Chasing Joy

"I am guiding you on the way of wisdom and I am leading you on the right path." Proverbs 4:11

Category: wonder (page 3 of 5)

Restoring Wonder | Gift List

if you haven’t yet noticed, i need help entering into Wonder.  I was pondering some of the things in my life that have been useful in ushering me into that place of being affected by awe, and the fact that it tis the season of giving.

so i thought to myself, why not put the two together and share a gift list?

yes, why not!  here goes:

untitled  Radio TheatreChronicles of Narnia.  This is word for word with the books, but acted out vs. read aloud.  Think audio book only way better.  We actually have about 15 different books done this way either via FOTF or BBC’s radio theatre production companys.  Narnia gets the most play time ’round these parts.  on the most ordinary of days someone will be building Legos whilst listening and i’ll catch a snippet of pointed wisdom exchanged between Aslan and Lucy Pevensie…causing me to stop right in my tracks affected by the wonder of needed words from a talking beast.  and then there are the road trips…..our sweat family of 5 fitting nicely into our 5-seater gallivanting along the highway for a lovely 8 hours-i can almost picture it….almost.  Rather, our cantankerous family of 5 crammed into our 5-seater and Radio Theatre turns a grueling 8 hours into something bearable!

 

Snow Crystal ImageSnowflake Bentley:  after a trip to the library one cold wintery day we sat to read this children’s book Bentley was a Vermont farmer who took pictures of snowflakes.  he died in 1931.   He Took Pictures of Snowflakes! In the 1920’s! There is a most wonderful gift shop including a book containing his more than 2400 images of snowflakes and frost!

“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated., When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.”

Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley 1925

One year i custom ordered some matted Lantern Slide Prints  with the quote “Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated.” (similar to this only with one snowflake.) Mine is framed hanging in the bathroom-to remind all who enter of the One who fearfully and wonderfully created the snowflake…..and created them!

 

Infant Stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud

Infant Stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud

Hubble Telescope images:  There is nothing that reminds me of my smallness and the wonder of a God who has both numbered the stars and the hairs on my head like images from the Hubble Telescope does.  You can even download and print some of the pictures for free!

 

famFamily Favorite’s CD:  Every year the 5 of us gather up our favorite songs and put together a CD.  We are currently in progress weeding out for our individual top 5 (there’s usually room for 20-22.)  There are a couple of us (ahem) who have enough to fill the CD themselves, and so the others help by indicating which ones they hate don’t care for.  In a way it becomes a snapshot of where we’ve all been in a year.  I marvel at our ability to still make this work  and i marvel at the places of Wonder the playlist takes me.  So this isn’t one you could purchase, but you could make your own!

 For more inspiration, head over to Emily Freeman’s blog for her list of Simple Gifts to Encourage the Soul.  it’s what got me thinking about Wonder-gifts in the first place.

 

disclaimer: no affiliate links or sponsors were used in this list-simply because i’ve not entered that territory in the blogosphere yet.

Restoring Wonder | Through the Fog

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in the darkness he kisses me good bye and leaves on the jet plane-he’ll be back next week and then will have some time off-yay!

a few hours later the calls begin to trickle in from school nurses everywhere and one by one my children end up home sick with a feverless flu.  in a matter of 24 hours all 4 of us remaining behind have become sick.

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i breathe deep and wave the white flag of surrender.  i argue with the voice declaring; “figures” by sitting long with Sara’s adoration….You are acquainted with grief, misunderstood Savior, formed in Mystery….  we eat ramen and crackers and popcicles.  we nap and listen to Narnia. we drink lots of water and take all the extra vitamins.   i find myself weepy over any and every single thing.   i put away the white flag and rebelliously declare; “to bed early! tomorrow everyone’s back at school!” only to find that tomorrow morning comes and my declaration was powerless to make anyone well.  and so i surrender again.

we’ve been hunkering down for a few days now, and i’ve inwardly ranted about the state of our fast-paced culture, the demands of work and school, the junk food we ate last weekend, the running that never happened, grasping at something, anything i can direct blame to for yet another bout of illness for the umpteenth time.  finally i come to the end of myself…..i‘m done.  i surrender trying to figure it all out and do all the healthy things-if i’m gonna do something healthy it’s gonna be just because it’s the right thing to do-not to keep us from getting sick cause i just have no control over that.

