Saturday, April 18, 2015

Right Time and Place



This has never been more true to me than now.  Was it by chance or happenstance that I crossed paths with the folks I needed most this week?  Was it fate?

Nah. There was nothing routine or ordinary about the ways in which these chance meetings occurred.  It was God.  God all the way.  Les and I had to make a really difficult decision this week (to bring Camden home for home schooling) and we had been praying about it for days.

We were  torn about the decision and really just wanted God to give us some kind of sign as to what He would want us to do.

And if possible, could it be bright neon pink, blink obnoxiously, and hit us square over the heads so we'd have no doubts...

But, alas. It doesn't work like that...at least not most times. ;)

 Les and I knew this decision would be a biggie.  It wasn't something that we took lightly.  With it came a ton of questions, insecurities, and unknowns.

Not once, but three times, God sent people our way to give us support and encouragement this week.  One of these folks was a complete stranger.  Not one of them told us what we should do, they did not try and sway us one way or another - no one came bearing the blinking, neon sign that we craved so much.

But God didn't send those people to tell us what to do.  God whispered His presence through these precious people to let us know that we were being supported, loved, and being prayed for.  Knowing we had so many in our corner, made the decision less scary.  God's sign didn't come in the form of us being told what to do, but rather in the comfort of making the decision with a peace in our hearts.

We started our home schooling journey on Tuesday and since have received all kinds of love and encouragement from friends and family.  We are incredibly thankful for all the people that continue to reach out and help us figure it all out.  We are truly blessed with the people in our lives and for a God that answers our prayers in His time, His place, and His perfect way.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Barlow Review - Cinderella



A little late to the game, but the littles, my mom, and I, saw Cinderella (the new, live action film) on Tuesday.  I wasn't sure if the boys would like it, since it is a "princess-y" movie, but they enjoyed it quite a lot.  They loved the animals and funny bits (which were not crude or potty humor - hello, major breath of fresh air!)  The mice were very cute - Gus was always my fav in the animated version, and he doesn't lack in the adorable department here.  How do they make mice look so stinkin' precious in movies when they give me such willies in real life?  This film almost made me want one!! HAHA!

It's a truly beautiful film, rich in color and amazing scenery.  The writers and director stuck very closely to the original Disney version, which I loved because so many current films put a fragmented spin on classic tales.  The representation of fairy tale characters in movies like Shrek, for example...I'm just not a fan of the overly sarcastic and bitter personalities there.  (Not hating on Shrek...but it's not my first choice, if I'm being honest.)

My favorite aspect of the film was the overall theme of having courage and being kind in difficult situations.  Ella (Cinderella) displays true grace in dealing with the rough "go" she is handed by her stepmother and stepsisters.  She isn't displayed as this unrealistic model of perfection - she has her moments of wanting to give up, too.  Her scene of forgiveness towards her stepmother is perhaps her most powerful display of ultimate courage and kindness.

It's a message that is classic, yet totally relevant to today's young people.  I'm such an advocate for kindness.  I truly believe kindness can change lives.  Maybe that's why I liked this movie so much... out of five stars, I'd give it a strong 4.  There's a great message for adults and children alike, and where the adults can appreciate the beauty of the film and its nostalgia, the kiddos will love the animals and fairy godmother magic.

Have you guys seen the movie? What are your thoughts? :)


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!


This song says it all:
One day the grave could conceal him no longer
One day the stone rolled away from the door
Then He arose, over death He had conquered
Now He's ascended, my Lord ever more
Death could not hold Him, the grave could not keep Him 
From rising again  

Friday, April 3, 2015

Fishing Adventures!

**Pic heavy** <--do I get a bit of a concession since this is a part-photography blog?

It was an awesome spring day today, but a bit windy.  I don't know how that impacts the fish biting, but the water was a movin'! Of course there's this saying that if the cows are lying down in the fields, it isn't a good day for fishing...we should have seen it coming because doggone if every single cow we passed was chilling in the grass.

Colin caught the only two of the day - he seems to be quite the expert compared to the rest of us.  (We basically have no idea what we're doing...) Poor Cam wanted to catch one so badly!  Les is getting more comfortable unhooking the critters, and I'm trying to be strong and help with the bait. ;)

Here are some a lot of pics from our adventure...used my Canon 5D with 70-300mm lens.  <--probably my favorite lens because it gives such great creamy bokeh (blurred backgrounds).  It doesn't focus well on closer objects, but it works very well on sports and distance shots. Post processing done in Lightroom.
























Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Raising Christ Centered, Public Schooled Children in a Worldly World


Les and Camden in the summer of 2007; one of my favs

It's true what they say...parenting is the hardest job you will ever have.  It's easy to jump on that giant worry wagon: Am I doing this right? How do I handle this situation?  Am I making the right decision?  Then there's: Are they behaving themselves? Are they being kind? Do they remember all the things I've tried to teach them?  Are they being negatively influenced?  Will those influences erase all the things I've tried to teach them?

Oy. Vey.

This year has been one of the most challenging for me as a parent.  There's a lot happening in Camden's second grade class for which I was oh-so-not-prepared.  I didn't expected that the "real world" would be thrown at him this fiercely at only eight years of age.  (I'm not so naive to think it would never come...I just never imagined it would be NOW and to this degree. When I said "real world" those quotes were there because what's happening should not remotely be close the "real world" of  a second grader...even in 2015.)

Camden recently became a Christian and we want to give him a Christ centered upbringing, but I'm struggling with how we do that when he is being bombarded with a very ungodly world.  It saddens me how difficult this will be...that it will always be a struggle.  The culture of our world and the ways of God often clash and clash hard.  Sometimes I've wondered why God would make it so hard to raise Godly children.  But God never said being a Christian or living a Christian life would be easy...but it would be worth it.  I am so torn with what we should do in this school situation with Camden.  While I know that we cannot hide him away from bullies for all his life, at what point do I have to draw the line?  As his mom, there comes a point when I have to say, "Enough - this is more than any kid should have to deal with."   It's breaking my heart.  He loves school, but this situation is...it's just too much for an eight year old.

I recently read the book Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World by Ken Ham and found it disappointing.  I was looking for a book that would give us tips on raising Christ centered kids in spite of today's culture...a way to guide them without hiding them away.  I found Ham to be a staunch believer in homeschooling, and that it was, in his belief, the only way it could be done.

It left me wondering that if we take all of the Christian children out of public schools, wouldn't it leave no one to serve as a Christian example and witness to these other children?  I would like to think there is a place for Christian children in public schools, so it stung to hear that Ham thought it so unlikely.

Ham's argument is that in order to be "the salt of the earth" one has to be brought up as uncontaminated salt in order to retain saltiness.  He sites Matthew 9:50: Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? 

I get it, I do...but to me, it seems like he's saying Christians aren't capable of overcoming the temptations of today's culture unless they are reared in a pristine (uncontaminated) environment. I don't want to agree with this...I want public school to carry with it some hope.  I've known a lot of great people who've become amazing missionaries and  pastors, people who are passionate Christian people, who are truly changing the world...and they came from public schools.  I've also known a lot of people that were home schooled and ended up going wild at their first taste of the outside world...some leaving the faith altogether.  I guess there are no absolutes...no guarantees either way.  

I'm not against home schooling.  I'm absolutely not.  In fact, I wanted to home school our children at one point, but Les wasn't as keen on it, so we discussed it at length and chose public education.  We based where we settled down upon the location of the school district I wanted my kids to attend.  My boys have had great experiences in public school, so I never imagined having a year like we've had.  I turned to Ham's book to try and find reassurance that we could raise Christian children in public school.  I wanted to find tips on how we could help our children deal with things they are way too young to know about.  Second grade is the new high school, evidently. :( 

I'm praying that this year's situation is just the combination of a lot of unfortunate variables coming together to form the proverbial "perfect storm."   I'm hoping the extent to which this has escalated is an isolated incident...that in most circumstances, this is not the "norm."  Camden had great years in kindergarten and first grade.  But because things are so bad right now, we are seriously considering pulling him out to home school for the remainder of the year.  

I would like to be able to homeschool, to be honest.  It would be easier to more slowly introduce wordly experiences and I would feel more at peace.  But we need two incomes.  I don't think a permanent move to homeschooling would work.  I will need to figure out how to navigate the public school waters in spite of all its challenges.  

I know it's crucial for children to learn to cope with the world's exposures.  Like it or not, this is the world we live in.  I also believe the only way for a child to see that the world's offerings are merely lackluster and fleeting, is to actually SEE them.  I just wish kids weren't forced to grow up so quickly...they need maturity that only comes with age in order to deal with a lot of this stuff.

Do any of you know of a Christian parenting book that caters to all types of schooling?  Camden is very easily influenced by peer pressure and bullying, and Les and I need tips on how to guide him through it. I do think public school kids need extra guidance, BUT, I pray public school is not setting my child up to fail in his Christian walk.  





Friday, March 27, 2015

Brand New Leaves


This has always been one of my favorite quotes, but it has so much relevance in our lives right now.  Never before have I been so aware of life's change of seasons...and perhaps that is because I so fervently run from and deny unpredictable change.  Unpredictability has never been my friend.  I've been guilty of drifting through days, months, years just to abnegate changes.  Because if nothing changes, everything is predictable, right???  Because if you ignore change, it doesn't happen??  Right?  Right???

