Suzy & Spice

a pinch of this, a dash of that

Batesville Camera Club

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 13, 2010

To my friends without Facebook pages (or, really, to my friends with FB pages, too):

Michael McGaha and Clayton Cavaness, two very talented local photographers, have corralled a few people and started a camera club (we’re working on a more-inclusive name than Batesville Camera Club, but for now that’s what it’s called).

If you have any ideas for a club name that will let everyone know that this is open to anyone, regardless of ZIP code, please suggest them in the comment section of this post or on the Batesville Camera Club Facebook page. Note that when we do decide on a name, we’ll have to establish a new FB page and I don’t believe the posts will transfer. So either search for such terms as “White River Camera Club” (one of the suggested names) or come here to post a comment – or e-mail me if you have my address.

We meet at 6:30 p.m. the second Thursday of each month (next meeting Dec. 9) and will start having a field trip once a month, too. The meetings are in the Batesville Municipal Building.

Here are the main points from the 11/11/10 meeting:

1.  Each club member showed pictures we have taken that we like or wanted  advice on. There are some really talented people in our group, and I  learned a thing or two. For instance, Michael took some really pretty  night shots of flowers; he said he uses a wireless flash that he holds  several inches away from his camera.

2. We’d like to decide on a name by the next meeting because …

3.  We’re going to do a photo scavenger hunt and involve the Main Street merchants. We talked about doing it before Christmas, when the merchants  would be eager to have people in their shops, but we decided we don’t  have enough time to get that accomplished by the Dec. 9 meeting (because  we’ll have to select the items from the stores and then write clues for  them, after giving the merchants time to let us know if they’d like to  participate). We also discussed that people might get cameras for  Christmas and be eager to use them after Christmas (also, this will get  people in the stores for post-Christmas sales). We’ll get the Batesville  Guard to post an announcement and let people have one week to submit  the photos of the scavenged items they find in the stores. The merchants  won’t be allowed to give hints, and if someone takes a photo of the  wrong item, the merchant just has to let them do it. (If there’s not  room in the Guard to post the list, we’ll post it on FB; if someone  doesn’t have an FB page, Michael can e-mail it or they can drop by his  office or the Guard to get a printout.)

4. We’d like to have a  photography theme for each meeting. Next up: “Things I’m Thankful For.” To participate, bring a thumb drive (or CD) with 5-10 photos of  things you are thankful for and be prepared to share a bit about the photography: how you set up the shot, any technical or creative aspects of the shot, etc.

You do not have to be a professional photographer, or even really good at taking pictures, to be a part of the club. I certainly am a complete amateur; I simply love taking pictures. If that describes you, come join us at our next meeting or visit our Facebook page.


Posted in Batesville, camera club, photography | Leave a Comment »

The Lord is her Shepherd

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 9, 2010

Have you ever seen anything sweeter than this 2-year-old reciting the 23rd Psalm? Some adults can’t even recite this passage!

Posted in God, inspiration, religion | Leave a Comment »

Happy birthday, Lynn

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 7, 2010

I don’t even know where to begin.

Which means you may get a lot of random thoughts in this post. I’m just going to start with what’s on my mind at this very moment:

We had a party yesterday.

Lynn, Suzy and Salsa

Yesterday was Lynn’s birthday, and because she and her son Jacob were driving down for Friday night’s season-ending BHS victory (Go, Pioneers!), we decided we’d finally have our “housewarming” party and combine it with birthday cake.

We had an incredible time, and Lynn took a few pictures (I didn’t even get our camera out). Jacob shot a multilingual birthday video for our friend Becky (sorry, it’s Rebecca now), who lives in Nashville and couldn’t be here. Rebecky’s birthday is today. We told her Happy Birthday in at least four languages (thank you, Desiree, for the Pig Latin!).

