Friday, January 18, 2013

Forgiving Myself

My pointy nose

Several years ago, after we were married and before we had kids, I committed what I believe to be my most ugly sin. Like, ever. It's a sin I think about from time to time, and every time it comes to mind I cringe and my mood darkens and feel immense guilt.

I can't believe I did that...

It was a sin I committed once. 
No one in the world knows about it except my husband, who was there and not completely without sin that moment either. But this post is about my sin, not his. I'm not his Holy Spirit. 

I know, I know, I hate cryptic, vague posts and statuses just as much as everyone else. 

Still, I cannot and will not share it with you.

I will, however, assure you that:
1. It was in no way illegal, I broke no legal law.
2. No one else was hurt or victimized by this specific sin. 

Still, in my heart, it is one of the blackest, ugliest things I've ever done.
{Even though I know, all sins are equally detestable.
My human mind does like to rank them, though.
There are a couple other sins that are "up there" near this one in my mind.
 For some reason, my heart really holds on to this one.
Maybe because it was so very out of character for me.
I was shaken by it.}

Naturally, being a Christian who believes in a loving, yet sin-hating, God, I asked for forgiveness quite promptly for this specific sin. 

And then again, and again, and again, whenever I thought about it I'd immediately call out to God to beg for His forgiveness. I was still ashamed, years later.

After months or years of nagging God for forgiveness, I heard a message that I needed to hear. I was reminded that part of believing that Jesus has overcome death and vanquished all our sins on the cross is believing that when we ask God for forgiveness--ONCE--we ARE forgiven. Period. 

It was a reflection of doubt on my part, and I don't often consider myself a doubting Christian. But apparently I am. Because every time this sin crossed my mind, I had to ask for forgiveness...again. 

This specific one really bothered me, you see. A huge black mark that I just couldn't get washed out of my white robe, the one Christ handed to me at my baptism. It has really weighed on me. I hate it. I hate that it's a part of me.

Or...at least my sinful self tells me it's still a part of me. 

"I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more," says Isaiah 43:25

The scriptures are clear, when I confess, repent, and ask for forgiveness, God does forgive. He did forgive me, the first time I asked for His forgiveness. 

I, on the other hand, did not, would not.
Forgive myself, that is. 

Society and Satan love to tell us that the supposed Christian God is an angry, vengeful God who doles out punishments and wrath upon us. 

God wants us to feel GUILT and SORROW about ourselves, right? 

No. 

God wants us to confess and repent. 

There is a difference, and it is very important.
Without repentance, we cannot acknowledge the need for a savior and there is no motivation to stop committing that sin. 

But where in the Bible does it say we should walk around weary and guilt ridden for the rest of our lives?

Nowhere.


The world tells us otherwise, but the WORD is clear as crystal:

"The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us." - Psalm 103:8-12

As a sinner, I cannot do what God can: completely forgive myself.
I have not been able to move my transgressions from my human memory. They plague my conscience still.

And yet God, who is supposed to be the ever-angry one, the one who wants us to feel bad about ourselves (says the world) is able to do just that. As far as the east is from the west...

I stand in church on Sunday and confess along with our classic Lutheran liturgy that "I am a poor and miserable sinner".

What a downer, right?

Not to me, because right after the confession my vicar announces on behalf of God that we ARE forgiven and that's that. That's the end of it, no more guilt should plague me. I leave church every Sunday replenished and reminded: it is finished, Christ has paid my debts. I am free.

As the Apostle Paul (who had a very dark and ugly past himself, by the way) puts it:

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

I have been offered some truly sincere and beautiful apologies in this life when others have wronged me. I have given some sincere apologies too. I'd like to think that I've completely forgotten, blotted out, those transgressions, but if I'm being honest here, I have to admit that I have not completely. 

They still come up. They still bother me. 

The only being who is really capable of blotting out, for good, my transgressions and yours, is God. 

The world and Satan will tell you He wants you to feel guilty all the time. 
Don't buy it.

We are to feel joy.
Because we are free in Christ.
The law no longer binds us.

Satan is our accuser. He wants us to remain in the Law.
He is the one who wants you to wallow in your guilt, unforgiven, without Gospel.

Guilt can drive us toward repentance, and that is a good thing, but once we are forgiven by God, it's time to believe we are forgiven. God has removed our sins and our guilt should, naturally, go with our sins: away. 

You are forgiven. 

I am forgiven. 

On judgement day, I will stand before God as a perfectly pure being, despite my countless ugly sins. 

Christ's perfection will act as a sort of proxy for my lacking soul. 

Why? If I am so underserving? 

The only answer I have for that is because I am loved. 

Loved incredibly more than I can love, it would seem. 

