Thursday, December 06, 2012

Staying Strong

I told a friend tonight that life just seems to get harder the older I get.

The light at the end of the tunnel is a crown of wisdom, having one day made it through many life experiences... I hope.

It is OK. This life is not meant to be lived and conquered alone. I shouldn't be able to overcome on my own, and I shouldn't even be able to take credit for the times that are good. God through His Holy Spirit is here to help, and it is through supernatural power that I can accomplish anything profitable.

When I surround myself in His Presence and Truth, I'm good. When I start to doubt or compare or sway, I feel myself shrinking. Naturally.

Tonight I was asked the question, "Am I honestly, genuinely ready to follow the Holy Spirit? What is my motive for wanting Him?"

Um. But if I am ready and my motive is to love others, then I have to be prepared. I have to be willing to see God in little things, to let Him help me love and forgive and show patience and mercy... Daily, to everyone that qualifies. I have to be willing to open up my heart in vulnerability and let my guard down, and sit quietly when He waits and get up and go when He opens a door. I have to find contentment in the moment, joy in each day, and a reason to touch anyone I come in contact with minute by minute. And most of all, my motive most be nothing other than that of love. Because as 1 Corinthians 13 points out, I can do all these things and more, but without love...

In the end, it is about listening, learning, and loving. I am literally a lump of clay in the Master's hands. He recently reshaped me, ever so softly. I rest in peace knowing that God takes care of the details, and He has always taken care of me.

Faith is what I hold onto, and confidence is what I have, why? Because I trust God, and when You trust someone, you can believe they have your best interest at heart and no matter what the outcome, they aren't going to let you down.

For those of you interested in my new exciting creative adventure, feel free to follow my new website and blog:

Love you all, be back soon!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Every Gift is from Above

Yesterday was when it really hit me.

I drove up to the IA studio to drop something off, and there was a "For Rent" sign in the widow.

It has been an interesting journey. I never thought I would see the day that I actually had my own business established downtown with my best friend.

And once I had that dream, I never thought I would see the day that we closed it.

A verse that has been my heartbeat over the past few months is in Ecclesiastes 3... There is a time and purpose for everything. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God handed a successful business to Kristi and I during this season of life for His purposes. I know it, based on the fact that He blessed us so openly every step of the way.

IA has been a dream for both of us, in different ways. Running a business together has taught us more about life, about relationships, and about ourselves than anything else ever could. Now that I am starting to step away from it, it has become more and more evident just how much this business, and my partnership with Kristi, has taught me. I am coming out of this experience a more confident, passionate, responsible, and genuine person.

Kristi and I had many good times, and like any relationship, there was bound to be difficulty, especially given how different we both are. Imagine Artists was who it was because of our blended personalities and talents, and that equaled a beautiful thing, that under the best of circumstances, worked.

IA isn't closing because we didn't have a good thing going. Business was going well. If I had to tell you one reason why, I couldn't. It is the culmination of many years of laughter, goodness, sadness, tears, and hard work. All I can really say is that even now, I can already look back and see how God used this amazing time in our lives to shape us each into someone better, and that "someone better" in each of us will find our new journeys and touch others in more impactful ways because of how we affected one another.

Throughout this entire process, my personal testimony is that God has never shown Himself more clearly and dearly in my life. I am nothing but thankful.

He has appeared in my friends and my family. He has appeared in phone calls and notes and letters. He has appeared in encouraging words spoken to me daily by any given person, and He has appeared to me in the peace of my heart. He has given me a smile of joy each day, and an excitement and passion to carve out my new path of purpose for the future.

I have no idea how that looks at this point. All I desire to do now is to forge ahead with what I have, and be obedient.

So far, this has taken me to a free-lance part time position in graphic design at an ad agency in Pekin. When I'm not helping out there, I am currently wrapping up clients and projects with IA as I transition out, and having fun setting up a new photography venture for the future. More details to come in a little while.

I would like to close with saying that I truly love and cherish IA, and Kristi's partnership as a best friend and also a business owner. God has given me an amazing blessing from each... Makes me think of James 1. Every good gift comes from above... Thank you, Jesus, for knowing what I need and when I need it. Thanks for giving me the passion to pursue, the stamina to keep going, and the courage to conquer.

May His work be done... That He who has begun a good work in me can carry it out!

Love you all. Be back soon.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Moments from God

I am going through the fire.

But do you want to know what I told my ladies at jail last week?

"Count it ALL JOY when you fall into various trials."

James 1... my favorite.

That's what I told them. And I felt like a hypocrite the whole time.

But if anyone understands... they do. Count it all joy to... be in jail? My situation pales in comparison to their circumstances, and the environment in which put them there.

More is happening that I can translate into words right now. So for now, I'll stay vague and instead share what God has been doing for me so far through this.

The Lord isn't required to make this easy for me. He isn't expected to reach out and SHOW ME that His arms are wrapped around me. He wouldn't have to touch me through others.

But He is. And for that, I want to cry. His Love never ceases to amaze me.

Yesterday was a very hard day for me. In fact, this whole week has been difficult... probably one of the toughest so far. Up until now, my emotions have been kept in check. I have been dry-eyed and objective. Very un-Taryn. Another miracle I credit to God... He has been my strength through this all.

And the week that I start to crash, He proved His love for me in all of this... TWICE.

Last night, I was at church, excited to hear a topical study on the Holy Spirit. I had taken a seat by the elder's wife.

As were were singing the second to last song before beginning the sermon, my thoughts were a thousand miles away. My brain was cloudy and foggy. I came back to life when she leaned over to me and pointed to the words we had sung.

"This makes me think of you," she said.

I looked at her and then the words on the page, trying to focus on what she was pointing at. I couldn't, though. I couldn't read the words because my eyes were blurry with tears. Through blur, I saw two words: God's promise.

I couldn't tell you the song it was, but I can tell you what she whispered to me in those few precious moments.

She told me that God loves me, and that His promises are true. That He will get me through and be my strength. And that I should believe her, because it is coming from someone who has been tried a time or two.

Tears continued to stream down my cheeks as I silently thanked her over and over for sharing those thoughts with me.

Then, there was tonight.

I was busy on my computer, working on some things, when my phone rang.

I have made it a new habit to ALWAYS answer my phone, even if I don't know the phone number. I glanced at the incoming call and noticed it was an Arizona #. It was not a phone # that I recognized, but I answered it, anyway.

"Hi Taryn," came the voice on the other end, and then she told me who she was.

It was an amazing girl I met in Phoenix about 3 years ago when I took a bunch of my girl friends out to stay at my aunt & uncle's. She had a pool day with us, and we had a lot of fun with her. I kept in touch with her via Facebook, but other than that, I had not talked to her in a couple years.

The words she said next sent chills through my body.

"I just wanted to call you and tell you that for some reason, you have been on my heart over the past few weeks. I just keep thinking about you-- I can't get you off my mind."

In that moment, it was as if God had reached down and put me in the palm of His hand.

The tears came again, but I pushed them back. What went on for the next 10-15 minutes was a beautiful phone call. An unexpected, totally random, yet TOTALLY God-given call from an acquaintance I had not talked to in a couple years.

We talked about what I was going through right now-- unbeknownst to her. All she knew is that I was on her heart, and I needed her prayers. I told her that God is amazing and that He had me on her heart for a reason.

We chatted about our time of life, and about how we were getting along. We talked about how God is faithful, and how God is good.

I could not thank her enough for taking the time to call me. She may never know how much that meant to me.

If I have learned anything over the past few days, it is that God allows us ALL to go through trials at some point, so we can thereby comfort those who need comfort. That has been proven to me two days in a row now.

Thank you to a God who is so much bigger than me, my world, and my circumstances. Thanks to a God that loves me in spite of my weakness, and in fact is STRONG in my weakness. Thanks to a God that never fails me, no matter how many times I fail Him. And thanks to a God who is my Creator, who made me for a purpose, and has placed His purpose of Love in my heart.

Love you all,


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Just Because

There is a lot on my mind tonight... and to write a deep blog post at this point would be dangerous.

Very dangerous.

So I shall tread in safer waters... for now.

First, my picture.

Those are my nieces. They are beautiful and I love them. From L-R:
Lola Mae: The blonde beauty with a soft heart.
Naomi Tasha: Spunky & sweet.
Sophia Richelle: We call her the "diva." She can dance better than me!
Tillie Sue: Energetic and smart and a candy-holic.
Sylvia Ann: 2 (or 3 now??) going on 20.

Anyway, there you have it-- the female representation in Kaiser grandchildren so far. Time will only tell how many I will contribute!

Onto other things...


