Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dabbling in Photography.

Well, I've decided to start taking pictures.
On Sunday, a few of us went and explored a very old cemetery that is close to my parents cottage.
I love this cemetery.
It makes me think a lot about life.






I like that James Welch's headstone only says "A Soldier".  If you could plan your headstone, what would it say about you in two words?  If I was to follow Mr. Welch's simple example of a headstone, I would like it to say:

Leslie McCracken.
Loved.
20__

Because when you say "loved" it has a double meaning.  That I was loved, and that I did love.  Clever, eh?  What would you pick?  I was also talking with Josh, and we were half joking about what our headstones should say. I came to the conclusion that it would be awesome if my headstone said:

Leslie McCracken
You would have really, really liked her.  She was a beautiful, special, loved woman.
20__

(Or something like that) Because, I think that would be memorable, to say the least.  Then people who were walking through the cemetery for the rest of time would see it and think to themselves,  "Hey, She must have been awesome.  Wish I would've known her".  Ya know?   Headstones are, in a way, the last first impression. 


This is my favorite headstone in the entire cemetery.  At the bottom is a poem that forced me to connect with the woman who loved the man who is buried here.  The poem says,

"Dear kind husband, you have left me
and your loss I deeply feel.
All my comfort now bereft me
God alone my broken heart can heal"

Doesn't that break your heart, too? 
The tree next to it was probably quite small then, but I can still imagine his heartbroken wife... 
Sitting under it.  Missing him.  Talking to him.  
140 years after his death, I know that he was very much loved. 


Finally, lets end on a really happy note.  Here's a picture of Buddy taken while Marlie was chasing him.  I'm pretty sure she had just tackled him and I happened to snap this picture of him on a whim.  I absolutely love it!  



Oh gosh, he is so cute!



Monday, July 26, 2010

(24!) Baptisms at the Lake.

I think it's easy to forget that Jesus Christ still transforms lives.
I mean, I see it in the Bible and everything....
The New Testament is full of stories of people whose entire lives were changed from
one touch from Him.
one encounter with Him.
But, I don't always see it in todays Christianity.
It's easier to see the broken instead of the redeemed.  
The bad and not the good.  
The apathetic and not the passionate.
The hurt and not the healed. 

Which leads me to the point of this post :)
Every summer, our church (Impact) has their annual "Baptisms at the Lake". 
This year, the baptisms were actually in Lowell at a small lake right in town.
Twenty-four people were baptized, full submersion, in front of a couple hundred friends from our church.
It was incredible!

Josh had the honor of baptizing one of our teens.
A young man he has been working with and praying for for several years now.
Who decided to fully give his life to Jesus and show the outward expression of it through baptism.

((It was so awesome!))

Here are some pictures from the shore as well as a link to a video of the baptisms that our friend Dave put together.  I hope you enjoy them, and that you are encouraged to know that  Jesus Christ still changes lives!


This is a picture of everyone who was getting baptized (Plus the people they asked to baptize them)



Josh baptizing Keith.






What a beautiful day.  What a beautiful expression God gave us to show how we are washed clean of our old lives and born again into a new life with him.   


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ohhhh facebook (::sigh::)

Here is a list of things I will never use facebook (particularly, the "facebook status") for:

1. Attention
2. To make myself feel important
3. To make other people think I'm important
4. Affirmation from other people 
5. Venting
6. To prove how amazing my husband/life/job/self are
7. To spread bad news or bad thoughts about people or places or ideas.
8. Copy and paste anything.  ("Copy and paste this if you have amazing sisters who..." I already have amazing sisters... if the only way they know it is if I post a generic facebook status, that is a problem.)
9. Boring, uninteresting, minute, details of my day.  ("Going to the grocery store")


Here is a list of things I will use facebook and facebook status for:


1. Networking
2. Keeping up with people I truly care about (and some that I don't... hey.. just being honest!)
3. Informing our teens of events that will be taking place
4. Encouraging others with positive thoughts or positive words
5. Sharing good news
6. Posting pictures
7. Making plans
8. Recommending things I like to other people.


and yeah, I just wanted to write that.  Call me crazy, but I don't want to be a burden in other peoples lives... in real life OR on the internet.  Oh, and feel free to say something if I do post anything that is directly from my "never" list.  I'm sure you'll agree that it IS tempting, but I feel quite passionately about this.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Worship.

This song has stirred my heart immensely.
It has brought me closer to Jesus.
It has ignited a passion in me and
I want to 
share it 
with anyone who will listen.
 

But, if you do.  Could you please, like, really listen?  Don't open up a new tab and check facebook at the same time or read emails or text.  If you listen to it, please close your eyes and listen to each word and let it sink in.  It's a long song, but I promise it will be so worth it.





