wasted a lot.

Q: What has God done in your life that is extra sweet for you?

A: It really has to be right away—Don [my husband]. I wanted so long to experience what it was like to be honestly and truthfully in love and God-centered. When two people bond that way, there is nothing else like it. There was this incredible spark in my heart for this man [when I met him]. There is so much beauty in him. God is so forgiving that he gave me that [love] in my second marriage.

The other thing that is incredible in my life is my three kids. There is so much awesomeness in giving birth to another human being. I didn’t do much right in the parenting, but now I understand it. I can still be a good parent now.

Q: What places in your life do you see a continued need for growth and change?

A: The biggest thing is that conscious contact with God. When I stay in conscious contact with God things feel right. And I understand that I need to do that all the time.

I asked her to explain more about what she means by “constant contact with God”. Basically, it is taking the time to pause and seek God’s wisdom when met with a difficulty or challenge. It is asking, What is the best thing to do here? What is the best choice? Then she adds. . .
Now I know I need to stop and think about the best way to respond to what happens.
She recounted a story about how she responded to a challenging situation poorly this morning and commented. . .
I should have stopped and asked God for direction. He would have given it to me if I had asked for it. He always does. Like who is the most trustworthy person in the world?? God!

[Another place in my life where I see continued need for growth and change is] in parenting. I raised my children with very little thought. I let them choose everything. Now as a sober, passionate Christian person I want to be able to be an example for my grown children.

[Finally, I need continuing growth and change in my] relationship with my husband. So easily the person that we are with the most, we “poop” on the most. When things don’t go my way, who pays for it? Don. I am such an emotional person that I have to learn to put things in the right place. I will be mean and have a yucky attitude. God will [ask me], “Let’s look at why you are feeling that way.” This changes how I talk to Don about my feelings.

Q: How do you want people to think about and interpret your story?

A: Go to the world with what God has given you and done for you and do it.
Don’t waste time.


I see so much good fruit in my Aunt Marja’s life. I’ve known her all my life, and I see a changed woman. I see a woman whose inside and outside “lives” match. She is an integrated person. I see a climate of mutual kindness and respect in her marriage. She shows a joyful contentment, and she lives within her financial means. She works hard. She serves my grandparents. She and Don have patiently delayed the dream of “reaching the finish line” with their renovation in order to care for her parents (my grandparents). She listens to what God says in His Word and through people who love Him. She and Don live in community. They receive help from others. They strategically help others. They pursue people who are running from God with urgency, love, and wisdom–but all in a way that ultimately leaves room for God’s supernatural work.

Marja’s life points to God’s promise to renew us:

I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
(Joel 2:25-26 ESV)

I love my Aunt Marja. And I love her God.

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

Bright & Beautiful

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Remember the Bright family HERE?

Luke is now a proud big brother. A sweet little girl has been added to the mix.

Thank you, Brights, for asking me to photograph this next stage in your family’s life.


Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Keely used to live next door to us and spent a lot of time with our family. We were all so sad to see her move. Remember, THIS and THIS?

Keely came to visit Emmie at the ranch. Emmie had waited for this reunion for months. The girls enjoyed a trip to Sonic.

The kids enjoyed a favorite ranch pastime–hole digging.

Eric, Andrea, and Cole

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Please meet my cousin, Andrea, and her sweet family. They met me up at my parents’ home for this photo shoot.

Thank you, Andy, Eric, and Cole, for inviting me to photograph your family. I enjoyed spending time with you! You guys were a pleasure to photograph.

Snow Day

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Harrison’s friend had a snow day birthday party. Some company blew snow on his front yard. This was a real treat for my kids because they had never seen snow before.

A mini snow man is born.

P.S. I think my boys look cute in hats.

Morning Walk

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

I love being outside. During our Thanksgiving trip to the ranch, Emmie, Carter, Harrison, and I walked over to the Tackle House, a small red cabin on my parents’ ranch. The leaves of the cypress trees were toasted brown. The kids broke open the cattails and scattered the filling like dandelions. I could pretty much start my morning like this everyday.

It is a special thing to get all three kids in a story-telling shot like this one.

The light was dreamy.

Carter’s New Bike

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Greg and I surprised Carter with a new bike for his birthday. We made some excuse for him to go outside so that we could capture his reaction.

Carter initially interprets anything uncertain–even if it is super happy and exciting–with a bit of anxiety and reservation.

He soon got over his worry. He took it all in. And he hopped on his new bike.

Greg helped him strap on his helmet because Carter wanted to test out his bike as quickly as possible. He didn’t want to be slowed down by fastening his own helmet like he normally does.

Harrison had just woken up. Emmie was on her way to ballet but still cheered him on. I joked with Harrison, “Who is better than you for enjoying this gift with your brother and being happy for him ?” Without thinking, he answered my rhetorical question, “Carter”. Sweet Harrison. I think he often thinks of Carter as “better” than him. Carter is definitely the more dominant, head strong of the two brothers. I thought my brief exchange with Harrison was humorous. Don’t worry. . .we love each of our boys and don’t unfairly compare the two. They are just totally different. Carter is naturally more independent. Harrison is naturally more thoughtful of others. Each of these tendencies has their own beauty and challenge. I’m sure God will hone those tendencies for His glory.

Carter told me that his bike was the best gift he had ever received.

Carter’s Party

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Yes, it is blog catch-up time. We celebrated Carter’s birthday at Olympia Gymnastics with some of Carter’s friends. Cousin Hailey, Nana, Pa, Bampy and Grampy were all able to come in town. That was super special.

No, we have no connection with the Razorbacks. Carter just asked for a wild boar cake so that is what we got. He loved it. I think he is into wild boars because my parents have some occasionally on their ranch.

I like this picture of my mom. She is sweet to always let me take a test shot on her before I photograph my kids blowing out birthday candles. This is a keeper.

Harrison’s friends (and/or their parents) left this birthday message for Carter on the table: