The American Christian’s Blind Side: Our Most Dangerous Disregard

I always thought someone else would do it. It wasn’t my “calling”. The more religious, churchy people will take care of it.

I think as long as I kept a blind eye to it, then my conscious felt clean and in the clear. That was until “IT” became a reality in the form of a face. A name. A being whom God created.

help one now

This “IT” that I’m referring to is giving to the poor, caring for the orphans, and sacrificing my comforts for others’ needs.  You may stop reading at this point, because you might have the same attitude as I used to.

“Oh, they did it to themselves.  They made a series of wrong choices and deserve to be homeless.”

“I do enough already.  I donate my old clothes to Goodwill and send in canned goods to the food drive.”

“I’m the poor! I work my fingers to the bone and can barely make ends meet.  Don’t tell me I need to give to the poor and take care of orphans.  My hard work has gotten me where I am and it’s still not enough.”

….or…. “This topic makes me really uncomfortable.  I’d rather not even think about it because it could lead me to actually feeling something for these people.  And feeling something may cause me to change the way I live my life.” (gasp….how dare anyone suggest I change my lifestyle)

Now, now.  Calm down;)  I encourage you to stay with me for a little longer to hear what God has to say to your heart like he’s been saying to mine.

help one now

Isaiah 1:16-20 says, “Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. ‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.’ For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

LEARN TO DO RIGHT.  We are not born into the world knowing how to do the right thing at all times.  We are born sinners.  We are born selfish.  We are born without the Spirit of God in us.  It takes knowledge from reading  God’s Word and having Christ in our heart to learn what is right.  It takes a transformation of the heart to desire righteous actions.  As believers of Christ, we don’t do the “right thing” in order to become more “Christianly” and earn our salvation through our works.  BUT….as we grow in our relationship with Christ, a direct result and overflow from a transformed heart WILL BE doing the “right thing” and the good works he has already prepared for us to do.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (The Message) tells us, “It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”

You need to know NOW what I didn’t know before.  I thought my Christian religion was summed up in what I didn’t do.

Don’t smoke.  Don’t drink.  Don’t do drugs.  Don’t wear immodest clothes.  Don’t have sex before marriage.  Don’t cuss.  Don’t be seen with the wrong people.  Don’t forget to do your devotion.  Don’t miss church.  Don’t let anyone know you are a real person, with real sin, and real struggles.

That’s not Christianity.  It’s sad to say it took me up until 4 years ago to figure that out.  I went through all of middle school, high school, college, and half of my marriage living out my Christianity that way.  I was just a listener of the word, not a doer.  What God wants us to know is that being followers of Christ means we are commanded to ACT. LIKE. CHRIST.

ACT.  DO.  GO.  GIVE.  LOVE. AND LOVE. AND LOVE SOME MORE.

Help One Now

James 1:22-27 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

If we want our “religion” to be accepted by God as pure and faultless, God tells us to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by world.  Really??!!! Of all the commands he could give, the first one is to look after orphans and widows???!!!  Maybe he’s not talking to us Americans in the 21st century.  Maybe how that should translate in today’s Christianity is this:

Work so hard at achieving your American dream, because work is valuable and honorable, and build up for yourself your Heaven here on Earth so you can appear to others as important and worthy.  God wants to give you the desires of your heart for only your benefit alone.   

(end of sarcasm)

Does God bless us with finances, homes, clothes, cars, and food because he wants us to achieve our American Dream?  No, I believe he gives us blessings and provisions so we can share and give it away to those in need.  Why hoard all of our goods for ourselves when we can’t take them with us?

American Christians’ most dangerous blind side is worshipping our material treasures while disregarding the command to give ourselves away and care for the orphans and widows.  

Jesus came for the poor, the oppressed, the prisoners, the hopeless, and the lonely.

In Luke 4:18, Jesus said “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me, to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,”

He didn’t come to bless us with the 4 bedroom, 3 bath, 2 car garage where we can park our SUV’s in which we can drive our well-fed children to private school.  If we are to be LIKE CHRIST, we MUST see beyond our bubble.  We MUST look around us, beside us, past us.  We MUST look for opportunities to give, share, and love.

Help One Now

Matthew 25:34-40 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ “

Proverbs 28:27 “If you give to the poor, your needs will be supplied! But a curse upon those who close their eyes to poverty.”

This is what God has been stirring in my heart since late this summer.  He’s shown me his compassion and great love he not only has for us, but even more the poor.  He values the orphans and widows and commands us to do the same.  My heart has been broken and then remolded into a different shape, one that longs to care for others in need.  Others in my community and others across the world who live on less than $2 a day.

