What Happens When You Look Beyond the Camera

Let’s talk about Vlogs. I kind of dig them. I’m way more interested in them than I should be. I’m fascinated by other people’s lives. I have a similar affinity for reality TV. The more candid someone is in front of the camera, the better, and talking to the camera like there’s a real person on the other end, even better.

But here’s why I watch them with a guilty feeling. They are a monologue, not a conversation.

We are living in a time when it’s easier to talk to a camera than to another human being. But it’s not just Vlogs. There are so many ways people can express their honest opinions without having an actual human being in front of them. Blogging, for one. I can write a monologue without ever considering the thoughts and ideas of my audience. I can say anything I want to the internet with very few ramifications for me. I can comment, post, share photos with no real dialogue with another human. So yeah, I’m guilty of that.

This blogging and social media world has made me a bit of a self-centered person (yes, I’m blaming my selfishness on the internet). I feel a little more validated every time I get a like or comment on social media. I compose clever captions in my mind every time I take a picture. I feel like I haven’t really experienced something until the world hears about it on the world wide web.

I was born right on the cusp of the Millennial generation, and I like to think I avoided the characteristic ascribed to this generation (sorry, millennials). But to be honest, I get sucked into the “me-centered” way of thinking. This feeling that the world revolves around me and the image of myself that I create. And if there’s someone I don’t like in my internet social circles, I can block them and pretend they don’t exist. Neat and tidy!

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But the truth is, real relationships are messy. It takes work to look beyond ourselves and truly see others. It takes tact and winsomeness (two things I lack) to express ourselves in a loving way. It takes patience to really listen.

It’s hard to be a good listener. Empathy is in short supply these days and it’s so much easier to scroll a news feed than to really listen to someone’s story. Think how much easier it is for us to sit in our proverbial ivory towers and judge someone because of what they’re posting than to actually reach out to them or pray for them.

What would it take for us to look up and really see the people in front of us? Honestly, it might cost some heartache, mistakes, and misunderstandings. Real people are complicated and relationships can be difficult. We might have to forgive and be forgiven in return.

But what do we stand to gain? Meaningful conversations that open our eyes to another way of thinking. Deeper friendships that challenge and encourage us. A truer love than any like button can offer.

And maybe you don’t gain anything by a particular relationship, but that’s not what God calls us to. Sometimes we can be the blessing to others with little recognition or appreciation (that one’s particularly hard for me). Philippians 2:3-4 really packs a punch: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Ouch! 

But it doesn’t end there; it immediately points to Christ. To the ultimate one who gave up everything so he could have a relationship with us. Because of what Jesus did, we can be reconciled to God and in the same way to each other.

What a picture of redemption we can be to a lost world. In a world that’s out to get what it can out of relationships, to be a small picture of Christ can be a powerful thing.

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I issued a bit of challenge in the post Finding Rest in a Hectic World to encourage us to put down our technology for one day a week. I’ve revised that in my own life to look like staying off social media for a that one day (I know, what a sacrifice). Who wants to pick up that challenge with me? How about instead of virtual communication on that day, we have coffee with someone, pick up the phone and call a friend, or spend some time really talking to our families.

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words -Little House in Appalachia

A year ago this month, I was just starting to consider doing art as more than just a hobby. I had always loved painting and drawing and I had little projects I would work on during summer breaks and snow days off from school. But I never really felt secure enough in what I did to paint for anyone besides my mom. Enter my sister-in-law, Amanda. Last winter, she commissioned (her word, not mine) me to paint a piece for her mom. 

Amanda’s mom had grown up visiting her grandma’s home in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. She had fond memories of the homestead, the hills, and the winding country roads of her childhood. But her grandmother had since passed away and the house now stands empty. It’s become dilapidated, a shell of what it once was. 

Here’s the snapshot my brother sent me to base the painting off of. 

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Even though the house is run down and not in its former glory, the beauty of art is that you can restore it without doing an actual renovation. I wanted to do that for Amanda’s mom. 

As I painted, I thought of the stories that are a part of that picture. What makes something significant is not the place itself, but the memories that are part of the place. I pictured her mom as a girl running in and out of the front door, lounging on the porch, exploring in the yard. I imagined the love she had for her grandma. I saw the house as it once looked. 

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Many of the things we preserve are just memories. But sometimes we have ways of preserving those memories in physical form. 

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I discovered that there is great joy in taking something simple and maybe even a little ugly and returning it back to the beauty that it once had. I love that this piece is more than just a picture, it holds the remembrances of former joys. 

