Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Gift


One never knows when they'll make an appearance. Like uninvited strangers in the night, they invade your life and come unexpectedly, disrupting the calm, abolishing tranquility; painful reminders of things you'd thought you had left far behind. 

One such invader met me at the door of my heart last night. It caught me off guard, and it's been on my mind on and off ever since. But this morning as I stood in church, surrounded by hundreds of voices lifted in chorus of praise, I thought about the memories. The deep, dark times in my past that I fumbled for the smallest flame to illuminate my path. And I saw in every flashback, every memory, every nightmare and hellish reality: There was a shadow not my own. A hand upon my shoulder. Arms wrapped around me. A whisper in my heart. Tears shed, sorrows shared. Love. The presence of Another; the extent of whose comfort I can not begin to describe. Praise God I came to know this One early in life!

My dear brothers and sisters, our Father is so faithful! I don't say this as a "pat" answer to the problems, complexities, and horrors of this life. I say it because it's true. I've been there. I've not had a tragic life. But there have been tragedies in my life. There have been hard times. I know there will be more. But He is closer everyday. His presence is so dearly felt; His joy, His peace, the contentment He brings. The love I feel from Him and towards Him... It overflows more and more! I can't imagine how much still sweeter He will become and it thrills me to no end! 
I want you to know that you can HAVE this! You can know this peace, this joy and this love. Were it that I might have the ability to gift wrap it and send it to you this Christmas! Because if there was anything I could do for you, anything in the world I could give, it would not be a winning lottery ticket. If wouldn't be the next Apple product. It probably wouldn't even be on your wish list. This I would give first and most joyously! 
Look for Him! He is not hiding from you. Pray that He will open your eyes and that You will see Him. He does love you, and ever so much! 

This season of giving, I will pray that you know the peace, joy, love and comfort of our Father in the midst of whatever it is you are facing! 
Pursue Him. Fall in love with Him as I have. There's nothing on earth that compares to knowing Him. Receive the best gift of Emmanuel, God with us. Because He is the ONE gift you'll never tire of. The ONE gift that truly keeps giving. He is priceless.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I Am Here

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. 

I listen to the ticking of the clock joining in the symphony of eight little ones resting peacefully on their cots. 

This is my life these days. It isn't glamor, it's not a rock show (except when little hands decide rocks look cool airborne), and it isn't all bliss. It's tying those shoes for the millionth time, holding the tearful child, cleaning up the mess from the one who somehow managed to spill both a cup of hot (warm) chocolate and a cup of milk on herself in the same day (she must be related to me!).

But it's where God has me. And here I am content, here I am blessed. 

Editing has also taken up much of my time at home as I am coming out of the busiest season in my photography business to date. 

While it has its perks, being self-employed for me usually amounts to kicking myself in the pants to become motivated when I don't feel like sitting at the computer for another hour during crunch time. 

But it's where God has me. And here I am content, here I am blessed. 

Don't get me wrong, I love what I do!  The little tantrums and boogie noses and accidents are often followed by the sweetest hugs, cutest notes, and sincerest apologies. The hours of editing are rewarded with the happy tears of a client, the making of new friendships and building up of old ones, and the satisfaction of a job well done, among many other things. 

I challenge you to do what I am doing in this quiet moment: 

Appreciate the little things. There are little blessings all around you. Find them, take joy in them, thank God for them. Laugh at your little failings (awkward moments, anyone?) and allow yourself the grace God extends to you. In doing so you extend to others the freedom to do the same. 
Take delight in where God has placed you and seek fulfillment and contentment in Him. The rewards of a life content in His will are priceless! 

It may not be glamorous, it may not be great in the eyes of the world. But it's where God has me. And here I am content, here I am blessed. 

Chatter brought to you by Victoria Christine <3 

Monday, October 20, 2014

On Words and Worth

"You're ugly."

Shocked and dismayed, I glanced up at the young girl of 8 or so who had carelessly uttered the words.

