Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Baby Van Deusen

Has anything ever happened to you that changed your life?
To be honest with you I don't know of anybody that could answer that question with a "no."

Be it attending school and making a best friend, or falling in love and getting married, or lending a helping hand to realize in the end how blessed you are. Or landing the perfect job.  Purchasing your first car.  If you are breathing then chances are you have eperienced some life changing event in your life. 

I am still walking around in the clouds after a day like today...
I had my first prenatal appointment...and despite the *yucky* part it was pretty amazing to see that little blob...Our little one is 6-7 weeks old right now.  I got to see a good strong heartbeat and it was like a sense of peace just fell over me.  It was amazing. 

Tea With Hezbollah

Is it really possible to love one’s enemies?
That’s the question that sparked a fascinating and, at times, terrifying journey into the heart of the Middle East during the summer of 2008. It was a trip that began in Egypt, passed beneath the steel and glass high rises of Saudi Arabia, then wound through the bullet- pocked alleyways of Beirut and dusty streets of Damascus, before ending at the cradle of the world’s three major religions: Jerusalem.
Tea with Hezbollah combines nail-biting narrative with the texture of rich historical background, as readers join novelist Ted Dekker and his co-author and Middle East expert, Carl Medearis, on a hair-raising journey. They are with them in every rocky cab ride, late-night border crossing, and back-room conversation as they sit down one-on-one with some of the most notorious leaders of the Arab world. These candid discussions with leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas, with muftis, sheikhs, and ayatollahs, with Osama bin Laden’s brothers, reveal these men to be real people with emotions, fears, and hopes of their own. Along the way, Dekker and Medearis discover surprising answers and even more surprising questions that they could not have anticipated—questions that lead straight to the heart of Middle Eastern conflict.
Through powerful narrative Tea With Hezbollah will draw the West into a completely fresh understanding of those we call our enemies and the teaching that dares us to love them. A must read for all who see the looming threat rising in the Middle East.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.
To purchase this book please click here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Take Your Best Shot: Do Something Bigger Than Yourself

Take Your Best Shot: Do Something Bigger Than Yourself
Written By: Austin Gutwein

I requested this book because it looked interesting and I thought it would be a good, quick read.  Little did I know it would turn into a daily devotional between my sister (she is 13) every morning on the way to school.  I never realized that this book would lend itself to such a unique oppurtunity as a daily devotional.

I loved the fact that it was written on a level that a young teen could understand, but also profound enough that an adult could walk away from it with encouragement and inspiration.  Another great thing about this book is that it is real.  It isn't one of those phony books about doing something to better yourself based on a theory or idea, it is real - somebody has done this - and all the websites, links, pictures and videos he talks about in the book you can go view in real time.  I think connections like those keep people interested in reading.

From the cover you would guess it is about basketball.  When you think about making changes in somebody elses life, good changes; do you think that could be achieved with a round ball of rubber?  This boy did just that, he strongly believed in the vision that God gave him and he acted on it.  The underlying message throughout this entire book is this "God wants to use you."

Chapter 1 - Some images/videos of ones life situation can be moments we never forget
Chapter 2 - Don't get wrapped up in physical 'things'...they 'expire'...life for eternity
Chapter 3 - Reflections are good.
Chapter 4 - Making changes, especially ones bigger than yourself will not be easy
Chapter 5 - You must love the Lord your God with all your heart in order to make changes
Chapter 6 - .....

I encourage you all to go out and pick this book up. It is truly an incredible story. As much as I throughly enjoyed reading this book and would love to keep it for my own library, I know a book like this will be a great ministering tool and one that must be passed on to somebody else in need of change in their life. 

This book was provided for review by the Thomas Nelson Publishing Group.
To purcahse a copy of this book please click here.

I review for BookSneeze

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dug Down Deep

What will you build your life on?
With startling transparency, Joshua Harris shares how we can rediscover the relevance and power of Christian truth. This is book shows a young man who rose quickly to success in the Christian evangelical world before he realized his spirituality lacked a foundation—it rested more on tradition and morality than on an informed knowledge of God.

For the indifferent or spiritually numb, Harris's humorous and engaging reflections on Christian beliefs show that orthodoxy isn't just for scholars—it is for anyone who longs to know the living Jesus Christ. As Harris writes, "I've come to learn that theology matters. It matters not because we want to impress people, but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live. Theology matters because if we get it wrong then our whole life will be wrong."

Whether you are just exploring Christianity or you are a veteran believer finding yourself overly familiar and cold-hearted, Dug Down Deep will help you rediscover the timeless truths of Scripture. As Harris challenges you to root your faith and feelings about God in the person, work, and words of Jesus, he answers questions such as:

What is God like and how does he speak to me?What difference does it make that Jesus was both human and divine?How does Jesus's death on the cross pay for my sins?Who is the Holy Spirit and how does he work in my life?

