Beyond My Walls, An Open Letter to My Readers

Buenos Días!

As you hopefully read in my blog post from Tuesday, I returned just 11 days ago from my first ever mission trip to San Salvador, El Salvador. To say that my life was forever changed is truly and understatement. I prayed for months about whether or not God wanted me there and once I realized He did, I was eager to discover His plan and purpose for my Central American adventure. It took a few days and even a few tears, but by Thursday of our weeklong trip, I knew why God wanted me there.

I was blessed to be able to visit a local private school in San Salvador, Colegio Ceren, to talk with a group of high schoolers (most of them were around the 15-18 age range). I figured that this wasn’t God’s purpose for me, since it’s what I do for a job and I was sure there was something bigger for me in San Salvador. Once again, I was wrong. I spent two and a half days at the school talking with the teenagers about my faith and theirs, comparing high school experiences and laughing. One of the boys I met, Josué, pulled at my heartstrings from Day 1. It was something beyond the fact that he was at least 5’10″ (unusually tall for a Latino!), had skin as pale as mine, bright blue eyes and naturally red hair. It took me a few days and numerous people to piece together his backstory, but in a nutshell, his dad left when he was little, his mom passed away from breast cancer, his brother is in jail, and Josué is living alone in a tiny apartment with just enough money from a family friend in the states to cover tuition and a little food.

Friday afternoon at Ceren with Josué!

Friday afternoon at Ceren with Josué!

After 3 days with Josué and his peers, I knew why God had sent me to San Salvador. After discussing the idea with Pastor Victor (the head pastor at the San Salvador church we partner with, Iglesia Gran Comision), we decided that I would become Josué’s sponsor. My financial support will go through the Great Commission Latin America (GCLA), the same organization Rock City Church uses to sponsor the little kids. From there, my money will be specifically designated for Josué and will go to Pastor Victor and he will use it as he best sees fit for Josué’s needs at that time. In 2 years, when he graduates from high school, I can continue donating money to go towards Josué’s college fund. Then, once he is stable and on his own, he will no longer need my financial support. Through all of this, Josué and I will be able to email one another and build a friendship that spans many years and thousands of miles. I have a dream of seeing Josué graduate high school 2 years from now!

Working with the high schoolers didn’t feel “special” at first, it just felt like another day at work (I’m an 11th & 12th grade English teacher in Columbus). But maybe that is how God shows us our spiritual gifts and purpose. The things that we love to do and can do without hesitation are the things He wants us to do for His glory. Yes, he will challenge us and push us to “flex, flex, flex” (this was our motto for the week to remind us to be flexible!) out of our comfort zone, but it’s only to make us stronger in His purpose for us. 

I have only been home a little while, and I already know that my time in San Salvador is far from over. It was definitely hard for me to leave. Part of my heart was ready to be home, share my experience with my friends and family, and cuddle with Dewey, but the other part ached for the new friends I had made.

This past Sunday, an opportunity to return to San Salvador presented itself. I was sitting next to Annie, a woman I became friends with on the trip, at church on Sunday, and in the middle of the service, she leaned over and whispered that she was joining up with the August mission trip. My heart immediately longed to return, so I spent some serious time in prayer begging God for a sign of whether I was to go back in August or not. I realized that really the only thing keeping me from going was raising the money. As a teacher, I’m on summer break, so the timing is perfect.

Yesterday in the mail, I got a check for $425 as an AEP Electric refund. “HEY ASHLEY!!! HERE’S YOUR SIGN!!!” -Love, God

I am hoping and seriously praying that God will come through, not just for me, but for the Salvadorians as well, and help me to raise the extra $1325.

Our trip is August 2-10 and our role will be to serve the community through working with the children, assisting in the health clinic and possibly some construction work. We will share the love and message of Jesus Christ and build relationships with people that are eager to share their life stories and hear why we have the hope we have. I realize that it might not fit into the schedule to visit Colegio Ceren, but I trusted God once to stretch me and grow me, and I know He will do it again. Obviously, I hope and pray that we do, but if not, I am eager to see what God has in store for me this time.

I am asking for your support in two ways. First and foremost, I need some diligent, persistent prayer partners! If you remember to do nothing else on our behalf, please remember to pray! This is so imperative as I begin making VERY QUICK preparations for my trip and then as I actually arrive on site to minister to the poor and hurting of San Salvador. 

Please add us to your daily prayer list!

Secondly, I am asking for support financially in this outreach endeavor. The total cost is $1750 per person for the 9 days we will be in San Salvador. I believe that God has put this trip on my heart (again!) for a reason and I am very confident that He will put this request on the hearts of the people he would have support this mission opportunity. All that I ask of you to do is to pray about it and then follow what God wants you to do for His Kingdom. If you decide to donate, directions are below.

I realize that you may have never met me, maybe this is your first time stopping by adorable lil blog ;), or maybe you’ve never donated to something like this before. Please understand that when you donate, your money IS NOT going into my pocket! First of all, when you donate, you go through Rock City Church. You simply designate your donation for Mission Trips, and then include my name so it goes towards my fundraising. This process will not only assure you that you are not sending money to some quirky girl with pink hair (oh yeah, I dyed my hair pink last week!) to do who knows what with, but it also makes your donation tax deductible! YAY!

I hope that you will also be assured that your hard earned money is going towards a cause bigger than me, bigger than you, greater than the sum of us combined. Your money will be used to show the poor and disadvantaged people of San Salvador God’s love. You will be helping me to connect with Josué, the 16 year old boy I am supporting financially, spiritually and emotionally. And a little bit selfishly on my end, you will be supporting me in finally feeling like I am fulfilling God’s purpose for me.

Your prayer and financial partnership will help our team to influence many for Christ as we serve them in different ways while we are in their country. For those of you that are serious planners like myself, this might be a bit last minute, but remember, “FLEX, FLEX, FLEX!” I must have ALL of this financial support by July 6th. I look forward to hearing from you! Together, we can make an impact on the lives of these precious Salvadorians!

