First world problems

My phone is so slow.
I am starving.
My computer is so annoying.
I need a new outfit.
My house is freezing.

I hate to even think about how many things I allow to come out of my mouth that are completely ridiculously bratty. Just plain bratty. I have a phone. I have food whenever I want it. I have a computer. I have tons of clothes. I have a house.

The bottom line is, I am ungrateful. I forget what I have and I focus on what I don’t have. It is what comes natural to me, and going against that takes thought. It takes work. It takes effort.

And that is what I am trying to do today. Not because it’s November, and suddenly people think they have to be thankful. But just because I am supposed to be content with what I have. period. So what things are you complaining about that are simply first world problems?

Maybe you should just be thankful for what you have.

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Getting to know the Marshall family

I was standing in the main room of The Porch when Clinton walked in. He had dark hair and dark eyes and he kind of shuffled quietly in. He didn’t talk much at all. But he was never rude. Just quiet. He started coming in every day, and even though he didn’t talk, I always looked forward to him coming in. Every time he left at the end of the day he would try to catch my eye and wave goodbye. He didn’t say goodbye. Just waved. I prayed for him just about every day. I prayed that he would come to know the love of God, and that he would be a leader in his school. He became one of my favorites (don’t tell anyone I have favorites) and of the 400 kids who have come in over the last few years, he is still one of my favorites. He was in 6th grade then. Now- he is a big 11th grader, and he still comes in, but now he talks to me! I always get a hug when he comes in and when he leaves, and he comes in with his younger brother, who has also become one of my favorites.
I love my job. Love it. I love meeting new people. I love showing kindness and compassion to these kids and I love getting to meet their families. We got to know his mom and dad over the next couple of years and have come to absolutely adore them both. They started attending our church, and our entire church loves them.
I had the chance to photograph their family a few weeks ago, and had such a great time with them. The dad has been going through some major health issues lately, but you would never know it to look at him. He almost always has a smile on his face and he loves to give you a huge hug and ask how you are doing.

I am truly blessed to know this family. Here are a few favorites from our session!

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Love you guys so much. So thankful that God put you in my life.

Love does or love doesn’t.

Love is a verb. It’s an action word. Not a feeling, not an emotion. A verb.

The biblical definition lists out things that love does and things that love does not.

Love does show patience, it does show kindness. It does rejoice with truth, it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.

Love does not show envy and it does not boast. Love is never arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way, it doesn’t keep a record of wrong, and it is not irritable or resentful.

I don’t often recommend books, but I have had the opportunity to meet Bob Goff and hear him speak a couple different times. He wrote a book called Love Does, and I have been reading it out loud to the boys. It’s pretty simple. Pretty obvious. And pretty amazing.

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I have to admit that I have such a difficult time with love. I mean, I never really thought that I did because I have great relationships with my family, and with so many friends. I feel like I have an understanding of what love really is, and I absolutely know and feel the love God has for me.

But the reality of it is this. Love loves or love doesn’t. There is no in between. Either you are loving or you are not. The thing with the definition of love is it seems impossible. Absolutely impossible. How on earth can I possibly show patience, not show envy, never be rude or arrogant, not keep a record of wrong and never show irritability?! And also, what do you do about all the times people say they love you but don’t act it out. At all? Do you just keep loving?

I have realized a lot about myself in the last several months. I have been in the position (as recent as today) where someone who claimed to love me showed the opposite of what the Bible describes as love. And I have to admit, that I have a problem with not loving people who have hurt me. That looks ugly even typing out, but it’s the truth. I do hold a record of wrong. And when I do that? I feel like I am doing it to guard myself against these people hurting me again, and that gives me the justification I need. But in reality? It is not love. And if it’s not love, it’s the opposite of love. And that is sinful. And if I am not in the Spirit, I can not please God. And, if I am not pleasing God, then I am not going to receive blessing from God. See the progression? It’s ugly.

See the thing with love is…

Love does not wait for a response.

Love does, and then doesn’t even leave time for a response, because love is not about insisting on my own way. It’s thinking of someone else, and their way. It is not loving someone so I can get something in return. It is so hard to live in a way that is insistent on loving other people.
I don’t mean the people who are nice to you and appreciate everything you do. I also don’t even mean the poor, the orphans, the down and out. I mean the people you see in church every week. I mean the people you are acquaintances with or maybe even friends with. Those people. The ones who you have a sense are talking about you behind your back. The ones you know for a fact have talked about you behind your back. The ones who don’t share the same values and commitments as you do. Those ones. Those are the ones I am commanded to love. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not a if-you’re-in-the-mood-today kind of a deal. It’s a command.

