My Beautiful Readers…

I’ve missed this community so much. I hope you are able to hear the sincerity in my written voice.
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The last time we talked I said that I would be sharing the exciting changes that are happening. I never came back and did that. The truth is, I got busy. Really, really busy. And now, well, I’m not so busy and here I am. That sounds much like you are getting my leftovers. I realize how not cool that is.

This year, my faithful friends, I vow to meet you here more often than “every now and then.” This place, here with you, is the energy drink when reality wears me down. Selfishly I want this to be a place where I can expose my wounds in hopes of finding a comfort. That’s what my ego wants anyway, but I will not be getting away with that. The winds of change are stirring, leaving me unsettled and excited.

What is God up to?

He is changing my heart. This is not the first time. It isn’t comfortable. It goes against every ounce of my human nature. It is, however, necessary in order to fulfill His plan for my life. He is drawing me away from the place of comfort and towards the place of risk.

He is providing everything I need at the exact time I need it, not a moment too soon nor ever too late. When this happens… when He makes it so blatantly obvious that He alone provides for and sustains me, it shows me how faithful he truly is. It makes me feel closer than ever before to His plan and purpose for my life. It helps me trust His design.

This year, I want to care more about how many people know love, compassion and Jesus than how many followers I have or don’t have on Twitter. I want to be quick to help without caring who gets the credit. I want to mean it when I pray, “Thy will be done.” even when it’s hard. I don’t want to be embarrassed or hesitant when people ask me about my faith.

So what does this mean?

I’m not totally sure? I have an idea. Some things are already in the works. Things that require time, energy and resources. Things that have no monetary gain. I know God will provide. He is my Great Provider and all I have to do is look at His track record to remember His faithfulness.

I also know that I am one of the few who has been given the opportunity to pursue my passion. It’s quite sobering to think about how much Chris has sacrificed so that I can chase this dream of mine. I also know, were he not in full support it would not be possible for me to follow the path of what I believe to be my destiny.

I guess what I’m saying is, “More will be revealed.” I miss sharing my story, I miss this community, and I’m going to do better.

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Standing on the Yellow Line

The other day I was driving down a road I have driven down everyday (at least once) for the last 5 years. I always glance to my right and say to the boys, “How many ducks can you count on the water?”

This day was no different. We all looked out the window at the pond. The fog was sitting just on top of the water’s surface. The boys debated over the number of ducks they saw as we drove on to school.

I dropped them off and instead of going the usual route home, I mixed it up a bit and went back the same way I came. (I’m wild and crazy like that sometimes.) As I drove past the same lake I was surprised by how much the view had changed in such a short time. The transformation was remarkable.

I debated pulling over and quickly realized that the photographer in me could not resist capturing this moment, freezing it in pixels and sharing it with you while shouting at the top of my lungs, “LOOK! THERE HE IS!!! HE KNOWS MY NAME! HE CARES! HE SEES ME!”

I pulled over by the baseball fields across the street. All I had on hand was my phone and I wanted to get as much of the splendor in the frame as possible. I walked to the yellow line in the road…in my bare feet, pajama pants, over-sized t-shirt and no bra. (I tell you this detail because normally it would be the one thing that would keep me from getting out of my car and stepping onto a public street during peak carpool hours.) I couldn’t help myself. I raised my phone and attempted to freeze time. (For those of you judging me for going bra-less in the carpool line, what can I say, I’m a risk taker.)

As I lowered my arms and turned to walk back to my car (that was illegally parked) I realized that traffic was stopped both ways. There were only a couple of cars on either side, and I justified my temporary traffic jam by rationalizing that my seemingly asinine behavior may be the only thing that allowed them to pause long enough to see the beauty of the sunrise. (At least they got a good laugh at the lady on the yellow line, still in the clothes she had slept in the night before, with her “camera phone”)

This is what I saw…
SunriseFriends, may I just tell you, this picture does not even begin to do the scene justice.

That’s what beauty does.
It shows up in the most ordinary places…when we’re not ready…when we don’t have make-up or heels on and all we have is the camera on our phone. For me, it shows up around the time I am wrestling with God. Around the time I am asking him to show me who he is and what I am to him. It happens when I am questioning my faith and what I know, in my soul, to be true.

I don’t know what giant you are facing in your life right now and you don’t know mine, but one thing that is true for both of us is the vastness of possibilities that come with faith in our Creator.

