Friday, June 26, 2015

Photography - Everyday Moments

My sister and I have had a version of this conversation a few times:
 
Me: I miss when my kids were really little. I miss cuddling an infant, the cuteness of a toddler...I miss their smallness.
Sister: I think that too. (Thoughtful pause.) But, I also think that someday I will look back and miss the age my kids are at right now.
 
My sister speaks TRUTH.
 
Someday I will miss watching my kids run through the sprinklers, take over the street with the neighborhood kids, zoom around on their bikes with their swords tucked into the back of their shirts (because one should be prepared for danger at all times), chase each other just for the fun of it, and carefully construct Legos as if they are performing heart surgery. Every day I get to look into the beautiful faces of my children and be reminded of how lucky I am to be a mom.
 
This summer, my biggest goal is to enjoy the now. Not wish for the past, long for the future, but enjoy the little moments that make the present so sweet.
I have been itching to do some photography. I wanted my pictures to capture the beauty in everyday living. I usually keep my camera on my fireplace mantel so I can quickly grab a shot before the moment passes. (And because a quick photo here or there goes over much better with my boys than a big photography session.)

I can't always get the look I am wanting in Photoshop, but I am happy  with how these pictures turned out. I found a new set of actions that I love from Shutter Pulse. A couple of blog posts back I mentioned that I had downloaded their free set of 20 actions. I found myself using these free actions more and more.  Shutter Pulse then offers $10 off their packages through their emails, so it is $29 for their set of 300 actions. I have yet to find a package so big for so cheap and since I was loving their free actions, I got a little crazy and bought the whole package.  It was worth it. The vintage actions are my favorite. If you are looking for a great deal and a quick way to edit, this is a great route to go. (I have yet to do any advertising on my blog, so this is just one mama photographer sharing a great find. If you have any photography advice for me, I will gladly take it as well!) 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Never

The other night I sat at the beach and watched my kids play in the water.

To my right a large group of college students were hanging out, playing beach volleyball. I couldn’t help but notice them. Super young. Full of life. Energetic. Laughing. The girls all looked great in their swim attire. No one seemed to have a care in the world.

On the way to my spot on the beach, I had trudged by those beautifully youthful people with my entourage of little boys. My hair was piled high on my head. I was wearing a free t-shirt from work, my black yoga pants had a bleach stain and I was sporting a Captain America backpack. But you all know how it is getting everyone ready for the beach. (Mom, I can’t find my shark swimsuit. I want to wear that one! Where is my blue water gun? The one I got for my birthday that shoots the best. We can’t leave without it!)  I didn’t put much thought into my attire, I was just glad we made it.

As I sat there on my towel watching my boys play and listening to the sounds of beach volleyball, thoughts of my college years and my twenties filled my head. I have some good memories of my twenties, but still…my biggest thought was…never.

Never would I trade the joys of my thirties to go back to the youthfulness of my twenties.

Yes, I know my body isn’t as young now. Pregnancy has done some reshaping. My face is beginning to age, a few grey hairs have made their appearance, and I do not look as good in beach attire as the girls playing volleyball to my right. But in my adult life, I have never been as happy as I am now.

I have a better perspective, more wisdom, a braver attitude, more gratitude and a deeper faith. I am more comfortable in my own skin and I love it. I have experiences I would not trade. I have deepened old friendships and met new wonderful people. I am completely captivated by my little people and their dad. My heart feels full. Life, of course, still has its struggles and challenges (it always will), but overall the joy and contentment I feel in my thirties vastly outweighs the decade before.

If my thirties are much happier than my twenties, I can’t imagine what joys, better perspective and wisdom will come with my forties, fifties and beyond…

That is something to look forward to.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Today. You Got This

Whatever you have going on…
Your day is normal, routine and mundane.
You day is relaxing and fun.
Your day is extra busy.
You are trying to make a difficult decision.
You are taking a brave step or a chance on something new.
Your mind is on someone or something you are deeply concerned about.
You just want to stay home with your family today. You are done with the routine.
You get to stay home with your family today. (Happy dance.)
You get the day to yourself. (Just in the nick of time...because, you desperately need it.)
You have been hurt and are struggling to heal.
You are trying to help a loved one who has been hurt and is struggling to heal.
Your day is like a mountain. You just aren't sure how you are going to get over it.
You are facing unwelcome and uninvited challenges, full of uncertainties.

