Thoughts on… {Gratitude}

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for fear. That’s a strange statement, I know, but it’s true: I’m grateful for what worrying has taught me. I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life, and this year I’ve realized that as frustrating as that journey has been, I wouldn’t trade it even if I could. It’s been an incredible blessing in disguise, and today I wanted to explain why. 

Here’s a little piece of my story. 🙂

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Thoughts On… {Anxiety}

Do you worry? I do. I’m nearly always worrying about something or other, and I’m not proud of it. During the past few years, as we moved from one farm to another, it felt like I lived in a whirlwind of uncertainties and anxiety about the future.

Moving might sound petty compared to the worries you’re facing right now, and it very well could be. Moving was a small thing, relatively speaking. As complicated and slightly terrifying as it was to move an entire farm… we were just relocating two hours away.

Past worries have a way of shrinking to their proper size as we travel farther down the road and gain perspective. Present or future worries, however, can loom over our heads like tottering sequoias, filling our whole vision and threatening to crush us with their weight.

I hope this post reminds you to take a few steps back from the tree that’s sprouting new branches of worry every moment. I hope it reminds you that you don’t have to (and indeed, can’t) chop down this forest alone, but that you can hand your burden to the Carpenter who is building something beautiful from the wood.

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Thoughts On… {Tolerance}

Say you have a friend; let’s call him Robert. He’s a nice enough guy for the most part – good with kids, bad at lying, and a mediocre harmonica player – but there’s this one thing you just can’t tolerate: you’re a Republican and he’s a Democrat.

Annette, on the other hand, is great! You both prefer cats to dogs, you go to the same hair stylist, and she even likes Ken’s Steakhouse Creamy Caesar dressing on her lettuce wedges, just like you! Of course there’s that little detail about her being an atheist while you’re a Christian, but hey, you’ll graciously let that slide since that’s got to be the more loving thing to do, right? Continue reading

Thoughts On… {Adversity}

 

Imagine there were once two small stones who lay near one another in the streambed of a rushing river. As the years went by, dashing water and larger rocks both tumbled over them, and eventually the relentless conditions ground the first into smaller and smaller pieces until it was an unrecognizable heap of sand. But something different happened to the second stone.

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Instead of getting worn down by the surging flood, it simply stood fast and let the water polish it into a smooth, gleaming pebble. Instead of getting crushed by the grinding force of the other rocks, it simply rolled past, moving slowly down the river. One day, it arrived at the sea, and all was gloriously calm.

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Now, dears, you can probably see where I’m going with this, but let me ask you a question: as the river of life passes by, do you let the hardships polish you or shatter you?

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It’s so much easier to shatter, isn’t it? It feels like the constant trials and pressures of life cannot help but grind us into sand. It’s not hard to just give up and give in to self-pity. In fact, it’s far too easy, for me at least. And sometimes it almost feels good, in a miserable way.

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But we’re missing the point – or rather becoming bristling full of points instead of allowing them to be smoothed away. How we react to adversity profoundly influences how others perceive us, and this is especially important for Christians. Since we put our identity in Christ, it influences how others perceive Him. If we act like God’s not strong enough to carry us through everyday life, it begs the question, how in the world could He carry us through death? We’ve got to show the world that trials don’t define us – God does.

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Here’s another way to look at it. The other week in small group, one of the men was talking about how problems can come between us and God, and he compared it to an eclipse. I thought that was a really good analogy. Our worries are like the moon orbiting the earth, until one day they eclipse everything else. Did you guys watch the last eclipse? Do you remember how the moon hid the sun? Its dark circle looked just as big as the light, even though you knew it was really many times smaller. 

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So when it’s dusk in daytime and everything slips sideways and you are falling off the edge of the world, don’t forget, dear, the sun will come out again. It’s still there, shining and shining, and however big and dark the moon’s shadow seems, the sun is infinitely bigger and infinitely brighter, and in its blazing light, all shadows fade away.

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So when hardships surround us and we do not break, when people wonder why we’re still fighting, we tell them, we persevere because we have a hope beyond this world. We tell them, because when we hit rock bottom, the Lord is polishing this rough stone into a diamond of such brilliance that it will reflect his glory far brighter than before. And we tell them, it takes harsh sand to grow a pearl.

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Grow a pearl, dear. Be a diamond. Shine, don’t shatter. And when adversity threatens to eclipse all, hold fast to the Son.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4

***Allison***

~ Hello, 2018 ~

It is 2018. IT IS 2018!

