Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Upward & Outward Trajectory of Tulips

Do y'all like the blog header?  That's a photo I took myself, at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Skagit, WA.  The hubby and I visited there this past summer with the in-laws, and it was incredible!  There are literally acres upon acres of tulips growing in tidy little rows.  It reminded me of living in Ohio farm country, where you can look out over flat fields of growing corn.  But these tulips were a bit more flashy and cuter than corn!

There were also displays of tulips planted in flower beds around trees, and that's where the picture was taken.  There are so many colors crammed into such a small area!

It reminds me that we as humans created by God and for God, that we each bring our own distinct "color" to the world, in our own planting, in our own vibrant hue.  It doesn't matter that someone next to us might have a bit taller stem, or more perfectly formed petals.  If we weren't standing there in that exact plot of ground, there would be a big open hole that would disrupt the overall look and beauty of the flower bed.  We are uniquely the Lord's creations, beloved by Him, created by Him to stand tall, shine our light into the world, and reach toward the Son.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My New Tattoo: Faith, Hope, & Love

Hey y'all!  So I turned 27 a few days ago, on September 3rd, and received some birthday money, which I quickly put to use.  I went to a local tattoo shop in Lynnwood, Washington (the same establishment where I had my "rook" ear cartilage pierced last year) called Deep Roots Tattoo, and I was SO impressed by their professionalism, cleanliness, and willingness to not only patiently listen, but also answer ALL of my questions and concerns.  They proved to me that they cared about me, my body, and my experience, which cannot be said about all tattoo shops.  

This sweet little tat was NOT my first rodeo.  I have a lower back tattoo of a Christian Icthus fish with flowers and vines around it, a belly button ring, 12 various ear piercings (including the rook), and a nose stud.  Needless to say, I'm not very shy around needles, and I appreciate getting small modifications to my body, HOWEVER, a tattoo shop only gets ONE chance (One!) to impress me and earn my trust.  After all, tattoos are kinda PERMANENT, ya know???  Not to mention, it would be SO super easy to mess it up or get a disease.   

Before I settle on a place to get some work done (making myself sound like a Buick), I do my research, I read tattoo shop reviews, I call them and chat with them on the phone, I arrive already knowing EXACTLY what I want (pictures of examples in hand) and I ask around town.  One of the easiest things to do is to stop a person with a really awesome, well-done tattoo and ask them where they got it, and how they liked their experience.  Easy as pie! 

For example, recently I read an article describing how some tattoo ink used in  a couple local tattoo shops was tainted, causing severe skin infections in patrons.  Yikes!  Since I was already contemplating getting a tattoo, and the shop I had in mind was in the same town as the shop using the tainted ink, I was concerned!  And that's putting it mildly.  But I was able to ask my tattoo artist straight-up, if his shop was where the infections occurred, and he reassured me it was not.  Whew! 

Anyway, I decided on this tattoo, with a cross, heart, and anchor, in an overall "anchor" shape, to symbolize the concepts of Faith, Hope, and Love.  Especially hope.  I know for me, having hope is something I've been struggling a lot with lately, since my husband has been out-of-work for over a year, and we're having to live with family, and we're dirt poor, and the job market doesn't seem to be picking up anytime soon.  So it's too easy for me to get depressed and lose hope that the Lord will take care of us and will come through for us, in His timing.  And just having hope that His timing is worthwhile and worth waiting for.  I need this constant reminder to have faith and love, but especially hope

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Gold Wedding Band Around My Heart

The Holy Spirit is like the indentation from a wedding band on your ring finger. You may try to pretend that you aren't married, or you may even take off your ring in hopes of deceiving someone else or yourself. But that smooth white band of shiny skin on your finger is the tell-tale sign that a ring has been worn on that finger for quite some time.

The Holy Spirit is like that smooth indentation under your wedding ring. If you truly know Christ, then a part of God Almighty lives inside you, as the Lord's signet ring, sealing you to Him for all eternity. No one can fake that confident sense of "belonging" to Christ, just like no one can fake that ring indentation. And no one can remove the indentation, not without removing the wedding band and exposing the area to lots of sunlight for an extended period of time. Just like no one can remove the Holy Spirit from you, once you have Him. He is yours; you are His.

You may not want to "feel" like you're married, just like there are surely some days when you may not "feel" like a Christian. But the Holy Spirit is always there, that smooth little band around your heart, ensuring that you belong to Him, forever.

The point of all this is as follows: even if you remove that gold wedding band, which is the outward symbol of love, devotion, and belonging to someone, that small white line still remains beneath it, encircling your finger like a scar, showing the world that a grand display of commitment used to reside on that finger. The effects and sentiment remain wrapped around your finger, even if the outward symbol is removed.

Now, I realize that this is an imperfect analogy, because after you remove a wedding band, the little white smooth band will fade over time; the proof of your prior commitment slowly fading into oblivion. But it would take awhile, and it may never truly fade completely. Would that area of skin ever truly be the same again, as it was before you placed that ring on your finger? I don't know and I don't plan on finding out.

