Reflections from Salinas (and everywhere else)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I posted a few weeks ago part 1 and 2 about our trip up the California coastline to the Salinas Valley, and I have yet to do a third and final recap post. Well, that final volume is still to come, but what I have to say is still relevant. We were in Salinas for Easter weekend, and were blessed to be able to find a local small-town feeling kind of church to attend. We were also blessed to be able to drive all through the area and see the vast array of agriculture land, then drive a little further and see the ocean cliffs, and maybe spot a few whales out there. There were a few other things we noticed too, and this is something that I have been struggling to come to terms with the past few weeks and months.

Homelessness. There is so much homelessness in Salinas. Shopping carts filled with all one's possessions are present at practically every street corner, and so is a beggar asking for some spare change to buy some breakfast off the McDonald's Dollar Menu. Being the sin-nature humans we are, we might see one of these individuals and think less of them, or even worse see right through them - there's this ragged man in the way of this view of the hills! But let's think about it, seriously this time. All of man is made in His image, in God's image. We all hold intrinsic value and no two people are alike - even identical twins! We all have worth. God knew us before we breathed our first breath, he knows everything about us - even those things we are too shamed to admit. He sees us all. He even sees the beggar on the street corner, or the homeless sleeping by the dumpsters, too ashamed to scavenge for food in others' trash until night falls.

It was incredible and eye-opening to see this side of life all over the Salinas Valley. Homeless were literally everywhere you look - I have never seen a city or town or area that was so desolate, in many ways. Looking for work, looking for food, looking for life.

But many are looking for money. Now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but I have also seen many who say they are homeless with gold watches on their wrists and smartphones in their hands, begging for money, saying that food is a cost that's too much to bear. This is where  I draw the line. I gave it some thought and found that if you were really that desperate for money to buy food, you'd sell literally all that you have - including that gold watch and even the shirt off your back -to get something to eat that day. A kind of day-to-day existence. The Salinas Valley is agriculture-run --- there are hundreds of farms looking for workers. There are jobs out there, too, and one needs to make an effort to truly survive by their own hands, instead of rely on other to supply.

I have also personally witnessed a man be given a ten dollar bill outside of Walmart, then walk right into the register and buy a pack of smokes before heading back to his post outside. I do know that we live in a fallen world, and that's why this is present. And I also know that because of our sin, there are people out there who just plan to exploit others. The homeless man who is begging for money but has a gold watch on his wrist could just be one of many workers or actors, who pose as something they are not in order to scam money out of unsuspecting humans with good intentions. Yet he also may not be - but you do have to be aware. I know it happens. I know it's out there. So we have to be on our guard.

This is why I told myself long ago that I would never give out money: I'd give out necessities. Kind of like grab bags. I read a book last year called Seven by Jen Hatmaker, where she deciphers seven areas of her family's life in which they have too much - have no want - are excessive - and live like typical Americans, This includes money, food, housing, clothing, and more - yet these 4 are the basic needs we have, and needs that many others in this world are in desperate need of. I also read a book called Faithprints by Rebekah Montgomery last year where we yearn to find tangible ways to leave our "faithprints" on others, and bless others, by how we interact - giving to others with no expectance of a reward, return, or the like.

So these two thoughts come together here. Instead of giving money, we give food. We give our time, an ear, a lending hand. We give our excess - what we don't use, others can put to great use. Seven. Some fellowship is good, too.We invite others to our church, or if we feel very trusting we can even offer to take them home for dinner and treat them as a guest of honor. Faithprints.

Jesus' ministry said to bless others and give to the poor - this can be in tangible ways too, not just monetary. What I've come to find is that it is better to trust your wealth and monetary resources to the church or to a ministry such as Compassion or Mercy Ships - where you know it goes direct to the source - and to give your other pertinent resources - your time, food, and love - to the desolate in the streets. Because let's face it, people will post and ask for money, then turn around with a Starbucks cup in their hand and ask for food. It happens. But for those who are truly needy - well, wouldn't you think that they would take the food, water, and clothes you offer directly to them? If there was such a need, wouldn't this person feel thankful for anything at all that is offered, and not deny some crackers and Gatorade I offer? This is that thought that has bothered me since we were in Salinas, and it's something that I've wanted to put into practice. Because, yes, someone was asking for money for food, and when I offered a perfectly good sandwich and some Gatorade, it was denied. It truly makes me wonder how hungry, if at all, that person really was.

