weekend wanderings | things I learned this weekend

Shane and I were enormously blessed this weekend to attend Family Life Today’s Weekend to Remember marriage conference in Grand Rapids, MI. Such a great weekend. I  knew before we went that we needed it, but it was only after we’d been there for awhile that I realized how much. Things in our marriage had just gotten stale. Routine. Old. Boring. Hard.

We had a rough start. I am pretty sure we didn’t even like each other when we got married, come to think of it. So our road has been a little rocky. This was a time for us to reconnect, to remember why we fell in love. It was so good.

The speakers were AWESOME. Clarence and Brenda Shuler and Brett Ray. Seriously great, great speakers.

I learned so much about myself, about my family, about my marriage. And I want to share with you a few of those things….

1) My husband is not my enemy. Surprise! And to think how much time I have wasted fighting against him!

2) Hotel beds are A.MA.ZING. I love them. When Shane suggested an activity, like getting ice cream, I would counter with, “Can we eat it in bed?” I just really didn’t want to leave that super comfy bed!

DSC_0498copy

3) Six flights of stairs taken really fast CAN ALMOST KILL YOU. The elevator was seriously just too slow to wait for. (Not to mention I could see outside while were going up, and it reminded me of a roller coaster. I hate roller coasters. So yes, I was slightly afraid of that elevator.) I don’t know how many times I climbed those six flights, but it didn’t seem to get easier. And I could NOT breathe after each time. My favorite times were when Shane would take the elevator and I would take the stairs to race him.

4) God can heal. Anything. Everything. He is amazing.

5) Being on the mountaintop is amazing. But down in the valley is where the fertile soil is. That’s where we grow the best. So now that we’re off the mountain (the conference) and in the valley (real life at home) I am praying for lots of growing!

6) My priorities need to be: God, Spouse, Kids. In that order. They have to come in that order for things to work right. My kids will feel much more secure when I put God and my husband before them. Sounds weird, but I know it is true.

7) Shane and I need to spend more time together. Just us. We went out for a short walk downtown Grand Rapids on ‘date night’ and the snow was magical. Huge, fluffy thick flakes falling everywhere. We were literally covered! Walking back to the hotel, we got snow in our eyes, up our noses, covering our hair. It was wonderful. We laughed a lot. And that felt good.  (And Shane called me his ‘little snow bunny’ which gave me warm fuzzies 🙂 )DSC_0517copy1

DSC_0516copy

DSC_0515copy8) Sometimes Shane and I feel really incompatible. We don’t have a lot in common, and that leaves us wondering if we were meant for each other. But I learned this weekend that the issue isn’t compatibility, it is commitment. The more committed we are to each other, the more compatible we become.

9) I want Shane to be able to say about me “Amy is a pleasure to be married to.”

10) With a wife’s respect and support, a husband becomes more confident. I was in awe that I have such power to help my husband rise up to be the man God made him to be.

11) A good marriage is made up of two professional forgivers.

12) True love is not a feeling – it’s an action.

13) God has placed greatness inside of us as a couple. We have a godly destiny in our marriage!

14) Our past does not have to dictate our future! Praise God!

15) And lastly, EVERY married couple should attend this. I am serious. EVERY COUPLE. Learning about God’s plan and purpose for marriage is incredibly empowering. People have gone to these conferences on the verge of divorce and come back with a renewed commitment to their love for each other. God is so powerful and amazing. DSC_0522copy

Advertisements

wonderfully made

Makayla and I caught snowflakes on our eyelashes during a beautiful snow fall this week.

DSC_0476copy

Fearfully and wonderfully made.

God’s word says that about us.

Fearfully and wonderfully made, both us and them.

Each tiny snowflake. Each delicate eyelash.

Crafted with incredible care by infinitely loving hands.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

this boy | Ryan age 7

DSC_0769copy

This boy loves Legos. I mean LOVES them. He will spend hours tinkering with his Legos. And if he gets a new set, you better believe he’ll be up at the crack of dawn to put it together.

