I'm guilty of pursuing God only for direction and guidance. Not saying it's wrong to go to Him and ask for clarity and next steps; He loves that! But I want to first and foremost chase God because I love Him and I want more of Him, not only because I need direction from Him. And maybe I feel I need direction from Him so consistently is because I am missing His tiny nudges and signs. Perhaps it's not that I lack his guidance, it's that I'm not in tune with His quiet messages to me.
The other morning I read in Exodus 3 about Moses and the burning bush. Moses is the man who God chose to lead Israel out slavery in Egypt. But before God could get Moses to that specific purpose for his life, He had to give him the calling and the steps to get there. Enter the burning bush.
And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, "I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned." When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am."
What stands out to me is how Moses responds, and then how God acts on that response. It says that Moses first saw the bush, and then turned aside to investigate further. Then the text says "when the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him." This is so profound to me! God waited for Moses to turn aside. Moses could have just kept walking. He could have seen the bush burning and kept on moving, but he didn't. I mean, it was probably common to see a bush burning in the desert. But he stopped to investigate, and it is then that God chose to speak to Him. Because Moses chose to turn aside, he had an encounter with God where, one, he witnessed God's holiness (v 5-6) and, two, he received a calling (v 7-12).
Truly, this is all I could ask for in a moment with God. First, to just get to experience his beautiful presence, and then to receive guidance on how I can live my life to fulfill His purpose for me. What a gift!
So, this passage begs the question: What signs are in my life right now that I have not chosen to turn aside to and investigate further? What invitations to God's holiness and guidance am I inadvertently declining? I mean, I'm praying about things constantly. Asking for input and clarity. Asking for direction and guidance and blessing. Perhaps God has already answered those prayers, but I just missed the moment when I was supposed to turn aside and investigate further. If this is the case, I know God is patient with me and he will continue to give me opportunities to turn aside.
Since reading this passage, one big question I'd been asking of God for a while is finally at rest. Why? Because with this new insight, I see that He's been giving me little signs all along that, when I turn aside to examine them in the context of my prayer, make for a perfect answer, a solid "yes."
I'm laughing at how I've failed to see the prayers answered and at how good and sweet God is to be so patient and loving with me as I learn this lesson in prayer and guidance. Maybe you can relate? This passage makes me get out of my head. No doubting, no vacillating between options. Just turning aside, receiving my answer, and quietly following in obedience and gratitude. Simple as that. Wow, when was the last time I used the word "simple" to describe finding guidance from the Lord? Probably never. But clearly, that's on me. Good thing God stays the same and lovingly waits for the moment I finally see that following Him is simple, as simple as turning aside to the events in my life and seeing his "yes" or "no," and then continuing to walk with Him until the next time I need to turn aside.
A few months back I was moving plants around my backyard. As I was toting a Geranium to a bench beneath some trees I looked into my overgrown garden and saw a new plant I didn't recognize. Usually I pull the invaders immediately, but for whatever reason I let this one keep growing. It had already grown so tall I figured I'd not thwart its plans for life and leave it alone. Sometimes I respect weeds for their tenacity. But I wasn't sure this was a weed, so I left it.
My word for 2018 is patience. The past few months God has continued to place that word in front of me through song, literature, weather, and random acts of kindness from people in my life. The quote that has sown this word into my heart is by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.
This truth has resounded loudly in my heart this new year. January 1st brings the beauty and joy of a clean new start, which is normally accompanied by resolutions and goals, which are great. I have many hopes and prayers that in 2018 I will see my goals become realities. I think this is a good and positive way to sow productivity. But this quote is always in the forefront of my mind, warding off my desire for instant gratification, reminding me that growth requires patience.
And time. And steadfastness and persistence. Yes, goals are the end game, but in-between the conception of a goal and the achievement of a goal, there are many, many small steps to be taken. God lead me to Matthew 1 today and I understood the passage with new eyes. Matthew 1 recounts of the genealogy of Jesus. If I'm being totally honest, sometimes I don't even read Matthew 1 and I just go to Matthew 2 where the storyline starts. But today I didn't, and it was because God wanted me to see a new thing in the passage.
