Relaxing in the Shade

IMG_7217

Ahhhhh… this was so relaxing.  I’m amazed how wonderful God’s creation is and how peaceful just being in your own backyard can be!  The only sound we heard this lazy afternoon was all the dozens of birds making their various calls in the trees.

IMG_7219.JPG

It’s a great feeling when all of your littles are relaxing at the same time.  It doesn’t happen for very long LOL… but it is nice when it does happen.

I made us all homemade blue coconut icies and it was the perfect drink for being out here!  This picnic blanket is super lightweight, water resistant, and I found it for only $10 at Wal-Mart.  It’s soft and beautifully patterned, too.  That along with our pillows and the icies – well, it doesn’t take much for us to feel like we’re living in luxury 😉

IMG_7218

Have a Happy Mother’s Day weekend readers!!!!  Enjoy it as much as you can!

Stephanie

Advertisements

A Hill Country Road Trip

Related image

The past 2 months have flown by it seems!  As a family, we’ve just been crazy busy… first leading up to Easter, and then various family-administrative stuff, and now we’re getting ready for the end of the school year.  It’s been the kind of busy where although it’s fun, it’s also been a bit stressful.

I’ve also been running 3 miles a few mornings a week with my husband ❤ and then doing pretty heavy weights, so it’s been a little exhausting, in a happy-fun kind of way at least.

Related image

Whenever I get like this, almost on the brink of “burn-out,” for some reason I feel a strong pull to take a drive in the areas nearby our city where I grew up in the hill country.  I miss it so much… sometimes living in the city makes me feel like a “stranger in a strange land,” lol.

Image result for texas hill country

The craziness of the city and fast-paced lifestyle, seems to evaporate when we’re out there.  I had the sense this last Friday when I took the kids for a nice, day-long road trip get-away, that when seeing those hills and the spacious countryside, I could finally breathe.  I wish I was exaggerating 🙂 , but it’s true that when I left with the kids, we were all tired and a little stressed out.  But on the way back from spending hours out there, the atmosphere in our little caravan was the opposite – everyone was rested, refreshed and optimistic!

Image result for texas hill country

It was simply a day to roam around the country, visit places I loved going to growing up, my old church ❤ , our little town’s main street with all the old buildings and adorable shops; we visited the restaurant I used to work at as a teenager ❤ … we got food and ice cream and traveled on into even deeper, more beautiful and rural countryside.

Related image

This church below is our town’s Catholic church, built almost 100 years ago.

Image result for boerne catholic church

The feelings and emotions of going back there, back to where I grew up and the places that surrounded me, were sublime.  I’m just so glad that we don’t live too far away where that isn’t possible.  My children get to experience all those things in a small way, and my older son really enjoyed talking to me about growing up out there.

He sat as my co-pilot, my little man!  And when he was gazing at the hills and eating his ice cream, the sense of peace he had was so tangible.

Image result for texas hill country kerrville

I don’t wish I could go back 🙂 I LOVE our life right now.  But wow is it fun to take a walk down memory lane, tell them hilarious stories about the people of that town or things my brother and I did 😀 .

It’s nice to be able to go back.

 

8 Months – There’s No One Like Dad!

IMG_6266

Someone just turned 8 months recently!  We are so ready for SPRING… it’s been raining for a couple of weeks – gray days, no sunshine, but now the sun is just beginning to peak through the trees.

It’s beautiful!

IMG_6271

Her little pink onesie says,”There’s No One Like Dad!”  And it is SO TRUE!  And so cute!  My husband is seriously the best father I could ever have asked for to our children.  She adores him, as they all do.

IMG_6273

She is just the happiest little baby I’ve ever seen, and so easy!  Her joy affects everyone who knows her – even the girls who take care of her while we’re working out at our gym, just adore her and tell us they love when we come in because she’s such a sweet, happy baby!

IMG_6311

And she laughs so much!  She thinks everything her crazy, wild brothers do is hilarious!  LOL 😀

IMG_6321

I can’t wait for more sunny days, gardening to my heart’s content ❤ and playing in the yard with our kids!  The Spring and Summer are just such a welcome change… yes, even for Texans ;) LOL

Stephanie

Puppy Love!!

