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Tag Archives: Christmas

Sneak Peek {Family}: Castenada Kids

It is just the coolest thing to reunite with people that I grew up knowing! This is one such family! Elizabeth and I aren’t quite the same age, but we still grew up together and it’s awesome to see her as a mom! Elizabeth, your children are delightful (even your grumpy one), and I think you are a wonderful mother! Thank you for working so hard to make this session unique and fun.

I’ve seen some scowls in my time as a photographer, but this one really makes me chuckle!



Optimism At Its Finest

So I haven’t posted this New Year yet. Honestly, there’s not too much going on…oh you know, besides the normal chaos and craziness of our lives.  Our Christmas was wonderful!  Our family was together, and we were all spoiled rotten as usual, the girls most of all.  I also got some chances to teach them about giving and loving on others, and we still tried to keep the focus on Christ.  I think we were fairly successful!

However, until just a day or so ago, I was not hopeful for this year at all.  It started off rocky already and we’re only a few days into it!  But then just recently I remembered my hopes and dreams for this year, my goals for me as well as our family.  I was uplifted at the thought of the progress we could make in the coming year, the work that needs to be done, the events we have to look forward too (or at least I do – I can’t say that Bloke really looks forward to some of them, but he’s generally a good sport anyway!).  So there’s lots going on.  And, I’ve found, there’s a mystery to each year.  You know what you want to do, but you don’t actually know what the year holds for you, or what God’s plans are.  Many of us live in the future or the past and not in the now (I’m actually guilty of both).  We often miss the now because we’re so preoccupied with the future or past, but the now is where the mystery lies in each year.  It is where God does his most obvious work, in the day to day.  We just have to stop long enough to see it.

My “baby” turns 2 next week.  Stay tuned for a post that struggles to celebrate her growing up…

A Walk to Remember

I cannot recall a time when it has snowed here before Christmas. As a matter of fact, I don’t think it has snowed before Christmas in my lifetime. But a couple of nights ago in our little town, it snowed. It was only about half an inch. But it was enough to put on the girls’ new pink snow boots, coats, and hats, and go for a walk outside. I just put a coat and hat on over my PJ’s since I didn’t think we’d be out that long. It was dark. The wind was blowing the snow everywhere, and it was frigid. As we walked, we threw little mini snowballs, chased one another around. We made footprints in the snow in all sorts of different ways. The girls laughed and ran around. It was a sweet family moment.

On the way home from out little walk, however, the winds picked up and it started sleeting instead of snowing. The Bean started fussing because her face and hands were frozen and the ice was hurting her cheeks. The Peanut was no longer laughing, talking, and running around, but walking, miserable, complaining of her wet hair and freezing cold hands. And my pajama pants, while flannel, were not enough to keep the frigidity from my skin and so my legs were almost numb.

In those few minutes that it took us to get home, Bloke and I talked about what it might be like if we weren’t walking home but walking homeless…with two small children who were freezing, trying to find a semi-warm or maybe just a sheltered place to stay. What do you say to your child when they’re cold? ‘We’ll be inside soon’ ‘We’ll be home soon’ or ‘in the car soon’ – all of these responses come to mind. Bloke and I realized how grateful we are that our home, while smaller than many submarines, is warm and dry and sheltered and we have it to come to. So many do not.

This sentiment was even further ingrained in my mind when, while stopped at a stop light the very next day after our walk, I saw a man with an “In Need. Please help” sign. It was super cold. I was overcome by the idea that there really are so many people who will be cold and homeless tonight. Some of them will even have children. It’s a grave realization to come out of the bubble of my home and know that as cold as I was on our walk home on that snowy, sleety night, I could go home, and many others could not.

This song reminds me of what our call should be. Where are heart should be. What our mourning should be for. O come, o come Emmanuel! Capture us and save us from the exile here!

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

It’s Beginning to Sound A Lot Like Christmas

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As I said in my previous post, my daughter recently asked me if daddy is going to be home for Christmas. It was a painful reminder of last Christmas and our family’s separation. It also made me acutely aware of her memory and how well she processes things that are going on in her world. This is why I feel it is so very important for me to take every opportunity available to teach her about what Christmas is all about.

This year I’m not just focusing on the birth of Christ but also the gift of the birth of Christ. He was a gift. I want Peanut (and the Bean too) to learn to focus on giving and not receiving. I want to focus on it too.

Every time I go out to a store or mall, I hear it. Sounds. Sounds of Christmas. Fighting, cheerfulness, grumpiness, voices, cars beeping. I hear “Happy Holidays!” and “That’s my space!”. I hear Christmas music.  I hear….bells. I never really paid any attention to the bells before. But for some reason this year I do. The bells remind me of poverty, of people who have less and who are doing worse than me, of people who can’t spoil their children with toys, games, and food. The bells remind me that there is always someone worse off than I, and I’m glad they ring. I’m thankful for the person that stands out in the cold ringing that bell.  I’m thankful for the organizations that send those people to ring them. The bells are comforting to me. They remind me that Christmas is about giving and about the love of God for us and that it is our job to give cheerfully and even when it may feel a bit uncomfortable.

You see, while many people may give the most at Christmas, and they may even give the most to those who are in need, I think we generally only give if we feel like we can.  Personally, when we get extra cash I either want to spend it on my own family or hold onto it for some other “need” which generally winds up not being a need.  It’s important to find that fine balance of taking care of our families and helping other people.  I should really assess if our family has what it needs, and if it does, then I should be more willing to let go of my talents, time, and resources to those who really do need them.  I adore my family, but I know that we really do have more than we need, and  I know that we are capable of doing so much more to give help to those who need it.