If you have visited here before, you can probably see that I have changed the name of the blog again. I started blogging at 4URuthie to tell the story of our journey to adopt our 1st daughter. I changed it to Mountains for Maggie when we were praying for God to move mountains on behalf of our 2nd daughter. Well now it is no longer just Ruthie’s or Maggie’s stories. It is now our family's story, and the stories of those we share life with, as we Conquer Mountains together. Both ConqueringMountains.net and 4URuthie.blogspot will lead here.

About Me

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I am a pastor's wife, mother of 4 kids (2 adopted and 3 with special needs), physical therapist, and photography junky. This is where it all comes together for me. Feel free to join along as I process life out loud.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thankful for 1:1 time: Trip to D.C.

Maybe it's because I am an introvert.  Maybe it is because I am a task manager.  I am not sure why, but when we are together as the six of us, I don't make great quality connections with my kids.  That time happens best for me during one-on-one moments, and with four kids, I don't get them near enough.

Last spring, we surprised Jack with a trip to D.C. for his 5th grade graduation and birthday gift, but he had to wait until Thanksgiving break to go.  I lived in D.C. for a summer and know my way around, so I got to be the one to take him.

Jack is at a great age where he loves to talk about what he sees.  I was telling Trent the other day that the word I would use to describe him these days is "Engaging."

He also never complains and was a great sport about trying new restaurants and braving the cold when we had to stand in line for tickets.

I did my best to let him choose where we went and what our priorities were for the trip.  One thing we did was fly into Baltimore so Jack could ride the train to D.C..  I loved catering the trip to him in this way.

A highlight for both of us was riding to the top of the Washington Monument.

 And seeing the Capitol from the Speaker's balcony.

We had a great time together, learned a lot, and made lasting memories.

I sure love that boy. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

There is No Good Excuse for Bad Behavior

We have a saying in our home that we use frequently with our kids.  It is pretty simply put:  “There is no good excuse for bad behavior.”

My view of the world leaves little room for the societal pattern of excuse-making.  To some, that would make me appear intolerant but that is not it at all.   One can have a clear view of right and wrong and still operate in grace.   Jesus Christ is our best model of that. 

With that foundation, let me explain.

Kids shouldn’t cheat on their schoolwork and blame it on their bad teacher.
Men shouldn’t cheat on their wives and justify it by saying they weren’t getting enough attention at home. 
Employees shouldn’t give a ½ effort because they don’t like their boss or don’t feel appreciated.
Women shouldn’t sell their bodies because the minimum wage is too low.
Activists shouldn’t burn down an innocent man’s property because they disagree with a judicial ruling. 

It’s pretty simple folks.  There is no good excuse for bad behavior.

Where that starts for Trent and me is at home.  For several years we have worked hard to recognize the behavior in ourselves and stop it before we continue demonstrating it to our children.   We have become so sensitive to excuse making that we now catch ourselves and then model a response based on Biblical principles. 

For example, I may tell Trent to that I am going to put down my work and watch a movie with him that night.  Then I get so caught up in my deadlines that I allow my priorities to be skewed and I work through the evening anyway, not keeping my promise to my husband.  Later when he asks me about it, my self-preserving tendency would be to plea my case as to why my actions are justified, but then I stop myself and say, “You know what, you are right.  I made a commitment to you and I did not honor that.  Please for forgive me. “  The next step is just as Biblical.  My responsibility is then to turn away from that behavior and strive to not do it again.  Does my failure give Trent justification to then go out and behave badly?  Of course not – because that is where grace comes in.

Later I may have a child come home who I instruct to go into his room and complete his homework.  Let’s say that when I check on him, I find him playing Legos while concocting his best excuse as to why he did not follow my directions.  I simply say, “Son, there is no good excuse for bad behavior.”  I expect the same response out of him that he has witnessed his father and I demonstrate again and again.  Confess, apologize, turn from the behavior, and seek reconciliation.  There are then natural consequences for his behavior that don’t involve me losing my temper or behaving badly in response. 

Okay for you naysayers who want to throw in an argument like, “What if he wasn’t doing his homework because the house was on fire and he was helping his siblings escape?”  Well, then I would argue that helping your siblings’ escape a fire is not bad behavior and trumps following my directions to read.   I need to say also that the difference here is not as arbitrary as some would like to argue.  It is clearly defined in the Bible.  Bad behavior is:
  • Violating the rights of another (Eph. 4.28, 1 Thes. 4.6)
  • Not honoring the God given authority placed over you- your parent, your teachers, your employer, and your government (Romans 13.1-7, 1 Peter 2.13-17)
  • Not keeping your commitments (James 5.12, Ecclesiastes 5.4-6)

Another naysayer might say, “Well what if the person in authority over you is unjust?”  Well then you need go through the proper channels to be under someone else’s authority but don’t walk into your place employment and shoot your coworker because you have a bad boss. 

