Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Photo Challenges

I have recently started following a number of new blogs- mostly ones that inspire me to photograph life.  I may not participate every week in the challenges, but I want to try and push myself to join in as often as I can.  I also love that most of the new blogs and associated challenges I have chosen revolve around family- more specifically, around children.  I am excited to hopefully iron out extra time with Emilia each week to capture the fun little things we do together.

This past Sunday, Emilia and I had a few hours all to ourselves.  We spent part of our time twirling in a tutu (E twirled, I watched), then added a superhero cape and played outside.  After naptime, we headed to the park for even more fun and more new, wonderful photos of my sweet baby girl.  One of my favorite photos of the day is the one below.  Emilia's independence grows daily and she insists on doing everything by herself.  The shoes she is putting on are at least one size too big, but she loves them and wears them as often as she can.

Show off your Shot Challenge by Then, She Snapped:

 then, she {snapped}

Same photo, but in Black and White for Paper Mama's challenge:
(*I could not get the button for Paper Mama's challenge to work, but you can see the challenge here.)

Here are a few of my other favorites from our fun day.  Enjoy! (O:

(It is very hard to get a superhero princess to stand still with a decent background!)

Have a great day! (O:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Pirate Ruffle Tank :: Tutorial

It is no secret that I *love* ruffles and upcycling shirts...today's post plays right into these loves. 

This past weekend, Emilia and I spent All Day at my Momma's house- yay!  My sister, mom and I spread out all different crafty projects across Momma's dining room table and even E helped on a project or two. ;-)  My main objective of the day was to sew two t-shirt skirts (which I plan to post about once I finish taking photos!), but they are a super quick and easy project so I ended up with extra time on my hands.  Luckily, my crafty bags were stuffed with other projects waiting to be completed (including a bag of 8-10 tees/tanks just calling out to be ruffled!). 

I found some really cool white shiny fabric (how's that for a technical term) and used some extra scraps from one of my skirts for the ruffles.  I grabbed out a plain grey tank I found on clearance at Target- it is their C9 brand with moisture wicking technology.  I am in love with this line- the clothes are comfy and cute and don't hold sweat like regular tees (TMI?  Maybe..)  Anyway, I have this plan to refashion a handful of these tanks to use on Saipan.  That way I am cool and comfy, but don't always look like I'm going for a run.  So this is what I came up with:


1 tank/tee
Scrap fabric or another tank/tee for the ruffles
Rotary cutter and board
Sewing machine with coordinating thread

I had it in my mind that I wanted to do a layered ruffle along the neckline of my tank, so I started cutting out strips of each fabric.  I cut the grey fabric in 2in strips and the white fabric in 3.5in strips because it was going to be folded over.  I don't have an exact length of fabric needed in each color because this was kind of an "experiment as I go" type of piece, and it will also depend on how ruffled you want your strips.  You can always start out ruffling some fabric and then ruffle more as you need it.

To gather the fabric, I lengthened my stitch as far as I could (I think a 5 on my mom's machine) and loosened the tension a tad.  It is best to practice on a piece you won't be using to make sure your settings will work as you want them to.

For the white fabric, I folded it in half long-ways and stitched along the raw edges.  This fabric was fraying a LOT so I knew I couldn't leave the raw edges exposed on my shirt.  The grey strips were just sewn down the middle.  *Do not back stitch at either end or you won't be able to gather*  Once you finish stitching a strip, gently pull on one of the threads (I think the bottom works easier), shifting the fabric as needed until you create the desired amount of ruffly goodness.

Starting with my white fabric, I pinned it along the top edge of my tank neckline, like so:

(Notice the raw edges are pointing down from the neckline)

(If you do not have long piece of ruffle, as was the case for me, make sure to tuck the ends together when starting a new strip.  This makes it look continuous.)

*Change your machine setting back to normal before sewing your rows on the shirt.*

Sew the first row of ruffles to the tank, along the seam made from gathering, back stitching at the beginning and end.  Be careful not to sew through both layers (this will be important as we continue to add rows).

I really started to notice how badly this fabric was fraying after pinning and sewing this first row.  So I decided to pin the next row of white before adding the middle layer of grey.  That way my grey layer would hopefully keep most of those frayed edges contained.  This white row has the raw edges facing up and overlapping the first white row a little bit.  Pin into place and sew.

Now pin the grey strip between these two white rows.  Sew into place.  (The grey fabric will curl more once it has been washed.)

This is what we have so far!  Originally, this is what I was picturing in my mind...but wasn't in love with it once I put it on.  My mom and sister said they thought it was cute...but who were they trying to kid??  Something looks off, don't you agree? 