But the point remains the same: the Holy Spirit, once accepted into your heart, remains for always, encircling your heart, even if you allow Him to fade a bit. You may remove that outward symbol and turn away from Christ, but He will never turn away from you. He is like the most faithful, committed, loving Husband who fights for you and longs for you to know Him completely.

Romans 8:9--
"You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ."

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Best Things are the Nearest

"The best things are the nearest: 
Breath in your nostrils,
light in your eyes,
flowers at your feet,
duties at your hand,
the path of God just before you." 

This wonderful quote, from Robert Louis Stevenson, details exactly how I feel right now.  The "best" things in life are typically the "small" things, and those small things end up being the large things after all!  Those "small" moments are the ones you wish you'd taken pictures of, or enjoyed more thoroughly in the moment. 

I also love how this quote speaks of the path of God being "just before you."  Did you catch that?  Just before you.  You cannot see the path as it winds its way off into the distant horizon.  No.  You can only see that very next stepping stone, or maybe the next two, if you're lucky.  I'm starting to believe that we humans are only meant to see our very next step, so that we will not get complacent and begin trusting in our own means of saving ourselves, but continue to throw ourselves upon the Lord's trustworthiness and goodness, leaning on Him with each unsteady step ahead. 

God certainly has laid out a solid path for your life, but He typically only shows you the next step to take, and, tomorrow, after you've taken that step, He'll show you the next one after that.  And so it goes, day after day, step after step.  He leads us, guides us, and confirms our path. 

I think this method of only seeing one step ahead for your life's journey requires a strange mix of utter confidence in God, and total humility and brokenness on our part.  If we cannot see even two steps into our murky future, then we have to admit that we need God for EVERYTHING!  We need Him to place that next stone under our feet, we need Him to shed enough light on our stony path so that our feet will plant firmly and solidly upon it, and we need Him to give us strength and courage to stare out into the outer darkness looming before us, without fear.  We need God, a lot!

Additionally, we need to have utter and total confidence in God, that He keeps His promises, that He is indeed good and looking out for us, and that He has everything under control.  And, after that (perhaps the most difficult part of all this), we need to REST in that confidence, and try to live our daily lives, walking this precarious path, without worry, stress, doubt, or losing faith.  That is the real test of faith, is it not?  Putting our actions, beliefs, decisions, and confidences into daily-life action.  Give it to God, and then get over it!   

If we say we trust God, and determine to let Him guide us, then we must allow Him the freedom to lead us, wherever (and however!) He sees fit.  Just like you cannot give someone a gift and then immediately take it back, we cannot say with our mouths that we trust God and want to walk in His path, but then refuse to take that literal step of faith, letting Him guide us in His way. 

Trust, have confidence, ask God for His guidance, and then take that step

image credit:  www.gettingdownwithjesus.com

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The View From My Front Door

This gorgeous sunset greeted my eyes a couple of nights ago, here in Seattle.  It seems this oppressive heat surge has brought one good thing along with it:  beautiful, other-worldly sunsets every evening!  This magnificent view was just outside our front door, radiant above a long line of stately evergreens.  I could get used to this sight every night!  And if I have to deal with a bit of heat to get it, well then I guess I can manage!  Although, even though our "heat wave" is certainly a heat wave here in Seattle, it's not nearly as hot as the temperatures the Midwest has been getting lately.  Yikes! 

The Lord God is so magnificent, so majestic, and so perfect, and He uses His paintbrush to spatter the evening sky with color.  And not just ANY dull, old color, but hot pinks and purples, which are a couple of my favorites!  God is so good! 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Losing Weight After 3 Stagnant Years!

I am hesitant to write this.  I am wary to mention anything about my desperate weight loss saga, because I've thought I was losing weight before, and I was very wrong.  Before, it was just a fluke; simply the normal fluctuations my body goes through during the month. 

But my spirits are lifted today, because, over the course of the last two weeks or so, I have dropped from 208 to 204 pounds.  The first time I saw a bright red 204 on the scale, I thought it must be mistaken, so I weighed myself again.  And then a third time.  And then I weighed myself a day later.  And then the day after that.  And then that time, the scale said 203.5 pounds!  I weighed myself on the following day, and it was back up to 204.  But the point is, I think this weight loss may be for real, finally! 

As some of you may know, I've written extensively on my other blog A Life of Healthy Abundance about my traumatic experience of being on the Depo-Provera birth control shot for two years, the horrific weight gain I gained because of the Depo, and my frustratingly futile attempts at losing the weight while still on the Depo. 

Because I've written about Depo so much on the other blog, I won't go into too much more detail here, except to say that the Depo is such a high-powered dosage of the birth control hormone Progesterone (I only had to get the Depo shot once every 3 months), it tricked my body into thinking I was pregnant for 2 solid years, and thus made me gain around 50 pounds in two years.  I joined a gym and worked out 5 days a week for about 6 months, desperately trying to lose this weight that was sticking to my body. 

