give me a break

Give me a break.. Give me a break.. break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar! Actually.. we do utilize chocolate therapy quite often… but this post isn’t about that today.

I am learning after almost 15 years of marriage… we need breaks!

We need to be able to get away together (and honestly we need to work better at this.. it is hard with four kids)… like vacations, date nights, even a night away here and there.

But, we also need to provide protected time for each other to take breathers.

Parenting. Marriage. Work. Friends. Family. Ministry. Neighbors….  Life is well, very full at times. Not bad.. just a lot.

I think of Jesus’ example in scripture. Him and the disciples had been going going going… and Jesus stops and says, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31) Jesus invites His disciples to stop, sit, be still and be renewed.

We need to take breaks on purpose and with purpose. Not just doing something to waste time.. but time to get away from the loud. Be still and listen. Collect thoughts. Be renewed.

We need to be intentional.

And wives, can I just talk to you for a minute? We need to give our husbands the chance to do this.. guilt free.

Think of it as being on a team. Sometimes the other person needs to tag out for a bit. And if we think of this as being a thing we are doing for each other TOGETHER.. it doesn’t become a “me vs him” thing. Are there going to be seasons where he may need more breaks than I do? And vice versa.. Yes.  Absolutely.  Let’s give them freely. Make it a priority.

Get with your hubby.. look at the calendar and pencil in some sanity hours for you both! Some together.. some individually.

Happy resting!

 

 

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god is always

It’s been awhile since I wrote on this thing. Yikes! So, I apologize!

But, I am still thankful for this little blog. It has given me a place to share what’s on my heart. It has also been a way for me to go back and remember where we have been as a family and what I have learned along the way. If you are one of those people that pop over every once and awhile or have followed along the way, thanks! And to new friends, hello. I am glad you are here.

I wanted to share something that has been such a huge for me the past few months. These truths are so important and have really changed my perspective. They are all things I “knew” or heard before. But, I feel like these things have come to life right in front of my eyes and lifted so many burdens off my back! I hope they encourage you as well.

So, we just started 2017. Happy New Year by the way!

Did anyone else sit and wonder, what this year will bring? I feel like our family has so many unknowns ahead, so I found myself thinking a lot about the future. And I came to this conclusion…. I have no clue what will actually happen this year. I really don’t. But, I do know this… God is always.

What does that mean? Basically this… You don’t know what you’re going to face next week, month, or year, but you can know that you don’t have to face it alone. God is always with you. God is always in control. God is always good.

Philippians 2:13 says, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (NLT).

Do we realize what this means? That we don’t have to survive this year on sheer willpower. We don’t have to make it through the week in our own strength. How big of a relief is that? We don’t have to walk around exhausted and stressed out of our minds anymore. For those who know Jesus, we actually have Him working in us! He gives us the strength and the power to do His work.

Not only is God with us and in us; God is also for us. Romans 8:31 says,“If God is for us, no one can defeat us” (NLT). The Bible says we can trust God. He has promised to give us what we need.

“Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
     the LORD answered me and set me free.
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
     What can man do to me? —Psalm 118:5–6

Doesn’t it make a difference if you know someone is for you?  Someone has your back?  For those who know this, life doesn’t seem as overwhelming. The God of the universe is your father! And he is a good, good father!

Because of his goodness, God gives us things we don’t deserve, such as forgiveness, salvation, and second, third, fourth (etc) chances when we mess up. If you have not experienced God’s forgiveness, I encourage you, make things right with Him today. He isn’t some far off, scary God up in Heaven.

He wants to know you.

This next year may not be all flowers and rainbows. But that’s ok, because when you know God, goodness can come from all circumstances. 

“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”– Romans 8:28

This fostering thing has taught me this particular lesson over and over. Its hard, SO hard, sometimes. But, I have seen SO MUCH GOODNESS, even in the midst of pain. I have experienced God in a way I probably would not have without those hard times. And I am so thankful for each experience we have had, good and bad.

