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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Sometimes we are fake

Sometimes I feel like such a fake.

I write blog posts about trusting things will work out and having faith and enjoying every moment and there are days – seriously – where I just don’t feel it.

Like right now I am writing this on a computer that randomly pauses and freezes and only works if it is plugged in because the charger port or battery or something is broken and there is no money in the budget to replace it.

And it isn’t from a lack of praying  for the funds to replace it, or believing God provides all our needs. The changes in our situation simply don’t come, for whatever reason. 

I say none of this in an effort to illicit pity because computer issues and financial woes are something many deal with and quite frankly it is nothing compared to people running for their lives or not having food to eat or clean water to drink.  

I write this to do my best to be authentic because honestly I’m tired of the lack of it on social media and in the world today.

How many times will we put on a good face and smile and kick out 10 Bible verses a day to show how positive and faithful we are all while we are dying inside and questioning God and wondering why we thought we heard Him clearly tell us to take one path but then He never blessed it? Or we are questioning why a family member is suffering physically or why a young child suffered for so many years and then died in his mother’s arms.

Here we sit with empty bank accounts and broken dreams and smashed-to-smithereens budgets we attempted but fell apart from unexpected expenses. Here we sit with empty and aching hearts and minds jumbled with a thousand thoughts.

And here we sit with a thousand questions of why we can’t seem to make this thing called life work and how we got here, moving money from this account to that account, and trying to stay sane and happy like everyone else while feeling guilty about being depressed about things that seem so trivial compared to the trials of others.


It’s hard to be positive sometimes and to share struggles and then tie it up in the end in a neat little bow, like a sitcom or a Hallmark movie.

Sometimes there are no good endings, or at least not yet.

Sometimes we just sit in the midst of the struggle and we can’t fake it anymore.

We can’t say ‘God’s got this’ when there are days we simply don’t know or trust He does.

Do doubts make us any less of a Christian?

There are thoughts in my mind that tell me they do.

But there are other thoughts that tell me no, because many in the Bible doubted and didn’t trust and learned to live life the hard way. They were real and honest and never hid their doubts. David is one of those people who come to mind when I think of the doubters, the struggling ones, the ones who paused and had the audacity to ask God just what he thought He was doing.

Scrolling through Facebook there are quick little memes from well known pastors or authors or speakers and they are meant to be encouraging but one Wednesday morning I just sat there like a loon and I yelled at my phone “I know! I get it! And that’s what I’m trying to do but nothing is happening! I prayed and I asked God and I’m trying to stay calm and I even got a prayer journal and I watched that movie about a prayer closet and I’ll make one if I have to but NOTHING IS HAPPENING!!! I’m tired of jumping through hoops.”

My toddler, who sleeps in our room because our house is too small to make her a room of her own, woke up and looked at me and said “Well….that was just crazy…”

And it was crazy.

A crazy moment of saying “Thanks for all the cute little posts with cute little phrases but sometimes it just gets old to see these reminders over and over and over and over but feel like it’s all lip service.”

I can say something over and over and until I’m blue in the face and I can believe it, but guess what? Sometimes even that doesn’t work and sometimes even that doesn’t launch us over the road block we have hit in our lives.

I listened to a blogger talk about her struggles recently  and when she got to the part where she said “I mean for like three months we like really like struggled with our finances and like it was like hard” my head almost exploded.

Then she said “And so we like prayed and I like got up every morning and like over night we were making three figure salaries every week and it was like amazing.”

Again. My head. Ow.

Because – like – I have been on my knees about several looming life issues for YEARS not three months and I still am wandering like a lost sheep in the wilderness.

So why does California girl get her miracle “like over night” and mine hasn’t even come in 800 some nights?

I don’t know.

Yep, that’s right.

I don’t have an answer for you or for me.

Not yet anyhow.

And maybe never.

I don’t know why God chooses some to struggle for years and others to find relief in hours. I don’t know why some of us struggle with health, some with finances, some with marriage, some with loss after loss, some with self-esteem and some don’t.

Right now, right here, I am supposed to say “all I know is God is good.”

But sometimes?

I don’t feel like God is good.

And right there I bet a few people decided I should have my Christian card taken away.

But sometimes I feel like He is very far away and like good people die too early and that if He is God then why has He let this world go on with so much pain in it for so long?

I mean, seriously, don’t you ever feel that way?

Yet even as I feel that way I see my daughter and my son, children I never thought I’d have, and I remember moments in my life where I prayed and in minutes a prayer was answered.

 I remind myself that no, I don’t have all the answers, and yes, I may often feel frustrated and lost and doubt, but even when I’m ready to say it’s all pointless, like I am today, I feel something inside me urging me not to miss out on the joy of life, even with the sadness of it seems to be pushing me down.

So, I keep listening to the sermon podcasts, even when I yell at them THAT I AM TRYING BUT APPARENTLY I’M JUST NOT DOING IT RIGHT!

And I keep reading the encouraging blog posts even when I want to say “Whatever. I bet your life isn’t really that good and you probably have doubts too but you’re afraid of being marched out of the Positive Christian Mom Blogger Club.”

And I keep looking at the memes and reading the devotionals and listening to the positive songs.

Because what is the alternative?

Filling my mind with more darkness, more negativity, more hopelessness?

Seeing only the bad of life?

Seeing only failure?

Seeing only mistakes?

Seeing only sadness?

It’s not an alternative I’m willing to grab ahold of.

The negatives, the sadness and the feeling of hopelessness will be there.

But the joy, the smiles, the light peeking through the clouds will also be there and I will try my best to focus on those bright spots as well.

Do I promise I will showcase only the light times and speak as if it is like a walk along the beach at sunset? No. Because to do so is dishonest, it’s an illusion, it’s not what life really is.

Life is not all cotton candy and rainbows and sunlight.

For anyone.

No matter what they show on Facebook, instagram or to your face.

Life is not all those good things all the time but there is joy and I hope it doesn’t sound like I don’t want that joy celebrated because I do, I very much do.

But if some of your moments aren’t joyful know you’re not alone.