Interestingly enough, the American who won the bronze medal at the 2010 Olympics, Kelly Clark, listened to this song while she went on her medal winning run down the half-pipe.  Isn't that so awesome?  I think so.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Summer of Femininity: G.u.i.dance.

This summer, we have had a repeat event for our teens called "The Summer of Femininity".  For the guys, it is (appropriately) titled the "Summer of Masculinity".  The intention of these events has been to encourage the teens to embrace their God given femininity or masculinity.  To become the women and men God has called them to be.  Free, honorable, gentle, loving, self-sacrificing, trusting, humble... (to name a few). Each event couples a discussion about one of those traits with learning a skill.  The first week, the guys learned how to shave.  The girls learned how to do hair, make up, and walk in high heals (Heal-toe-heal-toe-heal-toe) and we talked about inner beauty.    The second week, we learned how to have a good conversation and mailed letters of encouragement and thanks.  This week, we learned how to swing dance and talked about trust and how to trust God.

It was an awesome night that ended with swing dancing at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids.  Here are my notes from the discussion we had following the dancing portion of the night:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Today we're talking about trust.  Psalm 9:10 says "Those who know your name will trust in You, for You, LORD, have never forsaken those that seek you."

Do you seek God?

As women, it's important that we embrace the idea of trusting.  Trusting others. Trusting ourselves. Most importantly, trusting God.

Trust can be a difficult thing to do.  It's someting that I struggle with.  Does God have my best interest in mind?  Don't I know what's best?  What if what I want to do with my life isn't what God wants me to do?  Does He really know what's best?

Does anyone here struggle with trust at all?  In what areas do you struggle with it?

One of the reasons I love dancing is because it gives a clear picture of trusting God.  When we were dancing earlier, did you notice it was difficult if you both were trying to lead at the same time? You wanted to go one way, he wanted you to go another way.  Maybe you guessed what your partner was going to do and you were wrong, sending you offbeat.  It became awkward and confusing, right?

That's because in most relationships, especially a dancing relationship, someone has to lead. Could you imagine having a job and having more than one boss? More than one person telling you what to do or how to do it?  It would be inconsistent, a mess.  In dancing, there has to be a leader. And that leader has to be a strong one. A sure one. A steady one.

If you are a follower of Christ, you have told God that He is your leader. That's a difficult thing to do... to trust that he's not going to fail you, or send you in the wrong direction, or drop you or "let you down" when you want to do something really exciting.  In reality, He is the ultimate leader.  He cares more about your future and your life than you do.  Trusting in Him is the key to living a full life.  It won't necessarily be a life without problems or bad things happening, but it will be a life that glorifies Him.

Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purposes."  So even when bad things happen, God can redeem those things things and can work them out for good.

Letting go of control of your life is a difficult thing to do, but when you do, you can live a life of complete freedom.

Romans 15:13 says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I ended by sharing the following poem and video with the girls:


"Dancing with God"
By: Elaine L. Guercio

When I meditated on the word "Guidance",
I kept seeing the "dance" at the end of the word.
I remember reading that doing God's will is a lot like dancing.
When two people try to lead, nothing feels right.
The movement doesn't flow with the music and everything is quite
uncomfortable and jerky.
When one person realizes that and lets the other lead, both bodies begin to
flow with the music.
One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back or by pressing
lightly in one direction or another.
It's as if two become one body, moving beautifully.
The dance takes surrender, willingness, and attentiveness from one person
and gentle guidance and skill from the other.
My eyes drew back to the word "guidance".
When I saw "G" I thought of Go, followed by "U" and "I".
"God", "U," and "I" "dance".
God, you and I dance.
As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust that I would get guidance
about my life.
Once again, I became willing to let God lead.
My prayer for you today is that God's Blessings and mercies be upon you on
this day and every day.
May you abide in God as God abides in you.
Dance together with God, trusting God to lead you and guide you through each season of your life.









Some pictures from Rosa Park Circle:




They also had a guy who did a "fire breathing" show.  


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Date Night.

Josh surprised me today and took me on a date!  We went to Frederick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids.  It was beautiful.  and HOT.   I got to wear a new dress.  (It has pockets! I love dresses with pockets!)  After the gardens, we went downtown swing dancing for the first time in a very long time.  It's so fun to see hundreds of people dancing and having good, clean, fun.  I enjoyed myself immensely!  

Here are some pictures from the Gardens:





(A cardinal in the trees)








This last picture was taken in the Conservatory.  It was basically an indoor jungle.  Birds were flying to and fro, massive vines were weaving their way across the ceiling.  We even saw bananas growing.  We decided that we will have to make several visits there next winter.  They have benches all over and I'm pretty sure that on a cold day in February, I could sit in there allllll day with a book, enjoying the greenery and the life.  


Today was a great ending to a great vacation!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Oh Summer, I love you.

