Two Words

Earlier this year a seed was planted in the garden that is my mind.

Sounds fancy when I write it like that, doesn’t it?

Basically, after years of digging and rooting for inspiration on my own I finally stopped and gave it to God. (What can I say? I’m stubborn and a slow learner.)

I prayed and I waited.  Big shocker here but two words popped into my head one Sunday morning. (I love it when He does that, don’t you.)

Spring. Brook.

Within the course of a few minutes those two words grew into a town brimming with life.

Spring Brook, Arkansas. (My home state)

The ideas started flowing then. Much like the brook that runs through the fictitious town’s park.  A park that is situated across Main Street; full of worn brick buildings filled with wares of delight and necessity all beckoning at visitor and resident alike. Sounds lovely? Don’t worry, one day you and I can visit and walk the paths that meander throughout the pages of the books.

Within a few hours the town of Spring Brook opened up and showed me that there’s more to her than meets the eye and that one book just wouldn’t be enough.  Two simple words became a concoction of words forming the flesh of characters who are now after six months more friend than fantasy.  Two weeks after the seed was planted a town was born full of old friends whom I’ve never met.

And so I set about growing a garden.  One filled not with soil and produce, of course.  (I’ve a black thumb. In fact, I hold the distinction of being able to kill even fake plants.  Let that sink in.)  Rather a metaphorical garden containing the small town of Spring Brook.  A town full of people searching for God’s love and His purpose for their life.  

Two simple words whispered into my ear and placed upon my heart during a Sunday morning sermon.  Two small words that are ready to grow into something only God has foreseen.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’m slightly overwhelmed and at times just downright terrified.  What if I can’t do it?  What if I’m wasting my time, and even more so- His time? What if—well the list goes on.  It always seems to grow doesn’t it?

When one sets about growing a garden, one must be willing to tend it.  This includes pulling out the weeds.  All of those fears and doubts? They are most definitely trying to choke the roots of what’s been planted, and I’m ashamed to say that at times I’ve let them. Along with other weeds besides the obvious.  Such as procrastination and distraction.

I’d be naive to say there won’t be any more weeds.  They’ll come.  I’ll be ready though.  I’m tired of letting the What If’s keep me from this.  I’ve got my tools and I’m ready.

It’s time to go to Spring Brook.

 

The Stevens Family in Black and White

 

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If you’ve been following along this past week then this adorable family will now be familiar to you.  If you’re new (hello!!! Welcome!!!), then this and this are apart of well…this. Go ahead, don’t be shy slide that cursor over there and give it a little click….

Now, scroll down and enjoy the third and final set of photos from our “spring session”.

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We had so much fun that it was only inevitable that we’d end up with so many good shots.  A majority of them are in color, but I couldn’t help but do a few in black and white, I mean how gorgeous are these two close ups of Mama Stevens?IMG_3753 2IMG_3752 2

Some of us enjoyed the session a little more than others….ahem…while a certain Little Stevens wasn’t as impressed with the romance of the moment.

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Thank you again for going on this journey with me and sharing in what was a very wonderful day with new friends.

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Finding Friends In Maine

Passed by for almost a year on my monthly grocery shopping trips to Presque Isle, Aroostook State Park holds the distinction of being Maine’s first state park.  Home to Echo Lake and Quaggy Jo mountain, it’s been on my Places to Go list since last April. Can you believe we’re just a few days shy of our first anniversary since we moved across the country?  I can’t either.

With any big move there’s sure to be big changes.  Most are good: slower pace, gorgeous colonial home where everyone gets there own bedroom (well except me, I have to share….. thankfully I like him.  Wink wink. Nudge. Nudge.)  Making new friends. And so many more things that I can’t even list.  Well I could but you’d eventually just skip all of my blah blah blah and just scroll on down to the pictures (if you haven’t already.)  In short, a lot of good things have come from moving here.

There’s two sides of the coin though and with the good you get the bad.  You know it.  I know it.  That’s just life. We had to say some teary goodbyes and one year later, our eyes are still suspiciously wet when we think of them. Like tacos. Oh and more importantly, and hardest of all – saying good-bye to old friends and working up the courage to make new ones.

Not only have I been blessed with new friends, but my youngest has found a few too, including the youngest of the Steven’s Trio.  And that’s why this post is only one of three that will be posted this week from this past weekend’s photo session.

