Grace Like Rain

The Catholic Church steeple sliced the setting sun, as it slipped below the horizon on 6.28.11.  

Another day gone.  

The lawn chair pointed west and I imagined a rousing baseball game under the lights just nouth of the watertower.  Bible, notebook, cell phone, wine glass and a few fireflies competed for my attention.  

A perfect summer evening. 

This hymn seeped from my somewhere in my memory and I couldn't help but sing it.

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
"Great is Thy faithfulness," O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
"Great is Thy faithfulness!" "Great is Thy faithfulness!"
  Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
    "Great is Thy faithfulness," Lord, unto me!

I shouldn't really be on here today, I have 2000 wedding photos to edit, and the above picture is not even last evening's sunset.  It IS June, and it IS the sky, but it's the morning after a pre-dawn storm.

But I just wanted to share my "moment" with you. Certainly a reminder to:
Set your minds on things above, not on things of this earth. Colossians 3:2  
Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all these things shall be added unto you.  Mattheww 6:33   
For the things which are seen are temporary but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

Last evening I paused to ponder. 

From the book Spiritual Java
Our authority comes from real faith, which is found in rest. Peaceful rest is the climate that faith grows in.

Rest. Rest awile in the presence of the Life-giving One.  He is the Lord of your spirit, soul, and body.  Regardless of how much your current circumstances may have distracted you from God, you can stop thinking your own thoughts and start living by faith.  His Spirit will help you.

From a message by David Legge:
In 1916 a man called F.M. Lehman was touched by the words that he saw scribbled on the wall of an asylum, and he incorporated them into the last stanza of his hymn, and the lyrics read like this:

'Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky'

If that was madness, we all could do with a good dose of it, and allow it to revive our hearts in love towards God, send us confirmation of  His love for us; and take us from dead orthodoxy into a living, vital relationship with Jesus Christ.

I'm closer to dying than being born and for the first time in a long while, I feel alive. I'm finding grace, peace and rest by standing under the cover of the One who never changes. 

He will keep you in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Him. Isaiah 26:3


I Do

I thought it hit me when Chelsea and Derek began their first dance.  And it did.  Their happiness spilled out onto the dance floor and flowed through the tent.  It seeped across the lawn and slipped quietly along the river’s edge as their life journey began. Together.  
But it hit me again while tediously tabbing through photo after photo in the after-editing process, when I stumbled upon this.  Courtesy of Melissa & Spencer.
23 days into June my excuse has been the busyness of life, having not stopped to worship in as many days. Racing around, meeting schedules, worrying, doing, helping, harboring, striving in self.  
Every picture tells a story and this one will not shut up.
Moving river. 
We all have our pathway, our journey.  Who knows the way the river flows?  Who can determine the bends and rapid waters which give us reason to pause or send us hurtling ahead? 
Am I enjoying the path God has for me? Or do I want to set me own course then whine and complain until I get my way? Storms can be predicted, but they can’t be stopped.
Storms can not harm the soul anchored in faith’s harbor.
Taking communion.  
Two together. Marriage  is God’s plan. Not ours. He loves to see happy marriages, but he longs for a one on one reliance with Him, not the partner.  There’s a quote in my favorite movie Return To Me where Bob tells Grandpa, “I loved Elizabeth and I’ll always miss her, but my heart  yearns for Gracie.” Communion requires selflessness.  You can’t really be in complete communion and talk only of yourself.   Humanly speaking, I’m not sure it does, but communion with God demands worship.
Finding peace.  
Do you see God in the picture above?  Do you see God at work in your life? Do you believe? There is an amazing design in our wonderful world  (nature, marriage, laughter, tears, smooth sailing and powerful storms) there must be an awesome Designer. 
Step back and ask yourself  “Am I at peace?”  If, so,  “What or who is responsible for a “yes” answer to this question?” Then carry the question to the extreme, “If what/who is making me happy were taken away, would I still be at peace?”
Be honest with myself. 
Want to enjoy the rest of the journey? Want to be happy? Want to know a peace that passes all understanding? Want to harbor deep happiness even during the storm? Want to let go of bitterness, anger, and selfish pride?
I do.