1) I have developed an extreme dislike of high fructose corn syrup. While I have decided not to take a vegetarian lifestyle, I have definitely added it into my eating habits as much as possible, and with that comes a lot of other education concerning my aspiring "health-nut" status. Which includes all of the anti-sugar articles about how white sugar may as well be a drug. And even worse: high fructose corn syrup, which can be found in pretty much everything we eat that is packaged or processed, but the obvious culprits would be soda & candy.

Anyway, I know that coming from me, this may be shocking, especially considering that my motto has always been "Always save room for dessert." I am not against a dessert here and there (or a Starbucks frapp, especially when I have earned my 15th star and get a free one!), but I just feel it should be eaten in moderation. Furthermore, a lot of the products we think may be "healthy" are actually not healthy. And if you're going to enjoy something sweet, at least make sure it's the real deal-- made with REAL sugar.  It's not ideal, but it's better than the alternative (the deadly HFCS!) Or, a sliced peach or banana + peanut butter can do the trick, and it's a much healthier snack! (Another trick is using a healthy sweetener-- like honey. Goes delicious with a lot of things!)

P.S. This has only solidified further my 5-years-running soap box on my dislike of diet soda!!! (Sorry to all my diet-drinking friends...) (It also may be noted that I do have some cans of Pepsi underneath my sink and I drink one from time to time with my popcorn. HOWEVER, it is Pepsi Throwback... made with real sugar :)

2) I consume wayyyyy too much popcorn. BUT. A healthy way to enjoy this snack (and thus it is justified in my mind):

*I use organic white popping kernels from King Farms.

*I make it over the stove top with neutral-tasting coconut oil. (I have since learned that extra virgin olive oil is best enjoyed at room temperature for full health benefits, and it oxidizes at temperatures needed to cook popcorn in it, so coconut oil is a healthier choice because it can withstand higher temperatures!)

*I season it with sea salt.

TOTALLY justifies eating a ginormous bucket of it every single night.


3) Enough on food... I went bowling tonight and scored a 99. There is a reason I never joined a bowling league... although my childhood best friend's dad owned a bowling alley... I guess it didn't really ever pay off.

4) Lily, my cat, found my sock puppet stuffed animal and removed her from my book shelf. I find it laying around in random places in my house. She likes to attack it when she's in a playful mood, or she just carries it around in her mouth.

She is also quite the hunter. She spots every single bug that gets into my house and even leaps into the air (she is a VERY good jumper!) and catches them. She swats them to the ground and bats them around until they die.

She also caught a mouse from our studio basement a month or so ago. It was so gross.

Meanwhile, my house will be rodent and insect-free as long as she is around!

5) I should go to bed.

Love you all!


Saturday, August 18, 2012

I Quit!

A few months ago, Kristi approached me about meeting with some well-known photographers in the area. She was nervous.

"I can't imagine getting in contact with them," she told me. "Why would they want to meet with us?"

Her anxiety was apparent. But we wanted to do it, because we thought they could be a tremendous help to us and our business.

They are extremely successful photographers in their business. While they are a couple I have always known about and admired, I hadn't looked up to them as long as Kristi had. To her, meeting them would be like a young college basketball player meeting Michael Jordan.

She took the first step in getting in touch with them.

A couple of weeks later, we met and had lunch with a wedding planner. She was a huge encouragement in our life, and she suggested that we also meet with this couple.

However, we had heard nothing.

And often, silence can be interpreted as a "Leave me alone," or "No," or "I'm too busy to reply." We often jump to negative conclusions when there is no response.

"Do I dare contact them again?"

I told her, Yes.

She did, and we heard back from the husband of their team, almost immediately. As it turned out, they had not received our initial message.

Kristi and him started exchanging messages and planned to get together. However, he was in the middle of a busy time, and said he would get in touch when it slowed down a bit.

That happened to be 2 months later. Not a big deal, but it was a bit of a wait. Yet, we had no idea how the Lord used that timetable in His perfect way.

On a warm summer morning, Kristi and I stepped into Thirty-Thirty Coffee in Peoria and ordered drinks. We sat at a table, and pretty soon, he arrived.

I thought it would just be him. But she came, too.

He was tall and scruffy, friendly & warm. She was quiet and beautiful and captivating.

It is funny, meeting with people that you have never met, for the first time. Our intent was to get professional business advice from them-- how did they work together? How did they create such a successful business?

So we started off with the talking. Kristi looked to me, as I am usually the one to give the synopsis on "our story."

I gave a brief and somewhat surface story of our business history. It was meager at best; trite, at worst.

After my little performance, he looked to her and said, "Do you want to start?"

This is when it got good.

It was, like I later told Kristi, as if God sent them as angels to us. For such a time as this, He knew what we needed.

The next 2-3 hours were spent talking about God. She told us their story. Their success, their struggles, their sadness, their celebrations. She was vulnerable, and honest, and lovely. She did not sugar coat, but she told us the truth in love.

She told us about the "glacier." When we see a glacier, we see the 10% that sticks out of the water. What we don't see is the 90% underneath. Most people live their lives in the10%-- which is what most people see. Yet the 90% is neglected... even though it is the most important part. Because without the foundation, the inner workings, the thoughts and feelings and values and beliefs of that 90%-- there would be no 10%. Yet the 10% is all we ever let anyone see.

She told us about asking honest questions. What makes me sad? What makes me angry? What makes me nervous? What does God say about these feelings?

She told us how her and husband allowed their business to take over their lives. They exchanged good family life, a meaningful marriage, friends, and faith for a successful business. To others, the 10% looked good. But for them and their personal lives, the 90% was neglected.

She told us to be real. To be honest. To be open... to examine what God has done, why He has brought us here, and what He wants us to do.

Kristi sobbed. I sat quietly.

He was a lot like me, emotionally. She was a lot like Kristi, in terms of personality. It was so important to hear their story and see how God brought them through it.

She suggested reading a book, called, "I Quit."

At the end, we all held hands and they prayed for us.

It was like a miniature missions trip... in the middle of a coffee store. Neither Kristi nor I wanted to leave, for fear the joy of the Lord that had been in that place on that morning would leave us.

Kristi immediately bought the book and read it quickly. It helped bring a lot to light. She told me I would benefit from it greatly, and she ordered a copy for me. I read it, and loved it.

The premise of the book is to "quit" living life in such a way that is harmful. Quit being afraid of what others think. Quit lying. Quit dying to the wrong things. Quit denying anger, sadness, and fear. Quit blaming. Quit overfunctioning. Quit faulty thinking.

And quit living someone else's life.

There is no such thing as two people who are the same. In fact, even similar people are often quite different from one another. Which makes those that are different to begin with that much more separate. Kristi and I have learned that... in some ways... the hard way.

Because of differences and because life is so hard, we tend to adopt habits and ways of thinking that are unhealthy. They are defense mechanisms; they are crippling; and they will eventually kill our soul. This book helps to identify those areas and to show us that we can QUIT them.

And in quitting, we become free.

Free to be ourselves. Free to be who God made us to be. Free to rediscover who that person is, and live life in that way.

It is a book I would highly recommend to anyone, because even if you get through life pretty good, I guarantee there are a couple of areas in which every person needs to "quit."

This has been an interesting journey and I cannot wait to see how God continues to show me how to quit the bad and to continue the good.

Love you all!


Saturday, August 04, 2012

Let's Try This.

Before we begin:  I want to start including a picture with each post. Even if it's just something low-key and totally non-related. Today's image is of my car. For those of you who only know my car as "Green T Bug," you might not be able to spot me over the next couple of months!

Green T Bug now has town spirit! Introducing my green beetle... with some new plates! YEA Morton P Fest 2012

I changed my blog template again.

Right, I know.

This time, though, I think I have it close to what I have been wanting.

Despite my vintage-shabby chic-texture-colorful nature, it always seemed clutter-some to apply this style to a blog. Thus, the unrest.

I think what I envisioned but never really settled on was a simpler, cleaner, look.

Which is what this is! So cross your fingers, and hopefully this setup is here to stay (for awhile.)

In other news, I am on a budget. I don't like it... but I'm doing it. It's good for me.

Today, I bought groceries at Aldi. I wasn't sure what the result would be, but here are some notes from my experience:

1) The whole time, I felt like I was in another country (or at least the minority. Nothing like shopping at Kroger in Morton!)

2) Nothing was organized in a logical order (which didn't bother me... I like to be surprised.)

3) There were less choices. (Which was perfect for someone like me, because the more choices, the longer it takes. If I only get 2 choices, then my decision becomes much easier!)

