enjoy peace.

The past couple of years at the beginning of the new year I’ve had a word to focus on for that upcoming year. 2013 was contentment and for 2014 I picked peace. When I say I picked it, I really mean it picked me. But that’s another story.

This year we got pregnant for the third time. We enjoyed a super quiet spring and summer in our neighborhood. This is a drastic improvement over years past…no burning houses, no murders or middle of the night screaming matches within a 200 yard radius of our house.

We felt at ease in our neighborhood and happy to be here. We started our community garden and it actually grew a little.

When we started trying to have this third child I felt like the name should mean peace. In my head I thought it would be a girl and we would name her Olive (ya know, olive branch, a peace symbol).

Well we had a boy and it was evident as he was born that he should be Solomon. His name is derived from “Shalom” or simply “peace”.

The months leading up to his birth didn’t feel very peaceful in our household. We felt stressed, overwhelmed and anxious. I remember several times just saying to each other it will all get better once the baby comes.

The thing is, Solomon did bring peace with him. Certainly we all still have our moments but this transition has truly been easier than expected. His brothers adore him, he adores us and we have really been coming into our own as a family. We’re deciding once again how we want to live our lives, this time considering that we are a family of five. It’s been a good time to reevaluate our priorities and make sure how we are currently living matches them.

I started thinking about 2015’s word a couple of weeks ago and just felt like it should be “enjoy”. To enjoy the contentment and peace I’ve learned. To enjoy God’s good earth. To enjoy this wonderful life I’ve been given. To just be “in joy”. I want to be joyful and happy and optimistic and unfortunately that is often not the case with me.

Enjoy comes from the French word “enjoier” which means to give joy. Isn’t that cool, if we enjoy life we actually give joy to others. Everyone wins!

Do anything, but let it produce joy.
– Walt Whitman

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be at ease in 2013 {update}

We’re more than halfway through the year, so how is my “be at ease in 2013” goal working out for me?

Well, in a lot of ways, I’ve reduced and simplified my life and made changes that will reduce stress.

But, I’m not sure if that has helped my contentment.

I’ve been anxious and pent up recently some days seem like a struggle even though they shouldn’t. There are so many “what if’s” and “what’s next” right now that life has really been weighing me down.

With some self reflection I’m beginning to realize that no matter what our future holds, if I can’t be content, happy and joyous right here, right now, I will never he happy and content. No place, job or garden will change my feeling of discontent.

So right now, I’m praying and working on being happy. Being the true me I can be, the woman full of peace that I think is trying to get out.

I’ve come quite far in the past 7 months. We’ve eliminated junk and excess activities in my life and we’re praying about a new path that God may be leading us in. If I can just focus in on living a joy filled life and accepting God’s grace every moment of every day I might just find that secret to being content that Paul is talking about.

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seder

The word “seder” simply means order or arrangement.

We decided we would celebrate the Passover instead of Easter this year, which is a remembrance of how God liberated the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt.

Saturday evening Brad suggested that instead of a traditional seder with the bitter herbs and lamb that we should come up with our own foods that represented what God has done in our lives. The thought of it brought a huge smile to my face. I’m certain the ritual of the Jewish seder is beautiful but I knew that creating our own based on our own experiences could be awesome.

We decided to write down the foods and text that we used in our seder meal on Sunday evening. These are representative of our own experiences and are in no way meant to become ritualistic. Some of the foods we had on hand, others we had to buy. If we do this again next year we will most likely come up with an entirely new set of foods and text.

————

The entire meal was eaten without silverware. This was to remind us that God calls us to simplicity even when it makes things more difficult.

We served ourselves because God calls us all to be active workers in his Kingdom.

We then ate these foods in this order. Brad read the description of the food and then one of us would read the verse that corresponded.

We poured the drinks for the person next to us because we are called to serve.

Eggs – Because God is a god of life, and to celebrate the coming spring. The season symbolizes the promise of the new life that we have in Christ, on earth and in heaven.

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
– Romans 6:3-5

Shot – Because when life comes hard and fast, God is there.