Know...
You are resilient and strong.
You are discerning and wise.
You know how to organize your day so your priorities get done.
You need joy and happiness. Those don't have to be sacrifices. Pursue them!
You also need time off, so if today you get this - fully enjoy it.
Your kids aren't around forever. Enjoy them today.
You can say no, even if it disappoints someone.
You are capable of making good decision and tough choices.
You have overcome challenges before. You can do it again.
No other person knows your heart like you do; you make the best decisions for you.
You don't have to have everything figured out and life won't always turn out the way you think it should. That is not necessarily a bad thing.
Perfection will always elude you. No one is perfect. It is okay to let it go.
You are a child of God...intentionally created, exactly as you are.
You uniquely contribute your gifts and talents to this world. No one else can replace you.
God has a purpose for your life. He can use you in big ways to spread His love. (So exciting.)

You are not alone...
You are a woman. You are part of a powerful group who knows how to move mountains, conquer challenges, and get things done
There are people who have traveled the road before you who have written or spoken their encouragement. Find them. Be inspired. Feel empowered.
You have friends and family who love you deeply.
The Bible is rich in powerful truths and beautiful promises. Press God's words on your heart. Seek His guidance.
Know God goes before you, is behind you and is right beside you. Trust in Him.
"...but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  (Isaiah 40:31, NIV)
You can soar.  You will soar.  Trust in God’s promises. Know Jesus is always with you, guiding you.

Today, whatever you have going on…
 
YOU GOT THIS.


Monday, May 18, 2015

I Like Clean. I Like Messy Too.

A clean house makes me feel like a good mom.  Like if my house is under control, so is the rest of my life and motherhood…even if in reality it is not. I love the idea of maintaining a catalog perfect home where if a pillow is moved off the couch it is put back with the utmost care by the offender. Wouldn’t that be dreamy?

But there will be plenty of time to shoot for an all-the-time-tidy home when these kids are gone; because, right now…

…a messy house also makes me feel like a good mom.


The mess tells a story. The stray cheerios and tiny drops of spilled milk from my kids pouring their own bowls of cereal speaks of my children learning to be independent. The fort my boys spent hours on (especially the inside) shows they are developing their creativity. The mess from my children bouncing around the house in play is evidence that my sons are bending, jumping, and moving; their bodies are growing stronger. The toys, play dough, Legos and games remind me that my kids are building important fine motor skills and valuable thinking skills. The crumbled curtain on the ground behind me that you cannot see in this photo…well, I am actually not sure of the benefit of pulling down curtains. (I didn’t even ask how it happened. Sometimes I just…Don’t. Want. To. Know. I just smiled and asked them to please leave the curtains alone.) But the rest of the disarray reminds me that as my children create and imagine, they also learn. Play builds their comprehension and understanding. Their interaction helps shape their problem solving, reasoning, and social skills. The mess declares that our home is alive with learning and growing. It tells the story of education that happens informally in a place where kids can be kids.

So even though I like clean, I like messy too.

 
And besides, if I didn’t let them make a mess, how would I ever teach them to clean up after themselves? (Which I am trying to do. To raise these little boys to be good to their wives someday.) ;)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy Mother's Day


You are a mom.
 
You give every day. You put others needs before your own. You love deeply. You teach. You referee. You mentor. You are creative, resourceful and strong. You freely give grace. There is no one else in your family’s life like you. Your importance is unique. Your influence impactful. You are a safe place. Your hugs heal. Your words encourage. Your support gives confidence. Your wisdom gives guidance. The impact your love has on your family is immeasurable. You shape the next generation and little by little, help change the world.

Today…no matter what stage in motherhood you are in (small children to adult children), I hope you know how loved and cherished and important you are.

 Today…I hope you soak in the celebration of YOU.

Because, moms are a gift.

And moms make the world a better place.

Happy Mother’s Day!
 

Monday, May 4, 2015

What Healing Sometimes Looks Like

Recently my friend and I were sharing with each other how we get through the hard parts of life. How healing plays out in our lives. Our conversation inspired me to write this…


We have all been there. 

Disappointed. Discouraged. Facing uncertainties. Gripped by fear.


