It pretty much changes your day. And you have no choice in the matter.
If you are accosted with one, you can't help but give one back.
And, it's contagious. It's one of my absolute favorite things.
One of the things that photographers are known for hunting down is a smile. We go to great lengths to capture great pics of your pearly whites. We make you say absurd food words to mimick that shape with your mouth. I am an all out goofball on some photo shoots, just so I can get a smile.
But, I don't want just any smile. I want the REAL smile. That one that gives me a glimpse inside your heart for a moment. Maybe you reserve it for certain people, maybe it only comes out when you are very comfortable. Maybe it's through tears. But, it's real. It doesn't hold back because it's worried about the picture looking 'perfect', but it invites you into that moment. It doesn't have walls put up to protect from vulnerability, it's honest and is okay with that. The real smile shows hope. It knows that life isn't always picture perfect, but it holds hope that JOY will win the day most of the time! It shines and everyone can see it.
So, I will continue to hunt it. It's good for my health. . . . and yours!
Yesterday, a very icky blog post kind of went crazy all over facebook and other social media sites that really affected me. It didn’t affect me in the way that it was probably meant to, but there is no doubt that the words that I read had in impact on me. I’m not going link to the post, or even list its title, because in all truth it isn’t worth it. But, the words that he shared as his opinion are not just words that spoke about females with short hair cuts. They were words that we have probably all had spoken over us at one time: words of hurt, contempt, malice, and UNtruth. The words may come in different forms and about different subjects but they have the same purpose – to strip value from the receiver. And, we have all felt the sting of our value, our worth, being taken from us by others.
I wasn’t just affected by this blog post because it was about short hair. I’ve heard all of those opinions and questions before. And, I’ve emotionally wrestled long with them. I know that there are opinions that are immediately thrown at me when I walk into a room because of how I wear my hair. But, there would be opinions given about other points if it wasn’t my hair. It would be about my shoes, my make-up, my clothes, my smile or lack thereof. Name it. Humans do that. They name what they see as faults and pass a judgement based on that. I’ve had long hair, medium length hair, and currently, very short hair. I’ve felt judged and criticized for different things with every different one. The heart of the words is still the same. The judgement doesn’t hurt any less with long hair. My value can be set in those words, if I allow it to be.
But, I’m here to say, even if no one else in your life does, that you have value!
YOU ARE VALUABLE. Extremely!
Wait, let me say that again. YOU ARE VALUABLE. YOU ARE PRECIOUS. YOU HAVE MEANING. YOU ARE NEEDED FOR A PURPOSE!!!
(sorry, I get a little amped up about this) I am valuable. I know that. And, not because of any words spoken over me at any point in my life. But because I was given a heart, mind, and spirit to carry out a destiny!! Who I am, and who you are, and what our purpose is looks very different from anyone else’s. But what my hair looks like doesn’t change what I was created to do and be! Deep within you, within every human was placed a desire to love and be loved, and out of that desire we seek to change our world and make a difference in our own way. And nothing that anyone might say to break your spirit changes what is deep in your heart and who you were made to be! We were made to SHINE, with everything that we are uniquely made of; to shine light into someone else’s darkness.
And that, my friend, is valuable!
There is going to be a lot of creating and shining this year in our lives : ) Just saying! haha
But, for January we are focusing on creativity with food, which I have to say is one of my absolutely favorite creative mediums : ) I LOVE cooking. I love trying new foods! I love the warmth that is created by delicious food, prepared with care and love, being shared with laughter and life and people that you make important by the sharing. and I love encouraging my family to do the same.
I posted a few of our meals on facebook this week, and I was asked for the recipes, so, I thought I'd share them.
First, I made jalapeño and bacon macaroni and cheese! Yes, it was as good as you are imagining it to be. Let's see, one of our all-time favorite comfort foods with just a little bit of yummy spice, and . . . BACON!! yeah! I felt like I was pretty much destined for greatness with this one : ) So, I just used my go-to mac-n-cheese recipe: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/04/macaroni-cheese/ and made a few tweaks.
(sorry, there is no after picture of this dish because I was way too excited to eat it to take the time to snap a picture first!)
First fry up the bacon and cut into munchable pieces. Set them aside. Like, aside and out of reach, so that you don't nibble all of the bits and there are bacon pieces still available to go in the mac-n-cheese when it's time.
Then, saute 3 diced jalapeños and 1/2 diced onion in the butter. You may want to test the jalapeños first. It may determine how much pepper jack cheese you use later. Now, carry on with the rest of The Pioneer Woman's recipe. But, the cheese!!! She is fairly loosey-goosey on her cheese choice in the recipe. No judgement, it's actually a fact that I embrace. It allows me to choose whichever cheese/s fit my fancy for that moment. (I adore this woman, and have followed her blog forever. I'm pretty sure if we ever met, we would be instant BFFs and cook amazing food together, and eat amazing food together, and laugh together!) For this recipe I used half jack cheese, and half pepper jack. NOTE: Taste, taste, taste. here is where you have to decide how much spiciness, and saltiness,you prefer. You could do all pepper jack cheese if you, and your family, could handle it : ) My jalapeños were NOT spicy at all, so I should have used more pepper jack. you could also add a few dashes of hot sauce, or a little cayenne, to add a little bit more heat, if needed. Now, add cooked macaroni (I used cavatappi noodles, because I think they look more fancy than regular elbow noodles - I mean, they even have a cooler name!), and the bacon bits to the cheese sauce. Now carry on with the recipe, and ENJOY!!! really, truly, enjoy. You should probably take a picture of someone enjoying the first bite, too!!!
