Artists Inspired Blog Circle – Purple

Artists Inspired Blog Circle – Purple

Purple 

**I’m going to introduce my blog post today as being very (very) personal. I’ve been made aware that sometimes, my circle posts have touched a nerve as I often write about what is important to me and that I want to share. As I never want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, please know in advance that this is personal, and that if you choose not to read it, I am perfectly fine with that. This is relevant to my life, and to many others, and I want to use my time and this space as a way of sharing what’s on my mind. If there’s anything I share that ever makes you uncomfortable or that you disagree with, please know these are my feelings and opinions, and if you’re in the circle or not, this is not something that you need to read…it’s just something I want to share. I would never, ever consciously hurt anyone with my writing or with my opinions or feelings, but as I know I have in the past, I wanted to be clear that this is personal. 

All that said, I am going to share my images first, and everything after the “purple” images is personal.
Just…me sharing…about me.

I actually love the color purple! This month it takes on a special meaning, and I’ll get to that. But when I saw the theme, I knew exactly what I would post as these images stand out to me. I love freelensed-reverse macro, and it’s been a technique I enjoy using and sharing with others. These images are are definitely from the archives – I think from two years ago! I think it’s about time I go take some more…

This one is amazing. Just…wow. I remember the morning that I captured this! 

The flower actually looks like this…it’s really small still, but close up in the above picture…it just looks amazing to me!

I’m a fan of all of the ways freelensing can alter a subject.

The above image, and the next two are from the same subject, just framed slightly different and with the focus shifted some. 

Do you have a favorite of the three?! 

Something I love about purple show different the shades can look. This is a bit more pink/purple (fuchsia, maybe) but I still love it. Or, maybe I’m just color blind. Either way, I love this capture, and am reminded that I need to print it! 

My sweet son gave me this and I had to capture it during one of our family sessions! 
 

And, I’m starting the personal part…

Why it works? Well, just like with my diagnosis, the purple comes in many shades. I feel like my diagnosis makes me feel like I’m a bit inconsistent. Some days I’m this super hard working mama and wife and can tackle so much in an hour! Other days (more often than the other Super Shelby Days) I’m…a patient. Taken care of by my family while in bed, with the understanding that it’s just a bad Fibro Day. There are tons of other shades of purple (or of me) in between, but those are the biggest ones. There’s also the purple feeling. As in, bruised. Most of the time, my body feels like a giant, purple swollen bruise. You just can’t see it. Most people say I hide it pretty well – but my family – they see a different, painful side of me.

All of that to say…when I wrote the following, it was Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, and I posted to my personal Facebook page — this post has a bit more depth to it, but again, being my space to share, I wanted to spread awareness about this disease and my journey with Fibromyalgia. As I’ve gotten older, the need has come up for me to share a bit about my diagnosis with Fibro, as well as several other “unseen” medical issues. Whether with friends or family (when I fall asleep on couches) or with clients (when I have to explain my two-week-long “Fibro flare”as the reason for a later than anticipated gallery), it’s become increasing clear that I need to be open.

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia when I was 26, after four full years of trying to find out what was ‘wrong’ with me. I was constantly tired, diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which, trust me, I get sounds like a cop-out) a couple years before then. But despite the pains, from my shoulders/neck through my legs, nothing was diagnosed through [very poor med-clinic] “testing.” I believe my pains and fatigue really started when I was towards the beginning of my Freshman year in college — I was going through a lot, in general as well as medically, and of course, there were some underlying issues. However, at the time, I just felt…lazy. Like, my body just didn’t want to do anything. I slept – a lot. I remember trying to figure out my life and I even remember losing friends through this process. Through college, I did what I could to stay active. After college, things were even more difficult and finally, in 2006 after being told that the facility on base couldn’t “treat people like [me]” I received, for the first real time, off-base care. And finally, real testing (blood work for specific diseases and to rule them out, several X-rays on my back, and a thorough physical exam – probably more, but I can’t remember it all) my doctor suggested a word I had never heard before – Fibromyalgia – and arthritis (in my spine – it WASN’T in my head!). He was fairly confident in my diagnosis, but referred me to a rheumatologist, who confirmed it after more testing and ruling out.

The desire to share on a wider scale was prompted a little over two months ago (despite the diagnosis from over a decade ago), when I went to see my doctor about a few things. To my surprise, she told me that her PA suggested that I was depressed, which was not at all what I went to see her for. As we talked more, she said something that took me very much off guard. I’m fairly confident I’ll never forget the meaning in her words (as best as I can remember the point):

“Shelby, I’m going to be honest. I think you need to talk with a therapist. I don’t believe that you have accepted your disease, and the prognosis of it. You keep working to get ‘better.’ You have a disease – you aren’t just going to get better one day.” 

Well, a few of you know how well I took that conversation. Cliff Notes version – it didn’t go well (a few days’ worth of tears may have been involved). I thought long and hard about what she said and the impact of those words. She’s right — I DO keep trying to get better. I don’t know if she’s right about me not getting “better” — I hope that I do one day! But Fibro, at least for me, is a very cyclical disease…and since my diagnosis (and years before then), there hasn’t been an end to the symptoms. 

Pain —> Fatigue —> Lack of Activity —> Lack of Interest —> Depression or Sadness —> Pain From Inactivity and Depression —> Fatigue…

Anyways, in my head, that all makes sense, so I hope that makes a little sense to everyone else. But, the point is, I’m in pain and am tired pretty much every single day (tons of other things too, but those are the highlights). The simplest things, like getting out of bed and showering, are often the only things I manage to get done in a day (and, sometimes, I don’t manage that). Some days/weeks are better than others. I am beyond thankful to have a supportive husband who does everything he can to help me through it, and who has for as long as I can remember. It hasn’t been easy on him or our family, but I’m beyond blessed with Jason and my children, who truly understand what I go through on a daily basis. Without them, I don’t know how I would be able to handle this – they do so much to help me on a daily basis. I’ve also been blessed with many friends who, thankfully, accept me as I am – sleepy, painful me – and who help as they can, even if it’s just listening to my sadness when discussing how my day didn’t turn out how I imagined because I’m still in bed. 

