I am excited and a bit terrified to introduce my new photography website!
You can check it out here.
Thank you to everyone who has encouraged and inspired to me to follow this vision. The name and story is very close to my heart. When I started becoming interested in photography and story telling using images I never thought I would be able to pursue it in a more real way and I feel so blessed. Creative gifts that have been put on hold for years of birthing babies and living in Africa are being used again and in new ways. I can spend hours pouring over images with no idea how long it has been and they speak to me. Images can be used to divide us or unite us. They can inspire action and call us to see the common humanity given to us by our creator. I pray that I can help create images that move people to love and respect for all peoples God has created. To be honest as I start pursuing this more I struggle to not listen to the ever present voice that tells me I will fail and not be any good at it but I am also choosing to ask Him to use my gifts and creativity for His kingdom. I have the opportunity to go to Sumatra and help tell stories through images and receive more on the job training in just a few weeks. When I first was invited to join this trip I thought it would not be possible but thanks to my supportive family I can take this step towards learning more. So I'm going and seeking to grow and learn and bless and be challenged. I'm excited and a bit intimidated and feeling mixed emotions about leaving my girls and Jason behind for 3 weeks. But I also sense this will be a rich time for me of processing and learning and seeing a part of God's creation that is new to me. I am so looking forward to sharing the stories and people I meet with you because I know that they will change me.
Friday, February 22, 2013
I am excited and a bit terrified to introduce my new photography website!
Thursday, February 21, 2013
A few weeks back we packed up and stayed with friends in Wisconsin for the weekend. We also had the opportunity to hear Jen Hatmaker speak about discipleship and the cost of following the mandates of the gospel. We also laughed a lot (I distinctly remember a story about an expensive bathing suit made of what she described as "trampoline material" Hilarious). She challenged us to ask how we can become good news again and discussed some hard issues. I really felt challenged to think about the requirements of real discipleship and how that is often a painful process because it forces us to really examine what is important. She reminded us that it is an honor to be asked to be a disciple but that the costs will be high. But that is really living; rich, blessed, abundant life. And I want it.
"It is enough for the students to become like their teacher" Matthew 10:25. How much in my life will need to change to become like my teacher? Oh, how long that list is...but I also think about how much has already changed in my life by His grace. How much pain He has transformed into beauty. How much He has moved and is moving in me and I am grateful and want to offer more. She encouraged us to be bearers of His grace to the world and find out what He said He would bless and do that, go there, be a part of what is close to His heart. Too often I think we make plans and ask God to bless those and instead she challenged us to get involved where He is moving. I'm asking for a more teachable spirit so my teacher can make me like him.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Tomorrow the girls and I are visiting a friend's school and teaching some about Tanzania which means today we spent a lot of time looking through pictures and watching videos of our time there to select a few to share. We watched this one about ten times. It makes me so happy I just had to share.
Monday, February 18, 2013
So we started this Mutiny experiment a few weeks back. 13 women and 9 kids gathered at our home and we talked about what we wanted to gain, what we want to lose, and how we feel about pursuing "less of my junk and more of God." Fears and excitement commingled together.
The first month we are tackling food.
a fridge full of food for 5 people.
Clearly, God had something to say about this issue for me. I will blog here about what we are up to each month and if you would like to join us or link up and share your own journey please let me know! I am recording my journey here because I am expectant.
And here is what I felt God was asking of me for month one: food.
And after returning from Africa (6 months ago now) we kinds gave ourselves permission to eat whatever since we felt (and were) much more restricted there and that was hard for me. Now I would not use the word "suffering" but if you know me and chips and salsa it was hard for me to not have access to many foods! I guess I realized what a place (and a hold) food had on me and my mood and how I use it when I was stressed or want to celebrate. It was really good for me to NOT have some of that there and the longer we were there the less it mattered (ok, except the lattes and aforementioned chips and salsa):) So all this to say it is time to take a hard look at my current habits. I want to detach food from control and see it as blessing, one that needs to be kept in a proper place but also appreciated as a gift to be shared and that we are entrusted with wealth (and food whenever we want) for the blessing and for His kingdom (not for our control and abuse- either in under or over emphasizing it)
Ok, so for this month...
-not weigh myself for the entire month
-give up coffee and coffee beverages (sniff...) for the month. Also, give up sweets "just because" unless it is offered at someone's home in hospitality (that is a must in Africa :) I can still have folks over for coffee and be hospitable but I will have something else (tea or water-bleh). I have been coping with my winter blues with latte drugs way too much lately and need to trust God He will give me the energy and help my mood without it....afternoon dance parties anyone?
