Sand Flat Campground

Sand Flat Campground

So, it’s been quite a while! I meant to update and do a post about the wedding, but when we got back from the honeymoon life was in full swing again! Here’s just a little bit of an update:

  • I finished my Clear Credential Program and am just waiting on the paperwork to process at the CTC.
  • Joel started school for his HVAC-R Certification
  • I finished my fifth year of teaching

Yup, that’s about it! It doesn’t seem like a lot in that list, but it sure felt like it!

As a few of our wedding gifts, we got camping gear (yay!). Joel and I both grew up camping and love it. He has only tent camped, while I’ve camped in a tent, fifth wheel, and RV. I like all of them for different reasons and different places. I probably would have liked the RV or fifth wheel better where we were, as it turns out.

If you remember, last June we went backpacking in the Emigrant Wilderness. We camped in a similar area, just on a different freeway. Last year I had NO worries about bears and this year, well, it was different. I attribute it to Luka being with us. It was Luka’s first time camping and he thoroughly enjoyed the new smells, sights, and relaxing in the dirt.

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Is this camping yet?

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Are we there yet?

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This is a long drive…

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I will guard these chairs from all that crosses this path! Except bears… I won’t fight bears.

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Luka on the lookout

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A pup and his sappy branch

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He didn’t want his peanut butter filled bone; he preferred dirt and sticks instead. Noted.

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I’m going to drive us into the forest to catch some squirrels!

Our campsite was a walk-in and I loved it! It was so beautiful and right next to an almost-bursting stream with fast flowing snow run-off. We brought Tim, Joel’s dad, along and he had a great time!

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The view

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The tent!

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The hammock! #eno

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I spent most of my time reading theology books with Luka tied next to me.

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Luka and his favorite person, Daddy

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I call this one The Inner Boy Escapes

Dinner the first night was great! Well, all the meals were great, thanks to Pinterest! I like food a LOT, so of course we had to eat in style. We had roasted veggies with sausage the first night, egg casserole foil packs (of which I forgot to snap a photo), Dutch Oven nachos, and then lunch both days was lunch meat, cheese, and veggies. We also had yummy snacks like freeze dried fruit, pistachios (one of the few kind of nut I can eat), and sweet potato chips. Joel was a HUGE fan of the foil packet meals since he does the dishes at home ūüėČ

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Roasted veggies and sausage

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Nachos pre-cooking

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The finished product

So, earlier I mentioned bears. NO, we didn’t see (or hear) any bears. The first night, right off the bat, I had a terrible and realistic nightmare about a bear trying (ha! Trying.. Bears would just swipe through) to swipe through the tent to get Luka. It was so realistic that when it woke me, I saw a shadow on the tent side and was convinced it was a bear with its muzzle to the corner of the tent. I scooted Luka and his bed closer to me and woke up Joel by hitting his face. I was aiming for his shoulder, but there’s only so much you can do half asleep, in the dark, and facing the other direction. I swear, I could even hear the bear sniffing. I told Joel there was a bear and he was shocked. I said, “I remember the ranger said to be loud to scare the bears away. Should we be loud?” Joel asked the question, “Did you actually see the bear?” This got me to bravely sneak to the edge of the tent where there was a ventilation flap and look out, fully expecting to see the brown fur of a bear right under my nose. To my relief, I just saw the string for the sun cover and tree. I collapsed shaking and crying with relief. Joel was also relieved, but a bit irritated since I woke him from a dead sleep with incredibly fearsome news. He comforted me and I fell back asleep.

I’m not sure how much later, I woke needing to go to the bathroom. I decided I’d go to the actual vault toilet and take the lantern with me. I wish I hadn’t! I started walking toward the bathroom and saw a huge mass in the campsite next to ours… I slowly and quietly backed to our tent and got in. For a second time, I woke Joel and told him there was a bear. Now he was irritated. He got out and went to look at the “bear”. Well… It turns out his dad got uncomfortable sleeping in the hammock and went to sleep on the table in the next campsite. PHEW! That was an emotional night, let me tell you! I didn’t think twice about bears when we were backpacking, so I can only guess that it was because we had sweet little Lu with us this time. Who knows, really. We weren’t nearly as far into the forest. Last time we hiked five miles in! This time we were right by the road, maybe 1/4 mile away.

