What Am I Going To Do?

It’s the second day of school and my Mother asked me that question.

What am I going to do with my day?

I am going to sip on a cup of hot tea.

I am going to blog  a little so I can get back into a regular habit of writing.

I’m going to mop my floors and clean bathrooms.

And if you don’t think the idea of those two things thrills my soul than you have obviously not had the pleasure of trying to do those two simple chores while children are in the house all day. Today I will do those two things and both will remain clean and shiny for longer than two seconds and something within me will sigh with peace as I look out over my domain and I will announce it to be good, very good.

I do this knowing full well that at around four-ish this afternoon an explosion of sorts will occur. Socks, shoes, lunch boxes, backpacks, textbooks, notebook paper, pencils and erasers will fly out like shrapnel from a gun and there will be an eruption of sound as stories are told and lessons are shared from today.

Dinner will have to be cooked and tomorrow’s lunch prep will need to be done along with the nightly task of getting uniforms ready.

It will be a noisy controlled chaos that will rush through the afternoon and evening like a wave crashing onto the shore. And then hugs and kisses will be given out with bedtime prayers and the waters will recede as lights go out.

And for a moment I will stand in the darkness and quiet of my living room and I will remember this moment, this cup of tea, and know that we’re back to normal.

Abby ~ Part Two

One of the things I love about photography is how easily I can change the story I want to tell just by shifting where I am standing and what direction I am shooting. Last week I shared some images of Abby that were full of golden sunlight and sun flare, two things my soul doth love.

But then we moved over a little and turned just slightly in another direction and the pictures we captured are some of the loveliest I have ever taken of this sweet child who is usually so uncomfortable in front of the camera.

It helps too that we live in a rather diverse place of beauty. Most people would be surprised that these were taken at Fort Pickens but they were. It just goes to show you that we can overlook the natural beauty that surrounds us because we get to used to it and stop looking for it.

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Looking at these makes me want to do some more sessions like this! They also make me wish I had a huge wall space to print all of these some of them  one or two of them nice and large.

Friday Photo Journal      Best Shot Friday

Don’t Forget to Bring Your Babies

Rob was sick Sunday so a dear friend and fellow laborer in Christ filled in for him. Pastor Stout’s exhortation was very timely and resonated with me a great deal.

May you read it and be encouraged!


You are warriors, sons of mighty ones, and you are being called into the battle for the sake of the whole world. Here is the way the battle shall be waged. 

Your Captain will call muster and the weakest and most poorly dressed soldiers will assemble, forming ranks that to look at them one would think that this is going to be a very short fight. I mean… we have babies, infants and toddlers, on the front lines. 

Don’t worry though, for we also brought their mothers… and their grandparents, the mentally challenged, the lame and the hungry. And the first thing that happens is the whole army falls on its knees in repentance over their lack of training, their lack of discipline, failure to obey… downright disobedience. Even the babies are taken down to the dust.

From this point on though something changes. The assembled army starts to speak and they ascribe glory to God. 

They begin to praise the name of their Captain and their Captain answers back. His voice breaks cedars; He shouts and whole nations do his bidding. 

The Army of the Lord repeats His words and an echo builds which shakes the world to the tearing down of strongholds. Princes and principalities fall and out of the mouth babies and infants the Captain ordains strength in the face of all his foes. 

And in the end He proves his own strength through them to still the enemy and the avenger.  
So prepare yourselves to answer the call of Your Captain. 

We have a war to fight and don’t forget to bring your babies.

May the LORD give strength to His people!
May the LORD bless His people with peace!
Psalm 29:11

New Baby Sweetness

Last week I shared a post of some of my favorite maternity photos along with some beautiful quotes on motherhood from Elisabeth Elliot. It seems only fair that this week I share some sweet pictures of the little fella who starred in those tummy pictures.

I say little fella but the truth is Mr. G weighed in at a whopping ten pounds and was twenty-two and a half inches long. That is a whole lot of baby and my goodness, he is just the sweetest!

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I love his mama to pieces and have known her for a really long time. She was our very first babysitter so it’s a little crazy to be photographing her babies. I also got to be present at his birth and I don’t have words for what an amazing experience that was.

babies, newborn, lifestyle photography

Although I wasn’t around when his big brother was born (they were living in Germany) I have had the pleasure of photographing him before. He hasn’t quite figured out this whole little brother thing but I bet he’ll get the hang of it soon enough.

newborn, babies, siblings, brothers

Normally when I photograph newborns I have the family come to me for a variety of reasons the two main ones being I’m familiar with the light and I crank the heat up to about eighty degrees or so, even in the summer. But I’ve been drawn more and more to the lifestyle kind of images I see from photographers whose work I admire and Justin and Jess were kind enough to let me experiment. (I also got to document the birth and it gave a whole other layer of awesome to that experience.)

It was a risk we all took and thankfully I had rented a good wide angle lens and there was plenty of natural light coming in their windows. I say all of that because if these last two images were the only ones that had turned out I would count the whole thing a success.

