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grateful daughter/protective sister/committed friend/surrendered believer/adventure finder/hope seeker/servant-of-love

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Friends are Friends Forever...

....if the Lord's the Lord of them. Michael Dub, you couldn't have said it better.

There are certain people in your life that you categorize in a group titled, "People in the world you can't live without." I'm pretty sure I have the best ladies in my life who are just that for me. We're spread out among 5 states, but when we get the chance to all get together, I swear time stands still, the world stops turning, and epic-ness explodes on earth. We laugh, we cry, we embarrass each other, we encourage, we build up, we're real, we love. We're ourselves with no inhibitions.

Between all of us, the personalities couldn't be more diverse. We're crazy, we're reserved, we're loud, we're quiet, we're sweet, we're blunt, we're ridiculous, we're calm, we're dreamers, we're logical, we're risk takers, we play it safe. All put together, we're a well rounded person...and that's why our friendship is thicker than blood.

Jamie and Erin planned on running the Rock N Roll 1/2 Marathon Sunday so, of course, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Cali had to come out to support and ensure that chaos erupted in Texas. We spent some time in Gruene, TX, we danced a little downtown Austin, we ate on the River Walk, and ran/cheered at the marathon. I heart these girls with all of me.

Not sure how many of you know this, but I'm a rising photographer who has mad skills that have yet to be discovered. Or, I like to play around with the buttons on one of Jamie's cameras while she takes legit photos. Whatever...same difference. Either way, here are some of my masterpieces of the weekend with the girls. (Minus, the 2 that I'm in.)

My attempts to be a pho-dawg.

LOVE you girls forever and ever!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Christian

I do not hesitate to say that a Christian is one who has fled for refuge to Jesus Christ. Having fled to Christ, he has identified himself with Christ completely. His identification has become such that wherever Christ is he wants to be. Whatever Christ stands for, he wants to stand for. Whatever Christ is against, he wants to be against. Whoever is Christ's friend, he wants to be his friend. Christ's enemies, he is willing to have as his enemies too. The work that Christ is interested in, he wants to do. What Christ is not interested in, he takes very lightly and gives little attention to. He has identified himself with Christ, and Christ has given him life for this - spiritual life.

A.W. Tozer, Living As A Christian

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tis the Season

If this doesn't put a smile on your face AND get you in the October spirit, then I don't know what will.

Happy Halloween-ing!!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Me and Leo are tight

I may or may not be one of the coolest people I know. Let's just preface with that.

As I get on with my years of life, I'm realizing more and more how much I am like my mother. I've caught myself standing like her in the kitchen. I've been told that I make the same "sounds" as her when conversing with others (although I think it's just a Japanese thing). I don't like being bare foot outside and getting my feet dirty. I love cooking things in bulk so I can eat it throughout the week.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

One of the things my mother ABSOLUTELY loves are puzzles. Growing up I remember her taking on several big puzzles and sometimes framing them. Puzzles were her thing.

I too have found myself thoroughly enjoying the process of putting a puzzle together. It's a time where my mind can wander and process life as I do such a menial task of finding pieces of cardboard that fit with other pieces of cardboard. I love it.

I haven't done a puzzle probably since I lived with my parents because of the chaos of life, moving, and working. I would randomly check the puzzle aisles at times when I would be at Target or Hobby Lobby, but didn't really find any that I thought would be worth putting a significant amount of my time into.

Over Labor Day weekend, Jamie and I went to Fort Worth to explore what the town had to offer. We visited the Kimball Museum of Art, which, my friends, was pretty stinkin' cool for being a free museum...highly recommend. We got to experience some awesome art, almost get kicked out (ahem, Jamie....), and roam the gift shop where, whatta ya know...they had puzzles.

There were ones of all shapes and sizes of different art pieces. I found this particular one and thought it would not only be a good de-stresser in my life to assemble, but also make me seem really cultured...because, ya know, that's really what's going to get me far in life.  ;)

I would be embarrassed to admit that, A. I spent most of my evenings the past month in front of the TV putting a puzzle together, B. I documented the entire process, and C. I put together a slideshow of my documentation. But lucky for me I have no shame.

