Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sometimes you wanna go...

Where everybody knows your name. I've spent two days at two new schools trying to get my children registered. The stuff required to get them registered is ridiculous and leaves you feeling like you'll never move again just to forgo this process. After visiting two new locations where I've never seen the interior walls or met the people who occupy the space I learned I wasn't quite prepared with all my documents. And, they were all strangers. Strangers to me and strangers to my children.

I needed copies of their last report cards from the old school and immunization records for all of them. Instead of digging through boxes and visiting old doctors I decided to pick up the copies in their personal files at the old school. In both schools I was greeted by familiar faces who were surprised and happy to see us and even offered a "well hello Mrs. Dawson." Sometimes you just wanna go where everybody knows your name. It was nice to see familiar faces but only reminded me of the families at Ottawa I will miss this year.

As the kids head off to school next week it will be a most bitter and not so much sweet experience. Normally I'm ready for them to head back and get my schedule back but I know I'll miss them.

I can remember when all three of them started at their last school. Tyler was a big ole' fourth grader, Faith was a first grader, and Karli was a brand new kindergartner. The kids were supposed to ride the bus to school but given it was the first day in a new school and none of them had ever ridden the bus to school before I decided to drive them. With a double stroller of 7-month-old twins being pushed ahead of me, we approached the lines outside the new school. I quickly learned that the "big" kids lined up on one side of the building while the rest of the munchkins lined up at the other end. I had to leave poor Tyler who didn't know anyone in line by himself while I waited in line with Faith and Karli. I promised to check on him.

I got Faith situated in class in about two seconds. She is very social and friendly and looked at this new school as a means of making 30-60 new friends! Yeah, she is always that easy. I got Karli outside her classroom but wouldn't fit inside with the hustle and bustle of new kindergartners and their parents so I waited outside. When I finally had an opportunity to check on her, she was fine. Until she saw me and busted into tears. I got her settled and participating in class and headed across the school to peak in on Tyler as promised. I could hear the teacher's voice from in the hall and I found him sitting in the front row. He caught me out of the corner of his eye but wouldn't look directly at me and just as soon as he saw me, he little chin began to quiver. That was one of the most broken-hearted moments of my life. Ms. Abney is a fantastic teacher, spotted him right away, and quickly pulled him out of it. So I blew him a kiss and went on my home with only my two babies and cried for at least an hour.

It's a natural process in life and a wonderful thing to watch our children advance through ages and stages. I can always empathize with their nerves and fears and it just breaks my heart. So this year I will be amazed at their strength as they enter a new school but sad for them because they are trembling inside. The first day will be the hardest and each day will get easier from there.

It seems as though new places and experiences for my children often bring new places and experiences to me as well and right in the middle of a bit milestone. In the last school Karli was entering kindergarten. This new year Mallory and Hailey, my babies, are entering preschool! It means a solid block of time so I can work, but I hope it goes quickly because I will miss them so much.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back in town

We've safely returned from our trip to the upper west side of Michigan. We had a very busy five days and a very busy week ahead. I'll share more of my vacation and some photos later this week. In the meantime, I've got a monster to do list!

getting kids registered for school
registering Mallory and Hailey for preschool (yikes)
I'm going to miss them all and they start next week!
As they banter behind me, maybe I won't miss them.
I'll miss them, just not the bantering!
I have three sessions to edit and new appointments this week and next
tons of laundry to tackle
a house to clean
clothes to buy for school
supplies to buy for school
three closets to go through to clear out the items that no longer fit (not fun!)

It's busy around here but a good busy. We're still blessed. Our needs are still met.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


My stress related acne problem - turns out it likely was the lovely make up I pick up at the local drugstore. I switched, my face cleared up in a week, and I no longer look like I have some kind of disease. Yeah!

The married couple in my defining moment posts - I'm happy to report they decided to make it and forgo the break it part all together. The countenance of them both when your in their presence is 1,000 fold improved. I didn't share the couples names or the situation that occurred and won't. I will say it's a doosey but despite what happened they both seem relieved to have it over with and they are ready to move on. Like good ole' Dave Ramsey says "there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it isn't an oncoming train." I'm thrilled for them and thank God daily for the miracles he is performing in their marriage.