The same God who decided which colors he would use in the sunrise this morning hears my pleas and petitions. He accepts my praise and thanksgiving. And just when I need it most, he renews my weary mind and sets meaning to the phrase, “It is well with my soul.”

What about you? When was the last time you were captivated by astounding beauty in the everyday? Did you stop long enough to recognize, acknowledge and relish it?  

It’s not you, it’s me

Hello Wonderful Readers!

I truly miss you! I have been so disconnected from this community and it is obvious in my life. I need to write! It is a reset for my brain. It brings all the chaos into alignment.

So much is going on that I want to tell you about. So much so that I had to check in to say that I’m going to do better. I’m going to be intentional about documenting with words, the way I’m documenting with pictures.

sunriseAs for many, October is a big month for me. The first signs of fall begin appearing.

Dawn takes on a whole new light (literally) it’s captivating the way the sun sneaks up and begins illuminating the sky.

Sunsets are breathtaking. The kind of beauty that has no equal. Sunset

The most important things in my life this October are the fact that my man and I are celebrating 10 years of marriage. TEN. What?!

The fact that he has not only tolerated me but championed my dreams is beyond my ability to understand. I am so grateful. Wedding Day
For those of you reading this and thinking (Nice…another story of true love and a perfect marriage. I think I’m gonna barf.) Please do not be fooled. We have been through darkness so thick, we weren’t sure we would ever see the light of day. I can be totally stoked that Chris and I made it this far because the challenges we have overcome are proof that there is a God as nothing else could have accompanied us and navigated the road of unknowns.

Oh, a few quick details about the pictures…

  • We had just said, “I do” and “I do too” on a gondola in Las Vegas’, Venetian Hotel.
  • We were married by a minister we had never met and have not seen since.
  • I wasn’t wearing white.
  • There was no church.
  • Chris won a large sum of money at the roulette table he passed while walking to our ceremony.
  • We lived like rock stars for a week.
  • I was 2 weeks shy of completing my first year free from the addiction of all mind altering substances. (My drug of choice was whatever was available at the time. Do you have any idea how many mind altering substances are available at any given time in Vegas?)
  • I have not been back to Vegas since we married. Not because I don’t want to, I just haven’t had reason to.
  • There are people who still haven’t spoken to us after our decision to “elope to sin city” (sometimes people have to weed themselves out of our lives before we discover that we’re better for it)

Another date that is just as important to me is my sobriety date, which will represent 11 years this month. A girl like me…sober…for 11 years?! Yet another tangible example of a Higher Power working and moving. He has used my story so much in the last year. It’s crazy awesome and frightening and beautiful. (That will have to be its own post)

Big things are happening in my life and the life of my family. Bigger things than I ever could have conjured up for myself. Bigger than I have ever known and yet incredibly simple. I didn’t say easy. I said simple. In other words, not complicated. Not diluted by self-doubt and ridicule from skeptics. Things that have nothing to do with money or fame or worldly success.

Spiritually I am going deeper, wider, and more fully committed than I even knew possible. I am no longer sticking my toe out, cringing while bracing for the worst. I am leaping off cliffs that at one time paralyzed me. I am discovering true, unpolluted, without hesitation, faith.

I want to tell you all about it as it unfolds, but I must be patient and wait for the words. I must enjoy every morsel without thought of the next.

It comes to me in the most peculiar of places. I write on whatever is available to me, knowing that if I don’t capture it in that very moment, I will never remember it quite the same way.

I so want this kind of freedom for you, my friends. But I cannot give it to you. It is something that must be sought out through complete surrender, asked for and accepted. (Often times we think the difficulty is in the asking, when really it is our inability to accept when goodness is being offered)

The days ahead are exciting ones. I look forward to our journey together.

Until then, may bountiful blessings and all that is light be yours.

 

Baby Asher

Many of you have asked me the story behind the cover picture on my Facebook page. I want to tell you. I want you to know who Asher is. Honestly I haven’t had the words to adequately describe the experience.

So, I wrote him a letter in hopes to honor Lindsey and let her son know what a remarkable mother he has.

Today marks one week since baby Asher was born. He lived outside the womb for 24 hours. In that time, he was adored by all who were fortunate enough to meet him. No one treasured him more than his mother, Lindsey. I will never forget following her hand through the lens of my camera as she gently ran her finger along the contours of his little frame. She didn’t miss a single detail. She made sure she knew every line in his palm and wrinkle in his foot. She breathed in the smell of his skin. She delicately touched his head, feeling his baby soft hair beneath her finger tips. She memorized his face. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

I am one of the fortunate few who met this special child and told him how precious he was. I will not go into details about the time I witnessed of Asher’s life on this earth. It’s not my story to tell. When Lindsey is ready, she will tell it and eventually I will write more of this little one who left such a huge imprint on my heart.