The only full day we had at the campsite we went up to a hiking trail and this mountain that looks like a glacier when there’s ice on it. Joel was excited because he wanted to see Luka run in the wild and he and his dad also hiked there when Joel was younger.

Well, the path was flooded and would’ve required me (and Luka) getting ankle+ deep in stagnant water. I hate having wet socks, so Luka and I waited in the car. Not much longer later, the guys came back because the trail was closed by a huge felled tree and a rushing river of snow melt. Before we left the area, we had Tim take a “family” photo of us with Luka boy.

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Overall, the trip was amazing! We loved being in the outdoors with each other as well as just relaxing. Even at home on the weekends, there isn’t much of a distraction free zone. We had no cell service, no computers, no homework, nothing. I do wish we had brought Rivals for Catan and Risk so we had SOMETHING to do. Joel played with the fire and I took naps! Ha! I’m so boring. You know it’s a good trip when the dog crashes HARD in the car. He slept so hard that his fur around his mouth was all discombobulated and sticking every which way.

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Luka and me as we got ready to go home (and I sipped some much needed coffee!). The look on his face shows his sadness at the thought of leaving.

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Sleepy Lu

We are now HOOKED on camping! If you have any favorite DOG-FRIENDLY camping places in Northern California, PLEASE comment below or email me! We’d love to hear about the place and check it out! I’d also love to hear your favorite recipes! Thanks for reading! I’ll leave you with a few beautiful views (and one picture of us) from Donnell’s Lookout on the way home. It just absolutely blows my mind how beautiful God’s great earth is, and how lucky we are to live on it.

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What is man that You are mindful of him, and the on of man that You visit him? Psalm 8:4

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I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

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Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. Psalm 90:2

Welcoming 2017 with Open Arms

Welcoming 2017 with Open Arms

Well, you’ve heard it, read it, and probably even said it: 2016 was not the best year. I disagree with that, many great things happened in 2016 for people within my circle and me, however, I can see where people are coming from. Two-thousand and sixteen brought much loss, grief, and change for many. Before you make your New Year’s Resolutions (and completely forget about them by mid-February at the latest), take this to thought for a moment.

While 2016 was a rough year, part of it falls on each and every one of us. While we can’t control everything that happens, we certainly can control how we react. Situations aside, we can always control how we treat other people. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the “meanness” in the world. There’s a lot. No one can deny that. Could it be that we are meaner, not just those other people? When is the last time you’ve said hi to¬†and/or smiled at a complete stranger? Helped someone with their groceries? Picked up a piece of trash that *GASP* wasn’t yours? Asked someone how they were doing and really sat to listen to their real answer? Looked at someone and seen them as what they are: an eternal and worthy human being? I wish I could say I’ve done all of those things every time, but I haven’t, and if I were a betting woman, I’d bet you haven’t either. There’s no shame in that. We’ve all gotten so busy that we are only focused on our goals, our dreams, our letdowns, etc. We forget to treat others with kindness and then look what we get from that… an unkind world.

Celebrity deaths are sad. This is what has actually prompted this post more than anything else. What gets my goad is this: are celebrities really that much more important than anyone else? People die every day. Children die every day. We don’t seem to be bothered by that. No, it’s a world away. It’s in a place where they don’t speak English or perhaps worship the same God as us. Their skin might be a different color and we may think their values are wacky. So no, we don’t don our sackcloth and ashes for these people killed daily.¬†A celebrity dies of old age, complications due to abusing their bodies for so long, or by their own hands and we mourn and weep in the streets for days, if not longer. I won’t pretend I wasn’t sad when Alan Rickman died.¬†He was a¬†man I’d never met, nor did I particularly enjoy his character in the Harry Potter series… but I was sad. Do I mourn like that over the child killed when a building collapsed on him while he was sleeping? What about when the little girl was murdered for a blood price her parents couldn’t pay? What about the child whose life was stolen by being sold into sex slavery? I guarantee you I do not mourn enough over these circumstances. Lately I’ve paid more thought to them than any celebrity death, but still not enough.

When celebrities die, we cry and make a fuss and commemorate our favorite movies of theirs. Then we move on. Their families move on. Life goes on. When children are killed day in and day out, we don’t bat an eye. It’s not here, on our soil, so why should we care? Their parents were likely terrorists, good riddance. If they wanted out, they should have left. And where to, might I ask? Anyways, we can’t do much. We can’t do much in our own country, let alone help a crisis we don’t understand across an ocean and half a continent. I get overwhelmed even trying to think about it. Where could my small monetary amount go that would bring forth the most help?

