God’s Perfect Plan?

Trust. The question I’m asking myself right now is, “How much do I really trust that God has a perfect plan?”. Here’s the thing… If I truly believe in Him and who He is then that should be no problem at all. The problem appears when I want to control how He does things. I mean, I’m a good planner. I spend tons of time analyzing, evaluating all of my options, doing my research and then making the best educated decision that I am able to and I must say that I do a pretty good job at it. 😉 What if God doesn’t choose the same thing that I would???

BUT…I am not Omniscient. I do NOT know all things. I cannot predict the future. God is the only one capable of seeing the greater picture and being able to make the BEST decisions in each moment.

I woke up this morning and immediately started praying for a friend’s friend (which pretty much makes them my friend in my eyes) whose patrol car was swept away in our flooding yesterday morning. I’m scared for her. I’m scared for her family. I know that we serve a God that is MORE than capable of saving her life and protecting her, even as more storms come through and the waters rise. I’ve tried to control the situation in my mind and think of the various ways that He could protect her. I’ve even tried to think of ways that I could help with the search. What I’ve come to realize is that God knows exactly where she is and I have to trust that He has a PERFECT plan…no matter what the outcome. He sees the big picture that I cannot see.

I’m in the middle of trusting God’s perfect plan in my own life right now as well. We found out a few weeks ago that I’m pregnant and I keep telling people that I’m cautiously excited. I have miscarried my past 2 pregnancies and so I was initially going to wait to tell anyone that we were expecting. Partially b/c of my own emotions, but a big part was having to watch my family deal with the grief of losing the baby as well as having friends feel awkward around me after the fact. I realized that was just me hoping to “control” the situation again. We decided that we would rather have people know so that they can support us in prayer than keep this all to ourselves. I’m still having to trust that God has a perfect plan. If He decides that the best thing is for us to have another child then so be it. If He decides that for some reason we’re not supposed to then I need to trust that is for the best also. We don’t always understand why we go through what we do in the midst of it but God does. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy but it does mean that I can have hope that He sees the big picture and sometimes that may be the only thing that gets you through those times.

As I type this, I’m reminded of Joseph in the Bible. He was thrown into a pit by his brothers and then they sold him as a slave to some traders. As a slave he was accused of something that he did not do and thrown into jail for it. The big picture for him that he could not see? God was putting him into a place where he would become 2nd in command of Egypt and would literally save thousands (probably millions) of people’s lives! This didn’t happen immediately. It was a time-consuming, difficult process. He was trusting that God was still there for him, even as he lost everything.

So, the challenge for myself today is that I will trust that God has it all in His hands. Honestly, I don’t want it any other way b/c I’ve seen what I can do when I control things and sometimes it’s just a big mess. He knows where our friend is right this second and He knows if my baby will be born and be healthy.

Lord, help us to trust you more and to KNOW that You see the big picture and have a perfect plan!

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Summer is here!

School is out! Vacations have begun! We spend lots of time with our family and kids over the summer and most of the time take tons more photos than usual. What are your plans for those photos? Why do you take them in the first place? I’m pretty sure that most of you don’t take photos so that you can lose them when your hard drive crashes or you lose your phone.

The best way to enjoy your photos is to print them! Bring them into your life! Use them to encourage others! It doesn’t have to be hard and it’s definitely worth the effort.

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What to do with your Organized Photos…

Okay, so let’s say you’ve been working hard and you get all of your photos organized (or maybe you just get a section of them organized) and now you’re wondering, “What do I do with my photos now?” I’m here to tell you that this is where the fun can begin!

There are SO many ways to enjoy your photos these days and I want to encourage everyone to enjoy their photos as much as they possibly can. Remember…photos bring back so many memories and they are a great way to preserve things that are important to you. I’m going to share some of my favorite things to do with my photos so that you can see what comes next!

Photo Albums!

Okay, most of the time when people hear me say photo albums they immediately think scrapbook and that they have to be creative and fancy. That is NOT the case (although, if that is what you want to do then it’s great). I just want people to know that there are so many ways to preserve your memories these days and a lot of them are QUICK & EASY!

The best thing about photo albums is that you can include your stories with your photos! They say that a photo says 1000 words, well…if the people looking at the photo don’t know anything about a photo or even who is in the photo then the photos really doesn’t say a whole lot to them. I ALWAYS encourage you to write SOMETHING down with your photos. Your stories are some of the best parts of your life and make your photos come alive to people that look at them. AND they help you to remember those special stories down the road (b/c we always think our memories will be better than they are).

