The Selfish Sin of Worry

I’m reading Gen. 22 today where God asked Abraham to offer his only son as a burnt offering to Him. I used to read all sorts of things into it. How fearful must Abraham have been! Did he actually argue with God about it and that conversation is left out of the story? I used to think so, but there are several lengthy conversations recorded later in Genesis of Moses arguing multiple times with God.  And what about Jonah arguing with Him over the salvation of the Ninevites? In Gen. 21 there are quite a few verses depicting Abraham’s bargaining with God for Soddom. I’m quite sure if Abraham argued here, it would not have been left out of the story.

On the way up the mountain, Isaac noticed they were missing the animal for the sacrifice. Did Abraham really believe God would provide another animal or was he lying to Isaac when he said God would provide?

Today I realized he had to know God had another offering planned. After all, God had already promised a son to Abraham and he delivered on that promise long after it seemed impossible. And God had already promised that He would give Abraham many decedents through Isaac & would make a great nation from them. Abraham KNEW when he raised that knife that God would redeem and save a Isaac somehow!

Do I have that kind of faith? When I face trouble, am I as sure as Abraham that God has my back, will redeem and save me from whatever troubles me? I’m finally grasping how wrong it is to doubt Him! To worry and be fearful, to impatiently attempt to fix it myself is an egregious sin of complete selfishness. To worry and fret is to believe God’s not big enough or powerful enough or great enough or compassionate or kind or loving enough to handle it. To fix it myself always makes a bigger mess. How incredibly loving and merciful He is to patiently clean up my messes, dust me off, stand me back up and finish His task! Oh! That I would just wait on Him with JOY knowing He is doing something marvelous and not wasting my days (and my health) worrying.

Friends, I urge you to meditate on Matt. 6:34:
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

And Phil. 4:6:
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Luke 12:25 & Matt. 6:27 asks who can add an hour to their days by worrying? Worrying is a tool of Satan to steal your joy, cause you to look out for yourself & separate you from God. Don’t do that! Be like Abraham and trust God to do what He has already promised! And rejoice when you see Him moving and redeeming!! He is faithful and He never breaks His promises!

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What is My Response to Suffering?

I’m attempting, once again, to stick to a daily chronological Bible reading plan and so far, so good! As I prepare to read each day,  I ask God to help me read with fresh eyes, to show me something new even in the passages that seem so obvious.

Today’s assignment was Job, a story I am so familiar with and have turned to in times of trouble. Today, though, the point of the text struck me hard!

Job 1:20-22 (NIV)

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.[a]
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Did you get that? Job had just lost all of his possessions and his children and their families & most of his servants and his first response in the midst of great grief was to worship?!? Is that my first response when trouble comes? Job goes on to tell his wife that if we expect to receive good from God, we should also expect hardship (v. 2:10).

None of Job’s troubles were put upon him without God’s knowledge or even His permission. God gave Job over to Satan to prove to the enemy Job’s faithfulness. Job’s faithfulness served – and still serves – as a testimony to many the goodness of God in spite of trouble. The fact that God’s presence was still with Job is more than enough.

His presence is more than enough. I deserve nothing but death and calamity. When calamity strikes, rather than bemoan my circumstances, I need to rejoice that God hasn’t left me! He is more than enough! If I lose everything, it doesn’t matter because I have Him! And when I worship him no matter what, my troubles don’t seem so insurmountable. I know that & it works when I remember to do that. My prayer is that this be always my first response. This is how I can glorify my great God. And glorifying Him is my purpose on this earth.

The Presidential Election of 2016 – My change of heart

WARNING: This was written to my conservative Christian friends who have been asking me how I’m going to vote in the Presidential election.

For those who know me, it’s no surprise that I’m offering my thoughts on this election. Perhaps what is surprising, is that it has taken me so long. When hostilities arose on both sides of the fence about who the presidential candidates were, I decided to just keep quiet. I didn’t have the energy for the debate, and quite frankly, I was completely unsettled as to what to do. The one thing I knew to do was pray. So I’ve been prayerfully watching and waiting for God to make clear to me who I am to vote for and why. Not voting had been my choice, based on the fact that if I’m not sure, better to abstain. There is nothing about Hillary Clinton that I support and Donald Trump is not the first person (or 17th person) I would have chosen to represent my party. I had considered voting for a 3rd party candidate, but Gary Johnson is not the one. And although Evan McMullin looks like a most worthy candidate, I can’t vote for him because he is not on my ballot and in OK, we’re not allowed to write-in candidates.

