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Thursday, January 30, 2014

There is still good.

Sometimes it can feel like there is nothing good going on around you.
Do ya feel me?

My heart is all kinds of broken tonight for teenagers in this town who are hurting.
For teenagers in this town who are doing the hurting.
For moms who have lost complete control of their kids.
For parents who are teaching their kids false truth, after false truth, after false truth.
For teenagers (and parents) who are standing up for actual truth and being made fun of because of it.

Sometimes it feels like there is no one else besides you standing up for truth.

Elijah felt the same way in 1 Kings 19. He thought he was the only one left doing the right thing.
Then God spoke.
God told him he was not alone.
There were thousands others who were still choosing God.

Today, I need to hear about the other people who are still choosing God.
About the other people who are choosing to live their lives according to God's Word, not whatever feels good to them.
This week has been filled with people claiming they know what truth is, when it is simply based on their feelings, or their desire to follow what people around them are doing.

God's Word is truth.

I wanted to encourage you tonight to look around you and find the good.
It is around us, we just need to look for it.
There are people who are excited about their relationship with Christ!
They have found his love and it is real. It is life changing. It is incredible.

I wanted to tell you about this amazing ministry called Delight.

It started with this incredible mom and her daughter (I adore these girls)
This is their heart:

Our desire is to enable young women in the creative arts and pursue their God-given talents while also helping them define what it means to be a woman of purpose. What began as a vision for young women who want to use their gifts and talents in photography has become a passion to bring truth, hope and healing to young ladies. We’re about being real, raw and relevant: whatever you are facing, others have been there too. You will find a community filled with stories of grace, redemption and mercy. You’ll find inspiration to help you grow not only in your talent, but also in your faith!

I have the huge privilege of being one of the leaders for the retreat in Washington this year!
I am like totally beyond excited and can hardly wait to be a part of it!
This is designed for girls ages 14-20 who are pursuing creative arts. There are community groups all over the country as well as a huge online community!

Do you know what this shows me?

I am not alone.

When I feel like there is no good.
Like I am the only one making right choices.
When I am the only one who understands truth.

I am not alone!

There is still good.

Maybe you are feeling like you are the only one standing up for truth.
Maybe you feel like you are alone, and there is no hope.

You are not alone!

Look around you. Find other people who are living for Jesus!
They are out there. You just have to find them.

And when you find them?
Join them!
Be a part!
Be the difference this world needs.
Be the one who stands up for truth when no one else is.

We are in this together.
And together, we can do amazing things.

There is still good.

If you are interested in being a part of Delight, go here to find out details about the retreat (one is being held on the west coast, and one on the east coast) or here to find out about the online community!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why moms need to give themselves a break

Sometimes, moms are too hard on themselves.

I  think we as moms just need to give ourselves a break.

Here's what I mean.

How many times have you gone to bed at night and just felt guilty?

*You felt guilty because you were a little bit too impatient.
*You felt guilty because you were on the phone too long, or on the computer too long, or watched tv too long.
*You felt guilty because you can't even remember how many hours they sat in front of the tv...
or the iPad..or the computer.
*You felt guilty because you think you handed them your phone to play with just to get them to stop whining.
*You felt guilty because you gave them 4 popsicles and only 2 servings of fruits and vegetables.
Ok...who are we kidding here. It was more like 14 popsicles and no servings of fruits and veggies.

BUT...here is the thing.

That feeling of guilt is such a waste of time!

We end up doing things we wished we hadn't, or not doing things we wish we had...
but then instead of moving on and forgetting the past, we hold on to this horrible feeling of guilt, which in turn robs us of any joy and strength to move on and change the future!

At the end of the day, your 5-year-old is not going to look back on his life when he is 25 and wish that you would have turned off the tv after just the 2 episodes of Dora the Explorer. I mean...you might look back and wish that her screaming voice wasn't still stuck in your head, but that's a whole different subject!

