Severe Mercies

She’s a planner, this child of mine. She likes to know what’s coming. She likes knowing that what she is doing now is the right thing for now as well as down the road.

Everything seems to be right there in front of her, almost within her reach. She thought she knew how the story was going to go. Or at least how the next few chapters would read. But with the turn of a page the plot changed and nothing was quite what she thought. The narrative, her narrative, suddenly became a page of letters and words with no sentence structure, line breaks or paragraphs.

And it’s not an easy place for her to be. But I watch her set her shoulders and lift her face to the Son again and again and move forward to step into this story that she doesn’t know. Trying to see a break in the letters, to find the words to read His narrative…

looking for the goodness in this new and unknown chapter and verse.

She’s being taught the lesson we all must learn.

In one hand we hold tight-fisted the things we know to be unchanging truth. Namely, the character of God; He is good and does good. He is faithful and with us always.

In the other hand we hold loosely those things we want and desire. Knowing that we only see so much and He seeks our good in far reaching corners that we cannot even imagine. Trusting that He is growing our character to suit the story He is writing.

It’s a painful lesson at times for all of us. Because sometimes we think we know best. Sometimes we just can’t envision anything better than our own imaginations. Choosing our own story over His is like declaring a comic book a Pulitzer prize winner or comparing Shakespeare to a dime store novel.

Sometimes we just can’t see the story unfolding but His story is always better so we must learn to trust His mercy in the plot twists.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than
 all that we ask or think, according to the power at
 work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and 
in Jesus Christ throughout all generations, 
forever and ever. Amen.
~Ephesians 3:20

Pintrest Test Kitchen # 77 ~ White Sour Cream Cake with Butter Cream Icing

So, I knew it had been a while since I shared a recipe but I had no idea it had been since December.

I mean it’s March already! Can you believe that? Where does the time go?

(Totally unrelated to the recipe but last week we took our oldest daughter to visit MSU and I had the most surreal experience on the drive over. Sarah was sitting in the back seat and said something and Rob turned his head to answer her and I had the craziest flashback. Seriously, it was like something out of the movies…I could see her as a little girl on our first road trip, little curls all over her head and feet swinging and bouncing. The echo of her laughter was as clear as day. I cried a little.)

While we may not be able to stop time from flying by and our children from growing up too fast we can slow it down a little and enjoy a piece of cake every now and then with a cup of coffee.

That was a really smooth transition to the recipe wasn’t it? Yep, that’s why everybody reads my blog 🙂

This cake is kind of a mash up of box and homemade. You begin with a cake mix but jazz it up a bit for a nice dense cake. Also, I am not normally a huge fan of butter cream icing but I made this the morning and kept it refrigerated until after lunch and it was quite tasty all nice and chilled. Here is a link to the original pin but I changed a few things. Mainly because you need two cake mixes to get the amounts required and I didn’t so I added an extra cup of flour. I also reduce the amount of sugar added.

For the cake ~ What you’ll need:
1 box white cake mix
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 TBS oil (I use canola) 
1 1/3 cup water
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
What you’ll do:
Mix together all dry ingredients with a whisk.
Add liquid ingredients and beat on low until well combined.
Pour into prepared cake pans. 
Bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. (Time will depend on size of pans so check after 30 minutes.)

The cake is pretty dense and heavy and pairs well with the butter cream frosting. This is the strangest icing recipe to me. Other than the Hershey icing I’ve never made one that required cooking.

For the icing ~ What you’ll need:
5 TBS flour
1 cup of milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 sticks of butter, at room temperature  
1 cup granulated sugar
confectioner’s sugar to taste*
What you’ll do:
Whisk together the flour and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. 
Stir constantly until it thickens being careful not to burn it.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Allow it to completely cool before finishing or it will not work.
(I emptied mine out of the hot saucepan and into a small bowl to help it cool quicker.)
Cream together the butter and sugar until well blended and fluffy.
Add in the cooled flour mixture.
Keep beating it until it has the consistency of whipped cream.

white_cake, butter cream_frosting_dessert

*I mentioned that I am not a fan of butter cream frosting. The taste is a little sharp to me so I added just a wee bit of confectioners sugar until I liked the flavor. You may be fine without it so suit yourself.

The cake iced well although it was a little plain looking so I covered the top with some lovely gold sprinkles. In my opinion taste is only part of it…pretty counts for something.

Would I make it again? Yes and no. It tasted good and everyone seemed to enjoy it but I am solidly a cream cheese icing gal. But I don’t think I will ever make a cake any differently other than to tweak the amount of flour depending on how stout I want the cake. It has a great texture and flavor and it seems rather versatile. I’ve made it using a cup less flour and a yellow cake mix with almond extract and it went together nicely with some strawberries and whipped topping. I’m trying to figure out some kind of chocolate and mint combination now…maybe in time to celebrate the luck o’ the Irish!

I’d love to know if you try it as is or if you tweak it.