With love, Ashley

If you feel led to donate to my Salvadorian Adventure or have ANY questions whatsoever about donating, please let me know by using this form to contact me!

To read more in depth about my first of many San Salvadorian adventures and see the beautiful faces of the people God has blessed, please check out my blog post:

EndingUpHere.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/san-sal  

† † † † †

How to Give

Online Donations

  • Rock City Church can accept donations online through our website www.rockcitychurch.tv
  • In the upper right corner, click the little black box with 3 lines. Scroll to the bottom and click “Give Online.”
  • On the next page, click the large box that says “One-Time Gift.”
  • On the next page, in the first drop down menu, select “Mission Trips”

This next part is important!!

  • Currently the merchant services that Rock City Church uses does not offer an option to leave a memo with my name, designating your donation to me. Along with your online donation, please send an email to missions@rockcitychurch.tv with the subject being “Missions Donation For Ashley Arend.”

Turning support funds in to Rock City Church via an “actual” check:

  • Double check that all checks are made out to “Rock City Church.”
  • Double check that the memo section states “Rock City Missions: A. Arend”
  • Once you have verified that all the checks are completed correctly you may:
    • Drop them in the offering OR
    • Mail them to: Rock City Church / Attn: Mission Trips / PO Box 474 / Hilliard, Ohio / 43026

Example Check:

***IMPORTANT: DISCLAIMER!***

To insure the tax deductibility of your support gift, IRS regulations stipulate that support contributions may NOT specify that an individual be the beneficiary of or direct recipient of the contribution. However, you may indicate a preference below and the Church will endeavor to honor that preference. Make all checks payable to “Rock City Church.”

Thank you for considering giving to this cause. Any amount you would like to give will be greatly appreciated.

Beyond My Walls, San Salvador Mission Trip: Love Is My Purpose

{please click HERE to see ALL my photos from San Salvador!} Well, I think it is quite obvious that I was unable to complete a daily blog while in San Salvador. I got to the point where I was so … Continue reading

Welcome to the World, Dominick. Take Notes.

On May 25th, 2014, one of my best friends, Kristen, gave birth to her first child! She is not the first of my friends to have a baby, but she is the first of my best friends to have a baby and be living in the same city as me, so this is a big deal. Kristen, her husband Trai, and both their parents labored for an entire weekend before Baby D burst into this world with plans to do some fiercely amazing things.

Kristen and Trai

Kristen is an only child, so she views her close girlfriends as sisters. This means I’m an aunt! I plan on being a major part of Dominick’s life and I can’t wait to experience life with him.

In honor of Dom being born on May 25th, I have written a list of 25 things I hope to teach him in his life.

    1. I swear to the Good Lord, your mom was super cool once. Don’t ask me to prove it. She’d kill me if I told you half of the things that make her so cool. OR at least wait until I’m 3 vodka sodas in to ask me.
    2. The great game of flip cup. Your mom and I were and still are champion players. It’s like riding a bike.
    3. Be nice to your teachers and do as they say, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. Confession: I grade the “good” kids way easier than the pain in my ass kids. And trust me, your mother will kill you if you don’t get good grades.
    4. Reading is sexy. I mean, sure…video games are cool, but a girl is going to be way more likely to talk to you if you’re a reader.
    5. Gay? Fine by me! Seriously. I’d actually prefer it if you’re gay. By the time you’re able to read and comprehend this, I pray that who people decide to love and marry isn’t even worth a discussion anymore. Plus, I’ll probably be married to a slew of gay men, so I’m sure you’re already in tune with the gay community.
    6. It’s okay to make giant mistakes. Believe me…your mom and I have made some DOOZIES in our day! But when you need help, go to your parents. There isn’t anything you can do to make them love you less. They might be frustrated with you, but I can guarantee that they will do anything in their power to help you out.
    7. Exercise is AWESOME! Getting your heart rate up for just 30 minutes each day boosts your endorphins by like a gadzillion percent. And endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t. Ugh. In this moment, I’m really hoping you’re gay so that you can appreciate that Elle Woods quote.
    8. Hold onto your faith. Your friends will let you down. Your family will let you down. God will never let you down. He may frustrate and confuse you, but He will ALWAYS be at your side with your best interest in mind. God has a wonderful, beautiful plan for your life. When life sucks, just trust that God is working in everything for a reason.
    9. Be good to your friends. Apologize when you’ve wronged them and forgive them when they screw up. We’re human, it happens. But life truly is not worth living without some badass friends at your side. Look at all your aunts and uncles; very few of us are genetically related to you, but consider ourselves family. We couldn’t have made this family work without a little bit of forgiveness, understanding and A LOT of love.
    10. Do whatever it takes to get along with your parents and introduce them to your friends. Yes, they’re super annoying, but they are your #1 fans! They are going to be way more likely to let you borrow the car and stay out past curfew if they know and trust who you are with.
    11. Be nice to girls. They are fragile creatures that need to be treated with respect and care.
    12. Is Facebook still at thing in 2029? God, I hope so! I can only imagine all the cool foods I will be eating and fantastic things I will be doing in 15 years! I will want to make sure all my friends know about it! I digress… Don’t friend your parents on Facebook! Sure, you should be open and honest with them about your life, but your friends are idiots and are going to post stupid things that you would much rather your parents didn’t know about. And the truth is, they probably don’t need to know. Don’t worry… I’ll talk to them about this.
    13. Call your grandparents! Once again, you come from a very loving and supportive family. Would it kill you to tell your grandparents what is going on in your life? Plus, they’ll be more likely to slip a 20 in your Christmas card!
    14. YOU’RE a badass kid, but don’t let that go to YOUR head. Let’s go THERE so we can drink THEIR beer THEY’RE dumb enough to be giving away. If you learn nothing else from me, know the difference between these five words!
    15. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Embrace EVERY day you are blessed with by finding some small bit of happiness in it.
    16. Surround yourself with people that make you a better man. Shake the haters off and latch onto the friends that tell you when you’re being an idiot, but encourage you to be better than you were before.
    17. You are going to fail at things in life. What will impress people is when you get up and try again EVERY time. You’ll probably even impress yourself.
    18. NEVER drink straight Everclear. You’ll go blind and your man bits will never work right again! Okay…maybe not, but seriously. Not worth the risk.
    19. Be silly and laugh at yourself! People will laugh with you and life is more fun when you’re not worried what other people are thinking.
    20. A few days after you were born, Maya Angelou passed away. She was a brilliant poet and author. She was also an actress, screenwriter, director, civil rights activist, and educator. One of her most famous quotes is “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” In my 29 years in this world, I have learned this to be absolutely true. I can’t remember what one of my ex-boyfriends said to make me angry, but I remember being so angry I threw a hairbrush at his foot. I can’t remember every kind act your mom has ever done for me, but I know she has made me feel loved. The point is, don’t overthink saying the right thing or doing everything right; focus on how your words and actions will affect people later.
    21. Don’t let your significant other be the focus of your life 100% of the time. You still need to put effort into your friendships because who else is going to listen while you ramble on about how perfectly fantastic they are?? And trust me – it can be very hard to earn back friendships you pushed aside for a relationship that lasted half as long.
    22. Learn to cook. There is nothing sexier than a man offering to make dinner.
    23. Something my mom taught me: Never rely on anyone to take care of you financially past the age of 22(ish). Not even your parents. You could and should rely on Mom and Dad to help you when you need it, but learn to be self-sufficient. And never, EVER, expect your significant other to support you 100%. Life happens and you need to know how to take care of yourself.
    24. Something my dad taught me: Always have more than one toolbox to work from. Be good at more than one thing. Your first career choice might cease to interest you someday, or for reasons outside of your control, you are unable to maintain your dream job. Be able to make money doing something else and be willing to learn new skills.
    25. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) When we love people, it is more difficult to wrong each other, but when we do (we’re human, so it’s going to happen!), they will see the love in our hearts and be better able to forgive us. Plus, you want to be remembered as the nice guy and not the bully. Loving people should come naturally to you because your parents are two of the most loving people I have ever met. It has never quite made sense to me how two people can be so short in stature and yet have hearts so big. You are truly blessed, Dominick.

