Sunday, May 27, 2012

Keep Coming Back

When I was little, I was very inquisitive. 

I liked to ask lots of questions. 

I can remember sitting in church one Sunday. I was sitting with my Dad, and I leaned over to him. The minister had just said something obvious to me.

"Dad, when you become a Christian, don't you already know this kind of stuff?" I asked.

"Yes," he answered.

"Then why do you have to keep coming to church? If you already know what it takes to get to Heaven and you have done it, then why keep coming back to hear it?"

"Because," he said, "It's always good to be reminded."

In my young little mind, I couldn't understand why someone would need to hear the same thing over and over. And for that matter, I wasn't taking into consideration the fact that the Spirit moves in many ways, and will usually always bring to light something new to learn each and every time.

That memory sticks with me, and I think about it often when I'm sitting in church.

Today, I sat by our elder's wife. Our elder and his wife have been good friends of my parents for as long as I can remember, and our elder is my dad's first cousin.

The morning service was so good and appropriate for the Memorial Day weekend. The minister read about "David's Mighty Men" and also talked about Hebrews 11, going over the "Hall of Faith." He said that reading over all of those people and the accounts of their faith reminds him of a cemetery. When you walk in a cemetery, you see markers of people who have passed from this life to the next, and you may stop and review something they have done. You talk about the impact they made in their life. It challenged me to look at my own life and think: What impact am I making? Would I be listed in a "Hall of Faith?" What will I take with me, and what will others remember me by?

He also talked about life being the "great race" that we finish... and how up in Heaven, those who love us may very well be cheering us on into Victory.

After the service, I received an unexpected word of encouragement.

The edler's wife leaned over and told me that she thought of my grandparents, and how both of them were such pillars of faith. How she believed they were looking down at me and so proud of me. How it took courage to do the things that I do...

Immediately, I became sentimental in remembrance of my beautiful grandparents, and also tried to guess what she was referring to in regards to courage. I thought maybe she would mention stepping out on my own, buying my house, or starting my business. 

But she didn't mention any of those things.

And now that I think about it, none of those things are "tangible" things that I can take with me.

What she was talking about was the prison ministry with which I am involved.

She told me that she thought I was courageous and brave to talk to the women in the prison. How my grandparents would be so proud that I was spreading the Word in that way, and they were cheering me on.

"I know that some day, you will be rewarded for that, Taryn," she told me, "And not just a 'pat on your back' reward. A real reward... something that will change your life. Something inexplicable that will give you peace and joy."

I was momentarily speechless, but I managed to smile and thank her for the wonderful thoughts and encouragement.

She doesn't know that those words came at a time when I needed them the most! Not so much as it refers to the prison ministry, but more so the encouragement in general.

The idea that may grandparents are my heritage, and as my heritage, they were amazing pillars of Faith.

The idea that it is my great pleasure to carry this on in my own life, and hopefully I will have the opportunity to let it be carried on through my future grandchildren.

The idea that the world is not our home, and the "things" we put our hope in here are often not things we take with us. It is the soul, the heart, the spirit of a person we must reach out and touch... and in doing so, that life, that "treasure," suddenly becomes eternal.

Hebrews 11 says that, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

To me, "things not seen" include the intangibles... love, joy, peace, mercy, grace... and the list goes on. Those are the eternal treasures we hope to store up in Heaven. If only the earthly, corruptible "treasures" wouldn't cloud our vision.

Ironically, I visited the jail this morning. When I arrived to the women's pod, the guard excitedly yelled into the ladies, "Girls, the lady minister is here! Who wants to come learn about JESUS? Come on out, and learn about Him-- you will all benefit!"

I so appreciated her enthusiasm.

It was the biggest group I had ever had-- 9 women! And I was by myself.

I had prayed the day before that whatever I chose to speak about would touch even one soul, and I was blessed beyond measure to find the room of women in tears when I was done. They all loved the message and found it applicable to their life situations.

I was so encouraged. I have never been more confident that this ministry is where I need to be.

For some, they love children, so teaching Sunday School or running VBS programs is for them. For others, they enjoy the elderly, so visiting nursing homes and singing to them makes their spirit smile. And others still have a huge heart for orphans, so they give financially and travel on trips to other countries.