Titus 2 Tuesday

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!

baby sweetness, new baby, newborn,

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.

baby, newborn, lifestyle photography

baby, newborns,

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

The First Week of February

Surely I can do this for a year…after all it’s only twelve weeks. So even though this is posting a little late since the blog was down  I still wanted to share a shot from each day of the first week of February.

I can do this…I can do this…

The first day of the month fell on a Sunday. Normally our church gathers to eat together after our services but on the first Sunday of the month we meet up in each other’s homes for lunch. Our friends that joined us have a daughter who was about to turn one and we were quite happy when the rain let up long enough to scoot outside and take a few pictures.

tutu, baby girl, toes, pink, girly

Day two found me in Navarre attending my third meet up for Pursuit Community. A monthly meeting of other Christian women who enjoy photography and other creative endeavors has been good for me. It was the final push needed to make the recent changes around here and I am learning so much about this craft so close to my heart. It was our Valentines celebration and our lovely hostess made us each a sweet smelling jar of bath salts.

bath salts

On Tuesday I was at the school with the other Board of Governor’s wives serving a Greek lunch to our fabulous staff and teachers. We do it once a month from January through the end of the year with each month having a different theme. I had a really nifty shot from the day but do to some technical difficulties (it was taken with my phone) I cannot find it. Trust me it was a good one though!

Day four was rainy. A beautiful stay inside and read a good book rainy day. That’s not what I did of course but it was that kind of day.

The next day the rain cleared and it was cold and windy but some sweet friends still met up with me for some pictures. These are some of the most precious children and not only do we get to worship with them and their parents each week they also live right down the street from us.

children, Pensacola, portrait photography

I have a tradition of doing a birthday shoot for each of the kids so on Friday I picked Emily up from her yearbook meeting and we headed downtown. It was still pretty cold and she was worn out from a long day so we took a couple of pictures and then enjoyed a cup of the best hot cocoa in Pensacola from Adonna’s Bakery.

hot cocoa, sweet treats, coffee shop, cafe

The last day of the first week ended with an unexpected but wonderful day spent with my parents and two of my sisters. My Dad took us to the shooting range where we did him proud. Turns out us girls are all a pretty good shot.  After treating us to lunch he headed home and we spent the rest of the afternoon bumping around an antique shop. This case of old Coke bottles made me think of my uncle’s barn and childhood afternoon’s spent playing there.

The shop is really neat with lots of interesting things along with old staples like classic books and old toys. I also found an amazing dress for a photo shoot I’ve been working on putting together but that is a post for another day.

old books, Old Palafox Street, antiques

The rest of this month is shaping up to be pretty busy. Last week had a coffee date spent talking about art and God and His faithfulness, a sweet lunch with friends and their babies and Sam’s first major feast at the school. He brought the house down with his partner as they introduced Cronus and Gaea and kicked off Zeus’ Family Reunion.

Sometimes it can be so busy that it is hard to keep it all straight and things get forgotten easily. I think that’s why I wanted to do this first week monthly project…to take time to mark the ordinary specialness that is my life.

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

Friday Photo Journal    Best Shot Friday    Photo Friday

What, Where and Why

Blog make overs are kind of like new hair cuts.

You feel excited, hoping somebody notices and terrified that they will.

I know next to nothing about code and html and widgets and all that stuff so I was pretty much at the mercy of whatever the template provided. It was a big moment when I figured out how to change that on my own. Even then I needed an outside source to walk me through some other changes and thankfully I had friends who didn’t mind me relying on them for assistance.

But the one thing I wanted was a single column template and that was a little trickier to make happen. It’s been on the one-day list for quite a while but it wasn’t until recently that I was able to find the right template and all the pieces came together. (Thank you Etsy and Li Drake Blog Design Studio!)

The aesthetic changes have come about in conjunction with some overall changes I want to make happen here in my corner of the cyber world. I feel like after months of thinking through some things and restructuring my own thoughts I have a found a little more purpose as to why I blog. And it’s led me to clarify what I will blog.

Truth, beauty, and goodness. These three words have swished and swooshed, whispered and beckoned…promising to be the answer for questions I wasn’t even sure how to ask. I knew I enjoyed these creative escapades, the picture taking and the word grappling, but I struggled with their purpose. Were they a waste of time or was there some weight to them, no matter how small?

And the reality is that in some ways, let’s be honest in about 99% of all the ways imaginable, this blog and the pictures I take are fleeting and not likely to be remembered for long. I doubt my pictures will hang in museums or my words will be shared in beautifully crafted tomes.

That reality is true for me and the vast majority of humanity. Do you know that there have only been forty four presidents in the history of the United States? Forty four men out of the millions that have existed in the last two hundred something years. Very few of us are destined for the kind of greatness that we seem to think has significant weight.

So, what does that mean for the rest of us lowly beings that will never walk on the moon or cure a disease? Does what we do matter? Does it have purpose? Value? Should we spend any time doing anything or should we merely exist for a certain amount of time in a point in space and then we die…ashes to ashes and dust to dust, move along, next human, please.