Surprisingly, it feels right to say that. I’m usually amazed that the next year has come so fast, and I sort of am this year as well, but it doesn’t feel as weird as usual. 2018 doesn’t seem that strange to type or write, it feels good.

But before I delve into this new year, I wanted to recap the last. So here you go! 2017 in review.

Guys this has been quite the year…

~ Highlights of 2017 ~

  • We bought a new farm.
  • I started a new Etsy shop.
  • I reached over 3,000 followers on my blog.
  • I started my last year of school!
  • I took hundreds (probably over a thousand) photos, and better learned how to use my DSLR. You can find a lot of my favorite pictures from this year here, here, and here.)
  • I made so much art.
  • I (and my friends, of course) deepened friendships both in real life and through blogging. ♥ I especially enjoyed getting to know my blogging friends better – you guys are the BEST, and I love emailing/commenting/writing to you and reading your amazing posts!
  • My siblings and I raised and sold adorable baby bunnies.
  • My family went on trips to Assateague, Chincoteague, and Amelia Island. 😀
  • I played piano for church!
  • We went camping with family.
  • We creamed 150 quarts of corn. O.o
  • We watched the solar eclipse!
  • And so many more memories. ♥

I learned a lot this year, and I feel like God grew me as well (although not in size – I think I’m about done growing now XD). More and more often I found myself stepping back from the moment and seeing the big picture and the small blessings, and realizing that almost every worry loses its urgency and importance in light of eternity.

Ahem. Anyway, before we move on to the goals/resolutions, we must have the obligatory stats, right? XD

~ 2017 Stats ~

stats 2017

  • Views: 50,174
  • Visitors: 16,171
  • Likes: 10,656
  • Comments: 8,958
  • Total Posts (over all years): 456

~ Popular Posts from 2017 ~

So those are some of you guys’ favorite posts… here are some of my favorite posts. Actually these are just the posts with some of my favorite photos from 2017 in them. 😉

~ Best Photography Posts of 2017 ~

  • Summer 2017: basically summer memories + a selection of summer’s best pictures.

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  • Bunnies in Autumn: One of my very favorite photoshoots of the entire year! EEEE THEY’RE SO CUTE!

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~ Resolutions ~

And now for last year’s goals… Let’s see how I did.

  • Meet at least one more of my blogger friends. Sort of not really? I got to video chat with one of my friends, which was SO fun, and I saw pictures/videos of many others, but sadly I did not meet any in real life. :/ Oh well, there’s always next year!
  • Grow my Etsy shopIf I was talking about my clay Etsy shop… not exactly. If you’re talking about my new art Etsy shop, yes! (Since I have two sales compared to zero when I started. XD) I think this year was sort of a practice run and I’m looking forward to digging deeper into this business in the coming year.
  • Start a Bible journal and keep it going throughout the year. Check! So far I’m in 1 Samuel, and I’ve hand lettered my favorite verse from all the chapters I’ve read so far. I cannot WAIT to see all the journals when I’m done, and I’m definitely going to continue this goal into 2018.

So what is my New Year’s resolution for 2018? Well, it ties in to one of the most important things I’ve learned this year: I can’t do it.

You know on Disney movies how they’re always like, “Believe in yourself”? That’s true, to a point… but only to a point. I’m not saying self-doubt is good or you should hate yourself – not at all! That’s way too far in the other direction.

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BUT. The thing is, I’m a pretty poor thing to believe in. I’m broken and fallen and weak, and so are we all. But even though I know that, sometimes I forget, and think that I know best instead of God.

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Considering moving and selling the farm and other things that are out of my control has shown me that I just can’t do this on my own. I’m not big enough, not strong enough to change the weather or the timing of plans or… well, anything.

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But see, this is not depressing or sad for me – it’s a relief. Because even though I can’t do it, God can – and he will. Why would I want to believe in myself and my weakness, when I can believe in God and his strength? I wouldn’t. I don’t.

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So one of my “New Year’s resolutions” is to believe less in myself and more in God. I’ll have to put it into practice to even complete it, because I certainly can’t do that on my own!

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So yeah. Those are my thoughts (and some pictures) from this past year.

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I can’t wait to see what God will do next year. Eeep, it’s so exciting just thinking about it! Happy New Year’s, guys. I hope it’s the best one so far.

Bring it on, 2018. I can’t do this… but God can.