I can't explain the heavy burden I experience when I see a couple struggling. My marriage is certainly not perfect, no marriage is, but I think mine is pretty close to how it was intended to be. Our love is pure, sweet, honest, compromising, committed, and most importantly eternal. It breaks my heart to see other couples suffering and not experience all that God intended their marriage to be. Still I pray and remain hopeful because I am fully aware of the places God has raised us up from.

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven.

I'm preparing for a week in Northern Michigan with my hubby, kids, and my parent's too. We're camping at a Yogi Bear campground which is sure to have lots of fun things for the kids to do. We're planning a trip to the Sand Dunes and the amusement Michigan Adventure. This amusement park is really family oriented and my children have never been to a park like this. I love amusement parks, roller coasters, and carnivals. I may be more excited about going than the kids are. I can't wait to ride the rides with them, hang out at the water park, and watch their faces light up with each new experience. I think I'm so excited because this is indicative of a typical family vacation from my childhood. I get to pass it on to my own children, share it with my husband, and to top it off, my parent's will be with us to share it all too. I'm so thankful to have a solid bond with my parent's, that we are able to share times like these, that they are both still with us, and it's a loving and fulfilling relationship.

Upon our return I get to put the finishing touches on a big 50th birthday party we're having for my mom! Followed by, lots of editing from the sessions I've recently had. Kevin and Jenn, it was a pleasure to photograph your family and little guy. Kelly and Krissi, you are both gorgeous and glowy, congrats Krissi! Meghan, Nancy, Amanda, and Teri, it was an absolute pleasure to meet you all and I can't wait to share your images with you.

It will be a week before I return so I can take full advantage of every drop of family time and vacation. Have a wonderful and blessed week!

Patty, Sto Lat!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Feel Good Friday

I wrote this mid-week and intended to post it earlier but it felt a little more like "Feel Good Friday" and though it wasn't intentional that is why it lands. I love lists. My world revolves around not just one list but many lists. I have a list for what I need to do for my business, another list of things that need to be done around the house, a list of items I'd like to soon pick up, a list of errands that need to be ran, and a list that never has much get crossed off it which consists of things like making a scrapbook of the Murder Mystery party we had. I love making the list and one the greatest and simplest pleasures in life for me is to cross an item off of my list. So I spent the week feeling like I was blasting through many of items on my many lists and it feels good to get things done. So what better way to display the things I'm feeling good about then, well, a list!

-having laundry done on Tuesday instead of Friday
-a clean bathroom, or it was at least on Tuesday
-a teenage boy's room where you can see the floor, like spotless, organized, clean, it's a wonderful thing
-editing a session in two days
-getting to know Lightroom so it can revolutionize my life, I mean, workflow
-opportunities to rekindle old friendships. It was great seeing you Beth and Gina!
-sharing the wedding day of a dear friend, the moment she walked down the aisle, the first time she introduced herself as Mrs. Girgenti, their first moments as husband and wife, and having a blast of a time at a reception filled with old friends and acquaintances
-spending most of the evening chatting it up with an old friend who is also a photographer, priceless, and so grateful she is willing to share everything she knows, thank you Beth Merritt!
-finding time for a few of those items on my "other" to do list
-creating the dress rehearsal bouquet and even a headpiece for Patty's wedding
-crossing off items on the to do list, editing sessions, and still having family time is a wonderfully fulfilling balance
-snuggles with a toddler that doesn't feel very well, I don't like that she doesn't feel well, but I'm grateful to be here to hold her
-looking forward to a full weekend of appointments
-even more to a date night with Todd, dinner, a ball game, and drinks at the casino, yum!

Karli loved the dress rehearsal bouquet and headpiece I made using all the ribbons from Patty's wedding shower and modeled them for me along with the headpiece. It's super cheesy but that's the point, no?





