Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Review Tuesday: Travel Blog

I don't just enjoy blogging, I also enjoy reading blogs by others and I recently discovered a blog that I LOVE and wanted to share with you.

It's the travel blog at: http://opentravel.com/blogs.

As an avid traveler who loves to explore new parts of the world and learn about the cultures and history of different places, I was happy to stumble upon this site.

It offers great vacation ideas and offers tips on where to go according to what you want to see and where you want to visit. You can also share your own travel experiences and connect with other travelers. Some examples of the categories are: The Most Beautiful Destinations in Europe, Ten Romantic Getaways to Fall In Love (With), 10 Great City Beaches, World's Best All-In-One Destinations, World's Strangest Tourist Attractions and many, many more!

I was thrilled to find that Switzerland was in the top 3 on the Most Beautiful Destinations list! Jared and I will be living in one of the most beautiful places on earth! WOW! As if I wasn't excited already!! :)

I definitely recommend you check out opentravel.com and start planning for your own dream destinations!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mental Vitamins - Twelve Extraordinary Women Series - Eve

If you have been following my blog, you know that last week I gave a brief review of a book I've been reading called Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur which highlights the lives of 12 different women from the bible. I have enjoyed this book so much that I wanted to share more of it with you.

In the upcoming weeks I am going to share a little bit about each woman mentioned in the book and some of the things I learned or took away from what I read. If you care to read along with me we can share comments about what each of us have found interesting about the book. Which I guess means I'm inviting you to start a pseudo book club! :)

The first woman discussed in the book is Eve. Fitting since she was the first woman to ever exist.

painting by Gail Potocki

I tremendously appreciated how MacArthur introduced Eve. He shares how Eve must have been a wonder to behold. She was the only female, who at her beginning, was unspoiled by evil and hand designed by God Himself to perfection. Sin had not yet entered the world so Eve was the living embodiment of feminine excellence and pure innocence. But MacArthur also makes the marvelous point that the Bible gives no physical description of Eve. Her beauty was never mentioned or even alluded to. This is a significant fact because we live in a world that is obsessed with image - we as humans are superficial creatures.

Plastic surgery, eating disorders, attitudes...all results of vanity. Let's be honest, there isn't a female on the planet that is 100% happy with themselves physically. We all would like to change something whether it be to lose a few pounds or to look a few years younger. But the Biblical account of Eve is an excellent reminder of what true beauty is in the eyes of God. It's not the clothes we wear, it's not having great hair or a perfect body...in fact, God paints a portrait of what He calls "a Wife of Noble Character" in Proverbs 31. These noble characteristics include: faithfulness, dignity, wisdom....and he also emphasizes that "beauty is fleeting". (verse 30)

It's easy for us to measure our worth according to the world's standards when there are those among us who are "artificial perfection" but isn't it wonderful to know that God's standards are attainable without having to go under the knife, or going on a diet or having money for the latest trends. God sees our heart and when we live according to His plan, our beauty radiates from within. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look nice, but it's important to make sure that our self worth is not based on our physical appearance.

Not only is there no physical description of Eve but there are no details about how many children she had, how long she lived or how she died and the way scripture limits the amount of information given about Eve, it helps us focus on the most significant aspects of her life.

The creation of Eve was and is a monumental moment in time. I love the significance of every detail surrounding her beginning. Eve was carefully and purposefully built using a rib from Adam's side. Adam and Eve were two halves of a whole. Such as in marriage. When a man and a woman are joined together in marriage they are said to "become one" an honored tradition that has happened since literally the beginning of time. God created Eve from the very flesh and bone of Adam and the unique method of her creation emphasizes our purpose as women. Eve was not made from Adam's head that she might rule over him, or from his foot that he may walk on her, but from his side, as a companion and an equal.

