Sunday, November 29, 2015

Living in the Longing

     There are so many times in our lives where we are in a season of "longing." We may be longing to get married, longing for a new job, longing for a child or restored health... there are endless things that we may be longing for. One lesson that the Lord really helped me to see in a very tangible way goes along with one of the subjects written by one of my favorite authors, Elisabeth Elliot. In one of her chapters in Let Me Be a Woman she quotes her husbands words, "Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living." Isn't this such a great quote to digest and meditate on?

     The other day we went to the zoo with some sweet friends and I couldn't help but see this wise quote come to life in my five year old. From the moment we stepped through the entrance of the zoo, Zoee was set on seeing the giraffes. The only small issue with desiring the giraffes is that they are literally in the back of the zoo. In order to see them you must pass by the gorillas, tigers, bears, etc. Zoee was so set on seeing the giraffes that I had to remind her a few times to "enjoy the journey." As I watched her "struggle" to enjoy the other animals on the walk to the giraffes, I felt the Lord stirring me as I  saw a glimpse of my own struggles in life. How often do I forget to enjoy the present as I focus on a longing for something that may or may not be in my future? I am so like Zoee sometimes. I want the "giraffes" so badly that I forget to stop and enjoy the beauty of the "lions" and "bears!"

    I pray that as children of the Lord we will live "in the moment." What season has the Lord currently given us to live in? Are we walking in thankfulness for this season, soaking it in and trying to see how the Lord wants us to glorify Him in this season OR are we so focused on things to come that we neglect or current season only to wake up in 10 years to find that we've missed out on a precious season from the Lord? I hope to learn from my sweet little Zoee. This current season is a gift. Let us enjoy it and glorify King Jesus in it!

God in the small things...

    I used to use this blog to share with my girl students ways that the Lord was encouraging me and I also liked to have it as a way to document life with our family since I have such an awful memory. For the last couple of weeks, I have felt a desire to share a small life lesson that the Lord has been putting on my heart.

    A few weeks ago I spoke at a ladies retreat and I taught on 1 Samuel 1 and Hannah's relationship with the Lord. Hannah is one of my favorite people to look at in the Word because I feel like I can relate to things that she went through (the Lord took Sonny and I through 5 miscarriages before giving us our first son here). While I was preparing for this lesson, the Lord showed me something small and sweet that I had never really focused on before. Hannah asked for a son. She didn't just ask for a child; she asked for a son. She loved the Lord with such an intimacy that she even requested a certain gender from Him. I'm not exactly sure why this stood out to me so much but mainly Jesus used it to remind me that He cares about both the small and big things in our lives. Could the Lord have kept Hannah barren for longer and still been just as gracious and loving? Yes. Could He have given her a daughter though she had asked for a son? Absolutely.  But how wonderful must it have been for Hannah to spend years praying a certain request to her sweet Savior only to have Him bless her with Samuel? Her story led her to write her song of praise to the Lord in 1 Samuel 2.  Whether the Lord answers in a way that we would like or not, He has a plan that is best for our good and His glory. He wants us to come to Him with our requests and then trust Him to be our perfect Father who knows what is best. So often I feel that I can neglect to come to Jesus when I think things are too small for Him to be concerned with but this simply isn't the case. He cares. Let us come to Him!
I had already been seeing this come to fruition in my own life but it was so neat to see that Hannah felt the same way. This truth cannot be overstated: The Lord cares. He wants to be involved. Jesus died so that we could be in a relationship with us and in that relationship, He desires that we share our whole hearts with Him- not just the things that we think are important enough for Him to care about.

     Recently I was about to shoot my first newborn twin session (I own my own photography business). I know that newborn shoots can be very difficult when the babies are fussy and moms are nervous. Knowing this, I prayed, "Jesus, please let the babies be extra sleepy." I knew that Jesus didn't "owe" me this but I asked, knowing that He wants my heart and all that goes with it. I pray for every shoot- for the Lord's creativity to shine through my work and for the photos to be exactly what my clients are wanting- and thus I prayed for this as well. The Lord was so kind. The session lasted for about 3 1/2 hours (typical newborn session) and the babies slept for all but about 10 minutes of the session! I was so amazed! My faith was so encouraged. Jesus heard and He helped. The session was so much fun and I loved working with the twins.