I think that when the day is over, and the kids are sleeping and the house is quiet.
We think back. And we wish we had done things differently. 
And we picture the house being clean, there being no crying, whining or arguing, the music playing... the kids doing crafts for 2 solid hours while munching on organic carrot sticks and snap peas. Then they obediently get up from the table while you carry them to bed for nap time. Snuggle for 15 minutes and then they fall asleep.
(insert record scratching here)

Chances are. There is not going to be a day like that.

But instead of feeling guilty about that, why not just focus on the positive things that did happen?!
Focus on the silly laughter, the messy floors and sticky tables. Make yourself appreciate the fact that you have sugar for bribing and electronics to help you keep your sanity.

They will be fine.
They will survive.

Maybe you will have to take the time to stop everything before bed and ask your kids to forgive you if you snapped at them, or if you didn't spend as much quality time with them as you wanted to.
And remember...sometimes it's the smallest things that they are going to remember forever.
Honestly. When we played 30 minutes of nerf wars with the boys? It was such a small amount of time for us, and they still haven't stopped talking about it.
It is literally like the best day of their lives.
Ya know what that does? 
It helps cover over that time that I was impatient with my response to a question Ry had.
And that's just it.
Sometimes we get it, sometimes we don't. 
But we have to learn this truth: Love covers a multitude of sins.

So for tonight. 
Just for tonight.

Give yourself a break!

Decide that tomorrow will be the day you cut those popsicles back down to just 2.
Decide that you are going to ask for forgiveness if needed, and then just move on.
Decide that tomorrow you are going to hug your kids more, react a little slower, and overlook the spilled milk.

Don't let your bad decisions from yesterday, keep you from making good decisions today!

Because your kids are not going to remember anyways, God does not expect yourself to be perfect (but he does expect you to be growing!) and you get a whole new chance to start over tomorrow...

And that is why moms need to give themselves a break.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

One likes bagels, one likes cereal

Riley likes bagels for breakfast. He likes when I cream cheese them.
Yes, I just used cream cheese as a verb.
I know. It's cool and I can do it because I am a homeschool mom.

AJ likes cereal. Cinnamon life is his fave.
He doesn't need me to pour them or anything.

They both are not fond of the morning, but do just about anything to distract us and make us forget when it is bed time.

I don't even mind it.
Honestly, when I had kids I never really envisioned them being my friends.
Not that I thought we wouldn't be friends, I just did not think of that aspect of it.
And it's so strange to think about.
AJ is the best shopping partner. (Well...his daddy is actually the best. I know I am lucky!)
Ry? He would rather do literally any. other. thing than shop.
But both of them make really amazing friends.

These boys.

They are the kind of friends you just love having.
They love to play games.
They love to watch the same tv shows as me.
They love to give hugs and are really good at knowing just when I need one.
They tell me how much they love me and say over and over how they think I am the best mom ever.
They can have real, live conversations...but they don't even flinch when I start singing my conversation and dancing in the kitchen.
They don't judge me.
They just love me.
They are so different - their personalities.
But their hearts are so sincere, so loving, so genuine.
I know I am blessed.
I am watching them grow in their walks with God and it could make me burst with joy.

Don't even think for one second that all kids, all boys, or all teens are rebellious, angry, mean, or nasty.
That is a lie that people tell you and try to convince you of to make you feel like it's not just their kids.
Don't believe it. Not for a second.
We all have the tendency to be any one of those things, but we don't have to be.
Your kids don't have to be that way.

These boys.

They make me happy to be a mom.
One likes bagels.
One likes cereal.
Both are the most incredible kids I could ever ask for.
I don't want to take one second of my time at home with them for granted.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Driving with your lights off

The last few days have been a blur.
Friday I was talking to my little sister on the phone (proof that I do, in fact, talk on the phone.) and she was talking about her plans for her 30th birthday.
She was going to be going to her friends Steve and Ashley's the next day and celebrating with them and a couple other friends.
So...totally spur of the moment, I decided to drive the 4 and a half hour trip to go and surprise her.
It just didn't seem right to be turning the big 3-0 without a sibling around!