Remember, I'm probably one of the coolest people I know.

So, folks, I give you Leonardo's Vitruvian Man, by your's truly.

**To save the man's dignity, I neglected to display his "particulars" until the very end...I felt like that was the least I could do for him. Although, Jamie gave me H, E, double-hockey-sticks for this. Apparently Jamie's more scandalous then I thought. Something to take note of, internet.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Let Us Love

A child has the capability to get you to love them so much without even trying. They grab hold of your heart and run with it, and as this summer has shown me, they can run out of your life with your heart still in their grasps.

I am blessed with a job where I am able to interact with kids of all ages everyday. It involves working with kids in child protective services and providing care for them for a temporary amount of time. When I started the job, I thought the most difficult part would be learning the situations the kids are coming from. Don’t get me wrong, that part of the job has brought me to tears and infuriated me through the past year, but I learned that there was more of this job that would bring me more pain than I knew how to deal with…along with some of the greatest joy ever.

My work encompasses the echoes of the kids that have come through in the past and the ones to come. So many faces, so many pasts, so much pain, and yet so much joy to be found as well.

Kids are my life. All ages, all types. I was a nanny for several years for 2 different families. Fell in love with those kids and still love them to this day. I led youth groups for several years. Little ones are easy to love; teens break your heart to the point of having no choice but to love them.

Earlier in the year, my job was pretty rough just with the work load. I didn’t know how much longer I could do it. I lost the focus of why I was doing this and was struggling with it. All I can say is that God is faithful.

…for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Matt. 6:8 He knew what I needed when I didn’t know what I needed.

With some minor changes at work, the removal of some distractions, and some AMAZING kids coming through, I began to love going to work everyday. My job entailed hanging out with this group of kids who brought me consistent laughter and joy. I loved being around them. I wanted to spend every moment of every day with them.

There was a particular group of 3 siblings that I just grew to love more than I ever knew I could. If I had a husband, I would have taken them in as my own. Their interactions with each other, the relationships built with each of them, and the desire to provide them with the stability and love that they had lacked in their past brought me to love these kids like crazy. When you’re with the kids during their high and low times, the fun and hard times, the bond just becomes that much stronger. I was attached and I didn’t want to ever let go. I wanted them to be mine.

I knew the time for them to leave would come near and I was absolutely dreading that day. I shed tears beforehand. The day came. I was a terrible mess. The hugs were tight and I didn’t want to let go. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep in touch with them due to the circumstances and that tore me up. I didn’t realize my heart could hurt so much. I’ve had a couple emotional good byes in my job, but nothing compared to this one.

I want invitations to their high school graduations. I want to know what they’ll be majoring in. I want to be invited to their weddings. I want to get their Christmas cards. But I will get none of that.

I was a little “miffed” with God. Why did You allow me to grow so attached? Why did You allow my love for these kids to grow so deeply when You knew I would never be able to be a part of their lives again? Why did this happen? I don’t see the point in my pain.

The following week after they left, work didn’t feel the same for a bit. They weren’t there. My heart ached so badly.

It’s been a couple weeks now. A lot of tears have been shed, but it’s definitely lightened up. The Lord and I have had several convo’s. And He’s always faithful.

I had a good talk with a mentor figure at work and, although it was very emotional on my part, she helped me see things they way I needed to see them. I started thinking to myself that I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep getting attached to these kids and loving them with everything I have just to say bye later down the road and have my heart shattered again. I can’t do this. It hurts too much.

People had said, “It’s a part of the job.” I said, “Screw it.” This pain is unbearable. It’s not worth it. I can’t do it anymore.

She told me that I’m a piece of the puzzle for them and can’t be the whole picture. It was true. I wanted so badly to be their solution. To be the one who made everything all better. I wanted them to know that people would still love them even if they had a crazy past.

The Lord has shown me so much this summer by bringing the perfect group of kids through. He re-focused my heart on my love for them. They are the reason for what I do. They bring me happiness and joy. They make me smile.

