What I learned this Fall

I decided to join Emily P. Freeman today by listing a few things I learned this Fall. The idea is to share what we’ve learned before we move into a new season. And hopefully we’ll carry the lessons we have learned forward with us, which, in my case, doesn’t always happen like it should. For those who haven’t visited my blog before, my name is Lisa and I’m a mom and a wife from Pennsylvania. In addition to being a writer and a blogger, I’m also a photographer, who mainly focuses on documentary-style photography. You can learn more about me on my About page

1) So, first, this Fall I learned that God has a plan for me – I just  don’t have a clue what that plan is. More and more sermons I’m listening to, or books I’m reading, keep telling me God’s plan is ready for me, I just have to step into it. I’d love to learn, in this next season, just what I’m stepping into!


2) I learned I know what I want to do with the passions God has given me, but not how to get there. As I wrote in my digital diary, the one I keep in my phone because I never seem to find time to write in a real one:  

“There are all these motivational speakers out there who tell you if you put your mind to it you can be successful. And they are right. Often by successful they mean “famous.” But I don’t want to be famous or impact the entire world, I just want to impact and be effective in my world. I want to use photography to document real life for people who respect that the moment is more important than the pose. That the ordinary is extraordinary. That the perfect photograph doesn’t always mean looking into a camera and being given the cue to smile. That the in between moments when someone is caught off guard can be the frozen memory that means the most one day. Sometimes when I think no one really cares about what I do I want to stop snapping the shutter, stop sharing my photography. But then I decide to keep sharing because my art speaks to me and maybe someday it will speak to someone else and inspire them to take their own photos of their own children, parents, family. They may never hire me as a photographer but if I give them an idea of how they want their life documented then I think it’s all worth it.”

3) I learned that the health anxiety (usually called hypochondria, when one isn’t being politically correct) I thought I had a grip on after last winter’s mental breakdown is still there and as strong as ever. The past two weeks I have been deep in the throws of it and for me it is clearly a spiritual attack that I still need to learn how to battle.

I recently heard a sermon by T.D. Jakes and I wrote this quote down in my digital diary to keep as a reminder:

“If I was your enemy and I wanted to render you powerless I would worry you to death with so much on your mind that you lost your creativity, that you lost your passion, that you lost your sense of impact and influence and purpose … I would just worry you to death. I was reading in the dictionary up under the word weary , one of the definitions is to have your sense of pleasure taken away. If I was the enemy I would stop life from being fun. I would make you miserable in all that stuff god gave to you. I couldn’t stop him from giving it to you but I would worry you to death until you had a real nice bed you couldn’t sleep in. And a pool you couldn’t enjoy and a house you look around at it and all that stuff because if I can’t take your stuff. I can take your mind to keep you from enjoying the stuff God gave you. I came this morning to tell you the devil is after your mind.” T.D. Jakes Sermon entitled: “Do not worry” 10.22.17

The quote it in perfectly with a book I started reading even before I came under attack again – Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic‎ by Priscilla Shirer. In fact, it’s interesting that after I started reading about how to defend a spiritual attack I came under a pretty intense one. I don’t believe that is a coincidence at all and it’s something I just thought of as I was writing this. 

4) I learned I really enjoy lighter British mystery shows and my latest addiction is Father Brown, which I have been binge watching on Netflix. He’s a bit of a nosy priest with an interest in detective work, much to the chagrin of the local police. It doesn’t sit well with the police that he’s so good at investigating either. Much like Murder She Wrote I often find myself wondering 1) why anyone would want to attend Father Brown’s church or even be around him since anyone who meets him seems to die within the hour , 2) how such a small town has such a high violent crime rate and 3) why the police keep rolling their eyes at Father Brown when he always seems more on the ball than they are.


5) I learned that my 3-year old has an amazing memory and despite our best distraction efforts never forgets her love for worms or her desire to bring them in the house to live with her. She actually reached that goal this past week but pretty much forgot the worms existed because they’ve sat in that container on the freezer on the back porch all week.

