Monday, February 27, 2012

Behind the Scenes: Always?!

{art available here}

{art available here}

My Bible study recently completed the book of Philippians. What a beautiful, encouraging & challenging book! One verse that always "gets me" though is in chapter 4: Rejoice in the Lord always! AGAIN, I WILL SAY IT: REJOICE! {hmm... now why do you think Paul needed to repeat himself? probably just for me!}

Always? really God?

The same day I found out a dear friend had a miscarriage & immediately I thought of this verse that is one of those "Christiany" verses that many so flippantly say, "Well, PRAISE the LORD!" "Rejoice always!" "Hallelujah!"

I did NOT feel like rejoicing. Instead, I wept. I remembered the pain of loss. The empty feeling. The "why's" & "what did I do wrong?"

You see, in difficult times I am {often} able to have faith, hope & trust but joy? hmm.. I am still trying to figure that whole thing out.

The next morning (in the shower of course... my alone time :) God pointed out to me the 2 key words I was looking over: IN THE. You see, He is not asking us to rejoice in our situation or our circumstance, but no! Rather, we can really truly always rejoice IN HIM. In who He is & what He has done & is able to do. Even in the midst of sorrow, there is always something to rejoice in: Jesus & the hope we have in Him alone. Our Heavenly Father who is constantly reaching out to us. The Holy Spirit who is able to fill us with the peace that passes understanding & yes, even joy. And it is not making light of our pain & sorrows that we may be facing currently in our lives. {we are also called to mourn with those who mourn}

I pray He continues to grow in me a heart of rejoicing IN HIM, keeping my eyes heavenward knowing that there is truly always something to rejoice in. And, quite honestly, I still think it is funny that Paul had to repeat himself as it shows that people like me needed to hear it over & over again. {read the book of Philippians & highlight how many times Paul writes "joy" or "rejoice" & take note of what or why he is rejoicing! a fun little word study! now GO!}

grace & peace,

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Our Chicago "Staycation"

This past President's Day weekend my hubby had a whopping 4 days off of work. It was PRICELESS. That would have been a gift in & of itself, but we decided to live it up & have a little family "staycation" where we slept at home but did local touristy things & had the time of our lives!

Our first stop was the Lincoln Park Conservatory which is gorgeous not only because of the life within, but also because of the stunning architectural details. It was as if we were walking back in time.

A few months ago my favorite little mister began his new obsession: botany. It started with carnivorous plants, such as the pitcher plant (shown above). HUGE. AWESOME.

I have not only learned more about plants over the last few months, but I also had an AHA! moment while at the conservatory: if I want to get great photos of my beautiful son smiling & truly happy instead of just pleasing mom, take him to the place he loves. He was more willing to pose with any plant than he's been willing to be photographed in the last year (unless of course there was a toad or a bug in his hand).

Our next stop was the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago (day 2 I might say) (day 1 we also strolled through the Lincoln Park Zoo). {Be sure to click on the Garfield's website to see the extensive damage of the hail last year... unbelievable!}

The Garfield is the largest conservatory that we know of in Illinois. It is breathtaking. I was amazed on how much I liked being there & had gone in intending to really do this for the benefit of my son, but wow... such beauty, life & details!

I found myself drawn to the leaves throughout the place, which is really no surprise to anyone who really knows me!

Here is a Bird of Paradise IN BLOOOOOOOOM!

OK, I have to write it like that because one other observation I had in the conservatories was that there is definitely a "type" of person who goes there... usually more pensive & quiet. You know, kind of like at a museum. And then, there are the Chens. Ahem. Sam shushed them a couple of times, but I got a kick out of how excited children could get from looking at plants. It was quite fun to watch. Even the girls got into it.

I believe this sculpture dates back to the early 1900's and was very elegant.

Here's my favorite little mister in the Desert House. I think he is in awe of a HUGE prickly pear or something?!

The above photo is priceless to me. It is getting harder to snap a photo of the 3 of them together without total bribery of course. So, I asked for just one of the 3 & in the previous frame my pumkin-poos (the littlest) sticks out her tongue at me. I say, "hey! no sticking out your tongue you crazy!" & the big kids just bust up laughing & pumpkin-poos beams knowing that once again she has been successful in making them laugh. Mission accomplished. I love this though because it shows their personalities & I want to remember that laughter.

Ahh, me & my favorite little mister in the mist of the tropical room. Like I said, I will gladly take any photo of him or with him I can manage to! Does anyone besides me think he looks like me?! More than the girls do at least.

And our third Chicago area conservatory brought us to the Oak Park Conservatory. Though it is quite small, its highlights for the kids were talking birds & more carnivorous plants, such as the sundews & venus fly traps above. Daddy was a hero for a moment as he caught a fly bare handed to try to feed the plants, but alas, the fly was not stunned enough & flew away.

All right. There are plenty more photos, but I am off to bed.

Grace & Peace,

Thursday, February 16, 2012

{Downers Grove Photography} Meet our flower girl!

Here is our flower girl, all grown up! She came to Downers Grove last fall for her senior pictures to be taken.

In the fall she is off to Akron, Ohio to play soccer for the college!

Love those blue eyes!

Love the green grass & the colors she chose to wear.

I am thinking this shot should be an Adidas ad!

Congrats & may all your dreams come true!

Grace & Peace,

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Be Mine & a Valentine's Sale

Happy Valentine's Day!
Today we celebrate love and the beautiful gift it is. I for one am incredibly blessed to have an awesome hubby who lives out what true love is day by day.

We finally saw the movie UP this past weekend, and I have to say it is definitely one of the most romantic movies ever. {Those writers & artists are AMAZING on soooo many levels}

Anyways, I was already crying at the opening scene where they are shown meeting, falling in love, and growing old together hand in hand. Then near the end where he discovers the "rest of her story" {sorry if i just gave away a huge part of the movie} filled with the true adventures of life together had me hysterical.

It hit me not only because of the sweetness of the story, but also because I am a world traveller at heart. I mean, this world God has made is so amazing and we only have one life, so why not SEE it?! Before we had kids we had many great adventures to Moscow, Switzerland, Paris, as well as camping trips out west. I also have a "someday" list of places I would like to see.

Somewhere in the movie someone {I think the cute little kid?} says a line about how memories in life are made in the boring stuff and I have to just smile at that wisdom.

Since having kids our new adventure has begun, full of the little ordinary but sweet moments full of a deeper love I could have never dreamed of. To some our life may look mundane, but I would not trade our after dinner dance parties, bike rides, walks in the forests, farmer's market for chocolate croissants {and, you know, healthy stuff too}, snuggle story time traditions for anything in the world.

My adventure and my heart is with you my hubby!

OK, enough about me, now what about my love for YOU?! I too want to show my customers the love they deserve as they have been so great in helping make my dreams come true. Today is the last day to receive 14% off any purchase in my store & feel free to even combine it with the BUY 3 get the 4th FREE 8x10 fine art offer!

Just enter LOVE14 in the coupon code section of the ETSY checkout!

Happy Valentine's Day! May you know true love always.

Grace & Peace,