Sunday, February 1, 2015

photography

Hi! Is this thing on? (tap, tap, tap) Easing my way back into blogging after a holiday/moving/no internet/broken computer sabbatical with a quick photography post. Here's my latest work.

An impromptu session with my sister and her girls on Thanksgiving. Cutest little outfits and gorgeous snowy backdrop made for adorable pictures. 

A few favorites from a family session I did right before Christmas. (Don't worry, it was unseasonably warm outside. Baby didn't freeze ;)
I went out on a morning shoot with a group of local photographers. They get together often for sunrise shoots to practice and for those with less experience to ask lots of questions. It was a really fun time of low-pressure shooting. 
The next few are from a girls' weekend getaway my friends and I had in Galena, IL. Megan and Katie are professional photographers and Ally's just the best sport so we spent one incredible afternoon taking photos at this amazing frozen waterfall.
A little blurry but this one sums this girl up. Pure joy. I leave happier whenever we're together.  
This beauty just moved to Florida this week. Our little tribe isn't going to be the same without her. She has such an incredible heart and is always pointing us back to Jesus. I hope we can all reconvene on a beach in her neck of the woods very soon. 
One of my nearest and dearest here in my town. This girl's got my back and I love her for it.
See a few more photos from our trip here

New house post coming soon(ish)!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

a sacrifice of thanks.

I'm not sure how to put into words what last weekend felt like. Our first major holiday as a truly separated couple. It felt heavy and hard and gritty and vulnerable. But on the other hand, it lifted my spirits to have my immediate family in my house all weekend, so it was life-giving at the same time. I've said before that the constant dull ache of loneliness is the hardest thing to live with (even months and months into this), so having people in my house make that ache disappear and makes me feel more human again. I'm an introvert. I crave quiet and alone time desperately. But I've realized how terribly we all need companionship. This quote has been swirling through my head since I read it several weeks ago:
"To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything." -Tim Keller
This season has made me feel so very human. So very lacking. I look at my daily life and feel like I'm just barely holding on to any thread of sanity. I feel like the biggest loser in my role as a stay-at-home mom these days. Truly, though, I'm not writing these things to garner sympathy or encouragement (though that is always welcome.) But I know there are other women who need to know they're not alone down there at rock bottom. And for that reason I continue to write. And I'm not just here to say, "hey, I'm down here too." I'm here to say He's down here too. I listened to a quick Brene Brown clip that a dear friend sent me and my favorite part said something along the lines of, "our relationship with Jesus isn't supposed to look like an epidural that takes away all of our pain. It's supposed to look like the midwife who sits with us in the pain." My future has never looked more uncertain in my life. But I stand firm in the knowledge that my life is secure in God's hands. My mind can race a mile a minute thinking about all the what if's and following bunny trail after bunny trail. These thoughts are utterly endless when divorce is a looming threat. But on good days I cut those thoughts short. I remind myself of all of the verses about worry and what good it actually does. (None. Worse than none. It's harmful.) And then I just let my thoughts linger on heaven. That's always far more comforting than sitting with my worry, growing in my mind like a snowball racing out of control down a hill. I was telling a group of my closest friends about where things are currently and they told me I sounded at peace. I'm thankful that came through in my voice because that is how I feel. My house does not feel peaceful. My daily life feels anything but peaceful. But I have peace down in the depths of my soul.

Here are some snapshots of our Thanksgiving day. I haven't done a post with lots of pictures lately because I haven't picked up my big camera much. It was fun to capture this day. I hope I look back at these pictures and see God in all of it.
They played with the kinetic sand all morning. And instead of the usual lava pits and animals sinking to their death in quicksand, it was all cakes and cookies and biscuits. I love having girls in my house.

 My mama gettin' her bacon on in the kitchen.
Sisters doing what we do best. Watching our mama cook while drinking all the coffee and mimosas. (We have an older brother too, by the way. He lives outside of Yosemite in California and is currently on vacation in Argentina with our sister-in-law.)
We all still joined my in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner because that's what we've always done. It was a lovely day despite everything. We've still done family things together and I'm thankful for that for my boys.
Nana's give the best snuggles: 
Channing snuggled right up with his great grandma and stayed there for a long time. I know this was the highlight of her day and it warmed my heart that she felt cherished. Nothing like a baby crawling in your lap to make you feel loved.

