Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Memories

*This blog was originally posted at Pix-N-Pens February 10, 2009. It is one of my favorite memories.

It could be because I did not get one last year, but as I looked through some vacation photographs from 2007, I realized I was smiling. What a good feeling those pictures evoked, and that was surprising to me because 2007 was not a good year. Unfortunately, it was one of those years that I wanted to "just end" and never think back on. But maybe it's the old saying about looking back through "rose-colored glasses" because it seems to me now that some things about that year weren't so bad.

Vacations are supposed to be happy and carefree. They are endless days and late nights of doing things you've always wanted to do. They are smiles and laughter with family you don't spend so much time with or friends you never get to see. On vacations you can hike up the highest of mountains, view the vastness of a majestic wilderness, or simply stand and gaze as the sun sinks below the horizon. You can, in fact, do nothing at all, and it mean something.

I missed that last year. Oh, I was busy enough building a new house, a house that I adore and can't believe is really mine. But now that it's 2009, where are the vacation pictures for me to look back on? the funny movies of family antics for me to watch?

I remember one year we had traveled north to the mountains of North Carolina, something we had done before, but this year we determined to find a new spot, some place we'd never been. My dad walked around for days saying he'd "find a new road" to drive on. So one morning we all piled into the car and headed north on our quest. Somewhere along the same route we'd always driven my dad decided to hang a left.

Well, if you've never been to the North Carolina mountains, you'd not know that an unknown left or right may just take you into the middle of nowhere quick with no way to turn around. At first, it wasn't so bad; we drove through a small town, smiling and admiring the buildings, stopping for pictures along the roadside, doing touristy things. I love those. But then we got hungry. The only restaurant we could find was Wendy's. Now, I like Wendy's, but we were on vacation and we wanted to eat at one of those quaint mountain restaurants.

Alongside the Road

The View Along Hwy 129, North Carolina

We passed up fast food to follow another winding road, headed towards a place we'd been told about. Problem was, it didn't look like we'd ever get there. In fact, it didn't look like we'd get anywhere at all, but the scenery was beautiful alongside the road. We stopped at a bridge and looked over at some floating house boats. That was interesting, but where was the restaurant? After about and hour or so of driving, finally we found it...CLOSED for the season!

Said closed restaurant in the middle of nowhere

Tapaco Lodge, Along Hwy 129, North Carolina

There we stood in horror, miles from anywhere, at the edge of the mountains, our stomachs grumbling fiercely (especially my daughter's who was beginning to whine). There was no choice in the matter but to either turn around or go forward. Tempting fate, we went forward.

Back in the car, we eventually rounded a curve and came across a really strange sight. It turned out to be a biker hotel. Now, I'm all for the freedom of the open road, but this place scared me. It seemed to be deserted, and there was this tree. Not daunted, my parents got out and went in to ask for directions. In my head, I was counting, vowing to call 911 (though cell service was probably out and that would have been a moot point) if they didn't return within 10 minutes.

Nameless Biker Hotel somewhere in western North Carolina
Photobucket


You never know about the people you'll meet sometimes. The 2 ladies who ran the place ended up being very nice. "No problem," they said, "just go that way about 45 minutes and you'll find town," so back in the car we went.

What a beautiful drive it was - winding roads, slanting sun through bare tree limbs, rays glinting off the water of a river far below. We stopped for photographs, and we stopped for photographs, and we stopped for photographs, over and over and over. Staring and grinning at all the beautiful scenery we plumb forgot the time and lunch. (Well, again except for my daughter. Fortunately for her, my mother found a box of crackers in the trunk.)

River, North Carolina

The Little Tennessee River, North Carolina


Two hours later....yes, 2 hours...we finally saw the clock. We'd been all day now, since about 9 AM, on the road with nothing to eat. We were God knows where and it was about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, we saw a sign. It was as if the heaven's opened and a ray shined down...okay, I am seriously exaggerating. It was just a road sign, and on it was written the name of the very town we had driven through early in the day. You know, the one with the Wendy's?