Adam had to work all day Saturday anyways, so I woke the boys up at 5:45 and we took off.
We shocked her.
It was perfect. We had such a great time and it was totally and completely worth it.
I got to see these 2 super awesome Ashley's who I haven't seen in years, and meet a new friend as well!
 (oh, and while you're just sitting at your computer, why don't you go here and check out these awesome fingerless mittens that Ashley makes! They are beautiful and I am TOTALLY buying myself a pair!)
And then you might as well go here and check out the other Ashley's bakery!

We got home at about midnight Saturday night.
Sunday morning we got up first thing and went to breakfast at our church (because our church is cool like that and offers a full FREE breakfast every Sunday morning. yep.) then Sunday School, then church.
We had lunch after church, ran home, packed a few things and drove 2 and a half hours to surprise the Curriers.
We kind of like our family.
And, since you've been reading this far, you might as well go here and check out the new ministry they just started! It's pretty amazing!
We had to leave at 11 this morning to get back to open The Porch , then I had an engagement session, and Adam had to work.
Then I came home, had to get groceries, make Riley a costume for his presentation tomorrow and blog.
And all this with no chocolate! Say what?!?! (is it February yet?!)

Phew. I'm a little tired.
Happy. But tired.

On the way home from Melanie's, it was snowing and the roads were pretty bad in some spots.
As I was driving (the boys were sleeping) I saw a car in the left lane with no lights on.
It actually kind of scared me at first, because it was so so dark outside, and I didn't even see the car until the very last second!

And so....you know me and my stupid analogies..ha.
I just thought - man. Here I am driving along and having kind of a hard time seeing.
The roads were slick, they were dark, and it was really hard to see where I was going especially because I wasn't familiar with that particular road.
But then here was this guy.
Talk about difficult to see!
How could he possibly see where he was going?
We were both driving a rough and dark road, but I had lights in front of me to help guide me and show me far enough in front of me to keep me on the road.

It just totally reminded me of life.

Life is hard.

Sometimes it feels impossible to see very far in front of you without getting anxious and stressed.
But when you have lights? You at least see just far enough ahead that you can manage to keep yourself on the road.

God is that light.
I am living the same difficult life that everyone else is living.
But for me?
I feel much more confident.
Much less anxious.
Because I have God's Word that is showing me just far enough in front of me that it reminds me I can trust Him.
I still get a little nervous sometimes, just like I was on the highway.
I still can turn a corner and not know what's around the other side, just like on the highway.
I can see.
I can see because I am choosing not to drive with my lights off!
I can see because God is showing me where to turn, when I need to slow down, directing my steps.

And it is so incredibly comforting.

So I hope that if you are feeling like you are confused and having a hard time staying on the road...
Maybe you are just

Driving with your lights off.

Guess what?
I have great news for you...all you have to do is turn them on.
It doesn't take away the slippery roads and the dark nights.
But it sure does make them a lot easier to travel!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How to have a cheap, fun family night

We like to take one day a week and do something special as a family.
This week I wanted to try and come up with something that was inexpensive but that the boys would love.
I took all the nerf guns and bullets out and put them at the top of the stairs.
Then we called the boys up and said...
Pick your weapons!

I wish I had taken video of their faces because they were priceless-
They were SO excited that we were gonna play nerf with them!

We played a few games, then watched a movie together, then ordered pizza.
Our local pizza place has a 2 for $20 deal where you get 2 large cheese pizzas, a large fry and a 2 liter bottle of soda...I kind of felt guilty taking that much stuff from the place for only $20!

It was seriously such a fun time and I know that the boys will remember it for a while.
ANDDD...it was a win win. We didn't have to go outside in the freezing cold (Thanks to my God, and my peeps) and we had a great family night.