It’s real life. It’s loving through hurt. Through misunderstandings. Through confusion. Through sadness. And it loving for the sheer fact that God commands it. With no questions asked. Just love. Just act. Love does things. It does acts that don’t make sense to even yourself. And I have to say. I can show love to a lot of people. I can even show love pretty easily to the teenagers who come to The Porch and never say thank you, complain about the free food we are giving them and then leave their trash for me to pick up. I truly feel and show love to them with no problem.

But those other people. It’s hard, dudes. I mean straight up, no other way to put it…hard

Like, so hard that I don’t want to do it. At all. I want to hold a record of wrong, because I feel like they deserve it. I don’t want to show patience and I certainly do not want to be kind. And whether my reasoning is because I have been hurt or not, it does not excuse me from my obligation. And you can’t fake love. Love does or it doesn’t. And when I choose to pick the doesn’t over the does, I am always in the wrong.

It is literally hurting my soul to type these words because I can feel my flesh bringing faces to my mind of people that I don’t feel deserve my love. And it is so wrong, but I really want to keep it real with you. This is real life. Loving people is painful sometimes. Literally. But we are commanded to do it. Not to say words. Not to send a card, or write an email. But to act. out. love.

To do. Like the word suggests as a verb. Love does.

So where are you with love tonight? Are you acting out love? Are you demonstrating the kind of love that God requires? Don’t forget. Love does or love doesn’t. You don’t get to pick a place in the middle. Love requires action. Requires it. So if you are not doing an action for a person? You are not demonstrating love to them. It’s as simple as that. And when you feel like it is impossible to love someone? That’s probably when you need to show it the very most.

Go show love. Do love. Be love. Act out love to everyone around you. Even when it hurts. Do it and then walk away. Because Love does not wait for a response.

Threads, Kicks and Frosting ~ Thrifting is the way to go

As much as I love shopping and fashion, money is not something that we have a lot of. So shopping at yard sales, thrift stores, craigslist and clearance racks is the way I roll.  Not only does it save tons of money, but there is something totally exciting about the potential of finding crazy good stuff for crazy low prices. I have gotten some amazing deals and I love telling people about them.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great wardrobe!

I found these hunter boots on craigslist for just $30.00. They are normally $150.00

2014-11-18_0001This amazing winter coat was just $3.00 at a thrift store and I get compliments on it all the time!

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I snagged a pink coach handbag that someone’s daughter bought for $350.00 and sold to me at a yard sale for 50 cents…like…say what?! We have bought couches, chairs, lamps, shoes, clothes, antiques, cameras, lenses, flashes, you name it we have probably bought it used!

You never know what you are going to come across when you shop at second hand stores, and I have no problem buying used. I really don’t get as uptight when the boys spill something on their shirt or rip their jeans when I know I only bought it for a few dollars! I see moms all the time flipping out because their son lost or stained a 80 dollar abercrombie hoodie! No.Thank.You. I still love to buy brand name clothes for myself and my family, but knowing that it only cost me a fraction of the cost makes it all so much better.

It might take stepping out of your comfort zone, but it is so worth it. Find a friend who shares the same love for finding good deals, and make a day of it. So what about you? Are you a thrifter? Is that even a word? What is the best deal you’ve ever scored? Tell me!! I want to share in your excitement!!

Mommy Monday ~ 3 Easy tips to teaching your kids basic manners

I am a boys mommy through and through. I love letting my kids act like kids and I really try to remember to hold on to today. 

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But as much as I think kids should be able to act like kids, it’s still really important that they learn some basic manners that help your life go a little smoother.

1. How to interrupt a parent when they are talking.
How many times have you been in the middle of a conversation with an adult, and your toddler decides they need to talk to you, and talk to you NOW?
Teach them to put their hand on your arm, shoulder or leg and wait for you to address them. My kids still do this even though they are older. Sometimes, if my conversation doesn’t seem to have an end in sight and the person talking to me doesn’t know our little system, I just put my hand on their hand so they know I realize they are there and I will talk to them as soon as I can.

