March 23, 2015

McAllen Birth Photography || AJ Morales

I've now photographed two births and can say without hesitation that birth photography is by far my favorite.  I love the fast pace and the emotion, the struggle and then the incredible joy.  I've never been the most comfortable with posing a shot or directing even, but with birth photography, there is definitely no time (or desire) for giving direction. I want to say a huge thank you to Lisa and Paul for inviting me into this incredible moment with you and congratulations on your beautiful baby boy! You are a rock star.

February 06, 2015

Intentional Friendship

At thirty-one years old I am actively learning what it means to be an intentional friend. Throughout my life I've stumbled into some very sweet friendships, a rare few that have lasted through many years, multiple states and even more life changes. I'm being made increasingly aware of what a gift that is.

Recently, two other ladies and I began meeting once a week in our homes or the local coffee shop with the intention of becoming friends. Does that sound odd? 

This week we talked about what real friendship is and here are a couple of things I took away from our meeting:

Before meeting, we individually listened to a sermon on friendship which defined true friendship as this:

Choose your people with intentionality. Proverbs 13 reminds us that "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm."

This type of friendship happens on purpose. As the three of us sat around a small table and the Starbucks workers bustled around, preparing to close for the night, we discussed our likes and dislikes. We talked about what we would want a friend to know about us and ways in which we feel loved. And then we wrote it all down. And you know what? It wasn't odd. It was refreshing, actually, to be able to start out a friendship by saying, "I'd like to really know you." and put feet to that. 

Here are some suggestions to get the conversation going:
  • You should know about me...
  • I feel loved when...
  • I like (anything from your favorite ice cream to your favorite saturday activity)
  • I don't like (pet peeves to your least favorite color)
Some of these might seem silly but I can't tell you the wealth of knowledge I gained from these details.

I mean, yes, a lot of the time it does; but also, a real friend is the one who will tell you that you have something in your teeth or that your sin is showing. Yes, sin. That wasn't a typo.  What I mean is that a real friend will tell you the truth, even if it hurts. They won't pacify you or be afraid of conflict. A real (godly) friend will speak truth over you, or, if they don't know the answer or what to say, they will pray for God's wisdom instead of feeding you helpless cliches. 

The friend kissing you may be the Judas. The friend who wounds you with well thought words from the heart is the one who loves you.

I'll leave you with a few of the questions we answered ourselves:

1. Based on these points, how is Jesus a real friend to you? (Keep in mind that Jesus is not our peer, but still calls us friend.)
2. How can I be a better friend? And to whom?
3. Who is a good friend to you? Why/How?
4. What is changing my understanding of friendship?

Have you ever thought about these things? What does friendship mean to you? What does it look like for you? I'd love to hear your input in the comments.

January 16, 2015

How to Throw a (last minute) Hobbit Party!

I've always heard that having a birthday around Christmas was less than desirable because people tend to lump your gifts in or maybe forget altogether.  Well, this was our first time to have a family member, in house, with a holiday birthday. One of our boys was lucky enough to be born on the 1st day of the year, which also fell during Christmas break. The boys go back to Mexico on school holidays and so we didn't get to celebrate with him on his actual birthday. I didn't want him to feel left out, especially when Peewees birthday rolls around (a few days before Valentines day - what's with the holiday births?) so I threw together a super last minute Hobbit themed birthday dinner for us to celebrate together. By last minute, I mean 24 hours in advance. All of my best ideas come when it's almost too late ;)

I'm fairly certain I made a mistake with the "Lembus Bread Tamales" reference. Apparently that's actually from The Lord of the Rings. Oops! The tamales worked though because, from what I hear, Lembus bread is wrapped in a leaf (check!) and one bite will fill you up (check!) I partnered that with some "Dragon's Gold Cupcakes" on top of a cake-plate-mountain, threw in a forest with some left over Christmas trees and a few forest animals, and scatter some chocolate gold coins along the "journey." I set out some rootbeers (it felt like something dwarves would enjoy) and done. One Hobbit themed dinner is served.

For the cupcakes, I used my most FAVORITE chocolate cupcake recipe on the planet (click here, now!) and sprinkled the icing with some edible gold glitter, gold sprinkles and added little gold bands from the wedding section at my local Hobby store. Unfortunately, I forgot about the candles and the only ones I had in the house were pink! Sorry Crisitan! (good think teenage boys think pink is cool)

Happy Birthday Cristian! 
We are so thankful to be a part of your story!

