{ Thanksgiving 2014 (DAY 496) }

IMG_0124Can I let you in on one of the biggest secrets of my increased joy this year?  It’s too good to keep to myself.  After reading Ann Voskamp’s book 1,000 Gifts I was challenged to start writing down the things that I am thankful for.  I started last fall and decided to write down every morning what I was thankful for from the day before.  It sounds completely cliche but it’s true when I say it has changed my life.  Before I committed to doing this I was just trying to be grateful throughout my day but there’s something to writing it down that makes an impact.

This week is Thanksgiving.  That one day out of the year where most people in my country choose to be thankful for something.  Yet why just one day?  I say why not every day?  Being thankful for all the gifts and blessings God has given me has radically increased my joy. Day in and day out.  I’ve filled up one journal and I’ve already started another one.  4,099 gifts later I’m a different woman.  No, I’m not magically thankful all the time but I am choosing to see more beauty and more moments and to discover the grace in them and hard times.  It’s all around us. You just have to look for it.

So I hope on Thanksgiving you see all that there is to be grateful for (your breathing, your limbs, food, clothing…..) but more that that my prayer for you would be that you would have a thankful heart all year round, 365 days.  It takes some effort but it’s worth it!

We’ve been given so much.  And if today you feel even a little bit thankful would you consider giving to someone who has less than you?  Would you consider donating to our sweet orphans in India?  They could use our love and gifts.  Even if you just give $5-10 dollars that makes a mark.  And it’s so easy! You just have to click on that “GIVE HERE” button to make a donation. :)  Thanks everyone! I’m so thankful for all that you’ve done for me and my 545 kiddos!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

UPDATE! $89,708.82  Almost to the $90K mark! Let’s see if we can get there by Thursday yes?  :)

Posted on November 25, 2014 by | Comments { 1 }

{ Quotes (DAY 495) }

photo (1)Lately I’ve been reading up a storm.  My library card is getting used like crazy.  So today I wanted to share some of the quotes I’ve been gathering (also a few quotes that I’ve just found around).  The quotes don’t have a theme and neither do the books I’ve been reading.

“I don’t seem to be telling you anything but a mess of words, I am so full of such a mess of crowding emotions; I want to talk and talk and talk myself into coherence.  But, anyway, I stood alone in the winter twilight, and I took a deep breath of clear cold air, and I felt beautifully, wonderfully, electrically free; and then I ran and leaped and skipped down the hill and across the pastures toward our iron confines, and I sang to myself.”  From the book: Dear Enemy

“Happiness, not in another place but in this place.  Not for another hour, but this hour.” ~ Walt Whitman

“Hang in there.  It is astonishing how short a time it can take for very wonderful things to happen.”  Frances Hodgson Burnett

“If you’re wondering what happens if you attach your self-worth to your art or your product and people love it, let me answer that from personal and professional experience.  You’re in even deeper trouble.  Everything shame needs to hijack and control your life is in place.  You’ve handed over your self-worth to what people think.  It’s panned out a couple of times, but now it feels a lot like Hotel California: you can check in, but you can never leave.  You’re officially a prisoner of ‘pleasing, performing, and perfecting.'” From the book: Daring Greatly

“As children we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished, and disappointed.  We put on armor; we used our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear.  Now as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose, and connection– to be the person whom we long to be–we must again be vulnerable.  We must take off the armor, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen.” From the book: Daring Greatly

“It’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about.  What’s hard, she said, is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.”  Shauna Niequist

“Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worth while.” L. M. Montgomery

“He had a way with children and knew how to keep them on their toes.  He had a respect for them, too, and didn’t mind showing it.” From the book: Cheaper by the Dozen

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia

“It wasn’t until later God broke through. I realized that relationship with him is not a moral code or a religious performance. It is not a list of rules or a tap dance. It’s more like Argentine tango. It’s wild, free, and alive. And it invades our personal space.” From the book: Fatherless Generation

Also Happy 6th Birthday to the sweetest niece ever! I love you my Lala girl! xoxo

Oh and one more thing.  We are quickly approaching #GivingTuesday so save some money this year in all your spending and give it to children in need on December 2nd! It’s the best way to get into the holiday spirit!

