A mess of thanks

Oh man, these photos make my heart go pitter-patter.  This series of photos was probably from around January of this year.  I thought, hmm, maybe today, I'll post up another blog.. I mean its only been about a month.. hashtag winning. HA. And as I was sorting through a previously written post, I saw these photos at the very end. I decided they  needed a post of their own.

Its funny, how God times things.  We've officially been in our house now for 3 1/2 weeks. Everyone has said to me, Oh you must be SO excited to have your own space! You must LOVE it. And I do! It's been so nice. But the type A person in me really has been struggling. Right after we moved in, we had start working on the backyard, which meant that while the main areas are mostly set up, there are still LOTS and lots of boxes and clutter and disorganization everywhere. I was very honest with myself. I knew that it would take me probably a few months for me to really enjoy my home. So I'm not really surprised that I feel anxious and unsettled. It just takes time. And we've been so busy that I am barely doing what I can to manage just the day to day stuff! Like washing dishes and making sure we have enough clean underwear. I finally cleaned the bathrooms last weekend, because they were just nast. But in general, my house is not spotless, and I get that that is just where we are right now. But from time to time, its overwhelming. And also now that I have a child in my own house, I want to enjoy him and play with him in the evenings, rather than do dishes.

So, finding these photos today was the perfect does of gratefulness and warm-fuzzies that God knew I needed. This room, where these photos took place, is now my bedroom. MY bedroom, and MY bathroom. And they are not only functional, but they are pretty! And nice, even with all the clutter and boxes everywhere. I am thankful for this messy, unkempt place. With dirt and dog hair, and food crumbs and toys everywhere. I REALLY pray that this feeling of thankfulness lasts.

This set of black and white are my FAVE. Once things settle down a bit, I WILL print them and hang them!!

The Journey to our House, part 2

Just tuning in? Read part 1 here! Also, enjoy the unrelated pictures of Will drinking a smoothie :)

I gathered boxes, and slowly began packing up the things that we didn't use everyday, like extra bedding and mementos.  We tried to get rid of as much stuff as we could.  I started to look at pricing for a storage unit.  HOLY COW they are expensive!  We knew we would need one for at least a year, and since we were packing up pretty much our entire house, we'd need a decent size one.  We got a few estimates that were around $300, and knew we had to get more creative.

We researched some other options, and ultimately decided to purchase a sea container.  We got the idea from Rich's uncle, who stores his on some vacant property that he owns in town.  It cost us about $1800 to buy the container, have it painted, have vents installed, and have it delivered.  There is more than enough room for our stuff, and the benefits of owning one is that we could sell it for easily half of what we paid.  This saved us thousands of dollars, especially since we ended up being at his parents house for longer than we thought.

We moved all of our stuff out of our house and into the sea container, and my in-laws house the weekend of Easter 2012. We spent a couple of months cleaning the house, painting, installing new carpet, and fixing up things to get it ready to rent.  I used Craigslist to list our property, and it worked out great.  I think we had about 5 people look at it, and 3 submitted applications before we found the people who rent our home currently. Finding the right people takes time!  My advice is to go with your gut. If you feel like something is slightly off, be patient until you find the right tenants.  There are a lot of laws that protect tenants in California, and you don't want to deal with bad tenants for a year.  We originally wanted to rent our house by June, but we found the perfect tenants who couldn't start the lease until July.  We wanted a at least a one year contract, and this family wanted a two year contract.  They signed the contract without having physically walked through the house. And they have been GREAT tenants.  We love them! They are kind, take care of our home, and keep in touch with us.  We are SO thankful for them.

Fast forward a little over a year to the summer of 2013.  We hadn't quite saved up everything we needed, but we decided to start our house hunt because these things take time.  We were looking for something that was at least 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, some land, extra parking, no HOA, close to the freeway, and in a good school district. We knew that we were looking for a fixer-upper; we couldn't afford anything turn-key.

We looked at LOTS of listings, visited a couple of houses that had potential. In August, a house came on the market that really piqued our interest.  It was just a couple miles from our in-laws, close to the freeway, in a decent school district. It was a cute little blue house with white trim on a quarter of an acre, and had a mature oak tree in the backyard.  The listing said the house was built in the 1950's, was three bedrooms, one and a half bath, hardwood floor, decent kitchen, and hooked up to sewer.  The house had amazing natural light, with windows everywhere. and deck in the front and back of the house.  There was space to run around. And one of the best things about this house? Rich's brother's family, and some friends of ours, lived right across the street. I remember going to look a the house, and getting kind of excited, thinking about dinners and block parties, and lots of kids playing.