You experience a loss. A relationship is broken. Life’s monotony suffocates. Your career doesn’t turn out the way you want it to. Everyone else seems to have things figured out, but not you. Health problems refuse to go away. Timing is terrible. The challenges too big or too many. Anxiety grips. Depression settles in. You wonder when your self-confidence disappeared. Or how God could ever use your life for something good. Despair shows up differently for each one of us


Yet in the struggle, despite the pain…we feel something….   It is deep inside of us…small and pulsating. Rhythmically, its tempo is quiet, but still we can feel it. It’s persistent. It captures our attention.  


Hope.


Hope is faint. It might even leave. But it is tenacious, its rhythmic beat always comes back. Hope begins to speak to our hearts. It whispers ever-so-quietly God’s truths: we are loved; God has a plan for our lives; and He is in control, even when we feel like He is not.


We decide to stop focusing on what to do about our situation and just focus on the hope. Hope tells us that our joy is not rooted in our situation. Hope tell us we are not alone; Jesus will never leave us.


We test hope. We reflect on our lives to see if God really has always been there. In the past, has He worked things for His good? Even if He has not changed the situation, has He changed us? Given us a better perspective? Given us peace, even in the middle of the storm? Have we felt joy again, despite walking through pain? We see that God has always shown up. Consistently shown up.


Reflection helps us make sense of some of the challenges of the past and take a second look at our current state of defeat. Even though we are standing in the middle of a new challenge and might feel confused again, we choose to believe God’s words. We also choose to believe the uplifting words from the people who love us.


We start to heal. We heal just enough so that the fog in our brain from the pain begins to lift and we can think a little straighter, a little more logical. Our brain tells us to keep focusing on the healing. What to do next about our tough situation will come later…


Hope slowly grows. The pain might still be there, but God is healing it. This process can’t be rushed. It takes time.


Hope continues to expand. We feel Jesus walking with us. We let ourselves be encouraged by our family and friends. We let God’s truths feed our soul. We still might not know how things are going to work out in our life, but all of a sudden we are okay with it. We know God loves us, is in control, and will show us the next step when the timing is right.


Time passes, healing continues and then…


We can look into the eyes of despair with renewed confidence. We can say: no matter what, you can’t steal our inner joy. You can’t change that we are loved. Despite you, God still has a plan for our lives. He can still use us, because He created us exactly as He wanted us to be. You can’t hide God’s goodness. You can’t overshadow the beautiful people in our lives who so persistently love us. You might be hanging out around us, despair, but ultimately you won’t overtake us…


…because, we always have hope. And hope reminds us of its source - Jesus. Hope reminds us that the powerful and intentional God who created the whole world in all His glory, finds us important enough to walk right next to us.  


We still might not have all the answers, but things feel different. Despite the challenge, our soul begins to feel peace. Real peace. Deep peace. The kind that doesn’t depend on a perfect situation rather on God, who created us, loves us and is holding us in the storm. 


Despair begins to dissipate. Hope does that. God does that.


And then we know that no matter what - we are going to be okay.

I took this photo on a bright and sunny day, but darkened it with this free Nightmare Photoshop Action from Shutter Pulse. They will give you a sample of 20 free Photoshop Actions from their collection if you subscribe to their email. It is worth it. Their actions are super cool.

My Huffington Post Article

My second article made it on to the Huffington Post. If you haven't had a chance to read it, it would be my honor if you would check it out.

I am a mother of three boys. No daughters. Just three wonderful sons. So, I have always heard comments like:

Are you going to try for your girl?

Three boys... whoa... you must be tired.

Three boys. (Light-hearted laugh.) Man, I feel sorry for you.

Or that awful saying that goes something like this:

A son is your son until he takes him a wife. A daughter is your daughter for the rest of your life.

I love being a mom of boys and I know people aren't trying to be mean, so these kind of comments don't normally bother me. (Well, maybe except for the last one... who wants to ever think their child will go off and never return? What a horrible thought.) But the remarks aren't exactly encouraging or uplifting either.

Recently though, I heard a comment about my boys that I continually turned around in my head until it seeped deep into my heart. It made me feel like I could not possibly be blessed more than by being a mother of three sons. My family and I were eating breakfast at my grandmother's senior living center. It was normal family mayhem. My husband and I helped our kids through the buffet. ("No you cannot pile only donuts on your plate.") We were up and down during the meal refilling plates. We cleaned up an orange juice spill. Then our chaos was interrupted...

...to read more head over to The Huffington Post: To the Mother of All Boys