Flower Power

Christian womanhood, flowers, home, Jesus, lifestyle, Motherhood, thanksgiving, Travel, Travel Home


“Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty

outvalues all the utilities in the world.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What compares to a bundle of joyful petals and stems? Hint: pretty much nothing. From everyday moments and celebratory occasions to honoring the deceased, there is hardly a situation not made more pleasant or comforting by seeing and smelling flowers. Historically there were both symbolic and pragmatic reasons for having pretty blossoms at events like weddings and funerals. Some reasons are quite hilarious (think lack of hygiene), and I’m glad the tradition remains.

In the current temperature of our culture, writing about flowers may seem trite, but I believe noticing and appreciating God’s creation is an important part of our lives. It is this purposeful noticing that leads us into an attitude of thankfulness and then joy. Ann Voskamp writes, “God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy” (One Thousand Gifts).

Motherhood is challenging (which is a super nice way of saying it’s like getting caught in a riptide–but then, when you come up sputtering for a breath of air, you witness the most beautiful sunset). There are so many emotions and questions. I often wonder if I’m doing it right, but one thing I’m proud of is teaching my daughter to smell flowers every time she comes across them. Watching her jam her nose into a plant, sniffing, looking–what a comfort to my heart. It’s symbolic of how I hope she views life. Taking in the beauty around her, neither too busy nor detached to lean in and show affection–this is how I hope she will be as a person, woman, and (I pray) a follower of King Jesus.

I believe in the power of fresh flowers, particularly ones that are locally grown. Of course the grocery store variety are a gift as well. Toss that $4.97 bouquet into your cart and then into a mason jar when you get home–brighten your house and your mood! But it’s been a special thing to know our local flower lady (Beth with The Flower Peddler). We met at the local Farmer’s Market, and my favorite Saturdays involved treks home with my plunder of fresh produce, donuts, and flowers from Beth.

Buying local flowers is a way to beautify your home with unique nature elements and support a local small business. Knowing even tidbits about the fauna and flora of your area helps foster an appreciation. Indigenous flowers grow more easily, and you’re adding to the beauty of your community. I’m terrible at remembering their names, but I want to be better–Asters, Sweet Peas, Zenias, Phlox, and the ever mystifying Southern Magnolia are a few local favorites of my area. Soon I hope to plant some flowers with my daughter. May we notice, nurture, and enjoy.

At the risk of over quoting Emerson (but good grief, the man writes of flowers so well) he wrote, “Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.” I want to always see the flowers, even when fear, busyness, or the mundane bits of the day seem to fill my life, may I always see the flowers in it.




Liberation of the Soul

Captivity, Christian, Culture, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Island life, Jesus, Liberation, Liberation Day, Liberty
Today is the 71st Liberation Day on Guam. We celebrate the freedom of our island and honor the sacrifices made. Copious amounts of red rice, ribs, and finadene will be consumed. Fireworks will blast all night, and my dogs will go crazy. It will be a loud and lovely day as we remember.  Liberation is beautiful, because captivity is ugly.
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” 
(Colossians 1:13-14)

And I think about my soul and every soul, bound, captive before Jesus Christ. The liberation He offers is perfect and beautiful, because our captivity to sin is horrific. But sometimes I forget that He is our only hope. Sometimes I think that people earn their favor with God by being nice and obeying all the rules.

The lie about soul liberation is that we can earn it.

We churched ones can grow up wearing the idea, wearing it like clothing against our chests, that people can attain perfection in and of themselves. Every day we have donned these rags. Others earn our respect based on how well they obey all the rules–or how much it looks like they are, and we earn theirs the same way.

This garment is tight and restricting; we are suffocated, our breath of joy restrained. Too distracted by these binding clothes to understand true love, we are robbed of knowing who Jesus is.

Legalism can be accidental, but it is still deadly.

We believe there is a formula, a checklist, that if followed, will constitute success, respect, forgiveness. The formula becomes our god, the checklist our security blanket.

Bowing to the religion of us, we forget.

