Sunday, August 23, 2015

The True Normal Life

"To be on intimate terms with Him, to live in the atmosphere of His presence, to spend the day with Him--that is the true normal life."

From, Tiger and Tom, "A Picture of God"

The Old Apple Tree

     Walking with God. Every day. He is there anyway. Talk with Him. Praise His name continually. Bring Him into every conversation. This truly is the normal life. 
     To think that He somehow drops in on us occasionally just to check in is a lie. He said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Heb 13:5) Also, "Lo, I am with you alway." (Matt 28:20) His presence is ever near. We are so easily deceived when we feel we have some private place set apart from God. "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (1 Cor 6:19)
     Regarding the indwelling of Christ, a child asked his mother, "How am I to know He is come, mother?" Her reply, "When you are quite gentle, sweet, and happy, it is because Christ is within." (C. Mason, Home Education) His presence alters you. When you allow yourself to be conscious of His presence, your life will take on a different shape; slowly and oft times painfully due to the powerful force of self, formed into the image of Christ. "And as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (1 Cor 15:49)
     There is within your breast a legion of voices calling out in distraction, filling your thoughts with hate and lies. Your thoughts are an access point where Satan can attack your inner core. Why do you think the verses relating to how we think are so prominent in the Bible? The fortification of our soul must have no weak points. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." (Phil 2:5) "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (Rom 12:2) As we follow the command to, "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind," (Matt 22:37) we will be very careful to allow only truth to dwell within, for it is a certain truth that He dwells within. And think, "Can two walk together accept they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3) And how can darkness dwell with light? What confusion of soul and mind comes from two opposing kingdoms striving for mastery within! "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." (1 John 1:4)
     Christ came, "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." (Acts 26:18) "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." (Matt 11:28-29) Believe you not that He is ever present, even now, moving throughout you: weaving through the catacombs of your thoughts, deciphering your motives, coursing through your very being?  And that, though He knows all of you He loves you with an everlasting love and with a desire to give you an abundant life; a divine life, a life spent with Him every moment of every day, the end of which will never come?
     Micah 6:8, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8) "Nothing less is required of every one who bears the Christian name...It speaks of a life of prayer and communion with the Eternal; each day begun with fresh self-dedication to Him, and ended in the serene consciousness of His love. Never be contented with a lower level. Never be tempted to imagine that even a life of honesty and benevolence will suffice. Never be satisfied to live a day without intercourse with Heaven." (Thayer, Gaining Favor with God and Man)
     Did you ever notice after having spent a great deal of time with someone who speaks with an accent that you find yourself mimicking their speech pattern, even using the same vocabulary? As you immerse yourself in conversation with God, drinking in the language of the Bible, seeking the mind of God in the pages of Scripture and expanding your vocabulary by taking the time to learn the meaning of those rich Old English words, you will find that not only your thought patterns will change, but your speech patterns as well. Truly, what we admire we emulate; what we love, we become. 

Friday, August 21, 2015


"Oh, how canst thou renounce the boundless store
Of charms which Nature to her votary yields!
The warbling woodland, the resounding shore,
The pomp of groves, and garniture of fields;
All that the genial ray of morning gilds,
And all that echoes to the song of even,
All that the mountain's sheltering bosom shields,
And all the dread magnificence of heaven, 
Oh, how canst thou renounce, and hope to be forgiven?
James Beattie
From, A Complete Spelling Book, 1884

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I Can But Marvel

 "Who indeed shall adequately describe any one, the simplest even, of these radiant beings? Day after day, as I watch them appear, one variety after another, in such endless changes of delicate beauty, I can but marvel ever more and more at the exhaustless power of the great Inventor. Must He not enjoy the work of His hands, the manifold perfection of these His matchless creations?"
Celia Thaxter

     While we are seeing the world through Ms. Celia Thaxter's eyes, let's continue on with some thought provoking quotes and questions to excite the young mind toward more noble and beautiful things. Let's sharpen their use of the English language and train them in the art of seeing, feeling, appreciating and then sharing in written form their observations. Following are three quotes used with great success at The Roy Academy.

