Category Archives: Glimpses of His Goodness

Lessons from the Strawberry Field

PTS | Lessons strawberry

We'd been meaning to go for weeks. However, with varying schedules and March-like weather in May, it just hadn't happened yet. Fearing we'd make it through another strawberry season without going, we chose to make it a priority. With one day left in the picking season, we finally headed out to the strawberry fields.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-30 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-32 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-33 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-34 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-36

Without shame, I admit my favorite part of picking is the opportunity to take pictures and to just watch (well that and the forthcoming strawberry pie.) It isn't just because I like cute photos of my kids (which I do), but rather, it is because I know when I take photos and I slow down enough to to truly see, I notice (and appreciate) all the little things that are so easily missed in the hurry-up nature of our lives. ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-9 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-38 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-39 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-47

I see how little and innocent my children are. I notice what they find important (which is often far different than my own classification of important.) I see the way they approach challenges, opportunities, failures, and successes. I watch the way the older ones demonstrate the reality of their hearts as they reach out a hand to help a little one. I see small adoring eyes, with neck cocked back as far as possible, staring straight up to match the smiling gaze of an older sibling. With my camera, I am reminded to slow down, to notice, and remember.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-81 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-93 strawberry picking_2©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-89 strawberry picking_5

When I am too busy experiencing my life and jumping to the next great thing (or the next strawberry bush) and I refuse to take time to notice and reflect, I miss out. I miss the beauty of my children in these carefree years of childhood and I miss the beauty of the lessons weaved through our moments, calling out to be learned.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-20 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-59 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-60 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-89 strawberry picking_4 strawberry picking_7

After we managed to fill our bellies and our two one-gallon pails (I can see why this field was calling it the last day of picking—the fields were sparse!), we returned to the front in order to pay and clean up. As Jason dipped the kids in the sink (because simply washing hands and faces dripping with sun-warmed strawberry juice isn't nearly as fun as an actual bath in the sink), I chatted with the farmer as he shaded himself under the canopy.

Now I have a confession to make: I cannot keep anything green alive. Those who excel in growing anything other than weeds utterly fascinate me. I wanted to hear about how the farmer grows and maintains these amazing fields. "It's a long process," he said with half exhaustion and half idyllic reminiscing. "It all starts in August and continues straight through 'til opening day."©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-11 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-19 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-36 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-94 strawberry picking_3 strawberry picking_6 strawberry picking_8

After sharing more of what is involved in covering his acreage with strawberries for the masses, the farmer explained to me how almost half his crop this year was lost due to heavy spring rains. Having learned a bit about crop failure and insurance through my four days sitting on a jury for a case involving tobacco fields and insurance claims, I was curious as to how his loss was handled. Sadly, he explained, specialty crops aren't covered by insurance. His loss was simply that — a loss.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-18 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-63 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-71 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-95 copy

Finishing his story with an attempt of an upbeat, "At least we'll break even," the farmer told me he wasn't likely to plant again. "Too much work for no guarantee," he said. "But," he qualified in a laid-back southern farmer way,

"The last day of the season ain't the time to make that kind of decision."

I immediately thought of the director of the camp where Jason and I met. I remembered the wise words offered as he explained how he and his wife were committed to never making a decision to leave camp in August or September—the two months following the busiest and most exhausting part of the year for a year-round camp. Wise words, indeed.

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Long lasting decisions aren't to be made—if at all possible—in the shadow of stress, exhaustion, or confusion (and, I would cation, nor under the glowing lights of recent success, first-week-of-school-determination, or brilliant newfound ideas).

PTS | decisions quote

Notice I said, "If at all possible." Sometimes, decisions simply must be made. In those moments, it is more important than ever to remember the imperative to "get wisdom," (before you need it!) and  "...He stores up sound wisdom for the upright..."