“For it is by grace…” Grace, this warrior word that defies our human prejudices and presuppositions. Grace that crashes us to our knees in relief. On our knees has always been our strongest place, because it is the place where His hand extends.

But sometimes I avoid it, because I prefer to make it about me. Grace is always about Jesus.

The joy of Jesus’ death and resurrection is that we needed it. If we could earn our way there, what does the rest even mean?

Does His grace demand our love and, in turn, obedience? Of course. But the fight for the liberation of our souls has already been fought on the cross (Romans 10:9-10, Philippians 3:4-11). And that is a reason to surrender and celebrate!

Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann

Photo credit: http://www.nps.gov

The Night I Saw the Thief Run: Reflections on "Silent Night"

Christmas, encouragement, Jesus, peace, Pentatonix, Silent Night, theft

The radio doesn’t work in my truck. On most days I find it good discipline to drive in silence–think, or pray. But one evening I really wanted to listen to Christmas music, so I brought along our i-pad and turned on my (overly used) Christmas playlist. This year I have discovered the Christmas album by Pentatonix, and it is phenomenal.
During my drive home, I was listening to their version of “Silent Night,” and I passed a roadside restaurant known for its fabulous chicken-on-a-stick (it’s also known for MSG, so I have to limit my visits). It was one of those slow motion moments: a teenage boy darted down the road, pumping his arms and holding a huge bag of food, while another teenage boy chased him. An old woman yelled. The first boy dropped the bag of food. And my heart dropped a little.
Silent Night. Humph, seems like a bunch of chaos all around. Who needs the news to tell us this world is crazy? We know. 
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Was Bethlehem really quiet that night Jesus was born? I doubt it. There was a census taking place and Roman/Jewish conflict. Oh, how the conflicts have continued–down the street and across the globe. But this we also know: even though this world is clamoring all around us, HE IS the calm, and HE IS bright. He calmed the storm for the disciples and He calms the storms in our souls. And He is the Light of the World who brightens all things, and helps us to understand what is going on around us. 

We grope for answers, when we forget to grope for Him.
Maybe your house is noisy. Maybe your heart is noisy. Maybe the idea of a silent night seems impossible. But it’s not about volume, or pitch, or frequency. It’s about peace. And HE IS the Prince of Peace. 
Surrender your heart to Him, and while the world around you will continue to make quite a racket, you will experience His holiness, and you will experience a silent night in the truest form: a night where your worries rest in Him.
Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann
“For He Himself is our peace…” Ephesians 2:14a
Credit: “Silent Night” by Joseph Mohr
Image: Google images/Free clip art/clipartpanda.com

The Wonder and Antics of Advent

Advent, children, Christian, Christmas, encouragement, eternal perspective, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Jesus

It is that beautiful waiting–that stomach-fluttering sensation with eyes wide open in bed. Christmas is coming. The house feels stuck in time with a soft glow as Mama and Dad shuffle around downstairs. I can hear Mama say, “Jon, where’s that other roll of tape?” Christmas is tomorrow. Breathing deeply I can still smell the candle-blown-out smell from my Christmas Eve candle I got to carry to bed all by myself.  
About once a week leading up to Christmas, our family would do Advent devotionals. Sometimes we missed a week, and sometimes we forgot and only did it Christmas Eve, but it was always so special and so important. There was the gold wreath, holding four candles and one in the middle– one for each of us to light. Dad would read scripture verses about Jesus in Isaiah and Luke, and one of my brothers would attempt to blow out the candles with puffs of breath, pretending to hide his antics from Dad. We snickered and shifted, trying to find a comfy position on the floor.  There was a warmth and anticipation that enveloped us in our flannel pajamas and slippers we had outgrown years ago. My family has this thing with traditions.
Those advent devotionals taught me about living in remembrance of the Gospel and never forgetting the holiness and specialness of our Lord, our continual inadequacy, and His continual love. Now I realize that those nights were a picture of our lives.  Even though we can sit still better than when we were young, we never truly grow out of our antics. We recognize the glory of God, but still seem to fidget with the cares of this world, both the things we love and the things we fear. 
In Christ’s holiness and in the expectancy of His second coming, we are less than we should be. We wiggle and squirm, our mannerisms often irreverent. But He came all the same. He came to glorify the Father and save us. So recognize the beauty of this moment and take a few to remember and wait, remember how He came and wait with joy for His return. Maybe you’re worried that you did not get so-and-so a good present, or maybe you can’t find the other roll of tape. It’s okay. Light a few candles for Advent, read some scriptures, and let the flame remind you of the Light of the World who came to rescue you and will descend again. Christmas is coming.

Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann
P.S. Interested in trying an Advent devotional (in addition to scripture reading)? It’s not too late! Here are a few ideas:
Image Credit: Google Images/mattressessale.eu

Planning on Porn and Planning to Die: Lies We Believe

Brittany Maynard, Christian, Hope, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Jennifer Lawrence, Jesus

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? 
You are not your own…”
1 Corinthians 6:19

Besides the horrors of ISIS, Ebola, and the constant turmoil that is Washington D.C., two other stories have shoved to the front of the line. The first is about a young woman, Brittany Maynard, who is planning to legally take her life in a few weeks, and the other is about Jennifer Lawrence and how she addressed the nude pictures of herself that were shared against her will, saying that in a long distance relationship, either your boyfriend will view you or pornography.

First of all, let me be clear that I have NO IDEA what it must feel like to have terminal brain cancer, facing fears for your family and loved ones, and living with a body that is very much not under your control. And I am very sorry for Laurence and the embarrassment and pain this crime against her has caused. Both of these women seem to be seeking dignity with their lives, and seeking to help others who are having similar struggles. I commend them for that.

In certain articles, both of the stories included the word “Beautiful” in the titles. However, there is an underlying, sad kind of ugliness to them that cannot be masked with the false veil of heroism. The wrapping may be pretty, but the gift is a nightmare. 

These stories have a common denominator: they both attempt to answer the question, “What does it mean to be human?” This is one of the BIG questions of life, a catch phrase in my Worldview class, and generally something I tend to throw into conversations only to hear a very loud lull. 

But what does it mean to be human? If human life is all about what we want and how we choose to make ourselves happy, then why not end your life early, and why not send nude pictures across your phone or even share those photos with others? And as in the case of Maynard, you might financially help out your family. This could appear like a good choice, the right choice. 

We as Americans are people of choice. Don’t you dare take away my choices, fool! This is ‘MURICA. I deserve my “me” time, my Starbucks, and my organic-super-expensive skincare. This is my body, and I can do what I want with it AND with any other life inside of it. So there. 

But it doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t. The truth is that our bodies are not our own. And this makes them infinitely more special than if they were just ours, mere accidents having evolved from oozing muck. Instead, we were purposely formed from the mire, each one of us known by the Creator. Our days are numbered by Him, and our bodies are supposed to be for His glory, not meat for men. God gave us a purpose and a role as unique, choice-making beings. This is what it means to be human.

“Planned dying” could lead the way for other horrors to be legalized or even mandated. These kind of stories tend to have a ripple effect. And you don’t have to show your boyfriend pornography of yourself to keep him. In fact, if he asks, you should certainly lose him…and fast.

Again, my heart goes out to both women. I wish I could tell them that Jesus Christ loves them, and and that there is another way, a better way. His always is.

Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann

Photo Credit: Marvelous Things Photography by Tori Watson

A Year of Christmas: Whoops, I Broke the Rule

Christmas, Christmas music, family, Jesus, traditions

As we approach the fall season, which is followed by the holidays, I feel that I must share a dark secret, a very dark secret, indeed. I have broken a cardinal rule. This entire year I have been listening to Christmas music. Bless my husband’s heart, it has not even been a wide, Pandora Station variety. Nope, just the fairly small playlist on our iPad. Over and over again, folks. 
As a little girl, my favorite day of the year was the day after Thanksgiving. Waking early, I would run to the living room and turn on our giant, this-is-so-the-nineties stereo and play Christmas music from our favorite CDs and cassette tapes. It was a most glorious moment. Waiting made it special. Waiting makes a lot of things special.
Yet, during this year of transition and missing my family, listening to comforting music about the triumph of Jesus and reminders of “the most wonderful time of the year” was just what I needed. It especially has been my companion for waking and baking.
Although I have tried to play it mostly when Eric is gone, sometimes he has turned it on for me–even the ancient Amy Grant album. Now, that is love. *Insert swoon here*
(It’s legendary, I promise.)
There are moments I wonder if I will regret playing the music with such frequency–will I treasure it less this coming holiday season? And I may or may not have watched White Christmas several times. After my mother reads this, there is a good chance I will be disowned. Your condolences are appreciated.
Not only have I broken the family rule, but I have also broken my own rule. When stores play Christmas music the first of November, it screams of commercialism: “Let’s play Christmas music as early as possible to sucker them all into buying more!” Cue the steam coming out of my ears. And yet, that’s not what Christmas music means to me.
Every day is for celebrating the birth of Jesus, and the rebirth He has given us. I come from charismatic roots, and those roots involved much joyful singing (and loud singing).Why don’t we sing “O Holy Night” or “Joy to the World” throughout the year? Well, perhaps it is because we are creatures of habit, or perhaps it is because throughout the millenniums, God’s people have celebrated certain acts of God at certain times. He is a God of order. The ebb and flow create a rhythm of our culture as people who love Him. And I like that. 
But this year, Christmas music served as a daily reminder: a reminder of His faithfulness, His hope, and His JOY. 
Merry Not-Yet-Christmas, everyone!
Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann
Photo 1: Google (free) Images/www.cafeselavy.com
Photo 2: Google (free) Images/ex.wikipedia.org

The Unadventure: Everyday Tasks with Eternal Perspective

adventure, encouragement, eternal perspective, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, island, Jesus, The Valley of Vision
“Teach me the happy art of attending to things 
temporal with mind intent on things eternal.”

The Valley of Vision

There are many wonders about island life. There are also many lies. There’s this one about how I lie on the beach all day sipping smoothies to a live reggae band, breeze in my hair and enticing novel in my hand. But I don’t. 

Perhaps once a month there will be a magical day like that, but most days are ordinary days, days much like anywhere else. I stand in grocery store lines and swerve to avoid hitting people in traffic. I feel too far from certain people I love.

I do laundry, make dinner for my husband, and sweep the floor. I yell at Sue (the dog) to stop barking at the poor cat who broke her leg and subsequently took Sue’s favorite shaded spot. And I open my arms wide, hoping to get some breeze. It can be so very hot. Shirts do not last me very long here. Just sayin’.

The island is great for adventure, from hiking, to snorkeling, to interacting with so many diverse cultures. I love it. However, it is not those activities that define my time here. It’s playing with my dog. It’s kissing my husband goodnight at the fire station and driving home alone. It’s laughing at the hilarious toddlers we teach in Sunday school who always think Eric is my dad.

There are days I have looked down into the sink and thought, what am I doing with my life?! And then God reminds me that living for Him involves the everyday things, the mundane things, the boring things.Sometimes those are the greatest mountains we can know.  

All these “little tasks” are ways to take care of my family and can be ways of showing Christ’s love and commitment.

Am I doing these things with joy, with love for Him and trust in Him? Sure, wild adventures are great, but it seems to me that what defines a person’s character is not what they do when the epic music is playing in the background, but what they do when it’s not. 

Those dishes matter. That laundry matters. They matter because the people using them matter. And while Jesus performed miracles for a few years, it seems that He spent most of His time on earth in His dad’s shop. Just remember that. 