Hey, let's add more ruffles!  Following the same steps as before, I ruffled more strips and started adding the next couple rows to the tank.  You can play around with the shape, number of rows, etc. until you come up with something you like.

Tuck the ends of these next rows under the previous layers for a more finished look.
(Make sure your next layer is centered...unless you are going for an off-center look!) ;-)

 I opted for two rows of white as the bottom instead of just one.  I wanted a little extra fluff.

Keep pinning and sewing rows of ruffle until you have a shape/style you like.

And Done.

I still think it has a pirate-y feel to it, but I am OK with that.  We all need a little pirate in our lives, right? ;-)  Have fun working up your own ruffly creation.  I would love to see what you create! (O:

Have a great day! (O:

Friday, February 24, 2012


I have been pretty quiet this week on blogger...and fb...and life.  I tried to keep my complaints to a minimum while Jason has been away.  I know there are many circumstances that blow this 2 week stint out of the water. 

I reminded myself this morning that there are military families all over the world who are going through so much more than me right now.  Yes, I miss my husband and Emilia misses her daddy.  Yes, Emilia's behavior and attitude have been on the decline since he left and it makes me sad.  But what are these 16 days compared to 6 months-1 year-Years apart?  We have a lot of changes going on in our little family right now and there are many hard days.  But this can not even compare to the sacrifices our military families- including the several friends I have who are in the military.  Families moving every two years, going for months at a time without seeing or talking to their families, moving across the world away from everything they have ever known.  Shame on me for throwing a pity party this morning.  My husband is safe and will be home tomorrow.  Some families live in constant fear that their loved ones are in danger and may never come home. 

Thank you to all my military friends, their spouses and families for the huge sacrifices you make for our country.  May we never forget- even for a moment- how your lives make our lives and our country better.  (I will work on a couple posts soon to get back on track...no more pity parties for me.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

My T-Shirt Ruffle Refashion (PDLB!)

My latest Pinned It, Did It, Loved It, Blogged It moment.  Enjoy! (O:

I have been dying to make one of the several ruffle tees and/or tanks I have pinned over the past few months.  I have a great love (borderline addiction) with all things ruffly and actually have a stack of about 10-15 tees and tanks just waiting to be refashioned with ruffles.  Last week I decided it was TIME.  I have waited long enough.  I have worked on enough projects for others.  It was time to work on something just for me.  (This is also the same day I worked up 3 new scarves, one of which can be viewed here.  The others to follow sometime soon.)  I haven't seen any other ruffle refashions done this way using a patterned shirt, and I am really happy with how it turned out.  I hope the ruffles curl up a little in the wash; they are a little big for my liking.  But overall, I am pleased with this shirt and it really wasn't very difficult to put together!

Being a fairly Plain Jane kind of girl, I didn't stray from this color palette when choosing my buttons.  I did throw in a little funk by alternating squares and circles...I'm such a risk taker. ;-)

(Please forgive my sideways photos...My editing software and blogger are not agreeing today.)

Note:  I did not use the technique of sewing my buttons on with my machine.  I simply sewed them by hand while I finished watching Bride Wars. They didn't take long and I could hear the movie better! (O:

I am the first to admit that I am not always that creative- my strong suit lies with executing ideas.  So to give full credit where credit is due, I used the following two tutorials for my wonderful new shirt:

My first Pin links to a tutorial at Bunch of Scrap.  She is down to earth and lays out detailed instructions and helpful hints.  Her refashion is made up of 2 short sleeve shirts found on clearance.

My second Pin links to a tutorial at Ruffles & Stuff.  (What a great name!) (O:  Her instructions are equally great.  I decided to go with her 3 inch ruffle strips because I didn't want them too large on my shirt.  Her refashion is made from one long sleeve shirt- using the sleeves to make the ruffles.

Hopefully this might inspire you to try your own version of this, or any, ruffle refashion!  Have a great day! (O:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

FB Friends and Saipan Purchases

As I have mentioned before, I am completely addicted to a couple of people on Saipan who keeps blogs.  If I had to pick, I would say Grant and Kara's (Saipan : Teaching, Living & Recreation) is my favorite.  They are very thorough in their reviews and descriptions of life on the island.  Jason "friended" Grant on Facebook at some point (I think a long time ago) and has been telling me I need to look through his photos to see more of the island and also get some more glimpses of the apartments. 