After we walked through the house, we sat in the car with Rich's dad and our realtor, Tom, and brainstormed how we could make the house work.  There didn't seem to be much renovations that needed to be done right away, so we could move in, live in it and save more money, and then make the additions we wanted. The room they had listed as the third bedroom wasn't really a third bedroom.  It wasn't tall enough, and there were some pretty steep stairs leading down into the room.  We thought we could easily use that as a home office, a playroom, or a kids room, but we would have to rework the stairs.  We wanted to add another bathroom, and we wanted to add a real master bedroom. The house was listed at the top of our budget. In our car brain-storm sesh, we decided to put an offer in at asking for the house.  We thought it might go quick. I think it was a Friday. Within the contract, we asked that the seller cover any repairs due to termite damage. We went home and continued to think about how we could add onto the house to make it work for what we wanted.

Here's where things start to get a little weird. By Monday, we found out they had accepted our offer, but it was contingent on the tenants moving out at the end of September. The turn around for acceptance of an offer isn't that quick, usually. Why didn't they wait to get other offers? Was something wrong with the house? We scheduled an appraisal of the house and an inspection right away.  If something was wrong with the house, they'd find it, right? That same week, we had an inspector come to the house to check it out. That also gave us another chance to really look in, under, and on top of the house.  Rich walked the house with him.

The appraisal came out great.  It appraised for $35,000 more than the asking price.  This was promising, but also caused us to question, again, why they were selling it for less than that, and why they took our offer so quickly if they could have gotten more money for it.

There were a couple of things that came out of the inspection report. 1. At some point, years and years ago, there was a house fire near where the fireplace was. There was visible charring from smoke damage  both under the house and up in the attic.  All of the damaged wood had been re-supported with new beams.  The inspector told us that in its current condition, the fireplace wasn't safe to hold fires.  We were okay with that, because it was right on the floor (no real hearth) and we probably wouldn't have a real wood fire in there because of William. Everything else related to the fire had been addressed and the house was safe from that aspect. 2. The wiring in the house was all messed up.  It was old, with a couple different panels, and it needed to be re-done. Not a problem for us because Rich is an electrician. 3. Some minor termite damage.  Very typical, and we could work with that. 4. Minor things like leaky faucet, and some ducting that should be replaced from the water heater that could be a fire hazard. Also, the jacuzzi tub hooked up underneath the house by an extension cord, when it really should have its own dedicated outlet.   So there were somethings that could be fixed, but certainly nothing substantial.  We were cautious, but still felt like the house had potential.

About two weeks later, we received the disclosure reports from the owner.  If you are not familiar with this document, by law, the owner is to disclose to the potential buyer the condition of the house.  It should include anything that they know is faulty, down to cracks in the walls, as well as anything that has been replaced or updated. If something like mold or dry rot was not disclosed, and we could prove that the owner had knowledge of it, and we went ahead and purchased the house and then had to deal with said mold, we could legally go after the previous owners for the damages. It is in the best interest of the seller to be VERY descriptive on that report. Oddly, the ONLY thing our seller had listed on there was that they had replaced the AC unit. Literally nothing else. Again, weird.  They should have listed that there was a house fire.  Additionally, from the previous listing, we knew that the house originally had a fire burning stove in the dining room area, which was no longer in the house. That should also have been listed.  These were red flags, but they left us confused, because it really left them in a bad position, not necessarily us. Tom pointed those things out to the selling agent, and asked about them, but the other agent stuck to his guns and said nothing else. We discussed it, and decided to keep moving forward.  We were still, however, very cautious.

In late August, we submitted our request for repair.  We listed EVERYTHING we could, knowing that they wouldn't fix the larger things, like the electrical, but hoping they would agree to do some things.  Just like we expected, they turned down most of our requests, except for  a few things, like replacing the ducting on the hot water heater, adding a dedicated outlet for the jacuzzi tub, servicing the AC unit, and a couple of other things. We also had a bid for termite repairs that we submitted to the seller, which they already agreed to do when they first accepted our offer and signed the contract.

Almost immediately, the selling agent came back to us, questioning the termite repairs (there were repairs needed on both decks, and the eaves of the house).  He claimed that they never agreed to cover the termite repairs. Tom politely pointed out that it was already agreed to when they signed the contract initially.  They had to cover it.  The agent made a huge mistake there with the seller by not reading the contract fully! The bid we received was for close to $8,000.  There were a some problem areas, and the house needed to be tented.  There was also wood that needed to be replaced on the deck.  The seller decided to get a second opinion, and wouldn't you know, their bid was only $2,000! Red flag. Still, we stuck it out.

A few weeks before we were supposed to close, we went to church, like we always do.  That morning, the choir sang "Great is thy Faithfulness."

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning, new mercies I see
All I hath needed, Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto thee

As I sang along, I couldn't help but feel it deep in my bones. I tried to coach myself early on, and prayed a lot the beginning to not become emotionally attached to anything we saw.. but fully expecting myself to do that. That's my deal. I'm emotional, and I'm a planner, and with that comes the projection.  Imagining what life would be like in each home. I would imagine parties, and get togethers, and how dinners after work would go down. Playing in the yard, and envisioning our kids running around, and picnics in the front yard, and getting ready for school, and growing up. But this time, it was different.  I could totally imagine what life would be like in that house, but I was really completely surprised at how unemotional I was towards the home.  I felt at peace, and like my heart was protected. I sang that song on that Sunday, and found myself humming it at random times of the day throughout the rest of the escrow process. I knew that God had a plan for us, and that He would be faithful to us, whatever house we were able to buy.