Maybe it’s the light or the expression of delight so evident on the faces or just the overall love a parent has for a child but I am so pleased with these. Something about being at the right place at the right moment to snap the shutter is the way Ansel Adams put it.

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Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior 
are the children of one’s youth.
Psalm 127: 3 & 4

Elisabeth Elliot on Motherhood

I could not say it any lovelier so I am not even going to try. Her words are perfect and full of truth. The images are mine from my favorite maternity session, one that I think captures the grace and beauty of motherhood. I realize that most of motherhood doesn’t wear beauty as we call something beautiful. It’s runny noses, dirty laundry, and other messes. But the heart of mothering is a beauty like no other.

tummy pictures, maternity pictures, Pensacola, FL, Ft Pickens
“…they’re telling us nowadays how important it is to find yourself, express yourself, and assert yourself. Maybe you’re thinking you’re nothing more than just somebody’s wife and somebody else’s mother. And what kind of life is that?
“Motherhood is a calling. It is a womanly calling…and let’s not be cowed by those who extinguish the light and joy of sexuality by trying to persuade us to forget words like manly and womanly.”
“Single or married, her level of maturity is measured by how much she gives to others. If she’s married, she gives herself to her husband and she receives. If she’s a mother, she loses her life in her child and–mysteriously–she finds it.”
“A woman knows that no one can really say where the giving ends and the receiving starts. It is no wonder we are confused when urged to look for some “better” or “higher” vocation in which to “prove our personhood.”
“This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”
If our calling is to be mothers, lets be mothers with all our hearts–gladly, simply, and humbly–like that little peasant girl Mary who spoke for all women of all time when she said, 
Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord; 
be it unto me according to Thy word.”
~Luke 1:38

Play Is Work ~ Another Simple Toddler Activity

Although I didn’t get a lot of comments on the blog post itself, the activity I shared here a few weeks back generated a lot of interest on facebook and pinterest. Easy busy work with a purpose for little people is apparently something people are curious about I guess.

Remember my friend Gabriel that I mentioned? He needed something to do that offered a bit more of a challenge. More than likely you probably already have everything on hand that you need for this activity ~ you simply need a plastic bowl and some clothes pins. But there are other ways to make this appealing to children and now that school supplies are on sale it’s a good time to stock up on various types of clips. You can also use squares made from either cardboard or heavy card stock instead of a bowl for your child to clip the pins to.
I like the bowl since it doubles as a holder.

Again, this is a simple activity that will help develop small muscle control and that all important pincer grasp. The regular clothes pins were easy for Gabriel but the metal clips presented more of a challenge since they were harder to squeeze open. A variety of clips in different styles, colors and sizes will keep the activity fun.

Remember that clipping the clips to something is only half of the task…taking them off and cleaning up is part of the process.

You can also easily turn this into a math activity by writing numbers on index cards and having the child clip that number of pins to each card. Or instead of numbers make it a color matching game by matching your clips to colored squares.

A Dozen Years of Sweetness

It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that I was posting birthday pictures of Abby but somehow it’s time to do them again.

She’s an even dozen this year!

Such a splash of joy in our life!

She has started piano lessons.

She’s quick to hear correction and has the most tender of hearts.

She has the soul of a nurturer and seeks to make people comfortable. She is loving the babies at church and is showing herself to be quite helpful.

She is working really hard on crocheting and doing so very well. Especially considering that she is kind of winging it because I certainly can’t help her.

I hate the term “tween” but that is truly where she is…that strange land between childhood and young womanhood. So much of who she will be is still not clearly seen…hidden away in the mind of God as she continues to emerge from the world of babydolls and pretend.
 She has been such a delight and we look forward with great anticipation to all He has in store for her and the woman He is fashioning her into.
Happy birthday sweet Abby Dabby Doodle Bug! We love you!

To Share Or Not To Share

That seems to be the question of the day since an article discussing the topic has been bouncing around facebook for the past week or so. Normally I don’t offer rebuttals to things I see or hear on the WWW, but I keep getting asked about this so here’s my thoughts, for whatever they’re worth.

To be fair, I agree to a certain extent with the author’s position that we aren’t doing our children any favors by teaching them that they can have something someone else has simply because they want it. But I think this becomes an issue because we’re focusing on something that really isn’t the point.

The point isn’t really whether or not we should be teaching our children to share. The point is are we raising children that value others over themselves?

Are we cultivating a heart that is learning from an early age to eagerly and joyfully seek the well being of others?

Are we training our children to know how and when they should choose someone else’s happiness and wants over their own?

I think there is a big difference between teaching them to share for the sake of sharing and teaching them to enjoy what they have but also be willing to let others have a turn enjoying it as well.

One reinforces the idea that my wants are priority, and one teaches the idea that our joy and delight is made fuller when we include others.

Is there ever a time when they don’t have to share? Maybe. Probably. I mean just getting the best ever gift for your birthday and having it for all of five seconds before having to let others share in the joy doesn’t seem right or all that fun.

So it would seem that wisdom would dictate whether a certain toy should be brought into group settings. Why put the child in a position to choose their stuff over their friends? Their wants and happiness over that of others? Why place other children in a position to covet what another has?