(Photo credit: Rachel Coker)

Posted on November 18, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ Storytelling (DAY 494) }

DSC_0935.JPG_effected.jpg_effected“It is not often that I pass a nuit blanche; but when I do, I settle world problems.  Isn’t it funny how much keener your mind is when you are lying awake in the dark?”  ~Jean Webster

Squinting I looked at the clock and read the red numbers that formed to tell me it was three somethingish in the morning.  I had been very much asleep and now I was very much awake.  Pain throbbed through my head like I’ve never felt before.  So is this a migraine I wondered…?  The constant pulsing didn’t let up and when I felt a touch of nausea I knew I needed help.  Because my body is weak I have to be gentle with it and Ibuprofen doesn’t count as gentle.  Yet the hammer in my head wouldn’t let up so I turned on the light and fumbled around in the cabinet looking to see how many little tablets I should take.  Trying to get a grip I went back to bed only to discover that no matter how I positioned myself it was sheer pain.  It’s moments like that when I have weird thoughts such as, “If I ever have the joy of being a mommy I may rethink the whole I-don’t-want-an-epidural thing.”  And you know what?  Even though I’m 26 all I wanted was my mum.  I wanted her to be there with me.  So when I heard footsteps in the hall I spoke.  And because my mum is amazing she came.  Touch from a loved one actually decreases pain.

There we sat/laid on the bed in a tumble of blankets, sheets, and pillows and she rubbed my back trying to soothe me.  “Honey do you want me to hold you?”  I tossed and turned and moaned again.  My cranium felt that it would split open.  I focused on taking in oxygen.  Eventually I curled up next to mum and laid my head on her chest.  I felt her deep breath in and out and mine started to catch the rhythm.  Steady. It was then that I asked her to sing for me.  (She used to sing to me before bed every night when I was a little girl.  After she placed herself in the pink chair I would crawl into her lap and she would sing.)  Somehow in the dark of last night the bitter turned sweet and she sang life over me.  There was life and truth in those words so sure and gentle yet strong.  Along with that and the blessed relief of the drugs I treasured up the moments.

This is raw.  This is real. You don’t ask for moments like this filled with intense pain but when you get them and they are filled up with the love of a mother they are worth it.  Some may think it’s strange but I know daughters without mothers who would give anything for one more moment like this.

Then somewhere in the darkness from deep down inside I started laughing.  It was that late night laughter where everything is just funny.  When I asked my mom what had us giggling like schoolgirls last night she can’t remember.  All I know is that the pain turned to laughter.  The illusive sleep finally started to come and she went back to bed.  As I lay there I had a crystal clear revelation.  It was one of those defining moments I will look back on for the rest of my life.  As I played the last hour or so of events in my head I choose words and wrote them across my brain.  Right then I realized something, I am a storyteller.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I feel like it eludes me but I write anyways.  Months ago I decided that I was going to stop saying I wasn’t a writer and just settle for “a writer who is lame.”  That’s almost worse though, so in the end I knew I just had to write.  While I don’t want to be labeled by things such as writer, piano teacher or things that I do I still want them to be a part of me.  What I do doesn’t define me but it can add to me as a human.  It is hard to express the happiness that came over me with the realization that I’m a storyteller.  The long sought after desire showed me it was there all along when I was least expecting it.  And then I drifted off to sleep creating stories in my head that had much less pain thanks to the Ibuprofen and mum staying with me through the worst of it.