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eventually they will all return to school and i will be here alone.  and i will miss them.

it all feels like a curse and i just want off the rat race-but i’m not in any frame of mind for any clear thinking.

my body is full of sickness-and i am depressed about it.

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and then….we begin to exit the residual sick-brain fog enough to gather around for our advent devotions-one decides to dim the lights and light the candles.  we’re behind so we formulate a catch-up plan taking 2 days at a time.

the wonder of all wonders begins to happen in a candle-lit living room of recovering sick-heads and their grasping for a catch-up plan

two stories back to back;
abraham and sarah-laughter at the gift of isaac
abraham and isaac-and the sacrifice God asked.

we close the book and think on it all.

“Wow, how quickly life goes from laughter to sorrow back to laughter again.” “How must it have felt to look up and see that ram?” ….we can imagine it….. “he got his life back.” says one.  “I would celebrate everyday if i was him.” says another

All of a sudden i’ve become Charlie Brown; “That’s It!”

This is Christmas!  We got our lives back!  Christ came!  This is why He came!

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and then-lo and behold-a chorus begins to play in my head;

 Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

whatever form of living under the curse i happen to be in at the moment-however foggy my brain happens to be-whether i feel it or know it or don’t…

the wonder of His love is that it reaches….

far as the curse is found.

 

Restoring Wonder | Lament

i’ve sat on these words for a few days now, wondering; who am i to write on suffering and lament?  there are many wiser and more qualified folk who have covered this subject well- C.S. Lewis’ A Greif Observed and Amy Carmichael’s Rose from Briar are long time favorites of mine on the subject.   The God of all Comfort-He is a Mysterious One.   but this is where i am-battling yet again for Hope and Wonder amidst deep pain and suffering and so much i don’t understand. the only thing i know to do is wrestle with the Angel-because there is no other Rock; I know not one.

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Job’s Second Test

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.  Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.   -p.492 of my Bible

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my God, my God, why have You forsaken me?  Why are You so far from saving me?  -Jesus

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Dishonesty allows my false self, the imposter who is the slick, sick, and subtle impersonator of true self, to engage in life on a fraudulent basis…..The denial, displacement, or repression of feelings is blatant dishonesty and leads to a loss of integrity.

-Brennan Manning, in his introduction to Fil Anderson’s book Running on Empty (p.xiii)

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there was this battle for hope… (so many battles for hope)

the pray-er approaching the Throne room with loud cries and supplications-that she believed with all her heart came directly from her King in the first place.  it was a real battle on another’s behalf for hope to be supernaturally supplied and a real battle to believe that her prayers were not in vain.

the appearance of things from that day are that hope mockingly laughed at the foolishness of this pray-er to believe that God prompted or heard, and even worse, hope mockingly laughed at the one prayed for-the one suffering terribly already-that she would trust this pray-er’s words and believe that God would respond with comfort and a glimpse of Himself.

Sometimes our Faithful One says yes to the sifting and no to the cry for release.

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i don’t know if Job ever sinned in his suffering.  i do know that Jesus never sinned in His.

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with toddlers underfoot my days were often spent chuckling whilst wrestling one into time-out because of their wailing and kicking over not getting their way.

if not for the honest lament, i would not have been able to address the selfishness.

those days also found me wrestling with one wailing and kicking because his broken nervous system could not process the air touching his skin-these were cries for relief from horrible pain.  again, if not for the honest lament, i would not have known to seek help for his suffering.

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like my children, some of my laments are shallow and immature-stemming from a root sin of selfishness and pride. and some of my laments are deep and mature, stemming from a root of utter fear of the One whose love i’ve trusted will not fail.

either way…..

