Project 52 #7: Sunny Shores

“Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.  The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

“Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation.” (Exodus 15:11,13)

I’ve been soaking in the story of the Exodus this last week. How wonderful to remember that this God of the Israelites, who parted the Red Sea, is the same God we serve today—and He’s still in the business of redeeming people. Praise His name!

About the photos: The kids and I have spent a couple days playing along the shore this last week, soaking in some overdue sunshine! Can you spot the bald eagle in the tree on the island? There is pretty much always an eagle sitting on that tree on that island, sometimes two. There were a couple trees by our house in Minnesota that the eagles habitually perched on, as well, and I love that moving 1700 miles away didn’t change the fact that I still get to live within daily sight and sound of these beautiful big birds.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #6: A Short Hike

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 

For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)

Reading this passage this week got me thinking about what it means to deny self, and that led to thinking about the current cultural emphasis on “self care” that I’ve noticed lately.

Here’s the question I’ve been pondering: Can the idea of “self care” coexist with Jesus’ call to “deny ourselves”—or are these two diametrically opposed to one another? And: Is there Biblical support for the idea of “self care” or is it a completely anti-Biblical idea?

I came up with a few answers of my own…but what do you think?

About the photos: We got out and went on a hike near Control Lake, my first since injuring my tailbone. I was moving pretty gingerly, I’ll admit, more paranoid than usual of slipping on ice or mud, and we turned back once the snow on the trail got knee-deep—but it felt really, really good to be out in the wild again, listening to the eagles call and looking for signs of spring.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #5: Change of Plans

I had other plans for this week. But I guess Joseph did, too.

I was going to go take pictures of the beautiful fresh snowfall. Instead, I slipped on it on my way out and ended up on the couch with a severely injured tailbone.

He was going to obey his father’s request to find his brothers and bring back a report of them. Instead, he ended up in an Ishmaelite caravan, bound for slavery in a faraway land.

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20)

Sometimes it’s really hard to see the good. Sometimes, as in Joseph’s case, you don’t get to see it for years, but when you do, it’s big.

But sometimes, it’s just counting the little things, like finally being able to read that new book that’s been sitting there untouched since Christmas…or having plenty of time to finish my homework for ladies’ Bible study this week…or being blessed by someone thoughtfully dropping by a crockpot full of spaghetti…or my husband buying me sushi…or an unexpected opportunity for ministry that I wouldn’t have had time for otherwise.

What ways have you found the good in the midst of the bad this last week?

P.S. If you haven’t read the story of Joseph in awhile, or maybe ever, do yourself a favor and go read it in Genesis 37-50. It’s one of my favorites.

And if you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #4: Rolling Mists

Watching the rays of the sun rise up through the dark, burst through and dispel the morning mists across Thorne Bay is one of my favorite things ever. If I can, I always pause what I’m doing to watch, because watching the light win is motivating. It’s a good way to visualize how my day as a follower of Christ should be lived:

Victoriously.

Triumphantly.

Actively remembering that no matter how much evil seems to loom large in the world around us, someday Jesus is coming and then the darkness will be conquered forever.

“So it will be at the end of this age.  The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness,  and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:40-43)

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #3: Seattle Airport

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I feel like this would be a good verse to have emblazoned across a billboard within an international airport. After I spent about a full day longer than planned on in one, believe me, I saw a lot of tired, burdened people.

I saw people laden down with luggage in lines snaking away from TSA into infinity and moving at a snails’ speed…

People nervously glancing at their watches…

Old ladies anxiously asking for help understanding where their gates were…

People running, barely throwing out an apology as they brushed past…

Hard lines of concentration and focus on people’s face, not smiles…

People lying in out of the way corners, heads pillowed on lumpy backpacks, trying to catch a few winks of sleep as the masses streamed by hurrying to get wherever they were going.

People losing their tempers over lost luggage…

People crying over missed flights and ruined plans…

I, the naïve traveler new to flying, initially thought the hustle and bustle was all very exciting. That is, until after I lost my phone, missed a flight while trying to find it, and got stuck in this giant airport in an unfamiliar city for 24 hours. Then I understood in a much more personal way the anxiety that this teeming hub of transportation is capable of evoking. I couldn’t call my husband to tell him what had happened, and even though I eventually got a plan made and a new flight scheduled, anticipating his worry until I got in contact (which would be hours later) made me anxious, too.

This was my state of mind when I was standing in line at baggage claim a few hours later. I was exhausted, and it wasn’t even noon. I had been standing in one line or another for hours. This was yet one more attempt to see if my lost phone had been turned in, though I had little hope since the last airport employee I had sought help from had practically rolled their eyes at me.