With grace and wisdom, Harris will inspire you to revel in the truth that has captured his own mind and heart. He will ask you to dig deep into a faith so solid you can build your life on it. He will point you to something to believe in again.

Author Bio:
Joshua Harris is senior pastor of Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which belongs to the Sovereign Grace network of local churches. A passionate speaker with a gift for making theological truth easy to understand, Joshua is perhaps best known for his runaway bestseller, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which he wrote at the age of twenty-one. His later books include Boy Meets Girl, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is), and Stop Dating the Church. The founder of the NEXT conferences for young adults, Joshua is committed to seeing the gospel transferred to a new generation of Christians. He and his wife, Shannon, have three children.

This book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.
To purchase this book please click here.

I have not had a chance to finish this book yet but have throughly enjoyed what I have read so far.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Week 2 Best Face Photo

The following picture was taken December 30, 2009. 
I love blue eyed babies - their eyes just seem to naturally pop!

Check all the other great entries here.

The Male Factor

Many talented women today risk undermining their careers without realizing it, simply because they don’t understand how they are perceived by their male colleagues and customers.

In What Men really Think, best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn reveals the inner reality behind men’s views — the unspoken expectations that no man would dare to publicly acknowledge, and no woman would learn from an HR department. These revelations include:

• Men’s unwritten ‘rules’ of the workplace
• How men perceive workplace emotion
• What common situations with female colleagues most frustrate men-- and why?
• Why revealing clothing can sabotage a woman’s effectiveness
• Why some men think flextime is fine, but equal compensation for it is not

What Men Really Think equips women with the information they need to make informed decisions and compete on a level playing field.

Author Bio:
Shaunti Feldhahn is a nationally syndicated columnist and the bestselling author of For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men and For Men Only, which together sold one million copies. She holds a Master in Public Policy from Harvard, worked on Wall Street and now lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.
To purchase a copy of this book please click here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Week 1 An "I Heart Faces" Photo Challenge

It is official, i ♥ faces has turned one year old!  I have really enjoyed the weekly photo contest, but I have to say I love the photo challenge idea.  The options are wide open as to what you can do.

The first picture I have is a picture of our dog, Piper.  She LOVES the camera, although I must say getting this picture to look the way that I wanted it to...well, it took a little bit of time!  I should have taken a picture of her as she peered into her water bowl and saw the i ♥ faces floating around in her water...of course I had to keep flavoring the water, to keep her drinking the water to get the logo just right on her tongue!  (right about now you have to be thinking 'are you serious?'...no I'm not serious ;)

The next picture is one of my favorites of my little boy - reaching for a bubble.  He has recently re-discovered his love of bubbles!  We had my husbands father in from Egypt and he recently got married, and by marriage now has a step-son.  His step-son came to live with them from China, and at the age of 13 he had never seen bubbles before...amazing.  This picture to me captures the wonder and innocene of youth, and of course the fact that he is reaching for the i ♥ faces bubble makes me wonder if he'll participate in these challenges one day!

The following picture is of my two sisters - I love the way the light is hitting my once sister on the face and the other sister on the top of her head...picks up so many colors in her hair!  It took me quite some time to carve i ♥ faces into the tree...then went through a few red and black crayons to add color! You'll probably have to click on this picture to make it bigger and see it better! (And again, I am not serious!)

The final two pictures are my initial idea upon seeing the challenge back in the beginning of December.  I really enjoyed print making in school where you have a piece of lenoleum and you heat it up and carve a picture...you then make your first print...carve out some more and print on to of that - to see the finished print with all the colors.  I had a piece of easy cut lenoleum that I had bought on sale a while back...when I read about the challenge I knew what I was going to do.  I figured I would make the i ♥ faces 'custom stamp'!!! To add the face I figured I would include my little boy in the picture somehow. I knew what was in my 'minds eye'...making that happen is sometimes a little tricky!  I am satisfied with how it turned out! If you want to see step by step pictures of each process for this picture you can read about it here. (Yes I needed an entire separate blog post just to go over what it took to create the following pictures!)  I had a lot of fun with these pictures.  All the other ones were photoshopped, this one was all natural!

“I am submitting these photos into the I Heart Faces logo photo contest. By entering, I am granting I Heart Faces LLC permission to consider my photo for use in the marketing and promotion of their website.”

Check out all the other great entries at i ♥ faces


What goes into taking a picture?

Have you ever wondered how somebody reaches the finished product of a good picture?  I never really thought about it until I became intrigued by photography and started reading about what other photographers have done and also started looking into all the photo effects out there. 

