"Weak" is not a Four-Letter Word

But I have thought it is.

I've been thinking about writing this post for several months. Wondering if I should write it, and if so, what words to choose. As Isaac Asimov said, "Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers." And I couldn't shake that this was some thinking that I should share.

Weakness has been something I've despised. In myself and others. Especially weakness in women. I remember deciding very purposefully not to be a weak woman. I was going to stay strong. Protect myself from any sort of heart-break by never being vulnerable. Some women might need a man but I wouldn't. No man was ever going to tell me what to do.

I set my face like a flint.

Little by little God has been showing me what He can do with weakness, though. Weakness that is made strong through Him.

I think I can pinpoint the start of this process of God's work in this area when Josh and I started dating and then became engaged. Our relationship challenged who and what I'd thought I wanted to be. I'd planned on staying single. Devote myself to God's work and that sort of thing. But I soon realized I'd tricked myself to some degree. I truly did want to devote myself to God, but I also wanted to protect myself. To remain strong by being single. Single equaled strength to me. But God had a different--and better thing planned. Once I decided to get married I was choosing to open myself up to the possibility of being hurt. And I knew it, in the way most love-struck girls probably never consider. I thought long and hard about the implications of marriage and God used that process to do some deep work in my heart.

However, it was when my parent's marriage blew apart that the real change took place. A dam of self-protection long-held started to crumble. There was no need to hide anymore. Or pretend that everything was okay, because it wasn't. And it was a relief, really.

The girl who rarely cried starting crying all the time. It used to take a lot to make me cry (well, not if I was reading a good sad book, but in real life, that was a different story). Now I cry much more easily. Why? Because before, crying was a sign of the weakness I despised. But God's been building a softness and compassion in me that allows my heart to be broken. Not just for myself, but for others too.

While I was reading Grace for the Good Girl I came to the chapter called "Can't Fall Apart." It was this chapter that got me really thinking about how I viewed weakness. The author, Emily Freeman writes:

'Weak' is not a four-letter bad word. Hiding behind a mask of strength and responsibility is a lonely place to live. That mask portrays to the world around us that we have it all together, that we can handle the mess, that we don't need people, or worse, that we don't need God.

Weak is not a four-letter bad word stood out to me like it was written in bold. Yes, that's a good way of describing how I've viewed weakness.

And even though God is changing me, I can still be harder on myself than others. As the author, Freeman describes it:

I didn't want to look weak, act weak, or even give the hint that I am capable of weakness. But if you are feeling weak? Well, now. That's a different thing altogether. I can tell you how weakness is the door to strength and how Jesus calls us to a life of weakness so he can be strong. And I believe it. For you.

But do I believe it for me? Little by little I am. Freeman continues:

Consider what Jesus says about weakness. He chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Cor. 1:27). It doesn't make sense to me and it isn't the way I'd have done it. But it is the way of Jesus. He talks about how his grace is enough and about how weakness is the pathway to experiencing his strength. And Paul, the man who had more good-boy point than any other man in the Bible, delighted in his own weakness for Christ's sake. 'For when I am weak, then I am strong' (2 Cor. 12:10).

I've been aware of all this changing in my heart. The work is not yet done. I can still close myself off with bitterness. But there's been a decisive change.

Why share all of this? Because I think I'm typical of many women. It's natural to protect one's heart the way I have.

I'd say most women want to be a strong woman. But there are multiple ways to be strong. The first way I've tried is not very pretty. The fact is in my own strength I can be strong. I can pull myself up by my bootstraps. But that strength is built and fed with hardness of heart: bitterness, unforgiveness, self-righteousness, and even hatred. It closes myself off to others.

Another way is by admitting weakness, brokenness, and need. It allows God to do the strengthening, heart-repair, and protection. It's not being a wimpy door-mat but there's a softness to it, a compassion. And it is welcoming of others and builds community. Not only will I share my weaknesses with you, but I'll welcome you're weaknesses too. And together, we can see God's power displayed in our weaknesses.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)

Boat Song

Listen here

When I first heard this song I thought of Josh right away. It describes who we are to each other. As a lover of boats, water, and sand, I knew he'd appreciate the metaphors. So, I post it here in honor of his 30th birthday. I love you, old man.

