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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Forgiveness. It's Not What You Think.

I have been putting off writing this post for a while.  I didn't want anyone thinking they knew/trying to figure out who this post is about.  So, I've waited what I think is an appropriate length of time - let's call it a mourning period.  Besides, this isn't about any one person.  Well.  It is about one person.  Me.  And my journey of finding forgiveness through Christ.

It is not in human nature to forgive.  Our natural tendency is to want things to be even.  If we feel that we, or someone we love has been wronged, we want it remedied.  We simply do.
However, as Christians we are called to die to ourselves, and one of the very real outcomes of that is forgiveness.
I've heard unforgiveness (my computer just tried telling me unforgiveness isn't a word - let me reassure you, it most certainly is) described as drinking poison, and expecting your enemy to die.  It's true.  When we harbor negative feelings towards someone, it doesn't affect them - they either don't know, or don't care about the offense.  The only person it is hurting is yourself.  So let's talk about how we can make our way to forgiveness and healing.

People are not always nice.  People who say they are Christians are not always nice.  Christians are not always nice.  So, what do we do when we feel genuinely hurt by someone, especially someone who is supposed to be a brother or sister in the Lord?  Because as much as we would like to think that this sort of thing doesn't happen, unfortunately, I'm here to tell you that it does.  Even to people in ministry.  Especially to people in ministry.

Last week in church, we were singing a "new" version of Amazing Grace, when it dawned on me, that in the same way that Jesus died for my sins, he also died for the sins committed against me.  I'm not going to sugar-coat it.  Sometimes there truly are sins committed against us.  Not just someone being rude, or snippy, not just forgetting our birthday - real, painful, biblical sins.  But how can we expect/hope for God's forgiveness in our lives, and yet begrudge it from someone else.  Because that's where I was at.  I didn't want to forgive, and I didn't want God to forgive them either.  I wanted Him to punish them.  Because that's how our society works.  If you commit a crime (and are caught for it), you pay the fine/do the time.  And while there are consequences for all our actions, God is a God of grace - to us, and those who hurt us.

I was being Jonah.  I was hurt, and wanted those around me to hurt too.  I felt like these people needed to know how they made me feel, and suffer the consequences.  But you know what?  While confronting someone for their transgressions is fine, and healthy, it still can't come out of a place of unforgiveness.  Or else the motive is wrong.  We have to forgive the person whether it is asked for or not.  Whether they think they've done anything wrong or not.
Because at the end of the day, we will all stand before God, and I would rather be humbled, and forgive someone who probably didn't "deserve" it, in my mind - even though I don't "deserve" forgiveness either - than have to account for harboring ill-will towards someone.  God will deal with the sin in someone else's life, in the same way he would with ours.  He WILL come to our defense, but not on our schedule.  We have to be willing to do the right thing, even when it hurts so bad you want to throw your hands up and cry.  

Because forgiveness is hard.  It feels backwards and unnatural.  You know the song "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word"?  I respectfully disagree with Elton John.  "I forgive you" - whether said out loud, or in your heart - is the hardest thing to say.

And yet, I'm saying it.  I forgive you for mistreating me, I forgive you for using me, I forgive you for hurting me.  Not because you deserve it, not because I deserve it, but because it is a commandment, and because if I don't forgive you, I have no business asking God to forgive me (Matthew 6:15).  I am being obedient, even though it's hard.  We seem to forget that following Christ means we WILL be hated and persecuted (Matthew 10:22).  It's not the lovey-dovey part of being a Christian.  It's the nitty-gritty, real life stuff.  It's the stuff that makes or breaks you.  And my salvation is worth more than holding unforgiveness in my heart.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fall Family Pictures 2.0 - 5 New Tips On What To Wear, What To Do

Fall is my favorite time of year, for many different reasons, but one of them is: family picture time!!!
After our pictures turned out beautifully last year, I wrote Fall Family Pictures: 5 Tips on What To Wear, What To Do.  This year, the stakes were even higher - since we were having pictures taken for our prayer cards, since we are becoming missionaries, and although I didn't think it was possible, our pictures turned out even prettier!  
I didn't want to repeat myself, so here are 5 NEW tips on what to wear, and what to do for you family pictures:

1. Combine Textures and Layer
I got a little more brave this year about what textures we used, and it's actually thanks to Dan.  He picked out his outfit first, and asked if I could come up with anything to compliment it for our pictures.  I was just excited that he came up with such a great outfit!  He chose a really nice burgundy button-up, navy knitted sweater and khakis (all from Abercrombie and Fitch) - which was actually genius.  Whenever you wear layers, it then adds layers to the textures, which makes for a more interesting and inviting pictures.  I wore a beige knitted top (Old Navy), with a white crochet knit top (Solitaire) and burgundy cardigan (Old Navy) and navy skinny pants (Max Jeans).  Aidan wore an adorable burgundy and navy printed white button-up with a burgundy bowtie and jeans.

