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spring traditions

We have been picking strawberries together each Spring for as long as I can remember. It is always a favorite time together and you can't beat $2 for a huge bucket of berries.  

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one word

"The world can make you think that love can be picked up at a garage sale or enveloped in a Hallmark card. But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. It's a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright" -bob goff

I'm not one to make New Year's Resolutions, but I like the idea of having a word for the New Year ahead. There are actually a few words I am concentrating on for 2017, but one keeps coming to the forefront. 


This word continually has come up when I open my bible, when I listen to devotions, when I pray. I feel deeply like God is challenging me. Speaking to me.

This word is love.

 

“as I have loved you. love one another” John 13:34.

My goal for 2017, truly for every day, for every year, is simply to love. To love others deeply. To love those like me and to love those different from me. To love those it is easy to love and to love those who are difficult. To love those who bring joy and those who have brought hurt. And last to not forget to love myself as well.

Do you have a word or resolution for the year ahead? A new project or goal? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. In 2014, I began a 365 project journaling and capturing everyday life. I have continued shooting daily, but have not consistently shared on my blog daily as I did in 2014. I plan to make this a priority in the New Year. The writing and images I share, are something I pray will be a gift to my family years from now. 


Today, on the Everything Bloom Blog, the other workshop teachers and myself are sharing our one word. Head on over and be inspired. And please don't forget to share here. I'd love to hear what resolutions, words, or projects you have going on. 

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Christmas Joy

Like many newly married couples, my husband and I had many dreams together.  We dreamed of a big family and after being married nearly 5 years we had our first child.  In 2009, we were pregnant with our third child, following a miscarriage early that same year.  I became very ill, quite suddenly; consequently, she was born almost two months early.  We discussed getting my tubes tied at delivery, but had not really had time to think and pray about the consequences and finality this surgery would bring.  I was so sick, magnesium flowing through an IV as I waited for delivery of our baby girl.  I had a definite urge to sign the paperwork and have the surgery done while I was already having my 3rd c-section. 

This, is where my story of loss, regret and a lot of pain began. I remember laying in the hospital bed recovering and feeling a weight of immeasurable guilt. For years, I would pray about it.  I would live with a void, a silent pain very few people ever knew.   


"Who doesn't know what it's like to smile thinly and say you're fine when you're not, when you're almost faint with pain? There isn't one of us not bearing the wounds from our own bloody battles"  -ann voskamp

In 2012, three years later, I was at a yearly exam and discussed my feelings with my doctor.   I thought, being over 35, having had three c-sections, and having had pre-eclampsia, she would say I made a smart decision. That something she'd say would make me feel better.  Move on.  But instead, she told me about a specialist that did tubal reversals and that I needed to see her sooner than later.

My husband and I began praying.  We asked close family and friends to pray.  In 2013, we would visit this doctor for the first time.  It took almost two months for me to call for that appointment . What would people think?  How would we ever pay for it? What if ?  I had so many doubts, yet I felt God was calling us to follow this path 

After extensive praying and testing,  I had surgery done in the fall of 2013.  Our chances to get pregnant were not high, but we kept praying for God's plan to be known.  We prayed for courage to follow.  To be obedient.  We prayed for healing. I wanted more than just a chance to get pregnant, I wanted to repair my body.

Months would pass.  I wouldn't get pregnant naturally. We kept praying. We had more testing.  We started fertility treatments and months later we were still not pregnant .  I went through so many emotions in those years.  Not feeling worthy to have another child. Guilt.  Inadequacy.  Hope. Defeat. Up and down my emotions would go.  I would keep seeking Him.  I would keep asking Him to make His plan evident.   

April 2015 came and we finished our last unsuccessful round of fertility medication.   I gave it all to the Lord.  I finally felt at peace.  Sad, but peaceful.  I knew we had followed Him.  Trusted Him. And through all of it, I had grown so much in faith. I felt like the journey had been His plan all along.  The lessons I would learn.  The fears I had faced.  He had brought me near to Him in so many ways. 

And then on May 18, 2015, I would see a very faint line on a pregnancy test.  The first month without medicines or treatments or timing.   Just God and His miraculous provision and timing .  

I would go on to have a rather challenging pregnancy.  Pre-eclampsia again.  Bedrest and another premature delivery.  

On Christmas night, I met this sweet angel weeks before her due date; yet her story began so many years before that night.  For so long I felt like something was missing.   She was missing.  Truly God has already written all of our stories and we just need to trust in His plan and His time.  