Because I'm offered that forgiveness even if I can't give it to myself, let alone others. 

I am not free from myself, I hold myself guilty all these years later. 
But, in Christ, I am free. Completely free.
Sin no longer weighs me down when I live in Him. 

And God wants to bring me home to be with Him. 
He wants to see me as pure and righteous and so He gives me that indescribable gift. 

It's all just too marvelous to comprehend. 

This is the Good News.

It gives me great joy!

And that is why I wanted to share it with you.

Don't listen to what the world tells us about God.
The world is not our friend.
Only trust in the Word, which is God (John 1:1).

And the Word tells us clearly: when I repent,
I. AM. FORGIVEN.
It's done.

I will let my guilt go with it, and embrace the joy God wants for me in Christ.
Praise Him in that joy.

In the mean time, I will work to try and forgive myself, and others, the way God has. My soul seems unwilling to free itself, intent on focusing on the sin and the guilt I still want to carry. Thankfully, Christ has freed me.

It is remembered no more.

_______________________________________

There is no condemnation...

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." - Romans 8:1-4

Monday, January 7, 2013

Papa sketches Eisley, Eisley sketches Papa

My parents watched the Pies last night so Justin and I could go out to dinner and a movie for our anniversary. We had a lovely time, thanks for asking. But that's not the reason for this post. I just wanted to show you a couple sketches...

While we were gone Papa and Eisley got into the crayons.

Eisley drew her Papa Erickson, see how she captured his mustache and glasses?
Eisley draws Papa
She did a good job, I'm truly impressed by how Eisley has captured his likeness.

My dad, on the other hand, seemed to struggle at capturing Eisley's likeness on paper...
Papa draws Eisley
As you can see.

When Grandma and Papa Erickson said, "Look Eisley! Papa sketched you!" Eisley glowered at them and said, "No. God made me."

Then she went on to say it looked like Grandma and added her own touch to perfect the portrait: wrinkles on the forehead and circles on the cheek.

Yep. Definitely looks like Grandma.

We're still laughing.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A friendly word of warning to my fellow bloggers...

I had an experience this week that gave me a little insight into something I've never given much thought to before, and I'm wanting to share what I've learned.
7730537226_7504e7dacf_o

In December, Google deposited $123.74 into my business bank account. It was an unexpected surprise, a payment made for a year's worth of ads on my Lark & Lola blog. Google only pays you when you accumulate $100 worth from ads, it had been over a year since I received my last $100. To some famous bloggers, that might be a day's pay off their blogs. Some bloggers make impressive incomes off their blogs. Not me. Which is just fine, blogging is not something I do to make money off of.

November was a slow month for my husband in sales commission, which is our only source of income. He makes no salary, no hourly wage. We start out each month with absolutely no idea what his exact pay will be on the 15th. His monthly income can differ by the thousands. It's an adventurous life for us!

Seeing as December is undoubtedly our most costly month of the year, and November's commission was our December pay, that $123.74 from Google was a very welcome addition to our monthly budget.

{The Lord always provides.}

I spent the money on gifts for our children. It was a nice little bonus for all the work I do blogging once a month. In fact, in November for some reason $26 of that $123.74 was made, the most lucrative month I've ever had--not sure why, possibly holiday posts and Pinterest? {Or God, knowing that it would really help for me to reach $100 that month? Probably.}

Speaking of Pinterest, I have it to thank for the increasing traffic to my blog. I've noticed a lot more folks popping in on my L&L blog ever since I joined. Just the other night, in fact, I was browsing some gorgeous vintage boards and pinning away when I suddenly ran into one of my own photos! A Pyrex shot. I was delighted and excited to just randomly run into my own photo in the vast creativelands that is Pinterest.

I immediately clicked on the photo to see who had originally pinned it, and even found more of my own photos. My delight did not last long, however, because I was dismayed to find that some my photos on Pinterest were actually taking me to another person's blog. My photos had been posted on another blog, and not credited or linked back to me.

A quick look around the blog quickly revealed to me that this blogger's blog posts revolve around all sorts of vintage collectibles. Sadly, she posts mostly just pictures, none of which appear to be hers. A blog that thrives on the careless re-posting of what other people have worked hard to produce? While we do this same thing on Pinterest, showcasing the photos we love, the difference is that every photo of MINE on Pinterest leads back {or should lead back} to ME. This blog was literally post after post of stolen, uncredited photos.

This is hardly the first blog I've seen do this, there are thousands of them. This was, however, the first time I saw one of MY photos used without permission or credit. They were being pinned all over Pinterest without any lead back to me, the legal owner of the photos.