Rich, Tom, and I were all pretty wary about the house. Well, not really about the house, but at the interactions with the selling agent, and how they handled the process. We felt like they were hiding things from us, but from what we could tell from all of our inspections, there wasn't anything too concerning regarding the house. It seemed like the owner wanted out, and quick. There was something off.

The seller agreed to give us $2,000 credit to cover the termite damage (not the $8,000 we had a bid for). They also provided us with the invoice for the handy-man who fixed the handful of things we agreed upon, as well as the invoice from the AC company that serviced the unit. We found out that the tenants were planning on leaving before Sept 30th, as they had bought a house.  Great news to us, because you just never know with tenants. We set a date to sign all the docs for the loan, and we had provided them everything they needed.  Things seemed to be going smoothly.

Then, a few days before we were supposed to close escrow, the selling agent sent Tom an email with some documents from the septic company who they had service/pump the septic tanks. Wait. A. Second. Septic? And tanks, as in plural?! We were not afraid of owning a property with a septic tank. But septic tanks are installed based on the amount of bedrooms and bathrooms the house currently has. You also can't build over where a septic tank is in the ground.  The house had a fairly big lot, but the house was right smack dab in the middle of it. The area of the yard that we had envisioned building the addition would likely interfere with the septic system, especially with there being two.  We were pretty shocked. We wouldn't be able to build on to the house without re-doing the septic system. We asked the agent why the house was listed on sewer, and they said it was a mistake. Niiiiice.  The two tanks on the property were small, and one of the tanks was directly under where we wanted to add on. Also, the septic company could only certify one of the tanks.  The other one was so old, and they recommended it to be replaced because it was likely to back up. Grreaat.

Rich went over to the house to verify where the tanks were located. He also looked around and found some more interesting things.  Remember how they had sent us the invoice for the handy-man who was supposed to fix a bunch of little things? Yeah, well, most of them weren't actually fixed.  The jacuzzi tub was still hooked up by an extension cord.  No dedicated outlet had been installed, even though they said they had done it. The ducting on the hot water heater wasn't replaced. Awesome.

It was really easy for us to make the decision to back out of escrow.  The house clearly wasn't what we thought it was. We could still add on, but it would cost probably double what we thought originally because of the septic tank issue. I was a little bit bummed because we were excited to have our own space again, but also REALLY thankful that we found out before we finalized everything. It would have been a really big mess to find out that stuff after the fact. We found out later that when the current owner bought the house a couple of years ago, it was a foreclosure, and the bank gave the owner a large credit. It was most likely to fix the bad septic system. The owner most likely just pocketed the money, rented the house out, and then started to get complaints about the sinks backing up from the tenants.  Instead of putting the money in to fix it, they wanted to sell it.

We signed the cancellation papers, and were refunded our money. Great is thy faithfulness still played in my head, as we started looking at listings again.

The Journey to our Home, part 1

I feel like the title of this post is kinda cheesy, but I couldn't come up with anything more creative. I've never claimed to be a writer, so I'll just have to deal with it!  If you follow my Instagram, you know that my husband and I are in the process of renovating a home. Today, and in the next few weeks, I'll be sharing what that process has been like for us, starting from the very beginning.  We have changed SO much in this house.  We are getting close to being able to move in, and it just seems like its taking FORRRR EVVV VERRR (High-five for anyone who can name the movie!). Going back and writing out the process is helping me to appreciate every little step, and most of all, see God's provision through it all. 

Bear with me.  This will be a longer post than usual.  Some of these details may be boring, but I really wanted to document this so I can look back on it one day, and remember it more clearly. Also, these pictures are totally unrelated, but still ones that I love, so enjoy!