As we celebrate the birth of Christ tomorrow, we will celebrate her birth and life as well.   As I hold her, I am reminded of the peace, the hope, and the love I only know because of Christ.  I know so many people have stories that are similar.  I pray you will hold tight to the promises only He can give.  I know the pain you may feel.  A silent pain, that perhaps you feel no one else can understand .  Take heart, because you are not alone.   He is the hope and the light.  


I sit here still in awe of our Christmas miracle. Thankful for His undeserved love and grace.  I would never change our story for something easier or different.  I no longer live with regret.  I know that every broken feeling I went through and every step I took into the unknown, I grew closer to Him.  And there is no gift greater than that.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.   They will soar high on wings like eagles.They will run and not grow weary.    They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
 
Sharon McKeeman has started a project called turning mourning into joy.  Please follow this link to read more beautiful stories of hope. 

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a letter at seven

Happy Birthday Superstar,

It's hard to put into words how grateful I am to be your mother. Seven years ago you came into our world almost 2 months early. Each year, I think back on that time and feel so thankful for God's plan and provision. You surprised everyone,even your NICU doctor, with your health and growth. He told us you were a Superstar and you have held true to that name.

You continue to be full of life and love. You are passionate about creating; painting, making art from whatever you find; using your imagination in beautiful ways. You love to dance and sing.  I often hear your sweet voice in the back of the car and it always makes me smile. You are strong willed and tell it like it is. You love with all of your heart and want reassurance that you are important and loved too. In December, you became a big sister. At first you had reservations, but slowly I have seen you take on the big sister role in such a wonderful way. This year you've learned to read, lost your first two teeth, and learned to tie your shoes.

I want to remind you to not be in such a hurry to grow up. To stay little. Childhood is such a brief season. I want you to savor every moment of it. 

Most of all,  I love you so much. I thank God for your life and for the blessing you continue to be to us all. God has taught me so much about love and about grace through being your mama.

"I love you so much. I'll never forget. "

 

xoxo, mama

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in our room

She is just a couple weeks shy of being 9 months old and still sleeps by our bedside. She has definitely been in our room the longest of our four children.  Partly, due to space within our home; but mostly because this mama is having a hard time with change.  With each 25th day of the month, I am reminded of what a thief time is. I fill with emotions and wish somehow I could go back and do it all again. That I could have more time with each of our children. As I look at our 12 year old, it is a constant reminder that the moments, the days, the years pass quicker than I ever anticipated. Quicker than I was ever warned.  

We have intentionally made choices to live a slower life. To have more family time. To soak in the present. All of this, has made me feel these moments even more. Love them. Cherish them. Yet, I often end up back here. Nostalgic for what once was. 

As I lay in bed nursing her yesterday, I thought about the fact that she will not always be in this room with us. She will not always be here in our home. Yes, that reality makes my heart ache, but instead of mourning the loss of time,  I decided to take out my camera and capture this present moment. This gift of time. I want to recenter my focus. Not on what we lose with each passing moment, phase, or milestone, but what we gain. What joy we have lived and what we have learned about grace through it all. 

Today, I read these words from Ann Voskamp and I share them for myself, as much as I share them for others to also be encouraged. 

"When I am present to the Presence of God meeting us in this moment, I am not worrying, I am not regretting, I am not chaffing, griping, fuming, fretting.
Be all here: and be holy.
Be all here: and be happy.
Because the Presence of I AM always fills the present moment.
Be all here and be at peace… content… awake —- Alive. When I am mindful of this moment, the mind fills with God and the heart fills with peace and joy-thanks fills the prayers and isn’t the only way God can come to us is through the door of this moment? Here."

I want to be all here. To be Alive in the moments of today. To be at peace. Nothing more and nothing less. This, this is my prayer. 

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Making art and sharing your gifts

I’ve been revisiting a favorite book of mine recently: A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman.  I can’t say enough how this book speaks to me as an artist and a mother. As a child of God.

Are you holding back, are you not sharing yourself with those around you, because you feel like you are still learning yourself?  Do you have an idea of where "you need to be", before you open yourself to others. 

I am here to remind you. To remind myself. That we are all works in progress. We are all on a path of learning. Through our inadequacies, through our triumphs, through our journeys, we can share, we can inspire, and we can be instruments for Christ to use us in ways we can’t even imagine.  Artists are not just painters or photographers. Writers and singers. No, as Emily shares in her book, we make art with our lives. When we share ourselves, when we give of ourselves in the ways God has gifted us, we create art.  These words from Emily stood out to me in such a profound way the past few days that I wanted to share.

 

“ The art I believe I was born to make lingers even in the midst of my inadequacy.

 

Just because you can’t full live your life the way you long to live it doesn’t mean you don’t fully believe it’s possible with all your heart. And it doesn’t mean you are forbidden to share what you’re learning unless you are living it perfectly.   