This intense workout regimen helped me not gain any more weight while doing it, but I did not lose a pound the entire time.  I was devastated, and I could not continue putting forth so much effort after such a devastating setback, so I quit the gym and tried to focus on eating healthier and doing less intense exercises (although I was keeping a food journal and eating fairly healthy already).  The weight gain continued, even after stopping the Depo. 

Once, I gained 10 pounds in two weeks (albeit while on vacation), but also while running 5 miles every other day during the vacation.  Definitely NOT normal, by any stretch of the imagination!  

I have been off of the Depo for 1 year and 3 months now, and I'm just now seeing some weight loss.  After three extremely difficult years filled with increasing fatigue/low energy levels, constant lower-back pain, and severe hypoglycemia occurring every 3 hours, I believe I'm finally on the track back to health. 

I wish I could proclaim from the mountaintops how horrible the Depo is for many women (although some women enjoy Depo with no side effects).  If you're on Depo, or know someone who is, I'd strongly recommend you encourage them to do their homework on their own and educate themselves about this high-powered drug, and don't just take their doctor's word for it, that everything will be fine. 

There is a fit and toned woman inside of me, who has been screaming to get out, for the past 3 years, and it has been hell on earth to see my weight skyrocket and being helpless to stop it.  After endlessly researching this topic online, speaking with female friends who've experienced similar weight gain while on birth control and/or during pregnancy, and by speaking with metabolic professionals about my issues with Depo, I found out that there was no way for me to prevent the weight gain while the Depo hormones were still in my system.  The only thing I could do was wait.  I hate waiting.  I had to wait until the Depo naturally left my system, in an excruciatingly, painfully slow fashion.  The research (and consumer reviews) say that after stopping Depo, it may take up to 2 years for a woman to get pregnant.  And I can attest to that (in a different way).  Just like the Depo may stay in a woman's system for up to 2 years, making it impossible for her to conceive, it stayed in my system for almost a year and a half, making it impossible for me to lose any of my "baby weight."  I gained weight from the non-existent "baby" that my body thought I was carrying for the last 2 years. 

Sometimes I joke that, "Now I'm fat, and I don't even have a baby to show for it!" 

But in all seriousness, this makes me very concerned about if my husband and I decide to have biological children someday.  Will I gain a ton of weight, no matter what I do to prevent it, when I am pregnant?  How much weight will I gain in 9 months of pregnancy, if I gained over 50 pounds during two years of my fake, Depo-induced "pregnancy?"  I don't know the answer to that question, but it haunts me.  And perhaps you think that's silly of me to not want to have children because I'm worried about weight gain.  But for me, this weight problem has been the bane of my existence for the last 3 years, and I cannot wait to get slim and healthy again.  I never considered myself very slim in the first place, so all I want is to finally get fit and healthy, for the first real time in my life!  I know I can succeed at my weight loss and fitness goals, if the Depo hurdle gets removed. 

I pray ceaselessly to the Lord that this weight loss I've experienced lately is genuine and is a hallmark of things to come.  And what a blessing it will be, to lose weight and be able to be healthy again!  Can you imagine?  No back pain, no Diabetes risk, no more having to buy or borrow bigger clothes that fit better, and no more feeling like my limbs have weights on them!  I'm 26 years young, and I cannot wait to feel my age!  Right now I feel MUCH older than 26 years old.   

What about you?  Have you ever been on Depo-Provera, or do you know someone who is?  Do you have any birth control horror stories?  Or perhaps your experiences were great?  Tell me about it!

Monday, June 4, 2012

No Such Thing as a Small Life!

I absolutely LOVE this picture from Getting Down With Jesus, which says "There's no such thing as a small life when it makes a BIG DEAL out of God."

This concise phrase completely encompasses everything this blog stands for and believes!  I wholeheartedly agree that there is no small life that makes a big deal out of God, because God is SO BIG and astounding, that pursuing Him is no small pursuit.

Being filled with love from God that is so vast, so urgent, and so consuming, and then showering that love back onto a lost and weary world--there is nothing small or insignificant about that!

Jesus Christ gives our lives meaning and purpose, and in Him we have our identity, our security, our faith, and our victory.  These concepts are big deals to God, and when we follow God and He gives us these things, God makes a BIG DEAL out of us.

And when God makes a BIG DEAL out of us, we can never be small, insignificant, or unworthy!  Praise God that He looks upon us so highly! 


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Heart of Haiti" Mother's Day Post: Picking Out My Wedding Dress with My Mother

This Mother's Day, I'm working with Clever Girls in support of Macy's Heart of Haiti campaign to shine a light on the "trade, not aid" program, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans struggling to rebuild their lives and support their families after the 2010 earthquake.

I picked out and purchased my wedding dress before I even had an engagement ring on my finger.  That may sound a bit presumptuous, but it did not seem that way at the time.
Unbeknownst to me then, Eric, the man in my life (who is now my husband!), was planning to propose to me just a few weeks later.  All I knew was that we were in love, our relationship was moving fast, we had already decided we were a perfect fit for each other, and that we'd be married before the year was out. 