This boy is going to be a leader. Last year, his first grade teacher and I agreed he would become president some day.

This boy proudly wore a suit to school one day, and told his carpool buddy in all seriousness, “Don’t push me in the snow. I have my fancy pants on today!”

This boy is always right. Just ask him. He’ll tell you it’s the truth.

This boy has a tender heart.

This boy is brave. When he got his new skateboard for Christmas, we took him to the local skate park. The skate park intimidates me because I feel like I don’t belong there among the ‘cool skater guys’. But this boy jumped right in and skated with the big boys. He graciously accepted their advice, and was soon one of the guys.

This boy wears his pajamas inside out because that somehow turns him into a ninja.

This boy can not figure out how his mom “knows everything.”

This boy will talk to anyone. Shyness is not on his list of personality traits. He gets that from his dad.

This boy loves with all his might, cries with all he’s got, argues with every ounce of conviction he can muster, and talks without ceasing.

This boy humbles me and brings me to my knees in prayer. He teaches me that I can not parent with out God.

This boy is a gift from God. And I am so blessed to have him.

Project Life – let me introduce you

Today I wanted to share some of my Project Life album with you. Now, please note, the album I am currently sharing is from last year (2011). And I have not even started putting together the one from this year. (I am convinced that I will forever be behind on my memory keeping. I am a chronic procrastinator, and I am learning to be ok with that.)  Buuuut, in an attempt to keep up, I thought I’d put a little pressure on myself by sharing my pages here. That way, I feel like I have deadlines. Sort of.

I always knew there was no feasible way I could make scrapbooks for all my children. Even when I only had one child I knew I could never keep up. And to be honest, I didn’t really love finding paper, buying stickers and coming up with huge layouts for every birthday or big life event. So I would stick all my photos into boring old albums and put them on the shelf. Well, that got old. And I got behind. (surprise!) And by the time my oldest was six, she already had 12 albums. And my second child had five already. And there was a new baby with two. (I take a lot of pictures.) So unless we wanted to buy a storage unit to keep all our picture albums, I had to come up with something. So I did nothing. (That’s the procrastinator in me. Can’t find a solution? Just give up.)

Until three years ago when I found Project Life. What is Project Life you ask?  It is this busy mom’s dream come true. I would be so much farther behind in my memory keeping if I had not run across this a few years ago.The system was designed by Becky Higgins (and I admit that I am slightly in love with her for this). It is a simple approach to scrapbooking. Simple = key word. The fun thing is, it doesn’t have to be simple. It gives me the ability to keep it simple when I’m rushed, or to embellish a little more when I have extra time (which isn’t very often.) Either way, I’m getting my beloved photos in an album, my words about my kids recorded, and it gives me an artistic outlet.   Bonus sentimental note – my kids LOVE looking at our albums. Its the story of them.

You really only need five things to get started: a 12×12 album, page protectors, and a core kit (which includes pre-cut papers and journaling cards that perfectly fit into the page protectors), a pen, and your own photos.  Fun part?  Right now there are 10 different core kits to choose from. That means all kinds of beautiful styles. For last year’s album (ahem, otherwise known as the one I am currently trying to finish) I used the Clemetine kit. This year (and I’m really excited about this because I LOVE it) I am using the Seafoam kit.

And Project Life can be anything you want it to be. I do mine week by week. Meaning I have a layout for every week. So my album holds a whole year. Some people do baby albums, some people wedding albums, some use it as an album with no date constrictions, and on and on. Its yours and you get to make the rules.

So enough of my talking. I will share more of my “creative process” another day so as not to overwhelm you with too much gushing about Project Life. (which I love, if I haven’t mentioned that before.) So for right now, I’ll share a page I completed during a church craft day (so fun!) this past weekend.

(click on any picture to see a larger version.)