When I heard that Amanda’s mom cried when she opened it, it makes it that much more special. I’m grateful to be a little part of this story.

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How Did You Start the New Year?

Hey, Y’all! I’m back after a month of relaxing, socializing, consuming way more chocolate than necessary, a combined 40 hours of traveling, and one failed attempt at creating a new blog (that involved me completely deleting my website at one point).

We’re already two weeks into 2017. How are you all doing on your resolutions? Any words of the year that are ringing true for you?

To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of resolutions. Back when I used to work at a gym, I realized they are great platforms for witnessing the failure of the New Year’s Resolution. Every January, the gyms are full of ambitious resolvers wanting to get fit. Come March, the classes are back to their usual loyal following.

Maybe it’s not health and fitness you’re trying to attain. Sometimes it’s having more consistent devotional times, or it could be big things like trips or business plans.

It’s just always seemed silly to me to wait until January 1st (which has few characteristic distinguishing it from other days) to make a change in your life. I mean, September 1st is as good a day as any to start working toward a goal. Or why not start now, of all times, two weeks after everyone else?

But this year, somehow it’s been different. Maybe because 2016 was such a reportedly bad year and people are ready to start a new one. For me, it’s been a marked time to evaluate my life and work, and be more intentional about facing this year with specific goals and priorities in mind.

There’s just something so fresh about knowing there’s a vast expanse of time ahead of you and there’s nothing like the start of a new year to remind you of that. It’s a perfect time to reevaluate how you spend your time and what you want to work toward.

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I love the poignant scene in Anne of Green Gables where Miss Stacey and Anne are walking along the lane talking about past mistakes. Anne says, “tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.” I love that idea. I mess up a lot. I like to think that tomorrow I’m going to be better and never make the same mistakes twice. But I also love how Miss Stacey responds, “no mistakes in it yet.” The reality is, we will make mistakes again. Sometimes the same ones over and over. We will fail at our resolutions and we never know what tomorrow will hold, for better or worse.

I don’t know about you, but I’m already failing at my goals for the new year (that could be because I resolved to be better at and do more of ALL. the. things.). The start of the year has already become somewhat of a to-do list of ways to be more successful. And we’re bombarded with this message on all sides. The world tells us this is our chance to improve ourselves. If we just do XYZ, we can be the person we always wanted to become.

I’ve got to be honest, I listened to those voices, and I didn’t consider God’s plan for me when I was creating my checklists and dreaming my dreams. But if this day is His, how much more is this year?

We don’t know what this year will bring. But we do know whose we are. Our failures and successes have no power to define us. Take a second look at what you wanted out of this year and ask yourself how much of it aligns with what God is saying through His word in your life. And then relax. Trust Him to work it all for His good.

How about we give this year and all our goals and resolutions (and failures) to God and trust Him to make of them what He will in His perfect way.

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10 Free or Inexpensive Ways to Date Your Spouse

If you know anything about the five love languages, you know about quality time. It’s my thing when it comes to relationships. Any kind of individual focused time I can spend with my honey gives me all the feels; but, I admit, it’s easy to slip into mundane routines and let the real quality time pass us by. Sometimes you just have to turn off the Netflix, put on a little lipstick and head out on a real date.

While a fancy dinner, trip to the movies, or going to see a show are great, we’ve been trying to be more thrifty about how we spend money, especially on entertainment. It takes a little creativity (we definitely got in an eating-out habit), but if you think outside the box just a bit, there are some great inexpensive date ideas out there.

I realize these are not mind-blowing earth-shattering ideas, but this is a great go-to list for those times you’re wanting to spend some quality time together without breaking the bank.

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Free Local events

It might take a little digging, but look for those random free activities hosted by local attractions. Already this year we’ve seen Shakespeare in the Park, visited the museum, and gone to a local historic village all for free. And that doesn’t include the free concerts at the library, Open houses, historical landmarks and year-round free museums that are in our area. And we live in a small town. Jump at the opportunities when they come up and you won’t regret it.

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Explore Downtown

We have a sweet little downtown with coffee shops, bookstores, and western gift shops. Most cities have a historic downtown area whether you live in a big city or a small town in the middle of nowhere. Try a new coffee shop every time you go or take turns picking which stores to browse.

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Play a Sport or Ride Bikes

Owen has been slowly teaching me to play tennis since before we got married (I say slowly because I’m a slow learner, not because he’s a slow teacher). It’s nice to go out after dinner in the summer and hit a few balls around the court. We also have some great mountain bike trails around town that I am mustering the courage and energy to ride.

