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a mother's heart

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homeschooling. a journey of faith.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.Let me walk upon the waters. Wherever You would call me.Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. And my faith will be made stronger. In the presence of my Savior. I will call upon Your name. Keep my eyes above the waves. My soul will rest in Your embrace. I am Yours, and You are mine. -from Hillsong United, Oceanshomeschooling 13 ginger unzueta I get emails and comments frequently asking questions about our homeschooling experience. These include everything from our curriculum choices to when I get my "own time" and everything in between.  As we are finishing our third year of homeschooling, I am here to share a bit about our experience. I am not here to say that our way is the right way or that everyone should be homeschooling, but will share with you why we have grown to love this way of life for our family.

“The beauty of home education is that it gives a family more time together–time to solidify relationships, to communicate values, and to focus on each child’s individual needs in a consistent and unhurried atmosphere.” -Kimberly Hahn & Mary Hasson

When my husband and I made the decision in 2011 to home school our children, we were without doubt that God was calling our family to this lifestyle. I say lifestyle because it is so much more than just school.  It is a way of life. It is a way of looking at the world and learning and living together.  Every experience during our day is a learning experience for our children. We have loved the slower pace of life homeschooling has given us. As the quote above says, we  now have more time to focus on family relationships and values.

When we started schooling at home our children were 7, 5 and 2.  We have continued to see the relationships between our children grow in unforeseen ways during these three years.  I am keenly aware that our children are getting to know one another in ways some siblings may never have time for. We are so grateful to continue to see their bonds and love for each other grow. They have learned to play together, regardless of their ages. One question I am often asked is if my children always get along.  Of course not.  They are children after-all, but they do get along most of the time. They have a beautiful relationship that I thank God for.

I love that I have been able to be such an integral part of their education.  This includes helping decide what our children will study and how they will study it. This also includes being a physical part of that learning daily.  This week my son realized he could now read chapter books and he sat down and read an entire book after lunch. As I watched him, I was filled with so much joy, witnessing his confidence and new found love of reading grow.  He started to learn to read in 2011 when we began this journey. During his pre-kindergarten year we used a book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I have not pushed him, but let him excel at his own pace. It is such a gift to experience this with him. We had many frustrating days we had to get through to get here, but it is such an example of perseverance and determination for both of us.

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“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions -- if they have any -- and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.”  -John Holt

One of the valuable lessons I have learned during this time is that there isn't a "right" way to homeschool. I have met many families thriving with this lifestyle, yet not one of them are doing it the same way. I love that! As each child is unique, so is each family. We have switched and tweaked different curriculum over the three years. While curriculum is important,I feel like there is so much to be learned outside of it, especially while children are young.

I believe wholeheartedly that children should be given ample freedom in their day to explore without continuous time schedules or planned activities. They seem to thrive when they can spend time doing things that interest them. My oldest daughter loves baking and I have started to give her opportunities to explore this love. My son is fascinated with drawing, maps, and reading facts. My youngest daughter has a love of painting that continues to blossom with each week that passes.  All three of our children play soccer and the older two children attend choir and Awana (a youth program) at our church.  We have limited our outside activities as we want to continue to enjoy this slow pace and not fill our free time with commitments. This has been instrumental for our family. All of us are happier having time to do the things we enjoy outside of a schedule. Some days this means we take school outside and picnic and explore. Others we have play dates and visit with friends or family.   While others we have to attend to errands or other responsibilities that do arise.

This brings up something very important. When you decide to home school, you do give up having those hours of the day free from children. This means that if you are like me, with a husband who travels often, or at work during the day, you will be grocery shopping or doing other errands with kids in tow.  Just two weeks ago, we had to stop school to go to Sears and Home Depot to compare clothes dryers after ours died. Obstacles, doctor appointments, and the such arise. This is a reality. We have been blessed to have a college student to help, one morning a week the past few years. This has been very helpful, but most often, our children are with me when we need to get household errands done. When we began homeschooling, these things seemed to be more challenging, but as the kids have gotten older and I have learned ways to manage these outings best, it is very doable. Time with children passes by quickly and I realize in a few years my oldest will be able to babysit. It seems like just yesterday she was in her pre-school years.  It is so important to remember that each phase of life is just that, a phase. Children change and grow at this crazy rapid rate. In the short three years we have home schooled I have already seen how their ages change our family dynamics in many ways.  My older children, now 10 and 7, are both very helpful. I really try to soak in each of these phases of life.  I feel like our days are filled with ample "alone time" for me, for them, and for me with each of them.  Ultimately, I love the togetherness we share through this way of life. 

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I am asked all the time what  a "normal" day looks like.  I am also asked what our youngest child does while the older two are doing their studies. These are great questions and ones I had myself before we began this journey.  First of all, our days vary.  I would like to say a typical day starts at 9:00 am with everyone awake, fed, and in the school room, starting handwriting, but that would be untrue.

Many days our son is up before the girls. On some of these days, I begin to work one on one with him while they sleep. This is very beneficial, because once he is finished for the day, or at a point he needs a break, he can play with our youngest daughter, while I work with our oldest. Our children are 2 1/2 and 3 years apart, which has worked out really well with our schooling. There are subjects we can actually combine for the older children, which is a wonderful advantage; and they can also help their younger sister with learning activities or just play.

Like I said before, our youngest was only 2 when we began schooling at home.  We decided that she would not attend preschool and would be at home learning and playing with us.  I can not imagine our days without her at home. There were times when we first started that we had to wait and do some of our work in the afternoon while she was napping. There were also mornings we had to completely stop school and go outside and play because it was too challenging.  She has always had an interest in art, coloring, cutting, exploring. I have encouraged her from day one to join us at the work table.  This wasn't always "convenient" or quiet, but with persistence she has learned to be a wonderful part of the classroom.  Honestly, our days aren't always perfectly smooth, but I don't expect them to be. I love this time with my children and cherish it in ways I never imagined.

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Our learning environment may look like a typical classroom in many ways, but it is also very different. Some days we are in our designated school room while other days our classroom is the back porch.  We have schooled in the kitchen, the park, Mimi's house, etc. There are days when the weather is so beautiful that we leave our studies and head out to explore or play.  I love that we can start our day whenever it works for us and that our weeks are very flexible.  As I mentioned before this is a lifestyle not just a school choice.  The book studies and table work are only a small part of our learning together.