I've always had this horrendously bad perception of needing something carefully planned out to look forward to - in order to have contentment.  For example, when I was planning my wedding, I felt in control, like I had direction and things felt predictable.  Predictable was goooood.  I liked predictable! 

Until my concerted effort this year to Be Present, I felt like all of life's exciting milestones had already manifest - getting married, having children, getting a house... As a result, life from here on out only meant one thing... unpredictability would run a muck.   YIKES!! 

Erroneously, I believed that once the boys started growing up and becoming more independent, that my role as mother would be lessened.  What would my role in life become??? As new parents, we focused on attachment parenting and keeping our boys close at all times - they went where we went, we did babywearing and co-sleeping.  I loved that closeness more than anything.  Letting them grow up and start to find their own way has been hard.  To perhaps lessen the brunt of my feelings, I began to try ignoring the changes and thus missed a lot of things that should have had my focus.  <--Yeah, not my proudest moment for sure...just because you don't allow yourself to see changes, doesn't mean they don't happen...  alas.   

Being Present has totally altered my life, and perhaps that is why I can now acknowledge the big shift our lives have taken.  A shift that doesn't have a predictable outcome...and surprisingly, I'm not freaking out!  A few posts back, I wrote about how I was trying to move on from a time in our lives that went sour after once holding much fondness.  The quote above was a good reminder that life's winters lead to new beginnings.  

I turned 34 last week and it didn't immediately sit well with me.  I never had an issue with hitting 30...for some reason 28 was harder...maybe it was in knowing the big 3-0 was looming??  34 seemed to shout "mid-life" and all I could think about were a) where's my crisis??, and b) the things I haven't done yet...like getting a college degree and us being more financially stable and settled in careers.  I guess that's why Being Present has been the pinnacle of game changers.  In that vein, looking not further than my life right here, right now, it's really pretty wonderful in spite of not holding a bachelors degree or having "career."  My boys are healthy, Les has a good job that he loves, we aren't wealthy but are BLESSED.  I enjoy my jobs, especially the little ones for which I babysit.  Little Bub has a new Baby Sis, so I get to see what the other side is like - a GIRL! I love those two precious souls and have lots of fun with them.  It's also been a neat window into watching my boys interact with babies.  Colin is quite proud of how well he can make Baby Sis smile.  Lots of heartwarming moments going on.  

So where to is life shifting? I have no idea. (Unpredictable? YES!) I can see the things we are growing away from and have recently gained acceptance that there will be people and places that come and go.  Already, we have shifted to a decisively more Christ centered life.  I regret getting away from our faith, but I don't know that we would have re-entered with this much passion and dedication had we not. We saw how rough things were when we left God out.  Our new church has, in the few short months we've attended, already taken a paramount place in our hearts.  I am thankful every day for the precious friends that invited us there.  They set in motion the greatest gift we could have asked for when Camden accepted Christ there in February.  Les and I had drifted from these friends due in part to our involvement in The Great Theatre Debacle, and I will never be able to thank God enough for our reunited fellowship. These people are such great examples of Godly forgiveness and will always be incredible special to me. 

I've gained a number of readers/followers over the last year and I debated starting an entirely new blog...as the shift we are taking in life will have a big influence on my writing.  I don't want to lose the recording of our journey here, though.  In all the time I've blogged, my greatest difficulty has been finding my true voice and not trying to be someone "else."  It's been too easy to look to the Big-Time bloggers and want to emulate their style to attempt my own success.  In reality, it never works to try and convince yourself and others that your are something different than you are...even in subtleties.   You may have already noticed the design overhaul I did a few days ago.  I like the softer colors and think it better reflects the vibe here. 

My blog will still be a family lifestyle blog, but just a heads up that the direction might change a bit.  I want to explore more in depth our journey in raising our sons in a Christ centered family while living in a not-so-Christ centered world.  I'm sure the challenges will abound!  

Thank you so much for your readership and kind words of support and encouragement over the three years I've blogged.  I hope that my blog will always be a means of support and encouragement to you!! 

Lots of love,
Jessica 



Linking to the HOST

Friday, March 20, 2015

Wear Yellow Friday March 27th!

Y'all, please read this story and watch the video about this precious little fellow.  Seth was born with no immune system and needs another bone marrow transplant.  Wear yellow next Friday to show your support and post your pics with #wearyellowforseth  (His favorite color is yellow.) His family is going to print all of the photos for his room.

Thinking of you, Little Man!