 

Christ is in you and wants to come out through you in a million little ways-through your strength and also your weakness, your abilities and also your lack.

 

I call it art, someone else calls it rubbish.

 

So what?

 

Call it what you will. God calls us his poem. And the job of the poem is to inspire. To sing. To express the full spectrum of the human experience—both the bright hope that comes with victory and the profound loss that accompanies defeat.  

 

We must make art, even in our weakness. If we don’t we are denying ourselves ourselves. In turn, we will deny everyone else ourselves as well. “

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our annual week at the Gulf

"Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat" -Laura Ingalls Wilder

Every Summer we spend a week at the Gulf  with my parents, siblings, and all of the cousins. We always look forward this special time away. It really is one of my favorite places to be. Today, I am sharing a glimpse into this beautiful week on the coast. 

I am linking up with a group of fabulous friends that I have posted with the past few years as part of a 10 on 10 project. This year, we are just making it a goal to post once a month. No rules or themes, just us. Please follow the link over to Melissa Weiker's blog. She is sharing some of her memories from August. Her work is always so soulful; you won't be disappointed.

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the hose at sunset

"Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of  foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself." -William Martin

There's a beauty I want our children to know in the ordinary days at home. The afternoons in our own backyard. Just us. We don't have to be traveling the world to find this. We don't need all the latest technology or toys to achieve it. And we don't need a yard full of friends to experience it. There's a simple beauty watching the ordinary come alive for our children. I treasure these memories. A simple night by the lake at sunset . 

This is part of storytelling project called Pieces of Life. You can see some of the other artist's entries and work by going to this link.

 

 

 

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10 on 10 | the June edition

"Never is a woman so fulfilled as when she chooses to underwhelm her schedule so she can let God overwhelm her soul." 
-Lysa Terkeurst

Last month we took a mini-vacation over to the Gulf for a few days. Just the five of us.  There was so much about these few days that I will always cherish. Walks and talks on the beach with our oldest child. Exploring and hunting for treasures. Building sand castles. Laughing. Late pizza nights. Long lazy mornings together. 

These simple moments are truly life's blessings and I am so grateful for these memories.

Today, I share 10 of my favorite images from this special time. (so many I left out, I may need to do another post). 

To follow our blog circle, head on over to see what my talented friend Sara Garcia has captured. 

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the dock

I hope when they look back on their childhood, they will remember the fun days they shared; playing together, encouraging one another, learning together, and truly becoming the best of friends. And I hope they will see what a gift they were to one another. Such a beautiful way to start out the week and so thankful for each of these moments together. 

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chasing bubbles

Bare feet, warm sunshine, and a bubble machine combined together for an amazing start to Daylight Savings Time. This is my favorite time of the year as the days gradually get longer. If you look really carefully, you will see infinite "selfies" of our youngest two children and myself. 

If you ended up here from the 5 minute project, thank you for visiting. And if you haven't visited the 5 minute project yet, you really should. 

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10 on 10 | the March edition

"You will never have this day with your children again. Tomorrow they will be a little bigger then they are today. This day is a gift. Breathe and notice. Smell and touch them; study their faces and little feet and pay attention. Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today mama. It will be over before you know it." - Jen Hatmaker

Babies tucked in.

That smile.

Those toes and blanket. 

Be Free. Run Wild. 

Pool season begins.

The best way to spend lunch break. 

Library books.

Sticker earrings.

Getting ready.

Soccer practice resumes. 

Once a month, for this project, I attempt to capture 10 images taken throughout one day. My goal is to tell the story of a normal day in our life. I am certain, I will look back on these images and be grateful to relive these ordinary moments. It is always a reminder that there is beauty to be found in the everyday. Please follow our blog circle to see how each of these talented ladies interprets this 10 on 10 project.  First up is Summer Murdock. She is sure to knock your socks off with the magic she creates. 

 

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10 on 10 | the January edition

“There simply aren't any grand moments in life, and we surely don’t live in those moments. No, we live in the utterly mundane. We exist in the bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms, and hallways of life. This is where the character of our life is set. This is where we live the life of faith.” – Paul David Tripp Your empty bed.

Lazy morning.

Getting dressed.

Math.

Let me see.

Them.

This moment.

Those blankets.

Afternoon shenanigans.

Bike ride at dusk. 

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Our 10 on 10 group was formed in 2013 with a group of ladies that quickly became wonderful friends. I am excited to be back together to work on this project for 2015. Ali Deck is up next in our blog circle.  Head on over and  see what her world looks like through her 10 images. She's pretty awesome.

