and that's a wrap: 2014 in review

This post always stresses me out a bit, but Brent always loves it and it's his favorite of the year so I keep it coming. AND 2014 was good to us. Very good. I think it's a good thing to look back and remember, and also realize how quickly it goes so we can embrace today a little stronger.


I started this year out half way pregnant. Well, you can't really be halfway pregnant I guess. I was very real pregnant, but our sweet baby girl number 2 was only halfway done getting made.

Blythe was still sleeping in her crib, which resulted in THIS naughtiness and my reflection of God's grace to take into the year.


February was a quiet month in our house. Blythe was still just a baby herself, it seemed. I finally was able to get her hair in pigtails though!

My quiet afternoons resulted in some reflection on what it meant to create HOME for others, and allowed plenty of time for me to geek out about how I would be able to handle TWO CHILDREN!


Blythe turned TWO and we CELEBRATED and I wrote her THIS LETTER.

My sister and Grandma threw a beautiful baby shower/ tea party for me as I grew increasingly more pregnant.

My dad retired! We celebrated. I wrote THIS [which ended up being my highest viewed post to date. That man is well loved].

I reflected about Blythe no longer being an only child and what that would mean for her and our family.

I continued writing letters for our second daughter and Brent received a promotion at the bank.


I had my first [and hopefully last] experience with kidney stones, and said farewell to our family of three. 

Blythe moved out of the crib and started sleeping in a big bed in a new room.

I turned 28. It was obvious I was growing increasingly nostalgic as the baby's arrival approached.
Our last family picture before Becks' arrival about a week and a half later


The main focus of May was welcoming and getting to know Becks Lynae. She was born on May 2nd, a day before her due date [or three days before, depending on which due date I go with].
I am not sure who this baby is, but apparently this is what Becks looked like when she was about a week and a half old :) I'm so grateful Meagan captured her tininess and her alertness.

We spent the month staring at her perfections…and into her big blue eyes-- which were open a lot.

I wrote about the story behind her extra special name, and her birth story. Probably two of my favorite posts from the year.

Before the month was over we made it to church and our nephew's graduation, so I felt pretty successful!


We continued to slowly get to know Becks as summer slipped into the sticky, hot days.

Brent prepared for his triathalon… oh, and managed to run a quick little half marathon like it was no big deal.

I wrote a little Father's Day tribute to that guy because, seriously, he is impressive.


We celebrated the Fourth of July in style!

Brent killed the triathalon. Read here if you don't believe me. And he caught the TRI- bug and now wants to do a full triathalon… and eventually a half iron-man…and then, why not! the full Iron Man. Google it. He's crazy. But he totally can do it!

Potty training began. I'll leave it at that because I think it is still happening…

It was a good summer. I spent most of my days so dang overwhelmed with happiness and so thankful that Becks was such a good baby.

I reflected a lot: here and here.

And Meagan used our family for a mentor session and we got some beautiful family pictures out of the deal that I will cherish forever! [Thanks Meagan and Carrie!]

We got to go to Lake Okoboji at the end of the month and the girls took their first boat ride. 


This was my third August to not be a teacher. But I think this was the first August I started to really enjoy my new role at home, and realize my identity is not in what I do. I still missed the first week back to school excitement though and wrote about what I would have been doing if I were still in the classroom. Instead I was doing this: 

I feel even more in love with doing Senior photography.

I did a lot THIS. And thought about the verse, "When you are weak, then you are strong." And I snapped this picture of Blythe which just captured her joy this summer: 


Brent and I started Storyline and got a lot out of that process. I highly recommend it if you're looking for a study with a group or by yourself for the new year.

I wrote one of my favorite posts of the year.

I kept busy with softball and the girls got to know Katie-bug, their babysitter for an hour + when I was at practice.

We dedicated Becks at church and promised to raise her in the Lord.


Softball ended without the flourish of the season before, and as I celebrated the Royals making it to the World Series, I reflected on what it is about sports that keeps us coming back, win or lose.

I began the pursuit of saying yes more often.

We made our annual trip to Nashville, Becks flew for the first time, and the girls rocked it as 80s work out girls! And we survived the airport with Brent in a wheelchair.


I tried to help my daughter through her first real fear: lions.

Brent turned 29 and I took a lot of pictures.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with family and had so much to be thankful for once again. And we got to take an updated family picture:


I actually can't believe I am reflecting on this month because I feel like it just started. Regardless, we busted out our Christmas decorations and drove around and saw a lot of lights with the girls.

I wrote a Christmas letter HERE.

Blythe had her grandma's over for a sweet little tea party, and I restored my old My Little Ponies to gift her at Christmas.

We put up an awesome fence in our backyard and Blythe got her first haircut.

We had two little girls who were a joy to celebrate with on Christmas. We went here there and everywhere and celebrated with lots and lots of family.