     "It was so beautiful, --the dewy quiet, the freshness, the long, still shadows, the matchless, delicate, sweet charm of the newly wakened world."

     Have your student answer the following to the best of their ability in their finest penmanship:
1. Describe an early morning that you witnessed.
2. How does the phrase, "dewy quiet" make you feel? (If you cannot feel this phrase, then you MUST visit my garden before 7am tomorrow!)
3. What sounds does one hear in the "newly wakened world"? Describe it so that I may hear it too.
4. According to Psalm 113:3, what are we to begin at the earliest hour and continue through until the end of day?

     "It is such a pleasure and satisfaction to clear the beautiful brown earth, smooth and soft, from these rough growths, leaving the beautiful green Poppies and larkspurs and Pinks and Asters, and the rest, in undisturbed possession!"

1. What time of year is this?
2. How are weeds described?
3. Why is "undisturbed possession" important for flowers in the garden?
4. How can we relate this "undisturbed possession" to our souls and our walk with God?
5. What are some "weeds" that you can remove from the soil of your heart?
(Remember your answers, dear one, and apply them to your life.)

     "Violets, roses, lilies, sweet pea, mignonette, and heliotrope, with a dash of honeysuckle, all mingled in a heavenly whole. There is no perfume which I know that can equal it. And they are so lavish of their scent; it is borne off the garden and wafted everywhere, into the house and here and there in all directions, in viewless clouds on the gentle air."

1. How do the flowers produce their smell?
2. Why is it there?
3. Of the flowers listed, which fragrance is your favorite? How would you describe it to someone?
4. According the the Scriptures, what is a sweet-smelling thing to God? (To answer this question, read the following verses, then summarize to give an answer: Philippians 4:8; Ephesians 5:2; Isaiah 1:13-20)

    Dear Mothers, taking the time to teach your children a deep appreciation for the world in which they dwell and for the God who took such care in the finest details is of great importance in the formation of their character. A careless eye leads to an ungrateful heart and a terribly self-centered life. Many of us were not trained in gardening or journaling our walks in nature, but that does not excuse us from helping our children to taste and see with their own eyes the blessings found in God's creation. Understand that most of this homeschooling journey is one of learning and growing alongside your child; learning and growing with her and sharing that joy of discovery together.

Friday, August 7, 2015


A lady is a complete package. You cannot paste femininity on, it must come forth from within and influence all that you are; all that you wear, say and do; its evidence will be seen in your conversation; in your life as a whole. There is no magic pill: no perfect hairstyle, outfit, spouse, no best friend that will make you a lady in the fullest sense.Think of being a lady as the sum of the parts. Yes, clothing matters, but so does attitude. Yes, neatness in appearance (beauty and health) matters, but so do internal motivations. Yes, tone of voice matters, but so does submission of spirit.

God gives us the framework. We get to utilize our personalities with this framework. Don't be afraid to stretch beyond your fears to become who God has made you to be. We are uptight, trying to fit our squareness into round holes. Stop. Breathe. Stretch. Walk closely with Christ. Let Him stretch you within the beautiful confines of womanhood, ladyhood, femininity. Learn from Him the art delicacy and strength as you've never known and in a way that no man can understand. Everything that you do can be done gracefully. It's in the turn of a wrist, a tilt of the head, a calmness of expression, a relaxing of the shoulders. It's in the way you carry yourself.

See your feet? See your hands?Touch the hair upon your head. Gifts. All precious gifts to be used rightly. Look at that body type you've been given. It is a covering for your glorious organs within that are functioning properly. When did you last thank God for these things? Praise Him for it right now and from this moment on. Your entire being is a miracle. Disdain any part of this and you disdain the Creator who custom made you for your life. Remove all negative thoughts at the gateway of your mind and instead focus on pleasing Him in all you think, do and say, in how you dress, walk, and touch the lives around you. Reset your thoughts every morning. Don't keep looking out towards others to find you. Look up and look in. Breathe. Get ready to really live as you live as the woman you were truly meant to be.