Take a Hike

It’s no secret that we like to hike. Sometimes it just takes that extra push to get up off the couch and find a new trail, or blaze your own. Maybe you just go out to a park and walk the sidewalks. Either way, it’s a great chance to get out, talk, and see something new.

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This concludes the exercise portion of the date ideas. Now onto the food-related ideas!

McDonald’s Ice Cream Dates

That’s right, I said it. If you’re not a regular fast-food junkie, getting a sweet treat at McDonald’s or Dairy Queen can be surprisingly special. Especially if you love ice cream as much as I do. We live within walking distance of DQ so it makes for a lovely evening of walking through the neighborhoods with some ice cream. We’ve also been known to grab a cone from McDonalds and walk around the local Kmart looking for deals (we’re real party animals).

Pizza and a Movie

We’re now deep into the food portion of dates. We take advantage of the Domino’s $7.99 offer more than I care to admit (in fact, I asked for a Domino’s gift card for Christmas; is that weird?). Sometimes it’s nice to plunk down on the couch, devour a pizza and watch a movie. And Netflix doesn’t have to be just for reruns of favorite TV shows; every once in awhile, you can find some great unexpected movies to watch together.

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Fondue Date Night 

Do you sense a theme here? Junk food may also be my love language, but I try to indulge only on the rare occasion so it makes it that much more special. Fondue is our special Valentine’s day tradition, but it’s great any time of the year. Search the cupboards for things to dip, and indulge.

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Dessert Date

I know this is not life-changing, but if you don’t have the time or money for a full dinner with appetizers and the works, head out after dinner and grab an extra indulgent dessert from a new restaurant.

Make Something Together

I have to admit, this is not something we do very often, but we definitely need to add this to our repertoire. Everyone has their level of creativity, so find something you can make together, whether it’s a new recipe, a craft, or a home improvement project.

Game night

As a self-professed non-game player, I almost never allow this to happen, but we will occasionally pull out a deck of cards or a board game (preferably Junior trivial pursuit to which I will not keep score) on an evening. If you’re really creative, you could create your own Minute to Win It type game and work together or challenge each other to see who comes out on top.

 

See any new ideas on the list you want to add to your date night list? Do you have any free and inexpensive date ideas to add? I’d love it if you shared in the comments; I’m always trying to think of new things we can do to spend some quality time together.

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How to Focus on What Really Matters This Christmas

When I was a teenager, Christmas for me started in October. I wrote lists of ideas for handmade gifts to make for each of my 4 siblings and my parents. I started hand-making little toy trains, doll clothes, and artwork to give as Christmas presents. I created detailed advent calendars, and one year I even made a clay version of the 12 Days of Christmas. I listened to Handel’s Messiah for hours as I painstakingly made gifts. I decorated my room and baked Christmas treats. It was a magical time filled with all the nostalgia you would expect from such a momentous holiday.

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My childhood Advent calendars

And then, one year, it wasn’t.

Suddenly the magic disappeared. I stopped having time, or money, or creative ideas. My siblings were older and I couldn’t make things they appreciated anymore. I remember going to the mall to buy gifts one year, a few weeks before Christmas, and coming home empty-handed and completely frazzled. All the warm fuzzies of the holidays were gone.

I don’t know if this happens to most people: That transition from childhood wonderment at the holidays to seeing it as an obligation to keep the moments merry and bright. Maybe it’s just me.

I actually started to really dislike Christmas. I felt guilty for spending money on things that nobody really needed. I started to feel like it was a consumer holiday thinly veiled in “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. I hated Santa who represents an imaginary greed-satisfier. I know, I’m a real Scrooge.

And I’m not sure I’ve ever fully recovered. Admittedly, I love Christmas decorations, sparkly lights, caramel popcorn and homemade fudge, and select Christmas songs. But I have a hard time really associating those things with what Christmas is actually about. There’s something greater at stake here. It starts with a baby in a manger and ends with a man on a cross.

The God of the universe manifesting himself in human form to be one of us. The world groaned with longing for a Savior, not just from the oppressive Romans but from their own sin. Jesus. Come to earth to “live the life we should have lived and die the death we should have died” (to quote Tim Keller).

And the world still aches for the fulfillment of the promise. That one day all things will be made right. We live in a continuing advent. A waiting.