There are 42 generations of patriarchs from Abraham to Jesus. I'm no Bible scholar, so I don't know the average lifespan of men in the Old Testament, but I think it's safe to assume most of them lived longer than our average lifespan. So that's a lot of years between Abraham and Jesus, the Savior of the world.
Why do you think God did that? Why do you think God intentionally waited 42 generations to bring Jesus into the picture? He's God. He could have put Jesus in history at any time. He could have just saved us all in a breath. But instead, he chose to plant a tiny seed in a long line of Israel's patriarchs. The seed quietly waited for years and years, and finally, 42 generations later, Christ, Immanuel, was born. Everything changed the moment Christ was born. Our world went from waiting, waiting, waiting.... to God with us. And again, God could have done that at any time. He didn't have to wait 42 generations. He didn't have to wait at all. But he did.
This is so profound to me. If the best thing that's ever happened to all of creation required years and years of preparation and waiting, then the Emerson quote means even more to me now, as I pursue my hopes and dreams for my life. God did not rush the introduction of Immanuel. He patiently waited until the exact right moment. This truth brings a rushing river of purpose to every single day that preceded Christ's birth, because every single day was leading to it. All the days that felt lost or disillusioned to those who proceeded Christ, held intense, beautiful purpose, even if they couldn't see it. If God waited through all those days to bring Christ here, then all of those days had an intricate purpose in bringing about God's ultimate goal, introducing salvation for all through Immanuel.
As I look at my list of goals for 2018 and beyond, I'm excited to see change. However, I know that for every day that I don't see growth and change, there is a purpose so deep for that waiting that if I sat at the bottom of it I'd be looking up to the summit of Mt. Everest. There is no boundary for God's goodness. Every single day of our lives is coated in grace upon grace even if we can't see it, even if we don't know what lies at the end of the waiting. All the waiting and hardship and suffering Christ's ancestors experienced holds so much beautiful purpose, because the best thing to ever happen to all of creation came from their journey through life!!!!!! THIS IS REMARKABLE!
In this moment, as I'm writing, I'm just sitting in wonder at the mystery of God's work. I'm now gazing out my window looking for agreement in creation--creation is the greatest evidence of God's beautiful, mysterious ways. Creation knows things we don't. Creation has no problem with waiting, with patience.
I'm looking at the barren trees, the blue sky, green blades of grass peeking through piles of leaves. My wonder is interrupted as I see a squirrel hopping around my backyard. Squirrels are so weird, am I right? They're such a pain - they get into my potted plants and spill soil everywhere. But okay they're also funny, because this little dude is currently hiding something in the grass and the sight of him moving his little arms so fast to hide his treasure is ridiculous to watch. This little squirrel is a minutia in creation, and yet he's here. He's part of the story of God's work on this earth.
"Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience."
If we are prudent to listen, creation sings the mysterious rhythms of new growth. God waited through his own creation of the generations of man to bring a new thing, Immanuel, into our world, much like trees wait through winter for the new growth of spring. Winter has purpose in creation. It also has purpose in our lives.
I'm looking out my window again and remembering my garden. The other day I went to see just how unruly things had gotten over there, and I found that the little invader was no longer little, but big. I bent down to inspect the plant and what do I see but two tiny green tomatoes on the very top! What a beautiful surprise! I had not planted tomatoes in this garden for over a year, and when I did the plant died pretty quickly (I have bad luck with veggies). And here is this little tomato wonder who grew all by himself through months and months of quiet patience.
"Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience."
Patience is my word for 2018, and I anticipate that having patience and adopting the original pace of life, the pace of nature, will make this the most beautiful and rewarding and fruitful year of my life.
Gdad, it has been a year since you left and I still miss you. I go to the lake and think of you constantly. I look at the Front Range and dream about you in heaven with Jesus. I look down at my knobby Davis knees and smile because a piece of you is with me every day. Can't believe it's been a year since you and the Lord gave me this post, but I wanted to share it again in your honor. Miss and love you Gdad, and can't wait to see you again soon!
My father, Will Davis Jr., inherited Lake Austin from my grandfather, Will Davis Sr. (or Gdad).
So did I.