Posted on November 11, 2014 by | Comments { 6 }

{ Me, we (DAY 493) }

IMG_9012In a world that is increasingly more about about “me” than “we” it’s easy to get caught up in the mindset that the world revolves around you.  It’s easy to get self focused and forget about others or use them for our benefit.  We buy ourselves endless amounts of coffee/tea/chai.  We plan out what new fall clothing we need.  We figure out how to be comfortable.  Yet, even with all that we still feel empty and unsatisfied.

What would happen if we started considering changing our lives from “I” to “we”?  I think we would be more joyful people.  When we give to others it causes us to focus on something besides our problems and our happiness and instead choose to make life better for someone else.  I can 100% guarantee you that you will be a more joy filled person if you give.  “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”  What if we actually believed that verse from Luke 6:38?  I think it would turn our world upside down in the best way possible.

Giving Tuesday is coming up and I would LOVE for you to join me in this to help orphans in India.  Here are a few easy ideas! And the great thing is you don’t have to do it alone! We are in this together.

Take a jar to work and put a label on it that says #GivingTuesday.  Put it somewhere visible where co-workers will see it! Ask them to put in spare change or tips and then donate the money raised on Giving Tuesday.  (Make sure to ask your boss if this is okay…better yet ask your business if they will match funds for how much the employs will give.)

Ask your community group at church if they would be willing to donate money to help orphans in India for Giving Tuesday.

Have tea or coffee at your house with friends instead of going out for tea/coffee and donate the money you all would have spent.

Tell your neighbors you are going to be giving a donation on #GivingTuesday and ask them if they’d like to pitch in!

Let’s be a force for change together!

Posted on November 4, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ Soul (DAY 492) }

DSC_0064.JPG_effected.jpg_effected DSC_1017.JPG_effected.jpg_effected IMG_9923This blog has certainly been a mishmash of my life.  More and more this little space is becoming a journal to document my days and love for children in India as well as to challenge myself to grow.  I want to write words that are true, the honest kind where I know I’ve shared my heart.  Certainly I try to do that every time but it’s a developing thing.  Many times it’s hard to know the difference between over sharing things that are just for my close friends and being open, vulnerable, and raw.  There is a craving in my heart for authenticity.

I love pictures of people.  I love looking at them as well as taking them and it’s something I want to do more often.  When I post pictures on here I want you to see realness.  Sure I like beautiful pictures but I also want them to have soul.  Two of these pictures on here today are quite special to me and so I wanted to share them with you.  One is of my dear friend Rachel and when I see this image it brings up one of the loveliest summer memories I have from this year.  We were just two sisters hanging out and taking pictures in my back yard and laughing our heads off.  You can be sure it was just a bare bones “photo shoot” creating pictures to “show our children someday how mommy looked.”  Laugh if you will but we just took a piece of fabric and draped it over the clothes line and sat ourselves down on a broken stool.  There was minimal makeup and untamed hair.  Moments in time were frozen and our very selves leak out of these photos because we let ourselves just be.

The other photo is my niece.  At the tender age of 5, going on 30, she’s a precocious soul and always on the move.  This photo was one captured of over a hundred I took, again in our backyard, one night that she came for a sleepover.  It was spontaneous and she wore my clothes.  Shirts on me because dresses on her.  We laughed and she gave me all of her looks and a dream of mine was fulfilled to do a “photo shoot” with her.  This photo of her and her sunshine smile isn’t perfect but it is to me because her color seeps through even on a black and white.

“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. but when you photograph them in black and white, you photograph their souls.”   Ted Grant

I’m real, you’re real.  There’s too much pretense and “fake” if you will already in the world.  Let’s create honest moments.  What are some of the things you wish people would be more real about?  I want to hear your thoughts.  Pretend you’re sitting here with me on the couch. (If you need a visual my hair is up in a wacky pony tail and I’m wearing crazy socks AND purple plaid pj bottoms and a red sweater. Haha!)  What’s on your heart and mind lately?

SIDE NOTE: If I haven’t responded to your email it may very well be because I haven’t received it. Please send it again! Things have been going to junk mail and getting deleted. :(  I’m checking there now!