Finally, I was nearing the front of the line, and close enough to hear the exchanges of the people ahead who were finally getting helped. “I can’t LIVE without that suitcase!” wailed a distraught woman to the man at the counter. She had three rolling suitcases trailing behind her, all a matching hue of metallic lavender, linked together in a perfect little train, but apparently there had been a fourth one. I was standing there thinking, “Well, ma’am, it could be worse. You could be without a phone or a coat or a single stitch of luggage, like I am.” I don’t know what went through the man’s head as he listened to the 576th overly dramatic traveler he had likely dealt with that day detail why her fourth metallic lavender suitcase should be on the top of his priority list for the moment. But if he was annoyed or frustrated, not a flicker of such emotion crossed his face.

He smiled kindly, soothing her with his calm, cheerful reassurance that he would do everything in his power to help her. “Now, things are a bit backed up, ma’am, and I can’t guarantee anything,” he reminded her, “but it should be somewhere over in that pile. Come on; I’ll help you look!” I watched as her face brightened and the tension visibly melted from her shoulders. She trotted off after him, eyes alight with new hope, buoyed by having someone to share her burden.

Even my own hopes were lifted. At the very least, I realized that I was in line to talk to someone who was going to treat me and my lost phone as though he actually cared.

That’s also when I realized I had just seen a tiny picture of Jesus’ love.

The world is a lot like one giant airline terminal, you know, teeming with millions of people running frantically to and fro, with places to go, things to do, people to see, laden down with baggage in every size and shape imaginable.

Jesus is standing there at the only Customer Service desk in the world that never has a waiting line,

“caring” more than all the nicest airline employees in the world combined (well, it’s even better than that, because He actually LOVES you),

not just waiting for people to come to Him, but actually inviting them:

“Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

No matter what the size, shape or color of your burdens, He says, “Bring them to Me!” It can be a missing 4th lavender suitcase. If that’s the worry you’re carrying, bring it to Him. It can be a lost phone. Bring it to Him. It can be the pressures of your job. It can be your health. It can be your marriage, your children, your parents or your next-door neighbor. It can be grief, or disappointment, or anger, or fear. It can be all of those things lumped together, plus some. It doesn’t matter if any other human being thinks your burden is worth the time of day or not. If you are burdened with it, He says, BRING IT TO ME.

Somehow I had forgotten a bit how incredible that invitation is. I’d honestly kind of pushed it to the back of my mind, and forgotten it even existed. Funny how we humans like to do that, taking the weight of the world on our shoulders, so sure that if we run, push, think, research, analyze, work, TRY just a little bit harder, we can surely handle it all on our own. But sometimes I guess we just need to feel a little more weak, a little more helpless and out of control, a little more disappointed and discouraged, a little more stranded and at our wits’ end—just needy enough to be jolted with the reminder that we don’t have to carry it all ourselves. In fact, we can’t. But He can.

Thank you Jesus.

Project 52 #2: Oak Trees and Great Grandparents

About the photos: What do oak trees and great grandparents have in common? They’re both in Minnesota and not on Prince of Wales Island. Also, they both symbolize wisdom, resilience and longevity.

We lost one grandparent last year, so we treasured our recent time spent with the three that remain all the more. I never knew my great-grandparents. Someday my kids will realize how blessed they are, but for now they’re just busy soaking in the stories, games and cooking lessons.

What I’ve been thinking about this week: “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee and will bless thee. For unto thee and unto thy seed I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I swore unto Abraham thy father. And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” (Genesis 26:3-5)

Wonderful to think that because of that one line “in thy seed [Jesus!] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” and also because of what Paul later wrote: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galations 3:29) —even I, now thousands of years and on the other side of the world away, have a part in that blessing!

P.S. I took pictures for this project, but had limited internet while we were traveling and was unable to post them. I’ll be playing catch-up for just a little while, then resume weekly posting thereafter! Also, normally I will be posting one photo per week, but since we were traveling and I took more pictures than usual, you get a few bonus shots!

If you’re new here, this is part of my Project 52, in which I commit to taking and posting a photo per week for the duration of 2022, along with sharing a favorite verse and/or thoughts gleaned as I also read through the Bible in a year. I’d love to hear what stood out to you in your personal Bible reading this week in the comments!

Project 52 #1: Home for the (Delayed) Holidays

About the pictures: In spite of cancelled and missed flights and stolen phones, we made it to Minnesota to celebrate a belated Christmas with both of our families. These were taken at my family’s home, the house I grew up in. Story times with grandpa were a highlight, as were snow time with the aunts and uncles and my brother’s crab Benedict.

The verse I spent time thinking about this week: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Why is that we’re so quick to feed our bodies liberally, even excessively, but so willing to leave the very essence of ourselves, our soul, malnourished and shriveling away in starvation? Here’s to a year of being well-fed and satisfied on the Word of God!

P.S. I took pictures for this project, but had limited internet while we were traveling and was unable to post them. I’ll be playing catch-up over the next week or so and resume weekly posting thereafter! Also, normally I will be posting one photo per week, but since we were traveling and I took more pictures than usual, you get a few bonus shots!

