Oil in my lamp

 Channeling my best circus act, I twist and stretch my right arm over the car seat while trying to keep one on the steering wheel. One eye on the road, one eye trying to find the bloody pacifier. I feel the pink rubber, then blindly search for the screaming mouth, all while trying to avoid crossing the center line and having the semi-truck driver following my mini-van-of-fun call the police on the clearly intoxicated driver. While the pacifier contortion act is finishing up,  a blue pen is stolen from the one who clearly can't live without the blue pen because it is desperately needed to finish coloring the beautiful picture inside the library book. At least her gum isn't stuck to one of the pages again. I switch from circus performance to mediator, and apparently the switch is an ineffective one as the screaming escalates and I am waiting for the windshield to break at the new decibel. I give up trying to mediate, and reach for the glove box. McDonald's napkins tumble out as I grasp another pen. I toss it to the very back of the van, hoping some little hand will grasp it.

As the volume decreases, I hear the song. It's a kid's CD. Of course, it's a kid's CD.  It's just more noise at first, and then without thinking I find myself singing along to the familiar words:

Give me oil in my lamp, keep it burning, burning burning. Give me oil in my lamp, I pray. Give me oil in my lamp, keep it burning, burning, burning. Keep it burning till the break of day. 

 We eventually made it home that day. And I managed to get lunch fed to all three, and when I didn't know if I would make it to naptime or through the next tantrum I felt a prayer rising to my lips: Give me oil in my lamp, Lord. 

And isn't that the prayer of adulthood?  

When our job is on the line,
when our kids are sick in the hospital,
when our marriage seems on sandy ground,
when the baby won't sleep,
when our friends need us to walk with them through hard stuff,
when the hard stuff shows up in our own life,
when you have three kids, ages 4 and under, that you're responsible for,
when someone challenges your faith,
when a parent dies,
when you're not sure where the money will come from, 
when you're just so tired,

Lord, keep it burning till the break of day. 

It makes me think of the story of Elijah and the widow in 1 Kings 17.

Some time later the brook dried up. It hadn’t rained in the land for quite a while. A message came to Elijah from the Lord. He said, “Go right away to Zarephath in the region of Sidon. Stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So Elijah went to Zarephath. He came to the town gate. A widow was there gathering sticks. He called out to her. He asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar? I need a drink.” 11 She went to get the water. Then he called out to her, “Please bring me a piece of bread too.”
12 “I don’t have any bread,” she replied. “And that’s just as sure as the Lord your God is alive. All I have is a small amount of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I’m gathering a few sticks to take home. I’ll make one last meal for myself and my son. We’ll eat it. After that, we’ll die.”
13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home. Do what you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me. Make it out of what you have. Bring it to me. Then make some for yourself and your son. 14 The Lord is the God of Israel. He says, ‘The jar of flour will not be used up. The jug will always have oil in it. You will have flour and oil until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’ ”
15 She went away and did what Elijah had told her to do. So Elijah had food every day. There was also food for the woman and her family. 16 The jar of flour wasn’t used up. The jug always had oil in it. That’s what the Lord had said would happen. He had spoken that message through Elijah.

  Did you catch that? "I'll make one last meal...after that, we'll die." That is heavy. This woman was done. She had accepted she had nothing left and not only was her own life going to be over, but every mother's worst nightmare was coming true for her as well-- she couldn't even provide food for her child and he would die too. And then here comes someone asking her for some bread! She knew she didn't have enough to survive another day, and yet she trusted this prophet and his God.

And the flour wasn't used up. The jug always had oil in it. 

To me this story doesn't mean that we won't lose the job or the sickness won't come. To me this story is a reminder of daily trust in a faithful God in spite of our circumstances.

This widow couldn't open the door to her pantry and see all the oil that the Lord had promised her. She didn't have an Amazon Prime receipt of what was going to be delivered.  She just had to trust it would be there, and that it would be enough to sustain for one more day.

And then eventually the rain came.

Would I have that kind of faith? I can't even seem to make it to bedtime some days and simply trust that God will give me enough energy for the next day.

But in the midst of these very full, often chaotic days, I hear my God saying, "The flour won't be used up. The jug will always have oil in it."

Just last week I told someone that I don't feel like what I'm doing right now is something I could sustain very long; if I didn't know having three small children at home were for just a season and I thought it was for indefinitely I don't know what I could do it. But this bible story reminds me: I can't. God will. 

