Beauty in Disguise

This week you may have noticed purple weeds like the ones shown above, that have suddenly taken over entire fields.  During my afternoon walk today, I caught myself being drawn into the beautiful scenery, smiling with each step.  After thinking to myself “how could something so pretty and appealing be a weed?”…I crouched down to take a few up-close pictures.  Changing my perspective allowed me to see the weed for what it really was, instead of what it was disguising to be.  This beautiful flower-like plant was using it’s beauty to fool me.  In reality, this weed will choke desirable plants and crops, preventing them from growing and producing a crop.

Mark 4:18-20 suddenly entered my mind, as it was included in my Bible study this week. “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

We encounter “weeds” in our daily life that try to deceive us, using their beauty as a disguise.  What worries or desires of life are you combatting today that are preventing you from being fruitful?

Putting Together the Pieces

Life.  It has it’s ups and downs, laughter and tears, memorable moments and those we would rather forget.  It’s not promised to us…no one is guaranteed tomorrow.  Yet as we go through each day, are we truely appreciating the gift of life?  Or does it seem easier to go through the motions, watch time as it ticks by, dwell on our challenges, and wait for tomorrow to start (hoping for a better day)?

Lately, the second option would best describe me.  That may come as a surprise for those who know me.  I’ve often had people ask how I remain so positive and happy, with a constant smile on my face, even through traumatic situations.  The answer is…I’m not always that positive, confident person.  I’m human.  I experience sadness, negativity, and struggles too.  I need pep talks, encouragement, and support from others.  I’m not superwoman.

My faith and knowing that I can trust God has gotten me through the “not so fun” parts of life.  Recently, I’ve experienced a situation that broke me completely, and for a moment my trust in everything in this world.  Getting through the day was a struggle, having conversations with people without crying was nearly impossible, my heart literally ached.  Slowly I’ve started to put the broken pieces of me back together.

A large part of the healing process occurred this week.  Josh had business to take care of in Wisconsin and Iowa, so I took the week off to go with him.  During the drive from Wisconsin to Iowa we came across a site that I still have a hard time grasping.  Rather than explain it myself, I’ll let the videos do the talking…which really doesn’t do it justice either. Keep in mind we were driving down a busy highway in the middle of nowhere.

After sitting along the road for a short while, we realized there were many more of these creatures over the hill…totaling to at least 30, if not more!  It makes me wonder how many people drive by and didn’t see this unusual site.  How often in life are we so focused on getting to where we need to be that we don’t pay attention to the “now” and appreciate what’s right in front of us?

An hour away from this awesome site, the hotel we stayed at was located on the Iowa River.  It was a peaceful view, which became even more eye catching when we realized there were bald eagle nests right outside the hotel. As I wrote this blog, I watched those eagles soar outside our room.  Occasionally, they will swoop down to the water and catch supper for their young.  One day I sat on the bed for 30 minutes just watching them fly, appearing to be at ease as the wind carried them.

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Between the quiet, devotional time I had this week, many “goosebump – ok God, I’m listening” moments, and these two sites, I was reminded that all of us on this earth…no matter the circumstances…are blessed.  We are here for a reason.  There’s a plan for all of us.  In order to truly understand what good times feel like, we must experience difficult situations.  Even though it may not seem like it at the time, things could always be much worse.  It’s all just a part of life…a gigantic puzzle that’s being put together, jumbled when something runs into the pieces, then starting over with thankfully a few of the pieces still intact.  God didn’t put us on this earth to please us in every aspect of our life, we aren’t in control of the puzzle, we are here to live out HIS plan and HIS desires.  Who do we think we are to tell God his plan in wrong?  The video below was in a book I read this week (Crazy Love), and boy does it make you think!

Hello 2017!

So many great things happened in 2016…I received a promotion and achieved big accomplishments professionally, read through the entire Bible in one year, lost 23.2 pounds, finally became fit and active – making me be in the best shape of my life, went on a memorable belated honeymoon, and Josh was released from his doctors. We were so blessed that I didn’t want the year to end…but I’m excited for what’s to come this year.