   All of this to say, let us remember that Jesus is personal. He wants us to come to Him. With Hannah, she requested a son from the Lord and He answered her. He didn't answer in her timing (she submitted her request for years before the Lord answered her) but He did hear and He did answer when the time was right for Him to do so.  I pray that we will never stop sharing our whole hearts with the God who left heaven to come and die in our place that we might have a sweet and intimate relationship with Him.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Howard Family Recap!

     Oh my goodness. How long has it been since I wrote on this blog? It's actually been almost 2 years to the day. I cannot believe how fast time is flying... In the last 2 years we've had so many life changes occur that it's hard to even know where to begin... 

     Most significantly, we now have 3 kiddos and not 2! Pax Elias was born in August of 2014 and has been such a joy. He has so much personality already. He's a jokester. He loves laughing and making others laugh. He is pretty peaceful most of the time (though he's already starting to test the waters as far as obedience goes!). He was the easiest baby out of our 3 kids (rarely cried) and I seriously cannot believe that he's probably considered a toddler now!!
     As of about 9 or 10 months ago, Sonny started working for Caldwell Companies to work in retail development (and a bunch of other things but I'm pretty unfamiliar with the lingo). While we miss our former students dearly, we trust that this new season is part of the plan King Jesus has for us and Sonny is enjoying his new job even more than I thought he would (I expected him to like this job but didn't realize how much =)). He absolutely loves the company he works for and enjoys getting to be creative and work with other like minded people. He loves getting to represent Jesus in this new environment. 

     We are continuing to homeschool and are involved in a Classical Conversations Co-op in Tomball that meets weekly where we get to join with like-minded people to challenge our children academically as well as shepherd them spiritually. We LOVE it. While we certainly have challenging days, I'm continually thankful for the opportunity to be my children's primary educator in these early years. 

     We recently found a new home church at Bayou City Fellowship (the campus at Northwest Forest). We love having a place to worship as a family and it's wonderful that most families from our weekly small group all attend there as well.

     I'm continuing to work as a photographer in the Cypress/Tomball/Katy/Houston area. I love having this outlet to be creative and contribute a little bit financially to our birthday/holiday/vacation fund! It's also wonderful that I can work around our school schedule and I have help from my mom and mother-in-law with the kids when sessions are during Sonny's workday. 

    Overall, these last few years have flown by. More than anything, I have felt so secure in trusting that the Lord knows what is best. Isaiah talks about how foolish it is to make plans without regarding the Lord. This is an area where my sweet husband really does so well. Whenever we feel that one season might be coming to an end, Sonny is SO diligent to take time and seek Jesus for our family's future. The Proverbs remind us that in an abundance of counselors there is much wisdom. I love that my husband seeks the Lord's wisdom from older men in his life. He is never hasty to make a decision. Through each of these seasons, the Lord has been so kind as to lead us patiently and gently and remind us constantly that He is in control. Nothing is outside of His sphere of influence. He is always seeking to lead His children in truth and righteousness if we will just wait to hear from Him and if we will be quiet and still enough to listen. 
     We have genuinely loved each season that the Lord has let us walk through. We have not loved each season because they have been easy or without trials.... we have loved each season because we have felt that each of those seasons were ordained by the Lord and we have sought to be sanctified by each trial as we know that trials help us to grow. We have sought for 8 years to pour out our lives for the advancement of the gospel in the lives of students in the Tomball/Cypress/Hockley area and now we are seeking to advance the gospel by pouring our lives into those that the Lord continues to bring to us through Sonny's job and through our various homeschool and sporting activities. 

     I've been reading Isaiah lately and it has been wonderful to be reminded of the Lord's view on pride. His goal is for His children to walk in humility, trusting that He is in control and that He is leading them for His glory and their good. This is my sincere hope. I pray often that we would be clothed in the humility of Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, for our good and His glory. I've been reminded often through Isaiah that Jesus is "our strength every morning" (33:2) and He is the "stability of your (our) times" (33:6). Because we are His children through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf, He longs to be gracious to us. He seeks to lead us tenderly as a shepherd leads His flock (40:11). He is our Rock. He is our Redeemer. He sustains us when we are weary.

   "Do not fear, for I am with you.
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God."
-Isaiah 41:10