-go grocery shopping twice during the month and THAT IS IT! Eat what we have and not "just run out for something else because we feel like something else." I want to eat what we have and focus on NOT allowing any food to go bad (If I am honest we have thrown out too much food since moving back state-side because of poor planning and that makes me sick as I know and love families that struggle to even feed their kids. Today. Right now. This area of excess is disgusting to me and I want to be a better steward). This requires more planning and thinking on my part and not just my usual last minute self and then we will as a family decide how we will donate the extra money (hopefully we will save some in not running out for extras and free money up). I want my girls to be involved in how we decide to use the money- could even be just buying another family we know a meal to donating it across oceans- excited to see what will happen!
-Not eat out (unless it is en route and a must- ie. a trip to Ohio we have a couple weeks) and then chose simple options. Free that money up and ask if there is someone I meet that God wants us to buy lunch, groceries, etc.
-focus on eating healthly, filling (but not gluttonous) meals and not eating junk because of my poor planning or being too busy (ummm, like eating while standing while talking on the phone or eating while driving- both of which I did last week) If I eat regular meals with my family I will not need to snack on junk at other times. And I will take more time to be grateful at the meal itself (see below)
-one day each week our family will eat what a family in a different majority world country would eat. So for Africa we will just eat 2 small meals of rice and beans and learn about that place and pray for the people there. It is really important for us not to do this out of rich white american guilt but in remembering the friends we miss dearly and others all over the world. I really want the girls to be involved (and Joy as well) so we can process and talk as a family and be reminded that having choice in what to eat (or even the choice to reduce) is not something most of the world has and in that we want to be grateful and reverent to God as to how He is providing and how He loves every people group and person on earth.
Opened up a photography book today to study works from Africa and read this:
"We know that Americans pity Africans," he told me. "But sometimes I think Africans pity Americans."
"How so?" I asked him.
"Americans seem to expect that everything will be provided for them. For us, " he explained, "this ear of corn is a gift from God. This evening's rain is a shower of mercy upon us. The healthy breath is life giving. And maybe tomorrow we will not have such things, but today our hearts are so full from God's provision."
I want to live more like this everyday.
It is going pretty well so far. I miss coffee. And I miss lattes and mochas. Today we are eating like many of our Tanzania friends; simple rice and beans for both meals and asking God to bless them and teach us. Oh, and I miss coffee. And I sorta already cheated because Jason started baking something for a guest and realized halfway in that he needed chocolate chips. Fail: he ran to the store for said chocolate chips. But because justification is one my gifts..... it was because I did not remember that Joy had used them the week before and told him they were in the pantry. But I swear we are back on track.
And I walked past my favorite coffee shop near our house today and; I swear, I felt actual pain. firstworldproblemiknow. Tonight we meet again, us Mutiny sistas to continue this journey together.
To less junk and more God,
Sunday, February 17, 2013
.....is mostly a mess. But a colorful, awesome mess to be sure! So much happening and so much on the horizon that I feel so grateful for this space (and a 50 degree day in February certainly helped my mood today).
On a recent road trip I fully embraced my core belief that most parenting rules are suspended while driving in the car with our children. Judge if you will but she was quite for 40 minutes and that my friends is a beautiful thing.
We got to visit good friends in Wisconsin that are reminders to us always that He is good and following Him is always worth it. Annikah and one of her besties (made official by the necklaces of course).
Jason got to be with his grandfather last week as he left this world and went to meet Jesus. It was sad and joyful and full of everything our humanity is lacking and God is fulfilling. As I was praying I kept thinking "he gets to hear it today! He gets to hear well done."
Saying goodbye and remembering with family was a true blessing; one that we do not take for granted after being so far from loved ones during times like these.
It also meant a quick but fun visit with our favorite girl cousins in the world at our new place in Chicago.
despite freezing temps last weekend we also braved (that is the only word for it folks) Polar Adventure days and got to touch frogs, see wolves, and watch a dog sled team on Northerly Island in the city.
Some more about photography and a trip to Asia to come soon.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Many people have asked "So, where are you with adoption?" and in all truth various emotions competing for space in my heart and mind have made it difficult to process and respond to that question. I sorta feel like I've lost my mojo and there are just too many thoughts swirling around in there to actually make it to my fingertips or lips. The other problem is there is no neat answer that I can give in a couple minutes to that question. But I feel like I should have a better answer considering it was a large part of what has brought us back to the states.
The truth is this part of our story still makes my ask questions, seek direction, and cry. A lot. Many years ago a friend and I were discussing adoption. Something she and her family had already done and something Jason and I were feeling a heart tugging to do. She said that if you begin an adoption journey you will believe more in the sovereignty of God than you ever had before. I knew that was true wisdom but in the foggy sense that I also knew when older women told me that marriage was hard work. I smiled, nodded, and did not count the cost at all. I couldn't because I had to reference, no pain intermingled with joy that crept up in me yet. But I have more of an understanding now.