"That was rude!" I responded, never much one to be less than direct myself. Even still, I was surprised and caught off guard by the unkind words directed toward me. I can imagine what my mother's response would have been if I had done or said something of that sort at this girl's age and it wouldn't have been anything close to an enjoyable experience for me.

She attempted to shrug it off with a less than heartfelt apology when I told her she ought to, but I persisted with something along the lines of "How would you like it if I said you were ugly? You're not, but how would you like it?" 
She stubbornly insisted that she would not care for several moments before finally blurting out with a healthy dose of passion "Someone at school bullied me and said I was ugly."

Ah, the truth. Finally something to go on. 

I spent the next few minutes attempting to undo the damage that had been done to her heart. But really, there is no undoing it. I can only hope that my words were something of a healing ointment as I told her how God sees her and I see her, etc. 

I came away with some lessons perhaps I already knew but that were reiterated in my heart and head through this experience and all throughout my day today that I would like to express:

1. Be careful with words. Despite the old saying (you know the one), words CAN hurt.

2. Grace. Grace. GRACE! While obviously this young one was downright rude, it was also obvious there is something deeper going on. We don't know everyone's hearts. "Hurting people hurt people" is SO true! I'm grateful that I worked through it instead of simply putting her in time-out. What a great opportunity for growth for the both of us!

3. Forgive. When people offend you, forgive. If you don't, their words are still allowed to fester in your heart and hurt you continuously.

4. Ask for forgiveness/apologize when you've offended others. Even if you feel you did no wrong, the fact remains that someone was offended and relationships with those we care about are worth SO much more than our pride. I had to do this recently to reconcile with a family member. No fun, but so necessary. Slowly but surely my Father is working on me in the area of being sensitive to others needs, especially when they vary from my own and I might not understand them.

5. Build others up. This is especially needed in regard to parents of young daughters, but really is applicable to everyone. 
So your daughter is loved, accepted, and beautiful. How often do you tell her? She is faced with so many negative messages about herself and needs you to show her the truth about how God sees her or there will be serious negative repercussions in her life as she matures into an adult. Have those conversations about her life at school or among her friends. She may be too embarrassed or ashamed to broach the subject herself. Talk about bullying. Bullied or abused kids often become bullying or abusive adults. Deal with it now or you will be sorry. 

6. Know the truth of God's word and teach it so that you might identify and help others to identify that which is not and disregard it.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him."

"Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

"Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows."

"Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

"For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Accident and the Struggle

"How can we pray for you?"

If I were to be honest I would say that sometimes I find this question annoying. But recently the question was put to me and at this point the analogy that comes to mind in remembering the conversation is that of someone throwing a life preserver to a person in an ocean just trying to keep their head above water. I'm not one to cry in front of people if I can help it. If I feel as if I'm going to lose control of my emotions I seek privacy. But occasionally, I am too broken and it is unavoidable and incredibly necessary to lose control. This was one of those occasions.

"I just want to sleep." I blubbered like a baby as my voice barely held up to get the words out.
"But I don't know. Maybe not sleeping is better because not sleeping means not dreaming" I countered myself.

Have you ever been there? When the crickets are chirping, the lights are out and it feels like the world is one collective snore, but you're laying there, reminded of the caffeinated espresso owl in that Facebook meme.You know the one...

And in the quiet of the night, all the memories you've been able to set aside come rushing back like a flood and you find yourself drowning in the torrential onslaught of emotions you've been so carefully avoiding?

Dust settling, overturned vehicle. It took a moment for the scene in front of me to register. The pressing urgency within to assist in whatever way necessary. The agonizing wait, and longest traffic signal stop of my life. Pulling off to the side of the road. My family member's voice echoing in my head "I can't go. I'm staying here." as I turned on my hazards, grabbed my phone, jumped out of my truck and ran, with the sinking realization that the still form lying in the street was that of a man... the growing pool of blood, things I don't want to describe.