“What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children's growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn't a school at all.” - John Holt

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I am often asked how long we will home school.  We don't know what the future holds and continue to pray for God to lead us in parenting our children. I do know that, we cannot imagine another way of life right now.  I have found such peace in this way of life and my heart has been so full. We will seek God first always and see what He asks of our family in all things.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” -Corrie Ten Boom

Many people, who are unfamiliar with homeschooling, always ask about the socialization of our children. I love how Mary Kay Clark addresses this:

“Don’t worry about socialization. Wherever people congregate, there is going to be interaction, socialization.” Where is it written that it needs to be in schools? -Mary Kay Clark

As I close today, please know you are more than welcome to email me any time with your own questions on homeschooling. I know that the friends and mentors I had as we began this journey continue to be invaluable.

I can share with you over and over again, how this experience has been such a blessing for our family, while others may have had complete opposite experiences. I do not believe this is a way of life for everyone. I share these experiences, so that others who feel they are called to home school their children, can also be encouraged.  I  know that the schools where we live are wonderful and filled with amazing teachers. My husband and I both attended these schools and most of my children's friends attend these schools. I know they have amazing opportunities that we miss, but we feel that the benefits for our family are greater than anything we are giving up. There have been times on this journey that have been challenging, even lonely, but each time we have gone to God in prayer and He has always provided what we needed.  Not only have I grown as a mother through teaching our children, but my faith in Jesus has grown in abundant ways.  This journey has taught me about obedience and living a life that God has asked of me.  That doesn't mean it will always be easy or convenient.

Today in church the guest speaker, Bobby McGraw, spoke after leading our youth for Invasion weekend (a weekend for the youth of our church). He spoke about living in obedience and  living a  life that works.  The first point he made was that our life should be "controlled by the Father's desires."  We often try to compare ourselves on earth to look or be like everyone else, but trying to fit a mold doesn't work. If we are committed as a family to what God wants, we can fully experience the blessings from Him in an amazing way.  I do not mean material blessings, but that He will provide what we need, according to His will.  "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."-Philippians 4:19

We are trying as a family to be obedient to God and pursuing to honor Him in all we do (not just in homeschooling), which translates to being different in today's world. We strive to live and teach our children to be the opposite of what the world teaches. Life is not about self satisfaction or self gratification, life is about sharing God's love with others and learning how He desires to use us for His purpose. This does not mean we will not fail along the way. We most certainly will. We are striving for these things, but we are also learning to live and give grace to ourselves and others.

For our family, this calling is so much more than a choice of how we will educate our children. We are doing more than educating our children by having them home on a daily basis. We are nurturing and investing in them for the sake of Jesus.

As parents, we all have to find what works best for our family. I will forever be grateful that we listened to God's call to change our path three years ago. It was scary and unknown, but it has been filled with many blessings. 

 

My heart, my soul, Lord I give you control.Consume me from the inside out Lord.Let justice and praise become my embrace. To love You from the inside out. Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades. Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame. And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise. From the inside out, O my soul cries out.  -from Hillsong United,  the Inside Out.

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from our hearts

Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

The online photography community has been a blessing to me in many ways. I have been able to meet people from all over the world that I would otherwise never know.  I believe each friendship is not by chance, but through God's provision and plan. One of those special friends is Ashley Meiners Wilson. We have gotten to know each other in a beautiful way over the past year.  I am grateful for our conversations and friendship.

Last week, Ashley suddenly and unexpectedly lost her husband Jon. He left behind Ashley and two young children.  In December, Ashley did a beautiful tribute to her husband as part of our 10 on 10 project.  You can see her amazing work and love for Jon  here.

A group of 28 photographers have come together to show Ashley our love and support.  In times like this there are so few words that seem enough, but we wanted her to know how much we love her and that we are standing behind her.  You can find out how you can help and see our collaboration here. 

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thoughts on project 365

It's almost been three months since I started the Joy Project; my own version of a project 365.  As someone who has always captured the beauty of every day, I don't feel like I am picking up my camera more; yet there have still been some valuable observations. I am really trying to embrace imperfections and messy. I am not necessarily meaning this about life, but about the way I capture our life. Life can definitely be disheveled; often out of order and filled with highs and lows on any given day. I really want to look back on my pictures and be able to relive these moments. I want to be able to feel the days as I do now and to see them years from now with the same fresh eyes I see them with today. This is increasingly more important than a perfectly composed or exposed image.

We are surrounded by family with cousins always in and out of our home and yard. Our home is often loud and chaotic with children interacting and playing.  At other times it is quiet and calm filled with snuggles and intimate conversations.  Most days are slow and savored as we spend them learning about life, playing, and just being together. It is so important to me to teach our children the value of relationships within and outside of our home. To make time for each other and others and not let the busy paced world that surrounds us seep in and take over.

I want to be able to accurately capture the childhood I see my children living. This unique and ever so special season of life is one I thank God for daily. I want to look back on my images and feel the connection to them that I do now.  I feel like each frame I capture is its own note of thanksgiving that I can never find accurate words to express. I don't want to forget anything about these days and this project reminds me of that constantly. I want to hold these memories and remember each of the details without fail.

I look forward to the growth I will stumble upon as I continue this project in the months ahead.

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You can see more from the Joy Project here.

 

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a fun start to reading

Today on the Creative Mama I am sharing a bit about a new curriculum we are using to introduce letters to our 4 year old.   It has been such a great fit for her so far as we continue to combine art with introducing letters.  One of our first activities was using finger painting to create the letter A. reading blog 5reading blog 2reading blog 3reading blog 7

Head on over the the Creative Mama to read more about this curriculum.

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How do I love you? Let me count the days

I am really excited to share  with you a very special project I was invited to take part in for the month of February.  You can read here how this awesome idea by Davina Fear got started.  There were 25 total contributors who each gave ideas on how to bring more love and connection to the everyday. creative mama valentine's image for project sized

All of the ideas were combined to create a wonderful e-book.

Here is a sneak peek at the e-book. My contribution is idea #11.  I loved reading through the ideas and thinking of little ways that we can continue to slow down and let those around us know how much they are loved and how important they are to us.

Ginger Unzueta VDAY ideaIf you would like a free copy of this inspiring e-book please go here.