Gdad, you always told me that you didn't have much growing up, and as a young man your motivation was your wife and three children. You went from skipping school to work at the Capitol as a 9 year old page boy (to help provide for your family) to turning down running for governor of Texas because you wanted to be present at home. Who knows, maybe you could have been president. But you weren't. Instead you raised 3 amazing children, cared for your beautiful wife, Ann, pioneered the fight for excellent public education in Texas, served as President of the Board of Trustees of Austin Independent School District for three terms, helped found Austin Community College, had an elementary school named after you in Austin, and served as Chairman of the Board of Regents at Baylor University (to name only a few accomplishments of your 87 years). You had always loved the outdoors, and along the way you bought what was then the only house on Manana Street on Lake Austin (we call it a lake, but technically Lake Austin is a river). You raised my dad and two aunts to love skiing, bare-footing and doing all sorts of awesome, nonsensical things behind a legendary Ski Nautique. Then they all got older, got married, and had kids themselves; enter myself, my siblings, and my cousins.
Lake Austin is our inheritance. Lake Austin is my inheritance. You gave it to me, Gdad. And I don't mean the physical property on Manana. I mean it's in my blood. That river is a part of my soul. So many memories and moments spent on that lake completely encompass who I am today. I actually don't know who I would be today had you not given the lake to my dad and had he not given it to me. I will speak for my siblings and cousins and say that they probably feel the exact same way. Because we all grew up skiing and doing all sorts on nonsensical things behind that legendary Ski Nautique, too (No bare-footing for me though; there are limits to my nonsensicalness. No doubt I got that discernment from you.).
I love that river. I love that big green lawn. I love that huge cypress tree by the water. It's a part of me. Growing up it's where I went for escape and reprieve. It's also where I went to make the happiest memories. It's where I got baptized. It's where I got ordained. It's where I took Kenton on one of our first dates. It's where we got married.
And now, it's the place where I got to say goodbye to you.
That day, you got quiet. You looked out at the lake, past the glowing fire pit that kept rudely blowing smoke on you in your chair, and after a while you said,
"Something about this place revitalizes."
"... for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people." Isaiah 43:20
Isaiah was a prophet and the chapters in his book are be both bleak and beautifully hopeful. They're mostly about God's relationship with his people, Israel. In Isaiah 43, the Lord speaks of his steadfast love for Israel, despite the people's disobedience and abandonment of their God. Verse 20 speaks of his provision: "rivers in the desert." Though God once literally provided water for the Israelites in a desert, it offers a truthful metaphor as well: God provides in the hard times. When we're walking through dust and desolation he will come through for our good and his glory. Maybe not how or when we want it, but always "for the good of those who love Him." And why this provision? Because, through Jesus' death and our profession of faith in Him, we have inherited it. We are adopted into God's family as sons and daughters (or granddaughters), and given unlimited access to God and all he offers.
Rivers in the desert.
Gdad, your whole life testified to this truth, that God provides rivers in the desert. You made your way through a lot of desert places in your life, but you held fast to honoring the Lord and he provided rivers upon rivers for you. That house on Lake Austin is one of those rivers in the desert. And years later, God is still providing through that river. You probably don't even know the depths of the blessings that flow out of Lake Austin and into who I am and into my entire family's identity. God has used your faithfulness to bless me a million times over. Grace upon grace, just like the waves that continually crash into the rock wall on a Lake Austin summer Saturday. The repercussions of your choices are still rippling out years and generations later.
And I couldn't be more grateful that the last time you kissed me on the cheek and told me you were proud of me was at our river.
Gdad, my hope and prayer is that my life honors you and your legacy. If I live a life that honors you, I know I'm living a life that honors God. I feel royal to carry the maiden name Davis and the blood in my veins that is so, so genetically yours (I also inherited your calves and Mima's wrinkly hands).
Love you Gdad, thank you for what you gave me.
You gave me a love of the outdoors.
You gave me respect for creation.
You gave me a heart to honor the Lord.
You gave me tubing scars.
You gave me precious memories behind the wheel of a Ski Nautique with light blue leather seats.
You gave me a river.
To Gdad, thank you.