It was troubling. Here I am, definitely not a photographer, and not blogging for profit {just a nice annual mini-bonus}, but I still found myself bothered that someone else was using my photo on their website, as if it were their property, saying nothing about the person who had staged and taken the photo. Photos of my own dining room.

Here's the thing about photos on the internet:

They belong to someone. Legally.

They ARE copyrighted unless listed as creative commons. Automatically. The second my finger trigger's my shutter, I own that photo and the legal rights until further notice. {You hear that, Instagram?}

Yet so many bloggers simply Google words to find photos to throw on their blog, without even taking care to see who legally owns the images. This is extremely risky!

I've never thought much about this until I realized it had happened to me. I was so grateful for that $123.74 that came unexpectedly in December, and it was earned by my blog. Small apples, but mine still. You all know my blog revolves around my photos. Not to say that I'm a professional, a lot of my photos really aren't that good. I'm just a blogger with a decent camera who loves pretty things--and sharing all of that. Still, they are mine. They are my creative works to be posted me and other people of my chosing. And the law stands behind me on this!

In fact, I recently read this post by another blogger. She had her pants sued off when she unknowingly downloaded and re-posted a professional photographer's image on her own blog. That's right, the photog found out, issued a takedown notice and had it promptly removed, yet she was still sued for big bucks.

It happens!

I think some bloggers might think, "I'm just a little league blogger, who will ever find out?" Well, I found out! What are the chances that I'd come across my own stolen photos on Pinterest so randomly? But it happened. Even more warning, zealous professional photographers can search for their images using Google Images and find out where they are posted. It's actually quite simple.

I think some of us might also ask, "What is the big deal? It's just a photo." But I implore you go read the sued blogger's warning post, look for a comment toward the bottom by Jordan. He tells his story, how he had a best selling print that was his bread and butter--until the day it started to be widely reproduced--illegally--online. His watermark was removed by someone, and his sales from HIS WORK dropped off. So...

You might not think it's hurting anyone, but it actually could be.

Just as we shouldn't steal from authors their own words.
Just as we shouldn't steal from designers their own designs {in fact, I paid to have the rights to use this new blog template you're looking at now}.
Just as we shouldn't walk into someone's house and just take something that isn't ours.

We also shouldn't use photos that don't belong to us! True, some people don't mind. But to other's you might be taking their bread & butter.

This time, for me, it was just a little sting. That $123.74 had meant a lot to me when it came last month, and it was my blogging work and material that earned me that. Whether someone makes mere cents or thousands of dollars off their own blog material, it matters not. What is rightfully theirs is rightfully theirs.

Did it hurt me financially for her to use my photos like her own? No! It caused me no damage other than to annoy me. As my mom has always said, "It's the principle of it!" She should have asked first. Period. But to see other people commenting on her post with MY pictures, saying how pretty the photos were and how great her blog was--I'll admit, that REALLY bothered me.

Look, I'm guilty of it too. In 2007 & 2008, back when I was just starting to blog, I used a few photos off of Google. I've tried to track down them all and remove them.

My point is this: be careful.

This blogger who used my photos {posted in June}, their blog literally revolved around stolen photos, every post used and centered around other people's photos. I know this blogger probably didn't mean to be stealing, but the law is very clear. It doesn't matter if you link back, it doesn't matter if you credit, it doesn't matter if you have a makeshift disclaimer on your blog--none of these things matter!

I've had a few folks email me over the years asking for permission to repost something I've blogged, always offering to link back of course. I have never said no to them. I'm willing to share, and I love when they ask so politely. I've also ran into a few bloggers who used things without having asked, but they have always linked back and credited me. Again, no biggie. {To ME! A professional photog could sue in that situation.} I'm not a meanie, I just don't want my work stolen and passed off as someone else's. Is this too much to ask?

Because when I do a blog post, I actually put a lot more work into it than some might realize. My photographs for my Lark & Lola blog are:
1. Staged & shot.
2. Uploaded to my computer.
3. Edited, cropped, re-sized, etc.
4. Watermarked.
5. Uploaded to Flickr.
6. Posted one-by-one.

^^^That's a lot more work than one might think. So, you see, a blogger's photos--whether a novice or a professional--are not just free for the taking. They are legally copyrighted automatically, and people work hard for their own art.

Just be careful and respectful to others! Don't post photos which aren't yours. Pinterest is another thing, Instagram, Flickr... there are exceptions and differing laws there, too much to get into right now.

I would never sue someone, but I did contact this blogger to ask that she kindly remove my photos. It took a couple tries to get her attention, but I finally got through and they were removed. My blog is small apples, but I enjoy seeing my photos on Pinterest, I just want credit given where it's due. I'm not trying to be petty, but the law is the law and fair is fair, and my photos belong to me. I enjoy the blog traffic, I enjoy the comments, and my photos work for that, it's only fair.