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living with grace

A couple weeks ago my four year old daughter went to the dentist and we were told that she had a cavity and possibly two. She is our third child and the first one to have a cavity. I got in the car and immediately my eyes filled with tears. I realize that you may think I am crazy, but I am going to continue to put myself out there and share this story. You might very well be asking yourself why I would cry over something like this. My husband didn’t even really understand my tears, but ultimately I felt like I failed her. I knew the reality of her being our third child; things have been much more relaxed. She got juice and treats at a much younger age. In addition, when we started homeschooling a few years ago, our nighttime routine got a bit relaxed. I wanted relaxed, don’t get me wrong, but it was almost to a fault. My husband’s schedule for the past few years has been very demanding. He gets home late and travels often.  Homeschooling allows for a more flexible lifestyle and one of the things we have cherished is that the kids can have this time with Dad whenever he gets in for the night. This means that many nights there have been late bedtimes, in exchange for time with Daddy. With the late bedtimes, came a lack of routine; which at times included baths that were missed and teeth that were not brushed. After spending the entire day blaming myself for the cavities, I decided that there had to be a happy medium between a strict night time schedule and no routine. We immediately began implementing a routine at night again that was flexible but consistent. The story doesn’t end here.

As recommended, last week we followed up with the pediatric dentist.  I was in complete shock to find out that her x-rays showed that she not only has multiple cavities, she needs to get a crown put on one of her teeth. Feelings of failure and inadequacy overcame me.  I questioned all my abilities as a mother. I became upset and frustrated all over again. It was truly a spiral of emotions. I was so sad that my four year old would have to go through the hours of sedation and work to get her teeth repaired.  And I was sad thinking of her with a silver cap on her baby tooth for the next 8 plus years. And sadly, I thought to myself, what will other people think.

I left the office and called my mother in tears. All I could think about was what I must have done wrong as a mother. It was later brought to my attention that her having been born prematurely could have attributed to her having all these dental problems. The reality is, it may not have been a factor, but this really got me thinking.  My frustration and disappointment turned into joy and thanksgiving. She was born prematurely yet she has had zero health problems since birth. She spent less than two weeks in the NICU and she is so full of life and love. This was one of the first things we have faced since leaving the NICU over four years ago and I should be counting my blessings.

I started to really find perspective. Then I began to think of grace and perceptions. This is when I felt God’s whisper in my ear. This is when I knew I had so much to learn from all of this. I needed this reminder of how frail we each are.

Admittedly, I worried about what people would think of me as a parent when they saw my daughter’s silver tooth and I became defensive immediately. I didn’t let her drink soda or sweet tea or eat junk all day long. I had not been good about insisting her teeth were brushed twice daily, but I didn't completely neglect them either.  I kept battling these feelings back and forth in my head. As I sat there worrying about what people would think, I became very convicted of my own tendencies to question parents.

I began to think about how we never really know the story of mothers, children, or anyone we see from afar. I am certain there are even people we think we know, but we truly don’t.  Perhaps you have heard the mom that is yelling across the parking lot at her children and think you’d never do that. Or you see the obese child at the store and think shame on the parents for feeding him/her the wrong foods. Maybe, you’ve seen the child in the store yelling or hitting their mother. Or perhaps you know the child that gets in trouble all the time at school or church. I could go on and on with examples; but you think that would never be you. You think, that would never be my child. Or perhaps, it has been you or your child. Perhaps, you have felt this unfair judgment that hurts deep inside because people do not know your whole story.

Each of us do the best we can as parents to our children, but no matter what our best is, we have to realize we are going to fall short.  Most often I am doing so much on my own, as many other mothers are and I am worn out and tired by the end of the day. We need to give ourselves and each other grace. I know for sure our home is a place filled with love and togetherness. Isn’t that the most important thing?  I have to let go of this idea of perfect. I have to let go of worrying about messing up and accept the fact that I will mess up. Yes, it is okay to strive to do better or make changes, but not giving ourselves grace is a problem. I don’t think I am the only person who struggles with this. The more children we have, the more aware of this I have become.

I don’t want to be a mother that ever judges or challenges other mothers; even if it is only in my thoughts. I see so much of the so-called “mommy wars” too often, especially with the prevalence of social media. I read and see these battles everywhere. I hear the bold messages loud and clear and I can hear the implied messages just as loud. Motherhood is hard enough as it is; we don’t need to judge others or ourselves. I may make choices you would never make and vice versa,  but we should affirm one another; or at the very least not judge someone for being different.

Sadly, I have been the person who was judgmental in my thinking. I had this idea of how life should look or I thought I did. I thought I would always have it together as a mother, but the more children I have the more I realize how messy life will get some times. God has shown me time and time again, how much I need His grace.  I have learned how beautiful messy can be.  And as the dentist explained to me,  I will tell my daughter how beautiful her “silver tiara” is. I don’t ever want her to think she is anything less than enough. I don't ever want her to think that she is flawed. She is perfect just the way God designed her. I want her to know this now and always. I know this is only one small baby step in demonstrating grace to my children and myself. There will be so many things we experience together, far more serious than a silver crown, and now is the time to lay down the foundation.

I pray that I will continue to grow on this journey of motherhood and that God will continue to mold me into the person He has planned. And I pray that along this road I can encourage others to do this as well. I pray that we can all begin to accept our own shortcomings and the shortcomings of those around us. Most of all, I pray that we can share the love of Christ with all those we are around.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. -1 Thessalonians 5:11

As I look at this picture I am reminded of what a blessing these children are. I will certainly fail them at some point, but I will continue to do my best to let them know they are always loved.

grace for the mama | ginger unzueta

 

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summer in january

This week we  enjoyed a beautiful, warm and breezy January day. We packed up our school books and headed out to do our school in the fresh air. We ended up spending the entire day outside. These are the best kind of days. summer in january 4

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Hand's Free Mama | a giveaway

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Rachel Stafford online and have enjoyed getting to know her so much.  Her heart is full of love and compassion and she is on a mission to share her story in hopes of encouraging other mamas.  This month she released her first book : The Hand's Free Mama :A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!   I was sent two copies of this book early to review and have decided to give one of the copies away.   In complete honesty, I have not had the chance to read the entire book yet, but hope to sit down with it very soon. If you would like a chance to win a copy of this book, please share this post somewhere (your blog, twitter, facebook, instagram), and comment below where you have shared.   The contest will close Sunday, January 12 at 11:59 pm. (one entry per person).