I spent some time this morning doing just that.  The apartments are a decent size- when you walk in the front door, you are in the kitchen then the dining room then the living room- all open to each other, sort of loft-style.  One one side of the apartment (I think it differs from unit to unit), there are 2 bedrooms with the bathroom inbetween.  We have been told our room will have a double bed and Emilia's room will have a twin bed.  The bathrooms have a shower, but no tub.  (I am not exactly looking forward to this with Emilia..the girl who HATES water in her face.  Any suggestions in this area would be greatly appreciated!!  Otherwise I am going to track down a big rubbermaid tub and use it as a makeshift tub for her.  Haha!)

He had also started asking Grant a few questions here and there about what we can expect, what is different than the mainland, what to bring/not bring, etc.  Grant has been Super graciously to always answer his questions and gives great detail.  Even his wife, Kara recently messaged Jason to tell him that I was welcome to message her with any additional questions.  I just sent her a friend request this morning and once she confirms, I have a list of questions ready for her! (O:

In addition to all their kindness and willingness to help us prepare for this move, they are selling us many items that they did not want to ship back to the States!  Grant put together a very detailed list of the items (as well as the tips and tricks for working the blender, toaster, etc.  Love it!) with very reasonable prices.  I cannot tell you how thankful I am to have these worries lifted.  Things like 2 oscillating fans (now Jason will just have to find one, because I will probably hog BOTH of these, haha!), microwave, toaster, coffee maker (J will be glad!), beach chairs, cups, plates, bowls, silverware, baking dishes, blender, laundry basket and a cupcake pan (Emilia and I LOVE cupcakes and muffins--seriously, I'm super stoked about this one!!).  The list has a bunch more on it, but I didn't want to go line by line.  Do you really care that much?? ;-)  Our budget for shipping items isn't huge and this will cut down on a LOT of those expenses for us.  Yay yay yay!!  I love God's provisions in this area!  I think it works out well for Grant and Kara as well because they don't have to sell items off one at a time- we just told them we will take it ALL!

I have also been thinking through the few things I would like to ask Kara...I'm going to list them so I don't forget.

1.  What types of meals do you eat regularly?  Do you eat most meals at home, or do you go out?  What items are better to purchase at the market vs the store?  How do the prices on staple food items (milk, sugar, rice, noodles, bread, peanut butter, etc.) on Saipan compare to the mainland?  (Would it be possible for Grant to do another great review based on this area of topics??  Haha!)

2.  Are there any items (personal, home related, etc.) that you brought that you think you could have gone without.  Any you wish you would have brought?

3.  (This is a pretty superficial question, but I'm going to ask it all the same!)  I noticed in Grant's photos that you started out with shorter hair and it looks like you've grown it out while you were there.  I currently have pretty long hair and have been going back and forth about cutting it short before we move.  Do you have any thoughts about that?  It looks to me like most girls just wear a ponytail, with the exception of Rachel- how can she keep all that pretty hair down so much?  She has to be hot!  I am guessing the humidity is so high that even if I had short hair, it would never keep any styling...I am just curious what your experience with this was.

4.  Are there any other Saipan bloggers out there?

Those are the ones I have come up with so far.  If you were moving to Saipan, what would YOU want to ask?

God Never Wastes a Wound

Last night I attended our new small group, by myself.  It was really weird to go without Jason and I was pretty nervous about it.  Jason is obviously the "talker" of our family- I think he would talk to a wall if he had something interesting to say!  Now before you start saying how I am equally talkative (because you would be RIGHT!), remember that I am not usually that talkative on first encounters.  For whatever reason, I get high levels of anxiety thinking about meeting new people, even though I LOVE making new friends.  What is up with that?? 

Anyway, the evening was great, of course!  Skyline (our new church) does a great job of welcoming any and everyone- we are all family.  Their small groups are set up to dive deeper into each week's sermon and our group has a wide variety of ages, spiritual maturity, life stages, etc.  Honestly, I think it is a *great* way to do it.  We can all help each other grow and learn- we don't all have to be "20-somethings" to study together.  Everyone was very friendly and even though I struggled with making small talk (probably my worst and lowest ability...), it went very well.

We are going through a Man vs. Wife series right now at church and this was the first week's topic: Divorce.  Talk about going straight for the jugular.  It was pretty refreshing to hear our pastor speak candidly and boldly about this topic, while still remaining sensitive and compassionate.  While he made it very clear what the Bible says about divorce, he never pointed a finger of blame or made anyone feel judged.  I really liked that.  As a person who grew up in a broken home, I know first hand the pain divorce causes an entire family.  I also know that many people in churches still have very strong feelings about divorce- and tend to take those feelings out on any divorced person.  No, I am not saying that everyone is that way.  But I do have personal experience with more than a few people who treated my mother differently because she was divorced.