But, I also told all three boys that they were responsible for a meal (or part of a meal) all by themselves. or at least as all by themselves as they could ; ) So, after our family meeting this week, they all sat and consulted Mommy's cookbooks, and picked out recipes that they wanted to tackle and share. I did the grocery shopping for the goods, and yesterday was our first meal NOT cooked by ME!!!! Sorry, I have to repeat that, because it's pretty monumental! Yesterday was our first meal NOT COOKED BY ME!!!!! (yes, for me it was pure bliss on so many levels!)
*our entire church is celebrating and learning about creativity this year, and as we learned on Sunday, 'creativity has an exhaust', as exampled by Caleb above. There was flour EVERYWHERE!!!
Together, Dan and Caleb made Quick Chicken and Corn Chowder and Buttermilk biscuits. It was both of their first times cooking from a recipe and they both did it (mostly) by themselves! I KNOW that I had more fun watching them do this than they did, but I was so proud to see them step out of their comfort zones and try something new. Unfortunately, this little exercise has not convinced Dan to become a chef and cook for his lovely bride, but I could see the satisfaction that even HE gained from accomplishing this!
The soup has a teensy bit of spice to it, but it is absolutely delicious!!! Perfect for a yummy winter chowder!
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients, stir together. Add the shortening and cold butter pieces. With pastry cutter, cut in shortening and butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in buttermilk and mix gently with fork until just combines. Dough will be sticky, not overly dry or crumbly. Turn dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough to a 1/3-3/4 inch thickness. Cut rounds with a biscuit cutter and place them in a baking dish or on a cookie sheet. Bake for 11-14 minutes, until golden brown.
I have a funny little tradition of picking a word for the new year. It helps me feel like I have a direction and a goal for the year. It's word that maybe speaks to what I want happen in my life in the coming year, or that I want to be reminded of every day. It will hopefully inspire me, prod me, and remind me. And, it's personal. . . deeply.
This year my word is SHINE.
Their God will save the day. He’ll rescue them.They’ll become like sheep, gentle and soft,
Or like gemstones in a crown, catching all the colors of the sun. Then how they’ll shine!
shimmer! glow! Zech 9:16-17
Last year was weird. In many ways it just royally sucked (last year I didn't pick a word, either. hmmmm. . . . . . connection? I think so!)! but, within the suckage, my heart was being ripped open and put back together. Because of the craziness happening on the outside, I had to dig really deep inside to find what to hold on to: my identity, my value, my joy. So, I'm walking into this new year with a vision birthed from all of that digging. I know my identity - who I am, who I want to be, and whose I am. From that, I know my value (priceless - just in case you were wondering!), and I learned a new joy - which is another blog for another day : ) with all of that, I want to SHINE! it's pretty simple. And, I hope that my shining will affect others' lives and they, too, will begin to SHINE!!
As I look around, I see many reasons for darkness. Pain, sadness, heartache, human-trafficking, child abuse, hurt, unemployment, poverty, hunger, depression, addiction, and cruelty. But, I'm saying enough. In my way, in my life, I am choosing to purposefully and intentionally SHINE in every way I can!!!
I have such anticipation for this new year!!! But, it is characterized by a few simple things. Enjoy God. Enjoy myself. Enjoy others. Whatever happens in the mix will be awesome!!! : )
One of the pieces of this that I am very excited about is renewing my love of . . . . communicating. (that is a nice way of saying 'I like to talk'.) Through my pictures, of others and my family, and through talking through my life. This blog, for example, has become very sterile! Yikes!! So, while I absolutely adore all of my clients, I don't want to forget what makes me tick so that I can continue to capture their JOY in the best way possible. So, you will be seeing some more personal pieces to this little piece of the internet.
So, to start, you will be privy to lists. Probably lots of them. But, it is seriously one of the only ways that my head hasn't fallen off or exploded up to this point in my life. Seriously! They are just that important.
You will also see more random pieces of me. Like the reason that it is not hard to figure out why my boys are so hard on their pants.
And, you will get to see the people that fill my life. The people that challenge me, encourage me, love me without restraint, and who make my world amazing. The last few months have been a tough place that threatened to eat me up, and one of the things that helped me hold on were the friends and family that walked beside me and never let me go.
Sorry, Ladies! He's taken!!!
So, Here is to a new year with new discoveries, adventures, joys and creations!!! Here's to finding out more of who you are by remembering more of what makes you up. Here's to JOY out Loud!!!!
You don't always pick your family, and because of that I am even more amazed with the family that I married into. I could NOT have picked better : ) I am truly grateful for all the pieces and parts of us that make up this crazy crew : )
This is where it all started : )
I may be in trouble for this one, but I love it!!! : )
I have loved getting to see this family every year for the last three years. They are now one of my favorite Christmas traditions!!! : ) Their smiles are always so genuine, and they easily get lost in having fun with each other. I love getting to share in their afternoons : ) My only complaint is that I don't get to see them more often.
We spent the afternoon at beautiful Bridlewood Winery! The vineyards and warm afternoon sun were GORGEOUS!!! To add in an amazing family only seemed fitting : )
I have loved wathcing this little man grow up : )
Thanks, Bobletts, for allowing me to join in such a beautiful afternoon with you guys : )
It is amazing to me that I have the privilege of taking pictures of wonderful people, capturing glimpses of how awesome they are, getting to see their families and kids as they grow, and being able to start calling them friends! It's amazing, really : )
Have a Beautiful Holiday season, Ellickson crew : )