(Top and bottom photo by me.  Middle photo taken and edited by Rachel.)

Posted on October 28, 2014 by | Comments { 11 }

{ Happily Ever After (DAY 491) }

photo(64)And they lived happily every after…if that isn’t one of the most common Disney endings then I don’t know what is.  I love happy endings.  In fact I like them so much that I don’t want to watch sad movies where people, especially characters I like, die. You’ll find me in the comedy section of the movie rental store.  Yet for all that I find “happily every after” so cheesy.  Which makes me wonder why.

Lately I’ve been watching a show set in the 1950’s.  Life during that time wasn’t easy which is putting it lightly.  People die in this show frequently, characters that you like….a lot.  Babies die.  It’s gut wrenching but I can’t stop watching.  Interlaced with the drama of everyday life are these beautiful moments that leave me on the couch oooing and ahhing.

Why do I long for happy endings?  Why can’t I stop watching something that makes me ache with the pain the characters experience?  The reason I long for happy endings but think the movies give me cheesy ones is because I was created for a happy ending.  But it’s not really an ending.  In fact I was created for a happy beginning that will go on and on and on.  It will never end.  It’s called heaven.  And the reason I can’t stop watching movies and shows that have the nuances of pain and suffering and joy all messy and wrapped up in one is because they articulate life.  Yes, they speak to what we all go through and feel.  True the circumstances are different but human emotions are the same.

In my own life I can’t always see why I need the messy and seemingly bruised spots of life.  When I view these things wrapped up on screen though in someone else’s life I much more clearly see how the bruises make the overall fruit that much sweeter.  Maybe your life doesn’t look like “happily ever after” right now.  What I want you to know and hopefully feel is that the story isn’t over.  Heaven is coming and then our dreams of joy here will pale in comparison to what we will experience at that beginning.  Keep your chin up, love.

Posted on October 21, 2014 by | Comments { 2 }

{ Help! (DAY 490) }

Hey everyone! There’s a reason (or two or three) why I don’t usually post video blog posts with me talking but I hope you can hear my heart in this one.  Please forgive the quality…I filmed this on my phone…. Anyways you guys are amazing! xxx

Oh and an UPDATE! $89,244  :D  Getting there!

Posted on October 14, 2014 by | Comments { 3 }

{ Art from afar (DAY 489) }

IMG_9833 IMG_9838 IMG_9843It’s funny how connections are made.  Actions of seemingly little consequence add up to things that leave you amazed.  A few months ago I was scrolling through the followers on Instagram and I realized that one of them was an amazing artist.  I followed her back.  Her amazing drawings and painting kept coming into my feed and every single time I wanted to have them.  They were so beautiful.  Finally it got to me enough that I left a comment and asked her if she sold her prints.  Sadly I found out she did not but she was incredibly sweet and offered to send me one.  To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement… After corresponding back and forth via email about what print I would like (I asked her to please surprise me) Damaris said she would be shipping something my way!

Weeks later when it came I got a text that made me giddy, “You have a package….from the Philippines!” Yep, Damaris lives halfway across the globe from me.  Every little piece of the package had been thoughtfully attended to in the prettiest manner.  Holding her art in my hands was very exciting.  Both of the pieces were absolutely flawless and gorgeous.  Damaris is crazy talented and one of the nicest people I have ever written to.  The second picture with the girl and the balloon had this inscription on the back and it made me tear up: “This illustration was inspired by one of the outfits you wore for your 1 dress 100 days challenge.  I loved how chic and elegant it was and thought it would look great against a Parisian background.” :)  Not only did she pick one of my favorite pictures from the project without knowing it but she also put me in Europe.  One of my dreams is to travel to Europe and see Paris so this picture left me speechless and very happy.  It was the best surprise.

You should all go follow Damaris here to see more of her talent! Damaris, you are just lovely in every way.  Thank you for giving me these precious and stunning pieces.  I will treasure them for the rest of my life.