That question brought me to my phrase for this coming year. Do small things with great love.mother teresa

This was uttered by none other than Mother Teresa, who many would argue did large things with great love. I can’t change the world. I can’t change laws (I can write to legislators and make my voice be heard). I can’t end world hunger (I can donate toward causes). I can’t end child slavery (I can donate toward causes and support ministries that do). I can’t end wars. I can’t stop ISIS. But I can do small things with great love. I can contribute my small bits with much love to help end all of these things. I, by myself, certainly cannot. But we, as a collective and determined unit, can.

As we head in to a new year, don’t focus on how much 2016 just “wasn’t your year” or how certain terrible things happened. Instead, focus on what you can do to make next year better. Focus on the little things you can do with great love. I’d love to hear your ideas and goals!

Why Daniel?

For about the past five or six months, I’ve been following the Daniel Plan. Some of you may know this, some of you may not. I tried Paleo back in May/June, and it was just too expensive and time consuming for me. I couldn’t spend half an hour making each meal of the day every week, and I couldn’t afford only organic and choice cut foods. I felt defeated and started looking for food plans that would incorporate my special food needs. You see, about three years ago I became violently intolerant to peanuts and almonds. It seemed out of the blue. The doctors said there was nothing wrong (trust me, there was!), so I tried my own treatment of digestive enzymes and probiotics. I ate a few peanuts yesterday and haven’t been sick yet… So we will see! Anyways, Paleo is very nut and banana based. I don’t eat nuts because of the aforementioned reason, and bananas just aren’t my thing. So, I was limited. With my frustration, I looked and found the Daniel Plan.

If you, or anyone you know, has struggled with an eating disorder, then you know the toll it can take on one’s body. I lived with an active eating disorder for over ten years. It sucked. It was my identity. In the process of recovering, one will go through different stages with food. One of those stages is love… and you don’t say no. You just eat whatever and whenever because you’re so happy to no longer be bound to certain foods or certain times with certain rules. That leads to great weight gain, but is part of the process, or at least has been part of mine multiple times. With becoming fully healthy, I’ve noticed the weird things that I’ll live with for the rest of my life. Losing weight is incredibly difficult. I would eat healthy (and low calorie amounts that are recommended for desired weight-loss) and exercise moderately and not lose anything. ¬†When I went on Daniel, it worked for me. As long as I stick to no complex carbs and processed sugars, the weight stays off. At first, I thought it was daunting. No dairy? No sugar? How was I to drink my coffee every morning? No Doritos??! But, I’d been wanting to lose extra weight for a long time with no success, so I jumped in.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It actually was pretty easy! I already ate relatively healthy, so it was just cutting out a few key players and replacing them: dairy and cheese, processed sugar, breads. The craziest thing wasn’t how easy it was to transition… The easiest thing was continuing. I felt like a new person when I cut out those key players and replaced them. I had more energy, I wasn’t as lethargic, I was happier. All things I thought were just hocus-pocus from the advertisers. Well, they weren’t! I feel a huge difference when I do eat complex carbs (breads, cookies), 0r processed sugars. I am sluggish and more irritable. It’s really insane!

Daniel Plan is not a “diet”. It’s not a fad. It’s how I plan on living ¬†my eating life for the remainder of my days. It’s fun, there’s variety, it is not incredibly overpriced (like paleo), and it fits my restricted dietary needs. Heck, my shellfish allergy isn’t even an issue since shellfish are on the avoid list! Haha! If you’re looking to lose some weight or just FEEL better, look in to the Daniel Plan. Here are a few of the simple swaps I made:

  • Coconut milk and honey in coffee (you can also do almond milk, I just can’t)
  • Zucchini noodles (spiralize them and sautee in olive oil)
  • Eggs for breakfast
  • More fruit!
  • Lettuce wrapped meats
  • Quinoa
  • Drinking only water or unsweetened tea (iced or hot!) If you really need something in your tea, you can put honey or coconut milk. I’m not sure how the coconut milk would taste, nor how honey would go in iced tea…

The first week was slightly challenging, but nothing like the first week of Paleo. It was actually a relief from that! Please feel free to ask any questions you may have. Best of luck to you with your endeavors of health and FEELING healthy! Numbers aren’t everything. Weight shouldn’t control you. Being healthy and feeding my body in a way that benefits it is one of the most rewarding things I can do.