Praying you ALL having something to feel good and thankful about!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pray First-Aim High-Be Still

Here is another great e-mail I got from my hubby today. Why forward on an e-mail? Well, this blessed me today as I prepare for upcoming posts which will contain stories from my life that all contribute to my testimony as a whole. The past is in the past and if we know Jesus we are blessed, forgiven, and free from shame. I may have to study and read up a bit on shame before I move on to some things I feel led to share. Shame and Judgement may just be my next topics. I don't think it's shame as much for me as much as it is fear of being judged. The only judgement I should fear or be concerned with is that of the Father and he has already forgiven me. So, I should just get over myself already.

This also helped reaffirm for me today just where I should be looking. Todd and I have a large task ahead as we rebuild our financial foundation and this served as a great reminder to keep my eyes on Him, my goals high, and wait upon the Lord, and be still. Must we live in such an immediate gratification society? Ugh, patience in the past has not been my strong-suit.


Matthew 19:26 With God all things are possible

There once was a man who had nothing for his family to eat. He had an old rifle and three bullets. So, he decided that he would go out hunting and kill some wild game for dinner.
As he went down the road, he saw a rabbit. He shot at the rabbit and missed it. The rabbit ran away.

Then he saw a squirrel and fired a shot at the squirrel but missed it. The squirrel disappeared in to a hole in a cottonwood tree.

As he went further, he saw a large wild 'Tom' turkey in the tree, but he had only one bullet remaining.

A voice spoke to him and said, "Pray first, aim high, and stay focused." However, at the same time, he saw a deer which was a better kill. He brought the gun down and aimed at the deer. But, then he saw a rattlesnake between his legs about to bite him, so he naturally brought the gun down further to shoot the rattlesnake.

Still, the voice said again to him, 'I said, "Pray, aim high, and Stay focused." So, the man decided to listen to God's voice. He prayed, then aimed the gun high up in the tree, and shot the wild turkey.

The bullet bounced off the turkey and killed the deer.The handle fell off the gun, hit the snake in the head, and killed it. And, when the gun had gone off, it knocked him into a pond. When he stood up to look around, he had fish in all his pockets, a dead deer, and a turkey for his family to eat. The snake (Satan) was dead simply because the man listened to God

Moral of the story: Pray first before you do anything, aim and shoot high in your goals, and stay focused on God. Never let others discourage you concerning your past. The past is exactly that, 'the past.' Live every day one day at a time, and remember that only God knows our future, and that He will not put you through any more than you can bear. Do not look to man for your blessings, but look to the doors that only He has prepared in advance for you in your favor. Wait, be still, and patient: keep God first, and everything else will follow. Don't worry about tomorrow, God is already there!!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Be Still

I received the passage below in an e-mail forwarded to me from a friend. It just had to share it because it articulates so elegantly what I have tried to say countless times...

Learning To Be Still
Bishop E. Earl Jenkins
"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10 Former CBS anchor, Dan Rather, found himself unprepared for a television interview with Mother Teresa. Ron Mehl described the encounter this way: "All of Dan's standard approaches were inadequate. And the little nun from Calcutta didn't seem inclined to make his task easier. "When you pray," asked Dan, "what do you say to God?" "I don't say anything," she replied. "I listen." Dan tried another tack. "Well, okay...when God speaks to you, then, what does He say?" "He doesn't say anything. He listens." Dan looked bewildered. For an instant, he didn't know what to say. "And if you don't understand that," Mother Teresa added, "I can't explain it to you." It's in the place of silence that the Holy Spirit boils the truth we receive from Scripture down to its essence, reveals specific insights that are pertinent, and then applies them to our most perplexing problems and our most stubborn misconceptions. As He transforms our heart to beat in sync with His, our decisions begin to accomplish His will and we begin to reflect His character. Go ahead, try it. Open the Word of God in a peaceful place and sit in quietness before Him. In time, the Holy Spirit will illuminate a passage and it will come to life in your mind. Before you know it the knotty situation that drove you to distraction will unravel. As you learn to "be still" in God's presence, your greatest problems will suddenly become more manageable. He will reveal Himself to you. He will calm your emotions and relieve your mind. You'll discover new direction, freedom from worry, and a fresh sense of peace.

This passage is from the Streaming Faith Daily Devotional, click here if you would like to subscribe to receive updates like the one above.