This Christmas season feels scary to walk through. My heart aches and my stomach clenches when I see pictures of people decorating Christmas trees and doing festive family things together. That was supposed to be us. This was never supposed to be us. And I think of all the other broken homes-- separation, divorce, a death, military wives...I know I'm not the only one putting on a brave face but feeling a bit like you're crumbling inside. Just because I'm at peace, doesn't mean I'm not feeling all of the crushing heartache for what I'm missing. For what my boys are missing. But sometimes I think about the person I was before I went through this. I had sympathy for the woman who lost her husband or for the newly divorced or the military wife who had to tough out a year without her husband. But I couldn't have understood that depth of hurt and loneliness if I'd tried. (And I did try.) And so I thank God for everything that deepens my character and drives me closer to him and makes me more humble and aware of His grace. And for everything that opens my eyes wider to the hurting around me.

There are people who have loved me so well through this season. My friends, both near and far, have come through for me time and time again. I had a friend mail me a box with 25 gifts wrapped up for me to open each day in December. I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I called her to thank her. That sort of generosity blows me away. To feel remembered and cherished is the best feeling in the world. I hope to have hundreds of opportunities to bless others in situations like mine down the road. I'd encourage you to bless a single mom in some way in the next few weeks. She will most assuredly cry and love you forever.

If this post resonated with you in some way, jump over to my girl, Shannan's blog post, When You're Not Merry Yet. Because sister's got a gift for words and she tells it like it is and tells it like it should be. God bless her for it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

let's talk about books, baby

I was about to write an extensive Instagram post about these books but then I remembered I have a blog. And blogs are for people who can't edit themselves to a few lines on Instagram. So I will happily write as many words as I want over here without anyone rolling their eyes at my inability to be concise.
I just finished the top two. I'm usually reading one "fun" book and one "spiritual" book at a time. A friend loaned me Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. I don't usually get through the spiritual books very quickly, if at all. But I couldn't put this one down most days. I loved the stories of the people who have walked through the doors of the Brooklyn Tabernacle and have been transformed by the power of God's love and His Holy Spirit. A lot of the book is emphasizing the power of prayer and what can (and should) happen when we cry out to God. It was a life-changing perspective for me. I highly recommend it and also think it's a must-read if you're in any type of ministry. 
"The devil is not terribly frightened of our human efforts and credentials. But he knows his kingdom will be damaged when we begin to lift up our hearts to God."

Anne Lamott. Do we need words for Anne? Probably not. This is actually the first of hers I'd ever read because a friend loaned it to me. I was liking it but not loving it for the first half. Several chapters left me a little confused by the abrupt ending, seemingly with no real point. But I think I had to get used to her voice, like your first few bites of dark chocolate...bitter at first, but then sweeter until all you want is the bitter stuff. I absolutely loved the last half of the book and couldn't put it down. I laughed out loud at several things. (Her thighs as beloved elderly aunties, the kind who did embarrassing things, but whom she was proud of because they were so great in every real and important way?? I died. That chapter alone is worth the book.) Other lines I had to re-read one or two more times to soak them in properly and I would inwardly sigh at her ability to make us feel so precisely what she felt and what so many of us have felt ourselves but couldn't put a name on it. Words that make you want to rip the page out and carry it around in your pocket just to feel their warm company. A few of my favorites: 

Again and again I tell God I need help, and God says, "Well isn't that fabulous? Because I need help too. So you go get that old woman over there some water, and I'll figure out what we're going to do about your stuff."
The world  sometimes feels like the waiting room of the emergency ward and that we who are more or less OK for now need to take the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room, until the healer comes. You sit with people. You bring them juice and graham crackers. 
 Courage is fear that has said its prayers.
There were a couple more less...ahem...reverential ones that made me laugh out loud but I won't share them here. Don't read the book if other people's irreverence and a few cuss words gets your panties in a knot.  

The rest of the stack is next on my to-read list. I haven't read rich sweeping fiction in a while so Swan Thieves is next on my list. A dear and generous friend sent it to me and she assured me I will love it. The Storyline team mailed me an advanced copy of Donald Miller's yet-to-be-released book, Scary Close, ("dropping the act and finding true intimacy") which sounds completely appropriate and relatable for this season of my life. I was beyond grateful and more than a little giddy that they wanted to mail me a copy and I can't wait to dig in. I'm equally excited to read the other two too. I love that I got to hear Glennon speak before I read her book because now I'll hear her voice in my head while I'm reading and pretend even more that she's my best friend, curled up on the other end of my couch, talking to me. 