I’m sharing my heart with you because so many of you have asked my opinion. Please know that I am not a Biblical scholar, nor am I a government expert. I’m a homeschool mom who studies diligently to raise productive citizens. I’m striving to be an educated voter and raise educated voters. My goal is that all my actions would glorify God, the Creator of all and savior of my soul.

I have no doubt that all the rulers of the world are given their authority by God Himself to fulfill His purposes for this earth and for the World to come (Rom. 13:1). I have no fear about who becomes president because I know that God’s purposes will be fulfilled – whether that is to restore America or to judge her. With so many godly candidates during the primary season, I am perplexed as to how we (Republicans) ended up with this baffoon as our candidate! I thought we’d have a righteous man (or woman…I liked Carley!) lead us out of our degradation and restore us back to our former glory. But alas, God’s ways are not mine (Is. 55:8).

Although there are several “third party” candidates, this election is really between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Is God judging us by giving us one of these two corrupt leaders? Maybe, like he did in the days of Samuel, he’s giving us the king we want. Read 1 Sam. 8:1-9. The Israelites, unlike other nations, were led by prophets appointed by God. God was their King. Samuel, perhaps their greatest prophet, was getting old and his sons were corrupt. The people didn’t trust God to appoint another prophet to replace Samuel when the time was right. They insisted on having a king like the other nations. And God commanded Samuel to do as they asked,

“Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.” (v.7-8).

Sound familiar? Haven’t we, as a nation, been forsaking God and serving other gods for decades? How long will He let us continue to wallow in sin with no consequences? How can He bless us while we serve other gods? Maybe Donald Trump is the “king” we’ve asked for. Or maybe that’s Hillary. Maybe God, through this election, will bring about our calamity for the final destruction of this godless nation. Or maybe he will use a godless leader to bring us to our knees, bringing about revival and restoration in our land.

Here’s another thought. Maybe God is using the winner of this election, godly or not, to bring about His purposes for this nation and perhaps for greater purposes. How many times in Scripture did God use a godless person to fulfill His purposes? I was reading 2 Kings 5 and discussing the story of the leprous Naaman with some friends. We saw in v. 1 that Naaman was

“commander of the army of the king of Aram and…was highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram.”

Aram, although at peace with Israel at this time, was an enemy of Israel. This was a godless nation, and Naaman, by all appearances, was a godless man. Reading further into the chapter, we see the proud Naaman angry that the lowly prophet Elisha won’t greet him and “wave his hand over my wounds.” He wasn’t going to dip in the dirty Jordan River as Elisha had instructed. He was outraged. That doesn’t sound like the actions of someone whose heart followed God. And yet, right there, in plain text it says the Lord worked through Naaman to give victory to Aram…to fulfill God’s purposes.

Is it possible then, that God could be working through one of these candidates even if they don’t proclaim to follow Him? Look at Trump. Yes, he’s obnoxious and vile. He has no filters. But who is he surrounding himself with? Does it appear he is surrounding himself with godly advisors? I was originally outraged at Ben Carson and the Evangelical Christian leaders supporting this man. But what if God is softening Trump’s heart? What if Trump is listening to them? What if God wants to use this election to bring about Trump’s salavation? Outrageous, right?

As I have watched and prayed, I think I’m coming to understand that perhaps Trump himself didn’t think he’d actually be the nominee for president. I think he ran to shed light on subjects the Republican party has swept under the carpet for far too long. I think his purpose was to get the topics out there, be defeated in the primaries and move on with his life. Maybe along the way, his competitive ego got in the way and he just couldn’t stand to lose. And here he is. Maybe he’s contemplating the enormity of what he’s done and maybe it’s too big a job for him. Maybe this will bring him to a realization that he can’t do this alone. Maybe he’ll finally know how much he needs a savior. Maybe God is using this election to change Trump’s heart.

I watched his speech Fri. night…the speech where he finally laid out an actual plan of what he’ll do in his first 100 days if he’s elected. I was pleasantly surprised. He was controlled. He was coherent. He’s obviously been learning the ways of presidential presentation. I can choose to look at that in two ways; he’s allowing himself to be handled by his advisors, or he’s teachable. Do we really think Trump would allow himself to be handled? There wasn’t a single action item he addressed that I disagreed with. In fact, I embrace all of them. Which led me to remember why we elect a president in the first place.