Dominick

Taking the Dip

Yesterday morning was supposed to be fairly simple for a Sunday…church with Shelly, Dad & Cathy, lunch, laundry….my typical get stuff done day. Well, all of those things happened, but one more item was spontaneously added to the list.

I have been attending Rock City Church since November of last year. As a lifelong Christian, I have been through my fair share of churches. I grew up attending a Lutheran church with my family, often attended Sunday mass with my childhood best friend Sarah (she couldn’t sleep over Saturday night unless she went to mass first, so I made it part of the event!), switched to a different Lutheran church where many of my high school friends were in 9th grade and began going to a nondenominational Christian church after college, where many of those same friends had moved to. Needless to say, church has always been an important part of my life and it needs to be a place where my friends and I feel welcome, wanted and safe from judgement.

Rock City not only makes me feel all of those things, but in the 7 short months I have attended, mI have felt more compelled to do the work of Jesus than I ever felt anywhere else. At previous churches, when service opportunities were announced, by intial thought was, “Well, I shoudl probably go, but I don’t wanna go if I don’t know anyone there. Meh, I probably won’t know anyone. I’ll go to the next one.” There is nothing wrong with wanting to serve alongside our close friends and family, but God calls us to do His work whether we are with each and every one of our Facebook friends, a few acquaintances or no one we know at all. I was not able to focus on that fact – I was more worried about if I would have to meet new people, which for me, is something I actually love!

I have not done a lot of service events with Rock City Church, but now, rather than wondering who will be there that I know, I figure, “That sounds cool and like something that really needs to be done – sign me up!” For example, when I first heard about Rock City’s mission trips to San Salvador,my interest was immediately piqued. I had always wanted to go on a mission trip, but for one reason or another, never made it a reality. But when the idea of traveling with Rock City to San Salvador crossed my path, I decided I was going to “pray circles” around whether or not I should go. It didn’t matter to me who else would be going; more likely than not, being that I was so new in the church, I probably would not know anyone on this trip. One prayer led to another and I knew that God was putting the people of San Salvador on my heart for a reason and that I was meant to go.

Not only had my motives behind serving change after joining Rock City, but my relationship with my dad changed as well. I invited Dad and his girlfriend Cathy to join me for a service one weekend. With the loud music, unusual venue (Rock City Church uses movie theaters as their place of worship!), and the fact that it was something new (my dad and I both cling to tradition very tightly), I was sure Dad would come once to be nice and that would be that. Well, I was wrong! Dad and Cathy both LOVED it! They loved the upbeat, heart-pounding music. They loved the cleverness of a movie theater house of worships, and most importantly, they loved the pastor Chad’s message. So they came back the next week with Cathy’s really-not-so-elderly father, John (make sure he knows I put that in print!!). And even John loved the service!

Because Dad and I had begun worshipping together again for the first time since around 2003, God began working in our relationship. Planning for my trip to San salvador brought Dad and I closer. Chad’s weekly messages gave us something to discuss at our weekly dinners. I was trying to refine my ability with my father to be slow to anger and quick to listen. I truly believe Rock City Church has brought out the best in both of us and helped remind us that before getting frustrated with one another (which happens VERY frequently), we need to express ourselves in love. Dad and I have gotten along better in the past 5 months than we have in any of our 29 years together.

This brings me to yesterday’s unexpected event. I woke up early, took care of some things around the house and went to church to meet Shelly. The message was the 2nd of a 2 week series called “The Dip.” Last week’s sermon was the idea that “We all go through it. One way or another. Whether by design or by default. We want to avoid it. Nobody wants to go through it. But there are some things God can only speak to us in The Dip. Find out what to do when you’re in it, and what’s waiting for you on the other side once you go through The Dip.” I should’ve seen what was coming in yesterday’s message – a different kind of “dip.”