I have learned that I produce the best photos when I am challenged.  I guess in the end I rise to the challenge.  This Christmas with help-portrait I finalized what I feel has been my greatest picture thus far, tieing in taking the picture, editing the picture, printing the picture and framing it. 

i ♥ faces recently turned one, and to celebrate they had a challenge - take a picture that has the i ♥ faces logo in it - either via photoshop or actually part of the picture.  I knew what I wanted to do but knew it would take some work.  I thought blogging the steps would be cool for you to see.

Step 1 - Gather Lenoleum

Step 2 - Print logo, to use to transfer to lenoleum.  Once printed, use a toothpick to poke the image into the lenoleum...making an outline for you to carve.

Step 3 - Carve it

Step 4 - Now if I was doing this the 'right' way I would make as many prints as I wanted to have with this print in all red, because I want the heart red and the letters black and red is lighter than black.  Then I would carve away the heart and print over top the previous print with black to make the letters black....Since I thought about doing this a month before it was 'due' but didn't get around to it until the week it was 'due,' I had to improvise and use a paintbrush to do red and black for each print. 

While I was at it, I thought a shirt might be cute for him to wear while I was taking his pictures! The first picture is of the front of the shirt and the second picture is of the back of the shirt!


SO.....all of that went into creating these: (of course there were a lot more - oh about 150 more but for the sake for getting this blog done I am uploading my two favorites!

To see my entry click here.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My what a decade it has been!

January 1, 2010
Reflections on the last decade...

When I think back on all the change this past decade and what has happened in my life, it is nothing short of phenomenal.  For some reason, maybe I'm more reflective, or in a different mind set but this past decade seems to be a huge one in our books! 
This time ten years ago, I was a freshman in high school - the 1999/2000 schol year. 
I was attending Duncan U. Fletcher High School, the same school that my mom attended.
On September 11, 2001 I was a Junior in High School.  I sat in Mrs. Furnans Advanced Placement United States History class as we watched what was happening in New York City. I still have the quiz I took in that class, on that day - my grade was a 25%.  We were taken aback by what could happen on US soil.

I decided to do an oil painting, thought painting with oil would be different.  The results -

I also decided to take up writing on rice...yes you read that correctly! To date, the most I have written on a single grain of rice is the ten commandments, one commandment per grain.
We took a family vacation to Maryland...we have all changed so much since then!

Before I graduated from high school, I learned about how it felt to lose a techer who provided so much hope and inspiration during a difficult time in my life. She was an amazing lady. Sadly, she lost her battle with cancer.  I will always remember the hope she gave me.  For at the same time she was diagnosed with cancer, so was a close family friend.

I graduated from high school in 2003, with honors!  It was a happy time for my family.

Before graduating we signed our name on the rock in the courtyard at school-

I went on to pursue my education at the University of North Florida. I wanted to be a teacher. After a few semesters there, I re-met Dennis.  Dennis and I 'dated' in seventh grade - back when dating means nothing more than holding hands, maybe getting together on the weekend - but even that hardly ever happened.  So we were 'dating' in seventh grade, summer came and I never heard anything from him.  He will tell you to this day, that was the biggest mistake he made!  We started talking three days before Easter in 2004.  He came over for Easter dinner with the family, and I guess you could say the rest is history!  We got engaged in October of 2004 and told everybody on April 1, 2005 we were getting married on April 15, 2005!  Ok...so somewhere in that one year time frame of us meeting, I moved out of my house, moved away from my parents...the steps out that front door that night that 'things went down' are probably some of the hardest steps I've had to take my entire life....I also had to learn how to wash my own clothes...and of course I had to get a tatoo!

Dennis and I got married on April 15, 2005 at Jarboe Park in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.  Afterwards we set out to Orlando - for a weekend get away.  When we returned we began our search for our new home.  We ended up in Pine Barren Apartments, a studio apartment.  It was very small, but it was a place to call our own!  Shortly after moving in to the apartments we went to Dennis' brothers house, and somehow ended up taking his dog home with us.  That became our first 'baby' - his name is Buddy and he is a boxer mix. At this point we worked on rebuilding the relationship with my parents.

We also traded in Dennis' Hyundai Tiburon for a Toyota Corolla, lower monthly payment and a more family friendly car...
After about a year in a studio apartment with a dog, we decided to get a one bedroom apartment, nearly tripling the amount of living space.  We moved from apartment number 206 to apartment number 602...Three months after living there we ended up having to move out over an altercation with a fellow neighbor who insisted that we were telling buddy to get the cats...with no where to go we ended up moving in with my parents....Needless to say my parents helped us find a place to live, quick!  Their neighbors across the street had a house next door that nobody was living in. If we moved in, cleaned it out and painted it we could live their six months rent free.  We enjoyed living close to my parents and with the nice, three bedroom house and half acre back yard we decided to add another canine companion to our home.  Her name is Piper and she is a shepherd mix of some kind that we got from the Humane Society!  We took both dogs to the beach often, wore them out and they loved getting out!

