Easter Weekend

  I hope you all had a WONDERFUL Weekend celebrating our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ!

easter collage

  We try very hard to keep Easter about Jesus, and his death, burial and resurrection.  For that reason, the Easter Bunny does not come visit our house.  Our Easter baskets are called Resurrection baskets, and the goodies inside, in celebration of our Risen Lord.

We talk Good Friday about how long Jesus suffered on the cross, and how lost everyone must have felt on Saturday, their Jesus, their hope, was gone!  We have the kids watch that video I shared on Friday every year, to help them understand how painful it was for Jesus, what a gift it was to them, that he stayed on that cross so they could have life.  This year, the video really affected Paxton, he just had to bury his head in my shoulder and cry after.  “Jesus die, Mommy. Jesus DIE.”

  However, I woke up this morning {Sunday} to him jumping on our bed shouting,  “JESUS IS ALIVE!!!!” at 6:38 am.
Proof 3 year olds can totally “get” the real reason we celebrate Easter. 

Here are some photos from our Easter Weekend:

Waiting outside for their big surprise….
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A tree house Zip Line!  We prayed angels of protection in Jesus name, showed them how it was done and laid some ground rules.  I may or may not have gotten 3 blisters from trying it out the night before.

You know, quality control. Gotta test it out for the safety of the kids!

  Needless to say, it was a HUGE hit!  They are out there right now as I write you, going again and again with Daddy.Easter 2

Resurrection Baskets:
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This one is so super serious, but I adore it.  I was checking my settings and they were just waiting nicely.easter 3easter 4easter 5

  Easter service at church was INCREDIBLE!  The baptisms and testimonies always make me bawl.  God is so good, praise the Lord for new life in Christ!

  We decided to just stay home for Easter lunch this year.  We always adore being with our extended families, but sometimes its nice to stay home and make our own holiday meals, and traditions.easter 7easter 8

 I used my wedding china for the first time in 12 years! It’s been out of storage for a year, waiting for a special time to use it.  :)  It comes from Grandma, and is cream with a delicate gold border, so pretty!!!!

  Well, that is all from here.  Happy Monday, folks!

  My kiddos are home from school today, so I am hoping to get some fun, family time in.  But first, I am working a big out of town photo job. Pray for me! I have never photographed homes before, let alone fancy ones!!!!!!
EEEEEK!
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me………  Winking smile

Hugs, T

Weekend Fun: Spring Has Sprung

Oh, praise Jesus for the sunshine this weekend.  We NEEDED that in our lives! Spring has finally Sprung, RIGHT?!
IMG_8135IMG_8132IMG_8140 Nope.

  Sadly, it was short-lived.  It’s currently forecasted to be 33 degrees with a chance of snow.  Blah.

Longest. Winter. EVERRRRRR.

I can’t wait to get out in the garden and plant, but alas, we shall wait.

  Did you see on facebook, we had another freezer die?!

ACK! Is this an almost 12-year-old marriage thing?  I can’t complain, because they were all given to use for FREE. 

Best part of a new freezer?

  THE BOX, of course!  It makes the perfect house!box house

Kitchen and Officebox house 1

Family room and outside side view

  Paxton is the strong man on the TV Show because he “ate his Beggies and has strong muscles!”  {veggies in Paxton-speak}
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  The weekend was totally wonderful; I napped on my lawn chair in the sun, we blew bubbles, hit around some golf balls, watched Daddy filet the fish he caught at the lake, and went to the MCC Relief Sale. I write about it every year, so if you have no idea what MCC Relief is, check this blog post out from a few years ago.

  It’s tradition and apparently both Dale and I have been going since we can remember, because while we were walking around the MCC Sale we discovered something AMAZING!

  I was telling the kids about the “good ol’ days” when I was a kid. We’d bring our motorhome and stay overnight, from morning till night, I would run around with my friends and have a grand ol’ time. We loved to play under the stage by the pond, and there were always CUTE boys under there for us to follow around.

Dale turns to me with big eyes and says, “We came all weekend too because my dad worked a booth. And we always hung out under the stage by the pond.”

WHAT!? No stinkin’ way.