He has a purpose for every season of your life — the lonely seasons, the sad seasons, the seasons of success, the seasons of waiting, and the joyful seasons. Your life is not a random series of occurrences. God knew and He knows. He uses everything. God can draw good out of each event. That means every single thing, no matter how dark or shameful or bitter you feel about it, God can bring good out of it.

So trust as you look ahead to 2017 that…

God is always with you. God is always in control. God is always good.

Always.

the-bright-sun-blue-sky-clouds-post

 

 

 

10 random lessons i’ve learned owning a photography business

I have been thinking a lot about my business lately and what the next steps may be for me on this crazy road.

As I was thinking I realized, I have been doing this photography thing as my full-time gig for almost a decade now. Yikes! That thought brings two things to my mind… It makes me feel OLD (ha!) and I think about how much I have truly learned through this process.

So I decided to share a few of those random lessons with you today.

1. It’s not just taking photos

When I got started I thought the most important thing about this business was making sure I had amazing photography skills and mind blowing work. And while yes, it is important to know how to use a camera and software, there are so many other hats you will wear owning a business. You are a photographer/customer service expert/book keeper/marketing director/social media user/branding specialist/website creator/secretary/treasurer/CEO/CFO/ and phew, I am out of breath. You get it.

(Sidebar: I always tell young people going in to college.. if you can, take a business class as an elective. You never know if you may one day own your own business and the things you learn in those classes would be so valuable! I wish I did that instead of taking a random pottery or fitness class as electives.)

The sooner I realized that I was going to need to become good at a LOT of different things (or at least hire help in the areas I am not good at naturally), the easier things got for me in this business. Great photography skills are important, don’t get me wrong. But there are a lot of other reasons clients will want to come to you when its time to capture something important in their lives.

2. Make it about people      
Photography is about people. I mean even if you’re a real estate photographer, your clients are people. And the better you can work with, take care of, and get to truly know the people you do business with, the more your business will become successful. Not to mention, this has been the area that has blessed me the greatest.

Getting to follow my clients through life’s biggest moments is so special! To be there and capture someone’s engagement and then their wedding, followed by new babies, family photos, and so on. Its why I do what I do. I have met so many amazing people who have become dear friends through this process.

3. You don’t need the newest and latest 
It’s easy to get caught in the never-ending cycle of buying things to “help your business”. With photography, you may be tempted to convince yourself that if you just had that better lens, or that new preset, you will be better off. I have definitely wasted money buying things I didn’t really need because of those mindsets.

Now, I have a Canon service plan that offers me free maintenance and discounted repairs. This has kept my gear in better shape and it has lasted years longer. I am basically going to use things until they just doesn’t work anymore.  I am also finally learning to start putting away money in savings, so when those things do break.. I have the finances in order to buy a new one. If you can, NEVER ever use credit cards to buy things for your business. Its hard enough to make a profit in photography… and then add debt on top of it.. it will be come stressful very fast.

4. Be Yourself

Photography is an art and very much YOUR interpretation of what’s happening in front of your lens. You are the artist. So when you are establishing your “style” and “look” make sure it is a reflection of YOU. Don’t just try and copy what everyone else is doing. Which is easier said, then done.

I remember I spent years, immersing myself in all things wedding. So many countless hours looking at the websites and blogs of other wedding photographers or reading and cutting out images I loved in wedding magazines.

And it isn’t all bad. I think you can be inspired looking at others images. But, the problem for me was that I spent TOO much time. And, it didn’t take long for me to quickly start comparing myself to everyone else’s work. I didn’t feel inspired or encouraged. I felt discouraged and defeated.

I remember another friend who is a photographer told me at one point… “You know when you are looking at others work online and comparing yourself, it really isn’t a true comparison, Jenny. You are seeing their best. And you know both your good and bad. You don’t know what’s in their cuts folder like you know what’s in yours.”  I always felt that opened my eyes a bit.