Our government was carefully crafted by men seeking God’s will for this new nation. It was created with checks and balances. We all know that. The role of the president is to lead the military and make sure the laws of the country are being followed. He does not create laws. But he approves or vetoes the laws crafted in Congress. He can ask for laws to be written, but he doesn’t have the power all by himself to make laws happen. When we choose a nominee, we’re choosing a person who will work with Congress to make sure our party’s platform is accomplished. The platform is the list of things a party wants to see done for a period of time. There isn’t anything in the Republican platform I disagree with. Trump has outlined a plan that supports that platform.

The next president will present to Congress his choices for Supreme Court justices. Trump has presented two lists of people he thinks would make excellent Supreme Court justices. Originally, although I was happy with both lists, I wondered if he was placating us. I didn’t trust him to do what he said he would do once in office. But I have to take off my crazy conspiracy theory hat and believe that what he is presenting is what he will be held to by Congress if he’s elected.

For me, the most responsible thing to do is to vote for Donald Trump. I don’t have to like him as a person, but he’s the only one standing up for the platform I support. Fortunately/unfortunately, we have 30+ years on record of the public Donald Trump. There’s a history we can see of his person. We have no history of his public policy. Is it possible a person can change over time? Is it possible we’re seeing this transformation happening before our eyes? Do we have that same public record of any other candidate we’d elect? Even if Trump doesn’t change as a person, is it possible God could use him to bring about his Kingdom Purposes? When I vote for Trump, am I endorsing his character or simply voting for the one who will best represent my governmental ideals and support the platform I support?

I have to lay aside what I know about Trump and look to what he’s proposed. I can choose to believe he’s being honest about his goals or I can choose to believe he’s lying to us all. I’m choosing the former. I choose to believe that God’s hand is moving on Trump’s heart. I believe that as long as there are still praying people in America, God will delay His judgement (see Abraham’s plea for Sodom in Gen. 18:22-33 & also 2 Chron. 7:14). I think there is Biblical precedent for that and there is also historical precedent. After all, Winston Churchill, one of the greatest leaders of WWII, was a complete failure of a leader in his early adulthood.

Thanks for asking. And thanks to the friends who helped me talk all this out. You know who you are.

“Peace on Earth….”

Don’t you ever wonder why there’s no peace on earth? At Christmastime, we utter that phrase with eager anticipation that perhaps next year we will finally all be at peace with one another. Then we awake in January to discover the world is as chaotic, if not more so, than before. And each year seems less peaceful than the year before.

In Genesis 3 we learn that when sin entered this perfect world, it immediately unleashed destruction and death. And left no hope for peace on this earth. Not the kind we think we want. Because of the deadly effects of sin, we will never experience the kind of peace we all dream of where there is no hatred or heartache.

And there will never be peace for ALL men on this earth. In Luke 2:14, the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus, the Messiah:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men ON WHOM HIS                       FAVOR RESTS.” (my emphasis)

We read this passage and forget to dwell on the second part of that sentence. Peace is only for those who put their trust in Jesus. And it’s not the absence of conflict type of peace. It’s the peace that drives deep in our souls assuring us that even though our world is crumbling to pieces, even though we live in constant chaos, all is and will be well with our souls. It’s the peace that comes with the acknowledgement that I can do nothing without Jesus and I am nothing without Jesus. It’s a peace that replaces fear. When we trust in our Messiah Jesus, we know nothing will ever separate us from His love and nothing can destroy us. We live in this decaying world knowing there is a perfect one coming. There is no fear because we know there is coming a day when we get to live in that perfect world with no tears or sorrow & no time restraints. We get to live freely with those who also follow Jesus, those whom we love who have left this earth. THAT’S real peace. And that peace is available right now to all who follow Jesus.

When I watch this video, I long for the second coming of Jesus, for that new perfect earth, for a reunion with those whom I love who are not here anymore. And I’m thankful for the most perfect gift ever given…the gift Jesus gave when he put aside his Godhood to become a baby. The gift he gave when he took our place on the cross and died so we could one day experience that perfect life. That is the reason we celebrate Christmas. That is the peace I know. That is the peace I wish you all knew. I want to live in that perfect world with you! I want you to be unafraid in this world knowing you follow Jesus and He holds your life in His hands.
Ponder these things in your hearts, my friends. Merry Christmas!

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Angie & Faith on Mission: Panama City, Panama

Originally, I posted each day on Facebook. I realized, however, that some of our supporters aren’t on Facebook. Here I’m re-posting each day’s high lights. I am overwhelmed with all God did in and through us. Thank you for partnering with us!

DAY ONE – July 11

It's time!! Thank you, friends for your texts, prayers & encouragement. See you in a week!

It’s time!! Thank you, friends for your texts, prayers & encouragement. See you in a week!