I guess this story starts with the story of us. Of Rich and I.  With some great guidance, Rich bought his first home back in August of 2008. We were just dating at the time (he proposed in November of that same year), but he was obviously thinking of settling down.  It is a great little house: two bedroom, two bath, open living room and kitchen, on a quiet street, and best of all, he could afford it.  It was a little dated, but none-the-less, it was a great home. One that we could see ourselves living in for a long time, start a family in, even. But we also knew it could be a great rental house, should we decide to move on to something new.  The Lord certainly had his hand in it, because there was a LONG list of offers on this house; a full 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper of offers.  And his was certainly not the highest, nor a cash offer. But, his offer won, also with the help of our amazing realtor, and the house was his.
We married in July of 2009, and lived in the house a few years.  Along the way we made some changes.  We added another room, and replaced all the windows, laid tile in all the common areas, replaced the carpet in the bedrooms, rebuilt the patio covers, and put new stone on the fireplace.
 I love that little house.  We have so many memories from our first years of marriage there. It was the first place I was able to make my OWN.  I became a wife in that home. We held dinner parties, had late night convos with friends and family, and made some big decisions together in that home. We found out we were pregnant in that home.
I didn’t move much growing up.  We lived in San Diego until I was about 5, and then my parents moved into the house they still live in.  In a way, I’m thankful for that.  Though they weren’t outspoken about it, my parents were content with what they had in a home and they made it work.  They rarely did any huge changes.  To this day, my parent’s house has the original kitchen and bathrooms, and its over 20 years old. I remember seeing all these beautiful model homes or other friend’s new homes with updated kitchens, and thinking, oh wow, that’s cool! But, that was it.  I never had a desire for better.  Rich comes from a family of builders. Most of his aunts and uncles, grandparents, even family friends, have either built their homes from the ground up, or bought a home and completely gutted the inside and replaced everything. So, I blame him for all of this. J While I saw our house as our home and began to be emotionally invested in it, he always thought we would end up moving into something else.  Something better.  He cautioned me to not become emotionally invested in that house.

Over time, I started to agree with what he was telling me.  Our house didn’t have a lot of land, just a TINY side yard, which meant adding on was impossible. It was in a community with an HOA (seriously so annoying!).  Our cul-de-sac of 14 homes shared only two guest parking spots, and there was no parking on the curbs.  I always wanted to host things at our house, but that made it virtually impossible.. well that and the parking brigade who would monitor the streets and issue parking violations.  It wasn’t in a very good school district. It was far away from the freeway.  Once, I counted 23 stop lights from our house to the freeway, in just 4 miles!!!!! (Please know that we are grateful for this house! All of these things are certainly live-able.  It took me a while to even consider leaving.)

Rich had thrown the idea around about looking for a new house ever since we were married.  He joked that we could always move in with his parents.. but I knew he was only half joking.  And over time, God worked on me, because it all started to make sense to me.  We could rent our house out, move in with his parents for a little while, and save up for a down payment.  It just never seemed like the timing was right. In 2011, we took a Dave Ramsey financial class through our church.  It was amazing.  We both are pretty good with our money.  Neither of us had any debt going into our marriage.  In fact, at 25, I had never had a credit card. Crazy. The class really got us on the same page and helped us to focus on telling our money where to go, instead of never knowing where our money went.  I highly recommend that class to anyone! Anyway, after the class was over, we started talking about renting our house again. Interest rates were dropping, house prices were low, and rental prices were pretty good. 
In November of 2011, Rich and his parents talked more seriously about our idea.  Really, his parents had encouraged the idea from the beginning, but also didn’t think it was the right time. But now, everything seemed to be falling into place.  God, is this what you want us to do? I thought. It was a great opportunity, but, there were a lot of things I kept mulling around in my head….
How long would it take to reach our goal? Would we find renters?  We would be living with my in-law’s for at least a year…. Which can cause all sorts of complications.. think about it…. How many married couples move in with their parents, and their relationships are still great afterward?! What would my parents think about it?  Where does all our stuff go? All my pretty, new things we received from our wedding, to help make our house a home… packed away?

We mulled the idea over for months, and discussed it with my parents, who were supportive, before we finally made the decision with Rich's parents that we would move in with them.  We decided that we would make the move in April, and hope to have the house rented out by June.  We thought it would take us about a year to save up what we needed and to find a house. 

And then, in January, we found out we were pregnant. 

So, we reconsidered our plans once more.  We would be taking up two rooms instead of one at our parent's house. Would they be okay with that? What about when the baby came?  How would it all work out?  We sat down with Rich's parents, once again, and shared with them the amazing news of a baby coming.  They were ecstatic and completely surprised.  We talked about our plans, and ultimately, we did still want to move in with them, if they were still on board.  Now, more than ever, we could see how beneficial it would be for us to find a better home to raise a family.  They told us that having a little one would never have changed their mind, and they were excited to be apart of it all.  

So, we began packing and prepping our home for our move and for renters. 

To be continued!

Spring rolls and Chopsticks with a side of grace, please!

I think I've approached the age with Will where I can't take him out to a restaurant anymore. Last week I met up with a good friend, whom I haven't seen in quite a while. We both have had a lot of things going on in our life since we last spoke, and honestly, I really needed some girl time.  The first thing I did wrong was think that I could have an open, authentic conversation with my girlfriend while having my little around. NOT. William was all over the place.  We chose a Vietnamese restaurant for some salmon spring rolls and vermicelli.  Looking back, I think the wait staff at this mom-n-pop place were scared when they saw us sit down because they knew what would come.

