Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Black & White Wednesday - Gabe, the seven-year-old

For this Black & White Wednesday over at The Long Road to China, I decided to post some more photos I took a few days ago in honor of Gabe's seventh birthday.

I still can't believe my oldest is seven. I know I sound like a broken record, like I'm getting old, like I just need to get over it. But it really does seem like just yesterday that I was holding this little baby in my arms. Yet now, he's seven.

Gabe is sweet...

And silly...

He's happy...

and sincere...

And just a little bit ghetto ;)

There's so much personality wrapped up in that little seven-year-old body. Happy seventh birthday Gabe. Try not to turn eight too fast, for mom's sake.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Today I woke up to the realization that I have a seven year old! It hasn't really been seven years since my first child was born, has it?!?

It seems surreal to look at Gabe and realize that he's becoming a young man. A sweet, kind, curious, outgoing, sharp, funny, handsome young man.

Where did my baby go?

Happy 7th Birthday Gabe! Words can't express how much you mean to us. I thank the Lord everyday for you.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Because I love you

My husband gets home today from a weekend youth conference. For those of you who didn't know or may have forgotten, Jason is a youth pastor. He took 30-something teenagers to St. Louis for Dare2Share, a national youth conference the youth group attends every year.

Now I love and share in my husband's passion for youth, his desire to see them come to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and His passion for discipleship and teaching them to disciple others.

But, I hate it when he's gone.

While we were dating and attending different colleges, we would have to say goodbye after visiting each other for the weekend, and I would cry every time. You'd think I would have 'grown up' since then, outgrown those little quirks and silly side-effects of young love. But I haven't. I still cry when he leaves. Every time. I just miss him terribly when he's gone.

And Jason knows this. He knows I am a very sensitive soul, and hate him to be away. So on Thursday, I came home from running some errands to find these on my table...

I love flowers, tulips being one of my favorites. And lavender ones at that!

I asked him what the special occasion was, and he said there was no special occasion. He said he got those flowers, 'Because I love you, and to remind you that I'll miss you while I'm gone.'

How blessed I am to have a husband like Jason.
My high school sweetheart that I loved then, love now and will love always.

And who comforts me when I cry, no matter how silly I am ;)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tuckered out

Yes, toys are a lot of fun for an eight-month-old.

But they can also be a lot of work.

And lead to a completely and utterly...

Exhausted Baby!

But oh so CUTE!

He has such a tough life! ;)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Black & White Wednesday - A girl and her umbrella

We have been blessed with beautiful weather everyday this week. And to celebrate spring, we've spent a good portion of everyday outside, just where the kids and I love to be!

On Monday morning, Gabe & Cooper were at school and Gavin was taking a nap, which left just Chloe and I. I was busy sweeping the floor and doing laundry. So when Chloe found her umbrella in the closet and asked to go outside and play with it, I sent her out in the backyard while I finished up some chores. I went upstairs to put a load of laundry in, and when I came back down, I saw that Chloe had walked out to our field and was in her own little world. What's a mom to do but grab her camera of course!

I hung back, as I had with the boys the week before, as to capture some shots of Chloe just being Chloe. She reminds me so much of my childhood. I used to spend hours and hours playing by myself, being the only girl in my family in addition to being the youngest by several years.

I would get lost in my own little world, letting my imagination take me to far away places. And now, I am often reminded of those days by simply observing Chloe.

And again I think of my childhood while looking at these black & white photos that I chose to process with a vintage feel. This could have been me...with dark hair...and freckles. Okay, she actually looks a lot like her dad. But as I watch this girl, twirling with an umbrella in an Iowa field, I see glimpses of me.

Having the time of her life, as Chloe always does.

What a joy-filled soul she has, having been compared to the princess from the movie Enchanted on more than one occasion. Always singing and happy, Chloe radiates contentment. She truly is a constant reminder to always look on the bright side and thank the Lord in everything.

I love my boys, but I am also so very grateful that the Lord had the grace to give me just one girl. Life wouldn't be the same without her.

To check out all the other entries for Black & White Wednesday, visit The Long Road to China. Once again, thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Missed Opportunity

I hesitated writing this post. I thought about it, prayed about it, and the passion inside just kept building. I felt led to share my thoughts. They are in no way intended to judge others, or to be overly critical. My desire is not to offend anyone. But even as I write those words, I think of Jesus, and how he surely offended many in His day. His testimony was not always easy on the ears, but it was Truth with a capital "T." And so, I felt compelled to share my thoughts. Please know that although this is constructive criticism about a conference I recently attended, in many ways this is a rebuke to myself for all the times I've fallen short of being bold, for failing to always speak the truth in love and for missed opportunities. And know that I have also made the conference organization aware of these thoughts, as to not complain for the sake of complaining, but as to be heard.

Last weekend I went to a conference. I am not going to share the name of the conference, but I will say that it is a nationally recognized conference whose target audience is Christian women.

When a friend suggested we go to this conference, I thought it was a great idea. I looked forward to digging into God's Word and learning more about Him in a group setting. I looked forward to solid teaching, to Worship that I could get lost in and focus on Christ alone. I looked forward to depth.