You can read some of the first reviews on the book here.

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a little Christmas break fun

I love Christmas time.   When we began homeschooling I decided we would always take the month of December off of school so we could really slow down and enjoy family time during this month.  We have had lots of fun doing Christmas activities, crafts, and baking the past couple of weeks    Then there are the times in between the Christmas fun where the kids can just play and relax and well, just enjoy being kids.  Yesterday afternoon was one of those.  Love these images of our girls just having fun. gwf6gwf7gwf bw 4gwf 1gwf2gwf3gwf4gwf5gwf8gwf9gwf bw2gwf14gwf bwgwf bw 3gwf15

 

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mickey's very merry Christmas and letting go a little at a time

This week we went on our annual trip to Walt Disney World's Very Merry Christmas Party. It is a fun night that we spend with our children and their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.   It has been such a special Christmas tradition since we moved home to Florida.   The kids love the beautiful lights, the fake snow, and the hot chocolate stands scattered throughout the park. I am the mom, the photographer, that takes my "big camera" everywhere.   I rarely leave it at home. I love capturing the everyday beauty of my children and to be honest, I am not confident using the camera on my phone.  A couple of weeks ago I read an article at the Creative Mama, by Courntey Keim entitled Giving Up and Enjoying my Kids.  In this wonderful article Courtney talks about her recent trip to Disney without her camera.   Admittedly, as I read her article I didn't think it really applied to me, but I thought it was really cool to read about her experience.  (I kept thinking that I don't feel like I have missed out on anything by taking my camera with me on previous trips to Disney.  And I only ever took one lens.  And I gave up posing my children long ago.)  But, there was something  about her words that kept coming back in my head as we prepared to pack for our trip.   I am so grateful that she shared her own experience and I started thinking that maybe I would try this notion of "leaving my camera at home."  I realized this will NOT be our only time to Disney (we are blessed to live very close) and the time we spent at the park would be dark (so I wouldn't be missing out on golden hour at Disney images).  I have taken it with us most every other trip we made to Disney and some of those trips I only took a few images, yet I had lugged my heavy camera around for hours .

Well, I did it.  I left my camera at home and guess what? I loved every minute of the night. I felt a new sort of freedom and even a challenge having only my phone camera. Yes, there are a few images, I know I would have LOVED to use my "real camera" for, but it really wasn't missed.  I never had to worry about taking my camera on rides or having someone hold it for me.  And I have to agree, without my camera there, I was able to be engaged fully in more of the moments instead of doing all I could to preserve them for the future. I found that one of the biggest advantages of only using my phone was I have all of my photos edited from the night and have enjoyed looking at them since the trip.  I didn't spend time at home sifting through tons of images and then editing them; I just accepted what I got (even the blurry and grainy images).  This is big for me. I am a perfectionist by nature but there are times I am learning to let go and simplify and it feels good.

Does this mean I won't bring my camera next trip to Disney?   I can't promise that, but I can say that next time I don't have my camera with me, I am slowly learning that my phone can be a pretty good back up. I definitely still believe in capturing the everyday beauty of my children. I love being able to hold onto a little bit of today through photography,  but I am learning there are different ways I can do this.  I truly believe once you know your camera (a professional DSLR, a film camera, a point and shoot, or a phone camera) that you can efficiently capture your children, without missing life and the moments around you.   I do pick up my camera almost every single day, but I know when to set it back down, and continue with our living. This balance is essential.

For me there is so much more to this than simply what camera I chose to use this week. It is just one example of a way that I can let go a bit of expectations I put on myself.   I have been reading a book called Chose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough by Kay Warren.  In the book she talks about perfectionism and the expectations we set on ourselves.

I loved these words by the author:  "The antidote to perfectionism is acceptance--acceptance of our earthly imperfections because we are focused on the day when imperfection will be no more. If I try to experience perfection here on earth, I will come up short every time. If I keep looking for perfection within myself, I will kill the joy in me.  You and I need to fire our inner critic! When I accept myself as I am instead of who I wish I was, when I accept those around me as they are, not only as I wish they were,  when I accept the world as it is, not as I wish it was, my joy in today as well as my hope for tomorrow can grow."

These are quite powerful words indeed, especially if you can relate to this battle inside with your inner critic. There was a time when I honestly couldn't have accepted images from a night I wanted to remember that were anything less than perfect in my eyes.  Today, I am trying to embrace all of the flaws and find a new kind of joy and peace through doing this.

very merry long

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10 on 10 | the december edition

“How long does it take for your soul to recognize that your life is full? The slower the living, the greater the sense of fullness and satisfaction. The body and soul can synchronize." -Ann Voskamp This year has been filled with many wonderful memories.  Countless afternoons have been spent in this same spot in our backyard. There have been so many lovely memories and conversations in this beautiful place.  Conversations with God, my husband, my children, family and friends.  I am so grateful to feel the fullness of life... to feel the love and true joy that surrounds me daily.  I am thankful to really understand why joy is so much more than happiness.  Kay Waren defines joy in a beautiful way in her book entitled Chose Joy: Happiness is Not Enough.  She says, "Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright and the determined choice to praise God in all things."  It isn't always easy to practice this way of living, but it is a place where I find a peace that I haven't always known.  It is a place where I chose to believe that God truly has a plan for my life and I don't need to fret over the details and the "what ifs".   I just need to live in this moment today.  This place of joy, is something I have to chose daily to live for and it is something worth every effort lived.

December has been very warm this year, even for Florida.  I have loved our late afternoon and sunset evenings spent down by the lake.  I have used this time to relax and watch my children so content and free.  I have been able to observe and capture this amazing sun in all kinds of ways.  These pictures are full of sun and flare.  (There are even a few where the flare and sunburst did some pretty amazing things.)  If there is a possible way to capture the way Joy feels inside of me, these images would be close.  Something about the sun, the water, and my children come together in a special way.

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I have enjoyed working on this 10 on 10 project each month for the past year with a wonderful group of ladies.  I am so excited that we have decided to continue in 2014 with another project together. This group of women is something special; not only amazing photographers but beautiful friends.  I am so thankful for each one of them.  Please head on over to the blog of Rowe Timson ; she captures her adventurous life in the most gorgeous way.

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30 days of thanks 2013 | week 4

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118:1 This is the final week of my 30 days of thanks project.  You can see the first three weeks : here, here and here.