But to me, I have a God-given love for the broken. I think it's because I don't see them for what they did, but for who they are. At the end of the day, we are all souls created by God. There is absolutely no difference between me and them, because before Jesus' blood, I wasn't getting to Heaven any sooner than they were. 

Are we all not just people, in need of a Savior?

Love you all!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

In Due Season

I have been biting my finger nails lately.

That means I'm stressed.

I don't even notice I'm doing it, really. But it's a tell tale sign that too much is going on.

If someone would ask me, "Taryn, are you stressed?"

I would say, "No, I'm fine."

But it's because I like to see the glass half full. And, I'm realizing... I'm so proud. I'm too afraid to admit when life isn't all put together. I want it to appear like everything is smooth sailing. Anything else would show weakness.

Then, I become irritated that I put on a mask, because facades are so fake. And I'm all about REAL. So, in an effort to fool everyone into thinking everything is 100%, I compromise being genuine. And I hate that.

Don't get me wrong-- not everyone wants a thorough outpouring of my heart every time they ask "How are you doing?" nor do people need me to coat every response with emotional drama.

But I don't think that's the point. The point is... I must be honest. With myself, and with others. And especially with God.

So here we go... my best attempt at being real:

Lately, I have been struggling to keep my head above water. To top it off, I have been consistently indifferent towards God-- to my shame. I realize that the life of every Christian tends to be a roller coaster, but it kills me to admit that I'm in a down loop right now.

To explain, I have been slacking on being in the Word. I have also been turning off conversation with God. I didn't realize I was doing it until I came to the core of the problem-- to talk to God would entail honesty. It would entail owning my struggles, owning my pride, and owning my lack of faith. And those are things, quite frankly, that I just don't feel like doing. So I cut off communication.

Trust me-- it's not a good idea. Because, quite simply, it doesn't work.

All it has done is it has left me feeling directionless, and I really don't like that feeling.

Yet, God still proves His faithfulness and provision to me, despite my lack of Faith. And it is in this that I realize that his goodness and Love is not dependent on my performance... thank goodness. I need that reminder from time to time, yet it is no excuse to slack off.

I had a really good conversation with someone last weekend. I was with a group of people, and the two of us walked off alone. I was in a pensive mood-- which is always a recipe for a heart-to-heart.

Thankfully, she is an excellent listener and wonderful advice-giver, and someone I look up to and trust. I don't know her that extremely well, but well enough to confide in.

So I did. I poured out my heart to her, and I was completely uninhibited. It was exactly what I needed to do. Mostly, because I needed to acknowledge where I was-- verbally. I needed someone to hear it, other than the walls of my heart and chambers of my mind.

I told her that I was slacking off on praying. That I wasn't actively communicating to God like I used to-- I used to talk to him every minute of every day and tell Him everything. How I was falling behind on my Bible reading plan, but I desired to do better. I told her about a prayer project I started a couple of years ago that was one of the hugest blessings in my life, but somehow, I had managed to put it off for the last several months. I told her about my business and how it's going through an entirely tough and challenging time, and how overwhelming it is. How insecure it makes me feel, and how it's hard sometimes to come home to an empty house and spend my weekends catching up on laundry and cooking meals... for one. I told her that amidst all of this, none of it is an excuse to put off God, or to ignore Him. Because in it all is a blessing. In it is an amazing timetable and weaving of the Spirit's hands, and I can't challenge that... because His ways are so much higher than my ways.

This friend was an angel to me on this particular night, simply because she listened. And that's what I needed... someone to listen and understand and encourage.

I have been thinking about that conversation and my spiritual state this whole week. As I continue through this typically busy and stressful set of days, I am realizing more and more that the Spirit continues to nudge me and call me back.

The Lord is saying... Taryn. Get in my Word. Taryn... talk to me. Taryn... don't give up, I love you and have been using you all along.

