Monday, February 28, 2011

iheartfaces : Anything But A Face

I just recently found this website iheartfaces, and thought it would be fun to enter some of their weekly photo contests. Each one has a theme, and guidelines to follow.

This week the photo challenge is “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes…Anything But A Face!” It has to have a person in it, but it shouldn't focus on the face.

I took this picture last spring of my kids enjoying each other's company. I love to see them getting along like this!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Risk of Love

The risk of love is that of being unreturned.
For if I love too deep, too hard, too long,
and you love me little, or you love me not at all
then is my treasure given, gone, flown away lonely.

But if you give me back
passion for my passion,
return for my burning,
add your own dark fire to flame my heart
this is love perfect,
hot, round, augmented, whole, endless, infinite,
and is it fear that flies.

-Luci Shaw

"Intimacy is very risky. No doubt about it. If I reach out to a woman to whom I am drawn, she may reject me. If I tell a woman that I love her, that I cherish her as a friend she may respond a little (or not at all). If I open my soul to another, trusting her with my dark side of failure, she may draw back in shocked silence (or she may tell others). Risky. Risky. Risky."

This is the opening of the chapter in a book study I'm doing with a couple of my close girl friends. It's titled, The Friendships of Women by Dee Brestin.

As I was reading the chapter today I found those words to be very profound. Friendships can be one of the most troubling and risky things you have to deal with, but also one of the most beneficial relationships that you can experience.

I find myself on a pendulum swing going back and forth, thinking it's worth the risk, and then on other days it's just not.

Today was one of those times that I wish I would have stepped out and run the risk. At times I find myself really drawn to a certain person but because of my own insecurities, I don't reach out. I may have saved myself from the danger today; however I cheated myself from the possible benefit for tomorrow.

I'm going to keep this very short and simple today. Friendship is such a vital thing in our lives that we can't be timid and afraid of what the other person might think. We must reach out for others and pray that they will reach back. If they don't reach back, don't be discouraged. There is so many circumstances that we aren't even aware of that may be the reason for them holding back.

Risk it all. Love your friends. Don't hold back yourself because of fear. Friendship is worth a little bit of pain sometimes in order to have that gratification that comes when someone returns your love.

Friday, February 25, 2011

CrAzY Hair DaY

Every year for one day the kids get to leave for school with their CrAZieST hair possible. This is the first year Ariel was brave enough to do it. We've done some silly hairstyles in the past, but always as we pulled into the drop off lane at school, Ariel would hurriedly take it all apart. She just wasn't confident enough to walk into school looking super silly.

Today there was no going back! We used some pink hair spray that will not come out at a moment's notice.

We originally were going to try the look of Cindy Lou Who from "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," but as Ariel just cut off all her long locks, there wasn't enough hair to work with. This was our best shot at something funny and crazy done in 3 minutes! It wasn't until we were about to walk out the door that she remembered the significance of the day. Ariel would have been extremely upset if she completely forgot; I'm so thankful that didn't happen.

I always enjoy being a mom, and this was one of those days that I found it supremely gratifying. We've been talking about this for several months, so I hope it was all that Ariel expected it to be!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Through the Lens

I always enjoy reminiscing, and thought it would be fun to have a look from the view of a camera lens as my family has grown and changed over the years.

There aren't as many pictures from our earliest years together as digital cameras didn't gain popularity until Gabriel was a year old. I had to find pictures the old fashioned way and actually scan them in to the computer. It was very amusing and bittersweet to remember the kids when they were babies. That's not to say that I'm not enjoying the stage of life we are at right now, I just miss seeing those baby faces, and hearing their sweet voices.

March 17th, 2001
Almost 10 years ago...

Our first sweet little addition to the family was our beautiful, blonde hair, blue eyed, Ariel.

You probably can't tell, but in this picture we were almost a family of four. I was due to have our precious Gabriel in 3 months.

This was our first family of four photo taken right before Gabriel's first birthday.
I love these pictures as you can see some of the personality coming out. It's also particularly special to me as we are sitting on the front steps of our first house together. We really became a family there...

An Easter photo...

Our very first FAMILY photo! The others are fun to look at, but they just feel like someone special is missing... our handsome Zechariah!

I think it must have been a big adjustment having three children because these are taken an entire year apart.

Having fun with each other!

