Blessings in the Interruptions

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My husband snapped this picture in the morning before he left for a special assignment… said it was too cute to miss.  Recently, our beautiful girl has decided waking up VERY early is just the thing to do 😉 and I’ve been letting her stay up with me so I can continue with some time to read the Bible and pray.

What I would have considered an interruption has become such a beautiful blessing of extra time to cuddle with her and enjoy alone time with her.  I usually get her some chocolate milk, and coffee for myself, and sit back down where she stays quietly reading one of her books or her little Christmas story Bible (sooo cute!!!) and gives me another 30 minutes to an hour to read and pray.  Our boys were a little too rough and rowdy to have done this (and I tried LOL) so having a sweet, gentle girl is a nice change 😀 !  I love how different they are.

In the book, The Mission of Motherhood, this quote recently stood out,

“How do we make the commitment to give the area of motherhood over to God as a sacrifice of worship to him?

We yield our personal rights into his hands.  We give up our time and expectations to him – and also our fears and worries about how we will manage.  We trust him to take care of us and our family.  We let him redirect our thinking and expectations and adjust our dreams.  And we wait in faith to see the fruit of our hard labor in the lives of our children, knowing that he will be faithful to honor our commitment to him.”

I consider that early morning time – a time of peace and a rare stillness that falls over the house when everyone else is asleep – my time to replenish and really focus on God and His Word.  I can see how it could be called my “Me-Time,” or be something a friend would say I have a “right” to.  And I get it – having that time not go as I planned due to a fussy baby means mentally or emotionally giving up this “right.”

We’re all about “rights” as women in this day and age.  Whether it’s the “right” to some alone time, the “right” to some pampering, or even the “right” to complain (yes, I’ve heard this!), it seems we live a chronic state of feeling we deserve certain circumstances or treatment.  Since mothers usually do spend a lot of time serving, I think we have this expectation that we should receive a form of “payment” in return for all our efforts.  But that’s just it – a real sacrificial love doesn’t demand (or even expect) payment or retribution for things lost like time and energy.  Is alone time or being pampered inherently bad?  Of course not 🙂 but it can be if we view them as though they’re owed to us because we “sacrifice so much.”

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Loving our children in such a way that we try to re-frame these interruptions, or messes… or accidents… into opportunities for blessings or “divine appointments,” as Clarkson calls them, is such a dramatic difference in perspective.  I admit this is something I have to routinely call myself back to in keeping in focus.

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“Greater love has no one than this,

that one lay down his life for his friends.”

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Clarkson goes on to describe God’s design for motherhood as comparable to what Jesus described in John 15:13.  Mother’s in many ways, are called to figuratively “lay down their lives” for their children.

This means that even when we don’t feel like it, we choose to “serve” them by getting up with them or helping them get back to sleep. ❤

It means that even when it’s the millionth time that week that we’re cleaning the kitchen floors because babies and toddlers eat so messy, that we choose to do it anyway.  ❤

It may mean SO many different changes and sacrifices made toward goals, careers, dreams, or life plans in ensuring they’re getting what they all need from us.

Something I’ve been thinking about, and something that has been brought to the forefront as we’ve had more children, is the “cost” of motherhood.  How deep is that cost I don’t know.  I’m sure it differs for each family, and certainly when considering how many children a mother has, but it is a topic very interesting to me when thinking about how much a woman gives up (yet also gains) when living out the role of a mother?

If anyone has any ideas on this topic I’d love to hear them!

Stephanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Families & Freedom

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Babies babies babies!!!!!!!!!!!  I love seeing pictures like this where our whole family is present that we’ve built together.  It just makes it sink in the legacy that we’re leaving behind here in this world.  I’m a firm believer that our children are our legacy, and these are the people who will carry on our beliefs and morals and work to make the world a better place, even if it is in small ways.

I’ve been wanting to write an update about our life right now for awhile, but it always seems to be on the back burner.  We’re just on the cusp of summertime 😀  I may not be blogging as much just due to how much I try to get the kids outside to do activities in nature (or just plain old swimming).  But hopefully there will be some posts that crank out.  We’ll see 😉  ❤

I cannot wait for Summer to officially start!  Each year it seems I get so excited about it – just all the possibilities and opportunities to take the kids to go see things or do different things around our city!  I like to really treat it like a 2 1/2 month long vacation with them… I want them to have these memories for a lifetime where they look back and remember how much fun they had together in our family.