Digital Albums and Pages

My new favorite way for me to enjoy my photos is by making StoryBooks. I use Creative Memories’ software, StoryBook Creator Plus, to create the albums on my computer and then when I’m finished with them album (or page) I have them print it and it’s mailed to me done! (This works REALLY well for me with 2 little ones running around wanting to get their hands into everything). 🙂

Here is a page from a family album that I’m currently working on. I’m keeping this album simple and doing a 2 page spread (this means I’m creating 2 pages across from one another) for each month of the year.

One of the nice things about doing digital is that I can create actual albums or I can create pages to frame and hang on the wall, or to give to a friend for her albums. There are lots of ways to put it together.

PicFolio Albums

These albums are FANTASTIC if you need something quick to throw together…or if you just prefer simple. You just slide your photos in, add a little bit of journaling and you’re done! The nice thing is that you can decorate with papers if you would like to but aren’t required to.

Traditional Albums

This would be what most people call “scrapbooking”. It’s a fun way to get your photos into album and also allows you to preserve your memorabilia (ticket stubs, maps, etc) with your photos.

Photo Panels

Okay, photo panels are like frameless frames. I LOVE them and they make fabulous gifts! They also have Metallic Photo Panels which are really cool for old photos or if you want to do a really cool look with a picture that has some bright colors!

Here is one that I recently made for a graduating senior that I know.

Other Fun Things

There are really so many things you can do with your photos in insert them into your life. Here are a few more ideas: Invitations, Calendars, Cards, Coffee Mugs, Posters…there is no end to what you can do with your photos!

No matter how you decide to enjoy your photos you will be glad that you did! Plus, it’s a lot easier to share them with others when they aren’t hidden away in your box or on your computer!

And, if you’re not quite finished with your organizing don’t give up! You can do it! If you’re not sure where to start with your organizing then check out my previous blog post on getting started.

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Do you ever get so focused on your current project that you lose track of other things around you? That was my week last week. We’ve been needing to paint our kitchen cabinets since we moved here and finally got around to it. Little did I know that what I thought was going to be a 2 day project would turn into something closer to 2 weeks!

The nice thing is that I learned some things in the process…

1. Know the tools that you’re going to use and practice with them prior to starting.

– We decided we would “save time” and borrowed a paint sprayer to paint the cabinet doors. Well, I should tell you that paint sprayers aren’t always so easy to use and don’t always save time…especially if you end up having to sand off the paint that you put on several days later and repaint them b/c you got WAY too much paint on the doors.

2. Think things through and plan accordingly.

– If you want to paint the inside of your cabinets you have to pull everything out of them to do so. Well, if you’re going to have all of the contents of every one of your cabinets AND your pantry on and under tables that are shoved in the kitchen then you have a LOT of stuff crammed into a small space and stacked on top of one another (well, you do if you’re me). We planned for some things, in that I put the dishes that I knew I wasn’t going to need in the furthest back corner since I wouldn’t be able to reach them. We also put things like bread and dishwashing soap in easy to reach places. What I didn’t think through was what I was going to fix for dinner the multiple nights that I was going to have things packed away. It would have been easier if I would have prepared a menu for the next few days and pulled all of the ingredients that I needed out rather than trying to pull out box after box searching for them. Next time I’ll do better! 🙂

3. Things don’t always go as planned

– While I’m sure that we’ve all heard this and I’ve even experienced it before I still have to learn this the hard way so many times. Things will probably go wrong…don’t freak out and just figure out what to do. When the sprayer put too much paint on the back of the cabinet doors we tried to fix it by rolling and brushing it off but the paint was drying too quickly to make it look good so when we sprayed the fronts of the cabinets we made sure to only do a few at a time so that we could remove the excess paint and make it look great.

– Then, there was also that moment when I spilled half a gallon of paint onto my tiled kitchen floor and myself. I can tell you that I did freak out a little at that point b/c my feet were covered in paint and I was just staring at the pool of white paint as it spread more and more over my floor! Luckily my husband was there and took control of the situation, moving me to a place where I could clean up and then we both started working on cleaning up the mess I had made.

This was after most of the paint had actually been cleaned up!

Even with all of the mishaps we are getting things accomplished. Last week I was laser focused on getting them finished just because I wanted it done but that also caused me to slack in other areas like doing the laundry and updating my blog. I know that there needs to be a balance in everything that you do and I’m sure through trial and error I’ll eventually get closer to it (at least I hope). 🙂

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Why and How to Backup your Photos!