MacArthur also does a great job of highlighting the fundamental differences between genders. We were socially, emotionally and physically designed differently with purpose. Everything God does is with purpose, He doesn't do anything accidentally. And to quote John himself, he says "I'm convinced that if people  today would simply embrace God's purpose and seek to fulfill the roles God has designed for our respective genders, both men and women would be happier, the church would be healthier and marriages would be stronger." And I couldn't agree with him more!

MacArthur then discusses the temptation that ultimately changed the course of our fate. I love how he addresses the entire encounter between Eve and Satan. Eve was undeniably deceived. In her innocence, Eve was susceptible to the devil's half-truths and lies. He twisted the meaning of God's Word, and deliberately misrepresented the character and command of God.

I have personally encountered individuals in life who use this same approach of skepticism and negative interpretation of God's actual commands. They use misguided logic and twist the scripture to either A.) suite their own personal lifestyle or B.) to make God's generosity, grace and love sound more like stinginess, cruelty and contempt. They are being misguided in very much the same way that Satan first mislead the human race. The devil used doubt, suspicion and confusion to dupe Eve and continues to mislead us with these same weapons today. If Satan can inflate our doubts, our suspicions and confusion then he robs us of our faith, our hope and convictions. Satan's goal is to keep us apart from God and all of His goodness, and without a firm understanding of God's plan and His purpose for us, we are vulnerable to Satan's deception. But no matter how cunning the devil can be, the responsibility of our choices and actions are ours alone and no one else.

Many people ask the question "Why didn't God just create a world without the tree that invited evil into the world, why create the temptation?" My response: God did not create us as robots. He wanted us to freely love, not forcefully worship. The moment love is forced, it's not love anymore. In order for God to show us love and for us to show God love, we have to be able to choose whether or not to love him. Without the tree of knowledge, love could not and would not exist. And I am thankful for the gift of love.

I also appreciated MacArthur's examination of the curse God placed upon Eve, Adam and the serpent. While Adam and Eve's punishment may seem harsh, it truly displays God's grace and mercy. He could have easily destroyed them right there on the spot, or made it impossible to reproduce, or cursed them to wander the earth alone but He doesn't. Instead, out of His love for us, He provided a way for all of us to escape incessant doom and enjoy eternity with Jesus. Eve's offspring would one day destroy the destroyer. Her legacy will endure infinitely beyond her sin and her redeemed descendants will celebrate eternally the work of her lineage in the presence of our King! What great hope we have because of God's grace and our ancestor's dedication and diligence of sharing the Scriptures for generations.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Feature: New View

I have had the same glasses for going on like 10 years but I hardly ever wear them because I prefer wearing contacts. The lenses of my old glasses are outdated and really not useful since I can barely see with them so I decided that before our move it would be a good idea to have a new pair of glasses. Lens Crafters is having a 50% off sale on all of their frames so I thought there was no better time than the present. I ended up finding a pretty cute pair but even with a discount...glasses are NOT cheap! The eye exam alone was $90.00! That's probably why I've had the same pair for so many years! But now I'm all set for another 10 years! :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Things I Love: Sushi!

I could eat sushi for every meal and be happy as they come. I crave it on a daily basis. I love not only the taste but the cute and creative creations that can be made with sushi. I have seen dragons, panda bears, hello kitty...you name it...sushi can be made into tasty art.

I have had sushi from different places all over the United States and I was surprised to discover that the best sushi I've ever enjoyed was in Terre Haute, Indiana at Tokyo Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Bar. Not only do they have great atmosphere and wonderful staff but their sushi is off the charts good! I recommend the Terre Haute Roll and the Neptune Roll if you ever get a chance to go there and taste their yummy sushi for yourself! It was definitely a memorable experience!

Here are a few others who crave sushi too.

1. whippedbakeshop
2. theshirtdudes
3. beadpassion
4. dododesign
5. Brian Eyler
6. Mii Mii Mia
7. Brian Eyler

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Family & Friends

Jared and I have been blessed with wonderful family and friends! This week we enjoyed the company of most of Jared's side of the family, a few old and lifelong friends, and many of my immediate family - including our constant growing nephews! I am so thankful that we can share life with such awesome people! The love and support that has been shown to us is an unmeasurable treasure! We love each and every one of you with all our hearts.

