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PICTURES THAT POP

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Scott & Wendy

I LOVED getting to photograph this lovely couple the other day.  Really, it’s great just to keep photographing, making sure I’m growing, etc.  This place has certainly changed me, and I love how it personally comes out in my art. Because this couple has a lovely announcement to make

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This one’s my favorite:

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Follow their adoption journey and support them as they begin this new adventure!

And watch this awesome adoption video that made me ball like a baby.  “Family is adoption.”

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Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

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I didn’t even want to go that night.

We had already had our first bible study of the night, and as we walked to the second house, I found myself thinking of what I was going to eat for dinner once I got back home.  But, I remembered what I had read that morning, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.”  Unsure of exactly how to “offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving,” I keep walking because I want it.  I want to see the “salvation of God.”

We walked in the house, assumed our positions on the floor, and began the study.  It had only been about ten minutes when two new women walked in.  They motioned for us to continue, and joined us on the floor.  After we walked through Zaccheus’ story & talked about his immediate repenting & obeying, they started talking about things they wanted to pray for in the coming week.

Then she told me her story.  In her caste, when you get married, your family is no longer responsible for you, no matter what happens–even if your husband dies leaving you with two children and little income.  Her youngest son, the twelve year old, was staying with her mother-in-law–a home in which she was not welcome.  Her fifteen year old was staying in a hostel while she decided to stay with her brother and his family for a few days–she had already been told by her sister-in-law that she needed to be out of their house in the next two days.  Her only income was $55 a month, and no where to go.

And I didn’t even want to go.  Which made me feel about 3 inches tall.  So there I sat, 3 inches tall without the slightest clue as to what to say to her that wouldn’t sound completely insensitive, hoping to see the “salvation of God.”  But that’s just the thing–I don’t serve a God who doesn’t have answers, who is insensitive, who is perched on a shelf with twinkly lights, who has to be wakened by a bell in the morning, but One who DOES choose to use a single, young, white girl in the slums to speak to and encourage His own.

It felt like I was watching myself encourage her that our suffering, as believers, is not pointless–that the Lord is working in the darkest of situations–that He gives us hope and that we don’t suffer as the world does–I urged her to re-read James 1:2-4.  As she read through it a second time, her voice broke and the silent tears that had been threatening to spill over all night stopped her voice.  The room was bursting with emotion–and I knew that my response would set the tone for how this group would respond to this suffering as the body of Christ–through her tears she finished the verses that James, inspired by the Spirit of the One true God, penned so many years ago.

She bent her head as the tears began to freely flow.  How do I look this woman in the eye, me, a white girl with food in my refrigerator, a roof over my head, money in the bank, & with no idea of suffering’s true meaning in light of her situation, and tell her to “count it all joy?”  The tears began to well up in my own eyes as I see the Spirit through me take hold of her hand.  And as she looks me in the eye, I see her eyes shift in Spirit-led determination.  Her lips quiver and she begins to speak the words I pray I never, ever forget.

“I thank God that I came here tonight.  I give thanks for His Word.  I give thanks that I could meet you tonight.  I give thanks that we could study the Bible tonight and that we can pray together.”

In her obedience I feel her joy coursing and rippling through the room and its in this moment that I see His salvation and hear the One true God’s Spirit whisper, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me…”

And I didn’t even want to go.

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Joy to The World

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My family is pretty close, and crazy, too, but close.  See that’s just the thing, they’re MY crazy, and I love them.  Wouldn’t trade them for anything or anyone.  The Smith side of the family is sarcastic, witty, and extremely loyal.  They bicker and complain about each other, but they’re the only ones allowed to do it.  My mama’s side of the family is goofy, quick to laugh at themselves, and humble.  They have a fierce love for each other that is inclusive and welcoming.  Both families remain full of love and conviction in their own unique way.  I love them both so much, for so much of them define and explain me so well.

Being away from them during the holidays has been harder than I expected, missing the laughing til my sides ache, the new memories and stories told of older times, the new little bundles of joy being added each year to our family, the unhealthy amounts of food, the four wheelers, etc.  But it’s tucked away and woven into these longings that I find another conviction, One that rings deep and shakes the very Core of this holiday that has provoked such longings.

It’s crazy what all a year can change, for this time last year, I remember leaving Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters the morning after the Christmas party, winding through the familiar mountain roads, listening to Hillsong’s version of Emmanuel in tears, realizing for the first time that everything in my life had been staked on this claim: that Jesus Christ, perfect sinless God and perfect sinless man had come to us, condescended to us that our sins might be forgiven and our broken relationship with Him be restored.  Hallelujah.