I want to see miracles, to see the world change
I’ve wrestled the angel, for more than a name
For more than a feeling
For more than a cause
I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
and I’m not copping out, not copping out…..
Cause You’re raising the dead in me

-Switchfoot-Twenty-Four

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The Lord delights in those who fear Him; who put their hope in His unfailing love…..

sometimes i think Hope looks a little like Lament…..

Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground.

Rise up and help us;
redeem us because of
Your Unfailing Love.

 

To draw further in…. Psalm 22; 40; 42:7-11; 44:23-26; 103; Lamentations 3

 

 

 

 

for understanding | pursuit

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Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
    and for their children it will be a refuge.

 the door slams and i start washing the dishes. the tension is thick and i think to myself, no one is feeling very safe or very loved right now.  how can a fortress provide refuge if the battle is inside its walls?

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 i stew in all the ways that i am right and have been offended.  as is often the case with these dishes of mine, the Spirit begins to stir within and i’m told to pursue.  to seek out.  to walk the path to where she is hiding out.  and i’m reminded of all that i do not know and all that i long for our home to provide to it’s inhabitants and all the ways it doesn’t.

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and so i walk the path and do not expect the tears i find.  we walk the path back together with dad (who is so logical and steady) and talk it all through and at the end we have come to understand each other (related to this particular issue anyway) and it makes all the difference.

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i too am hiding away in my pain and grief related to this season and all the ways we’ve failed eachother.  and He pursues.  He walks the path towards me and together, my Steady One and i talk it all through…..

i’ve attempted all the things, but all the things appear to be no match for the wounds from without or the wounds from my own sins.  my misjudgments (read misunderstandings), my leanancy when strictness was called for and my strictness when tender mercy was called for.

You have said i’ve been redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to me from my forefathers.  -1peter 1:18

and i resolved not to hand down an empty way of life to my kids.  but deep within i fear that is the very thing i’ve handed down.  which leads me to wonder;

what is it that makes a life empty?
what is it that makes a life full?

it is not perishable things that redeem, it is only the blood of Jesus and i too am helpless in the handing of  that down…..except for a demonstration of my own neediness for it, of our neediness for it.

this is what these teen years have been revealing to me-the wounds have not been covered by all the things, even the good and obedient things.  they can only be covered by Christ’s blood. 

oh Father, that she would…..that we all would …feel safe and feel loved…

in You.

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……and i begin to understand the One who Pursues. …and this One who Pursues provides understanding.

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days later we’re all crammed together working at this workhorse of a kitchen table.  with papers strewn between us, this Pursuing One breathes hope and i am overcome with perplexity and gratitude.  in this moment, amidst this mundane, she grasps my true heart towards her and speaks it forth.  in her words, i grasp her true heart towards mine and my heart swells with the joy found amidst papers and assignments and drudgery.

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oh my Lord-

i have beheld Your Glory.

food for thinking on

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God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.

-John Piper

treasure hunting

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i lay there fighting for sleep.  (not to be confused with fighting sleep like a toddler does. no. i wanted sleep-sleep was fighting me)  finally i give up and get up at 1:30 in the morning.  the thought comes to me that prayer would be a good thing to do.  i laugh cynically; “i wish…”  i start talking about that with that One who never tires or grows weary.  i sit with Him and find myself redirected from the mind numbing reading (which i do believe has it’s place.) tonight in the darkness there are treasures to be mined for.  i don’t know this of course (see also: laughed cynically)  but my Master Gardner does.  Sara’s words* give me a push down into the mine shaft.  i cup open my hands to receive what might be described as rubies or sapphires, if only they were beautiful enough.  it is dark outside and dark in my soul, but He has promised…..

You promise treasures in the darkness and You are that treasure
-Sara Hagerty

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He delivers on that promise as words come to mind…vaguely they come and i flip open those thin and well worn pages and hunt for them.  i take Sara’s advice* of carving out at least 200 words back to Him about these words of His;

Lift up your eyes and look at the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
and calls them each by name.
Because of His great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
“do not be afraid, oh little worm, for I Myself will help you,” declares the Lord
Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light,
trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
if i say; “surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to You;
the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.”

