Being Exposed, Finding Mercy

vulnerable

I had this trajectory in mind for my life, one where I’d gradually get wiser and more mature and more self-sufficient over time. I assumed that I’d age and develop all these great traits and that I’d need people less. Because, you know, I would have so much to offer people—and somehow that seemed to go hand-in-hand with being a pillar of self-sufficiency.

What I’ve discovered is that, yes, it’s true that maturity can come with more life experiences. And if one pays attention to those life experiences, there certainly can be wisdom gained. But it is absolutely not true that wisdom and maturity go hand in hand with independence. In fact, the opposite is true. In the Christian life, age and maturity leads to greater humility and dependence—first on Christ and second on people.

I first noticed my incredible need for others when we stepped into the world of foster care. We were thrust so far outside our comfort zones that I knew the only way we’d survive would be with the help of those around us. More than the hand-me-down clothing and more than the toys dropped on our front doorstep, we needed prayer. The spiritual truth of our fostering reality was that we were incredibly weak as we served children. In fact, I don’t know that we’ve ever felt weaker. Suddenly juggling the needs of foster children—and the many unknowns—we were also managing all the normal job, household and parenting duties as before. The need for others to pray, asking God for sustenance, felt huge to me. Somehow I knew deep down that I would need to ask for a lot, and thus I immediately set up a support circle who would pray when I asked them to.

A remarkable thing happens when people pray, and I can’t really explain it entirely because it still seems so mysterious to me. God listens. He engages, he dialogues, he answers. And in turn I’m drawn to see his hand of mercy in a new way. But when a need for prayer is opened up to an entire group of people, guess who else sees God’s gracious care? All those people. Together we’re drawn closer due to our communal neediness.

It feels really vulnerable to be the one asking for prayer. Sometimes I feel like a big burden when I ask those closest to me to pray for me. When everyone prayed for our foster kids, it felt easier on my pride because it wasn’t for me! How nice, right? If you know anything about my physical woes, then you know that I’ve had to ask for prayer time and time and time again. And if a large season of time goes by where I’m not asking, it’s because I’m not telling you something. That’s how many physical needs I’ve got going on—I need a lot of prayer. Each time I email a group of friends, it takes a huge dose of humility to press the send button. Deep breath in of need, deep breath out of pride. And in that need, God shows up. He shows up in the words of friends preaching the gospel to me yet again. He shows up in the acts of mercy shown to me by loved ones. He shows up in ways of healing that I’d never choose or imagine.

The trajectory of life isn’t one where I am full of so much strength and goodness that I never have needs. Rather, the trajectory includes my humility, which forces my knee to bow to God’s greatness and requires me to acknowledge the great depth of need I have in all realms. In this I get to see that God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good. And what a beautiful thing it is to see that goodness! I am sustained by his mercy.

Morning Sunlight on Roses

yellowredroses

August Photography: Days 20-24

r_24

r_23

r_22

r_21

r_20

From top to bottom:

Day 24. Dad, Uncle John & Aunt Carol (not pictured) tear out Dad’s back deck.
Day 23. Night light.
Day 22. In attempt to mess with me, Dad got in my shot. I’m using it.
Day 21. Jen shooting a chalk artist in conversation with a passerby. Haymarket.
Day 20. Cozy bed at last light.

———————————————————–

Shooting daily is… something else. It’s challenging. It’s fun. It’s tricky and it messes with your head. I tend to feel inspired for the first few days and then overwhelmed by Day 4 or so. By Day 8 I think I’ve given it all I’ve got and I encounter brief misery. And then a spark of inspiration flies and I’m encouraged to keep up with the project.

Is every shot in a daily photo challenge going to be a fantastic work of art? No. But don’t give up. Out of a full month of shooting you may have one image that surprises you, or three shots that are interesting. Or five shots that are frame-worthy. DON’T. GIVE. UP.

We live in a world of very short attention spans. When I notice that I *think* in terms of a Facebook status (I’m way too long-winded for tweets), I know I need to invest my brain in a novel. In general, we don’t persevere and we’re not willing to long suffer much. When it comes to art—whether you’re a painter or a photographer or a writer—you can’t give up. You have to make a million pieces of drivel to find the gold. Or maybe you have to shoot 30 pictures in order to be satisfied with one. I suppose that depends on how hard you are on yourself. The thing is, you need to continue to shoot. To draw. To paint. To write. You have to push past the voices that tell you that you can’t do it, that you aren’t any good at your craft.

Just keep shooting. As John Russnogle used to tell me all the time. (Thanks, John.)

August Photography: Days 16-19

r_19

r_18

r_17

r_16

Images, from top to bottom:

August 19. No Kids No Flowers. Okay!
August 18. Rainy skies.
August 17. Summer toes.
August 16. Quiet Sunday.

August Photography: Days 12-15

r_15

r_14

r_13

r_12

Images, top to bottom:

Day 15. Forgotten flip flops.
Day 14. Snack time.
Day 13. Lucky Charmies.
Day 12. Ripening Romas.

5th Grade, Day Two

A few more shots to please this mama’s heart when we had plenty of time to enjoy the morning!

grade5_day2_01_r

grade5_day2_02_r

grade5_day2_03_r

grade5_day2_04_r

grade5_day2_05_r

5th Grade!!!

And Livia is off! To conquer new lessons, to make new friends, and to glorify God by being the best 5th grader she can be. Lord, bless this kid today and all year!

The morning started out slowly. Turns out that the first day of 5th grade wasn’t motivating enough to move beyond turtle pace. (The bonus pic at the end reveals her true nature.) What that means in terms of photography is that I got STELLAR shots in the mad dash to get her to the right place at the right time. Ha! The win is that I got her to school. The not-so-much-win is the second pic below.

5th_02

5th_01

5th_03

5th_04

5th_05

I’m not really putting up a sleeping pic of my almost grown child online. Really, you didn’t see this. In a few years it may or may not still be here. But for today, ah… look at the sweetness. I couldn’t resist the tranquility and the light.

5th_sleepingbeauty

Memory Lane. For people like my Mom and Renae. :)

Kindergarten
First Grade
Second Grade
Third Grade
Fourth Grade

August Photography: Days 8-11

r_11

r_10

r_09

r_08

From top to bottom:

Day 11. Morning dew.
Day 10. Trampoline.
Day 9. Bookshelves at sunset.
Day 8. Waiting for Noah.

August Photography: Days 4 – 7

r_07

r_06

r_05

r_04

From top to bottom:

Day 7. Beer Cart Friday for a remote employee.
Day 6. Joseph, who scares the tar out of me every.single.time I walk past him in the garage.
Day 5. Self-portrait.
Day 4. Lovely piano.

August Photography

r_03

r_02

r_01

I’m shooting and choosing an image each day this month, with the challenge being that it’s “no kids, no flowers.” Sounds fun, right? Above are my selections for the first three days.

From top to bottom:
Day 3. Firstfruits from my tomato harvest. They are the sweetest little Romas I’ve ever seen.
Day 2. A black and white from the Detroit airport.
Day 1. A delicious salad prepared by my sister-in-law Jenny.