 And now we are sending the year out with Influenza A. Boo. Blythe started running a fever a couple of days ago and it got super scary high so we took her to ER. Sure enough, we did not escape the plague this year. She's pretty miserable and your prayers are appreciated. So far Becks [and Brent and I] seem to be in the clear. We plan on ringing in the new year by going to bed at 8 o'clock. Yee haw!

It was a great year filled with some of life's best blessings, and as we sit in the muck of the flu and listen to our Blythe cough and cry, I can still say that God is on His throne.

And He will be in 2015. And that is something to celebrate!

Happy New Year! Thanks for following along with us on this little corner of the internet.

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'tis the season to receive

Tomorrow is Christmas. Which means today is my mom's birthday! If ever there were a person who was more gracious about having a birthday on the busiest day of the year, it is my mom. Her gifts are usually wrapped in Christmas paper…if we remembered to grab her a birthday gift, that is. And she has spent the last 30 plus birthdays busy making her daughters' Christmases wonderful. I know you're probably busy today too, but take a second and go to her facebook page  and wish her an extra special, personalized happy birthday letting her know why she is so great! Happy birthday, Mom! 

If you're like me, you've probably already received a few presents, and you've prepared to give presents too. I think that we can learn a lot from this practice-- and not just the giving. 

What?! Heresy! I know. But it's just that I've been thinking. I really do enjoy finding thoughtful gifts for people, and receiving gifts isn't too painful either. UNLESS I receive a gift from someone whom I have not purchased a gift for. Then what do I do?

I panic. I feel like I need to rush and get them something. The whole "system" has been thrown out of whack!

But what should I do?

Receive graciously.
Receive thankfully.
Receive without worry about what they will think when they leave empty handed.

What is so hard about that? I feel like I perpetually owe the person because of their generosity. I feel like I need to keep track because I assume they are probably keeping track.

But you know what Mary and Joseph and the rest of the world did on that first Christmas night when they laid Jesus in the hay? They received. [After giving birth twice, I do realize Mary gave a bit too, but let's look at the bigger picture]. 

And then Jesus went to the temple as a young boy and others gathered around him and listened to him? They received. 

And when Jesus was walking through a crowd and the woman who had been bleeding for years reached out and touched his robe? She received. 

And when Jesus hung on the cross and gave His life for ours? He did that so we could receive. 

Some of the most generous, best gift-givers I know are excellent receivers. I am always paranoid about what to get them because they give the perfect gift, the thoughtful gift, the generous gift. But I have found that those that are generous know how to receive well. I could give them a lock of my hair and they would act like they just won the lottery. Why? Because through all of their giving they know that there is great joy in watching someone receive well. 


Let's receive well this Christmas.

Merry Christmas!
If you missed our Christmas letter in the mail, it's because 
there wasn't one: CLICK HERE to read it :) 

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Jesus Prom: a review

If ever there was a book that made me want to do something, it is this one. Brent had Jesus Prom on his Christmas list, so I was excited when it was on the list of books available to review. The author, Jon Weece, also graduated from Ozark Christian College [a few years before Brent] and now preaches in Lexington, Kentucky, just up the road from where we used to live. And that is what led me to this book.

For some reason, the cover is a bit obnoxious to me, but thankfully I can overlook a bad book cover. I am glad I did. I sat down and devoured this book in less than two days. I would have gladly read it in one sitting but--children. Part of what lends to being able to read this book quickly is the writing style: it is written very conversationally. Some may find it a bit "choppy", but I don't mind this writing style at all because I feel like I'm just sitting in a room listening to a friend share their thoughts. And in this case, those thoughts happen to be pretty profound.

The book is divided into two sections: Christian- the person (n.) who loves (v.) people and church- the people (n.) who love (v.) people. Right away Weece lets us know that the word "Christian" is not meant to be an adjective to describe music or schools, but rather a noun: a noun that needs verbs.  The church has followed suit, no longer doing verbs, and has lost its meaning too. But in each chapter of Jesus Prom Weece gives us NOUNS and reminds us of the actions of Jesus.

Jon Weece is a storyteller at heart, and throughout his book there are so many practical and applicable stories that show us how to love and give and serve and rest and go and be and talk. Many of the stories are from his own life, but many are bible stories. I have been read and been reading the bible since I was a baby, but Weece has a way of making stories like the woman at the well or the man at the gate who couldn't walk come to life in new ways. These bible stories are miraculous, and yet somehow, through years of repetition, they tend to lose their sparkle. In the pages of this book I saw the miracles anew.

In a chapter on rest, Weece speaks to the lack of rest we have. He explains that rest is "a verb of inaction. While we rest, God works. That's what makes this verb a challenge to our faith. Do we really believe that God is in control? If we do, we can rest. If we don't believe God is in control, we ask Him to rest while we attempt to do His work." How many of us can't truly rest because we can't let go? We can't trust that God can handle our hurt, or our friend's cancer, or the hungry? We can't rest because we may fall behind. We can't rest because those who rest don't reach the top. Weece says, "Whenever I have more stress than I have sleep, I ask myself a series of questions: Is Jesus still on the throne? Is Jesus' tomb still empty? Is Jesus coming back to get me? If they answer to each of those questions is yes, then I can rest."