Please, for anyone who has an invisible illness, know that you aren’t alone. People are out here who understand, and are more than willing to help as we can. For those who know someone with an invisible illness, whether it’s Fibromyalgia or any of the various illnesses out there, please listen. We do not want to feel like this. We want love and support, and the understanding that some days, our best might only be a shower. Other days, we can tackle the world (or at least the laundry) — but our illness is still there. Pray over those with these illnesses – that one day, maybe there’s a cure.


Obviously the above isn’t mine, but it was found on one of the many pages that I am a part of to understand more, and to see if new cures or research is coming out. It is so accurate in what it says, and I hope that anyone who reads it will understand. Many thanks to “Fibro Ramblings” for this great graphic.  

I’m going to end with two images that symbolize to me what Fibro has done to my life. 

This one…well, it hits me hard. I actually did this for another self-portrait project that Photography By HeArt released last year. 
I think the meaning is evident, but, this is me, feeling many days like I fail those who mean the most to me. I do the best I can with what I’ve been given, and I am so thankful that they love me and understand me regardless of my shortcomings. I couldn’t love my family any more – they are my rock.

The image below was done as an “Inspired By” series, also from Photography By HeArt. This was from the Inspired By: Francesca Woodman series, and this is the result I was hoping for when I captured it. Again, I don’t think words are needed. This is how I often feel with Fibro. Trapped. Trapped in a body that is failing me, and me desperately trying to get out.

 ~Shelby 

Next up in our Artists Inspired Blog Circle is the talented Liz of It’s Still Life by Elizabeth Willson (Facebook page).
Click here to see Liz’s take on this month’s theme – I assure you that you’ll love it…she’s one of my favorites to follow!

The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.

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{D & K} Bridal Session with Studio802

{D & K} Bridal Session with Studio802

What a gorgeous and super sweet Bridal Session that my amazingly talented friend, Emiley of Studio802 allowed me to capture with her! First off, I need to say how incredibly generous and kind Emiley has been to me since the moment (or, maybe even before!) I stepped back in to Oklahoma City! She’s a firm believer and DOER of “community over competition” and it shows in everything she does. I’ve been blessed beyond words by her friendship, mentorship, and love! And, heads up, she has just changed studio locations, and I cannot wait to see all that she’s able to do with it! 

Anyways, back to this beautiful session — Emiley invited me to join her and her sweet hubby to take pictures at a bridal session from a wedding she had recently done. Of course I was super eager to join her and watch how another photographer works. I’ve had my own business for a few years, but there’s something to learn from such an amazingly talented professionals in the industry, and her images and how she works were wonderful to see in person. And this couple!!! Seriously, they are super cute and sweet, and I am so thankful they let me join in capturing these moments. I wish them all the best in their future – with as much fun and laughter, I don’t doubt it’ll be an amazing one. 

Here is a small sampling of images that I was able to capture with Emiley (and a few over her shoulder — loved documenting how she works, and also didn’t want to disrupt her flow)! I hope you love this gorgeous session as much as I do. I don’t offer my services for many weddings (mainly smaller ones), but I’ve been blessed to capture a few, and though it’s not my main niche, I’m glad to have had some more experience like this. 

**Oh! And, yeah. I’m not a consistent blogger! I’ve had this sitting in my drafts for…well, months…and I’m so sorry I haven’t gotten this out sooner! I’m sure after seeing how gorgeous session this was why I still want to share and blog it! 

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Emiley’s sweet husband making sure all of the details are perfect! 
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Emiley, working her magic!! 
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Artists Inspired Blog Circle – Red

Artists Inspired Blog Circle – Red

Beautiful…Red. Loving…Red.
You know, as I’ve gone through these past few months of blogging the colors, the one thing I can reflect on about myself is that I’m not very traditional! This month, I guess I’m a little traditional writing about “love” and “red”…but otherwise, you won’t see a lot of red in this post either! To be 100% honest, I’ve been sick with the death plague (also known as strep throat and an ear infection, coupled with some laryngitis for fun, which I graciously shared with my daughter, so she’s home with me today) and the pictures I had hoped to take I didn’t quite get to. So, in Shelby Procrastination Style, I searched for something that I hoped could fit anyways! And to be honest, I’m glad I did. There are some days (okay, nearly every single one of them) that I feel like a failure as a parent. But in truth — the way I see these pictures in this very moment, I feel that my babies’ Daddy and I have to be doing something right. If there’s one thing I think we’ve done right, it’s showing love to our children. We aren’t model parents, we mess up regularly (daily or better for myself), but at the end of the day, despite our flaws, I KNOW that our children know how much we love them. And, I’m taking this crazy high positivity with two things in mind: one, I’m on hydrocodone for the cough/fever/pain issue, so I could be a little off, and two, thankfully she isn’t a teenager yet and hasn’t started hating us (recently, anyways).

So. Red. Here is my interpretation for this lovely month of February! Our family is big (BIG) on traditions, and one of them is our Daddy-Daughter and Mommy-Son Dates!
My husband has been taking Caroline out on dates since she was five, I believe. If I was more together, I’d try to find those pictures to share…they are ADORABLE, and as I recall, there was quite a bit of red in her dress that year. But, my husband always comes to the door, knocks and she’s always surprised as he brings a corsage and asks for her hand. This year, we were all running a little late, so I had no idea he had gone out to knock, so I was fumbling to get my camera together. She was still getting ready (typical girl!) and thankfully he’s always been a patient man through the years and waited for her to finish up. I got just a few pictures of them before the went out to dinner (Saltgrass Steakhouse…seriously…he hasn’t even taken me there yet!) and to the Valentine’s Dance. Regardless of what they do, they always have a blast together, and if you can’t tell by these images, they are pretty smitten together. I adore how much love I can see in these images!

Knock, knock…

Oh my word…I need this one framed. Now. 

I always feel like they have a secret language between them or something…and this image just makes my heart happy. They adore each other!