4) There was a long aisle at the end of the checkout process to bag my own groceries (another thing I did not mind.) Also, you pay a quarter to use a cart, but when you return your cart, you get your quarter back (this should help stop my habit of stealing shopping carts.)

5) My bill was 25% cheaper than I usually pay (which is great when on a budget!)

I will be returning to Aldi.

Some of you may be wondering about how my "Eat Your Veggies" diet is going. To be honest, I felt GREAT on it, but I know that I was not getting enough protein. There were days that I got waves of dizziness or just felt hungry ALL the time. I think the Hallelujah diet is definitely legit and works if you can do it full-fledged. But to apply it to your entire diet is difficult, and without being able to do that, someone like me is left... hungry.

I also believe, after doing my research, that raw fruits & vegetables are the best way to eat them. I believe that there are different sources of protein, and raw vegetables is your best source to obtain usable protein and the nutrients you need. I also believe that other sources of protein are not as beneficial, especially meat.

So with all that being said, I am still trying to eat healthy and incorporate as many raw veggies into my diet as possible... but I still eat veggie scrambles with eggs, cooked vegetable & meat meals, yogurt with fruit, cereal with milk, etc... I have found that I can be healthy without having to completely adhere to the codes of the diet.

Still taking my barley twice a day when I can, drinking delicious fruit & veggie smoothies, chomping on my big raw carrots, drinking green tea, and trying to avoid tons of high fructose corn syrup or heavily processed foods. So this search for health has definitely enacted some smart eating choices into my lifestyle :)

Another snack choice I have tweaked-- I was misinformed about the benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. While it IS an excellent choice and so healthy for you, it is not so when you heat it (is best enjoyed at room temperature for full nutritional benefit), so my popcorn theory of being healthy was shot to the ground. Until I learned of coconut oil! It tastes just as delicious on popcorn, and is still great for you when heated up to cook the popcorn. You can even purchase in a "neutral" flavor if you don't care for the coconut taste.

One more thought, then I'll be done. I started reading the blog of one of my older friends who is traveling to Australia, and suddenly I wanted to travel to another country. Every once in awhile, I get the spark to want to go somewhere. After reading of her first day there, it made me itch to go discover someplace else. Top on my list is India, but at this point, I'd be happy traveling just about anywhere if it was new. We'll see what the Lord has in store over the next couple years... maybe another overseas trip... which I would LOVE!

So, there we have it. Another update from me... I'll try to be back sooner this time.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Eat Your Veggies

I need to update more often.

This, I know.

My problem is-- I always see it as such an ordeal. Not that I don't LOVE it but sometimes I don't realize that saying anything at all is better than nothing, so why wait until I feel inspired to write a novel?

Not everyone wants a novel.


I'm not sure what sparked it, but last weekend I started researching the Hallelujah Diet (can be found here

Don't freak out-- I'm not becoming a vegan. I have always said that there is no way I could do that.


I have always seen merit in this way of eating, especially since my Dad became so ill several years back. He adopted this diet and by juicing & eating healthier, he reversed effects that were supposed to be terminal.

If you read about how we SHOULD be eating as humans-- the way God designed us to eat-- it makes sense. He put fruit & vegetables on this Earth for us to enjoy, and it's really what our bodies are designed to digest. Raw fruits and veggies are packed with so many nutrients that our bodies need.

Anyway, I'm not going to stay on my soap box for long, because I've only been doing this for a few days. And I'm not really making a big commitment to it on purpose. I don't want to do something full-fledged only to give up a week later because it's "too hard." I simply want to try to work it into my already-busy lifestyle and see if I can make it fit. So far, I have really liked it and I truly feel great on it.

Last Sunday, I went to my mom's because she has a Vitamix (powerful blender!!). It can make smoothies or juice out of fruits and vegetables. I made a bunch of fun variations for the week. My goal is to eat as raw as possible for the first 2-3 meals of my day, then a big green leafy vegetable salad at night.

My favorite frozen juice combo is straight-up freshly squeeze grapefruit and orange juice. As it melts, it's a DELICIOUS and refreshing drink for a mid-morning snack. I also made one that includes broccoli, kale, carrots, pineapple, strawberries, apple, flax seed, and honey. Something about this combination is so sweet and yummy! You would never guess there are veggies in it.

I also put together a granola mix made of oatmeal, chocolate chips, craisins, flax seed, whole grain cereal, peanuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, and honey... and oh my word... it's AMAZING. A yummy sweet snack to eat throughout the day!

However, with that being said, I'm not strictly doing this. Like I said, I want to make this realistic, and if it can't be realistic than I know it won't happen.

So if I have a meeting with someone at Starbucks-- I'll probably still get a Frapp, or if I go out to dinner with my family, I'll order something yummy. Hopefully in eating this way, I'll naturally WANT to make healthier choices, but I'm not going to be crazy about it.

I also began taking barley pills twice a day (thanks to my Dad!!) and drinking a very natural, energy-supplying red green tea that my mom started selling. Those things paired with this "clean" way to eat has made me feel really good! It is a little tricky, because I am SUCH a protein fanatic, eating enough to keep me feeling full. However, I have found that as long as I keep filling up on this nutrient-rich food, I haven't needed as much protein from meats, eggs, or other sources. According to this diet, all the protein you need is in vegetables.

So, there you have it.

We'll see how it goes-- I'll be back soon to update!

Love you all, T

Monday, July 09, 2012

Since I Have Moved Out...

For the first few months (and even now, sometimes) the most dreaded question for me was, "So, how are you liking your new house?"

I think it's kind and lovely people want to know... However, I might be extra sensitive is because I am so busy that a lot of times, I haven't even been able to enjoy it. I come home, and instead of thinking about having a social life, a pile of laundry and dirty dishes are waiting for me.

Now, that's not my life ALL the time, but when I'm busy at work, it makes the rest of my life even busier. Additionally, as much as I love my 3rd shift job, I am SUCH a night owl and that's when I get stuff done. So my options are 1) stay up in the morning and get things done or 2) go back to sleep when I return from 3rd shift. And you better believe I almost always taken option #2.

Anyway, I'm done complaining. Here are some things I have immensely enjoyed since moving out... because, well, I can do whatever I want now :)

1) Eating popcorn in bed.
(OK, I may have done this at home, too... but I doubt my mom appreciated it.)
It is not uncommon to find little popcorn kernels under my bed.

2) Leave the house... with my bed unmade.
This actually almost kills me. I think it's because I grew up ALWAYS making my bed, and it was not acceptable to not do it. So it's just ingrained in my head. But sometimes, I'm running super late and I just can't get to it. So I leave it :)

3) Eat oatmeal or cereal for dinner.
Lame, I know. But sometimes it just sounds good and so that's what I eat :)

4) Clean my house... whenever I want!
Sometimes, it happens every week, just the way I like it.
But there are times that I have been super busy and I let things go... and really, instead of coming home and worrying about it, I crash on the couch and ignore the mess that surrounds me. No big deal.

5) Sleep with my cat.
Lily sleeps in my bed every night... yes, she is a bit spoiled. She even brings her toys into my bed and plays with them while I'm trying to sleep. But it is so sweet when she is curled up and purring beside me... I know she's just a cat, but it does help me feel less lonely and more safe.

So those are just a few things that I have been enjoying since living on my own. Trust me, moving out definitely reminded me of everything I DIDN'T do or worry about while still living with my parents... my mom spoiled me :) But it is great to have the responsibility and make decisions, even if they are little, on my own. As stressful and busy as it can be, it's worth it.

Love you all-- be back soon!


Sunday, June 17, 2012


Well, I promised I would be back... so here I am.

Recently, I read one of my earlier posts (from 2006... when I was in college) and I was startled at how much I have changed. Obviously, I have grown older and matured, but also, I found myself laughing.

I laughed because I used to be so much more open and candid. I wasn't afraid to write about much of anything. I was so real and out there... and these days...

I find I am more guarded.

Right or wrong, it's just the way it is, and I found it to be an interesting observation.

Maybe I psycho-analyze too much, but at any rate, I want it to be a goal of mine to be genuine, always.

So lately, I have found the supernatural joy of the Lord being infused back into my life. For this, I am thankful. I went through a recent valley lately. I'm not sure what caused it or why it was there, but with a little bit of work (because climbing up a mountain from the bottom isn't always easy) I am finding that I am on my way back up. Part of me is enjoying the climb, because I know that once I reach the top... although it is a BEAUTIFUL view, the only place to go is down, unless I can sustain my spot of mountaintop awesomeness.

And with God's good grace and help, I can. So, I continue to envelope myself with the joy of Jesus and let that be the driving force to get me through each and every day. After all, that's all I can rely on, anyway. To rely on anything else usually results in disaster, eventually.