January 14, 2015

To Do "It All" & Not Grow Weary

There are thousands of blog posts and articles that warn you NOT to try and do it all (and I would say that is super wise) so right up front, I want to point out that when I say my desire for 2015 is to “do it all and not grow weary” I have a very specific list of what “it all” means for me and that each of those points comes with the tagline, “but not to the extent of getting burnt out.”  In other words, I want to be intentional, but from a submissive position -- living in Grace.

What is “it all” for me?  
Well, here’s what I jotted down this December 31st, 2014.

1. To keep a clean house.
For me, this means tidying up every day. Picking things up and putting them where they go, doing the dishes, and staying on top of laundry.  These are the things my family needs. They need food and clean clothes for school and work. Picking up and having an orderly home (don’t look at my baseboards or ceiling fans. I’m talking overall to-the-naked-eye order) helps to instill a calming atmosphere and helps keeps me sane (let’s be honest, this one is totally for me.)  I’d much rather walk in the door to clean space before homework time than to be tripping over shoes and clearing off a cluttered table to make room for the school books.

2. Cook meals that are healthy and economical.
When we first got married I remember Wade and I would go to the grocery store and wander the isles, grabbing what looked good. Without a doubt, we would get home, unload all the groceries and realize: we have nothing to eat. Of course that’s not actually true, but we didn’t go shopping with a plan and often came home with an incohesive load of groceries. A few years ago I got serious and started meal planning (using Pinterest to help which makes it way more fun) and am pretty strict about only buying what’s on the list of ingredients needed for that week’s meals. I also found that this method brought my grocery bill down considerably even though I was buying more fresh meat and veggies! (hint: It’s because I was wasting less food!) Bringing the boys into our home has caused me to want to be even more economical so that when their monthly tution is due, it’s not a huge strain on our family.

3. Help the boys learn and be successful.
I really need to write the story of “the boys” in a single blog post for reference but until I do, here’s the short of it: This summer Wade and I brought two boys from Mexico into our home so they can go to school in the USA on student visas. They are spanish speaking and their school is English speaking, as is their curriculum.  We held them back a year to allow time to work on the English but even so it is a real struggle. We help with every ounce of homework and they are learning English but I want to do everything I can to give them the best chance with this opportunity.

4. To be in the Word, at all times and in all circumstances.
This should be at the top of my list, but I didn’t write these in order of importance. The Word is the foundation. If I’m not  in the Word, I feel it. I feel disconnected, down, and unproductive.  Right now I am participating in the She Reads Truth 365 plan (we are reading through the whole bible together! And it's free on their app!) I have started these types of yearly plans before and never made it far past Genesis. But something about the way She Reads Truth has layed it out to parallel with the book of John and their current devotion has really helped keep me intrigued.  I was, in fact, a few days behind last week but spent a lot of time yesterday catching up.  From the outside, it probably looks like I didn’t do much all day, but I can’t think of a better day for my spirit than being in the Word for hours on end. I ended my day feeling full and satisified. 

5. To grow in my online voice.
I’m still figuring out what exactly I mean by this. I’ve been a blogger for almost six years and I’m in this season where I feel the pull to blog for the sake of blogging less than ever. But I believe there is a mission field here online and I’m seeing a lof of it on instagram. I’m praying and thinking through what that means for my online influence (yes, I praying about instagram) and how I can best encourage others to live their lives on a mission to make much of Jesus through online avenues. 

6. To grow musically/vocally. 
I have been in some sort of worship leading/praise band scenario since early high school (for those who don’t know my age, that would be more than 15 years) and I was doing “5th sunday singin’” well before that. I have taken one semester of Chorus (which I mostly skipped) in my whole life and know 0% about reading music. When I moved to Texas and allowed me to sing with Once Prodigals, my lacking knowledge became a problem.  I’ve already learned a ton in a years time and have gained a desire to understand this gift God gave me even more.

7. Be physically fit, but not obsessed or tormented about it.
I can honestly say that for the first time in my adult life, I’m not tormented by my level of fitness. It’s not because I work out (because currently I don’t) but something changed for me when the boys came. I feel content and satisfied. I really can’t explain why, I just know it’s different. BUT. I truly believe it is important to stay healthy and active (as I’m sitting on my couch typing) and I am curious to see how working out will affect my new-found confidence non-insecurity. I gotta be honest, I have often found myself MORE tormented over everything I ate or how I looked when I was training or doing a fitness regimine. I hated that. So, a goal for this year is to get back into an excercise routine that I enjoy but that also pushes me to be stronger but to NOT let it rule my thoughts. I’ll let you know how that ones goes ;)

I want to be a woman who is in the word, who serves her family, has a teachable spirit, and is an encourager to both myself and others. And above all, to do so in His power, not in mine, so as to not let the flame burn out. 
Blogging tips