He has shown me how to release control. To trust and believe that he loves these kids more than I do and He wants them to grow deep in love with Him more than I do. He wants the best for them more than I do. I will never know how their lives will turn out, but by praying for each of them I will put more trust in the Lord that He is taking care of them.

After my tear shed of the 21st century and finally bringing myself broken and raw before His throne, I was able to get the focus off MY pain and onto what God was teaching me. It wasn’t about me. It was about them.

He has blessed me with this amazing opportunity to love on kids that have had all forms of evil in the world inflicted on them. They each come through at different stages and with their own uniqueness and I get to love on them.

In the middle of all the pain and hurt from saying bye to those kids, I swore it wasn’t worth it. I tried to figure out ways to prevent this from happening again. How to not get so attached. But then I realized that I was missing the whole picture. Loving these kids with all I am to later experience excruciating pain is worth it because they need to feel loved. My job is to love on them for the temporary time they’re with me. If I can do that, everything else will be worth it.

I pray for those siblings everyday. I will never forget them. A part of me thinks that future good-bye’s won’t ever be as bad as that one because I just don’t see myself falling for a group of kiddo’s like I did with them. They were special. But I will continue to love each child that comes my way with all that I am and I will face the deep heart ache and pain that follows. It’s not about me. It’s about God using us to shower His love on the broken and hurting. I thank the Lord everyday for using them to teach me more of His will. 

So my lesson learned from my amazing summer, besides the fact that I don't do well with change and like to live in the past: you should never hold back the chance to love with all you are even though the pain of loss will be that much greater. It's all a part of a bigger picture.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What a day....

May 27th....what a day.

First, there's gonna be a wedding in the Barnes Family next year!! My little brother proposed to his girlfriend, Amanda, while visiting Cali for a couple weeks. He flew out there to surprise her for her graduation and they both knew it would be coming the next time they saw each other.

The story...They've known each other since kindergarten, but hadn't hung out till after high school. They shared several classes together growing up, including Mrs. Seymour's 4th grade class. Andrew recommended that they stop by and visit Mrs. Seymour and her class just to update her on how they're doing. They make a trip to our old elementary school. Mrs. Seymour introduces the class to her former students and then asks if her former students would like to say anything to her class. Cue Andrew and his proposal.

Andrew, you have grown from that adorable, mischievous, happy child to a handsome, loving, and hilarious brother. I can't be more proud of you in your decisions in life, from joining the Coast Guard to now finding your bride. Congratulations to you and Amanda! Love you!!

Here are some more engagement pics of them. Can't help but just be sooo excited for them!

Around the same time as the engagement, the world welcomed little Cannon. Drew and Donna are good friends from community group and it's been such a blessing to have been a part of the anticipation of Cannon. At 36 hours old, he was just absolutely adorable and perfect in every way!

Last, but DEFINITELY not least, in the emotional day of May 27th....In-N-Out is coming to TEXAS!!

That morning, my Aunt Maryann sent me an article with the best news of 2010...In-N-Out expanding to Texas. (Thank you, Aunt know you can't take the CA out of me.)

See, foreigners, us Californians have an obsession with this heavenly establishment known as In-N-Out. It's like the Chik Fil A of burgers. 2 words: Animal-Style Fries....actually that's 3 words....get over it. Folks, not gonna lie when I say that the news of In-N-Out's migration east to the great land of Texas, may or may not have brought as much tears as the news of my brothers engagement and Cannon's birth. Okay, maybe I'm not that over-dramatic, but it was pretty close.

So I'm thinking the Lord REALLY wants me to stay in much so that He brought In-N-Out to me. Now if we can just get the west coast beaches over here....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Song Crushin

Lee and Crystal sang this on Idol this last week.  I researched to find out where it was from.  It's from the movie Once, which I have not seen nor have the urge to see, but this song is awesome.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I be rollin HIGH class...

Well, this past week my Toyota (Stew or Bolt, depending on who you ask) decided to add more complications to my oh-so chill life.  I was driving, went over a speed bump and my radio decided to stop.  That's cool.  I was at work and just had to stop by somewhere on campus for a bit.  When I got back in my car, music was playing again.  I actually think it's the speakers that were going in and out, radio worked fine.