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

Photo Credit: Google (free) Images/allkyhoops.com

DON’T Let It Go: Pull Yourself Together, Sweetheart

Jesus, Let It Go, princess, pull yourself together

One of last year’s favorite songs was “Let It Go” from Disney’s princess movie, Frozen. Dragging my kind husband to the theatre, I watched with bated breath, and enjoyed the cute film about two young princesses looking for love and the freedom to be themselves. It was both sweet and surprising, had lovely graphics, and overall I enjoyed it very much. The music was powerful and reminiscent of the Beauty and the Beast era of animated fairytales. 
“Let It Go” was heard everywhere, from the little girl in Sunday School, to television, to moms making renditions on youtube. I even heard it during my trip to Cambodia! The song is ridiculously catchy, and it was heralded as a beautiful song for young girls and all female-kind. I read a blog post of a father telling how the song was a great leap for all women, as there are many false expectations that are felt due to the culture. 
And I understand. There are few things more invigorating than “letting your hair down” and “dancing like no one’s watching.” I love being authentic. Life is so flat and false, otherwise. But while I agreed in part (I am a woman and know society’s pressures), something else gnawed at me: we seem to be “letting go” of everything, and there will be a price to pay. 
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!
Let it go, let it go
This is the current mantra: “No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!” Inhibitions equal limitations, and absolute beliefs equal chains. “Don’t tell ME what to do! I decide!” From our bodies, to our language, to the way we treat others, we are just letting it all go. How long will it be until we have nothing left? Perhaps we should keep some of it together. 
Contrary to popular opinion, there IS right and wrong and having an overt absence of rules never leads to freedom, but rather folly. This kind of ideology leads to such a silly and selfish view of the world, let alone completely opposite of God’s loving order and authority He put in place.
Rules are like fences. They are meant to keep us safe, not bound. When we place ourselves under God, we are both bound to Him and free in Him. But there is never true freedom unless there is surrender. Imagine if our country had no rules. Well…maybe we shouldn’t imagine that. 
I realize that some religious and political groups have severely overstepped their boundaries and left many with such a disdain for authority and rules. This is legitimate, but may we not allow the hurts and abuses of the past to grant us a false entitlement to make chaos of our lives.
So go ahead and let it go a bit. Do a crazy dance, wear a crazy outfit. But pull some of it together. We need you too much.
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.  The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” 
Galations 5:13-14
Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann
Photo Credits: 
Photo 1: Disney/Google Images/starburstmagazine.com
Photo 2: Disney/ Google Images/chicagonow.com
“Let It Go”-written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez
performed by Idina Menzel

This Genocide

Christian children, conflict, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Iraq, Jesus, love

 children who fled the violence in Mosul
There is so much noise, so much clamor. I open up cnn.com with one hand over my eyes. I don’t really want to know; I want to pretend it has all died down. It’s just another “run-of-the-mill,” Middle Eastern conflict, right? And then I hear of children beheaded…systematically, the man said. It is chaos, this world. The persecution of Christians has been going on since Christ’s return to heaven, and it’s been rapidly rising in the last century, but now it makes the news…even the liberal news. My people, God’s people, are hurting, being forced from their homes with only the clothes on their backs. It is that or death. It shakes me, jars me, and reminds me of the reason for living: Jesus, and that this war (not merely of flesh and blood) is real.
I go to Pinterest to get my mind off of it. “Paleo dinners,” “fall styles,” and “small home decor” are my search titles. But I am really searching for escape, for peace, for forgetfulness. I skip over to Facebook and find my friend, Carrie (missionary to Cambodia) facing things head-on and offering ways to get involved and help the situation. She’s one of those who faces things. I want to be one of those, too.
children from Mosul carrying water to refugee camp
Opening my Bible, I read these beautiful verses of response when David was dealing with those who would cause harm to God’s people: 
“But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them…for You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield.” Psalm 5:11a, 12
“Be angry and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.” Psalm 4:4-5
Sometimes when atrocities occur (such as the beheading of children), we are tempted to question how God can truly be there with them and allow it to happen…at least I do. But He is there, and He WILL be there with them and meet them on the other side. This conflict began with Ishmael and Isaac (the account starts in Genesis 15) and it will only end with Jesus. 
Watch the video:
And here are some ideas of how to be involved:
Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann

Photo 1 credit: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Photo 2 credit: pinned by Kurdo K on Pinterest