I am encouraged that everything I read right now, whether it be in devotions, Jesus Calling, or as a topic of a bible study, is exactly what I need. God has a beautiful way of giving us what we need, when we need it, as long as we are willing to receive.

Anyway, I am excited to continue on in my journey and see what good things God continues to provide in my life.

IA has been... stressful, to say the least. But good. And getting better. We are on the uphill swing, I would say. We went through a tough time recently of "defining and redefining" who we were and what we wanted to be, but now that we have that figured out, it just takes courage, perseverance, and wisdom to keep things rolling. Every time it gets tough, I always view our business as a gift from God and my working relationship with Kristi as a marriage-- we made a vow of "commitment" and even when it gets tough, that's not excuse to give up. God brought it all together for a reason and blessed it with success, and there's a reason for it. At times, I do wonder what God was thinking when He put Kristi and I together because we couldn't be any more different, but somehow, by His grace, we've gotten this far. And I always think... if we have gotten THIS far, then we can get through anything.

Home life has been... lacking. That sounds terrible, but I feel like I'm hardly home. Except on the weekends, which are spent cleaning or organizing or paying bills or buying groceries or just CRASHING on the couch with my popcorn and kitty. I have loved living on my own, but it has definitely been an adjustment. I DO get my "me" time but a lot of my "me" time is spent doing the things that my Mom used to take care of for me :) So it's just getting used to the change.

My passion has been... growing. Each and every situation life takes me through refines me and teaches me that God can only use me--Taryn--in a special, unique way. This way is apart from anyone else's way. That, to me, is a beautiful thought. With that in mind, I am trying to stay as plugged in as possible to the Lord's plan in using my talents and personality to bless others. Without that, what am I really living for? Myself?

Attitude is so important, I am finding. I love that quote that says, "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." It's so true. Not that "happiness" is our ultime goal, but the point is, WE are in charge of how we let certain situations, words, thoughts, emotions, or anything else affect us. I can either choose to let something destroy me, or teach me. I can let it tear me down, or make me stronger. I can let it kill my mood, or make me thankful. I can choose to become irritated, or smile my way through. I can let all the little things bring me down, or let the One I DO have lift me up.

It's all a perspective check, really. And it's all in having an attitude of gratitude.

I'm just thankful for a Jesus who is so patient and kind!

Love you all,


Friday, June 15, 2012

Be Back Soon.

I have less than 5 minutes to write this.

Lucky you.

Tomorrow, we have a wedding. Will be our first HOT one.

This Sunday is Father's day... and my parents will be gone. :(

I have lots of little updates and some new insights, but there is just not enough time to fill you in on everything tonight.

So we'll just review a few fun facts:

1) My new morning routine is as follows:
Get out of bed.
(And because the mornings have actually been DELIGHTFULLY cool...)
Wrap myself in my hot pink soft blanket.
Fix a bowl of cereal.
Go outside.
Sit on the little lawn chair in my backyard with my face completely basking in the sun.
(But my body is wrapped up and warm in my blanket, of course.)
Eat my bowl of cereal.
Read Jesus Calling.
Obtain Vitamin D and needed sun-on-face for 5 minutes.
Go inside and get ready for the day.

This routine has had amazing results! It could just be in my head, but I feel more joyful and ready to tackle my day when started this way.

2) Ever since I started making stovetop popcorn with extra virgin olive oil & a dash of Morton Salt, I have had a very difficult time returning to microwave popcorn.

It's just not the same.

3) My favorite afternoon pick-me-up snack at work is a small cup of the flavor-of-the-day coffee from L&B (my fave is Snickerdoodle) & a chocolate Hershey's bar.

That's all for tonight... we'll talk soon.

Love you all,


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Keep Coming Back

When I was little, I was very inquisitive. 

I liked to ask lots of questions. 

I can remember sitting in church one Sunday. I was sitting with my Dad, and I leaned over to him. The minister had just said something obvious to me.

"Dad, when you become a Christian, don't you already know this kind of stuff?" I asked.

"Yes," he answered.

"Then why do you have to keep coming to church? If you already know what it takes to get to Heaven and you have done it, then why keep coming back to hear it?"

"Because," he said, "It's always good to be reminded."

In my young little mind, I couldn't understand why someone would need to hear the same thing over and over. And for that matter, I wasn't taking into consideration the fact that the Spirit moves in many ways, and will usually always bring to light something new to learn each and every time.

That memory sticks with me, and I think about it often when I'm sitting in church.

Today, I sat by our elder's wife. Our elder and his wife have been good friends of my parents for as long as I can remember, and our elder is my dad's first cousin.

The morning service was so good and appropriate for the Memorial Day weekend. The minister read about "David's Mighty Men" and also talked about Hebrews 11, going over the "Hall of Faith." He said that reading over all of those people and the accounts of their faith reminds him of a cemetery. When you walk in a cemetery, you see markers of people who have passed from this life to the next, and you may stop and review something they have done. You talk about the impact they made in their life. It challenged me to look at my own life and think: What impact am I making? Would I be listed in a "Hall of Faith?" What will I take with me, and what will others remember me by?

He also talked about life being the "great race" that we finish... and how up in Heaven, those who love us may very well be cheering us on into Victory.

After the service, I received an unexpected word of encouragement.

The edler's wife leaned over and told me that she thought of my grandparents, and how both of them were such pillars of faith. How she believed they were looking down at me and so proud of me. How it took courage to do the things that I do...

Immediately, I became sentimental in remembrance of my beautiful grandparents, and also tried to guess what she was referring to in regards to courage. I thought maybe she would mention stepping out on my own, buying my house, or starting my business. 

But she didn't mention any of those things.

And now that I think about it, none of those things are "tangible" things that I can take with me.

What she was talking about was the prison ministry with which I am involved.

She told me that she thought I was courageous and brave to talk to the women in the prison. How my grandparents would be so proud that I was spreading the Word in that way, and they were cheering me on.

"I know that some day, you will be rewarded for that, Taryn," she told me, "And not just a 'pat on your back' reward. A real reward... something that will change your life. Something inexplicable that will give you peace and joy."

I was momentarily speechless, but I managed to smile and thank her for the wonderful thoughts and encouragement.

She doesn't know that those words came at a time when I needed them the most! Not so much as it refers to the prison ministry, but more so the encouragement in general.

The idea that may grandparents are my heritage, and as my heritage, they were amazing pillars of Faith.

The idea that it is my great pleasure to carry this on in my own life, and hopefully I will have the opportunity to let it be carried on through my future grandchildren.

The idea that the world is not our home, and the "things" we put our hope in here are often not things we take with us. It is the soul, the heart, the spirit of a person we must reach out and touch... and in doing so, that life, that "treasure," suddenly becomes eternal.

Hebrews 11 says that, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

To me, "things not seen" include the intangibles... love, joy, peace, mercy, grace... and the list goes on. Those are the eternal treasures we hope to store up in Heaven. If only the earthly, corruptible "treasures" wouldn't cloud our vision.

Ironically, I visited the jail this morning. When I arrived to the women's pod, the guard excitedly yelled into the ladies, "Girls, the lady minister is here! Who wants to come learn about JESUS? Come on out, and learn about Him-- you will all benefit!"

I so appreciated her enthusiasm.

It was the biggest group I had ever had-- 9 women! And I was by myself.

I had prayed the day before that whatever I chose to speak about would touch even one soul, and I was blessed beyond measure to find the room of women in tears when I was done. They all loved the message and found it applicable to their life situations.

I was so encouraged. I have never been more confident that this ministry is where I need to be.

For some, they love children, so teaching Sunday School or running VBS programs is for them. For others, they enjoy the elderly, so visiting nursing homes and singing to them makes their spirit smile. And others still have a huge heart for orphans, so they give financially and travel on trips to other countries.

But to me, I have a God-given love for the broken. I think it's because I don't see them for what they did, but for who they are. At the end of the day, we are all souls created by God. There is absolutely no difference between me and them, because before Jesus' blood, I wasn't getting to Heaven any sooner than they were. 

Are we all not just people, in need of a Savior?

Love you all!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

In Due Season

I have been biting my finger nails lately.

That means I'm stressed.

I don't even notice I'm doing it, really. But it's a tell tale sign that too much is going on.

If someone would ask me, "Taryn, are you stressed?"

I would say, "No, I'm fine."

But it's because I like to see the glass half full. And, I'm realizing... I'm so proud. I'm too afraid to admit when life isn't all put together. I want it to appear like everything is smooth sailing. Anything else would show weakness.