Josh and I are both currently in the middle of a little vacation (or should I say stay-cation?).  It has been so lovely.  So wonderful.  We have done exactly whatever we wanted for the last 4 days.  We spent the entire weekend up at my parents cottage on Slayton Lake.  It was restful.  It was peaceful.  We spent time quality time with my family,  with Brian and Kyrie.  Most importantly, we spent time with each other.  

We didn't even go to church.  Shocking, I know!

Last night, I decided to give wakeboarding a try.  Josh learned how to do it on Saturday, and Brian is already a pro.  I learned how to water ski with very little effort when I was 12, but I was a little anxious about trying to wakeboard.  Needless to say, I got up on the first try (Yes, I'm very proud of that!) and successfully stayed up above water for like, 30 seconds.... one time.  Maybe two.  

At this point of my life, I am not very strong (or fit) and I have weak hands from massage therapy so after 25 minutes of wake-boarding (and attempting to wake-board) I called it a day. Despite my brief efforts in the water I must tell you that I am so incredibly, unbelievably, wildly sore today that I don't know if I'll ever try it again.  Seriously, I got up a few minutes ago to get something in the other room and I limped.  I limped!   My entire body aches.  

Let me try to break it down.... if fun can be marked in "fun units".  I would say wake-boarding earned about 6 fun units.  If pain can be marked in "I-can't-freaking-move units" I would say I am at about an 8.5.  Comparing scales, the amount of fun I had does not exceed or even match the amount of pain I am in.  Resulting in: probably never wakeboarding ever again and sticking to water skiing.

Either way, I'm glad I tried it.  It's good for me to get out of my comfort zone and try new things once in a while.  Here are some photographs from our boating adventures from this weekend:


Brian showing off his superior wake-boardings skills:


My love, who is a natural at almost everything he tries, including wake-boarding.


Me: earning fun units!


Me: Earning "I can't freaking walk" units:
(Please note that I still had time to plug my nose as I made my swift descent into the water.  I may have fallen, but I did it with style and limited nasal discomfort)


Buddy hanging out on the boat.  
Dry Buddy = Cute Buddy


Wet Buddy = Not-so-cute Buddy.
(Despite the look on his face, I swear he liked the water!)

(Side note: I am laughing so hard as I post this picture of Buddy that Josh just asked me if I'm ok and then proceeded to say, "You're the funniest person you know, aren't you?" which only resulted in more laughter.)


Honestly, it was the loveliest weekend I've had in a long time!


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Our Love Story: The Engagement! (Two Years Ago Today!)

Two years ago today, Josh proposed to me! The morning after we got engaged, I woke up and typed up a very long and detailed blog about exactly how he did it on my old blog.  (The last few posts on there are from me when we were engaged, honestly it's really quite cute.  I was so excited to be getting married!  I enjoy reading them from time to time and wish I would have written more, actually.) Anyway, I am just going to re-post the original blog post of our engagement story because it's so genuine and excited and retelling it wouldn't be nearly as sweet as reading what was written the day after it actually happened.

Enjoy!



Wednesday, July 2, 2008

We're Engaged!!
On July 1, 2008 the love of my life asked me to marry him! Here's the story: (I'm not sparing any details because I want this to serve as a memory blog for me as well as share it with others.. so buckle up it's going to be a long one!)

There are several back stories you MUST know to get the full sweetness of the proposal...

Back Story Number 1: We went shopping in May and I bought an amazing pink dress! Seriously, it's perfect. Josh was with me and when I bought it he decided to take it and was going to randomly surprise me with it some night and take me out on a fabulous date... but then he finished that thought with.. "and who knows, maybe it'll be the dress you get proposed to in!"

Back Story Number 2: I'd say it must have been late March or April or so.. but he said... "Leslie, you should expect a ring by July 1" yay!
Back Story Number 3: I have a friend who is very, very dear to my heart. Her name is Betty Yeiter and she is 84 and I love her dearly. She has been following our relationship since the very beginning and is always checking my finger for a ring! haha anyway, when we went ring shopping we decided to tell her. We also decided to go to Fox Jewelers because she and her husband bought their diamonds from Mr. Fox himself and thought we should check them out. When we told her this Betty was just tickled and made a call in to "help us get a deal" because she has sent LOTS of business their way.
Now even though Josh said I should expect a ring by July 1 I didn't think it was actually going to happen. He closed on a house just last Thursday, June 26 and made it very clear that anything he had saved was going towards the house and the down payment. He also made many "genuine" comments of disappointment that an engagement wasn't going to happen any time soon. and with things like the soccer ball/piggy bank full of change (change that he said he had been saving for years for a ring some day) sitting in the open completely filled to the brim-still- I had no reason to think anything was going to happen any time soon. and THEN he texted me June 30 saying something like.. "hey... Jason and Heidi always do date nights... i think we should get into that habit to... lets go on a date this week to start... how about tuesday?" (The conversation never actually happened but I bought into the whole thing anyway!)