I am convinced that we go through these times in order to give us an opportunity to be refined. On the day I talked to my friend, I read this particular devotion out loud to a few different people, because it spoke volumes to me. It comes from the devotion series I am working on right now called "The Confident Woman," and I loved the words. I'll close with it now:

In Due Season
"Due season" is God's season, not ours. We are in a hurry, God isn't. He takes time to do things right - He lays a solid foundation before He attempts to build a building. We are God's building under construction. He is the Master Builder, and He knows what He is doing. We may not know what He is doing, but He does, and that will have to be good enough. We may not always know, but we can be satisfied to know the One who knows.
God's timing seems to be His own little secret. The Bible promises us that He will never be late, but I have also discovered that He is usually not early. It seems that He takes every available opportunity to develop the fruit of patience in us. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit that grows under trial.
Developed potential without character does not glorify God. If we were to become a huge success and yet be harsh with people - that would not be pleasing to the Lord. Therefore, if we get ahead of ourselves in one area, He gently but firmly blocks our progress in that area until the other ones catch up.
Remember: God is never late.
Pray: Lord, thank You for Your patience with me. I want everything now, but You are building my life with eternity in mind. I don't understand everything You're doing, but I trust You. Amen.
Love you all :) Taryn

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Change is Good.

I have Blogger template ADD.

I can't help it!

I like to LOVE something. When I love it, I keep it. I am loyal to it and I stand by it for a long, long time. Like a cute & functional purse, or a particular scent of candle, or a tried & true dessert from a local coffee shop.

But if the L factor isn't there, then I quickly give it up. And I change till I love.

We might be getting there with my blog layout/template. I really wanted something more functional and organized. Some future tweaking will possibly arise, but for now, I am content with how it's shaping up.

For those of you who didn't even notice the change (as the color scheme is similar to my previous but not exact), bless you. I hope to obtain a balance between users who love to read what I have to say, and readers who love to use what I have to provide.

Did that even make sense?

Moving on...

Living on my own and having a home has certainly made me more of a "goal setter." And when I say goals, they are very short-term and little. But hey, they are goals, nonetheless... or maybe a more realistic term is "to-do" items. Calling it a goal makes me sound more ambitious, though.

My personal favorite checkmark on the to-do list was to organize and clean my garage. It is a task that has been haunting me since I moved in last Fall. My garage has never-ending storage options, so guess where all my JUNK ended up? And I didn't bother to clean it out before I continued to use it as a catch-all.

However, it only took a couple hours and I had everything organized & cleaned out. Had a giant pile of flattened boxes, several bags of garbage, and a couple of bags for GoodWill, and voila. It was done. I now enjoy parking in it.

Anyway, all this to say... free time in my evenings and on weekends has become increasingly lame. Although, I don't feel like it's lame because I actually enjoy doing this stuff. I never thought I'd find the day where cleaning my house & organizing my garage sounds like a good idea on a Friday night... but, I'm there.

Don't worry, I always rewards myself with a bowl of popcorn afterwards.

So I have more inspiring things to talk about, but right now I'm getting tired. That's the other thing, my new bedtime has suddenly changed. I used to find it appalling to go to bed before midnight, and now I'm doing good to make it past 10:30.

People may think I'm 18, but really. I'm 26. And it's starting to show.

Be back soon.

Love you all!


Sunday, May 06, 2012

Busy & Lily

Everyone keeps asking me if I'm busy at work.

Thankfully, this year, our weddings are quite spread out. This is a lot more manageable than the typical 5-in-a-row series we end up booking every season.

Instead, we have a nice wedding schedule, with a 2-3 week break in between each one.

Our current goal is to grow our portrait business as much as we can in the meantime. This includes meeting with vendors, business people, and marketing in ways we haven't before. We also just hired an "art consultant" (i.e. sales girl) and we love having someone fill that position! It frees up a lot of extra time for Kristi and I to do PR and just focus on growing our business strategically.

Aside from new challenges at work, I continue to stay a busy person at home, as usual.

I know I always say that I would rather be busy than bored, but sometimes it's nice to have some down time. I find that most of my down time, if it does occur, happens on the weekends. I look forward to these blocks of time in which I can catch up on laundry, clean my house, do yard work, and just chill on the couch with a bowl of popcorn.

In other news, I have a new kitty :)

The whole situation happened rather quickly and spontaneously.

Shortly after Kitty was put to rest, I began my search for a new kitten. I wasn't about to go out the very next day and find one, but I knew I wanted one soon.

I felt OK. I had convinced myself that I had mourned Kitty's death mostly before she even died. By the time it was right, I was all business. I was sad, but I knew it had to be done.

After, I missed her... a lot. But I also just missed the idea of having another life around... you know? Coming home to an empty house every night isn't ideal. It helps to have a furry friend.