  Then I ask him about the year it rained so hard, those same cute boys we saw every year, wore white trash bags as ponchos. He is like “Yup, we went to my dad’s booth and got them to wear so we could stay outside.”

HOW CRAZY IS THAT!? Guess I had good taste in men even as a 6th grader?

MCC Sale photos:

Amish Whoopie Pies  {swoon}
Oh! And they sell homemade cookies and a big glass of milk.  Mmm! Maybe next year.
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Fresh New Years Cookies, think glazed donut with raisins inside.IMG_8153IMG_8146IMG_8149IMG_8150IMG_8154IMG_8152

Walking around the Sale is HARD WORK!IMG_8221

  Did you know we planted some Trees in Papa’s honor? 

  2 Cherry, 2 Apple, 2 Pear and 2 Peach!  When Dale came to me with the idea, I declared it the PERFECT way to honor his father.  He was always the one to bring the fruit to every function anyhow!  :)

trees for papa 2

  Well, that’s it for now.  I have got to run to the store to get a few things for Dale’s Birthday dinner tonight.  He wants Steak and a butter-sauteed hash of Asparagus, baby bella mushrooms and zucchini for supper.  And then of course, LEMON Dessert. 

Actually not this one as tradition states:

Lemon pudding dessert

We are saving that one for Easter.

 He wants THIS one, a new favorite.

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Happy Birthday to my Sweetie pie!!!!  

You fill our home with your deep chested laugh, strong arms that throw kids high in the air in fun play,

You are my voice of reason, my safe place, my best friend and the love of my life…..

Today, we celebrate YOU!  

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  Have a great day, everyone! Happy Monday…

~T

Mommarazzi 101: 12 Tips for Moms with Cameras {Part 2}

Today we continue Mommarazzi, 12 Tips for Moms with Cameras. 

Go here if you missed Part 1.

6) It’s All In the Details

1 A ring, a special Bible used for proposal….a couple in love on a blanket.

2 A little bug catcher…..with a beautiful catch.

3 Back to School shots including shoes, bracelet, hair style…..

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A little boy photo shoot with a toad he just caught….

5 Baby cheeks, a family’s hands, a young man with his soccer ball…..

Details can make, or break, a photo shoot! It’s truly all about the details: a bow tie, a pair of red high heels, eye lashes that brush the cheek, a bow on each pig tail. My job as the photographer is to help outfit coach each person, so that they can have the best experience with me, and a beautiful outcome. It really does boil down to details. In photographs, DETAILS MATTER A LOT.

6 In these photos, we utilized a handful of sunflowers, Scrabble letters to spell special words, and a photo of a little boy lost way too early in life.

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  I love when Mom’s come to me with a plan! This little girl had a special Princess crown & Gold dress for her first birthday shoot….

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  These sisters brought an Heirloom quilt that added nostalgia to this already unique snow shoot.

And this clever Mommy came to me with a plan:
9First, a Splatter Paint Maternity session, and then this theme continued through the year, newborn, 3 months, and 6 months. We have 9 and 12 to go. When she is done any combo of these photo will make a beautiful wall collage, or book.
It really is allllll in the details! From outfits to theme.

7) In Yo Face 1

See that Senior boy? He is deep in thought, focused on the game…..not really, but it looks like it.

2 ……believe it or not, not all photos have to be smiley, happy, full on face photos. Sometimes looking away from the camera, is more powerful than looking.

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  Speaking of faces, there is NOTHING wrong with leaving them out of the photo entirely!

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8) Tell The Story

Photos should ALWAYS tell a story, even after we aren’t there to tell it.

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Whether it’s a sad day for an Ice Cream lover whose freezer died while she was on vacation

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A busy little boy

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A sassy mouthed 8 year old

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Or Peppermint Pocket Treasure found…..

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A successful picture doesn’t need any words.

9) Crop It Like It’s Hot


I don’t always follow crop rules.

Like if I want to zoom on a baby’s mouth, I crop their forehead right off and don’t feel bad about it at all.1

When zooming in on siblings, I don’t mind cutting out hands, or even cutting off parents, they are more of the backdrop at that point anyhow. 2

I like Awkward crops, so I love when people just throw the rules out the window.

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I also like negative space, which means lots of wide open space above or even beside, the client or subject.

