Monday, December 15, 2014

NIGHT


The driving at night thing doesn’t happen a lot for me anymore. I’m almost always home before dark. But when it does happen, it’s time to reflect – to see lights cutting through the pitch black, and to gasp over bright white lights strung along the roof line of a little church in the country, on the drive home from a Christmas gathering. This one was partially hidden by trees, and its steeple had a star. I wanted to slam on the brakes, pull over, take a picture.
This day had brought me a new experience, out past the familiar country spaces I visited as a child, and into the next town’s territory. Wide open spaces allowed the silos and ginormous out buildings of farms to jut up from the horizon, past rows of barren trees. Oh, the trees this time of year. They’re losing all their leaves. They are like the hands of an old farmer, bare and bent, swollen in random places, cold and stiff.
I write often about my deeply rooted (pun intended) love of nature, the outdoors, the freedom and holiness I feel in ordinary outside places. Even in the winter, when the cold winds steal my breath and turn my hands stiff, I love it. I love sitting with people who have that same passion, and listen to stories of working the earth for fifty years, how work was never done, and family was everything.
I couldn’t possibly say what it is like to work that hard for that many years while a love of family and farm run deeper and deeper with each passing day. I can’t know what it feels like to stop. We can only sit now, sharing stories, joys and regrets, and a few tears. And then drive home in the dark, astounded by life, and at the light cutting through it.




Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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Monday, December 8, 2014

THE HEART REMEMBERS


I lost my dear, precious Uncle Clarence last month. I noticed while at the funeral, listening to everyone's eulogy, that when someone passes away, the mind cherishes the goodness in them. The imperfections, and everyone has at least one, are buried away. 

Your heart remembers people only at their best. I like that. 





Sunday, December 7, 2014

WE CAN AGREE ON GRACE


Also, the recycling is piling up way too high in the kitchen today. There is still laundry on the kitchen table from last week. The baby needs his flu shot. The paperwork needs delivering to Reef’s new preschool. Bailey needs a bag of candy for a school project. Ah, and it’s our niece’s and nephew’s 3rd birthday this weekend.

There is always something to do.

Like, right away. Not like, Add that to the list…but more like, OMG I better do that right now! I forgot!
Pay the bills, get the groceries (NO really, like, there’s NO food), edit photos for clients, sign up for Christmas mission work, wash the clothes (the kiddos have no socks)….

But somehow it’s okay. In the midst of the moments where I want to scream and run away because I.just.can’t….God shows up.


Maybe you think of God as not God like I think of God, but we can agree on Grace, I’m pretty sure. Because we’ve both seen leaves swirl, and we both know they can’t go back. We both can see it’s time to move forward, and even when we get it wrong or we slow down or take steps back, we do.





Friday, December 5, 2014

{coffee talk} GOOD TO BE ALIVE


I love December. I do. But with it comes a small amount of stress. Okay, a lot. I’m nowhere near ready for Christmas at this point, unlike years past. Like that kind of “not ready” that means if I wake up in the night I have trouble shutting down my brain. It wants to list all the things left to do and add new ones. It’s so silly, how you wake up in the morning and roll your eyes and feel like you aren’t even that worried about that brain list but Night Person thought you were.
Anyway. I was walking into the store, all hurried and brain-listing, and this girl was up by the door, her arms spread wide like she was receiving, and her face was turned to the bleak winter sun. She shouted, so loud, WHAT A GOOD DAY TO BE ALIVE!! She was just there, walking in to shop, and stopped to soak up the day, celebrate it, and praise it right out loud.
The stress in me flew out on the wind with her words.
***
I watched from the hallway, my oldest sitting at his hand-me-down desk that I found on the side of the road one day. I can remember feeling excited as we trimmed it in molding, primed, and painted it. For 2 years, I don’t think it’s been anything more than a fixture in the boy’s room, unused. Except last night. Work was being done on that desk.
From the same spot in the hallway, I could see my two youngest playing together, sharing the same toys. The smallest plowing over the older brother, who didn’t seem to mind much at all.
I got choked up and Bailey asked from her bedroom if I was okay. These poor kids with their sensitive mother always noticing. No, I’m fine. I’m just watching you guys. I love watching you kids when you’re not looking.
She sorta made a funny face at me, and then we both laughed. Giddiness is contagious, and it’s rainy and bleary but it’s a good day to be alive.