It was Baptism Sunday.

The message focused on the fact that God gives us a very simple and straightforward command: “Repent and be baptized.” (Acts 2:38) A water baptism is meant to be our first act of obedience to Christ. He doesn’t say “Repent and convert at least 5 other people.” or “Repent and tithe all your money to the church!” or “Repent and give up all your heathen ways NOW!” No, God says “Repent and be baptized.” So why is water baptism so important to Christians? What does it mean for us? God responds to simple obedience. If we can be trusted to do the little things He asks of us, imagine the big things God can trust us with! We might not understand why God tells us to do something, but He’s God, so we just do it. Take the story In Acts of Philip and the Ethiopian. God told Philip to “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he did. There, he met an Ethiopian who was “on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.” God then directed Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” So he did. Philip overheard the man reading from Isaiah and asked him if he understood what he was reading. The Ethiopian replied, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” and invited Philip onto the chariot to sit with him. He showed Philip the passage her was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
    and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
    Who can speak of his descendants?
    For his life was taken from the earth.” (Isaiah 53:7,8)

Using that piece of scripture, Philip began telling the Ethiopian the good news of Jesus Christ. They traveled along the road together and came upon some water. The Ethiopian asked, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” So they went down to the water and Philip baptized the Ethiopian.

What is holding each of us back from begin baptized? Often the simplest commands and the most simple acts of obedience have the deepest significance and yield the greatest results. When God proclaimed that “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased,” Jesus had just been baptized. All it took for him to please his father, the creator of the universe, was to be baptized; to proclaim in front of everyone that he belonged to God. 

I was listening to Chad preach, I wondered, Well, I was baptized as a baby, doesn’t that count?? You’re just talking to the people that have never been baptized at all, right?? WRONG. This is something I have wondered many times before – if someone needs to be re-baptized if their parents did it for them as a baby. As if Chad was reading my mind, he imparted, “If you were baptized as a baby, that says more about your parents’ faith than your own faith.” This actually made sense to me. When Mom and Dad had Uncle Art baptize me, they were proclaiming the church and to God that they would raise me in a Christ-centered home, with Biblical values and teach me to live a Christian life. So yes, that says a lot about their faith and how important it was to their life. And they did all those things. They “made” me go to church each Sunday, they encouraged me to join the youth group and they were at each and every time I earned a place in the church musical chorus, they were there front and center.

But I never announced to the world that I had made a decision to follow Christ and declare myself as his. I truly appreciate that my parents had a very big part in pointing me towards Jesus, but as a person that can (and sometimes to my parents’ chagrin) and has always made my own decisions, He asks me to proclaim it for myself. So yesterday, after Chad gave an amazing and action-inspiring sermon about the importance of water baptism, he invited anyone that wanted to make the decision and announce to the world their dedication to Jesus to head out back where a team of people would meet them. Well, that would be cool, but when I get baptized, I wanna have an outfit prepared, I want to invite my friends and family, I want to have a lunch planned afterwa…wait. Where’s Dad going? “Shelly, did he just walk out there?? We should probably go with him, right? Holy crap!” Shelly and I followed Dad to a room where he was filling out a baptism registration card and getting clothes he could get baptized in so he wouldn’t have to drench his church clothes. “What’re you doing??” Dad asserted, “I was baptized as a baby, but this is important to me and I want to do it now! Plus, it’s better than when they do the winter baptisms in 12-degree weather!” (He had a point, yesterday was a beautiful, sunshiney day!) I stuttered, “Oh! Huh…well, I guess I can’t let you do this alone…hand me a card!”

As a spur of the moment decision, I made the choice to go with my dad and be baptized. I have been doing my best to live a Christ-centered life my entire life. (Some days are notably better than others!) What was holding me back from making it official and declaring to God and to the world that my heart and my soul are His?? Not having a well planned out event or a fashionable outfit? Well, that definitely sounds like something I’d say, and just showed that I wasn’t think with my head on straight! I donned a Rock City Church t-shirt and a pair of workout shorts and headed outside with Dad. We were met by a team of people just waiting to pray with us. They thanked God for moving our hearts and our feet that day and sent us on our way towards the baptismal tubs! Dad and I decided that we were in this together, so we were getting dunked together! We stepped into the giant, horse-trough-turned-baptismal and sat facing each other. Pastor Todd Marrah knelt down beside me while another volunteer knelt next to Dad, and Todd assured us that as soon as we came up from the water, we would be washed clean in the blood of Christ, clean and forgiven from the sins we committed 10 years ago, the sins we committed 5 days ago and the sins we will commit 5 hours from that moment (we’re human…it’s normal to sin on your baptism day!). He asked if we understood and accepted that. Dad and I both said that we did, leaned back into the water and came up refreshed and new.

Oh, did I mention that Dad and I’s few moments of baptism were on the big screen? Oh yeah! Since Rock City holds their services in movie theaters, they live broadcast the baptism into the theater for the rest of the church to watch. I’ve been in there for previous baptism services, and it’s amazing. Every time someone come up from the water, the entire theater rejoices with applause and cheers!

Do I feel differently now that I’ve been baptized? Honestly, no, not really. But I am proud that I got to share the moment with my Dad and now I can go to San Salvador practicing what I preach. I now know, without a doubt, that when Jesus calls me home, my home is with Him in Heaven for eternity. My friends and family know who my heart belongs to, but most importantly, God knows!

I wholeheartedly trust that God has a plan for me, goes before me and has a place ready for me in Heaven. I know that if I trust God enough to follow him, He will allow me to do immeasurably more than I could ever do on my own. Yes, I will falter. But with God at my side, time and time again, He has and He will continue to strengthen my faith.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Hillsong United

***UPDATE*** You can watch Chad’s sermon HERE! It’s Week 2 of the series.

Prayer Team

Prayer Team

 

We are assured that we are cleaned from ALL our past sins and ALL our future sins through Jesus' ultimate sacrifice.