Practically a halfway point between us, the park was the perfect place to meet up with our newfound friends.  When I asked my youngest if she’d like to go with me and see her friend I had to dive out of the way as she practically flew into the car.  I didn’t even have my boots on yet. Yes, boots, because it might be Spring everywhere else in the U.S, but we’re in a whole other world up here and Winter up here is like that party guest who stays just a tad bit longer than everyone else….. (That’s usually me by the way- I’m that guest.)

Among the many moments captured were a few candids of a fantastic duo and I can’t help but smile when I look at these.

I think you will too.

Join me as we walk through the woods and get a glimpse of the joy of youth and new beginnings.

 

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Moving Forward

This past year has seen a lot of changes.  One of those is that I’m no longer able to see these smiling faces.  img_1978

At least not in person.

That’s the beauty of photography, am I right?  Capturing moments, that no matter where you go, will always be with you.  This photo (and a few others on this post) was taken just a week or so before we loaded up the moving truck and headed up to (a currently) snowy, blustery northeastern Maine.   A far cry from the dry heat and almost constant sunshine of southern New Mexico.

We traded in a view of the Organ Mountains for flora, fauna, and Fall.   A fact that is currently lost in translation, since everything is still slightly covered up by fresh snowfall…. (Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it.  In fact, the townfolk are beginning to wonder if I’m demented or just a few fries short of a happy meal….)

My view outside my window might be one of winter but I only need to click on this pic below to be reminded that in some areas of the world the sun shines in Spring.

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Just a few short weeks after this weeklong photo shoot, I arrived in Maine. Within a month, my camera was aimed and ready to capture the world.  And yet for the past three months, my camera has been sitting untouched in the dark; just waiting to be picked up to for moments like this one below.

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And others like these from the handful of family sessions I did this past year.

 

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We managed to capture some truly magical moments and I enjoyed every single person I’ve worked with, but I’m just not a family photographer.

And I’m learning that that’s okay.

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My pace will be set at my leisure.  My time spent shooting those moments that capture me in their awe and beauty.

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Not confined by the rigors of necessity or priority.  Dictated only by serendipity and fate.

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IMG_8793We should always be moving forward, but it’s good to look back and remember the moments.  After all, each and every one- whether big or small, have a part to play in the evolution of All.  All that we are, all that we believe, and all that we want to be.

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In the wilds of art, that’s where you’ll find me.

The Mystery Box

So I get home tonight and find this giant box on my porch. Addressed to me. From Amazon.

My first thought? “What did I order in my sleep?” My second thought “Wonder what’s inside? Maybe Tim ordered something.”

Being the high tech (stop smirking) girl that I am, I went to our online account to see if he had ordered something.

Mystery solved. Case closed. I’m telling ya, I’m the next Nancy Drew.

Turns out a certain good looking, sweet guy made good on his promise that I’d get my Christmas gift in the spring (courtesy of a certain lil govt shenanigan that foiled his plans).

Honestly, I’d all but forgotten. Mainly because I’ve given myself many “Christmas gifts” since the new year. Clothes, shiny things, shoes, and even the occasional (weekly) baked treat.

Now I’m sure he’s hoping to walk in one day to the heavenly aroma of baked goods, but who are we kidding? He just bought me the world’s prettiest fruit bowl……

Best part? It was exactly a week after my birthday. Which is also why I was confused since I’d already received my birthday gift. Of course, I do tend to get confused easily- I blame motherhood. I read somewhere, long ago, that you lose brain cells with each pregnancy. And have I mentioned I created four humans? I’ve no brain cells to spare now.

Speaking of, I’ll post soon all about how I keep offending my new Echo Show by calling her Xbox and then getting frustrated that she doesn’t obey my every command. Actually, now that I think about it, that’s probably why my kids don’t always listen either…huh.

Ha. The effects of getting older I suppose. But thankfully this lil gadget can now keep me spry.

Yeah, you heard that right. I’m now a very springy 38. In two years I will no longer be measuring my age by years, but rather by levels….

I suppose I should go look up recipes now that involve this new toy.

Hey, XBOX, what can I make with my “fruit bowl”?

Proof of Life Post

Just a teeny tiny post to say I’m not dead.

Whew! Glad to get that out there.

