Monday, October 31, 2016

Day 31... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 31: Only


Life is only a glimpse...
_______________________________

"Glimpse"
(originally posted 08/12/12)

It seems like just yesterday that I took this picture of myself...

But no, it wasn't yesterday. 

This photo was actually taken circa 1988 when I was about 12 years old. 

I was going through a "don't smile at the camera" phase,
and now I look back on pictures from that time and laugh. 

It's funny how time changes things.. how time changes almost EVERY thing.

One afternoon as I was watching my son shoot basketball hoops in our backyard, I caught a glimpse of my former self.  I couldn't help but notice the look on his face as the sun shone down on him so I ran in the house to grab my camera, came back out, and snapped this photo. 

I put the two pictures side by side to provide just a glimpse at life through innocent eyes

No full expression 
No full struggle
No full understanding either

Just a glimpse
back to days when I was still trying to figure out

who I was
who God was
and how it was

that I fit into His plan

I now know that

Learning is a lifelong process

and God only allows us to see just a glimpse at a time
(because any more than that might prove to be just too overwhelming)

He's smart that way
He's good that way

And so now...

this phase of my journey is teaching me to cherish these moments shared
because one day I will look back and realize that

my entire life was only...

just a glimpse

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Day 30... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 30: Cut


Nothing hurts more than being cut by someone you love
(but sometimes cuts are necessary)

the Word
the Gospel
the truth

cuts

and with the birth of my
first born

I learned
first hand 

that a cut is much better than a tear

because nothing heals

quicker
cleaner
faster

than a "grace cut"
_____________________________

"On The Quest to Cure Boredom... Let's Learn to Sew"
(originally posted 8/14/15)

I came out of the store...

smiling
quickly got in the car
and immediately pulled out my purchase

My husband looked over at me as he backed out of the parking space and asked...

"What is that?"

"Fabric remnants... your daughter wants to learn how to sew"

and I was excited because
I also learned how to sew by making doll clothes

measure
cut
sew

a skill that has come in handy
a skill that I want to cultivate again
a skill that I want to teach BOTH of my children

(because I believe that boys should learn to sew too)

and I know that...

the best way to learn something new
is to attach it to something you love...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Day 29... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 29: Date


Remembering a date with destiny...
______________________________

"Discovering Destiny... in the Dead Sea"
(originally posted 9/9/13)

When our younger cousin Destiny shared her experiences from Israel, I was enthralled

I remember when she was still a child
with that same beautiful smile

and seeing her now
hearing her now

appreciating the beautiful woman

she has become
will become
is becoming

wells up more feelings of gratitude

Only God could travel with someone

to the "lowest point on earth"
to show them the highness of the position

to which He has called them

What an amazing work He

has done
will do
is doing

and it makes me smile at the irony of

finding purpose and
discovering destiny in the Dead Sea 



She writes...

Out of all the things I’ve seen in my lifetime, the Dead Sea has got to be one of the most beautiful sites I have ever encountered. At its first glance I doubted it as a reality, but the more I gazed at it, the heavier my heart was.

All I could think of was how amazing of a creator our God is.

The Dead Sea is the lowest part of the earth;
a little over 1,300 feet below sea level and is a sea full of salt that allows you to literally float without effort. As I floated in the water I asked God, “Why me Lord?”

Little old me: Destiny Dixon.

All I am is a mere testimony who acknowledges that it is only by God’s grace that my “Why me Lord?” question is not one conceived in confusion, depression, agony, or hatred.

Although it once was,

it now flows from sincere gratitude.

Why do you continue to bless me?

In such a vast world, God thought enough about me to wipe away every tear, remove doubt, break chains and strongholds, erase bitterness, and then bless me exceedingly and abundantly. In his grand creation, he looked past my imperfections, and decided to show me how much he loves me; this he does every single day.

Little old me.

The lowest point on earth may be ordinary to some,
but it is extraordinary to me.

Why you ask?

