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This past weekend marked two years since Ashley’s death.  Two years seems like a long time, but then it seems like it’s impossible she has been gone for two years.  I’ve talked before about the influence she and her family had on my life, I only wished I had told her while she was still here.  I was sure she knew, but I wish I could tell her in my own words. I am comforted in knowing she is with Our Father, and that she knew His love here on this earth, and now she will never be separated from Him.

This weekend for me was filled with examples of God’s personal and unique love for each of us.  It started on Friday night when we gathered for Women’s Group.  I have stepped down from all formal leadership for a season, and that meant stepping down from the Women’s Ministry of our church.  God has already provided women to rise up and take my place which is SO awesome!  But this Friday, my good friend decided to honor my service by asking the women to share some way that I have impacted their life, or a special memory.  I REALLY dislike being the center of attention and I do not take compliments well, so I of course was dreading it…But I can tell you I was blown away with what was shared, I am completely blown away with what God has done through my years in ministry.  Things I didn’t even know about were shared.  Ways God worked when I didn’t even know I was doing anything other than living life.  A woman I don’t really know even shared a dream and scripture that God gave her, which was amazingly timely.  I was overcome with God’s power and willingness to use us.  I felt very loved by our community but even more loved by our God.  It was something I won’t soon forget and I pray I remember to reach out and verbalize to others how God has used them in my life.

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The weekend culminated with worship this Sunday at church, we sang “O Praise Him” by David Crowder, its words talk about the amazing praise that is happening in heaven as the angels worship the King.  I am always reminded when we sing songs like this, of those I have known that are now praising God
at His feet day and night for all of time to come, it’s hard to imagine what that will be like.  Then as I snuggled with my 5 year old, we sang the song “How He Loves Us” by David Crowder.  As usual with that song I am overcome by God’s love for us.  The power with which He loves, how much He craves us, it overwhelming… especially when we often treat that love like it means next to nothing.  But as I sat there my son’s head buried in my chest rubbing his back, I thought of again how much more than I love my son, does our heavenly Father love us? How He tells us to come to Him ALL who are weary and burdened, I see it as our GREAT GOD calling us to Him saying put your head in my chest, snuggle in and I will wrap you in my love, take away your sorrows, renew your strength.  It really is awesome to think about, I am SO glad God gave me perspective to see this, this weekend.  To see His work in and through me, instead of just doubting the words of others. To look at my son who refuses to go to Sunday school and then proceeds to get squirmy and ask questions all through church, and to see in him a chance to see and experience a small glimpse of the depth of God’s love for EACH one of us. We are all precious to Him, He wants us all to come to Him and receive the love that He offers.  I pray that each of you reading this knows of His great love for you.  It’s life changing!

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Are you busy? Has meal planning fallen behind?  I know it has here!  That’s why I was SO excited to find Busy Girl Meal Plans, you can also find them on Facebook!  If you love to cook, but find that you just don’t have time during the week this plan might be for you.  They focus on easy meals during the week and more gourmet faire on the weekends:-)  When we have more time to get all fancy.

True to form, I use this plan as a starting point, but so far everything I have tried has been a hit with my family, and I have been able to incorporate my haul from the garden into the meals.  I can’t wait for Septembers plan to come out, which will include weekly shopping lists!  I love that I can make real food for my family on the weekdays and still have time to get my work done;-)  I haven’t really been photographing food in our small house, except with my phone.  BUT hopefully soon I will be back with beautiful, worth drooling over food images:-)  In the meantime, hear are a couple from my instagram feed!

These beautiful peppers came from my garden.  Aren’t they beautiful?  I actually made PHILLY CHEESESTEAK CALZONES:-)  We had some extra homemade pizza dough, and that way I didn’t even have to head to the store! They were SO yummy!

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For this I did make the pulled pork sliders, again we had some rolls left over, SO perfect for small sandwiches.  I ate this sans roll with some of my homemade sauerkraut, OH MY yummy!

mealsblog__2So if you have been lamenting dinner lately, or given up and taken the take out route, check this plan out!  It’s free and yummy!  AND sign up soon, as the September plan is ALMOST out;-)  You don’t want to miss a day…haha, though if you know me, I don’t ALWAYS follow this plan, but I LOVE LOVE the starting point for me.  After all, I NEVER make the same meal twice according to my family:-)

 

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The day was here, I had been excited, anxious, and dreading it all at once.  School was starting.  And that means everyone is a YEAR older, AND my BABY was going to go to Kindergarten, 5 days a week.  Every emotion surfaced.  I was anxious for how he would do.  He is our hardest to get to try new classrooms, he is still definitely a mama’s boy.  We went to meet the teacher the day before, and he was fine with holden in there, and he eventually warmed up enough to talk to the teacher.  It was NOTHING like Holden’s meet the teacher.  But, he was SO excited on the days leading up to school, I got caught up in the excitement.  Everybody woke up early, got dressed quickly and had everything packed EARLY.

THIS is the sweetest thing ever…Holden reading to Daniel. He is not always willing to do it, often complaining that reading out loud hurts his throat.  But today he was TOTALLY willing.