My mom had continued school, when I quit school.  She graduated, with honors and was ready to teach...only problem - there was a hiring freeze, little did she know she would have to be really patient with waiting for a job. My dad was so proud of her!

November of 2006 we found out that we were pregnant.  Our baby was due on 07/07/07...he joined us a little early and was born on June 16, 2007. He weighed 7 pounds 6 ounces and was 19 1/2 inches long. Seth Alan Van Deusen.  I think it is awesome that Dennis' birthday is in April, mine is in May and Seth's is in June.  Consequently, in the last decade we have not only celebrated his birthday but also his frist birthday and second birthday as well!  Adjusting to life with a new baby was different and tiring but really pretty awesome.  The first two weeks were the hardest, once he figured out the whole nursing thing, we were in there...granted now he doesn't want to quit nursing...It was nice to have my parents across the street for the one a.m. high fever 'oh my gosh what do i do' calls and also for those first few baths when he seemed so fragile and wobbly.  Seth loves Curious George!

Shortly after Seth being born we decided we wanted to start looking into a house that we could truly call our own.  Renting served its purpose but we were ready for something that we could be working towards owning.  We began searching.  To be honest, I think it troubled my parents.  At this point we had re-established a good relationship with them, and we had Seth and I don't think they wanted us to go too far.  Lucky for us, there was a foreclosed home three doors down, that was kept in near excellent conditon after having been remodeled two years prior.  That one seemed like the one for us. Now getting into this house was a grueling process, it was the biggest bet either one of us had ever made - putting out nearly $8000 of borrowed money on a house that we weren't even guaranteed was ours...God was on our side for this one, for sure....granted the amazing real estate agent definately helped keep the ball rolling.  She was committed to selling us our first home...

and 51 days after we signed the paper, the house was ours!

We love our new home...it feels soo good to be working towards owning our own home.
My sister donated blood for the first time.  I donated with her, and my mom found out that she can now donate!  She is pretty close to hitting the five gallon marker, I just reached the one gallon mark!

We got into a not so pretty car accident.  Thanks to the people at Arlington Toyota, they had our car fixed in no time!  It was just under $5000 in damage and took them less than a week to fix! We couldn't even open the passenger door all the way...

Dennis, Seth and I took to the beach, we were going a couple times a week...it was a lot of fun.

My mom FINALLY got her own classroom!  She is teaching fourth grade at Crown Point Elementary, and though it has been a challenging year so far she wouldn't trade it for the world. 

2009 also meant saying good bye to some dear ones.  We lost Ms. Jenneman in a boating accident almost a year ago.  And we lost Grandma Penn as well.  They will live on the lives they touched.  I think of Ms. Jennemann every morning as I look at the gong on the piano.  I think of Grandma Penn everytime I am sitting at my desk and I glance up to see the little mouse with the tassle that I gave her from my graduation (the day I graduated just so happened to be her birthday!)

While there was sad news this year, this was also good news - being able to witness a few miralces is unbelievable.  My mom has a bracelet that reads, "Have faith, expect miracles." It sums up these three people in my life. My grandfather having quad-druple bypass heart surgery and then having to go back in for a defibrelator and to go for a check up and see that his heart is getting stronger - a miracle:

Susan, our real-estate agent, her husband was diagnosed with a rare cancer...the odds weren't in his favor, he pulled through and is living cancer free - saving a husband and father and police officer - a miracle:

My cousins son, Jase...a romping, stomping five year old little boy full of energy one day and hospitalized the next.  The doctors not to sure exactly what caused it but was in a bad state...organs shutting down, he was on dialysis, expected to be in the hospital for quite some time, if he pulled through.  The little boy had an amazing faith, told everybody not to worry because God would take care of him.  Within two weeks he made a complete recovery - and to this day you would not even know that he almost lost his life - a miracle:

As a family we decided it would be fun to watch the sunrise over the ocean on Jacksonville Beach and then drive to the other side of Florida to Clearwater Beach to watch the sunset over the ocean.  It was a lot of fun and something that I have always wanted to do.

This past decade I have become a full-fledged facebooker!  I have used it to keep in touch with family members, old teachers, cousins, and even a few friends from kindergarden!
I decided to get back in school...I am close to completing my associates.  I have decided that at this point I want to work with the little people - 2-3 year olds are what I enjoy the most!  I went back this past semester and finished the class with a 97.9% average!  I was even given this award for my outstanding performance.

Christmas of 2009 I was blessed with the oppurtunity to provide hope for somebody, and to give the Christmas away.  I feel that I was successful in that endeavor, and look forward to being able to give back again...you can read the full story here.

I think that about wraps up the decade, I am sure that I am forgetting something....I figured I would end with some pictures I have taken - photography has become a new love for me!  I am so grateful that I can bless others with the blessing that God has given me!

I am looking forward to what the next decade brings my way...