Tuesday, December 2, 2014

{guest} OBSIDIAN BEAUTY SUPPLY


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Obsidian Beauty Supply, which opened in 2011, provides their own exclusive line of hair extensions, a variety of natural and organic hair care lines, unique fashion accessories and health and beauty events. The launch of the full service salon in November 2014 proved to be a success and also includes professional makeup and lash applications. We coordinate numerous educational events and has recently attained celebrity status when it was chosen to participate in a celebrity gifting suite for the BET Awards in 2014.


What are your top 3 beauty must-haves?
1. Lip Gloss
2. Anti-Frizz Hair Serum
3. Mascara


What recommendations do you have for skin and hair, to help protect it from the upcoming winter elements?
I would always recommend a good skin and hair moisturizer no matter the season, moisture is essential for both hair and skin. Essential oils are also good to provide moisture for dry hair, scalp and hair.


"Being happy doesn't mean that everything is perfect…it just means that you have decided to see beyond the imperfections.” 


Monday, November 24, 2014

HOLIDAY CANDIED PECANS


I’ve heard it said that most of the enjoyment of a glass of wine comes from the smell.
But I’m pretty sure the same goes for candied nuts.
These.  Pecans.  Smell.  AMAZING!!!
Oh my goodness.  I’m kind of convinced that people should stop buying candles and just bake candied nuts all of the time to make their homes smell delicious.  (Hmmm, tempting actually.)  Although, of course, the best part about making candied pecans is getting to pop them in your mouth and taste that sweet, cinnamon-y, nutty goodness.  They are such a treat, and far better than any pre-packaged nuts you might buy at the store.  Plus, they’re ridiculously easy to make.  And when you make them homemade, there are no mystery processed ingredients added to the mix, and you can control exactly how sweet and cinnamon-y and spicy you would like them to be.
I have been making candied pecans for years, either to use at home for snacking or salads, or to give away as holiday gifts.  And let’s just say, my friends and family always go nuts over them.  So here’s my favorite recipe!
All you need to make these are 7 ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 4 cups (12 ounces) pecans halves, unsalted
  • 1 egg white, whisked
Whisk together your dry ingredients until they are well-combined.  (I often toss them in a ziplock bag, and then smoosh it around with my fingers until the mixture is even.  Quick and easy.)
Then in a separate bowl, add your egg whites and pecans, and toss until the pecans are evenly coated.  Then add in your dry ingredients and carefully toss until combined.
Lay those babies out on a parchment-lined baking sheet, so that they don’t stick to the pan
And then bake them up to delicious perfection, and get ready for your home to start smelling amazing. 300 degrees for 40 minutes should suffice.
These guys are perfect for salads, yogurt parfaits, ice cream sundaes, or topping anything else that calls for sweet pecans.  But I have to say, I still think they’re best for snacking.  And if you’re feeling generous, they are perfect for gifting to friends and family this holiday season so that they can enjoy snacking on them as well.  Because if you ask me, the more candied nuts in this world, the better it will smell be.
Enjoy!




Friday, November 21, 2014

HOLE-FILLING


Maybe meditation is best done in longer periods of time than 1-2 minutes, but honestly, it’s all I’ve got. And usually, it’s more like 30 seconds or less. Deep breaths.

Deep breaths followed by a moment or two of reminding myself to not focus on negative things, like having piles of laundry, an unkempt house, unfinished projects, yada yada yada. And then I suppose reminding myself to not focus on these things is actually a way to focus on these things. Heh.

What is this thing I MUST do, in the telling? Like telling enough people will POOF, make them go away. I suppose this is part of why we repeat all of our hard things. Underneath, maybe it feels like it will take them away…I don’t know.

Habits are hard to break.

When someone asks how I’m doing, I habitually say “I’m fine.” But I really want to say, I’m GREAT, and just really mean it, because I work hard on every aspect of my life. My priorities are lined up just right. My faith, family, and finances are strong and healthy.

I’ve been thinking about the Order of Peace. I have been reading about fear and acceptance, and hope. Then I zone out, thinking about the boxes of outgrown baby clothes and how they have no place in the house, because it’s so easy to fall back into whatever big and small hard things are bothering me. I know gratitude plays such a huge part in this.