I think it is important for us all to remember that our marriages are worth FIGHTING FOR.  That divorce must be taken seriously- not trivialized as it is in almost any modern TV show or movie.  But, divorce will happen.  We may not know all the back story in a person's life that lead to their divorce- was their spouse unfaithful?  Did their spouse just want out despite every effort on their part?  Was their spouse abusive, verbally or physically?  Did they just decide to stop trying?  No matter what the reason may be, no one is outside the Grace of God. 

It is also not our place to pass judgement on someone because their sin is in the public's eye.  Yes, God Detests Divorce.  But He also Hates Sin.  Why does the fact that I am still married (but have other sins I struggle with daily) make me better than someone who is divorced?  It doesn't.  I can just more easily hide my struggles, while anyone going through a divorce is automatically going through it in front of everyone.  You can't hide those wounds.  One thing Pastor Lance said on Sunday that has stuck with me and was repeated again last night- God never wastes a wound. 

He can use even our darkest hurts for His Glory- if we are willing to let Him.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Infinity Scarf from a T-Shirt :: Tutorial (PDLB)

This is my latest Pinned it, Did it, Loved it, Blogged it success and I love it!!

I have had this idea pinned for a couple of weeks and kept forgetting to just DO it.  As soon as I saw it, I knew exactly which shirt I wanted to use.  It was a super fun patterned shirt I found on clearance, but hardly ever wore because it never kept its shape throughout the day.  Enter: new scarf!  This is seriously the easiest infinity scarf E.V.E.R.!  It is one of those things that will make you go, DUH!  Why did I think of that!?  The instructions are as easy as Shannon @ Madigan Made lays out in her tutorial.

What you need:
One T-Shirt



Note:  The thinner and stretchier (if that's a word) your shirt is, the better curl it will provide upon stretching.  My shirt was not very thin or stretchy, so it did not curl very much.  I still really like it and just rolled the ends in a little by myself.  Enjoy! (O:

My Daniel Fast Experience

Last month, my family and I participated in something called the Daniel Fast.  It was my father-in-law, Mark's idea and since he and Treasa (my mother-in-law) were going to do it, and we currently live with them and share all our meals with them, we participated by default.  The two anchoring Scriptures where this fast comes from are

1:  Daniel 1:12, which reads:

12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink..."

(At this time, Daniel was brought to train to be part of the King's service.  His guard was ordered to feed him all the royal food, but Daniel would not defile himself in this way.  He urged the guard to give he and his fellow Israelites nothing but vegetables (this would have included fruits) and water for 10 days, then compare their appearance with the other servants.  After the 10 days, they were better nourished and healthier than the servants who ate the royal foods.)

From this Scripture the first two guidelines of the Daniel Fast were formed:
1. Only fruits and vegetables
2. Only water for a beverage

2:  Daniel 10:2-3, which reads: 

2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.

From this Scripture, the third guidline was formed:
3. No sweeteners and no breads

Two additional guidelines were derived from Jewish fasting principals and the creators of this fast:
4. No leven- Yeast, Baking Powder, etc.
5. No artificial or processed foods nor any chemicals

I will admit that I was not entirely excited about this fast when Mark first mentioned it.  I have had mirgraine trouble for years and generally use large amounts of caffiene daily to keep the migraines at bay.  I was not looking forward to giving up Diet Pepsi and the headaches that would most certainly occur.  But guess what?  I did not have any withdrawal headaches. Not One.  I took myself off Excedrin as well, so it wasn't like I was even masking the lack of Diet Pepsi with other caffienes.  I drank strictly water (I did cheat and add flavor packets).  I may not have followed the diet super strictly, but I made every effort to follow most of the basic guidelines.

As I mentioned, I was not overly excited to start this fast, but now that I have completed it, I am SO glad we did it!  It has been over a month since we started the fast and we still try to center most of our meals around the Daniel Fast Guidelines.  What types of foods do we eat?  Here is a glance at what a day in the life of Annie's Daniel Fast would look like:

*Whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter, strawberries and bananas- rolled up.  Yummy breakfast on the go!

*Clementines - these were a great snack to always have on hand.  Easy to peel and so sweet!

*Veggie soup - my MIL added spicy V8 to her regular old veggie soup recipe and swapped vegetable broth for the chicken broth, then added any veggies we wanted.  I could eat this every day for lunch, it is SO good!

*Peanuts, cashews, almonds - take your pick, they are all on the Yes List!  I found them to be great fillers to get me from lunch to dinner.  Plus, they are crunchy and salty.  Yumm (O:

*Whole wheat spaghetti with all-natural tomato sauce - See!  You can eat "regular" dishes but make them so much better for you!  Add garlic salt, pepper, etc. to taste and it is as delicious as ever!