Friday, August 8, 2008


It has been the motto of my adult life "never have regrets." Although I'm not even sure I'm an adult yet. Living a life without regret does not mean it goes without shame. I'm not sure yet just how much of myself, of our story I will truly reveal. Shame is certainly an emotion beneath a lot of my life's events. I think about my life, my writing, my book, and I write everything down. I have no idea what I'll feel led to use in the end. I have always loved to write but never dreamed of becoming a published writer, until recently. I knew I enjoyed it but didn't know it was a blessing to others. Writing has always come easy to me. My brain always running much faster than my fingers can write or type. I don't know that I will ever become an accomplished writer, receive any awards, or even get published. But, if I can change lives and help people then so be it, I'll write. I'll share my story, my history, how I got to this place, how I grew to the person I am today, and my future. I want to be true and honest and use my life to encourage and help others. I wonder what God will do with my experiences, my notes, my life and these thoughts thrown together into what is called a blog. I wonder even more how it will feel to return in years to come and read it from the beginning.

You can't know me and know my story without knowing how Todd and I were raised. How we met. What brought us together and what keeps us together. You can't know the person I am today without knowing the mistakes I made, the lessons I learned, and how God brought me through every trial. You can't know me without knowing the importance of family to me and how proud I am of my brothers and their families. You can't understand the person I am today without knowing how I treated others when I was young. Life has brought many things along my narrow path, some self-inflicted, some were uncontrollable circumstances beyond my control. Either way, you grow just as much because in the end all we have left to do is release it, humble ourselves, realize we are not in control, and give control to the one who IS. Surrender.

Romans 12:2 NIV
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Defining Moment Part II

I'm praying for opportunity and boldness to share with this couple what is on my heart for them. My husband and I are not professional counselors but we are professionals at our marriage (as long as God is first). We have both felt a calling on our lives to someday serve in a ministry for couples. It is my prayer that we be used in any way possible to help couples learn to build a Godly foundation to prepare them for trials (there will always be trials) so they cleave to each other, bunker down, and wait out the storm instead of being ripped apart.

Before moving on from a defining moment or disappointment each mate needs to decide which direction they want to go in. Granted, this isn't the best time to make major decisions regarding your future with gaping holes in your heart. Said couples should look at it this way. You are going to endure every emotion related to the offense, regardless. You are going to feel hurt, your heart is going to ache, you will experience anger, depending on the offense you may experience distrust, more hurt, disappointment, more anger, anger, anger, oh and anger. If you decide to commit to working it out there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it isn't an oncoming train. It may seem like it in the moment but really it's peace, I promise. Okay Jesus promises, take His word. But, should you decide to break it instead of make it, you're now faced with a whole new set of hurts, anger, disappointment, anger, much more anger, much more hurt. You're already broken-hearted. Why not choose to heal and move forward together instead of what seems like the easy road at the time and quit. I can't say I speak from personal experience about quitting (only running) but I would imagine that in the long run, it's much more difficult.

Moving on...God loves each mate. He forgives you both if you ask and receive by faith. He doesn't choose sides. When your heart is broken, His is broken. He feels your pain. His heart aches. He counts every tear. The love we feel in our hearts for other people is only a smidge of what He feels for us. If your a mother or father, doesn't it just make you ache when your child is hurt? Multiply that one-million plus fold and you're still just touching the ice berg of what Jesus feels for us. God IS love, it isn't something he does, it's WHO HE IS. He loves you. We all need a revelation of that.

My first step before doing anything. Before making any decisions, would be to pick up a copy of three books. The bible, The Power of a Praying Wife, and The Power of a Praying Husband. You'll need your bible to check the scripture in the books for accuracy. I own them both, the scriptures are accurate but it's good practice. Don't even brush on the subject of whatever offense has occurred. Just read the book. Each couple read the appropriate version. Pray the prayers; do what it says. Don't read it in one night! Read a chapter a day. When you get to the end you'll have a better idea of where each of you stand. By the end of the book, you both will be different. God will use the prayers and the scriptures to speak to you both regarding what he/she does to contribute to the success and failure of your marriage AND what YOU do to contribute to the success and failure of your marriage. You will both be changed by the end of the books. Perhaps, forgiven and forgiving trespasses against you.