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But… this is Texas and it’s already getting hot hot hot!

The Texas heat just doesn’t bother me as much as it seems to bother other people.  Thankfully my husband is the same way.  Maybe we’re just used to it, or maybe we just spend so much time in the water that we don’t notice it as much, I don’t know, but I do know it wouldn’t be Texas + Summer without that brutal Texas heat.

And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Happy Memorial weekend readers.  Reflecting on being in this gorgeous country, and treasuring the beauty of the countryside, I can never express how grateful I am that so many have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we can be free here.

For the sake of our children, we must keep on fighting this war against our freedom.  Because yes, they are our legacy.  And they are the only thing that matters going forward.

Stephanie

It’s the Burden of Father’s to Teach Their Children Morality

This was so sweet and beautiful.  I may not agree with *everything* this man says about “different” moralities (my husband and I believe in absolute truth and that there’s a clear right and wrong), but the general video is gold.

His main point?

It’s father’s who are burdened with the glorious duty and responsibility to teach their children what is right and what is wrong.  

It’s not your church’s job… it’s not the teachers’ job or even the school system.

No.  It all falls down to fathers (and I’d also say married mothers to a lesser extent).

Single moms statistically just can’t do it… that’s been proven over and over again.  In fact, we now know that single moms only make society worse by producing children who are far more likely to be promiscuous, drug-addicted, jail-birds, violent offenders, gang members, and so on.  It’s not fair, but it’s the way God created the family model to be.

Fathers are so important to our society, because they hold this power over the lives of their children.

And yes, it looks like an incredibly heavy burden, one I’m familiar with when watching my husband take on this role day in and day out when teaching our two oldest (but especially our oldest as he’s at the perfect age for this stuff).

I know I don’t have that burden on my shoulders.  Is there some burden there to raise them in a godly household and talk through questions or problems, teach them about male-female dynamics etc?  Yes, but it’s not the same as what I see my husband bear.

We work together in raising our children, yes, but it’s not the same.  I know for a fact I couldn’t do this without him.

He, as the head of our family and Patriarch, has to bear all the weight of leading our family in truth and knowledge.  It is an incredible burden to take all of that on… especially when you think about the impact you as a father will have on these children as they grow up and have children, and then carry on what you taught them to their children and so on.

All the weight of teaching our kids the proper biblical life model, even though I assist with that, too, is on him.  In fact, most of what I teach them on my own, are things he’s told me he wants them to go over or learn about.

What a beautiful thing to reflect on though, and something our society so needs to hear at the moment.  That it’s up to the fathers to teach their children morality.

Because they truly are the only ones who really can.

Stephanie

Teach Your Kids to Have a Spirit of Excellence

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The Spirit of Excellence Work Ethic

When studying the passage about what the virtuous wife does, it was clear that everything she has control over, she’s intentionally trying to achieve excellence in.  Obviously that is extremely hard to achieve, and I don’t think it happens overnight or even necessarily when one is just starting out in a marriage.  It takes work.  It takes brutal honesty about where we are in that struggle for achieving more discipline or excellence in the work we’re doing.  I don’t think we should feel intimidated by it, but instead inspired to do better in things we’re honestly failing in.

And if you’re a mom, your most important work right now is being an excellent wife to your husband and mother to your kids.  We have so much power over the lives of our children!  I was recently listening to a 6-sermon series by Doug Fields on that very topic of how important it is to make sure we’re being *good* mothers to our kids.  I’ll probably write more on that in other posts.

It’s just important to note that developing an attitude toward your life that inspires you to try to achieve excellence in all you do, is biblical and not to be dismissed as simply being some kind of Super Mom.

And it’s not about a suffocating existence of constantly striving.

It truly is a fine balance.  Striving, I believe, comes from the desire for perfection and perfectionism, even prideWhereas having a spirit of excellence is a totally different attitude!  When you intimately understand that you are NOT your own, that your body is God’s Temple, that you are only a STEWARD over the body and talents and gifts and money God has given you, then your work ethic is correctly lined up with wanting to please God – who is your Boss, since EVERYTHING you own or have control over, belongs to Him and you’re just the steward.  It comes from humility, but that doesn’t mean fighting off pride isn’t sometimes still a battle.