Also I want to mention in this post that if you have ever wanted to be a part of the project to help orphans in India now is your chance!  I’m looking for my 2014 fundraising team and since there is only 11K left to raise I’m hoping we will finish up the final goal by the end of the year.  So don’t miss this chance to experience fundraising for amazing young people who have lost so much and yet live life so gratefully! You can email me about this at misselaini [@] gmail.com (remove spaces and brackets).

(Paintings/Drawings by Damaris C.)

Posted on October 7, 2014 by | Comments { 4 }

{ Mountain Top (DAY 488) }

IMG_9753 IMG_9772 aspen IMG_0923 IMG_0940 IMG_9805 IMG_9780 IMG_0922When we were in Colorado two weeks ago we had the joy of traveling up to Breckenridge for a few days.  To be surrounded by the mountains was a comforting feeling, hardly claustrophobic and entirely magnificent.  Late one afternoon we took a ride to see some of the first aspens turning.  We got a little lost and ended up on the rockiest “road” that went up and up.  Finally we reached the top and it was breathtaking.  Views like that don’t just happen every day.

I stood feeling the cool air tingle my skin and my eyes grew bigger as I tried to soak it all in.  Pictures can never do these moments justice.  At times like this the veil between heaven and earth feels thin.  So thin that if you were to breath too heavy it might rip through.  Yet you have to inhale deeply as if to make even your pores open up to this beauty.

I think life can be a lot like my journey up this mountain.  It’s often rocky and jolting.  It bounces you around so much that you feel your bones may break and your head needs more oxygen than the thin air suggests.  While there is beauty all around if you choose to see it it you are also climbing.  It’s arduous and gorgeous and the two aren’t separated into sections but go hand in hand.  Ahh but in the end that panorama will leave you in awe.  It is all worth it for the mountain top experience.  Someday I will reach heaven and look down into what were my valleys, rough patches, flower finding moments, laugh silly at the screaming squirrel moments, colorful leaves moments, and so many more and it will all fit.  It will all makes sense and it will all add to the glory of the journey.  For now I’m happily taking each step for I have tasted of that end view and nothing can ever persuade me to live without it as my purpose.  I hope you will walk with me heavenward.  I hope you want to know Jesus because he is the most glorious thing I have ever experienced.  When I stood at the top of this mountain and was amazed it was just a taste.  Because the Creator is always more awesome than the creation.

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

Posted on September 30, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ Chihuly (DAY 487) }

IMG_0834 IMG_0866 IMG_0835 IMG_0849 IMG_0873 IMG_0882 IMG_0881A week and a half ago I had the joy of attending my cousin’s wedding.  It was one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever been to.  I freaked out when I discovered that the artist being shown at the Denver Botanical Gardens, where the wedding ceremony was held, was none other than Chihuly.  Since I’ve been wanting to see his work in person for a while now I was ecstatic.  Despite the freezing cold weather after the ceremony I was determined to see as many pieces of Dale’s work before I had to leave for the reception.

The colors alone were enough to leave me dancing but then the shapes and the sizes of the glass work just stunned me.  Part of what makes his work so unique is that it is a team effort.  I love that.  By himself he could do amazing things but by working with others he can do something that looks impossible.  To me that seems like an excellent life lesson.  Not to mention that the orange and red fire burst one Summer Sun takes a team of people 5 days just to assemble!  It boggles my mind how the 2,000 pieces intertwine but avoid hitting one another.

If you ever get a chance to see one of his exhibits I highly encourage you to do so…it’s inspiring and beautiful.  Do you have any favorite artists I should check out? Let me know in the comments below!

Also UPDATE!!!! $89,129.19  Alllllllmost to the 90K mark! Are you interested in being part of the 2014 fundraising team to help the sweet orphans in India?  If so shoot me an email at misselaini @ gmail.com (remove spaces)

Posted on September 23, 2014 by | Comments { 3 }