Saturday, August 29, 2009

And The Winner Is...

Anna!!! Congratulations Anna!! Your book will be mailed to you soon! :)

Stay tuned for another giveaway on my 190th post!!

Thanks everyone who entered; this drawing was small but fun anyway! :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My First Giveaway!!!

In anticipation of my 200th post, I am going to do my first giveaway!! This is post #185, so stay tuned for more giveaways on post #190, #195, and the Big Kahuna on post #200!!!

To enter this giveaway, you can do one of the following three things (one entry per action):
-Leave a comment below
-Become a "follower" of this blog (look on the right side for the "follow this blog" link)
If you are already a follower, let me know that in a comment for your entry.
-Tell others about this giveaway on your own blog!

Each time you do one of these, come back and leave a comment telling me which one you did, and you will be entered up to 3 times. I don't have a TON of readers, so your chances of winning are pretty high! :)

Entries will close at midnight on Friday, August 28th.

Here is what is up for grabs this time:

"Birthday Cakes for Kids" Book (makes a great gift if you don't have kids yourself!)

Thanks for entering, and please spread the word! I will announce the winner on Saturday, August 29th at 8:30am. Stay tuned!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Nuggets to Chew On

Our weekend with Anne Ortlund was Amazing. Challenging. Convicting. Life-Changing. The entire time we felt like we were sitting with a "spiritual giant." I don't think I've ever felt so honored to be in someone's physical presence in my entire life (no offense- although you are important too) :)

We spent Friday and Saturday with Anne in her home, from 9am-5pm. We ate lunch with her on both days as well. She discipled us every minute of those two days. We read Scripture, prayed Scripture, talked about what it meant, and how it applied to various areas of our lives. She had us discuss questions about our walks with God, our ministry, our marriage, our finances, our goals, and we spent awhile on time management as well. It was like an entire week of discipleship packed into two days. She challenged me in many areas personally, and I left with a strong sense of conviction about things I really need to work on and change. At the end, she had Martin and I "renew our vows" to one another and she had us get on our knees, and she prayed over us and blessed our marriage. It was powerful. Seeing as our 10 year anniversary is Sept. 18th, and we've always said we wanted to renew our vows on our 10 year anniversary, we really felt like we did that with her. What an honor!

Here are some of the "nuggets" that we took away from our time with Anne:
-There is a difference between the "will of God" and the "way of God." You can be in His will, but are you in his way? Meaning, is your heart right? Is your attitude right? Are you continually thankful or complaining?
-God speaks to us mostly through His word and prayer, so how can we expect to hear him if we are not spending time with Him? If we are too busy to spend time with God, something in our life is not right. We have to re-prioritize. (See "eliminate and concentrate" below).
-What is your one goal in life? What is your "bulls-eye"? The one word that would describe your purpose? For Ray and Anne, the word was "renewal." Everything they did was with that goal in mind. We are praying right now about what our goal should be.
-Andrew Murray said "In waiting on God we realize how impatient we are and what that impatience means." How do we wait on God? We are often impatient with God. The sooner we yield to him, His blessing will come to us.
-Contentment is a form of worship, because you are agreeing with the Lord that everything He does is right. (She said we can thank God in the worst of circumstances- "Lord, thank you that my child is throwing a tantrum right now!! Because you are teaching me patience and how to be a better mother.) The Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years because they were unthankful.
-Eliminate and Concentrate. We spent a LOT of time on this. "Your back door should be as big as your front door. Whatever you let in time-wise, you need to let something else out." Dr. Reggie McNeal said "Quit doing something today. Quit doing what you're not good at. Also quit doing something that you really like- that keeps you from getting your mission done."
-Are you raising your kids or are you discipling them?
-"Our relationship with God is not a business transaction. It is a romance." (Don't spend time with God because it is a task, but because you are in love with Jesus and He is romancing you).
-Don't make financial decisions based on fear, because that is not God's will. Separate money from ministry. If you follow the will of God, He will provide for you. He will always provide for His will.

