Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday Printable

Yesterday, I was making the newsletter for our Mom's Group, and I realized that there really wasn't anything important to, I went a little rogue, and made a printable to hand out for Easter.

It's nothing fancy, but a good reminder for me nonetheless as we go into this weekend--it's a busy time for a lot of families. I know we've got service tonight, Justin's band is recording all day tomorrow, and then service that night, someone texted me that they have a trombone for Justin (which was news to me, but apparently he is playing the trombone for Easter Sunday?), there's outfits to wash and arrange, and Easter baskets to fill (whoops), and bread to make for Easter dinner for about three dozen people (or bagels? or rolls? ). There's a mountain of laundry on my couch, and workouts to do, and bathrooms that haven't been cleaned in I'm not sure how long. Anyway, the point is that it's sort of like Christmas time for me-- I can easily get flustered and busy and overwhelmed and forget the joy in it all.

So, I popped this printable in a frame, leaned it up against the wall on our buffet, where I'll see it 100 times a day as I walk through the tornado of a house. And I think about the Easter morning call and response of "He is risen!" followed by "He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!". And I think about the time of Lent where in the Lutheran church the alleluias are missing from the songs and the service, and I didn't realize the I missed them, but I do.

He is risen

If you want, click on the image, and that will take you over to Flickr, where you can download the original size. It's 8.5 x11, but worked just fine in a matted 8x10 frame for me. Enjoy your Thursday!

Monday, April 14, 2014

This weekend.

This weekend....

-We ate a lot of really GOOD food. The highlights were an *amazing* meal at a local brewery, complete with some hibiscus ginger beer. As a general rule, I'm not a big beer drinker, but Caldera has some really unique and interesting beers, and I can't wait to go back sometime and do some tasting. I mean, toasted coconut porter? Yeah, I'll try that!

-We had a lot of sweet, silly, and fun moments with our little family. It felt so low stress, which was a welcome blessing.

-We spent a good amount of time working out, and also a good amount of time outdoors, both of which were so welcome!


-I spent some time evaluating. One of the things that I love about photography is that there is *always* so much to learn. This past year, I've spent a lot of time trying to learn more about Photoshop, both in terms of photography and graphic design (which is why you occasionally see Monday printables around here). There's so much to learn, and THEN there's also the trick of learning and discovering what I actually like and want to implement for myself. HDR? Not so much. Different blanket fade techniques? Yes, please.

Anyway, yesterday I decided to re-open a photo that I took of my niece Lyla back in 2012, and edit it the way that I would if I had taken it today. It's fun to look at the differences, what I've learned, what I'd do differently, now. There's a subtle difference, but I'm happy with it. I'm sure that in two more years, I'd have a few more tweaks to make, and that's what I love about photography. Learning, growing, stretching, always.

-I applied for a job. It would be working from home, doing something that I absolutely love. Basically, my dream job. There were around 100 applicants, so it feels like a long shot, but one that I had to take :)

How was your weekend?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Photography as Yoga Pants

A blog friend, Sara @ Running from the Law has been hosting an *awesome* series called Photography for Moms, and today I'm over there posting about getting out of auto and into Av mode.

Sara and I have been following each other's blogs for quite some time, and she and I are both big fans of Av mode when we're just hanging out at home taking photos of our kids. On today's post, Sara said "[AV Mode is] quick and easy and comfortable, like a really expensive pair of yoga pants - fancier than normal, but still not full-on getting dressed and perfect to wear around the house."

YES. I totally agree.

If you have a dslr camera, but are shooting in auto (the green box) most of the time, and haven't been ending up with the kind of photos you were hoping for when you purchased a dslr, please go read this post.

On the other hand, if you're trying to shoot in manual 100% of the time and are so frustrated that you're just not picking up your camera at all...please go read this post!

'Cause I'm a firm believer that there's a time and a place for yoga pants and Av mode alike!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Beauty in the Mundane- Volume 3

We had an unexpected evening at home last night with some unexpected sunshine, and it could not have been more amazing. Recently, some friends have given us some old outdoor play things that their kids had outgrown--a slide, and then some swings--which are amazing placeholders until we eventually buy or make what we'd like to have long term. The girls got to play with them for the first time yesterday, and had a BLAST. I'm so glad that I grabbed my camera before we headed out to play after dinner--there's beauty and a story in these little moments, you know?