It all came back... still rushes back, though it was over a month ago... both clear as day yet somehow all a blur at the same time as some things stand out in my head but others I feel I should remember fade into background noise. What I've simply come to refer to as "The Accident" still comes to mind daily. It still breaks my heart. I still wonder, and doubt, and question, and struggle. One big relief is that I'm okay with that struggle now.

And I want you to know, that if you are there too, it is okay. 
You see, something God showed me awhile back that I'm understanding more everyday is that faith grows in the midst of trial. It is the very essence of what faith is. If faith requires no surrender to the Known in the midst of the unknown, is that really faith?

I don't understand why I'm alive instead of the man who lost his life that day. I know Jesus as my Savior and the love of my life and I am "ready to die." Not to be mistaken or confused with the desire to die, but I am okay with dying.
The man who from all appearances did not know the Lord passed away instead of me, before my eyes, when a few seconds made all the difference between him being in that accident instead of me. I don't understand why I pray–why I prayed–because the concept of God's sovereignty is one that seems to elude my understanding. But I know and knew then that it is beyond me to determine these things. I must simply be willing to say yes to that which the Lord asks of me, and in that moment, all I could do was pray. I prayed, I told that man that if he could hear me it wasn't too late to call on the name of Jesus. I asked for a miracle that day. I still wonder if the answer to my question was really "yes" even though it appeared to be "no." Because the greater miracle would not have been the sparing of his physical life, but that of his soul. I take some comfort in that, whether founded or unfounded I'm not sure.


And that's OKAY. If you don't understand, that's okay too. I want to hold your hand in this, be the person unafraid to wrap their arms around you. "It's OKAY to cry." was also probably one of the most thoughtful, heartfelt statements expressed to me during the days immediately following The Accident, and I want to pass that liberating sentiment on to you. It's okay to NOT be okay with the pain you experience and to struggle deeply. Personally, I think it is healthy. It is a reminder that you're still a living, breathing soul who loves deeply and feels passionately. If we were meant to be unaffected by pain or grief, we'd be stones. Grief is such a complicated thing. There will be times of great happiness–don't feel guilty or obligated to end those moments. There will be times of immense sadness–that's okay too! Struggle is so painful but there is not a single struggle in my life that I have endured and now regret. It is part of what makes us who we are. It's the hug for your neighbor. The tears shared with a friend. The grace extended to the broken. Our struggles are what makes us stronger, more compassionate, more loving, more graceful. 

And the most beautiful part of it all is the presence. The peace He brings, the calm, the hope, the strength, the love, but most of all Himself. All else is secondary, He offers me Himself. 

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed."

I'm learning more about prayer every day. That God allows what He wills, and asks us to pray to change what he desires to change. What it comes down to is His plan and being in tune to His voice regarding it. 

I feel like this post is a mish-mash of thoughts, emotions, and convictions but it has been awhile in coming. I originally started it a week (or few) ago and it's been in my heart for longer but I wasn't ready to post yet. It has taken me awhile to be okay enough with it all to talk about it. I hope this makes it to someone's heart today and that maybe, just maybe, there is a purpose beyond what I can immediately see in what I experienced and am still experiencing. 

Many big Jesus hugs to those of you, especially, who are struggling right now! You aren't alone--or needn't be. Jesus wants to be there with you. Beyond that, feel free to contact me if you just want to talk or pray, whatever the case may be. Maybe we can go out for coffee (or hot cocoa or tea since I'm not a huge coffee fan myself, ironically). Peace!

Victoria Christine


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Season, or a Choice?

Hi there! 

My friends on Facebook lecture me about my long Facebook posts, so today I'm just skipping the lecture and blogging. Take THAT fb critics! ;) 

I have had a rather hectic life these days, with hardly a dull moment to catch my breath. It is difficult. Part of it is simply a season, but I also struggle to find time to devote to bible reading and personal prayer time and I don't like that. I am so tired and brain dead that it is hard to focus at the end of the day, and I find myself trying to squeeze in every minute of sleep time and thus barely leaving room for eating and essentials at the beginning of the day as well. 