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  If you are a rule follower, here are some general tips: yes to cropping forehead, no cropping ears. Yes to arm cropping, no to elbows, wrists or fingers. Yes waist, above the knee and shin cropping, but no to ankles, or feet cropped off.

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   It’s also important to know what size you are going to want to order. I always though photos shrunk or stretched based on what size print you order, this is not the case thanks to a thing called CROP RATIO. Crop Ratio is not my friend. However, it is just something that will benefit you once you are aware of it. The most popular size ordered is typically an 8 x 10. This is one of the most difficult because of it’s short and fat dimensions. Look at the chart, it crops a substantial amount of Mom’s head and arm. What if that was a basketball boy and you ended up cropping out his shoes and forehead? That is why it’s important to take some less cropped shots, or be ready to order a different size all together.

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11) Collages & Text

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I use collages and text all the time, if you follow me on Facebook, this is no surprise to you! 

Baja Bites 2

  Using collages allows me to showcase multiple pictures for the web space of 1 on my blog.  I also think it’s a great way to share a bunch of pictures of your kids on Facebook without being obnoxious, just sayin! 3 

  There is a website that easily allows you to make collages with Txt for FREE!

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    I use it to make our Facebook Christmas card every year!

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It’s called PicMonkey. There are tons of free options, crop, filters, txt, frames, stamps, labels, banners and just about anything else you could think of. If you want more options, simply join for 4.99 a month, or $33 a year.

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  This unlocks all the great features like blush, blemish remover, eye pop, mascara, and gives 40% more features and tons more fonts! It’s really Photoshop for Dummies. And I am not calling you a dummy, I used it the entire first year in the business, and ADORED IT! Still do, just for collages now.

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And our FINAL tip for today is number 12

12) Ordering Prints

  Now that you have taken so many amazing photos of your home, your family, your snow-covered wreath and more, it’s time to get them printed! 1

  Step one, buy some frames FIRST, then fill them later. I kept buying pictures and then not hanging them. Well, I didn’t find any frames I liked for that particular spot in my house. So I had an Ah HA moment. Buy the frames and make the collage FIRST, then fill it with pictures after. Now I know JUST what size to order.

  WHERE you get your prints from makes a huge difference. This is not the time to go to Walmart or Walgreens. There are better options out there for not much more money! My personal favorite is Mpix.

 Mpix is the only pro lab, that allows people like you and I, to order from them. 

Here is WHY where you print is so important…

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Prices can’t be beat: 4×6’s are 29 cents. 5×7’s are $1.09. 8×10’s are $2.09. And 11 x 14’s are $7.49. All printed on very high quality paper and are right on on color, I have never been unhappy with them!

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  Well, that’s our 12 tips!

   I hope you learned a lot and the next time you find a cute baby in the middle of a really big mess, I hope you will smile, grab your camera, and remember what was talked about today.

Hugs, T

Mommarazzi 101: 12 Tips for Moms With Cameras {Part 1}

I was asked to give a 25 minute presentation at our local MOPS group.  I had such a blast with these amazing Momma’s, and I decided to turn this talk into a blog post for them AND you! Smile

  Now in blog land, 12 steps would be too long for one post, so we will do half today and half tomorrow, ok?

  So, every millisecond matters when you are a mom, so a camera with a 3 second delay is not going to be your best option. You know what I am talking about,

“Smile Kids!”

Flash flash flash….CLICK.

Aaaaaand no kids left in the picture.

  This is how I ended up with a Canon Rebel XS, my first Digital SLR camera. I liked how fast it clicked the photo, and the fact that I was no longer missing that special moment by half a crawling baby.
That leads me to my first point in Mommarazzi 101: 12 Tips for Moms with Cameras.

1) Settings Matter

  Whether you have a point and shoot, or a DSLR camera, settings matter. It always makes me sad to see Mom’s with these amazing cameras, blasting their kids with the flash setting at brightly lit school functions. I know not everyone is prepared to use manual settings, and words like iso, f stop and aperture make you break into a sweat.

I have a simple piece of advice: Turn the flash off. Especially if you have a digital slr camera! There is a setting that shows a slash through the flash symbol, USE IT.

