Through Another’s Eyes

Sometimes, (or often) for me, we take what we have for granted until we see someone else admiring it. Nothings brings our blessedness into focus quite like seeing it through someone else’s eyes.

When I am feeling particularly overwhelmed, or tired, I will take a look at the photos on my phone or my Instagram account and get a reminder of how beautiful my life is. Being a very visual person, I take pictures of everything. Everything I see that is beautiful, interesting or of value. These photos serve as a fantastic reminder of all that is beautiful and valuable in my own life.

Those snapshots of daily life represent the love and beauty I’ve attempted to impart to my children. Like little treasures I’ve tried to leave lying around for them to find and appreciate. Whether or not they ever do, at least I know I have made an effort to bring something I value to them. What else can a mother do? Aside from loving them, protecting them, training and teaching. I was bent on showing them how creative God is and how amazing an abundant and productive life can be; lived close to nature and books was something I felt I needed to share with them. I wanted them to be deep and wide souls, not shallow little cultural graves of self- interest and small-mindedness with too much entertainment. So, they were raised on a ranch surrounded by what their mother deemed important. Right or wrong, I tried to capture what I loved and hand it to my babies. Mostly because I was a poor example in many other ways, coming into marriage and motherhood with few practical tools.

Recently I went ahead and printed out about 100 of these photos to make into a photo book to keep handy for myself, the children and our grand daughter. Nothing but good could possibly come from having a tangible and constant reminder of the lovely things in our daily life at my fingertips.

Life gets hard sometimes. It’s in the dark times, the valleys, that we need a reminder of what is good and true and beautiful. Being purposeful to jog my own memory is one way I combat destructive feelings. Sometimes if I’m pretty deep in a pit, I don’t have the presence of mind to start sorting through photos until it has gotten pretty dark inside.

Having a photo book that I can leave out on the coffee table or my desk as a reminder, an object right there I can pick up in my hands, seems like a holy weapon to cast truth and light on the darkness. Much like God’s word. I need that foremost, obviously.

I believe and have been told gratitude is the first step to happiness. Looking over at the non-staged, real life, every day images captured by the camera on my cell phone have the medicinal effect of curing my ingratitude.

Also I like the fact that I’m preserving memories. I have, like you I’m sure, people I love struggling with cancer. Taking pictures is a way to keep something of these people close.

We all comfort and pep-talk ourselves in different ways. This is one of my methods, aside from daily reading the Bible and prayer. What are your ways?

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New, Old & Whatever

It’s almost a New Year. Time for a new notebook, a new Bible reading plan, and a time for setting a few goals. Like lose 30 lbs. I’ve recycled that goal for a few years now. I don’t often accomplish all of my goals anymore, but I have always loved to make them. I like a new start. A blank page. Usually because I feel the last one is sullied. It’s time for a new story.

I know many people mock New Year’s resolutions, but, whatever. I’m often feeling in need of a fresh start and a little turn of direction by the time the present year is ending and getting stale.

This past year has had it’s share of burdens and not quite enough joy to balance that out. There has been the conflict of relationships we all know so well. The loss of friends for one reason or another, has left me feeling pretty lonely. The slow crumbling of my marriage this year has been at first distressing, then depressing, and now just mind-numbing. I’m really preoccupied with other things right now anyway. Like the seemingly constant battle with keeping the faith and a positive attitude for loved ones and known-ones with cancer. It seems to be overrunning the human race lately. At least in my circle. I’m traveling today, crossing the snowy mountains to support someone I love very much in that battle. Cancer is mean. Nasty.  I hate it. I love so many people who have to deal with it, I can’t bury my head on that one, unlike the marriage thing.

I’ll be glad to see 2017 go. “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out” sort of glad. It was a demoralizing year.

2018 doesn’t scare me. There’s enough promise of good to excite a little anticipation for 2018. I feel we might be on friendlier terms than 2017, which wasn’t particularly good to me. Except that I did find out I have another half -sister, and the bonus of an uncle and two aunts. These are siblings of my father, a man I never got to know. 2017 did bring me those relationships, as well as pictures of my dad, which I have never had before. What a relief to have even one, but I have several now. He was beautiful. So, there’s that.