There was so much more, but these are "nuggets" that were life-changing for us. If you are interested in going to Renewal Days with Anne Ortlund, visit

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Sabbath Rest

The word "sabbatical" is derived from the Hebrew word "shabbat" (Sabbath) which literally means "a ceasing." Wikipedia (my not-so-favorite source to quote from, but here goes) says "Shabbat is considered a festive day, when a person is freed from the regular labors of everyday life, can contemplate the spiritual aspects of life, and can spend time with family." Biblically this was practiced every seven days, but also every seven years.

Our church council decided a few years back to give the pastors a sabbatical every 7 years, for a period of 4 weeks, with one week before and one week after to transition (for a total of six weeks). April 1 of this year marked Martin's seventh year at the church. It is hard to believe we came here seven years ago. He started out as the Pastor of Children and Youth, and then felt called to lead worship full time, so his position changed to the Pastor of Worship and Youth. These seven years have been marked by growth, change, trials, testing, and many joys. But Martin (and I) also felt the past year that he really needed a rest, a break, from all of the "giving" and just needed to stop and receive for awhile. Pastors are pretty much on-call all the time, so we have gotten calls on vacation, on days off, in the middle of the night, etc... and it can be hard to relax when you always know that someone is going to need something at any given moment. We wouldn't change it, though, because it is very rewarding to be serving God in the center of His will.

We feel very blessed that our church really respects boundaries and family time. They always want us to put family first, and do not require Martin to be at every single event. Our personal phone number is not given out unless we allow it to be, and they allow his schedule to be very flexible depending on what the family needs that week. We could not ask for anything more. Still, it is good to rest. In fact, I really believe that fewer people would leave the ministry from burnout if they would practice resting more, and that their congregations would encourage and bless them to do so.

The Sabbatical officially started on August 4 and will continue until September 7. We have been able to spend quality time as a family, going here and there, with no pressing need to be back for any reason. We've been to Morro Bay, Disneyland, the Science Adventure Museum, the beach, for long walks, to the park, etc... but what I am REALLY looking forward to is this weekend. We are going to be spending the weekend with Anne Ortlund, who has served in ministry for many years with her husband Ray until he passed away two years ago. Ray & Anne have written numerous books about discipleship, leadership, prayer, etc... Anne now hosts "Renewal Days" at her home, where she meets with pastors & their wives to talk about marriage, ministry, direction for the future, hopes & dreams, goals, etc... I look up to her so much and am so honored that we are being invited into her home.

It is always hard for us to leave our kids overnight (we've only done it once before) but we know it will be good for us. Finding childcare for these 2 days was so stressful, but I'm thankful that everything finally fell into place! I just love my sister & my mom and our babysitter for helping us out!

We are truly enjoying our "Sabbath rest" and it is a true gift to us from God!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Not Me" Monday

I did NOT decide to finally do a "Not Me" Monday post after almost a year of reading them, because I do NOT always forget what I was going to write when I sit down to blog on Mondays!

This week:

I certainly did NOT decide to save money by dying my own hair (read THAT post below) and learned a big lesson.

I most CERTAINLY did not hear my son say to me "Mommy, your tummy is getting fat like a ball!" and then decide that finally I am going to lose weight.

I did NOT start eating really healthy this week as a result of said-comment above, along with seeing recent pictures of myself where I was appalled.

I have NOT lost 2.5 pounds in 2 days, JUST by cutting the junk food out of my diet.

I did NOT find myself stressed out yesterday in the toilet paper aisle at Target, overwhelmed by the choices. I did NOT tell the man next to me "I am so overwhelmed right now!" because I was trying to find the softest paper for the cheapest price. I did NOT have to settle again for scratchy toilet paper because it was the cheapest option and we're trying to save money. I guess I will just have to wait for my Charmin Extra-Soft in the future.

I did NOT sing the song "You are My Sunshine" to Micah in the car yesterday, only to hear him ask 20 questions about the song, like "Who do you call 'Sunshine', Mommy? My name is Micah" and "Why did you take the sunshine away?" and "Where did the sunshine go?" and finally I did NOT hear him ask "Why are you laughing at me?"

I did NOT stay in my pajamas twice this week until noon!

There- I did it!! My first NOT ME Monday. Won't you do it too?

Stupid Things People Do... and Pancakes!!