Red!! I found some red…Mommy did her nails earlier in the day, and coincidentally, she chose red, with silver sparkles!
And then…those RED lips! We put a little gloss on them since she is growing up!

The rest of their evening was wonderful, from what I gather, and they enjoyed lots of talking, and dancing. And most importantly, when Mommy came home with Tyler, they were both already in pajamas and playing the Playstation! I’d say that is total date night success for those two!

So, while Daddy and Care were off doing their thing, this little man and I had a date of our own to get to! A little back story — Tyler LOVE painting my nails. I think he’s always been sad that that’s not something he can really take part in (getting his nails painted) so now he asks to paint them all the time! Well, since I was painting Caroline’s nails, I let him paint my toenails. He loved it (and they turned out REALLY well). So he was already super excited and after doing nails he got changed into this outfit on his own so he could take me out. After he ran Caroline’s sweater out to her, he came to the door, and closed it while he was still outside…and then knocked. Melt my heart that kid is a fast learner!

After he walked in, he gave a frowny face — because he didn’t have a corsage or flowers to give me. So, he ran off to Caroline’s bathroom, and came back with a beautiful purple hair flower, which he placed in my hair and that I wore all night. Precious child! Here’s me, on our date night!

As I finished up my pictures, he picked up my camera bag/purse and put it on, and held his arm out for me to hold. I can’t even make this up! He did this on our last date too…gah! I love this little boy so dang much!

At Panera, before we went to the movies. This is our date night dinner most of the time. He always gets an “everything bagel” with cream cheese.
I could just sit and watch him all night.

And, my little gentleman…always trying to open doors.

This is the last of my pictures, but we had a wonderful night watching A Dog’s Purpose (okay, we both bawled). He also serenaded me on the walk to our car and in the car on the way home to Caroline’s honor choir music. This kid has some game. Girls better watch out!

Thank you to all who have come to check out the blog! I hope you enjoyed my quickly put together interpretation for “Red” and I hope to see you back here next month!

Next up in our Artists Inspired Blog Circle is the talented Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith photographer/storyteller (Facebook page). Click here to see Nikki’s take on this month’s theme – I assure you that you’ll love it…she’s one of my favorites to follow!

The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.

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Artists Inspired Blog Circle – Grey

Artists Inspired Blog Circle – Grey

Grey. Not black, not white…just…grey. It’s certainly not the most inspirational of colors, at least for me. I love a timeless black and white image, but I was hoping for an awesome foggy morning (one that lasted until the afternoon hours because, well, I enjoy my sleep) or something specific that provided that moment of epiphany for this theme. Black and white images I knew I could do, but I wanted something…more. After some thought, I knew I didn’t want to do all black and white images, but that including some might be nice. And then, one day, it snowed here in Oklahoma! Over the years (my family and I lived here about 6 years ago, for 6 years – love military life!), our Oklahoma winters have often consisted of “ice” storms (anyone out there remember…”ICE STORM, 2007!”?). Not snow, not blizzards, not rain…something in between. Something miserable, but beautiful (it’s actually stunning to look at, but  just not to drive or get stuck in), but something that will paralyze the whole state. So naturally, I wasn’t prepared for real “snow” but I am so thankful it came. It was in looking back on these a couple days ago that inspiration hit me, and although you might have to stretch your imagination some, I hope that these images will suffice for my “grey” take this month! The darker, sunless, and gloomier grey days that the atmosphere provided brought us so much joy…and that’s my “grey.”

In these first two captures, my littles were able to enjoy just a tiny, teasing glimpse of what we were accustomed to when we were living in Utah for two years. Goodness, they miss SNOW! Alabama really didn’t provide us with that beautiful white season filled with snow as the previous couple of years from Utah. Some of you may recall from Facebook that a few days before these were taken, my little guy had asked Santa for a few things. All of these items were Pokemon related. As Santa was finishing up and making sure he had understood the “all Pokemon” request, he asked if there was anything else. I’m sure he imagined my little guy would say something like, “a bike!” or maybe, “Twister!” or possibly even, “Batman!” But no, not my little guy. He exclaimed, with excitement filling his eyes, “an…IPOD!!…..AND SNOW!” Santa looked over at us with that “oh, I’m so sorry” look, and did the best he could with offering our son words of expectation management.

A few days later, on December 17th however, Santa delivered, and Tyler was beyond thrilled that Santa had come through, Christmas day or not. And, I feel the need to state that he dressed himself in his pajamas and Santa hat and no jacket. I swear! He actually asked to wear that so he could look like an elf…I happily obliged his request…with this picture in mind!

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I was only outside for a few moments, but I was thankful to be able to capture these before they blew away! It was so windy that night. I don’t have a macro, so I am VERY pleased with how these turned out. They are truly spectacular.
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And then, last weekend happened! Our kids came home so excited after school (Thursday January 5th)…my daughter’s teacher had asked them to pray for snow (and a snow day)…and we were more than happy to do this homework! On Friday morning, we received the call, and within about two hours, they were beyond ready to go outside and play in it! We actually had SNOW!! Not ice…but snow!!

This image captures them, waiting for Mommy to be ready to go outside for some pictures. I loved sitting back and watching their interaction…and, that light. And framing.

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We’ll just call these images, “Grey Day Fun”…because it was such a gloomy day, but I don’t think you’d know it by how happy and lively these two were!

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The image below is actually THE image that inspired me to write this post on our Snow Days! I love it. I love the memory of big sister pulling her baby brother, and moreover that they were headed to our dear friends house to play for the afternoon! They LOVE being so close to some of our best friends!

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I think this capture says it all. She loves it!

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These two were taken on that Saturday — so it was still snowy around us, but it was melting fast, and the sun was back to shining bright for us!

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And, well, this image – it represents the “Ice Day” that we are legitimately having tomorrow and the excitement that they have over it! My kids are once again thrilled that they miss another day of school…and so am I! After all, it’s a four-day weekend now! I’m sure it’ll be a blistery cold day and weekend (and, possibly even gloomier because Daddy is supposed to fly in Saturday, but we aren’t sure how that will work out now) and we’ll be wrapped up and sitting by the fire for much of it, but we always know that at the end of our {grey} days, the sun will find its way (along with its warmth) back to us!