Bridgeway team ready for Panama!

Bridgeway team ready for Panama!

We made it! Faith's first International meal. It's been a good day of traveling. Faith is handling international travel like a pro! We'll get our schedule for the week tomorrow. Thanks for praying us here!

We made it! Faith’s first International meal. It’s been a good day of traveling. Faith is handling international travel like a pro! We’ll get our schedule for the week tomorrow. Thanks for praying us here!

DAY 2 – July 12

Day 1 is nearly done! We’re on the same time zone as my OKC friends. Panama is absolutely BEAUTIFUL! The people are so laid back & kind. Our guide for the week took us to her church right on the Panama Canal, it seemed to be in a somewhat remote location. We arrived to find a family visiting from Brazil, another mission team from South America, there was a tribe of indigenous people that are brought each week, the first lady we met grew up in Panama but her family was from OK and guess where she went to college?!? GO POKES! The kids on top of the sign are from NZ. It was an incredible experience! People from all nations praying together & for each other. I can’t wait to hit the schools tomorrow! We got to see the locks of the Panama Cansl up front & close. Mind-boggling! Thank you, friends for you prayers & for taking care of my family! I love it here but will be excited to share God’s stories!

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DAY 3 – July 13

Morning

We walked in to our first school this morning and THIS was happening during morning assembly!! I couldn’t believe it! Took my breath away and, yes, of course I cried. I thought, “WHY am I here?” And yet God used our team to break through strongholds. There were several teens who asked a lot about having a relationship with Jesus. I’ll never forget 14 year old Roberto. I wish I could have snapped a picture when he came downstairs from a holy encounter with one of our team members. I wanted to, but I wanted more to be IN that moment rather than standing on the outside with my camera. He was BEAMING & the joy of the Lord was radiating from his face. It caught my breath. Anna Maria Helm was beaming as she introduced him to us & we got to be the first to welcome him to the Family. What an honor & privilege to get to pray with this young man. Please pray that he would grow strong in his faith & would be deaf to the lies of the enemy. This young man will be a strong spiritual leader. His father, who has been in prison for 9 years gets out next month. He, too, is a new Believer. Can you imagine what these two together will do to increase God’s Kingdom? His mother is not YET a Believer. I pray her days are numbered & her eyes will be opened to Jesus!

Check out the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoJeeP-Jmbc

Evening

Faith was in her element today! I’m seeing new sides of her & I’m having a hard time keeping up! I love it! I love scrolling through Facebook & getting reports of others on mission trips all over the world. God is moving & there is a revival coming! Ashlyn is on her way home from Kenya right now. Pray for her that she can rest on the plane & she won’t get sick. And join me in praising Jesus for making himself known to the nations today!

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DAY 4 – July 14

Our 2nd school day was nothing like the first. When we arrived, we were told there was a mix up in schedule and instead of doing assembly & moving into the class rooms, we’d only get to present our drama to one group and then we’d leave. Our team performed well, in the heat with no A/C & Allejandro presented the Gospel beautifully. He prayed, kids were dismissed & that was it. So we thought. As we were preparing to leave, another group appeared. We repeated the drama & teaching, kids dismissed & we left. I think we were all fighting discouragement. but at dinner tonight, we were told that the school we visited yesterday asked for us to come back. Apparently the high schoolers who were there told their friends about us & the ministry we did with them & they want to be a part of it. They committed to come to class (apparently MANY were absent) if we would come back! We are amazed & humbled & we go tomorrow afternoon EXPECTING big things! HALLELUJAH!!

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DAY 5 – July 15

Morning

This man! Eric Moody is a mighty warrior! He walks the perimeter of each school praying. He walked for THREE hours in a school on Monday, the same school that invited us back. he carries the burdens of the students & lays them at the throne. God is doing incredible things and we are finding favor everywhere we go because of the prayers of our team & you, our intercessors back home! We already have so many stories to share about what He did through us this morning!

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Evening

It has been a very long, exhausting, exhilarating day! Our morning school was HUGE! But we got good classroom time. Faith gave her testimony and bosky spoke truth into about 20 students aged about 9 or 10. She drove home repeatedly the point that doing good things will NOT get us to heaven. Only believing in the saving grace of Jesus brings us to God. She’s pictured with Cami who asked questions and wanted Jesus! Our 2nd school, the one who asked us back, was difficult, but several high school students either turned control of their lives to Jesus or gained a better understanding of who He is. And remember Roberto? He’s still wearing that HUGE smile! We have felt the heavy oppressive spirit of hopelessness today. And we’ve all exhausted ourselves in prayer. We feel your prayers, as well! Pray tonight for Faith. She poured her heart out & tonight broke down. She feels attack from the enemy telling her she’s not worthy. She loves these kids so much! She desperately wants them to know Jesus. She’s a remarkable young lady. I’m seeing God develop her gift of evangelism on this trip and it’s quite a sight to behold! Two more schools tomorrow & then we’re done.