For instance, in a similar fashion, the last day we were in the Salinas Valley, we got lunch at Taco Bell (cause we were on vacation) and were walking back to our car. There was a man asking for money for his own lunch, so I instead offered my own taco to him instead. He declined. But was he truly hungry - and if he was wouldn't he take whatever food I offer, instead of looking specifically for money? Of which he can literally buy anything he wants, with a Walmart right up the road. You never know what someone would use that good-intentioned cash for - especially if it was given to them for free.

I'm not trying to be a Debbie downer here, just realistic of our sin nature. We live in a fallen world, and sadly, this is something that's present.  So now, every time  I see one in need, I offer hope. Specifically, I offer food and water, a few kind words, and say a prayer. Sometimes the individual is grateful, sometimes the individual just asks for money, over and over again. But that's all I can do, is give something tangible that I know will be used in the right way, then say a prayer and never overlook a beggar anywhere I go. Yes, see the best in others - but also guard yourself from being exploited, too. This is where that grab bag comes into play, and these are all things you can find at the dollar store: A tote/backpack with non-perishable foods, water, and a gift card to a restaurant.

This kind of grab bag for those in need you encounter on the streets is a concept I've found in many books I've read lately, and is really something thoughtful. Because if someone declines a gift like that - a bag full of food, water, and gift cards for more food - then are they really in that kind of need, or are they hiding something and trying to exploit their neighbor? I'm not so sure, though that itself is not for me to decide or judge on.  I can only put my best foot forward, and not ignore the hungry man beside me - look to bless him and others with such a gift and resource, instead.

So how do you look to bless others? Do you give to charities that feed the homeless, or do you do so directly? What have your interactions been like in giving and blessing others on the streets?

The Time Is HERE! Etsy Paint shop NOW OPEN!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Well hello there! I am finally kind of back, I know I've been missing the past few weeks or so! I will try my best to post more regularly - I should definitely have lots more time this summer! I have officially graduated from Liberty University and am awaiting for my degree to get here... I know that will have a post of all it's own once that day comes! Should be here soon!!

Other than that, I do have some news: With all this time freed up since I'm no longer studying for finals (thank goodness) I have done some crafting! Specifically painting. It's been so fun, seriously, I love it.

And this brings me to my next point. I have loved searching Etsy for SO long - seriously, years! I found out about it sometime in high school and have always dreamed of the day when I can open up a shop, share my craft, and support all these fun crafters. Today is the day! Well, I have opened up for orders, and there is a turnaround wait time until I have more in stock (made to order, currently, y'know).

Also note that prices are subject to change and for opening there is a $10 off coupon code: "OPENFORBUSINESS" I will be announcing coupon codes periodically through this blog so keep a lookout! I am sort of testing out the prices; I made them based on cost of materials, time, comparable paintings, etc, and note that prices are subject to change. If you have a specific situation based on the cost please let me know and I will accommodate you. My main goal is to share these paintings and my craft with all - so please don't be discouraged - just shoot me a message! Also please allow 3-5 business days to create and ship your order!

My goal is to create at least 2 paintings a week. I am going to do a silhouette of each Disney princess to have in stock, and then start on silhouettes of other Disney characters. I am also doing scenic paintings, "Home is where the Heart Is/Military Sends Us" signs, and "family name" signs (seen below!). I'm also working on Aggie barn paintings (Ags know what I'm talking about!) Any special orders, scenes, or characters are available by request - again, just email me or message the shop and I will get back to you promptly! Right now the shop is solely painting, and soon I will be adding some sewing and latch hook projects - it is going to be a smorgasbord of crafts and projects!