“We live between two mighty events — that of His incarnation,
death, and resurrection, and that of His ultimate appearing and
the glorification of those He died to save.  This is the interim time
for the saints — but it is not a vacuum.  He has given us much to
do, and He asks for our faithfulness.” – A.W. Tozer

This Christmas, instead of worrying about having all the outward Christmas traditions, let the expectations go and take time to meditate more on what Christmas is really about. It’s not about giving the perfect gifts, making the best meals, spending hours on the most extravagant decorations, or any of the family activities. It’s about the continuation of a story that started in Genesis and ends with Jesus coming again. Christmas will never be enough because it points to the cross and the advent of Jesus’ final entrance into the world. When all the cookies are eaten, the Christmas tree dies, the new toys are forgotten, The best gift will still be there. Jesus.

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I’m about 10 days late, but I made one last Advent calendar to share with you guys. Go to the Free Printable link on the menu and get immediate access to my free printables. Print the two pages on cardstock, cut around three sides of each door with an exacto knife, glue around the doors and edges and put the two pages together. Count the days to Jesus birthday by opening each corresponding door.

 

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It’s Never too Late to Learn Something New

I have a really hard time learning new things. I don’t mean like learning new information because that’s fascinating to me; I mean learning new skills. I hit a point in my life where I figured I had mastered every skill I would be good at and it wasn’t worth putting in the work to learn something new that I might not like. In the same way, I’m not particularly interested in pushing myself to do something that might put me in the position of being uncomfortable. I know, I’m a real gem!

Oh how I admire the people who pick up snowboarding one day and scuba diving the next; who make their own Kombucha, and DIY their own kitchens. Nope! I’ll leave that to the Shaun Whites and Martha Stewarts of the world.

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And yet, here I am…

A year ago this last weekend, I strolled through a Christmas craft fair with my sister-in-law. I would never have guessed that within a year I would be on the opposite side the table at a craft fair. I am anything but a salesman by nature and it made me almost sick to think about putting my handmade product out there for the world to potentially reject. But this has been a huge year of growth for me in so many ways. I’ve discovered so much about myself, not the least of which is that I actually enjoy creating and selling my artwork.

Since I opened my Etsy shop and started blogging back in February, I have learned so much. There was so much more of a learning curve than I would have predicted and I’ve hit more roadblocks than I’d like to admit, but when I think about what I knew at the beginning, I’ve come a long way.

I don’t say all this to brag, because I’m miles from where I would like to be, but I say it to encourage anyone out there who is holding back. Anyone who might be ruminating about a hidden skill or talent. Standing on the edge of taking the leap to try something new.

Don’t be afraid to jump! And when you do, hold on tight because it might be a wild ride.

Be patient, because it might take longer than you thought.

Be adventurous, because you never know where it might take you.

Put yourself out there and work hard. And don’t be afraid of failure.

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Sometimes you have to try something new in order to get you to a place you never would have expected. Sometimes it’s not even about the end goal, but about the small steps you take. Don’t get me wrong, goals are important, but celebrate the little victories along the way. And even if you fail in the endeavor, enjoy the process, learn some life lessons, and get back up and try something else.

 

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Share the Love – 5 Reasons to Shop Handmade This Holiday Season

By now, you might have already returned from your big Black Friday adventure, maybe you’re perusing the internet for deals, maybe you’re putting up the Christmas tree and listening to Christmas music (which is acceptable in my book since we’ve now given Thanksgiving it’s proper due; bring on Christmas, I say!). And while something doesn’t rub me quite the right way about rushing into shopping right after a day of being Thankful, I have to admit, this is the time to buy those Christmas gifts and goodies with all the sales and special offers out there. This weekend is jam-packed with big shopping events.

You might not have known this, but Saturday is Small Business Saturday, a chance to support local, handmade, and small businesses.  As I’ve gotten connected with other crafters, artists, and makers, I see so much amazing talent and value to what others are making. So here’s why you should shop handmade this holiday season.

show-me1. Blythe and Reese Children’s Clothing 2. Fourth Ave Pen and Ink 3. Sweet Lilly Doodles Signs 4. A Gier Design Wall Art 5. Redeemed Jewelry 6. Light and Truth Watercolor Art 7. Birdies Soap Nest Soaps 8. Kawaii Goodies Stickers 9. Freshly Spiced Sp

1. You receive an item made with love.

Each of the items in most of the handmade shops on Etsy or similar sites has been thought up and created by an individual person. If you get to shop at a local shop or craft fair, you might even meet the maker or artist who created your piece.There’s a connection there you could never get from a big box store. And there’s is something so special about knowing that love has gone into each piece.