And so if you see a van careening down the highway, things flying around inside, and children screaming, listen a little closer and you'll probably also hear my new song these days: Give me oil in my lamp, I pray. Give me oil in my lamp, keep it burning, burning, burning. Keep it burning till the break of day. 

And if your flour and oil seem to be running out these days too, feel free to join me at the chorus.


Merry Christmas

Friends and Family,

Another year has come and gone and another year my Christmas letter is being relegated to this blog space in the hopes that you pretend it arrived in your mailbox on beautiful stationary.

I didn't know if we would have a chance to snap a real family picture this year, so I asked Blythe to draw a Christmas picture of our family. See above. Brent and I are to the left of the tree under the wreath, and the girls are on the right under Jesus in the manger [Nan is on the floor with a rattle, obviously]. I feel as if I could leave it with that, as it really does depict family life quite well: my hair is a hot mess, I don't appear to have put pants on, Brent is wearing what could only be described as a house-dress, the girls are happy but appear to have colored their hair with markers, and Nan is crawling around like, "Hey, I just live here!" Oh, and glitter has exploded all over the floor.

And while that kind of sums it up, here is a little break down for those of you more interested:

Nan Louise is our biggest news of this year! She joined us on April 8th. HERE is her birth story if you missed it. She is as sweet as pie. The first couple of months were definitely an adjustment: I thought Nan would be our most difficult baby because the first two months she barely napped and ate every two hours. However, after those two months, she found her stride and has quickly become a very content, very sweet baby. She started crawling a month [or so] ago, loves to eat most food, and thinks her sisters are hilariously entertaining. She waves and says Dada. Brent and I both bonded with her so quickly-- I think it's the freckle on her head. It's the most endearing thing ever and I will shave that spot bald her whole life so I can always see it.

I asked Brent to help me come up with three words to describe each girl right now.
Nan is curious, a go-getter, and absolutely wonderful. 


Becks hit two in full stride. She got pneumonia in April, turned two in May, and then ended up in the hospital in July for some infection we never really pinned down. She is tough as nails [or at least tougher than our oldest daughter, which isn't saying much], and she loves to play with Blythe but does not suffer silently when her older sister wants to take charge. In her teeny-tiny frame she holds her own quite well and is constantly giving us a run for the money. You can't be around her and not want to kiss her cheeks, and you can't be around her and not laugh. Her projected height is "just shy of 5 foot", but her small size has never slowed her down. We took the "cage" [plastic fence/barricade we had zip-tied to her bottom bunk] off last week and she's handled the promotion like a pro. Two is easily my favorite of all the ages, and year two with Becks Lynae has been no exception.

Brent's words for her:
Becks is tender-hearted, strong-willed, and pint-sized

Which brings us to our oldest, Blythe Kathleen. She handled the changes this year in stride. She adores Nan and dotes on her frequently. She went through a bout of pneumonia around her 4th birthday that landed her in the hospital for a few nights.  She and I got to start "preschool", which is nothing organized or fancy, but she thinks any time she is learning is the best. She asks a hundred questions and then looks intently with those big brown eyes and a simple "that's just the way it works" never will suffice. She needs to know exactly how pencils are made, why cars have bright lights and not-bright lights, the difference between a high pitch and a low pitch, if asteroids made the dark spots in the moon, and, thanks to nature days with Papa, why is owl poop called pellets? She had a little foray into dance class. She loves "cheesy noodles" and broccoli and green beans. And any snack at any time of day. When I realize it is my last year home with her I want to find a corner in which I can weep privately. Her name means joy and she brings joy to our life every single day.

Brent's words for her:
 Blythe is inquisitive, creative, and joyful. 

 Brent continues his job at the bank as the compliance officer. He has great employers and customers and never minds going to work, which is a huge blessing. He took a little break from any major run this year since we had a new baby around to occupy us, but he still did a few 5ks and two sprint-triathlons this summer. He is also pouring himself into some men's ministries at our church and is excited about the momentum there. He continues to be a wonderful husband and such a good father to girls.

He didn't give me any words for himself, but I would choose steadfast, generous, and big-hearted.

