Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Zech's Photography

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place... I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” -- Elliott Erwitt

Zechariah is always asking to play with my phone. He has developed over the past few months a great appreciation for photographing the world around him as we go about our normal daily business. And I personally have found tremendous enjoyment in seeing the things he has chosen to capture!

It's fun to see everything from Zech's perspective...


A beautiful icy day
Zech watches these bars pass by from the protection of his stroller several times a week.
I think it was most interesting to see all the fake smiles put on for Zech. He always is requesting you to "SMILE" when he clicks the camera's button!
I found this one to be rather pretty. You can see the rain on the window if you look closely.

You can see Titus is reaching over trying to buckle Zech into his carseat...
This picture made me laugh out loud... biohazard-waste. Must be the Dr.'s Office.

This picture speaks so much to me. I believe the empty chair symbolizes to Zech how he desires to grow up and will no longer need those baby things.
I found this to be rather artistic. It reminds me of an ink blot test. What do you see?
He seems to get a lot of fulfillment out of self-portraits. They make up a large portion of his photos!
Like any good photographer, Zech takes many many photos, and is only sharing a select few, his favorite ones.
The Titus we so often see at home... sitting on the couch, working on his laptop.

I found this picture to be fascinating. Since the camera appears in the photo, he must be taking the picture of a mirror. By looking at the position of the chair in front of the wall, it appears like he might be using the television for the reflection. But it's so clear, that it seems like it can't be that. I'm just baffled!
"With our hands up high, we're screaming whoa whoa oh... whoa whoa oh ..."
When I showed this picture to Zech, he told me, "Mommy said no!"
I think I took this picture of Zech, and he took another picture of me sticking my tongue out.
Zech says, "Hmm... what can I photograph next?"

"There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer." -Ansel Adams

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Today after school Gabe and Zech decided to play a game of Life. I don't think they even know the rules to the game, so it can only very loosely be classified as playing a game together. By the end Gabe had won, and Zech angrily threw his money at him.

This started a new game!

My entire floor was completely covered with play Life money. Money was raining down from the sky and flying all over the place.

After all the fun was had, I informed them that they would both need to clean up the game themselves. After a few minutes, I heard Gabe talking to himself.

"Humph... I'm not very happy at all! It must be because I'm so rich. Rich people are never happy."

Kids Say the Darndest Things

We were exiting the highway on Wednesday night, when Zechariah said, "There's my church!"

I was feeling a little feisty that night, so I told him, "No, that's MY CHURCH."

It didn't faze him at all. He very sweetly said to me, "I share, Mommy." He sure did put me in my place!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tear Down These Walls

"I'm not scared of anything!" Junior gave a shout. Then he pulled the covers high to keep the monsters out!

But there, in the all the shadows, in the corner by the chair, was something that had three long ears and tufts of shaggy hair. 

Over on the bookshelf, behind his favorite book, six or seven beady eyes peeked out to take a look. Then outside the window, hiding in the tree- was that a woolly mammoth bat? No, it couldn't be.

Everything he looked at, and all that he could hear got scarier and scarier. His knees soon knocked with fear.

Junior couldn't go to sleep. His eyes were open wide. Then he remembered something that made him smile inside. Junior said, "I'm not afraid of things, though big or small. God says He will take care of me. He's bigger than them all!" --BigIdea's VeggieTales

These past couple of weeks God has been showing me just how big and strong He really is. I wish I could say I never needed the reminder, but each and every day I'm held accountable to my humanness. Every day I see my weakness and my tendency toward fear and worry.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post In My Darkest Hour which was the beginning of my journey with the new car we purchased. Since then, we have been through many ups and downs. The car has been to the mechanic 3 times, and the problem has not yet been completely solved. In fact, it's actually escalated.

To start off we were having trouble shifting gears, and thought it might be our transmission. Since then we had found the source of the problem to be an air intake sensor. This was causing the fuel to be too rich which in turn caused the engine to give misinformation to the transmission, which made the gears shift at the incorrect time. Its amazing how one thing can lead to another and pretty soon your car just doesn't work quite right. The problem was easily solved and taken care of by a $150 bill.
 
The most troublesome and somewhat disturbing part was how the dealership fit into all this. You would think they might have caught this issue and fixed it themselves. $150 to a dealership is probably nothing when it comes to making a good sale. However ... instead they sold us the car pretending it was in perfect working condition. I don't know anything about cars, but I knew as soon as I drove away and tried to get up to speed that something wasn't quite right. They had to have known something was wrong with the car. The car's gas tank was completely empty so we couldn't leave the lot to test drive it; we were forced to stay close by, driving around in their field. We never had a chance to shift gears until the car was in our own possession.