Over the past few weeks, BIG changes have been happening to this website.  First, I finally bought my own domain.  Viewers are no longer taken to a “wordpress.com” website.  That means you will also no longer see advertisements on this site.  YAY!

Second, the website had a HUGE makeover.  The purpose behind this site transitioned from a personal blog, to an online portfolio that showcases my work samples and professional life.  Most people have no idea what a Senior eLearning Developer does or what a degree in Visual Communications entails.  I know I didn’t several years ago.  So if you are curious , I recommend browsing the site. (Just click the menu at the top of the page.)  With that being said, this blog will remain in existence.  No worries!

Happy New Year to all!

Hitting The Reset Button

How often do you hit the reset button?  I’ll admit I find myself saying “life is just too busy for a day of relaxation”.  And honestly I feel selfish thinking that I deserve a day off from chores and the normal grind of life.  This past Friday, yes the 13th of all days, I took the day off for a “me day”.  Crazy huh?!  This was a first for me in over a year.

I was so excited I wasn’t sure where to start, there were just too many possibilities.  So what did I do?  With my camera and Bible in hand, I went to the most relaxing and remote location I had access to…the Bense family cabin.  It’s impossible to not be relaxed there, especially since there’s no electricity or wifi.  What a glorious day it was spending time with God!


September of last year I challenged myself to read through the Bible in one year.  Earlier today I achieved that goal!  I’m proud of myself for sticking to it and learning so much.  I’ve always been a follower of Jesus and grew up praising him in church each week, but as a teenager and especially during the college years of my life, I wasn’t extremely devoted to being the best christian possible.  My priorities were not in the right place as at times I was “too busy to attend church”.  Or so I thought.  And let’s face it college is a tough place for Christians.  Until this past September I had never sat down and read the Bible devotedly.  Before I would read a few pages, get distracted, and try it again a few years later.  It was a never ending cycle, or so it seemed.

Over the past 8 months I’ve changed and learned so much.  I never realized how willingly I let worldly things keep me from learning about God, until the adventure began in September. I changed everything from the music I listened to (the Bridge FM is my go to station now, of course with a mix of country stations) to what I do in my free time.  I’m human so I’m still far from perfect but much improved.

If you have 5 or 10 minutes of free time, or you are watching a television show and a commercial comes on, what do you devote your time doing?  I bet it involves checking Facebook or some other form of social media.  It’s ok I’m the same way.  I mean come on it’s the first and last thing we do each day, right?  In an effort to avoid any negativity and to ensure I’m surrounded by christian influences, I’ve followed a handful of legit christian pages and set up Facebook so they are at the top of my news feed.  Did you know you could do that?  It’s awesome!  Immediately after logging into Facebook I find I rarely get past the christian pages because I get interested in their posts.  Here are my top 5 Facebook pages:

  1. Unveiled Wife
  2. Walk With Jesus
  3. Marriage365
  4. Armor of God
  5. Proverbs 31 Ministries (Lysa TerKeurst – the President of the ministry, has an awesome page too!)

I’ve also been writing in a prayer journal each morning, which I definitely recommend!  I highlight answered prayers in yellow and every so often will go back and review those prayers.  The past few times I’ve done this I noticed that nearly every page has yellow on it, and some are covered in it!  It’s so empowering and uplifting!

Books have also consumed a large portion of my time.  Yes I actually had time to read books in addition to the Bible.  And to think I was wasting all of this free time on scrolling through my news feed!  Here are the top 5 must reads for you wives out there!

  1. Fervent
  2. Praying For Your Husband From Head To Toe
  3. Unveiled Wife (she even has husband and wife devotionals too!)
  4. You’re Already Amazing
  5. Reading Through the Bible in One Year

Whew!  I’m not sure how I fit all of that into 8 months, while staying committed to everything else I do!  Now you know why I needed a reset button.  I hope this post inspires you to look at how you’re spending your free time too, and impacts you in a positive way.  Feel free to comment below about your adventures or “free time habits”.

