Lenten Photo Challenge Day 13 – Solitude

 

NOTE My blog has traditionally been all business, but for at least a little while it is going to become intensely personal.  During Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter, I am participating in a photo challenge.  The way it works is that the organizers have given us a list of words, and every day we are supposed to take and share a picture based upon that word.  Because I hardly ever do things the easy way, I am also attempting to write a devotional that goes with these pictures. I have not been very consistent, due to some craziness that we call LIFE , but with God’s help I will continue to write a few as I can.    Last year I participated in a similar challenge.  This link will take you to my 2013 Lenten challenge. This years challenge is entirely blog-based.  This year the challenge is sponsored by Catholic Sistas. 

Please pray for me and/ or bear with me, and if this isn’t your cup of tea, just keep on checking for portrait posts in between these challenges — or check back in after Easter.

SOLITUDE

 

I’ve started three or four times to write a devotional for the topic of SOLITUDE, and every time I just rehash all the same old things about being still and quiet and waiting for God to speak.

BLEAH….

 I want a new and exciting solitude experience to share with the half dozen or so people who actually read these Lenten challenges –WHEN I even manage to get them written.

The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun, and I’m starting to think that my efforts in this challenge are all in vain.  Maybe I am the one who should take a little time to be alone with God rather than to try and write about it.

God hasn’t given me anything new or particularly inspiring to write.  But then, I haven’t TAKEN THE TIME to be still and listen to what He has to say.  No wonder my brain is mushy.

Jesus often went off to a quiet place to pray, and I think that’s just one of many ways that he set a good example for us to follow.

He didn’t have the constant dinging, beeping, and vibrating vying for His attention that we’ve all become accustomed to with our smart phones and other techie devices, but he had crowds constantly pushing up against him clamoring just to touch His robe so that they could be healed.  And he was so consumed with COMPASSION that he wanted to be available for every single one of them.  It must have been exhausting for him.  Still, he would step away from the crowds into a quiet cove of a garden or He would climb into a fishing boat and pushout onto the water for some peace and quiet.

For us, finding a quiet place to open our hearts and pray can be as simple – or as gut-wrenching—as turning off the smart phone.

Try it.  It’s harder than it sounds … at first.  Then we realize that texts, e-mails, phone calls can wait.

I’ve had a very busy chaotic past couple of weeks and the coming week doesn’t look much calmer, but I think that Sunday after we get home from church I will actually be able to go out into my backyard – just me and my little shovel, with a few tomato plants, and maybe a couple of flats of annuals.

That’s where God and I have our best conversations. He meets me where I am, but I have to clear the garbage out of my own head in order to keep from running right past Him.

So today, I pray that each of us has a few moments of quiet peaceful SOLITUDE so that  we can  hear and experience the very specific and personal blessings that he is holding in his hand to pour out onto our heads.

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. – Psalm 46:10

 

Lenten Photo Challenge Day 5 – Reflection

NOTE:  My blog has traditionally been all business, but for at least a little while it is going to become intensely personal.  During Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter, I am participating in a photo challenge.  The way it works is that the organizers have given us a list of words, and every day we are supposed to take and share a picture based upon that word.  Because I hardly ever do things the easy way, I am also attempting to write a devotional that goes with these pictures.  I will probably take the weekends off and will also quite likely miss a few days.  Hopefully not too many.   Last year I participated in a similar challenge.  This link will take you to my 2013 Lenten challenge. This years challenge is entirely blog-based.  This year the challenge is sponsored by Catholic Sistas. 

Please pray for me and/ or bear with me, and if this isn’t your cup of tea, just keep on checking for portrait posts in between these challenges — or check back in after Easter.

REFLECTION

Maybe I’m weird, but I think it’s fun to look at reflections in warped shiny things.  Things like spoons and bathtub faucets and magnifying mirrors.   Well…. The older I get, maybe not so much the magnifying mirrors (SCARY), but you get the idea.

On one side of a spoon, your cheeks and nose get all  huge and round while your chin and forehead disappear, and on the other side of the spoon your whole face puckers and turns upside down.