We had met around Thanksgiving of 2007, began dating in January of 2008, became engaged on May 16th (Eric's 30th birthday), and were wed on September 28th that same year.  It was quite the whirlwind romance, and it continues to this day, a little over 3.5 years later. 

That day, in early May 2008, I stood in David's Bridal with my mother and best friend, Beth.  I had my eye on a certain strapless gown, with practically no train and a simple beaded bodice.  Here I am, walking down the aisle with my dad, in my lovely dress. 

My mother had her heart set on a different dress for me, one more "fairytale princess"-esque, with a long lacy train and lace detail all over.  I was not too keen on being covered in lace, but I tried it on anyway to see.  Although Mom was in love with that dress, I still wasn't feeling it.  The other dress that was more demure and simpler was more my cup of tea.

I went against my mother's preconceived notions even further when I opted out of wearing a veil of any kind.  A veil just didn't seem to suit me or the dress.  So there I was, shucking tradition once again!  (On a side note, I found my wedding shoes once when my mom and I were out at Payless Shoes, for $7.00.  That's right:  seven dollars.  They are these perfect little white satin ballet flats.  I still have them and wear them occasionally in the summer!)  Hooray for finding great deals when planning a wedding on a tight budget!

Of course, once I had found my perfect dress, we posed for the mandatory mother-daughter pictures, mom teary-eyed and carrying a tissue throughout the store.

After finding my perfect dress, the real adventure began:  finding my mother's "M.O.B" dress!  I tend to see something I like, decide it's perfect, and I don't typically change my mind afterwards.  I make the decision and stick to my guns.  My mom, however, changes her mind as often as the Pacific Northwest weather changes from dreary, to rainy, to sunny, and back again, and sometimes it's a mixture of all three, as if it can't decide what it wants to be for that day.  My mom's decision-making habits are sort of like that.  She flip-flops and changes her mind frequently.  And that is certainly not a bad thing; it's just a way that we're different.  She needs to see all the options before making a decision, and I typically do not.

Because of this, I think my mom may have tried on more dresses than I did!  And who could blame her?  She wanted to look perfect for my Big Day.  And honestly, I was so darn happy with my dress, she could've worn almost anything and I would've thought it was fabulous!   

 My mother & father gladly took the reins of wedding planning and lovingly planned a magical evening full of splendor and practicality.  My parents had the brilliant idea to seat the wedding guests at round tables for the ceremony, and just let them continue sitting there for the reception, which meant there were no awkward tables to move around before the reception began, and no long pauses in between wedding festivities.  My parents helped it be a seamless evening full of love, beauty, and fun.  As always, my dad ensured my wedding day was logistically seamless and smooth, and as is her habit, my mother ensured that the night was draped in beauty. 

Happy Mother's Day, Mom, and thank you for helping my special day be truly lovely and beautiful.

**Thank you to Macy's Heart of Haiti for sponsoring my participation in this “Share Your Heart" promotion. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own.  

What is Macy’s Heart of Haiti? Heart of Haiti is a “Trade, Not Aid” initiative launched by artist and social entrepreneur, Willa Shalit, The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and Macy’s. Already, Heart of Haiti has led to employment of 750 artists in Haiti, providing financial benefits for an estimated 8,500 people in the country.
Each item is a one-of-a-kind design and handmade by a Haitian master artisan from raw materials such as recycled oil drums, wrought iron, papier-mâché and stone. The collection features more than 40 home decor items including quilts, metalwork, ceramics, jewelry and paintings and is made almost entirely from recycled and sustainable items such as old cement bags, cardboard, oil drums and local gommier wood.  
Heart of Haiti products are available online at Macy’s.com.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday!

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday, when the Lord Jesus Christ died on the rugged Cross of Calvary, to ransom the world back to God Almighty by redeeming us from our sins and making us righteous & acceptable to God. This day is remembered solemnly, with a thankful heart, and is a great time to reflect upon how you've been living your life and to renew your relationship with the Lord if needed. Thank you so very much, Lord Jesus, for taking my sin upon Your blameless, holy self, and for forgiving my many sins and setting me right with You, for all eterntiy. I am so thankful that I have the privilege of believing in You and loving You with every ounce of my being, and I am so excited to be spending Eternity with You! A lot of people only think of "Eternity" as being after you die; the Afterlife. But what perhaps you should realize is that Eternity includes your life here on earth, because you are a spiritual being, with a soul. And if you're a follower of Jesus Christ, your "Eternity" certainly begins the moment you accept Christ as your Savior and start a fellowship with Him. After you begin your walk with Jesus, He gives your life a supernatural meaning and purpose, not to mention an important job to do while here on Earth. Your "job" is to illuminate His love and all the great and wonderful things He has done for you, to point others towards Him in love, and to thoroughly enjoy Him and the life He gave you! I hope all of you enjoy your Good Friday, and reflect upon His immense love for you.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"Free Them" 5K Run for World Concern!