In the absence of a need for expediency (an actual need, not simply a felt need, belief or impatience), wise decisions are best made through the result of quiet waiting, wise counsel, and realistic appraisals of situations—all things we humans don't find all that exciting.

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But what kind of life would we live and what kind of world would we create if all our decisions—from what we choose to eat to what kind of businesses we build—were made not in defeat or fear, nor in excitement or glittery inspiration, but rather in wise waiting and slow steadfastness?

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What would happen if we allowed the still small voice, the gentle blowing, and the low whisper to have far more power over us than the strong wind, the earthquake, or the fire? 

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I sure haven't mastered this process, but oh how I want to!

Jordan Lake

JORDAN LAKE
  (If you are just here for pictures, feel free to scroll through this post to see a few. And then—if you have seven minutes of your life to spare—you can see a lot more in the video below. I am learning that with the number of photos I take and with my desire to be better at capturing video, putting together quick slideshows like this is a great way to remember our trips).
It's just how we are wired, I guess.

I've talked about it before — this need to get away, recharge, refocus, and be refreshed. I worded it this way:

When the beauty of routine starts feeling confining, I know it’s time. It’s time to find another place to lay our heads and new scenery to fix our eyes upon.

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And it is still true. When we get away for a few days, letting the worries of work, housecleaning, and life decisions slip away, we are free to focus on what matters most: relationships.

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Life has a way of robbing us of what we were created for. Life tells us to hurry up, accomplish this, prepare for that. Life rarely tells us to slow our pace, to look and speak and read deeply , to focus not on the breath of what we accomplish, but rather, the depth. Life fools us into thinking our frenzied pace is evidence we are truly living, when in fact most of our "living" exists solely in the fictional day of tomorrow — the day all the things will get done, the memories will be made, and our good intentions will come to fruition.

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The more we in the west try to do, do, do, the less we believe the truth: we have the time.

And so for our family?

We get away.

We camp.

We hike.

We enjoy creation and the wonders of what God has given us. We slow down, enjoying long talks around the campfire, slow morning snuggles, and kids piled on the bed for a sweet movie. 

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It's been a busy spring. Between work, finishing school, doctors and dentists, meetings, and more, we haven't had a chance to sneak away. And yet, we know how important it is. During another busy week, we looked at the calendar to see what we could say no to, and we carved out a few days to just be us. Jason still had to work, so we chose a state park close enough that he could drive back and forth. It wasn't ideal, but I know deeply that this is true:

If we're always waiting for the ideal, we will always be waiting.

And oh how we needed these days! They filled my soul, reminded me of what is important, and offered the rest our weary souls were crying out for.


Here is a seven-minute video of our time away (a mixture of photos and videos from both my phone and my regular camera).

Life Around Here

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com I've broken the first rule of blogging: post consistently. Thankfully, I've never much worried about the rules of blogging.

However, just because I have been quiet in this little space, it doesn't mean life has been quiet. In fact, it's been the opposite. Life has been full (often too full for my liking). However, we have been told that this is the day the Lord has made and we should rejoice in it. Although there have been many days when I haven't felt like rejoicing, I pray for the strength each day to offer up my sacrifice of praise.

Even amidst the struggles of this life, there is much joy to be found. This is the reason I love photography: it forces me to see the little moments that make up a big life. Without my camera to capture the fleeting ages and stages of our children and our family, as well as the short-lived beauty of God's creation in nature, I would struggle with gratitude. My images remind me I have much to thank God for, much to rejoice in.

The last few months have been filled with birthdays and celebrations, a few weeks of three extra kids in the house, lots of hiking and enjoying the beauty of the North Carolina Spring, doctor's appointments ad nauseam, and lots of little moments unbridled joy. Here are some of our moments of joy.

Some of these have been shared on Facebook, others have not. And because it is quick, easy, and it makes me happy, I have recently been sharing more of my nature photos on Instagram.

You can follow me on either Facebook or Instagram.