The fact of the matter is you can't share your heart on the things you're struggling with when your son is reaching for the Siracha. Or when he's waving the chopsticks around like numchucks (how does he even know how to do that?!), and sticking them in the delicious peanut sauce. Or when he tries to help himself to your friend's fried rice, and his aim is not quite on par yet, so 85% of the contents of the spoon end up on the floor (I think the wait staff just LOVED that.. have you ever tried to sweep up rice?!)   Or when he throws a tantrum because mommy won't let him run about the restaurant, harassing other diners, shoe-less because he insists on kicking his flip flops off every time we sit down.
The longer we sat there, and tried to eat, the more stressed out I became. I was embarrassed that my son was acting that way, and bummed out that my friend and my convo was constantly interrupted. Knowing that I couldn't give 100% of myself to neither my friend nor my son stresses me out. I desperately wanted the time with my friend, but Will wanted my attention also.

I waived my white flag about 10 minutes after our dinner came, apologized, and told her that we just need to go back to our house and finish dinner there.  He was becoming more irrational by the minute, and I knew it wasn't going to end well if we stayed.  I hate to sound dramatic, but I felt defeated.

My friend extended such grace to me the entire time.  She tried keep Will entertained.  She let him eat her fried rice, and helped feed him. She helped me pack up my food, and she even paid for my dinner. It's silly to even feel embarrassed, because it's not like I can control him, but I did.

Once we got back to my house, we set up our dinner on the patio, so Will could play and we could eat.  Almost immediately, the stress melted away.  Will was perfectly happy dumping sand out of the sand box, and playing with the tractors, and my friend and I finished our food and conversation.

A few lessons learned.. for one, no restaurants for a while with my boy.  It's just not worth the stress. Secondly, I want to be better at spending time with my friends. I'm realizing that I am much more introverted and hermit-like than I thought I was.  I am in a stage of life that is incredibly busy, and I've fallen off the radar socially.  Time with my friends is life-giving. Also, it is so easy for me to give grace and be helpful to others, but I have a terrible time receiving it. I guess its a pride issue, that I think I should be able to do it on my own. Typically, when I see a failure, I devise a plan on how to not fail in that way again. This just makes me more self-reliant, and also sets me up for more failure, because failure is inevitable. I get nowhere. I need to recognize and admit that I will fail, and accept God-given grace, in whatever form it comes in.  That day, it was in the form of my amazing friend, who made me feel so loved and supported. I am THANKFUL for friends like her, who can see that I'm struggling, step in, and love me anyway.

Jimmy & Jessica part 1

Jimmy and Jessica have been married for 5 years.  They wanted to do an anniversary session to celebrate their time together.  They both came with letters they wrote to each other.  We found a secluded spot along the path.  They sat down.  With Jimmy’s hand on her knee, Jessica began reading what was on her heart.  The whole time felt sacred to me, and if I felt that way, I can’t imagine what they felt. 

I don’t remember much of what was in those letters. My brain muffled it out, as if it was almost out of respect for them and their words to each other. I do remember one thing, though. And I have been thinking about it ever since.  I’m not sure if they discussed beforehand what the content of the letters should be, but near the beginning of both of their letters, they apologized to each other.   

I find that so interesting, and so endearing. I think our culture has moved away from, and almost teaches us, to not apologize. Because, an apology recognizes that you are either wrong or caused someone else to hurt.  Who likes doing that? Instead of hearing an apology, we hear:

I can say whatever I want.  If you are hurt by it, that’s your problem.
I was just being honest.

Well, its the truth!
I am entitled to feel the way that I feel.

Apologizing is hard, and it certainly does not align with the ‘do what you want, when you want to, with whomever you want and don’t care what others think’ mentality that is so prevalent these days.

But what people forget is that an honest apology is a reconnection. It says ‘hey, my actions/words drove a wedge between you and I, and I don’t want that.’ Apologies are important in any relationship, but ESPECIALLY in a marriage!  Look, we are human. We are going to mess things up.  Multiple times a day! We will put ourselves first before our spouse. We are going to be quick to anger, blurt things out instead of thinking of the right words to address the situation.  We are going to act on feelings and emotions instead of thinking and talking about them. We hurt each other,  it needs to be acknowledged, and we NEED to be reconnected.

You know that feeling you get when no one else understands you but your spouse?? There is no other explanation needed. They just know. You are both on the same page, things are clicking.. and it feels GOOD. Removing all that built up stuff by saying 'I'm sorry' gets you back on that road. On the road to togetherness.  And, to me, that's what these pictures show.

Jimmy and Jessica, I think this is just the beginning for you two.   You acknowledge your shortcomings. You celebrate each other whenever you can. You love doing things together.  You make each other laugh. You see the best in each other.  Your love was evident in each picture I took. I am honored to be apart of such a sacred time in your lives, and I hope these pictures will be forever special to you.


Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow!