I realized I needed to stop comparing myself to others. I didn’t have to be just like every popular movement going on (Totally Rad actions, the VSCO presets, then everyone converting to Film.. not that those things were bad at all.. just not my style). I need to do what I felt was ME. The same goes with what I charge. I needed to ask for what I believed I need in order to keep this business afloat and help provide for my family.

I still struggle at times with feeling my work is plain, boring, or simple. But, not nearly as much as before. I think it’s a lesson I may have to learn a few times though. 🙂

5. Referrals are the way to go

Word of mouth referrals are the most powerful source of bookings for us. Hands down. People are way more likely to trust the recommendation of a friend than an ad they saw on Facebook. I am so grateful for our previous couples that have told so many of their friends about us. It really is the best compliment we can ever receive.

I always try and thank my clients who do refer someone by offering them a free session or at least by sending a thank you. It really does mean so much and I want them to know that!

6. Organization is key

I am not a naturally organized person. I ramble. I use a lot of ….. (those dot things). I am not the best writer (run on sentences, anyone?) So you can image how my business was looking until I finally found ways to make some systems and special spots for things.  It’s not just a matter of being tidy. It’s having routines and in my case, help. I ended up hiring my best friend years ago as my office manager because she is really good at that kind of stuff.. and I am not!  And it has saved me so many headaches and a whole lot of time.

Also, it’s just not fair to your clients to be unorganized. We shoot weddings.. so can you image how a client would feel if we lost a card with images from their big day because we don’t have a consistent place to put it? Or if I just threw all of their images on a USB without any type of order or organization?  Organization = Sanity.

7. Your time is important

This is a lesson you hear coming at you from every direction. Charge for your time. Value it. But when you’re just getting started, you often do work for less than your ideal rate, or even for free, just to get the ball rolling. That’s ok, I did it too. But for me it took me too long to really charge what I should. I felt like I was running around like a crazy person. I thought maybe it was because I had two toddlers at the time… but once I started to do the math, I was shocked. The amount of time and expense in I was putting in for what I was getting paid… wasn’t worth it. Sometimes I wasn’t making any profit at all!

I think the more of I have owned my own business, the more I have realized my time is important. And it’s hard. You are the boss, which has it’s perks. But, you can’t call in sick.. the work will still be there. You can’t just take off for weeks, without feeling the responsibility of what you left behind. And sometimes throughout the years when I haven’t managed my time well.. I felt like this business was more like a ball and chain, then a blessing.

So this isn’t just about charging the rate for your work that your local market has decided is “fair”. This is about realizing that your time is all you have. So make sure you are spending it wisely.

That also brings me to the topic of balance. It is probably the most important thing I have had to learn as a business owner! I started my business because I wanted to be home and have a flexible schedule for my kids. Now three kids later… and fostering other little ones on a regular basis in and out… Balance is more important than ever.

You may feel the urge to consume yourself with all things business related (I know I went through waves of that, working day and night). But, during those seasons, I felt like I was slacking as a mom, wife, or friend. And I was just plain exhausted trying to manage it all. I had no routine, no plan.

Then I realized I needed to make one. And it’s changed over the years. It is an ongoing battle. And I am always searching for the right formula for how I should spend my time during each season I am in. How much I should be putting in to my work week and how much time I have to do other things in my life.

It is hard! But so important to be intentional about this.

8. Make things simple for your clients.

People are busy. And in our world, they are brides trying to plan a wedding. That is stressful, time consuming, and confusing! So the more you can do to make things easy for your clients, the more they’ll love you for it.

Things like having an easy way for them to contact you for questions or information (and replying in a timely manner). An easy to use website that provides a lot of information upfront. Creating guides that help them through the different processes. Having a payment system that makes it easy for them to pay. And just over-communicating throughout the process.

It is really just being as helpful as you possibly can! That mindset can be the difference between one-time clients, and those that keep coming back because it is easy and comfortable.

And it makes your world easier, because everyone is on the same page. They know what’s happening and so do you.  So there is a lot less conflict.

