Day 36: Life Requires An Editorial Process

ed·it/╦łedit/  Verb - To correct, condense, arrange or otherwise modify for use


I've been looking through a lot of photographers' work recently, (one facebook click leads you to another one, which leads you to another one, which leads you to another one . . . you know how it happens!)


I've been looking through a lot of photographers' work recently, and I have discovered something important. What separates the good photographers from the great ones is their ability to edit. So many have incredibly good photographs, but their ability to edit is so poor that it almost ruins the photo altogether.

The point of a great photograph (in my non-professional photographic opinion) should be that it draws us into the moment.  It creates in us an ability to become a part of the moment.  The sights, the sounds, the scents, the emotions.  We, the observers, become accutely focused on what is important, central, the POINT of the photograph, so much so that it is as if we were behind the lens ourselves.

However in the poorly edited photographs, I observed the following three commonalities:

Photographs are often overblurred which seems forced and makes what should be the focal point of the photo a crisp and clear afterthought.  The eye is drawn more to what is blurred than what is left in focus.

Photographers "brands" sometimes become so distracting that I am left wondering if they or their subjects are the point of the photo.

Sometimes photos are so "creative" that it's hard to determine exactly what the photographer is saying at all. Creativity for creativity's sake is not creative.  It's almost the opposite of creative.  Often, incredibly beautiful moments are stolen by the need to make it "special."  Sometimes the moment is special all on its own.

(There are MANY more observations I could make, but these seemed the most glaring!)

I believe these observations about photography apply to life in general.

The ability to blur the unimportant things in life is critical.  But far too often I become so obsessed with the things I am trying to ignore, that I lose sight of the things that are the most important.

Just like a photographer's brand, when I, Me, Mine, becomes more important than anything else, I lose sight of pretty much everything else.

And lastly, incredibly beautiful moments are often stolen or ruined altogether by my need to try to make them special.  Sometimes the moments are, indeed, special all on their own.  The more I manipulate, adjust, worry over the moment, the less special it becomes.

Our ability to edit is key to turning good moments into great ones.  We must be able to ignore what isn't important, to keep our pride in check, and sometimes to just breathe in the moments of life that are breathtakenly beautiful on their own.

All that to say, life, like photography, requires an editorial process.  Just edit with caution.

Day 35: Blessings of Great Worth

At our church, as a part of our faith and love for Jesus, we have a ceremony where we publicly dedicate our children to the Lord.  I don't really know where the practice of this comes from, but I would venture to guess it comes from the Old Testament where families dedicated their children in the temple.  I know that the meaning of it, for us, is simply a recognition that we are promising God to raise our children to know of His love for them, His sacrifice for them, and His overwhelming grace for them.  And we are making this promise to Him publicly so that those who journey with us will celebrate with us and hold us accountable to this promise.

This morning was our Dedication Ceremony.  Miraculously we made it to church with the girls still clean and pretty in their white princess dresses! (although Nikki did stop at one point to look for bugs in the pine bark mulch!  I almost had a stroke!  She also pulled the roses off of her headband TWICE, and I had to hot glue them TWICE!)

We joined 6 other families on stage and waited as one by one each parent prayed a blessing over their children. The girls were so good while they waited. 

Finally it was our turn.  The Pastor introduced our family and introduced the girls.  It was the first time we heard them called "Jones" publicly.  That made me tear up a little.

After Mike read his blessing over them, first Shannay and then Nikki took turns saying something into the microphone.  It made me nervous.  You never know what a toddler might say!

Finally, our church prayed a blessing of dedication over all the families!

I know the girls have no idea what is happening!  They are just happy that we are happy!

We greatly missed Jacob though.  We each said at different times that we wished Jacob was there.  He lives 3 hours away, and sometimes that really stinks.  Probably for him too!

Here is the blessing we wrote:

Nikki and Shannay,
In Isaiah 45:3 God says “I will give you riches hidden in the darkness and things of great worth that are hidden in secret places,” and you, our daughters, are the fulfillment of that promise.

May God continually watch over you and protect you, drawing you closer to Him daily, that you would know Him and love Him deeply throughout your lives. 

We pray you will always know that He chose you to be ours because you are of the utmost value to Him.  And He chose us to be yours because no one else will love you as fiercely as we do.

You are our riches of great worth.

All that to say, we are blessed.

Day 34: Let's Get Real

Facebook is fake.  In case you don't know this, I am going to state it plainly. Facebook is fake.

People portray their real lives in fake ways that make everyone else wish their lives were as perfect as the people's on facebook.  I know people whose lives are in terrible, torturous disarray, and yet their posts on facebook would lead you to believe their lives are perfect.  Their kids are perfect.  Their marriages are perfect.  Their spiritual lives are perfect.  Their jobs are perfect.  Their friendships are perfect.  Or that they are perfect.  Perfect wives, perfect husbands, perfect kids . . .