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only Christ knows the depth of meaning these very words have personally and specifically …to me.  it’s a looking back on these recent years of walking in the dark in so many ways. it’s a remembering of what He told me about what was ahead-words i didn’t completely understand, nor do i now.  words that only gave me the next step to take, and i’ve been waiting ever since to hear His voice in that way again.  these are comforting words, encouraging words.  He takes them deeper still, the meaning becomes deeper still.  oh, this darkness may or may not lift.  but the hand holding on to mine?  it will remain constant whether i feel it or not.

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sometimes my husband and i will be holding hands.  time passes and i grow accustomed to the feel of my hand in his.  but then there will be a slight squeeze-indicating a knowing, a loving, a depth of communication only we grasp.

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tonight in the darkness, i feel my Shepherd’s squeeze.

 

to draw further in; Isaiah 40 beginning at verse 25; 41:13-14; 42:16, 45:18-19; 50:10-11; Psalm 139:11-12

*Taken from Sara Hagerty’s Adoration devotional available now free with a pre-order of her upcoming book: Every Bitter Thing is Sweet|Tasting the goodness of God in all things.  You can also learn more about Adoration via her blog.

breathing among the papyrus reeds

Then [Moses’ mother] placed the child among the papyrus reeds along the bank of the Nile.  His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe.  She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it.   -exodus 2

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at the last minute we decide to walk to school.  i place a ball cap on my head, grab my phone and off we go.  i decide that walking is nicer than driving and we talk more than when on the bike.  i walk him all the way to the playground give him a hug and off he bounds for another day of 4th grade.

i see a friend that i can’t recall ever seeing in the morning before school.  she looks at me and says;

i know why you are here.  God brought you here on purpose.  He knew exactly what i needed today.

on a fluke, she had walked around the building with her 4th grader too.

did you catch there what i did?  i called it a fluke.  but it was no fluke.

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all the disciplines have been a fight lately.  i fight to pray.  i sit with my Bible in my lap and my eyes blur and the words are still and dead and stagnate.  so i talk with Him about it.  and i ask for help.  but day after day i find it the same.  one day last week the words became alive again and in my joy i shared it all here.  i thought maybe the dry season had ended and the rainy season had begun.  but the fight returned and it’s been more of the same.

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we sip tea together and talk of the deep heart issues.  His Word springs forth and quenches as only It can. and i am left to marvel at the words that come and the Truths that we embrace together.  i share a little of this marveling especially in relation to how things have felt this summer.  and she says;

it’s because it’s in you.  His Word is in you.

i’m entering a different place of trust here….always another place of trust.

what she said is true in its way.  He has promised that just as the rain waters the earth, so do His Words that go out from His mouth, accomplishing what He intended.  He has also said that streams of living water will overflow from within those who are His.

But there is more.  i remember Joseph’s words;

and God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this place…

and i remember how Pharaoh’s daughter happened upon that little baby in the basket.  and i acknowledge that it is no less a miracle that my friend and i happened upon each other.  And what i so enjoy about the whole thing is that i didn’t have to have showered or dressed for the occasion.  i didn’t’ have to have any profound revelation.  i didn’t even have to know to show up.  i just had to be breathing.  all the rest?

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was God surely coming to our very aid.

An Unexpected Journey-looking back

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i take the time to ponder my surprising response to those who deemed my choices foolish.  and i realize the gift the broken car and sick child and sick me gave.  all of that shifted my perspective very quickly to the reality that i have no control over anything.  and the natural stress and fatigue that they brought with them shifted my energy. no longer did i have energy to spend self-editing, self-doubting, self-focusing.

i marvel at the One who takes the bad and creates something good from it.  satan’s plans are thwarted.  God is still glorified, light shines in dark places, and i become more free.  and i have nothing to do with any of it.  all there is to do is soak in the Wonder.

there is so much joy in freedom.

there is so much freedom in understanding who i am and Whose i am and Who He Is.

