Truly Seeing

The holidays are over and a new year is about to begin. The stress is over, or should be soon.  Relax for a minute with me.  This is merely a collection of photos from the past year with the occasional thought of what I intend to do more of in the coming one.

Friends are where it’s at-

GrayC-Tom

Take time for golf, even if it’s in the median strip.  Drive your favorite car there, just so it looks like you own the joint. (I don’t golf, but there are so many carpe diem lessons here!)

Golfing

There is beauty around you, even if you have to crop the photo or change your angle to see it.  Morning light is always more flattering.

Horses

HankFlowers

Hens

EarlyMornBarryStreamTrainTree

 
Home

PipsOcean

TomSandcastlesHome is not a place; it’s where those you love are.

Enjoy new places, new things, and don’t worry about your clothes.  Some of the best moments of your life happen when you were willing to just do it and be there. The moment will pass far too quickly.

 BrenKnox

Take the photo, even when the camera seems to intrude.  You’ll be glad later.Butterfly2 Babies are beautiful, in whatever form they come.  All the hope and promise – ColtTree

 

Invest heavily, with whatever you have to give. Raelynn

Lifejackets

Look for God’s glory in the smallest things.  Sometimes it takes a camera to truly see what you were looking at.  And too often, even then, it’s only in hindsight you see the blessings of where you’ve been.

 

May today be the beginning of a new life with your eyes attuned to the glories that surround all of us.

OnionCreek

As always, my photos are copyrighted.  Please do not share them without my express permission.

Family Christmas Letter, 2012

Swim LessonsThis year, I wanted to get the kids involved in activities outside the home.  So in February, we joined the YMCA.  Tommy and Rachel initially took swim lessons and are now in a Homeschool Fitness class, which teaches a new sport each month and also refines their pool skills.  Tommy’s already qualified for swim team!  Their schedule has pretty much determined the rest of our calendar, because of the early hours and regularity.  Most of us try to work out several times a week, either with weights in the gym or lap swimming during the kids’ classes.

Michael presents his billThe older ones have become involved in the Youth & Government program through the YMCA.  Michael is a youth legislator, writing and presenting bills.  He did NOT want to do this, but quickly discovered that public speaking isn’t all that hard and was actually fun, especially if you get to dress up.  His bill was featured in the first newsletter and he is enjoying the feel, if not the workload, of being a nearly high school student.  Dave and Faith signed up for media, being everywhere and writing up everything that happens around them (hence, the highlight on Michael for their first subject!).  Faith won a distinguished delegate award for her role as editor in chief of the newsletter at their first meet, and all three of them were recognized on the YMCA’s Facebook page as being notable representatives of our team.  At the state meet in January, they will convene in the Austin Capitol building where Dave hopes to merit a spot on the camera crew televising the event locally.

Jon at work Jon began work full time at Walmart in electronics as they moved into a new superstore, quickly distinguishing himself as capable of accomplishing whatever needed done.  He’s really developed his people skills in just a few months.  As his schedule permits, he still runs the sound system for church on Sundays and volunteers his free time at the fire department.  Just this week, he assisted with a county-wide reprogramming of all emergency radios to meet FEMA standards of compatibility.  He is working toward EMT certification (still – don’t ask!) while he figures out where he ultimately wants to go and how to finance college to get there.

Editor in Chief FaithOver the summer, Faith had a great time visiting all major SoCal points of interest with Grandma and Grandpa Elving before flying to help Grandma and Grandpa Bryant move to Uncle Barry’s property near the Central Coast.  I met her in Phoenix and enjoyed a brief visit with Amy, Kolby and Mia over moving boxes and sandwiches.  Dave flew into Cali in time to unload the truck with us on the other end.  He and Faith stayed with Barry’s family to help Mom settle in and I started back home, stopping briefly at my mentor/best friend’s home in Santa Cruz.  I was greatly inspired to see the achievements of homeschoolers grown up and what they still had ahead of them.  By fall when my wayward teens returned, Dave had a more surfer-influenced style and an appreciation of clean cars; Faith came home with a Starbucks habit and a personal strength she never realized was inside.

Dave, ready for actionA long-awaited answer to prayer was braces for both Faith and Dave.  We probably won’t see their smiles again for two years.  Dave’s so busy with his senior year he wasn’t smiling anyway.  In addition to working out, Y&G, and core courses at home, he enrolled in Fire Academy, which will enable him to challenge the state exam this summer and hopefully get hired on at a paid department.