I've been meditating lately on what makes a good photograph. By the way, meditation is a good thing. Learn to think deeply. Give your brain time to process what it is taking in. You can't do that if you are “connected” to devices for the majority of your day, flitting from one juicy bit of info to another, intoxicated on the sweet nectar of knowing who did what with whom and when. Reminds me of the double-minded man verses, and the, “ye cannot serve God and mammon verses, and the, “Think on theses things”verses. Hmmm, seems like some of us have chosen the thralldom (voluntary slavery) of popular culture and have willingly disconnected ourselves from the still small voice of God and that's very sad.

So, what makes a good photograph? Three things, according to me:
  1. Simple lines.
  2. No distracting clothing or background.
  3. True connection of the subject to the one viewing the photograph or to another person within the photograph.
Let's talk about these as I feel they are deeply connected, in an oddly perfect way, to that of being a lady.

First, simple lines. Notice in this artwork entitled, “Elegante,” how a few lines can create a complete image. Precisely! There are very few, and very basic observations that are made in the life of another that actually define the whole person. Simple lines in the life of a true lady can be found in her non-cluttered life. Her speech, her dress, her room, her home, her goals, all follow a simple and direct trajectory determined by her choice to please God first and not have her mind on the opinion of others.

Note this beautiful image of a vase and flowers. This image fits well in our talk about being a lady. I see a continum of grace and proportions as should be seen throughout every aspect of the life of a lady. Just as someone created this arrangement, choosing the color of flower, the texture of the vase, and the canvas of the wall behind it, we are to live deliberately, speak deliberately, act deliberately. What we say is what we mean and what we will do. Our lives need not be complicated.Nothing of great value and worth happens by accident, it takes work. Likewise it is with a beautiful picture, it very rarely is an accident. There is so much effort, thought, study, practice that goes into the creation of a work of art. Friend, we are to love God supremely and we are to love and therefore deal with others and we would have them deal with us. This is the work of a lifetime. If we are to marry, we are to be a keeper of the home with which we are blessed. That will be our focus. Love God. Love others. Care for those things that God has given you charge. To be successful in this requires deliberate focus, attention, and sacrifice.

Next, no distractions in clothing or background. First, clothing. In a portrait, a boldly patterned top is a poor choice. So is wearing a color that isn't right for your skin tone. Also, a lack of material to cover one's self is a distraction from the actual person, the soul in the photograph. So goes our life as a lady. Clothing has a purpose and it can be used to distraction or to attraction to the actual soul within the clothing. We make not only clothing choices, but many other choices daily. This can be likened to having no distractions in our present life as a lady. Choose wisely throughout this day knowing that the minor will greatly affect the major. Daily choices alter the place you land a year from now. Little leaks sink great ships.

As far as background goes, a distracting background could refer to our moral choices, our past. You know, today you are creating your “past” and you are totally in control of that. Even if something devastating were to happen to you, you can still be in total control of your reactions and your attitude towards the event that God Himself allowed. In photography, a good artist will watch the color palette of the entire scene. In great images, the background blends seemlessly with the subject, likewise the pose matches the person. God is working the circumstances in our lives together to seemlessly blend all for our good and for His glory. Put your train car on the track of true womanhood and you'll be surprised how much easier it is to get to where you are supposed to be. We have so much to do with the final image of our life.

Third, true connection. This one fascinates me as a photographer. It is what I'm after every time I shoot. In order to get this from my subject I must first gain their trust. I must allow them to feel safe with me so that they can allow their true self to come forth. You see it in their eyes, their smile and in their body language.
The best way I can do that is to become honestly interested in them as a person, to smile genuinely at them as I listen to them, and to show vulnerability as a human being.

As a lady, true connection to the eternal souls around me can only take place as honesty and vulnerability rise to the surface of my life. I must lay down my pride and my sense of competition. You do realize that it's not a competition between any of us, right? You will wake up one day and realize that so and so was not the standard, nor was she all that you thought she was. You will realize the standard is Christ and that you are in a race against yourself on a very unique course that He has set for you.