For now, feast your eyes on my crafty creations! Anyone interested just shoot me an email, check out the Facebook page, or search the shop for yourself! Also note that soon I will have a banner and button for the shop - currently in the works! But I couldn't wait to open it, so here it is, y'all!
Disney Princess Silhouette Painting:
Ariel, The Little Mermaid
Original made for Erin

Disney Princess Silhouette Painting:
Belle, The Beauty and the Beast
Original made for Holly

"Home Is Where the Marines Send Us"
Wood Plaque with Wall Hook
Customizable: Available for Any Branch/Wording
Family Name with Est. year
Wood Plaque with wall hook
Custom: Any colors, name, year, etc.
Any questions, comments, concerns, inquiries? Let me know!!
Email me at or find me on Facebook!
Have a blessed weekend y'all! And if I don't get back before then, Happy Memorial Day to all those who serve! Even as a military family we are truly grateful for all the sacrifices made stateside and beyond. You are what makes this country great!

While I've Been Away...

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Well, it looks like I've taken an unintentional hiatus from the blogosphere interwebs lately - or maybe it wasn't?! I've needed a bit of a break to unwind, finish finals strong, and relax after over 17 years straight of being in school, and always having something to study for or some sort of test in the near future. I finished finals on May 9th (yay!) and celebrated by going to a local craft fair, conference, bookstore, and more. I'm still awaiting final grades (they seriously take this long?! I can't believe it. That was over a week ago now!) and then once those are in, my degree will be conferred and arrive at our doorstep shortly after! Yay! In the meantime, I've been keeping busy by reading, cleaning, sightseeing, beach-going, and simply relaxing. Oh, and job-searching! I need something to supplement my time at the preschool, so there's that too!

Anyway, here is what I've been up to while I've been away from this blog, in pictures!
Queen Bee Market in Oceanside! This was a craft fair with local vendors, selling some cute stuff! I took a picture of my find to put on Instagram (check it out there!), but let's just say I love my new watercolors and wall d├ęcor!

To celebrate finals, I did a little more than window shopping, actually..
I ordered a "grab bag" from Sevenly. This amazing company sells custom shirts and homewares to fight different causes out there; the 3 shirts in this bag donated proceeds to behavioral therapy services, adoption companies, and autism awareness. Check out my picture of the shirts, also on Instagram!

San Diego area Blogger Brunch! This is such a fun group of ladies and has grown so much in the past few months! We had a new few faces that recently joined the group or moved here, like Jasam and Sarah. I can't believe how much this group has grown! Excited to see what's going on next!

A view from a lookout point.. Driving through the deserts! I attended a conference at Palm Springs a few weeks ago, of which a blog post of its own will come soon - I know, I'm behind! But I needed that break, y'all, and this was a fabulous conference where I found out and gave input to this GREAT resource! Check it out milspouses!!

Fires are showing up all over North County.. So scary! This one was near Escondido off the highway, there was stop and go traffic for a few miles because everyone was slowing down to look at the smoke! Schools are closed, business are closed, neighborhoods are evacuating (we're safe though!) and everyone is at the beach to get away! Prayers for San Diego are much needed, yall!

Trouble's portrait! This was my view waking up the other day... She's getting close enough to tell me that it's tummy time. Sweet animals.

I took Scruffy to the giant park at south o again, and she loved it! She had the place to herself, and looked so happy.  Here she is taking a little break from running all over the place and sniffing everything she can find. Laying on the cool grass during the 90 degree days that have shown up lately with all this crazy weather (hence the fires) was a nice break, indeed.

Speaking of window shopping, at one of the local consignment/antique boutiques downtown I found this fantastic mug and a beautiful painted stone coaster set. I love this! Seashells and paisleys!

I recently finished (finally) a Lineage of Grace series by Francine Rivers, so decided to jump on her latest book release (as of a week ago maybe!) - Bridge to Haven. Going to be a fantastic read, y'all! Soon enough, after I finish all my in-depth recap posts, there will be some book reviews coming up!

Growing Up In The Military

Friday, May 2, 2014


I have heard from countless sources that April is the "month of the military child," dubbed by the National Military Family Association. (woops, I realize it's now MAY! How did that happen?) I have also seen countless poems and pictures to depict this gracious month, and it's bittersweet, to say the least. I am far too familiar with how these little ones feel.. Growing up as an Army brat, I experienced something all too the same. With a total of 8 school transfers throughout my academia by the time I graduated high school (yes, you read that right - eight different schools), not to mention having to make friends and leave friends through the most trying years, say right before and in the midst of that teenage angst of adolescence, and a few deployments here and there, I'm a little familiar, to say the least, of what these youngsters are going through.