Asher Knox MartindaleDear Asher,

One week ago, today, we were all anxiously awaiting your arrival. I had met your mom and dad only the day before, but this experience would bond us for a lifetime.

From the moment you came into this world, you were adored. Your mama had a head start on the rest of us. She had been feeling your kicks and movements in her belly for months. You were her constant companion. She loved you long before seeing you.

I had the privilege of capturing your daddy’s face the first time he saw you. He loves you so much, precious boy. It’s such a difficult thing for a dad to watch his child struggle, knowing he cannot step in and save the day. Because he would have, darling. He would have traded places with you in a moment. You could see it all over his face.

Here is what I want you to know, little one. Your mom is so brave. Her courage is more than admirable. She has fought for you from the very beginning. She knew that medical facts showed little chance you would survive. She heard the doctor’s words and knew the odds that were stacked against you. She also knew that she would carry you, in her belly, as long as she could. She would give you life and if only for a moment, hold you in her arms, sheltering you from the coldness of this world, whispering lullaby’s in your ear.

I was witness to incredible love, sweet Asher. Your mama loves you extravagantly.

She wants all who know her, and those who don’t, to hear your story and know your name. You were a little champion. I am so, so grateful to have met you. You were wonderfully made and your life has great purpose.

Your mommy and daddy miss you, darling. There are so many tears. There are also beautiful memories of a day filled with…you. Your life. Your story. Your purpose.

Your legacy will continue. Your name will be spoken in many circles. Your memory will outlive us all. Those who know your mom are forever changed by her courage, faith and unconditional love.

You are beautiful. You are loved. You are chosen. Now may you rest in the arms of the Savior who spoke life into being. You are safe. You are well. You are home.

Love and Light,
Joy
(the girl behind the lens)

Losing my religion…to a hair stylist

Alright ladies, listen up!

If you are a “Christian” who feels guilty because you want to look nice, raise your hand. Darlings, when did God declare, “There shall be no highlighting of hair, painting of nails, or staining of lips”? Who told you that beauty isn’t important to the one who created it to begin with?!

I am so tired of hearing women bash other women because they’re pretty, curvy, skinny, tall, short, well put together or any number of things that we all strive to be. Why don’t we walk up to each other and say, “Girrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl, you got it goin’ on!” Instead we gossip and make snarky comments to anyone who will listen about how we bet she’s starving herself or throwing up… she probably doesn’t have the money to buy that outfit so she charged it and is in debt… that’s not even her hair, it’s a weave… or highlights, or a hair piece. Let me tell you something, the moment I pay for highlights, a weave or a hair piece, technically it’s mine!

Some of you have seen my Facebook post about my hair stylist Freddie and his trusted assistant, Jason.
Freddie and Jason at Jamison ShawFreddie and Jason restored a sense of beauty in me that I haven’t felt for a while. Not because I don’t feel valued. Not because I need more attention from my husband. Not because someone was mean to me. Are you ready for this?

BECAUSE I DIDN’T LIKE MY HAIR.

I didn’t even realize that I felt this way until Freddie changed my look. I feel great! What I don’t feel is guilty for spending 2 hours in a salon, away from my children, being pampered by professionals and paying money that I worked hard to earn.

You shouldn’t either!

I have received mostly positive feedback from the picture on FB, but I did have one woman email to say, “Don’t you feel selfish taking all of that time away from your husband and children to have unnecessary things done to your appearance?” Hmmmm…”No. Should I?”

Here’s the deal beauties, I am finding more and more that when I take a little time out to take care of myself, I am a much better wife and mother. Chris and I are a team. He’s not a babysitter, he’s their father. I didn’t turn in my id card when becoming a mother. Did life change? Sure. Is it richer and fuller? Yes. Do I find my identity in my children? No. Plus, when I feel better about myself, I feel sexier for my husband. See how this works? I cannot imagine God saying it’s a bad thing.

People will disagree with me and that’s okay. (Please disagree in the comments and don’t send me an email.) Here is what I believe. God took His time. He created every living thing with such ornate detail. He sculpted the earth. He used color and light. He didn’t throw a blob of black and grey together and say, “It is good.” He created beauty and said, “It is good.