Once Upon A Time

If I could copy and paste  every moment of Chelsea & Derek’s day and place it here. I would.
Because then I could enjoy it a bit more, too!
I don’t remember a lot from the day, but I’m positive Chelsea and Derek are honeymooning it up in Florida with visions of their fairytale wedding still dancing in their heads.
"Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain." Psalms 127:1 Praise God from whom all blessings flow. The day dawned, the flowers bloomed, the bride waited on her groom, the families prayed and rejoiced in what God created and intended us to ... the marriage celebration.
God bless you both as you begin to serve Him, together.
* * * *
Weddings are just way too short.  They should start at like 7am in the morning. Can you imagine the awesome shots, straight out of camera, one could capture at that time of day?  Think Bridges Of Madison County photography.
Then a lovely, leisurely  brunch, including mimosa’s and parisian croissants.
Followed by EVERYONE napping.
After naps, wedding party could wander to 3rd and 4th locations in their horse-drawn carriages, trolly’s and limo’s.
Inspirational ceremony at around 4ish.
Another nap.
Cocktail hour and hors d'oeuvres in early evening, including the speciality dances.
A late candlelight and conversational dinner.
Then the dance floor opens and the crowd goes crazy.
Pizza and/or Cheeseburger sliders at say, midnight.
Last call around 1 or 2am.
It’s all got me thinking now, what it would be like to pull out of the driveway for a wedding.  Hmmmmmm.
* * * *
And they all lived happily ever after.


Chelsea's Turn

Happy Anniversary today to Nicholas & Victoria!

Is this the little girl I carried,
Is this the little boy at play,
I don’t remember growing older
When did they?
I don’t know about your house, but in ours, for almost every family gathering there’s been a group of cousins at the “kids” table.  The big girls and the little girls.  Ben & Nic then Austin & Shane.  We’d be hard pressed to fit even Shane at the kids table these days.
Late in the afternoon this Saturday, Chelsea will marry the love of her life and sit down to dinner at the head table.
With cousins, the direction our lives take, mostly determines the relationships.   The traditions we celebrate in our own families have much to do with the intersections and crossings of extended family. Our Holidays and summer days made for happy carefree get-togethers. We’ll always have grandma’s.
Chels and Meliss were middle cousins. But that didn’t hold them back.  It wasn’t easy being the youngest  of the big girls, not too mention the harassment from Ben & Nic then Austin & Shane. When tease came to shove they made their own movies, invented their own entertainment, and never failed to tackle the deep end.
These two fiercely independent women made their way, fought their demons, and  held their own until giving their lives up to a life lived with Jesus on the throne.  And He’ll be there Saturday night turning our sorrows into joy.  He is the reason for the celebration of marriage. Chelsea and Melissa both know this and it is the magnet that draws them to encourage and admonish each other, once as cousins, now as sisters.
Derek and Spencer may have to console each other on the sidelines when Chelsea and Melissa hit the dance floor.
My contribution will be the photographs, but hey, what’s new.  I’m only hoping, somehow, even through the camera lens, I’ll be able to celebrate the love of my sister’s family.
My kids demand encourage me to put the camera down and enjoy the moment.  After capturing Chels and Derek’s special moments, I intend to do just that. Weddings deserve more than digital mode.
So put on your dancin’ shoes (for the ceremony) then kick them off and raise your glasses to the happy couple, the sacrament of marriage, this moment in time, and memories that will last a lifetime.