As our car saga has continued on, the most saddening thing has come out. Our mechanic that finally was able to pinpoint the problem and get it fixed, informed us that after 25 years in the business, he's never seen anything like this. The dealer we purchased the car from actually disabled the check engine light on our car. It's not just that they took the light bulb out, it's actually disconnected somehow. That's very unethical and not to mention illegal.

You can imagine the emotions that I have gone through over the past week. On one hand the fact that they intentionally set out to deceive us just hurts, and then there's the anger that they could be so careless. What if we had an accident and someone in my family was hurt? Money is more important to them than the safety of a human life?

God has brought me through it all. I know that no matter what, He is in control. As I heard this news, I couldn't help but start to withdraw into myself, and fear began to creep up. It seemed like the more and more I thought about it, the more I was afraid. I was imagining the worst case scenarios and feeling overwhelmed. I tried to get a few moments of peace and quiet where I could just cry out to God, when Zech climbed up on my lap with his book, "I'm Not Scared!" Reading to him at that time was really the last thing that I felt like doing.

I made it through almost the entire book, with only two pages remaining when I couldn't stop the tears from falling. I read the line "Everything he looked at, and all that he could hear got scarier and scarier. His knees soon knocked with fear." I was Junior sitting in my chair paralyzed with my fear. I kept hearing new things, and new fears were taking over me. What was going to happen? And where was God?

Then just like Junior as I read the next page in the book, my tears turned to a smile. "I'm not afraid of things, though big or small. God says He will take care of me. He's bigger than them all!" God is so much bigger than a person who cheats or lies. Because no one can cheat or lie to God. He knows everything. And not only does He know everything, He takes care of it all. God is my protector. He can solve my problem that needs to be fixed.

As I went off to church that night, my mind was in a much better place. I knew that God was there. Every time when I'm in real trouble or hurting, God always seems to speak to me through music. It's a way to connect on a deep heartfelt level that I cannot even begin to explain. As we were singing the song Tear Down These Walls by Hillsong, God was continuing to work on my heart.

Tear down the walls see the world
Is there something we have missed?
Turn from ourselves
Look beyond
There is so much more than this

And I don't need to see it to believe it
I don't need to see it to believe it
Cause I can't shake this
Fire deep inside my heart

Look to the skies hope arise
See His majesty revealed
More than this life there is love
There is hope and this is real

Cause I don't need to see it to believe it
I don't need to see it to believe it
Cause I can't shake this fire burning
Deep inside my heart

This life is Yours and hope is rising
As Your glory floods our hearts
Let love tear down these walls
That all creation would
Come back to You
It's all for You

Your Name is glorious
Glorious
Your love is changing us
Calling us
To worship in spirit and in truth
As all creation returns to You

Oh for all the sons and daughters
Who are walking in the darkness
You are calling us to lead them back to You
We will see Your spirit rising
As the lost come out of hiding
Every heart will see this hope we have in You

All day long I had felt a bitterness creeping in slowly. I wanted to be angry. I felt like I had this right; that I had been wronged greatly, and needed vindication. I was just hoping and praying that someone would ask how my day had gone so I could give them the 411 on how I'd been hurt, and deceived.

As I was singing the words to this song God was showing me the truth about what I was going through. I couldn't believe that the dealership would do that, when God just dropped these two words into my mind. Why not? What am I expecting from them? It was very obvious when we were signing the title to our car that the man was not a Christian. Three times he spelled my husband's name wrong, and after I told him it was like the book of the Bible, you would have thought by the sound he made or the look on his face he had never heard of a Bible before, let alone that it would even have books in it.

Why are we always so surprised when the world acts the way that they do? They are simply going with their sin nature. "For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard." Romans 3:23

We, who have committed our lives to Christ, should be held to a higher standard. But we cannot expect the world to do the same. They don't have a book that guides their life, and a God who they can go to in times of trouble. They have to look to themselves and figure things out.

How scary is that?

I am so grateful that I have the listening ear of a God who is big and strong; He has an answer for every problem. I wish I could say that I picked up on this quickly, and that God burned in it my heart, so that I would not forget what He was saying to me. But alas, I was slow. I wanted to post this a week ago, and something kept stopping me. I just couldn't bring myself to write it, or even think about it. I was still holding on to unforgiveness, and I needed a reminder of the words to this song; to actually tear down the walls I had allowed to grow.

Those walls you build may at the time seem to protect you, but they also can keep out the good. I spent a week feeling sorry for myself, and building up walls to keep everyone out, including God. I was mad. I allowed my circumstances to distract me from the purpose of my life.