Day 22/30

I see my daughter here running barefoot, seemingly carefree, and think that I should still be seeing a 3 year old. Where did the time go? She's 9 now, actually halfway to ten, and I feel like this has been the year with so many questions. She's right there....somewhere between childhood and teen...wondering about things around her, curious about what is to come. Some days I am really sad, I am, that my time with her (with all my children) goes by so quickly.

Today, I want to give thanks. For each day as a mother. Every phase has been as beautiful as the one before. I've learned so much along the way. Today I will celebrate the present and the conversations we now have, the bond we have built in these nine years. And once again, I thank God that I have been blessed with the gift of motherhood.

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Day 23/30

She gets lost in her world as she cares for her babies. She is their mama and they need her love and attention. I remember playing make believe for hours when I was a child. I am grateful for the gift of imagination...dolls, trains, blocks, forts; whatever form it may take. It is something special to create a world for even a moment that is just as you see it. What an amazing gift from our Creator.

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Day 24/30

There are certain friends in our lives that it doesn't matter how often we see each other or how long it has been since our last visit, it always feels like no time has passed. With these friends there is a comfort and a peace just being in one another's presence.

I am grateful for these special friendships. Today, I am thankful for a Saturday afternoon spent on the ranch filled with conversations that left me encouraged and inspired, for an afternoon of exploring and running wild in the open, and for friendships that I will always cherish.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. -1 Thessalonians 5:11

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Day 25/30

Childhood is the most beautiful of all life's seasons. -Unknown Author

I often watch my children and am filled with so much joy as I see them enjoying their childhood in such a special way. I feel so blessed that I can remember my own childhood filled with love and beautiful memories. I am so grateful for that time in my life. I feel blessed that I had two parents willing to do whatever it took to put family first.

As I have gotten older, I realize this is not always the case with others, and it breaks my heart. I wish that every child could have memories of being loved and happy. I will not take what I know for granted and pray to be able to give love and comfort to all those I am around.

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Day 26/30

I left my hometown for college when I was 17 and married my husband a little over a year after my college graduation. We then lived states away from our family for the next 12 years. I was the child who never went to summer camp, left home etc. The years away from my family taught me so much about myself, life and love.

I remember one Christmas we were all home and sitting around my parents' dining room table talking about our thanksgivings and dreams. I will never forget my dad telling us that his dream was to have all four of his children and their families living back home together. I dreamed this too. I prayed for this, but didn't think it was even a possibility for many more years.

I underestimated the power of our God, because in 2012 this became a reality. We are all living on the same street, raising our 8 children together. There is not a day I don't thank God for this time in our life. I am so grateful for parents that really taught us that family is a priority. I am grateful for siblings I love and truly enjoy being around. And I am so grateful for these 8 children. I love having them in my home and hearing them all together. It is truly one of the greatest blessings of my life.  I continue to be grateful for each day we get to live with our family as our neighbors.

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Day 27/30

My mother n law is so much more to me than just my husband's mother. She is honestly a second mother to me and I am so grateful to have her in my life. Her faith in God and her love of others is something I am inspired by daily.

I received a call from her the day I took this image. She had noticed my pots of flowers around the yard were empty or dead and she asked if I would mind if she bought some new flowers and came and spent some time planting. As most of you know, her plate is pretty full with her husband having Alzheimer's, yet, she continues to give of herself and think of others. She serves with an open and loving heart and it is an inspiration to anyone around.

I am so grateful to be a part of this special family. My husband has three brothers and they each are loving, compassionate men. I am so thankful to have all of them and their families in my life. And I am so grateful my husband was raised in a home filled with so much love.

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Day 28/30

The process of shaping the child...shapes also the mother herself. Reverence for her sacred burden calls her to all that is pure and good that she may teach primarily by her own humble, daily example. - Elisabeth Elliot

I began to see my parents so differently once I became a parent myself. I took so much for granted as a child. At the time, I didn't appreciate all that my parents sacrificed for our family and I deeply regret that now.

I am so thankful to have had a mother who gave me such a beautiful example of motherhood through her own daily example. I never questioned if she would be there for me and I always knew I was loved. Family always came first in our home and it still does. I am so grateful for the love my parents share and the example they exemplify through over forty years of marriage. I am so thankful for my loving father who worked hard, so that my mother was able to stay home and be there to meet all of our needs. I always felt secure, safe, and taken care of and I believe this is important as a child. So much of what I know about being a parent, I learned from watching my own parents. I am thankful for their example.

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Day 29/30
My husband and I didn't have children for almost 5 years after we got married. I remember those early years together. Saturdays were spent sleeping in followed by long afternoon naps. Then I remember having our first baby and I would sleep whenever I got the chance while she was sleeping. This became more rare with our second child, and a novelty when we had our third. It seems whenever I lay down to take a nap these days my mind wanders to what I should be doing and I don't end up falling asleep.Sadly, a scheduled nap is no longer part of the daily routine for any of our children. Our youngest recently gave hers up when it seemed to make her stay up later and later at night. But I do love that when she needs her sleep, she usually finds a way to get it. That may be in the car, the sofa, the floor, or mama's bed. You never know where you might find her taking a little snooze. Today I am thankful for naps. Yes, it is something so simple, but it can make a big difference in a day. It can turn everything around.

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Day 30/30

Thirty days hardly seem like enough to give thanks for the many ways God has blessed my life. As I look through the month of images, something is very evident. None of these blessings would be possible without Him. I am most grateful for the gift of Salvation and the life I have only through Jesus Christ.  As I think about all of the blessings in my life, one word comes to mind and that is grace.  Some days it is almost too much for me to understand;  the love He has for me, the way He accepts me just the way I am and the underserved blessings He lavishes on me. But this is our God and there is nothing more I could ever desire. Hillsong United’s song Scandal of Grace beautifully says what I struggle to find the words to share.

Grace what have you done Murdered for me on that cross Accused in absence of wrong My sin washed away in your blood

Too much to make sense of it all I know that your love breaks my fall The scandal of grace You died in my place So my soul will live

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“The practice of giving thanks...eucharisteo...this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don't have to change what we see. Only the way we see.” ― Ann Voskamp

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30 days of thanks 2013 | week 3

Take Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalms 37:4 This verse is such a lovely reminder to me each time I read it.  I find such comfort in these words.  I don't read it and believe that God will give me everything I desire. No, I read this verse and realize that the more  I take delight in the Lord, the more I spend time with Him and seek His will for my life, the more my desires will be the same as His.

