Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top Ten Photos of the Year

Happy New Year's Eve!!

I think 2008 was the last time I did a Top Ten Photos of the Year post, which is such a shame because I've looked back on that 2008 "snapshot" often and with much fondness. different our lives looked then!

Probably I haven't done it because its a daunting task to go through the amount of pictures I take in a year, but at only 10,000 personal photos for the year, sparse by comparison, I thought I'd give it a actually wasn't too hard to decide.

And so, Top Ten Photos of 2014, in the order they were taken....drumroll please:

#1 This one picture represents a TON of fun in the snow we had. It was our first winter in the new house with our very own sledding hill. We made so many fun memories and took advantage of our plethora of snowdays. Hard not to embrace the white stuff with faces like this.

#2 This happened to be on Easter but our family picture looked different depending on which week of the year it was. Ten different foster kids came through our home before we had to put respite care on hold in grateful for the people God brought into our lives...they've helped us grow into better people.

#3 Our annual trip to Florida is a highlight. Its always right after tax season so it allows us valuable time to regroup as a family and visit with extended family. This year Nana booked us a place right on the water, which was an extra-special treat.

This picture was taken moments after getting out of the car after our 20-hour car the pure joy written on Avery's face and expressed in all the others.

#4 Strong, healthy, active, three-sport kids, who are learning and growing and fighting through challenges.

#5 The zipline that Uncle Nathan made for us was a huge hit this summer and lots and lots of people got to enjoy it. I have many pictures of it in action, but this was among the first.

#6 Its nothing fancy, but this river and park is a mile from our house (and free!) and is a favorite spot to visit to beat the heat and be together.

#7 This is representative of the dad Shaun is. This day he was trying to get to work, but Aiden needed help capturing a butterfly that had found its way onto the porch. So he paused his agenda to be present for Aiden. Shaun is his very best behind closed doors when no one is watching (including me with my camera. :))  Also, he just looks really, umm...handsome all dressed for his white-collar job.

#8 You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love. ~Henry Drummond

We had this 8-year old girl for just a month, but she stole my heart immediately. So many layers of pain but so much potential. I've questioned God more than once on her particular situation and why we couldn't have been more involved, but all I can do is leave her in God's hands and trust that He works all things for good.

Also, I remember being in so much cancer pain when this was taken, the day I brought her back to her permanent foster home. Its not a "happy" top ten photo in that regards, but I AM thankful I had the pain that eventually prompted me to go to the doctor.

#9 Family, my side. My people.

Family, Shaun's side. My people.

#10 The finish line of the Hartford Marathon in October. These two paid to jump into the race with me at mile 13 and mile 20, without a medal to show for it and many others stood out in the cold rain for countless hours waiting for me to cross, while still others who couldn't be there sent gifts, flowers and notes of congratulations. It was an emotional victory and the first time "Team Lisa" took on real meaning for me. Humbling.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 
And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. Revelations 21:4-6

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Doing Battle, Week 14, Part II

Fact: Of the time I've spent crying throughout this journey, better than three quarters of those tears have been the overflow of my heart caused by the large, undeserved, consistent, audacious love that has been shown to us. Love that was immediate, unquestioning and is overwhelming.

One of the things I have embraced about being a photographer is that it allows me to quietly stay on the sidelines; involved, but not in the spotlight. Honestly, its been difficult to move into a position where life is all about me. Most days I wake up with myself on my mind and that is not a sustainable way to live a happy life. Prior to my diagnosis, my first breath every morning, before my feet were fully on the floor was:

God, I offer myself as a living sacrifice today, holy and acceptable to you. Use my hands and feet for your purposes. Help me to be aware of your presence...I don't want to miss anything you are doing around me. Now I pray it a couple hours later with the girls as we walk to school.

Cancer comes with countless gifts I'm learning, and one of those is an instant clarity of what is truly important. Life is no longer taken for granted and the list of things that are bothersome or annoying grows short. The words 'I love you' flow freer and with more meaning. And the hard makes you realize how very much you need God....that we are fools to think we do this life in our own strength.

I don't mean this to be startling but people have said and written things to me and done things for me that are too often reserved for funerals. But instead, I've had the very humbling privilege of being around as a witness and benefactor.

This Christmas was such a gift. As I've said before, it was not anything we could have foreseen or would have scheduled around, but God worked it out that my off-week was Christmas and I was able to enjoy family from Saturday to Saturday.

Little notes from strangers, generous donations from people who have never met our family, extravagant love from friends and family. All we are capable of right now is sitting back amazed as we watch people jump up to be God's hands and feet as they serve us in so many ways. 

On Sunday Shaun and I took a walk around the neighborhood, taking advantage of warm weather, sunshine and no kids. We talked in awed tones about God's faithfulness and the burdens that are being lifted from our shoulders. We also dreamed and talked in real terms about what our lives will look like when this is all in the we've been inspired and challenged in the ways that exist to give and to pour into we want to be the kind of people who step into the mess in real, tangible ways.

This week came with much more couch-sitting than I was prepared for but the kids always seemed to find me and I enjoyed a well-timed book someone sent me. I yielded to the urging of my body to rest and looked at it as a gift of time that it was.