Let’s take a step back for a second because I want to reiterate this point…the Incarnation. God, in the flesh, Emmanuel-God with us, the Messiah, our Savior, Prince of Peace, Yahweh, the One who led the Israelites into and through the wilderness, the One who created you and me–He has come! The One who would come to redeem His Bride, who would “deliver us from the domain of darkness and transfer us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son” has come!

My hope and my joy this Christmas season live not in the promise of family skype dates, or in seeing them in another year, or in new life seasons, or ministry “successes,” or in the job I have, money I make, presents I receive, etc, for my Hope and Joy are indeed living.  Even as distance separates me from those I love I am so beautifully reminded that the One who first loved me remains ever present for He made the ultimate separation in coming to us.  And the only reason I’m here finds itself in these facts, that I carry this beautiful message.

I wrote this last year, and it’s as true then as it is now, just with a little different experience backing it up:

“Even when nothing in me was bent towards moving overseas: It was the Lord sustaining me.  He has called me, He will sustain me.  He has sustained the call in my life to obedience, not me.  ALL PRAISE AND GLORY TO GOD.”

I’m praying for each of you that reads this post–that as you celebrate your own Christmas season that regardless of your proximity to those you love, that your joy, peace, and satisfaction lay in the One who “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of  a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”  He is so incredibly worthy of our praise, brothers and sisters.

 

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Choosing Thankfulness

  1. friends coming to visit
  2. lunch dates with friends
  3. graffitti
  4. seeing a Muslim woman and knowing she’s smiling at me through the eye slits in her burqa
  5. skype conversations
  6. singing old hymns in church
  7. finding wassail spice in our cabinet
  8. facing backwards on the train
  9. being able to read the langauge
  10. moments of being alone in worship
  11. national’s hospitality
  12. fireworks from the 18th floor
  13. sunsets from the 5th floor
  14. dancing on the treadmill by myself in the gym
  15. neighbors
  16. returned supervisors
  17. southern part of the city
  18. coffee dates
  19. new Shelly Moore cd
  20. AIR CONDITIONER
  21. my very first Haldi
  22. oovoo making group skype possible
  23. big coffee mugs
  24. working headphones
  25. my first South Asian wedding
  26. honest rickshaw drivers
  27. notes from my Dad
  28. encouraging messages from my sister-in-law
  29. candles that smell like fall
  30. playing with fireworks
  31. living in a city where rickshaw drivers have to use the meter
  32. yummy velveeta cheese dip
  33. “it’s like you stacked 50 trailers from the South at Christmas time 50 stories high”
  34. hanging pictures in my room
  35. gold glitter reindeer
  36. roomie fun night
  37. surprise birthday weekend
  38. instant muffin mixes
  39. coloring with the neighbor’s daughter
  40. neighborhood children ready to teach me the language
  41. laughter at seeing a man one-handedly riding a bike in the city.  his other hand? digging halfway to China via his nose
  42. wearing a sari
  43. Hymn 27
  44. seeing a local church pray over a girl who’s leaving to get married
  45. sharing chai with nationals
  46. laughing at my language skills with nationals
  47. meeting new friends in a new language
  48. an eagerness to discuss Spiritual things
  49. getting smeared with haldi
  50. laughing at the tumeric staining my white skin
  51. dancing
  52. mustache dancing brothers
  53. Mehek
  54. invites to homes for dinner
  55. Romans 8:30
  56. shared recipes
  57. playing angry birds with Jedu
  58. eating bhindi masala and roti with Lalita
  59. dry breezes
  60. living in the only place in the world where I can wear an entire outfit in the same color
  61. rose gardens on the side of the road
  62. fellowship with sisters in Christ
  63. being called an Auntie’s “beta”
  64. neighbors helping
  65. open windows
  66. practical jokes
  67. cleaned desks
  68. horns honking
  69. children’s laughter
  70. text messages from friends
  71. our househelper bringing us sweet potatoes from the village
  72. family recipes
  73. homemade pizza
  74. large cappucinos
  75. AWESOME weather
  76. polka dots
  77. sharing the cross in Hindi
  78. making jokes in another language
  79. Christmas trees going up
  80. only being able to find extremely loud obnoxious colors in Christmas lights
  81. Bible studies in other languages
  82. my mama’s handwriting
  83. team prayer time
  84. sharing pumpkin cheesecake with nationals who love it
  85. cuban coffee
  86. granola
  87. rugs given to us by a friend
  88. fall-feeling breeze
  89. open windows
  90. morning paper
  91. washed dishes
  92. “You’ve Got Mail”
  93. printed pictures
  94. beach visits
  95. Pav Padji
  96. little kids dancing
  97. wedding drums
  98. christmas music
  99. new friends
  100. sneezes
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Shave it for Later

Did you know that in some countries governments will actually pay officials to maintain a proper mustache? It’s true, you can’t make this stuff up.

