Forget me not.

     Life is messy. Isn't it? Sometimes, it's tough. Often, overwhelming. In certain seasons, life doesn't make sense. Have you ever felt this way? 

 When plans don't work out.
 When a health scare arises.
 When a relationship ends.
 When a career path turns into a dead end.
 When a dream crashes to the ground.
 When money is so tight you can barely pay your bills.
 When you're the last to get married in your family or group of friends... and while weddings,
   baby showers, and anniversaries are celebrated, you are continually alone. 
 When you're stuck in a job you hate.
 When all your friends are becoming mamas and you're left with empty arms, longing for a baby.
 When depression drowns your hope.
 When a church you love turns on you and you're hurt and broken.
       My darling friend, life is hard. Yet, it is also beautiful. Not just because of the highlights of happiness or the simple things we can strive to find pleasure in. 
No, the beauty comes from something greater: hope in Jesus.  
    This past week as we celebrated the blessing of American freedom, I was reminded of an even greater freedom we have in Christ. I spent a day this week with my sweet parents at Malibu beach. The morning proved to be rather cold and cloudy. My phone called out to me, distracting me from the beauty all around me - work constantly screaming my name. Until early afternoon - when I looked up from my iPhone screen and noticed something in the waves. As the sun began to successfully fight through the thick clouds above, a small crowd of onlookers holding cameras and pointing fingers out at the sparkling waves caught my attention. Suddenly I noticed - a family of dolphins, unusually close to the shore, playing and swimming in the blue crashing waves. It was breathtaking.
      And soon, when my phone battery died and I threw it in my bag, I spent the rest of the day resting and enjoying the now-sunny beach. And for some reason, an old favorite Bible verse kept ringing through my mind: 

                                    "Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all His benefits." 

   You know those verses in the Bible that awe you for a while and stay close to your heart in a special way? And then soon, in the craziness of life, it's poignant truth is forgotten by your distracted heart? In all honesty, that is this Psalm for me. I read it tonight. In several translations. And was awed anew. 

   So friend, I want to share it with you today, too. Take a minute, stop, sit down - breathe. And take some time to really read these beautiful, comforting words of truth. In the midst of your messy, crazy, beautiful, tough, painful life - this is true no matter what. May you be moved by the truth and beauty of God's creation in the photos I snapped as I share my weekend in spiritual encouragement but also little moments that made me smile.    

"O my soul, bless God. 
From head to toe, I'll bless His holy name!
O my soul, bless God, 
don't forget a single blessing!
 He forgives your sins - every one.
He heals your diseases - every one.
He redeems you from hell - saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy - a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness - beauty eternal.
He renews your youth - you're always young in His presence.
 God makes everything come out right; He puts victims back on their feet.
He showed Moses how he went about his work, opened up His plans to all Israel.

God is sheer mercy and grace;
not easily angered, He's rich in love.
He doesn't endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn't treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is His love to those who fear Him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset, He has separated us from our sins.
As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear Him. 
He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we're made of mud.
Men and women don't live very long;
like wildflowers they spring up and blossom, but a storm snuffs them out just as quickly,
leaving nothing to show they were here.
God's love, though, is ever and always 
eternally present to all who fear Him,
making everything right for them and their children as they follow His Covenant ways 
and remember to do whatever He said.
God has set His throne in Heaven; He rules over us all. He is King!
So bless God, you angels, ready and able to fly at His bidding,
 quick to hear and do what He says. 
Bless God, all you armies of angels, alert to respond to whatever He wills.
Bless God, all creatures, wherever you are -
everything and everyone made by God.
And you, O my soul, bless God!
Psalm 103
{The Message paraphrase; emphasis mine}

More beach happies: 
I'm a bunhead who loves to nap.

Oh just Dad and his bestie, Colonel Sanders.

And look who I saw just hanging out on the beach! 
Some old friends of mine: Malibu Barbie & her main man Ken. Love them.

Darlin', embrace this wild and precious life.
Don't forget His benefits. 
(if you don't know Him, email me :)

Happy Weekend to you, precious soul.
You are loved.



Friday iPhone Photo Drop

{from instagram, to follow search: erin_sweetnessitself}