***Allison***

Thoughts on… {Beauty}

Imagine I give you a gift. It’s huge and beautifully wrapped in your favorite color of wrapping paper and topped with a perfect bow. It promises to be wonderful, but when you shred the paper and tear open the box, there is nothing inside. The box is empty.

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Beauty is our wrapping paper. It can make a good present even better and add to our enjoyment, but beautiful wrapping paper alone is not worth anything.

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Sadly, our culture seems to focus on our wrapping paper almost to the exclusion of the gift inside. The world whispers that if you are beautiful, everyone will love you, you will feel great, and life will be perfect.

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And that’s certainly a handy way to get people to buy makeup, skin products, hair products, brand name clothes, and all the other things that the world says you simply must have in order to be beautiful.

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But that is a lie. You do not need to have the perfect face or figure or clothes to be happy, hard as that might be to believe. Your Creator made you beautiful from the first, and He is the only one who will bring you ultimate joy.

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My dear, you are beautiful even when you skip your makeup. Each and every one of us, boy or girl, man or woman, is beautiful because we are made in God’s image, and God is Beauty itself.

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Here’s another story. A boy was born blind. Eventually he grew into a man and fell in love with a woman who was always kind to him. Though he could not see her face, he felt her heart, and she was beautiful to him.

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One day, after they were married, the man was given a chance to get his vision back with a surgery. The surgery was successful, and at last the man could see! Everything was so bright and colorful it hurt his eyes. The first person he saw was his wife, who had been waiting for him all throughout the surgery.

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What would he have thought? He wouldn’t mind if she weighed too much or didn’t have makeup on or didn’t have clear skin. He had only known her for her heart and her actions. He would think her beautiful.

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Now I’m not saying beauty is a bad thing. In fact, God gave us a beautiful world to live in for our pleasure and his glory. Neither am I saying that you can only be either beautiful or good, because that’s not true. I’m just saying don’t lose the gift for the box. Don’t put so much store in your outward appearance that you don’t take care of your heart.

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Think about it. What would the world be like if everyone took the time they spent getting the wrapping paper perfect and instead focused it on touching up the gift inside?

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***Allison***

Autumn Photoshoot: “Undeniable”

Bonjour! (Or hola, since I’ve been studying Spanish…)

I’ve wanted to do a lyric photoshoot for a long time, and I finally got around to it! I love the song “Undeniable” by TobyMac because it’s so uplifting, and so true. Especially on these gorgeous autumn days it’s easy to see God’s “evidence piling up” in the beautiful world he created for us. Click the play button on the video below, then enjoy the rest of the post while listening!

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There are moments that I doubt You. 
Blind to the beauty that surrounds me, 
I try to push away the need that I’m needin’ proof. 
And this struggle that I have, it ain’t nothing new.

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But the evidence is piling up, yup.
You change my heart isn’t that enough?

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You give me life that I can’t take credit for; 
Call me to walk through an open door.

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Undeniable, You are, You are, You are; 
Unmistakable, You are, You are.

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You’re the bright and morning star,
But still You speak to my heart.
Undeniable, You are, You are.

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Your work doesn’t stop with me –
Your signature’s on everything we see.

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From the hills of Negril, Jamaica,
To the kid that the doctor said would never make it.
Which is harder to believe: that You don’t exist,
Or that You orchestrated all of this?

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Living in the world that is so confusing,
You’re the argument I’m never losing.
‘Cause I believe.

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Undeniable, You are, You are, You are; 
Unmistakable, You are, You are.

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You’re the bright and morning star,
But still You speak to my heart.
Undeniable, You are, You are.

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From the hymns that my Daddy sang,
I know I was made to glorify Your name.

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And from the prayers that my Momma prayed,
I know I was made to glorify Your name. [x3]

 

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So undeniable, You are, You are, You are; 
Unmistakable, You are, You are. 

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You’re the bright and morning star,
But still You speak to my heart.
Undeniable, You are, You are. [x2]

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You’re the bright and morning star,
But still You speak to my heart.
Undeniable, You are, You are. [x2]

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Which is harder to believe: that You don’t exist,

Or that you orchestrated all of this?

Living in the world that is so confusing, 

You’re the passion that I’m never losing.

*********************

I love that line: Which is harder to believe: that You don’t exist/ Or that you orchestrated all of this? Seriously! Which makes more sense: that a Creator God designed our incredibly complex and beautiful world, or that God doesn’t exist and everything just happened to evolve this way?

Living in the world that is so confusing,/ You’re the passion that I’m never losing.

‘Cause I believe.

***Allison***