The ballerina. This is a beautiful image. Do you know how hard it is to look graceful while performing under great physical strain? This takes great effort, great discipline. Welcome, ladies, to the strength of a woman: Self-control, a fine-tuned body, simple coverings, purpose, determination, and strength. Obtaining a life of simple lines, no distractions and true connection will take great effort on your part. Great effort. But if you will let it be the crowning purpose of your life, to live life as a true lady, it will become the crowning achievement of your life, affecting all those that surround you and that will follow after you.

Take note and set out to learn of the silent influence of a woman. I quote, “Cruelty she despises, and it lessens at her bidding; purtiy she admires and it grows in her presence...” From the same ancient book, “This influence is due not exclusively to the fascination of her charms, but to the strength, uniformity, and consistency of her virtues, maintained under so many sacrifices and with so much fortitude and heroism. Without these endowments and qualifications, external attractions are nothing; but with them, their power is irresistible.” (Golden Gems of Life)

Femininity is not a one size fits all, set in stone, cookie cutter pattern that you can memorize and put on and take off according to your circumstances or depending on the company you keep. I can not show you the one true image of Feminine; I can only describe its qualities and when you find someone displaying these qualities, though the people don't always look the same, you will know a true lady when you see one because these qualities appear in every facet of her life. And her presence in your life will always call you up to a higher plane.

Ladies, it really does matter that your skirt is pressed, that you hold that door open for someone, that you smile at your parents, and thank them. That you move gently through the house, and keep your areas neat. That you not only seek to be good, but to do good. The details matter as it is the little things that make up the whole. Tucked in amongst the gross sins in Romans 1 are the culturally acceptable sins, even within the church, of “disobedient to parents” and “unthankful”. These things ought not so to be. Young ladies, when did you last thank your mom for her care for you? A true lady lives in a constant state of gratitude. How often do you roll your eyes, outwardly or inwardly, as your parents speak to you? A true lady shows respect at all times. Symptoms, my friends, symptoms of a greater and uglier issue. Disobedience and unthankfulness allowed in the child, or within your own life, breeds a contempt for authority and will, if left unchecked, feed the selfish nature and lead to an isolation from God.

Young, sweet one sitting here, you may have learned to dress like a lady, but you may not be acting like one. You cannot have the glory of the title without having earned it. The outward appearance crumbles without a true foundation. Victory and glory comes after a battle. The battle is one of ideas that begins in the mind and must have its foundations based squarely on God's eternal word. Being a lady is the sum of the parts. All of you must be in harmony with the feminine calling on your life. This is who you are! Don't shame the office of woman. It is a high and holy calling to be the one positioned as Keeper of the Home.
To be the one to bear children and to nourish them physically, mentally and spiritually. And to do it all gracefully with great purpose and determination. You will not get up one day and discover that you have become a lady, you must get up every day striving to live up to the honorable title.

God is concerned with your heart, your soul, the fabric of what makes you. Your femininity is a generalized and transparent cloak that hangs on this magnificent infrastructure called You. By creating you as a woman He has given you a beautiful framework in which to accomplish your task. All of this today is to help to you be the best version of you! You have a God. You are a girl. So, this means two things are settled: you know from Whom you are to seek direction (God), and you know how you are to walk your unique path (like a lady).

Femininity looks a bit different on each of us. There are Biblical standards set, such as: having a behavior as becometh holiness, not a false accuser, one that teaches good things, sober, discreet, loves others, chaste, and good, etc. Great respect is given to a true lady. How you carry yourself backs up your speech, your dress, your outward display, or else it eliminates any credibility you may seem to have. Your words will carry so much more weight when backed by a fiercely feminine life. Humans are designed this way. How much more effective could we be to this world if our grace-filled souls were living in harmony with a grace-filled life; our walk, talk, mannerisms, tone of voice, gentleness of touch, sweetness of spirit, all fulfilling God's plan of woman.

Like putting on a beautiful, elegant dress makes you feel beautiful and elegant, so too, the cloak of femininity covers and infiltrates every aspect of your life creating a beautiful world where others will long to dwell; where you are queen and keeper.

(Author's note: photographs #1-8, 11 and 12 we taken from the internet. The rest were taken by the author.)