So for those of you condemning those of us who take delight in highlights, stilettos and red lippy, I say, “Stop acting so religious and go get your hair done! You’ll thank me.

Don’t underestimate the positive impact of a seemingly small change. AND you don’t even have to have surgery. I’m going to make this super easy for you Atlanta peeps. Here’s Freddie’s card.
photoI suggest calling to make an appointment. When they answer the phone, they ask, “How may we make your day beautiful?” I love that!

 

When the Siren Sounds

Station 21 Firehouse The Atlanta Fire Department’s Station 21, offers a variety of services beyond firefighting and fire rescue. Citizens can have their blood pressure checked and obtain and learn to install child car seats, water conservation kits and fire alarms. The station also serves as a safe spot for domestic violence victims. Station 21 has a proud history, dating back to the 1940’s.

IMG_9491However, it isn’t for any of these reasons that I was first introduced to the men. For the last 3 years, they have faithfully come and shared with the Preschoolers where my son attends. There are only a few children in each class, but that doesn’t deter them. They show up and run through a demonstration of fire safety and first aid just as they would to a packed auditorium. The Chief even attends and facilitates the talk.IMG_9436

I am so grateful to each one of them for investing in the lives of these little ones. Each little IMG_9538boy now wants to “fight fire.” These guys are hero’s in our community. I would be lying if I said that I do something for them on a consistent basis. I think about it often, but rarely act on it. I plan to do better going forward.

For anyone who has schooled aged children, I cannot recommend this enough. They walk through each step of putting on their suit. All while talking to the children in an effort to diminish fear of the mask and oxygen tank.IMG_9544IMG_9550IMG_9553IMG_9554IMG_9556IMG_9558After he’s suited up and ready, the children are allowed to touch the mask, suit, helmet, while he continues talking to them, explaining what each piece is and why it is important.
IMG_9559IMG_9561IMG_9592IMG_9587This is so helpful in the case of an emergency. The children are learning not to be afraid of a rescue worker trying to help them.

At one point Rogers’ gear was sitting unattended by the truck.IMG_9466
Any time I see a firefighter’s helmet, a worn American flag, or hear the sound of their personal distress signal, I am instantly taken back to 9/11. All of those who were lost. The days of multiple distress signal units being heard from the rubble. It’s haunting.

To think that the same men and women who are saving people’s lives everyday would take time out to come share with us and take pictures with the children, is humbling and so incredibly appreciated.

When we took the boys to the station to deliver a thank you from the preschool children, the men were more than accommodating. They showed us around the station, let the boys take a picture with them and even slid down the pole. It is a memory that will remain at the forefront of my boys minds for a very long time.

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Who in your community is serving fearlessly to protect those you love? What can you do to appreciate them and their daily sacrifice?

Our Darling Boy

The last three weeks have been filled with fevers, coughing, headaches, sleepless nights, lot’s of tissues, cough drops, and smoothies from the freezer section at Costco.

Being a parent is wonderful. There is no equivalent. However, adding sick kiddos and mama getting sick to the mix increases the difficulty significantly.

Amidst all the runny noses, sneezes and sore throats there was something to celebrate…Riley's Happy Birthday hat

Caden turned 5. Five years old! My baby. He claims he is no longer a baby and he’s right, but he will always be my baby.

The morning started with Chris’ delicious Belgian waffles. Caden was elated and smiled throughout our Happy Birthday song.

It was time for making wishes, blowing out candles and feeling the first bit of sugar entering the system as maple syrup.

Next came the gifts, of which his favorite was the Angry Bird fan filled with candy from Aunt Carrie. He also loved the Lego’s and always enjoys putting them together with his daddy.1,000 piecesNew LegosFiretruckThe highlight of his afternoon was celebrating with fro-yo from Yoforia. What better for a sore throat? The other patrons joined us in singing. It was so fun!

We enjoyed dinner backwards as after Yoforia we went for “fancy” hotdogs. Mine was veggie and it was delicious.


The next week we celebrated with school friends which properly completed the festivities of transitioning Caden into his 5th year.

I realize this has been a total “Mommy post” which is somewhat out of the norm for my writings. I’m under the weather, making me more vulnerable to the sappy side. You won’t hold it against me, will you?

And let’s be honest…I’m insanely proud of my boys and sometimes it’s therapeutic to share my adoration so that I don’t explode.