I did have a cold a few weeks back. I tell ya what, that sucker knocked me out for a week. And I let it. I told my husband, ” This ain’t no ordinary cold. I think I got the dreaded man cold.” He stopped and rolled his eyes, then continued to cater my every whim. Karma.

Now that our youngest is a self-sufficient soon to be 10 year old, I finally got to be sick. In fact, at the first sniffle I was grabbing my blanket, commandeering the couch, and taking control of the tv.

I watched a lot of tv that week. So much so that I was running out of shows and patience. The novelty of being sick faded after day four. I had places to go and people to see.

Now two weeks later, the people have been seen and the places have been blessed with my presence, and I’m ready for another sick week.

C’mon sniffles let’s get this party started!!

Okay okay I’m kidding. Kinda.

I’ve realized I’m not as lazy and laid back as I think I am. In fact, I just added to my to do list; weekly band practices with our towns community band.

I walked into the first practice, flute in hand, and terror in my heart. It’s been so long since I’ve played “properly”. Ya know, sheet music and stuff. I’m loving it, but I am most definitely out of my comfort zone.

And that’s okay. Because comfort zones, while safe, can become very tedious. It’s good to mix it up. Scary, but good. I’m a creature of habit and that means I’m constantly in danger of getting stuck in a rut. That’s bad. Summer in a rut is not good. Let’s leave it at that.

Right now all I’m stuck in is my bed because it’s time to say goodnight! We went to watch the late show of Captain Marvel and I must say – it was Marvel-ous.

Get it? Gosh I’m hilarious. You’re welcome. Have a great weekend and I’ll “see ya when I see ya!”

Beneath the Surface

Most people have a junk drawer in their kitchen.  I have a junk room.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not exaggerating when I say that room is a colossal mess.  At least it was a few hours ago and if we’re being honest, it will be again.  It’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Occupying the left side of our 1912 colonial, our dining room is pretty isolated from the remainder of the house with only two doorways keeping it from being completely closed off.  It’s proximity to the kitchen and the front hall just makes it too easy to be a dumping spot. Add in the fact that we rarely use the room for actual dining, and well, you’ve got a recipe for disorder and disgrace.

Since Christmas, the giant dining room table has been home to a few of the girls k’nex projects (among other things) so we’ve made the room a no go area for the many littles who accompany their mama’s (my coffee pals) on occasion.  The rest of the downstairs is fair game, but the dining room?  Off limits.  Naturally this has all the littles scrambling right to it.  They just can’t resist it. Including the little guy who came over yesterday.

And so this little post begins.

You see, I’ve been avoiding that room.  I’ll occasionally stand in the doorway and stare at it, but only for a moment.  I can’t begin to describe the emotions that race through me at the sight of the six foot table covered in papers, toys, and decor.  Decor of holidays gone by that should, for all intents and purposes, be down in the basement in their respective storage containers; not mingling with the trash.  Literally.

I try to glance over the pile of discarded clothing and jackets that have begun to call the window seat home.  To say nothing of the overflowing “art box” that’s been shoved into a corner.  The list of atrocities goes on my friends but I will spare you the rest, if only for the sake of my own humility.

I keep saying “I really need to clean this up”, yet I never do.  I just feel so overwhelmed.  Where do I even start?   Besides, I tell myself each time, it’s really not dirty it’s just cluttered.  When I do finally take the time to fix it up, it’ll only be a matter of  minutes, so why bother doing it now?  Funny how the justifications and thoughts can circle around and around ending up in a neat little box with a pretty little bow.

This has been my routine so to speak until today.  I stepped in there armed with a trash bag, a broom and dustpan, and determination- all fueled by good old fashioned embarrassment.  That embarrassment quickly turned into downright mortification and shame.  It was bad.  Worse than I’d thought.  Because beneath the surface of that “clutter” was …well, it was bad.   Let’s leave it at that. So I swept through like a mighty tornado determined to never feel that way again when someone has to chase their little through there.  (As was the case yesterday- the motivation for today’s cleaning spree.)

As I stood in the doorway an hour later, my goal accomplished, I couldn’t help but think about how my dining room is a lot like myself.  Sometimes I seem like I’m all put together, other times I’m a downright mess.  Either way, there’s always more than meets the eye.  There’s so much more beneath the surface that needs to be straightened up, cleaned, and repaired.