TAKING ACTION WITH HELP ONE NOW

After hearing Jen Hatmaker speak in person about an orphan prevention organization called Help One Now (more about them in the next post),  I took action.  I reached out to them through their Instagram account and website.  After a series of email exchanges with one of their representatives, Payton Junkin, I decided to direct my focus on a community of orphans in Pestel, Haiti who is new to the Help One Now organization. This is a small, rural community where a local pastor named Pastor Gaeton has personally taken in 10-12 double orphaned children ranging in ages from 3-9 years of age.  He provides their daily needs from food, shelter, and clothes to beds (two kids to a twin bed) and education.  Along with a shelter care taker, they both are funding the children’s needs primarily out of pocket.  My husband and I are currently monthly sponsors to two of the children in Pestel.  They need more sponsors to help expand with bunk beds for the children, help to build a school, and develop substantial agriculture.

PestelPestel

In my next post coming soon, I will explain more about who Help One Now is, what their mission is, and how you can help this organization in various ways.  In the mean time, feel free to click HERE to learn more.

(‭Matthew‬ ‭9‬:‭36, 38‬ NIV) “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” 

God’s Laying the Ground Work ~ A Reminder About Patience and the Things Unseen

Home projects were created by the devil himself.  Oh my dear Lord in Heaven…help us!  Ok, I’m being dramatic.   Landscaping a retaining wall and patio isn’t nearly as bad as gutting out your kitchen.  Regardless, attention to detail in both scenarios is crucial.  It will be the determining factor in whether or not the project holds up over time and under pressure.

I’ve had this dream.  Ever since we moved into our new home 1.5 years ago, I’ve dreamt of creating this amazing space with our backyard.  Brick steps, patio, stone fireplace, soft cushy chairs, greenery, flowers.   You know, the pictures you see in Southern Living Magazine when the family is entertaining their friends with mint juleps and grilled shrimp with garlic cheese grits?  That’s what I saw every time I looked out into our rocky, dirty, sandy back yard.  We had a long way to go before I could send out those custom invites for my Southern Living-esque party.

Michael, my husband, finally agreed that this summer we would start the project.  I have been stalking checking in on the crew throughout the process and documented the growth with my iPhone.  Here is the before:

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Here is half way finished:

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I don’t have a picture of the finished product, because it’s not perfected yet.  It’s been a tedious and meticulous process.  Before we even called the landscaper to discuss the project, there were nearly 10 trees we had removed from the yard.  Space needed clearing for the new work to be done.  Congestion was created from the quantity of trees.  We removed the ones that didn’t promise further growth, that created gum balls, and seemed nearly dead.  Quality is what we desired.  Once there was room to grow, the workers then had to do an enormous amount of digging, throwing away, bringing in more dirt, leveling off, patting, and measuring before even one stone was laid.

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I would watch them level the ground, smooth it out, then level it again.  Anxiously awaiting the stones to be laid, I got annoyed and impatient when I saw them get their darn level stick and smooth it out just one more time.  Good grief people…it looks good…just start building!  Then, once two stones were placed onto that perfectly smooth surface, the landscaper retrieved his level and balanced it on both stones, ensuring they were exactly the same height.  He did this for EVERY.SINGLE.STONE.  If one was a tad higher, he got his rubber hammer and beat on the top until it lowered to the precise spot.  Oh my gosh, dude! I think it looks totally great, let’s move on.

My personality is known as ATF….Act, Think, Feel.  I typically act on something, think about what I’ve done, and then feel the repercussions later.  If I were building that back yard retreat, no digging would be done, I would start stacking up stones like I was playing with Lincoln Logs, and build that sucker without using a tape measure, level, or any strategic planning whatsoever.  Common sense would tell anyone that my patio would be uneven, crooked, have no drainage system for rain water, and my friends would trip and spill their fruity drinks and never want to come to any more of my parties again!  ;)

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I do this in life, too.  Maybe you can relate and make me feel better for not being the only one who is impatient during the process, and only wants to see results.  We (I’m going to assume you agreed with me) have dreams, like my backyard.  But more importantly, life changing dreams…like graduating from school, getting that job, saying “I Do”, having a baby, buying a house, running a marathon, starting your own business, mending relationships, repairing marriages, fighting illnesses, or overcoming personal obstacles.  We want the results.  Most of us want them immediately.  Some of us have learned some patience during the waiting.  Regardless, we all hope to see our desires come true.  We yearn for the finished product, but easily find ourselves questioning and doubting God’s building process.