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Alejandro is praying for a police officer who stepped onto our bus before we drove away from the school. The favor we found in that school this morning was unbelievable. We’d prayed for months for open doors. One on our team dreamed of opened doors. This morning, one of the teachers said, “every door is opened for you!”

DAY 6 – July 16

Have you ever been so tired you can’t even formulate the words to pray? That was our team this morning. We were physically & emotionally exhausted. Yesterday we dealt with heavy, oppressive spirits and many on our team were affected by it. Faith broke down last night & several others had bad dreams & didn’t sleep well. This morning, praying seened like a monumental task. But on the bus ride to school this morning, we pressed in deeper to Jesus. When we arrived, those precious little students were so glad to greet us! As we stepped off the bus, each of us felt instantly filled with the Holy Spirit. After our presentation, one of our team approached a teacher & asked if he needed to be healed of anything. He said his heart was black & he needed Jesus. And right there, he prayed and became a new man in Christ! I’ve seen that bright, ear-to-ear, radiant smile of a new Believer. There’s nothing more beautiful!! Glory to God in the highest!

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DAY 7 – July 17

Our last day in Panama was a day full of adventure! We took a jungle cruise through the Panama Canal & saw things we’ve never seen before. Faith fed a wild white headed Capuchin monkey! We kayaked, fished, hammocked, ate well & rested. After a wonderful Panamanian dinner, we prayed for Manuel, our precious bus driver. Please pray for him. He is so close to making Jesus Lord of his life! He served us well this week! When asked what my hilights were, I said seeing Faith so boldly preach the Gospel & seeing that radiant smile on the face of a new Believer. Tonight I told Ian this week was truly a holy experience. We were so tapped into Christ all day & night & felt the intense prayers of all of you for us, there was no room for our flesh, our selfishness, to get in the way. I now truly understand how prayer & total focus on Jesus makes you more like Him. I knew it before, but I KNOW it now! I praise my Father in Heaven for the work He did & continues to do & for allowing me to participate in it! I’m especially thankful He allowed us to see good fruit so quickly this week! Glory Hallelujah! We return tomorrow at 4:53. I will be ready to hug my family! Thanks to all of you who financially supported us to get us here & for all who prayed us through. Your investment of time & money was not wasted. I can’t wait to share more!

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HOME! – July 19

Re-entry is hard my friends. I awoke this morning to no cityscape, no crazy bus rides, no sweet Manuel – our fearless driver, our Vienticinco, no small Panamanian hugs & smiles, no fascination with my hair & ojos azules. I miss it. I miss the stores & shops whose signs I’ve never seen. I miss the absence of a Starbucks on every corner (THAT was refreshing!). I miss my team. I miss being vulnerable in a country whose language I don’t speak. I miss my translators & Mission Generation organizers. I miss the sweet patient people of Panama who had to wait for me to understand or find a translator. I miss all the beauty of Panama & its people. I miss the work we did. I’m so thankful I can spend today with the church that sent me & with my family. So thankful that today is for rest & for time with Jesus. So thankful for this experience!

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Why Summer is prime time for Senior Class Photos!!

I’ve been shooting seniors professionally for about 5 years and I’ve discovered something. Seniors – or maybe it’s their mothers – don’t want to think about getting senior pictures done until they need them for their graduation announcements. I want to shed some light on why waiting until Spring, just mere months (or sometimes weeks) before graduation, is the worst time for your session.

In Oklahoma, our spring doesn’t spring until late April or early May. Almost as predictable as the sun setting in the west are the phone calls I get in March asking me to take senior pictures outside where the grass is green and there are pretty flowers. But here, in March, the grass is still hard, prickly, brown, dried, dead material and the tree branches are still just awkward jagged sticks. There is nothing green or pretty, yet. And when it finally happens, when Spring has finally sprung, there’s no time to take the photos, edit, order, edit again and deliver before graduation.

In Oklahoma, our spring weather is a bit unpredictable. I once did a senior session in a park in April where the leaves on the trees were green…and completely covered in ICE! I’ll admit, it made for some cool contrasts (no pun intended), but definitely not what that senior had in mind. Nevermind the occasional tornado, hail storm, rain….and the WIND is CRAZY here!

