Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I've been reading... Redeeming Love.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

"When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, 'Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.' So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son." Hosea 1:2-3 NIV

Over the past few years, several friends have recommended that I read the book Redeeming Love. I will admit that the 400+ pages is a bit intimidating. :) But, the last time I was at the library, I saw the book and felt compelled to check it out. God has this beautiful way of leading me to read certain books along the way... at just the right time... often preparing me for things I have yet to be aware of. This book was no exception. I will also add that Francine Rivers is a very gifted writer. When she became a Christian later in her life, she allowed God to use her writing as a means of sharing the truth of God's love.

Redeeming Love is an intense, heart-wrenching story based on the book of Hosea in the Bible. It is the story of a godly man, Michael, who follows God's leading to marry a woman to rescue her from the brothels and her life of prostitution. It is a beautiful depiction and parallel of God's relentless love and pursuit of us, despite our rebellion and sin. From the beginning of the book, my heart was broken over the affects that prostitution had on the main character of the story, Angel. She was sold into prostitution at the age of 8. The descriptions of her conditions and treatment were graphic and unthinkable. I was given so much perspective into the lives of women and children who are involved in prostitution and sold into sex slavery. Throughout the book, God broke my heart to the point of tears several times over these precious girls. A life of sex slavery affects a person long-term more than we could realize- feelings of inadequacy, guilt, shame, the suppressing of emotions, and so much more.

Michael loved Angel unconditionally, forgiving her for her past, as well as each time she ran away from him and back to her life of prostitution. He portrayed so many characteristics that a woman desires to find in a husband: quiet strength, courage, righteous anger, unconditional love, selflessness, gentleness, hard worker, provider, sensitive to God's leading, person of prayer, etc. The more I thought about these characteristics, I realized that the reason they are so important and so attractive is because a person who possesses these qualities looks so much like Jesus. "Everything Michael did had purpose." So like Jesus.

Michael loved Angel like Jesus, even though her heart was so far from Him. But, the journey of her life was God's relentless pursuit of her, using people and situations to point her to Him. Only God could fill the void in her heart, remove her loneliness, and give her life purpose. Michael desired for Angel to embrace her new freedom that resulted from his love.

In the same way, God pursues our hearts all the days of our lives. Even when we sin against Him and do our own thing... He still pursues us. He places people and situations in our lives to draw our hearts to Him. The very thought leaves me in awe. What a wonderful God. There is no person who is beyond the reach or grace of God. We cannot give up on people. He never gives up on someone; He never gives up on us. "Oh, God, it's not the way I planned. But then, what of real, lasting value ever is?"

This book was very intense... I would honestly not recommend it for someone younger than myself because of the graphic content... and it would probably be better for someone who is married. My life has been changed because of this book. And, with knowledge and awareness comes great responsibility. I am not exactly sure what God wants me to do with this knowledge, but I will be sensitive to His direction moving forward. I have been left in awe of God's love and pursuit. He truly does restore, heal, and give our lives purpose. I am excited for God to use me in this process in other peoples' lives. If you choose to read this book, ask God to give you an open heart for how He would desire to change you because of it.

"Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them." Hosea 14:9 NIV

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

my sister wrote a book. :)

Well, hello there! :) It has been so long since I have blogged that it's embarrassing! Really. Truly. My. my. my. what a year it has been so far. The photography business is as busy and blessed as ever. But, I wanted to write this little post to brag on my sister. :) She just released her first (of which I believe to be many) book called Smart Work U. I couldn't be more proud of her. If you or someone you know will be going to college in the near future, this book is for you! You will read about her experience of graduating with her Bachelor's degree in 2 1/2 years, debt free... and completing her Master's degree (MBA) in the same month that she turned 22. WOW. The book is packed with helpful information and tips on everything from personal finance to how to deal with your roommate. A must read! Here are some ways to find out more about her book and how to purchase a copy.

In addition, Hona is currently an adjunct professor for two local universities. She loves it and has definitely found her "sweet spot". :) She is on such a fun journey. Yes, a LOT of hard work, but it will be exciting to see what is next!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I've been reading...

I recently finished reading this book by Lisa Bevere. My "unofficial" goal this year is to read one book a month. I know it's not a huge goal, but I think it will be "workable" for me. :)

A friend let me borrow this book, so I was anxious to read it. I'm not one to think in terms of "woman power" or "I am woman, hear me roar." So, I didn't know what to expect from the book. Lisa Bevere is a very gifted communicator, leader, and strong woman of God... for which I have great respect for her... as well as her involvement in rescuing girls from sex trafficking around the world. This book was written with great confidence and conviction... more than I have been accustomed to reading.

