Out of the Ashes, Beauty

It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since the attacks of September 11, 2001.  This week, as I have been reflecting on the events of that day, I found myself peering back in time, like through a telescope, at the girl I was ten years ago.  Yes, I was 25, but I was just a girl.  I still am!

My oldest daughter was born in June of 2001, so I have a very visible marker of the time that has passed since that fateful day.  We had just moved to a new city about a month before her birth.  I remember that time as being challenging and insecure and wonderful, all at once.  New location, new baby, new job, as I had decided to leave my paid employment to stay at home full time.

Some of the ticks on my timeline since then represent difficult seasons we have lived through.  Two consecutive miscarriages, a time of self-imposed isolation from God, struggles and loss in my extended family.  But, they are accompanied with so much to be thankful for – a flourishing marriage, two more healthy babies, growth and maturation spiritually, forming lifelong friendships.

There are times we are caught up in some pattern of life that is making us miserable, and we think – I am never going to stop feeling this horrible or frustrated.  And, it can seem like those dark days go on forever.  Until we are standing at the end of a decade looking back, realizing that in the bigger scheme of things those days don’t look as big as they felt on the timeline of the last ten years, much less an entire lifetime.  Yet, even though time makes our toughest seasons look smaller, they are still a significant force that molds us into who we are when we put them in the hands of the Heavenly Potter. (Isaiah 64:8)

When I was younger, my testimony was all about me.  My teenage angst and pain.  My emptiness.  My needs.  And, yes, by the way, God saved me.  But, did I mention me?  I have found that this level of self-involvement tends to accompany immaturity, and I was very immature.  What amazes me is how God has transformed that testimony into the truth that it is all about Him.  How others see Him through me.  What amazing things He has done.  Because He is Almighty God who loves us and He is glorious.  I can give specific examples of God’s mercy and grace on me through the years, but they are not nearly as powerful as seeing the big picture (or at least, the portion of it that has been lived to this point!)  Trust me, whatever bad choice you could think of – I’ve probably already made it at some point.  But, as selfish, foolish and arrogant as I have been at times – God’s grace has brought me to where I am today.  He has taken little broken puzzle pieces and placed them together perfectly.  Not that I am perfect – noooo.  Or finished, for that matter!  But, if I had been left to my own devices I would not be who and where I am today.

I did not lose someone that I knew personally in the World Trade Center, Pentagon, or a Pennsylvania field that day now ten years ago.  For those of you who did, I cannot even attempt to imagine what the last ten years have been like.  What sorrow and loss you have known.  What healing, joy, or redemption you have been able to experience in the days since.  But, I do know that even though our experiences might be different, God’s love and desire for all of us is the same.

It just isn’t enough for me to tell you what God has done in my life.  I want everyone I know to be able to brag on what God has done.  I think this special anniversary for our nation is the perfect opportunity for us to be introspective and look back over the last ten years.  Look for God’s mark on your lifetime calendar.  It cannot be missed.  For those of us who are currently in a dark season, I pray that through endurance and getting into God’s word you would know what real hope is, and that hope would encourage you through this time.  When I think of the image of the twin towers with the smoke rising into the clear blue sky, it always summons the following verse to my head, perhaps because of the association with ashes.  It is spoken to God’s people people being held captive in a time of trouble.  Ultimately, Jesus is the fulfillment of this verse for all captives.  If you can relate to that condition, physically or metaphorically, then this is for you (and, I am including all four verses, ’cause they are just that good) –

‘The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.  They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated.’ (Isaiah 61:1-4)

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Summer Trip Log Four – Sea at Last!

It is September.  Thus, it makes perfect sense that I am finishing my journal about our JULY trip back east.  At least, if you could be a fly on the wall of my life lately, maybe it would be clear that we have been b-u-s-y going back to school, getting revved up for a new year of activities.  Since the fall is coming on strong, though, I do want to finish remembering our journey from the summer, because unfinished projects drive me crazy and take up space in my head that I cannot afford to waste.  Plus, I have actually gotten a request or two to do this – and for those of you who have been holding your breath – or have at least been looking forward to the next installment, cause you would not be reading this if you had been holding your breath this long – I cannot thank you enough for staying with my very sporadic blog as of late.  I’m hoping that with the organization of our day-to-day routine will come enough organization of my thoughts to record them here more often again.  I hope.  It is possible I left all my good brain cells with a big chunk of my heart on the Atlantic coast this summer.  So, at last, it’s time to delve into some nitty, gritty sand.

We became good friends with the rest stops in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia before we finally arrived and saturated our senses with some salt and sand.  Some cousins and boogie boards.  Some boiled peanuts and boiled shrimp.  Some sunburn and sunscreen.  Catch my drift(wood)?

Before I begin to bombard you with my pictorial representations of wonderful times at the beach, I just have to say – in my lifetime of family vacations, they have all been good.  Occasionally, though, they are hugely good, like good on steroids.  Great location, yummy food, clear weather, no trips to the emergency room, no stress.  (okay, okay – one little trip to Urgent Care for an ear infection doesn’t really count) Besides that, perfect memories.  This year was one of those years.

Ahh, the beach house.

It could be ours.  If we sell one or two of our children.

The view might be worth it, especially at night:

All seven cousins in the ocean.

Jumping waves.

Do you remember when you could do that for an entire day?  I can.

They can.

I love seeing them all together.

Man time happens where the waves break.

Caroline & Anna

If 1800 miles on land can’t keep these two soul sisters apart, certainly no silly waves will.

Cat and Will in action.

They formed a pretty

sweet bond this year.

This pose reminds me of something.

Baywatch.

Kinda.

Uncle Wes surprised the kiddos with boogie boards one day.  They were the hit of the week, especially with Marfy.  She is a soul surfer, for sure.

We did a little bit of sightseeing in downtown Fernandina and at the port.

Shrimp are big there.

They have statues of them everywhere to prove it.

It’s no secret that I love my sister.

When I am with my sister, I laugh about 95% of the time.

About nothing.

About everything.

It’s why I took a picture of this shop sign in Fernandina:

And, why I have to include so many pictures of us together.

It’s also no secret that I love my man.

I would love him even if he didn’t fully support me finding a beach house online, sight unseen, then driving 30 hours to get there and spend a week with my family.  And, take lots of pictures of me laughing with my sister.  But, he does.  So, I do.

As a matter of fact, this next photo is his favorite and that is why I am including it.  Some pictures really are worth a thousand words.  This is my sister’s family.  Can you guess how they roll at picture time?

I can’t believe we caught this moment on film.  Perfection.

The girls got into some ringin’ around with Will.

To the left is my nephew, Matthew.

Matthew Bieber.

He is not ashamed of how much attention he pays his ‘do’.

I love that boy.

And his hair.

This trip will be remembered as the year of the turtle.  We had a lot of sightings, so I have to include at least one:

Sorry, it’s a bit hazy, I grabbed my camera from inside the house and took this picture before the little guy got away. (he was faster than the average tortoise)  The haziness resulted from this thing called humidity smacking my cold lens with some moisture.  Being in Colorado, I have almost forgotten what that is.  Almost.

This picture is the opposite of a thousand words for me.  It’s short and sweet.

Family.  Love.  Memorable.  I’d go back if I could.

(Wendy, this one is for you – thanks for the push!  And, thanks for reading!!)