I wrote about why we feel called to adopt before and after everything became clearer in Tanzania that our adoption there was not going to happen we felt wrecked. Adoption is not just our "plan B." We don't see it as just another way to add children to our family. We see it as something He has placed on our hearts because He was not just speaking in metaphor when He told us to care for the orphan and widow. I think He really meant it. Without going into tons of specifics about what happened in Tanzania (a lot of which make no sense even to us) the law had changed and that there was no "grandfathering in" at least without serious bribing and that the door was closed to us. I have never really written about this at length here. In part because it felt too raw and I could not even make sense of everything. But let me be clear that we were ready to meet our child. We had gone through almost 2 years of the process including applications, payments, references checks with our friends, and many boat rides to the capital to meet with social services. I felt 'pregnant' without the puking part. We thought we were one official referral letter away from picking up our child. We bought a bigger car. We prayed and talked about it with our girls. We started to prepare as a family and we were eager with anticipation.
And my heart is still broken that our child is not Tanzanian. But yet I choose to believe He has purpose in it. That maybe we were living life close our our breaking point may days there and could not have handled it. And He protected us in so many ways since we had not met our child yet. And that He still has something in store for our family. Something bigger and harder and better than we could have forced ourselves. Reading about some other's experiences here and here have helped me process this loss although our experience was very different from theirs. Although we have had to, in a way, start over here in the states we know it is a continuation of a journey and He sees the beginning seeds in our hearts to the end of the story which we never be fully realized here on earth. We have continued in asking Him what next for us and for now He has shown us that Foster Care is in our future. We feel unsure about international adoption for our family without having a strong sense of leading and peace that He is asking us to do that right now. It changes things that we have lived in a developing country and know what structures exist on the ground. We are grateful He has put people in our path and lives that have experienced and are experiencing adoption in many ways. Everyone's journey in adoption is different and challenging and beautiful and we are seeking what He has for us. Just us. And that is hard because there are so many journeys. We know a tiny bit, have listened to friends, and have been warned Foster Care can be messy and heartbreaking and requiring more resources that we posses but we know if He is calling us into something He will make a way and enable us to stand and walk in it. Friends, please pray for us. That inshallah we will be able to be a blessing to a child or children He brings into our lives and that we will seek His will on the outcome of those relationships even when it might seem painful to do that. And pray that we will be blessed too as we walk into this again and for the first time. I am scared. But as a speaker I recently heard reminded me courage is not the absence of fear but doing it anyway. We are doing this anyway. Even with all our faults and failures and fears we are trusting He can something beautiful out of that.
"We make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." Proverbs 16:9
I don't want to make plans and ask that He bless them. I want to find out who He is and what He has said He will bless and follow there to that place, even if it scares me. When my strength is proven insufficient His grace and mercy will be overflowing. Here is to one more step in the journey,
Sunday, February 10, 2013
A couple weeks ago I had the privlege to hear an author speak about her experiences living in Afghanistan for 5 years. I hung on her words because they resonated deep within me. And although so many of her experiences were very different and she endured trials I have no idea about she spoke my language and I ended the evening in tears. Really not much of a surprise but I felt like a scab was ripped off. One that I have been trying to ignore for months. Because I do not want to be that girl; the one always talking about what we experienced in Africa (yada yada) because I understand not everyone has a place to put that and I know, I know just get over it and move on. But here is the thing; I don't know what to do with it. I don't know how to fit that in with this life now except for that I know for sure I am not the same. And I never want to be the same again. I want to be changed again and again to learn more about what it means to follow Him and I saw His Word come alive and His spirit move in crazy amazing ways when we said yes to something small He was asking of us. And I want that for others because there is more. The kind of abundance I have only scratched the surface of. Even though I am certain as I take my last breath (whether that will be next week or years from now) I will still understand only a fraction of His kingdom I want to live the small part I understand. I have been spoiled for anything ordinary. Any life that is not aflame with His presence. I do not know what that will look like tomorrow or two years from now but that I want to search and ask and fail and grow to do whatever He says and go where ever He directs as I become who He intends me to be. And I know I will screw that all up again and again but His grace will be enough. I want to hold all my and our plans loosely and only grip tight to His will and His character. But all this "I have no idea what is next" stuff has me feeling a bit flaky
some days always. I feel like a nomad but as I looked up the definition today I felt the need to embrace part of the definition: any wanderer. I am a wanderer.