9. Goals & When you don’t reach them. 

I have had moments in in my business where I feel stuck. I felt like I have no direction. Goals have been a way to get me out of those ruts. Goals come in all shapes and sizes, so set different kinds. Goals for the day. Goals for the week. 5 years from now.

Taking a morning or day to just sit and write out some goals make a huge difference!

On the flip side, realize there will be times you may not reach them or make mistakes along that way. That’s ok! I spent way too much time beating myself up on failures or things I didn’t get to. But in the end, I have learned valuable lessons from those moments. And I am glad I have had something to look to or strive for.

10. Under Pressure

I have this horrible habit of putting a ton of pressure on myself. I don’t know if it is because I am the oldest of five kids or just my personality. But, I can quickly feel the weight of things. This business has definitely given me pressure in a few ways.

One, the pressure of providing financially. My hubby is a teacher, a fantastic one! But, as you know teachers don’t have the biggest paycheck, so working has been something I have done to help provide. And as our family has grown.. so has the expenses. Which means I need to be sure my paycheck keeps coming in. Six years ago I hired on my best friend full time. So I also need to make sure hers will continue to go through too. And this business is not consistent. It has seasons of busy times and seasons of slower work. This can create a lot of pressure. It is still something I struggle with constantly. But, I have learned that God is never going to leave us or forsake us. I know He will provide (because He always has before and He promises He will).

Another pressure in this business is pleasing others. Because this is an art form, it is personal. I remember it used to hurt my feelings when a former client went to another photographer after using me. I always felt like it must have been because they didn’t like what I was able to give them. Over the years, I have learned this isn’t always true and that people have lots of reasons for bouncing around to different photographers (these days everyone probably knows at least 5 of us.. there are so many photographers!)  And everyone is different, so there will be lots of people who’s style of imagery they prefer doesn’t align with mine.

I also used to (and still do) struggle with complaints or feedback from others. It isn’t easy to listen to others’ opinions of you and of your work, especially if there are more negatives than positives being shared! This was really hard for me because I haven’t heard too many complaints in the past 9 years (thank goodness). So when I have, Id take it too hard. I really let a simple bad comment make me feel like I am failure. And I was totally being silly about it.

Even yesterday, I had a conversation with a client. He wasn’t even complaining, but because he started to say he wanted a few changes with some images. I was tempted to feel like he wasn’t happy and I did a bad job. But the more I thought, the more I realized this is just part of business. And some of these moments can be teachable times for me. If the complaint was because of a miscommunication, how can I do that better next time? If it was a certain angle or perspective they don’t like, don’t use that on them again. If I want to become better at what I do (whether its managing clients or actually taking photos), one of the best ways to know what to fine-tune is to be ok hearing feedback and comments.

Thanks for letting me share 10 random things I have learned. These are not all my ideas, some are words of advice I heard along the way. I just knew years ago, I would love to read something like this!

If you have any advice you would like to add, just leave some in the comments below!

update

Yikes. It has been awhile.

I am sorry! Life got busy.. and blogging became harder. But, I am hoping to be back more and more in the next coming months!

A quick catch-up on life for us…

We still have this cutie.

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He has been with us for 6 months now. Time surely flies. We are still uncertain of his future.. but we are trusting God has a wonderful plan for his life. God has used this little man to teach our family so much. Going to four children was a super hard transition for us, but I believe those hard times have brought us closer to God and to each other.

We have been sneaking away to the lake house as much as we can. It has become such a retreat for our family. The time we spend there is so precious.

12800310_10153466702622666_7325547131333664614_n   12106812_10153188765407666_7210712170041114369_n 12814739_10153464443562666_1956412909641225017_n 12106998_10153193424577666_806518053440430821_n 12294639_10153268920912666_4730619109430825987_n 10294484_10153328963112666_6250937978315152869_n-1 12074563_10153193573572666_6060508232621177509_n 12002889_10153137823237666_2362254099044673571_n

And we just got back from an amazing trip to Haiti. Ellie did her annual shoe drive and we were able to bring over 500 pairs of shoes! This was her first trip with us. It was so special. I will be posting more images and details from this trip soon. Here’s a little peek.