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Next up in our Artists Inspired Blog Circle is the talented Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith photographer/storyteller (Facebook page). Click here to see Nikki’s take on this month’s theme – I assure you that you’ll love it…she’s one of my favorites to follow!

The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.

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Artists Inspired Blog Circle – White

Artists Inspired Blog Circle – White

December. The month of giving and receiving…and hopefully more giving. This month, our Artists Inspired Blog Circle is doing the color “White” as our theme, and I couldn’t be happier. I started out a touch saddened by the prospect of not having snow (we don’t get “snow” here in Oklahoma City very often…if we get cold stuff, it’s often ice!), but as the month has gone on, I decided to take this an entirely different direction. And, what prompted it? Well, it wasn’t exactly what I would have anticipated.

Around mid November, I saw an article floating around on Facebook and, to be quite honest, it broke my heart. I actually hate that I’m going to post it for it to have a bigger audience, but in order for you to follow my post and my words, it is fair to give credit to where this came from. Here it is:

7 Reasons Not to Participate in Operation Christmas Child This Year

Now, if I haven’t lost you all together, and you really decided to take a peek at this opinion piece, and have come back to reality, you may see why I’m a little saddened by this author’s blog post. And to be clear, I don’t follow this person, nor do I know who she is. This just came across my feed, sadly. If you know me and my family at all, you know that we in fact participate in Operation Christmas Child every year, and have for quite some time. It’s a family tradition, but beyond that, it helps us each year, amidst the holiday buying and busy-ness to stop and consider the lives and needs of others.

Below is one of the first OCC’s we took part in. By the looks of it, it’s around 2011. Our traditions typically come in the form of doing things with our kids, and this is one thing we knew we wanted to teach early on: the gift of giving.

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Okay, so before I go much further in to Operation Christmas Child, let me go back and revisit the theme of our “White.”

White to many people can be interpreted or symbolized, as pure or innocent, maybe even unblemished. I often think of Heaven and what I imagine it to be like, good and pure. Scientifically, (or maybe visually) white is the reflection of all the colors of the rainbow. Something so great and powerful, and pure and good at the same time. This verse from Revelations stands out to me:  “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” Rev. 19:8

I’m not going to take a pictures of a bunch of snow, snowflakes, flowers, or fog or clouds or even foods with white. I look forward to all of those things if my fellow Circle Members share those (trust me, these ladies are TALENTED!) But, no. Not my take. Instead, this month, I’m using the symbolism of “white” as I described above and share with you about one of our family traditions…Operation Christmas Child.

Now, what is Operation Christmas Child?

Operation Christmas Child is a missionary project that is part of Samaritan’s Purse. The details on Samaritan’s Purse can be found hereBut the mission statement is:
Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I’m by no means a rocket scientist, but I think it boils down to a nondenominational evangelical organization that helps people through various types of situations around the world. And yes, it spreads the love of Jesus Christ.

Operation Christmas Child takes a direction that gears its efforts towards children — often the victims of poverty, among other things, due to where they are around the world. Each year, around mid-November, Christian churches and individuals around the world pack up regular shoeboxes (or, ones they donate for the cause) to fill with goodies. These “goodies” can range from toys to hygiene items to underwear to sports equipment. And probably tons of other “things” but at the end of the day, they are bringing not only these “things” to CHILDREN who may not have otherwise been given ANY GIFT in their lives, but the boxes bring hope and encouragement. And love.

 They let children know they are not forgotten. They are important, valued, created for a purpose, and someone way across the world is thinking of them and praying for them.

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Here’s a bit more from the Operation Christmas Child site – under the link for Eternal Impact.
Operation Christmas Child — Eternal Impact

For the record, when my husband and I decided long ago to start contributing towards Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child, it wasn’t through blinded following. We researched Samaritan’s Purse and OCC. We spoke with friends in our home church and others. To be honest, this is the first time (reading the Emily Joy Poetry blog noted above) that I have heard anything negative about OCC. Now, to be fair, I have watched other documentaries and have heard of other missionaries describe a couple of the highlighted points by the blog, but never about this one. For instance, I do recollect watching a documentary in particular about the shoe industry and how sending brand new shoes *can* put shoe makers/cobblers out of business in some villages. And that there is a natural disruption in the economy for some communities.  And that does make sense.

Now, I am going to touch the points on which I firmly disagree.

Seven, actually.

1. Okay, we get it. So this girl doesn’t like or approve of Franklin Graham or what he believes and teaches based on his desired to share the gospel BASED ON BIBLICAL SCRIPTURE. Why NOT take millions of children and deprive them of gifts at Christmas. All in the name of not wanting to support one man, and the vision of countless others. Sure. That makes TOTAL sense. Let’s not follow a calling that we may have from the Lord (to help children through this ministry) based on our dislike of one person, who might not share our beliefs, but who, according to Facebook and Twitter, is an awful person. With a heart to help people.

2. Nevermind, back to number 1. Quite frankly, I try not to meddle in the financial affairs of others. My guess is that Franklin Graham is a highly educated businessman who is successful in leading his companies/charities/organizations to receive the donations that they receive. So, although I don’t know for certain, a quick glance here, courtesy of CharityWatch, leads me to believe the statement and link posted in the blog regarding Graham’s salary pulls towards the bias the author wants to see. I’m far less interested in what he makes for his hard work, and more interested in knowing what he does with it. But, again, that’s between him and God. Not us. Unless something comes back saying all of our donations didn’t get to the children or the money was improperly used (and according to this, it wasn’t – you should check the percentage for compensation of leaders), I’m good with Graham, the mission, and his salary.