2. Trust Your Photographer/Hire a Professional
This is our third time having our pictures taken by Hillary at Southern Sisters Photography.  We absolutely LOVE her, and highly recommend her!  She hears what you want, and does excellent work!  We always feel really comfortable around her, which is a huge bonus with kids.
So, find a photographer you love, and then trust them.  They know what they're doing.  Here's a great example of photographers knowing their stuff:

The photo on the left, is what the shot looked like before editing, and the one on the right is what it looked like after she edited it.  If she wasn't a professional, this shot would've gotten lost, but now, it's one of my favorites!!!

4. Location, Location, Location
I have to hand it to Dan, he picked this one out this year too!  He found this beautiful tree in downtown Jacksonville, called Treaty Oak.  We went right before sundown, so the sun was peeking through the leaves, and it was magical!  Choose somewhere that has appealing colors, is pretty easily accessible, and works with the overall look you're going for.

3. Candid shots
Of course, you want that perfect picture for your Christmas card, or to hang in your living room (or in our case - prayer card).  But, as Hillary later reminded of, especially with kids, when you let them roam, and follow their lead as far as their interests.  For example, one of Aidan's new favorite words, is "acorn".  Well, as you know we were at Treaty Oak.  What are oak tree seeds?  Acorns.  It was a match made in heaven!  For most of the shoot, we just followed Aidan around, and looked at acorns with him!

5. Beeee Yourself
Every family has different things that make them unique, or who they are, and at the risk of sounding mushy, what makes us us, is love.  We love spending time together, we love being the three of us, and we LOVE being parents.  So that's where the focus ended up.  

If your family is goofy, don't be afraid of a slightly-off-beat picture.  If you're adventurous, choose a location that reflects that.

We actually, originally were going to use a traditional family picture for our prayer card, but this more relaxed picture - that truly reflects who we are - ended up being the winner!  It was actually one of the first ones of the day too!

So... maybe family pictures are right up your alley, so this was all stuff you already know - I'm so happy to find a kindred-spirit!  Maybe family pictures are intimidating for you, and you don't know where to start - I hope this post gave you a little bit of direction!
Wherever you're coming from, I hope you enjoyed the post, the pictures, and have a wonderful time with your family taking your own pictures!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Family Star Wars Costume DIY

As you probably now by now, I love dress-up!  So naturally, I love this time of year.  Our sweet little resident all-boy is crazy about Star Wars, so naturally we decided to a galaxy far, far away...

If you want to recreate the looks, here's what you'll need:

Han Solo:
- My sweet husband indulges me, so when he asked if he could wear just a Han Solo T-shirt, I said yes.  :)  Your husband will thank you if you let him off the hook every once in a while. 

Princess Leia:
- I found the white turtleneck at Goodwill.
- The white skirt is from a dance costume website.  We bought them for a Christmas production one year (I actually layered two, because they were a little see-through).
- The belt is aluminum foil.  I didn't go crazy with all the accessories this year, but I think it turned out pretty cute. :)
- I wore some white flats that I had.
- I made two sock buns - which turned out adorable, if I do say so myself.

- We ordered a bear costume from  It was cute, and served our needs perfectly. 
- I bought a brown men's shirt for the hood.
- I cut the side seams and arms off the shirt, and placed the bear head piece on Aidan.  I then laid the shirt on his head, with his face in the head hole .  I drew lines for where the ears were going to pop out, and cut out holes.

Aidan had an adorable toy ewok from his Aunt and Uncle, so of course we had to get a picture of them together.

Family selfie!

I hope you liked our costumes this year!  Any ideas for next year?  What did your family dress up as this year?  Do you still do family costumes, and if not, when did your kids decide they were too old for them?  I'm already dreading the day...