My thousand unremarkable steps

I still read blogs, believe in blogs, and find them to be quite satisfactory.  I've been on a mission to limit my social media intake lately but sometimes as I peer into the little windows of Instagram each square just seems so perfect.  Even the messier confessions seemed to be paired with a well-styled, imperfect photo.  But then there are blogs, where I feel like a certain sense of authenticity and honesty hangs in the air, at least in the ones I frequent most often. I like that.  I adore real-life people, the ones who are who they are, take 'em or leave 'em.  I suppose it's one reason why a favorite blogger and author of mine is Ann Voskamp. I've never met her in real life but in her writing she sure doesn't stray from the truth, even if it's gut-wrenching or quiet or sensitive, or tricky.  That's my kind of gal.  

Yesterday I read a post on her blog, written by a guest.  The title was "How a remarkable life equals a thousand unremarkable steps."  A favorite opening line-"The tragedy is that, while waiting for great opportunities to come along, we miss out on a parade of good opportunities that march steadily by."  The author? Jeff Manion, a pastor who says "Goodness grows slowly. It arrives through the repeated kindness of the diligent faithful. It arrives quietly, traveling the slow path of devoted love. Dream big, but think small." 

The entire blog post made me tear up and the best/hardest/richest things in life do.  You can read the article here. I was thinking on this same subject yesterday as I was once again at work, pruning the fence row behind our house. 
I almost tricked you, didn't I? You can hardly even tell there's a barbed wire fence underneath all those thorn bushes, but there is.  I've been slowly working my way down the fence row, pruning and trimming the spiky thorns away.  While I work?  I have visions of colorful flowers filling this space instead.  
You can see a bit of my progress here.  To be fair to the process I must show you this part, the tedious task of clearing out the bad to make way for the good.  If I only showed you a beautifully cleared fence with flowers growing someday down the road the beauty would almost come at a discounted rate because you wouldn't have seen the hard work that went into it.  You wouldn't have known how my arms ached, how my hands shook because I'd been at it so long, how many hours it took to make way for the beautiful blooms. 

We've started our garden again for the year and again I'm reminded of the same lesson.  The farm and garden are like a giant canvas, just waiting for God to paint a picture for us to learn from.  Here, you can very tangibly see that a thousand unremarkable steps really do equal something remarkable. 

I used to plan for big dreams. I filled notebooks with big ideas, planned my life months in advance and chased after any opportunity I could to get my creative life noticed and mentioned and growing.  And then slowly over time, I stopped.  I realized I was letting my dreams become my companions and friends, instead of the real-life people like my family and loved ones who actually needed me. I was chasing so many "remarkable" opportunities that I was too spent and tired for the thousand unremarkable steps that lay in front of me, not knowing that the unremarkable actions were really what it was all about anyway.  
It's safe to say that through the past two years or so God has whispered, yelled (but nicely, lol), sang, and talked to me in a thousand different ways to change my heart.  He's opened my eyes to the value of the dear friends I have right now who need me and I them.  He's showed me how to do real-life with the people around me, whether it be offering to baby-sit, dropping groceries off, or sitting in on a doctor's visit.  God has gently molded my heart, much like I watched my girls do with their pizza dough last week, showing me how much more I am able to know him and love others when I'm not running as fast as I can after big dreams.  I can safely say I am loving people in a capacity I didn't know possible and I'm feeling rested and well enough to follow God's lead, even when it's after some pretty hard things like foster care and trusting him with growing our family in a non-traditional way.

Through all the learning in my spiritual life, God hasn't asked me to lay down my creative passions that beat so loudly in my chest I'm sure others can hear it.  He's quietly urged me to keep going.  That's something that maybe others don't see or realize either, that a photo like the one above (a favorite of mine) took a thousand unremarkable steps to arrive at.  

I've confessed a lot to you lately that this is my first year to not have a one-year plan, a five-year plan, or even a six-month plan.  I just wake up and see what lies ahead for that one day.  I've also confessed how truly freeing and frightening this is.  But before yesterday I don't think I had adequate words to put pen to paper and express "dream big but think small." 