*Water, Water, WATER!  I currently drink at least 72 fl oz of water a day, most days even more.  (Yes, I am the kind of girl who is always drinking something...it's so much better/cheaper now that it is water instead of soda!)

Another great thing about eating better is FEELING BETTER.  Yes, the first few days were pretty rough.  I was super tired and felt somewhat lethargic; I think this was my body dealing with caffiene withdrawal.  By day 4 of our official 10 Day Fast, I felt great!  I had lots of energy and felt great.  I started enjoying and *Craving* fruit for snacks and the thought of soda lost all appeal.  I started going to Zumba classes twice a week with Treasa and my sister-in-law, Amy- and Love it!  There is something about the combo of eating well and working out that makes me feel so good about myself.  (How dreadfully red my face gets and how beyond-nasty sweaty I get are a different story...refer to this post. haha!)

An additional bonus for my personal experience with this fast and subsequent change in lifestyle is weigth loss!  I did not intend to really track this as part of the fast, since the fast is not about the physical but about the spiritual.  But I did check in from time to time just for my own personal knowledge...and I'm happy to say I lost 8 pounds in 3 weeks and have kept it off!  I still have a long way to go, but it feels so so good to be on the right track.  I'm not doing some crazy fad diet that will take the pounds off temporarily and then pack them back on if I sniff ice cream for too long.  As long as I continue to practice healthy decisions, the improvements will continue to progress.  (And yes indeed, I have definitely added ice cream back into my diet- but much less often than before and using a much smaller bowl).

I keep thinking about how this fast came along at exactly the right time.  I have only a few months left before we head for our island home, and I had a lot of bad habits that needed to be kicked.  I'm thankful to say that caffiene and soda are behind me- they were my biggest hurdles.  I am also on the road to reaching my goal weight.  I have much left to do, but now that I do not feel "deprived" from food, I know I can get there.  I am thankful for the tools this fast has given me as well as the encouraging words of friends and family.

If you have never head of the Daniel Fast before, I encourage you to follow the link I listed above and look into it for yourself.  I also encourage you to seriously consider participating- either in the 10-day or 21-day fast.  The severed ties to processed foods and chemicals is exactly what I needed to jumpstart my journey to a healthier lifestyle of living.  If you have any questions about something I didn't cover, please let me know!  I am by no means an expert, but I would love to help you if I can! (O:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Personalized Photo Valentine's Day Card

I am a big fan of personalizing cards and gifts as often as possible.  Why mail out cheap cardstock Disney Princess cards for Valentine's Day when I can just as easily create my own card to send?  So that is exactly what I did!  Here is what I will be sending out to Grandparents this weekend:

These photos are from a little session I did with Emilia last fall, to showcase my final product as part of the Scrap Tutu Tutorial I put together.  I wanted to make the most of our time playing at the park, so I grabbed a couple extra props and planned to take extra photos for other projects.  Thinking ahead to Christmas and beyond, I put together the little sign she is holding.  It is just a piece of white posterboard and letter cutouts (both can be found at your local dollar store).  One side, as you can see, says "I Love You" and the other side says "Joy. Peace. Love".  (That side was, of course, for our Christmas photo card.)  To stabilize these against a bouncy 2.5 year old, I taped the signs to either side of one of our wooden puzzle bases.

I love the bright, cheery colors of Emilia's outfit and her bubbly, fun personality really shined during this session.  I picked out a couple favorite shots and then headed over to Picnik to start putting my card together.  (I know I have said this before, and I will probably say it again, but I'm so sad this site is shutting down in April.  I love using it for quick fix-ups- it's super user friendly and quicker than fumbling around in Photoshop.  Take a few minutes and check it out.  You've got about 2 months left to work on ideas!)

So, from my family to yours- Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you are inspired to create your own personalized card to send out.  (O:

I am linking up to Fun Friday Finds - Go check out all the great ideas being posted today!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Little Surprise

Tomorrow morning, my husband will board a plane headed far, far away.  He is going to Adu Dhabi for a 2-Week Leadership Seminar.  (Yes, that's right- he's going all Sex and the City 2 on me!  I told him to try and ride a camel if he can...)  If you take a little look at your day planner, you can count the days and see he will be gone on a big RED day.  Valentine's Day.  We are not huge celebrators of this holiday as it is, but it also happens to be a special day for us- something Jason refers to as our "Valeversary".  (He would totally kill me if he knew I just gave that secret away...please don't tell!)  So, even though our wedding anniversary is in April, we still always make mention of this day because it is the day we officially started dating, back in 2006.  *awww*