This was such a special time as we spent the weekend at a cabin in the woods.

Our first Graduation Luau!

I haven't included past photos, but every year we wear matching shirts for the 4th of July and pose together for a family picture. I made the tie-dye shirts the year before which is why Zech doesn't match. He outgrew his tiny baby onesie.

Another family photo to send out in the Christmas cards...

Just for fun...

This is actually our first "family" picture taken in front of our new house... only 5 years after we bought it.

2nd Graduation Luau

I love this! It was raining on the 4th, but that didn't stop us from taking our family picture!

Every 4th of July we bake a strawberry jello cake and take a group picture with it.

Titus is the "man in the yellow hat" here, and yes, those balloons are tied to my pants.

Another year gone by... my kids are growing up so quickly.

I had to include this one. Our latest family picture with Mario and Luigi!

"You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them." ~Desmond Tutu

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In My Darkest Hour

It's been a long week for me, full of ups and downs. I had planned on writing an exciting post about how awesome my new car is, and how much God provided for me. Everything was supposed to be perfect, and today was the day I planned to share it with everyone. God always knows what's really going to happen. He has different plans than I have for myself, and He's always giving me opportunities to grow and change for the better.

I've been working a lot on trusting God. It's so easy to know that He has a plan for me, and it's going to be perfect. But what happens when His plan isn't what I had in mind? Can I still trust Him? Do I even want to trust Him?
On Saturday, I spent the entire day driving. We dropped the boys off at my brother's house early in the morning, and started on a trip headed for Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was beautiful weather; the sun was shining, and you could just feel your skin soaking up the rays. I loved it!

We got about half-way to Tulsa, and my car started to act funny. The trip takes four and a half hours of driving along the US-75. This is a undivided highway, so at times the going can get rather slow and tedious. You also have to be prepared to stop in several small towns, and follow their posted speed limits.

During one of our stops, the car started to sputter and die. This is not a comforting thing to have happen when you're on a long road trip, driving your only car, and you have a deadline you must make. The car was able to pick back up and go, but seemed to suffer along the way. We drove it like this for another 30 minutes before we died completely in a parking spot outside a Dairy Queen just north of the Kansas border.

I did some serious praying as Ariel and I took a bathroom break, and Titus tried to work some magic under the hood of our car. We knew the spark plugs needed to be replaced, but there was just no time to get that done right then and there.

As I got back out to the car with Ariel, it still wouldn't start back up. I thought we were going to be in big trouble, but another turn of the key and the ignition started. I prayed the whole way out of Dairy Queen's parking lot, and as we made it back to the main street, the car started working smoothly again.

Here's what we think happened. Before leaving on our trip, we made sure to have the oil changed in our car. For several years now our battery cables have been stripped, so they occasionally can get bumped or loosened. When they changed the oil they must have moved the cable a little. When Titus popped the hood, he jostled it around again, and the battery was secured. Our problem was solved. We didn't have any more car trouble for the rest of the trip.

We did however hit another slight bump in the plans, as we got lost at the Kansas/Oklahoma border, and missed our turn to stay on the US-75 South. It wasn't until we'd been driving for 20 or 30 minutes that I questioned our location and we were able to turn around. That put us further behind schedule.

At 4:30pm, 30 minutes before closing time we pulled into the dealership. We knew the car was for us. Our spirits were high, and it didn't seem like anything would bring them down.

The long drive ahead of us seemed overwhelming, but we were ready to get on the road right away and head home. I'm very thankful that when we were leaving Tulsa, it was still light outside, and everything was visible. I am not fond of driving at nighttime, but sometimes you don't have a choice.

As we made our way through Tulsa, and the next few cities, the darkness was falling, and we were forced to make our way down the undivided highway once again. At the beginning, my anxiety level was so high, and I had to pray constantly just to keep myself calm. I do not enjoy driving in the dark during normal circumstances. I especially didn't enjoy doing it when you can't see 10 feet in front of you.

It was then that God spoke. He showed me a picture, and as I went along He kept revealing more to me. The road is like our life. The darkness that surrounded me is the unknown that is constant. I can shrivel up into my shell, hugging my knees to my chest, scared of the darkness, wondering where God is. Or I can follow the road. There are many times that we have to blindly follow God, when we can't see anything around us except for those few feet right in front of our face. He doesn't always reveal what His plan is, or where the road is going to take a curve, but if we're willing to trust Him, and take it one step at a time, He will get us there.

