Alayna's First Birthday - An Ice Cream Parlor Party

Alayna's First Birthday - An Ice Cream Parlor Party

Alayna's first birthday was an old fashioned ice cream parlor. It was gorgeous and this little girl was all smiles and sunshine, per her usual. She's been such a joy in my life over the past year and I'm inwardly mourning no longer seeing her beautiful smile for our monthly photo sessions. God bless you richly, sweet Alayna!

Comfort Cravings

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Y'all I'm craving comfort: coffee, @scratchcottagebakery's chocolate chip salt cookies, and some peaceful quiet while I read on my little lit screen. Maybe you're guilty of this too, but I'm definitely finding myself not "feeling" like reading my bible or seeking true comfort from Jesus.

(Side note: growing up church of Christ, there was a weird stigma or at least shying away from using Jesus's name. We used lots of substitutes--Lord, Christ, Son of God. I have to make a conscious effort to just say "Jesus" and not a title or reference point. That wouldn't be bad, per se, but since I already struggle to feel close or known / loved by God, that small act of familiarity can mean a big difference for me spiritually. Plus, to those few non-churches folks in the South, using the words "Christ" and "Lord" can probably be confusing and isolating when they don't understand them.)

 

Honestly, if I only read my bible or pursued time with God when I felt like it this year, I might have booked 7 days in the word rather than over 200 (Please don't read that as bragging. I am terrible at daily bible reading and this is the first time in 20 years of attempts that I'm actually on the correct day in my daily Bible regime. Every other year I've given up somewhere in Leviticus / March. Praise Him for small steps of victory!) Yes, I just don't enjoy the Bible like I should. Too often I'm bored by it. I'm exhausted by it. I feel judged and condemned by it. I feel so weary just thinking of it.

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It's exactly the I same way I feel about mirrors right now. I've aged ten years these past three: wrinkles and lines; freckles and sun spots; black, thick, wirey hairs sprouting everywhere; and just ugh.... but I still look. I still look and comb down the crazy locks, lather on the sunscreen, and wash the wrinkles. Because that's life and that's being an adult and not an adult child, right? And yes, some days I do have to say to myself, "Jenny, yes you're aging, and your no model, but it's not the outside that matters so just get over it!" I believe the same has to be said to my flagging desire to pursue God. I have to just stop, confess to Him my heart's darkness, selfishness, and idolatry, and ask for His grace to shine light in my night.

I want to get to a point where I'm thirsty for God, hungry for his Word, and eager to talk with him again. I've been there not so long ago and I hope and trust he'll bring me back there. For the moment, though, I'm going to put this phone down and confess my faithlessness inspite of His faithfulness and dig into today's reading: 2 Samuel. {Photo credit: @foodess }

Rose Rosette Virus By Another Name

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Last week if you'd asked me, I'd have happily told you our garden had eight rose bushes. Six came with our house; two were a Mother's Day gift this year. I love my garden---especially the flowering plants. I've always been a sucker for fresh-cut flowers throughout the house. I would have told you that every week I spend lots of energy watering, pruning, and weeding them. And while they were admittedly a bit scraggly, I would have told you they were mostly healthy. I had big dreams for these bushes ten years from now, being loved by another family (because we'll probably be in a home with a REAL garden and not this sneeze of a lot).

All of these statements--while honestly meant--would have been totally wrong. Saturday morning I noticed that the strange growth I'd been seeing had gotten worse---way, way worse. I took a picture and posted it to Facebook after failed attempts at googling a diagnosis. 

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Very quickly my friends correctly identified my problem: Rose Rosette Virus. It is pervasive, fatal, incurable, and destroyes your roses inside-out. Many people (businesses too) don't notice this guy until it's devestated their landscaping. Often homeowners are too apathetic or distracted to remove the plant even when they know its sick. So this diseased plant withers, even as it appeares to be growing like crazy (albeit with an abundance of  thorns, ugly flowers, and abarent shoots), all the while infecting every other rose bush in the vicinity. It's incideous and it's destroying North Texas. Yes, I'm the rose-bush appocolypse crier holding the cardboard sign, "the end is near!"

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Well I might have cried (a lot) and died a little inside, but I removed that sad bush and moved on only to discover another plant infected. And another one. And another one. And another. Five of my eight bushes were showing obvious infection symptoms and had to be removed. Three were possibly infected but until its 100% clear, I didn't have the heart to kill them outright.

This morning I took bags of pillaged bushes to the curb and looked up at my sad, empty beds. They looked so alive and full before. They  looked  like they were just going through an accelerated summer growth spurt even while they were slowly dying. To the casual viewer, I'm irrationally destroying a perfectly beautiful yard. But I was actually saving it. Mine and my neighbors and the couple a block away. Because one sick bush infects another. And as I was looking over all the empty space I clearly saw my own heart, a similarly small plot growing things, often unexamined.

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This is Rose Rosette Virus by another name, and even more deadily--my "good" works. I do things for the wrong reason, growing plants of good works for others to see and praise and think, "Wow she's spiritual and righteous and sooooo holy." (I'm being sarcastic because not even a crazy person would think my pathetic attempts at being like Christ is "righteous" or "holy.") So these plants grow and grow and although they seem alive and growing they are actually diseased and malignant.

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“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.2Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.3Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.4" - Rev. 3: 1-4

And those around me can catch my "works-based" faith and spread ihe infection to others, all of us dead or dying inside by our self-reliance. God, rip it out! Cut it down. Burn it. Don't let me grow in death when you are so alive and waiting to give life to those who look to you. 

"but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." - 2 Peter 3:18

"so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." - Ephesians 3:17-19

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People Like Us

"Maybe it's time to admit the obvious. We don't really care about diversity all that much in America {or the Church}, even though we talk about it a great deal. Maybe somewhere in this country there is a truly diverse neighborhood in which a black Pentecostal minister lives next to a white anti-globalization activist, who lives next to an Asian short-order cook, who lives next to a professional golfer, who lives next to a postmodern-literature professor and a cardiovascular surgeon. But I have never been to or heard of that neighborhood. Instead, what I have seen all around the country is people making strenuous efforts to group themselves with people who are basically like themselves.

People are less often tied down to factories and mills, and they can search for places to live on the basis of cultural affinity. Once they find a town in which people share their values, they flock there, and reinforce whatever was distinctive about the town in the first place. Once Boulder, Colorado, became known as congenial to politically progressive mountain bikers, half the politically progressive mountain bikers in the country (it seems) moved there; they made the place so culturally pure that it has become practically a parody of itself." - David Brooks, PEOPLE LIKE US

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“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:12-25‬ ‭