I went to pick up Jamie at the airport on Sunday.  Music was not playing at all the whole way there.  Thought, "This could be it.  The death of my speakers as we know it."  I just don't have the money to put into that right now so I prepared myself for a life of no music in my car. 

I pull up to Jamie at the airport, I open the trunk for her, she closes the trunk, aaaaaaaaaaand music is on.  Of course. 

So apparently my music will go on and off when driving over any bumps or if someone opens and closes my trunk and/or car doors.  This results in me hitting speed bumps at mach 8 or pulling over to randomly open and close my doors. 

Be jealous, folks, be jealous....

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Concrete Jungle

"These streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you..."

You know it, Alicia!

I mean how many people can say that they made it on a billboard in Times Square...the FIRST day of being in New York?!  What can I say...we know people who know people.  

The second day of NYC 2010 was a GORGEOUS day that we couldn't help but spend it in Central Park.  Carousel ride = $2.  Picture at the amphitheater = free.  Epic moments with friends = priceless.

Definitely had a calorie deficit from the non-stop laughter that is always present when this group of gals gets together, so had to replenish at Carnegie Deli with a sandwich they've deemed the "Woody Allen." Oh my word, peeps, the divine stack of corn beef and pastrami on rye was one of the most incredible things I've ever tasted. I recommend...

We finished off the day with a little previewing of a Broadway show that was actually opening today called Promises, Promises.  It starred Sean Hayes (Jack from Will & Grace...hysterical fella!) and Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies and Glee...WAY gifted singer!).  It was fun being able to see a Broadway before it releases...again, we know people. be continued...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bittersweet-ness/NYC '10 Part 1 of 293

I love, love, LOVE taking trips. There's really nothing like going somewhere with your best friends because, really, you could place us in the middle of nowhere and we'll still have the time of our lives. The one thing that's tough for me and vacations is that they all have to come to an end and I have to come back to reality. Cue Soul II Soul, "Back to li-ife; back to reality..."

This trip to NYC was unlike any other trip with the besties because it was a surprise for our Lena's 30th birthday. =) If it wasn't for the surprise part of it I would have had a 4 month countdown to April 14, 2010 on here. Work has been so draining right now so anticipation for this trip was like anxiously waiting for my wedded bliss to a certain Criminal Minds stud muffin. (I've been wanting to insert a reference to him for awhile, but didn't have an appropriate time till now...he's so dreamy...) This trip will have to be divided into a few posts due to all the pics, the random adventures, and the abundance of laughter-inducing moments, so I'll begin with this video of the actual surprise, but first here's the background details that lead up to this moment...

We all have been trying to brainstorm about what to do for Lena's big 3-0 since last year. She's the first of our group to hit the big milestone in life so we wanted to do something BIG. In January, we decided NYC would be awesome. Most of us had been there already, but not all together so it seemed perfect. Then we decided to make it a surprise: Lena wouldn't know where she was going or who was going. Besides her and Erin, all the rest of us live in other states so she wouldn't really suspect we would all be able to take time out of crazy life to go somewhere. Little did she know that we got on board: Sheena from Wisconsin, Jaci from OKC, and me and Jamie in Austin.

So exactly a month from April 14, Erin gave Lena a letter that said that she needed to take this amount of time off on these days, she can't ask any questions about it and Erin would let her know what to pack when the time came. The letter mentioned that she could either be flying, driving, or boating somewhere...she wouldn't know anything till the day of. Sneaky us would randomly email or text Lena to throw her off a little and get her thinking that we have nothing to do with it and that we're excited for her and that she's gonna have a great time.

Wednesday, April 14th arrives. Erin and Lena wake up pretty early. Erin's mom is waiting outside to take them to the airport. Lena still has no idea that she's going to the airport and Mom McGee did a great job confusing her even more on the way. They get to LAX...Lena now knows she's flying. Erin checks them in and then shows Lena her ticket. Lena gets super stoked: she's going to New York and will get to hang out with our friend Nicole who lives there. Awesome...Just wait, Lena, it's gonna get radder... 30 minutes before landing in NYC, Erin gives Lena a card from Sheena that reads, "See you in 30 minutes!!" Lena is shocked and super happy. Erin, Lena, and Sheena meet up at JFK airport.

