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Category: Personal   |   View all recent posts

Then and Now
WHAT: Personal   |   WHEN: November 14, 2012

Almost 4 months ago I embarked on what has become a life-changing journey when our church did a Hungry For Change campaign.  For 5 days, the challenge was to eat roughly the same quantity and type of food that much of the world lives on daily. So for those days I, and many others at the church,  had a 1/2 cup rolled oats (oat meal) for breakfast, 1 serving of rice and beans for lunch, another serving of rice and beans for dinner, and water. And that's it. You could argue that even the clean drinking water was a luxury. 

Not only did it give me a picture of what much of the world faces where many populations live on less than $2/day and eat very little, it brought to the forefront my own unhealthy eating habits.  I was snacking all the time, eating things I shouldn't be eating, and eating way too much in portion sizes. I was living to eat instead of eating to live. 

I knew I needed to change some things long before the Hungry for Change challenge, but God used that time as a catalyst for change in me.  Once the challenge ended, I made pretty significant changes in the way and things I ate, and although I knew I was losing weight and feeling better, it didn't really hit me until I was going through some images and noticed the difference between the 2 below.

36 lbs so far, which I realized the other morning is about a Saige and a half.  I'd still like to ideally drop another 5-7 lbs and also start working out a bit, but I'm excited about the journey ahead now, one that no longer seems overwhelming.

If you wanna check out Hungry for Change on the Trade As One website, you can do it here.


Home Again in Ohio
WHAT: Families, Kids, Personal   |   WHEN: August 14, 2012   |   WHERE: Marion, Ohio
They, whoever 'they' is, say "Home is where the heart is."  I don't know if I'd go so far as to say Marion, Ohio is where my heart is, but it sure feels comfortable every time I go back.  Things just feel a little more relaxed there.  Where Dallas can often feel busy, congested, competitive, and somewhat materialistic, Marion has a slower, relaxed, community feel to it.  I miss that sometimes.  It could just be that I get all nostalgic when I go back about my childhood and growing up there, not to mention I'm usually on vacation when I'm there. It probably is that, but either way, I always look forward to going 'home' for a bit whenever I get a chance.

This time Kylie and Saige came with me, and as an extra bonus, Kylie's parents made teh 6 hour trek from Indiana to spend 5 days with us while we were there.  I can't say enough about one of my good HS buddis, Michael, and his wife Amanda who let us all crash in their house for the week while they were on a family vacation with their kiddos in Michigan. What a blessing it was for us to have a free place to stay and just hang out with Kylie's mom and dad.  And, like like we planned it or somethin', whenKylie's parents left on a Friday afternoon, the Styers returned home that night from vacation, so we got to spend some R&R time with them, too. Awesome sauce.

Here's a few images from our stay back in O-H... I-O!

First up, playground time with Saige and the in-laws...

"Grammy" helpin' Saige across the rubber bridge.

Saige gettin' ready for her own American Ninja Warrior tryout on the rings...

... but not until "Grandfather Garry" (btw, his self-chosen nickname) gave it a run first.

Oops.  Head-banger.  Oh, and if anyone wants to give it a shot, the wooden support beam to Saige's left (camera right) says "Call 387-6477 and ask for Lee".  Lemme know how that goes.

Kylie's dad... still a big kid at heart.

Columbus Zoo day!  First up, ridin' the stationary baby rhino, of course.

Saige's goin' through a crinkly nose phase right now.  You can see it a little bit here. Love that crinkly nose face.

Saige's chariot came with a driver.

Finally some AC in the aquarium.

Fishies are funny.

I don't have a lot of images like this of me just hangin' out with Saige, unposed. Love these kind of images so much more than any of the posed images of us.

So sweet how she was afraid of the penguins, but Grandfather Garry helped her work it out.

Me with my brother and my dad.  This is the first time we've all 3 been in the same place and in the same photograph together since my wedding in January of '09.

Early morning bed-head reading in the big window bay.

Saige loved Michael & Amanda's daughter's boots.  She woulda worn 'em all day if we hadn't finally pried them off her feet.

This image is such a true vignette of life on this trip;  Kylie's mom playing with Saige, her dad looking on adoringly, and Kylie enjoying the parenting break spending time on her iPhone. [grin]

Future doctor who plays games and wears someone else's fashionable boots in her spare time.

Giving Barbie a check-up to figure out why she's so thin.

There's that crinkly-nosed face again.

Love. This.



Kylie checkin' out some animals at the Wings of an Angel Organization's Angelpalooza event.