I shot my whole first year in the business on the no flash setting, making sure each shot had good natural light, like dusk – outside, or by a window – inside. This helped me succeed until I could learn manual.

Here are some photo examples of Flash vs. no Flash:

1 Auto vs Manual

Or Auto vs. Manual.

auto vs manual 2

Flash creates harsh lines! Other times we see white skin, glowing red eyes, dark shadows…you know what I am talking about!

One flip of the dial, and now we see the details of the face and the creaminess of the skin.

Sometimes it looks like a whole different photo!

auto vs manual 3

See how manual fills in the shadows that auto leaves?

  If you are ready to upgrade your point and shoot, I would highly recommend getting a Canon Rebel T2i or T3i model. They are wonderful, high end cameras that still allow the camera to make educated decisions for you. Any higher than that? The camera expects YOU to make all the decisions. That means you better know your settings, and words like iso and aperture will totally come into play.  Also, some of these models have WONDERFUL video capabilities!  Bonus, now you can get rid of that giant old camcorder too!

You can pick up one of these cameras for $300-600, a hefty price tag, with amazing results. Your kids deserve more than just pixilated cell phone shots, right!?

2) The Art of the High Low Shot hi lo 1

When capturing your kids and their daily activities, remember that angles matter. The following photos would be way more boring, had I just stood and shot straight on.

Things like laying on the ground to see the blades of grass tickling sweet little feet, or standing on a chair to shoot down on family game night, will produce beautiful and unique shots.

   The Candy shot was for a thank you card for the oh so generous family member slash candy gift giver, it was the perfect way to display happy kids and heaps of candy!hi lo 2

I use this same concept when shooting clients like these Seniors, one I laid on a quiet road, the other I teetered on a stair case, high above the client. Alright, so it was kinda dangerous, but so worth it!hi lo 3

This same approach is used at weddings.hi lo 4

And family shoots.hi lo 5
hi lo 6
I feel it is a great way to get everyone in a flattering position, and looking at the camera. Even young children. This is also a really flattering pose for babies.

3) Stop & Smell the Roses

So we have all had bad days. Permanent Marker on our dining room table, dog food dumped into the water bowl, and toothbrushes in the toilet.

My tip for you is to STOP and smell the roses before you start hollering, I mean cleaning up. And when I say Stop, and smell the roses, I mean, go get your camera!

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I will always remember the day my youngest, Paxton, decided to dump his entire bowl of Oatmeal on his head. Thankfully, I always tried to keep my camera nearby, because now my whole family can remember the story. As you can tell by his expression, he was quite stunned at what he had done.

The second photo you see up there on the left, was taken at a family birthday party. He snuck over during supper and helped himself to the homemade ice cream. Instead of hollering for him to stop, I grabbed a shot, then told him that was a NO NO!

  In this next set of photos, my concern over Paxton’s face “bleeding”, quickly turned to exasperation when I figured out he had managed to find yet ANOTHER magic marker. This was the 4th time this week our home was decorated in milliseconds. And I had hidden ALL of them, or so I thought. Instead of cleaning, I grabbed the Camera and sat down, asking Paxton to tell me the whole story:2
You can almost hear him saying in the photos:

“Sooo, you aren’t happy I drew on my sock for you?”
{Sucking air} “Oooo, drawing on myself is a NO NO, Momma?”
{shrug} “But this is some of my BEST work!”
{hunch down} “Sorry I was naughty, Mommy…….good thing I am so cute, hugh?!”
By now you have probably noticed that all these messy shots are of the same kid. And let me tell you, I had a PLETHURA to choose from. The Lord likes to keep us humble, that is why after two angelic “Yes Mom” children, He gave me my 2 little ones….

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Nuff said.

Stopping to Smell the Roses, does not always mean JUST capturing naughty behavior, it also means thinking ahead to special “First” moments and being ready with camera in hand.
Paxton had just woken up and I knew he wouldn’t remember seeing snow from the year before, so I got my camera ready, and called him to the window.

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  Again, in years to come, I would’ve forgotten that sweet little gasp to see the World so white, the pointed, little, sweet, fat, finger showing me the strange stuff out there. I am so thankful I took the time to get the camera ready first.