Bruce had worked diligently to hang the family photos that had been leaning against the wall in our hallway. I don’t think anyone even looked at the photos during the party, as we didn’t do a “home tour.” People just started coming in and sitting around the music area, chatting and then eventually pickin’ and grinnin’.

We had everyone but Lynn and her boys out of here by Razorback game time (they had an hour’s drive home, so they missed a good bit of the first half). Mom called just as they were leaving and invited us over to watch. So after the kitchen cleaned itself up (not!), we went to Mom’s. I was nearly numb with tiredness (I’d say exhaustion, but it wasn’t quite that severe – Bruce may dispute this, but I didn’t stress out as much over this party as I have with previous ones). And Mom hadn’t been able to come to the party because she wore herself out cleaning out her storage building.

So we went to Mom’s to watch the Hogs beat South Carolina. Go, Hogs!

I could barely walk by the time we got home, and I went straight down the hall toward the bedroom to turn on the electric blanket and the heating pad. I noticed that Bruce had hung all three of the framed photo collages that had been leaning against the wall. I had barely noticed because I had already warned our potential party guests that there was so much to do at the house, we might not have pictures hung.

Bruce, nevertheless, worked to get the hallway done.

And last night, as I walked to the bedroom in my bleary-eyed state, I happened to look at all his handiwork so I could thank him for his hard work. The last one on the left, just before the bedroom door, was one of the aforementioned collages.

I said something like, “You do know that this last photo collage is of people chosen by the photo-frame manufacturers?”

“What?” he said, walking down the hall toward me.

“These are pictures of people inserted by the makers of this frame and collage.”

“Oh. I thought they were your nieces and your childhood friends and relatives.”

I had bought Mom the collage several years ago, but she was expecting me to fill it with family photos. I never got around to it.

At least it’s not cluttering the floor in the hallway anymore.

Posted in family, food, friends, fun, home, moving, music, sports | 1 Comment »

Book review: ‘Your Money God’s Way’ by Amie Streater

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 1, 2010

In the 16 years I have been reading about personal finance (specifically, debt-free living), I have read a lot of books, studies, articles and scriptures on the topic and have gathered a ton of tips and advice.

And after the umpteenth book, I’ve been tempted to conclude, “You’ve read one get-out-of-debt-book, you’ve read them all.”

Amie Streater’s “Your Money God’s Way: Overcoming the 7 Money Myths that Keep Christians Broke” is different. But in a surprising way.

She uses words like “stupid,” “annoying” and “creeped out.” The woman doesn’t pull any punches. She tells it like it is.

And, while I am guilty of being brutally blunt at times (not as much as I used to, praise God), this woman takes the prize.

But once you get over the shock of reading sentences such as, “That’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard!” you grow to appreciate her candor.

She’s the Dr. Phil of Christian debt counseling.

And, yes, she is a Christian counselor – an “associate pastor for financial stewardship” who has met with countless individuals and couples who have screwed up their lives with bad money decisions.

(Haven’t we all screwed up royally in one way or another?)

Streater’s style may be blunt, but she offers solutions. She points out our “counterfeit convictions” and counters them with biblical wisdom, citing scripture to back up her advice. Many of those verses talk of God’s grace and his abundant love for us. He doesn’t want us to “live in chaos, frustration, lack, and debt,” she concludes.

And Streater doesn’t just talk the talk. She has walked the walk and lived to tell about it.

After all, God uses the fears and foibles we have overcome (with His help) to lead others to the light.

This book gives light. You’ll profit by reading it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in books, debt-proof living, frugal living, God, money, reading, religion | 1 Comment »

Pepper and The Big Blur

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on October 15, 2010

Bruce thought he’d try his hand at photography this week. Our favorite subject: the Spice Dogs. Here’s a pic of Pepper, our 3.9-pound Min Pin …

Pepper, age 6

… and then there’s Salsa, our 14-pound bundle of energy. I can’t recall a photo of her that isn’t blurry. She’s a Manchester terror – er,  terrier – who NEVER slows down unless she’s getting a belly rub, her favorite thing in the world. (Pepper’s favorite thing: FOOD.)