On May 12th, I will be running my first 5K (or race of ANY kind) since 2007.  This race is to support a GREAT cause:  World Concern Ministries, who help battle poverty and exploitation in areas like Haiti & Africa!  You can click here to go to my fundraising page and donate whatever you feel inclined to donate towards this worthy cause of saving people from the ravages of poverty. 

World Concern helps rescue people from poverty on numerous levels, including bettering their lives by providing wells for clean drinking water, educating children and oppressed women, teaching women marketable skills like sewing or jewelry making to sell for money, and even giving out small business loans to help local people start their own businesses and help pull themselves out of the sticky mire of poverty.   I really admire how World Concern acknowledges that there are many battle fronts to pursue in fighting the war on poverty, and how a many-faceted approach is probably the best for creating lasting change. 

Currently I am training for this race, but I recently returned to running after quite the hiatus, so I can only run for a few minutes before taking a walk break.  My goal is to be able to run the entire 5K without stopping to walk or rest, so we shall see! 

This race conveniently coincides with my new aggressive plan to lose weight and get back into shape.  But I don't believe in coincidences, so I feel that this is meant to be, and that I am going to 'kill two birds with one stone':  get into shape again, and raise money for a worthy cause by training for (and then finishing) a 5K race.

Will you please think and pray about whether or not you should donate to my cause, or if you're inspired, please go find a service organization you feel strongly about, and get involved with them somehow and help change the world (or at least your small corner of it!)  

And, if you're the praying kind, please pray for me and my fitness journey, that I will (finally!) be able to start losing weight, now that it's been a little over a year since I've been off of the Depo-Provera birth control shot, since that's what caused me to gain about 55 pounds in the last two years.  I have desperately tried losing weight before, and was completely devastated that after 5 months of hardcore exercise and eating healthy.  During those five months of working out for 1.5 hours five days a week, I did not gain any more weight, but I did not lose a single pound, because the Depo was still coursing vigorously through my system, and it was doing its job of tricking my body into thinking it was pregnant, thus storing all the fat it could, and hanging onto it with a vise-like grip. 

So, this is a great opportunity for me in a couple of ways, because I am excited to raise money for a cause I believe is producing real, positive change in the world, while also encouraging me to get in shape with a specific goal in mind.  Won't you join me and the revolution against poverty and pain?  Donate to my page, or find your favorite charity and get to work!  God bless you in your efforts!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Okay Won't Do--I Want Extraordinary!

Today, 3-28-2012, is Eric & I's three and a half year wedding anniversary!  But you know what they say about time flying when you're having fun?  It's true!  And, since they also say that money (and financial problems) is the Number One killer of marriages, so I figure we've got a huge head start on all of you folks who are financially comfortable! 

Anyway, even though Eric has not been able to find a job yet here in Seattle (and we pray for God's provision daily), and we can't see any way out of this current murky pit of financial mire, and we really can't even envision what it will look like for us to FINALLY be able to support ourselves financially, we still have dreams. 

We dream of a time, hopefully in the near future, when we can buy a few acres of land (which is extremely difficult to come by here in Western Washington!) and operate our small farm.  We dream of having enough money to adopt a couple of children from foreign countries, providing them with a stable and loving home that they would not otherwise know.  I also dream of being able to regularly donate money to worthy charities, missions work, and our church.  There are so many great ministries and organizations out there who desperately need funds to keep running and changing the world, and I wish that I could provide those necessary funds.  So we have pretty large dreams, and these visions of the future are complicated by the fact that we have no income, no home of our own, and absolutely no way of making these dreams happen.

But here's the best part.  WE are not alone in trying to make these dreams come true.  God is the architect of our lives, and He helps us to create our own path through life, following closely at His heels.  So we are not alone, which is good, because it will certainly take a divine miracle to help our dreams become reality!
We want extraordinary.  We don't want to simply live decent, normal, or even "good" lives.  We want so much more than that.  And especially right now, we want so much more than to simply survive.  We want to thrive, and to help our little corner of the world to thrive as well!

Growing up, I always knew, deep down in the secret recesses of my heart, that God was writing a fantastic, miraculous Love Story for me to be swept up into for the rest of my life.  I somehow knew (and desperately desired) God to be preparing for me an amazing husband who would be my perfect complement, would understand me more completely than anyone else on earth, and would fight for me and our love.  I had no idea when or where this seemingly too-good-to-be-true guy would come from; I just hoped & prayed God would help me recognize him when he showed up!  And I'm happy to report that, although I almost missed him at first, that God opened my eyes to see the light, and I married this guy before he could escape! 