Here are some links you may find helpful (I do not receive anything for leading you to these links. I just want to be helpful!)

www.danielplan.com

*If you LOVE junk food, you can survive! Joel loves to eat… ANYTHING. He likes to eat out (except the belt it puts on his bank account!) and he hasn’t disliked a Daniel Plan meal yet. He’s been brutally honest about some things I cook, so it’s safe for your junk food junkies too. It’ll probably take them a bit more time to adjust to the no chips. Popcorn is allowed, so there’s that!

‘Tis the Season!

Last night Joel (and Luka) and I had probably my favorite date night so far. We decorated for Christmas! It was grand. Joel did all the stuff I hate doing (ok, mostly just putting up the tree. The branches give me scratches). He did a fabulous job at separating the branches, too!

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So, I made dinner, as usual. We had Whole 30 crock pot red sauce, pasta (oops, not Daniel approved), roasted carrots, and Texas toast (also not Daniel approved). It was pretty good if I do say so myself! Luka must have thought it smelled good too, since he wouldn’t stop staring at us. I never feed him from the table, so it boggles me that he even tries to beg.

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After that we decorated the tree that Joel had prepared while I readied dinner. We had Elf playing while decorating. Then we sat down and watched a bit of Elf. See, I’m go-go-go, and Joel likes to enjoy the ride. I wanted to jump right in the second part, but he reminded me it’s okay to slow down (as usual, which is a good thing!). We watched up through the Santa scene and then went to our next activity: gingerbread house making!

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I had never done this before, and it’s safe to say that I will be okay if I never do it again. It wasn’t terrible, but two perfectionists making a gingerbread house really drags out the process. At one point in time, Joel held the roof together for five minutes (at least) so that the frosting would solidify and stop sliding. About an hour later we had our finished product. It was perfect timing for Joel to go home.

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I’m not sure why this was my favorite date night, but it was. I guess because we started new traditions. We decorated together, have matching stockings, and did something new. Christmastime is my favorite time. I love the magic about it. I love¬†what it¬†stands for. I love reflecting on my Savior and His¬†miraculous birth. I loved preparing for it with my¬†favorite human being, too. ūüôā Luka¬†didn’t like that we didn’t pay too much attention to him, but he enjoyed looking at the gingerbread house once it was finished!familypic

 

Give Thanks

Oh, boy, another post about being thankful and why I should be and a guilt-inducing post.

Nope! Giving thanks can be HARD. It can be hard when things are rough– when you’ve lost your job, a spouse, a family member. It can be hard when things are good. We don’t often sit and think about what is so great about our lives, regardless of our current situation. The holidays can be really hard for some people. If that’s you, I’m sorry and you have my love and prayers (I’m not just saying that!)

As tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking a lot of about being thankful. I’ve been reflecting on how well I’m doing at being thankful, but also how I’ve been in the past. I’ve not always been the most grateful or thankful person. The past few holiday seasons were actually pretty rough. They weren’t rough because of money troubles or relationship troubles. They were rough because they brought me face to face with how different my life was from how I wanted it to be. All you singles out there who want to get married, I feel you. All you singles out there who DON’T want to get married, I feel you. This season marks a season for you of being asked, almost relentlessly by well-wishers, if you’re seeing anyone, why you aren’t, if you want to marry, why you don’t, what are you doing to change your situation. These aren’t hurtful things from the start, but they carry that reminder that your life isn’t how you want it to be, or how it goes against the grain of society. Those are hard things. If you’re recently divorced or widowed, I feel you (empathetically only, not from experience). May God be your strength to get through this on your own. If you’re going through something else difficult, I feel for you (empathetically again). I’m praying for you. If you’re a family member of someone like that, maybe ask how they’re doing and see where they take the conversation instead of asking pointed, possibly hurtful questions.

Anyways, back to being thankful. Last year I was really struggling with being thankful, so I made a jar and put something I was thankful for in it each day from November 1 to December 31. I looked through it today, and some of the things were as basic as, “I have a roof over my head,” while others were more complex such as, “I have a job I enjoy and can watch children thrive.” What was on the pieces of paper doesn’t really matter as much as the heart behind it. I’m not trying to minimize ANYONE’S pain or situation, but we always have at least one thing for which we can be thankful: life. It may not be the life we dreamed, but as long as we take breath, we have a chance to change it.