So again someone might argue that Michael Brown’s rights were violated when he was shot and killed for fleeing arrest.  My grace-filled, compassionate response is that I am so sorry that happened.  It was tragic that the altercation ever happened in the first place and especially that it ended in death, but responding with bad behavior is NOT the answer.   There is no good excuse for bad behavior!  The best response is one of thoughtful, law-abiding, good behavior. 

Some ideas might be:
  • Peaceful protests
  • Organize a group of concerned citizens to peacefully put measures in place to improve relations with the local police to help change the culture between the neighborhood and those trying to protect it. 
  • Clean up the streets, educate the younger generation, put pressure on the gangs to move out or disassemble.  Let those committing crimes know that you won’t tolerate it anymore.
  • If you still don’t trust the police, then evaluate the benefits of installing cameras on street corner for a time to protect the citizens and the police.  Yes you would be giving up a right to privacy but it might be a trade worth instituting if you are truly concerned.
  • Get involved in the local government. 
  • Or take doing good even one step further and organize a group of Michael Brown’s peers and family to visit the cigar shop he robbed and the sales clerk he roughed up and apologize to the man for that behavior and look for ways to support his business.  Someone owes that man an apology on behalf of the group of people who behaved badly toward him. There was no good excuse for that either.
But, whatever you do, don’t match bad behavior with more bad behavior.  This goes for the citizens of the community and the police department.
It applies to me, it applies my husband, and I am doing my best to pass it down to my children.

We exist in a society that has moved away from the simplest of truths.  Returning them to our culture will be begin when we return them to our homes, our marriages, our children, and our own lives.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Life and Photography 101. Life Lessons Learned Through The Lens of Photography

I have been a professional photographer for about four years now. Before that, I was what the photography community calls a "momtog". The transition from momtog to professional photographer did not happen the moment I started charging my clients but instead, through a process, as I grew from a hobbyist to a professional.

I have learned several lessons through that transition that I believe apply to both photography and to life. So here is a little Life and Photography 101.

1. Figure out who you are and be that person. Stop trying to be someone else.
The photography profession is full of copycats who scan other people's work and try to reproduce it as their own. The problem with this is your clients don't know which version of you they are getting when they hire you. I had photographer friend denied from being a consultant with Clickin Moms because they said her work was not consistent enough. That really got me thinking about who I AM as a photographer and if what I consistently represent to my clients is a true picture of myself as an artist.

My advice, figure out who you are and be that person/photographer. People will know what they are getting and they will chose you because they like your work. If they don't, then it was a bad partnership to begin with. This is clearly true in life as well.  See the life analogy here?

2. Be nice to other people. Just because they share your interest, doesn’t mean they are your competition or enemy.  Showing common courtesy will take your farther than the cold shoulder. 
This is one of my soapbox lessons. I can always tell a true professional photographer from an insecure hopeful by the way they treat other photographers on shoots. Photographers who are confident in their skills are kind to one another.  They don't do inconsiderate things like step into each other's shots.  I have made several great photographer friends through a few moments of kindness and consideration on a shoot.  If you want to be a professional, act like one.

For the record, Trent and I have come across the same behaviors in ministry. The lesson is the same. We can each do more if we work together than if we act all squirrelly out of insecurity.

3. You will go further in life (and photography) if you view your role as an opportunity to bless someone instead of an opportunity to gain something from them.
I am in several professional photography groups and I notice there are two kinds of photographers. There are those who genuinely enjoy their job and enjoy giving their clients a product that reflects their own time and artistic expression and then there are those who view photography as a way to make as much money as possible off of someone else. The latter group is constantly complaining about the 30 minute shoot that went 40 minutes, the kid who wouldn't cooperate, or the bride who was too demanding.

We can all get caught up in our sense of entitlement if we aren't careful. I have found that operating out of entitlement might leave you with more money in your pocket, but in the end, you are less satisfied. True satisfaction comes in blessing others and photography is a great way to do that but you have to let the other junk go. Another good life lesson- Lose the entitlement and be a blessing instead.

4. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
I can't tell you how many clients have commented on how much they appreciate that I get them their images in 1-2 weeks.  This should be the norm friends.   I shot a 6 month old once and the mother still had not received her newborn images from their other photographer.   That's ridiculous people. How you run your business is reflective of your personal character.  It goes back to the first lesson your mama taught you- treat others the way you want to be treated.  Period.