That leads me to my next point,

4) Capturing the 4 Seasons of HOME

My kids have been privileged to grow up in the same home all their lives, but should we ever move, I think I will be so glad I spent the time capturing each Season of our Home for them. There is something so heartwarming about Seasonal photos! This means snowy walks following your kids and hubby around, taking photos of everyday things in all their snow covered glory…..

1 Winter

A full shot of your home from the driveway or road.  The Christmas tree, twinkling in the dim lit living room…..2 Winter
All things that will provoke memories in your children for years to come.
Don’t forget the cloudy rain filled skies, and water covered lawns, of Spring……3 Spring

Or the Joy of Watermelon on the front step, sidewalk chalk towns, and the trampoline time of Summer break.4 Summer

I always adore the beauty of Fall, family around the table, and a world painted orange and red. We serve an awesome creative Creator who has the most beautiful brush strokes.5 Fall

Tip number 5 is Reach Out and Touch Someone, even if you aren’t a touchy touchy person.

5) Reach Out And Touch Someone

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  Sometimes, photo shoots don’t go like we want them to, we have a fussy child that needs to be consoled, or some little giggly girlies that don’t want to cooperate…..2

A simple touch can calm a child, but it can also make the photograph you are capturing, much more heart catching….Sisters cuddled up close, a couple with a soft touch.

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Let me show you some side by side examples of Touch vs. No Touch

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  As you can see, these are the same 4 kiddos in the same shot, I chose to make the second one into a canvas for my home. Why? Because it oozed cozy, happy kids, and lots of love. See how much more cozy it is? The only thing that changed, was touch!

Touch doesn’t have to be huggy, sometimes it’s just where we have a large group place their arms. Either one of these choices will work to communicate the love of family.5

  This is my husband’s family, as soon as I made them laugh, and asked them to do a group hug, look how they came alive. Eyes sparkling, warm hugs all around…

  Dale’s father just died from cancer, this photo is now PRICELESS. I am so thankful they laughed and had fun, THAT is scene worth remembering forever more!6

  Look at the photos of this Senior girl, bringing her hands into the scene, adds to its overall appeal, and the finished look.7

6) Get In Front Of The Camera

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  I know you didn’t sleep last night, I know your hair is a disaster, and you can’t remember the last time you showered. I know you have snot on your leg and spit up on your shoulder, but GET IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA. Do you remember seeing pics of your Mom back in the day? You love them, right?! You aren’t thinking about her hair or her bell bottoms, ok, well maybe a little, but mostly, you are remembering the person that raised you. You most likely can flash back to that scene with great memories of your growing up years. I would much rather be behind the camera, but I want my kids to remember me, and have photos to show their children later of the Mom they grew up with.

  That also means taking photos when you are pregnant, no matter how huge and disgusting you feel. My kids LOVE to see photos of them “In my tummy”. Having these taken professionally can be a really special thing to look forward to last trimester, those rounded tummies so full of life! Don’t forget a shot after baby is born, this is my favorite nursing photo.

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   You also need to make family photos a priority. I know it makes you sweat, I know there is yelling and spit baths, hair smoothing and lost shoes, but IT IS WORTH IT. Family photos should be done at least every other year, if not EVERY year. There are so many affordable options, save up and don’t let cost stop you from getting a session set up, and have FUN with it!3

  Don’t forget your best friend, aka your hubby! He should be our number 1 human priority, and that is hard to remember sometimes with kids hanging all over us.
Get a sitter, get fixed up, and head out for some steamy couples photos. Your whole family is built on the foundation of a love that blossomed between the two of you, what better way to keep the love alive, then to have some beautiful photos with your Soul Mate hanging in your bedroom.

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  We will continue tomorrow with the next 6 Steps in Mommarazzi 101: 12 Tips for Moms With Cameras!

~T

Out Of The Sorrow

   I have had so many people ask, how does a Christian’s faith stay so strong in the face of loss?

  Right away, I had to think of our friends, whose precious 20-year-old daughter, died in a car wreck recently.  They KNOW they will see her again, with joy and confidence!  With tears in their eyes, and smiles on their faces, they will tell you so with complete certainty.