It doesn't take much to take your eyes off of God. I kept my focus on my problem, and it became too much. It was only today after more tears and pain that I realized my walls need to break. I needed to stop looking to myself for answers like the world does. I needed to look beyond where God was and always is.

The only way to truly overcome is to maintain your FOCUS on God.
"Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed- that exhilarating finish in and with God- he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!" Hebrews 12:2-3


For anyone who read my previous post, In My Darkest Hour, the song was playing on the radio as we pulled into the parking lot of the auto service center and learned this news about the check engine light being disabled. "When all around me starts to fall, and when my faith it seems so small, even in my darkest hour, I WILL BELIEVE." I know God was preparing me for the road that would lie ahead.

Liberty Truck Sales Mounds Oklahoma
http://libertytrucksales.net/

The Rest of the Story:
The Light in Me
The End

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Revised: Things to Do When Kidz Say They're Bored

This week, Gabriel has come up with his very own, revised copy of "Things to Do When Kidz Say They're Bored." I thought he came up with some very intriguing new ideas. And I'm sure there are a few things that you never would have thought to do!

Computer

Nintendo DS

Read

Play outside

Treasure hunt

Play in your room

Ride a bike

Make a maze book

Make a story

Play downstairs

Go to a playground

Build a tent

Play with your baby brother

Play with your big sister

Go to grandma's house

Go to your friend's house

Play Super Mario Brothers

Watch plants grow

Hot chocolate party

Play with chalk

Play Webkinz

Make Sentences

Sock Fight

Make food for families

Bake cookies

Make monsters

Play checkers

Play chess

Watch a movie

Play with your aunt

Play with your bird

Pretend you are a hero

Make parts of books

Make all new friends

Watch people play Nintendo DS'

Play with your big brother

Play with your baby sister

Play telephone

Bible study

Color a picture

Play in the snow

Play on Super Mario Wii

Go on a walk

Go to the museum

Do science experiments

Play on the laptop (You need a grownup to put the password in)

Watch library movies

Color pictures of dragons

Color pictures of monsters

Color pictures of people

Color in a coloring book

Make cool food

Pretend you are a chef

Make a fake volcano

Go to the library

Make a CD


Make crafts out of yarn

Go to the school playground


Pick up trash at a park

Swimming

Play in the sand

Ride on a vacuum cleaner (You'll probably need a grownup's help for this)

Take a nap

Plan a sleepover party

Blow up a balloon

Watch a timer

Listen to music

Pretend you're a zombie caught in a blanket

Go to the zoo

Make your own zoo at home

Say things in Z ... like Za-manda

Play on the guitar

Do sports

Make a pet out of your brother or sister

Play soccer

Play football

Play hockey

Play tennis

Play softball

Play basketball

Make a blog

Make a book of monsters

Make a adventure book

Watch adventure movies

Bob for apples

Jump on the trampoline (not everyone can do this if they don't have a trampoline)

Swing high

Slide down a slide

Make a hat

Dress up

Drink soda pop

Sit at a pond

Play on the monkey bars

Hop on rocks

Jump in the leaves

Do a picnic

Eat a cake

Dress up as a soldier

Blow out a candle

Study fish

Study bats

Study squirrels

Bake cupcakes

Make a list of fun things to do!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Decade Gone By

It's so hard to believe that 10 years ago today I married the man who made my life complete. At times it feels like it was only yesterday, but then I also know that we have been through so much together. I am eternally grateful that I found him. Titus came to me at a time when I was at my lowest, and together over the past 10 years, we have grown so much into the man and woman that God made us to be. He's been my other half, and has always been so encouraging and loving towards me. I'm glad to have him by my side. I know when we are together, we can face anything.

We composed these two poems for each other on our wedding day. They were written on the back of our program we handed out to all our guests. I thought it would be fun to see what they say.

CompletionTo laugh and to cry is to live
People come and go all through time
How do you find the one for completion?

If I could only hear one word from your mouth
If only I could have one scent of your cologne
Just to have one moment in your arms
I would give up everything... to be with you.

Love can last for a lifetime
Love believes not in failure
Come see in my soul
See my desires become real.

You have fulfilled my every idea.
You have given me more than I dreamt possible.

God made us to join together
There is no one else I need
My dreams have become reality
Today I will marry, and become one with my love.

- Amanda


To Whom It May Concern
Here I am
Just in eyes, though sad you see
And if I fall behind
Will you please wait for me?

How could I ever lose sight
Of what might have been
Just moments before
It's far beyond me, just so you know.

'Cause all that I have ever wondered
Has fallen short of the light I see in your
Eyes so bright...
And scattered on the ground
Like grass that matters no more.

So I stand for now.
I will stand here till you make me move,
Because, at least by then, I know
I would be one with my love.