And us Chase's...we're just a little competitive. I thought you might like to see a little bit of the action.
Me and Adam kicked their butts.
ha...just kidding.

So next time you want to have a great time with your kids, don't think you have to spend a lot of money -just get creative, and try and protect your eyes...you'll know what I mean after you watch this:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Family lifestyle session ~ Derry, NH

This family.
It almost doesn't seem real. They are so real. so fun. so crazy. so relaxed. so godly. 
It's just like all the perfect stuff wrapped into one.
Spending a couple of hours with them made me feel like I was a Risteen for the day...
and I gotta say-
It felt pretty darn good!
Even though my husband's family has known the Risteens and their extended family for a long time, I never really got to know them very well.
Now, I have been privileged enough to shoot 2 of the girls senior photos, Rebekah and Ben's engagement session and their wedding!

I feel like I don't see a whole lot of lifestyle photography, and there is something just absolutely refreshing about these kind of sessions.
They are not posed.
They are in the comfort of the client's home.
They don't involve finding perfectly matching outfits, stressing out wondering if your child is going to sit still for an entire session...
In fact. It basically feels just like any other typical day at home would feel.
It's exactly the kind of things you want to remember about where you are in your life right now.
It brings warm, contented, peaceful feelings when you even look at the images!
It is your life.
With your entire family home together...just being together.
Exactly the way life should be.

Here are some of my favorites from a day spent with the Risteens.

Thank you so much for letting me be part of the family for the day.
But now you better watch out...I may just drop in again sometime.
So have the coffee ready.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I interrupt my regularly scheduled programming...

To bring you this:

Today did not go the way I planned.
I know...a lot of times life works that way.

This morning I woke up to a very cold house.
It was 2 degrees outside.
We really couldn't believe we had run out of oil again after just getting oil just 3 weeks ago.

Before I go any further, let me backtrack a little bit for those of you who don't know my entire story.
You can read the story about the disappointment and then way God turned that disappointment around when we wanted to buy our house here.
My husband works for our church full time, and when we made the decision for him to take that job it was knowing that with that came the decision to live in a 1 family house with 2 families.
That second family was my parents, and even though we shared a house and a kitchen for 6 years, I love the deeper relationships we have developed and the memories we have made and wouldn't trade if for a minute.
However, as our boys were getting bigger and we felt God calling us to do other things that had the need for our own space, we decided to buy a house.

Since that decision, it has obviously been quite a change for us.
Going from paying no rent to paying a mortgage is quite a change.
God has blessed us so much and has given my husband 2nd job opportunities the last few weeks, but things are still just...tight.

But. We aren't complaining.
We are still serving, and living to please God. Because we know we can trust Him to provide.
We know this is where God has called us, and we have no doubt that He will take care of us.

Ok. Back to today.
I am part of a group of christian women photographers called Pursuit 31.
It may sound strange to some of you, but some of the women I have met as a result of this group are literally some of my very best friends....like very best.
So this morning, I posted in our closed group on Facebook that I would love prayer because we had no heat and didn't know how we were going to be able to pay for the bill.
That is what I asked for.

God had totally different plans.
One of my friends posted my paypal address, and when I checked my email address 15 minutes later, I realized that a handful of people (who I had never met) had donated $90.00!
I was shocked.
Totally couldn't believe that people would be willing to donate money to bless a sister in Christ.
The next few hours (while I was still at my homeschool co-op and totally unaware) countless other people took on the burden with me and literally lived out the verse in 1 John 3:18...

"Let us stop just saying that we love each other, let us really show it by our actions."

Because of these women, and their love for God, and their ability to hear His voice, they have given us way more than we could have ever hoped or imagined for.
I mean. Way.
The kind of way that has left me crying all day long.
That has left us in awe of the kind of God we serve.