Treasured Forever

Saturday was a rush rush rush rush type of day. I headed to the café at our church for dinner after the Saturday night service. It's the best thing because 1. I don't have a to cook, 2. its only $5 for a full meal, and 3. Its usually really yummy!  I was surprised I even made it to church that night. Rich had something else going on that night, and I needed to meet with the nursery coordinator because I am volunteering to help out once a month. I also had signed up to bring a friend and her growing family dinner that night.  It didn't go as planned.  I used a thermometer to help cook the tri-tip to perfection.  It beeped letting me know it had reached the right temperature. I, stupidly, tried to remove the thermometer from the meat, which had been in the BBQ for a bit, and burned the tar out of my thumb, pointer and middle finger on my right hand. OUCH! I brought the meat upstairs, cut it in half only to find the inside of the meat entirely too rare. Dang it. I'm late at this point, so I had to text my friend to preheat her oven so the meat could keep cooking.. I run the meal by  her house on the way to church, which by the way, I was almost a half an hour late for. I figured I was going to miss the beginning of the message, but that I should go anyway to meet with the nursery coordinator, like I said I would. I get to the nursery, and William walks right over to the helpers. I was astonished.  Lately, he's been crying every time we leave him. The coordinator tells me to go on to the service, and to just come talk to her afterward. I am embarrassed at how late I was. I walk through the sanctuary doors, and to my surprise, the pastor hadn't started yet.

Nothing really clicked while all of this was happening the other evening. I just kept feeling bad. Bad that the meal wasn't cooked thoroughly. Bad that I was late to my meeting. Bad that I was late to church. Bad that my fingers hurt something fierce! Ha. But as I sit here and type it out, I can't help but see that if I had just listened to those voices in my head, to give up because I was late, then I wouldn't have gone to dinner in the café and ran into Kurt. I was disheveled, with too many things in my hands and a baby on my hip, but a few people let me cut in line so I could go over and say hi to him.  He's older now, and I didn't really expect him to remember me.  But to my surprise, he did. He didn't remember my name, but he remembered me.  We chatted a bit about what we've been up to for the past 12 years, and then we parted ways to eat dinner. I've been thinking about it ever since, and I KNOW it was not by coincidence that we were both getting dinner at the same time that night.

Kurt was the trainer at my high school.  All the athletes in school knew him.  Whether he treated them for a sprained ankle, or provided water bottles for their team, he and his training room was there. It was like a staple on campus. I sprained my ankle pretty bad in volleyball when I was a junior, so I spent a LOT of time in his room, icing.  I loved going into the training room and look at all the plaques, pictures, and newspaper articles that lined his walls.  He had been the trainer at my high school for years.  Like I said, everyone knew him, and his walls proved that. He was a smart man, who didn't mince words.  I'm not sure if everyone liked him, but they respected him. He demanded that. He had his own 10 commandments of sorts, only it was more like 15-20, because if you give teenagers an inch, they love to think they can take a mile. When you were in his training room, or if you needed water bottles, or a bag of ice, you had to use proper English.  May I, not Can I. Because if you asked Kurt, Can I....? He would respond with, I don't know, CAN you? He would ask you to leave if you cussed.  In fact, if he heard you cussing outside his training room, it was not uncommon to be doused with a pitcher full of ice. Students had to behave kindly, and with manners. And, they did, mostly. 

I'm not sure how he came to know me and remember me, because there were hundreds of kids on campus that walked into his training room each day.  But he did. One day, I was icing in the training room at lunch.  I think I was a sophomore. I was so impressionable in high school, and placed my worth and identity in being liked by other people, and hanging out with the cool crowd. I was involved in ASB, knew a lot of people, and I was dating a senior. I was cool. I looked like just another high school kid on the outside, but on the inside, I was incredibly insecure. I sat in Kurt's office and iced my foot.  Since it was lunch time, there weren't a lot of kids in there. I gathered my things to leave, and went to dump my bucket of ice-water into the sink.  I was wearing a cute, low cut pink top, and a jean squort (I know, SO COOL RIGHT?! LOL), similar to ones that lots of girls wore, but looking back, was too short. Kurt asked me to come sit in the chair next to his desk.  I sat down. I remember feeling nervous, because I had no idea what he was going to say, and he was intimidating! I can't remember his exact words, but they took on a paternal tone as he told me that the outfit I was wearing might cause others to have a certain perception of me, and it wasn't a good one. His words were gentle, and I did not feel like I was being criticized, but rather, I felt protected and cared for and loved.  He knew who I was, and not just me as a person, but my heart. He didn't want others to think badly of me because I chose to wear things that were much to revealing.  Though he didn't say it outright, he wanted me to know that I was WORTHY of so much more. That I was LOVED and ADORED, and what I was wearing was attracting people who would probably not treat me like that.

I cringe a little when I think about who I was as a high schooler. Crazy as it may sound, I really don't remember ever being told why modesty was important, besides that its what the Bible says, and you have to follow the Bible! Besides, when they preached it at church, I felt that it was more of a blanket statement, meant for everyone.  Like it was something they had to tell us.  It was just another rule, and I was good at following rules, but also at bending them based on what my friends were doing. I don't remember having talks with my parents about why I shouldn't wear certain things, I just remember being told that I needed to change my clothes from time to time because my outfit was unacceptable. And being mad because they just didn't GET it. I have struggled, and still do from time to time, with my identity. I have put it in far too many things and people that are bound to let me down.  That tell me You are not worthy. Which is a lie. Jesus tells me over and over that I am worthy. Just as I am.  Even after all the terrible things I've done or thought or wore, I am worth dying for.