Bald Eagle Sighting

Two years ago, Josh and I embarked on our first adventure together.  After hearing me talk about my love for photography he mentioned there were bald eagles only 1.5 miles from his house.  Not knowing him well enough yet, I was a bit worried why he wanted to take me into the woods.  But I figured this tough country girl could handle herself.  We went on a short ride along the river to what appeared to be an eagle habitat, with a gigantic nest that a human could fit in.  But no eagles were in sight.  Matter of fact, I didn’t have my first eagle sighting until March of this year, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect moment.

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My family has a thing with birds…owls to be exact.   The night of August 12, 2010 my parents and I sat together in prayer.  My mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer that summer and her surgery was scheduled for the next day.  As we prayed that God would keep her safe and give her strength to win the battle, we also struggled to understand why God would put her through this situation.  Shortly after reading our favorite bible verse (Psalm 121) together, we heard the hooting of an owl.  Standing on the sidewalk and peeping into the window was a HUGE owl.  He stood there and eagerly watched us.  I had never seen an owl that close before!

Over the next 6 years our family experienced major trials together that most people never encounter in their lifetime.  When we hit a low and needed a reminder that God was watching over us, that he has a plan for everything and it will all work out for the best, an owl would make an appearance.  This happened when: mom won her battle with cancer,  my engagement was broken (thank goodness!) a few months before the planned wedding, I was driving home from meeting Josh the first time, and when Josh came home from an accident that doctor’s didn’t expect him to survive.  A lot for just 6 years.  Our lives were so crazy that last year an owl moved his home close to ours, and he could constantly be seen sitting at the end of our driveway at night.

Most recently though, on that day in March when I really needed to see an owl, I saw a bald eagle instead.  This was my first eagle sighting!  I had been recuperating from medical tests earlier that day to determine if health issues I’d had lately were due to cancer.  As my parents pulled into our driveway to bring by a celebratory supper (that’s right, no cancer), a bald eagle was perched in a tree near the end of our driveway.  Yes, our life got so chaotic that we upgraded from an owl to a bald eagle!  I giggled at God’s gracious sense of humor as ventured outside and took this video that day.

Two weeks ago Josh and I went for a walk and stopped by the eagle’s nest, the one we visited when embarking on that first adventure.  To our surprise someone was home!  Sitting there on a tree limb was a gigantic, beautifully created bald eagle.  Most people would get excited about such a sighting because they are a rare, endangered species.  But it meant so much more to me.  The previous day I had a major heart-to-heart with God.  I was struggling with the right words of encouragement and comfort to help my husband with something he was dealing with.  I even wrote this scripture in my prayer journal “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” (2 Chronicles 15:7)  I wanted to remind myself to never give up on my role as a helper, wife, worker, and just overall christian.  So when I saw the eagle I knew God was telling me everything was going to be great, that he was going to guide me and build me to be a strong helper for my husband.  And the photographer in me was going so crazy that how could it not be an awesome moment?!  Josh and I sat there next to the river and watched the eagle until we decided it was time to let him be.  Feel free to click on the images below to make them bigger.

 

 

Outdoor Adventure

There’s nothing like breathing in fresh country air, closing your eyes and listening to the critters, knowing that the only things in close vicinity are nature and God.  The 70 degree weather this weekend encouraged me to go on long walks, not only because my body physically needed it but I craved the emotional break.  I may not be normal…well ok we all know I’m not, but going on a 3.5 mile walk is like hitting the reset button for me.

Half way through my peaceful walk I heard something moving in the thicket right next to me…a BIG something.  I stopped to listen more intently and of course it stopped too.  When I started walking again so did the mysterious creature.  At this point I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest.  What in the world could this big creature be?  All of a sudden a deer jumped out and sprinted in front of me.  After realizing my life wasn’t in danger I got out my phone and captured the creature’s escape on video.  Friday night a wild turkey flew out of that same thicket, and very angrily let me know I was intruding on his turf.  I really wish I would have gotten that one on video! What kind of critter will be  next?

I caught myself smiling as I continued to walk.  What was I thinking?  “God is great!  God is good, all the time!”  It amazes me at how intricately God created each thing on this earth, including the human eye so we can visually see his creations.  If life on Earth is this beautiful and perfect what is Heaven like?  How many other colors of beauty are there?  I wondered why he decided dandelions should be yellow, how he devised the process of pollination, and how he chose the seasons that all things partake in.  Yes it was getting pretty deep! 🙂  It just absolutely astounds me how God designed everything with the perfect plan and purpose.  When was the last time you thanked God for his amazing creations?  For the gift of sight?  For walking with you daily, protecting you from harm?