IMG_5776.JPG

Our sweet, mischievous dalmatian (who sometimes drives us insane 😀 ) loves our babies!  I can’t believe how good he is with them, but then again dals have lots of babies of their own as a breed, and the males are actually involved with their pups – they’re good doggie fathers ❤

So he’s gentle and protective with our kids – it’s so cool to watch.

IMG_5770

Sweet face….

IMG_5772IMG_5775

He’s like our gorgeous nanny-dog who helps me watch the kids… kind of like the one from Peter Pan 😀 it’s nice.

IMG_6140IMG_6141

And our sweet baby girl is about to turn 7 months this month!  It’s hard to believe how fast time has flown by.  She just got her ears pierced a couple of days ago, and she looks so beautifully feminine with those little baby earrings ❤

I’m so grateful for all the gifts we’ve been given, surrounded by love and crazy little kids!

Stephanie

Barbie Knows How to Be Fruitful & Multiply!

be fruitful multiply

This is so cute!  A fellow police wife and friend has a daughter who takes toys to the store sometimes.  Apparently the whole Barbie family had to go on this grocery outing LOL!

This is what she said —

“My children fully believe in the word of God

and know that we are to be fruitful and multiply,

this includes Barbie world.

I must say that I will miss these days

when I’m caught off guard

either by carrying around a huge stuffed animal that is a duck

or pregnant Barbies…..

it’s Saturday y’all.

That’s all I got.”

This is partly why I love Texas.  It’s the South, the Christian women are REAL.  And little girls still play with Barbie and want to have BIG families.

I know… I’m sorry you’re not Texan 😉  Feel free to move here, though.

Stephanie

Pearls & Lace

IMG_5330

So… I have a ton of jewelry, mostly gifts from childhood, that I just never ever ever wear!  LOL… I am having so much fun giving our daughter all of my jewelry.  Even if she doesn’t want to wear it when she’s older, she can always keep it and pass it down if she wants.

IMG_5329

Her birthstone is pearl.  And I happen to have a few strands of real, precious pearls.  Yes, I know you have to be sensitive with them!  Baby drool is not something they’d take well to I’m sure, but it was fun anyway 😀

She also will have earrings passed down to her in every shade of pearl, thanks to my Momma ❤

IMG_5335

And for adorable Bloopers …. 😀

IMG_5336

What’s this?

Baby belly button!!!

IMG_5338

Teaching Our Children to Care for Others

One of the things we successfully did as a family in 2015, and that I’d like to see us do more of in 2016, is spend time showing our kids (really our oldest) how important it is to reach out to others.

It’s not enough for us to just live our lives in our relatively safe, convenient homes and neighborhoods, and think we’re good people because we love God and go to church on Sundays.  If we love God, we will obey His word and proclamations of what we are to do with our time here.

God’s word announces in several places the importance of giving and caring for others, we are called to live outside ourselves constantly in His word,

If anyone thinks he is religious, without controlling his tongue but deceiving his heart, his religion is useless.

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

***

I honestly haven’t been the best about this in the past couple of years.  Early in our marriage, and even when our oldest was very little, I would make it a point to take care of the material needs of those God put in our path.  We had SO little, sometimes barely even enough to afford food!  But somehow, even during those extremely hard financial times in our marriage, we still had surplus of material items we didn’t actually need, and God would mysteriously bring people into our lives that we could give them to… even though we were barely making it financially, we were STILL able to give out of the things we DID have.

God is mysterious, that is hands down obvious to all who know Him.  How we had the specific items that people needed when we met them during our financial poverty, I have no idea, but it was a blessing to me to be able to still give what I did have to give, and be able to meet REAL needs of the people God brought into our life.

The funny thing about being a good steward over what God’s given you, it doesn’t matter if you have very little, He can STILL use that little you DO have to bless others.  When we’re faithful with the little He’s given us, He often gives us more to take charge over – but with this, comes a greater responsibility, because He’s trusting us to use it wisely.

So in 2015, I made it a very conscious effort to do more, I wanted God to open my eyes so that I could see the people that might need help, and give our money, time, and material items to meet their needs.

We were able to help meet the physical needs of the officer I wrote about in Malicious Joy, the one who was hit by a drunk driver.  It’s one thing to hear about what happened to him, but it’s quite another to get my boys out the door, drive across town and physically meet his material needs.  Going to see him, taking him goodies and food items my son helped me pick out for him, almost every week, was such a blessing – particularly for my son!  The young man was alone, not married, and his family lived hours away… so offering to get things for him, helping by bringing him big meals, were things that he really needed.