Anywho, meet Ramone. At first glance you think, “Oh hey, another day, another mustache…” but at second glance, you’d see a-whole-nother world.  Ramone is one of a kind, and you can see from his staredown that he’s no stranger to the camera.

Word on the street is that he was the inspiration for a certain exotic dancer character in the recent movie, The Proposal.

So what do you think, guys? Celebrity status?

Meet my friend The Cuban.

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Esther, the Honeybadger: Part 4

“On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne room opposite the entrance to the palace.  And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand.  Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.”  Esther 5:1-2

After spending 3 days in prayer and fasting with all the Israelites, Esther finally acts.  Full of the eternal, confident purposes of the Holy Spirit, Esther approaches the King…her palms drenched with the sweat that reveals her nervousness, and she hears the condemning whispers around her.  Nevertheless, she approaches, grabbing the scepter leaving no more question as to the intent of her unsummoned visit to the king, and in doing so, a Greater, more Worthy King and His Kingdom was exalted.

Walking back through this study of Esther for my blog has brought fresh, sweet, needed conviction with each characteristic of Biblical womanhood that she portrays.  The fourth and last point remains no exception, for just like Esther, I wish to see everything through an eternal perspective.

This final characteristic in the Esther story lives not only for us women, but also for all believers as we seek to truly have the eyes of the Savior in all things.  Having an eternal perspective seems much bigger than being able to loftily talk about the doctrine of ecclesiology or your own missiology–but it goes much deeper and more personal–for how does one simply become eternally minded?

The answer, as in all things, remains quite simply, Jesus.  He IS the answer, and His Word remains that which always brings the convicting light of truth and love into our life that His Spirit uses to shave, squeeze, & purify.  Having an eternal mindset affects your response when you wake up and see that your roommate hasn’t done the dishes for the 3rd day in a row.  When eternity is stamped on your heart in the perfect lens of the cross, your attitude in the midst of every kind of transition, decision, or even just in everyday life happenings changes.  An infinite perspective saturates your thoughts when you’re tempted to assume the worst in someone else’s motives, actions, responses.  Eternity affects your tone of voice when speaking to nationals on the phone after a day and a half of trying to get an electrician to come to your flat (guilty).  Eternity affects EVERYTHING: your clothing, speech, our relationships, how we spend our time, our money, what we pursue, EVERYTHING, because having an eternal perspective means submission–submission to something and Someone much grander, greater, and better than ourselves, and that His plans, passions, commands are infinitely more valuable than anything of which I could ever hope or dream.

He IS the answer, and His Word remains that which always brings the convicting light of truth and love into our life that His Spirit uses to shave, squeeze, & purify.

By His Spirit, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).  The beautiful thing in this remains that just like everything in our lives, we must wholly rely on the Spirit of the Living God to do all things because walking by the Spirit can’t and never will be just another line on a checklist.  I think a checklist would be easy–full of its own self-gratification and pats on the back–but the Spirit remains wholly different and full of love. The way of love is different, and Elisabeth Elliot speaks of this difference in her book Passion and Purity,

“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God is of a different nature altogether. It does not hate tragedy. It never denies reality. It stands in the very teeth of suffering. The love of God did not protect His own Son. That was the proof of His love- that He gave that Son, that He let Him go to Calvary’s cross, though legions of angels might have rescued Him. He will not necessarily protect us- not from anything it takes to make us more like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.”

And so I wrap up this study on Esther, hoping, praying that you’ve been just as challenged and pushed–albeit sometimes reluctantly–to the cross.  May we be forever marked, changed, and sanctified by the Spirit and His work in our lives.  May our confidence live in the holy, faithful One, perfectly worthy of our lives and trust.  May the message we carry forever be spoken in the truth and love that its boldness brings, abandoning anything that would keep us from speaking it.

And may the One who chose us forever grant us an eternal perspective that echoes the words of 1 John 2:17, “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

May we be women (and men) who look not only to the immediacy of our own emotions, actions, thoughts, decisions, our relationships that in the flesh simply live to serve myself, but faithfully, obediently, being full of the Spirit, sift them through the lens of eternity in submission to Christ.

Check out Part One, Part Two, & Part Three of this series.

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