Often times we take our eyes off of the ground right in front of us, the circumstances that are today, and we look ahead where we think we're going to be, and the fear can come back. We stop focusing on this day, this step, and we start worrying ahead to the future. If you focus too much on the road in the distance you might get off the path that's for right now. This can cause an accident or disaster in your life.

I believe the scariest time is when another car appears to be coming right at you. Their headlights can be blinding, and you can't see your path anymore. All you can see is their light and the trouble it's causing you. It brings you terror. The only way to get through that is to hold on tightly to the steering wheel and believe that the road is before you. You have to step out in faith, and know that you're going to be stepping onto solid ground. God never promised that you wouldn't have obstacles to overcome. He promised us, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

God will show you how much you need to see to get by. The part that I found most comforting was when I had another car to follow. I believe that God sends us people or He speaks words in our lives for the exact moment we need it. There are times when you can be overwhelmed and want to just give up, but then just over the hill, or the curve in the road, He lights the way. He shows you that you aren't alone out there, and there is something to hold onto.

After you've gone several miles down the road, you'll reach a small town that is completely lit up with street lights. It's then that you can catch a glimpse, a bigger picture of what God has in store for you. When you're afraid, and don't feel like you can follow the darkened road any longer, just believe and know that there is something larger and brighter out there. There's a plan for your life, a town at the end of the road completely lit up. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'" Jeremiah 29:11

As God was speaking all this to me, I was certain I knew exactly why He was showing me it. We had been through a lot in the past several months with our car. There had been many ups and downs, but I believed we were in the town completely lit up with streetlights. I thought we were catching a glimpse of what His plan was.

We have been having some trouble with our new car. It isn't shifting gears smoothly, and I'm afraid the transmission might be going out on it. That's not something you want to be dealing with on a car you just bought less than a week earlier. I don't know what the future holds, but I know that I'm going to trust God to take care of it.

I think He was showing me all this so that I would hold on, and keep taking those steps forward, one foot in front of the other. When He spoke this to me, it was as if I had just come up behind another car, helping to light my way again. I may be afraid of what may or may not happen in the future, but God has guaranteed my next step. And even when the headlights are blinding me, and I can't see the road. I'm going to step out in faith. God is going to guide me to that next city lit up with all the streetlights.
The lyrics to the song, "Believe" by Mainstay are very powerful, and have been running through my mind all day long. When all around me starts to fall and when my faith it seems so small, Even in my darkest hour, I will believe.

I don’t know if I still have the strength to get up again
I don’t know if I can face my own reflection
Jesus, take this heart that feels so cold again and make it new
I hold this hope inside that you’ll never leave me
When all around me starts to fall and when my faith it seems so small
Even in my darkest hour, I will believe
I don’t know how I could turn my back and walk away
All I really want is for your love to hold me
Jesus, take this heart and make it whole again
I know you’ll never leave me

When all around me starts to fall and when my faith it seems so small
Even in my darkest hour, I will believe
Even if the sun begins to fall, even when I feel nothing at all
Even if I’m all alone, I will believe
Even in my darkest hour, I will believe.

Liberty Truck Sales Mounds Oklahoma
The Rest of the Story:
Tear Down These Walls
The Light In Me
The End

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Part of the Family

It's so hard to believe it, but this past Sunday we celebrated Valentine's 4th birthday. I can remember the day we took her home from the pet store like it was just yesterday. She was the second parakeet to join our family. The first one was very distressed at leaving the pet store, and I believe had a girlfriend who he had left behind. Valentine was a perfect fit for our family. She was young and full of life. We knew she would make Ariel a very happy little girl.

Every year as we celebrate the birth of our bird, Ariel puts together a very special party. It always includes a cake, some presents or cards, and a few fun party games. Shortly after Valentine joined our family, my father desired his own bird. Otto was another great addition to our clan, and has been at all of Valentine's birthday parties. We like to watch the two birds as they seem to have a love/hate relationship. Otto is a very sweet bird who will never bite you, while Valentine is a feisty aggressive female bird.

To start off the party games, we played our traditional "Pin the Beak on Valentine." It's always a favorite with my kids, and brought several laughs as people tried to blindly find the perfect spot to place their beak.