As you meet up with family (or maybe you don’t) tomorrow, try to remember that you have much for which to be thankful. Don’t dwell on whose presidential candidate won or how whose sports team is doing better, or who’s got more saved up in the bank, or who has the newest car… rather, dwell on the fact that you’re alive, possibly with people you love (family or otherwise), and have another day to draw breath. We don’t all have the same views, but we can all be thankful.

Now that I’ve talked all this talk, here are a few things for which I’m most thankful this year:

  • Luka- he keeps me on my toes!
  • Joel- he shows me that some risks are worth taking and that he’s in¬†it¬†for the long-haul, regardless of how sassy¬†I get.
  • salvation- duh
  • my job- love it!
  • my coworkers- love them!
  • friends- they keep me going
  • family- I shudder to think where I’d be without them
  • my junior girls (say whaaat!)- hey girls!! See you Tuesday!
  • living in a country where I can vote- at least I can have a say, no matter how small.
  • being able to live my faith without fear of persecution- yup
  • brisk fall walks- there’s something soothing about the chill on my face and seeing leaves on the ground.
  • good books- I can’t read enough!
  • coffee- “The lifeblood of champions.” -Will Ferrell

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I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and are able to take some time to reflect on things, people, places,¬†or situations¬†for which you’re thankful!

 

Coupon Time!

This isn’t a real post, but I’m a sucker for a deal. I plan on using Amazon for most Christmas gifts (AmazonSmile benefitting Vineyard Christian Middle School, Lodi to be exact!) this year. Get the app and save $5 with my code on your first purchase! You’re welcome ūüôā
You can also view Joel’s and my registry on Amazon! 
Luka says hi! 

What Do We Tell the Children?

What Do We Tell the Children?

This has been a question I’ve seen circulating since early Wednesday morning. What do we tell the children indeed?

Regardless of where you stand politically (or with this election, since many people “changed sides” or didn’t vote at all), there is plenty to tell the children. We can start with the basics

  1. Tell them to love others even if they disagree with those people.
  2. Violence is never the answer.
  3. There is good and bad in all of us, what matters is which you choose to feed.
  4. You can’t always get your way.
  5. Calling names will never help a situation.
  6. Light shines brightest in the darkness.
  7. You are loved, period.

These are just seven of countless things we can tell the children. Notice that none of those things demean or discriminate against any other person. If we focus on the root of the problem (which shockingly ISN’T who was elected, and IS on the devaluing of human life and souls), then we can fix a larger problem. A problem far greater than that of who will enter the White House next year. This problem is one that has to do with respect. In case it’s still confusing, I’ll break it down a bit further.

  1. Tell them to love others even if they disagree with those people. This is HUGE. It seems that love has become synonymous with agreement these days. That’s not the case. And in order to love someone, you do NOT have to agree with everything they think. You can respect a person, their beliefs aside, because they are another human being. They have a soul. You can respect them because they have life in their lungs and worth in their being. What you believe or don’t believe doesn’t make you better or worse than someone else. Skin color, country of origin, religious beliefs and practices… none of those should give you worth in the eyes of another. The fact that your heart is beating and you are a human should be what gives you worth and calls others to treat you with dignity, and you to treat them with dignity as well.
  2. Violence is never the answer. I feel like this is taught when kids are little, but then it is not reinforced as they grow older. You can be angry. You can be upset. But destroying someone else’s property isn’t giving your cause any credence. In fact, it’s diminishing it. Use words. Peacefully protest. Burning things down or killing people only makes you look like you can’t use your words and it denigrates what you’re trying to communicate.
  3. There is good and bad in all of us, what matters is what you choose to feed. I swapped some words from Sirius Black when talking to Harry Potter in The Order of the Phoenix for¬†this one. I’m sure other people have coined this phrase too, so I don’t know where to give credit. The bottom line is, we all have good and bad. If we focus on the bad (being angry, yelling, throwing things, calling names) then that will be what shines forth. If we focus on the good (calmly sharing our concerns, lifting others up, being kind), the that will shine forth.
  4. You can’t always get your way. If I had my way, someone not even on the ballot would be getting ready to go live in the White House and lead our country. But that’s not what happened. When you don’t get your way,¬† you can’t throw a fit. It’s life. You don’t get your way a lot of times. You don’t always receive 100%. You don’t pay what you think you should for food or bills or Disneyland tickets. You don’t hit every green light. You get stuck behind a train. Along those lines, you don’t always get the person in the White House that you wanted. America voted. They voted for Trump. You may argue that no, the electoral college voted for Trump. Hillary won the popular vote. Well, that goes both ways. Back in 2000, Gore had more popular votes than Bush, but Bush won the electoral college. I thought there was another time with the Obama Administration that this happened, but my research is coming up blank, so I won’t put anything I can’t prove!
  5. Calling names will never help a situation. I feel like this is a no brainer. Anthony Watts said, “When you resort to name-calling, you’ve lost the argument.” Likewise, Elbert Hubbard stated, “If you can’t answer a man’s arguments, all is not lost; you can still call him vile names.” Calling names and pointing fingers only heightens a situation. Let us not do this. Instead, let us calmly talk about our differences and respect the other if only for this reason: they are a fellow human being inhabiting this planet alongside you.
  6. Light shines brightest in the darkness. See my previous post for more on that.
  7. You are loved, period. You are a human. You are a child of God, whether you ascribe to believing that or not. You have intrinsic worth. You are important. You are loved. You are beautiful. Regardless of what someone says to you, YOU ARE LOVED.