Go ahead

 get a spoon.

I’ll be here all week.

What if we didn’t have decent mirrors, but all we had was spoons?  We wouldn’t have a clue what we really looked like.  Hmmmph.  We wouldn’t even be too sure which end was up.

Back in the days that the books of our Bible were being written, they didn’t have good mirrors, just polished pieces of whatever metal was common in those days.  Perhaps the best reflection a person would ever see of himself/herself was in very still clear water – until a fish swam by and messed up the whole thing.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he tries to explain that we have no clue how great God’s glory really is and what He has in store for us when we draw near to Him because we are looking at God through a spotty and warped piece of glass.

When I was a baby girl, my daddy who also happened to be my first  photography instructor, took beautiful photographs of me. ZILLIONS of them.    He would shoot a whole roll of film and run down the hill to my grandparents’ house where he had a darkroom, and he would develop them all.  You should SEE my baby book!   It’s embarrassing . . . but not  in a bad way.  Oh my it’s amazing!

Before too long, though, I entered my  rebellious years  where I thought everything  that was connected with my parents was stupid. It got harder and harder for Dad to get decent photographs of me – and when he did, I didn’t even want to see them  or believe that they were any good.

That’s a shame because nobody else cared enough to portray me like he did.

  Over time, the only images I ever saw of myself were those taken by people  who either lacked the skills or  who didn’t care about the end result.  Some of these people, I think, even got a charge out of embarrassing me.  It wasn’t long before  I started to  see myself as an UGLY… scraggly . . .zit-faced . . . snaggletoothed . . . frizzy-haired . . . bow-legged . . . UNDESIREABLE — oh, and did I say UGLY girl.  Math-skills and music talent eluded me too, do I felt fairly worthless.

YUK … who could EVER love a girl like THAT?

When we turn our back on God, our Father, we also turn our back on the beauty and blessings that He has in store for us.

Not too long ago   I had a chance to swap headshots with a  talented local photographer who is also a friend.  Jayna Balcer took  the time to really see ME.    And yes . . . I still have big teeth, no chin,bow-legs, and frizzy hair — but she STILL made me look pretty dang good. And that picture, the little one in the middle DOES look like ME!

WHOAH!

What a shame that I only saw myself  through a distorted lens of sinful rebellion  for so long.

Slowly . . . oh so slowly, I am learning to feel comfortable in my own skin and to see God’s glory everywhere I look.

and because I am beginning to see Him, I am beginning — only just beginning to shine — spiritually. Forget the physical, it’s all getting wrinkled and droopy by now anyway.

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV

Dear Lord, please help me TAKE THE TIME to REFLECT your love and glory through my warped soul so that eveyone I touch in a day can see a glimmer of YOU.  If I must be warped, at least let me shine brightly. Amen.

Lenten Photo Devotional Challenge Day 3 – Test

NOTE My blog has traditionally been all business, but for at least a little while it is going to become intensely personal.  During Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter, I am participating in a photo challenge.  The way it works is that the organizers have given us a list of words, and every day we are supposed to take and share a picture based upon that word.  Because I hardly ever do things the easy way, I am also attempting to write a devotional that goes with these pictures.  I will probably take the weekends off and will also quite likely miss a few days.  Hopefully not too many.   Last year I participated in a similar challenge.  This link will take you to my 2013 Lenten challenge. This years challenge is entirely blog-based.  This year the challenge is sponsored by Catholic Sistas. 

Please pray for me and/ or bear with me, and if this isn’t your cup of tea, just keep on checking for portrait posts in between these challenges — or check back in after Easter.

TEST

Testing my willpower today…..   There’s a box of Girl Scout Cookies sitting on my desk right now, and chances are slim that it will still be unopened at the end of the day. I know better than to even have them in here because once I pull  on that strip that says “OPEN HERE,” all bets are off.

These are the  best-selling classic thin mints — Yummmm-O, but HEAVEN HELP US if I had a box of those chewy chocolaty coconutty morsels of palatal bliss called Caramel Delights.  Then, all bets would be off!