When you have this mindset of developing a spirit of excellence, everything about you changes.  You want to please God, your perfect Boss who loves you beyond imagination!  Whereas striving for perfection is about either pleasing other people or wanting to look good in their eyes – neither of which is a virtuous goal.

With developing a spirit of excellence, you WANT to make the best choices that will give Him back the best RETURN of His INVESTMENT in you as a person.  While striving is all about the desire to control, having a spirit of excellence toward what God’s given you is manifested in relinquishing control over your life and offering it up to Him – and making sure it is an excellent offering!

The Bible tells us that in everything we do, to do it as though we were working for God.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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A Spirit of Excellence Effects All of You –

We have a white board in our kitchen/dining area (it’s all kind of one space lol) and it’s convenient for teaching lessons or writing Scripture for the week to memorize, or even for him to practice sentence writing and spelling words.  It’s been a GREAT investment… just one little white board 🙂

I wrote the title Spirit of Excellence at the top, with the basic definition and words that were synonymous with it.  We talked about what excellence then meant – in a broad, general kind of way.

Then I drew 3 small circles and wrote over each one:

BODY       –>          MIND         –>        GOD

(Increasing in difficult)

It’s the physical element of yourself, your mental and emotional health, and then also your spiritual standing with God since we’re a Christian family.  In my opinion, it increases in difficulty when you view it in this order.  Your body can be difficult to master, but at least it’s physically right there with you – you can touch it, look at it, and more easily understand what may need to change to make it a pillar of excellence.

Your mind working as it should is a lot harder to see clearly – to understand if you are seeing clearly, since everything you view is filtered through it, for good and bad.  It’s basically your mental health and mental abilities (learning, relating, communicating or processing through problems), which for probably more people than we’d like to think, it’s a little harder to have excellence over something you can’t see, touch, and don’t know if you’re “feeling” through a faulty filter.

And the last principle of excellence was GOD.  This is the hardest for mankind to sort out in general, hence why having a strong relationship with God is becoming a fairly rare thing in the world.  It means you have to be open to rebuke and discipline, that you have to be willing to be convicted when you’ve done something wrong or harmed someone else.  When you’re reporting to God everyday, you are held to the highest standard of conduct and responsibility for your choices, because you are His ambassador, His steward over your talents and gifts.  All that takes humility, in fact having a relationship with God at all, takes immense amounts of humility because you have to allow Him to mold you and change you overtime, and to let go of sinful things that are holding you back (but that you like!).

The amazing thing is that if you “master” this principle in gaining a good relationship with God where He is Lord over all of your life, the other principles of your body and mind tend to fall in place as well.

Flow when mastered:

GOD     –>    MIND    –>     BODY

First your mind, since you are allowing God to direct your steps, your mind is the first place He will go to make the necessary convictions and changes.  Then lastly it’s your body, because if you aren’t taking care of it as you should be, eventually you will start feeling ashamed (in your mind!) of laziness or the lack of discipline in that area of your life (when everything else is becoming more and more disciplined and orderly and beautiful), and your body will follow through with being healthily disciplined with working out and eating healthy.

Developing a spirit of excellence in all these things means you will probably stand out more than people around you, like Daniel and his friends did, or how Joseph or Esther or Ruth did.  Unless you specifically search out the people who are also pursuing excellence in everything as well, which is necessary to continued growth.

You can’t do this alone very well, we all need accountability and fellowship with like-minded believers who will hold you accountable to living with a spirit of excellence.  What better way than to surround yourself with people who are also trying to foster a spirit of excellence in their lives as well?

Our children need to be watching their parents living out having a spirit of excellence, and as their mom, what better way than to study the Scriptures, and in particular, the Proverbs 31 woman?

Stephanie

 

Relaxing in the Shade

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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.

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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 😉

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

Stephanie

Pricing Mother’s Day

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Every year… it never fails 😉 … we on social media are bombarded with new posts or youtube videos, written by mothers (or their strangely apologetic husbands) moaning and groaning about how horrible being a mom is for them and that it “sucks” that they only get ONE day as a “break” and then proceed to complain that even that ONE day isn’t actually a “break.”  They usually use words like “shitty” of course, though, lol.