When is the best time for your senior photo session? Just weeks after the class before you graduated. End of May/early June is PERFECT! The weather is beautiful, usually not too hot. The grass is green, the flowers and trees have bloomed, but haven’t withered with the Oklahoma heat, yet. Your photographer generally has more time to devote to your images and the time it takes to edit. I know I do! Although fall is also a beautiful time of year with near perfect weather, that’s the time of year most photographers need to devote to all those families needing Christmas cards.

Early summer is best for another reason: you will need those images way sooner than you think! It takes me about a month from booking to delivery to complete a photo session. When you have your images in hand ahead of time, you have at the ready whatever you need for ads congratulating you in sporting and musical programs. You have a photo ready to turn in with scholarship applications that, yes, you should be searching for in the fall of your senior year. You have your photo ready for end of season banquets and slide shows…not all of which happen graduation week in May.

Save yourself and your photographer a massive headache. You know you have to get it done. Go ahead and get it done early. Your photographer will love you forever if you do…but will probably charge an extra rush fee if you don’t!

Finding the JOY in undecorating for Christmas

It’s Jan. 6 and I did it. Yep, I just now finally finished undecorating from Christmas. Packing up the house is a bit of a pain, but it’s nothing compared to meticulously stripping the “live” tree of it’s ornaments and packing them carefully away so they’ll withstand the intense heat in the attic of an Oklahoma summer and the inevitable bounce of the box on its way back down the next year. I have been putting off this chore for a week.

I have looked at my beautiful tree several times this season torn between my love for a live tree – the smell it brings into the house, the often wonkiness of it’s shape, the uniqueness of it every year – and the ease of a fake one. I’ve thought often how nice it would be to have a pre-lit tree and a custom closet for it so I can just leave it decorated and wheel it in and out each season.

What I realized this morning, in the quiet of my house and under pressure to get the chore done before our usual Sunday family lunch followed by church small group, was there really is joy in the slow task of taking off the ornaments. The tree’s branches have dried around each ornament’s string, making it tricky to get off.

Where’s the joy? It’s in each memory each ornament invokes. It’s in the memory of all the Christmases past. The little chubby hands that so carefully painted an ornament, hands that are now long and graceful and so grown up. The vacation where an ornament was purchased. The year Ian broke his leg so badly we thought it might be amputated but wasn’t and he crutched his way through all the toy aisles trying to make sure he was part of the Christmas joy for Ashlyn & Emma. The year I told the other 3 in my family that we would be expecting Kathryn! The year my grandfather died on Christmas Eve and the ridiculousness of the car trip to St. Louis with my adult brothers and parents and husband the day after Christmas for his funeral. Yes, there can be fun in a funeral trip. The following year that was my last Christmas with my Dad before he died that New Year’s Eve. I still see 6 of us crowded around an old wooden table that barely seats 4. The year we packed up the Burb with gifts and 5 girls aged 7 and under and crammed into a condo with Ian’s family at Disney World. The years I used to plan something Christmasy to do with my very young girls for every day from Dec. 1-25. All the visits to Santa. All the things Ian and I did to keep Jesus in the center of Christmas. The old house. The first Christmas in the new house. The first Christmas Ian and I spent together with a tiny $5 table top tree from the nursery across the street. Our second Christmas when we thought it would be fun to cut down our own tree and found what we thought was a pretty small one only to get it home and discover it wouldn’t fit through the front door. The many many day-after-Christmas ski trips we took with our youth group and the knowledge that those “youth” are now parents themselves…parents who love Jesus and are raising their children to do so. All the many squeals of joy over presents received and presents given. The many nights spent in front of the beauty of our trees in the quiet of the night. The many Christmas Eves that Ian and I spent wrapping and wrapping and wrapping! The Christmas dance concerts and the years my girls got to play their Christmas piano piece before church. All of those little girls are grown up now. One won’t even be here next year for much of the prep time! It seems like just yesterday she so lovingly presented me with an ornament for our tree she made just for me. It was almost yesterday when she presented me with an ornament for our tree she drove all over town looking for and purchased with her own money. It happens so fast!

So, the lesson I leaned today is that if we don’t STOP before, during and after the holiday season and reflect on why we do this then it just becomes one more hideous thing we have to check off our list. If we’re not finding the joy in all of it, even in the undecorating, then there is no point in doing it at all. I know this is too late for many of you for this year, as I seem to be the last. But perhaps I’ll re-post this next year. As for this year, I’m so glad for the pain of a real tree and the frustration of carefully undecorating it. I’m so glad for all the memories – good and bad – and the time I had this morning to reflect on all of them. I’m so thankful.