Another chapter that stood out to me was the chapter on giving. [I do not find it strange that at Christmas time the two chapters that tugged at me the most were the chapters on REST and on GIVING.] Weece writes, "We have a generosity yardstick at [our church] that says this: 'Generosity is not measured by how much we give away. Generosity is measured by how much we keep for ourselves.'" I need that painted on my bedroom ceiling so I see it every morning when I wake up! I actually cried several times through this chapter as I was so touched by some of the examples of giving that he shared…but more than that, I was drawn to the beauty of Jesus' ability to give, and want to think of practical ways I can give in my own life.

I think the book can best be summed up this paragraph from the author:
"People need what you have, and what you have is life. God put life in your heart. Open your heart up and give that life away. Give your heart away." 
This book is full of simple thoughts, but not simplistic thoughts. When I was teaching I always said that the students who were the hardest to love were very often the ones who needed my love the most. I was reminded of that in these pages on a much larger scale. Jesus loved. Jesus loves. And I have the ability to bring that love to others. I will come back to this book again many times, I am sure. I highly recommend it [just forget the cover and the "prom" theme…you'll understand the title once you read the book].

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review from BookLook Bloggers/ Harper Collins Publishers, but all opinions are my own. 

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a leaking heart

Originally posted in December of 2011. 

I was reading The Book Thief the other night and the following words struck me:
"Somewhere, far down, there was an itch in his heart, but he made it a point not to scratch it. He was afraid of what might come leaking out."
To put this in context for those of you that have never read the book, "he" is referring to a man living outside Munich in Nazi Germany. "He" does not agree with Hitler. He is a member of the Nazi party because he must provide for his family. But…"somewhere far down, there was an itch in his heart…"

I just finished reading/teaching the play version of "The Diary of Anne Frank" with my 8th grade class, so part of the reason this struck me is because I had to stop and think, "What if everyone, in particular males who were members of the Nazi party, who had an "itch" in their hearts during this time WOULD have been willing to "scratch it"? What atrocities may have been stopped?"

But then my mind kept on moving…

What if WE, in particular men and women who are members of the Kingdom of God, would scratch our hearts where they itch? What if we would scratch that place that tells us it isn't okay to be buying ANOTHER present for a family member when there are kids not only in other countries but in our own communities who need shoes, clothes, and shelter? What if we would scratch that place in our hearts that tells us to give up our vacation time to go serve in Ethiopia, or Poland, or China? What if we would scratch that place that tells us the job we've had for 10plus years, though comfortable to us, may not be where we are supposed to remain if we truly want to use our gifts? What if we would scratch that place that tells us to move from everything we know to follow His call, even if we don't know exactly what all that entails right now?

And maybe the itch isn't even that big. But what if we would scratch that place that tells us to stop and ask that older woman if she would like help carrying her groceries? What if we would scratch that place that tells us to let a dad with two restless kids in his cart ahead of us in line? What if we would scratch that place that tells us to offer a hug, especially when hugs are uncomfortable for us? What if we would scratch that place that tells us to pay for the other person's gas while filling up at the pump?

What if we would be willing to scratch the itch in our hearts, whatever it may be?

I think, just like the fictional character in the book, we don't scratch because we are afraid of what will come leaking out. We are afraid of what it may REQUIRE of us. We are afraid of being made uncomfortable or being looked at strangely. We are afraid of sacrificing time and money. We are afraid of sacrificing our selfishness.

We are afraid.

I think, especially this Christmas, we need to be more aware of the itches in our hearts.

I think we need to be less afraid of what will come leaking out of them.

I think we'll be surprised when we do.

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let it snow

The winner of the photo giveaway is
Melissa P.!
Please email me/message me so we can talk details! 
And remember, if you want to plan for a session before June, "save" a slot with me and you will get it 15% off the normal session fee! 

Yesterday it snowed. And I was so happy. I have always loved the first real snowfall of the season, but haven't had an excuse to go play for awhile. [Not that I really ever needed an excuse: two years ago Brent and I built a pretty mean fort in our front yard complete with a flag and windows and awesomeness.]

But yesterday I made snowangels and snowman the size of a toddler. 

Yesterday I remembered the feeling of cold-worn cheeks and numb fingers, and the awesome sensation of warmth slowly creeping back in as we peeled off layers in the mud room.

Yesterday I wiped sticky hot chocolate fingers of a happy little girl, and remembered the joy of playing in the snow.

Yesterday I also laughed at how ridiculously awesome this old-school snowsuit looked on my daughter, and prayed she wouldn't have to go to the bathroom after we got outside. 

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