Apparently, if you’re a Mom/Grandma/Aunt/etc, Mother’s Day has turned into a week-long, self-indulgent, victimhood-mode of “poor me” attitude for you to indulge in without censorship.  In fact, even bringing up the point that all these posts of moms complaining about how much they hate Mother’s Day (and every other day of the year) because they have to spend it with their kids, isn’t good for them or their kids – if you dare bring this up on social media, you’re labeled judgmental and not Christian or loving like Christ did.

Motherhood is hard.

I totally get many of us moms that were raised in this culture, where we grew up given trophies for just being there (and awesome? LOL), that motherhood feels like too much to handle.  There’s no one else there to “save us” from the sick days, or when our husbands are away on business trips, or when they’re deployed, or working late… and my generation (Gen Y) in particular, aren’t very good at showing grit and the desire to push through difficulties like you’re running an excruciating marathon.

Most of us were just never taught how to have grit or persevere through things we’d really rather not be doing.  We live in a fairly easy, maybe too-accessible culture where everything is either fast and quick for us, or already available.  In my opinion, our culture has created a bunch of weak women.  We’re going to be remembered as the women who every year, took to social media to complain and whine about the very blessings (children!) we said we craved.  

It’s incredibly ironic that in this age of feminism where women are supposed to be stronger than ever, they complain and whine (showing extreme weakness) more than I believe they ever did under a patriarchal “oppressive” society.  Is that what it means to be a strong woman now?  Someone who thinks “Mother’s Day” is her enemy?

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I think I’m lucky that my mother frequently reminded us that most of life was just doing the boring, hard things that needed to be done.  It wasn’t supposed to be easy.  Raising kids isn’t supposed to be easy.  But that’s not really the point.

The point is that even if you think motherhood really really stinks, you should realize that your kids don’t deserve a mom who always feels that way, or allows herself to fall into “victim-mode.” 

Because it’s going to affect them negatively, it just will. 

What are we teaching our kids when we show them that just being their mom really really sucks? 

Are we helping them to become better humans who suck it up and build a beautiful, and very necessarily difficult, but so needed, civilized structure for this country? 

Do we want a massive generation of more people who don’t believe in hard work, who love to complain as loudly as they can, and in any opportunity that they can, to claim their status of victimhood? 

If you’ve felt this way before about Mother’s Day, I do understand that it’s hard.  Dealing with toddlers who scream and throw things at you, hit you and are completely unreasonable… day in and day out… is VERY hard, and yes, sometimes it really really stinks!  But you have to push through those feelings, because they only last a moment when that toddler is being hard. 

And then 3 minutes later, they want a hug and are sweet and adorable again.

You don’t have to “give in” to feeling like the victim to your own life or like your children are “oppressive.”

Anything worthwhile in life is supposed to be difficult.

It’s supposed to be painful.  Because anytime you sacrifice anything in your life, it is going to be a bit painful.  Motherhood is full of those unmeasurable sacrifices – but you have to try to find the beauty in them, and throw off the feelings of resentment or that you’re being “oppressed” by your children.

Compare it to running and getting your body in shape.  If you listened to your feelings, you’d tell yourself constantly that you “hate exercising” and that “it sucks” and then you’d never feel properly motivated to do it.  It’s the same with parenting.  It’s supposed to be hard.  It’s supposed to have moments of painful sacrifice.  And no, you’re not supposed to just whine and complain on social media (to complete strangers) about how much you can’t stand God’s blessings in your life – because it’s not good for you.

Please… try… just one year 😀  TRY to enjoy this mother’s Day without making a whining post or reminding your husband that you “should” get paid $100,000+ for all your “sacrifices.”

Honestly… if you really understood what that word sacrifice means, then you’d understand WHY you don’t get paid money to be a mom.

Stephanie

 

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A Hill Country Road Trip

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

 

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

 

Things I Want My Daughter to Know: You Will Grow into Your Feminine Beauty

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I am a major book worm.  In case you haven’t noticed that I’ve NEVER changed the cover of this blog in nearly 5 years!  Because books are life!  There is so much knowledge and wisdom and beauty to be found in other people’s thoughts, that I can never get enough of reading it seems.  I had a few favorite books growing up – but Jane Eyre is hands-down one of the most memorable ones, and one that I STILL cannot get enough of!  I loved Jane Eyre because I was (what I thought of anyway) an ugly-duckingly, and she gave me hope LOL!  Growing into my femininity and beauty has been a long journey for me, and one that I hope I’ll be able to help my daughter navigate well in the future.