We are assured that we are cleaned from ALL our past sins and ALL our future sins through Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice.

 

A friend in the worship service recognized a few familiar faces this week!

A friend in the worship service recognized a few familiar faces this week!

 

photo 3 (2)

Life, According to my iPhone: 100 Happy Days :: Vol. 4 & 5

 

If you are not familiar with the 100 Happy Days challenge, read my post explaining it HERE!

Okay, okay, I know I’m late!!! JEEEZ! But it’s been SUUUUUPER busy up in hurr lately (more on that LATER!). BUT! I still haven’t missed a happy day!!  Yesterday was Day 52 and I’m still going strong! I will admit that there have been a few days that haven’t been anything special, so they have resulted in some sort of Dewey portrait. But I almost appreciate those days more because it forces me to really look at my day and appreciate the little things. In fact, I’m working through binge watching How I Met Your Mother (I just started season 8 of 9!!!). An episode I watched last night ficused on Barney trying to convince Ted that they should do something”LEGENDARY” every night. The first few nights are pretty awesome (they start a Mariachi band, eat everything on the menu of their favorite bar and bring a horse into the bar!), but by night 4, Ted is getting tired and  implores Barney to understand that,

“Every night can’t be legendary. If all nights are legendary, no nights are legendary.”

WOOOOAHHHHH!!!!!! Mind. Blown.

 

Okay, in the episode, that was NOT Barney’s reaction. He vehemently argued against Ted…but MY mind was blown! If something awesome happens everyday, it becomes normal and the awesome things just seem regular. Does that make sense?

So because everyday isn’t “legendary,”, I get to value the little, insignificant days more.

*****

Here are my photos from the past 20 days!

OH! And check it out! I’ve gone long enough that I’ve had ONE FULL MONTH of Happy Days!!

I'm using the Photo 365 app to organize all my Happy Days!

I’m using the Photo 365 app to organize all my Happy Days!

And here are Days 11-20!

And Days 21-30!

(click to enlarge!)

Days 31-40

 Days 41-50

Day 31: Brunch with these cats!! I LOVE Sundays with Shelly (& Vikki)!!!

Day 32: 6am workout followed by coffee, tea and breakfast with the amazing Christine! We got to share incredible stories, challenges and I even got a few writing tips! All before 9am on my first day of spring break!

Day 33: Project Barbie Dream House Facelift continues!!! Where do you suppose this “Fabulous Grape” is going???

Day 34: I had a blast today hanging out with my sister and my favorite nephew (don’t tell him he’s my only nephew!)! Rarely do I get such quality time with the bugger!

Day 35: I knocked an item off my Spring Break To-Do list by exploring downtown and taking a little photo adventure!

Day 36: Good Friday: “IT IS FINISHED!” “It wasn’t a cry of defeat. It was a shout of victory. The great work of rescuing us was finished! There is now nothing you can do to make God love you more — nothing you can do to make him love you less. It is finished!”

Day 37: Got to spend the day being a model with this gorgeous girl for Drauma!

Day 38: Hosana! Hosana! Hosana in the highest! “Many will be counted righteous for He will bear their sin!” Isaiah 53:11 This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.

Day 39: “HOW DID I GET UNDER THIS DRESS?!” “WHEN DID I HAVE A DRAG BABY?!” Monday’s a Drag kicked off our Alternative Fashion Week (AFW) 2014!

Day 40: I Screen, You Screen Screen Printing Workshop! Another successful screen printing night! Check out my Mobster Red tank I printed with Kelli! 

Day 41: Stew’s first ever yoga class! I may have left out that Alexander is evil…but he survived anyways!! {Don’t get excited…we dated for a smidgeon, but he’s no longer in the picture! Pun??}

Day 42: So I joined a girl band after our Reconstruction Night for AFW 2014.

Day 43: Secret’s out. It’s Wig Night!!! I love having a friend that I can be silly and awesome and beautiful with!

Day 44: Wow wow wow. What a night!!! Amazing! Nerve-racking! So many words. Must sleep to process. Thank you too all who came out. Your love and support truly means everything. {Post AFW Grand Finale Runway Show!!!}

Day 45: Somethings will never change! I got to round out my amazing weekend with Yenny, visiting home from the Left Coast! 

Day 46: I spent the day paying bills, cleaning and reorganizing the Barbie Dream House. I found this love note stashed away in a corner! It’s easy to be a good friend when you have wonderful, kind and loving people in your life. 

Day 47: My life may not always be glamorous, but at least I get to cuddle up with the Dewster every night.

Day 48: Ahhhh…I heart Wednesday nights! Yoga, hit shower, dinner and Law & Order: SVU. 

Day 49: Just a typical Thursday morning sweating my ass off before work! 

Day 50: Oh y’know, just spending the day flexing & drinking champagne with my best model and workout buddy! Amanda and I spent the day prepping for the Cap City Marathon! Unfortunately, I couldn’t run due to a strained IT band, but I’ll be back next year!!!

Life, According to my iPhone: 100 Happy Days :: Vol. 3

32 days in and still haven’t missed!! If you are not familiar with the 100 Happy Days challenge, read my post explaining it HERE!

I have to admit that it has been pretty easy to be happy these past 10 days. As crazy as my schedule is, I have lots of blessings in my life and I’ve actually remembered to document them! And a few friends have joined the challenge!!

Here are my photos from the past 10 days!

And here are Days 11-20!

(click to enlarge!)

Days-21-30

 

Day 21: Sweating before 7am?? NAILED IT!! I’ve started working out at Seven Studios at 6am on Mondays and Tuesdays since my evenings are so busy!! This is my awesome friend Justin and one of our trainers, Christine!