HaitiMarch027 HaitiMarch069 HaitiMarch047 HaitiMarch002 HaitiMarch138 HaitiMarch151

i stink at conversations

Are the days of face to face interaction with your friends fading away?

Sometimes I wonder if it’s because we feel know a lot about what’s going on with someone before they even say a word. Probably because we saw their recent update on Facebook or their last Instagram post.

(Let me park here and say, I am not anti-social media. I think there is a lot of benefit to it! But, I also think it has effected our ability to sit down and have a meaningful conversation)

And how many times is what we see on social media, a true representation of how someone is really doing?

I have felt really convicted of this lately.

It used to be that when you wanted to talk to your friend, you walked (or drove) over to her house, sat down and had a long chat, or maybe you gave her a phone call. I know I have replaced that with texting and facebooking for sure.

I don’t want relationships to just be surface-y. And it’s hard to get deeper. It really is.

I could think of a ton of excuses of why this is hard for me and a lot of other young moms out there. Just the fact that most of the time we have our young ones with us when we hang out with a friend! The thought of getting out of the house and trying to squeeze in a few minutes of conversation between the mommy duties is hard. BUT.. I think it’s still worth the try.

And though those things are valid excuses I have used before… I have a confession to make. There’s something else that can keep me from have face to face conversations and relationships.

I think it’s my INSECURITIES. It’s so stupid, but so true.

Sometimes.. I am scared to have a face to face conversation because I have less control of how someone may perceive me. What if I say something without thinking and offend them (which will happen sometimes, I often have no impulse control)? What if I don’t listen enough? Ask enough questions about them? What if they ask me something personal, could I be vulnerable? What if they don’t like the way my house looks? What if they don’t like the way I discipline my kids? What if I hang out with them in person and they don’t seem to want to hang out again?

Am I the only one who goes through this ridiculous struggle?

Heres the part that’s been hitting home lately. God made us to BE in relationships. First with Him… but also with others. That is how He designed us to go through this journey we call life. And without other Godly women in our lives, we begin to alienate ourselves and rarely show our true colors (just our ones we post on social media.. the ones we have control over). I don’t want to do that anymore!

So here’s some ways I am going to try and fight this battle.

First, I am going to STOP OVERTHINKING everything. My social anxieties often start like this… A friend will share something, I respond.. but then comes the.. overthinking.

Here’s the dialog in my head…

“Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to empathize and respond with a time that happened to me too? Does that sound like I am just being insensitive to what they said?  Maybe I should have just listened and not responded? Or is it good that I replied and they don’t feel alone on that struggle?” Back and Forth… eek. Stupid, right?

This process of wondering and trying to guess what someone is thinking is a rapid route to feelings of insecurity and stress.

So, I am going to STOP overthinking.

I can definitely work on listening more and being slower to speak or respond. But, I also don’t want to be scared to be myself and say what’s on my heart.

Second, I am going to just DO IT. Just try my best to spend time with my friends. Even if I can only get with that friend once and awhile… make the most of the time we have together. And stop talking about things don’t matter when we get together… start talking about REAL things. Find out how I can support and love my friends better. I am going to stop just assuming I know how they are doing because I see their posts on social media.. and really ask them.. face to face.

I know my first priorities right now are my relationship with God, my husband, and being a mom (and my kids are young, so this is extra demanding). But, I also need to step away from my fears and insecurities and have some girlfriends I can love, be challenged by, and walk with.

Thanks for letting me share! Hope it made sense and maybe even encouraged someone else who struggles here…

And I am thankful for those friends in my life who have let me put this into practice (and who love me despite all of my weird insecurities.. haha)

prayers with my little ones

So, I totally got this idea from my friend, Shelly, so I can’t take any kind of credit for the creativity of it.. but I wanted to share because I feel like this has been an awesome thing in our home.