2. You support a small business.

It’s hard work running a small business. People pour their hearts and souls into the work they do. While it’s convenient to run to walmart to grab those last few gifts, how about supporting a small business and encouraging competition for the superstores.

3. You get what you pay for.

You will most likely be paying more money for a handmade item than you would if you bought a mass-produced product. But when you have a product made with love, the quality will be noticeable. Machines can’t make gifts quite like what handmade sellers are making.

4. Each item is unique.

Want to buy Aunt Susie something special instead of the umpteenth coffee mug she gets every year? When you shop handmade, your gift is one-of-a-kind. And a lot of places offer custom orders that put an even more unique spin on an item.

5. It’s a great place to buy gifts for the holidays. 

Maybe you’re not spending money on handmade items year-round when your shopping list consists of groceries and paper products, but this time of year is a great time to think outside the box when it comes to Christmas gifts. Chances are, you’re buying things that aren’t on your usual list anyway, so why not hop over to a handmade business for your Christmas shopping this year.

As an extra bonus, a lot of handmade local and online shops are running sales right now so take advantage of the savings.

**** Sale has ended. Thanks to everyone who purchased from me!****
I’m having a sale in my shop now through cyber Monday, also (I know, I know, I’ve got a little ulterior  motive in writing this post, because when you support handmade small businesses, you’re supporting me too).

So this Christmas season, think about shopping small, local, and handmade as you dive into the gift-giving time of year. We’re eternally grateful for you!

 

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The Forgotten Holiday – How to Live with A Grateful Heart

I feel sorry for Thanksgiving. It’s sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, hidden between costumes and candy, and food and festivities. It comes entirely too close to Christmas for people to give it a real chance. Plus, if you consider Black Friday a holiday, Thanksgiving is completely overshadowed by shopping mania.

But I’m a fierce advocate for Thanksgiving. I mean, what’s not to love? It’s all the food and family of Christmas without all the hustle and consumerism (I’m not knocking Christmas…yet, that’s for another post; try not to hate me). I look at it as an excuse to eat good food and cozy in at home (or someone else’s home), without the expectations that Christmas brings. But here’s the main thing; it’s a reminder to be grateful during a season that can so often be about what’s in it for us.

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Why yes, I did set the table just to take this picture.

Maybe you don’t feel the same way. Maybe you don’t have close family. Maybe the expectations are just as high for this holiday as any other. Maybe you just don’t feel grateful.

We’re living in a culture of entitlement. I mean, seriously, I lose temporary service on my phone and I’m a basket case (#first world problems). Or when my food is not ready at that exact moment when I want to eat (hangry much?). I expect that my dishwasher will wash the dishes for me, the washing machine will do the same with the clothes, the car will keep running, the electricity and internet will always provide me with entertainment, and my health will always be impeccable.

It’s not until one of those things ceases to perform its proper service that we realize how much we appreciate it in the first place. All these things that have been designed to make our lives better just serve to make us more dependent and ungrateful. And that’s just the physical stuff.

The world tells us that our primary objective is to find personal happiness; in our jobs, our relationships, our hobbies. And it’s hard to argue against such a sentiment. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being happy. Except that you can’t find instructions for the pursuit of it anywhere in the bible. When we set happiness as our main goal, often times it leaves us disappointed and ungrateful. Instead of looking at difficult circumstances as an opportunity to grow and change, we see them as obstacles to our own happiness.

I’m as guilty of this as the next guy. I’m at a place where I really do feel happy a lot of the time. But there are a million little things could make me even happier. There’s always a caveat to my feelings of happiness. Because I live in a fallen world. The problem with happiness is it eludes us. True happiness is fleeting.

So that’s why Thanksgiving is so important. When it’s so easy to look around at what you don’t have and wish for more, Thanksgiving is a time to be content with what you do have. Instead of settling for some temporary form of happiness, choose instead to live with a grateful heart.

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Even if things are as bad as you think they can get, be reminded of God’s direction to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess 5:18). Remember that our purpose in this world is so much greater than us and how we feel about our circumstances. We can be grateful that God it working it all for our good and His glory.

More than circumstances and feelings (and election results), choose to practice thankfulness. And not just for the things you have, but for who God is. He says He will never leave us nor forsake us. He promises His grace in spite of our sin. He’s walking with us through the times of trials and the times of happiness.

This Thanksgiving, give yourself permission to release the expectations and rest in what God has done for you.