About James Harden’s Trade: LET’S ALL GROW UP!

My dear fellow OKC Thunder fans:

In light of James Harden’s trade, we need to grow up a bit and get educated on how pro sports works lest we become bitter hateful fans. I’m utterly ashamed of some of us and our responses to this, our first main player loss. I was furious when James tweeted how much he enjoyed OKC and was going to miss it and some of the comments were vulgar attacks on him. He’s 23! He’s somebody’s son! Those of us with class need to stand up for him against people twice and more his age who are crucifying him. I’m extremely concerned that when James comes back to play against the Thunder, some with less class will boo him. That would be SHAMEFUL!! We can’t let our city stoop to the level of other classless cities. We are adults. We need to get a grip and get some perspective. So, let me help you with that.

This wasn’t just his decision. Although he did have a year left on his contract, if he and the Thunder franchise couldn’t come to an agreement within the year to sign another contract, he’d be a FREE agent. That means he’d be free to find another team and a better deal and the Thunder would get nothing for him. He’s owned by the team, so to speak. They’ve paid millions for him. As a business, they can’t let him just walk away without getting something for their investment (good business decision).

As long as we have Durant and Westbrook, there will not be a need for Harden to start. His job on the team is to be the 6th man. Houston provides a place where he can start, giving him a career promotion. Who of us hasn’t had to make some hard choices or sacrifices for a job promotion? Basketball is his career! How can you fault anyone for making a sacrifice for a career promotion? Heck, there are cards at Hallmark to congratulate those very people!

The Thunder franchise is capped out on salaries. The NBA put a salary cap on every team…they have a certain amount of money they’re allowed to spend on player salaries. After they’ve reached that, they have to pay a luxury tax on every dollar over what they spend (I think it’s $1.50 or something but multiply that by millions and it’s a lot!). We can’t afford to pay that luxury tax like some other teams can. Someone may have to correct me, but I think that rule was established after the Jordan/Barkley Bulls days? It’s the NBA’s way of trying to keep everything fair so small markets can compete with big markets.

As for the money, pro-sports is a unique career. Yes, these guys make millions in just a short time, but there is no guarantee they will ever make anything again after they stop playing. And they certainly can’t play until they’re 65! We’re foolish if we believe every pro athlete gets some big paying endorsement after they play. There are thousands of pro athletes that are now in the poor house because an injury cut their career short and they have no other income. Even for those who graduated from college, there’s no guarantee they can get work in their major field of study after they play. It’s a lot harder for an older person to break into a career field they’ve never worked in. These guys know they have to make as much as they can while they can. The smart ones invest it wisely so they can provide for themselves later.

I believe James meant what he said a few weeks ago that he loves OKC and would consider sacrificing to stay here. But he’s not the only one who gets to decide. I’m sure his agent blew a gasket when he said that. His agent held out for more money but General Manager Sam Presti drew a line in the sand based on what he could afford. He knew Houston wanted Harden. He made the business decision to get what he could in trade for Harden rather than let Harden go free next year. So, since it’s a trade, it happens immediately. Harden won’t be playing for us this year THEN going to Houston. He’s probably at the airport right now on his way there.

Sure, Harden could have taken less money and stayed, but again, he would never start. He was offered a good promotion in his career and he took it. Promotions, no matter how good, can be hard when it involves moving and change. I pray we are classy people when he comes back to OKC to play against us. It will break my heart if he comes back and we boo. That would be beyond shameful! We all need to better educate ourselves in the way pro sports works and stop being so offended when a 23 year old makes a career move – especially when these decisions aren’t solely theirs. This wasn’t just about the money and it wasn’t solely Harden’s decision. Our attitude, as a city, about this will affect how the rest of the team feels about playing here. So, all this to say, we need more grown ups to stand up for these boys and encourage them. If more of us know how the system works, then we can out-cheer the boos.

I, a dancer mom of all girls who’s figured this out, beg you, OKC to KEEP IT CLASSY!

Top Six Reasons for the Class of 2013 to have their Senior Pictures Made NOW!

So, you’re a brand new Senior. Class of 2013. You’ve been out of school for less than a week. Your world is aglow with hope and promise! This is your last “real” free summer (after all, next summer you’ll be busy finalizing scholarships, financial aid, college plans, moving into your dorm, etc.). Why should you think about your senior pictures NOW?

Reason #6:  You are a senior now, aren’t you?