-Titus

I wish I had pictures of us together all through the years, but unfortunately we didn't get our picture taken very much in the beginning. We were starting our family, and the pictures all focus on us with our children, not just us as a couple. It wasn't until our 5th anniversary that I realized this. It was a good lesson to learn early on in our marriage. I think that the evidence was a lack of pictures, but it also depicted our relationship at that time. I would say that around 5 years we were able to place the focus back on the two of us, where it needed to be. You can see the change by the photos we took. They may have been taken at events where our children were the main focus, but we still took that special time to be a couple, a minute or two where we focused on each other. Always make time for each other!

For our 5th wedding anniversary we took our honeymoon we never got. We spent 10 days on a Caribbean cruise, visiting St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and the Bahamas. We decided then that we would always make time for each other, and were going to plan a big trip every 5 years. A cruise was in the plans for this year, however things come up, and we had to purchase a second car for Titus to drive.



Jesus loves me!

Our 8th wedding anniversary Titus took me to New York City to fulfill a dream of mine. I had always wanted to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway!



Enjoying a beautiful snowfall while our kids played on the front lawn.







And today... on our 10th anniversary! We have a special trip planned in Kansas City to stay at the Chateau Avalon, another place I've always wanted to go. It may not be as fancy as a cruise, but it will be just as special because we'll be together!
"'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:7-9

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Loving Memory

It was a very sad weekend at the Johnson house, as we all had to say goodbye to a very dear friend of ours. The coffee table that has been so much a part of our family has been cracked beyond using it. It may sound very funny; however it's been hard for us. We've been surrounding that table for so many years; it's difficult to imagine how we're going to live our lives without it.


It's been with us through many holiday celebrations, birthday parties, family movie nights, game nights, dinners, work, and then just relaxation.

I've seen many feet propped up on this table...



It's held many flower vases from my husband...


It's been used at all our parties...

It's been colored on by all my children...




It's been worked on by my husband for hours and hours...


We've prayed many many prayers around this table, including our prayer journals each morning...



I've shared many meals night after night here... And one of our favorites of all, I can't even count how many pizzas we've shared as a family during our Friday movie nights...



My family has had multiple gatherings around the table...



It's held all my children's birthday gifts each year as they grow older and older...


I've shared many intimate birthday parties around this table...




We've feasted on chocolate several times...



This table has been the center of a romantic evening many times...


And we've played numerous amounts of games at this table...



My list could go on and on. I don't have pictures of everything that has gone on around this coffee table. It's been a very important part of our lives, and it's sad for me to see that it's gone. It leaves a big hole in my living room that I soon hope to fill again.


The thing I keep telling myself is that it's just an object. It's something that can be replaced. It's hard to look at it that way, but it's true. There is probably hundreds of my table that were sold to people all across the state. It seemed special to me because of all the happenings around it, and the people that were there to make it happen.

The table started out flawless, and slowly got some nicks and dings, some water spots on top, and then eventually a small crack came in the glass top. We still used the table even with the crack, but in the end the crack grew large enough that we couldn't ignore it anymore. We had to get rid of it, or one of my children might have been hurt when the glass top would have shattered.

How often do we have relationships with other people that are like my table? They start out flawless and beautiful in the beginning. We only see the good in them, and we haven't yet been exposed to their weaknesses. Over time, nothing can remain perfect, and undamaged. Our relationships can start to develop water spots, or nicks, or even a small crack in the surface. Once that crack appears, it's very hard to ignore it. It's like an ugly blemish just staring you right back in the face.

How often have you had some small crack in your relationship that you ignored and let it grow until it was so ugly you could no longer stand the sight of them? Everything they did caused you pain, or every time you saw them you were reminded of that blemish.

For me, it's so easy to focus on missing my table because it's up close and personal. It's in my home, and I see the empty place every day. But what about our friends that we've allowed to crack and break like that table, do we still miss them? Are we afraid they're going to shatter so we've written them off, never to speak of them or to them again?

The glass top for my table was never really attached to the wood frame. It could be replaced and my family would be able to start using the table again. However, it's too costly for us. We would rather just buy a new coffee table. Isn't it sad that sometimes we treat our friendships with other people just like that? We would much rather just get a new friend than work to fix the problems or the crack in our old friendship.


No crack can be too big for God to fix. Don't allow your small blemishes in your friendships to grow any larger than they already are. You don't want to get to the place where you must face the decision of whether or not it's worth it to keep your friendship.


I know I have relationships that aren't perfect and beautiful anymore, but I want to hold on to them, and talk about what's going on before I decide to just replace them. I want God to restore them back to the beauty that once was there before.

"As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. " Proverbs 27:17