If you were a boat, my darling A boat, my darling I’d be the wind at your back If you were afraid, my darling Afraid, my darling I’d be the courage you lack

If you were a bird, then I’d be a tree And you would come home, my darling, to me If you were asleep, then I’d be a dream Wherever you are, that’s where my heart will be

Oh, do you know we belong together? Oh, do you know my heart is yours?

If you were the ocean, I’d be the sand If you were a song, I’d be the band If you were the stars, then I’d be the moon A light in the dark, my darling, for you

Words and music by Dave and JJ Heller

Fractured Prune

On Saturday, despite snow and a little ice, we met up with some friends of ours at Lancaster's Central Market. After we'd walked around and made our purchases (Lady Gray loose tea, honey, and Pequea Valley Farms Yogurt--so delish!) we headed to the Fractured Prune.

It was the perfect place for a cold snowy day. The donuts are made to order, so they come out fresh and hot. Slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, you can concoct your own creation or order a specialty donut like I did: French Toast (a maple glaze with a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar).

The have multiple locations, so you might want to check if one is near you! A perfect outing on a winter day!

Hot Chocolate, New Mexico-Style {Repost}

The boys and Sophia came inside from playing in the snow and I made them some hot chocolate. We're not into cocoa packets and water around here. But then, does this really surprise you? :) I made them the following recipe and I had to share--I forgot just how amazingly delicious it is! (Serves 4)

1/4 C. sugar 1/4 C. unsweetened cocoa 1/2 Tsp. instant coffee powder or granules 1/8 Salt 1 C. water 1 stick cinnamon (if I don’t have a stick I just sprinkle some powdered cinnamon in) 2 C. milk 1 C. half-and-half 1 Tbs. vanilla extract 1/8 tsp. ground cloves

In a 2-quart saucepan, mix sugar, cocoa, instant coffee, and salt. Stir in water; add cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes

Add milk and half-and-half to cocoa mixture, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat.

Mix in vanilla and cloves; remove cinnamon stick; beat until foamy, then serve.

Let's Be a Miracle

I've been listening to the newest Sara Groves album, Invisible Empires. "Miracle" is definitely my favorite song (besides "Open My Hands") on this project and I find it's simple melody and profound lyrics so moving.

We all have experienced pain, of various shapes and sizes. And when we do, we can be tempted to bitterness and anger. But as this song reminds me that I can choose God's grace and be a miracle instead.

Listen here.

Lay down your arms Give up the fight Quiet our hearts for a little while

Things have been spoken Shouldn't be said Rattles around in our hearts and our heads

Let's feel what we cannot feel Know what we cannot know Let’s heal where we couldn't heal Oh, it's a miracle, it's a miracle

Things have been spoken Shouldn't be said Rattles around in our hearts and our heads

Oh, it’s a miracle, love is a miracle

Let's say what we cannot say Let’s see what we cannot not see Let’s hear what we could not hear Oh it’s a mystery, love is a mystery Oh it's a miracle, it's a miracle

Let's be a miracle

-Sara Groves

Multitude Monday | New Gifts for a New Year

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Christmas2011-027

Wow, I've not posted a Multitude Monday post since before Christmas! Time to get back on track with counting my blessings. Well, I've been counting all the while, but not sharing them much. The picture above is from Christmas and makes me laugh. I thought it was an appropriate way to kick off counting my gifts this new year . . .