SO, the search began. I had many offers for older cats who needed a home, but I declined each one due to two reasons. First, I for sure wanted a kitten, so I could enjoy kittenhood again. Second, another option would have been to adopt one of these older cats as a "friend" for my new kitten, but after some thought I decided against it. While it sounded like a good plan, I knew in the long run I would want to keep it easy and simple, and I liked the idea of having "one" kitty who traveled to the studio with me and kept me company. Having two means twice the amount of food, toys, and kitty litter, plus I never wanted to "leave one out."

After a week of unsuccessful searching, I sort of went crazy. I went into panic mode and started scouring craigslist for every kitten available in Central IL all the way to the ends of the state.

It seemed like every time I would find kittens, I would strike out. They were all male. Or they were all shorthair. Or they were female medium-haired kittens, but when I called, they were all already taken.

I finally found a black & white "medium-haired" kitten. She was the only available one left, and her picture looked adorable. Her owner told me she didn't have short hair but it wasn't long, either. Sounded like medium hair to me-- perfect.

So, I drug Kristi along with me on a very long car ride to pick her up.

On the way there... I was excited. Excited to meet her, excited to finally have a kitten.

But when I arrived, I was very surprised at how I reacted. She wasn't what I expected, in the first place. She was tiny and adorable-- but, she wasn't a medium hair. Her hair was a bit longer than your typical shorthair, but she wasn't soft and fluffy like Kitty was.

She wasn't spunky like Kitty, either. She was sweet and cuddly. She didn't have the right dose of attitude. She was long and lanky, and I could feel her bones underneath her fur. When I pet her, she wasn't super-soft. Her eyes were dark green, not bright like Kitty's.

As I tucked her in my sweatshirt and headed for the car, the clouds gray overhead and my mind even grayer, I couldn't stop the comparisons.

She wasn't Kitty.

I don't know what I expected. One thing was for sure, though-- I was caught off guard.

I thought I would be excited, and jumping for joy. I thought I would immediately fall in love with this kitten. I thought it would just seem right.

Instead, I felt overwhelmed with sadness. I felt like crying because I missed Kitty even more than I imagined. I felt like handing this kitten off to someone else and going home empty-handed, because it would have been easier.

So for the first time since the day I watched Kitty die... I cried.

I cried for Kitty and for who she was and our short life we had together.

Then I listened to my mom and Kristi tell me to "Give it a week. See how you feel at the end. If you're still not connecting with her, you can give her away. There are a lot of people who want kittens."

I took their advice and took this little kitten home, despite my uneasy feeling.

The first night, she slept with me. I wasn't too attached to her yet so I didn't really care what she did, but at one point I woke up during the night and she had nuzzled herself against my chest and had snuggled in underneath the covers with me.

It was the sweetest thing ever.

But I still wasn't in love. I woke up the next morning, still uneasy.

Yet I took her to work, like I did with Kitty.

And I watched as she didn't look out the front window like Kitty did, and how she didn't sleep on my desk on the pink bed like Kitty did.

But she had her own unique quirks. She sat up on the counter and batted at the planted palm, biting it and attacking it in a cute, playful fashion. She chased a crinkly ball around the office and laid beneath my desk and batted at all the cords hanging down. And she sat in my lap and snuggled in with her blanket on my desk.

On the second day, I was starting to like her but was still unsure. She continued to live life with me as usual, and in the mean time, my mom and Kristi were both in love with her.

By day 3, all of my nieces and nephews had met her and played with her, and my mom had measured her neck to make her a personalized collar.

And she became Facebook official.

So she is a keeper.

I named her Lily, and she definitely fits her name. She is a petitie little spit fire. She darts across the room and up and down my furniture, much like Kitty, but she also plays very nicely with all of her toys. She can occupy herself very easily, but also LOVES to be around people. She is less independent than Kitty, and definitely more of a "lap" cat. She loves to be pet, and will start purring when you pick her up and cuddle her. She will play hard, and then sleep hard. She sleeps for 2-3 hours at a time and slips into a mild coma, in which she curls up into darling positions.

No, she is not Kitty. Kitty will always hold a special place in my heart that no other cat can replace. However, Lily is a sweet little companion to step into place post-Kitty, and I know she will be a great and loving friend.

I am excited to get to know her better and begin life with her.

So, I will conclude on that note about Lily. I'll be back soon, and will hopefully transition to another less-feline topic :) I have a lot floating in my head these days, and a lot I'd like to eventually share, so I'm sure I will be back before long.

Love you all!