Yesterday as I was reading the Word I came across this passage in James:
Look here, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year.We will do business there and make a profit." How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog-it's here a little while, then it's gone. What you ought to say is,"If the Lord wants us to we will live and do this or that." Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans and all such boasting is evil. James 4:13-16
It hit me like it was the first time I had read it. This is the concept of inshallah or God's will. A word so common in our lives over the last four years that anytime our friends would speak of the future they would use it. They taught us that we cannot know for sure anything will happen and for Westerners who like to plan and know and be in control that was a great lesson. Totally submission to God is central to everything they believed. We can make plans but only if they are in line with God's plan for us will they truly succeed. In some ways this can lead to a kind of fatalism depending on your view of who our God is. But the God I know has good plans for me and you. Not easy ones but good plans. Inshallah is a concept we have embraced and it is Biblical. Clearly, we should hold our plans very lightly. This is easy to say, hard to live because I like to know, to plan, to have stuff figured out. And it seems a bit of an irony as we move forward in our Foster Care journey and plan homestudy visits, trainings, and talk about what is next for us. But although we want to prepare and plan we hold those plans loosely. We know that while there are pieces He has revealed to us much remains hidden and that is ok. That requires trust in His plans and His sovereignty. This concept is the balance between planning and letting go. Between holding fast to Jesus and releasing my plans. But as I learn more about Jesus; His ways, His love, His power it does become easier to trust and let go. Easier to embrace being a nomad on earth.
A friend sent me this poem and it spoke to me.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
This little girl just threw down some mad moves in Hip Hop. It was 'annoying parents with cameras can watch and distract their kids day' in her Hip Hop class today. And I am soooo that mama who lives for that day (and I was especially thankful I made it after spending almost 6 hours at the hospital and driving home in the sleet turned freezing rain turned snow..yeah that is a story for another time). The girls were so adorable, had a blast, and were so proud of themselves. And us mamas could not stop smiling.
you can see why...
While Anni showed off her moves....
This one cracks me up.
high fives for each other after they killed it!
This is the stuff of being a kid; having fun, making friends, laughing, learning without even noticing you are doing just that, and not taking any of it too seriously. I love these moments.
Sunday, February 3, 2013
We have a new member of our family for a season. Her name is Joy and she radiates it.
Plus she and I just laughed for a good five minutes about a discussion involving drinking your own pee. I said I would need to chill it first and she suggested adding a packet of Crystal Lite before enjoying (if you are drinking your own pee for survival and happen to have access to either to a fridge or fake sugar packets). Yep, she is my peoples.
Jason and I have been thinking a lot about living in community and how to do that when folks just don't roll up to your door and say Hodi everyday. We have been feeling more and more that we need to put ourselves in situations where we are forced to live what we believe. To live open handed with an open door and ask God to bring people our way for our and their benefit (ok, mostly our because we have a lot to learn). So, how to answer the question "so why does she live with you?" It is not because we have a perfect scenario worked out. It is not because she desperately needs a place to live (even though Evy asked Joy if she is an orphan the other day- yeah- she might be confused as we have talked as a family about foster care and adoption but we quickly remedied the misunderstanding). It is not because we 'get' something out of the deal (although she loves our girls and will be helping me as I pursue ventures long put on hold because of time). It is not because it is easy or makes complete sense.
In making this decision it was less about an arbitrary list of "positives and negatives" but about asking God if He was leading in this. We pray over and over that we would always offer back to Him whatever He blesses us with. We have been blessed with a house and we want to use it for Him. But I always struggle with my self reliance tricking me into thinking I somehow earn or deserve anything. The truth is much more radical and simple. It is by no works of our own that we are blessed and we have been blessed to bless others. The house we are currently living in feels like a home. A place we pray He fills with family, friends, and those who He is working in and through and that we get to see and experience it all.
But community is messy. It costs something and if it doesn't I actually doubt it is real community so we go into this knowing there will be challenges. The kind where you see each other's faults and failures more than you see the polished image that is out there for everyone. It is where we have a chance to be challenged in our own selfishness. It is where we care enough to be vulnerable and brave enough to want to grow.
Anni made these today. She told me she was making one for everyone in our family and they know Joy is part of our family for now. We are taking this journey together and I am excited and expectant as to where we will travel next.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
We embraced the snow today! This is big for me people since the freezing temps, winter wind chapped faces, and mounds of snow burying my car make me feel a bit weepy most days. Jason left today for a few days of boy bonding time leaving us girls to amuse ourselves. Since the girls spent the majority of the morning watching the snow fall outside our front room window and begging to go frolic in it I decided to rally and draft a friend in to letting us join them and use their sled (I'm sneaky like that).
Warren Park sledding hill is pretty awesome
Frozen noses and wet socks or not we had a blast sledding and of course enjoying hot chocolate after our brave endeavours. Check us out embracing winter,