Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Look Back At 2013

Here I sit just hours away from 2014 all while reflecting on 2013.

It was a good year.

Last January I got on a plane and flew to Washington D.C. to meet an online friend and quickly realized she has become one of my closest and dearest friends. I'm still anxiously looking forward to when either she will come here, or I will go there again. It will happen. But for now, we kept up our promise to text or talk more often than before.

In February, I announced that I had started a new adventure in 2012 of birth photography. This journey into birth photography has kept me very busy, has challenged me to challenge myself more in photography, and has been one of the biggest blessings that I can't even begin to possibly explain. To see brand new life being born is a complete miracle and one that I refuse to take for granted.

Meridian also took a big step of self-weaning in February. It was so incredibly bittersweet for me, but at the same time quite painless because we were both so ready. As I did with her older sister, I wrote a weaning letter to her.

In March, I got to fulfill my dream of going to a Maroon 5 concert and seeing Adam Levine in person! :) I have a bit of a crush on him and thanks to my confident husband (and maybe the fact that I'm no supermodel), my hubby took my teenager self to a concert and I had a blast!

I also shared my very first picture of our dog, Teal in March. Although, I would later have my husband, Chris guest post about her in April!

In April, Zoelle lost her very first tooth and if I'm not mistaken, tooth number four will be coming out either late tonight or early tomorrow.

The month of May was a busy one! Meridian received her first haircut (and then later on this summer cut it on her own)! Zoelle and Meridian both turned a year older (when does time stop?) and as always, I wrote them each a birthday letter.

In June, we went to our annual parade, enjoyed some sunshine, and just relaxed knowing that summer was finally here.

In July, we celebrated the 4th of July, followed only a few days later by our Xiomara's third birthday. We also took a wonderful, relaxing, sun-filled, camping vacation that was pure bliss!

In August, Chris and I had a joint 30th birthday party. We spent the whole day with friends and family who celebrated with us by doing some of our favorite things (floating down the river, supper at a local pizza place, bonfire late into the night at our house). A few days later, Chris and I celebrated 10 years together. I still can hardly believe it has been that long and I feel so blessed to be Chris' wife. In celebration, Chris and I took a few days off for a bed & breakfast trip. Also, I took my favorite picture of Xiomara to date with my iPhone at the end of the month. I absolutely adore it!

September meant the start of school, but not until after we took a wonderful Labor Day trip to the North Shore. It also meant attending another concert, this time to Taylor Swift (hey BFF!). Much of my September is documented in this post that was a conclusion of summer that I posted in October.

November and December have seemingly flown by with both Thanksgiving and Christmas. I turned 30, and realized that maybe it isn't so bad after all (I'm not sure though, still thinking on that one). I also opened up a bit and shared with you that we have had some scary times. Yet, I have seen God time and time again in those times, even if it is through a pair of P!nk tickets.

Now as I look forward to 2014, I can honestly say that I am excited! Excited to see what God will bring into our lives this year and excited to see what God will have us do for others. Long ago, I came across this picture and have since saved it in order to keep this in my mind for the future.

I have one life to live and I plan on using it wisely. Here is to 2014! Happy New Year!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Compass Study Bible Review

Are you still looking for that perfect gift for someone in your life? If you have a friend or family member who is in need of a Bible, I can highly recommend the Compass Study Bible.

With the birth of technology, I have mainly done most of my bible reading on an app via my phone. However, I still miss holding books in my hand, and since I am a visual learner, it helps to have something directly in front of me that is more tangible than my phone.

I like the Compass Study Bible because if you aren't sure where to start reading or applying the Bible in your life, it is a guide to doing that. I also love that it has notes as I am someone who needs an explanation behind the verse.

If you like reading plans, this Bible has a 365 day read through the Bible just for you. One of my favorite parts of this Bible is the topical guide based off of scripture and notes, so you can look up verses on whatever you need for that particular time in your life.

Overall, if you are missing reading the Bible, or need to gift one to a friend, I recommend the Compass Study Bible!

Disclaimer: *The featured product(s) in this post were provided for me by Shelton Interactive. I was not compensated in any way. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by anyone.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

In Which I See God Through A Pair Of P!nk Tickets {And Other Things}

This post is one that has been on my heart for awhile, yet hard for me to get across on paper. I want to make sure I do though as it is important for me to remember.