Yep, you guessed it, if you are thinking ahead in this little memory of mine. We had lunch that day at Wendy's. We had driven several hundred miles and for over 2 hours in a complete circle!

The road In Nowhere

Hwy 129, North Carolina

Memories are precious things. Each day that goes by we create new ones. Each picture we take preserves some aspect of them for us. Never stop taking photographs, and never stop sharing your memories. Against the infinite span of time, they are all so fleeting.

A Framed View

Picture Framed, Fontana Lake, North Carolina
-------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What I Learned From A Mockingbird

*This was original posted at Pix-N-Pens, Thursday, June 24, 2010.
Northern Mockingbird

There is a pair of northern mockingbirds resident in my yard. They usually disappear for a time in the fall and winter months, only to reappear in the spring to nest. Now, I have watched other songbird parents raise young to great success, but this pair of birds seem to have it harder than others. I've never cheered birds on, or mourned for them, quite as much. But it set me to thinking that there is a lesson to be learned. The biggest one of which is the power of persistence.

This year I observed as 1-2-3-4 times these birds built a nest, laid eggs, and attempted to raise young. It seems there are a lot of enemies to a mockingbird. I'd never thought about that before. On every side there are black snakes or huge, cawing crows, just ready to rob the nest. This is what happened to nests one through three.

I cannot imagine living so "exposed" all the time. Their nests are well built enough. In fact, they are amazing to look at. But no matter how high or how hidden they attempt to place them, something always scopes it out. Yet the mockingbirds are undeterred. They simply relocate and try again.

Northern Mockingbird Eggs

In nests one through three the eggs disappeared, only one ever hatched and then the chick disappeared. Nest four had several youngsters, which we watched grow. Here is where comes in lesson number two - protect what is yours. Mockingbirds are known for being defensive. Male mockingbirds will fight to the death over a female. They are no different as parents. In fact, they have a certain reputation.

Female Northern Mockingbird

It must be exhausting to be a parent mockingbird. Every minute of every day they are watchful for anything that might approach the nesting area. We saw many an aerial battle, Papa bird squawking and pecking at other passing birds, especially those crows, or flying in the face of visiting squirrels. The size of the creature didn't seem to matter. He defended what was his, no matter what.

And in the face of it all is lesson number three - their inherent cheerfulness. Now, I don't propose to speak mockingbird, but every morning rain or shine there they'd sit singing away. We sat and listened to hours-worth of their beautiful trill. Now and again, one would perch atop our chimney and the song would echo through the house. It was nature's music at its most marvelous.

Nest four appears to have finally been successful. I am glad for that. Despite life's circumstances, these birds never quit and never gave up. They kept at it, and they reaped the reward. They did what God created them to do, and they were most determined in the trying. I think we can all learn something from that.

Northern Mockingbird

-------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What To Do When You're At The Bottom

My life changed in 2007. I am not today the same person I once was. You see, that year I hit rock bottom. I fell to my lowest point.

Being at the bottom does one of two things to you: either you become even more miserable, locked into your bondage, or you emerge from it a better, stronger person. It is impossible to stay the same. You also learn a lot about yourself. You discover how you react in the most adverse circumstances. Often, you don't like what you see.

I learned this through being there.


ASK

Then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. (Job 40:3-4)
You will never be free until you admit you have a problem and ask for help. For me this was very hard. I was where I was because I had spent years brooding on every hurt and pain. Speaking to the people I had shut out of my life was difficult. Publicly acknowledging I couldn't conquer things on my own, painful. However, it was also liberating. There is great freedom in not having to hide.

Looking at Job, notice that he spent what is the equivalent of 37 chapters, the greater portion of his time during this period, feeling sorry for himself. Yet all his moaning and groaning didn't accomplish anything. It was not until he repented that things in his life begin to change.
Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:6)
Now, God isn't looking for someone who will grovel. Instead, He seeks those who with a sincere heart desire to change. I remember falling on my face and crying out, "God, I don't understand. I don't know why, but nevertheless, change me. CHANGE ME! I no longer want to be the same."

