A Canopy of Green

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We had the most beautiful Easter weekend!  The garden area around my grandparents’ house (and where my GREAT-grandparents lived as well!), was lush with green and incredibly vibrant!  It’s hard to describe such a scene without using pictures… so I’ll use pictures 😉

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We at a BBQ sandwich-style lunch with all the trimmings of coleslaw, potato salad, creamed corn ❤ , Bush’s baked beans… then hunted for eggs, and then played until nighttime.

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It was simple and perfect.

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The little stone statue (above) was given to my grandma by my mom probably over 20 years ago.  It was supposed to represent my brother and I.

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The boys played with my mom with marshmallow shooters (like pea-shooters) 😀  It was fun!

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It’s hard to get the full effect though, even from pictures, because in the front, the air was filled with the scent of Jasmine!  It was literally like breathing in heavenly scented, perfumed air!!!

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Jasmine… jasmine everywhere!  In-between the roses, even!

I hope all you readers had an equally beautiful Easter Sunday!

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Blessings from Texas 😉

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Stephanie

 

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Parenting – Teaching Your Children to Use Their Gifts

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Our oldest is just amazing.  I know I’m his mom and so of course I’m biased… but oh my gosh, God has blessed him with many talents and gifts!  He’s kind… he’s gentle… he’s a strong leader and he’s only 7 years old!!!!!  Watching him is so inspiring to me to be a better mom – to be the mom he truly deserves in life (and yes, I feel like I fail constantly)!  We all deal with some amount of “Mom Guilt.”

Anyway… his school was having a city-wide art competition, and right away I was like, “You have to do this.”  He doesn’t believe in himself, just like I was growing up and still have issues with at times.  But his raw talent and gifts can’t just be shut up inside him and never used or developed!

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This is something I wish I had learned earlier in life myself – that my gifts, whatever they were, were supposed to be used and practiced and developed and strengthened!  It’s nice to have people loyally on your side, watching you with a gracious intent, gently encouraging you to use your gifts, but usually none of us really have people like that around, so we develop self-consciousnesses or neurotic beliefs that we’re always wrong or not very good.

And I see them reflected in my son.  His self-doubt, his belief that he’s actually NOT a good artist, or that he’s not funny, and not that smart (when he makes All A’s and B’s and excels in things like math!!).  It’s weird to me how we can have such a distorted view of ourselves when in reality, we are given so much more than we see.  This is what I imagine Paul was referring to when he was encouraging Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because he was young, but to set an example for other believers and to USE his gifts, and practice them and develop them.

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Practice.

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Develop

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It took him 3 days doing it a few hours at a time, and I had to keep reminding him that he probably wanted to work on it or it wouldn’t be finished in time for the contest, and he did want to finish it.  The more he painted, the more he enjoyed it, too!  As he and our other children grow older, I’m not going to be harping on them as much so that they can learn that if they don’t hustle and do their work on time – or be consistent in it – they will miss MANY opportunities in life and some that they won’t get a second chance at.

 

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But for now, I’m like the woman Jesus talked about who kept pestering a man to do what she wanted 😀  I will encourage him, remind him, love him, prod him, and “train him up in the way he should go,” according to his gifts I’ve seen God has given to him.

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His art teacher came up to me with excitement yesterday when I picked him up from school, and told me with wide eyes that he had placed in the competition… out of THOUSANDS of other kids who entered all over our city!  He won his school somewhere between $1,000-3,000 in art supplies!!!  Of course we were so proud of him!!!

And I asked him in the car when we were driving back home, if he was glad that I pushed him to enter… because he never would have known if he could win if he hadn’t even tried.

I explained to him again that when God gives us special gifts like that, He expects us to USE them for Him, and that others are BLESSED through our gifts – but only if we have enough confidence in ourselves to decide to step out in faith act.  We are also blessed when we bless others!  As he found out when he won that much money for his art teacher!  It’s a blessing to be able to bless other people!

He’s heard about the parable of the talents, but it will probably be a deeper lesson saved for when he is a little older – that if we don’t use our gifts, that God may decide to take them away.  I know it sounds harsh, but we are stewards of the things God has given us, and that includes our giftings and talents.