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Of course we got the obligatory First Day of School pics, some alone, and some together.  And then we headed off to school.

FirstDayBlog_3FirstDayBlog_2FirstDayBlog_1Daniel shot out of the car, and ran down to the classroom, BUT as soon as he came to the door, he backed away, and dug his feet in.  I tried to talk to him, he was having none of it.  So the teacher pried him off of me, and I left, tears running down my face.  Holden wanted to know why I was sad, so I explained to him how hard it was to leave your child when they were sad even though you knew they would be very happy once they were in the classroom.

Daniel’s class starts at 8:15 and Holden can’t be on campus until 8:30, which means I get at least 15 minutes with my oldest.   I am soaking up the time with him.  We have had some fun conversations already!  When the bell rang we went to his class, and he was a little anxious when he realized that who he thought was his teacher wasn’t in fact his teacher, but true to his nature he went right in and had a GREAT day.

Both boys had fun first days, and although Daniel said he was excited to go the next, he had the same reaction at the door the next day, and the next.  BUT we are now a couple weeks in, and he just told me, “you can just stay in the car, you don’t have to walk me.”  To which of course I said, “No Way!”, but he is happy to kiss me and say goodbye at the classroom door and go right in.

I have already signed up to be in the boys classrooms regularly and I am looking forward to another GREAT year!

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  • August 28, 2014 - 6:47 pm

    Jo little - Omgosh so reminiscent of my girls early years . My Hannah pried from me and me crying all morning . Now a sophomore in HS it passes fast . So glad Daniel is adjusting ❤️ReplyCancel

This year we decided with everything going on, we would do low key family birthdays for the kids:-)  SO for Daniel’s birthday we went bowling!  Beth and Josh and the girls joined us, as well as Tom’s parents.  It was super fun, and the boys LOVE bowling:-)

I can’t believe my baby is FIVE!  It seems like time has flown by since having kids, this year he starts Kindergarten and there will be a whole lot of firsts I am sure!  I am trying to soak it ALL in:-)  He is really an amazing BOY, all BOY, sometimes a little too much frat boy for my liking but we are working on him.  Our main struggle, finding a consequence or distraction that he cares enough about to change the unwanted behavior!  BUT that being said, he is mostly SUPER happy, SUPER animated and full of Love and energy!  We love our little guy:-)  I write a letter to my boys each year on their birthday, I won’t post the whole thing here;-)  But here is an excerpt:

“You are my sweet cuddler, you are always ready to crawl into my arms, or lap and content most days to just sit there.  You have picked up on loving back in the last year and it is heaven.  When you are in my arms you are always trying to show love back by rubbing my back, my arm, or my face.  You have also started tickling back and you love to make people laugh!  You still snuggle with your doggy EVERY night, sometimes in the car, and whenever you are sad or scared.”

This year he was not interested in listening or keeping the letter, maybe next year. I started the tradition with Holden on his 6th birthday, and he keeps and rereads his all the time, maybe Daniel is too young, or maybe he is just a different kid:-)

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After bowling, everyone came back to our house for the required cake, because it is NOT a birthday party without cake and ice cream!  For his birthday cake Daniel requested Chocolate Cake with Chocolate frosting and strawberries on top.  I was SO excited because I had just found a recipe I was dying to try:-)  So Daniel helped me make this cake, I decorated it as a surprise for him;-) I also put strawberries between the layers, it was delicious!

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Happy Birthday my sweet boy!  We love you to the moon and back!

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Here is the end of Daniel’s birthday letter;-)

“Daniel, I want you to know, I love you, I love the boy you are becoming, I love your passion, I love the way you live life.  You love learning, you have come into your own this year, and have really joined in in school and activities.  You definitely have times where you have had enough social time, BUT you are generally a social guy.  YOU love to adventure, to climb, and run.  I am so thankful God blessed our family with you. You are the greatest addition we could have dreamed of.  It is a joy to see your differences from your brother, and the similarities, it shows what a creative and amazing God we have! Daniel, if you continue to ask questions and learn about God, He will lead you and mold you into the amazing person He created you to be!  God is your source of comfort, strength, and armor against anything that scares you.  His word tells us over and over that when God is on your side, you have nothing to fear.  I cannot wait to see what this next year brings! 5 is sure to be a fantastic time in your life!  Let’s adventure it together and go wherever God takes us!  I love you little one!” Love, Mama

Anna

 