I have been working through some ideas of how to send a little love to him/with him for his trip- especially because I know he is not looking forward to being away from Emilia and I for that long.  I have been pinning an idea here and there, but nothing I was overly excited about.  Then it hit me!  This morning I remembered that Picnik.com is shutting down in April (isn't that horribly sad!?) and that even their premium stuff was free until then.  Soo, I searched through my hard drive(s) for a handful of my favorite photos- some of just Emilia, some of Jason and Emilia, I think I even snuck into one or two.  So, I took these photos and added text to them in picnik.  I went with an "I love you because.." theme.  It seemed fitting for a Vday gift.  Don't you agree?  (O:  I would love to share them all with you, but there are about 20 total...so here are a couple of my favorites:

They aren't anything uber fancy and some of you (*ahem, Jaime) might even call me corny.  But I tried to think of something he would be glad to open so far away with a lot of time away left.  I knew seeing our little girl's happy smile would be about the best I could give him.  I am going to slide these into a little photo album and wrap it up with a note directing him to open on 2/14.  Whether he makes it until then is a gamble!  I'm also taking a risk posting this before he leaves, but I'm fairly certain he has never even seen my blog...so I *hope* he doesn't decide to check it out between now and then!!  (O:

Are you doing anything fun/surprise/corny for a loved one this season?

Monday, February 6, 2012

I Admit it::


I just can't hide it any longer.  If you know me in real life, this is probably somewhat of a shock.  There is a lot of wiggling in Zumba, something which I do NOT do well.  But, Zumba with an instructor, in a big room full of other people is Waay better than trying to keep up with one of the Zumba videos.  Seriously, why pay so much for DVDs when you don't ever really know what they are doing?!  We tried Zumba once with a group of girls I worked out with while we were still in Herrick.  It did not go well.  I was pretty discouraged because I really wanted to like Zumba.  But my mind is just too controlled for those types of movements.  My hips don't jirate (is that how you spell it?), my top have doesn't shimmy correctly, the list goes on.  So I pretty well had written Zumba off my list.  I planned to stick with the Biggest Loser Boot Camp and running.  So let me tell you exactly how I came to this new-found love:

At the Warren Christmas get-together this past December, one of our cousins, Christopher, brought his girlfriend with him to meet the family.  This might not seem like that big of a deal, but Chris isn't really one to commit to any girl, so to actually bring her to meet this crazy clan of Warrens was a pretty big deal.  Her name is Paulette and she really held her own.  I was impressed. (O:  So, she was in the kitchen talking to my father-in-law, Mark.  I walked in and Mark told me he was going to pay for me, his wife/myMIL Treasa and my SIL Amy to all go to Zumba classes.  I just blurted out, "Oh, I hate Zumba!" ...it was at this point that Mark explains that Paulette is a Zumba instructor in town and he is going to pay for all of us to go to her classes...So much for welcoming her into our family! (He is really good about setting people up to get to know each other and was probably trying to make connections between some Warren women and Paulette- a Warren-to-be...but in my defense, he should have Started his story with, Hey Annie, Paulette is a Zumba instructor and I'm going to send you guys to her classes...).  Not that there is really any way to retract from my previous statement, but I did my best.  I tried to explain that I'm just not a mover and a shaker, and that my only experience was an advanced video version.  She didn't seem to mind that I hated her profession, or if she did, she didn't let on.  But, I said I would go with the girls and give it my best.

My first class was about a month ago and I will fully admit that I was wrong.  I'm hooked.  She is pretty intense, which I love.  She also doesn't do as much shimmy-shaking as I expected.  There are some hip rotations and shoulder shakes (polite way to put that..), but I just try to keep moving until those are over.  (haha).  It's a pretty high-cardio kind of work out with lots of squats, arm raises, jumping, etc.  The songs are up beat and fun.  They are mostly rap songs that I do not normally listen to, but something about a really thumping base beat keeps you going hard.  (Yes, I said thumping.  Don't judge me.)