While visiting with Jared's grandparents we went through lots and lots of old photos (which of course means I was in Heaven!) As soon as I get them scanned I will share a few with you. - Jared was such a cute kid!! It's always fun to look back and smile on times passed. That is a major reason why I have such a love and passion for photography. Memories can live on forever through photos. It is such a gift to be able to see photos of Jared's mom! Without photography, I would never have the honor of knowing what she looked like until the day we meet in Heaven. She was a pretty lady - and from what I've been told by everyone that knew her - she was an awesome person and loving mother. Can't wait to hug her one day!

We are also looking forward to Jared's sister, Jamie and her husband coming to visit us this weekend! It will be a perfect ending to an already magnificent week!

Hoping that all of you are able to enjoy the ones you love this week too! Tell them you love them, even if it means making a phone call! I know that sometimes distance doesn't allow us to see those special people in our lives very often  - but thankfully we have technology that can bring us together no matter how far apart we live. And a smile can be felt from miles away. :)

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom" -MP

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review Tuesday: Thirty One Gifts

I have to share a great find for all the ladies out there!

Thirty One Gifts was created a few years ago with the scripture Proverbs 31 in mind. Founder, Cindy Monroe says that the message behind Thirty One is to Celebrate, Encourage and Reward women.

Thirty One has so many personalized items that are fashionable, functional and fabulous! My favourite Thirty One  product is the skirt purse. I am a purse-a-holic so when I found out that this purse is fashionable AND interchangeable I had to have one! This purse has so many cute patterns and the best part is that you can change the look without taking all of the contents of your purse out and having to switch them to another purse. So clever!

Thirty One also offers TONS of utility totes, organizers and "products with purpose". Life is busy so anything that helps make life a little simpler is great! And they make awesome gifts! Again, so many great patterns with equal functionality!

My Mom and I just hosted a Thirty One Gifts party and not only was it a lot of fun but we were able to get some great hostess rewards including free shipping, free products and discount products....good stuff!

Find a Thirty One consultant in your area and have fun shopping with friends! :) You can also shop online, have online parties or become a consultant yourself!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mental Vitamins: Twelve Extraordinary Women

I have recently been reading Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur. I'm not very far in to the book but have already taken away some great messages. There is a Study Guide included for each chapter which is great for reflection. The women of the Bible MacArthur deemed as extraordinary are:

The Samaritan Women
Martha and Mary
Mary Magdalene

What I love is that all of the women MacArthur highlights are ordinary and common but Christ's work in their lives allowed them to do extraordinary things. In other words, all of these women became extraordinary not because of any natural qualities of their own, but because of God's gracious work and influence they were empowered and enabled to do incredible things. The same applies to modern women today...we may see ourselves as ordinary or society may view us as common but we all have so much potential and if we allow Christ to lead us, we can live out our life purpose and do extraordinary things.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Feature Friday: Behind A Lens - Family Session

This week was my last U.S. photo shoot....at least for awhile. Jared and I are moving to Switzerland next month and it's been so hard to turn down future brides and clients who wanted to book me for the upcoming year but I still plan to pursue my photography in some form during our 2 years overseas.

As bummed as I am about the thought of this being my last U.S. shoot, I couldn't have asked for a better day or a sweeter family for my final photo shoot here in the States! The Chattin's are a picture perfect little family! I had so much fun with them!

Check out more photos from this session on my photography blog:
Behind A Lens Photography Blog

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Things I Love: Owls!

There is something so lovable about owls! Maybe it's their big eyes or the fact that they look so warm and cuddly or maybe because I am a self-proclaimed night owl. Whatever it is....I can't help but fall in love with every owl trinket and treasure I encounter. And it feels like I have seen them more and more lately. So I'm not the only owl lover out there!