Spring – What Does It Mean?

Spring…when nature comes to life, sprouting all around us.  To some it may mean itchy, watery eyes and constant sneezing…the dreaded allergy season. For others it may be the end of winter hibernation. To me it’s a reminder to stop and appreciate the gift of life we receive each day.  Not a single second on this earth is guaranteed, yet we are all guilty of running through life and at times sprinting from one thing to another just to do it all over again the next day.  Have you ever stopped and looked at yourself when doing this?  I have and honestly it’s not a pretty sight.

These beautiful images were photographed in our front yard, next to the driveway that greets everyone who visits.  Even though I drive past these trees each day, I’ve been so distracted by the craziness of life that tonight was the first time they caught my attention. How could I not notice them?

 

Spring is Coming!

The 70 degree weather this weekend had everyone outside enjoying the warmth, including the farm animals.  In the past 2 weeks 17 calves were born.  So needless to say there was a lot of cuteness roaming around the barn lot.

And I just couldn’t resist trying to touch them.  This little guy is only 3 days old and the cutest, friendliest thing I’ve ever seen!  He walked right up to me and just started sucking on my finger!

Here’s a few more videos and photos of the newborns on Bense Farms.

I can’t wait to get a video of all the calves kicking up their heels! 🙂 Until next time…everyone have a fabulous Sunday!

Birth On The Farm

There’s nothing like walking into the cattle barn, and watching newborn calves take their first steps or the rambunctious ones learning how to run.  Bense Farms welcomed the first calf of the year on Monday, followed by 5 others – two of which were born today. Ironically, the two mothers who gave birth today, shared the special delivery day last year too.

Soon after being born, my dad places a tag in each calf’s ear so he can keep track of which calf belongs to who.  I was able to get a short video clip of the little guy getting his first piercing.  The farm life is definitely far from boring! 🙂

 

The First Snow of 2016

S***!!  Yes, I’m talking about the “S word”…SNOW!  It arrived for the first time this year.  Where did you think I was going with that? 🙂

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Anxious to capture some “knock your socks off” photos, I wrestled on my pink carhartts and set out on an adventure by foot this morning, with the good ol’ camera as my sidekick.  Snow is one of the most difficult things to photograph, which is why I was so eager to get out there.  Most of the time, the images will turn out blue instead of white.  With such a long hiatus from photography, that’s how my photos started to turn out.  So I made my way to the wooded area of our backyard to connect with nature and get back into the game.

To give you an idea of just how fierce the wind was, here’s a short 9 second video.

Pretty crazy huh?!  Just watching that makes me want to curl up under a blanket and drink hot chocolate.  Well, I did just the opposite.  I stood there as the wind brushed against my cheeks, nearly knocking my hat off…and closed my eyes.  I wanted to take it all in, to focus on something other than the awful wind that made walking difficult. Off in the distance I could hear birds chirping.  They sounded so happy about the fluffy white stuff that fell from the sky, as if it was a new toy.  I opened my eyes and began searching for the cheerful little creatures.

I was about to end the search when whoosh…a red bird fly past me.  It may or may not have gotten a little squeal out of me. 🙂  With a bit of adrenaline going I tracked the bird, and wouldn’t you know it – this beautiful bird and quite a few others were hanging out right next to the house (where I started my adventure).  It just goes to show that sometimes we are so distracted that we don’t see what’s right in front of us.

 

I stalked (for the lack of a better word) the beautiful family of birds for a good 30 minutes.  You see, to me they were more than just flying creatures.  Growing up my mom always said that if I saw two red birds next to each other, flying freely and enjoying life, that it was my grandparents watching over me.  So when I saw 3 bright red birds, along with a few of their fellow friends, I felt like I was watching a group of guardian angels flying about.  It was such a calming experience…the perfect inspiration to rise above the challenges in 2016 and focus on my creative abilities.

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Yard decor that my dad made me out of things laying around the farm.  How creative?!

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