I am so beyond blessed that God’s cleaning skills are better than mine.  Daily he’s dealing with me- through prayer, my bible reading, church sermons, and even through the friends he sends my way.  He goes beyond what the human eye can see and he looks upon the heart.  He cleans me up from the inside out.  He doesn’t get overwhelmed.  Doesn’t take shortcuts.  He doesn’t ever, ever give up on me, even when I’ve given up on myself.  My God looks beyond the surface and none are too dirty, too messy, or too far gone.

Roses, Rodents, and Restaurants

 

Today marks my 20th Valentine’s Day with my husband, Tim.  It also marks the first Valentines Day that I had to throw out the chocolates.

My sweet, thoughtful, and well meaning husband stopped by the store yesterday (Wednesday) to pick up a few items for me on his way home from work.  Apparently while there he felt the sting of Cupid’s arrow, and inspired he picked up a bouquet of roses, a box of chocolates and a coffee cup and stuffed animal.  Fully aware that I was in the kitchen when he arrived, he left loves bounty out in our vehicle; not bringing them in until this morning.  I think he forgot we live in Northeastern Maine and were in the midst of a snowstorm yesterday…..hello freezing.

The roses are now thawing and are a source of constant speculation from yours truly.  Are they dead or just “resting’? Only time will tell.

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One thing was for sure though.  Our suspicions that something might be calling our SUV home for the winter have been confirmed.  As he took that iconic heart shaped box of chocolates out of the bag we couldn’t help but observe the obvious.  Something tried to eat my candy.

The box is intact, but the red plastic wrapping had been ripped.  Writing this I can’t help but scrunch up my nose, wrinkle my brow, and shudder at the thought of Mickey Mouse’s not so adorable cousin trying to rip through my holiday stash with his tiny sharp teeth.  Ew. Ew. Ew.

Ya’ll.  I tried.  I really, really tried.  But before the morning was over, that box of delight found a home in our trash can.  The rodent now owes my husband money, he says.  I just couldn’t do it.  Sure, the little creature didn’t open the box or anything, but I’ve a vivid imagination and just the THOUGHT that it could have had me repulsed enough to kiss an entire box of chocolate goodbye.  Figuratively speaking, obviously I wasn’t putting my lips anywhere near it…..

On the bright side, as a friend pointed out- candy will be 50% off in a few days, and I’m not leaving them in the car overnight.  I will however be clearing out the car and setting traps at night.  The only thing allowed to live in my car is my horde of receipts, fast food napkins, and an untold number of hair pins and elastics.

On a bright note I got to have a very lovely Valentine’s breakfast at a favorite restaurant of ours in nearby Smyrna.  The plate of French toast with strawberries and fresh whipped cream (and a side of bacon) made up for the tampered chocolates and thawing roses.  Also, the cute guy sitting across from me.  He gets a big E for effort.   Besides, he is my Valentine, and everyday I get to celebrate that love with him.

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Whether you celebrate it or not, I hope you have a wonderful, rodent-free Valentines Day!!   Know that you are loved, whether you get a box of chocolates or not.

My Journaling Journey

Dear diary,

It’s taken me a week, but I’m finally accomplishing one of my goals for January.  To begin journaling.  I would’ve started a week ago, but I was unconscious every day until noon.  Now, I’m not going to beat myself up.  After all, my husband works crazy hours, and in this current season we’re not getting to bed until extremely late.  However, I really needed to get my act together and wake up before 10 am.  And so here we are.  I woke at 9 am when obscene sounds bigger than my phone entered my subconscious and I must say- it was very alarming.

I stumbled down the stairs and as I entered the kitchen, my love for my husband of 18 years was cemented by the scent of coffee beans brewed to perfection and still nice and hot for my enjoyment and his survival. He’s a very smart man.  Super cute too.

After pouring creamer into 2/3rd of the drama llama cup, I sat down with my notebook and bible and after selecting a playlist on my phone- I began.

(Some of it has been  pared down and some of the answers were too personal to share, so generalized.)

And so I present to you (if you’ve scrolled this far and are determined to read it all, despite the lack of pictures) a portion of my journaling efforts for January.

January 8, 2019

Well, I suppose it’s better late than never. We are officially in our second week of this new year and I’m just now coming alive to accomplish my goal for this year. To be motivated to start each day sooner and better. For the first week, I was anything but motivated. In fact, I was sleeping until almost noon.  I set the alarm for nine a.m last night. That might seem strange, like “you think that’s early?” Well, it is for me- right now.

I wanted to start journaling, so here we are.

Why? And what do I hope to gain from this?

To unlock the boxes in my mind.  To be free.  I want to be open and honest with God.  That means being open and honest with myself.  It also doesn’t hurt that it should help me write the story God is writing upon my heart.

I found journaling prompts online.

From 365 Questions for a better you (January Prompts) :

I had a week of prompts I missed while sleeping so before I started on today’s I went back and briefly answered 1-7

Jan.1 – Your biggest dream?  To spread God’s love to the world AND  To be able to help my family financially (especially with all these stupid furloughs….)

Jan. 2- What is your vision for the next year? To complete a writing project.  And losing a few pounds wouldn’t be so bad… weight , not currency  (cue pun-induced laughter)

Jan.3- How do you feel today?  Coffee

Jan. 4- What was the most important event of today? Coffee

Jan. 5- One lesson learned today?  Don’t text without your glasses and coffee.

Jan. 6-How is the weather today? I’m in Maine, how do you think it is? Cold, snowing- I love it.

Jan. 7- What’s your goal for next week? Wake up by 8:30.

And with that I was caught up to –

January 8th- How was your week? 

My week was actually really good. I got the rest that I desperately needed after the holiday hooplah of December. I was exhausted.  This first week saw me being a total and absolute bum, and I fought moments of guilt for it- but looking back, I’m so glad I took that time for myself.  By Saturday , January 5th I was refreshed and ready to tackle the next week. And I really caught up on binge watching Covert Affairs.

The next journal prompt is from “Know Thyself” in 25 questions (I find this dubious, but I am drinking coffee- we can do this)

  1. What does your ideal day look like?  Coffee. Okay, I’m just kidding, my ideal day?  I would wake up well before 9 am, well rested and ready to start my day.  I’d walk, not stumble, down to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of coffee, and spend time in God’s word.   Refreshed in his presence, I’d then exercise for at least thirty seconds, ahem, minutes.  My kids and I would spend the morning together eating breakfast and just talking and learning together.  My afternoon would see me working for hours on my writing project.  My guy would come home and we’d spend the evening together.  Cooking dinner, watching a movie, and just talking about our day.  And then I’d program the coffee maker for the next day.   And there might’ve been some amazon shopping in there too.

I then copied Ephesians 2:1-10 

By writing it out it helps me to absorb His words better.  I encourage you to read Ephesians 2 whether you’re a believer or not.  While I was writing it down, Zach William’s ‘So Good to Me’ came on and suddenly the words before me came alive;  popping off of the page and straight into my heart.

Ya’ll, I’ve read the words of Ephesians 2 many many times, as I imagine many of you have as well.  But this morning, it’s like scales fell off of my eyes and I saw it in a new and amazing way.  And it wasn’t just the caffeine kicking in.

He loves me.  He. Loves. Me.  Despite where I’ve been or even where I might go.  He loves me so completely. He sees something in me that I’ve never seen nor could even imagine.  He gives His love and grace; his forgiveness.  Freely without question.  I can’t earn it.  I will never be worthy of it.

What a relief!  Oh the weight that was lifted from upon my world wearied shoulders.  The stress, the fear, the sheer terror that one wrong move; one fatal mistake and that would be it.  The paralyzing hold of doubt and fear that says “You will never be enough.  Don’t you remember when…..” or “How can you claim to be a Christian, just yesterday…”  “——- would never do that.  You need to be more like them.  See?  They have it all put together.  Why would God care for you?”  And oh so many many more.

Gone was the pressure and in its place, the grace to live my life to my best ability. Hand in hand with Him.

I don’t know what lies have been drifting into your minds.  What hurts lie dormant in those locked boxes of your mind.  I don’t know where you’ve been or where you’re going.  But God does.  And He loves you.  He’s extending His hand out to you.

Will you take it?

Now, I want to say, I’m going to share/journal on here each day, but I’ve learned to know myself (with just one question!!!!  kidding) so, let’s just say here and there I’ll share.

Have an amazing day and hey! We’ve made it to the second week of January.  Also week 3 of all this fun furlough stuff (I debated whether or not to keep this on here, but I promised to always be myself and well- this is part of our life.  Thank God that our God is not a politician and we’re always provided for through Him.  And yay, ramen noodles!!)