Quick! What are the things that you would grab from your house if it was on fire (other than living beings)? When asked this question the majority of people list their photos as one of those things because they are something that can’t be replaced.

Living in the Austin area has made people here even more aware of this since the Bastrop fires that destroyed so many people’s homes and everything that they owned.

Photos are just one of those things that are so important to us because they bring back so many memories of great times in our lives. They remind us of family and friends while showing us how far we have come.

But, it’s not just fires that can destroy your photos. We have flooding and tornadoes; photos can get lost in moves and with our digital photos we have hard drives that crash, memory cards that get lost and then there is always theft. (No one ever thinks that thieves will steal  their computer AND their external hard drive.)

Backing up your physical photos:

When it comes to physical photos, here are some ways that you can have a backup system for your photos in place.

Negatives – If you have kept your negatives then I recommend storing them into a photo safe storage box and keeping them in a different location than your regular photos. I use the same type of box that I use for my photos because I know that my negatives will be safe in it. You could always swap with a friend or family member where you each store the other ones’ negatives for them. Be sure that this is a person who you know will take care of them and that you will remain in contact with so that you don’t lose your photos if they move away.

When storing negatives (and photos for that matter) be sure to store them in an area w/ low humidity and heat. Both heat and humidity will damage your negatives/photos and so storing these items in your garage or attic is a bad idea.

You need to have a backup system in place for your photos!

Digitizing your Photos and Albums – This is becoming more and more popular with people. Basically, you have all of your photos and photo albums scanned at a high quality so that you can print a new copy should you ever need to. No offense to the “big box” stores but I typically recommend going to someone who is going to give you more personal attention or to a store who specializes in this service. I do NOT recommend sending your photos to someone in the mail. While I’m sure that many people don’t have problems when doing this I just wouldn’t want to be the one person whose photos got lost or damaged in transit.

It used to be that there wasn’t a great way to make backup copies of photo albums that people already have their photos in but technology has come a long way and they have made it even easier to scan copies of your actual album pages. How awesome would it be to be able to print a new copy of your wedding album that the dog ate! 🙂  Now it’s something that is not only doable but it’s something that I highly recommend. After all, if you spent the time to put your photos into albums then you must have cared about those photos and you should protect the investment of time and money that you have already put into it. Plus, you will have a copy of all of the journaling that you included with the photos that will also be saved and so your story can be passed down with your photos.

Backing up your Digital Photos and Files

I’ve heard it said that hard drives are meant to fail. So, if you haven’t already experienced this personally then it’s highly likely that you know someone else who has. But, even if you are one of those lucky few who hasn’t had it happen to them and don’t know anyone it has happened to…be on alert b/c it could happen at any time!

I recommend having your digital photos in at least 3 locations. So, you could have one set on your computer, another on an external hard drive and then have another set somewhere that it NOT in your house. So, you could have an additional external hard drive that you keep somewhere else OR you could choose to upload your photos to one of the MANY online storage sites available.

Be sure that if you are going to use an online storage site that they…

– keep your photos the original size that you uploaded them. You don’t want to find out later that they shrunk all of your images and that you don’t have good quality photos anymore

– have a way for you to download them for yourself. We are using this as a backup system and not just photo sharing so you will need to be able to download your photos from their site should you ever lose your photos.

– are a company that’s going to be around for a long time. I recently had someone tell me that she had lost all of her digital photos because she had stored them onto an online site thinking they would be safe but the company went out of business and she lost them all. You also want to be careful with storing your photos onto sites that require you to make a purchase every “x” amount of time because if you forget and don’t order then you will lose your photos with them as well.

– aren’t using your photos for their own purposes. This is a personal issue of mine in that I don’t want to see my personal photos floating around places when I didn’t give people permission to use them. SO, read your fine print!

Here are a few ideas of places/ways to back up your photos:

– Other computers – if you have other computers in your house then one of your backup copies could be on one of them.

– External Hard Drives – I love these because they make backing things up so easy…just plug in and go.

– CD/DVD – Backing up photos to CD/DVD can be a great way to store them somewhere else. Just know that you’ll need to make sure that as you add new photos to your computer that you’ll need to burn additional backup disks for those photos.

– Flash Drive – These are becoming larger in size and more popular for use. They can still fail just like a hard drive but they could still be a great way to backup your photos to give to a friend.

– Printing your Photos – This is the best way to protect your photos from digital issues because if you have them printed then if hard drives crash you still have your photos.