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Tea Talk and a Free Download

It’s time for round 2 of Tea Talk, where I share a little bit of what I’ve been up to around here (be prepared for some ramblings about my life and pictures courtesy of my new found knowledge of Collage Maker). We’ve settled into life here in Wyoming and we’ve had some time to enjoy what this state is all about.

We took two longer trips (in addition to the occasional weekend drive) to beautiful Yellowstone National Park. I can’t believe we live within an hour of this park and I am in awe of the beauty and majesty of it every time we go. We spent a weekend exploring Old Faithful and stayed at the enchanting Lake Yellowstone Hotel. BEST. GETAWAY.EVER. I’m still running off fumes from that trip.

We took another day trip up to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, past Mount Washburn and through the Lamar Valley. Words can’t even describe how incredible it was or how much I love buffalo. Plus two grizzly sightings in one trip (hey, I don’t mind seeing them from the safety of the car).

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In addition to working part time at a local Christian school, I’m teaching a couple of art classes to school age students. I love the variety that this art hobby/business is providing me. And I love sharing my love of beauty with others. I’m stretching myself to articulate something that has become second nature to me. As organized and structured as I am, I really am pretty right-brained in my way of thinking and communicating, so it’s a good challenge to learn to speak clearly about something that is so abstract and subjective.

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Just for fun, I have to share some pictures of the Mary Poppins tea party I recently did with my literature group at school. I can say this for myself, I’m nothing if not thorough in executing an idea. So I went all in and had a blast planning and preparing for this little party, complete with Mary Poppins attire.

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If you’ve visited my Etsy shop, Birds and Berry Studio, lately, you’ve noticed it’s looked a little sparse. I’ve been hoarding up my projects for a local craft fair. Whatever doesn’t sell I’ll be adding to my shop around Thanksgiving so there will still be time to browse and purchase some last minute gifts for Christmas. Sometimes I can’t believe I have this opportunity in my life to pursue this passion of mine. This has been such a unique window of time for me to explore this business and I am embracing it for as long as it lasts. I dream in color and live for the inspiration.

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And I don’t have any pictures of this part of our lives, but we’re so grateful to be part of a church community where we can serve using our gifts and fellowship with other believers. This has been such a welcome part of our cross-country move to a new town.

And finally, I’m loving these sweet little feathers I did recently (can I say that about my own artwork?). I turned them into a Thanksgiving image for you guys. Just click on the image to download and print.

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What have you all been up to? Take any last minute summer/fall trips? Any big plans for the holidays?

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We Love Because He First Loved Us

I don’t mean to brag or anything (oh, who am I kidding? I do mean to brag)  but my husband is pretty awesome. He is a good man and I really like him. Many times that liking intensifies to feelings of love that comes out in word form – I love you. I’m convicted though, because love is not just a stronger version of like, it is a commitment to care for and be kind to someone even when the feelings aren’t there. I have to ask myself, do I love Owen mainly because of what he does for me?

For all the years we’ve been married, he has sacrificed many of his dreams and worked hard to care for me. When I ask him why he does this, he says it’s because he loves me. Now there’s a man who know what love really is. It’s not the easy mushy kind of love, it’s the hard way of love.

Which convicts me…if he can love me in such a way, can my love be as pure? Can my love for him come from a place of sacrifice and not just taking for granted what he does for me and coming to expect it? I admit, many times when I say I love him, I’m thinking about how much better my life is with him (and I’m thinking of external things I get from him, not just the parts of our relationship that make life better). Sometimes my love is tainted by the expectation of what I get out of it.

we-love

But I’m nothing if not an over-thinker, so let’s take this a step further. Many times my love for God comes as a result of what I think He can do for me. You know, all the blessings that the bible talks about. When my life is good, I can sing praises like the best of them. I look at how good my life is right now and I equate that with who God is. Of course God would want to make me happy and give me everything I want if He loves me, right? But I’m really worshipping the gifts more than the giver. I’m thirsting after the good life and not my maker.

Who is this God that we say we love?

Simply a version of Santa Claus or the one who breathed us into being?

A vending machine god or the one who calmed the storm and raised the dead?

An indulgent father or the one who gave His only son to give us life?

Can I praise God for WHO HE IS and not just what I expect from Him?

But here’s the things, we do love Him for what He gives us. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We would still be dead in our trespasses if not for Him. Our very lives are a lavish gift. And we were incapable of true love without Him.We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

So while we strive to love God out of recognition of who He is, we also know that His great love for us covers over even our selfish entitled versions of love.

 

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