Not much has changed in my world: I had another child and I had to accept a lot of help as I went through Blythe's hospital stay at 9 months pregnant, Nan's birth, a separated pelvis, and then Becks' hospital stay. But through it all I learned that God is faithful, not because everything turned out so well but because He was in it with us. And I also learned the humility of asking for and receiving help from family and some wonderful friends. This was my first fall not coaching softball, and while I missed the team I didn't have much time to think about it as I have kind of created my own team around here. I was able to do a lot of photography this year as well, and I still work part time at our church as the engagement and prayer coordinator and love being able to pour myself out in that way. My days are very, very, very full around here. Some days I want to quit this stay at home business, but most days I am very grateful for the hard work of taking care of these three beautiful girls I've been given. When I think of life 20 years from now, I get a ache in the pit of my chest just thinking about the beauty and simplicity of these chaotic days at home [during which I can't seem to keep all three fully clothed at once].

The above paragraph is why I have barely blogged this year. This is the least I have written in the 9 years since I started this blog, and that makes me very sad as I want to document these days. But I also want to live these days, so my time is limited. Please hang with me. I hope to be back.

And that's a wrap. 
Our hearts grew leaps and bounds this year, and so did our family. Our house is usually messy and loud, but you are always invited. 

And as we celebrate Christmas may you stand in awe of a God who stepped into our mess and noise, put on flesh, and whispered, "You are always invited." 

Merry Christmas,
Brent, Kelsey, Blythe, Becks, & Nan

If you want a little Christmas reading, I did some writing over HERE for our church during the Advent season.


Book Review: Raising and Original

I received a copy of this book to review some time ago and have yet to get around to reviewing it. This is in part because I don't feel like I can totally give it a fair review yet, as I think it is geared for parents of children slightly older than my own.

That being said, I love the ideas of this book: that each child has a different personality and it is our responsibility as parents to understand those personalities and gauge our discipline and parenting based on that uniqueness. It sounds simple, but in practice can be difficult. That is why I like the practical steps and ideas that this book gives.

I think the theme of the book that I appreciated the most is this: God doesn't ask us to raise perfect children, but rather to raise purposed children. Carr does a wonderful job of integrating Scripture into this book as well, which I always appreciate as that is the only ultimate guide to this difficult job of parenting.

The reason I feel like I will benefit most from this book in a few more years is because it includes a Personality Trait Assessment Tool which asks questions about how your child interacts with their peers, does in a structured environment etc. Since all of my children aren't in school yet, I think I would best be able to complete that assessment later. I really liked the depth of the assessment though, and would equate it to a personality trait test that adults take.

Overall I'm excited to pick this book back up in a few more years to help guide my parenting.

BookLook provided me with a copy of this book but all opinions are my own.


Photography Gift Certificates

It's time to start thinking about Christmas gifts. Some of you probably did this a long time ago and are done. Bravo. If you're like me though, you still have some people pretty much everyone left on your list. Well, maybe I can help you out.  Last year I offered gift certificates for photo sessions, and I decided to do the same this year!

Scroll to the bottom--past all these BEAUTIFUL faces-- for details on your gift certificate. But scroll slowly because they really are beautiful people. 

Here's the scoop: 

Here are my 2017 prices: 
/ For one child/birthday/newborn session: $100/
/Engagement session: $150 for two locations/$100 for one location/
/Senior session: $150 for two locations/$100 for one location/
/Maternity session: $100/
/Family session: $150/
/For multiple family session [i.e. grandparents who want entire families etc] : $200+ 
These prices include up to an hour session and full rights to all edited images.

BUT, if you order a gift certificate for Christmas, the last two listed will be $25 off! 

[Family session = $125 and multiple family session will be $175] 

Maybe you want to buy your parents a multi-generation session. Maybe you want to give your daughter her senior pictures as a gift. Maybe you want to give your son and his wife a family session. Whatever! If you buy a certificate now it is good for the entire year of 2017.

For more examples of my work and the story behind my journey to photography, check out the photography tab in the top right [I haven't updated the pictures on there for awhile, sorry].

If I can help with your Christmas shopping, just let me know! I'll email you the gift certificate as soon as possible!

Contact me:
kelsey [dot] irwin [at] gmail [dot] com 

Thanks to everyone who keeps letting me take their pictures and do something I love. You all are the best clients! Also, stay tuned for a mini session idea I have coming your way this spring. :)