So, while there are a lot of questions from children, we can affirm them with at least the last one. They are loved. Remind them of that. Show them that. In these uncertain times of change, hold fast to what you know. You know that you have worth and every other human has worth too. Go out and love people, even if you disagree with them. Love them even if they don’t love you back. Just love.

Scary Times, Big God

Scary Times, Big God

I feel like I’ve heard this saying many times since I turned 18. It probably has been around longer than that, but I just wasn’t aware since I wasn’t of voting age. No matter who is President, Jesus is King.

With the impending election tomorrow, I can’t think of a time in my life that the American people have been more polarized. I could be wrong. I’m young. I don’t remember much of the early 90s. I do remember the elections of 2008 and 2012. I voted in them. Hillary Clinton came to my college campus in 2011. But even still, I don’t remember things being as tense as they are now. There’s a lot at stake tomorrow. It doesn’t matter what political party you ascribe to, there’s a lot at stake.

Christians are up in arms about for whom to vote. Who is the “lesser evil”? Who will honor our beliefs? I think we’ve got it wrong. Many wise people have pointed to this, and while it makes me uncomfortable, I believe it’s true. Christianity thrives under oppression. Regardless of who becomes president, there will be issues and rights cut and laws made that infringe upon beliefs. Not just Christian beliefs, either. We are at a time where you’re assumed to be either ALL one or ALL the other, and you can’t be partially anything else. This isn’t accurate and it isn’t how the world works.

Of course, I’m speaking from the Christian standpoint since that is where I am, but I know that the stakes are high regardless of what you believe or what lifestyle you live. Please forgive my one-sidedness, but I’ll be speaking to the followers of Christ as a follower of Christ. These times are scary. Either political candidate is scary.* But let’s take a step back and look at what it means for a greater purpose. If we are limited on what we can do or say, God will move in that. Look at the oppressed churches in other nations. They’re thriving! Regardless if who becomes president tomorrow, God is still in control. God can work through any limitation. Has a law ever stopped Him before? While we need to vote, God will not be hindered by whoever becomes President of the United States. God will work in that. Regardless of how dark we think either candidate may make the world, Light shines in the darkness. In fact, the darker it is, the better we can see the Light.

So, I challenge you, Christian, instead of fretting about the future of our nation and our rights (as worrisome as it is and therefore easy to do), think of the ways God can move through you in this. Allow yourself to be a vessel. Show love. Show kindness. Stand for what is righteous and pure. Do not bend. Stand on the Rock that is Christ, your firm foundation. If we rely on Him, nothing can shake us. If we lose rights, Christ will be glorified (hopefully) in our attitudes. If we can’t stand for what is pure, just, and true¬†based on the law, we can in our actions and in our words.