  They are pictured below on the right.  We so appreciate them coming to not only the funeral, but the grave service of the memorial service of Papa. It was so hard, and so fresh for them, just a month out.
Ally’s gravestone is right next to our Papa’s…..I find that comforting somehow, even though I know those bodies are empty shells.  They are HOME already!

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   So the service is over, we cleaned out his house this weekend, we have a stack of bills and paperwork to sort through, and life is marching on.

 But it’s just not the same, because there are 3 sons and a daughter, 6 grandkids, and a daughter in law, who miss their Grandpa, Papa and Dad…..

Every. Moment. Of. Every. Day.

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How does life go on?

  Let me let you in on the secret……

It’s Jesus.

Plain and simple.

  It’s hard to fathom for those who don’t know Him personally.  It’s super natural, it’s not of this Earth, our minds can’t handle it.  We can’t wrap our minds around an Eternity in Paradise, in a place with no sorrow and no pain, FOREVER with those we love.
Only ONE way to Heaven, and the ticket is Jesus Christ and what He did on that cross. The Bible says in that it is NOT by works, lest any man should boast.  

  Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, lest any man should boast.”

Wow.  What a gift!

  The Father always uses our darkest times in our lives, to make Himself known in the most powerful, undeniable ways.  Papa’s last days on Earth were no exception.

I am reminded of the Hymn we sang yesterday at his church; the church Dale and his siblings grew up in…..

 It Is Well  

Have you heard the story behind this heart grabbing hymn?

  A man name Horatio, a wealthy lawyer with a thriving practice, beautiful family; wife, 4 daughters and a son…devout Christian, successful businessmen.  At the height of their success, they lost their young son, then the Great Chicago Fire destroyed all of the family real estate investments.

  Shortly after, this weary family decided to vacation in Europe to take some time to recover from these losses.  Due to a business delay, Horatio sent his wife and 4 daughters on without him, promising to join them in just a few days.

  Several days later he received notice that his family’s ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived.  With a heavy heart, he boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. It was on those very seas, close to the accident site, he penned the words to this famous hymn.  It is well in my soul….

Please take a moment to watch?

  Dale’s oldest brother, Kevin, told us he would be going to Papa’s church on Sunday to say something to them from the stage.

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  We didn’t ask questions, just quickly made arrangements to be there and support him.

Here is what he had to say from the pulpit of that church:

“In the final weeks of my father’s life, I felt the Hand of God through the overwhelming flood of love, and support pouring out from my family, and this wonderful group of believers.

  It made me realize I was trying to struggle through this life on Earth alone.  I have spent the last 20 years withdrawing from God, family and from friends.

  When I pulled my Bible out last week, it had a pretty heavy layer of dust on it.  I wiped it off and immediately turned to the 23rd Psalm. {Papa’s favorite}
The Lord IS my Shepherd…..  
And now I am open to his guidance.

  I am up here today, to give thanks.  I want to thank you for the love, support and delicious meals you provided my Dad, and my family.

  I want to thank Frieda for the warm invitation to return to this family.  And John Yoder for the same, his exact words were, “Don’t be a stranger.”

  I would like to thank Dale and Tonya for being there for Dad every step of the way, in his fight with cancer.  And for giving me my Bible that will not collect dust again.

  Finally, I would like to thank my dad, for leading by example my entire life.  And at the end of his, showing me what was missing from mine.
  
  Now, I want to cherish every moment I have with the loving family I was blessed to be given.  And I want to have a personal relationship with Jesus, starting with returning to this incredible House of God, that still feels like home.”

  What an honor to sit there and watch this transformed man on stage.  To hear the amen and applause from the church body, as he stood up before a crowd of witnesses, and gave a profession of faith.

  That, my friends, is the power of Jesus Christ, working through a church that is dedicated to being the hands and feet of Jesus.  The lost lamb has returned to the flock, praise Jesus!  There is great rejoicing in Heaven!!!!!

 I know Papa is so, so proud of Kevin, and so pleased that in the face of his death, new life in Christ was born.

And in the words of the famous hymn:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Out of the sorrow, is birthed new life, new hope, new surrender.

And all else set aside……

  It is well, it is well with my soul.

Thank you, Father, for never leaving or forsaking us!

~T