Farm Girl

I grew up on a farm in Remington. [Cue “Out Of Africa” Music]
There was a dad, a mom, and five kids. A medium sized family by standards of the 50’s and 60’s.
Not to say kids these days aren’t, but we were happy. Our happiness centered on a strong faith, a healthy work ethic, and memories made during church, school, farming, and family times.
A typical day consisted of kid appropriate chores, playing outside, maybe a bike ride into the library, laying pennies on the railroad tracks, chasing fireflies, minimal homework, a smattering of basketball and baseball games, and church on Sunday morning.
Meals were three times a day, if not four. Always a hot breakfast, dinner at noon, bologna sandwiches or Woody’s snack shop after school, followed by a farm supper when dad came in from the field. We set the table, kept our elbows off the table, asked to be excused from the table, cleared the table, and laid it all out on the table.
In the spring, we picked up rocks and sowed the seed in cabless tractors.  In the summer, we pulled weeds, and detassled in our swimming suit tops and jeans. Our backs received the perfect tan while our legs remained milky white. In the fall, we hauled grain before we had a driver’s license, while listening to Harry Carey on the transistor radio. In the winter we scoured the want ads and snowmobiled in Michigan.  In the meantime we hung wash on the line, tilled gardens, painted fences, milked cows, pulled corn out of beans, and fell in love with dogs while tolerating cats. The soundtrack of our lives blared WLS from the Plymouth sized hi-fi while we checked off our Saturday lists.
One by one we grew up and moved away because that is just what kids do when they are from a small town.
In early fall of 1973, I landed in a 10-story dorm room in the heart of downtown Chicago and didn’t sleep for a month.  The siren’s wailed; the street noise was deafening and the stars were missing.
Slowly, the city began to enthrall and entertain me and soon, when I went home for the weekend, laid in my childhood bedroom with it’s slanted walls and familiar constellations out my window; I couldn’t sleep for the quiet.
Then I found the love of my life, moved to Michigan, raised a family---in another house with slanted walls---albeit much smaller. We tried to raise our kids without digging our way too deep into the American Dream Entitlement Myth.  We aimed for eating together every evening and managed to make it about once a week.  We added soccer, drama, choir, and Disneyworld to our family repertoire and realized the good ‘ole days were probably just that, old and over.   Our children would disagree.
A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. One day we finished up a UPS career, married off a couple kids, sent the baby to California, and moved back to the farm.  Now we didn’t actually pack up and sell the house (the economy saw to that), but we hauled our Apple computer, our bikes, and a few family scrapbooks, down here and set up housekeeping in my childhood home.
We’re in our 50’s and it’s been 35 years since my parents threw us a poolside wedding reception and waved as I drove off on the roundabout called the circle of life.
I guess you could call us “Boomerang Kids” (90’s slang for children who move back in with their parents--typically shortly after college) we’re living with the ‘rents (’00 slang for parents).  Well, we’re not actually living “with” them.  They built a one-story cottage and we keep watch from the big house to make sure they haven’t fallen and can’t get up.
I’m writing this from the alcove at the top of farmhouse stairwell.  It is here, where sleepy and timeless rhythms of the night rocked us to sleep. And it was here, beneath branches of trees long gone, where the breezes blew us from the nest and taught us to fly.  The memories remain.
I’ll probably go pick up a pizza in town tonight for dinner, but somehow I smell fried chicken wafting up the stairs.
Everything remains the same, in this quiet town, and yet, not.  The farmer can program a GPS to drive the tractor. iPods dangle around teenage necks and their thumbs do all the talking. Recently, the Cubs where still playing baseball towards the end of harvest season. Family sizes and shapes morphed, but one thing never changes, for me anyway.
Home is where the farm is.


After School Special

Loosen up. Everyone (especially the faculty) will take the pomp and circumstance very seriously. Go barefoot or sneak your iPod under your cap and gown. From here on out don’t take man-made rituals, yourself or anyone else to seriously. Fly.
Let it go.  It was what it was, and it’s never a good idea to bash and rehash, once you’re gone. Leave it all out on the floor. Forgive.
Turn it up. When your heart says sing, dance, cry, eat, pray, love... Do it!  Your heart will never say, “Earn more, collect stuff, or success makes you happy.”  Enjoy.
Move on.  If you get the chance get the heck outta dodge for a week, month, or even a year.  Go trekking in Europe, help the needy in Africa, or serve at a soup kitchen in the inner city.  Leaving the comforts of home will always remind you, you’re blessed. Serve.
Remember this. Life’s a dance you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow, but always learn.  Learn from your mistakes. Admit when you’re wrong. Learn life’s lessons.
Don’t worry be happy. That cliche is free ;-) Happiness is not a right it’s a choice. Smile and wave.
Seize the day. I want to be around for the fireworks when somebody first says to you two, “Those were the best days of your lives!”  They weren’t.  Make today the best day of your lives. Carry on.
One more thing. Put God high on your priority list.  You’re at the top of His. Find yourself somebody to love---that can be read two ways!  Change your little corner of the world.  Love wins.
Whether it’s a job or college, whether in a red car or yellow truck, I’m excited to see the places you’ll go!
Congratulations Ashley & Austin!  I love you both.
God bless,
Aunt Julee