Salsa, nearly age 6 (we think)

Salsa and Pepper, the Spice Dogs. They’re half the inspiration for the name of this blog (see my very first post for the rest of the story).

Bruce and I are wacky for, with and because of these two goofy animals. We’ve even got my mother crazy because of them. One Saturday morning a few weeks ago, she called and said she wanted to come over and see her babies. “Sure,” I said (I assumed she meant Bruce and me). When she arrived, I quickly discovered that she meant the fur-babies.

Never thought my mom would act that way over a dog.

Gotta love ’em.

Posted in dogs, family, fun, home | Leave a Comment »

Give thanks

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on October 14, 2010


I wasn’t planning to post tonight, but I ended up online and just had to take two minutes to say this:

Wherever you are in your journey, whatever circumstances you’re in  – whether difficult, easy or somewhere in between – take a moment to stop and thank God for your life.

Life is precious. Be grateful for every breath you take.

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12

Posted in family, God, health, inspiration | Leave a Comment »

Raise your hand if you love Jesus

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on September 12, 2010

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” – Psalm 95:6

God wants us to worship … HIM.

He talked about it countless times in scripture.

Type the word “worship” in the search box at, and you’ll get 250 hits. A quick scan of those results reveals verses on worship from Genesis (Abraham and Isaac) to the last chapter of Revelation (John and “the angel”).

In Exodus, God told Pharoah several times, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” Because Pharoah wasn’t listening to God’s messenger Moses, God had to step in and show Pharoah that He meant business. (Remember the 10 plagues? Not pretty.) God finally got His point across, and the people went. (How long it took them to reach the Promised Land is another story.)

The Israelites worshipped. And they complained. He blessed them. And they complained.

Just like the Israelites, we don’t always get it right. Yet God blesses. This side of heaven, our worship will never be perfect, just as no other aspect of our lives will be perfect.

Yet God blesses.

Even though our worship isn’t perfect, God still wants it, and when we do it, we grow closer to Him. (That’s His real purpose, after all.)

But what does it mean to worship?

I’m no theologian, but I know that worship should be about God and not us.

I’ve been particularly convicted lately about how I worship on Sunday mornings, during the “worship” part of the service.

Bruce and I moved to Batesville in May, and we visited two churches back and forth for a few weeks before settling on Fellowship Bible Church of Batesville.

Doctrinally, the churches are the same. The music styles are the same. The people are the same.

But we couldn’t help comparing – both by contrasting the music at the two churches and by comparing those two to the music at our church in North Little Rock, Fellowship North.

By the world’s standards, the music at Fellowship North is superior. We got used to professional-sounding instrumentals, vocals and performances. The music at the other Batesville church is more like that of FN. Not that the music at our new church is bad; it just isn’t as “full” – robust, maybe? We do “enjoy” it.

I was talking to our new pastor today about this topic. I haven’t been able to explain the difference in “music quality” among these three churches except to theorize: Maybe it’s because of stronger voices (and more voices) on FN’s worship team. Maybe it’s that FN has more instruments. Maybe it’s the acoustics (FN meets in a “church building,” while Fellowship Batesville meets in a converted movie theater and the other church meets in a former retail or warehouse space – I forget which). Today I thought of another thing: The worship leaders at FN tend to be a little more “dynamic,” more emotional, more showy – although showy is not quite the right or fair word. Demonstrative, maybe?

One day a few months ago, our three worship leaders at FN used part of the service to explain where they were coming from. Each one of them – Josh, Dena and Russell – expressed a desire to use their talents to glorify God and lead the congregation to worship Him, as opposed to having themselves or the “team” be at the center of the spotlight.

Yet I tend to worship the voices, the huge talent – not the God that created them. When I catch myself doing that, I remind myself that He is the source of their talents and that they wouldn’t be there if not for His gracious gifts.