Part of the reason it is hard for me to get across, is because it is personal. Personal is hard for me. I'm actually quite an introvert and feel as if I only let a few people truly know my heart. It is pretty easy for me to shy away from opening up and sharing as I am so private. Yet, this is one post that I must share.

Financially we are at a tough point in our lives. We've all been there before, right?

The last six months we have been stretched in finances in ways we were not expecting. Not even close. Part of the reason I hesitate sharing is because I am not immune to the fact that we have far more than others. I know we are blessed. I've always been of the belief that we are blessed when we have little, and we are blessed when we have much.

Well right now is a little time in our life. Probably more so than ever before. It has had us stressed and relying on God in a way that we haven't in a very long time.

The awesome part is: God knows and He always provides. Even if it is just to bless us with extra.

In October, a local radio station had a chance to win a pair of P!nk tickets via Facebook. Now, you all know that I love Taylor Swift and Maroon 5, but I also like P!nk. However, hubby loves her music! When we saw she was coming in concert, we talked about buying tickets, but ultimately decided that we just didn't have the funds. By chance, I entered the contest by liking and sharing the picture. Over 2,000 people shared the picture and I won!

I saw God in that moment. He blessed us with a pair of P!nk tickets! While some may say that isn't God, I know it is because He knows exactly how much my hubby wanted those tickets.

Can I also take a moment to share how four simple eggs can show me God? I shared before how our chickens seem to be molting and thus not producing eggs. One particular day I was feeling very down. We had some unexpected news and I was just feeling like crying out, "Where are you God?". It may be crazy, but when I went to collect eggs that day and found four, I rejoiced knowing that God cared.

Perhaps the greatest time in my life that I have ever seen Jesus is through the love of a stranger. Zoelle is an avid learner. She has burned through math books, reading books, and pretty much all of her school. I was desperate to buy new curriculum for her. Like a whole set of curriculum. However, this meant spending close to $300 and we just didn't have that right now. So about a month ago, I sat down after the kids went to bed, figured out exactly what we needed and was going to just buy it with some money we were wanting to keep for savings. Before I bought it though, I hoped onto Facebook, posted on a message board for the curriculum we use looking for any coupon codes. Several people responded and told me that Heart of Dakota will work with people and financial circumstances if you contact them directly (side note: what an awesome company for doing that). I also had two people message me telling me that they were done with that particular level of curriculum and were willing to sell it, but they had to get back to me on a price. They both promised they would get back to me by the following night. I was more than willing to buy used curriculum. One of those two people friend requested me (so we could message back and forth about the curriculum), but I also received another friend request from someone I didn't know. I ignored it all day. I kicked myself the next morning when Chris went off to work and I forgot to send with him the one check I had to pay for this curriculum. That meant we couldn't buy the curriculum during the day, which meant one more day of delay for Zoelle and moving on in school. That evening, I opened up my computer and was browsing Facebook before going to bed when I decided to check my messages to see if the two people had decided on a price for their used curriculum yet. No messages in my inbox, but I happened to see a message in my other folder. Now, I know that other folder exists, but I rarely use my computer these days unless I am editing photos or blogging. So the message did not come up on my phone. When I clicked on it, it was from the stranger who had friend requested me that morning and it said something like this: "I would like to buy the HOD curriculum you need. Please message me and let me know what you guys need. Have a great day! "

I was shocked! We messaged back and forth a bit, and a few weeks ago a package arrived on our doorstep with all the curriculum I will need to finish out Zoelle's school year (and I can use parts of it in the years to come for the other two girls).

The day that package came, I cried tears of gratitude. I'm still crying tears of gratitude. That a complete stranger, not knowing me, or even our financial circumstance would offer to buy the curriculum for us just because she saw my post, is beyond me.

Excited over her new math!

But it isn't beyond God!

I honestly have fought with God these last few months. I'm not going to lie, there are times I have felt that He has abandoned us. That He no longer cared. We have worked hard, been faithful to Him, yet there have been some tough days.

I'm not immune to the fact that there won't be tough days ahead. But, I can look back on them and realize that God is faithful. In both the big and the little, He is faithful.

So while this post may be written for me to remember in the future, perhaps you needed to hear it today. God knows and He cares. It seems cliché, but as I've realized these last few months, it is oh so true!

Pure Happiness!
By the way, the two people who had used curriculum...never got back to me. His plan all along!