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looking back i see the beautiful work of a Father, moving this daughter into the world and creating Art with the way:

i keep talking even tho my words aren’t being understood
i keep deciding even tho i don’t have all the information
i reject analysis of my time with the car and with family. i let Him fight for me and once strengthened i join the fight for hope. i rest in the truth that Christ is in me-and He will come out. it is the hope of glory. it is glory’s only hope.

i take the risk and go on the hike. i speak honestly my frustration about being left behind without food and water, but don’t condemn. i listen to the journey my husband and son took with interest and share in their joy.

i pay attention to the fact that the words don’t stick. i marvel at the way fatigue and stress and sickness remove my ability to absorb another’s opinions. i recognize that not only is joy worth the fight, but avoidance of pain is not worth the absence of joy.

once we return from all the travels, i breathe deep the days of sleeping in and stop apologizing to the people in my imagination about the laundry not started and the groceries yet to get.

i accept the new definitions (travel mercies; regretless days).  i move forward looking at the last two weeks as defining moments in becoming more fully at rest with who i am and Whose i am.

i show up here and write it all down

“Perhaps the most beautiful work you can do today is to begin to accept your creative inheritance from God and learn to become yourself in the presence of others, moving into the world as the person you fully are no matter where you are, who you’re with, or what’s gone wrong.”

-The Art of Your Work by Emily P. Freeman

 

it is for freedom
that Christ as set us free.

Stand firm, then,
and do not let yourselves be burdened again
by a yoke of slavery.

galatians 5:1

An Unexpected Journey-headed north

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hope has been restored and that is a big thing.

We’ve left the Dear Ones in the South that i come from, and head to the North to Dear Ones on the other side.

We’ve traveled from the heat of the desert to the cool of the mountains.  i’m physically fatigued-but spiritually restored and that makes all the difference.  still, i’ve caught the older one’s sickness.

because, of course.

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the choice is presented for a 6 mile hike and really it’s foolish to even consider. this cold, or flu, or whatever it is, carries with it a cough and shortness of breath as it is.   but-we’re at a family reunion-and we’re in S. Dakota.  and there are all the people.  and i just think that it seems we are sick every time we travel and so i could stay in bed and rest to get better or i could go and do things i can’t do at home with people i very rarely see.

so i go.

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and since i have one son who can run a mile in 7 minutes and it takes just the glimpse of where we are going for him to loose awareness of anything else but that-he starts hiking.  Jeremy,  working to keep up with him, calls back to me and my youngest that he’ll keep track of this one if i keep track of that one.  it makes sense, i’m sick and the one with me is our slow and steady one.  but …. in the haste we forget that Jeremy is carrying all of our water and food.

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and i wonder if i will make it.

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it is glorious. and so worth it.

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of course when i get back to camp i limp over to our camper and crash.  and now it is plainly obvious to everyone that i am sick and getting sicker.  and there are a few naysayers who call my choice the foolishness that it is.  the words don’t stick.  a day without regrets has been redefined.

An Unexpected Journey-headed south

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the heat of the sun soaks into the broken van.  stuck there at exit 49 along the Colorado River and the kids aren’t quite sure what to think or say-so they sit there with big eyes and quick obedience.  i cry and pray that the tears will stop once the phone does find a signal and i am required to communicate clearly where we are and what we need.  i drain the car battery trying to keep the dying phone alive.  my phone’s charge lasts long enough to connect with roadside assistance, and there is nothing left to connect with my husband who is all the way back home.

Howard the tow-truck driver is on his way.  the kids help me pack up the car and get ready.  i tear my favorite pants on the guard-rail.  i answer their questions as best i can; -the tow truck is coming-he will get us to the nearest city.  some Dear Ones –who were adventuring themselves and aren’t too far away-are coming to help too.

after dumping the van-Howard drops us off at a dairy queen to await our coming help.  i breathe deep at the sight of the elementary school across the way.  we get our ice cream and walk over to wait.

and i am thankful for the elementary school playground and ice cream.  and for Howard who was so very kind.  thankful for the exit 49 so i could be off the highway.  thankful for the husband on the phone who is so very kind too.  thankful for the finding of a hotel-a fancy shmancy hotel-for cheap.  the term Travel Mercies is being redefined.