Children of the Beans impersonation.

And finally, Michael & Amanda's friends were sweet and invited us to come hang out at their daughter Ava's birthday party along with the Styers. They even gave Saige a little gift bag even though they'd never met us.

Michael and I and a couple guys doin' the guy thing at the party.  It's much more of a workout these days with the extra baggage.  Oh, and the blue t-shirt and khaki shorts?  Yeah... not planned.

Saige & I and Michael and his som Cole.


Glory Days... Sort Of.
WHAT: Personal, Random   |   WHEN: August 3, 2012   |   WHERE: Marion, Ohio
Was back in Marion, OH last week. I grew up there, and it will always be 'home'.  While I was there, Kylie, Saige and I were invited by proxy to a birthday party for a sweet little three year old girl who's the daughter of some friends of the friends we were staying with.  Got to bust out a football and play catch with a couple of the guys for a bit.  My high school quarterbacking days felt like they were 20 years ago. Oh, right... they were 20 years ago.  In any case, I miss outings like this, and it was fun to visit with our formerly athletic selves... only now it feels more like we're in slow motion.  Good times.


A Change in Perspective {Jamaica Mission Trip}
WHAT: Personal, Travel   |   WHEN: June 30, 2012   |   WHERE: Montego Bay, Jamaica

Several months ago I'd been feeling like I was just kinda on cruise control.  Things were generally good with nothing of substance to complain about.  I'd been hanging out in my comfort zone, not stretching myself and not doing much to feel like I was making much of an impact in a way that truly mattered. Call it a rut or maybe the beginning of a mid-life crisis with 40 approaching in November, but I was feeling restless and a bit lost about what to do about it.  

God stepped in.  Not more than a few days later, Cheryl from Chase Oaks Church (the church Kylie and I call home) emailed me and asked if I was interested in going on a couple mission trips to capture the work being done and the relationships being built to help tell visual stories that would hopefully move more people to get involved.  I talked it over with Kylie, and while my knee-jerk reaction was one of hesitancy, Kylie encouraged me to go as it was an opportunity to grow and do something meaningful... the very thing I'd been seeking.  So after a couple conversations with Cheryl and John Stanley (Pastor for External Ministries at Chase Oaks), they felt the most immediate need was an upcoming mission trip to Jamaica, and so almost everything was set.  The last thing to do was to raise $1500 to cover the cost of the trip expenses, and I was blown away how quickly friends and family responded.  Within a week or two of the email, Facebook post, and blog post I sent out, I had all the money I needed. Thanks so much to those that made donations and/or prayed for this trip!!

The trip itself is difficult to summarize in a few sentences.  One night the group from our church was hanging out in one of the couples' room, and Todd asked a simple question; "When you go back home and people ask you 'How was your trip?', what will you say?"  For me, it was some of the hardest physical work (old school manual labor in mid-90s temps in the sun with 100% humidity) and witnessing some of the most heart-breaking circumstances, and I'd do it all again in a second. And I'd encourage anyone one else who's interested to do it, too, because anything I can say still isn't as impactful as experiencing a trip like this yourself.  

God used this trip to make me re-evaluate my own perspective.  We have every convenience we could want here in the States, and for many of us, it's often still not enough.  We got annoyed, if not angry, about trivial things that, in the big picture, really don't matter.  We are a culture of instant gratification, often accompanied by a sense of entitlement.  And heaven forbid Facebook or Twitter goes down for a few minutes.  Of course these are generalizations, and I acknowledge it's hard to blame people that have grown up here in the US for these things because in most cases, it's all we've known.  Ignorance is bliss, so to speak... short of a few commercials asking for donations to help the needy, most of us have never witnessed or experienced a life where each day you depend on the generosity of others to meet just your very basic needs.  Yes, we see it in the news almost daily, but it's because we see the stories so much that it almost just becomes background noise that we eventually tune out because we feel like we can't individually make a true difference or simply because we don't want to think about it.  At least that's how it was for me.  One of the high school students from another church group said something one night as he was sharing that really stuck with me, though.  He said that sometimes we don't feel like we're making much of a dent in all the work that needs to be done, referring to the sites we were at in Jamaica.  But he made the analogy that what we were doing was adding a twig to the camp fire... it doesn't seem like much, but it sustains the fire just a little longer until the next person or group can add more wood.  That' strue whether we're serving somewhere around the world or in our own back yard.  There's plenty of need everywhere.