Lioness Arising parallels a woman's life with that of a lioness... based on the vision the Lord gave Lisa. There are very vivid descriptions of the life of a lioness and her role in the wild. It is a fresh perspective of how we should view our role in the Church- as daughters of Christ. Lisa discussed the different roles and characteristics of a woman's life from inner strength to living strategically to nurturing/protecting to rescuing in the darkness... as well as what it looks like to be fully awake/alive to the life around you. She touched briefly on the prophetic role of dreams and visions. She used a lot of Scripture all throughout the book to support her writing... and included personal stories from her travels, especially of interactions with ladies involved in sex trafficking.

Here are some of my favorite passages from the book:

"If ever there comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of mankind, it will be a force such as the world has never known." -Matthew Arnold

"Here is some of what I know of heaven's daughter: She is lovely, intelligent, and capable. Her life is connected rather than isolated. She is loved by God and hated by Satan. She is oppressed worldwide by both subtle and obvious means. The question remains: what might she be collectively if she was supported and strategic?" -Lisa Bevere

"The lion invites the lioness to rest in the shadow of his protection, and she invites him to feast on the goodness and promise she brings. He protects her life, and she in turn give him legacy." - Lisa Bevere

Friday, January 7, 2011

Living + Learning in 2010.

my family. christmas 2010.

Lessons Learned in 2010

I decided I would again keep a list of life lessons I learned throughout the year by personal experience or the observation of others. I had no idea I would learn so many things. :) Some are funny… some are serious. It ‘s always best to learn from others so that you don’t have to learn the hard way. This is worth reading… I hope you can grab a couple of them to take with you and apply to your life. I have by no means mastered them… still on the life-long journey.

1) Tell your family how much you love them every night before bed and every morning when they leave… live is fragile.

2) Don’t give up… your answer could come tomorrow.

3) Just okay is not enough.

4) There is continual conflict between our human tendency to remain small and God’s desire to make us great.

5) God is more than enough… we must stop filling our lives with so many cheap substitutes.

6) ‘Bored’ is not a word in my vocabulary. :)

7) January equals lots of quality family time at home.

8) “The plain things are the main things.”

9) “Find out who God has created you to be, and be that person.”

10) Remember where you have come from or you will eventually look in the mirror and not recognize the person you have become.

11) Grab the hands of a few people, and take them on the journey with you.

12) “God has created us all so differently… if we were all the same, we’d all lose.”

13) Doing a bunch of nothings with someone is better than doing a bunch of somethings with no one.

14) Parents can train and equip you to fly then push you out of the nest, but God is the wind beneath your wings that makes you soar.

15) It’s so like God to make something out of nothing.

16) You don’t have to try to make everything happen on your own… there are people standing by… willing and ready to help you.

17) Invest in a good mattress and pillows.

18) Sometimes you must do the things you don’t want to do in order to do he things you want to do.

19) When you have hundreds of conversations for five hours straight, you will get a sore throat. :)

20) People are watching you… live a life worth following.

21) When you help others fulfill their dreams, you may actually find yourself fulfilling yours.

22) Thinking about people changes nothing but praying for them could change their life.

23) What seems to be the perfect timing for you may not be the perfect timing for someone else.

24) You must accept the fact that God might have a different plan than yours.

25) If you just roll out of bed and go to the gym as you are, you will see people you know. :)

26) Don’t overlook or push past the seasons of learning or growing or you won’t be prepared for the next season of your life.

27) For those who are waiting… time cannot pass by soon enough… for those living… there’s not enough time.

28) If you don’t think your life is exciting… do something exciting… simple as that.

29) Distance makes the heart grow fonder.

30) Thank God daily for specific blessings in your life, or you may take them for granted and feel like you deserve more.

31) There are people counting on your prayers.

32) It’s even more difficult to be a leader of leaders.

33) Don’t check things off of your “to do” list until you actually do them. :)

34) If you don’t want to/need to spend money, don’t go shopping. :)

35) The older you get, the less concerned you become with others’ opinions of you.

36) When you are full of God, you will not feel empty inside.

37) Never get out of the practice of leading people to Jesus.

38) Sometimes you do things just because God tells you to, then the passion for it follows your obedience.

39) Always take a watch and flashlight to camp.

40) Starting your day by thanking God for specific blessings you are thankful for will change the attitude of your day.

41) When you walk/run in cool weather, always wear something to cover your ears. :)

42) When you are doing a photo shoot- take your camera with you… it helps. :)

43) As much as you wish for certain things to change in your life- the life you are living may just be the best thing that ever happened to you.

44) We usually don’t recognize the miracle while we are living it.

45) God is bigger than awkward conversations and miscommunications.

46) You are only one part of the equation.

47) Take control of our culture of technology before it takes control of you.

48) Being busy is overrated.

49) No talent is greater than the favor of God.

50) Under promise and over produce.