D-3 D-7 D-8 D-11 D-9 D-14 D-19 D-20 D-21 D-24 D-26 D-31 D-28 D-36 D-37 D-38 D-39 D-43 D-49 D-56 D-51

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Two days ago, World Vision made news by announcing that they were making a change to their hiring practice in order to allow employment of those who identify themselves as Christian and are in legal same-sex marriages. Previously, the conduct requirement, as I understand it, had simply been abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage. In addition, all employees of Word Vision were (and are) required to affirm either their Statement of Faith or the Apostle's Creed as a condition of employment.

In a letter to employees about the change, the board said:

"We are, as our mission statement so clearly expresses,“an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.” And it is this mission that unites us—Baptist, Pentecostal, Seventh day Adventist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Orthodox, nondenominational, etc.--more than 50 different expressions of the Christian faith represented within WVUS alone. In fact, for 60 years the Christian mission of World Vision has been a platform uniting followers of Christ around the world. 

As World Vision employees, we are first and foremost united in our response to Jesus’ call to follow Him and to serve the poor. This unity gives us space to acknowledge a range of views on issues among the Christian churches we attend and the denominations we represent. Those issues include methods of baptism, divorce and remarriage, views on evolution, the role of women in church leadership, and whether birth control is acceptable. At World Vision we hold a strong view of the authority of Scripture in the life of the church and in the lives of each of us as followers of Christ, but we intentionally choose not to require specific beliefs or practice in any of these debated issues as conditions of employment at World Vision U.S. In other words, we don’t have a list of issues on which we mandate agreement as a litmus test for hiring. Instead, we leave these areas under the authority of the various church bodies to which each of us belongs and to the freedom of all of our employees to discern for themselves, fully understanding that there is a range of views within and among our churches."

Indeed, some of the churches affiliated with Word Vision (United Church of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church USA) *have* affirmed gay and lesbian marriage, and so to me, this stance seemed consistent with the past statements by World Vision that they are not a theological arm, but an operational arm.

This is not news, right? That World Vision is a partnership between many different denominations within the Christian church, which are comprised of many (sometimes drastically different) beliefs and practices? This has been the case for years, and I believe is partially why other relief organizations that are specific to particular denominations exist. As a Lutheran, I can't expect Word Vision's policies and practices to align completely with LCMS Lutheran doctrine and teachings...because it isn't a Lutheran organization. Neither can Catholics, or Evangelicals, or any other denomination present expect that World Vision will completely and accurately capture their belief system. Rather, the underlying goal of broad faith-based organizations like World Vision, I think, is to encourage and facilitate unity within all denominations of the church.

Back to the story.

After that announcement, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, and all forms of social media were almost immediately flooded with announcements from Christians that they had pulled their support for their sponsored children through World Vision in response to the announcement. Here's just a few excerpts:

We will invest our money in other fundamental bible charities. 

God will no longer bless this ministry as long as you continue to compromise with sin and continue to demonize Israel! I implore the leadership to repent!

They are doing the works of Satan now! We can not be apart of this! 

It is with a truly heavy heart that I called and cancelled my sponsorship of three children today. 

I do pray that donations (as mine will) dry up and that God will raise up another organization that has a biblical spine.

You are a disgrace ..... When everything starts to fall apart on you I pray that you will come back to God on your knees ....

This organization accepts gay marriage among their employees. I have therefore cancelled my sponsorship. 

In the meantime, many supporters of the policy shift (including many non-believers, if Facebook is any indication) picked up child sponsorships in order to make up for those that were dropped suddenly.  

And then today, World Vision announced that they had reversed their decision to allow practicing Christians in participating denominations who were engaged in same sex marriages to be employed by the organization. 