When the children were little we started doing a catechism with them everyday. One of the very first questions they learned to answer was, what is the chief end, or purpose, of man? Simply put it is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Do we matter? Do we have a purpose? Yes, because we are made in His image and we are to display that image gloriously. In everything we do.

We create because He is the True Creator. We are a people of words because He is the Ultimate Storyteller.

Truth, beauty, and goodness. He is truth. He is beauty. He is goodness.

True truth is both beautiful and good. Real beauty is full of truth and goodness. And goodness is the expression of what is beautiful and true. God is everywhere. Truth, beauty, and goodness are everywhere if we will just have the eyes to see it.

So, that’s how I answered the questions I wasn’t sure how to ask. Why take the pictures…why post on the blog? Is it worth anything more than the brief happiness or joy they cause me?

I hope so. I would hope that whenever someone visits they will see the truth, beauty, and goodness of God reflected in each photograph and every word shared. And if it’s in an unexpected way, something that will cause them to pause and contemplate, even better.

still life, flower, pink, glass jars, simplicity

                                                            I am the Lord your God, 
                                     who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
~ Psalm 81:10

The First Line

Do you know that if you gather a group of photographers together and ask them who makes the worst clients that straight across the board, hands down they will all say family and friends. The advice is always do not work for them…they won’t appreciate you and they won’t value what you do.

But my friends.
My friends.
My friends turn that industry standard on it’s head. 
A few weeks ago I got asked several times about my camera being broken. I was puzzled by this because my camera wasn’t broken. Not broken broken anyway. I mean, sure it will freeze up on me in the middle of a session and I have to turn it off and back on to get it clicking again. 
But broken would be broken. Broken would be the same as being blind. Broken is the thought that makes my heart skip a beat and my breath catch in my throat. Rather than think of it being broken and wearing out I look at it has being quirky and temperamental when I have to remove and reinsert the battery so I can change the exposure some times. It’s character. 
Besides, a new camera is so far out of the realm of my reality as to be a day dream…a what if and a one day kind of thought. 
Until last night when some friends stopped by with a birthday gift.
And just like that, in their generosity the first line in the next chapter of my photography story was written.  I have the beginnings of a nest egg…a cache…a savings account…whatever you want to call it to actually get a new camera this year. 
Not just any camera either. But a full frame, handles low light like a dream, more camera than I have ever had in my life, boy, will I have a learning curve Canon 6D. Suddenly, my misty wouldn’t-it-be-amazing thought has some substance to it.
And I am grateful and humbled by my friends. Who appreciate me and value what I do to the point that they are willing to help make it happen.
To them I say a very heart felt thank you! Thank you for allowing me to be a part of capturing all your special moments, for giving me the honor of telling parts of your story. 
So bring on your babies and weddings and anniversary celebrations. Your birthdays, family gatherings and reunions. 
Because one day in the future a brown box is going to come in the mail. I will open it, take out a camera and start pushing buttons and turning dials and I am going to need something to photograph.

A Friday Funny and a Poem

Autism is nothing more than normal behavior carried out to the extreme nth degree possible. So, when we say Sam is punctual or that he likes to follow a routine what we are really staying is that Sam is punctual and likes to follow a routine.

In the beginning of the school year everyone is excited and pretty easy to wake up in the mornings. The girls are eager to get to school and see friends and move with what I call purpose in the mornings. We leave promptly no later than 7:10 in the morning during this purposed time.

But by now, half way into the year, sleep is more desirable than that extra few minutes chatting with friends before morning meeting begins. There is decidedly less purpose in getting up and more purpose directed towards refining the exactly how long can I stay in bed and still get to school without getting a tardy slip process.

For the girls that is. Because Sam is punctual and likes to follow routine. The routine that says arriving any later than 7:30 means we’re late. It doesn’t matter that school doesn’t start officially until 7:50.

He has taken to “helping” the girls in the morning by loading lunch boxes for them and loudly proclaiming the time every two minutes beginning at 7 a.m. “Pick it up people” is a common refrain he sing songs while careening around the house bumping into things and tripping over his own two huge feet.

He even makes cartoons to illustrate just exactly how he feels about the whole thing.

Apparently, he feels like getting his sisters out the door in the morning is like herding a bunch of snails.

Sam isn’t the only one willing to share his talent and creativity with the family and the poem I want to share with you today was written by Claire. She is our child who wants to be an artist. Actually no, she informs us that she is an artist. She is pretty creative and this year words and stories are coming alive for her in a way like never before. She’s always been a note writer but her skills are becoming more refined. For an eight year old anyway.

Family and friends I have
Do you?
I have friends to.
Do you old chap?
Yes I do!
Do you person?
Yes! Yes! Yes!
I do.
How long has this been going on?
 ~a poem by CEH

I love that she only signs with her initials 🙂