I happened to win this game, and got my beak just under Valentine's eyes!

My prize for the game was my very own paper beak. I'm showing it off in the picture below.

Another traditional game for one of Valentine's birthday parties is "Otto, Otto, Valentine". It's played in the same way you would "Duck, Duck, Goose."

We were all smashed together in a small circle in my living room. It made the game quite interesting as you hardly had any room to get up and move around. Zech especially enjoyed the game this year, and would stop to let you tag him so he could be "it" again.

We always make a cake to celebrate the birthday with, and this time Valentine was much more interested in her partner than blowing out the candles. She has in years past actually blown it out with the flick of her tail.

Ariel and her friend Kasey made this brownie cake ALL by themselves. They even baked it, tested it, and decided how much time it needed until it was cooked. I think they enjoyed sampling the batter the most. They attempted to write Happy Birthday with the sprinkles but it was proving too difficult to see, so they just threw a handful on top of the cake. I think they did a wonderful job, and it tasted delicious also!

We made these really fun chocolate nests yesterday and thought the birds might be interested in using them. No such luck! We all weren't too disappointed because the nests were a very tasty snack. We first used some peanut butter to get the chow mein noodles to stick together, then we drizzled chocolate and let them sit long enough to harden. Top those with some mini marshmallows and you have yourself a very delightful snack.

We made the joke here that Valentine was purchasing her first home, and which one would she choose? After a little bit of debate, she ended up just flying back to her cage.
I believe Valentine had a very pleasant birthday. I wonder if she feels like she's getting older or if she feels she is still just a young bird. The lifespan can vary quite a bit for a parakeet so it's hard to know how she would be feeling.

Happy Birthday, Valentine!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Call me Sentimental

Today I felt the need to clean up house a little. Zech had been sick all day, so there was no going out to enjoy the beautiful weather. I am a very sentimental person, and I have great difficulty throwing things away. Even the smallest scrap of paper could turn into a priceless memento to me. Sometimes I will go out of my way to find something to remember a day by, and other times the things will find me.

The positive part of my saving treasures, I am an organized individual. There is a rhyme and reason to my keepsake madness. I spend a great deal of time putting together boxes of items, folders full of cards, Ziplocs stuffed full of things, anything that can bring order to my beautiful chaos.

About once every year I go through my main keepsake box, and I throw away items that maybe lost their special meaning, or I might have forgotten what it is even from. Today was the special day that I got to take a quick walk down memory lane, and I thought it would be fun to share some of my nonsensical items, and some of my treasures.

I have lots of envelopes in my box, full of different random items. This one holds all my play programs that I've been to over the years. "Hairspray" was just recently added to it, as I had a girl's night out last night with some of my closest friends.

My journal that I kept during high school... you might find some interesting things in this book. My husband and I at one time read through it together and had to laugh a little at the amount of times I fell in love and quickly back out of it.

My husband's ID card from his senior year of high school. Now how could I possibly part with this?
And the shirt from high school that always brought out the blue color of his eyes. I'm certain it was when he was wearing this shirt that I fell in love with him. I have many other items of clothing from my husband and children that are saved in a big box in the basement. Someday I plan on sewing them into squares to make a family quilt.

A couple years ago we put on a BIG surprise party for my brother for his 30th birthday. It was called, "A Night at the Oscars." We handed out these flowers to all the girls, and used this as a prop for photos that night.

This brings back good memories for me with my children. This past summer we all worked together to figure out the clues of the Topeka Treasure Hunt. I can't wait until this summer when we get to hunt again.

An obsession from my high school years... The Little Mermaid. I don't know what it was that drew me to that movie, but I loved it. I actually sat down and wrote out the entire movie script, which is pictured below. This was before subtitles and DVD's. I had to make my script the old fashioned way with a VCR. I would pause it, write down a few words, press play and listen for the next line. It took me weeks, but wow, what an accomplishment, huh? hahaha... I will admit here, a little on the crazy side.

My first car I bought, I thought personalized license plates were an absolute necessity. As you can see, I kept the license plate for several years too. I eventually got my own Little Mermaid, my daughter Ariel, and soon forgot about my obsession. When I talk about my Ariel, I don't even think about the Disney character anymore and often forget that her name is the same.