Day 22: Besties/Sisters/Mobsters Amee & I steppin’ out at Circa Fashion Show, supporting the AMAZING Ashley Wills! She is a blogger and occasionally blogs for the Alternative Fashion Mob!!

Day 23: Hittin’s the streets of the Short North in downtown Columbus to get the word out about Alternative Fashion Week! Believe me…I was hard to miss and even harder to avoid!

Day 24: Celebrating the 3rd birthday of my new church, Rock City Church! The music and sermon was SOOO good, I stayed for 2 services!

Day 25: Jeff & Kelli gave a behind the scenes look into planning Alternative Fashion Week at Motive Monday. Apparently it’s not as easy as it seems!

Day 26: After residing at Barbie Dream House for Wayward Girls for 7 years, it was time for an update. New (to me) couch!! Step 1 of a few little tweaks!!

Day 27: First nap on the new couch was a snoring success!!

Day 28: Paw my gosh! That happy face!! What you can’t see is that I’m making the same face behind the camera! The weather is finally perking up!

Day 29: My lovely friend Brenton just made a penny floor in his bathroom! It was begging for a selfie!! This was also his birthday dinner!

Day 30: This is our type of weather! 45 minutes soaking up the sun resulted in a little sunburn! I ain’t mad!! We are ALL smiles!

 

Life, According to my iPhone: 100 Happy Days :: Vol. 2

I can’t believe it! I’ve made it 21 DAYS into this challenge and I haven’t missed a day once! Knock on wood!! If you are not familiar with the 100 Happy Days challenge, read my post explaining it HERE!

I don’t know if this challenge has made me more happy, but it has helped me to take joy in the little moments in life. But honestly, the thing I have loved most is sharing in my friends’ (and even some strangers!) happy moments! It has been helpful to have my friends do this with me. If it gets late in the day and I haven’t posted yet, I’m likely to get a “Have you been happy today??” text! I have found it to be true with every challenge in my life that the most important thing you need to be successful is a dedicated support group of friends!

Just a couple of Joyments!

Just a couple of Joyments!

Here are my photos from the past 10 days!

(click to enlarge!)

Day 11: Ahhhh….nothing like a brand new (and stinky!) yoga mat! The good people at Natural Fitness have a Zero Impact Program, in which they plant a tree for every product they sell! I hope it’s a cool tree! Maybe I’ll go visit it someday!

Day 12: Gah. I finally gave in. After my 2 day cleanse, I was starving and had a bagel with cream cheese. I don’t even care.

Day 13: Don’t leave me alone in a room full of buttons & knobs! Happy to get a clean bill of health at the eye doc!

Day 14: Happy to be surrounded by other Rock City Church folks at our weekly Life Group! We’re trucking through “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson.

Day 15: My best friend. Forever. Sometimes it just works.

Day 16: Feeding my hangover! Turns out Bareburger’s burgers are neither made out of bears or served by big, burly gay men.

Day 17: I became a Seven Studios Warrior today! I got to be a part of Julie Wilkes’ 7 Life Miracles Workshop!

Day 18: My city is better than yours. After a 6am Bootcamp workout at Seven Studios with Christina, I made time to snap a few sunrise pics. Gosh, Columbus is beautiful. 

Day 19: Finally, a day nice enough to go on a run, sit outside with Dewey, and chew on sticks.

Day 20: Oooohhhh!!! Happy happy joy joy!!! Presents (that I bought for myself) from Shoedazzle & Roozt were delivered today!!! (and maybe I had a little fun with a new photo editing app, Picfx 🙂 )

 

Life, According to my iPhone: 100 Happy Days

I love challenges. There’s just something so fulfilling about completing a difficult task that I set my mind to complete.

I also love photos. If my house were to catch on fire, I’d grab Dewey and then all my photo albums, my phone and my laptop (I’m a Millennial – most of my photos are digital!).

So, it should be obvious that I love a photo challenge!! Chantelle at Fat Mum Slim has monthly photo challenges that encourage participants to take 1 photo-a-day that aligns with that day’s topic. You can see March’s challenge HERE (and then keep watch for April’s!). I have done these challenges quite a few times and even posted my results here on my blog! You can check ’em out HERE!

My current photo challenge comes from 100happydays.com.I found this posted on a friend’s Facebook and had to check it out. The premise is simple: Can you be happy for 100 days in a row??

“We live in times when super-busy schedules have become something to boast about. While the speed of life increases, there is less and less time to enjoy the moment that you are in. The ability to appreciate the moment, the environment and yourself in it, is the base for the bridge towards long term happiness of any human being.”

All you have to do is take a photo of ANYTHING that makes you happy each day. It can be anything from coffee with a friend to something that captures the feeling of relaxing at home after a long day to your pet’s nose snuggled into your side – whatever it is that makes you happy just for a moment.

I gathered my girlfriends and we all agreed to start on the same day. Doing this challenge with a friend (or 7!) is helpful because you can help keep one another accountable. “Hey girl…sooo…I was avoiding work and checking my happy hashtag and I didn’t see you on there yet today…GET HAPPY!!!” The directions are easy:

  • Share your picture via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with a public hashtag #100happydays!
  • Come up with your own hashtag to share your pictures with your people!

Wanna follow the gang and I on our happiness photo journey? Hop onto Instagram and check out our hashtag, #happyin614 (614 is the Columbus area code)! Don’t be shy! Follow my crazy, busy, awesome, badass, exciting life on Instagram!

Wanna start the challenge yourself?!? AWESOME!!! Please share your personal hashtag here so I can encourage you and share in your daily joyments (joyful moments)! I’m so excited to see what makes you smile!

So far, I am 11 days in and totally enjoying the challenge! Here are my first 10 shots. Be sure to check back here to see my Joyments!

(click to enlarge!)

Days 1-10

Day 1: The A-Squad reunited!! Some of my best girlfriends Allie, Amanda, & Amee

Day 2: Saturday was been a perfectly beautiful day to spend outside with my favorite four-legged friend!