2. How to be safe in a parking lot.
When you are trying to get at least 2 kids out of carseats at a time, things can get really stressful. You can get really nervous thinking that your 2-year-old is going to run wild in his new found freedom from the straps while you are trying to take out your infant!
Teach them to put their hand on the car. So simple, and maybe even obvious but by giving them something to do, it allows you to have a minute to get the baby out and not wonder if your toddler is running around.

3. How to show the difference between a playful come here and a serious come here.
Many times I would playfully tell my toddler to come here. I’m sure you can picture what I am describing if you are right in the middle of this time of life! The whole, I’m-gonna-get-you, or come-here-you-little-monkey is kind of the way your day rolls. But there are times when you need them to come see you and you are very serious. It’s hard for a 2 or 3-year-old to be able to tell the difference between the two!
Teach them that when you put your hand out (palm up) and say come here…this is when you are being serious. My sister already had 3 kids by the time I was having my first, so she was really helpful when our kids were little together! She taught me this trick when my boys were little, and it was so incredibly helpful. I was always chasing the boys around the house and just being silly. But the times when they were in danger of falling of the bed, or if I needed them to come to me because it was time to be done being silly, I needed something that would differentiate. Putting my hand out was a really good way to do this.

I hope that this has been able to help you a little. There are going to be days when you feel like everything is falling apart and you are just going to lose it…especially when your babies are little.
I get it. I have totally been there. And to be honest? You can feel that way when your babies are big too! But finding a few simple tips can really make you feel like your life is in control and everything is going to be ok.

So…you got this! You’re doing great. Don’t forget to not be so hard on yourself. Show your kids some grace, and then show yourself some grace! Happy Monday!

Boston Family Photography

I love any excuse I can use that forces me to go to Boston. I got an email from Stacey saying that she was hoping I was available on a certain Saturday in October. The date fell exactly on the one Saturday I had open! She really wanted to go to Boston for her session, and I really wanted to make that happen for her. Photography in Boston Common in the fall? Yes, please. I met her and her husband and their sweet puppy on an absolutely gorgeous day. Her husband wasn’t too thrilled about the whole idea of a photo shoot, but he was a great sport about it and we had a really great time.

Here are a few favorites from their session.

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My church is better than your church

I grew up in church. My dad has been a pastor for over 30 years at the church he founded. It wasn’t until I went to college in Virginia and tried to find a church of my own that I realized all pastor’s are not the same. I honestly thought that the majority of Christian pastor’s loved people. That they understood the importance of the Bible, and that competition was not something to be known for. As I started looking around at other churches and meeting other pastor’s, I realized that that is far from the truth. My dad is an unusual kind. He loves people. Period. And when a church moved in on the same street as us in our small town many years ago, he wanted nothing more than the best for them. Why is that?

Because church is not supposed to be a competition. 

We are on the same team, peeps! But here is the problem. I am seeing over and over and over again, churches building themselves up by tearing other churches down. Now of course, they are not calling out specific churches, because that would be awful blatant. But there is a pretty serious missing-of-the-main-point when this begins to happen. I am privileged to be part of a group of over 5,000 christian women photographers all over the U.S. Within this group, church is something that we all talk about frequently. This whole church-competition things is going on all over the place, in every state. It’s mind blowing really, because all we are supposed to do is display God’s glory. That’s it. As a person, as a family, as a church…our goal should be to do nothing more than display God’s glory.

How do we do that? By showing what He does.
He is love, so we show love.
He is gracious, so we  show grace.
He is forgiving, so we show forgiveness.
He is merciful, so we show mercy.
He doesn’t keep a record of wrong, so we don’t keep a record of wrong.

And that’s the way churches should be run. Sadly, churches are confusing people who don’t know what the purpose of church is. These people don’t know who God is, what God is like and how God loves. And when they see people being unloving, not showing grace, not forgiving, not extending mercy, keeping records of wrong? They get confused. And why wouldn’t they? They hear us saying that they need to meet God, but if they base who God is on the way we treat the church, it makes no sense to them. We need to be better than that. We need to be displaying God’s glory more accurately. We do not display God’s glory when we are not acting the way God acts. I read a really interesting article called 5 Really bad reasons to leave your church. It’s good, and it’s spot on. It goes along with everything I’m saying. Leaving your church for any of those reasons, and then joining another is confusing to people around you. Don’t fall into that trap. Building up your church, by putting down other *hypothetical* churches is also confusing to people around you. Acting in ways that do not bring glory to God is yet another way to confuse people around you. Don’t do that. Is my church better than your church? Of course not. It’s not about that.