But I must be honest with myself, is it a season, or a choice? I can MAKE time for just me and God, the same way I make time for other friends--and He is most important to me! I love my friends, but they can't take His place! 

And there's something that is echoing almost silently in my head, this nagging. I don't want my Savior to be an after thought. 
I want my LIFE to revolve around Him. Every moment, every breath, every thought, every decision big or small I want to be in light of the reality of His presence in my life. 

I'm not sure how to go about it, maybe I need someone to keep me accountable who will ask "How's your personal time with God been this week?" I don't know. But something has to give. I am surrounded by the Word in that I am involved in so many different groups and studies with friends (literally), but there's just something about that individual one-on-one time that cannot be replaced with group discussion. The same as with any other intimate relationship, that individual time is very necessary in order to thrive! 

In order to keep the perspective I desire I need to have that daily time of coming before my Lord, not just here and there whenever I get the chance. It needs to have priority, He needs to be priority in my life. I HAVE to have it. Like, really. I love when He sends me reminders that can be so hard, but so necessary. He brings me to my knees regarding a situation and I find myself thanking Him for the trial that brought me closer still to Himself and reminded me of my deep need for my Savior in my life. I need His saving power and grace every day of my life!

What scares me the most about "growing up" is the way adults seem to have lost the childlike simplistic faith that many formerly possessed as children. I don't want to grow out of that! I am conscious of this ever growing pressure from the world to fill every nook and cranny of my life with "good things" which slowly drowns out the will of the Father in me. He has a vision for me, and I have to be near to Him in order to perceive it, and in order to be near Him I have to remove all that comes between us! It is a never ending process of continuously making wise choices. 

So if you're the praying type--pray for me. I refuse to let God be an afterthought at the end of the day when I can't keep my eyes open any more. I refuse to give in to the busyness of society that seeks to come between me and the most important Person in my life! 

Will you stand with me and choose this way, His way, too?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

2am Blog Post

It is after 1:30am and I am wide awake. I guess that's what friends and a movie on a weekend will do! They fell asleep. I'm a sucker for action movies, so I didn't. My loyal sister Angel stayed up and watched it with me at least.

So where does life have me these days?
Well, my one best friend was married two weeks ago, and the other got engaged to my brother one week ago.
So... pretty much bridesmaid duty. X2. Wedding planning. It is oober exciting (oober is SUCH a ridiculous word but fits somehow)! I am so thrilled for both of them, and watch with a big, stupid, giggling grin on my face as their happiness grows daily.

It is a whirlwind of life and happiness and love in abundance, and I wonder what I will do when this next wedding is all said and done and the dust settles on the heels of their honeymoon. They will be beginning with their married lives. And I will be moving on with my single life.
I don't know what to make of the idea, really. My childhood friends, my brother...married? Already?
Something of a melancholy thought. Not a horrible one, just... different.
And now more than ever I see me, God and a whole lot of the great U-- the great UNKNOWN.

I know what comes next, to an extent. Or maybe I only think I do.
The next phase of my life doesn't look like roses and rings to me, but a step into an ocean of new, wonderfully intriguing, incredibly challenging and unexplainably awesome things. Another small stroke of the brush on the canvas of my life. I am fairly caught up in the planning and logistics of this whole business of marriage, but in my peripheral vision I see someone waiting. Not my knight on horseback (who I believe one day really will come, but I'm not waiting around for that day doing nothing) but the Love of my life nonetheless.
He is watching, with His blessing, yet there is an unspoken agreement, a mutual desire between us. There has been for years.

So what do I see coming next for me?
Ministry. A trip overseas eventually. A lot of work here as usual, little glamor. And a lot of reward. Very fulfilling.
I'm excited for the adventure on the horizon! It will take time to finally all be here, be real, be happening. But come on. It will have been 22 years of waiting, seeking, knocking, pursuing- what's a little longer?
Please be praying for me as I approach this new phase in my life!

Considering it is now after 2am, I reckon I better sleep. Blessings!