Bob and I took a much-needed vacation just after Thanksgiving to Ohio for his company’s Christmas party.  We had a great time all around, including visiting Beth and Paul and attending Bible study with them.  We left all the kids home “alone” with a tank full of gas in my new-to-me Expedition and some cash for expenses.  It was awesome to check on them Friday night and find that Jon had taken them all to the nighttime Christmas parade in downtown Lockhart and arranged for the younger boys to ride on fire trucks in the procession. Rachel waved from the curb with her favorite family friend.  Saturday they hung Christmas lights on the house and watched a Hogan’s Heroes marathon.  Sunday morning, they drove up to church early to set up sound as usual, and enable Michael to meet with his Boy Scout leader to sign off the requirements for his next level, the Tenderfoot.  By the time we arrived home later that evening, my truck and Jon’s were sparkling clean, dogs were fed, cat was medicated and all children ready for bed on time. Awesome.  I love my kids and the opportunity I’ve had be on the front lines of their lives, every day. God has done more in our lives through me teaching them than I ever could have predicted when we first set out.

Family PicWe celebrated our 23rd anniversary as a family this year by sightseeing around the Alamo. It’s getting harder and harder to get everyone together for a photo. I could just merge me in, if I had any clue how to work Photoshop.  But technology is Jon’s gig; I just take the photos.Me

Merry Christmas to all our dear friends and family!

Defiantly Definite

“Definitely” is one of my favorite words.  I’m a pretty serious gal and don’t “maybe” anything.   I like to define terms and think things through, no matter how seemingly trivial the issue.   It’s the little steps that define the path that eventually becomes the story of my life.  I need to definitely do it well.

So I chuckled at a “definitely” comment on Facebook the other day.  The writer intended to say that she would definitely check out the posted link further.  “Definitely” has to be the most commonly misspelled word on Facebook, so the presence of an “a” didn’t surprise me.  What struck me was that she actually said she would “defiantly check this out”.

That’s intriguing.

Have you ever defiantly done anything?  Oh, sure, teens are always defiant.  But rather than just sheer rebellion against authority, true defiance is a stance made in contempt of the adversary; it is an invitation to maintain my point in combat, if anybody dare to meet me.  That’s the gist I get from the three aspects of the word in my 1828 Webster’s.  Definitions make things definite.   Without definition, the rebellion is more stubbornness than stand.   Holding a hill you’re willing to die on makes defiance definitely heroic.

Maybe this whole thread struck me because I had just posted Tim Tebow’s public response regarding his “incessant use of Jesus Christ” in speech.  Tebow, who is the star quarterback for the Denver Broncos,  responded on ESPN that that’s who he is and why, and he wouldn’t shut up.  His relationship with Jesus Christ is everything to him and he would give glory where glory was due, every time.   That is a defiant answer.  And yet, while he drew a line and cemented his foot to it, he didn’t engage his adversary.  He just said, in effect, “Yeah – what of it?”  That’s strength of character.

It reminded me of something I saw my cat do once.  Kitty was big, as cats go: 22 pounds of solid, Siamese muscle.  But when my 85 lb. yellow Labrador ran at him one day, he didn’t flinch.  Right there in the driveway, he looked the dog in the eye and laid down precisely where he was.  My cat whisperer/veterinarian brother explained the body language to me:  essentially, he’s refusing to fight.  But he’s also refusing to give ground.  This is his real estate, and he intends to keep it.  The dog can stay and ponder, or he can leave, but the cat’s going nowhere.  There’s no use growling because Kitty’s said all he’s going to say.

That’s just plain awesome.  That’s what Tebow did, and where I want to be.

I can’t believe I actually thought twice about posting the letter.  What would my friends think of me?  Would they judge me to be a  fanatic, a Jesus freak?  My sanity broke in on my fears:  moreso than I’ve already shown myself to be? 

It boils down to one question:  Will I follow my Lord, or not?

What will I do today that makes any difference?  World changers don’t go with the flow and follow the 98%.   Scary as it is, I must defy the big, ugly dog that outweighs me fourfold and look him in the eye.  Definitely.   I must sit down and say, “This is not just what I believe, it’s who I am.  Take it or go home.”

I belong to the King of kings; I have nothing to fear.  He is also the Prince of Peace.  I will not make arguments or shoot every detractor down like so much alley cleaning.  I will simply follow the Man who’s proven to love me and love Him in return.  I will go where He leads me and stand defiantly, definitely on His hill.  I may find, like I did with the Tebow letter, that I don’t stand there alone.  That may not always be the case.   May God help the man who throws the first stone.

Remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee–it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee–it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument–it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; and if thou doest that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down – Iain Murray

She’s a Lady

Women, their interests, and fluffy stuff have never been my cup of tea.  Then I was told at the hairdresser’s last week that I am such a girly girl.  Whatever could she mean?  She chuckled something about my clothes, nails, and hair and how I enjoy them.  That I do.   After 17 years of being pregnant and/or nursing, either baby-fat or just looking it with my incessant baby slings,  I’m ready to be more than a spit rag.  I no longer dress like the poster child for durability and functionality.  All that time as “one of the boys” and then “Mama” has left me wanting to be a woman.  If I can pull it off, “Lady” sounds better still.

I noticed something right after “In the beginning…”  Woman is made of the same stuff as man and can take over his position if necessary.  Since living in the sticks, I’ve realized I am tougher than I thought.  Storms can pound and crap may fly, but I will still be here tomorrow to take some more.  The women who inspire me have an unusually quiet strength, never breathing a word about what they endure.  Trials are unbecoming to a lady.  As tempting as it may be to whine and complain, I must bear up under pressure gracefully, never besting her man.  I met a beautiful gal once who was a serious mechanic.  You’d never know it over dinner, though, with her lovely, dark red nail polish to cover the grease under her fingernails.  This is probably what sets a woman apart.  Men don’t cover their grime.

God pulled Eve out of man to be different.  While she’s capable of anything, she should not do it all, and what she does, she does differently.  She is the soft, merciful side of the equation;  she is Grace to man’s Law.  It is hers to bear the next generation and sustain this one, keeping home and hearth warm.   A “womanly touch” softens and beautifies.  He  provides security and incites fear in any who threaten their nest.  There is nothing to fear in woman but the withdrawal of her acceptance.  Most men will do anything to prevent that.

Yet, so many men show affection for  their ladies similarly to how they’d show affection for their brothers.  I remember watching a guy flipping his keys around his finger, slapping his new bride’s thigh with each turn.  Chink, chink, chink.  Stupid, little things hurt a woman deeply.  She (and other women around her) will read many intentions into that one thoughtless action.  It’s not the pain;  women will control their minds and breathe through the ultimate workout of childbirth.   I have never met a man who honestly thinks it would be no big deal to bear a child.  Childbirth is only the initiation.

A man’s work is done when the battle is won and the goal achieved.  He bandages his wounds like trophies and wears them proudly, turning to new pursuits and obstacles to conquer.  The woman now moves into the daily grind, covering over her scars and stretch marks as shameful and unladylike.  Her work of feeding the family and making sure the laundry is folded and put away is not hard work – it is merely tedious.  And far beneath her abilities, she is reminded too often.  Chink, chink, chink.  Childhood stories have left visions in her head of singing while she scrubs her floors, laughing with the children when they come in from their mudpies, and overlooking bootprints her gallant warrior tracks across the tile.  Nothing she does is special and couldn’t be done better by a maid, and she tends to forget that it is her very presence which makes the magic of “home”.  She sees so many areas where she hasn’t met the standard, and they pain her.

Her deepest desire is to be taken care of – cherished, as my mom would say.   She needs to be so dear to her man’s heart that she is restored to rib-hood.  She must know beyond any doubt that she is essential to the survival of the family,  appreciated and protected and held tightly when the nights are cold.  She can become stronger than steel if necessary, but prefers to be soft.

She is powerful and vulnerable all at once.  Fascinating.  That’s what makes her so alluring.

She’s faced the hardest times
you could imagine
and many times her eyes fought back the tears
and when her youthful world
was about to fall in
each time her slender shoulders
bore the weight of all her fears
and a sorrow no one hears
still rings in midnight silence,
in her ears

Let her cry, for she’s a lady
let her dream, for she’s a child
let the rain fall down upon her
She’s a free and gentle flower,
growing wild

–           “Wildflower”, by New Birth

God Provides

The drought is not letting up. I have never seen pastures lose all trace of grass and animals belonging to neighbors get so thin. I get regular emails from the horse rescue society about abandoned or donated animals that need help and there’s no room to take any more. The demand is high, and I have two acres lying fallow. Yet there’s nothing growing on my lot, either. I have nothing to offer.

Driving down the road today, I was struck by this cow. Well, I didn’t hit him, but the scene moved me. I live on the Chisholm Trail; this is cattle country. This is what it must’ve looked like in the post-Civil and Mexican Wars era when the men came home from fighting those battles to find their ranches blighted by drought. They just wanted to rest, but it was time to start the cattle drives. They had to get the cattle to market before they starved, because then the family would starve.