Decide what is going to work best for you and do it! Trust me when I say that you WILL be glad that you did. Don’t wait until it’s too late and just wish that you had backed everything up.

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Project Time – Birthday card!

So, we were recently invited to the birthday party of a friend’s 1 year old daughter. My sweet husband went out and bought the gift the day before the party while I was busy working on the house and he asked me if I wanted him to buy a card. I decided that I wanted to make a princess birthday card instead of him trying to find one.

We had actually been to another princess party the week before and they had a TON of gifts wrapped in Disney princess wrapping paper. I took home pieces of the leftover paper that was in good condition and cut some of the princesses out so that my daughter could play with them while she was coloring. So, I decided to use one of these princesses on the birthday card for the 1 year old.

Tools that I used:

Princess cut out from used wrapping paper

CM (Creative Memories) White Shimmer Cardstock

CM Pink Shimmer Cardstock

CM Rotary Trimmer with the straight blade

CM Bordermaker with Scallop Cartridge

CM Meadow Punch – Flower Shape

CM Tape Runner

CM Precision Point Adhesive

First I cut the base of the card out of the White Shimmer Paper using the Rotary Trimmer.

Next I used the Bordermaker with the Scallop Cartridge along the 12″ edge of a piece of Pink Shimmer. I measured the width of the border to be 1″ and cut it with the Rotary Trimmer. I then cut it in half length wise. I adhered the border to the front right side of the card using the Tape Runner.

I adhered the Princess using the Tape Runner as well.

Next I punched out 8 flowers using the Meadow Maker and adhered them at random around Snow White using the Precision Point Adhesive.

There you have it…quick and easy birthday card for a 1 year old’s Princess party!

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Organizing your Printed Photos…Let the Sorting Begin

Last week I talked about what tools you would need to begin your sorting process. This week I’m going to take you through some basic steps for getting your photos organized. It will be easier on yourself if you have decided whether you want to sort in chronological order, theme, or both before you get started. Note: You can change your mind in the middle if you determine that your earlier choice is not working for you.

I do a combination of both and I thought I’d share what I do. I organized my everyday life pictures of family, holidays, parties, etc into chronological order; BUT when it came to photos that I had a large chunk of (Texas A&M, working at Frontier Camp, mission trips to Kenya, my current job) I decided to sort those by theme and then put them into chronological order from there (when I could figure it out).

I went from this...

If you have your photos still in the photo envelopes that they came in then I recommend sorting envelope by envelope (meaning don’t dump them all out and then start organizing). Many times this can help you with determining approximate dates for photos because you can see what date you had them developed and can also use other photos in the envelope as a reference. If you don’t have your photos in envelopes don’t stress. You may decide that you want to sort by theme (person, vacations, work, etc). Even if you do want to sort chronologically but don’t know what date events were you can sort by the approximate date. I’ve even helped some people sort by decade to get started and then you can get more specific as you go.

Organized photos take up so much LESS space!

Label as you go! If you got all of your tools together before you started then you should have a Photo Labeling Pencil that you can use to label your photos as you go through them. This will be a great tool for both you and future generations. Use it to jot down people’s names, where you were, why you were there…any little notes or things that you think might be important to remember b/c we all know that our memories fail with time and this will be a really great thing to have should you decide to put your photos into an album later or pass them on to someone else.

Weed Out as you go! I know it’s hard to get rid of photos but trust me…you do NOT need 15 photos of the same rainbow or that blurry picture of Aunt Susie (well, we think it is Aunt Susie). You will save yourself time and money if you can get yourself to throw out the photos that you don’t need anymore and then you’ll be able to focus on the photos that do matter to you!

So…what should I do with…

–         Duplicates: If you are sorting with the purpose of one day doing an album for multiple people then there is a possibility that you will want to keep some of your duplicate photos and probably sort them by theme into whatever album they would be going into. If you are just keeping them to keep them then I will probably say…let it go! I often have a hard time throwing out duplicates, especially if they have people in them that I still see. SO, I have created a separate sort box that contains ALL of my duplicate photos. Then if I’m going to see one of the people that’s in those photos I try to remember to pull those pictures out and bring them to that person.