Because…

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him?”  –Psalms 8:3-4

(post reprinted with permission)

Day 28... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 28: Eat


We stuff our faces with goodies
empty calories with no nutritional value

fed

a daily diet of
corruption and carnality

entertainment
luxury
lies

seeking to nourish our grace deficient lives
with our words instead of His

But feeding with other malnourished corpses
with similar eating disorders

cannot sustain us

and soon enough we will come to realize the truth in the age old adage...

"You are what you eat"

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Day 27... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 27: Bouquet

Save the...

flowers
fruit
flowery words

for someone else

All I ask is that we fully enjoy our time together now
because I don't need a bouquet to know you really care
_______________________________

"Stop and Smell the Roses"
(originally posted 9/11/12)

My son took this picture of me one year while we were on vacation...

We were sitting in the lobby waiting for the rest of our group to meet us, and he asked for my camera.  I was uncertain, but handed it to him anyway. 

Then he noticed a small bouquet of flowers sitting on a small table between us,
and asked if I would take a picture holding them because...

"Mom, they match your dress"

(only thing...I was wearing a skirt)

Then he surprised me when he asked for me to stop and smell them
                             

"What does a (then) 9 year old boy know about stopping to smell the roses?"

And there it was...

Isaiah 11:6 "...and a little child shall lead them."
And so I'm encouraging you today to...
hold the ones that you love dearly
thank the Lord above
let a child lead you

and take time to stop and smell the roses!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Day 26... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 26... Confront


Confront the truth
Confront the lies
Confront your fears
Confront your failures
Confront the facts
Confront the fact...

that He's already 

confronted and conquered
death

so that we can now daily

confront and conquer
life
____________________________

"How This Christian Girl Finally Learned to Curse
(originally posted 3/31/15)

I am a 38 year-old Christian female...

who has just recently learned to curse

It's shocking, I know
as I can hardly believe it myself

and wonder...

How did I get here?

and

Why did it take so long?

I, like so many others
who were introduced to Christ as a child

learned to

pray
praise
read His Word

tell others about

His goodness
His plan
His provision

and live a life dedicated to His service

But my 23 years...
(on this side of the cross)

have also taught me

that this Christian walk

almost
always
also

involves a fight!

Whether its...

spiritual
emotional
physical

we have to fight on every side

against

the flesh
the enemy
the world

because we're fighting the good fight of faith

And so as I recently

remembered
read
reconsidered

the passage of Scripture found here...

and as I really thought about...

my journey
my life
my experiences

and really thought about Christ...

His journey
His life
His experiences

and about how everything that He did
was for us

the words of Jesus penetrated my heart
and I realized that I was living far too passively

AND...

that not only
did I need to learn to confront that which is

unfruitful
unproductive
unyielding

in my life

I needed to be teaching my children this as well

(because after all, the best way to learn to curse is from your mother, right?)



And so without apology

I curse...

perversion
poverty
pain

disease
division
depression
I curse...

fear
foolishness
failure

and everything else
that tries to exalt itself above God
I curse...

laziness, ineffectiveness, bitterness

and any
and all

confusion attempting to manifest

in my life
in my mind
in me
I curse all...

forces
thoughts
ideologies

that do not align with the Sovereign Will of God
because at the end of days His Will is the only thing that will stand

This Christian girl has finally learned to curse because

He lived
He died
He was buried
and when He rose again with all power
it reversed the curse

allowing for complete

healing
triumph
victory

so that now
without

fear
regret or
remand...
I curse             







Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Day 25... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 25: Sign



We want a sign
Pray for a sign
Ask for a sign

Yet refuse to open our eyes and see...
____________________________
"Lord, Show Me a Sign"
(originally posted 3/4/14)

The campus was undergoing construction and I wasn't sure if I would know which way to go,
so I said a quick prayer before heading out...

