Monday, July 16, 2012

Gotta love a Giveaway!!

I can't think of a single person I know that doesn't love winning awesome new things at giveaways, can you? So unless you fall into that category (in which case WHY THE HECK NOT?? lol) listen up, because I'm here to announce another great opportunity to win something!

My good friend Casey, over at K See Images is a very talented, up-and-coming local photographer and she is so very generously celebrating reaching 500 fans on her Facebook fan page by giving away a free mini-session! Valued at $50, this one-person, half-hour photo shoot can be done anywhere locally, and you even get some prints from it. Definitely an opportunity to be taken advantage of!

Even more fun, she asked me to team up with her on this giveaway and so along with the photo-shoot package the winner will also receive a custom-made Oli J Accessories hat of their choice, crocheted by yours truly. How fun is that? Like I said, an awesome chance to win awesome stuff!!! :)

Entering couldn't be simpler. If you are already a fan, simply like the status on her page that shows this picture:

You can get directly to that link by clicking on her business name above, or by clicking here . Just scroll down and in a few short seconds you'll have yourself the easiest entry ever!
{I should note, that while you're on there, you can go ahead and show us both some Facebook love by "liking" our pages if you already haven't! lol}

Want to see a sample of this sharp shooter's work? I have used her both personally, as well as professionally, so I'll throw in a few of both and you can see just how talented she really is! And remember, this giveaway closes tonight, so head on over and get in on the action!

Until next time,
Crystle :)

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~As promised, here are some family photos as well as product photos that Casey has done for me. She is very versatile, and always excited to try new things - something very refreshing in a photographer! I hope you enjoy her work as much as we do!!~

Family Photos this spring. We told her we wanted a field/barn type of feel, and she found us the perfect place that was nearby and very child friendly!

And for some great product shots, I've used her again and again because she seems to find just what to do with anything I make!

As you can plainly see, she is very talented and going to go very far in this business! My favorite thing about her isn't her eye, it's her heart toward the people she's working with. Show her some love, get in on the giveaway, and maybe you'll find yourself booking her for your next event or family photo session!!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Keep your chin up, and keep to your own plow!

"So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless." 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NLT)

I absolutely hate competition. I was not born with a competitive nature, and was completely run over by those who were for a good part of my life. My world exists of multiple realms in which there are fleshly opportunities for pride and competition to come into play. And, in the past, it has, and has nearly destroyed me internally. Pride (both in the form of having too much as well as having too little) so easily gets in the way of us doing our best at that which we're called to; it makes it difficult to remember why we're there, and Who we're there for.

Two things I know: regardless of what I choose to do in life, there will always be someone who does the same thing and thinks they're better than me, and there will always be someone who does the same thing and is better than me. The important thing is not to waste a lot of time being pointlessly discouraged because of confusing the two groups. Most of the time the they don't mix; most of the time the latter doesn't have time to remind someone of their inferiority, they're too busy simply doing what they do.

Have you experienced this before? The nagging, insulting, or condescension of people who seem to thrive on constantly reminding you that they're superior, even if they're not? Or have you been that person yourself to someone else? I have done both, and they proved to be equally miserable. My encouragement - both to you and to myself - is to simply get off that path, and get back to the "plowing" you have been called to do. Don't look back, don't look to the right or the left, but keep at it. (And sometimes turning off your computer, and having a blindfold or pair of ear plugs can be handy in this!) ;)

Regardless of what it is you've been called to do, if you're working wholeheartedly and ultimately for the Lord, He will sustain you, with vision and energy to do the work, and success and good fruit as a result. And remember, success comes in many different forms, so don't ever think that because you may not be the "best" at what you do, that you're invaluable, or inferior to someone else. If you're being obedient to the call, there is no higher level you can achieve, and no one can restrain the blessing of God that will come to fruition accordingly. Ability is nothing when we have an all-powerful God on our side!

This isn't meant to be some long, fancy soap-box message, just an encouraging reminder (that I needed myself!) to anyone out there struggling with discouragement that they feel is unavoidable and/or inescapable. I hope it helps. 

"The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give." - Howard Cosell

I will add to that only to say that make sure He is getting the best and most of what you have to give. :)

Be blessed and encouraged today, and let me know your thoughts, quotes, or verses that have helped you fight discouragement, past or present.

Until then, I'll still be laughing. :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Less of me, now I can see!

"This is what the Lord says: "You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me. I will be found by you," says the Lord. "I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land." Jeremiah 29:10-14 (NLT)

Wow. That is quite the message to God's people, and one we should never forget. I know that often (and maybe too often if it begins to lose its meaning) we hear verse 11, where God states clearly that He has plans for us and that they are good, but how often do we really study the whole context of the promise? My pastor would be happy to know that being in bible college has totally ruined me on that one, I have to admit. I can't just take a verse out of context because it sounds good, I have to know what surrounds it in order to feel like I know if it applies or not. And this one, in its entirety, does.