Regardless of who is elected tomorrow, Jesus is King. Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give everything else to God. God has seen the world through until now. Neither candidate scares Him. He created them both in their mothers’ wombs. He knows their most intimate thoughts, fears, dreams, and desires. God is God no matter who becomes the political face of America. In that I take hope.¬†In that, I pray you take hope too. God will not be limited or stopped by any law, any person, or any country. Let us not forget how BIG He truly is, and let our fears melt away knowing that we serve Him who created ALL things and knows ALL things. Amen.

*I believe both candidates are not the best choice. If you believe otherwise, that is fine. Please do not berate me because our opinions differ. Thank you for the mutual respect ūüôā

Four Years of Luka

Well, I’m a few days late, but I can’t believe I’ve had Luka for four years! Looking back, I can see it was one of the first big leaps of faith I took. Taking that leap led me to being able to take subsequent leaps (Kigoma by myself, saying yes to dating Joel, saying yes to marrying Joel) and has greatly improved my faith over all.

How? He’s just a dog! Yes, but he’s a dog with a huge personality. If you’ve met him, you know. He also was a big responsibility when I was still trying to figure out what it meant to “adult” and have my first career job. When my sister (who found him) sent me a picture of this little fluffer and said, “Mom said you can have him!” I was annoyed. I didn’t live with Mom and I was overwhelmed! But I was also thinking, “Awww, how cute! How could anyone kick that little peanut?” My sister told me she was coming to town the coming Friday with him and dropping him off.

Over the past four years I’ve learned a lot about patience. I wouldn’t have classified myself as a patient person prior to having Lu, and I wouldn’t say I’m super patient now, but I’m way more patient than I was! I’ve learned so much from owning and caring for a dog. I’d like to fool myself into thinking that now I’m better prepared for parenthood, but clearly being a dog owner and a parent are VERY different and in two different leagues!

In celebration of having this sweet and sassy furball, I thought I’d share some of my favorite photos from throughout the years. If you’ve been my friend on Facebook, I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing Luka evolve into a healthy and secure pup as much as I have! I also wonder if you’ve noticed how I’ve matured since having him. Hm! I didn’t realize he had changed me until I sat down to think about it one a day a few years ago. Anyways, on to the pics!

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Luka’s first Christmas! This picture features the ORIGINAL Rudy and a stocking I have since lost. The penguin shirt he’s wearing was a -for-adorable and I was so sad when he outgrew it!

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Silly fluffy Lu!

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This was shortly after I got Luka and realized he needed a Thunder Shirt while I was gong at work. This picture reminds me of those little wind up toy dogs that did flips!

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The left shows Luka right when I got him and the right shows him a year later! It’s crazy what regular walks, brushing, and food can do for a dog!

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He thought he was hiding with Rudy and wouldn’t be put in his kennel…

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The kennel: a fate worse than death because it used to mean Mom was leaving. He’s been “free range” in my room since May now.

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Luka’s second (or third?) Christmas!

I'm crazy!

I’m crazy!

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This is what he does when I try to read my Bible on the bed. He also hijacked that blanket I received as a gift. It’s been his since the moment it was washed! -_-

All in all, Luka and I have seen some hard times. He took FOREVER to potty train. He was a fussy little prince when he got fixed (I had to feed him by hand to get him to eat). I had some very low points in my personal life. Luka has witnessed loneliness, joy, stress, serenity, and insane busyness. He has had three Rudies. Rudy was his first toy. A big Rudolph reindeer. When that one died I tried to throw it away, but Luka sat outside the trash cabinet and whined for hours. I gutted Rudy and gave him back. After he had to be dead and gone for real, I got a different toy. Nothing sticks like a Rudolph toy. We are on our third and it looks different than the other two, but Luka loves his Rudy! He was at the vet more often than not as a pup since he couldn’t keep anything out of his mouth. He’s eaten an entire giant snickerdoodle (from my purse, but saved me the cellophane), a steak, a plate of chocolate chip cookies (by jumping on the table with no help from a chair), silica gel beads, cabinets, plastic kennels, remotes, and more I can’t remember. He’s been to Apple Hill, Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Fransisco, all around Lodi, and Sacramento. He wishes he has been to Kigoma! Maybe someday, little pup. I’m so thankful for the many life lessons God has taught me through pet ownership and the countless joys He has brought me through this happy dog.