Also, I have updated my photography site a number of times recently. I am seriously considering just combining the two sites. I tried to separate my "photography stuff" from my "life stuff" and I have realized I can't. This is why I end up not posting anywhere: I don't know if a post should go here or there. So one site makes more sense. On the to-do list...

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

She told me, "This is what princesses do!"

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Who knew when I was pregnant with her five years ago, I would give birth to a dog?

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Our other doggie...

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Sometimes the not-taking-naps thing backfires

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Little moments of real life

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Just one of the many puppies that are in Beppy's "puppy pound."

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com
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Finally found a way to organize my Bible study and Bible journaling materials

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

A trip to the zoo for Levi's birthday

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

The kids built their own little camping site in the woods, complete with shelters and a fire pit.

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

One of Zach's "callipitters."

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

We haven't had a chance to go camping this spring, but we make up for it by enjoying our big yard. A fire pit, marshmallows, watermelon, and lawn games...what else does summer need?

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

A little picnic spot Katie made me for Mother's Day. She said, "I know you like the beach, so I made the water and the sand for you. But we'll have to eat in the water or you might hurt yourself by sitting on one of the shells in the sand." 🙂

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Zachy's obsession with bubbles still goes strong!

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Do you think he likes licking the batter?

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Yummy, yummy food. This is one of my favorites...almond and parmesan crusted chicken tenderloins.

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Lots of batches of these...

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Real life around here

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A treat for the last day of homeschool co-op

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

More "callipitters." He often asks, "Where is my favorite bug?" And then he goes to find whichever one he has captured last and gives it a kiss.

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

I found them like this

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

A morning of missing Malaysia...Chinese pancakes and kopi peng (iced coffee)

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

The $50 "baby pool for big kids" was worth every penny.

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

His obsession....milk and creamer. Every day. And yes, I know it isn't healthy. Luckily, we make up for it in other ways.

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Alaina's birthday

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Alaina had a CLUE murder mystery party for her birthday

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

When I asked Katie what she wanted for her birthday decorations, she just said "cowgirl." I think I accomplished it. How much "cow" and "girl" can you get?

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Moms get birthdays too!

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

For Caleb's special 12-year-old trip, we surprised him with a trip to Pittsburgh to see a Pirates game. And of course, he wore his Pirates t-shirt with "Phillips" and the number 12 to commemorate his special day.

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Watching pitching practice

Life Around Here | www.preparingthesoil.com

Easter morning

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Walk by Faith

2 Corinthians 5-7  

In the busyness of our days (school and birthdays and four days of jury duty and work and household chores and talks of the future and seeking counsel and wrestling with God and loving on my babes), I have given more thought to what it means to walk by faith in the last few months than I ever have in the past.

It's easy to spout off: walk by faith.

But living it? That's an entirely different thing. I'm afraid few of us truly know and understand what this means and what it looks like. Or feels like.

I often ask God why this earthly life has to be so hard. And the more I ask and dream of of a time in life when things will go smoothly and my heart will be at perfect peace, the more I grasp the reality that this life on earth will never be easy. That life, the one I ache for, is reserved in heaven for me. But for now, I must groan in this tent.

Now don't get me wrong; there are amazing and grace-filled glimpses of His goodness just waiting for us to take notice of. They are everywhere: in the sparkle of my children's eyes, in the blue sky and warmth of the February sun, in the comedic squirrel eating its way through the bird feeder outside my office window, in the chubby armed hugs and "I love your more" declarations of a two-year-old. Glimpses of His goodness are ours for the seeing and savoring if only we will open our eyes.

But we, as believers, are told we must walk by faith, not by sight. The glimpses of goodness we see are there to encourage us and give us hope as God reveals Himself to all mankind:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

But we can't go through life trying to make sense of what we see with our eyes or attempting to make decisions, plans, and assumptions based purely on what is visible. Instead, what we can see and make sense of is for the purpose of building our hope and confidence in the Eternal and Divine God whose plans and purposes we cannot see.