"Lord, please make my path straight and show me a sign"

and when I arrived, I found parking being redirected
as several men waved large signs pointing to where I was now supposed to park

I smiled and pulled into the parking garage and found a spot

Volunteers in brightly colored vests were strategically placed along the path that led to the

conference registration
free continental breakfast
keynote address

A quick glance at the program indicated that each of my three workshops
would be held in Building T

I headed out of the gym and began walking and there it was

a sign showing me which way to go

"Lord, show me a sign", I had prayed and now this...



And the irony was not totally lost on me because
God has a sense of humor and I know it

T is also my nickname

and as I read
the sign

Building T, go right

I also read it as
for "building" T, go right!

Only if life were always this easy
(a sign with our name and an arrow pointing which way to go)

But God has left us a sign...

His message
His Word

The Holy Bible

which points us in the right direction

And when we open it and begin to read
He makes our pathway straight

So today if you're...

unsure of where you're going
unsure of how to navigate this confusing world

or if the place you've always known
is now under construction

take a moment

to

slow down
look to the sky
and pray for direction

Monday, October 24, 2016

Day 24... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 24: Global


I wonder what the world would truly look like
if we ever allowed grace to just go global
______________________________
"The Same Black Dress (Part 1)"
(originally posted 4/3/13)

This week my daughter and I are supporting Sheyenne's
"Dress For Change" fashion consumerism project.

The objective... to raise funds and global awareness for underprivileged girls in Africa
The challenge... to wear the same black dress for 7 days (with gratitude and grace)

So here's what we're wearing...

Day 1




Day 2


Click here to see the next 2 days...

 or here to see the week in review!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Day 23... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 23- Blowout


Before you have a major blowout over this remember...

love is not about

who you are willing to fill your heart with, but
who you are willing to empty your heart for
___________________________________

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Day 22... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 22: Off


The take off was
 
scary
rough
unsettling
 
but I'm thankful for
 
a seatmate who talked me through it
a complete stranger
with a name that rhymed with mine
 
Shondra
and
Tondra
 
together
randomly selected
seated
 
to remind me that with God
 
there are no coincidences
 
because He
 
sees
knows
cares
 
about
 
where we are
 
and even with a shaky take-off
our faith in Him promises a
 
successful trip
and 
safe landing
___________________________

"Light Bulb Moment"
(originally posted 10/30/13)

I was in the 3rd grade and had realized my mistake almost as soon as I had made it

My class was doing a science experiment with mini light bulbs
and as we prepared for recess our teacher reminded us...

"Be careful with your light.  If you break it, you will not get another"

I heard him loud and clear
and was

determined to be responsible
focused on being responsible

until it was time to go outside and play
and I quickly forgot about responsibility

I set the tiny bulb down onto my desk
(and watched)

as it rolled in slow motion off of my desk and onto the floor,
shattering into pieces

My heart sank and I looked around to see if anyone had noticed, but everyone
was already heading out of the classroom so I picked up my shattered pieces
and dropped them into the waste basket on my way out of the room

I was so distraught that I couldn't even enjoy the recess that I had so anticipated
and it must have been written all over my face because my best friend looked at me and asked

"What's wrong?"

I told her everything, dramatically replaying the scene and expecting sympathy
But she wasn't moved

She just looked at me and said
"Tondra, it's Mr. Gagan... just ask for a new bulb"

As her words began to sink in, my fears melted

"Oh yeah", I remembered and wondered what I had been so worried about

After all I had

the best teacher
who held my best interest

and a best friend to remind me...

that he wouldn't get mad at me
he couldn't get mad at me

I was eight and had simply made a mistake


Once back in the classroom, I walked up to his desk taking a deep breath as I explained
"I'm sorry, I accidently dropped my light bulb"

He looked up at me, and in that defining moment, forever impacted

my life
my outlook
my future work with children

He simply handed me a new bulb with a smile and said "Be careful, okay?"

and that was it

No questions
No reprimands
No "I-told-you-so"

None of those things

Just a smile... and a provision

So again, I ask for God's grace to...