Here is a quote that kind of truly captures how military kids grow up in just a few sentences:

It's a different perspective, for sure. Growing up with my dad in the Army vs. my husband being a Marine, there are so many differences (relationship, branch, etc). I know there are so many other military spouse bloggers I have had the privilege of meeting or reading about (can I say I still "met" you if I just read about your life online?), and they can all attest to the difficulties and experiences that this life brings. But sometimes, we forgot about others who also make a sacrifice, but in different ways: the children. When thinking about military life, perhaps a lot of times we only think of the spouse at home. But there are children, too. So many military families. We must not forget about them.
Now I understand that my background is quite different. Basically we moved quite a few times before I am really big enough to remember, then we moved a few more times and I went to 4 different elementary schools in those years. Then we moved in the middle of middle school - not a good idea, y'all, but with orders I know there's nothing you can do to change that! Moving from the south to the Midwest was a huge adjustment, but we did it. Then we moved again in the middle of high school - also, not a good idea! You can imagine how devastated I was on both moves, well sort of, because the last move we were moving back to our homeland - Texas! So I guess that made up for it! (My brother lucked out through the years - no splitting schools! One middle school, one high school, period).
Goodbyes are hard, no matter your age. This was before Marshall and I made our
first military move to Virginia; My dad went in to work late after.
I know that my little moving background has a lot more stability in it than others, though. And I truly do feel blessed - because for the majority, we were living near some base in Texas. It was only during that teenage angst that we were living in the Midwest, and any move other than that was really when I was too little to take much notice, really. But it does add up, and does make an impact on you. Overall, I feel truly blessed to have lived that life. I saw much more of the country than so many other families do - just because we had to drive across it to get from point A to point B. So many people I knew growing up, or even now for that matter, have never made it out of their home state, or even hometowns. I just can't imagine that! This fact alone is a huge blessing to be in this life - the guaranteed traveling you will be able to do! But know that there is so much more to it than that.
Since this post is kind of late, I guess I can end it there. But I found these pictures via the EFMP Facebook page (Exceptional Family Member Program) and thought they were all to relevant to share. I especially love this poem, written by a 6th grader, no less! I love the quote - "I'm a child of the world, I bloom anywhere" What a fantastic way to think of this kind of life. Growing up, making friendships, and just figuring out life when you're young is enough battle as it is - add to that moving and military life (parents gone periodically, etc) - and you got yourself one fighter of a kid. One who doesn't necessarily have roots, but makes the most of where she is planted or moved to.
And does anyone else notice the last couple of lines?
Sleep peaceably in your beds at night, USA
My family and I got your back
Families are kind of like the backbone of the military; married or not, children or not, everyone has a family back home waiting for them. Families keep these guys going strong. So to say that military families "have your back" is kind of true in so many ways, and is really a fun way to think about it. Only a child could come up with these words. Seriously y'all, this poem captures the essence, in ways, of growing up as a military child. You don't really have roots - I was born in Kentucky, but haven't been back since I was 4. Home is where you live, or if you want to be more specific, where your parents are from. Home is where the heart is.
So next time you are out and about, be sure to think of those who serve. And never forget about the family - they serve, too, but in different ways on the home front. Don't forget about the sacrifices the family members have to make - especially those military kids - with this kind of life. It is truly a blessing, and I honestly couldn't see my childhood any other way. I loved growing up with my dad in the Army - so many opportunities I wouldn't have been able to experience otherwise. Yes, deployments are hard, especially as children, but we can make it through. We are proud to live the military life, and it is an incredible feeling, when you think about it. When I look back on my childhood - the many schools and moves, and the times my dad was gone- I honestly wouldn't want to change a thing.  I couldn't see it any other way. I loved going to new places, and when I finally opened up, meeting new people. The goodbyes aren't fun, but the homecomings are thrilling, and so exciting.
This life background has made me who I am today, and has really been a blessing.
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