Then, I become irritated that I put on a mask, because facades are so fake. And I'm all about REAL. So, in an effort to fool everyone into thinking everything is 100%, I compromise being genuine. And I hate that.

Don't get me wrong-- not everyone wants a thorough outpouring of my heart every time they ask "How are you doing?" nor do people need me to coat every response with emotional drama.

But I don't think that's the point. The point is... I must be honest. With myself, and with others. And especially with God.

So here we go... my best attempt at being real:

Lately, I have been struggling to keep my head above water. To top it off, I have been consistently indifferent towards God-- to my shame. I realize that the life of every Christian tends to be a roller coaster, but it kills me to admit that I'm in a down loop right now.

To explain, I have been slacking on being in the Word. I have also been turning off conversation with God. I didn't realize I was doing it until I came to the core of the problem-- to talk to God would entail honesty. It would entail owning my struggles, owning my pride, and owning my lack of faith. And those are things, quite frankly, that I just don't feel like doing. So I cut off communication.

Trust me-- it's not a good idea. Because, quite simply, it doesn't work.

All it has done is it has left me feeling directionless, and I really don't like that feeling.

Yet, God still proves His faithfulness and provision to me, despite my lack of Faith. And it is in this that I realize that his goodness and Love is not dependent on my performance... thank goodness. I need that reminder from time to time, yet it is no excuse to slack off.

I had a really good conversation with someone last weekend. I was with a group of people, and the two of us walked off alone. I was in a pensive mood-- which is always a recipe for a heart-to-heart.

Thankfully, she is an excellent listener and wonderful advice-giver, and someone I look up to and trust. I don't know her that extremely well, but well enough to confide in.

So I did. I poured out my heart to her, and I was completely uninhibited. It was exactly what I needed to do. Mostly, because I needed to acknowledge where I was-- verbally. I needed someone to hear it, other than the walls of my heart and chambers of my mind.

I told her that I was slacking off on praying. That I wasn't actively communicating to God like I used to-- I used to talk to him every minute of every day and tell Him everything. How I was falling behind on my Bible reading plan, but I desired to do better. I told her about a prayer project I started a couple of years ago that was one of the hugest blessings in my life, but somehow, I had managed to put it off for the last several months. I told her about my business and how it's going through an entirely tough and challenging time, and how overwhelming it is. How insecure it makes me feel, and how it's hard sometimes to come home to an empty house and spend my weekends catching up on laundry and cooking meals... for one. I told her that amidst all of this, none of it is an excuse to put off God, or to ignore Him. Because in it all is a blessing. In it is an amazing timetable and weaving of the Spirit's hands, and I can't challenge that... because His ways are so much higher than my ways.

This friend was an angel to me on this particular night, simply because she listened. And that's what I needed... someone to listen and understand and encourage.

I have been thinking about that conversation and my spiritual state this whole week. As I continue through this typically busy and stressful set of days, I am realizing more and more that the Spirit continues to nudge me and call me back.

The Lord is saying... Taryn. Get in my Word. Taryn... talk to me. Taryn... don't give up, I love you and have been using you all along.

I am convinced that we go through these times in order to give us an opportunity to be refined. On the day I talked to my friend, I read this particular devotion out loud to a few different people, because it spoke volumes to me. It comes from the devotion series I am working on right now called "The Confident Woman," and I loved the words. I'll close with it now:

In Due Season
"Due season" is God's season, not ours. We are in a hurry, God isn't. He takes time to do things right - He lays a solid foundation before He attempts to build a building. We are God's building under construction. He is the Master Builder, and He knows what He is doing. We may not know what He is doing, but He does, and that will have to be good enough. We may not always know, but we can be satisfied to know the One who knows.
God's timing seems to be His own little secret. The Bible promises us that He will never be late, but I have also discovered that He is usually not early. It seems that He takes every available opportunity to develop the fruit of patience in us. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit that grows under trial.
Developed potential without character does not glorify God. If we were to become a huge success and yet be harsh with people - that would not be pleasing to the Lord. Therefore, if we get ahead of ourselves in one area, He gently but firmly blocks our progress in that area until the other ones catch up.
Remember: God is never late.
Pray: Lord, thank You for Your patience with me. I want everything now, but You are building my life with eternity in mind. I don't understand everything You're doing, but I trust You. Amen.
Love you all :) Taryn

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Change is Good.

I have Blogger template ADD.

I can't help it!

I like to LOVE something. When I love it, I keep it. I am loyal to it and I stand by it for a long, long time. Like a cute & functional purse, or a particular scent of candle, or a tried & true dessert from a local coffee shop.

But if the L factor isn't there, then I quickly give it up. And I change till I love.

We might be getting there with my blog layout/template. I really wanted something more functional and organized. Some future tweaking will possibly arise, but for now, I am content with how it's shaping up.

For those of you who didn't even notice the change (as the color scheme is similar to my previous but not exact), bless you. I hope to obtain a balance between users who love to read what I have to say, and readers who love to use what I have to provide.

Did that even make sense?

Moving on...

Living on my own and having a home has certainly made me more of a "goal setter." And when I say goals, they are very short-term and little. But hey, they are goals, nonetheless... or maybe a more realistic term is "to-do" items. Calling it a goal makes me sound more ambitious, though.

My personal favorite checkmark on the to-do list was to organize and clean my garage. It is a task that has been haunting me since I moved in last Fall. My garage has never-ending storage options, so guess where all my JUNK ended up? And I didn't bother to clean it out before I continued to use it as a catch-all.

However, it only took a couple hours and I had everything organized & cleaned out. Had a giant pile of flattened boxes, several bags of garbage, and a couple of bags for GoodWill, and voila. It was done. I now enjoy parking in it.

Anyway, all this to say... free time in my evenings and on weekends has become increasingly lame. Although, I don't feel like it's lame because I actually enjoy doing this stuff. I never thought I'd find the day where cleaning my house & organizing my garage sounds like a good idea on a Friday night... but, I'm there.

Don't worry, I always rewards myself with a bowl of popcorn afterwards.

So I have more inspiring things to talk about, but right now I'm getting tired. That's the other thing, my new bedtime has suddenly changed. I used to find it appalling to go to bed before midnight, and now I'm doing good to make it past 10:30.

People may think I'm 18, but really. I'm 26. And it's starting to show.

Be back soon.

Love you all!


Sunday, May 06, 2012

Busy & Lily

Everyone keeps asking me if I'm busy at work.

Thankfully, this year, our weddings are quite spread out. This is a lot more manageable than the typical 5-in-a-row series we end up booking every season.

Instead, we have a nice wedding schedule, with a 2-3 week break in between each one.

Our current goal is to grow our portrait business as much as we can in the meantime. This includes meeting with vendors, business people, and marketing in ways we haven't before. We also just hired an "art consultant" (i.e. sales girl) and we love having someone fill that position! It frees up a lot of extra time for Kristi and I to do PR and just focus on growing our business strategically.

Aside from new challenges at work, I continue to stay a busy person at home, as usual.

I know I always say that I would rather be busy than bored, but sometimes it's nice to have some down time. I find that most of my down time, if it does occur, happens on the weekends. I look forward to these blocks of time in which I can catch up on laundry, clean my house, do yard work, and just chill on the couch with a bowl of popcorn.

In other news, I have a new kitty :)

The whole situation happened rather quickly and spontaneously.

Shortly after Kitty was put to rest, I began my search for a new kitten. I wasn't about to go out the very next day and find one, but I knew I wanted one soon.

I felt OK. I had convinced myself that I had mourned Kitty's death mostly before she even died. By the time it was right, I was all business. I was sad, but I knew it had to be done.

After, I missed her... a lot. But I also just missed the idea of having another life around... you know? Coming home to an empty house every night isn't ideal. It helps to have a furry friend.

SO, the search began. I had many offers for older cats who needed a home, but I declined each one due to two reasons. First, I for sure wanted a kitten, so I could enjoy kittenhood again. Second, another option would have been to adopt one of these older cats as a "friend" for my new kitten, but after some thought I decided against it. While it sounded like a good plan, I knew in the long run I would want to keep it easy and simple, and I liked the idea of having "one" kitty who traveled to the studio with me and kept me company. Having two means twice the amount of food, toys, and kitty litter, plus I never wanted to "leave one out."

After a week of unsuccessful searching, I sort of went crazy. I went into panic mode and started scouring craigslist for every kitten available in Central IL all the way to the ends of the state.

It seemed like every time I would find kittens, I would strike out. They were all male. Or they were all shorthair. Or they were female medium-haired kittens, but when I called, they were all already taken.