May we all learn to be more confident in the gifts God has given us, and to use them, practice them, develop and strengthen them for His glory.

Stephanie

Merry Christmas!

One of the things I love about this time of year is the going to parties and seeing friends and family.  We just had our annual Police Dance event, which is very similar in ways to a Military Ball event.

It’s a dance and it’s supposed to be for fun and entertainment, but it’s also very much a work event.  We had actually never gone before, so it was fun to read up on all the military ball etiquette advice.  It was a lot more relaxed, but the etiquette was proved to be useful just as well.

We had so much fun! 😀 ❤

Everyone there was dressed so nice, the food was amazing, and we were able to have a nice night, kid-free, to actually get out and dance.

My husband announced to me that we “have” to do this every year from now on 😀  It’s not mandatory like a lot of the Military Balls are, but still, it was very much a networking event, and a perfect “date night” to boot complete with live bands playing for music!

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My husband is not really a picture-taking person, but man he took a ton of pics and videos that night, a lot of them selfies of us together ❤  Really romantic 🙂

My only jewelry were two pearl and diamond pins in my hair, and of course, his badge necklace.

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When my husband smiles like this, I KNOW something is going right 😀 ❤ ❤ ❤

He was so happy that night.  He doesn’t drink either, and the drinks were all free!  So this was a real, natural high on the joy of the moment ❤

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A better picture of the dress I wore. It’s actually a dress from when I was 16 or 17, but it still fit and I thought it would be gown-appropriate, floor-length attire.

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Everyone’s dresses were so beautiful – I LOVED seeing all the girlfriends and wives dressed up 😀  What a nice way to celebrate together… someone remarked, “We all clean up pretty nice!”  LOL

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Merry Christmas readers!  Hope you all find joy and meaning in the spirit of Christmas this year!

Stephanie

 

Christmas Season Joy!

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A half-done tree 😉  We waited until my husband got home to do the star at the top, which is always down by the youngest in house who is able to walk ❤  Watching my husband pick up our 2nd son and let him put the star on is like winning the lottery.  So. Much. Love.

We got our decorations up last week, it’s been so much fun decorating with the kids and seeing all the ornaments come out again.  I get so much pleasure from just seeing everything again – like seeing old friends… LOL.

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My mom got us this sweet decoration a few years back.  I know Santa is a controversial figure, but I do love the story behind him, the legend if you will.  And I love this decoration because it kind of epitomizes the importance of Jesus’ birth amidst all the craziness of Christmas shopping, Santa visits, or whatnot.  It’s really about this, when it comes down to it.  None of the other stuff matters, and it’s nice to be reminded of that.  We can have all the other joyful stuff, as long as Christ is still the at the center.

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Love lights ❤

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And at night….

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Our famous skyline.

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The top of the building in the center of the above pic, is where my parents bought their chunks of land in the country back in the 80’s.  All the way at the top in the penthouse.

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So cute… 😀

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Our river ❤  There were less lights for some reason this year.  It was still gorgeous and we can’t really complain – but apparently we have new boats that light up the water below them.  LOL

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Our cutie…

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Christmas Candle… I always try to get one every year and light it every night, at least through dinner.  It’s just a simple tradition, and the light is beautiful for the kids (and me) to look at.

LOL our mischievous one!  Wait… they’re both mischievous… oh well!

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Enjoy this season readers!  Please go out and have fun!  Do joyful things… go listen to some carolers, or watch a ballet of the Nutcracker.

Do something to remind yourself of beauty this season!  To recapture how you felt when you were a child.

Go see some glittering, brilliant lights around in your city.  Really look at a well-decorated Christmas tree at a hotel.  Enjoy some wine!  Go out dancing!

Do something this season to bring more joy into your life, please.

Stephanie

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Just wanted to post some pretty pictures and wish my readers a Happy Thanksgiving!  We’ve been pretty busy… lots of baking, decorating, and going to the park nearby to see lights each night!  And just dwelling on the gratitude of all our blessings.

I love this time of year.  I actually enjoy the wildness of it all.