We were out yesterday selling some clothes for extra cash and I found a little historic novel based on a true story about a young nurse, only 16 years old (!), who tended injured men during the Civil War.  She became known and loved among the men she tended to for her gentleness and kindness to them ❤ .  Many other girls who volunteered to help had actually run away once the war came to their area, but this one girl stayed and became remembered for her character.

I had planned to buy some earrings I found for a good deal to build up our daughter’s stock, but I put them back and decided to get them next time in lieu of this awesome book!  I told my husband, “it’s for her future ❤ 😀 !!!”  I want our daughter to understand that character is what makes a woman truly beautiful.  Outward beauty shows self-respect or graciousness to those around you, but who you are as a person is what people will fall in love with and want to be around.

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She is such a little beauty already – almost strikingly so, and her happiness and joyful laughter are SO endearing!  But I want to raise her to love good books!  I want her to enjoy knowledge, and to know and understand that true beauty comes from very deep within – from the soul of a person, and that it takes time to grow and flourish… and that it can be lost if not safe-guarded against bitterness throughout life.

And I want her to know that it’s a process of becoming.

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It doesn’t usually happen all at once – being truly beautiful inside and out – for most women.  In fact, I’m not sure “most” women achieve both inner and outer beauty to their fullest personal extent, at all sadly.

Just like outer beauty takes A LOT of hard work and diligence over time to achieve and then to also maintain.  Inner beauty takes even more work, discipline, diligence, perseverance and even then if you manage to achieve it, it is MUCH harder to keep over the course of different circumstances one will face in life.  It’s a constant process of correcting your own character flaws, and that takes a TON of self-reflection, introspection, and acknowledgement of your own failings.

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Hence why I think a lot of women (and men if you’re thinking about men in that way) don’t even try to maintain inner beauty, or they may try but then give up or give in to their natural states of ugliness… since human beings all have sin natures… and our sin natures make us VERY very ugly.  That and we constantly fail.  Success in this regard requires a lot of perseverance and endurance.

So becoming a beautiful woman over time is very hard.  The inner beauty work is very difficult, and since I’m Christian, I do believe there’s a spiritual aspect to this where knowing God, having his help to get through life’s difficulties, really TRUSTING Him with EVERYTHING in your life (all those ugly emotions feelings and such), is the best or most proven way to maintain a beautiful character throughout life.

Avoiding all the vices that come so naturally to us, and working hard to develop the virtues that come from the Holy Spirit – that takes constant coming back to God to prune and develop you – to grow you and break you.  It’s painful work – which is probably why so many avoid it!  He’s molding you into a reflection of Christ, but again, that all takes a lifetime to achieve, and one has to be really working out their salvation with fear and trembling in order to achieve it at all!

But sweet, sweet, joyful little girl, you will grow into your beauty and femininity, and your daddy and I will be there every step of the way to guide you in the way you should go.

Stephanie

 

 

Labor of Love – Painting!

So… my oldest has officially inspired me to start painting again.  I think it’s been… over 10 years since I’ve actually sat down and painted anything serious on an actual canvas.  Finger painting with toddlers – yes!  But actually sit down, sketch out a portrait and landscape, do all the colors and shading and back-painting a real painting requires?  Nope.

That actually changed today, and I sat down and painted a rather large sized canvas of my oldest (because he’s the one who has inspired me to paint again 😀 ) when he was about 2 years old.

This is what happened today:

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It just took the afternoon, and it’s going to be a gift to my sweet Mom… I had to keep stopping to tend to the kids and then to make dinner 🙂  but wow was it fun to paint again.

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I used to draw portraits in high school for fun… and then my friends started actually paying me to draw them.  I could never draw (or paint) faces of people, even though I tried a lot growing up… until finally something “clicked” when I was 17, and suddenly, it made sense in my brain and I was able to draw them.

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Honestly, this felt so relaxing and was so easy tonight.  I think I’m going to make it a point to paint more LOL.  I forgot how enjoyable it was…. 🙂

All the tiny little details, the millions of leaf prints and different shades of green and blues… it does take some time, but it is so worth it to make all the little leaves.

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Stephanie