First Day of 7th Grade

Father God, bless this girl as she starts 7th grade! May many middle school blessings of mercy, joy, grace and perseverance be poured over her this year. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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All first day shots!

Kindergarten
First Grade
Second Grade
Third Grade
Fourth Grade
Fifth Grade
Sixth Grade

Poolside with Livia

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Laughing Together

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One of my favorite things in the world is to laugh, and I thank God for a daughter I laugh with on a regular basis. My mom and I can still get pretty darn giggly together if something strikes us as hilarious, and Livia and I have the same connection. A simple silly thing can absolutely take us down and pretty soon we’ll be wiping tears. It’s the kind of laughter that replaces sit-ups. Or so I tell myself. Come to think of it, I fell in love with Jeremy rather quickly because he, too, made me laugh. And he still does! In the middle of a serious life, laughter makes everything better.

Oh, Livia Raine. How I do love you!

For the Beauty of the Earth, For the Joy of Human Love

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I stepped outside to my back deck this morning to soak up some sunshine and warm up from the air conditioning inside. It’s my private little oasis, a bit of a secret garden now as our Rose of Sharon bushes have lost their minds and grown into gargantuan shapes. They are blooming—fabulous purple trumpets open up into pink blooms that feed everything from bumblebees to hummingbirds to hummingbird moths. The roses—hibiscus really—cover one corner and a healthy green maple towers over me on the other side. In between are succulents and cherry tomatoes, sedum and a butterfly bush and a few pots of herbs. And in between those items are WEBS. It is spider season, my friends, and I was only slightly ashamed of letting my small dog take down the first few for me with his clueless waltz onto the deck. I left the webs alone that were situated in corners away from my seat in the sun. From my viewpoint I watched them in the spiders in their homes, now a bit more wobbly in the morning, and hoped they’d catch all manner of little critters. All around me buzzed this incredible world. My deck. My sweet oasis in the sun. Though I’ve just returned from a lodge with a fabulous long deck overlooking apple trees and a deeply shaded wood, I have this privilege of coming home to a vibrant scene all my own.

There’s not a thing around us that wasn’t made, fashioned, orchestrated by our Creator God. From the spider’s ability to build intricate webs to the unfolding of the tiny flowers that face the sun on my front steps, creation has been designed by God. He put all the scientific forces into play, and when I open my eyes and really look, I see how fabulous this world is. What’s even more stunning to me is that God made human beings and that he considers them more important than these little bits of flora and fauna I’ve been enjoying this morning.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the starts, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas. 
Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

– from Psalm 8

A group of teens from church just returned from a trip to Guatemala. And though I’m sure they were surrounded by impressive scenery on their travels, they left the comforts of home for people, for the LOVE of people. God honors this work and wants us pouring out our lives for people. If he esteemed us so much, crowning us with honor and glory simply because we’re made in His image, then surely we need to mimic that. We need to care. On Sunday I was so impressed by the hearts of the girls who shared their thoughts about the Guatemala trip. Sure, this was their mountaintop experience (something many of us growing up in the church experienced after going to youth camps) but it was a significant one because God taught them something through it all. He graciously showed him how much He loves his people and that it’s worth giving up your money, your time, your security to care for others.

Just as there are women, men, and children in Guatemala who reflect the character of God, they are also here in Lincoln, Nebraska. They are in your town. As wealthy as we are here in America, we cannot be blinded to the hungry, the hurting, the lonely, the sick. If you’re a Christian, then you are called to love your brothers and sisters wherever God has placed you. Never be lulled into thinking that everyone around you is fine, that everyone in your city is fed, clothed, and nourished. It’s our job to care for others. Let’s continue to see people as the glorious creatures they are—creatures made in the image of God and esteemed by Him. Continue working for their good and by doing so you serve God.

Job, Essential Oils, and the Art of Listening

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I composed the rant in my head as I drove through the rain-splattered streets of Lincoln this morning. I AM OFFENDED, I wanted to cry. I am tired of being offended! And to let you all know just how strongly I feel on the topic, I was prepared to write a post explaining my position and drawing a line in the sand so you know precisely where I stand on this VERY crucial subject of… essential oils. Oh yes, I had a title and everything: The Luxury of Essential Oils.

But then more happened. The ache I’ve been feeling in my soul—the restlessness, the sadness, the weight and burden—was comforted as I listened to my very own words that I gave to a friend yesterday: Read Job.

I’ve read Job before. I have various themes—important ones—in mind and I cherish the book. But you see, the word of God is active. As stagnant as we know books to be, the Bible is not that book. It’s alive and powerful, it has the ability to cut right through your spirit and bring godly truths to mind. What was true when it was written so many years ago is still true now. You have to have spiritual eyes to see the spiritual truths, but if you are listening, the word of God will always speak. And it did so this morning.

I opened the pages of my Bible to Job and the scene was laid before me. You’ve got Job and his wife and all his children right there on earth and they all really enjoyed one another. They feasted and celebrated. Job’s sons and daughters and families liked to be together, to drink wine and spend time in each other’s presence. Life was good, the family was prosperous. Happy times. And then you’ve got another scene presented, only this one is in the heavenly realms. The curtains are pulled back on a picture we humans are simply not privy to and it kind of astounded me. (Sidenote: our daughter has had unsavory dreams lately, so we’ve been talking a lot about the spiritual realm over the last few days. Do ghosts exist as we think of them? I’m not sure, but I do know that angels and demons are at play all the time; this the bible is quite clear about. Followers of Jesus are on the winning side ultimately, but there is always a spiritual battle waging around us.) As it turns out, angels have meetings with God! WHAT. I don’t know if these are like your once-a-week staff meetings or if it’s more like a yearly gathering of the angelic army, but it happens. In Job we’re told it happens. And what’s even crazier is that Satan can just show up. So he does. He shows up and he talks with God in his conniving destructive way. But it’s important to know that Satan is bound by God, ruled by God’s authority, and it’s only by God’s permission that Satan can do any work whatsoever.