I yearned to find the right guy all through college, and while I had a couple crushes, this young man never showed up.  Then, for the span of a few months immediately post-college, I thought for sure I had finally found him.  This guy was pretty amazing, but his life was in a different place than mine, and he wasn't ready for me.  We both knew it, and despite efforts to make it work, I quickly grew tired of feeling ignored and practically unwanted, so I ended it.  It was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do.  But I took the chance of being alone and single (yet again!), stepped back for a bit and reconnected with God, and before I knew it, I saw Eric standing apart from the crowd.  The crowd was full of "good" guys, but none who were exactly right for me.  But I soon realized Eric to be different, and he quickly swept me off my feet.  And the rest, as you know, is history.  And indeed, it took a miracle to bring us together, because Eric is seven years older than me, he grew up in Seattle while I grew up in Cincinnati, and we did not attend the same college.  It would have been very easy for us to never meet.   

I never knew love could be like this!  We laugh, we pick on each other, we tickle, we smooch, we brave the dreaded "morning breath" to kiss anyway, because it's important to start the day off with a kiss, we have each others' backs, and most importantly, we are a team that will never be torn apart.  We tackle everything together.  We promised to be each others' biggest fan on the day we married, exactly 3.5 years ago, and we remember that promise daily, so as not to forsake it, each other, or God. 

God meticulously crafted and authored my amazing, all-encompassing, wonderfully complex love story, and enabled that dream to come true.  And I trust Him wholeheartedly, that He will help all our other dreams come true as well (although perhaps not exactly in the same way we envisioned)!

What about you?  Is God actively fulfilling a dream of yours?  Do you have an amazing love story like mine you'd like to share? 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

This is officially one of my newest and most favorite sayings ever!  I found this on a superbly optimistic, and wonderfully charitable blog called The Shine Project, written by a cool young lady who has a heart for helping those in need, and who is pursuing her dream of being a published writer.  I can relate to her and her dreams, and I can relate to this quote! 
I am never "wildly self-confident" about my creative skills as a writer or blogger.  I almost always have this vicious voice in the back of my mind who scoffs at me saying nasty things like, "You've got nothing important to say, and you don't even have that great of a way with words.  You'll never be published.  You'll never impact people for Christ with your ramblings."  Ouch.  Major ouch.  And I try not to listen to that voice, but it can be annoying loud at times. 
This "war" that rages inside me, and probably many other creatives, reminds me of spiritual warfare, when us Believers are attacked or oppressed by the forces of the Deceiver, the Evil One.  He wants nothing more than to rob us of our joy, hope, security in Christ, and our dreams.  If he kills our dreams before we are able to make them known in the world, he kills whatever positive, life-changing impact the fruition of those dreams would impart on a lost world.
I would strongly argue that there's nothing more fearsome and terrifying for Satan, than to witness God's children passionately pursuing their dreams, never deviating from the course, never giving up, and never losing sight of their goal.  They would be unstoppable and unconquerable by the forces of darkness. 
And they could single-handedly make this world a better place by touching people's hearts and lives in a positive way.  Way to go, Ashley, from The Shine Project!  I want to be more like you.  Heck, I wish we could all be more like you.  Never stop.  And never give up! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Tiny House Movement: Downsizing At It's Finest!

Let me take a moment and tell y'all about the "Tiny House" phenomenon that has quietly been sweeping the West Coast for almost a decade.  A certain number of incredibly frugal and concerned-about-the-environment folks like Dee Williams (in the above picture) and Jay Shafer (in the picture below) of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company are pioneers and visionaries who willingly choose to inhabit teeny-tiny dwellings.  And you know what?  They could not be happier!

So what's the deal with these folks?  Are they loonies?  Or perhaps tree-hugging hippies?  Or crazy, extremist religious folk?  A resounding "NO" to all of the above.  They are simply people who desired to get out from under an expensive house mortgage payment that was keeping them financially strapped.  They also realized that they only typically used a small fraction of the available space in their big houses, so why pay good money for a house you never fully inhabit?  They did, of course, have some environmental concerns as well.  They wanted affordable housing that was easy on the environment, easily transportable, and easy to take care of.  They found it in these tiny homes.
Jay Shafer is the owner of his company, Tumbleweed House Co., and sells plans to numerous tiny house designs on the site.  Dee Williams has been featured on many social media sites, helps build custom tiny homes, and has spoken at the hugely popular, nerd-friendly TED talks. 

These people love sustainable living, less energy consumption, biking to work, living simply & frugally, only using the resources you need and no more, and thoroughly enjoying nature. 
I love these folks.  I love this tiny house movement.  I'm now mildly obsessed with tiny houses. 
And, because this blog is all about living a small but important life, and living a simple life, I wanted to share this movement with y'all.  I want a tiny house on several acres of farmland.  In the mountains.  With a stunning view of the mountains from my tiny front porch.  I want to have a mortgage-free abode that is just the right size and has energy bills of around $20 a month. 
Here is another great site about tiny houses, aptly named Tiny House Blog.  It's a blog about, you guessed it:  Tiny Houses!  But seriously, folks, isn't this amazing stuff?
Now, I realize that a Tiny House lifestyle is not for everyone.   It's probably best to attempt if you're single or a couple without children.  If you're married with 3 kids, then a tiny house probably is not for you.  But for my husband and I, who do not have kids, who are kind of "starting over" here in Seattle and trying to get back on our feet financially, this idea sounds SO appealing!
So tell me, my dear readers, what do you think of the idea of living in a tiny house?  Could you do it?  Do you think it would be worth it?   