Here are a few others who think owls are pretty cute!

1. owlme.com
2. boopsiedaisy
3. busybeelauren
4. cuteability
5. bellflowertextiles
6. gatherandnest
7. mqsquare

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Only You

I need to thank my masterpiece of a husband.  My foundation, my home, my heart, my lover. My breath of fresh air, my encourager, my inspiration.  My best friend.  He holds me in his arms when I cry, holds my hand when I'm afraid,  and never holds me back when it comes to pursuing my dreams. He continues to teach me how to love selflessly and to not take myself so seriously. I love you, Panda Bear! Only you.

Kaskade featuring Haley - ONLY YOU 
It's you, only you can be everything to me
Only you.
How I'd try to deny or hide?
Put away my pride, only you

I'll repeat this phrase through all my days,
With my last breath, only you
I'll repeat this phrase through all my days,
With my last breath, only you

Only you (repeat this phrase) - x8

And it shows, because my heart beats so,
I will always know, only you.
Beautiful, so beautiful,
All this love is full, only you

I'll repeat this phrase through all my days,
With my last breath, only you
I'll repeat this phrase through all my days,
With my last breath, only you

Only you (repeat this phrase) - x8

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review Tuesday: The Missing Piece | Book Review

I wanted to share with you a book I recently read by Lee Ezell entitled The Missing Piece.

This is a true story written about Lee Ezell's own personal life experiences. At a very young age Lee found herself in a very bad situation. She was raped and became pregnant as a result of that rape. Ezell shares the emotions she experienced and how she turned to God and ultimately chose adoption for her baby. She talks about life before, during and after her pregnancy and adoption and how she eventually reunites with her daughter after many years. It is a story about life, choices and love.

I appreciated her perspective because she represents a small percentage of which is very controversial but seldom considered. She gives the reader insight into the thoughts and questions a woman in her situation faces. It gives this global issue a more personal view. The Missing Piece is an inspiring story of a touching reunion that will provide hope for those needing peace from God. It is definitely a recommended read. Lee Ezell is the author of 8 award-winning books and after reading this one I certainly want to check out her others.

I found this video clip of Lee and her daughter Julie that I hope will also inspire you to read this book.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mental Vitamins: Finding Balance

I don't know when this competitive urge for Christians to get the win started, but it's made an awful mess of things. It may have been when we stopped pursuing Jesus and  instead began picking sides. We choose a political team, we select a denominational preference, we embrace a branch of philosophy and anyone that disagrees is quickly judged and simultaneously disregarded as worthless. There's a BIG problem with that approach. We are supposed to be loving those who don't agree with us to Jesus--and you can't love those whom you deem worthless.
Where is the balance between standing for Truth and not pushing people away?

There is a fine balance.  God does want us to stand for absolute Truth and for integrity and character and to stand up for what we know is right and against what we know is wrong.  But he did not call us to hate people.  And the trickiest part of our faith is this:  The Word of God makes it clear that it is God’s job and role to convict people into life change.  Nowhere in Scripture does it make that the human being’s role.  It is a human being’s role to love a person to Jesus.

Now, the problem here is you have a lot of people who misinterpret the scripture and what we do to try and love people to Jesus is okay the sin issues, and water down the faith and that’s not acceptable either.  We’ve got to find a new language that communicates, “You know what?  I do disagree with your belief system.  I do disagree with your way of life, but I still love you as a person."  And their response is always, “But you think I should change?”  To which we should answer:  “It doesn’t matter what I think.  It matters if you’re willing to accept the love of Christ.  Once you accept the love of Christ, He will transform your heart."

People who kill in the name of religion or hate the person and not the sin need to go back and read their Bible and this time don't take it out of context or give it your own personal interpretation to suit your own needs. Example: people who bomb buildings in the name or religion or yell "murderer" to young women going inside clinics or who hate homosexuals...do you think that is how GOD would act? Absolutely not! He says "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1  In other words, we are to stand up for what is good and what is right but we are to do so in love, not anger.