This morning I did my time at the gym.   Do I really want to throw that sweating and lifting out the window for a COOKIE (or five or more)? I know how yummy they will taste, but I’d rather not wear them as Bingo Wings when sleeveless weather gets here in a few weeks.

The advertising writer who came up with the phrase, “Betcha can’t eat just one,”  was a GENIUS. Once I rip open the box to nibble on just one cookie, we might as well write off the entire sleeve. That’s just how I roll.  I know it up front.

Fortunately, one box of cookies alone will not throw me or anyone over into another level on the obesity charts, but it could be a start in that direction. In any case, it is not a wise decision.

We as humans face countless tests every day.  From whether or not to cut someone off in traffic or run a yellow-pink-was-that-really-red light to how we handle a financial situation or deal with a difficult co-worker or ex-spouse.  (Yep… believers have those too.)  Can we stay calm and patient when a toddler is pitching a temper tantrum in the grocery cart? Do we offer help to the homeless man begging on the street corner, or do we pretend not to see him? Do we walk back into the store when we realize that the checker gave us too much change?  Do we offer kind and uplifting words when someone needs encouragement, and then turn around remark to another friend how “needy” that person was (bless her heart) in the first place?

Each of these little tests in and of themselves may not establish our overall character.  We’re all sinners who deserve every punishment hell can throw at us.  Thankfully though, as a redeemed sinner I want to make the right choices allowing the joy of My Salvation to shine through me into the darkness so that everyone  can see why I treasure my faith. But every time I fail one of these little tests, it’s like another layer of dust building up on the window of my soul.

Create in me a CLEAN HEART on God, and renew a right spirit within me.—Psalm 51:10

 

By the way, I’m lying through my crumb-covered lips about the cookies.  The box was open before I had finished typing the first line.

Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Mark 14:38

 

Sweet Heavenly Jesus, please blind me to the short-term pleasure that comes with all of the big and little temptations around me.  Fix my eyes on the true  and everlasting prize of knowing and responding to every good and perfect gift  that comes from you.  AMEN.

Lenten Challenge 2014 – Day 2 – Virtue

NOTE My blog has traditionally been all business, but for at least a little while it is going to become intensely personal.  During Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter, I am participating in a photo challenge.  The way it works is that the organizers have given us a list of words, and every day we are supposed to take and share a picture based upon that word.  Because I hardly ever do things the easy way, I am also attempting to write a devotional that goes with these pictures.  I will probably take the weekends off and will also quite likely miss a few days.  Hopefully not too many.   Last year I participated in a similar challenge.  This link will take you to my 2013 Lenten challenge. This years challenge is entirely blog-based.  This year the challenge is sponsored by Catholic Sistas. 

Please pray for me and/ or bear with me, and if this isn’t your cup of tea, just keep on checking for portrait posts in between these challenges — or check back in after Easter.

VIRTUE

 

Virtue

Whenever I think of the word, virtue, in a Biblical context, the Proverbs 31 woman pops right into my head.  Do you know her?  She’s that ideal perfect woman. We stand in awe of her, but in actuality once we start comparing ourselves with her we feel very VERY inadequate.

In Bible times she was beyond amazing.  In today’s world she is the woman who does it all and has it all. I want to be her when I grow up. WAIT!  I’m 53 blinkin’ years old.

Here’s how I think Proverbs 31 would describe a virtuous woman in the year 2014:

She is an excellent wife, and her husband trusts her judgement completely because she always treats him well and looks out for his best interest.

She is a successful businesswoman who enjoys her career.

She is a gourmet cook, whipping up all sorts of exotic and ethnic dishes.

She gets up before sunrise every morning.

She takes good care of her employees and treats them all fairly when they have a special need or problem.

She invests well and  turns her profits into a farm not too far from home where she plants a vineyard or vegetable garden or an orchard – totally organic, I’m sure.

She works  out at the gym to stay fit,  and probably has a 26.2 sticker or at least a  13.2 on the back of her spotless mini-van.