It also took the form of visiting elderly people at a nursing home, talking to them, singing them Christmas carols, making them hot chocolate or tea, letting them enjoy my children – having the joy of holding our baby boy.  Many of them don’t get visitors, feel forgotten, and are some of the most interesting people with the most interesting things to say.  This may have blessed them, but I honestly think that me and our boys received an even greater blessing of getting to meet these people, listen to them, and even laugh with them.  We will do more of this visiting elderly people in 2016.

Giving from what we had also took the form of financially meeting people’s needs that God would place on our heart or in our path.  A young blind woman who had been abused in every way, was taken into the wing of an older woman at our church.  She had grown up in foster care homes, and many people that were supposed to have cared and looked out for her, had taken advantage of her and ultimately, left her alone in the world.  Her most pressing need was that she needed money to be able to obtain a seeing-eye dog, and my husband gave me the okay to give a significant amount for us, to meet her need.  Talking with her, showing her that people saw her and cared about her well-being and future, explaining to my oldest son the importance of what we were doing for her, was a huge blessing to get to participate in.  It was an honor for us… and she’s now gone on to decide to give back in her own way.  She decided to start a ministry in our church for people like her, so that she can give out of what she’s been blessed with!!

Giving this past year also took the form of lending our time and emotions to visit families who have lost their police officers, and bring them Christmas cheer… for me, this is something I wanted to run away from, the pain of these wives, the pain of their young children.  As a police family, we live in a kind of constant denial of the reality of what could happen, visiting these families, seeing them in pain, bursts that blissful bubble of denial.  This is NOT something I was particularly excited about, but it was SO needed, and blessing them, loving on them, hugging them, in return, gave us a sober blessing of treasuring our life together, and not taking any day, any moment for granted.

Come Thanksgiving time, we were going to serve a meal to young women and girls who live in a safe house in our city.  Police regularly deal with sex abuse, and reaching out to these young girls and young women, from the standpoint of being a police wife, is showing them that we care about them from a humanity standpoint.  These are girls usually around teen age, who are usually pregnant or with small children, and many times this is from sex slavery or by their own fathers.  Many of them came from Latin American countries.  Their children also live there with them, and so our team of wives decided to target loving on them this year.  Because of the nature of their circumstances, this was something I was not going to bring our children to so that I could serve more easily… but my childcare ended up falling through, and we missed this opportunity to serve.  I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to reaching out to these girls and women and their children!  But God showed me another way to bless them, I put small boxes together with little gifts and trinkets inside to drop off for them for Christmas.  This was maybe even better for us, because my oldest son was actually able to participate in helping me pack the boxes and drop them off for the girls!

So overall, we did pretty good, but 2015 care opportunities seemed to just happen for us, it wasn’t something that I deliberately thought about much or planned and acted on.

For 2016, I want it to be a deliberate thing.  I want to see the lost, the broken in the way that I used to when we had so little.

 

So excited about the New Year and the blessings to come, may this inspire you to think about how YOU and your family can bless others with what God’s given you!

Blessing in the Wilderness

For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands.  He has watched over your journey through this immense wilderness.  The Lord your God has been with you this past 40 years, and you have lacked nothing.

Deuteronomy 2:7

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was reading this verse this morning, and it struck me… even though the Israelites were rebellious, even though they were in the midst of enduring their punishment (wandering the wilderness an extra 40 years for seriously pissing off God), He still blessed them in all the work of their hands.

He still watched over their journey through the immense wilderness.  When they felt utterly lost, He was still watching over them.

He had been with them for all those 40 years, and as a result, they had lacked nothing.

Wow!

I don’t know about you, but in the past 8 years of being married, we have definitely traveled through a time that felt like an immense wilderness.  A long stretch of feeling like there was no clear path to follow, no tangible destination, and almost no hope that what we desired would come to fruition.

It was when we were waiting for my husband to get into his training academy, which meant immediate conditional employment with the department in our city.  He would be receiving a much higher pay than he was making, along with health benefits that covered his family.  We desperately wanted him to succeed, and the periods of waiting that stretched into years of endurance, whittled us down to being people that were plodding along, traveling, and it felt like a never-ending wilderness.