I finally found a black & white "medium-haired" kitten. She was the only available one left, and her picture looked adorable. Her owner told me she didn't have short hair but it wasn't long, either. Sounded like medium hair to me-- perfect.

So, I drug Kristi along with me on a very long car ride to pick her up.

On the way there... I was excited. Excited to meet her, excited to finally have a kitten.

But when I arrived, I was very surprised at how I reacted. She wasn't what I expected, in the first place. She was tiny and adorable-- but, she wasn't a medium hair. Her hair was a bit longer than your typical shorthair, but she wasn't soft and fluffy like Kitty was.

She wasn't spunky like Kitty, either. She was sweet and cuddly. She didn't have the right dose of attitude. She was long and lanky, and I could feel her bones underneath her fur. When I pet her, she wasn't super-soft. Her eyes were dark green, not bright like Kitty's.

As I tucked her in my sweatshirt and headed for the car, the clouds gray overhead and my mind even grayer, I couldn't stop the comparisons.

She wasn't Kitty.

I don't know what I expected. One thing was for sure, though-- I was caught off guard.

I thought I would be excited, and jumping for joy. I thought I would immediately fall in love with this kitten. I thought it would just seem right.

Instead, I felt overwhelmed with sadness. I felt like crying because I missed Kitty even more than I imagined. I felt like handing this kitten off to someone else and going home empty-handed, because it would have been easier.

So for the first time since the day I watched Kitty die... I cried.

I cried for Kitty and for who she was and our short life we had together.

Then I listened to my mom and Kristi tell me to "Give it a week. See how you feel at the end. If you're still not connecting with her, you can give her away. There are a lot of people who want kittens."

I took their advice and took this little kitten home, despite my uneasy feeling.

The first night, she slept with me. I wasn't too attached to her yet so I didn't really care what she did, but at one point I woke up during the night and she had nuzzled herself against my chest and had snuggled in underneath the covers with me.

It was the sweetest thing ever.

But I still wasn't in love. I woke up the next morning, still uneasy.

Yet I took her to work, like I did with Kitty.

And I watched as she didn't look out the front window like Kitty did, and how she didn't sleep on my desk on the pink bed like Kitty did.

But she had her own unique quirks. She sat up on the counter and batted at the planted palm, biting it and attacking it in a cute, playful fashion. She chased a crinkly ball around the office and laid beneath my desk and batted at all the cords hanging down. And she sat in my lap and snuggled in with her blanket on my desk.

On the second day, I was starting to like her but was still unsure. She continued to live life with me as usual, and in the mean time, my mom and Kristi were both in love with her.

By day 3, all of my nieces and nephews had met her and played with her, and my mom had measured her neck to make her a personalized collar.

And she became Facebook official.

So she is a keeper.

I named her Lily, and she definitely fits her name. She is a petitie little spit fire. She darts across the room and up and down my furniture, much like Kitty, but she also plays very nicely with all of her toys. She can occupy herself very easily, but also LOVES to be around people. She is less independent than Kitty, and definitely more of a "lap" cat. She loves to be pet, and will start purring when you pick her up and cuddle her. She will play hard, and then sleep hard. She sleeps for 2-3 hours at a time and slips into a mild coma, in which she curls up into darling positions.

No, she is not Kitty. Kitty will always hold a special place in my heart that no other cat can replace. However, Lily is a sweet little companion to step into place post-Kitty, and I know she will be a great and loving friend.

I am excited to get to know her better and begin life with her.

So, I will conclude on that note about Lily. I'll be back soon, and will hopefully transition to another less-feline topic :) I have a lot floating in my head these days, and a lot I'd like to eventually share, so I'm sure I will be back before long.

Love you all!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Farewell Kitty

I will begin with a video I made of Kitty's short but sweet life.

Holding the power of a life in your hands is not easy.

We experience this in a mild sense when we decide to squash an ant with our shoe or swat at a fly that is buzzing around the kitchen. Even when we whiz by and take out a squirrel on the road.

But what about when that creature is more than an insect or a nut-collecting nuisance? What about when it is a friend, a companion, and the one who greets you every time you walk in the door?

I had Kitty’s life in my hands over the past couple of weeks… and I didn’t like it. The stress of deciding “when is the best time” overwhelmed me. At first, it almost consumed me.

Shortly after Kitty’s emergency clinic visit, she improved quite a bit. She was a lot slower than normal, but definitely still had “Kitty-isms” that were true to character: chasing the laser pointer, “nursing” my hot pink blanket, running to the ice maker, and eating & drinking heartily.

As days went on, her breathing picked up quite a bit, but she still seemed happy to be alive. Towards the end of that week, her respirations were quite labored, yet she still had a little perk left in her. My parents were returning that Friday evening, and my goal was to make it until then.

I can’t explain it, but it meant more to me than anything else to have them see her before she died. Kitty stayed with my parents (and I) for the first few months of her life.

I can still remember the day I “asked my Dad permission” to let her live at home with us until I moved out. He was not too happy.

“I guess it’s fine, if that’s what you have to do,” he told me.

I felt guilty and happy all at the same time. My mom and I were excited.

The silly part is, Kitty loved my Dad the most. Probably… because he tried the least. And I would be lying if I said he didn’t love her, too.

Kitty slept in our basement room, which is also my Dad’s closet/shower room. Early each morning, he would be downstairs getting ready, and Kitty would come running up to my Dad, stand up on her hind legs (like a squirrel) and beg for my Dad to pet her.

Funny… because she didn’t like it when anyone else tried to touch her.

She would chase his shoe laces and weave in and out of his legs.
She would also spend a lot of time with my Mom during the day. My mom and I share a mutual affection for cats, so she loved it. Except when Kitty would walk across her kitchen table, try to eat off our plates, bat at her center pieces, and climb our Christmas tree. Then she would yell, “Kitty! OFF MY TABLE!”


We all enjoyed her. She was a bundle of energy and full of life, and always had us laughing.

Even after I moved out, Kitty and I would come visit… a lot. Usually, when I came over for a quick dinner or to spend the evening with my parents, so would Kitty. She was always with me, and my parents were always delighted to see her.

Because of the fun times we had together and how special she was to them, I really wanted them to see her.

My parents flew in late Friday night, and returned home just minutes before I had to go into my 3rd shift job. Kitty’s breathing had stayed pretty labored, so I had scheduled an appointment for Kitty to be put down that following Saturday morning.

As I scooped Kitty up and placed her in my car to go see my parents, my emotions were at the brim. I kept looking over at Kitty and thinking that this would be her last night. I would let her sleep at my parents’ house so she wouldn’t spend her last night alone.

I gathered Kitty into my arms and walked inside. As I did, it was instantaneous—I was sobbing. My Dad saw me and gave me a huge hug and told me not to cry.

That made me cry more.

They were so happy to see Kitty. Her side was shaved, as were her two front legs, and she was thinner. But Kitty sniffed them and greeted them, and my Mom calmed my tears.

“Taryn, we’ll take her in tomorrow morning, and if it’s too soon, we won’t put her down.”

So I slept that night.

And like usual, Kitty woke up early with my Dad and wanted him to pet her. She purred (she doesn’t purr for anyone else). She ate for my mom and sat in front of our back door and looked outside—her favorite thing.

We took her into the vet. Our vet is SO nice. He patiently listened to all my doubts.

What if I put her down too soon?

Is it too soon if she still seems to have a quality of life?

Is she in pain?

Is it possible that it’s not FIP, but something else?

Would she really be eating and drinking if it was towards the end?

He assured me that she was not in pain. Likely… discomfort. But not pain, and that she DID still seem to have a quality of life.

Without telling me what to do or “swaying me one way or another,” as he put it, I gathered from him that he thought I should wait. At that point, I was almost ready to do it and get it done. But my vet and parents were listening to me when my emotions clogged my logic. They explained that it would make me feel better to know that “it was time,” and this time… it didn’t seem right yet.

So we took Kitty home.

For the next few days, Kitty stayed with my parents, mostly. Her breathing stayed about the same… labored, fast… but consistent. She still sniffed around, ate and drank.

On Tuesday, she seemed to slow down quite a bit. I was beginning to think that the end was near. By Wednesday, she could hardly walk 5 steps without stopping to catch her breath, stooped over so she could concentrate on breathing. When we presented her with food or water, she would walk up to it and hang her head over the bowl… she wanted it… but she didn’t have enough air to partake.

It broke my heart.

I had been taking her outside to enjoy the beautiful weather. She LOVES outside and now that she had slowed down so much, it was much easier to keep an eye on her. However, on Wednesday when I did this, while she tried so hard to enjoy it, she was very obviously struggling. At one point, she tried to lie down, but stood right back up and resumed her “I can’t breathe” position.