Last night I got the brilliant idea to save $70-80 and highlight my hair myself. It has been years since I've attempted this, because the few times I tried this I ended up with orange hair or too-yellow hair, or big blotches. I thought this time would be different. I was wrong. See for yourself.

The good news is that Martin is on sabbatical, so I won't have to see many people I know for the next 4 weeks!! :) And I can hide the big blonde patch pretty easily. The bad news is that I need to either let it grow out or pay the money to get it fixed! Oh well.... live and learn! I am beyond the point where things like this bother me too much anymore! (I have found that since becoming a mom, the phrase "oh well, who cares?!" comes out of my mouth more than it used to!)

I got inspired by reading MckMama's blog on pancakes, to start trying my own pancake recipes. Micah LOVES eating pancakes for breakfast, but I know that just plain old white pancakes are not that nutritious for him. I picked up some Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat Bran and Flaxseed Meal, and I have been sprinkling them in just about everything! I take plain pancake mix (or I make it myself, but only when I have time), and I add some wheat bran and flaxseed (not too much or the pancakes will become tough). If you do add a little too much, just add more water. Anyway, Micah doesn't notice at all, and the lite syrup seems to cover any slight taste their might be. When I add blueberries, he especially loves them and will snack on them all day long!

You can also sprinkle the flaxseed meal in yogurt, fruit smoothies, applesauce, etc... Just a little and they'll never know it is in there! Flaxseed meal can also be used as a substitute for egg in many recipes. You can use the whole wheat flakes for baking cookies, cupcakes, etc... Just sprinkle some in your regular batter and you have just added more nutrition!

**You can find Bob's Red Mill packages at your regular supermarket, in the healthy food aisle, or at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or any natural health food store. They run about $3 a bag.

P.S. This is my 180th post! I am going to do my first ever blog giveaway on my 200th post, so stay tuned!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vacation Memories

Yesterday we got back from our vacation - 5 days in Morro Bay, CA with our great friends Kurt & Anna and their two daughters. This is our third time at the vacation house with them, and we always have so much fun!!! It is not easy to find another family you can vacation with, and I'm so thankful that we have them. Here are the highlights from our trip:

-Our boys eating chicken nuggets and fries FIVE times that weekend.

-The car breaking down the second day we were there. Since EVERY mechanic in town was closed on Saturday, we had it towed to the next town over where they fixed it in five hours. Over $400 later, at least we had our car back, right?!

-The kids playing together all the time. SO fun. The youngest two are within 6 months of each other, as well as the oldest two.

-Anna and I got to go into San Luis Obispo for a few hours and have a quiet lunch together. Ahhh, I think this is one of the GREATEST gifts. To have a good friend and be able to sit and have a real, uninterrupted conversation. It was priceless.

-We ate out one night and celebrated Kurt's birthday!

-On Saturday night, Anna & I TRIED to cook Chicken Parmigiana, but discovered when the timer went off that the chicken was still raw in the oven (the oven had apparently turned itself off). Oh well; we rolled with the punches and cooked it on the stove.

-On Sunday, we drove to the beach and saw tons of sea lions and dolphins in the water!! I could sit and stare at the ocean for hours.

-Sunday night, they left, and we were sad!! The house suddenly felt so empty. But we knew we needed some good family time, too.

-The rest of the time was spent taking the car BACK to the mechanic (twice) for another issue, watching tons of episodes of Jon & Kate Plus Eight (since we don't have cable back at home), eating out a lot, taking walks, throwing rocks in the water, and taking long, beautiful drives.

Yesterday it took us over 7 hours to get home since we stopped along the way. My favorite stop was at Sprinkles Cupcakes in Beverly Hills, where we picked up an Orange Cupcake, a Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cupcake, and a Vanilla Cupcake. Yummy!! We ate it across the street at the park with the big Beverly Hills sign. I always hope to spot a celebrity when I'm there, but hasn't happened yet...

On the last leg home, Jaden got restless and we gave in and let him "color" with a permanent marker on a piece of paper. When we turned around, this is what we saw:

Oh well...