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Publishing my NaNoWriMo Novel!

I have always been and will always be a writer.  This past November, my determination and skills were put to the test when I participated and completed NaNoWriMo, writing a little over 50,000 words (a short novel) in 30 days.  Since then, I have been researching how to go about self-publishing my novel.  I feel that trying to get my novel published in the "traditional" manner, by sending copies of the manuscript out to publishing houses would be an endeavor in futility, because most publishing houses will not even glance at a manuscript unless it is submitted by a literary agent.  I have been on several publishing houses' websites, like Zondervan and Thomas Nelson (to list a couple), and they state right on their "submission" section that they DO NOT accept most manuscripts and WILL NOT read them if you send them.  So....What's a girl like me to do in times such as these?
The answer is:  self-publish
Self-publishing literally seems to be the only option I have at this time, and even so, I'm not sure I will be able to afford the cost!  Now, in a "fair" world (one where I'm already a world-famous author and publishing houses are pursuing me, begging me to sign contracts with them), publishers would pay me to allow my wondrous words to be published by them.  But the harsh reality of the publishing world  means that I will have to pay someone (a small-time printer or publisher) to compile, edit, package, print, and market my novel, and if I sell enough copies, then maybe, just maybe, a "real" publisher may pick it up and sign me to a contract. 
But there's a lot of "maybes" in that sentence.  And there are TONS of small-time self-publishing houses that exist only to take an aspiring young writers' naively handed-over money, in exchange for a shoddy, haphazardly-printed novel that looks like a 4-year-old compiled it than a legitimate publisher.  I've even heard horror stories of spelling errors being purposefully added to manuscripts by "editors," so that the client will have to pay more money for it to be re-edited. 
These are scary times, and I've heard rumors that things are going getting worse.  Some companies like Amazon (a huge online retailer of self-published books), and Barnes & Noble Booksellers, who previously had agreements to stock each others' shelves with self-published books, are now canceling such agreements, meaning that self-published books are going to have to find other, lesser-known shelves to fill. 
This site called Writer Beware has been a good eye-opener for me, as it contains a "black-list" of self-publishing houses who have treated customers so badly it's a wonder they're still in business.  Some folks have had great experiences, however, with a couple of the blacklisted publishing houses, so that makes me wonder what factors were involved that caused some people to have horrible experiences with these places, and others to have incredible experiences. 
I have determined that, as with most important things, it is invaluable to take the time and do lots of research before jumping into the mire, but there will always be a certain amount of risk involved.  Both self-publishers and myself have no way of knowing if my novel will sell or not, so there is some risk involved for each party. 
I found Westbow publishing, a small division of Thomas Nelson (a well-known Christian publisher of Bibles and books), and have been in contact with a representative there.  I have seen Westbow titles on Barnes & Noble shelves in the past, so that comforts me a lot!  At least Westbow seems to be a legitimate self-publishing house.  And another bonus is that they have a "parent" company, which is Thomas Nelson.  Most other self-publishers (at least that I know of) are stand-alone companies, with no parent company to contact if they rip you off or produce shoddy work. 
So, while there were a couple red flags raised in my mind with Westbow, there are a few things about them that make me feel more at ease.  But regardless, I haven't chosen a self-publisher yet, so I'm open to any suggestions or advice!  Thanks so much for reading, and let me know what you have to say!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I have lived in the Seattle area for about 3 months now, and have seen some amazing sights, including seeing (and hearing!) a seal "barking" while swimming in Puget Sound!  But what I'm excited about right now is the fact that my mother & grandmother are flying here from Ohio to visit in March! 
I'm very excited to see them, and show them around all the sights of Seattle.  There are a few things they desperately want to see, and I'm going to ensure that they do!
One of the sights they want to see is Pike Place Market, which is the 2nd picture.  I've been there a few times, and there's never enough time to see all that the Market has to offer!  I'm sure us ladies will spend most of the afternoon walking around the booths. 
Another thing my mom has already mentioned she wants to do is ride the Monorail from the Space Needle into downtown.  The 3rd picture is a photo of the Monorail's "end of the line."
I'm thrilled to show them this amazing place I live in, and I hope they like it so much they decide they must move here immediately!
It is so wonderful to live in such a place as this:  a place with mountains, water, a vibrant culture, and of course, possibly my favorite thing of all:  an abundance of coffee!  Just thinking about such things helps me remember that life really is good, after all, even when times are tough.  Life is Good!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

1st Snowfall in Washington State

Ain't life grand?  Here's Levi (our pup) and my in-laws' pup, Henry, playing in the first snowfall of the year in Washington state.  They are so funny!  Levi had NEVER seen snow before today, and we were worried that he'd be freaked out or scared by it, but he LOVED it!  And, since it's wet here in the Pacific Northwest, it's the best snowball-packing snow I've ever seen!  Amazing!  What fun!  Now, if all our family can have safe travels on the roads during this snowstorm, then that will be the perfect blessing to add to this beautiful weather!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Teach a man to farm & feed him for a lifetime