This is the third week of  my 30 days of thanks in pictures project.  You can go back and view week one here and week two here.   I really love this project and the way it causes me to slow down each day and think of the blessings in my life.

Day 15/30
I walked into the kitchen and found our youngest daughter in the refrigerator. This was not the first time that I have found her like this. This will probably not be the last time.It made me think. My oldest child would have never done this. My 2nd..perhaps, but if told no, he probably wouldn't try again. My 3rd..she is the one that will "push the envelope"-- will risk getting in trouble, to get what she wants. I am grateful for each of their different personalities. I love how they are all special and so unique.Today I will celebrate her independence and determined spirit.

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Day 16/30

These two can play for hours together. It's usually very noisy, rough, and may very well end in one of them hurt or tattling--but their love for one another is undeniable. I am thankful for their relationship. I am so grateful they have each other.

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Day 17/30

In January of 2009 we had a miscarriage. I was heartbroken and devastated. In February of 2009 we were surprised to find out we were expecting another baby which was due in November. Almost two months early, in September of 2009, we welcomed our third child. Those first days with her in the NICU and me still sick in the hospital were some of the hardest I have known. Ultimately, I learned so much during that time.

Today and everyday as I look at our sweet girl, I am reminded of how wonderful surprises are. I am so thankful for all of the unexpected blessings in life. God's plan is always so perfect, even amidst heartaches and trials.

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Day 18/30

When my oldest was 4 our family dynamic was much different. We had a 4 year old and a 1 year old and my husband was at war in Iraq. Life was crazy most days and a bit of a blur as I think back on it.

Today, life can still be crazy, but its so different having older siblings. Having a 9 year old in the house to help is huge. She is such a great big sister; reading, playing pretend, helping with bath time...it just comes natural to her. I am so grateful for all the ways she helps me each and every day. She is a blessing to our family in so many ways.

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Day 19/30

The past week has been filled with a lot of cloudy days and rain and yesterday morning we woke up to blue skies and sunshine. We postponed school and headed out for a fun morning together. I love a morning of exploring. I am thankful for blue skies and sun.

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Day 20/30

Last week on the news we heard that $1 would provide 10 meals in the Philippines. We talked as a family about what the people were going through and the help they needed. Together, we decided we would have a bake sale to raise money. I shared with our children that every little bit makes a big difference.

Yesterday, was spent in the kitchen preparing our baked goods, which we will sell this morning. I am thankful for my children's loving and growing hearts. I feel grateful that we have the ability to give, even in a small way. We will continue to pray for the people of the Philippines remembering Jeremiah 29:11 : For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

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Day 21/30

In the middle of the night my husband and I woke up to find the bathroom light on. My husband went to see what was going on but the bathroom was empty. He then went to check on each of our children. One bed was empty. We did not see our baby girl in her bed. He looked further to find her in her closet changing nightgowns. She had had an accident. When finished changing she came and got into bed with us.

In the morning as I lay there watching her sleep, I couldn't help but think of how grateful I was for "do overs" in life. Sometimes we all know how we should do things (ie. she should have gone to the potty before bed), but we don't do it the right way. Maybe it is inconvenient? Maybe it is uncomfortable? So we don't do "whatever it" is, the correct way. But I am thankful for the times we get to try again. When we can learn from our mistakes and make things better the next time. I mess up a lot and pray for compassion and grace, and I want to extend this same type of love to those I am around.

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"cultivate the habit of being grateful" -unknown

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30 days of thanks 2013 | week 2

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  1st Thessalonians 5:16-18 Welcome back for week two of my personal project: 30 days of thanks in pictures.  You can go back and read a bit about this project and see week one here.

Day 8/30

Moving back home to Florida has brought many joys, but there are many things I do truly miss. I miss the change of seasons. I especially miss the fall leaves so full of color and the magical feeling of a first snow each year. But, the other night while down by the lake I couldn't help but think of how lovely the weather really is right now. My son was playing in the water and the sun was just setting over the horizon. While I do miss the seasons, I am so grateful for the weather we have in Florida during the fall and winter. It is pretty beautiful most days. And once in a while we get a snap of cool air, but then you know the warm mild days will be back.

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Day 9/30

It doesn't matter if Daddy is gone 9 months, 9 weeks, or 9 days...the excitement seeing his car coming home is always the same. I am grateful to share life with a man that brings us so much love and joy, that sacrifices so much for our family and country, and that makes the most of every day together. No, every day is not bliss in 14 years of marriage; but each day spent living and learning together is something to be so thankful for.

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Day 10/30

"Most of our days are filled with routine duties required for life to continue with any sort of sanity. But if we take the time look closely, we might discover that God is using these normal activities to prepare us for future tasks, each duty pointing to His blessing in our lives." -Priscilla Shirer

Any day of the week you will find me in my home. No make up. Shorts and a t-shirt. Hair on top of my head. Dishes in the sink. Laundry to be done. Teaching my children. This is my ordinary. I am grateful today for my ordinary. For the gift I have been given with such a beautiful purpose to teach, love and guide my children daily. For the right now in my life. I am thankful that God has shown me more blessings than I ever dreamed in these ordinary moments.

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Day 11/30

"I'm not telling you it's going to be easy - I'm telling you it's going to be worth it." ― Art Williams

When we started homeschooling many people asked me what I was going to do to "entertain" our youngest child while schooling the other children. Some even suggested that I send her to pre-school to make things easier. My husband and I decided that we would have her stay home with our other children. Three years later, I am so grateful for this decision. We have so many memories of us all together during our days. Yes, sometimes, it is a challenge. She is at a busy age, but an age that is so fun to watch and nurture. I love getting to see the older children work with her on skills. I love being able to watch her love of art and learning grow. I love having her with us throughout our days. She learns so much by being around her older siblings....and honestly they even learn quite a bit by having her around too

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Day 12/30

Our home is usually a pretty noisy place. One that is filled with laughter and learning at most times during the day. (And yes, there are bound to be times I hear arguing as well). With three children home there isn't a lot of quiet. But I wouldn't trade our life for any other way. I love the noise and I love having our house filled with children. I love when the cousins and neighbors are in our home. BUT to be honest, by the end of the day, I crave quiet. I love order and I am ready to relax. Some nights, I don't ever find this because I fall asleep getting the kids all to bed. But when I do, it is something I am very grateful for.