It’s not about you.
It’s not about your numbers, your programs, your pastors, your building… none of it.

It is about displaying God’s glory. How well are you displaying?

Threads, Kicks and Frosting ~ Wearing your best friends

I love fashion. Ever since I was little, I always had to have a hair bow in every color and earrings to match it. Shoes were something I could never own too many of, and I was always on the lookout for a new outfit.

One thing I never had? Friends my own age. Never. I remember praying with my mom when I was 13 and begging God to bring me a girl I could be friends with. Someone who loved God the way I did, who loved her family the way I did, and who loved fashion the way I did.

It wasn’t until many years later that God gave me what I asked for. I went through those crazy years, 11-14, without a group of girls that I could really call friends.

Maybe that’s why I love watching girls have friendships with each other that count for more than just the brand of clothes they wear, and how well their earrings match their shirt. Being around kids and teens a lot, I see so few girls who are innocent and just, well..girlish! It literally makes my heart happy to be part of a group of people who are raising their girls with integrity, purity and a serious love for God.

I had the chance today to photograph a group of girls like this. They were giggly, silly and just exactly the way girls that age are supposed to be. They were wearing their best friends…walking arm in arm, sitting close, whispering silly things to each other and enjoying life the way life should be enjoyed. And I have to tell you. It was so refreshing.

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2014-11-11_0004I had so much fun with you girls, and I hope we can do it more often. You are all treasures.

Mommy Monday ~ 3 Simple ways to stop letting pinterest control you.

I know that pinterest boards aren’t reality. But I also know that I can so easily find myself looking at all the perfectly decorated rooms, the delicious and healthy snacks that moms are making for their kids and the perfect bodies of moms who have just completed their 23rd triathlon, and it leaves me feeling messy, unhealthy, lazy and fat.

It’s just the truth. And I think it’s pretty safe to say that many of you have been in that same exact place. It doesn’t feel good, and let’s be honest – it doesn’t do anyone any good. Typically it doesn’t inspire me to throw on my beautiful, vintage apron, put on my bright red lipstick, and dance around the kitchen with Bing singing in the background while I make the world’s best dinner. It only makes me wonder why Ry just doesn’t like vegetables, why I can’t seem to ever get caught up with my laundry and why after completing the whole 30 diet, I am now making up for lost time with all the sugar, grains and dairy you can eat.

Other than just staying off the computer all together, I thought I would throw out 3 simple ways to stop letting pinterest control you.

1. Get a handle on reality.
Understand that the pictures you see are not reality. They are pictures. And if someone has it all together in one area, they are probably losing it in another. But seriously, we all have our strengths and our weaknesses. People don’t normally display their weaknesses, so they have a good time showing their strengths. You have strengths too. Celebrate those!

3. Unfollow boards.
The nice thing about pinterest, is no one has to know if you unfollow a board or two, and it doesn’t have to be anything personal. Know yourself well enough to know the things you can’t handle. If you are constantly finding yourself being discontent with what you have, stop focusing on the things that you can’t have. It’s that simple! It’s a simple click, click, click. Go do it.

3. Pick one area of your house and really make it shine.
Maybe you don’t have an enormous great room, or a formal living room. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a small space and decorate it exactly how you want. I do live in a big house now, but for the first 14 years of our marriage, we lived in very tight spaces. I found that having one room, one corner, one wall that made you happy was all you needed. You can do a lot with a gallon of paint, some picture frames from a thrift store, or even a candle. Make that one space your space. Then go and pin it. ha!

You might be asking why this is posted under a Mommy Monday post. The bottom line is this: We need to guard our heart. I think it’s easy to get so busy mindlessly scrolling through pictures that we don’t even realize what it might be doing to our heart.

Whatever is in our hearts is what comes out of our mouths.

Do you think that affects the way we parent our children? I do. We need to be careful we are not letting pinterest, other people, our businesses, our hobbies, our mindless activities affect our hearts. Because that will affect our kids. Guard your heart.

When you find yourself staring into a half gallon of chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

Life has a way of just moving on and on with no care or concern for the fact that you very well may need it to slow down! Things happen that are completely out of your control, people treat you in ways that are unexpected and you find your calendar jam packed just as your entire family come down with colds.