For in my daily small thinking and one unremarkable step after another, I can feel that God is behind the scenes at work on a masterpiece. I have a sense that someday down the road this seemingly ordinary Sunday-Saturday schedule of days and unremarkable steps will have been a part of our big dreams that we'll finally see grow, much like planting the garden and waiting for a harvest. 

Where are you in your journey? 

A cheerful heart (and list)

How about a cheerful list for this Fri-YAY?!
Because I've learned this scripture is so very true. 

In no particular order of importance, here's my continual feast of happy lately: 
second cups of coffee
This is Us
"Just breathe"
loud music in the car alone
book requests coming in from the library
chocolate from Conscious Cocoa (local people, look this up!)
spring blooms
my new camera
photography (love, love, love)
"Friday flannel"-where I wear my favorite flannel shirt-again
texting my twin over both ridiculous and serious things
vanilla scented candles
peppermint essential oils rubbed on my face
my Converse sneakers
making mom friends at the park
planning our nursery update
spring cleaning! 
the blogs Shutterbean and the Art of Simplicity
Taylor Swift (don't judge)
browsing cookbooks
visits to my grandparents
learning to hand-letter
watching the girls make paper airplanes with Brett
watching Brett be such a sweet Daddy
Worship and Believe by Stephen Curtis Chapman
a clean pantry
planting seeds in the garden
just the right amount of wind
pretty tea cups
the sun, warm on my face
sprucing up the porch
talking to cows
spending time with family on Sundays
browsing Target alone
signing up for a race with Brett (send help. For me)
going to Natural Grocers
dancing (in the car, at home, etc)
talking with the girls in the car
spending less
planning spring travel
dreaming of camping
being in my 30's
finding random hearts
dates with Brett
coffee with friends
the Lion King soundtrack
pruning the back fence row (dreaming of flowers instead of thorn bushes)

What is making your cheerful list? 

God surprised me with love.

I want to share a story with you today. 
Keep in mind we are currently in a season of "I don't know's". When I am asked the string of caring, curious questions like-When will you become an official foster family, will you adopt, etc. I am met with yet again needing to answer, "I don't know." 

I described this season to a friend lately as our most obedient as far as doing what God asked us to, but almost our most clueless. For the first time in our married lives, we have no five-year plan. Or even a one-year plan.  Other than staying totally in love with each other and our God and family that is.  The rest of the details just haven't been made clear yet.

This is equal parts freeing and frightening. 

But let me tell you about the goodness of God in the midst of the wide open space we find ourselves in.  One tiny story tucked among the endless moments that show me again and again, that God is here and on the move. (I keep saying I need to write a book about this season someday)

See that beautiful scripture card in the bowl?  There is actually a whole pack of them there, each a strong reminder of the faithfulness and love of God. They showed up in the mail one day, unnanounced and not ordered.  A total surprise. 

In fact when I saw the package and the company it was from I was very puzzled and even went back to check my orders.  Sure enough, I never even ordered these and my last order from the company was months ago. Yet they came on a random day, with a very on purpose message. That I am loved, not forgotten, and equipped by God to look toward the future with bright hope. 

God surprised me with love this day. I pray He surprises you today. 

Favorite Spring Pinterest finds!

You know how Pinterest stresses some people out or makes them feel like there are unrealistic expectations looming overhead? I am not one of those people. 

I adore Pinterest. Like I treat myself to it every now and then, just to browse around.  It's a vacation for my mind, not stress or idea overload.  So today I thought it would be fun to do a little internet scavenger hunt for spring.  I've compiled some of my favorite ideas, photos, and pins that are inspiring me this spring.  Click around, sit back and relax, and enjoy! 

Time is running out to sign-up for my Photography class!

I am a self-taught photographer, which means hour after hour have been logged reading manuals and guides, taking online classes, and simply practicing. This one day class will speed up the learning process for you because it is going to be packed full of instruction!

Let's get right to the important details! 

When and where will the class take place?- Saturday, March 11th on my farm, near Fayetteville.

What is the time frame?- Class starts at 9:00 and ends at 3:00.

What is the price/investment?- The investment is $250 which includes all instructional materials, snacks, lunch, and a few other workshop goodies!  A $50 non-refundable deposit is due when you sign-up, with the remaining $200 due by March 4.