544. Homemade cinnamon buns.

545. Family pictures from our autumn session finally framed and hung.

546. Homemade pizza dough.

547. Earlier mornings alone with God. Thankful to find getting up earlier not as hard as it seemed.

548. A walk outside by myself.

549. The help of a friend to fix my knitting.

550. Despite not having a washer for a month, the kindness our neighbor to let me use hers!

551. That the washer was finally fixed! Never so happy to do laundry in my own home.

552. Finger painting, collage making, and play doh time to make the cold winter days fun for the boys.

553. Marble run fun.

554. Being able to order gifts online.

555. A delicious and hearty chicken recipe to eat and freeze for later too.

556. Outside playtime on a warm 60 degree day.

557. Lots of green smoothies last week. Almost everyday! Tried a new recipe too.

558. Revamping of photography business underway: updated my client contract, new questionnaire, start on redesign of the logo.

559. Everything running smoothly while Josh was away on a business trip.

560. That Josh came home safely.

561. Insurance to go to the dentist and get teeth cleaned and friends who will babysit the kids for me so I can go.

562. Extra finances to finally purchase a new couch and bookshelf from Ikea. That the old one found a new home.

563. Celebrating the pregnancy and soon-to-be-birth of a baby boy with a friend at her shower on Saturday.

564. Seeing Jesus more clearly in the Old Testament. Noticing even more how every story points to Him.

Get Your Images Organized

I've been asked from time to time how I organize my personal images. I thought there's no better time than a new year to share how to organize your digital photographs!

When I first got my digital camera some years ago, I thought managing photographs would be so much easier. But at first things were a bit of a mess. I couldn't figure out a way of organizing my images that made complete sense. And I took way more pictures than I did before when I had to pay for film. Not only that, but now my images stayed on my hard drive and I rarely printed them.

It took me a while, but I finally developed a system that worked for me. As we start a fresh new year of picture-taking, I thought it may be useful to some of my readers.

Organize folders by year and month

A simple, but brilliant, plan of attack I discovered by reading other people's blog. When I first started saving digital images on my computer, I'd organize by event or topic. But soon you end up with miscellaneous images that get stuck in weird places and I still had a hard time find them. Now I organize by year, and within each year's folder by month. I rarely have a hard time finding my images now.

Delete

I know, it's hard to push that delete button. But I've gotten much better at it myself. If an image is blurry or if I just have 10 shots of the same basic image, I pick my favorites and delete the rest. That means more room on your hard drive and easier searching for that perfect photo when you don't have to wade through a bunch of "missed" shots.

Display

If you love a picture, display it. There are so many creative ways to do so. Whether you frame it and hang it on the wall, tuck it on a bookshelf, or attach it to a string hung across your wall, there are so many options. Pinterest is a great source for finding those creative display ideas.

Create an Album

One of the great things about digital images is it makes creating albums so much easier than it used to be. Not only that, but the albums are printed like real books, taking up much less shelf space than bulky scrapbooks. Also, the books are usually backed up in an online account. So if your toddler takes a Sharpie to it, you can just purchase it again. All is not lost!

I've been using Blurb to create an annual photo book for the past four years. And this year I tried out Kodak Gallery to create one with a linen cover. I like taking the time once a year to create one album that contains all of my favorite images from the year. It's simple and means I just sit down once a year to do this project.

The images in this post are from a Blurb book I created a few years ago. I'm eagerly awaiting the 2011 album!

How about you? Do you have any suggestions or resources for getting your images organized or off of your hard drive and displayed in some way?

Death Comes to Pemberley

I never read sequels written by authors who write about characters who were not originally their own. It just seems so wrong to me, to hijack another author's character and write books about them. I love Gone with the Wind but will never read Scarlett. I love Rebecca but you'll not find me picking up Mrs. Dewinter. Nor will you find me reading the plethora of sequels by various authors to Jane Austen's beloved books.

First of all, in most cases if Mitchell, du Maurier, and Austen had wanted to have written more about those characters, they probably would have. Secondly, it just seems like a horrible marketing act and grasp at fame by authors who want to make money off of another person's character.

However, when I saw that Death Comes to Pemberley was coming out, I decided to risk giving it a try. And that was simply because P. D. James wrote it.