If you’re new here, this is part of my Project 52, in which I commit to taking and posting a photo per week for the duration of 2022, along with sharing a favorite verse and/or thoughts gleaned as I also read through the Bible in a year. I’d love to hear what stood out to you in your personal Bible reading this week in the comments!  

Project 52 2022

Every once in awhile, I enjoy challenging myself with a joint photography and Bible reading project (like the “Savoring Summer” challenge I did while reading through the book of Romans). This year I’m going to try something a little more long-term, because I want to re-read through the Bible in a year, something I haven’t done in a little while! So I’m going to do what is often dubbed a “Project 52”, which is simply committing to take and publish one photo per week for an entire year. With my weekly photo, I will include a verse or two that were the highlight of my week’s reading, and possibly accompanying thoughts if I have time and feel so inspired.

Anyone else want to join me and help keep each other accountable? I’ll personally be using the Old/New Testament plan from Bible Gateway if you need somewhere to start—or they have several other options like reading straight through or chronologically! (And if you have an entirely different goal for your Bible reading this year, I’d still love to have you share in the comments what you’ve been reading and learning!)

Let’s encourage one another to get into the Word and stay in it this year!

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)

Looking for the Light

The longest darkest nights of winter are here.

Growing up in Minnesota, I’ve always known the contrast of short days of winter to the long ones of summer, but here in southeast Alaska the difference is even greater. While we certainly didn’t move up to the Arctic circle where the days dwindle down to almost nothing, we have indeed moved north, and this is the time of year when we realize it most. The arc of the sun across the sky is shallow, a big blazing ball always in your eyes, rolling in a low arc over the mountains across the bay. This week, on winter solstice, the sun rose at 8:17 AM and set at 3:18 PM. An all-day snowstorm obscured the light even further.

Mankind’s yearning for light is especially distinct at this time of the year.

I was thinking about this as we walked out onto the marina on Sunday night, a group of Christmas carolers with clouds of breath hovering about us in the frosty air. My eyes instinctively sought the points of light as we peered down the docks, looking for the houseboat windows that glowed, signaling that their occupants were home. Around the bay, festive lights twinkled, outlining roof edges and trees in windows. Far above us, pinpricks of starlight formed constellations, and a gentle glow in the east signaled the impending rise of the moon. Someone answered our knock, and headlamps shone down on song sheets. We sang about light:

“Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face,

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth, Jesus Lord at Thy birth.”

Light posts glowed periodically along the marina as we walked back to shore, guiding us safely down the solid boards of the dock and away from the dark icy ocean at its edges. The church was waiting down the street, the cross a lighted beacon and the windows glowing with the promise of hot drinks and cookies awaiting us inside. The door opened and light flooded warmly across the street, beckoning us in.

We were created to love light, and it is at this time of year that I understand the most clearly why Isaiah, Zechariah and John described the coming of Christ this way:

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. For behold, darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness is over the peoples; but the LORD will rise upon you, and His glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1-3)

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Isaiah 9:2)

“…because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the Dawn will visit us from on high, to shine on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)

The figurative darkness of our souls was once deeper than the darkest Arctic night, yet Jesus came into this world as LIGHT,

brighter than the floodlights down at the barge docks when they’re unloading at night,

brighter than the three story LED cross down the bay on our neighbor’s house,

yes, brighter even than the noonday sun fully unleashed—

and the darkness fled. There is no more reason to walk fearful in the shadows of sin and impending death, blindly groping, peering, stumbling…

because He came.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

At the Edge of the Ocean

The ocean is a whole new world for our family. It’s beautiful and mysterious, vast and wild, incredibly fascinating and a little terrifying. It actually boggles my mind to think about the depth and breadth of it, and the unknown quantities of hidden creatures it contains. I have taken the kayak out on a couple sheltered bays, but I think it will be a while before we’re brave enough to venture out into the big water on our own. The unpredictability of the wind and the waves and the hazards of fluctuating tides, rocks and shoals are daunting to say the least.

One thing we have wholeheartedly embraced, though, is the adventure of beach combing. It feels like a safe way to experience the ocean. We get to feel the spray, smell the saltwater, even get our feet wet—but without much risk. Because of the tide fluctuation the shoreline is a moody, ever changing, wonderfully unpredictable landscape and you never know what you will find. Every time we go, there is something new to discover.

An abalone shell.

A sea urchin.

Purple starfish.

A nudibranch.

Sea anemone waving their arms in shallow tidal pools.

Far out, an orca blowing.

Crabs scuttling along rocky bottoms.

A mink, fishing for his seafood breakfast.

We have seen and learned so many new things in the last few months, and I know we’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to discover!

“O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.” (Psalm 104:24-25)