Before God brings us to where he has planned, there is some ground work that needs to be laid.  Like the trees that required removal from our yard, things in our life need to be cut off, weeded out, and gleaned.  It’s not always about quantity, it’s the quality that counts.  The old must go to make room for the new.  God is prepping us for the good that is to come, but first he may have to dig away at our spirits, ridding us of the qualities and characteristics that are not of Him.  It looks ugly, and we would never want our friends to see that part, but it’s necessary for the finished product.  We may see nothing but dirt, but God sees a work in progress.

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I’m so glad God takes his time with me, carefully inspecting me and meticulously molding me into the woman he sees.  I can choose to look at the circumstances in my life like a big pile of bricks and a horrible mess.

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But God sees the finished product.  He knows where he is taking me and knows the method that is required to get me there.  He’s laying down the ground work in my life in order to build up a woman who reflects Christ.  It’s a process, but I know I can rely on Christ to provide patience, grace, understanding, and wisdom while I am waiting.

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Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Not Good Enough – Guest Post by Ana Bright

{Guest Post by Ana Bright from These Bright Ideas}

You are not good enough. You never will be.

And that’s okay.

Not Good Enough

I’ve spent most of my life not feeling good enough. Two of the three memories of my biological father are filled with fights and anger. In the other memory, he picked my little brother and me up at our daycare (I was no older than 4) and we rode in a taxi with him. I found out years later that it wasn’t a taxi and he wasn’t supposed to be picking us up. He kept my brother and I for a week and he refused to tell my mom where we were. When he finally brought us back home, he made sure to tell my mom, “Just so you know, I can get them whenever I want.”

I haven’t seen or heard from him since then nor do I care to. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t spent years wondering why I wasn’t good enough for him to stick around and why he didn’t love me. I guess you could say I have daddy issues. And those issues have been transferred to most relationships in my life. Most of all my relationship with God.

Not Good Enough

Always in fear of being abandoned, I took the mentality of ‘leave before you’re left.’ It’s a mentality that seemed to protect me most of the time. Looking back now, one that probably played in my divorce.

After a 6-month span of craziness and bad choices, I finally started to forgive myself. And about a year after the ink dried on the divorce papers, I came to Christ and was baptized. That was 6 years ago. I’ve been remarried now for four but I still struggle with not feeling good enough. It feels like I have to earn love and acceptance, even from people who love me the most. And especially from God. He knows everything I’ve done and thought about doing in my life. Some things I’ve never told a soul. How could He possibly love me?

But He does.

I don’t have to get to a place where I’m lovable. I don’t have to be the perfect Christian. That is an oxymoron after all. Romans 5:8 says it so perfectly, “but God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

There are no exceptions to this.

I am loved. Exactly where I am. Exactly as I am. And so are you.

Not Good Enough


 

ana brightMy name is Ana Bright. I’ve spent my life as a daughter, wife, mom, high school math teacher and now a stay-at-home mom of three great kids. It is the most challenging and most rewarding role I’ve ever undertaken. Since early 2008, I’ve called myself a daughter of the King of Kings, by far, my favorite title. Once my brain turns on, my mind moves a million miles an hour. To keep myself sane, I spend time having mind dumps through my writing at These Bright Ideas and hurling around heavy stuff at the gym.

I Removed Facebook, Instagram, and Safari From My Phone

My connection to the world.  My creative outlets.  My entertainment, interaction, and source of information all gone…

For now at least.

idols

I have a smartphone, like the majority of you do.  I have my favorite apps on there that I use daily. To no surprise, it’s Facebook, Instagram, and the included internet feature of Safari. These are awesome tools for sharing pictures, communicating with friends, doing business, and reading up on the latest news.  I love them, maybe a little too much.  Or maybe it’s my love of photographing my children…and sharing online…that I love too much.  It could be the feedback from friends, family, and followers that I love too much.  What if it’s the feeling of worth and value I get when I see how many “likes” a picture received that I love too much?  Should I continue? I think you get the picture.

These apps are cool things.  They are good things.  Their uses are profitable and CAN BE beneficial.  But where does it go wrong? When does the GOOD get in the way of the BEST?

The good gets in the way of the best when Facebook is the first thing you reach for in the morning before you wipe the sleep out of your eyes.  The good gets in the way of the best when checking your Instagram news feed is the last thing you need to see before dozing off.  The good gets in the way of the best when surfing the internet for mindless poop is an automatic reaction to the silence in a room full of people, and you don’t know how to fill that awkward void.