TV Didn’t Just Kill The Radio Star

TV Didn’t Just Kill The Radio Star

This isn’t going to be popular. I’m not a parent and I’m NOT anti-TV. As an educator and a human being, I’ve realized that imagination levels¬†are low. This isn’t making jabs at anyone or placing blame anywhere. Well, except for maybe on TV. Now, I enjoy TV. I love it, even. My idea of winding down is watching “The Office” or “Parks and Rec” before bed. No one in their right mind, save God Himself, can convince me that watching Harry Potter is a bad idea. BUT watching TV and movies (and playing video games. My gamer fiance may disown me for that statement)¬†does impact one’s ability to imagine.

I didn’t come to this conclusion lightly. I’ve observed imaginations die. I’ve noticed it in myself, but also in day to day interactions. How? As an English teacher, I tried giving some of the same prompts I was given as a child. A favorite was always: You’ve discovered a previously unknown planet. It is inhabited. Explain the life on the planet to scientists back on Earth. My first year teaching I was so excited to give this assignment! Much to my dismay, the students couldn’t think of much. They just retold the story of ET. I thought maybe it was because aliens are “out” and now it’s zombies. I tried something along those lines. No dice. When I asked my students what the deal was, they said it was just too hard to think of something like that. These students weren’t poor writers or poor students. On the contrary, they could write an expository essay or a research report with ease. I even tried having them do a writing assignment from the view of Gollum in¬†The Hobbit. They said it was too hard!

What? Then I started evaluating myself and my creativity. It was found to be lacking. Hmm. I had recently started watching more TV. Netflix is a blessing and a burden in that sense! I stopped watching TV at night and decided to read more. As I did that, I noticed my creativity and critical thinking skills increased. Hmm.So, why is this the case? I believe that watching TV and movies and playing video games instead of reading deadens creativity for one main reason: you don’t have to imagine anything. It’s all fed right to you. The sounds. The sights. The ideas. One could argue that you can take a piece of film and break it down. I agree. We do this in my classes. But really, how many people do that? I wouldn’t do it on my own! I’m willing to stick my neck out and say that your average person, regardless of age, wouldn’t either.

If you don’t have to picture what the characters look like and sound like, or the scenery, you’re really just being fed. You’re being fed what the director pictured. How many of you watched a movie based on a book you loved and were outraged at a character choice? Emma Watson was a great Hermione, but she was wayyy too pretty! Even in the beginning! Where were the bucked teeth and unruly¬†hair? Where was an almost dutiful-borderline-obsessive need to follow and enforce rules? Daniel Radcliffe. Great Harry Potter. Wrong eye color. Lily had green eyes. I’m sure there are other examples, but that’s the strongest that comes to mind. If you never read the books, you wouldn’t know how these things fall short. When you read, you picture the characters and setting. I firmly believe this is a good thing. It exercises your imagination. Without imagination, life is boring. When you’re bored, you watch TV or a movie or play video games. These things fill that “creativity void” with no effort on your own part.

It is proven that good readers picture what they read as they read it (Wilson and Conyers). They make their own kind of movie. This requires imagination. When we become so used to getting images and sound effects given to us, we are frustrated when we have to come up with them on our own. Many readers who struggle tend to skip this part. But then they struggle because they don’t have anything to remember what they read. They don’t have the image or picture or scene played out in their memory.

The brain is a muscle. Well, an organ, really, but it needs to be used. Just like muscles, if organs aren’t used, they become weaker. If we don’t stimulate certain parts of our brains, those parts wither and die. Think of someone who has been bedridden for a long period of time. The unused muscles atrophy. The same thing happens to our imaginations. If we don’t use them, they atrophy. I’m not against watching TV and movies, or kids watching TV and movies. I’m not against video games. But I am saddened by the dulling of the mind that occurs when we do those things too much. When I become a parent someday, I hope that I remember these sentiments and monitor screen time and keep it at a minimum. I hope I make my kids go play at the park and encourage them to envision dragons and shipwrecks or alien invaders. I hope I foster a love for reading and using their imaginations (I hope this for my interactions with my students, too!). May we as educators, parents, care-givers, and human beings encourage others and ourselves to do the hard work of imagining and picturing things while reading.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this!

Work Cited

Wilson, Donna¬†and Marcus Conyers. “Brain Movies: When Readers Can Picture It, They Understand It.”¬†Edutopia. 20 May 2014. 22 October 2016. <https://www.edutopia.org/blog/brain-movies-visualize-reading-comprehension-donna-wilson>