And you know what? That is just really hard.

I am starting to wonder if the more we age and mature and grow closer to God, the less He shows us of Himself in visible ways and the more He shows Himself in invisible ways. Notice the paradox:

He wants us to see by showing Himself to be invisible.

A categorial imperative, "see", with a mutually exclusive means of obedience: see what is unseen.

My mind reels. And this might all be a bit too deep for a Friday morning.

What we can't see God doing, we must believe He is.

It is only when God removes our sight that we are able to obey and let faith take the reigns.

I'll be honest: God has removed my sight and I am stumbling. Well, perhaps that is not entirely true. It's hard to stumble when you are too afraid to move from the last place you were sure you saw. I'm spinning in the dark, waiting for Him to remove the scales from my eyes while He whispers, "Walk by faith, not by sight. Be of good cheer, my daughter, your faith has made you well."

I don't feel as if I am well. I feel like I did in the fifth grade when I stuffed my (very-unneeded) bra and everyone in my class knew it. They walked by me, laughing not-so-subtly and telling me in exaggerated ways how much they l-o-v-e-d my sweater. Yea, I'm that girl. I am standing in the middle of gawking eyes, humiliated and wanting to hide and yet not having any idea where I might go. I'm frozen in fear and although I have a storehouse of knowledge at my disposal, God tells me I must first convert that knowledge to actionable faith. And in the meantime, He intends to turn off the lights.

I can't help but remember the scene from the only Indiana Jones movie I have ever seen: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The protagonist stands before a deep cavern, with only certain death separating himself from eternal life. He wants to keep walking. He has been told that if he wants to treasure on the other side, he must step in faith. He knows, in theory, that his step will be safe. But what he sees is something entirely different. Does his next step be based on what he sees or on what he believes? And the deeper and more important question, does he actually believe what was written for his instruction?

Here is where Indiana's story and the story of Christ followers part ways: his was a one-time decision. Ours, on the other hand, is an all day, every day commissioning to do what our humanness cannot possibly do: believe what is unbelievable, see what is unseeable, and do what is undoable.

And in our silent inner thrusts for the throne, we affirm our own abilities and question our need for Christ. God help us all. 

Walk by faith. Take steps based on what I know, not what I see. What do I know? I know that God is good. I know He does not and cannot lie. I know His Word will not return void. I know I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I know I was created in Christ for good works which He prepared for me to walk in . I know that what I sow, that I will also reap. I know that He will fight for me. I know He will not let the waters overflow me. I know this: I must not lose heart.

Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

And so, I will continue to renew my inner self, day by day. I will let God's Word be a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. I will trust and not be afraid.

And I will echo with Paul that, "If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." 

Walking by faith was much easier when it was just a verse to be quoted instead of a life to be lived.

What Does It Mean For Me?

"It's when you feel closest to God, isn't it?

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My friend put into words something I hadn't been able to articulate. With camera in hand, macro lens ready, I look at the tiniest details available to the human eye and I marvel at God's goodness. When I see the minute details of leaves, insects, sand and shells, I can't help but stand in awe.

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Every day, thousands of scenes pass us by because we are too busy to notice. We miss the bees flying, the birds nesting, and the grass growing. But when we stop to see the glorious wonder of the smallest details, we begin to comprehend what a BIG God we serve.

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And so, on a regular basis, I take my camera outside and I choose to see.

I watched the fly,  grooming himself (or is it herself?) Known for carrying grime and disease, the housefly is a meticulous groomer. He makes his way in the world through receptors all over the body; being able to fly, find mates, and avoid predators depend on this ritualistic cleanliness.

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Thousands of lenses make up those big (and dare I say beautiful?) eyes. These amazing creations allow the fly to detect the slightest movement, usually evading our attempts to swat them.

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If God's creativity is so great in something as small and insignificant as a fly, what does that mean for me?