–         Blurry/Dark Photos: So, we’ve all experienced having photos that are so blurry or dark that you can’t even recognize who or what the photo is supposed to be. These photos need to just be thrown away. They don’t do anyone any good and just take up space. Even when you run across photos that are a little blurry most of the time you can get rid of them because you probably have a better photo that you can keep anyway. The exception to my blurry/dark rule is this: If you run across a slightly blurry/dark photo (that you can still recognize what is in it) and it’s something very meaningful to you that you don’t have another photo of then you should keep it. Example: You may find a photo of your great-grandmother’s farm house where you used to go and play. If it’s the only photo you have of it and is still recognizable in the photograph then it holds a special meaning to you and you can keep it and jot down notes about some of the memories that it brings to mind.

–         Landscape/Scenery/Etc: If you’re like the majority of us then you have TONS of scenery photos from trips that you’ve taken (mountains, beaches, flowers, etc). I’m not saying you need to throw all of these photos out but I would recommend keeping only the best photos and limiting that to a somewhat small number. It’s okay to have a few photos to show where you’ve been but they can get overwhelming and don’t mean as much to other people as they typically do to us. Okay, now that we’ve gotten those things taken care of let’s start sorting!

Sorting Chronologically

Most people I run across have a desire, at least at first, to sort all of their photos in chronological order. Now, for some people that’s an easier task than others. There are lots of things to consider when you’re sorting in this way.

  1. Did you actually take these photos and do you have a general idea of when they were taken or were these photos passed down to you from a loved one and include several generations of family history. Even if you took every photo that you have, it’s not always easy to determine the exact date of when a photo was taken…unless you have the date printed across the picture, but even then you have to hope that the date on your camera was set correctly.  🙂
  2. Is it going to drive you nuts if you can’t figure out the exact date of a photo? Are you going to completely stress out if some of your photos end up not being in the “correct” order? If you think you are going to spend all of your time stressing about these things then to keep your sanity you might prefer the organizing by theme approach.
  3. How much time do you have to spend on this? While I really love organizing photographs in chronological order I do have to admit that it does take more time than when I organize them by theme. Figure out how much time you have to devote to this project and how much time you’re willing to spend on it and move forward from there.

Okay, so if you still want to organize your photos into chronological order then I have a few tips for you. Note: I am in no way trying to discourage anyone from sorting their photos into chronological order. This is my preferred method of sorting for most of my photos BUT I do want you to be aware of what it entails before you get started.

Use Timelines – Timelines are WONDERFUL things! I recommend creating a timeline of your life (or if you’re not sorting photos of your life then create a timeline for your vacation, family history, or whatever you’re sorting).  I included a sample timeline so that you can see what I am talking about. Don’t feel like you have to create a timeline just like mine. The purpose of the timeline is to make things go more quickly and easily. You will want to list out the key events from your photos (births, trips, parties, graduations, moves, etc). These will help you narrow down the date of your photos and make sorting go more quickly. Also, I recommend using a pencil when you’re creating your timeline (or doing it on the computer) b/c you will probably think of additional things to add or may need more room or to make changes. Don’t be afraid to sort photos into the order that you “think” they go in. When you’re dealing with older photos that may have gotten passed down to you I sometimes will try to sort into decades instead of years to make things go a little more smoothly. What I suggest is to start by sorting in a more general timeline…maybe by year or even decade, depending on how much information that you have. Once you get it sorted by year then you can go in and sort those photos into what you believe is the correct order.

Sorting by Theme

Helpful tip: Don’t feel like you have to know all of your themes before your start. As you go through your photos you may discover photos that you have forgotten about and need to create additional categories.

Start with General sorting – Most people have TONS of photos that they need to sort through and I’ve found it a little more manageable to sort in a general manner and then go back to do more detailed sorting within your initial sort piles. Example: If you’ve sorted all of your Hawaii vacation photos from your children then it’s easier to choose one of those groups and sort those in the order that you want them rather than trying to put them in the order that you want them while you are actually still separating them into groups.

Write down your themes and begin dividing your photographs into the correct themes. It’s okay to have a pile of photos that you put into a (I’m not sure theme) because sometimes you may think you only have a handful of photos that would fit into a specific theme but as you go you may locate more than could go together.

If you decide to sort by theme and you are sorting photos out for each of your children you will probably have some photos that you want in all 3 categories. When this happens you have to decide if you want to make a copy so you can sort that photo into each category or if you just want to choose one that this particular photograph will go in. If you find some photos that you do want to make copies of then I recommend setting them aside and putting a sticky note on the back with how many copies you need and what categories you were going to put them in so that you can do it all at once.

I realize that this blog post was really long but I hope that it was helpful. Feel free to ask questions and I will be more than willing to help you to the best of my ability.

Next week we will discuss the importance of having a backup system in place…

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