Satan is allowed to attack Job. And within a few verses Job is reduced to a mess of a man. He has lost all his wealth. His children have perished. His body is covered, head to toe, with sores and his soul is in utter despair.

He does not curse God.

Instead he worships. He is facedown in the dirt, reduced to mere shreds of the life he enjoyed moments before, and he blesses the name of the Lord.

The book continues and is an utterly fascinating tale of beloved friends with misguided words, Job’s grief and despair, and the God who sustains life from the first of days to the last. It’s a book worthy of your time.

So… essential oils? Well, I’ve lost my fire on the topic. But here is what I long for, friends. I long for the ability to dialogue about things we might feel strongly convicted about. As I walk into Job’s life and start seeing what God allowed to happen to him, and as I begin to read the kind-but-dead-wrong words of his friends, I think it’s important that we listen to one another’s stories. We need more of that, don’t we? When a sister is struggling, will you simply sit silently with her in the ashes for a week as Job’s friend’s did? When she says she’s in pain—emotional or physical—will you hold off from recommending an oil to cure her ills? Will you pause and simply hear what’s going on and will you pray for her?

Today we are so quick to judge. We’re so quick to want to proclaim ourselves as Remedies, Healers, and Wizards. We’re sure that we know the right candidate, the right health care options, and the right oils to make that pain go away. We’re fast to make assumptions. We know for sure that guy reached for the gun instead of holding his hands up. We’re the Judge and the Jury. We’re so wise that we’re the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches wrapped into one.

Or maybe not.

Last night before bed I jabbed two needles into my thighs and administered a drug I hope will allow me to walk without too much discomfort. Will you sit with me in my story? Will you come watch and see what God is doing with me and will you encourage me to proclaim “blessed be the Lord”? I hope so. And I hope I will come sit with you as you swath yourself with lemon oil and perhaps touch your toes with a poultice made from healing herbs in your back garden. Let’s sit together. Let’s love one another and sit together and praise God with whatever strength we can muster.

A Mom Moment

I enjoy documenting real life, so while I was shooting an everyday lunch at the Bradleys’ house I turned my camera to Maralee just doing what Maralee does. And this day that involved a routine licking-of-the-peanut-butter-knife, only now it was being studiously photographed. These shots make me laugh every time I see them.

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Uncle Steve & Aunt Cathy

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I love my aunts and uncles. Since we’ve moved all over the country I’ve never lived close to relatives for long. Currently the closest family is a solid day’s drive away, but perhaps that makes our time with family members even sweeter. When I’m hosting or enjoying a family meal I tend to put my camera down. But I’m glad I captured a few good moments when Uncle Steve and Aunt Cathy were in Lincoln last week. We love these two very much!

Summer Fruit in Morning Light

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There’s nothing better in this life than a perfectly ripe nectarine.

Oh, who am I kidding… I’m exuberant and have lots of feelings and lots of love so the statement above could be filled in with a number of adequate nouns. But I really do love nectarines. Their hairier cousin–the peach–is a close second.

Camp Redeemer 2017 {third & final set}

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Worshipping in a new setting has the potential to change hearts, and this morning’s service out at Camp Redeemer (Camp Solaris near Firth, Nebraska) was no different. The building is different. The people dress differently. We’re without the normal sights and sounds of what we’re used to. Instruments are different and acoustics are different. There’s no children’s church or nursery—that’s different! But God is not different. And our minds—now stripped of the things we’re used to—work a bit differently to route our heart towards the God who is Eternal, Unchanging, Righteous, and Holy. He is. And He is worthy of praise. It doesn’t matter where we are, we will praise Him because we love Him.

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Eternal God, Unchanging, Mysterious and unknown.
Your boundless love unfailing, In grace and mercy shown.
Bright seraphim in endless flight aroung your glorious throne.
They raise their voices day and night in praise to you alone.

Hallelujah! Glory be to our great God!
Hallelujah! Glory be to our great God!

Lord, We are weak and frail, Helpless in the storm.
Surround us with your angels, Hold us in your arms.
Our cold and ruthless enemy, his pleasure is our harm.
Rise up, O Lord, And he will flee before our Sovereign God.

Hallelujah! Glory be to our great God!
Hallelujah! Glory be to our great God!

Let every creature in the sea and every flying bird;
Let every mountain, Every field and valley of the earth;
Let all the moons and all the stars in all the universe
Sing praises to the Living God, Who rules them by His word.

Hallelujah! Glory be to our great God!
Hallelujah! Glory be to our great God!

Camp Redeemer 2017 {second set}

Me: Jeremy, remind me who won the Pork contest this year?
Jeremy: David Houfek
Me: [to self] And the Houkeks won Cornhole, too? Watch it, Houfek family! 2019 is gonna get real.

So basically the Houfeks won Camp Redeemer. Amy Lockwood mentioned she might work on a pork recipe this next year and I plan to build my own Cornhole game and practices shall be held in sunshine or in rain. Watch out, David and Nicole! And oh my goodness, I would like another helping of the amazing pulled pork served Saturday night. YUM.

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