It’s incredibly simple too.

We just took some craft sticks… and wrote down people we love, causes we care about, places we want to support… and then made a stick for each one.

(The girls decorated them with markers for fun too)

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Each night before the kids go to bed they can go and choose a random stick (sometimes we do multiple) and they pray for whatever is on that stick during our family prayer time. It’s been awesome to teach our children (and ourselves) to think of others and be lifting them up in prayer. It’s so important.

Anyways, maybe it can be something you start in your home!

So thankful Shelly shared this with me.

 

replanted

So I have been doing this study on Tuesday Mornings called Loving God with all your Mind. It’s been really appropriate timing for me to learn so many of the truths in this book.

Something big I took from it this week is a concept she talks about… Blooming where you are planted.

She goes over the passage in Jeremiah when the Israelites were held captive in Babylon. And even though they weren’t home in the land God has promised… the text says that God allowed it for a season. He even went as far as to instruct the Israelites to live life, build their families, etc (Jer 29:7)… Bloom where they were planted. And when the time came, God delivered them.. because He has plans for a future (Jer 29:10-11).

But, it’s in HIS perfect timing.

I thought about life and how there are times when we are in jobs, relationships, trials that aren’t quite where we thought we would end up. Or maybe you just had a big life change recently… and it’s hard to understand why God allowed it. Why did He uproot you?

I don’t really know the answers.

Maybe it’s to grow our faith. Maybe it’s to prepare us for what’s next. Maybe it’s to draw us closer to Him. And maybe it’s just for a season (like the Israelites).

But I do know that just because things have changed or we are in a different situation, doesn’t mean we can’t keep growing and flourishing.

We have a lot of fruits and veggies growing now in our backyard. And I am not an expert gardener, but I am getting better each year. Haha.

Often times we grow our food from seeds, so they start out in a smaller container. Then when they are mature enough, we uproot them and put them in a larger pot or box. Sometimes, this process will happen a couple times before a plant is mature enough to go in to the ground where it will permanently be.

Maybe it’s true with us too? God uproots us and changes everything we know so that we can have an opportunity to grow bigger, deeper, and eventually bear more fruit. But it is all with the intention of preparing us for the future. For the place he wants to plant us to be.

My hubby and I have had a passion for adoption for a few years now. And originally our desire was to adopt from a country we love so much, Haiti. After this last trip in March, we felt like we needed to make a move and get the ball rolling. But, as I started to contact agencies and heard no after no (there is a 2 year waiting list for adoptions right now because agencies have reached their small quotas). I became discouraged. Why would God put a burden in our hearts specifically about this country and then keep closing the door? So again, we are in a season of waiting.

I am not sure why, honestly.

But I do know that God has given us these burdens for a reason. And just because we can’t adopt right now from Haiti, doesn’t mean that we can’t still love on the people of this country. We can support from here. We can do what we can to raise awareness for the half a million orphans that live in the country. We don’t have to just be still.

And we can continue to seek God and what His desires are for our family. And trust that changes to our plans… may just be a chance for us to grow and prepare us for HIS plan.

And for fun.. here are a couple pics from the backyard…

 

Carrots

IMG_3439 unnamed-11 unnamed-10 unnamed-12 unnamed-8 unnamed-13 unnamed-9 unnamed-7 blackberries

 

 

 

unstuck

I went back and forth on whether or not to write this post today. But, I feel I have learned so much recently and I am hoping these truths speak to you as well.

I have been a member at Grace Fellowship since I was in 6th grade (so let me do the math)…. that’s 18 plus years.  I love this church. This is where my children go to school. This is where my husband works. This is where many of my dear friends are. This is where my family is. I love serving here. I love worshipping here. I love learning here. It’s my community.

Our church has gone through some major transitions the past couple years. One major one is the search for a new senior pastor. (Our previous pastor felt a calling to pursue church planting full time with The Timothy Initiative).