This picture was taken on the day I got engaged to Kenton. Afterwards, we had a party at the lake house with close friends and family, and sweet Gdad was in attendance. When he saw me, the first thing he did was kiss my newly engaged left hand. This picture is such a representation of the man he was to me and many others. Thank you to my cousin Kate for this precious gift!
"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?" John 6:9
What is in our hands is enough.
Some days I feel so busy that I could suffocate. Wait, no. That's what we like to call it, right? We're 'busy.' But more often than not, busyness is a disguise. In more occasions than I bet we're willing to admit, being busy is lack of trust. It's hard to see sometimes.
Right now I'm busy because the list of things I need to do to get where I need to be never stops growing...
I'm trying to grow a business.
I'm trying to pursue dreams for my life.
I'm trying to pour into people around me.
I'm trying to keep taking steps in a season of healing.
All of those things are journeys, and journeys require steps. So, to take matters into my own hands, I make a list of steps to take that will get me to where I want to be in each journey. The problem is that list making can lead to exhaustion, discontentment, disillusionment, hopeless feelings, and lack of self care. So I find myself in this no-win situation because I have so many steps to take and no time or resources to take them. I've gotten ahead of myself. I've gone out ahead of God. The problem is I put those things on the list. Heck, I made the list! We do it to ourselves, right? We make the lists and then we start working. We see where we want to be, we see what we want to grow towards or attain, and then we make a list of steps to take to get there. The list grows and grows and becomes daunting and overwhelming because we don't have the resources to check off every item on the list. So, we do it to ourselves. God didn't tell us to make a list. What he did do is give us what's in our hands today. He gives us daily bread.
God doesn't do lists, God does trust.
Let's go back to that. Why is this list making and step taking a lack of trust? Because of John 6:9, that's why. What is in your hands right now is enough.
Before Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the 5,000, He only had five loaves and two fish. That's it. Jesus held what looked like insufficient provision in his hands, gave thanks, and then a miracle of not just abundant, but over abundant provision unfolded because not only was there enough food, but there were baskets of food left over. And it all started with "not enough." (My adorable, awesome, fantastic, weird, goobery, lovely, loving, kind, wise parents, Will and Susie, talked about this, among other things, on my Mom's latest podcast if you want to hear more.)
If I'm trusting God with what is in my hands today and where I dream to be tomorrow, all the lists can fall away and I am not busy anymore.
Suddenly I have time to do Youtube yoga in the mornings.
Suddenly I have time to throw the ball to Bowie in the back yard.
Suddenly the jobs I have and money I'm making is enough.
Suddenly living in a tiny town in between Kenton's job and the resources of College Station (gym, food, etc) is no longer a strain.
Suddenly I'm content with where I am.
I took care of myself today. I did YouTube yoga in my office while Howie hopped around/on me and licked my face whenever I came down on my mat (No, Howie is not the dog. Yes, Howie is my bunny. Yes, my bunny licks me like a dog. No, I'm not kidding.). I took extra time to get dressed and feel like a real human. I took time to write this post.
Today I took care of myself because when I have gratitude for what's in my hands, my thoughts are transformed and my to-do lists become much less important. And honestly, there are a lot of things about my life that aren't 'ideal.' I could have a lot of reasons to keep feeling busy and unsatisfied. For example, the gym. This is a hard one. Navasota is in the middle of Camp Allen and College Station. There is one gym in Navasota, but there are no classes and it is very small and kind of expensive. I've looked at gyms and yoga/dance studios in College Station a lot because exercise is so important and life-giving to me. But it just doesn't make sense to drive all the way to College Station in the mornings for a gym because I'll have to come home to change and then drive all the way to camp after. All that driving alone adds up to over an hour. So there's an issue of time and convenience, but also budget, because I'd be going through gas like crazy. Therefore I've pretty much stopped working out, which means I've neglected self care, which sometimes contributes to feelings of sadness and dissatisfaction. And sometimes I work out at home, but we all know the struggles with that. All that to say, the gym issue has been a hard thing about living in Navasota. We've never resolved it because all of our options aren't great. So, I feel dissatisfied with my work out options. I make lists to try and fix it. Make more money. Schedule more in advance. Move this here, do that there. On and on.
But. What is in my hands right now?
I have a yoga mat.