Psalm 68:35
O God, You are more awesome than Your holy places. The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people. Blessed be God!

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Summer Before I Turned Sixteen

It's interesting that in the middle of a topic on crisis in a marriage I would celebrate my anniversary. Though there are days it seems like we've been married since 1776, it's been thirteen. Now I'm starting to cry as I write this. God knew what he was doing when he brought us together.
The short version of our story, lacking details, is this. I was 15 when I first laid eyes on Todd and thought "yeah, this one is a real winner," sarcastically of course. He didn't make a very good impression. I will expound upon all these details as I feel led to in future posts. The second time I saw Todd was when I went into Captain Wishbone, a catering company, looking for my first job.
We worked together.
We grew into friends.
He was a "fraidy-cat."
I asked him out.
I was fifteen, it was the summer before I turned sixteen. We both feel hard-core in love, or what teenagers would call "hard-core in love" anyway. In the fall just over one year later in my senior year of high school, I learned I was pregnant. Sounds good so far ey! I graduated with honors from high school in June carrying our first baby full term but not without ups, downs, illness, and complications. And, we got married that August in 1995. There are so many gory details leading to that day and an abundance of lessons learned that follow that day. As you can gather from my last post, not all of them rained gum drops and lollipops but I'm glad we weathered the storms.

Our children spent the night at my mother-in-law's house last night and my parent's took us out for a fun and delicious dinner. I had hoped because the built-in alarm clocks slept elsewhere I'd get some extra rest but at just past 7:00 a.m. my lovely hubby of 13 years woke me from a very restful sleep. He was patient while I showered and got gussied up so I was a pretty as possible for the day. Which proved to be a bit difficult since I have a serious, stress related acne problem right now and the medication I use makes the acne look like I have a flesh eating bacteria. To make things worse I have a bad patch near my mouth which is swollen and looks like I have some kind of disease and/or was beaten up. Nice huh! So after waiting patiently he took me to breakfast for a cup of joe, pancakes, and toast. He opened all the doors and was such a gentleman. We talked and took our time.

Breakfast was followed by a couples pedicure. Seriously, this guy was so made for me! It was the best experience of my life, after my wedding and the birth of my children of course. It was really, really, yummy and perfect. I ended up in an almost comatose state from being so relaxed which I needed desperately. It was made especially lovely because I could smile at my hubby and have sweet conversation with him. The salon was ran by a cute little Vietnamese couple. My husband told them we were there for our anniversary and it had been 13 years. They were so cute, their jaws about hit the floor. Then Todd told them we have five kids and their eyes popped from their heads. The man was so nice though, he said "you two were so nice and talked so soft and sweetly to each other I thought you must be newlyweds."

We're going to spend the rest of the day on the motorcycle scouting locations, walking in downtown Rochester, maybe get some Coldstone, and I get to snap some shots of my handsome man.

I am filled with peace and joy today. I'm actually just down right giddy. He loves me so and I'm more head-over-heels, madly in love with him today than ever before. I've been asked by two separate people in my lifetime if I overcompensate when I talk about my husband and our marriage. I can honestly say I don't. It is THAT good. Not because I'm easy to live with or that being married is easy but because of who my husband is. He is strong, loyal, down-to-earth, funny. The man can always make me laugh. He is compassionate, patient, sexy, but he is also stubborn and strong-willed. He isn't afraid to make a mistake. He always apologizes. He is sincere, ambitious, and what I love most about him is his heart for God. He prayed for me before he knew me. He told God the kind of wife he hoped for. Though I wasn't what he asked for when we met, through God and Todd I have become that woman. He makes me a better me. I am who I am today because I met my husband. I am a better wife, mother, human today because of who Todd is; because of the example he sets of what a loving person should be. I just adore him and feel like I have little red hearts floating around my head today. I love you Todd!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Defining Moment...

I thought these posts would have gone in chronological order but I feel really pressed to start someplace else. I know this is a long one but bear with me and read on. I pray it touches the heart of that one person it was meant for.