So, that is my admission of the day.  My name is Annie, I love Zumba and I am determined to continue working on my fitness.  Maybe someday I will tell you all about how I am no longer addicted to Diet soda and actually prefer veggies and fruit to fries or chips.  (Not today, I don't want to overload your brains!) ;-)

Make it a great day! (O:

Friday, February 3, 2012

This morning I spent a little time catching up on the most consistent Saipan blogger and found a link to an older blog of someone else who was on Saipan.  This girl is now back in Texas, but I was excited to read every post, hoping for some other tidbits of information about this tiny island.  What did she love?  What should I prepare for?  And so on...the more I read, the more discouraged I became.  This girl and her husband were both in the public school systems on Saipan, so not directly affiliated with the school Jason will be working at, nor did she ever really mention attending the church we'll be part of.  My struggle with this blog was the underlying negativity I felt radiating from each new post.  Even after their first month of teaching, she was already counting down the days until they would be back stateside.  (1/8 of the way done, and so on).  She also had her fair share to say about the heat and humidity on the island.  Don't get me wrong, I *know* it's going to be hot, really hot, and humid, yucky humid.  But the tone of her posts was never really very uplifting.  I felt my eyebrows creasing as the discouragement set in.  I caught myself thinking, "Man, if this girl hated it that bad and she's from TEXAS, how on earth will I survive?"  That is the moment I knew I needed to shake these bad feelings!

Now, I obviously know nothing about this girl other than what she has posted.  She may be super cheerful and optimistic in real life.  Heck, she may LOVE sweating for all I know.  I'm not trying to point a finger of shame, nor am I trying to act like I would be any better in the situation.  But, I do know that after reading her whole blog (that's right, I read it all...are you really shocked?), I need to mentally prepare my mind and heart for this.  I don't ever want anyone to come across my blog and think, "Gee, she must really hate it there...why did she even go?" 

Above all, I will always strive to follow God's will for our lives, but I never want to do it begrudgingly.  Yes, it will be hot.  And yes, I may on occasion lament about the humidity and my sweat levels (gross, I know).  But, I want this blog and I want MYSELF to be more about the good things God is doing through us on this tiny island.  I want to sing shouts of praise as lives are changed and know that because of Him, we got to be a part of it.  I want to find ways to enjoy life on a tropical island, even when the heat index is 105.  I want to be excited about making new friendships and stepping out of my comfort zone, trusting in God to see my through.  I want to lead by example, and teach Emilia how to always look for the GOOD in life, even when it gets really hard.

Life on Saipan will be different than anything I have ever known and that is scary.  It is scary to leave everything you know and love, pack a few suitcases and head to a place you know nothing about.  I worry about how my family will eat.  Yes, I know that is a weird one.  But, with a family as finicky about food as we are, I worry about it.  Add to that the prices of anything not-local and my worries increase.  When I feel my heart getting heavy with such worries, I remind myself that God will be with me, Every. Day.  I may not get to eat the foods I love here in the States.  But I will not go hungry.  I may not have the same level of air conditioned comfort I am used to during STL summer months, but He will comfort me.  I may miss my family and friends on the mainland, but God WILL bring new friends into my life.  I recently heard a definition that I intend to cling to.  SACRIFICE:  To give up something you love, for something you love more.  As hard as it will be to leave our lives in Illinois, we know this is the right step for our family.  There are so many people on Saipan that need to hear about Christ and God has called us to this task.  When I think about the lives He will change, including our own, I cannot help but get super excited.  The triumphs through Christ will definitely outweight our trials.

Sadly, the girl, whose blog I stalked today, did not return to Saipan.  From what I can gather, she and her husband did not return after their first year.  I cannot help but wonder if part of the reason is because she never got past the "uncomforts" and always longed for her "home" in Texas.  This has taught me that there must be a certain level of disconnect from "home".  I do not want to sit around thinking about how I miss Target, Old Navy and AC.  I cannot allow myself to be bowled over with misery of the things I no longer have access to.  I must always keep my mind positive.  There are so many wonderful things about Saipan and it would be a disservice to myself to overlook them.  I have no idea how long God intends for us to stay on Saipan, but I never want the reason we leave to be because I just couldn't get over missing "home".  Saipan will BE my home for as long as God wills.  I want to embrace it whole-heartedly and if the day comes that we must leave Saipan, I hope to ache for leaving my new "home".

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Spring is in the Air!

Man is this weather lovely!  The high again today (3rd day in a row) is around 60.  In fact, according to my smart phone, it is 60 degrees outside Right. Now.  This has really been a weird "winter", as we have had more warm days than cold days.  It has only snowed ONCE and also one (maybe two) ice storm(s).  That is So NOT typical for STL.  Usually the cold blasts us every day starting around Thanksgiving and lasting until as late as March.  I know it only Feb. 1, and the winter weather could rear its ugly head at any moment...but for now, today, I am enjoying the sunny, Spring day!