I had a couple short term jobs before I started work at Kinko's, but I really consider working there to be my first job. I loved it! If I ever needed a part time job, I would consider going back there. I found the copying, organizing, and overall paper work to be heavenly.

This one might surprise you, but I used to collect soap from all the hotels I would visit. When I was younger my dad would go away on business trips, and he would always bring back the bar of soap from his hotel room, or the shampoo or the lotion for me. It made me feel so special, and I had a hard time the year I decided it was time to throw out the collection. I only saved these two soaps. The other one is from a business trip my husband took. He wanted to continue the tradition for me.

When I was little I would save pencils! I had a HUGE pencil collection, and would never sharpen them. These three pencils are the only ones I saved, and each one came from someone special.

I know this picture looks much worn, but it was in my husband's wallet for many many years. This is my senior picture, taken the summer before we started dating. He held onto for a very long time before it got moved to the keepsake box.

Probably not many people know that there is a hand written Bible out there, and I was privileged to go with a friend and write a verse for this Bible. It would have been really cool to have written a Psalm or Proverb verse. But when they were here in Topeka it was Deuteronomy chapter 32 that we were all writing. Here is my contribution: “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession." Deuteronomy 32:49

I'm sure someday I may have to stop collecting, but I have every birthday card that I've been given all my life. I have cards from when I was very very little, to just last week. I used to have a special Christmas book full of cards, but it was one of those things I had to let go of. Sometimes I can't keep up with all the projects that I want to do. So now if I'm given a special Christmas card, it gets added to the birthday box.

Here's an example of why those cards are so special... The details that were put into just for me, I have to save. I believe for this birthday, my mom and me went to the Legends Mall in Kansas City and ate dinner together at one of the restaurants there.

My husband's high school planner... it has some very special notes in it just for me!

This is my husband's Christmas folder. The kids also have their own Christmas folders too. They are filled with letters from my mom. Each year, for many years now long before my kids were even born, my mom has been writing us Christmas letters. She will roll them up, tie them with a ribbon, and place them inside the Christmas tree. When all the presents are finished unwrapping, we open our Christmas letters. She will usually write about what we've done together throughout the year, and the spiritual and physical growth that we've had. It's really neat to have all those letters together in a book to read through.

My hat box full of my Christmas letters from my mom.

I save so many different invitations. I have an envelope of graduation invitations, of wedding invitations and programs, baby shower invitations. I don't want to forget anything.

I like to save all my concert tickets and movie stubs. I have stubs saved from plays and church productions. They also all get their own place in my box.

Something kinda interesting, I have several school project folders that I have saved. Some of these reports are from 3rd and 4th grade. What a neat thing to have to show my children. They can see my writing skills and how they compare to their own.

When I was 11 years old, I was crowned a Missionette Honor Star. It was a big accomplishment for myself at the time, and I have a box just for the occasion.

I rather like this collection, my key chains. I never used them, but they represent so many fun times in my life. The wooden carving of Amanda, I bought with my own money when I flew to NY to visit my Oma & Opa when I was 8 years old. In high school, I was also obsessed with lime green Volkswagen beetles. I even went to a car dealer to have my photo taken with the car. The shamrock was given out at our wedding as we were married on St. Patrick's Day. The whale is from a family vacation to Sea World. The potato head I had a t-shirt that I loved to wear during high school. "The Perfect Man: He's Tan, He's Cute. And if he looks at another girl you can rearrange his face". All my life I've loved to take photos, so the camera key chain is a favorite too!

Going way back to elementary school, I saved a lot of my name tags for my desk. These are from 1st and 2nd grade!

Valentines ... I've saved them over the years from all my friends and family members. Each of my children also has their own valentine collections started.

This box is one of my most special keepsakes. It holds all the birthday cards, Mother's day cards, Father's Day cards, Anniversary cards, and Christmas cards between me and my husband. It's starting to get to the point that the lid doesn't close very well. It always makes me cry when I read through the love notes that are saved between me and my husband. They are good memories!

My last thing I thought was fun to share; these are paper wedding bells from my wedding. They were used as decoration, and I've saved this one set of bells. Maybe someday they can hang in a special place at my children's weddings.

It may seem like a bunch of random mismatched items, but all together they represent me and my life. I think it's fun to reminisce every once in awhile, and to be reminded of the love you have given and have been given. God truly has blessed me so much!