Do you have a daughter? If so, can I challenge you? Find the words to gently tell her that she is worthy of love. That popularity, clothes, boyfriends, how well she does in school, her weight.. (fill in the blank, because really, anything can fit).. all of that could come crashing down.  She could  fail in EVERY SINGLE arena of her life, and she would STILL be worthy of love. And if she rolls her eyes at you and says, Moooooom, or Daaaaaad.... tell her again. And again. Find different ways of telling her that. Every girl deserves to have one person in her life that tells her that. Saying the things that Kurt said to me took courage.  He had no idea what was going on in my life, what I had been through, or if I believed in God or not. He just felt the need to tell me that. And its something I have tucked away in my heart for a long time, and I will NEVER forget it.  I promise that even if she acts like she doesn't care about what you said, or if she immediately zones back out on her phone, she will remember it. It may take her a long time to finally start believing the truth, but how amazing will it be for her when she begins to live that out?  It is a gift.  A gift that cost you nothing but some courage, and will be treasured forever.

Connections and Confidence

I met Marie and Emma by way of referral from a great lady. Emma needed some fun headshots that showed more of her personality.  As usual, the pictures that end up being my favorite are the unplanned.  The spontaneous. The ones that capture real life.  

I realized quickly that  Emma has a quiet sweetness about her that made me want to know what she was thinking.

That green sparkly dress is Emma's favorite.  She calls it her Little Mermaid dress.  What little girl doesn't love to twirl in a pretty dress?! I can still remember as a little girl, twirling in my favorite dress, and how it made feel pretty and lady-like, and that I was special. 

About halfway through our session, Emma told me she was bored. I loved that she told me that. And, really, I couldn't blame her.. Taking pictures for an hour, after she'd been in school all day, should be boring for a 5 year old. So, it pushed me to be more playful with her, to see what she likes.

The sun was setting, and we were finishing up. Emma ran over to this sculpture and poked her head up through it.  She looked at me and said, "Let's pretend that I am in middle school and my friends are mad at me."  I could tell that she thought being that age was cool, and in her mind, that was the type of thing middle-schooler's dealt with.

I asked how that would make her feel, and she said, sad. And then she gave me this face.

I know these last two aren't really what I had in mind to capture for "fun headshots" but they are special to me. I remember being younger and day-dreaming about what it must be like to be a Junior-higher. The cute clothes, the cool kids.. the boys. How much more freedom I'd have, and what fights would look like. My time with Emma surprised me because I was not expecting to be able to relate to her. It's crazy what a hour alone with someone without distractions can do (i.e. my husband, my son, my phone..).

But, I did relate to her, and I think she sensed that, because as she skipped along-side her mom, on the way back to their car, I heard Emma ask her mom, "Can we play with her again soon, Mom?"

And then my heart beamed.  And I remembered about all the times throughout our time together where I was a little uncomfortable, or questioned my ability.. was the light right? Would I be able to deliver pictures that mom had in mind or that she was used to getting with her regular photographer?

My confidence grew a little that day.  But mostly, I was grateful that I even get to do this at all. I'm realizing that for me, its less about the pictures, and more about the connection.  Well, the pictures obviously are important, but the comfort and ease that comes from a great connection makes for better pictures than I could have planned on. Sometimes it takes a little more work, but there's always some connection to be had, and seeing the pictures that come from it is more rewarding than I imagined.

I never made a birth plan

As Steve, Bethany and I walked among the avocado trees, I asked them if they were ready.  They looked at each other, laughed and said “I guess so?” I loved their response, because it reminded me a lot of how I felt when I was weeks away from having my son. I thought I was ready, but ready for what? Everyone told us, Oh, your life is going to change!! But what does that MEAN?! I had no idea. And really, I could set up as many hypothetical scenarios in my head as I wanted, but I had no clue until I experienced it for myself.

I never made a birth plan. What's funny is that I am a rule follower, a cross-off-my-to-do-list type of girl, and yet, I wasn't remotely concerned with having a step-by-step plan of how I wanted my labor to go.  I guess I felt that voicing my wants and desires on how I envisioned my delivery to go was like setting expectations for myself on something that I had never experienced before.


And we all know how that goes… the disappointment that comes with not meeting expectations. I knew that for me, the disappointment that would have came with those un-met expectations  would have held me back from fully experiencing my son's birth. From experiencing the JOY when my son was first placed on my chest. From being completely wrapped up in him and all the sounds he made. From recognizing that his eyes are his daddy's, and his chubby cheeks are mine. From understanding the depth of my love for this little tiny human, who I was now responsible for. From getting a glimpse into how much He loves me.