5. Do what you love and it will show. You will have passion for it. You will do it with excellence.   
Don't go into photography, or anything else for that matter, just to make money. Find what you are passionate about and make that work for you. If you are thinking about photography just because your friend does it and makes money at it, you won't succeed. You have to love it in order for something special to be reflected in your images and for them to tell a story. There are a lot of short term photographers out there who don't know what photography entails and they don't last.  If you figure out what you love and how to get paid to do it, you will succeed.

6. Don’t price yourself out of the people you would prefer to capture.
This one is personal.  People tell me ALL THE TIME that I don't charge enough.  I know that and it is intentional.  I really like my clients and I know that if I raise my prices to the rate of other photographers, with my experience and gear, that I will price myself out of the types of clients I enjoy the most.  Let me put it this way: Just because you can hang out with the Country Club crowd doesn't mean that you should.  

In my experience, clients who can afford the higher fee are generally more concerned about creating a perception than capturing a moment in time.  Authenticity is important to me.   I am not into photography to help promote someone's family image on Facebook but instead to help them capture their family reality.   What can I say but that I tend to find those clients in my current fee schedule so I will keep it there.  Same is true in life and it goes back to the Country Club statement.  Relationships are more fulfilling if they are about authentic connections instead of fabricated perceptions.

7. Forgive yourself.  You are a work in progress. 
The haunting began after my first year as a professional photographer.  I wasn't haunted by ghosts, but rather images of my past.  Images I had taken with my camera and had thought were good.  I would walk into someone's home and see my pictures on their wall and immediately notice something I would now do differently.   After several times, I actually considered quitting photography or refunding people their money.  Isn't life the same way?  Do you ever feel like you need to go back 10-20 years and apologize to people for your behavior then?

I am learning to be thankful for those little revelations of past mistakes because they bring to light how far God has brought me since then.  Make those moments a time to rejoice in your improvement instead of running from your failures.  We all have them, so forgive yourself.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Who Are Your Five?

I just returned from an incredible trip to Bolivia and I look forward to sharing what I learned there soon. Before I talk about Bolivia, I want to finish processing something that was stirring in my brain before I left.

Last week, I heard this quote and it really stuck with me. I was at an event for teenagers so of course they were using it to share the message that you should choose your friends wisely. This is true for teenagers, but it also got me thinking about who my five are and what influence they have on me. It is important to note that my five don't preach these lessons to me but just simply live them out in my presence.
So here you have it as I process out loud once again.

"Lessons From My Five"

1. Forgive always, persevere continually, and relate to people based on how God sees them instead of how they behave.
The first member of my five is one of the most forgiving people I know. Where I have demonstrated a bad habit of mentally categorizing people based on their behaviors, this person relates to everyone based upon their potential. He forgives well and he forgives often. This member of my five helps me not to write people off but to step beyond my need for safety and push forward in my relationships. Forgive always. Persevere continually. Relate to people based on how God sees them instead of how they behave. He makes it look easy.

2. Your resources should be used to bless others who are less fortunate and all circumstances should be viewed through the perspective of God's love for you. 
I struggle to put into words how much my next member of my five has shaped my life and my theology. She is hands down the most giving person I know. She doesn't just responds to needs as she sees them but plans out her giving as a way to hold herself accountable to being generous. Her example is a constant reminder to hold my possessions loosely.

As if that wasn't enough, she is also a great resource for perspective. Her faith is so ingrained in her being that she can't evaluate a situation without seeing it through the lens of God's love for her and His desire to shape her into His image. I love sharing what God is teaching me with her so I can hear her take on it through her faith and experience.

3. Treat others the way you want to be treated and bless others without expecting anything in return.
The third member of my five is a real sweetheart. Serving others is not something she has to remind herself to do but it is part of her DNA. I have heard before that your calling should give you energy. Where constantly cooking for others or jumping in to rescue someone in a bind would lead me to exhaustion, I believe it actually energizes her. She loves to serve. Receiving the blessing of her service to my family reminds me of the need to pull my head out of my own schedule long enough to see how I might help someone else. I am nowhere near her radar on this but her example is helping me want to try.

4. Place your family first. Advocate for them, serve them, and be their primary place of encouragement.
The fourth member of my five is a great cheerleader. Not the scantily clad kind but the "you've got what it takes to do this" kind. :) She spends her days advocating for her child who has a learning disability and it is not uncommon for me to receive an message requesting prayer for her husband with a project he has at work. She truly orders her days around her calling to serve her family. Watching her challenges me to make my family my priority.