(and I apologize for my lovely carpet in the background. Not very picture-worthy, I know.)

DSC_0301copy

This was the last week of summer. We welcomed my sister’s new baby (Jase Henry) into the world this week.  (The cute “hello everyday life” card is a free download found here.)

DSC_0308copy

And we spent some time in my dad’s garden digging up potatoes. The kids thought this was awesome. And it made me want to be a farmer. Even more than I already do.
DSC_0305copy

We also spent some time at the beach. But it was too cold to swim. So we ran around in the sand and splashed in the waves.
DSC_0300copy

And a fun weekend spent at my aunt’s cottage on Ford Lake. One last hurrah before school starts!  (The “hello weekend” card is a free download found here.)
DSC_0303copy

And I lied. Its not complete. I forgot the dates on the title card. Whoops. I will add that right now. Or when I get around to it….

Supplies used: Amy Tangerine Thickers – goodness slate, Basic Grey MicroMonogram stickers alphabet white,  Clementine core kit 

(And just so you know, you don’t have to be behind on this. Now that I think about it, there is really no reason to be behind. Its designed to be easy so you can keep up. LOTS of people do this and keep up. The “being behind” part is just part of my personality. And like I said before, I am ok with that 🙂 Maybe in the near future I will write a post with tips on how to keep up!)

how I view LOVE | part one of a twelve part photography series

My wonderfully talented photographer friends and I have embarked on a one year creative challenge called “How I view…”. This is the first of our postings. The theme is “How I view LOVE” (just in time for Valentines Day :))  Once a month, we’ll post the results of our challenge, and I hope you continue to visit and see the world through our eyes! The girls I’m doing this with are super talented, and you’d be missing out if you didn’t check out their amazing work!

After you’re done here, please continue on to Megan’s blog of Meg VanKampen Studios, and then to Mickie’s blog of Fresh Modern Photography.

How I view LOVE….

DSC_0168copy

Daniel’s face in this photo speaks volumes to me. The tender adoration. The wonder in his eyes. The delight in his smile. He beams of unconditional, protective, gentle, grace-full love.

I like to think that this is the way God’s face looks when he looks at me and at you. Full of  love for us.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7   “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

my good intentions

DSC_0291copy

I love to pin health an beauty on Pinterest. I see new exercise routines, promises that my tummy will finally be flat if I just do these 7 certain things every day, beautiful bodies that I am jealous of…and I pin. And pin.

I do have good intentions. I swear to myself I’ll read about them later and try them all out.

It doesn’t happen. (If you know me, this isn’t a big surprise)

For now, just knowing I have that information saved somewhere somehow makes me feel a whole lot better. A lot more “fit”.

In reality, the pins do nothing for me unless I read them and apply them.

Kind of reminds me of the way I treat the Bible sometimes. I have one. Well, I have seven actually. (And I may have missed a couple while I was counting.) I have good intentions. I really do. And somehow having those Bibles up there on the shelf makes me feel better.

But what good does God’s Word do me while it sits “pinned” to my bookshelf?

What if I would actually read and apply? What would happen then?

I would know it. Soak it in. Be refreshed. And be changed.

Not into a supermodel. Or someone with tight abs. Or someone who can run 10 miles.

But into someone who is fit to serve. Fit to love. Fit to follow. Fit to believe.

Please God, turn my good intentions into action. Let me revel in your word so I may be forever transformed.

sweet sweet baby love

I was lucky enough to watch my little 4 month old niece Natalie yesterday while her momma went to work.

LOVE this sweet girl.

DSC_0193copy

and so do my boys.

They adore her actually.

There are only a few things they will sit still for.

Television is one of them. Holding a baby is another.

DSC_0208copy2

DSC_0215copy(cuddle time with Daniel on the couch)

DSC_0154copy5(and some kisses from Noah)

love seeing the sweet side of my busy boys.

break my heart

I try to ignore things that hurt me. Not things that hurt my flesh, mind you, like slivers, or headaches, or sunburn. Oh no, I take care of those things right away. I have never claimed to have a high pain tolerance. Instead, I try to ignore things that hurt my heart. That feeling I get where my heart is swelling up into my throat in agony. Yeah, I try to avoid that.