Reason #5:  The weather is beautiful now. Get it done before it gets too hot!

Reason #4:  You’ll soon be getting senior portrait info from your school about yearbook deadlines, if you haven’t gotten it already. Some schools require you get your yearbook picture done by a specific portrait studio, but some allow you to choose. Those deadlines are usually really early, so get it done NOW! If you aren’t allowed to choose, wouldn’t you rather tell the salesperson at that studio that you already had your pictures made your way?

Reason #3:  You’ll need several small pictures of yourself for college and scholarship applications. You will need to start filling those out by the end of this summer and early fall. If you wait until spring, the money will be gone and so will the preferred dorms at your school of choice. If you haven’t taken your senior pictures before fall, you won’t have your favorites  to send.

Reason #2:  Many photographers are booked in the fall taking family photos for Christmas cards. If you wait until fall, you may not get the experience you want.

Reason #1:  Many photographers offer senior model or senior representative programs for those who schedule their pictures early. In my studio, you get an unlimited amount of “rep cards” to hand out to your friends. These are like business cards with your photo and my contact information. You also get cash and discounts for every person you recommend who books their senior session with me. The earlier you schedule your session, the sooner you can start handing out those cards and the sooner you can earn some cash!

 

At What Ages Should I Invest in a Child’s Portrait?

Picture taking has gotten quite out of hand with the convenience of cell phone photography and the instant gratification of digital photography. What are we taking pictures of? More importantly, what are we missing? Are we investing in quality portraits of our children, or are we snapping away as quickly as we can, never again to see the image beyond facebook? When your kids are grown and gone, what reminders will you have of their beautiful cherub faces? On the other hand, must we plaster our walls with yearly portraits? And are we satisfied with school portraits? Is that school photographer, who is shooting hundreds of kids all day, drawing out the full personality of your child before he clicks the shutter? Portrait photography is an investment. Although it’s not necessary to set up a professional photo shoot every year, don’t wait from age 1 till senior portraits. You’ll miss so much!

WHAT IS THE BALANCE BETWEEN TOO MANY PORTRAITS AND NOT ENOUGH?

Let me take just a minute to share the childhood milestones that should be captured in better-than-phone-camera photography. We all get excited when we bring home that precious new bundle of joy. If we hadn’t been photographers before, we certainly are now! I think everyone understands the importance of those newborn images, the 3 month, 6 month and one year portraits. We can all agree that babies change dramatically in the first year, but there are other ages that dramatically change our children. How on earth did my oldest get from this……….                                                                  to THIS?

    

I can hardly tell it’s the same person! When did this happen?

I recommend investing in a good portrait of your child every 2-3 years. Consider the photos of my daughter above. Compare her at 3, then 5, then see how dramatically she changed between just 5 and 7 years old!

               

At three, our toddlers start looking like children. At five, their faces are starting to get longer, less chubby. But look at what happens between age five and seven! A little longer face, more defined chin and NO TEETH! You do not want to skip the no teeth age!

After age seven, you’ll want to think more in terms of personal accomplishment or life changes. Age 10 is a big deal. No more single digits and they’re moving into pre-adolescence. But the physical change between 10 and 12 is another astonishing one:

          

The next logical time would be when they get their braces on, when they get them off, when they turn 16.

         

Then, of course, the Senior Portraits are a rite of passage. *Kleenex alert: the reality is, the next time your child will have a major photographic event after their Senior year in high school will be their wedding! Don’t skimp on those senior portraits. These aren’t just photos. It’s an experience, an opportunity to capture in an image, all that Senior represents – and all that represents that Senior. Do they have a car they love? Use it in the photo session. Favorite outfit our jewelry? How about sports equipment? Take a variety of photos – some formal and some more laid back – to capture the essence and personality of your Senior.

So, what to do with those photos after your kids grow up? Do you make your home a shrine to them? Well, that’s up to you, but I prefer to display them for awhile then move them to an archival photo album for safe keeping. My kids appreciate that, too. There’s nothing more horrifying to a Senior than to bring friends home to see them at 12 or 13!

Check with your photographer about packages. Some studios offer a club-type program. You can often pay a fee up front that covers photography sessions over the course of several years. It’s like paying for your session fees all at once, but is often less expensive than paying for individual session fees.

Don’t let time pass without planning your portrait sessions. Consider mixing up family portraits with individual portraits – choosing to do a family portrait one year and going back to an individual a few years later. Mark on your long-term calendar the dates at which you’d like to have portraits made and budget for it. It’s an investment you’ll be glad you made!