Day 3: I always leave Rock City Church feeling joyful and motivated! Each Sunday, I am able to take the message and apply it to my life. This week, where can I turn “Not a chance!” into “Okay God…I’ll take a chance.” ?? I’ve got some ideas!!

Day 4: Happy to catch up with an old friend over a home cooked dinner!

Day 5: Amee is now SIX YEARS CANCER FREE!!! And obviously it makes me so superduper happy to have my bestie/big sis/lesbian lover around year after year.

Day 6: I love my CBus!

Day 7: We got to welcome in spring with 108 sun salutations!

Day 8: YAY!!! I bought the Divergent trilogy and they finally came in the mail Friday! Guess what I’ll be nerding out to this weekend!!! (I have this silly rule about having to read a book BEFORE I see its movie.)

Day 9: I probably shouldn’t tell what I had to play during Cards Against Humanity to make Joe laugh to the point of tears…point of the story, Saturday was a wonderful night full of laughs with great friends.

Day 10: Happy to be stronger than I’ve ever been – in every way possible.

 

Ending Up Helping :: January 22nd :: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

I know, I know…so much for blogging every day! As it turns out, trying to blog every day during your birthday month is extremely hard! I’ve been super busy and not able to dedicate the proper amount of time to my blog that each post deserves. Even so, I have learned so much about charities, what they do, how they work and why we need to support them.

GUESS WHAT!!

Yesterday was my birthday, and in honor of that, I am highlighting a charity that DIRECTLY affects the family of one of my bestest friends in the entire world, Kristen.

Picture a typical teenage girl, right around the age of 14. She loves boys, puppies, and sunny days. It’s the day of her favorite cousin’s wedding – a New Year’s Eve wedding! It’s mere hours away from being 2012! She is a junior bridesmaid and gets to get her hair and makeup done along with the rest of the girls! But instead of gabbing and drinking (virgin!) mimosas with her fellow bridesmaids, Kate is sitting, listening to her iPod while an electric vest vibrates her entire torso, shaking her lungs free of thick mucous that could severely inhibit her breathing. She insists that the daily 90 minutes of various treatments really aren’t so bad.

Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited disease that affective the lungs and digestive system. It is a “life-threatening genetic disease that causes mucus to build up and clog some of the organs in the body, particularly the lungs and pancreas. When mucus clogs the lungs, it can make breathing very difficult. The thick mucus also causes bacteria (or germs) to get stuck in the airways, which causes inflammation (or swelling) and infections that lead to lung damage.

Mucus also can block the digestive tract and pancreas. The mucus stops digestive enzymes from getting to the intestines. The body needs these enzymes to break down food, which provides important nutrients to help people grow and stay healthy. People with cystic fibrosis often need to replace these enzymes with medicine they take with their meals and snacks, which helps them digest food and get proper nutrition.

When it comes to “getting” CF, it is all in your genes. When I asked Kristen about this, she said “It’s a basic Punnett Square!” My verbal response was “Oh yeah! I remember that from high school biology! Totally. Got it.” My inner response was, “Uhhh….I know I remember learning that, buuutttt….what?” So, if you’re like me and don’t exactly remember 10th grade biology, here ya go:

A Basic Punnett Square for CF:

How this can be interpreted (blonde version):

C- normal allele

c- allele with CF mutation

In this example, each child would have:

25% chance of being unaffected with Cystic Fibrosis (CC)

50% chance of being a carrier of Cystic Fibrosis (Cc)

25% chance of being affected with Cystic Fibrosis (cc)

Because of the thick mucous, Kate has to work harder than her field hockey teammates just to be able to breathe, let alone breathe deeply while exercising. But does that stop her? Hell no.

“It’s definitely harder running. My lung capacity is smaller, so running is harder and I cough more when I’m running,” said Kate, who played varsity as a freshman and has started the last two seasons. “It’s harder to breathe, but I don’t notice it unless I am sick or have a lung infection.”

Years ago, the life expectancy for people with CF was only elementary school age. A person with CF can expect to live “into their 30s, 40s and beyond” today, thanks to research funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

The CF Foundation has funded more “research than any other organization, and nearly every CF drug available today was made possible because of Foundation support.” Their “focus is to support the development of new drugs to fight the disease, improve the quality of life for those with CF, and ultimately to find a cure.”

Not only does the CF Foundation fund research, but they also advocate for people living with CF. They work to keep CF funding at the forefront of the government’s mind.

Kristen’s 21-year-old cousin Matthew (older brother to Kate) is currently participating in a 2-year clinical trial, Vertex 809 with Kalydeco, funded by the foundation that is changing the face of this disease. It is the first drug to treat the underlying cause of CF. Matthew’s health improves daily because of the medication.

Wanna contribute to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation??

Donors can feel good about their contribution because of trials like the one Matthew is participating in. Money goes towards the trials that are are directly lengthening and saving people’s lives, NOT into the administrative pockets. Click HERE to donate and HERE to see exactly where each dollar goes.

Every year in Columbus, the local CF Foundation chapter hosts a bevy of fundraising events. One of these events is hosted by Matthew and Kate’s parents, Tom & Marie – the Hennessey Family Fore-Love Golf Outing. Played at Brookside Country Club, “a shotgun start begins a day of great golf, food and entertainment. Raffles, live and silent auction and a fabulous dinner round out the event.” Kristen and her family volunteer at the event in support of Matthew and Kate.

Kristen & Kate "Play today for more Tomorrows"

Kristen & Kate
“Play today for more Tomorrows”

Andrew, Kristen, Kate & Matthew at the Fore Love Dinner

Andrew, Kristen, Kate & Matthew at the Fore Love Dinner

The Fore Love event is just one of many fundraising opportunities available. If you are in or near the Columbus area, you can check out the event calendar HERE!

Not in CBus?? BUMMER! 😉 Click HERE to find your local CF Foundation chapter!

