earlier this week i sat beside a dear friend as we worshipped together and listened to stories of hope at a large gathering. the main room and the overflow rooms combined held somewhere around 3,000 women. the venue itself (a church actually) is one of my favorite places to be. the word of god is boldly taught, life applications are in abundance, encouragement to love community is evident. the decorations year-round are modern and so inspiring. the music is out of this world. and the people…the people sometimes seem to be beautiful and hip and… well …”perfect”. you’ve been there too right? perhaps not the same venue but in a place where everyone seems so young. so perfect. so happy and so just right with the world. the “venue”, if you will, could be your cul-de-sac or your mops group. a dinner party with your husbands partners. school pta meeting. your instagram and blog feed. your church. your wherever. you look at everyone else and wonder what they’re doing to get it right. and with great hair no less.
parenting can feel like that. like corporate parenting. you know what i mean? like you know in your heart that everyone else has good days & bad. you’ve heard the stories of restoration and the prodigal child. you know you’re a good mama. but you wonder, did i miss something? did i not do or over do something? was something i said the reason for their pain? am i too much, not enough? this is the easy stage, but boy am worried about the teen years? i know my children love me, but do they like me? do my children think to themselves, “i’ll be different with my own children”? parenting can feel like place where everyone else seems to doing alright.
so that evening i sat beside my friend ( i’ll tell you much more about her later. she deserves her own blog post. and it’s coming so stay tuned) we heard story after story of god’s faithfulness. his faithfulness through times of abuse, times of depression & anxiety, times of widowhood & isolation, times of unmet dreams and times of just plain out hard stuff. all those “perfect” people? they’re just you & me. those lives that we think “oh i bet she had a great day and no one got mad or hurt with her and i bet she even cooked dinner too” …i knew a dozen or so of the women sitting around me, and i know some of their own stories. these women are beautiful & seemingly “perfect” on the outside. as we raised our hands in worship, as we affirmed words of “but HE was faithful” and as we pondered the humble way the holy god came TO US, we all need a savior. we all need to know we’re not alone in our journey. whether it’s chemo the next day ( my friend sitting beside me) or it’s a struggling marriage or a painful phase with one of our children, we all need jesus to come TO US every day. to lay down our brokenness or our failures. our feelings of inadequacy as mamas or wives or home decorators or whatever. to come along side each other & encourage each other-to stand or huddle or just be together. our stories are powerful. our stories, whether they’re from a battered war torn place or just a simple knowing of his truth, remind us & others of his faithfulness in our past and give us hope in his faithfulness for the future.
next month over twenty of us will come together and via an online, free course, we’ll share our stories of becoming. we will be sharing truths about who the Lord says we are and our personal journeys to accepting and living out these truths. this 8 week study is about finding your true identity in Christ-not in how we look, not in how we feel, not in whether we have the latest bag or coolest kitchen counters. i’m humbled to sit beside these women and share hope with you. (first i gotta figure out how to do a video between now & then. no pressure.) our hearts are that we can be a safe place for you. a “venue” of encouragement, where you feel welcome. perhaps, like that evening for me, our stories will be different from your own, but you will feel connected and kindred as you walk out your own story of becoming. you may register here.
so speaking of parenting & those days of inadequacy~ i think this is the perfect time to share the christmas card that almost wasn’t! we all have those right?
i make a pretty big deal out of the christmas card. i’m a lover of pictures. always have been. and i take a zillion of them. i know you find that hard to believe. i love receiving mail, the kind that actually arrives in the mailbox. i love saving the christmas cards we receive each year. i spend january praying over the family of each one. so the christmas card thing is a biggie for me.
well this year, i had resigned myself to the fact that we just wouldn’t have a card. you know what they say about the cobbler’s kids & being without shoes? i usually use one from vacation and we didn’t vacation this year. and one living away at college adds to the challenge. the only ones i had where all four of my girls were in the same shot weren’t really what i’d like to use for a card. i tried to make collages of my favorites of each one only for it to end up not looking like i really wanted it to. plus, i felt pretty swamped and so the freedom to not jump through all the card hoops just seemed like the way to go. sadness.
thanksgiving morning everyone was showering & preparing to head over to my folks house for our meal. it was chilly & blustery but i thought, yes…we can do this thing. we can get a shot this afternoon. everyones here. everyone will be all done & feeling photo-worthy. oh but let it be said, even in a home with four daughters & even in the house of a photographer not everyone wants to do the photo thing, at the same time, all the time. so anyways, i apologized to mom after the meal as it was getting uber cloudy and dark quickly. i apologized and asked if we could head out a little earlier than expected. with grace & understanding she sent us off without even taking us up on our “we can wash dishes first” offer. we ran home & freshened up super quickly & drove to my fave spot. the sun sets over the trees here & i often times shoot in this spot. ya’ll know i love a good backlit image. but the sun was gone & it was getting grey and dreary. i promised everyone i would nail it within just a few shots so “lets all be happy and smiley okay?”.
ya’ll. we pulled into my spot, (which in & of itself is tricky) the girls unloaded, i told them where to stand and LO AND BEHOLD the sun came out for like eight minutes. i tell you the truth. and at the risk of making something big out of just a christmas card, this one is extra special to me. i’ve said it many times before but in the unknown we faced this fall, i often wondered what christmas 2014 for the knudsens would look like. we’re pumping out high school graduates ( soon to be college graduate as well) fast as we can over here, so the logistics of everyone home together is not anything to take for granted. but just as the sun came out at just the perfect moment is a reminder to me of his truth and grace and just ( i know, its corny but for this visual person roll with me) that HE is there all along. while not every story has an ending that we hoped for, HE is with us always. emmanuel. HE knows our hearts and HE knows what we love. HE knows i love backlit field photos of my four girls. the words : truly HE taught us to love one another. us with our brokenness & inability to be all we wish we could be, us with our desire to unfold a perfect story-worth life, HE teaches us to love those HE gave us. and in HIS NAME all oppression will cease. i love this reminder that one day there will be no more tears. no more cancer & debilitating diseases. no more orphaned children or homeless going hungry. no more chains of addiction. no more chains of mental disease or loneliness. no more.
i chose the words be joyful because i want it to be said one day that no matter what circumstances come our way, we as a family will chose joy. not a fake happiness or denial that bad things happen. not phony smiles when hearts are heavy but joy in him and through him. ( wow. this is turning out to be much longer than i had planned….thanks for hanging in there). so, the card that almost wasn’t is perhaps my favorite one of all…
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