I don’t do this on purpose to be calloused. I really don’t. Its just too hard to look. Its too hard to think about. It hurts too much. And I don’t know what I can do to help. I don’t know how to make it stop. I feel so helpless. So I push it away.

Several things can do this to me, like poverty, starving children, child abuse, and the issue of human trafficking.

On Sunday, my husband and I were sitting in the living room with our youth group kids enjoying the Super Bowl game. (Well, they were enjoying it. I was enduring it. Not a big fan of football here.) When he leans over to me and whispers, “Did you know there will be thousands of girls used for sex trafficking just for this game?”

My heart lurched.

Thousands of girls. Right now. Being stolen from their families. Being raped, abused, held hostage.

Thousands of girls being used for someone’s entertainment.

Thousands of girls whose lives would forever be changed. Who would be struck by unimaginable pain. Who would forever be scarred by the events of this day. Thousands of girls with a story just like this one.

Guatemala 2009 371copy

And in a parallel universe, the rest of us are sitting in front of our TV with a plate of pizza just waiting for the next commercial to entertain us.

Totally unaware that they exist. Totally unaware that they matter.

Again, my heart lurched. The raw, painful reality of this sinful world was staring me in the face. How meaningless this football game now felt. I felt so silly that I had even gone to the trouble of having a get-together in order to watch it knowing there were girl, women, and even boys suffering. Even now as I write, my heart is in my throat threatening to choke me and bring me to a place of undoing.

This issue has been long chasing me. I can’t seem to get away from it. It just keeps rearing it’s ugly head and piercing my heart. And so I have come to the conclusion that perhaps God gives me this pain-in-the-heart-so-strong-that-I-can’t-hardly-bear-it feeling because He is trying to move me to do something.

Injustice has the power to stir up righteous anger. And righteous anger should stir up action.

I decided right then that I will no longer run from this pain. I will do something, anything, in order to help.

After all, they matter.

Guatemala 2009 368copy

God, break my heart for what breaks Yours.

Does this pierce your heart as well?

Exodus Road is working to end human trafficking of all kinds – both forced labor and sex trafficking. Visit their website to learn more about them and to find ways to help.

Read more about social justice at aboutproximity.com and find links to other websites here where you can go to get involved.

in the wind

DSC_0129copy

I closed my eyes and daydreamed of summer today.

I imagined the glorious sun shining on my face. The clouds drifting through the sky.

I could feel the heaviness of warm. I could smell the fragrance of new life mixed with Lake Michigan blowing in the breeze.

I was standing on flowing green hills as far as my eye could see. They sloped down away from me and were covered in wildflowers that danced in the wind. Far in the distance I could see great towering trees surrounding my meadow and waving in the breeze. The leaves on the trees joined in the dance and rolled with laughter and joy.

The wind made me dance as well. It gracefully enveloped me and filled my senses as it came sweeping over the landscape.

I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply.

Something about the wind is so beautiful to me.

It is in the wind that I feel like I can feel God moving and speaking.

When I cry out to him in the warmer months, I sometimes feel that he answers me in the wind. That while I am pouring out my heart or asking for his direction, he suddenly sweeps over me in a comforting embrace of rushing air.

Breeze laced with intoxicating warm.
Breeze with a power to lift me up and encourage my spirit.
Breeze that fills my senses and stills my longing heart.

In these long winter months I miss feeling the warm wind on a summer day. I miss hearing God in the breeze.

But I know that even when I can not feel the refreshing breeze that reminds me of God’s movement, He is still moving.

He is still at work.

He is still present.

He is still speaking.

He is still refreshing.

God, help me to sense you and trust you even when the summer breeze is far away.