2. Really this time. Because number 1 is making me very sad. It was suggested that the items in the box would be random “cheap trinkets” and essential junk that no one would be able to figure out how to use (in many cases). I cannot speak for everyone. But I know the years that we have donated, “cheap” is NEVER what we were going for. Now, useful, small to fit in the box, interesting, fun, hygienic…those things we did try to find. But never “cheap.” In fact, I just took back about $35 worth of things yesterday that wouldn’t fit in our boxes this year! They were filled to the brim and we were sad that those didn’t make it in (and yes, boxes, but I’ll share more on that later, because I can address another “reason not to give”). The list of items that are suggested and approved is here. Now, again, I’m not genius, but I would think that hygiene items, school supplies, a fun stuffed animal, and maybe a yoyo would be AMAZING for child. You know what, heck with what’s IN the box. Haven’t you ever received something and just been happy that someone thought of you?! I have. Imagine someone, a child, perhaps, who has never received a gift in a shiny red box. Or wrapped in wrapping paper with fun characters. Do some people just throw “junk in a box?” Maybe. Did those who prayerfully sought guidance and were led to share from their hearts? My guess is a resounding, “no.” Do some people get seasonally off items? Sure, but I’ve also received a few things that weren’t exactly my cup of tea too, but I am always grateful. I know that not every is like that, however, but on the chance that there are a few out there that truly do love and appreciate the thought of these gifts (and, maybe the gifts themselves) isn’t it worth it if we as a Christian Family are willing and able to give?

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3. Oh, I’m going to enjoy this one. The local economy may be disrupted. <sigh>…Is this by the cheap “junky trinkets” that no one will know how to use? Seriously? If you wanted point number 2 to stick on some level, this point should not have been mentioned. Again, I agree that something (like shoes) might disrupt the economy. Or even grain and rice. But the gifts we send to children…especially if they aren’t useable – see number 2…are likely not going to hurt the vendors there. The point was made that these items are typically vastly different than the normal toys there for the particular culture. So this shouldn’t be an issue based on your own argument.

4. Racist or sexist boxes. Clearly this chick has either never had children and/or she led a very humorless life and childhood. First, racist boxes? Are you serious? With loving hearts, we Christians are so awful we want to send cheap gifts (from our own money and shipping costs) to people in other various cultures so that we can show the worst sides of our society? The images are cartoons. Yes, they may have some cultural context along with some cartoon-like and fun depictions (I’m part Asian, so I can say this…Asians are OFTEN depicted by those rice hats. And you know what? I’ve never been offended). A Latino child in a native looking poncho? I can’t speak for them, but I would think that a child really would just see…a happy cartoon of children receiving gifts. From various cultures. To address another quick point – we can show compassion to others in many ways, not simply by letting them immigrate to our country. We need to be proactive and create an immigration policy that works. Just letting anyone in to our country isn’t working. Protecting our own citizens does not have to be in opposition to having a secure immigration policy.

Sexism? For the love. There are in fact two sexes. Male and female. I’m sure I could debate forever my reasoning here (cough, cough…science…biology…reproductive organs…) but as far as children are concerned, there are boys and girls. I’m going to keep it simple, though I know there a few complicated exceptions to this general train of thought – just bear with me for the main points to address the article. Girls would be more likely, for instance, to wear an undershirt (we bought those the last few years for our “GIRL Boxes”  – because it seems more age appropriate as we are buying for the 10-14 age group). Did we include a soccer ball in her box? Why yes, we did! And writing supplies and hygiene products, a card game…so many fun, useful (and easy to use) items. And our “BOY box?” We did a younger box (5-9) for him. He got some fun superhero socks (so, totally sexist there, I guess, but given the choice, that’s what my 6 year old BOY wanted to purchase for him), a cup, toothbrushes, a card game, crayons, stickers, and I think a little stuffed animal. But each of our children buy for someone across the world who they don’t know, but want to relate to. And to pray over. Sure, a 10-14 year old girl *could* want superhero boy socks in a size 5, but my guess is the age appropriate gender box would probably be a bit more to her liking. Maybe if one were to criticize less and see the process at work, they’d understand. Knowledge is power, after all.

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5. I’m seriously not even sure how to tackle this one. I’m not sure what kind of “Christian” denomination this author is from, but as I understand it, as a Christian since October 2003, we, as Christians, are to be the “hands and feet of Jesus.” To help those in need. To spread the gospel of our Lord and Savior. To love one another. Giving children a box with presents is a great opportunity MISSED if we don’t take the time to spread the good news of Jesus’s love! If one is a Christian, why wouldn’t they want to share the joyous news of Jesus with EVERYONE?!

6. Here’s the quote that Emily’s missionary friend, Joelle, “The way Operation Christmas Child is presented to kids is that these are gifts from your brothers and sisters overseas who love Jesus and love you, which sounds nice. But ultimately it perpetuates the damage that followed post-colonialism aid, which instills in children overseas from an early age that you need white people to give you things, and in our children, that the poor need our things. In mass and over time, it’s this ideology that actually make poor communities poorer.”

For the love. You could read WAY, WAY, WAY in to a simple act of love and kindness, despite cultural differences and diversity and maybe come to this sad conclusion. But, if you’re someone with love and genuine selflessness, I don’t understand how you can leap from gift giving to post colonial imperialism. One could, however, see that an act of kindness made in honestly and the purest of intentions could perpetuate love and spread the gospel of Jesus. Oh, and save lives. Eternally save lives.

7. This point suggests, incorrectly, I believe that those of us who are participating in OCC and donating to Samaritan’s Purse and other such causes are doing so blindly. So many other things with this one, but I need to close at some point. But, one major point — my children aren’t being taught ANYTHING about trying to assuage “their guilt” (or anyone else’s) by giving. That’s nowhere near the lesson we are teaching our children. We teach them to give out of love and kindness. We teach them that giving is better than receiving. You don’t have to live in my home to see it, nor do you have to have me state this, but my children are some of the most kind and capable children. They give out of love and selflessness. Sure, they are children in America with working parents and they get all they need and then some. But my children are typically the first to offer their earned money for others. My 10-year old daughter actually used some of her own money because she wanted to purchase gifts this year. This isn’t the first instance nor will it be the last. And it has nothing to do with a guilty heart. It has everything to do with being taught the value of life and love. The sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

My point with Operation Christmas Child and our Artists Inspired “White” Blog Post theme: the act of sharing their love through gifts is one of the greatest joys of innocence and purity and love and honesty that I know. My children don’t know about any of the “7 Reasons…” in that blog post. What they know is that there are people out there in need. They don’t need toys or yo-yo’s, or stickers or candy or games, but we do have them to give, and moreover, my children (and thousands of others!) want to love and share to others. And if that love comes in the form of a shoebox of items (toys and so much more), given with the purest of intentions and love, and guidance of missionaries and leaders who want to help these countries, then my prayer is that these gifts are well-recieved, and that more people in this world see the purity in giving just as my children and my family do.