“If the Lord had not been on our side—
    let Israel say—
if the Lord had not been on our side
    when people attacked us,
 they would have swallowed us alive
    when their anger flared against us;
 the flood would have engulfed us,
    the torrent would have swept over us,
 the raging waters
    would have swept us away.
Praise be to the Lord,
    who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
    from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
    and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.”
-Psalm 124

Lobster – It was slaughtered now for each of us personally, just as Christ perpetually dies personally for each of us. For some reason, sacrifice is a part of the world that God has given us. And in some ways, we each bare the full weight of the sacrifice God made for us.

 “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,  through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—  he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
-Roman 3:24-26

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world .”
-1 John 2:2

Rice – God is everywhere. Everyone eats rice. Just as rice is eaten around the world, so is God’s love available and evident to all the peoples of the world.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
-Romans 1:20

Malta – Because when life is awful, God is there. (Malta is a Mexican soda we had in our fridge that we find to be, well, disgusting.)

“People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.  The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 

“I baptize you with  water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with  the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
-Matthew 3:5-12

Hamburger – Traditional American traveling food – because God is with us wherever he may send us.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
-Matthew 28:18

Moscato – When life is sweet, God is there.

“Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.
 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.”
-Psalm 150

Carrot – God is with us now, he delivers gifts to us. Just as the carrot comes from the ground ready to be eaten, so God meets each of us as we are, and has purpose for us.

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above,coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
-James 1:16-18

Baked Potato – God will be with us in the future. Some of his gifts develop over time. Sometimes God’s plans for us are messy, difficult and time consuming. But he loves us and is faithful to his promise to reward us in the present life, and the one to come.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.   In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.  God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,  so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,  filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
-Phillipians 1:3-11

Lick-A-Flavor Popsicle – Just as the flavor changes, so God changes us. He is a mystery, perpetually the same, yet perpetually adapting to meet us personally.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and  knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”
-Romans 11:33

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how not to do it all.

* Note: I was a bit concerned about posting this because I don’t want to come off arrogant or ungrateful for what I have.  It is simply documentation of how God is changing our lives and my desire to contribute.  I do not know what is best for anyone but myself.  And even then only God knows my path in life.

There are times when I’m tired of being a photographer, tired of running a business and responding to emails and worrying about how many weddings to book for the upcoming year. I feel guilty about that.

Just a few years ago I was practically begging for more clients. More clients to expand my portfolio and more clients to supplement our income.

I’m at the point where I no longer need to advertise but this business seems to be weighing me down.

I know that God has blessed me with the talent and drive to take photographs. I don’t want to waste that.

God has also blessed me with two wonderful children who need raised.  I definitely don’t want to miss that opportunity.

I keep thinking that juggling motherhood and a business is too difficult. That something has to give and one day I’m a terrible business owner and the next a terrible mother.

People do this all the time, right? They work and raise kids and live good lives. But I’m beginning to think I need to stop comparing myself to others.

This winter the rhythm of life has been good. Really good.

I’m taking the time to make things again. To bake bread. To paint. To simply lay on the couch with my babies.

It feels nice. It feels right.

I’m worried that once my busy season starts to pick up again (in oh, about a week or so) that this relaxed and simple pace of life will vanish. That I will resort to eating convenience foods and spending naptimes editing just trying to “make it through”.

Is is worth it?

I don’t know. I’m beginning to think it’s not.

I want my place to be home. I want my job to be providing for my family. I want to waste less and spend less and produce more. That in itself is a big job.

What if…what if I could save us nearly as much as I earn a year?

Producing goods is rewarding and fulfilling. Producing money so we can consume more becomes stressful.

We’re turning our front yard into a garden. I vow to learn how to can our extras. I made a couple gallons of liquid soap from a bar that cost a dollar or two. Once our shampoo runs out I am going to try the baking soda and vinegar no ‘poo method.

I’m beginning to see just how much these small changes add up.

 “ But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you,  so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11

The enjoyment and satisfaction that comes from making my own things and earning my keep is truly unbeatable. Taking flour, yeast and water and turning it into a warm, crusty loaf of bread has become such a pleasure.

The Joy Project is giving me an opportunity to do photography the way I love it (photojournalism) and at the same time promote joy and kindness in the world. Win, win?

It’s so hard to go against the grain of our culture. To tell myself that it’s OK to be a homemaker. To put my business on hold for a bit in order to garden, bake and teach.

I know that life is not always enjoyable. There will always be things that we have to do that we do not want to do. But I do know that life is full of seasons and perhaps this is my season to slow down, raise children and consume less.