But I still find myself doing it. I am emotionally connected to music. I love all kinds, from country to opera. In a “worship service” – which should be any service where Christ followers gather – it’s hard not to focus on the music when the music is lovely and moving and full of godly sounding words.

Here’s what Rick Warren says in The Purpose Driven Life:

“Today many equate being emotionally moved by music as being moved by the Spirit, but these are not the same. Real worship happens when your spirit responds to God, not to some musical tone. In fact, some sentimental, introspective songs hinder worship because they take the spotlight off God and focus on our feelings. Your biggest distraction in worship is yourself – your interests and your worries over what others think about you.”

Which brings up another point: “What others think about you.”

I didn’t grow up in a church of raising-your-hands-in-worship. It’s hard – even after attending a church for 16 years (FN) where no one looks at you funny if you do – to convince yourself that God won’t think it’s odd at all if you lift your hands to worship Him. The Bible tells of many methods used to worship the Creator – dancing, singing, praying, playing instruments, giving offerings …

At Fellowship North, a church where I felt more at home than at any church before it, I witnessed the raising of hands in worship almost every Sunday. The upraised hands were few on some Sundays, but they were present. Some occasions led to more hand-raising than others, but the point is it was normal.

On any given Sunday, I might have a conversation with myself (and sometimes with God) that included one or more of these phrases:

“God, I want to raise my hands.” (“Just do it.”)
“People would see me.” (“So?”)
“It would feel funny.” (“Only the first couple of times.”)
“People would think I’m weird.” (“Isn’t my opinion the only one that really matters?”)
“I want to raise my hands in worship, but it just isn’t me. I wasn’t raised that way.” (“I’m raising you different now.”)
“Someday I’ll do it.” (“I can wait.”)

God is so patient with His kids.

A few days ago I discovered that my new pastor had a blog when he was in seminary. He hasn’t posted since 2007, but, as I told him, truth doesn’t really have a time limit (I’m very profound sometimes). His words from 2004 spoke to me six years later. Click here to read what John Mark wrote about Sunday morning worship (scroll to Nov. 25, then back up to Nov. 29).

I read those posts just a few days ago, and this morning my “worship” was a little more God centered than Me centered.


One manifestation of that: I raised my right hand … maybe halfway (I had my eyes closed, so I couldn’t tell for sure).

Did I feel self-conscious? Yes, a little bit, I have to admit. But mostly not. I mostly cared what God thought of me, not what others might be thinking. Fellowship Batesville is smaller, so I don’t think there are as many hand-raisers as FN has.

Maybe we can change that. I’m not saying that every member of every church has to be a hand-raiser. But for someone who thought she wasn’t a hand-raiser to be becoming a hand-raiser, it’s something I’ll want to ruminate about. How many people in our churches don’t lift their hands to God, not because they’re not-hand-raisers but because they’re afraid someone will think they’re weird? Or fanatical? Or – horrors – charismatic?

When we care more about what God thinks about us than what other people think about us, we’re inching closer to Kingdom thinking.

Anybody want to high-five me on that?

Posted in God, inspiration, music, religion | Leave a Comment »

Surprised by lilies

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on August 2, 2010

Someone planted lilies in my flower bed while I wasn’t looking.

A few minutes ago, I went out to water the flowers on the front porch, and when I was finished I looked down at the flower bed below and could not believe my eyes.

Two beautiful, pale pink lilies were standing tall next to the nandinas. We left town Thursday morning and didn’t return until Sunday night, so I’m not sure when these beauties sprouted. (Mom watered for me a couple of times while we were gone, but she obviously didn’t see them.)