I have…So much, right? My kids are not only fine, but they are thriving. I am married and living life everyday with my best friend. We have a wonderful little home in an amazing part of town. We have stable jobs and flourishing hobbies. An oh-so-incredible church and some truly remarkable friendships. So much to be grateful for, and I am. That’s often too easy to forgo, the gratitude. But I have it, underneath any strain, always. What a gift.

This is true. I strive to uncover the gratitude, but I often find myself feeling so swallowed by the stress and strain of everyday life.

We all do, methinks.

Last night it hit me, while editing photos of someone’s precious newborn. My joy is stolen so often by things/stresses I cannot control, and that’s life. It is lies to believe that everything is going to be okay all the time, to strive for that, punching at things that aren’t right with the world. All is not right, big and small.

Do we hide from the stress, and attempt to live with it? Sometimes that’s all we can do, but the hiding is either hole-filling or not. The holes that are in us are deep and wide and filled with self-medicating and staying too busy and numbing out and running. Or they are not. And running and numbing can be necessary, but they only work until they just do not. They only end up hurting us more, and sometimes the people around us.

Maybe it’s up to me. The holes don’t stay filled. Maybe I never see the bottom of the laundry basket. Maybe I’ll never know what my floors look like underneath all the toys. Maybe I never reach the end of my photo editing. Maybe I never clear my Inbox at work, of emails. Maybe I’ll never get that red juice stain out of the floor in my SUV.


The peace is in the letting go, for the filling up, with gratitude and that non-stop-never-gonna-quit hole-filler–grace. And today I whisper into stress’ ear…”what are you here to teach me?”





Wednesday, November 19, 2014

JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING

Last month, I visited Jackson Hole, WY for the first time. It’s renowned for its winter season and the amazing skiing/snowboarding that takes place. But not yet. Not during my visit. Rather the leaves were still changing and there was a dusting of snow on the upper reaches of the Tetons. Probably the most intense experience of seasonality that I’ve ever witnessed.



It’s no secret that Jackson Hole is a beautiful place. When fall sweeps her fingers through the valley, the scene becomes dramatically more lovely. The variance in the leaves is breathtaking. And the sky radiates the most unbelievable turquoise blue.


The temps in October were roughly 30 degrees at night, never exceeding 50 degrees at the hottest time of the day. The weather is in perfect harmony with my favorite outdoor sports like hiking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, etc.



The town is quiet, more quiet than the hectic summer bustle, I presume. An ideal time to visit Jackson’s amazing eateries. My tummy stayed filled to the brim. Some of my favorite places where it all went down:

Snake River Grill
Recommendations: Brussel Sprouts, Lamp Chops, Donuts, Pierre Gonon Syrah 2011


 Q Roadhouse & Brewery
Recommendations: Organic Deviled Eggs, Mary’s Organic Fried Chicken, Korean Breakfast, Barrel Aged Bouleverdier, Chimay Premiere Ale, Friek Ale


 Rendezvous Bistro
Recommendations: Charcuterie Plate, Tuna Tartare, Meyer Farms Steak Frites, Caymus cabernet 2010


 The sun sets pretty early and the evenings are cool. Okay, they’re cold. But it’s perfect for a bonfire, paired with wine, smores, and some unmatched star gazing.


My trip concluded with yet more snow flurries, reminding me of winter’s approach and that winter’s snow is a few whispers away. Departing hopeful for an opportunity to snowboard these mountains one day with my family. So long, Jackson, you’ve been good to me!







Tuesday, November 18, 2014

ALIVE


I’m on a brown chaise facing the fireplace in our living, one of the places I love to write.

While I sip my tea, I realize it’s been a while since I’ve last written here. Illness hit me hard this week, and I’m backed up on projects, laundry, blogging, photo editing, and a whole lot more. Sometimes when we don’t slow ourselves down, life has a way of doing it for us.

It’s chilly outside but it’s a good day to be alive.





Tuesday, November 11, 2014

MEAL PLANNING


Meal planning is something that I used to be really good at making a priority. Since the 4th child arrived, it's been a task that has dwindled on my list of priorities. My schedule can be all over the place when it comes to childrens' activities, traveling, a photography business, etc. I find it more challenging to set a day to do my grocery shopping and meal prep and then stick to a meal plan when I'm running from work to a volleyball game to a photo shoot and everywhere else! I end up spending more money on take away food than I would like and I come home to a house that doesn't have a ton of choices in the fridge and pantry, especially for those of us who eat 'clean.'