Spring is definitely my favorite season- full of new life, cool breezes, jeans and tees, rainboots, and good energy.  Is it just me, or do people seem to perk up when the weather is nice?  Maybe it's just really obvious after the winter lull.  No winter lull this year!  We have had some wacky weather and I am LOVING every second of it!  This will be my last "spring" for a few years and intend to make the most of it.  I want to take lots of walks to the park, play with Emilia, jump in puddles if/when it rains, pick flowers(weeds) with her, and lots of fun photos. 

Even though I know I'm not the only person on God's list, I sometimes daydream that these wonderful springtime days are little blessings just for me.  Like He knows I need them before the heat wave STL is known for shows up.  Not to mention our big move to a permanent heat wave in July.  Usually Spring lasts about 1-2 weeks in STL, and then Summer smacks everyone in the face.  So far, I'm enjoying this wonderful (albeit early) Spring weather and I really *really* hope it continues until at least May.  Wouldn't that be fantastic?!  Aside from the obvious wonderful-ness of an extended Spring, I can think of many events that would be better with this lovely weather:  Emilia's Fairy Birthday Party, Easter, Girls Weekend and Rainboot Photo Shoot...just to name a few.

I am bracing myself for the eventual return to real winter because I don't want to get my hopes up.  But like I said, I am loving this weather while I have it!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Saipan Support Team Letter

Hi friends!

(If you are coming to this link from the Facebook event:  I posted this letter on my blog so you could each have a chance to look it over before Saturday.  This is a support team letter we are in the process of sending out, inviting others to join us in this mission.  Since we are meeting with you face-to-face, you will not be part of the mailing group receiving this letter.  If you want a hard copy, please let me know before Saturday and I will print one out for you!)  (O:

(If you stumbled across this from another venue:  Hello!  This is our support team letter inviting anyone interested to join us in our mission on Saipan.  There is lots of good information, so please read!  Feel free to ask any questions you may have or request further information.  Thanks for stopping by!)

Greetings!  We pray this letter finds you well.  The Lord has been faithful to our family during the past year.  He is doing many wonderful things, and we know He will continue to be faithful in 2012. 

We are so excited to share with you a challenging and incredible ministry opportunity God has presented to us.  After prayer and consideration, we have answered God’s calling and are moving to the Island of Saipan to work as full-time missionaries with the General Baptist International Missions organization.  We are excited to have this great opportunity to reach out and spread the Gospel to the people of Saipan while encouraging local Christians.  Jason will be working with the other ministers of Saipan Community Church as well as teaching at Saipan Community School.  Annie will stay home with Emilia while looking for new ways to reach out to mothers and young families in the community.    Ministering from this tiny Island gives us an opportunity to reach out to countries all across the Pacific Rim area: Japan, Korea, China, the Philippines, Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Palau, and the Island of Truk, just to name a few.  People come to the Island for work which means we get a two to four year window to show them who Christ is and by His Grace send them back as missionaries in their own countries. We are initially signing on to serve for two years and are scheduled to leave in July 2012.

We are also excited to invite you to share in this ministry opportunity and be a part of our Support Team.  First and foremost, we ask you to cover us and this life-changing decision in your prayers.  Prayer is the fuel that will allow us to be successful as we follow God’s leading in ministry.  Please pray that God will prepare us for this venture and bless our efforts as we minister to the people of Saipan, and that their hearts will be open to our message.

We also need prayers that the financial needs for our missionary support will be met.  We would like to ask you to help this important ministry through a monetary donation.  We are striving to obtain 200 commitments of shares in only a few, short months.  One share is $10 per month which will equal $120 per year ($240 for the 2 year commitment).  In addition to the monthly donations, we also need to raise an additional $20,000 to cover travel, shipping and other expenses related to this move of faith.  Our departure date for Saipan is July 24, 2012.

To make it as easy as possible, we have included a Share Card to be completed and mailed in to start your partnership with us; a prepaid return envelope has also been included for your convenience.  Please mark the box to correspond with your committed number of shares, or use the empty space to write in another commitment amount.  We ask you to please consider committing to a minimum of 2 shares, and whenever possible, more shares as you feel led.  You can send a check for the first month, annual support amount, or one-time donation with the completed Share Card.  There are also options for online payments and monthly automatic withdrawals direct, if you prefer.  A copy of the authorization form to be completed for automatic withdrawals is included, for those who are interested.  Visit www.gbimissions.org under the Giving tab for more information.  We are putting our trust in God to move in people’s hearts, leading them to donate to this life-changing mission.  For as little as $20-50+ a month, you can be a part of this exciting ministry and help us spread the message of Christ on Saipan as well as into many parts of Asia!

We thank you in advance for your prayers and donations.  May God bless you richly!

In Him,
Jason, Annie and Emilia Warren