This whole situation has left me with a vast range of feelings and emotions. Right now, the strongest is an uncontrollable urge to scream at people that if they were so concerned with the charities that they were supporting aligning with their personal beliefs exactly, THEY SHOULD HAVE RESEARCHED THE ORGANIZATION MORE THOROUGHLY BEFORE MAKING A LONG-TERM SPONSORSHIP COMMITMENT. You are not, by any means, required to support World Vision. But I cannot, for the life of me, understand the sudden outrage about this announcement--World Vision's non-stance when it comes to theological issues is not news. Do your due diligence before making a long-term commitment to an organization for sponsorship, people. If you don't like that World Vision partners with congregations that affirm gay and lesbian marriage...then don't support them, from the beginning. Don't get caught up in stories at rock concerts that pull at your heart strings, pledge your financial support, establish a relationship with a child, and then hold your financial support hostage in an attempt to bend the organization's towards your own specific beliefs, leaving that child inexplicably without the relationship that was promised.

{Was that too harsh? I feel like I may be writing out of frustration here, so I apologize if my words are not as carefully chosen and unifying as I usually attempt to be here}.

It also leaves me with a lot of questions. 

Once a sponsorship commitment has been made, what, if any, are appropriate reasons to retract that commitment? 

Can the photo of one child from a third world country on our fridge simply be replaced with another in the same way that I can change pants? If I decide I don't like what one organization is doing, is it okay for me to just drop that organization and pick another child elsewhere? Is my commitment to the organization, or the child? Or both?

If we're saying that homosexuals cannot be Christians, aren't we also saying that denominations who have affirmed homosexual marriage aren't *really* Christian denominations? 

So then, if we're saying that the Church of Christ, for example, isn't *really* a Christian church, what about heterosexual couples that were married by Church of Christ pastors? Is it *really* a covenant marriage then? 

What of man-woman marriages outside of the church? Say, someone married by the Justice of the Peace. Are those okay even though they didn't take place within a church and may not have had any Biblical basis at all? 

Or, as a few friends and I were discussing just the other day in regards to abortion, if we take the stance that homosexuality is sin, does that mean that everything that is against homosexuality is automatically good? Or that anything that doesn't explicitly condemn homosexuality is automatically bad?

Sigh. I don't have answers, friends. Only frustration and a bit of weariness.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Big Guns.

When we bought our house in 2008, it was a foreclosure. We loved that it was a quarter acre lot with a pretty big backyard, but we did NOT love that the back yard and front yard were *entirely* made up of star thistle. We tackled the front yard first, because...well, curb appeal, and then we pulled up the star thistle in the backyard.
From the house listing back in 2008.

Once we pulled up all the thistle, we realized that we didn't actually have dirt in the backyard, we had red clay. Apparently, weeds don't mind the clay, but we could not get anything normal to grow. So, since we were looking at bringing in topsoil and seeding, we put the project on hold for a couple of years (do you KNOW how expensive it is to bring in almost a quarter acre of topsoil?!) to save up. And in 2012, we finally brought in the topsoil.

We (and by we, I really mean Justin) spread the topsoil up to about two feet from the fence all the way around. We also skipped the garden area that wraps around the side of the house (you can just barely see the trellis over in the upper left hand corner of the above pic). We did this for cost reasons, and also because we weren't sure whether we'd eventually do planter boxes along the fence, flower beds, or something else. Then, we seeded. By the fall of 2012, it looked like this:
Womp womp. Not gonna lie, I was expecting a lot more progress at that point! Anyway, last year we planted some trees--we had *zero* when we moved in, and we quickly determined that we needed at least some shade somewhere in the backyard, and so we've planted a maple, a honeycrisp apple, a pear, and a plum tree. Justin also planted a couple of wine grapes that a couple from church gave us, but we're still waiting to see if they survived. We basically left the grass alone last year other than mowing it, and at the beginning of March this year, it looked like this:

A lot more green, but also a LOT of clover in there! It looked much better once it was mowed for the first time, but we still have a good deal of weed and feeding in our immediate future :)
Anyway, this past weekend, we finally started to tackle the jungle that was the border between the grass and the fence. Justin brought in the big guns, and we BOTH spent most of the weekend pulling weeds, shoveling dirt, moving the two raised beds you can see in the upper right corner of the clover jungle photo above.
One of the benefits of having a husband who works in construction? His bosses will often let him bring home the equipment on the weekends. This time, he brought home the excavator, and got to digging. We transplanted our thornless blackberry from the fenceline to the trellis over by the garden beds, and then he dug up that fenceline jungle. Lizzy was *thrilled* to get to take a quick ride with him!