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still, here i am

with all these decisions to make.  lots and lots of decisions.  i have this complex and difficult history with decisions that adds to the struggle.  i’ve begun to understand this about me.


i wake in the night to hear her tossing and turning.  the thermometer reads 102.  she says her throat hurts bad.  i’ve nothing to offer for relief and no transportation.  i do what i can to make her comfortable, taking her cot and giving her the bed.  the boys sleep soundly through it all, it’s all a grand adventure and these detours are nothing to lose sleep over- to them.

i flex and make a new plan for tomorrow;

    1. pick up rental  go to urgent care
    2. pick up rental
    3. stop at transmission shop.
    4. sell car to the junk yard.
    5. get back on our way?  or just go home?

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we all decide that continuing on is the wise choice.  there are cousins to connect with and a new cousin to meet.  the kids have no idea how hard this all is.  all these decisions made with limited information and limited sleep.  they are good sports and enjoy themselves regardless of what i choose.

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 the sick one spends her days in bed while the boys and their cousin play in their fort.  grandma stays behind, because though my sick one is 14, i won’t let her be sick on her own.  we girls, as we’ve been called for years and years, spend rare hours together.   the ruts in the road are well worn and try as we might to forge a new path these ruts are deep, compounded by distance and lack of time for tending.  i realize this as we have time for talking, brief moments to share from our hearts.  i tread lightly-testing the ground as i go to see if it is safe to move forward.  sometimes it is and i share deeply.  sometimes it isn’t and i hold back.  sometimes i forget about the testing and self-editing and realize after the places that cause discomfort for them and for me.  there are moments to ponder that these are the ones who have known me the longest….yet, in some ways, hardly know me at all.

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 my prayers are reduced to groaning.  i’m losing my footing and beginning to forget what i know.  i’m spending time with family by day and tending to a sick teenager by night. the fog creeps in and my body shifts into survival, physical and spiritual fatigue takes its toll.  the One who knows and understands everything, He breaks through the fog and gives strength to keep going and keep loving and keep engaging.  to listen and seek to know, without seeking to be known.

 “in times like these,” He encourages, “it’s no longer about being in the word every day.  it’s about living the word every moment.”

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 still, despite the personal victory won of remaining engaged, other hopes fade and begin to die out.

i take a risk and share with a friend;

 “it’s just hard to see any hope of anything else but this ever.”

he replies;

 “Don’t give up hope.  God is big.”


as our travel shifts to the North, my eyes and heart begin to take in hope.  those words spoken by a fellow traveler are life giving.  the fog lifts if only a little.  my eyes catch glimpses of hope in unexpected places.  i grab the camera and my pen, because i want to remember both the bigness of my God and the way He speaks.

I AM your feast, in the presence of enemies...” (via jon foreman/psalm 23)

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 a tree-growing out of the rock.  planted and tended and grown by the Only One who could.

words that press in just the right places:

Oh child, I have searched and known you!
I know when you sit down and when you rise up;
I discern your thoughts from afar.
I search out your path and your lying down and Am acquainted with all your ways.
Even before a word is on your tongue, behold, I the LORD, know it altogether.
I hem you in, behind and before and I lay My Hand upon you.
(psalm 139)

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He is big.
Bask in the hope of His Bigness
Behold it.
Bask in the Wonder of being searched, known, and treasured.

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and then, seriously, i’m walking under Mt. Rushmore’s hall of flags and i look up and see this!! It’s Rhode Island’s flag, in case anyone wants to know. the 13th state. Admitted to the Union in 1790

 “And this hope is an anchor to our very soul, because He who promised is Faithful.”

 

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