I have a computer.
I have wifi.
I have a house in Navasota that God lead us to and I really love it.
I have a bunny that makes yoga at home 100x more awesome because sometimes he gets on my back when I lay on my stomach to prepare to do a plank. He's probably just trying to add weight to make me stronger.
What else is in my hands?
I have daily bread for by business. I have just enough to keep rolling. God is providing one day at a time. I'm not where I hope to be by the end of the month, but when I trust him with what I have now, even though it doesn't look like enough, I can make time for bunny yoga and quit neglecting my body. When I make lists, I have endless amounts of work to do to get to where I need to be. But when I trust God and thank him for what I have now, however 'insufficient' it may look, I have peace, rest, and can look forward to over-abundant provision.
And this can go with anything in our lives.
You think you don't have enough in you to keep pushing in your marriage? Give thanks for today and give trust for tomorrow.
You feel hopeless waiting on that spouse you've prayed for your whole life? Give thanks for today and give trust for tomorrow.
You are in a season of loss. You feel hopeless and need healing. Give thanks for today and give trust for tomorrow.
You need more money to provide for the basic needs of your family? Give thanks for today and give trust for tomorrow.
Go read John 6:1-14. God lead Christ to that mountain and he brought those 5,000 people to him. Jesus asked his disciples where they would find food to feed the people in order to test them, to scan their hearts for belief. He lead them to the obvious conclusion: we don't have enough to feed the people. Then Jesus demonstrates how we can have faith in tight situations: acknowledge what you do have, give thanks for it, and keep moving in obedience, trusting for the future provision. Every seemingly negative situation is an opportunity for our providing Father, Jehovah Jireh, to step in and take a few loaves and fishes and do something over the top beautiful.
What is in your hands right now?
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So, you're in the wilderness. Cool! Me too. Lately when other people tell me they're in the wilderness, I literally respond, "Awesome! There's no better place to be." I believe that. One time I was watching stories on Instagram and my good friend Chelsea's popped up and she had written this really beautiful and eloquent thing: "The mountain tops are for work, valleys are for romance." I thought wow, that's really pretty and profound. And then I laughed because I saw she had tagged me as the one she was quoting. I barely remember saying that to her. I think I wrote it on a card. Just further evidence that my best stuff doesn't come from me because I literally can't remember I said it.
Anyway, that's what Desert Diary #3 will be about: romance. But this one, good ol' #2, is about older brothers. Catch up on Desert Diary #1 if you missed it.
K, back to older brothers. I do have one and he's awesome but this actually isn't about him. This is about Joseph's older brothers. Do you remember the story of Joseph? His story is in Genesis chapters 37-50 and he's famous for wearing a technicolor dream coat, or as it's put in scripture "a robe of many colors." To give you a brief recap, Joseph was the youngest, he was favored (his dad loved him more than his other sons) and he was gifted (he was smart, attractive, likable, and he could interpret dreams). Then there's this whole thing where his brothers sell him into slavery and he ends up working in Pharaoh's house in Egypt. Then he goes to prison. But then he goes back to Pharaoh's house to basically run the country. But that's not the part of the story that matters right now, though it's very important. What matters comes before all of that, in chapter 37 verse 4:
"But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him."
I read this the other day and wrote this down in my bible: "don't be the jealous brother." Yeah, I'm in a wilderness season. God is doing a work in my life that requires me to wait wait wait wait wait wait waittttt wait wAiTtTtt wait. In this season, it is so easy for me to be the jealous brother. In a matter of milliseconds my contentment and peace and focus on the Lord can be derailed if I allow myself to look at other people's lives, envy them and then hate them for what they've got that I don't.
And actually, pressing pause for a minute. Let's follow that chain of events from start to sin. Step one: look. Step two: see. Step three: sin. The looking wasn't bad. It's not wrong to look at others. The seeing wasn't bad, it's not bad to see their lives and understand what their lives look like. But those are the steps that open the door to sin. I have to first look then see to become sinful with jealousy, envy, anger, you name it. So much sin starts with the eyes, which is why Christ mentions them in the sermon on the mount. Disciplining the eyes will go a long way for a heart working on trust. K, pressing play again.