This morning we found out that the man we thought was supposed to be our next pastor is feeling led in a different direction now. It was discouraging to hear that at first. Our entire body was pumped that we were going to have that role filled and now it seems we are back at square one.

Immediately I started to fear how everyone was going to react. I thought of our elders and leaders who have been trying to keep the church running these past years and how discouraged they must feel. I started to worry that many attenders were going to leave our church and go somewhere else. I even wondered if some people were going to give up on church in general.

I actually got so upset about it, I find myself in tears. And while I am so happy that the pastor did what he felt he needed to do (we would never want someone here that doesn’t feel called to be here), it still was sad for some reason.

I think it’s because I felt like we were just stuck.

Then.. God laid something on my heart… a verse I had read earlier this week (it’s funny how He does that).

It was from Hebrews 10:24-25

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” 

I thought about our church and it’s current situation. While we still need to praying fervently for our Senior Pastor role to be filled with the right man, we don’t have sit still. We don’t have to be stagnant. We don’t need to be just “waiting” to do what God has called his body of believers to do.

A church is not built on a pastor or a man (and thank God, because we as humans are flawed).  A church is a community of people who want to grow, fellowship, worship, and serve our Heavenly Father. It’s God’s church.

I have talked with some people recently who have decided to withdraw from “organized religion” or perhaps they find themselves going to several churches simultaneously, 0r they still attend our church (but they just come to service and leave). In doing so, they’ve adopted a “just Jesus and me” approach to the church. But that’s not Biblical. (And disclaimer, this is not a slam to anyone who has decided to change churches at some point in their life. I think there are times when that is needed, so please don’t misunderstand)

I am not really talking about “where” you go… I am talking about us needing to be consistently fellowshipping with a local body of believers. Getting to know others and allowing them to truly know you back. Create vulnerability and accountability. Confessing to one another. Really learning to love and serve each other. That’s how we make the greatest impact on each other and on the world!

God designed us to live that way, so just like that verse said lets continue to meet, encourage, and build each other up.

Maybe God is also using this time to lead some of us to step up. If you see there is a need for a ministry, step up and lead it! God gives us all different gifts. Maybe He is calling you to use yours now.

My hubby and I started a small group for young families a couple years back. We aren’t the most qualified.. and we definitely haven’t done a perfect job by any means… but we felt there was need for it. I am so glad we took that step of faith, because those relationships are some of the most precious ones we have in our lives.

God is in control and has a plan, no doubt. And one of my favorite verses in 2 Corinthians rings true during this time…

2 Corinthians 4:17

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”

Praying that this time will produce a huge growth for our church and also for each of us personally.

I know I have already learned so much through this experience.

fast

Life’s being moving fast lately.

I haven’t had a chance to spend much time on here lately… But there has been so much going on I want to share!

I have a couple posts in the work…

– texting and driving = no bueno (yes, we got hit last week… car accidents stink)

– kitchen and bathroom remodel (we had a leak in the wall… eek, so had to renovate… haha)

– adoption in haiti (an update on our desires and the process)

– backyard garden update

so stay tuned…

A couple pics for fun…

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privilege and poverty

I have been reading the study called “Interrupted” by Jen Hatmaker. It’s totally rocking my world. (Thanks to my sis-in-law for sharing it with me)

In the book, she gives many statistics about the oppressed, impoverished, and those who can’t help themselves.

I feel like I can’t stop thinking about the stats… So I thought I would share some of them with you as well.

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Of the six billion people on planet Earth, about 1.2 billion live on 23 cents a day. 

Half the world lives on less than $2.50 a day

The wealthiest 1 billion people average $70 a day (where does that place us? In the upper, upper category). In fact, if you make $35,000 annually, you are in the top 4%. $55,000? You are the top 1%.

Someone dies of hunger ever 16 seconds.

Twenty-two million people died of PREVENTABLE diseases last year. Half of them children.

Twenty-seven million children and adults are trapped in slavery (sex slaves, labor slaves, child soldiers, child slaves). In fact there are more slaves now than ever before.