 

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Day 13/30

Sometimes, I feel and look just like this when life doesn't seem to go my way. I want to cry, kick and scream, and just ask why? Today I am thankful to know that even though I may not understand God's plan always, I do know He loves me and His plan is always best.

"God's purposes are not for me to understand His plans: His plan is for me to understand Who He is." -AnnVoskamp.com

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 Day 14/30

"Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart."  -Kahlil Gibran

Even as we teach our children that their beauty is found inside of them, there is something beautiful to me about the magical world of dress up.   Our youngest sits fascinated by make up, dresses, and tiaras.  She twirls and sings and acts out various roles as she plays.  I am grateful for these moments and the beautiful girl I see before me. No, not beautiful because of her dress or her makeup, but because of that shining light in her heart.  That light, that is what I am grateful for.

day 14 blog

"gratitude changes everything" -unknown

What are you grateful for today?

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30 days of thanks 2013 | week 1

I will thank you, Lord, among all the people. I will sing your praises among the nations. Psalm 57:9 It seems like as soon as October 1st hits, the Holiday and Christmas rush begins.  I think November is a wonderful time to slow down and look around our lives at the many blessings God has bestowed on us. It's a time to rejoice in all things.  To be honest, I really want to live with a grateful heart all times of the year.  I am documenting 30 days of thanks in pictures for the second year in a row. I loved looking back on these sweet blessings at the end of November last fall so I knew I wanted to do it again.

I have been reading 1000 gifts by Ann Voscamp since summer (I am a slow reader) and it really is a beautiful way to live...to really seek God in all things.  To live a life seeking  the beautiful gifts awaiting us each day. They may not always seem big, but they are never insignificant.   This way of life doesn't mean we will not face heartache, bad days, rough patches, despair, loss, or any thing else that can bring us down. No,  we will always find valleys in our lives,but you can find beauty and light even in these dark hours. You just have to have your eyes open to it.

Day 1/30

I am thankful that no matter where I look in my home, there are traces of children, traces of life, love and living together as a family. I never want to take these for granted.

This picture is a little reminder of a day painting leaves, because otherwise our leaves here in Florida do not have much color.

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 Day 2/30

I love that many mornings we wake up with one or two or even three extra bodies in our bed; even if it feels super crowded and my sleep is disturbed. I love this because most days it feels like they are growing up way too fast, but this is a reminder that they do still need us..that they still love our comfort, our touch, and our presence. And this fills my heart.

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 Day 3/30

"your lovely even with your scars" -amy grant

I have struggled with people pleasing and perfectionism as long as I can remember. In doing this, many times I have questioned if I am enough? I am starting to see that my oldest daughter struggles in similar ways. Today, I am grateful for the way God brings His message to us through music. We were in the car when Amy Grant's Don't Try So Hard came on the radio. It was a such a blessing to be reminded that we are more than enough in the Lord, and that His Grace is never ending. To be reminded we don't need to try so hard. And what a gift to talk about the meaning of this song with my 9 year old.

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Day 4/30

Over the past six years Alzheimer's has taken so much away from my father-n-law and our family. But today I rejoice and am beyond thankful that there are still precious moments like these. I am so grateful my children get to have this time with their Grandfather and can see the love that he still feels for them. It's a reminder that even in the hardest of circumstances, God is still very much there.

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Day 5/30

At first glance this photograph looks similar to many others I have of our four year old--our sweet child who loves to paint. As her mama, I know the story and feeling behind the pictures making each one unique and special. I could capture her like this daily, in her world, in her element. I feel so blessed to get to watch her enthusiasm, her imagination, and her love for creating come alive. I pray she will always have this spirit.

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Day 6/30

I must admit I am not the best doggie mama at times...somewhere between having our children and my husband leaving for countless deployments our faithful friend seemed to get less of my attention. But, I am so grateful for the 14 years of companionship he has brought us. I am grateful that my children give him the love he deserves. We have so many memories with him and I am forever grateful. My children have never known life without him...he is our family♥

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Day 7/30

This week I realized we had reached a milestone in our home. It was the first time in almost 10 years that no one needed a diaper or a pull-up. (not for day, not for night, not at all) I think back over these years of there always being a baby in the home. I am grateful to all the memories...the life that has been lived. Long nights at times. Tantrums. New Words. Giggles. So much learning in the early years. Today I look at our three little people..our three blessings and I thank God for who they are each becoming. It's hard to realize they are getting older, but I see them in a such a beautiful way with the wings they are growing.

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When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow. - Shauna Niequist

You can come back next Friday to see my next week of gratefulness.  And if you are doing a project too, I'd love you to comment. I am enjoying following so many other people on this journey this month.

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more thoughts on saying yes

Almost 6 months ago I wrote a post about saying yes more to our children and how thankful I was for the joy I found in the "yes-es".   It really is a never-ending choice we have as parents...the choice to say yes; to inconvenience our selves sometimes, the choice to give up something else to make the yes happen, the choice to stop what we are doing and really give our children the attention they are asking for.  The questions can come in all different ways.  I would be lying to say over the last six months, since my first post,  that I always have said yes.  I haven't. I am human, we all are.  Not one of us are perfect mamas and we shouldn't ever feel like we need to be.  This isn't really about always saying yes, but about not always saying no. And sometimes, as I said before, yes is unreasonable.  But I have seen time and time again,  when I do say yes something special happens. Over the last two weeks I was able to experience the joy in saying yes.

My husband recently took our three children to a store in town called Spirit Halloween. I had never been in this store.  I really thought it was kind of silly to be honest. Halloween just isn't one of my favorite holidays.  The kids came home so excited over all of the costumes they had seen.  My 4 year old was most enthusiastic because she had seen a bumble bee and she had decided that was what she was going to be for Halloween. For a couple of days I ignored her chatter about this bumble bee idea.  I thought she could be a princesss.  We certainly have a lot of princess costumes in our dress up closet and with three children, this would certainly save money and be one less costume to plan for.   It made sense to me to not buy another costume, to not say yes to the bumble bee. BUT, she had her own idea.  She did not stop talking about the bumble bee she was going to be.   This was the first year she showed an interest in what she would be for Halloween, so it got me thinking and  I decided we would buy the costume and she would get to be a bumble bee. I cannot tell you how excited she was the day her costume arrived.   I was so grateful to have said yes.  I was so grateful to see her smile, her enthusiasm and joy dancing and twirling and buzzing in her costume.