The danger in that should be obvious.  First of all, it's a lie.  And lies are the foothold of the enemy.  Secondly, if you are really in need of help, no one would ever know it.  So then when no one reaches out to you, you feel lost, alone, helpless, hopeless . . . the list could go on.

Plus, your "perfect life" might also cause someone else to feel like they're the only ones with imperfect lives, keeping them from ever reaching out to anyone else.

Facebook is fake.  And at times, we all live the fake facebook life.  All of us.

Facebook allows us to live in a fake reality where anything and everything is acceptable.

People air out their private discontent in a very public format.  They bash their families, their friends, their churches, their worship leaders, their spouses, their kids, the clerk at the grocery store . . . no one is exempt from the facebook rant.

This is basically the equivalent of walking into the lobby of your child's school, where you superficially sort of know a lot of people, and you just start ranting about something that has nothing to do with most of the people who are listening.

You would never do that.  And yet we do it regularly on facebook.

And I think that we who call ourselves Christians should most assuredly know better.  It makes us look bad, and it casts an ugly shadow on the One we are called to glorify.

The original idea behind facebook was to make fun of people.  In case you didn't know that, it's true.  Facebook was intended in a mean-spirited way.  Does that mean that it cannot be used for good?  Of course not.  It absolutely can be and is used for good purposes on a regular basis. 

How we use it is totally up to us.  We are called to be real, authentic people.  With real problems, real emotions, real lives.  Facebook does not give us a license to air out our hurts, problems, emotions, and realities for the world to see.  But it also should not be a place where we pretend these things do not exist.

All that to say, facebook is fake.  But we are called to be real.  Let's be real, in a real healthy way.


Day 33: Adoption Day

Their adoption day was originally scheduled for June 11th, but as is often the case with the government and the legal system, things don't turn out the way you plan or want.

We had originally invited a lot of people to be there for their adoption day, but then all of the sudden, paperwork errors caused us to have to postpone the adoption.  So when they told us that we could "try" for the 15th, but they weren't sure it would happen then either,  it just seemed too uncertain to ask people to drive all the way downtown for ANOTHER false alarm.

So on Friday, June 15th, we got up at the crack of dawn (why do babies always come at the crack of dawn?) picked up Zack at his apartment (and wedged his 6 foot 2 inch frame in between the car seats in the back seat of our Trailblazer) and headed for the courthouse in downtown Houston.

Of course, in true Houston fashion there was a terrible wreck on the interstate which caused me to panic about being late, but Mike and Zack navigated those back roads like rock stars and got us there on time.

On the way there, we kept talking to the girls telling them we were on our way to adopt them.  Shannay said, "Will I get a shot?"  I laughed and said, "Not A DOCTOR baby, adopted!"  Once reassured that she was not going to get a shot, she seemed pretty excited, though I am sure she was clueless as to enormity of the day.

I felt so nervous.  My hands were sweaty.  Mike paced the hallways.  Zack and the girls chilled out on a bench watching a movie (I'm sure Zack was nervous too, he just didn't show it!)

Finally, our case was called.  We handled all the yucky details and then the judge said, "Now let's do the fun part!  Let's get those babies in here!"

The second I saw Zack appear at the courtroom door with them I started crying (and I still had testifying to do!)  I answered all of the remaining questions with a squeaky tear-strained "yes."

Nikki kept kissing my eyes and saying, "Mommy, your eyes have water."

And finally, it was over.  The judge said something, I don't remember what.  I just remember feeling incredibly overwhelmed in a great way.  It was done.  They were ours.

All that to say, oddly enough, I felt exactly the way I felt after giving birth.  Tired.  Happy.  Emotional.  Speechless. 

Day 32: Jones Girls

I don't really know how to begin a post of such importance.  Do I start with a poignant remembrance of the first time I saw them?  Do I tell of two years of incredible struggle that I thought might not ever culminate in this moment?  Do I begin with the incredible victorius end and tell the story backward?

I think instead I will just say how my heart feels.


Relieved that the scariness of court is over and the attorneys and judge have all agreed that they should be ours.  The gavel has been swung, the papers have been signed, the pictures have been taken.  They are ours.

Relieved that no one will ever be able to take them from me again.  That I will no longer know the fear of losing them to a legal system and foster care system that is broken, broken, broken.

Relieved that there is a spiritual separation from the death and darkness that once held them captive.

Relieved that their sweet names are our names, forever joined to our family.

Relieved that I am their Mama.

All that to say, they are Jones Girls.  Welcome to the club babies.

Day 31: The Void

I attended the Celebration Service of Thatcher Caleb Paul yesterday, the sweet baby boy of Whitney and Eric Paul.  I am left with these thoughts.

Thatcher lived 2 months and 29 days, and to me, and I am sure more so to his parents and family, that is too short. 