I absolutely love James' Adam Dalgliesh crime series. I'm not one who usually reads crime, but James' writing is engaging, pulling you into the lives of the various characters that people her mysteries. Also, Detective Dalgliesh has his own sad past to deal with. Her plots are interesting, descriptions intriguing, and characters fascinating. And I love that her novels are primarily character-driven, versus plot driven.

But, I have to say Death Comes to Pemberley let me down.

First, it took a very long time for anything to actually happen. There's lot of background explanation. Understandably, James recaps Pride and Prejudice within the first several chapters, just in case you don't know the story and have no idea as to Elizabeth and Darcy's history. But, that creates a first few chapters that simply drag.

Second, because it's about Jane Austen characters, you can't help compare it to Jane Austen's writing. And Austen's writing just sparkles. Perhaps that's an unfair comparison, but I don't think you can help it. She's witty and clever. There's lots of dialogue and very little description. In this novel there was lots of description and very little dialogue. At one point I found myself wondering if any of the characters were ever going to have a conversation! And when I compared this book to James' other writing, it felt stifled. Perhaps that's because James felt like she was treading on sacred ground with these characters, she wasn't being her true self as a writer. I don't know, but it this novel lacked aspects that I love about James' usual fiction. Instead the descriptions were flat and characters also felt like they lacked dimension.

Third, the mystery just didn't grab me. I just wasn't spellbound by the plot. I really didn't care about what happened to Wickham, who was on trial for murder.

All in all, I'm sorry to say the novel was basically lackluster to me. I really wanted to like it.

Have any of you read this novel? What were your thoughts?

New Goals for a New Year

All over blogosphere people are writing about their new year goals. I wasn't going to join in, however, a couple of people have asked me what mine are, so what the heck!

Goal writing has been something I've done since a teenager, because I tend towards being what Emily Freeman calls a "good girl."

First, a recap on last year's goals . . .

Focus on memorizing large portions of scripture: See article below for more on that.

Spend one-week finishing decorating projects: Done. You got to see the result in this post.

Write a book proposal on With Child: Meditations on the Meaning of Motherhood and/or Brown Eyes: I picked Brown Eyes and polished it and sent it to various publishers and agents. Nothing developed as far as that goes and I'm going tow work on developing more books to create a series and try again (see below, it's a goal for this year).

Continue growing in technical and creative aspects of photography and pursue developing my business: Last year was my best year thus far for Danielle Jones Photography. I focused on growing my sales and offering more products.

Do a “Our Life” series posting one photo a week: This didn't even get off the ground. Didn't happen, unless you want to count an occasional post joining in with Soule Mama's This Moment.

Finish 2010 Blurb Book: Done.

Date nights once a month with Josh and each of the boys: Not really. Sporadic at best.

Start a regular workout routine: Not so much. This has never been much of problem for me until having Sophia. But having a hard time this time around getting anything more than once a week, at the most.

Have boys finish learning numbers 1-20, alphabet, and portions of scripture: We've been pretty faithful in this area, starting a new routine this past fall to helped in this area.

So now onto this year. Drum roll please . . . .

2012 New Year Goals:

  • Continue memorizing large portions of scripture (Just want to remind myself to keep doing what I've been doing).
  • Writing goal: write a blog post once a week.
  • Revamp backend of photography process: website, blog, Lightroom presets to speed up processing, credit card payments on website (goal for January).
  • Revamp visual branding of Danielle Jones Photography (goal for January).
  • Writing goal: publish something in Thriving Family broadening my article writing venues.
  • Writing goal: write two more children’s book to add to Brown Eyes to create a series (Summer Project).
  • Create more one-on-one time with each of the boys.
  • Start a regular workout routine, 2x a week.

So that's it. I've already set things in place on my calendar to start meeting some of these goals. My main focus will be the photography goals for this month and exercising twice a week.

How about you? Do you set yearly or monthly goals? What are they and how do you decide to put them into place?