slow down
stay focused
pay attention

as I

with gratitude and grace
hold onto my little light

because

it's what I've got
and I know
that I will not get another

Friday, October 21, 2016

Day 21... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 21: Park


Do not park here
Do not loiter
Do not litter

Do not waste time just standing around looking
but

get up
do something
make a difference
____________________________

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Day 20... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 20: Weekend


Homework graded
report typed
chores complete

commence

pizza
text
sleep
repeat

and I will not bother him because...

this is weekend grace
__________________________

"Hair Sessions... Life Lessons"
(originally posted 11/24/12)

I've been hearing her voice lately...

(which in itself is not totally uncommon because I've heard her voice my entire life) 

But lately however,
I've been hearing those things

that she said to me...
along with the things that she didn't say

I've just recently come to understand...

what she really meant when she spoke
what she really wanted me to know, but I was too young to understand
what she said that I didn't comprehend

I get it now.  She had a lot to say and we had the time.

I wonder if this is why girls have longer hair than boys

So that we have the time...

to sit
and listen
and learn

the lessons that we will carry into our lives as

women
wives
mothers

Is this why my "early year hair sessions" were a weekend long production?


Friday night...

wash
detangle
plait

to dry overnight.

Saturday morning...

part
press
grease

and braid into ponytails.

Sunday morning...

untie
brush
parade

gladly showing the result of her handiwork.


I've been hearing her voice lately...

Friday night...

close your eyes
lean your head back
be still

Saturday morning...

hold your ear
relax
be still

Sunday morning...

you look just like your father
move your hand
BE STILL!

Now that I am a mother I realize that...

everything she did
everything she said

and even what she didn't say

laid the foundation for the moments that I am now living


And I've been hearing her voice lately...

"Stand on His Word"
"Trust God, He'll see you through"
"Be Anxious for nothing"

Friday night...

wash (live a clean life, and don't let the dirt get into your eyes)
detangle (sometimes life hurts... know when to fight, know when to surrender)
plait (learn how to hold it together)

to dry overnight.  (because some things just take time)

Saturday morning...

part (so learn how to separate yourself)
press (because some kinks only surrender to heat)
grease (and remember to let the oil of gladness saturate your mind)

and braid into ponytails. (then do what it takes to stay out of a tangled mess)

Sunday morning...

untie (which means you must know when to release and let go)
brush (because a good bristle has its proper place)
parade (but always let your walk show His goodness)

"One day I won't be around anymore to tell you these things"
"But you will hear my voice reminding you"
"And you're gon' miss me when I'm gone"

Friday night...

close your eyes (pray without ceasing)
lean your head back (then look to the hills for help)
be still (and you will see the salvation of the Lord)

Saturday morning...

hold your ear (you can't listen to everyone)
relax (trust in God)
be still (and stop trying to control everything)

Sunday morning...

you look just like your father (don't ever forget who you belong to)
move your hand (and let Him work it out)
BE STILL! (know that He is God!)

It's amazing what you can hear when you don't even realize that you are listening,

But I've been hearing her voice lately...

And I'm grateful for our many hair sessions, life lessons.

"Moriah, come have a seat." 

Lean your head back...
close your eyes....
relax...

just be still, child.

"Thanks Mom"

(Now it is my turn to teach the class)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Day 19... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 19: Notice


Will you notice me?
Will you remember me?
Will you think of me?
Will you wait for me?
Will you go with me?

Will you go all of the way with me?
Will you go all of the way?
Will you go all the way?
Will you go?
Will you?