All I’m saying is “lead with love.”  I think you can certainly agree that we’ve led with animosity.  We’ve lead with “you’re wrong.”  And yes, they very well may be wrong.  But instead of saying "you're wrong" point them to the source of Truth. Show them what God has to say by referring them to the Scripture.  After all, we shouldn't rely on each other for all the answers because none of us have all the answers. GOD has all the answers!

Our words and our actions can be a blessing or a curse.

We act like our actions and our words can be easily retracted.  But they can’t. Our words and actions can do a lot of good and they can also do a lot of damage. And it’s not just an issue of intentions. I’m no theologian.  All I know is that I’ve messed up A LOT, and if I’m honest with myself I see how I've been more "Christian-ish" than Christian.

If we have ever proclaimed to be living for Christ, if we have ever gone to church or been involved in a Christian organization or spoken out about Christ, whether we want to be one or not, we are now ministers because our lives are now observed.  They’re observed not just in the context of who are we, but they’re now observed in the context of who is Christ and who is He in our lives. We are held to a higher standard because of the God we choose to follow. There are many who are just waiting for us to screw up so that they can point the finger and dismiss us...and we will inevitably screw up...because we are imperfect.

But don't be afraid to stand out and to let others know you are a believer. I think some of us are afraid to share our faith for fear we will say or do the wrong thing, but we may be the only glimpse of Christ that they will ever see in their life. Understand that we WILL make mistakes and when we do, others will be watching...so what will we do to set things right when we do wrong? That is what ultimately brings us closer to God. Our humility to admit when we are wrong and to understand that...
The way is not church.  The way is not ideology.  The way is not Christian.  The way is Jesus.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Feature Friday: Flying In Style

It hit me today just how little time we have left until we make our big move to Switzerland. We leave next month. In one month our lives completely change. I am excited and at the same time, I'm terrified. I know that God is going to take care of us every step of the way and knowing that is what helps me look at this with hopeful eyes.

Jared and I are trying to make the most of each and everyday while we are here. We are packing our days full of family and friends and trying to just relax and enjoy the rest of our summer. We have a few things left to do to prepare for the move and much of it we can't do yet because we are waiting for our visa paperwork to be approved. Once we get the approval we can check the last few things off the list then be all set and ready to go.

We ordered pet carriers for the cats today so that they're ready for the flight. I think this is what I am most anxious about. I hope they do well. This will be their first airplane experience. It's about an 8 hour flight and I just hope they tolerate being in a small space for that length of time. They will be in the cabin with us which puts my mind more at ease, but I'm still anxious about it. They'll be flying in style though....I found a Louis Vuitton look-a-like pet carrier for one of them to travel in! It's really cute! Jared said he refuses to carry it! :) He'll be carrying the other one which is very standard....non-girly. ;)
Here's a photo of the carrier. It looks like the real deal but as little as I paid for it, it can't be authentic. Pretty good knock-off though! I love it! Hoping my babies love it too! :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Things I Love: Maneki Neko

The Maneki Neko, also known as Welcoming Cat or Lucky Cat is a  Japanese sculpture, often made of ceramic, and is believed to bring good luck to the owner. Some of the sculptures are electric or battery-powered and have a slow-moving paw that makes it look like it is waving or welcoming you. They are traditionally placed at the entrance of shops, restaurants and other businesses. 

I'm a cat fanatic and I am also a fan of Japanese culture so naturally I love these cute kitty ornaments. In addition to sculptures, Maneki Neko can be found as jewelry, piggy banks, clothing, and other miscellaneous treasures.