{I even called and asked my own father for permission to use photographs of his paintings for this post in November.}

If a blogger needs a photo, they should either find one that is unlicensed or put in the work and take their own photos. The risk of using something that isn't yours and getting caught, it's just not worth it. There is no excuse, there is a whole world of creative commons photos on Flickr and elsewhere.

Point is, your blog should not rely on other people's work. It should be your OWN work. Take your own stinkin' photos! Or do the work to find some that are unlicensed and won't get you sued.

Thanks for listening! I feel better now.

XO,
Heather

*If you come across any photos on my blogs that might not be mine, give me a heads up! I'm trying to remove any I might have posted long ago. I'd rather eat my own words than get sued.

**My friends have pretty much always asked, but anyone I know personally is welcome to download, re-post, and enjoy my images within reason. And Pin away! :-*

***No need for any concern by our seemingly dire financial circumstances last month, fear not. It wasn't as bad as I may have made it sound, just a tight time of year for us, every year. We're not only used to the rollercoaster by now, luckily December starts off Justin's busy season. The spring time is good and we're excited to be starting a brand new budget plan for 2013. Commission pay is just a crazy life! Onward and upward!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Breakfast at Jelly

Jelly in Denver
Yesterday, for a New Year's Eve breakfast, Justin took us out to this place we've been wanting to try for a while. His clients and co-workers keep raving about it. The first location opened in the Highlands--Denver's elite hipster neighborhood. The second location just opened recently less than a mile from us. Score!

There was a 45 minute wait, this place is very popular. We put our names in and went to run a couple errands which they said was fine, we could come back. Then got dirty looks from other customers when we walked in 40 minutes later and were seated immediately. Heheh...
Jelly menu
I love breakfast restaurants. I'd rather go out for a good breakfast than out to any 5 star dinner joint any day. Their menu is typical breakfast but with lots of fun twists like bacon pancakes and chai French toast {I hate chai, but still}. They have a bar too, like, with real alcohols. Also, they serve lunch.

But mostly I was impressed with their teacup chandeliers:
teacup chandeliers
And Jelly is to Justin & I what 50s retro diners were to our parents. Eighties cereal boxes grace the walls...what a flashback, remember E.T. cereal??? Barbie cereal? I do!
80s Cereal boxes Vintage cereal
The bar is made out of Scrabble tiles. Doesn't get more hipster than that, folks.
Scrabble bar
Violet was her usual naughty self when we're at a restaurant, loud and rowdy, but the restaurant is loud. Only since becoming a parent have I enjoyed loud restaurants. She also tempered her rowdy ways with lots of hugs and kisses for daddy, so...
Hugs from Viv
The lighting was good for pictures...
Me & Eis
We ordered some Jelly donut bites, made fresh every day.
Donut bites
They were all really good, but the MAPLE BACON was truly amazing. That's right, maple bacon. It's like when the foods on your breakfast plate mix a bit, and some of your pancake syrup gets on your bacon, but you eat it anyway. They were really good.
Maple bacon donut bites
True to our morning selves, Justin ordered a latte, I had a mocha.
Latte & mocha
BUT, when this baby comes, I'm totally heading back to Jelly to cross this drink menu off my bucket list. I saw many of these ordered drinks pass our table, and they looked very good. The Blumosa being the most intriguing.
Drink menu at Jelly 
A young couple on the other side of the partition from us walked in and slyly stole the booth without waiting for a table like the rest of us. They laughed about it and then later wondered why they weren't being served...
Sneaky
So we let Violet annoy them a bit.
Peekaboo!
But was the food really good?

Eisley had the kids French toast...
French Toast
Violet always goes more savory than sweet...
Viv's 'fest 
I ordered the Eggs Benedict, which is what I order every time we go out for breakfast {I'm one of those people, who never branches out} and this was by far the best EB I've ever had. It was wonderful.
Eggs Benedict
Justin ordered an assortment of breakfast sliders, but he regretted not trying a scramble or something later. This is what he always does, branches out too much, you see.
Breakfast sliders
So to answer your question: yes, the food was very good. Combined with a fun wonderful atmosphere and a menu with lots of excitement to try in the future, I think we've found our new breakfast place.

Not that we go out for breakfast often...but when we do, Jelly will be on our list.
Orange juice glad we went to Jelly? 
If you're in the Denver area, you should try Jelly. It was a fun little New Year's outing for us! We kept it low key last night, but I'm glad we did something for fun yesterday. After all, before we start our New Year's resolutions, December 31st is the best day of the year to eat unhealthy, right?
Jelly restaurant


PS - What do we think of the new blog look? It's not quite finished yet, but you get the idea.

XO
Blogging tips