Will... you?
__________________________

"Most Blessed"
(originally posted 09/27/12)

Living a life of gratitude and grace is about taking time to see the beauty within...

each day
each person
each thing

with which we have been most blessed

It is about realizing that we are blessed because of the Blessed One,
and that we honor his blessings by noticing them

Well this morning I noticed

Olive oil on the kitchen table
that I know for sure had been...

poured
portioned
prayed over

in preparation for the "Brotherhood Men's Retreat"

I said a silent "thank you" as I considered each person that would be impacted by that oil,
which I know for sure had been "blessed"

I said a silent "thank you" for every

family
husband
father
mother
and child

that would be covered with blessings

"These are the things that I don't want to take for granted"

Children eating chocolate chip waffles at a table covered in blessed oil
Children happily quoting Bible Verses they've memorized with help
Children being raised together with...

a praying man
a God-fearing man
an imperfect man, my husband

who I know for sure has met and communed with

a praying man
the God-Man
the perfect man, Christ Jesus

And what I know for sure, is that

this oil
this house
this family

is "Most Blessed"

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Day 18... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 18: Neighbor


They were neighbors...

on the cross
at Calvary

and perhaps
it was the best "worst mistake"

that he had ever made

when

his sin
his charge
his death

led him right into eternal life
_______________________

"Surrounded By Neighbors"
(originally posted 8/27/12)

My Pastor had us do something at church last night that has had me thinking...

He asked us to turn to our neighbor and
reenact the Native American "blood brother" ritual

(sans the actual blood, of course)

by adjoining thumbs and saying "you are my brother/sister and I will pray for you."

Then he said to turn to the person behind us and ask them, "neighbor, do you have my back?"  It warmed my heart when the sister behind me answered with an emphatic "Yes!" before I could even get the question out.  When the sister in front of me turned around, our eyes locked into a smile, and no words were even needed because of the special nature of our relationship.  Then the brother guarding the side door near where I was sitting turned and said, "I have your back, sis."

God had me surrounded by "neighbors"

I will never forget the Christian musical, "SAM" that we performed one year when I was in elementary school.  It was based on the parable of the good Samaritan, and taught us the true definition of a neighbor.  People typically tend to think of a neighbor as one who lives in close proximity of another's home, but in all actuality true neighbors are those who live in close proximity of the another's heart.   

So today as I was sitting and watching the children finish out their last few days in our child care program, a lot was going through my mind.  My son asked if he could walk over to the Beamon's house (our next door neighbors) because his basketball had gone over the fence...again.  I told him that he could, and thought to myself "our neighbors will probably be glad when all of this is finished."

I said a silent "Thank you Lord" for my understanding neighbors who have given the green light to enter their yard whenever needed to retrieve our wayward items.  Then I looked at the houses behind mine, and thought of the houses across the street in front of mine.  I have lived here a long time, and known most of these families for what seems like forever.

And it began to sink in...

God has me surrounded by "neighbors"

Over the course of the eight years that I have been providing child care services here, my neighbors have been very supportive.  They have never complained about our mess, our noise, our drama.  In fact, now that I was really thinking about it, I realize that they have been nothing but supportive. 

They...

- pretend not to notice when we are loud and unruly
- support the kids' homemade lemonade/cookie stands, annual art shows, etc.
- bring over fruit and popsicles when the weather is scorching us
- give us books and toys they feel the children would like
- let us block their driveways during drop- off time on street sweeping day

And it dawns on me that this has been their child care program too!

God has truly surrounded me by "neighbors"

Holding the neighbor's puppy when they first brought him home

So now it is almost time to begin the next new phase in my career journey and I am excited to see what this brings!  I will be working with a new group of child care professionals and can hardly wait for this new experience with its new lessons.  Most of all, my hope is for the opportunity to share how I have learned to treasure ordinary moments, extraordinary memories...

And I pray that as I'm working, one day I will look up and see that

God has, once again, surrounded me with  "neighbors"

Monday, October 17, 2016

Day 17... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 17: Study


Life of my teenage athlete...

football
sleep
eat
study
repeat
______________________________

"What My Work Keys Taught
Me About Studying the Bible"
(originally posted 12/21/15)

I have a set of keys that I use almost daily

and although

they look the same
they open different doors

a wooden door
a glass door
a class door

and most days I can use them without even looking

Because since I use them everyday
I know where they are on the key ring

and the other day as I was using one of those keys
(found without looking)

I wondered...

how it was exactly that I had

the right key to open
the right door before me

because after all...