Matthew and Kate refuse to allow their cystic fibrosis hold them back. Matthew is studying Political Science at Ohio State University and has had internships in Washington, DC and Columbus. Kate is finishing her junior year of high school and hopes to play field hockey at Georgetown, following in her mother’s footsteps.

“I have never been held back. I’m definitely a doer, never a quitter…I think (having cystic fibrosis) helps me. It pushes me to persevere a lot more. It’s how I overcome things. I can do this and nothing’s going to hold me back.”

You go, girl!

*******

All information was obtained from www.cff.org and The Upper Arlington News

Find CFF: Columbus Chapter on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CFFCentralOH

Ending Up Helping :: January 2nd :: A1K9 Rescue

When deciding which charity organization to donate time and/or money to, you should choose one focused on things that are important to you. Love music? Donate to a charity that helps local musicians get health care (more on this coming later!). Love kids? Donate to a charity that helps underprivileged kids get food, clothes, or hell, just spend a couple hours a week with a few of ‘em and become a mentor! Care about the environment? Well, there’s gotta be a way to you can help our natural world to survive!

Me? One of my loves is Dewars. No, not the scotch – that was my mom’s love – the Boston Terrier! Dewars, Dewey for short, has been the #1 man in my life for 3 years now. After my mom passed away, I needed something warm and cuddly to make me smile on a daily basis, and quite honestly, something to make me get up in the morning – something that needed me. So in October 2010, I decided that I would get a Boston Terrier puppy the following spring. Training a puppy in the winter is ruff (I’m sorry. I had to.)!!

I started researching Boston Terrier rescues in Ohio. I found one that rescued puppies from puppy mills and pretty frequently had Bostons. Perfect! Every once in awhile, I would go on the site just to look at the adorable puppies. One day, I was feeling a little sad and knew that cute puppies would cheer me up, so I went to the rescue’s page. On the home page was a photo of a sweet Boston puppy suffering from a severe rectal prolapse (simply, his inside rectum was now outside). The rescue was asking for donations towards the puppy’s vet bill that was about to be very expensive. The photo was taken from behind, with the puppy’s face turning towards the camera with eyes that seemed to say, “Okay, you’ve documented it, can we please go to the hospital now?!? This hurts!!”

(Click here for the photo and puppy update. You’ll have to scroll down a bit. I’ll warn you, it’s quite gruesome, which is why I didn’t post it here!)

Well. One look at that face and I knew he had to be mine. I immediately emailed the rescue and told them that, should the puppy survive surgery and end up healthy, he would end up here, at the Barbie Dream House.

During surgery, the veterinarian went in through the puppy’s “abdomen and carefully pulled the prolapse back in after treatment to reduce the swelling. After about 45 minutes, they finally got it to go back inside. They almost gave up when they decided to try one last time and thankfully it went in!  Then the vet tacked the colon to his abdominal wall in an effort to prevent it from re-prolapsing.” (From the rescue’s update page)

Everything went well and on November 26th, 2010, Dewey became a permanent member of the Barbie Dream House.

I mean, really...how can you say no to that face??

I mean, really…how can you say no to that face??

A1K9 Rescue

A1K9 Rescue is located in Ravenna, Ohio, and in a nutshell, rescues puppies from unfortunate and unlivable situations. When I was re-reading all the information about A1K9, I realized that there just wasn’t a way to reword everything they had written describing their rescue, and I’m a blogger, not a journalist, so I am copy & pasting (but with quotes and a citation at the end, so it’s not illegal {ahem…Columbus Downtown High School Students…ahem} )

“All of the dogs in rescue have been saved from unfortunate situations that are no fault of their own.  Some are saved from puppymills and deplorable living conditions loaded with parasites, some are saved from high kill shelters, some are found as strays, some are owner surrendered after their owners were unable to keep them for various reasons, and some were just abandoned like unwanted garbage on the street.

Because of our proximity to the Amish puppymills, we receive many purebred puppies into rescue.  As the animal rights organizations shut these puppymills down, all of those dogs and puppies go to rescues to find homes.  Unfortunately, as fast as they get shut down they just reopen a few months later breeding something else and then the battle begins all over again.  Most of the time these puppies are sick and we work very hard to get them well so that by the time you see them on the website, they are happy, healthy dogs and puppies. The adoption fees are our ONLY source of income for the rescue and many times it doesn’t begin to cover all of the rescue’s expenses. It is more than just food.  It is vet bills, necessary medicines and special prescription food, surgeries, bowls, toys, dog houses, crates, bleach, kennels and concrete, tarps – the list is endless!  We are also planning to have a new heated building built this year.   Adoption fees go towards the care of ALL of the dogs in rescue, not just that particular dog you may be adopting. Some dogs’ expenses go well over their adoption fee if a special surgery is required to fix a birth defect, for example, but hopefully what one dog doesn’t use another one will.

Either way, these dogs and puppies need loving homes and a new chance at a good life!”

Angie, owner of A1K9 Rescue is a wonderful woman with a passion to find good homes for all the pets she comes across (she even has a chinchilla available for adoption right now!!). After Dad and I rescued Dewey, she kept in contact to make sure he was still healthy and that he was a good fit for us. Because Dewey came to us after suffering a terrible affliction, she offered to lower his adoption fee, but after seeing all the money she spent on getting him healthy and happy, we felt it was only right to pay the whole fee, because as she wrote on her site, even if he didn’t need the whole chunk of money, another dog down the line could benefit from it.

Obviously, dog adoption isn’t for everyone. But if you are looking to add to your family with a puppy, A1K9 Rescue is worth your perusal. It is family owned and operated, and each member of the family helps in making sure that each dog loved and cared for to the highest degree before going to its forever home. If you’re not looking to adopt, but believe in what Angie and her family are doing, please donate to A1K9!!! Each dollar goes towards the well being of someone’s future forever friend.

*******

All information was obtained from www.a1k9rescue.com