5. Enjoy life! Try new places, go to the concert, take that trip, and live.
Oh how thankful I am for my number five! She is a gift to me in so many ways and has definitely made life more fun. If I said yes to all of her invitations, my life would be a constant "good time". I put that in quotes because I occasionally call her "good times" but she thinks it sends the wrong message. :)

I don't know about you, but I have the potential to get so caught up in my to do list that I forget to slow down and enjoy life. This friend is a true gift from God and reminds me that it is okay to let the laundry go in order to make a memory or enjoy a good lunch on a restaurant patio.

I believe at any point our five can change and what we consider to be important can change with it. I am incredibly thankful for the five God has given me at this stage of life.  I could use a sixth who encourages me to exercise more and eat fewer cookies, but I am not willing to change any of my five for that reminder. :)

FORGIVE, LOVE, SERVE, PRIORITIZE, and LIVE. Not a bad average.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stories From Bolivia

We are here! I need to make a quick photographer confession before I get started.  I have not edited these pictures, so please forgive me.  I wanted to get them up for you to see before I crash for the evening.  The picture below is one of the many little faces of Bolivia.  I want you to hear what God is doing here (edited pics or not). :)

On the first day, we toured the baby home and the boys home and then spent some time with the kids.  I was quickly impressed with the organization and how it is run. We also saw a little of the city and talked mission strategy.  We were exhausted to honestly it is a little foggy. 

Day two is where the good stuff really happened.  If you saw the post before this one, you are aware of the machine we were able to bring for a little one with Cystic Fibrosis.  This is that precious child.  I was able to instruct his nannies in how to use the machine and also how to manually clear his lungs through percussion.  They were eager to learn and clearly have a special place in their hearts for this little blessing. 

Another cool moment was when we gave the children their new shoes.  Last week, I asked for last minute shoe donations from my friends on Facebook.  They answered that request with a suitcase full of shoes and clothes.  These little guys were ecstatic, to say the least, about their new kicks.  One of them ran over and hugged the director and told him thank you.  It was a sweet moment for everyone in the room. 

I had no idea how great the need was for new shoes until we started trading them out.  Some had their toes hanging off the ends while others went up 3 shoes sizes from the pair they were currently wearing.  The shoes were a hit, so please hear me say thank you for your generosity. 

The last thing we did at the baby house today was to help feed the little ones.  These kiddos are passionate about meal time.  It was cute to watch and get to participate in. 

We had a great little tourist moment this afternoon when we drove up the mountain to Cristo.  Apparently the Bolivian Jesus is actually bigger than the Brazilian one.  It was awesome to see it and see the city from that perspective.   


 Tomorrow we will train some more nannies, take some of the older orphans shopping, and wrap up our talks about future trips.  So far it looks like we could possibly use people with passions for preschool ministry, painting, photography, soccer, nursing, children's hair cutting (outreach project), CPR training, speaking spanish, and construction.  Could that be you?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Amazed at How God Provides...Again!

Okay I have to tell you a really cool story.

I am headed to Bolivia in a few days.  Two nights ago I sent an email to one of the missionaries there to remind him that I am a PT and would love to assist in the orphanage in any way possible.  He wrote me back and asked if I could come prepared to help the staff work with an 11 month old who appears to have symptoms consistent with Cystic Fibrosis.   I contacted some PT friends for help and one mentioned a percussion vest.  I looked it up and realized that they cost A LOT! Like $20,000.00 A LOT.

And then it hit me.  You have not because you ask not- James 4:3

So I prayed and put it out there on Facebook.

Now the story gets really good.
Two years ago, our family lost a precious member too soon.  She was a young mother of two who suffered a series of strokes due to an undiagnosed clotting disorder.   We miss her terribly but have found some comfort in the knowledge that she was an organ donor and her passing gave life to many others.
Do you see where this is going????

The incredible woman (mother of 3 year old twins), who received her lungs, no longer needs her mechanical percussion device.  She heard of our need, contacted me, and is donating her $20,000 machine! Amazing.

So the next challenge was that we needed pediatric vests and they run about $500 a piece and can take months to get.  My husband made a few phone calls and in two days we will be picking up 2 vests for this child, one he can wear now and one he can grow into.  How amazing is that?

I think there are a few things we need to take away from this:

1. God is good and worthy of our praise.
2. When we ask according to God's will, He provides.
3. God's heart is for the orphan and He desires to use His people to bring about His purposes.  If we align our focus with His heart, we will see Him move mountains (once again) to take care of orphans.

WOW.  Just WOW.

If you feel led to pray for us in Bolivia, here is what you can pray for:
1. For good ministry time. Pray that God would use us to bring about His purpose there.
2. For health.  Apparently the altitude can be a bit rough.  Pray for protection from that.
3. For vision.  Part of our trip is to lay the ground work for future teams.  Pray that we can think outside of the box and discover ways that our church can meet the specific needs of the people there.

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