Here are some others who love these lucky cats. They are ULTRA KAWAII!! :)

1. auryndesign
2. dreamkitty
3. tokyogirl
4. zazzle
5. kaang
6. kaleidescopcrafts
7. tigerpixie

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tiny Trouble Maker

For those who may not know, we have two beautiful cats, Monty and Marley. Marley is a 3 year-old female and Monty(affectionately named Tater Tot) is a 10 month-old male. Marley is our angel. She is so smart, so sweet and very well-behaved. Tot is sweet and cute but we're not sure if he is slow or stubborn...or possibly both. He will urinate in the litter box but he does his other business right next to the box and refuses to go INSIDE the litter box. We have tried everything. We have used all types of different litters, put the litter boxes in different areas, used litter attractants, we praise him when he does use the litter box....you name it, we've tried it. And because he will urinate in the box it's not a matter of him not knowing what to do...so we're trying to figure out why he won't do all of his business in the litter box. In addition to our own two cats, my parents have a 1 year-old male cat(he and Monty LOVE each other by the way) and we were told to have a litter box for each cat plus one extra, so we currently have four litter boxes. FOUR and he refuses to use any of them. Like I said, he will urinate in them but that's it. He had a few accidents at our old place but he has been consistently bad since we came to my parents home. Hoping it's just a phase.

The positive side in this is that he only goes on flat surfaces. He won't go on the carpet. It's either the hard wood floor or tile floors. But I wish he would just go where he is supposed to. Does anyone have advice on how to stop this unwanted behavior? We're running out of ideas. Please leave a comment below!

Here is the little trouble-maker. It's hard to stay mad at a face like his! :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Review Tuesday: Fashion-Forward Photo Product

 As a photographer, I'm constantly researching all things industry related and I recently discovered something that I think is A-mazing and just had to share!

ChrysQ's Luxe Slipcovers are great for photographers who want to make a lasting impression when presenting their client albums. Each ChrysQ slipcover is custom-made to specifically fit your albums. These high fashion slipcovers are something trendy and luxurious that gives your already fabulous photo albums even more glamorous touch. These slipcovers are made to any size dimensions and are a perfect complement to your stand-out albums, photobooks or dvd/cd cases. You will definitely leave a distinguishing impression on clients. A custom-made, handcrafted product that emphasizes your art, now that's what I'm talking about!!

These one-of-a-kind slipcovers are sold directly to photographers only. If you are a client of a photographer, please have your photographer contact ChrysQ to order. Slipcovers can also be made for your laptop and phone so be sure to check out the ChrysQ website to see the different styles or place a custom order!

Here are just a few examples so you can see how gorgeous these slipcovers really are!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mental Vitamin Monday: Finding Purpose In Suffering

"You don't have to be alone in your hurt! Comfort is yours. Joy is an option. And it's all been made possible by our Saviour. He went without comfort so you might have it. He postponed joy so you might share in it. He willingly chose isolation so you might never be alone in your hurt and sorrow."  -Joni Eareckson Tada

 It doesn't matter if we are in a room full of people or in an empty room...when we are dealing with life's difficulties, we can find ourselves feeling alone and sometimes even feel abandoned. Suffering seems to welcome isolation and hopelessness. But if we welcome the Lord to replace our thoughts of hopelessness and sorrow with peace and joy then we can understand that no matter what we are going through, God is going through it with us. We are NEVER alone. And we will realize that suffering is not meant to break us down, but to build in us strength. When we are going through a serious struggle and we remain hopeful in God's promises as faithful believers then others will see God's love and hope through us and discover His peace also....making our suffering purposeful. If we don't see the purpose behind our suffering it can consume us, making us bitter, and resentful. But in knowing that God uses the all together for GOOD, then, and only then, will we see the purpose of our suffering and revel in His goodness and grace.