So, in a matter of milliseconds my contentment and peace and focus on the Lord can be derailed if I allow myself to LOOK at other people's lives, SEE them, then envy them and hate them for what they've got that I don't. Because guess what, not everyone's lives are the same. It seems some people really get all they want. Some people look like their life is just one big technicolor dream coat. Chances are there's more to the story. But that doesn't need to be true to make it fair. We don't need to justify our wilderness season by saying, "oh, they look like everything's fine, but really they're struggling." That's being a jealous brother. God's work is mysterious, and some people are just more favored than others, period. Some people really do get all the things in life they long for. We have to be okay with that. That's God's prerogative. He reserves the right to give and to take away. He's working out each and every person's sanctification in ways specifically catered to that human. Yet simultaneously, he is a perfectly, infallibly, and wholly good and loving God. If there is a lack in your life that seems to be magnified by the abundance in another's life, you can trust that God will work it out for his glory and your good.
Don't be the jealous brother. Jealousy lead Joseph's brothers to do the unspeakable act of selling him into slavery. Wow. And maybe we're thinking we're off the hook because our dissatisfaction would never lead to something like that, and I'm sure that's true. But Jesus says in the sermon on the mount that if we are even angry at our brother we're liable to judgement... aka, what we've done in our heart we've done in our actions. If I let hate for someone grow in my heart because of jealousy, how is that different than murder? God is about the heart. And he wants yours. And maybe that's the point of this season for you. I think it's the point of this season for me. If I allow myself to entertain envy and jealousy when I see things working out for others, I will miss what God has for me right now, in my wilderness.
Oh, and by the way, who would benefit from me missing what God has for me?
Who knows just how to tempt me into discontentment?
Who knows my weak spots and who hates to see me fully surrendered to what God has for me?
Who toils and toils to prevent us from experiencing the abundant, full life of Christ?
Who would benefit from a jealous brother?
God is about my heart. I don't want my heart to be ugly. I want to live a life worthy of my calling. I don't want to be the jealous brother, I want to look like Jesus. So if I'm weak to jealousy, I will put blinders on and not give myself over to opportunities to LOOK then SEE then SIN. And while I'm doing that, I will maintain a posture of gratitude because while I'm thanking God for his provision and goodness, my mouth will be full of praise and not complaint.
So, no jealous brothers.
Next stop: the wilderness is for romance.
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Thanksgiving is next week and I'm thinking about gratitude. If I'm making a list of things for which to give thanks, I think seeing God's work in my life is atop that list, of course Kenton and our family of furry babies, and my family and friends are on there, too. But there are little happy things for which I'm grateful as well, so I thought I'd share!
2. NASA. I plugged NASA in my last post, but I can't help it, I must list NASA again. I just freaking love NASA and I love NASA gear more. I have a sweatshirt, t-shirt, and cap and I'm not ashamed. NASA makes me happy, and the clothes are super comfy and awesome, so I wear NASA. Man how many times can I type NASA before it starts to look weird? NASA NASA NASA NASA.
Here's a good option on Amazon if you're interested in this camera. It comes with a kit lens which is a good all-around usable lens to get started with. It also doesn't include a lot of unnecessary accessories (I never really wanted or used the camera bag mine came with). This is a good value, no-clutter kit. Amazon also offers a few different protection plans if you'd like to purchase one of those as well.
If you want a little more to play with when you get your camera and are interested in a kit with more gadgets, this one might be a fit for you. It comes with the same lens as the one above, but it also includes a zoom lens and two little attachable lenses that transform your kit lens into either a telephoto or wide angle lens. It also comes with a bag, tripod, flash, two memory cards, some cleaner and a few lens filters.
This little guy was the best buy I made when I was using my Rebel. In my opinion, this lens is a work horse if you're trying to get a lot out of a little. People call it the "nifty fifty." It is an excellent portrait lens, but I've used it for detail shots of flowers or small items, and I've used it for a ton of landscape photos too. It's main use is portraits, but I think it lends itself well to almost anything you need it for. And it's an incredible value at only $125!
This is the same lens as above, but I wanted to link this too because this package just comes with a few lens filters which can be very useful, but aren't essential.