In our time of greatest weakness, God is "rich mercy", "great love" and amazing grace. (Ephesians 2:4) He provides forgiveness so grand that its east and west never meet. (Psalm 103:12) Think about that! It's marvelous!


PRAY


I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. (Job 42:2-3)
Prayer is communication, and it is essential to complete healing. However, God doesn't require grandiose words or some algebraic formula. He just wants you to speak from your heart. Trust me, He's big; he can take anything you have to say. Look at Abraham. Abraham pleaded with God for the lives of his family. God didn't respond with, "How DARE you!" No, He listened and He promised. (Genesis 18:32)

Jesus came to die and restore the fellowship with the Father, which we had lost through Adam's sin. And He became "the way" of linking man back to God, who loved him so much. (John 14:6) The Apostle Paul tells us to come with boldness and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12) Like Abraham, we speak confident words to the Father, knowing He hears us and He answers our prayers. (1 John 5:15)


SEEK
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. (Job 42:5)
To overcome my problem, I had to renew my mind. (Romans 12:2) I did that through constant meditation in the Word. (Psalm 1:2) I read the same things over and over. I listened to the same things over and over. I disconnected myself from the world every day and spent time in worship. I crammed as much of God into myself as I could because I found out that it really was true - the more of God there was, the less of me there was. And "me" wasn't working so well.

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. (Psalm 27:8)
All of this took time and effort. It required me to change my schedule. I had to excuse myself from daily chores and create time for He and I to spend together. I sought the Lord and in the process, He changed me. (Psalm 34:4)


OBEY

And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. (Job 42:10)
Change required obedience. Part of renewing my thoughts was doing what God asked of me. Job was healed when he obeyed. Obedience is not always easy. Many times, I had to go outside of what was comfortable for me. I determined that if it was asked of me and I could do it, then I would. I stopped making excuses. I admit I did a lot of things trembling, and several times I didn't want to be there. But in the end, I DID DO them. I had an instruction from God and nothing would turn me from it.

The desire in my heart for freedom grew as I spent time in God's presence. Eventually, I came to the point where I knew to be totally free, I had obey. I found with each opportunity, with each time I obeyed, I had more and more freedom. The bondages of the past gradually fell away. It was never all at once, but it was daily, minute-by-minute.


FORGET

So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. (Job 42:12)
Every moment of the day I strove to move forward. My desire was to forget my bad habits and stop the incorrect reactions I had learned. In short, I wanted to forget how to act like I had been acting. Job 42:17 says, "So Job died, being old and full of days." Notice, Job lived many years after this episode in his life. He saw his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. (verse 16) He looked forward to the hope of his future, not backward at his past. (Colossians 1:27) Think of that. Where would he have been, if he spent all his time afterward mourning what might have been? At the very least of it, he'd lost his children.

But this is more dangerous than that.
And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country.. (Hebrews 11:15-16)
Forgetting is as much a part of healing as any physical trouble. When we don't forget, then all those "opportunities to return" begin to look promising. Imagine, the Israelites, after great deliverance from Egypt; they actually wanted to go back because the food had been better. Back into bondage for garlic and onions? (Numbers 11:5) I think not! No, we must desire something better.

"But how," you ask, "How can I forget?"

You forget by putting something else in its place. There is no such thing as an empty mind. The Bible says whatever is in us is what comes out. (Proverbs 23:7) Given this, it makes sense to put something else in there. As you renew your mind, God will give you new hope and you'll find after a while you've begun to forget. You can't remember the pain anymore.

I still mentally remember what happened to me. But instead of fear, it is my living testimony of God's amazing goodness. The torment is completely gone. I also have had "opportunities to return". But the difference now is that I know how to overcome those opportunities. I know who will pray for me, what scriptures I should to read. I know how to pick myself up and move forward.

If you find yourself at the bottom, never give up. Email me, scw1217@yahoo.com, and I will pray for you. Then do what Job did: ask, pray, seek, obey, and forget. God desires for your latter end to be far greater than your former! Refuse to settle for anything else, and let Him begin to live in you.