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This week brought another chance to say yes in such a simple way, but similarly it brought my daughter so much joy. Each year we love to paint pumpkins close to Halloween. In Florida, it seems like the carved pumpkins rot quickly and the painting is such a fun alternative.   My youngest was painting her little baby pumpkin this week and we decided to add glitter.  I gave her a very small amount, thinking it would add a fun sparkle to her creation. She asked me if she could have some more.  I gave her a bit more. She then asked if she could do it herself. We all know how messy glitter can be and we all know that a four year old isn't the most delicate at "doing it herself". My first instinct was to say no, let mama do it, but I decided to say yes.  In my head at that moment I thought glitter is not the most expensive thing and that she would have so much fun and feel a sense of independence.   And indeed, she had the most wonderful time using up every last bit of glitter and YES there was a huge mess.  But, it was in that mess I was reminded again of how important it is to not always automatically say no.  I share this because I know it is easier to say no a lot of the time.  I have been there and am still there many days.  But these experiences, they really make me think each time another opportunity to say yes is presented.   I am thankful for these lessons as a mother and I am thankful for yes.

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everyday beauty | a bloom forum workshop | January 2014 class

everyday beauty 2014 Join Ginger in this three-week online workshop to learn how light, composition, connections, and details all come together to create memories that will last a lifetime. Ginger will give insight into observing daily routines and spaces within your home to capture authentic moments. In addition, she will present ideas for you to create your own story telling session from start to finish. Finally, she will discuss shooting in public places and the importance of getting in the pictures yourself. This three-week mini workshop will include 4 assignments with personal critique and feedback from Ginger on each assignment. You will receive a PDF of all of the course material and assignments.

A Q&A section will also be provided. At the end of the course there will be a private section on Bloom where participants can continue interacting and sharing with one another.

A DSLR camera and basic knowledge of shooting in manual is recommended.

You must be a member of the Bloom Forum to participate.

Read reviews from past students here.

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Early Registration Details:

(this is your chance to sign up early, before registration is announced and opened within the forum)

Workshop Dates: January 27-February 17, 2014

Active Seat:  $250 (all active seats for the January class are SOLD OUT)

Silent/Read-Along  Seat: $200

 

If you are not a member of the Bloom Forum yet, you can join by clicking on the icon below:

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To register for a silent seatclick here.

If you have any questions please email: ginger@everythingbloom.com

Note: Workshop fees are non-refundable.

 

I will be offering Everyday Beauty again in May 2014. If you are looking to purchase an Active Seat,please follow my facebook page and/or blog for announcements about early registration.  Seats are always limited. Thank you.

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a glimpse into our summer days

“A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.”- Ann Voskamp The calendar says summer is officially over, yet that doesn't mean a lot in Florida.  Warm days still lie ahead, bathing suits will still be worn, and the flip flops are not going any where.  But with the end of the season, I thought it would be nice to compile some of my favorite memories of our children over the summer.

As I watch this video,  I am filled with so much love and gratitude.  I am so thankful for the life God has bestowed on my family.   I am grateful for the joy I feel and see in our lives daily.   Feeling joy day to day, doesn't mean we don't ever experience hard times, it doesn't mean we don't have bad days, and it certainly doesn't mean that we don't experience real pain and heartache.   No, feeling joy everyday means we have chosen to see life as the gift Christ planned for us.   We know that we are not alone, we know that He is our refuge and in Him we are free.  This is where our joy comes from.  This is the joy I see in my children's smiles and that I hear in their laughter.  This is the joy that keeps me going on days when I feel like I can not battle one more tantrum.  It is the joy that sustains me when I say goodbye to my husband countless times as his job takes him away.  Everyday we are presented with a choice of  how we will live our lives and how we will react and see what is in front of us daily.  I will fail; I will fail miserably at times, but I will get up, and seek this joy.  I am grateful for the gift of joy and all of these moments.

It's hard to share all of our beautiful summer days  into a three minute video, so that is why I call this a glimpse into our summer days....

(the song I used for my video is called Beautiful Day by Jamie Grace. If this is the first time you have heard her, please be sure to visit her website. She's a beautiful Christian woman and wonderful role model for girls of all ages)

a glimpse into summer 2013- ©ginger unzueta photography from Ginger Unzueta on Vimeo.

 

 

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four today

Today you are four.  I watch you daily in your magical world...in your world of dress up, dancing, and singing. I see you and I see joy.  You are a gift to us all.  I pray you will never lose your zest for life, your curiosity about the world around you, and your love for creating beautiful things.    We love you to the moon and back...today and always. birthday ginger unzueta 1

birthday ginger unzueta 2 v

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infectious joy

“Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.” ― Ann Voskamp

Last week one evening my niece was over playing with my youngest daughter.   As I watched them, I couldn't help but feel the joy.  Their squeals were loudly heard in the back yard and their smiles were radiating almost as bright as the evening sun. At 3 it seems pretty easy to be joyful.   Worry and disappointment comes in the form of not getting to buy another app on the I Pad or not getting one more cookie for dessert.  These sweet cousins were not even aware they had a limited 45 minutes to play together that night.  They just lived those 45 minutes to the fullest, without a thought elsewhere.

It makes me wonder, as we get older, when does this natural joyous state begin to change, and why does it have to?  As I've mentioned before I've been reading 1000 gifts by Ann Voskamp.  I have been challenged to open my heart to the gifts all around me. I have been challenged to see the seemingly insignificant as beautiful as God intended it to be. I desire to let go of the worrying about tomorrow and embrace each day and moment for what it is. As I look at these images today, I am reminded to live joyfully and to open my heart to the fullest life God has to offer.  I know that God is presenting this gift to me daily and I want to open my heart and grasp it always.   Sometimes, this is easy. But, admittedly, sometimes it has to be done with a conscious effort.  In either case, it is there waiting for all of us.

There really is so much beauty waiting to be appreciated in any direction I look.   And for these 45 minutes, it was indeed pure bliss.  It was giggles, swinging, sunlight, little hands and barefeet, lake breezes,  blonde curls, a sweet dimple.

I am thankful for this joy.

ginger unzueta photgraphy joyginger unzueta photgraphy joy 2

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