Yet after the first day of this two-day conference, I quickly realized that the goal of this conference was not depth. Not once did a speaker open their Bible and dig in to the Scriptures. The most we got was a lone Bible verse worked casually into the midst of life stories. We were swimming in the shallow end.

I prayed that night that the Lord would change my perspective, and help my expectations to be His, and not mine.

I thought about the fact that although I longed for depth, maybe this conference was designed to reach new believers just beginning their walk with Him. And I also expected day two to focus on the life saving gift of Jesus Christ, for all those women present who don't know Him at all.

With a renewed perspective and changed expectations, I entered day two of the conference. But as the same stories in newly wrapped packages were shared one after one, just as the day before, my heart sank. Because as I thought about all the women in that auditorium, from all walks of life and coming from all different situations, I knew that the one thing they all needed to hear was the one focus that was missing: Jesus.

It can be argued that in the midst of the heart-warming stories and feel good testimonies that a Christian could pull out how God worked in those speakers' lives. And I believe that I did. I could see how the Lord interweaves those little details or things we call coincidences into our lives through our experiences, and how they all point to Him and glorify His name.

But what about the women present who wouldn't call themselves Christians. Or who do, as I did for so long, but who are still missing something. Who are missing the point. Who are lacking Jesus and His grace. What about them?

As I thought about what we are called to do as followers of Christ, I thought about Mark 15:16, "And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.'" Being a Christian rests on the fact that we have believed in and accepted the gift of Christ that God gave to us on the cross so very long ago. It rests on the realization that we are sinners, falling short of God's glory, and that we NEED a Savior. It rests on Jesus Christ. Yet not once was the Gospel presented.

Quite simply, if we're not sharing the saving love of Jesus Christ, just as Jesus did, then aren't we missing the boat of opportunity? Are we not called to be disciples, preaching and teaching just as Jesus did? Are we not called to have a heart for the lost, for those who don't know His love and grace, for those who have not accepted the free gift of salvation? I think of the analogy of an unsaved friend not being let through the gates of Heaven. As our Lord says to the friend, "Turn from me, for I never knew you," that friend then turns to me and says, "Why did you never tell me?" And if we're not clearly sharing our faith with our friends, our family, even strangers, then aren't we keeping Christ our little secret?

No matter what our overall intention is through our interactions with people, shouldn't our goal always be to share the love of Christ with others. Not just in a subtle, 'they'll see Him through my actions' kind of way. But in a bold, "Jesus died for YOU!" kind of way. Because I'm sure there's more women out there than just me that just wouldn't have came to the understanding of God's gift to us through Jesus's death on a cross if they hadn't been told, point blank, like I was when I was 16.

And as I look back at this conference, I realize that's just what these women have done. They identify themselves as Christians, but never once revealed how you too can become one. I'm not doubting their authenticity, or trying to judge them, but I am aware of the missed opportunity of such an event. The Lord has blessed them with such an awesome way to reach thousands and thousands of women for His glory, and lead them to the truth. But the most important truth was not revealed. And after all, if we don't have Christ, then what do we have? It's all for nothing.

How many women will be lined up at the gates of Heaven saying, "But why didn't you all tell me about God's saving grace at that conference?"

It breaks my heart. Another watered down, feel good message, lacking the one thing everyone needs: the gift of Jesus Christ. Another missed opportunity.

Sure, the conference was entertaining. It was filled with some wonderful, heart-warming stories and some pleasant songs. It had some charismatic speakers and some comedians that made me laugh out loud until tears fell from my eyes. And that's all well in good. But then there's twisting the truth, even just a little, to make it more pleasing to our ears. A song discussed how we are worthy of the Lord, yet Romans 3:23 tells us, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." None are worthy, not one. And a speaker, one who could be called a motivational speaker, claimed that we need to take hold of our lives, think positively, smile a lot, and things will begin to go our way. But in John 15, Jesus tells us that we are not guaranteed easy lives as Christians, but instead may endure much persecution in His name. And then I remember 2 Timothy 4:3, and how the Lord warns us of these slight twists of truth..."For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."

But after all the laughter and all the tears and all the good feelings, what are we left with if we don't have Jesus? Emptiness. A void that needs filled. And it can't be filled with any amount of stories, or music, or laughter. It can only be filled with God's gift to us.

I pray that the one thing I learn from this experience is to not waste any more opportunities. To be bold in my faith and to walk in His truth. To be His witness, not only through actions, but through words. Because how else will they know?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Black & White Wednesday - Brothers

My two oldest sons are two years apart in age. Gabe is 6, Cooper is 4.

Gabe is a go-getter, with lots of confidence and natural leadership qualities. Cooper is a bit more timid, extremely humble and laid back. And although I'm sure a lot of these compatible differences can be explained by examining birth order, I'm also quite certain that it's just one more example of God's perfect orchestration.

I can't imagine two Gabes or two Coopers in one family. And I certainly can't imagine two Gabes or two Coopers 'clicking' like these two brothers do. But you take one Gabe and one Cooper, and what you have is a great friendship, perfectly balanced.