Her car doesn’t run out of gas, her bathrooms are all stocked with plenty of toilet paper, and there’s always an extra gallon of milk in her fridge.

She’s the Queen of Pinterest, not just collecting beautiful ideas, but actually DOING them and creating new ones.

She  serves in the soup kitchen and chairs the cancer gala.

She dresses impeccably and makes sure her family looks great too.

She has a successful and well-respected  husband.   Yeah, they really said that  smack-dab in all the middle of the descriptions of this woman.  WHA?????

She is  such a fine artist that people pay well for her designs.

She is afraid of nothing when it comes to  the future or getting old.

When she speaks, only wise words come out of her mouth and she is always, always kind.

She keeps her home clean and gets things fixed when they wear out or break.

She’s never lazy — DOH.

Her children are proud of her, not embarrassed to be seen with her at school events or at the mall.  Her husband’s proud of her too.

It might be easy to dislike  a woman like that if they didn’t throw in that part about always being so WISE and KIND, right?  But y’all she’s so dang NICE!

Even if it took a lifetime for her to do everything in the list,  just reading it all in one short passage wears on me.   Sometimes it motivates me to work harder, to strive for more and better  – but mostly it makes me tired. There’s no way I can be all of that.  I can’t seem to get past the paper clutter in my office.

What about the many amazing and lovely women who don’t have any children?  Those who never married, or if they did, their husband is neither successful OR adoring?  How do they feel reading something like this?

What are WE TODAY supposed to do with this perfect PROVERBIAL woman?

We keep right on reading through to the last lines of the verse.

Virtue has nothing to do with doing things  and being a financially successful businesswoman.  It has nothing to do with spouses or childbearing. It has EVERYTHING to do with verse 30, but most of us are just too tired  and intimidated to keep reading by the time we get that far.  Here’s what it says:

“ But a woman who  respects the LORD, she shall be praised.  Give HER the product of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates.”

Ahhh… that’s so much better.  Just  Honor the LORD.  Even a failed Proverbs Woman — someone just  like ME — can jump onto  the simplify your life bandwagon by flipping over to Micah 6:8.

“He has told you, Oh (Wo)man, what is good; and what does the LORD require or you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Dear God …. If you and I work together, we can do that.  Please help me to be fair with others —  and to be kind —  and to keep my ego in check as we walk through this life together.   That is all.  Amen.

Maggi’s Senior Portraits – Katy Houston Photographer

It’s official!  My seniors simply have the most beautiful smiles.  That’s all there is to it.

Meet Maggi.  Taylor High School Class of 2014.

I’ve known Maggi for several years.  She is one of “MY” Color Guard Gals, and I’ve always been in awe of how photogenic she is from that movie-star smile to her sparkly eyes.  You can imagine how thrilled I was when she called to schedule her portrait session.

We had a little bit of fun.  Maggi is quite the fashionista!

I fell in love with her gold and taupe maxi dress.  It’s dressy and casual at the same time.  She could wear this absolutely ANYWHERE and be the picture of class.  It looked great both in the indoor studio . . .

and outside in the warehouse.

Even out in the garden . . .

Then after a quick change we hit the SPCcreative Beach House.  Quaint, huh?

Her breezy orange and white top, paired with white jeans, was perfect for the beachy  setting, but  I’ll never be able to look at these pictures without suddenly craving a big juicy Whataburger.

Yep —  Whataburger . . . that was her word, not mine.   Cutest Whataburger gal I’ve ever seen.

Maggi has a style and personality that can pull off any look, from Golden-Globe-Worthy couture  right down to Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Chic, and it’s been a joy to follow her through her high school career and to create her senior portraits for her.

Congratulations, Maggi, on your upcoming graduation.  Spring break is just around the corner, and I hope you have a FABULOUS time and that you get in some good R&R.

 The next few weeks will be a whirlwind, but at least your senior portraits are  one thing that’s in the bag and crossed off your to-do list.  Now, go have some FUN!

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