Our personal policy was no sharing no taking. Of course we also taught our kids that if a friend had something and wasn’t letting them play with it they needed to find something else to play with. Hardly seems fair unless of course they were playing in a community where everyone was teaching their child the same thing. And sometimes we were in a place full of like minded people and sometimes we weren’t. Valuable lessons were learned either way.

Is there a time when you should force your child to bring out the best ever birthday present and share it? Absolutely, you don’t want them to be hoarders or miserly.  But we made that happen in situations were there was less risk to the treasured toy being abused or broken.

Is there ever a time when you should teach your child to just be happy that a friend has been blessed with something wonderful? Yes, of course.  There are always going to be times in life where one person has and another has not and we want our children to rejoice sincerely in either of those times.

But these are lessons that aren’t learned in a vacuum apart from real life. They happen in community where, hopefully, they learn more than whether they should have to share or not. It’s a community that should be teaching them the value of another human being over material stuff. And that the feelings of others should be considered before their own.

Room For Forgiveness

Last year one of our children made a serious breach of one of our family rules. For most people the rule would seem ridiculous anyway and not realistic, but in our house it had always been thus and it wasn’t new or unconnected to our family way. We don’t have a ton of rules but the ones we do have are in place for very specific and thought out reasons.

It was a very big deal and the seriousness of the situation was not lost upon the child. To use my beloved’s phrase, there was a lot of “emotional intensity” that day and it was clear that trust had been broken and would have to be earned back.

But you know what I remember my husband doing next? He set aside his anger and the hurt that every parent feels when their child has grievously sinned, and he looked at our offspring and reassured them that they were loved and that while they had done wrong they had not committed the unpardonable sin. He made it clear that while our fellowship was broken because of their sin complete restoration was possible.

Basically he prepared the soil for their repentance to take root and bloom.

A few weeks ago I shared a post about how important it is that we do not forget the personhood of the one being corrected. It can be easy to so focus on wanting to eliminate the sin that we forget the sinner.

We have to go back to our reason for correction. We don’t want obedience simply for the sake of obedience. In Hebrews 12:11 we’re told that the reason for discipline is so that it will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

How we respond to the one seeking repentance is pretty important. If our child’s desire for forgiveness had fallen onto the stony ground of, “Yeah, well you really buggered this up didn’t you?” the odds are that seeds of pride would have been sown instead of the blossom of forgiveness and restoration.

Are there consequences for sins? Yes. But the consequence is not a harsh pseudo forgiveness that comes with the crushing weight of judgment.

When true forgiveness is given there is a liberation. The imaginary of Hebrews 12:11 is the image of resurrection…life being born out of death. Sin is death and repentance is life.

Let us make sure that we cultivate a community that has fertile soil for the seeds of discipline to take root so that righteousness may grow. Let’s prepare the ground in such a way that it’s easy for our children or spouses or friends to seek forgiveness. There are no hoops for them to jump through and we don’t withhold restoration because it is within our power to do so, dangling it just out of their reach.

Christ doesn’t. In I John 1:9 we’re told that He is faithful to forgive us…may we be faithful to forgive each other.

The Pictures I Didn’t Take

This is the busy season for most photographers…even hobbyist like me. Maybe it’s spring combined with seniors preparing to send out announcements. Or the approach of Mother’s Day and all those sweet little newborns that arrived five and six months ago starting to sit up on their own. Whatever the reason it can be a little hectic.

So yesterday I did something I rarely do. The kids and I went to the beach with some friends and I did not take my camera. This is seriously not the norm ~ the beach is my happy place and I always take it with me when we go. I feel like the landscape of it is always changing so I never get the same picture twice.

But my third eye is pretty focused with several sessions this week and I wanted to give it a rest.

So there was no picture snapped of sugar white sand.

The almost clear sea glass color of the gulf wasn’t digitally recorded. The white foam of the waves received the same fate.

There are no pictures of Abby’s burnished gold hair hanging in a wet braid down her back.

Claire’s happy blue eyes looked directly into mine as she excitedly showed me her seashell treasures.

Instead of pulling out my camera I dug my toes into that sugar white sand and dipped them into the gulf.

My eyes followed the black shadow of the seagulls as they glided low across the sky.

Then I closed my eyes as I lifted my face to feel the sun and took in a deep deep breath of clean salt air.

I didn’t use that third eye at the beach today but I saw it with all of me and I took a hundred photos in my mind.

Everyone of us is a photographer in a sense. We all take pictures and store them in the album of our mind. For some of us the album is full of all the black and white have-to-do-this moments. For others it’s the images of bitterness, their sepia tone coloring our relationships. Others may have the high color intensity of memories that almost hurt our eyes because we keep them so sharp and in focus and we never forget…good or bad we never allow them to fade.

What we really need is to balance those bright vivid moments so that we aren’t so blinded by a few experiences that we miss other moments. We need to let the sepia of bitterness continue to fade and blur until it’s unrecognizable. Our black and white reality needs to be softened by the well balanced correctly exposed colors of everyday life that have a hue and tone of thankfulness.