6) I’ve learned that my black and white photographs are way more popular on my Instagram feed but I have no idea why. Apparently my photos are not very compelling unless they’ve been converted to black and white. I’m not sure that’s a compliment. Hmmmm…..

7). I also learned that my daughter needs to take long breaks from Doc McStuffins because if she doesn’t she starts to become a bit like me in the hypochondria department, worrying about germs and such. More of that story is in a blog post called “Thank you Doc McStufins for making my toddler a germaphobe.” Luckily that phase was short lived.

So how about you? What have you learned this Fall? Let me know in the comments (you should be able to comment as a guest) or by emailing me at lisahoweler@gmail.com


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Faithfully thinking: weeding out the bad so the good can survive

My son was recovering from an illness on the couch and watching a cartoon on his laptop, my daughter was watching a cartoon on my phone and I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook when it all shut off out of the blue.

For ten seconds we sat there and looked at each other bewildered. What were we supposed to do now? With all our devices dark, except the phone which continued to work off data, we were completely lost.

Suddenly I felt excited. I felt a sense of freedom and dashed outside to my garden, over run with weeds thanks to weeks of neglect, and began yanking weeds out by the handful. I felt like a giddy child let loose in a candy store. The smell of dirt and grass andnature was setting my soul on fire.

In the midst of the euphoria I was also disgusted that it had taken the electricity going out to wake me up and break the chains of apathy and digital busyness that I had let hold me down.

Logged on to Facebook I seem to think I have to read one more post, see one more photo, laugh at one more pointless video and then before I know it it’s the afternoon and I’ve accomplished nothing. I haven’t finished the dishes, cut up and put the extra zucchini in the freezer, cleaned up my room, made the beds or weeded the garden.

And I certainly haven’t nourished my soul or connected with God.

Instead I’ve only fueled anxiety that I often call “my anxiety” claiming the state as my own, as if it’s an expected mindset for me to be in.

I’ve found that scrolling past story after story, some positive but many aimed at igniting our fear – fear of cancer, of death, of loss – is damaging my emotional health and in turn my physical health.

Many say “I just ignore those negative or fear based posts” but to me it seems the continuous exposure to these types of stories often permeates our thoughts and perpetuate our fears without us even realizing it. The negative affects of today’s social media are subtle and unassuming.

I’m not saying social media doesn’t have its good points or that it can’t be used to help encourage, connect, and support. Along with the good, however, comes even more counteractive and isolating aspects.

We have never been more connected than we are today, Facebook founder mark Zuckerburg likes to tell us again and again. In some ways this is true but in reality we’ve never been more disconnected or separated.

Satan is never happier than when we are isolated, made to feel alone, and spending our days on Facebook, pretending we are actually connecting with people. When we are on our computer or staring at our phone we are not living in the present or focused on those around us. Our minds are on a digital and virtual plane, trapped in a world of fantasy, antagonistic words, pessimistic views and sometimes fake optimistic ones.

I thought about this all as I yanked the weeds out of the garden so I could plant spinach seeds, seeds of a plant to bring our family nourishment.

I found it pretty pathetic that it took the electricity going out to motivate me to weed out the bad and plant the good. Yet it often takes a power failure in our life to wake us up to the good we have been missing out on.

Philippians 4:8 says: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Sometimes I need to pull the plug on the busyness of life so I can focus on the noble, the right, the pure, the lovely and the admirable.

If I don’t cut off the power sometimes, or let God flip the switch for me, then the negativity, fear, pessimism and anxious thoughts will grow in my life like the weeds in my garden. The weeds are choking out my healthy plants, stopping them from growing. I’m nowhere near a master gardener and I know I have a lot to learn if I want a bountiful harvest in the future.

There are days I feel the weeds of life all around me, trying to steal my joy, my hope, my fervor for life. I put my hands up to push them back, but without the help of the one who is our Master Gardener, I’ll never find victory.

I need Him to help me keep the weeds in check and to remind me they need to be pulled so I can breathe and grow.