These images are from this year’s drop off. We started at First Moore Baptist Church, but had missed the pick up due to some missed days at church. So, after we found the new drop off location, we traveled a few miles down the road to Emmaus Baptist Church. So thankful for a community of Christians who are willing and able to share the love of Christ with other in this way!

My cuties. They love giving. Not just to OCC but to so many causes.

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We are thankful to have had one of our favorite best friends with us for the drop off.
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The tree was gorgeous at FBC-Moore…we had to stop for a picture. Trimmed in purple…a majestic color to honor our King.
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Peyton wanted to join in…and of course we welcomed her! After all, not quite a decade ago, these two beautiful girls were besties going to FBC-Moore’s First Learning Center Program!
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And, probably the most touching images and moments. Just a couple shots to make sure I could join them in prayer for our Boy box and our Girl box.
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Love. My Mommy heart wonders what he was thinking. It could have been about the journey our boxes would take, or the child that would open the package he’s holding. Or, as a 6 year old, it could have been about Pokemon! But in any case, I know this child’s heart and that these moments are special to him and that he will pray for this box and the child who receives it for a long time to come. After all, isn’t that the most important lesson?

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I apologize for the lengthy post, but I hope you understand why I chose to write a bit more for this month’s {White} theme.
So thankful you all took the time to come by my blog. A special thank you to a few of my proofers for this post which obviously has my heart in it! I loved having friends and colleagues, Nikki Smith and Rachel Haynes go over a few key points with me, and that they took the time to review and help me with the draft!

Also, Elizabeth Willson is one of the most generous and talented photographers I know (you can find her FB page here, and I am so thankful that we’ve connected for me to have gained much insight from in this post, and many other things! Her spiritual beauty and heart for giving and being compassionate are incomparable. With her help, I wanted to add a couple of informative videos as well. If you are interested helping in Operation Christmas Child and maybe need a nudge to overcome some of the skepticism you may have heard, please consider watching the following, all from Samaritan’s Purse:

Good News. Great Joy.
(The impact beyond the shoebox “gift” that these children feel – it’s more than handing out a box and receiving a toy. It’s about the eternal impact of Jesus on their lives.)

Church to Church
(The hands a feet of Jesus, hard at work to give glory to God’s Kingdom. Christian to Christian, church to church.)

Lives That Are Changed
(If you aren’t sure about the impact, please watch some of these stories! Individuals are helped and change, communities, churches, and countries. What a profound impact from a simple shoebox.)

Next up in our Artists Inspired Blog Circle is the talented Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith photographer/storyteller (Facebook page). Click here to see Nikki’s take on this month’s theme – I assure you that you’ll love it…she’s one of my favorites to follow!

The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.

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Artists Inspired Blog Circle – Orange

Artists Inspired Blog Circle – Orange

Orange

November is here and we are already halfway through this month! How can that be? One more month until Christmas and not too far after that, a whole New Year will be knocking at our door.

I was a little stumped this month with our Artists Inspired Blog Circle theme of “Orange.” I considered quite a few regular “events” or ways to capture orange. But it all seemed too forced. I’m not an “every day shooter” — I pick up my camera for sessions, when something strikes me (like the November 2016 Supermoon), or when I want to capture a family memory. Rarely do I get the chance to go out and shoot for “me” or “just for fun.”

Below are some of the “orange” things I considered…

Most of the orange leaves have turned, and to be honest, don’t look as pretty as I’d want to photograph. I didn’t go hunting for anything special — just saw what was around my neighborhood, but nothing jumped out at me.

Then of course, I have tons of orange decor around my house, but nothing felt inspired to me.

I considered sunrises and sunsets…those have all of those golden yellow, orange, vibrant tones, but that seemed too pushed as well.

Two nights ago, my littles went to an Oklahoma City Thunder Basketball game, and were invited out on the court baseline to be there when the players were introduced — HOW COOL! But, though pretty awesome, I think I’ll save that post for another day.

You know what was totally natural? My children, who are my muses, doing their normal thing for Halloween, and me capturing and blogging. No, these images aren’t technically beautiful or super “wow” images…but they are us. In fact, I don’t think any of these were really thought out before I pulled the camera…I just snapped a few, and these will be our memories this year. And, I’m okay with that. Daddy had to leave the day of Halloween, unfortunately, so the kids and I did what we could with him before he left, and then of course, we were left Trick-or-Treating without him. We are so, so thankful for amazing friends to come over that night and enjoy our Halloween celebration with us.

My little Pikachu and my little Charmander, all dressed up for Halloween, doing their thing. These were taken after a family session…my babies were with me, and though very dark, we found some light and I went for it anyways. I’m glad I did…

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To be 100% honest, I don’t think the ones below are actually edited. At least, not all of them. We are ALWAYS late pumpkin carvers, and this year was no exception. We did this the day before Halloween, before Daddy left. I have HORRIBLE house lighting (and am always so jealous when I see great house light!) so really, I needed to edit these. But, it’s the memory that’s important…and these are tradition!

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Check out this LIGHT!!!

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This one has become one of my favorites! I LOVE how this turned out, regardless of how many times people picked on me for the 11×14 frame STILL being empty in the background! 
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Before our guests arrived…I needed to keep my lil’ Pokemon from eating all of the Halloween treats! We started a tradition several years ago of making Halloween Party Food (even just for our family) and the kids love it and look forward to the surprises each year. This year, they were able to help me get ready for the party, which was awesome!