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kaleidoscope | november

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Last year I became friends with a very special group of ladies and participated together in a 10 on 10 project. This year we wanted to continue to do a project together, but wanted to do something a little different. Our new project is called Kaleidoscope.

Kaleidoscope is derived from the Ancient Greek (kalos), “beautiful, beauty” (eidos), “that which is seen: form, shape” and (skopeo), “to look to, to examine.” Hence “observation of beautiful forms.”

We are a group of friends, moms, visual artists and photographers from around the world who are passionate about capturing images of the real, the messy and the magical-the wonder of the everyday. Like a kaleidoscope, our photographs are playful and experimental, ever-changing and infused with light and colour. Once a month, we assemble a single mosaic comprised of our collective pictorial tiles, one submitted by each of us, that reflect the shared meaning and beauty in our lives.

I am excited to be posting with this wonderful group of friends again. Due to the crazy demands that life can sometimes bring, we all decided to take a break.  It is wonderful to come together again and share bits of our life through our lens.  This month I decided to share a bit of our Halloween week.

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Please follow our blog circle and see what Melissa Weicker has shared this month. She sees the world with such beauty, I am certain you will love her work.

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what a morning at the garden looks like

“Connecting with those we love is like soul food. It’s not that we don’t have tasks to do, but rather we don’t fill up with tasks at the risk of starving our relationships. Relationships nourish us in ways nothing else can. It’s the relationships that help unrush us.” -Lysa Terkeurst Today, I share with you What a morning at the garden looks like.  This is one of our favorite places to spend time together as a family. I am always grateful that we have this unrushed time together daily to learn, grow, and love together.

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Please follow our blog circle to see what talented Roxanne Bryant has shared this month.  Her work always leaves me in awe.

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what a week at the gulf looks like

Every year we spend a week at the Gulf with my parents, my siblings, and all of the cousins. The children and adults alike countdown to this memorable week. I love the memories that are made sharing space and unrushed time together for seven days.  There really is something special when you spend days and nights living among one another and having time to just linger. With almost ten grandchildren this year, it was also filled with a bit of chaos, but in a good way. Today, I share with you What a Week at the Gulf Looks Like .  I don't think I could ever accurately share our week together, so I have picked some of my favorites. There really is something magical about the Gulf.

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Head on over to see what talented Ashley Jennet | The Stork and the Beanstalk has shared this month.

 

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space

This time of year often includes a full calendar with back to school, fall sports, and holidays. But, we cannot forget how important it is to have unscheduled time in our lives. When we have this space during our days, we have time for relationships, time to listen and time to invest in things that nurture us and others. This is vital to thrive individually and as a family. We were not designed to rush through our lives. I have been reading The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst. Her stories are so relatable and filled with thought provoking reminders. I loved her words on allowing space in our lives. I couldn't agree more with this need to have time to connect with those we love the most.

“This beautiful messy band of people I call my own needs time together. Space to connect and process. Conversational threads are what make up the fabric of relationships. We must take time. Make time. To be together. To connect. To talk.”

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all my hope

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Over the last year, I have been documenting the life of my father n law with Alzheimer's Disease in a project called Life with Pito.

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On Friday, Pito underwent surgery. He had gangrene on his big toe that progressed to a deep bone infection. The doctors tried intravenous antibiotics for several weeks, while cleaning the wound on multiple occasions. They decided that they would amputate the toe in order to prevent the infection from spreading further to his foot and leg. Initially, the doctors thought they'd have to take several toes, but they were able to get all of the infection by only amputating one. Pito's age of almost 81 and Alzheimer's were both added concerns as he underwent surgery on Friday. We are all grateful that the surgery went so well. Pito is now home and healing with Mita (his wife) by his side.

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Trials in life, such as these, are never easy to walk through. I cannot even begin to really understand the daily journey my mother n law travels with Pito. Her example of love and never ending grace and devotion will stay with me forever. Her faith in Jesus and His plan and His provision continues to guide me on my own walk with Christ. Friday, at the hospital, I was reminded again of what an incredible wife and mother she is. I was filled with so much emotion as I watched her nurse and love him with such care and detail.

I don't know if I could continue to be as strong as she is. I know her heart aches as she has watches Pito's health decline and his memory fade, yet, she continues to find ways to praise God for the blessings of each day. She continues to care for him at home and gives him the utmost attention and love. It really is extraordinary.

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I am grateful that our children could come with us to the hospital to show love and support to their grandparents.  In addition, I am thankful that they could witness the beautiful example of family commitment. Family and friends (that are like family) stopped by all day to pray, to encourage, and to show their love and support. We spent hours reminiscing on special memories. What a gift it was for our children to hear these stories and to see this display of love.