When life is calm, there is a breathing moment, and time has slowed down for just a millisecond….and your body itches to pull up Facebook because you have nothing to do…that’s when the good gets in the way of the best.

Don’t even get me started on how these apps on my phone have taken away attention from my children, husband, and quiet time.  I don’t need to tell you what a distraction they are from work, chores, and the BEST things in life.  We know that already.  This isn’t a post on what a horrible person you are for looking at your phone while your daughter is twirling in her dress at the park.  That’s already been written.

What I’m talking about is how these apps on my phone have become my idol.  Ouch.  Yep…a direct offense of the First Commandment that the Lord gives:

Exodus 20: 3-6 (The Message)

“3 No other gods, only me.

4-6 No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am God, your God, and I’m a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I’m unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments.”

My phone became my idol.  I served it first, I served it most, and I served it above the one true God who created me! He loves me so fiercely that he is jealous of my attention, my loyalty, my time, and my love.  Why? Because his love for me is so great and grand, that he gave his son to die a brutal death on a cross just so I can be in God’s presence for all of eternity.  He has a right to be jealous of my worship.  The apps on my iPhone, not so much.

Removing the apps from my phone is temporary.  I’m on a cleanse.  I’m reprogramming my automatic tendencies to stare at my phone most of the day, and instead reaching for scripture, praying, studying my children, hugging them with both hands empty of any distraction, and replacing the good with God’s best.

The Lord will tell me when the time is right to install the apps back to my phone. He will tell me when, and HOW, to use these forms of social media for not only my benefit, but for the benefit of others and his kingdom.  Please don’t think I’m saying Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever form of social media you love are bad or evil.  They’re not.  They can be used for good.  But when the good gets in the way of the best, that’s when we are really on the losing end of the deal.

I will still log onto Facebook from my computer, but I’m not on there NEARLY as long or as often compared to when I browse it on my phone.

What has become your idol?  Maybe you can directly relate to these apps becoming your primary focus over the better things God has for you.  What if it’s work?  Volunteering?  Crafting? Exercising? Money?

I don’t know.  But God does, and he can reveal that to you if you pray and ask him to.  God has so many blessings ready to give you, but he can’t if you are worshipping another god.  That other god (idol) that you worship cannot fulfill your needs the way God can.  Repent from your sin of allowing something else to become an idol over God, and ask for his power to help you change. Only through Christ can you transform your mind and live differently from what the world says is normal, what the world says is good.  I want God’s best.  How about you?

Romans 12: 1-2 (The Message)

“1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. DON’T BECOME SO WELL ADJUSTED TO YOUR CULTURE THAT YOU FIT INTO IT WITHOUT EVEN THINKING (emphasis added). Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

Because You Want To Be Called “Daddy” – A tribute to all dads.

Dear “Daddy”…

As Father’s Day draws near, it reminds us all to stop and pay tribute to our father.  Every single one of us has a father.  We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t ;) !

Fathers deserve a little recognition and “thanks” for what they’ve done for us, but DADS deserve more.  It doesn’t take a lot of effort, sacrifice, or commitment to be a “father”.  Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “father” as this: a man who has begotten a child. The definition of “daddy” is this: a father.  Merriam-Webster, while your definition of “daddy” is true, it’s not accurate.  DADDY is not a synonym for father.  They are totally different.  And you, DADDY, are more than just a father.

A man becomes a father after biological reproduction.

A man becomes a DADDY by choice.

Fathers DayHaving your child call you Daddy is a privilege earned by love, hard work, sleepless nights, commitment, encouragement, quality time, and sacrifice.  YOU are a Daddy because you have chosen to be one.

You uncomfortably sat through the ultrasound visits…because you want to be called Daddy.

You helped pick out the name, even though your contribution of “Hulk” or “Hogan” got shot down quickly…because you want to be called Daddy.

Father's Day

(photo credit: Leslie Tate)

You spent hours in the floor, cursing Graco under your breath, as you assembled baby gear…because you want to be called Daddy.

You were there in the delivery room, coaching and encouraging, as you witnessed the miracle of your child being born…because you want to be called Daddy.

Father's Day

(photo credit: Paperlily Photography)

…or maybe…You signed one million papers, raised what seemed like one million dollars, and waited what felt like one million days to finally hold that child in your arms and welcome him into your home…because you want to be called Daddy.