Today we had some of my older son’s friends come over – the house was full of boys running around like crazy 😀 playing loud music in our “music station” of our game room, being silly and dancing around the house ❤

I baked cookies and set the boys all up to decorate some to take home when they got picked up.

It was SO. MUCH. FUN. ❤

I don’t think I’m ever happier than when our house is full of people – or kids – especially crazy boys 🙂  Makes my heart warm seeing them have so much fun.

 

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It’s been so beautiful here lately, and with perfect weather – and just cold enough at night to warrant hot chocolate drinks!  😀

Same scene as above, but this is what we’ve been seeing every night we’ve been able to go:

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The Christmas trees are suspended above a lake to look like they’re floating on top of the water.  Just amazing to see in person!  I tried to get a good pic.

So romantic, and so magical ❤

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Like a winter wonderland. 😀

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I love this time of year… focusing on what we’re thankful for, seeing family and friends and lots and lots of cooking and baking!  It’s hard to imagine a happier time ❤

Hope all you readers have a happy Thanksgiving!

How Do You Deal with a Critical Christian?

This is another idea that is fascinating to me… that a Christian would continually give themselves over to being critical, nit-picky, or sarcastic (which means using humor to try to partially cover up the sting of their criticism).

A critical-spirit Christian, just like a “grouchy Christian,” is a walking oxymoron!

No Christian should allow themselves to be critical, sarcastic, or grouchy toward others, because by definition, those behaviors are behaviors of the flesh, and are no way representing Christ to the world.

But what about the benign Christians who are always critical and try to be humorous about it, and genuinely see nothing wrong with their hidden contempt?

What do you do with a woman who is intent on enjoying pointing out the flaws of her Christian brothers and sisters?  All the intricate ways they are “getting it wrong?”  What do you do with a Christian woman who loves to nit-pick, harp on her many pet peeves that annoy her, and allow these things to bother her so much that they get in the way of her enjoying Christian songs – things that should be enjoyed with a kind spirit?

I recently used an example to teach other women, of what a Critical Spirit looks like, where a woman was so annoyed by the lyrics of Christian worship song, she let it occupy her thoughts so much, that she felt she just had to share her annoyance publicly with others from her blog.  Not only was this woman a perfect example of tearing down another Christian’s work for the pleasure of humor, but also of letting her annoyances and “pet peeves” dictate a pretty big part of her mind and work for God (her writing).  It’s consistently become part of her blogging career bread-and-butter, this delighting (with humor!) in the ways other Christians are “getting it wrong.”  She saw nothing wrong about her actions, literally felt no prick in her conscience when confronted.

People like this perplex me, because while they’re SO critical of their Christian brothers and sisters, they often fail to see the giant plank in their own eye.  They literally have zero concept of their own sin in their behavior that makes them so critical or annoyed or “worried.”  LOL… they will forever be “worried” over all the Christians “doing it wrong,” only so that they never really focus on what God wants them to be learning or discovering about themselves!  To them, seeing other’s flaws is much more interesting!  And a very convenient distraction from growth.

No Christian should be dwelling so much on the ways other people annoy them.  Not only is it sinful thinking that will eventually find it’s ways into our words and actions, but because it will actually cause them to be that much more critical of someone or something basically good (not worth being so critical over), the next time they’re tempted to.  Giving in to constant criticism (that springs from an untamed Critical Spirit) is allowing themselves to continually sin in their hearts toward others.  It’s a pattern of behavior that if they see nothing wrong with it, they will continue to engage in without feeling guilty.  Obviously, sinning continually and never feeling guilty for it, is extremely dangerous.  No Christian should be focusing so much on their brothers and sisters failings that they make their blog or writing career based on pointing those things out, even if it is for humor’s sake.

For a woman who consistently behaves this way, always finding something new to be annoyed or “worried” about, always focusing on outward annoyances around her instead of inward where she can actually change something, is she truly living the Christian life the way she’s meant to be?  Is she really allowing her words and actions to impact the world for greater, or for worse?  I personally believe it’s for worse.  I think a Critical Spirit Christian tempts other men and women to become equally sinfully critical as well, and what’s worse, they learn to hide their sin underneath a facade of humor so that it’s more socially acceptable.  I also think it’s catching, and the fact that many of the people who have this sin tend to act more perfect or righteous (of course!  Because if they didn’t feel this way, they wouldn’t be so critical of other people!), and deny that they are sinning at all, makes it even harder for their community to be at peace with them.