So Tuesday, July 1, finally arrives and I'm really excited because we're going on a date, a surprise date! and here's where the story starts to unfold.... At around 3:00 Josh stopped by my house and dropped off The Pink Dress! I was so excited! BUT I didn't even let my mind wander to "maybe you're getting engaged tonight!!" because I didn't want to ruin a great date with false hopes and be sad at the end when I should have been very happy the whole thing happened.. right? right.

So anyway, he drops the dress off... I get all dolled up and he picked me up at 6:15 looking mighty fine himself :-) We drove downtown and went to the Cygnus, a really REALLY nice restaurant at the top of the Amway Grand Plaza that I have always wanted to go to but never had before. We had a lovely (and expensive) dinner and then proceeded to head out to Grand Haven for some roller blading. He told me to bring extra clothes, so we got there.. changed.. bladed the boardwalk down to the pier and watched the sunset. It was amazing and there were a couple of times when I thought, "hmm is he going to propose?" but he didn't. He definitely didn't.

So we drove the hour back home and he got a couple of texts that he said were from his sister and his friend Rob, when they were actually from my mom- they were setting their plan in motion and I was completely oblivious. He even told me what Rob "said" in the text (something about a pump? haha!) and we proceeded home. He walked me to my door, kissed me goodnight, and I floated inside quoting the movie Elf, "I'm in love! I'm in love! and I don't care who knows it!" and talked to Brian and Kyra about our fabulous night.

Five minutes later.... my mom comes walking over. Now mind you it's like 11:45 at night, and she never ever comes over to my house... she said she just wanted to hear how my date was and talk to me for a minute... which kind of freaked me out... I figured someone had died or something and she needed to tell me about it.. anyway, that wasn't the case because after a few minutes of chatting she pulled out from behind her back a beautiful red rose and a note that said, "Daisy, meet me at our house. -Hero" (our knicknames for each other) and I just about freaked out! I was so excited! He said "our" house about HIS brand new house! I quick grabbed my camera, grabbed my purse and ran out the door.

It was the most exciting 10 minute drive of my life! The whole time I was thinking, "ohmygosh I could be getting engaged right now!" and I kept rubbing my ring finger thinking... "there might be a ring here soon, there might be a ring here soon!!" and then I finally just said out loud, "Lord, I am so nervous right now!!" and I immediately had this picture of Jesus sitting in the passenger seat, beaming, so excited to share the moment with me. It was amazing...

So I got to the house, walked in the door... and I found a trail of rose petals leading in to the spare room. There was a silver gift package about 8 inches long sitting on a table, with a note inside that had a key to the house taped to it. I thought it was great, but also kind of thought.. "oh.. is this it?" So I proceeded to go find Josh who was hiding in the house and noticed more rose petals leading to the master bedroom....

So I walked over towards the master bedroom where there was a beautiful poem taped to the door. I had to read it twice. The first time I just flew through and didn't comprehend annny of it. After getting somewhat of a grasp on what that said.. I opened the door and there were more rose petals, surrounding a lamp, with a ring on top. I can't describe the lamp well in words, but I did take the picture right here to always remember how beautiful it was! The two bottom platforms are filled with candles, and the top has a light shining down on a little... black... box... that said "Fox Jewelers" on the top....

He also had the song I told him last week that I want to walk down the aisle to playing in the background... I would tell you on here but I want it to be a surprise! Anyway, it was absolutely amazing and by far the most amazing moment of my life. He walked out from his hiding spot in the closet, told me to the open the box... when it was opened he took it from me, got down on one knee and said, "Leslie, will you marry me?" aaand what do you think my response was? YES!! YES!! YES!

After that I just about tackled him with kisses. Kept saying "you just proposed to me! you just proposed to me!" about a thousand times, seriously! and he made me the happiest woman alive at that exact moment :-) We drove back to my house and shared the excitement with my Mom, Greg, Brian, Kyra, and Brad. It was perfect! oh and they all knew it was going to happen that night, I was the only one in the dark.

Later I found out that he had put the soccer ball full of change in an obvious spot, so I would feel it, realize all of the change was still in there, and have no idea that he had already bought the ring. THREE WEEKS EARLIER! haha I was so completely clueless. He also had me carry the ring in when I was helping him move. Not the box itself, but it was in a bag that was in a bag and I carried it in! And it DID happen on July 1 like he said it would! And it WAS the night I wore the pink dress! He asked my permission from my Dad, my mom, Greg, and Brian. They all wholeheartedly said yes!

and probably one of the most beautiful details is that he took my sweet, 84 year old friend Betty to pick it out with him....

It was by far, the most amazing night of my life!