I take constant comfort in knowing that nothing we experience here on earth can compare to the joy that awaits us in Heaven. So when I find myself focusing on the negative or feeling the weight of despair...I return to this promise of hope. It puts everything into perspective for me.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Feature Friday: Princess Photo Shoot

This week I had the opportunity to photograph a sweet little girl and her family for the second time. The first time I photographed them was back in December. (you can view their previous session HERE) It's always a huge compliment to have clients book multiple photo shoots with me. It means they appreciate my work and trust me to do a good job. It's also exciting for me because repeat clients give me the opportunity to connect on not just a professional level but a more personal level. And I have to say....this family is awesome! After the shoot we just stood in the kitchen and talked and laughed. I love it when clients become friends!
I'm in the middle of the editing process but here is a sneak peek of Princess Stella. :)

(click on photo for larger view)
Keep checking my photography blog for a full post from this session and others! http://behindalensphotography.wordpress.com/

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Things I Love Thursdays: Doors

I love old and unique doors. I can't explain my fascination with them, all I know is that I love to photograph doors. Europe has so many cool, one-of-a kind doors and I think that's where my appreciation for them started.

Here are some other photographers that appreciate artsy doors.

1. opexxx
2. kimlephotography
3. robert stovers
4. shabby chic

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Apartment Hunting

Well....we're still waiting on our visas. As soon as we have those I can rest easier. I'm trying not to let myself worry about it. Jared is good at putting my mind at ease. He says things like "Has God let us down before? NO." And my worry disappears....for a short time anyway until my human nature kicks in again and allows fear and doubt to creep in. But I'm thankful for my husband who can always brings me back to center when I start to let my worried mind get out of control. I know everything will work out exactly how it is supposed to and I will look back and laugh at myself for worrying in the first place.

I do have to say that despite my anxiousness about all this...I am having fun apartment shopping in the meantime. There are some really cute places over there! Smaller than what we are used to of course but they certainly have charm. Looking at apartments definitely keeps me occupied when the anxious feelings arise.

I wish they made a show called "Apartment Hunters International" modeled after the show House Hunters! I would TOTALLY sign up to be on that show! I'm addicted! :) If you haven't checked out that show on HGTV...I highly recommend that you do! I love trying to predict which home they will choose and of course I also enjoy seeing the different homes and locations. I'm sure Jared is sick of that show by now, but I love it!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Review Tuesday: Breakthrough Artists

There is a stigma that surrounds Christian Music Artists, and let's be honest...it's a negative one. I myself have been guilty of not giving this genre of music a chance simply because the songs I often heard were a bit dated and quite frankly, didn't excite me or stir up any kind of emotion. Music has a way of connecting people and I never really got that from any artists in this genre before. But I have to say, there are quite a few artists I have more recently discovered that have changed my attitude towards Christian music. Here are just a few that I recommend you give a listen! :)

If you heard that a small-town Texas band was chosen to open for notables like Coldplay and Snow Patrol, you’d probably expect one of two things: A) they have a great booking agent, or B) they are very talented. In Eisley’s case, they may indeed have an excellent booking agent, but it wouldn’t be very hard for anyone to sell such a musically gifted band. To say that their vocals are impressive is an understatement. Flawless harmonies are everywhere, and instrumental arrangements vary from dark and haunting to light and lively.  They are definitely a favourite!

This guy has so much talent. His lyrics, his voice, his style. The first song I heard by him was "Something's Gotta Change" and I was overwhelmed by his honesty and his lyrics really hit home for me. I started listening to more of his songs and my reaction to his music was consistent...I was an instant fan. His lyrics are so transparent and real. He puts into words what so many of us have often thought but couldn't really find the words to say. Really enjoy his stuff.

Paramore is a band made up of christian members and lead-singer, HayleyWilliams, has said that they are a "group of Christians", but they are not a Christian band. They are Christians and it does impact their music, however they do not preach on their ideals. But if you listen to specific lyrics you can find subtle hints of their religious influence. I think Hayley's voice is the groups best instrument. The girl has some lungs! I really dig their music and apparently I'm not the only one since a few of their albums have gone Platinum and many of their songs can be heard on mainstream radio. Definitely worth checking out if you haven't already.

I just love her! Her hometown personality shines when she speaks. She writes all of her own songs and it's evident they all come from the heart. I almost prefer her acoustic versions of her songs better than the original. So be sure to check those out!