This week I set out to be more diligent with my meal planning. I also set a goal to bring a meal to work. I'm happy to say that I've been pretty successful thus far! Making meals at home sure saves lots of money and it makes me feel like I'm back to being a solid contributor in the home.


Please share a favorite easy-to-prepare evening meal in the comments below.





Tuesday, November 4, 2014

THIRTEEN


Dear Bailey,

Here I sit on the eve of you being thirteen. I have resisted that number -- that reality -- for a while. It's almost too hard to take in.


You are are already asleep, but all I want to do is wake you back up and talk with you a little longer. You're more than just my daughter, you're my best friend. You're so wise beyond your years that I often have to take a step back and remember you're still a girl. You amaze me at how loving and joyous you are without conditions. And how life is so much more special and exciting and adventurous with you in it. 

Thirteen years ago tomorrow I saw your sweet face for the very first time and I cried the most joyous of tears. I knew in an instant you were going to be someone of greatness and bring your family so much pride. And you SO have and you continue to do so every. waking. moment.

Happy birthday, my angel darling!





Thursday, October 30, 2014

HATCHED


"Hatched is an online lifestyle boutique that offers fashionable, modern clothing for babies and kids. Some History: The story began when a love of fashion met a love of motherhood. From her years at Anthropologie, Jen was inspired by quality merchandise and artful design. Life changed when she and husband Dave welcomed their baby girl into the world. Like most parents, they quickly became overwhelmed by the endless search for trusted products with a creative style. They were eager to find a retailer that met their lifestyle standards but was convenient enough to shop online. The plan was hatched."






Tuesday, October 28, 2014

STORIES


This week I'm in Jackson Hole, WY. Missing my family back in Texas. But today, I got a glimpse of them in the majestic beauty that surrounds me here. Reminders of them and their love is all around me.

The sun gleaming over the horizon. It moves me in such a big way. The same way an ocean reaches out and touches my soul, these gorgeous mountains takes my breath away. The same way a good cry can feel so good or in a moment when you decide to just let it all go and the freedom floods you. 

I keep feeling it over and over again, your story. Your story is all you need. That goes for anyone. There is purpose and redemption in our stories and in our lives. 

I have walked roads that I didn't want to walk.  Roads I thought I never would. But it makes it better when you know that your story might move someone. Parts of life have truly broken me. They busted me right in half and when I stood up and began letting the pieces come back together I was able to see that it's better to be on the other side of pain. Because if you let it, it makes a better you.

I have shared with you my experience with divorce, an ex leaving me with a negative bank account, no savings and how God made himself real to me when He provided what the kids and I needed to the dollar. I get the honor of sharing how He met me at my darkest pain, with the loss of my mother, my grandmother, difficulties during my adolescence, developing skin cancer, and how He covered me in those moments. I get to share about 4 amazing, healthy babies/children and 2 babies that went to Heaven early. How compassion and tenderness comes from walking through loss. How He led us through big leaps like moving across town, away from friends and family, starting a photography business, a custom table business, and through nearly every living decision we make. How He comforted me and convinced me that not all marriages are doom and gloom. I get to share how Real our God is, and how real He makes Himself known to me. How three different times in the last 6 months different women in my life have given me a message... all saying God put it on their hearts to share with me. I get to share how God has humbled me and changed me, and continues to work in me.

I get to share my life.

And when we know our purpose and start running full speed towards it, it changes everything. It gives you a confidence that can't be shaken. The God I know is big and real and powerful and I believe He can take little me with my small story and He can make Himself known in a mighty way.

We have a responsibility to use the gifts we have been given. I believe that as we use them and put them on display for His glory, it's a beautiful picture of us returning them to Him. 


My life isn't mine to begin with, so I will gladly share it. 





Friday, October 24, 2014


Know this, God loves you. He wants you, He adores you and I promise you He is faithful. 

"Jesus wants you to know that when you are broken, shivering, alone or afraid, with nothing left and nowhere to go, then you can turn in His direction and lay yourself at the foot of His love. Lay your broken offering on His alter. He will come and carry you into His presence. He will hold you with the warmth of His embrace and cover you with the blanket of His kingdom inheritance. God wants you to know that when everything else is gone, that makes more room for Him, and everytime there is more room for Him, you are blessed." - A Beautiful Offering




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