For me, there are days I am right on top of my to-do list and I even have time left over to exercise. Then there are all those other days when I wake up late, and my to-do list laughs right in my face while it’s kicking my behind.

Everyone has a “busy season”, and for photographers, October has to be the hardest month to deal with. Everyone wants fall family, senior, engagement pictures and of course weddings. Just the business alone is enough to put me over the edge, and that doesn’t include family life and running another business as well.

I get so many texts and emails that start like this…I’m sorry to bother you. Or: I know you are so busy. And honestly? I hate it. Not because the people are saying that, but because I have allowed my life to become so busy that people who are important to me start feeling like a bother. So this brings me to my question:

How do you know when you are at your breaking point? I mean…don’t you usually find out you are at your breaking point once you actually break down?

Tuesdays are usually the longest days for me. I have late nights on Monday, and then early mornings on Tuesdays. This past Tuesday at about 5:00, I found myself staring into a half gallon container of chocolate peanut butter ice cream. It was either eat the entire thing, or lay on my bed and cry. And actually, I didn’t have the option of laying in my bed to cry because I had to pick up AJ at 6 and be at Young Life by 6:30…with a smile on my face. And it was at that very moment when I realized…something has got to give. And sadly, the things that were “giving” were the things that I cared about the most.

The thing that is hard for me is the whole mentality of not turning away business. Of looking at every single inquiry as an obvious gift of God and not stopping long enough to think about it and maybe say, ya know what? Just because someone wants to book me does not mean that I have to take the business. (I think that was a pretty long run-on sentence. ha!)

So here’s what was happening.
*I was booking everything that was requested even when I didn’t want to shoot it.
*I was finding myself despising the thought of picking up my camera, even to photograph my own kids because that would mean I would have to spend more time on the computer editing.
*I was not spending time working on the things I wanted to for The Porch, and other ministries.
*I was not exercising at all, which I love doing, which then made me feel fat and miserable.
*I was definitely not spending enough time working on school with the boys.
*I was still smiling and holding it all together every single day.
*I was on the verge of tears, almost all the time.
*I hated how I was feeling.

I talk about that like it was all in the past, but the reality is, it was this week. It is today. And it was just this week that I realized some things have to change.

See…here’s what happens. It is so easy to get into a routine, and to get into life that you don’t even stop long enough to see if what you’re doing is actually what you want to be doing. Big difference. I don’t even want to be shooting certain things. But because it pays, I thought I was supposed to do it. That could not be further from the truth. When Adam and I bought our house, we decided from the beginning that we would make our budget based entirely on Adam’s income. I love being a stay at home mom, and I take that job very seriously. We didn’t want to get to the point where I had to work for us to pay the mortgage. Somewhere along the way, I started feeling like I had to work. Like I had to take any business that came my way. That I had to shoot things I didn’t want to shoot because it was what would pay the bills. These thoughts were all self-imposed, but if you aren’t careful in life, that’s what can happen. The life you think you are intentionally living can consume you and suffocate you. I was feeling suffocated. I think I was pretty close to my breaking point…whatever that even means. My break down would be in the form of either an ice cream eating binge, or a shopping spree. Or a shopping spree while going on an ice cream eating binge. Either way, not the best result.

So my philosophy is changing. Not my philosophy in life, but my philosophy in business. My philosophy in life is always that God comes first. When God comes first, he directs my steps, and whatever comes into my life he is in complete control of.

My philosophy in business, which used to be: I will shoot anything, anytime, anywhere. has been changed to: I will shoot what I love shooting. And that is that and that is all. And I won’t apologize for it.

So when you find yourself staring into a half gallon of chocolate peanut butter ice cream, you realize that something has got to give. I am so happy to be able to be at the place in my business where I feel confident in my work, and I feel like I am finally at the place where I can be selective in what I accept.  Starting in January, my business is going to look a lot different. I am going to be offering more classes (I love teaching.) I am going to be offering more styled shoots, and will potentially be looking to hire a stylist to assist me. These are just a few of the things that will be changing.
This will hopefully lead to me eating less ice cream.

What is taking over your life? Is it going along with what your plans were supposed to be? Are you able to spend time on what you really want to spend time on?  Life is too short to be spending time doing things that take away from what is really important in your life.

Don’t stare into a half gallon of chocolate peanut butter ice cream. Take control of your life.

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