How can you deal with someone so obviously living in sin against you and others, when they are adamant that they’re “right” and doing nothing wrong in harming the unity of the Body of Christ?  How do you make someone take their sin seriously, when they’ve so carefully hidden it in humor, that it almost looks socially acceptable?

Basically?  You can’t 😦 .

I believe, and am teaching other women, that for Christians like this, the best “tools” in your spiritual tool box is simply prayer and avoidance.

A hardened, yet saved heart that enjoys the sin of focusing on their annoyances about other Christians, can only find healing and help when they begin to see themselves in actual sin.

You can’t help them with this unless you’re an older, trusted adviser – an outsider will be brushed off quickly and without any prick to their conscience.

Since they already believe they are so much better, and “doing these things (that they are so annoyed or critical of others about) right,” it would be extremely hard to get through to them.  It would take a lot of humility on their part, which usually isn’t the case.

It’s just one of those situations where it’s explained perfectly in the Bible:

 

Philippians 4:8-9? “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, [for good] will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

From here: The Bible doesn’t promise peace to those who dwell on the faults of others! It says, “[The Lord] will keep them in perfect peace, whose minds are stayed on [Him]! (Isa. 26:3).

 

Pearls & Lace

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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.

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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 ❤

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And for adorable Bloopers …. 😀

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What’s this?

Baby belly button!!!

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French Makeup & Hair

This and more of the woman’s videos remind me so much of my mom’s beauty habits, especially regarding perfume – which for me, is hard to live without!

Beauty, in my opinion, should look low maintenance and mostly be able clear skin and bright eyes, and long, nourished hair.

Enjoy the video!  This woman is so cute ❤

Fall Routine Simplicity

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I love the beginning of the school year!  The getting supplies (the smell of books & pencils!), getting the classroom ready and organized, and just plain getting back into the routine is somehow really peaceful.

Monday was the first day of school for us in our household, and it’s been going pretty smoothly for now.  With my husband’s schedule, the only time he gets to see our older son during most of the days he’s here, is in the morning, and only for about an hour and a half each day.  Not very much!  And since it’s becoming more and more important for him to have those deep talks with his dad, our morning routine revolves around making this easier.

So to optimize their time together, I try to get up around 5am.  This is often after having fed the new baby at 3am or 4am.  It is hard, but it is SO worth it to watch them eating breakfast together, sitting by themselves, almost as though they’re having breakfast in a cafe.  I feel like I work in a cafe!! LOL  But I love it, being a natural morning person, it’s not too too bad.  I also love cooking… and breakfast foods are my all-time favorite to cook and eat ❤  So cooking them up a nice breakfast, having it all laid out with their drinks etc. and then retreating to the living room to eat my own food and write so they can have more privacy… it’s really nice!

Anyway, I’m going to miss the Summer days of going to parks and walking more and seeing museums etc.  Maybe we can sneak in a few trips here and there, but it’s getting a little harder with each child we add unfortunately, to be able to get out and handle all my work at home.  We’ll see.

Pictures of our adventures semi-recently!!

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Hunting for crabs at night!!!  The boys (wtth a lot of help from their dad) caught 4 I think!  It was so much fun to watch them doing this n the pitch black on the beach with their nets, buckeets and flashlights!

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My Amazing Husband & His Boys

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Snapped this photo when we went downtown to see my husband working our annual city party called, “FIESTA!!”

My husband is an incredible hero.

It’s not just because he wears the badge, although the courage and bravery there are not to be discounted.

It’s his strength, heart, and mind that make him go above and beyond in teaching our sons how to actually be men.

Real men.

The kind that fight for goodness and against evil in our society.

The kind that are God’s warriors and ministers – both at the same exact time.

Words can hardly even describe the intensity with which I love this man so much.

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