 While he did that, I weeded our 5x20 garden bed and also our strawberry patch, which was no small feat! I may or may not be really sore today, ha!


Now, in the next couple of weeks, we'll be laying down landscape fabric around the fenceline, and bringing in mulch. I haven't quite decided what (if anything) will be planted along the fence, but being that I have a bag of 180 Brodiaea bulbs from Costco, I'm strongly leaning towards those!

We sort of hope that we'll eventually be able to buy the empty lot directly behind our house. It isn't currently for sale, but the couple that originally owned our house subdivided their acre lot into four lots. They've developed one of the lots, and have left the others undeveloped. The husband was a contractor and I think was developing them himself, but recently retired. We've been thinking about sending them a letter that if they're ever interested in selling that quarter acre directly behind us, we'd potentially be interested in buying it.

So anyway, we don't want to invest a lot of money in flowers or bushes on the fence line before at least making contact with the owners of the other property, but I wouldn't have a problem sacrificing $12 in Brodiaea bulbs :) It's sort of a dance between thinking about what could maybe-possibly-someday happen in the future, while also making what we've got now a space that we love. Especially since realistically, even if we did buy that property, it would require all the steps we've taken here (weeding the thistle, bringing in topsoil, seeding, etc), so we'd be looking at a long term several year project there anyway.

 Whew. We still have a lot of hopes and dreams for this space, including installing a gate kit where the plywood is in the above pictures (we had to remove part of the fence to bring in the heavy equipment). This will also include moving a fencepost, so it isn't a small project persay, but doable. We'd also like to build a pergola over the patio, and maybe tear out the raised beds for a bigger garden area. I'd love a firepit and a swing set too.

So basically, we have a long way to go, but I forget sometimes how far we've come already!

We ended the weekend with our first time eating alfresco this year, which was a blessing!

I'm hoping this is a space that we'll be spending a LOT of time in this spring and summer--after all, when you're outside all weekend long, it's amazing how clean the inside of the house stays!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review: The House at the End of Hope Street by Meena van Praag

From the back of the book: Distraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before, 11 Hope Street. A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in.

She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house. Past residents have included Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Parker, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers—literally, in talking portraits on the wall. As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds—and maybe even save her life.

When it comes to books, I'm generally not a fan of fantasy. But every once in awhile, a book comes along that walks the fine line of magical realism so well that I find myself getting swept away to another world, despite how improbable all the goings-on there may be.

For me, The House at the End of Hope Street (not to be confused with a Danielle Steele novel called The House on Hope Street) was one of those books. It was totally outlandish--I mean, it includes talking portraits of Virginia Woolf and Florence Nightingale--but at the same time, felt totally believable. Or at least, something that I'd like to believe in, because I don't know about you, but I certainly wouldn't mind living in a house that gives me exactly what I need, from famous quotes that drop from the ceiling, to ginger cookies, to a sewing machine, to fully stocked bookshelves of *exactly* what I want to read. When you add talking portraits of some of history's most amazing women? I'm along for the ride. 

This was one of those books that I just enjoyed, though I can't necessarily put my finger on why, though I can tell you that I liked the characters and came to care about them. I can also tell you that I thought the stories of the other women in the house were woven together with Alba's story well, and that the plot and subplots all made sense and were resolved pretty well. It was a little whimsical, a little fun, and full of magic. I enjoyed it a lot, and overall, I say:

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Monday Printable (Volume 3)

Because my hyacinth popped up over the weekend.

Because it is raining today.

Because I'm stuck at home with no car.

Because I'm practicing hand-placing flowers in Photoshop.

Someday, I'll make a printable that isn't floral,but today is not that day :)


To print it, just click on the image. It should take you right to Flickr. From there, click on the three dots in the lower right hand corner and select "view all sizes". Next, click on the original size. Once you do that, the link at the top should change to say "download the original size of this photo". I feel like it should go without saying that you are welcome to use this personally, please don't sell it.

I haven't upgraded to the Beta version of Flickr yet, so these instructions may not track if you've already upgraded.

 Happy Monday!
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