More than 143 million children in the world have been abandoned or orphaned. That’s equivalent to more than half of the US population.

In the last hour….

    More than 1600 children were forced on to the streets.

    At least 115 children have become prostitutes

    More than 66 children younger than 15 were infected with HIV. 

Roughly one billion people in the world do not have sustainable housing. 100 million… they are entirely homeless.

While forty percent of the world lacks basic water sanitation (which leads to death, sickness) Americans… we spend more than $16 billion dollars on bottled water a year.

We spend more annually on trash bags than nearly half the world spends on their entire goods.

Four out of five children work everyday worldwide instead of going to school; four out of five Americans graduate high school.

Eight percent of the rest of the world owns a car, one third of American families own three cars.

Close to 40 million people die every year from starvation, disease, malnutrition… while 65 percent of adults and 15 percent of children in the US are overweight or obese.

The USA makes up only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we use 25 percent of the world’s oil. 

 

Mind blowing right? Convicting? Yes.

Now, I am not just saying these things to make us all feel guilty and depressed. I am sharing them because many of these stats I didn’t know! I wish I did. I wish I cared to know them more.

Just the past few weeks I have been praying that God would fill my inbox with newly engaged couples looking for a wedding photographer. And, that isn’t a bad thing to desire. But.. why did I feel worried or stressed about getting new business? Because I wanted to make a little extra this year to put away for a new car… and pay off our homes… and make sure we can retire comfortably… etc, etc. Those things aren’t bad. (and I am not saying that being a good steward of your finances and saving to provide for your family’s future is wrong). But, how often am I concerned about having enough? How often do I find myself buying in to a prosperity gospel and telling myself that God wants to bless us… and blessing us means having nice things right?

You know what I think God wants.

I think He wants… wait, I think He EXPECTS those of us (whom He has blessed beyond belief no doubt) to start doing something about the needs in rest of the world.

I am a Christian.

And I guess saying that here in the US can mean so many different things. Heck, when I googled it, it said that 70% of Americans identify themselves as being Christians.

I wonder how that appears to the rest of the world. We say we are Christ-followers (what the word Christian means) yet, we live in excess while everyone else cries out for intervention.

Did you know that there are more than 2,000 Bible verses that involve poverty, physical oppression and justice, and the retribution  of resources?

I think God cares big time about this…. just look at these few that I copied down…

Deuteronomy 10:18

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.

Deuteronomy 15:11

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

Proverbs 31:8-9

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy

Isaiah 1:17

Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

I want to follow Christ in this way. I want to be burdened about the things God cares about.

It’s one thing to say you are a Christian… but what if Christians actually started to live out our faith? If we really, really believed what we say we do… our lives should look different (me included).

Ghandi was quoted once saying, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

I am not trying to stand on a pedestal here and call Christians hypocrites. I am talking to myself here too!

Too many times I have heard statistics, even witnessed plenty of poverty stricken areas with my own eyes, I get all fired up and then nothing happens.

And I am not knocking Americans, I promise. There are many people in our country who give so generously… and not just money… their love, time.. even dedicate their lives! I am just realizing that we (me included) have no idea or concept of our own prosperity. Nor do we really see what is happening around the globe. Our view is pretty limited.

So now that we are getting an idea, what do we do with it?

Do we believe that God wants us to care about these things? Do we believe that God wants us to do something about the orphan? The widow next door? What about the homeless man on the corner? What about the social injustices in our country and world?

I think He does.

It’s completely overwhelming and you may be tempted to think.. “What can I really do? I am just one person.” I think that all the time. But, whether we realize it or not… God will use us in bigger ways than we can imagine. I know He will. I have seen it in my own life.

I am going to start praying… and I hope you will join me.. about what it is God is laying on my heart. I can’t fight all the problems in the world, but He certainly can. And I am ready to help in whatever way He has for me.

Thanks for letting me vent… and as usual, ramble.

I can’t wait to finish this book over the next few weeks.

I would love to hear your thoughts too… please comment below!