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We had Pumpkin Poo, Witches Brooms, Witch Fingers, Ghost Poo, Bloody Fingers, Halloween Punch, Jack-O-Lantern Quesadillas, Werewolf Scabs, Mini Mummies, and Chili…for the grown ups. 
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I was SO ant-“Halloween” decorations. Fall decorations…all day long. But Halloween?? Eh,not sure what message that sends the kids. However, when DADDY makes a deal with Big Sister about good grades and graveyard decorations…he sticks to his word.

And deals with the wrath of Mommy.
So, they go out a few days before, and they are put up within a day or two.

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I’ve decided I need to take more pictures of my beautiful new home! The kiddos are standing in front of it, so it’s in the background. It’s been an adjustment, but we’ve started to enjoy being here quite a bit, especially because of our friends. And we are very thankful for the house and the neighborhood that Jason picked out for us to live in.

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Along with taking more pictures of our home…we have a super cool looking entryway! I decided that it looked pretty cool with the pumping lit up in front of it, so I captured a couple angles!
We have one Pikachu Pumpkin, and one sort of scary face pumping, completely carved by Sweet Caroline!
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Finishing out the blog by sharing our Pikachu Pumpkin!
My little guy wanted this one SO BADLY, and Daddy did a pretty great job!

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I hope you enjoyed my take on {Orange}!
So thankful you all took the time to come by my blog!

Next up in our Artists Inspired Blog Circle is the talented Elizabeth Willson of It’s Still Life by Elizabeth Willson. Click here to see her take on this month’s theme – I assure you that you’ll love it…she’s one of my favorites to follow!

The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.

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Our Newest Family Member

Our Newest Family Member

Sometimes, you have to start your Monday off with a little bit of extra cuteness.
Today just happens to be one of those days!

Y’all, meet Beckett! She is the newest member of our family, a rescue puppy from Forever Yours Pet Rescue in Oklahoma City. What started out as any regular Saturday running errands wound up becoming a day that would soon change our lives.

My son, sweet Tyler, is a REALLY good child. He’s rarely ever thrown a “tantrum” and he’s typically pretty respectful of our wishes and requests. Granted, he doesn’t alway listen, but he doesn’t yell, scream, or throw fits. Well, on this very fateful September day, one week before making our Adoption of this pretty girl official, he did at the PetSmart Pet Adoption Event in Moore, Oklahoma. He must have known she was truly meant to be ours. As we left that first day after meeting her – “Zuri” according to her paperwork – Tyler said repeatedly that we were breaking his heart and that she was one of his biggest dreams. From the mouth of a six year old child, it’s actually pretty heartbreaking. As was watching my husband HAVE TO carry a bawling child out of the puppy rescue area. This behavior is so uncharacteristic for him – it truly broke MOMMY’S heart listening to how sad he was!

One week later, on September 17, 2016 the discussion of Zuri still had not passed. Tyler was still heart broken, as was our daughter. Both kids literally begged and offered to pay the full Adoption fee of $140 in order to pick her up, if she was still there. As we were, once again, out running errands, we found ourselves on the east side of town, right by the PetSmart (a good move by Mommy), and we HAD to go check to see if she was already adopted…and much to our surprise, she was still there! Clearly, it was a sign, right?! It actually sort of was…later that afternoon, we had a terrible storm, and that puppy rescue tent was badly damaged. Thankfully all of the puppies were safe, but our puppy – our Zuri – was with us, safely tucked away being loved on at home.

After officially making Zuri ours, we decided to change her name to something that suited her a bit better, especially since she wasn’t fully responsive to Zuri. We had all loved the name Beckett before adopting our German Shepherd mix almost two years ago, but our daughter decided to name “her” dog Zasha (after a dog in a book, called Saving Zasha, about a German Shepherd…I couldn’t really say no to that). And my son named this new little pup, Beckett, likely to make Mommy happy! And Daddy – despite the “fight” about all of the reasons not to get her, the kiss on her forehead at the Adoption tent that day sealed it…she was ours, and he loved her too.

So thankful for the many volunteers at Forever Yours and those with the PetSmart event that day! We love our precious girl, and she’s been a wonderful and loving addition to our home!

How could one NOT fall in love with this face?!!!

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I love this puppy so much! She’s such an amazing addition to our family.

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That Face. Seriously, I must fall in love with it every single day! She’s such a wonderful puppy!
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Inspired By: Imogen Cunningham

For those of you who may not know, I am a contributing artist and team member with an AMAZING photography community called By He{Art}. You can find us HERE on Facebook, and you can also check out our blog, located HERE.

The six of us who run By He{Art} have a vision to help create a safe place for photographers, new and seasoned, to feel comfortable sharing images without the fear of harsh and unwarranted CC (constructive criticism) and to find encouragement and support amidst a sea of other photographers. As hobbyists or professionals and everyone in between, it’s often hard to stand out as creatives, and we envision a place where people want to share and be seen for the art that they create.

One of the ways that we help our photographers grow and share is by offering weekly themed challenges. Our September might have been the most memorable month of weekly themed challenges yet! Our Founder, the lovely Jenn Franzin of Pretty Pixels Photography along with Holly Nicole of The Timekeeper, was able to create a month of shares that were {Inspired By: } a set famous artists. We were all {Inspired By: Ansel Adams, Francesca Woodman, Henri Cartier-Bresson}…and the week that I’m about to share with you is my personal take on the theme {Inspired By: Imogen Cunningham}.

Much to my dismay, I wasn’t able to go out and shoot specifically for this theme; however, I did manage to find a couple botany images that were already converted into the deep, high contrast black and white style that is so characteristic of Cunningham’s work. A couple, I also had to convert, and I am happy to say that I am very please with the results!

For more information on the talented Imogen Cunningham, you can look HERE to find out about her life and see some more of her work. We also did a short biography on Cunningham and shared a few inspiration images at By He{Art} if you would like to pop over and see those as well!

{INSPIRED BY: IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM}

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Artists Inspired Blog Circle – Pink

Pink

In stark contrast to last month’s epiphany from Facebook (you can see my “Gold” Artists Inspired Blog post here to read up on this!), this month, surprisingly it came pretty quick to me what I would make this post about. First, a few ironies to share with you!