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July 4th…the day America celebrates her freedom.  I am so thankful for those who serve our country, and for the freedoms we have, but that isn’t really what this post is about.  I could totally just talk about the pictures below, and paint a perfect, fun-filled day for you.  You would all appreciate it and go on with your days.  But, that wouldn’t be the whole story.  I believe God wants us to share our stories, because it’s then that you can truly see HIS glory, HIS rescue, and the freedom that a life with HIM gives us.
You see, July 4th in our house started like most days, Tom worked, the boys and I had breakfast, I tested out a new lens on my favorite subjects, and then I had work to do.  The boys played well for a bit, but then there was the need for movie time.  And then the lies began to bombard me, and I forgot God’s truth, and I started to believe them.  Believe that I was stealing July 4th from my kids, believe that since we didn’t do parades, and events and, and, and. That somehow we weren’t a family and our kids weren’t getting to be kids.  I believed that because I have been in a rough spot, and have to take supplements everyday, to regulate how my body and mind work that I am sick, and somehow a burden to my family.  I suddenly forgot about vacations we have taken and we will take, I forgot about the days I spend completely devoted to them, the dinners we share, the words we read together, I forgot the things that we do as a family…this all happened before lunch!
I let the enemy in and he attempted to steal my joy and my day.  But thankfully I have a husband, who cares, who listens, and who is faithful in pointing out to me when I am listening to lies.  Telling me to read God’s words to me, and to remember HIS truths.  And as much as I don’t like it at the time, pointing out when the words I am speaking contain ABSOLUTELY NO TRUTH in them.  
I sat on my bed and cried, and prayed.  I wanted to hole up in my room and be by myself in my misery.  But thankfully that whisper, soft and steady from a GOD who loves me too much to let me sit in that place said, “Don’t waste this day, see what I can do.” So I grabbed my camera, and headed with my boys to our neighbors pool.  And slowly it happened…I could feel the freedom within, the freedom to be who I am, who God has made me.  I could feel Him lifting my eyes to see HIS goodness to see the beauty in our life, the blessings I have before me. And I captured that with my lens, with my eyes, with my heart.
So yes today was about freedom, the freedom we enjoy because of the country we were born in or now live.  But for me and my family today was a reminder of a different freedom.  The freedom we have in Christ, the freedom to be exactly where HE has us, to understand that HIS works are MARVELOUS, that we are FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY made. In Christ we are free from our sin, free from this world, and free to live and love, fully as God intends.  I am so thankful for this journey HE has me on, for the doors HE has opened and the ones HE has closed.
I encourage you to remember the words of Jesus in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Now I invite as you look at the pictures below, to see them for what they are…a reminder of God’s love, His promises, His grace and mercy, the freedom found with Him, but most of all His GLORY.
These are the lens testing shots:-)  Did you know you should ALWAYS test the sharpness of your lenses, it’s true, sometimes you get a lemon, and WHAT.A.BUMMER to find it out with a client, or on a super special day!
These show you the differences in the boys personalities, they look a lot a like but they are SOOO different.  Even though Daniel is our more volatile one, he is generally the sweetest kid you will know, sensitive in nature, but can be SUPER grumpy too!
 Holden on the other hand is FULL of personality but generally even tempered agreeable, and calm…until you point the camera at him:-)
Their daddy, strong and steady, lover of a nap:-)
This, this warms my heart…some days it is constant fighting, bickering, and I spend my entire day as referee, and telling them to separate!  BUT then these moments come, and they work side by side, loving, and patient…and I try to imprint these moments on my heart, so I can remember when the days are long.
Water, the elixir of life, the washer of dirt, the symbol we use of cleansing our sins away.  Somedays it washes away the fighting, the depression, and fills up the empty with joy, laughter and fun!
Daniel suddenly remembered he could swim!  Now he is diving for darts, and we can’t get him out of the water, even when his lips are blue!
This kid is a fish! The first one to jump in and the last one to get out.  He swims, dives, jumps, and today he encouraged his brother like I have never seen.  Super positive, helping him place the rings…encouraging him each time, such a sweet moment!
Synchronized jumping:-)
After swimming we had family jumping time on our neighbors trampoline (they were out of town, we had the run of the place…)  I am not sure I have laughed that hard, or acted like such a kid in a LONG time!  It was definitely medicine for my soul, and I am SO grateful for those moments!
Holden asked for fireworks, we realized we have NEVER taken the kids to show, then we looked up the info, and we knew why.  The show doesn’t start until 9:40PM….um…thats 2hrs and 10 minutes past their bedtime!  SO with all the swimming and jumping, we didn’t have dinner until 7:30, and by the time we were done and ready to leave it was 8:45! So we headed downtown, got some frozen yogurt and started to look for a place to view the fireworks…as we drove by the high school we saw a big crowd of people so we figured they must know what they were doing and parked and waited on the bleachers…
For 30 minutes before they started…the longest 30 minutes of our lives!  Holden was simply talking to keep himself awake, I am sure of it as he didn’t even take a breath for the entire 30 minutes, peppering us with questions and observations, I wonder where he gets that???:-)  Daniel on the other hand was just moving constantly so he wouldn’t fall asleep…
When the fireworks started we could hear them but not see them!  Everyone in the bleachers jumped up to find a better view! Luckily it could be seen within just a few steps…it was not the greatest view but the kids didn’t care.  We watched and Holden kept saying, “This is awesome!  Thank you so much for bringing me!” While Daniel kept making exploding sounds with the fireworks, and declared, “I like the lights, but not the boom”:-)
Next year I will take my tripod and hopefully catch some cool shots, this year, this was the most interesting one I caught.
To God be the glory for saving this awesome, fun-filled day of freedom!
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  • August 28, 2014 - 6:50 pm

    Jo little - Loves this post. Sweet memoriesReplyCancel