So now it's your turn. Let's discuss. (Leave your email in the comments so I can reply back!) Have you read any of these? What are your recent books you've loved? 

P.S. I keep a running list on the right side of my blog of any books I've given 5 stars to. I'm very picky about what goes on that list. I want them to be one I could recommend to anyone without hesitation, knowing they'd love it. If you want to see everything I read, find me on Goodreads.com!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

fall photography

I apologize if these posts are annoying. Skip right on past if they are. But here are the last three photo sessions I did in October. I decided I was ready for a lens upgrade. I got some advice from a few photographer friends on what my first upgrade should be and I found a used one on Craigslist that I could afford. (A 50mm 1.4, if you speak the lingo.) I was kind of on the fence about it still when I showed up to a family session and discovered my lens was busted. I remembered Bennett carrying my camera in the case and dropping it (yeah...not a smart move, letting my accident-prone seven year old go anywhere near the thing.) I hadn't even thought to look at it. I figured it was fine inside the case.
We were about 10 or 15 minutes away at a park and I just felt sick and started panicking when I realized it wasn't focusing correctly. But they happened to have a DSLR in their car (Phew! Crisis averted.) and so I did my best on theirs. It still felt like a disaster. Theirs was a Nikon instead of a Canon and I just couldn't figure out all the settings. It felt like I was reading a foreign language. So I just shot everything in Auto and did the best I could. Their baby wasn't in a photogenic mood either, so there was a lot of frustration all around. (Also. One year olds? Officially THE most difficult age to shoot.) We still got a few cute shots though. These were the best of the bunch.

We scheduled a reshoot after I got my new lens so we could get some good ones for her one year pictures. I was so incredibly happy with how they turned out. And sweet baby girl was in a much better mood. We shot for at least an hour and she did great. 
This next one was one of the first shoots I went to with my new lens. I thought it was going great but realized so many of the shots weren't in focus when I got back home and saw them big on the computer. It was extremely frustrating and I still don't know why it was happening. But thankfully they were still usable. So much trial and error in this process that leads to panic and mild heart attacks and cold sweats. Starting something new like this and jumping in with both feet is equally exhilarating when it goes well and humiliating when it doesn't and I have to admit to so many mistakes along the way. 
I've known this next family for 17 years! Heather was my very first friend who showed me the ropes and let me hang out with her and her friends when we moved to Iowa and I started school here in 11th grade. It was all awkward new friendships and wearing masks and building walls for self protection and preservation back then. Now we have a beautiful, authentic friendship with raw, open hearts that build up and encourage. Barely a trace of who we once were.  
They were all playful in front of the camera and it was fun to shoot them. 
 These two pictures are my favorite of the session. That kiss on his cheek!
(I really wish I had Photoshop for things like the hair blowing behind her face. That bugged me. The cloning tool in Lightroom just can't handle details like that. I know there are some professional photographers who just use Lightroom, am I right? What do you do about stuff like that? I wish I had a face and eye brightener too. I use the paint brush a lot to lighten exposure on faces and occasionally add some vibrancy. Anything else I should be doing to enhance faces? I should watch some more Youtube tutorials now that I've been using it for a while. Any tips are always welcome!)
Another one year old in the mix who was ok with being held for exactly 1.4 seconds before she started screaming made it extremely challenging to get a family shot. So we did a lot of walking. ;) I love how this one turned out though.
And the last shoot I did with another long time friend. It's the strangest thing shooting families that don't run away and who smile on command. I usually feel like I'm a circus clown juggling puppies. This was way too easy. (But so fun. I'm not a very good clown or juggler.) 
And one of my Dawson at the park when I was practicing with my lens. I miss those gorgeous leaves and warm sun already. But there are so many great things about this time of year and I'm resolving to look on the sunny side when it comes to the weather (pun intended). I started muttering complaints under my breath the other day and caught myself. Is it possible to make it through a Midwest winter, polar vortex and all, without complaining? I'm not exactly sure it is. But I'm going to give it a shot. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to go all Elsa on you. The cold DOES bother me. A heckuva lot. But there are enough reasons to be blue lately without involving the weather. If I speak the positives, my heart seems to follow suit. So if you hear me uttering expletives regarding my eyeballs freezing in their sockets, kindly redirect me. My heart will thank you later. After it's had a chance to warm up.