I've always wanted to help people in some unique, important fashion, but I've also always never quite known what my skills, gifts, and dreams are, or even how & with what I what to get involved.  I have not felt strongly passionate about volunteering and giving my time to something in a long while.
This feeling of wanting to do something to help others, but not feeling led in any particular direction, has been difficult and confusing for me.  But now, especially since Eric & I are now living on the other side of the country, there are new things to get involved in, a smaller, more intimate church that has already made us feel welcome and loved, and more mild weather to be outside in.
I feel now that perhaps my life is heading in a particular direction that is definitely unique. What's funny & crazy in a God-given Dream, Destiny sort of way is that Eric has an incredibly generous heart and desires to help others as well.   The picture below is of our backyard in Cincinnati, and that is a wild deer napping under our maple tree!

Back while we were still living in Cincinnati, we loved the idea of planting a garden in our .25- acre backyard, to provide ourselves with healthy organic produce.  But there were two issues that caused us to do a tiny bit of gardening, but not very much.  The 1st issue is that we knew we would not be living in that house for much longer, and we did not wish to invest money, time, and energy on this garden that we would not be around to harvest and reap the benefits of.  The 2nd issue was our finances.  We did not have money to tear up our yard, buy mulch and seeds, and keep up a healthy garden.  But we still dreamed of someday having a decent-sized farm where we could grow enough organic produce to not only provide for ourselves, but also for needy people who would not otherwise have access to such healthy foods.  And now that we're now Washington State residents and have had lots of time to think about what our dream farm will look like, we now like the idea of not only growing crops, but also having some animals like chickens, goats, and perhaps even sheep and cattle.
But it really just depends on how much acreage we can afford to buy, what the rules are in the area we will live, and what the local market is for things like that.
For example, Washington is known for its apples.  Eastern Washington looks & feels like the Midwest, with open rolling farmland as far as the eye can see.  (And my eyes DID see it when we drove across the country in our moving van!)  So we may or may not grow apples on our farm, since the market may be saturated with them.
Our farm will most likely consist of 1-5 acres, depending on what we can afford.  So yes, it will be a very small venture to say the least!
And we want to live closer to the mountains, (or even in them!) which of course means it will be more difficult to find flat farmland.  But we'll see what we can get.
That is our dream.  What is yours?

image: http://wsm.wsu.edu/discovery/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/2009Aug_farm_stats2.jpg

The New Hand-Made World We Live In

This is a knitted coffee sleeve, designed to protect your hand from the heat of your paper-cupped beverage while being environmentally-friendly and not using one of those little cardboard ones from a coffee shop.  I hand-knit these and have a fairly large inventory of already-made coffee cozies ready to be purchased for the low price of $10 apiece! 
I would describe myself very much as a Beginner knitter, but I am slowly acquiring more skills and becoming more willing to challenge myself and learn new stitches & styles.  I am also thinking about adding cute embellishments like buttons or small pockets (for tea & sugar packets) to the coffee sleeves to set them apart even more. 
I recently knitted my niece a floppy, hot pink winter hat, which turned out wonderfully, and only took me about 2 days of knitting off & on (about 8 hours total), which means I am getting faster and more consistent with the stitches. 
But I forgot to take pictures of the hat, which is such a bummer, because it really was my best work to date.  Maybe I'll have my sis-in-law send me a picture with my niece wearing it, so I can post it here.
Making the hat was a revelation for me, because I had made something that was not only functional (to keep the baby's head warm), but also cute, girly, and stylish, with a bit of creative flair.  I had actually made something worthwhile, that will get used & worn.  How cool is that?  Of course, I (and a select few family members) have been using my knitted coffee sleeves for awhile now, but this hat was different.

Do any of you make hand-made items?  Do you feel the same pride and satisfaction seeing your family use & wear these items like I do?
Knitting is one of those "lost arts" of the good old days,  that are now making a comeback due to a few reasons:  the economic downturn is making folks realize that perhaps they can save money by making things that they used to buy from a store, and the "going green/sustainability" movement that has been spreading across the country in the last few year.  More and more people want to live "off the grid" as much as they can, using less resources, downsizing their homes, consuming less, contributing to landfills less, and growing their own food for health & money sake. 
This generation has re-claimed the slogan "Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle" and lots of people have made a lifestyle out of it.  A similar word, "Upcycle", has taken the internet by storm as well, referring to re-purposing and re-using a used object by giving it another purpose & look as it had in its previous life.  For example, I've seen lots of "how-to" articles on Pinterest lately about how to DIY upcycle a used wine bottle by using a method involving heat and a string, to cut the top off of the bottle, turning it into a unique drinking glass.  There are many things you can do to reduce, reuse, and recycle; and all you need is your imagination!  And maybe the internet.  And some string.