But God, you hold time in your hand, and your timing is perfect.  And whether or not I understand your timing does not change the fact that it is perfect.

His 2 months and 29 days were a daily battle for life.  And I don't think that's fair, nor does my finite brain comprehend that there is a greater purpose in that.

But God, you are God, and there is purpose in everything that you give us and everything that you withhold from us.  And whether or not I understand your purpose, doesn't change the fact that all your ways are good and for our good and for your kingdom and for your glory.

Thatcher's parents are so young, and he was their firstborn.  I understand, Lord, (I think), that many will come to know you because of Thatcher, and because of the faith of his parents, but I wonder why ones so young must endure such an unbearable thing.

But God, you choose whom you will, to bear what you will.  And whether or not I understand your will does not change the fact that your will is perfect.

I have a million unanswered questions in my mind, and the void left where those answers belong, must be filled.  And my temptation is to fill that void with my own answers, or my anger, or my frustration.

But God, it is in that void that I find your grace.  Your grace fills the void in my mind, and in my heart.  And your word tells me that your grace is enough.

All that to say, "Lord, may your grace flood the hearts and minds and empty hollow places of all who knew and loved Thatcher Caleb Paul.  And my your grace be enough."

Day 30: Rejected

I was having a conversation with Kate (a friend of mine) the other day and she told me she was afraid to do something that she really wanted to do.  When I asked her why, she simply said, "Fear of rejection."

There is nothing quite so personal as being rejected, regardless of how it comes about.

And rejection awakens a very ugly thing in us.  It awakens our pride. 

And since our pride is the enemy's greatest weapon against us, it is not surprising that we find ourselves rejected often.

But rejection is a natural part of life.  It is.  As long as other humans are around, we are bound to be rejected.  They are going to pass over us for a team, pick someone else for the job we wanted, and defriend us on facebook. 

So our choice is to live, knowing that others will hurt us.  Or to crawl into a hole, crippled by our fear, and miss the millions of moments that God has planned for us.

All that to say, I choose life.  And though I am certain to be rejected (again) at some point, it's worth the risk.  I will live, I will love, and I will suffer loss.  But I won't miss the moments that will come from those experiences.

Day 29: Fifty One

As a general rule, birthdays just do not bother me.  Well, when I turned 31, that birthday bugged me a little because I was "over 30" . . . not just 30, but "OVER 30."  I don't know why that was so traumatic, but it was.  I cut my hair off from below my waist to over my ears.  I needed some drastic change to remind me I was young, and it was cheaper than a boob job, so I cut my hair.

But the rest of the birthdays, I have loved.   I love having a day that IS about me (true confession). And I love cake and presents and birthday cards.   And I love growing older.  Weird, I know.  But growing older means you are living.  And I am living and loving my life. 

I will say that at 3:00 a.m. this morning, when my husband said in his very groggy, middle of the night voice, "Happy Birthday Sweetheart"  I kinda felt old.  And for a second, I panicked!  I thought, "Oh my gosh, I'm 51.  I'm OVER 50!"  And as the panic of that threatened to take over my mind, and I realized my hair was already short and a boob job was out of the question, I exhaled and said, "I'm 51.  That's not old.  Heck, I'm 48 years younger than Sarah of the Bible was when she gave birth!"

I truly love my life and love the age I am.  You might say that my bucket is quite full.

I have an incredible husband whom I have known and loved for well more than half of my life. He has taught me much about life, and love, and living life to the fullest. He has strengthened my faith (trust me, I have spent a lot of time praying for and about this man!) The love of my youth is the love of my life.

I have grown ups for children.  I have a son who is married to a daughter-in-law that I adore.  I have a son who is in college getting a second degree.  I have seen the fruit of my labor ripen to maturity.  And it is good fruit.

And I am getting to experience motherhood a second time.  I have daughters!  Daughters!  Something I never imagined I would have in my lifetime, but something I am so grateful for.

That said, and at the risk of sounding like all that is not enough, I have decided to make a bucket list.

1.  Go to Italy someday.  Drink the wine there.  I hear it is amazing.
2.  Go see the Grand Canyon.  I grew up in Arizona and never saw it.
3.  See Wicked.  In New York would be best, but I'd love it anywhere.
4.  Rock lots and lots and lots of grandkids.
5.  I'd be okay with adopting some more kids if Mike was okay with it.
6.  Buy a house.  (I know, lame, but really . . .)
7.  See the Northern Lights in person.
8.  Take my mom on a fun trip together.  Just the two of us.
9.  Live on a farm, or at least out in the country.  But close enough to the city to do the things I love (like get pedicures and go to movies, and have dinner with my friends.)
10. Run a marathon. :-)

All that to say, I'm 51.  I've got a lot of life left in me.  And if my bucket list comes true, I'm going to have earned a LOT of frequent flyer miles.  (I had no idea I wanted to travel so much!)