The kind of God that chooses to use people to bless others. 
The kind of God that loves His kids so much that He sometimes chooses not only to give them what they need? But even way more than they need.

I feel so undeserving.
I feel so honored.
I feel so loved.
I feel so grateful to be a part of this group of women who decided to sacrifice and to put actions to their words.
What I was a part of today was something I will never, ever forget.
It was something that will affect me, and my family's lives forever.
And it inspires me to do more.
To give more.
To love more.

Imagine how much different the world would be if we all decided to stop just saying that we love each other...
and really showed it by our actions.

Thank you to my sweet, giving, incredibly, amazing friends who have shown the love of Christ to me.
I can never ever put into words what your gifts have meant to me. Some of you gave $5.00, some of you gave over $100.00, and some of you said you couldn't donate but you would pray.
Every single email I got meant the world to me. I mean it.
Whether it was big or small, it was a sacrifice to you and it showed your love for me.
You know you're my homegirls. For life.

And to my Heavenly Father.
Thank you.
Thank you for loving me.
For always keeping your promises.
For never changing.

Great is your faithfulness.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Rock the month PLUS free printables!

I have been so happy to hear about so many of you who have decided to do the monthly challenges!
I know that for me, it has seemed so much more reachable to just hold on to my resolutions for one month!
I mean, who can't stop eating chocolate for one month?!

Getting things organized is a pretty big deal and can make a huge difference in your everyday life!
When I came up with the idea, I wasn't exactly sure where I was going to be going with the whole thing. But since so many of you decided to take the challenge with me, I decided to finish the years worth and then just give it to you all!
Ya know, for just 4 easy payments of $0.00.
But wait. There's more!
Ok, just kidding. There's no more.

I get being business savvy and all, but sometimes it irks me when someone can come up with something really simple, do it up on the computer real quick and then try to make mula out of it, ya feel me?
But then again, maybe that's why my bank account is so low! ha!

However, when I publish my book that is divulging all my words of wisdom,  (please read that last statement dripping with sarcasm) I will ask you to pay for it.
But I will sign it for free. haha!

So it's nothing super fancy or anything, and it took me about 15 minutes to do it up on photoshop...
BUT, I thought it would be great to be able to have the entire year's challenges all together!
This way, we can go back at the end of the year and see how far we've come!

I printed everything out, and had it spiral bound at staples.
You could also just print it out, 3-hole-punch it and put it in a notebook, but I thought it looked so fancy all spiral bound and everything.
I am such a fancy person.

If you didn't do anything for January - no problem!
Just start with February!
And of course if you want an accountability partner, hit me up!
But be warned, I will keep asking you how you're doing!

Here is the link to download.
And if you want to share how you all are doing, you can instagram with the hashtag #rockthemonth
Because that is exactly what we are going to be doing, baby!

Rocking the month!

So go ahead...rock it.

Friday, January 17, 2014

I just said goodbye

You might think it's easy doing these video blogs.
Let me assure you.
It is not.

I literally just said goodbye at the end of my video today!
HAHA!!!! Like...I'm sorry, what?
Am I going somewhere?
But then I was all like, whatever.
I am totally not redoing this whole entire stinking thing.

So goodbye.
Goodbye to you.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Some of my favorite images from 2013

I have had an amazing year meeting so many new clients, and watching many of those clients become my very dear friends.
I am so blessed to be able to do what I love and I am so grateful to all of you who have trusted me to capture your families and become a little part of your lives!

It was so hard to narrow down my "favorites" from this past year, and I have also recently switched computers so I am having a hard time finding all of my albums!
I know I am missing a lot that I would consider my favorite, but here are at least some of my faves.

(I use a program called blogstomp to upload all my images, and for some reason it changes the coloring on some of them- especially my black and white ones when I put them on my blog! grrrr...try to overlook that part of it)

And of course I didn't take these next 2, but they are definitely some of my favorite images from 2013....actually. My most favorite images ever.

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