When I sat down this morning (HOURS AGO, thank you very much daughters!) to write this entry, I was halfway done with a completely different one and knew I had to put the pen down. It was too much of me talking, and when "me" gets too involved, "me" messes it up! So I walked away, worked on some preparations for dinner, ate some lunch, and spent a couple hours convincing the girls it really was, in fact, nap time! {bless their hearts...} Now here I am, back at the drawing board, and feeling led to summarize so much, and expound on something else.

What really struck me about this passage while studying it and praying about it this morning wasn't actually the part of God promising to give us a future and a hope, although that of course is a key exhortation to remember always. The part that stuck out to me was the fact that, in reality, the captivity, trials, and tribulations that the people had and would go through were also a part of the plan! God wasn't saying that they'd get off easy, He was simply promising that He would bring them out of it, and when He did, He would bring total restoration to their lives. That is one beautiful promise!!!

This year, for my family, has been a lot about learning firsthand that very lesson. The year started off pretty rocky, with a very unexpected, nasty, personal attack from a family member, to some of the hardest financial times my husband and I have faced as a family and no apparent light at the end of that tunnel, to the heart-wrenching battle against disease being fought (like a champ!) by my father. It has, in fact, felt an awful lot like captivity - no escape, no respite, no healing, no air, and (if I'm being honest) at times, total abandonment.

It can be so easy during seasons like these to miss God's hand in it all, but it is in fact still there! God promised never to leave us, and He never does. Yes, we walk through fires, but He's right there beside us, and He certainly has been for my family. Upon realizing this, I also realized it was time for a  MAJOR perspective shift - rather than focusing on the trials themselves, I needed to close my eyes, and reopen them from His point of view, paying attention to the underlying growth, blessings, and answered prayers that were occurring simultaneously. Doing this shocked me to attention.

Why do we always trick ourselves into thinking we've figured out what He's got going on? lol Honestly, it's like one of Israel's cycles in Judges - so easy to fall back into even after you've already come out of it over and over again. Once I got my vision corrected, this is what I actually saw go on this year: we've been blessed with a (currently growing) third child, due to make her appearance this fall. My family has grown closer, and if anything, stronger in the Lord during the health battle with my dad. If there was ever a time where we have been given an opportunity to "put our money where our mouth is," "practice what we preach," or "be known by our fruit," now is it, and here we are, doing just that. Standing in faith for the total restoration we feel God has spoken and promised. Easy? No. But are we doing it in our own strength? Also no, which means we fight on in prayer and deed, knowing that the battle belongs to the Lord. 

Other things that have happened just when it seemed there was no escape - I quit my job and am now fully functioning (or learning to!) in the role of wife and mother that I have been called to and always wanted to be in, and after that step of faith, my husband got the job we'd been praying for since I can remember. One that covers all the bills, that "justifies" for the doubters the decision we made to bring me home. One that actually inspires him with a future and doesn't just leave him depressed and exhausted when he comes home from work every night. One that brings a lot of peace to him, and consequently, to our family. To wrap it up (and it's only July), we were also blessed within hours of him getting the job, with a house - the perfect size, location, setup, price, everything we'd been praying for!

Captivity over! It is a humbling realization when you see that no one is still captive but you - and then it's not by your actual circumstances but rather your own fleshly thoughts. Big ouch to the ego, but like I said "me" needs to be kept in line, maybe even locked away in a dungeon! Putting my pride aside, I was overwhelmed with the goodness of our God, with all the things that He has blessed, and is blessing us, with. We felt at the beginning of the year like it was going to be a big one. Walked on into 2012 with the confidence and anticipation of a professional athlete at the start of their season. And then it seemed like we were going to end with nothing but shut-outs, and that's not the case at all! The year is only half over, and already we have an incredible testimony of what the Lord has done for us. That is something to rejoice over, that is the beautiful promise of God being fulfilled right before our eyes!

The beautiful truth about our awesome God is that He never quits. (Even when we try to.) He is ever present in our lives, all knowing as to what is going on, and powerful enough to bring us through to victory. Hebrews 10:23 says it perfectly: "Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise."

Don't ever let go of the dreams or promises God has given you, just remember that His timeline is a lot bigger than ours, and He can multitask better than we could ever dream of doing! If you feel yourself struggling, ask Him for a fresh perspective and new vision. See things from His point of view and realize that even in the most painful of circumstances, He is sustaining us, loving us, and helping us, like the amazing Father He is.

I hope you find this encouraging, and I'd love to hear how He has blessed you! 

Until then, I'll still be laughing. :)