51) Don’t answer phone calls from unknown or withheld numbers. :)

52) Don’t let one moment of failure keep you from moving forward- let it propel you.

53) Some things you just have to do afraid.

54) We become spiritually fat unless we are living out our faith and bringing people to Jesus.

55) I’m convinced that if we redirected the energy that we use to worry and think about ourselves… we could discover cures, rescue people, bring the lost to Jesus, change the world… just maybe.

56) Birthdays are very special and should be celebrated well.

57) Family is one of the most precious gifts that God gives us. Treat them as such.

58) No matter what problem you are facing, someone is facing a greater problem than you are.

59) Your hard drive will crash- it’s not a matter of if but when.

60) A sign of growth and maturity is when you respond better to the same challenge a year later.

61) We live in a culture that has never learned to wait.

62) In the moment when you feel like God has forgotten about you, He is really showing you how much He loves you by not answering your every prayer or desires with a yes.

63) Enjoy your beauty, because you will get old- woman said to me in the Barnes+Noble parking lot as she touched her wrinkles.

64) There are just some people in life that you connect with and feel like you have known your whole life.

65) I am a much more creative person because of my relationship with a creative God.

66) If you spend too much time on the urgent things, you won’t have time for the important things.

67) God is at work so far ahead of us, and when you get there, you realize what He has been setting you up for all along… and it gives you faith to keep walking into the unknown because you know that He is already there.

68) “If you’re going to risk and maybe fail, fail at something that matters. Fail gloriously so that even in failure lives change.”

69) We trust God to the extent that we know God.

70) It’s impossible to be a breath of fresh air to others when you are barely breathing.

71) God still speaks through dreams.

72) Sometimes leadership is the loneliest place.

73) God never forgets about what He has placed in your heart.

74) God’s heart is missions- from the hurting person right in front of you to the other side of the world.

75) Satan will do anything to make you doubt what God has told you, but God does not contradict His word.

76) Amazing opportunities come to those who are prepared.

77) Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

78) God tells you what you need to know when you need to know.

79) Ignoring a problem doesn’t make it disappear but usually makes it grow.

80) God is sovereign in His timing.

81) “God does not reveal Himself as limitless to limit us.”

82) “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

83) When you slip and fall on black ice, it really, really hurts.

84) There is no separation between secular and sacred. When working for the Lord- the secular becomes sacred.

85) The way you spend your time is a reflection of what is important to you.

86) A whole lot of significant things can happen in the course of one year.

87) Don’t be intimidated by people, because you will soon realize that they are just as human as you.

88) You may have to literally bite your tongue because you love someone more than you love your opinions.

89) It’s possible to be full of joy in the worst of circumstances.

90) With age comes responsibility, and it’s just the beginning…

91) Stop and “smell the poinsettias” at Christmastime. :)

92) Celebrate even the smallest of victories rather than focusing on the defeats.

93) Most things can wait.

94) A routine life can be detrimental, because one becomes comfortable when they are and more unwilling to take risks for the Lord.

95) With God, there are no dead ends… there is always a mountain to climb or a bridge to be crossed.

96) Sleep heals and restores the body and is thus very necessary.

97) When we see the reality of all the obstacles, it makes God look even greater when He comes through.

98) Life requires initiative.

99) Fun is an attitude- not an activity.

100) God is not confined to our realm of possible.

You can click here to view the lessons I learned in 2009… I think they are all different.

Hope 2011 is your most blessed year yet!

Happy New Year! :)


Friday, November 5, 2010

giving thanks. day 5. november 5.

Day 5 | Home
I'm so thankful to live in a beautiful home that has heat and AC... a place where memories are made... we can fellowship with friends... a safe place to come home after a long day... surrounded by beautiful scenery... and with lots of wiggle room. So much more than I deserve. And I sure love the people in it. Thankful. Here are some photos that show you what I mean. :)
christmas 2008
christmas 2009

giving thanks. day 4. november 4.

photo by: me | designed for life 2010

Day 4 | my church
I know that there are many great churches. But, I'm so thankful to be a part of James River Assembly... a church that is active, growing, changing, where the truth is preached, and lost people are being brought to Jesus. People are being raised up to share Jesus around the world... and there is active involvement in international missions projects and opportunities. I'm currently involved in the worship department and youth department. God is doing great things. I'm so thankful to be a part of it. It's exciting to live for Jesus. :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

giving thanks. day 3. november 3.

Day 3 | USA
Yes. I am proud to be an American. Despite all this country's shortcomings, I'm thankful to live in a country where I can be who I was created to be, where soldiers serve to protect me rather than harm me, where I can dream a big dream and see it come true, where I can read my Bible, pray, and go to church without fear of being persecuted, imprisoned, or killed, where beauty can be found from the atlantic to the pacific. Yes. I am thankful for this country. :)