This is one of Jared's favourite bands. I prefer more mellow or acoustic music and their music is more heavy rock but it works for me. Andrew Schwab is an excellent writer. His lyrics are raw and include controversial topics that many artists in this genre would be afraid to address. I think that's what I respect most about him. He is unapologetic about his stand on tough issues. Schwab has also written several great books that are worth checking out. He has a great way of balancing humor with sincerity.

I shared a video of one of his songs on my blog not long ago. If you haven't checked that out...you should! Phil shares that after feeling the need to "make his faith his own" he began leading worship for his youth group at 12 years old and began writing his own praise and worship songs. He has many great songs but my favourite by far is "True Love". The truth and power behind that song makes it hard not to be moved.

By now I would hope it is apparent that not all Christian musicians record exclusively for the Christian music industry, and as independent music continues to blur the lines between Christian and mainstream, more and more artists are able to pursue careers whether they feel called to reach the church or the culture at large. Case in point, Dave Barnes, a believer who echoes the bluesy pop of John Mayer. This guy can write a love song! His song "Nothin' Fancy" was featured at our wedding! :)

I love to listen to this band while working out! Their sound definitely has a charge behind it.

This is another band that has a large following and has performed on different late night shows that has helped them blur the lines between christian labels and mainstream music.They have a unique sound because it's not often you hear a female use her voice so aggressively like lead singer, Lacey Mosely.

When I first heard this band, I hated them. I thought they were too pop punk for my taste. But they played at a music festival I went to and I was surprised by their performance. I actually really enjoyed them live. Their sound definitely grew on me.

These are just a few of the great Christian artists out there. By breaking through social barriers they prove that being a Christian musician doesn't mean you have to be lame.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mental Vitamins: Get Your Shine On!

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear
is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I
to be brilliant and gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people
won’t feel insecure around you.
We are meant to shine.
We were born to make manifest
the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some of us: it’s in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

-Marianne Williamson

I have always been more of an introvert...my nickname in high school was "shy girl". I have never liked to be in the spotlight, I preferred to blend in and even go as far as to hide in the shadows so as not to be noticed. And I love these words from Marianne Williamson because I have experienced this sort of "liberation". I feel in recent years I have had an inner transformation that has generated an outward alteration. I am still as imperfect as I have always been but I am more comfortable in my own skin because I have an understanding that God loves me AS IS. He sees through my flaws and He loves me unconditionally despite great faults.

Once I became aware that my insecurities were holding me back from my true purpose here on earth, which is sharing God's love with others and being a living example of His love, I have experienced my self-doubt disappear and be replaced with strength. No, I don't think I am special or wonderful, or great but my Savior IS. And that gives me something to smile about, to shine about, to live to tell about. I no longer feel the need to try and be perfect because I know I can never be and that is not our purpose in life. Our purpose is to love like Christ.

I always had this idea that being a Christian meant I couldn't let others see me make mistakes or fail because if I was weak how would that reflect on the One I was trying to represent? But now I see that it is how I handle my mistakes, how I respond to challenges and how I seek Him through it all that makes the difference. I can unashamedly say that I don't have it all together, I don't have all the answers, but I serve the Lord who does. And by admitting that, I don't have the same fears I once lived with. Fears of being judged by others, fears of being misunderstood, fears of being hated or making mistakes. Instead, I have a humble sense of courage that has been ignited by hope, trust and love. I still live an imperfect life but I strive to better myself each day and I no longer live in constant fear.

My heart's desire is to show others that if God can love someone like me...then His love is abundant enough for you. In fact, all He wants is to love us. Nothing makes Him happier. What an unbeatable compliment...WE make GOD happy! :) Just by letting Him love us.

So the next time you feel less than worthy, or that you don't have what it takes...know that you ARE enough....to the one who matters...to God...you are perfectly imperfect and you were created to SHINE! So get your shine on! :)