And just like then, God provided. While the economy sinks, my husband’s work has been steady. We’ve not gone hungry. And just to make sure we knew He loves us, He answered my daughter’s prayer for a dog of her own. We rescued a puppy that needed bottlefeeding, which was something my daughter had always wanted to do. This dog, which guards her night and day, gave birth to the answer to my prayer. I wanted a walking partner, tough enough to keep the yard clear of varmints, gentle enough for the kids to play with, and more devoted to me than to life itself. He gave me Jake.

The last thing we needed was another dog, another mouth to feed. But these two dogs have filled the hearts of the girls in this family when the outside world seemed so bleak. Often in the Bible, we hear Jesus say, “Fear not, for I am with you.” When the going seems really hard, and you cannot go any further, look up. For He is right beside you with a hand held out. For us, it looked like a leash – I don’t know what it will look like for you. All you need do is take it.

What I Do

A strange new light has appeared. I feel like this sunset that happened a couple days ago. Everything’s turned upside down and I like what I’m seeing, but I don’t understand it.

I find myself consumed by a need to organize. Now I’ve never been a messy person, but Grandma’s mantra about “a place for everything and everything in its place” just hasn’t worked in this small house. I didn’t notice until after we moved in that the builder apparently didn’t think closets were necessary. The inability to devise any sort of working organization scheme overwhelmed me. It overran my very being.

Until just the last couple weeks. Something, somebody, I don’t know what, inspired me to take control of my life. No more waiting for the world to come right. All of a sudden, I realized that the difference between what I see and what I want is what I do. What I do. Me. Why didn’t I ever grasp this before?

But something else is going on here. Cool gifts have come, totally out of the blue. My husband appeared last week with a beautiful, framed mirror which just fits in my entryway. A small stack of books from my favorite author came home in a discarded box. A lovely chest, the perfect size to house my oldest son’s treasures, was given to us just as he left. In the past, I’ve dreaded Christmas because I didn’t have space for anything more to come in. Now, each gift is so clearly from God and, like that mirror, brings new light into the dark corners of my world. That’s the only way I can explain it.

Is this God? You’d think, as a Christian, that I’d immediately spout grandiose praises of any blessings that come my way. I do know He is behind all this. But I’m human, too. I’m confounded by watching changes happen in me that I did not instigate. I watch the children get into yet another trivial argument and I want to throw up my hands and quit. But then I watch myself walk calmly over to them and handle them wisely. Who is this woman in the mirror? Where is her stress?

It’s just not there. Just like the toddler outbursts, it is disappearing before my very eyes.

Something else has become clear: even if what I do is small and insignificant, it is not worthless in the larger scheme of things. Every single positive move I make brings my world that much closer to goodness. And that is beautiful. It is the ray of light that originates with my Maker and moves out, one step at a time, until a glorious wake is left behind me, which in turn emanates outward to others.

I thank you, my beloved reader, for the ripples your life has washed into mine. They are no small part of who I am and what I do.

Godvision Goggles

My head has not been in writing this week. It’s been scattered, unable to concentrate on reading, even. Just as I convinced myself that I was hopelessly lost, we had a baptism and pool party with the church. The words that were spoken at that ceremony touched me, letting me know that it’s not all up to me. It’s not me that reaches out to God to beg salvation. Like a drowning man reaching for the hand of the rescuer, I’m merely accepting the outstretched arm of the one who sought to pull me from the jaws of destruction. He reached out first; I’m merely taking His hand.

That’s what I needed to hear. Sometimes it feels as though I’m sinking in a pool of my own making, and I have no clue how to escape. I pray that God would pluck me out and put me in a better situation. But Jesus said he didn’t come to take us out of the world (John 17:15); he came to give us a new perspective. He gave me godvision goggles. I can wear them on my forehead and look like a pro, but they work best on my eyes, protecting me from injury and putting the true hue on all I see.

The little stuff doesn’t bother me with my goggles on. They allow me to see more clearly than ever before what is going on around me and not be bothered by it. All will be well; I can relax.

But not too much. I still have work to do, and I must use my goggles for all they’re worth. So gently, as soon as possible, he puts me back in the water and teaches me to swim. First in a safe environment, and then in gradually more threatening situations, he encourages me to build strength.


I thank the Lord that He always girds me with the floaties of Scripture. As I gain facility with them and their properties become my own, I am enabled to stay afloat, even in rough waters.