-------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Know That He Is For Me


For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. (Psalm 27:5)
I sit in a room and listen as people berate the state of the nation and the world. The conversation mourns loss of leadership, bad government decisions, and recent disasters. Before long, I am sucked in to a void where I begin to feel like there is no hope left.

Then a still small voice inside me says, "Am I here or not?"

"Yes, Lord, you are," I reply in my heart.

"Am I still God? Am I still love? Am I still powerful?"

"Yes, Lord, you are!" And there in the midst of all that talk, unbeknown to those around me, I sit filled with joy.
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
There is a song whose words ring in my heart.* It's chorus sings:

I know that you are for me
I know that you are for me

I know that you will never forsake me in my weakness

I know that you have come down

Even if to write upon my heart

To remind me who you are


The more I listen to it, the more it becomes real to me. I KNOW that you are for me! I KNOW! I KNOW! ** Here in the midst of everything, I know God is for me. He is for me! He is FOR me!

Yet, did you know that though He is always for me, I only receive of it when I open my heart and allow it to become real to me. I can choose to sit there and participate with all the negativism, or I can stand up and shout, "GOD IS FOR ME!"

Ask yourself. Is He "God with you" or not? Is He Emmanuel in your life? Is He?

He is in mine. I cannot survive otherwise. Remind me, Lord, of who You are...

God is Big (video)


*"You Are For Me" Kari Jobe ** 2 Timothy 1:12

-------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Resolving Conflict

There are numerous examples in the Bible of situations where people did not get along. Start with Cain and Abel and work your way through to David and King Saul, then Job and his friends. The fact is, we live and work every day with people, and sometimes two people do not see eye-to-eye on things. The question is how we as Christians should handle it. How should we behave? For the answer, I refer back to 1 Corinthians 13.
Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn't selfish or quick tempered. It doesn't keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails! (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 CEV)
Love is hard. When you love someone, truly love them, you will do anything for them, anything to resolve conflict. But the problem is, we tend to go by our feelings in the matter; we become defensive, and instead of following the way of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13, we do what our flesh wants to do.

The apostle Paul constantly prayed that the church would walk in agreement. In Philippians 1:27 he said, "...that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." And in Colossians 2:1 he used the phrase "being knit together in love" when speaking to the church of Laodicea. He knew that it was important that everyone in the congregation work together. If you really want to see how important it was, then do a word search in the New Testament on the word "peace". It's everywhere! I especially like 2 Corinthians 13:11.
Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
Be of one mind. Live in peace. That about sums it up. Doesn't it?

But where people's feelings are concerned, I know it's much harder than that. And what if your particular conflict is with someone not of like faith, someone in your workplace, someone who is perhaps not saved, or not walking closely with Christ? That changes the dynamics, I know, but not your response to it. The scriptures are still the same.

Someone in every conflict has to be the "bigger" person. When a Christian is involved, I believe the Christian needs to take that role. We need to always reflect Christ's message. However, sometimes the resolution to a problem might be in giving more space between two parties. I remember in high school having to distance myself from people because they were not "good" for me at that time. I believe there is wisdom in that.

In Mark 4, we are given a list of things that will "steal the Word" from our hearts.

have no root in themselves (verse 17)
affliction or persecution (verse 17)

cares of this world, deceitfulness of riches (verse 19)

lust of other things (verse 19)


These things will cause God's Word to not become fruitful in our lives. We must therefore guard against them. I believe the most powerful passage about this is found in Galatians 5.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1)

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
(Galatians 5:9)

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:13-16)
Notice from verse 1 that Paul says "entangled again". We are only "entangled again" when we return to something we have been set free from. Also notice from verse 9, that it only takes "a little" leaven for the whole situation to be affected. There is no half-solution, one foot on either side of the fence. Finally, in verses 13-16, he points out that the true answer is to always walk in the Spirit because the final result of continued conflict is always becoming "consumed". I have been there, I have felt like something was consuming my every moment. It was at those times that I knew I had to stop, forgive, and move on.