Father's Day(photo credit: Hannah Wood)

You traded in that Georgia red, lifted up, F-150 to buy the four door sedan…because you want to be called Daddy.

Father's Day

You swallowed your pride, strapped on that baby carrier, and wore your child on your chest…because you want to be called Daddy.

You fought back the urge to vomit and pushed through that diaper change…because you want to be called Daddy.

You canceled on the guy’s poker invitation, fight night, or pick up game to spend time at home…because you want to be called Daddy.

Father's Day(photo credit: Christy Martin Photography)

You learned the words and can sing along to Dora the Explorer, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and Bubble Guppies…because you want to be called Daddy.

You take off work to be at pre-school’s Donuts with Dad and you leave work early to be there for the t-ball game…because you want to be called Daddy.

You kiss boo-boos, give baths, brush teeth, clean up toys, and go on special ice cream runs…because you want to be called Daddy.

Father's Day

You go to work, provide for your family, and sacrifice financially…because you want to be called Daddy.

You cuddle, love, support, protect, guide, discipline, teach, and listen…because you want to be called Daddy.

I know you don’t do all of these things because you HAVE TO, because you’re their father.  You do it…and more…because you WANT TO.  Because you’re their DADDY.

And because you’re AWESOME!

Happy Father’s Day not only to a father, but someone who chooses, EVERY DAY….to be a DADDY.

Father's Day

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Waging a War Against Time

I feel myself fighting against the clock, the flow, the unstoppable movement of life.  I am waging a war against time, raging against the busyness.

Somewhere along the road, people decided to glorify “busy”, “doing”, “accomplishing”, and “going”. The busier we are, the more important we are.  People must really need us, and we have a “life” because we have so much to do.  I’ve heard the phrase, “I’m sorry I have a LIFE!” used in really a sarcastic, degrading tone to belittle the person who isn’t as busy as the person who said it.

Ewing Family

We’ve found our significance and worth in being busy.  And if we’re not doing something, going somewhere, or planning our next adventure, then we are “lazy”, “losers”, “unaccomplished”, and “insignificant”.  These are ALL LIES! Lies that the devil uses to keep us moving, going, stressed out, unappreciative, complaining, anxious, and unsatisfied with ourselves.  Lies used to steal our joy, the joy that comes from being in the presence of the Almighty God, the author and perfecter of our faith, and the peace that comes from knowing we are a child of God.  Our title is not in what we are DOING, it is who we are BEING…co-heirs with Christ.

I realized a few years ago when Avery was 3-years-old that I was bringing most of the stress and busyness upon myself.  I was creating the havoc by always saying YES when people asked, always volunteering, always adding more to my plate, and not taking an evaluation of where my time was being spent. It was after my husband had a talk with me about how insanely chaotic the playroom was and that Avery had colored with markers all over her table.  It was a simple question of, “Are you even watching her during the day?”  I felt a brick hit me my upside my head and a soccer player kick me in the gut at the same time.  My answer was, “No.  No, I’m not watching her because even though I’m in the same room with her, my face is stuck in the computer editing all of these photography sessions that need to get done.”  God spoke to me and said, “What is more important, your job…or your child?”

mommy and avery

That was a no brainer.  I instantly made changes to my business to eliminate the majority of where my time was spent.  I decided to cut out all family and children sessions and focus solely on weddings.  Also, the editing would now be outsourced.  I’ve never regretted reading a book with my daughter over sitting behind a computer.  NEVER.

Those kind of changes were my decisions to make.  It was in my control to make more time for what is most important. The stress dissolved and I could be there mentally and emotionally more for my daughter than I could before.

However, there are “busy seasons” in life that are beyond my control.  Like the month of May.  Holy Cow!! No one warned me how ridiculously crazy, busy, time sucking, and wallet draining that the end of the school year can be.  Avery is only in preschool, and thankfully God is teaching me this now, that May will always be NUTS.

Teacher appreciation, Mother’s Day, petting zoo, field day, class parties, pre-k graduation, dance pictures, dress rehearsal, dance recital, Avery’s birthday…and 2 weddings to photograph.  My time is being stretched and so is the bank account.  Money for this, payments for that.  I think I wrote 5 checks ALONE just yesterday.  I don’t say this to complain, because I’m not ungrateful, but it’s just a reality check of life.  The majority of these things I cannot control, and should I choose not to show up and overextend myself, then I’m missing LIFE.  Avery loves for me to be there…and by God….I WANT to be there.

mommy and avery

This season of life is the good stuff.  My baby is about to graduation from Pre-K in less than a week and then have her 5th birthday party a few days later. I want to relish in these moments.  I don’t want to just “survive” and “get through them”.  I want to remember the details, the smiles, the kisses, the pigtails, the lace on her dress, blowing out the candles, her baby teeth, and the way she still wants to sit in my lap and hold my hand in front of her friends.