My sister had t-shirts made for everyone to wear to our Outerbanks family reunion this summer. That's kind of the mark in time we are all looking the end of June, which feels like a lifetime from now, we pray we are celebrating a cancer-free body. The shirt reads 2015 OBX Life More Abundant, based on my blog name Blessed-inabundance and the verse:

 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). John 10:10


And my aunt and uncle and cousins brought t-shirts for everyone that read Lisa Strong, with a picture of me at the finish line of the marathon I ran just two shorts months ago. I just love this picture of my brother and his precious family sporting the shirts.
I'm so grateful for the army standing with us. Because of your prayers, I am sitting up in bed blogging on a day when I shouldn't even be able to sit up or look at screens. God is good, all the time. He wants to be that for you, too if you'll allow him.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Doing Battle, Week 14

There is much to write and little time since my appointment is extra early today so I will finish up my thoughts the next chance I get.

This morning when I checked Instagram the first two posts, back to back were:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Is 41:10


Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Is 41:10

Isn't God so cool?!? He sees me, he knows me, he is with me. Take that, round #6!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Project 365, Week 52

The last week of the year...unimaginable! It was so filled with blessings my heart can hardly contain.

December 21
We had a quiet day at home four days before Christmas....forced, unprecedented, freeing, sweet.

These two in their on-again-off-again relationship had such a fun day together. You can tell we are very safe around here. Villains beware!
 A few snowflakes is all that's required for some fun in the "snow".

December 22
Shaun got out the big ladder and hung some snowflakes for me and then we had an Extreme Ladder Climbing event.

December 23
Celebrating school vacation with a little screen time.
December 24
My family conspired to move our traditional Christmas Eve service to my sister's house so I could be a part of it. My brother put together a beautiful service and it was an incredibly special evening. Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, all is bright.
December 25
Christmas Day was spent with 30 of the people I love most. What a gift!
December 26
With temps in the 50s and sunshine, we just had to go play.

December 27
With a great team effort, the house was de-Christmased. As much as I love Christmas, when its over I am happy to see everything get put away and I will surely rest easier this week knowing its done.
We got some good time with the little guys while R was at his track meet. Games are really beginning to be fun and "Family Game Night" is starting to sound like it could be more enjoyable than painful someday.
 Dear friends brought dinner over and we had nice evening together.

Friday, December 26, 2014

O, Christmas Tree

The year Avery was a baby was the last year we purchased a real, live Christmas tree. The price kept creeping up and I'm too cheap to be spending so much money on such frivolous things. So I shopped around and found a nice artificial one that would pay for itself in just two years.

As the years passed, I came to really enjoy the freedom of being able to take it out of the box the day after Thanksgiving, regardless of plans for the day or the weather. Though we feel a little like Scrooge every year, we really like doing the fake tree thing.

But when someone from my dad's church offered to bless us with a Christmas tree this year, we thought it would be fun to give the kids that experience. The day was mild and there was no snow on the ground...perfect!

The tree owners were super sweet and told us to pick out any tree we wanted.

What I remember from picking out a tree as a kid is that it took a long time because everyone had to decide on one and we all wanted it to be the one we picked out, so we'd end up searching with flashlights as the temps continued to drop and our feet became numb. It was mostly fun and adventurous but I do remember it being an event.

This was surprisingly easy and fun.  The kids raced around from tree to tree for about 10 minutes and then decided on one they thought was perfect and we were done. Easy!

Let Wilderness turn cartwheels, Animals, come dance, Put every tree of the forest in the choir. Psalm 96:12

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Letter 2014

“God is graches and helpful even when it is hard.”
Those were the words written in little girl handwriting on the "pink" board in the girls room one night when I went to tuck them in. I stopped and read it over and over.
So simple, so profound.
This past September we came across the hard with my cancer diagnosis. As we worked through the pain and uncertainty and fear that seems inherent with such news there was nothing to do BUT lean into God's grace.
I say that and it sounds like its a done deal, like we’ve dealt with the uncertainty and have moved on, when in reality its a choice we make each day to take another step forward, to trust in God’s goodness one more day.
And in the trusting in God’s goodness even though we don’t have answers to the “whys” we have found out that HE is enough.  Even when it is hard, His grace is enough.
What is the hard you are facing this Christmas season? It may not be cancer, but maybe you are struggling in your marraige.  Perhaps you are dealing with an addiction, or grappling with the loss of a loved one.  Maybe there are some things in your past that you have not dealt with and those issues continue to crop up.  Maybe your future is uncertain, or you are losing hope of things ever improving.  Maybe you’ve lost your purpose. Maybe peace is illusive.  We all have things we struggle with in this imperfect world.
With a diagnosis of cancer, we came to the end of ourselves, and had to face our weakness and helplessness….our humanness. And, knowing that everything that happens to us has been filtered through God’s loving hands first, we could only choose to trust Him.
As you go through your own personal pain and struggles, remember the raw words of Amanda, who now knows the hard first hand:
“God is graches and helpful, even when it is hard.”
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

You can follow our journey at

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Its Christmas Time

We celebrated Christmas with Shaun's side of the family (but they're mine as much as his! ;) over the weekend. Sarah made an amazing lunch/dinner and there were plenty of sweets and appetizers to pick at before and after.

We've progressively scaled back the gift-giving, allowing us to make Christmas happen for a couple families in need and freeing up the day to play games and just enjoy each other. The kids were happy to be together, too. 

Here's some pictures that tell the story of the day.

The cousin picture is growing every year, which by the way, does not make it easier to get a good one. But still good for a laugh....

Sporting our presents from Nana, whose presence is always felt. Handsome boys...

Who's child is this shooting guns at Christmas???

So blessed to have family who are friends, friends who are family.