This was the best photo I could take of my delicate new friends. The rest of the shots are quite foggy; a huge humidity pod has taken over the South, and my camera lens is one of its more sensitive victims. When the temp reaches more than 100 degrees and the humidity is, like, a zillion percent, what chance does a cold little piece of glass have when it meets up with the big bad, moist hot air outside? I just could not keep that foggy lens clear while I took pictures, so I decided to take some through the fog. Those will be known as the “art” shots, although you probably will never see them here because they are SO foggy.

I try not to complain too much about the weather, but I have done my share of whining this year. The humidity makes me cranky. I LOVE our new home in Batesville, but I’ve spent a lot more time in the yard here than I had at the North Little Rock house the past couple of summers. This means more hair washing (sweaty, yucky hair), more showers, more mosquito bites – but in the end, more joy, too.

Have I mentioned I love digging in the dirt? Why, I believe I have mentioned it a couple of times (click here and  here to see my older posts about flowers and gardening).

It’s still true.

Gardening is one of life’s profound and simple pleasures, and if a little humidity (and by that you know I mean a LOT of humidity) is the price I have to pay, it’s worth it.

It’s worth the mosquito bites, the ant hills, the chipped fingernails – even the sweat trickling down places you shouldn’t mention in public.

And every once in a while you get a sweet surprise.

Pale pink lilies.

Posted in flowers, gardening, nature | 1 Comment »

Out with the old

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on July 25, 2010

This is the reason I haven’t posted in so long.

We’ve been in our house in Batesville for about five weeks now (after staying at Mom’s tiny house for five weeks).

I’ve been dying to update everyone about all that has been going on in our lives (my new job, family stuff, new church, community events), but the house has overshadowed most of it. We’ve been ripping down wallpaper, washing off the old glue, unpacking boxes (a few at a time) and trying to find time to sleep and enjoy a little bit of family fellowship. After all, family is why we moved here.

After we moved in with Mom on May 8 (just 5 hours after I took my accounting final [I made an A in the class, by the way]), we drove back to North Little Rock every weekend to haul more stuff up here, clean and make repairs at that house.

(Speaking of the North Little Rock house, tell all your friends about it! We want to sell it: Click here to see the real estate listing.)

You can’t really tell by the photo above, but the carpet was mint green and the wallpaper was several decades old. Another thing this picture doesn’t tell: This floral wallpaper (and the paneling) encompasses not only the hallway and the “den” area but the kitchen and dining room. That’s a lot of flower.

We replaced the carpet before we moved in, then we started ripping down wallpaper. Bruce has nearly finished painting the walls a nice kitcheny green (darker than it looked at the store, but we can live with it for now). Then we’ll tackle the bathrooms. Betcha can’t wait to see those photos! (Wait until you see the pink-tiled bathroom with the pink-flowered wallpaper.)

Hey, friends, I want to tell (and show) you all about it, but it’s bedtime for this sleepy girl. I’ll work really hard to post again soon. I have nearly a month before classes start at my new school, UACCB (I’ve declared a banking and finance major now that I’ve started my really great bank job), so I need to post a good update before I get too busy with my studies.

Hope all is well with you all, my friends. Post a comment and say hey.

Posted in family, home, moving | Leave a Comment »

I grew these!

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on May 1, 2010

I may not be very good with the growing of the food, but I seem to have found one that will grow despite my neglectful ways. These are my first strawberries, and the most successful attempt at growing actual food (several attempts at tomatoes have left me with nothing but anger at the local population of furry critters), so I’m obviously excited.

I bought this strawberry plant two years ago from Josh Hardin of Hardin Farms at the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market in North Little Rock. Josh gave me a few tips, I followed his advice, then promptly got busy with life and forgot about the berry plant. At the end of the first season, I assumed I had neglected it to death, but last summer it was still alive, and a couple of weeks ago I was bringing in the mail and saw a bunch of little itty bitty berries, so I watered it. A few days later, the berries were bigger and bright red, so I picked them. Today, I saw this beautiful sight. More berries to come!

Strawberry shortcake, anyone?

Posted in community-supported agriculture, food, gardening | 1 Comment »