Lena thinks that's the last of her surprises...

In the mean time, Jamie and I met up with Jaci at LaGuardia airport a couple hours before the other crew landed. We went to our hotel, checked in, and informed the front desk of our plan: our friend Erin would be coming in to act like she is "checking in" and requested that they play along. And they did so convincingly.

Scene: Mariko, Jamie, and Jaci, in hotel room waiting. Erin, Sheena, and Lena, just arrived at hotel and walking to room....

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Limits

Saturday morning out running errands with Jamie I remembered that she was doing the Capitol 10K the next day. I also remembered that she hurt her knee during the half marathon in February and hasn't really ran since then. I continued to remember that our friends that were running the Cap 10 also were probably going to run it to make a good time and most likely not want to walk/jog with an injured-knee Jamie.

I should have just stopped remembering and kept my mouth shut at this point, but compassion decided to spew out of my mouth and I sort of said something like this, "Well,......I guess.....I mean......I don't want you to run by yourself........And I wouldn't know where to go to cheer you on........and I have been running 2.5 miles a few times a week.........I mean........if you wanted.......I could.......maybe........jog/walk along with you, OR maybe at least for part of it."


Next thing I know I'm waking up at 6am on a Sunday morning to run 6.2 miles. Folks, I'd like to re-iterate that I DON'T LIKE running. I do it only because I need exercise and, again, it's only for a couple miles or so. I have NO desire to run more then 3 miles. And we definitely ran most of the 6.2 miles and made pretty decent time.

It was definitely an experience and there were some fun characters to run with out of the 20,000 other people there. One thing that was really cool for me was running through the heart of one of my favorite towns. I love Austin and our downtown is a mixture of history, nature, eccentricity, and friendliness. I love it!!! So running through all that was just heart warming and sentimental. =) Yes, I'm a geek.

Running 6 miles was more than I have ever done at one time and there was definitely a sense of accomplishment in that....especially since I only had 1 day to prepare for it. Here are some pics from my momentous run. =)
So I didn't register for this run since I decided the day before it that I would actually do it, so friends Bart and Jessica gave me one of their bibs from when they ran last years Cap 10.

As you can tell, I was sponsored by Guaranty Bank while the 20,000 other runners were sponsored by HEB.

And since we're on the topic of "new limits," Maximus just discovered his aquatic siblings this morning...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Allens!

I can't say enough of how blessed we are to have so many of our Cali friends have come out to visit us in Austin.  It's not even just Cali friends, but friends all around too.

Lisa and I met in youth group at church when I was in junior high.  We didn't really hang out much until after high school in college group.  During college we just realized we had tons in common.  I have memories of late night talks till 2am while getting up at 5am for my 7am class the next day.  We shared adventures ranging from using fake ID's while I was consumed with paranoia and was convinced that the FBI would come in and bust us to watching the ball drop in Times Square for New Years.  No matter what there was always laughter.

In 2005, I had the blessing of being apart of her wedding as she married Mr. Nate Allen: hilarious, talkative, outgoing, adventurous...PERFECT for Lisa.  And a few years later she gave birth to an adorable boy, Blake.  It's so weird when you think of how you were in junior high and never thought that you would reach the age when your friends would be moms!!!  Crazy, but awesome.

This last weekend Lisa, Hubby, and Baby came out to hang with the coolest gals in Austin.  We had a great time with the Allens and loved touring Austin with them.  They really enjoyed Austin and we're praying they decide to live here and not Dallas.  No offense, Dallas, but you just got nothin' on Austin.

Thanks for hanging, Allens, and hope to see you guys soon!!!....with your U-haul right behind ya!!

My attempt to get all of us in the picture but instead got just our food...let's be honest, that's the best part of Rudy's anyways.
There we are!
Blake loved Rudy's....I promise.
Me with the little lady stumbler!!