Anyway, we're back home now, and just loving that Martin is on sabbatical. I will blog more about that later. We are just enjoying having time off and being a family, and having FUN!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Working From Home

When I was pregnant with Micah, I switched from working full time to part time, at a company that would allow me to work from 9am-1pm. My bosses were two very understanding, Christian men who joked with me that I probably wouldn't want to come back after I had the baby, because their wives had both made the same decision. I wasn't sure, but knew we needed the money and could not pay our rent unless I worked. When Micah was around six weeks old it came time for me to go back to work, and I was just devastated. I cried and cried about having to leave my new baby with a babysitter while I was at work, at a job I didn't particularly enjoy anyway. The night before I was going to the office to tell them I could start back on Monday, Martin and I went out to dinner. He said he had been praying about it and we should just take a BIG step of faith, and I should quit my job. As much as that was music to my ears, I was petrified.

That very night, without us having told anyone, my brother called me and said that he wanted to hire me to edit wedding photographs for his business. We had many conversations about that prior, but they never turned into anything. This time, though, he meant business. He was coming up the next day with a computer and all the supplies I would need. The next day I was able to go into my old job and tell them I was quitting, and that I was going to be working from home as a photo editor.

It has now been 4 years since we made that decision. I can honestly say that it was the best decision we ever made. Sometimes we just have to take a step of faith before God shows us the next step, and that's what we had to do. Thankfully for us it all fell into place very quickly, but we've still had other situations where we took a big step and nothing happened for months. Either way, though, God is always faithful to follow through when we are obedient.

Working from home is not fun, and it is not easy. Sure, I can sit in my pajamas and don't have to report to the office, but there are major drawbacks as well. For one - it is REALLY hard to get your work done when you're working from home. Especially with 2 kids. So when do I work? Usually 8pm-12am, four to five nights a week. I would much rather be relaxing after a long day with screaming children, or watching TV, or doing all the chores that await me. But the work has to get done. Not every week is that way; there are other weeks where I don't have any work (and no money coming in), or a slow week of 2-3 nights of work. But this past 2 weeks it has been about 20 hours a week. Still, I am so incredibly thankful. Almost every day I am thanking God that I have this opportunity.

This is my workstation right now- a mess. See the bowl of hummus? That is my lunch today since I'm working (er- blogging) during the boys' nap time:

I was sitting here last night, wishing I had something to listen to, when I got on I-Tunes and downloaded the podcasts for Focus on the Family. I listened to a four part series on "Screaming Mothers." It was so interesting and I learned how to be a better mother!! So now at least I have something to listen to!

Today is Martin's last day of work for 4 weeks. Our church gives their pastors a sabbatical every seven years. It is amazing!! They also give one week prior and one week after to transition. Tomorrow we leave for Morro Bay for 4 days, with our friends Kurt & Anna. We are SO looking forward to this trip. This will be our third time there with them. The rest of the sabbatical, we have various things planned, but it is really a time for Martin to rest, reflect and renew his energy. It will be so nice to have him around more, and be able to have a free schedule.

Tune in next week for Morro Bay pics!!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Labor & Delivery Photo Shoot

On Thursday morning I got the call at 2:45am - my friend was in labor and going to the hospital! She had asked me if I would photograph the entire event, so I headed over at about 4:15am. This was the second birth that I had the privilege of attending to be moral support as well as to photograph. My friend G was having an "all natural" birth with a doula, and I had never actually seen that done before. I was so in awe of her strength and tenacity through it all. She did wonderfully, had no complications at all, and delivered her baby boy at 10am. I had been praying all morning that she would have her baby by 10am, since I could tell she was getting more and more tired. She had been up since 1:30am that morning and had barely had any sleep the night before that as well. God heard my prayer, and the baby was born at exactly 10am!

During the pushing, her husband ran over to me and told me I could "get right in there", and so I did! I think those were the best pictures I have ever taken - not the prettiest ones :) but the most life-changing pictures for sure. I won't post those, though :)

Here are a few of the pictures from the day:

I have realized now that being a photographer for the past 3 years has made me not enjoy any event unless I have my camera on me! It is almost like I cannot see an event anymore without envisioning what pictures would be awesome. I truly love taking pictures, but my favorite pictures are the ones that are not posed at all - they are just natural poses of joy, laughter, tears, etc... I hope I can do more labor & delivery photo shoots like this!