Read now with me further into Galatians 5.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
(Galatians 5:22-24)
The contrast here is made plain. First, we are given another list of fleshly things. In the middle of that list you see "wrath" and "strife". Then, we are given a list of godly things. If we react in our flesh, we will not "inherit" the things of God - things like His presence, His wisdom, His protection, even His blessings. We must therefore strive to find the solution through God's reactions, those in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and those in Galatians 5:22-24.

I once heard a preacher say, "The nose doesn't always have to associate with the armpit." By this, I think he meant that sometimes the simplest answer is to remove yourself from that situation. We must walk in love, but we do not have to always spend our every waking hour with that person either.

We should, however, always pray for the other person. The Bible says "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matthew 5:44) This is what we should do. However, do it with some space. Be kind. Walk in love. But from a distance. Find a godly friend, someone who always lifts you up, to spend your time with and move on.

-------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cream Cheese Apple Biscuits

This is my version of a recipe I found online. I like these more on the sweet side and so put in more sugar than it calls for, 3/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup. For the apple I use Pink Lady, Fuji, or Granny Smith. I really do not like Rome or Red/Golden Delicious apples too much.


1/2 cup sugar
8 oz. cream cheese
1 egg
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 can Pillsbury Grands! Refrigerated Buttermilk Biscuits
1 apple, peeled and minced

Separate biscuits and allow to sit at room temperature until you can spread them out by hand.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Combine sugar, cream cheese, and egg. Beat until smooth.
Toss almonds and cinnamon together.
Peel and mince apple.
Spray regular-size muffin cups with nonstick spray.
Press biscuits into muffin cups, pushing biscuits up sides of cup. (Make a well in center.) Do not tear.
Place minced apple into center of cup, leaving space at the top for cream cheese mixture.
Top apple with heaping spoonful of cream cheese. (Fill centers)
Top cream cheese with almonds.
Bake for about 18 minutes, until biscuits are browned. Allow to cool before removing from muffin cups.
Refrigerate leftovers.

Makes 10 biscuits.

-------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I Will Serve The Lord


I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. (Psalm 37:25)
I have a number of thoughts in my head. Foremost in them is a conversation I had with my mother about aging. She made a valid point, which set me to thinking. In essence, she said that it is imperative for each one of us individually to be strong enough in the Lord that when we reach the final years of life, we can in some fashion maintain ourselves. Now, I'm not talking strictly about physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. The fact is that your children, or other relatives, or even life-long friends, will not be able to do this for you. No matter how hard they try or how much time they spend with you, the ultimate responsibility still lies on yourself.

I think of it this way. What is the final goal for all our years of serving God, all the hours and days we have spent in prayer, all the many miles driving to and from church? What is all of this, all of Christ we learn each day, supposed to bring us?

Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:14-15)
I must stop and point out that the first step is always in choosing. We must choose whom we will serve. Joshua chose. He didn't choose the gods of the past or the gods of the world around him, but he chose the true, living God. He decided what he believed.

Yet, it doesn't stop there.

Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee. (Deuteronomy 28:47-48)

Serve the Lord
with gladness: come before his presence with singing. (Psalm 100:2)
It all comes down to our motive. We serve, but why do we serve? Look at the verse from Deuteronomy. What happened to the person who served God without joy? He was consumed by his enemies! This means that service to God in itself is not enough. There are Christians who go to church their entire lives, they "believe in God", they might even be good and kind, and yet that's all they have. To them God is sovereign; you serve out of obligation, obedience, and fear of judgment. They miss out entirely on the love of God, for God IS love. (1 John 4:8)

The key to aging, coming to the final years of your life happy, strong, and fulfilled lies in the reason behind your service. You serve Him because you love Him and you know He loves you. Together you have a relationship. You obey out of joy. You serve God in gladness.

Here's a further example. What does the scripture say about giving? "God loveth a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7) There is it again! Cheerful, glad, and full of joy!

And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. (Deuteronomy 34:7)
That sounds pretty good to me!


-------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Story Saturdays

This month's FREE BOOK to email subscribers will be a recent release under my pen name, Josephine McCutcheon . This is a line of swee...