Again… it brought me to tears.

I phoned my vet… knowing it was the day. Unfortunately, my vet was not in on this particular afternoon. It made me very sad, because everyone at that office knows Kitty so well, and the sentimental part of me wanted the vet who had been working with her to carry it through.

However, after observing her a little bit more, I knew I didn’t want to wait until morning. I phoned another local vet and made an appointment for later that afternoon.

My mom came with me. On the way to the vet’s office, I rode with Kitty in my lap. She was inside her carrier bag. I unzipped the front and stuck my hand in, petting her. Typically, Kitty did not like to be pet but as she had grown more ill, she learned to love the comfort. She rested her little head on my hand and let me stroke her, enjoying every moment.

We walked into the vet’s office, and everyone was nice and accommodating.

The vet there was young, and was so compassionate and kind. He asked all about Kitty—her history, her diagnosis, and then proceeded to explain in great detail the whole process of putting her down.

He brought in a blanket for her to sit on while it was done. My mom and I held her and pet her the whole time. It ended up being too hard to find a good vein in her back legs, because she was unable to breathe when they positioned her a certain way. The vet suggested that we give her a sedative to relax her so they could do what they needed to do. Another friend of mine (a fellow cat lover!) had suggested this to make it easier, so I gladly agreed.

He explained that the sedation would take a few minutes to work, so he injected it and then left the room so we could wait with her.

And this was the saddest part.

Almost immediately, Kitty started panting out of her open mouth—something I had never seen her do. Clearly, she was gasping for air. My mom was supporting her and felt her front legs wobble and then eventually give away.

“Just lay down, Kitty,” we both told her, soothing her as much as we could.

My baby, my black & white fluff ball who was the strongest fighter I knew, who would never in a million years lie on command… she laid down, and gave up.

All it took was something to relax her, and all of the fight came right out of her. She laid on her side and struggled to breathe.

“This may finish her,” I said, tears rolling down my cheek.

My mom’s hands were resting lightly on top of Kitty, feeling her little chest rise and fall. Her normally quick, short breathing turned into a slow, labored breath every 1-2 seconds… and eventually… no breathing.

My mom and I stood above her, stroking her and whispering soothing words, while our salty tears dripped onto her beautiful, soft coat. It was a special time. I knew Kitty was dying in our arms, and without the aid of euthanasia.

In that moment, it was proof to me that it was the right time. The one thing I struggled to wrap my mind around was letting her go too soon. But I knew with all of my heart that this was her time, and she told us by slipping away once she was relaxed enough to stop fighting for us.

I can’t describe to you the mixed emotions that I felt. I felt sadness for losing her, but relief for knowing she was done suffering. Watching her deteriorate each and every day was horribly hard. I tried to mask it as best as I could… much like Kitty masked her difficulty with breathing. I knew in my heart that I didn’t want her to have to get to the point of suffering, but I also knew I would never forgive myself if I didn’t wait long enough to see she had no way of improving.

And somehow, God gave me the perfect timetable to accomplish the balance.

I am so thankful for the prayers, support, and understanding of so many cat and pet-lovers as this all unfolded.

Kitty took her last breaths, and shortly after, the vet walked in. When he realized what had happened, he apologized profusely. However, I was relieved that it happened as it did. He ended up giving her a little bit of euthanasia to ensure she was truly “gone,” since he still picked up a faint flutter of her heart from time to time. He returned her in a special “coffin” box, perfect for us to bury her in.

My mom and I drove home in quiet tears. We exited the car and sat out on our front porch. It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon—sunny, blue skies, and in the 70’s. We sat outside and pet Kitty’s soft fur for awhile, and reminisced about her short but sweet life.

My Dad buried Kitty in my parent’s backyard. I request she be buried there, just several feet away from Belle (and Whiskers).

Most people are either a “cat” person or a “dog” person, and I have concluded that regardless of which you prefer, we all somehow have a special connection with our domestic pets that is unexplainable. It can only come through loving care, and while animals are not children, there is still so much emotional energy invested. So much so, that at the end of the path, it always ends in tears.

I was only able to enjoy Kitty for 8 short months. However, in that little amount of time, I could write a book about her. My friend told me, “No two cats are the same. Some people say: Oh, that’s just a CAT. But you will never meet another Kitty.”

I won’t. And for awhile, it will be hard to put up with any kitty that ISN’T Kitty. Time will help heal my sorrow. God does not let this go unnoticed, and I am convinced that there is a reason behind this circumstance.

My cousin pointed out a beautiful thought to me… that we can’t always know or even come close to fathoming why God works the way He does. But it is so interesting to note how He so often parallels death with life… the death of someone in a family with the birth of another, attending a funeral today and attending a baby shower tomorrow, and the death of my Kitty with the flourish of kitten season.

We serve a beautiful God who wants us to enjoy His creation… and that, I will continue to do. The hardest part about loving is losing… but oh, to think of how much we gain in our Eternal Home! J

Love you all!


Sunday, April 08, 2012

Miss Kitty

I never wanted to be the type of person who drives around with my pet's head hanging out the car window, or call myself "Mommy" in relation to them. I thought doting on a pet in such a way-- buying them special collars and food and toting them around everywhere like a child-- I thought that was over the top.

That all changed when I decided to adopt Kitty when she was just 3 weeks old. Our intern from work brought her to me from her cousin's farm. She described her as a "black & white fluff ball." Kitty stole my heart immediately. With her soft, fluffy hair, ornery personality and outgoing nature, she quickly became known as the "dog-cat."

She LOVES people, is very nosey, always has to be the center of anything going on, perks up and comes running when you call her name, and sleeps with me every night.

She is a true companion-- and honestly, she keeps me company. I don't ever feel alone because she is around to lift my spirits.

I went on a trip to Arizona to shoot a wedding, and returned last Tuesday. I was excited to go pick up Kitty, who was staying with my parents. In fact, it was one of the first things I did upon arrival home. My parents love Kitty, and she loves staying at their house, as it is where she grew up for the first few months of her life.

I brought Kitty home and we resumed life as normal. I noticed that she was a little bit more subdued than normal, but I chalked it up to her being annoyed with me. After all, I had just left her for a week and it's not unlike Kitty to sport an attitude at times.

This "attitude" continued for the next few days, and if anything, got worse. Kitty started moping around and sleeping for large portions of the day. I kept thinking, "Maybe she is finally growing up and becoming less playful." But something inside of me felt that she just wasn't acting right.

On Friday, I was starting to really get worried, but I decided to get if one more day. I noticed that she started breathing funny-- it was very labored-- but then, was I just making it up? I didn't want to make a big deal out of nothing. Yet what alarmed me the most was her changed personality. She seemed depressed and lifeless. Her spunky sparkle that everyone loves was just gone. On Friday, she sat listlessly on the folding chair and started outside all day, hardly acknowledging me when I called her name.

By Saturday, she completely ignored the food and water bowl that I tried to push under her nose, and she was continuing to slow down. Additionally, she protested with a scratchy meow every time I tried to pick her up, as if it caused her pain.

I called the vet in town, but the doctor was out for the weekend. They gave me the number to the Tri-Country Emergency Animal Clinic in Peoria. I phoned them and found out I could bring her in at anytime.

I loaded Kitty up in the car and continued to observe her on the way. I put her in her carrying bag, which she normally immediately tries to bust out of by nudging her head up towards the zipper and inching it back until she can climb out. I usually let her, as I know she enjoys watching out the window.

After a couple of meager failed attempts, she sat with her little head sticking out of the bag and tried no further. I lifted her out of the bag, and she tried to climb up on top of the console in between the two front seats, but fell to the back. She stayed back there on the floor the entire time, not wanting to move.

Upon arrival at the clinic, we were seen by a very nice female vet. She took some x-rays of Kitty. I could hear her meowing in the other room and at that moment, I wanted to go to her and comfort her, like a mother would a child. It was like my baby was crying.

The vet came in with the x-ray pictures and showed them to me.

"See this right here?" she pointed, indicating a huge area with her finger. "That should all be black. That is her lung. But only this little spot is black," she said, showing me a small circular shape. "The rest of her lung is full of fluid."

She explained that her lungs being full of fluid was blocking her ability to breathe. Possible causes were heart or kidney failure, or FIP-- Feline Infectious Peritonitis. Neither were positive options. She explained that she suspected it to be FIP, since she had a recent surgery in January (spayed) and the vet would've noticed complications with a vital organ if that was the problem.

The vet was very nice and helpful, and also honest, which I appreciated.