(there are many keys on that key ring)

and although

they look the same
they open different doors

a wooden door
a glass door
a class door

And once inside...

I immediately thought of Peter

who was handed a set of "spiritual keys" to use, and
who handed us a set of "spiritual keys" to also use

to open
the Kingdom Door for others

and I realized why it is so important

to learn
to study
to grow

from the Holy Scriptures

to read the Bible daily
to become familiar with

It's doctrines
It's passages
It's pages

because

how comfortable we are

holding those keys
handling those keys
using those keys

is the ultimate determining factor in how comfortable we will be
sharing Kingdom information with others

because how often you "use those keys"

will help you (without looking) to determine

what
when and
how

to open

a wooden door
a glass door
a class door

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Day 16... Through the Lens of Grace

Day 16: Little


Little is much in the Master's Hand
_____________________________

"A New Perspective... and a Fieldtrip Lesson"
(originally posted 1/15/14)

I was given very clear instructions...
"Mom, when we get on the bus sit by me, okay?"


Before we leave we're gonna pray...
"Just bow your head and close your eyes, okay?"
"Don't say 'yes Lord' or anything, just let him pray alone, OKAY?"

"Okay", I promised,

(because on Fourth grade field trip day you're just honored that...) 

she still asks you to go
she still wants you to go

to hang out with her and her friends



Shortly after we arrived we headed to the Endeavor exhibit
(which begins with a short film documenting the journey
of the space shuttle to the CA Science Center)

It looked...

incredibly small on the back of that aircraft carrier, then
incredibly large as it rolled past houses and onlookers

and I remembered...

that in September of 2012
I declared it one of the most amazing sights that I had ever seen

The space shuttle Endeavor being transported on the back of
NASA's shuttle carrier aircraft which I wrote about here

When the movie ended we headed downstairs to see it and realized it is HUGE!!
  
Upon entering the room, one of my daughter's good friends asked me...

"Well if the shuttle is this big, then how big was the plane?"

I didn't have an answer (and he must have known) because he ran off with his friends, as I was left standing there alone, his question still lingering

Later

back on the bus
the kids were noisy from all of the excitement 

I suggested that everyone close their eyes and rest for 10 minutes,
but nobody liked my idea

So I closed my eyes to rest until...
I felt a small hand tapping me

When I opened my eyes, the little boy sitting on the other side of the aisle 
said "I wasn't too impressed with that"
as he pointed down to the souvenir bag on the seat next to him

It had a picture of the Endeavor and I finally had the answer to the question I'd been asked hours earlier!

"If the shuttle is this big, then how big was the plane?"

So I asked him...

"When we saw the film, did the shuttle look big or small?"
 "Small"

"Ok, when we saw the shuttle, did that look big or small?"
 "Big"

"Well maybe that's how it is with God..."
and before I could continue

those words must have pierced my daughter's ears,
instantly reminding her 
that she had forgotten to give me instructions for the bus ride back

She leaned over and abruptly asked him... "Do you want to listen to this?"

but his eyes were still on me, so I continued...

"Maybe that's how it is with God.  Our problems look so big, and we can't figure out how to solve them, but then when we put them next to God, they look so small because He can do anything!"

And with that said, I closed my eyes to rest
leaving my daughter

shocked
speechless
smiling

and with a new perspective

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Early Care and Education Series... (Stress Relief)

We all know that self-care and stress relief is important
but when you are a caregiver it becomes even more essential
to stop and check your own boots, and ask

What do I need?
What makes me happy?
What brings me joy?

Because in order to...

provide quality care
prevent burnout and compassion fatigue
properly model to others

one must first learn to care for oneself

Here's what I shared this month...

Information Board


"Paint and Sip" (Tea Party)




Resist Art


Tape Resist

Wax Resist
Ocean in a Bottle