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Family is a gift that I never want our children to take for granted. These people we love, and who also love us, are an integral part of our lives. Friday, was such a reminder of this for me.  I am grateful our children could see the example of servant hood and love in such a real way.

Many emotions were felt and realized throughout the day. There was sadness and worry of what the future would hold; but ultimately, there was joy in knowing God was with each of us and with Pito. His faithfulness was demonstrated in many ways.

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Often we talk to our children about putting their faith in Christ, but for them to see this example lived before them, is something that is far greater than our words. After Pito's surgery, we met him back in his hospital room. A smile immediately came upon his face as the children walked to his bedside. He reached out for their hands and kissed them with such tenderness. Later that afternoon, I was talking to Mita about how special this was. She looked at me and reminded me of the prayers we had said earlier in the day and that so many people had also said. And then she told me to be sure that I went home and thanked Jesus for the blessings of this day. She gave Him all the glory, confidently trusting in His plan.

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Alzheimer's may steal so much from our family, but there are still these brief smiles, connections and moments of love. These are the memories I want to hold on to. These are the moments that I believe keep Mita strong. I pray that these will be the memories that our children remember from their Life with Pito.

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Pito's life with Alzheimer's has shown me that even when I don't understand why, I can always trust that Jesus is with us. 

Light in my darkness. Peace for my soul. You are my rescue. You've never let go. All my hope is in You. All my strength is in You. With every breath, my soul will rest in You. Here in my weakness. Always the same. Your love is my shelter. Your life is my way. -"All My Hope" Hillsong United

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect through weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

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let your light shine

Technically, summer is not over.  And in all reality, summer never really ends completely in Florida. Right?!  It seems like just yesterday we were closing our books for  a few months to enjoy summer break. Yet, here we are starting a new school year. How does it always happen so fast? I savor and linger and the days still fly by with lightening speed. This year our children will be in 5th grade, 2nd grade, and pre-K. It is our fourth year homeschooling. I've learned so much from the past three years and made some changes for the year ahead. I feel like there is an ongoing learning process of trial and error as we teach our children.

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One thing I seem to forget each year as I am planning our first day back to homeschooling, is that the kids aren't really thrilled to be back to the school routine. And honestly, I can't blame them. We've all had so much fun staying up late,  sleeping in,  swimming, playing, visiting, and doing fun non-routine activities. I think it is really hard for our children (and me) to say goodbye to the carefree days of summer break. After a few days back to homeschooling, we all realize that it is good for us to add some discipline back in our schedule; and there is still plenty of time for playing. This way of life allows much flexibility to our days (like starting at 9:00 or later) and there can be some positive aspects to routine.

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Our morning started with a big breakfast, followed by devotional time, and cleaning up the kitchen. When finished, we headed into the school room. This year on our first day we started with a fun activity. Each child answered some questions about themselves and then they shared with each other. We have one child who wants to be a soccer player, another who dreams of map making, and a third who would love to be an animal doctor.  They each shared one thing they were good at and one thing they needed to work on. I loved when our 4 year old said she was good at painting, but needed to work on "attitudes." I love her sweet spirit. Our school day ended with tie dye, which we have done annually since our first year homeschooling. The kids look forward to this every year. We finished just in time to head out the door to soccer practice. All three children are playing soccer this Fall, so we spend a lot of time at the fields.

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To be completely real, our first day wasn't as smooth or joyful as I would have hoped. As I mentioned before, everyone wasn't excited to be saying goodbye to summer, and there was some complaining and irritability. There were times during the day that I felt a bit defeated. Before school that morning, I wrote let your light shine on our chalk board. These four words were ones that I wanted to define our new school year. As the day progressed, I didn't see the light; instead, I felt frustrated and impatient.

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I have had time to reflect this week. I realized that every year, the first day "back to homeschooling" has been challenging.  Day two is always much easier and we begin to have a much better rhythm and flow. Once again, I was reminded of my need for grace for myself and our children. I need to let go of expectations that I sometimes create for all of us. I need to remember that transition can be hard for adults and kids alike.

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As I look back on the day through the images I captured, I see the day with fresh eyes. I see the relationships between our children, I can hear the conversations we shared during the day, and remember memories we made.  I see the light. I see the light of Jesus throughout our home. Sometimes, His light is so subtle, yet it is so beautiful when we really take the time to see it. My prayer for our children is that they will not only let His light shine through them, but that they will take time to see His light every day.

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A thousand times I've failed. Still your mercy remains. And should I stumble again. Still I'm caught in your grace Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades. Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame. -"Inside Out" Hillsong United

 

 

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