 I didn't want to be let down that I couldn't handle the pain on my own, because I wanted to do it all natural.  I didn't want to go in to my labor knowing that I was going to get an epidural as soon as I could, because I had never done it before. I didn't know what I could handle, and I wanted to give myself the option.

Mostly, I wanted the focus to be on my healthy baby boy, not on my own ability. Because, lets face it, I will disappoint myself. I found that when I turned my focus onto the GIFT that was given to me, I realized that God surpassed ALL of my expectations with my boy.

 PS. These last two photos are special to me.  I had asked Bethany to change her position slightly by placing her hands right on top of her belly.  Right as she put them there, baby girl kicked.  It's like she was telling her mom Hi!


Something a little different than Friday-faves...

Confession time.. Ever just believe a lie about yourself, and before long, you notice you're way off in a far away land, when everything you want and envisioned for yourself, are miles away?

Lie : I should have it all together.

Most days, I feel like I have my stuff together.  I meal plan, and do laundry, and spend time with my husband and son, I blog, I work full time, I go to church, etc etc.. and before long, I start believing that little voice in me that tells me, "Man! You have it all together, Christina!" and "You are doing such a great job! Look, Will is happy, and bathed, and dinner was on the table by 6pm! You got this thing DOWN."

Usually, dinner time is what gets me.  This is how it's been going lately... I pick him up from my sister, and go home.  It's 5:00pm.  Crap, I forgot to pull the chicken out of the freezer!! I plop the bag into some hot water in the sink.  Will is getting into that drawer again, the junk drawer with all of the tools in it, which is right at his level.  I pick up the Phillips screw driver and pliers and put them up out of his reach. He cries, upset that I'm taking his toys away.  I start prepping the veggies for the meal, that will likely be ready after 6:30pm now (I HATE eating late, and that is late to me). Chop. Chop. Chop. Will is at my feet, crying, whining, hitting my legs and biting because he wants me. Rich is home, and in the living room, but my boy wants me.  Its pretty hard cutting stuff up with a very wiggly and curious boy on my hip.  Doesn't he just understand that I NEED to get dinner ready? Why does this have to be chaos?

Does this all sound silly to you? Because re-reading now, it just sounds silly. Why does this get to me like it does? So many other people struggle with far more, so why am I not handling this well? Since when have I decided to be perfect? I have unknowingly set some very HIGH expectations of myself. Most of all, where is God in this?

I read this post the other day, and I asked myself, what is he learning? What example am I setting? When I get frustrated in the kitchen, what does he see mommy do? I probably look like a stress ball.. I feel like a stress ball. If I keep this up, he'll grow up thinking that the kitchen a is stressful place. Every day. That I don't have time to answer his questions or play with him. Better yet, that to avoid that stress, he just shouldn't ask at all. Even though I may be saying the right things, are my actions backing that up? I know he's still young, and won't have any memory of this, but, I can't help but think that if I don't stop some of those behaviors now, that IS what his memory will be.

Here's the thing.  I actually REALLY like cooking! I like making a warm, home-made meal for my family.  I enjoy it!  But, man, do I show something different. My behavior, the way I handle dinner time, is really just a reflection of my heart. A selfish heart that is obviously desires to cross things on my to-do list off way more than seeking what He wants of me in this moment, in this short time, when my family is young. I so badly want to do right by my kids. What parent doesn't?

Truth is, I've believed in Jesus since I was a little girl, and I struggle with the entirety of the gospel. Sure, it brings life after death, but it also brings life TODAY. I will fail my own perfection every. single. day. But that is not what He asks. He simply wants me to want a relationship with Him. And He will take a legalistic, perfection-ist wanna-be, like me, and make me new.I trust that He will make all things new. Even my little ol' dinner time. Because He loves me that much.

I've been thinking and talking to God about this lately, and, here's some things that I think need to change.  The TV and phone need to be off and out of reach (unless I'm using the phone for a recipe :)) Lord knows I don't need any more distractions.. spending time with my family and making dinner are enough! Maybe play some music? Also, give my boy some undivided attention right when I get home, for maybe 10 minutes.  I can tell that he misses me during the day, and when I get home, he wants some mommy time. I need to let go of making dinners every night.. and that there will be nights where everyone needs to fend for themselves.. and that's OK.

One day I will BEG him to play with me. I'll probably fight him to get off of the computer or video games or whatever it is, and spend time with me. I want to cherish this time that I have with him now.

Still with me?? That was pretty long :) I reward you with some pictures of my boy. We had just taken out the trash, and the door was open. Of course, he thinks it is the coolest thing. I turned around and found him inside :)

 And a few from our house. He is concentrating so hard on filling up that cup with dirt and rocks.. his little tongue sticking out just kills me. I wonder if that'll be what he does when he's concentrating, as he gets older.
 Helping clean up! Gotta start 'em young ;)

I'm working on a blog post of our house and the progress we've made thus far.... I'll post it one of these Fridays :)

Have a great weekend!