I’m not a huge pink fan. I don’t think I look particularly nice in pink.
It was a always a little too girly for me. And I still consider myself fairly “girly”…but not “pink girly.”

And then…I got pregnant 11 years ago with my first born child. My total surprise baby.
A GIRL.

At this point, PINK began to rule my life. I had pink on the brain. Pink dresses, pink shoes, pink room, pink stuffed animals.

Here’s a snapshot of this phase.
Whoa. My face put on a little weight in these…I didn’t realize that until many years later, thankfully. Just as a heads up, this was 7.5 months and 8-ish months pregnant.

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Anyways, I came home from work one evening, and my sweet husband, Jason, had painted her (Baby Girl White) room pink. Like, it was really PINK. I was (and am still to this day) VERY indecisive. I had no idea what color to paint it. The choices seemed endless, but thankfully, my husband knows this about me, and just goes with it. He makes decisions when he knows I’m overwhelmed. A surprise pregnancy can do that to someone, especially while working until the day before delivery.

Clearly, we didn’t have a professional photographer…or even a good camera with us. But, at least I still have this. And no comments on how awful I looked, or that I wasn’t actually clothed. I thought pregnancy was rough with her (throwing up morning, noon and night for six full months)…but delivery nearly killed me. No, really, it did. A couple blood transfusions and a couple extra days in the hospital helped but it was a while before I was “me” again.

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You might not be able to see it all…but that whole room is like Pepto Bismol Pink. My husband and I used to joke around that it “glowed” in the hallway…and, it did. 100_03842    100_05872

***By the way, don’t judge all of these images like they are “professionally” taken…some will just be old memories, thrown in there for your amusement.***

And then, as the years passed by…guess what?!! I became quite a bit more decisive, and she wore girly pink outfits from Gymboree. A lot.

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These were actually at Gymboree Play and Music.
We essentially lived there, which was great since we made awesome friends!

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Seriously, isn’t she the cutest?! No bias. AT ALL.

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Fast forward about two years…my classic thumb sucking babe.

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And then…this happened, and thankfully, I was still able to dress her. In pink.
This is First Grade…

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As a few more years passed by, aside from the fact I seemed to be aging at the speed of light with a now 10 year old daughter, I had a huge revelation. Actually, I have them almost daily.

My daughter HATES PINK. She detests being “girly.” She’s not a fan of princesses and cares more about comfort than style. And, let’s not get started on how I have to beg for her to wear dresses or jeans (mostly jeans).

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This is my little daydreamer. And, thankfully, she DID cooperate for a pink outfit for our Disney trip in 2015; however, she nearly bit my head off and ask how I could insult her by asking which princess was her favorite. Yep. My kid.

And do you know what? Although I have to remind myself sometimes that my vision for her was a *touch* different…she’s PERFECT.
ABSOLUTELY PERFECT IN HER NON-PINK, NON-GIRLY, NON-PRINCESS-Y ATTIRE.

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She’s a Daddy’s Girl through and through. She loves Spartan Races (like mud runs with obstacles), she enjoys running and working out with Daddy. She hates doing dance, cheer and gymnastics.

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My kid. She’s the GIRL in the white shirt, up against all those other kids. Her teammates (boys) weren’t even close to helping her out. She ROCKS.

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Head to head with another…trying to run the ball!

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And here she is…charging full speed. She has also learned how to head butt (??) the soccer ball on her own, and use her body to stop the ball too. SO CRAZY.
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But you know what? She is her very own person. She’s not a mini-me or mini-person to mold in to how I want her.

At the OKC State Fair in September of this year. Isn’t she gorgeous?
My little dreamer.
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Doesn’t everyone take a picture in the doctor’s office when then have a check up? When my kid looks like this, I sure do!
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God designed her perfectly as she is — a true miracle — and a huge blessing with one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know.

Her baby brother ADORES her. Pretty easy to see that, even if you’ve never met them before!
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She’s always been a Daddy’s Girl. He’s loved her for EXACTLY who she is. He’s always known she’d be amazing, regardless of life’s crazy demands (and Mommy’s crazy expectations).
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Could she be any more amazing?
(aside from those pre-teen moments, of course 😉 )
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I mean really, how many 10 year olds can do this?!
Yes, she took this amazing picture!

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Here’s to my non-PINK child — one that I won’t try to mold or picture any other way than the perfection that she is and that she is meant to be.

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You know what’s even more amazing? She loves me and accepts me for exactly who I am — her very flawed, very imperfect mother.

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So thankful that God blessed me with the most amazing little girl.
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“Every good and perfect gift is from above…”
James 1:17

I hope you enjoyed my take on {Pink}! Next up in our Artists Inspired Blog Circle is the talented Elizabeth Willson of It’s Still Life by Elizabeth Willson. Click here to see her take on this month’s theme – I assure you that you’ll love it…she’s one of my favorites to follow!

The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.

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Lightning in South OKC

I love attempting to do what seems to be the impossible, and capturing actual lighting strikes seems to be one of my favorite things! It amazes me that in an instant, I can freeze something that happens in the blink of an eye.

This particular evening was AMAZING. We were prepared for severe weather, hail and possible tornadoes (hello, OKC, we’ve missed you!) — but the lighting show…wow! I have lived here a long time, and this was by far the most active lightning show (with deep rumbles of thunder the whole time) I have ever seen. I was captivated by it.

Below are a couple of my favorite images, from the storm in South OKC (well, in a good chunk of OKC, but I’m in South OKC) on October 4, 2016. At some point, I may do a Capturing Lightning Tutorial…so be on the look out. As we may be gearing up for Round 2 of storms this evening, I’m going to enjoy time with my kiddos and make sure we are ready to take cover if we need it.

It’s a toss up whether I like this one or the last one the most…

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I this one, it was one of the first frames and I was in such a hurry to capture some lightning…so, the shutter speed was a little fast. But, it’s a nice, crisp lightning shot!
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I think our trampoline looks cool like this!
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There’s something a little eerie about seeing this go on. Above your head.
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See…this one is pretty cool…
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