What will we be learning?- During this six-hour day of instruction we will learn so much! We will cover the following topics: Shooting in manual mode, lighting, creating authentic moments to capture, styling a photo and favorite props, the editing process, what to do with your photos, and more!

Is this the workshop for me? -We will be covering topics applicable to DSLR shooters, as well as phone photography.  There is much to gain from this day for both! I personally shoot a bit more with my Nikon, but also use phone photography on a daily basis as well.  The class will cover both.

How do I sign up? - Simply email with the subject line "Photography Class" and I will send you an invoice via Paypal.  You may either pay the $50 deposit by itself, or pay the full workshop price upon receiving your invoice.

Any other questions? Please feel free to email me, write me on Facebook or Instagram, comment below, and ask!

I am dreaming of this day already and would love to have you join me!  We'll sit around the table together, explore the farm, and learn how to combine our hearts and souls with our knowledge!

Sign-ups will remain open until Wednesday, March 1!

The bouquets are back.

While some of you have experienced mounds of white snow, flurries of snowflakes, and dreamy winter scenes, we've had an Arkansas winter yet again.  This means a bit of cold (which feels like a LOT of cold to us Arkansans), a lack of color outside,  and just enough snowflakes to raise our hopes we might get a real snow.  But here we are in February, not a snowflake in sight. 

Instead, the bouquets are back. 
We have a random patch of daffodils that cheerfully lead the parade of spring onto the farm each year. I like to think the patch is our own secret spot, seeing as it's tucked back into the woods where most wouldn't even notice it.  But we know it's there.  A few weeks ago we went to check on the progress of the daffodils after having a string of warm days.  Sure enough we spotted green poking their way through the mound of brown leaves.  A spring color! Hooray!

The girls and I went back on Friday, taking a ride on our Ranger.  As soon as we peered down into the woods and saw that flash of yellow we started cheering.  The daffodils were back and blooming!

We quickly picked a bouquet and as soon as Brett got home I said this:
"The bouquets are back and that means everything is going to be ok." 
Without missing a beat, he smiled and said "yep", knowing exactly what I meant. 
The bouquets are reminders of God's beauty, a sign of cheer, and excitement and hope for all that is to come. For when our winter grown looked brown and dirty and vacant, something was brewing underneath. 

The bouquets. 

Forget-me-not frost

 I thought I'd take a peek into the posts I had stockpiled, pictures just waiting for their words. 

A few posts made their way into the trash, the memory of the moment enough, words not needed. 

A few posts though, needed to be written about before the seasons changed again. Here in Arkansas we are well on our way to spring already and these photographs of the first frost feel like a distant memory.  I have never once regretted taking a pause to remember the ordinary signs that life was ALIVE, the world more vibrant than what typically meets the eye. 

I remember this morning well.  It was a Saturday and the first frost had coated the ground, as if Jack Frost himself had paid us a visit overnight.  He spared not a single blade of grass, nor a shard of beauty.  I quickly suited up in my farm boots and bulky coat, camera in hand.  It wasn't long before my breath swirled in frosty tendrils through the air, my eyes wide open and my camera going "click, click".  

From a distance the earth looked simply cold. Nothing to see, just a barren winter ground waiting for spring. 

Until I got closer. 

Once I got down to the frosty leaves looking like cookies coated with frosting, to the blades of grass still colorful and sparkling like glitter, I knew this was a moment to behold. 

I wonder how much this forget-me-not frost is begging me to learn this lesson in my day-to-day life? 

That season, neighborhood, situation that looks barren and cold from a distance? 
Perhaps I just need to look closer. 
Maybe once I put my ear down to the earth and the hearts of those around me, my world will come alive with the beautiful details and intricacies of a God-made world. 

This little nugget of truth is what I'm choosing to carry with me this Friday. 
Even though my eyes may be delighted with the bright yellow daffodils we discovered yesterday, that's almost an easier beauty to notice.  Of course we can smile at the sun and the flowers! 

But what if your season of life isn't full of sun and flowers currently? 
Remember the forget-me-not frost. 

The rosy in my real life!

Hello friends! I'm here for another edition of "rosy in my real life!"  I tried to number these and do one for every week o...