The kids we visited in Jamaica at the orphanage and the school for the deaf have so very little, nothing compared to our standards, and yet they're so incredibly thankful for even the smallest gifts. In some ways I would say they're more grateful and happy than many of us in the US.  It's an 'ignorance is bliss' thing, too.  They don't know a life of comfort and convenience like we have here, and so they don't miss it or crave it.  For me, the perspective change was how little it really takes to be happy.  Their biggest source of happiness is not the stuff they have, but the relationships they have with each other.  

Sadly, the hardest part is that it's difficult for the hard-working staff at the orphanage and the school for the deaf to give each of the many kids enough attention.  The children crave interaction and a feeling of being loved. It's moving to walk into a room full of toddlers at the orphanage and immediately and almost in unison see their arms go up in the air as they reach out for you to pick them up and spend time with them and love on them.  It's difficult to walk away at the end of the day knowing these children are starved for attention, especially when I think of how much love & attention my own daughter gets each day. 

Finally, to Team Butler, thanks to each of you for making my first mission trip an experience I'll treasure for a lifetime.  Each one of you is unique in the gifts you shared, and I'm proud to have served with such a passionate, fun, inspiring group of people.  Sometimes it's difficult to gel with a 15 person group, but I didn't sense that at all with our team.  Some of my favorite memories from the trip will be the late night "hot seat" interviews where people were willing to open up and be transparent in sharing their stories with the rest of the group.  Powerful stuff.  

And finally, here's a quick slideshow from our time in Jamaica.  Unfortunately the day we spent at the orphanage went photographically undocumented as a recent policy change was made to protect the kids there where cameras were no longer permitted.  There were so many powerful moments that happened that day, and I was really bummed not to be able to share that part of the story with people back home, but I completely understand the safety of the children comes first.  

Hope you enjoy the images, and I can't encourage you enough to find an opportunity to serve wherever you feel led, whether that's half way around the world or in your own neighborhood.

And just to prove I didn't pull the "Hey, I'm just the photographer card" to get out of all the work [grin], here's photographic proof. In hindsight, khaki-colored scrubs maybe weren't the best choice for sweaty work.


Saige @ 14months
WHAT: Kids, Personal   |   WHEN: June 14, 2012
It's been two months since Saige turned 1, and it's been 2 months since I've done a blog post with her in it.  **Insert sound of Father of the Year hopes being dashed here**  Crazy how much she's evolved into a little person since then.  Anybody that has/had kids this age and says it's not the greatest time just isn't paying attention.  Check that... anybody that has/had ONE child this age.  I can imagine one you add another kiddo to the mix, it would be a little more, ahem, challenging.

Milestones in the last couple months include:
-  Walking like a champ. (includes falling on her tush like a champ, too)
-  "Uh-Oh":  when she accidentally/intentionally drops things. Occasionally "uh-oh" proceeds food being tossed from the high chair.
-  "Dyoh":  dog
-  "Dyoh dyoh":  more than one dog (when Mia has friends over)
-  Mastered the process of exfoliating toilet paper from the toilet paper holder
-  Pointing:  usually accompanied by an "Oooo" or a grunt
-  Removing the hand towel from where it hangs in the kitchen.  Every day.  Multiple times a day.
-  Hugs:  still hard to come by, but my favorite
-  Removing every one of her books from the bookshelf.  So far no desire make the effort to put them back. 
-  Chewing bugs
-  Mocking us when she's bypassed child-proof doors/cupboards (could have something to do with the shoddy install job by dad and grandfather Garry)
-  Turning on master bathroom faucet. And splashing water everywhere.
-  Less patience when the parental units aren't deemed to be working fast enough to appease her whims.
-  Holding her breath underwater for 5 seconds. 
-  Sleeping from 8pm to 8:30-9:00am.  Wo-hoo!
-  Pulling gum from my mouth.
-  Converting food to hair conditioner.  

I know many of the folling images from 12-14months have already been posted on Facebook, but I like to post them here as more of a personal record in case (or when) Facebook one day disappears into the internet sunset.

Flipping through a Rangefinder magazine.  (Score!)

She went through an O face stage.

One of the only photos we have of Saige and Mia where Mia doesn't look terrified.

Love this expression. Wish I could bottle it.

Bitten by state-of-the-art VCR technology.

Waiting patiently for an evening walk.

Photo bootcamp training to be daddy's assistant in a couple years.

Atta girl.

My girls on Mother's Day.


First self-portrait.

Rubbing it in that she's figured out the child-proofing on entertainment system cabinet.

Love my daddy-daughter time just before bed.


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