This past Sunday, these two brothers asked to go outside and play while our younger two kids napped. We live on an acreage perfect for two boys getting 'lost' in their own little world. They hadn't come inside for awhile, so I ventured outside to see what they might be up to. I found them nestled back by a tree in some deep weeds, just sitting and talking. They didn't notice me right away, so I hung back and observed.

I overheard many random conversations, like Gabe saying, "If I were a superhero I'd be Batman, cause he gets to drive the Batmobile." Followed by Cooper responding, "And I could be Robin, cause he gets to help Batman beat the bad guys!" And, "When I grow up, I'd love to learn how to fly my own airplane, so that we could go to the rain forest and see some monkeys climbing in the trees."

I heard many random thought of two brothers. But most of all, I heard stories shared among two friends. Two friends who have so much fun together. Two friends who stick up for each other. Two friends who fight one minute, but are best buds again the next. Brothers by birth, but friends by choice.

All for one and one for all
My brother and my friend
What fun we have
The time we share
Brothers 'til the end.
~Author Unknown

For more black & white Wednesday entries, check out The Long Road to China. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Signs of Spring

As much as I love winter, I too look forward to the days of warmer weather.

The days where we can spend time outside without bundling up and bearing the cold.

The days like today.

And on days like today, it's not rare to find Cooper doing this...

Oh how he loves this BIG trike. A hand-me-down of his big brother Gabe, Cooper claims it as his own. He will ride, and ride, and ride some more. Up and down the driveway he goes, onto the grass and back onto the gravel. Those big tires take him anywhere.

And oh how cute he is on that bike...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Black & White Wednesday - Ski Trip Part 2

I have so many photos from our Spring Break ski trip last week, that this week's black & white Wednesday is again focused on Colorado.

I have to say 'sorry' to those of you who are tired of the snow and cold. I've noticed that many people have very, very strong feelings about winter. I do too, it's just that my feelings seem to be in the minority. So here it goes, I'm just going to say it proudly...I LOVE snow and I LOVE winter. Please don't burn me at the stake. I completely understand those of you who are tired of the white stuff and long for summer. I, too, like summer. The warm days playing out in the summer sun with the kids are pleasant memories. I just love the days playing out in the snow too, especially the days spent skiing.

So here are some memories from our ski trip to Copper Mountain last week, brought to you courtesy of Black & White Wednesday over at The Long Road to China.

The resort, Copper Mountain...

With such great views...

Three generations of skiers: Gabe, Dad and Grandpa...

The details...

And just one with a touch of color...

One final photo for laughs, because who doesn't like a good laugh at their own expense. I think it goes perfectly with this Erma Bombeck quote:

"I do not participate in any sport with ambulances at the bottom of the hill."

This photo was taken by my oh-so-wonderful father-in-law, Dwight, during one of our crew's infamous tree runs. Dwight will probably be in shock that I actually posted this less than flattering photo of myself on the blog. He was sure that I wouldn't. Never underestimate me, Dwight {grin.}

{Disclaimer: No skiers were hurt in the making of this photo.}

I have many, many more photos from our trip to share, so stay tuned {and wait patiently while I get them all edited.} Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Black & White Wednesday - Ski Trip

I haven't blogged since last Black & White Wednesday. Why you ask? Because we are currently on our annual week-long ski trip. And although a lot of times I blog during vacation to keep a journal of the day's events while they are fresh in my mind, I just haven't taken the time to do so this time. I have just been enjoying vacation too much I guess. But I couldn't take a vacation from Black & White Wednesday, so I thought I'd share a couple of photos from our week so far here in Colorado.

My husband has been skiing since he was three. His family takes a ski trip every year, almost always to the same ski resort, Copper Mountain. Nestled between Vail and Breckenridge, the views are surreal. The mountains amaze me every year, just like the first time I saw them.

My husband introduced me to skiing when I was 16 years old on a local hill in Iowa. I loved skiing immediately, but it wasn't until I took that first trip out to Colorado with Jason's family the year we were married that I realized how Iowa skiing doesn't begin to compare to Colorado. Besides the great powder and vertical, Iowa is definitely lacking views like this...

I remember the first time I saw the Rocky Mountains. I cried. Literally. Just thinking of how awesome our God is, to create something so beautiful, so majestic. It brought me to tears. God's creation is simply breathtaking!

Besides the Rocky Mountains, and skiing, Jason also introduced me to the Dew Run. Let me explain. The Dew Run is a tradition Jason's Dad started many years ago. For those of you who don't know, Jason's Dad, Dwight, loves skiing and he loves Mountain Dew. The Dew Run combines those two passions perfectly. Every morning, we take Mountain Dew - one for each person skiing in our group - up to the top of the mountain and bury them in the snow. We then go and retrieve the Dews for our last run of the day, find a spot to sit and enjoy the dew, the view and each others' company. And so, the Dew run lives on every year...Good Dew, Great View, Fine Crew.

Here are Jason and I enjoying our Dew on the first day of our trip this year. I actually prefer the photo in color, but couldn't help but share it today. It was snowing hard that day, and I love the way the snow fills the photograph...

I will have many, many more photos from our ski trip soon. But for now, back to skiing. Stay tuned, and thanks for visiting on this Black & White Wednesday!