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So, I leave 2017 in the dust, grateful for a few things, and shaking off  quite a bit more.

A new attitude, and new resolve. I know I’ll need it, as my people still have cancer, and my kids still have their struggles, my neighbors still have troubles, my marriage is still on it’s last leg, but my God is still present. I know that I will face hard things this year, like you will. We all do. But I hope I’m going in to face it all strengthened, with more wisdom, resolve, and a little stronger faith to get me through. Hopefully something nice will happen. Maybe some lovely surprise, some beautiful inspiration. We all need hope. Something to look forward to can keep you going when it’s all looking pretty bleak.

Christians aren’t supposed to have those kind of troubles, right? I wish.

We still live in this nut-job world, and struggle with sin, lies we believe that tear us down, diseases, and emotional upheaval common to all people. I just pray as I’m wading knee-deep in the muck with all the rest of the shmucks I can do a little good for someone else.

Relieving another person’s burden surprisingly lightens one’s own. With Jesus everything is the opposite of what makes sense. Helping someone helps me? Yep. About the time I feel I’m drowning in misery and self-pity, if I can just reach out a hand to someone else I’ll save myself. Not by dragging them down here with me, but somehow it lifts us both up out of the ditch. Super natural. That’s one of my favorite things about Jesus. He’s always doing the unexplainable in the unsuspecting. So, I’m definitely on the look out for what He’s going to be up to in 2018.

I leave 2017 with a broken over right before Christmas dinner needs to be prepared, a broken dishwasher, two broken pellet stoves and a cold house, and a few broken relationships. Bring on 2018, I think I’ll kick it’s butt. After all, I’ve been watching YouTube videos on make-up and skin care for older women. I have all I need to know, right?

What about you? Glad to see the back of 2017 or sad to see it leave?

 

Fire Road

The Napalm Girl’s Journey through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness, and Peace

Who doesn’t remember or has at least seen this iconic photo of Kim Phuc (pronounced fook) Phan Thi running naked down a dirt road in Trang Bang, peeled skin hanging off her arm? Her clothing and skin literally disintegrated off by napalm.

She was so much in the media over the years, and even used in communist propaganda that her true story isn’t as well known as her photo and the propaganda fueled by it. She despised this photo growing up because she felt robbed of an education due to it’s existence. In the end though, God used it to make a way for better things than higher education.

It turns out this astounding woman, left for dead 3 days in a morgue after this shot was taken and she was rushed to a hospital, has survived not only napalm burns over 1/3 of her body, but a hopeless life in communist Vietnam, then Cuba before she was freed by defection. But it still took years for her to find freedom and wholeness for her soul. Living daily with agonizing pain, told she would never bear children, and abused and handled by communist “minders” forcing her to tell media lies for the government, she considered suicide. Seeking strength in a false religion helped her not one bit. If anyone ever tried to work out their salvation and get some relief, it was Kim in CaoDai. (pronounced cow die)

This story was engrossing, and beautifully told. Kim had to learn to forgive to find true freedom. Remarkably, out of war, came a message of peace. The thing really brought home in Kim’s story is that God really does use all things for good. Including being left for dead in the morgue when she was a child.This was one of the bitterest wounds she carried well into her adult years. When you read Kim’s story you go on a faith journey with her, and it’s an intense ride.  So much more happened than what that one picture portrays. At the end of the journey you see the way to peace and how much power the love of Jesus really does have in our lives if we embrace Him.

In this book, Kim gets to tell her own story through her own words. God’s faithfulness shines through the haze of rubble and smoke, crosses the borders of various countries, and  eases the pain of scars bore on the physical body but more so on the human soul.

This is a book you don’t want to miss. We all have struggles and our own “Fire Road” to walk, if we take a leaf from Kim’s book we can walk with more wisdom and grace.

I thoroughly recommend this book for a thought provoking and faith building read.

Go to Tyndale Publishers for an excerpt and videos

*I was given a free copy of this memoir in exchange for an unbiased written review. all opinions are my own.*