"If it is FIP-- which I suspect it is-- it doesn't look good," she told me. "Kitty could die from this. And even if we treat her-- and we would try everything in our power to do it-- she could die from the process of treatment."

My options were-- treat Kitty and hope for the best-- a treatable condition so I could continue to keep her alive--or, let her die. I knew that she wouldn't hold up much longer in her current condition, and I wouldn't want her to suffer, so "let her die" would entail euthanizing her.

Given Kitty's young age and the fact that I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't first try to treat her, I decided to go that route. I love Kitty. If I can treat Kitty and make her better, I would rather pour my money into trying than letting her go without knowing.

I knew I was on my own with making this decision. Unfortunately, my parents were out of town, otherwise my mom would have been with me. As I sat alone in the clinic's small room, running the estimate figures through my head and my potential courses of action, I contemplated phoning my mom. I almost did, and then refrained, as I felt tears brimming at my eyes. To call her would open the flood gates, and this was not a time to drown in my emotions. I needed to stay strong until I left.

In the end, I decided to do it. It cost me a lot of money that I did not want to spend, but my love for Kitty and knowing the tremendous guilt I would feel if I didn't at least TRY to help her get better were a catalyst to my decision.

I went out front and signed papers. As I did so, the girl asked me if I wanted to say "good-bye" to Kitty. Immediately, I said yes, fully aware that this could be the last time I saw her alive.

She led me to a back room where the vet and 4 other assistants were standing, surrounding Kitty. She had an oxygen mask in front of her, and her breathing was still labored.

Immediately, the tears came. And there was no stopping them.

The five individuals in the room were silent and I could feel their quiet understanding as I pet my baby kitty.

"I'm sorry," I choked out.

"It's hard," said the vet.

"You be good, OK Kitty?" I told her. I smiled at everyone and thanked them.

They were there on Easter weekend, giving their time for my pet and many others that would come in at any hour of the day or night with a problem. To that, I am extremely grateful.

Kitty was kept in an oxygen box almost the entire time. Around midnight, they had to to make the decision to do a chest tap. They were giving her diuretics to try to drain her of the fluids, but those alone weren't enough to allow her to breathe on her own with oxygen. After literally gassing her to the point of her falling asleep due to it being impossible to maneuver an IV into her, they drained several mL of fluid from her lungs.

This allowed her to breathe successfully again and sustain herself off of oxygen. After this, she immediately started to improve and regain some of her spunk and sass :)

I was able to go pick up Kitty today-- Easter Sunday-- right after church at 11:30. I got there in time to chat with the vet on shift who was with her all night and helped drain her fluids.

The news he delivered to me was not ideal. I'm not sure what I expected, but overnight I was hanging onto some glimmer of hope that Kitty would be all better-- healed-- and would live on for many years to come.

"She's stable for now," he told me. "Draining her lungs of that fluid allowed her to breathe on her own again without the assistance of oxygen. However, I don't know how long that will last. I helped her for now, but I didn't fix the problem."

He said it looked like FIP. All of the fluid that came out was honey-colored, which is characteristic of the FIP virus. In this case, her lungs will fill up again and she will have the exact same problem.

From what I have gathered from the 2 vets who had assisted me this weekend and reading online, FIP is a feline virus that lies dormant in cats (typically farm cats). Many cats can be exposed and never contract the virus, but once contracted, it lives inside of the cat like a ticking time bomb (similar to have a canker sore-- if you get them, it is because something has triggered it to pop up, otherwise it lies dormant). Once it flares up, there is no stopping it (except to treat Kitty as they did last night) and it is fatal. There is no known cure, and signs and symptoms are what Kitty experienced-- the depression, labored breathing, lungs filling up with honey-colore fluid, etc.

"I wish I could deliver better news to you," he told me, "She's SO stinking cute. Our nurses back there are in love with her. I hope I'm wrong."

I had scheduled a vet appointment for Kitty for Monday morning, so he advised me to keep that and go get a 2nd opinion on how to proceed next. We kept Kitty's IV in (as it was VERY hard to put in) for convenience of her Monday morning appointment.

I never, ever expected this to happen to Kitty, especially so early on in her life. I have only had her for 8 months, but she's already mine. I love her. I love her spunk and attitude, I love how she HATES to have soft paws put on and how she sits in our studio window and watches traffic, and how she loves to look out my front door at home and I love how soft she is. Everyone who meets her-- whether at my house or our studio-- they love her. Even people who are allergic or aren't cat people, they say she's the prettiest kitty they have seen.

I look at Kitty now and it makes me so sad to think her time here with me may be very short from here on out. It sickens me inside. I just laid to rest my other childhood cat 2 months ago, and Kitty was my joyful transition after coping with that loss. If Kitty dies, who is here to lessen the blow?

I know better than to question God, but I did it anyway today. I kept asking so many questions. Why? Why Kitty, and why now-- when she's so young? And while my parents are gone and I'm left to flush her IVs and spend her last days with her alone? Why FIP, which is such a rare condition? Why do I have to mourn the loss of another cat-- didn't I just do that?

I don't have answers to those "why" questions, which is why it's not good to ask them. And honestly, it doesn't really matter WHY. It just matters that I rely on God's strength and comfort to pull me through. And part of me wrestles with feeling like this situation pales in comparison to what my parents are dealing with in Arizona-- which is helping my aunt and uncle (who was just diagnosed with lung cancer) obtain his treatment options to fight his cancer.

But all those things don't take the sadness away. And although my human nature is to question and fight against this, I must surrender and offer it up to God, and let Him do what He will. I love Kitty and that's all I can continue to do, no matter how many days I have left with her.

Love you all,


Sunday, April 01, 2012

Arizona Highlights

My trip to Arizona is not yet over, but I wanted an excuse to write tonight

So I will review my highlights so far:

{1} Shooting our VERY FIRST wedding in ARIZONA! It was spectacular. This is a place that I have loved since birth, and I was given the opportunity to DO what I loved while HERE!

The wedding was beautiful-- outdoors at the Tempe Center for the Arts. Included a beautiful bride & groom, a lovely family, lakeside outdoor ceremony with negative edge waterfall as the backdrop, a blue-sky sunny day, and many architectural AND desert scape areas for photography!

{2} The sun. Even though we have had an uncharacteristically warm and sunny winter in Illinois, Kristi and I have soaked up the sun as much as possible. (Because let's face it-- the sun is just different in Arizona). Not to mention, you can sit in the shade here and not SWEAT, even though it's 90 degrees! At any given minute from the hours of 10-2, we could be found at my aunt & uncle's community pool... every single day.

{3} Making a new friend. On the air plane, on the way out here, I befriended a little 6-year-old girl. She was absolutely darling and I loved to be in her company for even just a short while. In times like those, I cherish the ability to revisit tic tac toe boards and handfuls of Skittles, because sometimes my life gets too crowded with "big people" decisions and worries. And in the world of drawing daisies and chasing butterflies, you don't have to think about those things.

{4} Freshly-squeeze grapefruit & orange juice. On my first morning here, my aunt pulled some frozen grapefruit/orange juice out of the freezer. She had squeezed it out of her fresh fruit a few weeks ago, and then froze it to keep it good. She defrosted it in the fridge overnight, so on that first morning it tasted like slush... which was, amazingly delicious. Then it turned to extra-pulpy juice, which was, also, amazing delicious.

Needless to say, I have drank it every morning since. It pairs nicely with my cinnamon oatmeal squares.

{5} Beautiful all around me. Multiple times, Kristi has said, "This is so beautiful." The thing is... I can't believe I'm admitting this, but the things I find beautiful in nature are quite unconventional. And mountains aren't one of them (GASP!) I know, I'm terrible. But I usually don't look at rocky desert and prickly bushes and red-rocked mountains and think, "Wow... beautiful." I just don't. The blue sky? The sun? The fresh air and ability to hike up a giant rock? THAT is beautiful. I find experiences beautiful. I look at this time with my aunt and uncle, with my best friend, with everyone around me and think... it has been beautiful.

Don't get me wrong... I love God's creation and how He has hand-crafted this desert-scape which is so different than where I come from; BUT, I guess I'm just mored wired to see beauty in the people and experiences and faces rather than the places.

Lastly, I share a picture. Kristi snapped this of me tonight. Still trying to decide how I feel about it. Let it be known that she told me, "Twirl around and look up." I think my gut reaction is that I feel like this picture is a little cheesy, because rarely am I found twirling around with my camera; OK, I'm never found doing that. But nonetheless, the mountains and camera and carefree nature of this photo sums up this trip quite nicely, so I shall share it.

Love you all!