I learned some bad news regarding a couple my husband and I are acquainted with. I say "acquaintance" because while my husband and I really enjoy the company of this couple, we just haven't had enough time with them, or know them intimately enough, to call them friends. I have been praying for this couple for some time due to the condition of their marriage and while praying this morning I could just sense that something was wrong. Not like a death in the family kind of wrong, but a turning point in their marriage. I actually began to cry while praying; they were very heavy on my heart and it was a strong burden. It was like God was allowing me to feel just a bit of what he feels when we hurt. I can't say empathy because I've never endured what they are now enduring; I can't relate. It was strange and I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around it myself. This will be the defining moment in their marriage. This will be where they decide they will either make it...or break it.

This brings me to the defining moment in my marriage. We had plans that day to take our three children (twins were unborn) to see The Rockettes downtown with my sister-in-law and her two girls. My husband and I began to bicker and argue over I-have-no-idea-what; probably using the last of the milk or something ridiculous.

At this time we had a hard time "fighting fair" and sticking to the subject at hand. When we argued we brought up every wound ever inflicted on each other. I, well, I was a runner. I couldn't stand the heat in the kitchen so I got out. I easily became overwhelmed and would remove myself from the situation instead of working it out. I'd typically drive to my parent's house. Though I didn't pack a bag and plan to move out, it was my husband's worse fear and always made him panic. This day was no exception except that I felt, as I drove to my parent's home that day, as though I couldn't do it anymore. I was worn down, spiritually weak, and completely overwhelmed. I can remember as I walked out my front door my children's reaction and how they begged me not to go. Faith in particular, who is our peace-keeper and most emotional child, was just devastated. I can still recall the look on her face, her tears, and the fear and desperation in her eyes. She wasn't even old enough to understand what was happening but she knew it wasn't good and she was scared. Though it broke my heart, I went anyway. I know that act is forgiven today but still guilt creeps in.

Because we had plans with Todd's sister that day he called and told her we weren't going to make it downtown. That phone call led to a call to his Mom and I'm convinced a prayer chain formed. I cried in my car so hard that day. I begged God to help me. My heart hurt so bad I thought it might feel better if it were ripped out from my chest. It's insane to me to remember so many of the details from that day but not be able to recall how it even began. As I prayed, I slowly began to calm down as I sat in the car in front of my parent's home. A spirit of peace came over me and the tears just stopped. I went from completely hopeless to feeling partly restored in a fifteen minute drive. Todd called and asked if I could just agree to taking the kids to the show. Nothing else, no further commitments, no further arguments, just a show. I agreed and we actually had a great time. That's Jesus. That's the power of prayer. Did those prayers fix everything that day as though it never happened? Absolutely not. But, it did provide an open door and a first step toward working it out. I promised God, Todd, and myself that day I would never run again. I haven't. I won't. We solidified our commitment to each other that day and what once was Todd's worst fear isn't even a forethought anymore.

I'm certain the success of my marriage is contributed to God's grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love. But, it is also contributed to the ongoing prayers from a loving mother for her son. I'm certain we have been unscathed by so many things because my mother-in-law and so many others pray for us. Don't underestimate the power of prayer. The prayers of others have changed the course of my life. You never know who else is praying for the same people you are praying for and corporate prayer is a powerful thing. This, by the way, also comes together with my generation/legacy post. Because my mother-in-law committed her life to Christ, raised her children in the way of the Lord, loves Him with all her heart, and serves him, he has graced my husband (thus me) with grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Just as promised in the bible.

I'm going to separate this post into more than one to make it easier to read. I don't want to scare any of you off. I'll finish and save it, then post the second half on another day to make it easier to read.

Just where does your marriage go from that "defining moment?" I'll share what is on my heart for this couple who I hope become friends. Even though they are nameless, God is all knowing, would you say a prayer for them? Pray the enemies lies cease, blinders are removed, and that a feeling of love and God's peace that surpasses all understanding surround them.

FATHER, sometimes forgiving others seems impossible. Forgive us when we hesitate to extend grace to others. And remind us that revisiting the cross is the first step in knowing how to forgive.

Isiah 30:18
Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.