And then it happened, my husband got the call to come in and do three tests.  He passed the first with flying colors.  On to the second, passed again!

And then it was on to the hardest test, the mental grilling test.  He did great, but the group that was grilling him decided he needed to prove how serious he was by starting again from square one.  I kid you not – they didn’t pass him, just because they wanted to see him go through the process again to prove his dedication!

To prove to himself his dedication.

He was rejected on that last test, the test that we all felt so sure he’d pass, the day before his birthday.  When he called me to tell me the news, I prepared my heart to receive him, and decided right then and there to embrace an attitude of gratitude.  It would be another year and a half before he came to be employed by them.

It was during this time though, that God was closest to us.  I look back on that time, and can clearly remember how much more true verses became for me, how I learned to have real lasting joy in the midst of barely having anything to get by.  We had so little, and watching my husband struggle through being rejected, feeling like a failure who couldn’t provide for his family, watching all his hopes dashed and having to start from square one again, was heartbreaking.  Standing by him, encouraging him, and pressing onward through our personal wilderness was so good for us, we learned so many lessons that we never would have learned otherwise.  And like I said, verses started popping up out of the page to find real meaning in our everyday life.

“Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands and remain faithful.

He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  (Deut. 8:2-3)

Even though we had very little, we always somehow had enough.  Even though we couldn’t afford many things, even things people generally take for granted, we lacked nothing.

“For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands.  He has watched over your journey through this immense wilderness.  The Lord your God has been with you this past 40 years, and you have lacked nothing.”

I learned what real, authentic, gratitude meant and looked like, that whatever your circumstances, there was always something to be grateful for.  I learned what lasting joy and contentment meant, the kind Paul talks about from his prison cell in Philippians.

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last you have renewed your care for me.  You were, in fact, concerned about me, but lacked the opportunity to show it.  

I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  

I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot.  

In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being contentwhether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.  

I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  (Phil. 4:11-13)

I remember viewing chores differently during this time… the drudgery of washing dishes became my crying and thanking God that we had any dishes to wash at all.  I became so grateful for dishes of all things.  When doing the laundry, something I didn’t like doing, I made it a point to pray for each person as I folded their clothes, thanking God for our family and how I knew He was watching over us.

If you find yourself going through what seems like a never-ending, immense and dry wilderness, do not give up hope… I’ve written this for you today.  God will renew your strength, and it is possible to find immense peace and joy even in the midst of going through a trial.

Not Ready Yet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

More beautiful vacation….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So. Damn. Sexy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I can’t get over this pic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beautiful sunflowers everywhere in the sand….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m still in denial… still not ready to be back! 🙂

Hot Club Sandwich

Some beautiful music for you!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve been thinking much on attitude and what we allow ourselves to dwell on… either beauty… or ugliness.

Its so tempting to dwell on what’s ugly – be it a woman who chooses to criticize others, or spectating as women fight with each other and go to gossip sites to find what’s new and ugly so they can dwell on the ugliness.  Perhaps that’s why we are commanded to dwell on what is noble, pure, honorable, just, beautiful and lovely, anything praiseworthy, because God understood that it would be a sinful indulgence.

To fill our hearts with a beautiful attitude that reflects what we’ve been dwelling on is beautiful.

To share the beauty of our lives is an art and divine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There’s nothing more beautiful than a happy baby in my opinion.  Happy and full of joy – reflecting God’s beauty in his face, his bright eyes.  Caring for him, in the words of a friend, is my “resume.”  I’m getting to spend my energy instead of in an office cubicle, actually making children into confident, happy, and successful adults – I should be dwelling more on this for myself. 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our garden is growing!  With all the flooding that happened in May and June, our tomato plants have turned into monsters!  The beautiful work of planting, weeding, pruning and harvesting the fruit or veggies is worth dwelling on and relishing!  Being in our garden is just such a wonderful, peaceful feeling.

I understand why God put Adam and Eve in a paradise garden existence… it was to give them beauty.  Beauty that was untouched by sin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lavender has been a great plant for me… I’ve been crushing it into a fragrant kind of potpourri for baths and teas!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The afternoon sun shining down into our cute little garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA