Dare2Share 2013 | the Follow Tour

In April 2009, I co-lead my first youth group trip (ever) to Dare2Share along with Pastor Dale. We took 7 kids all the way to Chicago. 
February 2010, Kevin and I lead our second group to D2S, this time in Columbus, OH. 
And in February 2011, we took our largest group ever (21 teens and 6 adults) to the Columbus conference.
Last year was our first at a new church and we took the teens to a local snow camp that they had attended in the past. Kevin and I knew it would be a challenge to get a group on board with the idea of a teen gospel conference when none of the students could share stories from how awesome this weekend can be. But we spent the next many months talking it up, playing Greg Stier videos, telling parents about the life changing purpose of the event, and convincing 12 students that this was going to be an EPIC weekend to remember.  
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back – Kirsten, Laurel, Pastor Kevin, Olivia, Logan
middle – Matilda, Alyson, McKenzie, Calandra
front – Melanie, Catherine, Riley, Elliot, Nate
I have to confess, this was the first time I have ever NOT been in a tizzy the morning (or even the week of) the big event. I never felt sick to my stomach with nerves. I didn’t get stressed out. I never once cried. Kevin and I didn’t even argue! 
PRAISE THE GOOD LORD. a serious miracle. 
It also has a lot to do with the fact that my husband, the official pastor, did 99.9% of the work preparing for this trip. He talked to parents, hunted down paperwork, found replacements for all 7 of the students who backed out for various reasons, bought the tickets, organized payments, talked with the pastor of the church we were staying at, orchestrated the use of two different families’ vans for the weekend. I was just along for the ride drive. It was a beautiful thing. 
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girls goofing off during some Saturday down time. 
I drove one van filled with 6 lovely high school girls. Our ride was generally quiet, aside from a few sing-a-longs and an outburst of giggling here or there. Kirsten (my co-pilot, a senior, and a dear girl) and I had some really awesome conversation between the two 6 hour drives. She was a great help, texting people for me, pulling up the right songs on my iPod, passing the toll booth money to make, gently pointing out when the light was “green.” 
Kevin’s car, on the other hand, was a loud, crazy conglomeration of 7th and 8th graders. When my 6 girls were conked out during the first 2 hours of our return drive, his kids were playing a rowdy game of “telephone” and making “snowmen” out of the Oreo’s cream filling. God bless him. (I think I found a few extra gray hairs on his head this morning. *wink*)

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a little “dance party” action as we waited for the final session/concert to begin
You can’t fully prepare your students for the intensity of an event like this. The music is phenomenal (and LOUD), the worship is powerful and they may feel uninhibited for the first time; the skits and speakers are hysterical and engaging, yet profound and soul-stirring. These students were challenged to really KNOW the message of the gospel, the good news about salvation through Jesus Christ, and then tell their friends about what they’re learning.
They spent a few hours on Saturday afternoon writing out their testimonies (see below)–the personal, undisputed story of what God has done to change their lives from what it used to be or what it could have been. And they practiced hearing one another’s stories and engaging in active listening
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Catherine, Matilda and Calandra work on their testimonies
Kirsten and Riley are in the back doing the same. 
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Laurel and Aly write their testimonies 
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My girl, Kirsten, and I
We were so thrilled that the students LOVED the headlining band Everfound so much. In fact, they were so pumped about the final session that they waited in lines for the doors to open AN HOUR before the doors were going to open (an HOUR before the session would start). That’s a really good sign! Sure enough, they secured us 3rd row seats to the big concert and the closing session for the weekend. (Holy moly it’s LOUD to sit right in front of the sub woofers. yow!)

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I can’t believe I caught this sweet jump on film!
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Worship with Everfound was excellent. Fantastic song choices, excellent musicality 
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Zane Black was everyone’s favorite. He’s a surfer dude with a sweet lingo, ridiculous stories, and a love for Jesus. 
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Our girl Logan (third from the left) got to go up on stage along with the all of the RED shoe folk.
Greg Stier used his Red Converse to symbolize going all in for the gospel of Christ. 
For the first time in our history with Dare2Share we were smart enough to spend a SECOND night rather than trying to drive home after the final song of the night (at 9pm). Fighting traffic out of the convention center and driving many hours past my bedtime, combined with the typical snow storm was never a good thing. But praise God for wising up.

Staying Saturday night meant we could linger after the event, the students could purchase last minute tshirts and posters, wait in long lines to get the handsome dudes’ (of Everfound) signatures, and then hang out back at the church for a couple hours before hitting the sack. It was WELL worth the extra night.

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Matilda was literally freaking out with excitement to meet the guys of Everfound
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Before heading down to join them, I got this great over-head group photo
Two of our students made life changing commitments to follow Jesus, and each one of them professed to deep encounters with Christ through worship or conviction to share their faith. And simply spending that TIME together is life changing in an of itself. What a great weekend! I am praying the Lord continues to produce fruit in their softened hearts and that Kevin and I would be faithful to water the seeds planted there. 

Sister Shoot | Sammie & Allie

One of my hopes for the time I had in Florida watching my cousins (for some reason, I keep wanting to call them my nieces), was a photo shoot. I love any opportunity to practice my photography skills and I think it’s fun to work with low-key family shoots like this one would be. While I know I don’t possess the photography knowledge of a professional, I believe I have a special gift of working with my subjects, bringing out their personalities and having true fun together (no staunch, stuffy photo ops with me.) 
On our last morning together, though the skies were cloudy and rain was imminent, we dolled up the girls; I did their hair, they did their makeup (a new interest for Sammie and a bit of an obsession for Miss Allie ;)), and we accessorized. I loved how they opted to wear matching boots. So cute. 
The backyard offered plenty of great photo backgrounds, so off we went! I have to say, this was one of the most successful shoots I’ve done –the largest number of good looking photos straight out of the camera! I had good subjects (and a new lens!) 

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These two have a special friendship, sisterhood. 

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On the boat dock. Love those lily pads. 

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Sammie really came into her own during this shoot.
I loved watching her blossom.

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And a few shots of my girls and me.
The oldest cousin of twelve with the youngest two.
I am 27, they’re 12. 

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I love these girls and I am thankful for the relationships we developed during our time together. I look forward to being an influential part of their lives as they grow into godly women.

Contentment with Infertility (?!)

I left you hanging back in January when I wrote a post about the first and only round of infertility testing I have undergone. After many writing detours, I will return to the subject which stands in forefront of my mind and, because of your friendships, many of yours.
It has been another 4 months since the procedure which many were hopeful would clear up an unknown issue and result in pregnancy.
And, no, I have not yet conceived.
I am at the point of acceptance. I no longer face devastation month in and month out. Disappointment or sadness rise up occasionally, but my heart is not filled with the same negativity as the previous 31 months. Thanks to the grace of the Lord, I am experiencing contentment
True contentment has been allusive for so very long and couldn’t be achieved because it was always accompanied by a deep down manipulation – “If I am ok with this situation and appear to be content with where God has me, surely he will bless me with what I really want.”  It was still all about me.
I remember my husband talking with me all those months and years ago, counseling me to come to accept whatever plan the Lord has for our lives. I wasn’t ready to hear that message and I was angry that he would consider recommending that for me. But these days, I have such a wonderful peace. I love where we’re at and I’m actually excited to be used by God in whatever way He sees fit. If that means giving birth to our babies next year or ten years from now; if that means becoming foster parents or pursuing some form of adoption; if that means focusing all of our attention on the people we are called to minister to (be them teens or college students, kids or adults.) I welcome HIS plan. 
After many hours, many tears, and many prayers, we are both at peace with not pursuing fertility treatments. Since there is nothing medically dangerous going on with either of our bodies, we’re going to leave natural childbearing up to our Sovereign God. If we become convinced adoption is the route God has for us, then we will be honored to pour our money into adopting and taking care of a child who has been brought into this world and is in need of care and love from parents like us. 
Pray. 
We would appreciate your continued prayers for us. Pray for wisdom, emotional strength, and obedience to God’s plan. Pray for our future children, including those we may love like our own via ministry. Pray for our family, even if it remains the two of us. My desire for my own children has not diminished, and I still pray God will grant us our dream I just have peace about following any part of his plan. 

Florida Instagrams

If you were following me on Instagram last week, you may have noticed I most definitely was not in Western New York. There was no snow to be found and temperatures dipped only as low as 65 degrees. Yes, my friends, I was in sunny Orlando, Florida! It wasn’t quite a vacation, but it certainly was fun! My Aunt Wendy and Uncle Steve asked Kevin and me if we would consider traveling to Florida to spend a week in the warmth while staying with (feeding, occupying, chauffeuring, home schooling, and occasionally disciplining) their 12 year old daughters while mom and dad set sail to Cozumel. Kevin wasn’t able to get away from work for this particular week, but my mom stepped up and met in Florida to help out and keep me company. 
My flight out of Niagara was a bit treacherous. A commendable snow storm hit the area a few hours before take out and though I boarded on time, we sat at the gate for over two hours ensuring the runways were clear, the wings were de-iced and the plane could get enough traction to be pushed away from the gate. It was slightly frustrating, but I was glad they were taking precautions. I arrived in Florida a few minutes before my mom at 10:15pm, and we met my Aunt and headed home. 
I have lots of fun pictures to share from the semi-professional photoshoot I did with the girls, but for now, my week in Instagram (Thanks, but no thanks to my poorly pixelated iPod). 
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“Tweet tweet,” says Uncle Steve in our game of Settlers. It’s getting intense and it’s mom’s first time.
*I would just like to say I beat my Uncle by one point on the last turn, thanks to Sammie trading me all of my resource cards for her Victory Point. Not sure that’s legal, but I’ll take it. ;)

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How I spent my afternoon, sunning myself in Florida. Yes, it’s a welcome reprieve from winter.

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My lovely momma harkening back 15 years to the days of our schoolwork, as she teaches Allie exponents. #homeschool

No, we weren’t homeschooled, but she certainly spent HOURS each week helping us with our homework.

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Teaching the girls to make Alfredo sauce from scratch. That along with chicken, pasta, and broccoli was a winning dinner.
I made up the actual recipe on the spot, but it’s similar to this dish from my recipe blog.

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Sammie wanted to paint my fingernails! Ok! 
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I made the girls heart shaped pancakes for Valentine’s Day!
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Since I wasn’t with my Valentine for our annual pizza date, I taught my 12 year old cousins to make pizza dough from scratch. Tasty success!


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I have never enjoyed puzzles but this intense 1000 pc with no frame really converted me.
Sammie and I had a blast tag-teaming it!

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Waiting to board for home, prepared for the cold weather in my new ankle boots.

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My husband showed me his love with a gorgeous bouquet of “our mix” (alstroemerias & roses) in the front seat in our way to our annual VDay pizza date.
I was so excited to see his face waiting for me at the airport! On the front seat of the car, he had a beautiful bouquet waiting for me – a real, truly thoughtful treat. Then, we headed to a fantastic pizza & wings dinner at a nearby bistro. The perfect postponed Valentine’s Day.*

*It has become our tradition, to hunt down a new pizza joint every year on Valentine’s – something fun and yet low-key to celebrate!

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Being a Fish Doesn’t Make Me a Swimmer

I finally got around to doing what I’ve been thinking about doing for at least a year — swimming laps
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Apparently the Lord knew it was time for a good humbling, because man ‘o man I am not good at swimming. Being in the pool is never something I crave. I don’t seek out hotels with pools nor do I wish I had a house with an fancy pants swimming pool in the back yard. Growing up, I enjoyed my share of swimming in Lake Erie and jumping in my friends’ pool on a blazing hot summer day, but unless it’s a million degrees outside and water will provide relief, I’d rather just sit poolside, dipping my feet in every now and again. 
The local middle school has a pool that they open from 5:30-7:20 every morning for adult lap swim (along with a few evenings a week for community family fun swims.) For many months I’ve been contemplating adding swimming to my morning workout rotation, but I just couldn’t get up the motivation (or perhaps the courage) to go. It costs $30 for a 6 month membership which is pretty much nothing, so money wasn’t the issue. 
I am a runner. Running has become a workout I enjoy, something I am good at. It’s not easy, but it is natural for me. I intersperse my running with one of my 12 (yes 12) different Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper workout DVDs which provide good variety and strength training. I consider myself in good shape. I am strong, I have toned arms and legs. I feel pretty good about myself. 
Which is why I DIDN’T want to swim. 
I knew that lap swimming would be terribly difficult for me. And quite frankly, I just don’t like to do things I’m not going to be good at. I don’t like being embarrassed and I don’t like trying something new if there’s all these other things over here that I’m already good at. Last summer it was biking – another sport I’m not good at. But biking 10 miles a few days a week really improved my running skills. Hence my thought process that swimming may have the same affect.
The alarm went off at 6am, and as if by magic (or more likely, the Lord’s prompting) I was awake and motivated. I threw on my suit and headed out the door for the school. (Luckily it’s 0.7 miles from my house.) The lifeguard told me I could try it out for a few days before paying the membership fee. (cool.)
What happened next was completely expected, yet shocking. I am a terrible swimmer. After watching the swim team girls compete yesterday, I have a brand new respect for their ability and an unavoidable reality of my inability. It took me about a minute and fifteen seconds to do 2 laps (whereas it took the swimmers about a quarter that.) I had to stop to catch my breath every 2 laps. Another embarrassment, especially because the older and more overweight individuals were lapping me left and right. 
My heart rate was soaring near 170 beats per minute, and I was gasping for air like a fish out of water. (Ironic if you know my maiden name and how unnatural swimming is for me.) I have no idea how many laps I swam; I didn’t want to keep track and embarrass myself further. I just wanted to get out there and try something new, something difficult. 

And so, with unbelievably sore arms and a decidedly smaller ego, I can say, “I did it!” Let’s see if this lasts.