I’m fighting against the clock and the pressure that says “Go!”, “Hurry Up!”, “You still have so much to do!”  I’m screaming back at it in my head saying, “Look!”, “Slow down!”, “Laugh!”, “Cuddle!”, “Pay Attention!”.  Because when I pick her up from preschool on the last day, I want to  see her face, watch her climb into my car, and excitedly show me the sticker in her notebook.  I need to hear her talk about who won Bingo, and what crazy thing Mrs. Sue said that day, and listen to her yell “bye” to her friends in the parking lot.

avery and mommy

I don’t want to rush through it because we need to hurry home and finish the laundry before dance class.  I can’t let the pressure of what hasn’t been done yet drown out the blessings and joy God sends to me each day through my children.

Yes, this is a busy time of year.  But this is the only time my children will look the way they do, talk the way they talk, experience these moments in their lives, and I don’t want to capture it all just to post on Instagram, I NEED to take a mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual snapshot for myself, so years down the road when she drives herself to the first day of school, or is too big to sit in my lap without it hurting, I can relive these moments, sounds, sights, smells, and feelings that are happening RIGHT NOW…in the busy season.

Ewing Sisters

Ephesians 5:11-17 (The Message)

11-16 “Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.

Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!

17 Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.”

 

Be The Salt in a Tasteless World

“You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything; except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” Matthew 5:13

It’s a compliment to be called “the salt of the earth”.  People use this term when referring to someone who is faithful, full of great character, adds value to others, and uncorrupted.  These type of people just give you the warm and fuzzies and you not only want to be around them, but you strive to be more like them.

Jesus knew exactly what he was doing by choosing the term “salt” in his teachings.  In his time, salt was used as a preservative for meats and other foods.  It prevented corruption in the food and allowed it to last much longer.  It protected the meat from going bad and rotting, which would then make it inedible.

Salt was also used to sprinkle on “grain offerings” made to God in the Old Testament.

“Season all of your grain offerings with salt.  Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all of your offerings.” Leviticus 2:13

A grain offering was offered as a sign of thanksgiving to God.  It also had to be pure, so the salt was necessary for “purification and preservation”.  Imagine during these biblical times if people didn’t have salt.  It may seem insignificant, but all of the meats would go bad, their grain offerings wouldn’t be pure and acceptable, and they wouldn’t have any salt for the rims of their margaritas. (totally kidding!)

Salt

The truths from Jesus’ teaching then is still applicable to us today, because his word never changes and doesn’t lose its power.  Here’s what’s up: We live in a tasteless world.  We must bring it flavor.

The music blasting from Katy Perry and Kanye West…tasteless.

The clothes sold in stores that cut too low and ride too high…tasteless.

The books promoting sexual fantasies in different shades of a dull color…tasteless.

The television shows glorifying dysfunction, drunkenness, and teen pregnancies…tasteless.

The movies targeting women to see how magical Mike’s moves really are…tasteless.

Are you catching on?  This stuff sells!!! Advertisers know it.  Producers know it.  Designers know it.  Just because it’s out there as the “new normal” and “everybody’s doing it” does not make it OK!  Common sense can you tell you if something is tasteless or tasteful.

As a follower of Christ and someone who claims Christianity, we are called to be different than the world.  God tells us “do not conform any longer to the world, but set yourself apart” (Romans 12:2).  We are called to be the SALT of the world.  Let me remind you what salt does:

Salt PRESERVES: Am I preserving goodness, honor, justice, mercy, and purity in my culture?

Salt INHIBITS CORRUPTION: Am I restraining the culture’s corrupting influences?

Salt CREATES PERMANENCE: Am I standing for truths that will last forever or change with what’s acceptable in my day and age?

Salt CREATES THIRST: Have I made anyone thirsty for God? Is my conversation “seasoned with salt” or do I overload it with too much and drive people away?

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6

God tells us to “season” our conversations with salt.  A little salt creates a thirst, a thirst for more.  God doesn’t tell us to pour the salt on so thick and heavy that others are completely turned off and never want to try God again!

Be the zest and flavor in the world around you.  Spice things up a little bit.  You don’t have to be tasteless just because everything else is.  Be the salt.